Diverse thoughts, tamed by mutual respect

Welcome to the July 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning About Diversity

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they teach their children to embrace and respect the variety of people and cultures that surround us. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I grew up in a very liberal family of Democrats that opposed every fear-mongering, shaming, or oppressive decision that Republican lawmakers and politicians made, or even brought forward as a thought.  I rooted for President Clinton, I vehemently argued that Al Gore and Joe Liberman were the obvious choice for our nations leadership in my middle school debate class, and I remember with joy and (a few tears in my eyes, thinking about it) attending a Democratic convention in Houston with Abbey snuggled on my chest in a Moby wrap the night that President Obama was elected. I also grew up (and still am) Roman Catholic.

And, yet, many of my friends, both in real life and within my online peers, are hard and fast conservatives. And many are protestant, Jewish, agnostic, atheist, and even pagan.

How can this be? you ask. It’s an easy answer, though not a very easy discipline to get used to practicing:

mutual respect.

You see, everyone in our world is going to be in some way different than you are. It doesn’t matter how similar you are to someone. In some way there will be a difference – in race, socio-economic status, opinion, belief, personality, or cognitive ways (just to name a few).

In our country, it seems that most of us allow these differences in race, age, religion, faith, opinion, or political belief to divide us and pitch us against each other in sensational debates and big, raucous news stories. At a certain point, I said to myself, “why do we always have to argue?”1360757052_a551272cf9

It occurred to me that I could disagree with someone, even on a really serious issue, and I could still treat that person with respect. I can stand up for something, even loudly, without arguing violently. And that’s how I have been trying to live, ever since I had that thought. It’s been a journey for sure, and my blood pressure still starts to rise when I read about a mother being harassed for breastfeeding in public, or someone thinks me a bully for promoting breastfeeding and informing on formula risks, or I read an article about how someone thinksMr. Rogers was a horrible influence on children (really, now?).

But it is our diversity, in being and in thought, that gives our world vitality. If we were all the same, things would be pretty boring. The trick to living with this diversity is to not let our personal beliefs make us ugly people, or keep us from socializing with those that differ from us. To really try to live practicing compassion and collaboration, and allow our mistakes to be lessons to improve upon ourselves in some way. It’s when diverse minds come together that we have our best and most influential movements. And it all starts with mutual respect.

How do you practice mutual respect in your life?

Can you think of a time that diversity of thought or belief impacted your life? How did respect play (or not play) a part?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon July 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • A gift for my daugther — Amanda, a special education teacher for students with multiple exceptionalities, discusses at My Life in a Nutshell how she will enrich her daughter’s life by educating her the amazing gifts her students will bring to the world.
  • The Beauty in Our Differences — Meegs at A New Day writes about her discussions with her daughter about how accepting ourselves and those around us, with all our beautiful differences and similarities, makes the world a better place.
  • Accepting Acceptance and Tolerating Tolerance — Destany at They Are All of Me examines the origins of and reasons behind present day social conformity.
  • Differencessustainablemum discusses what she feels to be the important skills for embracing diversity in her family home.
  • Turning Japanese — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different shares how she teaches her kiddos about Japanese culture, and offers ideas about “semi immersion” language learning.
  • Celebrating Diversity at the International House Cottages — Mommy at Playing for Peace discovers the cultures of the world with her family at local cultural festivals
  • Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of truly knowing your roots and heritage and how to help children honor their multiple heritages.
  • People. PEOPLE! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is trying to teach her children to use language that reflects respect for others, even when their language doesn’t seem to them to be disrespectful.
  • Just Call me Clarice Thomas — Lisa at The Squishable Baby knows that learning to understand others produces empathetic children and empathetic families.
  • Diversity of Families — Family can be much more then a blood relation. Jana at Jananas on why friends are so important for her little family of three.
  • Diverse Thoughts Tamed by Mutual Respect — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work thinks that diversity is indispensable to our vitality, but that all of our many differences require a different sort of perspective, one led by compassion and mutual respect.
  • Just Shut Up! — At Old New Legacy, Becky gives a few poignant examples in her life when listening, communication and friendship have helped her become more accepting of diversity.
  • The World is our Oyster — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot is thankful for the experiences that an expat lifestyle will provide for herself as well as for her children.
  • Children’s black & white views (no pun intended … kind of) — Lauren at Hobo Mama wonders how to guide her kids past a childish me vs. them view of the world without shutting down useful conversation.
  • Raising White Kids in a Multicultural World — Leanna at All Done Monkey offers her two cents on how to raise white children to be self-confident, contributing members of a colorful world. Unity in diversity, anyone?
  • Ramadan Star and Moon Craft — Celebrate Ramadan with this star and moon craft from Stephanie at InCultureParent, made out of recycled materials, including your kid’s art!
  • Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how her family deals with the discrimination against others and how she and her husband are raising children who are making a difference.
  • The Difference is Me – Living as the Rainbow Generation — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is used to being the odd-one-out but walking an alternative path with children means digging deeper, answering lots of questions and opening to more love.
  • My daughter will never know same-sex marriage is not normal — Doña at Nurtured Mama realizes that the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage will change the way she talks to her daughter about her own past.
  • Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her multicultural family and shares Montessori-inspired ideas for encouraging respect for diversity.
  • EveryDay Diversity — Ana at Panda & Ananaso makes diversity a part of everyday living, focusing on raising of compassionate and respectful child.
  • Diversity as Part of Life — Even though Laura at Authentic Parenting thought she had diversity covered, she found out that some things are hard to control.
  • Inequity and Privilege — Jona is unpacking questions raised by a summit addressing inequity in breastfeeding support at Life, Intertwined.
  • 3 Ways to Teach Young Children About Diversity — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama recognizes her family’s place of privilege and shares how she is teaching her little ones about diversity in their suburban community.
  • Teaching diversity: tales from public school — A former public high school teacher and current public school parent, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama values living in a diverse community.
  • 30 Ideas to Encourage Learning about Diversity While Traveling — Traveling with kids can bring any subject alive. Dionna at Code Name: Mama has come up with a variety of ways you can incorporate diversity education into your family travels (regardless of whether you homeschool). From couch surfing to transformative reading, celebrate diversity on your next trip!
  • Diversity, huh? — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn’t do anything BIG to teach about diversity; it’s more about the little things.
  • Chosen and Loved — From Laura at Pug in the Kitchen: Color doesn’t matter. Ethnicity doesn’t matter. Love matters.
  • The One With The Bright Skin — Stefanie at Very Very Fine tries to recover from a graceless reponse to her son’s apparent prejudice.

Wordless Wednesday

We have been so blessed to meet some great friends here at our Coast Guard Assignment in Maine.

This week, I caught some great images of Joe and his friend “Londy” (London) having a natural learning experience with some free play in the puddles!

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Mamatography Week 15


We started our week with fierce puddle splashing. Joe loves him some puddles!!!!

Camaro Ride

Tuesday afternoon, we had the inaugural ride of the power wheels Camaro. Abbey and Joe love cruising around the park together.


We love our mid-week bible study program at our friend’s church. Here is Joe with her daughter, London.

At one point, the two of them were feeding each other cake. It was adorable.

Next week, I promise, I’ll get a shot of the two of them hugging. It will melt your heart!


Abbey and Joe built a “roller coaster” together on Thursday with some building toys that we’ve collected from Wendy’s kids meals. I love how well they are interacting and playing with one another lately. We are not without a little rivalry and disagreement, but it’s mostly sibling love around here lately. So cute!



Unfortunately, on Friday afternoon, Jed, Joe, and I were in a one-car accident in the random sleet that hit our area. It was raining, and we had decided to drive to meet someone for a Craigslist trade. Rain turned to sleet really fast, and we hydroplaned on the ice. I was driving very slowly and carefully, but I couldn’t save us from crashing. The road went out from under us and there we were, crashing into a tree in the ditch. This is a picture of one of my bruises. It was awful and scary, but Joe and Jed and I are all OK, Thank GOD. My car however. . . is not.

I just praise God that everyone is safe, and thank God for the great family of friends we have here in our neighborhood that helped us out on Friday and kept my spirits up over the weekend. I was really SORE and sad about the crash.

Abbey Dance Class

Abbey had her second dance class this weekend. She loves it!

Joe and Goat WM

After dance class, we went to Abbey’s preschool program – Passport through America. It was a big party/festival type thing, in the gym at the Shipyard. There were booths with food, fun, and activities to represent all the regions of the US. Coincidentally (since we are moving to Alaska soon), Abbey’s class worked on the Alaska/Hawaii booth!

Abbey and Goat WM

Abbey and Joe’s favorite part of the festival was definitely the petting zoo, though. They loved feeding the goats with us.

That was OUR Week. How was YOURS?

mtbadge2This post is part of the Mamatography 2013 Project with Diary of a First Child and Momma Jorje.

We are taking (at least) a photo a day to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!

Mamatography Week 12: Welcome, Spring?

Happy Spring!

The snow won’t keep us from enjoying the outdoors, but it’s supposed to be SPRING, y’all! This is craziness!

Abbey, S, and D 3-2013

We have been spending this past week having lots of playdates at the park with our neighborhood friends.

Joe and Aubrey in Snow 3-2013

Enjoying laughs and toddler and childhood antics with all our dear friends before we pack up and move to Kodiak *sniff*

Puddle Splashing 3-3013 WM

Joe has really been enjoying puddle splashing, even in the cooooooold weather.

“Mama, I splash puddle! I splash puddle pleeeeeease?”

How can I say no?

Snack Time!

Joseph and Abbey have been having a brother-sister blast lately. It’s so fun to watch them together.

That was our week! How was YOURS?!

mtbadge2This post is part of the Mamatography 2013 Project with Diary of a First Child and Momma Jorje.

We are taking (at least) a photo a day to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!

Mamatography: Fall Catch Up

I have gotten SO behind in my Mamatography posts. So, here’s a catch up of what we’ve been up to for the past few weeks – the end of Fall, 2012.

At the tail end of the Fall season up here in Maine, we had a photo shoot with a friend and fellow Coast Guard wife, Kim Howell. You can follow her on Twitter @KimHowellPhotog

She captured some really fantastic photographs of the family, and we enjoyed the shoot a lot!

Abbey even got to clicking. . . capturing this iPhone photo of our feet as we posed for some pics sans kids.

Ah, the token nursing pic. Thank you, Kim, for snapping this one! So sweet!

After this beautiful (warm) fall day, it started getting windy and cold! On into the Winter season for us transplanted Mainers!

That was our last week of fall. How have your weeks been lately?

A Woman Who Shines: Vote for Dionna!

In Missouri, there lives an unassuming, loving and devoted mom of two. She works from home, cares for her kids, frequents Facebook, and enjoys spending time with family and friends. But there is absolutely nothing average about this woman to me. To me, Dionna Ford of Code Name: Mama is a huge inspiration and a dear friend – even though I have never met her in person, and only spoken to her once face to face.

She’s constantly reaching out to others to improve their understanding, education, and empowerment – and she’s been a dear friend and irreplaceable part of my life’s journey, asking nothing in return, but giving so much by way of encouragement, empowerment, and confidence.

The Gift of Confidence

Dionna is a co-founder of Natural Parents Network and Nursing Freedom, websites that encourage and educate about natural parenting and feeding children healthfully, with love and respect. When Dionna asked me to be a contributing writer to Natural Parent’s Network, I was so flattered.

I had no idea that my work was important or that my writing was. . . any good. But Dionna thought differently. She believed in my ability to bring a genuine and interesting voice to NPN. And she encouraged me to write on topics that were important to me.

Her confidence was a huge gift.

I had been thinking of myself as “just another mom with a blog” and wondering if I would ever be influential enough to help others with my thoughts.

I had been dreaming of going back to school and achieving my professional dreams. . . but I lacked the self-confidence and bravery to take that step. Dionna changed that. She empowered me to believe that I could succeed as a mother, a student, and even as a creative entrepreneur at the same time.

Every time that I log in to write for Natural Parents Network, I feel a sense of pride and a great sense of strength. Dionna’s confidence in me inspired a great confidence in myself, and allowed me to pursue education and explore and use my love for writing and creating for the family with bravery and passion.

Vote for Dionna!

I am nominating Dionna for the Yahoo! Shine Women Who Shine Program. Please click over and VOTE for Dionna on the Yahoo! Shine Women Who Shine webpage, where you can also nominate a lady who shines brightly in YOUR life for the $10,000 cash prize and the honor of being named Yahoo! Shine’s first Woman Who Shines winner.

You will need to sign in to YahooShine, but you can do so easily through a Facebook account or Twitter account. You can vote for Dionna once per day, so sign in and vote as often as you can!

Women Who Shine is Yahoo! Shine’s inaugural women’s recognition program. Nominate your peers, mentors, family and any other women in your community who inspire you and others with their extraordinary achievements.  This program stands apart because the honorees are not the high-profile women or celebs you see in most other “Woman of the Year” or “Most Powerful Women” programs.  It’s women nominating the local heroes in their communities and it is Shine’s readers, not an editorial staff, who decide who wins.

Why She Shines

Natural Parents Network is a fantastic resource for caregivers to learn about different ways to understand, deepen your respect for, and find creative ideas for children – birth through adolescence. With a range of volunteer authors and Natural Parenting Mentors available, Dionna and Lauren have created a jewel of a parenting website – an authentic, loving, and accepting complement to more mainstream sites.

But Dionna’s sparkle goes deeper than the websites she has given to the world.

Her unassuming presence puts you at ease, and compassion is at the root of her relationships with others. She’s taken a great deal of time exploring her own experiences and improving her understanding of both non-violent communication and online journalism in order to lift up applicable information and resources to others in the best way.

Her bravery and eloquence shone when she posed for Time Magazine’s extended breast-feeding photo shoot, and then responded with a balance of passion and respect, expressing with gracefulness and tact her distaste for the publishers choice to sensationalize the shoot and fuel the “mommy-wars” with their inauthentic headline “Are You Mom Enough?”

She’s handled motherhood, creative work, writing, founding websites, advocacy, and even the national spotlight with grace, dedication, and courtesy. But no matter her success or the number of times she’s in the spotlight or published online or in print – remains and true and loyal friend.

This is why she shines, and why she should be celebrated!

You can follow Yahoo!Shine on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest

“I was compensated for this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own. To read more posts on this topic, click here.”

The Small Things

This week, I had the privilege of visiting with a dear friend and mama to seven beautiful children and meeting her newest baby, Judah. I only brought Joseph with me for the visit, knowing that the family had only recently moved into their new rental house and that they don’t have as much room as they used to to play outside. So, Abbey safely and happily at preschool, Joseph and I drove the 52 minutes to Sanford, ME with our bag full of hand-me-down boy clothes, and I got to see my friend and her lovely kids.

And I got to hold that sweet little newborn baby.

As I spoke to him, and held his little body in my hands, my friend snapped some pictures of us together, and I thought:

How sweet – that she thinks of me fondly enough to want to document Judah and me meeting each other for the first time . .. 


She gave me a beautiful gift just by letting me hold and love on her little newborn boy, but taking pictures of us interacting was an extra gift of love. I felt so special.

After Judah took in my face and voice, he nuzzled at my chest, smelling my breastmilk, and I let him know that though “yes, I smell like mama’s milk”

. . . that I was not his mama and I was going to hand him back.

 Holding and Healing

As I thanked her for letting me hold her little son, I reminded her of a time that she had allowed an elderly lady to hold one of her other children, her only girl.

The family was at church, and the old woman had asked if she could hold my friend’s newborn girl.

The old lady held her for a portion of the service, and then handed her back to her mother. When she handed her back, the old woman as crying.

My friend asked her if she was OK, and the old lady told her

“I recently lost a grand baby – I never got to hold that grand baby that we lost, and so it was so wonderful to hold your darling little girl. Thank you for allowing me to hold her.”

Small Gifts of Service

Melly healed something in that lady that day. She gave her a gift, and it helped the old lady endure the pain of losing a loved one. It’s a great example of our opportunity to give great gifts of service through small actions and words. It reminds me of:

  • the importance of listening to God’s call to service and
  • having an open heart and mind and of the significance of the littlest things in life.

Melly could have said “no” when the woman asked to hold her daughter. She could have been fearful that the baby would get sick from a stranger touching her. There are numerous reasons why someone would have said “no” in her situation. But she gave a gift to that woman by allowing her to hold her baby – and though it seems like such a small thing. . . it was very powerful.

The Little Things

Often in this busy world, we forget how powerful the little things are.

I could have declined to come visit Melly and her family this week because the drive was longer for me than I normally find “feasible”.

I could have postponed the visit because I had something else to do.

I could have left early instead of sitting with her and visiting until Judah woke up from his nap.

But instead, I stayed. And though holding Judah seems like a small thing, it reminded me of how wondrous our God is – how beautiful every little child – every person they grow into, including you and me – and every thing that we do . . . is important. I’m so glad I drove to visit her. I’m so glad I sat with her and listened to her thoughts and how things are going. I’m so glad I stayed to enjoy holding baby Judah.

So let’s not forget the impact of the little things in life.

Other Little Things

Brene’ Brown is thinking about the little things today as well. She is one of my favorite bloggers: a Ph.D., LMSW and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, she has “spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame” and writes beautiful and uplifting posts on her Ordinary Courage blog.

Today, she writes about her annual tradition of buying a box of “the most delicious petit fours that you’ll ever taste” and delivering them to a local fire station on 9-11 with a simple message attached

We appreciate you!

What a lovely sentiment. Such a small thing . . . but I’m sure to the firefighters who receive the gift, it’s a boost to their day, and makes them feel special and loved.

It’s an important gesture – just like Melly’s allowance of the lady at her church to hold her child – or her loving picture-snapping today while I held her newest squishy-cheeked little addition.

The small things should not be overlooked. Because like Brene’ Brown writes in her post about the little things,

“In this big, loud, anxious world, the small things matter so much.”




Wordless Wednesday – Reconnecting

This week, we had the pleasure of visiting with a wonderful mama and her 6 (going on 7!) beautiful children. Abbey and Joseph played with them at this nearby park for hours. Hubs doesn’t understand how someone can have seven children, but they are all so creative, loving, and fun, and Abbey and Joe adore them. I just love this family, and have missed them so much while they have been living too far away to visit on a regular basis. We’re so very happy that they will be living less than an hour away now! M. is one of those friends that I know is true, loving, and authentic, and I can’t wait to have another get-together!


Meditating on the dramatic and emotional things that have been happening around here lately makes me think of a lesson my father taught me when I was young – “Be careful – don’t let anyone talk you into buying a lemon” . . . he’s speaking, of course, about the informal definition of a “lemon”:

a person or thing that proves to be defective,imperfect, or unsatisfactory; dud: 
His car turned out to be lemon.

Photo Credit

Soured Friendships

Unfortunately, recently, I have found myself in a position where some of the relationships that I have forged and held dear here in Maine turned out to be “lemons”. Defective relationships. . . definitely imperfect. . . and extremely unsatisfactory in that they’ve caused me pain and heartache in the forms of disrespect, antagonism, betrayal, and just plain pettiness.

I’ve been struggling with the feelings that these “dud” relationships have stirred up in me. . . anger, sorrow, helplessness, confusion. . . 

I find myself wondering why, at not even 25 years old, I’m acting like more of an adult than people years and even decades older than I am. I mean, really. I feel like I’m in the movie Mean Girls. I’m wondering how I could have been so blind to the fact that the relationships were doomed to begin with. . . and I’m torn about what to do with these feelings.

I’m wondering why it’s so hard to just let go of them. Be done with them. I think it’s partially because in a military lifestyle, I leave behind dear friends, and need to make new ones at our next assignment. Because I feel the need to belong to or create a community, maybe I can be a bit careless about the people that I choose to forge friendships with. Not that I choose bad friends. These friends that I’ve recently been completely and totally betrayed by were great friends and lovely people until nasty words were spread, healthy criticisms were made, and it all went to hell. 
It’s like. . . I want so badly to have the loyalty, understanding, and love that I’ve shared between friends before. . . and that’s hard to come by when everyone you live near (including yourself) is called away by duty to another military station . . . whenever their family’s transfer time comes around. You want to make friends and have connections. But I’ve been learning (the hard way) that maybe I need to listen more to my husband about which people to trust. Apparently, he’s got a pretty keen “bullshit meter” (sorry. . . ONE curse, JUST one!). Again, that’s a story for another post. Right now, I’m left wondering what to do with the feelings of betrayal and sadness, and how to move on.

Where Do I Go From Here?

So, the story of the betrayal is a post for another time, once I have had a bit of time to gain hindsight. Right now, if I wrote about it, I would be sobbing and shaking by the end of writing the post, and my post would be splattered with expletives for sure. And I don’t want either of those two things to happen.
But I find myself at an impasse.

I want to let these feelings go and take the “high road” and just continue living normally. But then I’m afraid that if I release the bad feelings and continue on like nothing ever happened, that I’ll be blind sighted by another betrayal that I might have seen coming, had I been watching out for it. 

Photo Credit 
I took a good run today and purged all of the ugliest feelings (you know, like when you want to shake someone because you are just that angry!) and have a good think about the rest of them. . . and I’ve decided that I’m going to move forward from these ugly feelings. 

It’s going to be work, keeping myself from falling into the trap of being ugly right back. . . or buying into the drama. But I’m not going to let the unfortunate happenings of the past couple of weeks poison my life or knock me off course. 

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for:
  • My little Silly Bears who are my pride and joy
  •  My goals and passions: Learning, mothering, studying, sewing, etc.
  • My volunteer work helping families through my Coast Guard Ombudsman role 
  • My education and IBCLC certification through my college courses (no matter how hard it is to be a student AND a mom!). . . 
  • The fulfillment that I feel as I pursue my Silly Bear Handmade shop
  • and most importantly, continuing to find JOY in mothering and in this crazy, wonderful journey I’m on.

I want to fix everything, or undo everything, but I know that that’s impossible. 

The best I can do is be sure about my values, and release the nasty emotions that are causing me stress.  

I need my water to be clear so that I can go on doing what I do. . . mothering, studying, writing, helping, and creating. . . and loving those friends and family who are true and dear.

and maybe, just maybe, I can get a little better at spotting “lemons” in my life before they create trouble.

Any suggestions on meditations that help with releasing feelings and moving on from betrayal?

How do you cope with “lemons” in your life?

Mamatography 15-21

Love this girl! She has her daddy’s eyes!
Yay! Snow! 
“Look at the big snowball! Daddy make that for me!”
“Sup, mom?” Oh, those big blue EYES! Love!
Our black Lab Raven in the snow!
Sweet Joseph having a playdate with our neighbor’s daughter. 
Rainbow cloth wipes I made for fellow NPN Volunteer, Jorje.