Welcoming puberty

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As my children move from childhood into young adulthood, I’m reminded of how these transitions felt so heavy when I was a teen. Puberty, menstruation, the slow unstoppable motion from childhood into adulthood.

And I wasn’t sure where to go for good, solid, no frills information.

I hear similar stories from my friends, many of whom felt their parents didn’t adequately prepare them for the day-to-day reality of puberty, except perhaps to buy them a box of pads.

We all wanted to know that puberty–in its plethora of physical and emotional changes–was normal. That we were normal.

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Today, as parents or other care-givers, we want to do more. We want to provide our kids with resources that will help them develop a positive, healthy relationship with their changing bodies.

With that in mind, I’m delighted to announce the LüSa Organics New Moon Collection, a welcome kit to the transition into puberty.

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The New Moon Collection is a healthy, relaxed introduction to hormones, puberty, and the normal changes our bodies go through when menstruation begins. This delightful gift can open the door to meaningful conversations, or simply serve as a quiet way to acknowledge this important transition toward adulthood.

The collection contains several products that help support a healthy, happy menstrual cycle, plus a down-to-earth guide to taking care of your body naturally–during your cycle and all month long. The included 26 page New Moon Booklet includes common sense health tips, tools to manage discomfort during your cycle, and a couple of easy to make DIY recipes.

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All menstruating teens are welcome here! With this in mind, inclusive language is used throughout. Discreetly (and sustainably) packaged; it makes a thoughtful gift.

Reserve one for your teen or preteen here.

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Did you feel adequately prepared for puberty? What message or information would you like to offer your own preteen or teen that you didn’t experience during your own youth?

 

Kids And Chores: Five Tips for Painless Participation

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

First, a baseline: we are not a punishment-reward family.

I have never issued a time-out, withheld a reward on account of “bad behavior”, or grounded a teenager. On the flip side, I have never given my kids an allowance, or rewarded them with screen time, money, or other special prizes for pitching in around the house. I am not proposing that this is the best way to do things or because I think I deserve a peaceful parenting gold star, but to simply provide a starting point for what comes below below.

While I didn’t always expect my kids to participate in the running of our house, I do today.

Without punishment; without rewards.

The truth is, they didn’t always pitch in.

When they were small, my kids (like most kids) were eager to jump in and sweep, mop, cook, and hang laundry. But their enthusiasm gradually faded as they grew older. By the time they were 10 and 6 I began to notice the imbalance. Though they were big enough to help out, they were gradually moving away from their constant-helper-at-my-side role and slipping off to read and play instead of cook or clean.

The drudgery of doing the work alone was wearing on me, and we were frequently buried in unfolded laundry and dirty dishes as Pete or I hurriedly cooked dinner and wondered how we’d get it all done. I realized it was ridiculous that the adults were doing everything with two capable kids at home, and decided that I needed more participation from them. But I was unsure how it would unfold.

Was punishment and reward necessary for participation? I was hoping not, but I didn’t know what to expect.

I believe that punishment-and-reward strategies are destined to backfire. When they play into our decisions, cost-benefit analyses are made, and decisions become based on either securing a reward or avoiding a punishment, rather than making good choices or doing the right thing. And I didn’t want that to muddy the waters of my family and home.

And so cautiously, I began a “participation without coercion” experiment to see if my kids would jump in and help. They did! I was elated.

Mowing lawns, cooking meals, cleaning the house: they were eager to help and readily jumped in day after day, voluntarily doing their part with the day-to-day work of running a house.

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

Until they weren’t.

Until it got old and they were more keen on books or play than mopping the floor.

If I’m being honest I would admit to feeling frustrated. (Very!) It seemed the whole experiment was a failure. Like the only way to ensure participation was with a power-over strategy, which appealed to me exactly not at all. Ack. This was not the outcome I was banking on. So I paused, regrouped, restrategized.

It took us a while to find a new groove, but finally we did.

And while it looked slightly more coercive/less peaceful than I originally envisioned, the long game has been a benefit for my kids far beyond my expectations.

The upshot? There is still no punishment; no reward. It is also not an opt-in/opt-out arrangement. Instead, the expectation that this is what we do. It takes a family to run a family. And everyone needs to do their part.

And just as buckling your seatbelt in the car is not optional, the same goes for pitching in. Boom. Done.

No need for rainbow sprinkles or sparkly confetti. It’s just everyone quietly doing their part.

No drama, no fuss.

Do they always love it? Of course not. Is there occasional drama? Sure. We’re human. But are they almost always willing to pitch in and pull their weight? Absolutely. I feel the same about my work in this family. We might not be excited for the opportunity to scrub the toilet, but we’re grateful for a clean toilet once it’s done.

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

Last night, Sage (now 15) was in charge of dinner. He groaned as he set to work chopping onions mincing garlic, and steaming cauliflower. But then, ever so subtly, there was a palpable shift. He was bright, focused, cheerful. “Are you having fun?” I asked. “Yeah,” he replied (in a “well, duh, of course I am ” sort of tone), placing a pan of homemade meatballs in the oven. And he meant it. He was having fun.

He just needed a little nudge. Like we all do now and again.

The rest of the night he was upbeat. Because: he made our dinner. And I believe that participating in the work of the family, knowing how capable you are, and (bonus!) getting some props for a delicious dinner feels good to almost everyone.

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

It’s been five years since my first tentative steps into punishment-and-reward-free participation in chores, and here is what I have learned along the way.

Participating in housework makes kids better citizens of our home.

“Can everyone please line their boots up where they belong in the mudroom? I just mopped in there and it’s already a mess.”

Hearing words like this uttered from my children’s mouths never ceases to delight me. Participating in housekeeping raises their awareness of how easily things can spin out of control. If you wash the dishes each day, you are less likely to leave leftovers on your plate when you clear them for someone else to wash. Without participating, children (like anyone) will live in a more self-centered world view that doesn’t benefit them or those they love.

It takes a family to run a family

This sentence is what I’ve been telling my kids for the past five years. The grown-ups can’t do this alone. And more importantly, we shouldn’t have to. When everyone pitches in it creates a more balanced family dynamic and models respect for every member of the team.

A job for everyone

Even the youngest child can help fold washcloths, put away silverware, or place napkins around the table. And when children help out they know that their contributions matter. They grow up knowing that the their work in the family has value. What a powerful lesson at any age! As my kids have gotten older their jobs have grown up with them. Instead of only setting the table they have moved into washing dishes after every meal and cooking for our family at least once a week (usually more). Sage once only mowed the lawn or shoveled snow, but today he also carries in the day’s worth or firewood each morning. Etcetera.

Self-reliance feels good 

I will be the first to admit that I haven’t always nurtured self-reliance. I’m a softie, and when you ask for help I’m fairly sure to give it. But allowing my kids to be more self-reliant has been one of the best choices I have made, resulting in more capable, confident, independent kids. And when we stop to reflect that we’re really raising future adults (versus present-day kids), that feels like the best choice I can make.

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

Ready to get your kids to pitch in, but want to avoid punishment and reward? Here are five tips to get you there.

1. Start slow

Don’t expect your kids to jump in and sweep floors, wash the laundry, and cook dinner every night just because you mentioned a desire for more participation. Begin with a single small daily task, then gradually add more over time. Expecting too much at once guarantees mutiny.

And reevaluate. As my kids have gotten older we’ve gradually gone from one small task per day to a full daily tasks list. We’ve added, but we’ve also subtracted. When a child is struggling with a task (because it’s “gross”, difficult, or boring, for example), switch things up. None of this is set in stone, and your flexibility will go miles toward making this easy for everyone.

2. Choose together

Rather than tell your kids what task you expect them to do each day, tell them you need everyone to pitch in, then let them decide how. Come up with a list (together) of all the work that needs doing. Then let them choose what they want to do most. While in the short-term this could result in a bit less benefit for you, in the long-run it’s a win. Because your child will learn to participate with less resistance and more joy. This makes it easier on everyone going forward, and eases the flow of adding more responsibilities down the road.

3. Lower your standards

Let’s be honest. Towels folded by a 4 year old will not look like towels folded by a 34 year old. The same applies to table settings, bed makings, and floor sweepings. Resist the urge to “fix” your child’s work, and allow them to take pride in doing a job to the best of their abilities. If the messy towels freak you out every time you open the linen closet, consider it an opportunity to practice the art of allowing and your favorite deep breathing strategy. After they have done the task for a few of weeks, help them up their game by gently teaching them a few techniques.

4. Raise the fun factor

Work ≠ drudgery. Do what it takes to make it fun for your everyone to participate. Crank some tunes, tell each other jokes, play air guitar with your mop. Planning something fun for after a big task is finished is another motivator. Reading a book after washing the dishes; going for a walk while the freshly mopped floors dry, that sort of thing. If this looks mildly like a reward, so be it. If we have a big housecleaning day, we often follow it with a homemade pizza night or a fun family outing. I don’t set this up in a cause-and-effect context, but use it instead as encouragement. “Let’s get this work done so that we can head out for a ski!”

5. Remember the long game

Sometimes having kids help means a bit more work in the short term. Teaching them how to do a particular task, reminding them to complete their work, and breathing through your desire to have it done your way are all challenging in the moment. But the long game is that you are raising future adults who will notice when someone around them is carrying more than their share of the burden. And you’re raising adults who land in their first apartment or house knowing how to cook, clean, take out the trash, and otherwise run a home. Keep this vision in mind when things get sticky along the way.

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

Today I have kids who daily or weekly: wash the dishes, cook meals, do laundry, split and haul firewood, care for farm animals, and clean the house. At 11 and 15 they are nearly as strong (or stronger!) than me, and can carry their weight as well as I can.

They aren’t “helping”. They are participating. Because this is their home, too. And we all share the responsibility of keeping it humming along smoothly.

It’s like I always said: it takes a family to run a family.

No punishment, no reward. Just the expectation that everyone will participate. Because, like buckling our seatbelts or chewing with our mouths closed, it’s simply what we do.

Cue the confetti! (I’m kidding.)

Kids and Chores: five steps for painless participation. (Without bribery, punishment, or coercion!)

What is the best education for your child?

(My answer might surprise you.)

What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

When I was a kid I believed there were just three options when it came to education:

1. public school (where I attended),

2. private Christian school (which a few of my friends attended), or

3. dropping out, becoming a criminal, and ending up in prison.

I’m not sure where I picked up on the details of option 3 (perhaps my imagination?), but it was made clear that the only path to success began and ended with a formal education.

What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

At eight I believed that not going to school meant becoming a “drop-out” (a label that–worth noting–was applied to the person rather than the action) and I attached many fear-based ideas of what being a “drop-out” meant, none of them rooted deeply in reality.

The point was: it was set up as a dichotomous choice: school or failure. There were no other options. 

And assuming that I didn’t end up in prison, college was the only logical next step after my K-12 education was done. Again: school or failure. No plan B.

What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

Fast forward to my own parenthood, and my life has followed a different trajectory. I no longer believe there is a narrow, singular road to success. I see many interwoven paths that lead to an adulthood that is rich, rewarding, successful, and full of joy.

And for my own family, I chose a different path than that of my childhood.

Enter option 4: Homeschooling.

My kids (ages 11 and 16) have never attended school in their lives. Nor do we “do school” at home. You’ll rarely find us around the table, pencils in hand, math and science books piled high. You’re more likely to find is in the woods or the creek, the kitchen or the workshop; our curiosity alight and full of a love of learning that was rare in my own childhood but a constant in my life today.

This might make you think that my answer the question above would be: The best education for your child is interest-led, project-based homeschooling! Obviously.

Except that it’s not.

Because this is my family’s right path, right now. It has nothing to do with a singular “best” option or something that’s a good match for anyone else.

And just like hot sauce or heavy metal, yoga or pet snakes, it’s not for everyone. It’s not supposed to be.

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Choosing the right education for your child is a very private, deeply personal decision. A decision that no one should make but you.

I would be remiss in not noting that many parents don’t have the luxury of this choice at all. A majority of families do not have the means for private school nor the time for homeschooling, and have only one school on their list of options. Many of these public schools are struggling as well. Supporting parents and our public schools is critical to the education and success of these families.

For those of us who do have the privilege of deciding what is best for our families, we need to only look into our own hearts and–most importantly–those of our kids to find the best path.

What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

Your options for your child’s education may include public school, one or more private schools, and a plethora of homeschooling paths.

The best match for your family will appear only when you stop looking elsewhere for answers, and turn inward, tuning into your heart.

Like other deeply personal (and potentially controversial) parenting decisions, choosing an education for your child is best done with research and with heart. I encourage you to do your homework, then turn off the noise and tune into your child. You’ll find your right path if you listen in earnest (possibly one that surprises you).

And, well, there isn’t a singular right path. 

Do I think homeschooling is the very best educational choice? No. I don’t.

Like I have told countless friends and blog readers who ask me how we do it, homeschooling is most definitely not for everyone. Not for every parent, and not for every child. 

It’s a 24-7 gig, days and weeks and months of unending togetherness, and is interwoven with plentiful opportunities for shaken confidence and fear. For our family though, we found a wonderful, near-perfect fit.

What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

What tomorrow brings for my own family remains to be seen. Next year might mean public school or an apprenticeship or private university or the exact same thing we’ve been doing since the day our first child was born: living and learning, together.

Who knows what comes next? We simply watch and wait, listen and see.

Until then, we’ll be here, doing what we’ve always done: learning together, joyfully, at home and at our own pace. How grateful I am for the luxury of this choice.

I hope that you, too, find an answer that is equally resonant to your heart, your child, and this chapter of your lives.

 

 

What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

Homemade, natural toothpaste

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Making your own toothpaste is as easy as can be.

From a self-sufficiency perspective it’s awesome simply because you made your own toothpaste (how rad are you?). But you also get the bonus of being able to control what goes into your mouth (did you know most toothpastes contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate? Yep. Even at the Co-op).

Oh, and there is one very compelling reasons to stay away from the commercial stuff. Decay.

My daughter Lupine had early childhood caries (ECCs). Her teeth were crumbling by 18 months. Modern dentistry blames ECCs on poor brushing habits, poor diet, acidic mouth, genetics, and nighttime-nursing/bottles.

But that story wasn’t jiving for us.

We brushed well and regularly, ate wholesome food, and avoided juice, corn syrup processed foods, and most sweets. We did night nurse (and still do), but that seemed evolutionarily normal and to me it didn’t make sense that it would contribute to decay of healthy teeth. So I dug deeper. Lots deeper.

I discover a nutritional imbalance. We adjusted our diet to mainly Traditional Foods, continued to night nurse, and began to supplement deficient nutrients. And we adjusted our cleaning routine.

The first step? Toss the toothpaste.

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A coating of glycerin remains on the teeth for days after brushing with commercial, glycerin-based toothpaste. This film prevents remineralization, something vital for healthy teeth.

While our dentist doesn’t buy this theory, he did acknowledge that Lupine’s decay ceased within weeks after we made the changes above. It has been over a year and have seen no new decay since our diet and brushing habits changed.

The recipe below is our new standard. It tastes pretty good – sweet and minty, and if you rinse after brushing there is no soapy-taste at all. (Bonus: Our soap-based formula helps prevent swearing!)

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LuSa Organics Homemade Toothpaste

2 tsp Natural Liquid Soap (try unscented Dr. Bronner’s or similar. We’ve used our bar soap, grated into water but it makes too thick of a toothpaste for my squeeze bottle.)

4 Tb Coconut Oil

1 Tb Water

2 Tb Xylitol (optional)

1/2 tsp Stevia powder (edited in 2014: please use the green stevia powder rather than the highly processed white powder. A half dropper of liquid stevia is another great option.)

10-20 drops Peppermint Essential Oil

5-10 drops Spearmint or Sweet Orange Essential Oil

Boil a small pan of water. Measure out 1 Tb and stir into it Xylitol (optional). Stir to dissolve. Melt coconut oil and add to water mixture. Measure in soap and stevia and blend (a stick blender works well if you have one. Otherwise use your regular blender or whisk by hand like mad).  Blend while the formula cools enough to stay combined. Add essential oils and transfer to a clean squeeze or pump bottle. Cool completely, shake well.

Then smile at your self-sufficiency with those squeaky-clean teeth.

 

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