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It Takes a Family

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family

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 relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


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I’ve often reflected that the short eleven months that I’ve been a mommy have taught me more about life and love than my previous twenty-six years on the Earth.  And if I did not appreciate my large family before, then I definitely know better now.

To start.

We have a lot of family, which means that my daughter has a lot of family.  As the very first grandchild on this branch (on both sides) she has six doting grandparents, three aunts, and three uncles.  Most of this family lives within an hours drive either north or west.  A smaller chunk live about three hours away – a trek by car, but near enough to be there when necessary.  This means that she also gets her fair share of spoiling and we get our fair share of “help” (most of it welcome).

There are many benefits to having such a large family so close by.

  1. It’s usually not difficult to find (free!) childcare short notice.  When The Boy and I came down with a vicious stomach bug (or something) I was able to call my stepfather to pick me and my daughter up from school.  He then drove us home and took care of us until my husband showed up.  At this point, he grabbed the baby and a bag full of clothes and took her away for the night, so that we could throw up and crawl across the floor in peace.  (I was literally crawling across the floor.  It was disgusting.)  All this was the day before we buried my grandfather (his father).  This event meant that we had tons of visiting relatives looking out for our daughter (My grandfather boasted that he had over 100 grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.  I think he may have even had three great-great-great-grandchildren…but after a while, we started to lose count.) even when we couldn’t be there.
  2. There are at least six different people I can call for medical advice before calling the pediatrician – seven if you include my “big sister” (a close cousin) – and at least another three aunts that I can easily contact online for help.  (Hey Aunt Michelle!  Hey Aunt Jerri!  Hey Aunt Sam!)  Whatever Petals comes down with or gets into, I can almost guarantee that one of the moms have dealt with the same problem with at least one of their multiple kids.  When I was breastfeeding, there were three moms to help me with that.  When I agonized over switching to formula, I had at least two moms to help me with that.  When Petals fell asleep on her tummy, even though the doctor told me I should put her on her back, I made about three phone calls to my parents, just to figure out that the best thing to “do” was to let the baby sleep.
  3. These people represent as many different approaches to child-care as I can imagine.  I’ve picked up so many different techniques from having a variety of role-models and drawing off of their experience.  Sometimes, it can get a little…trying…to have so much helpful advice pumped your way or to be teased for your “crazy” idea that you’d teach your baby to sign (It’s like when your mom reminds you to say “thank you” before your twenty-year-old self has a chance to say it.  It’s good advice, but sheesh!) but more often than not, this advice is looked for and welcomed.

From our families we’ve learned to trust in ourselves and to accept help when it is offered.  The older Petals gets, the more I believe in the notion that it takes an entire village to raise a child.  Now I see why people live with extended family in other countries!  It’s much easier to raise kids that way! There have been times when the two of us were so worn out and frazzled that we needed a third or fourth pair of fresh eyes on our baby.  There have been times when we just didn’t know what to do, and we needed a third or fourth fresh brain to concentrate on the problem.

I am so grateful for my family.

I couldn’t do this without them.

Well, maybe I could.  But it would be much more difficult.


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 live and updated by afternoon May 8 with all the carnival links.)

  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child’s grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family…
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What’s Next can’t imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son’s life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt… until she remembers what it’s actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My ‘high-needs’ child and ‘strangers’ — With a ‘high-needs’ daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter’s extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family’s summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the “village” even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don’t get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must’ve been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs– Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn’t an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.

9 month portraits

And OH YEAH, I forgot to update the blog with info about the 9 Month Portraits.  I think that Petals is particularly adorable in these!

allie mullin photography – 9 month portraits

alicia and jeremy invited to their home for another session with zuri, who recently turned nine months old. she’s growing up so fast! we had a conversation (i did most of the talking), and bonded over a mutual love of string cheese.

i received this beautiful email from alicia after our session: one day, when I’m gone, these pictures will be hers.  Or her daughter’s.  And when they remember me, this is the face I want them to remember.

that is my goal for all my clients: to capture their special moments so that they and their families can treasure them for many years to come

Allie really did an amazing job of capturing some loving moments in our family.  None of them were staged (as you can tell if you check out the picture with a snotty-nosed baby) and all of them captured some very real looking people at their very best.

Getting Old

My husband and I are getting old. We’re in our late 20’s already. When did that happen? He realized that he was getting old once he stepped into the Foot Action at the mall. I realized that I was getting old once I made a Captain Planet reference that nobody got. I realized that I was getting old once I found myself making the decision to flip the channel to NPR during the song breaks on the local “hip-hop” radio station, and flipping back just to listen to the morning show.

Who does that?
Who listens to morning shows?
Who would rather hear NPR than the latest Ke$ha?  (Who, by the way, declared that the industry needed people like Ke$ha…what the crap was that all about?  I get that the concert industry is dying…but why Ke$ha?)
That’s right.
Old people. And me.

For a while, I thought that everything I was hearing was poop – a la Stan Marsh. Then I realized that it can’t all actually be poop. Right? Someone out there thinks that this (tv, radio, shoes, etc.) is hot. So why don’t I get it?

“Uh oh! That’s fly!” my brother said. “That’s boss!” I thought, for a second, that he was mocking my outfit by using old slang. Then I realized he was serious, and that I was old enough to remember when slang came in…and went out…and then came back in again.
You know who else remembers these things?
Old people.

That’s cool though.
That’s cool.

Month 2 – Eight Weeks

I’m writing this at 3:47am.
Zuzu is squirming in my lap as I write it – grabbing and scratching at the arm that is restraining her body.
The time is important to note.
This is the time when I officially gave up trying to get to sleep this evening.

Zuzu has been waking up every single hour, on the hour, requesting food – and after trying to feed her and put her back to sleep (either in the bassinet, in bed with me, or in her wrap carrier) I finally gave up.  I’ve been up with her.  Her father has been up with her – despite having to wake up early for work in the morning.  (He took the day off today – well, I guess, technically yesterday – because Zuzui had been up from 1am until 4am.  Considering the bullcrap that’s been going on with my family, and my lack of sleep, I think he thought I needed the help.   I did.)  I am very frustrated by this turn of events – she’s gone from sleeping at four and five hour stretches to thirty minute catnaps – and I would be quite upset, except for the fact that she’s learned a new trick that makes it all worthwhile.

Petals has gotten the hang of smiling.  Occasionally, they still look a little insane…but… nonetheless, she’s figured out how to bust out a beautiful and heartwarming grin at just the moment when you’re feeling the most frustrated.  Ack – she’s thrown up on my favorite shirt!  Not to worry, there she is, warm brown eyes and big toothless grim.  Oh no!  Did you poop on your onesie?!  There she is, ready with a twisted, lopsided smile.  She’s even figured out how to squeal or squeak in order to draw attention, often yelling at us when we’re paying too much attention to the television or computer or, our most recent purchase, smart phones.  She’s also figured out how to do this when we’re trying to sleep.  Scree!  Screech!  Look at me!  Grin!

Her grandparents go absolutely silly when they see this.

Zuzu and GranNanaAt a whopping 13.2lbs – at least she was on the third, I’m not so sure about today after her buffet of breastmilk – she appears to me to be a huge baby, though many assure me that she’s got a lot more growing to do.  And she’s made lots of strides.  She can lift her head up when placed on her stomach, and she can even push her chest off the ground.  She can scoot with more emphasis, and along with grinning and smiling, she can also gurgle, coo, and babble along with the best of the beginners.  She’s also, adorably, getting the hang of giggling, though this still sounds like a cross between getting ready to cry and choking on saliva.  A cute cross of getting ready to cry and choking on saliva, but it’s going to take a little work before she’s full giggle.

We’ve been doing a lot of visiting and showing off these new skills.
On the 15th, she visited my dad’s family for a father’s day cookout.
On the 23rd, she visited my step-dad’s family for the annual June get together.
On the 3rd, she visited with Carol and Monte’s family for the fourth of July cookout.

This week, we’re taking it slow.  Or at least we would be.

News and Updates

1.  I dyed my locs!  I’ve never had my hair dyed before – and I decided, after months of thinking about it – to get some sort of streaking done.  I settled on bright red.  And, I was super excited because the place that I went to not only dyed, styled, and super moisturized locs (and other forms of natural hair) BUT they also offered spa services…like prenatal massage.  So.  I spoiled myself.  Pics and such behind the cut…