'My Toddler Won't Eat Anything'

Reader Short Order Cook writes,

My daughter used to be such a good eater. When she was contained in the high chair. Now since she sits at her little table to eat instead of a high chair I cannot get her to actually sit and eat. She roams around, plays, eats here and there. When do I start to really enforce, this is lunch, dinner time and you must sit? Plus her newest thing is “I want something else.” Which something else is usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or cheese. Is this something to be concerned about at her age (2.5 years) or should I let it go until she is older?

Dear SOC,

Kids, gotta love them, because you can’t return them.  Anyway, the first thing I wondered is why is she at a little table?  Unless you’re also at the little table, she’s not learning anything about mealtime, because there is no communal mealtime.  In a best case scenario you’re eating at a different table, but I suspect, you’re not actually eating when she eats at all.  If you want her to learn how to behave at the table, which I certainly recommend and do not think she is too young for at all, then there has to be a table.  Put the little table in the playroom where it belongs and put your child her at the table with you, on a booster if she needs it.  Make mealtime fun, by speaking to her and putting your phone away.  Don’t let her get up before she’s sat there for at least 10 minutes, five on a bad day, so she learns about appropriate dinner table behavior.

Next, do not make her anything different than what the rest of the family eats.  (Now you’ll be eating as a family, even if the only adult present is you, so this now applies.)  Yes, never.  If you’re packing her a lunch for outside the house, give her PB and J if she wants, but at home, you make a healthy meal with different things on the plate, and she must eat a bite of everything every time. Kids have to try new foods many many times before their tastes can change and they may like it.  Once you assess which of these healthy dinner foods she likes, you can work them into rotation more often, if you fear that she will starve.

Speaking of which, what if she’s hungry?  Then she will eat something out of what you offer her, especially if you have a bunch of options on her plate, all of which are healthy dinner foods, like a vegetable, starch, and meat, or some equivalent. If not, she will be hungrier for the next meal and will eat better at that time, and we all know kids love breakfast foods (and if you have a child who will not eat cereal, then you need to call Guinness.) Certainly don’t give her dessert if she doesn’t try everything on her plate. And hopefully, make dessert something healthy like fruit anyhow.

This is a topic close to my heart because I was never made to try things more than once that I didn’t like, and as a highly sensitive child, I didn’t like many things at first. My tastes became extremely constricted as a result.  It was to the point that I wouldn’t eat pizza at classmates’ birthday parties and had to bring something else to eat (which really helps you fit in with the other kids… or not). Later in adulthood I made it my business to expand my tastes, and to be able to eat and enjoy a wide variety of foods.  I wish I would have been introduced to a variety of foods earlier, many many times each, so that I could have practiced and learned to appreciate them.

Another point to remember here is that toddlers don’t need to eat as much as babies do, because they grow much more slowly.  So this is normal.  Rather than conceiving of your job as to make sure your daughter is not hungry, assume she has that under control innately, and think of your job as introducing her to table manners and to new tastes.  Then focus your efforts on this.  Also, eat with her.  She watches what you do and if you try a variety of new things, eat with gusto and manners, and eat healthy foods, this is what she will learn to do herself, as an adult and hopefully sooner too.

Good luck!  Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Whose Kids Sing “You Have To Try New Things Cause They Might Be Goo-ood” From Daniel Tiger When I Serve Them Stuff They Don’t Like.  Thanks Again, Daniel Tiger.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. Learn about Dr. Rodman’s private practice here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

5 Tips for Teaching Mindfulness to At-Risk Teens

Karen Bluth

From day one, I knew that it was going to be a different kind of mindfulness class. But I was ready. I could handle this. I had years of teaching teens under my belt, a number of which were in inner-city schools. But I was an experienced-enough teacher to know that I was going to have to be on my toes–the whole time.

As a mindfulness and self-compassion researcher working with teens, my goal has been to help them navigate what is often a very difficult life stage. Now, I was interested in implementing a mindfulness program with a group of at-risk students because they had more obstacles than the average teen, including language barriers, economic challenges, and issues of acculturation. Not much research had been conducted on mindfulness with at-risk youth, and I wanted to know if it would work. Could learning awareness and acceptance actually help the teens who were struggling the most?

The school where we launched the mindfulness program and conducted a study was an alternative high school, a small public school for students who had not been successful at their traditional high school. Many had issues of substance abuse and behavioral challenges. Many had been involved in the legal system; a number were parents or pregnant. All had histories of academic failure.

The first class went alright, probably because students were a bit apprehensive of me and maybe a bit curious about this “mindfulness” stuff. But by class two, they were over it. This strange woman came in off the street to teach us about–what, paying attention to a raisin? Are you kidding?

Despite my admonition, one student took a phone call in the middle of class, saying it was her employer; a second student left to “use the bathroom” and never came back. In class three, it was all I could do to keep the students in the room. Oh, and the raisin activity? When I asked them to pretend they were aliens and roll the raisin around in their fingers and tell me what it felt like, one lanky, sweet-faced boy said “a nipple.” Things were rapidly deteriorating.

One of my research mentors told me I could call off the project, but I recalled what the principal of the school had said at our initial meeting, looking straight at my collaborator and me: “If you want to teach mindfulness here, fine. But you have to commit to finishing out the semester. You can’t give up and leave in the middle. These kids have experienced adults giving up on them too many times in their lives.” There was no question. I was in for the long haul.

I talked to the principal and social worker about my struggles in class, and both were extraordinarily supportive and understanding. They had seen all this before. The principal suggested that I come to school another day during the week to “hang out” with the students to build trust, so I agreed. The school nurse had some experience doing restorative yoga with the students and suggested doing it in class; I thought that would be fine. I figured I had nothing to lose.

Since class four began with a body scan, and we had no room to do this in the classroom where we were meeting, we opted to have class in a corner of the gym. Students lay down on yoga mats, cushioned with zafus under their heads and zabutons under their legs. Some had their coats draped over them for warmth. Not your traditional body scan, but this wasn’t your traditional mindfulness
class, either. And so I began: “Notice the sensations in the toes on your left foot…”

And something shifted. It was subtle, but perceivable. The kids were calmer. More settled, and a bit quieter. From then on, we had every class in the gym, and every class began with either a body scan or a restorative yoga session led by the school nurse and accompanied by “gentle” music.

Throughout these weeks, I sought advice from the author of the curriculum we were using, Dr. Trish Broderick, who was wholeheartedly supportive of my adjusting the curriculum to meet the students’ needs. When I expressed concern that we might not get to parts of the curriculum if we continued to do the body scan in each class, she encouraged me to just go with what was working with these students. So body scan it was.

Through surveys taken after the second class, we found that students did not initially think that learning mindfulness would be all that effective, but grew to be more accepting of it over time. (In contrast, students who were in the “control” class, a substance abuse prevention program, initially had a greater belief in the effectiveness of their class, but became less sure of its usefulness as the semester wore on.) Also, while depression among students in the control group nearly doubled over the course of the semester, the mindfulness students decreased in depression by about 30 percent.

By the last class, students were able to share certain insights that elucidated what worked for them. Below are a collection of five suggestions that can help anyone trying to teach mindfulness to at-risk teens:

1. Choose the right space

The choice of physical space is paramount. These students were clearly uncomfortable–even distressed–with being in the classroom, which for them had associations with failure. As one student said, “If you’re in a classroom, you don’t really feel relaxed all the way…I wouldn’t be able to be completely chill in the classroom.” And another stated definitively, “We were going crazy in the classroom.” In contrast, the gym was where they “had fun and stuff.”

In the gym, they could relax and let down their guard; “you could take your shoes off, you know, and kick back,” one student said. The need for students to have a “safe place,” a place where they could relax and feel protected, was critical to the success of the mindfulness class. At one point, I recall looking out at the dozen or so adult-sized teens wrapped in coats, “tucked in” by the school nurse with meditation cushions and yoga bolsters, scented eye masks covering their eyes. Like baby birds in the safety of a nest, they seemed sheltered, secure, and at rest.

2. Involve people they know

When possible, utilize school personnel as assistants in the class, or have them at least be present. Research has shown that school programs tend to work better when they are implemented by school personnel, rather than outside experts. The reason is pretty clear–just remember how you (or your fellow students) used to treat substitute teachers. If school personnel can’t implement the program, having someone at least in the room will give it a sense of validity in the eyes of the students.

As mentioned above, these students had a history of having adults give up on them. Understandably, then, they were often mistrusting of adults from the “outside.” In contrast, many had positive and trusting relationships with teachers and school staff, and they felt safe with them. Unlike me, the school nurse was an “insider,” and was able to help facilitate students’ slowly–very slowly–growing trust in me as well.

3. Build trust

It was important to spend time with students outside of class to help build trust. From the beginning, I stayed after class to have lunch with them. There is something about “breaking bread” that eases tension and equalizes people. It wasn’t always easy–naturally, the students preferred to chat with their friends than with me–but I persisted. The girls were patient with my halting Spanish, and they shared photos from their cell phones of their babies, while I shared photos of my grown daughters.

At the principal’s suggestion, I also came to the school on another day during the week when students had an elective class. Initially I thought the “sports and games” elective would be mostly board games, but it wasn’t; it was sports. I was WAY out of my comfort zone, but my stubbornness refused to let me give in to my insecurities. I was a goalie in soccer, and, well, stayed on the sidelines passing out equipment during football. But at least I was there.

It paid off–by the end of the semester, students began comments with “Now that you’re part of the school…”; one student suggested that I chaperone an upcoming field trip to Washington, D.C. My discomfort on the basketball court was worth it; I had moved from being an “outsider” to being an “insider.”

4. Give them freedom to choose

Teens need to be able to make the choice to participate in mindfulness activities and meditations. Developmentally, they’re at a stage when they feel they should be able to make decisions for themselves, and yet they often are not mature enough to make some of them. For this reason, it is important to provide teens with choices whenever possible.

The decision about whether or not to engage in mindfulness practices can be theirs. And let’s be honest: You can’t make them participate anyway. You can’t make someone meditate…and why would you want to? Being too heavy-handed with the program would only result in backlash. At the same time, it’s important to clarify that if they choose not to participate in meditations, they are not free to disturb others who might want to.

Instead of judging students for not participating, try to trust that they will participate when they are ready. When they finally do, they’ll be able to get something out of the program. As one student reflected, “I liked this class because it’s the only class where you actually have the time to relax and think about yourself and how you’re doing in your life, and I feel like your mind is calm for a few minutes.”

5. Be flexible with the curriculum–within reason

Most mindfulness activities are designed to get at the same thing: to bring awareness and nonjudgmental acceptance of present-moment experiences. The specific practices we use–whether we focus on the breath, physical sensations, or sound–are incidental.

For example, when engaging in restorative yoga, students listened to relaxing, “new age” music, and were invited to turn their attention toward the sounds. When their minds drifted, they were encouraged to bring their attention back to the tones of the music. When it became clear to me that the students had an affinity for more concrete practices such as restorative yoga and the body scan, I made the necessary modifications and started each class with one of these practices.

Luckily for me, I was able to get the “green light” from Dr. Trish Broderick, author of the Learning to BREATHE curriculum that we were using, to do so. But making those decisions requires that the teacher have a deep understanding and embodiment of both mindfulness itself and the way it is delivered through the curriculum being used. There are no shortcuts here; embodying mindfulness requires a depth of practice.

In the end, teaching mindfulness to at-risk teens is not very different from what good teachers do every day: tuning in to the needs of their students very directly and honestly, readily adjusting the curriculum to meet those needs, and then fine-tuning their efforts and re-calibrating their goals.

One of our students said, “I really appreciate this class. It gives you a chance to think and not have to worry about what’s going on around you.” And as a teacher of teens who live immersed in worry and chaos most of the time, this means a lot. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

This Father's Day, Record That Parent-Child Interview You Keep Meaning To Make

The Huffington Post is building a movement to spark conversations between parents and children. We’d love for you to be part of it.
This Father’s Day, join HuffPost and Facebook in New York’s Madison Square Park and record a conversation for our parent-child interview series Talk To Me.
We’ll provide everything you need (including a beautiful private studio booth, suggested questions, etc.) for a heart-warming interview session with your loved one. Plus, you’ll be able to share it via Facebook Live, a new feature that lets you broadcast your life wherever and whenever you like.
You know you’ll treasure the interview. It’s all free and we’ll have plenty of great giveaways for everyone who participates.
Where: New York’s Madison Square Park, right next to Shake Shack [map]
When: Father’s Day (Sunday, June 19) from noon to 6:00pm
What we’ll be doing: We’ll have a special Facebook Live studio booth where people can interview their parent (or grandparent, mentor, etc.) live on Facebook. It’s really fun! We’ll also provide suggested questions + free goodies, and HuffPost will be featuring your conversations all day long to our 7 million Facebook followers.
What you’ll be doing: You’ll be having a short (5-7 minute) conversation with your loved one about whatever topics you want. Join folks like Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Melinda Gates and hundreds of others who have already filmed their own Talk To Me videos.
RESERVE YOUR SLOT NOW!
Not in New York? No problem! Create your #TalkToMe interview at home and have it featured on HuffPost. Tips and details are all here. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

Science Confirms That Any Way You Want To 'Sleep Train' Is FINE

Sleep training can be controversial, and many parents worry that letting their babies cry themselves to sleep could lead to bonding and psychological issues. 
But a small new study adds to the growing body of research that supports the popular method known as “graduated extinction,” or controlled crying, as safe and effective. And it found that a gentler method called “bedtime fading” works, too. 
“We hope this study promotes health conversations about helping babies, and their parents, sleep better — if needed,” said Michael Gradisar, an associate professor and clinical psychologist with Flinders University in Australia and an author on the new study, published in Pediatrics on Tuesday. 
He and his colleagues conducted the small clinical trial in a group of 43 babies age six to 16 months whose parents believed had a sleep problem. To qualify, parents were asked if their babies had a sleep problem, and parents simply answered “no” or “yes.”
One group of parents learned graduated extinction, which tends to be lumped into the broader category of cry it out methods, popularized by Dr. Ferber. These parents slowly extended the amount of time they waited before going in to attend to their crying babies: two minutes before the first check, then four, then six until the baby fell asleep, and so on for seven nights. 
In another group, parents practiced “bedtime fading.” Caregivers picked the bedtime they’d like for their baby (say, 7 p.m.) then pushed it by 15 minutes for a few nights, then by a further 15 for a few more nights if the baby was still struggling to fall asleep. The idea is that once babies are tired because they’ve been pushed a bit past their usual bedtimes, their so-called sleep pressure builds, and they more easily learn to put themselves to sleep. (The researchers have published the full guidelines for the various techniques online for interested parents.) 
Both interventions led to improvements in the babies’ ability to fall asleep after one week, Gradisar told The Huffington Post. On average, babies in the controlled crying group fell asleep 13 minutes earlier than those in the control group, and the number of awakenings they experienced throughout the night was cut in half, from an average of three wake-ups to one-and-a-half over the course of a month.
Babies in the bedtime fading group fell asleep 10 minutes faster than babies in the control group, however they continued to wake up with the same frequency throughout the night.
The researchers weren’t content with simply measuring short-term success; they also wanted to look for any potential long-term problems, so in addition to tracking parent-child bonding, they measured the amount of cortisol — the primary stress hormone — in the babies’ saliva before the study as well as at a 12-month checkup and found that the levels stayed largely the same. While they did not measure cortisol levels during the sleep training itself, the researchers believe the measurements provide strong evidence that sleep training does not cause long-term stress. 
“Extinction-type techniques that involve delaying a parent’s response to their child’s cries do not cause chronic increases in the cortisol stress hormone,” Gradisar said. “On reflection, this does make more sense as three nights of graduated extinction is not enough chronic stress to result in elevated biological markers of stress.” The researchers also found that in the initial month of sleep training, self-reported maternal stress levels improved in both the controlled crying and bedtime fading groups, and though the researchers did not explore why, it may be that navigating bedtime was no longer as difficult.
The new trial joins a small 2012 study, also out of Australia, which followed-up with parents who tried controlled crying after five years and found no differences in their children’s stress levels or relationships with their parents. That study also found that the children’s sleep abilities had all pretty much evened out by age 6.
The goal of all this research is not to try and convince parents that sleep training is necessary, Gradisar said. Rather, it’s to reassure parents whose babies are struggling to fall and stay asleep that it is a safe option if they feel it is necessary for their families. 
The findings don’t, however, attempt to offer up a solution for parents in those intense, early months when babies are up frequently through the night and mothers and fathers are dangerously exhausted. The researchers only included babies age six months and up, because that is the age at which point their 24-hour body clock has truly developed, Gradisar said, as has their ability to build up sleep pressure. Newborns and young babies do not have their days and nights sorted out yet, and must wake to eat every few hours. In other words, at that point it’s really a matter of waiting it out, not crying it out.  — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

Apologies: Why So Difficult for Some of Us?

My husband is a very proud man, and sees it as a sign of weakness to apologize. He is a good father but sometimes he does things that upset to our kids. He thinks if he says he is sorry they will respect him less. Now our kids are mimicking him. They refuse to take responsibility when they make a mistake.

Parents don’t have to be perfect, or even close. But we do need to take responsibility for our actions, delivering a heartfelt apology to our loved ones (including our children) when we have wronged them. This not only heals the connection with them after an upset; it lets them learn that making repair attempts is part and parcel of maintaining healthy relationships.

Unfortunately, many of us were trained in the fine art of defending ourselves at all costs. We cannot tolerate being seen as wrong, so we explain and justify our actions rather than taking ownership of them. This typically magnifies the hurt and fosters disconnection.

Parents often feel that if they acknowledge their mistakes, their authority will be undermined in the eyes of their children. On the contrary, when we demonstrate genuine remorse after we have temporarily lost our way, our children learn to do the same.

An apology must be genuine; simply saying “Sorry” does little, if anything, to make things right when we have hurt someone we care for.

I have found that when the following four steps are included in an apology, forgiveness and reconnection are almost always guaranteed.

FOUR STEPS TO AN APOLOGY

1) The first step is to say I’m sorry without justifying what we’ve done. When the dust has settled, there may be a chance to clear up misunderstandings that could have contributed to the falling out. But initially, the focus should simply be on delivering a genuine, “I’m so sorry” without adding layers of explanation.

“I’m so sorry I threw away your picture, sweetheart.”

2) Second, we need to specifically acknowledge how our mistake affected the other person. This allows the injured party to know that we have made the effort to imagine how they were affected by our behavior, offering reassurance that we truly did not intend to inflict harm.

“Now that I know you were saving that picture for Grandma, I can see why you were so sad when you found out I’d thrown it away instead of keeping for you to give her next weekend.”

3) Third, we show the other person that we want to avoid doing the same thing again. Humans are imperfect; I am not suggesting that you promise never to make mistakes. But in this step we let the other person know that we are committed to avoiding a repeat of whatever happened that was so hurtful.

“The next time I’m not sure if you’re saving a painting, I’ll do my best to ask you before I throw it away.”

4) Finally, in the fourth step we ask the other person what they need from us to make things right.

“Is there anything you need from me to help you feel better about this? Is there anything standing in the way of offering your forgiveness?”

As for your husband’s reluctance to apologize because he believes he will lose face with his kids,it is true that many adults have grown up believing that their ego must be defended at all costs. You cannot legislate humility, or lecture him on the merits of apologizing. But perhaps you can share this article with him and respectfully request that he consider the impact of his behavior on your youngsters.

Invulnerability and toughness are not signs of strength; it takes a big person to stand squarely in their missteps and do whatever is needed to make things right with those they love.

When we take ownership for how we show up in our relationship, our children cannot help but learn that this is an essential ingredient in living a life of integrity.

Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and the brand new Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (An Eckhart Tolle Edition). She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.

To learn more about her online parenting courses, classes and personal coaching support, visit her Facebook page or sign up for her free newsletter.

Do you have a question for the Parent Coach? Send it to [email protected] and you could be featured in an upcoming blog post. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

The Realities Of Co-Sleeping

We’ve all seen the perfect co-sleeping stories, right?

The bedding is top-quality Egyptian cotton… and totally bleach-clean white.

There are often fairy lights hanging delicately from the wall.

There is usually some sort of Ikea hack involved… to allow amazing functionality and plenty of space.

There is occasionally a bespoke storage system in place… perhaps with a handmade headboard, on which the family’s initials have been lovingly carved into the wood by delicate forest fairies…

These co-sleeping arrangements are all so very… perfect… seriously, just take a look:

Let me just be very real for a moment.

I woke last night — somewhere between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. I would assume — to a bloodied lip and a small foot triumphantly placed across my face.

Little Foot One, Mama’s Face Nil.

My darling daughter, light of my life, beat of my heart… had kicked me (hard) in the mouth in her sleep.

Thanks for that, love.

It would seem that 90% of the bed was not sufficient for her little body….she needed that extra space that my face was so rudely taking up. And her sideways positioning didn’t help matters, either.

And yet even with a bloodied lip, I still wouldn’t trade our co-sleeping ways.

Even with 10% of the bed, I wouldn’t give this up.

Because she needs it. She needs the connection that kicking mommy in the face at 3am brings. She needs to know that it is mommy’s bloodied lip that she is laying next to.

And in a strange way, I need it too.

Because — for real — this is the only way she will sleep. And when she is sleeping happily, I can sleep happily.

Everyone’s a winner. Aside from my mouth… which is healing nicely, thanks for asking.

So there you have it — an imperfectly perfect co-sleeping tale, to give a little roundness and context to those tales of pristine Egyptian cotton and faraway magical tree-house bedsteads.

You’re welcome.

Mama Bean has created a free Sleep Relief email series that shifts our focus away from the idea of changing baby and towards the filling our mommy cups instead.

This post originally appeared on MamaBeanParenting.com.

Thank you to mama Sarah for allowing me to feature her picture in this piece. For more glimpses into real life motherhood, join the Mama Bean village on Facebook! — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

God, Guns and Gardens by Allen Bush

2008 NRA Convention in Louisville, KY.
I’ve run myself ragged the last few weeks. Kentucky has had the most beautiful spring I can remember. May has been rainy and cool. Blooms went on forever. The weeds got ahead of me, yet chiggers and heat didn’t crash my spring party.
But it became harder to avoid the hot air once the National Rifle Association came barreling into town last week.
I attended the NRA National Convention eight years ago when an estimated 60,000 gun enthusiasts last visited Louisville. I wrote a story about it on Julie Ardery’s Human Flower Project.
Back then, I didn’t run into any lunatics seeking antitank weaponry for home protection. But no one packing heat seemed interested in Dr. Martin’s pole lima beans, either.
Wolf Pen Mill in Prospect, KY.
An estimated 70,000 NRA members showed up in Louisville this year. Donald Trump, once an opponent of assault weapons, came to town, singing a different tune. The “impossible candidate” received the NRA endorsement for president and tossed the faithful a bone. Schoolyards should be armed, he said. There will be no gun-free zones when he is elected president.
Shame on you, Donald.
Trump is not a curious man. New York Times columnist David Brooks said, “He [Trump] doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out.” Hunters and gardeners are curious about the outdoors. You won’t hear Trump talk about nature or gardens.
This worries me.
Trillium grandiflorum at Whitehall in Louisville, KY.
My life and garden would be very dull if I gardened in the absence of nature. Kentucky’s beautiful woodlands are often surprising. I am always grateful when I stumble upon larkspur or woodland phlox along a narrow path. If I’m lucky I might see a white shooting star, Dodecatheon meadia. Sedum ternatum or Saxifraga virginiensis could be growing nearby on mossy, limestone ledges.
Larkspur (Delphinum tricorne) and Phlox divaricata in Salvisa, KY.
 
My garden is influenced by what I see in the wild. Donald should put on a hairnet and take a walk in the woods.
 
Saxifraga virginienis in Salvisa, KY.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, addressing the NRA this year, said, “There is a verse in scripture about the watchman on the wall … it doesn’t do any good if we see what’s coming if we don’t sound the alarm, if we don’t sound the trumpet, shame on us.”
His get-out-the-vote plea for the November elections was “heavy on religion and guns,” the Courier-Journal reported.
My aim is improving, but my .22 rifle will never save my soul.
Spring beauties, Claytonia virginica, in Lexington, KY.
Matt Bevin has his sights set on bigger political fortunes. He’s too scared to risk alienating the NRA, demanding a ban on assault weapons. Our governor could have talked about our sacred woodlands, too, but he didn’t.
The governor should man up and take a shot.
Salvisa, KY on May 23, 2016.
I don’t think all NRA members are bat-shit crazy. Most, I suspect, are sensible hunters and sportsmen who love the outdoors as much as I do.
Hunters track deer while I stalk spring beauties.
God, Guns and Gardens originally appeared on Garden Rant on May 23, 2016.

Source: GardenRant

Asking Me 'When Are You Due?' AFTER I've Given Birth Is a Compliment

When I was a child, I remember sticking out my belly to see what I would look like when I was pregnant. Pretend-time with friends often included a ball under a shirt to play the part of the “pregnant mom.” But when I actually became pregnant 11 years ago, I was self-conscious about the burgeoning “bump” and the possibility that people would notice it before I was ready to announce to friends and family that we were expecting a baby.

As the bump grew, I reveled in the attention I received, the knowing smiles from older women and even the random strangers that wanted to touch my belly. I realized that for many, pregnancy represents a joyous and exhilarating time of discovery, growth and transition on many levels, even between strangers.

What I did not anticipate, however, was that six weeks AFTER my baby was born, people would still ask me “when are you due?” Ouch! Give a girl a break — my uterus hadn’t even had time to return to its original size yet. I had always known about the “post-bump” phenomenon and even as a young adult, I could spot a woman who had given birth pretty easily. But after my daughter was born, I balked when my mom gave me the book, How To Lose Your Mummy Tummy. As I had always had a rather slim belly, I didn’t expect it to be an issue for me.

Not only was I dead wrong but sadly, I discovered that — despite heroic dieting efforts and diligent core strengthening exercises — the bump apparently was here to stay. This was only compounded when I got pregnant for the second and third time. In fact, I began showing with the third baby as soon as I saw the double line on the pee stick. Just joking! (Not really.)

At one point during what I’ll call the “desperate years”, I even consulted a plastic surgeon to see if I had a common condition called diastasis, where the muscles in the lower abdomen separate during pregnancy and fail to close back after the birth, causing a pouching effect in the tummy. “Nope”, the MD said. “Your muscles are perfect and solid and in the right place, with just some extra skin and fat on top.” Oh ok, doc, gotcha. Thanks…

The frequent comments of “how far along are you?” and “wow! Are you going to have another baby?” caused me great consternation — to the point that I wanted to walk around with a sign saying “No, I’m not pregnant, just bloated and a bit overweight, but thanks!” Personally, I would never ask anyone that question unless I was 200% sure she was pregnant — e.g. seeing their water break in front of me or the baby crowning — but alas, many others do not seem to have the same level of sensitivity in this area. I’ve come to accept that and I don’t begrudge their curiosity and attempts at friendliness.

Just recently, I’ve decided to take another approach. No, I didn’t quadruple my efforts to un-do the bump via diet and exercise, nor did I choose surgery. Instead, I decided to regard it as a COMPLIMENT when someone thinks that I look pregnant. That’s because (1) I must be glowing and (2) I must still look young enough for people to assume that I can get pregnant. Woo hoo! Young, nubile, fertile and glowing! Just what a 42-year-old woman wants to hear!

Jennifer Garner, the actress, recently appeared on a talk show and responded to the tabloid rumors that she is pregnant and has an obvious baby bump. Her response was priceless.

So, to all the pre-moms, pregnant ladies and post-moms: let’s make peace with our bumps, shall we? Let’s honor them, cherish them and thank them for giving us the ability to create these incredible beings that we get to shape, mold and turn into caring, sensitive human beings that hopefully won’t ask random people on the street “when are you due?” But next time someone asks you that question? Be happy! Because it means you look like a badass, fertile hot mama. Own it, girlfriend!
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Jenny is the founder and owner of Jenny Eden Coaching – a coaching practice devoted to help men, women and teens create a more healthy and sustainable relationship with food and their body image. She is an Eating Psychology Coach, a mindful eating instructor and health and wellness blogger. She specializes in kind and gentle weight loss, unique binge eating cessation techniques and mindful eating practices.

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Source: huffingtonpost families

My Child's Terminal Illness Was a Gift

When my husband and I were told our giggling 5-month-old with perfect pudgy thigh rolls was going to die, we grieved for all she would never get to do and all we’d never get to experience with her. She’d never learn to walk. Or take ballet classes or play on the soccer field. She’d never go to prom or attend college or get married. The list of an expected life taken from all three of us is long and we grieved for each thing, each experience, each opportunity ripped from our grasp. And we grieved that after months of planning for our baby we could not even fulfill the most fundamental parental instinct — to protect her. Our grief and fear of when we would lose her was so encompassing we could feel it swallowing us whole, paralyzing us the way spinal muscular atrophy was paralyzing our Gwendolyn.

But then she didn’t become immediately sickly as predicted. And she still giggled at her silly parents as she had before and her pudgy thigh rolls were as perfect as ever. While our hearts ached with grief at our inability to change the dire, her little world had not really changed. She felt safe, she felt secure, and, in spite of the medical interventions she had to endure, our baby’s curiosity and spark for life never diminished. And that is when we realized everything going forward was a bonus.

Knowledge of finite time can be a gift if you allow it. That knowledge is the very reason we never waited to experience things, never put off the important memory making. Though fearful and unprepared, how could we spend that precious limited time falling apart? When so much is completely out of our control it goes against instinct to not clamor to control something. But with a disease like SMA, with no treatment or cure, the only control we have is in how we react. We had to muster up the courage to live life with fear and grief as a constant companion because our child deserved a life that was defined by the joy in it, not the number of years.

We started by savoring the small (some may say insignificant) milestones: going on a walk, feeding the ducks, swinging in the swings, feeling the ocean, celebrating a first birthday. All of those simple things now carried weight: one of heaviness that this could be our only time experiencing childhood rites of passage together and one of full encompassing gratitude that we get to experience them at all. Everything tasted a little sweeter and shined a little brighter after receiving our baby’s terminal diagnosis. And suddenly all those typical life stressors and parenting woes disappeared into the shadows, no longer really anything to worry about at all.

As our courage and confidence to handle her medical care grew, we started fulfilling bigger dreams: family vacations, cross-country road trips, sailing, Disneyland, celebrating a 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th birthday. And soon our life of losing our little girl turned to advocating for her (and others) to live fully and typically while she was here. Having typical childhood experiences, like attending school and making meaningful friendships, were all things she was never predicted to live to see and that became our drive. And seeing her blossom, rise to every occasion, challenge us to allow her to push herself even further became the norm. It isn’t that we ever forgot her illness or how fragile she was, but we learned to live with it as the backdrop. We allowed ourselves to settle into a life of contradictions — one full of possibilities but acceptance that it was only for a limited time. Fear and grief became part of the family, familiar and ever-present, but a more distant one.

In her seven years and nine months, we nearly lost Gwendolyn many times. Half a hair in a different direction and we would have. We know what it is to be standing beside her helplessly, holding her clammy hand, seeing the team of nurses and doctors tremble as things go south. And we know what it is to be the one saving her life — sometimes at home, sometimes in public, sometimes with no one else knowing our child is dying in front of them. While there is no doubt we have been devastated and each of those experiences left bruises so deep they made us profoundly change, we didn’t fall completely apart. Not while she still needed us. Not while we were still fortunate enough to have moments to savor — even ones filled with fear. No matter how difficult life was, our child’s terminal diagnosis taught us that each day with her still with us was a gift.

On July 25th, 2015 when the time came to say our last goodbyes, we weren’t entirely shocked. In many ways, we began preparing for that moment the day we were told our giggling 5-month-old with perfect pudgy thigh rolls was going to die. But we certainly didn’t feel ready. I don’t think one ever is.

Losing Gwendolyn has left a void I don’t think will ever be filled. But we still feel grateful. My husband and I know Gwendolyn was our greatest blessing; our daughter’s love of life allowed us to see the world through her eyes and gave us a perspective I don’t ever want to lose. Our child’s terminal illness taught us to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward — no matter how devastating the future may be. Navigating through grief and fear and finding a way to accept that we would lose our incredible child ironically helped us live more presently and more wholly. It changed the course of our lives, certainly. But we believe this course has a beautiful depth we would not have otherwise known. You can disappear in the overwhelming grief, be resentful of the path you must walk, or you can choose to see all that is good.

This post first appeared on Scribbles and Crumbs. Victoria regularly blogs on the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation, Facebook, and Instagram. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

Felder Rushing’s Mississippi Garden by Susan Harris

You may know Felder from his radio show, his books, or one of his highly entertaining talks.  Actually, I’m entertained by everything Felder does so while researching for Good Gardening Videos I was delighted to find this 16-minute tour of his home garden, with plenty of bon mots from Felder himself. It’s an Oklahoma Gardening Classic.
Click here to view the embedded video.
Felder Rushing’s Mississippi Garden originally appeared on Garden Rant on May 22, 2016.

Source: GardenRant