Sunday, May 31, 2009

Getting Dirty

This past week was a great opportunity to get your hands in the dirt and start planting - at least here in the northeast. Gardening season is a upon us and what better way to reconnect with nature, further our efforts to live healthfully and sustainably, and to save money? Even if you don't have a green thumb, here are some great reasons to try your hand at gardening:

Connecting with Nature

Getting outside is just plain good for you. According to the Boston Globe "Walking in the woods, smelling the roses, and digging in the dirt are good for mental health, learning, and brain development. Being close to nature may foster people's ability to concentrate, improves the behavior of children with attention disorders, and boosts science test scores, research shows." Richard Louv, author of the bestselling book Last Child in the Woods, makes a compelling case that our children are suffering from a nature-deficit disorder. Additionally, children are disconnected from the source of their food and the power of nature to sustain life. Gardening is a simple way to bring them back and to empower them with knowledge and awe.


"Food miles" is now a commonplace term among consumers interested in living green. The phrase refers to the distance our food travels from the place it is grown to its point of sale to the customer. A study published by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture indicates that a typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table. With gasoline releasing 19.64 lbs of CO2 into the environment per gallon, that's a significant ecological footprint for our daily intake of carotene! Produce from your own backyard is a simple way to reduce your food miles and your impact on the environment.

Good Health

Whether growing your own organic fruits and vegetables or purchasing them from a local farm, local food means you have a better chance of knowing how your produce is grown, what it is treated with, whether or not it has been genetically modified or irradiated, and how fresh it is. Organic gardening gives you an opportunity to feed your family without chemicals and pesticides and to reduce your exposure to toxins. Local food is also fresher and peak nutritional value occurs when a fruit or vegetable is ripe, so you maximize your vitamin intake while enjoying great taste.


Home gardening is on the upswing. "Recession gardens" are popping up everywhere, especially in the face of rising food costs, particularly for organics. By some estimates, just $50 spent in seeds and garden supplies returns $1,250 in form of savings in the grocery bill. Even if you are not growing your own food, buying from local farmers will put more money into your community. Farmers' markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer and many farmers, in turn, buy local supplies and products to further area sustainability.

So, we say it's time to get dirty! Eating local is a sure bet for your health and for the health of the planet.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Do As I Do

As parents we sometimes forget how observant our children really are, until they mimic one of our frequent expressions or behaviors - for good or for ill. My older son recently awakened my parental consciousness by complaining about how another person was driving in front of us. His tone and choice words were a perfect copy of me as I was rushing to get somewhere and expressing my own aggravation - and it gave me pause. Somehow I had forgotten that what I did and said would be a lesson for my child.

On the flip side, I have been asked several times how we have managed to teach our children such good manners. And I have had to stop and think. How indeed? But as I look around, I see that they have learned much from how we treat others and the way we behave with our friends, family, and the public on a regular basis. We have certainly gently encouraged particular behaviors but have "taught" them more by modeling than instruction. Conscious parenting has provided us with a path for understanding the needs and development of our children, as well for respecting their social choices. As parenting expert Naomi Aldort points out, the emphasis is not on meeting society's expectations for their behavior but rather respecting their own awareness, confidence, and the level of manners that they are at. For me, it also about giving them the time and space to express themselves. Instead of telling my two year old to "say bye-bye to the nice lady", I allow him the choice to react, speak, or go about his business as he sees fit. And I regularly nurture the courage to do so.

As Dr. Aldort explains in her fabulous book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, the path to authentic parenting is a learning path and one that means we have to be willing to cultivate trust and to challenge our assumptions, beliefs, and past experiences. Awareness and acceptance have been big steps in my own parenting journey, steps that I need to climb again and again.

We are honored to host Dr. Naomi Aldort as a Keynote Speaker at our 2009 Natural Living Conference. We hope you will join us to share in her wisdom and to take back with you a new perspective on raising our kids.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Silver Linings

Often, when we are engulfed by the cloud it is difficult to see the silver lining or even to imagine that one exists. But wise words are long-lasting for a reason. These economic times have presented personal challenges for many of us and have created a sense of uncertainty. Rather than focusing on the cloud, however, many parents are discovering the beauty of cutting back, living simply, and paying attention to what really matters.

Writer Maggie Jackson hit the nail on the head with her article Unexplained Benefits appearing in Sunday's Boston Globe. Being forced to reduce our consumption and to turn our attention to simple blessings fosters a greater appreciation of all that we have in our lives. Holistic Moms Network members have found that necessity is also the mother of invention: moms are find new ways to reduce and reuse, to grow and make their own food to save money, and the ease of teaching lessons about simple living when the drive to do more is diminished. We also see more clearly how fleeting material possessions can be and embrace the significance of sustainable living.

Similarly, we have seen both introspection and a longing for community. A desire to connect with parents facing similar struggles and to share new ideas for making healthy choices on a budget is bringing more parents into our network. Parents are looking for practical tips and a sense of belonging in order to wade through these rough waters. Our hope is that even as the economy improves, we will have learned some important lessons about what we value and what we really need so that the future continues to enrich our personal and familial lives.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Value of Support

"Since joining the Holistic Moms group, I haven't felt alone in any of my decisions, I feel confident in continuing my search for better options for my family. I have had great conversations and have made such great connections with other moms who are going through exactly the same parenting and health dilemmas as I am." - Karla, NJ Member.

Motherhood is undoubtedly filled with indescribable rewards - priceless moments of pleasure and joy. It is also a time of instability and unexpected challenges. Motherhood destablizes you into a vortex of chaos. Routines are turned on their heads, new experiences abound, and suddenly your identity seems to dissolve before your eyes.

Sound familiar? Moms everywhere share the experience of uncertainty and alienation in motherhood, perhaps even more so if you are following a less-than-conventional parenting path. Forging a holistic path can be a very lonely experience. Holistic parents reach deep into their instincts to do what feels right but confront self-doubt and external criticism from friends, family - even complete strangers.

But finding the right support network can transform the entire parenthood experience. Support groups and moms groups hold enormous value for mothers, by providing short and long term benefits for parents, offering stability, reassurance, and so much more. Support groups have proven to be effective on so many levels, including physiologically, where participants may experience reduced stress and improved health. Psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually, support groups enrich lives and transform the experience of motherhood in many positive ways. The value of building a sense of community is priceless.

At the Holistic Moms Network we have seen the power of support in action time and time again. Simply by providing a forum for interaction and support, mothers across the country have found a source of strength and empowerment. Whatever your parenting style, whatever path you choose, find a group that can offer support, bring you together, and build connections. Know that mothers out there struggle, too, and embrace the joy of sharing your journey!