Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Art of Giving

It may be the season of gifts, but have we lost the art of giving? Even during the holiday season, we swap gift cards and sweaters, stress over sizes and colors, and toss inappropriate presents aside, all with a sense of boredom and routine. We are too busy and fatigued. We are short on time. We give physically but our hearts and minds are not present. We give to satisfy our egos, to reflect our own personal wishes and desires and not entirely for the sake of the recipient.

What is true giving? True giving creates a state of peace and joy. Real gifts come from the self, not the store. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself." Every person has gifts to offer whether kind words, a helping hand, or an expression of affection. And the truest gifts bring the greatest return, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Giving without the expectation of return brings a sense of happiness and gratitude. The more we give, the more flows back to us.

But can we learn giving or teach it to our children? According to neuroscience professor Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, who conducted a number of studies with Buddhist monks, meditating on unconditional loving-kindness and compassion actually alters our brain waves. The more we focus on generosity and compassion, the more able we are to create change. He suggests that compassion and empathy may be teachable and that we hold great potential for altering brain function by focusing on positive thought.

Teaching our children to be generous and charitable is most successful when we model giving. Let your children see the joy in selecting a special gift or donation for another, bring them with you when you volunteer your time, and show them the personal rewards of joy and happiness from the act of giving. Encourage them when they want to help or give - even if they want to give away a special toy or treat. Let them reach for their own generosity. Forced sharing or charity will foster resentment. Charles A. Smith, PhD, of the Kansas City University Cooperative Extension suggests that we honor the different ways that children express their generosity - through sharing, giving, or taking turns. Planning activities that children can do collectively can help them experience sharing on a basic level and to learn cooperative skills.

We can also work on teaching our children generosity on a daily basis and not simply during holidays or special occasions. Giving random gifts or creating special crafts or surprises out of love that is not tied to the calendar will build a strong sense of the true art of giving.

As we head into the holidays, help your children embrace the joy of the season and the experience of generosity and gratitude. They will not soon forget it! Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Every Mom (Dad, Kid, and Baby) Counts!

At the Holistic Moms Network we are passionate about building community, connecting parents, and supporting each other on our holistic journeys. We also believe that each and every parent makes a difference. Whether you are taking baby steps on your holistic living journey or giant leaps, the choices you make add up to a difference for you, your families, and for the planet.

That is why we are so excited to partner with We Add Up, a global campaign using organic cotton t-shirts that literally "count you in" to help solve the climate crisis. E very shirt is printed by hand with a unique number. YOUR number is your position in our sequential global count of people who are taking steps to do their part. On the back of each shirt is a word or phrase that describes an action almost anyone can take to reduce their carbon footprint - the contribution their lifestyle makes to greenhouse gases - such as, Holistic Mom, Unplug, Lights Off, Carpool, Hybrid, Bike, Buy Local, and 27 others. You choose which action you are committed to doing and get counted in. No one can do everything. Everyone can do something. As the count grows, we demonstrate to the world that "WE ADD UP," making a global impact.

The goal at We Add Up is to get millions of people around the world starting conversations on the streets. When you wear a We Add Up tee, you will notice complete strangers asking, "What does that number mean?" True change happens through education and it is their goal to give each of you a tool to be that educator and ambassador of change.

Together we have created a set of Champion T-Shirts to show how we add up as Holistic Moms, Dads, Kids and Babies! These fabulous organic t-shirts show how we unite to make a difference through holistic choices for our families, by helping to raise awareness, and by supporting our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization!

Be counted! Help stop global warming as a holistic parent, child, or through one of many green, healthy actions!

Friday, December 10, 2010

'Tis the Season

The holiday season is in full swing and it is a time when we reflect on what has made a difference in our lives and express our gratitude.

For many of us, being connected through HMN and our community has given us the courage to move forward and to make positive changes in our lives. Whether we made a small change or a big one, met a friend, learned of a new therapy or attended an interesting meeting, the Holistic Moms Network is honored to be a part of making a difference in your life.

As the year closes, we also reflect on what more we would like to do and how we can continue to bring even bigger and better benefits to all of our members, without having to raise membership fees. As a mostly volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit community run by moms, just like you, we do the best we can with very limited resources. But if HMN is important to you, you can also make a change for us!

Help support HMN this year in a big way or a small way. Doing year-end giving? Consider donating to our organization! You can donate easily online and help support us into the new year! As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, your donation is a tax deductible contribution to our organization! You can purchase HMN merchandise: cookbooks, t-shirts, Nursing Our Future DVDs, reusable bags and more. Get a nice gift for someone on your list or for yourself and a small percentage will help our community. You can give a new (or not so new) mom a gift membership and help her find the support and resources she needs or give to our Helping Moms in Need Program, providing memberships for moms who face financial challenges. Or you can simply join Holistic Moms, renew your membership, join a second Chapter or add a small donation to your current membership renewal.

We know there are many great causes out there and we are one of many. We are proud to have made a difference in the lives of thousands of families and know that we can continue to create a greener, healthier future for everyone with the support of our members. We hope you do, too!

Happy Holidays!

Nancy Massotto
Executive Director

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Going Greener, Practically

“It isn’t easy being green.” – Kermit the Frog

The path to living greener and healthier can be confusing, to say the least. BPA, pesticides, GMOs, food miles, parabens, and VOCs can make your head spin. But does living green have to be hard? Maybe not, if you have simple, practical steps that you can take to make small changes, one at a time.

Or at least that’s how Practically Green Founder and mom, Susan Hunt Stevens, sees it. Four years ago, her toddler son “had just been diagnosed with a whole range of food and environmental allergies. This got us reading labels — and we quickly learned a lot about the impact that chemicals, hormones, antibiotics in foods, and other nasty stuff have on us and our kids.” Becoming educated about the dangers in our homes and food supply turned out to be the easier part. Implementing these changes is another story.

What Susan was looking for was an easy system “for moms like me, my neighbors and friends” that would help them take small steps that added up. So she created Practically Green, a new online service that figures out where you are today on the green spectrum and provides you with a personalized list of changes that you can make to live even more sustainably. From switching to all-natural soap to reducing your air travel, you can take actions that will earn you points and badges for your green efforts! And you can make it social by linking your actions with your Facebook or Twitter account and encouraging your friends to join along! Practically Green is not only fun, but it helps you to figure out how green you are, decide your next green step, helps you to find products/services, experts, and friends, and helps you to stay motivated and inspired in your journey. It’s a great way to connect online and get some suggestions for how to green your life.

Little steps lead to big, green changes. “We have significantly reduced our toxin exposure from food and products,” says Susan Hunt Stevens. “We truly live more consciously and I do feel like I’m contributing to a healthier life for my kids and perhaps doing my part for the greater good.” And you can, too! Take the quiz, find out how green you are and get started! Then check in for simple suggestions to keep you on your personal green journey!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

We're Not Perfect

Guest Post by Mayim Bialik, Ph.D., CHEC, Actress, Celebrity Spokesmama and Member of Holistic Moms

I don't think I have ever been more flattered to be grouped with another celebrity as in your blog; Mayim Bialik and Gisele in the same sentence!? Wow.

I respect Gisele tremendously for her courageous statements about global health and breastfeeding (the evolutionary and natural way to feed and nourish human babies). However, I don't think I should be grouped with her. First of all, she is much wealthier than I am, I promise, so she may get help with her "perfect" parenting that I do not have the luxury of: nannies, babysitters, housekeepers: you get my point. Second, she is much more famous than I am, but I think my publicist will dig us being associated thus. And third, I am certain she never has days where she looks as crappy as I do, she's just too darn pretty!

Humor aside, the fact that I believe in every woman's right to an empowering natural birth, encourage and practice extended nursing on demand with no social life in sight for the next few years, choose to make baby shampoo and granola and live a holistic lifestyle, and serve as my children's primary caregiver does not make me an example of someone wanting to be "perfect." It just makes me me. Just ask the thousands and thousands of not famous parents who do these same things to save money, eliminate toxins from their children's bodies and environments, and most of all feel empowered that they know best what their children need; not doctors, books and magazines that sell trends, products, and the lifestyle of being a "cool" mom. (By the way, when did it stop being cool to just be a mom - and why do we need all these gadgets and name brands to make us cool? That's a whole other story, I suppose; I digress...).

I am the spokesperson for the Holistic Moms Network, a brave and wonderful fellowship of parents who do not seek perfection, but rather do the best that we can do for our children based on our own personal standards, morals, intuition and scientifically-supported beliefs. After being told by conventional doctors, media, and well-meaning friends and family what was "right" for my baby, I was thrilled to find an organization that supports my needs and my lifestyle without the elitism that I often find in advertiser-driven "children's" magazines which try to sell us hundreds of products we are told we need to be "hip" and current. I don't have the kind of money to live the life I see in those magazines, and I choose a simple life not because it's perfect or makes me perfect, but because it works for me and my family. Period.

I am far from perfect and I am the first one to say it. I lose my temper sometimes, I am very hard on myself, I have unrealistic expectations of my kids and my husband and myself and my bathrooms are never as clean as they should be. Dishes are almost always in the sink, clothes are all over the floor, and I don't get close to enough "me" time to satisfy any therapist's designation of nurturing myself. I don't know anyone living a perfect life, but I know many people living honest and thoughtful lives. This is not the life of wealthy celebrities. I have many non-wealthy non-celebrity friends who, like me, make their own cleaning products, shun popular medical advice, and choose to go without a lot of things in the name of pursuing the life they desire. People make trade-offs every day: do I buy the fancy dress for myself or save the money for a few dinners out with the kids? Do I buy a car I love or a car that will serve my family's needs best? Do I save up money for vacation in the Bahamas or a camping trip in the mountains leaving money leftover for a few months of groceries?

I am not trying to be perfect. I am a skeptical mom on a budget whose life is not very busy with social appointments, free time, or the use of a nanny or babysitter by choice. I dislike prestige, name brands, and being overcharged for products that I can make myself in no time. Do I always buy organic? No. Am I trying to be a martyr by not sleeping for more than 3 hours for the past 5 years because I don't believe in night weaning my kids? No. Do I think I am better than you for my choices? No. Everyone does what works for them. But please do not confuse parents who shun popular culture, popular media, and popular trends with parents who want to show everyone up. In addition, it is kind of bad form to condemn "celebrities" for being honest and public about our choices simply because they are not what's considered culturally convenient or acceptable; I talk to women every day who say that they had never heard of a celebrity supporting homebirth, naturopathy, or nursing a 2 1/2 year old, and I am thrilled if I can represent the wonderful variety of parenting that our free country allows. You don't have to agree with me, but don't be snarky and accuse me of being self-righteous when I am really just trying to raise my kids to the best of my ability, cameras on me or not.

For point of reference, making your own shampoo costs about a third of what you buy in the store and it takes 3 minutes to mix. My granola is made from oats, nuts, vanilla, brown sugar and maple syrup. I am happy to share the recipes with anyone interested (see below).

The next time you see a picture of me or Gisele on the red carpet, picture me instead on my hands and knees scrubbing my crummy bathtub with only a cracked open box of generic brand baking soda as my cleaning product, clutching an old rag, shouting to my kids, "Be right there! Stop tormenting your brother, Miles! Fred, come to Mama but not too close, the bathroom stinks!" As for Gisele, you can picture her the same exact way if you want to, but picture her looking 1,000 times less "normal" than I do. And let's all try and be happy for her about that.

Recipes From Mayim (Thanks for Asking!):

Put 1 cup water in a spray bottle.
Add: 3/4 cup any liquid castile soap (like plain Dr. Bronner's castile soap)
Add: 2 tsp any carrier oil (almond, jojoba, olive)
Add: 10 drops of any essential oil you want: (I like lavender and tea tree oil, but try orange or whatever you want)

Mix and enjoy! This is CONCENTRATED so one or two sprays is plenty for short baby hair. For shoulder length, I use 4-5 sprays. This is NOT a "no-tears" recipe so watch little eyes.

Combine all of this is a bowl and mix it up:
3 cups uncooked oats
1 1/2 cups of any combination of chopped nuts (we like cashews, almonds, and walnuts)
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or more or less to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup maple syrup (or agave if you prefer that)

I like to go crazy (!) and add 1/2 cup ground flax seeds and 1/2 cup wheat germ, but you can really improvise any way that works for you!)

Bake on a lightly oiled baking sheet at 325 for 35-45 min. stir halfway through to avoid burning the edges, like I tend to (that's maybe just because I have a crummy, old, terrible oven!).

Cool and put in a container mixed with raisins or dried fruit, or nothing. Enjoy!!!

Note: For more healthy recipes, including for personal care products, check out HMN's two cookbooks, Growing Healthy Families and Many Paths, One Journey to Health.