The 10 Day no cell phone check challenge

no phone 2My latest massive inspiration comes from a blog called Hands Free Mama. A couple of years ago, Rachel took it upon herself to not be attached to her phone. She has written a couple of very inspiring and self-exposing posts about how to miss a childhood or about the day she stopped saying ‘Hurry Up’You can easily miss a childhood by being a slave to your phone or by constantly being “in a hurry”. They will only be little once, and for a very short time.

Just after I read her article, I went in to be with my 3 year old. He wanted to put raisins on the bed and pretend to be a chicken eating them by pecking them up with his “beak.” I helped him spread the fruit out on the sheet and just after he started to peck them up and grin at me after each raisin, I felt the urge to reach for my phone to check. In that instant, I realized that I too, most definitely have the screen and news addiction that I so long for my children to refrain from. Uggh. Yuck. I check my phone God knows how many times a day. And who needs to check in on current events more than once a day? Really.

For the next ten days, I vow to check my phone only once – after the children have gone to bed

Will I miss something? Yes. Will it  matter? Probably not. I’ll have the phone on for if it rings or if I get a text. I honestly don’t receive too many calls or texts in a day, and when I do, it usually is of some importance.  If I hear the email alert, I will ignore it. I don’t really facebook, but I do check Twitter from time to time, so this too will I slough off. No checking Twitter until after bedtime. This goes for in the car as well. If I’m checking emails or texting at red lights, what is that saying to my children? We could be having conversation, and enjoying this time together, but I’d rather check in with my addiction. Also, they will remember what I do when it conflicts with what I say. When they are teenagers out there driving, I really hope they won’t be a slave to their handhelds. It also means I’m not going to be checking email or news on my computer when I’m home during the day either. So here I go. I’m hoping 10 days will turn into forever. I’ll let you know how it goes. First, I have to go tell my family. Anyone want to give it a try with me?

Natural Lemonade that’s good for you

A tasty treat the kids (and adults) will love

You don’t need no stinkin’ GMO high fructose corn syrup or sugar in your lemonade. GMOs, high fructose corn syrup and sugar, which are in almost all commercial lemonades, are bad for human consumption. This summertime treat can be made from lemon juice and maple syrup, which are very good for us, and kids love it! I made this yesterday for a passel of kids and several made the comment that it’s the best they’ve ever had.

This recipe is also the basis for the Master Cleanse which adds cayenne pepper and voila, if you’re willing to fast and drink this concoction, you’ll jump-start your liver, kidneys and any weight regimen you might want to follow this summer.

Natural Lemonade Recipe:

1 quart of purified water

3/4 cup of lemon juice (fresh squeezed is best)

1/4 cup of maple syrup (NOT PANCAKE SYRUP w/ high fructose corn syrup!!!)

You can play with the recipe a bit. If you like it sourer or sweeter, it’s up to you. You can also make a glass at a time by adding 2-3 table spoons of lemon juice and up to a table spoon of maple syrup and getting the right mix. Drinking this first thing in the morning is a great way to kick start and clean out your system. And it’s super yummy to boot.


Community for those with Disabilities, as for all of us, is part of Natural Living

It’s only natural to know our neighbors

But how many of us actually do? Those of us who make an effort to know our neighbors gain in untold ways.

My friends and neighbors sat around outside a few evenings ago making music. The children played fiddles, guitars, and drums along with us. One of our friends was moved to tears, saying how much it meant to him to see that people still do this. Community feeds our souls.

Community, for all of us, is part of natural living. We can’t escape it, nor should we. It’s part of the rich fabric of our lives. Community feeds us, teaches us, and makes us grow. This story is from yet another perspective when it comes to community.

Cerebral Palsy – my friend Stephanie, her life and her inspiration

My friend, Stephanie, really has no idea how inspiring she is. When I met her last year I was awestruck. This fabulous woman has gotten her degree, taking special transportation to her university, attended classes, and written papers, when mobility and verbal communication are both chores by any measure. She then made the decision to give living alone a go. Her mother, who had been her caregiver for nearly 40 years, needed to move into a care facility herself, and Stephanie had to make a decision. She had never lived on her own. For Stephanie, just walking and talking takes great effort – in my eyes. But in hers, it’s just how it is. Effort is her normal. When I’m around Stephanie and her positive attitude, I am so uplifted. Our lives are what we make them.

Stephanie is a writer who in the process of publishing her memoir and offered to write a guest post for I am honored to host her writing. She is not only an inspiration to those she meets, but to anyone living with a disability.

The Natural Beauty of Living in a Community

by Stephanie Torreno

When Betsy invited me to write a guest post, I thought about her umbrella of natural living and how the topic applies to my life. A perfect aspect of natural living to share with readers entered to mind.  This aspect involves how I came to know Betsy, and more specifically, how I came to know, love, and rely on her in-laws as family.

After moving to our townhome nine years ago, my mother and I became acquainted with our neighbors.  In a row of adjoining townhomes, getting to know one another becomes easy.  Still, with Betsy’s inlaws three units from ours, we didn’t meet them right away.  At least I didn’t.  I first met Jane at a holiday gathering next door.  As my mom and I met more of our community members, our mostly female neighbors began meeting for lunch.  Soon, the small group formed a birthday club, inviting two husbands to join in celebrating a neighbor’s birthday by going out to dinner and enjoying cake and ice cream afterward at someone’s home.  I don’t remember joining the first few celebrations as I thought my mom deserved some social time without me – her adult daughter with cerebral palsy.

Mom convinced me to join the birthday bunch.  While I enjoyed the time with all six neighbors, I felt a special connection to Jane and Adam.  Jane and I knew some of the same people through her work and my studies at a Christian university.  Adam and I liked talking and laughing together.  Most of all, Jane and Adam became great friends with me as a person first, while learning about my disabilities and understanding the difficulties I have and the help I need.

Life changes

Almost three years ago, my mom’s life changed following a stroke and subsequent setbacks.  My life changed, too.  Following two moves with Mom, and several heart-wrenching and complicated decisions, I chose to move back to our townhouse – alone.  I sought Jane and Adam’s approval before committing to my decision. I knew I required physical and emotional support, no matter how independent I tried to become, as I attempted to live by myself for the first time.  Jane and Adam supported my decision and welcomed me back with open arms and hearts.

Employed people with disabilities often receive “natural supports” at the workplace, such as job training from coworkers or ongoing mentoring from fellow employees.  Although I am not traditionally employed and write from home, I consider Jane and Adam my “natural supports” at home.  While I receive daily assistance from caregivers, Jane and Adam continue to show me the necessity and importance of community.  My wonderful neighbors, friends, and surrogate parents drive me to appointments, accompany me to medical visits, and provide assistance when I need it.  J-Mom and A-Dad, as I often call them, include me in worship activities and family gatherings, where I met and became friends with Betsy.  Betsy’s in-laws demonstrate the power of community to me each day.  This sense of community, for which I am grateful, seems only natural to me.  

Stephanie Torreno’s writing has recently been featured in the book OMG That Woman, available on Amazon.

You can also see her six-word-memoirs here.



Advice about parenting?

 A question from a friend:

Would you have a good recommendation for an early parenting book?
My husband and I differ a little but on our approach with our two-year-old and I think
we could use more consistency in our approach! Know what I mean?

After raising two through early parenting, I do not have a parenting book to recommend per se, but I have learned some things. Considering I don’t know if you’re talking about spanking, getting out of bed after bed time, pushing or hitting other kids, potty training, or the other myriad parenting questions out there, I’ll just have a go.

The first six years are the rudder for life. Be careful. Literally.

This is the time when you become who you are going to be. You will pattern after the models you have. Your brain sets up its grooves and becomes “hardwired” during this time. The most important thing in my opinion is feeling secure and knowing you are loved. To paraphrase Dr. Suzuki, – if we give our children the foundation of a pure heart and a noble mind, they will find happiness as adults, and this is more important than anything and should be our only real goal as parents.

Remain as relaxed as possible at all times. You can never physically love your children too much. Shower them with affection. Deeply knowing you are loved is the secret ingredient to a very happy and fulfilling life.

Children have their own special way of seeing things. We need to be patient and loving with them. Positive reinforcement is the only way to produce results. A good book about that is Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor.

There are books that I so appreciate having read while my children were young. They are not really “parenting” books, however. They are: Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki and You are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin. They taught me that these first six years are such rich, fertile ground for setting the stage for life. Without any type of force, you can expose children to art, music, movement, and a gentle environment. Next to being loved, having a rich, gently stimulating environment is key to positive human development.

No one knows better than you how to raise your child.

People are just people. Seeking out advice is wise, but ultimately, no one knows better than you. There are folks out there who write books on the matter, but I never agree with them 100%. There is a blog that has shifted my parenting to even more relaxed, but I do not agree with it completely.

Punishment and reward

There is an idea floating around right now about parenting with no rewards or punishments, which I find absurd to say the least. Life is a series of rewards and punishments. Humans learn this way. Reward and punishment comes directly from nature. Just read Aesop’s The Ant and the Grasshopper if you disagree. Potty training is a great example of how far a chocolate chip will take a human being. I do not, however, believe in harsh punishments. Rewards are great. Minor punishments such as “the toy goes on top of the fridge for now” are great cards to play as well. I remember warning my three-year-old once that if he pushed another child, his halloween candy was going in the trash. Minutes later, we marched into the kitchen and dumped the candy. I for one, was happy to see it go (I think sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the devil. Well, GMO too) and the point was well made. We don’t push. I don’t recall him ever pushing again.

Time warnings go a long way

I’ll never forget the time when I proclaimed to my 3 year old, “Time to go.”  Sadness ensued, and the little girl he was playing with promptly informed me that I should have given him a warning. I knelt down, looked her in the eye, and said, “You are absolutely right. Thank you.” I have been the time warning queen ever since. No one wants to be suddenly ripped away from a good time. At the same time, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. I know a couple of mothers whose children rule the roost. When it’s “time to go,” the children simply don’t. Who is in charge here?


Huge topic here. Theoretically, the idea of being violent with children turns my stomach. In practice, a little seems to go a very long way. A pop on the rear of a defiant child and child abuse are two different things with results a world apart. Also, again in my opinion, even the slightest spank to a child under two makes no sense at all. Humiliation, pain, or spanking as part of your parenting plan simply can not result in well-adjusted people who respect one another.

Risking the relationship

When a parent becomes violent, holier that thou, or unbendable, something pops up called risking the relationship. True. Your tough stance could lose the child forever. They could rebel against you and turn into the exact person you did not want them to be. That “friend” you wanted when they turn 25 might never call.

Being human, getting down on your knees and working with your child on life – this little person who is going to grow into a big one, is necessary. Apologizing, admitting when you are wrong, and not being perfect are all important things to model. You are not perfect, but you can be imperfect as gracefully as possible. Remember, they are the next generation, new and improved.

Tantrums and how to raise an adult that won’t continue to have them

When my three-year-old was having his first tantrum, I recognized instantly what it was. I went to the internet and searched tantrum. The advice was sound. Put the child in a space where he can’t hurt himself and let it play out. It will end. Then go in and calmly explain that he just had something called a tantrum and that’s not how this family communicates. If there is something he wants to talk about, we can talk about it now. If the tantrum happens outside the home, at a restaurant for instance, one parent has to excuse themselves from the dinner, take the child to the car, and sit with the child until the tantrum plays out. The parent explains that this is a tantrum. It’s not what we do. And now the child and the parent won’t get to participate in the lovely meal going on inside. The child doesn’t get what they wanted, just a sit in the car. My child never had a tantrum again. My second child had this experience twice in one week, and never again.

Letting a 2 or 3 year old get their tantrum out and letting a baby “cry it out” are totally different things.

Never let a baby “cry it out.”

I read a very popular parenting book that had this idea as its basis – always just let the baby cry itself to sleep. I was sick. I won’t even stoop low enough to mention the book’s name here. When you are 6 months old, you don’t know much and you don’t need much. You don’t know there’s a big world out there, you don’t know how to talk, you don’t know what instruments are, or transportation, or I could go on forever. This list is infinite. It’s infinite for adults too, by the way. All you know is that there are people in your life, that they come in and smile at you, and make you comfortable. This is your basis for everything. If someone shuts your door and the noise scares you, or the dark scares you, or that silly clown someone stuck in your bed scares you, or if you simply don’t want to be alone, you’re going to cry so that one of those smiley people out there will come get you or stay with you. If you cry and they never come, you are learning deep in your core that you can’t always count on the people you trust the most, and that you’re on your own.

Developing a strong sense that the world is a good place, that you can trust others, and that you have help in this world is an excellent foundation for happiness. There are many tricks to getting a child to sleep. But they have to be sleepy. I can’t imagine making a child lay in bed when he’s not tired. A great trick is telling them that they only have to lay down for 3 minutes. They have to be quiet and still. Start gently stroking their hair and counting in a whisper to 60 very slowly. I use this trick on my 3 year old at nap time every day. No matter how much he melts down before, he is always asleep by the first 60 seconds. One time I made it all the way to 3 minutes and he was wide awake. So he got to get up. He was definitely not going to fall asleep for a nap that day.

The balance between tough and tender

Ah, the yin and the yang. You must have both, grasshopper. I agree with the statement that children like to know their boundaries. I think we all do. If you ever give into a child’s tantrum, you are teaching the child that it’s okay to throw a tantrum and that it will actually get rewarded. After all, you are the parent now. You have to act like one. Raise your child to be kind and thoughtful. Practice staying calm. Set the example. But when toughness and strictness are called for, step up. Be consistent. Here is a lovely list of habits/virtues to instill in your children. Ha ha. Joke’s on us. I’ve been trying to instill these in myself. It is almost laughable.

Get out of the way

There are two situations when I try to remember to practice this gem. One is when the children are being creative. The other is when my feathers are ruffled. As long as no one is in danger, just step back and pretend you aren’t there. You are gone for the day, and this in front of you is what would be going on if you weren’t here. It’s usually pretty eye-opening. The world would definitely go on without you.

You are the parent

As immature as you may be, you are now beset with raising another human being to the best of your ability. After your child is 25, you can be “friends,” but right now, your child needs you to guide the way. Without civilized parenting, due to the human condition, if left to their own devices, the next generation would quickly regress to The Lord of the Flies. Pick your battles, breathe deeply, and do the best you can.

Parents must always be on the same team

If you and your partner are not in agreement, sit down and see which parenting style is fitting in with your big picture at the moment. Agree on the fundamentals of how you want to raise your child and then take the situation at hand and figure out whose idea best fits. You must come to an agreement though. You must always come to the table as a team. You must always support the other’s decisions, never undermining them. Without having a specific question, that is my advice. As far as books go – the one you write will be the best for you.