Family Planning

February 24th, 2011
Author: Monica Cravotta

I’d venture to say that 90% or more of the readers of Attachment Mama are mothers. Many of us dreamed up our beloved children for years before having them. Many of us planned when we would get pregnant (roughly) and how far apart each child would be.  And many of us may have thought about being mothers but had unplanned pregnancies.

My long time best girlfriend found out she was pregnant the first year of her PHd program, just one month after moving in with her new boyfriend. It was a very difficult decision for them at the time, but they chose to have their baby. They married a few weeks prior to him being born and had another baby two years later — all while finishing their Phd programs.

Seriously impressive.

Some couples and single women aren’t in the same position to be able to handle an unplanned pregnancy so well.

And thus, the enormous benefit of incredible services like Planned Parenthood that make women’s health services and birth control affordable and accessible.

Did you know that on February 18, House representatives voted 240 – 185 to pass the “Pence Amendment,” which if made into law will strip Planned Parenthood of all its federal funding? This would prevent them and all their affiliated organizations from receiving any federal funds — including money for STD testing, pregnancy testing and cancer screenings.

Because they serve many under-resourced individuals and couples, this would mean that 48% or 1.4 Million people would be cut off from their source of health care.

As a busy Mom, Planned Parenthood isn’t typically on my radar these days.  So how do I know all this?

My BRILLIANT daughter Audrey, a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College, is advocating to help save Planned Parenthood right now and has put together this valuable web site resource that is currently getting 1000’s of hits every day.  I’m very proud of her for being drawn to work that makes a difference for other people — especially women.

Way to go Audrey – I love you!

Posted in Family Planning | 1 Comment »

Preventing and Mitigating Sibling Melt Downs

February 20th, 2011
Author: Monica Cravotta

Art Credit: Siblings Without Rivalry

This past week I attended a class with one of my favorite early childhood experts, Carrie Contey. This was a class on siblings. I walked away with a deeper understanding of the unique needs of children based on their birth order, new insights on what drives sibling conflict, and several light bulb moments on better meeting my daughters’ emotional needs in general. Austin Mamas – if you haven’t taken a class with Carrie, I highly recommend her. I’ve never left a class without several valuable new insights and workable ideas to put in practice.

I’ll share the high level take-aways with you here:

* Birth Order. Firsts never forget that they were here first and don’t want you to either. They need acknowledgment and appreciation of their role as first. Forever.  Middles need to hear how special it is to be in the middle. Youngests need to know that you understand how frustrating it is to be the youngest and not get to do what olders are doing. They need ongoing empathy for this.

* We’ve got 3 parts to our brains:

  1. Human – Thinking. Learning, talking, listening, reasoning, loving, playing.
  2. Mammal – Feeling. Not listening, resisting, crying, demanding, whining, clinging.
  3. Reptile – Fearing.  Fight or Flight. Fight: kicking, biting, screaming, hitting. Flight: avoiding, running away, shutting down.

Babies consistently live in the reptile part of their brain as they cry to get their basic needs met. And as they grow from age 0 to 7, they are working on developing their human, thinking brain. When children are apart from their parents in preschool or daycare or with a nanny, they are working really hard to contain their emotions, to think, to work, to learn. And even with all this positive, wonderful growing — it’s draining and stressful. When they reunite with parents, meltdowns are common because they are letting down from working so hard to contain their emotions without Mommy or Daddy.

Food. Sleep. Love.

* Sibling rivalry is normal AND they need their parents to be the Steady Eddies in the fire to help them regulate. It’s inevitable because they likely spend more time with each other than anyone else at home. And it’s through a sibling that they learn how to resolve conflict. Once again the cry for self-care comes through loud and clear for Mothers which so many of us find so difficult to do. But it’s when you’re depleted that you are more likely to join the fire with your own reptile brain instead of provide the calming, grown-up force to diffuse it.

Three Tips on Preventing and Mitigating Meltdowns with Small Children:

  1. Fill them up with Big Attention after every separation – including sleep. Whatever that looks like for you, and take it up a notch with the level of intensity.  Rather then feeding them the heightened negative attention of “STOP THAT!” intensity, feed them with big “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!”. Big silliness. Physical games.  Your eyes and ears completely on them and bouncing back and forth between each child.  In the mornings now I’ve been trying out Carrie’s suggestion of simply saying, “I see you!” to each child and going back and forth between the two, saying it over and over again.  When they are filled with intense attention, even in just small bursts, they’re less likely to get into sibling conflict or their own individual melt-down mode which is just another way to get your intense attention. Just not as much fun for anybody.
  2. If you are a working AP Mama like me, consider making those three or four hours a day that you have with your children during your week uninterrupted by anything else.  Put all screens away so that you’re not distracted by a single text or email during your time together. Knowing that transitions are hard and that I usually come home to kids having melt downs, I’ve been looking for ways to help make this time together more pleasant since we have so little time.  The “A-Ha!” suggestion from Carrie that I’m running with: When I come home from work, I’m not worrying about getting dinner on the table or talking to my husband or our baby-sitter about anything for a good 10 minutes. I’m giving all my attention to my girls and going back and forth between them quickly to fill them up, play, hug, be silly — whatever.  I’ll let you know how it works….
  3. If a conflict between siblings is underway, don’t try to reason with them or get to the “why”.  (like I do) I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “No honey, of course you’re not poopy. Just because someone says something, doesn’t mean it’s true. We don’t talk that way to each other.”  Instead, focus on a quick redirection and come back to a mini discussion on your family’s values at another time when all is peachy.  Carrie’s fabulous redirection suggestion:  Grab their attention away from picking on their brother or sister and say, “I think you need a challenge!”  And then give them something to do that’s both mental and physical.  Do three twirls. Then count to twelve. And then hug your sister while you sing.  You get the idea….

All these ideas for melt down prevention or “work-around”, by the way, assume that you’ve covered the basic needs:  food, drink, sleep.

So what happens when everyone is short on sleep because one of your children kept everyone else up all night with her coughing and crying and you have to run an errand the next day because there’s no other option?

I can confidently say that in these cherished Mama Moments, you must simply breathe through the kicking and wailing on the floor tantrums that take place at XYZ store because the child wants something you’re not up for them having or in my recent case — something impossible. My Littlest wanted the same kind of princess underwear I was buying for my Oldest at Target — and her size was out of stock (bless her heart). Absolutely no other kind would do and the eye of her hurricane was too intense to redirect her attention to anything.

And when someone stops to look at you with a why-aren’t-you-doing-something-to-stop-your-child-from-screaming look, you simply look them back in the eye in a penetrating sort of way and flip them off.

No, I didn’t give anyone the bird. That part was pure fantasy. Maybe in my next life.

All for now. Gotta fill my cup with some sleep!

Posted in AP & Self Care, Attachment Parenting, Conflict Resolution | 2 Comments »

Healthy Valentine Sweet

February 13th, 2011
Author: Monica Cravotta

Check out this dairy-free, date-sweetened chocolate mousse. The ingredients will surprise you, and the sweet, creamy taste will delight you.  Happy Valentines Day to you and yours!


3/4 cup raw cashews
1 cup packed pitted dates (about 20)
1 (15-ounce) can pureed organic butternut squash
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk beverage, more if needed
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh raspberries (optional)
Grated coconut (optional)


Place cashews and dates in a medium bowl and cover with very hot water. Let soak for 2 hours to soften. Drain well.

Place drained cashews and dates, butternut squash and coconut milk in a high-powered blender or food processor and process until smooth (this may take 1 to 2 minutes). Add cocoa and vanilla. Process again, adding a bit more coconut milk if needed to make a smooth, mousse-like texture. Chill at least 1 hour or until ready to serve. Garnish with raspberries and coconut.

Posted in Nutrition | 1 Comment »

Empty Cups and Loving Kindness

January 31st, 2011
Author: Monica Cravotta

Empty cups and loving kindness. Ten years from now, if I look back at this blog, I wonder how many entries I will count during this chapter of life with small children in which I discuss the topic of my “empty cup.”

Responding with loving kindness. This is the crux of attachment parenting, right?  You look at the principles of the AP parenting philosophy and all the subjects ultimately come back to this ideal. It’s about developing and nurturing close connections between parent and child by:

  • Preparing for pregnancy, birth and parenting
  • Feeding with love and respect
  • Responding with sensitivity
  • Using nurturing touch
  • Ensuring safe sleep — both physically and emotionally
  • Providing consistent, loving care
  • Practicing positive discipline
  • Striving for balance in personal and family life.

Right now I’m finding myself annoyed by the contradicting recommendations.

For all those mothers reading this who at 18 months or 2 years are still waking up three, four…eight times a night to lovingly offer your body to your child….

For all the mothers that have gone a year or two or more without trusting anyone other than their partner to care for their child in order to get a break…..

For all the mothers that are at their wits end and are just plain worn out….

How do you continue to respond lovingly every single time to the needs of your children (and your partner or your spouse?!)

At some point, the lack of self-care sets you up to treat the people you care about most the opposite way you intended when you first gravitated toward Attachment Parenting.

In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s virtually impossible to maintain our collective AP goal of responding with loving kindness to cries, to boob grabs, to tantrums, to sibling fights, to whining requests when we continue to ignore ourselves.

I don’t know what AP looks like if we — as I’ve written in the past — focus on the last (notice it’s last??) AP tenet  THEN abide by the rest. So much of the first seven principles, for me at least, has meant sacrificing the last (me) and then — here at Year Four while I now attempt to maintain some level of this practice with a full-time job — has me in a fairly chronic state of oh-my-god-when-can-I-get-a-break pissed-off-ness which is bleeding into my family and mirrored back to me through the angry outbursts of my children.

The Loving Kindness goal must apply to everyone in the family including oneself. It’s so damn hard to figure out. But it’s just imperative to give your children the gift of modeling self-love and the gift of experiencing a mother whose state of being reflects that of someone with tempered self-sacrifice.

Mothers who carefully abide by all 8 principals and carefully tend to yourselves — I really want to hear from you and share your story here if you’re willing. Please drop me a line:

Last month I was published in a Washington DC magazine called, “Pathways“.  The article hasn’t posted on their web site yet. When it does, I’ll share it here. It’s called “Positively Grateful: Three Easy Tips for Maintaining a Loving and Positive State of Being.”  It’s based off a post on Attachment Mama that I wrote several months ago that the magazine discovered and asked to print.

The Tips:

  1. Change Your Physiology. Discover the desired emotional state that matches a physiological state and start with the latter to produce it.
  2. Check in On Your Focus and Your Beliefs. Are you focused on believing your current situation will be forever? And how does that irrational thought block opportunities?
  3. Change the Question. Be aware of inner voice doom and gloom questions like “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why can’t I figure this out?”. Negatively oriented questions produce negatively oriented answers. Catch yourself and try a new set of questions:  “How Can I Make this Fun?” or “What am I willing to do to create a new reality?”

I have – God Bless America  – started a tiny running routine again.  And this is helping.  But it’s puny and it’s not fully consistent.  YET.  Going beyond fifteen or twenty minutes and 2 times a week will be key for me. I know that running for me can put me in a zen state that is all about #1 and can bring in the benefits of #3 if I consciously move my mind in developing new mental questions while I’m moving my body.

I circled around and around all that I was frustrated about for the first 14 minutes of my mini jog the other day and then came up with a random new question that shook me out of it:

Who buys and drives bright yellow cars?  And more specifically, who buys and drives yellow corvettes?

And since I asked that question to myself the other day, and it made me smile which I don’t do nearly enough these days, I’m constantly on the look-out for non taxi cab yellow cars. The other day I made it a game for my girls on the way to school and they loved it.

One of these days maybe I’ll meet a yellow corvette driver (doubtful?) and discover the nuances of his unique personality.

Posted in AP & Self Care | No Comments »

Vegan Wanna-Be Turning the Corner

January 20th, 2011
Author: Monica Cravotta

There’s been some added pressure to get legit with this whole vegan thing since taking this full-time job marketing Engine 2 for Whole Foods Market.  You haven’t heard from me in a while because… well…it’s Diet Season, y’all.  The New Year, New Me thing really happens and anyone working for a health food store or a Diet business of some kind is officially buried this month.

I’ve had all kinds of mental stuff come up over the last six months that has had me resist embracing plant-based 100%. My latest trap?  I just qualified for “platinum” at work. What does this mean? Well, everyone that works at Whole Foods Market automatically gets 20% off at the store.  Then, because the company is so committed to it’s employees health, they’ve got an incentive program to earn up to a 30% discount based on your scores of biomarker tests:  nicotene, cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI are the basics.  And based on your numbers, you’ll either keep 20%, or get bronze, silver, gold, or platinum – 30%.

So, I look at my platinum score and I think — I’m not at risk. An egg here or there and fish and dairy on occasion — no big deal.  Then I started reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.  Foer is one of my all-time favorite authors. Love his fiction. And this non-fiction is mind-blowing. I’m so grossed out by factory farming after reading his book, that I find myself happily, fully plant-based. Now, if someone offers me a piece of cake made with eggs, I admit I will not turn it down. But right now, the thought of scrambled eggs and toast which used to appeal to me every weekend, sounds absolutely heinous to me.

What motivated me to avoid dairy?  T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study, an in-depth, well-documented, peer-reviewed study of the relationship between diet and disease. One of his many discoveries was that casein, the protein found in milk products, promotes cancer tumor growth.

What about calcium? How can we get what we need without dairy?

Tragic irony is at play here. Maybe some day someone will sue the dairy industry like we did with tobacco companies. Despite the highly successful ad campaign, milk does not do your body good.  Here’s the problem: the animal protein in milk increases the acidity in the bloodstream. To offset the increased acid load and even out your body’s pH levels, your body will leach calcium – a strong base – from your bones and actually do the opposite of what you intended by consuming dairy!

Did you know that countries around the world that consume the most dairy also have the highest rate of osteoporosis?

You can get all the calcium you need from sources without animal protein that contradict your body’s ability to absorb it.  Try fortified non-dairy milks and cereals and load up on your leafy greens!  Spinach, Kale, Collard Greens, Turnip Greens – all great sources of calcium.

I’m now sneaking leafy greens into my girls’ diets twice a day at least four days a week.  We do our green smoothies in the morning that they say, “tastes like candy!” because we make them with sweet frozen fruit like pineapple or peaches (plus coconut water, almond butter, vegan protein powder, etc).  And at night, we’re sneaking in a green leafy to whatever we’re making for dinner.  Curried lentils and rice with carrots, cauliflower and kale, vegan enchiladas with spinach, vegan lasagna with sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini and spinach….

And every night they lap down their fortified oat milk. So much natural sugar in this….we should really switch to unsweetened Almond Milk…but hell, I’m doing the best I can.

Anyone reading this that is proudly carnivorous — please don’t feel any judgment from me.  Whatever your personal choice is with food, go for it.  My advocacy is for Americans to eat as “plant-strong” as possible and shift from being a country that is upside with chronic disease and related health care costs to one that is healthy on all fronts.

Love to All!

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