The Pandas’ Top Ten Crunch-osophies

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


The Pandas’ Top Ten Crunch-osophies

Having a six month old is an exciting time.

Between deciding on which vaccinations he’ll receive, what foods I should be investigating, whose diapers are the best for his growing bum, and what’s for dinner, I am placed with an integral set of tasks ahead. I have been charged with an increasingly-cognizant being, absorbing information, yet unable to recount. Kola has been unresponsive until this point to my talking, reading, noise-making, singing. I can, however, tell he’s been listening. He smacks his lips and clicks his tongue when he wants something, staring it down and clicking more fervently until I figure it out (usually he wants in his Johnny-Jump-Up… crazy kid).

But now that I know that he’s listening… what should I say? We read books. He loves his bright board books, especially in his mouth. He doesn’t seem to mind as I ramble through short stories and novels by some of my favorites. I think he has “read” more Vonnegut than a typical college graduate. I feel that we need to start moving to relevant information, not just recreational speaking and reading. I know he is listening, and I want something good to say. I’m slightly more crunchy than many of my friends (although am considered somewhat soggy to some of the other crunchmasters I am fortunate enough to know). I think it’s best to start these lessons early in life, and with spring shyly peaking around the corner, what better time is there to reflect on the lessons I’d like to impart…

1. We Will (Eventually) Be Successful Gardeners

This June marks my one year anniversary in my home. Prior to the purchase, I was an apartment hopper, occasionally dabbling in the world of houseplants, once or twice known to have harvested a small amount of tomatoes and peppers from a pot in my stairwell. Last summer, I had a cute little suburban vegetable garden and a collection of pots on my porch growing some potted vegetable plants. I collected a decent haul for most of the summer. Then the 8th month of pregnancy hit. I let my beans and peas dry and shrivel. I picked them seldom. I let my tomatoes ripen and fall. My zucchini rotted until some animal felt pity and ate the poor thing. I relished my peppers and ate those straight from the garden, dried and froze a few, and cooked my baked beans with turkey weiners with extra kicks of baby thais.

This year, we will do better. Kola will come outside with me while we double the garden plot. Crawl in the unfertilized grass as I transplant my herbs from my living room to their rightful place underneath my porch and sow my seeds in my piles of Amish-cured cow manure. Join me in the mornings and afternoons to water and coddle the plants. Harvest with me when the fruits of our labors are ripe. Cook, juice, eat, dry, can, and freeze the organic goodness that we helped to produce through our care and tending. And we’ll do it the next year when he can help sow; the next year, when he can help water; the next year when he can tend independently and care for his own herb boxes… I hope.

Tomatoes in my Sad Garden 2010

2. Green Can Be Synonymous with Thrifty

I hear people ALL THE TIME… “I can’t afford the organic, chlorine free, sustainably produced, vegan paper towels and [insert].” Neither can I. But I can afford to cut my costs where possible. It’s duly advantageous that a lot of cost-cutting measures help reduce waste. We recently made the switch to reusable cloth diaper wipes, complete with home-made wipes sauce (I don’t know why I keep calling it sauce… solution just sounds so… eh). We use cloth diapers when Mommy’s home (because I can’t get the babysitters on board with cloth diapering… half the time is better than no time…) This coming summer, we’ll be bicycling wherever we can instead of driving (one advantage of living in the city… lots of good stores close by). We’ll eat as much as possible from our garden instead of buying produce. Our compost pile will transform from a bucket of plant and food waste to a… compost pile. All of these things are better for the environment – lower gas emissions by bicycling and growing at home; less waste in dumps by using reusable cloth and composting organic material; a smaller carbon footprint by lowering the impact we’re having on the environment – all while saving money! Sure, there are initial investment costs, but in the end, I like having fewer things on my list of wallet-drainers.

3. Nature is Always Available

It can be difficult to find time to pack up a child, let alone multiple children, and take a drive to the nearest Metropark for a hike. So long as you have a backyard, you have a nature sanctuary at your disposal. All it takes is a moment to slow down and take notice of your surroundings. We are blessed with a moderately sized yard. I have flower beds in the front, summer sweet lining my front patio, a draping umbrella tree, a modest vegetable garden in the back with an expanding herb garden, a few tall trees, and a good amount of foliage. There are animals that live there. Squirrels building nests. Birds everywhere. Occasionally, a bunny or deer (or a dreaded skunk) appear for a visit (or to eat my bean sprouts…). There are bugs and creepy-crawlies lurking under leaves and rocks. There is an abundant and plentiful variety of life that has taken residence on our little plot in a suburb, and where better to learn to appreciate nature than to begin with that nature that surrounds us every day!

4. A Healthy Diet Makes a Happy Body

Advertisers constantly bombard the American consumer with claims of “New & Improved;” “More Fiber;” “Healthier!” Many of these products fall short of a healthy food, although they may, in fact, be “healthier” than an alternative (Believe me, I have an ongoing affair with Cheetos, Doritos, the Keebler Elves, and Oreos, but I do try to buy the baked chips instead of how-ever the others are made and have been seeking out “healthier” alternatives for junk food – like Snikkidy Snacks! Love them!), but that still doesn’t make them healthy. Or near healthy. Or sometimes even “consumable.” A junky snack is okay, occasionally, like once a week or less. After you start eating healthy, though, you can feel the effect that the junk has and understand why it’s called junk.

For the most part I eat well – a variety of foods, lots of vegetables, a moderate amount of fruit, and a good variety of proteins, although we do not eat non-poultry meats in my house, especially pork. Kola, at 6 months now, eats some jarred baby foods from Earth’s Best and a lot of whatever I’m having so it’s even more important for me now to have healthy options on my plate. I want him to be a good eater and to appreciate a divine bulb of fennel and the way it sculpts a meal; appreciate the subtle flavors of fresh thyme and rosemary; appreciate the time it takes to sow and harvest a vegetable, clean and cook a meal. I want him to feel well. A balanced diet, full of fiber, can make all the difference in the way one feels. A gut full of junk food makes one lethargic, heavy, down, stoppered, ever-nauseous.  A finely tuned, smoothly running digestive tract expels waste efficiently after extracting all of the nutrients available, makes one’s step lighter, skin brighter, and mood grander. The effects of a good diet go far beyond a matter of weight management and can be an integral part of one’s psyche.

Eating Crunchy

5. Learn How to Cook at least One Meal… Well

Not everyone needs to be able to cook a meal that would pass in a five star restaurant, but… everyone should be able to cook something or another and cook it well. Cooking is an invaluable skill, that not only impresses friends (especially if you carry a reputation of lacking kitchen know-how) but also allows one to eat well. Tying into No. 4, a body that’s fed good food (ie. something fresh! something cooked instead of microwaved! something hand prepared instead of purchased in a wrapper and bag!) feels better, works better, and is more willing to cooperate and run efficiently. There are many easy recipes that anyone with a cook-top can prepare, even with minimal skill. In our household growing up, we cooked… a lot. We seldom ate purchased, prepared meals (although we did go out to dinner at least once a month, usually to Pizza Hut, and occasionally got McDonald’s while out on a busy day) and both my mother and father cooked.

We all learned our ways around the kitchen early, baking along with mom with playdough and even helping cut cookies, stir the pot, and mix the flour into the batter (then lick the spoon/mixer/bowl). We cooked dinner – rice with beef and peas, pork chops, barbeque chicken, schnitzel, mashed potatoes… you name it, we probably made it. We baked at least once a week – a batch of cookies, a cake, cinnamon rolls. I love being able to cook and bake; knowing that I can put together a meal for under $15 for 4+ people; knowing exactly what’s going into what’s going into me. My friends generally appreciate my ability to cook and bake and enjoy testing my recipes for me. I’m thankful I learned so young and grew up with it, and I cannot wait to share these skills and develop them in my son.

6. Knowledge is your Most Valuable Asset

As humans, we are curious, and curiosity is born out of our desire to know. Epistemology, or the science of knowledge and how it is acquired, is a diverse and colorful school of thought, but there is no denying that knowledge and its application is critical to life and innate to that which is “human” (yes, yes, we are not the only animals with knowledge, but we are defined by our quest for knowledge and the way we apply it). The more one knows, the better one’s quality of life is. A combination of “book smarts” and practical knowledge makes life easier, helping one to be prepared for not only new and foreign experiences, but also aid in socialization. What else is there to converse about than what one knows? I feel that I have a very commendable base of knowledge and know that my never-sated curiosity will constantly expand that.

I can already see in Kola that he is an inquisitive and curious creature, and I will do everything in my power to foster that. We read together already (hopefully his vocabulary develops, as well as a commanding grasp on grammar and syntax), looking at small picture books, driving home colors, shapes, opposites, and animals; reciting poetry; reading aloud literary classics, both publicly recognized and from my personal “classics” collection (Vonnegut!). I am waiting with bated breath for his first words; first questions; first answers. I cannot wait to lead him on his inquisitive journey to knowledge!

7. Variety Satisfies

A daily routine or schedule is very nice – one knows when work begins, when play begins, when rest is expected, when coddling can commence (which is really any time). How those pockets are filled, though, should be variably, even if it’s just cooking with a new spice for dinner, investigating a new author, walking a different block with the dog, or introducing a new game. Variety satiates our need for knowledge and new experience from which to learn. Variety keeps us interested. Variety makes us anticipate the next change, no matter how subtle. I’m excited when I feed Kola a new food, introduce a new spice, find a new book series or toy. Variety stimulates us, motivates us, and makes life more full. A small amount of variety can have a large impact, which generally ends quite positively.

8. Maintain Your Convictions

One must have at least one passion in life. Some of us consider ourselves lactivists; intactivists; animal rights activists; environmentalists; leftists; centrists; right-ists. Whatever it is we believe in, we must stand up for and stand by, no matter how difficult. While maintaining respect for others’ views (we must always, always, always be respectful, even when we disagree), we must be capable of articulating what we believe in and standing firm next to it. Not everyone will agree, but it’s no reason to sway and deny our own beliefs. I hope that Kola will one day have something to believe in. Something that makes his heart melt; something that makes his blood boil; something that he can stand up for. Without passion, social justice is unattainable. We may never agree, but without dissent, there will be nothing to fight for.

9. Patience is a Gift

I am learning as a mother to a six month old, that patience, which I once thought I had a decent supply of, can become quite a scarce commodity. Fortunately, it is a renewable resource of which we will never run out. Patience is a virtue, as they say, but really it’s much more. It is a necessity. There will always come a time that our patience will seemingly run out and you may be running on patience fumes, almost on E. It is at this point, that one needs to stop. Stop. Think. Take a breath. Think. Does this matter? Will this matter in 10 minutes? Usually the answer is no. Patience is just that. The ability to stop. To let it go. I do my best to remain patient. I catch myself occasionally wanting to scream. I stop, take a breath, physically force myself to smile, find a kind word, and proceed.

People, including very small people who lack the ability to speak, can be quite frustrating, but it is everyone’s duty to handle each other with patience and to instill in others the ability to be patient. I hope that I will be able to instruct my son in the art of patience – I’m sure he’ll need just as much of it with me as I will with him.


10. Love is All You Need

To quote the Beatles, “Love is all you need.” I went through a mean phase. I was worse than mean. I was nasty, irreverent, disrespectful, spiteful, resentful, angsty, and just down-right really really mean. There’s no good excuse for it. I was bullied a lot in grade school for being the fat kid. I got thin, and I got mean. I’ve thickened up again, which may or may not have a bearing on my current outlook on providing niceties. You get so much more accomplished by being nice. I catch myself and others being mean sometimes now. I can’t help but think about how hurtful it must be to the butt of the jokes, whether they hear them or not, and always stop myself and attempt to stop others. This must be what growing up feels like. I love my son like crazy. I think he probably loves me, even though  I cannot get a confirmatory comment on that just yet. It’s this bond that makes us great for each other. It makes life easier, despite it not always being easy. It motivates me to be a better person, to work more efficiently, to be home more, to explore myself as he explores his world. It makes me excited that I am such an integral influencer in the creation of another Da-Sein to populate the world, a unique individual now forever entangled in the power struggle of life. With love for oneself and love for all others, that struggle becomes less of a task, less of a struggle, and much more manageable.

There you have it. My Top Ten Crunchy Philosophies; My Top Ten Guiding Principles. I can only hope to impart at least some of these philosophies on my son and others I come to know. So far, this is working okay for me. A Top Ten next year may look a little different, but for now, it’s perfect just the way it is. All we need is love, patience, a mildly green thumb, a love of knowledge, and motivation. The world would be such a different place if everyone would accept and display all of the above.

I said good bye to my friend, hung up the phone, sat down and wrote this epitaph: “The good Earth – we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

What are the guiding principles you live by? Share it or a link to it in the comments or on the FaceBook.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 8 with all the carnival links.)

35 Responses to “The Pandas’ Top Ten Crunch-osophies”

  1. I love the “somewhat soggy” comment — ha! I feel that way in comparison sometimes, too.

    I really appreciate your thoughts on variety. Very wise and true. I’m a homebody who loves the routine, but when I force myself into variety, I’m always grateful for the new experience. I also have been thinking about patience a lot, though I didn’t articulate it as patience – I like your definition. I want to train myself to stop and let things that irritate me but don’t matter in the long run pass, without judgment of my own emotional reaction or others’.

  2. I love this list! Kola has a wonderful mama! Sounds like the two of you are going to have some pretty incredible experiences together. ❤

    • Thank you : ) I really just can’t wait for summer to roll around… He seems like he may be an early walker (based on his progress, his EWD will be eh… May? early June?) so we’ll have all summer to explore together. Can’t wait!

  3. I definitely agree that patience is a virtue when it comes to raising kids. I have to constantly remind myself to be patient with my 3 year old son. Patience can make all the difference between a good day and a bad day!

    • I’m learning! He’s definitely learning, also, to try my patience! So far, I’ve kept the upper hand : )

  4. LOVE LOVE LOVE your philosophies on parenthood! Especially love #10 – Love is all you need 🙂 Short, sweet, and encompasses what we’re all doing, crunchy parent or not.

    • I don’t think it could be summed up any sweeter than that : ) I think it’s a great outlook and philosophy to have on life, in general, not just parenting

  5. Inspiring! I am feel a little overwhelmed even thinking of someone else living out all of those principles. Your first reason motivates me to try again to make a garden work this summer. We definitely have the space and, as you said, it is a wonderful place for little ones to learn. My son is only a month older than Kola; it’s fun to read thoughts from a mom with a child the same age.

  6. This list gives me a lot to think about. I love 9 and 10.

  7. I love that you point out how when you start eating healthier, you can tell junk is “junk.” It is so true! My diet used to be DISGUSTING – I can’t believe my body continued to function on the crap I consumed for so many years. I’m still nowhere near my ideal, but every little bit helps. Great list, thank you for sharing!

  8. I can really relate to #2. I am trying to reduce waste as much as I can with my family. We save a lot of money by reusing and reducing with things like cloth towels instead of paper, and cloth diapers and wipes instead of disposables.

  9. Your thoughts and opinions help me see the light. Thanks.

  10. Thank you for a great list, especially ending with love and joy. I haven’t been my best self lately and can always stand to be reminded of how nice it feels to be nice!
    I hope we eventually become good gardeners, from one August 2010 mama to another!


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