Category Archives: Motherhood

Book Review: “The Vaccine Book” by Dr. Robert W. Sears

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First of all: You have to know something about this book. It is not pro-vaccine. It is not anti-vaccine. It is pro-informed-consent for parents. It’s about information, not influence. Okay. Keep reading.

I thought this book was the most informative look at vaccines I have ever seen. So much “information” is so heavily biased, and contaminated with emotional “dead-baby” appeals, that I have been more confused than ever on what might be right for my kids. This book is filled with information straight from product inserts, and has a Resources section in the back for all those who want to read studies for themselves. Everything is documented, and when Dr. Sears is sharing his opinion – you know that’s exactly what he’s doing, because he labels it.

It is so refreshing to read something like this about a controversial topic!

This book helped me decide what I want to do for my kids, without ever telling me what to do. I feel as though it is an excellent tool that all parents should read before their first child is born. This is a book I am going to buy for my lending library as a doula and childbirth educator. Stat.

What’s the best book related to the childbearing year you have read? Do share!
Grace & Peace,

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Filed under Crunchy Parenting, Informed Consent/Refusal, Motherhood, Newborns & Beyond, Recommendations

Some Say I Am Brave

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth. To me, that’s like saying I’m brave for having a big wedding. No matter how involved the planning, we all know the real work of marriage starts when the wedding is over.

So it is with birth. Our childhood, our growing up, and our pregnancy is the training ground. Birth is the opening ceremony. Motherhood is the marathon.

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth. Others would counter that choosing a hospital birth is brave.

I say choosing to become a mother is brave, no matter where you choose to bring your child into the world. I say learning to make fully informed decisions — guided by a beautiful hybrid of evidence-based information and your intuition — is brave.

Doing this often means going against the flow of society in general, and the tide of modern obstetrics in specific.

It means navigating endless resources, asking questions, and taking time to figure out answers. It means identifying, confronting, and processing fears, anxieties, and stressors that hinder you from being able to fully trust your body and your chosen care provider. It means letting go of a process we have very little control over, when all is said and done, and forming realistic expectations about your birth based on your unique emotional health, health history, and risk factors.

It means being able to tell your well-meaning loved ones that you appreciate their input, but that you are choosing a different way than they did. It sometimes means being willing to give up your ideal for reality — whether that entails a homebirth transfer, an unplanned cesarean, or an accidental homebirth.

The location of your birth doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you got there.

Navigating the road on this journey isn’t as simple as using GPS systems to decide where to turn. It’s less like a road trip, and more like a sea voyage. You may have all the tools in the world in your boat, but unless you use them, the horizon looks exactly the same no matter which direction you look. Sure, you can guess which direction is the right way to go, but you can’t really know unless you have a destination in mind, and you’re able to use the tools around you.

It’s up to you to pick up those tools and make use of them. No one else is really in that boat with you.

It’s up to you to be brave.

Where do you want to go?

Do your homework. Take nothing for granted. Never say never. Then, when you know where you want to be, pick up the tools you have and get yourself there. No one else can (or will) do this for you.

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth.

What really made me brave was my willingness to open my mind and look beyond the status quo at all the options available to me. That was the hard part. What continues to make me brave is looking four little ones in the face each morning, and loving them in spite of the challenges that mothering them presents.

Some say I am brave. I say that all mothers are brave; some just have not figured it out yet.

When did you realize your bravery as a mother? In what moments have you been brave as a mother?

Pick up good books. Take an evidence-based childbirth class. Know where evidence-based information resides on the internet. (It’s not typically at BabyCenter, just FYI.) Ask questions of your care provider every appointment. Hire a doula. Look outside your box. Interview providers you might not have considered. Confront your anxieties and fears about birth – with professional help if you think you need it.

Grace & Peace,


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Filed under Birth Stories & Inspiration, Care Providers, Homebirth & Midwifery, Informed Consent/Refusal, Just Me, Motherhood, Pregnancy & Birth

Bikini Bodies at Six Weeks?

Image from linked article.

First, read this article, then come on back.

Now, I will grant that many celebrities simply have the genes to be in a size 2 at six weeks postpartum, and I want to be clear that this is not a knock against naturally skinny moms. Or moms who very literally worked their rear ends off to get back to skinny.

I think the point is that no woman, especially celebrities (whom I think may not actually live in the real world), should be bragging about her size. It’s unproductive, irresponsible, and reinforces the message that the rest of us will never measure up to their arbitrary, unrealistic standards.

I prefer The Shape of a Mother – a site where honesty and support for women of ALL shapes and sizes and colors rule the roost. A place where both skinny moms and not-so-skinny moms are welcomed, loved, and accepted for who they are.

Grace & Peace,



Filed under Just Me, Miscellaneous, Motherhood

Super Power Sight (a Guest Post)

By: Jackie Miller: She is my husband’s aunt and my long-time friend. Along with her sisters, she raised up a generation of loving mothers and fathers. She and her sisters shared nursing duties when their kids were little, some had home births, some did not. Each of them supported and provided a loving “village” to train up their children together – the way it was meant to be. This post illustrates the importance of nighttime parenting – even if you find yourself in the “granny years” now. The granddaughter in the following story is eight years old, not a toddler. She is “old enough” to be in her own bed, and this story could have turned out differently. Read and learn from a mother (and now grandmother) who knows that those long nights with littles can be so hard, but that those nights and moments are worth it. Her children are proof. Her grandchildren will be, too.

This hasn’t happened to me for a long time, maybe 10 years, maybe longer. I was out of training, so I didn’t know if my skills were up to the task, but I accepted the challenge anyway. It all started by someone calling out my name in the middle of the night. “Granny, I had a bad dream and I’m really scared, can I come into bed with you?”

My reply was out before she finished the question; I said, “Of course Sweetheart.” As I pulled back the blankets and moved my pillow over so my granddaughter could share it with me, she ran and hurled herself into the very center of my being and pushed back in against me with every fiber of hers. My arms were there and ready to envelope her. To comfort and love her.

As I kiss her head and hold her tight I start to pray over her, that the Lord would take away her bad dreams and help her to relax and be able to rest. At first she is stiff and trembling, but the more I prayed, cuddled and loved, the more relaxed she became until total peace had filled her little body.

I had not lost my touch; my mommy (Now Granny) super powers were still active. They were just a little older and a lot more mature. Amazingly, I discovered with beautiful clarity, I now had super power sight. Oh what a beautiful gift Jesus gave me last night, as I lay there, half asleep, holding her close to my heart. A flood of memories came back to me in that precious moment as her warm little body warmed my very soul.

How many times in my life have I done this before? How many nights in my life had I begrudgingly wished my kids would just sleep through the night so that I could sleep? How many times had I laid there uncomfortably, while little arms and legs wiggled and poked me? Just waiting for them to get tired enough for me to carry them to their own bed so I could have my space? I remembered each time, each child, and I almost wept with the overwhelming wish that this moment in time, right now while I held my granddaughter, would never end.

Now was not the time for desiring to go back to sleep, NO! Now was a time to share our hearts, our dreams, and yes – some laughter. I whisper into my Em’s ear, “How would you like to get up with Granny and have some hot chocolate?”

I think she was out of bed before I could finish saying it. I gave her my big fuzzy red robe to wear, and it trailed behind her on the floor as we walked to the kitchen. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Hot cocoa in our hands, we sat wrapped in the same blanket on the sofa and listened to Taylor swift (Her favorite singer) on her Ipod, and of course we sang along… “Some day I’ll be living in a big old city, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean.”

I really really really love my life!

For more of Jackie’s heart, as well as tips and ideas for decorating and remodeling, read her blog: We Treasure the Little Things.

Grace & Peace,

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Filed under Birth Stories & Inspiration, Crunchy Parenting, Motherhood, Newborns & Beyond

Pain’s Message

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“Labor will hurt. Probably a lot. But whether this is negative is another matter… A laboring woman can be in a great deal of pain, yet feel loved and supported and exhilarated by the creative forces flowing through her body and her ability to meet labor’s challenges.” ~ Henci Goer

Pain in general is not a good or bad thing, in and of itself.

Pain is simply a message from our body to our brain that something needs to change. It tells me when to move my hand away from a hot surface. Pain tells me to lie down and rest for awhile. It tells me to take a bath.

In labor, pain is part of that creative process moving through my body. It does more than just tell me to get moving.

It empowers me to take what control I can in an otherwise uncontrollable event; it places me squarely on the crest of each contraction wave, where I can ride it out in some measure of peace. It tells me to seek comfort – in a warm bath, in the arms of a loved one, outside in the sun, in a dimmed room with soft music, in the motion of walking, and even in the simplest relief of emptying my bladder.

Pain signals the release of huge amounts of endorphins, bringing me to the brink of ecstasy as I feel the baby slip out of my body and into my arms.

Pain experienced in loneliness or perceived isolation is excruciating. Pain experienced in an environment of peace, comfort, and perceived safety is empowering and moving. It is life-changing and educational. It is powerful, intense, and sometimes indescribable.

The pain of labor is not suffering.

In life, as well as in labor, I find that it is often only through pain that I can experience pleasure at its fullest.

The agony and the ecstasy of labor and birth often go hand-in-hand. They are experienced in the same moments. Even at the height of a contraction, there is knowledge in my mind and heart that I will soon forget my pain at the joy of my child being born into the world. In my face, one can see unbounded joy, awe, and underlying it all – the pain of motherhood that never really goes away. We carry it with us as we agonize over every mothering decision.

Motherhood and its inherent pain is a baptism unlike any other on earth.

Being immersed to a depth we did not know we had, to emerge in the clear air of a role we somehow know without being expressly taught.

Pain in labor is what teaches us, and proves to us beyond all doubt that we have what it takes. We can rise to any challenge.

“You can’t scare me. I’ve given birth!” is our rousing, unarguable cry!

The pain of labor and birth, no matter our experience of it, or how we choose to manage it, tells us in a voice of authority: “We CAN be mothers.”

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What is/was your experience with pain in your labor(s)? How did you use the various tools available to you (everything from natural methods to medication is welcome to be mentioned here) in order to meet the challenge of your labor pain? Would you change anything about how you managed your pain? Why or why not? Did you experience a painless birth?

Grace & Peace,


Filed under Birth Stories & Inspiration, Motherhood, Pain Management Techniques, Pregnancy & Birth


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You’ve heard it before: “We all make mistakes.”

Nowhere does this hit home quite as hard as it does in motherhood. When we finally, fully realize that we really are human. That we are not invincible after all. That we really don’t know everything. That, for the most part, our mothers were right about everything.

I cannot count the number of times I have collapsed, weeping, sure that I had ruined my children for life. Again. The number of times I’ve called my mother, apologizing for ever being three years old.

My mom is always quick to remind me that she didn’t live a mistake-free existence either. She just made different ones. Well, mostly different. I find myself making some of the same ones she did, and Mom is always the first to sympathize with me and point out the funny side.

We learn from our parents’ mistakes. We learn from their victories. We learn from those everyday moments we can’t quite recall, but make up the very foundation we end up standing on. We bring our own bricks to add to that foundation, both solid ones and ones that have a few chunks missing. Somehow, our kids seem to thrive and do well in spite of the gaps.

I’ve taken the opportunity to step back and take a look at that foundation as well as I can. To take it all in at once. I’ve noticed something.

There just aren’t as many gaps as I thought there were. I know for a fact that some of the bricks I’ve laid were positively crumbling apart. Yet, that’s not what I see.

By the grace of God and through the help of my own personal “village”, all those places I fall short have been filled in. The gaps are largely gone.

No, my children will not grow up to be perfect. But they’ll be pretty much okay. They have a safe place to land. A sturdy foundation to build their own families on, and a chance to see their own gaps filled in the same way mine have been. I hope they don’t make the same mistakes that I do, and I hope that their own, new mistakes are ones they can find forgiveness for easily.

I guess the point of this rambling post is this:

I have discovered that there is no shame in making the everyday mistakes of motherhood. No shame even in the bigger mistakes we often discover only through hindsight. There is only potential for continued growth and learning. Potential for others to come in and add to our good, covering over the places where our weaknesses have left holes. Potential for our children to learn from us.

Potential to do better, because we know better.

Grace & Peace,

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Filed under Birth Stories & Inspiration, Just Me, Motherhood

Me Time

“Me time” isn’t about gratifying your selfish desires, but about paying attention to your basic needs. Making sure your basic needs are met (nutrition, hydration, rest at minimum), is a fundamental way to make sure you can meet the needs of your children and your family.

What are doing this year to make sure you can be the mother you desire to be? I am exercising, eating right, and getting up early in the morning to spend time with the God I love, and to have some coffee before the kiddos get up.

Grace & Peace,

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Filed under Just Me, Motherhood

Learn From My Mistakes

Every mom would be wise to try and learn from the mistakes of others. This is the story of my biggest one.

I did the CIO thing with my oldest. I “flexibly scheduled” his feedings. If he was crying, and I noted that he was dry, clean, full, and well-rested, I let him cry. Sometimes, it took up to an hour before he would “self-soothe,” while I became more and more callous to his baby whimpers.

No wonder he was nearly diagnosed with failure-to-thrive at six months old, and I was told to wean him, feed him formula, and fry his Cheerios in butter to fatten him up. I had lost my ability to really gauge his needs, because I ignored his signals.

He is now eight years old, and a perfect example of what is so very wrong with letting young babies “cry it out.”

Thankfully, I was better educated before I had my subsequent three children. Oh! the difference! I cannot begin to describe it. I hesitate to write much more, because I don’t want to violate the privacy of my children, but I share because this message is too important not to.

My oldest son is an outgoing, independent kid. He’s smart, an advanced reader, active, and imaginative. He laughs easily, especially at farts, and longs for adventure. He is affectionate and verbal, seeking hugs and giving out “I love you’s” as though there were no tomorrow. I love him deeply, and am so proud of the young man he will grow to be.

Yet, there is something missing in him. The areas in which CIO children struggle most with–even long-term–are empathy and stress response. Two key areas my son has deeply-rooted issues with, that I can trace back to the first time I let him CIO at two weeks old.

These issues are manifest in several ways.

It takes next to nothing to completely set him off, revealing bitterness, anger, fear of failure, and a sense of helplessness. (Really, it’s a “learned helplessness.”) When he is even mildly distressed, he cannot handle it. He believes himself alone, with all the world against him. He cannot control himself at all. All my efforts to teach him to breathe, pray, and calm down feel as though they are to no avail.

He cannot sympathize with other children without great effort and coaching. He quickly gets aggressive–usually verbally aggressive, but he occasionally gets physical–when he feels wronged or slighted. If I ask how he would feel if so-an-so did the same thing to him, he has the same answer every time: “Sad.”

He struggles to express what’s going on inside. He doesn’t think his opinion matters.

He almost never asks for help with anything, because it was ingrained in him that his mother would not help him if he cried out for her. He will drive himself into a flurry of frustration, trying to do things on his own, that I am more than willing to help with. It doesn’t sink in when I tell him that I want to help him; that I’m there for him, no matter what. That all he has to do is ask, and I will respond. Deep down, he doesn’t believe me. His infant brain was hard-wired to understand that I wasn’t there when he needed me as a tiny baby crying for comfort.

I was often in the next room, crying it out myself, or with music up loud enough that I couldn’t hear him.

Occasionally, I have glimpses of hope when he tries to confide in me. On the rare occasions he wants to talk to me, I do my best to listen, and let him know I love him. That I’m a safe place for him to land.

As the articles I will link at the end of this post outline, CIO damages areas of the brain specifically related to empathy and stress response. The two key areas my oldest son struggles with deeply. So deeply at this point, that I’m researching affordable therapy for him.

Yes, therapy.

There is only so much I can do as a mother, and I really am doing all I can to make up for lost ground.

And I share this story hesitatingly, knowing that I am exposing myself to judgment.

I don’t care as much about that any more. The truth is more important.

If I can save one baby from being forced to cry it out – I will be satisfied.

To me, picking up a crying baby and responding to him is an act of love, respect, and common decency toward a fellow human being. How could it be otherwise? We would do no less for our adult friends. Why do we expect our babies to soothe themselves when we can rarely do it for ourselves without a trusted shoulder or a kind ear? It just doesn’t make sense.

I learned from my mistakes, and my other children do not have these struggles. I know, without doubt, that the difference between them and their older brother stems from more than personality or gender differences. I know, as the mother of these four precious beings, how much power I really do have to shape their lives when they are small. I have learned to appreciate and use that power more wisely than I did with my eldest.

The more information I take in from evidence-based resources, and the more I combine that with the heart instincts I was given as a mother, the more I know that what I share here is true. That CIO methods of infant care are no kind of care at all. It is dangerous physically, mentally, and emotionally–in the long-term–for babies. Period.

I hope that those who read this will take advantage of this opportunity to learn from my mistakes, and do things differently. It’s not to late to start responding to your child’s legitimate needs for comfort.

This is the sole reason I share here.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany Miller, CLD, CCCE

And just for good measure, here is a panorama of good reading on the subject: Sleep Training: A Review of Research This is one of the newest articles out, if you prefer a quick summary: Dangers of Crying it Out


Filed under Crunchy Parenting, Just Me, Motherhood, Newborns & Beyond

Something is Better Than Nothing.

As a birth professional, a big part of my job is walking alongside women and their partners during the childbearing year by educating them about almost every aspect of their pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum period.

I meet women where they are, not where I think they should be. Often, not even where she thinks she should be. Ask any mother, and she can give you a whole laundry list of things she thinks she can do better. Her mind is filled with “if only’s.” Part of my job is to encourage her to grow and change in ways that will benefit both her and her baby.

However, I’m not the one walking her journey. I’m just with her for a relatively short period of that journey. I get glimpses and snapshots of her and her life, not the big picture. I do not have the power to make decisions for her, and even if I did, how can I really know, at the deepest levels, what is truly right for her and her family?

In pregnancy, labor, and birth, there is not a definitive “right” and “wrong” for many decisions that come up. There are things that are good, things that are better, and there are things that are usually best, but even those can be subjective. There are no guarantees.

So, as an example, take a smoking mother.

We all know that smoking is harmful to anyone, and there is no known “safe” level for nicotine in an unborn baby. We all know that it’s wise to quit when we are carrying a child. Of course, we would love nothing more than to see her totally quit the habit, for her health and for her baby’s. However, we also know how horribly difficult it can be to cut off a nicotine addiction.

How horrified are we when we see an obviously pregnant woman smoking? How much do we look down on her poor choices, and feel a righteous indignation that “we would never do something so terrible!

What we are missing is the other side of that coin.

How do we know, on the surface, that this isn’t the first cigarette she’s had in weeks? How do we know she’s not working her butt off to quit, but is struggling just like anyone else? How do we know she’s not eating really healthy foods, staying hydrated, and doing mild workouts to stay as healthy as she can?

When will we get to the point when we realize that something is better than nothing.

If that woman were my client, I would assume she knows the dangers of cigarettes to her unborn child. I would assume she feels badly enough about smoking as it is, and that what she needs from me is encouragement to do what she can with what she has at that moment, just like the rest of humanity.

I would remind her that everything she is able to do well, is enough. That something is always better than nothing. That smoking one less cigarette everyday does make a difference, and shows that she is trying.

Even if I did know exactly what would be right for this mother, should that change the way I see her as a human being? May it never be!

As a doula and childbirth educator, I have come to realize that I might be the only person this woman ever meets who does not look down on her. Who treats her with respect and dignity. Who believes in her ability to make good choices for herself and her baby. Who will cheer her on and encourage her in every effort she is able to make, and will ultimately help her to empower herself to continue in her personal growth beyond the ending of our professional relationship.

It’s a valuable lesson I think all individuals would do well to learn. To look beyond what is seen, to the heart, whenever we can. And, when we can’t, to leave well enough alone and refrain from judgment. It’s one I am grateful to have learned early on in this birth career of mine.

This posts is an offshoot from a seed planted by my mentor and friend, Desirre Andrews, who has taught me to think outside the box more than anyone else I know.

Grace & Peace,


Filed under All Things Doula, Birth Stories & Inspiration, Childbirth Education, Just Me, Miscellaneous, Motherhood, Pregnancy & Birth

Parenting is an art, not a formula.

Parenting is hot business these days.

In bookstores, online, and among local communities, we have available to us countless offerings of formulaic “If you parent OUR way, your progeny will grow up full of awesome! No, really. Trust us!”

I call B.S.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all method to every child. (What you’re likely thinking: “We already know that, Tiffany, what’s the point of bringing this up?”)

The point, my friends, is that there are too many people who cognitively acknowledge this fact, but do not acknowledge it by their actions or in their conversation. Or worse, use it to justify very poor parenting decisions.

“Well, if She would just take a switch to his backside once in awhile, she wouldn’t have this problem.”

“Well, if She would just wear her baby 24 hours a day, she wouldn’t have this problem.”

“Well, if She hadn’t given in to every little cry, she wouldn’t have this problem.”

“Well, if She had only breastfed longer, she wouldn’t have this problem.”

Now, I am just as guilty of this kind of statement as the next mom. It’s too easy to lapse into competition and criticism when it comes to our children and their behavior. From before they are born, to the day we die, we are judged by how our children seem to be turning out.

However, what we need to realize is that parenting is an art, not a formula.

It’s time that we truly realize a few things as Moms.

1) To be repetitive: There is no one “right” way to raise a child – no matter what anyone with any semblance of “authority” tells you. (Be especially wary of religious “methods” that claim to know “God’s way” of raising babies. The last time I checked, God doesn’t promote any particular method over another.) In other words:

“The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” ~Jill Churchill

2) There are no guarantees in parenting.

No, wait! I can think of at least one guarantee: Your kids will have issues. They will sometimes reflect badly on you – even if it’s only in the perception of others. And another one: They will sometimes delight and amaze you in the most unexpected moments.

Some kids who are raised in terrible, abusive environments grow up to blossom into amazingly healthy individuals. Some kids who are raised in a loving, healthy environment grow up and go to jail. That’s just reality.

Don’t get me wrong. Parenting matters. It matters a lot. All I’m saying is that we need to come down off our high horses and realize that there is more than one right way.

3) That said; there are an overwhelming number of biological bases for some types of parenting. There are biological, physiologic reasons that babies cry, want to be held a lot, and need their parents around the clock. There are reasons babies don’t read clocks, calendars, or schedules.

Aside from all philosophical and religious reasoning, there is something woven into the very creation of mothers and babies that tells us something we already know: That babies and mothers are designed to be together. A lot. That babies are adorable, soft, warm, and sweet-smelling so that we will want them close to us more often than not. To ignore that normal, instinctual response is foolish at best, and harmful at the worst.

4) There is wiggle room for various methods. Some things are arguably, measurably harmful to children. Things like yelling, hitting, disciplining in anger, ignoring legitimate needs (and yes, the need for a baby to be held is physiologically legitimate), and abuse.

However, there are just as many, if not more things that are wonderful, beneficial, and work wonders for most children. Affection, trust built on the security of relationship with both parents (when possible), safe and healthy boundaries firmly and gently enforced, natural consequences, and play, for example. And those are just a few of the core ones.

From a mother who rarely reads parenting books any more, my advice to parents consists in a few simple principles.

First, find a philosophy that offers no promises or formulas or specific “steps” to raising children. Secondly, learn to understand the basics of normal child development, starting with how birth and breastfeeding work (yes, it really starts there).

Thirdly, discard anything that gives you a negative, sometimes physical, reaction. If it makes your stomach knot up, or seems to fly in the face of your own instincts, drop it. It’s very likely not right for you or your children. Pay attention to your instincts – they were given you for a reason.

Last, but not least, find a group of like-minded parents who can support you in whatever decisions you make, and are willing to share tips and advice without dictating anything to you, or presuming they know your child as well as they know their own.

Parenting is a complicated mish-mash of instincts, emotions, and cognitive ability. To ignore any of these components would be foolish. To place undue emphasis on one of the three is just as foolish. As parents, we need all three to do a good job.

Ultimately, I’d like you to keep in mind the following quote as you raise your precious little one.

“Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; You are raising a human being.” ~Kittie Franz

It’s one that has alternately convicted and encouraged me. Let it sink in. Evaluate yourself and how you view your role, then grow from there.

Share your favorite piece of parenting advice you’ve ever received, or your favorite parenting quote. Mine is summed up in the quote I just shared, honestly. I really want it on a plaque somewhere…

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany Miller, CLD, CCCE


Filed under Crunchy Parenting, Just Me, Motherhood