Children in (Volunteering) Service

I have plenty memories of volunteering in various places as a child. There was an animal shelter we’d go to every Saturday and help clean out the cages. There were kids we’d visit in hospitals. Later, in highschool, we used to visit elderly people in an old age home and sing to them, read to them, or just do odd jobs for them. We fundraised for our club or for trips by washing cars or baking and selling cakes. We went to a very rural school in South Africa (Venda, actually) and helped with the building of a new classroom, and painted buildings in our own school. We even worked with street children at one stage. As a school group, we were very active in community and volunteering projects, and at home, my parents encouraged the same.

There were a few places we went, during the course of my childhood, Delmas, Kwasisa Bantu, Petra – all mission stations, mission schools, and outreach programmes – where we were shared in the duties of the community.

My parents were active examples of how to volunteer, always there for other people, always helping people out, caring for others and the reality of other people’s lives. I’m incredibly grateful for these experiences. I truly believe that they’ve shaped who I’ve become, and it’s something I hope to pass on to my own children too because I believe there are valuable lessons to be learned from volunteering:

  • I believe that in volunteering a child learns skills they wouldn’t have necessarily have been exposed to – painting, bricklaying, cleaning, cataloguing library books, are just a few of the ones I was involved in.
  • In volunteering, children are shown that there is more to life than the life they know and that some people have a really hard time of it, have no families, have no food or are left alone and forgotten (like children or old people who have no visitors in hospital)
  • Children learn compassion by seeing other people in less than desirable circumstances – they notice the forgotten, the street children, the homeless. They learn to not be afraid of things they don’t understand.
  • There has been some research that has shown that children who are involved in volunteering have more of an interest in their community – which makes perfect sense, really – we all care more about the things we’re interested in.
  • It gives children a sense of value, and of worth, within the context of their community and environment, teaching them that every act of kindness matters.

“One kernel is felt in a hogshead; one drop of water helps to swell the ocean; a spark of fire helps to give light to the world. None are too small, too feeble, too poor to be of service. Think of this and act.” Hannah More

I would like to think that I am raising my children to be more concerned about the environment than celebrities, more focussed on what they can give than what they receive, and aware of the feelings and realities of life as faced by other people.

I hope that, when the time comes, and they can start reaching out, no matter how child-like the act may be, I hope that it will instill in them a sense of service, and of kindness and of giving back. I don’t believe it’s ever too early to start, and as JC Penney said, ““How can we expect our children to know and experience the joy of giving unless we teach them that the greater pleasure in life lies in the art of giving rather than receiving.”



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo 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 November 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter’s irritation with litter led to eekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family’s approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year’s holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she’s excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again… but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children’s generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.


Life With Michael – A Mother’s Experience of Life With Aspergers Disorder

“I cried the day my son was diagnosed with Aspergers disorder.  Not because there was something wrong with him, I already knew there was.  I already knew he was different.  In fact I had searched for more than a year for someone qualified within the medical profession to officially label him with a diagnosis which I already had.  I cried because it was a life sentence, there would be no easy answers, no pill that would take it away, this was a label that would stick, permanently.”

For this month’s  Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama, my sister in law Nicky shares the story of learning to live with her nine year old son, Michael’s Aspergers Disorder.  Please welcome her as she opens up about her experience.


I cried the day my son was diagnosed with Aspergers disorder.  Not because there was something wrong with him, I already knew there was.  I already knew he was different.  In fact I had searched for more than a year for someone qualified within the medical profession to officially label him with a diagnosis which I already had.  I cried because it was a life sentence, there would be no easy answers, no pill that would take it away, this was a label that would stick, permanently.

That was six and half years ago and Michael is now 9 years old.  It’s been quite a journey; I have amassed endless pages of research.  One thing I now know for sure, is that no two special needs children are the same, while there are common issues, there is no “one fits all” therapy, treatment or cure.  Through this I came to the realization that in spite of the label, whether it be special needs, Asperger’s, PDD or all of the others I’m now intimately familiar with, the only label that would ever fit was the one I gave him at birth….  He is unique and I love him, issues and all.

This realization did not “cure” him nor did it make things easier, but it did make me realize that the answers would come by trying to understand him better and customize what is out there to fit Michael and not the other way round.  No doctor, therapist or teacher would ever be able to get to know him as well as me, instead of relying on them for answers I’d have to work with them and provide insights into Michael and what would and would not work.  I’d need to assist them as much as possible.  Any doctor who wasn’t willing to work with me as well as Michael was not going to work.

Below are just some of the successes we’ve had, it took time and I often despaired, but in the end they helped.  We still have loads of issues and it often feels like just when we put one problem behind us there are two new ones to take its place.

I was having major issues with him not being able to cope with even the slightest disruption in routine. AndI do mean slight.  On the way to crèche every day I needed to drive the exact same route, say the same things at the same point of the journey every day, and everything would be fine.  If I forgot something or for some reason had to take a different route he completely lost it and it was impossible to get him out of the car for at least half an hour.  Going to school was a regular daily occurrence and was predictable; things like doctors’ appointments, visits to friends or anything that wasn’t a regularly scheduled event were out of the question.

Life was hard, if I left the house no matter where I was going I had to turn left, turning right when I left the drive wasn’t an option.  This was difficult to overcome, but even to this day if we do anything out of the ordinary, I need to start preparing Michael ahead of time. The bigger the event the more preparation is needed.  I need to painstakingly explain over and over again what is going to happen and that it will be OK.

Sometimes I need to do this for a solid week, for smaller things the day before.  For big things like school concerts, it means visiting the venue beforehand and in detail explaining what will happen. The more uncomfortable he is, the more questions he asks about what’s going to happen. To be honest its really annoying and lots of extra effort, but over the years he’s gradually been able to accepted small changes to routine by himself and to although it makes him anxious there have been no more meltdowns in this regard.

The other big issue I was having around this time was communication, Michael was behind verbally and communicated at a level of a child that was more than a year younger, and in fact still does.  This unfortunately did not stop him from doing things like running away from me into the street, hurting his sister and me and generally misbehaving like any other child.

The problem was I couldn’t talk to him about this, smacking him wasn’t an option as he didn’t understand why I was doing it and it generally led to a meltdown, so there was no way I could get through to him.  I chatted to a few people and started understanding thatMichael, like a lot of other children on the autism spectrum, learns visually.  He loves watching TV and movies and can recite his favourite movies word for word.  I started taking advantage of this to communicate and teach him by making picture books which told the story of the little boy who got hurt by a car when he ran into the street or the naughty little boy who hurt his sister and made her sad.  Sometimes I used photos, sometimes pictures from the internet or magazines, sometimes a combination.  These were really basic books, but they worked.  It took a while but it was worth it in the end and I finally reached him.

I still use visual means to help teach him: computer games, educational programs and lots of books.  When he’s struggling with something at school visual aids are often the only things that work.

We have had many small victories and some collosal failures.  I am not by any stretch of the imagination the world’s best parent, I am also not a qualified doctor or therapist, I am just a mum.  But, if I had to give advice on what works for me it would be the following:

  • All of our children are different, what works for another parent won’t necessarily work for you.
  • You know your child best, trust your feelings and instincts, they are usually right.
  • Don’t be afraid to interview and look for professionals who are willing to work with you and listen to your opinions while providing professional advice.  Doctors are humans and not Gods, they can be wrong.
  • Remember that many people do not understand special needs children.  I have had strangers come up to me and tell me I’m a bad, lazy parent who won’t discipline my child.  You’re in an impossible situation and trying your best, even if you’re not succeeding you’re not a failure as a parent.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek alternative forms of education.  I was initially, and this is perhaps the biggest mistake I’ve ever made, my child will never fit into a “normal” school so I found a school to fit him and stopped making him miserable by trying to change him to fit his school.
  • Be patient, sometimes change comes in months and years and not in hours and days.
  • Let your child be a child, not everything needs to have an educational or theraputic purpose.



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 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Parenting A Child With Neutropenia — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses the challenge of parenting a young child who cannot produce enough neutrophils to fight off bacterial infections.
  • How I Love My High Need Baby — Shannon at GrowingSlower was shocked to find she is parenting a high-needs baby, but she’s surviving thanks to attachment parenting.
  • We’re a Lot Like You — kaidera at Our Little Acorn talks about how her family is similar to others, even with all their special needs
  • The Emotional Components of Bonding with Preemies — Having a premature baby can bring on many unexpected emotions for parents, but working through those emotions can bring about a wonderful bonding experience. Adrienne at Natural Parents Network shares.
  • Raising a babe with IUGR: from birth through the toddler years — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet shares the story of how her son’s post-birth IUGR diagnosis affected his first days of life and gave her an unexpected tutorial in advocating for their rights as a family.
  • When a grandparent has a disability — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes shares how she has approached explaining her mother’s disability to her young child.
  • Taking The Time To Really See Our Children — Sam at Love Parenting writes about her experiences working with children with various disabilities and how it has affected her parenting style.
  • Natural Parenting In An Unnatural Environment — Julie at What I Would Tell You gives us a glimpse into how she improvised to be a natural parent against all odds.
  • Getting Through the NICU — Laura at Authentic Parenting gives a few pointers on how to deal with your newborn’s stay in the NICU.
  • Living With Sensory Processing Disorder — Christy at Adventures in Mommyhood talks about the challenges that can come from living with a child who has SPD.
  • Our rules for NICU – March CarnivalHannabert’s Mom shares her family’s rules for family and friends of a NICU baby.
  • Muddy Boots: Speaking Up for Special FriendsMudpieMama shares about the day her little boy stepped up and spoke up for his best “special” friend.
  • Letter from Mineral’s Service Dog — Erika at Cinco de Mommy imagines the letter that accompanies her special needs son’s Service Dog.
  • Blessings in Unexpected PlacesThat Mama Gretchen welcomes an inspiring guest post from a dear friend who shares about the blessings that come from a child with Down syndrome.
  • Tube Feeding with a Blenderized Diet of Whole Foods — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her experiences with using real food when feeding her daughter who was unable to feed herself and needed a feeding tube.
  • Abbey and Evan — Amyables at Toddler In Tow writes about watching her preschooler play with her friend who is autistic and deaf, and wonders how she can explain his special needs better.
  • How to Minimise the Chance of a {Genetically Prone} Child Being Diagnosed with ADHD — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares her tips on keeping a child who is genetically prone to ADHD from suffering the effects.
  • Tough Decisions: Parenting With Special Needs — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares what has been keeping her up at night worrying, while spending her days discovering just what her options are for her precocious child.
  • Life with my son — For Dr. Sarah at Good Enough Mum, life with an autistic child is just another variation on the parenting experience.
  • Dear Special Needs Mama — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes a letter of encouragement to herself and other mamas of special needs children.
  • His Voice — Laura at WaldenMommy relives the day her son said his first sentence.
  • What is ‘wrong’ with you’ The challenge of raising a spirited child — Tara at MUMmedia discusses the challenges of raising a child who is ‘more’ intense, stubborn, and strong willed than your average child.
  • Tips for Parenting a Child With Special Medical Needs — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares her shortlist of tips she’s learned in parenting a newborn with special medical needs in a guest post at Becoming Crunchy.
  • Parenting the Perfectionist Child — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses that as parents of gifted children, we are in the unique position to help them develop the positive aspects of their perfectionism.
  • Montessori-Inspired Special Needs Support — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now gives a list of websites and blogs with Montessori-inspired special-needs information and activities.
  • Accommodating Others’ Food Allergies — Ever wonder how to handle another family’s food allergies or whether you should just skip the play date altogether? At Code Name: Mama, Dionna’s friend Kellie (whose family has a host of allergies) shares how grateful she is when friends welcome them, as well as a list of easy snacks you can consider.
  • Only make promises you can keep — Growing up the child of a parent with a chronic illness left a lasting impact on Laura of A Pug in the Kitchen and what she is willing to promise for the future.
  • A Mom and Her Son — Jen at Our Muddy Boots was fortunate to work with a wonderful family for several summers, seeing the mother of this autistic son be his advocate, but not in the ways she thought.
  • Guest Post from Maya at Musings of A Marfan Mom — Zoie at TouchstoneZ is honored to share a guest post from Maya, who writes about effective tools she has found as a parent of two very special boys.
  • You Don’t Have to Be a Rock — Rachael at The Variegated Life finds steadiness in allowing herself to cry.
  • When Special Needs Looks “Normal” — Amy at Anktangle writes about her experience with mothering a son who has Sensory Processing Disorder. She offers some tips (for strangers, friends, and loved ones) on how to best support a family dealing with this particular neurological challenge.
  • Special Needs: Limitation or Liberation? — Melissa of White Noise describes the beauty in children with special needs.
  • How I Learned It’ll Be Okay — Ashley at Domestic Chaos reflects on what she learned while nannying for a boy with verbal delays.
  • Attachment Parenting and Depression — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how attachment parenting has helped her get a clearer image of herself as a parent and of her depression.
  • On invisible special needs & compassion — Lauren at Hobo Mama points out that even if we can’t see a special need, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
  • Thoughts on Parenting Twins — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares her approach to parenting twins.
  • ABCs of Breastfeeding in the NICU — Jona at Breastfeeding Twins offers tips for establishing breastfeeding in the alphabet soup of the NICU.
  • Life With Michael – A Mother’s Experience of Life With Aspergers Disorder — At Diary of a First Child, Luschka’s sister-in-law Nicky shares her experience as mother to a child on the Autism Spectrum. It is filled with a mother’s love and devotion to her child as an individual, not a label.
  • Raised by a Special Needs MomMomma Jorje shares what it was like growing up as the daughter of a mother with a handicap.
  • Becoming a Special Needs Mom — Ellen at These Broken Vases shares about becoming the mother of a child with Down syndrome
  • She Said It Was “Vital” — Alicia of Lactation Narration (and My Baby Sweets) discusses the conflict she felt when trying to decide whether therapy was necessary for her daughter.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle : 5-5-5 Things A Day

I’m not sure where exactly this fits into Natural Parenting, but I’m pretty sure that my Experiment in Natural Family Living this month must fall in a category somewhere: Decluttering. I’m pretty sure that having a decluttered home can only lead to a more peaceful mind, a gentler existence and a happier living space, so my mission is to declutter this month. I’ll let you in on a little secret though: We’ve been decluttering for weeks, months, years! We lived in a really big house and moved to a smaller house from there and it seems like for the past three years we’ve done little but give stuff away.  And yet, no matter where I turn, there are piles of stuff. No matter where I look: piles of stuff. I wish I could bolt the front door sometimes as that seems the only way to prevent the influx.Read more: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle : 5-5-5 Things A Day

10 Reasons to Choose Baby Led Weaning

I love baby led weaning and it’s one of the greatest things I’ve discovered in parenting. It always amazes me how people struggle with both the time consuming and financial burden of purée feeding.

I once tried to explain Baby Led Weaning to mothers on a parenting forum and what amazed me the most was how negative they all were: the most common argument was how ‘scary’ it sounded, or how ‘dangerous’. Which I felt was a little sad. I mean really, which parts of parenting don’t feel scary or dangerous at times?

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

The Carnival of Natural Parenting is hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama.


So, here are seven reasons why I think Baby Led Weaning is better for babies:

  • Benefits of longer milk feeding/ digestive preparedness

Baby led weaning doesn’t normally start until the baby is around six months old, able to sit up on his/her own and has shown some interest in food. As a result, a baby led weaned baby will probably stay on milk feeds until around a year before solids really make up much of the diet at all. Following the ‘food is fun till one’ principle, a BLW baby will receive most of their nutrients by milk while playing with food until one, when they’ll start eating more. With my little girl, there was a marked difference in the quantity of solid food she ate before her first birthday compared to how much she ate a few weeks down the line.

Since baby is still on milk, they are getting all the nutrients required, and you don’t have to worry about force feeding a child that doesn’t want to eat.

  • Natural motion of babies mouth

The mouth is designed for food. When a baby breastfeeds, their sucking motion isn’t actually sucking at all. If you watch a breastfeeding baby, you’ll see the jaw moves almost in a chewing motion – which it doesn’t do with bottle feeding. Breastfeeding prepares a baby for chewing, and baby led weaning helps them to take food in, chew and swallow, rather than puree feeding which simply requires them to suck back (which is where choking hazards come in) and swallow.

  • Natural desire to feed self

Babies have a natural instinctive desire to feed themselves. Have you ever seen a baby fighting to try and grab the spoon? They are naturally inclined to learn to feed themselves. And why not? If your 12 month old can feed herself, you won’t still be having to spoon feed at 3 years old. And you won’t be making airoplane noises or choo chooing around the room to get your child to eat either.

  • Experience of different textures and flavours

Food is fun till one is a great, and messy, principle. It means that everything that goes on the plate becomes an experiment of flavours and textures. Mushing marrow between the fingers, slip-sliding mango up and down the plate, ‘tearing’ pieces of bread or meat, and spearing sashimi (raw salmon) Baby-led weaning breakfastare all great explorations and help prevent pickiness.

  • Promotes development of hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity

Picking up kernels of rice one at a time requires quite a bit of dexterity and concentration, so it’s great for developing these essential skills. Chasing a cherry tomato around a plate and capturing it requires hand-eye coordination. And the reward is tasty.

  • Less picky eaters

It is said that BLW toddlers aren’t as picky eaters as their puree fed counterparts. This is partly due to having been exposed to different foods (I don’t see sushi and asparagus flavours in pots), but also to the different textures so there’s not the expectation of mush – blended mush- and baby gets to know individual flavours, sharp tastes, sour tastes and so on.

  • Baby listens to own body

Although I can’t find much by way of scientific evidence for this – after all, who’s going to pay for a study that’s not going to make anyone any money? – it is anecdotally claimed that babies won’t eat food that is later found to be bad for them. I have personal experience of this with my daughter. I’m willing to trust it, because in the end it can’t hurt.

But there are also at least three benefits for mama, and the family as a whole:

  • Starting Baby-Led WeaningLess strain in terms of  time and cost

I don’t know what a month’s worth of puree feeding costs, but I understand it’s quite a lot. At least with baby led weaning, you don’t have to spend money on bottles of food, and you don’t have to spend time on spoon feeding.

  • No need to puree, easier to prepare food

Maybe you’ve always made your own purees, so it hasn’t cost you that much? That’s fine, but with no need for puree’s you don’t need to stand praparing seperate meals. You don’t have to wash your blender every day. You don’t need to buy special food pureeing equipment. You make your family meal, and everyone eats the same thing.

  • Family eats healthier, mum doesn’t finish off baby’s food

Everyone eating the same thing is also healthier for the whole family. For the most part, we all try to do the best we can for our babies, and we want to give them as healthy food as possible, which generally means the whole family eats healthier. In addition, there’s no weight gain from finishing little Johnny’s fishfingers after your own meal. What we do is simple: I prepare the same amount of food as we’ve always done, and take a few bits and pieces off each of our plates to give to Ameli. She doesn’t eat a huge amount anyway, but now that her appetite is increasing, I just make a little bit more, and any left overs go into the freezer for days when I don’t have time to cook.

These are my reasons for baby led weaning. Can you think of any more?


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:

I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without…

The theme for this months’ carnival of natural parenting is “I cannot image parenting without…” At first I thought it was an easy answer, but a bit of investigating brought me to a totally different conclusion.

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Essentials

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared the parenting essentials that they could not live without. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I thought that perhaps it was my Ella Roo sling. It was the best thing I ever acquired in the first months of parenting. It made my life so much simpler, without a pushchair up and down the stairs into our house, and never having to leave it outside at Rhyme Time. Of course, there’s also how lovely it was to be able to keep Ameli close to me, soothe her, lull her to sleep, and get on with the housework while she’s asleep on my back.
Read more: I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without…

A Christmas Tradition

We’re fast approaching Christmas, or more specifically, Ameli’s second Christmas.

As a couple, we have various traditions that we’ve developed over the years. I decorate the Christmas tree with bits we’ve collected from all over. We have been alone for six of the seven Christmases we’ve shared, so we always invite the strays – the people who would be alone too. It means we’ve ended up on our own sometimes, or with one or two friends other times, and it’s always been good.
Read more: A Christmas Tradition