Thursday, December 31, 2009

Consuming

Yesterday, I entered the consumer driven holiday world. Somehow, it seemed like the right day to head to the mall after naps to return a few things. Obviously, I am no longer the savvy shopper I once was, because this was a really really stupid idea.

Of course, the traffic going in and coming out of the mall was horrible - I should have taken my cue and come up with plan B. Once we got in (after parking in the underground scary muggers lot outside JC Penny) there were so many people sauntering around that someone like me with a mission to accomplish just seems like a bull. I kept feeling like I was waiting for someone to move. It used to be that folks would stop to shop or look at a cute guy or whatever, but mainly people were stopping to talk or text. I can't fully grasp how totally different my memories of teenage life are from this new reality.

I also neglected to consider that without receipts, I would get current value for my returns, which meant bubkis since everything is on crazy sale. Gift receipts are the bomb folks. given the opportunity, you should include them in every gift. It's not that I don't appreciate gifts (although I'd much rather have gifts of time than things), I just want to be able to exchange sizes or whatever without too much of a hassle. And sometimes, we need socks and get pants... And sometimes, I've said "no ___" (fill in the blank) and that's what we get. I'm more than happy to run around and return and exchange stuff, but the easier it is the better. So after one return, I figured that out and decided to take the opportunity to just walk around and get some exercise.

On my little excursion, I saw that the kids play area was being cleaned! I was astounded. I had to wonder if it is the regular cleaning schedule, the more frequent schedule for the throngs, or if someone had just puked. When I came back around, the play center was standing room only, so there was zero chance we were going in, even though it was spotless.

The sale signs, coupons, specials, two for one, double reward points, whatever gimmick you can think of to lure customers were flashing all over the place. The consuming is consuming. This is really not a sustainable way for our economy to grow folks. Reliance on individuals going into debt each December in order for businesses to stay solvent is bad. As a nation we are over consuming everything. We buy, use, toss, waste and eat way more than our fair share. My trip to the mall was shocking confirmation of all of that.

There's only so much I can take, so we ditch the mall and head home. Since I had no plan for dinner and no intention of making one, I ended up running over to the grocery store to grab a few things that evening. Tired, hungry, and feeling sad at the state of affairs in the world, I saw that the "seasonal" aisle had some Christmas items on sale, a whole section of Valentine candy and pointless gifts, and even a section for Easter candy. Not even the New Year, and already they are selling us through April. Oh boy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Growing...

It's been an eventful past few days. My little guy seems to have grown up before my eyes. I wish I had taken some pictures today - he looked like such a guy with his flannel shirt over a t-shirt and sweats!

Pumpkin has begun to creep on his hands and knees and he can sit up on his own now as well. He started getting into a w-sitting position (my pediatric physical therapist hat screamed "NOOOOOOO" when I saw this) but couldn't really balance well there, thus we have no pictures since I was always trying to catch him before his head hit the hardwood. In the past week, he has learned to get in and out of sitting on his own (the "right" way), and just yesterday he pulled up to standing. Oh man!


He's a huge fan of eating, and now pounds his tray and yells if he is in his high chair and he doesn't see food forthcoming. He has tried string beans, green beans, banana, apples, pears, carrots, peas, avocado, cucumber, zucchini, and celery. I actually think he would eat anything we gave him!

He's got one little tooth fully in and at least one more on the way. He is not a very happy camper when he is teething, but you'd never know it from his huge grins! The telltale sign is the runny nose - clearly he is teething in all of these photos. He's just a super guy and I can't believe he isn't my tiny baby anymore.

video

Merry Christmas!

As we got closer to *The Day* I began to realize how kids become consumers. It's all us people. Peanut would never know about Santa and presents and buying things if every. single. adult. who spoke with her didn't play it up so much. We didn't even bring the kids to see Santa because, well, we didn't really talk about him alot until we had to because we saw him in passing at the mall. I'm also completely OK with my very small children NOT sitting on some strange man's lap and smiling about it. Maybe someday we will make an event of it, but I really can't see it happening anytime soon. Also, it always strikes me as a little strange to say that some guy will creep into our house at night and leave stuff under a big tree in our living room. I'm actually more interested in figuring out how Santa came to be, and talking about the traditions in other countries and times with the kids and perhaps adding some to our own celebrations.

Until last night, Peanut really still had no clue about the gifting side of all of this. Even when she saw the tree at her cousins house with presents under it, I'm not sure she got it. When she was given a gift, she stepped back a bit, and upon further discussion with her we realized she didn't realize it was hers to keep. She then proceeded to put the toy under the tree and then go back and get it - kind of reliving the moment.

We kept it fairly low key - our kids are so little that after they open one thing they are ready to play with it for the rest of the day and could care less about the 98 million things under the tree. It worked out perfectly - there was maybe one or two gifts too many, but Peanut happily opened all of them, stopping to play with a few items along the way. Pumpkin stayed with the first thing we opened for him - sitting and banging his little rainbow bowls together while the festivities continued around him. We had been given a kid sized table and chairs set from Honey's aunt and uncle, and had that out in the living room which worked out well for Peanut to begin putting stickers and glue on her ballerina pig bank, and then making us all pizza with her new wooden pizza set. My mom's boyfriend had given us an old computer a few weeks ago and we put that next to the tree as well. Peanut went right over and sat down, telling me she was checking her email.

The kids got their first ball and glove - Santa is a big baseball fan (Dodger fan to be exact) - and Peanut wanted to try it out. Here she is in one of her many tutus (she calls them "tops") working on her arm.

I got a fantastic set of stainless steel cookware - Go Honey! - that has already been put to use making the tastiest bacon and eggs I've ever made. They have already been lovingly cleaned and put away, while the old ones are slowly making their way to freecycle. (Yes, I am disclosing that they are used and nonstick so use them at your own risk!)

Peanut did get her chocolate ice cream this afternoon - it has been the one constant when people asked what she wanted for Christmas, so we couldn't let her down. She loved every bite!

As far as "being green" goes, we did think about our footprint in getting ready for the holiday. We didn't buy too much and got some things used and free. We did buy wood toys, stuff that diesn't require replacing batteries forever, some things that both kids would enjoy, and stuff they actually needed (snow suit, mittens...) as well. We used all the wrapping paper, boxes and bags that we already had to wrap our gifts (and Santa's stuff too). Of course, we did try to save the wrapping paper, bags and boxes, and did a pretty decent job considering we have a 2 year old who likes to rip the paper off as fast as possible. We had a bag of trash, but did have way more that we saved.


I have been able to cook and clean without interruption since Honey is holding our teething, running nose, very needy little dude while they watch a little TV, and Peanut is finally down for a nap. Doesn't sound very glamorous, but it is really all I asked for. Overall it's been a really lovely day!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Longest Shortest Day

It's officially the beginning of winter - can you tell? We got around a foot and a half of snow dumped on us this weekend, so yes, I can tell. Saturday morning, Peanut and I went out to play in the snow while it was still snowing because it was already so deep I knew she'd have a hard time walking if we waited any longer. I did end up carrying her for much of our playtime, and we made some snow angels by accident... but we both enjoyed the winter wonderland. Our whole neighborhood of conscientious citizens shoveled at least once on Saturday before the snow had even stopped falling. I did the walkway and had a new inch on it before I was through. It felt a little silly, but made the job way easier the next day.

By Sunday, the snow was so deep; our dog ran out the back door and turned right back around to come in when she realized it was up to her shoulders. Honey had to cut a path for her in the yard so she could stop standing around with her legs squeezed together. Needless to say, we did not take the kids out in it since they are both too short and we'd lose them. Honey did do a fabulous shoveling job - the cleanest driveway around. I'm so proud!

Sunday was a little dicey - somehow, every transition seemed like a nightmare. Peanut requested a nap very early in the day and then never actually slept. Pumpkin comfort nursed a whole lot, and I started to feel quite worn out from it all. We did have some fun cuddle time though.


Day three of "operation cooped up" included rolling up beeswax sheets to make candles and making playdough; two kinds - smelly gingerbread dough and a rosy pink one. The playdough came about since the previous batch (which has lasted quite a while) has dried up due to being used as "food" in the play kitchen for the past week. We made the candles for our Solstice celebration. I got a little kit with beeswax sheets and wicks so we could roll them up ourselves - easy and fun. Peanut has been reading about "The Shortest Day" and we've been talking about how people celebrate the Winter Solstice because they know the sun will come back and stay for a longer time each day after that. She gets into the idea of the sun being in the sky after dinner like it was in the summer.

Plenty of cooking took place today as well. Chicken soup, veggie fritters, baked coconut/curry tilapia, and bananas in coconut milk to name a few dishes. The bananas turned out excellently and the leftovers went into the freezer as popsicles. I had opened a can of coconut milk yesterday to make muffins and only needed a few tablespoonfuls. With almost a full can leftover, I had to come up with a way to use it all up - thus the Thai flair.


Crafts notwithstanding, today ended up being one of those days where I wanted to walk away. The combination of everyone being indoors and going a little stir crazy with a teething infant and needy two year old leaves a lot to be desired. Additionally, we woke every hour last night for someone. Fix the blanket, change the baby's diaper, feed him, find the lovey for her... it just went on and on. When you are a zombie and everyone needs you at the same time, it feels like you should just leave. The kids alternated naps today too, so there was always someone awake and requiring something from me.
Now that I think of it, I should have turned on the tube and let everyone veg, including me, but no - we had stuff to do and make and finish. These are the days when I realize the way we live and parent can be really draining at times. Keeping the TV off and really interacting with the kids all day is fun and what I want most, but it can be a lot of work. Cooking and eating well and healthy take an awful lot of time and energy. It would be so much faster and easier to pull out lunchables or run through the drive through, but that's just not how I roll. I guess I have to deal with a little fatigue if these are the things I prioritize.

I am pleased that we did a little Solstice centerpiece and ate dinner by candlelight. If my mood had been lighter, it would have been really super fun - but I was just glad to be close to bedtime, and happy to see everyone eating well, so it was merely enjoyable. A fitting short day - I am so looking forward to the sun coming up earlier and sticking around a bit later in the coming weeks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My turn to talk

If you know me, you know that I like to talk. I think one of the most difficult transitions for new moms or for moms who move from working to staying at home is the decrease in adult interactions. I have been lucky enough to have a slow transition period - I worked part time from the time Peanut was 4 months old until Pumpkin was born, and had a slow taper in my hours at the end of my pregnancy. I've also been able to make amazing friendships through the Holistic Moms Network, that keep me talking and thinking and learning all the time.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk about my passions. Although I am a holistic, green, natural parenting mama, I don't like to push my views on others - if you ask, I'll tell you. If you seem interested, I'll venture there, but the minute there is an inkling of discomfort or resistance, I'll back off. It is a lot of time and energy trying to read people and be PC about so many topics, so when I get the chance to talk, it feels great! That's why my mom's group is so wonderful - I don't spend all that energy trying to be gentle with my views. I can put them out there and people can agree or disagree without hurting or being hurt.

So while the kids were napping (hmmm, one was just "resting") I was interviewed by a columnist for Northern Virginia Magazine. She asked some really interesting questions that made me think about things more deeply than I had in a while. Not only did I have the opportunity to be passionate, no holds barred, but I have been thinking about her questions and having the most interesting dialogue with myself!

We talked about the things that are most important to attain and maintain health as a mom. Of course, if you don't take care of your own mind, body and spirit, how will you have the energy to care for your partner and children? Immediately, I thought of our difficult transition to a family of four, and the change in my attitude being the deciding factor in my own mental health. Once I let things go a little, prioritized and centered myself, the juggling became easier, the guilt lifted, and I was genuinely happy to be home with my kids. Long ago, I would have thought daily exercise, time for myself, meditation, eating well were at the top of the list. That's all definitely still on the list, but the mindset is tops. I may not have the neatest, cleanest house, and I may be wearing the same jeans as yesterday but we are all happy and healthy and having a good time together.

How do I get my information on the cutting edge "green" or "holistic" issues? I pondered that one too. There are some go to spots for news, but more often than not, another parent has been focusing on one aspect of health or parenting or environment, or something and they share what they have found with the group. Then I can go to the links they have posted or websites they site and read and determine for myself what I think or how I interpret the information. Sometimes, one parent will bring something up and another will refute it with other research. It is always interesting, and always new. To me, it just is. I'm honestly surprised when what I know is not common knowledge. I had a whole conversation at Peanut's dance class the other day about lead in artificial Christmas trees and lights and was surprised that this was news to most of the moms there. I think I had learned of this last year or the year before. I just know these things because that's the news I follow. If you are interested in baseball (like Honey) you know the stats, who's injured, what each teams chances are of getting to the world series...you just know. There is filter that jolts your brain when something of importance is on the radio or in the paper. I can be listening to NPR and barely paying attention and Kojo will bring up an environmental study as an example and I'm zeroed in.

I was asked about policy. Gosh, I haven't thought about policy in a long time! In another life, it was all I thought about, but now the day to day is what I'm after. How interesting to consider though what policy should be in order to push the natural or "slow parenting" agenda forward. Again, my personal life took center stage - policies that acknowledge the tremendous importance of parenting and allow families to parent as they see fit, rather than force them to stay home or go back to work based on finances, transportation, day care options, etc. Families should be able to parent in the best way that works for their family and children and be supported in that endeavor. Birth options of course are high on the list too. The idea that we should regulate where and with whom someone gives birth is ludicrous. Birth policy should allow that birth is a natural process that can be peaceful, powerful, intense, and calm all at once. We should not have policies that continue to reinforce the idea that birth is a painful medical procedure. Now that I think about it, some of the regulations on toy production, food labeling, farming, and marketing of pharmaceuticals are probably high on my list of policy issues as well.

One of the most interesting questions was "what do [I] get out of volunteering as a chapter leader for the Holistic Moms Network?" When it began, I was seeking out like minded people with kids that could have a play date with us and not roll their eyes. Remember - we started when it was weird, not cool to be "green". All the moms groups I tried when Peanut was born might as well have met at McDonald's. The talk centered around foreign made plastic toys with batteries that thwart imaginative play, getting on the preschool list by 6 months of age, and the wonderful "deal" on sweatshop produced Walmart clothes that week (it's no deal - we pay for it somewhere). I didn't think I was asking for much - just a few mom's who questioned conventional wisdom. I have come to realize that this community is so much more than that. The information we share, experiences we can relate to, challenges we bring to each others thinking, and support in our varied choices are irreplaceable. For every questioned asked there are several answers. My involvement in this group helps clarify my own path, and validate my life and parenting choices. It feeds a need for me too in that it allows me to be a part of a larger community, to feel like I fit in somewhere in the world, that I have a role to play here. I enjoy the work I do to coordinate the community, and like being able to use my work world skills in my mom world. I feel like all of my degrees and training are being used for a good cause.

I sure hope the column turns out well, but either way, my thoughts have been stirred up by the experience. How enjoyable to think about the day to day in a new way. Thanks for sparking my brain a bit Renee!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No grout yet...

We've had quite a fast and furious run of work on the bathroom this week. The only thing left to do is grout the shower floor and install the shower door. We are so close, but the grouting was supposed to happen this afternoon and we have had no word from the contractor... Oh well. Here are the "so far" photos!

The old floor was removed in the shower and when the new tile arrived it was smaller and closer together, but I like it better so it's fine!
I don't think I have mentioned that we chose Kirei for the countertop. It was an inexpensive green option and turned out beautifully.
The only thing I think I would have done differently is make the sink cabinet shorter. I measured to end the cabinet where the original one had ended by the toilet, and never having used that old scary bathroom had no idea how snug it would be. We could have easily shaved 6 inches off the base cabinets and still had plenty of storage and allowed ourselves a little wiggle room on the commode. Live and learn!

Snowy Day Pictures

I realized that we forgot to throw these pics out there from our georgeous snow on 12/5! Here they are - it was a beautiful day!



Lights!

Every year around as the Christmas lights began to shine in our neighborhood. I'd beg my mom and dad for lights at our house. We celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas, although neither one religiously, but for some reason lights were NOT going to be on the outside of our house or in our yard. As I got older and went through several periods of "finding myself" and my religion or lack thereof, I began to understand. The lights signified a level of celebration that did not fit our family. We had a tree (a whole other story about my thematically decorating the tree - a white tree we one year with only red decorations I think - I read too many Good Housekeeping magazines), and Santa came but I don't think I knew anything about Jesus until I was in junior high.

This weekend, my Honey had the sweetest conversation with Peanut while we were at my moms for Hanukkah. They were talking about how wonderful it was and how lucky she is to be in a family that celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas. She is just beginning to understand the presents (she still says she wants chocolate ice cream for Christmas), and loves the lights of the candles in the Menorah and the lights in our neighbors yards. Every day, she asks to see "more Christmas!" and looks out the window to see the white and colored lights, the deer and polar bears, Santas and snowmen. Yesterday, we put up the Christmas tree and she entered the living room wide eyed after her nap and said "Christmas in OUR HOUSE!"

We've chosen to focus on the lights and the seasonal aspects of the holidays, rather than the commercial or religious parts. On my path, I have come to learn that many of the Christmas traditions started with the celebration of solstice. As an aside, I quite enjoyed the primetime reference to this from Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory , although there was of couse the requisite subtle bashing of those who celebrate Solstice. Honey tivoed (I actually had to look this up to see if it was a word and how to spell it) it and saved it for me... Maybe it is my rationalization, but I love Christmas lights and so does Peanut, so if we are celebrating the Solstice and honoring the light, shouldn't we decorate the outside of our house? I felt a little guilty last year when we put lights up on the two trees on either side of our front door. This year I'd love to expand on that a bit more and feel no guilt about it at all. Even if the outside world assumes that it means we are religious, I know it means we just love the lights and are shining them bright while we wait for the sun to come back and make our days longer.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

EMF - not the band

When we first moved into our house, the electrical system was totally insane. There were tons of live wires hanging in the utility room - the previous owners had been working on making a shop and it was not yet done. The electrical panel was rusted out and quite a few circuits were overloaded. In addition, the power lines run from the poles by the street past our bedroom windows to get to our panel. So we had the interior rewired and all seems to be well. The power lines always bothered me though and I had planned on looking into this at some point. Turns out that that point is right now...

I developed a healthy but not crazy concern about electronic devices and microwaves over the past few years. When we were remodeling our kitchen and living primarily off of microwaved food, I cringed every time I turned it on. Not just because of what it may be doing to the food, but because it was at waist level and worried about that being in line with reproductive organs and with Peanuts little head. Recently, I have been more conscious of the possibility of cell phones causing problems and have begun to hear more about fluorescent lighting as well. I have been interested in LED bulbs for a while, but they are so expensive that it has not been an option for us thus far.

Well, our moms group is having a speaker in January talk about wireless safety. I know that I will want to change some things about how we use our wireless network, cell phones, blackberry...etc but I had hoped to live in ignorant bliss for a while longer. Not so much. I got the new Prevention magazine this week and saw this article and had a little freak out. Now, LED light bulbs are at the top of my list, I'm happy that we have replaced our bedroom dimmer switches with regular on/off light switches a couple of months ago, and I am on a mission to deal with those power lines outside our windows. I have already arranged to borrow a Gauss meter since the local electric cooperative thinks I am a loon. I've called and spoken with several people, asking if they have someone who takes Gauss meter readings. Even though EMF's are addressed on their website, I have yet to speak with someone who has a clue.

My only solace is that most things that I have had concerns about and been deemed nuts by others have eventually proven to be real issues - plastic in the microwave, that horrid smell of new shower curtains... So I may be crazy, and I hope I am in this instance, but I fear there is more to the story and "dirty electricity" could have significant health repercussions. Better safe than sorry.

I really did like EMF when it was just an 80's party band...

Oh Honey

I know I don't tell him enough, so here it is -

I love my wonderful Honey because:
- he is the most even keeled person I know
- I can talk to him about everything and he listens to it all
- he brings our compost all the way out to the yard composter in the snow!
- although I do feed and care for Pumpkin at night, I never have to get out of bed to do so
- he does laundry and cleans without me asking - he is really a far better housekeeper than I
- he is a wonderful father
- I am balanced by his practicality and realistic views
- he is so patient with my "new ideas that we should try" like changing our diets, clearing our house of EMF's...
- he understands and values my work as a stay at home mom
- I can be just myself and know that I am loved for all of what "just myself" includes
- he is loyal and true - as a friend and family member, he is always there when he is needed
- he is thoughtful, and wants me to take better care of myself
- he tells me he loves me and that I'm a hot mama!

Honey, it took some time - thank goodness I at last got it right.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Living in quadrant II

I've decided to take back my electronic life. I have been trying to carve out a little more time for me, and realized how much time I was spending sifting through my email accounts. I used to have a great system with folders that certain emails went to automatically, but somehow the inbox is completely overrun and the folders are of no help. As a big believer in Stephen Covey, I was thoroughly dismayed to see how much time I was spending on the "not important, not urgent" tasks in Quadrant IV rather than the "important, not urgent" tasks in Quadrant II.

Over the years, I have gotten on so many lists for daily, weekly, monthly newsletters and special offers that I now either skim or delete without reading. The past two days, all of my free time has gone towards getting off of all of these lists! It's been pretty easy (albeit time consuming) so far - most of them have an instant unsubscribe or a quick check box. Only one has been troublesome in that I had to log on and change my preferences - which meant I needed to remember the user id and password I used for something I probably signed up for 10 years ago... They all say it takes a few days to get cleared in their systems, but this morning I had less email than usual so I can already see a difference!

Since it is the holiday season, I am getting email from pretty much every place I have ever shopped at or in as well, so I am hoping to get rid of all of those in the coming weeks. The plan then will be to stay on top of it - if I get a new promo from a store I recently shopped online, I need to be sure to unsubscribe right away. Better yet - I'll look for the box I'm sure must be there when I place my order that says "please don't send me any stuff besides this order". Yeah right.

Now if I could do the same thing with all of this paper around here...