Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Oh Wait! I Have My Own Bag!

So, it sometimes seems like I am the only one at the store with a reusable bag. This week I was met with a confused look from the cashier in Target when I presented my bag for my items. He tried to find a price on the bag, then looked at me again when I said that was to use to hold my purchases. He asked almost incredulously, if I wanted him to put my things in that bag once he realized I was not buying the bag itself. I haven't had this much of a conversation about it in a while, so it is a reminder that we still have a lot of work to do here! I've had my shopping bags for a few years, and it took a while to get into the habit of using them, but it has been well worth it. I'd love to see more folks saving trees and plastic, so I'll give you a little tutorial.

First - decide you are going to shop without using one of the store provided bags, whether it be paper or plastic. Like almost anything, making the decision to change is key.

Next, choose a bag. I know you have random cloth tote bags from a trade show, or from when you donated to the public TV station, or the one you bring to the beach. Just use that - no need to buy one. You can even use a paper or plastic bag or two from the last time you went grocery shopping. If you do feel like you need "gear" to make this happen, try reusablebags.com for lots of great choices. You can also always get one at the store - they have them right there by the registers if you want to make an impulse change for the better! I have chico bags, which I like because they fold up small enough to go in my purse.

Then, decide where you will keep your bag. This is the hardest part - lots of folks have a bag and plan to use it, but then it is at home when they need it or they leave it in the wrong car... Try a few ways to see what works for you. I keep mine in a drawer in the kitchen right under where I hang my car keys. I just throw them in my purse when I leave to go shopping. It's a great place for me too since I remember to put them right back in the drawer after I unload them.

Bring your bags where ever you shop! Reusable bags are not just for groceries. Bring them anywhere you would ordinarily get a bag - the home improvement store, big box stores, the pharmacy... Just be sure to let the cashier know you have a bag to use in place of the store bag. You may have to repeat yourself, and I find it helps to do your own bagging, especially in stores that see very few people using reusable bags.

That's it! So easy, and so much less waste. Wash your bags out every now and then - of course if they get soiled, and especially if you are using them for meats. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Toddler Ten (14) Commandments - Repost

I just love this, so I am sharing it with you. This is a blog post from API Speaks - here is the link, but I have cut and pasted it here for you to enjoy as well.

Toddler Ten Commandments
by Dionna on February 11, 2010

My husband, Tom, once remarked that he wished there was some quick and dirty parenting guide. He doesn’t have time to read all of the parenting books after I’m done with them, and he doesn’t particularly like to hear me quote entire passages. Go figure.

His wish is (sometimes) my command, so I set out to make him a list. I went back through several books I’d recently read: Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting, Lieberman’s Emotional Life of the Toddler, Cohen’s Playful Parenting, and half of Aldort’s Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves (I’m still finishing that one), and asked for the collective wisdom of my seasoned mama friends. I pared down a 10 page Word doc into a page and a half that I entitled “The Toddler Ten Commandments.”

There are a few corrections I could make to that title: 1) There are actually 14 “commandments” on my list, but ten just has a certain ring to it; 2) The word “toddler” could be removed from the title. Most of these will apply to kiddos of all ages, but that’s where we are in life at the moment; and 3) of course these “commandments” aren’t really that – they are suggestions, and not everyone will like all of them. I compiled them based on our experiences and struggles as parents so far. I welcome your thoughts and input on the list based on your own experiences.

We’ve printed out the Toddler Ten and taped it to our bathroom mirror and a kitchen cabinet. It is nice to have reminders every now and then! So without further ado, I give you the Toddler Ten Commandments. Please click on the links if you’re interested in reading a little more about the ideas presented.

1. Keep your eye on long-term goals. Toddler “behaviors” will fade; what will remain is how your child feels about himself and his relationship with you, which is based on how you react to those “behaviors.”

2. Take the child’s perspective. Sure it’s hard to be a parent, but it can be a lot harder to be a kid. We don’t mean to make children feel foolish or unsupported, but that’s just what happens when we trivialize their fears or tears by saying “shhh, you’re ok,” or “don’t be so upset,” etc.

3. Let your child make his own decisions. Our default position ought to be to let kids make decisions about matters that concern them except when there is a compelling reason for us to override that right. We should be prepared to justify why, in each case, kids shouldn’t be allowed to choose. The way kids learn to make good decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.

4. Reconsider your requests. Perhaps when your child doesn’t do what you’re demanding, the problem isn’t with the child but with what it is you’re demanding. I’ll give you a fluff example: Kieran (my son) and I were doing a craft last week. I kept suggesting that he cut the pictures, not the paper that he would eventually glue the pictures onto. He kept ignoring me. I realized that I was trying to impose my own vision of his artwork onto what he was doing – so what if he wanted to cut what I thought was the “wrong” thing! This same lesson can hold true in a number of different situations. As long as a child’s safety isn’t at risk, why not stop to reconsider whether you are imposing your own views and experiences onto them.

5. Remember SALVE:
(S) Separate yourself and your emotions from your child’s behavior to be sure you’re TRULY about to respond to your child, and not as a result of baggage from your own life/childhood. (If it helps, run through any angry words in your mind, then get rid of them before speaking gently to your child.)
(A) give your child full, honest Attention;
(L) fully Listen, be present for your child;
(V) Validate your child’s feelings without adding your own (“I see you want ___,” “you were disappointed because ____”);
(E) Empower your child to solve the upset herself. Believe in her; don’t rush to “fix” her.

6. Don’t say “no” unnecessarily. “Yes” should be our default response, such that you need a good reason not to go along with what’s being proposed, or to step in and forbid something.

7. Change the way you see behavior. Try to see behavior as “teachable moments” rather than infractions that call for “consequences.” Don’t take behavior personally! A toddler isn’t trying to hurt or inconvenience you or “misbehave.”

8. Respect your child. We can’t always assume that because we’re more mature, we necessarily have more insight into our children than they have into themselves.

9. Keep her age in mind.

10. Stop saying “good job.” Break the habit of saying “good job/sharing!” or “you’re such a great helper!” or “I like the way you . . .” Instead, try:
describing, rather than evaluating (“there’s something new on the people you drew, there are toes”);
explaining the effects of the child’s action on other people (“you set the table, that makes things a lot easier on me while I’m cooking”);
asking, rather than judging (why did you decide to give some of your brownie to Michael when you didn’t have to?”).

11. Give her undivided attention. Don’t just occupy the same space, interact. It’s easy to feel distracted by emails or bills, and it’s fine to multi-task sometimes, but make sure your child gets a good portion of your total attention so they know how very important they are to you. Give them affection without limit, without reservations, and without excuse. Pay as much attention to them as you can, regardless of mood or circumstance. Let them know you’re delighted to be with them, that you care about them no matter what happens. This basic posture is completely different from praise, which is doled out as a response to something a child does.

12. Talk less, ask more, and wait. Step back and let your child figure things out. Wait for him to ask you for help. He may not. He may figure it out alone or he may do something else entirely, and that’s o.k.

13. Talk about appropriate behaviors. Try “please use gentle touches” instead of “stop hitting.”

14. Enjoy the journey – they grow up too fast. Don’t be in such a hurry!


This post was originally published on Code Name: Mama.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

One word - Plastics.

I've been focused lately on decreasing the amount of plastic we use. It's a hard road - lots of people recycle, but few remember the "reduce, reuse" part of the three r's. I opted for tap water the other day rather than bottled, and when I offered my reason (that I didn't want anymore plastic to end up in the trash) my host told me they recycle. Well, great. But I suspect that you buy cases of bottled water every few weeks, which means that the demand is still there, so plastics are still made. And do you buy anything that is made from recycled plastic? If not, you are missing an opportunity to make a bigger dent. I'd love to make my small contribution by being a consumer who does not increase the demand for plastic production as well as not adding to the plastic in landfills, oceans, or recycling. It's been hard to figure out how to tackle this.

I've been on this plastic reduction path for some time now, but I got all crazy about plastic and the bottle tops when I saw these photos by Chris Jordan. All these albatross chick die because they eat plastic, and it is just horrifying. We live in our perfect little worlds where the trash and recycling trucks come and take it all "away" and we don't think enough about where "away" might be. Trash never just disappears, but to some of us that is how it seems.

At our house, we've gotten paper down to a science - no more paper napkins, towels, and we reuse almost all the paper that comes into the house. All of our egg cartons go back to our farmer. I write lists on envelopes and such, the kids use junk mail to draw, and I use scraps for book marks. Of course, decreasing the amount of paper that is incoming is the key; no newspapers, few magazines, online billing, less credit card offers and other junk mail.

For whatever reason, plastic is way harder. We switched to glass for food storage (both Pyrex and other food jars - there is no reason food has to be in a bowl - might as well reuse a jar!) a while ago, but the yogurt cups, plastic clamshells from fruit, and bottle tops have got me spinning. Our trash company only takes #1 and #2 plastic bottles and jugs, but I am overrun with #1 clamshells and #5 food containers. So the clamshells have now become storage for craft supplies - crayons, markers, stickers, paints, etc. I've been striving to grow more veggies, or buy more at the farmers market, and now Trader Joe's has a larger selection of loose produce so the influx of clamshells is decreasing. I discovered recently that Whole Foods accepts #5 plastics for their Preserve Gimme 5 program, so now I lug those over there. Aveda has a bottle cap recycling program, so I've started a little collection of those now too.

I've bought a set of Preserve wear for parties so we don't need disposable plates and utensils, and I do use other recycled plastic products. So now I have started considering how to further reduce the plastic that comes in to our house. My quick survey says yogurt, salsa, and nut butters, are the big ones. So the easy fix is buying a larger container - a quart rather than a cup of yogurt for example. The more ambitious fix is making our own. I've heard yogurt is easy, so I may give it a try. Salsa is not too hard, but the preserving is what I don't really look forward to. It's HOT in the kitchen when you're canning! Nut butters just give me another reason to buy a Vitamix :) but I guess I can use a blender or some other kind of grinder if I don't mind it too chunky. The other option is talking with the farmers, businesses, and stores that I buy from about their packaging. I do get my salsa at the farmers market - wonder if he'd let me bring my own container?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Birthdays Galore!

We've been so busy this past lately that it seems like we lost a few days. Peanut's birthday was yesterday, and we celebrated by staying in and watching the playground be built. The anticipation was pretty serious. We turned on the Zune for some music and danced around for a while - I had it on "shuffle" until some Rage Against the Machine came on... not so much for the wee ones. We had a lot of time to play with the "yittle girs" as she calls her dolls; put them to bed, fed them, cuddled them. It is so funny how the doll play has expanded. She has always loved holding and wrapping them up, but now the things the acts out with them are at once hysterical and touching. I particularly love seeing her help them through a rough spot that she has dealt with recently. For example, she has one girl who sleeps in a basket while the rest sleep next to her. She says the one in the basket knows how to sleep by herself but the others have not learned how to do that yet - she is still teaching them. We've had this discussion with her about her little brother - that we are helping him to learn how to sleep on his own and sometimes it is really hard and takes a lot of time. It's really cute to hear your own words come back around at you - especially when they are sweet and gentle. Sometimes it's not so sweet though.

So Peanut is three. She is a "big little girl", and she blows me away with the things she knows and does. She is beyond sweet, so totally adorable that I can hardly stand it. I can watch her play and listen to her talk and I just smile. Last night we had a brownie with a candle in it for her and she was so excited about it - the singing and blowing out the candle as well as the brownie itself! She is already talking about her chocolate cake she wants next week when we have her little shindig with her friends.

I think about the day she was born and the days (yes really, days - 4 to be exact) of labor before she finally joined us. I was focused on birthing, but I understood that I would be a parent. I did not however understand what a huge upside down flip of my life that would mean, nor did i grasp how much you can truly love someone. I just love that little girl with all my heart and all my being. Watching her grow and seeing her becoming the person she is today has been incredible. It's hard to believe she is three - it seems so fast. Happy Birthday Peanut! I love you!

It's Here!

Monday, June 14, 2010

My boy is ONE

Yesterday, my little Pumpkin turned one. It is hard to believe that it was a whole year ago that he arrived in a joyful hurry, taking me and Honey off guard, and proving that birth can be a wonderful, joyful, powerful, and painless experience. He continues to be in a hurry, a little impatient, so loving and snuggly sweet, and so smiley. I love how he cuddles in tight, how he points to things he wants and then hits his chest to emphasize that I should give it to him. I love how he slyly smiles when he sees what he wants, and how he calls me mama. I love how he has to taste everything new he finds, especially anything outdoors. I love how he dances, and talks on the phone, copies everything we do, and is so proud of his own antics. I love how he adores his big sister and wants to be near her, doing what she is doing. I love how he cuddles his baby doll tight, and gives big huge sloppy kisses. I love that he sees Honey and calls "Da!" and reaches out for him. I love how he smiles a knowing smile as he takes more and more steps on his own. It has been a fast year, a slow year, a really hard year, and a really wonderful year. Happy Birthday my tiny boy. I love you so.

Birthday mud bath

Why go in a pool when you can play in the mud?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Enough love to go around

After we put Peanut to bed last night, she was continuing to chat with her "Yittle Girs" as usual. I went up to remind her it was time to rest, and she greeted me sitting up in her bed and happily chirped about what was going on.

She was having a party for her girls, feeding them before they went to sleep. She had laid out spinach, tomatoes, peppers, macaroni and cheese, goat milk, and some cookies and was doling out the vittles. She asked for me to come in and talk about Simone and the Sheep Story -

Simone is a story I made up this winter about a girl going to play in the snow. Peanut loves this story and sometimes will tell parts of it with me or add to it. The Sheep story is basically The Boy Who Cried Wolf. It too gets reinvented at times.

So, I sat on her bed with her to talk, and she continues to chatter on about her party and girls and their sleeping habits and whatnot. After a bit, she says "talk about Simone". So I start the story and just then, Pumpkin starts to cry in the other room. Peanut's expression registers his cry, she glances at me with a fleeting look of alarm as I continue the story with one ear attuned to his room. And then the crux of everything comes out. She says, "Don't worry, I think Daddy will take care of Will".

I hoped that was true, so I could continue my sweet conversation and play with my little girl, but I wasn't sure what Honey was up to. Our time was threatened and we both felt it. It was even painful to say that I had to go check. I was so glad to peek out the door and see that Honey had it under control. The moment was not lost - I could go right back into our special mommy daughter time without a glitch.

Until this moment, I don't think I had realized exactly how different the before and after of a second baby is, nor how difficult it is for all of us. Pumpkin has never known differently - he has always had my divided focus. Peanut has had a complete change in her world. We used to spend all of our time playing these little games and just being together, and now it is a true effort to focus on just one child and give them the time and attention they need and crave. Peanut had always had our complete attention and love, and now my attention is split in an instant. The change in the room when that happens is palpable.

I've been focusing lately on the fact that there is enough love for everyone, and that there is no need to try to take it away from the other in order to get your fair share. We've been talking a lot about how we are a family and we love each other no matter what. It takes an awful lot of doing, but I think we are starting to make some headway here - I'm starting to believe that the things I am saying are actually true, and so is Peanut.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Bank

Peanut has entered the era of toddler money management. She has a piggy bank that she got during Christmas, and we randomly give her coins to put in there. Well, that thing was getting pretty full, and we have been talking for a few weeks about taking the change to the bank. The original plan was to cash the money in through my account and help her use it to do her shopping at the farmers market. That would be great if there was a few dollars in there, but we could tell it was a decent amount of money. I'd been reading some Simple Parenting books - living simply with kids and avoiding the consumer pull that goes along with being the parent of a very young and usually naive consumer - and the subject of learning about managing money as a young child, understanding and deciding on spending, saving and charity was intriguing to me. So, yesterday was a big day. We went to the bank and Peanut opened her own account. She had $43 in that little pig! She put most in the bank and took out $10. We went to the grocery store, where she wanted to spend some money but then decided there was nothing she wanted to buy that was not already in the cart. So now she has 10 bucks in her wallet. We started talking a bit about how to decide what you want to spend your money on and about charity in general. Clearly this is the start of an ongoing process. So far she really enjoys her "cash" and has been telling people she "opened a count" at the bank. Super cute. Here she is on her big day!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Let it slide

We went to a local kids play place today to get out of the heat, and I found myself observing the interactions around me as a scientist. The controlling, hovering, helicoptering, swooping in, rescuing, and commanding to "share!" was almost overwhelming.

Let me start by saying that I'm a pretty laid back parent when it comes to playtime and social interactions. I know my kids will work out whatever they need to and will look to me for help should they require it. Peanut usually needs a lot of help in social situations, and I'm glad to provide it but I don't like to push her, nor do I like to let her sink. I'm a fan of noticing what is going on, commenting on it "gosh it looks like that is a pretty heavy truck. That would hurt if it hit someone." and allowing the kids to think through their next steps. Sometimes they reconsider, sometimes they don't, but I think giving them that chance is imperative if I want them to learn. I believe children learn through experience and exploration, and that often adults thwart that exploration by trying to "teach". I have found over the years that asking questions of small children ("what does the duck say?", "where is the letter B?") usually results in said child moving on to something else. I also see kids do the same when an adult shows them the "right way" to use a toy - the child is no longer interested.

So today was really eye opening for me. I must have said "no really, he's fine" six or seven times in response to moms trying to keep their kids from coming anywhere close to Pumpkin. He's almost one year old and can fend for himself pretty well. He also deals with his big sister on a daily basis. He can easily handle your 16 month old putting a soft toy close to his head. Watching a child pick up a toy and start to check it out, and almost immediately have the mom show up with all of the "correct parts" that go with the item to show how it all works together was almost too much for me. When did it become necessary to follow the directions all the time? So what if the kids puts the duck into the ball tower? Will the world end because the car is driving down the slide instead of in the parking garage? I don't think so. And I think the kids are learning so much more about how things work, how things fit, and creativity when they are allowed to explore.

I did open my mouth once, when a mom was constantly saying "no", "don't", "stop" to everything her little guy was trying to do. He was an active fellow and she had another tiny baby, so I know she is tired and busy and just trying to keep everyone safe. I said that what I had found to work was saying what the kids could do with the toy - "bounce the ball", "crayons go on the paper", etc. - instead of "no" all the time because when they heard it too much it lost it's power. I also shared that really, I just let the kids be kids and do whatever they want to do unless it looks like someone will actually get hurt. She then revealed to me that what bothered her the most were the glares of the other moms. She's right. I don't really notice them (if they are there - I haven't the foggiest) because I don't care. I'm really OK with the way I parent and never look to the "public" for validation or feedback really. Lots of people do seek out that feedback, and when the world expects one year olds to share, and kids to play correctly with toys, then yeah - they will glare when you let your child be a child. So I said - people are really judgemental when it is not their kid, you've just got to let it slide.

So next time you see a a mom and her child in a tough spot, give some sage advice, a warm smile, a knowing look, or some other offer of understanding or support. If you find yourself scowling or muttering, assuming the parent is incompetent or lazy, or that the kid is just out of control, consider that kids are kids and they are learning how to understand and work with this world. We have extraordinarily high expectations for children's (and parents) behavior. Developmentally we shouldn't expect true sharing until about 4. Why do we push this with really little kids? I'm sure it is at least partly trickle down from the need to have our kids reading a writing well before they are ready to do so and having kindergartners doing first grade work... We are really creating some stressed out children with all this pushing. And consider that the mom is probably pretty tired and it is hard to think clearly when you are exhausted. Why we expect her to handle all of it without breaking a sweat is really beyond me.

The best thing we adults can do is help kids explore, create, and negotiate their emotions and social interactions without squelching their curiosity. Think about what the adults in your life did or could have done to make that happen. And then do it for your kids and all of the children you meet.