Thursday, February 25, 2010
1 The first daffodils of spring.
2 A sunny day at the beach.
3 Ice cream.
4 Finishing a project.
5 Pictures my kids draw.
6 Things my kids say.
8 Long weekends.
9 Snuggling with my sons.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I even found another "heart in nature" for next year's Valentine cards. What do you think it should say inside, "You have a heart of stone, Valentine"?
Update: I forgot to link to the book that has me going crazy trying to remove the dust from my house: The Body Toxic by Nena Baker.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
So for this month, I'm focusing on personal care/household care (that is, items stored in the bathroom). I started by inventorying what I have stored in each bathroom, what it is used for (if used at all) and what possible alternatives there are.
Pretty scary huh? Here's what we found inside:
First aid supplies. Two (plastic) boxes of gauze, tape, moleskin, bandaids, ace bandages, etc. C buys most of this stuff (some of it is leftover from our Colorado Trail hike in 1996!!). I would, however, like to find an eco alternative to plastic bandaids. I do buy the fabric ones (hoping they are PVC-free) but they are still not biodegradable. But I can't see having three boys and no bandaids. Suggestions (tearing cloth into strips, Civil War style?)??
Now for a brief detour to the bedroom, here is my dresser (please excuse the dust). Note the plastic bottles of lotion, which, when used up will be replaced by lotion bar that my parents gave me for my birthday. It comes in a tin container and seems to be mostly cocoa butter. When it's all used up, I think I'll try to make my own. See the little jar? That's my homemade deodorant, which works GREAT (for me that is...C tried it for a while and let's just say it's NOT "strong enough for a man"). Also a plastic tube of eucalyptus rub and one of lip balm. When those are used up, they'll be replaced by non-plastic (homemade) options.
OK, so what, if anything did we learn from all this and where does it get us?
--Stop buying random vitamins/homeopathic cures/over the counter drugs for every little ailment.
--Just say "no thank you" to free stuff (I already hand back the vinyl bag and the floss sample they hand out at the dentist. Should I also say "no" to the toothbrushes and buy the Preserve kind instead? I did put the flossing sticks on the counter for the boys to use up--then I'll teach them to use real floss and tell the hygenist no thank you, we'd prefer using our own floss).
--Find an alternative shampoo option that works for me and an alternative deodorant that works for C.
--Write a letter to Organic Essentials encouraging them to use non-plastic packaging for their cotton balls and q-tips.
And, finally, I have made one change already--I ordered a subscription...for toilet paper! That's right. I ordered a case of 48 rolls of Seventh Generation TP (the kind that comes wrapped in paper) through Amazon and by scheduling regular delivery (a.k.a. a subscription), I saved 15%. I've been wanting to do this for a long time (even the recycled stuff at the grocery store comes in plastic, and to buy individual rolls of the Seventh Generation at the health food store costs almost twice as much). Our first case came today...can't imagine what the delivery person thought of our bathroom needs!
One last note (I know I said finally in the last paragraph)...did you note the absense of the more, er, delicate items a lady might store in her powder room? I'm talkin' feminine hygiene? The reason there is none in either of the bathrooms, is that I store my products in the bedroom...in my dresser, where I put them when they come out of the laundry. OK so I'm not ready for "the family cloth" to replace my toilet paper, but I have been using the "lady cloth" for two or three years now and...zero complaints. I have two brands, and the one I'm only going to recommend my preferred brand, Luna Pads (the other is too bulky for comfort), though there are lots of crafty types who sell them on Etsy these days, so don't be deterred from trying their offerings (and they appear a lot more affordable. I will say the Luna Pads are crazy expensive (I spent around $60 for my starter kit of about four pads--ouch--and maybe around $30 for six additional in the not-as-good brand--but seriously, how much would I have spent on disposable ones in the last two years--and the next however many these things last?? Totally worth the sticker shock).
"There's no question that war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan will top $1 trillion after Obama's request is implemented. That's enough money to stretch - in dollar bills - from the earth to the sun. It's also enough to pay for ten years of universal primary education for all of the world's children, according to UN statistics."
And we're bickering over nickels and dimes in our school districts? Shameful, simply shameful.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
When M started school, I figured our evenings, weekends and days off would be homeschool, and he would get the best of both worlds. I think I kind of envisioned this as us walking through the woods, teaching him the names of trees and birds, going to museums and studying the works of art or history, sketching on a hillside, and generally just being a very cultural, genteel family (a bit like becoming an accomplished young lady in a Jane Austin novel). It hasn't exactly worked out that way. Our moments and hours and days at home are split between a mad-cap rush to get everything done we need to get done in a limited time and lazing around doing very little. I suppose this could qualify as unschooling.
In any case, I have been recently inspired to both learn more about Waldorf school philosophy and techniques, and get ideas for ways to implement some of what I learn at home from this free lecture series offered by Waldorf Connection. (Three of the lectures have already taken place, but I think you can still sign up to hear the remainder, or purchase the entire series for a reasonable price).
The first lecture was on storytelling by Susan Perrow. Storytelling is something I've been wanting to learn and incorporate into our lives for a while (if you think a "writer" would be a natural-born storyteller, think again!). In the fall, I learned the story "Abiyoyo" from Pete Seeger's Storytelling Book for my Toastmaster's club ('cause I'm a geek like that) and practiced it with the boys every night for a few weeks. They loved acting out the different roles (Z always played the giant and M liked being the people whose saw, glass of water or chair were whisked away with the magic wand). We then did "Abiyoyo Returns" somewhat less thoroughly, but they didn't want to hear any more stories from the book that weren't about giants, and then the holidays set in and we became distracted by other things.
For our New Years Eve movie (which got moved to another day since we actually went to a party!) I got Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, since it is one of the few movies they haven't already seen at daycare, and even though I hate Disney, it is a classic. After we watched it, we made some little dwarfs (M whittled, E and Z painted--under strict orders as to color) and we all made faces). Then I read them "Little Snow White" from Grimm's.
I have mixed feelings about fairy tales. I received the Pantheon edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales for eight grade graduation from our bookmobile librarian, and I can remember many long hours sequestered in my cold basement room reading it. I think I actually read all of the fairy tales in the book (there must be hundreds) and read over and over my favorites. Yet, I am super-bothered mostly by the gender bias contained in most of the stories--women are either pure young virgins or wicked witches. The stories were collected by the Brothers Grimm, I believe, either during or not long after the genocide of women through the witch hunts of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. This cultural madness must have seeped into the stories that are supposed to be so ancient. Yet the language of the stories is so beautiful (whenever I read the introduction to my edition of the book I am convinced of the goodness of that olden time when the "rhythm of the night" took over, when the storyteller plied his or her skill to keep the wheels spinning, or to fill the dark hours before bedtime when there were not electric lights or TVs and no one could read), and do I want my children to be the first generation to not know "Hansel and Gretel" and "Cinderella" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" by heart?
So one night after hearing Susan Perrow's storytelling lecture, lying in bed between E and Z, with M on the bunk above, I decided to give it a try. I told "Snow White," though employing the phrase my sister and I used to use when we would pretend the baby gate at the top of our grandparents' stairs was the Magic Mirror, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" "Lips blood red, hair like night, skin like snow, her name, Snow White!"
Of course any departure from either Grimm or Disney was commented upon, "It's supposed to be a looking glass, Mom," and "You forgot the strings that tie her clothes and the comb," (I had decided to shorten it to just the apple) said M. E and Z wanted to know why she didn't fall off the cliff. M, of course, remembered the burning hot iron shoes. Tough audience.
I then read this article about storytelling, and saw the wisdom in sticking exactly with Grimm (to quiet the peanut gallery). So I set about trying to memorize "The Frog King or Iron Henry," and asked the boys to please not interrupt when I told it to them Sunday night. M was very perturbed with the ending (which, admittedly I did not learn as well as the beginning, although I do have to agree it is very weird). "When do they get married? Why don't they live happily ever after?"
Last night the asked me to tell a story but they all protested hearing "The Frog King" again (because the article said tell a story at least three times, and because I'd gone to so much trouble learning it), , but I promised the next story would be about a wolf, but they had to listen to this one for a week first. M interrupted to point out something I'd left out from the first telling (though I'm sure I said it...he wasn't paying attention) and again after it was done said, "That's just a dead ending!"
Let's home "The Three Little Kids and the Wolf" is more exciting! The amazing part was, that they all asked for the story and listened quietly throughout. Now by telling it in the dark we miss the "eye contact" bit the Waldorf article mentions, but I guess I don't really care. By telling it in the dark I'm also ensured of a captive audience of three (if the light was on, M would be reading Tin Tin). I am finding through these lectures and some articles I've read that Waldorf philosophy is quite rigid (perhaps even more rigid than public school!), and dogmatic (I don't know why storytelling must be considered "better" than reading a book--can't they both be wonderful?), but the nice thing about having an evening and weekend homeschool, is that we can pick and choose the bits we like and throw out the dogma. Sometimes we can even just hang around in our jammies playing (the horrors!) Lego's.
Monday, February 8, 2010
I got our nature table spruced up, with the garland I made last year, a heart-shaped rock, a heart melted in the snow picture I took a couple of years ago some wooden heart beads leftover from our Valentine card making and a few cones (pine, hemlock and alder) that I picked up on a walk down to the river (alone...the boys are very anti-hiking these days).
I made a new garland (I saw this idea on somebody's blog somewhere, but I can't just now remember where).
E and Z have 30 kids in their class, plus three teachers...that is a total of 64 cards (if they don't make one for themselves, although Z was pretty much interested only in making one for himself). I ask you, is that in any way reasonable. Seriously, one of the reasons I'm most looking forward to public school is a reduction by half of the number of Valentine cards we'll have to make.
For our cards this year, we cut up a big stack of abstract watercolors the boys have painted over the last year. I traced the hearts with a cookie cutter, and E doggedly cut out several pages of them (saying, "Is I a artist?" over and over), but Z cut out one, got bored and decided to draw. One of the most ingenious things I did this Christmas was get custom rubber stamps with each boy's name in his own handwriting. So instead of the chore of sitting and coaxing them to write their name 33 times, I just had to hold the cards still for E while he stamped, and stamped all of Z's for him, because he was still not into cards. For a finishing touch, we punched holes in the cards and tied on wooden heart beads.
Friday, February 5, 2010
I had thought that I had journaled in the past--I have kept notebooks of writing about my life and other things--but I guess I've never really and truly "journaled" as in writing in response to a prompt intended not to produce a piece of writing, but to tap into one's emotions. I've found myself gushing tears on more than one journaling occasion.
One of the insights I've uncovered through this process, is that I have this paradoxical conflict in my life between a deep need for solitude and an abiding loneliness. After puzzling over this for some days now, I think I understand that these two states are not so in conflict after all, but feed on each other. As a mother of three boys, a wife and an employee, I have very little time alone, in solitude [Heather has a nice description of what true solitude is here...can I tell you how good being solo on the side of a mountain with nothing but a bag of GORP and a notebook sounds? (It should go without saying that I'm visualizing this in a warm, summery, bug-free location)]. And I need it. I crave it. So much so that I resent perceived intrusions into any potential time to myself--including evenings out with friends, phone calls, a calendar with weekends booked solid for months ahead.
It kind of makes it difficult to form close, intimate friendships when one doesn't want to be around other people, doesn't it? Combine that with my natural reserve and tendency to hold people at arm's length (and that weird guard that goes up wherever mothers congregate--wondering if I'm being judged, my own judgements slipping in unbidden), and let's just say that among my many friends and acquaintances in close geographic proximity, I don't know anyone on whom I would drop in unannounced and be welcome with open arms, or who I would turn to if I had a real life crisis. Having lived in Maine for 11 consecutive years now, I should have had time to get to know at least one person that well, shouldn't I?
So I don't really know what to do with this insight, in general or in the long term, but I think now I'll notice that when I'm feeling edgy, cranky, grumpy, etc., it's time to get away. Yesterday I felt that way and took the afternoon off. I took myself out to lunch, sitting in the corner of a brew pub, occasionally dipping into the book I brought, but mostly just eating and listening in on bits of conversation around me, sort of wishing I had brought a notebook to write down some things I overheard, descriptions of people at the other tables.
I then walked around the small town, popping into antique shops, which should have been a relaxing activity, but I feel so conspicuous in small stores, when I'm the only customer, and guilty when I don't buy anything, so that anxiety started to tug at my chest. I tried to quell it, and focus on "stillness"--another element from class, taking a few minutes each day to quiet the mind through a relaxing yoga pose, meditation, taking a walk, etc. I popped into a friend's art gallery and ended up in a long conversation about school and kids. I then went grocery shopping and picked up all the boys early, giving us a bit of breathing time to relax at home before C got home and started dinner and I headed off to my knitting group.
While an afternoon to myself is not an option every day or week, I now have the awareness that some moments of solitude are necessary for me each day, and I just need to find a way to create the space for it.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
My small change for January (buy nothing) went well and was pretty easy. I kept a list of anything I thought of that I wanted during the month and it ended up being a pretty short list, with nothing I desperately needed on it. I also have a list of books in my wishilist on Better World Books, which C was supposed to get me for Christmas, but we had a technological miscommunication. I really like Better World, and buy my books from there when I can (of course I would ideally buy from a local indie bookshop, but the nearest one is in the opposite direction of where I normally go), but their wishlist leaves something to be desired (you need to log-in to get to it, so other people can't view it and buy you stuff; also it seems self-replicating--every time I go there, I find I've requested ever-more copies of the same book!).
I was going to buy myself some or all of the books (which are mostly related to craft--both knitting/sewing type craft and writing craft), but I've decided to keep Buy Nothing going for another month. I will allow myself used items (M really needs some pants...poor kid's knees are all patches; plus I miss my antiquing trips with my friend Dawn) and materials needed for making other stuff, though I might limit it somehow, like continuing to keep a list, and only buying at the end of the month, or only allowing myself one purchase a week or something (I did buy some of this yummy rainbow yarn yesterday...that's my purchase this week, or maybe month...and I do have a plan for it!).
The only thing I bought last month was posterboard for M's school project. I had saved a poster I got for free for him to use the back, but it had gotten bent/ripped (poor kid goes around in holey jeans, the least I could do is buy him a new poster board). I actually bought three, because last time M had a poster project, E and Z really wanted to make their own posters too.
Not eating out/buying snack food did not go as well. We went out for pizza every Friday before or after going swimming at the YMCA; my writing group met at a bakery and I had a cinnamon roll; I bought chocolate and ice cream to take to knitting night. I bought chocolate for my mental health. Worst offense of all, on Sunday I met up with a friend I hadn't seen in a long time and we went out for a cup of tea--being Sunday in central Maine, the only place we could think of that might be open was Dunkin' Donuts. I had an iced tea, plastic cup and all (later I realized we could have driven a few minutes in another direction and had a plastic-free pot of tea at the newish Thai restaurant).
I was hoping to do something about all the miles I drive for February, but I haven't been able to organize it. Maybe it will come together next month.
My plan B for the month was to write letters to companies to try and encourage them to move away from PVC in their packaging. I've saved packages from different things (e.g. baby shoes, mattress pads, etc.) that I'm going to send with the letters as a kind of enforced Extended Producer Responsibility...and to get rid of the packaging.
I'm still going to do that, but after reading Heather's post yesterday, about trying to eliminate plastic in her home I was inspired to do that too. As I've written before, getting rid of plastic has been a kind of long-term goal of mine, but I've run into stumbling blocks, especially in terms of food packaging. So I'm going to look around our home/life, evaluate where the plastic waste is coming from, and figure out ways to cut back. I also want to go through and get rid of as much plastic junk we have just hanging around, unused (I did this to an extent last spring, but it is an ongoing battle, I think).
And I need to try and not stress out about things outside of my control (so much of this stuff comes into our lives from outside--gifts from family and friends, "prizes" from school, etc...it's aggravating but I need to Let It Go...) and get C to care (since his job involves filling people's homes with plastic--he has an energy efficiency business--I think he probably sees the wrapper on the toilet paper as pretty insignificant).
It's not too late to join the fun and make One Small Change each month leading up to Earth Day.