Tag Archives: life with little ones

Traditions

The Christmas and New Year period, for many people, is a time when family and personal traditions are practiced and compared. There are traditions people relish, traditions people dread and others that are carried out each year “just because that’s what we always do”.

I’ve often wondered what happens when one person’s traditions need to merge with another’s. Mr L and I, although both from (non-practising) Christian backgrounds, still grew up with different traditions around this time of year but bringing those practices together to form new ones hasn’t really been a big deal so far. Until this year (well maybe last year), our children were too young to really “get” Christmas so we haven’t really needed to establish much in the way of expectations around all the Christmas goings-on (presents, food, activities, extended family etc). But this year Master and Miss L are very aware it’s Christmas and so I started to think about more about how I’d like us to remember our family Christmases.

Here are some traditions we started, kept, re-vamped or threw out this Christmas:

Advent Calendars

I LOVED the practice of opening an Advent calendar leading up to Christmas as a child. In the 1970s and early 80s, chocolate calendars weren’t around. Every year I’d have the old fashioned cardboard calendar, with a wintery nativity scene, a sprinkling of glitter, and a daily search for the relevant number. Behind each window was a picture of something very simple- a star, a robin, a spring of holly- yet each day’s window seemed absolutely magical to open. I had a chocolate calendar one year (once they became more popular), but found the chocolate disappointing and the ugly plastic mould that was left once you’d eaten it really unsightly and went back to the picture-style calendar the next year. Simple, cardboard Advent calendars with pictures are really hard to find in Australia, so this year I bought a wooden Christmas tree with a 24 small drawers in it- each drawer just big enough to fit a few smarties or other small lollies. We added one drawer each night so the kids got to see the calendar fill up each morning during the countdown to Christmas. They got the magic of a surprise, the sight of something beautiful, the sense of anticipation, all with chocolate thrown in!

Christmas Eve outing

I remember as a child Christmas Eve being the most agonising of days- the long wait, my parents “getting ready” for Christmas (usually a fairly boring affair with my Dad doing last minute shopping and wrapping- adding to the anticipation but not really entertaining on a practical level) and my Mum cleaning and baking (but “Don’t eat all the mince pies!”) Until now as an adult, Christmas Eve has often been a busy, stressful, exhausting day, fighting crowds at the shops and doing a mountain of food prep to try and feed guests the next day with maximum efficiency on the day. This year (helped by the fact that we weren’t hosting anyone other than ourselves on Christmas Day) we decided to do something completely non-Christmas related. We went to the zoo. It took the kids’ minds off how excited they were and was a lovely relaxing way to have fun as a family. Importantly it also didn’t involve eating, drinking or presents! This is a “tradition” (if you can call it that after one instance) I’d like to continue.

Turkey

I like to eat turkey at Christmas. For no other reason than it feels Christmassy (I do like the taste, too!) Mr L is never that fussed, he always protests “But turkey’s so dry!” But while living in NZ that changed. We found this Annabel Langbein recipe for brining turkey which, along with not overcooking it, makes it so much more appetising. I’m open to turkey alternatives, but one a year, I do enjoy turkey.

Christmas Tree

I’ve always been a “not until the weekend before Xmas” tree putter-upper. Partly so that Christmas doesn’t monopolise the whole month of December, but also because a real tree struggles to last more than a couple of weeks, especially in Australian summer. This year though, we got our tree a bit earlier and so enjoyed it for longer in the lead up to Christmas (which, thanks in part to preschool Christmas preparations, now seems to monopolise not just the whole of December, but also November!) My other tree tradition was to leave it up until Jan 6th, “Twelfth Night”- I have no idea why. I mean, I know it’s a common tradition but it has no practical relevance to my life… in fact it’s completely impractical. I’m usually back at work by Jan 6th so taking it down is a hassle and by then, Christmas seems sooooo far over that it’s crazy still having a tree up! This year I began to gradually put away the decorations starting Boxing Day, just a few at a time, and the tree was the last thing to go, on New Year’s Eve. It felt much more appropriate and manageable.

Which Christmas traditions have you embraced? Rejected? Reworked?

Our Family Mission Statement

Bleuch….. nothing makes me roll my eyes and write off a blog post quicker than this heading. Lately it seems everyone is writing “family mission statements”. After hearing on a podcast today yet ANOTHER person (a man- so far I thought it was only women writing these things) talk about a “family mission statement”, I tried to put my finger on just what it was that makes me recoil from the idea of writing one for the L family.

Firstly, it’s cheesey. I mean there’s a certain cringe-factor about it. Which is a bit of a non-reason, but for me a mission statement carries associations of evangelical, all-American, lip-servicing Joneses showing off what decent, thoughtful, mindful people they are. I just think it’s kind of contrived and phoney. I’m not really one for having framed slogans and the like dotted around the house, whether they be fridge magnets saying “Kiss the cook!”, coffee mugs with some obvious statement about caffeine and mornings or framed “quotes” in white writing on a pastel backgrounds hanging on the wall.

So is it not just my “thing”? And should it be? I think if I suggested to Mr L that we sit down and write our “family mission statement” he’d think I’d gone nuts. “Why do we need to do that?”, I think he would say.

And that, really, led me to the answer… Why do people feel the need to write a “family mission statement” and, more importantly, why don’t I?

For Mr L and myself, our values for life are pretty closely aligned already. Maybe there are some couples whose values aren’t, I don’t know, but I wonder why you marry someone who doesn’t mostly feel the same way about things that you do. I mean, Mr L likes to watch sport on TV while I’d rather be watching Teen Mom or some such trash, so I’m not saying we like exactly the same things on a day to day basis, but overall, we have the same basic priorities. We like to get out and do things, value experiences over stuff, and generally try to avoid pretentious people, things and fads. Those are the values we try to instill in our kids, too. It’s not like we sat down before we got married or when I was pregnant with Master L and said “Right, how are we going to raise our children, what sort of parents are we going to be, are they going to wear designer clothing or hand-sewn clothes?” How could we have known, for a start? But I felt secure enough knowing that our basic principles were aligned that I didn’t feel a big discussion was necessary. Of course, it’s not like we never even speak about these things, it’s just that we don’t really feel the need to be prescriptive about them.

All the mission statements I’ve read so far seem to state the obvious as well. I haven’t read any that say “We aim to sit inside watching as much TV as possible and be really mean to everyone we meet”. Do you really need to be reminded of your own core values constantly with a written set of instructions? And if so can they really be considered core values?

I find them vague, as well, which is probably because their purpose seems to be to cover every imaginable situation for an infinite length of time. I’m fairly confident the issues that we face now with preschoolers aren’t the same ones we’ll face with teenagers (although with Miss L I sometimes wonder) and that we’ll need the be flexible and sometimes innovative to make decisions about the issues that will come up later in life. And again, we’ll be guided by our own basic principles, which we carry around with us all the time, in our heads and/or our hearts. I for one can’t see myself dashing home to consult the mission statement before deciding whether to let Miss L stay over at a friend’s house and miss a family camping trip. And somehow I don’t think Mr L will be, either!

 

 

Zero Waste Fail- My Guilty Secret

On the whole, I feel fairly virtuous when it comes to my environmental footprint and zero-waste habits. But there is one habit I cannot let go of. My guilty secret is that every Wednesday night when I put out our rubbish bin, 90% of the contents are made up of DISPOSABLE NAPPIES.

I know they are terrible for the environment. I know they are made of plastic, manufactured in pollution-emitting, resource-consuming factories, I know that no one even knows how long they take to break down in landfill because it’s longer than we’ve been making them- 100 years? 500 years? 1000 years? Does it matter once we’re talking about those lengths of time?

When I was pregnant with Master L, who is now approaching 4 ½, I was attracted to cloth nappies. Initially it was the cost savings that motivated me. Bamboozled by the different systems available, I bought several different styles (not a complete set of each- cloth nappies are really expensive!) to try out before I committed to one particular style. None were perfect. Despite any claims to the contrary, they leak. Not as much if you change them often enough, but no one tells you that “often enough” is roughly every hour. Not practical, even with just one baby. They are also bulky (even the cool, all in one styles) so they stretch your baby’s onsies and you need extra big pants to fit over them. Not such a big deal, but annoying when you want to use the clothes again for the next child.

I also hadn’t bargained on just how cheap disposable nappies are (ie I didn’t do my sums). They are super cheap. And the cheaper brands work just as well as the expensive ones (generally).

But I persevered. The thought of those heavy balls of pooey wet plasticky evil going to landfill was enough to keep me using cloth nappies. Mostly. As was the theoretical advantage that cloth nappies supposedly result in earlier toilet training (my children have clearly not read that research). Master L outgrew his cloth nappies, however, well before he was ready for toilet training. His howl of agony the first time I pinched the skin of his fat thigh between the poppers on the nappy finally convinced me to put them away, guilt-free, for the next baby.

Cue Miss L. Her arrival (the hardest transition I think of all the kids) meant I had 2 kids in nappies and I didn’t even bother trying the cloth nappies with her.

However, since my newfound zero waste crusade, I have re-tried my cloth nappies with Baby L. And I have nicely demonstrated all the above points to still be true. I have toyed with selling them or giving them away, then last week I thought I’d just have one more go. Two cloth nappies and two hours later, I removed Baby L’s urine-soaked clothes and sodden nappy to find his bottom red, raw and angry. He cried when I put him in the bath that night and every time I cleaned his bottom for the next 2 days. What’s more, I used more disposable nappies in the following days trying to improve his nappy rash with frequent changing than I had saved in the two hours I had the cloth nappies on him.

My cloth nappies are now sitting in a box in the dining room, waiting to be photographed and advertised on Trade Me. Let’s just hope no prospective buyers are reading this post!!

Reflections on 2015

And so we near the end of another year. That’s 2 (and a bit) years I’ve been (very sporadically) blogging!

My views on New Year’s Resolutions have varied from year to year but what I always enjoy is looking back on the year that was. The Facebook gimmick “Your Year in Review” has already appeared and people are beginning to share their yearly summaries. If this replaces the annual “Christmas newsletter” a lot of people send out, I think there’d be a sigh of relief from many reluctant recipients, but weirdly, I don’t actually mind getting those letters, I even like reading the details that really don’t concern me, about people I barely know.

(What always impresses me, though, is that people have enough self-confidence to send these things out, knowing how they are received by the majority of people, which is one reason it’s not something I do.)

So, 2015- what sticks in my mind?

More travel- this year we explored Marlborough at the top of the South Island and beautiful Martinborough at the bottom of the North, catching the ferry in between. I think we only managed 3 trips to our beloved Queenstown, once in March for Mr L’s off-road marathon, the Motatapu Classic, once in August to ski and then we’ll be back there next week for Christmas. I made several trips across the ditch- 2 to Melbourne for work and 2 to Sydney. We did a couple of local weekends away too- to Russell & Northland, Waitomo caves (twice) and just last weekend to Waiheke Island. Our list of places to visit and revisit seems to be ever-expanding, and if 2016 is to be our last year living here, we’d like to make some headway into that list!

Of course, our beautiful Baby L arrived in May and he has been a delight and a privilege to have completing our family. In many ways, seeing him change so fast has made both Mr L and myself all the more aware of the idiosyncrasies (amusing and not-so) of Master and Miss L, as we see them change and realise just how fleeting their stages of growth and development are.

This year has been a big year for me in terms of mindset, with determined forays into mindfulness (my favourite champion of this cause so far being Dan Harris) and happiness (I’ve become something of a Gretchen groupie). I feel that my/our Zero Waste dabblings (inspired largely by Bea Johnson) are, in many ways, an extension (or perhaps combination) of these two ways of thinking. I’ve become so much more aware of our impact on the earth and of the earth’s impact on us and I suppose you could say I’ve spent some time getting to know my inner hippie and seeing just how a simpler way of living, spending, thinking and doing frees up so much time for taking notice of what matters and what lasts.

On that note, as I look back through my calendar I’m surprise to see there aren’t a lot of scheduled events, for a year that has felt so full and formative. I think that’s because you don’t write down the little things- cherry picking with Master and Miss L in January, losing Miss L (ok only very briefly) on a plane in August, someone walking off with Baby L in the supermarket trolley (hmmm, maybe I need to start paying attention to my children more!), Master L astounding us one day by casually announcing he was going to write his name- and then doing it! Me falling off the side of a cliff while skiing, drinking beer in the middle of the afternoon in the Fork and Tap in Arrowtown (Miss L developing quite a taste for it too!), the feeling I had opening a box of macarons and a spa voucher as a “thank you” present from Mr L, playing Calon Lan to try and get Baby L back to sleep at 3am, getting both feet off the floor (not for long!) in crow pose…. And so on.

A few weeks ago we watched “Inside Out”. Since then, Mr L has talked about generating “core memories” for our kids. I agree, that’s important, but from a slighty more selfish point of view, I’m very happy to look after them in my own memory bank for now!

Here’s to 2015…. x

Hauraki Rail Trail

In preparation for our Big Christmas Adventure, we cycled the Hauraki Rail Trail last weekend.

“We” being myself, Mr L and the three little Ls. When we mention family bike rides to people, the usual response is “Wow! Ummm- how does that work, exactly, with 3 kids?”

Well, here’s how we do it:

The cycling logistics involve Mr L pulling a Wee Hoo iGo Two behind him. Master L (and usually Miss L) sit on this. Whoever’s at the front can also “help” by pedaling, although Mr L tells me it’s not a huge contribution they make! I pull baby L (and sometimes Miss L, when she tires of the Wee Hoo) in a Chariot double trailer. Mr L is a competent, experienced cyclist, so having an extra long bike with two young children who like to randomly throw their weight around (and sometimes fall asleep and slump inadvertently to one side) is a small challenge but not a huge deal. I’m not sure how I’d manage, being by far the less experienced, less confident, less fit and less skillful rider (not meaning to put myself down, just being honest). Towing the Chariot, on the other hand, while being harder work than propelling just myself, isn’t technically any more challenging, although some of the narrower gates require a certain amount of precision riding!

So the Hauraki Rail Trail is a 95km trail (in its entirety) between Thames and Te Aroha at the southern end of the Coromandel peninsula. There’s a side arm approximately 21km long which goes from Paeroa up to Waihi and this is definitely the most scenic section of the trail and would be my recommendation if all you were looking for was a day ride. The trail runs beside the beautiful Ohinemuri river, through the Karangahake Gorge, which is the kind of place you’d almost expect to find a hobbit asleep under a tree, it’s just so picturesque. We wanted to do the whole thing, not just the prettiest bit, partly as a trial run for Christmas and partly because there’s something immensely satisfying about waking up at point A and transporting yourself (without a vehicle) to point B, where you sleep. Thames-Paeroa and Paeroa-Te Aroha are not unpleasant rides by any means, cruising through mostly rolling fields and agricultural land.

There’s not a lot in the way of skilled bike support on the trail, so my advice would be as prepared as you can be for technical issues. Another big worry I had was sun protection and it turned out not to be an unfounded one. The NZ sun is fierce and we proved that even on a mostly cloudy, rainy day, it’s still possible to get burnt. The strategy of covering up as much as possible with clothing (long sleeves and pants), hats and sunscreen proved a successful one but even so, it’s easy to forget about exposed hands and that long shorts can ride up to expose un-sunscreened knees.

So was it worth the logistical challenge and extra grunt to pull 3 children along almost 100km of cycle trail? Absolutely. Our feeling is that if we can make adventures like these realistic and fun for the kids, they are far more likely to embark upon their own later in life (not to mention enjoy some more challenging ones with us as they get bigger). When I think of my own childhood, where a “bike ride” meant 10 minutes down the street and around the corner to the playground, it just doesn’t compare.

Zero Waste Update 4

Ok so I promise this is not turning into a Zero Waste blog. There are a lot of those around and while they can be very inspiring, I do find they tend to run out of new things to talk about after a while.

However, I read back over a couple of my previous Zero Waste posts last night and realised how much things have changed, especially my attitude!

I can’t believe I complained about recycled toilet paper being “ugly” and in this post said, about people who use cloth baby wipes:

There are people who use old rags as baby wipes and wash them. Good for them.

So, just a quick update on what’s new around here….

Baby wipes– While we’re on the subject: I couldn’t really find a definitive answer on the environmental impact of bamboo/viscose etc etc but I suspect it’s still significant. When in doubt, something reusable is almost always going to have less impact than something single use. Also, what really bothered me was the plastic packets they all come in, which is definitely single use and not recyclable/biodegradable etc. So I took the plunge. Mr L had a couple of old t shirts destined for the rag bag so I chopped them up and have been using them as babywipes. I just wet about 10 at a time in a sink of cold water with a squirt of baby shampoo in it (although this is probably unnecessary) and store them in a small reusable baby wipe container we had lying around. Once they’re dirty I chuck them in the laundry sink and put them in the next wash. Because they’re thick and fairly large (actually probably no bigger than a standard babywipe, but more substantial because of their thickness), one usually does the job, so a box of 10 lasts at least a day, usually two.

Miss L isn’t a big fan of them, but she’s practically toilet trained now. Baby L doesn’t care as long as his bottom’s clean. I must point out though, for those unaccustomed to the different grades of baby poo, that the newborn poos (when all they drink is milk) are liquid and relatively inoffensive. Once they start eating solids there is a steady progression in gross-ness as their poos become more voluminous and solid, and once they’ve smooshed around a nappy for anything more than a few minutes they are probably not something you want to use a reusable anything on. So for these ones of Miss L’s, I do the bulk of the job with toilet paper and then finish off with a reusable wipe.

Apologies to anyone for whom that was TMI.

Coffee cup– I broke my ceramic mug at the zoo when it was knocked out of the holder on the stroller (talk about first world problems). Apart from being slightly embarrassed about the big “smash” inside the (supposedly) quiet Kiwi enclosure and then having to scrabble around picking up broken bits of china (one of which cut me), I felt like a complete idiot that I had just created more waste in trying to avoid waste. I had visions of the pieces of ceramic lying, never to decompose, in a landfill somewhere, the shards cutting the feet of small animals or ripping the guts of sea birds open. Then I got a grip.

My new cup is plastic, so it shouldn’t meet the same fate. I actually like the spout better than my old one, it’s nicer to drink out of, and in the unlikely event that I one day have no use for it, it’s recyclable. (Yes, I know, internal lecture to self about the evils of plastic recycling)

I was faced with a real dilemma the other day though, stopping for a quick coffee on my way home without my cup!! What to do?!?! Easy, I decided to “have here”. Only it was 4.30 and they were clearing up and told me I could only have it in a takeaway cup!! Wracked with guilt (and desperate for a coffee) I wondered what I should do. As she made the coffee I stood there already feeling guilty for the waste that one coffee cup would produce. So I compromised, and took the cup but asked for no lid…. After all, I consoled myself, it’s not about being perfect. I think I need to start thinking “Less waste” rather than “Zero waste”.

Toilet paper– I’m now buying Safe from Huckleberry Farms. Recycled toilet paper, paper packaging, and no, it’s not that ugly. It’s certainly prettier than the job it’s designed for anyway!

Also at Huckleberry Farms I found they stock a few things which might be handy- they let you fill your own container with Ecostore washing up liquid, meaning I don’t have to go all the way to Binn Inn for it. They also sell Global Soap, so I bought a bar of their stain remover to see if we can do away with the plastic-packaged Vanish stain remover which comes in handy for baby poo explosions and the collars and cuffs of Mr L’s business shirts when they get grubby. So far, the trial on the shirts has been disappointing…. Might have to try harder.

Loving Earth Chocolate– also at Huckleberry Farms, this chocolate comes in a compostable wrapper. And costs a small fortune. But at least I only buy (and therefore eat) a tiny bit at a time.

Cooking– kiwifruit jam, more marmalade, tamarillo chutney…. All of these are easy to make, taste great, are zero waste and are great to give away as small impromptu gifts. They also invite oos and ahs of admiration as people say “OMG how you have the time to make your own jam with 3 children?” Well I have the time to update my Facebook and watch crap TV, so I figure I have the time to make jam. What’s that? You update your FB and watch crap TV too… precisely.

Other pleasing discoveries have been zero waste crackers (good with cheese) and “larabars”- also pseudo healthy- as a chocolatey treat. What’s also good about making these things yourself is that as making them is (arguably) harder work and more expensive than tossing a packet in the supermarket trolley when you walk past them, you feel less inclined to polish off a whole packet. This is probably also because they are quite rich- you just wouldn’t eat a whole tray of them.

Toiletries– I am now using Lush toothy tabs instead of toothpaste (most of the time). They took a bit of getting used to but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. They don’t give you that big mint hit but they do leave your teeth feeling really clean and smooth and most mornings I wake up feeling fresher. They feel a bit odd- a bit like brushing your teeth with chalk, but they taste so much better than any bicarb concoction that I came up with. They are quite abrasive though (hence the smooth teeth!) so I hope they aren’t damaging the enamel on my teeth. The abrasiveness also means I have to keep my mouth open when I brush as my toothbrush rubbing against the corner of my mouth with the toothy tabs was really irritant. I’m using “Breath of God” at the moment, which I chose on the recommendation of the shop assistant as being the least radical change from conventional toothpaste. And if I’ve had something particularly garlicky or I just want to be “normal” again I do occasionally still use regular toothpaste, probably about once every 3 or 4 days.

Lotion bars- Lush also do massage bars so I bought one to use instead of body moisturiser. I’m not a big body moisturiser user anyway, but occasionally my legs or elbows get dry and I want to put something on. I’ve been really happy with these- they go on quite sparingly and smell subtle but nice (of lemons, despite being supposedly peach scented). Once the weather warms up I have a feeling they might melt a bit too easily and be a bit greasy, but we’ll see. You can keep them in the fridge but who wants to go to the kitchen after a shower to put on moisturizer before they get dressed??

Unfortunately both the toothy tabs and the lotion bars are slightly more expensive than the products they’re replacing.

I’ve now used up the J&J cornstarch so I’m just using regular cooking cornflour instead of deodorant. I looked around for a while for a metal shaker for it but gave up and bought a plastic one- hopefully it’ll last.

Books– I did a bit more reading- “Plastic Free” by Beth Terry, who attacks plastic not just due to the waste impact but all the other evils it supposedly delivers (endocrine disruptors, carcinogens etc etc). I take these things with a grain of (package free) salt, but it’s easy to see how planting the seeds of doubt and fertilisng them with supposed science to a naïve (or even merely) open mind can create obsession and paranoia. I can imagine how people get turned against things like vaccination and fluoride, two other 20th century innovations that have done a lot of good but can be portrayed as the harbingers of just about every modern day affliction you can imagine. That said, I’m still trying to avoid it as much as possible, without being too paranoid about the damage it might be doing me personally.

I also read “The Zero-Waste Lifestyle” by Amy Korst by but to be honest it didn’t contain much I hadn’t read before, so it was a skim read really. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be interesting to someone embarking on a zero/less waste change but it didn’t hold a huge amount for me.

Right so much for that quick update.

I promise to write about something different next time, really!!!

 

 

Zero Waste Update 2*

*I wrote this post in May but it looks as though I didn’t post it…. think maybe Baby L interrupted… Oops!

And so we continue this zero waste project… this morning as I was gazing into our rubbish bin (yes, I know, sad) I was struck by the proportion of its contents that consisted of nappies. We only have 1 child (Miss L) in nappies, although that’s soon (ie hopefully within the week) to be 2. Miss L, at 15kg and 22 months old, is simply too big for the cloth nappies I have, and I’m not forking out for another system when I hope she’ll be toilet trained in the next 6 months. I do try to make a nappy last as long as possible (sometimes invoking the need for nappy cream) and she does have some nappy-free time (usually at her own insistence) which saves on nappies and also does the job of nappy cream. I know it’s not ideal. But it works for us. As with Master and Miss L, I’m intending to use a combination of cloth & disposable for Baby L.

Wipes are another ongoing issue and source of enviro-guilt for me. I looked into bamboo wipes, and will probably give them a go, but I did some research on bamboo on the internet and found conflicting info. Yes it’s “biodegradable” under the right circumstances and “natural” but many sites seemed to suggest that the environmental impact of growing bamboo (clearing land, water consumption) is considerable. Worse than the alternatives? I don’t know. The other option would be toilet roll and some plant-based, super expensive body lotion from somewhere like Ecostore and I was prepared to try this option but annoyingly, when I was there the other day, I found they only sell teeny weeny bottles (not just expensive but also quite wasteful and their bottles are not refillable, just recyclable). I also thought about cloth wipes and just washing them but I know that the realities of washing a poo-encrusted piece of cloth would be prohibitive and it really wouldn’t take off. So back to bamboo it is, I suppose.

So how are the other projects going?

Reducing packaging

My new bread system is working brilliantly! I found an unused large linen drawstring bag, which had come as one of those protective covers for my Country Road Tote bag- which I use all the time unless I have the nappy bag (which is almost all the time) but regardless, I don’t empty my tote and put it away, so I have never had any use for the special bag-bag. I washed it and use it for my bread. It easily fits 4 large loaves, 6 rolls and the occasional scone or other treat.

I felt jubilant last week at the supermarket after psyching up and asking for my chicken breasts from the meat counter to be placed into my Tupperware container (actually they’re Décor but anyway). I had convinced myself that surely I wasn’t the ONLY person to have ever done this, right? The woman looked at me like I was mad. She glanced sideways and said “I’m not really sure I’m allowed to”. I said “I just want to save the plastic”. She added “I’ll have to weigh the container too”. I smiled, said “Just put it on the scales and zero it, then stick the label on the lid”. I was probably the most exciting customer she had all day. Certainly the most excited, I felt positively buoyant after the experience! Today that all came undone when I tried to buy ham from a different branch of the same chain of supermarket and was told “We’re not allowed to do that” but I was offered one of their plastic boxes instead of the usual plastic bag. I tried to explain that my objection was to the plastic, not to the bag, but got nowhere so took the plastic bag and walked off trying to look more haughty and less sheepish than I actually felt. Might have to work on that one….

We are bin-liner free! This was a really easy progression. I used to double line my bins (!!!) in case the liner leaked, so I wouldn’t have to clean the bin (I’d only routinely throw one liner away though, unless it had leaked and the second was dirty). Yes, I’ve had to wash the kitchen bin out a couple of times but it’s really no big deal. I try to put messy rubbish straight into the wheelie bin (the way our house is laid out this is not a big hassle, although once the rainy days of winter arrive I may feel differently) and for really, really messy things (eg chicken bones boiled & strained to make stock) I do put them in a plastic bag.

Toilet rolls– I placed a bulk order for 48 400-sheet 2-ply toilet rolls, from a website called insinc.co.nz, made from recycled paper and wrapped in paper, delivered in a cardboard box, no plastic!! Not entirely sure of the hydrocarbon cost and carbon emission created from the delivery of the box by, presumably, motorised transport but anyway.

Bamboo toothbrushes– I paid $6 a piece for these in Ecostore, then saw a different brand in New World for $4 each so bought one of those too just to compare. As soon as my plastic ones wear down, they’re getting a trial run. Ditto some bamboo cotton buds (which I personally don’t use but Mr L does).

Soap dishes– we are a liquid-soap free house! The bars are quite messy, I think maybe even worse on a dish. Plus they get dirty if you have really dirty hands (think grease from a car exhaust). Plus once they get soft the kids like to dig their fingers into the bars which is wasteful and unsightly but then I suppose so is chucking out a plastic soap refill container every few months.

Washing powder– I found a new brand in cardboard packaging going cheap in New World so decided to give it a go- it’s called Ecoplanet. Not as zero-waste as refilling my ice-cream container at Bin Inn, but I’d bought the non eco-friendly powder last time at Bin Inn, and was feeling guilty about that. I like the Ecoplanet better than some of the other eco-brands as the packaging is completely plastic free- no annoying plastic bag hiding inside the box and even a cardboard scoop instead of those plastic ones that you then get left wondering what to do with.

Cloth napkins– I dug out my (hardly ever used) cloth napkins to use instead of kitchen roll- we weren’t ever great kitchen-roll consumers anyway but I like to use one if I’m eating something messy and they kids have taken to using them too.

Shops

I continue to visit Bin Inn, trying to be mindful of the environmental issues associated with driving there in the first place. I have bought canola oil, golden syrup and honey there now and they do, in fact, sell olive oil, it’s just not on display.

Some other places I’ve found include:

Wise Cicada in Newmarket- they have loads of stuff on offer and seem to market themselves as an organic café/deli/general store. In fact, not all their products are “eco-friendly”- like the cotton-nylon shower puff they had. They had a lot of alternative-style, hemp and hessian bags and clothes for sale but I didn’t feel they offered much over and above my other eco-resources except for staff members with dreadlocks.

Huckleberry Farms– this appears to be a chain, the closest one being within a few km of our house. It seems to be more of a health-food shop and they do sell a lot of naturopathic/alternative health products, but they have a moderate selection of dry goods in bins.

And so we continue to pare our waste down…. Until next time!

To Don’t Do List

It was timely I should see this video, burnt out would be one way to describe how I’ve been feeling lately. In fact, for some time.

I have thought on a couple of occasions lately how I might simplify my life, let go of some things that just don’t matter, try and pare things back a bit.

And so, my To Don’t Do list:

  1. Follow mummy/housewife/organizational blogs. The way you plan meals/cook dinner/organize the toys/clean the dishwasher is just fine. Only you know what works for you, and colour-coding your spice rack just because some blog says you should is stupid. (Besides, anyone with half a brain will notice the spice rack is in alphabetical order).
  2. Clean the bathroom (too often). Dust bunnies behind the toilet, soap scum on the sink, mould in the shower… who cares? Not Mr L, not the theoretical visitors who might drop in one day completely unannounced and certainly not the kids.
  3. Take the little Ls on an outing every time you want to do something fun or “special”. Staying at home cooking, gardening, bike riding and pottering can be fun too and probably teaches them more useful things than the observatory or a museum (not that I don’t enjoy taking them to those places too).
  4. Exercise to burn calories or get fitter. Exercise for fun and to clear your head. Fresh air may be a clichéed cure-all, but it’s a pretty reliable one.
  5. Stew over things. If it’s worth worrying about, say your bit and move on. If you can’t summon the nerve or the energy to take a stand, don’t waste the mental space.
  6. Waste time reading books (or magazines) that bore you, visiting websites that don’t help you or watching TV shows that don’t interest you. Put them aside and do something more useful, even if that’s going to bed.
  7. Check Facebook, Instagram and emails (ie anything on your phone or computer) when you’re with the kids. Take an interest in what they’re doing instead.

And #LetGo…

Guess Who’s Back?

After a long and busy hiatus, I’m finally back in blog land.

May saw the arrival of our 3rd and final child, a beautiful baby boy. Since then things have been rather hectic with 3 kids to manage but the departure of my parents in law last weekend signalled a return to “normal” (well real, anyway) life.

I have been itching to write again for some weeks now. I’d like to say I have loads of new material and inspiration but I’d be lying, so I thought I’d get writing and see what flowed.

Foremost in my headspace right now (other than Master, Miss and Baby L) are my on-going zero-waste efforts, my aspirations to minimalism as well as some new mindfulness stuff. I’ve read Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better Than Before, since writing last and of course, there’s the usual post baby lose weight/return to exercise/ back to work challenges to tackle.

We anticipate spending another 18 months in NZ (maybe more but probably no less) and after the speed at which the first year and a bit has flow by we have resolved to get out there a bit more and see as much as we can see. So more to follow on that…

For now though, that’s my quick “hello I’m back” spiel, just to get my typing fingers warmed up again.

See you soon x

Family Barometer

Some weeks ago there was a link on Facebook via The Guardian.com to an advice column written by Molly Ringwald– an actress who I associate mainly with the early 90s given that the only movie of hers I can name is The Breakfast Club, which was my best friend at school’s favourite movie (I was never entirely sure why but anyway).

I wondered what an ex (?forgive me Molly if you are still acting) actress might have to say in an advice column- so I idly followed the link to find out. She actually seemed to give quite sensible advice, the problem in question was posed by an adult (man or woman not specified, age over 30 but also not specified) who felt their family (mainly siblings) were becoming increasingly distant and disinterested in them. The details of the situation aren’t important but Molly made a point which I thought was quite well put, in saying “The true barometer for family is showing up, telling the truth and treating those we love with dignity and respect.”

My recent revelation to my sister that I don’t think her partner is a good choice for her (compounded by a couple of other fundamentally different opinions on various issues) has been playing on my mind a lot. Things came to a bit of a head over the Easter weekend when she announced their engagement, of which I was informed by text message. Still no attempt to address or even acknowledge my concerns. Neither has there been an invitation to the wedding, nor an express statement that I am not invited. They are getting married later this month, which for me, currently 38 weeks pregnant, makes it pretty much impossible to go (given that we are living in different countries). In fact, her only reference to me going or not was to say “I realise it’ll be impossible for you to come”. What makes me more angry than being invited or not invited is her (to my mind) evident cowardice in hiding behind my baby as a reason to avoid the issue of inviting me or not, not just with me but with other people who will no doubt all just assume (and if they don’t I imagine she’ll tell them) the reason I’m not going is because I’ll have just had a baby. Maybe I’m just being overly suspicious, but it all seems a bit too convenient. I had the decency to tell the truth, she replied with nothing remotely resembling dignity or respect, and now won’t even show up to the discussion.

It’s not the first time I’ve thought about my family, not just my sister, but also my parents, the way our relationship has turned out, the way we deal with (or, more commonly, avoid) issues as a family, and why things have turned out the way they have. Of course, it’s easy to aspire to the cheesey, convenient TV family set-up with its (usually mildly flawed but) functional relationships and thick layer of warm and fuzzies, but I’ve never been under any illusion that that was us. Thinking about some of my friends, (somewhat depressingly) none of them seem to have what I’d class as an ideal relationship with their parents, or their siblings for the most part. Mr L probably comes the closest with his parents, which seems to pretty much fit Molly’s definition to a tee.

My relationship with my parents is harmonious enough, but at times superficial and lacking in depth or honesty. The other thing I really feel is missing is an active interest in my life (and perhaps mine in theirs too). I mean, they ask how things are, how are the kids, how’s work etc but occasionally it becomes painfully evident that my parents have no idea what I do on a day-to-day basis. As was perfectly demonstrated when I passed my second big set of post-graduate exams, marking the “end” of my vocational training and thus signifying I’d “made it” in my chosen career. I even invited them to Melbourne for the graduation ceremony (which they attended). My Mum then told me some weeks later that my grandmother had asked what I’d “become” now that I’d passed these major exams and she hadn’t been sure what to tell her. I’d devoted over 1000 hours of study to these exams, travelled interstate and overseas to train for and sit them, and my own mother couldn’t actually tell anyone the significance of them to my career, what they “meant” to me.

It’s slipped out before that she really has no idea what I do at work, and I very much doubt if she’d be able to tell you much else about my life in detail, like how many marathons I’ve run (two) let alone where they were (the Gold Coast and Auckland). In fact, she probably wouldn’t confidently be able to tell you I’d actually run a marathon at all. In contrast, Mr L’s parents (who admittedly we do speak with more often but I think that’s a result of their interest rather than the cause) will know if I’m doing even a 10km local fun run and will wish me good luck as well as ask how I went afterwards.

At times I’ve felt close(ish) to my sister. It’s usually been when she’s been at a time of change or uncertainty in her life, such as when she left her first husband. I’ve always thought is was quite telling that I didn’t ask her to be a bridesmaid at my wedding. This was partly because we had a very small wedding and having too large a wedding party would have been silly, but also because I felt absolutely no genuine desire to have her standing beside me as I got married, I didn’t think too hard about why not, I simply felt it would have been a bit token and meaningless. And that was 6 months after she’d left her husband, so based on what I’ve just said, that’s when I thought we were closer than usual!

I’ve sometimes blamed the 4 year age gap or the fact that she’s devoutly religious, and I really hoped that as we went further into adulthood and the relative age gap narrowed that we’d maybe have a bit more in common. Then when her marriage broke up and she left her (loser) first husband, I thought and hoped that maybe a bit of her personality had returned, she’d move away from the hypocrisy that so much of religion is and that she might become more “normal” and our relationship more functional or at least meaningful in turn. But sadly, husband-to-be number 2 is even more of a loser than number 1, and the way things are at the moment, the chances of ever being functional are slim…

In many ways, I feel it’s too late to fundamentally change the relationship I have with either my parents or my sister. I think the reasons we’ve ended up the way we have mainly include personality (that’s just the way they/we are), habit (that’s the way things have always been) and communication style (avoidant and minimalist) but the main reason it bothers me is that I don’t want my kids to be saying similar things about me one day. I can’t do a lot to change my personality but I can certainly show up and communicate better than my family has with me and avoid letting apathy and complacency become a habit.

“Showing up, telling the truth and treating those we love with dignity and respect”: food for thought.