Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day, bah humbug!

I've never been one for observing 'special' days, if I ignore your birthday, don't feel bad, I ignore everyone's birthday (except our kids, that would just be cruel!). Perhaps 4o years ago, when it was first conceived, the original Earth Day might have had more meaning, however, like anything 'green', it has become a convenient marketing tactic. "Spend XXX and get a gift certificate." "Buy a green XXX and save 1o%." "All XXX are 15% off today." I fail to see how encouraging people to buy more things is going to save the planet. Call me jaded, but our consumerism is largely responsible for most of the ailments that plague the environment today. Rather than searching out 'green' deals today, we should all take the time to reflect on how we can change our lifestyle to leave a smaller footprint.

I don't consider myself a hardcore environmentalist. I do, however, consider myself a hardcore frugalist. I am cheap. I don't like to spend money. Save for my unexplainable Starbucks habit, a lot of thought goes into every purchase I make. I don't buy things because I want them, I buy things because I need them. Except for my Coach handbag. That was my once-in-a-lifetime-what-the-hell-was-I-thinking decadent purchase (we're all allowed one, right?). But I use it daily, and when I die, I've instructed my husband to pour my ashes into it, so it will stay in our family for generations to come. Aside from that one purchase, I generally don't buy things on a whim.

Our customers benefit from my frugalism, I do my best not to stock junk, and if you've had the pleasure of shopping while I'm working (seriously, it's a pleasure to be around me, isn't it?), you'll know I'm the world's worst salesperson, I have an uncanny knack for talking people out of purchases. It's not unusual for people to come into the store thinking they need something, only to leave the store empty-handed (seriously, I'm *that* good!). I am very good at making what you've got work!

Shopping habits (or lack thereof) aside, my frugalism benefits the environment in other ways. At the store, small packing boxes are reused for online orders, plastic bags are reused as garbage bags; repurposing packaging in this manner significantly reduce's the store's waste, and our costs -- it's a win/win situation. At home, we recycle what we can, and the city of Ottawa's Green Bin program has easily cut our household waste in half (half!). We've recently eliminated meat from our diet, did you know eating less meat is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint? I have always felt guilty about how much we rely on our vehicles as a mode of transportation, I like to think our new menu helps to offset the time we spend in the car (an unfortunate side-effect of living in the 'burbs, have I ever told you how much I hate living in the 'burbs?).

Anyhow, the point of all this is to say that even though I do what I can to lessen my own impact on the environment, I know I can do more (cue violins). Earth Day is a great opportunity for all of us to reflect on what we can all do to lessen our impact on the environment. Collectively, we can make a difference. Although I will probably never completely wean myself off my Starbucks habit , I'm going to make a habit of keeping a reusable mug in the car. When I see litter that can be recycled, I'm going to pick it up and toss it in our recyle bin -- as I'm quick to point out to my own kids "Even if you didn't make the mess, it doesn't mean you shouldn't clean it up." These two acts alone are completely manageable, they're hardly life-altering, but in the grand scheme of things, they will make a difference. So that's my plan of action for Earth Day, what's yours?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Decisions, decisions!

When parents come into the store to learn about cloth diapers, we always point out that choosing the system you want to use is the hardest part of using cloth diapers. It amazes me how much thought goes into this particular decision, when I purchased our first set of cloth diapers nine years ago (shit, I'm getting old), I had two choices: prefolds or fitted diapers (one brand, lol). Some new parents are postively paralyzed with fear when it comes to the decision of what to put on junior's bottom.

We have one of the best selections of cloth diapers in Canada, occasionally, parents-to-be come into the store expecting to see one kind of cloth diaper, the old-fashioned flat diapers of yore. Sure, that would make the decision easier, but where's the fun in that? It's not like choosing cloth diapers will be the only decision you ever make, when you go to the grocery store, you have lots of decisions to make -- what kind of toilet paper? 2-ply? 3-ply? Charmin or Cottonelle? Don't even get me started on the shampoo aisle. Point is, every day, you buy things that entail making a choice, picking one thing over another.

So, how do you make a decision?
  • talk to your friends who use cloth diapers. You can benefit from their experience. What brands do they like? Why?
  • check out the awesome product review section on The Diaper Pin. You will spend hours there!
  • come to a cloth diapering workshop. We offer workshops on the second Saturday of every month in Ottawa and Waterloo. It's a great way to get all the information at once, a benefit of the workshop environment is that other people might ask questions you wouldn't otherwise think of, and you might even make some new friends. OK, so maybe that last point is a stretch, but still, it's possible. I have seen customers exchange phone numbers in the store before!
  • sign up for our loan program. You can rent a good selection of cloth diapers for 10 days for the same amount of money you would spend on disposable diapers for one week. It's popular, there will be a wait (don't say we didn't warn you!). Get a feel for what cloth diapering involves (hello, it's just a load of laundry!), and see what your preference is.
  • buy a few diapers to try out. All of the cloth diapers we sell are good brands, and let's face it, they all do the same thing (they hold pee and poop, it's hardly rocket science!). If a diaper doesn't work out, it's not a big deal, you can always sell what you don't want to keep.

What your decision comes down to is what you feel comfortable using, what fits your baby well, and what keeps your baby comfortable. Still nervous? Need specific advice?

  • you want cheap? Go for prefolds.
  • you want easy? Go for pocket diapers or all-in-one diapers.
  • you want your diapers to last through more than one kid? Go for sized diapers.

You see? It's not that hard. Realistically, most people rely on a stash that incorporates more than one style of diaper. I used mostly prefolds with our newborns, fitted diapers with wool at night, and I send pocket diapers to daycare. You can rest-assured that in the grand scheme of things, the type of cloth diapers you use are going to have a negligible impact on how junior turns out. However, recent studies indicate use of cloth diapers is positiviely correlated with a higher IQ, 97% of Mensa members were cloth diapered as babies. Yeah, I totally made that last part up, I should probably quit while I'm ahead.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Relish every moment....

I'm sure all new mothers are warned that their babies will grow up quickly, when you're in the thick of things, it's hard to imagine, but trust me, it will be over before you know it. It was ten years ago this April that my husband and I began our foray into parenthood. Since April of 2000, I have been pregnant and/or nursing continually, without so much as a five minute break!

Our first child was born in December 2000, I can feel her first kicks as if they just happened, her labor and delivery are still fresh in my mind. This past weekend, as we were sorting through the kids' clothing, packing away their pants and sweaters to make room for t-shirts, shorts, and summer dresses, we started to purge the house of the baby clothing that's been in constant rotation for close to a decade. It's been a long time coming, it's a bittersweet feeling to part with something that represents such an important, yet fleeting time of our lives.

I would love to have one more baby, however, my husband didn't buy the argument that our mini-van seats seven as a valid reason to keep the Pearson baby factory open, and Dr. Weiss was recruited to shut down production (damn you, Dr. Weiss, damn you to hell!). As our kids get older, my husband looks forward to the future, however, I am left feeling nostalgic about what we're leaving behind.

Now that we have a house full of kids who sleep through the night, I have to say I actually miss those midnight snuggles that came from bed-sharing with our babies; there is something to be said for having a warm little body nestled up against you. As much as I may have lamented their clinginess as babies, I miss it it now. My oldest is constantly pushing for more freedom, it makes me anxious to comply, but it's an inevitable reality. Although Grace can drive me around the bend with her two-year old stubborness, the sheer delight she takes in the simple things in life (like pockets!) are a pleasure to witness.

While motherhood may not always bring out the best in me, I really do enjoy it. I'm not a perfect mother, our house is always messy, my chronic disorganization hardly makes me the ideal candidate to co-pilot a household of six people, but I wouldn't have it any other way. It's really fun to watch the kids come into their own, and my husband is right, we still have lots left to look forward to.

So what's my point here, where am I going with this? Yes, babies can be difficult little people, I've dealt with my share of cranky babies, sleepless babies, and clingy babies, and it was all worth it -- with that little bit of bad, there's a whole lot of good. So enjoy it, relish every moment because before you know it, you will miss it too.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

She's driving me crazy!

Grace, that is. At the ripe old age of 22 months, I think it's safe to say she has mastered the art of the toddler tantrum. No great surprise considering she devotes hours to perfecting her form every day. Grace's tantrums are quite elaborate, generally involving some combination of rolling around on the ground, kicking the ground, hair-pulling, and face-smacking. And screaming, high-pitched screaming, we can't leave that out! Yes, very dramatic, but highly effective.

If you were at the Experimental Farm today around noon, you may have witnessed one of Grace's finer performances. I was the one wearing a long jean skirt (I can't quite pull it off like Michelle Duggar, note to self: just because something fits, it doesn't mean you should wear it), Grace was the one having a conniption fit at the playground. What was Grace having a fit over, you ask?

Well, it started out when I tried to feed her the main part of her lunch before the snack part of her lunch (can you imagine?). The main part of her lunch was a soy dog and cheese baked into a pastry. Hardly liver and broccoli, but Grace wouldn't have any of it. Fair enough, this was our second massive (massive!) fit of the day, I wasn't up for the argument, I'd already run out of steam at this point. She'd had a good breakfast this morning, so I threw the wrap in the garbage. That was my first mistake. Grace didn't like that -- how do I know? She fell to the ground and started rolling around and screaming. OK, point taken. I don't try to pick her up when she's having a tantrum, if I do, she tries to scratch my face or slap me (nice, eh?). I waited it out until Owen was done his soy dog, then I offered him some fruit snacks, and I gave him a package for Grace, who had managed to cover an impressive 30-40 feet with her tantrum-ground-rolling maneuver (well-done!). She hopped up and started to eat the fruit snacks, score: Grace-1, Mom-zip.

The fruit snacks were happily consumed, then Grace spied me eating a banana. There is an unspoken rule in our house that if I'm eating something, anything, Grace must have a bite. It doesn't matter if it's avacado, and Grace hates avacado, she'll still take a bite (and spit it out). I'm convinced it's Grace's way of letting me know I'm her bitch. Seriously. It's some weird alpha-toddler thing, she's establishing her place in the pack. Fortunately, I had three bananas (go, me!), so I gave her one. I cracked the top open, I know enough not to peel Grace's banana, as it would make her go bananas (hardy har har). Crisis averted. For three seconds. Grace broke the top off her banana and handed it back to me to fix (dammit, nooooo!). I took it and turned around, palming the broken piece so she couldn't see it, and handed the banana back. No dice. She thew it on the ground in a pile of dirt. I picked it up and put in in the garbage. Act II of Grace's fit commenced, it involved a little hair-pulling (her own), and some more screaming that would rival anything Mariah Carey could belt out (you know, those high notes that make your eyes roll back in your head). This marked the end of our trip to the Experimental Farm, Owen wanted to see the tractors, but Grace wasn't going to have any of it, it was time to go.

I have to say, she has been our most challenging child so far. She's certainly not a 'bad' child per se, she's just stubborn as all get-out. She has never been interested in being a baby, perhaps because she has 3 older siblings to look up to. She knows what she wants, and she demands it. No pigtails (hence a blonde mop of hair always hanging in her big, blue eyes), and no dresses (do not call her pretty, you will pay for it). To put it simply, Grace is a force to be reckoned with, a blazing ball of energy who could bring most grown adults to their knees.

Fortunately, Grace's new-found toddler tantrum mad skillz have coincided with a new 3-hour afternoon nap routine, without that merciful break, I'd go mental. Of course, she's probaby just recharging her batteries for whatever tantrum she'll throw next, but whatever, I'll take it (beggars can't be choosers!). I have to say, on the bright side, our latest foray into the 'terrible twos' has made me feel a little better about our decision to have no more children. At worst, we have about two more years of this left, someday we'll be able to look back at these years with fondness. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.