Tag Archives: Environment

There’s a Moose in the House! – A Short Story

Once upon a time there was a moose. He was a very big moose. He lived in the forest, where there was plenty of room for him. Even with all the trees and rocks and other animals, there was still plenty of room for this big, giant moose.

He wasn’t any bigger than a normal moose, really, but have you ever seen a moose? Generally, all moose are rather big. Bigger than horses, and I’m sure you’ve seen a horse.

But being so big was what made this moose so uncomfortable when he had found himself lost one day.

He didn’t know how it had happened, but the moose had wandered far from his woodsy home and ended up in a town full of houses. There were hard, black roads, and fast, metal cars, and open, grassy spaces, and lots of wooden houses. None of that was particularly appealing for a moose, so he began at once to try to find his way home.

He didn’t feel like he was doing a very good job of getting any closer to home, when he spotted a nice knobby piece of wood. He thought, “Maybe just behind there will be the forest, or at least the way to the forest, and I can find my way back to my favorite copse of trees at last.” So he pushed on the friendly-looking piece of wood.

But it wasn’t an ordinary piece of wood, even though it looked very natural. It was, in fact, a door. A door into somebody’s house.

The first thing our moose saw was a living room, only he didn’t know that’s what he was looking at. He saw a couch and a coffee table. He stepped right over the ottoman and almost caught his antlers on the overhead light. He saw the fireplace with some old, burned up bits of wood inside and didn’t like the look of that at all. He stumbled away from the fireplace as quickly as he could and bumped into the piano which made a loud, if not melodious, sound. Confused, he walked on.

He walked through a very narrow opening, which we know to be a hallway. And somehow he managed to get into a very small and shiny room. It was a bathroom. It was a rather smooth room so the moose was able to slide back around, but in doing so, his rump bumped the shower faucet and a sudden spray of cold water splashed on his back and he yelped with surprise and shuffled out of the bathroom away from the sudden rain shower.

“What a strange place,” the moose thought to himself as he walked back down the hall in the other direction. He found another friendly-looking piece of wood, but it wasn’t the door that he had come in through and that he hoped would lead him back outside. Instead, it led into a bedroom.

There wasn’t much in this bedroom. There was a painting on the wall of a tree, but not any type of tree our moose had ever seen before. (It was a palm tree.) There was a desk and a dresser and a bed. Now, the bed looked big enough for a moose so our moose decided to investigate. He gently lowered himself down onto the bed and was pleasantly surprised by how soft and comfortable he found it. He nuzzled down in the soft, warm blankets and found himself so at ease that he fell asleep! He must have been tired; it was a long walk to the town from his home in the forest. He napped for two hours before he woke up, slowly opening his eyes and becoming very confused. He didn’t know this place or why he was there. Then he remembered that he had gotten lost and stumbled into this cramped space trying to find his way home.

Remembering his predicament made him even more homesick. He wanted more than ever before to get out of that place and back to the big, cozy woods with all it’s comforting sounds and lots of fresh mountain air.

So he carefully climbed out of the bed and wandered into yet another room in his search for a way out. And aha! He had found another door. He couldn’t push this one open, but had to pull it open by grabbing it with his big moose teeth. But instead of the opening to freedom behind that door, there was only a blast of cold air and some strange-smelling lumps (that’s food, to us). It wasn’t the way out, the moose sadly realized and nudged the door closed again.

But then, he turned around and saw another door! Excited, he trotted up to his and pushed with his nose. This time, pushing worked and he was greeted by another rush of air. But this rush of air was like a welcoming hug because it was fresh, outside air with the comforting smell of his forest home floating around.

The moose was very happy to the out of that tiny, cramped cave (which was actually a house) and outside again. He immediately started trotting along the road, up the hill, simply because going in that direction reminding him of climbing the mountains near his favorite copse of trees.

And it was a good choice, too, because after walking and walking and walking for a very long time along the road, the moose eventually came to his forest once more. He was delighted to see a familiar rock and then headed straight for his favorite spot from there. When he arrived, he felt so happy. And also very tired. He had walked for another long time since his nap and he needed more sleep. So he lied down on a nice, comfortable pile of crunchy leaves, soft needles, and springy moss for another nice, long rest.

 

The end.

The Cat in the Garden – A Short Story

There once was a boy, who wasn’t really a boy. He was only 17 so he wasn’t a legal adult yet, but he was beyond boyhood. He never considered himself a teenager either. Being a teenager seemed to him to be a time of rebellious experimentation that he never got to experience. No, this boy, this man, had been living on his own since he was 15 years old.

His parents had died. Instead of going with the strangers from Social Services, he ran away. He didn’t run far, but they never found him. Maybe they never looked for him — there was no one around who would have checked in on the situation.

He’s been completely alone for over two years now. Two years may not seem like a long time to some people, but these years contained the growth of a new universe for this young man.

When he ran away, he didn’t go far. Just across town to the wooded area behind Public Works. He had grown up taking camping trips with his family and when he learned from Social Services that he wouldn’t be able to stay in his house, he figured the woods would be a good place to live.

He never stole anything, but he was still able to find everything he needed, even clothes. It was amazing what people just threw away. Especially people who lived in town homes. They had the most lucrative trash — he didn’t know why. Not only was he able to build a home for himself, he was able to provide his own food.

Picking old vegetables and fruits from the trash is dirty business, but he did what he needed to be done. The seeds stuck to the gooey flesh weren’t trash anyway. They had so much potential. He rinsed them off, gave them their own special plot in his wooded abode, and cared for them until he had a disorganized garden of tomatoes, berries, garlic, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and more, even corn.

He ate like a woodland king when the weather was warm enough. He ate like a city bum when the weather was cold, however. He frequented dumpsters much more often in the winter, especially those behind restaurants. He had no money and no way of earning any. But still he lived a life full of adventure.

One day in late spring, he came back to his home to see he had a visitor. As far as he knew, no person ever knew his plot existed, but this cat had come to find him.

“Hello there, furry little one,” the boy said, kneeling down.

The cat did not run away, but timidly approached and sniffed the boy’s outstretched hand. The cat then rubbed his head against the boy. It meowed and looked up, hopeful.

“If you’re hungry I’m sorry I don’t have much for you,” the boy said, opening the canvas bag of food he had just collected, mostly stale bread. “Definitely no cat food and no meat either.”

The cat stuck its head in the bag and pulled out a piece of bread that was soggy with some type of sauce. It then began chewing.

“Well, alright, if that suits you,” the boy said. He sat down and they ate their small meals together.

The cat stayed with him for almost a week. It stayed and napped for hours at a time. And sometimes it left for most of the day. The boy didn’t know where this domestic cat had come from, but he sure liked having it around. It had been such a long time since he had any sort of company, anyone to talk to. And the cat kept the squirrels and rabbits away from his crucial garden. On his “grocery runs” as he thought of them, he made sure to get something extra — fish or meat — for the cat, too.

On the sixth day, however, when the cat came back from one of its long outings, someone had followed it. The boy was napping in his hammock when he heard the rustle of footsteps approaching. They were too near before he could think of anything to do. He sat up, panicked and shocked, as a woman walked right into his secret garden.

“Oh!” The woman said, perhaps equally as shocked when she moved the branch from her vision and saw what, or rather who, was before her. “Oh! I didn’t expect to… Have you seen a big, grey cat? Oh, there you are!” She spotted the cat scratching its claws on a thick, rough tree.

“Come here, you.” She bent down and the cat immediately bounded over and leapt in her arms. “You’ve had us worried sick. Thank you so much for finding him,” she added, looking up at the boy. “He’s my daughter’s and she’s been so upset since he’s been missing. She’s on the spectrum and doesn’t have many friends…”

She trailed off as she took in the whole of her surroundings. The hammock, the old canvas tent stuffed with blankets, the fire pit, the handmade rain barrel propped up in a tree (so the boy could shower), the garden, the old pots and pans, everything that the boy had collected in the last two years. Her gaze lingered on an old blue speckled pot that looked very familiar.

“Do you… You don’t…” She kept looking between the things and the boy, searching his face for some kind of clue. “What is this place?”

The boy looked down and licked his lips. “It’s just a place I like to hang out. You know, to get away.”

“That’s a lot of food,” she said.

“Well your cat is good company, but can eat a whole lot,” the boy tried to joke.

The woman nodded, but didn’t look convinced. “This is Spaghetti,” she said, nodding to the cat. I’m glad he was able to keep you company.”

The boy only nodded.

“Look…” she started, looking nervous. “Thank you for looking out for him. Do you… Would you like to have dinner with us tonight? As a thank you. I’m sure Juliet, my daughter, would like to thank you, too. She’s 14. Maybe you two would get along. After all, Spaghetti seems to quite like you both.”

“I…” The boy started, but then the words got lost in his throat with a croak.

“No pressure,” the woman said. And she finally smiled.

The boy looked up and saw another entire universe in that one smile, one filled with love.

“Okay,” he managed. “I’ll come.”

“Do you have to ask your parents? I can talk to them if you want,” she said.

The boy looked down again. “No.”

The woman nodded to herself and left it at that. “You can follow me. It’s not a far walk,” she turned and gestured kindly, still holding Spaghetti firmly in her arms. “What’s your name?”

“My name’s Romeo,” the boy answered.

The woman almost stopped and asked “Really?”, but checked herself just in time. Instead she said, “I’m Emily. It’s nice to meet you Romeo.”

Romeo nodded again and tried out his own smile.

 

The End

Milo & Mira and the Lost Bunny – A Short Story

One of Milo and Mira’s favorite places to play outside was a little area behind the lake in their town. It was next to the boat ramp, had picnic tables and grills, and lots of little trails to walk.

One day, when Milo and Mira were exploring this little patch of forest, they stumbled upon a tiny baby bunny, all alone. They knew that the bunny was too small to be on its own so they figured it had gotten separated from its family and was lost.

“Oh no! This bunny is too small to survive on its own. We need to help it,” Mira said.

She leaned in like she was going to pick the little bunny up, but Milo stopped her. “I learned in school recently that humans shouldn’t touch wild animals, especially babies, if they can help it.”

Mira stood up. “Why not?”

“If we touch that bunny, it will smell like us – like humans. Then, if we find its family, they will smell human, not the baby bunny, and be too scared to go near it.”

“Oh. So they would just leave it?” Mira asked.

Milo shrugged. “Maybe. So it’s best if we don’t touch it.”

“Hmm… What should we do then?” Mira asked as she and Milo looked down at the little bunny. It was tucked into a small little ball, twitching its nose, and shaking. “It looks really scared.”

“I would be scared, too, if I was lost,” Milo said.

The two children thought for a while about how they could help the little bunny.

“Let’s see if we can find its family,” Mira suggested.

Milo agreed and they set off to search the small wooded area for a big mama or papa bunny looking for her or his lost baby. They decided to split up – Mira taking the north side of the main trail and Milo taking the south side – because they thought they would be able to cover more ground faster that way.

Mira didn’t bother looking in the water because she knew bunnies didn’t swim very often, especially if they had a new family.

Milo checked under all of the picnic tables and even in the disused grills.

Mira checked the bushes. It took a long time because there were a lot of thick bushes behind the lake.

Milo was also checking some bushes near a group of trees when he spotted an old log lying on the ground. He thought that might be a good place for some bunny rabbits to live. He crouched down very quietly and peered in the hole at the end of the log. Sure enough, there was one big bunny with three more baby bunnies huddled inside!

A huge grin spread across Milo’s face. He backed away from the log, slowly and quietly, and then ran to go find Mira.

“Mira! Mira! I found them!” He yelled as he reached Mira.

A huge grin spread across Mira’s face, too. “That’s excellent! Now how to we get the baby bunny back to its family?”

“Remember, we shouldn’t touch it with our bare hands,” Milo said.

They took a moment to think.

“What if we used some sort of basket?” Mira suggested.

“We don’t have a basket,” Milo said. “And if we got one from home, that would smell like humans, too.”

“Do you think we could make one?” Mira asked.

“Let’s try it,” Milo agreed.

They gathered some small, bendy sticks and reeds and a pile of nice, soft leaves. They helped each other to weave the sticks and reeds together. They couldn’t figured out how to weave the sides up so they ended up with more of a tray than a basket. There were a lot of gaps, too, so they spread out the leaves to make a sort of bed for the bunny to sit on without falling through.

Milo held the makeshift tray with both of his hands underneath, very carefully. They walked back to where they had originally found the little lost bunny and were relieved to find that it was still there. Very slowly and carefully, they scooped up the little bunny onto the tray. Mira had to help push it on a little bit, but she held big leaves in her hands so her skin wouldn’t touch the bunny. It was very skittish, but once they got it on the tray, it curled up very small again and hunkered down, shaking.

“Follow me,” Milo said as they started walking to the log where he had found the bunny family. They walked very, very slowly and very, very carefully so they wouldn’t drop or upset the little lost bunny.

When they got to the log, Milo pointed it out to Mira. She helped him keep the tray steady as he knelt down in front of the hole. The little bunny lifted its head and started sniffly around excitedly. Then, before Milo and Mira had gotten the tray all the way to the ground, the little lost bunny hopped down off the tray and landed awkwardly in the soft grass. Then it bounded right into the hole of the log.

Milo and Mira quickly looked at each other with a surprised, “Oh!” Then they crouched down as quickly as they could while still being really quiet and peer in the hole.

The little bunny had hopped right up to the big bunny, who was now snuggly the little bunny close. The big bunny’s and all four of the little baby bunnies’ noses were twitching like crazy. Luckily, none of them seemed alarmed that the lost bunny smelled like humans. Instead, they all looked very happy and excited to be all together again, especially the little lost bunny.

Milo and Mira stood up and backed away. They looked at each other and smiled. They had helped the lost bunny get back to the safety and comfort of its family.

Without needing to say anything, they were both ready to go home and spend some quality time with their own families.

 

The End

Wonder Walk – A Short Story

One day, a little girl took a walk through the forest. As soon as she entered the trees, she saw a bird flying. It was gliding up and down, dipping between branches, and flitting through shadows cast by the trees’ leaves.

When the bird landed on a branch for a rest, the girl said, “Hello.”

“Hello,” the bird tweeted back, cocking its head.

“Why are you flying all alone? Aren’t you lonely?” The girl asked, wishing she had someone to walk with.

“Oh no,” the bird replied. “Mother Finch always reminded me that even when I was alone, I didn’t have to be lonely.”

“Hmm,” the little girl said, thinking.

“And she also always reminded me that it is a wonder to wander.”

“Oh?” the little girl asked.

The bird nodded its head and ruffled its feathers and leaped off into the air again for another bout of flying.

“Hmm,” the girl said again, to herself this time. “That sounds nice.”

And she continued on her walk.

Soon she came upon a beautiful purple flower hanging high in a tree.

“Hello,” the girl said.

“Hello,” the flower radiated a pleasant scent.

“What are you doing up there?” The girl asked, tilting her head back to look up.

“I asked the tree if it would help me climb up to the sun,” the flower replied. “Mother Wisteria always reminded me to get a good dose of pure sun each day so I would stay healthy.”

“Hmm,” the little girl said.

“Mother Wisteria always reminded me that it’s okay to ask for help. And Mr. Tree doesn’t mind.”

“Yeah?” The little girl said. “That sounds nice.”

And she continued on her walk.

She came to an opening in the trees where moss grew on the ground right up to the edge of a small pond. The water in the pond was smooth as glass and was the color of a deep blue gem.

“Hello,” the girl said.

The pond did not respond.

“Why are you so quiet and still?” the little girl asked.

“Mother Lake always reminded me that it’s good to be quiet and still sometimes.” The girl tasted a sweet moisture in the air that drifted off of the pond.

“But why?” The little girl asked. “It doesn’t sound like much fun.”

“There is a time for fun. When the fish want to jump and the ducks want to swim, I move and splash and play with them. But when I have some time to myself, I like to be calm. It helps me to reflect.”

“To reflect?”

The pond remained silent and still.

“Hmm,” the little girl said, leaving the pond to be quiet and still so it could better reflect.

She continued on her walk.

Five little bunnies jumped out of the bushes ahead of her.

“Hello!” the girl called.

“Hello! Hello! Hello!” The little bunnies answered back. They hopped and darted around so quickly, it made the girl a bit dizzy.

“Why are you all jumping and rushing around like that?” The little girl asked.

“Because!” one of the bunnies said.

“Mother Rabbit always said!” another bunny said.

“It’s good to jump around!” said yet another bunny.

“And to hop!”

“And to chase!”

“And to skip!”

“And to move!”

“Because moving makes you feel good!”

The bunnies hopped and laughed and dashed off into the bushes again.

The little girl smiled. “Oh, I see,” she said.

And she continued on her walk.

Then the ground became firm as she came to the side of a great stone mountain.

“Hello,” the girl said.

“Hello.” The air felt cooler in the shadow cast by the mountain.

“Why are you so hard?” The little girl asked.

“Do you see the animals and plants that call this place their home?” The mountain asked.

The girl looked around and did notice lots of other creatures looking quite comfortable. “Yes,” she said.

“I am hard so they are stable. Mother Earth always reminded me to be strong and confident in my place. Then I would be best able to help others find their place as well.”

“Ah,” the little girl said. “That is nice.”

Then she asked another question. “May I climb to your peak?”

“Yes.” The mountain remained solid under her feet.

So she continued her walk up the mountain until she reached the very top. It had taken her a long time and night had settled in.

On top of the mountain, she was higher than everything else in the forest. She could see the tops of the trees and the sky stretch all around her. The moon shone golden and bright in the sky, even higher than she, surrounded by countless yellow stars.

“Hello,” the girl said.

“Hello.” The light of the moon bathed the mountain and the forest below in a soft, warm glow. The stars twinkled.

“How did you get all the way up there?” the little girl asked. She craned her neck as far as it could go, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t see all of the illuminations scattered across the black sky at once.

“We have always been here,” the moon replied.

“But what do you do up there?” the little girl asked.

“We are possibilities. We live in the sky because, as Mother Universe always reminded us, it is big enough to hold all dreams.”

“Oh,” the girl said. “That is lovely.”

“Thank you,” she said to the moon. “Thank you,” she said to the stars.

Then she turned and looked down. “Thank you,” she said to the mountain, the pond, the animals, and the plants.

And then the girl finished her walk.

She settled. And fell asleep. And dreamed.

 

The End

Children and TV | Minimalist Kids

I limit the amount of tv that my children watch. With my firstborn, Wingnut, we waited until he was 2 years old before letting him watch any tv. With my second, Pigpen, it’s been harder. If Wingnut wants to watch some tv and it’s a good time, I don’t want to deny him just because Pigpen is around. If our tv was in a different location where I could keep them separated, that would help, but that’s just not the situation in our house right now.

At first I was worried about Pigpen being exposed to tv before he was 2. After all, that was the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (now you can see that it is 18 months). But in reality, Pigpen really didn’t end up watching that much. I would set up the tv for Wingnut with some “high-quality programming” and Pigpen would sometimes hang around and watch. But he usually only watched for about 10-15 minutes before wandering off to hang out with me or play somewhere else.

I understand the purpose to limit time spent watching tv. There needs to be time for family interaction, for quiet, to be alone, for creative play, music, reading, etc. But the more I think about it, the less I agree with forbidding it altogether.

As I’ve said before, I am not an expert on children and I am not an expert on television. But I do think that it’s hard to prove that tv is totally detrimental. There are studies that conclude that children under 2 years old should not watch tv because it may inhibit their learning and development. But by the nature of this activity, we could only compare children to other children. We could never compare how a child turned out after watching tv to how he would have turned out if he didn’t.

No two children grow, learn, and develop at the same rate. Add in the millions of external factors that could influence a child at any moment during their day to day life and extrapolating the effect that something like tv watching could have seems impossible. I’m not saying that these studies are completely invalid. I’m saying we should watch and monitor our own children and how tv effects them, be mindful, and decide how extreme to be with the regulations we place on them.

Some researchers have even found that watching tv can be good for toddlers. Even accepting that children may learn less from tv than from live interaction, it doesn’t mean that that learning isn’t worth it. The stories children hear and see from tv can enhance their lives, just as much as books I would say, depending on what is understood and how the rest of their life experiences grow and build on them. Hearing stories and seeing different parts of the world expands the mind, opening it up to more curiosity and acceptance of differences.

Perhaps that is where the idea of “high-quality programing” comes in. What is high-quality programing and who decides what does or doesn’t fit the bill? I have a few of my favorites (that I will list below) and I have a few that I really don’t like (here’s one example). This is a totally personal choice I have made, though, and the views you may have for your children may be different. As parents, we need to pay attention and be involved with our own children, deciding what tv — if any — is best for them just like we decide what is the best for them out of everything else.

Too much tv, like too much of anything, is not a good thing. But balanced well into a week full of diverse, stimulating, and restful activities, I think tv is okay for children.

Also, I must add here, that I benefit from the hour Wingnut is engaged watching tv. It gives me a much-needed break (2 year olds can be very attention-demanding) where I can rest and recharge or be productive, where I can concentrate completely on something for a whole hour. This is very important for my sanity — a stressed-out mama is not pleasant for anyone. When I am able to receive the self-care that I need, I am better equipped to provide the care my family needs, and that is better for everyone.

 

Some of my favorite “high-quality programming” on tv:

  • Puffin Rock -A young puffin and her ever-curious little brother explore an island off the coast of Ireland – Netflix
  • Mouk – Young Mouk and Chavpa discover the world on their bicycles, making friends along the way – Netflix
  • Kazoops – A imaginative young boy and his pet pig explore home life and encourage children to challenge the workings of the world – Netflix
  • Stella and Sam – Sister and brother have many adventures, mostly outside, because they know they have more fun when they’re together – Family Channel and Netflix
  • Wild Kratts – Follows the adventures of animated versions of brothers Chris and Martin Kratt as they encounter wild animals during stories of adventure and mystery – PBS Kids 
  • Sesame Street – Bridges many cultural and educational gaps with Muppets teaching children numbers, colors and the alphabet, set on a city street full of valuable learning opportunities PBS Kids
  • Peg + Cat -Inspires preschoolers’ natural curiosity about math and helps them develop new skills and strategies for solving problems creatively in their daily lives – PBS Kids
  • The Muppet Show – A medley of sweet and mischievous, a weekly variety show with songs, dances, and comedy featuring a range of famous guests – DVD

What Happens When Our Children Watch Certain TV Shows?

I’m not an expert on children and I’m not an expert on television. But I do have this nagging thought about a certain type of children’s tv show.

I’m talking about the tv shows, targeted at children, that encourage them to interact with the characters by answering questions or doing certain actions. The characters will abandon their setting and look out the tv at your child and ask them a question or tell them to do something.

“Will you help us figure out blah blah blah?”

“Do you see the letter X?”

“Pull the lever with me by moving your arm up and down like this!”

“Jump up and down and clap your hands to scare away the evil owl!”

I’m pretty sure these shows are designed like this to get your children “active” so they aren’t just sedentary sponges. Shows want you to think that they are getting your children’s minds engaged in the story, making them cognitively superior, and their bodies in the action, making them more fit.

But I see it completely different.

Television is not the best interactive device. It’s design is completely one-way, transmitting images and sounds, with no interface for receiving feedback from the audience. So when our children watch these shows, they are not engaged with the story or the character. They are mimicking, performing, and obeying an “other” just because they were told to.

This is just a theory, but I feel like these tv shows, geared toward children in their most formative years, are priming viewers to follow the commands of advertisers. Advertising already preys on our psychological weaknesses (see below). If advertisers start with a group of people who are already willing to do what they ask without questioning, it will be all the better for those advertisers.

Now, I’ve done no studies and have no proof of this. Maybe the creators of these tv shows really do just want to improve our children’s cognition and fitness. Maybe our children will grow up to be just as skeptical as any other person in any other generation, regardless of the tv they watch or don’t watch. Maybe watching these shows doesn’t have any effect on how we consume advertisements at all.

I’m just saying, that to me, it feels a bit… odd. Those tv shows make me feel uncomfortable and I don’t want my children following along. Adults aren’t expected to talk to a television so why should children? Why teach them to behave in a way that won’t serve them as they get older? That would actually make them appear crazy if they continued to do it?

The way I see it, tv is meant to be seen and processed. Interactions should be reciprocal — that is their very definition. After all, isn’t respectful interactive discourse how the best communication happens in the real world anyway?

 

Resources:

Sweet Talk: Where I Am Now?

There’s a bit of a [huge, glaring] discrepancy between my post this past Wednesday and the post of my September-October sugar journal. As in, Wednesday I admitted I was still struggling with sugar, but I claimed to have given it up for good at the end of October.

I honestly don’t even remember making that decision. That obviously wasn’t very mindful of me. Now I’m thinking that it wasn’t a conscious decision at all, but one born out of my frustration at the difficulty of introducing moderate sugar back into my life. It was kind of like, this is hard! I give up! Instead of re-evaluating where I should make some changes to make things work better for me.

I doubt it was the next day that I started eating sugar with abandon, but once I stopped tracking what I ate, I just didn’t pay as much attention. I paid attention, just not as much. Not enough.

It was a gradual slide from the end of October to now. I still don’t feel addicted anymore, which is very good. But I’ve given in to cravings and I’ve had bad days where I felt like crap because I didn’t realize how much sugar I was consuming throughout the day.

I must be honest with myself and admit that I am not an all-or-nothing type of person when it comes to food. Cigarettes? Definitely. I’ve never had one and never will because they are proven bad, bad, bad. Alcohol? I have some. It can be harmful, but it has some benefits, too. So I drink in moderation. But I’ve never struggled with either of them like I struggle with sugar.

I like my original Rules and am going to follow them again. I won’t track everything I eat, because as long as I’m avoiding sugar that’s NOT

  1. part of a whole food or
  2. honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or
  3. the occasional exception
    1. ice cream, when there is walking involved
    2. homemade desserts (i.e. dinner parties)
    3. restaurant desserts (rare)
    4. anything I want on my birthday

I will be fine. Those 3 sweetness circumstances are hard to come by in my suburban New Jersey area, believe it or not, unless I’m cooking at home. It allows sweetness in my life (fruit, honey, syrups, birthday treat) without the likelihood of extreme excess (half a box of cookies, cake icing, jars of candy, etc).

It’s an ongoing experiment. I will not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good here. I will be mindful, while still enjoying small pleasures. I will try to be better. I will do my best.

A Simple Cloth Diaper Set-up

Once Wingnut started eating solid foods, we started using cloth diapers. We wanted to save some money and reduce the amount of waste we were contributing to landfills. We supplement with disposable diapers for overnight, travel, hot weather, and when the cloth diapers are in the laundry. We now use the same cloth diapers with our second child, Pigpen.

Our simple set-up includes:

We have two types of prefold inserts because we were gifted the burp cloths and then supplemented by buying some Bummis. The burp cloths are much thinner than the Bummis so we have to stack 2 or 3 before folding them into the covers to provide enough absorbency.

I like the Flip covers because they can be reused throughout the day by just swapping out the dirty insert. They are usually quite good at keeping in wetness, but we do have to change cloth diapers more frequently than disposables. I like to change them after about 2 hours and really try to avoid letting them go longer than 3 hours.

During a typical cloth diaper change, I usually just switch out the soiled insert with a clean replacement. If there is just pee, I put the insert in a covered garbage pail lined with a laundry bag. If there is poo, I dump it (and/or scrape with a clean corner of the insert) into the toilet before putting the insert into the pail. If the cover is wet or soiled, I toss that in the pail, too, and use a new cover.

I know 4 covers isn’t that many, especially for 2 boys. But now that Wingnut is learning to use the toilet and (disposable) pull-ups, he doesn’t wear the cloth diapers as often. Having fewer covers means I wash the cloth diapers in the laundry every 2 to 4 days (depending how much we also use disposables in that time). I think that’s pretty often to have to wash laundry, but it is a small load. And I don’t like the diaper pail with soiled cloths to sit longer than that anyway because it can get smelly when opened.

This cloth diapering system cost us about $110. If we had had to buy the burp cloths, too, it would have cost us about $140. By the money saved as opposed to buying disposables, this system had paid for itself within 2 months.

This system isn’t perfect, but it works for us. I did most of my research to figure out the products and system I wanted by watching YouTube videos by people who have done cloth diapering themselves. If you are looking for more information, I definitely recommend checking them out.

Good luck with your own cloth diapering adventure and bon voyage!

I Bought “Mom Jeans”… And I Love Them

I wear jeans almost every day. They are tough and comfortable. Although I quite like other wardrobe styles, jeans fit into my lifestyle the best. As I’ve cultivated my capsule wardrobe, my jean collection dwindled to my favorites. After an average life of about 7 years per pair, my favorites started to get worn out. Then I was down to one pair… and their knees were looking thin as well.

I had been researching jeans for a while because I knew I needed to replace the ones I’d worn out. My mom complains when I get rid of jeans with holes in the knees because people pay a lot of money for ripped jeans. Well, I am not one of those people. I find holes in my clothes to be unattractive, unkempt, and uncomfortable. Note that I will patch or alternate clothes if I think it’s worth the trouble. Otherwise, I let them go.

I wanted a lot out of the jeans I would buy. My list of desirables included:

  • ethically made
  • organic
  • durable
  • vegan
  • comfortable
  • stylish
  • fair-trade cotton
  • no sweat-shops
  • well made
  • 100% cotton
  • under $160

I did not get all that I wished for. I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but I had a really, really hard time trying to check off all my boxes when shopping for a new brand of jeans.

I decided I needed to try any new jeans on before I bought them. Living among strip malls interspersed with Pinelands in suburban New Jersey, I’m not exactly in the mecca of the clothing innovation and sustainability movement. There are a good amount of stores nearby, but they are mostly the same chain stores over and over. Any ethical and sustainable jean brand that I found online and got really excited about, wasn’t in my vicinity. Mostly, they weren’t even in my country.

Some people might be fine with ordering jeans online, but I am not one of those people. Especially in the midst of trying new brands and styles. To replace a pair I’ve worn out with the same brand, style, and size? Sure. But not to find my pair. I just can’t afford it (especially since ethical brands can be pretty expensive) and don’t want to consume any more jeans than I will use.

Besides needing to try them on before buying, what else was a big deal to me?

I wanted two or three jeans (I’d stick with two if I didn’t live in a spit-up splash zone) that I could wear every day if I wanted; If I’m wearing something every day, it had better be comfortable. I wanted them to be durable, i.e. well-made — my last newest pair of jeans didn’t even survive a full year of crawling around with my 1 year old. If they couldn’t be organic, I wanted them to be made of at least 98% cotton — then there was a good chance they’d be vegan, too. And as long as they were a timeless cut, that’s all the style I needed.

I finally chose Levi’s. I understand the brand isn’t perfect (yet… fingers crossed), but it’s the best I could do with my situation and preferences. My pair is Levi’s 501 Original for Women. I like that these are the same jeans that they’ve been making for, like, a hundred years or whatever — my pair is 100% cotton, thick and durable, and even has a button fly!

And, okay, yeah, about the title of this post. I call them “mom jeans” because they are high-waisted then straight-legged then tapered. Levi’s calls them “boyfriend” fit, but I bought a pair of men’s skinny jeans in my search for my pair and the 501s for Women fit way better — they were made to cover and curve around women’s bums and hips, without excess fabric in the front.

Now I’ve embraced the term “mom jeans”. As I’ve become a mother, I’ve also become more conscious, intentional, and caring in many areas of my life, including how what I buy affects the world and my future. I rock “mom jeans” because they are strong and lasting — and that’s sexy.

I’ve come to believe that the negative connotation around the term never came from the jeans themselves. It came from presumptions of (and some actualities of) women letting themselves go after becoming mothers, becoming frumpy and careless, and thinking that comfort should alway outweighed style.

However, I see attitude as being the most important. I’m comfortable with the function of my life, so my jeans should be comfortable and functional, too. The jeans won’t be frumpy because I’m not frumpy. I feel healthy and strong when I’m slim, and I feel sexy when my clothes fit my body well. That makes me feel confident and I’m loving it.

jeans 1     jeans 2

jeans 3 jeans 4

Cheers!

Sustainable and Ethical Clothing Resources:

The Transient Value of Things

I am still always shocked at how short lived the value of most things are.

As I am working to simplify my life, I am coming across a lot of things that no longer serve me. Although I don’t necessarily have a use for them anymore, I think that someone else may find value in them. Heck, I spent a lot of money on this stuff — won’t someone be super stoked to find it at such a great price in a secondhand shop somewhere?

But as I am letting go of things that I no longer want, I’m finding that nobody else really wants them either. And I’m actually a little hurt by it. I’m having trouble getting rid of stuff that I, or someone close to me, spent a lot of money on.

I have an old printer, digital camera, and smart phone in my house that have all been replaced by newer versions. Sure the printer is not wireless, the zoom button on the camera is a little wiggly, and the phone doesn’t answer your questions via a sweet voiced “intelligent assistant”, but they all still perform their functions perfectly well. Why, then, when I called a pawn shop to see if they would take them (and, if so, how much I could get for them), they didn’t want any of it?

Perhaps it’s my ego. After all, this stuff apparently wasn’t good enough for me to keep and use anymore. Am I so self-absorbed that I think others will still want to pay money for these old things just because I once paid good money for them? For some reason, perhaps since I held on to and cared for these things for this long, I feel like I still deserve some of that money back.

What it comes down to is, I’m having trouble grasping the value I have already taken from the objects. These things that were new and expensive five years ago, are now used and five years old. In my head, I only remember the newness. I still see the dollars dropped on them, how useful they are, and the fact that they still work. I don’t want to see them go to waste in a dump.

And yet, I don’t want to keep double of all these things around either. If I wanted to get the most use out of these things, I shouldn’t have consumed new ones before the old were totally spent. Being conscious and minimal takes a lot of effort, starting even before an item is purchased. If I’m not totally sure if I’m going to get the maximum use out of something, I must consider if I need it at all. And if I buy it and don’t get to use it to the max, I need to be prepared to take on the responsibility for the loss — financially, environmentally, mentally, and emotionally.

Perhaps my inability to grasp the unseeable realm of “actual use” as value from things is due to the fact that advertisers and marketers work incredibly hard to get me to only see the value of things for their shiny newness and potential use. It’s easy to forget what I’ve already done with something while thinking of all the things I could do with something else. Once something is owned, it loses its luster because there is always something else newer and shinier out there. Perhaps that’s why no one else wants to buy my things secondhand either. They’ve been exposed to the same consumerist conditioning that I have.

Since I can’t seem to sell them, I am going to donate these things. Perhaps through a charity service (instead of a pawn shop), these still-useful items will end up in the hands of people who can use them. In the meantime, I need to work on separating myself from focusing on the very ephemeral monetary value of things (especially electronics), and instead focus on the value I get out of items personally, like the convenience I experience, the fun I have, and memories I create while using them.

Things come and things go. Money comes and money goes. Remember, life itself is transient. It’s not worth it to hold on to things that are no longer of value. Just thank them for how they have already served, and then let them go.

Enjoy.