Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Going Green With Baby

There is plenty of talk these days about being "green" and being "environmentally responsible". I do care about our planet but so far, I haven't always been the type of person that is actively green.

However, in hindsight, it seems that I turned over a new leaf sometime in the past four years and didn't even realize it. Having a baby changes your life in so many ways. Although life with baby is often rigged with impulse buy traps each time you go shopping, the fact that you're responsible for the well being of something so precious, makes you do a lot more research before buying. Also, these expensive little responsibilities may hang around for the next two decades so the choices made need to also be the most cost effective ones.

So, somewhere between wanting to give the best to our children while spending the least, we seem to have become a fairly green family. It wasn't very hard to do at all.

Here are some of the choices we've made:

* We have not installed air conditioning. The summer months can get pretty scorching but we figured that there are probably only a maximum of 14 truly unbearable days in a year. On those days, we'll go shopping!

* We mop the floors with vinegar or a fruit and vegetable scrap enzyme cleaner that we make ourselves. If you're interested in making some, google "vegetable enzyme cleaner" for some recipes. My tip is to use as much citrus fruits as you can for a better smell.

* We've recently started washing our clothes with soap nuts. These are called Sapindus in Wikipedia.

* We use cloth nappies almost all of the time. I have some leftover disposables that I keep for when we're traveling.

* We grow a variety vegetables in our garden. This is a lot of fun, especially with little kids. Eating organic can get very expensive but the plus side is that they are fresher, contain none of those harmful pesticides and may have more of the nutrients left in it. So, to avoid buying everything organic, the vegetable garden is a cheap and fun alternative.

These are just a few of the choices our family has made and it may not work for another family. Everyone does their own green bit. There are plenty of other ways to go green in our every day lives and you can see that going green goes hand in hand with spending our money wisely. It is not an all or nothing exercise. We can all do what we feel comfortable with and start out small.

I'm very motivated to continue trying to do my little bit for the environment. Its not only about saving money but also much more about not destroying our earth.

Two minutes later : I've come back here to add that I forgot to mention my most green accomplishment yet. Breastfeeding! If you're talking about giving your baby something local, pesticide free, not processed and with zero carbon footprint then this is the perfect product.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Simply Irresistible

The season of eating is definitely coming up. There are a few parties coming up and we've also started talking about what we should prepare for the two birthdays coming up at the end of December - the one for the BIG guy upstairs as well as the one for the littlest guy in our house.

It got me thinking of all the food that I find irresistible. I don't have very sophisticated taste buds at all and am easily pleased as you'll see.

So here's a list of the foods that I can't, won't and don't resist. Its not a list of all the foods I like because the would be too long:

* Fresh bread. Even if I've just had something to eat, if I go out to the store to get bread and its still warm when I get home, I can't resist one (or two slices).

* Cheesecake. I'm not much of a cake person but these are the exception.

* Hard Boiled Eggs. Actually, its the tip that I can't resist. Whenever I have to slice a hard boiled egg with an egg cutter, I have to eat the top tip.

* Pasta. If I had to pick between rice and pasta, its always going to be pasta. And yet, I have rice about 6 nights a week. Oddly, whenever I'm at a hotel, I always look to see if they have boring old Spaghetti Bolognese. They always have it the way that I like which is also the way that I never seem to be able to replicate - the not-so-tomato-y way.

* Lap Cheong. These are Chinese Dried Sausages. I love these so much that if these are served at a meal, I usually don't touch any of the other dishes. Just the plain white rice and the lap cheong will do.

* Pineapples. I've only recently been able to eat these and now, a newly bought pineapple doesn't last 2 hours in our house before I start cutting it up.

Its your turn now. Tell me about the food that you just can't/won't/don't resist.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bulky Bums

These days, depending on what shirt he's wearing, Adrian either looks a little like a bee or an ant. The modern cloth nappies he has been wearing seem to look very bulky on him sometimes. I think I'll get him a black and yellow striped one for Christmas to really complete the bee look.

He was wearing blue today. What blue thing has a big bulky behind?

He even managed to get this little scooper thing stuck on his bum.

These photos were taken on our back deck. Just like another little escape artist, Adrian is out there whenever we forget to close the doors. Sometimes, when its close to bath time, I let him crawl all over the place and get into everything. Its amazing to watch the curiosity on his face and the excitement he gets from being free.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Avoid The Doghouse This Christmas Season

I think I'm an easy person to shop for. I give lots of hints and clues. In fact, if you hang around me enough, like my husband does, I actually talk about things that I would like to get. Unfortunately, the results still indicate that my messages aren't getting across.

With Christmas around the corner, I thought this video would be a good reminder for him, and all the other guys out there.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Starting Kindy - A BIG DEAL for Moms

Aaron went for his first day at a Montessori School today. I thought I was over the pre-kindy excitement I've been through it all when he went to Mariaville in Ipoh a few months ago. Yet, I found myself equally excited. Maybe even more.

We were all up before 6am. I got a big breakfast ready, picked out his clothes and packed his lunch by 7am. The whole family was ready to take him to school by 8am. Unfortunately, the teacher told us to arrive at 9.30am. So, we hung out, played around and eventually started running late! Thats what happens when you get too excited and leave too much spare time. Anyway, to top it all off, we get halfway there and Aaron asks "Where's my bag?". Yes, after all that, we left his bag at home. There wasn't enough time to turn back so we dropped him, then went home to get his bag and went back to the school again. And because its only a 9-12noon session, I was back at the school again an hour after the bag was dropped off!

Anyway, I have been excited for him, for weeks. And, I have been anxious about it for myself. This is the start of him being away from me. Its not like holiday school at Mariaville. Its the real deal. Its only a couple of days this year but from January, its five days a week, ten weeks a term. For my sake, I've put him in for a half day only. At least I can still be the center of his world for half the day. (Unfortunately, he liked it so much today that I almost couldn't get him away at 12pm and he's saying things like he wants to be FULL DAY.)

Another selfish thought that has been crossing my mind is that this could be the end of my flexible lifestyle. Yes, I am tied down with two kids but up until now, there is nothing stopping us from going away for holidays or spending a special day out on a picnic. There would be no more impromptu outings during weekdays. I love going out with him and exploring different places.

He did have a very good day at the kindy today and spent a lot of the time afterwards asking when he can go back. When I picked him up, he had a huge smile on his face and was oozing happiness. At least I know that he's in an environment that he really enjoys.

If I spend so much time thinking of kindy, I wonder what his graduating high school is going to do. What if he goes away to a university in a different state? What if he doesn't want to study anymore and finds a job in another COUNTRY?! What if he gets MARRIED at eighteen????

I think I should stop thinking about it now ...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back From The Beach

Why do we not live nearer the beach? Why? Why? Why? I guess I shouldn't complain. It was only a 90 minute drive there and both boys did well in the car.

The beach must be the easiest place to keep children entertained. All that sand keeps them occupied for hours and hours. And running back and forth, getting bucket after bucket of water for the moat of the sand castle - well, that alone lasts a good 20 minutes before they realize its futile. Aaron made friends with this family with four kids and they played every morning and afternoon for the entire time we
were there.

Adrian also had a lot of fun with the sand. When he first saw the waves, he was completely enthralled and crawled straight towards them but then got a face full of water. Oops! That gave him a bit of a shock and we had to take it slowly for awhile until he got used to it.

And guess what? Adrian took his first unassisted steps while we were there. It wasn't when this particular photo was taken but he seemed to do a lot of standing on the sand in the lead up to those first steps.

Here's one final photo of the both of them.

I'm already planning our next trip there. Maybe I should just plan on going there on a monthly basis.....if only...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tree Climbing

I have had a lot of fun today. We went tree climbing! I actually read about this free activity organized by the Brisbane City Council but forgot all about it because children needed to be 8 years old to participate. Never imagined that Richard, my dad and I would be the ones enjoying it today instead of Aaron.

You'll see from the photos that its more climbing a tree with ropes (and the added safety of them) rather than climbing with your bare hands. This was of course a very easy and tree but the instructor told us there are other areas in Brisbane where they go very high up. This must be what the Greenpeace people do to stop logging....

Anyway, here are our photos.

Aaron was left on the bottom as we all made our way up the tree. When we were about halfway up, we heard "I need to pee!". Oops! All three of us were hanging up in the air. Thankfully, the instructor's wife followed him to a nearby tree and was kind enough to keep him entertained for the rest of our adventure.

Richard and I climbed into the hammock while my father was in a single hanging hammock chair on another branch.

I liked the hammock better after Richard got out and there wasn't the extra person wobbling it.

And now for more news on fun - We'll be going to Caloundra for the next five days for some fun on the beach. YAHOO!!!! Aaron has been waiting months for this. I'm also very excited but the weather forecast is saying that there may be cloudy rainy days coming....lets hope they're wrong.

I won't have access to internet while there so look out for my post with pictures next Saturday. Have a good week everyone.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Walking With The Trolley - Take 2

This is the photo I posted of Aaron in 2007 when we first got him the trolley. According to the date on that post, this was two days after his first birthday.

The trolley went to Palembang with us and has now made the trip back to Brisbane again. And here's Adrian, 10 months, trying to push it along.

I have to say it - He's so cute! When Aaron was at this stage, I think I spent a lot of the time wishing he would grow up faster. Now with Adrian, its the exact opposite.

Anyways, I'll try not to blink my eyes too often.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Suppose You've Past The Big Three-Oh

I met my old piano teacher for lunch today. She's not really old - sixty four (I think). I just use 'old' because I stopped my lessons with her fourteen years ago.

She used a lot of that word today though. For some reason, she kept saying that once you past sixty, you're living on borrowed time. Perhaps its because she's going through some stressful times at the moment or because her sister has a couple of cancers in her. Whatever the case, I felt so sad that she was having such a hard time.

I tried to keep things upbeat and talked about how everyone is living longer these days. She then reminded me that it was like yesterday that she would come pick me up to go for master classes. All that time passed so quickly and today, I picked her up and took her out to lunch. Thats when she said "I suppose you've past the big three-oh". (Yes, I have. Oh No! I'm halfway to the big six-oh!) If the next fourteen years pass by as quickly as the last, its true that she's going to gone in another blink of the eye. And so will many other people I know. What morbid thoughts!

Its strange to go from a teacher-student relationship to one where she tells me things about her family and her life. She's a friend. I like this grown-up relationship but I'll always have that respect for her as my teacher. At the same time, it makes me feel bad that I have such an easy life and have few worries while she's grown 'older' and seems to have so many. She's spent her life teaching and caring for others, shouldn't this be the time that she starts to be cared for and relax? The big six-oh for her seems to be taken like the end of the road.

Its a reminder that there are people less fortunate than us. Its also a reminder to make every day count. I wouldn't want to reach the big six-oh and feel like there is no time left to make my life worthwhile.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Power of Indoor Plants

The Brisbane City Council Libraries have been holding a series of "Sustainable Living" seminars. These are free and cover a range of topics from organic gardening to green motoring to eco-babies.

I attended the "Healthy Homes" one yesterday and it was about how plants can absorb the toxic compounds emitted by all the stuff we fill our homes with. Supposedly we're surrounded by roughly 350 different types right in our living rooms. I wasn't so interested in the topic but went along to keep my mother company. I did end up getting interested in the end.

From what I can remember, the speaker mentioned that there have been numerous experiments conducted on how plants improve well-being and productivity in the workplace. They have done experiments where employees were given questionnaires before and after plants being introduced and the results indicated that people felt less stressed with the plants around. I got this part of the results from the NIPA website:

Staff with one or more plants in their offices showed reductions in:
* Anxiety -37%
* Anger -44%
* Depression -58%
* Fatigue -38%
* Confusion -30%
* Overall Negativity -65%
* Overall Stress -50%

No-plant (Control group) showed the opposite trend:
* Increased Negativity +(20-40)%

And yet, the Australian parliament house supposedly removed all indoor plants recently in an effort to save costs. No wonder we've got such a muddled government at the moment.

The bit of research that really got me interested was one done on classrooms. The University of Technology in Sydney conducted some preliminary research on 360 children in Grades 6 and 7 and the effects of plants in their classrooms. They found that there was 14% improvement in Mathematics, 10% in Spelling and 11% in Science. Amazing isn't it? For the rest of the details, read the short report.

This was only a preliminary study and the first that specifically tried to measure the effects of the plants in the classroom. More research would be needed to provide formal confirmation but its enough to make me want to put plants inside our house now. We've got none at all right now.

So, are you sitting near a plant right now?

Friday, November 5, 2010

We've Created A Monster

Well, not exactly a monster. Just a child that lectures grown ups on healthy living and eating.

Its all to do with my mother's brainwashing. From the very beginning, my mother has made it her mission to instill all her healthy living and eating habits into Aaron. I like the idea of it but I'll admit that I'm not as diligent as she is in this area.

The other day, Aaron met my second cousin for the first time. The guy AND his wife smoke and he happened to see them light up. Guess what? They got an earful from him about how smoking isn't good. And following on from that, he started his lecture on healthy foods. Why fiber is important. Which foods contain antioxidants and why you need them. How he never EVER eats junk food like McDonalds. I can just hear my mother's words coming out of his mouth.

My favorite part of this lecture (yes, he gives it to me too) is when he sometimes gets the words "carbohydrates" and "carbon dioxide" mixed up - "We also need to have carbon dioxide for energy."

I know this is good stuff and he really does believe and live by it (because we try to be consistent with the message my mother is teaching). We're all forced to as well because we don't want to ruin what my mother has taught him so far. Unfortunately, I do like to have junk food sometimes. There have been a couple of instances recently where we've gone to get a Big Mac, taken off the wrapper and then re-wrapped it with an un-marked napkin. *sigh* The trouble we go through to put junk in our bodies! At least he's keeping us healthy.

I'm just wondering how long this can last. When will he ask start asking for junk food? Will he want it if he's never had it before? Will he refuse it if somebody else takes him out to eat? It'll be interesting to see what happens.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Evolution of Mom

We all know that second time mothers are much more slack...I mean, relaxed. We've been there, done that. We know what won't happen if we don't do something.

Recently, Adrian seems to have had a change of heart towards food. Where there was once a baby that ate everything in sight, there now is a baby that shakes his head vigorously and bats my incoming spoon away. Its been a week now and I haven't been able to get him to eat much solids at all. Am I worried? Nah! He'll come around. I think so little of it that I forgot to pack lunch for him when we went out today. And when he refused the first spoonful at dinner time, I ate up all his food. (Very tasty stuff!)

I remembered this funny comparison that I got emailed some time ago and dug it up to share here today.

Your Clothes
1st baby: You begin wearing maternity clothes as soon as your OB/GYN
confirms your pregnancy.
2nd baby: You wear your regular clothes for as long as possible.
3rd baby: Your maternity clothes are your regular clothes.

The Baby's Name
1st baby: You pore over baby-name books and practice pronouncing
and writing combinations of all your favorites.
2nd baby: Someone has to name their kid after your great-aunt Mavis,
right? It might as well be you.
3rd baby: You open a name book, close your eyes, and see where your
finger falls. Bimaldo? Perfect!

Preparing for the Birth
1st baby: You practice your breathing religiously.
2nd baby: You don't bother practicing because you remember that last
time, breathing didn't do a thing.
3rd baby: You ask for an epidural in your 8th month.

The Layette

1st baby: You prewash your newborn's clothes, color-coordinate them,
and fold them neatly in the baby's little bureau.
2nd baby: You check to make sure that the clothes are clean and
discard only the ones with the darkest stains.
3rd baby: Boys can wear pink, can't they?

1st baby: At the first sign of distress--a whimper, a frown--you pick
up the baby.
2nd baby: You pick the baby up when her wails threaten to wake your
3rd baby: You teach your 3-year-old how to rewind the mechanical swing.

1st baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics, Baby Swing, and
Baby Story Hour.
2nd baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics.
3rd baby: You take your infant to the supermarket and the dry cleaner.

Going Out

1st baby: The first time you leave your baby with a sitter, you call
home 5 times.
2nd baby: Just before you walk out the door, you remember to leave a
number where you can be reached.
3rd baby: You leave instructions for the sitter to call only if she
sees blood.

At Home
1st baby: You spend a good bit of every day just gazing at the baby.
2nd baby: You spend a bit of every day watching to be sure your older
child isn't squeezing, poking, or hitting the baby.
3rd baby: You spend a little bit of every day hiding from the children.

Parenthood is definitely a journey of self discovery isn't it?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Modern Cloth Nappies (Part 2)

Several weeks ago, I blogged about trying out Modern Cloth Nappies. I ended up buying a $20 Peapods and also $5 no-name one off ebay. I was hoping that they would both have the same performance but, as suspected, the Peapods ones didn't leak at night. Its something to do with the cut of the leg holes and how Adrian sleeps at night. They seem to work with no leaks during the day. Now that I know how they work, I got us an additional Peapods for nights and another $5 one for days. (I'm itching to get more because they come in really cute colors). We're 100% reusable now.

Cloth nappies are no more inconvenient than disposable ones. They are both a pain to put on a squirmy baby. Even my old terry toweling squares aren't all that hard to use, they just don't look that nice. The absorbency of the bamboo inserts are as good as the disposable nappies and the fleece top layer keeps the baby feeling just as dry. The one area that I'm not as 'green' on is the fact that I do like to put a nappy liner down to catch any 'solids'. I'm feeling good about ditching the disposable nappies, especially after coming across these figures on the Australian Nappy Network.

1.375 Billion disposable nappies used annually in Australia and New Zealand.

3.75 Million disposable nappies dumped every single day in these 2 nations alone.

3 Million trees felled every year to make disposable nappies for Australia / New Zealand.

100 intestinal viruses leach from untreated human waste at rubbish dumps, contaminating ground water at land fill and creating risks to sanitation workers.

50% of total household waste will be disposable nappies, in a household with 1 baby using disposable nappies full time.

7 times better for the environment, reusable nappies compared to one use nappies.

2 Tonnes of landfill created by each baby in disposable nappies full time.

1 degree hotter the average temperature of a boy's testicles in a disposable nappy - possibly related to increases in infertility and testicular cancer of the last 25 years.

After all the research and excitement about modern cloth nappies, I've sadly been reminded that I'll probably need to start toilet training soon. Nappies are fun now....toilet training? Not so much.