When my children were very little most of my energies were devoted to meeting their immediate needs. I know that some women are able to balance their babies' needs and their own, but I am not one of them. Working part time and being a mother was pretty much all I could handle. As much as some say it might not be emotionally healthy, I am an all or nothing sort of person, as my husband will tell you. I think that in the past I have avoided getting into something new because I don't enjoy it unless I can throw myself wholeheartedly into it, which leaves little of my attention for anything else. Therefore it isn't surprising that looking after a baby took much of what I had to give.
My wee one when she was a newborn.
My youngest daughter will be turning three in 2013 and I am finally beginning to feel like she does not require my full and undivided attention all day long as infants do. There are moments I can carve out for my own projects and passions that sustain me and fulfill my creative side, which I have been missing for a long time. Not for long, mind you, because she is a little monkey and into everything so much more than I remember my other daughters being. She has redecorated my walls
I want my daughters to see me being a life-long learner and meaningfully engaged in something because I believe that modelling is one of the best form of learning for children. It fills my heart to hear my daughters' questions about what I am doing and see my daughters grab crafting supplies to make alongside me. I want them to be happy in life and I believe one path to happiness is to have interests and passions.
I am grateful that I have developed an interest in photography because it gives me something creative I can do with small children. Besides, what parent doesn't like taking pictures of their kids?!
My five year old in particular has followed in my footsteps and enjoys photography.
It is easy as a women to be overly harsh and self-judging. I could compare myself to the other mothers who always seem to be more calm, patient and together than me. I could compare myself to other crafters or gardeners who seem more knowledgeable and talented. I'm sure, though, that for every person I could compare myself to there is someone who sees me as talented and knowledgeable. I'm not saying I am talented because I know what is going on in my head and I am there for the behind-the-scenes daily grind of my life. I see my good, bad and ugly and therefore it is easy to judge myself. I must remember that every single person has that kind of messy life behind the closed doors of their life as well. There will always be someone who is more green than me, more eco-conscious than me, and I am working on seeing them as someone to follow and learn from rather than a measure of my inadequateness as an environmentally aware person.
So, as a reminder to myself of my highlight reel for 2012, I've compiled a list of things of which I am proud, things for me to read on my low days, when I am feeling overly judgemental of myself. This is my top ten list to read to myself to give me energy when I need a do-over.
1. This past summer, when my youngest daughter was almost two and a half years old she weaned. After struggling for the first two months with my first two daughters and having a rocky breastfeeding relationship, breastfeeding went very smoothly, one might even say naturally, with my third daughter. I attribute it to a spontaneous, unmedicated home birth in which we had immediate uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact for at least the first hour (as far as I can remember) of her life. Weaning my youngest brought to an end over 68 months of breastfeeding in total between each of my daughters. I know that I did my best to give them the best start in life that I was capable of and I am proud of what my body was able to do for them. I feel very good that I sustained them with the most Earth-friendly nourishment that I could (I am not judging mothers who made other choices about how to feed their babies by saying this). While I was ready for that part of our relationship to end, my daughter wasn't fully prepared and to this day she occasionally likes to climb into my lap and pretend to have her beloved "milky milky".
My wee one breastfeeding her baby - modelling behaviours at it's best!
2. We continue to search for ways to reduce our use of single use disposable items. We have not used paper napkins or paper towels for years (with a perhaps two lapses per year when we have a large party and know we will run out of cloth napkins for all the guests). I have used cloth feminine napkins for at least a decade now.
purchased from www.mylittlegreenshop.com
This year I added stainless steel straws to our home, along with an increasing number of stainless steel dishes and containers to slowly replace plastic in our home. I love how stainless steel cleans up and does not retain the smell of the food the way that plastic can.
4. This year we completely eliminated commercial air fresheners because of their toxic ingredients and links to a variety of health concerns. We currently use baking soda for kitty litter odour (open box near the kitty litter box) and drops of essential oil in high odour areas like the bathroom. Occasionally I put a drop or two of essential oil of choice the wax of a burning candle to diffuse the smell quickly. We used to use incense quite extensively but have not done so as much recently. I find the best way to freshen the smell in a room is to just open a window. One thing I would like to focus more on in the new year is the use of plants for room air quality. We have very few indoor plants because our cats are very naughty and kill them by chewing on the leaves.
5. I am slowly learning ways to detoxify personal care products such as creams, shampoos, toothpaste, deodorant and make up. We have used "natural" toothpaste for years but I would like to challenge myself to make my own at some point in the future. I have found some interesting links for making my own on Pinterest and I'm excited to source ingredients. This past year I found some very expensive make up (eyeliner and mascara) at a local natural foods grocery store. The ingredients seem to be good but the product comes from Germany and when I say it is expensive I am not exaggerating ($40 mascara anyone?). To compensate for this I am trying to go without as much as I feel comfortable. This means going au naturel on days that I don't go to work or have a dress up event (I'm somewhat vain and sometimes feel like I need a little more colour). I am slowly transitioning to natural crystal deodorant because the ingredients in my antiperspirant are horrible (including horrible fragrance, or "parfum", which is linked to a variety of health concerns such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses). I am finding this a challenge, however, because I am a very sweaty person. I have a phobia of sweat marks on my clothing and crystal deodorant just doesn't cut it in that department. Again, I am compensating by using the crystal deodorant on my days off work. One area in which I am most proud is switching to baking soda and apple cider vinegar to wash my hair (called the "no-poo"method).
6. I am almost ready to call myself a vegetable gardener. I have dabbled in container gardening over the past ten years while living in apartments and a townhouse. Almost three years ago we moved into our new home, our first single family house with a large backyard and I was most excited about having room to have a vegetable garden. This has been a very gradual process with adding a new raised garden bed each summer we have lived here. I hope to have a maximum of four raised beds in the backyard next summer. I did very well with just two raised beds this past summer, growing dozens of vegetables and this fall I planted garlic for the first time. I know just a little bit, in fact only enough to know how much I don't know, but I'm game to experiment and learn. It was interesting to participate in our local CSA to compare what we received with what we grew, and this has increased my desire to branch out and try eating and growing new foods (like fava beans). My mother gave me a subscription to a Canadian gardening magazine, and I have a subscription to an organic gardening magazine and I bought a how-to guide for winter gardening. Once the dust settles on the festive season I will devote some serious time to planning my summer garden.
My garden mid summer this year.
7. I am not a baker. A friend has blogged about there being cooking people and baking people. I am decidedly in the former camp because I like to experiment and substitute, which just does not work with baking. When I do want to bake I don't have the correct ingredients because I never bake. I do, however, like to eat baked goods. A favourite of mine is breakfast scones. For a few years now I have bought my scones at my local grocery store. The drawback is that they come in a plastic container that I then have to recycle. I have been trying to focus on reducing what I consume before recycling what I use because of the energy used to recycle paper, plastic, metal and glass. The plastic waste finally got to me and a few months ago I started baking my scones each week. With practice I am getting better and am starting to expand my repertoire of baked goods. Another reason I feel good about this is because I know what has gone into my baked goods. I can make them as natural and healthy as I want rather than having a bunch of ingredients I cannot pronounce that are there to increase shelf life.
My delicious, home-baked cheese scones for breakfast.
8. I've been trying to use my bike more in 2012. As my children get older and more capable my ability to bike with them will increase, making it easier to get out on my bike for daily errands and local commuting. There have been some blips and blurps along my path, as I'm sure there will continue to be, but I'm trying. I hope that as the weather warms and dries up in the spring and summer I will be more exclusive in my bike use.
dozens of knitting and crocheting ideas on Pinterest, I finally dusted off my knitting needles and finished some beginner projects for Christmas presents. I value making presents for people I love and I made each of my daughters scarves and each of the ladies in my extended family infinity scarves. My daughters had fun looking through my yarn bin and we found a few incomplete projects from years ago that I am now motivated to finish. I hope to take a knitting course or two to help me make progress in knitting in the round, turning the heel on socks and pick up stitches so I can complete some more advanced projects. I used to knit and crochet, especially for baby gifts, but when my own children entered the picture I lost the energy and time to keep up with it. That, along with small hands getting into my things and pulling all the stitches off needles made me put my yarn and needles away for over eight years.
10. I have been mulling and pondering about creating this blog for over a year, but I have been intimidated by the talented men and women out there writing about and sharing their thoughts and reflections. I was also scared of a learning curve with blogging and didn't know where to begin. I finally decided to just jump in with both feet and not worry about whether anyone would ever read my blog. If I'm being honest I'd admit that I want someone to read this blog - otherwise I would just write my thoughts in a journal. I'm proud that I started sharing my journey, even if it just documents for myself what I'm doing. I do believe that it is making me feel more accountable and more clear in what I am doing and hope to do. Something that I'm pondering now is writing for a supposed audience, of which every writer must be thinking about, versus writing for myself, because the two are often quite different.