Taking Green Baby Steps

I’m sure I don’t need to start by asking something like, “have you noticed how everything seems to be green or going green these days?”  Green is no longer just a color.  It’s a movement, belief system, and set of actions.  It’s everywhere.  It’s on products at the store, commercials, books, and blogs.

It really seems like a good idea.  Take better care of the earth.  Choose products that are better for us.  Use fewer resources.  The thing that I’ve been noticing lately about going green is that there are a few “low hanging fruit” actions that my family can take, but after that I start to get confused and overwhelmed.  Bisphenol A, free radicals, hormone disruptors, nanoparticles, carbon footprint, methane, composting, sustainable, locavore, and green washing are all terms that come up often in my search for information on green living.

We have made some changes which are a reflection of our choice to become more conscious of our impact on the environment, those around us, and even our own bodies.  We drink from water bottles instead of buying bottled water.  We cloth diaper.  We use cloth napkins.  We use some alternative cleaning methods.  We are starting to buy products that are made by companies with mission statements (and practices) that reflect our views.  During the summer growing season we attempt to buy as much local produce as we can at our farmer’s market and by joining a CSA.  When we were homeowners we were composting.  Unfortunately, for as many earth-friendly choices as we make, I am sure there are 10 that are not very earth friendly.

What I would like is a 1-2-3 guide.  First, do this.  Then, get rid of that.  Finally, once you’ve followed our easy to understand 81-step program, you are green!  Something like that anyway.  I asked about this on twitter a little while ago, and I got a couple recommendations for sites and a book.  There are some days where I feel like we do pretty well.  Then, there are some days when I feel like we are the un-greenest family in our town.

Lately, some of the things that have been on my mind are:

  • Is it better to buy a green-washed product than a regular mainstream product if a more environmentally friendly option isn’t available?  Is that letting the green washing company off the hook or is it possible it’s slightly better than the “regular” product?
  • If I buy a green product off a website because a better local option isn’t available, how do I factor in the resources and energy necessary to get that product to me?
  • Is an organic product from South Africa “better” (and how is better defined?) than buying a non-organic product from Chile or Mexico?

My list goes on, but I think you get the idea.  I have been thinking lately that it might just be best to pick one group of products and one priority and work on that.  For example, maybe I should focus on cleaning products and switching our current products to ones that are less harmful to us.  Another option would be to focus on what we eat and figure out which foods and which companies are both sustainable and good choices for our family to consume.  I’m not sure though.  I suppose the idea is to continue in the process whatever decision I make.  Choose something to work on, learn about, etc. and keep on going.

School Decisions

Just before Kael turned 3, a friend asked me if I had considered homeschooling my kids.  At the time, my answer was, “I want my kids to be homeschooled, but I don’t want to do it.”  At that point, that meant essentially no, I won’t be homeschooling.  As time has passed, that statement became less flippant and more honest.  I really did (and do) want my children to be homeschooled.  I just don’t want to do it, and as much as I don’t want to, I also feel unprepared to do it.

I’m not unprepared in the sense that I am unqualified.  I am sure that my education and experience qualifies me to homeschool.  I have a degree in elementary and middle level education with a masters degree in special education.  I have the credentials necessary.  I am legally qualified to teach other people’s children.  Somehow teaching my own seems like a much bigger and more daunting responsibility.

So, if I look at my statement a little closer, there’s really two issues.  One, I want my children to be homeschooled.  Why?  I want someone who knows them and cares specifically about them to have a personal stake in their education.  I think that art and music are such important parts of an education, and there are less and less of these each year.  Both of my boys, but Kael in particular, need lots of physical activity.  Two recesses for 10-15 minutes and gym class twice a week are not enough for them.  I also want someone who has time to answer all of the questions they ask, and they ask a LOT.  No matter how loving and dedicated a teacher is, I’m not sure that with 18 other kids there would be any way that anyone would have that kind of time in a day.  Lastly, I want to encourage my children to think in their own ways.  I don’t want them to do an art project that is the same as 18 other projects.  If they want to do a math problem and get the answer in a different way than the “right way,” that’s okay with me.  If they want to wear polish on their toe nails, that’s okay with me, too.

The second part of my statement on homeschooling is that I don’t want to be the one to do it.  What?  I know it sounds a little bit ridiculous.  I also know that part of the benefits of homeschooling come from the parent knowing the child so well.  I guess part of it is that I also know myself.  I am not nearly as patient as I would like to be, nor am I as patient as I would like a teacher of my children to be.  I also tend to procrastinate some things that I don’t want to do.  I really wish I had a dig in and get it done attitude, but too often it’s a last minute, last ditch, not my greatest work effort that I put forth.  Also, I worry about time.  I currently have a 4 1/2 year old, an almost 3 year old, and a baby on the way in October.  Some days I barely get everyone dressed and fed.  That is certainly not enough productivity for a homeschooling family.

Fortunately, Kael has a fall birthday.  This gives me another year before I need to make a decision that I am going to act on.  At this point, I plan to do lots of reading, researching, thinking, and blogging.  I’m hoping for a decision which I feel committed to and can stand behind completely by the time it’s school time for him.

Being Done

Being Done

It’s been a week, and there has been a BIG change.  But, on the other hand, it doesn’t feel like much has changed at all.  My previous blog was primarily a breastfeeding blog.  For the past four and a half years, I have eaten, breathed, and dreamed breastfeeding.  I know that sounds weird, but I think it’s true.  From working through my own struggles to breastfeed my sons to moderating a breastfeeding support board, I can’t even count the hours I have spent thinking about, reading about, and breastfeeding my own kids.  And, now, I’m done.  They’re done.  For the first time, since November 2005, I am not nursing anyone.

One of the first things my friends have said when I told them is, “How do you feel about that?”  In my head and my heart, I am so happy for both boys.  Kael nursed until just a few days before he was 4 1/2.  Asa nursed until about 6 weeks before his 3rd birthday.  Kael started off as a 4 week pre-term baby who struggled to latch.  He was a sleepy baby.  He had jaundice.  Then, somehow as he grew, day by day, we both became more comfortable and more confident in our relationship.  We both began to depend on on breastfeeding as a major part of our lives.  When I got pregnant with Asa, Kael was almost 12 months old.  He persevered and nursed through my pregnancy with Asa.  He nursed like an infant when Asa was born.  Asa was a high needs baby when he was born.  He had reflux and a dairy sensitivity.  He was also very anxious around people other than my husband and myself.  He spent a lot of time being held and in the Ergo.  At the time, it was hard.  Very hard and very draining.

Kael

Asa

Both boys weaned on their own, and they both chose the day to be done.  We had talked ahead of time about when they were ready to be done the celebration we would have, and it would be a very important day.  Kael chose his day at the end of April.  Never did I imagine that Asa would choose his only 4 weeks later!  When Kael was born, I had a goal of breastfeeding him for six weeks.  As you can see, it went a lot further than that.  By the time Kael was 3 months old, I knew that I wanted him to be able to nurse for as long as he wanted.  I am so happy to say that he did.

So, on the one hand, while I am so happy to have breastfed them until they were ready to be done, and I am proud of them for knowing when they no longer wanted to continue having “Mommy Milk,” I am also sad knowing that this is a chapter that is finished.  They will never be my little babies again.  Also, for the first time in 4 1/2 years, I am not a breastfeeding mom.  There was a time when I was pregnant with Asa that I thought Kael was weaning.  We’d had a busy day, and he didn’t nurse at all, not once, during the day.  I felt really sad about it.  I felt like I had let him down by getting pregnant with Asa and affecting my milk supply.  It was also around that time that I first read the essay Weaning Ella from Brain, Child Magazine.  It is a touching essay of a mother’s decision to stop nursing her daughter.  When I read that essay, I felt nothing but sadness.  I felt sad for myself, for Kael, and for the mother and daughter in the essay.

Even though I thought I was done nursing Kael at that point, he apparently didn’t realize that.  🙂  He picked up his nursing again before Asa was born and nursed like crazy after his brother’s birth.  When I think back to that time, I know there is a great difference between how I was feeling then and how I feel now.  Even though I am sad for the relationship to be over now, I don’t feel any sense of regret or guilt.  I feel like he was ready, and I was ready (sad, but ready).  I know that both of my boys are ready for their independence.  I know that they are ready to move away from me in their own ways.  I know this, but darn it, there’s just something I’m not ready for in all that!

Kael

Asa

So, while there are times when I am sad, and I’m not even really sure I can put my finger on the reason for the sadness, I am also excited.  I’m excited that we have Baby #3 on the way in October.  I’m excited that Kael and Asa are growing and changing every day.  Even though one relationship has come to an end, I know that I still have so much to learn about them and from them as they grow.

Asa and Kael at Lowe's Kids Day

Kael and Asa at the Pumpkin Patch