Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The challenge is over

Buy Nothing Challenge - April 2008

The Buy Nothing Challenge is officially over.

I'm feeling particularly virtuous I have to say. Apart from the birthday banner splurge I have been extremely restrained.

While I have bought some new clothes for Munchkin, I have found New Zealand made, and usually WAHM made options I even found NZ Made socks at - and they are the best socks ever. Most of her winter wardrobe I bought second hand.

My biggest oops was a new duvet inner for Munchkin. After a particularly chilly night I decided we needed a new duvet right now - no messing around looking for second hand options when a good night sleep is at stake. I was delighted to find what appered to be a 'made in New Zealand' wool duvet inner. 100% Pure New Zealand Wool. New Zealand's Warmest Wool Duvet. And the name of a New Zealand company, with a New Zealand address.

Yet, when I opened the box, took the duvet out of the very eco-friendly calico bag, and spread it out - I found the tiny little label. Sure enough "Made in China". Disappointing, but not suprising.

This challenge has really made me think, hard, about what I buy.

I don't think I will be able to buy Made in China again without serious consideration. The human rights abuses, the coal generation, the political system, the miles things must travel, the workers rights or lack thereof ... its not something I feel I can support.

Hubby is feeling a bit over all this 'crunchy-ness' though and has begged me to stop trying any new ideas. On the weekend my friend confessed to buying 3 tops from TNT (a very cheap children's clothing company here) for her daughter. On the way home Hubby suggested that it would just be easier if I would do the same, and questioned whether it was really worth the effort - wouldn't there be more productive ways to spend my time. He may be right - but as those of you who read my earlier post know - it would break my tree-hugging heart.

As much as I hate to admit it, its really not that easy being green.

Crunchy Chicken's new challenge for May is a great one - an extreme eco-throwdown. It has got lots of ideas spinning around my head. But for now, I think I'll keep on with the no-made-in-China, second hand where possible, buy local, regime. I can't wait to read how everyone else goes with it though.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

You Make My Day

The lovely Dawn at Renaissance Mama sent me a 'You Make My Day' blog award. That's so sweet - thank you very much Dawn!

I want to pass this on to Gabes at SweetPKnits. Gabes is a wonderful knitter whose blog makes me seriously considering taking to the needles. She has patiently answered my knitting questions, and between us we have seriously improved what my Mother in Law is knitting!

Gabes has designed a free pattern for a little ear flap pilot cap. She has done this as a fundraising initiative for Child Cancer - so if you love the pattern, knit it up and send some money to your local Child Cancer foundation.

A good project and a good cause. It Makes My Day!

Whatever the weather, we will still have fun together

Munchkin’s favourite past-time is playing outside. We have a small section, with grass, trees, and some decking and stairs out front and back. She runs and runs, around the grass, up the stairs, along the deck, across the pavers. She picks up leaves, plays with stones, lies down on the grass and laughs hysterically. If its raining she sits down, and pokes out her tongue to drink the water. If its windy she puts her neck forward and runs, as if trying to kiss the breeze.

Personally, I’m more a fan of the great indoors. A duvet, hot water bottle and a good book are more my thing that a sleeping bag, tent, and a thermos. But I see how much pleasure Munchkin gets from being outside, in nature. So I put on my woolly hat and my boots and jump in to the leaves along side her.

Rain or shine, we get outdoors everyday. We go to parks and gardens and playgrounds. We feed ducks. We hug trees. We play in the leaves. We go to the beach and get covered in sand. We get wet, messy, cold, and down right dirty.

Sometimes it seems too miserable to go outside, too windy, too cold. I take inspiration from Rahima Baldwin Dancy who tells the story of a kindergarten in Germany where the children go outside everyday, whatever the weather. She says ‘there is no such thing as inappropriate weather, only inappropriate clothing’. That's become our motto around here too.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Welcome to Blogger

Welcome to Domestically Blissed at Blogspot.

I'm hoping Blogger will let me create a prettier, easier to read blog, and it means I can use librarything which I just love (see my list of books in the sidebar, it will change all the time!). Lots of people have also said they want to leave comments but couldn't before, so hopefully Blogger will make this easier too.

You'll find my personal favourite posts popping up here in the archives as I transfer them. Its been really interesting reading my old posts, its just a shame I can't transfer comments.

Please bear with me if thinks look a little odd from time to time while I 'settle in' to my new blog home.

Also, for those of you kind enough to have me in your 'favourites' pages, please change my link when you get a moment. Thank you!

Gypsy xx

Monday, April 21, 2008

Slow down … you move too fast

Over the last three weeks, our playgroup has had a few sessions with a woman from the Steiner federation. It has been an amazing experience, but I have struggled to write about it because it has affected me so personally.

As a mother who rushes around at high speed, speaks very quickly, spends hours on the internet, schedules activities in for every day, works part time, loves the company of others and gets extremely jittery at the thought of spending time alone … a lot of what this woman had to say was very hard to hear.

Of course, I am paraphrasing terribly, and I welcome comments from anyone that thinks I have gotten the wrong end of the Steiner stick!

We all know the way we speak to our children can be deeply harmful, but we often forget that it can be extremely helpful, and healing. Young children absorb everything they experience into their very being. In that sense, the way we speak to them actually forms who they are.

By being fully present when we speak, by choosing our words consciously, by speaking slowly, calmly, peacefully we help our children develop fully. Beautiful words will have a very positive affect, just as ugly words will harm our children.

Filling our homes with artificial voices – the television, the radio, recorded music – confuses the child and is no substitute for the living voice. It is only the living voice that can be the powerfully positive, healing force that we desire. Children need to hear their mother and father speaking to them, singing to them, telling them stories..

Children are very sensitive to sense impressions and even a trip to the supermarket, with its bright lights, colours and noises, will be incredibly overwhelming. It is important to give our children a rich home-life – and that means spending a lot of time at home, just pottering about quietly doing home-making activities. Children won’t get bored doing this – they will love imitating their mother, playing with a few simple toys, running around the garden. It is the mothers that get bored. Many mothers are ‘too much in the mind’ with a running commentary going through our heads, thinking about the next thing we need to do, giving off a busy, nervous energy.

She commented that when mothers live ‘in their heads’ and rush their children around over-filling them with sense impressions, the children too become manic, over-wraught, excitable. Homes are filled with so many toys – these can be pared down to just a very very few quality toys that the child can love.

What she said has had a big impact on me. Initially - I wanted to reject everything she was saying. After all, we don’t watch TV, hardly go to the mall, our activities usually take place outdoors and close to nature. We might be busy, but I really thought that Munchkin likes going out, being busy as much as I do – and I would go crazy spending a day at home. I thought of women of my mothers generation, who suffered from terrible loneliness without the social support networks we have today.

But, as I thought about it, the truth of these teachings really hit me. Of course, adopting these teachings doesn’t mean we stop seeing other people. Or that we stop going out. But spending more time at home, not doing anything in particular has made a big difference. Munchkin thrives on this. And surprisingly, I’m really enjoying it too.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fair Enough

On National Radio this week I heard an interview about human trafficking and the growth in human slavery across the world. Disturbing, appalling, sobering stuff. It has stuck with me all week and I felt I had to make some comment on it.

So many everyday products may well have been produced with some elements of slave labour. Without Fair Trade certification, any product from the developing world is suspect – even our cell phones and lap tops.

However, the interviewee specifically mentioned that the tea, coffee, chocolate, and to some extent sugar industries are rife with human slavery. One of the most important things we can do is buy fair trade brands like Scarborough Fair and Trade Aid.

We are all very price driven, and its certainly no different here at Domestically Blissed where I talk regularly about our ‘budget of doom’. But if saving a few cents means that your coffee could be made by slave labour, then we are hardly any better than the human traffickers themselves.

To learn more about Fair Trade visit the international fair trade labeling organisation .You can also listen to the interview that I heard by following this link and selecting the interview marked “World’s Fasted Growing Crime”

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Let it wait - Steiner and delayed academics

My copy of You Are Your Child's First Teacher is due back at the library on Monday, so I’ve been busily re-reading it. As soon as a second hand copy comes up I’ll be jumping to buy it – it is such a wonderful resource. One of my favourite chapters is on cognitive development and early childhood education.

One of the things people often struggle with about Waldorf schools is the delayed academics, in particular not teaching reading until the age of seven. As Baldwin-Darcy says ‘there is tremendous pressure in our society to teach reading, writing and math to children at an increasingly early age’.

Parents I know delight when their three year olds love books and start to recognize words. Understandably, we are all so proud of our children, we want them to achieve. But what are they achieving?

“Little children can copy at a rote level, but they’re probably not using the (neurological) circuits which will connect with meaning. Let it wait. Children of this age should not be sitting at desks, doing academic tasks. Get their busy brains out doing and learning, not practicing lower level skills” Jane Healy – Your Child’s Growing Mind

In fact, there is no evidence that early academics has any long term benefits at all – despite not being taught to read before the age of seven, by age nine Waldorf /Steiner educated kids are achieving just as well academically.
Baldwin-Darcy describes a typical Steiner kindergarten (for 3-6 year olds). The days activities include story time, snack time, arts and crafts, a movement and singing circle, and lots of free play, usually outside. Rather than copying letters and struggling with maths, these five and six year olds are crafting animals out of beeswax, making bread, digging in the sandpit, singing songs, running, exploring, having fun. Of course they are learning, but the three ‘r’s are not the focus here.

Reading this made me think of what delayed academics might have meant for some people I know who hated school. Right from day one, they struggled with reading, hated sitting still. Right from day one, they were labeled as ‘struggling’. Meetings were held with their parents. Extra tuition was sought. By the time they were seven, about the age that Steiner kids are just starting more structured lessons, these children were convinced they were dumb.
One man I spoke to said ‘class-room – dumb. after school tuition – dumber. Reading recovery programme – dumbest’.

I loved school. I loved writing, I loved reading, and I shied away from anything artistic or physical. I was not the ideal Steiner child. I wonder if a Steiner/Waldorf school would have made me a more balanced person – rather than being labeled as an ‘academic’ sort of child at the tender age of 4. Perhaps more physical play, more singing, more painting and crafting would simply have been more fun, more healthy than reading chapter books at 6. I don’t know.

So why do we push our children so hard? Is it from pride – that we want our little Munchkins to prove how clever they are? It is from fear – that if they don’t start early they will never catch up? Is it because we think that’s what good parents do – after all every mainstream parenting magazine has ads from Leapfrog and Fisher Price encouraging us to buy their ‘educational’ toys. I suspect it’s a little bit of all of these things – a symptom of our middle class neurosis