The experiment begins!…

So, I first heard about elimination communication (EC) from a friend’s mom who was visiting Istanbul earlier this year. She’s a home-birth midwife and this was something she mentioned. I remember thinking the idea of little babies being ‘potty trained’ and pooping and peeing in little containers sounded a bit mad, and that was that. However, later, while looking into cloth diapering and related things, I came across the idea of EC (or natural infant hygiene or whatever else you might call it) again, and became rather intrigued. I obviously liked the idea of having fewer diapers to change, and then on the environmental side of things, fewer diapers used means fewer diapers to wash, less detergent and cleaner, etc., so it’s more environmentally friendly. And also, it’s about learning to communicate better with your baby, reading his signals for when he needs to go to the bathroom and helping him to stay aware of his body functions rather than getting him used to pooping and peeing on himself and then trying to retrain him when he’s a toddler. So, I ordered this book and decided I wanted to give it a try.

The Diaper-Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative

Well, I started out pretty much right away with cueing Liam when I knew he was pooping or peeing, which is the first step, but when he was so small, I felt too awkward holding him over something to go to the bathroom in. He just felt to floppy and fragile, so I didn’t really go beyond that. I tried having diaper-free time with him on a water-proof mat on the floor, but wasn’t really getting any clear signals about when he needed to go. I felt a bit intimidated by the whole thing and also just a bit afraid that if I tried it he’d just make a bit mess everywhere. So, I just stuck with a bit of cueing, and left it at that.

Then a couple of days ago, I was looking at the book again and talking to Richie about us giving EC a proper go. Over the past couple of weeks Liam has become so much easier to handle, not such a fragile little newborn, and he’s also a bit more communicative. Also, last week there were a number of occasions where, when I changed his diaper and let him air out a bit on the changing table before putting a new nappy on, it’ would be obvious he needed to pee again, so I was just sort of waiting for him to do it, and sometimes trying to cover him with the old diaper to avoid wetting and having to change another brand new one. A good few times, as soon as I’d get the clean one on, he’d pee, so I figured, I can tell when he needs to go in these situations, so rather than waiting for him to go in a diaper I might as well hold him over something and see what happens.

So, on Monday, after talking about it, suddenly I just switched gears and gave it a shot. On the first day, I caught 3 pees. Then the next morning, after his first feeding, I caught a pee and a big poop. Richie came over to help me with the logistics of clean-up while I was holding Liam, and little Liam just gave a big smile which was great! Yesterday we caught a good few pees and poops, especially right after he fed or during changing time before putting on a clean diaper. Again, last night and this morning, we’ve caught a few and Liam actually seems to like it. Sometimes he fusses and gets really fidgety during feeding, and a couple of times I’ve tried taking off his diaper and holding him over his little potty-basin, and he calms down right away. Then after a minute or so, he’s gone to the toilet and seemed happy as can be.

I’ve been quite excited about how things have gone so far and it’s kind of addictive! Catching a few makes me want to catch more! And we’ve already avoided quite a few messy diaper changes and that’s also fewer diapers to wash, so I’m happy about that! Anyway, we’ll see how things go and try to do a bit each day. It sounds like the key to the whole thing is to not take things too seriously or expect too much. So, I’ll just enjoy helping Liam when I can and make it a positive and pleasant experience for all of us.

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Tiny houses…

I just watched this short bit of a documentary on ‘tiny houses‘. I’ve read about a few different people and their tiny homes through some blogs I frequently enjoy, and I’m totally taken by the idea. I don’t necessarily think that everyone can or should live out in the wilderness in a 100 square foot house living off the grid, but the concept definitely makes me think about sustainable living, what’s really necessary in life to be comfortable and happy, and even just living choices!

As an urban dweller for many years now, I actually find it hard to fathom owning a real house with a garden and all the usual trappings, as well as needing a car, having to drive everywhere, etc. I suppose our current apartment is a rather small home, when compared to a normal house, or at least the type of house I’m used to. However, I absolutely love this apartment (except in the winter when it’s cold and I do want to build a fire-pit in the middle of the sitting room-but that’s a separate issue), and it’s convenient location within walking distance of work and all the shops we need on a daily/weekly basis . I know it’s all about what you’re used to, but this place feels quite spacious to me, although I can’t tell you how many square feet it actually is.

Thinking about the prospect of owning a house at some point in the future, one thing that I do want is the choice to buy something small, or at least smallish. It seems that houses just keep getting bigger and bigger, and of course, more expensive, but this really isn’t cool especially if you want to live in something a bit more snug. Maybe I won’t cram a family into 100 or 200 square feet, but still, just a few cosy rooms would really do the trick. Having less space also makes it easier to have less stuff, which is also a good thing in my opinion. Another thing I like about living in smaller spaces is that it means everyone in the house is ‘forced’ to spend more time together! There just aren’t as many places to hide! Or, on the other hand, as I even find in this apartment, being in a small space means you get out and about in the world more. When I find the apartment too small or too boring, it means I go out to a cafe or the park or wander around the neighbourhood a bit, people watching, enjoying the fresh air and the liveliness of everything happening all around. It’s an entertaining world out there and it feels good to get out and be a part of it, even if I’m mostly just a spectator.

Anyway, seeing examples of people building their own tiny houses is a great reminder that it’s possible to go against the trend of bigger=better. I read about one tiny house that a couple were building in the US and I think the estimated cost was around $35,000 for their own custom-built home! That tiny house also gets a pretty tiny mortgage, which is another huge perk! Fewer years of life working to pay off your house sounds good to me.

Well, here’s to tiny houses!

Tiny House Tour: Daniel Aragon’s “Ico” from TINY on Vimeo.

Population, reproduction and the environment: a thoughtful discussion…

This is the first time I’ve ever seen/read/heard such a peaceful, thoughtful and nuanced discussion of the important issues of the environmental impact of human population and the ethics of having children in relation to this impact. Every other time I’ve read an article or heard people discussing it, it seems that most people take extreme views, one way or another, and aren’t actually interested in thinking about the very complicated and varied opinions involved in this issue. Most people seem to have their minds made up and aren’t interested in changing their thinking at all, no matter what anyone else has to say. It was SO refreshing and extremely thought provoking reading this blog post, and for the FIRST TIME EVER, actually reading the comments people made without becoming infuriated by people’s close-minded or judgemental statements.

I think this is a discussion that every one of us should be involved in, and preferably, with a compassionate and open mind. There is no doubt that the environment is effected in huge ways by human activity, consumption and waste production, etc. and I question the sanity of anyone who denies this fact. I am not completely convinced that population is the number-one problem, but I do think that the way we humans consume the earth’s finite resources and our failure to realize the actual impact of our consumption on the planet are having and will continue to have devastating consequences for all of us living now, as well as future generations.

One reason I don’t feel quite as concerned about population growth as the top environmental concern, is that as countries become more developed, with better education and greater wealth, etc., population growth stabilizes or birth rates actually fall. This has happened in the West (as you can pretty much see demonstrated by any Western European country), and is happening as countries around the world become more developed and affluent. I think consumption is a far greater worry, because as countries become richer, they follow the lead of the West and consume more, create more waste and pollution, and so much of cultural and societal identity becomes caught up in this dynamic. The number of people might not be the top problem, but our ravenous devouring of energy, natural resources and products is definitely a HUGE problem.

Anyway, I’m no expert on these issues, but I think they’re definitely worth considering. I am obviously choosing to have a child, and am very happy and excited about it. However, I think it is important to try to be as responsible as possible when choosing to have children, taking into account the potential environmental costs involved. I am starting to think about how to be as ‘green’ as possible in all of this; breastfeeding, using cloth diapers, hopefully avoiding the excess of plastic toys and all that. Plus, I really hope to continue simplifying my own life, living more environmentally consciously and by example teach my future child to be a responsible person who cares about all life on this planet. Having said all that, I equally respect people who have decided not to have children, for environmental or other reasons. I certainly appreciate hearing people’s different opinions on the issue because it makes me think more and be more deliberate in my own actions and lifestyle choices.

So, I will be researching ways to give Baby the greenest babyhood we can and see what I come up with. As with everything, it’s all about taking one step at a time, and gradually making these important changes, because every little bit does count. And I definitely suggest checking out this post by Beth Terry over at My Plastic-free Life- I’m An Environmentalist and I’m Not Having Kids.

Longing for an open road…

‘Living simply isn’t necessarily that it’s simple; it’s that you strive for understanding what sacred is and what values are.’

Maybe it’s because when I was a kid and my dad was in the Navy, we moved a lot and this involved packing ourselves (and multiple cats, dogs and rabbits) into a station wagon and driving hundreds of miles. Or maybe it’s because I’m a wandering gypsy at heart. Or because I love the freedom of travel and the elusive, tempting nature of unknown destinations, the promise of adventure offered by horizons. Whatever the reason, I love road trips, the idea of road trips, stories about road trips and films about road trips.

I find there’s something so pure and amazing about the idea of throwing a few possessions into a car, loading up a few snacks and some great tapes or CDs, and hitting the road. Watch the fields flash past, listen to the wind roaring through those open windows, and just feel foot loose and fancy free for even just a few hours. Longer if possible. Or maybe forever! Amazing.

Anyway, I’ve gotten all itchy-footed watching this trailer for the documentary 23 Feet, about a community of people who have given up the ‘creature comforts’ of modern society to live in vans and buses, pursuing their life passions and love of nature. This is simple living done big style! I’m not sure when the film will be released or how I’ll get my mits on it, but I am dying for more! Check it out.

Here’s a cool article about the project too: 23 Feet: only the Necessities- Living Fully by Living Simply

But will it make you happy?

First of all, I have to thank my friend Laura for emailing me the link to this great article from NYTimes.com. I think it really gets to the heart of why people are choosing to simplify their lifestyles and it shares some interesting information on how American’s consumer habits are changing for the better (at least in my opinion).

I always find it really encouraging to read other people’s success stories when it comes to simple living. It reminds me that these lifestyle changes are sustainable, rewarding and practical. Ordinary people can and are doing living this way!

I also recommend checking out Tammy Strobel’s blog about her adventures in simple living, RowdyKittens (she was a focal point for the NYTimes article). I’ve already found a recipe for home-made baking soda shampoo which I’m definitely going to try. Practically free, better for you and the environment, no plastic bottles to throw away, and it’s meant to leave your hair super clean and fresh!

I know many of you who read this are doing various things in the realm of simple living, and I’d love to hear what you’re up to. It’s so encouraging to read other people’s success stories, no matter how small or super fantastic! Please leave a comment and share your ideas for living a simple and happy life!

Yippee for Meatless Mondays!…

I’ve heard of so many people trying out this Meatless Monday thing and I think it’s a great idea. Here’s why:

1. It’s just ONE day (three meals) of meatlessness per week. Just a small change from whatever your normal diet might be.

2. Going meatless for one day saves money.

3. Having a little less meat in your diet is healthier for you. Cut out some saturated fats, cholesterol, (depending on what country you live in- i.e. the USA or weather or not you eat organic meat) cut out strange hormones and anti-biotics and not-so-good-for-you stuff in meat. Your body will be happier!

4. It’s better for the environment. Raising grain to feed animals to eat uses TONS of water. Tons. It’s crazy. It’s a terribly inefficient and wasteful process.

Richie and I have mostly cut meat out of our diets, both red meats and poultry. I must confess that we do eat fish and we have meat sometimes, so I can make no claims for being a vegetarian or anything. But having drastically reduced my meat consumption, I definitely feel healthier. I don’t think eating meat is the worst thing in the world, and I realize that being vegetarian isn’t for everyone. But Meatless Mondays are something everyone can do to improve their health and the health of their family, to save a bit of money and to do something positive for the environment.

Read more about the Meatless Mondays campaign, some shocking information about America’s growing meat consumption and the inefficiency of meat production, and find links to some tasty non-meat recipes here at WeLiveSimply.

If you decide to give Meatless Mondays a try, I’d love to hear about your experiences, thoughts, and recipes you’ve tried. Please share! On upcoming Mondays I’ll post some of my favourite non-meat recipes too!

Positive lifestyle choices…

Environmental responsibility, simple living, thrift, non-consumerism: I’ve been hearing and reading and thinking about these ideas more and more throughout the course of this year. I’ve been really inspired to make some lifestyle changes in relation to these things, and I’m happy to say that I know other people who are doing the same.

I think people are making these lifestyle changes for a variety of reasons; the current financial situation which has made it necessary for people to re-evaluate their spending and consumption habits; people are choosing to improve their quality of life by working less and living in a simpler way materially; many people are realizing the benefits and the necessity of living in a way that is less harmful to the environment, etc. I’m sure that there are tons of different reasons behind the changes, but its interesting to see people coming from many different starting points and motivations but coming to similar conclusions.

My cousin Anne, for example, is doing some pretty great stuff with her family. She’s a young stay-at-home-mom with three little kids. Her and her husband have made a deliberate choice to allow Anne to stay home to raise their children which I think is pretty cool. Anne is into re-purposing (which is basically re-using what you already have in new ways) and is a rather thrifty lady. She’s recently switched from disposable diapers to reusable cloth diapers for her babies. I think she lives in a very simple way, and is ticking lots of boxes when it comes to non-consumerist lifestyle, some environmentally-friendly choices (i.e. no more disposable diapers!), and I think its cool.

Whatever the reason for people adopting these lifestyle changes, be it primarily financial, environmental, or for the freedom of simple living, I really hope they’ll spread the word and that more and more people will jump on the bandwagon! It’s all about the little incremental changes that people make in their lives. You don’t have to make a 100% change in the way you live. Just think of one or two small things you could do to be nicer to the planet or simplify your life and work on those. And tell other people about your successes and experiments! I always find it super encouraging to hear about other people’s experiences and it helps me stay committed to what I think is important.

I’d love to hear about your adventures in non-consumerism, environmentally-friendly living, and simplicity! Leave a comment and share what you’re up to!