Saturday, April 30, 2011

Now @miniMum!

Minimalist Mum's new name is my gift to you, the readers.

@miniMum still means me, but it means you as well.   Because:
@miniMum, we all want a better world and a better life
@miniMum, we seek joy in ourselves and not in our stuff
@miniMum, we all are trying our best
So...@miniMum, what are your goals?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Learning Nutrition from T Colin Campbell and Men as Au Pairs

It's all too easy for the life of a SAHM to slip into a rut.  But it's time for some ch-ch-changes!
Nutrition course
I've been messing about with being vegan for about 15 years now and learning a lot about it, but I have absolutely nothing to show for it - except greatly improved health and a bunch of wonderful friends, and a great blog.

But that isn't enough anymore!  For my 40th birthday I asked DH if we could budget for me to take Dr T Colin Campbell's Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell.  It's flexible enough even for a SAHM to work into her schedule.  And I have now Signed Up.

I dream of becoming a health consultant and helping people learn how fantastic plant based eating is.  There are some great people working on this in New Zealand, but not enough.  Wish me luck and lots of learning!

Help from abroad!
(well, not from a broad, from a young man...)

Through our local vegetarian network (in fact, to the lovely Alice Leonard who runs the vegan specialty shop Angel Food and will ship anywhere!) came a polite request in admirable English from a father in Germany.  His son wants to work for a year as an au pair in New Zealand for a vegetarian or vegan family.  It occurred to me that we are a vegan family!  A few "wunderbars" later, and we may actually be doing this.

Largely due to efforts to reduce our stuff, we can make a room available for a handy helper. As well as the obvious lure of having an extra hand on the child-taming job and an on-call babysitter, other advantages are:
  • More male influence for the children
  • Exposure to another culture
  • Exposure to the German language (Alex's school does IB German!)
  • Tennis lessons (this young man is the next Roger Federer :-)
We're currently working on turning our office into his room.  We're still on the before pictures, but I'll keep you all posted.  See the hers/his office setup below.

OfficeMine.jpg        OfficeDH.jpg
Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tradition! Breastfeeding, fathers, and families

Sir Elton John's new baby Zachary is being fed mother's milk - expressed and sent via plane!

As a vegan parent, breastfeeding advocate, and environmentalist, I feel like Reb Tevye who wrestles with tradition against personal choices within his traditional family of wife and many daughters in Fiddler on the Roof:
Tevye Hodel.jpg
"On the other hand...but on the other hand...." and "You are are also right..."

Before reading the whole article, I thought, "Wonderful that the baby is getting breastmilk and not formula.  But it is flown overseas?  How wasteful!  Why not get milk from a local mum?"

On the other hand....
Then I read the article: it is Zachary's own mother, the surrogate, who is expressing the milk.  Still very wasteful of the earth's resources, but much better for Zachary.  And still very cool to get the breastfeeding exposure from articles like this.  Go Elton!

But on the other hand...
Even better for Zachary would be the surrogate mother being a wet nurse in person, but presumably that would make more of a connection between baby and mother than has been arranged.  What a shame little Zachary won't know his mother better.

You are right!
This is not an ideal nuclear family.  Sir Elton is 63 and his partner David is male. Many people have expressed their discomfort with a child having such parents.

Also clear is the discomfort at rich Sir Elton and his partner who can buy a child - they would probably be rejected as adoptive parents as more suitable couples would take priority.  Many of these suitable couples will never get the child they hope for.

You are also right!
Yes, the situation is totally wacko from any normal perspective.  But in the real wacko world (not that idealised normal one):
  • children get raised by grandparents
  • children get raised by only one parent
  • children get raised by unstable parents
  • children get raised by parents who can't afford them
  • children get fed artificial milk even when their mothers could breastfeed them
  • surrogacy already exists
  • the rich get to do pretty much anything they feel like with their money
In this context, Elton and his partner David hardly seem an automatic disaster scenario for a child.  And neither is this a dreadful way to use their essentially unlimited amount of money, compared to what other super-rich people have done.

What do you think?
Is there another hand?
This post is dedicated to all the lovely Dads I know, especially, of course, my own Dad as well as the amazing father to our own children.  L'Chaim!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter - who will buy this wonderful feeling!

easter-bunny jesus.jpg
It's Easter!  Or if it isn't in your time zone yet, it soon will be.

Just like Christmas, we again ponder the contrast between the religious origins of this holiday and the modern interpretations.  In countries all over the world, we
  • paint eggs with bright colours and hide them in the back lawn
  • buy and eat enormous amounts of chocolates and other sweets (to the detriment of our health and budget)
  • celebrate the end of the abstemious month of Lent
  • dress in our best clothes and worship quietly in churches for hours
  • watch our children frolic with adults dressed up in huge bunny suits

OK, so nobody says it has to make sense, and not everybody does all of these things.  But one ultimate truth is that holidays and materialism now go hand in hand, even when the holiday has solemn and meaningful origins.

From Jesus to the credit card
Materialism and Christianity do not share space easily.  But a recent study (involving the New Zealand university my husband attended) shows that Christians resist buying a product marketed in a materialistic way, but will buy the same product when its quality is highlighted instead.

Convince anyone that buying something isn't just acquiring yet another thing (materialism) but actually suits their preferred image of themselves, and you've made the sale.

More materialism
I claim no particular immunity. I am currently wondering what came over me as my children pester me for free access to the extraordinary supply of (vegan) sweets I loaded their Easter basket with.

So what was my preferred image?  That day, I was tired of being super frugal healthy mother who only buys from the markdown table of my local organic shop.  I wanted to be super fun mother who treats her kids just like everybody else for Easter and wow, also is a strong supporter of the organic shop and organic producers by voting with our dollars!

This quiz is a fine example of materialism seeking image dollars.  Being green is great.  See how green you already are...and find out how green you could be if you bought more green products!
  1. Are green products better than conventional products?  Often, yes.
  2. Is there some useful information in this quiz?  Yes. 
  3. Is buying green products the definitive action for being green? Of course - what you consume defines who you are as a person  :)
Reaching for the stars
Materialism so often seems way cool.  The superstardom of the Sex and the City women is only one in a long history of examples.

Almost nobody can afford a wardrobe full of designer clothes and an spotlessly furnished apartment in an exciting city where you eat out 3 times a day, walk around all day with perpetual $5 coffees until you head for dancing or drinking all night.

Even those who earn that much money usually spend most of their lives earning it and not enough enjoying it.

But it's still so fun to dream!

A challenge!
How would you make minimalism or simplicity as sexy as materialism?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dressing up for success

 Remember the drawers from the Great Book Dump?


Contained, just!
 In that same bedroom, we also have the Great Dress Up Clothes Dump.

While this hamper does allow for tidying away dress up clothes, access and retrieval is a serious problem.  Generally solved by dumping the entire hamper onto the floor.  Or sadly, ignoring the dress up clothes entirely.

But the solution is at hand.
The ex-book dump drawers - the small middle drawer holds accessories!

While I still dream about multiple hooks on the walls for easy selection of fun costumes, this is a giant leap forward.  And best of all, now you see it...

And now you don't!
Home improvement - easy and cheap.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Decluttering Books!

I love to report decluttering success and this is a biggie - one of my "after" shots (from before) is now a "before"!
Really, this is already pretty good.

But as mentioned in before post, books are a continual clutter problem for us.  The rest of our kids' books are piled in gleaned drawers under the bed.  And we have too many.  We are very lucky to get so many great books, and the great book dump is no longer working.  So, out they come...
The drawers, small shelf, plus books to be released!
And, thanks to my own personal book decluttering and DH's handiness with his toolbox, here is a bookshelf reclaimed for the kids:

Not too big, not too small...just right!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spreading the good word to annoying doorknockers


I finally got to put my brilliant plan into action!

Late last year, I stopped passively accepting unsolicited visitors wasting my time with their agendas.  I've agendas of my own to spare.  So I prepared myself with my own favourite causes' pamphlets near the door.
Just like the watched pot or toaster, unsolicited botherers stayed away in droves for months.  I can't complain about that.

Success at last!
I finally got my first pair of Jehovah's Witnesses inviting me to a special event.  While it was gratifying to watch them wander around our front garden until discovering we don't have a front door, it was even more fun to accept their pamphlet and hand them mine in return.

"For me?" said one, puzzled.  But they took them.  I enjoyed the irony, even if they didn't.

This was far more satisfying than keeping my hands to my sides and repeating "Not interested!" until they look ready to have the door closed on them.

And unlike me, they probably don't have anywhere quick to deposit the unwanted pamphlet.  They might even read it while awaiting their next victim.

But wait, there's more
I could do the same thing with unsolicited phone calls!  How long do you think even the most persistent would last if I started asking for donations from them to my favourite organisations?

Remember, it's all for a worthy cause...