Thursday, May 31, 2012

Freedom - in living colour

I don't always get a gasp of astonishment from my husband when he gets home. (Maybe I could, but that would be promising more than I can deliver.)  But I did yesterday.

I just covered the freedom of giving.  With no more specific goal in mind than decluttering, I'm proud to report transforming another space from a Before to an After.  More Before Pictures...

Original guest bedroom, 2010
We got rid of a table from my student days, emptied junk off a great office desk and moved it in.  The bookshelves went behind the couch - but we could still reach them, sort of.

Reshuffled guest bedroom
Slowly and surely, items found better homes. The office desk went into our new office.  I released books and the little bookshelf holds kids' books in the kids' room.  A chair is now my reading sanctuary in our bedroom, and another small shelf is holding up a family dollhouse.

I looked over (from my standing desk) one day and saw what could happen if I cleaned up some stray small clutter.

And now for the happy ending...
 Not only can we reach our books again, we can sit down and read them too.

"Why didn't we do this before?" asked DH. Honey, now you know.

And I post these photo histories to show you that if I can do this with the stuff we had, anyone can.

Where are your histories waiting to happen?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Giving your way to freedom

Worth selling?
In my decluttering journey, I've sold many nice things.  Recently.....

Chasing value

Around each thing that owns me, I still see a double golden halo:
  1. the money I spent on it
  2. the money I could get for it
1. Illusion

The money I spent on it is gone. The time to save that money was when I decided to buy the thing - a good lesson for next time.

The thing is no longer my money; it is a thing of some functional worth to me.

Or it is not.

2. Gamble

The money I could get for it seems irresistible. Some of that GONE money could come back!

I'm gambling that the effort of selling will return enough money to be worthwhile.  Of course, from any cash I get, I must subtract all the time it takes to run an amateur secondhand shop. Time to:
  • photograph
  • advertise
  • contact a buyer
  • maybe wrap a package, address it, and take it to the post office.
An optimistic figure? 1 hour. How low must I value my time to leave any lovely money in my hand?

And some things didn't sell, so after all the effort, I simply gave them away. Or worse, left them in my house in the hope I could sell them later.

Winning the gamble

Some things can be worth selling. But remember the main benefit is a clearer space, a clearer mind, and a clearer life. So...
  1. Be realistic about the money you'll get back
  2. Value your time fairly
You'll gradually get a feel for your true profit margin, and when to just let go.
Most of what I showed you earlier in my sold portfolio?  Should have just let 'em go.

Giving away is not throwing away.

Yes, another person might gain from your stuff.  Value that more than the stuff and find freedom.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Secondhand Smarts - next nursing nightgowns

It's time for another chapter in the continuing story of my triumphs in secondhand shopping...

Out with the old...

These have been my winter nightgowns for 6 years. 

Back then, I was thrilled to find them in the (retail) shop.  I'd wondered if my only choices for nightwear I could breastfeed in were floral flannel or spendy specialist gear.

I give them full marks for accessibility and funky colour. Those numbers even sparkle!

But buttons have been pulled away by twiddly and ever-stronger little fingers, holes are gaping wider, and the fabric is so stretched that I hardly need to unbutton anymore - a bit chilly on the chest in wintertime! 

They've been exposed to every bodily product you can name. They're good only for rags...

Hmmm.  Maybe time for a family cloth experiment?!?!

In with the new...

Serendipity sent me to search in a different local charity shop than my usual. 

There, neatly hanging on the rack, were these three cutie-patooties in perfect condition...

My daughter's favourite is the one with the cats. (I predicted that, even though there was a pink one.)

DH thinks they look like the Sushi Cats; DS is not convinced. 

Total price: $12

I think the old nightgowns that I bought retail cost me $15 each.  And seemed cheap compared to other retail choices.

Why shop anywhere else?

Monday, May 21, 2012

6 Years of Natural Weaning in 5 Steps

Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning - Your Stories
This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.

 I breastfed our son, on cue, day and night, from the day after his birth.  (You can read about the unpleasantly exciting birth in my previous Carnival post.
From the start, I stopped everything and responded to his every cue for milk. At one stage, I figured out that he'd figured out that I stopped everything and responded to his every cue for milk. 
When he started signing for milk when he didn't want milk but just wanted me to stop everything, I had to laugh and learn to respond to that a bit differently.
With our son, I learned at La Leche League that breastfeeding is far and away, bar none, no contest, baby, the best and easiest way to ease a growing child's journey through our rough, tough world.

  1. Take one sad or mad child
  2. Fold closely in mother's arms
  3. Apply gently to breast
  4. Hold until fully done 
  5. Repeat as desired
  • A happier, calmer, more grownup child
Magic like that is worth holding onto.

Weaning process - Step 1: Nature's weaning

So it was all "milk and who cares about honey because hey, there's milk" for the first two years of our son's life.  My pregnancy with our daughter was his first real experience of weaning - he was a few months past two when he noticed:
  1. There was less milk
  2. It tasted funny
  3. Mummy said, "Ouch, time to stop!"
Reportedly, many children fully wean during a pregnancy, but our son simply adapted to all the changes.  Long breastfeeding sessions were too painful for me, but two-year-olds don't have a great need to breastfeed for long either.  He accepted the limitations, learned some manners, and we both just kept on bonding.

Weaning process - Step 2: Night weaning

I knew that I would be too tired with one newborn to also respond to our son at night.  Our son did not like sleeping by himself in a separate room, and he was a frequent waker.  (I moved him from my room due to my hyperalertness from PTSD, and I still can't help wishing it could have been different.)

We had already reached the stage where the breastfeeding response at night was very brief. Now we began Daddy Duty - when our son awoke lonely at night, he was comforted to sleep again by Daddy instead of me.

While our son did not embrace the change with joy, at the age of two he was able to accept it - the level of distress was manageable between him and Daddy.

Weaning process - Step 3: Bedtime

I knew there could be times when the new baby would need me at bedtime.  While our son could go back to sleep during the night with Daddy, I still always breastfed him to sleep at bedtime. I needed to go off duty.

This was probably the roughest toughest weaning we did.  One evening, I breastfed him (now 2y 9m) and then went to visit my sister's house - and only came back when Daddy told me he was now asleep.  It was pretty late.

But I knew he had Daddy with him.  And I knew he was not 3 months old, or 6 months old, but not far off three years old, with years of my love and strength behind him, the communication skills to express his emotions, and the knowledge of other means of comfort.

This isn't to say I never responded to our son at night or fed him to sleep again because of his new sister. But now he and I both knew he could do this without me.

Weaning process - Step 4: New sister

I was again in the hospital for an emergency surgical birth of our second child, so our son had to do without me for a few days. It was brilliant having him visit in those early days of milk engorgement - a newborn hardly makes a dent but a 3 year old?  Bring it on!

Word of warning
It may be that our son broke my waters early because I did not insist that the bouncy boy be super careful with my pregnant body during morning feeding sessions. Undercooked babies are often extra hard work, and if there's any chance that this warning could help someone else, it will be worth it.
He generally understood the new rule of Baby Goes First: he still got to breastfeed but the baby needed milk more as that was her only food.

Sometimes I actually tandem fed - both at once - but it was physically uncomfortable to hold those positions.  And usually at least one of them was wiggly enough to make me nervous about going two directions at once. So normally, he just learned to wait his turn.

Weaning process - Step 5: Life

Age 3, age 4, age 5, still awaiting his short turn at the breast in the morning. Sometimes patiently. Often he would get a short nighttime feed on one side before I took his sister for the long feed to sleep. 

But there were sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa's or with school friends. He didn't miss me when I wasn't there.

And then he would get up and be more interested in a joke book than whether he got his turn.

And not long after he turned 6, he often complained he couldn't get very much.  With his sister (3) feeding only a few times a day now, I'm sure the leftovers were pretty low.  I told him that it was because he didn't need it very much anymore. I mentioned how lucky he was, and that probably none of his friends had gotten milk for this long.

Soon after that, I asked him if he was OK with not having milk anymore.  No problem.

Was it hard for me to stop after all these years? Well, he was getting pretty big and developing a real big kid attitude.  It was always very quick and even starting to feel not quite right anymore. It really was time.

He has a couple of times wistfully said he wishes he could still have milk. He still loves to get lap time, whenever we can and especially when his sister is getting her short feeds.


Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):

(This list will be live amind updated by afternoon May 21 with all the carnival links.)
  • Is This Weaning?: A Tandem Nursing Update — Sheila at A Living Family bares all her tandem nursing hopes and fears during what feels like the beginning of the end for her toddler nursing relationship.
  • Memories of Weaning: Unique and Gentle — Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares her weaning experiences with her two sons, each one unique in how it happened and yet equally gentle in its approach.
  • Weaning Aversion'Gentle Mama Moon shares her experience of nursing and unplanned weaning due to pregnancy-induced 'feeding aversion'.
  • Three Months Post-Mup: An Evolution of Thoughts On Weaning — cd at FidgetFace describes a brief look at her planned (but accelerated) weaning, as well as one mamma's evolution on weaning (and extended nursing)
  • Weaning my Tandem Nursed Toddler — After tandem nursing for a year, Melissa at Permission to Live felt like weaning her older child would be impossible, but now she shares how gentle weaning worked for her 2 1/2 year old.
  • Every Journey Begins with One Step — As Hannabert begins the weaning process, Hannah at Hannah and Horn's super power is diminishing.
  • Reflections on Weaning - Love Changes Form — Amy from Presence Parenting (guest posting at Dulce de Leche) shares her experience and approach of embracing weaning as a continual process in parenting, not just breastfeeding.
  • Weaning Gently: Three Special Ideas for SuccessMudpieMama shares three ideas that help make weaning a gentle and special journey.
  • Guest Post: Carnival of Weaning — Emily shares her first weaning experience and her hopes for her second nursling in a guest post on Farmer's Daughter.
  • 12 Tips for Gentle Weaning — Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting describes the process of gentle weaning and gives specific tips to make weaning an organic, joyful ripening.
  • Quiz: Should You Wean for Fertility Treatments? — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries talks about the key issues in the difficult decision to wean for infertility treatments.
  • I thought about weaning... — Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World shares her story of how she thought about weaning several times, yet it still happened on its own timeline.
  • Celebrating Weaning — Amy at Anktangle reflects on her thoughts and feelings about weaning, and she shares a quick tutorial for one of the ways she celebrated this transition with her son: through a story book with photographs!
  • Naturally Weaning Twins — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses the gradual path to weaning she has taken with her preschool-aged twins.
  • Gentle Weaning Means Knowing When to Stop — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes about knowing when your child is not ready to wean and taking their feelings into account in the process.
  • Weaning, UnWeaning, and ReWeaning — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy discovers non-mutal weaning doesn't have to be the end. You can have a do-over.
  • Prelude to weaning — Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about a tough tandem nursing period and what path she would like to encourage her older nursling to take.
  • Demands of a Nursing Kind — Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares her conflicted feelings about nursing limits and explores different ways to achieve comfort, peace, and bodily integrity as a nursing mother.
  • Breastfeeding: If there's one thing I know for sure... — Wendy at ABCs and Garden Peas explores the question: How do you know when it's time to wean?
  • Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Two, Three? — Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses going from 3 nurslings down to 1 and what might happen when her twins arrive.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Vegan Minecraft cake - mine own crafting


Our son's Minecraft birthday cake was the sincerest form of flattery - idea stolen from a recent Facebook post from a mother friend.

Usually, my talented sister artistically bakes and decorates all our vegan birthday creations, but this time life got in the way. But she let me use all her gear, for which much thanks.


I searched for a model - one problem is that Minecraft itself has a cake object (mines, cakes, I'm sure you see the link at least as well as I do), and that cubical cake was the most common example.  But I wanted to make a piece of the Minecraft block world for my little Minecraft addict.

Sadly, most of the pictures of Minecraft world cakes were messy-looking and not very inspiring. I naturally feared that I was about to add another such example to the Minecraft mixup, but I pressed on.

My son picked the right birthday to love Minecraft - I imagined I could design a 7 into the blocks of the cake. I wouldn't have aimed for any other digit. Except 1, and even in our house, the 1-year-olds aren't hooked on computer games.


I designed the blocks, discussed my plan in a special session with another friend (recently graduated from a short decorating course), then redesigned the blocks.

You could use this basic stepped design for any year. Grass on the ground, 1 level of rock blocks, and one level of grass blocks. My aim was for big blocks and a simple structure. 

And the bit I cut out from the first layer could be the second layer! What could be simpler?


I made a chocolate cake, because:
  • Chocolate is the only cake worth making
  • Chocolate was the dirt for the grass blocks.
And of course, I used the Vegan 101 Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe (good for cake or cupcakes).

I used a professional "snow creme" icing product, and thinned and tinted it (pale gray and grass-green). I knew that you get a better look from pre-formed layered icings, but I wanted it to taste good.

For this big a cake, I used my own medium sized roasting pan (the only one left in my decluttered kitchen because our oven is so petite).

I baked a full day in advance of the party, since I knew that for cake sculpture, cool cake (or even cold cake) is a must.  I mixed up loads of chocolate batter and several cups of icing (just in case.

Luckily, each step went pretty well to plan.

Lesson #1 - lots of batter gangs up on you and escapes.

Whew, successfully out of the pan in one piece!


Constructing and Decorating

I didn't take any pictures of these stages, because my hands were covered in icing the whole time.  And because I was too busy thinking "Oh sh*t!" and "this looks awful."

Moving the cutout bottom layer onto the presentation platter was a two-person job and was still nerve-wracking.  
Lesson #2: The cutout was geometrically simple, but because of the 7, it was structurally very weak (one long skinny arm of cake hangs on by just one cake square). But it survived.
I iced the whole rock level first.
Lesson #3: in shaped cakes, allow for the thick layer of icing that will wreck the measurements of your precision design.
Then I placed the second cake level (the cutout) on top. Scattering chocolate crumbs all over the icing on the first level. I iced the second level and the ground level with green, plus more green from a grass nozzle.
The rest was damage control, adding more and more icing to the rock layer until it looked respectable.
Lesson #4: large spaces of plain pale icing are like white clothes; every spot shows.
The steadier hand got the detail work done.
I had not planned the green grass line around the base of the rock layer, but it was crucial.  As well as completing the illusion of the ground grass level beneath the rock, it also drew the eye to the deep colour and away from the many imperfections in the pale rock level. Rock's meant to be a lumpy and spotty, right?
Lessons Learned

While I got compliments on the cake, and it was delicious, I was totally stressed during the process about how many things had to go right for it to work.

I'm definitely hoping big sis is back on the job next year! Or I might just have to ask Sue Shopland to make me one of her new vegan cake plaques to make my homemade cake look super professional.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mom Enough - Breastfeeding and SEX!

Go Jamie!  You're well on your way...
That Time cover mother is just asking for it.

In fact, all mothers who breastfeed a child old enough to stand up and ask for it are just asking for it too - asking for someone to say that we must have creepy weird fetishy sexual feelings we're satisfying by letting our innocent child suck on our breasts.
For the record, just before he weaned, my son wouldn't even have needed the chair.
So tell me, how do you figure this goes?  Was I always sexually attracted to my child?  From day 1 as a 1.7kg newborn?  Is that why I was so keen to breastfeed? Yeah, baby!  What other reason could there be?

Or did my hots grow with my child? Perhaps I secretly fancied him at his first birthday. He was just about as cute as they come... Oops, the American Academy of Pediatrics approves feeding until a year or longer. Hmmm, they say "medical and neurodevelopmental advantages" - so bang goes that fetish theory so far.

He was a regular sweet talker by the age of 2 - was that when he became my favourite sex toy?  But wait, the WHO says I can feed him until 2 or longer - "it helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment..."  What, nothing about sexual satisfaction?  Maybe I wasn't creepy mummy yet then either.

Maybe I started lusting after him at age 3, when Grandma took him for his first grownup haircut.  He really looked so much like a BIG BOY then, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more. Maybe that's why I just couldn't let him go and give up breastfeeding? Of course, some anthropologist seems to think "it's normal for our species."

Must have been that 4-year-old testosterone surge that made him physically irresistible.  Maybe I looked at my ever-keen but underserviced husband and thought "Sorry, honey, I know you've been waiting your turn and you thought you were young enough for me.  But there's new boy in town - and it's your son!" And got down and dirty and kept on breastfeeding. Of course, the world average weaning age may or may not be 4 years old.  Or older.  Or younger.

I know, I know, it was at 5. We all know how sexy a school uniform is - and I even took a picture of my new schoolboy in his so I could look at him when he wasn't even there. Just look at those skinny white legs and knobby knees in those navy shorts and socks. Who wouldn't want some of that, eh? Forget Tiger Mom, here comes Cougar Mom!  

I guess I was over him by 6, because we both agreed that it would be OK to stop. I just couldn't take his smartass attitude, and he was too addicted to computer games and Lego to care very much.  

Excuse me, I've gotta go turn my 4-year-old daughter into a lesbian.


Was it good for you?

Monday, May 7, 2012

11 things that mothers just don't get

OK, pay attention, mothers. Here are a few things we want you to know.
  1. I can care deeply about something, and still leave it on the floor.
  2. I can bounce on a trampoline, ride my bike, and play screaming chase all around the house, but I am too tired to put anything away. See? I fall flat at the very idea.
  3. My stomach can be absolutely full of vegetables, but still have room for chips and cake. Yes, that is possible.
  4. If I say I don't like some food, I don't like it. I don't have to try just one bite. I just know.
  5. If I am too busy to hang my clothes back up, they are dirty.  Please wash them.
  6. I am great at making a mess; you are wonderful at cleaning up.  Let's stick with our strengths.
  7. When you clean, please do it quietly so you don't interrupt me.
  8. If I yell and scream at you, don't hold a grudge. I will want something from you soon.
  9. S/he started it. And I care.
  10. What I'm doing right now is really important.
  11. I meant please!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Language and animals – who hears a who?

I just learned something new.  In MS Word, a sentence with the phrase “a hen who slept at the foot of the bed” shows a grammar error on “who” – the grammar rules recommend “that”.  Change it to “man” and look! “Who” is OK.

I kept experimenting.  These language rules systematically strip individual identity from animals, giving them the same grammatical status as a table.

Dogs, cats, and mice are also not whos.  Neither are birds (no, not even parrots), lions, or tigers.  Strangely, a monkey is a who. But not a chimp or a gorilla.

It’s a fun game for a few idle moments – try to find an animal that MS Word deems worthy of being a who.  Sorry, Horton and Dr Seuss, but an elephant is not a who.

A person's a person, no matter how small. Is an animal a thing, no matter how tall?

Who cares?

When I write about animals, I deliberately go against my conditioning and use identity and gender language to regift these creatures with their natural birthright. 

A hen or a cow is a “she” and a bull is a "he" – how hard can that be?  If I don’t know an animal’s gender, I can at least pay the same respect I do to human creatures and use s/he or other techniques. 

See how easily we can reject this judgement that humanity is clinging to for its own convenience and profit – that animals don't matter enough to care whether they are male or female?

Who is an animal?  Who is a piece of meat?

We all know common words that objectify animals in the animal industry:
  • Nobody eats a cow, they eat beef, or steak, or (hamburger) mince.
  • Nobody eats a sheep, they eat mutton or chops.  
  • Nobody eats a pig, they eat pork or bacon.
  • Even a lamb is just called lamb, and a chicken is just chicken.  
If you think that last one is quibbling, think about what you picture when you hear “a lamb” or “a chicken,” compared to “lamb” and “chicken.”  That simple word “a” assigns identity to the animal – and it’s taken away just as simply.
And you’ll love this.  According to MS Word, a hen is not a “who.”  But a rooster is.

Who’s writing this stuff?  (And yes, I checked: a software programmer is a who.)