New Year’s Resolution #1: Or Kids, Plastic and Hope

Children are wasteful. Like overwhelming wasteful. Perhaps in your home is some sort of sweet naturally conservation-inclined baby but mines throws his food on his floor (which is covered in dog hair because life) and is hungry an hour later. He asks me for some milk and then I find the cup/bottle under the couch where he watched it roll and forgot about it. (In fairness to him, he will gladly try to drink hours from now, but no.) And everything is made of plastic. His little seat that straps into a chair (and is extremely mobile and handy), his sippy cups, his bottles, his forks and spoons- all plastic. Don’t even get me started on individually packaged snacks for toddlers. We’ve got them, we use them, I hate it.

DC3EBACB-0647-4959-80CB-E9FF512B5086

Adorable food throwing baby.

Plus every time you have a kid, they need their own stuff. A lot of it can be handed down from another child, yours or someone else’s, but still they accumulate things. The diapers alone will make you lose your mind.

You can rationalize it any way you like, but having kids is not a great environmental decision. They will impact the earth. Hopefully they will be environmentally conscious little conservationists, picking up trash, minimizing plastic and advocating for better regulations, but everyone has a footprint and they add to it. In fact, just having kids makes it more difficult to keep up your own environmental efforts.

With kid #2, I’ve stopped making baby food (yes, there has been a high quantity of baby food pouches), quit cloth diapers and stopped making a number of other things I formally made from scratch- granola, bread, kombucha, etc.

IMG_2643

We use plant based/biodegradable diapers now but I still miss those cute fluffy cloth diaper butts.

 

Choosing children isn’t purely an environmental choice. If you choose not to have children, are you saying there’s no hope? The only way for salvation is to stop having kids? My old bud, Katie O’Reilly wrote a really great essay on the choice to have children in the face of climate change for Sierra. I hesitated to read it as I thought it might condemn my choices- not just one child but two! Spoiler alert, she decides on hope.

I have a lot of incredible friends who maintain their environmental ways through their growing families. They make all their meals, cloth diaper their babies, and bike to the store. Their ability to keep it up is so motivating and inspiring but I’m not there yet.

But this year, we’re a little farther away from baby land, less in survival mode and I can add a little more of what’s important to me. The key, for me, is a little at a time.

New Year’s Resolution #1:

Without biting off more than I handle, I plan to reduce plastic incrementally. I got some Christmas money and plan to replace some items in our kitchen. Purchase more reusable silicone bags, glass food containers and replace our sponges with brushes.  I’ll also start replacing bathroom items- deodorant, shampoo/conditioner and the like. At one time I thought I wanted to make all our products myself but we’re at the point where I can and should choose to purchase it.

I hope by the end of the year I can focus more on food which is where so much of our waste is created but this is a marathon not a sprint and if I collapse under the weight of unrealistic goals, we’ll never get there!

A little Instagram inspiration to keep me motivated:

@pattiegonia

@zerowastechef

@leangreenbean (not an environmental IG account but she clearly works to balance minimizes waste in a realistic three-kids, working parents way)

@zerowasteoutdoors

@livingwastefree

@darwinsgeneralstore

@tinyyellowbungalow

More Than Gratitude

Multiple times recently I have pulled up my laptop, opened a new blog post and froze. I don’t want to write about I am still struggling with the balance of two children. That every day, for a short moment, I look at my kids and think, how do people do this? How do they help two children at the same time? How do they go to work, take care of their family and still pay attention to themselves?

I don’t want to write about I still feel lost from the person I was before becoming a mother. I want to share about how satisfying my career is, how I’m getting back into my hobbies, how I am living a zero-waste, screen-free, nutritious, socially engaging  and responsible life.

I thought I’d be more prepared the second time around. I was. But that didn’t really change that having children is difficult. Who knew, right?

59508467378__F6C08B27-4C0B-4580-BB0E-14F8B8363546

But I am writing you on Thanksgiving. My children are sleeping quietly in their own beds, hopefully until 6 am. My belly is full of food made with love. I am drinking hot cider and watching junk TV, the way you should on the night of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is complicated and problematic and tough because the way I have always celebrated it- filled with food, family and friends, is special to me. But that doesn’t erase that the Thanksgiving story we have been told is a lie and Native Americans have never treated with thankfulness or gratitude since Europeans came ashore.

Life is complicated. Children are complicated. Family is complicated. Thanksgiving is complicated. America is complicated. I am complicated. So are you. We cannot pretend that because we like something, it is inherently good. Or because we wanted a family, it is easy. To really participate in something, you have to see it for what it is, understand it for what it is and commit regardless. Commit to make the best of it. Commit to make it better. Commit to try.

Committing is harder for some. It is incredibly hard for me. I want to avoid. I want to keep my options open. I don’t want to get invested. This Thanksgiving though, I am trying to live my values. I don’t want to just be grateful for my life, my family, my country, I want to commit to it. I want to invest in it. Here we go.

 

Baby Austin

This week Austin turns one. One. Is it even possible?

Austin is my little sunshine- not always happy but always a force of nature, always moving, always laughing although he does not give out smiles as easily as his brother. He’s quick to lay his head on your shoulder or leg for a quick cuddle, the sweet snuggler, and he picks up on everything- learning, imitating every movement he can. He’s mischievous and sneaky, giggling towards everything you tell him not to.

Life is a wild ride and I’m so glad he’s on it with us.

IMG_6458IMG_6525IMG_6968IMG_0005Barrack_Family_LHPhoto_27Barrack_Family_LHPhoto_63DC3EBACB-0647-4959-80CB-E9FF512B5086IMG_0115

 

A Letter to New Mothers

Hey Mama,

We are closing in on the end on my little one’s first birthday. It is hard to believe that our tiny new babe has been here for a year. It’s a wonderful, nostalgic, wistful time and also the first signal that we’re exiting baby land. This little guy is getting bigger. Soon he’ll be off bottles and taking one nap a day. All the signs that he’s becoming a little person and we’re leaving the land of littles behind.

IMG_6457

Baby land is a wild and chaotic place. It is the Wild Things. It is a jungle. It is a beautiful place, full of mystery and bliss and struggle where you must work harder than you have ever worked for joy you thought might come easy.

I highly recommend baby land. If you want children, baby land is incredible, but it is a very hard place to be, even under the best of circumstances. As I see this chapter of our lives come to a close, it’s hard not to wish I had been able to access the knowledge, the clarity, the sanity that I have now and wanting to give myself so much more kindness that I ever would have allowed.

IMG_8143

As you enter this new world, you may find yourself looking at the past. Looking at a life that you could have had, had you not gone down this path. There will be moments when you are overwhelmed and you think, did I really choose this? Then in a flash, your child may smile at you or lay their head on your chest and you will think- oh yes, thank goodness I did. Their hand will accidentally brush hair from your face and you will hold your breath in the hopes it lasts forever. 

And yet again when they go to bed at night (for a few minutes, for a few hours?) and you choose to rest or you choose to clean or you choose to daydream or pull out your phone and look at their photos, you may think, “What have I done?” But you have made life and are molding that life and it is molding you.

It is okay to daydream of relaxing days. It is okay to be annoyed that you cannot eat your lunch in peace or feel overwhelmed that nothing is going to plan. In this new world of motherhood, there is an expectation of super human abilities. That you will remain calm in the face of chaos. That you will keep a beautiful home, perfectly divide all domestic duties with your partner, lose the weight, keep up your Instagram aesthetics and live a full, robust meaningful life outside the home. You will have it all and do it all.

Except you can’t. You’ll have to give some things up. A little bit of sanity, some hobbies, the clean floor, some of your social life. You may even think you have to give all of it up, but that’s not quite true either.

For many mamas, for me, the hardest thing I never understood was having to advocate for myself with myself, to practice self-care. To be able to recognize when I was heading towards the brink and to be proactive. To understand that I needed a break whether the day was hard or not. That I didn’t have to be drowning before asking my husband to take over, before saying, “I’ll do the dishes. You put the baby to bed.” It was both our jobs- the dishes and the babies. For all my feminism, for all my preparation, I have learned that lesson over and over again.

This new baby will be all consuming and you will feel you must make them the center of your life- how could you not?- but you are still important. That baby loves you and wants you to value yourself even if their tiny brain could never put that thought together. Put a reminder on your phone to do something for yourself every day, even if it is just a hot cup of tea or 5 minutes outside alone. Treat yourself like your best friend would- with kindness but no bullshit.

It’s okay to reduce your stress level. Let go of what you think meals should be- exciting or complicated. Change from cloth diapers to (biodegradable) disposable ones. Give up breastfeeding for formula. Whatever is not working for you. And when you do, send your guilt out with the trash. This is your journey and your family. Outside judgements need not enter here.

No matter how it feels, you’re not alone Mama. While being a mother may make you more aware of the sharp judgements of others (many opinions you may have been guilty of once too), you will also be shocked at the kindness and generosity of total strangers. Ask for help, reach out for a kind word, share your journey, joys and sorrows.

I am not out of the woods. I am learning motherhood every day. This new world has opened me wide and raw. It has fogged my brain and cleared my eyes. It feels like it has changed everything and yet, has it? Or has what’s important just been amplified? Has what’s important simply been revealed?

The days are long but the years are short. You will not always be able to embrace the chaos, sometimes it will be suffering and sometimes hilarity but if you can laugh through the tears from time to time, you’re doing something right.

Although I am incredibly frugal cheap, I recently made the investment in family photos. When I met with the photographer, she asked me why we were getting these done. I was honest when I shared that this time is so incredibly difficult that I struggle to see beyond the chaos. That I want photos that I can look back on and see how truly beautiful things were. That our family was just as it needed to be not in spite of the challenges of parenting but because of them. It’s not always easy to remember.

Everyone’s experience is different. You may walk into motherhood as if you were born for it, but if not, these feelings too shall pass. But the love you feel will not.

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling Without Kids

Traveling without your children seems as though it should be 100% spectacular. A gift from the heavens. And it is. Before kids I never understood why mothers would hesitate to take advantage of a kid-free trip. Your children are still there when you get back- what a great break! Enjoy what I have- freedom!

IMG_7855

But once your children enter your life, that’s it. I’ve heard many people say that having children is like having your heart outside your body. It’s wonderful with all that extra room to expand, with so much more capacity to love and be loved but it is now exposed, vulnerable, hard to protect.

Last week I was in Vancouver to see one of my best friends get married. I declared Anita my platonic soulmate when we first met (perhaps to her dismay or discomfort!) 12 years ago and to see her marry her romantic soulmate is not an occasion I would miss. It was my 4th time away from Austin overnight and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been away from Haines. While I’ve had to turn down both work trips and fun trips because of the babies (or the lack of money also due to the babies- pricey!) I don’t avoid traveling altogether. The time away resets and refreshes me. The infrequent work trips are valuable, and I try not to miss milestone moments with friends, just as I try not to miss them with my family.

IMG_7922IMG_7905

But the reality is it’s a struggle. It’s tears (mine) putting the babies down for bed and tears (mine again) before my first flight has even taken off, the anticipation of missing them already strong. It’s constantly wondering what they’re doing. When will I get an update, a photo, a Facetime? It’s wanting to hold every baby in the airport to smell their little heads and talk about my own cuties. It’s draining my phone battery looking at their photos.

IMG_7854

Travel does mean reading uninterrupted!

Travel is where Kat and Mama face-off. Part of me wants to go everywhere and do everything. Spend the money! Take the time off! Experience freedom and adventure! Tyler will hold down the fort at home- you deserve it. But the part of me that answers to Mama (or more often “What doin’ Mama?”) just wants to be at home reading Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother Too?” on repeat and feeling the tug on my pant leg as a baby pulls himself up to greet me.

And so it’s both. It is the occasional trip to a bachelorette or a wedding or a work conference that I try to squeeze every last drop out of before I go home and return to the world of both the routine and the sweet. Cuddles and chaos, diapers and bath time, playgrounds and teething, I miss you too.

IMG_7935