27 March 2009

Consumerism gone bonkers

I grew up in a different state from my relatives. I got the odd letter from my grandparents and on occasion, from favoured Aunties. Many of Grandma's letters in particular I still have, because they make me laugh and remember what she was like. I think I got a present (nb - singular) for birthdays and Christmas. I don't really remember - it can't have been that important. We agreed amongst family that this would stop when we turned 18. I do remember (most ungratefully) that many of the clothes sent to me from interstate relos were really not my style (e.g. pink or disney), or were ill fitting (even then, I had broad shoulders and muscular legs).

So now I look at what is sent over to my son. He gets:
- multiple birthday presents from each set of grandparents and from each uncle (ie toys plus clothes)
- multiple Christmas presents from each set of grandparents and from each uncle
- and 3-5 parcels per year, for no apparent reason usually with 3-5 things for him

And, in his short life, he has accumulated:
- 50 gazillion matchbox cars, planes, helicopters*
- a sizable train set and more trains and carriages than he can fit on the track
- 5 teddy bears, plus another 10 or so soft toys
- 5-6 tip trucks
- Over 20 DVD's of TV series and kids movies
- Gazillions of baby toys, rattles, things to teethe with etc (which were about as interesting to him as a plastic bottle filled with dried rice or chickpeas).
- 2 and a half shelves of books (some of them my old books from when I was a kid, and includes Harry Potter, which we bought relatively recently, but still...)
- and much much more.

* more than my brother and I had combined by the time we were 8-9 years old.

So here is my conundrum. I'm trying to cut down the stuff we have, and not get things we don't need. I'm ashamed of all the stuff and clutter we have, yet I know most of the stuff we have isn't stuff we've bought. However, it's ungrategul to say you don't want the gifts you are given out of generosity and love. But did my Grandparents love me any less because they gave me less stuff? No, of course not.

One grandparent's view is that if we don't want something, we can get rid of it. Sounds simple, but in reality, it means:
- storing stuff somewhere to take to a charity bin (none very close to my place, and I keep forgetting, therefore have bags of stuff at home to get rid of).
- saving stuff somewhere to give away to closer friends when the time is right (again, I forget about them, and invariably find them a year later)
- throwing out perfectly good stuff in the trash (WASTE WASTE WASTE!)
- Videos - what do you do with them? Charities don't want them, e-bay maybe (I'd rather not go there), or garage sale (don't really have somewhere to do it).

All the above is fine when you have plenty of time and mobility, but we don't at the moment, having both of us working, and a toddler, and me pregnant. I would argue that them compulsively buying stuff makes them feel warm and fuzzy, helps them to express their feelings. At times the presents are thoughtful or something we don't have already, but much of the time, it is just more "stuff".**

I've told my mum many times not to give me clothes, because she never ever buys anything that I like (it was getting ridiculous - I had to say something to her bluntly in my early 20's ...), and when she gives me her old clothes, they are always in colours that she knows I never wear. Yet SHE STILL DOES IT to this day !! Getting hand-me-downs in general is fine, by the way, as I don't feel like resources are being wasted making them. But really - does anyone have the same taste in clothes as their mother? I suppose I should at least be grateful that she does shop in her local St Vinnes sometimes for clothes for E-chan rather than buying brand new. Babies sometimes wear things for 3 months or less before they grow out of them.

Anyway, I've tried dropping hints, discussing gently the possibility that presents are being given to make up for not being able to be living in the same city, and that while we appreciate that sentiment, it's way more than I was given as a kid, and I never felt like I went without. They agree. But as C-chan and I were talking about the other night, a lot of people acknowledge their behaviour, then keep on doing it. I also talk about trying to keep down the amount of "stuff" we have (particularly when we lived in the 2 br unit). But it falls on deaf ears. Except with my Father, who I know has similar feelings to me about buying stuff, but it's not him doing the buying, anyway.

I'm thinking maybe in future visits from the grandparents in particular, I'll get them involved with helping me get rid of all the stuff we don't need... But really, can people not control their urges to shop for new things all the time? Does loving your grandchild justify all the wasted resources? I know I should look more at my own buying behaviour more rather than worrying about theirs, but all this "stuff" is our problem to sort out too...

11 March 2009

Watch this if you're planning on having a baby soonish...


Insight last night had a discussion about birthing and the system as is is here in Australia. A few women talked about how they were shoe-horned into a certain approach or procedure here in Asutralia, just because of the public/private system dichotomy, or the midwife vs obstetrician choice you may have to make. Well worth a look, and also features Claire Bowditch, who tried to have a home birth twice, but was thwarted, at first by the high cost (insurance), and second by having twins and feeling more comfortable in a hospital on her second delivery.

Also a lot of discussion about elective caesarians vs required ones, and the grey area in between where women are being told they need one, but aren't really sure they want to, and aren't really being given all the info they need to make an informed choice. Many first time mums go with whatever they're told has to happen, while it takes a more assertive mum-to-be to demand more information, question what they have been told, and actually seek second opinions - this is not how it should be.

Also, there isn't much flexibility to change tack part way down the process - ie to start off a preganancy with one approach (ie seeing a midwife) then switching to an Obstetrician down the track if you have a complication arise, whilst keeping your midwife on board. And there is a lack of continued care - ie obstetricians don't really know much about breastfeeding and routine neonatal issues, and you're "handed over" to local area midwives who are fantastic, but have no prior relationship to you.

I've only had 2 appointments with my Obst this pregnancy, and I chose to see an Obstetrician because of the complication I had last time, and the fact that a caesarian was flagged as a good idea by specialists after the injury I suffered giving birth. So far I haven't been given a lot of information about the complications around caesars, and much of what I know is from having talked to others who have had one, and reading Mermaidgrrrls blog.

So far our strategy is to pencil in a caesar, but have a scan at 36 weeks, see how the baby is going for size, and make a decision then. But I'm finding the idea of delivering vaginally is scarier for me still at the moment. I'm not sure if there is data on pelvis size to baby head size ratios and what the the likelihood is of another nerve injury, and there are other matters - every baby is different, mother's pelvises are more elastic second time around, girls tend to be smaller than boys, and second babies tend to be bigger etc.

But the risk to me of suffering a permanent leg injury that affects my ability to walk is getting more stressful rather than less stressful with time. And I haven't even begun to discuss the issues around the scarring I have from my last delivery either - info on this is non-existant in birthing books. I know caesars bring many complications, but perhaps it is the better option for me. After all, it will be a decision that could affect the rest of my life.... but it's not something I really want either - it's just the best option for me, I think.

Home and sick. Siiiiiiick....

I was surprised that we managed to go back to child care this year and avoid getting colds etc, saw may kids with green goozies hanging down from their nostrils, and thought "it's only a matter of time....". But alas, E-chan has avoided getting sick this year, and it's me that's somehow managed to come down with something. It's no surprise, as there is lots going on - our to-do list is never-ending it seems, and is making weekends busy.

We've had to buy a new fridge, because our old one is alternating between freezing things, and not being warm enough (despite the settings not being changed), is just about too small (and will certainly be come the end of July). Our poor little 10-year old fridge served us well through our DINKy days, moving states and moving house many times, but it's now time to upscale to the family sized version. I hope our new one lasts us much longer. Am looking forward to having more fridge space, and being able to freeze more leftovers, as our freezer didn't have much room for that once all the frozen peas etc took up their place, and I was beginning to be bugged by how much food was going off before we used it. What a waste! But the logistics of getting a new fridge - working out what has to be thrown out, what can survive a few hours unrefridgerated, what must stay frozen, and what will last in an esky bag with ice for a bit. Our neighbours have offered to help with some fridge space, which is handy.*

Also, I'm looking into buying us all non-plastic drink bottles (such as the stainless steel ones made by Ecotank, Earthlust, or Kleen Kanteen - they're quite hard to get, and you have to order them over the internet). I sometimes buy water in a plastic bottle, on the occasions when I forget to take my own drink and there is no water fountain, and I really don't like soft drinks, so even though I know I'm being ripped off, I'd rather drink water and pay for it. I reuse the bottle many times, but am beginning to be (more) concerned about plastics, the resource intensity of their production, their impact on the environment, and possible toxins. I also like a bottle by my bedside, so there are no annoying 3am spillages as I fumble around in the dark to have a drink of water. While I'm at it, I'm looking into baby bottles for baby #2 that are BPA-free. 6 fairly major brands have just announced they will release a BPA-free baby bottle range this year in the US (and at least one of them will release that range here too - hopefully in time for our bub) - yah to the consumer lobbyists who campaigned so long for this.

We had our 19-week ultrasound yesterday. Baby is displaying all the normal characteristics, with 1o digits on its hands and feet, normal size, normal heart etc, which is great news. Time soon to start going through all the teeny, tiny baby clothes and give away the ones we know we won't use this time around. Soon E-chan's big boy bed will arrive - he's currently on a single mattress on the floor, and we are gradually accumulating single bedlinen for him. The cot is now empty for next baby, and we're trying to sort out their room and the best configuration for the furniture.

On top of this, my allergies have returned, as I haven't been getting my desensitising shots for a few months, and my system needs another few years of the injections for the dust and pollen allergies to stop bothering me permanently. It seems the warm, humid weather we're having is dust-mite heaven. Am having to buy new dust covers for pillows and mattresses (all the old ones had worn out), and vacuum the floor and hot wash all the bedding ideally every week (more like 1.5 to 2 weeks) to kill off all the dust mites. It's good to realise my hayfever and asthma symptoms had amost gone while I was being desensitised, and once I have finished breastfeeding, I'll start on the shots again - definitely worthwhile not to be troubled with frequent runny noses and wheezes. The eczema, while also caused by food intolerances and detergent exposure, was also a bit milder while I had the shots.

So, going to have a rest now, and vege out....

*I'm sorry that this post is a bit of an "updating all my friends" kind of post. Feel free to tune out if you're bored by it...

03 March 2009


I'm currently notching up acquaintances of the newborn variety – they are all special of course, and I would have mentioned some of these earlier had I not been a bit flustered of late!

1) My new niece – Lena-chan, who was born in mid-January. First girl of the family, and absolutely lovely! I’d love to see and cuddle her, but will have to be content with images over the computer until either I can get my family to Japan or my brother can get his (now with 3 kids – argh!) here. Her big brother is being good and responsible, her middle brother doesn’t quite understand…
2) Young Isaac, dear first born of friends Angel and Dr J, who was born the next day. He is thriving and doing all the sorts of things newborns are supposed to do, and even went to sleep for a few hours when we were visiting on Saturday night so Mum and Dad could relax and enjoy dinner! Good boy!
3) Twins next door! My neighbour finally had her twin boys this morning, after a long gestation as far as twins are concerned (38 weeks!). Poor neighbours have been freaking out at the thought of having two of them – hope they manage to work out some sort of routine soon.


We also have had a family with 3 kids recently move in over the corridor. They’re an academic family, accustomed to moving cities, and the Mum is a pragmatic type who gets to know her neighbours quickly so she has someone to ask about where to go for shopping, doctors etc etc. We also had a bizarre shared phone line (telco’s stuff up…) for a few days, and had to try to sort that out, which was weird, but another storey entirely. Only problem is they all have hard-to-pronounce Hebrew names. I’ve committed the parent’s names to memory, though.

Last night, their middle child (roughly 7 years old?) knocked on the door:

Child: Hello! Mom wants to know if we could borrow your can opener. We have one but it doesn’t work.
Me: Sure

I lent them the can opener and sent her on her way. 10 minutes later, knock on the door again:

Child: Hi. Mom wants me to say “thanks very much”
Me: Not a problem – tell her it’s fine!

This is the first time anyone has ever knocked on our door and asked to borrow anything, and it’s kind of nice, actually. I’ve always thought people are over-cautious about intruding on privacy in inner-city areas (especially where renters move in and out of high density areas all the time). Sure you run the risk of interrupting something. But when I knock on my neighbours door, they always invite me in it seems – you wouldn’t do that if you are too busy… Our neighbours who just had twins were so worried about the noise their babies will make. I told them not to be silly – newborns are quiet compared to toddlers (I reckon), and we can’t hear through the walls anyway. I’d rather hear noise from babies or kids, than party music past 11pm, loud television noise, or power tools early or late in the day…

For giggles...

Check out this link at the onion: http://www.theonion.com/content/video/sony_releases_new_stupid_piece_of

Made me giggle. I found this via Lavartus Prodeo.