Five Easy Resolutions We Can All Make for 2014

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I love the time between Christmas and New Year. For one thing, there are generally tasty leftovers in the fridge, but more importantly I find it a useful prompt to reflect on the year just passed and identify the important bits for the year ahead.

In previous years, I’ve made all sorts of resolutions, most of which have fallen by the wayside. However, 2013 has been a challenging year for us, during which I have learnt an amazing amount and been inspired by some wonderful people. Over the course of the year, I’ve learnt that by focusing on the below, I can live a happier, simpler and more eco-friendly life.

1.       Move more

Such a simple change to implement, yet it yields such great results. In 2014 try leaving the car at home and walking or cycling, turn off ‘Play School’ and perform your own rendition of the ‘Hokey Pokey’ (complete with all actions) and use yoga rather than TV for relaxation. Your physical and mental health and the environment will thank you!

2.       Be kind

Commit to just one random act of kindness every single day. It may be as simple as baking some extra cookies to share with a neighbour, offering to make your colleague a coffee or even just making the time to call your Mum. Imagine how wonderful the world could be if we all committed to doing kind things for others.

3.       Get involved

Get involved in whatever way you can. Do you have time to join Rotary or another service club? If so, brilliant, go ahead! Too busy for that level of involvement? Why not sponsor a child, sign online petitions or volunteer to help the Salvos during the Red Shield Appeal? The key to personal fulfilment lies in participation in civic life. Don’t believe me? Give it a try and see how you feel!

4.       Buy less

Be honest, do you really NEED a new handbag? So many of us shop out of habit or boredom and end up trapped by debt and possessions. The next time that you are tempted to shop for material goods, spend just 30 seconds considering the environmental and social conditions in which that amazingly cheap handbag was produced. Chances are that the real costs of your shopping habit are higher than you think.

If you love a challenge, why not take a lesson from The Fearse Family  and attempt a ‘Buy Nothing New Year’? Or, if you’re not quite up for that level of commitment just yet, ‘Buy Nothing New’ month is in October and is a really fun challenge!

5.       Be grateful

Learning to be grateful even under adversity is a skill that will change your entire mindset and make both you and your family much happier. The best part is the more that you practice exercising gratitude, the easier it becomes! Make gratitude a part of your daily ritual by reflecting on the things that you are grateful for over dinner each night.

So there you have it, the five small actions that have made a fundamental change to my life this year.  The Happy Rebel will have heaps of posts to inspire you in all of these areas throughout 2014 so stay tuned…

Happy New Year!!

xoxo

Coming up in 2014

2014 is almost upon us and I am so excited to be able to share it with you! It will be a big year for The Happy Rebel and a big year for our family with a cross country move planned and our second baby due in April.

The Happy Rebel will be becoming slightly more structured throughout 2014, with a couple of really exciting series planned. Check out the sneak peeks below…

12 Months to a Happiness Rebellion

The 12 Months to a Happiness Rebellion series will be published on the first Wednesday of every calendar month and will feature tips, tricks and challenges to help you to reclaim and sustain your happiness throughout the year.

Baby Steps to a Greener World

Baby Steps to a Greener World is your beginners guide for taking simple steps to reduce your environmental impact and adopt a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. Baby Steps to a Greener World will be published on the second Wednesday of every calendar month and will have some great tips and tricks!

The Lost Art of Self Sufficiency

Do you rely on a mechanic to check the oil in your car, a tailor to take up your jeans and the bakery for special treats? If so, The Lost Art of Self Sufficiency series is for you!

The Lost Art of Self Sufficiency will be published on the third Wednesday of every calendar month and is the essential guide to basic self-sufficiency. Easy step by step guides on everything from automotive maintenance to baking cookies will help you recover skills that are fast being forgotten.

Make Your Own

The Make Your Own series will be published on the fourth Wednesday of every calendar month and will feature stacks of fun and easy home projects that will help save you money and amaze others with your ingenuity. Learn how to build your own raised garden bed from recycled materials, entertain your toddlers with easy home-made play dough and even create your own Advent Calendars. If you are completely non creative like me, you will love these easy step by step guides!

Meat Free Monday

I’m on a mission to reduce my meat consumption and improve my repertoire of vegetarian recipes and I’d love to share this journey with you! Every Monday, a delicious new vegetarian recipe will be posted after being thoroughly tried and tested by our meat loving household. If you regularly cook vegan or vegetarian meals, please feel free to point me in the direction of winning recipes…

So, as you can see, we have a really exciting year ahead with heaps of great strategies to make 2014 your greenest, happiest year ever.  Make sure that you add The Happy Rebel to your favourites and join us on Facebook to ensure that you don’t miss a moment!

Have a great 2014…

The Fallacy of Economic Growth

So, the world is rejoicing, global markets are up and all is well because the US Federal Reserve has made the decision to slightly reduce the monthly stimulus package. A collective sigh of relief went around the world as outgoing Chairman, Ben Bernanke reassured us all that should there be the slightest signs of a slowing in growth, stimulus will again be increased. Thank heavens for that…

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an economist, nor a financial guru of any description. However it seems to me that a fairly fundamental element is missing from the global discourse on economic models.

How are we to maintain infinite economic growth in a world that is physically governed by finite resources? (Please don’t come at me with theories of decoupling, as the automotive industry demonstrates, the idea of decoupling as a saviour is fundamentally flawed.)

The Global Financial Crisis provided an opportune time to address these issues and evaluate whether continued economic growth is an appropriate goal for developed nations. But instead of questioning whether a system that has failed to protect environmental and social interests and then spectacularly failed to even protect itself is still the best course, we ploughed on blindly pursuing renewed economic growth at all costs.

Now, I’m not for a second suggesting that economic growth doesn’t have its place in developing nations where it provides a route out of poverty. However even to my untrained eye it is apparent that the relentless pursuit of economic growth has delivered its benefits, at best, unequally.

To quote from the UK Sustainable Development Commission’s 2009 report Prosperity Without Growth ‘In the last quarter of a century the global economy has doubled, while an estimated 60% of the world’s ecosystems have been degraded. Global carbon emissions have risen by 40% since 1990’. In addition, poverty is still widespread and political / social unrest is still rife throughout the world. Are these outcomes acceptable trade-offs?

Even more striking is both the anecdotal and scientific research demonstrating that the economic growth model fails to deliver happiness once a base level of material needs have been met. Think about your own neighbourhood. Divorce rates are skyrocketing, depression and anxiety are common and suicide is distressingly frequent. Are these problems belonging to the individual, or are they indicative of a flawed economic, social and political system?

I don’t pretend to have the answers. But I do believe that we need to start the conversation…

Do you believe that economic growth is still an appropriate model for the richest nations?

Checked Luggage – Who Needs It?

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My husband and I have always been keen travellers with a strong dislike for wasting time at our destination by hanging around at the baggage carousel waiting for a suitcase that is inevitably either last or missing. As a result, the vast majority of our travels both internationally and domestically have been with hand luggage only.

Of course, since having our baby there has been an expectation that all this must change. Babies apparently need a lot of paraphernalia, parents that are stressed from juggling man sized suitcases and in the case of toddlers, an awkwardly shaped trunk that the aforementioned stressed parents must drag through the airport.

As frequent travellers (our daughter had racked up more than 20 flights before turning 1 – yes, I’m trying to offset our carbon emissions), I often watch the heavily laden parents with screaming babies and grumpy toddlers at airports and wonder at why they do it to themselves. No wonder many people prefer to not travel with kids!

However, having just returned from almost 3 weeks away travelling sans husband with nothing more than a nappy bag and a single carry on sized suitcase to cater for both my daughter and I, I’m delighted to again note that travelling with kids doesn’t require the spouting of tentacles. In fact, I don’t even travel with a stroller!

My set up is simple. Daughter sits comfortably in either a sling or the Ergo carrier on my back, leaving both my arms free to tow our small suitcase and easily access any required documentation out of the nappy bag. She is very happy to sit up and smile at the world and I never have to worry that she may disappear. Once our second child arrives, this set up will continue to work as our older daughter can sit very happily in the Ergo backpack while her little sibling sits up front in a sling.

If you’re one of those heavily laden parents that hates travelling with your kids, or just want a few tips on making plane travel simpler, check out my list below.

  • Only take what is absolutely necessary – versatile clothing, rolled and packed neatly to avoid unnecessary work. This goes for adults and children.
  • Keep the nappy bag as light and organised as possible. Passports and wallets should be accessible in seconds.
  • Nappies can be purchased at the destination (even if you use cloth nappies at home like we do, disposables are invaluable when travelling).
  • Invest in a good sling / baby carrier and ensure that both you and your child are comfortable with it before you leave home. Personally I highly recommend the Ergo (no, this is not an affiliate link – just personal experience) as it is light and flexible enough to be stuffed into the nappy bag when not in use. I also always travel with a ring sling, much easier for pulling bub in and out as you pass through security and it doubles as a nursing cover.
  • Leave the pram at home. Your baby will be more secure in a carrier, you will have less to juggle and if you find that you really need a pram at your destination consider hiring.
  • Breastfeed! Obviously, not an option with older kids but for infants and toddlers, it is an absolute life saver. No worrying about little ears popping (and the accompanying screaming), no major crisis if the airport doesn’t have good baby care facilities, no lugging bottles, sanitisers etc and an instant pacifying option in the event that your child does get grumpy.
  • Limit toys. I travel with a small mystery bag (made of a 1kg recycled cloth rice bag with zip) that contains a home-made photo flip book, a car / truck of some description and one or two other small toys. Utilise whatever you have to hand – laminated safety instruction booklets provide hours of entertainment.
  • Avoid highly processed food options. A tin of tuna, some crackers, a small amount of cheese and some raisins / sultanas will entertain a child for ages and stops you having to purchase unhealthy airport foods at insane prices.

Most of all, enjoy your travels and the special memories that you’ll create as a family!

xoxo

The Disobedient Consumer – Tips for Toddlers

In an earlier post, I mentioned that raising my children to be creative contributors, rather than just consumers forms an important cornerstone of my parenting manifesto. This is all very well, but is often easier said than done; after all material consumption is the foundation of our Western society.

I’ll be the first to admit that my daughter is still far too young to know if these strategies are successful long term (and my other child is still in utero), however it is my hope that by laying the foundations from an early age we will be on the right track.

It is important to remember that encouraging your children to contribute rather than consume should not be a process of deprivation. Instead focus on the unexpected gains that you all get!

  • Make special occasions about experiences, not gifts. Prior to having children, one of my Christmas traditions was to always engage in some form of volunteering during the festive season. Once we relocate back to a more populated area, I plan to engage my children in age appropriate volunteer activities (visiting aged care facilities to distribute gifts, selecting presents for Operation Christmas Child etc). Ensure that birthdays are celebrated through a special experience with family and friends – visit the zoo, go to the beach or allow your child to pick the special activity. Take the focus away from material presents by creating a 1-2 present limit.
  • Engage your children in creative / imaginative play. Who needs toys when you have an empty cardboard box, a wooden spoon and some dining chairs? Allow your child to create their own world and you will be amazed what they come up with.
  • Give generously to causes that you believe in.  If you sponsor a child, place their picture in a prominent place in your home and regularly discuss the sponsorship with your child. If you put coins into a tin at the shopping centre, explain why (or better still, give your child the coins to deposit).
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle… Do you shop out of habit or for entertainment? Challenge yourself on whether you can reduce your purchases or reuse and recycle what you already have.
  • Involve your children in the shopping process. There will always be occasions when shopping is unavoidable. During these times, talk to your child about your purchasing decisions, explain that cheapest is not necessarily best and teach them to enjoy chatting to local independent merchants rather than visiting the soul destroying major conglomerates.
  • Avoid or limit exposure to marketing. Simply turning off the television can go a long way towards limiting your child’s exposure to marketing.
  • Frame problems as opportunities. Recently my husband put a hole through the gas pipeline that provides our hot water and cooking facilities and left us without either for 2 weeks. Rather than viewing this as an insurmountable problem and relying on takeaway, we took the opportunity to try adventurous new recipes on the BBQ, including Weetbix slice and a tasty Jerk Brisket!
  • Engage others. If there are other people who are important in your child’s life (for example grandparents / godparents), talk to them about your desires for your child to grow into a contributor. Gently ask that they support your wishes, remembering that grandparents especially often love shopping for their grandchildren. If grandparents are adamant that birthdays are a time for spoiling with gifts, ask that the gifts be either second hand, handmade or sourced from environmentally and socially responsible options. This can be a fun and enjoyable experience for all generations!

Lastly, remember that creatively contributing should be fun, interesting and engaging. By challenging your own mindset and leading through example, both you and your children will learn a lot and have some great experiences along the way.

Raising Creative Contributors, not Consumers.

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Some time ago, Tricia over at ‘Little Eco Footprints’ coined the term ‘creative contributor’ for the type of person that she hopes her daughter will become. The term and the idea stuck with me and has become part of my parenting manifesto. After all, imagine how amazing the world could be if we all set out to raise creative contributors, not little consumers.

As parents we are bombarded with messages of consumption from the moment of conception. In Australia, the very first antenatal visit sees expectant parents provided with a ‘Bounty’ bag, packed full of samples of ‘must buy’ products and magazines providing extensive lists of baby ‘essentials’. In the most recent one that I received, there was a full page colour advert for the ‘essential’ pram, complete with its own mobile phone charger. (Oh, and don’t forget the car seat with iPod dock)

From the moment babies are born, they are bombarded with marketing; nappies featuring Winnie the Pooh, 0000 grow suits with Disney insignia and an endless array of early childhood development toys. Once toddlerhood and the competitive sports of playgroup, kindy and primary school dawns, the marketing reaches fever pitch and permeates almost every aspect of existence. In this environment, how can one not be expected to raise a consumer?

The thing is, we can and we should strive to raise children that creatively contribute, rather than simply consume. We can help our children avoid the bombardment of advertising by turning off the television and radio. We can ask family and friends to not turn our children into walking billboards for Nickelodeon. We can be conscious of the toys that our children play with and if we must purchase, seek out those that are produced in environmentally and socially responsible circumstances. We can encourage our children to create their own imaginary worlds, to turn an empty box into a space ship, saucepan lids into cymbals and the dining table into a cave.

Through our words and most importantly our actions, we can raise children that seek to use their creativity to contribute to the world around them. By engaging our children in the world, talking them through our decision making process and setting the example of creatively contributing wherever possible, we can and we should raise children that are ‘creative contributors’.

For ideas on how you can help your children to become creative contributors, check out ‘The disobedient consumer – tips for toddlers’

I’d love to hear how you are helping your children to grow and contribute!

The Joy of Instant Gratification

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For most of us, one of our primary goals is to ‘be happy’. Despite this, so many of us fall into the trap of postponing our own happiness. We believe that it’s not possible to be truly happy until we have the big house, the perfect marriage, the challenging yet enjoyable job and the absolutely perfect hair.

As someone who has never in their life had perfect hair (drat you curls), I’ve finally learnt that it is entirely possible to be happy without any or all of the above!

Your happiness is your responsibility. It’s not up to the Government, not up to your partner and not up to your family. It’s entirely up to you. It’s easy to deny yourself happiness, easy to say that someone else has made you feel down or that you’d love to be happy but it’s out of your control.

Take a moment, right here and right now to allow yourself to be happy. Close your eyes and create a quick mental inventory of all the wonderful things in your life. You may have beautiful flowers blossoming outside your window sill, have just noticed a rainbow or been given a big sloppy kiss from your toddler. Take a moment to rejoice, to breathe deeply and enjoy the good things in your life. Be happy!

Now take that moment and carry it with you as a talisman against those things in life that will undoubtedly cause you to question your happiness. Rather than indulging in retail therapy to lift a low mood, take 5 minutes to write a list of all the things in your life that you are grateful for and have to be happy about.

It’s time to stop putting off your happiness…

Good luck!