Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sometimes, as parents, we find ourselves making difficult decisions.  Having to choose between buying our kids things that will make them happy, and keeping to a budget.
Of course, as adults we know they don't need extra toys.  Or candy.  Or other treats.
But everyone else seems to have them, and all the other parents say "Oh, well, it's only $5, $10, $50..."

Every little bit adds up.
Although it's hard to say no sometimes, I'm proud of my dd.
Just the other night she was asking something, and she smiled and said "Mommy, I think we have just the right amount of money.  Because we have enough money for rent, and to eat every day and to buy treats once in awhile. But not every day, like some people.  Because that's not healthy."
I'm glad that she doesn't feel deprived.
As I look around our home I see so many things I want to upgrade.  Replace.  Flat out get rid of!  But I pause.  Practicality sets in.  Anything that I would want to replace in a year, needs to stay.  If it's reparable, it stays.  It doesn't always get tidied up, or repaired in a timely manner, but it's relatively clean and not unsafe.

I resent our expensive allergy friendly diet, and sometimes yearn for blue box mac and cheese, frozen dinners, the ease of a drive through happy meal. 

Then I look around at the world.  The first glance, of course, makes me want to upgrade more.  Get rid of the old sheets!  The plastic toys that look used.  The chairs with tattered seatcovers.  The clothes that I've owned for more than a year.  Go out to a restaurant, if for no other reason than so my kids know what a happy meal toy is. 
The second glance is what gives me pause.  The landfills are overflowing.  As I toss abandoned fast food coffee cups and grease stained bags that end up in our gutter in the trash, I see a lot of overflowing oversized trashcans by the curb come trashday, and although more than half the driveways sport recycle bins, it's far fewer than 90%.  And they're rarely overflowing. 
There's an island of plastic floating in the middle of the Pacific ocean.
Polar Bears in the arctic, who have never heard an airplane or seen an automobile, have discernible levels of plastics and pesticides in their blood stream.
Factory farms are steadily crowding out family farms, and humane (animal) farming is struggling to remain a viable resource in any community.   One quarter of American meals are eaten in restaurants.  2/3 of the remaining meals are take out or pre-prepared.  The remaining quarter or so of meals are prepared using exotic techniques such as spreading condiments onto sandwich bread or microwaving vegetables. 
There's a pipe spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf Coast waters as I type.
It's not that the second glance makes me want to move into a redwood tree like some kind of 60's fanatic (although I remember reading "My Side of the Mountain and dreaming about it.) but it does make me want to...either save the world or go back to bed and stay there. 

And how can we help the world?  By living smaller.  Experts (such as the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Fed, and the Slow Food Movement, and Whole Foods) suggest paying attention to where your dollars go.
With a tight budget, I do that.
Avoid unnecessary packaging.  Avoid excess waste.
Again, from a budgeting perspective, this is paramount.
Don't buy things you don't need.  And keep the things you own in good condition, so you can reuse them or pass them on.
As someone without a lot of money to spread around, I do this.  Garage sales never seem to work for us, and since I rarely have much extra cash to donate where I want to I assuage my conscience by sending used goods to places they can be put to the best use...if not a friend or family member, to a local job rehab center or the Salvation Army.
Reduce.  Reuse.  Recycle.  Respect our resources.

When I'm tempted to buy junk, or feeling bad that I can't, I remind myself of those 4 Rs. 
Like my daughter, I'm glad we're 'poor'.  It's forced us to make hard decisions, to focus on what really matters, and to lighten the imprint we make on the Earth.  Unlike her, I'm surprised that my kids seem to have a greater appreciation for their toys.  They pull out the Barbies and create elaborate games.  Other parents look askance when I talk about the intricate Littlest Pet Shop set up the girls were fighting over. 
Of course, maybe it's healthier to get outside and ride a bike.  But when that's not feasible, I'd rather they have a box of scrap paper to build origami cranes, or a closet full of board games, or a plastic tub of plastic animals to turn to than a TV to turn on.  (yes, we own a TV.  No, it is not hooked up to cable.) 

And I'm really surprised to hear the reinforcement come from her mouth.  She's glad we can't afford too many treats?  For sweets in lunches every day?  She's glad I don't buy her too many toys? 

I'm sure I could do a better job at being green, and raising green kids.  I could walk more, or buy a bike.  I could make a more concerted effort to get to the farmer's market.  And I do intend to work on continuing to lessen my carbon print.  But for now, I'm going to be happy that our budget keeps us (somewhat) green.  And my kids know it. 
I just hope that she continues to see the positive...and not resent the sacrifices. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

There's corn in that.  There's corn in that, too. 
And that.  And that.  And...oh, forget it! 

Sometimes, a corn allergy feels especially difficult because of the prevalence of corn derivatives used in products.  I've always felt that we need full disclosure on labels.  Sure, it's hard for big corporations.  But in our society, we can't have a big enough garden or keep chickens and beef cattle in our back yard.  City ordinances and space constraints prevent us providing our own unique meal needs from scratch.  We need to rely on companies to provide our basics, as well as our treats. 

This means we need to be able to depend on a label, both for food and medications. 
There is now an online petition to help build support for adding corn to the required to be labeled list.  If you would like to participate, please click here and sign your support!  Thanks!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Me:  Bumblebee, you can't live on cereal and crackers forever.
Bumblebee:  I can if I don't get a gluten allergy. 
Penguin:  Mommy, I'm scared that she will!  She eats so much gluten, and if she does, then what WILL she eat? 
Bumblebee:  I'll eat apples the rest of my life. 

At least she's got a plan?
When cows are fed with corn instead of grass, they produce more of the harmful toxin, e. coli.  This is caused by improper breakdown of the starches, since cattle are designed by nature to chomp grass not leftover grains.  Of course, when they do eat a primarily grain fed diet, their flesh is better marbled with it appears more desirable to the decadent meat eaters. 

(I wonder if part of the reason unhealthy meat appeals to us is that somewhere deep inside our primitive selves remember that we aren't supposed to destroy healthy, strong, vital animals...we are supposed to strengthen other species by taking down the weak and preying on the less healthy.) 

I also wonder if the same is true for human diet?  Maybe not so much over abundance of E Coli (we might notice that?) but other inhospitable organisms.  Like the kinds that may (or may not) be linked to Crohns disease, and other Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  Or simply an overgrowth of bad bacteria that leads to an epidemic of IBS?

Of course, I'm not a doctor.  The two probably aren't related.  A professional would surely tell's just stress.  Maybe what we really should ask is who's stress matters most...ours, or that of the animals we eat?