Friday, June 27, 2008

Homemade Heroes

My good friend Mrs. Hannigan is making her daughter a dress out of a pillow case. I am so jealous of this awesome idea that I started looking around the web at repurposed clothing. I found a few sites where women are making the coolest things from trash. These chicks ROCK.

Little Brown Dress
Repurposed Clothing

Greenify Your Family, Pt.4

(This is part four of a daily series I am writing on how to have a greener and more frugal home. I will address issues such as food and laundry, offering concrete tools to lower your bills while reducing your carbon footprint. When I am finished, I will give the series a permanent home on my website at

Do you notice anything different about my blog?
Okay, I'll tell you. See the "about me" blurb on the lower(ish) right side of the page? I've added cloth diapering.

Cloth diapers, to be frank, gross me out. I don't think they absorb as well, so all of that... stuff... is right on the baby's skin. I HATE having to rinse the, uh, number 2's in the toilet. Blecch. Puh. And I don't think they save more than a few pennies each, especially when you consider my time is worth about $25 an hour in the career world.

So why have I switched to cloth diapering? Because. it's. better. for. the. environment. Less petrochemicals, less waste in our landfills. Less oil to haul those boxes of Pampers Cruisers to Target. That weird gel stuff that swells when the kids pee--you know that, like, never breaks down. At the rate that I produce children, my grandkids are going to be wading through it if I don't find a viable alternative.

This is what we call taking one for the team.

My good friend Mrs. Hannigan uses cloth diapers, and she makes it seem so easy and straightforward that I really feel like I have to give this a go. Everytime I visit her, I am uncomfortably aware of the fact that she is winning the green contest in this area. Hands down. So when I found some diapers on clearance at a little web boutique, I went for it, and I haven't looked back. Except for that week with the stomach flu; I looked back a little then.

As for the baby comfort factor, Rachael doesn't seem to mind except when she is soaked or poopy, and I change her at those times anyway. Having a trunk full of human waste isn't supposed to be comfortable, is it? She definitely knows when that diaper is done for, and I think this will make potty training a lot easier. I've always felt that Pull-Ups are responsible for all the four year olds you see running around in diapers; maybe disposables deserve a share of the blame.

A few other ways to have a greener and cheaper baby:

  • Breastfeed. First, you're converting the pregnancy flab on your butt to nature's perfect baby food--now that's what I call a win-win situation. Also, not only is breastfeeding cheap, it requires no factory, no transportation, no refrigeration, no toxic-chemical-leaching plastic bottles, and it gives you a bustline that would make Dolly Parton wince with jealousy. Last, you'll save tons on doctor' visits--breastfed babies only rarely get sick, and they usually don't get as sick as bottle feeders.
  • Used, um, everything. You know, clothes, gear, etc. It can cost a fortune, but not if you get it cheap or free from a garage sale or a benevolent friend. As soon as you see the two blue lines on that plastic stick, start asking people with babies what they plan to do with their stuff.
  • Make your own baby food. Baby food companies claim their stuff is pure, and you can take their word for it if you want to. Or, you can garden or hit the farmer's market and make your own organic baby food for a fraction of the price. Just: boil, blend, strain, freeze in an ice cube tray, and pop out into a freezer bag. One hour of work will yield a few months' supply of pureed peas, and you know exactly what's in there.
  • Improvise. Babies don't need to play on pastel animal covered blankets, so if you end up short of baby stuff, just repurpose your own. In a pinch, you can help a baby sip out of an adult cup instead of buying a sippy cup, or use a knotted twin sheet as a sling, or make a winter hat and mittens out of yarn leftover from other projects. Despite the impressive displays of Disney-themed stuff at your local Target and Babies'R'Us, they really don't need more than a boob and a blanket to be happy and healthy. Keep safety in mind at all times, of course.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Let Me Fall

Okay, enough of the heavy stuff for a moment. I just wanted to say that I love this song, have since the album was released. Everytime I hear it, I get goosebumps. It's the minor key I think. So enjoy, or not. No pressure.

Greenify Your Family, Pt. 3

(This is part three of a daily series I am writing on how to have a greener and more frugal home. I will address issues such as food and laundry, offering concrete tools to lower your bills while reducing your carbon footprint. When I am finished, I will give the series a permanent home on my website at

Have you ever wondered how that t-shirt on the Target rack could make it all the way from a cotton field in the Philippines to a factory in Myanmar, all the way to a distribution center and then to your store for a lousy four bucks? It seems like a miracle of efficiency, but really, how many lives were destroyed for that t-shirt? Let's count.

First, corporations buy farm land from farmers in third world countries, then pay workers a pittance to work the land that used to feed several families, now producing just one inedible crop: cotton.

After it has destroyed that community, this cotton is sent to another third world country, where it is processed into fabric by underpaid workers, most of whom have been displaced by their farmland being bought up by governments and corporations. Then to the factory, often in yet another country, where it is made into the actual garment. The clothing is officially 'from' this country. So even a t-shirt "Made in the USA" can be made from slave labor cotton.

The process is the same for synthetics, except they begin in a manufacturing plant, not a farm.

Lives destroyed? I can't even count. We're talking about entire communities. And cotton is hard on the soil; after a decade, even weeds won't be able to scratch out a living. Then the corporations bail and find a new place to exploit. They're not in the business of building strong third world communities; they're in the business of making clothing.

Even if we buy organic cotton, it behooves us to ask, 'organic' by whose standards? Many of these countries are polluted to the point of toxicity. Even if no chemicals are added to crop, it still is drinking polluted water and breathing polluted air. And who is overseeing the organic program of that country? We don't even know where the cotton is grown most of the time, so we can't judge for ourselves.

For $4, this t-shirt made multiple trips around the globe. It's traveled more than Paris Hilton before the tags even went on. If you've seen the gas prices lately, you know that doesn't leave much for wages.

Most of the time, we don't even need the t-shirt. How many people do you know who have clothing with tags hanging in their closets? How many lives were negatively affected for a garment that will never be worn?

This, my friends, is why my family wears mostly used clothing. I try for hand-me-downs (free), but I like thrift stores as well (cheap). So this is another way to cut back on the carbon footprint and the budget at the same time. We're boycotting new clothing until they can give us a little more info on how they got that shirt so cheaply. If even a tiny percentage of Americans joined me, people in important places would start listening.

You're thinking that the thrift stores in your area suck. I hear that everywhere I go. I find nice stuff everywhere I go, too. And sometimes, you just have to let people know that you are open to hand-me-downs. Most people feel weird about offering; I know I do, like I'm implying they are needy or their kids aren't adequately dressed.

If you are worried people will think you're poor, just tell them the $4 t-shirt story.

We're open to hand-me-downs over at the Marshall house, btw. :-)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

What would you do if someone offered you a million dollars, no strings attached?

You'd take it, right? Don't worry, I have a point. Keep reading.

I met another Jewish family yesterday, making three in Yakima if you want to include the mixed-faith homes. (lol--we're taking over) We all have one thing in common: a whole lotta kids and no regrets. This seems common among Jewish households.

Throughout history, Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs prayed for children. These were hardly comfortable times, but when God wanted to bless them, he did so with another wailing mouth to feed. And they were happy for each one. While infanticide was de rigeur in most communities, Jews wanted nothing more than a substantial genetic legacy. This attitude has survived millennia in the Jewish community. Even Jewish women who choose to have smaller families seem to understand why others have so many.

I've never had a Jewish woman ask me why I have so many children or otherwise comment negatively on the size of my family. I get a lot of that attitude, but never yet from a Jew. And here's why:

If you had 'enough' money, if you didn't need to work, you wouldn't turn down more, right? Because even if you'd had 'enough', you can always find something to do with a surplus. Money is a good thing; more money is a better thing. Theoretically, you could have too much money, but it's hard to imagine. It would have to be a whole lot.

And consider:

  • Money is precious. But my kids are even more so. Especially when they're sleeping. ;-)
  • Money requires work. Even if you have already earned it, wealth management is an enormous task with its own industry.
  • Money is insurance against old age and hard times. So are large families. If Social Security goes the way of glasnost and my retirement account gets shredded by some random stock crash, at least one of my little burdens will make sure someone feeds Grandma.
  • Money can change the world--just ask an African kid who didn't die in their village plague because of immunizations funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Raising solid citizens is also a form of philanthropy. Did you know one of my step-kids went to the Gulf Coast after Katrina to clean up the mess? Being raised in a large family gives you a sense of community and responsibility for others that is hard to duplicate in the typical two adult/1.5 kid household.
And, unless you're some crazy soccer mom, loving your children isn't the root of all evil.

Sure, there are financial and ecological costs, but these can be minimized, and in our case, they have been. The last time I checked, our household of seven's carbon footprint was about half that of the typical American home. We're a lean, green, not-so-mean, child-raising machine. So when people ask me if we're having any more and I act like I don't care either way, it's because, honestly, I don't. We have a bumper crop as it is, but what's another? I'm not planning anything, but if something happens, I'm not going to be wailing and pulling out hair.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Greenify Your Family, Pt. 2

(This is part two of a daily series I am writing on how to have a greener and more frugal home. I will address issues such as food and laundry, offering concrete tools to lower your bills while reducing your carbon footprint. When I am finished, I will give the series a permanent home on my website at

Did you know that 90% of the energy used in laundry is used to heat the water? I was surprised when I heard this, because I only occasionally use hot water to wash my clothes.

Here are a few tried and true ways to bring down the water and energy usage involved in laundry:

1. Use less hot water. I have always used hot water to wash whites, warm for pastels, and cold for darks and colors, but one week I decided to move it down a notch. I washed whites in warm and everything else in cold. Everything came out just as clean, so this is my new plan. I do still wash diapers in hot because I want them thoroughly degermified.

2. Try homemade detergents. The real savings here is money, although you'll be cutting down on packaging because homemade detergents are more concentrated than storebought. Instead of pouring fabric softener in your rinse, try a little white vinegar. The smell will be gone by the time the washer stops spinning, but your clothes will be soft and chemical-free.

3. Use that clothesline. I know you all are probably tired of hearing me talk about it, but air drying clothes can bring huge energy savings. I'm not one of those hard core people who dries clothes on indoor lines throughout the winter, but I have a full line almost 24/7 throughout the warmer months. This is especially helpful now that I am using cloth diapers, which wouldn't save any money if tumble dried.

4. Wear it twice, or three or four times even. This will not just cut down on your laundry bill, it will cut down on your laundry time as well as make your clothing last longer.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Greenify Your Family, Pt. 1

(This is part one of a daily series I am writing on how to have a greener and more frugal home. I will address issues such as food and laundry, offering concrete tools to lower your bills while reducing your carbon footprint. When I am finished, I will give the series a permanent home on my website at )

Did you know that as much fuel is used to transport the average American household's food as to run their vehicles? This means that you theoretically could never drive anywhere and still be using more fuel than most of the world's residents.

Buying food from far away lands doesn't just use a boatload of fuel; it also takes control of your family's diet out of trusted hands. Take, for example, the organic peaches on sale this week at Safeway for 1.99/lb. It sounds like a great deal, and I almost bought some. But then I started thinking... where did those peaches come from? Peach season won't arrive for another month in most areas of the United States. They could be from an early harvest in a warmer locale like California or Georgia, or, more likely, somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. If I can't even guess the country, I can't safely say whether those peaches are truly organic or even as safe as conventional American fruit. I can postulate that they are either way past their prime, or else were picked so early they will have zero taste and even less nutritional value. As good as a juicy peach sounds, I will make do until peach season with the berries and vitamin C rich leafy greens at the farmer's market.

Here are the strategies I use to piece together a budget- and earth-friendly diet:

  1. Buy local, as much as possible. You can find local foods at farmer's markets, farm stands, locally owned grocery stores, even a tomato pot on your porch or a windowsill herb garden. 4-H kids usually sell meat and eggs, or at least know where you can find them. Another source is your local university extension office. I love knowing exactly where my produce comes from and knowing that the people who grow my food make a decent living from their hard work.

  2. When local isn't available, buy organic, fair trade, and humane products. A good example is coffee. Coffee doesn't grow anywhere in my country, perhaps nowhere in my hemisphere. I'm not willing to give up caffeine, nor is my family willing to live with me while I am not under the influence of stimulants. I feel a little less guilty knowing that the Sumatrans who slave away for my daily cup of joe were paid enough to feed their kids.

  3. Buy from salvage stores. When stores have fires or floods, or simply decide to change packaging, and need to get rid of their inventory quick, they sell it to stores like the Grocery Outlet. By law, they can't carry anything bad for your health, so what you are buying at these stores is perfectly good merchandise that would otherwise have been thrown away. The great prices are a pleasant by-product. By shopping here, you are preventing some of the appalling waste that Americans are known for. I find our organic breakfast cereals, canned goods, cheeses, and snacks this way.

  4. Be a Part Time Freegan. Freegans are people who protest the conventional economy by finding most of their food and other products for free. They find ways to live outside of the cash economy that has taken over every aspect of the modern world. I have adapted this philosophy to my own life. Instead of finding food in dumpsters (a classic freegan strategy), I combine coupons and sales to get products for free. Although the things I get this way are not generally organic (or even particularly healthy), they provide the 'treats' and convenience foods that even health-nutty families like mine occasionally enjoy at a price that can't be beat. Not all of my freegan finds are junk food; I regularly get healthy, organic items like Kashi cereals and Fruitabu fruit snacks this way. Not only do I get the joy of profiting from corporate America (instead of the other way around), I save money that can be used toward my fair trade coffee and organic local blueberries. Freeganism helps our bottom line immensely.
Because of my status as both a foodie and a 'localtarian', I have started a blog dedicated entirely to food. Read what I'm eating and why at Budget Eating.

Extra, Extra! Emily Avoids Annoying Others!

Here a few of my small attempts at reducing my emotional footprint:

Scene A: At Target, in the baby gear aisle, yesterday afternoon.
Situation: Young mother asks me what I think about the harness and leash she has buckled onto her toddler son. She says she has never liked the things, but that her son just doesn't listen and she's afraid he'll really hurt himself the next time he wanders off.
What I Was Thinking: Have you ever heard of a stroller, shopping cart, or sling? There are better ways to control your child than tethering them like a disobedient dog. If I were you, I would work on obedience and 'listening ears', because no leash will hold him when he's fifteen years old and five foot eleven.
What I Said: Nothing. I shrugged.
Why I Think This Was a Better Way: She wants reassurance, not advice, and the mom with a bazillion small children who are not wandering off is a quick mark. As much as I LOVE telling others what I think about their lives, this is a matter for a close friend or sister who can help her come up with a plan, not just share that PETA is against putting dogs on leashes and here she wants to do the same to her own offspring. She obviously has an immediate problem that this device will solve.

Scene B: Farmer's Market
Situation: My total was $3.90 and the tween behind the stall took my five and gave me back a dollar.
What I Was Thinking: Behold a product of public schools. I've seen the math textbooks and they spend more time on estimating than on, um, math. Give me my friggin dime, you little gypsy.
What I Said: Thank you, sir. And then I walked away without my dime.
Why I Think This Was a Better Way: I can make $25 dollars an hour writing lousy hotel reviews and I am going to make a donkey of myself quibbling about ten cents? Sure, there's a principle at stake, but I'll choose the principle of kindness and grace. Jesus himself would not demand his dime, so I'll just shut up and go buy my zucchini now. Maybe that dime will pay for a portion of his Sylvan Learning Center fees and he can finally learn about decimals.

Scene C: On the phone with my recently-released-from-the-hospital son, who is still doing his mandatory annual month with dad a few states away.
Situation: I ask Tyler what he's eaten today and the answer is dry cereal. It's after 7 PM in Colorado! His dad is napping (he was napping when I called that morning too) and there is almost no food in the house,
What I Was Thinking: Leon, get off your lazy ass and feed my kid. I wanted to take him home with me so he could recover properly, and you assured me you were up to the challenge of caring for a twelve year old. He can even cook himself if you keep minimal ingredients in the cupboards. At least get some non-curdled milk so he can have a proper bowl of cereal. And while you're at it, clean your freaking house or have your wife hire a maid, because a child who just had surgery shouldn't have to wipe off a toilet before he can safely sit on it. You make six figures a year, so I think there could be room in the budget for milk and Comet.
What I Said: I'm sure you just overslept, but it sounds like Tyler needs dinner now. Can he order some Chinese delivery or something?
Why I Think This Was a Better Way: He knows what I'm thinking. He knows he seriously blew this one and that I have soooooo busted him on it. And he knows he should be feeding our post-surgical son regular meals. So, instead of bitching, I am just going to call three times a day and make sure Tyler has eaten regularly. Just as annoying, more effective, and I avoid saying something that would further erode our floundering ability to speak in sentences that don't include the words 'idiot', 'court', and 'custody review'.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Your Emotional Footprint

Some people are so hard to be around. It isn't that they're bad people, but they seem to suck the emotional energy out of a room. I have friends like this: well-meaning, otherwise moral women who must carry a spare box of extra-strength drama in their handbag. As much as I would love to be around them (in theory), I am drained after a short visit.

Many of us spend a decent amount of time calculating our carbon footprint and finding ways to make it a little smaller, but how often do we really evaluate how we exist on the planet as emotional beings? What kind of energy do I bring to the table? I'm all about simplifying, but ecology will not make the world liveable if the inhabitants are giant jerks.

I think I am somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, but is that really good enough? I want to bring peace and joy with me wherever I go, to make people's lives a better place. Just like I am always trying to pare down my carbon footprint, I want to work on improving my emotional one. Here are a few ways I think I can make the world a better place:

1. Say two positive things for every negative thought.
2. Refuse to overschedule myself, and if I do so anyway, refuse to talk about it as though it somehow makes me more worthy and in demand.
3. Talk less about what other people and organizations should be doing to improve various social problems, and instead find ways I can personally impact the people around me.
4. Remember that every person is a child of God, and if they are special to God, they should be special to me.
5. Find beauty in things I dislike. Was it the Chinese who said that in order to conquer an enemy, you must find the beauty in them? Something like that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blahhh-gs of note

Where does Blogger find their blogs of note? I've always wanted to be one, so I am perpetually frustrated by what seem like random choices. This week it's someone who likes rubber stamping, we all have our hobbies, but honestly, STAMPING? Is there something I'm missing? I have a hard time justifying large chunks of time spent nonproductively. Crocheting and knitting at least create blankets and scarves, and embroidery makes nice presents for hard-to-shop-for relatives or in-laws you want to impress. I guess you could make cards, but how many cards are honestly needed in the average household? And most homemade cards are usually not that cool. Like I am going to swoon and feel so cared for when I open an envelope to find a folded over piece of construction paper with a few stamps on it. I know its the thought that counts, but my thought usually is something like... someone forgot to run to Hallmark this week.

Anyway. I don't generally want to spend my daily 3.6 seconds of free time looking at other people's crafts. I have enough creative friends that the 'crafting' section of my brain is pretty much saturated by the time I get around to blogging.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I'm typing this from the hospital room on my brand new laptop, which I am naming 'Silver Lining'.

Tyler is going to be okay in the long run. It's just another abdominal surgery. Just another major incision through his abdominal muscles, another week of excruciating pain, another month or so of building back to a normal state of health.

Yeah, he's a little ticked off. Depressed, too. I can understand why, although I try to cheer him up or at least annoy him enough to be a distraction.

Although I am one of the 99 percent of families who can't really afford two major surgeries in a year, with one requiring a round trip airline ticket bought at sky-high last minute prices, as well as housing, restaurant food, and a rental car for a week, I am glad this happened here. The more time I spend in a sensibly run health care system, the more I realize how incredibly flawed the hospital in Yakima, the entire health care system in fact. My child is sick, far from our family doctor and the hospital we are familiar with, and, ironically, that may have saved his life.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Stepping Out for a Bit

Well, Tyler is in the hospital again. He has peritonitis and a raging infection due to a ruptured bowel again and had to have major surgery again. This time, the soap opera unfolds in Colorado, so I'm on my way out there.

I probably will be out until next Thursday, although I may buy a laptop while I'm there. Especially if the hospital has wi-fi. :-)

Have a good week or so, everyone!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Evil Eye is cast over my household.

Gosh darn it, what is it with my kids and illness this year?

I've been up all night with my baby for two nights now. Baby Rachael has had a fever that I can't get below 102, and I can't sleep when my kids are sick. She seems to be in good spirits (when she's not hacking up lung cookies), but at what point should I acquiesce and drag her in to the ER?

While I was contemplating that at 12:30 AM this morning, the phone rang. I picked it up to check the caller ID, because who the heck would call at that hour, and it was my son's father. Tyler, who is visiting his dad in Colorado, decided to take a one stop tour of Denver hospitals. He is having severe abdominal cramps, and after the series of events this spring, we take that shizz seriously.

Several hours and several sleepy awkward ex-husband convo's later, the ER decided that, based on an x-ray, a CT scan, and bloodwork, Tyler must have a stomach flu and sent him home with pain meds. Okay, sure, I've never had pain meds for a flu, but this is my ex's first time being a parent-in-crisis, so I'm not going to nitpick about how he handles it.

But then I received a call from the hospital this morning. Another radiologist looked at the tests and he thinks it's an abdominal obstruction.

We were warned when Ty had his appendicitis incident that a ruptured appendix often requires a few follow up surgeries. Intestines just don't take kindly to intervention. So now we are on the wait-and-see flight pattern--if he gets worse, it's surgery, and if not, we'll call it a flu and leave it there.

While I right this, Rachael is wiping green boogers on my jeans. She smells like an outhouse on a hot day in Juarez... just what we need, a stomach flu along with the upper respiratory issues. Lovely.

Did I mention I have to find peachy-pink ballet tights for my daughter's dance recital by Saturday and there are NONE in town? I may get to see the Tri-Cities after all.

Did I mention I need to fix our CAPE website--still. Yes, I got your email Mrs. Pevensie.

Did I mention I have houseguests as we speak, in laws in town. Yep.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Great New Blog

Here's a fun blog from a simplifying type family down under. Reading about the prices there will make you feel a little better about the sitch here in the US. Plus, she has explanations of how to do things like making your own yogurt cheese (she calls it quark cheese). Be prepared for Australian-isms--do we really speak the same language? In all, this is a great resource for people who are serious about getting back to nature.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No, Officer, I Swear, It's Not Water

Water is necessary for life, whether you are close to a tap or not. What is the solution? For many of us, the occasional bottle of water. Most mommies have one stashed in their diaper bags, and I keep a case in my garage for emergencies. I (and the Red Cross) consider this good common sense, but the politicians who control our major cities don't agree. That's right, folks; our government thinks we are not collectively intelligent enough to responsibly drink water. San Francisco has restricted plastic water bottles and cities such as Seattle and New York plan to follow suit.

First, let me say that drinking a bottle of water and then throwing it out is unforgivably wasteful, especially if you are doing it day after day. Yet, sometimes bottled water is a necessity. Consider school or Boy Scout outings--how do those adults provide water for thirty or more kids when far away from drinking fountains and clean glasses? What about homeless people? Plastic is in general a bad thing to buy, but if you restrict it for occasions when it is necessary, being sure to wash and re-use until the piece is worn out, then recycling it, I don't think the plastic is any worse than a Nalgene container, which is about 100 times as expensive and just as easy to lose.

The rulers of San Francisco have a long history of restricting people's freedoms without considering the consequences. As a result, it is one of the world's most expensive places to live, with horrendous crime and a homeless problem so immense that you can't even really comprehend the scope unless you have actually been there. In their quest to micromanage every aspect of citizens' lives, they have created a two class system--those who can afford these lofty standards and the insane taxes necessary to enforce them, and those who are victimized by them.

Our founding fathers would be appalled. Increasingly, our government seems to feel that 1984 is a training manual and not a horror story. This is what I worry about when others are worrying about comparably minor issues like the price of flour and whether we should subsidize preschool. Little by little, we are letting the government act like a parent, and who will protect us when that parent turns abusive? We won't be able to... we can't even decide whether to drink a lousy bottle of water.

Update: Here is a bill that may make your bottle of water illegal everywhere in the USA. Are they banning soda or juice in plastic? Nope, just water, the only liquid necessary to sustain human life.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Would You Like Some Whine With That?

Before you read this and think I'm a totally out-of-touch snob, let me clarify: I spent the first several years of adulthood as a young single mother struggling to put myself through college with no help from family or government agencies. I know what hard times feel like. I also am lucky enough to have family in several other countries, spread over several continents, so I have a better-than-average handle on what daily life in other places is like. And that's why I can say that the average American is a whiny brat.

Everywhere I go, people are whining about prices. It's the great American hobby, and it seems to have been this way for decades. Whine, whine, whine, oh this is SO expensive, any worse and we won't be able to make ends meet... you know. And yet when you offer advice, the whiner comes up with excuses. Consider this conversation:

Whiner: "My electric bill is CRAZY. I cannot believe this, it went up like $150 this month just from air conditioning."

Sagemommy: "It is a little chilly in here... (holds out arm covered with goosebumps). Maybe you could turn the thermostat up. What is yours set at, anyway?"

Whiner: "68. I hate sweating."

Sagemommy: "We keep ours at 80 or even 82. Wait, 68? Don't you keep it at 72 in the winter?"

Whiner: "Yeah, I don't like being cold either." Obviously, since she is wearing a cardigan in her frigid house.

Sagemommy: "Maybe you could keep it at 72 in the summer. I mean, that's cold enough in the winter, right?"

Whiner: "I forgot that you think you're the carbon police. (gives me pointed look) But anyway, the government should do something about the cost of electric, it's really getting insane."

I love this person, but she honestly thinks that the government should subsidize the cost of keeping her home frigid in the summer and toasty warm in the winter. Yes, people like me who don't even use their freaking air conditioning unless it's over 100 should be paying extra taxes so she can freeze her tukhes off in the middle of July. In a way we do, because she's filed bankruptcy twice already and she's my age.

In most countries, homes aren't even set up for the drastic kind of temperature control Americans take for granted. Humans CAN live at 80-something in the summer and 50-something in the winter.

Consider this conversation at the grocery store a few years ago. It's one of those bag-your-own places, so I was bagging my brown rice, black beans, and in season fruit while another family a few feet away was bagging their fritos, Pepsi, and steak.

Cashier: "That'll be $426, sir."

Whiny man, to me: "Oh, man, groceries just keep getting more and more expensive. I don't know how much longer we can afford this."

Sagemommy: "Mmm." I was literally biting my own tongue as he loaded his plastic bags with TV dinners.

Whiny man: "I mean, this is crazy. almost half a G for one week's groceries. Just wait til you have kids. Ours eat us out of house and home. The government is going to have to do something."

Sagemommy: Thinks, so would mine if house and home were loaded with Poptarts and Oreos. Says: "How many kids?" 12? 24?

Whiny man: "3. Do you have any?"

Cashier, to me: "That'll be $54, ma'am."

Sagemommy: "Just 6 at home right now."

Man: stares blankly.

What I should have said: Give up the Cheetos and the soda. Your butt will thank you. You'll probably spend less on children's plus size clothes, too.

Reality: people in other countries, including most European countries, pay a far higher percentage of their income for food, and are eating smaller portions and simpler foods. Americans are like farm animals that will eat themselves to death, every day choosing the joy of a rich meal over their own health. We pay dearly for that rich food... and the government should do something? We're already paying for the treatment of weight related illnesses (through Medicare and Medicaid) and for disability benefits when people literally disable themselves with gluttony. We should further subsidize the means of destruction?

How about this:

Whiners: "Oh my gosh, it is up to $4.19 a gallon... the government has to do something."

Sagemommy: What? What should they do? Subsidize it... they aren't a magic fairy, you pay for those subsidies, plus what it costs to administer them. Ask a European how that government subsidy works for them... they're paying $9 a gallon in London, and about 50% of their income in taxes. Real efficient, and if you think we'll do better, consider that something like 95% of our education dollars go to administration before they even reach the school districts. Should we drill in Alaska? Invest in ultra-inefficient ethanol, which couldn't run our countries' cars for a week if we planted the entire nation in corn for it? Or, umm, drive less and drive smaller vehicles.

Or, we could just whine about it, and continue to do nothing. That's the easiest way.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

First Farmer's Market of the Year

It's coming this Saturday.

The farmer's market in Yakima has actually been open for a month now, but there is never anything but asparagus and blueberries before June. With summer weather officially here, I have my bags laid out and my baby backpack fired up and ready to go.

The farmer's market always inspires me to invent new recipes to accommodate all of the colorful and unusual things I find there. Should I post my recipes on this blog (as I did last summer) or start a whole new food blog? You decide... email me at or leave a message here.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I (heart) Aveeno

BzzzAgent sent me some Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion with Sunscreen, and I actually like the stuff. I'm not generally a huge fan of sunscreen, but this is totally non-irritating and left my skin silky soft. It has colloidal oatmeal, which means the oatmeal was ground fine enough to actually be absorbed by your skin. We're not daily sunscreen people, so I'll be stashing the rest of the bottle until we have a day trip in the sun.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Freebie Alert

Purity Products is giving out a free bottle of their Omega-3 Fish Oil. Which is good if you (like me) are not a fish eater, but not so good if you (also like me) are allergic to fish.

June Goals

This June, I am revisiting last year's experiment with the 100 mile lifestyle. That's right, no more shopping for me, at least not conventional shopping. I'll be garage sale-ing, farmer's market-ing, and thrift store-ing. And this includes diapers--that's right folks, I'm making the leap to all cloth. Here are a few other ideas for saving cash and carbon...

Things I am going to do in June to save money:

  • Hang out a larger proportion of my laundry.
  • Get together with Mrs. March and work out a carpooling arrangement.
  • Take the bus to and from one activity every week.
  • Keep all electronics off and curtains shut tight during daylight hours.
  • Set the thermostat for a balmy 82 until an hour before my dh comes home.
  • Drive slower and cccooooaaassstttt.

Things I am going to do in June to save the planet:

  • Hang out a larger proportion of my laundry.
  • Get together with Mrs. March and work out a carpooling arrangement.
  • Take the bus to and from one activity every week.
  • Keep all electronics off and curtains shut tight during daylight hours.
  • Set the thermostat for a balmy 82 until an hour before my dh comes home.
  • Drive slower and cccooooaaassstttt.

Cool how that works, eh?

Mommies Getting Their Freebie On

Check out my new mommy hero! At a time when most of us are spending more on groceries, she's spending next to nothing.

And I thought I was cool with my closet full of neatly organized shampoo and lotion samples. If only we had a store here that doubled coupons, much less tripled them. You'd be hearing about my freebies, too. But until then, I'll have to live vicariously through not-so-plain Jane, as well as my good friend Mrs. Hannigan who can get a trunkful of Venus razors and Excedrin Migraine (which I can definitely use!) at Walgreens for 25 cents. She's going to have to tell us all how now... the pressure's on.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Radical Feminist's Daughter Speaks Out

"I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations."

-Rebecca Walker

I'm not trying to be controversial. I love-love-love Alice Walker's novels, and I am not anti-feminism per se. But this makes me so sad... in part because I can identify with the upbringing Alice Walker's daughter describes. My mother was never as extreme and now sees where the feminist movement steered her wrong.

If feminism were merely the concept that women are equal to men and should not be discriminated against, I would be all for it. I am no one's intellectual or social inferior, period. If feminism were the concept that women deserve to have a choice in determining the course of their lives, I would also absolutely agree. But modern feminism is not about either of these things. In fact, sometimes I wonder--if a racist is someone who discriminates against a certain race, then semantically, a feminist might be someone who discriminates against females, right? Sounds crazy? Read on.

Example 1: when President Bush withdrew US funding for China's forced abortion program, American feminists were outraged. Hello? However you feel about Dubya, however you feel about abortion, there's no 'choice' in forced abortion. And in China, abortion is used mainly against baby girls. How very... feminist... of them.

Example 2: A year or so ago, I saw the president of NOW on a morning talk show lamenting that intelligent, educated women leave the work force to raise families. She believes this is robbing the world of talent and that these women should be forced to return to work or have a huge tax burden imposed on them and their families. Society has invested in them and they need to return the favor. Because, ya know, raising good citizens isn't going to help society at all. (the last sentence was, of course, mine)

Where's the 'choice' in forcing someone to make a life decision they don't want?

Example 3: Let's pretend the educated woman returns to the work force. She is too educated, too intelligent, and too liberated to spending days cooking, scrubbing toilets, and wiping noses. Mmmkay. But someone has to cook her meals, scrub her toilet, and raise her children. That someone is usually a female from a minority ethnic group. Feminism is a battle won on the backs of foot soldiers known as oppressed immigrants from the third world. Famous feminists such as Gloria Steinem were notoriously hard on their household help, screaming at them and holding them to impossibly high standards. How very uplifting and liberating for that housekeeper! I bet she's glad she's not at home raising her children.