June 26, 2008

A Japanese Judyism

I promised a Judyism. It's been a while since we've shared any side-splitting humor at my mother's expense, so here it is.

My mother and I went out to dinner last week. She wanted something fancy but not terribly expensive, and knowing how nuts my mother would go after having lived in Japan for a portion of her 20's, I chose a local Japanese restaurant. I was all prepared to hear her tell me everything I ever wanted to know about Japan. In 1965.

I ordered a shrimp tempura for us to share. She loved it.

She also loved her authentic hot green tea.

I ordered myself a lump of crab and miso soup (not crazy about the soup).

Judy ordered a shitaake mushroom roll. When the plate arrived it had the requisite pickled ginger and wasabi in the corner. She was all set to scoop up the lot of it for a great big bite (or pinch? With chopsticks?) before I stopped her. I showed her how to tear a tiny piece of ginger and add it to her roll. She chewed. And then her face got all red. She swallowed. And then her face got all pale.

"It tastes like soap! Oh my God, it tastes like soap, Rachel! You made me eat soap!"

I have never found pickled ginger to taste like soap but offered her a large glass of water to cleanse her palate anyway. It did not help. One roll in, she was done. She would not eat another bite.

I finished my crab and soup and she continued to turn green. Green tea was not helping but she would not stop drinking it. It was her favorite "green tea" and it was authentic after all!

So we were talking. Enjoying ourselves or trying on her part, anyway. I was midsentence when my mother burped. She said excuse me.

Then she said, "Oh thank God."

"What?" I asked.

"Thank God. I just burped and nothing came out of my mouth."

And then I was done.

Going Green, Part 3: Some Examples for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I have already posted about how simple and streamlined I am (I refuse to start a blog post with the words "ana1-retentive"), so I thought I'd share what I've done so far to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

When I think about this, one specific time stands out. Last fall when I was going through exactly 4,100 square ft. worth of possessions to quickly and competently choose the best things to bring with us when we left the house, I had to move and edit the crap FAST. I was thinking reduce, reuse, recycle without ever calling it that. I was thinking of how to reuse a piece of furniture in several ways, really thinking over exactly which items I needed and which were just extra. I didn't have room or time for extra - and I love that I did that. (Go me!) You wouldn't believe how short my list of housewares was. Everything for the 3 kids and I (minus our clothes and a few favorite toys) had to fit into a 10x15 storage facility. Aside from photos and a few pieces of furniture, this is what I packed:

6 dinner plates
6 dessert (or child-size) plates
6 bowls
4 Rubbermaid Premier storage containers for cold storage or lunchboxes
2 coffee cups (these)
2 pie plates (they were my grandmother's)
1 Crock Pot
6 bath towels
6 hand towels
6 washcloths
2 lamps

I have added a few things to that list for our new home and still have to pick up silverware, drinking glasses (I'd like to use recycled glass), a toaster and a microwave, but I think I've made smart decisions so far. I still have some necessities to pick up and I get to start fresh and do it the right way. That is exciting.

I'd also like to say that thinking back on all of this - as proud as I am of my brain's editing process - I am absolutely ashamed at what was. Holy cow did we have a lot. I left a LOT behind. A superlot. Like, I didn't even know how much crap we had. Two silver tiered candy stands, dozens of Corningware crocks, a small Pyrex collection, mixing bowls, platters, more platters, 20 towels, several sheet sets, 4 kinds of napkin rings, 5 or 6 tablecloths - just basically think of a bunch of crap. Even though the house was neatly organized and non-cluttered, and even though we had the room to store all of this stuff, we really didn't need it. We were wasteful and we spoiled ourselves. And we hurt the earth doing it.

I really want to live simply going forward. As green as I can be. I can't promise I'll be able to always afford organic food, but I'm going to do my best in the areas I can identify and afford to change.

Here are some things I have already done:

Reused 2 sets of dressers, one from a local antique store and another from the CURB

Repurposed a plastic drawer as a toy box for miss Moo

Using California Baby products, which are free of anything nasty and are totally organic

Using Burt's Bees products (similar to California Baby, but not quite as great)
Similac Organic formula

Gerber organic and Earth's Best baby foods

Seventh Generation cleaning and household products (earth friendly and sustainable)

We have stopped using paper plates and are rewashing regular plates

Remembering to turn off the lights and TV - sounds small but if you have kids, this is BIG

Eventually I want to:

- Find a drycleaner who doesn't use "perc"

- Buy a PUR water filter for the faucet and eliminate the bottled water we use

- Put aerators on all of the sink taps (this adds air to the water and lessens water waste by 50%)

- Use Laura's Lean beef - Hormone Free

- Any new toy purchases must be wood, PVC-free, or recycled

- Organic cotton, baby clothes

- Chlorine free (Seventh Generation) diapers

- Energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs


Yes, I bet you wonder why you haven't heard me going on and on (do I do that?) about recycling paper, plastic, and glass. That's because *I haven't*. Now that I'm all ready to do it, Nana doesn't want "the trouble of having to sort." I even offered to do most of the sorting (which means the kids would be told to do it) and she still said no. I don't get it, but I have to respect it. Anyhow, I can't wait to get to our new house so that we can begin a full-on recycling program. Sure, we have recycled and repurposed plenty of things throughout our house - and it is true that every time you reuse something instead of throwing it away you are doing your part for recycling... just not quite the same way as turning one milk jug into another milk jug. I hereby admit that I am a slacker in this area and I promise to work on it!

Up next: How easy it is to go green!

June 20, 2008

Going Green, Part 2: The Opposition

I am excited to go green. Believe me, I have spent cumulative hours dreaming and planning about "our house" - the house where the kids and I will live soon (please, God? Please?). I think about the simple kitchen and the bathroom. I think about what cleaning products I want to use. I think about decorating and painting, and now decorating in green way with vinegar and low VOC paint, for example. To fan my flames, the kids and I have been watching a lot of this.

If you haven't already seen this advertised, please visit their website at www.planetgreen.com and check out the channel. The shows are amazing and eyeopening, and truly make going green very easy for those of us without a lot of cash.

If you're thinking about incorporating some green decisions into your life but are afraid of biting off more than you can chew or afford, don't be scared! Going green doesn't have to be a total commitment to be worth doing. I am taking it slow. Partly because I want to do it right and not oversaturate myself to the point of burn out, but also because I have some opposition at home. I wanted to blog about this part because some of you may benefit from reading about this.

So, we all know that I'm pretty clean and crisp. What I mean is, I like things simple and uncluttered. Some might say anal-retentive. Or OCD. Whatever. I recently shared with you all that my dad used to measure his pillow before retiring for the night. I wasn't joking. He also lined up all of the canned and boxed goods in our pantry in alphabetical order and by size. They all had to be facing forward. Now, I'm not that bad, but clearly I got this organized, list-making, do it all, simple and clean and crisp blood in me from him. Because my mom? She is NOT like that.

We have been living with my mother for almost 8 months. Every single night I thank Jesus that she offered and was alive to offer a roof over our heads. I am so blessed - WE are so blessed to have Nana. I literally could not be supporting my children without her right now. We might actually have to live in a shelter if it weren't for my mother. And I tell her that. I tell her thanks. A lot. And I mean it. But. Living as an adult - as another mother - is a whole new ballgame. See, in my own home I had my way of organizing and cleaning and doing things. Here, I can't. My hands are tied. Let me explain and you can fill in the blanks with your imagination.

Judy seems to love and need STUFF. I'm not sure if it's because she grew up in the Depression and having stuff makes her feel secure, or because she finds creativity among the chaos. I don't get it. She's always been like this and hasn't purchased anything new, really, since the boys and I moved in. Let me explain some more.

She has 27 coats.

39 dinner plates.

27 drinking glasses.

13 coffee mugs.

17 canisters ON the countertops.

38 plastic storage bowls (almost all of them (7) plastics, all orange and bubbly from tomato sauce - this also does not include her extensive Pyrex collection).

53 lids for the plastic storage bowls.

Every single surface in her home contains a doily, a lamp, a box of tissues with a decorative cover on it, 4 coasters, a silk floral arrangement or trinket of some kind, and an electrical appliance. Every surface. To give myself more ground, I counted her bath towels (for her one shower). There were 17. She has 19 washcloths. This doesn't include her rag collection for cleaning. Speaking of cleaning, she keeps 3 sponges behind each faucet along with a brush and washcloth, and there are several types of cleaner under every sink.

Don't ask the obvious question, either. Of course I have offered/asked/wondered aloud/insisted that she allow me to help her clean. She gets very offended when the subject comes up. Even when she watches Planet Green with us and sees that those plastic storage containers (think Gladware, Ziploc, Cool Whip) are bad stuff. And like I said, I am deeply grateful - so I'll just keep my serious angst and claustrophobic feelings to myself for now. I don't want to hurt her feelings.

My point in sharing this with all of you is this: going green in a big way all at once is not for everyone. Don't feel pressured. Think of the small things that can be done and start there. Eliminate as much waste in your life as you can. Perhaps switch out your lightbulbs to the energy efficient types. And turn your lights and television off when you leave the room. Baby steps.

Disclaimer: Judy is fully aware that she is part of this series of blog posts. (And likewise, she feels famous. I have a Judyism coming soon, too.)

Going Green, Part 1: My Introduction to Green

Before I start talking about going green, I shoud talk about what got me to that point. Please know that I believe we all have different stories and different upbringings, and certainly different beliefs about politics and the world around us. Yours are your own. Mine are not better; they're just mine. And while I can appreciate alternate viewpoints, I thought I'd share a little of my journey to going green.

For a really long time, I've tried to consume things in an earth-friendly way. As a highschool girl I can remember stripping my bedroom down to a bedframe, mattress and cotton-muslin sheets because I didn't like all of the dyes and fake things used to make the fancy stuff. Drove my mom nuts. I would only use all natural beauty products that weren't tested on animals. I was also a card-carrying member of the World Wildlife Federation. (PETA always seemed too extreme to me, in case you're curious - but you'll never see me wear a fur coat or hold my tongue if I see someone else who does.) If they had "organic" things in the early 90's they certainly didn't advertise them the way they do now, so I settled for things that were "all-natural", cotton (preferably unbleached), or reused items like my grandma's bedspread. I shopped a lot at Goodwill. True, I bought and wore (and still do) clothes from the mall, but I always had this bug in me to "do the right thing." I was even a vegetarian for several months. I bought recycled paper notebooks and toilet paper. When I moved in with my not-yet husband 12 years ago I collected dozens of apothecary jars and filled them with homemade hair and face products made with ingredients from my kitchen and garden. I made things for our home instead of buying them. My point is, while I wasn't all-consumed with it, the environmentally-conscious spirit was always alive within me. For a few years I even made it a point to plant something every year on Earth Day.

As I went through my 20's and became a doting wife and mother - and as I became consumed with earning and spending the almighty dollar, I forgot about our Earth for a while. I forgot about her so much that I consented to using and cleaning (with the harshest products I could find) four toilets in my way too big house. I ran the dishwasher all the time and used paper plates like they were going out of style. And laundry? Holy cow - I did about 8 loads a week BEFORE the baby came. Drycleaned almost all of MY clothes. We had a pool that we heated to 85 degrees every time we swam in it. Trash up to the ceiling. We watered our almost 1-acre lawn all the time. We even had a compost heap that I made my husband get rid of because it was ugly (and it was - but it could have been moved). To make it worse, on top of all of my gluttony and participatory spendiness ran a conservative streak a mile wide.

To understand this I must tell you about my dad. My dad died when I was 20 but he made me an awful lot like him. He loved Ronald Reagan with of his heart and would holler at any man who took a stab at a soldier, at war, or at the fight in Vietnam. He was in the Air Force for over 30 years and a man who measured his pillow before he laid down every night (see, I come by my OCD naturally, too.). To say my dad was a conservative was an understatement. Growing up I knew that my dad hated the "hippies" who tried to stop the war he was fighting in and he lumped the treehuggers right in there with those poor hippies. (You might guess that he hated my "I love the Earth" campaign in high school and you would be totally correct.) I have always considered myself a conservative and I was never sure how I could be a conservative and try to save the Earth at the same time.

So after a few years of this I started feeling icky about what I was doing. I started feeling bad about what my kids were eating and learning and well, not learning about this Earth God gave us. I took little steps. I stopped buying so much prepackaged food and said "no" to artificial dyes and flavorings for the kids. I bought organic when we could afford it but it wasn't always. Then I hooked up with Flylady and started clearing my clutter. Man oh man, I was congested! Well, I was feeling congested for a good many reasons, but we'll stick to the clutter and mess for this post. Clearing the clutter helped - and I donated our mess. But it wasn't enough.

I can tell you that when I became pregnant with Mabel I experienced a turning point. We realized that we had NONE of our baby things and because I was starting fresh, I wanted to be a smart consumer. I wanted to buy only the things that we truly needed and make them safe for the baby and for the planet. I was thinking "reduce, reuse, recycle" even though I didn't really call it that. I bought clothes from resale stores and yard sales. I gladly took hand me downs. I made Moo's blankets instead of buying them. I painted her nursery with low-VOC paint (volitile organic compounds). I also did my homework and came across a story on Bisphenol-A, so I bought only one pack of Evenflo glass bottles and those 4 bottles are still all we use today. (That's huge - when Trevor and Andy were little I think I had an extensive plastic bottle collection, probably two dozen at least!) When I was nesting, I cleared the clutter like a madwoman and sewed up a storm. I questioned everything that came in the door and sent a LOT out. But we still had too much.

Then one day shortly after Mabel was born, my life turned upside down and I ended up NOT living in that big fat house with the four toilets and NOT having my own closet or pantry or house to clean. I ended up with very little home furnishings and little if any clutter. I ended up with three kiddos and a CHANCE TO START COMPLETELY OVER. Sort of makes you rethink things.

Now, I feel determined to do it right. I want to educate myself and our children in what they are calling the "green way." They deserve it. I want the Earth to be clean for them and I want to do my part to take care of this enormous responsibility that God gave us when he created this planet and put us on it. I'm still not sure what all I can do, but I want to try. I know it's easier than I think. And as it turns out, I still consider myself a conservative. Just one that hugs trees.

Who knew?

A Whole Mess of Cute

Okay. I promised to post about going green and I totally will, but here's the thing. We all know that I'm long-winded. (Self realization is the first step, no?) And I have drafted like 7 handwritten pages to blog. Seriously. So I figured before I began, I should prepay you all with adorable images of cute. Make sense?

Some new shoes. A size 3. That's she's almost too big for. And cute fat ankles.

Hanging out in the playpen. Wait... she's up to something...

She's up to standing, Folks. Allatime. She also enjoys cruising and falling on her fat tushy. I think she likes the sound of the diaper crinkle when her buns hit the carpet. She always giggles and wrinkles her nose before getting up to do it again.

A couple of days ago I came around the corner and saw these two, reading. It looks like Andy was reading Goodnight, Moon to his baby sister. My heart melted right there. So sweet. He's such a good big brother.

And finally, a series of cute. Moo had her first popsicle a couple of days ago. I should have video taped it instead; oh, the funny! Nana and I laughed our fool heads off at the faces she was making. So of course I had to keep feeding it to her. She did like it after all. Is that wrong?

MABEL THE AMAZING DRAGON! Lord have mercy, look at all of those teeth! Eight, People. Eight!!!

So, the going green posts are coming!

June 8, 2008

I Love Every One of These

Now prepare to gasp at the presence of cute.

I warned you.

I am absolutely in love with every one of these children. What did you think I was talking about?

PS - Don't you dig Moo's little mini pigs?

New, Totally Cute Haircut

I was thinking. When my life fell apart last fall and I ended up out on my own, I started thinking about myself a bit differently than I have in about 12 years. It's time not to be "safe" and "comfortable" anymore - at least not all the time. I also decided "young, hot chicks have long hair..... so, long hair = YOUNG" and so I kept growing my hair. Then I went blonde (which I still love). But, Dude, my hair was a mess. Having Mabel changed it's texture and it was SO not making me happy. And I didn't feel any younger, really.

So I decided a week or so ago that while I am young (enough) and sometimes hot, perhaps young, hot does not have to = long hair. And off I went to my awesomely fantastic stylist for a cut. I had Trevor take pictures when I got home.

Still young and hot.

June 6, 2008

Loser. Baby.

Okay, the baby isn't a loser. It's a play on the song by Beck. It's true I feel like I'm stuck in a Bozo nightmare. A loser with a capital Gesture on the forehead. The reason I didn't update much this week is because I had an interview with a local company on Monday and I SO wanted to make a big announcement on my blog about it. (Also slightly loser-ish.) But alas, I got the "we're just not that into you" email from them today. How nice.

As I was lamenting to Lulu about how much I suck and this job market sucks and this city I live in sucks and how this was really making me wonder, "God, where are you exactly?" (I mean, I totally know He's there, but I can't believe I still haven't found something. I have three kids to support!)... so as I was lamenting, I got a call. I hung up with Lulu and had a wonderfully - dare I say promising - phone call with an old colleague. He was responding to a resume I'd submitted for an opening at his company. And just then, God showed up. Yep, just like in Forrest Gump. Thanks, God. So, here's to holding my breath and hoping I have a reason to wear my new suit SOON. Like next week, specifically. (I always pray specifically. I figure, He made me neurotic, He knows how I am.)

Now for the baby part.

Yes, this baby. This BABY.

Stay tuned. Later this week... Mabel's first pigtails and my new haircut!