Sunday, February 24, 2008

It's Easy to be Green

Sometimes, I feel a little smug. It's so popular to talk about Saving the Earth, now that Gore went and brought An Inconvenient Truth to the masses. Now that most scientists finally agree that it would be better not to trash the planet. But at the risk of sounding like I'm tooting my own horn, (which I am, though), I was green way before it was something to be proud of. Reminds me of a country song: "I Was Crunchy When Crunchy Wasn't Cool".

Okay. So, it's true I don't live in a straw-bale house and I pretty much only ride a bicycle in front of the TV with a cup of coffee on the windowsill, but still there are earth-friendly things I've been doing for ages that you could do, too. Here is my handy-dandy, quickie list of things that take barely any thought, but save money and generate less trash:

* Cleaning cloths, not Swiffer dusters
* Washcloth, not Wipes
* Sponge or dish towel, not paper towel
* Cloth napkins, not paper napkins
* Carry a water jug with you and fill it from the tap. Empty water bottles create an enormous amount of trash! If your home water is "bad", consider having a Reverse Osmosis tap put in.
* Reusable lunch bag, not paper bag.
* Compost.
* Juice in a cup, not a juicebox.

With a minimal amount more effort, you can do these:

* Use homemade cleaning products. See book Clean Home, Clean Planet on how to do this.
* Make homemade pizza dough, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, waffles, cookies. Homemade pizza is very cheap, delicious and takes barely more time than ordering and waiting.
* Buy used clothing or other goods.
* Freecycle - an on-line list where you can give away/pick up things locally. Save money and reuse things.
* Cloth hankys. Yes, there is such a thing. Look up "Hankettes" on the web. Maybe I'll stick the site in here when I get a chance.

If you really rock and want to be Ultra Mother, do these:

* Garden. Can your own veggies. Canning your own veggies is Ultra Green! Bonus points if the jars you use were your MIL's from 1947!
* Hang laundry on a clothes line. I admit I haven't done this in a couple of years.
* Cloth diaper your babies. Ditto this.
* Breastfeed at least one year. Bonus points if you use no bottles - scary news about plastic bottles lately!
* Throw a party and serve everything on real plates with real forks and knives. Serve water in a pitcher and pour it in water goblets.

There are other great things, but the above are things that are within my experience. Here are some I've never done:

* Get milk from a creamery in the glass bottle, which you return for more milk.
* Go a year without buying anything (as in clothing, shoes, toys, books - yeah, stop me right there! - decorations, etc.)
* Give only non-material gifts; a dinner out, a bowling trip, a picnic.
* Buy bulk products and fill your own containers repeatedly.
* Use cloth female products or a Diva Cup (google it).
* Live in a teepee. Okay, I'm kidding about that!

Lastly, a few principles that lead to green planet and green pockets, too:

* Before you buy something, ask yourself if anything else you have will do this job. Is there another way you can use this thing without buying it? How will it be disposed of when you don't need it anymore?
* When you have used something, ask, can this be used for something else? By someone else?
* When you no longer need something, pass it on. I recall Deepak Chopra said something in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success that stuck with me. He said, "Money is like blood, it must flow." He said that hording it and holding on to it stagnates it or something along those lines. I think the same thing about possessions. Let it flow, pay it forward.
* Recycle and Reuse - but in a contest, reusable is better than recyclable. Every day, you can fill the same water jug. That's better than buying 365 water bottles that have to be manufactured and shipped all over God's green earth, and then have to be carted off for recycling and use resources all over again to recycle them into a poly-fleece dog sweater!

And here's my A-list of the most ill-conceived disposable products ever:

* disposable cutting boards
* disposable baby washcloths
* plastic baby utensils meant for one use
* single-use toilet brushes
* single-use dishwashing sponge

In closing, don't be hurt if I've picked on The Product You Can't Live Without. I have my favorite non-green environmental disasters, too. (Can everyone say "Escalade"?) I'm not the embodiment of all things green, Mother Nature. But some things are so simple to do, yet our culture says, "Look how easy, you just throw it away..." I'm asking you to re-think what you throw away. I can just imagine my grandmother hearing about Kleenex tissues for the first time. "Why would anyone pay good money for a handkerchief that you throw away after one use???" Think about it!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Testing My Techy Know-How

(This should be good!)

Hopefully, this is an adorable picture that hints at how mischievous Mason is.

...And voila! Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Oh, the world that just opened up to me now that I know how to insert a photo into the body of my post!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Potty Update

I'm sure everyone has been waiting for an update about Mason's potty training. Although, now I hear the proper term is supposed to be "potty learning". That's just dumb. It's training, folks. Very similar to house-breaking a puppy. Show them where to pee. Avoid having them pee elsewhere.

Anyway, Mason has been making great strides in the #1 category. He hasn't had a pee accident in several days, which has definitely taken the edge off my laundry duty. He tells me when he has to go; "Mommy! I gotta go pee!!!" with his impish little smile. So cute. I'm still too paranoid to risk leaving a pee trail at Target, so I put him in pull-ups when I'm dumb or desperate enough to leave the relative safety of my home. However, on our recent errand day, he did keep the pull-ups dry the whole time. Lightning McQueen icons on the front remained intact.

We only have to make it over the #2 hump, and then we'll have heaven in our hat. I think he recognizes when a poop is imminent, he just doesn't have to patience to sit there that whole long time. (Not patient? Where would he get that?) My MIL handed me a newspaper article written by that bonehead prat whose name escapes me right now, although I think it's Jewish. He's an older fellow, who always seems to think that no children raised in the "good ole' days" had any issues because their old-fashioned parents just made it happen and didn't coddle them. Which begs the question, "Why do psychotherapists make money, then?" In his infinite wisdom, he first of all can't understand why parents no longer train all children to use the potty long by age two. See, I'm eternally grateful that most people no longer use this standard. I think the younger the child, the more probable that it will take a long time and a lot of frustration. Anyway, having a toddler in underwear is no picnic. Diapers are way easier. Why rush it?

So, the old fart says it's easy to train children to poop on the potty. Just strip them off after breakfast, tell them the doctor says they have to poop on the potty and then leave them there until it happens. He seems to think this works perfectly for all children. Just. Like. That.

I admit I tried a variation on this theme. It worked not at all. Mason cannot bear for me to leave him alone like that! I think he was abandoned in a past life! Clearly, it wasn't the path to poop success for us.

My SIL tried it, too. Her son didn't freak out about being left alone, but he didn't quite produce the desired outcome, either. Apparently, he didn't want to let his precious bundle fall down into that potty unnoticed, so he brought it in his hand to his mother. :) Funny the old fart never mentioned that possibility.

See, that's the thing. Kids will throw ya. The infinite possibilities available to the human mind are not wasted, even on the young. If you think you've devised a fail-safe method to get them to do anything, think again. The best you can do is try and get them to want the same things you want. Then again, that generally works better in all human relationships.

Maybe it really is potty learning after all.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Funny Money

I subscribe to Money magazine. Sure, I love the tax tips, advice on how to make a dollar stretch and, most of all, the annual Mutual Fund Scorecard. But one of my favorite sections, which always strikes me as humor, though it isn't intended to be, is the "One Family's Money" section. Every month, I flip right to it.

The idea behind "One Family's Money" is to profile a family who is having some difficulty with their finances and show them ways to fix their troubles. The part I find funny is that the family nearly always has an income of $100K or more.

This month's feature is about a divorced father who has custody of his four teenage children. Now, I am certain this situation has plenty of pain involved, and so I'm not making light of the situation itself. And I do commend the dad on the sacrifices he's making on his children's behalf.

But, since the article is specifically about money issues, I have to interject. First, it mentions how he had to take a $45,000 pay cut in order to live near the children's mother. Ouch! That hurts. However, he's making $156,000. (How will he ever survive?) Then, it mentions how having four children under his roof has inflated his grocery bill to $1,500. HOLY CROW!!! That's more than twice as much as I spend on a "bad" month! If I were his financial advisor, I'd start right there. Here's a tip: make your own waffles.

It goes on to say that in one trip to the sporting-goods store, he dropped more than $1,000. What did he buy? Kayaks for everyone?

As a side-note, the article also rolls out a little pity-party for his "opportunities lost". First of all, he had to turn down a promotion that involved long hours. If he had stayed on that path, he'd be making $500K now. The article says, "Once the kids moved in, he lost a lot of freedom too. His evenings filled up with recitals and emergency trips to the dollar store for school supplies. He had to cook or pick up dinner..." Oh, cry me a river! Gee, what must it be like to have to spend your whole evening taking care of the kids, running them all over God's green earth and even making a meal?! I'm sorry: no pity at this well. It's pumped dry on myself, thank you.

What I'd really like to see is Money printing articles about a family who really squeezes by. Show me the financial plan of a family of five living on $50,000. That is what really makes fascinating, informative reading. That's why we loved The Tightwad Gazette. The woman had a $50 budget for clothing for her family of eight. Per year!!! I always wondered what she did for bras, underwear and socks, since that alone tallies up to probably $300.00 per year around here. Although it's possible I don't really want to know!

We all make choices and prioritize, so I'm not really picking on someone who apparently eats steak and shrimp every night, given the outrageous grocery bill. But I find it a bit kooky that Money always profiles a family with fistsful of money and then says, "Whatever will they do???" It would be so much better the other way. Gosh, I'm not even a numbers kind of gal, but I am positive I could tell the poor dad how to improve his money situation.

One last tip: your daughter could live without Abercrombie & Fitch.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

This is me, See?

Political Ideology Quiz
created with
You scored as Libertarian

You're a libertarian. That kind of means you're a right wing Anarchist. Go buy a gun, some gin, and wait for the hippies to show up.