Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Where is "Away?"

First of has been FAR too long since I posted anything. 2+ months of no activity is pretty pathetic. Thankfully, few people actually read this, so I can safely say no one was unduly inconvenienced by my absence.

Now, where is "away?" When we throw things "away" where do they go? I've been talking to my (now) 5 year old about this because as a family we recycle a lot of things, but some items DO get thrown "away." So just where is "away?" Sadly, it's not too far. Our landfills, originally designed to allow decomposition of some items from sunlight and rain are now so tightly packed with refuse that decomposition of even paper is nearly impossible. Throw in items like disposable diapers that don't break down, even under ideal conditions, for several HUNDRED years and you have a recipe for overflowing dumps. Even when items like diapers do begin to break down, the chemicals released are so toxic that they leach into the water table and can damage our water system!

"Away," it turns out, is a misnomer. These things we throw "away" just sit. Sometimes forever (or as close to forever as we can comprehend!). Our family is learning to delineate clearly between throwing something IN THE TRASH (something that simply cannot be used again. at all. period.) from something that can be RECYCLED in some way. Even further, we have started trading out our consumable items (paper towels, paper cups, paper plates, paper napkins, plastic diapers etc.) for reusable ones. Is it a perfect system? Heck no! As I've said before...teaching my children to be active and conscious participants in their environments is a marathon not a sprint.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Because it Makes God Happy!"

My husband and I are still trying to figure out a system for family devotional time that we actually stick to and that seems meaningful for the kids. In the meantime, we try to at least get a hold of their Sunday School message and discuss it periodically throughout the following week. Serendipitously, this week's message was on serving our neighbors as a way to serve Jesus.

As my son came out of his classroom after church, I (on autopilot) asked him what the lesson was this week. He responded, "There are kids in other worlds that need art supplies!" Uhm...come again? He repeated it and it dawned on me that he meant kids in other COUNTRIES needed SCHOOL supplies. In my typical, we're in a hurry and need to get out of here fashion, I nodded and hustled him and his sister to the car. He was not to be so easily dissuaded. He talked non-stop on our drive home about when were we going to the art store to get supplies, when would we be back at church to drop them off, what supplies did I think we should get. Whew, I just needed to get his almost-2-year-old sister home for a nap! I promised to log onto our church's website and get the details for him as soon as I could.

Fast forward to this morning on the drive to preschool, "Mommy, when are we going to get art supplies for the kids who need them?" Oh, shoot! "Hey buddy, you know we have a shelter near our house and I'm sure they would be happy to get some supplies..." "No. It really needs to be the kids we heard about in church." Okay, cue opportunity to engage in the Sunday School lesson, "So, dude, why should we get supplies for these kids who need them?" "Because it helps them and makes them happy!" "And what else happens when we help people and make them happy?" "IT MAKES GOD HAPPY!!!"

Guess who will be going to the art store this week to pick up supplies for "kids in other worlds?"

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Origin of the Green Bean

Since my son started solid foods, I've been on a mission to improve the eating habits of my family. First up, switch to as many organics as possible focusing on fatty foods (all those chemicals end up residing in the fats of meat and dairy), foods with thin skins (anything with a skin we eat) and especially foods that grow on or in the ground (they get the double whammy of being treated with chemicals and growing in or on soil that is saturated with run off chemicals). Next stop, try to buy foods that are locally grown and buy them in the season they would naturally grow in if left to themselves. (The last is not exactly easy when it's winter and the only available local and in-season greens are kale and swish chard!) By doing this, I'm trying to give my kids an understanding of where their food comes from, (you know, BEFORE it reaches our fridge?) and get them to consider what the benefits are to choosing food that grows close to home.

To help with these eating habits, we put in our first vegetable garden last year. My four year old helped and was so excited when his first cherry tomatoes appeared! We learned a few things: three zucchini plants are 2 too many, cucumbers need a sturdy framework to climb, (Flimsy chicken wire attached clumsily with prong type hardware won't cut it.) strawberries will take over if you let them, slugs like chemical free gardens.

This year, I want to utilize the ideas in the book, "All New Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. My aunt (who we all refer to as Aunt Neenee) used it last year and loved it! Supposedly, I'll be able to grow a bigger variety of things and my garden will have a lovely, tidy look about it. (Really. The book says so!) When I told my son we would be having another garden this year he was thrilled. I asked him what he'd like to see planted and he answered with his favorites: tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. I asked what he thought about green beans (another current favorite of both him and his little sister), "Oh yeah!" Feeling the mood of enthusiasm I encouraged him saying, "And when they're ready, you can just hop out to the garden and pick them straight off the vine!" To which he replied, "Yeah! And I won't even have to get the ones from the freezer anymore!"

Hmmmm, maybe we need to work some more on that concept of where food comes from.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Can a Stay-At-Home-Mom Even BE an Activist?

This is a question I ask myself often. How can I possibly make any sort of discernible difference in the world around me when I make my life as a stay-at-home-mom of two (hoping for three!)? Until recently, I was literally the primary source of food and comfort to my youngest who just weaned from breastfeeding. How could I carve out any significant time in my week to participate in volunteer work, political activism, or community organization when my children needed me on an elemental level? I could barely keep up with the recycling!

And yet, claiming that I was too busy to make an effort at alleviating the suffering of those around me or a dent in the rapid rate of environmental degradation just did not ring true. How could I be teaching my children the value of putting others' needs above our own if they never actually SAW me doing that?! If children learn by example, and if I opt to keep my kids home with me in order to be the primary influence in their lives, then it is wholly up to me to teach them (by example!) the value of a life of service and activism.

I intend this to be an accounting of the ways I lead my children through the experience of living as a social servant at home, in our local community and even globally, while still remaining a stay-at-HOME-mom; a "Playroom Activist" if you will.