Thursday, March 26, 2009

What will you do with your surplus of veggies?

There are 800 million people who go to bed hungry. While some Moms are forced to choose between utilities and food, the global economic crisis is stressing the supplies of food banks at precisely the moment when the food is needed the most. In 2007, the number of undernourished people in the world increased by 75 million. We can expect that number to rise.

I'm busy spreading the word. Through my newspaper column, my blog, and my badge that's making its way across the blogsphere, I'm trying to get everyone to do what they can to help feed the hungry.

While the recession reverberates through our economy, ultimately reaching our dinner tables,
backyard gardens are a great way to squeeze more nutrition out of our food budgets. At the same time, there are 800 million people who go to bed hungry. While some Moms are forced to choose between utilities and food, the global economic crisis is stressing the supplies of food banks at precisely the moment when the food is needed the most. The solution is simple: Plant a garden, and give what you grow to your local food banks. With gardens, there’s always a surplus of something.

The term Victory Garden has its roots in our effort to give our soldiers nutrients that would ultimately help them win World War I. The government earmarked funds for a national school garden program. A steady supply of vegetables would keep food costs down and save the War Department money. Our great grandmothers created backyard “Victory Gardens” to feed our nation as the Great Depression reverberated across the land. Eleanor Roosevelt even planted a Victory Garden at Pennsylvania Avenue. By 1943, nearly 40 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed stateside were grown in gardens at schools,parks, rooftops and backyards. Careful preservation allowed us to export our harvests to our allies. I want to join the ranks of my great matron ancestors and help feed the world. Even Michelle Obama finds this an important task.

Today, the average tomato travels 1,500 miles and requires 400 gallons of gas to arrive at your table — this must change too if we are to remain a sustainable planet.

We are Midwest Parents. We live among lush soil that feeds the nation its corn, its tomatoes and its beans. We can help feed the world.

The Burpee Seed company donated their Burpee’s Money Garden, seeds packs.
The bloggers that have spread the word include Shelly at This Eclectic Life, Joyce, Kirsten, Africankelli, Amy at Gift of Green, the Australian goddess mom, Mothergoosemouse and so many more I have yet to meet. Each day the list of bloggers spreading the word grows. My e-mail is filled with notes from gardeners, mostly women, across the world, willing to share those extra zucchinis.

As my inbox swells, I also hope the foodbanks do too. Every six seconds a child dies because he or she is hungry.

While there are many similarities between The Recession and The Depression, one common thread of both crises is the feeling of powerlessness. The Victory Gardens planted during World War I were one practical way families cut their food budget, and shared their crops. Harvesting crops also boosted morale. We only need to read Ruth Krauss’s book The Carrot Seed, one time to feel the victory of the child who learns that “it did come up,” to see how gardening feeds the souls of children. Growing food preserves our world.

Grab this badge, the code is below, to spread the word:

Code for the small badge: [a title="givewhatyougrow by susiejpics, on Flickr" href=""][img src="" alt="givewhatyougrow" width="166" height="161" /][/a]

(Replace these [ ] with these <> to make the button appear.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Predictable Patterns

We live in a house that runs more or less on a schedule.

Oh, who am I fooling -- does any family with children and parents who work full-time run on a predictable schedule? In my mind, I have a schedule that would work, but the number of days in a week that this schedule is actually followed are few if existent at all.

When I had a young child, I took for granted that I had the majority of control in the day to day, hour to hour events that transpire. I put the child to bed, I turned out the lights, and I told her to go to sleep. Eventually, she fall asleep within a reasonable amount of time. I made dinner and didn't mix it up too much -- chicken, peas and carrots, some potatoes and applesauce on the side. Juice or milk to drink. That's dinner, now eat it. The kid fussed, she complained, she cried (shock!), sometimes...she even would throw a temper tantrum. But the bottom line is, I had a certain measure of control over the situation. Ice cream only came as a treat, and not in huge quantities for snack time. This way the kid was hungry for nutritious foods at mealtimes. Bedtime came at a reasonable hour so that the next morning when we all have to get up and start the day, she was well-rested and ready to start the day.

Little by little, as my daughter get older (and taller, and smarter, and more self-reliant) I found that the schedule and rules I set out in my mind wasn't quite so easy to enforce. All sorts of new things entered the picture as she aged and became more independent -- the expectation that chores will be done, the need for cell phones (!), her coming home and fixing her own snacks based on her own hunger level, days full of extracurricular activities, and the influence of what is normal is other kids' households. There are many more I could add to this list. Sure, the independence means there's less that I had to do for her. But this all leads to the one day when you wake up and you think, what happened to the way things used to run around here?

Which leads me to a constant source of friction in our household. With only one child, one who just started high school this year, it seems like the need for scolding never ends.
"Get up for school."
Get up when your alarm goes of and don't make me call you three times."
"Yes, you must eat breakfast before you leave for school."
Who spilled milk on the counter and didn't clean it up?"
Can you please not pour glasses of drinks while holding the refrigerator door open?"
"Can you please clean the hair and make-up of the bathroom counter?"
The cat litter hasn't been changed yet; it was supposed to be done three days ago and the cat is fighting back in a very nasty way."
The dishes have to be cleaned every single day, after every single meal!"
Why is it 11 o'clock and you're still not ready for bed?"
"Why is it midnight and you are still up on a school night using a computer?"

Set the alarm for the next morning, fall asleep, and...repeat.

There are little things that make me a little crazy too. Spring has just sprung here in Michigan and those highs in the 40s or 50s have made us all a little delirious. Somehow the idea that a coat or socks are still needed seems stuffy. I myself was at Meijer last night wearing nothing but a long-sleeved knit top and sweater with leggings; when we left the store, I regretted not bringing along at least a pair of gloves or the additional layer of a light jacket. But when it comes to my kid, this makes me crazy. Day after day, my daughter dons less and less as she runs out the door for the school bus in temperatures still in the 20s. Yes, I know she's indoors all day, but still, is it so much to still wear socks with your Converse sneakers when you know the outdoor temperature won't go above 45?

Let's bring it back to home life, though. You'd think that what I gained in my child's independence and self-reliance would outweigh the inconvenience of the relative chaos that independence brings. But more and more it feels like I'm living with a sloppy roommate, the one you had when you first moved away from home. Sure, you were happy because you got a great deal on rent, but my god, was it so much to ask for this person to actually clean their dishes once a day? And not leave candy wrappers lying around on every surface?

I decided I was going to try and approach the issue with my daughter like an adult. That is, I was going to treat her with respect and expect that she would give me the same. As soon as I made that decision, it became apparent to me what the breakdown was. Many of the things that were driving me crazy were the ways in which her behavior broke from what was expected, predictable, responsible. It drives me crazy when she sleeps in until 11a on the weekends because that inconveniences everyone else. When she finally does rouse and make her way downstairs for Saturday morning breakfast, she's in a horrible mood and the last thing she wants to do is help with the dishes or make pleasant conversation. I described it to her as "rock star behavior" -- when she stays up until 1a on Friday night and then can't function again until 1p on Saturday. The behavior that results from these choices presumes that other people around her are going to pick up the slack and make sure her needs are met. It also means she's not looking out for anyone but herself.

As we went though other ways in which her daily patterns were less-than-appreciated by others in the household, we realized most of them reduced to this same issue -- doing things in a way that was out of the ordinary, like a rock star, and assuming other people would pick up the slack. When we came to this understanding together, she began to see that she's part of a group that works together, not a kid who everyone has to take care of. It not only solved the problem of my frustration, it made her feel more like a maturing person who was taking charge of her life more and more each day.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Elegant Tar-shjay Boo-tique

I’d like to say that I shop at Target because I’m supporting my state’s economy. I’m not sure how all that stuff works though when stores go national when they started in one state (which, I suppose is how they all have to start, right?) do they still pay state taxes to Minnesota or do they pay taxes in every state? Ah, who am I kidding? I really don’t care.

I shop at Target because it is a mere 3-minute drive from my home and that is saying something. Before Target, Best Buy and about 20 other stores opened just down the highway from us it was a major undertaking to go just pick up something at the store. The nearest store was a grueling 10-minute drive away, which was an awfully long drive for the girl who used to live less than 5 minutes from pretty much anywhere.

But this is a little misleading. I live in a city that is 100,000 strong yet still has a very small-town atmosphere. Even today with the city expanding by leaps and bounds (even with the economy such as it is) it generally takes no more than 20-minutes to get anywhere in the city even from the opposite end.* It is stranger to not run into anyone you know at any given store than to run into an acquaintance. It is not unheard of to run into more than one friend during a Target run.

It is only at Target that I have had men (and only men) who I do not know offer to take my cart in for me after I have loaded my purchases into my car.

It is at Target that my son ate ice melt and I had to fill out my first “incident report”. It is at Target that both of my older children have had major meltdowns, necessitating me carrying two crying, flailing children out under each arm while very, very pregnant. That day made me seriously question my parenting abilities let me tell you.

I’m fairly certain that the Baby thinks that Target is our second home.

But Target has afforded me some great deals as well. I’ve gotten things like a s’mores maker for $3 and a kid’s baseball glove for $4.95. Target clearance, hit at just the right time, is a truly wonderful thing.

However I can’t help but think it would be cheaper for our family if I just went in to Target once a week and threw cash in the air, then walked back out. It’s those darn Tollhouse cookies.

*Even if I could say even even more times, even though I could not think of even one other way to say what I wanted to say. Even.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Simple Thoughts About the Economy

So when I say, “I’ve decided to stop watching the economic reports on the news,” it’s a bit misleading.  I don’t really watch the news anyway.  I can’t remember the last time I saw the 6:00 news (do they still have that?) and, since my Kindergartener leaves the house at 7:15AM a couple of days a week, I’ve taken to missing the 11:00 broadcast, too.

Think I’m missing out?  Don’t fret.  I get the news, just not on TV.  I am, admittedly, a bit of a NY Times junkie.  Perhaps you knew that because of this or this or this.  No?  Okay, well, I admit it.  The thing I love about the newspaper or online news is that you can pick and choose.  You don’t have to sit down at the pre-assigned time and listen to the local anchors lead with Exciting Story of the Day.  If it’s 3 PM and you’re in the mood to find out the latest on Chris Brown and Rihanna, it’s a flip of a page away.  Thanks, Arts section.  At 9:00 PM when you’re wondering what the Op Eds had to say today, it’s as easy as pie. You can log right in and find out.  Want to check the latest on the NCAA?  Pick your time, hoopster fan.

Moreover, if you’re like me, you can skip the parts of the news you prefer to ignore for awhile.  How many people lost their job today?  How much did my top stocks go down?  Does my state still have the most unemployed people in the country?  Do I want to read this again?  No, I do not.

Okay, fine.  There is a part of me that wants to know. Even though it’s been a lot of years since I made a living there, I miss the business world and what happens in it still interests me.  I care about our economy and what’s happening to us and what it means for our children.  But I believe it will get better, and by “better” I don’t mean we’ll return to the same 'spend it all, as fast as you can, bigger, better, sparklier' mentality that has plagued us for the past couple of decades. 

I saw a very amusing video on youtube this morning, sent to me by a friend.  It’s a short clip of Conan interviewing comedian Louis CK.  I know everyone abhors the click over, but come on.  Click.  Just this once.  You’ll be glad you did.  He’s funny, but he’s got a really good point.  Then, if you’re feeling really generous, click back and tell us:  Do you agree?  What do you think?  

Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy:  CLICK HERE now

photo credit:  cursed thing

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Guest Post: Midwest Transplant

Our second guest blogger here at MP is the fabulous Cathy who blogs at Mayberry Mom and The Full Mommy, and also runs a site devoted to family fitness. She has two kids including a son she really does call Opie. I've always loved her blog name since I stumbled upon her site and seem to hear whistling in my head when I read the title for some reason...


My husband and I went to college, separately, in Philadelphia. We met in New York City, where we both lived and worked for more than 10 years after college. Our first home was a two-bedroom condo in an urban neighborhood just across the Hudson River from Manhattan Island. Our first child was born at NYU Medical Center. We even adopted our dog from a shelter in a fairly seedy neighborhood in New Jersey.

So five years ago, when we announced to friends, neighbors, and colleagues that we were moving to a small town in Wisconsin of which they’d never heard, they all thought we were 100% crazy. What about restaurants? Culture? Shopping? Temperatures above 10 degrees?

There are actually restaurants in the Midwest, we assured them. Theaters, too. And a season we like to call “summer.” Most importantly, there was a roomy, charming, old house that cost the same as the selling price on our apartment. There were jobs that required a zero- to 10-minute commute, instead of a 60- to 90-minute one. There was a community, with neighbors that would know us and our kids. There was a park across the street, and a community pool around the corner, and a lovely library a few blocks away. There were decent public schools and child care centers.

It was a trade we were happy to make, and we’re still glad we did (although at this point in the year, the winter? Kind of a drag). Yes, we miss living in the city sometimes. We especially miss the friends and family we left behind. But as parents of young children, we weren’t exactly painting the Big Apple red every night. Dining out often and seeing the latest shows and exhibits didn’t fit into our schedule, let alone our budget.

And guess what? The performing arts center located 10 miles from our Midwestern home gets all the traveling Broadway shows (not to mention the cheesy kids’ ones too). We’ve discovered some good restaurants and a lot more time to enjoy them.

Above all that, we have the community we hadn’t quite found in New York, where our friends and family were scattered across the five boroughs and the surrounding states. Here we have neighbors who drop what they’re doing to chat with our kids or care for them if we’re in a pinch. We have friends who drop off meals during times of crisis. We have teachers and doctors and shopkeepers who really know us. We have sturgeon, for goodness sake!

I think we’re going to stay a while longer.

Monday, March 9, 2009

back to basics

Have you started to make changes in your family due to the changes in the economy? Have you noticed that your money is just not going as far (or like me, noticing that there is less money to work with) to make ends meet? Are you cutting back on expenses? Canceling that vacation? Skipping those trips through your fast foods favorites?

For our family, it is a little bit of everything (although there was no planned vacation yet this year). I am trying my best to do/buy what I can on a lower than normal budget. So far, the grocery store is where I can see the biggest difference. I've started doing all of the basic shopping at Aldi & the dollar stores. I can get most of all the staple food items at Aldi, and love saving a few extra dollars by getting the same cleaning/paper supplies from the dollar store that I can get at Kroger. I've also thought about better meal planning so I do not overbuy, or trying weekly(or even monthly) cooking, or possibly meal sharing with friends. I've also considered ordering from Angel Food Ministries. My Mom's friend sent me an e-mail about it last year and told me that everyone is eligible for this program, there are no income guidelines.

I also would like to get back to basics as far as our possessions go. We all have too many clothes, and our (too little) house is overflowing with toys...most of which just get moved around the house, not actually played with. I feel that in doing so, my kids will take more pride and what they do have & HOPE that they will take better care of their things.

This economic situation is not looking good, but I am really trying to find ways that it can change my family in positive ways. Our getting rid of things can help other families with less than what we have. Cutting back on expenses now may allow us to afford a vacation later in the year, even on our lower budget. Teaching my kids responsibility about needs vs. wants - it's the perfect time. I am learning these lessons right along side Tim Horton's Coke is NOT a necessity :)

So what are you doing? Are you making some of these changes too?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Everything In Its Own Time

Like many a good little emo coed of the early 1990's, I fell in love with the Indigo girls hard. I am a freak for lyrics, and the poetry of what they had to say, married to the sweet harmonies they presented-- I swooned. (I still swoon.) My smoking buddies and I-- a gaggle of 19-22 year-olds similarly flannel-clad and emo-- would sit out in front of our residence hall, smoking girlie cigarettes, gossiping, and singing Indigo Girl songs until quiet hours. (I can't say that in retrospect this sounds as cool as I thought it was at the time.) My evenings were spent poorly recreating Rites of Passage and Swamp Ophelia and ruining my lungs. (I suppose this was better than being drunk every night...)

This past Saturday, I found out that my baby's lungs were not mature enough to be born this morning at our much-anticipated scheduled c-section.

So, we wait.

Babies and buses, they come when they come.

And an old Indigo Girls song has been circling my head ever since I got the call-- do you know it? "Everything In Its Own Time?"
A lesson learned
A loving God
And things in their own time
In nothing more do I trust.
Oh, it's a good one. It's a hard lesson for someone like me, someone who likes to have everything mapped out, thought out, planned to the nth degree. I get a panic when the world spins off its axis, and things don't go as I expected. Obviously, this is a daily occurrence in parenthood. Things rarely go as planned. I have grown a lot just through living that reality. I have to trust in the lesson, trust in God (whatever that means to me on any particular day,) and trust that things will go in their own time.

Everything in its own time.

Another verse of the same song sticks with me:
We own nothing, nothing is ours
Not even love so fierce it burns like baby stars
But this poverty is our greatest gift
The weightlessness of us as things around begin to shift
It is another verse about our own powerlessness-- but instead of lamenting it, the song says, we should revel in the gift of it. Because we cannot control it, cannot own it, we can remain weightless, being carried along and malleable.

Because we cannot own it, we can know more precisely its value. We can hold it more dearly.

Here's a poor metaphor to compare: when are you more aware of how much money is in your bank account? When you have tons of cash to spare, or when you are watching every bill to see whether there will be meat with dinner on Friday?

I believe you know the value of things most when the resource is precious, limited, or unattainable. It would be ideal to live otherwise, but the reality is that it's not the way most of us think.

So, of course I am disappointed that I am not missing my day to blog here because I'm meeting my son. But I have a chance to enjoy my own weightlessness in the process-- go with the flow-- appreciate the waning days of my final, bladder kicking, heartburn inducing days of magic. It will be over too soon.

I will never grow another baby in this belly, and even though he is in me, growing and kicking, (and hopefully getting some monster lungs) he is not mine. We own nothing. He is his own. And he will be here when he gets here. I can enjoy this time or wish it away.

Everything in its own time.