Friday, May 28, 2010

Did The Swiss Family Robinson Drive A Winnebago?

I think I am normal. My kids do not. Some of my friends do not. But deep down, I know I am just an average-fairly-ordinary-run-of-the-mill-kinda-suburban-mormon-mom. But when I was asked to categorize my blog on a website recently, I looked at their categories and the place that best fit me was "Crunchy Moms". Now. I know I do not know much about the world these days, but I do not consider myself sheltered. I must admit, however, that I have never heard the term Crunchy. I have been called Hippie, Granola and even Meadow Muffin, but Crunchy is new. So after a little googling on the subject I have to admit it, Crunchy I am. But I think that is normal. I do not believe my children when they tell me they are the ONLY kids at school with whole wheat bread around their homemade jam and peanut butter. Nor do I believe that ALL of the other houses they visit have chips, soda and cable TV ready for the asking. I am pretty sure that most of our neighbors live the way we do. It is 2010 for crying out loud. Right?
But in case you are in the dark as I was about your crunchiness, here is my tutorial. What we do that may seem crunchy to some, but I stand by it as being completely normal!
  • Recycle---Everybody is doing it. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I do because it has become so cliche.
  • Eat Food. As natural, local and seasonal as possible--God made food for us to enjoy and to nourish and strengthen our bodies. People tampered with food and mixed food with chemicals to try to kill us. We eat food.
  • Chickens--People have been raising animals for millennia. Eggs are better fresh. Plus chickens are funny to watch. Pretty cheap entertainment (make that "cheep"...get it?).
  • Clean Naturally--Way cheaper. Way healthier for us and Mother earth. Works just as well. Still fighting with Hunky Hubby about toilet bowl cleaner, but trust me...he is wrong on this one.
  • Compost--Also been going on forever. My parents did it. Black gold. I keep a little bin on the kitchen counter for scraps and take it out to the compost bin in the yard every couple of days. Twice a year I have beautiful fertilizer for the garden at no extra cost to me! This is sounding like I am just cheap not crunchy.
  • Gardening--this is sooo normal in my area that I look like a total amateur compared to my neighbors, but we eat what we grow and we have fun with it. Except the weeds. I hate the weeds.
  • Debt free---Cash on the barrelhead Pa always says. That was a line from Little House on the Prairie not me, but it is good advice.
  • Potty rocks or logs--This is a name we came up with when our kids were tiny. There is an art to finding just the right spot in the woods to conduct business. I think perhaps this is why some of my girlfriends have labeled me. I am actually pretty good at locating these precious spots.
  • General attitude of frugality and stewardship over the earth and the things that we have. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without". I must admit that I do see a lack of this in our country today, but I think the attitude is changing. Mass consumerism is losing its appeal. People are prioritizing and simplifying. Nice to see.
See, I told you, normal. Truth be told it is a far cry from where I would like to be and from where I imagined I would be when I was a kid. I always wanted to live in a treehouse a la the Swiss Family Robinson or in a cabin in the woods like the Wilderness Family. I still dream of picking up and moving to a yurt with no electricity or running water and living off of the land. Or buying an old Winnebago, loading up the kids and driving off to lands unknown for a couple of years. But alas, in the box I stay. We do what we can to make our lives cleaner, simpler and more natural. And for now, that makes us happy and it feels close to right. And you never know what tomorrow will bring. How much do you suppose a used Winnebago is anyway?...
Quote of the Day: "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."
~John Muir

Friday, May 21, 2010

GrowingUP: Wash Your Feet Before Bed!

Ok, raise of hands. How many of you are sick of hearing about my childhood? If you are just look away, cuz here comes another one. I think being outdoors has always been a part of my life. My infant and toddler years were spent in sunny San Diego. Many of my early days found us at the beach. I am told that my parents turned the playpen upside down on top of me, creating a bit of a cage, protecting me from the sun and preventing what would have likely been frequent attempts at escape. I happily played in the sand while my bottle, wrapped in aluminum foil, sat warming on a rock near the fire.
The remainder of my “growing up” years was spent in northern California. The mild climate afforded children the luxury of many blissful hours of outdoor play. An extravagance that seems to be disappearing. Days were whiled away digging in the dirt, climbing trees, fences and rocks, catching bugs, skipping rope, and just enjoying the natural part of our corner of suburbia. We would make huge forts in the large fields of weeds that surrounded our subdivision. The tall green stalks were soft and the tiny yellow flowers reached well above our heads. We would carefully smash down the plants to create the rooms for our pretend mansions. This even included bathrooms, but I will not go into detail on that. We played for hours, and when the streetlights came on begrudgingly dragged ourselves home, barefooted, bedraggled and begrimed, warranting the nightly admonition rarely needed nowadays to "wash your feet before bed."
As we got older the recreation became slightly more structured, but no less enjoyable. The Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Mendocino and Redwood Forests became our playgrounds. Hiking, camping and fishing kept us busy all day and ensured an appetite sufficient for even the most burnt of Dad's offerings and a sound night's sleep. Quality gear was either less available or less affordable back then (ok, Dad is a cheapskate) so we usually made do with what we could dig up at the Army Surplus store. We lugged around huge metal canteens, slept in leaky canvass tents and stopped frequently to patch blisters caused by salvaging last year's tennis shoes for hiking. Yards of medical tape and moleskin were expended and provided a patchwork of stories on our feet to tell of our adventures. I had the privilege of connecting to the earth and to myself through my natural surroundings at an early age. It is natural that I would do my best to pass the love of outdoors along to my children.
This is not as easy as it used to be. My husband and I have to work more diligently than our parents ever did to ensure that our four children are raised with adequate time in the sun. The draw of technology, no matter how we limit it, is strong. Schoolwork demands more of their home time than ours ever did. It sometimes takes conscious planning and a bit of effort to get out there. Good gear helps make sure the kidos are comfortable and more willing to go with more leaky tents. One of our first campouts with the kids helped ensure I would be well outfitted for outside with Hunky Hubby in charge. The kids were 3 and 1 and it rained all night. The tent leaked and the oldest threw up S'mores all over the bottom of the wet tent. We spent the rest of the evening NOT sleeping in the van. We have had waterproof tents ever since. The point is, we have to get out there with them. Even if it is the backyard. Not too hard. So the dishes and the vacuuming go undone sometimes. So what? We must "Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." Kalil Gibran said that. So Go! Get those feet dirty, just remember to wash them before bed...
Quote of the Day: "You must love the crust of the earth on which you dwell more than the sweet crust of any bread or cake; you must be able to extract nutriment out of a sand heap." --Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

GrowingUP: A Partridge In Hand Is Worth Two On The Bus!

I guess after my last post I feel the need to somewhat redeem the band of grown-ups who so painstakingly raised me to adulthood. Tribal custom requires it after even a mild dissing. I have also been contemplating my own parenting skills and style as of late and have a few questions that I am very sure my children will not be able to answer for many years to come.
I have one year left until my oldest graduates from high school, flies the nest and is on her own. I have mixed feeling about this. Excited to see her venture out, seek new life and new civilizations and to boldly go where...ever she wants to. Yet it will be quiet around here without her. Sometimes that will be a good thing. See what I mean about the mixed feelings? My question is as she embarks on this next stage of life, what things will she remember from her childhood? What will she embrace, reject, share with others, be embarrassed about, and ultimately what will she pass down to her posterity--meaning what is she going to tell her kids about me!? a year long enough to erase the previous 17? Hmmm...guess I should have started this "good mom" project earlier. Why do I procrastinate these things so?
But on to the point...yeah you thought I forgot again huh? Well, aside from the lack of supervision kindly described in my last post, what are my most vivid childhood memories? I have talked somewhat about my upbringing in a previous post, but I think I shall venture on.
I was not an easy child to raise. My mother has generously forgotten what a rotten kid I was, but rotten I was. Impossible to please stubborn beyond reason know-it-all bossy rotten! I pouted through my whole 7th birthday (can't remember why), all of junior high (here's why), and the large family trip to Disneyland (I kinda remember why, but am not willing to share that just yet). So my family deserves some credit for not selling me to gypsies like they threatened so many times. I think perhaps it is just that the caravan did not come through our neighborhood.
Music is a huge part of my life. I grew up with my parents' music. Wrong for my generation, but superior in every way so I thank them for that. We sat around my mother as she played the autoharp and we sang. Wonderful, old-timey, folk stuff. I pictured all my children gathered around me someday singing and traveling the countryside, guitars strapped to our backs. Every little girl's dream is to grow up to be Woody Guthrie right? It was California in the 70's, ok! Really I idolized the Partridge Family. "We had a dream, we'd go travelin' together. We'd spread a little lovin' then we'd keep movin' on." Truth be told, I still want that bus! I wore extra grooves in several old Beatles albums from Mom's teenage years and made my way through huge bins of 8-tracks from Dad's surfer days. Yes, you read that right. I think he still has a player in his truck. "Like totally vintage, Dude." Dad fancied himself a bit of a dancer and would strut his stuff around the room on cleaning day with the local oldies station blaring through the house. Music was life and energy and joy. I think I have passed this passion on to my children. We play music and sing together almost daily. Our extended family get-togethers are the same. The weird thing? The music has not changed. My mother laughs that we play "her" music, but it is now OUR music. That is legacy.
Quote of the Day: "Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them."
--Bob Dylan poet