Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween '13

I'm sitting at the computer on the night of my least favorite holiday of the year while Michael takes the children door to door to beg our neighbors for candy. Over the next few weeks, I will gather up candy wrappers every time I sweep the floor, and it doesn't matter how many times I threaten to take away their candy hoard "if I find one more wrapper on the floor!!!!" because the boys know that in this case, I am the boy who cried wolf.

My problem with Halloween (besides all of my other problems with Halloween) is that it is a holiday celebrating cheap candy. If my kids came home from trick-or-treating with a jack-o-lantern full of Ghiradelli chocolates, I would lobby to make Halloween a four-times-a-year holiday. Instead, they bring home a two-month supply of Smarties and Hubba Bubba and can't even pay the chocolate tax to Mom and Dad for taking them trick-or-treating.

Halloween's one redeeming quality is the chance it offers my children to shine as super creative costume designers. Eli and Cole went as Origami Yoda and Darth Paper respectively, and their costumes are giant origami finger puppets. Unfortunately, no one knows who Origami Yoda and Darth Paper are, so Eli looks like a giant tree and Cole is a black fire hydrant.

Halloween 2013Halloween 2013Halloween 2013

These are great costumes for children of The Conscious Shopper because they are 100% recyclable.

Rylan's costume is not creative, but he makes a very cute zombie.

Halloween 2013Halloween 2013

For school today, Rylan had to dress up as a Letterland character, and he chose Impy Ink.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Post from the Conscious Shopper (Have you missed me?)

I had an epiphany as I was walking to the boys' school one afternoon last week. Purely out of laziness, we have only walked to or from school a handful of times this school year, but that afternoon the sun poked out from behind the gloomy grey clouds and began to call my name. A few minutes later, with my body preoccupied by the rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other, my mind slipped into deep thoughts. And then I realized: "This is why I haven't felt like writing!"

Let me share some of the thoughts I had last week. I came across a blog post about ways parents make raising kids harder than it should be (for example, giant birthday parties), and while I agree completely with her point, I have a bone to pick with the part where she talks about buying organic. She says something like (and I'm completely paraphrasing from memory), "I get that eating organic food is best for our health, but do we really need organic everything? Organic diaper bags? Do we really need the bags we store our poopy diapers in to be organic? Are we eating them later?"

Okay, yes, it's funny. But it so completely misses the point! And it's a "missing the point" kind of statement that I hear all the time. Health is one reason to choose organic products, but it's not the only reason. In fact, the science is still out on whether or not organic food is actually healthier than non-organic. You can find studies to support either side. Personally, I think it's logical to assume that if we use chemicals on our crops with the specific intent to kill other living creatures, it can't be very good for our own bodies.

But health is not the only reason to choose organic!

I put that in big, bold font just in case that's the only sentence you read in this entire blog post.

Back in 2009 (four years ago!), I wrote a post called "Seven Reasons to Eat Organic," and since I'm lazy (see first paragraph above), I'm just going to quote myself here:

1. Organics protect soil quality. Years of monocropping and intensive use of synthetic fertilizers depletes soil quality and leads to massive topsoil erosion. On the other hand, sustainable farming methods generally used by organic farmers - such as rotating crops, planting cover crops, and composting - protect and replenish the nutrients in soil.

2. Organics protect water quality. Chemical fertilizer run off causes algae overgrowth, leading to huge ocean "dead zones" (areas where the water on the ocean floor has so little oxygen that marine life can no longer survive there). Scientists estimate that there are now 400 dead zones in the ocean, covering a combined area half the size of California. Additionally, chemical pesticides and intensive livestock farming contribute to water pollution.

3. Organics promote biodiversity. Industrial farming focuses on a handful of crops, choosing the varieties that are hardiest and stand up to shipping rather than those that taste best. Many organic farmers, on the other hand, grow a variety of plants, including heirloom varieties with interesting colors, textures, and tastes.

4. Organics support small farmers. Although more and more large, industrial-type farms are becoming certified organic, most organic farms are still small-scale, independently owned, and family run. Keep in mind that not all farmers that use organic farming techniques are certified organic. Becoming certified is a cost many struggling small farmers can't afford. So ask your local farmers about their methods for pest control and fertilization, focusing more on sustainability and less on certification.

Another reason, which I did not include in my original post: Organic farming is less harmful to the people who work the farms and the people who live around the farms.

I have to admit that not much of what I buy these days is organic. Over the past few years, our health insurance premiums have gone up, our taxes have gone up, and our kids have gotten bigger, and that has meant tightening the budget more and more. Organics are expensive - I admit it. I buy organic when I can, and when I can't, I focus on other ways to be green and don't beat myself up about it. But I'm aware of why buying organic is an important goal to have, and for me, it has very little to do with my own personal health.

Organic farming is part of living sustainably, of protecting and cherishing this planet that we live on, and of respecting the people who grow our food.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Superman Was Here

My favorite moments as a parent are those times when you recognize that you really like your kid. Of course you love him always and forever because you're his mother, but you also really like him as a person. You realize that as people go, he's a pretty darn cool one, and it's fun to be around him.

One day, I sat down at the computer and saw a post-it note that said, "Superman was here." I chuckled a little and then went about my business.

That night when I went to bed, there was a new note on the computer:

a note from Eli

Sometimes that kid is funny.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My apologies.

I have blogwriter's block.

Is this a real affliction? I don't know. Have any of you ever had blogwriter's block?

It's just that I'm realizing that our lives are the same thing on repeat over and over again. Do I really want to write another post about the same old thing we did last year and the year before that and the year before that...

I would like to post about Kellie's wedding, but I didn't take any pictures.

Eventually, I'll think of something to write. In the meantime, here are a few photos from the past few months.

cousinssilly RylanChimney Rock 2013Chimney Rock 2013sillycooke st carnival 2013cooke st carnival 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Desperately Seeking Pretty

When I met Michael, I was 22 years old and had never had a boyfriend. I had been on a respectable number of dates, but I had never been kissed. I didn't go to prom or any other high school dance, and no boy I liked had ever liked me back.

My mother, who is a lovely person inside and out, talked a lot about her weight and was constantly on a diet. So were most of the girls I knew. So were their sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers.

My older sister, who always had a knack for doing hair and make-up and following fashion trends, knew that the best way to get under my skin was to remind me of my physical faults. She'd say, Your butt jiggles when you walk. Your ears are too big. Your nose is too big. Why did you wear that?

When Michael and I were dating, I told him, "I only want boys. I don't want any daughters. I would screw them up."

At the time, I felt screwed up.

I had no doubt that I was smart; not only had I been told over and over since I was a little girl how smart I was, I had a thousand examples in my memory store of life experiences that proved to me that I was smart. I didn't wonder if I was talented: I played the violin and was learning the guitar. I had a pleasant alto voice. I was a kick-butt writer. I sucked at sports, but that was no bother since I didn't like them anyway. And besides, I was this close to mastering the headstand in my yoga practice. I didn't doubt my inner beauty: I was kind to others. I was reliable. I was a hard-worker. I felt a lot of empathy for other people's suffering, and I tried to be a charitable person.

But if you had asked if I thought I was pretty? No, I did not. I had exactly zero examples in my memory store of life experiences that told me I was pretty. I was 22 years old and had never had a boyfriend. I had never been kissed. I didn't go to prom or any other high school dance, and no boy I liked had ever liked me back. Girls who were prettier - and thinner - than I was were on diets, and I had been told over and over since I was a little girl exactly what was wrong with my appearance.

All culminating in this: When Michael and I met, I had serious issues with food, I was on a downward spiral toward depression, and I had been seeing a therapist once a week.

Ever since this Dove ad came out, I have come across blog post after blog post saying, "No, no, no, Dove. You're getting it wrong. 'You're more beautiful than you think' is a nice message, but the real message should be, 'It doesn't matter if you're beautiful at all.' We shouldn't be teaching our daughters to even care about beauty because it's not important."

Well, you know what? Screw that.

Beauty may not be THE MOST IMPORTANT but it's laughable to say that it's not important at all.

I wish someone in my childhood had made it their mission to let me know how beautiful I was. I wish they had drilled it into my head. I wish that the grown women in my life had embraced their aging beauty and flaunted it confidently and had said, "I may not have the beauty of a 20-year-old anymore, but I do have the beauty of a 40-year-old." I wish that the girls and women around me had found confidence in their personal brand of beauty and that they'd expressed that confidence so loudly that I would have heard it over the cacophony of television ads and magazine ads full of fake women selling a beauty standard that I will never be able to reach. I hope that I am lucky enough to have a husband who tells me when I'm 82 that I'm beautiful just like he told me when I was 22.

If I had a daughter, I would say to her over and over again: You are pretty just the way you are. You are pretty just the way you are. Of course, I would praise her when she does well in school. I would cheer from the sidelines when she sings in the choir or plays in the band or scores a goal on the basketball team. I would teach her that she is strong and resilient and courageous, that beauty is subjective and youth is fleeting. But I would not hesitate to tell her that she is pretty -  not to fulfill some personal agenda but for the same reason I tell my sons that they are handsome: because I look at them and see beauty and the words come spilling out. And I would pray that when she is 15 years old with an awkward body and a pimply face, crushing on boys who don't appreciate and living in a culture that upholds an impossible standard of beauty, she would be able to look in the mirror with fists full of all the times I told her she was pretty and at the very least be able to say to herself, "You are more beautiful than you think."


I wrote this post in May, but I was too scared to publish it. I don't know why I'm publishing it now when the conversation on that particular subject has ended except that re-reading it five months later, I still feel THIS PASSIONATE about it. 

Before ending up with what's here, I wrote a dozen mental rough drafts, but it wasn't until I decided to make it personal that the post finally flowed the way I wanted it to. At the same time - my early twenties were not the happiest time of my life, and I'd rather not talk about it.

After reading the rough draft of the post, Michael asked, "Did your parents really never tell you that you were pretty?" The truth is that I'm sure they did and I didn't hear it, just like if I had a daughter, she wouldn't hear it either. Unfortunately, that's the nature of girls. But that doesn't mean we should stop saying it.

My sister is a wonderful person. I was as cruel to her as a child as she was to me, and I think we've both gotten past it.
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