Category Archives: Lazy Mother’s Guide

The Lazy Mother’s Guide to Groceries

One in an occasional series, entitled The Lazy Mother’s Guide to Saving the Planet.

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            You know what I do not like doing?  Shopping.  It is all so darned complicated, what with the parking and the walking and the searching and the never-finding.  I do not so much mind the crowds and the noise, if only each store would have a little display laid out in a discreet corner of the store labeled “Items Emily Is Shopping for Today.” 

            As you can probably surmise, online shopping suits me just fine.  For groceries, however, even that can get stressful, because I unfailingly manage to forget some essential item until three minutes before the truck pulls up outside my front door, at which time it is a bit too late to log back on and request a half-gallon of milk.  And, given the fact that we use three different kinds of milk around here (at least until Benjamin turns two), that’s a lot of kinds of milk for me to forget.

            Fortunately, here in London, there is someone who will remember to order milk for me.  He will then bring it to my front door, leaving it on the step, so that when we get up in the morning, there are little bottles of milk sitting out front.  And he will do this three times a week.

            Yes, it is true.  We have a milkman.

            He drives up in his little electric truck sometime in the middle of the night.  I suspect he arrives shortly after the Tooth Fairy and shortly before the sun.  He checks his little hand-held computer.  And then, he leaves me bottles of milk.  Actually, before he leaves my milk, he picks up my empties, provided I remembered to leave them out the night before.  Because the milkman deals in glass, reusable bottles.

            The only waste created is the tiny little foil circle on the top, which I put into the recycling.  He is delivering to other families on my block, and he is driving an electric truck, so the delivery is certainly less emissions-producing than my running out to the grocery store would be.  And, there are no plastic bottles to recycle.

            I did not realize how many plastic milk bottles we were going through in a week until I signed on with the milkman.  Suddenly, my recycling has been cut in half, if not more.  Here, around the Rosenbaum household, we are saving the planet by cutting back on our recycling.

            You may not live somewhere that has a milkman, in which case you are left with the options of either a) getting up at dawn to milk your cow, or b) buying your milk from the Super Fresh.  You know which option I would go for.  However, you may be surprised to find that there is a milk delivery service in your area.  Spend ten minutes online and do a little research.

            Just think, next week, there could be pints of milk, cream clumping at the top, waiting on your front step.  It is like having your own little corner of the dairy section.

 

            Also nice are the fruits and vegetables that are delivered to our door.  They come in these nifty reusable cardboard boxes that we leave out the next week for the driver to collect.   No plastic grocery bags, no extra packaging, and the driver is already delivering to the neighborhood, so there is an economy of scale in the petrol usage.  The produce is organic and mostly local.

            But, the best part is that I am free.  You know all that time that you spend in the grocery store, squeezing melons and searching through apples?  I never do that.  I get to use that time for other important things, like taking naps and reading Please, Baby, Please forty-eight times. 

            This service I know exists other places, and if you are in the U.S., you can go here to figure out who does it in your area.  Think of all the naps you could be earning.

The Lazy Mother’s Guide to Bathroom-water conservation

One in a whenever-the-heck-I-feel-like-it series. 

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           “We’re not in a drought,” he tells me.  “What does it matter how much water I use?”  This is actually quite true.  If you live in an area with plenty of water, your water use has no effect on the environment.  Really.  None at all.  Of course that only is the case if you use solely rain water that you have collected in huge tubs in your backyard.  And if you use only cold water.  And if you hand-remove the sh*t from the toilet after use, carrying it out to your backyard as fertilizer, perhaps.

            If, however, you are lazy, like me, you prefer to get your water from turning on the tap, which means the water companies must use energy to carry the water to your house.  (Energy production creates waste.)  And, if you are a hedonist, like me, you prefer to shower and wash your hands in warm water, using energy to heat the water.  (Energy production creates waste.)  And, if you are living in a house with two little sh*t-producing machines, like my children, you might prefer to flush the toilet, which means the water companies must then use energy to clean the water that goes down the drain.  (Energy production creates waste.)

            Unfortunately, there is not some guy sitting outside your house watching the water flow out your sewer and deciding whether the water coming out is dirty and needs processing or is clean and can go right back into the supply (what a job that would be).  The water companies have to work under the assumption that all the water that goes down the drain has been sullied and requires processing.  So, even if you are in the next room clipping your toenails while the sink runs, the water is going to need to be cleaned, using energy.  (Energy production creates waste.)

            This, as I understand it, is the basic argument for conserving water, even if you live somewhere with 347 days of rain each year.  (Sometimes, I feel like I live somewhere like that.)  If I am wrong, please, one of the more scientific minds out there should feel free to correct me.  Or give me more details to make my argument stronger.  (Alina, maybe?)

            What I like about water conservation is how easy it is.  Mostly, it consists of not doing things.  This, as you know, is my area of expertise.  Take the toilets.  Now, there are people who visit the toilet three, maybe four, times a day.  These are not people who have given birth to children.   (To be fair, I had a tiny bladder before having children, but I like to blame as much on my kids as possible.)  I visit that little room about once an hour.  Zachary is only slightly more continent than I am, so he is in there pretty frequently, as well, and most of the time he actually hits his target, peeing in the toilet.  When you factor in a few visits from the big guy, that’s a lot of water down the toilet.  So, we just do not flush.  I mean, we flush, but not very often.  We wait till someone has made a solid contribution before pulling the handle. 

Nor is this the only way we help out the planet simply by being lazy.  We make group trips.  You see, Zach prefers an escort on most trips to the bathroom.  If I were to just take him and then wait to go myself, I’d be in there every twenty minutes.  So, when I have to go, he goes.  When he has to go, I go.  (I don’t recommend this for parents with twelve-year-olds.)  While we’re at it, we change Benjamin’s diaper.  We are in there already – let’s make the most of the hike up the steps.  This way, even if there is some flushing to be done, we have cut our flushing by half.

Much has been made lately of the two-minute Navy shower.  This is something I never could quite accomplish.  I spend at least a minute each shower having to adjust the constantly fluctuating water temperature, so maybe all those Navy-showerers have better plumbing systems.  I have, however, come up with a few ways to greatly reduce my time pouring water down the drain.

First of all – and men might want to look away for this paragraph – I have started waxing my legs.  Ideally, I would not put any time or resources into hair-removal at all, under the principle that the only reason I covet hairless legs is because I have bought into a patriarchal society that insists women have to spend hours each day grooming themselves.  Since we do not live in an ideal world and I have bought into a patriarchal society that requires me to spend at least 15 minutes each day grooming myself, I still do the hair-removal thing.  Shaving, however, is very time-consuming.  Not to mention water-consuming.  Since I need to wax monthly anyway due to certain unfortunate dark-haired tendencies to grow hair in socially unacceptable places, I started doing my legs, as well.  Shorter showers, less time spent balancing on one leg while dragging a sharp object across the other.

Men can look back now.

The other method I have devised for shortening my showers is, if I say so myself, pure genius.  It is so simple, so effective, and so utterly satisfying, I cannot imagine why I did not think of it before.  It appeals to the very core of my lazy soul.

I sleep in.

That’s it.  I sleep later.  Nowadays, I actually sleep until the kids wake up.  Then I tell Zachary to chat with Benjamin in his crib for a few minutes while I hop in the shower.  If knowing that your three-year-old is entertaining your one-year-old does not make you take a faster shower, I don’t know what will.

If you cannot wait until the children wake up, I suggest at least sleeping in so that you have only a few minutes before they wake up.  Nothing speeds up a shower like wondering if your kids have leapt out of bed and are rearranging the furniture while you stand there in the steam.

If you do not have children, just sleep in.  You have a train to catch?  A job to get to?  Fantastic.  Get ten extra minutes of shut-eye, then hop in the shower.  I guarantee you will use less water.  And – here’s the best part – you will get more sleep.  As far as I am concerned, the only respectable motive in life is more sleep.

I would start talking about turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, but if you are not doing that already, it seems pretty clear that the environment does not top your list of concerns. 

The Lazy Mother’s Guide to Giftwrap

Part three in an ongoing series.  I promise, the next installment will not be holiday-related.

            Say what you will about ordering gifts online; for those of us who dislike shopping, it is the greatest invention of the internet revolution.  Stores are bad enough, but stores between Thanksgiving and Christmas?  If, perhaps, you can put up with the crowds, the chintzy Christmas trees, and the salesclerks in Santa hats, you are a better soul than I am.  If you enjoy the continual auditory assault of “Jingle Bell Rock,” you are probably slightly mad already.

            What gets me most at the mall around this time of year are the fake wrapped gifts.  Stacked up under trees, strewn about the display windows, alluringly spread on checkout counters.  We all know those boxes are empty, people.  We are just not that stupid.  As I dart around women made three times larger by heavy winter coats that they insist upon wearing inside the store and fourteen shopping bags, I wonder: Just how much good could we do for the environment, just how many trees could we save, just how many chemicals could we not produce, if stores simply eliminated the fake wrapped gifts?

            I like to do my holiday shopping (for children, because you know what I do for adults) from the comfort of my own home.  There are no trips to the post office because the packages are shipped directly from the warehouse to the people receiving them.  Yes, there are resources spent to ship the gifts to the recipients, but at least they are not first shipped to a store, where I buy them, and then shipped again to the child.  I could buy the presents and hand-deliver them, but these days that would require a trans-Atlantic flight.  Talk about time- and resources-consuming…

            So, I click away.  I am actually too lazy to think up gifts on my own, so Zachary makes suggestions.  Our nieces are getting a lot of pink this year.

            The online ordering does have its snags.  There is a lot of packaging.  And, if you are willing to pay, say $2.99 to $5.99 extra, they will actually add more packaging for you.  Really.  I just opt for the free gift message.

            But this is a post about how to be lazy for the environment, not cheap.  So, in addition to forgoing the gift wrap at Amazon.com, I skip it here in my house.  Yes, that’s right.  The boys got seven nights of Hanukkah gifts (remember, one night was charitable contributions) without *gasp* any gift wrap. 

            So, here is what I propose.  Instead of spending days on end wrapping gifts for the holidays, just hand them their gifts.  Or, if they cannot take that, use old newspaper.  Or, if they really want something shiny, use reusable gift bags.  Make sure you use neutral ones, because you are going to want to use them again for all those birthday parties.

            Lest you think I am a scrooge who can sit back in my Christmas-less household and fail to see the joy of a tree stacked with gifts, let me tell you that there is one Christmas tradition that I can totally get behind.  Stockings.  Stockings make perfect sense to me.  You buy them once.  You fill them up.  You reuse every single year.  And, unless you are a total glutton for punishment, you don’t have to individually wrap each gift that goes inside.  I like stockings so much that I have, on occasion, tried to convince J that we should have them.  Not in December, because that is too Uncle Tomish for me, but maybe another month.  February can use all the cheering-up it can get.  And maybe not stockings.  Maybe we’ll fill mittens or something.    

            There are those people for whom gift-wrapping is an art form.  People who express themselves through silk-screened, homemade paper and ribbon they wove themselves from the flax growing in their backyard.  If you are one of those people, far be it from me to suggest you give up your art in the name of environmentalism.  I totally get the redeeming value of art, a subject for another time.  Suffice it to say, I would not have told Picasso that the studies he did in preparation for painting Guernica were a waste of paper.  If you raise gift wrapping to an art form, go for it, my friend.

            But slapping some shiny red paper on a box just to watch it get ripped off again?  Surely you have something better to do with your time.

The Lazy Mother and Holiday Cards

I’ll have that recipe up tomorrow, along with a bonus spinach recipe.  But, today is Hump Day, and Julie asks us to write about making new friends but keeping the old. 

Hump Day Hmm   25day3.jpg

Part two of an occasional series 

            I do not like opening the mail.  In fact, when J travels, the mail usually sits on the hallway shelf for days until he returns and picks it up.  He loves mail, so I leave it all for him to open.  Truly, if someone wanted to send me anthr@x, she would have to find a more effective method than the postal service.

            There are, however, certain exceptions.  I am in charge of baby announcements and wedding invitations.  (Lately we seem to only be getting the former; everyone got married while I was delivering children.)  I record the birth dates, send the baby gifts, and coo over the pictures.  I caress the wedding invitations and sigh as I imagine what the wedding will be like before replying that, no, sadly we cannot make a transatlantic flight with a newborn for a wedding on Rosh Hashanah.  I peruse the registries, deciding whether the bride is too much of a klutz to be trusted with fine china and then choosing the gift we most want to picture the happy couple using.

            And, I am in charge of holiday cards.  I adore holiday cards, even the absurdly Christmasy ones.  I read every last word of every last family holiday letter, no matter how many single-spaced pages it may be.  I pore over the pictures, deciding which parent which child has started to resemble and which little girl is too beautiful to be allowed out of the house when she reaches the tween years.  I arrange the cards for display all around the living room, balancing those picture-postcard thingies against the sturdier, two-sided ones. 

            Two of my favorites arrived in 2004.  First, from my friend C, who lives in DC but has a husband originally from Boston.  Their two little boys were featured on the cover, dressed in all their Red Sox finery, and inside the card read “We believed.”  The second card came from our neighbors just across the street.  Also originally from Boston, E is an artist, so she made a cover that had the words “Red Sox” etched into snowflakes.  Inside, it simply read “2004, the year hell froze over.”

            If someone wanted to send me anthr@x, holiday cards might be her only opportunity.  I love how the pour in from around the U.S. and beyond.  Texas, Florida, North Carolina.  I love how they bring tidings from people we have not seen in half a decade.  California, Vancouver, Iowa.  I love how they remind me of people I have cared for and still hold a tiny place for in my heart.  Massachusetts, South Carolina, Georgia.  I love how they keep that little thread of connection between old friends.  New Jersey, Virginia, Germany.  I love when new friends are added, a promise of becoming old friends in time.  New York, Wisconsin, Indiana.

            Our holiday card list runs to the hundreds.  We move so much and we keep adding people.  We never seem to subtract.  At last count, the list covered about 300 people and a quarter of the states.  It got to the point where we could no longer write out each card and we began ordering pre-printed ones with a whole letter inside and a picture of our progeny on the cover.  Even that is time-consuming, what with getting the right picture, composing the letter, and updating all the addresses.  And you do not need me to explain how expensive it can run.

            Yet, I kept doing it.  I loved the idea of connecting to old friends, colleagues, and teachers.  I loved the old-fashionedness of it all.  My lazy, cheap self was competing with my extroverted, longing-for-connections self, and my lazy, cheap self was losing.  Even when I wanted to stop, I felt guilty, as though people would be angry we had stopped.  We had entered a social system, and I sort of felt like we were not allowed to exit.  It was the Jean-Paul Sarte holiday card dilemma.

            Those of you who know me IRL will stop at this point and wonder.  “I haven’t gotten a card from them in years.  Am I the only one who has been cut off the list?”  No, honey, you’re not.  Because my lazy, cheap self found an ally: my environmental self.

            Holiday cards take paper.  They take energy to produce.  They take fuel to deliver.  They create piles of waste when the season is over.  My environmental self took on my guilty self, leaving my lazy, cheap self the clear victor.  So, we stopped sending holiday cards.  And birthday cards, because you know I was also sending out well over 100 of those a year.

            We do send out birth announcements and a card with a picture, an update, and a new address every few years when J’s company uproots us and lands us in another country.  But, the era of holiday cards is over.  Maybe a group email…

            I hope I still get a few family holiday letters, just for old time’s sake.  

Lazy Mother’s Guide to Saving the Planet

            Yesterday, I linked y’all to a lovely young lady who has pledged to make a difference every day for all of Advent.  She is blogging about it, and she has gotten some excellent support, including people willing to make matching donations.  She has also challenged us to play along.

            Now, I think I love Laura for her determination to improve the world, her ability to believe she can do it, and her humility in wanting the rest of us to share the credit.  So, you may wonder why I am not taking her up on her challenge (other than the fact that it is only today that I actually figured out what Advent is).  I am not joining her challenge because it is a challenge I make to myself every day.

            Before you get all mushy and impressed, let me clarify.  I need to challenge myself to make a difference every day because if I didn’t, I would be perfectly content to sit with a jar of peanut butter, a spoon, and the remote control for hours while replaying Grey’s Anatomy reruns.

            For lack of a better word, I am selfish.  Really, I am (and don’t go arguing with me – I am not being self-deprecating and am not looking for reassurance).  One of the biggest ways I am selfish is that I want the very best for my kids because they are mine, dammit, and I love them.  That means I want them to be better people than I am, inherit a cleaner planet than I inherited, and have happier childhoods than I had.

            Frankly, I think I’m setting the bar pretty low on all three of those.

            The last one requires almost no effort, because even if I did do the peanut butter and remote control thing, they would still have a more pleasant childhood than I did.  The other two, however, do require some work on my part.  A cleaner planet and caring, responsible children are unlikely to happen on their own.  Sh-t.  Just when I was getting cozy.  So, I wake up every day determined to make a difference if only to fool my kids into seeing me as a good role model.

            In the spirit of Laura’s challenge, I will take some time this month to mention a few of the things I have found effective, particularly on the whole cleaner-planet front.  Because, you know, if a pre-teen can’t be your inspiration for better behavior, who can be?

            Fortunately, many of the things I do to improve the world and hoodwink my children actually simplify my life and appeal to my inner sense of selfishness.  Like holiday gifts.  While everyone around me is in a flurry of anxiety about shopping for family and friends, I am contentedly taking long naps and reading trashy novels.  (OK, I don’t read trashy novels, but I do like long naps.)  Why am I so relaxed?  Because most of my holiday shopping is done.  I still need some gift cards for the teachers and a tip for the rubbish collectors, but otherwise, we are all set around here.  That’s ‘cuz we do not buy gifts for adults.  We give to charity, instead.  And we ask them to do the same for us.  In 45 minutes last night, I made charitable donations in quite a few names, thereby polishing off at least half of any holiday shopping.

            Hanukkah, as you know, is eight nights long, and buying that many gifts for our kids could get pretty time-consuming, not to mention spoiling them off their a-ses.  We decided to shave a day off.  Ask Zachary what we are doing for the first night, and he will tell you there will be no gifts because we are giving the money to children who do not have enought food.  In one fell-swoop, we helped someone else, set an example for our kids, and saved us some holiday shopping.  That’s what I call a win-win-win situation.

            Tune in later for more of the Lazy Mother’s Guide to Saving the Planet.  Or just go read Laura’s blog, because her mother has obviously figured out how to set a good example.