Tag Archives: environment

Eleventh hour

So, for the time being, gay people can get married in California.  For the time being, they can’t get married here.  But we’ll be taking it up to higher courts, arguing it for years and years, fighting tooth and nail.

People, it’s a moronic thing to argue about.  If you fear the erosion of your definition of marriage, I understand your concern.  I really do.  I disagree, but I understand.  However, really, it that your biggest concern?


The earth spews oil into the ocean through a giant hole we made.  The polar icecaps are melting.  The air is rapidly becoming unbreathable.  Our boys’ junk is becoming less recognizable as male because of the chemicals from the plastic.  Our reproductive systems are in open rebellion, our children may all have to migrate to the center of the country because the oceans will rise so high, and there will be a major war over potable water in the not-to-distant future.

It is fucking bleak.  As Celeste said, we are in the eleventh hour.  And what are we arguing about?  Whether or not two men can get married.  I’ll admit I spend too much energy perseverating on stupid shit, but at least it’s my own stupid shit, not what’s happening in someone else’s house.

Why do you give a flying numchuck that someone else is getting married?  Let it go.  Spend the time and energy and money that you’re spending advocating anti-marriage laws instead advocating for environmental reform.  Fifty years from now, gay people are going to be allowed to be married no matter what you do.  But it won’t matter, because the earth will most likely be uninhabitable.

On wrapping

On my post about the Emergency Paper Towels, my friend Lauren commented that she is glad to get details about how we function without disposable towels.  She has been embarrassed to ask, but she wants to know how we get along without some other modern conveniences.

First of all, no need to be embarrassed.  (Why is it that whenever I say “Don’t be embarrassed” I always want to add “I like men without hair”? Seriously, it’s not like I’m some sort of Gypsy groupie.  It’s just such a great line.)  We are certainly not perfect environmentalists around here.  We use disposable diapers – 7th Generation brand, which is better but still adding to the landfills.  We used cloth for the first child, but London and LA had such water problems that we decided cloth and disposable would more or less be equivalent environmentally.  And while I wanted to switch back to cloth with Lilah when we moved here, it seemed like at that point, we might as well just wait the last few months for her to be potty trained.

So, basically, we were lazy.

Second, I think it’s a great idea to share some of the things we do to reduce our negative ecological impact.  The fact is that many of the things we do have become such a way of life that I don’t even think about them until I am in someone else’s house.  There I am, chatting in a friend’s kitchen, and I see a pile of paper napkins and realize I haven’t seen such items for two months.  When we order takeout (and don’t get me started on how guilty I feel about doing that when all those disposable packages arrive, but every now and then, even I don’t feel like cooking), we tell the folks at the Chinese restaurant not to bring disposable forks and napkins.  Sometimes, they actually don’t bring them, so I really can go quite some time between paper-napkin sightings.

Anyway, the point is that the way we do things is so much a part of our lives that we don’t even think about it.

Lauren wanted to know how we do without plastic wrap.  Truth is, we do use plastic wrap.  We go through one roll about every eight to twelve months.  We mostly use it when there is nothing else that would suit – although those times are fewer and fewer as we get used to other ways of preserving things.  The one time I have used it in the last eight months was to wrap our menorah after Chanukah because it keeps the silver from tarnishing.

If we want to wrap something to put it in the fridge or freezer, we simply put it in one of our storage containers that has a lid.  Most of ours are Pyrex, as we try to limit our use of plastic.  We save glass peanut butter, honey, and jam jars to reuse, so we store food in those, too.  If we are storing something in a bowl without a lid, we just cover it with a plate, and we often store soup right in the pot, covering it with a lid.

If someone is at our house and is taking home something, we wrap it in a cloth napkin or put it in a container.  The containers almost always return.  Our neighbors are forever returning our plates to us, usually at moments when I am screaming at the kids, but that’s a story for another time.

When wrapping food for lunches and picnics, we use reusable things.  I love the stuff at reusablebags.com.  I like Wrap-n-mats – awesome.  There are several brands of reusable baggies, also quite good.  Don’t put these things in the washing machine or dishwasher, though, as it tends to degrade the liner.  (I must of course remind you to use as little water as possible when washing by turning off the tap after wetting the sponge, scrubbing, and then turning it back on just to rinse.)

I also got myself some reusable bread bags to freeze or refrigerate bread.  My husband bought me a stunning bread box, which is the centerpiece of my impossibly messy kitchen.  I store muffins and zucchini bread in my covered cake stand.

So, Lauren, long answer to short question.  That’s how we avoid plastic wrap and baggies.  What else do you want to know?  Be careful what you ask, however, because I just might answer it.

Spirit of it

It is Spirit Week at my son’s school, which means that each day there is a theme and the kids are supposed to come in costume, a fact I registered and then completely forgot until we were walking up to the kindergarten line on Monday morning and noticed that several of his classmates were wearing tie-dye for “Hippie Day.”  No matter – I ran back to the car, grabbed some Burt’s Bees colored lip balm, and put peace signs on his cheeks, mumbling something under my breath about  how peace signs are not particular to an era and maybe something else about how being a hippie is a state of mind, not a fashion statement.

Tuesday was mixed-up crazy day, but Zach is a first child and therefore could not possibly wear his clothes backwards or inside out.  Hell, I’d be lucky if I could get him to wear gold and silver together or white before Memorial Day.  He decided to tie a sock around his wrist.  Whoa, there kiddo.  Don’t get too out of hand.

Wednesday, however, was a snap.  Wednesday was advertised as “Earth Day – Go Green, Recycle.”  That one I had covered, although I’m not sure the mother whose SUV idles outside the school for half-hour every single afternoon had any clue what to do.

We walked up to the kindergarten line this morning, and Zachary started to pout.  “I’m not wearing anything green,” he complained, looking at his friends.

“Zach, the theme is Earth Day – Go green, Recycle.  You are wearing a Scrap Kins shirt.  They live in a recycling center.”

“Yes, but trees help too,” he told me, looking at a girl with paper leaves glues onto her pants.  Paper she will most likely need to throw away this afternoon.

“Your shirt is organic cotton, and it is about recycling.  It is a small, locally owned business, and it was shipped to us from New York, so it has a small carbon footprint.  Your pants are organic cotton, made by a company with socially responsible business practices.  Your underpants are also organic cotton, also made by Hanna Andersson.  In fact, with the possible exception of your socks, everything you are wearing is ethically produced.  You are the most ethically dressed kid here.  Possibly in New Jersey.”

He looked unconvinced, sighing with envy as a child ran by covered in cotton balls, shouting “I’m a cloud for Earth Day.”


Monday morning, I was upstairs brushing my teeth, trying my best to ignore Benjamin throwing a tantrum on the landing and Zachary screaming about something from the dining room.  We had twenty minutes before we needed to be pulling out of the driveway, no one was dressed, and only two of the children had even started breakfast.

I spit and rinsed, then hollered, “What is it?”  Zach responded, sobbing incoherently, and I stomped down the stairs.  “What?!”

“I have throw up,” he wept.

Shit.  He hasn’t thrown up in months, but he has a long history of vomiting up breakfast.  He has a very strong gag reflex, and a little bit of post-nasal drip in the morning is likely to bring up a rerun of breakfast.

“OK, don’t move,” I told him.  Not that I had to.  He’s been through this so many times that he knows the drill: contain the wreckage before cleaning up the child.  I grabbed a rag from the table, then thought the better of it.  There was an entire cup of orange juice vomit all over his pjs and chair.

This was a job for the Emergency Paper Towels.

Normally, we only use rags, which get thrown in with the rest of our wash.  We keep the EPTs for power outages, when we don’t want to be cleaning with rags that won’t get washed anytime soon.  And for special cases of Copious Vomit.  There were only four towels left on the roll, and I used them to stop the spill before it left his chair, tossing the cardboard roll onto the table.  I managed to get the child out of his bottoms, but he pulled off the top – smearing upchuck all over his face.

“OK, now you’re going to need a shower,” I remarked, lifting him carefully and heading for the stairs.  Zach, who cannot stand to get his face wet, does not do showers.  But I was not drawing a bath with less than 15 minutes before we had to leave the house.  I sidestepped his brother, still tantruming on the landing and stood Zach in the shower.

Five minutes later, everyone was at the now-cleaned-up breakfast table, with one child freshly showered and dressed.  “What’s this?” Benjamin asked, picking up the empty paper towel roll.

“It’s a paper towel roll,” I told him. “You can have it.”

“No fair!” Zach shouted.  “I never get a long one.”

Now, I would like you to know that I bake my children whole-grain muffins and they want Cheerios.  I make them fresh waffles and they ask for Goldfish.  I buy organic, local produce, and they want bananas from a continent-and-a-half away.

I have made the ordinary exotic, and I have made the exotic ordinary.

Which might explain why Benjamin spent the entire day finding eighty-seven different ways to play with an empty paper towel roll.


Being completely and totally inept at all things technical, I once tried and failed to set up some sitestalker thingamagig to figure out who visits my site and from where.  Somehow, it managed to reflect that absolutely no one ever visits this blog, which I know to be patently untrue, because I click over at least once a week.

However, WordPress does kindly provide a probably somewhat incomplete list of the search terms people have used to find my site.  Normally, I just find those amusing.  And a little scary, since there seem to be an awful lot of people searching for Emily Rosenbaum, although maybe that’s because there’s a reality TV chick and a very prominent sociologist with my name.  Anyway, a recent uptick in certain combinations of search terms leads me to the conclusion that folks here in this very small town have learned that I have a blog and are actively searching for it.  And presumably reading.

That’s fine, of course, as there’s nothing I like more than increased blog stats.  There is a downside, however, to folks here in Rockwelland reading my musings.

I have to see them twenty minutes later in the school parking lot.

I have always aimed for brutal honesty here at Wheels on the Bus, with allowances made for the privacy of my family.  So, I don’t talk about my sex life,.  I don’t talk about my husband’s work, our arguments (not that we ever argue), or really anything about our relationship.  He’s a wonderful father and a supportive husband, but the man deserves his privacy.

I also try to respect my children’s privacy.  I am fine with the occasional poop post and a few years ago I included the requisite mocking of my toddler son’s interest in his willy, although you’ll note that for some reason I do not talk about my toddler daughter’s private parts at all.  I don’t know why that feels more invasive, but it does.  (Although, I guess that anatomically, it really is more invasive.)

A lot of my earliest writing had to do with my anxiety over Zachary.  He is complicated, and parenting him requires more ingenuity than I have on most days.  Over the years, I have used this space to figure him out.  I have made understanding my son’s psychology a bit of an obsession, and I continue that dedication to completely smothering my firstborn.

I just don’t think it’s right to do it in a forum being read by his friends’ parents.

Of course, I will continue to write about him, and I will try to be as honest as I can – as long as it is only my own psychology hanging out there like a big old moon in the bus window.

There is, however, an upside to knowing that people in this little town are interested in what I have to say.  It provides me an opportunity for the following public service announcement to those parents I will see in the school parking lot:

Please, for the love of Mike, when you are talking to your friends, picking up your kids, combing your hair, writing the great American novel on your iphone, or otherwise not actually driving somewhere in your automobile, turn the fucking thing off. That’s my air, my children’s air, and your children’s air that you’re belching foul toxins into.

And thanks for reading.

Drill, baby, drill

I keep reading comments and Facebook updates and posts in which people point to the mess our country is in as evidence of Barak Obama’s failure.  Never mind that the recession started on Bush’s watch and we have no idea whether things would have been even worse without Obama’s measures.  Never mind that the war in Iraq – the one that Bush proclaimed over – was inherited, as well.  Never mind that our forty-third president left his successor with an international reputation so tattered that it’s amazing he has accomplished anything at all.

No, what really floors me is that Obama is being blamed for the current oil spill in the gulf.  Seriously?  I mean, seriously?!  Surely, I cannot be the only one who remembers:

Every day is like Earth Day

Yesterday was Earth Day.  People honored their planet by recycling and reducing and reusing — all except the mom outside my son’s school who lets her SUV idle for 15 minutes every day while she waits to pick her kid up.

Yesterday was Earth Day.  A day dedicated to conserving our planet for the next generation, making sure there is food and water and air and other little luxuries.

Yesterday was Earth Day.  We all should have been on our best eco-behavior.

Yesterday was Earth Day.

And so is today.

Eco-friendly is the new sexy

I have this bloggy friend who is completely obsessed with her Bakfiets.  The uninitiated among you will be unfamiliar with the thing of beauty that is a Bakfiets, but allow me to assure you that it is the Cadillac of bicycles.  Well, actually, it is the Honda Odyssey of bicycles.  While other bikes carry one, maybe two people, this little beauty has the capacity to tote around three kids, not to mention groceries and – as my blog buddy discovered – a Christmas tree.  Unlike bike trailers in the back, it is designed for regular commuting because it is very stable and the kids are up front where the grown-up can see them.

When we decided to move to this town, I declared to my husband my secret passion for this particular mode of transportation.  I had known about the Bakfiets for years, as a it is more common in Europe, but reading about Sara’s adventures in bicycling has created a deep desire to try out one of these puppies.  Unfortunately, it’s not like test-driving a Saab Saturn Subaru– there aren’t dealerships on every corner.  In fact, when I contacted Sara to learn more about her Wonder Bike, she told me she had heard rumors of someone with one about an hour away in New Jersey.  Or I could come to her house, a few hours away, and test-drive it.

Fantastic.  The whole point of getting this puppy would be to cut down on my driving, and here I was, contemplating long carbon-spewing road trips to try out a bike.

A cargo bike, you must understand, is perfectly suited to this town.  The distances are just far enough that one cannot always walk, but they are easily bikable.  Even the grocery, just outside of town, is close enough to bike to.  But, with three kids and Lots of Stuff, I can’t exactly hop on the old Schwinn.  So, I find myself strapping children into carseats for the two-mile trip to the grocery.

Which is where I was headed – in my gas-guzzling Honda Odyssey – on Wednesday.  I was just about to turn into the parking lot when, what to my wond’ring eyes did appear, a man turned out of the parking lot.  Riding on a Bakfiets.

I was seized by anxiety.  How could I get to him, make him stop, before he and his Wonder Bike vanished from my life completely?  I switched off my blinker, inched forward to where he was headed, and honked at him, gesticulating rather insanely – I am afraid – for him to pull over.  Then I moved ahead, as cars behind and in front of me wondered what the fuck was wrong with me, and turned into a parking lot about 100 feet ahead of where this bike was headed.  I jammed the car into park, and – heedless of the toddler in the backseat – jumped out, completely blocking the entrance to the parking lot.  I ran up the sidewalk towards him, shouting something incredibly eloquent like, “Can I see your bike?”

Fortunately, the man decided I wasn’t completely batty.  He let me fondle his bike and even pulled into the parking lot for me when a rather impatient Toyota insisted I move the van that was blocking the bank parking lot.  I kept panting, “I’ve never seen one in real life.”  It’s probably a good thing I had that toddler sitting in the back, or he might have thought that this was the Weirdest Come-on Ever.

It turns out he is friends with the mother of one of Zach’s classmates.  He carts his 20 month old triplets around in that Bakfiets.  He offered to let me ride it, but there wasn’t much room in the lot, so I took his name and number.  He lives just one town over, and he said I can come over and ride his bike.

He is going to let me ride his bike.  He is going to let me ride his bike!  Once upon a time, it took the prospect of fancy vacations or gourmet meals to make me quiver with excitement, but clearly I have returned to a simpler time.

All it takes to get me all hot and bothered these days is some boy who offers to let me ride his bike.

A letter to the peeps in Copenhagen

Dear World Leaders,

So, I hear you people have all gotten together in Copenhagen for a little retreat to talk over a couple of things having to do with luxuries like air and water.  Since you are all, like, People and you are all leaders of more People, I was under the mistaken impression that your primary concern is, you know, People.

If that were the case, however, you would realize that, if we don’t take some serious fucking action, People will be extinct soon.  It may seem that I am exaggerating, except it turns out that all species depend upon their environment for the basic materials of life.  Shit like food and water, not to mention oxygen.  And, bizarre little species that we are, People seem to be doing our very best to make sure that the very materials we rely upon are completely destroyed in short order.

I know that you world leader folks think all the stuff you are arguing over is so very important.  I have read high-flown terms like “matter of principles.”  You know what?  I don’t give a rat’s ass in a bikini about principles at this point.  I want air to breathe.

So, get over yourselves.  Stop the pissing contest that uses the earth as a target.  You are world leaders.  Your ONE responsibility is to lead the world in saving itself.  Anything else you do will not matter one damned bit because there will be no people left to enjoy whatever you have managed to accomplish.

If it helps at all, I am sure that you all have very large penises, even the women.  Now that we have established that, can we move on to, you know, stopping Armageddon?

Thanks dudes.

Emily Rosenbaum

Food matters

It is not coincidental that, as my family has developed increasingly complicated food issues, I have taken more responsibility for preparing our food.  There must be some sort of intricate equation I could use to figure out how to balance Lilah’s possible honey allergy with Benjamin’s difficulty with refined sugar, my distrust of manufactured sugar substitutes, J’s embrace of fad diets, and Zachary’s refusal to eat any vegetable not disguised as a carbohydrate.  I am pretty sure the equation would include agave and walking backwards in a circle three times around a bubbling cauldron.

No, I will not make a separate portion for Lilah without nuts, eggs, garlic, onions, olive oil, or honey.  No, I will not prepare a different meal for Zachary.  No, I will not bake muffins Benjamin cannot eat.  I am not a short-order cook.  We need to be able to eat as a family.  So, I make a spinach soup short on flavor because I leave out the really good stuff – all of which Lilah is allergic to.  And I plop a loaf of bread on the table in hopes Zachary will eat that, despite the concern that the little bit of honey in it might pose a problem for little girl.

Food.  Oh, my God, food.  Food matters so fucking much.  That’s why my stepmother was so effective.  She knew how much food matters and she used it to control us.  It wasn’t the beatings or the belittling.  It was the rotten food and the starvation and the vomit-eating that destroyed us.  She denied us the very basic nurturing that food provides because she knew that food matters.

Food matters because a huge portion of our ecological footprint comes from the way we get, prepare, and consume our food.  Think about what you have eaten today.  How many pesticides went into the soil and waterways to grow it?  How many artificial chemicals and odors were manufactured?  How far did it travel to get to you?  And how much packaging did it require?

Food matters because it can build strong bodies and minds or it can rot people from the inside out.  Why are there so many more cancers and attention deficit disorders and spectrum disorders?  I don’t know, but I’ll bet a lot of it can be traced to food.  Why does my Benjamin sport skin the texture of newly whipped butter?  Because that kid puts a whole lot of good stuff into his body.  He is walking testimony of the benefits of antioxidants.

Food matters because we are nurturing our children with it.  Real food, grown from real plants matters.  Meats from animals who themselves ate good things.  I will not just throw something together because food matters.  It is not a waste of time to spend hours each day thinking about food and preparing food.  It is the business of life.

Do I wish I had a family without allergies or pickiness?  Sure.  But think about most traditional cultures.  If there are not food-shortage problems, several different foods are usually incorporated into every meal.  Because not everyone likes every kind of food, and if there are choices in the meal, people can pick and choose.  Baking my own bread has certainly eased my relationship with Zachary.  If the only thing he chooses from the family meal is the bread, at least it is freshly baked and packed with nutrition.  And if Benjamin is in the mood only for the cheese the night we make bean burritos, so be it.

There is a meal on the table.   Because food matters.