Friday, June 18, 2010

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life of a Suburban Greenmom

This morning I rose early, to the sounds of songbirds outside my open window. After rousing my children, we sat down to a lovely breakfast of my homemade organic granola sprinkled with local berries. After packing delicious organic waste-free lunches for my children, we walked the mile to their day camp together, after which I walked home and proceeded to ride my bike the six miles to work. I spent the morning getting work done, generating almost no paper, and advocating for less garbage production and minimal printing among our office personnel, amidst answering e-mails and answering the phone.

On my lunch break I rode my bike to the local farmer’s market and picked up some delicious local fruits and vegetables to bring home for dinner. After work, and after walking once more to pick the kids up from school, as we enjoyed naming birds and plants by the side of the road and identifying medicinal herbs and edible flowers along the way, the children played with their fair trade non-toxic wooden toys while I made a delicious vegetarian dinner out of the local veggies I’d purchased, followed by fresh fruit for dessert. The children went to bed tired but happy, and my husband and I enjoyed some lovely cuddling by candlelight…

And if you were believing all that while you were reading it—please let me know, because it’d be a sign that I may have a good future as a fiction writer.

Sigh. That’s just not my life.

I read blogs by the other Boothers (check out the Greenhabilitator's "day in the life" submission, with farmers markets and recycling...and the Conscious Shopper, who talks about grinding her own wheat for flour--I mean, wow.) and I’m so envious, so awestruck—because I honestly fall down on the green job a lot. Between living in the burbs--designed to make anything efficient, on foot, or non-trash-generating really tough--and working one full time job and another part time one, I do what I can, but even the bread baking I used to do with such regularity has pretty much fallen by the wayside. (Besides, at this time of year I’d have to heat up the whole kitchen to do it, which is low on my to do list.)

So, you wanna hear about the day I really had?

Okay, my husband gets up when his alarm goes off; I get to lie in bed a while longer, because I don’t have to leave as early and he needs the shower first. I lie there many mornings wishing the damn birds would shut up, because they are noisy…but this morning, not so much, because it was so horribly muggy last night, with everything in the house just feeling sticky and gross, that we broke down and turned on the a/c. So the windows were closed, and the birds were not as loud. Big green points against me there.

While he’s showering, I wake the kids up. They promptly go back to sleep, but I tried. Then I go downstairs to make lunches. Yes, the lunches actually are waste-free, that part wasn’t fiction—but they aren’t very creative either. My son gets crackers and lunchmeat (sometimes it’s organic and nitrate-free; often it’s not, because it’s so crazy-expensive) and my daughter gets vanilla yogurt and Cheerios-with-dried-blueberries. (Yeah, I know. Weird lunch. She's five; it makes her happy.) Each kid gets a bunch of organic grapes. I honestly don’t remember where they were grown, but I bet it wasn’t Illinois or Indiana. Everything’s in those little Ziploc re-usable things, which I swear by. In between packing things I’m microwaving water and making coffee in my little French Press, without which the day is much harder to face. I pack their lunchboxes into their camp bags with swimsuits and towels and signed permission slips for next week’s field trip. Then I go wake them up again.

Once the kids are up, they get dressed and go down for breakfast, which is not homemade granola but your basic Cheerios, or more accurately Joe’s O’s, the Trader Joe imitation thereof. I take my shower—here I do okay, because I don’t use very hot water, and I literally can shower in about 3 minutes, and every other day or so I manage to not wash my hair which makes it even quicker. Husband goes to work. I finish loading the dishwasher and run the load. (No, actually, this is greener than washing by hand, in terms of energy use and water consumption. On the other hand, we use non-green detergent, so it’s probably a wash.) (Pun intended.) I spread bug repellent (safe) and sunblock (sort of not really safe) all over the kids.

I put the kids in the car and drive them their mile to camp, which at least is a mile in the direction of my own office. This is one of those confusing mornings—my son goes to camp, my daughter then gets schlepped to an appointment, then she gets dropped at camp 75 minutes late or so. By then it’s late enough that if I biked to work I’d lose too much desk time, so I just drive the remaining 4.5 miles from day camp to my office. Besides, I want to get to the local farmers market before they close. And it’s discount bagel day at the local bagel shop near my office. And my good friend who works at a resale boutique texted me early in the morning to let me know that someone had brought in a Barbie motor home that was too big for them to try to sell, and did I want it before they took it to the Salvation Army, so I needed to make a stop there too. (Everyone should have a friend who works in a resale shop. Especially a friend who babysits for one’s kids and knows what they love. And who knows one’s shoe size.)

So I go to work. I answer emails, I answer phone messages, I request checks for the musicians who did work last week, I research the possibility of new choir robes before the budget year ends in two weeks, plan and I type and I research and I chat with the co-workers who come into my office here and there…I look up at the clock and realize, damn, it’s 1:45. Too late for the farmer’s market; it closes in 15 minutes and is ten minutes drive away. I wrap up a few loose ends (which takes another hour) and go home. Then I realize, damn, I forgot the bagels. And the resale shop. I text my friend quickly to apologize and ask if she can hold onto the Barbie stuff one more day; she very kindly says no problem, let’s have breakfast on Friday and she can bring the Barbie stuff plus the bag of shrunken wool sweaters for me to felt. (She’s a really good friend. Friends is good.) So literally everything that would have made driving instead of biking to work a good idea, I forgot to do. But too late now.

Here’s where, from a green front, the day takes a small upswing…since it was gorgeous out, and since I haven’t gotten much exercise lately, and since the kids usually somehow come home from camp wanting to play outside more, I decide this would be a good day for them to walk home from school. We’ve done it before, so why not, right? I walk to school to get them. It takes about 15 minutes. We walk home. It takes about 45, because my daughter is complaining and whining about how tired she is and how boring it is to walk home from school. And a couple of dramatically exhausted rests beneath shady trees for both of them. But eventually we make it. And I tell them stories about the Gulf Oil Spill and oil-soaked seagulls and why it's important, even if maybe we don't feel like it, to try to walk or bike places whenever we can and do our little part of trying to use less oil and help the Earth. (I also tell them about the many people trying to help clean up the seagulls and pelicans and stuff.) They listen with the same horrified fascination as when they ask for the part of Lord of the Rings where Treebeard and the Ents come out and trash Saruman's Uruk-hai factory at Isengard, and break the dam so the river comes flooding in. And the part where Frodo gets his finger bitten off. They like dramatic stories. Unfortunately the pelicans aren't fictional...

Then we go out back and weed a little in the veggie garden—I didn’t have my gloves, so I couldn’t get the prickly super-dandelions we have back there (not sure what they are, but they are pure evil, unlike the innocuous little yellow flowers of late spring), but I got a lot of other stuff. The garden is plugging along; we have a few flowers on the zuke plants, the beans are looking beany, the tomatoes are above knee-high, and a few snap pea plants are making their way out of the ground. The anti-rabbit chicken-wire fence appears to be holding its own, and the kohlrabi is still going strong. And the chamomile is blooming—happy, sweet-smelling little daisy-like flowers—which my daughter and I pick together. I’m sipping a cup of fresh chamomile tea as I type this, and it’s nothing like what comes from a tea bag at the grocery store. Husband comes home to find tired wife and two exhausted kids crashed in front of the TV. (At least the a/c is off and the windows are open now.)

Dinner is our old standby, “naan pizza”—we get some of those frozen naan flatbreads from Trader Joe, spread sauce and grated mozzarella on it, throw any toppings I can find in the fridge on it (this time it’s zucchini, onion, and one chicken sausage I found in the freezer). Only this time there was also fresh basil from the herb garden cut up and sprinkled on it. Cherries for dessert; my son gets overly involved in spitting the pits out, and my daughter always winds up looking sort of vampire-like with red juice all over her face and hands, but it’s delicious. We get the kids to bed; my husband goes for a short bike ride, and after he returns I take the dogs for a walk around the block. I see fireflies, my first ones of the year.

And there was a little cuddling after all.

Just another day.

So what's the point of all this? I'm not really sure...part of me wanted to pick a Really Good Green Day for this project, and another part of me was tempted to take this really good green few hours of Tuesday, combine it with that trip to the farmer's market on Thursday, and one of the days I actually did bike to work, and put together a Green Phone Booth-worthy "day" for my Day-in-the-Life post.

But the fact is--these are my days. Full of all the overscheduled suburban crap I've let my life become filled with, full of little opportunities to be a little more careful, a little more present, a little more aware. I miss a lot of those opportunities. But...when I look at my life last spring, I'm taking a lot more of these opportunities than I used to. For example--my car took an emergency trip to the shop tonight (clearly the Auto Gods suddenly realized our credit card bills had no ridiculous and un-planned for expensive items to jack them up this month so far, and wanted to take care of that) because it was overheating. A year ago this would have been catastrophic. Like fellow Boother Going Green Mama, I am ruled by my car. Now? Tomorrow morning the kids and I will bike/scooter ourselves to summer camp. My friend will pick me up on the way to breakfast, and then bring me home afterwards since it's so close. I'll bike the 2 miles to my 1pm appointment, and bike again to the kids' school to collectively bike/scooter our way back home afterwards. Tomorrow I will be car-less and I will be busy. If the car is ready earlier, great. If not? I can manage. We can manage. And my kids will see us manage. And if the car is ready earlier? We may bike home from school anyway. (Okay, to be honest--if the car is ready earlier, I will probably drive them home. See prior remark about car-rulage. But maybe, just maybe I won't...)

Not bad for an ordinary day.

--Jenn the Greenmom

Post for "Day in the Life" Green Mom's Carnival, hosted by Beth at Fake Plastic Fish


Robbie said...

LOL! I am so glad I'm not the only one!

There is no perfect storybook day except for in story books.

And yes, yogurt and cereal is an acceptable meal in our family too.

scifichick said...

I did believe you when I was reading the beginning of the post! And I was feeling envious of your awesome green day :) My days are closer to your actual days! Like you, I'm working a job and a half, and that doesn't leave me much time to bake bread or cook a lot. I just have to be happy with doing what I can now and looking for areas to improve in.

Daisy said...

Do what you have to do! I am feeling guilty right now because I can't carpool to a funeral in a nearby town on Monday. I think I'll work on some other ways to cut my car use - I can even it out. somehow.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Lol, believe me, I have many days where there are pockets of greenness amidst lots of non -green. We do the best we can.

And for the record, I'm grinding wheat against my will. I spent a hundred dollars on wheat from a local farmer last fall and feel obligated to use it even though the electric grinder my mom gave me bit the dust. So I've been using a manual grinder that my husbands parents gave us for Christmas one year, kind of a strange gift but Mormons (of which I'm one) are encouraged to store wheat in our food storage, so lots of people I know have one. I've been hoping I'd find an electric grinder on craigslist, but I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet on this one.

Sabrina Ahmed said...

My days as a Green Mom are similar to yours... mostly trying to make everything run smoothly and keep everyone happy whilst at the same trying attempting to make our lives environmentally friendly... So I really enjoyed your post.

I must say that as a Green mom, I feel it's important that we share Great resources and information so that we can inspire others to make that extra bit of effort to be Greener. If your like me and always looking for a great Green store, I encourage you to try their products were very affordable, and many were made from recycled materials! Love it! Also they had some great info on new ways to reduce your carbon foot print!

Go Green!

daharja said...

You know, telling the truth is worth a blue ribbon. Because then I don't feel so bad about all my muck-ups.

The blogs I hate the most are those ones where the blogger in question always seems to get things right, have things under control, and never make mistakes.

Which reeks of bad fiction to me.

I'd rather read the truth. So thanks for sharing it :-)

Leanne over at Cluttercut
(who should really be doing the washing but is reading her google reader list instead)

Anonymous said...

Ha - you had me going there for a minute, thinking that was a really great suburb (an oxymoron?). Actually, some of the inner-ring suburbs around here might be okay, if you (and your spouse) could find a job in the same suburb as your house. Adding kids to the mix (which we have not yet) definitely adds another layer of complexity. That you're conscious of the green and less green in your life puts you way ahead of many people.

Anonymous said...

I am totally laughing about your walk. Last week on vacation I took my two kids on a walk that was supposed to last 20 or 30 minutes and it took more than 2 hours. You can not BELIEVE the whining my 5-year-old subjected me to during that time. She was so TIRED. Her feet HURT. This is BORING. And then she had the gall to race up the flight of stairs just before we arrived back at our townhouse, while I huffed and puffed and heaved myself up them. At least I tried, I say.

Karen Hanrahan said...

back in the dark ages and during the raising of my own kid times I had so much determination. your post reminded of that gumption - the truth is all the spiraling thoughts and some good green action and some bad action days really do example something. my kids, now adults are way more conscientious than many of their peers - the truth is the baton must be passed on and small stuff adds up

the carnival has a quite the dose of green guilt going on

mine included

we so have to applaud what we do

mostly that we talk out loud about it

Lisa Sharp said...

I love the post! As Karen talked about we all seem to have a bit of green guilt going on lol.

None of us are perfect but we are trying and that's what matters!

Condo Blues said...

As someone commented on my green day post, it's hard to have an authentic 100% green life. And you know what? I don't think I want too because my green day was super duper low carbon - I wrote about a 2 and 1/2 day blackout. It wasn't fun - I have an all electric kitchen (not my preferred choice) and everything food related was stressful.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Hi, I followed a link here from the Carnival. Funny, honest post!

So what are the ziploc reusable things? In the winter my kids eat lunch at school but the summer camps require that I pack a lunch for them. I've been wrapping food in wax paper but something reusable sounds better...

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Oops! Sorry, folks, I've been away for a while and haven't responded to apologies!

Jennifer, the Ziploc things are kind of like Really Cheezy Tupperware, that you can get at the grocery store for fairly cheap and re-use again and again. Never heat them in the microwave, because that's a good way to have BPA and/or whatever plastic chemical nasties leach out into your food. (I bought these before I knew about that.) I'll keep using them till they wear out completely and hopefully replace with something better, but like we say, the greenest choice is often to use what you already have. :-)

Re the green guilt--yeah, I know, it's weird! To be real honest, it's not even guilt in the classical sense; I'm fairly content with how and what I'm doing, I think on some level it's more like "Oh geez, these other moms are so much better at this than I am, and if they knew what I screwup I often am, they Won't Like Me Any More"--which is very seventh grade, and I need to get over it. :-)I mean, I want to improve, of course, but I know I'm doing my best.

And it's really nice to realize so many of us are in the same boat. :-)


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