Thanksgiving & A Few Lilia Quotes

This year, we spent Thanksgiving at home for the first time in our marriage. I have to admit there were many things I missed about being with family. In some ways, staying home on Thanksgiving felt like the holiday turned into just a regular day of cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children. But, it did turn out to be a really nice day in the end. We had several guests over – friends from church and the neighborhood. We made lots of delicious food. The kids and I made decorations, and I think that our home looked very festive for the occasion. The kids had a great time entertaining our guests after the meal – talking about all the things they are thankful for, showing off ballet and karate moves, and doing all sorts of cute and silly things.

The past few days, it has been Lilia who has been cracking me up with her comments. Here are a few…

– We made a special juice punch with juices and sparkling water for the Thanksgiving meal. Lilia really liked it, but left some in her glass for an hour or more after dinner. When she went back to drink it, she said, “It’s not punch anymore! I need new punch, momma.” The punch had gotten “flat,” so to her it wasn’t even punch anymore!

– Tonight, we went to a wedding rehearsal dinner with Greek food. Lilia really like the falafel and kept saying, “I want more waffles!”

– Lilia and I made a white turkey chili in the crock pot today. She has only seen me make beans in the crock pot for our weekly “beans and rice night.” When I went to put other ingredients into the crock pot she said, “No, momma! It’s a bean pot!”

– Misunderstandings….Lilia still has some unclear words, and a few of my misunderstandings have been really funny, too. Tonight, she saw a picture of our neighbor Rob speaking into a microphone. She looked at it and said, “Rob has make up on?” Really, she meant, “Rob has microphone?” Then, tonight in the bath, she said (in a distressed tone), “I am naked and wet!” I responded with a laugh, and something about how that’s just how it is in the bath! She really said, “Band-aid is wet!”

I hope you are all enjoying your Thanksgiving weekend! Josh did take some pictures with his fancy camera – I will try to post those soon.

Musings in Response to the Couponing Craze

As I have pondered this topic for a few weeks now, several thoughts have come to my mind. Here are my thoughts and musings…

To begin, let’s remember that the companies that print coupons do so because it is beneficial to them. They must be making money off of coupons or they would not keep printing them. Check out this article about sneaky ways that coupons actually cause you to spend MORE money. Of course, it is possible to stay strong and avoid buying things that you don’t need. But, remember that you are being exposed to a ton of advertising just by looking at coupons (coupons ARE a form of advertising).

One of my biggest concerns with couponing is the formation of an unrealistic expectation about the cost of food (see this article). Over the past few years, I have come across the concept of “unrealistically low prices.” I would like to unpack this concept for you. When my eyes were first opened to the needs of the poor and to the reality of my life in relation to the poor, I highly valued a low price on clothing and food to save money, to identify with the poor by living on less money, and to be able to give more money to those in need. As I have learned about food justice and about sustainable living, the way I spend my money has changed along with my idealogy. I first read about the concept of unrealistically low prices in a book called “The Plain Reader,” a compilation of writings by Anabaptists. The idea is that the price that you pay for something should be a reasonable price for what it is. For instance, buying a dress for $5 does not reflect the cost of the fabric, the cost of the labor to make the dress, the cost of transporting the dress to the store, and the overhead costs of the store where it is being sold. If any one of us spent several hours sewing a dress from purchased fabric, we would never sell it for only $5. This is an unreasonably low price. Some one is losing when items are sold for unreasonably low prices. The workers may not be receiving fair wages, the environment may not be treated well in the process…there are probably a combination of factors at play.

In his book “The Omnivores Dilemma,” Michael Pollan takes this even further when he talks about the true price of our food. For instance, the true price of a Big Mac at McDonald’s must take into account the way the corn was grown that is fed to the cow who is raised in unhealthy conditions and then shipped (using gas) to other locations to be processed. There is waste to be accounted for, pollution that fills our skies, top soil lost, and large amounts of fuel used. Plus, there are many people that participate in the process – farmers, ranchers, truck drivers, factory workers, advertisers, fast food workers. Can all of this possibly be covered in the dollar or two that we pay for a hamburger? My point is simply this: is it reasonable to expect to pay so little for our food? And, is it possible that we are doing this on the backs of the poor?

Personally, I want to spend my food money in such a way that I am supporting small and local businesses and farms. I want to pay a price that is reflective of the food that I am receiving, not because I like spending lots of money, but because it just seems like the right thing to do. I want businesses to succeed that have ethical practices, keep preservatives and additives out of their food, and sustain the local economy. And, really, spending my money that way is better for me, too. Fresh, local, natural foods means that my family stays healthier (and in Jedidiah’s case, more calm and rational, too). It means that the earth God gave us is treated well. It means that workers are paid a decent wage (a great way to help the poor!). I spend my money in this way by buying a share in a Community Supported Agriculture, by searching out local options in stores and in my area, and by choosing brands that I respect.

The problem is that I don’t really have all that much money. So, just like the avid couponers, I am always looking for ways to save money. Here are some ways I do this without (in my opinion) compromising my first point:

-I gladly take the items that others throw out. Our country has a whole lot of waste, and I find it completely acceptable to use things that would otherwise get thrown away. Twice a week I participate in “Manna,” a free food giveaway in my alley. Grocery stores donate all the food they are about to throw out, due to impending expiration dates. Even Whole Foods donates food to our little operation. I’ve thought about starting to take pictures of all the food I get for free – it’s truly amazing. Like the Manna of the Bible, it only makes sense to take what one can use because it’s all expiring quickly! Maybe I’ll write a whole post about Manna one day soon. I am also the recipient of many great treasures obtained through the dumpster-diving adventures of some of my friends. They know what factories to go to and get unopened food that isn’t even past expiration (the companies throw it out because it would be past expiration by the time it arrived in the stores). I could say more here, but you get the idea…

-I choose to grow some food of my own. We grow what we can on our porch, but we are limited in this department. I look forward to a time when I can have a huge garden and grow a greater percentage of our food. I think this is one of the best possible ways to have fresh, healthy, inexpensive food that is good for us and for the environment.

-I participate in a food cooperative. The cooperative buys quality food in bulk and then sells it at cost to the members of the co-op. I even bring my own containers to fill up with rice, nuts, pasta, etc. This way, I am even able to reuse my packaging! I really think it would be easy to start something like this wherever you are, as long as you had a group of people interested in helping to get it started.

Finally, I want to address the topic of stockpiling or hoarding food (something that goes hand in hand with extreme couponing). Honestly, this just doesn’t sit well with me. Biblical passages like the man with all his storehouses of grain are flashing before me. I am not completely against saving up for the future or being prepared, but I am against the kind of “catastophobia” (that’s what my husband calls it) that causes people to hoard food out of fear. In contrast, I am a proponent of “preserving the summer’s bounty.” All cultures have had to find ways to preserve seasonal foods so that they would have food for the whole year. I see this kind of like the extra portion of manna that God gave the day before the Sabbath. Canning, freezing, drying, and fermenting food when it is in season means that we are prepared when there is less food available. It also means that we do not have to buy as much at the store. And, personally (although my space is limited), I would rather have canned applesauce, dry beans, and frozen fruit to eat in the case of the hypothetical catastrophe than Dorritos and the newest flavor of boxed crackers.

SO, will I use coupons? Yeah, I think I probably will. Here and there. I see nothing wrong with saving a little money, especially on high end healthy snack options. Who knows, buying a few of these things might help some good companies get off the ground. But, I do not want to dedicate myself to saving money through extreme couponing. There are other ways that I find much more life-giving…to me, to the earth, and to others around me. I would rather spend time with people, in my garden, and cooking from scratch than sitting on the computer looking through hundreds of coupons. If I can live on less money and still spend the money I do have in a way that gives back to people and the earth, that’s what I want to do.

PS – I want to say thanks to those of you beginning a conversation in response to my last post on the current couponing craze. Many good points have already come to the surface in that conversation. I want to address those points in a later post.

The Couponing Craze

I’d like to start a conversation here about the current couponing craze. Maybe you’ve noticed it? Maybe you are one of the crazed couponers out there?! I was alerted to this popular hobby through the pictures posted on facebook. Friends of mine frequently post pictures of the piles of packaged food and home items that they bought, touting surprisingly low prices for the mountains of grocery store treasures. I mean, who wouldn’t want to join in the fun of getting more for less? And, really, I’m just the type who would do this sort of thing, right? I mean, I make it a goal of my life to live simply, to identify with the poor. Even more, I’m a stay-at-home mom who does most of the grocery shopping and cooking in our home, just the type of people I see doing this sort of thing.

To be honest, at first I blew the whole thing off, due to my picky grocery shopping habits. I have a son who cannot eat foods with food dyes or flavorings and who is also sensitive to most preservatives. Plus, I avoid chemical household cleaning products and instead make my own cleaning products. Most of the photos I’d seen of couponed loot were filled with items that I would never buy (or even use if some one literally gave them to me). But then, I saw a different photo. This one showcased organic goodies, Whole Foods treats, and just plain healthy foods. So, although I took my skeptical thoughts and uneasy gut feelings with me, I decided I had to look into this whole couponing thing.

What I learned from poking around a bit is that there are now many websites (such as coupons.com) that post printable coupons. The successful couponers check various sites regularly and utilize various coupon sources, including the local paper. I am not experienced in this realm, but I have read that some coupons can be printed multiple times or doubled up to increase savings. I think there are a lot of tricks to learn. And, from what I hear, people have even been teaching classes at churches, even, to maximize one’s savings through couponing (a way of being a “good steward,” I guess). I have read a few couponing blogs to study up on the craze (I will not name any names here – I’m sure you can locate these blogs yourself through google). Through these types of sources, I have learned that people have earnest reasons for their couponing hobby, including saving enough money to allow them to be home with their children instead of returning to work. I have no intention of criticizing such noble act. I would, however, like to give my response to the couponing craze, as I’m calling it. My searching and thinking, reading and considering, has lead me to have a few thoughts on the matter that I would like to share. And, I’d love to hear your thoughts, too. Let’s make this a lively discussion! For now, I’ll give you a little time to think about it. And, in a day or two I’ll begin sharing my musings…

 

Bed Bug Update

I mentioned several weeks ago about our long struggle with bed bugs. On Wednesday of this week, we had our ninth (you read that right, NINTH) bed bug treatment. The one before this one happened about a week before that. That eighth treatment was very thorough but focused only on the kids’ room (Lilia is the only one who gets bites). Max, the member of our apartment crew who did the treatment, had us empty out the room, as if we were moving. We left only the bare furniture. We dried every piece of cloth in the dryer for a full cycle. We washed every toy with bleach and swabbed items with alcohol that could not be submerged in water. We put all of the kids’ books through the oven at its lowest setting for one hour. Then, Max used the harshest chemicals and afterward “knelt down to pray over it all” (his words). Two days later, Lilia had a bite or two for a couple of days, but it was much less than we experienced before. This week, Max and Josh took apart Lilia’s entire bed and did find some tiny holes in the bed frame where bugs were hiding. We emptied the room of all but the furniture again, but we did not re-sterilize everything this time. Max sprayed the room Wednesday morning, and Lilia has not had any more bites since then! We are feeling hopeful. We need to have four to six weeks of no bug sitings or bites before we are declared “bed bug free.” Thank you for your prayers for us through this three-month-long saga.

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