Opinions Are Like… Bellybuttons*

Everybody has one. (*This is the family-friendly version of this saying.)

And that’s fine. It’s fine to have an opinion; it’s okay to express an opinion; it’s okay to disagree.

I’ve written about this before, kinda. And if I don’t like your opinion, it’s okay for me to say so, or change the channel, or, let’s see, end my subscription to your newspaper. It’s okay for me to unfollow you on Facebook.

We all have freedoms. As long as nobody’s threatening to throw you in jail, it’s not a First Amendment issue.

If you don’t understand something, that doesn’t make it wrong or a mental illness.

I haven’t the first clue what it’s like to be embodied as black, or gay, or male. I don’t know what transgendered people struggle with, and it would be beyond presumptuous for me to judge them for it.

I have been excruciatingly self-conscious in my body, especially as a teenager. Did you ever read Judy Blume, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? Yeah, I considered incorporating a part of that book into my nightly routine just in case it worked. But ultimately, I have come to terms with how flat-chested I am. I had boyfriends; I’m married; I’ve breast-fed babies. I am living proof that when it comes to boobs, size doesn’t matter.

But being transgendered is not feeling self conscious about an aspect of one’s body. I don’t pretend to understand it. But I’m also not going to mock it or call names.

My task, as a human and (especially as far as I’m concerned) as a Christian is to greet people with love and respect and tolerance in my heart.

Caitlyn Jenner in not a problem for conservatives. She’s not a problem for anyone. If you have a problem with people different than you, you need to pack that up in a box. Because it’s not about you. They aren’t coming for your body with a scalpel or a pair of shoes you don’t want to wear. No one’s going to make you marry someone of the same sex. For that matter, no one is going to make you practice a religion you don’t want to, or agree to an opinion you don’t hold. Ain’t America grand?

Also: You may have a problem with a whole hell of a lot of people. Because people are different.

Oh, and anyone who thinks transgendered people a) are doing it for attention or b) want you thinking about their genitals: knock that off. People don’t try to live authentically so that they have a spotlight placed on them. People don’t wake up one day and choose to be marginalized to the point of unemployment, homelessness, or violence.

No one does that.

The human experience is wide and varied, and I choose to embrace that. I am choosing to raise loving and tolerant human beings who will treat everyone with respect and dignity.

You can have your opinion, and you can express it. And I can walk away, and I can tell my children why we don’t think like that.

And that’s what I’m gonna do.

Purple orchid
Because flowers are pretty! And generally, not assholes.

12 Things to Keep the Children Busy This Summer (Around the House and Yard)

I have the distinct impression that my children think they are going to vegetate and stare at screens for most of the summer. While I am sure they are looking forward to great swaths of unstructured time — and I will let them have such — they are also going to have Stuff to Do.

Last day of school outfits
Enjoy your last day, sweeties! Mama’s got plans for you!

I am sure they will not believe me, but: children do better with structure. It doesn’t need to be rigid. I’m not going to punish them if they decide they don’t want to build with Legos. But I also can’t have them 1) whinging about being bored; 2) asking to go a lot of places that cost money; 3) bugging me for ideas every five minutes while I am working at home; 4) asking to watch a show, go on my computer, or play Minecraft every five minutes.

1. Chores. Every day, they will have to make their beds, clear and rinse dishes, put clean dishes away, and pick a chore from the chore jars. (Water plants, sweep kitchen floor, etc.) I need to remake the chores to put in these babies, but I’m perfectly happy to do that. Somehow or another, all the popsicle sticks I had got used for other arts and crafts projects.

chore jars
Pick one!

2. Math. Flora struggled with math and science this year, and I wasn’t around to help much. Her teacher and I never managed to meet, either. Kate started the year in tutoring for math, and “graduated” out of the program this spring. We are very proud of her, and yes, she is getting a little reward.

I received an offer for this site from Amazon, and signed up the girls. They are *horrified* that I did such a thing. But doing well on these lessons (I am not sure if they are daily or not) will ensure continued access to computer and Minecraft time.

3. Drawing “camp.” The people at DIY.org clearly recognize that children like to spend time on the computer, and have curated a whole lot of “camps” to help it be productive time. They ran special offers on Facebook. I saw the offer for $10 month-long make-a-drawing-a-day camp, and promptly signed Flora up. She’s going to love it.

4. Make play dough/Play with play dough. I learned to make play dough this past year for one of Kate’s school projects, and this is going to be something we do. Make a bunch of colors; play with them; store them; make more when it runs out. Cream of tartar is a major ingredient — play dough, meringue, and snickerdoodles all call for it.

5. Baking/cooking. When they are done making play dough, they can bake us up some snickerdoodles! Other things they can make: s’mores dip; chocolate chip cookies bars; brownies. We can probably start working some dinner stuff into the rotation.

6. Books. Each day they will need to do 30 to 60 minutes of silent reading. Obviously, this will be hard for M, but I figure Kate can read with him, or the nanny will.

7. Activity. Head outside for *at least* 30 to 60 minutes. I am hoping that they will get into a game or other activity, and lose track of time enough that this goes on longer than a half hour. Bike riding needs to be an option — which means I have to get my butt to a thrift store to get bikes for Kate and M. I’m saving that for after Chicago.

8. Build something. Use Legos. Or blocks. Or cardboard boxes and glue. Heck build forts for silent reading time! Another 30-minute activity.

9. Draw or paint something. Pretty straight forward. *Note to self*: buy some acrylic paint for the girls. They want to start customizing their LPS and MLP.

10. Play in the sprinkler.

11. Do a science experiment — make goo; make invisible ink; etc. Flora has a couple of good books of experiments. I’m sure there are scads of websites out there too. (If you have a favorite, leave it in the comments.)

12. Write a letter or card. I’ll put it in the mail!

Obviously, they don’t have to plow through a dozen activities every day. I’ll draw up a calendar and a schedule. Once they are done with the day’s activities, screen time is open. I am also considering raiding a dollar store for little rewards that they can earn.

The other thing I will need them to do will be to pick activities and experiments they want to do, and make sure they are supplied.

How are you keeping the children busy this summer?

Project: Food Budget: Getting Started (Again)

Project: Food Budget

A lot has changed since the first time I did this project, which comes again courtesy of Emily Levenson.

First of all, of course, all the children are older! Flora is now a lanky 10-year-old who likes nothing more than drawing and reading. Kate is an energetic 8-year-old who wants to play Minecraft all day, narrating every move. And little M isn’t so little anymore; he’s an active, curious chatty 4-year-old, who wants to be outside pretty much all the time.

Dan is still my loving man, but even he’s made some major changes in the past four years that effect the food budget.

Secondly, the way we shop has changed radically. Market District/Giant Eagle is no longer my grocery store(s) of choice. We only head to Costco once every two months or so — I think this is due to the fact that I don’t have a baby in diapers any longer, thank heavens.

Thirdly, and sadly, we no longer belong to a CSA. This was the most difficult decision to make, and it does not reflect my feelings for Kretschmann’s Farm (whose quality organic produce remains most excellent) or my feelings about CSAs in general (they are a fantastic idea). But our food budget has changed considerably, and, frankly, we were not using all the produce we were getting. Despite my best intentions, a lot of produce was still going to waste.

Flora is still mostly vegetarian, but Kate and Michael are definitely omnivores. Dan, of course, is still an omnivore as well; but since the last time I did this project, he has joined a gym, started drinking protein shakes and smoothies, and has lost 40 pounds — and he’s still working to lose more fat and gain more muscle. I’m so proud of him, and I’m working hard to make sure he stays fit and motivated.

My own eating habits haven’t changed very much, but my shopping and cooking habits have changed.

Let’s start with *where*. I no longer shop primarily at the Big Bird. I discovered Aldi not too long ago, and that is where I shop for most of our staples. The quality is good; the prices are low; and it’s a fast trip. My only criticism is that they don’t stock much in the way of vegetarian goods — I would even be happy with tofu! — so I often have to make another stop.

I round out my Aldi’s trip by grocery shopping at Target. They carry a lot of vegetarian options; their prices are still lower than GE’s; I also pick up toiletries and the like; and I have a Target debit card, which gets me 5% off the total bill. I’ve also been trying to use the Target app Cartwheel to save more as well — it’s akin to clipping coupons, without the actual clipping.

I plan to make the Sewickley farmers market part of my monthly shopping as well. This is where I will get most of my produce while I can. By only buying what I know we will use over the course of a week, I will waste a lot less. Plus, I won’t end up with stuff like fennel, which I don’t like and don’t use, or tons of herbs that I usually manage to dry but never store.

My estimated budget on a weekly basis will be:

Aldi trip: $80-$100
Target: $50
Farmers Market: $25-$40

I cook at home A LOT. Through doing Project: Food Budget in 2011 I learned the value of menu planning. I have a go-to list of meals that come together very quickly during the week. The girls are starting to help me meal plan, which is fantastic. We almost never eat out anymore. And I don’t use as many meat substitutes as I used to. With Kate and Michael eating beef, chicken, and fish, I usually prepare beans or tofu for Flora and me. We still have the occasional meal with Morning Star nuggets or Boca burgers, but not nearly as often as we used to.

Oh, another improvement (IMO, anyway): I am baking a whole lot more. Like, almost weekly, if not twice a week. My family is very happy with this improvement, although Dan wants me to find a hiding place for the baked goods. He has terrible discipline when it comes to sweets. 🙂

Here are the other bloggers participating on this round. Can’t wait to see how everyone does!

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Erra Creations
Eryn Says…
Seeking White Space
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Rachel Olive Miller

How has your food budget changed in the past four years?