Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage green

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage green!
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month we're writing about being green — both how green we were when we were young and how green our kids are today. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

When the idea came up to write a post on "green" things we did as kids, my first inclination was to assume there wasn't anything. But then I realized — there was plenty, but we didn't identify it as such. Certainly my parents would never have aspired to be eco-chic in the pre-recycling times I grew up in (I'm old! Yes!), and even now they might look a little askance at claims of environmental friendliness as PC hogwash, but I came up with this list of vintage green activities that were eco-minded unbeknownst to us!

  1. We made our own Play-Doh. Here's a list of recipes. I remember ours always dried out really quickly, and it was always pale pastels (I was fine with that), so mold your pale pink and blue city tout de suite and then let it crumble!
  2. I spent most days outside, swinging on the playground, unschooling myself about edible plants and interesting bugs, and riding my bike all over the neighborhood. That's green and free-range! Definitely vintage.
  3. My older brother and I spent the summers in charge of dishwashing. We filled a tub in the sink with warm, soapy water and washed everything in it before doing a quick cold rinse and setting the dishes aside to dry. Very little wasted water!
  4. We had no air-conditioning, so my brother and I came up with a lot of games that involved electric fans. Did you know they make delightful vertical roulette wheels when you tape numbers to them? Now you do.
  5. My mom used cloth diapers on my older brother and me, or so I hear, and got us out of them early. By the time my little brother unexpectedly came around, disposables were much more the in thing, so she switched over. He took a lot longer to potty learn (hmmm...).
  6. She also breastfed all three of us, which is one of the most eco-friendly foods out there, and it was kind of rare and therefore radical for the time, though my mom does not think of herself as such.
  7. My mom still does most of the cleaning with a rag dampened with water. It's really all you need to dust and wipe up spills.
  8. When I started band? The cleaning cloth my mom sent with my (secondhand from my aunt) flute: cut-up scraps of my dad's old pajamas. I thought it was sweet if a little sad — because my dad loved those pajamas.
  9. My dad always wore everything until it absolutely wore out. His pajamas would have large swaths of fabric missing before he'd consent to a Christmas gift of a new pair.
  10. My dad was always solicitous of whether we had enough light to read by, switching on a lamp if he thought my book looked too shaded. But that was the only electrical extravagance. Other than that, our 60-watt-bulbed lights were turned off when not in use, and the heat was kept to freeze-your-toes crisp temperatures. If I complained, my mother told me to put a sweater on and my father would pass over a throw blanket. This changed only recently when my mother got thyroid cancer and was suddenly cold all the time; I guess there's a time to splurge.
  11. My dad refused to use anything chemical to unstop a clogged drain. He would take off the drain cover and get out some exploring tools and tweeze out all the gunky hair and other nastiness that resided within — and sometimes he'd make me do it, considering it was my hair and all.
  12. You know how microwave popcorn gives you cancer or something? My dad was old school. We popped kernels in a stainless steel pot. I've been converted back to this idea and am looking forward to trying out this recipe for the perfect pot-popped popcorn. We even bought a set of new (used) stainless steel pots off craigslist, even though I used to make fun of my parents for having the same stainless steel pots since their wedding instead of upgrading to something fancier. They also used wooden spoons, which for awhile I despised but am tempted now to steal.
  13. My mom collected antique kitchen implements, and I often used a hand mixer to whip up my favorite chocolate maple milkshake, the recipe for which was in a kids' cookbook I cannot locate online. (My theory is the shake might be like maple milk shake 1 from this recipe list.) I wish I had one of those hand mixers now — so convenient, so easy, less clean-up time, and no plugs or batteries needed!
  14. Neither parent was drawn to kitchen duties, but for all that my mom cranked out hearty, home-cooked meals even while working out of the house. My dad stepped in each week to make his signature pizza.
  15. My mom is the most accomplished needlewoman I know. She sews, knits, smocks, cross-stitches, and quilts, and I know she could do anything else she put her hand to. She made my wedding dress for $97 to look like the designer dresses of the season, since the designer dresses weren't in my price range. I know needlework has lately become more of a hobby for those who can afford the supplies than a true money-saver, but my mom learned her sewing from her mother, who in turn learned from the Depression and from raising five kids of her own that if you want something, sometimes you have to make it yourself. My mom grew up just as resourceful and creative, and I like to hope she passed a little of that on to me.

Now that I've written this list, I'm shocked at how much I'm hearkening back to my parents' way of doing things. I know the green things I'm passing on to Mikko are a little more labeled, a little more explicit — a little more expensive and pretentious, too, perhaps. But, I hope the main thing I'm passing on is a spirit of making do, of keeping it simple, of not worrying too much about keeping up with the times or with the Joneses and all their latest and greatest products.

And I really hope for Mikko to have memories like mine of playing outside, teaching himself about the friendly bugs, and enjoying the sounds, the smell, the excitement of fresh-popped popcorn. Not to mention the real-butter taste! Yum.

Tell me your green memories, or your green dreams. Are they specific like popcorn or philosophical like resourcefulness?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Code Name: Mama and Hobo MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants.

(This list will be updated March 9 with all the carnival links.)

Photo courtesy ccharmon on flickr (cc)


juggleandbalance said...

My whole family had a huge garden. We canned tomatoes (probably about 150 quarts). We froze sweet corn an elaborate ritual (imagine boiling water, steam in a kitchen on a 100 degree day with no air conditioning. But the corn tasted so good. We made jelly and pickles...lots of work but lots of fun

Jamie said...

I love the point about being more "free range". My parents let me run all over our (huge) neighborhood and play in the woods without a care in the world from dawn to dusk. I think it helped shape me into a more independent person. I've never thought before about how different that is from what kids do today.

Jessica said...

I think I can list just about everything you did! It makes for a colorful childhood, doesn't it? I often wish I was half as crafty with a needle and thread as my mom is/was.

By the way, LOVE your new look!

Melodie said...

First, I LOVE your new site. It's just gorgeous! That being said, I feel like I now have about ten other things I cold add to my own list of things my parents did that I never considered to be green. My dad also, to this day, pops popcorn in a pot. He always burnt his though, which probably what made me a fan of air-popped. I have never gotten used to the microwave stuff though.

Dionna @Code Name: Mama said...

omg! How long have you had this pretty new site?! I usually read through RSS, so I'm not sure how long it's been debuted. (Can I use debut in the past tense? Hmm, I'm not getting redlined - I will say, yes!)

Anyway - Did you know that if you put your dishwater out on your garden, it kills certain bugs? Not sure whether it kills any plants too, but I remember reading that in my gardening research :)

p.s. omg! You added name/url option!! Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you posted the link to that popcorn recipe. I love popcorn but have been loathe to buy the microwaveable kind or shell out the bucks for an air popper that might or might not work well. My family used to sometimes make stovetop popcorn too but I always remember it as being a tad too greasy. Hopefully this will be just what I need. Thanks!

Lauren Wayne said...

juggleandbalance: Wow! I remember helping shuck corn on my relatives' Indiana farm, but we never did the freezing. If I ever have enough room, I would LOVE to grow my own sweet corn. Yum!

the grumbles: I know it! I think about it a lot as I anticipate how I'll act with my own kid(s). Because part of it is we are more aware of the real dangers, but part of it is that other people would judge us and possibly do more than that (call CPS, etc.) if we let our kids range too freely.

Jessica: Yes, and thanks!

Melodie: Thank you! I'll pass the compliment on to Sam, who was my faithful designer. :) Isn't it funny how many things were technically green that were done for other reasons?

Dionna: Just a day! So you haven't missed much. And I changed it back to word verification with name/url JUST FOR YOU! :) (No, but seriously, you're the one who mentioned it, so I figured that maybe was the best option for all.) I will have to try the dishwater thing. Very interesting! I hate when I have to do anything too chemical-y to bugs. I wonder if dishwater deters slugs, because that's our big pest here.

navelgazingbajan: Let me know if it works. I still haven't tried it but am hopeful! :) It seems like you could adjust the amount of oil down, too, if it's too greasy. Maybe!

Shana said...

Yay for home-made play-doh! My mom used to make it just plain flour-salt-water. Then after we finished our creations, she would cook them until hard and we would paint them with food coloring. Great memories.

Molly said...

It's amazing how many things are your list were things we did growing up, too, and stuff I never really thought about. Like popcorn, "free-range"-ing, pouring grey water on the garden. Seems like a lot of our modern conveniences are not so...um...convenient in the long haul!

I think we'll have to make play-doh this weekend. :)

Lindsay said...

I definitely remember homemade playdough. Ours was usually off-white 'cause Mom didn't want to have the pink vs. blue fight between my brothers and me and just left it the color it naturally was (which is sort of inadvertenly green of her!) This might be weird of me, but I always thought it smelled delicious even though it was for playing not eating.

Michelle said...

Fifteen marvelous vignettes and insights. This is such a great post. You've brought up memories, provoked me to consider a few things I hadn't before, and provided recipes to boot. Your voice is so distinct and witty and always educational. I am never disappointed by your content. The new blog look is incredible. I just want to follow you and Mikko down those tracks. I know you are heading someplace wonderful.

Geeks in Rome said...

love the new look!

Reading this made me think, We grew up in the same house!!! The exact same stuff (cut up t-shirts for rags... etc).

Of all my chores the most tedious and greenest was being in charge of washing and crushing all the tin cans and glass containers.

We lived in the country and there was no waste removal so you had to burn what you could, compost organics or feed it to the goats, and recycle by taking it to the scrap heaps by the river where you dumped glass, metal, paper in giant dumpsters. We'd build up only a small bucket of waste that had to be dumped out behind the barn "in the pit" every 6 months (old brillo pads, a battery).

Nothing was plastic back then and if it was it never broke. Stuff wasn't overly packaged and if it was it was recyclable paper.

I want my kids to be resourceful and never think they have to buy things. But that means being pack rats because as soon as you throw something out (egg cartons!), you realize you need it :)

Unknown said...

OMG, didn't know about the microwave popcorn thing! So glad you posted that!

I like that you point out that our teaching green to our children will be more explicit. My mom may have darned socks but she didn't do it for green purposes. I want Aellyn to know the larger picture!

Your new blog design is beautiful!

Pchanner said...

I love how you found so many different ways your parents were green. It is just fun and exciting to know that we can find more ways to honor and admire our parents.

I just have to say I can't wait until my son is old enough to enjoy and appreciate making his own play-doh and crayons

BluebirdMama said...

Reading everyone's carnival posts I'm more convinced than ever that back in the day, everyone really did live differently. My family wasn't more special than the next - we all did stuff that way before things got so convenient.

I guess one thing that seems a shame to me is that here we are all harkening back to the old days, going back to the way our parents did things and unfortunately, my parents don't do that stuff any more.

Love your list. Thanks for reminding me about some things I'd missed.

Anonymous said...

You've totally reminded me of my mother making popcorn on the stove. There were very specific smells and sounds, that rattle of popcorn kernels on the pot and the popping sound when they got going.

I haven't had much luck doing this myself. I like to us a hot-air popper, but unfortunately my toddler made off with part of the top so it's out of service. Maybe it's time to try the stovetop method again.

Thomasin said...

Your list makes me happy! And reminds me of all the cold frosty days on which I was told to put on a sweater rather than being allowed to touch the thermostat. ;-) I don't quite "get" the fan roulette (I've always been afraid of getting my hair caught or my fingers lopped off) but all the rest, yep, I was nodding my head (oh, except for the drain cleaning, which made me shudder a bit. I guess I'm also afraid of drain monsters). Perhaps green living makes you brave!

Darcel said...

This is a really great theme this month. Reading your list reminds me of some of the things we used to do growing up. I didn't think of them as being green.

Awesome list! Now you get to carry on with your family.

Lauren Wayne said...

Shana: We used to do a lot of painting with food coloring growing up, too. I'm going to have to break that out again, assuming I can find some safe sources.

Maman A Droit: Your comment just made me laugh, because a friend the other day here was just complaining at how stinky homemade playdough is and how much they hated the smell. I admit it's distinctive. :) Maybe it's the cream of tartar?

Michelle: All I can say is, thank you so very much!

Geeks in Rome: That's so interesting how resourceful you had to be at getting rid of waste. I too struggle with how to balance it all. I don't want to be a pack rat (and I am, and I want to be better), but I don't want to be cavalier about throwing stuff away. I don't like to obsess over every cent, but it is nice to get new things, and new cheap things are so very easy to buy. Sorry, I know your comment didn't reference all of that; it just made me think.

BluebirdMama: You're so right. My parents have changed along with everyone else. My dad now prefers the stinkiest, greasiest brand of microwave popcorn you could imagine.

Thomasin: For safety, we would unplug the fans and take off the front covers and just spin them by hand. We masking taped numbers to each blade and bet on which one would stop at the top. It's good to teach gambling young!

Thanks, everyone, for participating in either reading or writing for the carnival! It's been such a blast hearing everyone's ideas. I've gotten so many good ones and been inspired to carry on!

Anonymous said...

Now microwave popcorn is ruined for me! lol

I want a hand mixer too. I used to love it at my grandma's house. I don't ever use an electric one and whisking gets tiring after a while.

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