Grumpy Thoughts on Consumption

Let’s think a bit about consumption. By definition:

  • devour: eat immoderately
  • serve oneself to
  • spend extravagantly
  • destroy completely
  • use up
  • engage fully

(And of course, another name for pulmonary tuberculosis: involving the lungs with progressive wasting of the body, it “consumes you from within.”)

So, why is it we, as a body of people, are not deeply offended by our politicians and businesses referring to us human beings almost exclusively as consumers–ones who are fully engaged serving ourselves to devour, spend, destroy and use up?

So, quite by accident I didn’t buy anything on “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” and I’m feeling like maybe this makes me single-handedly responsible for the impending recession. I’ve been thinking about my role as a consumer–one who consumes.

It’s hard not to sound like a big prissy flag burner to say I feel uncomfortable with the completely unsustainable trajectory of our consumerism. In times of crisis, such as after the 9/11 attacks, we were given a priority edict from our political leaders to go out and buy and fly and start spending “normally.” (read: heavily). Our economy is extremely dependent on heavy borrowing and heavy spending–the crazy ride on the markets right now is driven by debt-driven consumerism, holiday retail orgies, mortgages, student loans and oil consumption.

Because the markets are so dependent on consumption, we are actually encouraged by our president to show our love of country by spending, we will thereby show the markets that the retail sector is healthy so we can avoid a pitfall in consumer confidence (already on the decline with a new report out today).

In contrast, our prophet counsels us to save our money, to avoid debt, to put aside what we want today for what we may need tomorrow. To do without. Sister Beck said in October, “Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children, —more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.”

I don’t think this is just about not going out and getting a job so you can have fancy stuff. I really do think it is about learning to value and treasure the things of most value that money can’t buy.

But what would happen to our consumption and debt-driven economy if everyone obeyed the prophet and so unpatriotically started to save, get out of debt, and not buy, buy, buy? I don’t know, as an daily Marketplace listener, I have the impression the house of cards may unravel faster, but individual families would be safer in the fallout.

Now I’m the last person in the world worthy to preach on financial matters, but I’m committed to make this holiday one heavy on what is truly good, but modest on the goods. I’d like for me and us to be seen by our political leaders and the world at large as more than ones who consume.

That said, maybe this is the rant of someone who is simply bitter that they don’t have piles of money to consume with. Who can say?


Judgy Judgerson III

Thanksgiving and Fall Cleaning

First of all, let me start with that picture I promised back from the Pilgrim Festival, now that it is has been excavated and found…

Me and my cute babies (Noah as a bumblebee)

When I say that much of this week was spent in “Fall Cleaning,” you are supposed to be impressed that I am dedicated to undertaking the old-fashioned rituals of seasonal changes in the household. Under no circumstances are you to construe that “Fall Cleaning” is one of only two times a year I actually really clean anything. And in particular, you would be amiss to assume that these frantic, disorganized efforts are not driven by the orderly seasonal changes but by the simple fact we usually have many guests and visitors for Easter and Thanksgiving, thus I am propelled from my more natural state of lax ennui into raging perfectionism.

You don’t want to miss this, come by sometime and enjoy it, it’s like observing metamorphosis in the wild.

So, in preparation for our Thanksgiving dinner of 17 people, I work hard making up for all that wasn’t done in the past several months. (In my version of “Tortise & the Hare” the Hare is vindicated with a tie race.) We reorganized the bedrooms into the “girl” and “boy” rooms, completely got rid of most of Ben’s stuff in an effort to “help him” keep his room tidier. Noah was moved in with Ben and Lucy’s crib was moved in with Sophie. While David worked on Lucy’s crib, Lucy took her nap in Noah’s newly-set-up Bed, and she looked so tiny in it I had to get a pic.

We had a very nice Thanksgiving with the Mosses, the Lyons and the Hunters. The children had a great time, and it was kind of chaotic, but I think it went ok overall. The food turned out very yummy.

I usually feel all deflated and postpartumy each year after the big Thanksgiving production, but this year I didn’t. This was either due to my conscious effort to avoid it, all the wonderful cleaning I would still have to show for it afterward, or perhaps due to the absence of Ned, who missed our Thanksgiving for the first time in 12 years. Maybe it was his fault all along, but probably just a coincedence. We missed you, Ned!

I did think upon my blessings this week, thinking particularly of manna–a constant, miraculous blessing of sustenance from the Lord. When you read the story, it seems so amazing and such a conspicuous show of God’s hand–how grateful and happy the Israelites must have been under such constant providence!

But were they?

It is hard to be thankful for our manna, however miraculous, when your heart and mind are on the promised land. It is hard to be content with manna when you want to be sowing and reaping your own field. We are to eat our manna still with faith in our ultimate destination — that land of milk and honey. We are to be thankful, content and humble in the fact that at times we must daily depend on the Lord sometimes for things we feel we should be able to do for ourselves.

Sometimes he actually does just give us a fish when we feel we are ready to go out and be fish for ourselves. To be thankful for the fish, and not resentful that the long-term plan is not in place–that is the task of today.

So, this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for manna, in all it’s immediate, short-term sweetness, knowing it comes directly out of the hand of God. I know it is intended as transitional sustenance and a lesson in humility and faith, not as a replacement for the promised land itself.

Hope it was a great Thanksgiving for all.

A Lesson on Spin

Our mom’s group at Descanso on Monday
(MEPAF: Moms of East Pasadena and Friends)

This week was super fun! Lucy started to really get walking, Ben did great with his schoolwork, Noah is always singing, and Sophie’s reading is really taking off.

On Monday we had a wonderful time at Descanso gardens and later a great family night and played Bible Bingo and ate donuts. On Tuesday we had scouts and played at the park. On Wednesday David left to go to Central California for work and the kids and I enjoyed a relaxing day together. Ben and Sophie got up early on Thursday to practice before coming in to me while still in bed to sing “Love is Spoken Here” (in full three-verse, duet form) . Later that day we had our friend Andrew over, as his mom just had a new baby boy. Friday we had a fun, active music class before we went to lunch with our friends Doris and Natasha, then took our friends Becca, Autumn and Andrew over to the Church park to play until the pizza and the Sister missionaries arrived and we ate dinner in the church and played until almost bedtime.

Ben went with the Scouts overnight with his dad and had a wonderful time. Then, Saturday I worked on the house getting ready for Thanksgiving while Lucy and Noah napped. After Sophie swept the whole front yard, she sung to herself at the table while making a turkey craft and said, “Mom, you make the best bread,” as she munched on some fresh from the oven. Uncle Mike came to stay late Saturday and came with us to church, where I taught Relief Society and really felt the Spirit as I bore my testimony about our ability to become an instrument in God’s hands. Then we all came home and ate waffles and bacon and the kids did gratitude-related crafts.

I just wish everyone could have the perfect life I have.

Here’s a picture of me

in my perfect life.

And, I guess I should also mention…

It took me six days to wash all the dishes that had piled up in my kitchen, due to the constant demands of schooling, training, disciplining, cleaning up more urgent messes, diapering and rediapering, my own distractibility and miscellaneous items like cleaning off a blue spiral-like sketch Noah put on his own face (in what I had thought was water-based marker). Why does my life involve so much poop!? (Answer, because Noah is only 60% potty trained).

My house is a complete disaster and I am totally stressed about getting it presentable for Thanksgiving. I am 10% done after a full week of effort and four days away.

I also yelled more than I would have liked this week, my cell phone died because someone spilled water on it, we all got a little bit of a cold, especially Lucy, who actually had rough breathing for a day or so. My dear friend Patti had her baby 5 weeks early and he’s having difficulties, and I feel so much for her having gone through such a hard experience just 17 months ago. Much of the “relaxing time” spent with my kids I was face-down on the couch not feeling so good with a belly bug or something.

Then, when I asked my oldest children if they really felt “love is spoken here” in our home, I simultaneously got:

Sophie: No, I guess not really.

Ben: No, but it would be if you guys would be nicer.


Thursday, I hadn’t had time to shower since David was out of town, and my hair showed it. Noah looked at me lovingly and said, “Mommy, your hair looks ugly.” A fact which couldn’t be disputed.

Friday, he was simply a holy terror while I tried to teach music class. Then I triple booked my schedule, as I am wont to do, and was like a headless chicken most of the day.

Saturday Ben had so little sleep from camping, and had such a hard time coming down off the high of being with his dad, that he spent most of Saturday in bed moping, sometimes crying, and occassionally yelling at me. He seemed to also have a fever for part of the afternoon. Noah then commenced along the same moody, runny-nosed path until collapsing to sleep, so we couldn’t go to the Elves Faire I wanted to check out.

But, I finished my goal of doing all the dishes and cleaning the kitchen, begun Monday at 8 a.m., –at 8 p.m. Saturday.

But the bread actually did turn out very good.

…So, there is a former marketing professional’s short lesson on “spin.” Look for it in a newspaper near you!

In other news, at the end of the week, a major fiscal crisis was miraculously diverted, and although my husband had to point out to me that the Lord had obviously answered our constant prayers in a very direct manner, I didn’t realize it because it wasn’t specifically what I’d been asking for and I was busy feeling cheated that Lord didn’t care. So I was repentant and humbled and I was brought again to be amazed at the kindness of God. I have so, so much to be grateful for because of and in spite of everything. I am really looking forward to Thanksgiving.

My anchor for the week:

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

28 Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.

Ether 12: 27-28

Happy Thanksgiving!

Who doesn’t have a blog these days?

So all my kids (except Lucy) now have a blog. Feel free to visit. I’m encouraging them to journal and thought friends and family may enjoy the updates. Sophie and Noah dictate, and Ben types until he’s tired, and then he dictates.

Funny quote of the day. From Ben to Noah, who was carrying a pencil behind his ear:

“Cool, Noah! That’s how business guys carry their pencils. Or scientists.”


Hope for the future…

I read a fascinating article today in the New York Times summarizing two studies showing that behavioral problems in young children do not indicate future lack of success. It also confirms what I have suspected–that ADHD is a delay in development rather than a deficit in development. This would be in line with my own experience, where I just grew out of my crazy, hyper and anti-social behaviors by about Jr. High and turned out (almost) normal.

Still can’t pay attention, but think that’s related to other things. In general I can socialize and learn better than ever.

I highly recommend this read to anyone who has or works with kids:

As a sidenote, it is very interesting to analyze one’s life in terms of the percentage of current life events and experiences one is willing to discuss on a public blog. I am running at about 50% right now. Clearly our successes and joys are for the public eye, and our failures and frustrations for the closet. Or in my case, the other journal. 🙂

Anyway, prayers are always welcome…

Teeth Pics, Walking Babies and the Daily Drill

Here are the pics providing evidence of my last report. Here is the long-awaited Sophie Halloween pic as Sleeping Beauty, along with her friend Ella the witch and Autumn the angel, then with brother, the very in-character pirate, below:

Here is a pathetic confession, since David had the camera on his business trip, I didn’t get pics of Lucy or Noah on Halloween, but will recreate them before next post. Noah was Sully again from Monsters, Inc., since I had that costume and could throw it on easy, and Lucy was a cow for the same reason. So, I’ll throw those back on sometime this week for your viewing pleasure. How half-baked is that parenting?

So, on to the teeth:

Sophie’s first lost tooth!

I had falsely reported four teeth on top, but is really two plus a half plus a fourth of a tooth–so 2.75 teeth in four slots.

Aren’t my girls gorgeous?

In just the past two days Lucy has shown a preference for walking over crawling most of the time–it is so exciting!

Ben’s homeschooling has been going very well, this week has been very eventful, as he moved to fourth grade curriculum in all subjects on and seems much more interested and challenged. We went to the zoo on Monday and the free day at the Natural History Museum on Tuesday, both of which demanded a great deal of field journal entries for Ben. On Wednesday we went to the library and got many books, mainly Thanksgiving books and Beverly Cleary. Already Ben is getting back to his more excited, positive self, which is great to see. Sophie is also enjoying the field trips and doing her own field journal. They are both excited about piano lessons (with mom) and are practicing without any fuss (for now, not sure how long that will continue).

Here is a cave painting Ben did for a Time4Learning Social Studies unit on ancient civilizations–check the red and black mastedon and giant yellow flying birds:

I definitely feel great about our choice to bring Ben back home.

Friday after the little toddler music class we have for the mom’s group, we went to the Pilgrim’s Place Thanksgiving fair in Claremont. Five other families from the mom’s group went. It was so, so fun!! Everyone had their face painted (except Lucy, who I figured wouldn’t hold still, as it was already hard for Noah), we ate popcorn and cotton candy and sno cones, we rode on the Mayflower and the Massasoit Train, we listened to Indian drums, watched a bit of the Thanksgiving play, and did lots of fun crafts, like the “Glue In” which involves lots of random items the Pilgrims Place community residents collect throughout the year, a cardboard mat, and a lot of glue and creativity. This one is Ben’s:

Pilgrims Place is a neighborhood entirely of elderly people who have served the Christian faith as ministers, teachers or missionaries for at least 20 years full-time. The place had a great spirit about it. Lots of really good folks there. We’re losing a good generation with the loss of that era.

We did a Polaroid/Frame craft, which made up for the fact I forgot my camera. This one is Sophie and our friend Ella, both in butterfly makeup:

And Ben, who asked for pirate makeup to relive the glory days of Halloween:

I am still trying to find the cute one of me holding Lucy and Noah (with bumblebee face paint). It’s got to be around here somewhere.

Saturday was Ward Breakfast, practice for the primary program, and our great friend Addy’s baptism! That was so fun to see. David and I went out on a date that night, just to dinner and some wandering around Vromans book store looking around.

And now for an update on David. Here he is reading the New Yorker as he is wont to do. That about covers it for facts I am allowed to disclose about David.

The primary program was today and they did a great job. I really felt the Spirit and was proud of all the work the children had put into it. I am very grateful for the amazingly great teachers and leaders our kids have been blessed with in Primary.

Halloween, new and old teeth

Our little Sophie is growing up–she lost her first tooth the night before last. She was worried going to bed that it would come out while she was sleeping and she would lose it, and I reassured her that I don’t remember any of my teeth coming out while I was sleeping (as they usually came out from all the tinkering). But, of course it did come out while she was sleeping, and she excitedly came in to give it to me at about 3 a.m.

It was so small! A little bottom center tooth, the same size as the tiny first ones Lucy got in on the bottom. Sophie just looks like such a big girl–so tall to me. It is such a fun milestone.

At the same time, Lucy had those two top teeth coming in last week hastily followed up with the other two top teeth on either side this week–which made for some miserable, snotty nights. She looks like Cindy Lou Who from Dr. Seuss, but with less hair.

David was out of town this week only through Wednesday night, just long enough for me to really appreciate that he takes kids to school and does the laundry and helps me with the zone defense of child rearing. So, as he was flying in about bedtime on Halloween, we left the Sierra Madre Halloween festivities kind of quickly to go get him, but had more than enough candy anyhow.

And maybe all that candy will explain the fact that my boys have been moody and crazy all week. Noah has seriously been on a tirade of moodswings, violence, spite-driven defiance and throwing things, alternating with lethargy and exhausted crying–either it was the leftover virus from the fever from last week or all that sugar, since I wasn’t the candy nazi I usually am this year. Ben has had a lot of stress with school and being sick last week, but that still wouldn’t explain the mega hyperactivity also alternating with mopey lethargy and sleepiness. Again, leftover virus and candy is my guess.

On second thought, maybe all that candy in the house that would explain my own weepy craziness alternating with mopey lethargy and sleepiness….hm.

Well, at least the candy is out of the house now.

The kids have already started their turkey crafts–the construction paper Frankensteins, pumpkins and ghosts that have been adorning every open wall space in our house are starting to be replaced with construction paper Thanksgiving art. The Holidays are upon us!