Furlough and Food Storage

I swear my walker isn't part of my long-term food storage.

I swear my walker isn’t part of my long-term food storage.

With two mortgages, three kids in diapers, two kids in formula, and six mouths to feed (if you count the 100 pound dog), we now have zero income. No matter what political views you hold, we can all agree that this is a scary time. My husband is a pawn in this political chess game, and that means I am too. And so are my children. While I just felt angry and scared at first, my husband made me fall in love with him all over again when he came home that first unpaid day. He said something so kind and sweet about the situation, but  I can’t type it here because it’s too polarizing. (This blog is my story, so I’m not about to throw Mr. Okayest under the political-view-bus.) Just pretend to swoon and feel better like I did.

Having him home is wonderful. We can stay up late. He can actually finish his homework for once. I have two extra hands’ worth of help in a very hectic day. My day-to-day life is actually much better. There have been times when I have thought that having him home would be invaluable to me… and now is the time to put my money where my mouth is. Except I don’t have any money. How much is his help worth? How long will it be worth that much? The truth is, I just love to have his beautiful face around during the day.

But how do you pay the bills during this time? How do you buy food? I heard that some establishments offered free food to furloughed federal workers (alliteration much?). Jackpot! However, when I looked it up, I realized a few ironic things:

1) Most of the free “food” is alcoholic drinks. Dang.

2) Most of the “free” food is just 10% off with a government ID. How exactly do they expect people to pay for the other 90% with absolutely zero income? Seriously, people!

3) Here is the best one yet:  “Thirty percent off spa packages to furloughed employees.” Umm, if you are going to a spa while unemployed, you have some major problems.

I did find a few that said, “Free food to federal workers. Congressmen will not be served.”

So, really, how will this work? What will become of this one-income family if Mr. Okayest is out of work for weeks? I have no idea. The kids keep us too busy and too tired to have “scheduled” a good sit-down. But immediately I knew two things:

1)      I am so thankful for my food storage.

2)      I can’t believe I just sold my cloth diapers LAST WEEK. Idiot!

I swear I tidied this short-term pantry for the photo.

I swear I tidied this short-term pantry for the photo.

Anyway, as for the food storage, our LDS church has always encouraged every member to be self-sufficient. We are taught to keep as much food storage as is reasonable for our home and family. Ideally, we are to have three months’ worth of regular food in the house, which I call “pantry food” – just  large quantities of what we usually buy and eat. It’s part of the rotation. We’re talking about pasta, tuna, canned veggies. (Ok, ok, and also boxes of Kraft and cans of potted meat… I’m southern, remember?)

In addition to a three months’ supply of short-term food storage, we are also taught to aim for up to a year of what we call “long-term food storage”. This includes survival basics. I call it “under-siege food”. We are talking rice, wheat, beans, oatmeal, dry milk. Stuff that your kids would probably cry about if they had to eat.

Our church does not promote doomsday scenarios or wild schemes you see on NatGeo about building a fortress with spikes and “keeping a box with crushed glass by the door for security” (that’s a Doomsday Prepper quote, folks!).  Instead, we are simply taught to keep food storage for personal emergencies. If the husband were to lose his job or become ill, then at least that family wouldn’t have to buy groceries. What savings they do have could go toward the mortgage. We need to be self-sufficient in an emergency. How would you ever help “thy neighbor” if you can’t even help yourself?

Our church also promotes having three months of your salary in savings, as well as two weeks’ worth of water storage. We follow these guidelines. We always have. I built our food storage over years, proudly canning much of it myself into large #10 cans with oxygen absorbers inside. I have a 72- hour kit packed and ready for each member of my family (including that dang dog), if we were to have to leave the home during any of the natural disasters that have occurred here, including earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, or trees falling. Political chess games require more of a shelter-in-place plan.

I hope someday I can help our family be even more self-sufficient. I hope to grow food. I hope to have chickens and goats. (Hey, a girl can dream, ok? I owned a dog-walking business  in a rural area, which meant that I mostly fed chickens, goats, and horses. I was good at it. I liked it.) It’s hard to do these things with three babies, but someday I will have three sons who can help. The trick will be to start when they are young enough to want to help, but old enough to walk and not put everything in their mouths. I want to tap into that “industry” phase of childhood before it’s too late.

We will be fine. I know how to make emergency flat-bread out of a paste of flour and water and salt. (Although that does sound eerily similar to the recipe for homemade play-doh, now that I think about it.)  I know how to cook without power. I know how to make my family poop in a bucket. I know how to … wait, those last two had nothing to do with furlough, did they?

We will be fine. We don’t have any car payments because my husband is freakin’ MacGyver and can make anything work right. We don’t have any debt other than mortgages and student loans. We have savings. If things get bad, we know how to sell things. And how to market my MacGruber’s skills.

We will be fine. We will not be buying the salmon, avocado, and blueberries on which my sons gorge. We will not be spending any gas money to visit the grandparents on the weekends. We will not be buying balloons or presents for the babies’ first birthday this week. However, we will be relying on our precious food storage and being thankful that we followed the advice of our church.

Now if only I hadn’t sold those cloth diapers. Argh.

***

Notes: I’ve had some inquiries about where to find more information on building your own 72-hour kits. Information on the web is plentiful, but start here: http://www.ready.gov/document/family-supply-list

Here’s a handout I made for a lesson I taught at church: How to make a 72-hr kit

Here is the LDS church’s preparedness page: http://providentliving.org/self-reliance?lang=eng

By the way, I’m not claiming to be any kind of expert on 72-hour kits or anything else. I just really like to try.

Moms Are Not Good for the Environment: An Apology to the Earth

I guess I do bathe them sometimes.

I guess I do bathe them sometimes.

As my dad always says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions!” Despite my good intentions, since I have become a mom of three, I apparently no longer care about the environment. Well, I do, but you would never know that because of all this naughty stuff I do.

I used to be an environmentalist. I was careful with resources. I have been taking care of this earth since I convinced my parents to start recycling in the early 90s when I was a mere pre-teen.  It was no easy feat to recycle while living on a mountain with no trash-pickup! It required going all the way into the next town to the real dump, and not just to the dumpster in our own little town. We paved the way to the recycling center!

Anyway, sorry, Earth, here’s a list of things I used to never do… but now I do them because I am an Okayest Mom. I am an Okayest Mom who is paving the way to hell – or at least to the landfill – with my good intentions .

Using paper plates sometimes: I swear, I never did this before kids. I never even bought paper plates before! But now, sometimes the dishwasher is just too full. And sometimes I haven’t unloaded it. Also, it already takes me about 20 minutes to clean up after each meal at this stage, because of all the food on the floor and the two high chairs, and sometimes I can’t spare any more minutes that the dishes would …oh, well, nevermind. Excuses.

Using paper napkins: I was raised on cloth napkins. I used them in the first eight years of my marriage. I like them. They were not a big deal. Now they are.

Using ridiculous amounts of paper towels: We go through a Costco-sized pack of paper towels more often than I’d like to admit. With my first son, I wiped the cute little sweet potatoes off my cute little sweet potato’s cheeks with a cute little washcloth and let it dry on the cute little towel rack. No. No more. There is no towel rack big enough to hold all the washcloths I would need to clean these twins. Also, we have a lot of clean-ups that involve things that I don’t want to see on a regular towel.

Using ridiculous amounts of disposable diapers: I used cloth diapers for a short time with my first son. I actually kind of liked it. It wasn’t too bad. Plus, his bum was enormous – and enormously cute – in those things. However, once my twins came, those cloth diapers were out the window. (Or, to be more precise, they were on their way to the consignment sale.) At our peak, when I had three kids in diapers and the twins were doing that pooping-every-hour newborn thing, we used more than 25 disposable diapers per day. To the landfills of the world, I am truly truly sorry.

Using ridiculous amounts of wipes: To all those more-hippie-than-me moms who are using those reusable washcloth wipes or making their own wipes, I salute you. I think.

Wasting gas by driving around to keep a sleeping baby asleep: I would have never ever done this in my pre-mom life. But a parent will do ANYTHING to keep a baby asleep. Tiptoe, stop breathing… you name it, we’ve done it. And so have you! Don’t lie.

Wasting gas by idling the car to keep a sleeping baby asleep: See above. (Funny how I didn’t waste gas back when it was only a dollar per gallon, but now I will willingly waste it at four dollars a gallon when the budget is tight. Go me!)

Not recycling as much as I used to: Okay, for this one, I am super ashamed. It is hard to admit, but sometimes I am too tired or too busy to rinse out the dang yogurt container, and I just throw it away because it’s easier. Seeing other people do that used to make me really angry.

Letting a kid pull out all the wipes, tissues, or toilet paper: If it allows me to shower or make dinner, who am I to stop him? I calculate how much that roll or box cost me, and then I ask myself if the peace is worth that price, and the answer is always yes. The earth might disagree.

Using more propane, oil, or electricity: Turn that heat up, baby! If my kid is waking up with cold hands and feet after being clothed in a long-sleeve onesie, socks, and fleece footed zip-up jammies overnight, then it’s too cold in here. (By the way, that was only one of my kids. I also have one normal one and one who feels like a furnace that has a fever.)

Letting the water run: I will happily let the water run in the sink for 45 minutes to keep my preschooler occupied quietly. Sorry. It’s water therapy, right? Besides, I make up for it by hardly ever bathing my children. And, when I finally do bathe them, all three share the same bath water.  Also, my own showers are super short. As my friend Anne once said, “My shower is only as long as the crib mobile’s song.”

Okayest Mom wants the earth to know that she is SO SORRY. When my kids are in school, I will make it up to you.

Because I will be sleeping, in the dark, all day long, without using any resources.