The power of Veggies

We are a cooking family. We love to take raw ingredients and make them into something wonderful and delicious. It’s an art form really. But even more than turning nothing into something, cooking is a way to get my kids to eat food that is good for them.
We used to eat out a lot. I mean, sometimes twice a day. Not only was that a drain on our wallet, but it was full of unhealthy, fried, and fatty foods. Oh sure, they tasted delicious, but they were wreaking havoc on our bodies and we didn’t care.
As I said in my last post, the kids and I moved last year. And with us came my parents. My parents are used to cooking at home. My dad is a chef turned computer software engineer. But here’s the key part of that sentence: chef. My dad cooks most of the meals in our house, mostly because he enjoys it. But the things he makes… lamb burger sliders, potato meal pancakes, homemade enchiladas … anything that has flavor and wonderfulness. And my darling children, used to fast, fried foods, wouldn’t touch it. We tried every bribe we could think of. Finally, my dad gave up on cooking the “fancy” stuff and made chicken pieces with garlic and salt. They were delicious. The kids loved them. And then the next day, Selina asked if she could help him make them. So we had chicken again the next night, but this time, they were lovingly prepared by Selina, with the help of my dad and the “special ingredient” (garlic).
And soon, as we weaned off of the fast food lifestyle, we began to notice that the kids were interested in more and more food items. And the key to that change: having the kids help make dinner. Their favorite thing to make is salad.
It seems simple enough, but when they are a part of actually making what goes on the table, they seem to be more interested in actually eating it. They are proud of what they are accomplishing.
Now, Selina is 5 and has been cooking for almost a year. Evin is 20 months and has been cooking for the past 2 months. Who would have thought that they would be so interested in something as simple as making a salad.
making salad salad made

Look at those happy little faces. How on earth could I say “no, I’m going to make the salad myself” to those big eyes and wide smiles?
It may take us longer to make dinner, but, I tell you the truth, it’s TOTALLY worth every extra minute.

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New Year, New Story

Hello all! It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it. And let me tell you, things around here sure have changed.
In the past year, the kids and I have moved twice, Selina has attended 4 schools, I got a new job and I went back to school. And honestly, we couldn’t been happier.

We moved to a new house the week after Christmas. The house is located in a small town just outside of Salem, Oregon. You how some small towns give you that feeling of being so isolated from your neighbors because no one cares? Yeah, definitely not true in this town. Here’s a perfect example:

Last week I called the power company that is based in Portland to ask about my account balance being $0 (really, I should have just let it go) and the girl who answered the phone went on and on about how wonderful my new town is. Turns out that she was born and raised here. Gave me a great recommendation for a pizza place.

But what’s the most important is that the kids are happy. They have a great big play room and a huge fenced backyard where we can have a veggie garden in the spring. Also, we have a craft room now. Let me tell you how much of a win that is with Selina. Epic win.

And now, my friends, it is time for me to say goodbye for now. I’ll be back next Wednesday with something new and exciting to tell you.

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Why I Bother with Babywearing

I have two children. They are three and a half years apart. Obviously I’ve done a lot of things differently with Little E than I did with his sissy.  One of the biggest changes is that I wear E quite a lot.

evin

Now please understand that I know babywearing is not for everyone and I am not here to tell you that you should, however I feel that everyone should at least try it.  Trying it may change your life.

The main reason I wear E is out of convenience.   When Selina was little, the house was always a mess.  I just thought “Oh well, that’s how life is when you have small children.”  Never did I think, “Oh! If I just wear her, I could do the dishes.”  For some reason, when Evin was just a few weeks old, I went out (spur of the moment) and bought a wrap.  I read the directions and wore him around the house that day.  Do you know how well he slept?  And do you know how much I got done that day?  My living room AND kitchen were sparkling clean for the first time in WEEKS. Then, a friend showed me a better way to wrap him and life was good.  For a while.

Then E started growing.  Six months later, he doesn’t really care for being carried in the front.  He wants to see everything.  So I desperately facebooked my friend who had showed me how to wrap him.  “I need a new carrier.  Please help me.  My house is falling apart without one.”  “Come right over” she said.  She pulled out all of her carriers and we found the perfect one for us.

Not only did my friend drop everything for me, but she even called a local little store to see if they had any in and the cost.  They sure did.  And they were on MEGA sale.  She then took me down to the store (which I would have NEVER found by myself) and I bought E his Christmas present.

We tried it out for the first time today and holy cow.  I made coffee and bread.  I put away all of the clean dishes and washed up the ones that were used last night.  I then made our bed and bagged up the bathroom trash.  I then wandered into the kitchen to start the crockpot for dinner and I glanced at the clock.  Was that REALLY the time?  How on earth was I 45 minutes ahead of schedule?!?!?  Oh, that’s right.  Because I wasn’t tending to a crying baby every 5 minutes.  My word, this carrier is wonderful.

So, if you have a small child and still need to get things done, I suggest finding a carrier that works well for you and your kid.

Either that, or get a child-rearing robot that holds that baby for you when you have to wash the dishes….

Actually, get a robot that does the dishes instead.

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Epic Win for Intrinsic Value

Please note that while this particular blog post has a religious background, the message can and should be used for all children.  And by “all,” I really mean “any child who you love.”

 

I have gone to church my entire life.  I still enjoy going.  In fact, I am going this evening.  While in high school, I attended two churches on a regular basis.  It was from one pastor, Bruce, that I learned about Intrinsic Value. Image(This is Bruce.  Hi Bruce!  Picture credit: Bruce’s facebook)

I am a smart person. I love large, rarely used words. I read a lot. But seriously, I had never heard the word “intrinsic.”  For those of you who are in the same boat I was in, intrinsic means that something, or someone, has value just for its own sake.  The message that Bruce was trying to portray was that we have intrinsic value to God.

Fast forward 12 years (yes, 12).  There is Selina, deciding to throw a tantrum in the middle of the court so that all of the neighbors can hear.  I can’t even remember what it was about, but I do remember that we were going to be late.  I hate being late.  So as I pick up the screaming 4 year old and place her in the car, I tell her that I don’t like the choice that she had made.  Of course, her smart little mind had a momentary lapse of smartness and my words got translated to “I don’t like you.”  And that started another wave of hysterics. 

We get to my in-law’s house just about the time that she calms down.  As we walk into the house,  I drop the baby off with the rest of the family and haul Selina upstairs to have a chat.  But honestly, how can I tell her that she has intrinsic value to me?  Yes she’s smart, but she’s still 4.  But here’s what I came up with:

“Selina, I love you with all of my heart.  Sometimes you have a hard day and you make choices that I don’t like.  I love you and I always will. There is absolutely nothing that you can do to make me stop loving you.  But I don’t like some of choices that you make.  But I love you.”

I know.  Repetitive. But she left happy and had a fairly good evening afterwards.  But that is a seriously hard concept to grab.  I tried anyways.

Skip to last week.  I was having a very rough day.  After I got off work (at 10pm), I went to pick up the kids to take them home.  I thought they were both asleep, so I wasn’t worried that they would overhear me crying in my bedroom.  A little body appeared in my doorway and slowly made its way onto my bed where I was crying. 

“What’s wrong Mommy?”  my little girl asked.

“Nothing, baby.” I replied. “I’m just having a hard day.”

And somewhere in her mind a trigger was set off and she told me “It’s ok Mommy.  Sometimes you have a hard day and make bad choices.  But I still love you.  And I always will.”

Epic win for intrinsic value.

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Guest Posting (I feel popular)

I did not post last week. And I’m sorry.  However, I did a guest post over at The Quirky Momma!  Fun! Excitment!  And quite possibly, a mention of dead bodies…

 

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A Typical Thanksgiving Blog

Once upon a time, pilgrims came to North America, killed all the natives and took control of the “new” world.  And our forefathers decided to celebrate this!  Hurrah! Feasts! Family! Black Friday!

 

That concept is so clearly wrong.  So instead of the pilgrim story this year, my family has written our own story.  Why we are thankful this year.  Here it is:

 

Unknown to us, the Cortez family started 5 and a half years ago when Matt and I first went on our first date.  We went to see Pan’s Labyrinth.  And then we ate Del Taco.  Typical college date.  A year later, after much drama, we welcomed a beautiful little girl into our little piece of the world.  Simply said, we loved her.  She was the light of our lives.  I am thankful for her health, her attitude and her ability to go with the flow.  She brings so much stability to our lives.  Without her, my heart would be broken.  Several years later, Matt and I were married.  I am thankful for the promises we made and the sense of responsibility we feel towards each other.  I am thankful for his hard work and his loving gazes he gives his children.  Several years later, we bought a house together.  I am so grateful for a stable place we can call our own and raise our children.  We are able to do what we like with what we have.  We have the ability to make the most of our lives in a warm and comfortable environment. How many people can say that this year?  I know we are fortunate to have 2 jobs that pay enough to give us everything we need.  Then, 6 months ago, we welcomed a bouncy and giggly baby boy into our hearts.  I am thankful for Selina’s innate ability to love her little brother.  I am thankful for his developmental strides as he learns so quickly.

 

And lastly, I am thankful for my marriage.  While we have our ups and downs, just like any couple, I am thankful that we have always been able to get it straight again.  I am grateful that we will be able to that, no matter what. Literally.  No matter what.

 

And now for something much more entertaining!

 

Selina, bless her soul, wanted to play doctor with her brother yesterday morning.  We were on our way out the door to meet Papa for breakfast so I said “You can play doctor when we get home.”  When we got home, Evin was asleep.  I decided to take that opportunity and hop in the shower.  Selina’s task was to “watch” her brother while he slept, AKA “stay in the same room and go get mom if he starts crying.”  We’ve done this many, many times before (how else do you thing I shower?).   I’m almost done when Selina walks in the bathroom with a horrified look on her face.  She proceeds to tell me “Brother woke up when I gave him a shot.”  Wait, what?!?!?  She couldn’t wait to play doctor with him and decided to play with him while he was sleeping, effectively waking him up.  Good job Pookie.  I guess I should have been much clearer when I first told her “later.”

 

And on a side note, Thanksgiving style,  Ben Franklin enjoyed eating turkey just as much as the next person and did not want it to be our national bird.  Look  here’s proof.

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  I hope you spend a wonderful day with your families, writing your own thankful story.

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The Effects of Geekiness in Children

I am terribly sorry to be MIA for the past few weeks.  Two Thursdays ago I had a most wonderful blog written all about siblings and whatnot… and my darling, beloved computer deleted it. And then the following week I was in Disneyland on vacation.  So here I am again.  Writing about something that excites me. And no, this is not The Lost Blog.  That one will have to wait until another time.

We just got back from Disneyland.  It’s the first vacation we’ve ever taken as a family that didn’t involve camping or visiting my parents.  And actually, my parents met us in the park one day, so I can’t even say that.  Let’s just say it was the first vacation in a LONG time.

I highly recommend EVERYONE to go to Disneyland.  Here are some highlights:

And now we can move on to today’s topic: How Nerdy is the Cortez Family!

I have to admit, we are a pretty geeky family.  We love all things related to comic books, superheros, video games, Harry Potter and British television.  Please keep these things in mind while I tell you the following story…

My daughter is 4.  I’m not sure if it’s an age thing, or if it’s just bred in girls, but Selina likes to pretend that she has a boyfriend.  Usually the boyfriend switches between a couple of boys from church.  It’s harmless. And just a little bit cute.

So I was not surprised when, while we were driving to Papa’s house a few weeks ago, my darling little girl pipes up from the back of the car “Mommy, I’m waiting for my boyfriend to call.”

To which I reply “Oh really? What is your boyfriend’s name?” I was completely poleaxed by the answer.

“The Revengers… All of them.  The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Loki, Black Widow, and Wolverine.”  At least she’s not picky… boy, girl, good guy or bad guy.

At this point I should explain that is what she calls The Avengers, which she had very recently watched with Daddy.  And then she found a little cartoon on Netflix about them (which is where she got the Wolverine bit).  Talk about Revenger overload.

But nothing, and I literally mean nothing, could have prepared me for the next sentence that came out of her mouth…

“Except for Iron Man.  He’s my husband and he gets jealous of the rest of the Revengers so he took my phone away so they can’t call.”
Her imagination never ceases to amaze me.

Then, to top it all off, a couple hours later she tells me “I was just pretending that Iron Man is my husband.  I’m really waiting for The Doctor.”

 

And my geeky heart melted as I pulled her into a hug and said “Me too.”

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Having a Home Where Small Children Live, AKA “Holy Cow my house is a mess”

Late last night, my husband says “I’m having a few friends come over tomorrow night. Around 6. OK?”

“Sure” I say.  “I’ll clean up the living room and kitchen at the very least.  Hmmm… Selina’s got a doctor check up in the morning.  And I need to pick up our nephew from school.  And we’ve got to stop by the alterations place.  And grocery shopping. And birthday present. And baths. And meals. I’m sure I can get everything done.”  I look over at my husband… he’s fast asleep. Oh well.

 

As soon as we get up in the morning, reality sets in.  I must have had a momentary lapse of judgement where I thought I was 21 and childless again. There is no way on God’s green earth this will all get done.  I must pick and choose. The rest of it was going to take a back seat and we’ll see if we even get near there…

To my credit, I got everything done, except for baths.  To my husband’s credit, he cleaned the living room when he got home from work and he saw that nothing had changed. Hey, it was his friends who were on their way.

 

As I was rushing through my day, I came to the realization that, with two small children and a full-time job, my house will never be actually clean.  In fact, I can’t even pretend it’s somewhat under control.  I’m barely treading water.  Actually, it’s worse than that.  I’ve got only my nose above the water.  I can barely breath and I’m frantically trying to get my eyeballs out as well. But at the end of the day, as long as I can say I’ve used my time well, then I can go to sleep happy.  And today, I used my time extremely well.

Also today, I implemented a routine that I’ve been using the past week.  I call it “Power Hour.”  I have a very large problem getting Selina to do her chores without hysterically breaking down like it’s the end of the world.  So every morning, we’ve been sitting down with a color crayon in hand and a very colorful piece of paper before us.  I write down the chore and she “draws” a corresponding picture.  Please keep in mind that she’s 4.  So her drawing skills are more like stick figures, but she knows exactly what she means.  Then we set the timer for one hour, I strap Evin on, and we start on our lists.  Today, her list consisted of scrubbing the toilets (for the 3rd time this week), washing the bathroom mirror, sweeping the kitchen, picking up all of her toys in the living room, and washing the kitchen table.  Once she has finished her chores, she may go play in her room quietly for the remainder of the hour while I keep working on my chore list.  And there is almost no whining about it.  It’s fantastic.  However, there are some rules if you’re going to use this idea:

1. Do not make this list more than 5 things long for young children.  It’s too daunting and then nothing will get done.

2. Take the time to actually show them how to do the job.  Work with the child several times before letting them go on their own.

3. Check their progress often.

4. Use compliments as compliments.  No “buts.” And be specific about the compliment.   For example,  Don’t say a general “Great job”.  Say “Great job lining up your shoes in the closet.”  And “Great job picking up your clothes”  should end there.  Don’t add a “but you forgot a sock.”  Let your child know that you see that they are trying and, for the most part, succeeding.

5. Do not go back over what your child has done in order to correct it.  They will see you do that and understand that they did not do a good enough job.  My toilets get cleaned every couple of days for a reason.  I know that Selina is 4 and does not clean the toilet very well in one go.  But if she does it 3 or 4 times per week, then the chances of it actually getting cleaned like if I were doing it, are much greater.

6. Use bribery.  Selina has 2 little fishbowls with popsicle sticks.  Sticks go in the reward bowl if she doesn’t whine about chores, but get taken out if she does.  Once she gets all 20 sticks in the reward bowl, she gets a special treat.  Right now she’s working towards a special Snow White doll and house.

 

Follow the simple rules and you will be well on your way to children who not only do their chores and help you out, but are learning to do it with a glad heart.  And that’s what child rearing is all about: the state of your child’s heart.

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How to Survive One of Those Days

5:15 am. I heard a little voice next to my ear.

“Mommy, can you put Brother in his crib so I can sleep with you?”

Simple enough request.  But you must understand that we have been co-sleeping with Evin for 5 months now and if I move him away from human contact, he wakes up immediately and refuses to go back to sleep.  (OK, I haven’t really tried to break him of this too hard.   I enjoy cuddling too much.)  So we all shift around and get her into the bed too.  After 30 minutes of laying here, singing quietly to herself,  Selina finally asks me lay with her in her bed.  Fine, I say.  Anything to get another hour of sleep.

Then 8:30 rolls around and my husband peeks his head in the doorway and says “Don’t you have to be somewhere?”  Oh yeah, the pumpkin patch with Selina’s class.  I should have started getting ready to go a half hour ago.

The next two hours goes something like this “Whine, whine, whine, fake cry, real cry and some more whining.”  I threaten not going to the field trip.  This, unfortunately, does not make things better, only worse.  How do I get it to stop?

Then it hit me.  (This is where you want to start taking notes.)  We’re going to have a Quiet Day.  Everything we do has to be quiet, calm and not hurried.  Of course, Selina sees this as a game and has to tattle on Evin every time he starts to cry.  So far today, we’ve had a leasurly stroll through a corn maze, made bread and hot coco and ate lunch as a family (with Daddy at his work!). The plan for after nap is to make dinner, scrub toilets and play dolls on the floor.

Whenever my kids get cranky, whiny or all out grouchy, I have to remind myself that they’re not being upset just to be upset, something is wrong with them.  They are either hungry, tired, sick or they need some Mommy time away from everyone else.  Today, when Selina asked me to climb in bed with her, it gave me a clue.  She needs me.  And she needs all of my eyes, ears, mind and heart.  She knows that she has to share me with Brother,  but today was a day that I needed to be with her and not rush her to do anything.

Here are some good Quiet Day activities that we love:

Make cookies.

Make bread.

Make dinner.

Make hot coco, then sip it slowly while reading a bunch of books.

Make a pillow and blanket fort.  Grab a flashlight and some books.  Read aloud.

Color.

Take a pan.  Put a bunch of baking soda in it. (We used the whole box.)  Take vinegar and put it into little bowls.  Add food coloring to the vinegar.  Use a dropper or syringe to drop the colors on the white baking soda.  Watch reaction.  Enjoy quiet for at least 30 minutes.

Anything arts and crafty.

 

Quiet Day is something that you really have to commit to.  Kids know when you’re bored and they’re going to start acting up again.  This is a solution that works for my family.  Maybe it will work for yours.

Also, for those who are keeping track, no fast food has been consumed in 1 whole week.  I am so proud of us.

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The Zombie Fighting Birthday Girl

As I sit here this afternoon, with the baby on my lap, I can’t help but think of this day four years ago…

At 9 am the morning before, I had called my sister-in-law and said “How do you feel about a trip to Portland?” After much squealing on her part, she picks me and my bags up from the house and we take off to Portland.  Around that same time, my mother-in-law and brother-in-law are searching for my husband at his newly started job at the hospital in town.  They find him, finally, and tell him that he’d better get on the road… His daughter is coming!

My spunky little girl was born 4 years ago at 12:20am.  (It was a very long day) We are celebrating 4 extremely full years of life, spunk, passion and independence.  And meltdowns. We can’t forget the meltdowns.  For her gift, we bought 2 tickets to the Fresh Beat Band’s concert next month. It will be a great Mommy/ Selina day, which we’ve had a lot less of since Little Brother was born. But I’ve also decided to give her something more: a healthy future. As of October first, we have given up fast food.  And no, I haven’t told her.

I made a great meatloaf the other day, complete with “hidden” carrot puree.  It wasn’t hidden very well because Selina was the one who put it in the mixing bowl and then spent the next 10 minutes telling me how yummy it was and how we should just eat that, and only that.  While I am proud of her desire to eat carrots in a variety of ways, I had to explain what a balanced meal was and why we needed that balance.   I told her yesterday “No, you can’t have just a jelly sandwich for lunch, you need protein, like peanut butter.”  Imagine how my heart swelled when she replied “Will peanut butter make it balance?”  Yes, my dear girl, it will.

 

Our gift of not more fast food is doing more than helping with the health of our family.  It’s teaching us all how to manage our time so we don’t have to rely on the convenience of greasy, unhealthy food.  I can only imagine how this will hold up in 10 years when we are even more busy.  But trial and error now, means some sort of perfection later on down the road.  And I use the word “perfection” very loosely.

 

And now, I’m off to play “zombie fighting” with the birthday girl.  And yes, the immobile Little Brother is the zombie.

 

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