Attack of the Lazy Bug

Cuddle Bugs

Does this just happen to us? For some reason when our family has a lot to do, especially on the weekends, we get attacked by the lazy bug and everyone shuts down. I’m talking an entire weekend of pajamas and cartoons from Netflix! For those necessary meals I don’t cook I reheat, or if I do cook its something simple like pancakes. Lately this attack has been recurrent and I am not sure if it is because I’m nearing the third trimester again or if the kids and hubby have had enough busy all week to just wear them out, or if it’s a combination of the two. Either way I always feel like such a slob by the time the weekend is done!

Come monday morning I am always more exhausted than before and the to-do list frightens me. Some weeks I can put on my big girl panties and just get it all done but others feel as if the weight of the world has come crashing down. So how do you get rid of those lazy day blues? Is it something I will discover when I FINALLY normalize from all these overlapping pregnancy hormones?

I have made to do lists galore, schedules and menus but I still have such a hard time creating a routine that does not include tv for the kids. I have made lesson plans and organized materials but when the time comes to sit down a teach the kids or to do some fun experiment the exhaustion takes over. I know it’s not fair to the little ones, no matter how content they are with a day of cartoons, free play and outside running but it bugs me to the core that it takes everything inside of me to sit down and build a block tower with the kids.

The only satisfaction I find is in the fact that they get unusually high amounts of cuddle time incorporated with healthy snacks. When they watch tv it is usually done in a manner that finds all three little ones on my lap all bundled up with blankets while eating enormous amounts of grapes, blueberries, apples and bananas. One day within the next year I will get this all in order. I will become organized. I will be able to teach my kids, paint with them, do science experiments with them, write stories with them and all of those other wonderful activities I know I can do but have been unable to thus far. Within this year I will find my motivation, but I have a feeling it won’t come back fully until august or september when I finally start to get used to Little Bitty.

Until then I will continue to fight the lazy bug, even if it is a losing battle!

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On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…

The Wise Men or Magi

Today is the Last day of Christmas! A day of celebration for most of the world and yet here in the United States it goes almost completely unnoticed. The Twelve days of Christmas is a popular song but the meaning as been lost through the over secularization of the Christmas Holiday. Like its Jewish counterpart of Hanukkah, Christmas was originally meant to be a drawn out celebration that lasted for twelve days or the days between Christ’s Mass and the Epiphany. Go ahead and count them, Christmas day is the 25th of December and starting on the 26th count twelve days forward and you will end on January 6th. Somehow the more protestant societies of the world moved further from the original form of celebrations and as those societies secularized the focus shifted and Santa became the center stage while the three kings were almost lost.

Thank goodness for multiculturalism! More and more people are becoming aware of the importance of today whether it’s through Dora the Explorer or just by having friends from Hispanic/Latin backgrounds. I am a Puerto Rican, even though I speak very little spanish and I’ve only visited the Island once in my life I was still raised celebrating and eating in some of the traditional ways. On the  other hand my husband is Dominican and actually grew up in the Dominican Republic, which means that he grew up in a culture that actually celebrates today. For him school did not start until after January 6th and he did not open presents until today…at least until he moved to the US. Than his family adopted a similar tradition to mine, two days of presents!!

So if you too would like to introduce Three kings day to your family here are some of the traditions we have adapted to fit into a more Americanized schedule.

1. Read the story of the Three Wise Men on the night of January 5th, which can be found in Mathew 2:1-12.

2. On the night of January 5th have your children gather a bowl full of grass, leaves, or hay and place those bowls at the foot of their beds or beside their shoes at the front door. The tradition is to tell children that as the Wise Men are traveling to find baby Jesus (because they were not there on Christmas day but the accepted notion is that it was closer to two years later) they will stop at your house to feed and water their camels and in return for your kindness they will leave a gift. Than once the children are asleep discard of the grass and water and leave a present nearby the empty bowls.  note: the kind of gift is up to you, I grew up getting a board game or small toy whereas my husband received his big/special gift on Three Kings Day.

3. Make January 6th a fun day, after school (because school usually starts on the 3rd here) do something special. Go to the Zoo, a fun Playground, visit with family or pretty much anything you would save for a Saturday.

4. Have a nice dinner. It was the custom in Jesus’ day to have a large or intricate meal when guests came to your house as a form of hospitality and really what kind of holiday would it be if there were no great foods! We go super traditional for dinner in our house with Arroz con Gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas), Pasteles (if you’ve ever seen a tamale its a lot like that only the masa is made out of green bananas and plantains), pernil (roast pork), and the not so traditional Cupcakes. If I’m feeling really ambitious I might make some acapurias or empanadas but I don’t usually make them. Also if you would like to go Latin American traditional than you can make a Three Kings Day cake, but I don’t know anything about them other than what you would find through google.

It’s altogether a fun tradition that brings us back to Christmas celebration roots so change it to make it your own and just HAVE FUN!

Feliz dia de Los Reyes!!

 

To be or Not to be… Content

Disneyland at Night

How do you teach a kid to be content? This is a world filled with people misusing the word “need” when the word “want” is supposed to be used and when feelings of entitlement are more common than grass. I struggle with this because it makes me wonder, how am I supposed to teach my kids to be content with what they have when I find myself dealing with the same inclinations?

For example, last summer as a “welcome home daddy” gift, my husband and I bought a set of annual passes to Disneyland. However, todays trip was different from the previous ones. My four-year old whined and pouted for the first 15 minutes ,I will mention that it was right after preschool and he hadn’t had lunch yet so I gave him until after lunch to stop or the trip was going to be nixed entirely which would have been unfair to my two-year old who had behaved wonderfully and was getting so excited, but really whining about Disneyland? Once his food was safely in his tummy his entire attitude changed to one of gratefulness but the entire experience started a conversation between my husband and I as we drove home this evening, is the act of being content a lost art?

My husband grew up in poverty (like a combo of third world country and inner city ghetto) whereas I grew up somewhere between suburbia and military housing, no matter how you look at it I was not in poverty, just middle class. Part of that middle class American background is to overuse the word “need.” Over the years he has often voiced disdain when I mention that we “need “to pick up xyz at the store when in reality I would just like to have that item in my house. It is something that I do unconsciously, I seriously don’t realize most of the time that I am being an ingrate. Yet it is so much more than just vocabulary, it’s an entire part of our culture that seeps into all aspects of life from a very young age.

When someone in our society meets a child over the age of five one of the first questions asked is “what do you want to be when you grow up,” have you ever thought about the significance of that question? You are asking a five-year old to put aside the playthings of childhood today in order to embrace the concept of work and adulthood. Yet despite this common quarry, we as a society get angry when childhood is forgotten too quickly . We tell children to keep trying and to keep working until a better outcome is apparent. Always encouraging them to aim higher. Somehow we are inevitably teaching our children to always want more out of life, yet at what point do we draw the line between healthy ambition and gluttony? How do we teach a child to aim higher while also displaying thankfulness for the life that they have?

I cannot claim to know the answer to these questions. After all it takes a lifetime to raise I child and I have only been doing it for four years. However, my husband did bring up some distinct differences between his childhood and mine that may have contributed to his inclination to be content.

The first is that there was no other option. Growing up with so little most of the time and being the oldest and therefore the one responsible for his younger brothers (from as young as 5ish) meant that not only was he just excited to get something that would be classified as a want but that he also understood what kind of sacrifice that gift was and in turn knew not to question anything. For example, my husband can eat white rice, a banana and an egg for breakfast, lunch or dinner several days in a row. I roll my eyes in protest at leftovers that have been served more than twice in one week. I don’t think about the effort or sacrifice of an option, I would just like to make sure there are lots of them. The differences in these points of view are clear with this anecdote: while driving my husband to work one day my son asked why daddy had to work so much. My response was “because daddy is a Marine and they protect people” whereas my husband responded “because when I work I make money and money is what gets you food and clothes and toys”…daddy’s answer was better and even a (then) three-year old could tell. Which was obvious in that his response to me was “why” but his response to daddy was “oh, ok I love you and I will see you later.” It’s amazing how well he understood the concept!

Not long ago I read in a yahoo article (concerning saving money because who doesn’t want to save?) and one of the topics raised was how people who use credit and debit cards for transactions tend to spend more money than those who use cash. However what totally blindsided me was a comment (which I am pretty sure I have heard from both Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman but it wasn’t stated as bluntly) that when paraphrased comes out as “when you use a card you are showing a kid that he can fill up an entire cart with groceries, hand over a card and then get the card back, as if you’re not even giving something up in order to get your food.” How amazing is that for perspective! Maybe one way that we allow our kids and ourselves to be ungrateful is that we don’t feel the pain of purchases/choices? In fact I don’t think that I have ever forced my children to work for what they get, they barely even do chores (its one of those progressive things I am implementing in my house but im only about 2 months into it) let alone raise money or use it! Yet it may be time to start…however kids and money deserves its own post so back to contentedness!

The second thing that my husband pointed out was that his family practiced being thankful, not with cards or prayer but with actual thankfulness.If thankfulness was not obviously apparent immediately the gift or other options were taken away. I laughed at first but he was really quite serious. If his mom (a seamstress) made him an outfit or a meal that he refused to wear or eat than his mother would take away all of his other options leaving only the item given. We have tried this method with our sons picky eating habits and it usually works but I’m not sure if I would use it on gifts, clothes, or toys…I would most likely just send the child to time out and demand an apology and a thank you. Doest it work though…I’m not to sure, after all my son did whine about going to Disneyland…maybe it is time to implement more appropriate consequences. Hmmm…

I’m sure that there is more we could do for the curbing of gratefulness but does teaching a child to be thankful mean you are teaching them to be content? I would postulate that contentedness is a long-term lesson, one that is purposefully taught during times of heartache or unhappiness. One that takes years of conscientious dialogue that we force ourselves to make while we are trying to dispel tears and frustrations. Telling a child it will get better is so vague that it is impossible to know how they are interpreting “better” when what you mean to tell them is that everything is as it is supposed to be. I am in no way advocating that we end all encouragement as mothers, instead I simply encourage a dose of mitigated realism every now and again. After all it’s not just a matter of being thankful for the things we get but it is also being thankful for the things that we have despite what we really wanted. If the Marine Corps has taught me anything it is that what I want means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, it is always about the needs of the Corps. Life works the same way, just because I want my husband home for the birth of our last child does not mean that Baby Eleanor will wait until her due date. I have also found that happiness comes when you accept what you have and you learn to want what you already have. If we consistently tell our children that they can do better without ever preparing them for disappointment are we even preparing them for life at all and if we are not preparing them for life than what are we doing?

Comfort Food in Blueberry Pound Cake with Lemon Cream

Make more of what I use, that is the mantra that is pushing me to become self motivated and get stuff done.

It’s not that I am lazy or that my family eats purely junk food or prepackaged food but I will admit that we eat whatever is easiest because the majority of the time I am just plain exhausted. Especially over these last two years (2010-2012) which have been filled with work-ups (that time spent between deployments where my husband is at far off war exercises and stints in the elusive “field”), back to back pregnancies (youngest was 9 months old when we found out we were expecting again) and 7 months full of worry, loneliness and postpartum depression while my husband served in Afghanistan. During that time my family often ate in front of the tv (we still do on occasion but it is not nearly as often), we often had fast food, dinner out (which is so expensive!) or quick, ten minutes of prep or less, meals and most of it was packaged and processed. The worst thing about all of this is that I love to cook and bake but my disorganization and lack of motivation prevented any attempt I may have had.

With that being said and 2012 just beginning I am working towards making more of what my family consumes. Starting with breakfast! Well we ate this Blueberry Pound Cake as a part of our breakfast but it is just as good for a snack or a soft dessert. I have to say that I love pound cake, I especially like lemon pound cake with lemon glaze but baby Eleanor has me craving blueberries a lot lately so I made this one instead. It’s a comfort food for me, the kind of food that makes me feel like I am sitting on a couch in front of a window on a rainy day curled up under a blanket with a really good book, even if I’m really dealing with a house filled with sick people! So go ahead and try it out when you just want something yummy to eat!

Blueberry Pound Cake with Lemon Cream

Yummy Blueberry Pound Cake with a zesty Lemon Cream

Blueberry Pound Cake-adapted from www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Blueberry-Pound-Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 Bag frozen Blueberries (about 3 cups)
Directions:
  • In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in extract, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in blueberries (do not thaw to prevent discoloration of batter).
  • Spoon into two greased and waxed paper-lined (it makes removal easier) 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
  • Yield: 2 loaf cakes.

Lemon Cream- adapted from http://www.marthastewart.com/356083/blueberry-sour-cream-pound-cake-lemon-cream?center=276954&gallery=274319&slide=256186

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer and whip until soft peaks form(or it looks like whipped cream). Serve on top of a slice of bread.

Enjoy! We found it to be better than any pound cake I have ever picked up at a grocery store and it was not hard to make at all!

Happy New Year

Isa 42:16 "I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them And rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone."

Its 2012!

With the on set of a new year I have decided to pick up blogging so that I can journal the process through which I am discovering life. We are in a constant state of organized chaos and this blog will help me chronicle the road from newbie stay at home mom to Supermom! Just kidding, I have no interest in being a super mom, I do however want to be a great mom that raises solid, God-fearing, respectful, successful (definition to come) kids without losing my mind or identity. Which is hard to do, especially when you add the Corps into the mix!

My husband calls me indecisive, I prefer to call it high achieving. You see I have always aimed for the stars only to be stopped by the glass ceiling.

As a child I wanted to be an astronaut (until the rocket ride at Disneyland c. 5 yrs old), President, Teacher, Baby Doctor (I didn’t want to deal with sick babies or old women, I just wanted to be the one to deliver newborns), Veterinarian (but I’m not a fan of cats, shots or poop), Lawyer, Archeologist, Literature Professor, Curator, Intelligence analyst, Foreign Aid worker, Lawyer, Intelligence specialist, Political Science Professor, Lawyer…are you seeing a pattern? Yet at the same time I wanted to get married young and have lots of kids.

So I figured hey,why not do both! All those movies and tv shows where super mom runs a fortune 500 company and still makes it to the soccer game and with the previous generations of females telling me that I could do anything I set my mind on all combined to give me this fantasy that I could have a family and a prestigious career right out of college with ease. So you can imagine my joy when I met the man of my dreams at 22 while I was half way through grad school, yep you guessed it! We fell in love, married and I got pregnant on our honeymoon! I was still able to finish an MS. in International Relations before the birth of my second so I continued to live the fantasy that I could have it all…and then I found out how expensive day care is and how small a paycheck is when you only have degrees and no experience.

It was than that I realized that at this stage of life I would have to choose. I am proud of my choice and feel that it was a series of random everyday blessings that brought me to this turning point, and I know deep down that I was made to be a stay at home mom to four children less than five years apart. It is not easy and I often have days filled with “Epic Failures.” Through trial and error I have struggled with balance and the strong will to work outside of the home. However, I have not given up on my dreams and goals, I have simply rearranged my timetables realizing the importance of parenting with a purpose. I now try to live from random moment to random moment, enjoying the antics of the three wee ones that have taken over our lives…even if it’s after bedtime.

Instead of New Year’s resolutions I am going to make this new year one of progress and growth. I will somehow, in all of the chaos and curves that make up my life, look upon my past and not see the random nature I once thought my life was built upon but rather a well laid path filled with unexpected blessings too numerous to count.

The roller coasters await!