Who needs TV?

Who needs a TV when you have a perfectly good cactus growing outside on your windowsill?

The house was suddenly eerily quiet last Sunday and I couldn’t help but think the worst.  I rushed into Lizzie’s room (where they had been noisily playing a few moments earlier) and was surprised to see the kids just sitting on their rocking chairs and staring at their “friend”, the cactus.

It was pretty adorable, if I do say so myself.  🙂

These two have actually become much better friends since Lizzie started school.  They tell each other about their days with such enthusiasm.  There is less fighting.  They want to have sleepovers in each others rooms every night.  Sometimes I even think that Lizzie has a crush on her brother.  Don’t worry, I often remind her that she will not be able to marry him in the Temple one day. 🙂

I sure love it when siblings become best friends! 🙂

Better With Cheddar Enchiladas

Much to the chagrin of my husband, I am basically obsessed with enchiladas.  I don’t know what it is about them, but I could eat them every day.  That said, I am not a big fan of red-sauce enchiladas.  I usually tend to gravitate towards the white-sauce or green-chile sauces.  Something about red enchilada sauce just tasted funky to me.  But, I found the solution to my problem and now we eat red-sauce enchiladas just as much!

The secret?  Cheddar Cheese Soup.  All I do is add a can of cheddar cheese soup to the enchilada sauce and it makes the most delicious sauce you have ever tasted.

Here’s the recipe so you can try it out for yourselves:

15-20 corn tortillas (this is for a 9×13 pan, so you can change this according to your pan size)

About 20 ounces of red enchilada sauce (one small can isn’t enough, but one large can is too much.  I usually use about 3/4 of a large can)

One can (10.5 ounces) of Cheddar Cheese Soup

2 Tb water

2 cups of  grated cheddar cheese

1 pound ground beef

1 small onion diced

1 can Rotel

1 can (15 oz) pinto/kidney/black beans (choose your favorite)

1 can (15 oz) corn

First you dice up your onion and put it in your skillet.  Then you brown your ground beef.  I like to add some red pepper flakes in while I brown my meat to make it a little spicy.  Or I’ll cut up some jalapeno and add it in there too.  Totally up to you.  Drain your meat and put it back in the skillet.

This is where the recipe gets versatile.  You can just leave it at the meat if you want.  I like to add pinto beans, corn, some rotel tomatoes and chiles.

Then you mix up your sauce.  I get a medium-sized bowl and mix together the sauce, cheese soup and water.  Then I microwave my tortillas 5 at a time for 20 seconds so they are bendy and don’t break.

Spread 1/4 cup of sauce on the bottom of your pan.  Take a tortilla, fill it with meat mixture and a sprinkle of cheese.  Roll up and place seam down in the pan.  Repeat until your pan is full.

Pour remaining meat mixture and your cheesy enchilada sauce over the top of the tortillas.  Top with remaining grated cheese.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes until it’s brown, bubbly, and crispy.

Serve with Spanish rice or a salad.

Toilet Paper Roll Color and Number Activity

Do you ever save empty toilet paper rolls?

I cleaned out my closet the other day and seriously found nineteen empty toilet paper rolls that I was saving just in case I needed them.  You can use them for a variety of kids crafts…but that’s just about it.  At least, as far as I know.  Are there any other uses for empty toilet paper rolls that I am unaware of?

Anyway, if you happen to have some lying around your house and you haven’t a clue what to do with them, you ought to make one of these for your kids.  It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s somewhat educational, and it might keep them busy for a few minutes. 🙂  I made this over a year ago and my kids have enjoyed it.

I used 12 toilet paper rolls, although you could really use as many (or as few) as you want.

First, glue different colored construction paper around your empty toilet paper rolls.  Then use a hot glue gun to secure them onto a piece of cardboard.

I then numbered 12 large clothespins from 1 – 12.  You can attach the numbers, like I did, or simply write the number on the clothespin.

You need a package of colored Popsicle sticks to play this game.

One way of playing is to have your child simply place the Popsicle sticks in the corresponding color.  This is what Bryce likes to do because he refuses to learn anything more challenging at the moment. 🙂

When your child is up for more of a challenge (Lizzie used to love doing this) they can place the numbered clothespins on the toilet paper rolls in numerical order.  This also helps develop fine motor skills.

After placing the clothespins, your child can place the corresponding number of Popsicle sticks in each empty toilet paper roll.  (One yellow stick in the #1 spot, two blue sticks in the #2 spot, etc.)

This is a fast and easy game that, as I mentioned earlier, keeps the kids busy for a bit!  🙂

Have fun! 🙂

The Importance of a Latter Day Saint Woman

Last weekend, Rock Center with Brian Williams did a special on Mormon’s In America.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon), I was intrigued and stayed up past my mommy bedtime to watch it.  While I found parts of it to be true to the facts and good journalism, there were other parts that I found to be quite the opposite.  While I won’t be addressing all of those issues (sacred vs. secret) on this blog today, there was one that I thought would be appropriate.  The importance of women in the church.

(Before I do address that, I would like to preface my opinion with these links:  LDS. org and Mormon.org are wonderful websites where you can go to get answers to your questions.  All of my quotes can be found on those websites.)

I know it is an issue for some people not of our faith that the women don’t hold the priesthood or some of the same responsibilities as the men.  The news special interviewed a woman who said she was a feminist in the church and that she does hope that someday women will be equal to men.

I have been a member of this church all of my life and I have never once felt unequal or unimportant.  On the contrary, I have only been lifted up and praised by the leaders of the church.  My father has always treated my mother and his daughters as special daughters of God, and now my husband treats me like a Queen.  I have never felt looked down upon.  I have never had a problem with the fact that I don’t hold the priesthood.

On Mormon.org they have a commonly asked questions page.  Someone asked why women don’t hold the priesthood:

 Gordon B. Hinckley, prior President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said:

“Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. It is part of His program. Women have a very prominent place in this Church. Men hold the priesthood offices of the Church. But women have a tremendous place in this Church. They have their own organization. It was started in 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith, called the Relief Society, because its initial purpose was to administer help to those in need. It has grown to be, I think, the largest women’s organization in the world… They have their own offices, their own presidency, their own board. That reaches down to the smallest unit of the Church everywhere in the world…

“The men hold the priesthood, yes. But my wife is my companion. In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise.”

On the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints official website, this is what they say about the women of the church:

Women are a necessary part of the plan of happiness, and that plan cannot operate without them. Women participate in the work of salvation, which includes member missionary work, convert retention, activation of less-active members, temple and family history work, teaching the gospel, and caring for the poor and needy. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, every woman in the Church is given the responsibility to know and defend the divine roles of women, which include that of wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. They stand strong and immovable in faith, in family, and in relief. Women participate in councils that oversee congregational activities throughout the world. They also have, by divine nature, the greater gift and responsibility for home and children and nurturing there and in other settings.

Women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints belong to and serve as leaders in the Relief Society. Women also serve and lead the Young Women organization for girls ages 12 to 18 years old and the Primary organization for all children ages 18 months to 11 years. Women also teach in the Sunday School. Women are given the opportunity to pray in the meetings of the Church and also speak in meetings on the local and general level of the Church.

When women serve as the president of the Relief Society, Young Women, or Primary, they participate in council meetings and decisions that are made concerning the members of the Church in their unit.

There are even many times that women are referred to as greater to men in the things we can accomplish and the tasks that are set before us:

“You are the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is no other organization to equal it. Walk with pride. Hold your heads up. Work with diligence. Do whatever the Church asks you to do. Pray with faith. You may never know how much good you accomplish.” (Gordon B. Hinckley)

In many talks given to the general congregation of the church, women are praised and thanked for their role in the church:

“Someone has said: ‘Be kind to the women. They constitute half the population and are mothers to the other half.’

“My dear sisters, you marvelous women who have chosen the better part, I stand in great admiration for all that you do. I see your hands in everything.

Well, you dear women, I say thanks to you. Thank you for being the kind of people you are and doing the things you do. May the blessings of heaven rest upon you. May your prayers be answered and your hopes and dreams become realities.”  (Gordon B. Hinckley)

Before women were fighting for their right to vote and work like men, women were important in the eyes of Jesus Christ and in the eyes of the members of His church:

“As we look at the history of this earth and at the history of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, it becomes obvious that women hold a special place in our Father’s plan for the eternal happiness and well-being of His children.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

“Through serving in the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary organizations—not to mention their private acts of love and service—women have always played and will always play an important part in helping “bring forth and establish the cause of Zion” (D&C 6:6).

The leaders of our church don’t tell the men to exercise dominion over us and treat us as if we are nothing.  They do the opposite:

“Brethren, I pray that we as priesthood holders—as husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, and friends of these choice women—may see them as the Lord sees them, as daughters of God with limitless potential to influence the world for good.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

I know that my role in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is just as important as any male member I know:

“I believe the women of the Church today meet that challenge and are every bit as strong and faithful. The priesthood leadership of this Church at all levels gratefully acknowledges the service, sacrifice, commitment, and contribution of the sisters.

Much of what we accomplish in the Church is due to the selfless service of women. Whether in the Church or in the home, it is a beautiful thing to see the priesthood and the Relief Society work in perfect harmony. Such a relationship is like a well-tuned orchestra, and the resulting symphony inspires all of us.” (Quentin L. Cook)

Like I said, if you have more questions, please visit the official websites.  This was a quote overload, and completely and 100% my opinion.  I just couldn’t sit quietly and let even one person who may read this blog think that I, as a member of the LDS church, feel repressed in any way.  Brian Williams should have looked a little harder for a woman of the church to interview.

Jambalaya Recipe

My husband served an LDS Mission in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  This is one of his favorite dishes that he learned to make while living there.  It is so tasty!  Although there are many variations of this dish, this is the one that he always makes.  This is an approximate recipe that my husband came up with.  You ought to try it out!

Jambalaya

Essential Ingredients

2 cups of white rice (parboiled white rice if available)

2 cups of chicken broth or stock

3 teaspoons of tomato paste

1 pound of shrimp

1 pound of sausage (Andouille is preferred; polska kielbasa is the next best)

1 pound of chicken

1/2 pound of mushrooms (baby bella are preferred)

3-5 cloves of garlic

1 yellow onion

1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange)

2 teaspoons of Worcester sauce

8 dried bay leaves

5 stalks of celery (about half a head)

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons of dried parsley

2 teaspoons of dried oregano

Original Tabasco Sauce (from Avery Island, Louisiana)

olive oil

butter

Optional Ingredients

2 jalapeños (seeded)

Cajun Seasoning (Zatarain’s, Tony Chachere, Slap Ya Mama)

Blackened Seasoning (in absence use paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper)

1gumbo or tamale pot

Disclaimer

Not a beginner or intermediate recipe.  First time might not be that great…

Preparation (20 minutes)

Prepare rice following packaging instructions, replacing water with chicken broth.  Do not use minute rice.  Set aside.  Dice bell pepper, onions, and celery.  Slice mushrooms.  Slice sausage at diagonal cuts so that sausage cuts are ellipses and not circles.  Prepare chicken (if you want to get fancy, prepare blackened chicken–not burned chicken.)  Precooked chicken may be used.  Cube chicken.  Prepare shrimp (may not to be headed, deveined, and / or shelled).  Pre-cleaned and pre-cooked shrimp may be used.

Cooking

Place small amount of oil in large pan (seasoned cast iron is preferred) and heat on medium high / high.  Sauté celery; 2 minutes into sautéing celery, add bell peppers.  Season with salt and pepper and 1 teaspoon of Worchester sauce.  Once soft enough, remove from pan and place in large container (gumbo or tamale pot).  Using the same pan, add oil and sauté onions.  Remove from pan to large container.  Using the same pan, add double the amount of oil and sauté mushrooms with salt and pepper, oregano, and remaining Worchester sauce.  Remove and place in large container.  Cook chicken.  Place in large container.  Add a small amount of oil, brown sausages.  Remove from pan and place in large container.  Add butter to pan and generously with Cajun seasoning and 1 tablespoon or parsley.  Add shrimp whether cooked or not.  Remove from pan within three minutes or until shrimp color is pink (for uncooked).  Place pan contents in large container.

Finishing

Add rice to large container with everything in it.  Add remaining ingredients including tomato paste and bay leaves.  Add additional seasoning to taste.  Mix well.  Let sit, covered, until ready to eat.  May be done a day before and refrigerated for better flavor absorption.  Overall texture can be changed by adding either chicken broth, butter, or oil and more or less tomato paste.  Serve with French bread.

Bathroom Adventure

We got a late start yesterday morning.

The kids weren’t cooperating very well.  Bryce wet through his diaper again (that kid drinks WAY too much water) and I had to peel his wet pajamas off of him.  It took them a century to choose the kind of cereal that they wanted (Lizzie chose “Strawberry Special K” and Bryce wanted “Frootloops” — we need to be healthier, I know).  They fought over who got the “blue” bowl.  They each claimed that they were still “starving” after eating one bowl of cereal and so they each ate another bowl full.  Mason was grumpy (probably because Jon shaved him bald the night before…poor baby).  We couldn’t locate Bryce’s favorite dragon shoes.  Anyway, we were barely able to squeeze in a quick family prayer before I stuffed the kids in their car seats and took off.

We were half way to Lizzie’s school when she suddenly yelled out “Mommy!  I’m going to poop my pants RIGHT NOW!”.   I asked her if she could just wait until she got to school and she adamantly declared that her poo was going to fall out any second.

Great.  I didn’t bring her any extra clothes!  I debated pulling a diaper out of my diaper bag and telling her to have at it.

A large part of me wanted to simply turn the car around, drive back home, and make Lizzie have a “sick day” today (which was very tempting because it would save me a trip to her school later on in the afternoon).  I decided against that, however, because I had a feeling that that kind of behavior could quickly become addicting (for me, not for Lizzie).

We happened to be in an area where there were no gas stations or stores around.  Besides, I had no inclination of getting all three kids out of the car just so that she could use the bathroom.  SO, being the wonderful mother that I am, I parked in the nearest parking lot (near a park…with no bathrooms, of course).  I told Lizzie to unbuckle her seat belt, take off her pants (and underwear) and sit inside of a big garbage bag that I had found in the glove compartment.

So there we were, in a parking lot, and Lizzie was trying with all of her might to defecate inside of a garbage bag.   Mason was crying and Bryce was wondering what the heck was going on.  Needless to say, after all of the fuss that Lizzie made prior to pulling the car over, she couldn’t go to the bathroom for the life of her.

I told her to keep trying because I didn’t want to start driving again and have her accidentally mess her pants.

After 5 loooong minutes of failed attempts, she gave up.   With Mason still crying (and understandably so since he was probably under the impression that we were finished with our trip), we continued on our journey to the elementary school.

When I picked Lizzie up after school, she told me that she still hadn’t gone #2.  I guess it was just a false alarm.

This morning, when I went on a walk with the boys, I felt empathy for Lizzie because I just about had an accident in my pants.  It wasn’t enjoyable at all.  When I told Bryce that we had to hurry home because Mommy had to go to the bathroom, he calmly looked at me and said “Stop at a gas station”.

Well, that sure beats the garbage bag option.

She’s a Winner

To say that Lizzie loves doing anything artistic would be a huge understatement.  She would rather paint or color than do just about anything.  As such, Jon and I thought that it would be a good experience for her to be able to enter some of her artwork into the Fair.  It only cost one dollar per entry, although we had to spend a bit of money on the frames.

Here she is on her way to submit her precious artwork.  She was so excited and was very adamant about being “Miss Independent”! 🙂

We couldn’t find out if she won any ribbons until the fair actually started (a few weeks after submitting her work).

This past Saturday, we were all very excited to go to the fair and find out how she did.  We were all completely shocked (especially Lizzie) to discover that one of her oil pastels actually won Best in her division (Age 5 and Under)!

Do you see the look of pure joy on her face?!  It was one of those absolutely priceless moments that I hope to never forget.  She was so happy that her masterpiece that she worked so hard on was actually hanging up for everyone in the “world” to see and admire. 🙂

She also earned a 1st place spot for this watercolor painting:

And she earned one 3rd place and two honorable mentions!

All in all, she earned a total of $25!

It was a such a neat experience for her!

Such a self-esteem booster!

We will definitely be doing this again next year.

Have any of you ever thought of entering your kids artwork in the fair?

Mr. Tortilla Head

This is one of my kids’ favorite lunches.  I have to admit I love it too because it keeps them busy and it takes really no time at all to prepare.

We got this idea from Toy Story 3.  If you haven’t seen it, please do so.  If you are going to watch it, have a box of tissues handy because you will not be able to stop crying at the end.  I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, my kids love the part where Mr. Potato Head has to be a tortilla to help them escape from the daycare.  They think it is so funny.

So what we do is we get a tortilla and I pull out all the potato head parts and they assemble their Mr. Tortilla heads.  I also cut up some cheese, apples, and hot dogs and put it on a plate next to them so they can snack while they play.  They even eat the tortilla afterwards.  We love it!

 

 

Kindergarten Blues

I don’t know about any of you Mom’s out there, but sending Lizzie off to Kindergarten feels surprisingly similar to the “Baby Blues” that I experienced after giving birth to each of my children.

As such, I am thereby diagnosing myself with the “Kindergarten Blues”.

After I have a baby, I don’t get full-blown postpartum depression (thankfully).  I simply feel sad for a few weeks.  It was pretty bad right after I had Lizzie, but somewhat better with the boys.  I’m assuming that has something to do with the fact that Lizzie was the first baby and I had no other children at home to distract me from my depression.

Before I had Lizzie, I was a busy pregnant woman.  I had just finished teaching, I had just finished taking my Spanish class at the local college, and I had just finished coaching  cross-country literally within a few days before giving birth.  After Lizzie was born and Jon went back to work (and began attending the TWO colleges that he was attending at the time) I felt so incredibly lonely.  And although I knew that being a mother was the one thing that I had dreamed about for years, my new born baby slept an awful lot and I was bored out of my mind.  And so lonely that it hurt!  I would seriously say to myself “Okay, only 8 more feedings before Jon comes home.  I can do this.”.  Seriously!  I had problems.  And I was a little depressed.  But the older Lizzie got, the better I felt.

After having Bryce, I didn’t feel as sad because I had Lizzie to distract me.  I had to attend to her needs.  People offered to help me out right after I had Bryce, but I refused help.  I wanted to keep myself busy in an effort to avoid feeling sad.  Was that the best thing?  Who knows.

I didn’t feel too sad at all after having Mason.  I wanted him so much that simply having him in my arms kept me happy!  When I felt the twinge of sadness starting to overcome me, I would just pray like crazy to feel “normal” again.  That seemed to do the trick for me.

After having each baby, the thought that caused me the most sadness was the realization that life as I formally knew it was over.

With Lizzie, it was the realization that the time with just Jon and I were over forever.  We no longer had the luxury of spending 2 hours talking over a fancy homemade dinner at our humble abode and then slowly migrating to the floor in the hallway and rolling around nearly dying of laughter for another hour or so.  We weren’t free to go where we pleased, when we pleased.  I had also stopped working and we were half as rich as we were before. 🙂  We could still have parts of our old life, of course, but it would never be exactly the same.

After I had Bryce, my heart longed for the days when it was just Jon, Lizzie and I.    Life was so simple.  So easy.  I could spend every second of the day with her.  There was no one fighting for my attention.  And now I had to split my attention between two kids.  Could I do it?

After having Mason, all I wanted to do was to go on a nice long run while pushing the kids in the bike stroller.  Unfortunately, Mason is too small to go in the bike stroller.  And it is pretty much impossible to go on a walk with three kids, unless one of them rides their bike or walks next to me.

Yes, life changed with each baby.

But it got infinitely better.

The only thing constant in life is change.  Through the years, I have learned that life is all about change and the ability that we have to cope with that change.  That’s all that it boils down to.  Are we able to cope with change?  Are we able to adapt?  Can we happily accept more babies into our family and learn to function?  Yes.  We won’t function exactly as we did before having the new baby, but we will still function nonetheless.  And we can learn to be happy with each change that we are faced with.

Like sending a child off to Kindergarten.

Yes, I am definitely experiencing the “Kindergarten Blues”.  I feel sad.  I feel nostalgic.  I find myself longing for our past life.  The life when I was simply a stay-at-home mom with kids who didn’t have anywhere to go. 🙂  It was such a great and wonderful life!  I loved waking up with the kids and just spending time with them.  There was no schedule.  It was care-free.

It was the best.

Not to say that my life is horrible now.  Because it is still incredibly wonderful.  All of my prayers were answered.  Lizzie got accepted into the school that I wanted her to go to.  A school that I feel completely comfortable sending her to.  I still feel complete peace about the school that we chose for her.

But our life has changed.

At least on school days.

We have to get up and rush to get ready, eat breakfast, pack lunches, brush teeth, put shoes on, and get out the door by 7 a.m.  I have to drive Lizzie to school every day.  We drop her off, come back home (sometimes we stop at a park on the way home to break up the drive a bit), and then we are home until 1:00 when we have to leave again to pick her up.  It isn’t a short commute.  This is simply one of those changes that I need to learn to cope with.  There have been a few days where I have let it get to me.  I have shed some tears.

How will Mason ever get on a nap schedule?  He won’t.

Will we have enough money to pay for the gas?  We will have to sacrifice.

Is this the right thing for us?  Absolutely.

Will life every get back to “normal” again?  The “normal” that I used to know is now in the past.  The passing of time causes kids to grow up.  Life gets slightly more complicated the older the kids get.

Will I ever stop longing for Lizzie during the day?  I really miss having her by my side.  Probably not.  I think that I will always miss her.  It will simply take some time for me to get used to the fact that she is growing up and won’t be next to me all of the time anymore.

Anyway, I’m going to stop blabbering now!

I just feel sad.  And I miss Lou-lou during the day more than I ever thought that I would.  I miss cuddling her on the couch with her sippy-cup full of milk.  I miss playing restaurant with her.

I miss the fact that she plays with Bryce and keeps him busy.  Because since Lizzie has started school, I have had absolutely no free-time! 🙂

I am praying that the “Kindergarten Blues” will disappear quickly and that I will feel “normal” again.

Whatever “normal” is supposed to feel like in this new life of mine.

What about any of you?  Are you experiencing the “Kindergarten Blues” this year?