Monday, February 24, 2014

Tortillas and Traditions

“Everything has it’s beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

~Andy Warhol

There are teachable moments all throughout our lives. Lessons. They aren’t exactly something one usually picks up perfectly on the first go. And sometimes, we never perfect what it is we are trying to achieve. For most people, seeing as we’re human and have flaws coming out of every pore of our being, lessons take a good long time to learn, through numerous mediums. The thing to remember is, you don’t have to cringe with disappointment and disgust as you’re on this journey, whatever it may be you are learning at the moment. Every step along the way has value for that very moment. Once that moment has passed, you are different, whether subtly or dramatically, from who you were previously. What’s important is just accepting and embracing where you are, when you are. The world is full of it’s own fast and harsh criticisms of our every move, that at the very least, we ought to be kind and loving to ourselves. 

Throughout my years, I’ve had my fair share of life’s lessons. Some quite profound while others, much more unceremonious. Today, as I began to pass on a tradition my grandfather first tried teaching me over a decade ago, my mind is flooded with memories. 

“Hija! Not like that. It’s going to be dry and too hard to roll out!” he said getting flustered.

“Papa, it’s okay, they’ll be fine. I’m doing this just like you did.”

“Ay ay ay! They are ruined!” he declared with exasperation. “You might as well just throw it in the garbage. We’ll have to start again.” 

“They aren’t ruined Papa!” I respond, scowling as I found myself annoyed at my own grandfathers lack of confidence in me. 

As I recall this moment, this lesson, I chuckle. I chuckle because of all I’ve learned between then and now on the art of tortilla making. He was right, very early on in the process. My tortillas weren’t up to par. The last time I made my tortillas, I couldn’t for the life of me, recall how much of each ingredient I needed and the exact thought crossed my mind at the same point in the process as it did him, all those years ago. “They’re as good as garbage, ruined! I have to start over now!” And that’s exactly what I did. You see, it wasn’t that my grandfather was being too negative or just lacked confidence in me. He knew the process inside and out. He had made those exact mistakes and once it was done, saw no point in either of us wasting any time. He was calling it like it was...the kettle was black! The difference between then and now was that I didn’t just toss them away. I tried to salvage my dough, and my tortillas didn’t turn out so terrible. They were just a little hard to roll out and in the end, required a little more effort as we chewed them up. I did, thankfully, have the second batch, that was much more standard. 

As I made my tortillas today, they turned out as perfect as I’ve ever been able to make them. They were pliable, chewy, delicious and unlike many times in years past, resembled a circle, rather than the state of Texas. I don’t personally mind a tortilla in any shape, but my grandfather has always taken a knife to cut the edges of his dough so that it comes out as circular as possible. Over this last summer, my husband, my daughter and I were able to visit my family out in Wyoming. While there, my Aunt Max gave me a lesson in tortilla making. It was a refresher course really. But she had a way of explaining and teaching that clicked for me after all this time being frustrated and scared of failure every time I made them, never knowing what I’d get. Since our refresher course, I’ve enjoyed the process much more as I’ve grown considerably in confidence. There is now a rhythm and a flow and I finally feel like I’ve got this. I wouldn’t say I’ve perfected it, but I’m pretty happy with all I’ve learned along the way and my current ability to produce some great tortillas! As I was rolling them out and flipping the one on the pan, it brought me great joy as my husband proclaimed with a cheery disposition, “I get so happy when you make your tortillas for us!” It’s such a simple thing, but if it makes a difference to him, it means everything to me! 

In the process today, after my little girl had been watching longingly as I dumped, stirred, and mixed the ingredients to make the dough, I realized it was time for her first lesson in tortilla making. And as I tried showing her how to roll the dough into individual balls, “like we do when we play with play dough...” she took two I’d already rolled between my hands and put them one on top of the other and smashed them together with great pleasure. “This is gonna take a while,” I thought. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Diaper Duty

"Remember, there are no mistakes, only lessons. Love yourself, trust your choices and everything is possible." 

~Cherie-Carter Scotts

Anyone who’s had a child has considered the great conflicting query whether for moral or financial reasoning among use disposable or cloth diapers, right?

Actually, most  people I know haven’t even battled that question as long as it takes them to decide if they’d like skim or whole milk in their lattes. I think I vaguely processed the idea when I was pregnant with my first, playing with the possibilities in my head. I am neither all hug the trees, make my cream and butter from scratch via our family goat or the person who’s throwing garbage out the windows of my Hummer going 80 miles per hour on the highway. I am average. I am a moderate. I understand both sides of most things and generally think people are people, neither saints nor evil. 

I didn’t like the idea of all the waste that would be created by disposable diaper use, but I also knew I was about to enter a whole new world that would involve way more multi tasking than I was ever used to taking on at one time. I was scared of taking on too much and becoming overwhelmed with the unchartered (to me) territory, then backing out after having spent way too much money that would then go to waste. Besides that, i just didn’t know where to start, what I would all need or who to ask about all this. I was overwhelmed at the thought of start up in the same way composting for my garden overwhelms me, though I have a strong feeling it’s really simple and I just need to start it. So, I just did what I thought i could do at the time. I went with disposable.

Many women tell stories of how horrible their kids diaper rash is with disposable diapers. My little one has never had real diaper rash issues. But I’m a firm believer in letting that adorable baby bottom air dry first and if necessary, using a little bit of ointment. The key here is before putting on ANY topical treatment (if necessary), let that bottom get adequate air! I know that especially once your baby starts eating solids, there are foods that can affect the gentle skin of their little tushies in a very harsh way, so that I don’t attribute to diaper choices either. Disposable diapers are convenient, pretty self containing and little to no maintenance. They are costly and that cost grows with however long your babes are in diapers for. Mine started going on the big girl potty four days before her first birthday and is doing considerably well for her age, but I still see diapers in the foreseeable future as I’m not really sure how long this whole process takes. I was motivated to introduce her to the big girl potty, and although I’d like to say it’s because I don’t want the waste, the bigger reasoning is because we’re expecting baby #2 in less than three months and I again don’t want my plate overloaded when the time comes.

On the flip side, I’d heard many horror stories from my mom and aunt about how terrible cloth diapers were when myself, my siblings and cousins were babies. They were cumbersome,  always leaking, messy to clean and forget it if you were out and about and had a big blowout on your hands. My experience using the cloth diapers my friend was so kind to loan me when my daughter was eight months old, was nothing like that. First of all, they are really smartly made. So instead of having diaper sizes NB through 6, needing new diapers with the growing weight of your child, they’re made with multiple size snaps and folds so that one diaper grows with your child the whole way. They also come with varying coverage options. Just like disposable makes night time diapers for the longer and more voluminous amount of leaks, cloth does too. These are larger than a regular diaper and your kid may look a little like a bubble butt, but they do work well. There was no leakage that I experienced of the regular sized cloth diaper or the larger ones and in that alone, I was very pleased. Where I struggled is in the clean up. I didn’t think to just throw the used diapers in my diaper genie that I use for my disposables, so they my guest bathroom sink...over two days. I’m not a disgusting person by nature. My house is usually clean, organized and not cluttered in the least. But, this washing the diaper stuff, I dreaded and as I had a baby who had just started crawling, it got put to the back burner till she went to sleep at night. But then night time would come, and like most parents of little ones, I was exhausted and desperately wanted nothing more than to kick my feet up and take a minute before I started that task. The problem is, once you sit and are comfy, it’s nearly impossible to get back up and back to the daily grind when you’ve been at it for 15 hours straight already in the day. To top it ALL off, maybe I was a rare mess of a first time mom, but I felt frazzled most all the time, like I couldn’t get my stuff together. Over a year later and I still have those moments at times. It’s as though the ropes are in front of me to grab onto, but I’m going a million miles an hour (in my head especially) and feel I’m scrambling to grab the right one before it goes buzzing by as I slip to the ground! So, my bathroom stunk like a port-a-potty for a few days and my husband said if our house may smell like that regularly, then it was not going to happen. I was certain it would, so I let it go at that. 

As we get closer and closer to the arrival of our second child, I’m revisiting all those possibilities once again. This time around, even in pregnancy, I feel much more confident about everything, knowing there’s a path I’ve already forged out there and it’s not as scary as I once thought it was. I have a feeling I can handle this. And, as I consider once again to go disposable or cloth, I now know it’s not as overwhelming as I once thought it to be, when there’s sites like, to guide you and give you insight as to what you’ll need to start out with cloth diapering and cleaning services should you go that route. I’m excited to know that I have options and that maybe I can leave this world a little cleaner AND keep my sanity. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Block

"If at first you don't succeed, Dust yourself off and try again, You can dust it off and try again..." 


When we dream of having babies, creating a family together, the picture in our heads of what that will look like is very different from reality. We envision (or at least I did) the relationship dynamics, the sex life, the carefree and cool attitudes we had, staying the same more or less, just pop a kid into the happy picture. Actually, we envision that same dynamic, but more intense. After all, how could it not be when your love has created a new little person, right? Well, let me tell ALL changes, every tiny aspect and detail that you never envisioned changing, vowing to never be one of those people. You see, you just added a third little person to the mix, who apparently didn’t get the memo. 

In the early days with N, we were so sleep deprived. Compounding this was figuring out how to maneuver feedings, changing, car rides, outings, naps, how to and not to do everything as well as a slew of other things I’m certain my mind has blocked out. We bickered...A LOT. We are opposites by nature. I am constantly thinking ahead, constantly thinking for that matter ;), researching and weighing options. I also have this creative side that needs to be filled in one way or another. I am the kind of person who enjoys connecting with other people and will often go out of my way to make that happen. My husband on the other hand, can be impulsive, researches nothing that doesn’t deal with his work, lives entirely in the moment. His mind revolves around work, sports, and his favorite tv shows and though he enjoys hanging out with people, he can be so deterred by the getting to know them part or even making plans that he is entirely content to be solitary as well. If I have a concern that I bring to him (usually about the baby), it’s always, “it’s fiiiiiine!” So, in the early days, those opposite magnetic poles that first drew you to one another become severely vexing! 

Once things begin to get back on track (as they’s just a period of adjustment), and you feel like getting frisky, the baby will keep you from doing so. It’s as though she has a built in honing device that picks up on the kind of spontaneity that has the slightest risk of producing another child. The alarm goes off with ferocious accuracy. 

A saturday afternoon nap for the baby and quiet chat between mom and dad ten feet away, two doors closed, noise machine on goes unnoticed and remains peaceful. But that instant that the conversation turns playful, sexual, enticing....that is the moment that the baby wakes with gusto. Mom can’t focus, dad is pissed, and the return to new life commences. Daddy being pissed is in the early days...he adjusts once he is onto baby’s game. It becomes humorous as time goes on, as you realize how perfectly timed  this interruption is. Always the same (in our house anyway) as baby is asleep. No noise needs to be made. While sitting on the couch or making a meal together in the kitchen, daddy tries to reach for third base while baby sleeps in her room and at the slightest turn on, baby is awake. A long drive home, baby has been asleep for the last 45 minutes solid with the radio playing your favorite 80’s rock tunes, occasionally with you both singing along. But...that moment you share a knowing glance about special and exciting things to come, maybe even let your hand wander in one direction or another...that is the exact moment when the baby will wake and let out her cry of indignation. It’s a mystery that cannot be explained, just as the Statues of Easter Island still cannot after all these years. All we can do is laugh at the irony of the situation and secretly (without baby’s knowledge) plan for her to have a sleepover with Grandma that will likely harbor a perfect environment for mom and dad to be wrapped up in each other once again and possibly even produce baby #2 (as it did for us). The plot thickens and the madness ensues!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Baked Us Some Bread

"Life is messy. Wonderfully messy. Relish it."  

~Frederic Fekkai

Today was a first of a very hopeful long line of shared culinary experiences for my sweet girl and I. Many would think she’s too young to “help” in such endeavors. Define help. 

help [help]
verb [trans.]
1 make it easier for (someone) to do something by offering ones services or financial or material aid

When your counter tops become covered in flour and your floors in baking soda, when your bowls and utensils used fills your sink that was previously empty, and when in the end, you’re doubting there’s maybe the right amount of ingredients in the mixture....then no, by this definition, it was not help. Or by any definition really. But, I believe when you have a curious child who sees everything this world has to offer, down to the simplest of activities with wonder and all means, Carpe Diem...seize the day! 

This terrible mess was well worth the clean up (that has only partially happened as I write this) :) and I’d do it all again (maybe not today)! You see, I watched as my daughter saw her mama put on her apron that hung on the hook next to the pantry. As I tied it, she tugged on the one next to it, begging to mimic her mama. As I removed that apron, and got near to slipping it over her head, her smile beamed brightly. She stood as still as I’ve ever seen her (she is in constant motion...constantly), and stayed that way as I tied the strings closer than it allows for, and made this gigantic bow in the back. She was a sight, standing there, looking like such a grown little person, smile plastered on her cheeky face. Looking as though she’d trip on the fabric of her apron if she dared walk, I decided picking her up would be the best option. After scooting a chair to the counter and setting her on it, everything above her chest taller than the counter top, she again smiled and giggled. Every step of the way, putting the bowls in front of her, adding the ingredients one by one and allowing her to “dump” them in, watching closely as it all got mixed, her focus and expressions were priceless to this mama. The little spot of flour that magically appeared on her forehead in the end, making her look as though she’d slaved over this whole project, brought back my own memories of cooking and baking beside my own mother. 

A vague memory of a commercial that aired in the late 1980’s or early 90’s, promoting a product that was so easy to bake with or use that “it will look like you slaved all day” as the shot pans to the female actress with the back of her hand on her forehead, leaving behind flour suddenly pops in my head. I giggle inwardly as I suddenly remember a period of time that we slapped flour on our foreheads, our noses, our cheeks, whatever skin was available whenever we were invited to bake in my mothers kitchen. She must have rolled her eyes a thousand times over as undoubtedly it’s cuteness wore off while the mess constantly ensued. I don’t remember how old I was when my mother first let me “help” her bake or cook or do the dishes. I do know she always let us be involved to the level of our own abilities, using everyday life as our classroom to grow our imaginations, our skills and develop our capabilities one task at a time. It’s because of the legacy she began with her own children, that I teach my daughter in the same way and watch with my heart delighted as she gets it little by little. 

Enjoying the fruit of our labor...Banana bread!