Monday, April 30, 2012

Our cute little Chicken Coop

Alright, if you don't already know about the chicken's, you need to refer back to Being Green - Urban Farming - The Chickens. I'm getting used to the idea of having them around and I've even worked up a good case to keep them. They've been staying in a little bin inside of our house and it's time for them to go. We have a crummy little make shift chicken coop, but... well... I'm a designer. Everything has to be beautiful. Deal.

I looked up chicken coops on Pinterest and found my inspiration... Isn't it beautiful!! It's only $1,250 or your soul! I'm not spending $1,250 on a chicken coop because... well, why do I have to explain?! I have mouths to feed, and they're just CHICKENS!! BTW, I was so right about catching heat for the chickens. People are so narrow minded and totally behind the curve. 5 years ago, Organic food was just a conspiracy, now it's all the fad. -- Backyard chickens is where it's at!

Inspiration from Kippen House. They obviously rock and totally know what's going on.
Remember this pic of our urban garden? Yea... time to redo!
And here's the thing we found on the curb. It was originally a guinea pig cage that someone ghetto rigged out of those crate shelf things that you get at Wal-Mart and some zip ties. Whoever made it had som kickin' ingenuity.

I went to the store and got twice this. I spent $40 total.
We had an extra one of these that we stripped for wood.
The cage sagged in the middle, so we needed some support legs. Using that thingy above, we cut the size we needed and drilled holes to affix it to the cage later.

We also measured out a stick to act as a perch. Chickens like that when they are roosting and we want happy roosters (not roosters but hens) to lay eggs. 
The topper piece before.
Topper piece while being painted.
We spray painted the whole crate black. It was originally mismatched with black and grey before. Sooooo much better! We encountered a problem with leveling the ground, the chicks can easily sprang their ankels, so we had to make sure the dirt was even below.
After being spray painted green :D
We reorganized the urban garden! The grass was growing better on the left. Thank you Dexter the digger... Like how the Wild Thing put Dexter's water bowl in the coop? Yea, he's a pain like that <3
Wonderful affixing the perch. I encountered a problem with the stairs. I staple gunned it and put some wood glue on with a clamp. It's starting to look so good!!
Wonderful attaching the supporting legs. We used jute to tie it up. Better than zip ties...
Don't they look great?! This is the cage "open".
I wanted to put handles on the lid since we didn't have any fancy cabinets like Kippen House. Wonderful drilled holes to run rope through.
You have to cut it carefully or it will fray everywhere. I used electrical tape to block it, a hot knife to cut it and melted the ends up with a candle.
We knotted the ends on the inside...
Viola! Handles!!!
Me, putting the last piece on. 
Finito! And it looks great!! Wahoo! Now these chickens can get outta my house!
By the way, in case you're wondering why we didn't make a planter on top... We really wanted to, but the cage didn't have cool compartments to get the eggs out and the top would be WAY too heavy to lift on a daily basis. The Kippen House chicken coop is definitely on our "someday wish list" but for now, this is pretty awesome... and we only spent $40.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

How to Cloth Diaper

I'm taking this post down temporarily to rewrite it. Please stay tuned for it!

Day 8 - Done Deal.

Today is the first day that the Wild Thing hasn't asked for TV. He misses it, and he doesn't understand why he can't watch it but I'm happy that he's finally getting used to the idea. I'm loving the new and improved Wild Thing! He's a completely different kid. He plays quietly by himself, he'll sit down and talk to you or play a game, he follows the rules, he cleans up after himself, and the melt downs have dramatically decreased. It's not just effected his energy level but his emotional level too. Another surprise... no potty accidents. He hasn't had a single accident since the shut off. I'd tried to do some research on it, a quick google search on "how TV effects a child's brain", and the information that I found was mostly about ADD and the same information that I previously provided in Day 0 about the neurological effect that they are now calling "the flicker effect". The change has been so dramatic that I believe the experiment is concluded. I'm totally convinced at this point that the TV needs to be shut off permanently. Wonderful and I have talked about maybe doing a movie night once a week, but we still need to do the 30 days and break the habit completely first. I will admit that the TV or PBS for that matter, does have one benefit that I miss, and that's the information that they provide. He learned so much about reading from Super Why and so much about Dinosaurs from Dinosaur Train. I took him to the Natural History Museum yesterday to learn about Dinosaurs because I didn't want his education to stop just because I turned off the TV. I need to step up my game in the education department and learn how to teach my kids. Darn it to hell for kids not coming with a manual!! Hopefully we can find some help in this department at our local library. Just to add... he's now 60% calmer. I might have to rename the kiddos now. Twinkle Toes has become the wild one. She's into everything!!!

I'm not going to continue to do a daily update on the shut off, but I will post one more time about it on Day 30 and reflect back on the changes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day 4 - Check in.

Quick check in. My mom is in town, so we've been busy all day. The kids have been angels and still no TV. Rock on!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 3 - Manipulation

Personal: I've got a few non-kid related issues to vent about, so let's get it over with.
  • The Chicks have taken over my kitchen and they smell. I tried to give them a bath but the water ran right off their feathers. They've got one more week inside and then I'm kicking them outside, I don't care what the temperature is.
  • My mom will be here tomorrow and the house needs to be cleaned. Mr. Wonderful is napping and I'm blogging to avoid the work. Genius...
  • I've been 5 pounds away from my pre-baby weight for a month now and I can't get rid of it -- I'm not so concerned about the number as I am about being an inch away from fitting in my clothes. I feel great, I look great... it's the yoga pants. I'm tired of the yoga pants!
  • I've been having this irrational fear that someone will abduct the Wild Thing out of his room in the middle of the night. But the more I think about it, he'll likely drive them nuts and they'll  return him and beg us to take him back. Just to be safe, maybe we should put a bell on the door.
Day 3:
Kids are manipulative. How they learn this at such an early age is beyond me. Wild Thing knows that TV is off limits by now. So, this morning he crawls into bed with me, gets under the covers, snuggles reaaaaal close, gives me a kiss and says, "Mommy? I have an idea." -- I have an idea is his new code for I want because I want is no longer permitted. -- What?, "How about I watch Curious George on your iPhone?", Remember, I said no more TV or movies?, "Yes, but your iPhone isn't a TV.". It was a cute attempt, but I didn't let him get away with it. We're still going strong!

Wild Thing actually put himself down for a nap at 11a. WOW! Having the kids co-sleep in the same room has been working out really well. We've been doing it since Twinkle Toes turned 6 months and I totally expected it to be a disaster. They don't keep each other up and when they are both awake, they entertain each other. It's pretty cute to watch from the baby monitor. Twinkle Toes thinks her brother is hilarious! They get along great!

**Update: Things are going great. Really REALLY great! The house is so much more manageable. When everyone woke up from their naps we all hard charged and cleaned the house. I assigned Wild Thing a bunch of helping tasks and he did fantastic. Afterwards, I treated everyone to our favorite Mexican Restaurant. -- I only wish I had worked with Wild Thing on something educational today. It's been raining outside and Wonderful and I have been walking zombies. There's been a couple of times that I've wanted to plug in a movie and veg out on the couch. *Stayin' strong*

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Freaks - And Happy Earth Day

I'm pretty aware of the fact that we are nothing like the rest of the people that we know. Is it my fault that we don't share the same interests? Maybe it's because I was an only child and I'm a little socially awkward, or maybe we're just so intelligent that everyone else can't keep up. The latter would be preferable but highly unlikely. Either way, to everyone else, we're freaks. Growing up in Texas, we called people like us Tree Huggin' Hippies. My family was convinced that the school system had a liberal agenda by hosting assemblies to "Save the Rainforest" and participate in Earth Day activities. After moving to California, one of my friends put it perfectly, "In Texas you stand out, but in California, you blend right in.". We're not in California anymore and here on the East Coast we are surrounded by people from all over the country and all walks of life. Our community is a bit of a melting pot.

My cheeks still get hot to think about it, but a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to another mom about cloth diapering and she laughed at me. Like a child who can't contain the giggle, laughed at me. Are you for real?! COME ON!! I asked her what was so funny and she didn't have anything. Of course not. There's not a lot of really great arguments against it. I know what was going on... She didn't have to say it, she thought it was gross. This isn't the first occurrence either. We got a dirty look from someone once for not having paper towels. "What else do you use?"... a cloth towel. Every time we bring up composting, we have to explain it-- take your food scraps, put it in a bin, close it and viola! dirt. The way we eat comes under scrutiny too. I told someone once that we don't eat fast food. Her reply: "What else do you eat?". My favorite comment still to this day: "I heard that organic food makes you poop a lot.". I sure hope so! When I started doing yoga, people plugged in their comments: "I tried it once and I couldn't stop laughing.", "I'm always afraid that I'm going to fart.". Nobody puts anything past us either, as if the Wonderful's will do anything weird. Let me think of how to explain this... Let's say you told your friend that you were going to fly home for Christmas and his reply was: So... You're going to build yourself a set of wooden wings and jump from the Empire State Building? It's pretty obvious that that person thinks your a complete dumb ass. I always let it go. I have to. I know that I'm not a dumb ass... I just don't have the time and the energy to teach them all of my immense knowledge about being green. And we're not even THAT green! I have seen some extremes out there and trust me, we're not living in some hippie compound pooping in a bucket. *Although, I'm not going to lie, what they are doing is pretty awesome.* We're completely average Americans that use electricity, toilets and the internet.

I'm prepping myself up here because I know it's coming. I know that we're going to catch a lot of heat for the chickens. -- Any why? I don't think we're very different from my grandparents or our ancestors from a hundred years ago. My grandpa is an amazing man. He saw the great depression as a kid and I think it shaped who he is. He had a section of the yard blocked off where he had a decent sized garden. He took the dog's droppings and used it as fertilizer... and we ate the food from that garden. *Hello! Still living* One Easter my grandpa brought home 2 bunny rabbits that made tons of baby bunny rabbits to which we learned why you should never play with baby bunny rabbits. Another Easter grandpa brought home a dozen colored chicks. No idea where he got them, but they were so cute! *You should never dye chicks by the way* We raised them and one of them turned into a rooster and crowed every morning at 5:30. Mind you, they lived in a small house inside Houston city limits. This wasn't the country. -- My grandpa couldn't keep all of the chickens so he sent 2 home with my mom and I. We hadn't the slightest clue what to do with them and we lived in a tiny apartment, so while we were gone that day, we thought that they'd be safe in the storage shed on a very, very hot Texas day. When we came home... the poor guys... and their slouchy necks. It was very sad... they didn't survive. -- My grandpa believed anything could be fixed with duct tape *true statement* and that the mold on bread and cheese could be simply scraped off and eaten. The bread and the cheese, not the mold! *See, I have to explain that stuff!* He taught me the perfect technique for catching lizards... you find one and sit very quiet and still so that he forgets you're there and then you quickly *and gently*, grab him behind the neck. I have pictures of me, age 5, with a chameleon sitting on my shoulder and a piece of string tied around his neck for a leash.

Okay... Now that I've gone back and read this... We're total freaks. If you too, are a freak and you go against the social norm to have a better quality of life, let that freak flag fly because life's just too short to live it for other people.

Day 2 - 10% Calmer.

Wild Thing:
Activity #2: Learning Games. Our family has sent us tons of them, it's time we utilize them. I just finished playing a game of letter bingo with Wild Thing. Go on and read it again-- It's that amazing! He actually sat down and played a whole 2 games with me. No frog hopping, no squirming, no crying. The benefit of shutting off the TV is already starting to show through. My expectations are realistic: He's a 3 year old and I don't expect him to sit down and not move all day. I just want him to tone it down enough so that I can spend some time with him. He's still wild, he's only calmed down about 10%. I'm cool with that. It's also becoming obvious just how smart he is. He learned 5 letters during the bingo game. I feel like his learning opportunities just became endless and I can finally be the mom that I set out to be.

Potential Problems:
I found a problem with our plan. When the Wild Thing and I came home from running errands, he saw our neighbor outside and immediately ran over there. She is very open with letting Wild Thing come over and play with her daughter any time he wants, and this is great because she's a girl wild thing and they can be obnoxious together at someone else's house! So, I proceeded inside, quietly minding about my business when it hit me. Shoot! He could be watching TV over there! I sent Wonderful over there right away to retrieve our child. But I can't shield him forever... I've already lost the organic food battle when he plays with other kids. What's next?

The Family:
I think that the whole family is even impacted by it. Wonderful and I are more productive, the house is back to being spotless, and it's really quiet -- aside from the chicken chirping. There hasn't been chaos in a 2 days, but I'm waiting for it...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Visual guide for making your own stupid chicken stuff without spending any money.

Remember how I said "Chickens. Nothing else."? Well, I'm determined to make this F.R.E.E. Here's how:

The Wild Thing named the one on the left Lola and Wonderful named the one on the right Abigail or "Abbey".
Me with one of them... I was trying to get Wild Thing to hold it, but no go.
I tried to see if I could eliminate the chicken problem by leaving the chicks with Dexter and he chickened out. Ha! Lame.
How to make a self filling waterer:

A pie pan... you know you've got one.
And a coffee can or anything similar. Drill little holes in the side of the top of the rim. Fill with water, cover the top with the pie pan and flip over. It will create suction and make a self waterer. It's really simple. That's why it took us 2 hours to figure it out.
How to make the chicken feeder:

Take a another small coffe container. (Can you tell that we collect these things?)
You will need a drill and those hole drilling thingys.
You want a size that is bigger than the chick's head so that he can eat of ouf it, but not too big because you don't want him in the feeder. He'll contaminate the food with his massive amount of pooping.
Drill ready. My father-in-law sells Snap On. I love the tools he sends!!
Drill a hole high enough that you can put a good amount of food in it, but low enough that the chick can reach it.
Clean up the hole with an exacto knife.
I made 2 holes on this little feeder.
I also made a bigger feeder for outside. I should have made the holes and inch or 2 higher. I'll probably remake one as they get bigger-- if they survive.
We're using a plastic bin that we already had to keep them in at night (they need to stay warm) and the feeder and waterer that we made seem to be working out pretty well. I made a mess with the food.
The Guinea Pig cage that we found. We cleaned it up and put shredded paper and hay in there. The chicks aren't quite ready to be in here, but it's set up and didn't cost us a dime. And yes, we're the kind of freaks with hay on hand... In our defense, this is a perfect example of how you never know when you'll need it.
I figure that all of that junk mail and old magazines that we get in the mail will finally go to good use as bedding for the chickens. See... UPCYCLE!!

Our Urban Farm and Dexter.

Being Green - Urban Farming - The Chickens

Being Green:
I started being "green" back in 2005 quickly after I discovered the organic food movement. I guess you could say that organic food was my gateway to being more environmentally conscious and it's pretty much snow balled into a huge passion of mine. Most people that I meet don't get it. I think, for them, it's a huge inconvenience. For me, I feel like I'm doing something for the better good and I'm making a contribution to society. I wish more people would do and make the sacrifices that I make to help make the earth a better place, but I don't think society is there yet. Consumerism plays a large part in why a lot of us aren't privy about what being green is really about. Businesses want you to buy their products, and while the green movement is growing, it's not exactly bringing in a rapid, consistant, and/or repeat business. For example: Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable Diapers. If you buy cloth diapers, it's a one time purchase, it can even last through a couple of kids if your lucky. Do you think Pamper's is excited about the fact that you won't be buying a 100 pack of their toxic diapers once a week? I'm not going to go in depth and bore you about all we do, here are our 3 basic principals: Trash, Upcyle, and DIY. Allow me to elaborate briefly. Trash: We don't like it, we don't want it, and we do our best not to make very much of it it. Upcycle: Recycling sucks. I don't know what happens to it and most of the time it just get's down cycled. We try to take what we have and find a new purpose for it instead of buying something new. DIY: You remember back in the day when people used to do everything for themselves? We're trying to get back to that. Make your own food, make what you can, make your life...

Urban Farming:
To give a briefing on Organics: It started out as a really great thing. When the farm industry changed and GMOs were more frequently used, small farmers got together to get back to the root of farming. No GMOs, no pesticides, no chemicals, etc. It's hilarious when people try to dismiss organic food as something that we've recently invented to hike up the prices on your tomatoes. Organic simply means that it's grown the way nature intended it to be. And since non-organic farmers have found a way to produce a lot of food really cheap, it's really hard for organic farmers to keep the price as low. Same idea as Wal-Mart vs. The Small Business. Well, over the years, big business saw a market in the organic industry and began dabbling in it. -- Cool! They get what we want! Not so much. There's very little regulation on the organic industry (don't even get me started on how those big food business executives end up being on the board of directers at the FDA and USDA) and they've found loop holes so they can have the same old agenda and still slap on the organic label. Solution: Pfsh! Call me when you find one. The best I've got right now is to buy local or grow as much of your own food as you can. Which is what we started doing. We found a seed company that we really like, it's called The Sustainable Seed Company, and they sell non GMO, heirloom seeds. So we ordered a few. We don't live on a farm, so we've had to adapt to Urban Farming. Soil can take years to become organic, so we've decided to use planters and compost for soil. It's super cool and we've already got Romain Lettuce, Kale, Cabbage and Thyme sprouting up. We're still waiting on the Roma Tomatos, Basil and Cilantro. I feel like these guys are my little babies and I go outside at least 3 times a day to check their progress. Mr. Wonderful and I love gardening. It's something we started doing together when we first got married and it's always been something that we can do together even when we're driving each other nuts.

The Chickens:
I can't stop laughing about this... Are we chicken people? REALLY?! CHICKENS?! I can't even say it with a straight face. This is going to take some time to get used to. Mr. Wonderful had been begging me to let him get chickens. OMG! He brings it up at least once a day. "Wouldn't it be awesome?! They lay an EGG a DAY! And when they get old... we EAT it!". At first, I put him off on the cost issue. You have to buy a chicken coop, feeders, waterers, food... as if we really need more mouths to feed around here! We just don't have the money for all that. He said we could make all of it, but jeeze! even supplies can get up there. Finally I said no because I'm pretty sure our housing office has rules against it. It's lined out "no farm animals". --That conversation started a year ago... Last week, some huge wire-type cage ended up in our neighbor's front yard. Her guinea pigs died and she was throwing it out. Everyday when we'd go to get in the car, Mr. Wonderful would comment, "Wouldn't that be perfect for chickens? And it's RIGHT there!". As all married couples of learn to do, I tuned him out and just ignored it. -- So, today we went to refill our water at the natural market that just so happens to be next door to the general farm store. I don't know what it's doing out here anyways. We're in the freakin' city! We're pulling out of the parking lot when Wonderful looks out the window all weepy eyed... "They have chicks for sale... Wouldn't it be nice to get some chickens?". "For the love of pete will you PLEASE stop badgering me about it! Fine! Go get your stupid chickens! They'll probably die in a week anyways and then you'll shut up about it!!!" I backed into the parking space, looked him dead in the eye and said "Chickens. Nothing else.", he walked in and we were suddenly the proud owners of 2 stupid chickens.

Day 1 - Guilt and Improvement.

Research and Analysis:
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you not let your child watch TV before the age of 2. In France, it's illegal to broadcast TV shows targeted for kids under 2. There's loads of supporting information on the internet as well. Okay-- cool. We didn't. So, what about TV for toddlers, 2+. I decided to hit up google to find out how much TV the average toddler watches. claimed that two thirds of infants, toddlers and children under 6 years watched an average of 2 hours a day. Really?! made a claim that's closer to what I think is more accurate, kids in a home based day care watch an average of 5.5 hours of TV a day. had forums that provided commentary from parents on how much they claim their child watches. Doing my own analysis from my memory bank, I've met tons of mom's that leave the TV on all day. I actually thought that my child watched far less TV than the average kid up until recently. It makes me think, people can be pretty defensive when it comes to their kids... Is this like when you go to the doctor and he asks you how many drinks you've had in a week and you say 1 when it was really more like 10? Or is my math off because I'm basing this off of kids that stay at home. According to The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children & Families (Whew! That's a loaded title.) only 4% of children ages 1-4 years stayed home while 65% spent their day in daycare in 2009. Personally, I don't have an opinion about what's best for kids, home care or daycare... To each their own. But it does put the TV average into perspective, kiddos in daycare don't just sit around watching TV all day, or at least I hope not!

The Guilt:
My Wild Thing is obviously bored. That's why he's bouncing off the walls. He's been sitting there all day, bundled up with energy and no outlet. I've got both of the kids with me all day and they both require constant attention and supervision, on top of it I've been trying to make time for myself to continue building up my portfolio. I've said this about a million times now, when people that ask me what it's like to bring home baby #2 I say, *1 kid is manageable, 2 is outrageous.*. You're workload isn't just doubled, it's quadrupled. Let me set it straight, I'm not trying to make excuses here, I got lazy. -- Now, what do we do once we turn off the TV? We're at a cross roads: Is it my job to entertain him all day? I feel like it might set off some critical balance and give him the inflated sense that the world revolves around him. I feel like my child should have a strong sense of independence to really develop. On that same note, a child needs attention and security to really take off and explore his/her surroundings. Maybe... it'll work itself out over the course of time. I don't really have an answer right now.

The Up & Up:
I really want to teach this kid some things!! I know that every mom thinks that their kid is the smartest kid EVER and I'm no exception to the rule. I see loads of potential in my Wild Thing and we're not doing anything about it. I've tried, unsuccessfully, to do flash cards and sing songs. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not exactly cut out for this. I don't really know what to do with kids. So far I've been following my instincts, reading books and copying other moms who seem to know what they are doing. I think it's time that we create a few activities. Activity #1: Carrying around a letter all day. Today I started with A. I gave it to him to hold onto and asked him about it as often as I could.

Last Night:
Last night he read A LOT!! He pulled out every book on the shelf and looked at every page. When he was done, he chucked it across the room. *Nice* We tried to play My First Uno and had 1 completely successful game! He totally got it, the numbers, the colors, he even got that you had to call out UNO! when you had 1 card left. When the game was over, the cards went everywhere and I retreated to the computer again. -- Later on he played in the bath for a while and then came downstairs. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw all of those books and cringed. I turned to the Wild Thing and said, "No dinner until the books are put away". By the time dinner was served, the books were put away... Noticing anything weird here? Yea. Wait for it. I served him dinner at the dinner table and returned to the kitchen to feed Twinkle Toes... *silence*... I walked into the dining room, something must be wrong... Nope, he's just sitting there eating. I do a 360 and notice that the house is not in shambles, I even heard myself think that. Dare I say, it's working? Nope, not yet.

Nothing really to report on. Mr. Wonderful was in charge this morning and then the Wild Thing spent most of the day at a birthday party, eating highly processed chips, hot dogs and cake along with syrupy drinks. It was a nice break, but I'm sure he'll be wired this evening. Still no TV, he's only asked for it once. Things seem more manageable but only time will tell.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Day 0 - Shutting Off.

The Problem:
My Wild Thing is 3 years and 6 months. I'm so frustrated!! He's finally at the age where we can do things together, but we can't do anything be cause he's so wild. He's talking very well, and can even hold a great conversation while we are walking, he's a freakin' sponge, but he won't sit still! A typical 5 min around my Wild Thing-- He frog hops from the front door to the back door, does a summer salt, climbs on the couch, jumps off, lays down on the floor and rolls over a couple times, comes over to me and begs for food. He cries for whatever reason, either he didn't get the food, he didn't get the flavor he wanted, he didn't get to get it himself or he changed his mind, he puts himself in timeout, he runs over to give me a hug and a kiss to apologize... and the cycle starts over. You'd think I was talking about a dog here! The kid is absolutely wild!! We'll have a day or a couple days, sometimes even a week that seems like we're getting some kind of control and then we get parental whip lash and we're right back where we started. We're good parents, I know that, we love them and care for them and try to do the best of our ability. But I'll admit, I totally screwed up. I'm doing things that I said that I would never do. I'm sure that all parents feel this way at some point in time... I read all of the books, I had all of the good intentions, I had a game plan lined up, I just didn't expect that I would get so lazy about it.

Intro to The Wild Thing:
It's hard to pin point exactly where the problem started. The day that we brought Wild Thing home, he was perfect. He slept great, he nursed great, he was always happy and smiling. At 30 days old he started sleeping through the night, a full 12 hours! We had the perfect baby. Okay, okay... we had our moments, he would scream bloody murder until we put him in this vibrating chair for the first 6 months, and when he teethed, he was inconsolable. He wasn't completely perfect. -- When he started crawling, I set boundaries, when he touched something he wasn't supposed to, I reprimanded him and he didn't touch it again. The only thing that I baby proofed was this Orchid that sat on the edge of the table, he kept pulling it off and spilling dirt everywhere. When he started walking, it wasn't a big deal either. He walked so slow that we didn't have to worry about him venturing too far and he was totally cool with the laws of gravity. He rarely cried when he fell and he'd walk around with a black eye and a smile afterwards. At 1 and a half, his personality started to show through, a happy kid that loves being around people and he became more curious and energetic. Our only concern was that he wasn't developing fast enough. He developed right on schedule for everything, maybe even a day late. He wasn't doing anything special and didn't seem to stand out. For the longest time, I thought that he'd never talk until I found him hiding in his play room practicing words. That's when I realized that he was, in fact, very special. He is a perfectionist, and he likes to practice in private before a big reveal. -- Looking back on the terrible twos, it's kind of laughable. We thought it was rough because it was the first time that we really had to keep an eye on him. His motor skills had advanced enough that he could get anything that caught his eye, which happened to be everything.

Where things may have gone awry:
We had been following "the plan": we had a perfect daily routine, he had never watched TV, never eaten anything sugary, and he ate a completely well rounded diet of organic fruits, vegetables and meat. At 2 1/2, we got pregnant again. We felt like it was the perfect age gap. This is probably where it all started: Being pregnant is exhausting, even more so when you have a 2 year old running around. My in-laws had been sending us the Disney classics for when the kids get older and I had read that letting a 2 year old watch TV can be okay as long as there aren't any commercials and frequent interruptions. (The idea is that the brain goes through what's called Neural Pruning. Each time a child develops a new skill, he/she makes a synaptic connection in the brain. Since the brain is an efficient energy saver, when you continue to use this skill, the synaptic connection stays, when you don't, it get's pruned out. So, watching small flashes of information on a kids TV show with commercials for example, will condition the child to have a short attention span.) It started with a movie here and there so that I could have a break and then it became more frequent. Someone said that Sesame Street helped their kid talk, so we watched and episode and he was hooked. The schedule slowly started falling apart and all of the sweets that I was craving during the pregnancy quickly ended up in the hands of my wild thing.

What's so seriously wrong here:
So, here we are-- back story complete. 10 months after Twinkle Toes arrived: my Wild Thing wakes up in the morning, watches PBS with breakfast. He learns so much from the shows, that I've actually encouraged it. He watches Curious George, The Cat in the Hat, Super Why and Dinosaur Train. That's 2 hours in the morning-- I get to feed everyone breakfast and get myself ready for the day. -- After that it's a whirl wind. I can't even tell you what happens... toys cover the floor, there's crying, screaming, everyone is hungry and perpetually moving and eventually I just shut down. I sit down at the computer, and as much as I hate the idea of sitting on Facebook, I'll pull it up and stare at it just to I can pull myself out of the chaos. I remember my mom saying something that I never understood until recently: "I CAN'T EVEN HEAR MYSELF THINK!!!!!!". Twinkle Toes goes down for nap #2 and I can't put the Wild Thing down or he'll wake her up so I plug in a movie and beg him, please sit still! During this time, I clean the chaos, make lunches, and mumble angrily that this is boloney, I'm supposed to be working from home and pursuing my passion while raising the kids and I haven't produced squat for over a year. -- Chaos erupts one more time before Mr. Wonderful comes home and I see it in his eyes, he thinks I've done nothing all day. I swear to him that I cleaned and he should have seen the place a 2:30, it was perfect! He's such a sweetheart and he believes me, even on the days that I'm full of it. He jumps right in there to take over so that I can go to yoga. Man, this yoga thing is the cat's meow! I'm losing it, but I would have already lost it if I didn't have my daily practice. Of course by the time I get home, Twinkle Toes is in bed and the Wild Thing is plugged into another movie and up way past his bed time. Let's do the math: 2 hours of TV in the morning + 1.5 hours of a disney classic in the afternoon (x2 if it's a REALLY bad day) + 1.5 hours of another disney classic before bed = 5 - 6.5 hours a day in front of the tube. In retrospect that is a staggering amount of TV, especially from a perspective of parents that never wanted to let their kids watch TV. We're doing it all right with Twinkle Toes, she doesn't watch TV and her schedule is right on, it's the Wild Thing that is getting the short end of the stick. We've already eliminated any sweets and reintroduced a well balance diet... but no change. The obvious problem is the TV and lack of routine.

The Solution:
My experience has showed me that the short road always ends up being the long road. You can't cover a big problem with a little bandage. We need a complete overhall! I decided this this morning. I'm taking away the TV. I've removed all of the movies and put a sign on the TV that says : TV BAN! NO MORE TV BABYSITTER!!. The routine will be reinstated and we'll just have to stagger nap times. It takes 21 days to make or break a habit, so I've decided to commit to 30 days of change. It's going to be rough, but we're just going to have to push through it. I thought it would be cool to blog a record of the next 30 days, so I'm going to try to do that.

Day 0:
Wild Thing watched 2 hours of TV this morning. Afterwards I tried to sit down with him to work with his letters. I think it's all good that his learning style is private but the rest of the world is not going to cater to him and he needs to learn to sit still. That's when I decided to do this experiment. I told him that he wasn't going to watch TV anymore. He was very emotional about it, he apologized, promised to sit still, threw a temper-tantrum and woke up his sister. I'm trying to stay as calm and cool about it as possible. When he woke up Twinkle Toes, I simply put him in his room and told him that it was nap time. He's been up there almost an hour, crying on and off. I think it's going to be a couple days before we see any kind of real results.

I'll plug back in tomorrow.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Favorite Tortilla Soup

One of my favorite things to make is Tortilla Soup. I'm from Texas, so mexican food or Tex-Mex plays a large part of our diet. I found a wonderful recipe in Clive Berkman's Creating Empty Bottle Moments and have adapted it over the years by substituting ingredients that I was short on or adding more of something just because I liked it a lot. (Note: I am not claiming that my recipe is better or easier than Clive's. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his food and I cherish his cookbook as one of my favorites.) Now make sure that you look through all of the steps before making this wonderful soup and be warned: It's so yummy, you'll keep eating it even when you are really really full.

1 Whole Chicken (uncooked)
2 Bay Leaves
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Corn Oil
1 Tablespoon GroundCumin
1/2 Tablespoon Cumin Seed
1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder
2 Medium Onions
2 Jalepeno Peppers
28 Ounce Can Diced Tomatos
2 - 10 Ounce Cans Rotel
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
3 Cloves of Garlic
1/2 Bunch of Fresh Cilantro
Handfull of Corn Tortilla Chips

Corn Tortilla Chips
Sour Cream
Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Making the stock:
Rinse the chicken. Put in pot and cover with salt and pepper. Add 2 bay leaves and enough water to cover the chicken. Boil for 45 min, flip the chicken and boil for another 45 min.

Remove the chicken and place in separate bowl. Put the stock aside.

In a separate pot, heat the olive oil and corn oil on medium high heat.

Add the handfull of chips, garlic, ground cumin, and cumin seed.

Stir constantly cooking it for 2 min, careful not to burn.

Prep: Rough chop onion and jalepeno. Twist the half bunch of fresh cilantro. 
Tip for ribbing a jalepeno, use a small spoon to scoop out seeds.

Add remaining ingredients to oil: Onion, jalepeno, cilantro, tomato paste, diced tomatos, and rotel. Heat to a boil

Add chicken stock: This can be messy, so I turned off the burners, put a towel down between the pots and ladled the chicken stock over to the other pot. The stock should be enough (the original recipe calls for 2 quarts).

Boil soup for about an hour or until the onions are translucent.

Chicken Shredding set up:
Left - Paper bag for skin and bones/Right - Bowl for the shredded chicken
Time to get your hands dirty: Rip that chicken apart, throwing out the skin, bones, and viens. I rub the meat between my thumb and forefinger to "shred" the chicken. It should be cooked well enough to fall apart when you do this.

Shredded Chicken

Soup is ready to be blended.

Using an immersion blender, blend the soup completely.

After pureed.

Add shredded chicken and stir. 
Garnish your bowl according to preference and serve. Enjoy!