With Power Comes Great Responsability

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Ignorance might be bliss, but only for the ignorant person.  I might be ignorant in many respects but I still believe  education is a powerful tool that enriches our lives.  I really hate being a Debbie Downer but sometimes you just have to take a stand and choose knowledge over ignorant bliss.

Today I was browsing my Facebook “news feed” when a post by a dear friend called my attention.  It was a link to an article about child slavery and the chocolate industry.  After reading the article I was moved to watch the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate.  And now I am urging you to take 45 minutes of your day and watch it.  I know we are all busy, I know we can’t fight every fight but I also know for every person that decides to take a stand a change will occur in the world.

The issue with child trafficking and slavery in the chocolate industry is one of those things we can easily take a stand on.  You do not have to go to Africa and save the children, you do not have to stand in front of Nestle, Mars or Hershey’s headquarters and protest, you do not have to go to the President of the United States and discuss the issue;  but you can stop buying chocolate from manufacturers that source from child slavery.

I love chocolate as much as the next girl but I am going to go ahead and say it, chocolate is not a necessity.  No chocolate treat is worth a child being taken from his home and being abused.  And no company is exempt from being held accountable for where their product comes from.  You would think that a company that makes billions of dollars a year could afford to know and choose fair trade sources, but you would be wrong.  I am sure there are a lot of politics and money involved but there should be zero tolerance for slavery, period.

As a parent I am horrified by this issue.  As a human being I am enraged and saddened by all this cruelty and indifference.

When a child is tortured in order for your child to have a “kiss” of chocolate it is time to start reconsidering things.

I want my children to know the difference between right and wrong.  I want my children to be safe, healthy and happy.  I want my children to be fair and kind.  And I want my children to enjoy the bliss that comes from being mindful, not ignorant.

What can you do about it?  You can visit Stop the Traffik to find out about this issue and what chocolate manufacturers practice fair trade.  Visit Food Empowerment Project to see how your food choices affect the world and use their free app that includes their chocolate approved list.  And you can make better choices when purchasing your chocolate.

We have to start being the change we want to see in the world, or no change will come.  We can do it!

 

For more information:

Child Slavery: The Bitter Truth About the Chocolate Industry

The CNN Freedom Project

Hello Fall!

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As I sadly say good-bye to summer I enthusiastically say hello to fall.  It’s time to prepare for hibernation and some transformations.  Soon the leaves will start changing and we will be enjoying a completely different palette of colors in the landscape.  The wind will get cooler and I will be putting away my sandals.  Changes are coming, some more profound than others.

As you might know, I started working on my Masters degree on nutrition.  I am juggling my 4-year-old, my 1-year-old, my love for making meals from scratch, the house, my wonderful husband, my dogs, my family, my friends and my studies. I am learning a lot of new things and I can’t wait to share with all of you.  I have also been working on new recipes that I’m sure you will enjoy.  Yes I am multitasking but I am also enjoying every moment.   This is only one of the benefits of becoming a mother, you simultaneously become a circus act :).

I am also about to embark on a trip to Puerto Rico.  This will not be a vacation.  I’m afraid my beloved Abuelo might be moving on and I am preparing to say my goodbyes.  As I write this I can’t help but think about all the lessons he has taught me, but mostly all the love he bestowed on me.  And this just makes me want to love everyone and everything around me a little bit harder every day.  So you can expect a whole lotta love from me.  Don’t be alarmed if I hug you for no reason :).

This is transition time and a reminder that nothing is ever still.  The face you see in the mirror today will be a different one tomorrow.  This is not sad news but wonderful news.  You see, every moment you have a chance to change for the better.  Never forget this.

So in the midst of unavoidable change, make the choice to turn into a beautiful swan every day and leave that ugly ducking behind :).  Always look at the NOW with optimism and joy.  Every moment is an opportunity, no matter what the fall brings your way.

NOW take a deep breath and welcome the cool breeze with a big smile on your face.  I know I will.

 

 

A Brand New Day

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Today was Lucas 1st day of school.  As expected he didn’t even say goodbye.  He was eager, exited and happy.  He jumped off the car and didn’t look back.  Off he went to his new adventure with curiosity and joy.

Today I was accepted at Hawthorn University for their Masters in Clinical Nutrition and Health Program.  I have waited with great anticipation for this day; now that it’s here I felt  immobilized.  This is not a spur of the moment decision.  My husband and I planned and waited for the right time for me to do this.  The time is here.   It’s a wonderful opportunity for me, but I’m  scared.  Will I be able to manage my time wisely so I can devote myself to this new endeavor?  Will I be doing good-by my kids?  Will I be able to keep our household afloat?  Will this put a financial strain in our family?  Am I being selfish?  Am I capable of succeeding in this new adventure?  Or will I finally go clinically insane?!

As all these doubts and fear run through my head, the memory of Lucas walking into school today gives me courage.  As per usual my 4-year-old has schooled me.  Sometimes in life you just have to jump off the car and never look back. I will not let fear stir this new adventure.  As of today I am welcoming this new challenge with excitement and a curious heart.  For all of you I wish a new opportunity in every corner, an open heart so you can see it and a spirit full or courage to go with every new adventure.  There is a window open for all of us.

This is a brand new day my friends, embrace it!

Sickly Sweet

This past saturday we celebrated Lucas 4th birthday.  It was a fun day that was about a month in the making for me.  You see, every time I host some kind of celebration for the kids I inevitably end up stressing about what I am going to offer as treats (amongst other things like decorations).  There are the easy choices like serving water instead of sodas or juices.  But trying to create a sweet yet not toxic menu of treats can be challenging.  Don’t get me wrong this is a “challenge” I happily take every time, but it does take some work on my part.  This year I opted for  a series of cupcakes, including carrot ones, lightly frosted and all home-made.  A cucumber mint salad, watermelon and some not so sugary sugar cookies.  In the end the kids didn’t seem to mind that the cupcakes where not mostly frosting and nobody asked for soda or juice.   I’m sure they have had tastier treats, than those I inexpertly created, but in the end it didn’t  matter.  They had a blast.  I feel sometimes we underestimate our kids capability to strive without high sugar doses.

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Sugar does not equate happiness, was my mantra for the weekend.  So it felt somewhat prophetic that I ran into the work of british artist James Ostrer.   His current series of portraits titled: “Whatsit all about” depict a disturbing obsession with sugar and pop culture.  The bright-colored and grotesque images will make you think twice about overindulging in junk food.  Ostrer thinks of the work as therapeutic, as he himself battles with sugar and junk food addiction.  The work also depicts somewhat of a tribal vibe gone wrong.  Like food and our culture have become so overly processed, all we are left  with is a synthetic world.  “I started with wanting to create new tribes based on what we now eat and how far removed it is from nature,” Ostrer explained to The Huffington Post. “The distance between what comes out of the ground and what we then open from a packet.”  

The glossy images also touch on celebrity pop culture.  This aberrant need to seek guidance in a world that doesn’t embrace acceptance of self or others.  It’s like a vicious circle of self hate made up to look like the object of your affection.  In the end I guess you could say the images are like some kind of beautiful sugar nightmare.  As Feature Shoot  puts it: “He constructed each besprinkled monster in an effort to beat the cravings, exploring the deeply unfulfilling process of binge-eating. Beginning with a colored cream cheese base, the sculpted edibles were often a race against time to maintain, some of the full body portraits taking upwards of 8 hours to complete. Ostrer’s dessert-riddled busts look like tribal devils of our darker cravings, the overload of color and candy a visual definition of the words “sickly sweet”.”

I invite you to take a look at this provocative series.  As an artist and health enthusiast I believe this kind of work is important.  After all, sometimes images can speak louder than words.

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For more of this series check this links:

Wotsit All About

The Nightmarish Depths of Sugar Addiction

Junk Food Face Mask

 

Home made paint

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Another summer day arrives.  And with it a gazillion: “what are we doing now?!”  The little’s don’t skip a beat and I suddenly feel myself aging rapidly :).  What is a mother to do so she doesn’t earn a one way ticket to the loony bin?  Activities, lots of em.  This summer I have done everything I can think of and afford.   The pool, fruit picking, the aquarium, playdates, dancing, pretending to be a superhero, reading and lots and lots of painting and crafts.

Today Lucas and I tackled another project, home-made paint.  A while back my mom shared this recipe with me and I finally got around to doing it. I have to say the paint isn’t really great but there is a lot of fun to be had with it.  For one, making the paint is something a 3-year-old can help with.  Basically you mix equal parts of flour, salt and water then add a few drops of food coloring.

Lucas especially enjoyed shaking the mixture

Lucas especially enjoyed shaking the mixture

"can we shake it some more pleeeeasseeeee"

“can we shake it some more pleeeeasseeeee”

 

Here is what we did:

mixed 2 spoonfuls of flour, 2 spoonfuls of salt and two spoonfuls of water in a jar.  Then we closed it with a lid and shook it, that was pretty fun.  Then we added a few drops of food coloring and shook it again.  We put the mixtures (we did 4 colors red, blue, yellow and green) in separate containers.  Then we proceeded to test the paint.

Lucas experiments with the new paint

Lucas experiments with the new paint

As I mentioned before it’s not great quality, it looks a little like watercolor but it has a grainy consistency.  But the best part of it is that it’s not toxic at all, it could even be edible (thou I wouldn’t recommend it yuck 🙂

This paint is most suitable for babies, its all natural and safe

This paint is most suitable for babies, it’s all natural and safe

It’s also so cheap to make I don’t mind just letting the baby play with it.  In the end I figured that was the best use for it anyways.  Baby body painting :).

Marcos prefers painting his cute little footsie than the paper.

Marcos prefers painting his cute little footsie than the paper.

 

I also figured we could use this type of paint for a paint fight a la Pollock 🙂  We could lay out some cheap white fabric on the ground (preferably outside) and then give everyone a couple of squirt bottles filled with paint.  The paint war would be limited to the area of the fabric.  In the end I’m sure an interesting and fun work of art would turn up.  If anything it would be a fun way to kill a few summer minutes :).

The blissful challenge

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What is bliss?  According to the  Vimuttimagga (ancient Buddhist meditation manual, also known as the path of freedom), bliss is contact with the lovable and ease-giving.  It is brought on upon tranquility.  Tranquility of the mind is bliss.  When I look at my kids sometimes I can feel bliss.  And if I allow myself to be part of their world, then I can certainly experience bliss.  Just another one of the perks of being a mom :).  Experiencing bliss is like an instant vacation with all the perks and non of the stress.  And who doesn’t want a vacation?!

Unfortunately being in bliss is not a daily occurrence for most of us. 

I recognize it is easy to get carried away with the mundane on a regular basis.  Too many chores, too much noise, too many expectations, too many words.  Our environment can be, well , just too much.  We are so tangled in our own web of “too much” we can’t even see what is what.  I encourage you to stop for a second and ask yourself when was the last time you experienced bliss.  If the answer is more than a day, then it is too long.  A life without bliss is an absent one.

It is possible that if we allowed ourselves the kindness of practicing mindfulness we would be able to live in bliss more often.  It is possible  that by loving ourselves with the intention of sharing that love with others we could live a mindful life.  For most of us that is an active effort, but one worth making.    

Today I invite you to examine your day-to-day.  I invite you sit in silence and just breathe for five minutes.  Don’t expect anything, don’t analyze.  Don’t make to-do lists in your head and don’t reprimand yourself for making a to-do list in your head :).  Just do nothing for five minutes today.   If you don’t have five minutes then you should do ten 🙂 .   You deserve five minutes of blissful silence that might lead you to bliss.

I challenge you to do this every day for a week.  Hopefully by then you will feel worthy of such pampering and treat yourself to bliss on a regular basis.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

As I dropped Lucas for his last day of school today (this is his first school year)  I heard David Bowie in my head.

Still don’t know what I was waitin’ for
And my time was runnin’ wild
A million dead end streets and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me…”

Before becoming a mom I was lost most the time.  Then I became a mom and got even more lost!  Then one magic day, not long ago, I found myself.  I found myself surrounded with love and unprecedented joy.  I found myself staring at my children and my heart fell into place.

For those of you that do not know me, I have been struggling with being a mom.  Something I’m sure most go through.  The struggle, I mean, wether you are a parent or not.  Life was becoming so hard.  What’s with the constant struggle?!  What gives?!  Well I realized I was holding on to a person I no longer was.  I thought being a mom was driving me crazy when it was me behind the wheel the whole time.  I kept thinking at some point I could go back to the past!  When there is nothing but NOW and  hope for the future.  And what a wonderful NOW I was missing out on.   I had an AHA! moment and motherhood became me :).  I let go of the struggle and welcomed the challenge of every moment.

So much suffering could be avoided if we just got out of our heads and into our lives.  I understand the challenges that can come with change.  I know it is not always easy to let go.  Moving in synchronicity with the moment can feel like an impossible task.  But NOTHING is impossible.  And sometimes achieving the impossible dream is just a matter of changing our minds.

Today I invite you to change your mind.  Change your mind about anything and everything.  Live NOW because, not only is it all we got, it can be the best time of your life, every time :).

Lucas is moving on to his next big adventure, Pre-K.  And as he moves with ease an detachment from one stage to the next he reminds me to loosen my grip.

Last day at Mrs. Hamilton's classroom!

Last day at Mrs. Hamilton’s classroom!

 

Marcos first close encounter with an older and wiser lady :)

Marcos first close encounter with an older and wiser lady 🙂

Today I look back and honor all the changes that have led me here.  I celebrate all the love, joy and tears that have brought me home.  And sing along Bowie…

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time.”

 

Untangle your brain

I am a stress freak.  Maybe some of you can identify with that statement.  You know, when you get so wound up your brain is like a ball of christmas lights.  I know this is harmful to my health in all levels so I try to do things in order to calm down.  It’s not easy, it is a constant exercise for me.  Not an hour goes by that I am not trying to keep myself on check.  I work out, I read, I do short meditations and I recite mantras (not all at once).  Yet I find myself on the verge of a nervous breakdown almost every month, and not necessarily  around my period :).

For me the problem is greatly influenced by visual experiences.  I am an artist at heart.  So it is not unusual for me to try to find or create beautiful things.  Also since my brain is in such chaotic state often, I need my surroundings to be orderly.  Well, I have a 10 month old, a 3-year-old, 2 Chihuahuas and a hubby.  So let’s just say my home isn’t as orderly as I would like most the time.  You stay home parents probably feel my pain :), but living in messy environments is not exclusive to parent hood.  Since I can’t spend all day tidying up; what is a girl to do?!

Recently I came across a style of “doodling” called zentangle.  It’s a meditation done by pattern-drawing.  According to the creators, “the Zentangle Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.  Almost anyone can use it to create beautiful images. It increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well-being.”  Simply put it’s a structured way of doodling that helps you unwind by keeping your focus on the task at hand (creating an image through pattern repetition).  You don’t have to be an artist to try it and you don’t need too many tools.  It is actually a lot of fun and most importantly, it works!  I am new to the technique but I assure you it is not as complicated as it might look.

Here are some of my “zentangles”

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Basically you need a pencil, a pen and a piece of paper.  Here are the basic steps…

Draw one dot in each corner of a 4×4 piece of paper

Connect the dots to create a frame

Draw a pencil guide-line that divides the frame into sections

Using a black pen draw the “tangles”

One of the things I love the most about this is that there are no corrections.  No erasers used at all.  There are no mistakes!  What might feel like an error is just an opportunity to make something else.  You never know what you are going to end up with.  And having the guidelines just makes it feel like you have no responsibilities  for the outcome of this wonderful doodle.  I swear it’s kind of addictive, in a good way.

There are a bunch of “how to” on you tube or you can get most the information you need at zentangle.com  I am currently using the book Yoga for your Brain its got easy to follow instructions and it teaches you step by step how to make some simple “tangles”.

So if you suffer from chronic stress, like me, I highly recommend the Zentangle Workout :).  Remember if you are one of those people who doesn’t have time to meditate once a day you should meditate twice a day!  Good luck!

 

 

 

 

I wanna thrill ya like Michael…

Have you ever heard a song for the first time and found yourself smiling?  In my day-to-day chaos, sometimes I forget about the power of music.  Today I was reminded.  Driving back home from the store, tied up in my thoughts a song came on and brought me back to present time:).  I found myself wishing I could be dancing.  And dancing even if it is in your head can free your soul.  So  with my head swinging and a little shoulder action, my day was all sunshine.  Thanks MKTO

Your out my league
Old school Chic
Like a movie star from a silver screen

Your one of a kind,
Livin’ in a world gone plastic
Baby your so classic“

 

Ok,it’s no Tchaikovsky’s, but sometimes I just need to hear something more Michael.   I wish all of you can have a day that breaks from the gray.  I wish you feel like dancing, like smiling, like this moment is a gift and like “baby, you’re so classic”. 🙂

Feeding you child for health

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Now a days children get sick all the time.  Allergies and colds are an everyday occurrence. This happens so frequently that parents are starting to think it’s normal.  Let me just say, it is not.  It is not normal for a child to get sick at the drop of the hat. If your child gets sick every month, understand this is not just something that happens in childhood.   As soon as we acknowledge that, we can take action to help our children live healthier.  The more and more we learn about disease, the more it is clear that one of the biggest cult prints is nutrition.  We really are what we eat, after all.  So what are you feeding your children?

I know, that sadly, we can not control the fate of our children’s health and sometimes things just go wrong despite all our efforts.  I know this is a delicate subject, and I know all our circumstances are different.  But, I invite you to ask yourself the following: Am I really doing all I can to raise a healthy child?

There are many components that make a healthy child.  Love, attention, sleep, exercise and nurturing (to name a few) are part of this equation.  But for today i would like to focus on nutrition.

Today I read the following: “there is no such thing as not having time, if it’s important you make time for it.”  I know as mothers we often have to juggle a gazillion jobs.  There is so much to do, so many demands, so little sleep, our working hours are all hours!  I understand, believe me.  But if there is something I have learned through this, sometimes excruciating, process is that we have to make time for the things that matter, period.  There are too many excuses, the question is: are they worth it?

So, let’s put the time excuse on the shelf for a few and consider what is at stake here.  You provide your child with the tools for building his life.  What are the tools you provide for them?

When it comes to food it’s quite simple.  Children eat what you give them, it’s not like they are going to get a job and start feeding themselves.  They learn what you teach them.  Your child’s ability to eat nourishing foods in the long run  and hence to be healthy begins with you.  You set the tone, and honestly, they don’t really have a choice.  Maybe you think your child is picky, or he won’t eat this or that, or your child will only eat pizza.  Please remember, ultimately (for this brief time in their lives) you are the boss.  Take advantage of  this great opportunity in this small window of time.  You don’t need a master’s degree to feel your child healthy foods, you just have to really, really want to.

Here are a few no-nonsense steps you can take in that direction:

1.  You are the captain!  Your child might refuse to eat something, but you can change that with time and effort.  Once you decide to do this, stick with it and they will follow.  And yes you might find yourself one crazy afternoon at a fast food joint for lunch, that is ok, just don’t make it a habit.

2.  No more juice.  Unless you have a juicer at home and prepare fresh vegetable juices for you kids, don’t give them juice.  They are not healthy, no matter if they are organic or what ever.  Juices are liquid sugar for the most part, and then some colorings, preservatives and who knows what else.  Seriously this is one of the easiest ways to help your child’s immune system.  Give them water.  They don’t want water, well eventually they will get thirsty :).

3.  Start cooking.  Remember, no time excuses here.  Make time, show your children how important their meals are.  Prepare them together if possible.  Make them part of this process, they will never forget this important lesson.  Then sit down and eat together, it is possible.

4.  Avoid processed foods.  Eat real foods.  If it comes in a package and has a long shelf life, it’s probably not good for you.  Packaging is a big part of the food industry and it is designed to be appealing and misleading.  Pictures of farms and all natural labels don’t make for a healthy meal.  The healthiest foods don’t have a list of ingredients, remember that.

5.  Offer variety.  Give them choices, healthy choices.  The more different foods your child tries, the better off he/she will be.  Providing your child with the opportunity to refine his palate is a great gift.  Tasting different things is the only way they will learn to appreciate the sweetness of a carrot vs that of a candy bar.  And ladies and gentleman, this is the perfect time to do it.  The younger you start the better.  But remember, it is never too late.

6.  Prepare healthy snacks.  Ok, this is a big one.  I know cause Lucas snacks when ever he is awake :).  I know its tempting to have a bunch of pre-packaged snacks, but it is just as easy to put some snap-peas in a bag (it might require a few extra seconds of your day).  Of course sometimes I give Lucas pretzels or cheddar bunnies, but for the most part his snacks are whole foods.  Here is a list of some of the easiest and fastest ones to put in a lunch box: peppers, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes,broccoli, bananas, apples, berries, cheese,nuts and popcorn.  You can even have them packed the night before.

7. Make it a priority.  This is the most important rule when it comes to feeding your child right.  If you don’t, there are plenty of excuses but also plenty of consequences.

 

I hope you don’t mind my tough love today, but  I feel very strongly about this.  Children are completely dependent on us and becoming a parent comes with great advantages but also great responsibility.  I know how hard it is to raise a child, but I also know you are a champ and you can do anything you set your heart on.  You can do it!