Thursday Open Thread

It’s Thursday! Can you believe Thanksgiving is just one week away?

I am starting to sweat all the holiday stuff: Making gift lists, scheduling a time to take family photos for the Christmas cards, planning menus, and trying to make sure I don’t fall off the exercise wagon.

When do you start your Christmas/holiday shopping? As of now we have only purchased two gifts, but I have ideas for several others. On the day before Thanksgiving DD and I are taking our very first trip to the American Girl store! We are joining some friends for lunch there, so it will be more of a recon mission as I try to figure out which AG doll will be Maya’s first.

Did I mention my husband will turn 40 just 11 days before Christmas?? Oy. The only thing he really, really wants is a ridiculously expensive bicycle frame. Any other gift ideas to share for a milestone birthday?

In the news: political mom bloggers got a shout out in this CNN story, which featured Joanne Bamberger, who occasionally posts here as PunditMom. A snippet:

Tackling heated discussions, educating yourself about issues and getting candid about candidates can be difficult, even for the politically inclined. But political mom bloggers have taken the challenge to a new level: combining the delicate art form of being a parent with being politically active, and including their children in the entire process.

“I think it’s really important to raise children with a sense of public responsibility,” Judy said. “One of the values I want to instill in my son is this idea that as an American citizen, he’s responsible for paying attention to what the government is doing so later, when he’s old enough to vote, he’s empowered to make rational decisions.”

Looks like Arizona might just be a swing state in 2012, thanks to that turd of a law SB 1070.

The architect of 1070, state Sen. Russell Pearce (R-AZ), became the first-ever Arizona legislator to be recalled earlier this month, and now Campbell says there’s a moderate and Latino voter base in Arizona that’s reemerged after 1070.

The law, along with other what Campbell called “extremist” measures from the Republican-controlled state government (including Gov. Jan Brewer’s war on the state’s independent redistricting board) have left the GOP in bad shape among the electorate and Democrats looking better and better.

He pointed to record-high turnout in municipal elections like the Phoenix mayoral race which put Democrats in office across the state this month. Those results were fueled in part by huge turnout numbers from the Latino demographic, Campbell said, and in part by a more moderate base that’s had enough.

What do you think? Has the GOP overplayed its hand this time around?

What’s on your mind today? Chat away!


Saturday Open Thread

It’s the weekend, y’all! Some random thoughts rolling around inside my head…

How can it possibly be July already? SRSLY?

My 6-year-old rode her first loop-the-loop roller coaster last night… and LOVED it. This coaster was no kiddie ride. Her fearlessness leaves me breathless with admiration, but also a little bit scared. What will that fearlessness look like when she is a moody adolescent? Should I be worried, pleased, or a little bit of both?

What’s your stance on firecrackers and fireworks? Do they sell them in your neck of the woods? Around here, just a couple of cities allow fireworks stands, and they only sell the tame kind. We buy sparklers and watch the kids very closely. I remember being a kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old, and holding onto a firecracker just a second too long after lighting it. I got a pretty nasty burn and remember feeling embarrassed about it. But now that I look back on it… WHO let me hold a frickin’ firecracker, and why?! Sheesh.

Our President’s foes have called him a Fascist, a Communist and a socialist. He has also been called high-falutin’ and a thug. Now pundit Mark Halperin has continued that trend by calling him a p*ssy and a d!ck. You can’t make this stuff up, eh?

Lastly, is this the world’s worst future mother-in-law, or does she raise some valid points? I say she sounds absolutely insufferable, but that’s probably because I’m just the type of “vulgar” and “uncouth” woman who drives her batty. A part of me loves that this went viral and exposed her for the asshat that she is.

What’s on your mind today? Chat away!


Holiday Medley

I hate to brag, but I feel so well-rested. Doesn’t sleep feel like this indulgent luxury when you’re a parent? My idea of a good time? A meal prepared by someone else, a glass of red wine — and sleep!

As a kid, I remember my grandmother, who always battled insomnia for as long as I can remember, imploring us to nap, telling us that one day we would consider sleep a gift from God. Lord, was she right.

On Christmas Day we did something we have not done in a long time…nothing. There were no people to visit, or guests to entertain, or work to do — at least for me. I even let the dishes and laundry pile up. It was great.

The kids got everything that they wanted so I used the time they spent playing with their new toys to read for pleasure and sleep. Oh, and I was in my pajamas all day. Heaven.  

As is typical in many Latino households, we celebrated Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena, as opposed to Christmas Day. We had our big meal and went to mass on December 24. In my family, we have adopted American Christmas in that we open presents December 25 in the morning, but then we do nothing else. I can think of many a Christmas in which we’d go to the movies and order takeout.

As always, our Noche Buena was busy. First, the kids had playdates in the morning when they asked if they could bake cookies for Santa. I admit, I had a moment of panic that reminded me of our Katie’s reaction when her daughter wanted to make bread.

Like Katie, I am not a baker. I love the kitchen and pride myself in being a decent cook, but I am not a baker…at all. My mommy confession for the day: prior to Christmas Eve this year, I had never baked cookies. Heck, I’ve never even made brownies. I know you can buy them ready-made in a box, but I wasn’t convinced my cookies would be as easy to make or as pretty as the ones on the box.

“Why don’t we buy Santi Clos cookies?” I said to the kids. “There are so many beautiful ones in the store.”

“I want to make my own!” both kids echoed.

I immediately thought of our Katie. I took a deep breath. She did it. I can do this, too, I thought.

I bought flour I never heard of, but the packaging said it was for cookies. I also bought tubes of colored icing and sprinkles. Except for these round cookie cutters I use to make empanadas, I did not have anything else to shape the cookies. So we molded them with our hands. Here were the results — the plate on the right were Ari’s masterpieces:

And they were good! We were so proud of our cookies that we showed them off to everyone we video-chatted with. I know, I am a dork.

That evening the kids and I attended mass. I invited DH to see Eli, who was an angel at our church’s Christmas pageant. He declined, but I was not upset because I have always respected our differences in religion and we have many friends at our church who are like family to us, some who attend without a spouse for the same reason. Plus, DH offered to cook our Noche Buena meal. I always cook for all holidays, so I was thrilled to have the night off. Here is Eli, by the way, spreading her wings as an angel:

After mass, the kids and I were starved and we were thrilled to return to a warm home and hearty vegetarian meal. DH really outdid himself with a lentil loaf, a tomato and onion garnish, and cranberry bread. After the meal, our stuffed selves laid in front of the TV to watch Elf, one of our favorite Christmas movies.

The kids went to bed at 10 and surprisingly did not awake until 8 the next morning. I heard them get up when Ari tip-toed to the living room and exclaimed, “Santa came!”

After ripping through their presents, the kids spent the day playing with their new toys. Here are pictures of the kids playing with their new Wii games. Eli wasted no time putting on her new Princess Tiana dress and then her Tinker Bell outfit.

Happy holidays all! How was your weekend? What are you up to this week?


Rest of Recipes

Okay, last post we covered a few drink recipes, and some links to seafood items and a cold salad option for those down under. Also we got salad dressings, how to do bacon in the oven and roasted veggies checked off the list. The other requests were “brunch” and “egg-free” brunch.

Here’s the links and options that I found.

Brunch with no eggs is a bit like a dinner with extra fruit and baked goods. Ham and bacon work well for the meats. If you really want to think “meat free” for brunch, then this menu from vegan chef Bryant Terry has a lot of flavor, but no eggs or meat.

I also did an egg-free search on epicurious for brunch items. Lots of biscuits and scones. Some good ones there.

If eggs are okay to be on the menu, a kind of light and unique brunch recipe I came up with is for a savory waffle with smoked salmon and salad greens and creme fraiche. You can make the waffles the day ahead, then reheat them in the toaster easily.

I think the one I have not gotten to work on yet was a bread pudding recipe. I’m kicking around a way to use a sweet bread like pumpkin or banana for the bread base, then make that into a pudding. But, time is running shorter, so look for the final version of that in January for a Valentine’s brunch item.

Happy holidays everyone!


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Good morning fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

After almost two weeks in Central America and a weekend in Orange County for Erika’s baby shower, I am finally back with your weekly parenting news roundup. I hope you all had a safe and restful holiday. Happy new year!

First of all, we at MotherTalkers would like to send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the people of Haiti and relatives abroad searching for their loved ones. We linked to a number of organizations aiding people on the island and if you haven’t already donated, here they are again. We also discussed what an earthquake or emergency kit should include and where to hide it in your home.

In non-earthquake news: Texas is mulling changes to its social studies curriculum by either adding/taking out religious instruction or including/excluding historical figures. The Texas Freedom Network live-blogged the debate hearings.

The Washington Post ran an editorial on the new president of the American Federation of Teachers union, Randi Weingarten.

We had some belated holiday stories. For example, I wondered how to incorporate Christmas decorations — like cards and ribbons — throughout the year as Ari and I love them. Also, at what age is it appropriate to stop giving gifts to children like nieces and nephews? As families grow, it is reasonable to expect gift-giving to curve.

Our Sue in Queens wondered what to do with her grandmother’s china. On the one hand, she wants to serve food in it to honor her grandmother, on the other hand she doesn’t want it to break. What say you?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

From the “duh” files: Many infomercial products are not worth buying, according to MSN Money. I want to add another informercial dud to the list: Nad’s waxing kit. After spotting it on TV, I bought it at a Walgreen’s. After practically burning off my armpit without removing a single hair, I ended up returning it. Have you bought an infomercial product? How was it?  

Now that President Obama has eased travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans, as many as 10 flights a day were leaving Miami International Airport for Havana, Cuba, over the holiday, according to Agence France-Presse. In related news: Cuba became the first Latin American country to eradicate severe infant malnutrition, according to a UNICEF study reported on by Europa Press.

The Breast Cancer Fund is looking for families of four to participate in a study that would determine whether eating only fresh, non-processed foods reduces the levels of Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates in our bodies.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I have unpacked, gone food shopping, done four loads of laundry and finally settled at home since our trip to Central America. Overall, it was a restful, drama-free and fun trip.

We arrived to San Salvador Christmas Eve early in the morning. DH and I were so fried from the red-eye with our 2-year-old and 6-year-old that we napped as soon as we arrived to my mother-in-law’s house. The kids were excited at seeing dear MIL and the Christmas decorations that they kept going. What would I do for this endless amount of energy?

At night, we ate a typical Salvadoran meal of rice, beans, tortilla and fried plantains. Then we went outside where Ari and his Papi lit fire crackers in the street. If I had to name the highlight of my trip it was the pride and joy I felt in seeing my son so grown up and fitting in El Salvador. By the end of the trip, he was so adept at launching those firecrackers — and they were big and loud! — he would borrow someone’s lit cigarette, bend down to light the bomba and take off running. He looked like any other Salvadoran boy in the street or on the beach launching them.

Again, he is fluent in Spanish so he had no problem taking off with his cousins — or the children of my husband’s cousins — to go play with the Wii or go out to eat pupusas. (Pupusas are cheese or meat-stuffed corn tortillas, a staple of Salvadoran food.) He never once complained about the heat — it was so hot that we all got sun tans even though we were wearing sun block with SPF 50! — and he thoroughly enjoyed the water, including our first foray jet-skiing.

The day before we returned to the United States, Ari burst into tears. He said he wanted to stay in El Salvador with Abuelita and his primos. I felt wistful for him. As a kid, I cried every single time I left my maternal family in Puerto Rico that, very briefly, I considered going to college there. The large extended family, the beach, the sunshine, the tropical fruits and foods — I always felt in my element there. I can see Ari living in El Salvador some day. He fit in so well.  

Markos does not want to travel during the holiday for at least the next five years — trust me, I don’t blame him — but if there are two people who could convince us otherwise, it is our kids. El Salvador with its late-night festivities that included both young and old people alike, and fireworks, made for a magical Christmas. The fact that most Salvadorans do not put Christmas lights outside their home due to shortages in electricity and almost no Salvadoran puts up a real Christmas tree — even my mother-in-law had a fake one — did not dawn on us. I will always associate Christmas in El Salvador with late-night sounds of firecrackers and children whooping and hollering as they run down the street in anticipation of Santi Clos’s visit.


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

Here is where I am at in the countdown until Christmas:

Christmas cards filled out….Check.
Christmas cards sent….Check.
Gifts wrapped….Check.
Gifts sent….Check.
Pack for the Trip….Almost.
Throw away perishable food items….Check.
Stock MotherTalkers story queue….Check.

We leave today for El Salvador to visit my mother-in-law and will be returning on Monday, January 4. I will be back into the groove, hopefully, by Tuesday, January 5. In the meantime, our MotherTalkers extraordinaire Gloria and Erika will be updating the site every day. If you must reach your MT moderators, please e-mail them at gloria at mothertalkers dot com or erika at mothertalkers dot com.

“See” you in the new year! Please have a safe, restful and fun holiday. XO, Elisa


Holiday Traditions

My family is young (and still growing), but I have been thinking about the holiday traditions we have established.

This year, busy schedules and general exhaustion prevented us from taking 4-year-old DD to see a big, dramatic Christmas tree lighting, the way we did the past two years. I didn’t realize it had become an unofficial tradition for us until I missed the sense of waiting in the darkness for all those lights to switch on.

Last year we took Maya to see a wonderful kid-centric production of The Nutcraker, and she was crazy over it. This year’s show coincided with our “babymoon” getaway weekend, so DH and I couldn’t take her like I had hoped.

Instead, we ended up going to see our niece perform in a Nutcracker dance recital, and tonight we will see Disney on Ice: Worlds of Fantasy, which is here in Orange County through Dec. 27th. It is so fun to see DD entranced during live performances, so I think that will be yet another of our annual holiday traditions.

Cookie making wasn’t so successful last year; we attempted it twice, and both times I ended up burning all but a few of the cookies (what’s up with THAT?). This year I’m a little gun-shy but I will probably give in and bake up a batch or two with my daughter, who loves to be in the kitchen.

Lastly, I am a bad mommy because we have not yet taken Maya to see Santa this year. For the past two years she has gone to the Irvine Park Railroad’s Christmas Train, which takes you through a park at night and makes a stop to see Santa.

So this year we will be taking her on the very last night, like the slacker parents we are. It will be crowded and crazy with other slacker parents but hey… I had a busy year, what can I say?

What about you? What are some of your long-standing (or fledgling) holiday traditions? Are there any traditions that fell by the wayside over the years? Any traditions you’re looking forward to in years to come? Chime in!


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

My Facebook Circle of Moms group recently had a couple of interesting discussions. One had tips on how to lose weight if you must for health reasons. The other was on the replies to give judgmental holier-than-thou types who looked down on you for not taking your children to church.

Family members of the murder victim in the Amanda Knox case say they are “pleased” with the court’s decision to convict Knox of the crime, according to the Associated Press.

The Washington Post ran a feature story on how children born to Latino immigrants are struggling to make it to the middle class — or at least do better than their parents. Also in the Washington Post: Columnist Carolyn Hax gave some great advice to a woman who is not thrilled about a co-worker’s pregnancy.

The average U.S. household is expected to spend $390 on Christmas gifts this year — down from $418 in 2008, according to Newsweek.

Anne Fitten Glenn, aka “Edgy Mama,” wrote about how she maintains her sanity during the holidays.

A California consumer advocacy group has found that a popular holiday toy, the Zhu Zhu hamster, has high amounts of the toxic flame retardant, antimony, according to CNN.

In case you missed it, a 13-year-old boy with Asperger’s spent 11 days surviving on the New York subway system, according to the Associated Press. The boy, Francisco Hernandez Jr., said he rode the trains and used the stations’ bathrooms. He lived off of snacks and water.

Also, in case you missed it, there was a Melissa and Doug toy recall in Canada for the amount of barium in the wooden toys’ paint, according to Non-Toxic Kids.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?