Coco's Blog

Saturday, 17 July 2010 06:00

Breaking A Bad Habit

Most studies say that it takes 30 days to make or break a habit. So, I figure it took about 30 trips to various stores with my now 6 and 4 year old girls to develop one bad habit in particular - buying them something “small” every time we went to the store.

I remember my mom telling me a story about her father. On most Sundays her father would go into town and sometimes take my mother with him. They would buy groceries and other staples that the family would need for the week. My mom enjoyed going on these trips…she lived in a very small in México so these trips into town were something to look forward to.

My mom told me how every now and then her father would buy her something special when they went on these trips, and on one such trip her father bought her a set of pencils. She was so happy with her present because they were not the standard tan colored pencils they received at school, but rather brightly colored ones. They were a special treat for her.

This got me thinking….how many times have I gone into a store and bought the girls little toys or other small things they wanted and not thought twice about it? It's only $3 or $5, afterall.  The problem: the girls grew to expect a little "something" each time we went to the store.  My husband and I knew we had to change this. It’s not always easy to say no to them, but I try to remember that the girls don’t need the stuff they are asking for.

Now, we have a system in place for the girls to get small toys or books….they earn tickets by doing chores around the house that they can redeem for different things.  I don't know if it's the best system, but it seems to be working ok for our family.  Funny enough, the girls are adapting to the new system pretty well overall, but sometimes it's me that has the problem - I have to keep myself from getting stuff for them!

Saturday, 17 July 2010 03:57

The Original "Green" Lady

Washboard

My mom was the original “green” lady. Long before it was trendy to be “green” and eco-friendly, my mom was doing it.

Yeap, she hung the laundry out to dry on the clothesline, she reused everything, we turned off the lights in every room not being used, and we never let the water run. My mom taught us not to waste food, to use less of what we had, and to appreciate hand-me-downs!

To this day, my mom believes in using the last bit of everything. She places lotion bottles upside down on her dresser so she can squeeze out every drop in the bottle…and when no more will come out she will cut the bottle using a pair of scissors and use any bit that may still be hiding. She does the same with cooking oil, laundry detergent and shampoo….

About ½ way into my recent trip to Chicago to see my family, my mother’s dryer stopped working. My mom simply hung the laundry on her clothesline, like she tends to do on sunny days or when the dryer is already being used. I was forced to do the same with the kid’s laundry, and in some odd way, I really enjoyed it! Maybe it’s because it took me back to the days when my mom would make me wash my clothes with a washboard and hang them on a clothesline! Maybe she was trying to teach me some odd lesson about hardwork...who knows, I hated doing it back then - we owned a washer AND dryer afterall!

Honestly, I think my mom did these things to save money, but I think a part of her appreciates the idea that we should not waste what we have or use more than we need. My mom would say "no gastes" - don't waste - a nice lesson for me. Now, every time I see a washboard, I smile – I am reminded of my “green” mamá!

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 12:57

Chicago Part 2

I hope that everyone had an enjoyable and safe 4th of July weekend. I have been fortunate enough to be in Chicago visiting my family for the past 2 weeks – it’s been great! This weekend was packed with BBQs, seeing long time friends and family and, yes, remembering what humid Chicago weather is like!

My cousin and I planned a small family reunion for Saturday afternoon.  We have a very large family, so our “small” family get-together was still attended by about 50 people. My 3 kids all danced the night away to every type of music that was played.  I captured some great video that will surely embarrass  them later in life.  I saw relatives that I had not seen in many years and saw cousins that were now in college – the last time I saw them they were in elementary school! The best part of the night was when my 6 year-old daughter whispered to me “you mean, ALL these people are MY family too?”

On the 4th of July my kids spent most of the afternoon in my parent's backyard, splashing around in their small inflatable pool.  We opted not to take the kids to the fireworks display and ended up watching our neighbors set off fireworks.   My 4 year-old daughter and son take after me, the close proximity of fireworks made us nervous so we watched them from the upstairs window instead - good times!   My 6 year-old told me the next morning that she and her aunt had lit some small sparklers after we went to bed and had a great time...at least those don't scare me!

Yesterday evening I met two of my good friends from high school at a park about 20 minutes from my parent’s house. Our kids had a great time, playing at the park while we sat on a bench and caught up. This get together was a bit surreal, reminding me of how much has changed in my life in such a short time. We arrived in the neighborhood early so I took my girls to the bookstore, met my friends for ice-cream and then we walked to this park.  The neighborhood we were sitting in didn’t even exist when the three of us met back in high school!  That's a whole separate blog, by the way...how the neighborhood has changed and how this makes me feel.  I love that with some friends you can go a very long time without seeing them, but when you do get together it's just like old times and you catch up right where you left off. 

I leave in a few days, but today and tomorrow I will get to see more friends and family, looking forward to it!

Monday, 28 June 2010 11:11

Summer Part 1: Chicago

We’ve been in Chicago for 1 week with my parents. What a great way to start the summer! I love this city; it’s where I grew up, where my family lives and where I’ve made some wonderful friends. Some things haven’t changed and I like that, while others have and I like that too.

We used to come out to see my family more often, 2-3 times per year, but now we come out to see them just once per year, in the summer for a few weeks. I find that one longer stay versus a few very short stays is much better for us.  

I enjoy exploring the city with my kids on some days and doing a lot of nothing with my family on other days. On our first day in the city we met my good friend from high school at the Shedd Aquarium. It was a great afternoon, even though the severe tornado warning prohibited us from leaving the aquarium for 1.5 hours. We made the best of it and hung out in the cafeteria….good thing for the vending machines – we were starving! It took us almost 2 hours to get home (it should have taken us 20 minutes) because of the bad weather…and that night the power was out in the neighborhood, so we made shadow puppets!

This weekend my kids went on an adventure – they rode the “EL” train into downtown Chicago so we could visit the American Girl Store. I used to ride this train all the time by myself when I was in high school, getting around the city; but now I wonder if I would ever let my teenage girls do the same – I have gotten much more paranoid!

My almost 2-year-old son has spent countless hours in the swing that his grandpa put up for him on the porch. He just sits in it, watching the world go by, while my father pushes him….they did this for almost 2 hours yesterday! The girls have also been practicing riding their bikes that my father bought for them at the second hand store.

A trip to Chinatown for dinner  was a great way to end the weekend. Right now we are sitting on the porch, my dad is pushing my son in his swing, my two daughters are running around the yard catching fireflies and we are doing our best to avoid the pesky mosquitoes…good day.

 

Saturday, 18 June 2011 15:20

My Father

My father is amazing – I feel very blessed to have him in my life. The earliest memories I have of him are hazy – that’s because they happened at 5 in the morning when he was getting to leave for work.

We lived on the southwest side of Chicago in a community called Little Village.   My father worked in the Gary, IN steel mills  my whole life so he was up at 4:30 a.m. every weekday and on many weekends in order to be work by 6:30 a.m.   I would sometimes hear him getting ready for work wile my mom made his lunch. I would get up and sit at the kitchen table in our small apartment, half awake and eat cereal, just to be a part of the experience, to be with my dad.  The radio would be on the local Spanish news station while my parents went about getting ready.  Then, at 5 a.m. sharp my father would grab his lunch cooler with a blue top, his hat and off he went to work, giving my mom a quick kiss and not forgetting to give me one too, I would head then right back to bed.

I remember those mornings for a few reasons….They were often cold ones (we lived in Chicago afterall!), but my father never complained about getting up so early, although I am sure doing so was sometimes hard.  He did it for his family.  Growing up, he missed a lot of the everyday stuff the kids did – baseball games for my brother and soccer games for my sisters (I was not the athletic one!), and driving us all around the city to get to activities (my mom is a human GPS for the Chicago area!).  He worked, that’s what he did….my parents didn’t have a lot of money, but there was always enough for the kids to get what they needed and do what they really wanted – because he worked hard.  I am grateful for this.

My father finally retired after 25+ years at the steel mill in December 2008 – it was probably one of the happiest days of his life.  We’ve been out to Chicago to see my parents a few times since his retirement and for the first time I am beginning to see a different side of him, the very calm and relaxed side that can just take it easy…no work, just family and friends.  The days are his - we even got him a fancy cable package to go with his new TV so he never misses a baseball or futbol game!   He helps my mother do some gardening, he travels from Chicago to FL to see my brother play in baseball games, he enjoys (and spoils) his grandkids and he can finally sleep in past 4:30 a.m.  I am happy that he is able to do these things.   I was recently told that kids will grow up to do what they saw their parents do, not what they told their kids they should do.  That's pressure for me because I have seen my dad be and do many wonderful things.....

He has told me that he wishes he could have been around more for us kids, to do things with us.  Really, Dad, it was your example – not always your time - that has been such a powerful example of love to me.  I am so grateful that you are my father and I feel blessed to have you with us.  We love you!  Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, 19 June 2010 06:33

"Nothing" For Father's Day

Dad feetHappy Father’s Day Weekend!

I have asked my husband a few times over the past two weeks what he would like to do for this father’s day and all I keep getting is “nothing.”

Hmm…really, nothing?  See, on Mother’s Day I like to do stuff, not do “nothing.” I like to have stuff done for me too and my husband does a wonderful job of spoiling me.  Homemade gourmet brunch anyone?

So how do I show my appreciation to my hubby for being an amazing father to our three kids?  Yes, the kids have some cool crafts ready to give him.  But really, “nothing” is what he wants to do? As I write this blog entry he's is in Florida, working until tomorrow and then taking a 6 hour flight back home - only to change his clothes – and go back out for a networking event.

Yes, I am beginning to understand why he wants to do “nothing” on his day.  The past 4 weeks have included a trip to China, Chicago, Florida and next week it's Chicago.  I see - he's overworked and the idea of sitting on the couch watching TV all day with his kids as he eats his favorite foods sounds very good to him!  Ok, fine, he can do "nothing," but the problem is that I don’t really enjoy doing just "nothing” – part of my nature, I feel like I always need to be up and doing something productive or cleaning.  Dan keeps me centered, he reminds me that you have to take time to just enjoy life, by doing “nothing.” That's why he's a great dad - he's the one the kids wants to hang out with on the weekend.  He doesn't need a plan to make a day a good day with the kids.

Then again, last year he wanted us to do “nothing” on his birthday, so we stayed home, had a small cake and did nothing. That night he asked me why I hadn’t planned “something.” Oh boy, I should get planning – 1 day left!

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 19:19

Summer Safety - Check Your Car

Boy in car seatThe past few weeks have been a little stressful around here. Part of it was due to the fact that my husband was in China and then Chicago for a very long business trip, but it seems like my mind has been centered on my children’s safety a lot and it’s been stressing me out.

A 2 year old boy that we knew from our church died last week in his family’s pool.  It happened in the few minutes he was left unsupervised, someone thought that someone else was watching him….This just breaks my heart. We don't have a pool, but we have friends that do and we have access to a community pool, so these pool stories always scare me.

Today I came across an article in Parenting.com that addresses accidental car seat deaths of children. The children left in their car seats die from from the extreme cold or hot temperatures inside the vehicle.  Most of the stories that I have read on accidental car deaths of children involved irresponsible parents.  You know, you hear about the parent or caretaker who wanted to run errands and left the child in the car or worse yet, they wanted to do something fun and didn’t want the child with them.

However, this article highlights the fact that most of these car seat deaths happen to children whose parents are probably just as neurotic about baby proofing and child safety as many of us are.  The accidents typically happen to tired, overworked or stressed out parents who forgot their child was in the car...the stories and grief of some of these parents are shared in the article. It also offers some very helpful suggestions on how to help keep your children safe in the car.

Sometimes I stop and laugh at my fears. I ask myself if all the baby proofing is necessary.  Do I really need to follow my kids 100% of the time at the park?  You know how it is, you hear about something horrible happening to a child and you can’t even begin to imagine the same thing happening to your child, so you can go a little crazy in protecting them.  My siblings and I grew up in a very loving home and I am sure my mom kept a watchful eye on us, but she certainly hadn’t baby proofed the house the way we have.  However, it’s not the lack of baby proofing that freaks me out; but rather the horrible accidents that sometimes happen to children, despite being in loving and caring environments.  I pray every day for my kid's safety and do my best to watch over them…

Saturday, 05 June 2010 15:10

"Losing It"

Healthy Life

Did you happen to catch 'Losing it with Jillian' on NBC this past week?

We all know Jillian Michaels as the tough and sometimes not too nice trainer on the weight-loss show 'The Biggest Loser' so when I saw the preview for her new show, I just knew I would want to watch it.

In the show’s first episode, Jillian helps a Massachusetts family change their unhealthy lifestyle and negative self image. Basically, Jillian stays with the family for one week and helps them get started on what will hopefully become life/health goals and then checks back in on the family a few weeks later to see how they are doing. Jillian provided the family with direction, tough love and, as is her fashion, a big reality check!

In the first hour-long episode we can see some of the reasons why losing weight and leading a healthy lifestyle can be so difficult.  It’s not just about having the desire to be healthy, but one’s family, self esteem and environment can all contribute to our health decisions. I am looking forward to watching more episodes....

This show got me to thinking about all the barriers in our life that keep us from taking care of our bodies.  For me, I constantly have to remind myself that I have to schedule time for just me into my family’s calendar, otherwise all sorts of errands and other obligations take over.  What sort of things keep you from meeting your health goals?

 

Wednesday, 02 June 2010 15:20

Being Grateful Today

SunsetWow, I can’t believe that it’s June. The past few months have been such an adventure, busy busy busy! Family, the website and personal commitments all seemed to kick into high gear the last 3 months. It’s been very easy for me to complain about all the “to do's” and all that has gone wrong with projects, but today I am grateful.

I am grateful for what I have in my life and I pray that I may say thank you for these blessings in my life every day and appreciate them even more. Yes, I am a little emotional tonight. You see, a little 2-year-old boy from our community died today. It’s all very sad…he fell into a pool last week and was in too long before someone got him out. I didn’t know his family, but I have interacted with the boy’s mother at church a few times. She is one of the kindest ladies I have ever met, she seems be so patient and loving with her children.

The day I found out about the little boy's accident was a strong reminder for me to love all the good in my life. That day I was running late to church. I had been running late all day, because of my kids. My house was a mess, I had missed my morning run and the “to do” list was out of control. As I heard the news at church, my heart stopped. I wanted to run home and hug my 3 kids….

Today I just want be grateful. Grateful for what did get done rather than thinking of what yet has to get crossed off the to do list. Grateful for every day, even the bad ones. Grateful that I have 3 kids to tuck in tonight…Grateful that my heart is not hurting.

 

Thursday, 27 May 2010 15:26

Sick Day Fun

Sick BoyFor most of us, getting ready for the holidays can be a little stressful. However, there are also those times of the year when our schedules can get extra hectic.

Maybe it your child’s sports season or your work related obligations.  In our house, the month of May tends to be very busy for us, and this year has been no exception.

Currently, I am dealing with a husband who is out of the country for work (two more weeks!) and 3 sick kids. As luck would have it, I’m sick too!  Well, given the craziness of the last few weeks around here, this past Monday and Tuesday were a nice change.  The last of the 3 kids finally caught the cold her siblings had so I kept her home from school. We stayed at home for 2 days and did absolutely nothing productive and it was wonderful!

My 3 kids and I watched movies, slept, talked, read and played board games.  We made breakfast for dinner two nights in a row too…partly because we like doing that around here but the 2nd night was due to not having gone grocery shopping.  Oh well, the kids didn’t mind! Today, we are slowly getting back into our routine….and I am actually dreading it!

I'm curious, aside from the usual holiday stress, are there other times of the year that are extra stressful on you or your families?  How do you handle the stress?  My husband likes to have "no plan" days....literally, weekend days where we have nothing on our schedules.  We may end up at home all day, we may take the kids to a new park, or walk around our neighborhood...we do the sort of things we could never do if we had something on the schedule.  These kind of days stress me out a little, funny enough, because I like to have a plan for each day.  But the past few days reminded me that sometimes it's better just to have nothing planned at all and enjoy being with those you care about, even if they happen to be 3 small kids with runny noses and coughs.

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