April 27, 2011

For Those of You Who Feel Alone...This One's For You

One of the reasons I started this blog is because of all the random women I meet on a regular basis who confess they feel alone and overwhelmed as they face the challenges of motherhood. This has often been my own story as well. Of course, there are thousands of blogs about mothering. Still, I know there is a place for the Organic Mama Cafe in the blogosphere. It's a place for us to share honest accounts of mothering in a safe space – read: without criticism - and discover others really do feel the same. And while this post is directed primarily at moms, who have their own special kind of guilt, it applies to all of us lucky enough to be breathing at this moment.

It’s not that we don’t adore our kids and love our families. We do. This is not a rant about how terribly hard motherhood is. But, it does bring major change to a woman’s life! Where before children we spent our time earning degrees or managing jobs where we met deadlines and finished projects with definable results, we now spend our time doing the same chores every day (laundry, dishes, wiping bums, wiping snot – there’s a lot of wiping!) with only momentarily discernible progress. Those noses inevitably start running again and those bums just won't stop! No matter how much we love our families, the feeling that life will go on like this forever - exhausting, monotonous and unfinished – can be downright depressing if we let it.

So many times as women, we put on a good show. We get dressed for whatever occasion we’re attending, fix our hair, put on our makeup – and our game face. We hustle our kids out the door - stressed and sometimes angry - because we don't want to be “the mom who’s always late”. We don’t want to admit that maintaining a clean home, raising our kids, being available to our husbands and friends and volunteering at church or in the community while remaining relatively sane is anything but a walk in the park. After all, that mom across the parking lot at school, or church or wherever, seems to be so much more organized and her kids never act up!!  

The isolated nature of mothering in our culture has really been on my heart lately. Because of our fast-paced, technology filled, busy schedules, many of us feel alone in our journey. We don't always have support systems like extended family or social groups like churches. And, the truth is, we all have days when we feel discouraged, when our kids throw tantrums and when we just want Calgon to take us away (or some organic, natural version of it - Haha!). For some reason, maybe it's my upbringing, those days often leave me feeling guilty, as though I am failing in my current career choice of homemaking and child-raising. Friends who work outside the home feel the same guilt for leaving every day. And, we've all made or heard others make less-than-complimentary remarks about moms who are doing the opposite of what we've chosen.

Embarrassed by our supposed ineptitude, we often try to hide it or just maintain an unhealthy isolation until our houses, our kids, our lives are "together" enough to allow someone else into the inner sanctum. But, my friends, appearances are deceiving. There is no perfect mom who has it all together. In my experience, those who seem to be "that mom" have their own set of challenges and perceived failures.

The truth is, our fear of failing and being judged as women keeps us from the relationships that might allow us to be stronger, better at our career of choice and more content with who we are as women. In order to be the best versions of ourselves, we need each other. If we wait till we have all that stuff together, we'll never, ever invite anyone in!

What would happen if instead of judging ourselves and each other, we just accepted life as it is and put on a smile anyway, called that friend anyway and gave our tantrum-crazed kid a hug instead of a growl? What kind of incredible, empowered, joyful lives would we find ourselves enjoying?

I believe that this is the kind of life we are supposed to be living.

So, I'm going to keep writing - to let you know you are not alone and, most of all, to remind you of the life you are capable of living!

Thank you for sharing your lives with me. Please keep the emails and comments coming - so other moms can see they are in good company.


April 26, 2011

Barrio Cafe Review

This weekend, Robert and I were thrilled to have a babysitter on a Saturday night, a rare ocurrence since he works on Sundays. Once I'd styled my hair (no ponytail!), put on makeup and found a shirt that didn't have toddler fingerprints on it, we made our escape. We drove away laughing at the game my sister had our girls enthralled in - a practice Easter egg hunt with pinecones. Then, it occurred to us that we had no idea where we wanted to eat. So, we Yelped and came up with the Barrio Cafe. What an incredible choice that turned out to be!

We arrived at Barrio and had to circle the block twice before we could find a parking spot - and we chose the street just to the north so that we could walk a bit. The restaurant is located in a strip of stores along 16th street just south of Thomas. When we arrived around 6:45 pm to put our names in for a table for two, the manager told us the wait would be around an hour. It was a beautiful evening so we parked ourselves on the patio and enjoyed the cool breeze. With us were a lot of other people who were clearly enthused about the coming dinner and unperturbed by the wait - or the view of the laundrymat across the street. After all, it is the "Barrio" Cafe.

In just over an hour, we found ourselves sitting at a table with a great view of guitarist and vocalist Gustavo Angeles and awaiting the creations of Barrio's James Beard nominated chef, Silvana Salcido Esparza. As we sat there with our stomachs growling at the delicious fragrances wafting from the kitchen, we checked out our surroundings. The restaurant is small in a cozy sort of way and decorated like a neighborhood place - with Virgin Mary candles on the tables and awards framed on the wall.

There were so many delicious looking options on the menu, we had a hard time deciding what we wanted to eat. Robert chose the Torta de Pollo Jaiba, chicken breast seasoned with spiced hollandaise style sauce and topped with crab, avocado and Oaxacan cheese. Since it was a torta, it was on a soft artisan roll and came with steak fries and chipotle ketchup. Doesn't it look good? His grin after the first bite confirmed that he was happy with his choice.

Um, we'd already devoured a lot of the steak fries before the pic!
I, on the other hand, wanted a real taco. So I went with Tacos de Cochinitapibil, slow roasted pork tacos after the Mayan tradition flavored with sour orange and served with salsa and queso fresco. As our waiter put it in front of me, I knew I'd picked the winner of the evening. The scent that reached my nose was the one that had been tempting me all evening. I squeezed a bit of the floral-fragranced lime on my taco, took a bite and found myself in Mexico.




Ok. That's an exaggeration. I didn't actually go to Mexico but I might have brushed the border.

Listen. I have had a lot of Mexican food in my life. Not only did I grow up in a Mexican church where I enjoyed the cooking skills of the amazing mamas there (and ate beans with every breakfast!), I have been on quite a few trips to Mexico and enjoyed the best of the taco stands there. My mama made homemade tamales every year at Christmas when we were growing up.

But this taco, my friends, is nothing like anything I've ever tasted before now. The pork, cooked to a melting tenderness, was perfectly seasoned. The white corn tortillas tasted like they'd just been made. Unlike typical Mexican food joints that smother their dishes in cheese to disguise the lack of flavor, the addition of queso fresco to this dish simply provided a creamy contrast to the sour orange, spices and salsa. And, there was just enough heat. In short, it is one of the best meals I've eaten out in a long, long time. 

Sadly, I had promised to give two of my tacos to Robert in exchange for part of his sandwich. And, I'm a woman of my word so I did - hoping he'd say he preferred his food. Just my luck, he fell in love with the taco too. I ate some of his sandwich but saved the rest for him. It was very good and in truth, if I hadn't already tasted the taco, I probably would have loved it. But, the flavors weren't as distinct as those of the tacos and it was a bit too creamy for my taste buds that night.

When we finished, our waiter did his best to entice us with dessert options but we were truly so full, we simply had no room for it. And, since we'd promised my sister we'd be home at a decent hour, we headed to the exit. I just had to take a picture of the bar there. Apparently they have over 100 tequilas. I believe it, don't you?

As we were leaving, Barrio's manager, Richard asked us where we'd be dining this coming Thursday, April 28, 2011. Apparently that day, Barrio is participating in Dining Out for Life, a fundraiser supported by local restaurants that raises money for the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS, Arizona's largest non-profit AIDS service organization. They are donating 100% of their proceeds from lunch that day, served from 11a-5pm. So, if you want to get a taste of Barrio's incredible food and support a local non-profit, here's your chance.

While there are some pricey items on the menu, there are plenty of wallet friendly options. So, head on down and support this local restaurant. It's worth the wait and it definitely beats Applebees. Does anyone really still eat there with options like these?

Barrio Cafe
2814 N 16th Street

April 25, 2011

Wake Up! It's Monday Already...

Good morning! I don't know about you but I'm a little groggy from all the feasting yesterday. I definitely needed help waking up this morning. Here's what I found...

On the way home from Grandma's house last night, even my four year old said she was done with all the sugar of yesterday. Haha! So, we agreed to start out today with some strong stuff to counteract the weekend's craziness.We decided a green smoothie and some Ezekiel sprouted toast would be just the thing And it hit the spot. If you haven't tried green smoothies yet - this blogger offers 12 different recipes to tempt your taste buds! Green Diva Mom

If you're already planning lunch, here's a delicious, green and quick option!  101 Cookbooks

Interesting possibility for the empty lots littering the city of Phoenix. "Pop-up Hood"

If you like creating - these kits are for you! Created by the fabulously artsy women of  Gauche Alchemy

And finally...

When I was in my early twenties, I had a chance to win a car at a rock concert through a local radio station contest. I didn't win the car but I did get to go to my very first (seriously, my first!) rock concert. The Beastie Boys and show openers, Rancid. Hahaha!!!

If you haven't already figured out how sheltered my childhood was... The concert was a wild first experience - as the rockers didn't sing so much as scream their songs. The stadium was filled with thousands of the kind of people my parents had sheltered me from - pierced, tatooed, mohawked and stoned. Near the stage, people were slam dancing and crowd surfing and for some inexplicable reason, concert goers kept lighting toilet paper and fiery little puffs were floating all over the room.

Then, I noticed that everyone around us was smoking and the giant cloud that formed above us had a weird smell to it. I turned to my friend, Torry, who'd come to the concert with me and said, "Wow! Those are some really stinky cigarettes!" He looked at me in disbelief and started laughing. Hey, what can I say? I was an innocent. It was my first and only taste of cannabis - by diffusion.

So, today's "music" is a little tribute to those wild boys who made my first show a memorable one.

April 21, 2011

It's THAT Time of the Month. Oh, Yes. That's exactly What I Mean!

Hasn't the full moon been just gorgeous this week? I feel a close affinity to that glowing nocturnal bulb. As she gracefully moves through different phases each month, I recognize a pattern in my own body and spirit. Every month, not just once or twice a  year, she retreats into darkness before returning to the her fullest brilliance. As a woman, I need a similar reprieve every month to access the most brilliant parts of myself, spiritually, physically and mentally.

Wouldn't you love a monthly pause to recharge and renew your spirit, get a few extra hours of sleep and refocus your mind? Guess what? Your body's already got one scheduled if you'll just check the calendar! If you're past childbearing years, you simply need to create one for yourself.

In my family, strong women didn't need to seek solitude several days each month during a monthly cycle. I'm remedying that misunderstanding of strength by talking to my own daughters about our need as women for regular rest and I use the moon as a visual. When the moon is dark, my daughters believe that she is taking a nap, in preparation for the time she needs to shine her brightest. When she is full they know she has shown up for work. I love how they exclaim in delight at the way she shimmers in the sky. My four-year-old already knows that a monthly menstruation is more of a time of magic and healing that something to dread.

But, the moon is more than just a visual example of monthly rest for us as women. Before the invention of artificial light, women ovulated and bled according to the moon's phases each month. That's a lot of women having their periods at the same time. Whoooo-eeee!!

According to the history of some cultures, women came together in community during the full moon to enjoy friendship and reprieve from the duties of daily life. Seems like a good way to handle massive communal hormone fluctuation right? In short, it allowed them a break to contemplate, commune and return to their families and normal duties strengthened and refreshed. As a reminder of this history, we call menstruation a "moon-cycle" in our house.

I'm not suggesting you ignore the family and crash on the couch eating those illusive bonbons we stay-at-home moms are supposed to be munching all day. (Where do I sign up for that?) Obviously, we all have things we have to do regardless of when that mooncycle hits. I simply schedule less and shorten my to-do list to the absolute essentials like feeding the kids and basic cleanup. I stay closer to home, drink plenty of water or  Raspberry Leaf tea, go to bed earlier and get some rest. If possible, I do something just for me - like a facial or foot soaks.

As a result of taking this time for myself, I'm gaining little bits of wisdom about my life and how to live it best. That endless "to-do" list stops playing itself over and over in my mind and I am able to listen to the quiet voice of wisdom. This month, I heard it in the form of two personal revelations that will influence my every day life in very practical ways. Just as importantly, I am rested and ready to tackle the world after a few days at a slower pace. Instead of dragging myself around feeling exhausted, I've begun to look forward to this time of the month as a kind of magical time of rest and spiritual reconnection.

We girls are generally terrible at slowing down to rest. We love to detail the long list of activities we've accomplished every day. If you don't believe me, just check Facebook to see which of your friends wrote theirs down today. We excel at accomplishment and it's something to celebrate. And along with that list of things we accomplish, we nurture, love and hold up those we love in that mysterious way that only women possess. That second kind of women's work requires that we take time to refresh our spirits. 

Luckily, our bodies send us a calendar appointment each month for that very purpose.

Are you ready to take a lesson from the moon this month and make a monthly appointment for a magical time of rest and spiritual insight? It's on your calendar anyway.

I love hearing from you - so leave a comment below 
or send emails to organicmamacafe [at] gmail [dot] com

April 19, 2011

Greedy Capitalism? - A Little Econ Discussion in the OM Cafe

Capitalism has taken a bad rap lately. The idea that competitive conditions will create the best product in the end has suffered a bit of a blow because of what I call "mutual-market-player greed". Let's be honest. Greed isn't a character trait solely exhibited by the "big bad corporations". Corporations aren't some giant brain that makes decisions like a big "Borg". People who work for corporations must make individual choices daily about whether they'll use integrity in their approach to business. And these employees respond to customers who choose either to buy or not to buy their products.

A perfect example of supply and demand capitalism is the real estate market fiasco of recent years. While there was definitely some red tape involved that might have fooled less educated consumers, nearly everyone in the loan process was complicit in the resulting disaster. The employees of those loan companies, Wall Street and the consumers involved exercised greed resulting in a huge bubble and then the monstrous POP! 

What if consumers had just exercised restraint? The same greed that drove corporate employees to offer bad products to consumers might have driven them to offer good product had consumers demanded it.

The best guide of good capitalism is the dictate of a wise consumer conscience.

Far more powerfully than government regulation, consumers have the ability to send a mass message about purchasing values by refusing to financially support companies who fail to deliver according to demand. This is where the breakdown occurs between idealism and reality. When Rob and I shopped for a house loan, banks offered us significantly more than we could realistically afford monthly. We could have chosen to buy a product we couldn't really afford. Instead, we used two magic words some of us have forgotten along the line.

"No, thanks."

As consumers, we often fail to send that message simply because we don't want to change our habits. We won't stop shopping that big box store even if they use questionable labor practices. We don't say no because we'd rather have more "stuff" even if it's cheap and will just end up in a landfill at the end of the summer. We don't really want to know what's in that sunblock we're smearing all over our kids. We confuse needs with wants. Sometimes, we think we just cannot afford to shop elsewhere.

That little voice in our head that justifies our decision to keep buying without regard for consequences by saying, "It doesn't really matter. One person's not buying it doesn't make a difference."

But is that true?

I don't believe it is.

Demand can change or destroy a business model. Take for instance the failure of American car manufacturers to move toward the cost-effective, gas-conserving manufacturing standards of companies like Toyota. Americans who cared about their pocketbooks stopped spending money on gigantic cars still manufactured to guzzle gas like water even as the price of oil soared. U.S. car makers' sluggish response to market demand would have caused failure if they'd not been saved by a government bailout.

So why is this a subject I'm even discussing at the OM Cafe?

Supply and demand applies to every part of our world, including the food we eat and the products we slather all over our bodies. I am passionate about leaving to my children a world where plants aren't all genetically modified and animal products aren't altered by hormones. For years, my family and I have spent the extra tine and money to seek out local producers and buy organic food. For a long time, friends and family members thought we were crazy hippies for doing it. That's never really bothered me.

The funny thing is that after all these years, many of those friends are starting to realize that what they put into and on their bodies really does make a difference in their overall health. They are now choosing to purchase organically and/or locally grown or raised food. And, those foods are far more available than they were ten years ago when Rob and I first made the switch. The market is slowly changing in response to demand as consumers are becoming more educated.

Recognizing their bottom lines will suffer till business practices truly change is a powerful motivator for most companies. Money talks when you choose whether or not to spend it.

We need to recognize our power to make the change for safer food practices in the U.S. widespread. But the price to pay for changing the way we do food business in the good ole U.S.A. is a sacrifice of time and the death of old habits.

We as consumers need to take a little time to think about our food and what's in it. It's not hard. Here's how I choose mine. How close is it to it's original form? Fresh fruits and veggies - grown without pesticides? Check. Organic milk unsullied by growth hormones? Check. Meat raised and finished on grass. Check. The easiest way to confirm that this is really the way my food was produced and raised? Knowing my supplier personally.

Is it possible? Of course!

But isn't it hard? Not really. The options for buying either organic or local are far more available now than they ever were. And, every person who chooses to make that change will send yet another message to companies who supply food to the U.S. market. The same companies that provide junk to us offer different options in other parts of the world because those markets demand it. We need to create the same demand here.

Are you willing to help drive that change?

Can we afford not to?

April 18, 2011

Wake Up! It's Monday Already...

Good morning everyone! I'm in a pensive mood this morning - as I always am the week of the full moon. I'd love nothing more than to crawl back into bed and relax with a book and a cup of tea. But, the week calls and my morning started with the beautiful voices of children - clamoring for breakfast. Haha!  No better way to get started in the morning!

I've been wanting a new camera for a while but this tutorial on editing point and shoot pictures might convince me that I don't really need the SLR I've been coveting. Take note - those of you who edit product pictures. This is for you!  Made in Lowell

Lately, I've had beets on the brain because it's my first year growing them and they apparently love me! I found one way to use them. Cannelle Vanille

These are growing in my garden and their bright cheery faces make me smile - Calendula.

Here's what I'm in the mood for this morning... She is so creative and this highlights her incredible voice and harmonies.

Happy Monday everyone!

April 11, 2011

Wake Up! It's Monday Already...

This morning, let's jump right into the day. Here are some fun/funny and beautiful things to lighten your day!

This is so amazing, I thought it might be fake. But my husband, who is a bit of a specialist in this area (ahem!), assures me that it is indeed real. "playas"

I think Busca from Birth Faith originally posted this and I had to share it. If I actually had the mental capacity to sit down and do this - oh, and the time - it would be the top of my list. Adorable. The cutest fort ever!

As I was working on this, my husband was taking a rare moment to sit on the couch and relax. Soon he was laughing hysterically and I had to ask why. Maybe it's because I'm loopy from exhaustion today but I had to make myself close this site or I would just keep clicking the next button!!  Fail Blog

Of course, I would be remiss not to include something decadent to tempt your taste buds today. This looks so good I may be making it soon! A Whisk and a Spoon

This one is for those of us who are responsible for maintaining a clean home for our families. This came at the perfect time for me in recent weeks. While I tend toward my mother and her mother before her in terms of what I expect my house to look like, instead of feeling annoyed, frustrated, angry, tired etc., I am feeling content and determined. Hope it encourages you too! Thank you to The Happiest Mom

No matter what's going on in your life today, it's better to be here than not. Trust me. Look this day in the face and whatever difficulties it brings and stay with us. You're worth it.

Have a beautiful Monday, everyone.

April 6, 2011

MIM - Phoenix's Musical Instrument Museum

A few weeks ago, friends invited us to the MIM. We have been wanting to visit for a while, so we were excited as we packed up our four and two-year-old girls and met our friends and their two-year-old. If you love music and you're looking for cool ways to while away the time as the weather heats up, this may be the perfect option for you.

But, what is MIM, you ask? It's a museum that showcases music and instruments from around the world. Not only does the beautiful building house an incredible collection of instruments from many different countries and eras, the museum offers workshops, lectures, films and concerts as well. They also host museum encounters in which artist-teachers perform and interact with guests for 30 minutes. The encounters cost nothing beyond the admission fee. A quick zoom around MIM's website reveals a lot of fun opportunities to learn about music - including free instructor lesson plans.

Since both dads in our parties are guitarists(aka - rock stars!), we started in the guitar room. I think my husband might be happy to live there! The guys talked tech about the different instruments - bridges and frets and resonance while we girls picked the guitars we thought were the prettiest. My four-year-old found a guitar made by Daisy, which is the same company that made her little electric heart guitar. So fun!

MIM presents information using the best of tactile and technical mediums. I loved that the instruments are displayed in a manner that allowed us to be only a few feet away from them. This made it so easy to really look at the instruments. The room we visited (besides guitars) presented the instruments and music of different countries. And, the MIM's headphones provide access to the sounds and styles of music from each country displayed on video screens near each exhibit. It was truly a dizzying array of instruments and an incredible amount of information.

Cool beaded instrument.

This history lover wanted to stand in front of each display and read every word and study every instrument in depth. Unfortunately for me, my two-year-old had other ideas!! She wanted to jump onto the displays and use them for a "stage" - which was easy since the barriers were more decorative than practical. You can imagine that I spent more time running after her than I did reading.

After about ten minutes of futilely attempting to corral two two-year-olds and enjoy reading the signs, we gave up and went to the MIM Experience Room.The Experience Room is filled with lots of instruments that the kids (big ones too!) can use to fulfill their fantasies of playing the instruments! Both of our girls and our friends' daughter had a blast running around playing all kinds of instruments from guitars to drums, percussion instruments to a gigantic gong (which you're only allowed to hit once!). They also had a blast dancing in some of the other areas of the museum where we could listen to different kinds of music.

Overall, the MIM gets a big thumbs up from me. For the admission price, the MIM is a great deal. The building is beautiful and the collection of instruments is truly incredible. I plan to go back without my two-year-old so I can indulge my desire to read every placard and listen to every recording and really soak in the experience. But, even with a small friend along, it was fun and my girls thought it was amazing. Best of all, mamas, it was air-conditioned and kids under five get in free!

April 4, 2011

Wake Up! It's Monday Already...

Well, somehow another weekend has flown by and we're all facing Monday again. Does it seem like to anyone else that time goes faster and faster as more and more birthdays pass? Speaking of birthdays, if you missed mine, it was last week. Yep. You missed it. Bet you're feeling bad about now, right? Don't worry, you can make it up to me by taking me to one of my favorite local joints. Ok. I'll be waiting by the phone.

Right here.

Hmmm...is my phone on vibrate or something?



Heehee. Just kidding.

If you really did miss my birthday last week, here's the post I wrote to celebrate another year of life.

Ok - On to Monday's line up!

Locally raised Dan Smock - is a former schoolmate who is raising money for Red, White and Blue. RW&B is an organization that creates a support network and community for veterans (and their loved ones) returning from Active Duty or National Guard duty. This is a great cause and Dan's a great sport to raise money for it by doing something he hates - running! Not only that, he's running a half marathon. Since he's currently working as a civilian doing development work in Afghanistan, he has to run it on a little treadmill. And he's a tall guy. See? Bet you feel better about your Monday already, with your butt firmly planted in your chair, right? Go Dan!! http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/dsmock73/ghazni-half-marathon

If you are sick of putting chemicals on your face and would love to try your hand at making your own cosmetics, check out Crunchy Betty. She has oodles of great information and recipes and she's pretty darn fun to read too!

Just visited St Francis restaurant for the first time this weekend thanks to a friend and it was fun! Great ambiance in this formerly-architectural firm turned restaurant. It had a surprising amount of seating but it still seemed warm and intimate for a night out with a good friend or maybe a romantic date. Oh yeah. St. Francis offers fresh, flavorful American food, sourced by local businesses like Maya's Farm, Cartel Coffee and Black Mesa Ranch. If you like cocktails, theirs are made with fresh ingredients like cucumber, basil and strawberry and more and are delicious. So I hear...

Here is a glimpse into the work of a local artist with a love for living. She had a light spirit and is truly amazing at felting, something I tried my hand at and failed miserably. Ah well, we all have our gifts! Barbara at Choose the Happy Ending

This makes me happy!

That's it for today Monday friends. Hope you find some moments of laughter in this beautiful day!
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