Our Happy Little Dysfunctional Family

 

I’ve been telling Chris for awhile that we need a good family picture. I’m getting my Christmas on, and part of getting my Christmas on means sending cards out with a family picture each year. Last Sunday I told Chris that after church we needed to get something set up in the studio so we could get a few pics of the family. Well that never happened. The kids were extremely whiny and ungrateful on this particular day and I think that I mumbled something to Chris about how it really sucks being a mom some days as I marched my way up the stairs to have a good cry (a good cry really does help so much every once in while). So yeah.. the pictures didn’t happen that day.  Then I started thinking maybe it would be best to not even send anything out this year, because it has been a hard year in many ways, and I don’t want to send out a “perfect” happy Christmas card that makes our lives to appear to be all sunshine and roses, when that’s not how it feels sometimes lately. Many things I am, but fake is not one of those things.

Don’t you ever wonder what in the heck you are doing wrong as a parent sometimes? Like why does at least one kid have to heartily whine on almost every “fun” family outing? I think that I have been extra on edge lately, because it seems that our kids are ungrateful quite often lately and spend a lot of time quarreling with each other. When I get overwhelmed sometimes, it is hard not to question everything I am doing, trying to pinpoint where we went wrong. Maybe we spoil them? Maybe they our picking up on my own stress and anxiety that I have been feeling lately? Maybe we don’t give them enough responsibility? Maybe we don’t give them enough quality time? I sometimes feel like it must be all my fault, forgetting that they are their own little people who came to this earth with their own strong personalities. Oh yeah, and also forgetting that they really are mostly really great kids with amazing hearts. Basically I spend way too much of my time lately beating myself up for my shortcomings (or perceived shortcomings). But I don’t have to have too much time pass before I am reminded that my kids really are pretty special and sweet.  And if I’m perfectly honest, I know that a lot of my emotional feelings lately have nothing to do with my family but some of my own things that I am working through.

I thought that today we would have one last attempt to get a family picture before I decided to throw in the towel at the idea of a card going out this year, and that is where these pictures came from. These dorky/silly pictures that fit us perfectly. I am getting emotional as I look at these pictures right now. Emotional because I love my happy little dysfunctional family so much. I have been in a bit of a weird fog lately and so much in my life doesn’t feel clear right now. But as I look at these pictures, I can feel the fog lifting a little, and I am reminded of what I sweet family that I have and how blessed I am. I have a kick booty husband who loves me and the kids so much and shows it every day by his actions. I have Sofia who has the most tender heart and is trying so hard to be a good person and in the process is making me a better person. I have Gabe, who is  constantly running and dancing around the house with this amazing zest for life, and he makes me smile pretty much every time I notice his adorable missing front tooth. And last but certainly not least is Miriam. Miriam’s intensity and zest for life can leave me feeling very confused sometimes as to how we ought to raise this spunky personality. But every day she also leaves me laughing and smiling so big, wondering how a child that has been on this earth for less than 4 years can have such a vocabulary and such an old soul.

So, news flash: my family is far from perfect. But I think that everyone who knows us well already knew that :). You might get a Christmas card with a viking,  an angel,mariachi member, piggie, and king this year in place of the perfectly posed card that I originally hoped we would be sending, but this card will be the truth. Life isn’t always easy and our family is far from perfect, but we have so much love in our family and I wouldn’t trade these people for anything in the world. I have so much to be grateful for in my life, and sometimes you have to have things not always go the way you wanted/imagined to help remember you remember how good you really do have it.

 

sharon - December 8, 2014 - 7:08 pm

Kara, thanks for keeping it real. I got teary too reading your post. (I guess that isn’t news coming from me:). One of the hard times I had in my life was the weekend Chris took that amazing picture of Carlos and I with 8 grandkids at that time. It was not an easy time for me then and I remember thinking the pictures would be horrible and my smile would look fake… . Chris saw the pictures first since he was editing them and he commented, “Mom, pictures don’t lie.” He was right. Somehow the love and joy of Carlos and I for each other and our family came threw despite the difficult circumstances I was in. I love that picture so much and so do so many others who have seen it. It makes me smile, gives me perspective, and helps me remember the sweetness of life despite trials. Thanks for helping me to remember again. Love ya!

Gabe is 7

Even though we have an in-house photographer, I still think it is fun to get some school pictures. I always have a good laugh and sometimes cringe when I look through my old school pictures, so how could I deprive my kids of that same experience?

Gabe celebrated his golden birthday on October 7th. Man oh man, I just love this kid so much. He is at such a great stage right now. Here is what is happening with this little cutie pie!

  • Gabe played soccer in the fall and loved it. He is a quick little guy, and I was impressed with how hard he tried. I was expecting 1st grade soccer to be slower paced, but Gabe was sweating hard during every game.
  • I just had his parent teacher conference, and he is doing great at school. He loves to read, write, math, and playing soccer at recess. His teacher said that he is helping kids a lot, and he is a good friend.
  • One of the things that I find most endearing about Gabe right now is his love for little kids. He loves loves toddlers. Whenever we get together with friends who have toddlers, he spends a lot of time following them and being buddies with them. So much so that most of his little friends yell his name when they see him. He is just such a tender and sweet little guy, and it is so sweet to see how nurturing he can be. He sometimes forgets to be this loving with his little sister, but I would say that for the most part, he is pretty sweet with Miriam too.
  • Gabe loves legos and Ninjago. He can literally put together legos way faster than I would be able to.
  • Gabe loves to have dance parties. When we turn on good dance music, he dances his little heart out. Are you seeing what I’m talking about people? This kid really is so much fun. He is also a good little singer.
  • After a long day of school, there is nothing Gabe loves more than to run straight to the playground to get out some of his endless energy.
  • We got a trampoline at the end of the summer and though Gabe still loves to swing a lot, he REALLY loves to jump on the trampoline.
  • One hard thing about Gabe is his selective hearing. He is really good at ignoring you when he doesn’t want to hear what you have to tell him. Like when you tell him to turn off a show, clean his room, or come in from jumping on the trampoline.
  • Gabe still loves to be read to. He likes Calvin and Hobbes and other comic books and he is starting to read books like the Magic Tree House series.

That is all I can think of for now. I feel so lucky to be this kid’s mom. He is a keeper!

sharon - November 3, 2014 - 9:00 pm

Love that Gabe and that cute school picture.

The September Challenge Summary!

I came home last week to Chris picking the remainder of our grapes. We froze some, ate a ton, and turned the rest into grape juice!

 

A lot of people have been asking me about how our September challenge ended up going. Yeah, because remember how I was going to do an awesome job documenting our month? Sorry about that. It’s just that when you are working part time, taking care of 3 kids, and cooking every thing you make from scratch, I wasn’t finding myself with an excess of energy or time at the end of each day :). I always mean to become one of those people who blogs really regularly, but it obviously hasn’t been on the top of my priority list. If you want to know more details of how the month went, let’s talk! There is so much to say! But here are some of my random thoughts on how the month went and our plans for the future:

  • I already mentioned that I plan to make homemade whole wheat bread each week in place of store bought. Baking is kind of tricky for me. I am not a recipe follower, and so I often learn the hard way time and time again that you usually do have to follow recipes precisely when baking. The first couple of times I tried to make Betsy’s homemade bread, it turned out mediocre. But as I practice more and try to actually really follow the recipe, it is getting a little better each time. Chris is obsessed with the homemade bread and treats me like I am some sort of famous chef on the days that I make it :).
  • I will continue to make these homemade tortillas once a week: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/05/26/recipe-whole-wheat-tortillas/. My family was so happy to eat homemade tortillas and beans several days in a row even.
  • Which brings me to my next point. If you are going to go out of your way to cook from scratch, you might as well eat it for at least 2 days. Who has the energy to cook totally from scratch every day? It seems much wiser to get your family used to the idea of leftovers!
  • I think my family might have eaten almost too much fiber during the month of September. I will spare the details, but a ton of oatmeal, whole wheat flour, veggies, and a fruit was doing interesting things to the Becerra family’s digestive systems.
  • I plan to cook with meat about 2 times a week. I have a great local beef source, but I have been debating about what to do for chicken. Local/organic chicken is super expensive.. almost too expensive to make it feel worth buying. After thinking about my different options, I have ultimately decided that I will continue to buy organic chicken, but we will probably only cook two chickens a month.
  • As you can imagine, a month of local eating meant I didn’t get to shop at Trader Joes once. This was interesting for me as I am a big Trader Joes fan. The things I missed most from Trader Joes were coconut milk, frozen mangos, frozen pineapple, and toasted coconut. The first thing I did on October 1st was eat coconut. Maybe I should move to a tropical island and do a local challenge.
  • Eating completely local is not super cheap. Even in the month of September. Though I think we will continue to eat a large amount of local foods, it is nice to not have the pressure to do it in such a hard core way anymore. I will continue to cook local oatmeal and use local wheat flour. I will probably continue to buy local lentils, but I will not buy local beans in the future. They were so delicious, but on our budget, it makes more sense to buy organic beans at Winco for 1/3 of the price.
  • One of my favorite results of the challenge is that Chris has now taken ownership over making a warm breakfast every day. Chris does not like to cook, but he realized that he would have to take a part in helping more if we really wanted to make lasting changes. Breakfast time has become more special. We often all sit around the table and eat breakfast as a family now. I may buy a box of cereal each month, but 6 out of 7 days, we plan to continue with homemade breakfast.
  • I am not one to buy a ton of crackers and snack foods, but I have been doing even less. I may buy an occasional lara bar, granola bars, or lentil crackers for when I am out and about, but we have been popping a lot of popcorn, and the kids have been snacking more on fruit, cheese, and veggies.

I am pooped after a long day and this is all I can think of right now. Do you think that your family would ever consider taking the Oregon Challenge? I think that this may become a September tradition each year!

Lisa Corn - October 7, 2014 - 3:53 am

Hi Kara,
Did you use the tortilla press that tortilla recipe calls for, or did you roll them out? Also, would your friend be willing to share the bread recipe? I don’t buy buy often anymore but I haven’t found a recipe that works well for us.
Thanks!
Lisa

kara - October 7, 2014 - 7:16 am

Lisa,
We roll them out with a rolling pin and it works great! I will send the bread recipe to you!! Bye the way, I really like your blog!!

Betsy - October 7, 2014 - 7:35 am

Kara! Well done! I am sure you are exhausted after a whole month of cooking every single thing from scratch! Sounds like it went well. And just keep making the bread. It gets easier and better every time you make it. Yay for fabulous oregon and all her fabulous food!!

Carrie - October 7, 2014 - 9:52 am

I was wondering how the end of your challenge went! You are amazing for doing all that cooking all month long! I don’t live in Oregon, so I won’t be doing the Oregon Challenge, but I also won’t be doing a California Challenge either. Now that I have a baby and am back to working full time and teaching one night a week, I’m just trying to survive each day (I know that sounds horrible!). I do try to cook three nights/week, leave one night for pizza night, and leave two nights for take-out/dining out/leftovers. And one night my hubby is on his own since I teach that night. Anyway…we call our nights of leftovers “A Night to Remember,” which we adapted from my husband’s childhood. It sounds nicer than “leftovers” somehow:-)

Kudos to you on your Oregon Challenge – you are inspiring in many ways to many people!

Rachel - October 7, 2014 - 10:05 am

I loved reading this. And would love the bread recipe as well.

Currently I’m not up to a full challenge like this, but I am trying very hard to make (and eat) most of my food from scratch. Lately that means making a big pot of soup or chili one day a week, eating a lot through the week and freezing a lot for the future. I’ve also stocked up on many food items, so am now trying to use what I have, and make thoughtful choices when I’m shopping, so I can supplement with fresh produce and grow our food storage, slowly.

Lisa Corn - October 7, 2014 - 10:33 am

Thanks Kara!

sharon - October 7, 2014 - 9:49 pm

Kara, you’re amazing! Love the challenge and all the good things that came from it. So inspiring.

kara - October 8, 2014 - 11:17 pm

Betsy,
I want to hear what you are finding in Idaho so far and what your shopping routine has been there!
Carrie,
So nice to hear from you. Conrgrats on your babe!! Sounds like you are a busy gal right now!! I never would have been able to do this if I had been working a lot in September (I only have work meetings and prep this month before I start teaching at the end of September). I love “A night to remember”.
Rachel, will you message me your email and I can share the bread document with you??
Sharon,
You are pretty inspiring yourself right now lady with all of your healthy eating!

Homemade Pizza

I made homemade pizza last week and it was a hit. Here is the breakdown of how I made it:

  • I made the pizza dough from the Healthy Youth Program. It is quick and simple. You may have noticed that I use a lot of recipes from HYP. You can take the girl from the HYP, but you can’t take the HYP from the girl! As usual, the flour was from Camas Valley Mill.
  • For the sauce, I roasted tomatoes from my garden with a bunch of garlic. After roasting, I drained the liquid and mixed in my food processor with a little salt and oregano.
  • I found an affordable way to buy local bacon. If you buy a bag of random pieces and end pieces, it is so much more affordable. For $3.00, we had enough to spread sparingly on two pizzas.
  • I had cooked Oregon Wild Rice the night before for rice bowls, so I sprinkled some of the leftover rice on as a topping. Seems like it might be gross, but it was actually really delicious!
  • We also topped with broccoli and peppers from Peoria Rd. Market and Tillamook Mozzarella Cheese.

Homemade pizza will for sure stay in our menu. You can easily make 2 quality pizzas using local ingredients for less than what one pizza would cost to buy.

 

My Garden

 

A view of our garden from the studio.

This is the time of year when I am usually sharing pictures of my garden and what’s growing in it. Not this year friends. In the almost 5 years that we have lived in our house, this is by far my worst gardening year. At this point, it is just looking very very dead and neglected. I often feel a little sting of sadness and disappointment when I look at it.  It’s been a challenging year in some ways but also a year of growth. Sometimes it feels like there are so many things I am in charge of taking care of and keeping alive, and it can feel overwhelming. My family is obviously my biggest priority to nourish and focus my energy on, so while in the midst of feeling stressed, something had to give. And that unfortunately was my garden.

Because I feel like the way a person gardens can say a lot of them, I have felt very vulnerable thinking about people coming to my house and knowing that I am far from having my life together by one look at my garden. It was enough to give me a little anxiety about hosting things at my house (like the two baby showers that I hosted).  I’ve kindly been reminded by a friend that other people don’t necessarily think like me and that the general population  probably doesn’t judge or overanalyze my life based off how my garden looks. In fact, many friends of mine (mostly the ones who aren’t really into gardening) saw all of the beautiful sunflowers growing in my garden and were in amazement at the amount and size of sunflowers that I had. People were seeing great beauty in my garden that I was being so critical of. And by other people telling me how beautiful it was, it was a reminder to me that I needed to stop focusing on the negative! I am so blessed to have so many people in my life who can find the beauty in my garden, and in me. Because I forget sometimes. I think that we all forget sometimes.

Each year, our sunflowers have spread more and more. We started a few years ago with a small bunch, but each year new volunteers come up. This year when the dozens of volunteers came up in the spring, I knew in theory that I should be picking most of them out so that my vegetable garden wouldn’t turn into a sunflower garden. But for some reason… I couldn’t bring myself to pick even one volunteer out. During the grey spring (when I was also feeling some grey in my life), I just knew that the sunflowers would make me so happy in the summer. So I left them.  The result was as you would expect.. a large sunflower garden, with some pathetic vegetables trying to find enough nutrients and sun to grow. And a person who didn’t have the energy to tend to any of it like I should have.

Though I really did find a lot of happiness in my sunflowers this year, next year I know that I will go ahead and take out some of the volunteers (and maybe spread the cheer to some friends instead of tossing them?). And just so you all know, I am not going to all of your houses wondering the secrets of your soul when I see your garden :). Just as I am often much harden on myself than I am other people. But I am working on that..  and making progress!

 

sharon - September 14, 2014 - 7:43 pm

Love this picture of you, Kara, and the sunflowers in the background. I agree gardens are often metaphors for our lives, and also agree that we are so much harder on ourselves than others. Thank goodness for those friends who can see the beauty through the weeds and remind us of the good things we have growing too. Lots of good and beauty growing in that garden of yours, Kara :)

kara - September 14, 2014 - 9:33 pm

Sharon, you are good at seeing the beauty in any garden :). That’s what makes you so wonderful and why I am so lucky to have you as a mother-in-law!!