Language - It's meaning has POWER

I've been thinking a lot lately about language.  We are inundated by it daily.  TV, Radio, our friends, our family, our co-workers... even magazines, the internet, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter play into my thoughts.  And as parents, we are the first examples of language for our children.  You know, that group of shorties that represent our future world leaders?

My children are 10, 8 and 7 months.  The oldest one is starting to experiment with language as a pre-teen (and mostly failing to grasp the influence she has over her brothers by using it), my middle child is learning about language in his speech classes to fix a slight lisp, and my youngest is just simply LEARNING about language because he can't talk yet.

Our language, the words we use, the body language we convey it with, even the cell phone texts/tweets/facebook messages we send... have POWER.

The other day my middle was acting a little nutty (as he sometimes does do to his ADHD and being a BOY).  I caught myself as I started to say "Settle down, you are acting like a ..." wait, did I really almost call my son a 'TARD?!?!  Where the heck did that COME from??  I am hugely against using negative words in everyday slang... like "TARD", "That's GAY", "Don't be a Baby!"... to me these are taking very special people in our world and saying they are "bad" because we use their titles in negative language.  And here I was, about to say something that I was 100% fundamentally against. 

Again.  I asked myself, WHERE did this come FROM?  How did it so easily jump into my head and almost out of my lips?!  

All I can think is that we are inundated with language from the time we get up until the time we go to bed.  I read hundreds (maybe thousands) of status updates on Facebook and Twitter each day.  I read magazines, watch the news and a select few TV shows and listen to radio nearly all day.  Words are constantly entering my head and ears in almost unconscious ways.  I know I've heard teens call each other 'Tards and exclaim "that's so gay!" at least daily via social media and other communication vehicles.  It's possible that these phrases don't even register in my brain anymore, they are like hearing "I had a crappy day today", "That was so cool, it was the SHIT", "Damn I am hungry!" ... or like my 10 year old gets chastised for saying almost daily: "That's friggin stupid!" 

But I want to put a stop to our numbing response to negative language.  I don't want my kids to think it's okay to use slang to hurt others, even in unconcious ways.

And I want to remove these and other words from my vocabulary as well.  It goes further than just cursing (which I need to work on as well).  I want to go back to the mantra, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all".  Is it really necessary to scream at the driver that just cut you off in traffic?  He can't hear you.  And you don't know what his day was like.  Maybe he's rushing from work to spend time with his wife that is in the hospital.  Or maybe his kid just got hurt at baseball practice and he needs to get there quickly.  Granted, maybe he is just a jerk that thinks his time is more valuable than yours, but regardless, screaming a malicious name or statement at him doesn't do anyting to fix him, and instead might be influencing your kids in negative ways when they hear you.  Next time your son pushes your daughter to get to the sink first to wash hands, is it okay for her to say "Hey stupid!  Watch where you are going!" ??  No, you don't want her to say that, so really we should say it either.  Right?


Here is my challenge.  Start listening to your words.  Pause before you speak, before you type the next status update or tweet.  Is the words you are conveying positive in nature?  Do they have unnecessary adverbs?  Isn't it just as easy and effective to say "Today wasn't my favorite, hoping tomorrow is better" as it is to say "Today was a piece of crap and I friggin' hope tomorrow doesn't suck too"?   

Furthermore,  I challenge parents take a more active role in what your kids are watching, listening to and saying themselves.  It's no fun being the UNCOOL parent, but it's our job to filter and sensor our children until they are old enough to make judgements about the world through a foundation of values and morals that WE as PARENTS instill in them.  My hope is when they aren't with you, and they are tempted to watch and say things you don't approve of, they will use that foundation to make good decisions about language. 

I am working on it day-by-day and word-by-word.  I am doing it because our children are listening, watching and mimicking who we are, how we act and what we do.  Do we want our future to be influenced by a bunch of kids that learned what the world was about via Spongebob Squarepants, Family Guy and Futurama? 

In this world of anti-bullying campaigns, gun-control law debates and mental illness at an all time high, maybe the answer is simple.  Language, my friends, has POWER.  Power to tear down and power to build up.  Power to teach and power to alienate.  Power to share love and power to spur on hate.  Let's put LOVE back in our language.  

Let's teach our children to use language to communicate that love to everyone they meet.  The new kid in school.  The grouchy teacher that yells in class.  The younger sibling that annoys them daily.  The kid that seems different and uncool.  The adult that seems angry and sad.  The grandparent that everyone forgets to visit.  

By teaching our kids these important lessons, we might even learn something ourselves.  We might even like who we become as a result.  At the very least, people around us will be happier, and so will we. 


Fiesta Friday - my favorite Tex-Mex Dishes

After posting some pictures to Facebook recently that included my most favorite Tex-Mex dishes, I had several friends ask me for my recipes.  So I am shaking the dust off my blog to post them.

I warn you however, they are so ridiculously easy and simple, I am embarrassed to even use the word "recipe"... it's more of a mish-mash of ingredients. 

First up, is my (Not-so)-Famous Enchiladas.  I grew up with my mom making a version these about once a week.  It was one of the first meals I learned to cook and over the past 20+ years, I've adjusted the recipe to my own tastes (and laziness... for example, I don't actually ROLL the enchiladas... see below).

Beef Enchilada Casserole

(1) package of small flour or corn tortillas
(2) 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce (NOT paste)
(1) package of McCormick's Enchilada Seasoning
2 tablespoons of dried or fresh cilantro (I am lazy and use dried)
(1-2) lbs of ground hamburger meat (could use ground turkey too)
(1) tablespoon of minced onions
(1) tablespoon of minced or fresh garlic
(1) tablespoon of olive oil
(1) large package of shredded cheddar cheese (or a fiesta/nacho mix of cheese)

In a large skillet, heat olive oil then add minced garlic and onion.  Slightly brown and then add hamburger/turkey meat and a dash of cilantro.  Brown and Drain.

In a saucepan, combine tomato sauce, enchilada seasoning (I usually add a little garlic powder too).  I love garlic.  Heat to boiling and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 5 minutes until it slightly thickens.

Add 1/2-1 cup of sauce to your beef mixture.  Stir well.  Should not be soupy, just enough to make the meat moist with sauce.

Take your tortillas and cut into 1-2 inch thick strips.

In a casserole pan (I use a medium sized glass pan), pour about 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce into the bottom and then layer the tortilla strips over the top.  Next layer add layer of meat/sauce mixture you made.  Top that with a layer of cheese (I tend to be VERY generous here).  Finally add another layer of tortilla strips, then pour the remaining sauce on top of that.  The last step is the rest of your shredded cheese and sprinkle cilantro on the very top.

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes  until cheese is bubbling and edges are a little brown.  Let set for about 5 minutes to cool and then slice into squares like you would lasagna.  Top with sour cream if you'd like. HUGE hit at our house every week.

 Next up are my Football Night Nachos... I seriously made these up this week and they were sooooooo dang good (and I would like to think they are why the Cowboys upset the Giants during Wednesday night football)!  Again... just slapped some ingrediants together that I had on hand, and it worked.

Grilled Chicken Nachos

(2-3) large boneless chicken breasts

For Marinade:
(1) package of McCormick Baja Chicken Seasoning Packet
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine or white wine vinegar (I opt for wine, then you can drink the rest of the bottle with the nachos)
1/4 cup favorite beer (I prefer Shinerbock)

For Nachos:
1 large or 2 small bags of favorite tortilla chips (we love the On The Border ones)
1 can of refried or black beans (we prefer refried)
1 can of finely chopped black olives
2 tablespoons of Fajita Seasoning (found on the Mexican aisle of the grocery store)
1 tablespoon of garlic powder (did I mention that I LOVE garlic?)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large package of shredded cheese (cheddar/mexican blend)
1 tablespoon of Cilantro

Optional toppings:
Shredded Lettuce
Chopped Tomatoes
Chopped Onions
Sour Cream

Pre-heat your grill for the chicken and the oven at 350 for the nachos.  

Combine the Marinade ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk until well blended.  I usually stab the chicken breasts in a few places before putting in the marinade.  Place the bowl of chicken and marinade in the refrigerator for atleast 15 minutes (however I recommend doing this and letting the chicken marinade for up to two hours before grilling... makes for very flavorful and tender juicy chicken).

Once chicken is done marinating, place it on the grill until no longer pink in the middle and juices run clear.  DON'T OVERCOOK.

Let the chicken rest on a cutting board while you prepare the nachos.

Heat your refried beans in a pan (or a bowl in the microwave if you are me) with the tablespoon of olive oil.  Mix well until soft and warm.

Next, I always use a Pampered Chef stone baking sheet, but a regular one will work too (the Pampered Chef one is nice cause it keeps your Nachos warm after they are done and you might be wanting to go back for seconds).  On your baking sheet, layer your tortilla chips atleast two chips deep with chips overlapping across entire pan.  Spoon the refried beans onto your chips in little "blobs"... you can leave this way, or if you are anal like me, I spread them evenly across each top layer of chip evenly (this is probably the most tedious of the steps).  Once you have the refried beans on top of the chips "just so"... sprinkle the copped olives, fajita seasoning, garlic powder across the top.  Then add your first layer of cheese.  
Now it's time to put the chicken on top.  I like to slice my chicken "fajita style" across the grain and into bite size pieces.  You could also pull it apart for more of a pulled chicken style or cube it or chop it... just depends on your preference.  I place the chicken evenly across my nacho layers on the baking pan, salt and pepper that layer slightly if you want and then I layer the rest of the grated cheese across the top.  Finally I sprinkle the cilantro on top of the cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the exposed chips are a bit brown.

The final step is to add your optional fresh toppings.  I like lettuce, tomato, guac and salsa... maybe some pico if you prefer.  I use to put tabasco on top too, but my guy isn't fond of tabasco, so he has his "special sauce" he likes to use instead (rolling eyes).  

Serve warm and enjoy!


2011 Year in Review

Shaking the dust off my blog here and taking it in a new direction.

The kiddos and I had an eventful and whirlwind year, but we somehow made it through and are looking forward to a blessed 2012.  As my first post of this glorious new year, I thought I'd do a recap of 2011.

January 2011

Nate was the Karate Kid for most of 2011.  He went from Tiny Tigers with ATA Martial Arts and advanced to Juniors in less than a year.

This is a picture from his first tournament.  He was so proud.

Although we are taking a break from martial arts right now, I have to say it was one of the best things he was ever involved in.  He learned so much more than some kick-@ss moves.  Teaching core values such as Integrity, Self Control, Anti-Bullying and making Goals were a huge part of what ATA did.  Nate took what his instructor had to say to heart and really thrived under his direction.

If you have a child with ADHD or any other behavioral problems, I totally recommend getting him/her into a martial arts program.  It was a life-changing and positive experience for Nate and really our entire family.  He thrived and excelled as his confidence and maturity grew.  For more information on how to sign up for an ATA program near you, visit The American Taekwondo Association.

February 2011

Whoever says it never snows in Texas (mostly we do only get layers of ice in the winter) got it wrong in 2011.  The kids were out of school on snow days for over a week and a half due to some major snow that didn't let up.

Somehow my sanity survived and I made it through the "I am bored" whining, the "my boots are too wet to go back outside!" arguments, and the "why don't we have any more food to snack on?" questions.

We did have SOME fun with it.  Thanks to the tops of my plastic crates and a decent hill next to where we live.  My kids experience some sledding on a dime and enjoyed it immensely.

Now that February 2012 is around the corner, I am wondering what we have in store for us this winter.  So far it's been pretty mild (knocking on wood, and by "wood", I really mean my head).   Guess I better go find the tops to the plastic crates again soon.  It's better than the laundry baskets we used when I was a kid!

March 2011

In March we traveled down to Houston to celebrate my nephew's 2nd Birthday.  My sister, Misty, really set up a beautiful train-themed party.  It was fun helping her set it all up and taking photographs of her crafty work.  She certainly set the bar high for future family gatherings.  The decorations were adorable (thanks to the awesomeness of the Cricut and our family addiction to Hobby Lobby and Michaels.

(Aren't the cupcake toppers ADORABLE?!)

For more pictures from this sweet party, you can check out my Flickr album for Chase's Birthday.

And of course the party was a HUGE hit for the man of honor himself.  He loved his cake and having friends over, but missing his nap around the time gift opening started was probably too much for this two-year old.  Good thing he had cousins Jenna and Nate there to help him open and enjoy his new goodies.

I love time with my family no matter what the occasion.  And being an aunt is second only in my heart to being a mom, I feel so blessed to have the honor to be a part of this handsome boy's life.  And most of all, feel so lucky that my sisters are two of my very best friends.

April 2011

As usual, the Spring brings better weather and Easter celebrations and more excuses for time with family and friends.

This was my last year as a Lifestyle Director for Highland Shores, and as such, my last Easter Eggstravaganza.  It's been fun planning their resident events for the past 4 years, and I already miss it so much.  My kids were lucky to be a part of most of the family events, like this one.

Nate even found the GOLDEN EGG this year during the egg hunt, which thrilled him after 4 years of trying to win one of these big baskets.

Jenna of course was a little bummed, but she was happier once brother shared some of his candy with her (see picture above), ha.  And we love that Nonna and Papaw come every year with us, since Mommy has to work and the kids have someone to drag along to all the different booths and activities.




May 2011

 May is Jenna's birthday month.  And as usual, I go completely overboard with birthday planning.  Since this was her last year in single-digits (she turned 9 years old), we wanted to do something extra special.  So we rented a hotel suite and had a slumber/pool party.  It was pink and poka dot themed (very girly for my use-to-be-a-tomboy little girl).

Brother Nate and Papaw were the only boys allowed to come and have cake and watch the present opening party, after that it was GIRLS ONLY.  Thank GOD my sister Megan was there to help corral and maintain order at this very giggly-silly-never-ever-quiet-and-lots-of-girls-party.

We also had a photo booth and did scrapbook pages as a fun activity (i.e. a HUGE mess that made me grateful for hotel housekeeping).  I set up the photo booth by hanging a Damasque fabric piece on the back of a door, putting a couple chairs in front of it and a bucket of hats and props for the girls to use to be silly and pose with.  I took a series of pictures and then while the girls watched movies and snacked, I quickly edited them and printed with a portable 4x6 printer I purchased for less than $60.  Each girl got 4-6 prints to use on their scrapbook pages, which I had a ton of paper, ribbon, stickers, markers, scissors, tape and glue.  Best activity for 9 year old girls ever.  They loved it and had a wonderful take home memento from he party (much better than cheaply done goody bags).

 Of course this was all after swimming in the heated outdoor pool (thank goodness it was a sunny day in May instead of raining) and then all jumping in the shower together to rinse off and get into PJs. 

 My proudest moment was hearing the girls tell their mom's and dad's that Jenna's party was "the best birthday party EVER!" as each one of them left (at 10 am the next morning... oy vey was I tired!).

It was a lot of work, and no small expense, but the smiles and hugs from Jenna were priceless in comparison.

I have NO idea how we will top this for her 10th birthday however.  Yikes.  Maybe I need to retire on top?  Ha.

June 2011

 Birthday Party planning continued for June.

Did I say I was retiring?  Okay, well I did manage to make a pretty cool party for Nate's 7th Birthday party in 2011 as well.  He was determined to have a TRON themed party, but I really didn't know how to execute that in any other way than me just putting it together myself.

We did Oreo topped cupcakes (i.e. Tron Disks) and I got some inexpensive posters for Tron to decorate with.  We went with the Blue/Orange color theme from the movie and tried to implement everywhere possible (down to the headbands mom made for each of the kids).
Uncle Joe and Aunt Megan had a great idea of doing a Nerf gun party (based on Nate and his friend's complete obsession with outdoor Nerf wars).  BUT it was ridiculously hot already in June, so we decided to combine it with a pool party to make sure everyone had a chance to cool off after pelting foam bullets at one another.

I designed the invitations and printed them myself (bookmark sized and to look like a ticket to a TRON event) and Nate handed them out around the neighborhood (since school was already out for the summer).  I expected this party to be like most of his others, under-attended and a little disappointing.  BOY was I wrong. 

Let's just say, pretty much every kid that lives within a block radius of us showed up.  It was easily one of the most fun boy parties I've ever been to.  We had hot dogs and chips, juice and lots of fun.
Jenna dyed her hair purple for the event.  And organized her own Nerf team against her brother.  The ORANGE team.


Uncle Joe and Aunt Megan helped organize bullet refilling stations and boundaries for the Nerf Battle.  Having a little sister and brother-in-law that is significantly younger than me has its benefits.  No doubt.

Nate enjoyed leading his team to victory (The Blue Team).  Action shots below:


July 2011

July was definitely a fun but busy month.  Nate got a mohawk from his Uncle Joe for his birthday, I took Nate to a Derby Devils (roller derby) match (which was more fun than I expected), we attended a great 4th of July Festival in Flower Mound, I quit my job with Highland Shores to pursue Photography and Design full-time, I gave my sister a baby shower and we moved into a new (i.e. BIGGER) apartment. 


Whew.  I am tired just remembering what a full month it was.  Not to mention it was my birthday in there somewhere and my friends threw me an awesome party to celebrate all my new endeavors in life.  (Thank God for good friends, right?  Can I get an AMEN?!)



I have to brag on the baby shower a bit though... it was such a fun event to plan.  We did a "Little Man" theme and used Ties and Onsies to decorate.  I designed all the bunting, cupcake toppers and other decorations myself and had a local printer produce them for me.  It was a lot of work, but so worth it.  I also made my first diaper cake.  I must say it was a fun shower and my sister looked absolutely lovely with her growing belly.



August 2011

Back to school.  That pretty much sums up August.  Jenna started 4th grade and Nate started 2nd grade.  Their friend Emily is a constant presence at our house.  She walks to and from school with them everyday and she is almost like a sister.  It's so nice to see the strong friendships that both of the kiddos have made since moving to this area a couple of years ago.  We totally love Flower Mound.


Hatchi misses them during the day while they are gone though.  He gets very happy around 3pm everyday pacing the door and waiting for me to put on his leash to go meet them.

September, October, November, December 2011
This is what we call the Fall through Holiday Madness.
Dance, Karate, Photo Sessions, Holiday Card Designs, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Family Gatherings... all a blur of activity for 4 months until Winter decends.

September = Baby Wyatt was born


October = Halloween Fun
Party at friends house while the kids had a party at my best friend Alissa's house.
Kid's dressed up as 80's Punk Chick and the character from Scream.
Trick or Treating and lots of candy!

 November = Thanksgiving at Nonna's

I suck and didn't take any pictures at Thanksgiving because I wasn't feeling well.  But I do have to share that I met an amazing and wonderful guy in November who has brought so much love, laughter and blessing to my life.  It's still new and we are ridiculously crazy for each other... but I just have to share how absolutely wonderful we look together... don't you agree?

December = Christmas
Christmas in Houston.  Christmas in Dallas.  Fun, Family, and of course presents and lots of yummy cooking!


So that's our 2011 Year in Review.  There were downs, but mostly ups and we finished off the year with a lot of blessings to carry us into 2012.  We are thankful most for the friends and family that have always been there and supportive.  It's not easy loving our crazy family, but we love with our whole hearts back.

My 2012 resolution list is long, but one of them is to keep up with the blog more (especially now that all our court stuff is mostly behind us now).  Here is to a wonderfully blessed and happy 2012, with enough challenges to keep us strong, but with God's grace and will to see us through.

Blessings to everyone reading this and Happy New Year!