August 29, 2011


A week ago, my husband came home from work with a box.  

"It was injured," he said.

"¡Pájaro!" exclaimed my son.

"Oh..." I said.  

"I'm going to rehabilitate it," Alejandro said.  

He really meant me, because he would be working each day all day.  

Fortunately, rehabilitating a wild bird requires nothing more than leaving it alone in a box with plenty of food and water and keeping the dog and child from loving him to death or eating him.  

"By the way, his name is Jumpy," my husband sent me in a text message the next day.

"We are not keeping him," I thought out loud in the kitchen as Danny watched him from the kitchen stool through plexiglass.

Fortunately, wild birds won't be kept.  And actually, within a few days, he was flitting his way around our living room when we had him out one day. It was clear, he was soon ready to fly.

Jumpy, you've been a great week-long pet.

Except, of course, when you're pooping on my floor. 

Or in my hand.

And now, my friend, as much as a certain little boy would love to let you stay,

it's time you go back home.  (Danny's waving hello. He looked, but was not too eager to touch.)

Fly away, little Jumpy! And have a good life!

The end.


Hace una semana, mi esposo llegó a la casa con una caja.    

August 26, 2011

Dear Danilo,

You are doing so many new things this month! You are almost 26 months. On Monday, the 5th, you woke up with a dry diaper and when I asked you to go potty, you agreed. Then I sat you down and you went. You followed it up with a huge smile and you said, "Yay!!!"

"Apparently today's the day," I thought, and I decided right then and there to potty train you immediately. You went all day without a single accident and had only 3 in the next few days. Those happened because Papa and I weren't really paying enough attention anyway. By Wednesday afternoon you were back in shorts without undies (we potty train bottomless). Friday you had your last accident. The following Monday you finally were in big boy underwear - not because you needed to wait that long, but because your little tooshie is, well, so tiny it's nonexistent and we had to order 12-18 month training pants from the internet and shrink them in the wash. You wake up dry most days, but you still sleep in a diaper cover over your undies just in case. Now, a little over two weeks after potty training, I hardly have to ask you if you have to go anymore. You tell me, even in public!

Now I can unbuckle you in your carseat and you get out of the car almost by yourself (although it takes a solid 5 minutes). Do you hear the angels singing praises? Oh wait, that would be your mama singing for joy.

You like to count things. You really like the numbers uno and tres, so you usually count like this: "Uno, tres, uno, ocho, uno, tres!"

Your favorite word these days is, thank you. You hand something to me and say, "thank you." I give something to you and you say, "thank you." You do something for me and you say, "thank you." I'm just wondering...  Is there any chance it could stay that way until you're around 18? That'd be awesome.

You also LOVE to watch videos. Stuart Little is your favorite this month. We had our first family movie night several weeks ago. You were SO excited! We put a blanket down on our bed, popped popcorn, ate burritos and enjoyed the worst kids' Cars knock-off movie ever.  Ok, actually you had a blast!  Plus you enjoyed eating three bites of burrito and almost half the bowl of popcorn.  Your Papa and I did enjoy seeing you have so much fun!

Now when Papa gets home, you yell and cheer and run to meet him (nothing new) but not before stopping and motioning for me to "come here!" with you to see him. It's SO cute! You motion for me to "come here," and say, "heeeere" often throughout the day.

You love to imitate me putting on make up.

You also say, "friend?" whenever you think you are going to a house where there are kids to play with. When we arrived at church two weeks ago, you saw the building and yelled, "pan!" (Which means bread. Our church serves Panera bread and Starbucks coffee on Friday nights.) You are using more English words than Spanish ones now, but your comprehension in both is still equal.

Two months ago, when we got you your tricycle, you could barely climb onto it. You still can't reach the pedals, but you've become quite skilled in zooming around the back deck chasing Toby, Fred Flintstone style. You even made it all the way around the block (with a little help on the hills towards the end)!

You have a healthy dose of fear of heights - which I wholly appreciate and relate to. You're not afraid to climb, so long as you feel you can securely hold yourself, but you're not a daredevil. You LOVE to swing at the park. You enjoy the slide, but the fast trip down involves a little less control than you like, so you rarely try it more than once or twice, although you are slowly working up to more.

Another new thing you are doing: You love to throw balls up in the air with two hands, like a basketball.   Whether or not, you get close to making a basket, you try over and over! Your joy in persisting and practicing for the love of the game regardless of your supposed "success" (making a basket) or "failure" (missing) is an inspiration to me in my life. The lesson? Play for no other reason than the love of the game.

The most amazing thing?  

Look at that form!  Good gracious, you are one coordinated little two-year-old!  

You even made four baskets!  Which is more than I can say I made.  

I like your slam-dunk style.  You've got class.

My child, you are a joy.  You are bossy and determined.  You take initiative.  You are creative.  You play on the level of your friends.  When you get together with Caleb, one of your favorite friends who isn't walking yet, you crawl all over the place, just to be on his level.  What a great model of what a friend does!  You are good-natured.  You can talk up a storm in the car and at home, but you are quiet and timid in a new place or around new people.  You are getting smarter and smarter and you have pulled the wool over Mama's eyes more than a couple of times in order to stay up later at night with drinks, extra potty trips, teeth-brushing and water.  You have the best laugh ever, and my favorite is when you squish your nose up to mine, cup my face, and giggle.  You do it spontaneously, and it says, I love you, unlike anything else I've ever experienced.  

I love you too, kiddo, more than I could possibly express.

Kisses and hugs,

Utter Gratitude

This morning, around 6:30 a.m., Robin texted me.  She said (to me and to all of us), "Thank you soooooo much.  I will never have the words to adequately express what you've done for our family."

Best text ever.

August 25, 2011

Tying Up Loose Ends

Hi guys!  Ok, I'm back, with an update on Hailey.  If you're new around here, just scroll down and read the previous two posts to find out what we're up to.  In short, Hailey is a five year old little girl with a life threatening disease of the brain.  She's qualified for a drug trial that is VERY expensive, and so we've been fundraising to help her get the treatment she needs.  We here at MQF* raised $1,000 to help her!  SO COOL!!!

Just tonight, I was chatting with Robin (Hailey's mom) and there is still a small shortage.  Robin was already counting a few pledges that had been promised but not actually donated, and those have not come in...  so they are still $274 short.

Guys, $274 stands between Hailey and a treatment that could save her life.  Robin has no plan B.  Her family has exhausted every resource.  There is nothing else.

I know we thought we'd finished.  I know it's frustrating when there's a hiccup in the road.  But imagine Robin.  Imagine that's your little girl.  We can't stop now.  $10 at a time, we can do this.  It's just $274 measly little dollars.

Please pray.  Please give $10 or more if you can.  Please spread the word.

And THANK YOU in advance!  You guys are the Church in action.



P.S.  I'll continue to update here, on Facebook and on Twitter, so follow along!

UPDATED AT 12:30 a.m. Friday morning:  Ok, I think we're down to under $200!  I haven't heard from Robin...  hopefully because she's sleeping, but that's my best guess as to where we're at.  (Not all donations are coming in through this blog, so that's why it's not all reflected in the Chip In widget.)

UPDATED AT 4 a.m. Friday morning:  And now, I KNOW we're done!  You can see on the Chip In widget we've met and exceeded that last little bit needed!  WOW!!  I LOVE how the Lord moves in the hearts of people!  I will keep it open, so that if you still want to donate, you can. The Visbal family has a LOT they are enduring right now, and if the Lord has moved you to give above and beyond, that will certainly bless them and help to alleviate financial stress. ...Goodness, thank you doesn't seem like enough.  I am so overwhelmed with your generosity and faith!  Through you, God has poured out to overflowing!  And with that... I'll head back to bed.  ;-)   Love, Renee

You guys are AMAZING!!!

I am floored.  Just floored.  Not only did you all come through with all $1,000 that Hailey needs for her drug treatment, therefore making all other donations gravy and extra for her family in this very difficult time... but you did it with two days to spare!

My Dad said this in the comments section of the "Ten" post:
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  God is glorified today!
You know, when we as earthly parents encourage their children, I believe we give them a glimpse of our Heavenly Father's love for them.  When I read this comment, I knew that my earthly Dad was saying, "well done," to his daughter, but I also knew in my spirit that the Heavenly Father was saying (through my Dad), "well done," to all of us who have gathered to lift up Hailey.

Friends, in lifting up Hailey, you have lifted up Jesus.

Would you all please continue to pray for Hailey and her family and spread the word about her?  Let's pray for peace and strength for her family and for the complete success of this drug trial! I will leave the donation button up so if any of you didn't get a chance to give who wanted to, you still can.  The button shows our goal is met, but you are still able to donate if you wish.

And just because this is what has been resonating in my spirit towards you all for the past 24 hours...  thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!

Thank You!

August 22, 2011

Ten by Ten by Ten

Meet Robin.  Robin is a sister in Christ.  She is a sister Mary Kay consultant.  She's a fellow mom.

Meet Hailey.  Hailey is 5 1/2 years old.  She's Robin's little girl.  Robin says, "She's smart, funny, kind, outgoing, loving and caring.  She loves her baby brother and anything pink. She is amazingly strong and courageous and is my hero."

Hailey has something called Episodic Encephalopathy. Simply put, this means "disease of the brain". In her case, the doctors don't know what's causing it or how to stop the episodes. The encephalopathy has progressed to the point that it's causing irreversable brain damage and is now killing her brain and therefore, killing her.

Hailey has qualified for a drug trial that truly is the only thing left between her and death. Without this special treatment she will likely not survive more than a year. The doctors/treatment cost covered. The drugs are going to cost $3600. All but $1,000 of the costs have been raised.  The deadline to pay for the trial is this Friday, so we have until Thursday evening, the 25th.

In Mary Kay, we do more than just hold each other up in business.  We hold each other up in life.  We let fellow consultants, who would otherwise be strangers, sleep in our guest bed if they are in need.  We pray for each other.  We stand in the gap for one another.  I am one of ten women, who are willing to contribute $10 and find ten more people who will also contribute $10. Would you be one of my ten people?  (Or, actually?  Can we blow this thing out of the water and come up with all $1,000 and let what everyone else raises be extra for her?)

If you'd like to read more about Hailey's condition and her story, just click here.  The Visbal Family is going to need lots of strength, peace, endurance and finances.  I'm asking you for three things:  (1) Prayer. (2) Give just a little bit. Just $10. (3) Spread the word.

Thank you my friends, for being the Church in action.  I love you all and I'm truly thankful that I can reach out to you all.  We've gathered together in the past.  We've blessed Sarah and Beth.  Now let us lift up Hailey.

In His Love,

August 17, 2011

A Post About Potty Training

Ok, first of all, let's be clear.  I am NOT any sort of expert on potty training.  I have one child and it just happened to go very smoothly, very early - much earlier than I expected.  However, so many moms have asked me how we potty trained Danny and how we did it so early that I do want to share worked for us.  I will definitely use the same method with other children in the future.

I read about toilet training on Mckmama's site, and Kingdom Mama's site, and took a lot of guidance from the Toddlerwise book.

I define a child to be potty trained when he stays accident-free for over 48 hours and does not need continual prompting to tell an adult he needs to use the toilet, but rather, will generally do so on his own with only an occasional exception.

I also sort of mentally break the process into three phases.  Pre-potty training, potty training, and trained.

Pre-potty training starts as early as the child is interested in anything that happens in the bathroom and continues until the formal training starts.  I think we pre-trained Danny for around a year.  As soon as Danny was old enough to sit on the toilet and want to mimic us, we bought a child's toilet seat and let him sit on it before baths.  If we happened to catch him at a time when we knew he had to go and he was willing to sit and try, we let him.  This resulted in the occasional success of something landing in the toilet, although we didn't really care if it happened or not.

We also got a child's seat that goes on the big toilet, not a child's training toilet that sits independent of a real toilet and needs to be emptied.  I didn't want to have to train him onto one thing only to have to train him off of it and onto the big one later.

Pre-potty training also included a lot of (ahem) narration of our own happenings in the bathroom.  (Am I really writing this on the world wide web?!  Yes.  Yes, I am.  I do think this contributed to our success quite a bit.)  Whenever Danny was in the bathroom while either one of us was using the toilet (which, when you have a toddler is all the time), we'd excitedly point and explain what was happening.  We also talked about it a lot during diaper changes.  For example, "Danny, do you have a wet diaper?  Oh, look!  You went peepee!  Good job!!"

And yes, there were more than one occasion that I thought, "Oh my goodness, am I really truly excitedly narrating my bowel movement to my son??  Yes. Yes, I am.  Welcome to parent-hood, Renee."  But hey, Danny has never had any fear or qualms about eliminating on the toilet.  Talking about it quelled any fear that might have been.

We do call it peepee, poopoo, and potty.  These are simple words that he can say clearly and everyone knows what he's talking about.  I didn't want him to have to fumble with the word urinate just to tell us what he needed.

Another thing we did that I think really contributed to our success was we waited and put off potty training for quite a while. I think we spent about two months telling each other, "He really is ready.  We just need to pick a weekend and go for it."  I guess I put it off for so long because I wanted to be sure as sure can be that he was ready.  I wanted it to be a one-shot-deal and I did NOT want to have any false starts.  So, I waited until I knew that we'd be successful at it.  I didn't expect him to be ready as early as he was either.  I'm just guessing, but I'd be willing to bet that all the pre-potty training helped him be ready early.

What were the signs?  Well he was waking up dry, both in the morning and after naps.  He would wet his diaper shortly after waking up, especially if he ended up playing in his crib for too long, but the key was that he was holding it until he woke.  He never really stopped or squatted to go in his diaper, but that is often a good sign a child is ready.  He did, however, tell me when he needed a diaper changed, particularly when it was a dirty one.  We do use cloth diapers and it's said that cloth diapers aide in potty training because the child feels more wet than in a disposable.  I have nothing to compare to, so I don't know, but it might well be true.  Lastly, I knew he was ready because the morning we decided he was ready, he woke up dry and I promptly took off his diaper and said, "Let's go to the potty!"  He held it until we got there and when I sat him down, he looked down, intentionally went, and then looked up and told me he was done.  When I considered that and the fact that I had nothing planned that day, I decided it was time to go for it and I left him naked from the waist down for the rest of the day until nap time.

This brings me to the day of potty-training.  Yes, it only really took one day and yes, I do use the let-your-child-run-naked method.  With nothing on, he was very aware of anything that might be going on in the pottying vicinity and this helped a great deal.  Right after the first use of the toilet, we went downstairs (him with only a t-shirt on) and went about breakfast as usual.  I placed a towel for him to sit on top of on his booster seat just for comfort and gave him one of his favorite breakfasts and lots of juice, so he'd eat and drink a lot.

During breakfast I filled a plastic cup with water and several drops of yellow food coloring in it.  I placed the yellow water, several books, the child potty seat and his reward (we used dried cranberries - they are sweet and make you thirsty, which makes him drink, which in turn makes him urinate more often) in the bathroom on our main level.  We spent that whole day playing downstairs, where there are linoleum floors instead of carpet, or on the back deck just in case.  Right after breakfast, I said, "ok, let's go potty!"  Off we went.  Danny sat, but did nothing.  Then I sat and urinated.  The rule for potty training day is that when anyone goes potty, everyone gets a treat.  So after I went, I got a treat and of course so did he.  His stuffed bear also got a treat (which of course Danny got to eat) so Danny was excited about that.

Then we played for a while.  I made sure I did not try to multi-task that day, but rather played with him all day.  It was a very special day for him and he got LOTS of quality time with Mama.  This also helped me pay close attention to him and his behavior.  After a bit, we tried again, this time with success!  Also this time, his stuffed bear "went potty."  I gave the bear a pretend drink of water.  Then I said, "Bear has to go potty!"  We took the bear into the bathroom, I held him over the toilet, and as I made a "ssss" sound, I poured a little bit of yellow water into the toilet.  Then I said, "All done!"  I cheered and pointed to the color in the toilet.  Danny's eyes were as big as saucers!  It was SO cute!  He was really excited when all three of us (Danny, the bear and I) got a treat because the bear went potty.  After that, Danny sat down and went and so did I, all with the rewards to follow.  By this time, Danny definitely understood and we just repeated the process for the rest of the day.

I made sure he went right before his nap - I actually delayed his nap a bit so he would do so - and then put him in a diaper to sleep in.  I paid close attention when he woke up so he wouldn't have to wait in his crib and accidentally wet in his diaper. I think he did a little but then went on the toilet afterwards anyway.

I realized that part of the point of having a potty training day was to train me.  I needed to learn how he behaves when he has to go, and since he had always been in a diaper, I never really paid much attention.  It also helped me realize when he has to go.  Most of us have fairly regular elimination patterns and this includes kids.  One of the reasons I love the Babywise method is because it provides regular eating and sleeping patterns for kids.  This causes regular elimination habits as well and then potty training is pretty easy.

Danny did go a second day without bottoms on.  When I put bottoms back on, I only put shorts (no underwear or training pants).  This actually was just by accident - because Danny is so tiny we had to order them from the internet - but it worked perfectly.  Danny had clothes on, but it still felt very different from having a diaper on.  It wasn't until 4 or 5 days later that we actually put underwear on him and by then he had the whole potty thing down so it didn't matter what he was wearing.

Eventually (after two or three days) the treats ran out or we forgot to have them with us and it didn't seem to matter.  Actually I think Danny forgot or got tired of the treats before I did, which was nice.  I guess the novelty just wore off.  Maybe this is because we used a dried fruit instead of something as sweet as candy.  The key is to find something he loves, something you don't care if he eats a TON of,j and something that will make him thirsty.

So here's the timeline: We started pre-training Danny when he was somewhere between 12 and 15 months. Potty training day was a Monday after he turned 25 months.  Monday he was accident free.  Between Tuesday and Friday he had 3 accidents that didn't happen at night or at nap time (I don't count those).  Friday he had his last daytime accident.  By the following Monday I quit asking him if he had to go, for the most part.  Just to avoid a potential mess, we have been putting a diaper cover over his underwear to sleep in, but tonight (2 or 3 weeks after training day) he is sleeping without a diaper cover on for the first time.

A couple of other side notes:

I never ever scolded for an accident.  I just said, "Oh look!  You made a poopoo on the kitchen floor!  We'd better put it in the potty now."  Then I'd pick it up, put it in the toilet, allow Danny to sit and have the opportunity to finish and then let him flush.  I think I even gave him a treat for that.  The point was that it ended up in the toilet.  How it got there was irrelevant.  Danny was already embarrassed and upset that it landed on the floor in the first place.  I believe in praising him to success and focusing on what he does wrong only if absolutely necessary.

We didn't have much trouble transitioning to public toilets or toilets without the potty seat.  He still uses the child's toilet seat at home - he's just so small and it's more comfortable for him.  In public, however, it's simply not around.  Usually by the time we get there, he has to go so bad that as long as I'm holding him tightly as he sits and he feels secure, he'll go without hesitation.  I did take him more often than necessary to "try" the first time or two we were out and about, though.  That "practice" probably helped.

Well, there you have it!  Potty training in a nut-shell in the Chinchilla Porras household.  Did I miss anything?  Do you have questions?  If so, leave them in the comments section, email me, or ask me on Twitter or Facebook.  I'll try to re-post the questions here for all to read.

Ya'll have a great night and happy pottying!

Dear 20-Year-Old-Chad,

You don't know me.  But you will in a couple of years.  Right now, you are in Costa Rica for the first time, living with a family you barely know, speaking a language you hardly speak, feeling quite out of your element. But you won't feel that way for long.  You just made a decision that will affect my life profoundly.  Your Costa Rican host family just let you know that Fanny, the mom, is very sick and will be in the hospital for a while.  You were offered the opportunity to find a new family to live with for a while, but you declined.  You decided to stay and help.  You don't know it, but you just changed my life drastically.

That high school boy who lives in the house with you?  Alejandro?  Yeah, him.  You and he will become quite good friends.  Best, in fact.  He has some really rough months ahead of him.  You're going to be a great friend to him and I thank you for that.  Since you decided to stay and help, you guys are going to become such good friends that at the end of the year, after you go home, you're going to come back to visit, just to invite him to live with your family. And he will.  For about 8 months.

He'll fall in love with the United States and decide he's going to marry a gringa so he can live there.  Ok, he'll really hope that happens.  And it will, in fact.  But let me back up.

That girl you left back home?  Sarah?  You're going to marry her.  She's the one for you.  Neither you nor her have really figured that out yet, but you will, so be nice to her.  In a year or two, you and she will visit Alejandro in Costa Rica again, and that's when I come in the picture.  You sort of know it when you meet me, because when God chose me to be the gringa that walked in front of his house every morning on the way to go to school for a year, He knew what He was doing.  Yep.  I'm the one.  You and Sarah and Alejandro and I will walk the streets of Costa Rica, barely knowing each other, having no clue of the future that lies ahead.

You see, when you decide to marry Sarah, you also decide that Alejandro should be in your wedding.  In fact, you'll pay part of his way to Kansas so he could stand next to you in a suit.  Thank you for that too.  Because he won't use the ticket home.  He'll stay.  We'll get married just about six months after you!  And you'll be there.  We'll start our lives together here in the United States.

About 10 years from now, you won't believe it, but our families are going to get together at our house.  You're going to read our children a story.

I know right now you're single and carefree and all about fun, but see all those kids there?  All but one of them are yours!  Ha!  And guess what?  It's awesome!!

Your wife, Sarah, and I are going to talk late into the evening as your two year old and your littlest one sleep on her lap.

We'll take walks together again, except instead of walking the streets of Costa Rica, we'll walk the streets of our neighborhood.

We'll take all those kiddos to the park and our two-year-olds will slide together.

We'll try to take a picture of all five kids smiling at once, but it will be a dismal failure.  
Instead, we'll get them all frowning at once.  That's funnier anyway!

My son will adore yours, by the way.

We'll take pictures of your family.

and you'll take pictures of ours.

And then?

Just to bring it full circle?

We'll eat gallo pinto around our table for lunch.

So, 20-year-old-Chad?  Thank you.  Thank you for deciding to stick around and help, instead of being placed with another family without medical issues.  You'll never know how much I appreciate that one decision.