January 31, 2012

The Rant

There are few things that really make me wanna kick a guy in the shins, but one of them?  When a husband decides to leave his wife and young children.

I'm sorry, (ok, not) but this post is not going to be politically correct or even very nice.  For the second time (and I have the sinking awful feeling it won't be the last) I am watching a friend endure the tearing apart of her family because her husband has decided to quit trying.  I was careful not to express this fury when Sarah and her husband separated, because I know how hard she worked to keep her heart focused on praying for her husband.  We still call Brian and Sarah dear friends, so I kept these thoughts to myself.  My goal was to edify, support, and help her see the best in him and draw it out.  But I'm fairly sure that my friend Jennifer doesn't read my blog, so I think I'm safe to vent.

I am well aware that marriage problems are never one sided.  But when a man decides to walk out on his family and feebly say that he thinks his family is better off without him, it really gives me the strong urge to take a pair of cleats to his toes.  And then his shins, knees and upper thighs.

I've only done the single parent thing once and it was only for two and half months, and it was not the result of my husband withdrawing his love at all.  Rather, he left to work in California for a while, and we decided together that he should do so.  I was not without financial support. I didn't have to move.  I didn't face uncertainty about my future.  I simply had to do the parenting thing with no help.

It blows.  

Even as easy as my situation was, it was awful.  And as hard as it was on me, it was harder on Danny, who didn't understand why his Papa wasn't around anymore.  Even with video chat and phone calls and all the efforts we made to connect, he just didn't get it.  It was rough on him, and it took a while to settle down and feel secure and safe after that.  It was incredibly hard to hear him ask for Papa all the time.  It was even harder, when he quit asking for Papa all the time.  And then when Papa came home, we had to adjust all over again.

When my own parents divorced, I was an adult, on my own and married.  It still ripped my world to shreds and pieces and made me question everything I thought I knew was solid and dependable.  I was an adult, people.

Kids need Dads.  Moms need help.  So to husbands who are even tossing around the idea of leaving their family, I say...

Suck it up.  Figure it out. And work it out.  
Your kids need you. 
No matter how hard whatever it is that you have to deal with right now, 
it doesn't compare to how hard it will be on your kids when you walk away.  


January 30, 2012

Dear Danilo,

Has it really been three months since I wrote to you last? How does time fly so fast?!

You are 26 pounds now and getting taller by the minute.  Not that you'll stand still long enough for me to find out exactly how tall you are.  You're still my skinny peanut, though, small enough to sit in your Tonka Truck.  You wear 24-months clothing, but I have to put draw-strings in every single pair of pants you own.  You are officially two and half now (plus 29 days).

On November 22nd, you said your first prayer all by yourself before bed.  You said, "Dios, gracias por mi, Toby, Mama."  ("God, thank you for me, Toby, Mama.") Your Papa and I about cried, it was so sweet.

The bedtime routine got really tough there for a while.  In December we helped you get rid of your pacifier by cutting a small hole in the tip, and at the same time you quit taking your afternoon nap.  You looked at your pacifier, told us it broke, and after a couple of nights trying to suck it, decided it wasn't worth the effort anymore.  We were surprised how easily you dropped it and this time you didn't use your thumb as a substitute.  I still find you sucking nothing or your tongue while you sleep sometimes, which I think is the cutest thing ever and reminds me of when you were first born. The first couple of nap- and pacifier-free weeks were rough, but things have settled down now and most nights you go to bed like a champ.  It takes you less than 15 minutes from, "It's bedtime, kiddo," through teeth-brushing, pajamas, water, potty, the running flying leap into bed and prayer, to kisses goodnight.  You're Papa and I sure appreciate how smooth that goes.

You like to go potty by yourself, but I rarely let you do the whole thing alone, as you don't quite clean up everything well yet.  Oh, and you like to unroll the toilet paper onto the floor as you sit there.  Or into the toilet.  That's not my favorite.

You love to run, jump, do somersaults, and jump on the bed from your feet to your bottom.  You are quite coordinated at it and it's tough for Papa and I to keep from laughing and remain stern in our reminders not to jump on the couch.  We let you jump on our bed, though.  You'll only be small enough to use it like a trampoline for so long, right?

You helped Papa squish down the Fall leaves.  You loved it.

You use long, detailed complete sentences now.  They're not even close to grammatically correct, and you mix Spanish and English up together, but it's super fun having conversations with you.

Some of my favorite words that you say:
"oooo-eee" - This is what you call the computer.  You are saying, "movie."  It took me months to figure out that's what you were saying!
"gashas" - gracias
"Deeee-poh" - Home Depot
"BIG poo poo!" - I know it's gross.  But it's just too funny.
"Toh-mas Train! BIG train!!" - You pronounce Thomas like it's Spanish.  I love it!  Makes me wanna name a second kiddo Thomas.  Sort of.
"Mama, sit here. Help Danny train. Go up up up!!!"  - Mama sit here and help Danny build the train so it goes up up up!
"Papa's working," and "Papa's HERE!"
"I fink it!" - You pronounce this like, "I find it," only with a k on the end.  You say it with wide eyes and open arms like it's the hugest announcement in the world.
"Te amo!" - (I love you!) You haven't said this one on your own yet.  But it's still cute even if we're telling you to say it.
"jan-jan" - The J sounds like an H.  This is how you say naranja (orange).  
"cocker" - cracker or cookie  You ask for this at EVERY SINGLE MEAL.
Anything you say while grabbing my cheeks and turning my face so that I'm looking you in the face.

My least favorite things that you say:
"No." - Go figure.
"Mine." - While grabbing it away from me or another child.
Crying, yelling fits when you don't get your way.  And the whining.  Oh, the whining.  I sure hope this stage doesn't last long.

Your favorite toy right now is your train set.  You have spent countless hours playing with it, and it's the one toy set that I enjoy as much as you do, so we play with it a lot.

You enjoy picking your own clothes and you adore your red Croc tennis shoes.  I adore that you put your shoes on by yourself usually on the right feet.  This particular evening, you chose your over-sized truck tank top, your too-small sweatshirt, whitie-tighties, and snow boots.  I took about a gazillion pictures of you that night.

Among your favorites, second only to trains, are airplanes.

You love pretending to be an airplane.

You hug me tightly when they fly over our house.  You were intimidated by the one at Focus on the Family's Whit's End, but once you lost your nervousness, you enjoyed it immensely. You are pretty good at making airplanes with Legos, paper, or just about anything.

You made this one with Grandpa Shaun when he visited at Thanksgiving. You made the body of the plane and then he added the wings with tape.

You love wearing your airplane pajamas.

New play places are intimidating to you, especially if they are loud and busy.  You usually need to stand back and watch other kids play for 10 or 15 minutes before you are ready to try.  But once you are ready, watch out!  You run right along with the big kids.  You are still too short to climb up the McDonald's and Chick-fil-A play structures, but you are skilled at befriending little girls a foot taller than you who will help.  When that fails, or little girls are not to be found, you'll use Mama's or Papa's hand as a foot-step to get right on up.

You are also skilled at stealing Papa's pumpkin pie.

You are a sing-songy kind of guy.  You often sing a little song while you play.  One day you had the radio on, were banging away at the piano, and were singing and laughing along.

You love it when Grammy visits.  You definitely remember her and know her, even though you only see her every couple of months.

After she left a week ago, you saw her picture on the refrigerator and exclaimed suddenly, "Grammy here!!"  You were so pleased that she was there on the refrigerator for you to say hello to whenever you wanted.

You are sweet and cuddly only when you are tired at the end of the day, or when you've crawled into bed with us at the beginning of the day (which has become a ritual), but occasionally you will surprise me by throwing your arms around my neck and kissing my lips. 

You're into all kinds of new adventures these days.   I do love you so my sweet boy.  More and more each and every day.


January 23, 2012

Just Don't Count

Whenever I consider sharing parenting advice, I immediately hesitate mentally and think that maybe I should file away whatever idea it is I want to share until Danny and the rest of our (not yet existent) children are twenty-something and well-adjusted in the world.  You know, when I'm a parenting expert.

And then I realize that now is when these ideas are fresh on my mind.  Now is when I am living and breathing parenthood of a two-and-a-half year old and figuring out what works and what doesn't and can speak first hand about it.  And you all are well aware that I'm the first-time parent of one and to take all my advice with a grain of salt.



Alrighty then.

One of the very best pieces of parenting advice I ever received was from a good friend and mother of five.  Her name is Gwen and her kids are currently between the ages of 12 and 22.  She said, "Just don't ever count."


"Yeah.  Just don't count.  You know, when parents tell their kids to do something and then they say it again and then they start counting.  One...  Two... ...and wait for their kids to obey.  I hate that.  Don't ever count.  All that teaches your son is that, for three more seconds, he doesn't have to obey what you are telling him to do."

It made perfect sense to me.  So we never did and I can't tell you how much it's paid off.

Toddlers are smart.  Really smart.  We all know it, but it's easy to forget.  We act as though they haven't heard us or they are too distracted to listen or what not.  Then comes the moment when we mention their favorite movie barely above a whisper in the midst of a noisy room while the stereo is on and our child is engrossed in their favorite game with two of his best friends, and yet despite all of that, he hears the utterance of the movie title.  He immediately comes running and explains in the most articulate manner how he'd like to please watch that movie with a side of popcorn and hot cocoa.

It's then that you realize how grossly you've underestimated him.  And that when you say, "go get your shoes," in a quiet room with his full attention and get no response, it's sheer disobedience.

So armed with this knowledge (and three years experience as a preschool teachers' aide seeing this principle play out again and again), we determined not to count.

The principle behind not counting plays out in multiple scenarios, so we also determined not to repeat ourselves.  (Ok, we still do sometimes.  But we try really hard not to.)

We determined not to engage in the verbal banter that only a toddler can expertly suck you into.  You know how it goes.  "I want it."  "No, Danny."  "But I want it."  "No, Danny."  "But I waaaaant it."  "I said no, Danny!"  We decided to answer him once and then ignore the pleading and redirect to a new activity or set of choices.

We decided not to threaten a negative consequence if Danny doesn't "listen and obey right now" more than once or twice at the start of a day.  We decided that we would give a direction once and expect obedience, and that if we didn't get it, the negative consequence would be administered in love and without delay.

We determined to drag ourselves off the couch each and every time it's required, in order to follow through with carrying out the consequences and rewards of listening to and obeying our words.  (We don't spend much time on the couch.)

We also decided to teach Danny the words "yes, Papa" and "yes, Mama" as early as he could pronounce them and lavishly shower him with praise almost every single time he does listen and obey immediately.  After all, we all respond much better to praise and rewards than to negative consequences.

It's definitely paying off.

I hear from more parents than I can count how hard the age of two and three can be, and can I tell you something?  I'm just not experiencing it.  Of course, we are not at all without challenge in our home.  But by and large, parenting Danny has gotten easier and easier over the last twelve months (since he started walking and talking).  Does he express his will?  Oh, yes-sir-ee, he does.  But we spend more of our day celebrating good behavior and engaging in new and fun experiences, than we spend focused on the bad and it is making parenthood of this age the greatest joy.  I am loving two-and-a-half.

And I'm certain I'll love three-and-a-half even more.

So this is just me, the first-time mother of one, sharing one little tid-bit of parenting advice that's working really well for us right now.  So what great successes have YOU ALL had parenting your little ones?  Please share!!


Anyone hungry yet?  
Head on over to Mi Cocina (my cooking blog) and snag the recipes!  
They are mmmmmm-mmmmmmm good!!

January 22, 2012

Last Week

Last week, I was sick and my mom was here taking care of us.  

 It was a challenging week, but a good week.  

There were morning sessions of bed-head-and-face-squishing.

There were pajamas all day long.

There were puzzles.

And lots and lots and lots of trains.

There were fast food meals

 and lots of home-made meals 

and tickles around the table.

There were hugs and squishes.

There was rest and recuperation.

There was gratitude for a life of generally good health and 
prayers for those who deal with physical and mental illness every day.

All in all... it was a pretty good week.

January 19, 2012

Important Legacies to Leave

Hole up with the boys from time to time.

  Talking may not be necessary.

  Sit close.

Dig deep and persistently for the treasure.

Slay the dragon. 

Rescue the princess.

Kiss Mama when you get home.

P.S.  Want to see Halloween pictures from last Fall that I never posted?  Just click here.

January 16, 2012

On the Mend... I think.

I'm sick today.  Here's the saga...  In December we were all sick and after I'd had a sinus infection for a week and a half, I was prescribed an antibiotic amoxicillin.  Two days after finishing that dose, I began having an allergic reaction to the amoxicillin and headed back to my doctor.  He prescribed me a mild steroid called dexamethasone, which was supposed to act as an anti-inflamatory and an immunosuppressant to stop the allergic reaction.  It worked and it curbed my reaction to the amoxicillin, but my body started to react negatively to the dexamethasone.  Actually, the dexamethasone has made me sicker than ever, and even though I took my last dose of that on Friday, I'm still very sick. My body just does NOT like anything foreign in it.  Go figure.  

I am so thankful to my mom, who flew into town Saturday and has basically either been at my side or hung out with Danny so Alejandro can be at my side 24/7 until Thursday.  It's been a rough ride.  I ended up in the ER yesterday and have had the pleasure (not) of experiencing my first several anxiety attacks.  I'm really praying this thing clears out of my body and leaves me well in a hurry.  I would so appreciate your prayers, too. I'm not a very patient sicko.  

Actually, wait, let me back up for a second and clarify.  I am mentally, emotionally, and spiritually very much at peace right now.  I understand that what is happening to my body are side effects of a drug and that nothing dangerous is happening to my body.  It's just painful and uncomfortable.  The anxiety attacks are a physiological reaction that my body is having. I'm also being very closely monitored by Alejandro and my mom to make sure everything stays in the realm of safe and manageable. 

I am, however pretty fuzzy-brained.  Composing this has taken most of the day.  But since I can do little else, we've spent today among the pleasant distractions of movies, laundry, organizing the spice cabinet, sleep, finally uploading this year's Christmas morning video, and chatting.  

And I'm excited to finally share with you 15 minutes from our December 25th!  It was SOOOOO fun!  I went ahead and just put it all together, unedited, because Danny's shouts of joy were just so great through the whole thing.  Plus, my Grandma will enjoy feeling like she was there with us. For those of you who find 15 minutes a little longer than you have to spare just now, skip down to the video below, and you can catch the three and a half best minutes, in which Danny tore open his train set. Man oh man, was that kid excited!! 

Alright, with that, I'm going to sign off, and head back to my place on the couch, and try to kick this thing.  I hope you all are enjoying a fantastic Monday off.  

With Love,

Christmas 2011
(full length):

Christmas 2011
(short highlight):

January 12, 2012

Two and a Half

Dear Danilo,

You have taken to calling me Babe.  That's where I draw the line, child.  I'm Mama.  I can handle Mommy for sure and Mom, although it makes me feel like the mom of a teenager.  But Babe?  That's where I draw the line.

You walk down the stairs all on your own, standing up now, although you still often ask to be carried downstairs.  I oblige, since there are fewer and fewer times you want to be carried.

You had a short phase of doing somersaults, which I'm thankful has passed.  It sort of made me nervous.

You talk in full sentences now, often with description, expression, and complete expectation of compliance on our part.  You are getting rather articulate, I think.  You understand almost everything we say, English and Spanish, although there are times you pretend you don't.

On November 22nd, you said your first prayer, on your own, with no help.  You said, "Dios gracias por mi Toby Mama."  Oh, just eat my heart out!  I love it!!

You repeat, "Te amo" on command, but have yet to say it on your own volition.

Bedtimes are a challenge these days.  You are so much like me.  It's ridiculous.  You like things a particular way, and it takes a while for you to settle down.  Even longer if something is out of place, such as a blanket, a light, a cup, a stuffed friend, or if you have on the wrong pair of pajamas.  So I've learned to take the extra ten minutes it takes to make things just right for you so you won't get up fifteen billion times. It's hit or miss, but it usually helps.

One of your favorite games is Coballa. This is your pronunciation of caballo.  It's the classic game of horsy, involving all sorts of yee-haws and climbing on Papa's back.  It's the most fantastic thing to watch ever.  Occasionally you and Papa convince me to join in, and you and I (amazingly) sit on Papa's back while he crawls around the floor.  It usually ends in a fit of laughter.

Your favorite movies right now are Cars and Polar Express.  You have watched both about a half a dozen times.

I'm really sick this month.  So this is short.  But these are fun things you are doing at two-and-a-half.


January 10, 2012

Just Checking In

I'm still here...  I've just been kind of surviving this prescription of a mild steroid that has got my brain fuzzy, my body clumsy and worn down and jittery all at the same time.  I've not posted because it's enough just to get through the day, but also because my creativity has been completely sapped by this thing and because my brain-to-mouth-filter-function is a little... well, absent.  And I might say something I regret.  Fortunately, it does seem to be working.  The negative symptoms are gone and I do have enough energy to work.

But I miss you all terribly and the creative writing process and posting photos and sharing life with you, so I do intend to come back as soon as I'm able.  Just stick with me.  :)  I've got a GREAT video from our Christmas morning, a Dear Danilo post in the making, pictures all the way back from Halloween (eek!), and some other creative ideas in the works involving letters to Compassion Children and a new blog header.

So happy Monday night! (Or is it Tuesday morning now, Rena?)

Love and Hugs,

January 6, 2012

Meet My Alter Ego

Renee:  So yesterday I saw my doctor.  I adore my doctor.  Blessed, sweet, Jesus-loving, fantastic man that he is, is fixing me.  Yesterday I walked into his exam room, equipped with McDonald's and trains so that Danny could play and eat roll around on the dirty floor while I lay helpless on the exam table to keep him away from germs.  I explained to Dr. Baiza (at Academy Women's Health Care on E. Woodmen Road - in case any of you need an exceptional doctor to serve and listen to you) my plight of exhaustion, itching, weeks of being sick, and total frustration.  He suggested a non-drowsy over-the-counter anti-histamine and said I'd probably just have to ride it out, with a look of sympathy.  Then he took a glance at the welts on my back from scratching and 30 seconds later he was prescribing me dexamethasone. (It's a mild steroid that acts as an anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant but for those of you who like all the medical details, you can read here.)

Whether this is actually an allergic reaction, or some other virus manifesting itself in the most bizarre of ways, is yet to be seen. But either way, it's amazing how energizing it can be to be heard and cared for.  I've unfortunately found that to be hard to find among medical care these days. It's also amazing how much energy this drug is giving me.  I was warned.  I just never expected Rena to show up and inhabit my body this morning.  Meet my alter ego:

Rena: Hi!  Good morning!  I feel fantastic!  I hope all of you do too!!  Even though I slept four hours last night and was up with Danny three times, I've already had a quiet time with the Lord, got up with Danny, made breakfast for him, breakfast for me (scrambled egg on toast - Renee usually grabs cereal or toast), cleaned the kitchen, ran the dish washer, played downstairs, cleaned up downstairs, played upstairs, and blogged!  And it's not even 9a.m.

Renee: It's a little unreal.  I also feel no aches or pains or general muscle sluggishness that I usually feel in the morning, even when I'm well.  I really love my doctor.

Rena:  So today we are packing a lunch, meeting with four customers, making 30 phone calls, getting all the chores done, working out, going to church, and taking play-breaks throughout the day!  Yeah!  We can DO IT!!

Renee: Uh...  we MAY want to tone it down a bit, just in case my immune system and my brain can't quite keep up with your speed, Rena.

Rena:  Uh, really!?  Because I feel great!  I think I'm about ten years old.  I can actually keep up and keep ahead of Danny!

Renee: Yes, it really is fantastic.  But yes, we really are going to have to consciously tone it down before you send me into cardiac arrest, Rena.


Uh, Rena!

Rena: Uh huh?

Renee:  Why are you dancing at 8:45 in the morning?

Rena:  Uh...  I just felt like it.

Renee:  Right...  Have I mentioned to you that I love my doctor?  Did you know that in conversation yesterday (when's the last time you had a conversation with your doctor?), I learned that he puts no cap on the number of state-insured patients he receives?  Most doctors do.  It's a financial thing.  They get paid less from government insurance than they do from private insurance.  Yet Dr. Baiza welcomes one and all.  In his waiting room, you will find women from the nicest part of town, women from the middle part of town, and women who are homeless all sitting next next to each other.

Rena: Wow, that really IS exceptional!

Renee:  Yup.  He even serves prisoners.  Occasionally in the early morning (so as not to scare off the other patients) a woman will be escorted in in cuffs.  "We just take care of everyone," he said, "That's what we do.  I think God honors that."  Indeed He does.

This is the same doctor who helped care for Charmian and Jon's little boy, Pearce, when they found out he was terminally ill and they had been encouraged to abort since he wasn't going to live long past birth.  As a Christ-follower, Dr. Baiza was able to speak to them from a medical and a moral perspective.  God was truly honored that day.

So have I mentioned I love my doctor?

Rena:  So why don't you marry him, huh?

Renee:  Oh, shut up.

Alright, folks, it's time to get Danny, Rena, and myself into the shower and ready for our day.  This should be an interesting one!  Watch out, if you see us coming.  ;-)

January 5, 2012


Remember last Spring when I was sick a million and one times? Remember when they put me on the antibiotic amoxicillin? Remember when two days after finishing the dose, I started itching all over my entire body for no apparent reason and didn't have hives or a rash or any other symptom except exhaustion and the doctor thought it was mono? Remember how it took five weeks to go away and nothing would help except benadryl, which also happens to incapacitate me for twelve hours?

Remember how I was sick twice in December right before Christmas? Remember how they put me on the antibiotic amoxicillin again (and how I DIDN'T remember what happened last time)?


I finished it four days ago. This is day two of uncontrollable exhaustion-inducing inexplicable make-me-want-to-tear-my-hair-out itching. At 9pm I couldn't stay awake. At 3am I couldn't sleep.

I want to cry.

Actually I already have.