Monday, September 29, 2008

Love notes, a honey bear and a chatterbox

Ariana has discovered the joys of writing. She can spell her name and the names of her siblings, so she has been writing love notes to all of us several times a day. It is so sweet! I am also excited to see her get into reading and writing. Philosophically, I lean towards unschooling, anyway, but the control-freak in me gets nervous when things don't happen according to my expectations and timetable.

While we were shopping yesterday, Joel fell in love with the little bear-shaped bottle of honey I bought. He has carried it with him ever since, including taking it to the bathroom, holding it while he slept, and pretending to add it to our food this morning. It isn't cuddly, but he is so delighted with it. He has never done this with a stuffed animal. He has not yet figured out that honey can't come out until we remove the cover under the cap. I have absolutely no intentions of helping him to learn this, either!

Elena is quite the chatterbox. She loves to talk. She'll make noises back and forth to us for as long as we are willing to engage her. It is so cute to hear her little voice and intonations. I'm betting that she is going to be a great communicator. She is remarkably eloquent for 3 months!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Whew! Lost and found

We were doing our major weekly shopping this afternoon when we had one of those terrifying parental goof-ups. Carlos and I had split up to cover different parts of the store, and I though Ariana was with him and he thought she was with me. Of course, she wasn't with either of us.

She was scared, she told me, but she remembered what to do: find another mommy with kids and ask for help. She also remembered my cell phone number and Carlos'. Within a minute we received a call and met up with her. I am still kicking myself for carelessness, but so very, very glad that she remembered all that we had taught her.

If you haven't yet read Protecting the Gift by Gavin De Becker, it is a must read! I'm so glad that we knew to teach Ariana to find a mommy with kids instead of not to talk to strangers, or to look for a policeman or employee, which she might not have been able to do. There is a lot of other great info in there, too.

Email FWD and Reply--thanks, BIL!

I am pretty sure I am not alone in having an inbox deluged with political forwards. Most of the time I just delete them, but when the religious ones are full of lies or racism, it bothers me a lot. My brother in law shares some of my feelings, I think, and after we both received the following forward, he responded to it and gave me permission to share his reply:

-----Original Message-----

Subject: Fw: Barack, Sarah and the Bible

----- Good morning folks,

I received this email today & thought it was very interesting. I know we all
have been receiving hundreds of emails regarding the Presidential campaign,
however, what I found most interesting were the comments about the Roman
columns and praying to false gods and the meaning of Sarah Palin's name.

Let us seek the LORD while He may be found and pray for mercy for our
Nation. We have become a sinful Nation & we must truly repent and seek
God's face and His favor.

God bless,
[***Dulce's friend, who may not be aware of Dulce's political views]
> >>
>> Barack,
>> Sarah, and the Bible"
>> >
>> Barack Hussein Obama has taken the nation by storm. From obscurity, with
>> zero executive experience, or much of any kind, he has vaulted into the
>> position of Presidential frontrunner. It is stunning. On the
>> surface, it appears attributable only to his eloquent oratory and his
>> race. But an invisible factor may be a strong spiritual force behind
>> him, causing some people to actually swoon in his presence.
>> I have been very concerned that he has publicly said that he does not
>> believe Jesus is the only way to heaven. This makes both the Bible
>> and Jesus a liar, and it means that Christ has died in vain. A person
>> cannot be a true Christian who believes that there are other ways of
>> forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life with God. Only Jesus has paid
>> the price for that.
>> Therefore, there is, indeed, another spirit involved. And this
>> spirit has come into our national life like a flood. Last week at
>> Obama's
>> acceptance speech, that spirit exalted itself in front of a Greek
>> temple-like
>> stage, and to a huge audience like in a Roman arena. Obama was
>> portrayed as god-like. His voice thundered as a god's voice.
>> At the end, Democratic sympathizer Pastor Joel Hunter gave the
>> benediction
>> and
>> shockingly invited everyone to close the prayer to their own (false)
>> gods. This was surely an abomination, but it was compatible
>> with Obama's expressed theology, and Hunter's leftist leanings.
>> God was not pleased.
>> And God says, "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the
>> Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him." (Isaiah
>> 59:19)
>> Enter Governor Sarah Palin. With incredible timing, the very next
>> day, Sarah Palin also appeared out of nowhere. Her shocking selection as
>> John McCain's running mate stunned the world and suddenly took all the
>> wind
>> out of Obama's sails.
>> We quickly learned that Sarah is a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian,
>> attends church, and has been a ministry worker.
>> Sarah is that standard God has raised up to stop the flood. She
>> has the anointing. You can tell by how the dogs are already viciously
>> attacking her. But they will not be successful. She
>> knows the One she serves and will not be intimidated.
>> Back in the 1980s, I sensed that Israel 's little-known Benjamin
>> Netanyahu
>> was
>> chosen by God for an important end-time role. I still believe that.
>> I now have that same sense about Sarah Palin.
>> Today I did some checking and discovered that both her first and last
>> names
>> are biblical words, one in Hebrew the other in Greek:
>> Sarah. Wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. In
>> Hebrew, Sarah means "noble woman" (Strong's 8283).
>> Palin. In Greek, the word means "renewal."
>> (Strong's 3825).
>> Only God knows the future and how she may be used by Him, but may this
>> noble
>> woman serve to bring renewal in the land, and
>> inspiration.
The response from Dulce's BIL:

There are several things that stand out to me about this e-mail and the
author's spurious assertions. First, only Barack Obama's middle name is
mentioned. That is not an indication that Sarah Palin has no middle name.
But, it is a classic attack, guilt-by-association. Barack has the middle
name Hussein. This is supposed to make us think that he is somehow linked to
some middle eastern terrorist, like Saddam Hussein.

Let's spend a minute looking at the names Barack Hussein to discern their

Barack is a Kenyan form of the Hebrew Baruch, which means "blessed." The
name Hussein means "little beauty" or "little handsome one." The name
signifies the great depth of love the parents have for their child. An
English equivalent, one that comes from my ancestors the Irish, is Kevin,
which also means handsome beloved one. So, I'm supposed to think ill of
someone whose first two names mean "blessed, little handsome one." Oh,
that's so sinister!

Another thing that stands out is the comment that Barack Obama's frontrunner
status comes in part from his race. To be quite clear about this, according
to a study by CNN/Opinion Research Corp, Obama would receive at least 6
percentage points more support if there were no racial prejudice among
voters. (See for
more information). The truth is that Barack Obama is leading in the polls in
spite of his race, not because of it.

The next thing that is interesting to me is the notion that Barack Obama's
power of speech causes "some people to actually swoon in his presence." I
haven't found the video on YouTube yet that proves it, but it's a
fascinating idea nonetheless. Ronald Reagan was considered to be one of the
most eloquent orators in American Political history. What does he get
called? "The Great Communicator." In contrast, what does Obama get called?
An elitist that is out of touch with mainstream American values.

The second and third paragraphs of the message are an indictment of Obama's
faith. The article most used to indicate that Obama is not a traditional
evangelical Christian can be found at,obamafalsani040504.article. In
this article, Obama's Christian faith seems immature since he is not
convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will go to heaven, and he is
concerned that he does not have a lock on the truth and thinks that perhaps
people of other faiths are worshipping the same God and might also go to

But in the same article, he states unequivocally that he has a "personal
relationship with Jesus Christ
." And, as a sign of that relationship, he
publically accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior when he walked down the
aisle of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ in response to the Rev.
Jeremiah Wright's altar call one Sunday morning about 20 years ago.

I personally do not agree that all faiths lead to salvation. And I believe
that I am going to heaven and do not have doubts. But, it is simply wrong to
claim that Barack Obama is insincere in his confession because he does not
believe exactly like I do. Syndney Omarr, a prominent astrologer, was
consulted by Nancy Reagan on behalf of the Reagans before making major
decisions that affected the entire world. But, today Ronald Reagan is
considered to be a person of faith who even based his policies on it. Do we
as evangelicals repudiate the Reagans for their rather confused take on
astrology? No, but we do pass e-mails back and forth questioning Obama's

I was one of the 38 million people who watched Obama's acceptance speech. I
didn't get the satanic Greek temple vibe that the writer seemed to feel so
strongly. The architectural design for the set was actually Greek Revival,
which was the first truly national architectural style in the United States.
Greek Revival buildings can be found in all regions of the country and were
popular due to an association with classical tradition and democracy. And we
all know that democracy is a bad thing, right?

Since it's old news to try to associate Obama with Jeremiah Wright, the
author goes on to try to claim that somehow Pastor Joel Hunter's leftist
leanings are shared by Obama. Hmmm. Has the author ever read the Hunter's
Northland Church Statement of Faith? You can at This is
a solidly evangelical statement of faith. Again, if the author has an issue
with Hunter it must be because of legalistic reasons, not theological. I
guess since I don't agree with the author in everything he or she writes, I
must not be a Christian either!

Sarah Palin may be a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian who attends church
and has been a ministry worker. However, she apparently suffers from some
interesting character issues that also plague the Bush administration.
First, she values secrecy while proclaiming an open, transparent governing
policy. This is made very clear by the fact that she conducted state
business using a personal e-mail account hoping that no one could request to
see the e-mails using a Freedom of Information Act subpoena. If she is
acting as a Christian in all her governing activities, she would have no
need to conduct any business off the record.

I could go on about appointing unqualified, but loyal friends to high
government positions, how she characterizes anyone who disagrees with her as
"haters," how she has tried to get perceived enemies fired or removed from
political positions, or how she could not answer the question, what is the
Bush doctrine. But, this response is about how the author has painted a
negative, racist, hateful portrait of Barack Obama. Supposedly while trying
to share with us truth from God.

Finally, I'm not sure where the author get's their facts from, but the
according to most scholars, the word "palin" in Greek is a preposition which
means "again" or "backward." See this web page for example:

If there's something in a name, then I'm all for a "blessed, handsome one"
over Bush "again." With our economy the way it is, I want to go forward, not

[***Dulce's BIL***]
Obama Biden 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Maybe we are knees? Elbows? Tonsils?

Do you feel like you have found where you fit in the body of Christ? I'm not sure. I love my church, and definitely feel like our pastor is the best match for us that I know of. We went to lots of churches when we were looking, and none of them was right for us until we came here.

The truth is, we are difficult.

Carlos has a degree in Theology and we both prefer sermons that are well-thought-out and give us something with substance. We've both spent an unfortunate number of Sundays with pastors who tried unsuccessfully to wing-it with a bunch of catch phrases and, occasionally, a desperate reliance on the worship team to step in and rescue them if they got stuck or floundered too hopelessly. (Yeah, I know that is harsh, but sadly, it is true).

Also, as snobby as it sounds, good grammar is important. We visited one Spanish church where the pastor missed the subjunctive every. single. time. Not an occasional lapse, but nearly every sentence. It was so distracting to us as Spanish teachers that we had difficulty concentrating on the message.

We also like a strong worship team where we feel free to participate. At some of the churches that we visited, the actual worship team was fantastic, but the congregation seemed comatose. They were barely singing, and I wouldn't have even felt comfortable clapping or lifting my hands, let alone dancing, because it would have distracted everyone.

Carlos and I both get bored when the announcements (which are already in the bulletin) and offering take up a good twenty or thirty minutes. Petty, yes, but I am being honest.

I want it to be small enough that they notice whether or not we are there, but large enough that we don't get dragooned into helping out with everything that needs to be done.

Finally, it is really important to me that our church be multi-cultural. If everyone in the church looks alike, and comes from the same background, and speaks the same language, we won't fit.

Writing all this, I know how it sounds. I deplore the culture here in the buckle of the Bible-belt where church-hopping is normal. I'm the daughter, grand-daughter and daughter-in-law of pastors, and I applaud the idea of, "ask not what your church can do for you, but rather what you can do for your church." And I remember the adage about not joining the perfect church, because our imperfections would ruin it.

We've been at our church for five years now, and I love it. It fills all of our "requirements". But I am still getting that twitchy feeling. I especially miss worshiping in Spanish. Interestingly, some people that I am very close to have been experiencing the same thing, and some of them have even felt led to leave their churches (they attend different ones from ours, although that is irrelevant).

I don't know. I'm happy with where we are at. But the twitchy feeling is still here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Then and Now

I find it pretty funny to look back at how so many of my beliefs about parenting stuff have changed since my pregnancy with Ariana. I had accepted so many customs without really examining them. The more I researched and prayed, the more evidence I found to make different choices. Many of them were things that Carlos already seemed to know intuitively, whereas I had to painstakingly study them out in order to be convinced. I am glad beyond words that we agree on these things and that they aren't a source of friction for us, especially when so many people whom I love and respect see things differently. So where were we then, and where are we now?

Then--An epidural is as necessary as anesthesia for a root canal. I got one ASAP with Ariana and Joel.

Now--Elena was born without any meds of any kind. I didn't even want a Tylenol afterwards. I am so grateful (see her birth story for details). If we have another baby, we plan to go natural again.

Then--I planned to breastfeed for a year, since that we the minimum recommended by the AAP. (I didn't realize that the AAFP and WHO recommend a minimum of two years, or that all three encourage breastfeeding as long as the mother and child wish).

Now--my kids will wean when they are ready. Ariana just stopped a few months before Elena was born. Both Elena and Joel are still going strong.

Then--I never considered anything besides disposable diapers. Cloth? Eww. Gross and way too much work.

Now--I love cloth diapers and would never want to go back to disposables.

Then--Circumcision is just what you do. There was probably a good reason for it, right?

Now--Any cosmetic surgery on my kids will be performed because they want it and understand the risks/benefits, and are old enough to get adequate pain relief.

Then--My kids will be in their own room, and won't be in ours beyond the first few weeks as a newborn.

Now--We get so much more sleep when we are together! Why on earth would I want to wait until we were both wide awake and at least one of us was crying, and then we both had to calm down and get back to sleep?

Then--All babies have to cry it out at some point to learn to self-soothe.

Now--I'm so glad that God doesn't make me cry alone to learn to be independent from Him!

Then--Kids need spankings and other punishments to learn to obey.

Now--Do unto children as you would have them do unto you. Discipline is about making disciples, not about punishment.

Then--Vaccinations are necessary and safe. Trust the pharmaceutical companies.

Now--Vaccinations are unnecessary and unsafe. Trust God.

Then--Most kids don't have to think about food allergies.

Now--I wish most kids didn't have to think about food allergies.

Then--Carlos will be a great dad.

Now--Carlos is an amazingly wonderful dad, and a better parent than I am in many ways. I am still much better at breastfeeding than he is, though.

Then--I will love and enjoy my kids.

Now--I love and enjoy my kids.

Obviously, we have undergone some pretty drastic changes in our views. If you are interested in the process behind any of these, I'll be happy to share. And if you just read this and feel a deep burden to pray for our kids ;), we gratefully accept prayers and good thoughts!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Restless Leg Syndrome

Not the medical condition. I've been twitchy in my spirit, though. I don't know what it is. Just a sense of anticipation and excitement, like something new is in store. Not knowing what is causing it is like an itch, though.

My closest guess is that it will somehow involve ministry and working with Hispanic friends. Which is kind of weird, because for the last few years I have been adamantly against any ministry involvement. Another wacky thing is that New York keeps coming to mind. I've never been to New York and never had any interest in going there. Nothing against it, but it is fairly low on my list of places I'd like to go. I've also been thinking about Beto and Sarita, friends of ours in Chicago.

Now, my mind does weird things all the time. So at this point, I'm not about to start packing. My imagination is pretty wild and that may be all this is. But it is still interesting, and kind of fun to have a continual sense of peeking around the corner, hoping to glimpse the surprises in store.

Morning Rituals and my defense to the junk food police ;)

I love our morning rituals. After snuggling, Ariana and Joel mixed up fabulous apple-pie pancakes (organic applesauce, organic carrot juice, brown sugar, lots of cinnamon and vanilla, nutmeg, baking powder, buckwheat flour and some white chocolate chips for a buttery sweetness). After they made the batter, I fried them up until they were golden and crunchy, sort of like apple fritters.

You may have noticed that we do pancakes often. We munch on them all day. It is great because they work with all of our food allergy restrictions (eliminating wheat, corn, eggs and pork also eliminates a lot of traditional breakfast foods). We never use syrup, so the only sugar is the chocolate chips and the tiny bit of brown sugar we add, but the kids like them better than cookies.

Then Joel opened our coffee beans and took a deep sniff. "Oh, mami, this is going to be *really* good!" Ariana measured the beans, Joel ground them, and together we started a fresh pot of French vanilla coffee. (Further disclaimers: the kids rarely drink caffeinated coffee, although they love decaf and do get the occasional sip whenever we drink the real thing. We don't buy pop, though, so I figure it evens out).

I love tranquil, happy mornings. A relaxing and yummy start to the day just seems to make the rest of the day calmer. Eh, or maybe I'm just addicted to sweets and coffee. :) By the way, for those who may be wondering, no one has made negative comments criticizing our breakfast choices. I am just a little paranoid. Maybe it's from too much coffee? :D

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Alter egos and Christmas in September

We had a great afternoon. After picking up Carlos we met our very dear friends at the park. The weather was beautiful--sunny, but not hot. When we left, Carlos surprised us with a stop at an ice cream shoppe. Tart, fizzy, fresh limeade (almost as good as a Mexican limonada), a banana split (for Carlos--I don't like them), and ice cream for the kidlets.

When he got dressed today, Joel decided he was Spiderman (with the glittery shirt. It seems one of the side effects of an older sister is a fondness for sparklies. Or perhaps he just likes them on his own.) At the ice cream shoppe, Joel decided he was a puppy. He barked a few times (quietly, for which I was thankful). Then he lapped up his chocolate ice cream. As might be expected, he got as much on him as in him. He thought for a moment, then smiled and announced proudly, "I am a mud puddle!"

Our wonderful friends gave us a bunch of new clothes, too. For Ariana, this is as exciting as Christmas. Each item that she pulled from the bag produced lots of "ooohs" and "aahs". With each new piece of clothing, she squealed with delight, "Look, Mami, it is what I've always wanted!" (Many thanks, H. and Gracie :))

Marriage-centered or child-centered?

This question seems to come up often for new parents. I've heard variations of it several times, and usually, the correct answer is supposed to be "marriage-centered". After all, at some point your children will leave the house, and if your marriage isn't strong, then you will be left with nothing. The small minority that chooses "child-centered" usually defends that by saying that their spouses are mature adults whereas the children, particularly babies, are helpless and need us more.

In my opinion, the question is all wrong. I think it is based on the adversarial view that Ezzo and some others have where the mom must choose between her husband or her children, as if one or the other is the enemy. What a horrible outlook!

We are family-centered. All of us are on the same team. It isn't a power struggle where someone has to win at the expense of others. We all have important needs (and emotional needs are valid for everyone), and we want to work together to see that those get met.

For our family, the correct answer is really "Christ-centered". How are we called to show His love to our family? If we are really "Jesus with skin on" to our family members, what does that look like? How do you balance "laying your life down" for others, and "loving others as yourself" (which must mean that we should love ourselves and treat ourselves well, too, or else it wouldn't be worth anything to love others that way)?

Obviously, we are still figuring out the minute-by-minute application of this. It is particularly hard when there doesn't seem to be enough time or energy to meet everyone's needs. Most of the time, though, those moments are the ones where God is giving us two special opportunities: 1, to tap into His awesome creativity and look beyond the obvious. Our kids are good at helping with this when we ask them to brainstorm with us. I'm also finding that Carlos and I each have a unique way of looking at things, and that this is good, because we can complement each other. 2, it is an important reminder that no person can fulfill all the needs of another. Ultimately, only God can do that. We can't make anyone happy. If we make ourselves responsible for that we are just asking for frustration and resentment when our best efforts somehow fail and the other person is unhappy anyway.

Ariana is the one in our family who is quick to take on the burdens of others. Last night, Joel was cranky and threw his flashlight out of bed because it was green and he wanted it to be blue. Then he began to cry because he wanted it. Carlos and I figured that since he chose to throw it, it could just stay there unless he wanted to get it himself. Ariana began to cry and got it for him. He threw it again (it was still green). She was so sad that she wasn't able to "fix it". Carlos began to stroke Joel's hair, which he loves, and he was comforted and quickly fell asleep, and Ariana snuggled Elena, who happily received the extra cuddles. But sometimes we aren't enough.

Our marriage needs time and attention. So do our kids. (As an aside, I HATE the phrase "S/He's just doing it for attention." If the need for attention is so great that they are willing to risk our anger, maybe they just aren't getting enough). We need time and attention for ourselves, too. It isn't a competition between our marriage and our kids, where one will "lose". We need to shift our thinking. It is just a series of chances to practice love for each other and ourselves with creativity.

I know, I'm simplifying. When I write these things, it is because *I* need to be reminded of it, not because I believe others are in great need of my wisdom. ;) I screw up daily, but I need ideals to reach for. After all, "Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it. Yet."

Thanks a lot!

My mom, Carlos and I were talking this morning about how often Joel thanks us for things. I admit that at times my thank-yous are a bit mechanical and said from habit, especially if it is something I was expecting already. Joel, on the other hand, has an amazingly grateful spirit. When we give him food, a drink, whatever, his smile lights up the room and he joyously exclaims "Thank you".

Last night, as usual, he decided to go to bed shirtless (he still views clothing, with the all-important exception of shoes, as something to be discarded whenever possible). In the middle of the night he woke up and nursed, thanked me profusely for the milk, then shivered. I offered him a shirt and he was overjoyed. He thanked me about three times as he fell back to sleep, smiling. It is so easy to want to do things for him when he is so thankful for every little thing.

Thanks to Joel, I am wholeheartedly thankful right now for toilets that flush. I am especially grateful to my brother in law who gave up his entire evening and some sleep to fix them for us. I am deeply thankful for my family and all the people in my life. There is a verse that Paul wrote (I'm too lazy to look up the reference at the moment) that thanks some of his family in Christ for "refreshing his spirit". You all do that. There have been many times when I was feeling cold and you all nourished my heart and wrapped me in love. Thank you so very, very much.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ay, mier...coles!

Joelito, who is of course the delight of my eyes and the joy of my existence, has managed to insert Unidentified Foreign Objects deep into the bowels of both toilets. Despite multiple trips to Lowe's and Home Depot, Carlos' best efforts to unclog them have thus far been in vain. Taking them apart will be the last ditch effort tonight before calling in a costly professional.

I am not a profane woman; I often even eschew euphemisms. (Although I admit to being proud of the title today. For non-Spanish speakers, it technically means Wednesday, which is of course appropriate. It also could be the equivalent to "Shi....take mushooms"). I admit, however, that this situation just seems to be begging for potty jokes. So as not to offend my more genteel readers, I will leave them to your imaginations. But if you come up with a particularly good one, feel free to leave a comment (which may not be published, but will amuse me anyway). :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

I don't think we should have added the oil...

Overheard while the kids are in the kitchen--"Joel, do we need a recipe book?" "No, more salt, please." "Yes, here you go." "Thanks" "Where's the rolling pin?" "I want the scissors, please." (At this point I quickly appear).

"Mami, we were trying to make honey" (as I survey the goopy mess all over the counter). "I don't think Elena should eat it, though. It might be a little bit yucky."

A bit doubtfully--"Joel, I don't think we should have added the oil". As far as I can tell, the concoction is a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, canola oil, apple juice and perhaps coffee grounds. I agree with Ariana--the oil was probably not a good idea, and definitely not for Elena. I'm too amused by the conversation to intervene beyond making sure that no scissors or knives are within reach.

"It says we have to add lettuce." "Joel, if you add soap in there, it will taste poisonous. Like paint." (Note: Their only taste of soap has been from ingesting bathwater, which I firmly discourage, and I do not believe either has tasted paint).

Happily--"Look, here's a whipped cream cake! Without any wheat, eggs, cornstarch or corn syrup. Hear that Joel? We can eat it! Always let a grown-up help you with a knife or the stove." (At least they remember some of the basic safety information).

"And you need candles with fire. Joel, you should let me turn on the fire." (We don't have matches, and the lighters we have are inaccessible).

Both of them beaming with delight--"We had fun cooking, mami!"

Quality time?

I just mentioned to Ariana that perhaps this week, she could go get ice cream with Daddy and me, just the three of us. Her eyes got big. "Just me? Not Elena or Joel?" I nodded, expecting her to be pleased. Instead, her face fell. "Oh, mom, that would be really boring. I want to take my sister, too." Awwwww. I still think she needs some one-on-one time, but it was very sweet to hear that she wants to be with her siblings, too.

First memories

I've been playing with Elena, who is at that stage where any attention is rewarded with chuckles, squeals and grins. I wonder what her first memories will be. Will they be happy ones?

I've read some interesting things that suggest that babies remember events from the womb, although sometimes subconsciously, up until around two years of age. I don't know that I believe it (and I do not have any prenatal memories that I am aware of), but it is interesting to think about. I think that they are affected by some of the mother's hormones, so it makes sense that they might be aware of moods or stress to some extent.

My earliest memories are all from around age two. I'm surprised at how many things I clearly remember, even though most things are just flashes, like a photo of a particular moment. I remember...

...coloring with my mom. I was frustrated because hers looked so much better than mine (if she had realized that, she probably would have started scribbling). She told me that her favorite color was blue. I don't remember my favorite then, but in first grade it was red-violet.

...going to kinder with Miriam and Fer. On the way, we always jumped off a little ledge. It was just above my knees (so what? Less than a foot high?) and it felt very daring.

...playing on the roof with my dog, and giving her a bath there. No wonder I've always loved heights!

...going over to Ivan's house to see his latest toys. They were always very cool, but I didn't always get to play with them, or at least not as much as I wanted.

...playing with my best friend, Gabi. We played in his back yard, in the church, on the merry-go-round with his abuela. I recall how scared I was when I heard about his foot getting caught in the spokes of the tricycle, and how disappointed I was that we couldn't play while it was healing. third birthday. I got a cake with a merry-go-round, and a Lego set just like Gabi's! And the most special part was that his mom gave me permission to rub the soft, fuzzy leaves on her flowers (violets?). I loved to feel them!

...being told not to pick my nose. This made no sense to me. Why shouldn't I? Was it bad? No, not exactly, it was just something we should not do in front of other people (if it were Really Bad, it would still be wrong, even if no one could see you). So why was it sort of bad? Well, it was rude. How? Did it hurt people's feelings? Well, no, but it was yucky. How could it be yucky? It felt so satisfying! Besides, my boogers were pretty small, so other people didn't have to look at them.

...spilling a drink on a lacy white tablecloth when we were visiting. Was I going to get a spanking? No, because it was just an accident. This puzzled me, too. I didn't quite grasp the distinction. My kids are definitely capable of making choices, but I wonder at what age they would be able to really understand punishment as justice rather than an arbitrary result of our displeasure.

...being apprehensive about getting into and out of the boat at Xochimilco. The water was such a deep, murky green--would they be able to find me if I fell in?

...dancing during the worship service at church. Legs were flying everywhere! I don't remember the song, but I can clearly recall the joy and exuberance that filled the room. I'm glad my first memory of church is such a happy one.

...being totally fascinated by the lipstick worn by two of the ladies at church. One wore a perfect, bubble-gum pink; the other wore a brilliant tangerine. I wanted to be old enough to wear lipstick like that!

...eating at McDonald's with my parents. Their burgers were much more interesting than mine. They were bigger, too. Of course, mine came with a toy, and theirs didn't, but then again, I couldn't eat the toy. I remember my dad sharing his BigMac. From then on, I got to order off the adult menu.

There are so many more. Many are happy, some are unpleasant, some funny. Just everyday stuff. I hope that the normal, everyday memories I am creating for my kids will be warm and happy ones of being loved and learning to love others, too.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

You love them more than me!

Sigh. That has been a frequent phrase from our oldest the last week or two. It hurts me to see her hurting, of course, and I feel frustrated and guilty. I need several clones--one to teach, one to clean house, one to be a wife, one for each of my children, and one to just be me.

It is so hard to prioritize some days, knowing that something is going to be left out (OK, so the house cleaning is always the first to be sacrificed--that is an easy one). Lately, with an itty-bitty one and a two-year-old with sniffles, I've taken advantage of Ariana's ability to happily occupy herself (or happily occupy her younger siblings).

She hasn't shown any resentment towards them at all. It isn't that she begrudges them time, attention and affection. She just really needs assurance that *she* is special to me, and that she merits our love.

It is kind of interesting that even though she stopped nursing back in March or April, she has recently started asking again. Every time she asks, I let her, but she has forgotten how, so it lasts barely a couple of seconds.

How do you reassure a four year old that she will always be cherished? We've tried words and logic, and they haven't helped. That isn't particularly surprising, given her age and the fact that it isn't an intellectual issue as much as an emotional one. We've tried giving her extra attention and it helps a little bit, but it seems as if her love-cup has a leak.

The things that have helped the most have been extra cuddles (holding her in my arms until she fell asleep last night) and trying to do special things for her (this morning, I arranged the banana slices on her brown sugar-banana fritters in the shape of a flower, and that seemed to mean a lot).

I think I need to get a copy of the Love Languages for Children. Does anyone have any ideas for helping a little one to feel treasured?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Things that I really dislike

* Allergies

* Pantyhose (from the devil, I say)

* Floors that don't mop themselves :(

* Being interrupted when I am busy

* Cruelty

* Liver and other organ meats. Blech.

* When my kids are fighting or crying

* Working when the are sick

* Flies and mosquitos. Noah should've swatted them.

* Cigarette smoke

* Grading homework

* Hot, humid weather

Things that make me happy

* Fuzzy socks

* Thunderstorms

* Good coffee with sweet cream

* Chocolate

* Comments on my blog

* Baby smiles

* Snuggling with my family

* Looking into Carlos' eyes and sharing a joke

* Long baths with lavender bath salts, candles and a good book


* Listening to my kids playing happily

* Hearing an old favorite on the radio

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A prophet in his own home...

Ha--so after giggling at Joel's comment about life-jackets, I was late to work today because several streets were flooded! No life-jackets required, thankfully. That'll teach me not to take him seriously, huh?

I can't go out in the rain!

...I don't have my life-jacket!--Joel, age 2. Yes, I probably am over-protective, but not to that extreme, I promise. It isn't even raining hard. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Simple things

It is a cozy afternoon, very cloudy although not actually raining. We've been eating from a pot of beans simmering all day with caramelized onions, tomatoes, beef sausage, garlic and cilantro. The kids have been happily drawing. I'm going to fix a nice cup of decaf chai in a little bit, but I'm too satisfied to move right now.

A thought-provoking post

I just found this blog yesterday, and today's post was very similar to some recent conversations I've had with others. Regardless of which side you fall on, it is worth thinking about.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Thanks and something weird but cool

First of all, many thanks and hugs to everyone who encouraged me yesterday. The evening got better, Joel is still drippy but much happier, Ariana has been calm and very helpful with the little ones, and we are all in a much better frame of mind today.

Have you ever had an impression to pray for someone that just comes out of the blue? I've had it several times, but never as consistently as this. About 16 or 17 years ago, there was a DJ on the radio station that I usually listened to whom I felt impressed to pray for. I never met him, even though we spoke on the phone a couple of times, but I started praying for him regularly. He became a missionary in Russia and eventually married a lovely woman there. I got his newsletter for awhile, but then lost touch.

The funny thing is, despite the loss of contact and the fact that we had never even met, the urge to pray for this family never went away. I'd go a few weeks without thinking of them at all, and then suddenly I'd wake up in the night feeling like I needed to pray for them. So for over 16 years, I have been praying for them, and often curious about what might be going on in their lives.

Anyway, on impulse I checked Facebook to see if they were on there, and they are! I sent a message (which probably seemed very strange and semi-stalkerish), and got a very nice reply. I doubt we will ever meet before heaven, but it is cool to know that they are doing well. It made me wonder--who do you think God has praying for us, without us even being aware of it? It makes me tingle to think that perhaps thousands of miles away, people that we have never met might be holding us up and praying blessings over our lives!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Jonah day

Ariana had meltdowns all day yesterday (well, three total, but it seemed like all day), Elena cries as soon as I put her down, Joel kept waking during the night and crying and woke up this morning with a very drippy nose. All three kids seem to desperately need my time, attention and body, and I am grouchy and cranky and want to grab a lot of chocolate and head to Borders by myself for the rest of the day.

I've found that the most beneficial thing by far is not to fight it, but simply to let go of the frustration and lavish attention on the kids. I know that this works. I know that they aren't feeling well, and that some TLC will help. I've even found that my own reserves of patience and peace increase when I do this. But I don't feel like it (read in a very whiny voice). I want to be totally selfish. (Note: I think it is very important for moms to get time for themselves, and do not consider that selfish, but rather healthy. At this particular time, for me, I am wanting to escape for purely self-centered reasons.)

I don't want to be a grown up right now. Somebody give me a reminder about character, and Christlikeness, and all the stuff that we all know but I don't want to remember right now.

A few pics from yesterday

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I love cloth diapers!

When I first heard of people my age cloth diapering, I inwardly gagged. I mean, I understand it in other countries or past generations where it really wasn't an option, but why on earth would anyone choose to use cloth? Aside from the nuisance of pins and all the extra work, I had vague ideas about dunking and swirling poopy diapers :shudder: and it just sounded gross.

So how did I become a convert? It turns out that I had a lot of misconceptions. My friend was generous enough to lend me some and answer all my questions. We took the plunge and switched about two and a half years ago, and I am so glad that we did. The results?

*Less work than taking out the trash. YAY! I do a few extra loads of laundry, but tossing them into the washer and then into the dryer isn't much. It isn't like you need to fold and iron them.

*Not gross. No dunking and swirling. Eww. I have a bag made from the same fabric as the diapers, so I toss the diapers in there, and just empty the bag. If there is solid poop just hold the diaper over the toilet and it rolls right off the fleece. BTW, did you know that you are supposed to do that with disposables, too? Check the box!

*Better for babies' skin. Our kids are prone to eczema, but almost never have diaper rash (and we never use creams, etc.). The fleece keeps their skin dry, and it is soooo soft. I'd be much more comfortable w/ soft fleece than with paper undies. Also, have you looked at the bleach and chemicals that can be absorbed into your skin from the disposables? Scary stuff!

*Better for the environment. Think about the huge piles of diapers that your baby can go through in a week, then multiply that by the time it takes to potty train, and then try to imagine it just for the kids in your family--for us we would be talking a large hill, maybe small mountain. That doesn't even get into the environmental impact from manufacturing disposables.

*$$$. We have saved so much money. We were spending close to $100/month on disposables. We spent less than $500 to get all our Fuzzi Bunz (including a set of mediums and a set of large). That covered Ariana for almost one year, Joel from two months all the way through potty training, and Elena from about 6 weeks through potty training. Wow. Be warned, though--they can get addictive.

*CUTENESS! There are so many colors and designs. You can coordinate to perfectly match outfits, and in the summer they can even double as shorts.

*Easy. We use pockets, which you stuff to create the perfect absorbency. So we add an extra insert for overnight. No leaks. They have adjustable snaps, so you don't worry about pins, and they grow to fit your kids. Also, our little ones tend towards small waists and chubby thighs, and these custom fit them. Joel wore mediums on different settings from 2 months to 15 months.

I just wish we had used them with Ariana from the beginning.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Feliz cumpleaños, mi amor

Today is Carlos' birthday :) He has gotten food gifts from every class, including two key lime pies, several bag of chips and multiple snack bars. I ordered a hard to find DVD that he had been wanting, and we're having a party tomorrow with lots of former colleagues and old friends. We're both looking forward to seeing them.

I've also got a new class starting tomorrow. New classes are fun, although this one is long (3 hours) and uses the new book, which I *really* dislike. It is full, which is always good news. Also great news is that Carlos is going to bing Elena by to nurse so I don't have to pump. I'm tempted to just wear her to class like I did with Joel, but I won't on the first day. I'll give them a day or two before showing off my full hippy-parenting ;)

I've been reading the book by Dr. Wootan--it is fantastic. Great medical advice, solid breastfeeding info (even some stuff that I was unfamiliar with), does NOT recommend vaccinating, does recommend co-sleeping, and has a nice section on discipline, too. It is cool to read the book and also have a window into their lives from things his brother (Elena's doctor!) has mentioned about their family. I highly recommend it!

One last comment about Carlos--I am so grateful to be his wife. He is such an amazing man. Every day with him is a gift for me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What are you looking at?

Isn't it funny how we reveal what we are focusing on? Looking back at some old pictures, every now and then I'd noticed how one seemed off-centered. If I thought about it, though, it would make sense. I had a few pics of myself with some friends that were very lopsided, but I remembered that the guy who took the pictures had a crush on one of my friends. Even though she was on the end of the group, she was the center of the photo.

Of course, anyone who has ever driven a car knows the same thing--the car tends to move toward whatever you are looking at. It takes a great deal of control to look at something and not turn the wheel toward it. Some of my happiest memories are of trips driving back and forth to Mexico with my grandparents. Some of my most terrifying memories are of those same trips. My grandpa notices everything, and many times we would be on mountain roads that are all curves, not even a brief stretch that is straight, when he would gesture with one arm at birds or some particularly interesting scenery off in the distance. The rest of us would grip the sides of the truck with all our strength and implore him to watch the road. Thankfully, (I suspect angelic intervention) my visions of a fiery death at the bottom of one of the mountains never materialized.

I think this is one of the reasons why God calls us to forgive. When we allow hurts to fester, we start to focus on the very qualities that we dislike in someone else, and eventually that focus creates similar qualities in us.

In parenting, I've been challenged to stop and think about what I really want for my children. Do I want to focus on showing them Jesus? Or do I really just want them to be convenient? This morning, I yelled at Joel for making a mess, and then realized that my focus was off. He wasn't even disobeying or doing anything dangerous. He was experimenting with all his God-given two-year-old curiosity (flour, sugar, water and several cups can do a surprising number of experiments in a remarkably short time). Once I corrected my attitude and got my focus back where it should be, we cleaned the mess together and our day got much better.

Unlike my camera, I don't have an auto-focus. I have to manually stop and refocus when my priorities get out of whack. Maybe I should stick up some blurry or off-center photos here and there to remind me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A happy day

Yesterday was such a fun day. We got up, ate cookies and drank coffee (alas,my yummy beans from the Italian Coffee Company are almost gone :(). Then got dressed and ready. This involved some negotiation by Ariana, who has worn sparkly T-shirts with butterflies, two or three necklaces, a pink or purple skirt and shiny violet shoes every day for nearly two weeks. The shiny violet shoes are a little bit too big and not suitable for climbing. However, for some reason, they are preferable to the light-up hot pink flowered tennis shoes. After a moments reflection, she came up with the suggestion that she wear the shiny shoes in the car, but put on the tennies before we went anywhere that would involve climbing. Everyone was happy :)

We grabbed a more substantial breakfast on the way to pick up Carlos' mom. (I'm part Hobbit: first breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses...). The drive to the Science Museum is a couple of hours, which is perfect--long enough to feel like you've taken a trip, but not so long that everyone is sick of the car. By happy coincidence, my parents were finishing up their own trip in this area, so it worked out for us to meet for lunch.

We went to Bricktown and enjoyed a nice little stroll near the canal, then ate yummy BBQ. Once we were thoroughly stuffed, we headed to the museum to walk a little of it off. Ariana and Joel immediately raced to the largest spiral slide in the US and could have happily spent hours climbing the steps and sliding down. But there were too many other fun things to stay there for long.

The elaborate train exhibits particularly fascinated Joel. Both kids were delighted with the air play station. It ha kid scissors, plenty of paper plates and cups for cutting and a wind tunnel. They spent a long time cutting elaborate variations and then watching them fly up the tunnel at different speeds. The climbing walls were also lots of fun. Then it was on to the bubble-stations, full of soapy water and lots of bubble-wands. Ariana's favorite part of the day was going inside the fire station and sliding down the pole *all by herself*. Everyone was nice and sleepy on the ride home, only waking up for an ice-cream stop. All in all, it was a very happy day.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Romans 8:28 also applies to dead batteries (Busy and Blessed Mamas--remember this?)

One of the best things about joining the modern world (aka getting on Facebook) has been getting back in touch with people I haven't seen recently. In particular, I've been enjoying hearing about BlessedMama and BusyMomma and their families. Their blogs are in my list--check them out if you haven't already. One reason that it has been cool to reestablish contact is because I first got to know them and God better at the same time.

I was about the same age Ariana is now, and feeling pretty heartsore. Nothing terribly tragic, but I had had a lot of adjustments in the past year. We had moved from Mexico, leaving all my friends, my dog and what I was used to, my parents were on the brink of divorce, and even though I had a wonderful, loving family, it was a lot to handle.

A beautiful spot in all of this was when BusyMomma and BlessedMama's family came to visit us for a little while. I was in awe of them, because they were Big Girls (at least a year or two older than I) and they knew all sorts of stuff, but they played with me! I remember laughing and laughing, and feeling so happy. Then I was distressed to hear that they were leaving the next morning. It was way too soon. I started to protest, and they confidently suggested that we pray about it.

Now, as the daughter and granddaughter of pastors, this wasn't a new concept, but it is the first time I remember deliberately asking God for something. We very seriously prayed that we would get another day together.

If our parents had been aware of this, they might have been a bit concerned, and felt obligated to point out all the cautions about how God might not answer this prayer the way we wanted Him to, and so on. But with a children's disregard for adult schedules and commitments, we simply told God that we wanted more time together. And we got it! The next day, much to the frustration of the adults, the battery was dead. By the time it was fixed, it was too late to start out, and they stayed another night. I can still remember the gladness, not only for extra time with special friends, but the delight that God cared enough to do listen and do something just because I asked Him. Wow!

From a theological perspective, there could be all kinds of arguments against attributing this to God, I know. Does God burn out batteries on vans? Possibly not. But for a sad little girl, it was proof that He answers prayer, and sparked faith that He would attend to other requests, whether trivial or profound. So, D and C, thanks so much for your friendship, then and now, and for being part of my first answered prayer. I know your parents would consider replacing a battery worth it to teach a child about God's love and involvement in our lives. And anyone else who is going through something frustrating, whether it is car trouble or something entirely different, you never know--God might use it in ways you would never expect.