Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Just Like Mommy

Daniel, you might look more like your Daddy, but inside, you are so very like your Mommy.

Here is the tip-of-the-iceberg list of our similarities, and the lessons I have learned from 30 years of life:

1. We are both clumsy. Plain and simple. While this is good for constantly making Daddy laugh, it's not so good for our poor bruised bodies. Lesson to learn: Wear a helmet when biking. Trust me on this.

2. Which brings me to my next point: We have the same skin. Different colors, but just as sensitive. We can develop bruises and scratches just from thinking about falling. Lesson to learn: Sunscreen is your friend. (Also, hives won't kill you. You and I both get them every now and then from shellfish... just keep benadryl close by and if your bootie itches, don't scratch it!)

3. We both have slight OCD tendencies. You make lines with your toys and I make lists. Lesson to learn: Don't let this side of you go too far - you'll annoy everyone. But it is very helpful character trait when you learn to channel it into being "detail oriented".

4. You and I are both cautious regarding adventure. Maybe this is a better way to say it: We are adventurous, but initially cautious. You want to try the big slide at the park, but are hesitant at first. You want to leap from rock to rock but want me to hold your hand the first few times. It took me days to work up the courage to jump off the high-dive at the public pool when I was a kid. Lesson learned: Being cautious can be good - it means you are smart, and are calculating the risk. This is a very valuable skill. But don't let it overtake your sense of adventure - sometimes you just need to close your eyes and leap!

5. Puzzles are our friends. We are good at puzzles and love doing them. We feel accomplishment in a completed project and enjoy the process as well. Lesson learned: Puzzles are great "brain developers". Do them a lot and you'll acquire all kinds of mental skills to go with it. Plus, you will have a LOT of fun with Tex, Dodo and your Great-Mema in the years to come!

6. Sometimes we laugh so hard we cry. Especially when we are tired. It's so sweet to watch this happen to you too - I have done it my whole life. Lesson learned: Just let it go. Laugh so hard you cry, then cry hard. By the end of the cry you'll realize what you're crying about... something you weren't even thinking of when you started laughing. But those deep down things have a habit of surfacing during a display of any emotion - even if it's laughter. Let it out, dude. Let it out.

7. You and I are both very ticklish. Lesson learned: Watch out for Daddy.

8. We are people pleasers! If someone is upset with us, it's the worst possible feeling. I have lost a lot of sleep worrying about whether or not someone is happy with me. Lesson learned: It's good to want to please those in authority over us: God, parents, teachers, legal authority. But it's not good to care so much about making others happy that we lose sight of ourselves. Sometimes people will be upset with you - and that's ok. Maybe you will make your friends mad by not giving into peer pressure - and that's ok. It's a fine line for us "people pleasers" to learn to walk - but I know you'll get the hang of it. I learned this principle recently and it's helped me: "I am only responsible for my actions, not for others' reactions." If you act with integrity, don't waste any time or energy on the folks that don't agree with you. Period.

9. We tend to hide what we're really feeling. Sometimes we can make everything look "ok" on the surface when really, it's not. This is something I have worked on throughout my life and have gotten better about. It's always good to express what you're feeling and to be honest with people if they hurt your feelings - especially to your parents. We love you and want to know what you're really going through.

10. We both have unnatural loves of popcorn and ice-cream. There is no "lesson learned" on this - we just have really good taste in food.

I love you so much, Daniel and could not be more proud to have you as my son. It's amazing (and scary) to see so much of myself in you. I hope you can learn from my life lessons and avoid some of the pain (and sunburns) I have gone through!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Money Talk

Tonight's conversation after dinner:

Fernando: "Would you like to eat Jell-O or ice-cream for dessert, Daniel?"
Daniel: "Ice-cream!! I want to eat ice cream!"
Fernando: "How are you going to buy ice cream? You don't have any money."
Daniel: (thinking) "...maybe Baby Jaguar can buy it."
Fernando: "I hate to break it to you kid, but Baby Jaguar is in the poorhouse. He doesn't even have pants to put a wallet in."
Daniel: "But I want ice cream!"
Fernando: "You're in the poorhouse too. Say "I'm in the poorhouse"."
Daniel: "I'm in the poorhouse, Daddy."
Fernando: "Yes you are. Do you know anyone who has some money?"
Daniel: "Yes... Baby Violet."
Fernando: "No, she's in the poorhouse too. Well, look. I have all of this money." (pulls some dollars out of his pocket).
Daniel: "Ooooh... you're the man!"
Fernando: "So I can buy myself some ice-cream. But how are you going to buy ice cream? Do you have any money?"
Daniel: "I have money... right here!" (reaches for Fernando's wallet).
Fernando: "Do you know anyone else with money?"
Daniel: "Maybe Mommy can help! Mommy, will you buy me some ice cream please?"

Daniel subsequently spent the ride to the ice cream shop repeating to himself: "I want to eat ice cream but I no have any money - Daddy will you buy me some please?"

Let the "responsible spending and saving" lessons commence!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Chlorine Has Arrived

It's officially swim time again... and Daniel will be starting lessons soon.

We have already clocked some serious pool time though, between Mema & Papa's pool, the pools at the Marriott (some visiting friends invited us over), and the little splash pool in our backyard.

Daniel loves being in the water, so long as his feet are touching the ground. Every once in a while he'll get brave, "catch a bubble" and plunge his head underwater (he then rubs his eyes for about five minutes to get all the water out).

And as usual, after two seconds in the sun, he has already started getting darker. My envy knows no bounds.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Today, I was Supermom.

I don't normally feel that way when both kids are home - I usually struggle to keep both happy/occupied/stimulated - or at least feel as though I'm struggling.

But today was perfection.

It does help when everyone wakes up in good moods... including me. Breakfast was good, and the iced coffee was even better (continued thanks to my favorite new friend: Keurig). And in retrospect, the continued caffeine throughout the day surely didn't hurt my "supermom" feelings. I wonder what I'd be like on speed or crack. (Kidding, mom... just kidding).

Fernando left for work and we cleaned up after breakfast. Daniel and I hopped in the shower while Violet bounced in the jumparoo a few feet away. He loves bathtime, and she didn't seem to mind the separation, happily bouncing to her own sung songs. We dried off, got dressed and headed to the grocery store. (Fernando had taken my keys to work too, by accident, so some office friends stopped by for a key delivery and fun little hello! Thanks, ladies!)

The grocery store can be a wonderful or horrible place. With one child, it's usually a fun outing and even an educational field trip. With two kids, well... just roll the dice and see what happens. And today, it was magical. Violet happily snuggled in the sling and Daniel sat in the cart, cataloging and organizing everything we tossed in there with him. Once we ran out of room for a 39 pound kiddo in the shopping cart, he hopped out, we paid and headed for the car - Daniel ever the gentleman, wanting to help me unload everything and help Violet with anything she needed (she dropped her yellow guitar toy repeatedly... I think she enjoys having Daniel at her beck and call.)

Which brings me to my next point. Daniel has been an angel the past few days. I know preschool is a good environment for a lot of reasons, but when he's home, his behavior just improves. Plain and simple. He's not picking up bad habits from other kids and he takes his direction solely from me. He answers all requests with a happy "Yes, Mommy!"... he requests family hugs and kisses often... he takes care of his sister without being asked... he opens doors for us... he doesn't require any time outs... I simply couldn't ask for better behavior.

But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes - groceries.

We got home and made a yummy lunch of fried eggs, purple grapes and strawberry tamales (thanks, TK!) and while Violet and Daniel ate in the kitchen, I cleaned out the fridge and put groceries away. We had some fun loud music on (Salvador) and spent most of lunchtime dancing and laughing together.

I am quickly becoming an expert on putting two kids down for naps at the same time. Step 1: Exhaust both with lots of activity and pushing naps back a little... 12:30 is ideal. Step 2: Allow Daniel and extra 10 minutes to finish lunch while I give Violet a few ounces of milk - she's usually so tired she's out cold after 5 minutes of rocking. Step 3: Get Daniel ready and enjoy the alone time with him to read books and cuddle. Step 4: Wake up in Daniel's bed thirty minutes later after having fallen asleep with him. Step 5: Enjoy 60-90 minutes of time sans kiddos to clean, email, eat, etc.

Today I used that time to do two loads of laundry, one load of dishes, lots of phone calls, and I even started my photography business. Not too shabby, I'd say.

After naps we headed out again for more errands. This time Wal-Mart and Urgent Care to pick up some allergy medication. And can I just say that I am loving running errands with two kids. I thought I'd hate it... but it's just an absolute ball. There is something about that ratio - me with two of them - that is fun, rewarding, exciting. It requires creativity and energy - and I love that challenge.

Daniel sat up front in the cart at Wal-Mart, and with Violet in the sling, we were all close together. We laughed so hard we nearly cried, reciting the candy-eating parts of one of our favorite books: Little Pea.

And just when the day couldn't get better, we met Fernando at Sonic for ice-cream. The weather was perfect (as was the coconut cream shake)!

We sat around the family table for dinner, dancing like crazy people to African music, one of those magical bonding moments where we are all laughing with our mouths full, making up new dance moves and not caring how insane we look.

Days like today make me want to make this a lifestyle - not just a maternity leave novelty. If only!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Underwater Surprise

Fernando, being the wonderful dad that he is, planned a surprise for the kids last Monday (he wouldn't even tell me what it was!)

He drove us across town to a mall in the East Valley who just opened a giant Aquarium feature. It's technically inside the mall, but feels like a stand alone theme park - it's educational and fun for all ages - and even has a gift shop at the end.

We pulled up to the building and Daniel saw silhouettes of sea creatures painted on the side of the wall and started freaking out - "I want to see ALL the sea animals!" We told him we were heading inside to an aquarium and he started practically hyperventilating: "I'm so cited! I'm so cited!"

From giant sting rays and sharks to the tiniest jellyfish and sea horses, Daniel loved every exhibit. He even got to pet starfish and shrimp! We nearly had to tether him to the stroller as he continually raced ahead to the next feature, getting lost in the next group of people. Violet had a good time too and loved crawling in the bubble shaped protrusions that allow kids to feel like they are inside the tanks.

We went out for a special dinner at PF Changs after the aquarium, where Daniel showed no remorse whatsoever for eating a giant plate of the shrimp he had so lovingly petted only hours before.

Daniel, you have no idea how blessed you are to have the father that you do. I have never met another man who even comes remotely close to being as amazing a father as yours is. He constantly thinks about you and what kinds of things you might enjoy - and he delights in giving you gifts and surprises that you will adore. He was clearly designed just for you, to be the kind of father you need. Listen closely: He is one of the biggest gifts God will ever give you. Recognize this, and enjoy every single minute you get with him.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Role Play Riots

Recently, Daniel has been role playing a lot - constantly pretending to someone else. Sometimes it's a person, but usually it's an animal - an animal in distress. He is always calling out for help, saying that he's falling and needs to be caught, or telling us how hungry he is.

At first we thought it was some disguised cry for attention or help, but then we realized: He's just watching too much Dora & Diego. Every episode of Diego centers around helping an animal undergoing some kind of duress.

And then we noticed exactly how much of his playtime is influenced by those two shows... a lot! Just a few examples...

- When we're driving through town, he narrates it by "paths" from the Dora episode with bugs and spiders. "Which paf should we take? The lellow path or the blue path? Watch out - that one has MEAN ANTS on it! Run!"

- He likes to be "baby jaguar" and alternately makes me and Fernando be Diego. (The other one has to be Alicia, Diego's sister, so that gets interesting when I have to be Diego.) Baby Jaguar likes to hide behind the trees in our yard and growl until we notice he's hiding... see top photo.

- Probably a dozen times a day, we have to "Play Swiper". And there is a strict script involved in the game - he will correct you if you say your lines wrong. ("Oh no... that sounds like Swiper the fox! That sneaky fox is always trying to swipe my stuff. I hope he doesn't swipe my (insert item). Swiper, no swiping! Swiper, no swi..." "A ha!! You'll never get your (insert item) now!") Usually he swipes something pretty important, like my hair or my pants. And 95% of the time they are "stuck in the rainbow" and we have to go on a lengthy adventure to get them back.

- Daniel LOVES to make maps. He and I sit together and draw three step maps that make him run all over the backyard, do somersaults and twist in the swing. And occasionally sing and dance like a monkey.

You get the idea. Dora & Diego have become household names, but it's not entirely a bad thing. Daniel is an expert on a handful of animals (Daniel: "What animal eats jellyfish, Mommy?" Me: "Turtles!" Daniel: "No Mommy, Leatherback Sea Turtles!") and loves helping us solve problems (usually by saying "Let's stop and think!" and pulling something out of his imaginary backpack).

Let the games continue!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chew and Swallow

So, this is an interesting development.

Daniel has always been a slow and deliberate eater for the most part. He takes a while to finish each meal and seems to enjoy savoring each bite. His preschool teachers even say that the rest of the class will be laying down on naptime mats and he'll still be eating lunch by himself, slowly.

But he has taken his slow-eating game to a whole other level. Lately he will eat most of his meal and then chew a bite for a while. And then not swallow... the chewing can last up to 30 minutes. No kidding.

At first we started punishing him when he refused to swallow - we had him in time outs a few times. It definitely felt like defiant behavior and worthy of discipline.

But after a chat with the pediatrician, we have changed out plan. The doctor said to not make mealtime a war zone - ever. Don't demand that he finish veggies or that he even swallows on command if we think it's been too long. If Daniel eats too slowly, just let him know he has a few minutes left and then take the food away. (And no snacks until the next time). But he said "absolutely no discipline".

So, we're trying Plan B. Not sure if it's working or not... but it's definitely an interesting little stage in Daniel's development. I never thought I'd have to tell my kid to swallow his food!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day Love

It really was the best Mother's Day ever.

The three of us attended a brunch at Daniel's preschool the Friday before Mother's Day, and spent time with good friends and good food (read: cream puffs!). The week before, Daniel made me a bunch of presents the week before at school - it's so fun to be at a stage where he can create gifts with me in mind. I received a decorated candle holder, a heart-themed picture frame (with a picture of us in it!), and best of all: A book about me.

The book had three pages: 1) A colorful handprint flower of Daniel's hand, with a sweet poem. 2) A drawing of me in blue and yellow (if you squint, it looks JUST like me). And my favorite... 3) An interview with Daniel about his mom. Allow me to share with you the details.

1. I show my mom I love her by MAKING CHICKEN.
2. My favorite thing to do with my mom is PLAY.
3. Her favorite color is BLUE.
4. Her favorite food is CHICKEN.
5. If she had extra time, she would like to GET FOOD AND COOK CHICKEN.
6. When my mom grows up she wants to be a PRETTY.
7. My mom laughs when I'M SILLY.
8. My mom is "THREEEF" years old.
9. What my mom loves to watch: A MOVIE ABOUT UP.
10. What my mom loves the most is CUTTING TREES.

Priceless. Especially because I'm a vegetarian. Who has no idea what the "cutting trees" bit is about. I really will keep this forever.

Sunday morning, I woke to sweet surprises from my husband (who is so thoughtful and tender in his gift-giving. I found three little pots, each with different plant seeds inside and a green paint thumbprint of the person who gave me the pot - Fernando, Daniel and Violet. I then found a beautiful new Keurig Coffee Maker on the kitchen counter - love it!

We went to Radiant where Daniel joined us on stage for Violet's dedication. It was so special to stand there together, publicly, as a family of four committed to learning together and growing together. After church we headed to Daniel's Mema & Papa's house where we officially welcomed Summer with the first swim of the season. Daniel wore a suit with a "built in" tube... which we won't use again as he'll be starting swimming lessons soon. But it DID make for some hilarious (future blackmail) shots. He also learned the fine art of water guns and delighted in soaking everyone who came close, including the poor, poor dogs.

The weekend was busy and full... full of family, full of memories, full of special moments... and my heart has never been fuller.

Daniel + Ava + Little Sisters!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Doctor Daniel

There is now a doctor in the house: Dr. Daniel.

This whole thing started when he came into our room one morning with a pair of headphones on, stuck the jack end into my chest and said, 'Mommy, I need to listen to your heart.' When I asked what it sounded like, he said, 'A cookie.' And walked out.

Shortly after that, Fernando got him his own toy doctor's kit and he's been giving all of us exams every since.

Fernando had the flu for nearly a week recently, and whenever Daniel suddenly went MIA, I could find him perched on the pillow next to Daddy's head with all of his equipment spread out on the bed. Poor Fernando was too sick to even really wake up, but that didn't stop Daniel from listening to his head with a stethoscope.

When I pretended to be sick, he used all of his tools on me and I finally said, 'Ok I'm all better.' To my surprise, he said, 'You not better, Mommy. First, I have to cut you.' And he brandished his plastic surgical scissors. I will admit... it was a tad scary. But then Dr. Daniel found an apple in my stomach, which he said was the problem. Now, I was told, I could feel better.

He takes the kit with him to doctor appointments and to my recent Urgent Care appointments. Usually the staff is really cool and let him play around with some 'real' equipment. One doctor handed him a roll of gauze to keep, thinking it would be a cool addition to his kit. As soon as he left the room though, Daniel started crying - 'I don't want THAT!' (Violet, however, did.)

I'm not sure how long this phase will last, but with healthcare reform up in the air, it should would be convenient to have a doctor in the family!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Just a few cute little things Daniel has picked up recently!

- Oopsie!
- Adding "ie" to anything... "We're home! We're homie!" Ha.
- Trying to say "that's not funny" he says (very seriously): "That's not silly, Daddy!"
- He calls himself a "baby man". He says he's not a baby or a man.
- He can't pronounce "slippery" and instead says "slipperly".
- When we say "I love you" he always says, "I love you first".
- Occasionally before something fun (like a movie) he says, "Let's do this thing!"
- While eating, he often says, "That's DELICIOUS!"
- When we say anything endearing... he has to one up us. Me: "You're so precious to me Daniel"... Daniel: "I'm so precious to you first!"

And my favorite... he has learned to do the "What's this?" (poking your belly). And then he pokes your nose and yells, "BOOP! Got your nose!"

Love love love it.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Being a Brother

Sometime during the last week, Daniel turned a beautiful (metaphorical) corner with his sister.

He truly, truly adores her.

(Ignore the underwear in these photos. We live in Phoenix. It's a desert. Sometimes it's hot.)

Every morning he asks for her first thing, even if she's asleep. The second she wakes up, he races in to tell her "Violet - I'm here!"

Every night after she's gone to bed he asks for her. He notices when she's not there, and he's sad.

He now touches her without flinching or pulling away. He is playful - even tries to carry her, awkwardly lugging her backwards by her armpits. (She thinks this is great fun, by the way.) He helps her stand, and walk.

I have noticed he talks to her more frequently about all kinds of things, not just his standard rotation of baby phrases. He stays with her if I step out of the room and chit chats about his toys or whatever.

This morning we had a perfect moment. One of those "please stop time now and I'll live happily forever HERE" moments. Violet woke up first and she was in my lap, cuddling sweetly and waking up slowly. Her door creaked open and a sleepy Daniel padded in and onto my lap too. He curled up and joined her in the "wake up slowly" process. The sweetness of that feeling... one child in each arm, sharing a lap, their arms and legs overlapping... was indescribable. It was pure honey. We grabbed some baby books and read together for another ten minutes before the lovefest broke up.

And yet not a few hours later, we had one of the most heartbreaking moments of Daniel's transition. Sitting in his room playing with his plastic food, he suddenly didn't want to share with Violet. He came pretty close to a tantrum, which is unlike him. (And so far, sharing with her has been something he's good at). He repeatedly refused, and curled up fetal style half on the floor, half on my lap, sobbing. I held him close and asked quietly if maybe he was upset that he had to share his Mommy with his sister... he sobbed harder and clung to me, nodding. It was tragic and tender, as I think we finally broke through one of the many things he's bottling up. Minutes later, he was fine, and playing happily with Mari.

Speaking of pretty darn cute... yesterday evening we were eating dinner on the patio and we had all finished our meals except Daniel (who takes an unbelievable amount of time to eat!) So we three played on the grass while Daniel finished. Suddenly we hear this from the patio:

"Hey! I'm right here! I miss you! And I can't wait to see you! I'm right here!"

So cute. And so indicative of the cheerful front he uses to mask his need to be a part of our lives as much as he was before.

He is such a good big brother.