24 hour drive

August 12, 2008

We took our family vacation a few weeks back. Two glorious weeks in Los Angeles to visit family and friends, show off the new baby, and enjoy some time away from work. We took the boys to their first trip to Disneyland, managed to make it to the Comic-Con in San Diego, and got to see just about all our family and friends in the area.

Getting to LA was half the adventure. We knew we didn’t want to fly down, mainly because it was out of our budget. With two kids under 3 years of age, we would have needed to pack car seats, a stroller, the playpen, our luggage, and then rent a car when we got to LA. So driving the 1,200 miles made more sense. But 20 hours in the car is a long time to travel with a 2 1/2 year old and a 4-month-old.

Our strategy was to leave Walla Walla at 7 p.m. on a Friday, take turns at the wheel and drive until we felt too drowsy to keep going. Probably not the safest choice, but the night was the only time we could count on the boys sleeping and us covering the most ground. After loading up on coffee and setting the DVD player up for Diego, we headed out of Walla Walla and toward the Oregon coast, to get on the 5 freeway. Carlos managed until about 12 a.m., and then I took over. I made it through most of Oregon and had to stop at a rest area about 3:30 a.m. Carlos took over again, and we decided to have an early breakfast at 4:30 a.m. The boys rustled out of sleep and were happy to get out of the car in a new place.

We found a Sheri’s restaurant (much like a Denny’s) almost identical to one we have in Walla Walla. I think we were just outside Yreka in California. The breakfast went smoothly, and when we got back on the road the sun was just getting up. We timed the stop perfectly because the boys knocked out once we got back in the minivan, and stayed asleep about another three hours. Then our worst fears manifested. After stopping several times to use the “potty,” to gas up, to nurse, to let Diego run around and play, and to buy goodies to make lunch, we made it to our first destination, Sacramento, at 1 p.m. Luckily we got to stay in a hotel thanks to my awesome aunt Ada, who also cooked dinner for us.

Diego and Rafa chillin' at the hotel in Sacramento.

Diego and Rafa chillin

Everyone slept peacefully that night. We killed time Sunday morning at a park, then started the six hour drive to LA a little before noon. Some more crankiness and way more stops than were necessary, and we made it to LA close to 7 p.m.

I can’t believe we did this drive again two weeks later. More soon…


Welcome Rafael

April 25, 2008

It’s been way too long since the birth of my son and my last post, but here is a 5-minute recap of the last two months.

Rafael decided to come two weeks early, just like his big brother. The pain started around 5 a.m. on March 7, a Friday, and I tried to dismiss them as false labor so I could squeeze some more rest before having to go to work. Granted, I’d already been feeling so uncomfortable in my 9th month that I’d started working from home. By 6 a.m. I realized the pain wasn’t going away. Carlos and I called an on-call doctor, because as chance would have it, my doctor had gone away for the weekend with her family.

We got to the hospital a little after 7 or 7:30 a.m., honestly I can’t remember now. At this point we still thought it was a false alarm. The nurse checked me and let me know I was close to 8 centimeters. For those who aren’t familiar with labor lingo, this basically means the baby is about to pop out. We had very little time to do anything. We hadn’t brought my overnight bag, and dragged Diego with us in his pyjamas because we honestly thought we’d have time to go back home. HA! Our dear child care provider picked Diego up from the hospital for us, and Carlos and I got ready for the delivery. I requested an epidural, but found out there wouldn’t be time for it. The on-call doctor showed, and he got me pushing pretty soon after all that. Except we weren’t having much luck with it. I think my mind and body shut down communication a bit when I realized this would not be pain free. I felt exhausted from pushing, combined with the pain, and could tell weren’t making any progress. So I asked if I could quit the pushing for a bit and just rest. Except resting doesn’t fit in real well with labor, and the contractions kept me from even catching my breath. I started clutching Carlos’ hand more vigorously, and even tried pulling my hair to distract from the pain in my abdomen.

The doctor had to run off for something, just as I decided to start pushing again. The nurses had to fetch a doctor from somewhere else, and for a moment I truly thought Carlos and Itzul would be delivering the baby. I couldn’t tell much of what was happening from my vantage point, but I believe the next doctor ran into the room and had just enough time to put a robe on before catching Rafael as he came out. Carlos later told me the doctor didn’t even have time to put on gloves, and had to use the scrubs over his hands instead.

The pain was incredible, and I screamed and cried out loud like I never have before. Getting Rafael out felt like a great accomplishment as much because it made the pain finally end. And here he is:

The hospital stay was extended a bit because Rafael was born with the cord around his neck and a bit blue. His face was bruised badly. It was nice to be pampered though and have food brought to me all day. It’s amazing how much quicker I recovered with the natural birth compared with Diego, who was virtually painless thanks to the epidural, but left me in considerable pain for weeks after delivery.

The birth hit Diego the hardest the first few weeks. I think he felt especially insecure and vulnerable thanks to this little arrival. It must have been obvious to him that mom and dad weren’t going to pay 100 percent of their attention to him anymore.

On the upside, he’s not going to daycare these next few months and gets to play with mom and baby brother all day each week. Great for him, exhausting for me.

Rafael is seven weeks old now, and is a happy, pudgy baby.

And with big sister Itzul.

Teens and toddlers

February 22, 2008

Having a 13 year old girl and 2 year old boy in the house makes for an interesting dynamic. Luckily teens and toddlers aren’t too different when it comes to certain things. They like apple juice and apple sauce, ice cream, Nutella…anything sweet, really. They like to explore and experiment, want to be independent but also to be taken care of, and to be guided without being smothered. Our teen and toddler can also be quite strong-willed, stubborn, temperamental and prone to overreact.

What I love about them is how intelligent they each are for their age; their silliness and confidence; their contagious energy and sense of adventure.  And how imaginative and creative they both are.


Diego and Itzul.

countdown to baby: 5 weeks

February 19, 2008

I know I’m getting close to having this baby because after my doctor’s appointment tomorrow, I have to start going every week. I’m officially due March 21, but given that Diego was 2 weeks early, we’re getting ready around the house to welcome little Rafael Eduardo.

In case there were any doubts I’m with child at this point…. me-pregnant22.jpg

This is me a few nights ago, forcing myself into a non-maternity shirt. Once this baby is had I am considering burning most of my maternity wear, the five shirts and three pants I’ve worn exclusively all winter.

I got a great deal on a swing/cradle that I think will last us most of the first year. Today I put it together — all by myself! — and it’s now displayed in our living room:


Finally there is the “nursery,” which is really our bedroom. Our room served as Diego’s nursery in Burbank until we moved to Walla Walla and he got his own room. We have a lot more room to share with this baby, though, probably twice as much. And by the time he needs his own space, we might be looking into a bigger home with a room of his own. Or maybe just a spacious room for the two boys to share. So here is Diego’s old crib and bedding, take two:


There were only a couple of big-ticket items I needed this time around: a double stroller (check), a cradle swing (check), and a changing table/dresser (uh-oh).

I don’t have a place to put the baby’s clothes yet, and I think clearing out one of our dresser drawers will have to do until I find an appropriate changing table. For now, we’re going to use the play pen that we rarely used in our old apartment because there simply wasn’t any room, because it comes with a changing space!


I’d say we’re pretty close to being ready. Just have to wait for the little guy to be ready also. Hopefully one of my next posts will be pictures of our latest addition to the clan.

ode to donnie

February 15, 2008

A few months ago, the teenager showed up at our house nuzzling a tiny kitty she and a friend had come across. The cat had apparently survived a house fire, or was found under a house that had burned down. Teary-eyed, she begged us to keep him. Being a few months pregnant, I had mixed feelings from the start. We’d been talking about getting a pet, but I had hoped we could wait until after the baby was born to get one.

There we were, face to face with the question. We told her how unfair it was to put us in that situation. She and her friend wanted joint custody of the kitty, switching off every week. We said that wouldn’t work either, that it wouldn’t be fair to the cat (and would be a messy custody dispute should the girls’ friendship waiver).

So we took in little Donnie Darko, or Donnie. Diego loved him immediately, and experimented poking his face and picking him up by the tail. We saw an opportunity to teach our 2-year-old how to be “nice” to a pet and what is “not nice.” (Like the tail flinging).


As Donnie grew, Diego’s toddler influence must have taken over. Donnie became a rambunctious kitty, loving to paw at you and nibble where he could. A few times, he jumped up and swatted playfully, catching Diego’s face and leaving my 2-year-old crying and not understanding the kitty game.

Now, with several months gone, an exhaustive attempt at conditioning with a water bottle, and a good nail clipping later, Donnie is as crazy and wild as ever. Our attempt to domesticate this stray has failed completely. He’s a great kitty, but his eagerness to swat and bite to play has shot my nerves. I had to tend to Diego’s wounded face one too many times. With a newborn joining us in a month or less, I had to put my foot down.

Donnie needed a new home.

Today we’re heading to a no kill shelter where animals are placed in “foster homes” until an adoptive family can be found. The teen still really wants a cat, and we’re all sad it didn’t work out better with Donnie. I think an older, mellow cat would be a better fit for our household.  A nice cat just looking for a good home and less inclined to play with an infant or torment a toddler. I’m sad to see Donnie go, even though I complained the most about him. I hope we did our best raising him, and that he finds a home that will be good to him and let him be the wild kitty he longs to be.

stroller love

February 13, 2008

After weeks of searching for the perfect stroller for a newborn and 2 year old, I will soon be the proud owner of this:


A friend recommended the Phil and Teds sports buggy. It’s a single stroller with an attachment for another child. So it’s two strollers in one. Diego’s been eyeing the Jeep stroller at a local store, the one with the steering wheel and  horn. I know he would have preferred that stroller, but I can’t imagine pushing Diego in a single stroller and carrying the new baby around town. Slings will only work for so many blocks before you just want the baby to learn to walk already. We’d narrowed down the stroller dilemma to looking for a tandem (not side by side) stroller…and that’s where we exhausted our list. Did we want high end, to get good wear out of it, or cheapy, since it would probably be large and complicated to push around anyway, and last us maybe two years tops? I thought about getting two strollers. I thought about doing the single stroller plus sling thing for a while.

This was a bit of a splurge for us, but we’re going to make it work if I have to velcro Diego to the seat to keep him still. I think he’ll adjust to a new stroller. The new baby won’t get much of a view, as a coworker pointed out, but he’ll be small. He’ll get over it. Either way, it’ll be an improvement from our current stroller, which has been dying a slow death this past year, is permanently reclined and catches my fingers whenever I fold it up. It should make a nice bonfire.  Or maybe I can sell its parts for cash.

I say 10 weeks, but this figure could sway between 8 and 12, depending on how early or late this baby wants to arrive. Diego joined us about two weeks early, but a beautiful healthy boy no less.

I’m amazed at the differences between this pregnancy and my first, and the different anxieties I’m feeling because of them. With Diego, I wouldn’t dream of having coffee or Cokes. This time around, I practically need a mid-day Coke fix, and my half-cup of drip each morning. I have tried the decaf thing, and only truly apply it when at coffee shops, where their drip seems to be 20 times stronger than what we make at home (or at the office).

I’m also making a lot less healthy choices. No prenatal yoga this time, no walking around with a trusty water bottle. I know I should be sipping on some water instead of finishing my coffee right now, but it’s almost like the baby craves it as much as I do now. Unlike my first pregnancy, I also have a 2 year-old constantly at my feet, or begging to be held or entertained. It’s so draining. Does that count as exercise?

My doctor assures me the baby is developing great and appears to be totally healthy. Time will tell. I’m worried he won’t nurse, and I’ll have to mess with formula. But I’m determined to make this kid nurse, and pray it goes as smoothly as it did with Diego. The thought of nursing another 15 months terrifies me. When will I get to enjoy and finish a full beer? I’m also not planning on introducing solids until the 6 month mark, if I have the pediatrician’s blessing. I’d like to make my own baby food again, but will I have the time?

Returning to work is another obstacle I’m quietly preparing for but won’t actually know the challenges until the day comes. That’s supposed to be July 28, if our finances hold. My strategy is to take both kiddies to day care half-time. That will be like 2 for the price of one, except my day will end closer to 11 or 12 p.m. Then I have the afternoons to write, probably when Carlos gets home. But from the constant rumblings in my belly, we might have another active baby boy on our hands. At least he won’t be mobile for several months after his birth.

Diego speaks

October 17, 2007

It took our little guy a while to crank out the words, but as his second birthday nears next month he’s picking up words every day, it seems. He was a little slow to develop his vocab, but he’s been busy mastering walking, running, ball kicking and throwing, climbing, etc. It makes me proud to see him kick a soccer ball like a little star, when some kids his age are still working on that. But getting him to put two words together has been trickier. I think these are all the words he says:

ball, bus, car, police, waffle, agua, keys, mama, dog, simpsons, movie, no, yea, scooter, stroller, bed, pumpkin, park, downtown, spider, bug, poo-poo, i did it, … and then he has his own made-up words for fire truck, blanket, outside, afuera, dadda (more like aba) and sister or itzul (didi, i think) and some other sounds he makes that when I play the guessing game turn out to be actual things.

I have some comfort in knowing that he understands a lot more than he speaks. When I ask if he’s hungry or if he wants to eat, he answers accordingly. Hopefully he gets good marks at his 2-year check-up with the doctor.

big boy

June 24, 2007

Our plan for the weekend had been to get Diego a “big boy” bed. Really what we had in mind was a toddler bed that would hold his crib mattress. He’s been getting a little more difficult with the bedtime routine, and we thought perhaps he’d be ready for a little bed. One of my coworkers talked me out of it, at least temporarily. She said that toddler beds are not practical, because in less than a year (or maybe two) he’ll be ready for a twin size bed. We haven’t budgeted for a new twin bed yet. We also have the added complication of planning for another baby. Would it be smarter to get the toddler bed and wait until he’s really ready for the twin; go ahead and get a twin bed; or get a set of bunk-beds in anticipation for a younger sibling? I think the bunk-beds would work best. That way when he’s older and has friends over, even if there isn’t a younger Virgen member running around, we’ll have space. But we can’t afford a new frame and two new mattresses yet. We could probably just get one mattress, and just use one of the bunk beds, as my coworker also noted. Anyway, it’s still up in the air. I still think the toddler bed would be work the $60.

So we held off on buying any beds, and got Diego a “big boy” booster high chair, instead. He’s been getting cranky about his regular high chair, and has been more interested in sitting with us at the regular table. But he disappears in the seat and can barely see his meal just sitting on the regular chair. I guess I probably shouldn’t even let him sit there. So he’s delighted with the booster. He’s got his own place at our table in the kitchen, and is getting quite skilled at drinking from a cup without a spill-proof lid. Our dining room table is a little trickier. We have a gathering table that is a bit higher than a regular table. I probably shouldn’t strap him in the booster chair in one of those, which are high like bar stools. Maybe with careful supervision, or maybe in a year or two.

baby milestones

June 12, 2007

I stayed home today because Diego woke up with a fever. Together we caught up on some PBS programming. I saw part of a show called “A Home of Our Own,” where a group of ladies talk about pressing mommy issues. The topic today was getting a baby to sleep through the night.

It got me thinking about how well Diego sleeps. He usually knocks out between 7 or 8 p.m. and gets up by 6:30 a.m. On rare days he’ll sleep until 7. That’s a good 11 hours, plus his late morning or early afternoon nap. That’s pretty early to be up on a weekend, but getting those extra hours alone at night really makes a difference. It feels like we’re so blessed now, that it’s hard to forget it took almost a year to get him into that sleep routine. Before that, Diego had us up at least once or twice a night wanting to breast feed.  In the early months I’d go to his crib every two or three hours. That’s also when his crib was in the bedroom with us.

One of the joys of moving to Walla Walla was getting Diego his own room. The first few weeks in the house, though, he’d start in his own crib and then end up in our bed. Eventually we got used to keeping him in his crib, but we’d still have to drag ourselves across the house to soothe him when he woke up. Once I stopped nursing him in the middle of the night everything else got easier, but not without a few rough days. What helped us was sticking to our routine and rules. Carlos gives him his bath and usually lays him down. Then I’m the one to get Diego in the mornings. I help with some of the bed-time routine: Diego only really lets me brush and floss his teeth, and I really enjoy going through a few books with him before bed. Then Diego says good-night to us and his toys and gets in his crib, where a blue blanket and some stuffed animals keep him company.

The show today emphasized having a routine and sticking to it, as well as letting the baby have some sort of soothing object to take to bed for comfort. The ladies also said how important it was that babies go to bed while still awake (but sleepy) so they learn to fall alseep on their own. At first Diego would wimper or cry out, and our rule became to wait at least five minutes before going back in. If he happened to wake up in the middle of the night, we’d hug him, then lay him back down without picking him up. Carlos did this task for a while because it was too tempting for me to go since I was no longer breast feeding.

I can’t even remember now how long it took him to get in the good habit, but it was a lot quicker than I expected. And now we’re all that much happier for it. I can’t believe I made it a year without sleeping through the night.