Posted in family life

toddler potty humor

It starts young… 🙂

I was putting some dirty diapers in the diaper pail this evening and came across a poopy one, so I commented, “Eww, a poopy diaper!” Well, Rondel heard me and replied, “Limerick is a poopy diaper!”

And then he just about fell over laughing (Limerick was rather oblivious, fortunately).

I suppose I’ll have to add “Please don’t call your brother a poopy diaper” to the list of things I never thought I’d say, and then try to explain to Rondel that it isn’t very kind to call someone names of that sort, even if they don’t seem to mind. (I can hear him now telling me that Limerick wasn’t sad about it so it should be ok…) He just has a toddler’s keen eye for incongruity coupled with a toddler’s immature sense of empathy!

Posted in musings


When I was in junior high and high school, I often daydreamed about being a sort of modern desert hermit. When driving through the open desert, especially the higher and hillier desert, I would imagine how a home could be built right into the hillside, letting the earth insulate the space from the extreme heat and cold of the desert environment. There were always goats, in these daydreams, foraging on the desert wildlife and providing me with their wool and milk; I suppose there was a well, too, but I don’t really remember that part of it. And it was always just me.

Partly I was inspired by the history of the native people of the Southwest – by their ingenuity, creativity, and sheer stubbornness in surviving in such a hostile climate without the comforts and amenities of modern life. I was (and still am) amazed at how they not only scratched out an existence from the dry sands of the desert, but did so with time and energy to spare for the creative labors of decorative pottery, weaving, storytelling, and dance. Sitting in my air-conditioned car or pulling food from a refrigerator seemed so cosseted and disconnected from reality compared to the struggle of living in the desert without electricity or running water, and I yearned for that connection to the land I lived in.

The other fuel for my daydreams was my intense introversion and shyness. I liked other people, or at least I didn’t dislike them, but I didn’t really feel a need for them on more than special occasions. Alone, I would have my work and my books and time to be with God – what more did I need? And I saw that in the city, I could never really be alone. Being alone in a city is either accomplished with the intentionality of a retreat (imbued with purpose and direction) or falls upon you with the calamity of social awkwardness and isolation (implying your inferior value in society). There is never the calm content of focused solitude in one’s work or rest, never time for aimless wandering of the mind in exploration of some new idea, never silence in the constant stream of trivial conversation babbling by. But in my desert refuge, I thought, I could find all those things without the stigma of being a loner and a loser, absent from the crowds because no one wanted me present.

To be honest, I still feel the appeal of a desert hermitage. I have a more realistic view of just how much hard work it would require, and I have family responsibilities that would seriously interfere with living a solitary life, but I would love to get out of the noise of the big city and be more intimate and familiar with the land and sky from which physical life is drawn and nourished. For now I will focus on living well for God where I am – but maybe someday I will live in my naturally-built, off-grid, sustainable home and enjoy the stillness in the air as the sun goes down.

Posted in family life

sand baby

On our first day at the beach, Rondel went into the water for a little while with me, but then retreated to the sand where my dad was sunbathing. The dry sand at this particular beach was burning hot, so he compromised by sitting on a towel and then scooping up the sand and pouring it over his legs:


(At a subsequent beach he laid down on his belly in damper sand and had us cover his with it but I wasn’t able to get a picture 😦 He must’ve liked the feel of the sand on his skin!)

I remember a time when we had to avoid sandy parks because Rondel hated the feel of the sand on his feet, and when even the beach was only fun when he was in the water where the sand feels quite different than it does dry. He’s come quite a long way in his comfort with different sensations, even seeking things out now that he once avoided. And as a sand-lover myself (I spend more time digging in the sand than swimming when I’m at the beach), it’s fun to have someone enjoying it with me!

Posted in family life

Traveling with toddlers, part 2

…schedules, routines, logistics, and sanity…

If your toddlers are anything like mine, they do best with predictable routines, familiar places, and people they know. They also tend to wake up early, go to bed early, and require multiple meals, snacks, and at least one nap every day. In normal life, where the family schedule accommodates these routine toddler needs, it’s not a big problem – but when every day is spent in a new place with extended family who aren’t accustomed to operating on toddler time, it can be more of a challenge.

For instance, what do you do when your toddlers are up at 7 but a few of the adults in the group like to sleep until 10? You can try to keep your kids quiet in the house during their most energetic hours, or you can take them out on your own with the result that they are going down for naps just as the rest of the family is finally up and ready – neither of which are great options! We used both of these options at different times, depending on how the previous night went, but I think the ideal solution would be to have an outdoor play space within walking distance, so the kids can get out of the house or hotel without getting totally worn out from a big excursion. Of course, this can be difficult to plan in advance!

The other big adjustment we found helpful for the trip was counting on car time for snacks and naps. If you’re visiting a city where most activities or people to visit are a 30 minute drive away (or more), coordinating a drive with a tired hour or bringing along food lets you get in the essentials without making the whole group sit around the house for an extra hour or so. With my parents, my brother, my sister and her husband, my grandmother, and various other family members who lived in the area, the added flexibility and time saved by utilizing car time was huge.

In the end, though, you can never really predict how a toddler will respond to the more spontaneous and potentially overwhelming schedule of a vacation, and it’s important to remember that. Encourage them when they are doing well, and reassure them when they’re struggling – after all, you are their one constant through the craziness of travel, and they need to know they can count on you to understand, love, and empower them. Don’t be surprised if they are a bit more clingy and cuddly than normal, especially at bedtime! Just enjoy the extra closeness and remember that they’ll be back to normal when they’re back home in their regular routine.

Posted in family life

traveling with toddlers, part 1

… in which planes are discussed, with their various pros and cons …

In general, I think car trips are preferable to plane trips with little kids. They tend to be less expensive (especially once the kids are too old to fly for free!), they allow for more convenient and accessible packing, and they don’t include quite as much waiting around in lines and other random airport places. However, certain places are just too far away for a road trip to be logistically pleasant. Most of my extended family lives in either upstate New York or South Florida, and the thought of a 33 hour drive (one-way!) with multiple toddlers and babies is daunting. Doable, perhaps, if necessary – but difficult, and the driving time ends up taking away from the time spent visiting family, since time away from work is inherently limited. So sometimes planes win, despite my distaste.

When a plane flight becomes necessary, the next order of business is to find a route and time. We were able to find a non-stop this time around, which is preferable for obvious reasons, but when it isn’t (like when we went to visit the New York branch of the family last year) I think it is easier to have one long leg and one short leg, so the littlest kids can (hopefully!) nap during the long flight. They do take a while to settle down, even when they’re young and tired enough to sleep comfortably on a parent’s lap.

As far as times go, I am of mixed feelings. When we flew with an almost-two-year-old and a six-month-old, the redeye flight was perfect for us. They both slept well through the whole flight and relieved us of the difficulty of entertaining two fidgety, trapped children for 5 hours. This year, however, with a three-year-old and an eighteen-month-old, the redeye was a bit more challenging. It took the boys a lot longer to settle down, and it was harder for them to get comfortable and to stay asleep. So my advice would be to take the redeye with babies (especially if they are good attached sleepers – I wouldn’t have wanted to fly with Rondel as an infant even though he’s great now), but try for daytime flights with slightly older children. Daytime flights have the added benefit of setting kids up for a good first night’s sleep on the vacation, instead of messing with their sleep schedules and leaving you with exhausted and cranky kids on the first day there.

And what do you do with those kids on the airplane?

I have to admit that I rely fairly heavily on snacks, especially snacks of a sort we don’t often eat at home – goldfish, chocolate granola bars, and so on. If I’d really been thinking ahead we would also have had healthier options like cheese, apples, and other fruits, but I wasn’t as prepared this time. Books are also great on an airplane, where you do have the chance to sit next to your kids and read to them that is often missing on a road trip and really helps with pre-readers! A few toys can be good, but I limit my kids at this age to two each (so they can carry them and I can easily keep track of them), and I make sure they aren’t too small or too round and rollable. Paper and pencils are also good, but as with the toys, I try to limit the options so that crayons and pencils aren’t falling all over the seats and rolling under the chairs. I try not to use devices and videos unless my margin is almost gone and the kids have reached a breaking point, because if I have the emotional energy for it I’d rather use the forced time together to interact and relate, kind of on the principle of it – but a video is far better than losing your temper and screaming at (or with!) your kids on the airplane 🙂

What are some of your experiences and tips for plane travel?

Posted in family life

no one gets excited about birthdays like a little kid

July is an busy time of year for birthdays in my extended family: my brother is on the 5th, Rondel is on the 11th, and my grandmother is on the 14th. It’s especially exciting this year because it’s my grandma’s 80th birthday and we’re spending some time with her for the occasion, so the birthday celebration is much larger and more immediate than normal!

With his understanding of the concept of a birthday greatly increased from last year, Rondel has thrown himself into the family celebrations with great gusto. When we all sang Happy Birthday to my brother, Rondel was so excited that he got up and ran around the room in circles through the whole song, and then proceeded to watch and “help” my brother open his presents. Just this morning, when Bisa Carmen came over and we asked him if he wanted to sing to her, he circled the room 5 or 6 times singing “happy birthday to you!” at the top of his voice with such a big smile that he couldn’t help laughing from sheer happiness at the end of every phrase.

He’s been reaping the benefits of visiting extended family around his birthday, too, with extra cake and presents at multiple events along the way (although he somehow now thinks he had two birthdays instead of one and should thus be four years old instead of three).

But at his birthday party back at home, which was going to be just a fun playdate with the cousins with swimming and cake thrown in, he was too tired and sick to really enjoy the festivities.

sick kid sitting up just long enough to blow out the candles
With a little help from Daddy 🙂

Limerick and the cousins played while Rondel rested on the couch, and he didn’t have the appetite to eat any of his birthday cake.

Not that he didn’t still have some fun, but it was more toned down. If we hadn’t been leaving to visit the extended family the next day, I would have postponed the party, but it wasn’t logistically doable.

So, I am glad the celebration was able to continue into the vacation, so he could have the full birthday joy – both on the giving and the receiving end.