Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More Visitors!

How blessed we have been this summer with visitors. We LOVE it!

Here is Jen (frequent commenter on this blog) and her two kids Hannah and Jeffrey who visited us from San Antonio last week. Jennifer and I grew up together (we have been the closest of friends since second grade) so it is extra special to see our children enjoying each other as well.

I can't believe how Hannah has grown up so fast. After all, I was there the day she was born! She is smart as a whip, funny and quick, kind and generous and, obviously, strikingly lovely! Now if only she would believe it herself...

Jeffrey is amazing. He is good at pretty much everything he tries to do, super fun to hang out with and so good natured. Quite handsome to boot. Unlike Hannah, he doesn't have any trouble believing this!

And what can I say about my dear friend of nearly 30 years (yikes!)? I only see her about once a year but every time we get together it is like putting on a pair of comfy slippers. She knows me inside and out, my quirks, my moods, my strengths and my weaknesses too. And she still likes me--go figure!

Thanks for the visit. We can't wait until the next one. (Oh, and next time bring Jason--we missed him!)

First of Many, I Think

Congratulations, Julia, on a fantastic job in your very first gymnastics meet!

Given your level of enthusiasm (as evidenced by the constant cartwheeling and handstanding and backbending going on in all corners of the house), I am virtually certain that this is the first of many meets in our family's future.

I couldn't be prouder of you. You are willing to work hard, practice as much as it takes to be good, and listen and learn from your coaches. With this attitude, you are sure to be amazing.

I can't wait to watch from the front row!

Friday, July 25, 2008

At Least I Can Admit It When I Am Wrong

I am writing this from the beautiful Loews Hotel in Coronado. From where I sit, I am looking over the bay, the carriers at the naval base, and have a perfect view of downtown San Diego. If I had a window on the other side, I would see the harbor and the ocean. If I had a window behind me, I would see the hills of Tijuana, Mexico.

Shamefully, I did not want to come along with Jay on his two night, most-expenses paid business jaunt and was dragged here kicking and screaming. It was my position that, when you have six kids, you no longer have the luxury of spontaneous travel and that the stress of making arrangements for them and packing and preparing the house was simply not worth the transient pleasure of a small getaway.

OK, I was wrong. I officially apologize. And I profusely thank the grandmothers and friends that have taken four of my children for the last two nights with such graciousness that I could not help but relax and enjoy myself only a few hours after our arrival.

Where are the other two children? Right here with me, and I am really enjoying having time with them both. Sam is here because I have not spent nearly enough one-on-one time with him (as I have particularly with Joey, Lindsey and Julia of late) and so I jumped at the chance to bring him along. Isabella is here because, quite honestly, she is too much trouble at 18 months to leave with anyone guilt-free! However, I must say that I have been delighting in her toddler-antics in this environment and haven't regretted for one second that she is here.

I have to take a minute and plug the Loews Hotel for being, without a doubt, the most kid-friendly hotel I have ever stayed in. They say right on their web site that they love kids and pets, but ever-skeptical me was not convinced. Anyone can say that! And since when do classy, resort-style hotels really, truly love kids and pets? However, I am now a believer! They have thought of everything.

Right when we arrived, we were given a resort schedule of events. We went right away to the first one, a sunset ceremony honoring sailors and bells at sea. We were met by a "pirate" who told us a story (granted, not a great one, but Sam liked it) and let both kids ring the bell and walk the plank. The served punch and took our family's photo (and gave it to us, rather than sold it to us!).

Then we were off to dinner, a nice one for Jay and I and a kid-height dream buffet for Sam and Isabella. Kids under 6 can help themselves to all the food for free, 6 and up are $8. It featured really good macaroni and cheese, chicken strips, fries, fruit, carrots and celery, rice crispie treats and cookies...the kids were in heaven and could help themselves since it was low to the ground.

After dinner Jay brought Isabella back to the room to put her to bed and do some work. He found waiting for him a real crib (not a port-a-crib) decked out in girly linens (they asked when we checked in) including a fluffy bumper and--get this--a CD of bedtime lullabies.

Sam and I went to try our hand at "family bingo" where the prizes were Chuck E Cheese type gliders, cards, paddle balls, noise putty, cars and action figures that had every kid straining for a win. Sam won the first game and the last game we played. The last was blackout, so he got two prizes for that one. The had complimentary chips, salsa, guacamole and drinks all laid out for the players (like we needed it after our huge dinner!). We had so much fun!

The next morning Jay left early to speak at his conference and I took the kids down to breakfast. We had another great experience involving a pancake buffet complete with chocolate chips and powdered sugar...need I say more?

After breakfast we caught the shuttle to the beach. I did not really want to go to the beach because it involved crossing a busy street (we are on the bay side but the beach is really close) and, more pertinent for me, hauling all of our beach stuff. The concierge assured me that everything we needed would be at the beach waiting for us and all I needed to bring was myself. I did not really believe him but boarded the shuttle with just the kids and my purse.

Turns out, Loews wins again! They shuttle dropped us off right at the sand where there was a Loews employee sitting at a fully stocked beach stand. He handed me a chair, a beach umbrella and a towel, gave Sam a boogie board and told us to have fun. All complimentary. When we were done, we walked the six feet back to the stand, turned everything in and got back on the shuttle empty-handed. It was perfect.

I brought Isabella back to the hotel for her nap and Jay met us at the room. He stayed with her and worked while she slept and Sam and I went poolside to play "giant chess" with pieces nearly as big as Sam but light enough to move without too much trouble. I did not know Sam could play chess but he most certainly can. He has watched Joey play enough to have learned all the pieces and how they can move. Only the most basic instruction was needed and he beat me solidly (I was really trying!).

While I was playing I noted that my shoulders were getting burned and that I did not have any sunscreen. Not a problem, as the pool concierge brought over a barrel filled with a variety for me to choose from. Complimentary, of course. I love this place.

After lunch it was back to the beach, then back to the hotel for a game of tennis (if you can call what we played "tennis" but Sam had a blast anyway). Then it was "Dive In Movie Night" where you could watch a movie and swim at the same time, but since we had already seen "The Game Plan" we decided to order room service and watch Speed Racer. Not a bad movie, I might add!

Although we did not make use of it, there is a Kids Club here too where you can check in your kids for an hour to a day at a time (for a fee of course) and they get to do all sorts of fun things. This hotel really did think of everything for kids. I am a fan.

This morning we are off to do who-knows-what while Jay goes to a meeting. When he is done we will begin our drive home where we will gather the kids and immediately leave for a drive to Northern California. But I will stress about that later. Right now I am having too much fun!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Reflux A Deaux

In the last six months, Julia has had two urinary tract infections that reached her kidneys and caused very high fevers. After the first one, her pediatrician (who let me know right away that a kidney infection in a then-four-year-old was definitely not normal) sent her for a renal ultrasound, which showed no abnormalities. After the second one, he referred her to a pediatric urologist down at Cedars-Sinai.

A few days ago I took Julia for a most unpleasant procedure called a VCUG involving a catheter and a CAT Scan. Basically, they sent a photographic dye into her bladder to see why bacteria was getting into her kidneys.

As it turns out, Julia has a condition known as Vesicoureteral Reflux on both sides. This means that when her bladder is full, urine creeps back up the ureters into her kidneys, causing infections when any bacteria is present. Happily for her, she has a relatively mild case with a Grade 1 on the left side and a Grade 2 on the right (on a scale of 1-5). Her doctor is hopeful that she will outgrow it in the next year without any surgical intervention at this point.

For anyone interested in learning more about this condition, I found a fantastic summary here.

At any rate, Julia has been placed on a daily low-dose antibiotic for the next year to keep her from sustaining any kidney damage while we are "waiting it out". When this course is finished we will repeat the VCUG to see if the condition has corrected itself or if we will need to intervene one way or another.

I, for one, am very grateful for proactive pediatricians and relatively low-grades of reflux...goodness knows it could be far worse. Prayers for the self-correction of this problem are much appreciated!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Tony

Three years ago you arrived in the wee hours of the morning, so quickly that the doctor did not make it in time.

We brought you home to sea of packing boxes and chaos and, at just two weeks old, you moved with us to the desert. As strange as it seems to me, you won't remember anything but what our life is now. To you, Marin is just an entry on your birth certificate. You won't ever know what your first home looked like. Yet, it is where I first got to know you, where I kissed your sweet head for the first of millions of times.

In just three years you have grown from a beautiful baby into a charming preschooler. You are so articulate that you constantly surprise me. You can explain yourself completely, leaving no doubt as to your generous, decisive, thoughtful, creative nature. What a joy it is to hear your thoughts, know your wishes (usually) and experience your imagination.

How I love to see you race around the pool on your wiggle car, giggle with delight as you aim your squirt gun, sleep peacefully at night when your energy finally runs out, arm tucked cozily under your cheek.

Tony, you are a wonderful person, a delightful companion, a funny playmate and a generous brother. Although I can't imagine leaving behind the child you are now, I can't wait to see the gracious young man you are destined to be. How blessed I am to be your mother!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Today my kids met their second cousins for the first time. Since our kids don't have any first cousins, having and knowing second cousins is a big deal for them, and we had a great time visiting with my cousin Mike's three fabulous kids today.

Here are the 9 of them after a busy day of swimming, burgers, arts and crafts and Guitar Hero.

It's hard to tell who had a better time...the kids or the grandpa brothers who don't see each other nearly often enough by the looks of it.

Grandpa Marty and Great Uncle Mike:

Grandpa Marty was having such a good time that he even took the wiggle car for a spin around the track, to the delight of us all (yes, I got video!).

Thank you for visiting--we had such a wonderful time seeing you all. Come again soon!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Too Hot

It has been hot. REALLY hot. So hot that I can't even go outside and get in the pool. That hot.

I have noticed a correlation between the heat and my mood this year. I have been inexplicably crabby for the past three days when the heat topped 110 degrees. If it were just dry heat it probably would have been OK, but it was oddly humid too. This is very rare for us desert dwellers and we don't take to it well!

Today the temperature dropped into the high 80s and brought a strong breeze. My mood miraculously and instantly improved!

Well, at least I am in the "happy trimester". I really feel for those 3rd trimester ladies I see in the OB office, sweltering and swelling. There is little worse than being pregnant and hot.

Here's to the hope of fall-like weather joined with our current summer schedule--my dream combination.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Lovingly Mortifying

Most people are horrified at the idea of mortifying themselves willingly. (I historically include myself among them!) I have always viewed the idea of doing things such as placing a stone in your shoe or tying an itchy band around your leg as a little on the crazy side. And, without any context to them, these acts indeed appear to be. After all, isn't life by itself mortifying enough?

Last night, however, I read something beautiful on mortification that I thought I would share:

Mortifications are the result of love and, in their turn they nourish love.

What does the author, Francis Fernandez, mean by this? After I read his meditation on the topic, I understood it perfectly and only hope I can convey it appropriately in paraphrase.

Think of your husband or wife (or good friend or parent or whoever is important in your life). I, of course, am thinking of Jay. He can say he loves me all day long (and he does!). I am always happy to hear it. But what makes me happiest of all? When he does something self-sacrificial for my benefit just to prove it to me! The harder it is for him to do, the more loved I feel. One example in our marriage is dancing. Jay HATES to dance. Banned it from our wedding, in fact. So when he dances with me I know how much he loves me. Another example is eating at a chain restaurant that I enjoy but he can't stand. When he takes me there and is loving and cheerful about it, I know with absolute certainty how much I am loved. It means so much more than just hearing the words that take so little to say, no matter how true they are.

If I feel this way in my marriage, doesn't it make sense to conclude that God feels this way too? We can say we love him (and actually do) but if we don't do anything to show it, what does it mean? Each of us has many, many opportunities in our day to prove our love to God through some small act of self-sacrifice done out of love for him. How pleasing it must be for him when, although all I want to do is sit down and read a magazine, I think of him and instead get up and cheerfully unload the dishwasher. In my life, mortification takes the shape of simply doing what I am supposed to do in a timely manner with a good attitude. I don't have to inflict external discomfort on myself, all I have to do is persevere when I feel I can't.

It isn't enough simply to sacrifice. For it to be pleasing to God it has to be done cheerfully and with love. As he says, "I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice." The Pharisees who followed the law accurately but without love were not pleasing to God, and neither are we when we do all our work of the day but with a sour disposition. It is better to just slightly more than we want to but do that last little bit with love than it is to do three times as much with anger.

If I accept these things with a loving heart, I am mortified each time a child cries in the night, each time I change a diaper, each time I prepare a meal. What a waste these everyday activities are if not offered with love to God.

So, no, you will not find me placing a stone in my shoe or wearing a hair shirt...because I do believe these things are only for those who are so practiced in everyday mortifications that they feel they need something extra. Honestly, I don't see that happening to me anytime soon! But at least I now understand that these things are not crazy--rather, they are greatly misunderstood acts of love.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Disney, Divided

For the last few days, every member of the Di Silvestri family has been at Disney. The only funny thing about this is that five of us were at Disneyland and the other three were at Disney World. What a trip!

Joey, Lindsey and Sam are in Orlando with their grandparents who were crazy enough--I mean nice enough--to take them for nine whole days. They come back tomorrow and I will be so very happy to see them.

Naturally, the little ones left behind who were old enough to know what they were missing raised a meritorious explains the mini-trip the remaining five of us took to Anaheim.

It was a hoot to talk to the older kids yesterday park-to-park and trade stories about how long their line for Pirates of the Caribbean was as compared to ours and how many times they went through the Haunted House versus how many times we did. Strange, but very fun!

Anyway, here follow some obligatory photos of what was, for Tony and Isabella, their very first trip to Disney of any kind.

At the aquarium of the Rainforest Cafe...

Isabella's first time on a you can see, she loved it! In fact, she threw quite a temper tantrum when removed from the horse at the end of the ride.

Julia and Tony on the Jungle Cruise--the corny jokes were lost on them, but Jay and I enjoyed them, as always.

Day 2 proved to be too much for the toddler set who sacked out for several hours in the middle of the day. Julia, however, was clearly unaffected.

We all loved the playground at California Adventure. The kids could swing on tires, splash in "rivers" and climb on lots of rocks. Just what tired parents need at the end of a long, hot day.

What better way to finish off a good meal at Downtown Disney than with ice cream and balloon hats!

What a nice getaway with my family. And with only 3 children, it really seemed like we were traveling light.
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On another note entirely...Happy Anniversary, Jay! 13 years later I would still pick you all over again. You are my perfectly wonderful gift from God and I am grateful every day for you and for our marriage. Here's to the next 50!