Thursday, February 26, 2009

Grief Is a Strange Thing...

The grieving process is a strange thing. I can go for days, without thinking at all about my Sweet Daddy, and then boom, there it is, like a bolt of lightening it hits me. It's been almost 2 years, but still, like a punch to the stomach, it takes my breath away. He's gone, (of course I know he is so much better off) but this still doesn't always help. Not in the first moment when the grief strikes. Oh how I rejoice that he is in Heaven with Jesus!! That at this moment he is probably singing with the angels, or playing his guitar for some angel choir. How he loved playing the guitar. I just, in that one brief moment, want him here to hug me, to talk to me, call me that sweet nickname he always called me, but so often as a teenager I hated it.

I often think of the things I would talk to him about if I just had one more chance. I get so aggravated at the kids when they talk back to Phillip, or say disrespectful things to him. I think of every time I talked back to my Sweet Daddy as a teenager and I wish I could take it all back. What was I thinking? The other day I was cleaning out my closet and I found a t-shirt that made my eyes smart with tears. It was just a old ragged t-shirt from Old Navy, but it was something that I got on a family trip and everyone else got one too. I made me remember that happy time.

I found out in May of 2006 that Daddy had cancer. I spoke with his doctor in June, and he told me to spend as much time with daddy as I could. It was so hard for me, because you see, I lived in Connecticut and my family was all the way south, in Mississippi. Oh, how my heart ached. Phillip and I discussed how we would work it out, for me to spend time in Mississippi. I flew down there and spent 2 weeks, including my birthday. I tried to cherish every moment I could with my Daddy, I wanted to just curl up in his arms and stay there. You see I was Daddy's girl. He had always been there for me. He had always helped me and he thought I could do anything I put my mind too. What a wonderful man! In spring of 2007 my Sweet Daddy passed away. I got to spend a month, prior to his passing, with him. How I cherish those times. I had him sing to me, just like he did when I was a little girl. (I am so crying while writing this)

My daddy, gave me a wonderful example of how a Christian man should be. He had so much faith! He had faith that could move a mountain. I think I was probably 25 years old, before I realized that my daddy couldn't do everything.
It's getting to be that time of year again and I guess that's why I am thinking so much about him. It was the month of March that I spent with him last. He passed away in April. I can only imagine the beauty he is beholding! What a wonderful day that will be when we are reunited. I wasn't there when he drew his last breath, but I knew it had happened. How weird is that? I was at work and all the sudden I started crying, they let me go home, and when I got home, I called my mama and she told me that daddy was with Jesus. She just didn't know how to call me to tell me.

Psalms 1:1-6

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a stream planted by streams of water, which yields its fruits in season and whose leaf does not wither. What ever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."

This was one of my Daddy's favorite Psalms. I sometimes laugh when thinking of him, sometimes, I cry, but always, I know he loved me. Just think how much more our Heavenly Father must love us. It boggles the mind. Well, I feel I have rambled on enough for one night. Have a good night all.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Some of My Favorite Places Around the Chicago Area!

Living in the Chicago suburbs gives access to an abundance of things to do. These are some of my favorite places to go in and around Chitowne.

1.) Hollywood Blvd. movie theater in Woodridge, IL.
Talk about a place that is oozing with character! I love going here. You get a dinner, served by waiters and you get to watch a movie. The atmosphere is great. Lots of movie memorabilia. All in all a fun place to go.

2.) Zanies comedy club, Vernon Hills, IL.
So funny, great laughs and also has a full service menu, so you get to eat and enjoy a good show. It helps to have great company. The more the merrier.

3.) Brunswick Bowl, Naperville, IL.
This is a fun place to take the family. I really like Disco bowl the best. You have so much fun, you forget that you made a gutter ball! Ha

4.) Harvest Bible Chapel, Rolling Meadows, IL.
What a great place to go and worship the KING! There is excellent praise music and superb Bible teaching, an awesome worship experience. I always leave with my heart on fire for Jesus!

5.) Boston Blackies, Naperville, IL.
This is a restaurant with a fun spirit. Phil and I go here quite often. Great Company, great food, great atmosphere, what more could you ask for?

6.) Woodfield Mall, Schaumberg, IL.
Without a doubt the biggest shopping mall I have ever seen. I don't know if I would survive a whole day of shopping in this baby!! I would have to make several trips. What has happened to me? I used to be a shopaholic! I could just keep going and going and going.

There are many more places that I enjoy going. I will mention more another day. I hope every one has a great week! Remember that God is good, All the time!!!

Later, Renee

Friday, February 20, 2009

Life is what we make it!

As I mentioned the other day, Niko has challenges. Every Thursday night we attend counseling for Niko, along with his Mom and Step-dad. Last night was no exception. Phillip and I picked Niko up after school and we took him out to eat dinner. Phillip has decided that he needs to spend more one on one time with Niko and I encourage that. Niko's step-dad doesn't spend much quality time with him.

We went to eat at a Chicago type fast food restaurant. They serve, Chicago style hot dogs,(which I love) and pizza puffs, (which I love also) and hamburgers, chicken wings, things like that. These places are unique to the Chicago area. I haven't seen them any place else. Anyway, Niko was being Niko, and he put his chicken wings and french fries in his coke, and then fished them out and ate them. He does strange things like this from time to time and it drives Phil crazy. I used to be bothered by it as well, until I realized that it is all apart of PDD. Now I have a much different perspective, on how one should behave. I realize that Niko is never going to act the way I, or anyone else wants him to, and we have to readjust our thinking on what is proper behavior and what's not. I saw the frustration on Phillips face, while Niko was doing all this. Later, I was talking with Phil and I told him, we have to pick our battles, just as every parent does, but with Niko, we have to also adjust our preconceived ideas on what normal behavior is.

We got to the counselors office and was told that they were running behind and we would have an additional 30 minute delay. Oh boy, that didn't set well with Niko, he has his own little agenda in his head, even though most of the time we aren't subject to it. He started acting out. Between, Phillip, his Mom and myself, we managed to keep the situation under control somewhat. But once we were in the therapist office, all bets were off and Niko totally broke down. At least the therapist witnessed this behavior and now knew exactly what we deal with.

The purpose of going to the therapist is to equip Niko with the tools he needs to learn to cope in a world that isn't' on the same page as he is. I know it's going to be good for all of us, as the parents, as well. Please pray for Niko's Mom and Step-dad, that they will learn to deal with the day to day trials that come their way, regarding Niko. We are also going to be referred to sibling therapy, for Niko's sisters. That way, they can learn a new normal as well.

When God brought Phillip and his children into my life, I never thought that I would be called to be this special child's main advocate. His struggles to deal with the changes that his little world was bringing him, virtually went unnoticed by all around him, until after Phil and I were married and I settled into family life in the Esparza household. I knew something was off, but couldn't figure out what. With the help of God and a excellent pediatrician and child psychiatrist, we were finally able to break through with Niko and open up the world. Then, all of life changed and Niko went to live with his Mom. Phil and I had the up hill battle of making sure that she followed up on Niko's care. Once again, God answered our prayers and with the help of Niko's school, we finally got Niko back into therapy and a child psychiatrist. God has great things in store for that little boy, I just know it.

This week as you go about your daily routines, just remember that GOD loves you! And he has a special plan for EACH of us. We just have to seek him out and discover what that is.

"He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it"

Philippians 1:6

This is such a powerful verse. I often read it when I get bogged down in life and think how can God even bother with me sometimes. But He never quits, He never gives up, He is always faithful! How wonderful is that?


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Learning a New Normal!!

Niko, Jacky and their friend in the red.

I don't know how many of you have a child, that has Autism, or knows someone who has a child with Autism. Our family was cast into the the Autism net officially in 2007. As many of you may have read, in my earlier entries, my step-son Niko age 10, has PDD NOS, an umbrella for Autism. Niko is very high functioning, he just has very linear thinking.

When I first met Niko, he was 5 years old. He had trouble speaking and threw many temper tantrums. At first, I thought the temper tantrums were due to his Daddy and I dating, but as I got to know Niko and spent more time with him, I began to wonder what was exactly going on with this otherwise sweet little boy. There was something much more going on than mere temper tantrums. I began journaling the episodes of temper and I kept in close touch with Niko's teachers and was a frequent visitor at our pediatrician's office. Finally one day she witnessed what I was talking about. Niko, threw a tantrum in her office. She observed the same things that I had been observing. When Niko was in this state, you could look him directly in the eye and not see the loving, sweet boy that I knew and loved. Where did this boy go?

Dr. Ramanan finally referred me to a Child Psychiatrist. Niko went through several series of test and was seen by not only the Dr., but a child behavioral counselor as well.

Finally we had an answer to what was afflicting Niko. Now we had to learn how to cope with PDD NOS, as a family. Niko thrives in a world that is full of order and routine. The slightest variance can cause his world to shift off balance. He doesn't have the coping skills to deal with the shifts that everyday life can often take. We had to learn how to equip him with those skills. We, as his family, had to learn how to best help him. Niko has a passion for numbers and time. For someone such as myself, who lives in an abstract world most of the time, it is hard to break things down to literal time and numbers. Simple things, such as telling Niko that we are going to the store to get some things, can become an overwhelming obstacle to Niko. He gets stuck in the literal sense, of exactly how many items are we going to get. If you tell him an exact number, and then vary from that number, this sets of a domino effect within Niko.

My husband, Niko's Dad, and myself, along with Niko's Mom and step-dad, currently share joint custody of Niko. For now, Niko lives with his mother, but we have him on weekends and holidays. This in itself was a big change for Niko. We are all taking a role in helping him learn to navigate in a non -conforming world. My husband Phil and I have to come up with a plan for Niko, a routine of sorts, that he will be able to follow, when he is at our home. Since he is here on weekends, we do not want, so much structure, that the rest of us can't relax, but we want to give Niko enough structure to make him feel safe and secure.

This child has touched me emotionally, he is a very astute young man, he is very trusting and very loving. I feel blessed that God has allowed me be apart of his life.

If anyone has any suggestions on how to do this, please feel free to let me know in the comment section. I will be glad to have any suggestions.

I look forward to the ideas and suggestions. Thanks for stopping by and please continue to read as I will blog, from time to time, on Learning a New Normal!!

God be with you, Renee

Monday, February 9, 2009

The weather is warming up!!!

I haven't blogged for a week or so. I have been kind of down. Winter just gets so long, but we are having some great pre-spring weather today and tomorrow. Yeahhhh!! We should hit the 60's tomorrow. I have almost finished reading Genesis. I have been so interested in it like never before. I am really getting engrossed in it. Just the other day I was talking to Phil. about what I had been reading, we were discussing Jacob and Esau and how Esau gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew! I asked him if he had ever been that hungry? Then at church this weekend, what did our Pastor preach about? Jacob and Esau and that bowl of soup. He was talking about how sometimes when we go through trials, we seem to say "just roll over me Lord, I'm already down, so just keep on bringing it." He went on to say how flip we get that we don't even care about what God does to us, instead of sitting up and taking notice and thinking Hey, God maybe trying to teach me something! He said Esau was like that, whatever, I don't care, just give me a bowl of soup. Obvisouly, this birthright thing was really a big deal, it was a spiritual thing, but Esau didn't even care. It made him unfaithful to God, to blow this birthright thing off like it didn't even matter. I didn't even realize that the birthright was a spiritual thing until I did some further studying. But you know that Esau knew! He just didn't care.

I find it so interesting that Phil and I were just discuss that story only a couple of days before. God is so amazing!!

We also sang a praise song & the chorus gave me chill bumps.
Here is Love, vast as the ocean,
Loving kindness as a flood
When the Prince of life our ransom
Shed for us his precious blood
Who His love will not remember
Who can cease to sing His praise
He will never be forgotten
Throughout heaven's eternal days
On the mount of Crucifixion
Fountains opened deep and wide
From the floodgates of God's mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide
Grace and love like mighty rivers
Flowed incessant from above
Heaven's peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love

These lyrics speak of God's ultimate love for you and for me. It's so amazing, I don't understand why people don't "get it". I pray that others will see Jesus in me and God can use me for His glory.

Well, I am going off to bed soon. I hope everyone has an awesome week.

Be Thankfull for this day for it is a day that the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it.