Nicole Rodriguez

By Megan Willome

GT teacher | Boy mom | NJHS sponsor

In November 2015, Nicole Rodriguez posted this on Facebook: “Double the diapers, double the toys, we are having … two more little boys!” That makes five boys in the family, plus a husband. Rodriguez is seriously outnumbered. Sometimes she needs brief moments alone (even at the grocery store) or girl time with her mom, who lives in Fort Worth.

In the interview Rodriguez used a term I hadn’t heard before: rainbow baby. A rainbow baby is one born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant death. The Rodriguez family lost their second son, Alex, who was stillborn. Since then they haven’t had just one rainbow baby — they’ve had four. It’s important to Rodriguez to share Alex’s story not only within the family but also with the world because, as she said, “He’s very much a part of our life.”

Rodriguez earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees after becoming a mom, and she now teaches in the Atlas program at Tennyson Middle School. How does she keep balance with children ranging in age from 17 to 10-month-old twins? For one, her husband, Roy, is a stay-at-home dad. Together they have found a rhythm that works for their family. And Rodriguez keeps her expectations realistic. “I just can only do what I can do each day,” she said.

WACOAN: I saw that you’re from Houston. How did you get to Waco?

Rodriguez: So my husband, Roy, is originally from Dallas, and his family moved to Waco when he was 15. He and I met through a mutual friend. We dated long distance for about a year until I moved from Houston to Waco. Most of my family had spread off and moved other places. I’ve been here since 2003. We married in 2007.

WACOAN: Did you go to school in Houston?

Rodriguez: I started working in the medical field when I was 19. I had always had this desire to be a teacher but never went to college right after high school. I did things a little bit backward. I was a receptionist at an OB-GYN office for a little while. Even when we moved to Waco, I continued [in the medical field], working with Providence at their OB-GYN clinic.

It wasn’t until my third child was born that I told my husband one day — it was 2010. Gosh, at that point my youngest wasn’t even 1. I called my husband from work and said, ‘I want to go back to school. I want to get my degree,’ and he supported me. I turned in my notice [at work] and started school.

In 2014, I graduated from Tarleton [State University] with a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies. I started a master’s program that June, immediately after graduation. I taught summer school that summer, started my first year of teaching in the fall of 2014 and continued my master’s. I finished that following August [2015] with a master’s in educational administration. So now this is my third year teaching. And I love it.

WACOAN: That was a tricky time to go back to school, with three kiddos.

Rodriguez: You may know I got pregnant after my master’s, and I ended up having twins. I have five boys. My oldest son is 17. He’s a senior at Waco High, Aidan. Our next is Ryan. He is 9 and in fourth grade at Mountainview Elementary. Cole is 7, first grade at Mountainview. William and Reid, the twins, are 10 months old, born this past March.

It’s exciting, to say the least.

WACOAN: So you’re the only girl in your house.

Rodriguez: When I found out I was having twins, I thought, ‘This is God’s way of being funny.’ I really thought he was going to give me a daughter. I thought I was going to have one of each [a boy and a girl]. When we had the gender reveal and they were both boys, I was kind of in shock. Really? But my quote for them that I use everywhere is, ‘They’re exactly what we never knew we always wanted.’ It was the biggest surprise of a lifetime. They’ve just completed us.

WACOAN: I’ve always heard it’s easier to have twins first because when it’s your first time to be a parent, you don’t realize how hard twins are. So how was it having twins later?

Rodriguez: I’ve said with 100 percent certainty: It has been very overwhelming. The first six months were a complete blur. I’m not sure how we’re still all here and sane. Going from one baby at a time to then having two, it’s constantly something to do. On the flip side, if I’d had twins first, I wonder if I would’ve wanted to have more.

WACOAN: Do you have family here in town to help?

Rodriguez: I have my husband, of course. He’s great. We’re a team. He quit working with the City of Waco. He’s a stay-at-home dad now. It works for us — daycare is outrageous. Now I come home from work, and he works in the evening. So we make a good team, and we just kind of make it work.

In town we have his parents, who live right outside of Waco, and his brother lives here in Waco. Really, it’s he and I that get the job done.

WACOAN: You said he works nights. Where does he work?

Rodriguez: Action Rental, on Lake Air [Drive]. He does their orders and gets things prepared for deliveries to go the next day. He gets all that done the night before.

WACOAN: You said this is your third year of teaching, and you’re at Tennyson. Tell me more about the Atlas program.

Rodriguez: Atlas is an academy within the school, so it’s housed at Tennyson, but it’s a gifted and talented program for sixth, seventh and eighth grades within Waco ISD. All students who wish to participate, even if their home school isn’t Tennyson, they can be bused to our campus or they can be brought by parents. We serve about 300 or so students. Their core classes are all within Atlas, and they also participate in mini-courses, anything from cooking to origami. Their elective classes, all of those are still within the realm of Tennyson — their band, their choir, their athletics.

WACOAN: Did you have experience teaching in gifted and talented programs before coming to the Atlas program?

Rodriguez: This is my first year with Atlas. But I’ve been with Tennyson every year and did my student teaching at Tennyson as well. Last year I taught pre-AP on the Tennyson side, which had a few students who chose not to be in Atlas. As far as being with a gifted program, this is my first year.

WACOAN: What have you liked about it?

Rodriguez: I just liked growing and learning. This year I teach seventh-graders. Years prior I’ve taught seventh and eighth grades. The kids themselves are all the same — middle school students are middle school students. This year it’s been about upping the rigor, seeing how far I can take them. They retain the basic concepts each year, so I get to do activities or projects and see how much I can push them. It’s been a learning experience for me, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

WACOAN: Where did your passion for teaching come from? You said it’s something you always wanted to do.

Rodriguez: I guess if I had to narrow it down to one specific thing or time, it sounds so cliché, but my second grade teacher, Mrs. Redman. I adored her and wanted to be just like her. I remember what her classroom looked like.

I knew this is what I wanted to do, and it’s something that’s always stuck with me. I’ve always loved school and had every intention of going straight to [college after high school], but life happens sometimes.

In that phone call with my husband, when I said I wanted to get my teaching certification, I said, ‘I’d hate to look back on my life and wish I had done things [differently], because at some point it becomes too late.’ I took the stance of ‘do what you love and love what you do.’ Time’s gonna pass anyway, so do something with it.

WACOAN: Let’s talk about how you balance your work life and your family life. Am I right that your oldest son plays baseball?

Rodriguez: He stopped playing baseball when he went into high school, which just devastated me. Just for selfish reasons I was looking forward to him playing high school baseball. Aidan played with Lake Air Little League for years. Now he plays tennis for Waco High, last year and this year, and he’s on the debate team.

He drives and has his own vehicle, and that’s such a help. He can get where he needs to get without me. He works at our H-E-B about 20 to 25 hours per week. He manages all that very well and is very responsible.

As far as my other boys, Cole played soccer two seasons ago, and we honestly took a break from any extracurricular things with the twins — with me on bed rest, then having them. So [Cole and Ryan] are really not involved in other things outside of school.

WACOAN: What will next year look like when you lose your extra driver and it’s just two elementary-age kids and the twins?

Rodriguez: That will be a little bit different. If I text him, ‘Aidan, can you grab this for me at H-E-B or Target?’ he will. But we’ll figure it out.

WACOAN: This article is called ‘Keeping Balance,’ and I’m wondering with a house full of boys — two of them babies — is balance even possible?

Rodriguez:

At this point in my life I’m not trying to impress anybody or keep up with anybody else’s standards. I do what works for our family, and what works for us may not be ideal for anybody else.

But we’re a good team with [my husband] at home during the day and then I come home from work and we flip. On the weekends we stay together and do everything together. It just works. We’ve gotten into a rhythm. I had a lot more free time before the twins, but now we’ve figured out a good system.

WACOAN: Do you often have to bring work home?

Rodriguez: With teaching — you may know this — that doesn’t stop when you walk out the door. A lot of times that comes home with me. Grading is done at home, planning is done at home. I do that when the babies go to bed or on the weekends when I have free time. Some nights I may go to bed later.

WACOAN: What do your weekends look like?

Rodriguez: My husband is a huge [San Francisco] 49ers fan, so Sundays during football season are spent cheering on the 49ers. If we have birthday parties for the boys, we’ll do that.

Of course, on Saturdays we like to go out to breakfast. We go a little later, so it’s more like brunch. We have our favorites, little hole-in-the-walls. We love Papa Bear’s. Café Cappuccino (it’s not a hole-in-the-wall, but it’s local). There’s a little Mexican restaurant off of The Circle — El Charro’s one of them. Going toward Robinson, out [Highway] 77, there’s a little family restaurant, Taqueria El Crucero. They have the best breakfast burritos.

Also just getting together with family, cousins and aunts and uncles in the area. It’s really just family-type deals.

We like going to the movies.

WACOAN: How do you manage that? I imagine the twins are too young to take to the movies just yet.

Rodriguez: We’ll split up. Roy might take them to a guy movie, or I’ll take them, just me and one boy. We call it ‘little dates.’ The babies get the most attention. We’ve even had my oldest, if he’s not working on a Friday or a Saturday night, stay with the babies if they’re in bed already. Then Roy and I will take the middle ones to Pokey O’s to get ice cream or something.

WACOAN: Do you two ever get a date night?

Rodriguez: We do every once in a while. Our most recent date was [Moroso], a new Italian restaurant on Bosque [Boulevard]. We went there a couple of weeks ago. Aidan was off work, and the babies were in bed. Roy and I just went and got dinner. And it was nice. We do that maybe once a month.

WACOAN: You said the twins will be 1 in March. Any chance of getting away this summer for a vacation?

Rodriguez: We’ve for sure talked about it. Everyone seems desperate for a beach vacation. We couldn’t do anything last summer with the babies. It was devastating for the older boys. Even Hawaiian Falls was too hard. Our plan right now — not definite — is to attempt a beach trip, probably Port Aransas or Corpus [Christi], somewhere in Texas that we can get to quick enough, the seven of us, before Aidan ventures off for his next chapter. [At the beach] you can just lay low and take it easy and hopefully not have much stress.

WACOAN: Your life is pretty full right now. Are there things you’d like to do when the twins get a little older?

Rodriguez: Traveling. There are so many places I’d love to visit — D.C., the [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]. I haven’t traveled much. I’d love to go to New York City.

I keep trying to tell myself that I’d love to take piano lessons, something I’ve always wanted to do. I can play ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ on the organ, which my grandfather taught me when I was a little girl. It might be a few more years before I’m able to do that.

WACOAN: Is volunteering something that has been part of your life or something you’d like to do more of?

Rodriguez: As to volunteering, I am the sponsor for [National Junior Honor Society] for Tennyson, and they do lots of volunteer hours, so that gives me a chance to step outside of the classroom but still be with my students.

WACOAN: Are you able to take time for self-care?

Rodriguez: I do. You may not believe this, but I’m sort of an introvert at heart, so to recharge I love to be by myself for a few minutes. My husband’s great about that. If I want to go to the nail salon, he’s happy to stay home with all the boys so I can do that. Even going to H-E-B by myself is a break.

My mom lives in Fort Worth, so we’ll have a girls day together — I’ll go up there, or she’ll come down here. [Those days are] fewer and farther between than they used to be, but when I have them I take full advantage.

I’m definitely a believer in women have to have time to recharge their batteries and have time for themselves.

WACOAN: Anything else? Something that makes your family unique?

Rodriguez: I would add, just because I think it’s important to know, that our second son — we actually have six boys. Our second son was stillborn, and his name is Alex. He was born in March of 2006, March 26, so Ryan is our rainbow baby, born almost a year to the day [of when we lost Alex]. I always love to include [Alex] in our story, because he’s very much a part of that.

WACOAN: Why is it important to you to include him? You could have ended this interview without telling me.

Rodriguez: He’s very much a part of our life. That was a devastating time for us. We found out when I was pregnant with him that he would probably die after birth. I carried him to 35 weeks (my body was measuring 38 weeks), but I went into labor. He was born still. But we spent time with him after he was born. We had a memorial service for him. We talk about him.

Aidan was the only one born before him.

He’s very much a topic in our family. We go to the cemetery and release balloons for him. If the kids ever get balloons at a birthday party, they say, ‘I’m going to send this to my brother in heaven.’ He’s always someone I want to make sure is honored and remembered, that he lived. And that’s important to me.

It’s hard for people who have lost a child because they don’t want to make everyone else uncomfortable. And other people don’t want to say anything — they’re afraid they’ll remind you of what happened. That’s not something we ever forget. I think it’s important to talk about them and honor them and speak their name. I’m always on the verge of crying when I talk about him. I’ll cry through the whole story if I have to, but I love to make sure he’s mentioned.

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