Meet Gracie and Luke, our six-year-old twins!
We waited for them forever and can't remember life without them.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Talkin' with Twinsies

Just 'cause it's fun and it makes me happy...More of our conversation from today:

Peanut Butter on a Spoon

My favorite treat when I was little: the biggest spoon I could find and as much peanut butter as I could scoop out of the jar. If Mom had chocolate chips, I would roll my peanut butter in them!

Gracie and Lukie love peanut butter, so much that they lick it off of their toast instead of eating the toast with it. This morning, when I had soggy toast handed back to me, devoid of peanut butter, with little voices begging for "More. More. More!", I decided to go Old School.



Yes. Gracie is wearing her Halloween jammies. Yes. It has already been 7+ months.






I think we have a winner!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What does a doggie say?

Friday, May 29, 2009

My Gracie and Luke

Gracie and Lukie,

The past few days have been pretty hard for me. I'm having a hard time with some things that have happened lately and it makes me treasure you all the more. I've stayed in bed with you longer at night and hugged you close while we sit on the floor. I've given you Popsicles because they make you happy and carried your stuffed doggies into day care so that you feel safer and more secure when I arrive to pick you up.

These are some pictures that make me happy.






I love you.

God's newest angel, Abigail

Baby Abigail Marie went to Heaven a few hours shy of being one month old.

God, I don't know why You took Baby Abigail. Maybe I won't ever understand. I just have to pray that You have some sort of amazing plan for her in Heaven.

Please, please hold her Mommy and Daddy close to You. Please help all of us be the support that they need even though we don't understand why you took Abigail from them.

For my friend Caryn and her family, all I can say is that I am so very sorry and I wish that Abigail had won her fight. With every fiber of my being, I wish she had. My thoughts are with you.

Fly high, Abigail! We love you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bedtime

Bedtime has evolved a lot since Gracie and Luke were born. In the early months, they would fall asleep in the arms of the person who was feeding them. As they grew older and started crawling, they would not fall asleep as easily. Where we used to be able to count on them falling asleep in the middle of Jeopardy, we found they were still awake well into the 8 and 9 o'clock hour. It was a very trying time. When my sleep deprivation reached a point where I was crying 22 of the 24 hours in a day, I bought several books and realized that we had to change our plan. In fact, what we needed was a plan!

In our house, we had a ritual: put the toys away, bath time, bottle and a snuggle, lights out and more snuggling. This worked great until they figured out we were going to leave the room when they fell asleep. Then, we had to resort to helping them get as sleepy as possible and then leaving them in their cribs. I don't want to call it "crying it out." That sounds more drastic than it was. We had a rule about how long we would allow them to cry and we stuck to it. Eventually, Gracie and Luke started falling asleep more quickly and with greater success. The problem was that they still woke multiple times in the night.

Moving to our apartment was a new challenge. We had spent 2 weeks in that awful hotel, all of us in one bed, one room. We had to relearn our routine and get it down cold. People say that you can vary the routine. No way! If Gracie and Luke are not in bed (not necessarily asleep) by 7:30 it will be a very late, wake filled night. The additional challenge, of course, was Daddy in the hospital. I was terrified of trying to put them to sleep on my own. We were a well-oiled machine! The first two weeks were okay. Then Gracie and Luke figured out that I was on my own. I finally broke down and started driving them around in my car until they fell asleep. All of this was still with bottles. I was stuck with them. In my mind, and Gracie and Luke's minds, bottles were the only way they would fall asleep.

After Spring Break and the Great Throwing Up Sickness of 2009, we said goodbye to the bottles and have never looked back! We still use binkies, but I've set an end date for them: August 2009. If it happens sooner, great! Otherwise, I plan to be binky free a few weeks after we move back into our house. This is easier said than done. While they no longer use their binkies at day care AT ALL, they are still a staple here during nap and bedtime. It is going to be a challenge, but one we need to take on now rather than later.

So why is bedtime my topic, yet again? Because it dawned on me tonight that I still face the prospect of bedtime with dread. My mind races.

Will they fall asleep?
How long will it take?
Will one of them fall asleep and the other keep waking the first up?
Will I ever get to start my work (or do the dishes or do the laundry or take a shower....)?

I can honestly say that I worry about bedtime all day long. In fact, I think I am developing a complex!

Tonight, I went through our newest routine: bathtime with the bubbles (and water-coloring fizzies), Wrestlemania (a.k.a. diapering and jammies), books with Mommy, and finally, night-night (lights out). There's always a struggle after lights out. They are clearly tired, clearly want to go to sleep, but they toss and turn and I just lie there in the middle of the bed pulling back any Twinsies who try to escape the bed. There are tears from time to time, but usually 10 - 30 minutes after lights out, I carefully extract myself from the arms of my toddlers and creep from the room.

Generally, they will sleep through the night. Lucas might wake around 4 am and climb out of bed, open the two doors between him and me and crawl into bed with me. He usually falls right back to sleep. Gracie is usually up between 5:30 and 6 am. I always cross my fingers as I fall asleep that she makes it longer than that.

The real challenge, of course, is still to come: moving back into our house. That's a whole other thing to be anxious about! I guess, I'll just have to wait and see how they transition to our house. Hey, maybe it will be really easy and I won't have to worry about it.

Then again, when have Gracie and Luke ever been easy?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I love that sound

This week, I taught Lukie one of my favorite games: Break the Pickle. And, no, it isn't what you think!

Somewhere, when we were little, my sisters and I started playing a game that went like this:

"Give me five." Slap.

"Up high." Slap.

"Down low." Attempted slap. "Too Slow!"

"Break the Pickle!" Fingers held together. The other separates them. "Tickle, tickle, tickle!"

The outcome was always the same: the one giving the high fives was tickled like crazy. Yet we kept doing it over an over again.

Lukie and Gracie are very proficient at "giving five." One of their tios helped them perfect it quite some time ago. So I thought I would play around with them and see if I could get them to play it my way.

Oh, good gracious! Why did I wait so long? Lukie took to it right away. He did a great job of following my hand and giving me five. He loved the break the pickle part so much that now, when you say "Break the Pickle!" he puts the tips of his fingers together to make the pickle.

He giggles the entire time. It is a fantastic sound! He has an amazing giggle that makes everything seem lighter and better.

Gracie has become the master of animal sounds.

"Gracie, what does a cow say?" "Moo."
"What does a kitty say?" "Mow." (She hasn't gotten the "me-" part yet.)
"What does a doggy say?" "Wow-wow." (Grandma and Grandpa taught them this. They call doggies "wow-wow" too.)
"What does a snake say?" "Ssssss."
"What does a tiger say?" Lukie breaks in. "Roarrrrrrrrrrrr!"

I'm working on a video clip. Right now, they get distracted and take off.

The good news is that all of these sounds, Lukie's giggle, Gracie's animals, they just make my heart feel good. And that is an AMAZING thing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Welcome to the World, Emmy!

I don't want to steal Auntie Ten Ten's thunder, but I can't help myself!

I'll stick to this:

Welcome to the World, Emerson Leigh!

Nana says she has a dimple in one cheek and one on her chin! She's totally a Cook Girl!

Shopping with Gracie

It's 5:45 am. Gracie has been up for all of 11 minutes. She's a girl on a mission. It's time to go shopping.

She gets herself ready.

Spiderman hat - Check!


Shopping Cart - Check!


Time to get moving.




In all, Gracie "purchased" an umbrella, an empty box, an empty bottle of medicine, a key chain I got for my birthday, and Lukie's milk. All of which ended up in the stroller on our way out the door.


All of that shopping just exhausted Gracie.



Oh, and just so you don't think that I left Lukie out, he was too shy for pictures this morning.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weekend Snapshots

So much has happened this week. None of it is super special, just a bunch of memories I have, as snapshots in my mind.

Gracie and Luke have had a much better week in day care. Their anxiety over Daddy and over my being sick seems to have dissipated. They are happier, giving hugs and love to all the special people in their lives. Their vocabulary has exploded. I've heard phrases this week: "My cracka." "My Mommy." "Side? Side?" (outside) They have lots of Spanish words and phrases too. They keep surprising their care givers at day care.

This weekend was Gracie and Lukie and Mommy weekend. We were lazy in the early morning. I say lazy, but we were still up very early. Lukie came out to sleep with me at 5 am and Gracie was out with him not much later. We watched Barney, Sesame Street, ate tons of graham crackers, and played outside. They managed to make the apartment look even messier (I did not know that was possible). At one point, the apartment was so messy that you could not walk on the carpet without stepping over 2 feet or more of stuff!

Lukie showed me that he is obsessed with cleaning. He picked up "Uckies" all over the apartment and he got down on his hands and knees to sweep. He managed to do a great job of cleaning under the table and carefully picked up every piece of ceral his sister threw while "eating" breakfast. He is so funny to watch. He can't stand any kind of trash on the floor and has to clean everything up, whether it is actually trash or not.

Gracie was obsessed with buttons this weekend. She kept snagging the remote control from me and managed to find some watchable programs on her own! She was also excited about my alarm clock. I have to remember to check and make sure she did not change the alarm time.

Gracie was also super excited about shoes. I think we changed shoes about 15 times a day over the past 2 days. She was especially excited about any shoes that were not her own. "Oh, shoosh!"

We took drives so that Gracie and Luke would nap. I think they were just too excited that we were together all day to sleep! Saturday, they only took a 30 minute nap. All Day. Today, I drove them all over the Valley and ended up driving through the Santa Monica Mountains. We found ourselves in Malibu, driving along the coast. Gracie loved the ocean and watching the waves crash on the beach. I heard a lot of "agua!"

We played at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Tio Martin was home this weekend and he loves to play with Gracie and Luke. They took walks, ran around the backyard, climbed on Daddy, and never took a single nap while they were there. I visited Grandma to get my hair cut and she surprised me by taking me with her to a have Chinese foot massage. For an hour, an amazing masseuse massaged my head, my shoulders, my feet, and legs. He used reflexology to do something fantastic. By the time we left, Grandma and I felt like Jello! The best part is that the massage only cost us $20 for an hour. We felt so wonderful that we've decided to cut out little things in our budgets so that we can go back. We've decided to go twice a month.

Today, Gracie and Luke spent the afternoon with Grandma and Grandpa so that Daddy and I could go to Lowe's to research windows, new refrigerators, and stove tops. Yes, you read that right, Daddy went with me to Lowe's! It was long and frustrating, but we have our research completed and have a rough estimate of how much it will take to upgrade parts of our house not covered by the insurance.

When we got back, Gracie and Luke were in swim diapers romping around the backyard. They poured water on Mikey and Melodia (Grandma's chihuahuas) and used Grandpa's fly swatter and "hit" they yucky flies that buzzed around. We barbecued and had a great time. In fact, Gracie and Luke had such a great time (we will ignore Lukie's wasp sting) that they fell asleep before I had driven a 1/2 mile from Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Tonight, the apartment is quiet, but I'm wondering: since Lukie woke up at 5 am the last 2 days, what are my chances of taking my shower in the morning? Sigh. I guess, I'm off to take it now. Mobile Twinsies aren't as much fun as one might have thought!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Serves me right

Since they were born, I've talked with Gracie and Luke about their diapers.

"Gracie went POT-TIE. Gracie went POT-TIE! POT-TIE!"

"Who has POO-POO? Lukie has POO-POO!"

"Who tooted? Was it you, Gracie?" giggle. giggle. "Was it you, Lukie?"

I wasn't my plan to teach them about what was in their diapers. It was just conversation while I was doing something I used to pay my sister to do when I babysat so that I wouldn't have to. About 6 months ago, Gracie started saying potty back at me. She would giggle when I sang my little songs and repeat "potty" or "poo-poo." Three months ago, Lukie started doing it, too.

Then, a few weeks ago, Gracie started saying, "Uh-oh! Potty!" and grab her diaper. She'd get very anxious and come running to me. "It's okay, Gracie." I would say. "Do you have potty in your diaper?" She would grunt "yes" and run away. She started following me into the bathroom and saying "Oh, potty!" as commentary.

I started thinking that I need to buy a potty seat for Gracie and Luke to try. I have no plans to potty train them, but if they are interested, I can assuage their curiosity. I have yet to buy the seat, but I'm going to buy one tomorrow!

Tonight, I put Gracie and Luke in the tub and about 5 seconds later, Gracie got a terrified look on her face and said "Uh-oh, Potty!" and started to pee in the bath water.

"It's okay, Gracie," I said.

She stopped midstream and sat down in the water. I drained the tub and we started over again. Five minutes later it happened again. It seems very clear that Gracie is very aware of what is going on with her body.

Lukie, on the other hand...

Lukie usually pees in the tub straight off. It is one of the reasons why I always leave the tub unplugged for the first few minutes. Tonight, I know I saw him do his duty at the beginning of the bath. So when the time came for everyone to get out of the tub, I thought I would try something different with them: I took Lukie out of the tub, wrapped him in his blanket and told him to go out to the living room. "Don't go potty!" I called after him. Famous last words.

I got Gracie out of the tub, wrapped her in her towel and went in search of my son. We kept calling him and he would not reply. When we finally saw him, we also saw what kept him so quiet: He had peed all over the side of my bed. I tried to get mad, but I just couldn't. It served me right for letting him wander about without a diaper. I know better. He's peed on their bed several times.

So, I am up waiting for my sheets and blanket to finish washing and drying.

Serves me right. Who let's an un-potty-trained 20 month old wander around naked?

On further reflection, $20 says it was the cold air from the fan that triggered "the accident."

Yep. Serves me right.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

News, Amazing News!

I've decided that our contractor was sent from Heaven. His crew is plugging right along and he thinks our house will be done by May 25th. This is crazy news. We never thought they would be done that quickly. Oakridge tells us that the soonest they will let us move back in is June 15th. They aren't quite ready for us.

In the meantime, we are kept busy choosing new paint for the walls. Eventually, we will get new carpet and vertical blinds. The contractor even says that we could replace the carpet with an economy hardwood (not laminate, hardwood). We are very excited about this because we've always found it difficult to move our chairs on the carpet. We also have a new shopping list: new refrigerator, new stove top, new hood. Gary, the contractor, is going to install our stove top and hood for us. We are crazy excited!

All that news isn't what you are here for, I'm sure.

We had an uneventful Mother's Day. We spent the day with Nana, went to Hailey's softball tournament, ate lunner with Aunt Bec and her fam on Saturday, and I got to go have a pedicure by myself. Gracie and Luke ate an entire pound of red grapes by themselves (Note to self: It is never a good idea to allow toddlers to eat a pound of anything, especially fruit.) It was a pretty relaxing weekend (except for the screaming, crying, and wanting to be held all day ---- Lukie!).

The best thing to come from this weekend was Gracie and Luke's new trick. Someone, it wasn't me, taught them to show their belly buttons. If you ask them where their belly button is, they will lift up their shirts, point to their belly button and say, "Beep! Beep!" It's the cutest thing ever! My goal is to get it on video. You know I love a good blackmail!

Friday, May 8, 2009

My First Mother's Day Gift from the Twinsies

I wasn't expecting anything. Maybe that's why the sight of my Twinsies walking toward me, smiles from ear to ear, carefully holding little glass jars was so wonderful. Add to that that they
were so enthralled by holding their gifts for me that no one cried while I signed them out of day care. It would bring tears to anyone's eyes.

In their hands, Gracie and Luke cradled their first Mother's Day art projects for me:





If I am interpreting this correctly, their hand prints are the flowers and the little jars, decorated with their pictures, are the flower vases or pots. The pictures are from Gracie and Luke's favorite activity: playing with corn starch. (I've never witnessed this, but I have been told multiple times that they adore it.)

My Mothers Day flower pots are currently sitting atop the cable box. Anywhere else and I suspect they would not last very long. Gracie and Luke were very excited about them!

Thank you, Gracie and Luke, for my beautiful gifts!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Making Strides

The last 6 months have been rocky. Okay, that's an understatement, but true. There were times I honestly started to think we would never pull out of our "Gray Period." As is true with all things, however, the sun does come out eventually.

This week has become a testament to the phrase "things are looking up." Daddy has been doing better and better. He has a long road for recovery, but he is himself again and he is fighting for us. I can't tell you how inspiring that is for me when I start to feel down.

I met with our contractor on Tuesday. He is an amazing man who is professional, has a plan, and is ready to kick it into action. He works for a company that specializes in repairing homes damaged in disasters. He seems to be a very honest and dedicated individual. He inspires me to believe we may actually be moving back to our house in the near future.

Then, yesterday, a wonderful thing happened. All this time Daddy has been sick, I have worried non-stop that Gracie and Luke's day care would boot them out. The day care is at his community college. Since he can't attend classes because of his current illness, I was really worried that they would tell me Gracie and Luke could not stay in the program. We do pay a hourly fee for them to attend, but it is a manageable one. Where most day cares charge $750 per month per child, this day care charges us half that. Gracie and Luke love their friends and their care givers. And whether you believe in day care or not, Gracie and Luke have benefited from their time there. Ideally, I would be at home. That, clearly, is impossible (unless I win the lottery). Since, there is no one they can stay with during the day, I have been terrified that I would have to find a way to pay gobs of money for a private day care.

So what is the wonderful thing? Eddie and I (yes, Daddy went with me) met with the day care director. At first, they thought that we would have to pay more than double our current rate for Gracie and Luke to stay. However, since Daddy is currently recovering from a major illness, he can apply for a medical leave that keeps him listed as a student, but allows Gracie and Luke to stay in the program at the current rate. It also guarantees their spots for a year! What an amazing thing! I don't have to worry about it any more.

You can see that things are indeed looking up. Colors seem brighter. Flowers are everywhere. Our avocado tree survived the fire and subsequent 6 months of infrequent watering. Even the once scorched hillsides behind our home have green on them again. The world is just a happier place. I'm so happy that things are looking up.

Maybe this means I can work on saying good-bye to the binkies! What do you think? Should I risk it?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

20 Months Old - The Countdown to 2 Begins

Are you kidding me? Twenty months old? We're, like, on the downhill slide toward 2 years old!

Torture me a little more, why don't you?

This month, my Little Gracie-Lu-Who, you have developed quite the attitude. In fact, if I had not been present at your birth, I might be inclined to think you were actually in 7th grade and about to celebrate your 13th birthday! The phrase "Nnnnnnnnnnn-No!" is your favorite one. You have developed into such a drama queen that I must make sure I have 3 feet between me and any surrounding furniture when you are in my arms.


You have become quite the fashionista. You like to try on shoes, hats, and any pjs with kitties on them. You have a definite opinion about what I am about to put on you and if it is something you don't like, I am in trouble. You can still fall asleep with a snugly blanket and a warm body next to you. You think that bubbles are AMAZING and the tub is your pool. You love books with a passion and can sit for 30 minutes just looking at pictures and pointing at things.

The most amazing thing you've done this month: you pointed at a picture of an ice cream sundae and said, "ice cream" quite clearly!

Ah, my Little Lukie-Lou. What a crazy month it has been with you! I don't know what you are going through, my little man, but something has you very unhappy. You want me to hold you all the time. If I don't, you grab at any part of me you can hold onto and I drag you along with me. You can fake cry: yes, I know you are faking it. Surprisingly, you have not yet figured out that the key component of the fake cry is the tears. You, like Gracie, love books, bubbles, baths, "swimming" in the tub. Your words are quickly catching up with Gracie's and it makes me very happy to watch you two talk.

Your hemangioma appears to have plateaued in its growth. There are days when it looks like you don't even have one, but later in the day, your nose will swell a bit. I'm hoping that these are the signs that it might be resolving itself sooner rather than later.



Together, the two of you are obsessed with buses and trucks. Our morning drives to Abue's house are filled with: "Ooooo! uck!" Barney is the best thing since sliced bread. Any tantrum can be solved with "Barney is a dinosaur from our imagination...." I have a season pass for Barney and make sure to keep 5 episodes minimum on the DVR. You fight over the Barney books and the books with lift the flaps or other hidey holes.

You don't eat as much as you used to. Instead, you seem to eat only when you are absolutely hungry. Well, except when Abue Juve shares a Popsicle with you! Those you will eat whenever they are presented. You love Grandma's rice and anyone's chicken. You don't like pasta or anything with sauce on it. You like to eat with Tio Martin or on my lap. Of course, you also like to eat on the go!


The best thing about you both is the absolute excitement and joy you show about everything you do. Your hugs break my heart every time, every hug feels like the first one ever! You are friendly and loving to everyone (unless they steal a toy or retrieve one you stole from them - then, it is on!).

In 4 short months, you are going to turn 2 years old. I'm speechless. I guess I'm just going to have to play with you more, enjoy you more, love you more so that I live every single second with you to its fullest.

So, my little ones, keep the good times coming!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Green light means GO!

Nearly 5 months and 20 days after we fled from our homes to escape the Sayre Fire, we have been given the green light to come in and start the work necessary to make our home livable again!

Five months and 20 days is a long time. It's even longer if you think of it as 171 days out of our home. (One hundred seven days of that, Daddy was in the hospital.) I'm pretty sure that Gracie and Luke have no recollection of our house. However, given that our entire apartment could fit in the front half of our house, I think it is a safe bet to say that they will LOVE it when we get to move back in.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with a contractor named Gary who will be giving us our estimate for the cost to get us de-smoked and de-sooted. I need to call the Gas Company and the Electric Company and get our utilities back on line. No timeline just yet, but we will work on it.

I have so much to do! I just can't believe that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel.

Larry, Loretta, Susan, Heidi, Carl, Oscar, and all of our other neighbors: Party on our street in August? You in?

Thank goodness for dishwashers

Even though the dishwasher is a cheap model here at our temporary abode, it is a fantastic tool for washing toys that have intentionally inadvertently been tossed outside and left to the elements.



Rest well, little toys! Know that the dishwasher will always be there to return you to your former glory!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Balance Twinsie Style

I was busy making dinner one night when all of a sudden it grew kind of quiet. When I looked into the living room, I caught sight of my children carefully squeezing their feet and legs through the backs of their chairs. They managed to do this with out toppling over.



Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mommy's Shoes

Gracie is definitely a shoe girl. She could spend most of the morning trying on her shoes and admiring them. When we go to the store, she wants to try on new ones.

Imagine my surprise when she decided to go shopping in my closet.


Note how she convinced Lukie to try on my shoes, too.

From the Ew! Files

Why you always want to make sure the sippy cups of milk have been emptied before bed:

This literally PLOPPED out of the sippy cups when I tried to do dishes this morning.

Seriously, ew.

Update on Abigail

Abigail is currently resting comfortably after 2 very serious surgeries. She is not out of the woods yet, but her prognosis is better.

You can read the full story of her birth and journey to Cedars Sinai at my friend Caryn's blog.


Friday, May 1, 2009

I'm still here

My mother taught me that if you don't have anything nice to say...well, I'm sure you know the rest.

I have 5 blog posts rolling around in my head. Only one of which is actually about Gracie and Luke. The other 4 are "Woe is me!" posts and I'm sure you don't want to be bothered with them.

Suffice it to say, I'm sicker than I've ever been, my children have been possessed by demons, and my husband is having days where he is throwing up again.

See? Now you know why I haven't been here.

I don't have anything nice to say. Maybe in a few days...like when my throat doesn't feel like it is being squeezed shut, we have completed the exorcism ritual on the twins, and my husband stabilizes.

Please, God?