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My name is Rachel, and in elementary and early junior high, I so wanted a different name. Something beautiful, like Lauren. Or Katherine, but with a Y. Or Alexandria. But there I was…Rachel.

With no middle name.

Oh, I had nicknames. I went by “Whiskers” in my elementary school CYO softball/basketball/soccer teams. I know, intimidating! Was “Ace” when I took up tennis. “Smach” with a long a, later shortened to “Rach” in youth group. “Rubin” like ‘roobin’ as a college Young Life Leader. Or, if I was in trouble at home, “Raquel!!” Each name enveloped in specific, transitional, and memorable periods of my life.

In late 2000, I met Jennifer. And in late 2001 we moved to Houston. And that’s where Jennifer roped us (translation: ME!) into making executive gift baskets for a client of hers. They needed 100 of them. Within 10 days. I’m still livid about it, but the point is that’s where I first came up with RaJen Creation. “Ra” for Rachel, and “Jen” for Jennifer. And “Creation” for Creation because before that first basket I was all thinking: Gift Baskets! Crawfish Boils! Photography! The next Christmas, we (translation: I!) used the logo title on cute little jars filled with homemade salsa as Christmas gifts to co-workers. And so it just made sense to continue on with the name when I started this blog to chronicle our journey to conceive. Because didn’t “Creation” fit just perfectly trying to have a baby?

Except that I had no idea how popular the name “Rajen”, pronounced rah-jhen, is. In India. And I’m all, no, it’s RaJen, like ray-jen. And Google pronounces both them same. Seriously. Go browse it.

And then three years went by and I decide I’m going to revamp the website because I obviously am not stretched out thin enough. And though it hasn’t been as quick a process as I liked, and though it’s not completely finished, I’m going to go ahead and take it live. Because keeping two websites is tricky and I don’t know enough code to go importing and exporting dangling posts.

One of the fun parts? I’m changing my name. Something that reflects this chapter we’ve only recently begun in the last seventeen eighteen! months, our two mom household of twins. Most of the posts here have been transferred over there, but not all.

The set up is different with several deliberate changes that I’m excited about. You can read more about them by heading on over to the new website by clicking on the logo or link below.

final logo

Motherhood.Squared

Jennifer’s new Buddy 125 scooter, flanked by Harper’s beloved wooden push cart on the left, and Mateo’s favorite ride-on car on the right.

Happy Birthday today, Matou!

Ride-On Toys

Xavier's First Birthday

Last weekend we took our third birthday trip to San Antonio this year, this time in celebration of my nephew Xavier’s very first birthday. Monkey cupcakes, two bouncers, a piñata, a water table, individually labeled lunch sacks for kids, yummy food, family, friends, and fellowship. My brother and sister-in-law can throw a party, you hear me?

The sweltering heat helped in that it assured a solid afternoon nap for Mateo and Harper (and Mommy and Matou!). That evening, we ordered takeout burgers and congregated at Grandma Yoyi’s house and watched all five nieces and nephews play together. Mateo was up until 8:00 p.m. hanging out with his night owl cousins, but despite the activity, Harper was all “EXCUSE ME! IT’S 6:30 AND I HAVE GOT TO GO TO BED!”

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Two weekends ago, in a flash of courage and insanity, I drove the kids to San Antonio for their cousin Sara’s first birthday party. Alone. This after a week of contemplating whether or not to it, and my sister saying “I would never drive with both kids alone, but I hope you will.” Jennifer had to work that weekend and was then off to another city for some solitude and vacation time to play in a golf tournament. So I figured I could venture out for a less-than-twenty-eight-hours-seven-of-those-spent-in-a-car trip, or stay at home. If it was great, then great, If it was horrible, well, blogging is cheaper than therapy.

My sister and her husband had Just. That. Week. finished putting in a beautiful flagstone patio, and leveling off the backyard playground, the location where one colorful butterfly piñata, caught in the web of fifteen or more children, would meet its fate.

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It was incredibly hot, but the only people who seemed to notice were the parents assigned to chase their kids around outside. Mateo and Harper’s gift to Sara was a big hit, though I’m not sure the other guests necessarily came prepared for wardrobe changes. Ooops. I’m putting that one down in the Cool Tia column.

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Other than driving alone with 14 month olds for up to four hours one way, I was concerned with how they might respond to more-people-per-square-foot than you’d find surrounding the ice cream truck in summer, but neither cried. Harper, the – of late – more shy of the two, stayed a little closer to me and grandma. But gosh darn it was she cute in her pink Converse All-Stars.

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And Mateo the ham basked in all the attention like a little pig rolling around in the mud. He was most intrigued by the big kids, seen here coming out of the room where they convened.

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The party was fun, except for the part where I had to chase down Mateo after he escaped from an opening in the gate leading to the woods behind my sister’s house. Were any other kids doing that? NO.

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And add to the milestones, I kept the kids out until after 6:00 p.m. – SHOCKER! – before heading back to my mom’s house. My sweet mom who got up at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning to make us homemade tortillas for egg and sausage tacos. Then again, she shut the garage door before I was out of the driveway, and was probably back in bed before I got to the end of the street.

Oh, the drive? Let’s just say DVDs are of no interest to the kids (though thanks two moms from my neighborhood group for letting us borrow the DVD player and Planet Earth DVDs). And that snack traps filled with baby trail mix attached to the carseats with toy links are no guarantee when you have a kid who can unlink those links. While mom is in the front seat driving seventy. The last hour of both legs of the trip were nothing short of horrible, but I am so glad we went.

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Everything you’ll read about how to do the first birthday party will indicate that you should “keep the guest list small”, “make it a quiet and intimate family affair,” “don’t do anything too big as to overwhelm the little one”, but the authors of such advices are obviously neither of Hispanic descent nor South Louisianans because the combined heritage alone gets you no less than thirty uncomfortably loud people in a space. And that’s BEFORE food and drink.

When it became clear that no action on our part was going to prevent them from turning ONE, people began asking me “what’s the party theme?” And I will not lie to you when I say that I had no idea what they were talking about. A theme? Yes, a theme! Like is it a Zoo Theme or a Cars Theme or a Noah’s Ark Theme?

Ummmmmm….it’s Crawfish?

And the logic went like this: Crawfish. Too spicy for kids. Fish sticks. Kids like Goldfish crackers. Activity for the 2-5 year lot. OK, sand and water table. Sand. Water. Sea. Wait a minute, something’s happening here. Yes, I’ll draw sea animals and we’ll cut them out of construction paper because I’m too cheap to buy decorations I don’t want anything too commercial. BAM! And just like that, in a flash of parental comprehension, we had a theme.

Our small family gathering? A crawfish boil for fifty.

Lunch

We did, at least, schedule it post- afternoon nap when the kids are as rested as they’re going to get. We had originally planned an outdoor gathering with tables of crawfish in the driveway, ride-on toys and kid seating for the garage (thanks for letting us borrow, SJN!), a refrigerator full of sodas and juices, an open door from the garage – through the house- leading to the backyard where we have a slide-playhouse and sand & water table, ample set-up for a crowd that size. But noooooooooo, the biggest storm of the season came through that day. ALL day long. So we crammed into the garage and kept a table under a tarp & tent (thanks AJ & KF!) for the mudbugs.

Birthday Garage

Jennifer’s dad and brother boiled a spectacular batch of crawfish, potatoes, corn, and sausage. And we had fish sticks, goldfish crackers, and peas-n-carrots for the little ones. In the picture above, I think Mateo had managed eighteen or so fishsticks into his mouth and he’s using his index finger to keep it all in.

Their cakes were simple, homemade yellow cake by yours truly. I wasn’t about to spend crawfish money on a cake that wasn’t going to get touched by the the RJBs. Sure enough, they didn’t disappoint.

happy birthday

The kids received (too) many generous gifts from family and friends, but we’ve already learned that no one listens when you say “no gifts”. Especially grandparents. Mateo was especially excited about his Little People Cars toy from his aunt & uncle.

Birthday Boy

Presents!

Harper stayed attached to me, Jennifer, my mom, our nanny, or the ride-on fish toy. Here, she’s attached to grandma’s fingers.

Birthday Girl

Even with crabby weather (crabby, get it?), it was a great party and I think most everyone had fun.

The After-Party

RaJen Cajun Familia

Because I had no words, just gratitude and tears and joy.

Thank you to all who have expressed your condolences in comments and calls both public and private. I write this blog as an outlet for the jibberish in my head and as a tool to share photos of the kids. It is a joy to come to know you, even if only through this medium. It’s not that I forget I have readers, it’s just that I’m stood still by the compassion that can be shown from folks whom I only know through the internet. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

It’s a tough week emotionally. The first reason, obviously, is the death of my grandfather on Sunday. Jennifer and I had organized everything the night before because Sunday was going to be a big day with church plus leaving the kids in the church nursery, plus going out to her parents’, plus managing naps away from home, plus trying to get them to eat surrounded by too many strangers at Easter lunch, plus getting home in time for bedtime routine. So when the kids went down for their morning nap, I went ahead and packed up the car, including my cell phone. Which is why I didn’t answer any of the 5 calls that came in within a span of two hours- all from my mother. It wasn’t until 10:30 that I began listening to the first voice mail when the phone rang again and it was my mom telling me that my grandfather had passed away at 9:26 a.m. As I’m listening, my left brain was throwing punches at my right brain saying “don’t cry. stay strong. you’re not wearing smudgeproof eyeliner.” And this was one moment when I was grateful for Jennifer’s Starbucks addiction because right there in the glove box was a napkin for me to dab with.

Jen offered to go home, but I didn’t really see the reason, so we kept driving. We had gone early to give ourselves time with the kids IN the nursery before going to service. They haven’t been too keen on staying with anyone besides our nanny, Matou, or Mommy. And I can tell you Jennifer and I often wonder where we rank in their preference. All that planning, however, didn’t help. They were on to us, and we had to leave them crying. It gave me a cover to do the same.

Easter service was nice. There was a huge thunderstorm that passed through, causing the lights to flicker and the copper roof to crackle and pop. The music and sermon were beautiful, but I cried intermittently, uncontrollably, and unpredictably with my now falling-apart Starbucks napkin constantly at my face. People around us probably thought “awww, she’s so moved by Easter, look how much she loves Jesus,” but in reality it was hard to focus on the joy when every other word in Easter service is DEATH, DEATH, DEATH, TOMB, DYING, DEATH, DYING.

My grandfather was something else, I tell you. Always laughing or making a joke. He would say “call me on my cell phone because I don’t know where I’ll be.” I know people half his age that complain about cell phones and how they don’t know how to use them. He was on the golf course as often as possible (though I think the one in Small Town, Texas doubles as a cow pasture half a year and desert the other). There are so many stories, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. And I shouldn’t right now, since I still don’t have the smudge-proof stuff. He was diagnosed only a couple months ago, but succumbed quickly. The cancer itself was treatable, but when combined with diabetes, old age, and chemotherapy, it became too much for his body. Honestly, I think he would have lived longer without treatment. My grandfather has always been about quality AND quantity. He loved his full head of hair, loved to paint and draw, loved golf. And once treatment began, he lost the ability to do those things. Cancer is cruel like that. It was then that I knew it wouldn’t be long.

Though I would love for Jennifer and the kids to be with me, it would be a logistical nightmare: driving would take an entire day (it’s a 6 hour drive from here without kids/diaper changes/feedings). If we flew, we’d be broke. The rosary will occur during bedtime. The funeral will occur during a nap. And if there is one thing I am inflexible about, it’s their sleep because it will make or break the rest of the day and usually half of the next. Jennifer could fly out with me and we’d still be broke, and be broker because we’d have to pay for overnight care for the twins. So, yeah, the smartest thing is for me to go alone. And by the time this post gets published, I’ll be in the air.

I will be flying out on Wednesday after a half-day of work, arriving in one city, and hitching a ride to Small Town, Texas in time for the wake and the rosary. The mass and burial will be on Thursday, April 16. After the reception, I’ll hitch a ride back to San Antonio and catch a flight back home, arriving at 8:30 p.m on the 16th. It’s too short a trip when I consider how I feel I’m failing my mom by not being there for her longer. The appearance that I’m just rushing in for the services, check in with the extended family, hugs, kisses, tears, and head back home. But it’s the best I can do what with the responsibility of my children and family and that increasingly unstable job situation. I hate it when my best isn’t good enough.

And while I’m thinking about it, write a will. It is the single most important document you’ll ever have. And it is the most selfless gift you can give to those you’ll leave behind. In all his greatness, my grandfather was exceptionally stubborn and he refused to write one. I am lovingly pissed off about that. Assets freeze, everything has to go through probate, loved ones have to simultaneously mourn while scrambling for funds for burial. Sadness and pain often manifests itself in the form of survivors bickering over tangible objects. It’s just plain unnecessary. When you don’t write a will, the state and the courts effectively decide what goes where. The family has almost no say. So bow up, people.

April 16 is also MATEO AND HARPER’S FIRST BIRTHDAY.

And I won’t see them AT ALL that day due to travel.

That’s the other emotionally difficult thing this week. It’ll be harder on me than it is on them. And I know I’m being all sentimental about it and that they won’t remember it and all that. But I will, and it leaves me a little bit nauseated. You wouldn’t think you could have the wind knocked out of you when your chest is already hollow feeling, but it can.

Around March some time, I began thinking about the kids’ birthday and the post I would write. And as I got to thinking about it, I’d get to crying. Why, one might ask? I’ll be able to explain it better sometime in the next. . .Never.

In memory of my grandfather, I’ve set the post to publish at approximately the same time as my grandfather’s burial, which is approximately the same time as their birth a year prior – their birthday forever shared with the great-grandfather they never got to meet.

Oh, but the stories we’ll tell.

I sent out an email update on the kids to several friends, one of whom is a dean of a law school in North Carolina. I first came to know her and her husband when they were Young Life Committee members in the college town where I was a Young Life leader. She wrote back to tell me that their eldest daughter had yet to decide where it was she was going to college, even though she is graduating from high school in just a few months. And I might have empathized which such uncertainty were it not that I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that the child she was referring to was the same child I STARTED BABYSITTING WHEN SHE WAS SIX MONTHS OLD.

Now, if someone just out of the blue asked me how long ago I was in college, I’d say it was about five years ago. That’s certainly what it feels like. And then I’d start calculating backwards and realize that five years ago I WAS WORKING FOR THE SAME COMPANY I AM NOW. Same with the year before that, and the year before that. And for two years prior to that, I was working in a different industry, after having completed my Master’s degree TWO YEARS BEFORE THAT. And that gets me to ELEVEN years ago, which was SIX YEARS after I finished high school.

WHAT???

So you can imagine my surprise when I turned thirty-five over the weekend. It’s not that I didn’t know my birthday was coming, or that I’m depressed about my age, or the fact that I’m closer to 40 now than I am to 30. It’s just that I can’t believe I’m not 26! Even if it IS true that my preferred commuting station is National Public Radio. And I look forward to the segment on Engines Of Ingeniuty. For real.

On Saturday, my Mothers Of Multiples group had its bi-annual garage sale. I agreed to co-chair the event and was there from 5-10p on Friday and 8a-12p on Saturday. One of the advantages of working the sale is being able to early-shop, and that’s where I got this steal of a deal on our new coffee table for the room that used to be our living room.

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It’s been a crazy three weeks at the office with long hours resulting in days at a time when I would not see either of my kids awake. So I was very much looking forward to soaking in some time with them post-sale. So sapped of mental energy and creativity, that each time Jennifer would ask what I wanted to do for my birthday, I would respond “nothing, just hang out with you and the kids.”

And of course, she never listens to me.

Behind the scenes, over the previous few weeks, Jennifer had been conspiring with our nanny and the kids, the result of which was a facial and massage at my favorite spa, dinner at our favorite steakhouse, and one night’s stay at the best hotel in town. Needless to say, Jennifer was a bit taken aback when, you know, I CRIED when she showed me the bag, told me to get my purse and get in the car. My sister had apparently warned her I might react this way, but Jennifer kinda forgot to give me even an hour’s heads-up. I can’t even say it was just one thing that opened up the waterworks, more like a combination of spending my first night away from the kids, not having had any control over the planning, and really really really looking forward to it.

It didn’t take me the duration of the facial to be totally fine with spending a night away from home, though. And this comfort was made more certain when I got a text message from the nanny before dinner that both kids went to sleep just fine. Speaking of text messaging, look at what the kids are doing in these photos. How hilarious is this?!

Texting

Texting

(As an aside, as you can see by Harper’s face, you will never really know what she’s up to. As for Mateo, he cannot help but look guilty when he’s up to something.)

The personal pampering and dinner were so indulgent that upon our return to the hotel, we promptly collapsed into deep slumber and had the gift of sleeping in a dark, quiet room until nearly 10:00 a.m. It was decadent and refreshing and something neither of us have done in nearly a year (and probably won’t be repeated for another 18 years, or as Jennifer said, not until HER birthday).

I was itching to get home and see the kids so we checked out, grabbed some breakfast, and drove the 10 minutes to the house, able to spend the remainder of the day enjoying more daylight and two of the best gifts of all.

I leave you with a little video of the kids.

A couple weeks ago, my niece E! turned two. It seems that it was just yesterday that I was posting her birth announcement, and now here she is all toddler and talky talky talky. To celebrate, my sister arranged for a birthday party at a place called Fiesta Farms in San Antonio. There, there were three covered areas and a barn, each packed with a party of of cuñados and primos and abuelos and hermanos and a couple white people scattered about.

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E!, the birthday girl.

And let me just say, albeit a bit windy and chilly, it was a spectacular place for a party for kids in the 2-5 age range. The farm was basically a bit of a petting zoo and safari all within walking distance for the toddle crowd. There were pony rides and chicken feedings and staring down llamas and cuddling bunnies.

Jennifer had the ingenious idea of bringing the wagon that her dad and step-mom gave our kids for Christmas. Riding in it allowed the kids to be transported without being carried, and with more freedom than a stroller. And their cousins got in on the ride, too.

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Baby S, E!s sister.

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X, my brother’s boy.

Harper and Mateo got in on the fun and pony rides, too. And I’m just smitten to have shots like these to remember their babyhood.

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Harper and Matou.

Cowboy Up!
Mateo on the pony.

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It was a quick trip, less than 24 hours. But it was really nice to see my siblings and their families. Of course, we couldn’t leave without the obligatory photo of my mom with a tossed salad of her grandchildren. They’ve all grown in just a few months, and I can already tell things are going to get really fun as they grow up together.

Oh, and one more thing, I’ve been playing with iMovie, trying to teach myself how to make videos from still photos. I am less than pleased with the transitions, but given that I won’t get to play on the computer any evening soon, I’m posting my first attempt which contains all the photos from the Fiesta Farms party.

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Grandma and the kids.

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Last weekend, we went to the Beloved’s dad’s house in the burbs. So happens that her mom, younger brother & his wife and kid had driven in from Louisiana. So here it was the very first time that ALL the grandkids on her side were at one place. Spending the afternoon with her family was a wonderful way to celebrate the Beloved’s 33rd birthday. Especially when it included Popeye’s Fried Chicken and this group of cuties.

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Bri holding Carpet; Bailey Bug; StirFry holding Tato; and Batman.

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Tato and Carpet on Matou’s birthday, sitting on MamaJanet’s lap; 4 months and 1 day old.

More Photos!

The Aforementioned

LesbianFamily.org
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