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Bring us back a stuffed animal camel from Egypt, Paw Paw!

PawPaw Jim

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!”

Dear Mateo & Harper,

Last week, you turned 15 months old. WHAT? It’s hard to believe that a year ago today we were propping you up for a picture, all noodlee and unstable, and now you are practically running. Which, of course, results in bumps and bruises, tears and hugs.

Our weekends have been filled with trips away. Like the one we took to San Antonio – just me and you – for your cousin Sara’s birthday party. (Note to self: avoid solo trips when possible.) We bought her a water table just like yours, and in return, you came home with a party favor in the form of a ten day cold.

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On the tail end of that, we intended to spend a weekend at our friend’s lakehouse, but what with all the console table shaking and the taking-two-hours-to-fall-asleep business, we headed back home no sooner than we arrived.

When we haven’t been out of town, we’ve spent an afternoon of the weekend (okay, an hour each time) at the Children’s Museum. You love it because it has a slide to rocket down and tunnels to crawl through and cars to drive. We love it because it wears you out and assures us that you’ll nap well that afternoon. Which means we get to, too. And we got to visit your MawMaw Marketta and PawPaw Jimmy a few weeks ago. I’m not sure which part you liked best: playing with your cousins, eating homemade chicken n dumplin’s, or swimming.

What Makes You Think I Ate Any Of Your Haagen Dazs Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream?

You had your first dental visit in the past month. And while that wasn’t the most pleasant experience, you sure did enjoy your Olive Garden pizza afterwards. I think you forgave us. And, of course, we couldn’t reach your fifteen month milestone without a visit to the doctor for a well-baby checkup and more shots. Lest I forget, your 15 month stats are as follows: Mateo – 32 1/2 inches (85%tile) and 26 lb 12 oz (80%tile). Harper – 31 inches (70%tile) and 23 lb 5 oz (60%tile).

Your newest favorite together activity? Open-faced hand bops on the head of the other as a consequence of egregious theft of a toy. “Soft touches” and “wait” and “it’s ____’s turn” is having an impact just to the left of No Impact At All. And just when we wonder if you’ll ever get along, you go about playing chase and giving hugs that turn into tackles with so many giggles that Matou and I get lost in them ourselves.

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We have favorite songs, too. Mateo, your favorite is Wheels On The Bus, and Harper, yours is Row, Row, Row Your Boat. We all do Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. And you can both readily point to your Ears, Belly Button, Toes, Tongue, Eyes, and Nose. Unless the pediatrician asks you. And then you just stare.

Mateo, your fascination with gadgets continues, as evidenced by you managing to lock Matou’s cell phone and us having to replace the permanently disabled SIM card.

There are times where we’ll tell you not to stand on the table and we’ll be forced to pick you up and remove you and then you’ll go find your blackberry and text away. Matou and I are pretty sure you’re sending a message to the nanny, something along the lines of “B, is’t Mon yet? Pck me up their crzy, I’ll b by the door. ps bring goldfish n milk. lots of milk. ~M.”

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You sure have a sweet streak, though. Our favorite is when you bring us a book at the end of the day and cannonball directly onto a lap for reading time. And your hugs, OH MY GOSH your hugs! Getting you up in the morning is such a joy. You are so happy and laughing and talkative. Until the diaper change, that is.

You love to read books and we’ll often find you sitting quietly in front of the bookshelf, books strewn around you, flipping through them and having more to say about them than there are words on the page. Sometimes you’ll say a word we understand, like “Truck”.

Toy Box

Harper, you are the family sleeper. Still. I suppose all that cuteness and energy requires large amounts of sleep because you’re determined to take two naps a day and if we mess with them, you mess with us. You are sweet and dangerous in one package.

If your brother has something you want, you will take it and walk away. If he takes something of yours, you whack him. Hard. You also like climbing up on the softplay blocks, balancing and then jump jump jump jump jump. Fascinating. Considering you didn’t even roll over until 9 1/2 months and didn’t start crawling until almost 10 months. We know who will be my roller coaster buddy.

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Your vocabulary is beginning to rumble under the surface and we expect an explosion any time. In just the last two weeks, you’ve added “Duck” and “Gur” (girl) and “Train” and “Truck” and “Godt” (your word for Dog, go figure).

Early stages of toddlerhood are not at all easy on me and Matou. Lots of times some situation is diverted and we’ll put you to bed at the end of the day and then we’re all “Whoa, what was THAT? How should we handle THAT in the future?” And we can tell you are watching, yearning for and pushing against consistency and independence. As many loops as we get thrown for, we can only imagine how overwhelmed you might feel at times, with Options, and New Surfaces To Climb, and No, and That Tastes Yummy, and Words coming at you in different directions every six to eight minutes of every day. Just know that we’re here for you, even if oftentimes that means not getting what you want. We promise to always, though, give you what you need.

Love,

Mommy & Matou

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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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I only got one picture…Mateo enjoying the water [above]. Where’s my Harper’s picture? Love and kisses to you all…mostly for the kids…sorry, they are now the # one’s…but, you are right there behind them.”

Here you go, GRANDMA.

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Sea World season passes: $138
Gas to get to San Antonio and back: $47
Plastic Pool from the grocery store: $12

Grandma’s homemade tortillas on a Saturday morning, playing with cousins, meals with grandparents, lots of bubbles, lots and lots of walking, and swimming in the back yard: priceless.

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Jen got up with the kids at 6:30 and I got to sleep in all the way until 7:15. (Hey, it’s the little things). And then the kids had their morning naptime. Except they didn’t really nap. And then Harper was ready to nap – translation: throwing the head back tantrum – thirty minutes before we were supposed to leave for lunch. Put Harper down. Can’t get the damn shoes on Mateo’s feet. And then he managed to take one of them off (like here). And then we were finally ready to go. But both kids needed diaper changes. By then I was sweating. In a silk skirt. And heels. But everything was calm in the car on the way to the restaurant. We were meeting Jennifer’s family which means a party of 14. We were 10 minutes late for our 11:00 reservation. There were no high chairs at the table. Do you know how much 25 pounds of boy weighs? Fifty. Greetings exchanged. Hugs, kisses.

Meet And Greet

Nice to be there. I order my iced tea. Should have made it a long island kind. It was past the kids’ lunch time. Ordered the kids some meatballs. Crisis averted. I ordered my meal. Not sure why I even bothered. Sitting between two kids who are tired of sitting in high chairs in a crowded, loud restaurant. (remember: they didn’t nap well in the morning). Ask for to-go boxes. It’s now 12:45. Afternoon nap is usually around 12:30 or 1:00. Trying to wrap things up. Jennifer orders dessert. WTF? Another to-go box. Meltdowns approaching. Awkward bill situation. Gather bags. Still sweating. In a silk skirt. Meltdown. Pile into the car and drive home. Sing loudly to keep the kids awake until we get home. Diaper changes. Lights out, sound machine on. Put kids down. They don’t fall asleep. But I do. Best 30 minute nap ever. Kids sleep for almost two hours. 3:30 rolls around. Snack time. Make smoothies. Grab crackers. Change diapers. Take a family trip to Lowes. Kids in the wagon. Get stuff. Head back home and go to directly to the back yard. Ride the yellow fish. Head first on the slide. Fill up the water table. Teach the kids to drink from the hose (best. water. ever.).

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Peel off wet clothes. 5:30. Prep dinner. Head upstairs to feed the kids. Yum for them. Jen takes Mateo down for a bath. Work with Harper on drinking from a glass.

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Prepare cups with whole milk. Take Harper and two cups of milk downstairs. Bathe Harper. 6:30 We all play downstairs. Drink milk. Brush teeth. 7:00. Gather Raffy and Woobie. Sound machine on, babies to bed. We clean up bathroom and play area. Back upstairs to prepare our dinner. Which was supposed to be lunch. Sit down. Look at each other and say “Happy Mother’s Day!”

Finish eating. Clean kitchen. Prep kids’ breakfast for next day. Check on neighbors’ cats. Take out trash.

Siblings

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.

Father.
Singer.
Husband.
Dancer.
Son.
Storyteller.
Friend.
Joker.
Business Owner.
Brother.
Golfer.
Trouble.
Uncle.
Artist.
Companion.
Musician.
Grandfather.

Agapito Lopez
August 18, 1928-April 12, 2009

Grandpa

Photo taken March 14, 2009 at my mom’s house, one day after his second chemotherapy treatment.

More Photos!

The Aforementioned

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