Monday, December 15, 2008

Playtime at the Park

Earlier this week, the girls and I discovered a new park in our area...more accurately, a new playground at a park we regularly frequent. The construction on the play area has been completed for just over a month or so, but the girls and I hadn't previously had a chance to go and check it out. The playground was huge - and it had a lot of fun and different activities for the girls to play on. I made great use of the camera while the girls ran from one area to the next. AK did manage to get an "owie" at one point, but that didn't stop her from thoroughly enjoying herself. The pictures express much better than I could in words just how much AK and Roo liked their day at the park.

BTW - Roo is in the white striped shirt w/brown sweatshirt and AK is in the brown shirt w/pink sweatshirt. Roo loved the rope bridge ("Look mama...I like Spiderman!"), the dizzy devil, and the teeter-totter (or see-saw...whatever they're called). AK loved the swings (her usual fav), the wobbly stepping stones, and the rock climbing tube-thingee. I loved the fact that we got to walk to the park and back (I pushed the girls in the stroller), which meant that even mama managed to get a little bit of exercise that day.
Needless to say, we will be visiting this particular playground quite frequently from this point forward.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

HoHoHo...Christmas Tag

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper…more hassle than the gift bags, but so much more fun to open Christmas morning.
2. Real tree or Artificial? Real – the colors are so much brighter and I LOVE the smell that fills the home.
3. When do you put up your Christmas Tree? As a kid, we would beg my mom to put them up the day after Thanksgiving….that was the rule, wait until after T-Day. Although I still love to decorate the tree, I don’t have the same sense of urgency – we put it up when we put it up…we don’t even have ours yet this year.
4. When do you take the tree down? When I am tired of vacuuming up the needles.
5. Do you like eggnog? Not the store-bought kind, but I love my mom’s eggnog; really, it’s more like sweet, frothy milk than eggnog, but it’s fabulous none the less.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? I don’t know if I appreciated it so much as a child, but every year I received an orange in the bottom of my stocking…fresh picked from our tree outside. What I wouldn’t give for one of those oranges this year.
7. Hardest person to buy for? Doug – he doesn’t give me a whole lot of ideas to go from
8. Easiest person to buy for? The girls – so far, they seem happy to get whatever they’re given, so I’m not worried too much about disappointing them.
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yup – we have a few that were given to us as wedding presents…that’s what happens when you get married a week after Christmas.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? My intention is always to get them sent out in the mail, but it doesn’t always turn out as planned….sorry folks.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I can’t recall any.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? The old animated ones – Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman…you know which ones I’m talking about, right? Doug’s favorite is the Christmas Story. The girls would vote for anything starring Mickey Mouse.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? This year I started on the dreaded Black Friday….total chaos, but lots of fun.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I don’t believe so, but it is possible.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Thing…as in singular? Come on…you all know me better than that when it comes to food. Let’s see….freshly baked orange rolls w/icing or homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast, hot cocoa with marshmallows, candy canes, all the munching food (seven-layer dip, veggie platter, celery sticks w/cheese spread), those white mints w/the red and green waxy centers from Brach’s, Toblerone, honey glazed ham w/cheesy potatoes or turkey w/mashed potatoes, homemade rolls that melt in your mouth, dutch apple pie, spiced apple cider or some of my mom’s friendship tea, gingerbread cookies….I could go on and on.
16. Lights on the tree? Yes...Definitely
17. Favorite Christmas song? The music is one of the best things about Christmas…I love pretty much all of it, but my favorite CD’s are from Mannheim Steamroller, Carpenter’s Christmas, and Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Some of my favorite jingles are Joy to the World, O Holy Night, Hallelujah Choir, and Angels We Have Heard on High
18. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph.
19. How do you countdown the days until Christmas? Doug's mom always buys the grandkids chocolate advent calendars...Doug and Roo eat up most of the chocolate before the month is halfway over. I got a few cute ideas for handmade advent calendars, but those will have to wait for next year I suppose.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Always had an angel on the tree as a kid; I bought a star after we got married but it broke a few years ago and we haven’t bought a new one…maybe I’ll take care of that this year.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? We carry on the Hoopes Family tradition of opening Christmas jammies on the 24th, then everything else on Christmas morning.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? How greedy and inpatient people get. Just try to remember the reason for the season, folks…and simply enjoy it!!
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? An eclectic mix of everything…red, green, silver, teal, brown, homemade, hand-me-downs, store bought…it all works.
24. Favorite food for Christmas dinner? See reply to question#15
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? For the girls to be potty trained…which would take a Christmas miracle!!
26. Christmas or X-mas? Christmas
27. Have you ever been smooched under the mistletoe? Nope, can't say that I have
28. Icicles or ribbon on the tree? Ribbon, garland, candy canes, and ornaments - anything but the stringy icicles...they are way too messy
29. Favorite holiday memories/traditions? Going to see the Sapphire Lights in Alta Loma, visiting nursing homes and singing Christmas carols when I was a kid, singing in the Upland 3rd Ward Choir Christmas program, playing Mary in the ward Christmas pageant, watching the Upland Christmas parade as a kid, Christmas lights at the Temple, annual Ward ice skating party (complete with donuts and hot cocoa out in the parking lot), sneaking out to peek in our stockings then having to wait for hours until we could wake our parents up and open presents.
30. Real or Fake snow? Real...although I'm not a fan of living in the snow, there is just something magical about it during the holidays. Wish we had some here in AZ.
As usual, I'm not going to officially tag anyone, but if you have the time and the desire, feel free to post this on your blog with your responses!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

T-Day Fun in Good Ol' California

Here are some pics of the girls from our Thanksgiving week trip to California. I was a bonehead and didn't use my camera for most of the trip, so I didn't get pictures of the girls with their cousins. Regardless, AK and Roo had a blast - they played hard all week and loved, loved, LOVED seeing relatives from both the Leach and Hoopes families.

They couldn't get enough of the swing set at their Aunt Shauna's house, partially thanks to Uncle Ben's endless supply of energy and willingness to push them on the swings and tire swing. They loved being in Fallbrook with the Miles (Grandpa's horse) and Kupua, and enjoyed getting as dirty as any 3-year old should get (I am still trying to get used to this, but I have to remind myself that I wasn't exactly the cleanest of gals myself - I used to love playing in the dirt and climbing trees as a kid, so I can't really fault the twins for wanting to enjoy nature). And, they even managed to get into some "parmesan cheese mischief" with their little friend Riley at Round Table Pizza's All-You-Can-Eat Pizza Night.

Doug enjoyed getting to surf Thanksgiving morning with his best friend Clint...nothing better than a good surf session followed by great food and good company. And, the entire week was a MUCH NEEDED break from his normal UOP routine...there is something calming about California that is simply good for Papa's soul.

I enjoyed being with family and friends...and the food wasn't too bad either (especially since we ended up having 2 Thanksgiving on Thursday with the Hoopes family and one on Saturday with the Leach family). I got to spend some time with some of my siblings who live in Utah and whom I don't get to see too often. And, for the first time ever, I participated in the total chaos known as "Black Friday," thanks to the promptings of my good friend Casey and my fun, FUN sisters-in-law.

Family, Friends, Food, Shopping...and CALIFORNIA; now that is MY idea of a WONDERFUL holiday.

These were at my sister's in San Diego - my camera battery was dead so I only got a few shots, and Roo was being less than cooperative, but I'll take what I can get with these two when it comes to pictures...
These were taken at the Park at Oceanside Pier. This is one of the girls' favorite spots to visit whenever we are in California. They had a blast...even the cloudy skies and cold temps didn't phase them.

These were taken by my sister-in-law Kary when we stopped at her house on our way back from CA. The girls received some cute horse stuffed animals from their cousins for their birthdays; they immediately named them Miles and couldn't stop smiling the entire time we were there. Don't mind the runny boogies from the noses or the ratted hair - we had been in the car for the past 5 1/2 hours.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Birthday To You...and You!!'s official. The girls are now 3 Years Old. It's hard to believe that exactly 3 years ago, I was in the hospital with two tiny new babies, wondering just what the heck I was going to do. I didn't feel ready to be a mom. I didn't feel worthy of the two beautiful angels who were sleeping so soundly in the bassinet next to my hospital bed. I didn't understand how I was going to be able to share my love and time and energy between two babies at the same time.

The past three have flown by faster than I would like, but they have been a HUGE learning experience...together, AK , Roo, and I have grown and matured in ways I never thought possible. Often, they have been the teacher and I, their mother, have been the student. They remind me to be patient, forgiving, caring, loving, and sensitive to others, but also to have fun and enjoy life to its fullest. I love hearing their infectious giggles and seeing their beautiful smiles. I can't fully explain the feeling I get when I hear the words "I Yuv You mama" emanate from their tiny lips.

Simply put, my life....Doug's life...our family...would not be complete without Roo and AK. I love them more than I explain.

Happy Birthday, Baby Girls!! I can't believe you are already 3 YEARS OLD!!

The slide show is a compilation of birthday festivities and the girls trip to get their haircuts.
BIRTHDAY: We did presents and cake on Monday night, since Doug had his last night of class on Tuesday and he wasn't able to get out of going to class. Technically, we didn't have cake...Roo said she wanted cookies and AK said she wanted cupcakes, so I made both. The girls helped me bake them Monday evening, which was pretty fun...they like helping me out in the kitchen. They loved blowing out the candles...we ended up relighting them about 6 or 7 times because they got such a kick out of it. The singing, on the other hand, they didn't seem to care for...unfortunately, Doug and I aren't the best singers around. We kept the presents pretty low-key this year...we figured this will probably be the last year we can get away with being "cheap" ...(that sounds terrible, I'm sure). Regardless, the girls absolutely LOVED their would be expected seeing as how they personally picked out some of them earlier that day. You wouldn't have guessed they knew what they were getting by their reactions, though...they were so excited to unwrap their new princess dolls. It was a really fun night - I think all of us had a blast.

HAIRCUTS: The girls seemed very excited to get "big girl haircuts" (we have been talking about doing it for quite some time), but once we got into the place, neither of them wanted to go near the stylists booths. After some begging, pleading, and bribing, I finally got AK back into one of the chairs....she insisted on sitting on my lap the entire time, which made it quite difficult for the stylists, I'm sure. Once in the chair, she didn't cry at all...she was wonderful. Once AK's haircut was complete, we had to try the same tactics with Roo. I got her into the chair with me, but as soon as the stylist went near her hair with the scissors, she started crying "My hair, my want my hair cut, mama..." That nearly broke my heart, but I talked with her about it and she eventually calmed down.

End result, I think the haircuts turned out really cute. Each girl had about 4-5 inches cut off (I think...I didn't have a measuring tape handy or anything)...I cringed when I saw all the hair on the floor, but it was something that needed to be done. The cuts are a little different...Roo has bangs now (slightly), so hopefully that will make it a little easier for people tell them apart.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Object of my Gratitude #7 - My Twinsers

I cannot find the words to fully express the gratitude I have for my beautiful twin daughters. My life has been so blessed and enriched by their presence...I have learned so much from them and they inspire me to become a much better person than I presently am. Being a mother is challenging, but seeing the love and joy and happiness in the eyes of my daughters makes the difficult times all worth it.

I specifically saved this post for today, because it was exactly 3 years ago that AK and Roo came into this world. What better way to celebrate and honor their birthday than to express my profound love and gratitude for the two most special girls in my life?

Object of my Gratitude #6 - Friendship

I am grateful for friendship - past friendships, new friendships, those that last for only a few months, and those that have endured the tests and strains of time. I have learned so much from my friends, and they have each blessed my life in so many wonderful ways. Those friends who know me best know that I am a terrible correspondent, that I often forget to call or send cards on birthdays, but yet they still accept and tolerate and love me. How can I not be grateful for that?

As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe described it: "To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts unexpressed - that can make of this earth a garden." I am blessed to have wonderful, insightful, loving, and understanding friends...they make me better, and they make this earth a beautiful garden.

These are some of my oldest and dearest friendships...these gals have seen me at my best and at my worst, but yet they still love me. We have had some fun times together - often mischievous times, but fun nonetheless. We have laughed, we have cried, and there have been times where no words were said at all. I am grateful to have these wonderful women in my life...I am grateful for the many friendships that make my life better.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Object(s) of my Gratitude #5 - A Compilation

Rather than completing a separate post for each of the following things, I have decided to compile a list of the many random things for which I am grateful:

- Mexican Food
- Dr. Pepper
- Otter Pops
- Fun music that you can shake your bootie to
- Sugar Cookie scented candles
- Target, Walmart, Old Navy and Kohls
- Clearance items at Target, Walmart, Old Navy and Kohls
- The ocean/beach (whether I'm looking at it, walking along it, swimming in it, diving in it, long as the ocean is involved, I'm happy)
- A good run
- An afternoon nap
- A full night's sleep (obviously, this is not happening tonight....oh well)
- An "A" grade
- Kisses from the girls
- An empty kitchen sink
- A clean car
- Open windows, a cool breeze, and lots of natural sunlight in our apartment
- The opportunity to be creative and express myself - through painting, scrapbooking, or card-making
- Snuggling under a blanket, near a fireplace, with a good book
- A hand-written note
- A smile and hello from a random stranger walking by
- The smell of rain

Object of my Gratitude #4 - My Life

This one is a little more difficult to explain, but in short, I am grateful for my life....better yet, I am grateful for the direction in which my life is moving. One of my favorites quotes goes something along the lines of "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." I am grateful for the challenges, surprises, and learning experiences I have been faced with throughout my life. I am thankful for the continuously changing elements and factors that help me to improve and become a better person.

I am thankful to be a wife to a wonderful husband, and a mother to the two most adorable twins. As surprised as I was to find out I was pregnant with twins, they have blessed and improved my life more than I can explain. I am grateful to live in the United States and to have all the freedoms and liberties this nation provides. I am thankful for our tiny little apartment in Arizona, but I am also grateful for the opportunity to buy a home in California [hopefully soon]. I am thankful for my formal education and I am even more grateful to be drawing near to [finally] obtaining my Bachelor's degree. I am grateful for Doug's job; for the peace of mind it provides in this tumultuous economic time and for the quality of life it provides our family.

Object of my Gratitude #3 - My Religion

I am grateful to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am thankful for parents who taught me the basic principles of the gospel, but who allowed me to learn and make decisions on my own. I am thankful for the present-day prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, and for the apostles of the church. I am thankful for the daily efforts of the missionaries in the church. I am grateful for the scriptures - for the instruction and guidance and hope they give me. I am thankful for temples and for the eternal blessings they allow for me and my family, and I am grateful for the importance the LDS faith places on families. I am not a perfect individual, nor do I understand all of the principles or teachings of this religion. However, I am grateful for the hope and guidance the church provides, as well as the encouragement to learn more and to become a stronger, more Christ-like individual.

I understand that many people do not agree with my religious beliefs, and I respect that difference of opinion. That, however, does not change what I know, how I feel, or the gratitude I have for my religion.

Object of my Gratitude #2 - Family

I am blessed to have been raised by two loving parents, along with five amazing sisters and one wonderful brother. Growing up in such a large family, one might expect for things to get a little crazy - but I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything. I learned so much from my family members...I can honestly say I wouldn't be the person I am today if I wasn't born into the Leach family.

My father set a diligent example of hard-work and determination. I didn't always see eye-to-eye with him, but he didn't give up hope in me and he continued to love and support me despite my mistakes. My mother set an example of humility and quiet devotion - things I didn't realize the importance of until I became a mother myself. She did not expect recognition for the many sacrifices she made, and she so often put the needs of her children and others ahead of her own. My mother is a woman of faith, honor, patience, and virtue - things I hope to be able to exemplify to my children.

From my siblings I learned that it is much more fun to laugh and be silly than get upset and argue. Sure, we had our moments of disagreement, but we learned to work through those moments and come out stronger together in the end. I am grateful that no matter what difficulties I have had to face in my life, I always had someone I could confide in, who could relate to what I was experiencing, or who could at least offer a loving shoulder to cry on. From my siblings, I learned how to take care of others and how to let others take care of me...despite our shared tendencies toward stubbornness and independence. I learned that it is possible to overcome disagreements, that everyone makes mistakes, and that we all have our individual struggles. I am thankful for the examples of strength and wisdom and happiness my brother and sisters have set for me.

I am also grateful for the families I have inherited through marriage - not only my marriage into the Hoopes family, but also through the marriages of my siblings. I am thankful for the relationships I have been able to develop, and for all the family members who have accepted me as one of their own. I'm grateful for the grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews who are accepting, encouraging, and loving, regardless of the time between visits or the many changes in our lives. One of the best things about family is that, no matter what, you're still family.

Family is such a wonderful blessing...a blessing that I am extremely grateful for.