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.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Object of My Gratitude #1 - Doug

Where would I be without this patient and loving man? From the beginning, I knew there was something different about Doug...which is why I gave him every excuse in the book and was scared to get into anything more than a "friendship." Fortunately, he felt the same about me and knew that it was simply a matter of time before I wised up.

That same quiet wisdom has continued throughout the years and Doug has been a humbling example of patience, forgiveness, dedication, hard-work, and perseverance. He has put up with more grief and attitude from me than any person should have to, yet he continues to love me, believe in me, and encourage me to become a stronger and better individual. Doug loves life, and he reminds me that sometimes its okay to let go of the planning and scheduling and just enjoy things as they happen. He is the only person I know who can simply look at me and get me to smile and laugh, regardless of how I was feeling 2 seconds before (the girls are quickly learning how to do this as well, but so far, Doug is the master at it). He supports me and accepts me for who I am...never passing judgement or making me feel inferior. Doug is also a wonderful father - the girls are completely hooked on their papa - he is not only the "icing on the cake" in their eyes, but also the sprinkles and candy and everything else you could think to put on said cake.

I am so grateful to have been blessed with such a wonderful and loving husband...and it doesn't hurt that he's also a very good-looking guy!! I am extremely lucky, and I thank the Lord every day for placing Doug in my life.

Objects of My Gratitude...

With so much going on in the world around us (the sinking economy, the depressing job market, the never-ending war abroad, the political madness...etc, etc.), it is easy to get so caught up in everything that we forget the good things in our lives. Fortunately, Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and it seems to me that now would be an excellent time to take stock of my many joys and blessings. I originally had the idea to make a daily post of gratitude for the entire month of November, in spirit of the upcoming holiday....obviously that hasn't happened seeing as how it is now the 23rd of November and I have yet to make a single post.

That being said, I will try to make up for my procrastination by posting "Objects of My Gratitude" - things/people/objects/experiences for which I am extremely grateful - throughout the next few days. The purpose of this exercise will be to remind myself that no matter how grim, depressing, or difficult things may seem, many good things still exist in my life and I should focus on the good things rather than the challenging or difficult.

**Disclaimer - the order of postings is in no way indicative of my level of gratitude...they are simply going to be posted as time, thought, and availability of pictures allows**

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hobbies and Free Time...

Everyone has some type of hobby or activity they turn to when they have a free moment or simply need to get away from the "normal happenings" of their life. A few years ago, my escape was reading - any spare moment I had would be spent buried in a book. Now, since I find myself constantly reading books to the girls as well as for my online courses, I have developed another hobby on which to spend my free time - paper crafting.
Sometimes I sit down and make scrapbook pages, but more regularly I make cards. Now, I'm sure some of you are reading this and thinking "Card making? Can you get any more pathetic or boring than that?" But in all honesty, the cutting, pasting, and stamping are somewhat therapeutic for me...and it's an activity that I really enjoy! I participate in a Card Club, which is basically a group of ladies who meet together once a month to exchange a set of cards we each made. All of the ladies in the group are extremely talented, and it's a great opportunity to get new and different ideas.

So, to get an idea of how I spend my free time, here are some pics of the cards I've made in the past few months...

{August Theme: Something BOY}
- I made a birthday card using this totally cute brown/blue bird paper I bought for super cheap when Recollections Scrapbook store closed down.

{September Theme: OPEN}
- You can never have too many thank you cards, so that's what I decided to make. I found this paper at Michael's, and absolutely LOVED it...totally girly, which fits our lives perfectly.

{October Theme: Thanksgiving/Thank You}
- I have never had a need for a Thanksgiving Day card, so I decided to make a Thank You card instead....I just used a combination of autumn-esque colors to make it festive.

{November Theme: Christmas}
-My sister-in-law Bobbi found this paper and I absolutely LOVED it...the pictures seriously don't do it justice. I don't always like my cards after I've made them, but I have to say I was totally pleased with how these turned out. Too bad I had to give them all would have been great to use these for our family cards this year!

Care to share some of your hobbies and talents? How do you spend your free time?

Sugar and Spice....Not Quite!

On the email we sent out announcing the twins births, we used the phrase "Sugar and Spice, not once but twice." I thought it was pretty catchy at the time, but I think I may have jinxed myself into thinking the girls were going to grow up into totally sweet and innocent gals. Boy, did I have myself fooled! If I had known then what I know now, the announcement title probably would have read "Spirit and Sass, a feisty little lass, multiply that by two and what's a parent to do?" And that's just the beginning...I'm not witty enough to think of something that could also describe the twins' independence, stubbornness, quick-wittedness, or tendencies for mischief.

That being said, the girls can turn on a dime and be the sweetest most loving things on the planet. Take for example the other day - AK has been extremely difficult throughout the morning and by noon I had had enough of the unnecessary tantrums; I had told her the next time she went into hysterics, she would be marched right back to her room - without Cheetah or her sippy cup - where she would spend the rest of the afternoon by herself. About 20 minutes later, I was sitting on the couch, trying to pay bills or something, and seriously on the verge of tears (what else is a desperate mama supposed to do when she is at her wits end?) when AK came running up to me out of no where, hopped up silently on the couch, wrapped her arms tightly around my neck and said "It's okay mama. I love you." Instantly, everything else just disappeared. All the frustration and anger and self-doubt melted away and all I felt was love - complete, unrestricted, unfathomable love - for my sweet, spirited, sassy girls.

As difficult as our little monsters may be at times, I wouldn't trade them or their sassiness for anything. Seriously, all they have to do is look at me with their beautiful big blue eyes and I'm toast....I'll forgive them completely for any earlier hassle or tantrums. Sure, there are times when I feel like throwing in the towel and saying "I'm done...I can't do this...they'd be better off without me." But then I experience moments like these, moments of "pure sugar," and I realize life just wouldn't be the same without my two feisty little gals.

AK Roo

Friday, November 21, 2008

List #1: Favorite Foods...

In honor of the quickly-approaching holidays and homemade food and goodies we will be enjoying, I decided the topic of my first journal list should be something everyone can relate to - Favorite Foods
(these are in no particular order - just typing them as I think of them. Some are main dishes, while many are snacks and treats)

- Carne Asada burrito - complete with guac (the ones from Diego's in Oceanside are my favorite)
- Homemade salsa - must have cilantro
- Brownies - I prefer them to be cold and chewy, not "just-out-of-the-oven-hot" (that's how Doug likes them)
- Mom's Chicken Enchiladas
- Mom's Lasagna
- Homemade dinner rolls - my Grandma Ila's recipe is FABULOUS - they literally melt in your mouth.
- Sour Cream potatoes...with lots, and lots of cheese
- Graham Crackers dunked in milk
- Lipton Noodle Soup (not the soup from a can, but rather the kind that comes in a packet - it has the tiny little noodles in it)
- In-N-Out Cheeseburger, animal style without the onions, with EZ-Out French Fries
- Tart Peach or Tart Raspberry frozen yogurt
- Cheerios (plain, with just a sprinkling of sugar on the top - go figure - I absolutely hated these as a kid)
- Pirate's Booty
- Freshly baked bread
- Carrot cookies w/orange glaze frosting
- Peaches, bananas (preferably less ripe than more ripe - I won't eat them if there is any hint of brown or bruising), and oranges

I could probably go on and on with this list (obviously, food is something I greatly enjoy), and will probably go back and add some more favorites, but I think this is a good start. It's interesting to look at some of these because even though they made the list a few of these are things I rarely cook...go figure!?

I'm curious, what are some of your favorite foods?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Journaling Through Lists

Journal writing is something I have always struggled with. Since my 8th birthday I think I have accumulated around 6 or 7 journals, none of which have more than 20 pages of writing in them. Pathetic, I know.

The other night, however, I came across this website ( that offers a new approach to journaling - it calls it "listography." This lady, Lisa Nola, has created a few different books that help people (like me) write an autobiography of sorts by using lists. As Ms. Nola describes it, "Reading a list is like looking at an old photograph; there's an essence of you in there....I hope that the books serve as inspiration and as a practical personal tool, but also as a catalyst for reflection. You may uncover a few things that have been filed away by your highly efficient brain."

I don't know why I didn't think of this on my own, but the approach totally hit home with me. After all, I write lists for everything else - shopping, homework assignments, To-Do's, etc...why not apply this same concept of list-writing to my journal-writing? It is so simple in theory, and yet so ingenious that I'm kicking myself for not coming up with it on my own.

Anyway, since one of the main reasons I started this blog was to help journal my experiences, I have decided I am going to incorporate the "listography approach" to my blog writing. It's quick, easy, and will be a helpful jumping point to get myself into more regular journal writing. Just thought I would let you all know in advance, that way you won't wonder "what the heck is going on" when you see my journaling lists in the future.

A Little Pre-Turkey Day Humor...

This one is compliments of Doug...thanks for the laugh, papa!

"A game warden was driving down the road when he came upon a young boy carrying a wild turkey under his arm.He stopped and asked the boy, 'Where did you get that turkey?'The boy replied, 'What turkey?'The game warden said, 'That turkey you're carrying under your arm.'The boy looks down and said, 'Well, lookee here, a turkey done roosted under my arm!

The game warden said, 'Now look son, you know turkey season is closed, so whatever you do to that turkey, I'm going to do to you.If you break his leg, I'm gonna break your leg. If you break his wing, I'll break your arm. Whatever you do to him, I'll do to you. So, what are you gonna do
with him?'

The little boy said, 'I guess I'll just kiss his toosh and let him go!"

May your stuffing be tasty. May your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes and gravy have never a lump.
May your yams be delicious and your pies take the prize
And may your Thanksgiving dinner stay off your thighs!

Happy Pre-Thanksgiving Everyone! I'm not sure what is different about this year, but I seriously cannot express how EXCITED I am for the holidays. Maybe it's because the girls are already showing excitement for the festivities yet to come (their birthday, Turkey-day, Christmas), or maybe it's because I'm not having to work retail this year, it could even possibly be that we'll actually be able to spend time together with Doug now that he's quit the dealership. Whatever the cause, whatever the reason I am not going to complain...all I have to say is "Bring on the holidays, baby....bring on the holidays."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Catching Up....Again

Here are some pics from this weekend at the MS Walk. We had an awesome time, and it's something I will definitely do again next year - if we are still in Arizona. I just want to thank everyone for the moral support and encouragement, as well as the donations that were made to the National MS Society on my behalf. There was great turn-out for the event, and it was an amazing absolutely fabulous way to spend my birthday. Enjoy the pics!!
There were even guest appearances by a Star Wars group and the Ghostbusters!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happy 28...

"Happy, happy birthday, papa dear; Happy days will come to you all year.
If I had a wish then it would be...A happy, happy birthday to you from me."
Happy Birthday papa!! Today, you are 28 years young...we hope that you had a wonderful day. Sorry our plans for today got botched, but just know that the girls and I love you and appreciate everything you do for us. Happy, happy birthday!! XOXOXOXOXOXO

Pure Random-ness

Okay - so I have a confession to make. When I was a kid, I used to tell people I was allergic to certain foods if I didn't want to eat them....almonds, raisins, squash....tootsie rolls. It was total bullarky, but I guess I felt it wouldn't be as offensive to tell them I couldn't eat something as opposed to fessing up I simply didn't want to eat the food. Well, I remember one time when we were visiting our cousins in Glendora - I think it may have been for New Year's or something because I remember it was really late and we were all staying up watching movies. Anyway, I was sitting on the floor by my Aunt Cathy and she offered me a chocolate tootsie roll...something I was not a fan of. So, I politely declined the candy and told her I was allergic to it. Judging by the look on my aunt's face, I know she did not believe for a minute that I was allergic...but she was kind enough not to push the issue and went back to watching the movie.

I only bring this up because earlier tonight I happened to go rifling through the remains of the girls' Halloween candy, and I pulled out a couple of tootsie rolls. I'm not sure what aversion I had to them as a kid, but after eating a few I have to admit the little chocolate buggers really aren't all that bad. The girls don't seem to care for the T.R.s (like mother, like daughters), so I guess I'll have plenty of chances to make up for all the years I missed out on tootsie roll goodness.

Sorry for lying all those years ago Aunt Cathy....I realize now, I should have taken you up on your offer for a chocolate tootsie roll.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

The girls decided they wanted to go up to the temple grounds today. We hadn't been in a couple of months, and the weather was perfect, so I really couldn't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Aside from the sheer beauty of the recently planted flowers and well-matured citrus trees, I love walking the temple grounds because I get such a peaceful and relaxing's a simple reassurance that no matter what I am going through, things will turn out just fine.

I didn't think to grab my camera before we left the apartment, but I did try to snap a few pics with my phone of our lazy afternoon on the Mesa Temple grounds. Enjoy!