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Our little girls did not go without this Christmas. I am sorry to say that I was not really involved with much of the gift choosing. Not that I really knew what to get for little girls in the first place, so I am not sure how much help I would have been anyway. I also think that Kari was getting tired of me saying "They don't need that." or "That is way too expensive." She did a wonderful job getting all the shopping done. In fact she was organized enough to start buying months ahead of time. It is much easier on the pocket book that way.

However, with all the gifts from Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, nannies, and the two of us, there was an enormous number of gifts to be opened. I had to take Hilda to the airport at 10 a.m. (more on that later) so I figured that we should have enough time to open gifts before we had to go. No gifts had been left under the tree, because Rylee really enjoys unwrapping them. So I went to the closet and got all the gifts.

"Okay, we are ready!" I said. Kari said, "No, there are more upstairs." Well, there were a lot more upstairs. I had to make three trips and while I was doing that both sets of Grandparents retrieved more from their cars. I was feeling like maybe we had overdone it, just a bit. I do have to hand it to Kari, there wasn't anything really expensive and most were educational, but there sure was a bunch. I think (Well, I know) that Hilda thought we went a bit over the top. "Rylee, Reagan, too many toys." she told me on the way to the airport. "Yes, I agree. We need a bigger house now, to store all the junk they got."

As I was standing knee deep in presents, handing out gifts, I realized that almost all of them were for Rylee and Reagan. I was having a hard time keeping it even. You should be able to hand one to everyone, let them open it, and then get some more. Instead, I was getting one for Rylee, one for Reagan, and then searching through stacks of presents for adults and finding only more gifts for the kids, and they were still working on opening the last ones that I gave them. So it was taking a lot longer than I thought that it would and we had to pause for the trip to the airport.

About that... Hilda's Mother, who is in Mexico, has not been doing well. She went to the Hospital to have major surgery to remove cancer. While she was in the hospital she suffered a heart attack. At least I think is what happened. The language barrier was giving us some trouble. At any rate the doctors don't expect her to live much longer.

I feel absolutely terrible about the whole thing and I wish that we could have handled it a little better in several respects. We encouraged her to go to see her Mother, she needed to be there. She said that she would maybe go on Friday, which was almost a week away, we said that she really needed to go sooner. I think that she didn't want to leave us in a bind. So we booked her on a flight for the next day, Christmas day. Since we didn't think that we would have time to open gifts before she had to go we gave her her gifts that evening. It was an emotional time, we have become quite close. She is really part of the family and I think that she was touched. That was all well and good.

However, the next morning everyone was up earlier than I thought and I figured that we would have time to open presents before we had to go. Hilda was busy packing and I hope that she didn't feel left out. I really wanted her to feel like part of the family. Hilda and I chatted a little on the way to the airport. She seemed a little down as you can imagine and I hoped that I hadn't made it worse. If I had it to do over I would have given her the gifts in the morning or maybe waited till she left before we got started.

We didn't have a whole bunch of time before her flight so I thought that I would take her straight to the terminal. I should have parked and made sure that she was properly squared away. The terminal was pretty deserted, as you might imagine, on Christmas day. I helped her with her bags and was going to get her a cart. Then I found that those carts are $3.00. That seemed outrageous since we could see the Aviacsa counter just in the door. So I looked up and down the terminal and figured nobody would give me a hard time if I left the car for a little bit. No problem, I carried her bag up to the counter for her. That bag was really heavy, so I was huffing and puffing a little bit. Then I glanced back toward the car and saw that it was surrounded by airport security, all talking on their radios and peeking in the windows. Where did these guys come from? They must have repelled in from the rafters. Anyway, I tried to explain to Hilda that they were about to give me a ticket and I am not sure she understood what I was saying. I told her to call us if she had any trouble and to let us know how her Mother was doing and then I gave her a hug and sprinted for the door. I hope it didn't look like I was just dumping her and sprinting away to go back to opening presents. I worried about that all the way home.

So some extra prayers for Hilda Lopez and her Mom are in order for those of you who are so inclined.

Next issue is that we really need Hilda. She has been savior. My Mother is staying for a couple more days till we can figure out what to do. Kari had all four kids today when Grandmom took Papa to the airport and she is not ready for that yet. She left me a message on my phone that she was ready to leave and not come back. She was kidding, I hope.

All in all I think that Christmas was success. It was really nice to have June and Wayne (aka Nana and Papa Wayne), and Grandmom and Papa Spencer here to celebrate with us. It was a little hectic at times but well worth it. Mostly, I am thankful to have such a wonderful family and healthy little girls. I hope that all of you had an equally satisfying Christmas.

Happy New Year to all from the Spencer Family!

Rylee had to give Hilda some help unwrapping her gifts.

Reagan though she should help Hilda too.
I think Hilda liked all the goodies.
And she gave the girls a Christmas smooch.
We also indoctrinated Hilda into the Spencer Christmas Silly String tradition.
Kari got the worst of it.
I didn't escape unscathed either.
Loads of loot.
Wasn't that a fun age at Christmas.
We were going for a family portrait here, but the kids were a little distracted. Wonder why?
Reagan had more fun with the paper than the toys.
Jordan watching the big sisters. Next year she will be a little more into this I think.
And I do thank Heaven for my little girls.
Grandmom got a little something too.
Papa and Bunker just watching the action.
Rylee got a chest full of dress up clothes and was nice enough to share. They are still a bit big for Reagan.
Rylee the little princess.
The dogs didn't get left out either.
The best Christmas gift. Look! No tubes.
Jordan just taking it all in.
Madison with one of her new toys. She thought this was pretty neat.
Mom even got dressed up. She made it almost thirty minutes before this outfit was vomited on. Papa needs to work on his muzzle control. You Never, Never, point a loaded baby at a freshly showered mother.
The budding artist at work.
Everything is ok if you can still smile with vomit on you.
Rylee instructing Madison on the exercise mat.
Papa Wayne and Nana at diner on Christmas Eve.
Madison insisted on being included and Papa showing that he hasn't lost his touch.
Rylee still unwrapping even though all the presents are unwrapped.
Dad teaching Rylee the flip. That was one of my favorite moves.

Papa and Grandmom got here yesterday. Everyone was tired, the grandparents were up at 2 a.m. to get to the airport, Kari had been up wrapping presents and cleaning, and I had gotten home around 7 a.m. from flying a red eye to San Francisco and back. So nobody got much sleep.

Papa and I ran some errands with Rylee, while the girls took care of the rest of the kids. Papa and I also did baby duty last night. The twins had not been eating well because we ran out of their reflux medication and it has taken longer than expected to have it refilled. (I thought that they might not need it anymore...I was wrong about that.) I suggested that one of us should go to bed and we could trade out later. So he sent me to bed, but after 10 minutes of one baby crying the other one started too. I closed my eyes tighter. After about 20 minutes of both squawking I got back up. Just in time too, Papa was feeling out numbered and had just gone to wake Grandmom up. Grandmom didn't look too thrilled about being rousted and I sent her back to bed.

Around 12:30 we got the twins to sleep and headed for the sack. Jordan was up at about 4:30 and fortunately Kari was feeling up to taking care of her. She said that she ate, burped and went right back to sleep. Then I got up with Reagan about six. So it was not to bad a night, but I still feel tired.

Kari is doing better today. However, last night I was thinking that we might have to take her to the ER. She has been having back/hip pain and last night her leg went numb when she was walking down the stairs and she took a tumble. No broken bones fortunately. I stuck her in a hot bath and helped her stretch. At least she is walking today, but we are going to have to get her to a chiropractor or something soon.

Right now Grandmom and Papa are out doing some last minute shopping. Kari and I are planning on doing the same later in the day. Rylee and Reagan spent the morning trashing the house. They have some new toys that the nannies brought them for Christmas. Those new toys are scattered everywhere. They have also had fun distributing the contents of the changing table drawers throughout the house.

June and Wayne should be here this evening and I think this is going to be a good Christmas. Not that there are bad ones, but having family around just makes it seem right.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

The babies are doing fine. I just had to post about an interesting flight I had today.

It was the end of a four day trip and I had one more turn to New Orleans. The weather was, well for lack of a better word, crappy. There was a line of thunderstorms stretching from the Gulf coast to well north of Oklahoma sitting right between Houston and New Orleans. I had just flown over it on the way from New York and so I knew that it was going to be bumpy.

The take off and climb out was uneventful. Bumpy, just like I knew it was going to be, but not horrible. We deviated south over the Gulf to avoid the worst of the storms, but had to penetrate some weather to get to the New Orleans airport. No problem, we do it all the time. You can't avoid everything, but we try to make it as smooth as possible.

Houston center handed us off to New Orleans approach control for the decent and approach. Approach gave us a vector toward the final approach course and gave us a clearance to descend to five thousand feet. The controller then advised us that he was showing moderate to heavy precipitation between us and the final approach course and cleared us to deviate as necessary and join the localizer. I told him that we were painting yellow everywhere and could not distinguish anything worse.

Yellow on our weather radar is moderate precipitation. We generally try to avoid yellow. However, sometimes the only way to get there is to pick the least yellow and tighten your seatbelt. At any rate we were already in it and once you are in the weather the radar is much less helpful so we took the controllers advice and turned a little more to the left.

At just about that time I started hearing some static on the radio. That usually means that you are in fairly close proximity to an electrical storm. That happens all the time and I was not concerned. We were in the weather and the ride was not to terrible, you might have spilled your coffee, but you would not have smacked your head on the ceiling. At about that moment I saw a flash of light. A bolt of lightening started in the distance and stretched out toward us. It happened very very fast, but I watched it come, dip down below us and then rise up to meet the nose of the airplane. There was a flash, a shudder. and as you might imagine a loud bang. I about hit my head on the overhead panel, it really startled me.

It all happened in about 3/4 of a second. After scanning all the instruments, and determining that we were still flying, I reflected on something that Jim Lovell said in his book, "From the Earth to the Moon." (A fascinating read by the way.) He was complaining about being hooked up to all kinds of monitors so everyone knew his slightest elevation in heart rate or first drop of sweat. He explains perfectly the pilot mentality. We remain cool at all times. We have things under control, no matter the situation. We are unflappable. This image is necessary for us, to project calm to our passengers, maybe for our egos too. I am glad that I didn't have a heart rate monitor hooked up to me. I am sure that I was calm on the outside, but that sure spiked my heart rate for a few seconds.

The captain and I looked at each other for a moment, he was trying to look calm too. He said, nonchalantly, "Maybe we should start the APU." The APU (auxiliary power unit) provides electrical power and compressed air to all the aircraft systems. With a lightening strike we thought that there might be some electrical problems and so having an extra generator sounded like a good idea.

We didn't end up needing the APU. The rest of the flight was uneventful. I gave New Orleans Operations a heads up that we would need maintenance to come have a look at the plane and we continued on. The captain wasn't completely sure that we even got struck, he thought that it may have just been close. I on the other hand knew we got hit, because it struck about three feet in front of my face on my side of the plane. Sure enough, the mechanic found the "exit wound" on the left wing tip.

It is kind of amazing that you can send that much electricity through an airplane and not have anything to show for it but a few pin holes in one wing tip.

On the home front: Not too much new to report. Jordan rolled over for the first time tonight and I am sure that Madison will not be too far behind. I am thrilled with how well the kids are doing.

Four days away from my munchkins seemed like an eternity and I had about an hour of quality time on the couch with the girls when I got home today. Reagan was sitting on the arm of the couch to my left, Rylee was snuggled up on my right, and Jordan was in my lap giving me smiles while we sat through a couple of episodes of "Dora The Explorer."

I have been wondering how Dora and Deigo finance their adventures. They must be government funded, right? Do you think that if they lost their funding that they would be trying to sell me "Chicklettes" on the beach in Mexico?

Sorry, side track.

I took Rylee and Reagan to the local park for swinging and sliding. It was a very good time. I wish that I had brought the camera, the light was perfect. I love that golden glow you get on a cloudless day, just when the sun is starting to go down.

That is all for now.

Merry Christmas! (Not Happy Holidays... that drives me nuts. Remember the reason for the season.)

Quick Update

It seems to be getting harder to find time to keep up with the posts. Partly because there has not been too much drama lately, which means less interesting material to write about and partly because the twins are requiring more stimulation as they grow. They are no longer happy to just eat and sleep, they would like to play a little, thank you very much. By 9 p.m. I am pretty tuckered out.

Rylee and Reagan went to the doctor and got some shots. Kari says that they did well and the doctor pronounced them "healthy." Although, the doctor says that Rylee should be potty trained by now. I do have to say that getting parenting advice from doctors kind of rubs me the wrong way. Just because they went to medical school, they are experts on your individual child's behavior and development? While they are good in some areas, I think in general we get better despite most of their treatments and nobody knows our children better than us. That being said, the doctor is probably right, Rylee is ready to be trained, but the task seems daunting with all that is going on. Never the less, Kari and I have resolved to put more effort into the potty training of at least Rylee and maybe Reagan. What the heck we should work with the twins too. I figure that we can have them all diaper free by the new year.

We have gotten both twins to laugh now. I don't know if the developmental people think that is a milestone, but it is for us. This is when they start to become much more interesting, instead of just cute. They are both just about rolling over on their own and the developmental people do think that is a milestone.

Kari seems to be doing much better as far as the depression goes. However, this is still a stressful time for both of us. The financial burden of it all is a little overwhelming. We have definitely bitten off more than we can chew, but thanks to my very understanding parents we are still keeping our heads just above water. I finally got a hold of someone in payroll and they tell me that there is no mistake on the amount that they took out of my last check. They even sent me a spread sheet, although I have not had a chance to look at it yet. They say that was the last of the payroll deductions to bring me current, so I have that going for me.

The kids are still getting a pretty good Christmas, we bought their presents before we saw what Continental was deducting from my paycheck. Everyone else is getting skimped on a little bit this year. And I know that it is not about the gifts and it is the thought that counts, but I have been indoctrinated in American consumerism like the rest of you and it is hard to change those habits. More is better, right?

It is also hard to go back to work, leaving Kari to look after all those kids. The nannies have made a huge difference, but it is still a lot of work. I was feeling like we had it just under control when we had me, Kari, my mother, and Hilda all there at the same time. It also will not be much longer before it will be difficult to justify the night nannies. Even if the twins start sleeping 8 hours at the same time, it is really going to increase the workload not to have Candie and Mary Ellen around in the evenings.

We are very much looking forward to having all the grandparents over for Christmas. I am sure that it will be a splendid time. The night nannies will be off for Christmas so this should be a good test to see how well the twins do without them. Can we do it and keep our sanity? That is the question. I just keep telling myself that many people have done more, with less.

This morning we had some French Toast and a little quality time before Wayne and June had to go back home.

Jordan sure looked cute here, but she didn't smell very good. I am happy when I am "regular" too.

Where is Rylee?


Reagan had to get in on the action too. She picks up quite a lot from her big sister.

Wayne and June with Rylee and Madison. It just struck me that we have a bunch of kids now.

I'm This Many Years.

We celebrated Rylee's 3rd birthday today. One day early since that was when Kari's Mom and her husband, Wayne, could be here. My cousin Bruce also made an appearance, which was very nice, I have not seen him in years. So here are some photos of the festivities and a few from the last couple of days.

Madison tonight in front of the Christmas tree.

Jordan just chilling on the floor.

Mama with the little ones.

Dinner time is crazy when cake is involved.

Reagan was not left out. And even helped Ry play with some new toys.

This is Dad trying really hard not to unwrap it himself. Rylee did pretty well this birthday. She and Reagan really enjoyed the Vsmile and the chalk board. The blocks that Bruce brought went over well too.

Rylee displaying her knowledge by describing all the blocks. I was impressed, where did she learn all those words?

Wayne teaching Rylee the proper technique.

I think she has it down now.

It took a few tries to get the candle extinguished.

Rylee admiring the cake that Mom and Dad made. I think I did a pretty good job on the artwork, if I do say so myself. (Not too bad for a first time pastry chef anyway.)

Madison giving Nana a big smile.

Rylee helping lick the bowl. Are you having any childhood flashbacks?

Madison trying out the highchair for the first time.

Who is who? I can't tell either.

Ring around the Rosy with Dad. Getting nice and worked up just before bed.

Yep your heart is still beating. Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

Reagan still needs some work on spoon control.

Reagan and Madison.

Reagan looking sweet as always. It is hard to be stern with a face like that. Dad is a push over.

Rea teaching Jordan some wrestling moves.

Tooth brushing time.

Rylee amusing her little sister, Madison.

Rylee is getting good at positioning the chair to get at what she wants. Nothing is safe.

This is right before Rylee sneezed. It was pretty cute till then.

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