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I can't recall the last time I posted this much in such a short time, but the holidays seen fitting for jotting down fond memories.

We actually got out as a whole family. We took the kids to see Santa at the mall. It went better than I imagined it would. I was ready to give up on the idea, but I am glad that Kari insisted on going. I figured that we would stand in line for hours (we did) and the kids would all be crying (but they didn't) and we would have a photo of all four kids screaming in terror, sitting on Santa's lap. I was impressed with their behavior. They must have excellent parents.

I especially enjoyed watching Jordan and Madison holding hands in the stroller. They were making eachother giggle much of the time we where waiting. I don't want to forget that. I asked Reagan to stand next to Rylee for a photo and she instead gave her a big hug. I want to remember that too.

The house isn't as clean as we would like for family showing up, but we are done with the cleaning for today. Done for a couple of days, probably.

All the kids are totally buying the big Santa lie. I really wonder how long that will last.

Merry Christmas!

Even though I was feeling exhausted, as usual, when I got out of bed, I decided this is going to be a great day. I am still smiling even though it has not been going really smooth.

I got up with the girls to give Kari some much needed rest. Rylee asked for French toast, so I started clearing a space on the counter and getting out the eggs. Reagan needed some help going potty, so I paused to give her a hand. Then she wanted to play with Play Dough and I thought that would be a good distraction while I finished preparing breakfast. Then she needed some help opening the cans of dough. I finally got back to the French toast. Rylee wanted to "help." So I let her stir the eggs and dip the first couple of slices of bread. It was going a little slow so I took over the rest of the bread dipping. This set Rylee off, which maybe what set the twins to crying and then Reagan started in, due to Play Dough related difficulties. Then I sneezed.

Ever since I got my nose broken in college I am prone to ocational nose bleeds. I may not have one for years, but they never occur at a convienient time. So now I have French toast burning, all four kids crying and blood gushing out of my nose. (Sigh.) I got Rylee calmed down and gave Reagan a three count to shape up. She opted for the timeout. I mollified the twins with cups of milk and tried to staunch the bleeding. I was wondering if a toriquet would help, it might have.

So with a Kleenex suffed up one nostril I continued to serve up the breakfast. As I set the plates on the table I had to clear away the Play Dough debris. All of the Play Dough is the same color. If you mix every can you end up with a purplish brown color. Anyway, as I was packing the hemoginized Play Dough back into the little yellow cans I came across a hard pice that had an unusual shape. As I picked it up to examine it I noticed that the color was a little different from the rest. My heart sank as I realised that this was not Play Dough. Without thinking I gave it the smell test. You would think that I would know better by now. But that confirmed without a doubt that I was not holding Play Dough. I am not even going to pretend that you need an explanation of what it was.

So after lots of scrubing of all hands and table we got back to breakfast. The only lingering question is:

Did Reagan go into the litter box and bring that to the table? Or was the cat leaving us a little Christmas presant? I have launched a full scale investigation and will do everything in my power to get to the bottom of this mistery.

Later today Kari and I are considering standing in line for hours to get some pictures of our kids screaming on Santa's lap. Should be fun. You can almost count on another blog update after that adventure.

Merry Christmas.

No, I was not involved in the incident involving a Continental 737 that departed the runway at the Denver international airport. Thanks for all the calls and texts inquiring about my safety. I don't have any information regarding that mishap that isn't pure speculation or what I have heard on the news, which I find quite vexing.

I just got home from a trip. I had a long layover in Fort Myers and got a chance to play a round of golf with my brother and see my parents. It was very pleasant and I think I may have played the best round of golf that I ever played, but I will never know because I didn't keep score. I find the game much more enjoyable if I don't keep track. After Florida I spent a night in Canada where the temperature was -27 degrees. I can't imagine why people live there on purpose. It was so cold that I could feel the moisture in my eyes starting to freeze as I waited for the van to take us to the hotel.

I still maintain that coming home after a four day trip is like Christmas for me, every time. When I walked in this evening I came through the garage. Madison heard the door open and came out of the dinning room into the kitchen to investigate. She stopped when she saw me, a blank look on her face. I could see the wheels turning. "Who is this large man, dressed all in black? Should I be scared? Wait a second, he looks familiar." Then a smile spread across her face with the recognition of who I was. I could see the light come on. She beamed. She ran to me as fast as her little legs would carry her. I melted. There is no feeling like it, I am blessed.

Kari and I sat and watched "In The Womb: Identical Twins." You can imagine why we might be interested in a show like that. However, it did bring back some memories, not all of them good. So Kari and I spent awhile discussing our experiences of the birth of the twins. I was amazed by the difference in our perspectives. We were talking about what we recalled, how we felt, and what we thought would happen after they were born. The most interesting to me was the differences in our outlook and when those outlooks changed. I was sure everything was going to be okay until I saw the twins for the first time in the NICU. Kari was sure everything was going to be okay after she was able to touch them in the NICU. I thought that it was odd that her optimism went up just as mine took a nose dive. She said God would not do this to her now.

During the C section Kari was in a panic, she was having trouble breathing, fearing the worst. She did not hear the babies cry (because they couldn't), she did not see them when they were taken out and removed from the OR. She didn't have her contacts in and could see almost nothing. The kids were taken from the OR immediately so they could be put on ventilators. Kari didn't recall much else until she was in the recovery room.

I on the other hand remember feeling fairly calm, given the gravity of the situation. I may have been in shock. I remember waiting in the waiting room for them to come get me. It was difficult to sit, I may have paced. I remember walking into the OR, after waiting for what seemed like months. Kari was stretched out on the table. The OR was crowded with people. There were at least five nurses, two doctors, and the anesthetist. Probably many more, but I can't recall. I was guided to a seat near Kari's head. The anesthetist was speaking with her. I recalled wondering if he was high, after the article that I had just read about drug abuse with people in his profession. He did seem very happy to be there. Maybe he was just trying to ease her mind. I remember that Doctor Reiter had already made the first incision and was telling the nurses to hurry up and get me in there, just as I walked in. He wasted no time, going right to work as soon as I sat next to Kari. I couldn't see exactly what he was doing because of the sheets that they had draped over my wife, but what I could see I remember vividly. With a scalpel he punctured the amniotic sack and Kari's belly began to deflate rapidly, like a huge water balloon. I could hear the rush of fluid as it drained of the table and into plastic collection bags. It sounded like pouring a whole bucket of water into a trash bag. I was torn between wanting to see what he was up to and comforting my wife, who could see nothing. I knew that the doctors didn't waste any time doing these procedures and were not gentle, but I was shocked to actually see what went on. It was brutal. They were stretching and pulling at my wife, like they were trying to tear open a really tough trash bag, they were almost up to their elbows in her abdomen as they rooted around for the first baby. I remember the doctors talking, but I don't recall what they were saying. I found their tone odd, speaking like they were out for a nice round of golf or maybe sharing a jigsaw puzzle. I didn't have much time to ponder that, because out came Madison. He held her up for just a moment and then she was whisked away by the nurses. I don't think I even had time to bring the camera up before she was gone. She was very small. As shocked as I had been at the operation thus far, nothing prepared me for Jordan's arrival. She must have been stuck somehow. I figured that once you cut open the uterus it wouldn't be too hard to remove the kids, but I was wrong. After rooting around for what seemed like a long time, it may have only been seconds, the doctor remarked on having difficulty. A foot appeared and I watched him wrap a towel around my youngest daughter's leg and tug with all his weight. I could see my wife's whole body shift on the table, like someone was dragging her by her feet.
"You are going to pull her leg off!" I remember thinking to myself. After one good tug, out Jordan came. Even smaller than the first, she was minuscule. I could have easily cradled her in one hand, supporting her head with my finger tips, her rump wouldn't have even reached my wrist. I was ready this time and snapped a photo. The nurses whisked this child away too. Dr. Reiter, with his task nearly complete, paused to show me the two umbilical cords. I knew one would be larger, but I was amazed to see the difference side by side. Jordan's was probably less than half the size of Madison's. The mood in the OR settled some with the babies out and I know that at some point we took a photo of the doctor giving a thumbs up. Now I was torn by the urge to be with the children and urge to be by my wife's side. I got to do neither. I was escorted back to the waiting room while the doctors closed up my wife. After about three days I was allowed into the recovery room with Kari. She was awake, sort of. Lights on with nobody home kind of thing. After several more days, it seemed, they wheeled the twins into the room in portable incubators. I got a few pictures with my phone and Kari got to see nothing, since she still had no contacts. After about 3 seconds the twins where taken away again. Then somehow, after another two or three years, we were in Kari's hospital room. I have no idea how we got there. I may have walked, but I just don't know.

As soon as Kari was tucked in I went to find my kids. I remember my heart feeling like it might just beat out of my chest. I could hear the blood coarsing near my ears as I wandered the halls trying to recall the directions to the NICU. I know there was a conversation with a nurse over a phone outside a locked door, lots of hand scrubbing, more nurses, florescent lights, a sterile smell, but it is all pretty blurry. What remains vivid in my mind was seeing the twins all cleaned up for the first time. I saw Madison first. Even though she was the one having the most trouble at the moment, she looked better than Jordan. She was bright pink, almost red, due to the large amount of blood that she had stolen from her sister. There was no movement other that the rise and fall of her chest as the ventilator took breath after breath for her. I didn't linger long before inquiring about the whereabouts of my other daughter. I was lead over to another area of the NICU for my first really good look at Jordan. I was shocked again and had to fight off the wave of emotion that hit me like a pysical force. I choked up and just shivered for a few moments. Jordan was as white as a sheet. I will never forget watching her ribs rise and fall, with what looked like terrific effort. Her skin was stretched so tight over her chest that it looked as if it might tear with each breath. She looked almost translucent. Even though I knew the machine was doing all the work, I could see her fighting. She was going to have to work to make it out of this. Her eyes were shut, of course, but looked like they would be unable to open. Like a new born puppy's eyes. Her mouth couldn't be seen, covered with tape that was holding the vent tube in place. Her forhead was marred with a terrible bruise from her scuffle with doctor Reiter. His thumb print extended the top of her forehead all the way to the bridge of her nose. Her limbs were tiny, her legs much smaller than my pinky finger. I was choking up and wondering how she could possibly live. I prayed, I prayed a lot. I had up to this point had no doubts that the kids would be fine. Nothing bad could really happen to me, to them, it just couldn't, not possible. Now I had doubt and I was really scared. I felt totally helpless.

I was allowed to wheel Kari down to the NICU later that evening, I think. I think there was a struggle to put in contacts, but I don't really recall. While it was killing us not to be able to hold them, Kari was allowed to touch them for the first time. That is when she says she was sure that they would be okay. It took much longer for me to feel reassured and it wasn't a sudden change, like when I first saw them on those warming tables. The terror slowly ebbed away over the months that we watched them grow and improve. Moving from the vent to the CPAP. From the tube feeding to the bottle. Watching them slowly gain weight. It wasn't till months after we got them home that I really started to relax.

I am so glad that we are past that stage. I don't think I will ever be the same.

On to more uplifting subjects.

I was wondering when kids learn to lie. Its around four. Kari walked into the kitchen and found Reagan with hand full of chocolate covered peppermint sticks. Rylee was right there by her side.
"Reagan, did you get into Mama's chocolate?" Kari asked
Reagan nodded her head.
"Rylee, did you eat Mama's chocolates without asking, too?" Kari asked our oldest.
With chocolate smeared all over her face, my oldest replied, "No, Mama." without batting an eye.
"Mama knows that you are not telling the truth, because you have chocolate all over your face." Kari said. There was a long talk and timeouts were assigned. I don't know how Kari did that with a straight face.

People are always on the lookout for a new diet. The trouble with most diets is that you don't get enough to eat (the starvation diet), you don't get enough variation (the liquid diet) or you go broke (the all-meat diet). Consequently, people tend to cheat on their diets, or quit after 3 days. Well, now there's the new Toddler Miracle Diet.
Over the years you may have noticed that most two year olds are trim. Now the formula to their success is available to all in this new diet. You may want to consult your doctor before embarking on this diet, otherwise, you may be seeing him afterwards. Good Luck !!!

DAY ONE:

Breakfast: One scrambled egg, one piece of toast with grape jelly.

Eat 2 bites of egg, using your fingers; dump the rest on the floor.

Take 1 bite of toast, then smear the jelly over your face and clothes.

Lunch: Four crayons (any color), a handful of potato chips, and a glass of milk (3 sips only, then spill the rest).

Dinner: A dry stick, two pennies and a nickel, 4 sips of flat Sprite.

Bedtime snack: Throw a piece of toast on the kitchen floor.

DAY TWO:

Breakfast: Pick up stale toast from kitchen floor and eat it.

Drink half bottle of vanilla extract or one vial of vegetable dye.

Lunch: Half tube of "Pulsating Pink" lipstick and a handful of Purina Dog Chow (any flavor). One ice cube, if desired.

Afternoon snack: Lick an all-day sucker until sticky, take outside, drop in dirt. Retrieve and continue slurping until it is clean again.

Then bring inside and drop on rug.

Dinner: A rock or an uncooked bean, which should be thrust up your left nostril. Pour Grape Kool-Aid over mashed potatoes; eat with spoon.

DAY THREE:

Breakfast: Two pancakes with plenty of syrup, eat one with fingers, rub in hair. Glass of milk; drink half, stuff other pancake in glass.

After breakfast, pick up yesterdays sucker from rug, lick off fuzz, put it on the cushion of best chair.

Lunch: Three matches, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Spit several bites onto the floor. Pour glass of milk on table and slurp up.

Dinner: Dish of ice cream, handful of potato chips, some red punch.

Try to laugh some punch through your nose, if possible.

FINAL DAY:

Breakfast: A quarter tube of toothpaste (any flavor), bit of soap, an olive. Pour a glass of milk over bowl of cornflakes, add half a cup of sugar. Once cereal is soggy, drink milk and feed cereal to dog.

Lunch: Eat bread crumbs off kitchen floor and dining room carpet. Find that sucker and finish eating it.

Dinner: A glass of spaghetti and chocolate milk. Leave meatball on plate. Stick of mascara for dessert.

Today I gagged. I pondered whether to include this in the blog due to the grossness of it all, but I figure I should chronicle this as well. So read on at your own risk. Having said that, I know most of you will be unable to tear yourself away now.

I was on the phone with my father. We were discussing the most recent family photos that Chad took while we were on a forced vacation, due to hurricane Ike. There was not one picture with all the kids smiling. In fact all of them were crying in most of the frames. Rylee was particularly put out by the whole affair and is sitting with her arms crossed, eyes closed, lower lip jutted out, and head defiantly turned away from the camera in many of the photos. It will be used to blackmail her at a later date.

Papa and I were having a pretty good laugh when Reagan walked in and muttered something unintelligible to me. She was naked, which is nothing new, since we are working on the potty training and many times the clothes get misplaced and it is just too much work to keep locating them and redressing the child. She held her left hand up, palm down, with her finger tips and thumb all pinched together, as if she wanted to put something in my hand. Again this is not unusual behavior. Toddlers are always putting something in your hand. It is rarely something you want in your hand, but it is generally not anything to worry about. She again "said" something that I didn't quite understand, a little louder this time. So, while continuing my phone conversation, I extended my right hand, palm up, to recieve what ever little treasure she had brought to me. She grabbed my hand just above the wrist with her right hand and proceeded to wipe her left hand up and down my exposed palm. She paused to inspect her left hand, gave one more wipe and released my hand. Up to this point I had not been paying too much attention. She turned and began to leave the room. Then turned back and indicated that she would like me to follow her. I looked at the substance on my hands. I wondered for a moment if I should smell it. I concluded that there was really no other option, so I did. Yep, that is what it was. It looked like peanut butter. As my eyes darted back to her retreating form I noticed that she had not attempted to wipe at all and a significant amount of that offensive matterial was still clinging to her. I looked down and saw that she was leaving a trail. "I GOTTA GO!" I said into the phone and without listening for a response, hung up. "STOP!!! DON'T MOVE" I told Reagan
"Poo poo." she said. Now I understood what she was saying.
"No kidding?" I didn't say. "Do not move. I need to wipe you." Now she breaks into tears, but at least she stopped running and leaving a trail.

It got all over, obviously. Most of it was in the the potty, which was good, but the rest was on the seat, the carpet, the tile, her legs, her feet and MY HAND.

I am just glad that the twins were taking a nap. It could have been much worse.

This was pretty much the highlight of my day.

They grow up so fast

I am really impressed with how fast Reagan has caught on to the potty training, once we got around to working with her full time. We had been dragging our feet on that. The thought of taking her to sit on the potty every 20 minutes, while three other kids get into who knows what, and the inevitable messes seemed just too much to deal with at the time. We started the training in earnest the day we ran out of pull-ups. We had forgotten to pick some up and she would have nothing to do with wearing a diaper. I reasoned that they were essentially the same thing, just the pull-ups don't have the Velcro straps. When I tried to strap a diaper on her she LOST IT.
"BABIES, BABIES, BABIES!!! NO! BABIES!" She screamed with tears running down her face. I did finally get one affixed around her waist despite her verbal and physical protests. As soon as I let her up she took off like a shot, wailing at the top of her lungs, tearing at the offending garment, looking for Mama.
Kari came out of the bedroom, paused in the doorway, looked at Reagan and then gave me one of her "looks." Not quite a withering stare, but definitely not good look. It was a cross between pity and minor annoyance. That "You are such a man and just don't get it" look or maybe it was a "How could you do such a thing to your daughter?" look.
Reagan plead her case to Mama.
"BABIES, BABIES, BABIES!" she said pulling at the adhesive straps.
Kari looked back at me "You can't make her where that." she said in a persuading tone, maybe slightly exasperated. "She doesn't want to be like the babies, it is humiliating for her."
"I know, but what do you want to do? Its too late to go to the store." I reasoned. I was not feeling ready to start the process. It is hard enough to keep up with laundry and dishes.
"You can't make her wear the diaper..." Kari continued, obviously full of sympathy for our clearly distraught daughter.
So we started the potty training and she is doing great. She was ready.

They are all growing up so fast. Rylee is really maturing and her vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. The twins especially are amazing to me. They are changing so fast that it boggles the mind. Just a few months ago they were wobbling around on unsteady legs, taking a few furtive steps here and there. Now they are climbing on furniture like a couple of monkeys.

Kari was emptying Reagan's potty the other day. She had spent several minutes encouraging and praising her and, after emptying it, was returning the waste bowl back to the potty, which happened to be in the dinning room at the time. As she rounded the corner and looked up she stopped dead in her tracks. At the dinning room table, perched atop the chairs, were Madison and Jordan. It doesn't sound all that extraordinary, unless you have seen our dinning table and chairs. They are enormous, the chairs are at least as tall as any bar stool. I would never have thought the twins would be able to scale them. They can barley reach the seats with their arms stretched way over their heads. But, there they were, playing with some blocks that the big girls had left on the table (where the babies couldn't topple them.)
"No, No, No!" Kari said. They glanced over their shoulders at her, grinned, and returned their attention to the blocks. Kari was torn between the urge to get the camera and her motherly instinct to protect her young. She got them down. They cried.

We celebrated Rylee's 4th birthday today. Reagan and Ry both helped Mama bake the cake and of course they enjoyed licking the bowl. Rylee showed amazing restraint when Reagan insisted on helping her unwrap the gifts, but a little less restraint when Reagan wanted to help her play with her new toy train. There is only so much a big sister of four years can take. I wasn't a huge party but I count it as a success.

Now its one in the morning and Kari and I are still trying to do a few things that just can't be done with all the kids awake.

We are well into the second potty training cycle and are seeing promising results. One perk of waiting till the parents are ready seems to be that the child is very ready. Reagan's potty training, while there have still been a few accidents, is going much smoother than Rylee's. M&Ms are the driving force for our brand of potty training and it seems to be working well. The were a couple of "Oh oh's" today, but not as many as the successful eliminations. I am thrilled. I can actually imagine a day without diapers. And Reagan seems very pleased with herself, or maybe she is just happy to be able to run around naked for the majority of the day. Going without clothing seems appealing to me too, as long as its not too chilly. Clothes are so confining, aren't they?

The twins are doing great. Both are well over 19 lbs. Still small for normal kids, but all our kids have been on the small side. Still not a day goes by that I don't recall seeing their little bodies in the NICU and I am amazed at their progress.

Rylee noticed the other day, when I was getting out of the shower, that Dad was "different" from her.
"What's that?" She asked, with her head tilted to one side and pointing with her right hand as she stuck her left thumb in her mouth.
"Whats what?" I asked, trying to cover myslef with the towle and turning around.
"Whazthat?" she continued, walking around me and pointing agian.
"Uhh..."
She stares up at me, one thumb in her mouth and twirling her hair with her index finger.
"Dad is getting dressed. What do you want for lunch?" Fortunately 3 year olds are easily distracted. What am I going to do when I have to have the real talk with her?
I had not thought that would happen this soon. Now I keep the bathroom door locked.

Rylee has also learned that it is easy to cast the bame on her sisters.
"Who took all the toilet paper off the roll?"
"Reagan did it." she replies. Even though Reagan was taking a nap.
"Who threw all the play dough on the floor?"
"Reagan did it."
So she has the fibbing down, but she needs to work on making it more plausable.

Rylee is especially excited about Christmas. She asks almost every day when Santa is going to come. Does anyone else feel a little guilty about that national mind job to witch we all expose our children? I wonder how it came about that an entire nation, maybe the majority of the world, decided to teach their kids that a fat man, in a red suit, will show up and bring gifts if you have been good.

On the the not so bright side...

The insurance adjuster showed up to tell us "Good luck with that mold problem." Not quite said with a smile, but almost. On top of that he pointed out some roof damage (that I had not noticed) that they would not be able to help us with either. Remind me to opt for the lower deductable next time.

Kari met with a surgeon today. He advised her that he only does ablominal hernia surgery if it is accompanied by cosmetic surgery. She would like to have some nips and tucks (even though I think she looks great), but that is not covered, and so we are having to look for another surgeon. We were hopping to have this done before the end of the year. Our insurance company is changing and the doctor says that this might be considered a "pre existing condition" and not be covered by the new insurance company. That would be bad.

Our renters... I am seriously loosing my patientes. If I thought I could sell the place and get what I paid for it I would very well consider it.

We are finally getting over the colds that have been such a burden. I actually slept for more that a few minutes last night. Don't forget to be thankful for sleep.

Over all we are all doing well and looking forward to the holidays. We are thankful for all the blessings that we have, but are hoping for a smoother year next year.

Ho ho ho Cough!

I suspect Jordan sampled some cat vomit this morning. I don't know for sure, but as I changed her diaper first, then Madi's diaper, and then found Jordan standing over a semi disturbed pile of, partially digested, cat chow... Yuck!

For the last week the whole family has been battling a nasty cold. Rylee and Reagan seem to have bounced back fairly quickly, the twins seem to be on the mend, but Kari and I are still feeling pretty rough. I can't recall feeling worse since the flu I got just after we brought the twins home from the hospital. So we have gotten even less done around here than normal.

My parents were able to come into town the weekend before my birthday. It was really nice to see them and I got to open my presents a few days early. Mom was a huge help with the laundry and Papa helped me get some other projects done around the house that would have lingered for quite some time. I feel bad that we immeadiately put them to work when they show up for a visit, but it sure was nice to have a little help.

We did get the truck picked up from the dealership finally. I am still shocked that a new starter for the thing cost me just shy of $1000. It is nice to have two cars running.

The people from ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) showed up for an introduction regarding Reagan's speech. They suggested that we have her hearing checked and they are sending a speech specialist to meet with her on the 15th. I thought that they would be doing a full evaluation at the first meeting, but I guess that is not how it works.

Kari spoke to the doctor after he looked at he CT scan results. She does in fact have a half inch hernia in her abdominal wall that will require surgery. She is suposed to call the surgen tomorrow to set that up.

We fortunately got the Christmas lights and tree up just before the colds hit us. However, we have to keep moving ornaments up higher on the tree due to inquisitive little people, who are attracted to all things fragile and shiny. The gate that we placed around the tree is only a slight deterant. I watch Madison stick her toes into the laticework of the fence and hoist herself up to get at a nice shiny glass bulb. I wasn't sure wheather to congratulate her or scold her.

Our renters continue to frustate us with more broken promises and no rent. "Sigh."

I called Kari from Denver the other day. The conversation went something like this:

Kari: "Hello?" Sounded like she could really use a cup of coffee. Kids crying in the background.

Mark: "Hi. How's things?"

Kari: (Sigh) the sound of kids screaming creeps into the microphone a little more.

Mark: "What's going on?"

Kari: "Madison took her diaper off..." We have gotten in the habit of putting pants on the twins when we put them to bed ever since they got in the habit of taking off their diapers during nap time. It can be quite messy.

Mark: "Did you have pants on her?" I was assuming that she had gotten lazy and put them to bed without anything but a diaper on. In which case I had a little more room to giggle.

Kari: "Yes! She had her pants down to her ankles and took her diaper off! She smeared poop everywhere."

Mark: "Is it on the walls?" Maybe Madison has some artistic talent. Finger painting can be fun.

Kari: "No, just on the crib, the sheets, the stuffed animals, the mobile, and all over herself. On her legs, on her face, on her hands, its everywhere. Eeewww!" Kari isn't usually squeamish about poop, it must be bad.

Mark: "Thats nice."

Kari: "I broke a veneer." I was thinking cabinets, glue, Home depot...

Mark: "What?" I had not been awake that long since we got in late. Still a little foggy.

Kari: "I was making pasta for the kids and I ate a piece of raw pasta and broke of one of my veneers. I have been really good. I never do that, I don't even chew ice anymore, I just couldn't help myself."

Mark: "I know you have. Which one, its not one of the front ones is it?" Wondering if my wife looked like a pro hockey player.

Kari: "One behind my eye teeth."

Mark: Still in a bit of a fog. Eye tooth? What is an eye tooth? Is that the vampire teeth? "So not one of the front ones?"

Kari: "No." Kids still screaming in the background.

Mark: "Well... better call on Monday and make an appointment to have that put back on. You still have it, don't you?"

Kari: "Yes I have it and I will." Great one more thing. How much is that going to cost?

Mark: "I would put it in a plastic bag so it doesn't get lost."

Kari: "I already did."

Mark: "Well, it shouldn't be to hard to have that put back on. We'll just... (interrupted)" Kids screaming louder.

Kari: "I gotta go. I have screaming kids and poop all over."

Mark: "I love you, I will talk to you later."

Kari: Sigh "I love you too, bye."

When I called later I have to admit that I was expecting the worst, but she was sounding pretty upbeat. I think I might have still been a little grumpy. She is a strong woman.

I can't say that this has been the best couple of weeks that we have had in the last year, but we have had worse. I sent my Dad an email telling him what was going on and he called to tell me that I need to play the lottery, because that much of a bad luck streak can't last. At the risk of sounding like a whiner I will list our latest woes:

It has been confirmed that Kari has an abdominal hernia, as we suspected, for the last several weeks. It seemed to be getting worse and so she went to the doctor and he has her set to do a CT scan tomorrow. That will let us know how serious it is and what type of surgery will be needed to correct the problem. Kari is less than excited about the prospect of surgery and we are not sure what to do with work and kids during the recovery.

Car trouble. Very disturbing after the amount of money spent on the Suburban on the refuge trip to Florida. Both trucks are having issues, but at least Kari's is still running. So Kari has been dealing with the logistical nightmare of dropping me off and picking me up from work. Getting all the kids in the car by yourself is a challenge.

The Suburban wouldn't start, which has happened before and only cost $127. It turns out that this time it needs a new starter for the low, low, low price of $875 plus tax. Outrageous, right? I did call around and get some other quotes and the price of a starter for a 1996, diesel, Suburban is $600. It also turns out that the "professionals" at NTB sold me batteries that are too small for my truck. Not very happy about that. I plan on giving them an ear full.
The Yukon has been hard too start and has the check engine light on. It is, however, still running which makes me scared to find out what is actually wrong with it.

Renters... "Sigh..." We are still having trouble getting them to pay anywhere near on time. They did pay half the rent last month. So... there. Renters... It has added to our stress a bit. Last I heard she was going to come over tonight to give us money. It is now 11:43 p.m. and she has not shown up. That is about par for the course. Sigh.

Not sure how we are going to afford Christmas, but we always have before and I am sure that it will all work out.

We are keeping pretty upbeat, I think. We have both been a little stressed lately, but over all things are pretty good.

It has been fun and frustrating at times with these four girls. My only real regret is that I don't feel like I have enough time to devote to each one of them individualy. They all need a little one on one Dad time. It is very difficult to give individual attention unless you leave the house with that child. If I sit on the floor I am swarmed by all of them which, without exception, leads to some sort of scuffle.

I do have to say that we probably baby the twins more than we should, at least compared to the other two girls. But, can you blame us? We are still very much affected by our trials getting them here and healthy. I really don't think anyone who has not been through it could possibly understand. The emotions caused by seeing you children barely clinging to life are deep seated and for a long time linger just below the surface. I don't think that I will ever be the same. So yes we baby the babies even though they are approaching toddler stage.

Reagan and the twins, especially Madi, have a tumultuous relationship. Reagan doesn't understand yet that she can fend off the twins without pushing and shoving. It is a difficult situation disciplining Reagan for only trying to protect herself. Madison can be brutal. If a sibling has something that she wants she will literally tackle her, pull hair, and gouge eyes. And she does it all with no expresion on her face. Its kind of scary, she is a brute. If Madison has a goal she just goes and goes until she gets it. At least when it comes to her sisters. If she is not getting her way with Mom and Dad she resorts to laying face down on the floor and screaming, the "sack of potatos" technique. Reagan needs to have her space and when the twins invade that space she either shoves them down, which we discourage, or she stands there and screams, which we discourage. I almost prefer the shoving the twins down technique. When Reagan just stands there and screams it seems to encourage the twins to try to touch her more. They look like little Frankenstiens loping at her on unsteady legs with arms out stretched. And God forbid that the twins pick up one of her plush toys, "Lovies" as Kari has doubed them. Even if the twins pick them up to give them to Reagan the sight of one of them holding her prized possesions sends her into a near blind rage. She will rush forward and snatch the lovies from their grasp with tears streaming down her face and rush to the safety of another room. There is no explaining to her that the twins were trying to help.

On the other hand Reagan can be very sweet to the twins. On occation she will bring them toys, tickle them, and sometimes feed them. It is very touching to watch. Most times, however, we are just trying to keep the peace.

Rylee is very good with the twins. She is much more tollerant than Reagan. She doesn't throw a fit if they climb up on the same couch she is on, she actually encourages the twins to join her. She will put up with them climbing on her and doesn't totally lose her cool when they pull her hair. She doesn't like it mind you, but unlike Reagan she can deal with it most times.

Rylee is growing up so fast. I know that every parent says that sort of thing, but it is true. They grow up really fast. I am affaid that I am going to miss something. Her latest thing is pointing out all the things that she wants. Wether it is a catalog or a tv commercial she will point at nearly everything and pronounce "I want that!"
"Well...Christmas is coming. Maybe you will get that. But you know we don't always get everything we want, right?" in my usual reply. I think that only encourages her.

Kari and I are starting to get a little concerend about Reagan's speech. I have no doubt that she will be speaking clearly before she goes to college, but we feel that she should be speaking more clearly at this stage. Again, I wonder if maybe we have not been spending enough one on one time with her. We can understand many of her words and she obviously understands much of what we are saying to her, but I don't think anyone else would get much of what she says. She seems to have trouble with many of the major sounds, especially S, P, T, and R. The word more comes out as "moy", for example. This was cute for a little while, but we are starting to get concerend. I guess if there is a problem I would like to address it as soon as possible.

Not much else new to report. My last trip was totally uneventful. Except that the captain I was flying with felt the need to play the role of "flight instrutor" the entire trip. I will be the first to admit that I still have things to learn, but I have been flying for over 16 years and am a pretty competent pilot. Being micromanaged for a whole trip can be tedious. I am glad to be home.

Lets see, whats new...

I just got yesterday from a fairly uneventful trip. Take offs equaled landings. Although, there was one landing in SAN that was "interesting". The Captain was making the landing. The approach was normal till the last two hundred feet.

The approach to runway 27 takes you right over the city and right over some fairly good sized buildings right off the end of the runway, so many pilots tend to stay a little high. At that airport I usually just "thump" it on the runway and try for a smooth landing next time, but the captain got my attention by trying to make this one smooth when we were all ready high and fast.
When we past mid field and still had not touched down I started to worry a bit.

Being a first officer can be a difficult position, when is exactly the right time to speak up to avert a dangerous situation. Speak up too soon and you may have overreacted and offended your "boss", the guy you have to fly with for the next several days. Speak up too late and you could end up in a twisted ball of flaming metal at the end of the runway. If there is a screw up the captain is not the only guy to go down with the ship. Even if there is no accident, if the FAA gets involved and violates you for an infraction the crew goes down together. So I always tend to speak up right away if I don't agree with what is going on. However, there is very small window to speak up from the time you cross the threshold of the runway to the time you touch down. The words "Get us on the ground!" where just about to escape my lips when we touched down. He used full reverse thrust and was standing on the brakes pretty good. Normally, ever since oil prices went through the roof, we minimal revers thrust, so I know he was somewhat concerned too. It turns out that we had some runway left and it wasn't quite as serious as I thought at first. Never the less, at this stage in my career, my hands should not be sweaty after landing an airplane.

That aside, the trip was pretty uneventful. Which is just how they should be.

Crisis and drama always seem to hit right when I am due to leave for a trip. Every time Kari went into premature labor it was the night before I was supposed to leave for four days. My last trip Kari went to bed the night before with an eye irritation. I was sympathetic, but not overly concerned. I was up very early, showered shaved, dressed. Kari wandered in to use the bathroom and stopped dead in her tracks when she opened the door. Her hands flew to her face and I thought that she might actually topple over. I quickly switched the lights off and she relaxed a little.
"Are you okay?" I asked her.
"My eye...It really hurts... I can't stand the light."
I was a little more concerned now, but what was I supposed to do? I was getting ready to walk out the door for four days. I figured "She will be alright." But she wasn't. I went out the the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and Kari came out after a few minutes. I had all of the lights off, but even the glow of the laptop on the counter was causing her sever pain.
"I need to go to the emergency room." she said.
"Okay." I said okay, but I was thinking this is not okay, I have to go to work. It is frowned upon to call in at the last minute and delay a flight. Who is going to watch the kids? It is 5:45 a.m. who can I call? I decided to call Mary Ellen, our former nanny. There was no answer. Great. I called our neighbor from across the street and got an answering machine again. Greeeeaaat. I was getting ready to call work and tell them I wasn't going to be there when Mary Ellen called back and said that she was on her way over. That was a relief. However, we really needed to be walking out the door if we were going make it to the hospital and then to the airport before my report time. So we waited. I tend to pace in situations like this.

Mary Ellen showed up in about 15 or 20 minutes, but it seemed like an hour. I drove Kari to the ER. We looked at eachother, I looked at my watch. I couldn't just toss her out and say "Good luck with that!"
"Do you want me to go in with you?" I asked. Knowing that I was going to anyway.
"Would you?" she said in a pittiful voice.
"Of course."
Fortunatley it wasn't busy and we got started with the check in process. I looked at my watch again. "I really have to go." I said "Are you going to be okay?"
"Yes." She said. It didn't sound convincing.
I gave her a kiss on the head and sprinted to the truck, feeling like a total shmuck. What kind of husband would just dump his wife in the ER and then just run off. Well, I didn't like it, but I did it. It turns out that she had a scratched cornea. Apparently, that hurts like nobody's businenss. She told me later that she would rather go through labor again before having a scratch on her eye. Now I have never felt that, thank God, but I have seen a woman in labor and it doesn't look like fun.
I made my flight on time, but it was close. I just kept telling myself "Well...They can't leave without you."

Then on this last trip I went out to the truck, all dressed up in my monkey suit, and the damn thing wouldn't start. For most people that wouldn't be a big deal, but considering the logistics of loading and travelling with four kids in car seats it seemed very inconvienient at the time. I made it on time again.

When Kari came to pick me at the end of my trip we decided to eat out. Another logistical nightmare that we are slowly getting the hang of. She asked me to decide on a place to eat. I thought that pizza would be easy and the kids seem to like it. Finding anything that they will eat now is a challenge in itself. "Chuck E. Cheese's, I usued to like that when I was a kid, I bet the girls will love it." And so off we went, with Kari clearly regreting asking me to choose the spot.
"Do they server anything except pizza?" She asked.
"I don't know, Do you want to go someplace else?"
"Oh... I don't care."
"Alright then."

Now I don't know if I never noticed it before or if our perspective has changed since we moved to a nicer section of town, but the east side of town seems more...what is the word?... Low rent and dirty. Chuck E. Cheese's was packed and the clientel had a distinctly "working class" feel to them. Not that I have any problem with that, but the whole place just seemed a little unclean. After 16 months of sterilizing everything and obsesive washing and protecting the twins from any chance of infection this was a bit of a shock for us. We ordered the aptly named fun feast and with babies in our arms we towed high chairs and toddlers through the throngs of unwashed people to a semi clean booth. I brushed of the table with a napkin and got the girls situated. Kari and I sat and looked at eachother for a moment, just taking a breather now that everyone was corralled.
"I really feel like washing my hands..." I said.
"Me too, this place just feels dirty, doesn't it?"
But we were there so we sucked it up and ate some pizza. The fun feast includes fifty tokens for the games so we were compeled to wade again throught the throng with squirming babies and curious toddlers to find the games that dispense tickets, which can be turned in for cheap, colorful, plastic, junk.

It was quite an adventure.

Anyone know what the incubation period is for Ecoli?

I am very pleased the Rylee's vocabulary is expanding. She has no problem speaking at all. Now the problem is she won't stop talking...ever. And that isn't the worst part. You are required to participate no matter what you are doing. We are working on the "don't interrupt when Mom and Dad are talking" but when you stop to tell her that, you have just rewarded the behavior that you were trying to deter. It would be different if she had a point when she was engaging you in conversation, but it is usually "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" And I am thinking if I just ignore her she will wait until I am done changing this diaper. However, she persists " Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!"
"What, honey?"
"Daddy, red. Red Daddy."
"Yes, Rylee the wall is red." Or the sky is blue, or her hair is pretty or ect.

One of the most trying moments is when she has to use the restroom. She insists on informing you prior to taking care of her bodily functions. "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, I go pee pee... I GO PEE, I GO PEE PEE!" She will wait until she gets confirmation before she will go to the bathroom. She will wet her pants before she will go to the toilet without clearance from the tower. "GO PEE, HURRY!"

I don't mean to sound coarse or insensitive, I know that it is just a stage. It can sometimes even be amusing, but I am ready for this stage to be over. And yes, I know that we will go through this three more times.

Another Anniversary

Well we made it another year and that makes five. I figure with all Kari and I have been through in the last two years we can make it through pretty much anything. Due to our renters not paying up, we kept the evening low key. That and June and Wayne came over to see us and the grand babies. I found a great deal on filet mignon and we had ourselves a feast. We had a great time. Not the most romantic anniversary we have ever had, but it was very pleasant. It is always nice to have some family around to help out with the kids if even for a little while.

The kids are all doing great. Rylee is still a drama queen. She melts down and the slightest perceived insult from a sister or the mildest rebuke. She is a sweet girl though and enjoys making the twins laugh. She and Reagan play together more and more, which is nice sometimes. When they are chasing eachother around the house and giggling it is great, but when they are fighting over toys and pushing eachother down it is another matter.

We are still trying to get in gear to potty train Reagan. She is ready, but it is still so much work with all the kids. It is not convenient to run a kid to the bathroom every 15 minutes. She is probably the most cuddly of the four. There is no better feeling than having a two year old's hands on your face or her breath on your neck as she squeezes your neck tight.

The twins are growing and changing so fast. They have started to talk a little bit. Jordan seems to be a little more laid back and independant. Madison is a bit of a brute. It is not uncommon for her to attempt to pull a sibling off my lap by the hair or confiscate a toy from Jordan. She shows not the least bit of remorse for causing her sister's tears. However, if she is not getting her way she will lay in a heap on the floor and just wail.

Kari's Mom has been in Houston to help open the new Costco downtown. On Sunday we all went down for a tour. Reagan was just in awe. All those people and those things to touch. It must be a little overwhelming when you are only 34 inches tall. I do like walking around with her on my sholders, her little hands grasping my cheeks. The twins didn't make a peep the whole time. They just sat there wide eyed, taking it all in. I think June had a good time showing off the grand kids to all her co-workers.

Good day today

Last night was the first night in a long time that Kari and I actually took time for just the two of us together. We learned how to play Backgammon and she beat me 4 out of 5 games. It is easy to get caught up with all the day to day things that need to be done with four kids and miss out on your spouse.

Here are some more random events that I thought that I should commit to digital paper before I forgot them.

This morning I made French toast for the girls. I had Rylee and Reagan sit at the dinning room table and served them a hot, freshly buttered, slice. They like it with powdered sugar and who wouldn't? I returned to the kitchen to prepare some for the little girls. A few moments later Rylee called to me. "Dad, I sneeze."
"What"
"I sneeze."
"You sneezed?"
"Yes, I sneeze."
"Okay."
I didn't think much more about it. Rylee always needs to have what ever she says repeated back to her. If you don't repeat after her, she will go on saying whatever it was until you lose your mind. So it is easy to just repeat without considering the consequences of what she just said. A few minutes later I peeked into the dinning room to see how they were doing. There was powdered sugar spread across the entire table. I didn't think that I put that much on there, but it looked like a sugar bomb had gone off with Rylee's plate as ground zero. I just wish I would have seen the actual blast. I bet it sent a white cloud nearly to the ceiling.

The twins have become very difficult to change lately. I don't recall ever having much of a problem changing Rylee and Reagan's diapers. Now as soon as you unfasten the little Velcro straps the twins thrust their hands down between their legs. They seem more motivated when it is really messy. Normally I would just brush their hands away and that would be the end of it, but now they are persistent. You push the hands away from the front and they reach behind and pull the diaper out from under them. When you focus on the diaper that is askew they switch back to the front. It has gotten so bad that I try to hold both hands and both feet while changing anything other than a damp diaper. It probably need not be said that they don't approve of this technique and squirm even more.

We took all four kids out to IHOP and then to the park yesterday. I was proud of us for getting out with all of them. It is still a daunting task, but we did it. This was the first time that the twins have ever been to a park and as you might expect they were off in all directions to explore. It is a challenge to keep an eye on all four at once, even with two adults. I was supprised that Madison seemed more independent than Jordan. Jordan hung around Mom for the most part with a minimum of wandering. Madison, on the other hand, took off and was not to be detured. Hanging out around the jungle gym was not what she had in mind, until she discovered the sand. She was having a ball digging. We had kept a pacifier in their mouths witch prevented them from sucking on their sandy hands, for awhile. It eventually occured to Madison that she should sample some of that sand and apparently she found it to her liking. She liked it so much that I was unable to stop her from getting a second handful into her mouth. While I was trying to brush off the pacifier she tried to reload her mouth with her right hand, witch I successfully blocked, followed immediately by the left hand, I blocked this one too, and she finally succeeded in scooping up more sand with her right and getting it too her mouth. I couldn't believe how fast she was. This all happened in about four seconds, afterwitch I picked her up so the sand would be out of reach. After I got the binky cleaned off and reinserted I figured that she would lose interest in the sand eating. Nope. As soon as I set her down she slung the binky to the ground and grabbed two handfuls of sand to put in her mouth. I was ready this time and she didn't get very far. Madison spent the rest of the day at the park in Dad's arms. Maybe that was her goal in the first place.

It was also the first time that the twins got to walk in shoes. We have not bothered with shoes much since the twins arrived. We don't really go out all that much and up to this point we kept them in the stroller. They were not quite sure what to make of them. They walked around doing the goose step for awhile and there were a few tumbles, but they seem to be getting the hang of it.

Not much new to report. We are pretty much settled back into our routine.

The twins are getting bigger and we relish every new behavior. We are still keenly aware of their struggles early on and every small accomplishment seems like a huge milestone to us.

Both Madison and Jordan have begun to say a few words other than Mama and Daddy. "Oh oh" is my favorite, at least until that phrase is linked to an event that deserves an "oh oh." We also here "tickle, tickle, tickle" and "Thank yooooou."

Madison is taking over as the number one drama queen. She seems a bit more needy than Jordan. Jordan will wander around and amuse herself and is not in the habit of pushing and shoving if she is not getting her way. Madison, on the other hand, has been known to pull her siblings off of my lap by their hair when she would like to sit there. She has also mastered the "screaming sack of potatoes" technique of protesting what ever it is that is troubling her at any given moment. You know the one where the child will collapse into a heap on the floor and refuse to do anything but scream until she is picked up and pacified. It is very effective for getting what you want.

Reagan is emerging as a real mother hen. I had her pegged as strictly an enforcer, but she has been showing her softer side. She still keeps the twins in line and restricts their use of toys that she deems inappropriate, but now she will go a find a bottle for them if they are crying. She also likes to push a chair over to their highchairs and help them eat. "One bite for you, one bite for me." Peek-a-boo is a favorite game between Reagan and the twins. I am very pleased to see Reagan getting more involved with the twins. Up until recently she seemed completely uninterested in the twins unless they were getting into her stuff or her space.

Rylee is very good about entertaining the twins and has learned that it is fun to tickle them. Over all the kids are much better about entertaining eachother. We still have to step in and refaree pretty often, but seems to be getting a little easier.

We are back home in Houston now. I have not added up the receipts for fuel and food, but at $4.00 per gallon I am sure that it was not cheap. Not to mention the new tires and brakes that I felt compelled to replace in Sarasota. Thanks Papa for the help in that department. The drive home went much smoother that the trip to Florida. There was a little fussing from the twins between Sarasota and Tallahassee, but after that pit stop everyone pretty much passed out and I was left to my book on tape.

In Tallahassee we visited my good friend Jon Bussey and his family. The kids got a little food and had a chance to stretch their legs and the dogs had a good ol time playing with the Bussey's Great Dane, Henry. However, I was a little embarrassed that our dogs were more interested in "dominating" (I guess that is the nicest way to put it. I won't go into the details.) Henry than just chasing each other around the yard. We spent about two hours with the Bussey family and then hit the road again.

Since Kari had problems with her contacts and her new glasses were making her feel sick, I drove straight through the night. I hit a little lull about 3:00 a.m. but after switching to a more interesting book on tape I was as right as rain again. Around 7:00 we had breakfast in the parking lot of a Shell station. Milk and donuts. We must have been amusing to watch, changing diapers, filling bottles, and brushing teeth right there next to the gas pumps. I thought it was all kind of fun. Maybe I am a gypsy at heart.

Papa and Grandmom had a bet to see if we would drive straight through or have to stop for the night. Grandmom won, betting that we would push on through. She was correct in telling Papa that when I get on the road I have an overwhelming desire to just get there.

We rolled into Houston about 9:30 a.m., picked up the other car at the airport and I took the kids home while Kari ran to the store for essentials. Believe it or not I wasn't feeling too bad. I did however crash for about five hours when Kari got home. And I was still recovering a bit yesterday and the kids were a little out of sorts. It seems like we are pretty much back to normal today.

There is still plenty to do around the house. The laundry that has been piling up since before Ike got here and the pool are the biggest projects.

Back to work. More later.

The end is in sight for our latest adventure.

I returned to Houston on the 26th. I had to be ready for work early on the 27th. The power was still off when I got there. So after trying to make friends with the cat again with a can of tuna I decided to get to work on cleaning up the outside of the house. I borrowed a chainsaw from a neighbor and removed the downed tree in the back yard. The pool was really in bad shape. I think I have discovered several new life forms living in it. I have never seen anything like them. One looks like a cross between a worm and a shrimp. I also found, while cleaning the skimmers, that the little buggers bite. It scared the snot out of me. Some of these things have grown to several inches in length. So I dumped about ten pounds of shock in the pool and spent many hours using the skimmer net like a shovel mucking out the bottom of the pool. I barely put a dent in it. There is a lot of work left to do when we finally get home.

Since we left in kind of a rush and had not done laundry before Ike arrived, the house looks like a proper disaster zone. I actually had most of the toys picked up before we left. However, after leaving the kids to play while we packed the mess is bigger than it was. Those kids are a first class wrecking crew.

I hope to be back in Florida tomorrow night or early the next day. We plan to drive back after Kari's last dentist appointment.

It has been really nice visiting with the parents, but I think that everyone is ready to go home.

Forced Vacation

Where to start?
Much has happened since I posted last. We lost power shortly after my last post. The day before the hurricane even got to us. I didn't expect that. I may have underestimated this storm a little. The damage in our area is about what I thought it would be. A few trees are down. We lost part of one tree in our back yard and a neighbor's tree fell on the fence surrounding our pool, but other than that we had no damage. The one thing that I underestimated was the effect on the power supply. We lost power on the 11th and it is still not back on. That is a week and it could be several more weeks before it is restored.

Ike was supposed to arrive late Friday or early Saturday. The estimates for when we would start to feel the effects of the storm varied widely. We waited and waited and didn't get much more than a breeze. Kari and I both felt obligated to stay up to see the storm, but by one a.m. we gave up and went to bed. We had decided to move all the kids down into our room. The thought was that if it got really bad the roof would be the first thing to go and if anything happened it would be easier to have all the kids within reach. So we moved the Pack n Plays into our bedroom for the twins and put Rylee and Reagan between us in the bed. That did not make for a comfortable night. Both "big" girls flail about like epileptics. I recieved several kicks to the face that made Bruce Lee look like a sissy. Needless to say neither Kari nor myself slept more than about an hour at a time. At 2:30 Saterday morning, after a sharp blow to the nose, I got up for a glass of water. It was blowing pretty good by that time and I peered out the window to see what had come lose so far. The windows were all fogged up so I couldn't see much and it was windy enought that I didn't want to open the door, so I went back to bed without much new information. At about 6:00 we gave up hope of getting anymore sleep and got out of bed. The wind had died down some. There was no longer a constant roar, just a steady 30 knot wind with occational gust up to about 50 knots I would guess. I called my folks around ten or so to let them know that we were still alive. Papa thought that we should be past the worst of it by around 4 p.m. He asked that we call back at noon and check in ever two hours or so after that, so that they wouldn't worry. The cell phone network went down shortly after that and we were effectively cut off. We spent the rest of the day just trying to keep the kids pacified and peering out the windows to gawk at the debris flying past.

Around 11:00 our neighbor, Heinrick, stopped by to see how we were doing. When he found out that we had no ice or generator he took me over to another neighbor's home. John had purchased several generators for his work and offered to lend us one. This was great, we now at least had the refrigerators running and the babies milk was staying cool. When I was unable to find ice on Friday we packed the freezers with bottles of water in an effort to make enough ice to last for a few days. I was not expecting the power to be out for long, maybe a week at the most. John gave us five gallons of gas which would last us most of a day. Up till this point we had not considered leaving and I was still planning on going to work. First of all we couldn't really afford to drive any significant distance, not with the obscenely high fuel prices. And missing work didn't seem like it would improve our financial situation either. I even checked in for my trip that was to start on Sunday afternoon.

I figured that if we were going to stick this out I would need to get out and find some more gas for the generator. Things still didn't seem desperate yet. Heinrick's son told me that he had been unable to get out of our subdivision due to fallen trees blocking the roads, but after poking around some of the back streets I found a way out. I was a bit shocked by the damage to the power lines and this was when it first dawned on me that we were in for a lengthy delay before power was restored. In five blocks I counted three trees laying on power lines, two light poles broken in half, and four power lines laying across the road. To top it off I could not find fuel anywhere. I suspected that it might be difficult to find with no electricity and I was right. News from the radio confirmed my estimate of a long wait for power. So when I got home Kari and I discussed our options, or lack there of. I told her that there was no way that I was going to leave her with four kids, no power, and a dwindling food supply. I think I saw her breath a sigh of relief. So I set out to find a pay phone to inform Continental that I would not be able to come to work after all and let the parents know that we were coming their way.

Here is where I realized some of the drawbacks of technology. With the proliferation of cell phones, payphone are no longer a money maker for the phone companies. It used to be that you couldn't turn around without seeing a pay phone, now pay phones are not easy to find. Also, internet based phones like Vonage work well and are inexpensive, however, you can not make collect calls to them. I didn't know that till now. I must have called ten people collect before I got a hold of my aunt Phyllis. I asked her to relay to Florida for me. "Just tell them that we are ok and we are planning on driving there. We are not sure when we will leave, maybe sometime tomorrow."

The logistics of packing and moving six people and two dogs in one automobile is interesting. We decided to take our time. At this point it was about 5 p.m. on Saterday. We wouldn't begin packing until tomorrow. We made some eggs on the grill for dinner, had the kids in bed by eight, and by eight thirty Kari and I were worn out and went to bed.

Apparently Ike was not done with us yet, because Saterday night it stormed almost as bad as it had the night before. Kari woke me at around four to see the lightening show. It was impressive. It was a pretty misserable night though. It gets pretty stuffy this time of year in Texas with no airconditioning. I think that both Kari and I were up at least once an hour. I gave up trying to sleep about 6:00 a.m. and the kids were up shortly there after. We had Cheerio's for breakfast and made coffee on the grill. Kari had finally gotten to sleep and I tried to let her sleep in for a bit. We spent the rest of the day straightening up the house and packing for the trip. There was lots of agonizing over what all we should try to drag with us and what we could do with out. Also much speculation with the neighbors on what roads would be open and where the closest place with power and fuel would be. I think that it may have been divine providence that Kari had not filled up her truck with gas. We would have taken hers if she had, it has the dvd player and GPS. After calculating the distance that we drove without seeing a gas station, we would have run out of gas. I do love my deisel Suburban with that huge fuel tank.

We had heard on the radio that many parts of I 10 were underwater or blocked, so we elected to go north on I 45 toward Dallas. We were all loaded up and on the road by 6:00 p.m. Traffic was fairly heavy and I wondered where in the world all these people were going, there wasn't a thing open. Once we got on the freeway the traffic was fairly light and we made pretty good time to the north. Around Huntsville I started to question our proposed route. The whole idea was to avoid the closed roads around Houston and get back to I 10 as soon as possible. So we got out the map and found that 190 went east from Huntsville and we could go back south after Beaumont. Beaumont took a good beating during the storm and was reported to be worse off than Houston, so we planned on avoiding it altogether. We made our way along 190 east bound to Livingston and continued east for about 80 miles untill we saw the red tail lights at the begining of a traffic jam. This seemed odd since there were very few cars on the road and it was now about 9:00 p.m. I figured that it must be an accident. It took the better part of an hour to see the flashing lights of a police car and another thirty minutes to creep up to it. Since traffic was at a standstill many people were taking the opportunity to go for a stroll and the dogs did not like that at all. Everyone who got within ten feet of the car got a growl and any closer than that got a full force bark. It is hard to convince the dogs that you will crawl over the seat and choke the life out of them if they bark again and wake up the kids, when you are scolding them with a whisper, so you don't wake up the kids yourself. We kept seeing cars turn around, but we could see some cars passing the cop so we figured that it shouldn't be much longer. When we were second in line to the cop, we watched him squat down and lean into the passenger window of the car ahead of us. A long discussion ensued with lots of head shaking being done by the trooper and lots of animated guestures from the driver. Finally that car turned around and we approached the check point. The trooper waved us on to newly arrived reinforcements, a female trooper (not that there is anything wrong with that). She poked her head in the passenger window and asked "where are you going?"
"Florida."
"Oh, no..."
Oh oh, that doesn't sound good "Why?"
She sighs and says "The judge closed Tyler county, we can't let you pass unless you live in Tyler county."
"Why did he do that?"
"There is a curfew... to prevent looting."
"You have got to be kidding, right?"
She glances back at our passengers and rolls her eyes "There is nothing I can do. You will have to turn around."
"Great!"
Here is all the things that I wanted to say, but knew that it would be a waste of time: "While I see that you disagree with your orders, and I apperciate that, you must know that we are fleeing a natural disater, that we are coming from a place that has no power, where the water may be unsafe to drink, where there is no food to be purchased, that we have just driven 200 miles through towns that have no power, no fuel, no place to rest, you are turning us away from refuge. Who would do that? Are you people morons? Where do you expect us to go? What if we run out of gas? Are you going to come help us? Do you think it would be out of line if I gave you the finger?"
My anger increased when we later learned that another refugee, that we met in Lufkin, who was fleeing north was turned away from Austin, and Kari's Mom tolds us that we would have been turned away from Dallas. WHAT THE HELL! WHEN DID THIS BECOME A COMMUNIST COUNTRY?! ( Take a deep breath Mark.) How could that possibly be? That in a time of need you would turn people away. How can that be? I just can't get over it. If we had not been in our Suburban, which has a huge gas tank, or if we had not filled it up, we would have not made it to the next gas station that we found nor would we have had enough fuel to return home. And the gas station that we found only had deisel, if we had taken Kari's truck we would have been stuck, if we made it that far.

Onward. Off my soap box.

We back tracked and went north again. We finally found power and fuel in Lufkin. From Lufkin we went east and south again, around Tyler county, hoping that we wouldn't run into anymore problems. We finally got to I 10 in Baton Rouge at around 5 a.m. During those eleven hours I learned a few things. I learned that my kids are more patient than I thought they were. I learned that I should have the car adapter for the DVD player in a safe spot anyway, because if would have been handy. I learned that one of the best sounds there is, other that your own child laughing, is the sound of all four of you kids suckleing on their fingers as the sleep.

Breakfast was another first for the new generation Spencer family. We stopped at Waffle House and it was the first time that Kari and I have taken all four kids to a resturant with no other adult supervision. I was pretty proud of us, it went off without a hitch. We stopped, got the diapers changed, dogs fed and walked, everyone inside and seated, all the girls ate well, there were no tears, the big girls had pretty good manners and didn't embarase me, it was all very pleasant.

Now that we were back on track, on I 10, I felt better about the situation. There were a few moments, as we were cruising down back roads in pitch black rural Texas in the middle of the night without having seen an electric light since we started, that I was worried that we would run out of gas and be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no power, no comunication, and no place to stay.

I will admit that traveling with all the kids and dogs is different from my previous road trips. There are A LOT more stops, but overall this trip was going pretty smooth. Now the worry of not getting there was gone. We were just tired and ready to be there. With only seventeen hours to go, things were looking up. One of the draw backs to pulling an all-nighter is that the amount of coffee that I have to drink is not conducive to driving hours on end with out a stop. I also have to admit that while we got good at the emergency pee stops with the training toilet, I found myself wishing that all the kids were still in daipers. I even thought of wearing one myself, but they were too small. Another releif was the return of cell phone service. For the last two days I had been trying to place a call every couple of hours without luck. It was almost a shock when I finally got a call to go through. I knew that there where several people concerned about us, I had gotten about 15 text messages and at least as many voice mails that I was unable to check. It was very nice to be conected again and checking my messages gave me something to do while everone was sleeping.

We finally rolled into Sarasota at 11:15 p.m., 28 hours and 15 minutes after pulling out of the driveway in Houston. I was on my 256th wind and actually found it difficult to go to sleep.

Kari has been checking the message boards and most people still do not have power, fuel is still difficult to come by, and the only things you can get at the grocery stores will be canned. So I am not in a hurry to go back to that. I am still not sure how we are going to pay for our little forced vacation, but it sure is nice to be with the family.



So here. An update.

We are currently battening down the hatches and watching the slow, but steady, progress of hurricane Ike as it is making a bee line for our little homestead. Kari tells me that winds over 90 mph are predicted in our zip code. Personally I think that it isn't going to be that bad. At least I hope it won't. I was wondering, as our neighbors were boarding up their windows, if they were over reacting or if I was being foolish. I would like to think that my years of living in Florida have given me a little more perspective on what is going to be a dangerous storm and what isn't than your average Texan. It seems to me that, with the media hype, the people around here have become a little irrational where storms are concerned. The last two hurricanes, the ones that didn't even rain on us, caused near mass hysteria. This one looked a little worse and I at least went to the store for batteries and canned food. I decided not to buy ice yesterday for fear that it would melt before we needed it... Next time I will get ice early. At the four gas stations and three grocery stores that I visited today there was not an ice cube to be found. So I am making as much ice as I can before we lose power. I am pretty sure that we will lose power at some point. But we have done about all we can do for now. We picked up everything lose around the back yard and tied down all the patio furniture. And now we wait.

I have found that my wife is definitely getting to know me well. As I was clearing a space in the garage for all the junk from the back yard she appeared in the doorway. She studied me for a moment, with arms crossed and a smirk on her face, and then said "You are just making room and not cleaning the whole garage...Right?"
Wow, she is in my head. I was only going to clean a little bit. "Yes dear, thank you. You do have a valid concern there. I am only making room...for now." My Dad said that he can relate. He would have cleaned the garage.

One nice thing about nasty storms is that it motivates me to clean out the refrigerator. It needed it since it hasn't been cleaned since the last storm.

I can tell you that if we lived on the coast we would have left by now. Kari was telling me that 40% of Galveston residents elected to stay in their homes. Now that is moronic. I we were 6 feet above sea level and had a view of the Gulf, well we would be gone. Right now Galveston is getting pretty well hammered and we have heard reports of people being rescued from roof tops in Bolivar, on the coast east of Galveston.

So we are sitting and waiting. I guess time will tell if I have the only voice of reason in the midst of this doom and gloom media frenzy, that the local politician are just eating up. Or if I am just one of those morons that the newies love to film while standing in front of a pile of rubble that used to be a house trying to explain why we didn't leave.

The shoe thing aside, are girls predisposed to certain behaviors or is it all taught. Are they predisposed to spend hours in the bathroom? And what is the going in pairs about? I have always wondered. Maybe having four girls will give me some insight. Probably not, but maybe.

The question is: when do girls start taking extraordinarily long in the bathroom? Because it is happening with Rylee, she is three. That seems too soon. However, anytime that she is going to go pee we don't see her for at least 20 minutes, sometimes more. We check on her. Sometimes she is just singing or looking in the mirror, but how can she spend that much time in there without getting bored?

Ladies?

Well?

Kari called me on the verge of tears the other night. "I never ask for help. You were flying, I called my Mom, I called your Mom, I called Meesh, and no one is answering. Still nobody has called me back. I just need to vent. I need a sanity check."

A few days ago Madison figured out how to climb onto the couch. Being that she has not even really figured out the walking thing yet, we thought that was quite an accomplishment. She thinks so too. She is pretty pleased with herself. She will throw both hands up on the couch, get a good grip, get the legs going in a running motion until she gets a foot hold, then using her face for leverage, grunting and snorting, hoists herself all the way onto the couch. After a eighth of a second pause in the face down position, too recover from the effort I assume, she spins into an upright position with her back against the seat and gazes up for recognition from whomever is closest.

At first this was really cute. She would go from one end of the couch to the other as fast as possible, shrieking with delight, flinging herself face down onto the cushions and driving herself forward with only her feet. Climbing up on the couch was the first thing that she has done before Jordan and we were proud of her. Very proud, until she decided that every waking moment should be spent on the couch teetering on the edges and flirting with concussions and broken bones. So Kari removed the coffee table to prevent Madi from smacking her noggin. Then Madison found that it was really fun to climb from the couch to the love seat and back via the end table. And so Kari removed the end tables. Soon we will have no furniture and the entire house will be padded. Maybe we should look into straight jackets as well.

While I was gone on this last trip Madison really perfected her couch mounting technique and decided that there was really no place she would rather be than up on that couch. After she took a nose dive over the back of the couch it was obvious that she would require either more supervision or confinement. Fortunatly we keep the big dog pilows right behind the couch and she survived her tumble with no serious damage. You would think that a fall like that would scare her enough that she wouldn't do it agian, but no. Kari was spending every second spotting our little gymnast and this left little time to devote to the other three kids. Every time Kari needed to deal with a child she was forced to put Madison in her exer-saucer and endure high pitched screaming until Madison was released again to pursue her goal of reaching the top of Mt. Pleather. At one point, while all the girls were distracted in the dinning room, Kari thought she had an oppertunity to slip away and use the restroom before Madi would remember that she was no longer on the couch. So Kari slipped away for about 90 seconds of "me time." When she emerged from the bathroom she was greeted by complete kaos. Madison of course was teetering precariously from the top of the couch with one leg over the back. Reagan had pushed a chair into the kitchen, gotten up on the counter, extracted the scissors from the butch block holder and was waiving them around with delight. Rylee had gone into the bathroom and was screaming bloody murder because she had gotten a drop of pee on her panties. And Jordan, with all the comotion, was just wandering around screaming at the top of her lungs. It is truly amazing how fast things can go down hill.

We don't encourage climbing on the furniture. However, if you have kids, you know that you can not reason with a one year old or a three year old for that matter. This is a new experience, being in a position to have to discipline the twins. We have spent the last year pretty much catering to their every need, leaping into action at the slightest whimper. Now that they are mobile they are going to have to conform to the rules just like the big girls. Now the challenge is to make them understand the rules. "No climbing or jumping on the couch" is at the top of the list.

Who not to tell?

That was a clue to a cross word puzzle that I attempted recently. Do you know what the answer was? "A soul. "

I think that the answer should have been "your three year old." She doesn't get the concept of a secret yet. She also doesn't get the concept of a surprise, unless it is for her of course.

I took Ry with me to shop for Kari's Birthday gift. She was an angel at the store and enjoyed adding her input on gift ideas. She even picked out an appropriate card. We got Kari an inexpensive guitar, so she can check off one more thing from her bucket list, and a set of wine glasses. The glasses that I got her for Christmas have not survived the battle as an effective force. Out of a full platoon of stylish glasses only one is left to carry on the mission of satisfying our thirst. Several were lost shortly after deployment and the remainder have soldiered on regardless of being under staffed and mismatched. After such losses I figured that a surge was in order. While the reinforcements don't match the original the group seems to be bonding. The surge has enabled us to complete any entertaining task that may arise. However, unless the situation changes, which seems unlikely, I can not set a date for the draw down of those forces currently serving in the hostile environment of our kitchen. (that was off the point)

When we got home I told Rylee that this was a surprise for Mom and that this was to be our secret. She nodded in apparent understanding and then rushed into the house shouting "Mama, Mama, Mama! Got you cups!" I am not sure that my wife understood what she was saying at first. Rylee must have thought the same thing, because as I sat on the couch she renewed her efforts to inform Kari of the surprise in store for her. I quickly said "Rylee, come over here. I need to tell you a secret!" She trotted over and pressed her ear to my lips. I whispered "We can't tell mommy what we got her yet. It is a surprise for her birthday. She has to wait until she opens her presents to find out what they are. Okay?" "Okay, Daddy" she replied with a grin. She then turns to Kari and says "Momma, got you surprise, cups!"

"Sigh..."

At least she didn't spill the beans about the guitar. I think the only reason that was safe was that she was having a difficult time pronouncing it. Kari was surprised by the guitar by the way. I am not the best gift giver and I was pleased that I finally got one right.

Wayne and June where here for the Birthday celebration. Consequently, Wayne brought his guitar along on this trip and was able to give Kari her first lesson. I didn't even know that he played.


The twins are doing well. Madison took four steps without crashing yesterday. Jordan is walking so much now that it is kind of a non-event.

Reagan needs to be potty trained, yesterday. She is now taking her diaper off as soon as she poops. I can't blame her for not wanting to walk around with dirty pants, but it has been a bit... messy.

There is a hierarchy developing among the girls. Rylee of course is at the top. However, Reagan isn't exactly submissive to her, more like defiant. Rylee definitely considers herself the boss though. We have heard such things as "Don't even think about it!" and "Thats not funny!" coming from the other room when they are playing. Rylee is pretty nice to the twins most of the time and much more tolerant of them than Reagan.

Reagan will still inform on Rylee if she is doing something wrong, however, most of her efforts have been channeled into taking toys from the twins while telling them "NO NO NO!" And then pushing them down.

Reagan continues to be an imp, laughing maniacally when she is caught red handed doing anything she is not supposed to be doing. She got a swat on the behind the other day for pushing Jordan down twice. No remorse whatsoever.

On the other hand I caught Rylee giving Madison a kiss on the head because she had fallen over and bumped her noggin.

The twins are having more and more altercations in their quest for attention from Mom and Dad. They have gotten passed the crying only for being wet, tired, or hungry.

I had a moment of clarity today. I realized that "this" is exactly what I wanted. "This" is exactly how I thought it should be, aside from a few financial hiccups (and thanks again to my Mom and Dad. I don't know what we would do without you), this family is turning out pretty much how I thought it should/would.

I think I had a fairly sheltered upbringing. My parents stayed married and if they fought it was never in front of us kids. Everyone in my extended family, with the exception of one or two, stayed married and I never heard about any major strife. What little dirty laundry my extended family had was seldom aired. So I grew up thinking that everyone stayed married, everyone had kids, everyone gets together for the holidays, and there is kindness and goodwill towards men. I didn't really get a taste of reality until probably high school and even then it never occurred to me that my life/family would ever be anything other than this Utopian dream that I had constructed in my head. And I realized today that I have gotten pretty close to that dream. Although, I did think that I would have gotten married and had kids a little sooner. I was coasting along waiting to grow up first. When is it that you grow up? I am still waiting.

Speaking of that, growing up. I am not sure that everyone, or anyone for that matter, ever really does grow up. I was thinking of some of the behavior that I have observed over the years from "adults" and it is not that much different from kids on the play ground. Just look at politics. As I was considering this, Reagan woke up from a nap. She woke up in a perfectly foul mood. When she is grumpy her answer to any question, from "Would you like a time out?" to "How about a bowl of ice cream with chocolate on top?", is a resounding NO! She folds her little arms across her chest, tucks her chin down, furrows her brow, pouches her bottom lip out, avoids all eye contact, and answers any query with "NO, hmmph!" My little cave woman. I wonder if she will ever really change. Maybe she will become a little more refined, but I bet she will grow up and be at least as stubborn as her mother, maybe a little bit more.

It is amazing to she the personalities develop and we are very curious to see what sort of personalities the twins will develop. Will they be the same? They are identical, but I already see differences in their behavior. I should be fun to watch.

I don't recall when I became scared of the dark, but Rylee is there. Now, every night when we go upstairs to put her to bed she refuses to enter her room until the light is on. "Scary, Daddy. Scary, dark." She came down stairs a couple of nights ago and told Kari "I'm scared."
"Why?" Kari asked.
"Monsters." she replied.
"Show Mommy what you are scared of." Kari said and scoped her up to go upstairs.
By the time the reached the top of the stairs Rylee was back asleep.

So my question is: Is it things that we let them watch on TV? I remember being scared as a kid, but not why. Would kids get scared of the dark if we never let them watch TV? Is it in our DNA?

Chad and Meesh called tonight. Thanks guys.

They are much better about keeping in touch than we are and I wanted to thank them for making the effort. We tend to get caught up in our own little dramas, in our own little world. It is nice to get some contact when we forget that we need it.

We got to talking about kids. (I don't have much else to talk about these days. Kids or airplanes it the limit of my daily experience. Just think how Kari feels.) We were discussing the logistics of taking all four kids out alone. Kari has done it once. In need of milk and formula, due to a lack of planning on our part, she decided to take them all to the local HEB. I may have touched on this in a previous post, but I am too lazy to go look and see if that is the case.
Any way she only going to go in if there was a double seat cart near a parking spot. Guess what, there was. So she completed the mission with some difficulty. However, I do think that she enjoyed the attention that she got from the other shoppers. "Wow." She heard that alot, as well as "Bless your heart!", "Double trouble", "You got your hands full", "All girls!?", "Two sets of twins?", "Awhhh." Also, many stares, both adoring and horrified.

So I was telling Chad that I want to take all the kids to the store at least once by myself. I know, I am a moron. But, I am inspired by logistical challenges. I think I get it from my Dad. He got a gleam in his eye every time he was tasked with loading 50 cubic feet of lugage into a 30 cubic foot car trunk. I recall him loading and unloading, pulling, pushing, squishing, and finally sitting on the lid to get it closed. This is related I think. I can't help running the senarios through my mind. Who do I take out of the car first? Would I try to put the twins in a stroller or a cart? What if there was no cart near the parking spot. I can carry both twins and still get one hand free to control an errant toddler, but how do you get the twins out of the car seats, one at a time, without the free one rolling or crawling away?

I will try it.

Kari is off to Florida in a couple of day to see a dentist that my family has gone to since we moved to Sarasota. She is trying not to get her hopes up to high, as far as what he can do that we can afford.

Our renters coughed up one months rent, but not the rent for this month yet. We are still hoping to resolve this without having to evict them.

I am glad to be home from this last trip. It seemed really long. My captain was ... well... odd. There is no other way to really put it. He was not unpleasant, just strange. I have flown with some real morons, ego-maniacal jackasses. This guy was not one of those, but...weird.
Anyway, I'm glad to be home. I didn't get home in time to see the twins, and I am not waking them up, but I did get to wrestle with Ry and Rea for a bit before bed time.

That is all for now.

Rent

Well Kari went over to the rental this evening and was assured that they would be over tomorrow to pay.

I guess Kari and I are not cut out to be hard nosed landlords. There is always a sob story and tonight was another. I will refrain from airing our renter's dirty laundry here.

I think that I am a naturally compassionate person and since you never know which of the sob stories are true, I may tend to be a pushover.

At any rate, we hope to be able to pay bills tomorrow.

Mixing it up

After all this time it is still difficult to tell the twins apart on occasion.

Kari got up the other morning, got the big girls breakfast, prepared the medicine for the babies, and made bottles. When the twins awoke, she was prepared. She brought them downstairs, one by one and changed their diapers. She then gave their medication and proceeded to feed them their first bottle of the day. She fed Madison first and then set her down and picked up Jordan. About halfway through feeding "Jordan", "Madison" started walking around the living room. Since Madison isn't walking yet she looked more closely at the child she was feeding and realized that she had mixed the two of them up. There is no telling when the mix up occurred. Sometimes they get placed in the wrong bed. When you go to the bed on the right and pick up that baby you "know" that you have Madison, or do you? Kari had always prided herself on know which kid was which and was a little put out that she had gotten them mixed up.

Jordan is a walking machine. She walks everywhere and almost never crawls now. I don't recall either of the big girls picking it up so fast. Now the problem is that she is starting to climb (and has no fear whatsoever).

Madison is not far behind. She stands all the time and could walk, but just has not realized that yet.

Lets see ... what else is new?

The dogs continue to decimate and desecrate my back yard. Grandmom and Papa helped us cover all the bare ground around the deck with pavers and gravel. Now the mutts have killed the grass for another seven to ten feet beyond that. Every time it rains, and it rains alot, they two of them become Black Labs instead of yellow.

It is good to continue your education, right? Well, we are learning about eviction this week. Our renters are now two months behind on the rent. Every time they say they are on their way over, they don't show up and don't return my calls. I feel like I have given them every chance and I am just getting the run around. So today we sent them the Pay or Quit letter, required by Texas law. After that they will have three days to pay or get out. I was really thinking that we could work this out, but I now realize that there is a good chance that we are really going to have to kick them out. Disturbing.

Attitude:

Both the big girls are testing us with the bad attitude/disrespect. Reagan has said little other than "NO!" for the past couple of days. I guess this is just a stage. (I hope) Both have a first rate temper. I always figured that the girls where either going to love eachother or hate eachother.

On the other hand, the screaming and whining are sometimes interrupted by moments of calm and acts of kindness. Yesterday I looked up from the kitchen to see Rylee and Reagan dancing around in a circle, facing eachother, holding hands, singing along to some cartoon, and twirling (Ring Around the Rosie style) with sheer delight. This morning Rylee was unable to open a play-doh container, which was making her very upset. Rea grabbed it, which made Rylee more upset. Normally Reagan would scream "NO!" and run away with it, but in this instance, she brought it to me in the other room, had me open it, and returned it to Rylee. I was amazed. This from the kid who takes any toy either twin is playing with as a matter of course. (and then throws it when instructed to return the stolen property.)

There seems to be more competition between the twins lately. Mostly for toys and attention, and what else is there when you are one? Madison is usually the instigator on the toy stealing. Jordan used to just accept the theft without complaint and continue on her way. Not anymore, the gloves come off and she is ready to brawl. "She may be skinny, but shes strong." (Chad, do you know that one?)

Kari is gung ho on getting back into shape. She has been up and working out before the kids wake up. YOU GO GIRL! Watching her has even motivated me to at least think about starting an exercise program too. That and my back went out again and I have been gimping about the house like an octogenarian for the last several days.

I don't feel like proof reading, so there! I am done for now.

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