Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bubble Wrap!

Earlier today, Paprika discovered some of our bubble wrap and got creative:

TGIF and Go-Karts!

Last night we took Paprika out for a fun Friday night- we went to TGIFriday's-(thanks Grandma and Grandpa for the gift certificate)! I had grilled shrimp and broccoli, and actually managed to stay on my "healthy eating plan" - not a diet. ;-) I was very good about gaining enough weight this last pregnancy to have high birth weight twins- I gained 35 pounds in five months, and am now beginning the slow process of letting go of that weight gain. One day at a time!

Paprika was great at dinner- she really was a perfect little dinner companion, and we had a very low stress meal out on the town with her. Afterwards, we took her to "see cars"- which means going to the Go-Kart track, one of her favorite places to go. The only real problem was that before we left the house, Paprika insisted on wearing a pair of shoes that is 1 1/2 sizes too small for her.

She is very particular about only wearing "pretty shoes"- and apparently the only shoes that are pretty enough are her pink sandals from last spring. I knew I should have packed them in a box months ago! Anyway, she was really suffering for her style last night- her toes were boxing up against the ends of her shoes, and even though I brought other (bigger) shoes for her, she wanted nothing to do with them because they weren't "pretty pink shoes!" Apparently blue shoes with dots are SO out this season! ;-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Keeping Busy

Since we've been back from our vacation, we have been trying to keep busy. Mr. Mustard started working on Dancing with the Stars, which has the same BBC crew as Top Gear. He's really enjoying that and is already putting in long hours.

I had my 6 week post-partum check-up yesterday. It was very hard, to say the least. About two-thirds of the waiting room was filled with women who looked like they were about to give birth right then and there. The woman sitting behind us while we were waiting kept talking very loudly to her 3 year old about how the little girl's baby brother was going to be born next Wednesday, and whether the little girl wanted to see him on the "TV screen" (ultrasound). I had to go wait out in the hallway. The staff in the office was very nice to me and very understanding. I think our doctor prepared all the nurses and ultrasound techs to make sure they knew our situation and not to say anything insensitive. That was a relief.

Today we had a great day. Paprika and I went up and visited with Devon, a mom from our grief group. Her precious identical twin boys, Blake and Ethan, passed away in March of this year after being born prematurely at 23 weeks. She has a beautiful daughter, Riley, who is one week older than Paprika! Paprika and Riley had a great time playing together. Riley is very coordinated and wanted to jump, climb, and scale everything in sight. I have a feeling Riley has many tricks to teach Paprika. Before we left, Paprika had learned how to jump on Riley's bed, and wanted to follow Riley around even though it was time for Riley to take a nap. I hope that Devon and I get to be great friends and that our girls grow up together- how special that they would have another person to lean on who knows what it is like to grow up as the older sister of twins who are in Heaven. It was really wonderful talking to Devon and knowing that she understands my grief and that she doesn't judge me for my thoughts- not even the darkest of them.

Last weekend we took Paprika to the Rose Bowl for open swim. She loves the water and could stay in the pool for hours if we'd let her. We passed her back and forth without her inntertube, and she kicked and kicked, and even went underwater several times. She is a pretty natural swimmer. Since she loves the water so much, we've signed her up for swim lessons again. We start in September, and I think she'll really love the lessons. Natalie Coughlin and Michael Phelps, watch out! ;-)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ryan and Katherine's Wedding

Last weekend, we had the pleasure of attending Ryan and Katherine's wedding and rehearsal dinner in downtown Chicago. It was a lovely wedding- perfectly planned down to the last detail. The rehearsal dinner was at an old Chicago steakhouse called Wildfire, and the wedding was at the Nature Museum. It was the perfect setting for a late summer wedding.

From out on the deck, there was an awesome view of downtown:

Mr. Mustard taking a taxi with some of his best buddies from high school:

Earlier that day, the Air Show was going on in Chicago right over where the ceremony site. Luckily, by the time the ceremony started, the Air Show was finished for the day.

Mr. Mustard and Me at the cocktail portion of the reception:

One of the planes flying over the ceremony site:

The reception was great fun- lots of dancing and wonderful food.

Ryan and Katherine's First Dance:

Mr. Mustard was the best man and gave a really moving speech. He was sweating over it all weekend, and was working on it right up to the last minute. I snapped this photo of him moments before the reception, writing down the final notes of his speech. I think he looks very Presidential in this photo! :-)

Mr. Mustard writing his speech:

Friday, August 22, 2008

Paprika's Birthday Lunch in Chicago!

Mr. Mustard, Auntie Ann, and I treated Paprika to a special birthday lunch at the Grand Lux Cafe on Michigan Avenue in Chicago on her actual birthday, Saturday, August 16th. She had a great time. We had the best seat in the house and Paprika loved looking out the window at the horse drawn carriages, the shoppers, and all the activity going on outside.

We ordered her a special piece of birthday cake first so she could enjoy it before the entrees arrived. It's one of those rare occasions when it's okay to eat dessert first. ;-) The adults had sangria, crabcakes, and sandwiches while Paprika stuck to a cheeseburger and fries- her favorite!

We had a great time laughing, dining, and enjoying Paprika's special day. After the lunch, Mr. Mustard ran off to attend to his best man duties for Ryan and Katherine's wedding, while Ann and I took Paprika shopping at Nordstrom's. All Paprika wanted to do was try on shoes- and so she did! She tried on grown up shoes and baby shoes, and had a blast doing it!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Paprika's Second Birthday Party!

While we were in Indiana, Laura and Kevin threw Paprika a GREAT birthday bash! She turned two in style- it was a really wonderful party. This year, we kept the guests to the Spinks side of the family (plus my dad). I wanted to keep it a small party because I knew that too many people would get overwhelming for Paprika. As it turned out, we invited the perfect number of guests for her to enjoy.

Paprika with her special birthday cake:

Paprika and Me:

The Party in Full Swing:

Paprika had a wonderful time. She loved the excitement of the party, played with the party noisemakers, and had fun stealing the show. Most of all, she had a great time dancing with Robbie and playing with Caroline and Stephanie's old American Girl and Barbie dolls.

Paprika's Great Grandma and Great Grandpa with Barbara and Duane:

Barbara and Duane:

The food was amazing, of course. We had fajitas- chicken and steak (both grilled to perfection), fresh corn salad, and the best gazpacho soup you've ever tried. The big birthday cake was a double chocolate cake (chocolate with chocolate icing) from Taylor's Bakery, the same baker who made Mr. Mustard and my wedding cake, as well as Paprika's first birthday cake. Kevin baked Paprika a special cake of her own, and she loved every bite of it.

Me and my Grandma (Paprika's Great-Grandma!):

This year, Paprika was very excited about the party and really understood what a birthday means. She was so happy opening presents (she got A LOT this year!) and very excited to wear her "party hat!"

Paprika's Grandpa (My Dad) and Great-Grandpa:

We have a lot of wonderful memories at Laura and Kevin's house- it is where we had our wedding reception and where we had Paprika's first birthday party. It's incredible to think last year's party was only twelve short months ago: Paprika's First Birthday Party

Paprika has grown up SO much in the past year. It's really an amazing experience being Paprika's mom, and I feel so lucky to have such an incredible and supportive family to surround her and love her as she grows.

Four Generations of Spinks Women:
(Stephanie, Aunt Laura, Paprika's Great-Grandma Erika, Caroline, Erika, Paprika, Paprika's Grandma Karla)

All the Guys:
(Mr. Mustard, Grandpa Eric, Paprika's Great Grandpa Fred, Kevin, Robbie)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Butterflies

Since Vivian and Annemarie passed away, I have thought of them as my butterflies. Fragile and beautiful and only with us for a short time. Now everywhere I go, I see butterflies. And, of course, it makes me think of Vivian and Annemarie, which is something that I like. I like seeing them in the world around me and being reminded of them, even if it is difficult.

Last Saturday, Paprika's birthday, I was surrounded by butterflies. It was a hard day for me already- it was the "day of viability"- the day on which if the twins had been born, medical statistics predict that they would have survived. All day I was so sad, and yet it was supposed to be a happy day- it was Paprika's birthday and Ryan and Katherine's wedding.

Ann and I spent the morning shopping on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. We stopped by the Baby Gap, and the first thing I saw were two pairs of butterfly pajamas in Paprika's size. The pajamas were each a little bit different, and I imagined that they were something that Annemarie and Vivian would have wanted Paprika to have as gifts on her birthday, so I bought them for her.

Later that day, I was at Katherine and Ryan's wedding reception at the Nature Mueseum in Chicago. Ryan and Katherine had arranged for all of the exhibits at the Nature Museum to be open for their guests to tour during the cocktail hour of the reception. Mr. Mustard was off doing his best man duties, and I was by myself. I journeyed up to the Butterfly Garden, where I was surrounded by gorgeous butterflies. I was the only one in the sanctuary, and I imagined that my girls were with me at that moment. It was so peaceful and perfect, and I could feel their spirits around me. I took these pictures while I was there.

I go through phases of being spiritually enlightened about their passing, and phases of despair. There are some people who want me to move on, who can't understand how devastating this has been. I don't think they understand, and that's okay. A lot of well-meaning people have said things that are insensitive, and yet there have been other shoulders that have provided me so much comfort. But no matter what anyone says, and whether they are cruel or compassionate, it doesn't change the fact that my girls are gone. Nothing I can do will bring them back, and it makes me so incredibly sad.

I don't know how much people want to hear about grief. People ask me how I'm doing, and I think that they want me to say, "I'm okay" and then they can feel okay. Or they want to avoid talking about the girls because they think I'll break in two if their names are brought up. But that's not true. I want to talk about them. I miss them so much. If people don't talk about them, I feel like they don't remember them and don't acknowledge that they existed. Talking about them is how I keep their memories alive.

I ran into my neigbor last night while Paprika, Mr. Mustard and I were at the grocery store. She was there with her toddler, a little boy a few months older than Paprika. She looked at me, confused, and said, "Aren't you pregnant with twins? When are you due?" I didn't know what to say to her, so I said, "They both passed away a month ago. I delivered them at Cedars on July 12th." An uncomfortable exchange ensued, and as she left, she said, "Oh well, you can always try again." I know she meant well, but I just wanted to scream at her that my babies are not replaceable. There is no "trying again" for identical twin daughters. I cannot replace Vivian and Annemarie, and I wouldn't want to. I want them with me. It's not fair that they had to die.

And yet, I hear it so much. You can try again. At least you have Paprika. You are young. It could have been worse...they could have lived but had problems. Who knows, you may get pregnant with twins again. For the record, none of these things are helpful to say. None of them.

While we were on vacation, it was easier. There were lots of distractions. Now I am home and everything reminds me of them of being pregnant with them. In a way it is comforting, and in a way it is incredibly painful. I have to trust that God knows what he is doing, and that there is a purpose and a plan for their lives as much as there is for my own. I have to believe that God is in charge and that although I cannot understand why Vivian and Annemarie were taken from us, that in the end, our suffering will be for a reason. In the meantime, I miss them so incredibly much.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beach Storm

The weather was perfect the whole time we were in Florida- beautiful, blue skies, warm, sunny- except for one perfect night storm. Mr. Mustard and I were sitting out on the balcony (while Paprika was asleep inside our room), and we watched the whole storm. It only drizzled rain, but the lightning was spectacular!

By the next morning, everything went back to being perfect and sunny. Luckily, we caught a few of the lightning bolts with our camera.

Paprika's Due Date

Paprika's official due date was August 19, 2006. I was induced a few days early due to preeclampsia, and so she arrived on August 16th, 2006 instead. In my heart, on August 19th each year, I always remember that today was her official due date. I can't believe how much she has grown up in the last two years.

Paprika In The Grass

This photo was taken over our vacation, on my aunt Jane's lawn in Indiana.

Another Beach Picture

Paprika and me at sunset walking on the beach:

Paprika with Benjamin and Cameron (and Jazz the Dog)

Like little ducks in a row!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back from Vacation!

What an incredible two weeks we've had. We just arrived home from our whirlwind vacation to Florida, Indiana, and Chicago. It was just the trip we needed, and I am so glad we had the chance to get away together.

We left two weeks ago for Panama City Beach, Florida. We spent seven nights at a little 1950's motel right on the beach. Our days revolved around making sandcastles, swimming in the ocean, trips to the swimming pool, flying kites on the beach, and watching the sunset.

We spent our 5 year wedding anniversary combing the beach with Paprika, looking for seashells. It was just about as perfect as it could be, all things considered.

After a week in paradise, we went up to Indianapolis to see my family and celebrate Paprika's second birthday. We had an amazing time staying in my Aunt Jane's condo, lounging by the pool, and visiting with family. We went to a cookout at my mom's house and cruised around the lake on the boat at sunset. My aunt Laura and uncle Kevin threw Paprika an amazing birthday party the night before we left. They went all out and made it such a fun and festive affair. It was so wonderful to celebrate her second birthday with my family and to do it in such great style really took the cake (so to speak)!

After that, we roadtripped up to Lafayette to pick up Ann and then we all went up to Chicago for Ryan and Katherine's wedding. We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel, right in the heart of Michigan Avenue. Ann acted as our nanny for the weekend and I don't think Paprika has ever had it so good! Paprika had the best birthday weekend. We took her for her birthday lunch at the Grand Lux Cafe on Michigan Avenue, and we even ordered dessert first! Ann treated her to an amazing shopping spree and spoiled her while Mr. Mustard and I were at Ryan and Katherine's wedding. She is very lucky to have her Auntie Ann!

After that, we went back down to Lafayette and spent the evening with Ann's family. Paprika LOVED playing with Benjamin and Cameron. They were very, very cute and I think Paprika thought she was at Disneyland at Ann's house, there were so many fun toys there.

There's obviously much more to say and many, many more photos to share. Here are a few from the beach. We took almost 800 pictures over two weeks, so there will be more pictures to come!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ann & Erika

Here are a few pics from when Ann came to visit a few weeks ago. These were taken on July 18th. Ann and I have A LOT of pictures like this from over the past 15 years (we have been best friends since February 1993). One of these days I'm going to have to dig up all of our old photos, scan them, and put them on the blog for comparison. I don't think we've changed much, but of course, my memory could be a little foggy about that! ;-)

Daddy's Home!

Mr. Mustard just finished editing the pilot of Top Gear with the NBC execs. He is now blissfully unemployed for the next few weeks. We're so happy to have him home. When he's working he's gone for very long hours (at a job he loves, so it's worth it)- I'm just so happy to have him here and enjoy our oodles of time together as a family. I know Paprika's loving it, too. Yea!