Monday, November 30, 2009

Home Again

We're home after spending a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends in Washington D.C.

Henry's face says it all.

We miss you Chad + Marci, Liz + Mark (and families!). We had the best time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

he had the nerve to suggest we make stew

Eliza's been pleading for a pet lately. I attribute her desire to our latest library DVD rental, The Wonder Pets. Dumping out our blue bucket of blocks, she'll cut out circles of construction paper and then proceed to fasten four of them with a smidge of tape (for wheels) to the bucket. After securing her purple cape, she sits in her self-designed fly boat and sails away on a rescue mission, singing:

"Wonder Pets, Wonder Pets! We're on our way
To help a friend and save the day
We're not too big and we're not too tough
But when we work together, we've got the right stuff!"

You can imagine the surge of joy she felt on Saturday when her Daddy introduced her to him...


(or her - we're not really sure).

"A possum!! Mama, come down and look! A pet!"

"A what?" I thought. I don't know why I felt surprised when I realized Eliza's announcement was truthful; especially when you consider past events.

I suppose, the rest is history.



Well, except for the part that we didn't let her keep it. She wasn't allowed near the cage for that matter. After outlining our plan to reunite the disease infested creature with its loving family, she seemed okay about their separation.


Its nasty array of teeth didn't necessarily give her a batch of warm fuzzies either.

What's that? You're wondering who engineered this chance meeting? One guess, kids.Combine his brain, a spare trap and a stale peanut butter sandwich and Wahlah = Possum.

After witnessing the opossum's escape, I've concluded they are not the brightest of creatures. I'm not sure what Noah was thinking when he invited a pair of them on his ark. If it had been up to me, I would not have extended the invite.


All of the fear, anxiety and over-reacting... that's all genuine. So you can imagine how foolish we felt as we watched him lazily saunter away.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Today I may have set a record.

** A record in length, folks! Consider yourself warned (Andrew!). You may need a nap**

The cheer I felt for Monday was foreign. I woke up apart of a new club. Suddenly, I belonged with a small percentage of people who begin their week breathing a sigh of relief.

"T.G.I.M." I mused aloud.

The day would be routine and in comparison to the adventure filled weekend we'd enjoyed, it would be quiet. Henry and I had the morning off from preschool which provided me the chance to decompress.

The itinerary that we never actually wrote down, would have looked something like this:

  • Wednesday night -- Andrew at Young Men activity
  • Thursday night -- Andrew on missionary splits
  • Friday night -- Andrew on a scout camp out
  • Saturday morning -- Ali at primary program practice
  • Saturday night -- Andrew to chaperon the Stake Dance (45 minutes away)
  • Sunday night -- The youth at our home for a fireside
It's a good thing the Church is true. That was my first thought. My next thought was to repent for my inner murmurings. After all, I need the blessings that I know comes through genuine service.

Even if you wanted, in a ward where everyone's time and talents are desperately needed, you can't pity yourself when you realize that the sisters you regularly associate with experience weeks similar to the one I just outlined. So, I mustered up the best of attitudes and did my best to play "Andrew" on the nights where I was tucking the kids into bed myself.

Then the blessings came; the most obvious being the cancellation of Andrew's missionary split appointment. We're in the process of refinancing and that time discussing, signing and scanning documents was greatly needed.

He'd been prepared to spend his evening with the Elders. Shamelessly, my fingers are crossed that having had our hearts in the right place, we can still cash in on that blessing... because we all know that the Lord works on a coupon type/give and receive/blessing system ;) just kidding.

Friday night was spent alone with Edward Cullen (I watched Twilight) as my dearly beloved spent the night in a cold tent. Smelling like campfire, he entered the chapel the following morning and whisked my children away in time for me to lead the music for our practice. For the next two hours, the children and I rehearsed and polished the music and their speaking parts for their program.

That afternoon, Andrew took a break to video chat with his family. To Eliza's delight, it was snowing in Utah. My adorable and thoughtful sister in law Katie made a snowman in the backyard while Eliza looked on through the kitchen window. Video chat is the best.thing.ever.

Andrew's chaperoning assignment transformed into a date as a friend graciously agreed to watch my kids. My attendance meant her husband could be home with his family that night. When bedtime rolled around, she ushered my children home and put them to bed without incident. Thank you Loranna. Due to the distance of the dance, we didn't arrive home until after eleven.

Oh wait, that's odd. What's another picture doing amidst all these words. We HAD A DATE! And it deserved documentation. So what if our date was shared with four, endearingly obnoxious, eager to dance with "hot Mormon girls" young men? It still counts. Not to mention, we had access to free nachos. I had a hard time remembering that I was there as a "leader" as I found myself dancing to 'Party in the U.S.A'. and doing the electric slide (see.. the Church really IS the same everywhere!) with the youth.

As much fun as it was having the young men throw wads of paper in my hair on the drive home; the icing on the cake came the following morning as I led the music during the primary program. As those sweet children sang, "My Eternal Family" I was blessed with the most tender of feelings. My headache, nerves and anxiety dissipated. I was filled- head to toe- with a warmth and love so pure. The words they sang were true and important. All of the singing time preparation, late night coloring, taping and creating for various activities, enthusiastic pep talks, etc. paid off at that moment. I felt their testimonies all at once. It was so powerful.

I was touched to learn that an investigator of the Church came for the first time on Sunday. He's a young man who found out about the LDS faith online. Without an invitation from the Elders (whom he had never met) or a member friend, he came. His first impression, first lesson, first testimony came from those children. Can you imagine anything better? Having introduced himself to Andrew following the three hour block of meetings, he informed him that he'd be back next week.

Last week, a soon-to-be missionary sang during Sacrament meeting. His non-member neighbors came to offer their support. A six year old girl noticed them during the meeting. Taking an invitation to the unfamiliar, yet kind, couple she encouraged them to come back the following week to watch her sing in the primary program. To this sweet girl's great happiness, they accepted her invitation. They came and with the congregation, they sang for the first time the words to the song, "I Am a Child of God." I heard from a friend who'd sat next to them, that they were especially moved by the two families who sang, "I love to see the temple."

Sunday afternoon we squeezed in a nap before tidying up the house for our evening visitors. My time was primarily spent putting the children to bed, but there was a special spirit that lingered after they'd all left.

(In the concluding paragraph, I will do my best to sound incredibly cliche and trite. Sorry if this gags you out somewhat, but this lesson is for my posterity, not yours. *insert kind smile*)

Yes, we are asked to give of our time; but what we receive in return is priceless. Despite my over-use of words, I will always fall short in my attempt to describe the gift of the Spirit; how it feels and how desperately I need it in my daily work as a Mother.

Someone is thinking, "what do you kids do while you blog?" Usually, they sleep. However, Eliza took the initiative to plan the children's morning activity when she emptied and combined each of her toy containers. I saw an opportunity. At least the dress-ups and containers of blocks had been spared (see arrow). I must have thought too loudly, as her attention was immediately turned to the remaining containers. It had been so nice to wake up to a clean living room. Oh well, half the fun is creating the mess anyway. Today she simply accelerated the process. The miracle was Henry's ability to quickly unearth his favorite toy truck.

My list of to-do's now looks something like this:
  • Sort toys
  • Shower (check!)
  • Find a "Team Edward" shirt at the mall
Wish me luck.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Extraction of the Popcorn Kernel

My afternoon unexpectedly revolved around this single popcorn kernel.

It began with my dramatic three year old. After curling herself into a ball, Eliza begins issuing a pitiful moan.

"My tummy. It hurts!" She whines as she clutches at her side. Where did this come from? Despite the random nature of her complaint, it's impossible not to take her seriously when there are tears forming in her eyes. Suddenly, I feel alarmed.

"Does the skin hurt or the inside?

"Both"

"What does the pain feel like?" I ask as I gently press in the side that appears to be the source of her grief.

"DON'T TOUCH IT MOM!" Now she's really crying. Again I ask her to describe her discomfort.

"It feels like terrible, Mom!" I need time to calm down so I can properly access her condition. Food would hopefully serve as an adequate distraction. The idea of popcorn soon (pun intended) popped into my brain. I like to think of popcorn as being a lazy mom's snack; plus, she loves it.

After turning on Dora, I encourage her to relax and snack on some popcorn. Hopefully (fingers crossed), she'll forget about the mystery pain. Rather, the pain escalates. Movement seems to increase its intensity. She soon gives up on the popcorn (*ENTER HENRY*) as she settles herself onto the floor. With her bum in the air, she does her best to lay still... all the while she's muttering, "Owie, Owie..."
I call the doctor's office. Awesome. Their lunch break has begun. I have an hour to wait. Do I take her to insta-care? Is this an emergency? I call my friend, Michelle. She offers to watch Henry for me. I call Andrew. He tells me it's not an emergency... that we should wait it out. His lack of concern (aka his LEVEL HEADEDNESS) frustrates me. She needs IMMEDIATE medical attention, I inform him. Just as I begin pleading my case, I turn to see Henry stuffing a second popcorn kernel up his nostril.

"HENRY!! DON'T DO IT!!" True to form, Henry turns to offer me a WIDE smile. Luckily, I fish one out. He beats me to the punch on the second. His small finger launches upward, pushing the kernel up and out of my reach.

A mixture of dread, disbelief and annoyance wash over me. Oh no he didn't. Meanwhile, Eliza informs me that she feels GREAT - 100%. That's the good news. I call Michelle back.

"Eliza's fine. Henry now needs the doctor." She offers to take Eliza for me (huge thank you) and Henry and I head to the Doctor's office without making an appointment as they are still O.T.L.

(O.T.L. - you know, that's receptionist talk for 'out to lunch' - that's right, I'm educated.)

Anyway, we apologize for the lack of appointment but ask to be seen anyway. Nap time is SCREAMING Henry's name as we approach the waiting room. I can tell that he is incredibly annoyed by the kernel. Rather than fighting it, he just melts into his Mama as we wait.
If I look kind of trashy like and tired, it's because I was (and still am, for that matter!). It's a rite of passage, this doctor's visit. Whether it had been play-doh, a tic tac, a pea or a popcorn kernel, this is a joy EVERY parent should not miss out on.

After Nurse Kathy warmly greets us, we learn that Henry has gained two pounds (23lbs). And with that, the "questioning" begins. I sure felt like a bad parent for having allowed my child access to a bowl of popcorn. SHAME ON ME! I couldn't help but shiver when I looked over and saw this:
Upon arrival, Dr. Martial Arts/Pediatrician/Lawyer informs Nurse Kathy that none of the instruments are acceptable. He asks where his Alligator jaws (or something like that) are

"In the autoclave" - I have no clue what that means. Suddenly a flash of batman and his cave cross my mind. I'm going crazy.

"Why hasn't our staff ordered more?" He demands! "These," pointing to the tools, "will all traumatize the child!" He says. Between her quiet apologies, I realize that my hands are cupping Henry's ears in a pointless attempt to spare him the drama of the conversation. Nurse Kathy encourages him to try the small, white tool (used to scoop out earwax). And you know what?

It worked! Well done, Nurse Kathy. Henry wasn't happy during the procedure (understandably so). However, as we prepared to leave the parking lot, I couldn't help but notice the look of relief on his sweet face.
It's your turn now. What have you had lodged in your own nose or ears? Or your child's, siblings, etc? Henry and I are officially part of the club.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

while at the fall festival

This past weekend, we attended our ward's annual fall festival. I entered the chili cook-off using a recipe that I had not yet tried. Although the award went to someone else, I felt deep satisfaction after sampling a bowl myself and seeing the amount (or lack thereof) that remained in my pot when it was time to go home.

Not to mention, I'm sure my husband (Andrew, this is a SOLID hint!) will leave a comment regarding the awesome nature that was my chili. And I quote,

"Ali. This is like REAL food."

"As opposed to all of the FAKE food I've been serving you these last five years?!" I almost said that, but I didn't. Instead I smiled and said thanks. Andrew's compliments occasionally feel awkward, but it's okay. His heart is in the right place.

Andrew was given the assignment of parking attendant. It was his job to keep various shrubs, gardens and trees protected. Lucky for the kids and myself, we were able to steal him away for the hayride.

That was followed by a visit to the face painting station. I don't know why it surprised me that Eliza was completely still and fully cooperative during the process, but it did.
Round one, Eliza chose a lovely, purple butterfly.
Lucky for her, it hasn't completely come off of her face yet. It was a beautiful addition to her Sunday attire two days ago. Round two, she opted for a pink flower; which didn't have the staying power of that butterfly. Eliza and Henry took their first ride on a horse named Easter Lilly. Andrew escorted Henry on his first ride (despite not being pictured here).

The kids were able to pet and feed carrots to a pony (they saw llamas, goats, two ponies, etc.)

Next came dinner which included chili, cornbread and roasted hot dogs (for the kids). Did I mention there was pie too? My personal pie of choice had one remaining slice. Rather than try to add one more thing to my plate that was playing host to my children's food as well, I played the role of glutton as I grabbed the entire tin (... I swear, there was one slice left).

Did I mind the stares? Well, kind of. But I got over it as soon as I had that first bite. My favorite part of the evening was getting cozy around the fire with my kids, drinking hot chocolate and visiting with the great people who make up our ward.

"What are you doing Eliza?" I asked as she stared intently into the fire. In a voice that was filled with awe and wonder she replied,

"I'm watching the marshmallows change color!"
As we sat, I felt peace. Our life choices, that in the past have seemed outlandish and random, led us to that campfire. There are still days when I wake up and wonder why I'm in South Carolina. However, thanks to these growing relationships (and the awesome Carolinian weather), the confusion has shifted to gratitude. For the time being, I feel content.

Just so you know, my mom (and family out west) still owns a major piece of my heart. My desire to be near my little Marie hasn't feigned. I just know that I can't live my life wishing and hoping for what isn't. Rather, I need to be grateful for what is.

Speaking of contentment, that was the total opposite of what I felt last week when I heard a subtle, yet distinct, "Sniiiiip, Snip" of the scissors. Eliza had been coloring/creating at the kitchen table as I stood nearby at the kitchen sink.

Our history is full of conversations that revolve around THINGS WE DO NOT CUT (mom's bracelet, carpet, furniture upholstery, finger nails, clothing, etc). These talks were followed by the affirming statement that the only thing Eliza is allowed to cut is her preschool paper with the use of child size scissors.

I turned my head just as the second lock of hair fell to the table. My emotion fluctuated between horror, sadness and curiosity. Lucky for Eliza, I was feeling sad as I approached the table. I quietly asked,

"Why would you do that?" She burst into tears, said she was sorry and led herself to the time out couch on her own accord where she proceeded to sob. As I sifted through her strands of hair, I realized that we'd been lucky. The firs two days, I couldn't find the spot where the hair had come from. That lasted until I styled her hair this way. It could have been much worse.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Quick Laugh

An insurance agent called my house last night. It was 7:15 p.m. and I'd been in the process of settling my kids into bed for the night. Encouraging Eliza to remain in her room with Henry, I rushed downstairs to locate the phone.

I was too busy "rushing" for the phone to care that my sweet little shadow had disregarded my request. As my out of shape self breathed a quick,

"Hello?" I turned to find an impatient three year old, bobbing up and down; her outstretched hand eagerly reached for the phone. As I politely informed the caller that he was calling at a less than ideal moment (aren't insurance agents supposed to make these type of calls during the day?!), I did my best to brush off Eliza's incessant pleading.

"Mom, can I say 'Hi', pleeeeeeease?" And before she could ask for the 5th time, I had ended my conversation.

"But Mom!" she sighed, "I really want to talk to Nana again!"

"That wasn't Nana." She was shocked by this revelation considering I talk to my Mom 3-4 times a day (not an exaggeration).

"It wasn't Nana?" She repeated, still bewildered. As we made our way back upstairs, she asked,

"Who was it, Mom?"

"His name was Don." That was true.

"Oh." (pause) "Is he like a Don-o-saur?"

Her question was a gift. I laughed so hard; which confused her entirely.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

its too early to be blogging about Christmas. forgive me please.

Hypothetically speaking:

Let's say you have plans to travel 1900 + miles to spend the holidays with your family. According to your itinerary, you will be arriving days before Christmas. In regards to your children's gifts, what instructions would you leave for Santa?

Would you ask him to help you out by staging "Christmas morning" a week early in the comfort and convenience of your own home? OR would you beg and plead with your dear spouse to pay the extra cash in order to take a (large) extra piece of luggage with all of their treasures inside?

It's kind of tricky situation.

Paying 15.00 for each piece of luggage brings out the Grinch in all of us. So the less we take, the better. One thought would be to send online gifts to the holiday destination to help save the cost one way...

Last year, I made the mistake of sending Eliza's doll house to a Salt Lake Walmart (site to store). It turned out to be a good thing because it gave her something to open that was totally hers on Christmas morning. It was at that moment, when I watched my parents witness her excitement, that I realized that they ought to take part in that joy every year. Christmas deserves to be celebrated on Christmas.

Eliza and Henry are clueless; which makes it okay to do things earlier. But if I was to be completely selfish, we'd haul it out to Utah, wrap it all there and watch the magic on December 25th with our family nearby.

The "true meaning" of the holiday season is something I intend to teach throughout the season. But as a Mom who likes to plan ahead, you can't blame me for looking forward to the excitement that is watching a three year old waking up to a handful of presents. That's why I'm bringing this up. I'm curious to what you'd do if this situation was yours. Is there a solution I'm neglecting to consider?

Recapping my options:

A: Packing (and paying for) a monster sized duffel bag full of their gifts. Andrew isn't a fan of this idea. He's all practical and stuff.
B: Celebrating Christmas morning the day before we leave on our trip in our home. Ali isn't a fan of this idea.

... Remember, this isn't a popularity contest between Andrew and myself. I'm already aware that he'd win if that was the case :)

C: Save all of our pennies and buy/build a swing set for the backyard; give the children the happy news Christmas morning. Our bank account is not a fan of this idea.

D: Do both. Open a few gifts before you leave. Take the small ones to Utah with you.

Opinions matter today.

Thanking you in advance for your input,
Ali

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween 2009

I ought to begin with an introduction of this year's cast of characters. Our family proudly presents:

Tinkerbell,

a pumpkin,a cowboy and his witch of a wife. Andrew's joke, "I told her to go as herself this year" didn't get old either. I know. You're kind of disappointed that we retired our Adam and Eve costumes. Please know we are more than willing to loan them out to family and friends if you're ever feeling brave (and kind of foolish).

Looking back at this past month, we've certainly had our fill of Halloween activities. It began with a night of "Boo at the Zoo." It was the first time I saw Henry in his outfit. After I saw him, I knew that I'd picked the right one. Get it, "picked"?All the kids were adorable, the atmosphere was spot-on for young children and the crowd was minimal (we lucked out on the timing).

Last week our friends invited us over for "dinner in a pumpkin" Michelle went all out (no surprise there) with her planning. Dinner was so(ooooo) delicious, the mood was festive and the kids were in heaven with their coloring table, access to treats and the Halloween Charlie Brown movie. I was able to sneak in a round of karaoke and enjoyed the adult conversation. Michelle and co. had plans to leave the next day to Utah which left us with the (HAPPY) duty of taking home the leftovers. Andrew was raving about the food all week. The following day, I hosted our preschools Halloween party.
We maintain a separate/private blog for Eliza's preschool activities. Unsure of how the other Mama's feel about me posting their kiddo's pics, I've opted to leave them off this blog until I have their consent. The party was a success. My personal favorite was watching the kids wrap each other up in toilet paper (mummies).

On Halloween day, Andrew the cowboy, went on a man errand. I opted to walk the mall with the kids while we waited. I was kind of surprised when Andrew announced that it was his first time to visit the mall. I surprised myself further when I realized that it was only my second.

Following lunch, we went and fed the ducks and rode the train at a nearby park. I neglected to take our camera. However, here are some photos of the same park when the kids and I went earlier this month for a preschool field trip.Halloween night, we met up with some friends for an evening of trick or treating. The weather was 70 degrees when our night out began. Halfway through our route, the rain started. Henry and I were well protected, Eliza was too giddy to notice and Andrew's not much of complainer to begin with. Although we were somewhat damp, the weather didn't (here we go again, are you ready?) dampen our spirits!

Last year, Halloween was somewhat of a lonely affair. We didn't have anyone to show off our kids too, so we took them to visit the cute girl who sold us our home. She has since become a dear friend of our family, but I kind of want to cry for our little family when I think back on that memory.

It's amazing how things can change. Sure, it's still awfully sad not being able to visit Grandparents on Halloween night. Seeing pictures of my Mom's Halloween party wasn't easy, either. However, as I try to stay optimistic, I'd like to give us credit for making this month a memorable one. More than anything, I feel lucky to have the friends we have.
Thanks for including us and thanks for loving my kids.