Friday, May 29, 2009

Carolina Low Country

Eight years have passed since I fell for an 18 year old named Andrew Flegal. Memorial Day weekend marks that historic meeting. This year, our 'anniversary' was spent in the company of Andrew's relatives in the beautiful town of Ridgeland, South Carolina.

At the River House
I'm disappointed that it's taken us 10 months to make the short trip to visit with this part of his family. They were truly a welcoming and remarkably down to earth group. Our connection to this part of his family tree is as follows,

The History:

Andrew's mother, Teresa, lost her Dad when she was a nine month old baby. Her father, Wickman McCormack, was tragically killed in an airplane accident. He was near the age that Andrew is now.If I'm not mistaken, Wickman is currently survived by his three daughters, two sisters and a brother. Andrew's Great Aunt Parnice, Wickman's sister, opened her home to our little family.

That's Aunt Parnice

Ridgeland is an important part of my children's history. As a young widow, Andrew's Grandma Helen, met the missionaries, gained a testimony and joined the Church. It's the place where this special piece of his family still grow and thrive. I'm so proud of my husband's heritage.

The Landscape:

Aunt Parnice lives on a 700 acre plantation. Kiwi, corn and other vegetables thrive here. Three fishing ponds grace the plantation, as well as a myriad of picturesque Oak trees that are adorned with cascading waves of Spanish moss.The Recreational Activities:

While 'out & about' on our self-guided plantation expedition; we discovered a small alligator. His refuge was an eight acre pond. Andrew wasted no time in harassing the poor thing... I say that like I was fond of the reptile.


Do you see the ripple in the water? That's where he made his escape!

I wasn't. His menacing stare and dangerous reputation had me shaking in my boots. Feeling a false sense of security, Andrew did his best to rile up said creature with the assistance of rocks, clods of dirt, sticks... you get the idea. He hurled the objects into the pond in an attempt to make contact. My father in law, who quickly caught wind of my worried/frantic state, laid a hand my shoulder and kindly advised me to take a Valium.

Fishing came next. Eliza was adorable as she tried her best to follow her Daddy's instruction. She insisted that I accompany them to the fishing pond. I'm glad I was there to watch her reaction as she reeled in her first catch. Her expression was a mix of triumph and fear.Eating was the third, and best, recreational activity. What made it so good was who we shared the time with...

The People:

The night of our arrival, we met with over 50 members of Andrew's extended family for dinner. Imagine 30lbs of shrimp, corn on the cob & sausage, every Southern side dish known to man, followed by the best blue berry dump cake/cobbler your mouth has ever tasted. Despite the merriment of the evening, I felt a pang of sadness as I thought Grandma Helen. She loved these people so much and would have delighted to be in their company.
Andrew's parents, sister Liz and her son Truman were there to enjoy the weekend with us. Living away, I've learned to truly cherish the time we have with our family. Time isn't wasted or taken for granted. Eliza cries every time one of them leaves. "I miss my Lizzie" or "I want Bubba to come back!"

The "Why-me" IncidentLadies, this question is for you. Is it odd that I only took one bra with me on our trip? I've learned the hard way that it would be wise to bring a spare. Sitting in Sacrament meeting, I felt an alarming 'pop.' The clasp of my "unmentionable" item broke. I was an extremely distorted, not to mention - distraught - mess as I tried to hurry myself out of the chapel.

Friends of the family waited in the foyer of the building to hug, greet and welcome our family. Praying that the near by Piggly Wiggly might be able to help me out, I did my best to side step these kind strangers. I clutched my diaper bag tightly as I made way to the nearest exit. Lesson learned: don't procrastinate the day of your next (and in my case, much needed) new bra purchase.

Congratulations to me for writing this lengthy recap. My eyes are burning. I'm sorry if yours are too.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Tale of a Wedding

"Has Eliza asked about me yet?" I asked my Mother in law for the 10th time. I was meandering through the Detroit airport, waiting out a four hour layover. Hoping she wouldn't offend me, she replied in a quiet voice,

"She hasn't said a word about you." I concentrated on the portion of relief I felt. Although my ego took a small hit, it mattered more that my daughter wasn't in tears over my absence.

"The tears will come." I consoled myself. "She'll miss me; way more than I'm missing her." I was totally lying to myself and I knew it. I felt a longing for my two travel companions as I observed other parents strolling their children to their departure gates. I felt guilt as I watched the red tram zoom past, knowing that Eliza would get a huge kick out riding it. Eliza loves traveling. She loves airports.

"Henry on the other hand," my mother in law's voice brought me back to the present. "I can tell, he misses you a lot." That made me smile. I pulled out his picture. I passed on the opportunity to talk to Eliza on the phone. Not wanting to spoil her happy state by reminding her that I wasn't home, we concluded our call. I returned to the all important task of "wandering" through the airport; keeping up the facade that there was somewhere important I needed to be. I ordered myself to enjoy the rare childless circumstances.

That's when I found the spa at the airport. Disregarding the Elder Hale's talk I had read on my flight to Detroit (the topic had been on the importance of provident living), I made an immediate appointment for a pedicure.

It was the first, and best, pedicure of my life. I enjoyed chatting with the pedicurist and her co-worker. We talked about our kids, exchanged recipes (seriously) and admired my delightful looking feet. Having assuaged a portion of my sadness/guilt, I boarded my final flight to Salt Lake.

Putting that type of distance between myself and my kids was hard. Spending time at my Mom's house Wednesday night was harder. As I watched my nieces and nephew play in her backyard, I felt guilt knowing that Eliza & Henry were being deprived of that experience on a regular basis. Again, I tried to focus on the positive. I enjoyed visiting with my family and looked forward to my first night (in three years) of sleep, knowing that there wasn't a chance of being woken up by one of my children.

I woke up happy. It was the morning of my best friend's wedding. I had been invited to help her get ready. I don't know how much I helped. As she opened the door in her pajamas, I yelled out a loud and enthusiastic,

"SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" of excitement. Laughing, she put a finger to her lips. A few of her siblings were still sleeping. After a round of yoga, she hopped in the shower. Meanwhile, I searched you tube for all songs wedding day:

"Going to the Chapel of Love," and "I'm Getting Married in the Morning" - courtesy of My Fair Lady, filled our ears as her dear friend Sara masterfully worked on her gorgeous red locks. I greeted her tear filled parents and filmed the moment Devin picked up his future bride to escort her to the temple.

I sweated off my make up as I hustled a massive lot of flowers from the car and into the JSMB building for the wedding luncheon. With only a minute to spare, Sarah, Jacob and I made it to the waiting room of the temple. The ceremony was beautiful. It's hard to say who was beaming more between the pair of them. They left that sacred room as a new family. My decision to come had been validated ten fold. My gratitude for my Mother-in-law who was helping care for my kids sky rocketed.

Pictures followed. I reunited with roommates on temple grounds, enjoyed their cute kids, and indulged in our friend's incredible happiness. The wedding luncheon followed. Family and friends honored them with stories and then, for the best part, Karina and Devin serenaded and expressed their love for one another.

The reception provided me another opportunity to visit with family and friends. The weather was spot on perfect. The yard was beautiful, the food too good. Karina and Devin cut the cake, danced and greeted their guests.

Devin informed the crowd at 8:30 that they were leaving. He literally whisked his bride away before anyone had the chance to formally say "Goodbye." A chase ensued and hugs were demanded.I woke up the following morning, excited to be on my way back to see my kids. Still, the trip to Utah felt unjustly short. My emotions, once again, were conflicted. However, getting out of the car and racing to see my little family was a prized feeling. After the reunion, my attention turned to preparing for our little get away to Ridgeland, SC. Our trip to the plantation, is coming up next.

NOTE TO CARRIE ANNE: I hope I did your request justice. Head over to Audra's blog for more photos, etc... if you're interested.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Gone Fishin'


Our weekend included:

The low country

A 700 acre, family owned, plantation

Three ponds

Harassing an alligator

Andrew's extended family

Meals that make my mouth water in sweet remembrance

Fishing

Perfect weather

The thickest Southern accents my ears have ever heard

Adoration on all fronts for our wee little babes

... more to come.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Our weekend revolved around Stake Conference meetings. Having the opportunity to listen to and shake the hands of Elder Dallin H. Oaks and newly called member of the Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Schwitzer was one of the greatest opportunities that have come our way, spiritually, in a long while. By pure happenstance, our paths crossed Elder Oaks again as we made our way to our seats Sunday morning. I beamed as I watched him greet and acknowledge my young children.

The messages were amazing.

Yesterday I began the task of preparing our home for company. Then... on a whim, I decided I'd trim the hair around Henry's ears. That decision led to trimming the back of his hair as it had grown quite long...

One thing led to another and before I gave myself full permission, I gave Henry a serious haircut.

Despite being pleased with the results and surprised by Andrew's enthusiastic response, I mourned his curls.

The "before"The "oops!" - I mean, the after




I promise, the total effect is better in person. At any rate, his hair (like mine) grows ridiculously fast. His handsome little face is more noticeable now. I could look at this sweet boy all day long.

Currently, we are minutes away from leaving the house to collect Nana Teresa from the airport. She'll be here to play with the children and clean up after Andrew (just kidding) while I'm away for the next two days. Here's the part where I recycle the cliche pun...

Like Henry's hair, I am "Hair Today & Gone Tomorrow." As I prepare to depart for Salt Lake, I'm cycling through feelings of excitement, stress and guilt. I am experiencing bouts of sadness and worry when reminded that I won't be seeing them for two days.

I know they'll be well cared for and spoiled with attention while I'm away. Still, I can't suppress the anxiety of being on the other side of the country. The only time I've spent the night away from Eliza was when I gave birth to her younger brother. Wish me luck.

To those attending the wedding, I'll be seeing you Thursday!!!

And finally... our little 19 pound pile of cuteness is walking. It's been a long time coming. He's been taking steps for a while now, but lacked the confidence. He's so incredibly pleased with himself.

video

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Misc: Mother's day, friends over, a trip to the zoo

There are a few blog worthy tidbits that were neglected in light of Eliza's birthday festivities.

Mothers Day 2009
  • Charming husband wakes up at 6:30 a.m. while wife and children continue their slumber, uninterrupted.
  • After making his way to a nearby field, he picks wild flowers for the Mother of his monkeys, I mean children.
  • He lets his wife sleep in as he shuttles the children downstairs once they awake.
  • Inspiration hits as he packs the Sunday diaper bag without waiting to be prodded; a chore that his wife dreads for no good reason.
  • Successfully, I braided Eliza's hair in a manner that was incredibly pleasing to me and finally...
  • The Church is more true in South Carolina than in Utah. Rather than giving the Mothers a random plant or flower, they present us with a bar of chocolate. How inspired is my Bishop!?
In addition to my husband's thoughtfulness, I have to point out his dedication to our yard. Whether it's turning off water at eleven p.m. or confining Henry into his high chair on our porch so he can plant flowers in the early hours of morning; that man loves to be outside, working his suburbia plot of land.

Friday, Andrew had a day off. We took full advantage of our zoo pass. Anything "free" (at this point, at least) we take advantage. Note: wild flowers are free.
  • Not much to say other than we were reamed by a rain storm on our way to the car. Andrew and I were soaked, but overall, no harm done.
  • I got my baby fix as I accompanied Michelle to her baby's doctor's appointment. He's so so so cute.
  • Attended a ward party, played Red rover and Red Light/Green light with the kids... I had a great time. I feel so incredibly "at home" in this ward. Andrew and I belong here.
Earlier last week, I played host to four children, under the age of three.

  • As my dear friend, Michelle, recovered in the hospital following her extraordinary delivery, I kept on eye on her two older boys.
  • Henry and Colby serve as an example to their older siblings of how friends should play. They're the sweeter pair in the pod system we've got going with the Blaser family. The older two, Eliza & Talon, share a volatile love/hate relationship. With all their passion aside, we had a great time decorating posters for their new brother, keeping occupied with snacks (myself included) and playing with toys.
  • I declare that miracles have not ceased. I managed getting the four of them to take a nap simultaneously (*insert applause her).
In contrast to last weeks events, this one has been highly uneventful. I'm okay with that. We're gearing up for next week which will entail,

  • A visit from Andrew's sister, Liz and her baby Truman (four days older than Henry!). We love our New Yorkers!
  • My first trip away from the kids (ever). I'm heading to Salt Lake to attend my dear friend's wedding. I'll be there a day and a half is all.
  • Upon my return, we're heading to visit Andrew's relatives in Ridgeland, South Carolina with his parents and sister.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Big Birthday Blog Coming Your Way

Anyone else in favor of having their dessert first? Rather than delving into yesterday's events in chronological order, I'm opting to begin with the moment of all moments; the smile that I've been hoping for while planning and preparing for her birthday.This is the expression that I hope to remember when I think back on her third birthday. To see it "in action," I've included the video captured as we sang, "Happy Birthday!"

Mom, pay attention to the "...dear Eliza" portion of the song; that's where the magic happened.

video

That was simply the best part. The highlights that follow are other details worth remembering.

Eliza's morning began with a serious case of bed head. After pancakes and the longest bubble bath of her life, we made a trip to Walmart to pick up her **GASP** store bought cake. I'll happily give up the 'mommy points' I may have earned had I made her cake myself. She wanted a "Thomas cake" and they produced a great one. That's just the way I roll!

It took us five minutes to make our way from the bakery to the check out line due to Eliza's NEED to stare into the cart at her Thomas cake. That afternoon, I'd catch her peering into the fridge just to take another loving look. Did she eat her piece of cake when the time came? Certainly not. Remember the flu monster that visited our house hours after Henry's b-day party? The memory of upchucking her piece of Nemo cake is still too fresh. Still, it was her cake. And she cherished it.
Here she is blowing out her candles, "ALL BY MYSELF!" (in her own words). She informed the world, seriously anyone who'd listen to her, that she had plans on her birthday to blow out her three candles all by herself. The cooler weather changed our plans to host her party at a nearby park. Looking back, I'm so glad we ended up at our home. It worked out well for the adults to comfortably visit inside and for the children to play outside.

There were bubbles, sidewalk chalk and an inoperative child size car to occupy the kids. Oh yes, we also had a pinata. Prior to the demolition of said pinata, Eliza took charge as she declared to her guests that it was time to open her presents. Without my green light or encouragement, she independently decided on her first gift, plopped herself in the center of the room and began tearing through the paper, enjoying her large audience. Her Thomas the Train tent from Talon was the instant hit. Her crayons, finger paints and other art supplies occupied her attention the remainder of the night.As for her dress ups; every five minutes, it's off to find something new to try on. Her barbies, doll house additions and other "girl" accessories have received much more attention than I anticipated.

The moment leading up to her birthday song, Eliza started doing the potty dance. After escorting her to do her "business" she began crying with impatience as I enforced the need to put her underwear and pants back on.

The excitement of having her friends was too much. She had no time for under-roos knowing that her friends were waiting to sing her the birthday song. It was cute and oh so typical of her to freak out over something like that.

The evening was simple, yet exceeded my hopes and expectations. I really dragged my feet in solidifying plans for her party. I was discouraged that we'd be celebrating another birthday away from family. *Cue the violins* Birthdays and holidays are still difficult considering the huge gap between us and our family. For a minute, I thought that if I tried to ignore them, I wouldn't be nearly as sad.

Eliza deserved better. I knew that. I would never ignore her birthday. Rather, I did my best to hype up the excitement. That didn't cure the hesitation I felt to invite people over. I worried they'd have other commitments, that our actitivies (or lack there of) would be boring or think it was strange that I offered. Sheesh, talk about social insecurities Ali! To your delight, dear reader, everyone came. My emotions were torn between total happiness that I was able to provide Eliza was such a positive experience and gratitude for those who came to support us. That didn't cure the silent longing I carried for this special lady (as well as the rest of our family) as I remembered a conversation I had with Eliza earlier that afternoon. Eliza told me;

"Mom?"

"Yes sweetie?"

"Nana's coming to Eliza's birthday party tonight." I was sad I couldn't provide her with that desire. That's a relatively low note to end such a post on, so how about I reiterate that her birthday was a success, she smiled that winner smile and had a blast playing with her friends. I enjoyed the adult interaction and the energy filled atmosphere. Happy Birthday Eliza!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Today I Celebrate Her

Looking back on three years

As a newborn
Six months:

May 11, 2007 - one year old
18 months oldTwo years old
Two and a half years old

Three years old
Eliza,

I can't imagine my world without you. I adore you from head to toe and count it my greatest of blessings that you were sent to our family. You've expanded my heart, unearthed abilities I didn't know I had and challenge me each day to be exercise more patience. Your sense of humor, explosive imagination and sensitive heart are qualities that I admire. You're gregarious, happy and love life. Thank you for your warm affection towards me and our family. Thank you for the past three years.

My greatest ambition is to raise you successfully. I hope you know that you are a beloved Child of God who has been blessed with many gifts. These gifts have and will continue to bless those you come in contact with. I feel that my attempt to use words to describe what you mean to me are feeble. As much as I love "words" - I fall short today. I love you, I love you, I love you.

Now, before you wet your pants with excitement, it's time we leave to pick up your Thomas birthday cake... you know, the one you've been asking to have since you first understood the concept of a birthday!

I'll love you forever,

Mama