Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Headache That Doesn't Matter

(*Insert large dose of sarcasm here) I'm such a "good" Mom.

At this moment, my daughter is upstairs hunting down her Nanna Teresa in an attempt to weasel out a batch of pancakes. Meanwhile, Andrew and I are lazily engulfed in a cozy, blue love sac. Our respective laptops were open as we mutually disregarded her request for breakfast.

..... ...... ...... ...... .....

Eliza just reappeared a moment ago with a large bag of pancake mix. I've been informed that her Nanna has kindly obliged to make her pancakes. This is my definition of vacation.

..... ...... ...... ...... ......

Turns out that Nanna Teresa has a church calling to fulfill. I made the pancakes. Still, I don't deserve forgiveness because I was incredibly willing (at that moment) to sit back and do nothing.

Returning to the previously scheduled download of thoughts:

The majority of my Christmas shopping was completed last April when I was given a tip regarding ridiculously low priced airfare ('low' for our area, anyway). With a recent deposit of a tax return, I didn't hesitate to set the dates of our travel that far in advance.

Our Christmas would be spent 1900 miles away from our home. It's easy to be overcome by the stress of the situation. The pressure of keeping us healthy, saving money for the additional bags of checked luggage, finding a substitute primary chorister, delivering cookies to friends and awkwardly asking friends to take us to the airport (etc.) were at the forefront of my mind in the days that led up to our departure.

Upon arrival, the stress continues as you strive to maintain proper decorum as you play the role of gracious visitor/guest (please disregard the aforementioned pancake incident before passing judgment on how well we are currently succeeding in this endeavor). You do your best to assimilate your young children to new beds, adjust to a different schedule, squeeze in visits with friends and ask your parents to drive you various places which is completely reminiscent of when you were an awkward 14 year old in need of a ride to your friend's house.

Yesterday, Eliza had her first real meltdown. 15 minutes into her tantrum, I asked her if she remembered the reason behind her tears.

"I WANT TO GO HOME!!!" She yelled.

"To South Carolina?"

"Yes. I miss my purple bed!"

Her days have been so full of awesomeness that she needed time to mellow. Last night provided that opportunity as we spent family night talking about New Year goals with her grandparents and Aunt Katie & Uncle Brent.

The question of the day: Is it worth it?

Next year, if we're fortunate to come across such blessed airfare, will we come?

Yes, Yes, YES! A thousand times 'Yes'.

Dear future self,

When consumed with the above mentioned hassle and work, please remember that it's always worth it. From the second we rode the escalator down to the baggage claim and you saw Eliza run into the arms of your Mom and Dad, it was worth it.

Love,
Current Self

Today's post featured the opposition associated with traveling over the holidays. Coming up (in the days to come) next will be a gag inducing, gush fest of how wonderful it is to be surrounded by family.

In all seriousness, we feel fortunate to report that most serious of our ailments came in the form of a nasty goose egg Henry acquired after making contact with a wall. I hope that when it comes time to pack our bags and board that plane, I'll have nothing else of ill report.

Before I fall way behind on pictures (blogging is best when I'm blogging in the present); here's a look at our Christmas Eve & Day festivities.

Christmas Eve:
Sledding with family and friends.
Dinner at the Mays ranch.
Putting out cookies for Santa.
New Jammies. New ornament.
Singing around the tree.
Eliza playing with Nana's nativity set as we sing, The Nativity Song.
Playing 'Santa' for a second time once the kiddos are in bed.

Christmas Morning
Santa Came
Breakfast at Flegals
Presents around the tree
Tears as parents read the book(s) I spent 40+ hours creating
The children being smothered by Aunts & Uncles


Christmas Evening
Family diner at my parents,
"bonding" with Matt & Mike
more gifts exchanged
New jammies for me
having the luxury to interact with the ones I love most.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Snow Princess And Her Toboggan

Friday the 18th, South Carolina received a surprising, yet beautiful, batch of snow.


Naturally, Andrew was sent home from work two hours early due to the "inclement weather." I'll keep the mocking to a minimum since it meant our Christmas vacation began two hours earlier than expected; but I'm not exaggerating when I say that pretty much our entire city/area is shut down whenever the word "snow" appears in our local forecast.Eliza was elated to see the snow!! Our 'Carolina Christmas' suddenly felt complete. Our plans to welcome Santa a few days early to accommodate travel plans seemed natural. Between packing suitcases, wrapping gifts and celebrating our "Christmas morning" with our family of four; Eliza's hope and expectation to frolic in the snow was sadly pushed aside. The morning of the 19th was bright. Despite the merriment of the day, Eliza was horrified to discover large patches of grass peaking through our snow covered lawn.

"The snow!" she hollered. "Where is it going, Mom?" Her delight at its arrival had been replaced with a blurred sense of confusion and disappointment. I tried to ease my guilty conscience with promises of a snow-filled, winter wonderland that was eagerly awaiting her in Utah. After a smooth day of travel, we arrived.

And let's just say, she wasted no time with introductions. Ignoring our plea to wait for her snow pants, she happily dropped into the snow to create her first (of many) snow angels. As I watched from the kitchen window, she played alone in my Mom's backyard. The next day, her Dad joined her out back.

Loading Eliza and a sled into a red flyer wagon, Andrew took her to a near by park where the pair of them indulged in a bit of sledding or as Eliza prefers to call it, tobogganing. She is a huge fan of Calliou, who happens to be Canadian - and that's what he calls it.

Christmas Eve, they met up with friends and family at an even steeper slope. This was the report I received:

"Before I had time to put my boots on, Eliza was already down the hill."

Quickly claiming the purple sled, she helped herself onto it. Her excitement easily propelled her down the hill. Have yourself a looksie at one of her runs. video

I couldn't believe how fast she flew! If your volume is up, you may be able to hear her peals of laughter. Next time, she's wearing a helmet.

More to come on the awesome nature of our trip.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Discovered

Awesome Sugar Cookie Recipe Found here


My absolute favorite recipe blog (of.all.time.) is My Kitchen Cafe. My love for cooking deepened after successfully trying Melanie's recipes. It stuns me every time when what I've made turns out. The instructions are written so well and the commentary of the Chef in Charge always provides the needed motivation (with her wit and humor) to try something new.

Anyway, the White Velvet Sugar cookies are divine. I need to get them frosted and out to our neighbors before I give myself another chin.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Team Santa

After reading this articulate and eloquently written entry of a friend, my fingers soon began to ache for the chance to release my written response. My desire to remain neutral and agreeable has been superseded at present. Whether this entry will be posted, only time will tell. Wow, I've certainly created a fair amount of suspense for myself.

As a mother, I've certainly struggled and over-analyzed issues before, but in regards to Santa Claus, the idea of sharing and passing on this tradition with my own family was easy. Of course, we would!!

My intent isn't to change or persuade anyone against their choice to eliminate Santa from their own family tradition. The decision to focus solely on the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is nothing short of admirable. What I intend to outline is the reason behind our introduction of the Jolliest of Elves into our household. I used the word 'reason' rather than justification, because in my world the lesson and holy remembrance of the sacred event of our Savior's birth can co-exist with the childhood magic of Santa Claus.

The Magic, The Magic, The Magic

The movie, Miracle on 34th Street (1947 version), is a personal favorite. My years of believing in Santa Claus had long since passed before watching it for the first time. I ached for the young Susan Walker,who'd grown up strictly on facts while simultaneously respecting the Mother's choice to be completely forth right with her child. Still, I couldn't help feel sad if that meant that this fictitious character's childhood had been void of make belief.

The imagination of a child is simply beautiful. Watching Eliza melt into a world of her own is a delight. In a matter of minutes she'll evolve from a princess in heels into a high powered, steam locomotive. I am not inferring that the elimination of Santa from holiday tradition means a child's life will be void of make-believe, but for me, Santa falls into the category of pretend. It's a place of joy and magic. I play along with Eliza when she's in princess mode, and although her eyes "see" more than mine, I do my best to share ideas along our journey of make believe.

Eliza loves Mickey Mouse. Someday, I hope, we'll make the journey to Disney World. In my mind, I see her shaking his over sized white glove and smiling with him in a photo. We'll walk away from that moment with a memory. As she grows older, she'll either ask me directly or realize on her own accord that she shook the hand of some person pretending to be Mickey. I do not anticipate bitterness upon this revelation. I expect that memory will be fondly remembered. I compare this to the future reveal of the identity of Santa Claus. Am I to be proved wrong? Please share your stories of traumatized children who still foster feelings of betrayal toward their Santa playing parents; I'd be interested to hear.

Santa bonded me to my brothers

... and not many things did! I recently read the following quote:

"It's not what's under the tree that matters, it's the people sitting around it"

(or something like that. I wish I knew who said it to give credit, but alas)

My brothers and I endured the torture of waiting out Christmas Eve together. One year, my younger brother Matt and I counted down the time - minute by minute - on my dry erase board. We'd cruelly rouse the other from sleep, if we caught one another drifting off. Climbing the stairs together ten minutes before 7:00 a.m., we'd begin whispering aloud to my parents...PLEADING with them to let us in early! We watched the joy of our siblings faces as we took turns unwrapping each gift.

At night we'd gather around our tree, stare at the lights and sing. My family isn't particularly musical, but there we'd sit, sputtering out our requests; some of which were about Santa. Other favorites included, "The First Noel" and "Silent Night." My Dad looked like a child as he enthusiastically sang, "Up On the House Top" and "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" and that brought me joy. The Spirit I felt from the hymns was present throughout.

Making Christ the Center of Christmas

I'm in full agreement that the true meaning of Christmas ought not be overshadowed by commercialism. Eliza and Henry's testimony (I hope) are growing, piece by piece. Each time we pray as a family and participate in a family night (each Monday) experience, we teach our children of Christ. We sing the truth of being a child of a loving Heavenly Father each night as we tuck her in. Christmas time reinforces these lessons.

Home evening last Monday:

After singing, "The Nativity Song," Andrew took Eliza to buy a gift for her brother. Henry and I did the same for his sister. We were at the dollar store and the gifts were simple. Coming home, we wrapped up the gifts and placed them under the tree. Hopefully, the proper point will be made as we continue this tradition in years to come.

It's a trip to temple square where a quiet offering of testimony is made. You whisper that because of that dear Babe in Bethlehem, your family can be together forever.

It's a manger, bare of straw, sitting under one's tree. A mother hands each child a pile of straw, instructs them that in order to make a bed for baby Jesus, they have to serve members of their family. Upon completion of said act of service, they leave a piece of straw for the recipient to collect and then add to the humble manger bed.

Thanks Mom, for that memory. For me, It's about incorporating traditions such as these into the cultural tradition of Santa Claus. I experienced a beautiful blend of spiritual truth and childhood magic. True I was sad when my days of believing came to an end, but now as an adult, that unique magic has returned to the eyes of my own children.

Two weeks ago, the subject of Christmas made it's debut at Eliza's preschool. The first lesson was an explanation to the children about the birth of Christ. The mom in charge did a great job in simply conveying her message. I was assigned the topic of Santa. I had fun reading different Santa themed stories, but emphasized the following:

"Do you kids want to know the secret behind Santa's great happiness?" I went onto explain, with the use of three year old terminology, that Santa has learned that it is better to give than to receive.

My second lesson plan introduced Hanukkah. Andrew made a homemade dreidel and Menorah. I read a book on the subject, the children played a few rounds of dreidel. Together we sang, "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, I made it out of clay..." and trust me when I say that we were singing it in our heads the rest of the day.

Later that same day, I changed into my German Dirndl before we began our discussion of "Christmas Around the World."

(Michelle kindly agreed to dress up as Sweden's St. Lucia)

Handing each child a flag, we highlighted various countries. St. Nicholas derives from Holland's tradition of Sinterklaas. The children removed their shoes, placed them on the porch and waited as one of my helper's snuck around with a bag of goodies and placed them in their shoes.

To celebrate Mexico, we discussed Posada and how they use a pinata to add to their celebration. We talked about America, and of our own family traditions. Santa Claus is apart of American culture. I conclude with a quote from my Andrew, who patiently sat by my side as I typed out this post.

"The birth of Jesus Christ is at the center of our family's traditions. Maybe it's selfish, but we get great joy out of playing Santa and watching the kids light up on Christmas morning."

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Merry Moment, Indeed

Moments after sitting on the lap of Santa Claus, Eliza exclaimed:"Mama, Santa was so nice to me!"

Truth be told, it wasn't until after her second visit to his lap that she made the magical declaration.
As evident by the following footage, she wasn't entirely satisfied with their first meeting as she found herself overshadowed by a most unhappy younger brother.

It's fair to say that Henry wasn't a fan of Santa Claus or the attention of the audience. However, he is quite fond of his sister Eliza. I was lucky to capture one of the things that pleases me most in life.
Due to my daughter's magical countenance, my personal anticipation for Christmas has never been higher. And I suppose I ought to add that Andrew's eight year old self emerges each time the subject of gifts arises... and that, in my opinion, is likewise fueling the holiday merrymaking.

You should see how hard he's been trying to get Eliza to identify the gift she and I picked up for him the other day. My little soldier had done her duty to keep those lips of hers sealed. Still, I have found it prudent to feed her false information in case he is able to weasel out my hiding place, etc.
Tis the season. It's passing by too quickly. I want to bottle these children up (Andrew included) and keep them like this forever.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Burn Baby Burn

I'd never made gingerbread houses (a.k.a graham cracker houses) before; so I called the local authority. After discussing the different methods used to assemble the home, I opted for the 'melted sugar' plan. The recipe I had for frosting would wait for the next day, when we'd "glue" the pieces of candy to the house.

"Be careful!" Michelle had warned over the phone. "The melted sugar is really hot. Don't burn yourself." Her concern was justified. We spend enough time for her to know that I'm somewhat uncoordinated. Still, she had faith in my ability and that gave me the confidence needed. After completing five of the six graham cracker homes, I let down my guard.

The shock from the burn has blocked out the "how it happened" portion of the story. Bottom line, I burned two fingers on my left hand. The pain was fierce. The melted sugar wrapped itself around the tips of my fingers. Slightly burning my other hand in the process, I ripped away the blackened sugar, which was now tinged with my flesh.Are you throwing up yet? Your frown would be bigger if you saw it in real life ;)

And then, being the girl that I am, I cried.
  • I cried from the actual pain of the burn.
  • I cried because Andrew was away at a meeting.
  • I cried because I was upsetting Henry.
  • I cried from the stress of all that needed to be done before I hosted preschool the following morning.
  • I cried over an issue that was totally non-related to the situation.
  • I cried for world peace. Okay, not really, but I did cry for Nie Nie as the "80% of her body" statistic flashed through my mind. My over abundance of female hormones didn't help the situation either.
Eliza came to console me.

"Mom, it's okay." The tone of her voice was pure and beautiful. "Other Mommies cry when they burn their fingers too." She reassured me. After a few phone calls, it was clear that the best (and only) method for relief was keeping my fingers in a cup of water. My brilliant husband added the ice cubes when he arrived home.

After he put the kids to bed, he offered me the genuine empathy I was in need of. He finished the 6th graham cracker house, cleaned the kitchen and magically cleaned that pot of melted sugar. Meanwhile, I vacuumed, updated all my preschool boards, and prepared other activities - with the use of one hand.

Wo. Was. Me.

I realize that I over exaggerate, so it's okay to roll your eyes. At least, in the eyes of my daughter, my quiet tears were justified. My mood lifted incredibly once Andrew returned home. We were able to squeeze in a video chat with Grandma Flegal and his parents in the midst of our work. It was a welcome break and nice visit; until I accidentally spilled my cup of ice water into my lap.

Going to bed is a peaceful experience if I know my kitchen is clean. Is that weird? It's totally true. Despite an early wake-up call and having to keep my fingers situated inside of an ice pack... I fell asleep quickly.

The 2nd degree burn left me with a massive blister, but the pain is gone. I slept through the night without an interruption. My Mom will appreciate these details. Trust me. They are relevant.

As for preschool, the kids had a great time! The letter of the day was "S"... the topic was Santa... the kids drew names for the Christmas party, munched on Rudolph sandwiches and had a blast decorating their graham cracker houses. You can do a lot one handed. That was something I learned. And next time I feel overwhelmed as I prepare to host preschool, I'll remember that two hands are better than one and that complaining is entirely useless.

I have to say that I'm overwhelmed that we'll be leaving so soon for Utah. The season is flying by way too quickly. Off subject, I've come to love holiday cards. Opening the mailbox is something I look forward to doing each day. Last year, when we were still in the thick of home sicknesses and adjustment, it was tangible proof of friends who loved and missed us. Thank you, thank you to those who took the time to send us their holiday cheer. It means a lot.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Washington D.C. Thanksgiving 2009... and then some.

Despite my best efforts. There is nothing concise about this post.

A different feeling permeated our home the evening before the big road trip. Rather than rushing through exhaustion, I allowed myself to sink into bed early, knowing that in the morning we would be exempt from the pressure associated with a specific departure time of an airport. The stress of being mindful and courteous to “other airline passengers” was likewise absent.

Well, with the exception of a few of Eliza’s friends and Flat Stanley ("Hi Callie!").

Our goal was to be out the door by eight a.m.. That realistic hope shifted into 11:00 a.m. when Andrew discovered that the 'model home' in our neighborhood was uprooting three mature Crepe Myrtle trees as the home is in the process of being converted into an actual place of residence. After garnering permission from the head chief that he was free to take the trees, he made plans.

I watched from my front room window as Andrew shuttled two of the trees into our backyard. Placing the uprooted tree onto a large piece of wood, he tied the trunk of the tree with rope and secured it to hitch of our van. Slowly and carefully, he maneuvered our van through our lawn until reaching the trees temporary destination.
The best part of the story is the fact that a construction worker offered to transport them for him for twenty bucks. When he kindly refused the help, the incredulous expression of said worker gave way to peels of laughter as he saw Andrew’s plan in action. He then proceeded to video Andrew and his sleigh full of crepe myrtle with his cell phone. Joining in the laughter, Andrew asked:

"Is this going to wind up on you tube?"

"Not yet." Was the mischievous reply.

In retrospect, the acquisition of the trees and shrubs was worth leaving a few hours behind schedule. It afforded me the opportunity to really clean before we left and I have to say that I love returning to a clean and organized home following a vacation. In a matter of a minutes, all of that chaos from the car will be transferred into the house.

Vacation... oh yes. That's what I was intending to blog about today.

We went to Washington D.C. after accepting an invitation from the adorable Marci Green.Marci is a dear friend of my sister-in-law Jen. In fact, Marci and her husband Chad introduced and set-up my brother Mark to his future wife, Jen! Not to mention, I lived next door to Chad Green for the first 10 years of my life. Chad has a brother named Mark Green. He married Andrew's sister, Liz.That's right. I grew up next door to my future brother in law. Small world, right? And that is how we're all connected... not that you care... but in my world, details always matter. It was clear that as the bonding began between Eliza and Chad & Marci's kids, future connections may very well be in our future. ;)

Here's are my top ten DC moments.

10. The bed in which we slept. It was a piece of heaven. Thanks Marci.

9. Regarding the above mentioned love triangle, Marci proclaimed,

"I foresee a Jane Austen type romance unfolding" We discussed the way Marci's boys (Jacob and Jackson) battled for Eliza's attention. For me, the most heartwarming moment occurred when I discovered Jacob standing outside. It was cold and his feet were bare. I pleaded for him to come inside for shoes.

"... Not until I find a flower to pick for Eliza!!" He exclaimed. There were no flowers to be found. Finally, he came inside and, with the help of his sister, made one for her out of paper. Adorable.

Eliza with Jacob

Eliza with Jackson

8. Thanksgiving. Cooking in the kitchen with Liz & Marci, eating the feast and making our gratitude turkey chart with Tehya.7. Staying up and playing games with the adults; even though I lost bad. I liked the "secret combinations" that were going on.

6. Black Friday shopping with Marci and Liz. A manager at Kohls assisted in ushering shoppers to open registers. Upon meeting the three of us (all of whom are on the bubbly side), he semi jokingly accused us of being drunk. No one is that happy so early in the day. Marci is. She is one of the happiest people I've met.

5. New Moon date night. Chad and Marci arranged for twin sisters to come and watch our kids (seven in all) so we could go out and see the movie together. That evening marked my third time seeing the film. In case you're wondering whether or not I liked it, please re-read previous sentence. Thank you.

4. The historical sites!!! My kids loved the DC metro and did well as we made our way from the Washington monument, to the World War II memorial, across the lawn to the Lincoln memorial and finally to the sobering and touching Vietnam memorial.The highlight of seeing the sites came when Eliza and I entered the Lincoln memorial. Doing my best to explain the importance of the man who was seated so grandly above us, Eliza looked up into his face and whispered,

"Can I sit on his lap, Mom?" Smiling, I told her that she couldn't. Instead, she blew him a kiss and said,

"Thank you, Abraham." It gave me goose pimples. She reminded me how children can be so sensitive and receptive when it comes to explaining what's important and special.

3. Ah! I almost forgot. Andrew was 'chewed out' by a DC metro employee when he interrupted her instruction with a question before hearing her out completely.

"I did not wake up at 5:00 this morning to have you interrupt me... of course, I was going to explain that to you. Do you think that I want you pestering one of my co-workers at the other station?"

"I am a station manager. Can security guards give you CPR? No. But I am trained. I CAN!"

It was hilarious. The express of shock and disbelief (and dare I say, fear?) on his face was something I had never before seen. Marci, Liz and I exchanged looks of,

"Is this lady serious?!" She was. And wasn't. She wanted to help, but it was on her terms. She was laughing by the time we finally made it through her station. We went out of our way to "Goodbye" to her on our return visit.

2. The U of U/BYU football game. I was sitting next to the most die-hard fan on the East Coast, my brother in law, Mark Green. Despite the loss of his beloved team, we had a good time cheering them on.

1. The company. Whether it was a trip to the park: (allow me to point out henry in the left corner of the top photo... he was completely amused and entertained as he dragged his hand along the posts of that fence. He walked back and forth, giggling.)a visit to a nearby farm, shopping, sitting around the kitchen table, car pooling together, etc. This trip was complete with laughter, meaningful conversation and service. The night before we left, Tehya (seven) asked if Eliza could spend the night in her room with her since it was our last night. The next morning, I heard Jacob say,

"Goodbye, Eliza! I will miss you so much."

"Don't worry" she soothed. "I'll be back tomorrow morning." She's still recovering from the disappointment. This will sound incredibly cheesy and cliche but as we tucked ourselves into bed on the night of Thanksgiving, I was consumed with a feeling of thankfulness. The sting of being away from family on a holiday remains, but the Lord has blessed us with amazing friends and given me the chance to know, love and learn from Andrew, Eliza and Henry.

Grateful for you I am truly blessed.Our attempt at a photo for this year's Christmas card. I was tempted to use this one.