Friday, April 30, 2010

We'll be seeing you!!

This morning, I have a case of what I like to call the, Empty Bedroom Blues.

When a beloved family member departs after a most special visit, the void caused by their absence painfully peaks when passing by the recently vacated guest room. As I carry Henry past the spare bedroom this morning, he peers in.

"Nanna?" he asks. His inquisitive face is searching for hers.

"Nanna had to go bye-bye." I explain as a lump swells in my throat. Her absence is only two hours old. Having just woken up, the feelings are fresh. Lifting his tiny hand, he waves to the room.

"Bye, Nanna." And then my heart breaks.

My object today is to transform our aching hearts into grateful hearts. Looking back, we were able to "squeeze" a lot of happy moments into the few days that she was here.

Did someone say, squeeze?

Wednesday morning, Eliza woke up BRIGHT and EARLY. She was excited to see her Nanna.

"I can't keep my eyes closed anymore!" she enthusiastically informed me as she roused me from my bed. The anticipation of their reunion grew. Eliza couldn't see her soon enough! As for Henry, his reaction was more mild but it didn't take him long to warm up to her.

Wednesday morning was spent at the Children Museum.

"Paging Doctor Flegal"
Henry loaded up his grocery cart with four bags of potato chips. These photos were taken before Henry dumped the bucket of water on his head.

Driving home, Henry chattered to himself while his sister slept. After Daddy arrived home, we went to dinner at Fatz Cafe, the place where Eliza kindly spilled her open glass of lemonade on Nanna's lap. After dinner, we congregated in the backyard for the distribution of the pile of birthday gifts Nanna brought the kids. Let the spoiling commence!
Henry is set in the department of make believe. I can't say for certain that his days of tiaras and high-heels are over, but things are looking better now that he has a fire chief and train conductor costume to choose from! In addition to their new play clothes, they were given a new train track set and a fresh supply of trains!

Day two was spent at the outlet mall. We picked up our Dad for lunch and then enjoyed the remainder of his break in the sun as the kid's played at the mall's park. That afternoon, Eliza engaged Nanna in five rounds of Candyland. Without letting her, Eliza won each game!

Having had our fill of eating out, I made dinner last night while Nanna read to the children upstairs. She was rewarded by an affectionate two year old named Henry who let her hold him as long as she wanted. As for me, making dinner without the disruption of children made for a most pleasant experience!!

Composure suddenly left me as Nanna and Andrew shuttled the children to the backyard to play. I watched them from the window as my sudden and unwelcome tears fell. I felt cheated and blessed all at once; cheated because we frequently yearn for this type of interaction and blessed because the love that exists between mother and child/grandparent and grandchild is strong and intact. After finishing the dishes, I joined my family for a happy evening.

The children charmed and alarmed their Nanna as she experienced the honest ups and downs of childhood. At times, the stimulation of so much activity was too much for Henry and Eliza's lack of sleep resulted in a verbal tirade or two. Speaking of Eliza, Nanna will be interested to hear that she slept in until 9:30 this morning. The first thing on Henry's to-do list was the train track.

Regardless of the challenging moments, it was Eliza's matter of fact one-liners and her Southern accented phrases that had her bursting in laughter. It was Henry freely given snuggles that melted her. And it was Eliza's continual conversation and ardent invitations to her upcoming birthday party that had the two of us choking up.

"You can bring your swim suit to my party, if you'd like." She'd suggest. After I asked her what changes she'd detected since we last saw her at Christmas, she quickly mentioned Henry's ability to communicate/talk and Eliza's increased intelligence. A moment later she added with a giggle,

"They both bounce when the walk." And it's true. There is a constant bounce in their step.

Thank you Nanna for your sweet attention, thoughtful gifts and heart warming laugh. Thank you for your listening ear, pearls of wisdom and kind letter. We love you and are counting down the days until we see you in Lake Powell.

We love you very much!

Love, your garden girl and blue eyed boy!

p.s. Next time, bring Bubba!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

nice to see you 2nd trimester

I'm fairly certain that it's inappropriate to smack your spouse in the arm while engaging in evening prayer; which is why I didn't. But MAN, did I want too!

Attending a wedding shower in our honor (six years ago), we were the recipients of thoughtful pieces of advice. One that has stayed with me originated from Andrew's dear friends, the Mortensens. They encouraged us to take the opportunity to compliment our spouse, through words of gratitude each night as we prayed together. And I'll tell you what, it's been a strength to hear and express such sentiment with the Lord.

The piece of advice that has lingered with Andrew came from a respected, well seasoned in the art of husbandry, man who clasped my (then) fiance on the shoulder and explained,

"The three most important words to learn to say to your wife is this: You're probably right." The men in the room heartily laughed in response. What a pearl of wisdom! Right?! Unfortunately, I was sitting there which seemingly spoiled the inside joke that wives aren't meant to be apart of.

Returning to last night, it was Andrew's night to pray aloud. And I quote.

"We're thankful for Ali's pregnancy. Please help her to not complain so much..."

My eyes flash open and find his. Shocking himself, he bursts into a fit of laughter and begins to mouth an apology. I continue to stare with my mouth wide open. Collecting himself, he continues to pray. I continue to stare. And then, without meaning to, I forgive him.

I forgive him because "he's probably right."

We've reached the 2nd trimester milestone and Andrew was the first to congratulate - HIMSELF - on surviving the antics of a nauseated and emotionally crazed wife. It's a joke that we've carried with us through each pregnancy. "I did it!" he'll muse. This if followed up by an immediate,

"I'm just kidding" type of comment. Honestly the last few months have been trying; which we'd both expected. My hope has been to achieve a sense of normalcy for Eliza and Henry and allow everything else (meaning my house) to fall apart and be okay with that.

- If the kids have been fed, bathed and played with, all is well.

- If I haven't handled raw chicken in the past 12 weeks, that's okay.

- If the children and I made it to story time at the library, I'm entitled to feel like a super star.

- If Andrew informs me that for dinner he ate a bowl of ice cream and a package of bacon bits - that's gross, but also okay... considering that was his choice?! (*cue involuntary gag!)

- If we are seated around the dinner table as a family, I feel happy. Even if we're eating pancakes for the second time that week.

- If I permanently have four loads of laundry waiting for me, it's okay. Chances are, some reader has the same amount waiting for them.

I acknowledge that the topic of pregnancy can be painful, boring or redundant to certain readers. If you fall into that category, I apologize and can only hope that you didn't endeavor to read after confronting the title of this post. Believe it or not, I have spent time journaling the old fashioned way on this particular subject as I wish to be free of all barriers.

But today, I'd like to take a quick moment to reflect in honor of our future family member.

... I feel like I'm giving a talk in Church and I'm glancing up at the clock. It feels like I have already gone over five minutes and I have thirty minutes left of notes in front of me. Wow, that is such a spot on analogy of my life.
To my littlest one,

Your parents love you, your sister loves you and your brother, once he is aware, will love you. I'm optimistic that he'll receive you with the warmest of affection and perhaps, a pinch of jealousy. Early in your development, I became sick and your Daddy gave me a blessing. Among the special things he said, he blessed me with an increase of love for you. I feel this bond strongly and frequently catch myself tracing the outline of your developing self when looking at your 12 week photo.

When I was expecting Henry, I spent a lot of energy wondering how I could love someone as much as I loved Eliza (a perk of being the oldest, I suppose). But then it happened. I held him and POW, my heart grew bigger and the rightness of the situation solidified as I watched their relationship form. You are an important piece of the puzzle that is our family.
Your sister frequently asks me how many months until the baby comes out. Eliza insists that I retrieve the calendar and "walk her through" each month. When we hit October, she lights up and sighs a happy sigh.
Imagining that Henry is in tune with a higher source, I like to ask him if you're a baby girl or boy. He consistently says, "girl." Eliza says that she wants a baby brother who wears Thomas (the train) shoes. If Henry's right, maybe we can find a pair in pink? Your brother's insisting that he's ready to be a full time potty trainee. I wasn't planning to sign up for this marathon anytime soon, but he's there and we're heading in that direction. I can't imagine having a few months off before I'm changing your diapers. It should be nice.

At 14 weeks, I still have awful nausea infused moments which is typical of my history. I see the light at the end of the tunnel of exhaustion and am racing to it. After that, my dear one, I wish for time to slow as watching Eliza and Henry grow is a source of sadness and joy all at once. Thank you for coming and enriching my heart with your tininess and purity. Be safe and grow well.

All my love,

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Gardening Tools

When gardening, we recommend the following:

In case of inclement weather, an umbrella might be handy. You know, in case it "rains."

A hose for watering is important. So is paying attention to the task at hand... ahem, Henry!!

Don't forget your rocket jammies (they're a great conversation piece when mingling with the neighbors)!

A shovel - one size fits all. A designated site for power naps is of great importance (take note of Eliza in photo above).

A positive attitude.

When gardening (and in life!), don't expect handouts (unless you're awesome friends are offering to give you their azalea bushes - thanks Blasers!). This morning, we were short a wheelbarrow. My dear spouse, Captain Saves A Lot (of Junk), remedied the situation with ease. Remember his homemade toboggan?

It's the new wheelbarrow! It's a tool for ALL SEASONS!
Gardening is about Flexibility. Innovation. Perspiration & Desperation. Oh yes, and don't forget the hired help!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mr. Twenty-seven

The morning of Andrew's birthday ought to have gone something like this. The upbeat, fresh faced wife cheerfully fixes a most special and thoughtful breakfast; complete with orange juice and formal place settings. The happy couple then engages in morning prayer followed by a meaningful hug and encouraging farewell... but alas, I didn't even set an alarm.

Somewhere between dreamland and consciousness, I was aware of his presence as he quietly made his way around our room. With a sense of extreme, and unnecessary, urgency I wished him a

"Hey! Happy Birthday!!" three times. And Boom. I was asleep once more.

With the kids at my side, we made homemade cookies (in an attempt to stave off my morning's guilt). This was followed by a most special delivery to his workplace. It was the second time we'd seen his office. Once again, I was struck by the intense structure and professionalism of the setting. Not that I've ever stepped foot into a library of an Ive League school, but I imagine the feelings would be comparable.
The plate of cookies was distributed amongst his co-workers. Judging by the speed of their disappearance, you'd think he worked with an office full of pregnant me's. My culinary work was appreciated and his birthday was acknowledged; which for me, was the point. It was then time to picnic. Just outside his office, we dined on a wooden picnic table that was generously adorned with an array of bird feces.

It was all fun and games...
(This is Henry's dragon run! Rarrrrrrr!!!)

... until Eliza reluctantly adopted a nasty sliver. It's a good thing Dr. Daddy was on hand.

If Mom had been flying solo, we may have ended up with a lovely co-pay. Y'all remember how well she did with the popcorn kernel incident.

"You should come eat lunch with me everyday!" said the birthday King. And I smiled.

The remainder of my afternoon was spent fretting over our dinner plans.

Had his Mom been here, he would have requested Chicken Curry. Knowing this, I e-mailed the beloved cook for her instructions/recipe.

Teresa Faye Flegal cooks with magic. Her daughter in law, who has really tried to step up her game, uses precision. I'm all about measurements and she is all about "eye balling" or using "a pinch of this." Phrases of that nature, when associated with cooking, make my arm pits sweat as I am full of self doubt. With her help, however, dinner was a surprising success. Our mouth's salivated as the distinct curry smell circulated through our kitchen and the compliments continued in response to the following day's leftovers.
Curry is so pretty! As for his gift, we splurged and purchased our first t.v. It isn't extravagant in size, but the quality kind of blows us away. The one we had before was a kind donation from loving parents that will still be used. Driving to pick up said birthday gift, this is how our conversation went.

"Happy Birthday, Ali."

"Happy Birthday, Andrew."

"Happy Mother's Day, Ali."

"Happy Father's Day, Andrew."

And then we felt justified. Kind of.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Boy on Page 198

While my spouse diligently worked his "fix-it magic" on a stubborn ink cartridge last night, I found myself looking for a distraction to ease my impatient nature. Straightening the upstairs "play/guest/office" room wasn't a temptation and returning to my bedroom unaccompanied wasn't an appealing idea either.

Perusing that particular bookshelf wasn't much of a thrill considering the majority of its treasures are works intended to delight a younger audience. As for the adult volumes, I knew without looking that they were retired college textbooks and our high school yearbooks. Before I could stop myself, my hand found one, Olympus Odyssey, from my Sophomore year.

I began by reading the signatures and wishes for a happy summer. The signings that were legible left me with mixed feelings. I felt that familiar twinge of surprise when an unexpected memory resurfaced. I laughed at the random nicknames friends had given me. I was tickled to find that many of the entries left were written by remaining friends - some of whom, I keep tabs on through the world of blogging. I was disgusted by the inappropriate entries that had been littered with swear words. And then, there was a hollow sadness at the friendships (of the male variety) that I knew would break in the year that would follow.

I couldn't help but wonder what I wrote on the pages of their yearbooks. You can bet your boots that I wasn't the type to simply sign my name... You're shocked, I know. What type of memory would my written wish evoke in their mind?

And then I found her. The fifteen year old version of myself: Alison Mays (as I was then known). I remember finding the featured "perfect green shirt" at American Eagle; hoping that tone of green would compliment the color of my eyes. It was casual yet fitted in the right places. I felt certain that I wouldn't leave the impression of over thinking the outfit when in reality I had. I paired it with a simple silver necklace, one fashion trend that had been easy for me to follow. The photo was taken the year before I discovered the magic of a flat iron and YEARS before I'd have the courage to pick up a pair of tweezers. At least my legs were shaved.

Another batch of emotion welled up in my throat.

I looked so awesome with one chin!! That was one of the first vain thoughts to enter my head. Life as a size 2 was easy when you had the metabolism of a tiger! Oh how we take things for granted! Seriously though, at fifteen I was a pretty little thing. I remember spending most days feeling thankful to be average. In defense of my (then) low self esteem, I did go to school with the prettiest and most talented girls on the planet. Anyone from Olympus can vouch for me on that claim.

As I closely examined my youthful, thin as can be, face I wanted to give her (um, me) a shot of well deserved confidence. Blame it on my developing maternal core but I wanted to hug her! Knowing now what her junior year would bring, I would easily throw my scriptures at her hard, apologize later for the bruise, and yell:

"STAY CLOSE TO THESE!" They will save your life, or at least, bring you back to life. And they did. I just wish she'd realized it sooner. Love everyone and when you can't, pray until you do.

*** And then, a noise coming from the printer pulls me from my reverie***

Andrew fixed the computer! My lesson plan for preschool was saved. Oh Andrew, my wonderful husband. Wait a second! (*Insert a dramatic noise in representation of an epiphany being had*)


He was there! During those most tender of years, my future husband was walking through the same halls, eating in the same cafeteria and parking his manliest of trucks in the same parking lot. And we were oblivious. Skipping back 19 pages from my image, I found his on page 198. There he was, smiling his 16 year old smile. Back then, that smile would have been totally unfamiliar to me and now, 11 years later, it's the expression I desire to cause each day.

I began to examine his features. Smiling, I could see pieces of Eliza and Henry. I flipped back to my photo to see if I could see them there too. Hey! Doesn't he still have that shirt hanging in his closet? Seriously, it would not surprise me. Andrew was never an ugly duckling. However, while some individuals (ahem, me) physically peak in high school - Andrew didn't achieve his full on adult man swanhood until his twenties... And wow, I sure find him swoon worthy. Fatherhood looks good on him!

With my needed work printing, Andrew helped me up from my spot on the floor and accompanied me to our bedroom. As we walked I felt an odd sense of comfort. During that painful and awkward transition that would later be labeled as, "my junior year," my future everything was passing by me everyday enduring his own trials of refinement and struggle.He would steal my heart a week before he graduated high school. Oh the irony! We shared lunch together as students, belonging to the same high school, twice! The following year, I'd be meeting him at his house during his break from college classes for lunch. As a college student, he'd accompany me to my Senior prom in a sickly state (I had mono). Some mornings, I'd find a daisy and a note left on the windshield of my car when leaving my house for school. He had woken up early in order to leave me my first morning's smile.

Who could have predicted that someday, I'd be finding notes of that nature on a shared kitchen table in South Carolina while pouring our children a bowl of cereal.

Tomorrow, my husband and best friend turns 27. It's been 10 years since we shared the following conversation.

"Dave wants me to hold your hand." He awkwardly announced. His intensely nervous expression made my stomach soar. Amazed at the effect I had on him, I playfully responded;

"Well, that's great but do YOU want to hold my hand?" He nodded his head. And the rest is history; well, until he informed me that he needed to wipe the sweat off his hands onto his jeans.

Oh man. Our early history is littered with gems of that nature. Here's another favorite,

"Hey, would you mind coming over to my house sometime?" Andrew asked in the days that followed the camping trip where we'd first spoken to one another. We were in the business of falling in love at this point.

"Sure! How come?" I asked. There was something unusual in the tone of his request.

"Well, it's just that... my sister doesn't believe me that a girl actually likes me."

Happy Birthday Andrew! I love you. For the sake of your spare time, I'll conclude my thoughts. Thank you for the last 9 years. I hope your 28th year (he is turning 27) is your happiest yet.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Backyardigans, Flegal style

Despite a total lack of patio furniture, we eat dinner outside regularly. Friends, this is how we spend our evenings.

Popsicle season is in full force.

Last night, Andrew retreated to the hammock to catch up on some conference talks after helping me put the kids in bed.
Henry went from sporting the "Edward Cullen" hairstyle, to the "Ed Cullen."
Speaking of haircuts...

The other day, Eliza unintentionally tattled on herself when trying to cut her own hair after bonking her head on the table she was hiding under. Naughty, naughty, naughty! Before I could deliver the sentence for her disobedient behavior, she announced that she was in need of a nap ASAP; so off she went to the couch! A few minutes later, she was snoozing her way out of a punishment. Clever girl.
This is Andrew's garden. It's a master piece in the making. Look hard... can you spot our neighbor's stellar scarecrow seated in the garden beyond our yard? Here's a closer peak.
Seeing a scarecrow in action (oxymoron?) makes me happy. I have strange urges to befriend her. I'm certain she's female. I've been thinking of suggesting names to my neighbors on her behalf. Am I overstepping my bounds (of sanity)?
One more... because I think she's great. Can you see her broom? Seriously, what dude sports a broom. Maybe I'm gender profiling, but she's totally a lady.

He descends from handcart pioneers. So does she.It's official. This pregnancy can be deemed as the one with awkward facial expressions and flabby arms (hence the reason they've been cropped). And while I'm being completely forth coming, that belly right there is definitely more muffin top than baby, but it's definitely taking shape.
That's Eliza in the hammock. This photo pretty much surmises all of the outdoor toys we own; with the exception of our bubble and sidewalk chalk supply. We may not have a sandbox or swing set, but they're is always something for the kids to do.

So please! Would you come over and play with us?!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hoping She'll Come

There's a chance we may be receiving a most special visit at the end of the month! (!!!!!!!) To increase the odds, I thought I'd remind her of some of the reasons she loves the South.

1. Everyday is tank top weather.
2. The trees are exploding with color. The dog wood trees are beginning to bloom!

3. This little boy is your son incarnate.
4. Do you remember the rocking chairs? They are still fabulous.

5. Southern BBQ.

No photo required.

6. We love you so much! As you would say, 'we're crossing our fingers...and toes!'

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

** Insert Witty Subject Title Here **

I'm a fan of Survivor; so is my Mom.

This season, Heroes vs. Villains, is quickly climbing its way to the top of my 'Favorite Seasons Ever' list (for lack of a better title). However, it does pain me to watch the torch of a worthy and entertaining castaway be prematurely snuffed out for complete and total LAME SAUCE reasons. There's a snarky little skinny minnie named Courtney who surprisingly is still in the game. My Mom, I think, is seriously concerned for her well being because she is super, duper (times ten!) thin.

Courtney's most redeeming quality (in my opinion) is the delivery of her clever one-liners. My personal favorite:

"You suck at life."

Although she was directing her comment at an opposing tribe member, I subconsciously accepted the stinging assault as my own. Weeks later, her comment resurfaced on my own lips.

"I suck at life." I told my husband after falling on my overly cushioned rear end into the deep sand pit he'd been digging with the kids. My wrist! Oh the pain in my wrist! He looked at me in disbelief. The fall wasn't the endearing Bella Swan, "oops! I slipped!" (*insert hair toss) type. Simply put, it was uncomfortable to watch.

As for my adopted life theme, Andrew thought it was hilarious.

"It's a funny concept; to suck at life." he chuckled.

So then, yesterday happened. As it did for all of us. At 4:00 p.m. I realize that the skirt that I've worn to the library and out to lunch with friends was INSIDE OUT. The tag was completely exposed. Awesome.

Grocery shopping last night, I locked my keys in my trunk. Luckily, so I thought, there was cop busting a shop lifter 10 steps away. After he secured the criminal, I approached him with my cart of toilet paper and otter pops (didn't fit into the trunk). He gave me the number of dispatch, promising me if I gave them his name, they'd send help.

"Do you have a phone?" he asked.

"Yes. In my purse, in the locked car." (sniff, sniff)

Three minutes later, I'm crying at the Dollar General asking the poor sale's associate if I can borrow his phone. He offers me his cell. What a saint. I call dispatch.

"Is there a child locked in the car?"

"Well no.... but I'm 'with child'..."

"Sorry, can't help you." I call Andrew. He's outside playing the kids and doesn't hear the phone. I have one other number memorized. I call Michelle. I'm informed she's occupied with her children which leaves her husband Jimmy, who suffers an allergic reaction to oversensitivity, as my last hope. Tearfully, I explain why I suck at life. Despite being exposed to a tearful (and embarrassed) female, he and Talon pick me up. There token of thanks is in the cupboard waiting to be made. I promise guys, it's going to be awesome.

Do you ever feel like you suck at life? By the way, I'm in the market for a new, more positive, life theme considering the fact that Eliza is my little parrot and Henry is hers. Do you have any suggestions?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Myrtle Beach, Easter 2010

Realizing we had to preserve Andrew's vacation time for an upcoming trip to Utah, we canceled our plans to travel to D.C. where we'd intended to celebrate the Easter holiday with the Green families. In an attempt to ease the disappointment, I convinced Andrew to take us to the beach for a quick getaway.

What we want to remember:
  • Eliza was intimidated by the Ocean last year. This year, she was more confident when venturing into the water.
  • Henry full on nose dived into an oncoming wave within the first 10 minutes. With that unpleasant memory on hand, he kept a safe distance from the waves.
  • Digging holes, building castles, destroying said castles and splashing in puddles.
  • Henry ringing the alarm in the elevator twice... so funny.
  • Eliza and Henry pretending to be dragons. Henry literally eating the 'dragon cake' I'd made out of sand.
  • I had grand plans to purchase new swimming suits for the kid's Easter baskets... I failed on that front which left Henry wearing Eliza's old swimming suit top inside out for added protection from the sun. Last winter, he wore her old purple snow pants. Sorry, pal! I'll be hitting the outlet mall soon on his behalf.
  • Andrew enduring the cold water slide for Eliza's benefit.
  • Eliza asking if she could pee in the Ocean. I took her to the bathroom.
  • General conference in a hotel room.
  • Dinner at Olive Garden.
  • Andrew caught a shark.
  • An Easter morning sunrise.
  • Feeling very much in love with my husband on the drive home. Seriously, not the most romantic of settings, but BAM!! There he was, driving his tired family home from the beach and wow, did I feel like the luckiest lady in all the South.
Our one regret is not being able to watch each session of conference live. I caught the first session during Henry's nap and made it home in time to watch the last. Lucky for me, I have a boat load of laundry and other household demands that will be accomplished while catching up on the other two. I need conference. Due to church callings, it's been years since I've attended Relief Society and Sunday school. I understand that I'm responsible for 'filling my own well' through personal study. Some weeks are better than others. Still, the outpouring that comes from conference is abundant and special. This analogy is a sad reflection of my lack of discipline; but I feel as though I'm a thirsty plant, desperate to soak in each feeling that accompanies the messages and music.

Regarding Easter, the stunning beauty of the South has served as a great teaching tool when discussing with Eliza the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. As we point out to one another the blooming Dogwoods and other blossoming trees, Andrew and I have done our best to tie in that symbolism (in three year old terms) to the gift and miracle of His resurrection; a blessing available to all because of His sacrifice.

"Jesus Christ is alive, Mom?"

"Yes, He is."

"Where does He live, Mom?"

"With our Father in Heaven." Letting out a sigh of disappointment she says,

"I wish He lived in South Carolina." And then her lips turn out into a pout. Cutest thing ever.