Monday, August 30, 2010

Per her request

After learning that Henry and I had passed away her preschool time at the train park, Eliza's spirit of independence crumbled. Trying to collect herself she tearfully exclaimed,

"If you and Henry go to fun places without me, DON'T TELL ME ABOUT IT!"

In case you're wondering, we went (back) to the train park Saturday morning. Since then, she's been pretty specific on what activities are acceptable for Henry and I to participate in while she's at school.

According to Eliza, the following activities are permitted:

Henry and Mom can:
  • take boring (her word not mine) trips to the store
  • draw her pretty pictures
  • visit the doctor's office
  • cook her yummy things
Henry and I must refrain from:
  • taking trips to the park; especially ones that have trains
  • going to "fun places"
  • watching long shows that are fun
Upon her return, the "party" can resume.

It's a good thing Henry knows how to keep a secret.

I conclude with a video for the Grandparents. Since falling in love with, "Alvin and the Chicken-munks" (as Henry calls them), Henry has adopted a chipmunk inspired laugh. It cracks us up to say the least. I was able to catch a snippet of it last night (around 29 sec mark).



The effect of his merry laughter is best when it's accompanied by awkward subject matter. For instance, walking past the lingerie department at Target he points out the bra section and blurts,

"Those are for bo-bos!!" This statement was followed by a long series of chipmunk giggles.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Toothbrushes and tootsie rolls: Eliza begins school

After discovering Eliza and Henry's toothbrushes on their pillows this morning, I assumed that they had been there all night. My suspicion proved true as Eliza informed me that her toothbrush, whom she recently named Eleanor, had been the one to make the request.

Well, then. Nice to meet you, Eleanor. What can you do for my child's morning breath?

As visions of toothpaste and dental floss danced through their heads last night, mine was completely vacant. Despite putting myself to bed at 9:30, sleep taunted me from a distance. As I lay awake, I (falsely) told myself that resting your eyes is nearly as beneficial as an actual REM cycle.

Apparently I'm still affected by the hype that surrounds the year's first, "school night." Not to mention, I'm 31 weeks pregnant. I've hit the "nocturnally challenged" phase of pregnancy due to an increase of physical discomfort. The only remedy is to give birth and considering the change associated with newborns, I would say that the odds of having a solid night of sleep won't be in my favor for awhile.

Despite the fatigue, I am happy.


The reports are in! She had a GREAT first day of preschool!

Our drive to school was filled with her excited chatter. Her enthusiasm poured right back into the van after picking her up. The preschool door-step scene was seamless. Eager to begin her day, we parted ways after she sped through a series of hugs and kisses. As she made herself comfortable next to a box of crayons, Henry and I quietly exited her classroom.

My eyes began to swim with tears. Not knowing what to do with myself, I scooped up my remaining child and smothered him with a boat load of affection.

"I love you, Henry."

"No, I love YOU, Mama." We argued in that manner all the way back to the car.

"I was so brave." I told a friend as we waited in line to pick up our kids. There's a newly opened bag of tootsie rolls on the counter as a reward for said bravery. Walking back into the house, Eliza asked,

"Mom, did you and Henry have a nice time without me?"

"We did." Not wanting to her to feel left out, I kept my explanation low-key. "Henry and I spent time at the library and then ran a quick errand. We had a good time, but we missed you."

"Oh." Was her simple reply. "I didn't miss you at all."

Splendid.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pow-pow!

Spying your child nestled in the arms of their loving Father evokes feelings of warmth, comfort and happiness. Add an air soft pellet gun into the equation and the above mentioned feelings evolve "right quick" (as a true Southerner would say) into a smattering of uneasiness, fear and caution.Not to mention, when that daddy is named Andrew Flegal, you have to throw in one final word:

Acceptance.

My kids will grow up safely interacting with fire arms. Holy bananas I can't believe I just typed that last sentence. The only gun I'm comfortable with are neon and are designed to squirt water. Because I know that he wouldn't risk their safety for a second, I quickly reminded myself to factor in the word trust.

My trepidation turned to delight as I listened to Henry giggle after they pulled the trigger. Henry would quietly breathe the words,

"so cool" under his breath as he readied himself for the next round. As for Eliza, she was full of interest in what the boys were doing up until the time she realized that Bob Ross was on. Forget Saturday morning cartoons. Ever since Uncle Mike introduced her to Bob Ross, he's been a weekend highlight.

"PRESS PAUSE MOM! I don't want to miss Bob Ross!" As she finally gave into her Dad's invitation, she darted outside blurting out her instructions for him to hurry so she wouldn't miss the end of her show. I never anticipated my four year old to have a Bob Ross phase.

Off topic, here's a great shot of a butterfly captured by Andrew.
Andrew purchased two butterfly bushes shortly after we moved in. They have grown a great deal since that time and are definitely living up to their name. We've enjoyed observing the butterflies each day from the playroom window and/or the kitchen table. Walking past the bushes disrupts their patterns. When startled, most will vacate the bush. As they swirl around you, there is a Disney Princess type of feel to the moment. Andrew's words not mine ;) And then, as you reach the trash can (the reason you're walking past to begin with) the smell that greets you upon arrival humbles you right out of that day dream.

We love the butterfly bushes. Henry especially. Lately, that window is his first stop each morning.

Here's a recent look at one of our crape myrtles. And a closer look at their blossoms - provided by Andrew's photographic talents.
The South is beautiful.

I appreciate Andrew's efforts to beautify the yard. And while his attention is focused that direction, I do my best to beautify the dinner table.
(psssst: Do me a favor and imagine a charming cloth, matching dishes
and a coordinating place mat. Thanks!)

I'd like to give another shout out to my favorite cooking blog. I was excited to discover this recipe as I'm always hunting down new ways to use up our garden vegetables (to be honest, the veggies I used yesterday came from the store as our garden is recovering from a heat wave).

The only negative about soup is that it is hot. And it's August. And I'm 31 weeks pregnant. Good thing I religiously put on deodorant because by the time dinner was served I was a hot mess. Fanning oneself between bites is definitely permitted at our table.

This weekend also included a girls night with some lady friends and a one on one date with my husband. Having "cheesed" it up enough with the anniversary post, I'll simply say that it was wonderful to share that time with him.

Friday, August 20, 2010

the buzz

This is the part where I type the classic cliche, "Time is flying by,"and then post a picture of my children "soaring" on a bee to serve as an aid to the commonly communicated adage.

Proceeding with that metaphor, this little bumble bee will soon be venturing away from the hive for a few hours each week. Preschool begins next Wednesday.

And you know what? I think she's ready. Her excitement over meeting her teachers, interacting with friends and each additional "new preschool" detail, has added a welcomed layer of comfort to my apprehensive, sensitive by nature, hormonally influenced heart.

I suppose I could replace the clutter of that last sentence with the words "female heart" to have simplified the point. Then again, maybe not.

We're planning to scale back the number of days that she will attend from five to four. Henry isn't about to forfeit the entire week in support of her educational needs.

I suppose we can spare her three hours a morning. To be honest, I'm looking forward to having some one on one time with my favorite little stinker before he's promoted to the highly coveted status of "middle child." As Eliza falls in love with life's new routine, (which she will) I anticipate that my anxiety will settle. Come October, I won't be able to stimulate her brain and provide her with the social interaction her little personality demands in the way I feel she deserves. That's the truth of it, I think. We will make adjustments if needed, but today I feel optimistic.

She's as friendly as they come; a true bright light and I love her. I'll see to it that we get our daily fill of each other. That's a promise, Miss Eliza.

While out on a morning errand, Eliza offered a suggestion on what Henry and I ought to do to keep ourselves occupied next Wednesday.

"Henry could make me a "Welcome Home from Preschool" sign, Mom! He could decorate it!" I chuckled as I mentally decided that we'd do exactly that.

"Or," she continued, "Henry could draw me a lovely picture for me to love."

Buckle up little Fleglets, another season of change will soon begin.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Remembering that day


For the past six years
It has been my privilege
To call you husband

Happy Anniversary
Mein schatz

Friday, August 13, 2010

A bedtime story

Post nap, Henry urges me toward him.

"I want you to hold me." After the week Henry and I have endured together;

The void of patience, pregnant parent VS. the traditionally terrible two year old;

his words are received like Aloe Vera to a sunburn or if you're better with food analogies (raising my hand), it was comfort food to a hungered soul. With a tone of surprise, I reply:

"You want me to hold you?" As I pull him into my arms he repeats himself.

"I want you to hold me (pause) because I need you."

Soak that sweet sentiment in. I sure did. After all, this week's been littered with a boat load of cringe worthy moments. To illustrate my point, let's revisit a Wednesday morning outing to Walmart. I was expecting an uneventful and quick trip.

Henry's behavior quickly reminded me that hopeful expectations are dangerous to carry when tired children are involved. He entered 'melt-down mode' shortly after we arrived. Dum-dum suckers, getting to carry something special while in the store, threats of an enormous magnitude, bribes at the check-out counter, (etc.) mean absolutely nothing to him when he's upset.

That didn't stop me from trying.

"Henry, look what Mommy found!" I pull out a blue sucker from my purse. His body language clearly denies my offer before his voice does. An inhumane noise issues from his throat as he spats,

"NO, THANK YOU!"

I can't help but smile that he managed to remember his manners. Oh the irony. I pick up the pace. Eliza obediently remains at my side; her fingers are deliberately placed in her ears to block out her brother's hysteria. As we pass one polite employee (polite being defined as someone kind enough not to stare), Henry exclaims,

"I NEED TO TAKE A NAP!" I catch the man's smile as we round the next corner. Being in the business of unexpected crappy shopping trips, I'm usually able to shrug off the judgmental reactions from strangers. However, I felt irked when their pained expressions would turn from Henry's tear streaked face to my swollen mid-section.

"CHECK OUT THE FOUR YEAR OLD" I wanted to holler in their faces. "Doesn't her behavior count for something?" But I didn't. Instead I smiled apologetically while trying to soothe my tantrum ridden child. The outing was endured, the embarrassment has dimmed but my nerves have been slow to repair as each day has been dotted with similar moments.

This just in from Captain Obvious:

Eliza and Henry's happiness is directly correlated to the amount of sleep sustained each night. And for the past week, they haven't received their fill. This photo ought to serve as an explanation.
For the past while, Eliza has been pleading to share a room with "someone that's real." I was her first choice. Since being informed that I'm eternally spoken for, she has settled for the company of another. Considering the change, the new bedtime routine has been an adjustment. I've been paying more return visits than usual. However, they both continue to sleep solidly through the night... had a problem been detected in that department things would have changed back real quick.

The issue is the morning. Henry's first order of business is to wake up his sister. Eliza doesn't get to catch up during an afternoon nap. There are days when she wakes him up as well. I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet and am hopeful the novelty of their new situation will wear off.
I'm eager to hang the wall decor.
Andrew's not convinced this situation is
of a permanent nature; so it sits.

As I've typed this evening's post, I've been beckoned to their room twice. On the first visit, Eliza tattled on Henry for instigating a water fight by spitting the water supplied by his sippy cup. He was drenched and full of giggles when I confronted him. I showed him that his crib is still set up in the room next door and that it would happily welcome him back if he couldn't stop.

Round two went something like this.

"MOM!!!" It's Eliza. No surprise there. As she calls, I cross my fingers that they'll be able resolve the issue on their own.

"Mom! I have to go potty and Henry won't allow me permission to leave my bed." I supersede Henry's ruling by reminding her that she can use the bathroom whenever she needs too. He serves up his revenge by pooping, right then and there, in his diaper. What a stinker (pun intended).

Friday nights spent as a single parent are awesome (Andrew's on a Scout camp out). I seriously love these kids and their Daddy more than anything, spitting wars and all.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Visitors Welcome. Always.

Look who cruised up for a weekend visit?

After two years of airport meet and greets, it was pretty exciting to have a member of our family pull into our driveway in their car!

Andrew wasn't around the majority of the evening due to a youth activity, so the kids and I did our best to entertain our special guest. We opted for the traditional "dinner and a movie" plan; which means we went to Chick-fil-A and stopped by a Redbox on the way home. Impressive and classy, right? That's how we roll.

I'm pretty sure Mike was entertained up until the moment we said, "Goodnight" as he was steps behind me as I clumsily fell up the stairs while heading to bed. Andrew and I differ in our opinion as to whether or not it's necessary to have the stair lights on when walking up to bed each night. With his history of hiding behind dark corners to scare me combined with my weak and perpetually full bladder, I'm definitely in favor of having the lights on.

But alas. He turned the lights off as I was mid-climb. Feeling jumpy, I hauled up the last set of stairs. Thinking I had another one to climb, I over compensated and caught my elbow on a corner as I went down. My elbow broke the fall. Its heroic act wasn't justly noted by the boys as it took a few days for the wound to appear painful. Fear not. My need to be babied was totally satisfied as the nursery children offered their sincere sympathies as they took notice of it yesterday during singing time.

Wow. That was a long and useless story.

Knowing that Bubba and Nanna Teresa were headed to meet the Taylor's in Lake Powell this weekend, we did our best to ease the shared heartache by taking a day trip to the Scott's house a.k.a the "lake beach" on Saturday morning.

The Scott's wisely utilized Andrew and Mike's muscle shortly after our arrival. The men folk departed to help move two couches which left me to tend the children. Wo was me. I had to sit in the breeze, under the shade of an oak tree and supervise my children having the time of their lives in the sand.

I was definitely happy to see Andrew and Mike join in the fun a short time later. The Scott's hospitality extended through lunch as they provided us with a picture perfect picnic as a token of their thanks for the work Andrew and Mike supplied.

The weather was ideal, the company was great and Andrew and Henry only tipped out of the kayak once. Considering Henry's history with unplanned dunks, it's amazing that he still ventures into the water. Thankfully, this time, he was in his Dad's instant reach and secured in a life jacket. And while our thoughts are with our family in Powell, I have to say that due to my current physical status: "Big, Awkward and Unattractive," I'm content to be falling asleep in my bed, surrounded by 20 pillows (slight exaggeration), each night.

Content (with a little sprinkling of smug) is an appropriate way to describe how I felt after winning the first two rounds of Settlers of Catan Saturday night. Uncle Mike made sure we squeezed in one more game before he left Sunday afternoon. Sadly, I was dethroned and humbled by my dear spouse.

Sunday looked like this. and this. (*sighing* because he's dreamy)
and this.What a happy sight. Hurry back, Uncle Mike!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cheer up, it's the weekend!

Last November, Andrew transplanted two crape myrtle trees into our yard. He offered to adopt them as we were preparing to depart on a 7+ hour road trip. Eager to be on the road, I was less than thrilled with the timing of this unplanned project. Today, I'd like to offer Andrew an apology for my poor attitude.

While backing out of the driveway, I noticed that one of the trees has begun to flower.
And I smiled a huge smile. The amount of blossoms may be limited, but the vibrancy of their color (which was not fairly captured in these photos) cheered me.
I love when his crazy, unplanned schemes work out.

In other news, we're gearing up for a visitor this weekend!(!!!!!!!!!!!)

"We are?"
"Who, Mom... who?"

Uncle Mike recently relocated to Atlanta! Despite the three hour separation, I feel like he's totally in the neighborhood. We're excited for him to get here! Right Henry?

"Right Mom!"

And before this photo expires (taken last Sunday), here we are at 28 weeks.
Baby girl and I just waddled our way into the third trimester!

Here are a few of the frights and delights I'm anticipating...

Delights:
  • The regularity and strength of her movement
  • Eliza and Henry's interaction with the bump. "It looks like you ate so many foods Mom!"
  • Her well being. I've been blessed with a healthy pregnancy. That peace of mind is something I try not to take for granted. Any minute, it could change.
  • The glow of my skin, the glossy sheen of my thick brown locks, etc. Who are we kidding? The only shine I can claim comes with the unattractive sweat that's instantly born of Southern humidity.
The frights:
  • My bathroom scale.
  • Speaking of the bathroom, cleaning the bathtub yesterday was super awkward. Accomplishing that task took creativity. I'd pass the cleaning baton off to my husband, you know, if he'd catch it.
  • Picking up my kids toys... a constant process which involves bending. I dislike bending.
  • The emergence of my third chin.
  • The random back spasms, inability to gracefully turn while sleeping and the magnetic pull my bladder has to the bathroom toilet.
Driving to Bryson City last weekend, I turned back to look at my children. I told Andrew right then how excited I am that we're growing our family. And then, at night, when a calm routine turns to chaos I imagine the extra responsibility and find myself questioning my sanity, I mean capabilities.

Despite my insecurities and the unpleasantness associated with being the size of a house, I feel my bond growing with this new child. I look forward to that most special introduction. My heart will grow with her arrival. I marveled as it happened when Henry came and only wish that my energy level would follow suit.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

this is what happens when a friend offers me sharing privileges

Growing up, I was encouraged to begin my day with prayer. For the kids and me this usually happens while parked in in our driveway. To be honest, there are days when the prayer is said as I'm driving out of our subdivision. Perhaps I ought to focus on shifting that prayer from the car to the breakfast table, but my mental faculties do not function as they should until my body has completely declared itself "awake." That last sentence makes me laugh as I know that in a matter of weeks, the feeling of being fully awake will be entirely foreign. Wondering what my excuse is now, there are definitely mornings where I feel a little robotic as I prepare Henry's oatmeal and pour Eliza her cereal.

Discovering my milk carton in the pantry in the hours that followed breakfast this morning supports this claim.

Eliza regularly volunteers to say the car prayer.

"If I say the prayer now, I don't have to say it at bed time, right Mom?" Her attitude humors me. However, I can say that it is dwindling as she's been raising her hand with increased frequency at dinner and bed time. As she prays, I peak up at Andrew; hoping to catch his smile as she says things like:

"Thank you for there to be fireworks every night."

"Please bless my friends to be super nice to me." And then on occasion (last Friday), I receive the deserved chastisement.

"Please bless my Mom to stop being grouchy." I assure you that after saying "amen" the kids and I commit to having a happy, happy day.

Rewind to last Saturday (see previous Thomas post). We met our friends, the Blaser family, in a Walmart parking lot as it was our intent to caravan our way through the beautiful Smokey Mountains. That's right, Utah. I said mountains. And they are amazing.

Our view from the train

Feeling that security that comes when Andrew is behind the wheel, it would have been easy to forgo a prayer. But we didn't. With both car's windows rolled down, Eliza offered one in the parking lot. Whether or not the content of that prayer was relevant, I can't say. Probably not, but her heart was in the right place.

The rain began to fall a few minutes later. It pounded our windshield with enthusiasm. I told Andrew more than once how grateful I was that he was driving. My knuckles would have been white and my stomach would have been up in my throat had it been me. Not to mention, I would have added an additional hour to our drive time with my 45 mph pace.

The onslaught of rain didn't accompany us the entire way which made it easier to appreciate the beauty of the drive. And while my pregnant self couldn't help but bemoan the heat of the day while we were at the Thomas event, I was thankful for the constant cloud cover and lack of precipitation.

While waiting in line at a McDonald's drive-thru on our way home, the storm returned. We marveled at its immediate strength. I couldn't help but smile at our good fortune in regards to the timing of its arrival. During my moment of contentment, my cell phone rang. It was Michelle. We had said our "goodbye" to the Blasers in the parking lot as we agreed that we didn't need to caravan home. I answer,

"Hey! How are you? Can you believe we avoided this storm?" I was in a peppy mood. I had just been admiring a cute picture of her youngest boy Nate on my camera and was eager to show her."Where are you?" She asked. I detected nerves in her voice. I told her we were picking up lunch.

"We've been in an accident." I felt shock. Whether I asked the question aloud or not, she followed up with the relieving words,

"Everyone is okay." And then came the emotional explanation. "We hydroplaned shortly after getting on the free-way. Can you come get the boys?" Trying to process what she said, I did my best to relay the information to Andrew. Responding to her question, I blurted,

"Absolutely! We're on our way!" She assured me that we'd find them easily as a state trooper was already on scene.

Minutes later we found them. My adrenaline began to pump as we took in their damaged car. Amazement, disbelief and gratitude for their safety flooded through me. The talker in me wanted to say all the right things and band-aid up their horrible situation as best I could. But I was at a loss.

The rain was still pouring as we pulled ahead of their battered car. Andrew and Michelle went to work installing car seats and transporting the three blond-headed Blaser boys from their van into ours. Jimmy made the necessary, headache inducing, phone calls that you'd associate with car accidents. From what Michelle said, watching her boys drive away with us after their huge scare was when she allowed herself to fall apart; something she rarely does because she's an emotionally stable individual. The crazy female that lurks inside of me deeply admires that about her.

And while the dreary, unsettling weather reflected each of our mood as we sat on the side of the highway; the blessings surrounding their accident quickly shown through its ugliness. As we spoke of each tender mercy, gratitude pierced our hearts.

1. After spinning in a full circle at 50 mph, they slammed into the center guard rail twice. Thankfully, no other cars were involved, which was amazing considering the high volume of vehicles on the road that day.

2. Michelle was unbuckled and in the back of her van distributing happy meals at the time of the accident. They easily could have rolled, but didn't.

3. A state trooper arrived on scene less than a minute after they crashed.

Not being the family involved in the accident, it's easy for me to focus on the positives. I'm sure if I was coping from the actual trauma and financial headache, my perspective wouldn't be as rosy. However, as we talked with Eliza on the drive home, I felt truthful in my statement to her that the Lord had answered her prayer for safety. Despite being in that accident, they were okay.
Prayer is that avenue we take to express gratitude, ask for safety and plead for comfort. While the act of a prayer seems simple and at times feels routine, the strength of its power is limitless. I hope our children will grow up believing that.

Blaser family, we think the world of you and are grateful you're okay.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Our Day out with Thomas

The excitement was palpable as she bounced into our bedroom. It was awfully considerate of Eliza to serve us our early morning wake-up call.

When we met up with the Blaser family, Father Jimmy greeted our children. Referencing their Thomas themed attire he said,

"Ah! So you're those kids!" Translation: So Ali... you're that Mom. I won't deny it. However, it was Eliza who came up with the idea to hand deliver a picture to Sir Topham Hatt. Again, being that Mom, I left her drawing in the car by mistake.
A train whistle sounded in the distance. I looked at their faces as they caught sight of Thomas for the first time. In that moment, being a Mom felt completely awesome. Eliza was thrilled he'd made it from Sodor. I was thrilled we'd arrived ahead of the predicted rain/thunderstorm. Time was spent before and after the train ride exploring the Imagination Station, jumping in the well-used bounce houses, feeding animals at the petting zoo, getting Thomas tattoos, etc. All Aboard!!
It's been two years since we last interacted with Thomas. Here's a look at Eliza; then and now.
Her devotion continues.

And it looks like someone else has caught the train bug.

To wrap this up, here's the day's best photo.
We couldn't compete with Thomas as we pleaded with the children to look at the camera. Recognizing the lost cause for what it was, Andrew burst into laughter. Fatherhood looks so good on him.