Tuesday, August 28, 2012

his and her projects

We are beginning to enjoy the fruits (uh, veggies?) of Andrew's labor in the garden.

Our vegetables growth has been laden with hardship. Deprived of rain and at the mercy of a hungry neighborhood gang of deer, you can understand the rewarding experience it is see a medley of Flegal produce accompanying our daily fix of mystery meat. 
It's meatloaf for those who are wondering. And yes, it was fabulous. Just don't ask about how my oven exploded into a ball of white, science fictional looking, light while it was preheating. Or how I had to call my neighbor, with my hands dripping in meat batter (bleh), to ask if I could use her oven... the important part of this tale is that dinner came to pass and we have Andrew's garden and the hospitality of my neighbor's oven to thank for it. Sheeeeesh.

In other news...

While Andrew's been beautifying the backyard in all his green thumb glory, I've had my sights set on a wall in my kitchen. I love displaying my children's artwork. The set-up we had in our South Carolina home was delightful; refresh here. With our new layout, it wasn't feasible to do the same now. With the help of Pinterest and the mad vinyl cutting skills of my creative friend Michelle Blaser, I adapted.

Credit for the idea here:

The binder clips make it easy to switch out their masterpieces. The frames were donated from family or found at a thrift store and then spray painted black. Easy enough, right? It's up in time for the new school year which makes me happy.

fleglet funnies, edition no. II

Let me be clear. These moments aren't necessarily funny. When sifting through my memory, these are ones that, for whatever reason, I want to remember.
 Larry, Moe & Curly

 Driving home from a family event, Henry pipes up from the back seat of the van.

"I want to have a bigger boat, Dad." Knowing how tired my son is, I excuse the whine I detect in his voice. Pleased that he shares a love of boating with Henry, Andrew empathizes,

"I do too, Henry. Let's save our money so someday we can..." Before Andrew is able to finish his thought, Henry interrupts.

"Let's just have Bubba's boat. I really like his boat." Before responding to Henry, Andrew glances at me. We share a quiet smile which seems to express our mutual adoration for the boat loving boy in the back seat.

"I like Bubba's boat too, Henry." Andrew returns.

"Ya." He sighs loudly. "I really like it..." Taking a big breath he states the main reason why Bubba's boat is superior to our small fishing boat.

"...because it has cup holders."

..........

A few nights ago, Eliza, Henry and I were piled on Eliza's bed. Having completed the Book of Mormon (children's version) chapter detailing Lehi's dream, Henry begins to pout. After tucking in his big sister, I escort Henry to his bedroom. I notice that his frown has not lifted. 

Concerned and somewhat annoyed, Henry begins to whine.

"But Mom... I don't think I can hold onto the rod." He is genuinely upset. Before I can offer up an adequate supply of reassurance, he continues.

"I think I just want to hold your hand instead." Sounds like a plan, Henry.

Eliza remains a picky eater; more specifically, she has a deep fear of trying something new. If she doesn't have a memory of eating and liking a particular food or dish, she won't try it. This is a source of stress for me. However, I feel confident that she eats enough "good things" on a daily basis. I've talked this through with her pediatrician extensively. He and I both are in agreement that  she is healthy. At dinner time, I make one dinner. It's her choice if she will eat it or be hungry at bedtime. Also, we have a rule that no one can say something negative about how dinner smells or looks. We don't want a negative opinion to influence younger siblings.

In recent months she has made great progress. Andrew and I are both proud of her. Our current system of doling out an incentive, a.k.a. a new outfit for Barbie, after trying a certain amount of new foods is working.

Driving home from the bread store, Eliza goes to town on a small chocolate doughnut. As she licks her fingers clean, a light bulb goes on in her head.

"Ugh." She sighs. "I really should have washed my hands before I ate that doughnut." I silently reply,

"Uh-oh." I am scared to ask her why. Do I want her to fill in the blank? She continues.

"I visited the chickens with Dad before we left. It's like I'm licking chicken..." Realization strikes.

"Hey Mom!" she blurts out. "Does that count as trying a new food?"
............

When Eliza broke her arm, we had a poor experience with the technician who did the x-ray on her arm. After blaming me for distracting Eliza, I was kicked out of the room. My child was physically in pain and emotionally distraught over her Mother's abrupt exit. I left her alone in tears.My intent had been to support the technician. I had been encouraging Eliza to do as she was told as well as comforting her as I stood well out of the way from where they were. Despite my intent, this woman's treatment toward me was harsh in every sense of the word. I was shocked that an adult professional would speak to anyone that way. Long story short, Eliza and I were both upset. Having shared my experience with a friend whose Mother works in the same office, Eliza paid close attention to my retelling of our story. 

Switching gears entirely:

 My children are curious about our former/on going relationship with Lucifier, a.k.a Satan. They have been taught about his role in our pre-mortal existence and of his mission to destroy our happiness on earth, etc.
When I remind the children that we don't say the word, "sucks" - they are quick to suggest that the only time it is allowed is when we are pairing it with the adversary.

"Satan sucks! Right, Mom? We can say that, right?" In unison, the children begin to chant, "Satan sucks, satan sucks..."

"Mom, does Jesus hate Satan?" 

"I'm not going to say, 'hate' but I really, really, really dislike Lucifer Mom." 

"We are to pray for our enemies Mom? Except for Satan, right?"

Having shared the necessary background, here's the actual story.

And while we were both there at the time, neither Andrew or I remember the main thread of this conversation. I was talking about an event or something of importance that would bring happiness to everyone. I said something to the effect of,

"... and then we will all be happy." Eliza who had been coloring at the counter looks up and says, in an effort to correct me,

"... except for Satan." This add-on doesn't surprise me, but then she follows up with, "and that lady at the clinic." Andrew bursts out laughing. He knows exactly whom she is referring. Giving her a quizzical look, I wait for her to expound.

"Remember Mom? You said that the lady who did the x-ray on my arm must have an unhappy life. That's why she treats others so badly. Remember?" Those kids retain it all... the big and little conversations. Speak with caution. The point, I had be trying to make, had been that sometimes people who lash out or bully are unhappy on the inside. I had not meant to throw that lady into the same category as Satan.  
As for my 22 month old, I don't have a specific conversation to share. It's hearing her reply with a simple,

"Ok, Mom." that I find so endearing. Even if she is fighting with her sister in the middle of Church, hearing her string three words together, "Let go, Eliza!" fills me with delight. Conversing with a toddler is fun, for lack of a better word. Despite her spells of crazy, Lottie is pure joy! Speaking of crazy, I can't believe that Lottie is the age now that Eliza was when we brought Henry home from the hospital.We're in such a fun and special place with our kids. "They are my joy and my song."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Princess Rapunzel has a birthday!

Saturday night we helped a princess celebrate her fourth birthday!
 
 Hit the Flynn Rider pinata with a pan! Cute, right?

Sweet Emylie and her family have become dear friends of ours this past year. The kids were excited to dress up for the festivities!
 As Eliza continues to grow out of our current batch of dress ups, Lottie begins to fit in them well. Short on options, Eliza declared she was going as a "barbie girl."
 Lottie, I mean Aurora, was thrilled to have been included.
 No seriously. She was.
Candy still mesmerizes her. The sucker is still there! Lucky me!
Henry is Em's special friend. He is the Flynn to her Rapunzel. Check out his smolder.

This past Spring, the Make A Wish Foundation sent Emylie and her family on a magical trip to Disneyworld. I am so so happy the Parkers were able to have that experience! In June, they invited us to Emylie's star raising ceremony. It was such a special, emotion filled day. Thank you Melanie for including us.

This girl has the best smile. We sure love her. 

Now would be a good time to mention that there will be a fundraiser (a 5k) to help Emylie on Saturday, September 22nd. Learn more about Emylie here. To register for the 5k, click here.

fueling their exhaustion

We survived the first week of first grade! Technically speaking, she was participating in a program called, Star Talk. This Wednesday, school will begin for the entire student body and Eliza's day will include time in her English classroom. I haven't told her this yet, but her day will also be one hour longer than it was during Star Talk (boo!).

Last Friday, Eliza and her peers participated in a program to display some of things they learned during their first week. The children introduced themselves in Chinese, sang two songs and did a dance with Chinese handkerchiefs. I'm a sucker for this type of thing. It was all warm fuzzies and laughter until we caught sight of Eliza digging for treasure as she sat up on stage. Issuing a stern whisper, I reproach her from my seat.

"Eliza!" I (loudly) whisper. Surprising both my Mom and myself, she turns my direction. She heard me! And so did the row ahead of us, I'm sure. Either way, she stopped. :) In her defense, nose picking isn't a common occurrence. Other than that, she was  delight to watch. The more I learn about this program, the more excited I feel.  

 
Wanting to reclaim our summer, we hit the pool shortly after returning home. Uncle Mike, Emilee and the Chamberlains were waiting for us. 
Mike and Emilee suggested we take our families camping. We knew just the place!

Eliza had to take a temporary timeout from playing with Emilee as she had a birthday party that night. They would be playing 'night games' which meant the start time of the party was later than you'd usually expect. By the time I picked her up, she looked like she was on the verge of crying.

"I'm just so tired, Mom!" A full week at school, an afternoon of swimming, a late night party... sounds about right. Rather than doing my duty by sending her straight to bed, her Dad had a tent waiting for her when she got home; complete with a cousin, pillows, popcorn and a movie...
How could I have put the kibosh on this? 
It was a late night!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

First grade begins.

In recent weeks, I have felt the subtle change in season.

Suddenly, I am paying attention to the size of my children's feet. Shoes aren't a passion of mine, but this time of year, I pay that particular section of Ross close attention.

The back pack that was used for summer adventures in the backyard is returned to it's proper hook.

The process of cleaning out her closet, trying on the new set of hand-me down clothes and then finding said clothes a place in her drawers is completed.

A shopping trip, with a 30 % coupon in hand, is made; just the two of us. (!!!!)

Having neglected my calendar for months, I pull it down and record important, school related, dates. I write the words, "Back to School Night." I welcome the pang of excitement. It's better than the alternative feeling of numb disbelief.

One task remains on my list. She needs a lunchbox. Was this delay intentional? The lunchbox, you see, is a tangible representation that she will be gone for seven hours a day. My heart sinks. She is not a die hard Hello Kitty fan, but I choose that theme anyway. I anticipate that it will make her very happy.

In addition to the adjustment of the time spent away from home, Eliza's day will be split between two classrooms. She will have two fantastic teachers. The most obvious distinction between the two classrooms is that Ms. Chen will teach one half of Eliza's day in the Chinese language (more information found here).

Around the time that our family was making the decision to move back from South Carolina to Utah, there was a lot of buzz in Utah's media about dual language programs. Having a child preparing to enter Kindergarten that year, I was intrigued. I began researching all I could about these programs; searching out the pros and the cons. Impressed out of my mind, I felt strongly that Eliza would be a great candidate.

While waiting for our home to sell, not knowing where we'd be planting our family permanently, I realize that most dual language programs begin in Kindergarten. The selection process, or lottery, typically takes place in the Spring. She would be ineligible to apply by the time we were settled somewhere. Not to mention, the odds of us choosing a home near a school with a dual language program was slim. I let go of the idea as best I could.

At some point, I learn that a small number of schools (like two or three) begin their dual language programs in the first grade. Doing a little more homework, I narrow in on the homes within those boundaries. And what do you know, that particular search led me to our home. Months would pass before we would walk through it for the first time. Fortunately enough, the price would fall into our price range by the time we'd sell our home in South Carolina. Despite these encouraging developments, there were still challenges along the way. One major one being the fact that we were under contract, wheels set in motion, to buy another house... Andrew's dream house to be precise. Yikes! It was an intense few weeks. For the sake of our marriage, I won't delve into the detail of how that miracle came to pass. It wasn't for the Chinese program that we chose this home. It was a definite, "pro" on our list, but not a must. In fact, it didn't weigh heavily on our final decision at all.

Other factors brought about our home purchase. More than our list, I'd say that the time spent here this past year has been the greatest indicator that we are in the right place. And for that peace, I am thankful. This morning, after walking away from Eliza who was already busy working on her first school project, I was smothered with a solid dose of the, "This is right" feeling.

With any emotionally charged change, I over prepare, over think and over analyze. Eliza's lunch was packed last night. The quick note I'd planned to slip in with her food evolved into a love letter filled with the kind of sentiment she and I both enjoy. Excited to see what I packed her, she opened her lunchbox this morning before I had a chance to tell to her to wait until she was at school to read the note. Walking into the kitchen she looks up and says,

"Thanks for the note, Mom!"

Last night as we were driving home from Andrew's parents house, I asked Eliza what she was thinking about.

"I'm filling my head with thoughts of you so I'll be able to remember you when I'm away from you tomorrow." Having melted into my seat right then, Andrew had a hard time getting me out of the car when we got home.

Eliza woke up excited for the first grade! Again, wanting to be on top of things in an attempt to calm my crazy Mom feelings, Eliza was the first student to sign in. I wasn't that much earlier than her classmates. Waiting in the hall, it was a treat watching Eliza greet her friends from last year.

"Guess what?!" Eliza asked her friends. "I broke my arm this summer!" And so it began. It was nice seeing the Mom's I got to know last year in the hallway too. The softies empathized with each other. Together we looked on in admiration at the Mother's who boldly stated that they were thrilled school was once again beginning. I can say that I have hope that it gets easier with each child, but who knows for sure. Right?

Before I wrap this up, I have to say that school doesn't begin for the entire school until Wednesday, August 22. This week, the children entering the immersion program are participating in a program designed to help them acclimate to being in an environment where they are exposed to all things Chinese. They will be playing a lot of Mulan themed games to help them grow familiar with their new routine. Eliza won't begin spending time with her other teacher until a week from this Wednesday, when school begins for everyone else.

As for me, she is gone. Official or not, school has started. This is the big league now. Wish her (read: me) luck!

And, as an added bonus, she ended up being assigned to sit next to one of her best friends from Kindergarten. I'm happy that her class is full of great kids.
Off she goes!

my chicken littles

Andrew dreams of chickens. He has designed multiple chicken coop options for our backyard. Discussing these possibilities is one of his three favorite topics. What's that? You're curious about the others? Well then...

When Andrew's feeling chatty, the subject generally involves either:

a) chicken coops/extending the garden/converting the yard into a farm...
b) 1985 Toyota 4-Runners
c) fruit trees
d) sometimes fish tanks

You can imagine his response when a neighbor asked if we'd like to be involved in the care taking of their 35+ chickens. In return for our weekly visit to their coop to feed, water and socialize with the "bawk-bawks" (as Lottie calls them), we collect the eggs!
 
Wanting to solidify his place as super awesome chicken tender (ha ha ha - so funny), Andrew built a new and improved chicken feed dispense system. His dedication goes beyond that. On our walk home tonight he told me of his mental plan to chart each chicken to make sure the local fox is not successful in his attempts to snatch them up.

We all know Andrew's a fan of living poultry. As for the kids...

Well shucks. I find myself longing for life on a farm. The John Deere hat is a nice touch, yes?

 And for the road, Henry wanted to share his first experience visiting the chickens.

Saturday Shenanigans

From a trip to the Treehouse Museum to homemade water bottle launches, the children's time with their Dad on Saturday continues to be well spent.

Two weekends ago, admission at the Treehouse museum was waived to the public. Having been there with the kids before, I was eager for Andrew to see what all the happy fuss was about. For Lottie, the experience felt new, which added to the morning's excitement. Well aware of the fact that my children won't always be happy doing the same thing, I appreciate the times when an activity pleases all three of them.
This past Saturday, after indulging in a morning out with some friends, I came home to a clean house. I thought I was dreaming. Seriously, it was a real treat to come home and think only about playing with the family. That evening was spent playing with Callie, Mia and Sara while Aunt Ami and Uncle Adam went out on a date. It was a real treat for the Flegals to have them over.

Andrew put on his, "I'm the best Uncle ever" hat and got to work on completing a homemade launcher, for lack of a more specific title. Filling a 2 liter bottle with water, Andrew's contraption would shoot it high into the air leaving behind a trail of water. It was a thrill. Rootbeer floats and time in the sandbox about covers the remainder of our evening.

Waiting for the impending launch, cute Sara would hold my hand. 
"That was a good one!" she would say post launch.
The support crew... 3,2,1... GO!
Please note the exciting stream of water.
Lottie was equally fascinated with this rock.
My obligatory, "Oh my, how I love this baby girl" picture!
Sometimes I sneak in two.
Root beer floats seemed to be a most natural transition.
Shortly after taking this photo, I kicked the boys off the lawn mower and took a turn mowing the lawn via the John Deere. It was loud and fun.

"What's that kids? Huh? Sorry! I can't hear you. Go find Dad." :) 

I'm totally up for a swap in the cleaning/chores department with my Mr. He, however, shot that idea down.