Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Lottie Love Letter

I am sorry friends, but a birthday at our house isn't complete without some kind of heartfelt love letter to the child we're celebrating. I have this crazy expectation that someday they will appreciate, perhaps even cherish, the sappy words of their asylum bound Mother. 

Dearest Charlotte,

I confess to postponing your birthday letter. When I think about what you mean to me and our family, I find myself at a loss for words. Oh look. We're less than five sentences in and I already sound trite; which has been my primary concern.

Sifting through my head, I am searching for the perfect adjectives to justly describe you. You are full of charm. You posses a self awareness over your ability to use said charm in wrapping those who love you most around your dainty little fingers. Lurking in your soul is a mischief-filled comedian who brings a unique blend of frustrating hilarity into our home.

The sweetness in your voice and its accompanying inflection produce continual smiles to those who have the good fortune of listening to you speak. Your beautiful brown eyes are full of intelligence (a Mother's bias, sure). They compliment your ever increasing verbal skills. Listening to you speak amazes me at times and I have to wonder how time could have faded the memory of Eliza and Henry learning to talk when it truly is a daily joy.
You know how to pray and are generally cooperative when we ask you to take a turn and repeat the words after Mom or Dad. Like your older siblings, you are an excellent sleeper and I see myself  introducing you to a big girl bed in the near future. You take a one and a half to two hour nap each afternoon; sometimes it's longer. Being the third, you've proven yourself adaptable in working around your siblings schedules.

When Eliza and Henry are away at school, you miss them. They have taught me that this time of solo bonding you and I share won't last forever. I thought Eliza would be a baby forever. It wasn't long until I thought she'd be two forever. Time and a little experience has changed my mindset. When I look at you, I tell myself that you'll be two for about five minutes so I better cherish this time, tantrums and all, RIGHT NOW.

You are happiest when you're surrounded by your entire family. If a piece of this puzzle is missing, you demand (over and over) to know where the missing family member is. When we return from an errand, you squeal with happiness.

"My house! Dottie's house! Mine house!"

You understand instruction, but that doesn't always mean that you're willing to follow it. :)

Henry is your best friend. Eliza adores you equally, but with the time she spends at school, your bond with Henry had no choice but to strengthen. On days when he has preschool and a play date, I feel bad for you.

You like to be involved in what the older kids do. You often remind me when it's your turn or you simply say,

"Me too!" over and over.

One time, when I retrieved you from your crib at the start of your day, the first thing you said was,

"I want some popcorn, Mom." It was so funny.

In your quest to learn about the world, you tell me as much as you know or can. Then, you wait for me to confirm the correctness of your observations and then listen as I add to it.

You appreciate your agency. That's a polite way of saying you love to use the word 'No.' However, I have to say on your behalf that you are so well trained (thank you older siblings) in using your manners. It thrills me that I usually don't have to remind you.
Your two year old determination is something I try to appreciate. At times I fall victim to your persistence and give in to your loud demands. I know that I shouldn't, but it does happen sometimes. Other times, I'm stronger. For example, one night you went to bed really upset because instead of sleeping, you wanted to color. Seriously, you really wanted to color. Finally, you gave in to sleep and I have to say that Daddy and I applauded ourselves for being firm. The next morning, the first thing you said to me was,

"Mom, I want to color." It reminded me of the popcorn comment, except I knew exactly the motivation behind that request.

It's funny that I said I was at a loss for words at the beginning of today's onslaught of words. I suppose I've just proven myself a liar.

Before I conclude, I want to add that you have a magnetic personality. You pull and distract each of us away from who knows what to feed you attention. We are addicted to your smile and fight to be the source of your laughter.
 Eliza loves to color with you and giggles immensely when you repeat her Chinese words. Henry wants to be near you. He's always ready with a hug for you and lights up when you come into the room after a nap, etc. The bond you have with Daddy is a post for another day. It's ridiculous the way he is tied to you.
As for me, I am grateful everyday that Heavenly Father sent you to our family. You are my special companion and friend. It comforts me that so many minutes of our day are spent together. I sure feel lucky to be your Mom. I love you. I love you. I love you!

Happy birthday sweet Lottie.

Love,
Mama

Quick clicks: looking back
The day Lottie was born
Lottie's birth story
Lottie's first birthday letter
Lottie's first birthday party

The birthday girl's itinerary

Lottie's birthday coincided with the beginning of U.E.A. weekend.

"Perfect!" I thought. "We can spend the morning at Hogle Zoo; with the rest of the state of Utah. It will be great!" And it was. However, wanting to avoid the predictable crowd, I made sure we were there soon after the zoo opened. 
 It was a chilly morning. The children, however, were out of their jackets and snow hats
sooner than expected.
 
As exciting as it was to see the animals, Lottie was equally happy that she was allowed out of her stroller. Keeping pace with the older kids made her feel special.
It's true. She is a valuable member of their team.
It wasn't long until we were joined by another incredibly special, birthday girl.
Nana Teresa and Lottie share the same birthday!! Pretty neat, yes? Aunt Katie, Ellie and James came to share in the fun too.
I was especially touched when Aunt Katie produced a bag of homemade blueberry muffins complete with candles so that we could sing to Nanna and Lottie. Katie is the Queen of Thoughtful; not to mention, the muffins were delicious. It was a sweet moment!

Morning is a great time to visit the zoo. The animals were alert (that's zoo code for 'entertaining') as they seemed very interested in their breakfast. 
The polar bear, we learned, is dedicated to his exercise program/routine. We had so much fun watching him dip down into the water, pop up in front of the glass and then glide onto his back only to do it all over again.
 We love the darling outfits you gave Lottie. Thanks again Nanna and Katie for spending the morning with us.

Not wanting Daddy to miss out on all of the fun, we held off on her 'party' until he came home from work. For those who could come, we enjoyed smores, hot chocolate, ice cream... and wait for it, a store bought Dora cake! If that doesn't inspire you to nominate me for Mom of the year, I don't know what will.
I will say, on my lazy behalf, that Lottie was thrilled with her Dora cake in all its frosted glory.

 "Seriously Mom? Where the heck is my pinterest cake?"

Cute cousin Kate was able to help Lottie find a birthday smile. Despite her serious expressions, the girl was delighted.

"It's a Happy Birthday to me!" Followed by an enthusiastic, "Mine!" she would say.

Presents were another highlight. 
Thank you to those who came to celebrate.
We love you Lottie!

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Education on Birthdays

 The Sunday prior to Lottie turning two, Nana Marie hosted a birthday party. And although Lottie's attended a few parties in her day, the concept of candles and cake, wrapping paper and presents and a birthday song just for her (!!!!) seemed new. I'll be the first to admit that guiding her through these rights of passage is a sublime parental responsibility!

 "Did someone say party?!"

Carrying on a tradition from my own Grandma, when my family gathers to celebrate a grandchild's birthday she also brings a surprise and/or gift for the other grandwee's too. She keeps it simple but has never failed in her quest of spoiling them all with a little something. Whether its a notebook with stickers or over sized red lips and a pair of silly glasses, these kids love her for it.
Upon receiving her gifts from Nana, Lottie was stymied. Thankfully,  there were plenty of present opening professionals on hand to get her started. Once she realized that inside was something special for her, she was thrilled. 

 Adding to the afternoon of fun was sharing the moment with Brynn and Mia. Both cousins have birthdays that fall in the same week as Miss Lottie. Beautiful Brynn turned seven and Magnificent Mia turned eight!

 Next came a song and cupcakes. I think this was my favorite part. Nana thoughtfully prepared a colorful plate of cupcakes for each birthday girl. Lottie's were pink. While we sang to the birthday cuties, Lottie kept looking up at me and waving. "Hi Mom!" she'd say.
"Who me?"

This was a great opening to Lottie's birthday celebrations. Leaving her Nana's that night, Lottie now had a memory to associate with the word birthday. Birthday, in fact, quickly became her favorite word especially when attached to the word, 'mine.'

"MINE BIRTHDAY!!!"
 Thank you Nana for a great night!

Monday, October 22, 2012

His Man-cation

 There was nature.

(Beautiful nature.)
There was wildlife.

 There were horses.
 
There were orange vests. There were guns.
 
There was a tent with a wood burning stove, mouthwatering, man-designed, meals and last but not least, there was Bubba.

The three night, four day elk hunting trip to Craig, Colorado made Andrew's spirit sing. I could feel of his happiness through our simple text conversations.

And I quote:

Andrew: We can hear elk all around. We saw 15 today. Should have success tomorrow.

Ali: Are you having fun? Are you bonding?

(*side note: typical Ali is more interested in the relationship, warm fuzzy, bonding portion of the trip)

Andrew: Yes. This is almost as good as being on Survivor. Except steak for every meal.

Andrew: It rained most of today. We are supposed to get 8 inches of snow between now and tomorrow afternoon.

Andrew: I think there will be horse and elk hunts in our future. Other than the lack of toilets, I think you would love it.

Ali: Seriously? I would love it? Trying sending me to Hawaii instead. :)

Despite the lack of photographic evidence that Andrew was there, it was apparent that he had a blast. I'll be honest, I was less than enthused over the timing of his last minute trip. While camping/hunting with Bubba was always in the cards, this particular trip conflicted with the Super Saturday activity that I was in charge of. Add three children and two soccer games into the mix and you're left with a crazed wife. Thankfully my Mom jumped in on Andrew's behalf making his absence on Saturday manageable and thus saving our marriage. Ha ha ha. That was a joke.

Seriously though, thank you Mom for watching the kids. I sure enjoyed sharing their games with you. I extend my deepest apologies over my ignorance to the fact that your camping chair was broken.

Thank you Bubba for providing Andrew with such a memorable outing. It 'spoke' to his nature loving soul. Feeling as though he had his fix of man stink nature, he said this experience quieted that voice in his head that is forever beckoning him to drop everything and move to a remote place in Canada to live solely off the land. Excuse me, what? You're husband doesn't have similar, hermit-like, aspirations? At any rate, we're glad he's found contentment in the land of suburbia, surrounded by his rug rats and an uptight wife whom he can still magically melt.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The bonus girls trip

Thanks to my Aunt's generosity, my Mom, sister and I were able to head South a day and a half before my Grandpa's funeral. After loading up in Dawnie's fabulous truck,

(Consider this on Mama's Christmas list, Andrew)

we were on our way to Mesquite, Nevada (and every Maverick station between Salt Lake and St. George). 

I suppose I ought to mention that in the first twenty minutes of my trip, a member of our traveling party, who shall not be named, was pulled over for speeding. Thanks to my big mouth, I informed the officer that my brother was likewise a police officer. Enter false statement,

"I am not trying to butter you up... (actually, I am), but our brother is a police officer."  This could go one of two ways I thought to myself. He looks up in interest,

"Whose brother?" I am sitting next to my sister; who may or may not have been the driver involved in said incident.

"Our brother." Come on, Sir. "We're sisters, can't you tell?" Because the rest of the world can. I've been called, 'Ami' on a regular basis since adolescence. 
 
"Where does he work?" We tell him.

"What does he do?" ... Really? I wanted to say, 

"He catches bad guys, same as you..." but luckily Ami jumped in with his official policeman title. 

 After convincing him that we were worthy of his mercy based on this association, he said that if he was contacted by our brother, he'd see what he could do. I am pleased to say that Officer Mike delivered! The ticket was dropped after he made the call. Hooray! It was a road trip miracle. Things only went up from there.
 
Dawnie's beautiful home

Dinners out, a generous amount of conversation, a movie (we ended up walking out of...) and hiking in dress shoes all contributed to a great weekend.

Here are some photos from our day trip to the Valley of Fire. We are eager to return here and camp with the kids.
Preparing to scale the stairs to see ancient petroglyphs.
Half way up, my Mom remembers she is terrified of heights.
She kept on anyway. Way to go, Mom!

Not hiking shoes.

This photo would be that much better if it was 
my kids heads poking through instead of mine.

Speaking of my kids, it has to be said that I missed them terribly. I was only away two nights but based on my behavior, you'd have thought it had been weeks. We have an extra cell phone, long story, so Andrew used this opportunity to teach Eliza how to text. Now that I'm home and the phone is out of her hands, I don't have the heart to delete our first ever text message conversation that spanned the three days I was gone. Her spelling attempts were darling and her dramatic sentiment echoed her Mother's.

Perhaps they should have come along, but I think there time at home was well spent. Andrew took Friday off from work to accompany Eliza on a field trip to... wait for it... the dinosaur park. Since we have 1,000 dinosaur park pictures already, I couldn't fault him for not taking any. Nanna Teresa came up to tend the other kids so Andrew could go with Eliza. Thanks Nanna!

Remembering Grandpa Dan

 July 10, 2012, my Grandpa, Daniel Straup Mays, passed away. Per his wishes, Grandpa opted out of a traditional burial (in terms that I'm familiar with anyway). Instead, his body was cremated. Two weekends ago, I was able to join members of my family in Saint George to mourn his passing and remember his life.

 (May 2012, my last visit with Grandpa)

My Grandpa loved to travel and he loved nature. My Dad fondly remembers the many vacations that my Grandpa took him on throughout his childhood. I expect it's fair to say that of all the places he saw, the stunning red rock country that enriches Southern Utah was among his favorite places to be.

My Dad's mother, Marie Ford Mays, passed away September 7, 1983. My  Mom was pregnant with me at the time. When I was small, Grandpa remarried my Grandma Katie. Together, they moved to St. George and settled into a tight knit community called Kayenta. Here, they lived out the rest of his life. From camping trailers to a motor home, the two of them (plus a dog) carried on Grandpa's passion for exploration. I have happy memories of visiting the pair of them as a child and remember the excitement I'd feel whenever they'd spontaneously stop by.

Katie decided on a neat location to spread Grandpa's ashes. Again, this was a first for most of us. I have to say that the experience from start to finish suited my Grandpa. I can't imagine a more appropriate place for his family to gather on his behalf.
 
 The family commentary wasn't formal, but there was a reverence and a feeling of unity as we hiked and visited together. It was great to see my cousins, Aunts and Uncles and to listen to my Dad banter back and forth with my Uncle Rob.
(Dad, Grandpa's wife Katie, Uncle Melvin Rob and Aunt Lyn)

A public walk and memorial service followed later that evening for his neighbors and friends. I did not attend as I was already headed back home to my kids but I hear that was likewise a neat experience. Since his passing, my thoughts continue to circulate around my Grandpa as I imagine what he must be doing now. I think of his reunion with my sweet Grandmother among other things.

May you rest in peace, Grandpa. You are very loved and sincerely missed.