Thursday, January 31, 2013

Laughing our way out of January

Evening sunset 
(taken last night)

Here we are, on the eve of February first, finally able to catch glimpses of blue sky as it peeks through the remaining clouds of gray. It's a welcomed sight. Our winter storms have been massive, majestic and messy this season. Thankful to spend my days at home with the kids, I haven't had to confront the freeways or any other major highway on the days when the weather creates nightmare road conditions. Free of that personal stress born of white knuckle driving, I still have room to worry for my loved ones who brave the roads each day.

Henry's been repeatedly asking, "When is the snow going to finally melt?" Eliza, on the other hand, continues to celebrate each storm. Unaffected, Lottie's primary concern these days is that I find her a 'pretty dress' for dancing.

Yesterday she turned to Eliza to fulfill this request which is why she's been stripped of her long sleeved shirt and pants. At least she put her warm boots back on. Eliza also took pride in adorning Lottie's pigtails with clip-in bows. 
 
 Do my girls look at all alike?
Henry kind of bridges the two of them together
as he shares Eliza's coloring,
and head and eye shape with Lottie...
 Having just received a big kiss on the cheek from Henry,
Lottie quickly wipes it off her face!
"Yuck!"
Here's Miss Lottie in another 'pretty dress' 
at Aunt Ami's house

It warms my heart that Eliza will still 'dress up.'
That particular day, the big girls entertained us while playing
"Mays Idol" - our family version of American Idol.
 Eliza sang a song in Chinese.
I also learned that day that Lottie knows most of the words to,
"Call me maybe"
I'm glad I had a ticket.
The show was a hot one. 

This writing space is a favorite place of mine to sing my kids praises as I have hope that they'll return at a later date to remember how their Mother loved them. Having prefaced the upcoming barf fest of praise, I have to note how proud I am of Eliza after another parent teacher conference. She's a smart girl, friends. Having e-mailed her grandparents the details of their praise, I'll just leave it at that. More important than brains is her kindness to classmates and willingness to help around her classroom.

Now then, in the spirit of keeping things real, I would like to add the following (hilarious) story.

Homework isn't the only thing Eliza's brought home from school this year. There are days, and yes the defensive parent in me can tie this behavior to nights when she doesn't receive a full night of sleep... ahem, where was I? Oh yes, there are days when this girl is a bottle of attitude waiting to explode. Her brave manner in which she dispenses said attitude still takes me by surprise.

"Excuse me, what? Where did that come from?"  I will wonder. This isn't a regular thing, mind you, but it happens.

One afternoon, she and I were going at it. We were arguing over a cookie. I explained that she had to eat her veggies before she could have one. Crippled by her continued fear of certain foods, she was angry that I had placed such an obstacle between her and that cookie. She wanted another avenue in which to reach her goal. I was firm and said, "No." (Applause welcomed.)

"For the love! You know your choices. Please drop it." I then warned that if she continued to whine and fight me for a third option, I would be escorting her to timeout.

Determined not to be punished no matter where I placed her, she hotly fired back,

"Oh ya? Well, if you put me on timeout than I'll just READ THE BOOK OF MORMON and do math equations in my head so I won't be bored!!!"

Oh burn!! She was dead serious. There is no way Mom can win the 'bored on timeout' war when math equations are mentally accessible! All the Mom pride in the world couldn't keep me from laughing. I had to leave the room. Fortunately, she dropped the subject so timeout didn't come to fruition. She also gagged down (or up) that vegetable too.

How about a Henry Fleglet funny?

A few nights ago, Henry and Eliza were both wiping down the kitchen table in preparation for dinner. Each of them had a Clorox wipe.

"You know, Henry" Eliza warned, "when you're a grown up, you'll have to do cleaning stuff like this all the time." It seemed as though she was hoping this news would cause him distress. Instead, my easy going little man took it in stride.

"I know, Eliza." He replied. "When I'm big, I'll have to do lots of work... like driving people places, shoveling snow, giving blood to old people... just like Dad did." Andrew recently donated blood and this left a big impression on Henry - not sure why he thinks the elderly are the only recipients...

"I don't really want to do that, but I will anyway." What a guy. 

I mentioned Lottie's love of dresses, how she begs to wear the fanciest of fancy dress ups to the store and the excitement of having her pretty dresses paired with music. She loves to dance. The other day, music from the musical Wicked was playing in the kitchen. As the music dramatically swelled, she paused from coloring so that she could lift both arms high into the air in tandem with the timing of the notes. It was pretty cute.

Also, she is our Houdini. Chasing her a bedtime, I found her climbing onto Henry's bed. In an effort to ditch her Mom at the last second and spare herself from being put to bed, she quickly covered both of her eyes with her hands so that she'd be 'hidden.' It almost bought her a few extra minutes because it was that cute.

23 weeks
Eliza took this last Sunday

And last but not least, baby four (along with his Mom's face) continues to grow. Last Tuesday, Nanna Teresa, Lottie and I went in for my 'big ultrasound.' What a treat it was to spend those twenty minutes watching him dance all over the place... and then watching him 'curl into my placenta' (eww gross? ultrasound tech's words - not mine) and fall asleep. He looks great and we remain grateful for his healthy development thus far. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ice, Ice Baby (so original, right?)

Honestly, who has time to blog about children when January provides such exciting, nerve wracking, where did that come from, weather patterns?

In between storms, the inversion accumulates. All in favor that inversion (definition: trapped layers of pollution that blocks the poor people of Utah from its connection to blue sky, sunshine, happiness essentially...) is awful, scream, "I."

"I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

It's the pits. Living, somewhat, on a mountain hillside...I think we're offered a reprieve of the gunk in comparison to those centered in the valleys; so I ought to tone down my complaining. Even so, we're craving a hearty dose of sunshine. You can't help but cheer the news report when a storm is in the forecast since that's the best way to rid the skies of gray for a while... even if that storm is named 'Gandolf' or they're predicting 'freezing rain.'

Freezing rain? What?!

Driving Eliza to school today, the roads were wet. When we headed back out an hour or so later so I could volunteer in her classroom, we were slipping all over the place in my car. Returning to pick my kids up from my friend who was watching the younger two Fleglets, I noticed more ice. It was the perfect day to run out of diapers (and if it hadn't been diapers, it would have been toilet paper - I am cursed) because driving in these conditions is an absolute thrill.

Returning to my morning experience of volunteering in Eliza's school, I was lucky enough to be working in her Chinese classroom. It was a scene that left me stunned in amazement (wait, what? I exaggerate? Nah.). Watching the children follow direction and respond in a different language was so neat. I need to video Eliza going through her online homework lessons as a demonstration of what I mean. I can't believe what she can do/say/understand halfway through her first year.

The time came to return to the school to pick her up. The school grounds, particularly the track/sidewalk, was a giant sheet of ice. With my made for Rexburg snow boots on, my coat that resembles a sleeping bag securely fastened (it's all that fits these days) and my younger two kids set with a pile of books and ring pops, I locked the car doors and headed to the field to meet Eliza. I only fell once. Considering I am 'with child' falling down was not in my afternoon plan, but it happened. It was one of those slow motion falls. My pride hurt more than my backside as the entire carpool lane was privy to my embarrassment. 

The thick snow was a safer route. As I trudged to my daughter, I passed kids who were running on the ice, sliding on their knees intentionally and/or pulling their friends behind them... laughing all the way. Finally reaching my child, Eliza lunges for me. As we clasp hands, she issues a dramatic sigh of relief. Before I can commend her for choosing knee deep snow over the path of ice, she quickly takes charge of our conversation.

"Mom!" She says seriously, "Don't worry. I already said a prayer." I was so touched by this. If I hadn't already been panting like an overweight panda bear I would have scooped her up right there and kissed her sweet face. 

"I'm so glad I know about Jesus and Heavenly Father because I knew I could pray not to be scared of this ice." She goes on to say how it's a good thing she goes to school and Church because it taught her that she can always ask for heavenly help. My sweet daughter was bearing her testimony of the blessings of prayer. It made me smile for a number of reasons... one of which was that I'm sure there were older kids in our midst who were thanking the heavens for the totally awesome ice rink their school had been blessed with.

While other, more relaxed, parents smiled and shouted direction to their kids from the safety of their cars, I had dramatically entered the scene (not because I'm better... but because she's six, is clumsy like her Mom and I worry for her).  Pretending to be a hero Mom off to rescue her helpless child in the midst of a natural disaster (which this was not), we both, in true Ali Flegal dramatic fashion, ventured back to the safety of our car to be cheered a heroes welcome by Henry and Lottie. WHAT AN ADVENTUROUS 7 MINUTE ORDEAL IT WAS! 

What's that? I need to get out more? Ya, okay. You got me there.

Presenting our driveway and street.
Even the places where the ice seems to be absent;
there is ice!

Oh yes, here's a goodie from Monday. Having the day off from school, the Mays crew plus Callie came up to play. From 'Grandma day' on Friday to Sunday dinner at my sister's house, the weekend was full of these cute faces. 
And if you're wondering why I am now on the verge of crying, it's because we just learned that these darling kids are moving to Alaska! And while I once had my own personal dream of being neighbors with Sarah Palin (I am not a creeper), I find myself torn between being supportive of their family's upcoming adventure and throwing a two year old sized tantrum over how unhappy I feel about this moving away business! What's worse than having your brother move away? The answer: having him take away your kid's cousins! Three cheers on your job promotion, Mark - yaddy, yaddy, ya!! :) Based on the reaction to your family news, I sure hope you have a guest room ready!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Party of Six, musings on a fourth pregnancy

I'm halfway through my fourth pregnancy (22 weeks). Let's be cliche and ask,

"How did that happen?" Seriously friends, at the rate the weeks have passed, if I told you my due date was tomorrow I wouldn't feel like I was being deceitful. And that worries me.

Sure, sure...I remember the way that time notoriously stops the last 5 (or is it 10?) weeks of pregnancy as life becomes one giant bubble of discomfort, but labor (*shudder, cry, scream!!) will arrive and hopefully at the end of it, we'll be welcoming a healthy, fresh from heaven, son. It thrills me to think about falling in love with another baby boy but I would be lying (oh good, my conscience came back) if I said that I wasn't frightened that I won't fulfill my personal expectations as a Mother. Will I be able to properly attend to and fairly love the four precious spirits that circulate around my personal orbit of crazy?

With each pregnancy, much of the dialogue stays the same; which is why this feeling of  'how are you going to manage this, Ali?" feels incredibly familiar.

With Eliza, I remember the advice, "Oh! Sleep as much as you can now. You'll NEVER sleep again!" For a time it feels like that may be true, but it's not. When I was expecting Henry I felt like I was about to betray the bond I'd built with Eliza.

"She's still so young. Will she be neglected? Can you love a second as much as a first?" My pediatrician put me in my place when he simply said, "Relax lady. You just gave her a best friend." The 'relax lady' part wasn't actually said, but rather felt. He was a 100% right about that best friend part. Henry's arrival also taught me that there is always enough love to go around. Like the Grinch, my Mother heart grows with the arrival of each child in a way that remarkably proves the undeniable existence of a Higher Power; even a Father in Heaven who most certainly does have the capacity to know and love each of His children.

 
 
 
Lottie rocks the Rag-A-Muffin look

While pregnant with Lottie, the thing I heard most was,

"Number three did me in. That's when life totally fell apart." Up until our move back to Utah, life with Lottie in South Carolina was pretty easy breezy. It was a special time. Maybe that's nostalgia for our former life talking, but we did well those early months. Moving to Utah and living in my parent's basement with a small infant wasn't 'easy' but a lot of that was based on life circumstance. Yes, I'm keeping in mind that there are no guarantees with the fourth. Maybe this time, I really will go crazy. I'll keep you posted.

What started this train of thought, I suppose, is our recent spell of illness. When Henry and Lottie were both miserable, my ability to mellow out was shot. Can my heart handle the worry that comes attached to loving four children?! Forgive the whine, I'm the first to admit and acknowledge the warrior Moms who have been served a much larger plate of child related worry! I pray for and look up to those women.

I see the pile of shoes in our mudroom and tell myself to imagine six more pairs to the untidy mess. Looking at my laundry situation, to prepare, I mentally add ten more baskets. As easy as it is to focus on the inevitable increase of the tedious, mind numbing tasks that accompany the fine art of housewifery, it's more important to recognize the reminders, that stare me in the face daily, of why having small children in my home is wonderful!
My children make my heart sing. Coming home today, Eliza couldn't wait to tell Henry that for her library selection at school, she chose to get a book just for Henry. She had plans to check out a book on world records because lately she's been trying to set a record involving a yellow bouncy ball. She was quite determined on Sunday to bounce and catch the ball more than any other six year old ever. She sacrificed that interest on his behalf. Her other book choice was Matilda. She and I are currently reading this together.
Three minutes after coming home, Eliza and Henry were on the couch reading 'his' book about hogs. Listening to Eliza explain the finer points of the story to Henry filled me with gladness!

When Eliza exits the car each morning Henry faithfully hollers, "I love you, Eliza!" as she walks away.  He isn't satisfied until he hears her echo the sentiment which means the car window is usually rolled down (brrrr!). Why this loving exchange never happens sooner, is beyond me... but I'll take it!

With the kids at school, Lottie will ask over and over to bring back her siblings.

"I want my Henry. I want my Eliza." They are hers, make no mistake. When I tell her that they are at school she offers up a huge smile, bats her eyelashes and follows up with,

"Please?!" She doesn't take no for an answer.
My big kids are great helpers and are endlessly responding to my requests for a favor (Eliza especially). Henry, my little gentleman who holds the house door open for me whenever we come home from an errand, will at times deny said request. I can't say I blame him. Lottie is the first to offer her 'help' at the dishwasher. There are times when I ask the big kids for a Lottie related favor and while they are busy ignoring me, Lottie fulfills the request herself.

And the last and possibly best antidote for parental stress is laughter and with children, humor is never on short supply. Whether or not this latest batch of Fleglet funnies translates well, remains to be seen.

A few months back, Henry offered this prayer. I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget.

Dear Heavenly Father
Thank you for this day.
Please bless there won't be any tornadoes in Utah. And hurricanes.
Help us to not take alcohol.
And to not be scared when we get 'batized.'
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
..............................

I hope she forgives me for this one, but last fall while she was jumping on the neighbor's trampoline, Eliza bounced off to whisper the following in my ear,

"Mom, my boobs feel loose!"
.............................

While talking to a friend about their Dad's, Eliza offered the following insight.

"Elizabeth, my Dad doesn't like sports."
Elizabeth responds, 'Why doesn't your Dad like sports?" Putting it simply she replies,
"He's more of a man of action."
.............................

While elaborating on the importance of Veterans day, Eliza interrupts herself to ask,

"What branch of the military did Bubba do? Was it the Navy or the Air Force,..." Surprised by how much she knew about this holiday, I interrupt her.

"How do you know so much about this? Why are you so smart?" Feigning exasperation because I'm certain she was thrilled by my compliment, she replies,

"Come on, Mom. It's called Scholastic news! Haven't you heard of that?"
.............................

 Most nights, I sing Henry a song and scratch his back (his favorite) at bedtime. As he settles into his pillow, he often sighs, 

"That's what I'm talking about!"
..................................

Henry loves to travel around the house on all fours. He has mastered his "cheetah" run. It isn't uncommon to see him running from room to room via his Cheetah sprint. The other night, he tried to give Eliza a tutorial on his style of run, complete with the timing of the growl and scraping of the 'paw.' Despite her many gifts, Eliza could not do it. My favorite is when Cheetah boy picks up his toys and carries them in his mouth as he runs them from floor to toy bin.

Henry's told me more than once that he knows why the earth moves.

"Mom, I know why the earth moves and shakes. 
There are hundreds of moles running in circles underground.
They have red noses."
 .................................

Lottie has nicknamed me, 'sugar pie...' something Andrew and I've never called her.

"Oh sugar pie, where are you?
................................. 

And while I still battle nerves and the (daily?) occasional lapse of patience, I have to say that I'll continue to fight for optimism, faith and fuel the excitement that all will be well with our new baby. Feeling him move and stir is a feeling I cherish. And while I'm probably guilty of the "oh you better beware" commentary that exists between people and expectant Mothers, let's try to remember that we're all hormonal and could each use less of the doom and gloom and more encouragement.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Greetings Gandolf

 Winter storm Gandolf, as named by the weather channel, made a dramatic entrance Thursday afternoon. Andrew's 15 minute commute home quickly turned into an hour (plus). His stress was accented by the fear of a fuel gauge marked, "E" for empty. Would he make it to the gas station? Had he not, I wonder how that rescue would have played out. Fortunately, he didn't need one. 

According to reports, in the two days since the storm struck, there have been a total of 404 traffic accidents (yikes!). In place of alarm clocks, we've woken up to the sound of snow blowers and plows. Schools were cancelled on Friday, a decision not easily made following a snow storm (in comparison to South Carolina). A thousand details later, it's sufficient to say that Gandolf delivered in a big way!

The picturesque view outside is easily enjoyed from where we do most of our day to day living. Having no where to be, it's an enjoyable feeling to watch the beautiful scene take shape from a safe and cozy distance. However, to be honest, in the weeks since that nasty illness arrived; I can say that we've had a sufficient amount of quality time spent at home.With Lottie improving more each day, I feel a welcomed sense of relief and gratitude. Even so, I'm still being cautious to keep her here as we don't want to share her germs or pick up something else while her resistance is still low.

The kids have been in and out of the house to attend school.
Cute Henry is excited to go to preschool on 'pajama day'
Man, I love that kid!

Andrew's had work, has had a day of jury duty and is currently trudging through who knows how many feet of snow to hunt today. Lottie and I carpool the kids and some days, I remember to go outside to check the mail.
Andrew at the mailbox following a day where (shocker!) 
I forgot to retrieve the mail.
I've also had a few relief society type errands/meetings to attend, which has provided a quick and happy change of scenery and a visit to the OB to check on our growing baby boy (all is still well, thank goodness). That reminds me, at said OB appointment, Eliza came with me. During the ultrasound a fascinated sister studies the screen before declaring,

"Mom, he looks like a poodle!" Well, okay then! Because I have an ultra-sound each visit, it won't be until my 24 week appointment that we go 'in depth' for more detail etc. He's still a boy, this I can confirm and have to say it was such a treat when my doctor suddenly switched the screen into 4D mode and I got an exciting look at my sweet baby poodle boy's face in greater detail.  

Anyway, there's not a lot of thrilling substance behind today's post but I suppose that reflects the overall month of January thus far. Please don't mistake my 'relaying' of information as complaining. Simply put, things have been 'chill' - ha, get it?

We're all wishing Dad was home to take the big kids sledding since this mean Mom won't allow a recovering Lottie to go drown herself in a pile of snow that is taller than she is. I'm doing the best I can to fill in for the 'fun parent.' Sugar is both delicious and fun which is why we spent time this morning making blueberry muffins

Not from a box, 
recipe source, I'll love this site until I die, here:
Muffins are meant to be enjoyed, right Eliza?!

They've also colored, built forts in the basement and are now painting...it's a miracle fun can be found when Daddy's away.
 
I imagine it won't be long until their asking for another round of snow pant bundling, boot buckling, find that missing glove because 'we want to go back outside' fun.
 
I'm in good company, there's no question about it, but I'm going to be honest... this Mom could use a little bit of a time out; even if it's just to the drug store to get a flu shot. Long term, I'd like a hobby and a friend because I'm pretty sure that Mom's nap time and 'my pillow' don't qualify as either.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Boxed in

Happy new year, friends!

New year's eve was a party for our family. Spending the evening next door, Andrew and I enjoyed visiting with friends and neighbors while (over) sampling different treats and eats. Meanwhile, the kids busied themselves with toys, games and friends of their own.

Around 9:00, Andrew took the younger two home for bed. Eliza was dead set on making it until midnight and being the 'cool' Mom that I pretend to be, I allowed it. Had my brain been managed by better sense, I would have seen to it that all three of them went to bed earlier; especially Henry who'd developed a cough.

10:30 approached and I swapped places with Andrew so he could have a closer view of the fireworks and set up our stellar gas patio heater for the crazies who went outside to welcome the New Year. Eliza and I were content as can be to watch the fireworks explode from the comfort of my bedroom. My windows provided an ideal view.

The New Year arrived! Our family welcomed it with enthusiasm, cheer and an explosive case of R.S.V.

That's right. The nasty swarm of sickness that we'd been so grateful to have avoided throughout the holiday season finally caught up to our family and man... it has pummeled its way through my poor kids.

Henry's cough led to a GIANT cough which soon bore a four day fever, and an impressive amount of phlegm (among other pleasant side effects). With a bag of popsicles and a healthy supply of fever reducer, we sent Andrew and the girls to Salt Lake on New Year's day to have their helping of Hoppin John; a Southern dish (yearly tradition) that brings luck for the year. They brought us back some, so we should be good, right?! He enjoyed seeing extended family and so did the girls.

Four days of fever, and all things 'bleh,' later, I finally take Henry and Lottie (who has now fully caught what Henry has) to the doctor. I never thought I'd be happy to hear the words, "It's RSV" but our mind had been made up that we had the flu. For the pregnant Mom in the room who has not yet received her flu shot (despite consistent reminders from the medical community), I was in a panic over the possibility of the flu effecting our unborn babe.

Five days later, Lottie still has a fever, cough and every other ugly symptom. She has not digressed, which I'm happy about, but I wish so much we'd wake up to see a big improvement. With Ibprofen in her system, she plays contentedly but there are definite stretches of time when I'm her only source of comfort. She's sleeping well and asks to nap. Eliza fared the best, by far. With only a cough and a total absence of fever and phlegm, it's nice to see that her age has proven to give her an advantage. Thinking about a repeat of this scenario next year, with our newest little Fleglet here, leaves me an anxious mess!!

Other than wanting Lottie to kick this thing quick, my one complaint would be the cabin fever that's likewise spread through our lot. Lucky for the big kids, they're back in school but I feel like I've been walking in the same circle over and over which is why it's always nice when a bolt of creativity strikes one of the kid's brains to help break things up some. 
 Henry's feet and Lottie
 Eliza is 'too cool' for certain things these days
Which makes my heart sad
Climbing into boxes, however, isn't one of those things
The look pretty good considering how miserable they sound
 Eliza took it upon herself to tape up this year's Christmas card collection...
Despite having no where to go
I haven't taken down a single decoration.

Color me exhausted. 

And if anyone has any reassurance to give regarding the length of Lottie's illness and how it just takes time to kick this garbage, I'd love the encouragement. She hasn't digressed since Friday when the doctor saw her and they saw no need for a hospital stay, or anything like that. I guess I've always associated RSV with the hospital, but the virus, they say... is common/prevalent.(?)   

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Christmas Came!

Right on cue, the snow began to fall on Christmas Eve. While Mom busied herself with last minute Christmas day preparations, Dad took charge of occupying the children. Inspired by the fresh batch of snow, Andrew retrieved an empty water heater box from the basement. After recruiting a pair of artists, he instructed them that his new snow sleigh was in need of holiday decor. Enthused with their assignment, Eliza and Henry went to work coloring the box while Andrew focused on the mechanics necessary to pull his 'sleigh.' If only we'd had a string of bells lying around, the vision he had would have been complete. 

Off they dashed! The snow was still falling as Andrew pulled them up and down our street. Lottie, who was napping at the time, missed out on this run but had the opportunity to go out for a spin a few days later.

 Their fun continued in the backyard where Andrew plowed a pile of snow up to our rock pile so he could construct a snow hill. Subsequent snow days have added more snow allowing for a second hill to be built.
 
 That afternoon the kids warmed themselves up while watching Arthur Christmas. It was fortunate that we didn't have much going that night as driving down to Salt Lake on the slick roads would have been frightening. Instead, we went out to dinner near our house. Coming home, Andrew pulled into the Church parking lot and began doing 'doughnuts.' A pair of truckers were likewise there with their semi on the other end of the parking lot. We were close enough, however, to see them laughing at the sight of our family van spinning endlessly about. Andrew and I laughed wickedly while the kids fought back tears of worry.

As we entered the garage the kids were all bonding over their mutual post traumatic stress when Andrew asked, "Does anyone want to go do that again with me in the 4runner?" Surprising us both, all three of them instantly calmed their shaky emotional demeanor as they eagerly accepted his invitation.

Eliza was about to explode with anticipation as we made our way around the Christmas tree to open their new pajamas. Sadly, the ornaments I had made didn't arrive until New Years Eve so that Christmas Eve tradition didn't happen. In the spirit of admitting defeat, we made it halfway through that evening's story as they were all bouncing off the walls with excitement. Eliza thoughtfully prepared Santa's milk and cookies and arranged them on the table with a handful of Eliza made, "To Santa" gifts that she'd constructed throughout the season as well as letter she'd recently written for him.
 Andrew and I stayed up way to late that night. Waiting for the children to fall asleep, we watched the new Batman. Around midnight, we hear a pair of feet darting through the upstairs hallway. Going up to investigate, Andrew finds Eliza back in her bed, feigning sleep.

"If you don't fall asleep, Santa won't come." He warned. Our future teenager replied,

"... but he already came, Dad!"... like duh. She can see from the upstairs overlook. It's true. Santa had already come and that poor child was left to endure the painful anticipation alone in her dark bedroom.
 As we fell into bed that night, I kicked myself for staying up so late. Crossing my fingers that Eliza would sleep in since she'd likewise stayed up late, I immediately fell asleep. 7:00 on the dot, Eliza danced into our bedroom. Because we're miserable and awful, we took our precious time delaying the event. With Henry and Lottie still asleep, we justified our wickedness as we made her wait an additional 50 minutes. Poor girl.
Finally the time came. With the casserole cooking and the kids bouncing on the stairs, we prepared the video camera that sadly had been plugged into the wrong charger. CURSES. Not wanting a single second of that day to be spoiled I swallowed that disappointment in one giant gulp.
Their joy was my joy. They were so happy for each other as they took turns going through the sea of gifts. 
 Breakfast came next. Eliza's prayer was a tender one as she prayed that we'd all remember the meaning of the day (and Easter) was really about Jesus. Henry had the line of the morning. While piling a bite of food into his mouth, he simply said,

"See. I told you I was on the good list."

And then the Christmas rush began. Showering the kids, preparing a dish for Christmas night and packing a suitcase, Andrew and I prepared ourselves for our visit to Salt Lake for a lovely game of what I like to call Christmas ping pong. We spent that afternoon with the Flegal's and then to my parent's home for dinner and back again to the Flegal's for a sleepover.
It makes for a long day but we wouldn't have it any other way. It is a real treat and a blessing to have our families live so close. Thank you, thank you for your kindness and generosity.

And to my Mr. Claus,
Thank you for letting Mrs. Santa have her way in spoiling our family and for providing us with the monetary source of that magic. More important than the gifts under the tree, thank you for spending your creative energy and time in making their childhoods special. I sure love you.