Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Swimming, Trains, The Alpine Slide & A Throw Up Bug... Welcome Summer!

Dear Reader,

School is out for the Flegal children and I'm pretty thrilled about it. A few activities are set on the summer calendar, but for the most part it looks like this Mom will have many hours to fill for her four young Fleglets.
I've been itching to take a trip with our  family. For months, things were set to explore Bubba and Nanna Teresa's new cabin in Southern Utah over Memorial day weekend. Unfortunately those plans were put on hold due to unforeseen medical issues that needed immediate attention. We're thankful to say that our Bubba is in good hands and the outlook on his health is bright after a recent heart procedure (among other miserable tests he had to endure).

Earlier this week, I happily found myself in bed, scrolling through my email, during "quiet time" when a certain KSL deal caught my eye. A quick text to Andrew here and a few clicks of the mouse there and we suddenly had weekend plans to Park City!

"Can we surprise the kids?" I asked Andrew. "I mean, do you think that we should?"  Despite what he thinks, I really do value his opinion.

"Whatever you'd like." Was his perfect response. Suddenly giddy, I replied:

"Okay! Let's totally surprise them." Except then, real life happened. I had massive piles of clean laundry to fold along with the vacant suitcases that were waiting to be packed littering the main living room floor when Eliza came home from school on Thursday.

"Hey, Mom! What's all this?"

So there went that idea. Even so, the children and I enjoyed the anticipation of our little vacation while reminding Andrew on a daily basis that we were {all} preparing to go out of town.

Before summarizing what we did, I'd like to interject the important lesson learned (possibly a repeat lesson, if I'm being honest) during this trip. When planning family vacations, whether or not little ones are involved, go ahead and enjoy the anticipation as you imagine the happy bonding moments but, dear reader, keep in mind that with the possibility of exceptional highs comes the possibility of an assortment of low moments too.

Our weekend consisted of staying in a studio suite at the lodge at mountain village resort in Park City. The kids had access to a swimming pool that was actually filled for the first time this year the day we arrived (win). The bummer attached was that the water was F.R.E.E.Z.I.N.G. This didn't stop the kids from visiting the pool three times... and with each visit, it was reported, the water was a 'titch bit warmer' than the time before.
With a full kitchen, I brought Papa Murphy's pizza for dinner that first night. Having finished the first Harry Potter book, I promised Eliza we could watch the first movie as a family. The experience was made complete with popcorn. It was a cozy scene as I took in my sweet family piled onto the pull out bed.
photo taken minutes after rescuing Forrest (and the other guests at the hotel) 
from his pack and play 

And for background noise, just behind the divider that we were so pleased to discover that day when we first arrived, was Forrest's wails and protest to the pack and play we were asking him to sleep in. He's a champ sleeper when he's in his crib at home so the adjustment to the pack and play was less than awesome.

"I'll sleep by Forrest on that day bed." Andrew offered. "That way, if he needs a pacifier during the night, I can quickly help him find it." I could not believe my ears!! What a stud. The offer was unexpected which only added to my surprise and feelings of elation. To me, it was as if he was saying that first time in Forrest's young life, that he'd completely be Andrew's responsibility for the night.

Andrew's offer left an open spot next to Mom in the Queen sized bed. Eliza was thrilled when I extended the invite to her. And this is where the lesson comes in. Our second night there, Eliza suddenly sat up in the middle of the night and began violently throwing up. As a parent, I traded my nighttime responsibilities to our youngest child while inheriting the sweet eight year old whose belly was a vomit filled, ticking time bomb. That's life! Her sickness came out of nowhere. To be fair, we have gone a really long time without the throw up bug hitting our house. As for the clean up and comforting process, it's just like riding a bicycle friends. It's full of disgusting smells and fear as you go against the instinct to preserve your own health so you can cuddle and comfort your distraught child, but you proceed (with as much soap and hand sanitizer possible) as directed by parental instinct.

Not to mention, the studio suite had white carpet. Awesome! I'm sure we'll be invited back, oh I don't know, never. Andrew was amazing as he went straight to work scrubbing the carpet which left me to help direct (and redirect Eliza) to the bathroom for the next six hours, rinse and scrub bowls and plunge toilets. It was a dream! Speaking of dreams, somewhere during all this I managed to fall asleep and have a nightmare that I was actually at the Duggar's house (19 kids and counting, I LOVE that show... don't judge) and I was in their bathroom and it was their family that had the throw up bug and for some really awful reason it was MY job to clean up all of their vomit. Lovely, yes? It sure makes me feel better knowing that we still only have five potential tummy bug victims at our house, rather than their 19+.

So that was the low point.

Thankfully, the illness struck after having our fill of fun earlier that day. Saturday morning we woke to rain which really made me think this whole trip was a bad idea as we had plans to spend the day outside. After eating pancakes and fruit for breakfast, Andrew took the big kids to the pool to swim since Forrest had made it clear by then that he was ready for a morning nap.
The sun was up by the time he woke up. Hooray! So we walked a short, short way to the Alpine slide (which had just opened for the season). While we were there, I received word that our friends the Leffs were also in town and on their way to do the same thing. We met up with them and enjoyed a morning of visiting while our children played.
 It was great, especially when you consider their four kids are the same ages and genders (with the exception of Ava and Forrest) as our own (win!).
 Lunch and a trip with the Leffs to the swimming pool rounded out a very fun afternoon. After saying goodbye to our friends, we jumped in the car and headed into Heber where we enjoyed an evening train ride at Heber Valley's Wild West Days.
The train ride was complete with a train robbery (*gasp!) and dancing in the aisle to the song, "Happy." It made me happy; even if I was the only member of my family dancing in the walkway. My children are far more dignified, apparently.
Dinner and the eventual throw up chaos ensued. Nearly a full day has passed and so far, no one else has ended up as sick as Miss Eliza. That stat will probably look different in another 24 hours, but I can sure hope! Either way, our summer if off to a great start. I love my little family. I'm thankful for the fun trip we had together but even more for the sweet feelings attached to arriving back home.

Excuse me now as I head off to bed where thoughts of impending tummy bug attacks await my head. (Hey now, that rhyme was not intentional!) Goodnight.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Eliza's Baptism

(Dear reader: if you'd like to skip the sentimental blah, blah, blah... you may click HERE to see the beautiful photos her primary president, and photographer extraordinaire, took; unless your name is Andrew Flegal. In that case, you are required to read every single sappy word. xoxo)

(Written Saturday, May 17th... photos added later)

Dear Eliza,

At this moment, the kitchen is a disaster zone, I can hear Forrest emptying out a nearby cupboard (he's having a blast doing it, by the way) and I lack the motivation to locate the camera so I can begin downloading the photos from today's celebrations. However, my heart is so full right now that I think it might burst; which is what brings me to this letter.
Today, you were baptized. My darling girl, you shine! As I met you in the dressing room following your baptism, your blue eyes, full of such joy, pierced mine in the most brilliant way. It's a feeling and a look I will never forget.
I am proud of you and the testimony that you have grown and carefully nurtured. You've done this through personal prayer, studying the scriptures, participating at church and in our family home evening lessons. As I sat in that room today, I felt peace accompanied by an electric surge of confidence as I recognized that you were truly prepared for this moment.
These past months, you have read and listened (thank you gospel library app) to your scriptures. We made sure to review and explain baptismal covenants during family home evening. I even invited the sister missionaries over for dinner, a great night by the way, to spiritually pump you up! And while I am a most proficient nag, you have always been solid at following through. That's why you are where you are.
These activities became special memories, but really the preparation for today began from the time you were little. I've realized, as I've thought about your younger siblings, that what's more important than that cute KIT KAT pinterest inspired handout, is being a better disciple of Christ myself. It's one thing for me tell you that gospel living brings me great joy, but oh how my actions matter more than flowery statements.
The same is true when thinking about the beautiful details of your baptism. As much as I enjoyed displaying your angelic, "no she's not getting married," baptismal photos along with the collection of flowers your Daddy gathered from our yard this morning; that's not what mattered. The ordinances that were preformed, being baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, is what the day was really about.

You're on your way to returning home to our Father in Heaven! As I already mentioned, being a member of the Church really has brought me great joy in my life. It's a wonderful path you've set out on, but you and I both know it will be full of challenges.

Compared to others, my list of current challenges may seem soft. Soft or not, they are mine. I acknowledge that it isn't an easy thing getting four children ready, by myself, each Sunday. We have 9:00 church and your Dad has early Sunday morning Bishopric meetings. It can be stressful and I often express my frustration.

"Hurry fast, kids! It's time to get in the car!" I yell. "Where did your Church shoes go, dear child? GOSH! You guys! We've got to get to Church so we CAN FEEL THE SPIRIT!" You see the irony, yes? To our credit, I will say, we are usually ten minutes early. Because that's how I roll (and I have to often conduct Relief Society). Not to mention, I'm pretty good at planning ahead after months of having to do this.

Also, relating to Church responsibilities, it isn't easy leaving you during the week to go on relief society visits and missing our bedtime routine. It isn't easy hearing the sad, heart wrenching challenges that many sisters and families in our area are struggling with and being at a loss in regards to how to better help them. It isn't easy seeing Dad leave for work related travel for weeks at a time and knowing that it's up to me to beat up the potential bad guys, rescue you all from a house fire and protect you from an earthquake (and about 10,000 other "I just peed in my pants" type scenarios that accompany my thoughts as I try to fall asleep). It isn't easy living in a world that mocks what is most sacred and precious.

It isn't always an easy thing, trying to serve and live as we should, but I promise that being a member of the Church is worth it!
 Daddy would remind you to always stop and smell the roses.
While Mom would say; plan ahead and leave a little early...give yourself enough time, etc.

I have faith that after we endure to the end, all will be made right and complete through Christ's atonement. Thankfully, every now and again, heaven meets earth for a special moment. When this happens, I feel this blessed reassurance that this Gospel is true and this path is correct. Jesus Christ lives! He knows you, Eliza, personally and loves you more than you can comprehend. Today, was one of those most special days when such special witnesses were seen, heard and felt.

The adversary will always try to distract and prevent a spiritual experience. There was contention this morning, I confess, as we were getting ready. I apologize for that and am even more embarrassed (and proud) to say that you were the one who helped us get back on track. Your Dad turned on beautiful music which helped invite the spirit, I cracked a few jokes signaling that I was giving up my frustrations and you literally danced around; singing your excitement.Thank you for being our example today.
Other special memories include:

During the hustle and bustle our sweet neighbor, Miss Nancy, who is currently traveling in Spain called to talk to you. She let you know you were in her thoughts and wished you the best of luck on your important day. That call from her made you feel special. It was a thoughtful thing to do (as well as tricky when you consider the time differene!).
Finally the time came for us to go to the church; just the two of us. The sound of the font filling with water greeted our ears. It was with great pleasure that I smoothed out table clothes and thoughtfully placed your photos and baptism program on tables in the hallway. The flowers your Dad had collected on your behalf were likewise on display. It looked so lovely.
You were dressed in your white baptismal dress; while your beautiful hair was pulled back into a braid. We were ready to go, with a half hour to spare, when Papa and Nana Marie arrived. Nana presented you with a charcoal drawing which featured eight year old YOU. She spent many hours (days, weeks, months) working on it. You and I admired her masterpiece together. These photos don't do her detail justice.

Bubba arrived next! And the Taylors, followed by our friends the Hansens and our good friend, Miss Peggy. Matt and Allison Mays, three of our next door neighbor friends (The Perrys) and the Chamberlains also made it on time. We were nearly set. Except, in the back of my head, I was concerned about our special friend Patti who had promised to come. Patti has serious physical and emotional challenges. Her road has been very difficult and her health is rapidly declining. Amidst her trials, you and Patti have become dear friends. I called her right when it was to begin to see if she was coming. She had the time wrong! She started sobbing into the phone saying that she was going to try her best and come! I prayed that she'd make it.

It began with a musical number that you requested. Together, we held hands and sang, "Teach me to walk in the Light." All eyes were on you, sweet girl. And most of them were wet with tears.

Bubba gave a wonderful talk on baptism. My Mom summed it up well when she said, "He could be a Primary President" considering the teaching tools he brought with him. His comments were tailored perfectly for you. He carried you in his arms (had to be there) as he explained that through Christ's grace we are saved, after we've done all we can do. Before all that he asked,

"Do you know what your middle name, Grace, means?" Sweetly you replied,

"I don't know, kind of an 'elegance'?" It was cute.

Patti still hadn't arrived by the time he concluded his remarks. I told myself to focus on you and not her. And I did. I was really enjoying it all, while shoveling fruit snacks in Forrest's mouth as fast he demanded. He was getting fussier by the minute! Nap time was calling. Even so, I asked if we could improvise a little and bump up the next musical number before your baptism in hopes that Patti would make it. Everyone kindly agreed.

With your cousins and siblings surrounding you, the group of children sang, "When I am baptized." You sang the loudest. It was done very well. It was finally time!
I told your Dad to wait just a minute while I readied your towel. You were calm and collected as Daddy performed the ordinance. My eyes were full of tears. So were Dad's. The emotions attached to that moment resembled your actual birth. I was amazed at what had just happened. The biggest difference, however, was you. Your face beamed with light. Wearing a most beautiful smile, your face found mine. And that's when I heard the words,

"Patti is here!" She had missed watching you go under the water, but was there in time to see you give her a giant smile and a big wave before you left the font! I later told Patti that she wasn't allowed to feel sad or else I would feel sad for missing the actual dunk. She promised and then sat and joined us for the rest of the meeting. You then dressed in your baptism gown and greeted her properly with a big hug. It was a miracle in my book that she had made it.
Your Papa then gave a talk on the Holy Ghost which included my favorite scripture:

Look Unto Me In Every Thought. Doubt Not. Fear Not.
His talk was likewise wonderful. I could tell; even from the hallway where I paced with a fussy baby named Forrest. My cute friend, Gilda Hansen, took over so I could return for your confirmation. Your Dad's voice cracked with emotion as he commanded you to receive the Holy Ghost. The words that he spoke during that blessing touched my heart deeply. I'm sorry to be Mama Cheeseball McGee, but days like this are rare and special. I watched your face as you stood and shook each hand. Tenderly, you hugged your Dad. I waited for you to fill my arms with a hug. Instead, you situated yourself right into my lap. Even though I wasn't expecting that, I was super happy. I got to squeeze and kiss you as much as I wanted as we listened to the closing comments.

And just like that. It was over. Except for the part where I annoyingly requested that everyone stay for a few photos. I cleaned up our belongings, trying to soak in the feeling of that room, which had suddenly become sacred to me, before leaving. Waiting for us at home was a house full of faces we love and a heaven sent day of gorgeous weather.
I love you Eliza Grace Flegal. I thank God every day that he sent you to our home. You are a wonderful daughter and great example and friend to your brothers and sister. You are full of compassion and thoughtfulness, a brilliant thinker and have a beautiful testimony. If your friendship with Patti wasn't example enough, I close with this sweet memory to illustrate that point.
Around Easter time, you crafted a group of cards for our close neighbors in which you included a drawing of the Savior with your testimony. You did this on your own, cute girl. With enthusiasm, you delivered them all.
"Dear friends, The next holiday is Easter
and please remember his resurrection, kindness
and his loving, caring spirit & soul. He was so kind
so this is his special day. Your friend, 
Eliza F. 
Dear friends, I hope you 
will have a great Easter
And remember Jesus. 
 He is such a wonderful person. 
Please remember his resurrection and when he helped Mary. 
This Easter please remember him. 
Your friend,
Eliza F.
One more. I shared this on Instagram already, but on Mothers Day (your 8th birthday) you danced into my bedroom with a bag of goodies you'd "purchased" from the Uintah Store (school). All year you worked hard to earn Uintah bucks. I found out later that you used all of your Uintah bucks on my Mothers day gift.

You are so dear to me. I'm very thankful for the relationship we share and hope we stay close as we continue on this path together.

I love you infinity times infinity (times infinity)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Yee-haw, let's party!! (and then can I take a nap?)

On your mark, get set...


 In keeping with that racing spirit, here goes the birthday party recap fit for a most special cowgirl. 
After three years of family birthday celebrations, Eliza told me that what she really wanted for her birthday was a party with her school friends.

A month ago, Andrew took the kids to visit a co-worker who owns miniature horses. After that magical introduction, Eliza knew exactly the type of party she wanted. With the theme set, I went to work perusing Pinterest; a process that I usually find overwhelming and painful. When reviewing the thousands of perfectly executed ideas, the pressure of what's possible makes me want to scream. I have many online/social media/time sucking weaknesses, but Pinterest isn't one of them. Unless I have a specific need, I avoid it. But I have to say, as much as it overwhelms me, Pinterest will always deliver a solid idea (and then some!). Why I just shared all that, who knows. Speaking of a waste of time... welcome to MY BLOG!!

I tried to simplify. With the help of a talented lady found via Etsy, I was able to bring a few fun details to life. The process, again, isn't a joyful one, but man... when Eliza is your child and you receive her thrilled reaction to each little thing, the payback is huge. 

First came the decor:
When the girls arrived, we began by taking their photo by the Wanted poster. It helped keep them occupied why we waited for everyone to arrive. Next, they went panning for gold. Lucky for me, Andrew volunteered (wait, what?) to go fly fishing the night before the big party, ahem, by himself. 

"I'll bring home lots of rocks and spray paint them gold." He made good on his promise, but the impromptu fishing trip was less than ideal. I was a good wife and kept my mouth shut. Well, except for the part where I said,

"Okay then. I'm taking the kids to Chik-Fil-A." Since he'd spent that day working from home, I had previously believed he'd be around to help with kids so I could cook uninterrupted (a true gift, I tell you). With all of the cleaning and birthday party prep that remained, I felt justified. Andrew was cool with the plan. My consolation prize for his sudden absence was in place.

Despite my love for Chik-Fil-A, my happy plan imploded just as I was concluding my order via the drive thru.

"Can I get anything else for you, Ma'm?" The super polite, 'It's always a pleasure,' Chik-Fil-A employee asked. Before I can reply, Henry has unbuckled his seat belt and positioned himself right behind my head. He shouts,

"Yes! How about a cup of fart juice please?!"

I WANTED TO DIE. But first, I wanted to verbally beat my child! Because it takes time to roll up the car window, my children were allowed a moment to laugh hysterically. And then, Mean Witch Mom of the West took over. My kids were privileged to a fifteen minute passionate lecture about how good manners begin at home (and that includes the car) etc!!

Sheeeesh. Cold cereal would have been the way to go. Lesson learned! Back to Eliza's birthday party.
The wild bandits gathered with their tin pails around the sandbox. After giving the green light, the hunt for gold began. After finding five pieces, they went to the trading post where Cowboy Henry (a.k.a. Ron Swanson) swapped their gold pieces for gold covered chocolates.
The Pony Express sack race (featured above) followed.
I love our giant yard; even though we are losing the war on weeds (and manners, apparently) at our house. After two (entertaining) rounds of racing, Eliza opened her birthday gifts. Her friends know her well as most of the gifts were artsy craft type projects.
With two presents left to open, the (wait for it) MANE attractions arrived.
ANDREW was thrilled!!!
The kids were pretty excited about it too. After each friend took their first ride, it was time to get some grub (because that's what cowgirls eat: grub).

After singing to the birthday girl (in Chinese of course), the girls were free to play sheriff and bandits, ride the ponies, etc. I'm confident that my birthday girl's wish for a 'fun party with her friends' came true. 
 With her baptism quickly approaching, I will reserve my blogging love song for a different day.
Her actual birthday was Sunday, May 11. She was gracious to share the day as it was also Mothers day. Oh how I love love love her.
Happy Birthday Eve: the last snuggle before my seven year old turns eight.