Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Their first day report

The first day of school was definitely the most difficult for...wait for it...Forrest. Surprising, yes? This is why. This week, school ends at 1:10 each day  (a.k.a. early out schedule). We haven't had many 'constants' this summer with the exception of Forrest's daily nap. Sometimes that nap would happen as late as 1:00 but most days, he was ready for his snooze by 11:30. Having had an early morning, I made the decision to put him down while the kids were at school. However, when the time came to wake him up, my poor baby cried in protest. {I empathize sweet Forrest. I really do.} Thanks to my rude interruption, our afternoon was made colorful by his grumpy mood. And when I say "colorful," imagine varying shades of red.

Side note: the honorable mention for upsetting behavior goes to Lottie. She was pretty tired herself. 

Last night, I would have predicted that I would be dragging my children out of their beds. Their bodies are accustomed to partying well past bedtime and sleeping in later than 7:15. To my surprise, Lottie and Henry trotted into our bedroom, fully dressed, a few minutes before 7:00 this morning. Eliza soon followed.

"Well, that was easy." I silently mused. Their excitement delighted me. However, Henry's exhaustion was evident when he suffered a meltdown over a disagreement he and I had over which pair of socks he should wear. Meltdown #2 occurred when we disagreed, once more, on which route we'd be taking on our walk to school this morning. Despite a highly punctual parent (hey, I'm fairly mediocre, so please allow me to praise my ability to be on time), Eliza was still concerned that the the route I wanted to take would totally make us late.

"Relax, we'll be there with extra time to spare!" And, ahem, we were.

But before jetting off to school, we made time for family scripture study, prayer and most important (teasing) the first day of school photos. My "nice camera" is under the weather at the moment, so I did the best I could with my iphone.

I really love these kids!

Here they are, marching the "really, extra long" way to school. Lottie was shaking her booty. She's hilarious.
Not pictured: Baby Forrest. He was busy having "the worst diaper I've ever seen" (according to Andrew) changed inside. Andrew was able to walk the kids to school with me. I loved that it was a family affair.

The kids greeted me with bright, beaming faces. They praised their teachers up and down! My Mom heart sang. Henry is super jazzed about learning Chinese and asked Eliza:

"So do you think by Friday, I'll be able to speak Chinese with you?"

He also said, "Hey Mom. I know how to say stand up and sit down in Chinese!"

"Oh really? That's great!" I reply. "How do you say it?"

"Um... I forgot."  And for the record, Henry's "I forgot" face is pretty adorable; which is great because he has a tendency to forget things.

Laughing he tells me, "Oh guess what, Mom? Today at school, I was the only one in the whole class who left their lunchbox in the cafeteria." His smiling face reassures me that he handled this misstep okay at school.

"Mrs. Longfellow was passing back the lunchboxes." Hitting the palm of his hand on his forehead he continues: "And I was like, oh man! I forgot mine! So she walked with me to find it." That seemed to be his only hiccup from his first day. I'm so excited about their teachers this year. It makes sending them off to school 100 times easier.

Eliza was full of detail as she shared with me who she sits by and who she spent time with at recess. She loves her teacher, Mrs. DeMille and said her math review in Chinese was super easy for her. 

As for Lottie and me, we came home and immediately made Mel's thick and chewy chocolate chip brownie bars. I mean, come on. What else are you going to do to lift your spirits at 8:45 in the morning? Plus, it made a fun after school treat for the big kids. Our morning without Eliza and Henry passed quickly. At least that's how it felt when I saw the familiar sight of Lottie and Henry riding the wiggle cars on our back patio this afternoon. And what do you know? A short while later, they were arguing over a bottle of bubbles.

Sighing to myself I thought:

"You know, it's like summer never ended."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back To School Butterflies

Change is in the air! Closets have been thinned. Drawers have been sorted and re-organized. Shoes have been straightened into tidy rows. Socks have been mated. New clothes have carefully been hung...

The comprehensive, crappy because I hate it, closet clean-out of 2014 is nearly over. Donation bags need to be dropped off and clothing bins need to be stored for future use. Other than that, we can check that project off the list. Hooray!  

In the spirit of cleaning out, I cleared each child's bulletin boards in anticipation of the flood of fliers and school related notices that are about to hit.
I like the empty look so much that I might wait a few months before I start covering it with school reminders. 

Eye appointments, Priesthood blessings from Dad and "back to school haircuts" have also happened. Eliza's was very specific that she wanted a minor trim.
 
 
School supplies have been collected and turned in.
As specific as certain requests were, I had to look to Amazon for some items. Thank you Amazon Prime for free shipping.

And finally, after attending Back to School night with Eliza and Henry we came home Monday night ready to have family home evening. Tonight we introduced the kids to our family theme for the year.
 (Flower bouquets courtesy of Andrew.
We celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary this weekend!)

We wanted to "seek out" some ideas on how we can help build and stay focused on God's kingdom. So first, we had to construct our binoculars. 
 
 
 The kids decorated their binoculars with stickers. Andrew decorated Forrest's face with stickers.
 While the older children and I attended Back to School night, Andrew and Lottie set up the scavenger hunt.
 After all the tags had been collected, we busted out the treats and talked about each idea.
 My giant goal (I'm so terrible when it comes to goals) is to focus on one of these principles each month. We'll plan our FHE lessons around them and hopefully increase home evening consistency.
We're really good at 'winging' lessons. That will probably still happen; who am I kidding? But I feel good about this plan. I also felt good about my plan to assign each person in my family a laundry day and that didn't last a full week. So my track record is kind of awful. If I blog my progress, hopefully it will help keep me accountable AND limit the number of times I hear Eliza say this:

"Yes. I read my scriptures and pray every day. But NEVER with my family. I do it all on my own."

Good grief. 

And finally, let's call this the final shot of summer 2014. After dinner, my kids congregated together in the sandbox and I suddenly felt weepy. It's truly been their gathering place for the past three months (along with the couch in front of the television). I hope with my whole heart that it remains a place for all four of them to share for many summers to come because heaven knows they don't all fit in the bathtub. (*Insert Eliza here: Eww, that would be gross Mom! I need my privacy,  Mom!)
Tomorrow's the big day. Wish them luck (um, and me too!). 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

As school approaches: 2014 edition

It finally happened. Eight year old Eliza has finally taken an interest in this, my seven year old, blog! The other day, as she was surfing the internet, she asked me how to find her Aunt Ami's blog. 

Per the norm, I try to deflect the attention away from my sister and back over to me. I'm so shallow, what?!

"You know, Eliza" I say. "Our family has a blog too." Because she is not allowed to have her own instagram account, Eliza thinks blogging is pretty cool.

Appeasing her dear old Mom, she clicks to my most recent post and settles in for a solid twenty minutes (possibly longer). When her reactions become audible, I stop what I'm doing and lay on the couch across the room from where she is sitting. Having waited a long time for this moment, I allow myself the pleasure of taking in the ever changing expressions on her face. My heart swells with delight as she laughs at my jokes.

"Good one, Mom!" She says. I even catch a little heat for the post about our recent outings with the Blasers.

"That 'goodbye' was not awkward!" She insists, rolling her eyes. My stomach sinks for a moment. I hope there isn't much else in my blog's history that could possibly hurt or offend one of my kids. Other than that fleeting moment of concern, it was a validating and rewarding experience for me.

As the comments from my posts and many blogging friends have disappeared, there have definitely been times when I thought about disappearing from the blogging world too. I've tried other journal type methods but nothing suits me quite like this. Instagram is loads of fun, feel free to find me @aliflegal and we can be friends, but I don't want my insta friends to grow insta weary of all photos and documenting that must be done when you have four kids who are growing up so darn quick. And, it must be said, I like to play with words. I love the backspace button and the freedom it affords me to change, correct and begin fresh as needed. I like that (the two) people who visit this blog are here because they want to be and not because they have to be. And now, knowing that one of the stars of this blog is frequenting it and enjoying it, I feel very happy.

In the days that followed that first reading session, Eliza's ventured into the archives. The other day she found photos of Lottie when she was two months old and together with Henry and Lottie they marveled over her cuteness. When I return to the archives myself, the posts I enjoy most are the ones that described a "mundane" type of day. It may have felt ordinary when I wrote it, but now it's a (excuse me as I cover my keyboard in syrup) treasured memory considering how that particular phase, that type of day, is forever out of reach. Those babies aren't babies anymore. In fact, they're getting ready to start third and first grade in a week and a half and now share the attention they once had to themselves with two more siblings (as an example).

So, future Ali, here's what you and Andrew did today.

Do you remember the leather couches you bought off of Craigslist in South Carolina back in 2008? We bought them for $400.00. For our family it was both a steal and a splurge of a purchase all at once. It was also quite scandalous as we bought them on a Sunday; which was confessed openly to our home teacher when Andrew called to ask if he could borrow his trailer to pick them up. These well loved and over used couches were recently retired. Banished to the garage a few months ago, Andrew's been forced to park in the driveway. Finally, today, Andrew sold one of them and then broke apart the other one because it made him feel like a man. He plans to haul its remains to the dump. The garage was then cleaned and his car returned to its home.

As for me, I've been in the process of cleaning out children's closets. It's tedious and sometimes slow moving when a certain fifteen month old is in the room (not) helping me. Between monitoring the toys he's tempted to put in his mouth and watching in dismay as he unrolls the stack of clothes that were previously neatly stacked next to me... it can be frustrating. I've put off Lottie's section of the closet because I don't want to wonder right now if I should donate them all or save them for a possible, future baby. Andrew's strong opinion is that those clothes are ready for a new home. :)

Having persevered through Eliza and Henry closets of chaos and  their overstuffed drawers of doom, we were rewarded with shopping trips for new school clothes and shoes.
 
 That's not even the half of it. 
Good grief.

However, Henry skipped out on the fun shopping part. While Henry was cleaning out the chicken coop with his Dad today, I walk out to the coop and ask,

"Hey pal! Do you want to come with Mom to go look at some new clothes for school?" Not wanting to hurt my feelings, he hesitates. I throw the kid a bone:

"You don't have to, honey." What I wanted to say was "Please come Henry! I want some time alone with you! It will be fun and I will buy you a treat. That's a personal win for me because I like to eat treats too!"

"I think I'll stay here and keep working with my Dad. Thanks though, Mom." Andrew beamed at me from inside of the chicken coop.

"So are you okay if the girls come instead and help me choose some cool clothes?" Andrew and Henry both nod. Forrest was napping, by the way. Lottie didn't want to come which left Eliza buzzing with excitement. She and I do love our one on one time together. It didn't bother her for a minute that the shopping we'd be doing was for Henry.
Fueling up at Cafe Zupas
while out on our "back to school" shopping trip for Henry

Alone in the car, I turned off the radio as Eliza made it clear that it was time for some serious girl talk! Not wanting to embarrass her, I won't repeat what her specific questions. I wanted to take her seriously without being too serious; if that makes sense. She has many grown up questions that she anticipates future Eliza will need to know the answer to (ie: love triangles). You want to prepare your children without stressing them out completely. She's a romantic! And I don't want to spoil her ideas of love by telling her how ugly relationships can be when you make crappy choices. The seriousness of that warning will be taught, I assure you. But for now, I feel that the best thing Andrew and I can do for her, is to love each other openly and try our best to keep our marriage healthy and strong. That example is what they need to see daily. Thankfully, she's only eight. And we have time to prepare before that season truly arrives. During our conversation, there were many times when I had to default with, "I'll explain that better when you're a little older..." even so, I still had plenty, age appropriate, experiences to share. I apologize for the tangent.

I'm so curious how Lottie will approach these thoughts. Will she be an open book like her sister? Eliza really does hunger and thirst for knowledge: secular, spiritual and all things "girly girly" I'm so blessed to be her Mom and hope she'll always come to me for things like this (more syrup... sorry) instead of the Twilight novels (among other sources).   

Insert cute Lottie pictures here:
Lottie rocks the 80's summer hair magnificently. 
I'll pay better attention to her amazing curls when school begins. 
I promise.

How about a moment of silence for her eye lashes? 

Henry may have skipped out on his back to school shopping, but he can't always manage his way out of a trip to the store. That lucky duck heard Target slushies were involved so he happily signed up for this trip. These two...

Brain Freeze!

And I feel bad that Forrest is not featured so let's close with this:

Exploring Lake Mary

Saturday, August 2nd we picked up Michael from his hotel as we had plans to spend the morning in Utah's beautiful mountains. We have memories (like this) of Michael and his family showing us the majesty of the Alps and other Bavarian treasures. This made me quietly wonder if Utah would be able to impress him in return. From what we could tell, he loved the scenery! It's not what he's accustomed to which I think enhanced his experience. It was a beautiful day! The trail was full of eager hikers but I didn't think that it took away from enjoyment that morning. The kids, Lottie especially, exceeded my expectations as there was minimal to zero complaints as we tackled the continuous incline up the mountain.
 
The kids (read: me) needed to stop and rest along our way up. The grown ups (again read: me) were happy to oblige.
Andrew isn't a complainer either. That's saying something when you consider that he still suffers from lingering back pain from his car accident last year. When he's active like this, which is often, he pays for it later.

Finally, we made it to the lake!
While Mom busted out the picnic lunch, Dad got to work setting up the fishing poles. The situation was made awkward due to the fact that we were sitting on an incline. Forrest wasn't able to navigate the hill which meant he had to park it in one of our laps. He did fine until, well... until he had ENOUGH! His scream of impatience was our cue that our picnic lunch/fishing excursion was over!! Once he was back in the pack, thankfully, he calmed right down.
Forrest was more interested in the squirrels and chipmunks that were scurrying around his siblings than in Andrew's fishing project.
 
 
The critters were hoping for a few crumbs from their sandwiches.
Eliza, on the other hand, had her sights on catching fish.
 My girls!
It was Michael's first time fishing. :)
Mom on baby duty
Andrew taught the kids to dip their hats in the water to help cool them down. The kids thought this was great except for the part where they had to put the now sopping hat back on their heads.

"Here Mom!" Handing their hat toward me. "Hold this for me." Ha. Right.
It was a beautiful day.

Michael also had his first ever slurpee after we finished the hike. I know. It really was a day of important firsts.

Unless you ask Forrest. That night, at our swimming/bbq/pony ride ward party... Forrest took his first ride on a pony. He hated it. Clearly. :)