Friday, February 27, 2015

Party in Eden

Looking back, it's fair to say that our weekend away began well before any of us kissed our families goodbye. It was a dreadful Friday afternoon. You know the type. Time seemed to slowly crawl by despite the flurry of energy associated with trip preparations. A group of Moms, eager to make that next step in our relationship, kept our cell phones in close proximity; keeping a vigil over a most entertaining stream of text messages. What began as a correspondence to finalize details evolved into sharing snapshots of our disheveled homes in an effort to "keep things real." Wit and humor colored the commentary and there may have even been an occasional selfie attached with personal declarations of love for naughty beverages (read: dirty diet cokes). 
 
The countdown was on. And while there were certainly items waiting to be checked off of our personal "to-do" lists, the feelings of impatience and eagerness wouldn't subside. At last, dinner time came and went at the Flegal household. A list of reminders for my family was lovingly taped the refrigerator door. And finally,  the personal pile of "stuff" I had accumulated was neatly placed by the door; the sight of which made it appear that I was heading to Europe for a month.

Finally, after one last kiss goodbye, my kind husband dropped me off at Maren's house! Let the party begin (but first Maren and I played tetris with our luggage as we tried to arrange it into her car. Like me, she was bringing  a lot of crap stuff)!! Picking up our third musketeer, Alyssa, we made our way to downtown Ogden where we met up with rest of the crew at Blue Lemon, a restaurant new to the Junction.  And, it must be said, that downtown Ogden is a sublime place to spend a night out. I mean it. My love and affection for Ogden is genuine.
Dinner was both delicious and delightful, even if we had the most confused (that's a polite way of saying inept) restaurant staff attending us. Dinner was a warm up for the marathon chat fest that would take place that weekend. Looking back, I am left to wonder, didn't we all earn a medal? I would really appreciate a medal. 
"Hey guys!" I offer. "How about we ask that friendly stranger to snap a photo of us?" Instead they introduced me to a "selfie stick."  It can be a tricky trick to master, but Erica and Kalie rocked it.

A good while later, Kalie suggests, 

"How about we jump in our cars and make our way to the house? I'm excited to see it!" And that's when it hit me. Our night out wasn't over! I didn't have to go home. And while I'd miss my kids, I was really thrilled, to learn all over again, that this was just the beginning! 

We made the quick drive up to Eden and quickly began bringing in our supplies. 
 "The supplies."

The tour of the house blew us away. It's hard to imagine people living in such luxury, but truly those who let us use their cabin are among the most generous and down to earth families. My admiration for the lady of the house, even though I've never met her, grew more and more each day as I observed the way in which she organized her home. It was so brilliant and inspiring.
 Despite the multiple bedrooms, we all thought it would be awesome (and less scary) to share a room that had three bunk beds. Some ladies would be sharing the bottom bunk that was full sized. More on that later. 
After having our fill of "bedtime snacks" we retired to the theater room in the basement and participated in a "favorite thing" exchange. I have never done one of these before but ended up really loving it; especially since I scored hemp lotion, a snickers almond bar and new chap stick! YES! 
Bedtime happened around 2:00 a.m. Because I'm a crazy person, I had a difficult time falling asleep. I was nervous that my tossing and turning would keep my bunk mates awake. So I laid still. I tried to sleep but failed in a big way. Around 6:00 a.m., having only cat napped, I made my escape for another room and found myself on a big couch. Minutes later another friend emerged. It was Maren! And I scared the daylights out of her when I said "Hello!" as it was totally dark. We visited for a bit and then decided to "sleep" which attempt lasted a solid 3 minutes. Soon after that try failed, Erica joined us followed by Kalie (and no, they claim we didn't wake them up. If we did, than i apologize.)

I was okay with the exhaustion as I knew that I didn't have small children to care for that day. But I did feel hindered in my ability to communicate (but I pressed on, don't you worry) and think clearly. Many of us succeeded when we tried for a nap, thank goodness. I point this out because there is a giant misconception that continually tricks me. On a girls weekend, you assume their will be sleep because their won't be any children there. WRONG! This is wrong. Why am I so quick to forget how women operate? We talk and talk and talk and talk! Nobody has time to sleep!

It was a cozy scene as we lounged on those couches, wrapped in red blankets, watching the sun rise. The scenery was exquisite. Later that day, there would be a steady snow fall. With the fire place lit, we visited, read and rested; drinking in the peaceful atmosphere.
The Eden house
 

 
 Chelsea and Kalie (who is modeling one such, cozy red blanket)

The kitchen table was another favorite gathering place. Thoughtful, delicious meals were enjoyed there. We ate like Queens (and Kings... because we truly ate and ate!). 
Well, Hello baby Beau! 
Being the youngest of the bunch, Beau still needed sometime with his Mama.
He was such a gentleman while he was with us.
He is madly in love with his sweet mama, Maren!


Saturday afternoon we gathered to discuss our latest article. It spoke me to me. Add to what I just wrote a thousand other cliche sentences to illustrate how touched I was by this article. I was a tearful mess. Don't worry, friends. I didn't cry alone. We were blurbing and sharing testimony and you, dear reader, are probably wanting to stab a fork in your eye just hearing about it. These articles have moved our friendship along as it has forced us out of comfort zones to places of real vulnerability. That's when we bond most. Also, when Kalie decides to give you a foot rub out of the blue BECAUSE SHE'S JUST AWESOME LIKE THAT, you bond some more. Don't worry. I returned the favor. This is my favorite photo from the weekend because you can tell that I am talking (SHOCKER, my poor friends) and getting a foot rub; at the same time.
Don't worry Mom. 
I tried my best to be a good listener and interrupt less. 
I need to do better, but I am trying. 
Dinner at Luis in Huntsville.
I was introduced to the best guacamole ever. 
It's the one photo of the entire group as a few ladies 
had to come and go at different times.
Sunday morning.

Cleaning and straightening was a breeze as there were many hands to help and no children to undo our efforts. We said our goodbyes and promised to do this again real soon. And then texted one another all Sunday night... withdrawals are rough.

Building friendships

Investing time in growing and maintaining friendships, of the old and new variety, isn't easy when your life revolves around a family that is both deserving and demanding. However, as I've reflected on the friendships I've enjoyed since becoming a Mother, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude that certain paths crossed when they did; allowing new relationships to form and old ones to reconnect.

Please allow me a moment of indulgence as I re-play snippets of personal history. This would be Andrew's cue to tune out entirely.

As newlyweds, Andrew and I discovered that when attempting to befriend other couples, awkward feelings, similar to those that exist in the dating world, can surface.  It begins with desire.

"They look nice.
"Should we invite them over for a game night?" 
"Would they think that's weird?"

 And then a comparison.

"Does she make better chocolate chip cookies than me?"
"Their home decor is so much better than ours!"

And then a legitimate fear.

"Did I talk too much?"
"Do you think they smelled that?"

And finally, a hint of rejection.

"I saw them sitting by that other couple during Sunday School.
 And they were LAUGHING. Have we been replaced?"

An awkward, true story, that illustrates what I'm talking about can be found  here.

Making new friends on a couple to couple basis can be extra tricky when one of you is an introvert who doesn't watch sports (read: Andrew).  Matters are made worse when the other half tries to compensate for their silence by over sharing experiences from her life in the worst way possible. ("Hey guys! Let's talk about my first ever appointment with a gynecologist!" - Sadly, that happened once.) 

When Andrew and I landed in Germany, things changed.  I became them introvert due to the language barrier, this was rough for me by the way, which left Andrew responsible for each facet of our survival: the financial, the physical and the social.  This new formula proved successful as we met and bonded with the Auras family. In fact, they decided to love and accept us long before our plane landed in Munich. When it was time to say, "Goodbye," our hearts broke!

In the past, I've said much about my friendship with Michelle Blaser and our Boiling Springs ward family. She rescued me from a most intense homesickness and without realizing it, pulled me from a thick depression that I didn't know I was experiencing until I emerged from it months later. Her low key, easy going, can do, nature rubbed off on me little by little. I was a baby bird who had fallen from her nest and landed in South Carolina. I learned to fly, as a Mother, by watching her. Returning to Utah was something we had hoped and prayed for, but when it actually happened, I wasn't prepared for how real of a loss those friendships would be. You do your best to stay connected, but it falls short of filling the actual void. With time, those feelings become less tender and you wonder if that friendship and that type of connection to a ward family is simply a once in a lifetime sort of blessing. 

Moving back to Utah, I was so happy to be nearer to the friends I grew up with. They have been so fantastic to invite me to gatherings and are forgiving when that 45 minute distance and other circumstances (kids in school) prevent me from coming. Our trip to California last summer renewed relationships and reminded me how lucky I am to have a history with such talented, beautiful and intelligent women. 

Here in South Ogden, I told myself that because I was so fortunate to have our awesome families nearby that my need for friends wasn't what it had once been. My heart still hurt from those I missed in South Carolina and because of that, I think I was hesitant to fully extend myself; not to mention, my life was quite busy with three small children. I bet that excuse is one that too many Mothers fall back on when considering their social life. So that's where my focus stayed, entirely on the needs of my family. 

Thankfully, Heavenly Father knew better as he soon planted Melanie Parker and Kim Vause into my life. Melanie has been an inspiration to me as I was able to observe up close what real courage looks like as a Mother. And while I believe all Mothers are courageous, some circumstances force women to demonstrate their bravery on a more public scale; which I'm sure isn't an easy thing. Kim invited our family to do things with theirs, was a great friend to talk with and became that Mom I could call when I was in a bind. In November 2012, both Kim and Melanie moved away and I that familiar pang of loss returned.

That same month, I was called to serve in our relief society presidency and have since become close friends with the women I serve with. They are older than me and their current circumstances in life are much different than my own. To experience that friendship and bond grow has been a real treat and blessing. We've been through a lot together. I can't help but love and respect them. My involvement with relief society also brought about other friendships that I don't know if I would have found on my own. The lesson here: accept calls willingly and do thy visiting teaching!

Spring of 2012 rolls around and I receive an invite from my fashion savvy, quick witted, structure loving, Ryan Gosling admiring, beautiful friend Maren to join a "power of moms" group. What in the world is power of moms? She explained that each month we'd read an article that pertains to Motherhood and then meet to discuss it. I am ashamed to admit this, but what really sold me on the idea of joining was the fact that I was Maren's visiting teacher. My life had never been busier as I had spent the previous months immersing myself into a new calling and was a month away from delivering my fourth child. If I committed, which I thankfully did, I would likely see Maren on a monthly basis. For the record, I am no longer her visiting teacher. My motives for going each month are entirely pure. :) 

That was nearly two years ago. Since then, our group has grown and evolved as friends have moved away and new women have accepted invitations to join. My gratitude for this special circle of friends is through the roof. It has reminded me of the benefits and blessings that fill a woman's soul when she nurtures friendships and makes them a priority. Hopefully, as an added bonus, I've become a more deliberate Mother as we have talked our way through some thought provoking topics. Not every article is a home run. Sometimes we disagree with the author but the conversations that follow never lack. We laugh, we cry, overstay welcomes, while happily sacrificing precious hours of sleep to do so. I am thankful for Maren's ongoing enthusiasm as it propels us forward, month by month. This past weekend our long awaited, highly anticipated, retreat finally happened. That post, is up next. 

But before that happens, I feel the need to acknowledge (because I don't want to exclude anyone from this love fest!) that I had a great college experience, filled with amazing people. To this day, I love my roommates dearly. Also, I believe that really awesome friendships can be born through social media (Hi Rachel, Jessie, Mel, Kim, Lacey and apologize to whoever else I am forgetting). Comments left on my blog and instagram mean so much. Thank you, thank you.

 And to Andrew, if you made it through this entire post, come and find me. Tell me the secret word: "daisy" and I will give you a prize. ;)

 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cupid Goes Missing

Friday the 13th deserves special mention this year as I genuinely had a freak out moment that involved, who else, Forrest.  
Friday was also the night that Andrew and I went out for our fancy Valentine's day date. 

Andrew had been out of town on business the previous two nights. He assured me he'd be home in time for our big night out. Bless his heart, he made it home in time! Breaking up the drive back, he took his "lunch break" on the river where he enjoyed a spot of fly fishing.  Technically, I wasn't supposed to find out about that part because our phone conversation that day had included a plea from me to, 

"Please, hurry home!" 

He'd been gone awhile and I had a list that afternoon that included:
  • Tidy the house for the babysitter.  
  • Transform myself out of "sloppy Mom mode" into "cute wifey mode." This is a real challenge at the end of the day. I ended up taking two showers because I am crazy and couldn't decide what to do with my hair or what I was going to wear; so I thought that fretting in the shower over  these things (that don't truly matter) would make me feel better.
  • Feed the children. 
Husbands beware. Wives know things. We will find out about those secret fishing trips. We always do.

As Andrew walks in the door, I ask him to please take dinner out of the oven. I rush upstairs to try to recreate those college days when getting ready for fancy affairs was enjoyable. I relax some knowing that Andrew is finally home. A few minutes later, he joins me upstairs as he needs to get ready too.

As I curl my hair, we catch each other up on the past few days (read: Ali runs her mouth, Andrew politely listens). I suddenly have the distinct impression to stop what I am doing and go tell my kids that there dinner has cooled off enough for them to begin eating. 

The kids are happy; at least that's my assumption as I'm not hearing any crying. It doesn't matter to me if they eat now or in ten minutes. I am curling my hair in peace! And to be honest, it's been months since I've used a curling iron on my own hair. Why interrupt a good thing? I get the feeling again to go to the top of the stairs and holler to the kids that they can begin eating. So I do exactly that. 
The view from the top of our stairs
   
While standing at the top of the stairs, I catch sight of Forrest's blue shirt out the window. My stomach drops as I watch him toddling down the sidewalk toward the driveway. 

WHY IS HE OUTSIDE?!? The front door is closed. We always keep it locked. As I race down the stairs, I notice a small white stool. We keep that stool in the bathroom so Lottie can better reach the faucet when washing her hands. However, it's not in the bathroom. It's right next to the front door. That cute little stinker found the stool, carried it to the front door, used it so he could unlock the door and then let himself outside. 

I quickly retrieve him, lock the door behind me and smother his face in kisses. I say a prayer; thanking Heavenly Father for prompting me to go to the top of the stairs. An assortment of circumstances could have prevented me from noticing him when I did. Thankfully, he was precisely where he needed to be for me to catch sight of him. Andrew had been with him a few minutes before. I had assumed that he was still playing with the big kids in the living room, per the norm. Motherhood isn't for the faint of heart.

As for the rest of our night, Andrew and I went to our neighbors for dinner and then to our church building for a dance. Our stake hired an eight piece brass band and an instructor to help us learn the foxtrot, waltz and swing. They also had a professional photographer taking pictures against a Valentine's theme back drop. My poor babysitter had to endure several text messages from me reminding her to keep an extra good eye on Forrest as he has a tendency to go rogue. Good grief. 
 I'm glad we went to the dance. Andrew and I were able to share a few tender moments but to be honest, we mostly squabbled as we did our best to patiently endure each other. I tried my best to let him lead but since earning that "A" in social dance during college, I thought that I was being "helpful" as I called out the steps. It drove him crazy! We both enjoyed socializing with friends and the delicious slush drink. Those two things combined made up for the dancing pitfalls.  

 As for the Fleglets, I survived another year pretending to be the Mom who loves to craft as I went to town on constructing Valenitne robots. I thought it was great that they all wanted to make the same robot Valentine. I thought I was simplifying the holiday until I found myself  at Walmart, counting out 75 candy heart boxes and trying to find the googly eyes. I declared myself insane as I headed to the check out line. 
I would freely complain about the time it took to glue these babies together, but thankfully my cute kids were interested in the process. They took their turns sitting by my side, helping me choose the color combinations, etc. We talked and laughed and I know it sounds corny, but I really loved it. It was unexpected that we'd genuinely bond during a project that would normally have me pulling my hair out, but I really loved listening to Henry and Eliza chat about things I would have never thought to ask them about in the first place. 

To Henry's dismay, Eliza filled me in on who Henry asked to be his Valentine. Henry blushed as he confirmed the account of how he approached her at recess! Normally, I'd feel left out that Henry had kept this information from me, but to be honest I can't blame him. His Mom has a tendency to get over excited about these things.  To see that he had confided in sister, despite the fact that she spilled the beans, sure was sweet. 

Eliza wanted to make her own Valentine's box this year. She didn't want to follow a pattern from pinterest. She wanted to be free to create how she pleased.
Henry and Lottie both made their Valentine boxes at school. Sorry Martha Stewart, but I really love when their teachers take charge, leaving me off the hook!
Valentine's day itself included a special trip to Build a Bear for Lottie and Henry. My Mom gifted them that experience for Christmas and we finally made the trip down. The kids LOVED the experience. They made their selections quickly as Henry settled on Toothless and Lottie chose an Elsa Bear. Shocker. Cousin Sara came too as she recently had a birthday. It was a fun morning, followed by a little shopping and lunch at Chik-Fil-A. We also got trapped in the parking lot of the Gateway but I don't feel the need to re-live that experience. 
Later that day, Andrew took Eliza and Bun Bun (one of our rabbits) down to a farm where they quickly arranged a rabbit marriage for Bun Bun and a male rabbit before allowing them to procreate. In a month or so, we will have baby bunnies. Heaven help me.

And now, to quickly change the subject, here's a couple cute ones of the kids enjoying being outside.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Good things

Growing up, my family and I would gather around my parent's bed for nightly prayer. In unison, we'd say: "Amen," at its conclusion. And then, in a chorus like fashion, the children would sing out the words:

"Good things!!"

This was the cue to our parent's that we were looking forward to hearing them praise each of us individually. Looking at us one by one, they would share with the family a "good thing" we did that day. They might express gratitude for someone who happily followed through on a chore. Or perhaps they observed us doing something kind for someone else or they noticed that we worked really hard at baseball practice. You get the idea. It was something they implemented as a way of letting us know that they were paying attention and appreciated us for making good choices. It ended our day on a positive note and reinforced to us that we were valued and loved. It was a simple tradition but had a big effect on me. Sometimes we would end up laughing as they would have to pause a minute, or more, as they racked their brain, trying to remember something good a particular child (*cough *cough:  MICHAEL) did. I'm just kidding. Well, kind of.

As I've been looking through my pictures on my phone, I find that I'm looking for those same "good things;" not just the things my children do but I'm trying to find the good things in our day to day life in an effort to be a more grateful (which might be code for 'obnoxious') person.

Having shared that memory, I will now proceed with a few "good things."  

Let's begin with Lottie. She got to bring home "Little Lambie" from preschool. It was up to me to record their time together in Little Lamb's journal and safely return her to school. Little Lamb had a sleepover with Lottie:
(...and we wonder why our children get sick so easily, because I'm pretty sure Little Lamb has a sleepover with all of her classmates when visiting their homes...)
Little Lamb observed Lottie at her tumbling/tap dance class. Lottie can now do a "bridge" which took her months to learn but she's now able to get her head that's full of so much brain off of the ground. That's a good thing. Way to go Lottie! 
They also enjoyed quality time putting a puzzle together. 

Last weekend, Lottie and I got to attend cousin Sara's birthday party! Living near to a beloved cousin is definitely a good thing. Lottie adores her. 
My look-a-like sister and I gave birth to look-a-like cousins. 

Because we're trying to outspend my sister's family in medical bills this year, I took Eliza and Henry to the dentist to have some work done. Eliza had a cavity that needed to be filled while Henry needed his top tooth pulled. Unlike his sister, he has never had a cavity so it was quite alarming to him when he learned that he'd need a shot to numb his mouth before having his tooth pulled.
"Noooooooooo!" The good thing was, Henry decided to be very brave. 

"Word on the street is," I began, "the Tooth Fairy brings a little extra money to those who have to have their teeth pulled by the dentist." The dental assistant very quickly backed me up. 

This story takes a sad turn as the tooth fairy didn't make it to our house that night. #momfail. He woke up the next morning heart broken. The good thing was, because we freely deceive our children in such a way, Henry didn't blame me at all. 
He won't be "toothless Tilly" for long as his new permanent tooth is already visible. It was growing in behind his baby tooth which is why it needed to be pulled. Thankfully that spacey tooth fairy got her act together the following night.  
Utah has been singing non-stop over the mild weather we've been enjoying these past few weeks. That has probably been the best thing to have happened to all of us. After our self imposed quarantine in January, it's been wonderful to be back outside. I spontaneously sent a text to a few friends the other day to see if anyone wanted to meed me at our neighbor's park. I was surprised when they ALL showed up. It was hard to know if the Mom's or kids were happiest to be outside. 
Here's another good thing. The other day, we stopped by the park on our walk home from school. Lottie immediately asks, "Henry will you push me on the swing?" Without hesitating, he agreed. Looking through my pictures I saw that he commonly does this for Lottie.
Eliza will turn any spot, into a reading spot. She reads, reads, reads and then reads some more. Until a fun friend shows up. Then she might put her book away.
When playing outside, we layer Forrest's cast with a sock and tighten it with a rubber band at the top in an attempt to prevent sand from making its way inside of his cast. Despite our best efforts, I predict that when it's all said and done and that cast is removed, we will find a great deal of sand, possibly a fruit snack or two and a couple of lego pieces.
He is so cute these days. We are all enjoying him so much.
Even though he's busy plotting something that will give his Mother a fright.

Eliza is growing up. This was made evident by her ability to sleep in past nine on Saturday. I'm sure she'll continue to break her own sleeping in records as she grows.
Saturday I came home from the grocery store and saw my four kids in the yard with Andrew. I was overcome with happiness. I stopped what I was doing to just sit and watch "my life" for a few minutes as they played with bunnies outside.

Then I asked if Andrew if we could have just one more baby and he laughed in my face. (bad thing).