Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What in the world? Eliza is ten!!!

My Ten Year Old!

Dear Eliza,

You've reached a big milestone! Despite your frequent reminders, I don't think I've fully processed that you've reached double digits! My goodness, the past ten years went by quickly. I have to begin by thanking you for the joy and love you have brought to my life. You look to me as your teacher, but I think often about how you are the one teaching me. You made me a Mom! Seeing how you trust and look to me for answers has forced me to believe and trust in my capabilities. When I'm unsure of my parental footing, you graciously allow me to implement the "fake it until you make it" method while I figure out what to do next. And when I really make a mistake, you are quick to forgive and offer reassurance of your love. I hope that I can heed your example as you grow from tween to teenager to young adult. I hope that I will return that kindness; be quick to forgive and constantly assure you of the love I have for you. 

In recent weeks, I've been impressed with your testimony. You've made scripture study a real priority lately. It's been humbling to observe this as I don't feel that I am making as strong of an effort in my own life. A few times, you've shared with me an experience or a passage of scripture that really spoke to you. You aren't sharing these insights because you're trying to impress me but because you've been touched by the Spirit. I see the sincerity in your eyes. These exchanges make my heart swell.

At Church, I feel that sometimes we are gentle and delicate as we talk about the commandments and what God's standards are for His people. This isn't a criticism, but more of an observation. However, the scriptures can be blunt and/or hard to hear; especially when our lives aren't aligned with Christ's teachings as well as they should be. Sometimes these verses, the ones that refer to truly wicked people, inspire fear and concern. You worry so much about your eternal salvation. I worry for you as you can be a perfectionist and as you reflect on your weaknesses, I see that you are too hard on yourself. It breaks my heart when this happens. I'm glad you want to be obedient; but in addition to that desire, what I want more than anything, is for the scriptures to be that conduit between you and God that allows you to feel of His great love for you. We've talked recently about how we can't be perfect all the time. Jesus Christ asks us to keep trying to be a little better and to repent when we make mistakes. 

I bring this up to illustrate your tender heart. More than your concerns, have come very sweet and tender moments. The other day after school, you shared, "Mom, I'm going to go on a mission. And I already know what I'm going to say when people say they don't want to hear about Jesus." You went on to share your testimony about how we once lived with our Heavenly Father and how we wanted to come to Earth so badly to get our bodies and to become like Him. Because God loves us so much, you explained, He provided a plan for us to return home to Him. I saw determination and conviction in your face and thought how incredible you will be as a missionary. You are awesome. I'm so glad you are finding the motivation to seek out the Spirit on your own because my efforts are often faulty and imperfect. Your life will be happier and you will be safer with the Lord on your side.

School is going well for you. You continue to excel academically. You have had a good year socially. There have been a few challenges and when those arise, I hate that you have to navigate them on your own; but I feel happy that you'll share with me the details of your day when I pick you up. I hope our communication remains as strong as it is now. I think fourth grade, overall, has been a wonderful year for you. But I'm looking forward to having you home all summer! I will do my best to facilitate the social experiences you crave even though I selfishly want to keep you home with me all summer long!

I've been proud of how well you have welcomed Lottie as a new roommate. You and I were both concerned at how this transition would go. Thank you for taking her in under your wing, making her feel like an equal and being her friend. I hope you two will continue to get along. 

Some things never change. Your desire to create and be artsy hasn't declined in your "old age". :) You look at ordinary things and find potential in what they could become. You get this from your Dad. I try to bite my tongue and let you do your thing. Sometimes what I really want to say (and do say) is to, "Please, don't make a mess right now!" Rather, I'm trying to relax and stick with, "Please clean this up when you're done." You are compassionate, thoughtful and fun. You are fulfilling all my dreams of what it would be like to have a daughter. For your birthday you chose to spend your birthday budget on a "shopping spree." I pulled you out of school around lunch time, arranged childcare for the other kids and drove you to Station Park. We ate lunch at Jonny Rockets, where they sang to you. After that, we went to Claires, Justice and Fiiz. We had a great day.

I have no idea what this pose is all about,
perhaps its an Eliza original? 
Either way, you're a cool cat.
The fun should have stopped right there. ;) Somehow, you talked me into an outdoor movie party. We invited all the girls in your class and a few friends from the other. To be honest, I underestimated how quickly the costs of this party would add up and was left to figure out how to cover the costs of your dreamy birthday party since we'd just happily shopped your birthday budget away! Don't worry, it all worked out. The only negative was feeling guilty that Henry didn't get the same level of birthday joy that you did this year. We had a special family party after he was baptized, but man, did he want a friend party. I hope to make it up to him when he turns nine. Anyway... your party came and it was a lot of fun. It was exhausting for both me and Dad but you loved every minute. And I think your guests did too!
The carefully planned birthday outfit.
You were glamorous.
Music was playing when your friends arrived.
This led to some sweet dance moves on the back patio.
You ate pizza, s'mores and popcorn
Opening Gifts...
Morella had fun decorating herself in gift bags.
She announced, "I am Eliza's Fairy Godmother"
I told a friend about your outdoor movie party
and she threw out the idea of having an inflatable pool as a place
for your friends to gather with their blankets and pillows.
The idea was brilliant. 
A few friends opted for the tree house.
My personal favorite were the patio lights.
As the sun set, they added a magical element. 

I hope you'll remember your 10th birthday party for a long, long time. Remember how we told you could invite your whole class (the girls). Remember how delicious the s'mores were. Remember how delighted you were as you watched the Princess Diaries for the first time. And remember your Dad for running toward the house at full speed when your friends announced that our bathroom toilet was clogged and over flowing. That man is my hero. (If Blogger had emojis I would insert several of the smiling "poop" emojis at this point in my post...it was so awful #blessyouandrew)

I love you Eliza. I'm so proud of who you are today. Thanks for being my favorite friend. You have my heart.


P.S. things I want to remember: you still ask me to sing to you each night before bed and you make sure I write you a note and put it in your lunch each day for school. :) 

Birthday videos:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Celebrating Forrest! And Mother's Day. But mostly Forrest.

Dear Forrest,

Hello, sweet boy. You recently turned three years old!! Life has been rolling by at a super speed level, which now that I think about it, just might be our new normal speed. Yikes! I hope I'm wrong about that. As I was saying, the crazy demands of late has delayed the writing of this letter. Also, I confess, I have been avoiding my blog because these birthday posts make me sad. You are three! How did this happen so soon? I remember your arrival clearly and wish I could re-live the moment I introduced you to your brother and sisters. It was such a special day. The spell you cast on us that day hasn't lifted. We still have stars in our eyes when we interact with you; most of the time anyway (you've learned to press a few buttons!).

Forrest, you are curious. You are also cute. This works in your favor after you've done something naughty. Feelings of upset transition into feeling charmed when I see that you have a car or truck and are driving it through your recently discovered "terrain" ... such as a red stamp pad (see below!).

You and Eliza shared a birthday cake this year. It was quite the compromise. Eliza requested something chocolate and you wanted a truck cake (and Mom wanted to buy one - sad, but true!). Eliza couldn't keep her hands away from the chocolate shavings. She kept sneaking piece by chocolaty piece. As for you, all your little hands wanted to do was drive your birthday cars through the frosting. Don't worry, we let you.

For months, not exaggerating, you brought up your birthday. Often, you'd go to nursery on Sunday and announce, "It's my birthday!" We helped you amend that statement to, "It's close to my birthday!" You would see toys in stores and say, "I get that for my birthday!" Disregarding your large wish list, what was most important to me was that you feel special on  your birthday. I wanted it to be very clear to you that your day had finally arrived! With the dollar store on my side, I set out to achieve my goal. 

The morning of your birthday, I saw the reaction I was hoping for. You were all smiles. Plus, something fun had been added to the fireplace mantel for me!

It's true. Your third birthday coincided with Mother's day. But I don't think you minded. After breakfast, you opened your birthday gifts. You were given new big boy bedding (it came a few weeks ago), a balance bike, the movie "Cars" and those cute bug shoes.
While Henry was at soccer practice last week, you went to work breaking in your new bug shoes! As Eliza and I shot hoops on the basketball court, you found several puddles on the nearby playgorund.You were soaking wet before I could intervene. Accepting the damage had been done, I allowed you to run wild in those puddles. You had the best time. 
You have done well in your transition from crib to bed. But a few times, yes, you've ended up on the floor. My favorite was when Henry said he found you on the floor so he put a blanket on top of you so you wouldn't get cold. He's a pretty great big brother.

Here is a sweet photo I took of you and Lottie at Costco the other day. The three of us run errands often. Sometimes, she's at school and it's just us. I realize that once she goes to Kindergarten, we will see less of her. This makes me so sad. So I'm trying to really soak up these moments and kindly suggest you do the same.

(sometimes we shop just the two of us...you seem to be alright with that!)

When I think of little Lottie, I will always remember her pink ballet costume and pink cow girl boots as being some of her favorite things. Along with her semi tattered, well loved, Elsa dress, they are kind of her trademark. One of your trademarks is this darling yellow rain jacket.

You spend hours in your sandbox. Sometimes I feel guilty as I watch you play in the sandbox by yourself while I sweep the kitchen floor (whilst supervising) inside. But then I wonder why I feel sad because you seem to be having a great time! When you add your yellow jacket to any outdoor scenario, your cuteness level flies off the chart.

Returning to your birthday, I put a "birthday boy" pin on your Sunday shirt so that everyone would know it was your day. After Church we came home and got ready for your family birthday party. We invited both sides of the family, let the record show, but only the Mays crew was able to come. We had a great time celebrating you.

Forrest, I love you very much. You enchant, delight and warm my heart. Today after your nap, we sat on the couch and watched some Looney Tunes together. I had a bazillion things to do, but I made the right choice and just held you in my lap. You laid your head back on my chest which allowed me to breathe in the scent of your hair. I can't explain why a baby's head smells like LOVE, but it does! The smell of your head still gets to me! You are my baby. And I tell you that everyday. You must be so confused because I also commend you each day for being a big boy; especially now that we're beginning the potty training process. You still have a binki...another token of your babyhood that I am reluctant to let go of. As far as I'm concerned, you can take that thing with you to Kindergarten. I think that will be a harder thing for me to see go than your crib. Ugh. Why is Motherhood so hard? I love you darling boy. It's okay that you're growing up. I love hearing what's on your mind and I love to study your face as the wheels in your head spin. Just the other day, when we picked up Lottie from preschool you blurted out, "Lottie, I missed you!" It was such a simple thing to say but I'd never heard you say something like that before. I melted. And the other night at dinner, we were getting ready to eat. Henry was late to the table and as he sat down, you immediately shouted at him, "HENRY! WASH YOUR HANDS!" The way you said it made Daddy and me laugh so hard.

You are loved, Forrest. You are up in your bed asleep as I type this and I think I need to run up there real fast and kiss you some more. Moms are obnoxious like that. :) That reminds me... one more funny story... the other night, after I had put you to bed, you pleaded for a long time for me to come back in to cuddle with you.

"Mommy! Cuddle me! Cuddle me!" you cried! You know me so well. You know just what to say! Dropping everything, I went into your room and climbed in your bed. Five seconds later, you whispered,

"Go back to your bed now, Mom!" It was so funny. I hope you felt special on  your birthday. Grown up Forrest probably won't remember any of it, so I hope you appreciate these photos and videos. Oh and have I mentioned yet how much I love you? Happy birthday Forrest Daniel Flegal. I love you.

P.S. Daddy loves you a lot too! You are his number one pal!

Forrest birthday video

Returning to Mother's day; something I have come to love is the Mother's Day Tea Party that Lottie's preschool puts on. I am happy I get to continue to attend as Forrest will become a preschool student there. I was so excited to attend with Lottie but almost couldn't because life's naturally occurring opposition hit the morning of the event.

Andrew was out of town so I'd asked a friend if Forrest could spend a few hours at her home while I went. She kindly agreed. I was thrilled and so was Lottie. That morning, however, began with Henry escorting Forrest into my bedroom where I was still sleeping.

"Mom!" Henry said at my doorway, "Forrest is going to throw up, I think." My eyes should have popped open sooner than they did.

"Okay." I say. "Go back to bed, Henry. Forrest can climb in bed with me." Just then, Forrest lets out an ominous burp. Suddenly, I am wide awake. Thankfully, it was just a burp. Grabbing a towel, just in case, I situate Forrest next to me and tell him to go back to sleep.

"Mom." Henry says, "I think he threw up a tiny bit in his bed."

"Oh great." I think to myself. I look at Forrest more closely. He seems okay. But if he did in fact throw up, I realize that my morning with Lottie is most definitely in jeopardy. My Mom couldn't fill in as she had to work. My Mother in law was very sick herself. Andrew was off on a fishing trip... curses! Then, via text message, my Mom suggests that I ask my sister Ami.

My heart exploded with happiness when she immediately said, "Sure!" She even offered to sit with Forrest so I could go with Lottie. It turned out that Forrest had in fact thrown up in his bed. Sadly, it was more than a "tiny bit"... the good news was, he didn't throw up after that one incident.

While my sister was here, the power went out. It was 10:45 am and didn't come back on until 7:00 that night. Did I mention that Andrew was out of town? And that our hot water heater was broken too? That makes laundry awfully difficult. Anyway, it was an adventure of a day! Despite the setbacks, it was very memorable. I was so happy I got to attend the tea party. We were in the basement classroom when the power went out there. Even though the room was rather dark, it didn't take away from the fun/darling experience. I cried. I just loved every minute and was so glad to be there with Lottie. She introduced me to her class as "Queen Ali of Disneyland."
After school, with the power still out, the kids went about there business as usual. I don't mind a power outage when it's warm outside. We were lucky in that regard.
Not knowing when it would turn back on, I prepared our home for a night without power. The kids thought it was exciting.
We lit the candles and restocked the batteries in our dim flashlights well before the sun set. I think they were a little disappointed when the power came back on before bedtime. We still went on to play a meaningful eight minute game of Apples to Apples Junior (it was cut short due to a tantrum thrown by a poor sport child whom I will not name).

Other highlights of that weekend include my parents coming to my kid's soccer games.

It makes the game more exciting having Grandparents there to cheer them on. Also, that morning, I went and delivered Mother's day trays for a young women camp fundraiser. We had the best time. I am enjoying every minute that I get to spend with these girls. I have so much fun... that sounds cliche, but I don't know how else to describe it, when I am with them. The behind the scenes planning takes time and can be stressful, but when I'm actually with the young women, I am having the time of my life.

Saturday afternoon, I went and had a pedicure. It was a real treat. I wish I could do that more often.
That night, my Mom and I went and saw the new Captain America movie together. We laughed and laughed. It was a great show. Being with her makes me very happy and I hope that I don't take for granted how fortunate I am to be with her as often as I am. I truly have been blessed with the greatest Mom. She helps center me when I feel like I'm flying off the handle. She listens and listens and listens. Her witty insight is often unexpected by people, but familiar to me. She makes me laugh. I didn't realize how deep her sense of humor was until I moved away to college and we would e-mail each other multiple times in a day. I remember feeling lonely as I adjusted to BYU-Idaho and remember feeling such comfort when I'd open my e-mail and find an unopened message from my Mom waiting for me...without.fail.

I know that I look pregnant, but I assure you, I'm not. But if you want to know how I feel about not being pregnant and how the question of if we are done having children consumes my soul 24/7, just ask my Mom about it. Because I bring it up with her all.the.time. She is a Saint for listening to my unending concerns and hopes and dreams, etc. I love you, Mom.
As for being a Mother, I would just say that I'm proud that this is the life that I chose. God blesses us all with talents. My talents have never felt obvious to me. For some people, it's so evident what gifts they've been given. My Mom, for example, is an artist. Andrew is inventive and handy. I have the gift of gab! I can tell you all the things I am not or struggle with. But, I feel confident that I could have become a variety of things. I can see myself as a teacher. I would have loved to have been a lawyer... the unfriendly kind that debates publicly for the benefit of a victim or the underdog! But I chose Motherhood. And I love it. It's not an easy job. It challenges me and some days I feel like a total failure and/or find myself apologizing to my children for not exercising patience as I should have, etc.

Each stage has had its own challenges and frustrations. It scares me that I can say confidently that the hardest parts of parenthood haven't arrived yet, but will. I have regrets. Some I hope will dissipate with time or as I learn to forgive myself while others may linger. I am trying to learn from these feelings of guilt and inadequacy so that I can be better for my family now. I've walked an imperfect road but am thankful to God for blessing me with the opportunity to be on this path, at this time, with these incredible individuals He has sent to our home.

Motherhood has allowed me to develop new skills and abilities. I feel myself become more capable in certain areas of my life, but confess that I allow myself to slip or neglect other aspects. My children are growing physically, emotionally and spiritually and I realize that I need to mark and celebrate my own growth as well. My greatest hope is to be more present when life feels mundane. I wish to acknowledge that each day is a gift and treat it with care and gratitude. I don't have to look far to see how quickly things can change and how God's plan is full of unexpected change and sometimes heartbreak.

I love being a Mom. I'm proud to be a Mom and hope that my girl's will grow up with a desire in their heart to prepare for such an opportunity. I value education and hope to show that by finishing my degree, but as I was saying to a good friend recently, I want women who choose to purse Motherhood full time to likewise be granted respect and appreciation. With the direction the world is headed, that may not happen the way that I wish it would. But that's okay, I suppose. My kids appreciate me. They're happy with my choice and believe that Heavenly Father is too. This isn't a slam on women who've chosen different paths, but a simple wish that each choice be validated and supported; including women whose focus is on raising the next generation.

Wow. I'm tired. I've rambled long enough. To all the wonderful women in my life, thank you for your examples, friendship and help.
Mother's day 2016