Saturday, October 8, 2016

Goodbye Summer, Goodbye Mia!

(As always, please forgive any typos/poor grammar. I usually edit posts days after the fact.)

September 8th, I shared the following on instagram:

"My baby started preschool today and Mia is on a plane heading back to Germany. I am not coping well." 

We call this #anawkwardaliselfie

Dropping Forrest off at preschool happened first. As a means of comfort, I told myself that if he protested my departure or had a rough transition, I would simply pull him out of preschool and try again in January. With my three oldest, I was confident that they were ready to begin preschool. With Forrest, however, I had doubts. Sure, he talked about going to school often, but lately he had been having a hard time when we left him in nursery at Church. This, along with other signals, made me wonder if we were being hasty. 

I realize that no one is forcing me to send him. Many would argue that age three is to young to send a child to school. I understand each of the differing view points. Knowing how much my older children loved their preschool experience was one reason why I thought it was time to send him. Also, having had a speech delay, his therapist and I both thought that school would be a good thing for him. So we signed him up!  Forrest goes to school for two hours on Tuesday and Thursday. And as I already mentioned, I knew before that first day that if problems arose, I would not hesitate to keep him home with me. 

Forrest was told that if he learned to use the potty, he could go to school. He was definitely frustrated that I didn't make good on that promise immediately. Adding insult to injury, he had to wait a few weeks after the older kids to begin school. He didn't understand why their adventures got to start before his. Needless to say,  he was very happy when I announced that morning that it was finally his turn to go!

"But you'll stay five minutes, Mom?" He asked for this reassurance again and again. "Yes, sweet boy. Mama will stay five minutes." It's been a month since school began and I still stay with him for the first five minutes of class. I hope his teachers don't mind because I am not ready for the traditional daily send off yet. Maybe it's more painful to do it this way, but he and I feel it works for us. 

Most mornings he is reluctant for me to leave. He'll ask me to stay longer and watch him while he plays with the cars and trucks on the floor. When he realizes that I am serious about going, he'll stop what he's doing and rush toward me for one more hug and kiss. It is a sweet little ritual, but oh... walking out that door still stings so sharp. He is my baby, my sidekick, my partner in crime and every other silly cliche in between. Motherhood is hard. It's messy; both emotionally and literally. But oh my goodness; I love my children so much. So when a chapter or phase concludes so suddenly, the pain reverberates for a long time. 
This "first day of school" beginning is hard because I don't have another baby at home waiting to be spoiled by my undivided attention. It's also hard because it is Forrest Daniel Flegal who started school. The sadness I feel when I send each of them to school is unique. It's always there because they each own a different section of my heart. Having three older kids may help me be aware of what possible positives and negatives to expect, but those experiences don't make the send-offs any easier. Another way of making this point would be to say that my joy and happiness wasn't diminished on Henry's baptism day because as parent's we already had the experience of seeing another child be baptized. I felt brand new joy and gratitude for Henry's decision that day. 

Oh my gosh. It's not even that time of the month and I am feeling THIS sentimental. It's probably because lately my intent with each post has been to catch up on life. But right now I'm allowing myself to tap into feelings that are fresh and close to the surface. This is why I love to write. It helps me to process life.
Allow me to return to Forrest's first day of preschool. I remember that Mia was up early that morning so she could say her final "Goodbye" to the older children. Eliza and Henry would still be at school when she and I left for the airport. Mia came with me to drop them off that morning. It was funny because she was in her pajamas and had left her shoes at home. That didn't stop her from walking the kids down the gravel path, across the playground and over to their respective doors. As the bell rang that morning, she gave them one more hug goodbye. 
Returning home, I finished getting Forrest ready for his big day. We put on his new little lamb t-shirt, combed his hair, brushed his teeth and put on his brand new shoes. Next, we went to the front porch where I took a dozen photos of him with his "First Day of Preschool!" sign. He was so compliant and wiling to let me snap those photos. Mia came with me to drop him off (but she brought her shoes this time!). After waiting my five minutes, I hugged him "Goodbye" and headed outside to my car. I started to bawl. It didn't matter to me that Mia was there. I couldn't help myself. 

I was so grateful she was there. She had a few errands to run that morning so off we went. We ended by having breakfast together at McDonalds. Finally, it was time to go pick up Forrest and Lottie. I couldn't WAIT to see him. When I first caught sight of him, I noticed that he had a blue bubble wand in his hand. When he saw me, he BURST out of line and hollered, "HI MOM!!" His teacher wanted him to practice waiting on the porch so she called his attention back to where she was. Doing as he was told, he turned from me to follow her instruction. Finally, he was given permission to go to his Mom. As soon as I could, I scooped him up into my arms. As I began to kiss his face uncontrollably, he said, 

"I love my preschool, Mom!" I felt joy and sadness all at once. I was so happy that he had a positive first day but also sad because I knew that he was going to adjust just fine to school. The quiet hope I carried that he wasn't quite ready was dashed.

As good luck would have it, Mia landed a lunch date with the boy next door. This sudden and happy development quickly elevated my mood because I knew how much it meant to her! I was content to watch Forrest and Lottie play bubbles in the backyard while I quickly typed up a letter for her to read on the plane. As I saw them back together, I was reminded that I still have my two youngest home by lunchtime. They have the afternoon together before the big kids rejoin them. It feels like it did last year, for the most part. And, if I am going to be completely honest, the two hours of free time I have on Tuesday and Thursday are starting to feel less sad and more amazing. I feel like I am betraying my children with this confession, but it's pretty great. Often times, I use that window of time to volunteer in my older children's classrooms which I love. Other days, I get something done without being interrupted. I can't complain about that either. 

And just like all those Flegal kids, Mia was days away from beginning school as well. Our wonderful month with her was over. It was time to drive her to the airport. I have likely overstated how "sad" this day was, so I probably won't be able to adequately express how terrible it was saying "Goodbye" to her. But believe me. It was. (Click here to read what it was like for us when left Germany back in 2007. The emotion was similar.)

When you live as far away as we do from the Auras family, it's hard to know if and when we will see her again. It was eight long years between our last two visits. That's way to long! Yes, I was sad for my kids; Forrest especially but mostly sad for myself! I looked forward to seeing her every morning. We had the best conversations. She became my close friend right away and having her leave left a giant void in our home. I still get choked up when I think about it. The night before she left, we skyped with her parents. I remember putting my head on my table, unable to look at them because I was overcome with emotion. I said to her parents jokingly, 

"If I had known how hard it would be to say bye to Mia, we would have never let her come!" But as a friend pointed out, that sadness is evidence of the special time we had with her. She and I still message daily, sometimes for hours, and skype every few days. I hope, hope, hope we see her entire family soon! 

Things went smoothly at the airport. After checking her bags, we walked up to the security gate and said our final goodbye. She and I were both in tears. It was the worst. We love and miss you so much, Mia!!

(the day before she left)
We stayed up many nights playing Settlers of Catan.
I came home to find these sweet notes from Mia, written to our family, on the kitchen table. It was such a simple thing for her to do but it meant so much to me. One of my favorite things to do with Mia was to sing along to the radio in the car. When she first arrived, she would hum so quietly. I pressured her right off the bat to stop being reserved and to belt out the music. She has a beautiful voice and is quite the musician. She could harmonize to anything. I loved singing with her for that reason. There is a Charlie Puth song that we heard on the radio many, many times while she was here.These lyrics, especially, remind me of her:

"It's been a long day without you my friend; and I'll tell you all about it when I see you again."

We love you Mia! Thank you for choosing our family to spend your summer holiday with. Michael and Johanna, thank you for sharing your incredible daughter with us. We love her so much.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Fleglets go Back to School: the 2016-2017 edition

Welcome 2016-2017 school year! This year we sent off to school...

Eliza the 5th grader!

Henry the 3rd grader!

(funny story... when I was writing on the chalkboard to take his picture I wrote,
"First day of 1st grade!"
Eliza caught the mistake and kindly pointed it out to me.

Wishful thinking, perhaps?
Either way, I was an emotional mess of a space cadet that morning.
That is not a winning combination.

Next we have...
Lottie the...wait for it...

She began school a week after the older kids which is why
she isn't featured as prominently in these next few photos. 

Here's a few from Lottie's big day!

At her back to school night, 
we found her name on the wall outside her classroom door.
It read, "Charlotte."

When her teacher first met her, she said, 
"Hello! What is your name?"
Tentatively she replied, "Charlotte?"
It was funny.  
We explained that she goes by Lottie 
and thankfully her teacher was happy to make the change. :) 

I am wondering if we need to rethink the timing of our,
"Back to School Feast" because it coincides with
"Back to School Night" each year. 
Even with the tight schedule,
I was able to pull it off and have the kids in bed at a reasonable hour. 
So three cheers for Mom. 

But before I can get too excited, 
check out Eliza's expression.
Clearly, the food wasn't that great. :) 

I came across out family theme by accident. 
I was looking for a print of a different scripture.
However, when I read this one,
 I knew right away that it was meant for us this next year. 

"Keep loving. Keep trying. 
Keep trusting.
Keep believing. Keep growing.

Heaven is cheering you on 
today, tomorrow, and forever"
- Jeffrey R. Holland

The words, "Keep trying" comfort me. 
I make mistakes daily and regret them. 
But rather than accept that I'm not good enough,
I am going to keep trying.
I want to keep growing as a wife and Mom.
I want to believe that I can become better.

Also, where it says, "Heaven is cheering you on..."
I really believe that.
I believe that we have loved ones who are on the other side who are cheering us on.
And, I would insert the words, "Heaven and your parents are cheering you on."
I hope my children know that I will love them on their good days and their bad days
and will celebrate the big and little accomplishments of their lives. 

I am now returning to Lottie because she reached a very big milestone. 
She is my Autumn baby. 
The other three are Spring babies. 
Because of this, I felt like I was blessed with an extra year of having her home with me. 
So in my mind, I told myself, I couldn't howl too loudly when she started school. 

Despite my personal pep talks,
I wept like a small, injured animal the morning she started school. 
The emotion hit me prematurely as I had to ask Andrew to read the book,
The Night Before Kindergarten
because the lump in my throat was too big.
That photo makes me giggle because she looks so concerned! 

It was nice to see Lottie chatting with friends that morning. 
It was nice for me to have "mom friends" there as well.
We went through that gut wrenching farewell together.
Each of us had on sunglasses to lessen the embarrassment of our red, tear-filled eyes.

It's been a month since school started.
I am very, very grateful for how well she has adjusted to school.
It has been seamless for her. 
She loves it and is a wonderful little student.
I pray it continues. 

As for this little guy!
He started preschool which deserves a post of its own.
So for now, I'll conclude with a Forrest Funny as a treat to those who made it through my post.
(thank you).

I'm not sure how or why it clicked.
But Forrest suddenly decided one day in August that he was ready to fully commit to the potty.
It was a miracle.
For reals.
Anyway, his preschool teacher, Miss Mary, heard about his big accomplishment.
"Forrest!" she said with excitement, "I hear you learned how to use the big boy potty! Great job!"
Forrest nodded happily back at her. She continues,
"Guess what? We have a potty at preschool that you can use whenever you want! Isn't that great?"
I can see that he's internalizing what she has said. 
Knowing that he still needs assistance climbing on and off of the potty he sweetly asks her,
"But do you have bushes?!"
(as in, he is totally independent when it comes to going to the bathroom outside!" 
so that was the route he wanted to go!)
Ha ha ha! I laughed about this for days.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Mia goes to Oakley

I must be tired. My fingers feel reluctant to move. There seems to be a giant disconnect between my desire to record these memories; to the part of brain that has to remember and then articulate those details and feelings. Hopefully, as I begin to type, my brain will kindly provide the words that I'm searching for.

Shortly after our stay in Germany, back in 2007, Andrew's older sister Sara and her husband Paul went to Deutschland to visit his parents who were there serving a mission. Having heard how we had fallen in love with Auras family, Sara and Paul made their way to Ermlandweg and spent time getting to know them.

Having met 10 year old Mia, the families realized that they had daughters close in age. It was at this time that Mia and our niece Shipley became pen pals. Although it wasn't always consistent, their correspondence lasted for years and their friendship grew.

Imagine our delight when Sara invited Mia to spend a weekend in Oakley. The timing was serendipitous as it coincided with Shipley's, or should I say Sister Taylor's, missionary farewell. The Saturday before the farewell, we met up with Liz, Sara and their kids to go boating at Rockport. After that, we went to the Taylor's gorgeous home where we had tinfoil dinners/hot dogs/s'mores, etc. 

Originally, we had planned to stay the night but Andrew had an early morning Church meeting. So leaving Mia behind, we went home Saturday night. I woke up early the next morning, despite having gone to bed so late. Shipley's mission farewell was at 9:00 am. Also, it should be noted that it takes an hour to get there from our home. Knowing that Andrew would be busy with his early morning meetings and considering how late we had put the children to bed the night before, I had told the Taylor's we wouldn't be able to come. I was restless and upset with my decision. Before I knew what I was doing, I was pulling my exhausted children out of bed and throwing Sunday clothes onto their bodies... most of which still smelled of campfire smoke from the previous evening. 

BY SOME MIRACLE, we made it to Oakley as the congregation was singing the opening song. Both Shipley and Wickman spoke and they both did a wonderful job. I realized as I was sitting there how important it was for Eliza to be there. Seeing her oldest cousin preparing to leave on a mission inspired both of us. I could tell that she was touched. It made me cry. The Spirit was strong and I was thankful that I acted on that urge to go to Oakley. It was inconvenient, my kids were so tired (and stinky) and I found myself awkwardly sneaking Forrest's potty training seat from my car and in and out of Sara's house so he could go potty; but it was worth it! I would have never been able to get that moment or experience of supporting and learning from Shipley ever again.
Mia and Sister Taylor. :) 

The icing on the cake was visiting with family who had traveled long distances to be there. When it was time for us to drive home, we reluctantly said "Goodbye" to Mia who would spend the next few days with the Taylor family. Having her gone was rough as it gave me a feel of what it would be like when she flew home to Germany. I didn't like the feeling at all. Already there was a terrible void and I was counting down the minutes... (okay, maybe I am being a little dramatic) until she returned.  
 Saying our "Goodbye" to cousin Shipley!
West Virginia is so lucky to have such an awesome missionary headed their way!

Boating at Rockport the Saturday before.
Catching a snooze on the boat. 
There's no better spot!
When I asked Mia why she had such strong arms 
she informed me that she has been taking Judo/Karate lessons for YEARS!
What!?! How's that for a fun fact!

We loved being in Oakley.
It is so beautiful and the hospitality is first rate!
Thank you Sara!

Another first for Mia!
She was treated to her first ever horseback riding experience!
The next day, they hit the water park. 

Like I said, we were so pleased to have her return home.

While she was in Utah, 
she was a welcome addition to our young women's group. 
Bowling night was especially fun.

The next few photos are a bit random, so bare with me.

This boy is my baby and I love him more than I can say.

Mia was hanging out with some friends one night and looked especially gorgeous.
So I made her pose for a few photos.

Our neighbors adopted the CUTEST puppy.
His name is Boomer and we are all obsessed; Henry especially.

Flannel shirts and sunflowers!
Fall must be right around the corner!!
Little things like watching my kids build a train track together make me  happiest.

Mia's final weekend here was different because Andrew took Lottie and Forrest to the cabin. 
Henry and Eliza chose to stay home with us. 
The cabin had been the original plan,
but Mia let us know that she wanted to spend her last weekend at our house.

She has a dear friend from Germany who is a student at BYU.
They made plans and met at temple square.
They were able to catch up with each other and explore the grounds together. 

We picked her up around lunchtime and headed up to 
"This is the Place Heritage Park."
It was one of the few remaining items on her summer bucket list. 
To our delight, we bumped into Henry's friend Scarlett and her family. 
We had the best time exploring the park with them.

For dinner that night, we took Mia to In and Out Burger.
Of all the restaurants she tried, it was her most favorite.