Friday, July 31, 2009


Despite having ample time to ponder boy names, Jason and I are still having a hard time with the decision. One of the ideas that we have considered is selecting a name with the initials A.N.W., in honor of our love for root beer (although we do prefer IBCs over A&W). Fun initials would also mimic Brooklyn's speedy monogram, B.M.W.

And so, we are soliciting opinions: What's your favorite A_____ N_____ Wheeler name? A fabulous treat of some sort would likely come your way should we happen to fall in love with your suggestion! :)

The Doctor Speaks: "They're Huge!"

During our short layover in Illinois, Jason and I took a basically healthy Brooklyn to the pediatrician.

This is why.

So how do you spell "tonsillectomy"? :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Long and Short of It

After a long drive back from Utah, a short stay in Omaha, and a quick day in Nauvoo, we are now back in Illinois and enjoying a brief reprieve from Part I of our whirlwind vacation. The break will be short, however, as Part II is soon to begin!

Assuming that all goes well, on Wednesday morning we will begin our trek out to Vermont for my Grandpa's 75th birthday celebration. We're looking forward to seeing him, as well as family and friends in Columbus and Buffalo along the way.

Overall, the girls have been truly champion car travelers. However, there are moments when they too are overwhelmed by the sheer distances we must travel. For some reason, Brooklyn got confused and thought that she was going to see her New York "cousins" in Nauvoo. In trying to help her understand, I got out the atlas and pointed to where we were in Illinois, where we had been in Utah, and where we were going in Vermont. Then I pointed out Long Island where her cousins live and showed the drive that they would make to meet us at the Vermont lake house. All of a sudden, Brooklyn broke out into sobs: "But, the drive we have is so long, and theirs is so short!

Ah, the woes of a Midwesterner...

Great Vacations

While we are very happy to finally be reunited with Jason's camera, we unfortunately don't have any pictures of our wonderful travels over the past several weeks. And so instead, I thought I would post some pictures of another great vacation: namely when Uncle Justin and Aunt Brianna came to France to visit us in June.

People often ask if we miss France. The truth is that while we do, we've generally been too busy to think much about it. Looking at these pictures, however, definitely starts my heart strings longing.

Here's a photo of the Rose Garden in the Parc TĂȘte d’Or. Of all the great hangouts in Lyon, I miss this park the most.

Brianna and Talia catch some sun.... Cool shades!

Savoring a warm "gaufre" requires a great deal of intense concentration.

Both of our girls seem to have mastered the art of savoring Lyon's finest gastronomic pleasures.

One morning we caught a train and explored the medieval town of Perouges, about 30 minutes outside of Lyon.

Here are Justin and Brianna at one of the scenic overlooks.

And, here are 4 3/4 members of the Wheeler family.

While quite small, the town itself was beautiful.

Even photographers need a chance to be in the picture.

Always prepared, Aunt Brianna helps the girls with some hand sanitizer before lunch.

I don't covet much in life, but someday I would love to have a window like this one!

Of course, the girls' favorite part of the day was feeding the friendly horses in the surrounding area. Here's Brooklyn and a colt.

Talia watches intently from the security of Brianna's arms.

The colt was so friendly that even I couldn't resist taking a turn.

At the end of the day, however, we were definitely worn out!
Last but not least, here are a few final pics of Justin and Brianna exploring the best of Lyon: the ancient Roman ruins...

"Vieux Lyon" or the old town, guarded by the Fourviere cathedral...

And of course, the "traboules" or hidden passages used anciently by silk traders.

Every Romeo wandering the "traboules" is enhanced by the discovery of his Juliet.

Aww, how cute!

J & B, thanks for coming to visit us as part of your great vacation. We felt so lucky to have you come. It's still hard for us to believe that every single person in our immediate families made it over to France to visit us. Our experience was certainly enhanced by the chance to share it with so many. While Champaign-Urbana may not hold exactly the same tourist appeal, visitors are still welcome. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009


As a mother, you occasionally find yourself doing things that as a teenager you swore you would never do--ever--no matter what! You know, like giving your kids a quick spit shine to clean off that dirty smudge when you're out in public and there are no wipes to be found.

While camping several weeks ago with Talia, I found myself doing one of those unmentionable things--namely, clearing her nose of the goobers that she couldn't reach. However, I was totally unprepared for her response.

Talia: (Pointing to the goober stuck to the tip of my finger.) Mommy, gimme it!
Me: Why? It's disgusting.
Talia: (Licking her lips.) Yummy!

Maybe Bertie Bott wasn't that far off with her Every Flavor Beans after all...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Mouth is Happy!

When you are pregnant, it's pretty common to have cravings. In my case, I don't crave much, but what I do crave is rather unusual: sushi. Unfortunately for me, the whole raw fish thing is rather discouraged when you are expecting. The truth is, however, that I don't really care much about the fish--what I really want is the wasabi. Mmmm, wasabi... I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Despite my cravings, I've gone this entire pregnancy without a lick of this intense Japanese horseradish. Then two days ago I discovered that Blue Diamond sells wasabi and soy sauce covered almonds--hooray! I roll the almonds around on my tongue to savor all of that bold, clear-out-your-sinuses wasabi punch, then lick my fingers to get any last kick I may have missed. Oh yes, my mouth is happy!

Wrangling with a Rattler

How quickly time passes! It's hard to believe that we've been here in Utah for ten days already. Sadly, we forgot to bring Jason's camera on our super-trip, so we don't have a lot of pictures to show all of the fun that we've been having. But, here's a quick laundry list of the fun things we've done:

• roasted marshmallows around the campfire at the Wheeler family reunion
• hugged Great-Grandma and Grandpa Hansen during our trip to Rupert, Idaho
• marveled at beautiful Shoshone Falls
• chatted with lots of aunts and uncles at The Upper Crust Restaurant above Gosner's cheese factory
• learned the meaning (and pronunciation) of "Oquirrh" at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple Open House
• picked cherries for home-made pie
• watched the Pioneer Day fireworks (Talia hid her eyes most of the time)
• waved at Grandpa Charles in the Hyde Park's parade (he was a star, especially with his bag of candy)
• cheered Jason in the 5K "This is the Race." Faster than Lightning McQueen, he ran it in 22 minutes. He would have placed him first for his age division were he my perfect age of thirty, but unfortunately he has some months left before he catches up.
• admired the stunning wildflowers while picnicking at Tony Grove Lake
• listened to harp music at the Logan tabernacle
• giggled at the smiley face drawn on Grandpa Charles's hardhat
• licked sticky fingers after eating yummy Aggie Ice Cream
• feasted again and again thanks to Grandma Susie's fabulous kitchen

Of all the things that we've done here, however, one is my very favorite. Early one morning, Jason and I kissed our sleeping girls goodbye and drove up the canyon to hike the Crimson Trail. Since I'm not terribly stable on steep descents, we hiked the trail in reverse, beginning with a seriously intense climb. I'm learning that a trail labeled "intermediate" out in the Rocky Mountain West is definitely not the same as an "intermediate" trail in the cornfields of Illinois. While it may have been difficult to lug my pregnant body up the mountainside, it was definitely worth the effort. The trail glides along the edge of a high canyon ridge with tremendous views into the valley below. When we stopped to rest, inquisitive hummingbirds and chipmunks drew close to check us out.

What we were NOT expecting, however, was the rattler. Just as we turned the corner after our final ascent, a camouflaged rattlesnake lay right in the middle of the path, basking in the morning sun. Nearly underfoot, Jason would have stepped on it had it not sounded its warning rattle. Fortunately, the snake wasn't aggressive and slithered off the trail (albeit not far enough away for my liking.) Completely terrified, I ran off the other direction shrieking. Jason, on the other hand, stayed there and tried to coax me into coming close so I could get a better look.

Once my heart stopped racing after this too-close-for-comfort encounter with a venomous snake, I realized how woefully unprepared I was to handle a snake bite. If Jason had been bit, I wouldn't have had any idea what to do. The last time I studied snake bites was decades ago as a Girl Scout--not a terrific knowledge foundation.

And so, in case any of you are woefully outdated in your knowledge of snake bite First Aid, here's the latest information that I found off a website but out by NIH (

First Aid

1. Keep the person calm, reassuring them that bites can be effectively treated in an emergency room. Restrict movement, and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.

2. If you have a pump suction device (such as that made by Sawyer), follow the manufacturer's directions.

3. Remove any rings or constricting items because the affected area may swell. Create a loose splint to help restrict movement of the area.

4. If the area of the bite begins to swell and change color, the snake was probably poisonous.

5. Monitor the person's vital signs -- temperature, pulse, rate of breathing, and blood pressure -- if possible. If there are signs of shock (such as paleness), lay the person flat, raise the feet about a foot, and cover the person with a blanket.

6. Get medical help right away.

7. Bring in the dead snake only if this can be done safely. Do not waste time hunting for the snake, and do not risk another bite if it is not easy to kill the snake. Be careful of the head when transporting it -- a snake can actually bite for up to an hour after it's dead (from a reflex).


* DO NOT allow the person to become over-exerted. If necessary, carry the person to safety.
* DO NOT apply a tourniquet.
* DO NOT apply cold compresses to a snake bite.
* DO NOT cut into a snake bite with a knife or razor.
* DO NOT try to suck out the venom by mouth.
* DO NOT give the person stimulants or pain medications unless a doctor tells you to do so.
* DO NOT give the person anything by mouth.
* DO NOT raise the site of the bite above the level of the person's heart.

In our case, if Jason had been bit by the rattler, we would have had trouble getting him down off the mountain. I certainly couldn't have carried him, yet the exertion of hiking down would have likely been too much for him. Thus in hindsight, I've learned the importance of always having a way to contact 911--even if only a well-charged cell phone if you are somewhere close to service. We also should have had a whistle to call for help and an up-to-date snake bite kit. Oh, and long pants...

While I hope that neither you nor I will ever need this information, there's peace in knowing what to do in case of such an emergency.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Use It or Lose It

When it comes to language learning, one of the unfortunate truths is that if you don't lose it, you will most certainly lose it. While Jason and I are both interested in maintaining the progress that we made with French over the past year, we are most concerned about helping our daughters keep the French that they have learned. Having attended a French public school, Brooklyn especially made remarkable progress. It is so cute to listen to her play by herself because at the moment, most of her private conversations are in French.

And so now, I am looking for advice: How can we help our daughters keep up their French, especially now that they are no longer immersed in the target language? Unfortunately, French isn't quite as accessible state-side as Spanish, but on the positive side, it's much more common than say, Hungarian. :) We'd love to hear any of your suggestions, or even possible contacts. I've studied enough about language acquisition to understand the extreme difficulty of motivating children to maintain a language under such circumstances. Even so, we think it's important enough that we are willing to put in the effort.

Monday, July 13, 2009

On the Road Again

Our family's never had much talent for holding still.

Despite our recent move from overseas, we are already on the road again. With the help of some good friends and loving parents, we moved our loot out of our storage unit on Friday, July 3rd. Fortunately, we beat the non-stop rain that dripped all Fourth of July, canceling the fireworks. On Sunday we made our way back to church, meeting many old friends and missing some others since the boundaries of our local congregation have drastically changed.

On Monday morning my parents took Brooklyn and Talia back to Nebraska with them where they enjoyed a few days of Camp NomiAnn and Papa Kay. They had a blast going to the zoo, playing at the children's museum, doing crafts, swimming, even spending two days camping at the cabooses at Nebraska's Twin Rivers State Park. I originally worried that the kids might get homesick, but in retrospect I'm more concerned by the fact that our girls didn't miss us at all. They simply can't wait to do it again.

In the meantime, Jason and I had our very first "vacation" as a couple since Brooklyn was born. It was wonderful to have some time just for the two of us, even if our days were thoroughly consumed by digging our way out of the mountains of boxes. In hindsight, I wish I'd taken pictures of our box maze, but at the moment it was simply too depressing. I seriously have no idea how we ever fit so much stuff in our place the first time, and felt lost as to how we could ever make it all fit again. Overwhelmed by the clutter, I seized the opportunity to de-junk. It's amazing how liberated I feel after a couple of trips to Goodwill. With my belly feeling ever more crowded, it's nice to feel like we've got a bit more space to welcome the little guy who will soon be joining our home.

These few days in Illinois were filled with both challenges and miracles. Despite the challenge of unpacking, we were miraculously able to get everything sorted out and switched with health insurance remarkably quickly. While we got the green light to travel from my new midwife, our mini-van unfortunately had other ideas. The air conditioning decided to betray us and give out, leaving us with a very expensive repair bill--an ouch, owie, better-charge-that-in-case-we-run-short-on-funds sort of repair bill. While we considered making the trek to Utah "pioneer-style" without air, my pregnant body just wasn't sure it could handle the July heat. And now for the miracle--when we logged on to do finances and figure out how to cover the expense, we discovered an unanticipated deposit into our French bank account. After factoring in the exchange rate, this "miracle money" came within ten dollars of matching the expense of our car repair. Wow.

And so, we joined my family for a night of caboose camping in Omaha before leaving early the next morning for Utah. Our next evening was likewise spent camping, albeit this time in the gorgeous mountains near Bear Lake. We surprised Jason's Dad for his birthday by showing up at the Wheeler family reunion where we had a great time hiking, swimming, and hanging out around the campfire. For the girls, the best part was undoubtedly getting to meet so many of their "cousins"--technically second-cousins, but we think they all count. Brooklyn was in heaven with so many playmates.

And so now, we've finally made it to Hyde Park, Utah where we hope to spend a relaxing week with Grandma Susie and Grandpa Charles. After being on the road so much, it certainly feels wonderful to slow down enough to enjoy life--and a couple slices of homemade cherry pie.

Friday, July 03, 2009


Well, we're back. As evidence, it's 5:30 in the morning, and despite an exhausting day yesterday, I've been wide awake for hours. It's interesting how two days ago, if you had asked me where I was from, I would have said "Lyon," yet today it's "Illinois." How quickly our definition of "home" can change!

Our trip home was, well, unique. To describe it, I think I'll share what I wrote in my personal journal yesterday morning at 6:00 am, while the girls were still sleeping.

I’m writing from Paris right now, mentally preparing myself to catch a shuttle in less than an hour and hopefully arrive in the States this evening. Wow. Already the past ten months are starting to feel so unreal—as if they never happened. And yet, as long as we were in Lyon, it felt like our entire world—where we had always been (sort of) and where we would yet remain.

All in all, the trip has gone remarkably smoothly so far. I’ve done so little with this move that I feel almost guilty about it. While I did a lot of advance organizing...

I was then interrupted by the sound of Talia wretching. She woke up, vomited violently, and I knew it was going to be a long day. By the time Jason got back from a morning walk, Brooklyn was awake and moaning on the toilet about how her "poo poos were gross." Jason began to give the girls blessings, but was interrupted by Talia tossing her cookies again. At this point, I knew we'd all be skipping the free continental breakfast...

With family waiting for us on the other side of the ocean (and some extremely expensive airfares purchased), we prayed and felt like we should start on our journey nevertheless and stop as soon as it became unmanageable. We loaded our eight big suitcases on a couple of luggage carts to wait for the hotel shuttle outside. While we were waiting, Brooklyn puked on the grass. She threw up again on the bus, although I was well-prepared and caught it all. While I don't usually endorse the use of such language, I thought Brooklyn had it just about right when she said afterwards, "Today is a stupid day."

Check-in went quite smoothly, although Talia did throw up once more (water only by this point) while waiting to board the first plane.

And then, nothing. Despite the unlikely probability, both of the girls traveled quite comfortably for both legs of the trip. They even managed to keep down some lunch and dinner. With an extreme amount of faith and prayer, we all made it--tired, but safe.

All in all, this was not the trip home we envisioned. I think the airport hotel restaurant that gave our children mild food poisoning right before our departure should be sued for sabotage. Yet I am still grateful for the blessings. When we finally made it to the other side of the big "puddle," we were greeted with loving arms and fun balloons.

Ah, it feels good to be home.