Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pretty Stinky

28.

The number of hours since our water supply line broke. While my dear, sweet, kind, wonderful, resourceful, and talented hubby has worked on it all day, the pipe keeps breaking farther and farther back beneath the loose retaining wall they put in this summer. And so here it is, 9:30 at night, and he is still digging in the pitch-black and freezing weather. Bless him.

28.

The number of hours since anyone flushed a toilet. Or truly washed their hands. Or bathed. The sink is overflowing with dishes. The hampers are stuffed with an entire vacation's worth of dirty laundry. (Not that it matters much since the washer's still broken.)

Oh, and did I mention that our minivan is now resting in the parking lot of the Home Depot where it broke down?

I don't mean to whine, but we could sure use a turn of good fortune by tomorrow or the very latest next year. Life is getting pretty stinky around here!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wacky and Wet

Today was our first day back in St. George after a fabulous Wheeler Christmas in Logan (more details to follow.) While our waffles were wonderful, the day went wacky from there. Here are a few highlights:

-the washer refusing to spin, leaving mounds of wet clothes
-Eli scribbling all over the counter and floor, soaking himself with blue marker
-the girls toppling their dresser (again)
-Eli taking off his soggy diaper and grinning madly because he was so proud

Oh, and, last but not least, our water supply line broke, flooding the entire yard in an already saturated St. George. (We've had thirteen inches of rain in the last week and a half.)

I'd be grumpy, but I'm far too busy being extremely grateful that we were here to notice this major mishap. We'd hoped to stay longer in Logan, but came back yesterday instead because of an important yet unanticipated meeting. Our early return seemed inconvenient at the time, but in reality it was a miraculous blessing.

Let's just hope tomorrow is a little less soggy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lista de deseos

Last week Brooklyn brought home her "Lista de deseos" (wish list) for Santa written in Spanish. I thought I'd share this one too since it's different from the first. Interestingly enough, her spelling is generally better in Spanish since español is very syllabic.

Mi lista de deseos: (My Wish list)

perro (dog)
jugetes (juguetes--toys)
calores (colores--crayons)
caramelos (candy)
mas amigos (more friends)
gato (cat)
mas elmano (más hermanos--more brothers)

Oh boy.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Short on Sports

In many ways, I consider our children to be fairly well-read and broadly educated about the world around them. A few days Brooklyn asked me a question that made me realize that we've neglected the world of sports.

Holding a basketball with one arm and a soccer ball with the other, Brooklyn asked: "Which one do I dribble and which one do I kick?"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Growing Up

Brooklyn's growing UP!

Our Christmas child, Brooklyn turned 6 on Thursday. Yesterday she was the star of the show as we celebrated her birthday at a cute little place in St. George called "Creative Minds."

The "UP" inspiration came from an online search for the easiest possible cupcake design.

Unfortunately, our dreams for a fabulous pinata got thwarted by strep throat. Instead we cobbled together this monstrosity half an hour before the party. The good news is that as long as it's filled with candy, the kids really don't care.

Despite passing out lots of invitations, we were a small group, which was actually more intimate and more fun. Here's Sofia from Daisy Scouts.

This is Kaleigh, showing off her mad cashiering skills. Kaleigh is both a Daisy Scout and in kindergarten with Brooklyn.

This is Logan, Kaleigh's twin brother, sporting a slippery serpent.

After seeing Logan's snake, our friend Nathan from church wanted one too.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I actually painted Talia's butterfly/demon/clown face. What can I say? It must be the drugs.

Fortunately, Kaleigh's butterfly wasn't as much of a disaster, particularly when adorned with bunny ears.

All Eli needed was a yellow ball to be plenty happy.

Blowing out the candles!

Overall, the party was great fun, leaving everyone in the family happy.

We really are so delighted to have Brooklyn in our family. She's creative, beautiful, intelligent, but even more, she's working so hard to be good. Instead of doing presents for her party, she agreed (albeit somewhat reluctantly) to collect for Toys for Tots. That's really hard when you're six! For her birthday, our little artist got lots of fun supplies. As beautiful as her drawings are, I was even more touched by her sincere expressions of gratitude. We love you, Brooklyn!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Love All Year Round

First of all, many heartfelt thanks for all of the thoughtful and kind responses to the previous post. I feel wrapped in love and empathy, which is a really nice feeling because...

I'm sick.

Yuck. I hate being sick. Sore throat, fever, body aches, earache, chills--go away!

It's funny, but I generally find it slightly gratifying to have the thermometer register a fever when I feel lousy. It's as if my invisible aches and pains are being validated with concrete, tangible proof that something's definitely awry. My fever ceased to be gratifying, however, as my temperature spiked to 103 last night. I'd be perfectly content to never run a temperature again.

The bad news is that between Brooklyn's birthday and Christmas around the corner, I really don't have time to be sick. The good news is, it doesn't matter. Like it or not, my body's forcing me to slow down, crawl into bed, and enjoy a hot cup of herb tea.

Believe it or not, Christmas will happen whether or not I'm "ready." So what if the Christmas cards arrive late? Oh well if some packages don't make it in time. Too bad if I don't do all the baking, shopping, wrapping, crafting, caroling, and entertaining that I originally hoped to do. I simply refuse to beat myself up for "missing" a self-imposed December 25th deadline. I believe that the true spirit of Christmas should inspire us to serve and love all year 'round. This year, the love may show up a little late, but it's love just the same.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A little lonely

Please forgive this evening's ramblings. I process life by writing, and tonight I have lots of emotions in need of processing.

***

First of all, I need to vent. Today has been an odd day. (Or worse yet, perhaps it was normal!) Throughout the day, at least five different people have commented on at least five different occasions about how incredibly short I am.

Gee. Wow. How insightful. I really hadn't noticed.

Walking into ward choir practice this morning, some lady commented on how I looked just like a little kid as I scurried along the sidewalk to church. She went on and on about how the sight of me running made her laugh and brightened up her morning.

So glad to be of service. If anyone else needs a good chuckle at my expense, I'm happy to volunteer.

Walking out of stake choir practice this evening, a group of women were fretting over what colors to wear for our upcoming performance of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus." Before I know it, they've singled me out. Voice dripping withing concern, one says: "What we're really worried about is you, dear. Perhaps we can get a stool for you to stand on."

Gosh, thanks. Just what I've always wanted. Maybe the conductor can just give me his podium, and we'll all be set.

And thus, I've come to the inevitable conclusion that the only way I'll ever truly belong is to become a Hobbit. (Wink, wink.)

****

As much as I openly joke about my height, there are moments when the joke runs old. Days like today are hard, not because they make me feel small, but because they make me feel lonely.

"Huh?", you say. "Small-talk is harmless conversation. At least people are noticing you. Why would it make you feel lonely?"

But that's just it. Small-talk is evidence that nobody is actually noticing me. Believe it or not, I'm much more than my diminutive stature. These passing comments are alienating because they show how nobody's bothering to look beyond the packaging to the real person who lies beneath.

Have you ever noticed how when you are with a really good friend, you don't even notice what they look like anymore? Short of tall, fat or thin, you see their spirit instead of their physical shell.

I left behind a few such kindred spirits in Illinois--lifelong friends. Here in St. George, I'm still searching for that connection. Until I find it, a hole deep inside feels kind of empty, reminding me that I'm...

Lonely.

****

Recently I've done some reflecting on what's changed to make it more challenging to make friends here in St. George. These are a few of the things I've come up with.

1) It's Mormon Utah.

Now wait a second, before you start bristling, please realize that I'm not dissing the religion, nor the state. I love them both. My Mormon heritage is an inextricable piece of my identity that shapes who I am today and the person I hope to become. Growing up outside of Utah, however, my religious beliefs were always seen as unusual, unique, distinguishing characteristics. I always felt a deep sense of connectedness whenever I met someone else who was LDS because we shared something rare. While these encounters didn't always blossom into friendships, the building blocks were there.

Here in St. George, 70% of the population is LDS. By moving into the religious majority, I've somehow lost some of the personal connectedness that I used to feel. Being "Mormon" is no longer a unique, common bond. Rather, church sometimes seems like a neighborhood block party. Upon meeting someone new, the first question everyone asks is exactly where they live. I'm not sure I enjoy being identified by my home.

2) Our ward congregation is big--really big. Jason and I finally located our names on page 8 of the Sunday School roll. This is challenging for me as one who gets overwhelmed by crowds and prefers small, intimate settings.

3) We're too old to be young, and too young to be old. At the moment, our family kind of falls into an awkward stage of life where we're not transient students anymore, but nobody really views us as established. In general, our neighborhood consists of young families who are renting apartments, and older families with big houses. At the moment, our family doesn't really fit into either of these categories.

4) We've opted to send our daughter to a different school with diverse students. Since we've opted Brooklyn into a dual immersion program, she doesn't attend the same elementary school as the rest of the neighborhood kids.

5) It's not Champaign-Urbana. "Duh," you say. "Aren't you glad?" Geographically, absolutely. But sometimes I miss the ambiance of a university town. I miss the graduate student families. The nebulous "lab" that sucked in half the community. The intellectual bend to conversations, even in the children's section of the library. Recently I was talking to another Mom at the park when her kid used the word "growed." I began to jabber on about this piece of evidence suggesting constructivist grammar in first language acquisition as opposed to B.F. Skinner's ideas about behaviorism or Chomsky's ideas on universal grammar.

As this poor Mom's eyes began to gloss over, I had an ah-hah epiphany. In Champaign-Urbana, such blabber sets you apart as quirky, but kind of cool. In the heat of St. George, you are simply a nerd.

6) It's not Winfield Village. Now, I'm sure all of you living in Winfield are probably scoffing right now. A few months ago and I would have been scoffing with you. However, with a whopping four months of wisdom gleaned from living in the "real world," I wish I'd relished the experience a bit more instead of itching to move on. I miss the friendly chats in the mailroom, the thoughtful conversations in the park, the extemporaneous sympathy in the parking lot when your child throws a tantrum. In short, I miss having friends.

I never realized how much I would value Winfield as a great equalizer. Sure, there were slight moments of envy for three-bedrooms or painted walls, but for the most part, we were all in a similar place. And we were happy with that. Dirt poor, but the experiences brought us together.

****

Even as I write these musings, I realize that there's no turning back. Winfield wasn't magic, Illinois wasn't perfect; rather, these places were made special by the people and the relationships. I trust that with time, patience, and a little courage, we will look back on St. George with the same wishful longing.

So now, I'm looking for wisdom from the many of you who have walked this path before. How have you crossed the bridge between stranger and friend? How do you go about building positive relationships in a new place? Ultimately, how do you fill the void when you feel lonely?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Special Requests for Santa

Brooklyn came home from school with the following wish list for Santa Claus:

- a cinpudr (a computer)
- a rel prisus foon (a real princess phone)
- a big bag of cand (a big bag of candy)
- mune (money)
- a prinsus bed (a princess bed)
- a cat
- to be qwen (to be queen)

Nothing like ambition!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Three French Ants?

For the past week, Brooklyn has been running around the house practicing the 12 Days of Christmas for an upcoming school program.

Unlike the traditional version, her interpretation involves such unique gifts as "Three French Ants" and "Two Turtle Ducks."

Should make for an interesting holiday season...

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Tidbits

Blogging always becomes a little more scarce this time of year. As the season speeds up, we're simply too busy living life to have much time to blog about it.

Even so, I wanted to record a few memorable things that the kids have said. The hilarious comments come pouring out so quickly that they are forgotten if I don't write them down.

Eli
Background: The day before Thanksgiving, we were taking family pictures and trying to get everyone to smile.

Eli: Cheeeeeeese!

Believe it or not, this is Eli's first word, spoken with a great degree of intentionality. While our little man generally doesn't perform on command, with this new trick he'll generally oblige when we pop out the camera. Say cheese!

Talia
Background: Brooklyn and Talia were in the back seat of the car as we drove past the temple, speculating about the current location of Jesus while simulatenously recollecting a recent trip to the planetarium. Brooklyn (the self-acclaimed expert) has just explained it all when I overheard Talia seeking clarification:

Talia: So you mean the earth is rolling around on Jesus?

Brooklyn
Our future mathematician.

Brooklyn: How many sides does a stop sign have?
Mom: What do you think?
Brooklyn: Just a second, let me see.
Draws a perfect octagon.
Brooklyn: Eight.

Brooklyn: How much do you love me?
Mom: A billion
Brooklyn: A billion billions?
Mom: Naw, just a billion.
Brooklyn: But Mom, a billion billions is lots more! It's like, you have groups of billions. A billion, a billion, a billion---a billion of them!

Guess it's time to break out the multiplication.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Women Want

My sensitive husband drew the following picture for me during Primary on Sunday:

Wow! I kissed him on the spot. Nothing sexier than a man scrubbing the toilet. Talk about understanding what women really want.

The help in the bathroom is particularly appreciated since I've been busy cleaning up the kitchen...

Guess the kids aren't the only ones who make messes!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Quatre, Quatro, Vier--Yup, Talia's Four!


Celebrating with homemade birthday pretzels. Yum!

Cannibalism Wheeler-style. Here we all are, eating "Talia."

Our lucky Tally Wally Doodle got to stretch out her birthday celebration for three days. On Saturday morning we went hiking as a family in a gorgeous little canyon near Zion National Park.

There were all sorts of fun nooks and crannies to explore. Here's Talia going in...

...and Brooklyn coming out!

The rock formations were stunning,..

the girls enjoyed some extra bonding time with Dad,..

...and best of all, there were lollipops to sweeten the trip. Candy is Talia's absolute favorite thing in the world right now. If you ask her what her favorite food is, she'll most likely tell you, "Sugar."

The only downside is that Talia tripped over her feet in the parking lot on the way back, tearing up her hands and knees pretty good. We were so busy doctoring these cuts that we didn't even notice that she'd scraped her face until we got home. I'm afraid that our beautiful princess looked more like a battered princess at her party in the afternoon.

Still, there was plenty of sugar in the castle cake to boost her mood. Talia and I had lots of fun decorating this cake together.

Last year I kind of over-programmed the girls' birthday parties. This year I tried to keep things simpler--cake, ice cream, a few presents, a couple of games, and plenty of time to play. Here we have Brooklyn coaching Talia: will she pin the tail on the donkey?

No, she'll plant a kiss on the Frog Prince! As part of this year's laissez faire party planning, I turned the game creation over to the girls. Brooklyn must have written "Kiss me" on her poster at least a dozen times.

Princess Aby gets blind-folded while Princess Zoe stands by and watches intently.

All the royalty had a chance to dress-up.

However, Prince Jason looked particularly stunning in his glass slippers.

Happy Birthday, Talia!

Darling Talia, you are energetic, perceptive, intelligent, passionate, and beautiful, both inside and out. You are remarkably generous, setting a great example for us all in your willingness to share. I've learned so much from you over these past four years--thanks for sharing your light and love.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Snow Canyon Half Marathon 2010

A belated update--Jason and I successfully navigated the Snow Canyon Half Marathon on Saturday. (Sorry to be slow with the pictures, but I got my hands on the last two books in the Hunger Games series--gotta have priorities, ya know.)

We were really fortunate to have Grandpa Charles and Grandma Susie come to watch our kids so that Jason and I could enjoy the race together. It felt like a date as we held hands during the bus ride up to the drop-off point--except for the worrisome realization that we'd somehow have to run all 13 miles back.

As for the actual race, we got off to a bit of a late start, literally, due to a shortage of porta-potties at the starting line. But hey, some things just can't wait. Despite being at the back of the pack, the first miles were my favorite as Jason and I ran together. Such a great view (and the mountains were nice, too.) :) After about four miles, we separated with a kiss at the mouth of Snow Canyon so that we could each settle into our own groove. The race excitement and downhill slope tempted me to run much faster than I could sustain, so I put on my headphones and some easy listening to get into the "zone" and find a maintainable pace. Meanwhile, Jason shot off to the front.

The best surprise was waiting on the other side of the canyon--the cutest cheering squad ever. :) Race or no, I had to stop and give these blonde cuties a squeeze.


Brooklyn joined me as a running partner for a nice stretch.

It was then up to me to push through the final miles. Miles 8 through 12 were great--the weather was perfect, I was well-hydrated, and the course was familiar. The last mile, on the other hand, was tough. The shortage of training definitely caught up with me. Thanks to Jason, however, I kept pushing through. Here's the hero, finishing his own race in just under 1:45 (a fabulous time, especially when you remember he ran the first four miles slowly with me.)

After pausing to catch his breath, Jason then turned around, walked back, and reran the final stretch with me. This demonstration of love would be heartwarming under any circumstance, but it was particularly remarkable since he was suffering from a horrible leg cramp. Thanks, PB.

The very last lap around the track was up to me alone. It was torturous. If it looks like I hurt, the truth was worse.

Fortunately, all pain was forgotten as I crossed the finish line. Between the endorphin high and yummy assortment of treats, I found myself pondering a full marathon in just minutes.

The next morning, however, reality set back in. Jason and I both suffered a case of majorly sore legs. We were hilariously pathetic to watch as we winced, moaned, and groaned each time we tackled the stairs. (I finally decided to follow Eli's example by going down the stairs backwards since it was less painful that way.) Subsequently, a new family rule ensued--no more running marathons without training.

Thankfully, our legs have recovered, and the Snow Canyon Half Marathon is a fabulous memory. My hope is that it will become an annual tradition. Thanks to gravity's help on a downhill course, my final time was faster than I anticipated--2:00:20. Perhaps with a little more training and a little less chatting with the girls, I could actually break the two hour mark. And perhaps, just perhaps, this positive race has whet my appetite enough to tackle the full beast of a marathon.

Daily Chuckles

Laugh #1
Background:

Grandpa Charles: Eli, you'd better sit down or else you'll fall and get hurt.
Talia: Yeah, and then we'd have to call Uncle Justin.

***

Laugh #2
Background: The next in the family to fall prey to a nasty stomach bug, Eli has just lost his lunch.
Talia (calling upstairs): Mom, Eli throwed up on the carpet!
(Mom comes down to inspect the damage and sighs as she starts to clean up.)
Talia: We need Daddy.

***

Laugh #3
Background: Following a remark that Dad will live one hundred more years, Brooklyn and Jason are having a deep conversation about average life expectancies. Eager to inform his daughter, Jason starts to google the longest recorded life span on his Palm Pre.
Brooklyn: Daddy, does your phone know everything?

***

In this season of Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for the great men in my life who solve our medical woes, clean up the messiest messes, and know the answer to to just about everything (or at least where to find it.) Most of all, I'm grateful for adorable kids who keep us constantly chuckling.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Reclaiming My Life

This evening I got an unexpected update via my Mom about the whereabouts of a good high school friend. We haven't made contact in years, so it was fun to discover that we've lead somewhat parallel lives. For example:

He is married, so am I.
He went on to pursue an advanced degree, as did I.
He has four kids, we have three (notable, since he's neither LDS nor Catholic.)
His eldest is attending a Spanish kindergarten, as is ours.
His wife is primarily a stay-at-home-Mom, just like myself.
In the evenings, his wife works as the editor of a well-known science magazine.

And me? I run the PTA Mileage Club.

For the past month, this volunteer commitment has monopolized my life, commandeered my spare time, sapped my energy, and infiltrated my dreams. It has robbed my children of their naptimes, playtimes, and storytimes. And don't even ask about the state of my house...

But enough is enough. At long last, I am reclaiming my life.

It's really not my intent to dis the PTA nor parental involvement at school. Both are valuable and important. In fact, I still believe that a Mileage Club is a splendid idea, increasing students' physical and emotional health by promoting movement and activity.

What I have learned, however, is to be much more scrutinizing before making commitments. When a volunteer was needed to take over the Mileage Club, it was so easy to jump in with an "I'll do it!" Little did I realize that it would require my physical presence at school every day, with two young children in tow. I should have paid attention to the fact that Mileage Club overlaps with both lunchtime and naptime, leaving aforementioned children particularly hungry and tired. I should have noted that Mileage Club requires recruiting lots of extra help--a job that's tough to accomplish when you 1) absolutely hate asking for favors and 2) don't know anyone in the area. Heck, I should have noticed that Mileage Club doesn't even involve kindergartners, meaning that despite the many hours spent at school, my own daughter felt quite forgotten and neglected.

Don't get me wrong. I still long to volunteer in meaningful ways. I just hope to be more discerning about the ways in which I commit my limited time, talents, and resources. There's a season for everything; in retrospect, this probably wasn't the best time to run a Mileage Club.

Fortunately, Mileage Club is now officially over, and I am officially reclaiming my life. After a difficult past month, I feel the need to trigger my physical and emotional "restart" button. What better way to accomplish this than by clocking some miles of my own?

So, despite an alarming lack of training and a profound absence of good judgment, I've decided to run the Snow Canyon Half Marathon on Saturday. Fortunately, the course is all downhill, the scenery should be breathtaking, and my hubby will be running with me. I'm hoping these positive factors will somehow compensate for my inactivity over the past three weeks.

At the very least, this Half Marathon will represent a new beginning. I'm looking forward to a fresh start (and a life where I am defined by more than a PTA Mileage Club.)

To remember the positive, however, here are some photos of Dixie Sun Elementary's Mileage Club Finale. As a school, we originally hoped to walk enough miles to stretch from St. George to the Statue of Liberty. In the end, we fell short of Manhattan, New York but had plenty of miles to reach Manhattan, Kansas.

I never dreamed I'd catch my daughter's principal wearing our shower curtain...

An honorary lap around the track with Liberty himself.

I was very impressed by Mr. Porter's great attitude, seizing the opportunity to teach about freedom right before election day.

For those coming to America, that first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty symbolized hope, opportunity and a fresh start. Here's to new beginnings!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Halloween 2010

This post's for the grandfolks, so please forgive the excessive photo roll. I just couldn't get enough of this harvest princess.

NomiAnn fashioned Talia's luxurious costume from the flower girl dress worn by Brooklyn at Aunt Callie's wedding. The cape is made from the same fabric as the bridesmaid dresses, including the accent fabric adorning the hat. With Aunt Callie and Uncle Adam far away in New Zealand, this princess costume was the perfect way to remember them this Halloween.



Here are Talia and her classmates at their "Time for Tots" Halloween party, held at the Community Arts Center.

Talia with her preschool teacher, Ms. Barbie (no, it's not a stage name.)

And here is our other beautiful princess, sparkling pink at her kindergarten class party. Her spidery teacher, Ms. Barranco, is from Spain.

There's no better way to start the Dixie Sun Halloween parade than with the Dixie Sun herself.



Eli enjoyed clowning around.





And here are a few more pictures of our princesses at our church Trunk or Treat and Chili cook-off. (Sadly, the girls boycotted the cone hats, but I still think they're beautiful.)



Eli transformed into a cow, although I personally thought the costume was better suited for me because he's still nursing. Since I couldn't quite squeeze into his spots, I simply became Quaint.


And last but not least, we finally carved our pumpkins this evening. (Better late than never!) The girls created and cut their own designs while Eli cheered from the floor.




While we've had our share of fun these past weeks (in a particularly chaotic sort of way), now that November has arrived I confess that I'm relieved October is over.


Hope you all had a very happy Halloween!