Monday, April 26, 2010

Still Here

So things have been unusually quiet on the Wheeler blog these past few weeks.

Life, however, has not.

I attribute the scarcity of blog posts to three primary factors:

1) Spring has finally arrived. (Hallelujah!) There are some times of year when the Champaign-Urbana landscape definitely lacks in curb appeal. For a few magical weeks in spring, however, it's downright stunning. The blossoms are so fleeting that I haven't wanted to waste a moment. As long as it's not raining, you're likely to find me at the park, not parked in front of my computer screen.

2) Brooklyn has been binky-free for nearly three weeks. While I am so proud of her courage and good attitude, bedtimes have been much more difficult. She used to conk out practically the moment we stuck in the "plug." Now that she's been stripped of her sleep aid, it's much more difficult for her to settle down. This is particularly problematic since we used to count on Brooklyn's heavy breathing to settle our restless Talia. Now they're partners in crime, keeping each other up way later than they ought. Add in the fact that Brooklyn hasn't napped once since she gave up her binky, and I'm left with very little personal time for blogging.

3) Jason has been extremely occupied, preparing for his final thesis design review on Friday. After five years in architecture school, we're certainly used to deadlines. It seems like life is measured by major projects and their accompanying models, boards, and sleepless nights. Yet of all of the major deadlines we've had (and there have been many), Friday is the biggest of the big. This final thesis review represents the culmination of his work, so the pressure is definitely on. Despite the gorgeous spring weather, Jason can be found dutifully slaving away in studio for Friday's review. Excepting, of course, those few hours when he can be found training for Saturday's marathon.

Whew! Needless to say, our family will be lucky to survive the next week. Ideally, I might get a moment to post a few pictures, but then again, probably not. There are just too many flowers to enjoy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Going, Going, Gone

Lost: One baby tooth.
Time discovered missing: April 11, 2010, 8:57 pm CST
If recovered, please notify the tooth fairy immediately. The rightful owner would like to swap for a couple shining quarters.

Well, it happened. After several days of ceaseless wiggling, Brooklyn finally lost her first tooth (with a bit of help from her Dad.) She was positively ecstatic, and insisted on calling both sets of grandparents immediately to share the news.

Jason and I are happy as well because Brooklyn is now on her fourth consecutive night without a binky. I never believed it could happen, but I think she's actually given it up. Bedtimes are still challenging, but she's trying really hard to settle down without it. After her first night of success, she bounded into our room in the morning with gleeful shouts of "I did it!" We went to the store that morning to pick out a special toy as a reward, but didn't actually go back and purchase it until she had conquered three nights in a row. Our trip to purchase her gift was a very rewarding experience since she was so genuinely excited about and grateful for her present. It's amazing how much more we value those things that we have to work for. Brooklyn chose a Baby Alive doll that can drink water from a sippy cup. Naturally, just as with real children, the water passes right through. Just what we need around our house--more diapers.

Our next challenge to conquer is Talia's trademark thumbsucking/Napoleon pose. Thumbs are definitely more attached than pacifiers, so let us know if you have any recommendations.

And, just for kicks, here are a few pictures that we took before church today.

Eli says, "Enough with the kissing already."

Thanks for the beautiful dresses, NomiAnn!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Stolen Fun

Mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery.

I just thought I'd let you all know that I shamelessly steal all of the great ideas that you put out on your blogs. Here are a couple of the most recent:

A Bug Feast (courtesy of Ashlee and her adorable family)

I copied the Burton family's fare exactly, minus the chocolate chips spots for the ladybugs (amazingly, the bag was empty... Oops.)

Still, we definitely enjoyed our fare of pickle snails, olive spiders, and strawberry ladybugs. Yum!

In the end, we only had about fifteen minutes to dine since Jason had class until 6:20 and a Pack planning meeting for cub scouts at 7:00. It was pretty chilly outside by this point, so we ended up eating our picnic in the church nursery. If you look closely at this picture, you'll see how Talia has forgotten to take the toothpicks out of her snail. Luckily, we caught it in time!

Eli wished he could join in the feast, but had to content himself with eating his binky.

Idea #2: Star Sticks. This great idea was stolen from Susan, who as far as I can tell, got it from Marianne, who probably got it from someone else. (By the way, congratulations to Susan on the new addition to their family.) :)

We thought the star sticks idea was so great that we created a set of our own, with twenty little popsicle sticks each highlighting a fun activity to do, ranging from riding scooters and sidewalk chalk to playing dress-up and singing songs.

I supplemented our family's star sticks, however, with a set of heart sticks featuring chores around the house that the girls can help out with, such as putting away the shoes or vacuuming downstairs. The general idea is that the girls must pick out a heart stick and do their job before they can choose a star stick with the reward. While I'm sure the novelty will wear off, so far I've been able to get some good mileage out of the system.

Thanks to all for the fabulous ideas!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Bye bye, baby teeth

Brooklyn has a loose tooth.

I can't remember ever feeling quite so shaken by a developmental milestone. Perhaps it's because of the name--baby tooth. Once Brooklyn loses that, let's face it--she's simply not a baby anymore. Every time I see her wiggle her tooth with her tongue, I'm filled with nostalgia. When did she grow up, and why didn't I notice? It makes me want to turn back the clock and savor the small moments just a bit more.

In Brooklyn's case, the emotions are doubly mixed because it means that we simply can't procrastinate the inevitable any longer--giving up the binky. Now wait, I know what you're thinking--what in the heck is a five year-old doing with a pacifier anyway? I'd probably frown the same way too, because at least from a distance, perfect parenting is so easy. Give up the binky--c'est évident. Yet place these well-intentioned words into the specific context of my child and her addiction, and the feat seems nearly impossible. Up until now, I've consoled myself by thinking that the binky was only messing up her baby teeth. But with permanent teeth just around the corner, the plug has finally got to go.

It's impossible to overstate the deep emotional attachment of Brooklyn to her pacifier. During the 1,837 days she's spent on earth, I don't think she's ever been a night without it. She willingly forfeited afternoon school in France because she couldn't bear the thought of napping without a binky. When I explained how it gets dark sooner during the winter, Brooklyn actually got excited and said, "Then I can go to bed earlier and have more time to suck on my binky!" Once Brooklyn was having a sleepover in her Grandma's room and desperately wanted to prove how grown up she was getting by sleeping without her pacifier. At 12:30 am, NomiAnn finally grew so tired of listening to Brooklyn toss and turn that she found her binky just so she could fall asleep. When she was four, Brooklyn talked about giving up her pacifier when she turned five. But when five came, she decided that she wouldn't be ready until she was a "big five."

Well, her teeth have spoken, and "big five" is here. Yesterday evening, after some very genuine and heartfelt tears, I allowed Brooklyn to sleep with her binky once last time. In all of our prayers today, we have been praying that Brooklyn would have the courage to settle down without this sleep aid. We sat down for a very grown-up talk where I explained how I understood how extremely difficult it was for her to give up something she loves so very much, but that I would never ask this of her if it weren't truly important.

And tonight, we did it. Brooklyn went to sleep for the very first time without a binky. I use the term "we" very deliberately, because it was certainly a collective effort. Brooklyn did her best, but it took me lying in bed with her for over an hour before Jason finally stepped in and told her a Bearlemicus story that lulled her off to dreamland. The task was doubly difficult since Talia shares a room with Brooklyn, and Talia's always restless. Usually it doesn't matter since Brooklyn falls asleep the moment she gets her binky, regardless of what antics her sister is up to. But tonight it was hard. Really hard. But we made it.

The secret? Mountains of love, confidence, and trust? Possibly. But more likely, it was the shameless bribery. I'll let you know what she picks out during our trip to the toy store tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Impossible Dream

Today I ran farther than I've ever run before--11.67 miles.

Wait, wait--I know what you're thinking--what about the Moab half-marathon that I ran with Jason back in 2004? Well, while the actual race may have been longer, I wore out and walked as soon as we got out of the canyon. I don't remember exactly how far we'd gone before I gave up, but I'm pretty certain that it was before mile 11. Hence, today's run takes the cake. Plus, I scored bonus points by pushing Eli in the jogging stroller the entire distance. By the very end, my arms ached nearly as much as my legs.

It's been fun to train for a race around town where I'm familiar with the roads. It adds to the sense of accomplishment--Central High to Prospect, down past Green, around the country club, beyond Kirby, past Mattis, beyond Duncan, across the Interstate, all through the neighborhoods, and back again. (What was I thinking?) Today I explored areas that I've never even driven through, let alone jogged around. There's a definite sense of adventure when you wander into unknown territory. I never imagined that I would run with a map, pausing occasionally to get my bearings. It's amazing how far your legs can actually take you. Hard as the run was (and it did get tough), I felt genuinely proud of myself for sticking with it.

Around mile 7 or 8, I started to reflect on my new running habit and its motivations. After all, I run around plenty chasing my three sweet children. With so much to do and so little discretionary time, why am I investing my free moments into developing a habit that I somewhat dread and find slightly painful? I confess, the endorphins must have something to do with it. Running really does become addictive. I feel jumpy and anxious until I get a chance to pound all of my stress and worries into the pavement. No matter what it is that has me concerned, I almost always feel better about it by the time I come home from a run.

I run for my health. I foolishly gained nearly 40 pounds during this last pregnancy, only to discover afterward that my metabolism has changed, and no amount of nursing is going to melt the weight away. Running has helped balance my aging body, leaving me healthier physically with an appropriate BMI, and healthier emotionally because I'm not beating myself up over body image.

There's more, though. If you dig deep into my psyche, you'll discover that I run because I never thought I could. As an adult, I am reshaping a piece of myself that I always viewed as a miserable failure. We all harbor a few painful memories of our past: one of my worst memories centers around running. In seventh grade, I joined the track team. It didn't take me long to figure out that I was never going to catch up with the sprinters, so when it came time to sign up for events, I registered for the mile. Since not many middle-schoolers are interested in long distances, I thought it would boost my probabilities of success.

On the day of my first track meet, the coach pulled me and the other mile runners aside to let us know that one of our competitors had been training all summer and was really fast, so we needed to pace ourselves. What my coach didn't know, however, was that a very well-intentioned family member who likes to remain anonymous had given me his own race advice the night before. He told me that when he raced in school, he did his best to take the lead and refused to let anyone overtake him, making him a winner.

Overly competitive in nature, I chose to follow my father's advice. I sprinted as fast as I could and made it half a lap around the track before stopping to gasp for air. I stumbled through another lap and a half before quitting the race early with an asthma attack. When I caught my breath, I withdrew from my second event and walked home alone--in disgrace.

I never went back. This first track meet was also my last. I turned my uniform into the office directly so that I could avoid speaking to the coach. I honestly thought I'd never race again.


Running as an adult has been much more pleasant, centered around personal goals and accomplishments instead of competition. It's been empowering to turn a weakness into a strength. The question that haunts me now is--how far will I go?

At the moment, a half marathon is the perfect goal for me. Extremely challenging, yet achievable. I've trained hard and consistently to become conditioned, and I feel confident that if I keep it up, I will be proud of my finish on May 1st.

But will I ever dare a marathon? The logical part of me says no, absolutely not. It's too far, too taxing, too stressful on a body, particularly one that's not naturally inclined towards running. And yet there is this tiny whispering voice that wants to tackle it, just once, simply to say that I did it.

Initially, it seems like this longing to join the elite crowd of marathoners is nothing more than pride. And still, I feel this quiet urge to conquer something that I never believed possible.

Shortly before I graduated from high school, I was asked by a scholarship search committee what I considered to be the greatest challenge I had faced in life. In the few seconds I had to ponder, I was overcome with the realization that my entire life had been blessed, void of any truly overwhelming challenge. In an effort to formulate a decent response, I talked about the challenge of living with asthma. At the time, my asthma was really poorly controlled. (Our cat, while cute, was rather disastrous on my lungs.) I explained to the interviewers that having asthma forced to me to confront and recognize my limitations. As an asthmatic, there were simply some things I would never be able to do--like run a marathon.

Years later, these words still haunt me. Never run a marathon... Or could I? Should I? My lungs feel much better far away from felines in the cornfields of Illinois. Yet I'm still asthmatic. Discrete as I may try to be, I don't run farther than the mailbox without an inhaler--just in case. Yet here I am, managing 6 mile runs easily, 11 mile runs without much more than sore calves to complain about. At the moment, 26 miles seems an impossible dream, but never?

We'll see.