Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Talia's Five

With one hour left in the month of November, it seems wise to finally blog about Talia's birthday.

Just over two weeks ago, our sweet Talia Lily turned five. The celebration began a couple days early with some yummy carrot cake for our princess, courtesy of Grandma Susie.

Although we hadn't originally intended on traveling north, we ended up passing through Hyde Park while driving to and from Idaho for my Uncle Darrell's funeral. While my uncle is dearly missed, the chance to see so much family was a happy occasion.

Eli seems delighted to be back in the arms of his Grandpa Charles...

...while Charles seems equally happy to hold his grandson.

A very happy Grandma Susie as well.

Opening presents in Hyde Park. Too bad I forgot to take a picture of the adorable puppy purse!

And here's Talia getting a special sisterly hug on her first morning as a five year-old.

Talia awoke to discover that ten special presents had been hidden all around the house in the most unlikely of places.

After hunting for all the gifts, Talia opened her special Dora the Explorer doll and accessories from NomiAnn and Papa Kay. Thank you!

As luck would have it, Talia's birthday fell on a Tuesday--our family's busiest day. Still, we managed to celebrate here and there all day long: Papa K-cakes for breakfast, party hats in Spanglish class, mac-n-cheese for lunch, cupcakes at preschool, play time at gymnastics, lasagna for dinner, birthday songs at Girl Scouts--the fun went on and on. Once the chaos finally died down, Talia found time to open a few presents from Mom and Dad. Good thing gymnastics is building her muscles!

Puppet theater for our poppet.

When time runs out for birthday cake, sometimes a candle in ice cream has to suffice. Better hurry up and make a wish before the good luck melts!

In an effort to simplify our lives, our family recently decided to switch off years between friend parties and family celebrations when birthdays roll around. Since this year is a family year, Talia got to choose a restaurant and activity. Later in the week, we all dined at the Brick Oven and played at Fiesta Fun in honor of our favorite five year old. So wouldn't you know, hers was the only face that got cut out in the family photo! Go fig.

Sometimes I've worried about Talia being squished in the middle of two other wonderful children. I've hoped and prayed that her unique talents and abilities won't get cut short because she must share so much attention. Fortunately, our little Redi-Whip seems to have found a niche all of her own. As of late, she's been flourishing in her own unique Talia-style.

At this age, Talia will forever be etched in my mind as a white blond with crazy fly-away hair, a brightly colored T-shirt, a mismatched knit skirt, and scuffed-up black dress shoes, invariably on the wrong feet. Totally Talia.

Yet despite her wild appearance, Talia is definitely maturing. Academically she's really progressing, thanks to her afternoon preschool at Dixie Sun and an UPSTART computer school. During her morning preschool at the park, she interacts with her peers so easily that I'm almost envious. A natural musician, Talia loves to sing and is quite talented at picking out harmonious chords on the piano. And of course, this bundle of energy is constantly escaping out the front door so she can scooter all around our driveway.

Happy Birthday, Talia Lily! No matter how squished the photos may be, our family would never be complete without you.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Diggin' Away

Just in case you were looking for Jason yesterday, despite being home, he was hard to find.

Instead of savoring the beautiful weather by hiking the local canyons, Jason spent his Saturday replacing the last of the old water main in the hopes of warding off any more catastrophes.

Eli joins in the digging--two shovels is always better than one.

Despite all the work, Jason still smiled. What a guy!

Thanks, cutie.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Brooklyn Unveiled

(Photo taken through a kaleidoscope.)

Sometimes pictures say it all. This photo is just rich. The laundry in the background. The giant mound of toilet paper that Eli recently unrolled. And above all, Brooklyn in her most beloved spot.

Ever her father's daughter, Brooklyn has developed into a delightful bookworm. We simply can't keep enough reading material around the house. Brooklyn is intelligent, thoughtful, creative, resourceful--perhaps her biggest flaw is simply that she acts so mature that it is easy to forget she is still six. At times she seems so grown-up that it's easy to overlook how much she still needs our nurturing.

You see, although Brooklyn may read Pippi Longstocking all on her own, by the time she finally puts down the book and pulls up the undies from around her ankles, chances are that she'll need reminding to flush the toilet. In which case, I'll certainly encounter the eye roll, just as I undoubtedly will in six years when Brooklyn comes across this post as a 'Tween.

What can I say? That's what Mom's are for.

***By the way, if you have any good suggestions for youth reading materials, please chime in!

A Tale of Two Races

A couple of weekends ago, Jason and I capitalized on NomiAnn's free babysitting and ran a 5K with St. George's BYU Alumni Chapter. While driving to the race, Jason mused, "I wonder if I should run fast and win it or if I should just run with you..."

Never one to hold my honey back, I let him know that he was free to run untethered by my short legs and asthmatic lungs. (How am I doing with the guilt trip?) Even though we missed the start of the race by a full fifteen seconds thanks to a last minute potty run, Jason easily caught up with the leaders and left them in the dust, finishing the race in 21 minutes, a full two or three minutes before anyone else.

And to salvage my own reputation, I dragged my booty across the finish line before the rest of the other boys and most of the other girls, securing third place and a nifty prize with my 24:45 finish. What can I say? It was an extremely small race.

Invigorated by our victories, we signed up for the Butch Cassidy 10K the following weekend. This local race begins in Springdale, just outside of Zion National Park, and ends in the tiny ghost town of Grafton. Not wanting to leave our kids out of the fun, we borrowed a double jogger and lifted weights to prepare our arms for pushing fifty extra pounds of children a piece. Challenging as it was, we were prepared for the steep, uphill sections of course, just as we were prepared for the gravel road at the end. What we were NOT prepared for, however, was SNOW!!! Blizzarding snow! Gee-gosh-wish-I'd-brought-my-ski-goggles-'cause-this-is-really-stinging-my-face-and-I-can't-see kind of snow! The first few flurries started falling at mile 1 and kept on coming right until the very end. All bundled in blankets, my charge Brookln handled the unexpected weather with grace. Eli, on the other hand, apparently howled for the last three miles--not that I actually heard him. Even with two extra kids and a rickety jogger, Jason is still ridiculously quick.

Needless to say, this was not the race we expected. But hey, it certainly was memorable! While the post-race party might have been more exciting were we not all frozen, we were grateful to have pushed through to the finish.

(Note: The rest of these pictures were taken later in the day when the weather was gorgeous, so don't let the sunshine deceive you--we froze!)

It was also fun to explore the quaint, deserted town of Grafton.

But perhaps most significantly, Jason and I learned a valuable lesson as we pressed onward, concerned about our children. Through the wet and cold, we both contemplated the pioneers crossing through these same passes without the luxury of a heated shuttle waiting at the end to take them home.

On our way out, we passed Grafton's beautiful old cemetery nestled in the rocks.

The emotional closeness I felt to the pioneers intensified when I noticed the names of three little Andrus (my maiden name) babies who were buried in this very place.

Thankfully, by this point our little ones were all warm, well-fed, and very happy.

And so, we continued our journey on to Zion National Park on a gorgeous fall day that was obviously worth photographing.

Instead of sticking to the popular paths, we let the kids guide us into less explored territory on the East side. They loved the freedom of trailblazing their own way through the wash, and were thrilled to discover autumn all around them.

Crisp, crunchy leaves with a fresh snap in the air--ahh, the joys of November!

Jason's journey was a bit more pungent, courtesy of Eli's diaper. Needless to say, we cut our hike a bit short.

First, however, the girls discovered a boulder so round they are convinced that it must actually be a petrified dinosaur egg. (And hey, considering all the dinosaur farms in the area, anything's possible...)

Cute kids.

Happy family.

Beautiful day.

You know, we nearly pulled out of the 10K after looking at the foreboding weather forecast. (It predicted rain, not snow, by the way.) In retrospect, I'm so glad that we hung in there for the full experience--the decadent afternoon was made so much brighter by the dreary morning. Hard as it can be, I hope we can all embrace life in its fullest--no matter what the weather at the moment.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Our Oz-ly Halloween

Was it just me, or did Halloween last, like, forever this year? When we showed up for the "Fall Festival" at our local nature center on the 25th, kids were already in costume! The celebrations continued on Thursday with our school carnival, followed by a party at our neighbor's on Friday, multiple events on Saturday, not to mention the Monday school parades and trick-or-treating madness. When Brooklyn's Girl Scout troop added one more spooky party on November 1st, I dressed as a haggard, worn-out Mom. Au naturel.

Fortunately, it was a delightful weekend to have the celebrations linger since NomiAnn was visiting from Nebraska. The weather was perfect, and we certainly made the most of our time together. Paring down the mound of pictures to was too difficult, so here are a few collages for you to enjoy. If the pictures are too small, you should be able to double click on them to zoom in.

These first pictures were taken at the Family Festival at Vernon Worthen Park on Saturday. A climbing wall, free pulled pork sandwiches, face painting, cupcake walks--what's not to love?

Later that evening we hit the local Rec Center for some crafts, games, and trick-or-treating. The Cowardly Lion was cute as could be, and both Glinda and Elfaba were on their best behavior. The Scarecrow seemed to have a thing for Dorothy, even though she wasn't the only one in the land of Oz.

Halloween morning was spent biking and hiking in Snow Canyon. Eli had so much fun exploring the Upper Galoot, and NomiAnn relished the snuggles.

Lunch was a costume party at Jason's work (sorry, no pics), followed by Halloween parades for both Brooklyn and Talia at Dixie Sun. Here's our pink princess Talia with her afternoon preschool class.

And here's our adorable witch Brooklyn with her teacher Mr. Garcia and some of her classmates.

By this time, our Cowardly Lion was super sleepy, so we headed home for some much needed down time.

Before the light disappeared, we threw on our costumes yet again and headed to Pioneer Park to take some family photos in the fantastic costumes that NomiAnn made. Thank you, Danke, Gracias, Obrigada, Merci!

At long last, it was time to go Trick-or-Treating! We rationed the candy this year by making giant countdown chains from Halloween to Christmas--one piece per person per day. We pooled the candy, and amazingly, it divided perfectly so that everyone ended up with their favorites: lollipops and tootsie rolls for Eli, Airheads and gobstoppers for Talia, Skittles and Twix for Brooklyn, with most of the Snickers and peanut M&Ms left over for Mom and Dad. The only candies left unclaimed were the 3 Musketeers. Any takers?

Mom, thank you so much for coming to see us! It's fun to think that before the candy's all gone, we will get to see much of our family again.

So a Happy Halloween to all from the Merry Old Land of Oz!

The Goodest Giggles

Kids. They are messy, sticky, and extremely noisy. They cramp our social lives, complicate our schedules, break our budgets, and are generally quite demanding. So why do we even keep them around? I suspect it's because they make us chuckle. Chez les Wheelers, life may be wild and crazy, but it's always amusing. Here are some of our most recent giggles, courtesy of Talia.

Talia and Brooklyn are discussing how Dad is taller than Mom, even though Mom is older than Dad. Suddenly Talia comes up with the perfect explanation for this conundrum: "I know why Dad's taller. It's because his head is so pointy." (Followed by frantic gesturing of a cone shape rising from one's head.)

A few days later, Talia says, "Mom, you have a mold on your face." Hmmm. I guess my mole needs washing.

Later that morning, I was instructed by Talia: "Don't put my brains up!" I was starting the futile attempt to tame her bangs, but I certainly had no intention of messing with her brains.

And of course, there are the priceless tender moments, such as when Brooklyn and Talia spontaneously started to list the virtues of attending church while riding in the back of the car one day. Talia pretty well summed it up when she said:

"I like going to Primary because I want to be good, and going to church makes you be gooder."

Talia Lily, you are so good. And since the magic of four passes so quickly, may I always remember that the dirty feet, mismatched clothes, backward shoes, and candy-coated face make you just that much gooder.