No matter how hard I try to simplify, the Holiday season always catches me off guard with the sheer quantity of stuff to get done. Caught up in the trees and lights and gifts and carols, I consistently pass over Thanksgiving on this blog. This year, however, I'd like to reflect on our celebration of gratitude before losing myself in the trappings of tinsel.
For our Thanksgiving celebration, we traveled south to Phoenix to spend a sunny holiday with Justin and Brianna. Grandpa Charles and Grandma Susie traveled down with us and Lance flew in from DC, so we definitely had a house full. Even so, we missed Christy and Ben.
Brianna and Justin were super kind and let us crash their townhome, even though Justin was working nights at the hospital and might have benefited from a bit more quiet. Here's Brianna giving Eli's toes a tickle:
Thanksgiving day was spent at the home of Brianna's parents. Between their ping pong table, putting range, and even a racquetball court, a great time was had by all.
Here are Brianna and her Mom Diane in the kitchen.
Susie lends a hand with the delicious meal.
Meanwhile, Charles snags a snooze while watching Eli.
Brooklyn and Talia designed their own placemats.
Table's all ready, and something smells delicious...
At last, it's time to carve the bird. Here's Brianna's Dad, hard at work.
Dinner was delicious, especially since we were able to share it with so many. In addition to hosting the Wheeler clan, the Stokers also shared the table with the missionaries who live in their basement. Once our tummies were stuffed, we took a moment to share different things we are grateful for. Responses ranged all the way from family and friends to toothbrushes.
During our Champaign-Urbana Thanksgiving celebration four years ago, Justin and Brianna started a fabulous tradition with their well-designed pink pig pinata. (We couldn't quite figure out how to hang it, so we punted the pig instead.) Two years later, we continued the tradition in Ohio by bashing a paper-mache bumblebee. This Thanksgiving, however, Brianna and Justin outdid themselves by creating a saguaro cactus. While it may reside in the rubbish heap now, this fantastic pinata will certainly be remembered for many years to come!
Brianna pledges her undying affection.
Justin prepares the noose.
And Eli deals the final death blow. (Well, almost.)
The next morning Justin and Brianna outdid themselves yet again while hosting the biannual Wheeler Wobble in Papago Park. While I unfortunately don't have any great photos, you can trust me when I say the race was awesome. Papago Park is beautiful, the post-race muffins were delicious, and we all walked away with lots of great swag. Socks, headbands, finisher pins, granola bars, kleenex, tissues, and more. Justin and Brianna sure know how to host a great race!
And yes, much to Jason's chagrin, Justin did pull ahead for the victory during the final stretch, with Lance close behind. Way to go, Tio Queso!
Given the beautiful weather, we took advantage of the chance to spend lots of time outdoors. Here's Jason swimming with Brooklyn at the hotel where the rest of the clan was staying.
Susie sure enjoyed splashing around with Eli as well.
On Saturday morning we got out the door early once more to do some hiking up Camelback mountain. Apparently we weren't the only ones with this idea--the place was packed!
Brianna was a real trooper helping Talia through what turned out to be a rather lengthy and challenging hike.
Charles likewise deserves major kudos for toting Eli most of the way up.
Everybody say cheese.
Fortunately, we all made it to the summit eventually and enjoyed the 360 vistas of the city from the top.
The ladies take a little rest.
Here are Justin and Brianna, looking stylish in their shades. Thanks for tolerating our rather chaotic crew on the trek both up and down.
And here are Charles and Susie, looking mighty thankful to have each other.
Jason and Kara snag a couple photo as well.
Yet the day's fun still wasn't done. After some delicious tacos in downtown Phoenix, we took a trip to Scottsdale to meet Santa and his reindeer. Well, at least Mrs. Claus and her rein-ponies. Eli was terrified, but Mrs. Claus kept a firm grip so he wouldn't run away. :)
Given the charm of Scottsdale, we just couldn't resist pulling out our best model poses:
Justin--brilliant or baffled, who knows?
Talia--tranquil. (Wait! Who is this girl, and what happened to my daughter?)
Brooklyn--going for sultry.
Eli of the ridiculously long lashes.
And Jason. I'm not quite sure what angle he's going for...
Some time to smell the flowers...
A leisurely stroll...
And we were all tuckered out.
Yes, Thanksgiving gave us much to feel happy about. We're especially grateful that it will come again next year.
Until then, keep smiling!