Friday, November 30, 2012


Shortly after Eli turned three, we decided that he was ready to be potty trained. He decided otherwise. After 24 hours in underwear, he'd had exactly 12 accidents and 0 successes. Rarely one to throw tantrums, Eli kicked and screamed each time I placed him on the pot. Before long, I realized that I was on the short road to insanity and acknowledged defeat.

We dropped the subject completely for a time, then started inquiring when he finally started showing more readiness signs. Each time we asked if he wanted to try the toilet, however, he always responded with "Not now. Later. No. Later."

Apparently "later" finally arrived. Early this morning Eli came upstairs and told me, "I'm ready!" "Ready for what?" I asked. "Ready to go pee pee and poo poo in the potty."

Alrighty! I'm ready too. So far we've had three joyous successes with number one. I know that's still a long way from fully trained, but at least there's hope.


Speaking of ready, our Talia Lily has some remarkable news. After four long years of continuous finger sucking, she is finally ready to quit for good. (You may all cheer wildly now.) Last spring, we were really concerned about Talia's finger sucking as kindergarten approached. In a 24 hour period, she probably spent a good 18 hours with a finger in her mouth, sucking away furiously both day and night. She'd already been pegged as the "finger sucker" by her preschool teachers; we were anxious for her kindergarten teachers to get to know the beautiful girl behind the habit. Worst of all, the finger sucking was really damaging our mother-daughter relationship. She was constantly receiving negative feedback from me as I grew more and more frustrated by this habit that seemed to be getting worse, not better.

We tried everything. Special books. Nasty-tasting nail polish. Motivational speeches. Lectures. Reward systems. Outrageous bribery. Yet when we offered to purchase her absolutely any toy she wanted if she would quit, Talia responded, "But what I really want is to suck my finger." Finally, I pulled out the biggest weapon I could think of: an ultimatum. If she didn't quit the finger sucking, she couldn't go to kindergarten.

This may seem overly severe, and perhaps it was. Yet every situation is different, and to really comprehend our dilemma, you've got to understand that this habit was really serious. The finger sucking was connected with a second negative habit of sticking her hand down her shirt--the "Napoleon." I worried constantly that this habit would draw unhealthy attention to Talia and make her vulnerable. It made others, particularly myself, uncomfortable. We simply weren't going to be able to progress in our relationship without tackling this roadblock.

Yet as kindergarten drew closer and the habit continued, I started to get nervous. Was I really willing to homeschool over the issue? In desperation, I finally contacted our dentist. In late July, he put a "cage" in Talia's mouth that prevented her from getting a finger in far enough to suck. I was skeptical at first--after all, this was more of an obsession than a habit. Yet out of other options, we shelled out the money and prayed.
It was worth it. Talia named the device "Juliette." Admittedly ugly, this quasi-permanent device made it challenging for Talia to speak clearly and got clogged with food. Yet just as Talia learned to reform her sounds, she likewise adjusted to life beyond thumb-sucking. Her hands were now free to color, dance, draw, and create. She no longer had to endure the endless pleading, redirection, and reprimands for finger sucking. She emerged from behind the screen of her habit as the intelligent, imaginative, and insightful young child she has always been.

And yet, a tiny piece of me still worried. What would happen when "Juliette" came out? Would she revert to her old ways? Was finger sucking too firmly entrenched to ever fully be rid of the habit?

Well, the dentist removed Juliette three days ago, and so far, so good. We've held onto the device just in case the habit should resurface. But at the moment, we all feel quite optimistic. Congratulations, Talia!


Brooklyn's greatest "readiness" success is linked to piano. A couple of years ago, we enrolled Brooklyn in a few lessons before realizing that the timing was wrong. She was generally disinterested and related poorly to her teacher. Practicing was a constant struggle.

At the beginning of this year, Brooklyn started piano once again with a new teacher. Definitely ready this time, she's made remarkable progress in just a few months. Motivated and appropriately challenged, she often wakes up early and practices on her own before school. As for me, I absolutely love being able to play duets together and look forward to the day when she outpaces me. If she keeps up the hard work, that day may come relatively soon.


Jason is ready to become a licensed architect! (Okay, well, almost.) A couple of days ago he received official notification that he passed the last of seven licensing exams--a huge accomplishment. He still has quite a few IDP hours left to complete (internship development program), but he is much closer to being able to officially call himself an architect. Needless to say, we're so proud!


Kara is admittedly ready to be done with pregnancy. At thirty weeks, her belly is quite pendulous and her back hurts often. As much as she wants to keep running, it's becoming quite absurd. She sighs when well-meaning inquirers ask if the baby is due before Christmas. Yet she knows that while she may be ready, this little girl is not. And thus, the lesson in patience. I suppose they call it "waiting" for a reason.


So with the holidays quickly approaching, are you ready?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Talia's Goblin Birthday

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, my to-do list stretches all the way from here to Kentucky. Even so, I wanted to take a break and blog about our latest adventures before life speeds past.

Talia Lily had a birthday!
Our spunky munchkin is now officially six years-old. As she sat reading Dick and Jane by herself on the couch last night, I was overcome by how much she has grown up over the past months. She absolutely loves kindergarten, and has adapted beautifully to the Spanish dual immersion program. We're all gaining from her enthusiasm, as she is often the one who initiates Spanish conversations in our home.

Other loves: drawing, crafting, biking, singing, dancing, and of course, playing with her siblings. Best of all, we cherish her generous heart. While working on a project about families, Brooklyn wrote about how Talia has a "talent" for sharing--I couldn't agree more.

In our family, we trade off every other year between friend and family birthday parties. As this was a "friend" year, Talia invited a few cute girls over for a princess celebration. We ate pink cupcakes, painted wands and tiaras, and decorated T-shirts.
Talia gets ready to enjoy her treat.
Here's Eli with Chloe. I've been tending Chloe regularly since August, so the two have gotten to be quite good pals.
Talia opening her presents. Do you think she likes her new vanity glasses?
And a photo of all the princesses: Sofia, Anna, Brooklyn, Talia, Aby, Chloe and Sara. (We couldn't wear the tiaras or hold the wands because the paint was still drying. I should have at least had them put on their T-shirts!)
After the party was over, I asked Talia if it was everything she ever dreamed of. Her candor made me chuckle when after a moment of thought, she politely responded, "No, not really." Apparently it could have been better if I'd let her wear her Little Mermaid costume and handed out treat baggies. I tell you, in Talia's world, love is spelled C-A-N-D-Y.

Despite limited sweets, Talia really had a pretty remarkable celebration this year. Since Jason had a business trip that overlapped with her special day, we pulled both Brooklyn and Talia out of school to join him on one last company-financed Hurrah before our family no longer fits in a rental car.

First stop: Salt Lake City.
While Jason took care of some work meetings, the kids and I explored the new City Creek Mall and Temple Square. We rode the escalators, wet our fingers in the fountains, waved to the buses from the overpass, and even hopped aboard Trax for a stop. Certainly not your typical city tour, but perfect for a six year-old birthday girl.

Other trip highlights: dinner with Grandma Susie and Grandpa Charles at the Old Spaghetti Factory, trying out Talia's new rollershoes on the bike path in Moab (she's quite talented at doing the splits in them), and of course, the gorgeous ride home. We took the long route, which extends all the way from Arches, through Capitol Reef, into Escalante, past Bryce, and finally through Cedar Breaks before finally snagging the interstate home. Definitely worth the extra drive time.

Our very favorite stop, however, was Goblin Valley State Park. The kids were absolutely enchanted with all of the "smurf" houses. If you don't mind, for the sake of time, I'm just going to dump the photos. Fun hardly needs any explanation when exploring God's all-natural play place.

After a long and glorious game of chase where Gargamel (Dad) chased all of the smurfs, it was time to hit the road again. The kids all agreed, however, that Goblin Valley State Park was the best park ever.
Happy Birthday, Talia!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Lick Wash Miracles

Even though we ventured out to Lick Wash directly from our Butch Cassidy 10K, the experience was remarkable enough to deserve its own post.

Lick Wash is stunning, but in the middle of nowhere. We drove all through Zion National Park, through Kanab, up Johnson's Canyon, and many lone miles along the dusty Skutumpah road before finally reaching the trailhead. Evening was approaching by the time we finally began our hike, but the scenery was worth it.
While not technically difficult (at least when dry), this little-known wash is certainly magnificent.
The Wheeler grandparents with the grandbabes.
Talia found the perfect spot to start a leaf war, tackling Grandpa Charles first.
Attacking her little brother.
Even the camera was not immune from her assault.
Eli joins in the excitement.

Susie finally rescues her husband.
While I suppose that the rugged canyon and weathered outcroppings and changing leaves were the greatest miracle, our family experienced a personal miracle on a much smaller scale that rivals Mother Nature's glory. It began with a key.

A single key, half buried in the dust, that looked so remarkably like a Honda Odyssey car key that we finally realized that it was our car key. Apparently it had fallen out of Jason's pocket on our journey into the canyon and we never even knew it was gone. We feel so remarkably blessed to have noticed it on the return. The wash at this spot was so wide that we easily could have traveled any other number of routes. Compared to the grandeur of our surroundings, this key was so miniscule that it really was miraculous that we spotted it.
With night quickly approaching, it's hard to imagine what might have happened had we not found the key. As mentioned earlier, we were completely isolated, the only ones at the trail head, and far out of cell service. The desert weather was quickly turning cooler, and Talia was just hours away from coming down with the stomach flu. Cold, hungry, sick, and stranded--our beautiful day could have had a very unfortunate ending. Instead, we were granted the warmth and safety of our own beds and a faith-building story to go along with it. And so, while some may scoff at personal anecdotes, for our family, the Lick Wash key is sure evidence of a divine, protecting hand watching over us.

Butch Cassidy 2012

This past Saturday morning Jason and I could be found once again in the beautiful town of Springdale, anxiously awaiting the start of the annual Butch Cassidy 5K/10K race.
While there were certainly many similarities with last year's race, there were some major differences as well. For one thing, it didn't snow. We also didn't have to push all of the kiddos in jogging strollers--many thanks to Grandma Susie and Grandpa Charles.
Before the race started, Charles, Susie, and the kids rode the shuttle up to the finish line in the ghost town of Grafton. In no time at all, Jason came flying by. He finished in an amazing 40:25--his fastest 10K ever, taking fourth place overall and second in his age group.
Way to go, Daddy!
It took another quarter hour before I showed up at 56:41. But hey, this was still a 10K PR for me, and I am carrying a bit extra. In fact, I think that since baby is two thirds baked, my finishing time should reflect this additional load. Adjust for my "handicap" and I broke the tape in a little over 34 minutes, winning the entire race. Go me!
Charles caught this picture of Jason and I smooching at the finish line. (Blush blush.) Considering how sweaty and smelly we both were, this is definitely evidence of true love.
And a couple of pictures from the awards ceremony. Pictured at left is Tracy Dutson, Jason's co-worker, friend, and fellow running aficionado.
And here's Jason receiving his medal.
Needless to say, the kids were so proud.
Even though running may take time and even a bit of extra money, I'm grateful that our family is embracing this tradition. A couple of weeks ago, the kids and I drove up the bluff to play at a park so that we could cheer Dad as he ran by. As Jason headed back, the girls excitedly joined him, running alongside for nearly two miles as I drove slowly behind. As a mother, it was such a tender moment watching those I love most trot along together, illuminated by the minivan's headlamps.

Now, the munchkins are eager to "train" with Dad more often so they will be prepared for the next Butch Cassidy 5K.
And so Grafton, farewell until next year!


On a personal note: This 10K was great motivation for me to keep running through my second trimester (with approval from my midwife, of course.) As my belly grows, however, I've wondered how long I can realistically keep this up. Since my lower back had started to hurt after some of my longer runs, I rather expected this race to be my last--at least for a while. Now that the run is over, however, I'm not as sure. The baby and I handled the distance really well, without so much as a twinge in my back. (Well, at least not until the long car ride home, but that's a different complaint.) I know that at some point I'll have to call it quits for running, but with the weather still beautiful here in St. George, I'm tempted to say: not yet.