Friday, September 26, 2014

Love a Lego Birthday!

It was my original hope to get all caught up on blog posts before my birthday.  Does "on" my birthday count?  Because you see, we've been having some great birthdays around here!  

Ten days ago, Eli Jameson Wheeler turned five.  That's a whole handful of digits!  And of course, once you're officially a big boy of five whole years, there's no better way to celebrate than with a Lego party.

Lego card courtesy of Daddy Jason.

Working together with Eli to create the cake and party favors was just as much fun as the party itself.  We used frosting to stick smarties on Nutter Butters for our Lego brick popsicles, and the cake was nothing more than mini cupcakes stacked on top of lemon cake baked in a bread pan.  Sooo easy. 

Eli seems to like the Lego men on his Lego cake.

I think they like him, too!

For dinner, we let Orsi's in Little Italy do the baking so that we could have more time for playing.  (By the way, all of the face paint is courtesy of a morning at the Children's Museum.)

Annika's turning on the charm for NomiAnn.

Aww, she's so cute!

 Especially when she steals NomiAnn's glasses!

Okay, back to the real star of the evening, Eli turned himself into a Lego Brick...
So the Lego piƱata was great because of its simplicity.  Nothing but a wrapped-up diaper box with mason jar lids and colored foam circles hot glued to it.  Plus, it was so big that instead of filling it with candy, I threw in a few small gifts for the birthday boy.  

Everything is awesome!!!  Well, maybe not so much.  Turns out that breaking open a diaper box with a plastic bat is pretty dang impossible.  We finally had to let Papa K and Jason have at it with a wooden bat.  By the time they finally broke into it, one of the presents inside wasn't looking too good...
Whoops!  The puzzle's still in great shape.  The cute metal tin? Not so much.

 Time to blow out the candles on the cake!  While I don't know for certain, I have a pretty good idea what he wished for.

And yes, his dreams came true.  In addition to some other fun presents like the Trunki and Squigz, Eli received a plethora of Legos.  A logging truck, a fire engine, a tree house--even the Hogwarts Express!  The entire family's been building for days, so everything is awesome.

Even though he may still fit Size 3 clothing, Eli's been growing up really fast lately.  This fall he started attending preschool every afternoon at Yates Early Childhood Center where he's a peer model in a special needs classroom.  He absolutely loves it, and counts down the hours each day until he can go.

Here's Eli again in front of his gorgeous old school.  The school board is planning on replacing it entirely because it will cost less than updating it.  Argh!

Other exciting new tidbits in Eli's life: he's recently learned to both read and ride a two wheeler.  It took all of about two seconds to teach him to ride, thanks to all the practice he had on his balance bike.  The hardest part was finding a bike with a small enough frame (his happens to be decorated with Dora).  Once that was purchase, we set him on it and whoosh, he was gone. 

Life isn't particularly easy when you've got three sisters to get along with.  Eli definitely has his moody spells and occasionally lives up to the title of "annoying little brother."  Most often, though, he's still his same easy going self, full of giggles and laughter.  I think the birthday card Talia made somes it up best.

 Happy Birthday, Eli!  We love you!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Labor Day Camping at Lake Icaria

Since we skipped tent camping last Memorial Day, opting instead for the convenience of a cabin, we decided to make up for it this Labor Day.  Our destination?  Lake Icaria near Corning, Iowa.

Our original plan was to leave right after work on Friday, but the downpour was so torrential that the girls were completely drenched from making the three-house-journey from the bus stop to our home.  So instead we sat on the front porch swing and watched as all the munchkins danced in the rain and splashed through the puddles.  Pure delight!  That evening, we unplugged all our technology and played Settlers of Catan with NomiAnn and Papa Kay, who camped out at our house.

The next morning the sun was shining brightly, so we loaded up two mini-vans full of tents and gear and headed for the lake. Our campsite was perfect!  Gorgeous view of the lake on one side...

Awesome playground on the other.

Jason and Brooklyn do dishes together. 
Camping certainly encourages us to find the joy in hard work: work hard to get packed up, work harder to get set up, work to get meals fixed, work some more to get cleaned up before it's time to fix the next meal and clean up again.  Then there's all the work of breaking camp, at which point you'd think that the work should be done, but once you get home you still have to unpack.  And don't even get me started on the laundry.

So why is all this fun?  I don't know, but it is.  Probably because we're working together.   

Papa K, hard at work keeping our Sunburst vertical.  (Duct tape can work miracles.)

Annie Mae has it lucky.  She gets to play all day, making messes everywhere for others to clean up.  (I should know.  She just dumped out an entire box of cereal while I was uploading these pictures...)

Oh goodness!  Jason Wayne Wheeler, the third, how could you take such a picture?  Truth is we love camping.

On Saturday afternoon we left the work behind and headed for the beach instead.  Lovely shipped-in sand covering the natural Iowa clay.  Funny thing is that the kids spent most of their time digging through the sand in search of the clay anyway.
Annika Mae with her red bucket.
Talia Lily with her blue one.
Back to Annie who switched for the green bucket.
Eli contemplates the lake.
Kara, shaping mud bowls with the clay.

And one last picture of the baby.
Saturday night some more storms passed through.  Nothing too serious, but the wind and lightning spooked the older kids enough that they opted to spend the night with Dad in the back of the minivan.  Here's what I found when I checked on them in the morning.  Happy, sleepy faces.

A little less thrilled after realizing Eli wet the sleeping bag (a rather uncommon occurrence.)

Always cheerful, Jason hangs out clothes to dry.

Talia gives Annika a snuggle while we start to break camp.

Papa K takes care of the last of the pancake syrup.

Meanwhile, NomiAnn's looking nice and bright in her brand-new sweatshirt (one can't be too particular when shopping in Corning, Iowa.)

Annika learns how to hula hoop...

...and Jason's back to the dishes again.  What a guy!
 Monday afternoon we splurged and rented a pontoon boat.  In the end, we spent more than six hours on the lake.  Positively dreamy!
Annika Mae nestled in her grandma's arms.

Is it just me, or does Brooklyn look way too grown-up lately?

Looking back at the empty space that was our campsite.
Jason and Brooklyn
Stopping off for a swim.  For a girl who absolutely loves the water, Annika sure didn't want anything to do with the lake.

Look who's driving the boat!

Talia and Brooklyn savor our last hour at Lake Icaria.

Eli tossing rocks.  Just love how you captured the stones in motion, Jason!
No camping trip is complete without roasting a few smores, right Eli?
Ah, the melty gooey goodness!

 Being married to an architect, you find yourself suddenly doing strange and unexpected things, like this:

You see, it turns out that Jason is actually designing an addition to three of the cabins at Lake Icaria.  My five foot wingspan lets him visually have a sense of scale at a quick glance. 

Who knows?  Maybe next time we'll stay in a space that he designed.

Farewell, Lake Icaria!
Despite some rain and plenty of Labor Day labor, our visit was so lovely that I sincerely hope this first trip won't be our last.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wonders of Water

It's nearly 1:00 in the morning and although I should be headed to bed, I'm determined to break the blogging silence.  I have lots of great things to talk about, including a camping trip, a visit from Uncle Lance, and Eli's birthday.  For tonight however, I'm limiting the conversation to a hike that we took during our Labor Day weekend at Lake Icaria.

We weren't headed particularly far, nor was our route particularly demanding.  Still, if you look very closely, you'll see that I'm biting my lip in this picture, wondering whether or not the kids can handle the journey.

You see, instead of hiking with a water bottle, each one of the munchkins toted a bucket full of lake water.  Brooklyn was working on a Brownie award where the girls gain appreciation for running water.

They quickly discovered that the buckets were easiest to tote on their heads.  (They also learned how easily they splosh.)

I was initially concerned that I would have to listen to them whine the entire time, but they took their jobs seriously and generally had a good attitude.  

Going up and down the stairs, I think they became particularly grateful for the chance to get an education instead of staying home to tote water all day.

Here's a video of the family in action.

And here's a video of the soggy finale.  The kids were eager to turn their hike into an "ice bucket" challenge of their own.  The video was too long to post in its entirety, so here's the message that Brooklyn shared.
This is the ice bucket challenge.  Me and my sister and brother have just been carrying water about a mile, which is a lot less than they do in Africa.  We've been doing this for a Girl Scout award for me, but we'd also like to do this for our great-Uncle Jay.  This isn't exactly ice water--it's lake water.
Nominations, and then the dump!

My favorite parts of the video are Eli's nervous habit (wedding day blackmail) and the tiny pink speck that comes wandering along in the background (that's when Annie decided to rejoin us instead of continuing her solitary journey through the woods.)

Guiding Brooklyn through this "Wonders of Water" Brownie journey was good practice for me since I recently agreed to lead Talia's troop.  Life is always full of new adventures!