Even though we traveled to Ohio for the holidays, we still decorated at home and put up a small tree. Surprisingly, Annika left most of the ornaments alone, preferring to mangle the red Christmas box instead by repeatedly climbing in and out.
Eli was a fantastic tree decorator, helping me while his big sisters were at school.
Like most Christmas seasons, the time flew by. Before we knew it, we were all loaded up and headed to Ohio. On the way, we passed through Champaign-Urbana, stopping for lunch with Jason's architecture professor and mentor, Mike McCulley. Mike and his wife Jane were so welcoming of our crew. The world needs more of these great people.
While Brooklyn and Talia didn't remember Mike and Jane very well, it was fun to drive around and see what memories they do have from Illinois. Meadowbrook park, Applebees, a fairy-themed birthday party at the Johanssons--all the things that matter most to 3 and 5 year-old girls.
After a long day of travel, we finally made it to Ohio. As tuckered out as I felt, Annika apparently did not feel the same and screamed for what felt like hours when it was time for bed. Had we been in a hotel, we would have been forced to let her escape from the Graco prison, if only for the sake of the other hotel guests. But since we were all family, we plugged our ears and taught the tough lesson that bedtime is bedtime--even in Ohio.
With such a snuggly bed, I don't know why she was complaining.
Maybe she objected to the ambiance. (Personally, I think I'd have all sorts of yummy dreams.)
Lance helps Justin with a mozzarella stick.
Our Nativity reinactment was uber-awesome with ninja-master Uncle Justin playing the role of Joseph.
Brooklyn, Talia, and Jason are all looking quite angelic in their costumes.
Grandpa Charles and Grandma Susie enjoyed the chance to record the experience. (If the audio track were posted, you'd be able to hear Annika wailing from her crib downstairs again. Like I said, bedtime on Christmas eve was better, but still far from perfect.)
Brianna made the perfect Mary. (I have it on good authority that Baby Jesus was actually a stuffed snowman.)
Christy and Ben's flight arrived late Christmas Eve, so on Christmas morning there were gifts and hugs for everyone. Here's Eli helping to distribute the loot.
Brooklyn seems pretty excited about her new Arizona jeans.
Uncle Lance gave Annika this adorable sweater and skirt.
She liked her new outfit so much that she insisted on wearing it right away. After that, she decided she'd had enough excitement and presents and shook her head "no" every time you tried to give her something. Eventually she escaped downstairs for some quiet playtime by herself.
Ben, Christy, and Lance watch all the excitement.
Talia's pretty excited about something. A new slinky, or perhaps the Harry Potter DVD.
The rest of Christmas was nice and relaxed. Here are Jason and Eli working on a new lego set. All of the kids received legos this year. Eli has a mountain cabin, Talia got Rapunzel's tower, Brooklyn has a Hobbit set, and Jason finally received his lego dream--the Maersk train.
Only thing better than Christmas presents is Christmas dinner. You can always count on the Wheelers for a delicious spread.
Love the roses!
For some real party fun, come visit our end of the table.
Eli with his Christmas cracker.
Uh oh, our Sous Chef Uncle Ben looks slightly displeased. Too much mint, perhaps?
Brianna, our brilliant hostess, is beaming.
Aw, isn't Annika an adorable Christmas angel?
Next up, the Wheeler Wobble/Jingle Jog! No better way to celebrate boxing day than by working off a bit of pie. Grandpa Charles and Annika watched over the starting/finish line.
Here's Uncle Justin marking off the race course. Guess we should have listened better! I ended up running with (okay, sprinting to catch up with) Talia, who turned the opposite direction. We had a lovely jog together, but felt pretty grateful when we finally made it back 4.5 miles later.
Other fun events: watching a documentary on "Jerusalem" at the Cincinnati museum center. Since we had a bit of time to kill before the show, we headed to a park for some playtime. Jason forgot his coat, but luckily the kids were willing to share.
Our Easy E chooses his own kind of adventure...
...while Talia Lily creates hers.
I've never known a child to spend quite so much time hanging upside down. I guess it's refreshing to see the world from a new perspective.
Hooray, donuts! Here we all are enjoying the fruits of Brianna's passion.
Fueled with more sugar, Talia had plenty of energy for new acrobatics. Our cutie is obsessed with headstands.
Adding the splits.
Perfect satisfaction with the world. (Even if her hair is caught in her necklace.)
Christmas isn't complete without a few family photos. Here's the requisite serious pose. From left to right: Brianna (and Libby), Justin, Jason, Annika, Ben, Christy, Lance, Susie, Charles, Eli, Kara, Talia, and Brooklyn.
Now for a silly photo. (Grandpa Charles and Grandma Susie, do we need to teach you what "silly" means?)
Hmm, an arm on the shoulder. That's pretty audacious. Ah well, Jason made up for you. (Sorry about that, Eli.)
One last view of beautiful Cincinnati.
Just looking at the picture makes me hungry for a five-way Cincinnati chili. After our official taste test we've decided: Brianna's is the best.
Thanks for a great Christmas.