Monday, August 31, 2015

Running with my Sweetie

So it all started with Brooklyn's Mileage Club.

After a great start looping the school track last spring, our Tally Wally kept running...and running...and running.  Now she just won't stop!  Over the summer, this little gal insisted that she wanted to run a half marathon.  To be completely honest, I was pretty reluctant at first.  After all, 13.1 miles seems like an awfully long distance for little legs to handle.  This 8 year-old was so determined, however, that I finally caved in.  She demonstrated such a great attitude and so much grit during our training runs that I ran out of excuses to say no.

I've been nothing but proud since.  Over the past ten weeks, she's logged over a hundred miles, working her way up from 3 miles to the 9+ she ran on Saturday.  It hasn't always been easy and it's rarely been convenient, but she's trained with a smile.  It's been amazing to watch her grow stronger, faster, and more confident. 

Here are a few photos from our runs together:

West Papio Trail.  Talia actually outran her Mom on this one when I bowed out after a tenth of a mile due to an unexpected tummy ache.  Luckily, Daddy Jason was more than happy to finish the run with his gal.

Midtown Crossing.  From our home, there's a fun route through Hanscom Park and the Field Club neighborhood that leads to this community space.

Unfortunately, the August weather was really hot and humid, making the run itself far from fun.  Even so, Talia toughed out the 4+ miles.

In general, jogging along our familiar neighborhood Field Club Trail is much more enjoyable for Talia.

She especially likes to take the road less traveled (or in this case, a hidden dirt path.)  Can you spot her blur dashing through the woods?
The only downside to the dirt path are all the tree roots waiting to trip a gal.  We've seen a few tears and some bloody knees, but this girl's not a quitter.

Here she is after running around Zorinsky Lake--eight miles for our eight year-old!  A popular place to exercise, she got plenty of encouragement from other passing runners.

The only cheers we got on this next run came from a couple of cranes and a rafter of wild turkeys.  Despite some blistering heat, Talia and I ran a 10K together while camping at Two Rivers State Park.  Here we are pausing to try and catch a frog.  (We may be fast, but the frog was still faster...)

Last but not least, we took a great run through Downtown Omaha on Saturday.  Rather than seeming uninviting, the overcast gray sky was a welcome relief from the August heat.  It’s amazing how far nine miles can take you if you’re willing to get out and move.  It makes me sad to think of all the people who live out in West Omaha and never discover all the treasures their city has to offer.  If only they knew what they were missing!

After parking by the pedestrian bridge, we headed south and ran around the fountains and lake at Con Agra.

Next, we hopped across some giant concrete lily pads by the downtown library.

Naturally we had to slip down the slides at Gene Leahy Mall as well.

From there, we discovered a firefighter's memorial that I'd never noticed...

...and ran through Pioneer Park.  Somehow reflecting on the pioneers' journey made our own training feel slight.

At Talia's suggestion, we continued up the giant hill to Central where NomiAnn works...

...before continuing on to the neighboring Joslyn art museum.

Believe it or not, this was our first time discovering their Discovery Garden!

Only a half mile later we were at Creighton's law school, where Papa K is the director of the law library.

Not wanting anyone to feel left out, we continued to the Tiptop Lofts where Jason's architecture firm is situated.

A jaunt past the Ameritrade stadium (home of the College World Series), Miller's landing, and Gallup's campus brought us back to the pedestrian bridge...

...where Talia naturally ran into Iowa and around Hanafan Park before deciding to come back and stay a Nebraskan.

The best part of it all?  Talia had fun.  In her own words, "Mom, I loved it!"  Sweetie,* I loved it too.  Exploring the city is fun, but exploring it with my daughter doubles the joy.  Sure love all you Wheeler munchkins!

*By way of clarification, I thought I'd share what Eli told me in the car a couple days ago.  After calling one of the girls "buddy" he said, "Mom--buddy is for boys.  Sweetie is for girls."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Last Days of Summer Vacation

Why is it that every year summer just gets shorter and shorter?  No, seriously.  Not just in a gee-whiz, days-fly-by, nostalgic kind of way, but literally.  Never before has school overlapped with my sister Callie's birthday until this year when the kids were back in class on August 12th.  Jeepers!

The specter of school looming so prominently on the horizon spawned a tremendous desire to play hard during the final days of summer.  While I'm grateful our kids enjoy school, I cherish the time we have all together.  Here are a few of our adventures:

The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.  This magnificent man-made structure spanning between Nebraska and Iowa still pales in comparison to the masterpiece God painted in the sky.

Hey ho, the gang's all here.

Brooklyn and Eli, headed for home.

Storm Chasers Game.  Thanks to the free tickets the kids earned through their summer reading program, we enjoyed a fun evening watching the ballgame at Werner Park.

Brooklyn sings, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame!"

Posing with Casey, the Storm Chaser mascot.

Annika snuggles in with Daddy Jason.  Jason made the best play of the evening before we even got into the stadium when he chased down a fly ball that had been hit into the parking lot.  Pretty awesome beginning!

Lego Exhibit at the Children's Museum.  Before school started, we squeezed in a visit to the Children's Museum to admire their new Lego exhibit.  The kids were jazzed about the steamboat after our recent voyage aboard the Minnehaha. 

Annika looks ready to speed away in her Lego car.

We even braved some play time/ roller skating fun at Skate Daze.  Annie certainly loved the carousel!  The girl behind her was super sweet, using some of her own tokens just so Annika could ride again.

With budgies to feed and Skyfaris to ride, we never tire of the zoo.  Eli waited so patiently before he finally got to hold a bird.

Playing at the Joslyn is doubly special because we get a great view of Central High School where NomiAnn works.

Talia Lily "Goofball" Wheeler.

Don't you think all pioneer women smoked a pipe as they drove their covered wagons across the plains?

Perhaps more realistic are the kids bickering in the back.

Brooklyn had a special experience this summer when she earned a free bike from the Charles Drew Health Center for completing some volunteer service.  Here she is picking up her new wheels after a morning of training on bike safety and nutrition.

Her new bike is gorgeous, with 18 gears plus a matching purple helmet to boot.  What a fantastic program to encourage community service while helping kids get active!

Home Improvement.  While most of our fun may have been outside, there was plenty of action going on inside as well.  After a great deal of perseverance and hard work, Jason perfected the upstairs plumbing so that we could redo the ceiling--finally!--with little danger of leaks. Here he is thinning some drywall compound to texture the ceiling.

Nothing like spreading glop all over the area you just worked so hard to sand!
Fortunately, the results look great.  Jason may need some time to do his projects right, but the quality of his work is impeccable.

Last but not least, here's Annika, feeling grateful for a cozy nook to keep her safe.  The poor gal scraped a long swath of skin off her pinky finger while playing on the glider outside.  Good thing her siblings know just how to take care of her!
And there you have it--the last days of summer fun.  If only school could be so cool!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Omaha: The Ultimate Vacation Get-Away

So an amazing thing has happened. School has started, meaning that three of our munchkins get on the bus in the morning and don't come home until late in the afternoon.  Okay, so that part's not so amazing.  It's actually kind of sad.  The amazing thing happens in the early afternoon when Annie Mae goes down for a nap. Believe it or not, I actually have time for myself.  The very first day I indulged in a nap.  Since then, I've been making significant forward progress on generally catching up, whether by cleaning out my closet or getting up to date on this blog.

So this post represents the last of the sisterly duplicates.  After our lovely vacation on the East coast, Callie and Eila bravely endured the long drive back to the Midwest with us.  Filling every seat in my mother's 8-passenger mini-van, we ladies drove since the men had already flown the coop.  Poor Eli was seriously outnumbered.  Truth to be told, so were Callie and I.  After dropping my Mom off in Chicago for a conference, it was five munchkins versus two quasi-adults--a terrifying thought since Callie and I generally seem to lose all good judgement to uproarious laughter when paired together.

Fortunately, our motherly instincts took over and we behaved relatively responsibly.  As you can see, the kids were delighted every time they had a chance to get out of the car. 

We didn't stop too often, however, because good things were waiting for us in Omaha.  Daddy Jason!  Here he is taking his niece for her first ride on the downtown slides.  You can check out this picture (and lots more) on Callie's Omaha post here as well: .

Never ones to sit still for long, we headed to the zoo the next day.  A few more months, Talia, and the zoo will have real elephants.

Believe it or not, this little guy is 26! 

Callie and Eila getting ready to ride the train. 

NomiAnn made this adorable eyelet dress two summers ago for Annika, along with four other coordinates for Brooklyn, Talia, Liepa, and Egle to celebrate the Vedeckis visit from Lithuania.

I guess you really can see why they say Eila looks like a kewpie doll (except cuter.)
Photo Credit:

Chugga chugga choo choo!

Okay, so I chuckled up a storm when I saw this display and commented on how the hummingbird egg looked just like a tic tac.  The guy told me that it actually was one.  Papa K, now we know where to go when you run out!

Before leaving, we stopped to watch the sea lions in honor of Callie's childhood talent of barking like one. 

Other fun moments: we took Eila for her first pool swim at the YMCA.  (Watch out for Brooklyn, the rubber ducky photo bomber.)

Shopping at Costco is double the fun with two barefooted babes.

We even visited Play!--a fantastic interactive exhibit at the Kaneko. 

On Callie's blog, she posted this fantastic picture from our Kaneko visit.

It wasn't until I saw this pic that I finally made sense of what I was seeing.  So fun!

The ultimate Pony Girl.

If one baby is great, two babies are even greater!  The Richards family stopped off for another day of Omaha fun on their way back to Pennsylvania.  Here's Jason looking ready for twins with his arms full of Hazel and Eila.  (By way of clarification, his wife is not ready.)

We took our friends to cool off at the Joslyn Art Museum.  Zaby was the champion splasher.
Zaby and Annie demonstrate how to have fun in two year-old style.

Meanwhile, Bruce and Hazel found a nice spot to rest in the shade.

On the inside of the museum, Talia found a cozy nook where she could relax...

...while Brooklyn found an art book to read.  Bliss!

NomiAnn and Papa K were kind enough to host everyone for a barbecue at their house.  Here's Eliza checking out the tree house.

Eli and Annika, hard at work.

Naturally, we all had to ride the zipline as well.  Eliza was a natural!

Don't worry--Eila still got plenty of attention despite all the activity.

We bookended the Wilhoit stay with another trip to the zoo for Member Appreciation Day.  All the way back at Christmas time, Callie and Adam gifted our family with a membership and money for a camel ride.  Time to finally mount that camel!

Begging for a smooch, camel-style.

The best part about Member Appreciation Day (besides the free skyfari) was getting to go behind the scenes to see the exhibits from a different angle.  Here are Eila and Papa K at the top of the giant shark tank.

We even got to tour the animal hospital.  This guy demonstrated how they can tranquilize large animals with a blow dart if necessary.  Apparently some of the animals' reflexes are so fast that they can actually catch the dart midair!

The Omaha zoo certainly knows how to throw a party!  Not your every day inflatables.

Callie and Eila, thank you so much for sharing your summer with us!  And Uncle Adam, thank you for letting them come--I know they were missed.

Needless to say, being together made us oh-so-very happy.

In the words of someone famously Anonymous...
...Keep Smiling!