Without further ado, here are some of our adventures from the first weeks of 2016. I'll try to keep the descriptions brief because anything more, well, ain't nobody got no time for that.
The Key to Surviving Winter: This odd photo sums up how I'm managing to survive a Nebraka winter. Having all of our winter gear organized and accessible instead of dumped in a giant bin has made an enormous difference. In the past, it took so long to hunt down matching gloves that I usually chose to suffer and freeze instead. Who knew that a curtain rod and some shoe holders would transform winter from miserable to manageable?
Creighton Bluejay Basketball Game: Now fully equipped to face the biting cold, we headed to a women's basketball game with a great family from Crestridge. Here's Talia with her close friend. They look like they could be sisters!
Eli and his kindergarten pal.
Silly faces aren't just for kindergartners! Do you like the new baby brother?
A final photo with Billy Bluejay.
Omaha becomes Obamaha. In mid-January, President Obama came to visit Omaha following his final State of the Union address. They were giving out free tickets, but we had to stand in line for them at the Kroc center. Here's Jason waiting with Annika.
Brooklyn looks excited to hear the President speak.
Success! We got tickets for all. (Well, all except for Annika, who didn't need one.)
Getting the tickets went quite smoothly. We waited about twenty minutes in a nice warm building. Now, as for actually getting into Baxter Arena to hear the President? Quite a different story. After searching forever for parking, the line to catch the shuttle was so long that we decided to walk the mile and a half instead. We had almost made it when a closer shuttle bus that was just leaving beckoned for us to hop on. After a roundabout route, we finally arrived, only to discover this positively chaotic scene. SO MANY PEOPLE!!!
The lines weren't moving, so they held people on the shuttle buses because there was no place for them to go. Fortunately our kids had brought reading material and were excellent sports.
Jason looks bored. Annika was allowed to spend so much time fiddling around with a phone that she actually got tired of it. Wow. Didn't even know that could happen.
Through what we like to call our Rumpelstiltskin miracle (that's another story for another day), we were finally called out of the back of the line to a rear entrance. (I admit--I totally used Annika as a lure in the hopes someone would take pity on us.) Even though there were still thousands of people outside, inside the arena was already completely packed. We finally parked ourselves at the very top of the stairs and hoped for the best. As you might expect, everybody on the steps was eventually asked to move, but not until our family had finally managed to secure a few seats just moments before--miracle number two.
Told you the place was packed!
Even though Nebraska is a decidedly Republican state, Obama was received warmly. Physically being there was a very powerful, moving experience, and one that I hope our children will always remember. I also hope they will remember his plea for us to move forward as a nation in a spirit of optimism and hope instead of rancor and division.
The Children's Museum: As for myself, spending my days with Annika makes it easy to feel hopeful for the future, despite real global challenges. Here we are at the Children's Museum, building snowmen.
Is it ring around the rosy or freeze tag?
Super Annika! (She insisted on wearing this cape to church the next day.)
Out to lunch with Mama. Gosh, this gal is spoiled.
Music: Meanwhile, all the rest of the Wheeler munchkins spend their days working hard in school. I'm glad they at least have "specials" (music, art, PE, etc.) every day to stretch them beyond reading and math. Here's Brooklyn performing with the Crestridge Ambassadors at Kindergarten Roundup.
On Saturdays, Brooklyn plays cello with Prelude Strings. This is her first experience playing in any sort of orchestra, and she loves it. (Her only complaint is that the program only lasts eight weeks.) She's shown some great commitment by practicing regularly, so this week we enrolled her in private cello lessons at the Omaha Conservatory of Music.
While I didn't take any photos, Talia did a great job during her music concert as well, performing everything from "Alle Meine Entchen" in German to "Tue tue" from Kenya. My favorite piece was a cup song: "I've been to Boston, I've been to Dover...turn the glasses over" (and over and over and over.) Here she is all dolled up for the big performance.
And here's Eli, making a musical instrument at the Holland Center before an Omaha Symphony concert with Thomas Wilkins.
Talia, working on her "plucker" as well.
After the Symphony performed (gorgeous music, including some Star Wars that nearly sent Eli into hysteria), all the kids got up on stage to play their instruments too.
A special moment in the spotlight.
Grateful for Home:
Of course, not everything in Omaha has been great news. There was a terrible fire downtown caused by a gas line explosion. While no lives were lost, we lost M's Pub, a gorgeous historic building in Old Market. When we drove by the following day, firemen were still laying down water.
There's nothing like seeing the aftermath of a fire to make you feel grateful for the safety and protection of your own home. Here are some gorgeous roses that Jason brought me, for no reason at all. Even better than for Valentine's Day!
Playing Twister with NomiAnn.
And being roped into performing in the kids' dramatic video. They did the makeup.
I think they were inspired by Blackstache from "Peter and the Starcatchers," a performance that we saw at the Rose over Christmas.
My goodness, these kids are monkeys. NomiAnn and Papa Kay bought them bunk beds to sleep in at their house, but I think they've mistaken them for a jungle gym.
One Wednesday evening, we hosted a sledding party for the Young Men and Young Women in our ward. On our way out to the car, Annika slipped on the ice, catching herself with nothing besides her nose. I was so worried we'd done permanent damage! It all honesty, it looked smooshed for a couple days, but seems to have reshaped nicely. The scratches are still there, but she's not bothered. Instead, she enjoys telling everyone about her "owie" and how "Annie broke-a-the-nose" (or more accurately, squooshed the cartilage.)
To add insult to injury, Eli's sled veered way off course and crashed into a tree on his very first run. Not a stellar night for the Wheeler kids. Fortunately, all the big kids seem to have had a great time. (As for myself, I was quite happy the carpet survived the dangers of spilled hot chocolate and muddy boots.)
Here's another look at Annie's nose, as seen through the drawing glass at the Joslyn art museum.
Decorating her pottery.
Another great Crestridge family, the Lawlers, invited a big crew to their house for a pre-Lightning Thief party, serving pizza before everyone headed over to the Rose for a performance. Here are the third graders, posed nicely.
Many of these same third graders can be seen in this picture, taken on Mardi Gras at United Methodist Church where we danced the night away to the beat of the Omaha Street Percussion. Such fun!
On a quieter note, we took to the kids to the Winter Quarters Visitors Center to look around for a bit while Jason and I traded sessions inside the temple. I like this picture because it reminds me how the glare of the world can make it easy for us to lose sight of the temple and the eternal truths taught there.
Talia and Annika pretend they're pioneers.
Super Bowl Sunday:
Last but not least, Super Bowl Sunday. Talia wanted a fancy hairdo. We call it the switchback. :)
After church, we headed to NomiAnn and Papa Kay's for some great munchies while we (sorta) watched the game. Can you tell these two are ready to eat?
Our contribution? Nachos ala Settlers of Catan. Thanks, Ben, for sharing the great idea. And thanks to Papa Kay and NomiAnn for the fun evening.