Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Annika Antics

I just wasted a full hour flipping through old blog posts looking for a pretzel recipe.  (Never even found it, but luckily google did.)  Truth to be told, that wasted hour was pretty awesome.  I was drawn back to a magical time when Eli was a bra-snatching babe, Talia was licking race fences, and Brooklyn was brimming with kindergarten confidence.

This time is pretty magical too.  Another five years down the line, and I'm sure I will look back with just as much longing for the days when my children were young.  Annika and I particularly have some fun hours while the bigger kids are all at school.  Messy, yes, but always fun.  Here she is planting a pear in the raised garden bed to the side of the house.  We may not have an actual sandbox, but she's created one all on her own.

Planting pears is messy work, but someone's gotta do it.

Our little brown-noser also enjoys climbing trees.

She got so tuckered out that she crashed before I could get her into the bathtub.

Usually I pluck Annika from the backyard and plop her into the utility sink for a quick rinse. 

One thing's for certain.  She's not allowed on the furniture until she's clean!  We had to buy a new couch when we couldn't fit our old striped one through the narrow front door.

All of the kids have loved playing in the front yard ever since we set up a rope swing.

Inside the house, she loves to dress up and build houses for her Little People out of MagnaTiles.  Do you have a building permit for that multi-family residence, little miss?

She also begs to put on her swimsuit, regardless of whether or not we have any plans of going to the pool.

Fortunately, the Northwest Rec Center has a lovely place for us both to swim after I've finished my workout.

Cutest little froggy around.

Next to this bumblebee, of course.

Oops!  How embarrassing!  At the beginning of summer, I pulled out the size 3 clothes for Annika to wear, figuring that it was time they got some use.  Well, she may be pushing four, but her little hiney still can't manage to keep those shorts up.  She kept stepping right out of them during our neighborhood walk.  I finally gave up and stripped her down to her swimsuit, which worked fine until she had to walk through some sprinklers.  When she started to cry, I asked what was wrong: "My swimsuit's all wet!"

Finally, here's Annika trying out her roller skates while wearing her favorite leotard.  This pink tutu gets lots of use during her private dance classes, held in our living room whenever she feels like jamming.

Whoa!  Skating is harder than it looks.

Messy or not, life is pretty idyllic.

I sometimes question why I still keep a blog when family blogs are kind of falling out of fashion.  I blog for my children, extended family, and a few faithful friends.  But most of all, I blog for me--because these are the days I want to remember.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


For years, my New Year's resolutions have included a goal to complete a triathlon.  For years, I've shrugged my shoulders come December 31st and said, maybe next year.  Well, this year I actually did it.  Even though I'd been eyeing this race, the TriathaMom, for months, I finally worked up the courage to register about five days before the event.  Somehow it felt like a fresh start for our Utah adventure.

Getting out of bed at 4:00 am for the drive down to Riverton was the worst.  While I had no idea what to expect,  I knew I was undertrained.  In fact, Jason and Charles had stayed up super late the night before to help me get my bike in working order.  A bike, mind you, that I hadn't ridden for fifteen years.  No wonder I was nervous!

I found my way to registration for body marking and got my bike all set up in the transition area.  As the sun began to break over the mountains, I felt calmed by the beauty of it all.

My little Schwinn has a frame so small that neither wheel reached the ground when hung.  Even so, it was great to use a road bike instead of my mountain bike. 

I thought the T-shirts were pretty cute.  The Run Bike Swim reminded me that seven years of RBSC have to count for something, so maybe I was more prepared than I realized.

The pool was lovely in the morning calm.  Swimmers started every five seconds from each side, swimming up and down each lane toward the center where they climbed out and ran to the transition area.  It got a bit clogged, but I didn't mind.  In general, I liked the triathamom because while it was certainly a "real" triathlon (300 meter swim, 12 mile bike, and 5K run), it was likewise a supportive and non-competitive environment for women of all abilities.

Here are Brooklyn and Grandma Susie waiting to see if I make it through alive.

Here I come, munchkins by my side.  Overall, the event went really well.  I must say, I was delighted to see the finish line.  Even though I have done plenty of 5Ks, it was extremely challenging to complete on tired legs. 

High fives for everybody!

Victory!  I love how every competitor is a winner.

TriathaMom goes out of its way to make the event fun for the entire family.  While the women are out on the course, they set up a fair with free bounce houses, face painting, and cotton candy for the kids. 

A close-up of Talia's cute face painting.

Grandma Susie and Grandpa Charles came along to cheer me as well.  I felt so loved!

Proof that I finished.  While I have nowhere near enough experience with Sprint triathlons to judge these times (I suspect they are fairly average), I felt mighty proud. 
Thanks to everyone for supporting me in this last minute, crazy dream.  I learned that triathlons aren't nearly as scary as I thought and hope to participate again.  In fact, Brooklyn's even talking about doing it with me next time.

Last but not least, here are a few pictures of us playing at the park afterward.

Just in case you were wondering who the real athlete in the family is.
Love you, Peanut Butter!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bear Lake Camping

When Grandma Susie and Grandpa Charles invited us to go camping with them mid-August, we were delighted.  While our original plan had been to camp near Minnetonka caves, many other people shared this awesome idea so all of the developed campsites were taken by the time we got up there.  Fortunately, Charles and Susie knew about some primitive sites along Sinks Road.  When we arrived, our campsite looked just like this.
Absolutely perfect.  Plenty of room for the kids to roam without worrying about disturbing any of the neighbors.  Grandma and Grandpa were well-prepared with plenty of water for cooking and drinking, plus we were only staying one night so showers weren't a big concern.

Here are Eli and Annika searching for the perfect place to make a firepit.

Success!  The kids constructed this adorable fire ring.  We didn't actually light anything since the forest was super dry, but it was still fun to pretend.  Annie is learning to like camping even without fire.  When the day comes that she actually gets to roast a marshmallow, the little gal is going to keel over in ecstasy.

Meals with Grandma and Grandpa Wheeler are always amazing, even when camping.

Brooklyn husks some corn from the garden. So tender and sweet!

Annika sniffs the veggies with longing.

And here's Grandma Susie slicing some mango.  She likes to camp and she likes to cook, but if you put them together the smiles just come bursting out.

After so much running around, Talia's feet were mighty dirty.  It was time to settle in and listen to Grandpa Charles read some Patrick McManus before heading off to bed.  Annika's first experience sleeping in a tent without her Graco was far from positive...

This is what she looked like in the morning.  Maybe that hair wouldn't be so tousled if she settled down and laid still for once.

Eli, on the other hand, is a model sleeper, whether camping or at home.  A boy after my own heart, he loves his zzzzs.

The kids informed me that I snore.  Must be all the flies I catch.

Despite a somewhat rough night, everyone was in a great mood once breakfast got going.  Three cheers for pancakes!

After breaking camp, we decided to take a short hike on the Limber Pine Trail.  Annika found some perfect throwing rocks, just like in Grandpa Charles's story.

As a seasoned mother, I made Annika drop the sticks and stones before offering a piggy back ride.

Here are Eli and Annika climbing the 500 year old Limber Pine.

Brooklyn's got her head in the clouds.

Pretty amazing how this tree grew, despite some tough conditions early on.

The vista of Bear Lake was pretty, even if the air was a little smokey.

One last picture of Daddy Jason with his princess riding side saddle.
After our hike, we headed down to Bear Lake for a picnic lunch and some great swimming.  Even though it's been six weeks, Annika still asks if we can go back to the lake and swim some more.  Sorry, no pictures--as we've learned, phones and water don't mix.

Grandma Susie and Grandpa Charles, thank you so much for the great trip.  We sure look forward to camping with you again!

Discovering Salt Lake: Part II

The weather has turned rainy and gray--the perfect excuse to finally get all caught up on this blog.  For my upcoming birthday, I requested a few extra dollars to print a blog book.  Wouldn't it be great to be up to date before then?

Continuing on with my last post, here are a couple more gems we've dug up in the Utah area, courtesy of our reciprocal science museum membership.

Natural History Museum:

D is for dinosaur.  If I had my wish, I would take all of my little preschoolers to see the museum's amazing dinosaur display next week when we study the letter D.  It's pretty incredible!

Talia and I worked hard to reconstruct this dinosaur skull puzzle.  We got everything into place except for one last rubbery piece...

...which bounced and rolled right into the middle of the display.  Whoops!

Annika seems fascinated by all the bones.  Utah would be a great place to be a paleontologist.

Feeling kind of grateful that today's alligators are nowhere near as large as their ancestors.

On a smaller scale, here's Brooklyn studying a black widow.  After living in St. George, I can assure you that the population is current and thriving.

The building itself was remarkable as well, nestled into Red Butte canyon and covered with solar panels.

Now all we need is to return with our architect Daddy before our pass expires.

Museum of Natural Curiosity
Of course, amazing as the Natural History Museum is, if the kids had their way, they would take their Dad to the Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point instead.  Hard to blame them--it's like a children's museum on steroids.

We visited the museum with our amazing friend Eliza and three of her children.  (Child number four was exploring Bryce Canyon with some cousins.)   We'd certainly love to hang out more often, but Eliza and her crew were visiting all the way from Buffalo.
Wait a sec...  In counting heads, we're missing four children.  Eliza's got 66% of hers, but I'm only scoring 25%

 If you look straight up, you can see Eliza's eldest Jane on the high ropes course.

And here she is again, bravely crossing some stairs.

While the museum certainly featured much more, I was too busy trying to keep tabs on my wandering children to take many photos.  Either way, it was delightful catching up with Eliza again and seeing her amazing family after many years apart.

Hogle Zoo
While our Henry Doorly Zoo membership provides a 50% discount to the Hogle zoo, Annika and I scored an even better deal by going with a friendly neighbor who got us in for free.  Annika sure loved the elephants, both live and statuesque.

Hey, this zoo has a carousel too!

Check out the polar bear.  Sometimes I have to remind my children that we come to the zoo to see the live animals too.

The zoo had plenty of adorable babies, including lion cubs and this young giraffe.

Of course, Annika was equally impressed by the lighthouse slide in the splash zone...

...and the giant tree house slide on dry land.  Papa Kay, you can guess what they are going to want next.  :)

My favorite part of the zoo was probably the bird show.  The bald eagle finale was quite patriotic.  I look forward to coming back with our older kids too.
Overall, the zoo was fun and enjoyable.  While it certainly is much smaller than Omaha's zoo, its more modest size allows you to tour the entire zoo without getting too exhausted.

City Creek Center:
During the summer, one of the kids' favorite things to do was park at Dad's work and then take Trax through the free zone to City Creek Center.  I don't think we've been inside more than two of the shops, but window shopping almost as fun.  Here's Talia playing in the main fountain.

The water features are fantastic.  Jason and I had dinner one evening close by here at the Blue Lemon.

And here's Annika dousing herself while still in her jammies.  Some mornings we just roll with it.  Once she was soaked, I was kind of glad her actual clothes were still tucked away safe and dry in my purse.

City Creek:
Not far from City Creek Center is the actual City Creek. Closed to vehicular traffic, it is open to pedestrians only on even days and to both pedestrians and bicycles on odd days.  (Or maybe it's the other way around; I can never remember.)

I headed out one morning for a short morning jog with Annika.

Until this happened.  With Annika sound asleep, the canyon seemed alive with possibilities.  How about one more mile, just to see what is around the bend? 

Despite some intense climbs that left me huffing even as I slowed to a walk, before I knew it I had gone five miles and discovered this Rotary park.  It made me kind of sad to see these lovely picnic areas that are so remote as to be mostly unused and largely forgotten.  I will forever be grateful to Rotary for sponsoring my exchanges to both Austria and Peru.  Even though those years are pretty far back now, I hope the experiences will never be forgotten.

With five miles already behind me and Annika still sleeping, it made sense to keep going for one more mile to see the end of the road.  We made it!

No choice but to also make the six miles back to the mouth of the canyon, which were mercifully downhill.  Even so, next time I embark on such an adventure, it would be wise to bring more water.

Big Cottonwood Canyon
While City Creek is the closest canyon to our house, we've also spent some lovely time exploring Big Cottonwood Canyon.  During my first trip up, I only drove about a mile because the transmission on the van sounded so sketchy that I was worried about breaking down.  (More on that later.)  Fortunately, beauty was right there where I needed it.

 Annika and I had a lovely picnic.  Can you tell she likes her applesauce?

For our next trip, we ventured to Donut Falls.  Assuming you can find parking at this popular trailhead, it's a pretty short hike to a scenic waterfall.  As you can see, Annika often weasels her way into being carried.

Talia blazes the way.

Our three musketeers.

Almost there!  Don't get your feet wet.

Victory!  Definitely a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

While I still have many more stories to tell, this seems like plenty for one post.  Happy weekend!