Sunday, November 27, 2011

For Every Thing (Especially Family), We Give Thanks

We’re spending a couple of weeks in California in part to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and in part to be sealed to Eliza in the Los Angeles Temple. It is a vacation for Hallie and the kids, but poor Mike has to work (or at least make a worthy effort). We are staying at Hallie’s parents’ house, and two of Hallie’s siblings and their families have also been here. In addition to Carly and her family who live here, Riley and his family drove down from Utah. As an extra surprise, they brought with them a stomach bug that made its way through the household. Starting with little Porter, it seemed like one night after another someone came down with the pukes. We were due to go to the temple on Saturday, but Mike and Landon woke up in the middle of the night before with upset stomachs and continued that way throughout Saturday morning. It would not have been quite so bad, except that the boys had eaten Tommy's chili cheeseburgers. Needless to say, we had to reschedule our appointment. So disappointing! We’ll try again next Friday.

Illness and delay aside, we enjoyed spending time with extended relations from Hallie’s and Mike’s sides of the family, who both live in the area. The kids really benefited from their time with family. Landon, Cru, and Porter played (and fought) at full throttle. We took advantage of the sunny and warm weather to walk down to the playground at the local park.
Porter getting ready to slide
Uncle Shad building sand piles with the boys
Eliza giggling as she swings on the swing set
Eliza made real progress with her walking this week. She moved from taking a few steps to taking long walks all on her own. She also has become quite a chatterbox:

That summer Saturday when the Chrysler people came to film on our block has continued to have ripples in Landon’s life. Last week we received word from an ad agency that Landon would be in a print ad in USA Today’s weekend print edition, and on Wednesday we found out from our neighbor that he and the neighbors’ kids would be in a spot during the Lions-Packers football game. In case you missed it, here it is. He's a blip about 18 seconds in: 
Ad Week's Ad of the Day for November 22.

Here are the words to the poem "See It Through" by Edgar A. Guest that was recited in the ad: 

When you’re up against a trouble,
Meet it squarely, face to face;
Lift your chin and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace.
When it’s vain to try to dodge it,
Do the best that you can do;
You may fail, but you may conquer,
See it through!

Black may be the clouds about you
And your future may seem grim,
But don’t let your nerve desert you;
Keep yourself in fighting trim.
If the worst is bound to happen,
Spite of all that you can do,
Running from it will not save you,
See it through!

Even hope may seem but futile,
When with troubles you’re beset,
But remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fall still fighting;
Don’t give up, whate’er you do;
Eyes front, head high to the finish.
See it through! 

We spent Thanksgiving morning and afternoon with Mike’s family and the evening at Hallie’s enjoying football and food and all the trappings of the day. We feel very grateful especially this year for our children and our family. We are blessed to have our extended family and to have the ability to share our lives with them.
A little worn out there, Grandpa?

Hallie and the ladies stayed up until midnight on Thanksgiving to shop and then took to the mall again on Black Friday. Mike and the kids spent Friday with Mike’s parents, sister, and nephews. At Grandma and Grandpa O.’s, Landon and his cousins Haydn and Lucas climbed and swing on the new rope swing and played catch with Shep, Grandpa’s Malinois, in the back yard while Eliza practiced her walking skills.

While we did not get to go to the temple on Saturday, we did get to celebrate Riley’s birthday with his favorite trifle. Eliza learned how to ride a hobby horse, and her Aunt Carly painted her toenails for the first time.

They headed back up on Sunday, but not before we got some photos of the cousins, including Eliza in her Sunday best. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

We Love Road Trips, Even If This One Was the Pitts(burgh)

We’re putting the kids through the paces and getting them used to taking upcoming holiday trips. Part of their preparation has included countless hours of listening to Kids Place Live on Sirius XM Radio over the past month as Hallie tools them around town. Prior to this point, we would listen to the same CDs ad nauseum. Now we’ve been introduced to a whole new world of chipper tunes aimed at the wee set.

Random picture having nothing to do with what we wrote above. Just cute!
Mike had an educational leadership conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and we all went together. More on that later. Mike had meetings up at Wayne State early in the week, and Hallie took on the lion’s share of getting things organized not only for our Pittsburgh trip, but also for California and Nova Scotia, both of which will follow in short order now that Thanksgiving and Christmas are near.

Early in the week, we received some great news related to that Chrysler 300 commercial that was filmed on our block a while back. While the kids did not end up in the commercial, we did get asked if Landon’s picture could be included in some print advertising, so he’ll get paid a little something for that. Good thing, too, because we know just where to put it: Gymnastics. Landon has started doing forward flips without touching his head to the ground and doing headstands without support. His antics are fun to watch, but they’re a little scary too. It’s time to see what else he can do, given the right equipment!

Eliza now walks 10 or more steps at a time. She has this cute little Frankenstein walk she does to keep her balance, and she has some real muscle! She’ll pull herself up to a standing position or do pull ups (see photos below). She’s getting better at getting down from chairs she has climbed up onto, but we have to keep looking after her constantly to make sure one of her explorations doesn’t end with her face down on the floor.

Landon keeps Eliza in fits of laughter when they play together. She constantly has to know what he’s up to, so she will follow him from place to place and want to play with his toys. For the most part, Landon plays patiently with her. Sometimes he doesn’t know his own strength, so we let them do their own thing, but we keep an eye out from a distance.

Anyway, back to the week’s activities. We left Wednesday morning bright and early so Mike could make his first session in Pittsburgh by the early afternoon. While Mike attended the conference, Hallie and the kids tooled around the local area taking in the sights and window shopping. When Mike was available, they took in more sights, shopped some more, and played in the pool. Highlights included tooling around downtown and going to the Children’s Museum. Two historic buildings, the Allegheny Post Office and Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science were connected by a large glass structure and converted into the present museum. What a neat way to repurpose these beautiful buildings! 

As he was walking through part of the third floor, Mike noticed a wall inscription of more than passing interest to the Latter-day Saint community: 
1 Corinthians 15:41. This is the only view Mike could get from the museum. 
Here's a better view from before the planetarium was added to the post office part of the museum. (Photo courtesy  
The museum is rated as one of the ten best of its kind in the country, and with good reason. Landon and Eliza spent their entire time there moving and playing and discovering all sorts of new colors, textures, machines, and toys.
Budding artist painting a triangle and other shapes he knows. 

She could walk around like this for a good long time. 
Making paper out of pulp

You can see the dome of the old planetarium in this big play space. 

Building paper rockets
3, 2, 1, BLAST OFF!

We finally figured what will stop Eliza in her tracks: a ramp. She can go up, but she doesn't know how to get down yet!
Doing pull ups? No problem! 

The "sand" is actually bird seed. Genius!

The Children’s Museum also has several pieces of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood memorabilia, so Hallie and Mike took their own little walk down Memory Lane.
The Owl and the Pussycat's tree house
King Friday XIII's castle
Remembering the old days with Daniel Stripèd Tiger. Good times! 

After our excursion to the museum, we took in some of the local road food at Primanti Bros., "almost famous" for their corned beef (and other) sandwiches each topped with tomato, sweet cole slaw, and natural cut fried potatoes. A bit unusual, but quite tasty! Thanks to Rick and Lisa for the tip!
Too bad we were there on a Saturday. ;)

Mike’s final meeting was on Sunday morning, so after that, the clan hit the road back home. We don’t have much of a chance for a break in the action, because on Monday we’re off to California!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Day to Celebrate Adoption

Congratulations to all those families who will grow a little bigger today as they finalize their adoptions today, National Adoption Day!

According to its website, "National Adoption Day is a national day of celebration of adoptive families and an opportunity for courts to open their doors and finalize the adoptions of children from foster care. Since 2000, more than 35,000 children have had their adoptions finalized on National Adoption Day.

"On November 19, 2011, families, adoption advocates, policymakers, judges and volunteers will come together and celebrate adoption in communities large and small all across the nation."

Today we celebrate with all those whose lives have been touched by the miracle of adoption!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wee Beasties at the Zoo, at the Circus, and at Home

Eliza had her well visit and is at the 50th percentile in all categories. She’s a healthy and strong little girl. She’s taking more steps in a row and makes herself known with all her chattering. She has even learned how to climb up on small chairs and stools. Once on top she stands up and blows raspberries at you as if she is saying, “Look, I can do it!”

Hallie took the kids to the zoo on Tuesday. We’ve really enjoyed the mild November weather and are taking advantage of being outdoors while the temperatures are still in the 50s and 60s. Some hay bales had been arranged into a maze for the Zoo Boo, and people could still walk through. Landon had other ideas as he climbed onto the bales and leaped from one to another. To his worried mother, he remarked, “I always land on my feet.” And generally, he does. He played like this for more than an hour, and even with the crisp weather, he was sweating.

The new enclosures allow people to get close to the animals (perhaps too close for this arctic fax?). 
While we typically don’t start decorating for Christmas until after Thanksgiving, we did add just a little holiday cheer to the living room with a Lego winter village. Both Landon and Eliza have really wanted to get their hands on the minifigs, trucks, and wagons that come with the buildings. Landon has an easier time not destroying everything like a raging giant monster. With Eliza, we have to make sure to watch very carefully so that a villager doesn’t make an unintended trip down her throat. Eliza has two small teeth now, and everything she can grab (cereal puffs, paper, dust bunnies, wrappers, etc.) goes into her mouth. We have had to be very careful to try to keep the house tidier than before she got so mobile. This has been a bit of a challenge this week between Mike’s cold and Hallie’s sore back. Either the parents are showing their age, or the kids just naturally keep one step ahead. Landon helped Dad put the yard to bed for the winter by raking and piling up leaves. He’s a great helper and a hard worker who loves to get out his gardening tools anytime Dad’s out in the yard.

Hallie took Landon to the Ringling Bros. Circus on Friday. They had excellent seats right near all the action. He laughed at the mock super hero clowns. “Clowns are hilarious!” he quipped. He decided that elephants are his favorite animals. The great beasts stood and lay down and did other amazing tricks as the crowd applauded. Landon liked watching all the acrobats tumble and fly and balance high up in the air. At the end Landon told Hallie that he wanted to do that one day. He marveled at the motorcyclists defying gravity as they rode in the huge spherical cage. Such fun! However, he actually found the small toy Mom bought for him to be much more mesmerizing. Strange how it’s the little things that seem to grab the kids’ attention.

OK, it is a pretty cool toy, after all. 
People were invited onto the floor prior to the performance. 

We ran a bunch of errands on Saturday in preparation for our upcoming trips. We’ll be back and forth from home quite a bit leading into the holidays between a trip for Mike’s work, Eliza’s sealing, and visits with family in California and Nova Scotia. We’ll have turned into regular road warriors by the time we get done.  Landon is looking forward to watching movies in the car as he knows no movies unless we go on an adventure. Eliza will be looking forward to getting to our final destinations so she can get out and get all of her wiggles out. Look forward to lots of fun pictures in upcoming weeks.