Saturday, April 24, 2010

Starlight Party at the Ft. Worth Zoo

Nathaniel, Erikah, and Gabriel at the Ft. Worth Zoo
On Saturday we attended a Starlight party at the Ft. Worth Zoo. The Starlight Foundation is an awesome organization that provides fun activities and outings for the families of children with life-altering health conditions. This particular event consisted of free parking and admittance into the zoo as well as a snack bag for each family, a buffet lunch, games and face painting. We had a blast!
Brian and Chalea
I took this picture myself! Not bad, huh? :) We were at the kids' favorite exhibit, the Primates. We talked a lot about animal classifications, habitats, and adaptations as we moved through the zoo. Kids can understand so much, even at such a young age!

Brian and Gabriel
My favorite monkeys! Brian's glasses are tinted, by the way. They aren't really as pink as they look here. OK, they really are...time for some new ones! ;)

Nathaniel, Gabriel, Erikah, and Brian with the rhinos.
It took some convincing to get Erikah to admit that these were NOT hippos. I'm not sure if she ever really believed us, though.....

Gabriel opted out of the face painting to color some animals. He did a great job!

Erikah got a tiger, her favorite animal. Rowerrr!

Nathaniel surprised us by choosing a soccer ball. I thought it looked really awesome, though!

Gabriel, Erikah, Nathaniel, and Mr. Kangaroo
After a huge lunch of cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, chips, chicken nuggets, and brownies, we resumed our tour of the animals, stopping for some fun poses along the way. My kids are serious hams! :P

Brian, Erikah, and Gabriel
With the kids' lollipops and my fudge purchased, the time had come to head home after our day at the zoo. Bye bye zoo, til next time!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Holiday Traditions of the Past and Present

Holiday Traditions

Holidays were always very important to me while growing up. My parents made sure that I got to help decorate the house for special occasions, and traditions were routinely created and strictly followed. If they weren't, I would make sure to whine about it until I was satisfied that the holiday was saved! My mom was really great, though. She worked hard to ensure that I had much to look forward to and anticipate several times throughout the year. Some traditions from my childhood I have preserved and continued with my own family. Others fell by the wayside. Here are some of the more important holidays that our family celebrates and some ways in which we do so. Enjoy!Erikah, Nathaniel, and Gabriel getting ready to head to the park July 4th, 2008

July 4th

I am starting with the holidays from longest ago and ending with the most recent, so that's why I'm starting with July 4th. The most memorable Independence Days I can remember as a child took place at the lakehouse we used to live at in Oklahoma on the Canadian River when I was in the 4th through the 8th grade. We were out in the Boondocks, so it was easy as well as legal to purchase firecrackers and take turns lighting them in our front yard. Not the safest activity, but a blast all the same. It lasted longer than your traditional fireworks show and led to some great family bonding time between bouts of screaming and running from rogue Roman Candles.

Now we live in the city, so buying and setting off our own explosives is out of the question. Instead we pack up a picnic dinner and head to the park in Hurst on Precient Line Road about 5:30 pm. After a delicious gourmet feast of pb&j and potato chips, we play on the playground equipment and take a stroll on the walking trail. Then we make our way to all the bouncehouses and stay there until they shut down at about 8:00 pm. Next we grab a snowcone and pick a good place on the grass to drop some bedsheets, where we sit, chat, and swat mosquitoes until the fireworks start. Ooooh, Ahhhh, no Gabriel, they can't hurt you....yes, Erikah, pretty........I know it's loud, don't cry.... All done, time to pack up and head home!

Dracula (Neville the pug) at our Halloween Party 2009 (just before he escaped out the door and didn't come back until the next morning.)


Halloween is my favorite holiday besides Christmas. Every year as a child I would change my mind a half a dozen times as to what I wanted to dress up as. My poor mom put together so many costumes that were never used due to my indecision. She actually did make them all, I don't remember ever having a store bought costume growing up! The most famous of these was the genie costume she painstakenly designed using scarves, complete with a genie hairdo. I was a queen that year instead. Sorry again, Mom.... Some other costumes I actually used included: a horse, a Christmas present, a devil, a witch, a clown, a princess, a punk rocker, and a bride.

My love of this holiday continues throughout adulthood. The kids and I decorate the house to the hilt, complete with a giant inflatable Death carriage in the front yard including spooky sound effects and a light. I have bought costumes for the kids as well as made them. My favorites so far have been Nathaniel's scarecrow costume (2008), Erikah's fairy princess costume(2009), and Gabriel's dragon costume (2004). A week or so before Halloween we invite several family members over for a small costume party with a few games and homemade Chili Frito Pie. We go Trick-or-Treating, of course, and then after the kids go to bed I do what I've done every year since as far back as I can remember....I categorize all the candy into piles before mixing them all together into a huge bowl. The reason for this strange ritual? I have no idea, but I do it every year without fail!

Erikah on Thanksgiving day at Papa's house, 2007


I remember Thanksgiving growing up as the day when my whole family would gather together to eat continuously and yell at the football game on the television screen. We kids would generally get kicked out of the kitchen and ordered outside, where we would play in the leaves and gripe about how hungry we were until finally we were allowed back into the house. Ah, good times... Now, most years we travel to Oklahoma the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. We spend that day with my biological Dad and his family, eating, watching tv, unbuttoning our pants, eating some more, and snoozing on the couch. Besides the turkey, I must have sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, chocolate cream, and pecan pie. Everything else is great but not mandatory. Someday I will actually have to cook the meal myself...that's when we will have only the mandatory foods! :) To top of this holiday, the next morning I'll get up at 3 am to grab some poor soul (most of the time my cousin) and hit the crowded stores. The thrill of the chase, a cart full of great bargains I can't afford anyway...ah, the true meaning of Thaksgiving!

The kids with Santa at the Transplant Christmas Party 2009


I think Christmas was the busiest holiday when I was growing up. It all started the day after Thanksgiving when about ten million boxes full of Christmas decorations came down from the attic, or in from the shed, or whatever, and were piled around the living room waiting to be emptied. Putting up the tree, hooking up the lights, and hanging the ornaments took a full day's work. With nearly a thousand ornaments covering that 5 foot tall tree, you could barely see any green at all! The next day entailed putting up all the holly, garland, wall decorations, stockings, figureines, and mistletoe. The days before Christmas were filled with family activities, pageants, and the annual baking of the sugar cookie ornaments. After the cookies were baked, decorated, strung and hung on the tree, each visitor to the house was able to snag one or two and munch on them right off the branch. On Christmas Eve I was permitted to open a few gifts and put out milk and cookies for Santa. Christmas morning around 2:00 almost always found me sneaking out into the living room to peek at the stash Santa left before crawling back into bed to lay wide awake until my parents came into my room, when I pretended to be asleep and later surprised as I saw all my gifts. After opening all my loot I spent the rest of the day trying out my new toys, reading all my new books, eating, and chatting with family. After moving to Texas a few more traditions were added, such as spending Christmas Eve at my Grandma's house with the cousins and the annual White Elephant gift exchange for the adults.

Now that I am a Mom, Christmas is certainly different. It's a lot more work, and that makes me appreciate all my parents did to help me have great Christmases with many memories. We still decorate the house, although we have less decorations and a larger tree with a few less ornaments. We no longer bake sugar cookies, but we do make banana bread or fudge for the family. The kids write their letters to Santa. We continue to get together on Christmas Eve or Christmas night and do the White Elephant gift exchange. On Christmas Eve we read "The Night Before Christmas" to the kids and put out cookies and milk for Santa. We get out the Nativity and set up the figurines as we read from Luke in the New Testament. On Christmas Day the kids empty their stockings, open their gifts, and sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. At some point during the day we go over to Aunt Susan's house for her annual brunch. We keep the decorations up for a week or so before saying goodbye for another year. Whew! I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

Nathaniel on New Year's Day at his Grandma's surprise party

New Year's

This will be short and sweet. I don't like New Year's. I never have. I probably never will. All it means is that for 3 months I will mess up while writing the date on checks, paperwork, etc, and it will be nearly impossible to sleep that night due to all the juvenile delinquents popping off firecrackers illegally. So it's a new year....whoop-de-doo. Anyhow, I am including New Year's in this blog because the 31st is my Mom's birthday. That's the only good thing about the whole day. This past year I threw her a surprise 50th party at our church. It was great. Next year I will go back to my usual tradition of griping and complaining until the whole blasted holiday is over.

Kids on Valentine's morning with their boxes of chocolates 2010

Valentine's Day

I don't remember actively celebrating much for this holiday growing up. I think I decorated a little at home and filled out Valentines for the party at school. Later on, Valentine's Day became
a favorite day for me due to all the chocolates, teddy bears, and flowers brought to me at school by various boyfriends and admirers. Now Valentine's Day consists of Brian and I exchanging heart-shaped boxes of candy (truffles for me, Reese's peanut butter cups for him), as well as giving a box of candy to each child. They fill out valentine cards for their classmates each year just as I did. That's about it. I don't believe you need a special day to show love for your family, but it's a heck of a good way to score a box of candy.

Gabriel finding his Easter basket 2010


Easter means a whole lot more to me now than it did back when I was a kid. In my earlier years, I got a basket of goodies from the Easter Bunny and searched for the eggs we had dyed previously which my parents hid around the yard. I normally wore some frilly dress to church or for a picture, and maybe we would have ham or some special meal.

My children still dress up for church and dye eggs, although we don't hide those eggs. Instead, every year since Nathaniel turned a year old we have hosted a huge Easter Egg hunt just before Easter using plastic eggs filled with goodies. Many children from church as well as friends and family gather together at our house to fill their baskets. We decorate beforehand so the house looks festive, and provide treats to the kids during the hunt as well as prizes afterward. It's always a big hit and a lot of fun for the families.

The night before Easter the kids put out their baskets like stockings so the Easter Bunny can fill them up and hide them. On Easter morning, the kids have to find their baskets before church. After church, however, we focus as much as we can on Jesus Christ and His resurrection. We talk about symbols of Easter and how they relate to Christ. We read from the Bible about His death and his resurrection. This is how we focus on Jesus being the reason we celebrate Easter. Oh, and chocolate bunnies. Yeah, those are important, too. :)

Nathaniel and his Birthday cake April 2010


Last but not least I am including birthdays because I always celebrated birthdays as a kid. Whether it was my own birthday or another family member's, we always got together for dinner, cake and ice cream, and gifts. My Grandma always gave the birthday kid a goodie bag....mine usually included cans of Raviolli and chocolate bars, among other things. I don't consider my own birthday nearly as important now as I used to. If anything, I dread my own because it signifies I am another year older, another year of my youth passing away. My children love their birthdays, however, and look forward to each one. They get larger parties at ages 1,2,5,8,10,13, and 16. That's just our way of being able to afford birthdays for 3 kids! On the other years they still get cake, ice cream, and gifts, but at home or at a family restaurant, not at Incredible Pizza or a skating rink. I celebrate internally each time a year passes for them because it's one more year I survived Momhood.

That's it, all our major holidays in a nutshell. Maybe I inspired you to start a few traditions of your own, or maybe you stopped reading this novel several holidays ago, I wouldn't blame you if you did....

I think the most important thing to remember is to have something to celebrate in your life. Celebrating life is what makes it fun, satisfying, and worthwhile. May you have many joyous celebrations in your own life!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chalea (Insert Cool Nickname Here)

My name is Chalea, and this is my blog. I am 27 years old and I feel 40. I was married at 18, had my first baby at 20, second at 21, and third at 23. My husband is 33, my shoe size is 9, my pant size is 6.......hahahahaha!!!! Sorry, couldn't lie like that with a straight face. Anyway, enough with the numbers. I was born in Oklahoma City and was raised all over Oklahoma. I've lived in Bethany, Tulsa, Moore, and spent several years in a tiny podunk community called Sam's Point, 4 miles away from the nearest gas station located in Canadian, which was another 30 minutes away from the closest WalMart in McAlester. Yeehaw. I moved to Texas at the age of 13. It became just Mom and I shortly after that, and then we found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, thanks to a couple of missionaries and Mom wanting to get me a free Bible. (That's a cool story, I'll have to share it sometime if you haven't already heard it.) Anyway, that church saved our lives. I now teach the 11 and 12 year old girls in Primary and love having this gospel in my life. I am grateful to be sealed for all eternity in the Temple with a wonderful returned missionary husband. I am thankful to have an eternal family and a Heavenly Father who loves me beyond measure. Thanks, Mom, for the free gift I ever recieved! Other than God, I also love spending time with my family, traveling, eating, shopping, Girl's nights, roller coasters, dressing up, Twilight, Harry Potter, reading, Interpreting ASL, playing games, and going out to eat with my husband. I have an A.A.S. degree in Interpreting for the Deaf and have been interpreting professionally for about 5 years now. I enjoy my job and love my life. I feel very blessed!

Brian (The Brain)
Brian is the best husband and father in the world. No, really, he is.....just ask him! OK, well, I think he's pretty great! Brian was born in Washington, raised in Utah, served his mission in California, and was living in Texas when I met him nearly 9 years ago. Brian comes from a large family with 7 brothers and sisters. He was born and raised LDS and was a very good kid who rarely got into trouble. After his mission he went to ATI to study Graphic Design. We met at church in August, 2001. Two weeks later we went on our first date. We got engaged on September 11, 2001. We were sealed in the Dallas Texas Temple on January 26, 2002.
We have now been married for over 8 years and are happy as can be! Brian went back to school for two years, took a break, and is now going back again in the Fall. He hopes to get his B.A. in Graphic Design from UNT eventually. Brian's greatest dream would be to work for Disney. He is an artist who can paint, draw, and cartoon as well as do computer art. Brian enjoys playing video games with his kids, playing basketball, traveling, watching "man"shows on TV, and lamenting the fact that his wife loves to go shopping and is always buying yet another pair
of shoes.
Nathaniel (Little Professor)
Our first child, Nathaniel, was born on April 10, 2003. He's always acted and developed a little differently than other kids his age, but we just figured he was quirky and very smart. Last year his Neurologist decided to attribute some of his strange habits to Tourette's Syndrome mixed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This year, that diagnosis has been changed to what we've always suspected: a high-functioning form of Autism called Asperger's. We do not believe his condition was in any way caused by his vaccinations, but something the Lord chose to allow him to learn from and overcome the challenges of. Nathaniel is very soft hearted and sweet. He is brilliant and is a member of Mensa. He loves to read books, especially Harry Potter. He also loves math, and enjoys practicing multiplication. He likes playing Mario, computer games, and practicing the piano, which he currently has lessons for weekly. Nathaniel has a very hard time interacting with others socially but enjoys the company of a few close friends and cousins. He loves doing art, learning about science, writing, drawing, and talking incessantly. Like his Mom.

Gabriel (Bulldozer)

Our middle child is Gabriel, and he acts the part to the fullest! He was born June 3, 2004. He is the epitomy of "all boy", running, climbing, throwing, and breaking stuff whenever he has the chance. Gabriel was diagnosed this year with ADHD, and putting him on medication was the best decision we could have made for him as parents. Since he started his meds, his reading level has gone up more than one whole grade level, his behavior and attention span has improved, and he is happier and has more confidence. Gabriel has a great sense of humor and a soft heart. When he's not in time-out, he loves playing Nintendo and computer games, going to karate class, playing soccer, swimming, jumping on the trampoline, playing board games, arguing with his brother, and eating while leaning back in his chair so that half the food drips onto his clothes.
Erikah (Tweety Bird)
Our youngest child, Erikah, was born September 15, 2006. She has had nearly 20 hospital admittances as well as 6 surgeries and countless ER visits. She has lived through a liver transplant at the age of 9 months, a week in ICU with double pneumonia and septic shock, Giardia, H1N1, as well as numerous other illnesses. She has beaten all odds, however, and continues to bless our lives continually with her laughter, spunky spirit, and wisdom beyond her years. Erikah loves Care Bears, play dough, Spongebob, dancing, and watching anything on Noggin. She also enjoys eating candy, singing, going to her pre-K class, playing with her cousin Kenny, playing outside, getting into whatever her brothers are doing and running to her Dedushka whenever Mommy tells her "No".