Bye Bye 2009

Kei and I are seeing in the new year with a glass of wine, a DVD and a child who refuses to go to sleep. How’s your party?

I am not a big fan of resolutions. I prefer achievable goals and here are a few that I am aiming for in 2010:

  • Project 365 – embarking on my photo a day project again. I gave it up early in 2009 and I really miss it.
  • Learning more about my camera and overcoming my fear of using flash. Suggestions for courses or workshops in the Portland/Seattle area are welcome.
  • Building my photography business while also continuing to evolve my day job into something that supports my creativity. I love the way Lyrebird Images is taking off and I hope it grows even more in 2009.
  • Getting my US Citizenship. Of course I’ll still be an Aussie. I’m just trying to add one more passport to our complicated travel experience.
  • Finish painting the inside of our house – 18 months after we finished the renovation.

There are others of course but they would fall under the title of resolution so I’m scared to put them in print.

2009 was good to us but I am looking forward to 2010. For now though, as Samuel would say, “Bye Bye 2009”.

Scenes from Christmas

OK – we’re coming up on a week after Christmas and I think there’s something illegal about Christmas posts after January 1st, so I am going to post a few photographic highlights to officially bring an end to the season.

Decorating the tree.

And the house.

Relaxing on a sunny (but cold) Christmas eve.

Leaving cookies out for Santa – with a little message.

And of course the fun of opening the goodies and playing with some new toys on Christmas day. Our house is now overrun by dinosaurs.

Other highlights not captured in photographs:

  • Packages from Japan, Australia and Ohio that arrived just in time to much excitement. Great mail day.
  • Catching up with the cousins in Ohio via webcam
  • Taking some time to say hi to the Grandparents in Australia on their boxing day.
  • Sunshine streaming in through the windows to naturally light the tree ornaments.
  • A yummy dinner of prime rib with green beans, mashed potato and carrots – even Thomas and Samuel ate their veggies, although Kei was not feeling well so it ended up being dinner for three. (Kei enjoyed it later).

All in all a wonderfully relaxing family Christmas day. Now, excuse me while I search for some dinosaur storage solutions.

Letting it go…almost

Christmas is over for another year, but I am so far behind in posting photos that the christmas-themed posts will likely continue this week. I will try and post one per day so I can begin the new year refreshed and free of twinkly lights and creepy little elves that watch your every move.

One of my goals for this year to was to do at least one family thing each week that would help get us into the Christmas spirit. These ranged from simple things like watching a holiday movie (can’t wait until Thomas is old enough to appreciate Elf) and decorating the tree to larger family outings like our ride on The Polar Express and, in this instance, a visit to The Grotto for the annual Christmas Festival of Lights.

Thankfully the Portland winter has been kind to us so far this year and we were able to browse the grounds in relative comfort… well except for the crowds of people who shared the experience with us.

Nevertheless it was a fun family Christmas outing and I got my fill of pretty lights for the year – and, of course, many photos of the pretty lights.

Happy The Elf

Meet Happy.

He’s the Ishida family Elf who acts as spy for Santa in the weeks before Christmas. It takes the whole Santa/being nice conspiracy to a new level… and I LOVE it. 🙂 Thomas was sad to discover on Christmas morning that Happy had gone back to the North Pole and will not be visiting again until next year, but those are the Elf rules. You can read more about Happy and his elf friends here.

Christmas Week

I am at home with the boys this week while school/daycare are closed. We’re doing our best to keep ourselves occupied and away from the craziness of the stores (although we did make one quick trip to Barnes and Noble yesterday to pick up an Elf – more on that later). Thomas and I even baked cookies yesterday. Of course I didn’t have the oven hot enough so they took twice as long as they should have to cook. It pays to read instructions properly.

I also got all my wrapping done and have everything we need for Christmas dinner apart from a couple of things I’ll be picking up the day before. I am officially ready for Christmas.

On the agenda for today… Samuel’s first haircut. We had to wait three years for Thomas’ first haircut so this is a bit of a treat. I’ll be back with photos of course, but for now I’ll leave you with some photos of two little boys who are definitely getting in the spirit.

Wearing Pajamas and Meeting Santa

In October (yes, October) I purchased tickets for the Polar Express. I am not ashamed to say that I was more excited than my kids to take part in this new Christmas tradition. And I was even clever enough to purchase tickets for a trip in early enough in December to avoid possible weather cancellation. In fact the week after we took our trip they closed down the freeway for a couple of days due to ice.

The day we took our trip on the Polar Express, though, it was unseasonably sunny. So much so that taking photographs was a challenge – well, beyond the usual challenges of two unwilling participants.

This is Samuel saying “go away!”

Kids wear their pajamas on the Polar Express, just like they do in the book and movie. It was the perfect (and rare) opportunity to dress them up in their flannel pajamas and little dressing gowns (or bath robes in American).

Int he process of dressing them I realized I may have the cutest kids on the planet (and I know every mother thinks that).

Ignore the obnoxious Wiggles hat. He has a much cuter hat that he never wears but I’m choosing my battles.

We left in (I thought) plenty of time, but ended up arriving about only 10 minutes before the train left. I hate being late and that last 30 minutes in the car was tense.

But we did make it and quickly found our seats. Samuel refused to take off his coat for the first 30 minutes or so.

And then the fun began. First, some hot chocolate and cookies. (I only managed to get a shot of the back of one of the servers).

And the story was read over the speakers. I came prepared with our own copy of the book to follow along but left it in the car in our mad rush to get to the train.

How did a photo of me get in there?

After about 45 minutes we reached the North Pole and there was someone familiar there to greet us.

He boarded the train and went around greeting each child.

Mine were a little freaked out by the whole experience and refused to sit on this strange man’s lap. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Each child received a bell as a gift.

After some carol singing and another hour or so, we arrived back at the station. It turned out to be about 15 minutes longer than perfect, with the kids starting to become a little stir crazy.

As we walked back to the car for the long drive home, it really felt like Christmas had come for the Ishidas.

Making Our Own Fun

Kei and I bought each other a new TV and Blu Ray player for Christmas. Which meant we were able to give away our 150 pound tube TV and regain our peace of mind now that there is no longer the danger of it falling on one of our children. Not to mention the fact that I am ecstatis that we never have to move that thing again. I shiver to think about the time we nearly dropped it pulling it out of the back our rented station wagon the day we bought it.

A new TV also meant a trip to Ikea – because a sleek, shiny, sparkly flat screen is just calling out for a piece of minimalist, hard-to-assemble, swedish furniture.

I. Love. Ikea. I have been known to visit on one of my rare days off without a real purpose – to simply browse the many aisles of the “marketplace”. I dream of a day when I can visit without my children and, ok, and my husband, whining and crying to leave.

Good thing they have play areas for the kids every few feet, although it did slow down the shopping experience somewhat.

After about 2 hours of browsing and lunch and more browsing, we finally made it to the labyrinth. We were close to naptime so while Kei searched for our box of unassembled goodness, I managed to keep the kids entertained by chasing them up and down one of the aisles.

Our Ikea trek was on a Sunday (one of the worst days to visit the store) so this was literally  the only square footage that was not crammed with people.

We kept this up for about 20 minutes. It’s amazing how easy it is to keep those boys entertained when there is limitless room to  scream and laugh and run without running into other people.

So in summary, these are some of the highlights of  my life at 34 – a new TV that makes up for the fact that I rarely see movies in a theatre anymore, dreaming of three hours uninterrupted in a furniture store, lunch for under $4 (!) and chasing two little boys until they are exhausted enough to take a nice long nap.

Not bad at all. 🙂

Lighting the Tree

Last year we braved downtown Portland for the big tree lighting. It seemed doable given that one child was immobile and we felt we could contain the other. It was fun, but not something we felt comfortable tackling this year so we tried something new and attended a tree lighting in a local neighbourhood… well, almost. We were actually eating dinner in a restaurant next door when they flipped the switch. Never mind, though. Apparently the outlet was easily accessible to children so a toddler managed to switch the lights off a little later in the evening and we were able to experience the tree lighting all over again.

But, just like last year, I was able to get a bunch of blurry, Christmas tree-illuminated photos.

The only difference between this year and last was that the tree was a little smaller and we were surrounded by lots of great friends.

Oh, and that apparently my oldest child was having far too much of a good time to stay still for many photos. Here he is checking out some lights in a pet shop window with his friend Liam. I don’t think they were even Christmas lights.

And my attempt at a group shot. I waited too long – some of the kids had already left and one was overtired and not interested in having her photo taken.

This was the beginning of our Christmas celebrations. Coming up next, a ride on the Polar Express – really!