We’ve Already Taken a Trip to North Pole… Christmas Comes Early

Thanksgiving was a little early this year which meant I was able to get a great head start on Christmas festivities. Instead of trying to squeeze everything in to a short three weeks, I have been granted a few extra days in which to fit every little Christmas activity on my list – not the least of which is actually getting my shopping done well in advance of the big day.

That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see how it goes.

But there’s one thing I can already mark off my list – a trip to the North Pole. A couple of months ago I bought tickets for the family on the Polar Express. The day after Thanksgiving seemed perfect to me at the time and, in most ways it was. Good weather for the drive to Hood River? Check. Two kids who were all studied up on the Polar Express movie and book? Check. A mother who was ready to move from being overstuffed with Turkey to being filled with the Christmas Spirit? Check.

There was just one thing we hadn’t counted on – a sick Daddy who was destined to be bedridden for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, the Polar Express doesn’t allow for exchanges or refunds so we made sure Kei had a glass of water by the bed, and our slightly smaller family made the trip through the Gorge to the Polar Express (actually Mt Hood Railway) station.

Of course no trip on the Polar Express is complete without brand new pair of  Superhero pajamas and a dressing gown.

Now let’s look at this very same scene two years ago…recognize Samuel’s dressing gown?

Good to see he hasn’t lost the attitude…

Moving on before I get all sentimental… They grow up so fast.

Before we could leave, I had to take the traditional Jedi pose Christmas photo. There’s no wearing a bath robe without one.

The drive to hood river takes about 90 minutes – which could be an incredibly painful experience (“When are we going to get theeeeeere?”) but instead it was a blissfully quiet experience, thanks to a strategically timed nap time departure. Before the kids even knew it, we were in Hood River and I was enjoying a Black Forest Mocha at my favorite local coffee place. Thomas and Samuel enjoyed the first hit of the sugar rush that was to last for many hours to come.

We had a little time to kill so we spent it taking a look around the local toy store (why do I do this to myself? and catching a preview glimpse of Santa in one of the main street outdoor stores.

Note to retailers: when Santa is done for the day, please don’t leave his beard on the chair. It takes far too much explanation for an observant six-year-old.

When I had finally reached my limit of “can I have this mum?”, we walked back to the station and awaited departure.

While we waited, the boys watched the movie again. Second time that day if you’re keeping count.

Finally, the conductor came and called “all aboard!”

This next photo is to prove to my husband that I can pack a nutritious snack for my children. He seemed surprised when I told him that I gave them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the train. (“You took one WITH you?”). I can be self sufficient…

During the drive to the North Pole, a few shading-looking characters dropped by to say hello.

And then the waiters brought by some hot chocolate and cookies (maintaining that sugar high).

After we followed along with an audio recording of the book over the train speaker system, we finally reached the North Pole and caught a glimpse of the main attraction.

We were told he boarded the train and that he’d be around to see ever child soon. Thomas and Samuel then spent the next hour or so in this position while they waited for him to reach our carriage (we were at the back).

Thankfully we had a couple of elves to keep us company and were able to pass the time singing a few christmas songs.

And then, after what seemed like an eternity, he made an appearance.

No removable beard on this one…

They (very quietly) told Santa what they would like for Christmas – Joker’s Playhouse for Thomas and pajamas for Samuel’s Baby (bear) and Baby Bear (his other bear). He has a wild imagination with names.

While they wait for Christmas, they can each enjoy the special bell that Santa gave them and the Polar Express tickets – punched with a “T” for Thomas and an “S” for Samuel.

It was a wonderful, magical ride but not quite complete without Daddy to share it with. Maybe we’ll take him on a return trip next year.

And I even made it through a long drive home with two sugar-filled children who wouldn’t sleep. Thank you rental car satellite radio. The kids station rescued my sanity.

And, finally, just one more trip down memory lane to torture myself. They grow up so fast…

Just Keep Him Laughing

Samuel is a tough child at times. At the ripe old age of three and a half, he has worked out that tears (and very loud crying) buy him an incredible amount of sympathy. I don’t know whether I should be proud because he is so smart and cunning, or frustrated because he’s slowly driving me insane.

One thing’s for sure, when he laughs, it’s the best sound in the world. Thankfully, it happens a LOT.

I love this kid so much – despite the fact that he’s driving me insane.

Posted for this week’s I Heart Faces challenge – Bust a Gut.

By Popular Demand: A Little Product Placement

(Warning: this post is a little out there. Blame it on the holiday spirit.)

Most of the planet knows that Starbucks recently had a buy one, get one free promotion on their holiday drinks. Never ones to miss a freeload opportunity, my team at work took a rare few moments to walk down the street and make the most of said promotion (only an even number of people allowed).

I don’t quite know how this next series of photos happened. One moment I was taking random photos in the terrible Starbucks store lighting, and the next moment Lisa turned into a product model. I think she has a future on the home shopping network – and I hear they have way better lighting.

Madeline made a guest appearance…

…but Lisa was REALLY into it.

And then I took a picture of her with an autumn leaf that was twice the size of her head.

The end.

A Little Quiet Around Here

I know I haven’t been blogging much. I suppose I’m a little paralysed by the prospect of Thanksgiving and Christmas and everything I have to do over the next few weeks. Not that I’m doing anything about it. Usually having a deadline is just what I need to get things done but right now I feel incredibly unmotivated to do anything besides going to the gym.

Surprised? Me too. I think I just had to wait until technology caught up with my need to exercise. It makes it so much easier to stay on the treadmill when I only have 10 minutes left on the TV show I have streaming onto myi phone via Netflix. Right now I’m half way through season 3 of Damages, which I highly recommend for anyone needing a new addictive TV experience. I would appreciate recommendations for what I should watch next because, at the rate I’m watching these episodes, I only have a couple more weeks of workouts covered. Then what will I do?

It’s only Tuesday, but the weekend already feels like a distant memory. I think a lot of the blame lies with the Typhoon we’re currently experiencing in Portland – the one that makes me feel as though I must have moved to Japan because I know it rains here, but this is a little ridiculous.

Still, we had a dry weekend so I can’t complain too much (not that I won’t try). I spent most of it doing stuff around the house like cleaning before the cleaners arrive today (stopped myself short of scrubbing the bathroom), piles and piles of laundry (it was NOT a good week for the washing machine) and finally taking my car in to fix damage from when I was rear-ended in (cough!) March. Yes, it has taken me that long to do anything about it and I am only taking action now because my husband shamed me into it by getting the van fixed within mere weeks of his own accident. If your counting, that’s two rear-end accidents within the same year. How did we get so lucky?

In addition to all of the above, my husband took Thomas to a birthday party and came home with an extra child to stay the night (I shouldn’t let that man socialize by himself). Thankfully the child was Liam who is much better behaved than my own children and no trouble at all. Still, we decided to venture out of the house on Sunday morning to burn off a little pent up boy energy, despite the frigid temperatures.

I think these may be the last photos of autumn colors. The typhoon destroyed most of the remaining leaves and they’re now spread across our freshly raked lawn.

Liam was an absolute dream at the park and wanted to stay longer to play. My kids complained endlessly about the cold until I finally gave in to the whining and took them all home.

I have a rare day off tomorrow and plan to take Thomas and a friend to the Portland Art Museum to see the Japanese art exhibit (wish me luck). Then on Thursday we celebrate the holiday of eating with the traditional Ishida take-out Thanksgiving dinner. We have a few extra people this year, but the adults still outnumber the kids 6-4 so my plan to sit around and do very little except eat and drink still seems achievable. On Friday we officially kick off the Christmas season with a very special train ride. More on that soon.

Wishing a wonderful Thanksgiving to all of my American friends and, to my Aussie friends, I’ll do my best to try not to think about the fun you’re likely having sipping cocktails in the sunshine while I struggle to warm my hands with a hot toddy by the heater.

Five Things Friday: Being

1. Watching…
Grimm – my new favorite show. It’s like it was created just for me – a little bit of crime, a little bit if mystery and a whole lot of weird. It’s also set AND FILMED right here in Portland so it’s fun to try and identify parts of the city as I watch. I might even venture so far as to say it’s my new X Files. I know – HUGE.

2. Reading…
IQ84 by Haruki Murakami. Loving it so far, although I’m only three chapters in. It’s a huge book so it should keep me going through Christmas and likely for much longer after that at the rate I am able to read books these days.

3. Listening…
To Christmas Music. I know, I know, it’s early, but I am on a mission to put together a fun mix for our trip to the Polar Express late next week. This song will definitely make its way onto the playlist.

4. Anticipating…

A bunch of new movies that will be released over the next few weeks. Thinking I might have trouble dragging Kei along to Breaking Dawn Pt1 or The Hunger Games but he might be interested in Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. We’ve seen the Swedish version and I want to see how the American version compares.

Although if he sees this trailer, he might just change his mind about The Hunger Games. It looks amazing!

5. Browsing
75 years of Life Magazine covers.  A wonderful history and photography lesson with inspiring images dating back to 1936. If you don’t have time to browse the full 75 years then I highly recommend the 75 Best Life Covers of all time and, for a reminder that perfection is elusive, Life’s 20 Worst Covers.

This weekend looks like rain, rain and more rain. In other words, the perfect weekend to run errands like grocery shopping and piles of laundry, and get ready for the holiday week. Thankfully, our take-out turkey dinner will be cooked by someone else, so all I have to do is make one more side dish and buy some wine for mulling.

I fought this time of year for a long time, but I am slowly learning to love the falling leaves, cozy nights in and the way American’s add “spice” to everything. Looking forward to a great weekend and a short work week.


Five Things Friday: Photos To Help Us Remember

Veterans day in America is called Remembrance day in Australia. As a child, I vividly recall my entire school stopping everything for one minute of silence at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month to remember. Here’s my 2011 digital version of that same minute of silence – to remember men and women who served in wars past and present and to hope for peace in the future.

For more moving images, check out the LIFE gallery of 50 photos that brought the war home.

Don’t Call it Fall

After living here for eight years, I still refuse to use the word “Fall” to describe this season. It just doesn’t seem like an important enough word for the beautiful soft light that bathes the city and the the amazing colors dripping from the trees.

If I sound a little too upbeat about this season that precedes the impending doom of Winter, it’s because the sun is shining today. It’s amazing what a little sunshine can do to lift the spirits and almost make us forget that we have three months of overcast skies in our immediate future.

Of course I’d much rather be outdoors taking photographs than working, but I’ll have to make do with sharing a few quick photos that I managed to capture on a late afternoon autumn day a couple of weeks ago – before the time changed and we were plunged into darkness at 4:30pm. (It’s not all roses here).

Still, Autumn in Portland is beautiful. I’m going to try and enjoy it while it lasts.