Found Photos Friday

I have been busy creating photo books over the last week to give as gifts to the Grandparents (pretend you didn’t see this, Mum). The most time consuming part of the process is sifting through the thousands of photos I took over the last year and narrowing them down to include in a book that won’t weigh so much that it costs me $1000 to ship to Australia and Japan. It’s quite the project.

The upside is that I often come across forgotten gems – photos that are just begging to be blogged, like these from Portland Sunday Parkways way back in May…

This weekend marks the beginning of the official countdown to Christmas – complete with a home made advent calendar. Oh yes, I got crafty. It’s shocking! I might even take photos to share my creation.

The first item on the calendar is a trip to the Christmas Tree farm and, of course, some decorating to a soundtrack of every single Christmas song I own. Can’t wait!

P.S. In case you were wondering, I use Blurb for my photo books and highly recommend them if you need a book in a hurry. I ordered my books on Sunday and they arrived in the mail on Thursday.

Christmas Begins NOW!

I like to get an early start on the lead up to Christmas – which means that I start the day after Thanksgiving. Oh, there’s a little preparation in early November, due mostly to my crazy decision a few years ago to make most of my own Christmas presents (and by “make” I mean send them off to be printed), but the majority of my Christmas Cheer begins  as we finish the Thanksgiving leftovers.

And what better way to kick off the season than with a quick trip to the North Pole on the Polar Express. This time Kei was able to join us (he was sick last year) so it was a true family adventure – one that came complete with an almost-running-out-of-gas-induced-ulcer on our way through The Gorge. (Thank you tiny little general store that charged us 50c per gallon above prices at gas stations 10 miles away).

This year’s trip was a little different in that we took the “matinee” train at 11:30am. Our other trips took place after dark which is about 4pm in the NW at this time of the year. An 11:30 train ride had a couple of benefits – better lighting for photos and the ability to actually see outside the train window. The downside is that a little of the magic disappears when you can clearly see how fake the “North Pole” really is.

We arrived in Hood River about 45 minutes before we due to board the train which gave us an opportunity to walk on some (unused) train tracks…

…and grab a quick family photo using the self timer on my camera.

And then more photos on (unused) train tracks…

Confession: I saw Samuel looking up at the Polar Express poster in the same way that the kid in the poster is looking up at the train, but I wasn’t quick enough to catch it so I made him do it again for the photo opp.

With tickets in hand, it was finally time to board.

Finally, after a 45 minute ride, we reached the North Pole – Santa’s factory at the North Pole to be exact. Santa looks like he’s lost a few pounds since last year.

Soon enough, Santa jumped on board and the kids proceeded to tell him about the very special presents that they want for Christmas. Honestly, he’s going to have to be a little creative because those very special presents went out of stock EVERYWHERE last week and, so far, his elf is resisting the desire to pay a 40% mark up on eBay. Santa may be writing a letter of apology.

For now, they’re satisfied with the bell they received on the train.

It was still daylight when we got off the train so we walked around town, making sure we visited our favorite Toy Store before heading home. One 90 minute white-knuckle drive in torrential downpour later, and we were safely back in Portland and officially in the holiday spirit.

Merry weeks-leading-up-to-Christmas!


The Inaugural Thanksgiving Soccer Match

This year we continued a couple of Ishida Thanksgiving traditions – sharing the day with our good friends and ensuring it was as relaxed as possible by having someone else cook the majority of our dinner. I did break a little with tradition by making my own brussel sprouts with mustard (delicious) and Kei contributed to the vegetarian faire with some home-made stuffing (also delicious).

The rest of the day went according to plan with a lot of eating, drinking and being merry.

Oh, and the beginning of a new tradition – a Dads against Kids soccer match in the front yard (tradition to continue next year with weather permitting).

We were blessed with a warmer-than-expected day, although our friend Rhett is known for wearing shorts year round. I could have taken this same photo of Rhett if he were playing soccer in a blizzard.

Samuel spent most of the game as goal (errr fence) keeper.

And became extremely excited anytime his team scored a goal.

The best part was that each child only cried once – and at different times – thereby ensuring an even distribution of tears amongst the team and adding a little drama. What’s a soccer match without a little drama?

At the end of the day, the kids proved to be a formidable team…

… and were eventually declared the victors. Better luck next year, Dads.

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m Australian, which means that Thanksgiving is an adopted holiday (I had to sacrifice Melbourne Cup Day and the Queen’s Birthday in return). To be completely honest, I don’t really know the story of the pilgrims or why we celebrate – although I should probably do a little research before I apply for my US citizenship. Thanksgiving to me means hanging out with friends and making the day as relaxing as possible with a full take-out turkey dinner (BYO Tofurkey for our vegetarian guests), a little mulled wine for the adults and lots of talking, playing (for the kids) and sitting around. In other words, as little stress and as much relaxation as possible. And for that, I’ll be incredibly thankful.

Other things I’m thankful for:

  • Two happy and healthy children.
  • A husband who I can’t imagine living without.
  • Family spread across the world who we don’t see often enough, but who will always be an enormous part of our lives.
  • Good jobs, a house, a comfortable life.
  • Good health. So, so grateful for that.

I’m sure I’ll think of more as I turn on the oven to heat up our turkey dinner…

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a few photos of the last days of autumn in Portland. I am also grateful for autumn leaves (until they fall off and clog up the streets – and then I’m grateful for street sweepers).

Happy Thanksgiving/Thursday.

Faeries, Magic and Parent-Teacher Conferences

When I asked for a little rain over the weekend, I didn’t really mean torrential downpour and gale force winds. It also would have been nice to have the sun appear for just a few hours so that I could avoid canceling a family photo shoot. But, when I asked for rain, you gave me rain. Touché, Portland. You win this round.

I’m having trouble stringing words together today so I’ll share the rest of this post in easy-to-read bullets. You’re welcome.

  • The boys are attending a day camp this week – a mostly outdoor day camp – which means a LOT of time in the rain and the wind. Thomas had to eat his lunch while standing up because it was too wet to sit.
  • Thomas has to get a bus from the camp drop off to the “wilderness” area. The ride is bumpy and curvy (and long) so, of course, he threw up on the bus. He managed to miss his clothes and said he only got a little on another kid’s shoes so I was, understandably, pretty proud. Confirmed this morning that he was part of a large group who had trouble keeping their breakfast down on the ride and, suddenly, I feel really bad for the counsellors.
  • I promise he’s having a good time.

  • Samuel is enrolled in a “magic” camp. He seemed to enjoy himself apart from one small incident when he was teased. It doesn’t take much to ruin that kid’s day.
  • When I asked him about creating spells and making magic he responded that it was fun but it wasn’t really magic because none of the spells actually worked. When I asked him about the wand he made, he replied that he really like making a wand but “really it’s just a stick that I decorated. It’s not really a wand.”
  • I would have said that Samuel is extremely literal and grounded in reality, except he made me promise to feed his toy dog that he left in the car. Apparently tiny stuffed dogs eat mice.
  • Today’s camp is all about faeries and elves, part of which will involve a faerie search in a nearby park. I predict that my child will call them out on their futile search early in the game.

  • We had parent-teacher conferences for both boys last night. Both of them are doing extremely well and are on track with all the standard testing. But I think I was most proud when Samuel’s teacher said he was “kind” (my favorite word) and a “joy to have in the class” and Thomas’ teacher told us that he likes to help the other kids with their work when they’re having trouble.
  • Love these kids.

Bring on (Some) Rain

This weekend will bring rain to Portland and, apart from the two hours when I’ll be praying for the skies to part long enough for me to take some fabulous photos of a friend’s family, I welcome the wet weather. A dreary day will leave me with no excuse but to spend a little time indoors crossing things off my long to-do list. I need to get a start on some Christmas gifts, finish editing a photo session from last weekend and squeeze in some much-needed exercise.

Last weekend we managed to get outside despite the wet weather and take a quick hike around Oaks Bottom. On a slightly related note, Samuel spent a good part of the weekend repeating his favorite new Japanese word, Oshiri, which happens to mean bottom. Quite the coincidence and, apparently, hilarious.

It was wet and cold but so much fun. It’s been a while since we’ve all been on a hike together and I forgot how much I enjoy getting away from the house to spend time looking for frogs and listening to birds.

It was probably also our last chance to take in some autumn foliage. I’m pretty sure the rain will take care of the last few leaves this weekend.

Catching Up With The BFG

About three weeks ago (I know, regular blogging has not been my strong suit lately) the boys and I went to see The BFG at the Northwest Children’s Theater. I grew up reading Roald Dahl’s twisted stories so was likely more excited than both Samuel and Thomas combined to see one of his world’s come to life on stage.

And, in short, it was wonderful, although a little scary according to my children – even though they both knew the story and that the bad giants were clearly not going to be able to eat them through their massive foam heads.

Besides, they’re actually quite friendly in real life.

At one point Thomas kept telling me he had to go to the bathroom, just so he could leave the room. While I felt a little cruel making him stay (although I let him stand behind a piller at the back of the room), I knew how important it was that he stay for the happy ending. Because there is ALWAYS a happy ending. I just had to make it through a few loud declarations of “I DON’T LIKE THIS!” (Apologies to the people sitting near us).

I also didn’t want him to miss the fart jokes – they’re the best part.

After the show, we made our way out into the foyer to meet the cast and grab a few autographs. The boys were a little shy at first but, after getting their first autograph, Thomas was suddenly motivated to get them all. Well, motivated to push his brother forward to get them all for him.

We managed to gather autographs from every single cast member, but I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I managed to capture of photo of the BFG himself. And I also knew that a photo of the BFG would be nothing without a small boy standing beside to provide scale. It took quite a bit of coaxing, but Samuel finally stepped up to the challenge.

In the car ride on the way home, the boys both told me how much they loved the play and replayed the fart jokes out loud over and over and over again.

And I think they both learned that it’s always worth watching until the happy ending.