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!


An Ode to Uncle Jono

Visiting Australia means catching up with family and I think it’s safe to say that two years apart means very little to Samuel and Thomas when it comes to Uncle Jono. He very quickly jumped to the top of the bedtime story queue and the leg train was a hit (thankful for smooth hardwood floors). Here’s the evidence.

Uncle Jono started the whole leg train thing. I’m pretty sure there was a part of him -mostly his leg muscles – that regretted it by the 20th ride. Kept the floors clean though.

Uncle Jono read bedtime stories two nights in a row – one of them after a very long visit to a winery. Now THAT’S a good Uncle.

Samuel’s smile looks a little out of place in this next photo. I’m pretty sure he’s about to lose a hand.

Jono’s love of fire is the stuff of legend in our family so, when my Dad decided to create a fire pit out of a 20 year old washing machine drum, he immediately earned just a little bit more respect with my youngest brother. And now I present Uncle Jono in his element…

And for a little bit of fun, which of these pics makes you more frightened?

Serious, don’t-mess-with-me arsonist?

Or crazy, reminds-me-a-little-of-the-shining arsonist?

I may keep both of these photos away from my children and just show them this one. Much less intimidating.

Catching Up With Charlie

Visiting Australia means we have a chance to catch up with Charlie – who has grown into a giant since we last saw him just six months ago. He’s now on the verge of walking, talking and taking over the world. The boys have been busy entertaining him part of the time and spending the rest trying to keep him away from their legos (I think Samuel may be developing a nervous tic).

Catching up with cousin Charlie also means we can consolidate bath time. Fine times!

Enjoying the Ordinary

Usually, the first reaction people have when I tell them I am traveling to Australia is “You’re so lucky! I’ve always wanted to go.” But, for me, going to Australia is going home – like a visit to the midwest or the east coast for a number of my US friends. While we definitely plan to make this a true vacation over the new couple of weeks with hikes and visits to museums and walks through the city, we are also enjoying simple things like visits to the playground. In fact, getting the boys outside for at least part of the day is key to our sanity.

This weekend we’ll be enjoying some time as an almost-complete family with my two brothers, sister-in-law and nephew all visiting. The only person missing is Kei but he’ll be with us in spirit from the other side of the world. In fact, I’ll be happy to have a drink on his behalf when we visit a nearby winery tomorrow (we all miss you honey).

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some photos from a very ordinary visit to the playground a couple of days ago. The only difference between this playground and those we’d find at home was the wombat-shaped bouncy ride.

Did Someone Say it Was Good Friday Today?

May I Vent for a Moment?

Today is Good Friday which means I am at home balancing trying to getting a little work done with looking after a child (daycare is closed).

If I were in Australia, I would be enjoying the beginning of a four day weekend, perhaps heading out on a family camping trip like I did almost every Easter as a child and waiting excitedly for the Easter Bunny to drop by.

This is one of the downsides of leaving my home country and moving to one with painfully few public holidays (although the Stock Exchange is closed…).

Happy Good Friday to all who are celebrating. To make it feel at least a little like a holiday, I’ll share just a few pictures of a very damp Easter Egg hunt hosted by Kei’s employer last week.

Thomas chose not to have his photo taken with “the guy in a bunny suit”, as he loudly declared in front of a bunch of very small children who, until then, probably thought he was the real thing. Good thing he still believes in the tooth fairy though. She visited Thomas for the second time that very evening.

The “hunt” lasted about 30 seconds – along with the window for photos due to attempts to protect my camera in the downpour while trying to get a shot in every now and then.

For Thomas, the most important part of the hunt was calculating the combined number of eggs – complete with mathematical equation. The kid loves math which causes me to wonder if he inherited anything from me at all.

That’s it. I told you I didn’t take many photos.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Good Friday and a wonderful Easter. Have a fluorescent cupcake on me. Cheers!

Today’s Photo of Wonder Woman and Batman

Wonder Woman and Batman. Wonder Woman tiara and bracelets designed by Thomas (cut out and stapled by me). The purple ribbon is a Magic Lasso. Angry expressions are part of the character (apparently Super Heroes are always angry/intimidating).

Here they are in the invisible jet – not that I can see them of course. I was instructed to take a picture of the empty “sky”.


Come and Gone

So, after the opening of a few dozen presents, the eating of a fatted calf and the taking of many naps, the most eagerly anticipated day of the year has come and gone. I’ve been a little quiet around here while we enjoy a some time with this guy.

And these two.

We’ve also managed to squeeze in some bad guy thwarting…

And approximately 1542 costume/identity changes.

And, did I mention the presents?

So a belated Merry Christmas from the Ishidas – hope yours was filled with as much joy as ours. Back with more photos and stories from our Portland adventures with the Fisher-Flavels soon – right after I finish becoming acquainted with my new Kindle. 🙂