Christmas Down Under

I know, I know… it’s been almost three months since Christmas but things have been a little nuts around here. The good news is the search for a full time job is well underway and, in the meantime, I managed to land some work through my brand new LLC, Lyrebird Images. Well, the Lyrebird Images part has been around for a while but today I made it official. AND we bought a new camera.

Next on the agenda? Business Cards.

But back to the purpose of my post. Christmas in Australia. It was warm, it was family-filled and it was fun.

There are few places on earth where a morning of opening Christmas gifts can be followed by a run down the slip-n-slide and I was so excited to be able to share this with my children. Sure, snow and ice can make for a pretty and cozy Christmas, but my childhood will always be filled with the memories of playing outside, cold drinks and icy poles on the veranda and cooking a hot dinner even when the temperature sometimes tops 40 degrees celsius (104F).

Of course, there cannot be presents without first leaving out the traditional beer and biscuits for Santa and some carrots for the reindeer. I just love all the fake smiles in this photo. It cracks me up every single time. Oh, and it should be noted that they’re wearing their new Christmas Eve pajamas.

On Christmas morning we opened stockings and tried to avoid stepping on the soccer cards that had mysteriously multiplied like gremlins.

And then “Santa” came out to open the presents under the tree and it might have been the best moment of the morning.

Negotiating the gift-giving strategy.

Uncle Jono received a new umbrella that came all the way from America with a side of campy photo opportunity.

The best part about the gift giving were the accompanying hugs.

And the candy canes that Santa left in our stockings.

This is, by far, my favorite photo of the day. Who else can boast a Clarke Griswold photobomb?

The boys received more than a few Aussie soccer-related items.

And Ben received this headband…

Mum received three bottles of Clinique lotion. She asked for it and we all delivered!

And then everyone checked out their loot and read the instructions…

…Until it was finally time to carve the roast beast.

A wonderful, hot and sunny Christmas Day to remember.

Wordless Wednesday: Keeping Classically Cool with the Slip-n-Slide

It seems ridiculous to be posting photos of slip-n-slides while a good portion of the Unites States is buried by snow. But, in fairness, these photos were taken only about 6 weeks ago and are a good reminder that the world has another hemisphere.

One thing I realized about the slip-n-slide is that it’s not like riding a bike – you CAN forget how to do it. After we’d finally worked out where to set it up (NOT on a downward slope), I tried once or twice with limited results and gratitude that no one else was holding a camera at the time. Thankfully Uncle Jono arrived a couple of days later to show us how it’s done. I’m not sure Charlie quite caught on but, clearly, it didn’t matter. Fun isn’t about doing it right.

Halloween – Better Late Than Never

Things have been a little quiet on the blog lately. Work has been busy and I honestly haven’t been taking many personal photos. I’m waiting for inspiration to bite me but I’m starting to feel as though I might need to kick it into gear with a special project. Or maybe some upcoming travel will do the trick. Now that the weather is turning there’s a danger that I might go into hibernation and the camera will gather dust on the weekends. I’m trying to fight that natural impulse.

At least I have a few Halloween photos and it’s better late than never, right? It was a dark and rainy (not quite stormy) night so I managed about 5 blurry photos before heading home to hand out candy. The boys dressed as a Timbers supporter and a soccer player – so basically the same clothes they wear every day which makes for a cheap and easy halloween. Although I did have to let go of the disappointment when I realized I wouldn’t see a cute little George Washington walking the neighborhood. Our revolutionary war obsession was SO three months ago.

I dressed as a witch for the fifth year in a row but Samuel made me promise to dress up as something different next year. Maybe I’ll make him a deal and dress as Martha Washington if he agrees to go as George. I have a few months to think about it.

Here are the few photos I captured of our crew wandering the neighborhood and the one annual obligatory “stand for a photo at the door before I give you candy” photograph. The thing I love about this annual photo is that it’s so easy to see the passage of time behind the costumes. These children who used to be babies are now independent little people – little people with their own, very strong ideas about what they want to dress as for Halloween.

And a comparison, just for fun.

Off to shed a tear or two…

Independence Day 2014

I already shared one of my more surreal images from our July 4th celebrations but I’m never one to post just a photo or two from a day that included fireworks.

We spent the first few hours of our celebration at the home of one of Kei’s golfing buddies – a friend who also happens to own a pretty delicious Hawaiian restaurant in Portland so, FOOD! At one point I loaded up my plate and counted five different types of meat. The margaritas were also pretty good which explains why some of my photos from later in the evening were a little shakier than usual.

Despite the 200 or so people who attended the party, it was a relaxed event with lots of Hawaiian music and random acts of Hula. The whole experience really made me want to jump on a plane to Hawaii. (Random Acts of Hula would make a great band name. You’re welcome to use it.)

The kids enjoyed Hawaiian-style shave ice, drowned with colors not found in nature.

While we had originally planned to stay for what was sure to be an epic Fireworks display, a quick family poll revealed that the boys were looking forward to lighting some of their own so we headed home around 9:30. The fact that they stayed awake for the entire car ride at that time of the night meant that the Hawaiian shave ice was doing its job.

At home, Kei let my teeny tiny little 8 year old light a few fireworks. I tried to remain calm.

Side Note: The yellow cast in the photograph is from an overheat streetlight in the alley behind our house. We started a little earlier last year so I was able to avoid it.

We started with the smallest fireworks and then gradually moved up to the bigger displays with names like “Hell Fire.”

The blue bucket is there for the trash. At one point I referred to it as the “trash bucket” and our neighbor thought I was using a new Aussie slang for “rubbish bin”. It surprises me how I can still so easily be misunderstood even after 11 years in this country, even when I’m trying to talk like an American. Trash Bucket would also make a good band name.

This next photo is a rather cool mistake.

After we exhausted our small supply, we headed down to the corner of our street where the neighbors brought out the big guns.

I managed to take two or three photos before Thomas begged to go home to bed. When that sugar crash hits, you have no other option.

And that’s a wrap for Independence Day, 2014. God bless America (and friends and hawaiian food and fireworks).

Christmas with The Ishidas

I traveled for almost the entire month of November so I felt largely unprepared for Christmas this year. I decided, for my own sanity, to skip the advent calendar that I made last year and we bought our tree from a lot instead of a u-cut farm. I also had trouble sending gifts to Australia in time so my family will have the fun of opening a few late presents. Even our elf was too exhausted to move to different locations in the house every night. I know how he felt.

Still, we managed to squeeze in a few fun Christmas activities and Christmas Day was the relaxing, pajama day that we’ve become used to with just the four of us.

Here’s a look at the lead up to Christmas 2013, Ishida-style. Of course, I never take photos of the day itself. Even my camera needed to take a break over the holiday.

Thomas made this elf hat by himself.

Someone made sure the downtown sculptures were dressed for the weather.

Christmas Eve – Samurais at the Portland Art Museum. Off theme just a little, but a fun family activity.

And, finally, a foggy walk through the park before the children were all snuggled up in their beds.

Merry Christmas!

Halloween 2013

This year’s trick-or-treat included a Viking, a second year Harry Potter and my trusty old witch hat (although I switched out the tights and wore a different black dress). The best part about our costumes was that they almost didn’t cost me a cent. Samuel was quite happy digging in the dress up box for the cape and shield (a christmas present last year), while Thomas didn’t seem interested in choosing a costume and so defaulted to last year’s Harry Potter cape that no longer drags on the ground. My only costumes purchases were the new purple-striped tights and a Viking helmet that I bought for about $4 from a local toy store (easily the BEST $4 I’ve spent in a long time). That’s just how I like my Halloweens – cheap and easy.

Before there was trick or treating, however, there was school Halloween parade. One child got fully into the Halloween spirit while the other decided that he didn’t want to wear his costume in the parade because people always point and stare at him and say he’s Harry Potter. I tried to explain to Thomas that this must be how the “real” Harry Potter feels  and could be part of getting into character, be wasn’t having it. Instead he spent all day answering the question “who are you dressed as?” with “myself”.

Parents of five-year-olds, a tip. Enjoy taking photos of your children now because, by the time they turn eight, getting them to even look in the direction of the camera is next to impossible. Thomas spent a good 10 minutes hiding from me while Samuel turned the corner and gave me this:

Later, after a classroom party and a short period of time where I tried to get some work done with the kids at home, Harry was reunited with Hermione…


…and a few other characters…

And then we walked around the neighborhood like one giant pack of misfits.

Love the pumpkins on this porch.

I headed home after a few houses to start handing out candy. Mostly, I volunteered because my witch shoes are not made for long walks around the neighborhood.

This crew knows that they have to pose for a photo before they get any candy at my house. Samuel helped me hand out candy later and I had to explain that I don’t require a photo from everyone who comes by. I don’t want to be known as THAT weird neighbor.

We turned the light off at about 8pm, but not before I remembered to take some photos of the pumpkins we hastily carved the night before.

Someone posted a hand-written sign on our front porch next to the bird pumpkin the following day saying we won second place in the pumpkin contest. I think they made a mistake, though. Kei carved the bird and, clearly, my ghostly eyes and alien were far superior (and I carved TWO designs). Maybe they lost my first place sign.

And that’s a wrap for Halloween 2013. Many thanks to the weather gods for keeping the skies warm and our costumes dry.