Ho Ho Ho!

Merry Christmas, friends! I'm writing to you from a genuine winter wonderland in the middle of Oregon. There is snow on the ground, we've been sledding, had tea and hot chocolate for days, and had an explosion of present opening today! It was awesome. We still have to make a snowman, take naps, decorate some cookies, and make a big old meal tonight (salmon - so Northwest!). Pictures to come, I promise. I've actually highjacked my brother-in-law's computer for this message, so it's got to be a quickie. Just know that I'm thinking good thoughts about you today (yes, you!), and hoping you're getting everything you want too!


I'm Seeing Spots

Does anybody know how to get nail polish out of carpet? Oh my.


Hernia Schmernia

We had quite the morning today! Here's my little man, all suited up for surgery, calmly distracted by Dinosaur Train on PBS. Back when I wrote about his hernia in October, we still hadn't seen the pediatric surgeon for his opinion. I was relieved when he and his resident agreed that we could wait it out since it hadn't been seen since that first time. His advice however, was to take a picture of it, should it ever pop back out. I thought that sounded like such a great idea! So high tech! That was until it did pop out around Thanksgiving, and my husband took a pic of it with his phone, then texted it to me so I could email it to the doctor's office. I was pretty sure we were all looking very pervy, but it was all legit! I swear! Blech.

So, the doctor said, "Let's just get it taken care of." That's what we did today.

Ollie was so brave! He never cried once, or even seemed to think that he should! He listened to what the nurses told him, took the yucky medicine they held out for him, and never hesitated or said that he didn't want to go through with this. The nurse told us that he was probably okay with everything because his parents were setting a good example for him (gold stars for us!).

I surprised him with this little box of snap-together toys that I thought might keep his mind off everything. He loved it so much, some of it even stayed in the bed when they wheeled him off to do the deed.

The poor guy had some serious drugs to help him cope with pain, nausea, and anesthesia - I noticed a sudden change in him just a few minutes before the nurses came for him. It seemed like his head was too heavy for his neck, and then he said very quietly, "Mama..." I leaned in really close so I could hear him and he said with his eyes closing, "Can I just go to school now?" Ha! He didn't want to go home, he wanted to go to school! I can't wait to tell his teacher!

Long story short, he came through just fine, slept it off, ate the required popsicles, and we took him home, played Uno, and asked him about a thousand times how he was feeling. So far so good, and he didn't even complain that I ate the most rocky road ice cream of anybody! What a champ!!


Great News!!

We are in the middle of a very exciting weekend! Here's why...

#1.  Opening Day at The Circuit Bouldering Gym!!

This is our little family business! My husband is the owner and mastermind behind this beautiful idea. His first gym opened here in Portland just over five years ago, and now, hot on its heels, comes the second one! I couldn't be more proud of him. He's very humble about it, but the whole town is buzzing about this - as it should be! If you're still thinking, "What the heck is a bouldering gym?," I usually explain that it's a form of rock climbing, but without the harness & ropes or scary heights. It's perfect for kids because they almost always love scrambling around on anything - at least my kids do. They will climb any little thing that makes them taller (steps, retaining walls, trees, grocery carts, kitchen counters...the possibilities are endless!).

We've had to kind of give up most of our free time with Andy since he started building this place with his crew back in July, but now we're looking forward to lots of family time spent here, and of course at the first gym (which isn't going anywhere), as well as in other places (have I told you about our Spring Break trip to Nicaragua? Dios mio!)

I'm so blessed to raise my family in such a supportive, positive environment! I feel especially proud for Andy that he can provide good jobs for people right now (including the building crew he has about 30 people on his payroll!). Plus, he has created a community in Portland that has proven to be very important to a lot of people. Seriously, some people have met their spouses at our gym! Babies have been born! We even hosted a wedding a few years back (totally adorable - they did their vows on top of the kiddie boulder, then slid down the slide after their first kiss!)! Can you tell how much I love this place? So, I'm expecting great things out of the new location. Please come by and visit if you're ever in town, and if you live in Portland, you've got friends waiting to see you at The Circuit! Come see!


Body Slam!!

Lately my son, Oliver, has become a bit of a wrestle-maniac. His signature moves include The Armpit and The Toot (a small, but powerful fart timed for maximum effect). It seems that every time I pick him up, I'm getting treated to one of these. He's not feeling as gushy in the love department as he once was, instead asserting his big kid status as a 5 1/2 year old with a hug that quickly turns rowdy. However, this morning I woke up with a headache and a not so happy tummy (plus I stayed up late watching The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - take my word for it - it's icky), and I needed a little lovin' so I scooped him up, and said, "Come on, give me a good squeeze, because I need it and you're getting bigger, but you're still my little baby..." Not too desperate or dramatic, right? To which he responded with a nice big hug - then wrapped his arm around my face, armpit to nose, and said, "Take that, mama!"



Yesterday was such a sweet, easy-going holiday. We all sat at the kid's table. We all ate wonderful food (or at least gave everything a try with "no-thank you bites"). We made stuff from scratch! And opened a few cans and boxes too. We all said our thankfuls, which of course for me included friends and family who were there with us, and those who were not, and for my camera being able to document our time together. Too bad I had my macro lens on and most of my pics are blurry and strangely orange. Oh well.

On the list for today - not getting up early to go Black Friday shopping. That whole concept has gotten way out of hand if you ask me. Unless etsy is in on it! Oh my, am I missing something? Also, we're going roller skating in a little while, and let me say I can't wait to see my hubby in a pair of those! Hopefully I can work off the thirds I took of the green bean casserole.

And Dave, that sweet potato souffle might just be my new birthday cake. Thank you!

Oh, I'm also participating in this fun little idea - a Thanksgiving Blog Hop, brought to you by Mortal Muses. Hop away!


Picture the Holi-daze!

So, I did it! I just signed up for Tracey Clark's Picture the Holidays class! Originally I was thinking that I'd be too busy for this class (and that may still be the case), but I figured I've learned so much taking her previous two, I should definitely give it a try and make this December one to remember! That is the case with the other months I've dedicated to her classes (July and October). Focusing on the prompts, picture assignments, and posting in the student gallery have made a huge difference in capturing and remembering the daily activities themselves. It should be fun, and I hope you think about doing it too! It starts next week!


I Want to Be Present!

Rocks the kids found at the beach this summer - cool, huh?
If anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas this year (or Hanukkah - I'm not Jewish, but we can all feel the love), or if you happen to be a rich hippie benefactor who would love to sponsor me on a creative endeavor...have I got an idea for you! I just found out about the be present retreat happening next spring in my "backyard" - Manzanita, Oregon! Oh.my.gosh. This retreat is going to be a series of workshops centered around the theme of "Joy," and I'm wondering if it could get any sweeter than that?!

I don't know anything (yet) about polaroids or painting, but you can bet that I need to find my joy in the kitchen. Just look at that berry cobbler. If anyone asked me to whip up some whipped cream like that from scratch, I might just stare into a big bowl and have a little cry, that's how badly I need to go to this!

Plus, getting to meet Andrea Jenkins (aka hula seventy), and having her teach me the art of taking polaroids is right up there with shooting hoops with Barack Obama...out of this world, surreal fun!

Is anybody else considering going to this? We could be roomies!


En Guarde!

Look what I'm doing today! Vacuuming like I should be? Non! I found this book at Powell's this morning, and now I'm going to indulge in a little quiet time and classical French culture. C'est si bon! Sadly, this book did not come with its candy bar counterpart, but it does help me with #23 on my list. And maybe #5 too, but we'll see.

Maybe I'm feeling a little nostalgic about France because I was there one year ago, wandering around the streets of Paris with my friend, Tiffany, just going anywhere we wanted, eating anything we wanted, and breathing it all in. It is a city that I absolutely LOOOOOOOVE. I'm a little silly about it, probably. But what can I say? I'm not the only person to feel that way. It's Paris, for crying out loud!

Oh! Depending on who you are, you may be interested to read that I went up to Seattle this weekend to meet up with the Northwest Dreamers of Mondo Beyondo, and they are fabulous!!! I was so excited to meet these ladies, and we had an awesome time getting to know each other over yummy Greek food and gelato. I highly recommend these meet-ups for any others that know what I'm talking about and have the opportunity to meet like-minded women. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, use that linky up there and check out Mondo Beyondo. It's fantastic.) Go for it, people! Put yourself out there and see what happens! 


Loving Fall!

I was really lucky yesterday to find myself with just a little free time, so when I happened to drive by this park on such a beautiful Fall day, I had to pull over and sit for a little while. I also happened to have my Mondo Beyondo pen pal list with me, so surprise Nelly! Look in your mailbox in a few days! (She lives all the way across the country, but I just couldn't wait to spill the surprise! heehee). It was wonderful to just sit, write, lean back, take pictures looking straight up...

and feel the sun on my face (p.s. this is my first picture for my newest flickr project called BAM)...

I hope you're getting the chance to take in Fall the way you want to in your neck 'o the woods! Pretty soon we'll have rain, rain, rain - so I'm just sponging it all up right now!


At Long Last - The 10.10.10 Photowalk Pictures...

Perhaps you've been wondering about that little photo walk I put together last month, wherein I  met up with international blogging all-star, Kat, and her sister Laurie, to wander gingerly through Northwest Portland, snapping away at any old thing that caught our fancy? Didn't it rain cats and dogs? And wasn't there a 15,000 person marathon happening about three streets away? And didn't it rain on them too? Yes to all of it! We came, we saw, we took pictures...and had a great time!

Here's Kat, all the way from Italy! Isn't she cute?
Bear with me on the quality of some of my shots, please. I found out that it's not so easy to balance my camera, my umbrella, and my extra huge, yet very chic camera bag while walking in the rain and trying to use manual focus. I had to make the sad decision to leave my coffee at Starbucks and switch to autofocus. Kat is a serious pro at this kind of multi-tasking (she may have three arms).

After seeing her get her camera all wet, I started to loosen up about keeping every drop off mine. Her pictures always turn out so well, I had to just follow her lead and I'm so glad I did. These aren't exactly straight out of the camera, but most of them are close. As I went through them, I kind of liked the soft gloomy glow that the clouds provided. It was a great experience to meet Kat (and Laurie!) face-to-face, and I'm hoping that more of these meet-ups will happen soon! 

Oh! Also, Kat and I are synchronizing our blogs to showcase our photo walk pictures on the same day (so James Bond of us!), so be sure to check hers out too! I can't wait to see how she captured the very same things I was looking at.

Check out the rain drops on her lens! Brave lady!

 Thanks again, Kat! This was a great idea, and I can't wait to do it again!!


Family Matters

In between rain storms yesterday, and I'm talking serious downpours here, I scooted my family off their lazy Sunday perch on the couch, and kindly asked them to join me in making fools of ourselves in the front yard. The reason? Picture Fall of course!

Our assignment yesterday was to experiment with the self-timer on the camera to get our actual selves in front of it. I remember telling my mom recently that I think the reason pictures of photographer's feet and shoes are so popular right now is that that's the easiest way to show that we (the picture takers) were actually present on that vacation, holiday gathering or any other day, special or not. Maybe it's our natural inclination to be wary of the camera as we age, and so we stay safely behind it, sharing the world as we see it but rarely showing ourselves to the world. Well, not anymore!

This was a lot of fun - I couldn't exactly get everybody to jump off the steps at the same time, so we tried it over and over. I kind of wondered what the neighbors were thinking, but we have nice neighbors, so they probably thought it was totally normal. I'm so glad I processed it with the fun zoom on it - I kind of look like I may have jumped off the roof! I got a ton of nice feedback through the Picture Fall community, and Tracey Clark herself (our teacher) called the picture "super-awesome!" and wrote, "THAT should be your holiday card for sure." Plus a little smiley face at the end of the comment! Squeeeeeel!

But wait, that's not all...imagine my surprise tonight to find that Ms. Clark posted this very picture on the Shutter Sisters website as the Picture Fall picture of the day!!! Look! Aaaaahhhh! This is such an honor! I'm all giddy and giggly about this! Thousands of people could see this - or maybe just 3 or 4 people, but nonetheless, wowee wow wow wow! She picked me and it has made my day. : )


My Sunshine

As an active family of climbers, explorers, and goof-offs, we have been remarkably lucky to have had very few extra visits to the doctor over the years with our kids. Maybe we should have gone in for a few bumps here and there, but things have always been just fine. So when Oliver got out of the shower the other night and we noticed a largish bump protruding out of his little groin area, I immediately thought - hernia. Guess what? I didn't even need to go to medical school for that diagnosis, because I was right!

The on-call doctor thought that that's what it sounded like over the phone, but recommended that Ollie go to the urgent care clinic just in case it might be serious. Great. Right at bedtime on a school night. Poor baby! I stayed home with our daughter so she could get some sleep, and off they went with my baby in his jammies to see what was up. That hernia thought it would play hide-and-seek, because by the time they got him onto an exam table, it had jumped back into his body! Hilarious, but based on my fresh internet education on hernias, I knew it might try that.

I took him in to see his pediatrician the next day, and Oliver surprised me by saying, "Can't I just go to school? I really want to go to school! Mama, I think they're having snack right now!" Sorry buddy. She confirmed our suspicions, but made me feel a little bit better by saying, "It's not an emergency." Then she made me feel worse again by telling me that the next person I'd need to talk to was a pediatric surgeon. My baby needs surgery!! Oh my.

I'm thanking my lucky stars that we are not in a much worse situation, of course. Everyone I've talked to about this has said that it's a very routine procedure, and that these doctors can do this kind of surgery while blindfolded, and playing Scrabble on their iPhones. Fantastic.

But I'm imagining the moment when I have to let go of his little hand and they wheel him away from me to cut. him. open. Yep, still not cool with that part. At least I know a few moms who have gone through it, and they've told me that it's no biggie. Ok, that's not what they said, but I'm trying to cope by focusing on the fact that I know their sons, they lived through it, can still walk, cough, and laugh out loud while blindfolded, and playing Scrabble on their mom's iPhones. Sheesh.


Crying Like a Baby

When I heard the news on the radio this afternoon that the Chilean miners trapped down underground for 68 days (68 days!) would finally start coming out, I was absolutely reduced to tears. I was driving at the time, and quickly jammed my sunglasses onto my face so other drivers wouldn't think I was weird (because we all pay so much attention to what other people look like in their cars, right?). I also remembered my super sweet mantra that I've adopted to get my bearings in situations like these. Repeat after me, "watermelon, pickles, potato salad, limes." Works every time. I got that one out of a magazine, and you're welcome.

Tonight I tried to explain to my kids what was going on as we watched the coverage on CNN. (Anderson Cooper, how do you manage to cover something like this live, and not even tear up? You must be using my mantra.) I compared the ordeal to being trapped on an airplane for two months, with food and a little t.v., but no windows or fresh air, no friends or family, no showers for anyone or probably even toothbrushes. Oh yeah, and it's 90 degrees and everyone around you just stripped down to their skivvies.  I'm kind of going looney just thinking about it, let alone live it! For real! Rachel said she could probably take it for five days. I said I'd be nuts after about 16 hours. I'm not even sure I could make it to Australia now after thinking about it like this.

But when I saw that capsule finally break the surface, and the first miner came out, I think I cried harder than his own wife! That's just me though (watermelon, pickles...).

Anyway, I just wish a little peace for these guys and their families, their brave rescuers, and all the people that helped drill that crazy tunnel. I hope they get really rich from interviews, and book and movie deals, and that they never have to go underground again. Because if I were one of them, I wouldn't even go in my basement.

Gotta go - the third one is about to come up!! Pass the hankies!


And We're Walking...

Yes people, we have a plan! Call it what you will; Nob Hill, Uptown, The Alphabet District - I'm thinking Northwest Portland is going to be the perfect place to do our little photo walkabout. Here are the deets:

Sunday, October 10th at 10:00 am (that's this weekend folks!)
Meet at the Starbucks on NW 23rd & NW Overton

This is the one by Good Sam Hospital, not the other one down the street. Get that other one out of your head! I will be there a little early and my "signal" will be that my camera will be out on the table keeping me company. Please come! You're coming, right?! Well, at least I know that Kat is coming, and she lives in Italy for crying out loud!

Just a word about the marathon and the snarled traffic - avoid. I've checked all the appropriate websites and it seems that if we stick to I-405, or the streetcar, or landing there in a hot air balloon we'll be just fine. Oh, and forget about the bridges too. Good luck, and we really hope to meet some new photogs on Sunday! It should be lots of fun.


Picture Fall!

Picture Fall started yesterday, and I can't wait to get going on the assignments! I can already tell by looking at the gallery that this class has taken it up a notch from Picture Summer. People are contributing from all over the world, including Norway, Germany, and Italy (I told you about my buddy, Kat - she's doing it too!), plus of course, all across the USA and Canada. Some Mondo Beyondo girls are in on the action as well. 

You know, when I got all sucked into reading blogs last spring it seemed like this huge, slightly overwhelming new world that I didn't know existed had just opened up and swallowed me - and I was willing to go along for the ride (no chewing necessary). What I see now, and just loooove, is how connected this world is, how these people know and care for each other, encourage and lift each other up - and now I'm a small part of it! When I asked my husband to get me a really good camera for Mother's Day, I had no idea that wanting to take better pictures, and signing up for an online photography class would lead to such a wonderful community, but it did! I'm feeling very grateful this morning for all the blessings in my life, and hoping that you have something to smile about today too.


Walk With Us!

Ohhh, I'm so excited to share this! Kat of the very beautiful blog The Kat Eye View of the World contacted me recently to see if I could help her put together a little photo walk around Portland. Go ahead, check out her blog and then come back. I'll wait. Ok, so cool, right? She is currently living in Italy (sigh), but Oregon is her home state and she's coming back for a quick visit. And she would like to spend two hours with little old me!! And anyone else that would like to come along! That means YOU, my Portland peeps!

Here are some particulars - this lovely walk will be taking place on Sunday, October 10th starting at 10:00 a.m. I anticipate a smallish, patient group of people that will enjoy meeting each other, talking shop about their cameras, and helping each other learn something new about photography. Sounds like fun to me!

I've never done one of these photo walks before, and as we tried to come up with a plan, the sneaky Portland Marathon ran right through my map! We had been thinking about wandering through downtown, but thank goodness we found out that a pretty serious marathon had the same idea. So now I'm thinking maybe the Pearl District (that is where I took that above picture of the who-knows-what), or walk along Hawthorne Blvd. and the surrounding neighborhood. In any case, those parts of the plan are still a little flexible and we'd love any ideas you may have of where to go to get cool, "This is Portland!" shots. Please come if you can! Just rsvp in the comments and we'll see you soon.


Voodoo Love

I know what you're thinking. "Didn't she just end a post with a trip to an ice cream shop where she let the kids make five lb. sundaes?!" Yes, but that was like two days ago! And really, I wasn't totally buying these for myself or the kids - we merely tasted a couple before passing the rest of the box off to the guys building the new gym with my husband. Yum. Not only does Portland have the best bookstore of all time, we also have the most wickedly delicious doughnuts on the planet! Voodoo Doughnuts: you're going to give me diabetes and it will be all your fault!

I let Oliver have his favorite - the one with the Hubba Bubba in the middle - and this is what I noticed a few minutes later...

He ate the top off of it! I thought people only did that with muffins! I looked down at it sitting there on the table and said laughing, "Ollie, what the heck do you call that?" and he replied without hesitation, "A masterpiece!" Oh man, he is something else.

And he sure plays a mean pinball. Seriously, his final score was about 4,000,000 points.


It's About Time!

Does that look like $100 in school supplies to you? Me neither, but it is!

Well, we finally started school yesterday! Yippee! The rest of Portland started about two weeks ago, but our school has been having a lot of facility issues and had to keep postponing the opening day. My kids go to a charter school that has only been open for a couple of years - it's a great, fantastic school and we've been really happy since our daughter started Kindergarten there. It's in its growing phase though and, as such, has needed a bigger building to house all of these wonderful, amazing children. The problem is that finding a building suitable for a school on the West Coast is troubled by the seismic requirements of living in a shaky state. We occasionally have earthquakes (every state has its issues with nature, I know), and the City would rather not see the school come crumbling down. We agree with this, however with a teeny budget and no real expert guidance, we've been the winners of the short end of the stick for quite a while.

However, we were saved last week (seriously, they signed the lease last Friday) when a local synagogue with beautiful, newish classrooms opened their doors to us! We are so thankful!! The whole school is together in one location (K-8), surrounded by trees and trails! This is only temporary while the building we'll be in permanently waits for the green light from the City, but we're so happy with it. Just look at my babies!

Oliver - Kindergartner & Rachel - 2nd Grader!!

Ollie got right to work!

Rachel showing her bestie that she lost her tooth the night before!

After a great first day we celebrated at our favorite ice cream shop!

This is one of those places where you make your own creation - they have everything from the usuals to cereal (I love the cocoa pebbles), and a new one I tried yesterday - cheesecake crumbles! Oh this place is dangerous! We're off to a great start - finally!