Sunday, June 30, 2013

What a great way to start summer! (Monday Listicles)

Monday Listicles this week are 10 things about summer, and we've just returned from an AMAZING weekend at the Oregon coast. If you're not from Oregon, you have to know that this is not a typical occurrence. It often rains, of course, but also...even if it's nice weather inland, once you get out on the beach, it's often really windy. Not this weekend. While Portlanders were enduring really hot weather, the beach was pleasantly warm, sunny, and free of too much wind. It was fantastic. So here is my list, and some photos:

1. Fresh, garden veggies and fruits
I cooked fresh green beans with garlic one night, and glazed yellow and orange carrots with lemon and basil the next night--veggies I bought at the Portland Farmers Market. We also had salads with lettuce and basil from our garden. Bring on the homegrown and farmstand tomatoes and cukes!!

2. Oregon berries
I also bought a whole flat of raspberries last week, which I've been savoring (and freezing some). Berries are my all-time favorite fruit!

3. Leisure time with my family
With the kids' busy theater schedules, we had not been to the beach for almost a year! That is simply ridiculous given the fact that my parents have a wonderful beach house we can use. It struck me this weekend that although I am an ardent feminist and simply adore my female friends and spending time with women, I am the only female in my family and spend most of my time with males. But my four men are so sweet and loving--they are awesome!

4. My last surgery, I'm hoping
My last ear surgery is scheduled for July 12--it's outpatient, and I'm hoping it will be the last one I'll have to have. Should be easier than the brain surgery in December and more similar to the one I had last August. The surgeon will try to rebuild the bones in my ear. Don't ask me how. This pretty much shoots out most of July.

5. Visiting with friends and extended family
Last week I had a wonderful dinner with a friend (two of my boys' second grade teacher, who I've become friends with), who I hadn't seen for awhile. I realize, over and over again, how my women friends are so good for my soul! I'm looking forward to future beach trips--one with another couple, and one with another family--and spending a week in the Bay Area with my sister and her family!

5. Chuckling at Oregonians complaining about the heat, after complaining about the lack of heat
Suddenly, we've been hit with a heat wave. The joke in Oregon is that summer starts on the 5th of July. This year we are a week early. I commit to not complaining about the heat, partly because I prefer to be hot than cold...and our house is sheltered by a lot of trees and stays reasonably cool. But it is hot tonight! (Not a complaint, just a statement of fact...)

Outdoor music in April, even!
6. Outdoor concerts and plays
This is my favorite thing about living in Portland in the summer! We have a plethora of opportunities to get cultural outside, much of it free. I truly believe that we are rare that way, simply in the abundance of free or cheap culture. Concerts in the park, outdoor movies, and Shakespeare in the Park (we usually have 3 or 4 plays per summer, for free!)...can't get enough of them!

7. Dining al fresco
I love to eat out on our back deck, hoping that the yellow jackets don't come and attack.

8. Everyone's in a better mood because of the sun
Even though you have to be pretty tolerant of rain if you live in the Pacific Northwest, everyone's happier when the sun is shining.

9. Glimpses of the mountains
As we say in the Northwest, in the summer, the mountains are more likely to be "out." I guess that could be taken more than one way, given our highly gay-friendly culture here! In the summer, we are more likely to get a clear glimpse of Mount Hood or Mount St. Helens. We've never actually taken two out of our three kids up on the mountain, but we are planning to remedy that in the next week as we have an online coupon for the alpine slide at Ski Bowl!

10. Feeling grateful that I live in such a beautiful place abundant in gorgeous scenery!
This weekend at the beach, that really rang true. I am so fortunate to live on a coast and have easy access to the ocean. I am a coastal person--I've never lived inland, more than a couple of hours from the beach. I'm not sure I could do it! In Oregon we also have easy access to rivers, mountains, and deserts. I can walk to the river from my office, in fact. I feel supremely fortunate to live in this place in the world.

Read other Monday listicles about summer at The Good Life, hosted by Stasha!

And I leave you with wonderful Oregon Coast in late June photos:

Friday night sunset

My sweet teenager--almost 17!

Me and my honey

Nicholas loves the forts he finds at the beach

With three of my four males


On the jetty

Nicholas' sandy bottom (the shorts got wet, so they came off!)

Kieran wanting to take an artistic, romantic photo

The classic stranded-on-the-railway shot, Nicholas ready to rescue!

Elephant ears

S'mores manager! (that's a lot of work with five people!)

Visit to the Tillamook Cheese Factory

With the boys at the cheese factory, after ice cream!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Top ten kid pics

This week's Monday Listicle theme is "top ten pics," which is perfect because the Monday Listicles founder queen, Stasha, is a professional photographer.

I opted to go with top ten kid pics, which were awfully hard to choose! I've loved children since I was one myself, and I find that they are wonderful photo subjects. These are not necessarily my top ten, but I like them.

1. These are my cousins Annie and Elena...I took care of them a few summers during and after college. When I left them to go live in Japan, I sobbed! Now they are grown, of course, and Annie has a delightful daughter of her own.

2. I took both of these photos when Mike and I were traveling through Asia after we left Japan in 1989. We have enlargements on our living room wall.

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Jaisalmer, India
3. One morning we came into the NICU to see our 24-weeker, Christopher, and his night nurse, Lorraine, gave us this photo. She'd dressed him in his first clothing (very special, small preemie clothing) and taken this photo of him with his toy duck. He was still on a ventilator and about 7 weeks old. It was a huge milestone that he was well enough to have clothing touch his very fragile skin.

4. This photo has special meaning to me, because when Christopher was battling for his life in the NICU for 117 days, I clung to an image of him running down the beach as a healthy toddler. This vision gave me hope...and there he is, doing just that:

5. Several years later (when Chris was six), Kieran came along, full of energy and zest. This photo was taken in London, at Somerset House, when he was a year and a half:

6. We have a lot of beautiful photos of our sons with my sisters' is Kieran with his cousins Ryan and Garrett, in the Chinese Garden in Vancouver, BC:

7. Here are all of our sweet boys in Astoria, Oregon, a few years ago--mine are the three on the left, and my sister's sons are on the right:

8. One of my favorites of my youngest, Nicholas, our bonus baby, taken on the shores of Railroad Creek at Holden Village, Washington, last summer:

9. Another photo shoot of five out of six of our boys, Mother's Day, 2013--they are very accustomed to posing for the camera:

10. And the professional shot of our three boys, taken by Tanya at Capturing Magic Photography, last November:

Join in the listicle fun by visiting The Good Life and perusing the other posts!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ten reasons why Mike is an awesome dad

A hard but poignant way to learn
how to be a dad--in the NICU (1996)
(doing kangaroo care, skin to skin)
The Monday Listicles topic today is which TV shows you wish hadn't been cancelled, but if I'm going to make a list today, the least I can do is honor the wonderful dad I helped create! :)

This morning at church, our wonderful Irish friend Ruth did the children's homily, and she talked with the kids about all the various fathers we might have in our lives beyond our regular fathers--godfathers, fathers-in-law, stepfathers, foster fathers, uncles, etc.--and then she asked each of the children if they wanted to give their own dad a compliment. Nicholas raised his hand immediately and responded, "My dad is awesome!!" Of course, Mike was completely embarrassed and red in the face (kidding!). Actually, he waved his hands around and shouted out "and humble!!"

But he is awesome--it's true. And here's why:

1. He is an engaged stay-at-home dad, giving our boys a wonderful role model of a caring, compassionate father who is actively involved in their daily lives. A brand new stay-at-home dad, Jon, gave a wonderful sermon at church today, and he said the one thing in his life he knew he wanted to do was to be a dad...and he feels very lucky to be able to stay at home caring for his son, Isaac...and how 30 years ago this would not have been an option like it is now.

Mike with toddler Chris in Homer, AK (1998)
2. Our teenager Chris was horrified to hear that Mike didn't choose this path in the same way. I was the one who really wanted kids, and it made the most sense for Mike to be the primary caregiver because I had more earning power. (When I first suggested we start trying for a baby, he was hesitant because he thought we should wait until he became published.) He's definitely grown into the role, and I'm sure he wouldn't trade it for anything, but the path chose him instead of the other way around! I think that the difficult way we became parents (via the NICU) and subsequent fertility definitely won his heart over. I'm so glad that he agreed to go down this unpredictable, crazy path of parenthood with me!

With Chris at age 3 or 4
3. He is the fun parent. Seriously. He's much more likely to go into silly mode, cracking up the kids or sometimes embarrassing them. One of my favorite sounds is hearing the youngest (Nicholas) crack up at Mike's silly jokes or plays on words. And then he says "Again!"

4. Our sons have inherited Mike's love for the spotlight and the stage...and Kieran's acquired his booming voice. As a theater/music fan, I am really glad our kids are drawn to drama...I can't relate to this desire to be onstage, but I appreciate it about all of them. Today our head sound guy at church came up to me and told me I needed to really sing into the microphone...but last week he told Mike that he had to stand back farther away from the microphone! Apparently Mike's the only one in the church who doesn't need to stand close to the mike (this probably applies to Kieran, too).

5. He is SO MUCH nicer than me. Most of the time, that is. He's the one who the kids can sucker into giving them stuff (Cheetos, fast food, quarters to play video games), and he's also the one more likely to give money to people at the door or on the street. He's generous and compassionate, with a few exceptions (our crazy next-door neighbor is one). Once you cross him though--or be mean to me or someone else he loves--watch out!

With two sons (2003)
With baby Kieran (2003)
6. He's showing our sons how to respect and treat women well. They are learning that being a man means demonstrating compassion and emotion, loving others, and treating women with kindness and respect. It means crying with the rest of us at sad movies or plays, and not being ashamed to admit it. Mike's amazing with older people, as well--when he was in college he volunteered by spending time with an elderly woman, and he did that later on with a friend from church before she died. I can't imagine finding a more supportive, loving partner. This generosity of spirit is the best possible thing our sons could be learning.

7. How many kids are lucky enough to have an Oxford-educated primary caregiver? The guy has an amazing vocabulary; is well versed in literature, politics, geography, and current events; speaks several languages (at least a little) and knows his Latin roots; is a gifted, creative writer (which someday the world will know); and believes in and understands people. So he's not a crafty dad...and he might not always have the healthiest snacks at the park...but those are small potatoes.

See, the fun parent! (2005)
8. I asked 10-year-old Kieran for help with #8, and he said: "He drives me to rehearsal, he supports us, and he appreciates my weirdness." On Father's Day, he not only helped the youth group at church sell coffee drinks to raise money for their summer mission trip, but this afternoon he also spent several hours cleaning up the dressing rooms after Kieran's ballet performances were over this weekend. He puts in hours and hours driving kids around and volunteering, including 3-4 hours each week at the boys' elementary school, all year long.

9. He's raising our sons to be kind, fun, expressive, and funny young men. They are happy and know they are loved. I couldn't ask for more than that.

10. He loves me--and he loves our family, both immediate and extended. I am grateful to share my life with someone who truly values family--both his original family and the one we have created together. No other words needed! Just a few more photos...
With little Kieran

Honolulu, Hawaii

Eating ice cream with Kieran at Holden Village (2005)

Welcoming Nicholas (2006)

With Chris (2006)

Nicholas' first Christmas (2006)

Napping buddies (2007)

With Kieran (2007)

At the beach (2008)

In Hawaii (2008)

Valentine's Day 2009

Niagara Falls, Ontario (2009)

Victoria, BC (2009)

Meeting me downtown for lunch (2010)

Indulging Kieran in his firepit stage! (2011)

Boys who read (2011)

At the beach (2011)

Birthday present? (2011)

Parent helping at preschool (2012)

Holden Village (2012)

At the beach (2012)

Always look for a partner who loves his/her mother! 

Farmers Market, 2012

Zoo earlier this year 

At Skyline Restaurant, 2013

Fathers' Day 2013
Happy Father's Day to an amazing, wonderful dad!

Check out the other lists (TV shows gone too soon) at The Good Life!