Brothers, Christmas and a Dead Tree

Luke is 2 months shy of 3 years old.

The latest 'Conversation with Luke'
"Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?"

In other words, we talk to each other all day.
Whew, yes!  Explain everything.
 He wants to create conversation, he wants to continue all dialog.  Silence should never exist.  The question of 'Why?' has become a type of response to anything that we say.  So, we've been getting deep...our conversations take turns that they've never taken before.  Topics of existence, the size of the universe, what we are made of.  Our discussions never intentionally get that far, but when answering the question 'Why?' continuously, you are bound to reach the core of the subject; it is inevitable.

*Currently* Talking about anything related to Santa's sleigh and the reindeer; mainly, Rudolph.  Why is Rudolph's nose red anyway?
He loves creating puppets with his hands, wearing towels as capes (he has a Superman cape wrapped and under the tree!) He's a big Daddy's boy.  And he loves JOKES!  He is too funny.  His favorite joke:  Hey, whose nachos are these? ...  NOT YOS!!!

Sawyer is 10 months old.  He is crawling at lightning speed, and pulling up on anything and walking around...including walls.  I've seen him stand alone once.  He has 4 teeth,  loves Mama,  mesmerized by Adam playing guitar and looks at us like we're crazy most of time...especially when we are dragging a tree into our living room and decorating it.  He loves his big brother.
Christmas is so much more fun with wide eyed children...their wonderment is contagious.  Especially when you are rediscovering the holiday through a child's curiosity.  Such as, why are we getting a tree?  Thanks to google, many questions are answered for everyone.  Are you curious now too?  Find out:
The tree behind the brothers is our first tree this year.  At the beginning of December, we went to get a beautiful PNW Pine tree.  The fir trees they had were way too big.  So we got a nice 7 foot pine.  The smell, aaaah, the smell of a fresh tree in the house beats any oil, candle, scentsy, anyday!!
Well 2 weeks passes, and the tree drooped lower and lower and lower.  Needles were falling, the color was gone.  I didn't understand!  I watered every 3 days!  It was no use dwelling.  After reading about the extreme fire hazard a dead pine tree becomes, we made a decision.  We stripped it bare and tossed the thing in the backyard. For the first time in my life, I now have a $40 Plastic Fir.  Aren't fake trees just a little 'too perfect?'  My Mom once told me that she loves trees that are imperfect, flawed, not very full, not the prettiest tree they have.  Maybe her sentiment has passed down to me. 

Merry Christmas HOHOHO! 


Christmas in Okinawa, Throwback 2013

Last year around this time, I was pulled in too many directions and had to take a hiatus from blogging.  So here are some fun, twinkly photos of our Okinawa Christmas last year.  Luke's 1st Christmas too!!

I had a few people ask me what Christmas was like in Okinawa.  
I'll explain our experience through a series of Christmas throwbacks. 
It was interesting for a couple of reasons...First of all Japan is primarily Buddhist and a native religion called Shinto.  A small percentage of the population (around 1%) are Christians.
However, the culture of Japan and the culture of Okinawa are vastly different.  Okinawa is swarming with Americans.  Most businesses cater to Americans...therefore on the # 1 consumer driven holiday of our homeland, the smart thing for any Okinawan business to do is cover their entryways in garland, blind us with twinkly lights and advertise the gift giving season. Which was nice, honestly.  The best thing about Christmas is the 'spirit'...the shift in our emotion and thoughts; subconsciously taking on a more hopeful positive attitude.  The holiday season is so full of FUN.  The weather gets cooler, you think of scarves, hot chocolate, snow, family, food, love, laughter, friendships, giving, christmas trees, decorations, and for those of us with kids, Christmas takes on so much more joy than ever before. 
So when we were able to take our almost 2 year old on a walk through one of the coolest Christmas displays ever, in a foreign country, next to the ocean; it was a great memory. 

American Village, Okinawa, Japan December 2013

 All photography was with a NikonD7000.  Lovin this bokeh!
More of Christmas in Okinawa coming soon.


Custom Christmas Cards

Some good friends of ours asked if I could take photos of them for their Christmas card this year.  She had a good idea and needed a little help 'getting ready.'
I was all about it! 
So I helped their dog, Riot, string them up in lights and duct tape their mouths...bad dog, very bad dog.  HAHA, I think they came out great!!
Here is the photo they used:

The lights under his paw.  Hahaha, a nice touch!

Merry Christmas ya filthy animal!

The Gorge Ampitheatre, DMB 2014

The Gorge Ampitheatre.  In one word...amazing.  It's vastness.  It's natural beauty.  It literally echos
It's located in a very small town called George in central Washington...that's right.  It's in George, Washington.  Just east of the Cascades, in canyon country, someone had the idea to build an epic music venue, on the edge of a cliff overlooking the vast Columbia River Gorge.  Someone was brilliant.

Years ago, in my wild youth, I spent 3 days camping and dancing at the Sasquatch Music Festival.  Relive that glorious blog festival here:  SASQUATCH 2010 POST

So that was 4 years ago.  A literal lifetime ago.

Since then, I've gotten married, moved to Japan, adopted a dog, had 2 children, and come full circle...moving to Eastern Washington.  Only 2 hours to The Gorge.
I've been on the search for a good show to revisit this incredible venue.  Honestly, it wouldn't even matter who was playing.  The venue is an experience in itself.
An opportunity came.  My best friend Alicia was coming to visit;  And I needed to get her a birthday gift; And Dave Matthews Band happened to be playing their 3 day weekend at the Gorge. Admittedly, I have sort of lost touch with my jam band side...During my college days, DMB was a regular on my playlists, but has since faded into lost ipod shuffles.  The good thing about this band...they never get old, they are incredibly talented and they are legends.  I can play a song from years ago and still remember every word.  I vowed to see them in concert before they retired...they were a bucket list band.  I bought us tickets.
Sidenote from a Mama...
 It was an amazing getaway from home.  No matter what any mother says, we need breaks too; and while I am not constantly seeking them out, when they present themselves, I take advantage of my temporary freedom to the fullest extent.

Not only was I spending this time with my best friend, who I hadn't seen in 3 years, but we were going to one of the most epic venues in the world to see one of the most talented bands of our lifetime.  Excited was an understatement.

Our drive from Spokane took us across flat countryside, gaping gorges and dry plateaus.  We blasted new music to my ears and giggled with excitement, catching up on lost time and feeling young and free.
When we got there, we parked and pulled out our 40s.  HAHA, seriously that's exactly what we did.  The only difference from the last 40 I had?  This one was a carefully selected local brew, not my usual Coors Light from my college days.   It was warm with a cool breeze, not a cloud in the sky.  Everyone around us had the same idea.  We made friends with our neighboring tailgaters and by the time everyone started shuffling towards the front gate, we had all become best friends...(our 40s were empty.  We all had that in common.)

We danced and pranced across the green grass inside the Gorge (see photo, we had just crested the top of the hill to find this view!) and found an amazing spot to watch from the lawn. 
 It was nice and flat, perfect for dancing, which is exactly what we did for literally 6 hours straight.
The show was incredible.  For all of my fellow DMB fanatics, this was the setlist:

  1. Acoustic
  2. All Along the Watchtower
    (Bob Dylan cover) (Dave solo)
  3. Grace Is Gone
  4. Slip Slidin' Away
    (Paul Simon cover)
  5. Tripping Billies
  6. Loving Wings
  7. Rhyme & Reason
  8. Crash Into Me
  9. Typical Situation
  10. Electric
  11. The Best of What's Around
    (with The Lovely Ladies)
  12. When the World Ends
  13. Squirm
  14. Lover Lay Down
  15. Cornbread
    (with David Ryan Harris)
  16. Jimi Thing
    (with David Ryan Harris)
  17. Grey Street
  18. Steady as We Go
    (First time played since 8/6/06)
  19. Drunken Soldier
    (with The Lovely Ladies)
  20. Can't Stop
    (with The Lovely Ladies)
  21. You & Me
    (with The Lovely Ladies)
  22. Sledgehammer
    (Peter Gabriel cover) (with The Lovely Ladies)
  23. Encore:
  24. Some Devil
    (Dave Matthews song) (Dave solo)
  25. The Stone
  26. Shake Me Like a Monkey

(Cornbread!  My favorite song by Dave.  A little obsessed with it.)
Anyway, it was such an awesome experience.  Memories for a lifetime!  If you've never been to The Gorge Ampitheatre, I suggest you make plans immediately.  You will not regret it.
These photos were taken with my iPhone, not my Nikon...hence the lack in quality.

What is it about an encore that can bring you to tears?!  As we were walking out, he was playing his last song of the encore and it became quite a surreal moment.  It was dark, and I turned around and looked back at the illuminated stage, the sax blaring, glowsticks everywhere, people were dancing and cheering, the entire gorge was alive.   It was like a beating heart, pumping, loud, full.  I was smiling from ear to ear, dancing from my hair to my toes, and smiling from deep within.  This place is something special. 


Silver Mountain, Idaho

Gondola ride,  Mountaintop playground, 3 mile hike, sleepy babes, natural high

Silver Mountain, Idaho is a small ski mountain with a gorgeous resort at the base of 2 mountains that are covered in ski trails, mountain biking trails in the off season, and the resort even has an indoor waterpark!?  It's a year round adventure mecca.

(I'm posting this photo to entice all of my ski loving friends who may want to come and enjoy this snowy paradise and stay with us!!!)  73 trails, 1,600 acres of terrain, 2,200 vertical and more than 300 inches of snow annually...WOW!

We went to check it out in September, before the weather became too cold.  The mountain bikers were all over the mountain.  Adam and I were pretty envious...can't go mountain biking with a toddler on your shoulders...but I think they have child care at the resort for the day, so parents can go biking, skiing, hike around or just hang out at the resort for a few hours.  We will be back!!!

Anyway, we had a great time hiking around.  We decided to do a loop, but weren't aware of how long it was.  It turned out to be 3 miles long!  By the time we reached halfway, both boys were sleeping.  It turned into a fun nature hike with the kids, to a rigorous speed hike to the end.  Carrying a 30 lb toddler and 18 lb baby while on a mountain hike...I'll just say, it's a good workout.
But it was gorgeous!  And we enjoyed our time outside.
 Silver Mountain gondola ride



Delicate Morning

To follow such an intimate post on the birth of my son,  I decided to touch on something soothing, delicate and lovely.   I think it parallels the introduction of life to our new baby.

I found this excerpt in my 'writings and musings' folder.  It was written while I was in Argentina, a new wife but not yet a mother; it was a moment of gratefulness that I'm so glad I documented.
Those mornings changed my life.  Here is a photo of the sheep resting under a shady tree from the morning sun.  Another from a cold winter morning as they traveled down the hill to graze.
The early morning is my favorite time of day.  I stretch my legs, face the chill, and step out into a new day.  The gorgeous world that we live in, rely on; such a spiritual place for me.  I stand in the dew stained grass, take in deep breaths of the fresh mountain air, and look out over the sheep grazing as the sun comes up and over the mountains in the distance.  The light hits the snow on the mountains in the most delicate way.  As all mornings should be; delicate.  A calming tranquility lives and loves me in the early morning mountain air.
The early mornings are a time for peace, a time for prayer, a time for me and the mountains to exist together, without a noise, or a distraction, other than an occasional greeting from the sheep.  I love the early mornings because the earth has rested all night, as have I, without a soul to bother her, because up here she sleeps so soundly.  The world is completely dark and quiet as the sun goes down.  The stars are at their brightest, as if the world is dreaming so deep and the deeper the dream, the brighter the stars twinkle.  What a polite sun, to slowly let the world below adapt to her rays.  I face the bright light and close my eyes in the most thankful moments of existence.  Thankful for so many things, too many to name.  I love the early mornings, I am the first one awake. I love the early mornings because I am greeted with such a calming and delicate air, that to begin my day this way, I am thankful until the sun goes down when I dream of the next delicate morning.


Natural Labor and Delivery in Okinawa

Sawyer's birth story

Warning...I go into detail, so if you don't want to hear it all, don't read it!

Let's go back in time to about 8 months ago...

At nearly 41 weeks pregnant, I was enormous...we were waiting patiently for me to go into labor and it felt like it would never happen.
I decided that I did not want to be induced like I was with Luke (our firstborn)  See his birth story here:
Luke's birth story

So we were anxious for it to begin naturally, because if you get to 42 weeks, there are certain risks and intervention is necessary.  The above photo is 2 days before the birth!!  Of course, the safety of our baby was first priority, but I really wanted nature to take it's course.  I wanted a completely natural pregnancy, no medication and little intervention.  We were living in Okinawa, Japan and home birth was not an feasible option and with our insurance it made more sense to have the baby at the Okinawa Naval Hospital.  It was a newly built hospital and I felt comfortable giving birth there, as long as they respected my wishes...which they did!  

At 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant, huge, uncomfortable and so so so anxious, I started feeling mild contractions.  Up until this point, I thought every little feeling meant labor.  I had 3 counts of ‘false labor’ a few days earlier, when legitimate contractions were coming in increments for an hour or so, then they would stop.  So, I was very keen on what to look for and very in tune with my body.

Early, early, in the wee hours of the morning of February 4th (my father’s 60th birthday!), around 2:30am, I woke up to mild cramping and belly tightening.  I thought this could be another false alarm, but I wasn’t really able to go back to sleep.  So I got up and had a bowl of cereal and tried timing them.  They were erratic at first, but soon started coming around 8 to 10 minutes apart.  By 5am, they still hadn’t stopped, so I woke Adam up with excitement that this could be it!!

All morning I continued to feel them.  My 2 year old got up, and we played and had breakfast, the contractions were still fairly mild at this point, but still coming!  When people say that you'll 'just know' when it's real labor...they were right.  Around 11am, we put our son down for a nap, and were sitting on the couch talking and timing contractions.  They were about 7-8 minutes apart, very regular and getting more uncomfortable.  Then I felt a literal ‘POP’ come from down there.  This was around 11:30am.  It felt like the baby kicked something and made it burst.  I stood up and there was a trickle of water…not a ton of water, but a definite trickle.  It was happening!  My body was doing what it was meant to do...so empowering, as a woman, to realize what your body is capable of!

We called our sitter and started getting things ready to go!  As we waited for her and prepared, my contractions became much more intense.  I had to stop what I was doing and let each contraction pass…but I was still able to talk through them.  

As soon as we got in the car, they became very painful.  They were about 5 minutes apart, and much stronger than before.  I was gripping the seatbelt as we drove and couldn’t talk through them.  They were coming in very clear waves.  I knew when they were peaking in intensity and also when they were almost finished.  Luckily though, I had good calm breaks in between and was coherent enough to remember the drive and think clearly.

We got to the hospital and as we were walking inside from the parking lot, we had to stop 3 times for contractions.  I just needed to stop and hold onto something.  I’m sure we were getting lots of looks!  We got up to L&D and were admitted into triage to be checked.  She swabbed for amniotic fluid, which was obviously positive.  I was also 5 cm and nearly 90% effaced.  Sawyer was doing fine and   under no stress.  They admitted us into our own room at that point, which was around 12:30pm.  Contractions were steadily getting stronger and closer together.

Our nurse came in and it was my friend, Lily’s Mom from Lukes swim lessons that he took over the summer.  It was refreshing to see a familiar face.  She was so nice and helpful…I, however, was starting to have a hard time conversing and concentrating.  The contractions were every 3 minutes and were seriously no joke!  Full mind, body and soul were going into every one; all the muscles in my body would tighten; my huge belly would become hard as a rock; there was so much pressure down below…The contractions were already much stronger than anything I experienced with Luke.  I assumed that it would be another 5 hours of this…I mean, I still had 5 cm to go right?  The nurse instructed me to call them when I felt the strong urge to push even when I wasn’t having a contraction.  Then they sort of left me to my labor.  About an hour passed and they were intermittently checking my blood pressure.  It felt like ages!  I wanted a natural birth, but was beginning to doubt if I could go another 4 or 5 hours of the contractions that I was feeling.

I didn’t feel like I was having a break at all.  They were so intense, and only around a minute or 2 apart.  I had such a tight grip on the side railing of the hospital bed, that my knuckles were turning white.  Adam was there constantly telling me to breath and relax when I had a break, which was a good reminder.  I remember feeling so so hot and my entire body was sweating.  He wrapped a few ice cubes in a towel and tried to cool me down.  He was so encouraging, telling me how great I was doing, reminding me that it would all be over soon and it wouldn’t be long before we had our baby boy in our arms.

Suddenly, there was a huge gush, really huge.  I remember telling Adam to call the nurse ASAP…he looked under the sheet and saw lots of water, mucus, and blood.  This was my official water breaking and from that point on, there were no more breaks.  My body was pushing the baby out, and even though I was mentally trying to stop it, my body would contract and with that came my muscles pushing out his head.  The nurse came in and within minutes there were about 10 people in the room busying themselves and preparing for a baby.  The nurse checked me and Adam said, with wide eyes that she whispered to the nurse next to her that I was fully dilated and baby’s head was at +3 station.
The nurses were telling me not to push, hold it in, breath and blow air out like I was blowing out a candle…don’t push, don’t push.
This was the hardest part of the labor, it was one unending, extremely painful contraction, and my body was expelling a baby whether we were ready or not.  I was yelling back at the nurses that I was pushing, I couldn’t help it, my body was pushing!!!  I wasn't in control!   It was the craziest most intense feeling.  Adam said he looked down the hallway and saw the midwife literally sprinting to our room.  As soon as she got there and it was time to push, his head was crowning.  It felt like time stopped, everyone was ready. 
I pushed once and everyone was yelling that they could see his head, one more push. 
On the second push, at 2:48pm, he was out…the feeling of him, along with all the fluid, finally flooding out of me, was probably the best feeling I’ve ever felt…I literally let out a huge yell of relief, exhaustion, happiness, not to mention the emotion and love…looking up into my husbands eyes and seeing his amazement.  It was all so surreal, beautiful and perfect.  That feeling...wow.  Everyone in the room smiling, cheering, so proud of me.  Seeing my husband beaming with pride.  It's overwhelming.  

They immediately put Sawyer on my chest.  He was perfect.  7lbs 14 oz, 20 inches long, blonde hair, dark blue eyes.  We delayed the cord clamping until it was finished pumping.
He latched and nursed right off the bat.  We had a long time for skin to skin.  His wide eyes stared up at us as we spoke to him.  We were instantly so in love.   He nursed for 30 minutes!  What a good boy!  
I can honestly say, that it could not have gone any more perfectly.  I feel very blessed that I was able to have this experience, because I know the other side of this.  With my firstborn, it was the doctors dictating everything...but this time it was my body leading us, and it is so empowering!  I felt like a warrior woman, creating a perfect human over 10 months, and giving birth to him, on my own, with no help.  My body did exactly what it was supposed to do.  It wasn't easy, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

I must say, after this experience, I am not claiming to be a huge advocate of natural birth.  It was right for me, and if you have a high tolerance for pain, it is right for you too.  But for many Mama's out there, epidurals are wonderful and a much needed remedy to give you the wonderful gift of having a pleasant birthing experience.  I think that having the memory of your child's birth as pain and difficulty is not healthy.  It's important to have a positive experience.  
It's miraculous and as long as it results in a healthy baby your experience will be perfect!!
Here are a few photos of our sweet Sawyer after birth.  

 For any mama's out there who are interested in a natural birthing experience at the Okinawa Naval Hospital,  but don't know what to expect, let me help ease your fears.  They were wonderful in respecting my decision!  They encouraged me and were kind, calm and helpful.  It could not have been better for me.  One thing I learned the second time around is that you must vocalize what you want and stand by your decision.  Do your research and know what is best for you and your body.
They were so respectful of my wishes to have a natural birth, delayed cord clamping (Cord Clamping info) , skin on skin immediately after birth, breastfeeding right away, delaying a baby bath (Delay baby bath) and on and on. They were awesome.  Also, with this being my second birth, and the baby was healthy and passed all of the tests, we were able to leave the hospital after 24 hours.
Here we are leaving with our sweet baby.  I love looking back at this video.  So precious!

RVirgin trip to Leavenworth, WA!

30.  My new age.  Yes, I am 3 decades old.  and I LOVE IT!!
Totally embracing this new number and excited to see what the next 10 years will hold.
Of course, this was a big birthday, and I wasn't sure what my husband was planning.  If you know me, you know that I'm not too keen on big surprises.  When I watch a suspenseful movie, you can bet I've already seen the plot.  No surprises.  When I read a book, I usually scan through the end before I start reading it.  No surprises.  I've been known to explore our bank account history before Christmas.  No surprises.  Of course, the usual gifts and things are fun and exciting.  I surprise myself sometimes with how excited I become when I am caught off guard.
So to the point...
Adam told me he had to take a buddy to pick up his car downtown.  A 30 minute trip, or less.  So after an hour went by, I wondered where he was!
Finally, I hear a strange rumble out in the driveway...
He rented us an RV for an extended weekend trip to anywhere I wanted!!!

This is our first time RVing, RVirgins...but it's a much more feasible venture than taking our baby and toddler on a backpacking trip (our first choice sans kids)...so, I did some research and the closest place, in the mountains, in fall...Leavenworth, GA.  This is a quaint little Bavarian village ...touristy, but charming, that sits in the heart of the Cascade mountain range of Washington.  It just so happened to be Oktoberfest that weekend, so I expected booked RV parks and sloshed crowds double fisting their beer garden mugs.  We went anyway, and were pleasantly surprised!!!

 First of all, the leaves were changing colors, and there was a recent cancellation at one of the local RV parks so we pulled in to find that it was located on a gorgeous river, winding its way through the mountains.

We literally backed the RV in and could see the flowing water through the back window. There was also a mountain range across the river.  My husband is a bit of an extreme athlete.  He climbs mountains, and he loves trail running.  So when we arrived at the RV park, he was oogling the mountain.  I urged him to go trail running and he was determined to make it to the top.  So the next morning, he was gone for a few hours and he called me from the top.  Luke and I ran down to the river to see if we could find him...but he was WAY too small and far away to be seen.  If you check out this picture, he was at the very highest peak.
He ended up bushwacking his way back down and his legs were so scratched and bruised!!  But what an exciting accomplishment!  The thrill of spontaneous adventures was definitely our trip's theme.  

 I am so in love with this photo of Luke.  It looks like he is watching the river flow and pondering life's deepest meaning.  In reality, I told him there might be a bear in the woods.  For the rest of the trip, he was searching for the friendly bear.  (mean Mommy)
Another cool experience!  A random tropical bird flew out of the woods and landed right on my arm!
 Just kidding.  But it was very random.  A woman staying at the RV park had a pet bird.  A beautiful, colorful and completely domesticated
 It was around 7 am and we walked down to the misty river to do a little stretching.  (yoga is our morning routine usually).  There was a woman with this bird on her shoulder!  She saw us walking down and asked if Luke would like to hold the bird.  He held it for about a minute and then basically said in his sweet little voice...Get this thing off of me.
So I held it, and to make it even better, the sweet bird owner offered to take my camera and get some photos of us with her bird.  How awesome is that?!?!

I'm so glad that we decided to take our trip to Leavenworth.  Adam knows me so well...For months I have been saying how badly I want to go to the mountains, be in the woods, go hiking, go to the river...Being close to nature brings you closer to each other, allows you to listen to your heart and enjoy and cherish the little things.  It just makes us happy!!  No matter how much stress we have in our lives, when we can get outside, even for 30 minutes, it's so refreshing.

I forgot to mention that this BEAR wandered up to the RV!!
 We took a drive through Icicle Rd.
This was our route.  I researched a little bit and found an amazing hike...

Adam and I are going to come back and do this weekend loop, backpacking with our tent in the backcountry without the kids!  Maybe for our next anniversary.  It just looks too beautiful to pass up.  The drive was breathtaking, so I can't even imagine how amazing this hike would be!!
 We got back to the RV and had our own personal concert of Adam originals.  He's so dreamy!
And this picture pretty much sums up how amazing it all was.  We were so high on life and loving on each other.  We decided that we aren't exactly 'RV folk'  ...but the boys will get older and easier to take on camping trips.  This was great for us with them being so little.
Leavenworth is so beautiful!  We made more great memories...