Tuesday, May 13, 2014

To Travel the rough road of life

I sit down to type this and it is Sarah's 38th Birthday. Sadly, as I type this, she is also in Calgary for a conference; so we had to make do with a tired and harried phone conversation after the kids' had finally gone to bed. That's not to say that we didn't get a chance to celebrate. In fact, between her Birthday, Mother's Day and my dad's Birthday, the first week or two of May always seems like a multi-party pile-up. Still, it is a little sad to think that, today, she is sitting alone in the Hoth-like Northern wastes of our great white neighbor to the North (Ok, maybe I exaggerate a little there).

Still, I suppose, this buys me some time to finally get caught up on the blog. So, let's see, what is happening these days...

The kids are hard at work, making wine for us.

Wine-making chugs along at it's usual pace. Actually, this year, because of the additional people involved, the actual process seems to be going quicker and smoother than in previous years. That's also saying a lot, since we've double our batch size (probably over 300 bottles!). At this point, the wine has been moved into the oak barrels, and it's largely a matter of climate control, which might prove to be an actual issue, since I suspect this will be a warm Summer.

In addition to that, our friends Ambika and Russ got married, and I was honored to be a groomsman in their wedding. I've been friends with Ambika for 15+ years now, and Russ is an amazing guy. I'm really happy they found each other.

(As a side note, since this blog is nominally about travel: Ambika lived in Prague for two year, roughly 10 years ago. My second time traveling abroad, I went and visited her there. Several months later, I met Sarah. Then, several months after that, Sarah went to Prague on a separate trip... and her and Ambika met each other there for the first time. I still would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that first meeting.)

Bachelor Party hijinks in Portland. A long, booze-filled day, and one I definitely won't forget... though my memory gets a bit blurry at times.

 
Me in an official photo of the wedding party, wearing my "I'm pretending I'm James Bond" suit.

Ambika and Russ' first dance. I am, of course, partial to mine and Sarah's wedding... but this was still a great one. It has been a long time since I danced that hard.

I do want to give a special thanks and shout out to Sarah during all the wedding craziness. While I was getting to run around and party it up in my Dashing Grey Suit, she was often left with the often thankless kid duty. It was definitely appreciated!

Between the Bachelor Party and the Wedding, thanks to my brother, Sarah and I were able to get away for a weekend on Lummi Island. While the term "foodie" is met with a good deal of contempt and scorn these days, Sarah and I embrace it in so much as we enjoy a good meal, well prepared and well served. And, we are lucky enough to have the Willow's Inn just a couple hours north of us. Perpetually picking up awards and accolades from noteworthy sources, such as Bon Appetit. It's a once in a life time experience, that we've now been fortunate to experience twice.

The previous time we visited Lummi Island, we were in and out in a day. This time we had two days to explore, so we got to do a little mild hiking. Including the trek to this stunning viewpoint in the Baker Preserve.

Sarah, as we sit down for dinner. I love this picture of her and... well... I just love her.

Sarah and I, on the beach, across from Willow's Inn. I just like the subtle way this mirrors our old profile picture on this blog, taken nearly 9 years ago.

The short hike at Baker Preserve on Lummi Island wasn't our only outing into nature so far this Spring. We also got the opportunity to take the kids to the Federation Forest State Park, in the Cascades. While the trails there barely count as a hike, it was a good chance to stretch our legs and gave Sarah and I hope for this coming camping and hiking season. With Otto now in Pre-School and largely potty trained, we feel like this year we will be more able to hike, explore, camp and get out of the house. Both kids seemed excited about the idea and are already whining "I want to go camping!!" whenever we mention the woods. Fingers crossed!!

Here the kids are, examining a rock with their magnifying glasses. Stella, in particular, is a budding scientist, with a love for all things in the natural world. Be it space, planets, dinosaurs, animals, the garden her and Sarah have started or an experiment in one of her various science kits, she definitely has a desire to explore our world.

(As a humorous side note: After returning from our hike, my mom told me that the Federation Forest State Park was the same place that, over 30-odd years ago, I received me first bee sting. I still remember looking down and watching the bee sting my finger... a memory that informs my near-phobia of bees to this day. I'm glad that my kids had a less traumatic experience.)

I know... I know... most people who still read this blog are reading it because they are wondering how Stella and Otto are doing. So, here's a little update on both of them. As hinted about above, Stella is in a great space. At five years old, she is nearing the finish line of pre-school and excited about being a Kindergartener next year. And, honestly, she's a lot of fun. Curious, intelligent, proud of her budding abilities in reading, mathematics and art; it's amazing how far she's come in such a short period of time. I mean, just look at her...

Sarah took Stella to make mosaics, as a sort of mother-daughter activity. Her finished piece now hangs proudly next to her bed.

And Otto? Well, let's just say two is a little rougher of an age. There's a lot of crying... and whining... and "fighting the power." And, barely a day goes by that he doesn't test Sarah or I in some new way. So, frankly, it can be exhausting. But, at the same time, it's amazing to watch him develop into his own, unique person. He's athletic and active in a way no one else under this roof is. Energetic and legitimately funny. (Seriously, he made a joke this evening that had Stella and I laughing out loud. And he's two.) He's also growing and developing in leaps and bound, with his language skills taking off, the previously mentioned successes in potty training and the fact that he is suddenly drawing actual figures in his art. Craziness. And, to be fair, in the last couple of weeks, Sarah and I have started to see what might be the light at the end of the tunnel, and he becomes less obsessed with arguing, and become more interested in being a constructive member of the family.

Recently, I got to chaperone Otto's class on a field trip to the Experience Music Project in Seattle. (He is hiding in the second row, just above the teacher with the pink scarf.) Largely a music and sci-fi museum, the Pre-School class went to see a Lego exhibit there.

I started this entry with Sarah's Birthday, so I think I'll end it with her too. I just wanted to take a quick moment to say how much I appreciate her. These last couple of years have been some crazy ones, and -frankly- it's easy to lose track of your own partner in the shuffle and madness. But, whether it be over a fancy 5-course dinner or just a cup of morning coffee while the kids scream around us, it is such a wonderful and lucky thing to have someone like her across the table from me... supporting me, our children and this life we've created together. I could write a whole separate post about her recent professional successes (though maybe that is a topic better left from a personal blog, or at least handled by her), but instead I'm going to end it with a quick quote. Though we are entering the later days of Spring and are rounding the corner to Summer proper, I am momentarily reminded of a line uttered by Old Mr. Fezziwig in my favorite version of the Christmas Carol:

"What a difference it makes, Ebenezer, to travel the rough road of life...... with the right female to help bear the burden."

I know it's awkward to cite a Christmas show here, and we can probably parse out the problematic gender issues inherent in that quote, but for this second let it just mean that I'm happy that we are standing together, taking in whatever life throws at us, good or bad. And, I'll stand by Fezziwig's parting lines in that same scene: "What a lucky man am I!!"

 My wonderful wife, and their wonderful mom.

You have my heart. Happy Birthday, honey!

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