Thursday, November 28, 2013

Three Little Thankfuls

Many years ago I took part in a blogging community writing group. One of my favorite writing assignments in that group was to write about three little thankfuls. Not the obvious and big things we should be grateful for (like family, friends, church, etc), but rather the small things that we maybe take a little for granted, or the things that really make us happy but we don't acknowledge very often. I loved that writing assignment and have taken some time every year to identify at least three more little thankfuls to write about. I've been doing this since well before it became popular in social media to do a month of gratitude, and I'll keep doing it because I love the tradition!

1 - I'm thankful that at just about any time of day or night, I can do a little channel surfing and find an episode of the t.v. show "Friends" playing. This show has the power to snap me out of bad moods, serve as a distraction when I'm stressed, make me laugh my loud and ugly laugh and even keep me awake and alert on long road trips. It makes me smile. I have all the seasons on DVD but it's more fun just to plop down on the couch, surf channels a bit to figure out which channel is playing back-to-back episode marathons of it at that moment and enjoy the episode luck of the draw. The other day I got to see Monica with beaded cornrows. A few nights ago I got to see Joey and Chandler emulating Richard before accidentally referring to him as "so much cooler than our dads!" Today I got to hear Phoebe sing "Lather, rinse, repeat... as needed". I love Friends. And I'm thankful that I can find an episode of it playing just about any time of day or night. (And I'm thankful that if it happens to not be on at the moment for some crazy reason, shows like The Big Bang Theory, Parks & Recreation and The Middle are now in syndication and on constant repeat!!)

Friends Thanksgiving episodes are some of the best :)

2 - I'm thankful that we live close enough to family now that we could make the trip to Utah fairly easily to spend the holidays with them. I'm also thankful that after spending a big chunk of time with Utah family this past summer we felt no obligation to take advantage of our proximity. We decided to stay home and enjoy a Thanksgiving here in Portland. I'm especially thankful for the luxury of being able to eat whenever we darn well please and not having to stick to any particular schedule. So far all I've bothered preparing is the cranberry sauce. And that feels lovely. Plenty of other traditional foods to prepare later, but for now, I'm enjoying the zero-pressure experience of just being home for the holiday as our own little family. Related little thankful: our new house came complete with a convection oven!

Cranberries done. Turkey smoking. The rest of the dishes will get prepared
when I'm good and ready :)

3 - I'm thankful for yard sales and Craigslist. They helped us furnish our home in just a few weekends, after leaving all of our furniture behind in Louisiana. And I'm really thankful for generous people who give perfectly good things away or sell them for dirt cheap so that when we furnished our home we didn't have to break the bank.

My favorite Craigslist find. An extremely plush, comfortable reclining couch.
Purchase price? $Free-ninety-nine. The newspaper on the couch cost more
than the couch itself. :D

So there are three little thankfuls that are at the top of my list this year. How about you? What are a few of the little, less obvious things that you're thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

17 Years and Counting

The day we met. Pretty cool to have pics together the very day we met :)
August 2, 1996
Engaged September 21st. Originally planned to get married on Valentine's Day
the following year. That plan lasted a few days before we realized we didn't want
to wait any longer than it would take to pull a wedding together, so we bumped up
our wedding date to November 27th.

We should have used this as our engagement picture. It shows our personalities
and our relationship the best.

I really wanted to use this for our announcement because it was just as playful
and young and in love as we felt at the time. (The "grown ups" convinced us to
use something more traditional...)

The big day. 

One of my favorite pictures from our wedding day. Until someone pointed out that
at quick glance it looks like I'm getting a handful of my new hubby's.. ahem... Makes it
one of my favorite pictures  of the day for a whole different reason :)
Pretty big day for our family when Willy graduated with
one of his two Associates Degrees. 
Ben - October 9, 1997. Less than a year after we were married. (And 9 months
after my birthday. We call Ben our "belated birthday gift. *big grin*)
Brady - October 5, 2001 (Hey look! A pattern of belated birthday gifts!)
Toby - June 20, 2005
Last but not least, Molly April 7, 2008
And then a few years of true adventure, Hawaiian style. Some of our favorite pictures as a couple come from these years.

Haleakala Sunrise, Maui 2010
Our 15th anniversary was spent in Kauai. Not sure we'll ever be able to quite
match that anniversary trip! 2011
One of our favorite activities while living in the islands. I'm pretty sure one of the most
romantic gestures that made me feel 100% protected was when Willy would take my hand
when we were in the water and he'd pull me along so I could rest and relax.

Halemaumau Crater, 2012

Heading to Kalaupapa, Moloka'i. 2012

Fulfilling one of my personal dreams with Willy supporting me all the way.
Visiting Kalaupapa, Moloka'i. 2012

Ka'ena Point, O'ahu. 2012
The adventure continues as we trot around the country together.
Happy as could be in our new corner of the world.

We do a lot of this. Willy makes me laugh literally every single day. He's my best friend.
I'm an incredibly blessed woman having him as my partner and forever companion.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wearing a new hat...

I'm not busy enough in life, y'know? I just sit around with nothing to do all day (ha!) so I should go ahead and get myself a new gig to keep me busy. Hehehe. In all honesty it was an opportunity that gives me a chance to do two things I love - 1) spend quality fun time with the kiddos and 2) write.

I recently applied for and was chosen to be a PDX Kids Calendar Reviewer! PDX Kids Calendar is an amazing resource for parents and families in the Portland area and partners with the print magazine Metro Parent. It includes an online list of daily events going on around Portland with all the details you need to enjoy the event. Today, for example? TWENTY-THREE calendar items listed ranging from children's theater to playgroups to library story times to discounted art classes. It's really quite awesome and I'm thrilled to have the chance to work with them. I get to occasionally go to events on their calendar and write a review to be featured on the site. Fun times!

Last weekend I had my first assignment! I got to take Toby and Molly to see the children's puppet theater production of The Reluctant Dragon on opening night. It was a fun "date night" and we had a great time! My first review was posted Sunday and I thought I'd link to it here so I don't lose track of it. Can't wait for our next opportunity!!

HERE is the review.

And here are a few more pics from the night. It's apparently impossible to get one decent picture of a 5 year old and an 8 year old together actually cooperating, smiling, looking at the camera with eyes open. Toby is following the example of his older brothers and dad and pretty much flatly refuses to just smile... he must mug for every photo taken. I tried.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Last First...

As the baby of our family, everything that Molly does for the first time marks a "last first time" for our little Campbell family. Tonight was a big milestone for her, and a last first moment for Daddy and I. These moments are always bittersweet and become strong memories for all of us. Molly was determined to have this personal first be recorded, and I was happy to oblige so that our last first  would be documented as well.

Molly lost her first tooth!!

During the summer of 2012, when she was just 4, she had an accident and got knocked hard on one of her upper front and center teeth. It was slightly wiggly as a result and we thought she'd lose her first tooth quite young as a result. Uncle Dentist said her tooth would likely either fall out or become discolored and just stay put for a while. It did the latter. Molly would periodically insist that her little gray tooth was wiggly and ready to come out, but she didn't realize what a wiggly tooth really felt like until about a week ago when one of her bottom center teeth suddenly became very ready to come out.

She's been playing with that wiggly tooth for a good week now and eventually she could wiggle it with her tongue and her other teeth. She's been obsessed with it... mostly because she's REALLY excited to have the Tooth Fairy come!! (A fairy!!! In our house!!!) Tonight the tooth was obviously just hanging on by a thread and so we coached and encouraged her.

"Pinch! Twist! Pull!"

And she tried. But she just couldn't quite make it happen.

She suggested that she could just punch it out. Or better yet! Daddy could punch it out. I warned her that Daddy punching her teeth may cause more than just her one wiggly tooth to come out. That didn't discourage her, as I'd suspected. It thrilled her! "More money!!!!!!!!!"

Then I mentioned that the camera battery was dying and if she wanted to get the milestone recorded she needed to do it quick! She tried one more time and then gave me the green light to give it a try.

Unlike my own daddy trying to pull our teeth when we were kids, I was brave enough to hold onto that tooth and ... pinch, twist, pull!

Out it popped! Molly was delighted. And then a little shocked. And then a little emotional. But then finally excited! The blood in her mouth freaked her out a little but after a swish and spit in the bathroom sink she squealed her way over to show Daddy what had just happened! Happy happy girl expecting a visit tonight. From a fairy!!! In our house!!! *squeeeeeeal*

Just kinda hanging out in there. Ready to be pulled!

So focused! But couldn't quite keep her grip on that tooth.

Showing me how it can lay totally flat when wiggled forward.

Success!! Tooth in hand and hole in her grin :)

Less freaked by it and more excited. Yay for a Molly milestone!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween History - Campbell Family Style!

A few weeks ago the awesome team at Comic Con Family asked if I would be willing to do a bit of Q&A regarding our family Halloween costume tradition for them to feature on their site. And of course I was more than happy to jump at that chance :) It's a super fun site and I love sharing our tradition, so it felt like a perfect match. Brandie posted some of our pictures and a bit of our story last week. You should check it out HERE. My kids totally feel like celebrities hehehe.

I thought maybe I'd go ahead and share the questions I was asked and the questions I gave. Our tradition of dressing up in coordinated costumes has been such a fun thing for our family! I love sharing the details when people are interested!

Why did you start dressing up as a family? What was the first year you did and what were the ages of the kids then?
We dabbled in coordinated costumes starting in 2001 when our two sons were dressed as a vampire and a bat. It just seemed like a fun idea at the time and the kids enjoyed it. The first few years that we tried to coordinate we focused only on the kids and we had a few years mixed in where everyone just chose their own costumes. We all love dressing up though, and in 2008, with our family complete, we got serious about our family costumes! That year we had an 11 year old son, a 7 year old son, a 3 year old son and a 6 month old baby daughter. We had recently moved to a new area and decided we were going to start a family tradition at that point and do coordinating costumes. We had no idea how well-received it would be and once we got that first positive reaction we were hooked on the fun and challenge of coming up with new family costume ideas each year after that.
Here are some of our earliest coordinated costumes!
2002 - Vampire and Baby Bat
2004 - Spiderman and Doc Oc
2005 - We affectionately refer to this as "The Year of Three Vaders"
2006 - Two of the boys wanted to be ninjas
When do you start planning, brainstorming, and making your costumes? (how far in advance, etc). Do you do all the work or does anyone else in the family help?
Honestly, we're almost ALWAYS talking about our upcoming Halloween costumes! Any time someone has a brainstorm idea it gets floated to the rest of the family, whether it's January or July. We're even known to scout Halloween parties and check out other costume ideas we see and talk about our next year's plan before we've even finished celebrating the current year. We try to really nail down our costume plan by the end of September so we can start gathering costume accessories and creating what we make from scratch. I do the majority of the work, but everyone pitches in to some degree. Without fail, I'm still scrambling with last minute touches (or sometimes even big projects!) for the costumes on Halloween day. One year I remember putting the final touches on my own costume in the car on the way to the Halloween party.
Which of your costumes was the easiest? Which was the hardest? Which one was the least expensive? Most expensive?
The easiest and least expensive was definitely 2012, when we printed and cut out paper "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" masks, wore white shirts and denim on the bottom. We actually had an entirely different costume planned and prepared for, but at the last minute we realized none of us were terribly sold on the original idea and we scrapped it ON HALLOWEEN DAY! We found a few printable masks online, and I designed masks for the characters that we couldn't find already created, we printed, cut out and taped our masks to handles (made with Lego bricks!) and voila! Halloween costumes that were a HUGE hit, practically free and super easy to make.

2012 - Last minute costume change resulted in our easiest family costume yet! Diary of a Wimpy Kid
The hardest was definitely the Wizard of Oz year because I naively undertook the job of sewing my daughter's Dorothy costume and altering my Glinda dress on my own. I am NOT a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination, so that was a humongous project that caused me a lot of grief, but yielded plenty of ooohs and aaaahs so it was worth it.
2008 - The first year we coordinated as an entire family - Wizard of Oz
The most expensive was definitely the Peter Pan year. We had very little in our closets that naturally lent itself to the costumes we needed and the characters are so iconic that we had to do it right. So we did a LOT of thrift shop scouring for about 6 weeks prior to the holiday and gathered pieces from probably 8 or 9 various Goodwill and Salvation Army stores before we finally had everything we needed. Everything except an appropriate Wendy dress, that is, so I had to make myself a costume that year, as well, and the fabric I chose was pricier than I should have chosen. But again, the response to our family themed costumes was totally worth the work and cost involved.
2011 - Iconic well-known and well-loved looks made this particular family costume tricky to find and pricey to put together, but totally worth it in the end! Peter Pan
Is anyone in the family ever reluctant to participate?
Our oldest son is 16 now and has been the most reluctant, but that's partly just his personality. We always try to choose fun themes that give the kids plenty of costume options so they're not stuck with something lame just to fit the theme. I was actually really worried the year we did Peter Pan because I thought my sons dressing as John and Michael would think they had uncool costumes but they both LOVED their costumes and characters that year, much to my surprise. (I was prepared to offer them the chance to be Lost Boys if they refused John and Michael.) We have also started letting the kids fashion their own costumes for at school or at friend parties if they prefer, as long as they'll just cooperate with our family themed costume for whatever family events we attend.
Which costume is your personal favorite? Which costumes received the biggest reaction from people?
Each time we coordinate as an entire family we get such fun and positive reaction that it's actually hard to pick just one personal favorite. I absolutely LOVE the reactions we get from people as they realize what they're seeing and they put our whole family together. Wizard of Oz was particularly funny when people would recognize my 6'4" husband as the most gigantic munchkin ever to walk the planet. And my then 12 year old, 5'5" son as a "Little Green Army Man" for our Toy Story theme year got great laughs every time someone figured out his character, as well. My then 10 year old son who wanted us to shave his head completely bald to be Uncle Fester the year we dressed as the Addams Family got some amazing reaction too, as you can imagine.
2010 - Toy Story
2011 - Creepy and kooky! The Addams Family
What do you and your family usually do on Halloween? (trick or treating? family party? fun dinner? and feel free to share does your church do the truck or treating? etc)
We typically attend a church trunk-or-treat and Halloween party as a family. And of course we go trick-or-treating in our own neighborhood, as well. We LOVE Halloween! And dressing together as an entire family has helped us enjoy the holiday even more!
2013 - We've already attended our church's Trunk or Treat party! It was a happy, happy, happy time as
the Robertsons from Duck Dynasty (plus our little duck!)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Molly Art

Molly loves to draw. I get a handful of drawings from her every day. Much like Monet and his water lilies, Molly follows a consistent theme in much of her art work: Mommy & Me.

This is what almost every single picture I get from Molly looks like:

There is always a lovely shining sun. And there is always a crystal clear blue sky. Her artwork always has a rose (or several roses). Recently she has been including sunflowers. Mommy is always in purple (because she knows it's my favorite color). Molly is always in pink. We sport lovely earrings, matching hair styles and smiles for miles.

I get variations of this work in different artistic mediums. Molly's favorites are marker, dot pen and crayon. She's even drawn digitally. She's dabbled in colored pencil but it's not her preference. She'll draw on any scrap of paper she can find, but typically she pulls clean white copy paper from the tray by the printer. Her new method of jazzing up her art is folding into a usable fan. Art with function! Love it.

Today I got an entirely new piece of art from Molly. It shared a few similarities to her traditional work. Sunshine, Mommy in purple, Molly in pink, matching earrings and hairstyles. But a whole new setting. I've never loved her art work more!

I'm not sure what I love best. The happy fish, my bikini worthy body, or our impressive flotation devices? But this is definitely my new favorite Molly work of art!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Happy Happy Happy Halloween 2013

It's that time of year again! And I'm going to be honest here... I must have giggled in pure delight about fifty times tonight when I looked at each of my family members and saw how perfectly they each embodied their Halloween characters this year.

We had bounced around a LOT of possible costume ideas, as we always do, but in the end we decided to bring a little Louisiana with us to Oregon as a way of paying a bit of tribute to our quick adventure in the south during the last year. And our Duck Dynasty costumes made me happy, happy, happy!!

Ben as Jase, Willy as Willie (har har), Angie as Ms. Kay, Toby as Si,
Molly as a duck (she flatly refused to wear a beard) and Brady as Jep.
FYI - Molly is trying to look scared. She is the duck we "Robertsons" made
the duck calls for in the first place after all... )
When we walked into our Trunk or Treat Halloween party at church tonight it was very obvious which folks knew the show Duck Dynasty and which folks were left scratching their heads. Those who knew the show called us by our character names and got a serious kick out of our little duck. Some of those who were in the dark told us they'd thought that the guys were dressed as terrorists... D'oh.

When we we were getting ready for the party and finally got the last beard on the last face, I busted out laughing. They were perfect!! Such simple costumes to pull together, but each character on Duck Dynasty has his or her own distinct look and it was so fun putting those looks together. Jase's beanie + beard and shades, Jep's bandana + smooth long hair, Willy's totally unruly mane of hair + patriotic bandana, and Ms Kay's apron (that I hand stitched hehehe). Molly loved the attention she got in her duck costume and proudly announced to everyone she caught looking at us "We're from Duck Dynasty! And I'm the duck!" And every time I looked at Toby with his wire rim glasses and ball cap, bushy gray beard and scraggly ponytail (which you can't see in the pictures... booo!) carrying his jug and cup of "sweet tea" I got the giggles in a BIG way. The grouping of costumes worked out just perfectly. Another successful year of family FUN in the (trick-or-treat) bag!!

Happy, happy, happy Halloween from the Campbells (aka the Robertsons)!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What a wonderful, whirlwind weekend!

Whirlwind weekends are best showcased in pictures, right? Here come a LOT of them!!! Our busy-ness actually started a little over a week ago and I'll include those pics, as well!

Brady turned 12 last week!!! It blows my mind that my second born is already 12! The timing of his birthday didn't allow for a big party, but he had a new friend stay the night and they had a great time being boys and playing video games and eating treats. He got a few Halo MegaBlocks sets he'd been hoping for and was happy as could be.

And Ben turned 16 this week! Talk about making me feel old. My man-child is officially old enough to drive... and date... and ACK!!!! I'M OLD!!!!!!!!! His birthday was during the school week so no party or anything, but I did take him some Panda Express for lunch at school, and then he picked sushi dinner with just Willy and I as his birthday meal. When we came home we opened gifts and he was surprised to receive an electric guitar for his birthday. He's been learning guitar at school and loving it, and had mentioned several times how much he'd love an electric. Thank goodness for Craigslist and decent-condition used items!!

Thursday night has become football night in our family! Ben is playing on the JV football team at his high school. With no real football experience behind him and with us arriving too late for Ben to participate in spring camp or summer practice, we wondered if they'd even let him join the team. He had to pay his dues and get 9 practices under his belt before they'd let him play in a game so he missed the first two games of the season but has been playing since. Every week he gets a little more play time, and this week was his best week yet! Perfect timing, too, because Nana and Papa were coming to town and came a couple days early just to see him play! In the last few games Ben has gotten to play mostly just in the 4th quarter when his team is decimating the opponent. This week though? He was playing in the 2nd quarter and got to play both offense and defense! He's getting more confident, getting really strong and he's getting playtime because of it! It's been great fun to watch him grow. His team annihilated the opponents this week, 42-7.

We LOVE this picture that Papa snapped! Look at Ben (#83) charging through the line toward the quarterback!

Big win!
Our footballer! #83
Friday, Molly woke up with an announcement of the puking variety... Yay. Sick girl. Definitely changed our plans for the day. We ended up spending most of the day hanging out at home. Fortunately, Nana had brought plenty of activities for the kids as she always does, so they had plenty of fun! They made eyeball drinking glasses, tie-died Halloween t-shirts and ate lots (and lots!) of sweet treats. In the afternoon the grown-ups snuck away and caught a screening of Gravity on IMAX in 3D. It was so intense!! I'm not usually a fan of the 3D thing, but for this one it really worked. Such a well-done movie!

Saturday morning we crossed our fingers for decent weather and headed to the Oregon Coast. When we got to Cannon Beach it was overcast (typical) and drizzled a bit. But after a little while the clouds cleared and we had gorgeous blue sky, fluffy white clouds and sunshine! Still on the chilly side, but we were able to get our feet in the Pacific again and that felt wonderful. We explored the tide pools around Haystack Rock, dug in the sand, flew kites and jumped "rope" with a giant seaweed tentacle and just had a gorgeous, happy family day! We've been wanting to get out to the coast as a family but hadn't made it out there yet. Having Nana and Papa here gave us just the right excuse to take the day trip and show the kids the beauty of the Oregon Coast. It was a PERFECT day for it!! And thankfully Papa and Nana took plenty of pictures for us. We downsized to just one camera recently and this was the first time I really REALLY ached to have a camera at my disposal the whole day. I tend to take people pictures while Willy takes shots of the landscape and environment. Having only the one camera meant one of us was missing something at any given time, and that was hard! I think we may need to reconsider this whole one-camera gig. In any case, thank goodness for some candid shots that Nana and Papa took and shared with us!! Here are some fun pics from our fun excursion!

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach
Nana and Papa and the kiddos
Spotting starfish hanging out on the rocks.

Giant colorful starfish. So cool!

Tide pool exploring.

Wandering around the tide pools

Ben was unafraid to get a little wet.


Brady Boy

Toby-wan Kenobi (Or Toby for short... as written in the sand :) )

It's all about writing her name these days. Happy Kindergartner.

Let's go fly a kite

Nana found a giant seaweed tentacle and we had great fun jumping "rope" with it!

Girl's got hops!
Even Willy got in on the jumping action.

Molly's first time flying a kite :)

Even I flew the fancy kite for a while. Two handles is fun, but tricky!

Toby needed a little help from Daddy.


Willy's work... gorgeous Oregon Coast.

More of Willy's photography
Nana and Papa headed back to Portland and we headed farther up the coast to Fort Stevens to see the wreckage of the Peter Iredale at sunset. Willy took some beautiful shots! Here are a few of my favorites.

Little more family fun time. Ben Ben and I :)

The sand at this beach was almost black and the kids managed to make complete messes of themselves :)

Molly even had sand in her ears... LOL

Ninja Brady 

Girl taking flight

Toby's sweet form

Ben didn't want to get dirty but couldn't resist the call of the sand hill

After a good night's sleep, we excitedly woke up Sunday and got ready for church. It was a BIG Sunday for our family! Our ward boundaries have recently changed, which necessitated a lot of change in leadership and assignments. Willy has been called to be the 2nd counselor in the Young Men's presidency. I've been called to serve as the 2nd counselor in the Relief Society presidency. But the coolest thing about the day was watching my two oldest sons advance in the priesthood. Ben is now a priest, and Brady is now a deacon! Ben was ordained first which then allowed him to stand in the priesthood circle when Brady was ordained. That was a pretty amazing thing to see! Willy gave the blessings and we were so grateful to have Papa stand in both circles and help with the boys' ordinations. Sometimes living far away from family is hard when we have experiences like these without family member support, so it was especially neat to have Nana and Papa there to support the boys on their special day.

After church we got some quick family photos. (I am in fall colors heaven here in Oregon!!!!)

Much more typical Campbell family shot.
So happy to have Nana and Papa here for the weekend

The men of the day

The most memorable moment of the day was definitely when, right after Ben's blessing, he stood up to shake hands with the men in the circle and hug Willy. I sometimes think Ben doesn't understand his own size and strength. He lifted his arms to hug Willy and managed to just about clean Papa's clock. He basically punched Lloyd by his left eye on his temple! Ben sent Papa's eyeglasses flying and Papa almost buckled. He told us afterwards that he literally blacked out for a quick moment and we definitely all witnessed it as he started to topple but then came to and shook it off. He saw stars, the poor guy!  (Thank goodness Papa didn't have a concussion or something though! I wonder if he has a black eye or a bruise? D'oh.) This is Papa "getting back" at Ben. He was a good sport about it all, but we'll never let Ben live it down, that's for sure! 
A wonderful whirlwind weekend!! Happy, happy times!!