Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lena's First Zoo Visit

Portland's famous 51 year old elephant Packy and calf Lily pace the cage together in front of Daddy, mommy, and 20 month old Lena

Oregon Zoo, meet Lena.

How in the world did Kathy and I manage to hold off on baby Lena’s first visit to our local zoo until now?  Like many essential children’s dream destinations… you know, Disneyland, Sea World, Enchanted Forest, the mini-golf course/shooting range in Yemen… it’s debatable whether or not at Lena’s age she would appreciate (or even be aware of) the kid-friendliness of it all.  So we waited.

On the exact day that Lena turned 20 months old, the wait was over.  Lena finally set foot inside of P-Town’s manmade approximation of a natural habitat.

And by set foot, I mean Lena was walking!

Readers of my two earlier Garth's Blog posts, “Breaking News: Lena’s First Steps” and this month's “Lena Gets Moving” are aware of Lena’s late but impressive physical progress.   Check out the adorable video clip of Lena strutting her stuff at the bottom of this post.

In my travels around the globe, I’ve already encountered most of the zoo’s animals in the wild... with ordinary black bears standing in for polar bears, of course.  But the thrilling part here was watching Lena see them for the first time!

Here are some photos of Lena taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the Oregon Zoo:

Lena looked like a natural sitting behind the wheel of the zoo's resident Jeep Wrangler.

But did I mention that Lena was walking?  The video below (readers using Internet Explorer will need to switch browsers to view this video) showcases just how far Lena advanced in her first week or two of mobility:

Whack the “play” button above for a video of 20 month old Lena showing off her newly discovered walking skills at the Oregon Zoo.  She’s already bursting at the seams with confidence!

Coming next Wednesday on Garth's Blog...

Part 1- This month's attempted visit to China!

Friday, May 24, 2013

E.P.I.C. Mexico Missions Update... and more!

Our Mexico missions trip is only three months away!  Aloha Church of God's students and leaders will be partnering with youth groups from Tigard ChoG and Centralia ChoG for service projects in the Baja Peninsula this summer.

Logo courtesy of

Welcome Home Ministries, headquartered in Vicente Guerrero, will help coordinate our work projects, local transportation, meals, and lodging.  Our church specifically will be building a house for a needy family, working with young children, and providing funds for another church to install an outhouse this fall.

Last month's spaghetti dinner fundraiser helped to cover some of our Mexico trip's expenses:

Our students worked hard with staff from Aloha Christian Preschool to make sure that everyone got fed and served

Local businesses like Coffee People supported us by donating items for our basket raffle

Kids from Aloha Christian Preschool entertained supporters during the spaghetti dinner

We look forward to seeing many of you on Sunday, June 2 after church for our dessert auction for Mexico missions!

Here are some earlier E.P.I.C. Student Ministry pics from 2013:

The student band from Faith Bible School leads worship before Pastor Garth takes the stage to deliver his second message.

Hanging with students at DQ

Another hill run with Brandon, before he left for Air Force boot camp...


...And then saying our goodbyes to Brandon after our Wednesday night session

Derek's 2nd day on the job at Five Guys' Burgers and Fries!

Teams get inventive on Wednesday nights

Garth conducts an experiment with water, food coloring, and bleach to illustrate how Christ turns our deepest grief into unspeakable joy.  In this teaching, Christ tells His disciples that He had to leave them before being resurrected on Easter morning!

And of course, the parties at Garth and Kathy's house:  All-night party, pizza parties, Playstation 3 gaming sessions, and our annual Super Bowl party!

Elizabeth shows off her moves with the "Everybody Dance!" PS3 Move game, during the all-night E.P.I.C. gaming party at our house.  We stayed up until 7:30 a.m. to finally beat “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves!”

Bonus Video:

Hit the "Play" button above for a video of an adorable 17 1/2 month old Lena getting warmed up for dancing to Beyonce's halftime show at our E.P.I.C. Super Bowl party!

Coming Wednesday night on Garth's Blog...

Pics and a video from Lena's 1st ever zoo visit!

And then...

My crazy adventures in Asia begin!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mother's Day Tribute to Kathy

Before we get started with this Mother's Day blog tribute... Thank you so much, Kathy, for leaving Lena at home with me this weekend.  It sounds like you girls had a great time at the beach.  Lena and I had non-stop fun during our Daddy-Daughter time here at home!

Getting a little crazy at home while Mommy plays at the beach

With a Mommy like Kathy, our baby Lena is the luckiest 20 month old in the world!

Lena and I spent last weekend honoring Kathy with the expected 18-stem rose bouquet, dinner, gifts and Mother’s Day card (from Lena, of course).  One thing I’m just now getting around to, however, is publicly celebrating the qualities that make Kathy such a knock-out Mommy!

Judging by these (mostly) previously unreleased Mommy-baby photos, it’s obvious that Kathy is…


A Mommy who relaxes at home with Lena


A Mommy who also takes Lena outside to splash around in the pool


A Mommy who is always working hard

A Mommy who shows off Lena at every restaurant


A Mommy who plays with Lena on the beach while Daddy surfs


A Mommy who occasionally dons Daddy’s baby backpack to join Lena and Daddy for their hikes

A Mommy who swings with Lena at the park

A Mommy who steers Lena through the maze of big kids after church (This pic could have been included in last week's "Lena Gets Moving" blog post!)


A Mommy who fosters Lena’s love of flowers and plant life…


…and also her love of animals!

A Mommy who helps Lena make new friends… like Reagan!



A Mommy who brings Lena to PDX Airport to visit Daddy at work


A Mommy who makes Lena aware of human need and global missions (pictured above at the WPC Homecoming missions benefit dinner)


And a Mommy who rocks Lena to sleep when she needs rest.

Of course, things aren’t fun and rosy 100% of the time...

I just couldn’t resist including this hilarious pic of Lena scowling at Mommy during Daddy’s birthday weekend hike!

….But no matter what, Kathy is a Mommy who shows her love to Lena with every moment that they spend together!

We may have officially celebrated last weekend, but it’s never too late to keep wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day, Kathy!!  You’re the best!

Coming Friday night on Garth's Blog...

An E.P.I.C. Student Ministry Update

Followed by...

Lena's first ever trip to the zoo!

And then...

My crazy adventures in Asia this month!!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Lena Gets Moving

Update: Additional, mostly new photos were added on 5/11/13!

The room fell silent as Lena unexpectedly walked a record 10 steps during our student ministry outreach event last night.  This morning, she took around 30 steps away from her bedroom door!  And her new walking skills were the center of attention this afternoon at the L.A. Fitness "Kids Club" during my workout.

Ever since taking her first steps a few weeks ago (video clip here), Lena has been dominating the floor of every room she lands in.  After all, her earlier attempts to walk have already been drawing crowds for the past 19 months!

Here are few previously unreleased photos from the long journey of Lena getting up and moving:

We're not going back to the very beginning (that would be 9/10/11!), but we have to start somewhere.  At 6 months old, Lena strengthened her neck muscles enough to lift up her head...


...Then, we propped 8 month old Lena up against a step in our living room...


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...And Lena soon developed the core muscles to sit up on her own!

Next, Lena learned to climb up the step in our sunken living room...


...And then, for the first time, she bouldered her way back down!




I'm so glad that I had my camera handy as Lena bravely navigated her first stair!

Then, Lena had to figure out how to crawl...

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At 16 months old, we fully expected Lena to be walking already. She continued to try new things, though, like when she tackled the stairs of our rental house in Sunriver.



That same weekend in Sunriver (The story of Brent and Cheryl's wedding is here and here), Lena mastered the art of letting go with one hand while standing.

Lena eventually learned to briefly stand on her own, to bounce while standing, and to take a few steps while holding onto the hand of a grown-up.

As most readers know by now, this all led to Lena's big, long awaited moment last month:

The day Lena took her first steps!

We're taking Lena to the Portland Zoo tomorrow to celebrate her turning 20 months old.  Now that she's occasionally on her feet, my load just got 24 lbs lighter!

Coming next weekend on Garth's Blog...

A photo-filled Mother's Day tribute to Kathy!!