Thursday, January 30, 2014

Christmas in January

Happy two week old birthday yesterday, Levi!

Karlie, Lena, and Jonathan give baby Levi the two week birthday treatment after E.P.I.C. last night.

Other than some leftover overseas adventures, camping, and hiking trips that didn't make the cut (yet) in 2013, this should be my final "catch-up post" for a while. We'll also have a couple of Greatest Hits blog posts starting early next week. And then, stay tuned for the story of our precious baby boy Levi's birth!

There aren't any stories in this one, just some festive pictures (some pics were previously live tweeted) from a few of last month's holiday celebrations. 

Students guess Christmas charades at our house

Friday night at Beaches on the Columbia River

De-icing Delta airplanes on Christmas Eve morning

Christmas Eve extended family party at my parents' Vancouver house

The VanWa Mustache Club

A Christmas day PDX airport visit to me and my adoring Delta coworkers from Mommy and a nearly 2 1/2 month old Lena...

...Including an obligatory photo with #PDXCarpet, the only known carpet with it's own cult Twitter following!

One more return to the 'Couve on Christmas afternoon with Mike, Summer, and our parents

A giant mirror for a lil' Lena

And finally... a post-Christmas family get together in Salem

Lena brings this gingerbread house up to code.

Merry Christmas in January!

We'll be back next week with a look back at the 10 most popular travel and non-travel Garth's Blog posts from 2013!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Unproductive: Reflections on paternity leave

Mommy naps at home earlier today, holding our 11 day old Levi.

This is another share from my other blog, originally posted on Thursday.  I'll try not to make a habit of this, but I just haven't found the time to complete any new updates to the "Garth's Blog" site recently.

My belated family Christmas post is almost ready.  And pictures from baby Levi's birth last week are coming soon!

Our newborn baby Levi turned one week old yesterday [Read: Wednesday]! Yet the week zipped by so quickly that it seems like Levi was born only a few hours ago.

After confirming that my mom was available to care for Kathy at the house today, I felt confident enough to return to work this morning. Let's hope I made the right choice.

Think returning to work after vacation is tough? Try returning after paternity leave.

Kissing Lena and Levi goodbye several hours ago, I tore myself away from domestic bliss in the middle of the night. So many memories from this past week brought an irresistible smile to my face. But I also chuckled while suddenly remembering the list of things I expected to accomplish during my paternity leave. As if.

Now, I don't typically aspire to be Mr. Super Productive. That title belongs to my amazing dad, Doug Hamilton. But I DID have over a week off from work, right? And even the most travel-starved husband/ father would never dream of dragging his wife, daughter, and newborn son onboard a series of international flights during this time.

So just for kicks, here is a to-do list of tasks and fun stuff that I earnestly thought I would get started on (yet never touched) during my paternity leave's "free time":

  • Get some friends together to log a massive amount of climbing, hiking, and trail running miles
  • Carry Lena and newborn Levi on a flat, easy hiking trail that a recovering Mommy can join us on (rescheduled for this weekend!)
  • Design and begin my latest weight training program
  • Reevaluate my entire 2014 student ministry goals and vision
  • Submit another of the nine book reports due for my credentialing process
  • Study for my upcoming sermon on 1 John
  • Draft an agenda for our upcoming Alumni Council meeting at Warner Pacific College's Homecoming
  • Play some Uncharted 3 on the PS3, as 2 year old Lena always pleads for me to do
  • Delete dozens of rarely used apps on my phone, tablet, and laptop... But not before I:
    • Brush up on speaking the ol' espaƱol for our upcoming travels (Duolingo app)
    • Learn to play guitar (Gibson's Learn and Master Guitar app)

Laugh if you will, but I was dead serious about tackling every single one of these. At least I thought I was. In practice, I didn't even do the stuff I'd NORMALLY do in my free moments, i.e., drafting mobile updates (okay, I posted a few here) to this blog and it's mainstream counterpart, "Garth's Blog."

So was this a week of wasted opportunities? It certainly could have been, had I prioritized anything on that list over family time at home instead. Playing, praying, reading together, taking care of Mommy and the munchkins, getting to know my baby boy Levi, enjoying visits from family and friends, and helping Lena understand and deepen her relationship with our newly expanded family have all been more important than any part of that list.

It felt like the best week ever, spent with what now feels like the perfect family. And it was gloriously unproductive.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Surfin', pumpkin patchin', and dairy farmin'

Lena feels right at home on Daddy's surfboard

Note: Baby Levi is now 5 days old!  The three-part entry below was scheduled to auto-post last Monday, the day before a very pregnant Kathy's water broke (!) on Tuesday morning. For some reason, it never posted. And shortly after checking into St. Vincent's maternity ward with Kathy, I stopped blogging and checking Facebook/ emails completely to make time for family and baby bonding. The only cheating during my digital blackout:
  1. Giving Kathy permission to hack my Facebook on Wednesday for a few minutes to post a status update (as me) about baby Levi's birth
  2. Tweeting
  3. Posting a short birth announcement on Garth's Blog for our son Levi James Hamilton (link here)
Now that Kathy, Lena, and I are settling into life at home with our 5 day old newborn, I'll be blogging more about Baby Levi this week!

From last Monday: 
To quote one of my blog posts from September 2011 (link), our baby's due date is... yesterday? Our yet-to-be-named baby boy was actually due three days ago, on Friday. Kathy, Lena, and I can barely contain our excitement as we wait for our baby boy's arrival. We'll let the readers know when the Big Moment gets here.

In the meantime, here's a triple snack pack of bite-sized blog posts (including one written by Kathy!) based on some 2013 Hamilton outings with Lena: Two more surfing trips, a romp in a pumpkin patch, and a hands on tour of Alpenrose Dairy's Storybook Lane. First up...

 Part 1: Surfin'

After years of wasting money on surfboard rentals in Australia, Hawaii, and here in Oregon (link), I won Kathy over with the idea of buying my own board.

A lady near our neighborhood who was going through some heartbreakingly rough times offered me a screamin' deal on her husband's handmade Al Merrick. The board's length was longer than ideal, but for the price I just couldn't walk away.

Picking up my new toy with my other favorite toy, the Jeep Wrangler

Earlier last summer, our previous 2013 surfing trips were capped off with a final blue epoxy/ fiberglass rental at Aussie's Surf Shop in Newport.

Kathy's Facebook friends may recognize 2-3 of the pics below from our Newport surfing trip over the summer:

A quick stop at L.A. Fitness on the way to the Oregon Coast

Lena sharpens her new walking skills at the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

More surfing at the disappointingly calm Agate Beach

White water rafting, wakeboarding, camping, and overseas trips in Fall 2013 prevented me from hopping onto my new (new to me, anyways) surfboard until October.  The wait seemed unbearable.

My Al Merrick surfboard finally had it's "maiden" ride in Seaside. The bar of Sex Wax was accidentally left at home, so the new board got a little slippery out on the waves. But there was no buyer's remorse in sight.


Part 2: Pumpkin Patchin'

It's a given in our circle of friends that parents will probably take their kids to at least one pumpkin patch each fall. Lena's first pumpkin patchin' experience was at Bauman Farms in Gervais, Oregon back in 2012.

In October 2013, we hit up the less impressive (by Kathy's standards) Walk on the Wild Side farm in Canby. The family-run farm did have a few pumpkins laying around, but "pumpkin patch" is a bit of a misnomer. More noteworthy attractions were the hay bale maze, petting zoo, train/tractor ride, and bouncy houses for the kiddos.

Somehow, the Walk on the Wild Side farm ALSO had a cage with exotic animals.

Lions? Random, but very cool.

For a more traditional pumpkin patch experience in 2013, Kathy preferred this farm near Smith Rock, Oregon:


Part 3: Dairy Farmin'

Note: Kathy wrote this final section and also pitched in the pics.  Like the first two parts, "Surfin'" and "Pumpkin Patchin,'" Part 3 was originally intended to be a standalone blog post.

Thanks, Kathy!

Ever since Lena’s first Christmas, we have been looking for inexpensive activities that will become tradition.  We all have our Christmas traditions that we fondly remember and we want the same for Lena and her soon-to-be-born brother.  One such tradition we found is Christmas in Dairyville and Storybook Lane at Alpenrose Dairy in SW Portland.  The best part is that it’s FREE!!

On the walk into Dairyville there are lights wrapped around the trees and Christmas music playing.  The old-time store fronts with their wooden walk-ways are decked out in Christmas.  There is an old-fashioned school and bank you can walk into and on cold days there’s a place to buy warm drinks.  We stumbled upon a duck pond and saw a few horses.

A highlight for Lena was watching the oversized model train (aka: choo-choo) track and village.

Storybook Lane is a walk-through story time.  The display for Mary Had a Little Lamb had lambs, 3 piglets for The Three Pigs…you get the point.  We have been very impressed with Alpenrose and the family-friendliness of it all.

Lena tries to make eye contact with a lighted deer.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's a boy!! Levi James Hamilton was born today!!!

Mommy and I hold our newborn baby Levi for the first time this morning.

At 12:26 a.m. today, our son Levi James Hamilton entered this world! He weighs 9 lbs 6 oz, and is 19 1/2 inches long. Like his older sister Lena at birth, Levi is one big baby.

Ever since we checked in yesterday morning, family and friends have been showering us with calls, visits, and messages. We feel so blessed to have so many loved ones praying for and celebrating Levi's birth along with us. This truly is a life changing and special event!

The Wi-Fi here at St. Vincent hospital has been unreliable these past couple days. Thus, the two scheduled blog posts I had planned to release this week (including our Christmas post) may or may not be uploaded before we get discharged to take baby Levi home.

Either way, check back here soon for the birthing timeline and photos of Levi's miraculous delivery this morning!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Break Every Chain

Garth's Blog is on a one-month hiatus from Dec 15- Jan 15.  The holidays have been busy, and our baby boy is due on January 10!  To kill time until then, the short New Years update below is followed by a personal "share" from my other blog.

I'll update my Twitter occasionally, and we'll return with new blog content in mid-January. Check back on January 15 as we resume with all new family updates and recent overseas adventures!

New Year's Eve at McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse/ Imbrie Hall:
Lena stopped smiling just long enough for a quick photo.

Happy New Year!  Our family had fun celebrating New Year's Eve last night. And this year, we actually got home in time to witness our neighborhood loudly deteriorate into a war zone around 11:30 p.m.  It's hard to imagine any of those firecrackers/mortars/rockets/shotgun blasts(?) being legal within Beaverton city limits.

Our block hadn't heard such deafening blasts since all four news networks were falsely tipped off about explosions from within our neighborhood Intel campus. As terrifying as that sounds, the "explosions" heard from neighbors blocks away were actually the results of a fire at a garbage truck yard next door.


The link to the story of me ending up in front of all those TV news cameras is here: Garth's Blog: Having a Blast at Home.


Today's entry below is a "share" from one of my other blogs. It may look familiar to readers who saw my original post yesterday morning. If this seems more personal and spiritual than a typical "Garth's Blog" post, that's because this wasn't originally intended for a mainstream audience.

But don't worry, new "Garth's Blog" content is coming soon! I'm still gathering photos for upcoming posts about Christmas, surfing, student ministry, pumpkin patches, hiking, and some late 2013 overseas trips.

In the meantime, feel free to check out my Twitter feed or just follow me. My latest Tweets are also embedded on the upper right corner of this blog page.

Here's yesterday's post, "Break Every Chain," from my other blog:

There is power in the name of Jesus
There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain, break every chain, break every chain.

Those words from a Jesus Culture "Awakening" event were the soundtrack to my final early morning commute of 2013. Normally, the entire freeway portion of my drive time would be dedicated to prayer. But not today. Not after last night. Sheer exhaustion caused my prayers to stick in my throat... unable to escape my heart. Rather than giving up on morning devotions altogether, I allowed someone else's words to be my prayer instead.

There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain.

Leading up to today's uncharacteristically passive time of prayer, this happened:

Our formidably lunged, two year old Lena loudly decided on Saturday night that only having 1 1/2 hours of sleep would be more than enough for me. Sleep quantity didn't increase much these past few nights, either. I've been getting up multiple times to quiet Lena down, attempting to spare the Mommy-to-be the hassle of putting her back to sleep. Her crying persisted into the night, until a couple hours before my alarm rang.

There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain.

I've often prayed such a prayer in more obvious contexts: as an impassioned plea for healing and wholeness... for freedom from the bondage of sin... for the lifting of a heavy heart... for mending of strained relationships... for finding the grace to forgive friends who take advantage of me... for finding the humility to ask for my own forgiveness.

But today, such a prayer was a simple reaching out for strength, for the divine power to make it through the day. Extreme sleep deprivation stifled my attempt to pray even that, much like sleepless nights can physically throttle my various hikes and trail runs. Yet, like the disciples who got busted for nodding off in the Garden of Gethsemane, I'm yearning for a chance to redeem myself after a lackluster effort in my own garden of prayer.

Taking care of my family, I know in my heart, is more important than taking care of my ZZZs. But in my utter exhaustion, the satisfaction of honoring those priorities doesn't make days like this any easier.

2013 has been a joyous, high energy year that is ending on a brief down note. My own strength has decided to take the week off. It's time for me to draw on God's strength.

There is power in the name of Jesus.