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First Fall in the PacNW

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment


Here’s where we’re currently at:

The Good: It’s Fall!!! Winter is starting to close in on us now, but up until a week or two ago the color, the weather, the activities were all epically beautiful for a solid few months. Fall lasts a really long time up here. It’s the best. Even now (late November) there are still colorful leaves in most directions you look. We’re soaking it up and loving the changing of the seasons! Some other good news: We’re FINALLY finding some sort of balance with school schedules, work, homework and adventure. And we’re meeting fun people and building some solid friendships. It’s getting there! Trying to be patient with how long it takes to start-over.

The Bad: It’s Fall ;) The time change always sucks… especially this far north, it gets dark sooooo early (around 4pm) and will only get darker! And compared to down south, it’s pretty chilly these days (Gary loves it, Courtney and the girls not so much). It’s been raining about 50% of the time. Some weeks it’s incredibly clear and beautiful (but cold) and some weeks it’s dreary, gray and dark… it’s not so much the rain or the gray that gets to us, it’s more of the lack of light.

What We’re Learning: That the issues of this world (and life is general) are messy and extremely complicated: Terrorism, refugees, war, poverty, oppression, political rants, religious views, ill-advised FaceBook posts… these issues are deep and convoluted and many don’t have answers, let alone easy answers. Some days it makes us want to throw up our hands and give up on it all. The more we learn, the more difficult it all seems but the more important it feels to do our part to make a difference. As a family, we feel the need to TRY to do something about it, even if our attempts seem small and insignificant.  So we’re learning and discussing and brainstorming how we can help those who need it (locally and globally). We’re very thankful for Courtney’s masters program. The topics, discussions, papers, books and research she is doing is very much on point with the major issues our world is facing today and have led to many excellent conversations about the future. We are eager to help and feel that we’re getting closer to something – someway to engage and help.

So, that’s where we’re at… below you’ll find some of the things we’ve been up to this Fall. First up, we met up with some good friends (Team Miller of Bend, OR) for a weekend away (sans kids). We headed to the east side of the mountains for a super fun Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, WA.

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We had such a great time with Conor & Michelle. We ate, we drank, we explored, we conquered… it was a perfect weekend away.

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Over the past couple weeks we’ve had both grandmas come down for various trips to help us out. The kiddos are always in heaven when the Grandmas are in town :) We’re thankful to have such awesome and supportive families during this crazy time in our life!

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For Halloween the girls dressed up as The Kratt Bros (from a kids show called Wild Kratts).


Piles of leaves and leaf fights!

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Gary grew up in Montana hunting and fishing and eating wild game. He once harvested a moose at the age of 12! So now that we live back in the land of plenty (when it comes to natural resources and the outdoors) he was able to get out this Fall and try to fill our freezer with (organic, local, free range, gluten free, fair trade, no GMO, cage free, etc.) meat before the long dark winter. He didn’t have much luck (it was more a season of learning the area), but had an awesome time in the great outdoors with his Dad chasing deer and elk throughout the high mountains of the Cascades.

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Mt Rainier (above), we see it often as we drive around our immediate area. It’s actually an active volcano!  Below: Poo Poo Point. Where the paragliders take off. We need to do this at some point!

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Above: as Joelle gets older, she’s loving staying up later and reading from her top bunk. Below: Apparently you don’t mess with Owls up here, haha. And this is a drawing from Charlotte of an elk riding and dolphin…or somethin’ – amazing! So funny. Thanks for checking in with us! We hope you’re doing well and have a Happy Thanksgiving!


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Discovering Dad Podcast

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

GaryHollywoodJust incase you’re not getting it, the above image is obviously a joke – although, I am kind of a big deal ;)

I (Gary) had the opportunity to have a nice long chat with some really awesome fellow dads. We talked about life’s messiness, dad-hood, the backstory of Courtney and I’s move, the catalyst that sent us down this path, my role as a husband and father, and what life looks like for us now in Seattle (the struggles and the joys). I really enjoyed my time with Josh, Zach, and Chad (thanks for having me on fellas!) You can find more info about Discovering Dad here.

I hope that other new or used dads can listen in and be challenged and encouraged. The fact is that none of us really know what we’re doing as husbands and fathers, but during this podcast we had some really genuine conversations, heartfelt concerns, and tough questions to answer about what we’re all striving to become – an actively engaged dad and a loving husband (with a bigger story to tell). Hope you enjoy:

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Sailing to Sucia

In Our Life by Courtney1 Comment


We are lucky enough to have some very awesome extended family who live up here in the PacNW. Gary’s Aunt Nadine and her husband Greg recently upgraded their sailboat and were kind enough to take us out on the water for a long weekend. The plan was to sail from Blaine (a border town with Canada), cross the Straight of Georgia and anchor in a protected bay on Sucia Island (a beautiful state park surrounded by other islands in the Puget Sound).

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Above: Nadine. She’s amazing. So fun and full of life. She captained the boat most of the time – very impressive sailing skills! Below: Greg. He’s basically the man, such an inspiration. He is an expert adventurer and has had incredible experiences and stories from around the world.


Above: one for the ocean, and one for the crew – to ensure a safe voyage at sea :) Below: Our girls basically just snuggled and slept during our long sail to the islands.

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We had quite the adventure when sailing across the Straight of Georgia. After a while the wind really started to pick up and we were cruising! It was fun, but challenging. It must have been the beginning of crab season b/c there were literally hundreds of crap pot buoys to try and dodge while sailing across. One buoy in particular got the best of us. It got wrapped around our propeller making it impossible to use the motor (which we needed to direct ourselves into the bay once we reached Sucia Island). But not a worry, because Greg and Nadine are sailing pros :) We tacked and sailed our way right up into the bay like champs. It was stressful and hard work, but with Greg and Gary as her crew Nadine brought us in safely to the protected waters of Fossil Bay. We set the anchor and took a sigh of relief. We made it… but at some point we’d have to address the line caught in the prop if/when we wanted to leave :)

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Above: fishing during the sunset. Below: the sunrise next to Mt Baker.

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Exploring Sucia Island. There’s no roads or homes or anything, just hiking trails, camping spots and beautiful beaches to hang out on.

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Above: the Coast Guard boat happen to be anchored in the same bay, so we called them over to see if there was anything they could do to help us out. After a few attempts at pulling on the rope from various angles, they couldn’t make anything happen either (b/c it was more than just a rope caught in the propeller, the buoy was wedged in there making it impossible to get a full rotation on the prop). So, the only thing left was to have Gary suit up and dive into the frigid water to cut the tangled mess of ropes from the prop. Luckily Gary has lots of experience free diving (he can hold his breath for over 3 minutes and dive down to 80ft deep on a single breath), so it only took one quick dive to cut us free from the mess.


What a fun and beautiful adventure! Big thanks to Nadine & Greg for having us along. We love you!!!


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Change is Hard

In Our Life by CourtneyLeave a Comment


We haven’t been good about blogging since we moved, and I (Courtney) would like to tell you all a bit about why that is.

When we moved, we changed nearly every aspect of our lives. Not every, because Gary kept his job with Big Deal Branding, we kept our children, and we stayed married. But other than those thing, we essentially changed every aspect of our life.

Turns out, that’s a difficult thing to do. I went from being a full-time mom to a grad student/full-time mom. We went from being a homeschooling family to a public school and preschool family. We went from two cars to one. We went from owning our 4b/2b house to renting a tiny little 2b/2b apartment. We went from a beach family to a mountain family. We went from a super flexible and casual lifestyle to a very busy schedule to maintain. Gary and I went from doing nearly everything together to doing nearly nothing together except a couple evenings a week and the weekends (like normal people).

And it’s hard. It’s GOOD in many ways. But it’s hard.

I love that I’ve got a thing that’s mine. I love that I’m not homeschooling (and so does Jo. And so does my husband.) I love being in school. I love what I’m learning and who I am becoming. Gary loves the area. He is taking full advantage of hunting, fishing, exploring and is already making plans for the spring/summer. The kids are stoked on their schools. They love our new apartment because we have neighbors with kids their ages, a playground about 20 yards away, and a soccer field outside our backdoor.

These are all good things, and the changes they are bringing are making us into the people we want to become! They truly are. We feel like there is so much more out there for us to do – places to go and people that we might be able to help… that are in far off places that aren’t easy or comfortable to get to. There’s more to life than just living in comfort and establishing a normal/safe routine. There’s more to life than just working more so that you can pay more bills. There’s even more to life than having fun BBQs and chillin’ at the beach every weekend (like we’ve done for the last 5+ years) – those are amazingly great things, but there’s still got to be more to life than that! We became a little too complacent and a little too comfortable in Southern California over the last couple years, so we chose to mix it up, to stretch, to change and to grow… but the growing pains SUCK!!! Big time. I miss my husband, and he misses me. I have a built in community at school, but Gary doesn’t. He likes to do stuff (surprise, surprise) and between the kid’s school schedule, my school schedule and homework, I’m not very available to do all the fun things he wants to do together which is super hard for him. There’s been a lot of miscommunications and discussions about balance.

We’re not quite nailing it yet. But it feels like we are making some progress. I think. Maybe.

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Summer Wrap-up in the PNW

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

We spent the last part of the summer trying to pack in as much fun as we could before our crazy school schedules began. We had about 6 weeks to explore the area (take a few work trips back south), unpack from our move, and get acquainted with our new life… you know…  learn the area, get lost a lot, find grocery stores, find good beer/breweries, DMV stuff, schedule tuition payments, unpack our little apartment (we still had way too much stuff – even after getting rid of most of it back in SoCal), find a church, make friends, etc. But more importantly, before the loooong, dark, rainy winter arrived we (Gary, aka Capt’n Adventure) felt very pressured to get out and explore the area before hibernation set in… so, we were off!

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So much time playing in the lake. The girls LOVED jumping off the docks and playing around on the SUP.

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Above: visiting beaches on the Puget Sound and discovering local waterfalls. We love the diversity of this area! Below: Making new friends.


Above: A very quick work trip down to San Diego (wedding in La Jolla), we had one free evening that we spent at the beach with good friends (and fun surf and warm water) that we will truly miss. Below: Another work trip (wedding) in Yosemite for a quick weekend. Yosemite was very hot and smoky from all the summer fires. But we still were able to find some water and ditch the heat.

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Daddy daughter weekend on the Oregon coast with Team Strubhar.

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On a rainy weekend our family visited Mt Rainier National Park, and per usual, the girls were all about filling out their Jr Park Ranger packets.

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For some reason, we got sick a lot after the move (probably b/c this climate is so different… and new people… new germs, etc), but the first couple weeks of Sept were VERY INTENSE with sickness and class assignments and juggling all the different school schedules.

All three Christenson ladies started classes in September… Charlotte started preschool, Joelle started 1st grade, and Courtney started her grad program…. and Gary started fishing for salmon ;) and working like crazy of course (editing photos & designing).

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This is Lake Washington, we live very close to it and loved spending time in/near it this summer. Already making plans for the area for next summer! The options are endless for fun and adventure. If you wanna join us, hit us up and lets plan something fun together!

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Olympic Peninsula Camping Trip

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment


Hopefully this will be one of many trips to the Olympic Peninsula while we’re living here in Washington, it’s a crazy amazing place! Ocean, lakes, beaches, mountains (with glaciers) and rainforests… so much beauty packed into one relatively small place! Above: Lake Crescent on our way to the coast. The lake has unbelievably beautiful clear and bright blue water. When we were driving around it and looking down into little coves it seriously looked like the Mediterranean – minus the pine trees around the waters edge of course :) Below: Our camp site for the long weekend near Rialto Beach. The forests here are magical looking. Oh, it’s also where they filmed Twilight, so there’s that, for all you fans out there… eh hem, Carly ;)

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Above: Visiting the Hoh Rain Forest. So much greenery and life everywhere! This area receives over 150 inches of rain a year! That’s a crazy amount of water! So everything is lush, dense and beautiful. Below: Fishing the Hoh River. It has a really cool milky color to it – from the glacier silt that feeds into it upstream.

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Our happy place. The beach!!!!

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Moving from SoCal to Washington

In Our Life by CourtneyLeave a Comment


The move is behind us… phew, what a stressful time in life. Crazy, but good! We got rid of the majority of our stuff to make the move as easy and cheap as possible, and make our new life in our small apartment much more manageable. The best moving solution we found was to rent a trailer that you paid by the foot for (and then they’d drive it up and drop if off at your new place so that you could unpack). We ended up fitting all of our belongings into the first 7 feet of the trailer, which ended up being half the cost we budgeted for! WIN! Once the moving trailer was on it’s way up north, we sold our other vehicle, did our walkthrough with our new tenants for our house, packed up our other car and hit the road! We took our time driving up and stopped in the Bay Area for a few days, and then up to Central Oregon, and ultimately the greater Seattle area. Here’s some images from our long road trip north.


We wanted to show the girls Point Reyes National Seashore outside of San Francisco (we’ve been before, but they haven’t), so we took a bunch of small hikes/walks all over the area… there was epic amounts of whining from the girls (especially since Joelle’s leg was still a bit sore and recovering from breaking it earlier in the summer), but we made the most of it and it was incredibly beautiful. If you get the chance, you should check it out!

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Fueling up (above) for an epic nap (below).

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Above: On our way from the Bay Area to Central Oregon, we stopped at the Jelly Belly Factory. Sometimes you gotta take a break from all the nature AND get roughly 900lbs of jelly beans for the long drive ahead.

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We arrived in Bend, OR and stayed in Gary’s folks tiny-house / cottage they recently finished. We basically just played in the water and camped with friends while in the area.

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Above: Sparks Lake: We’ve made, dedicated and celebrated many major life decisions here. It only seemed right to do the same for this one…with a jar of champagne. Obviously.

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On our final leg of the journey, we stopped for a quick hike to a waterfall somewhere in Oregon. It’s blowing our minds how green it is up here and how much water there is compared to California.


With the help from friends and family, we successfully moved into our super duper tiny little apartment without any real problems. Below is one of the sunsets that welcomed us to the area (viewed from our back patio). We’re incredibly excited to be here and start our new life in the great PacNW. It’s going to be 3,000% nuts with school schedules and upcoming adventures and travels, but we’re game for it!


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So Long SoCal

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

DCIM100GOPROWell, it’s super bittersweet, but it’s time for us to say goodbye to our sunny and beautiful little beach town and make our way up to the PacNW. We rented our house out, got our stuff packed and we’re ready to rock ‘n roll. We don’t know what the next couple years will hold for our little family, but we’re excited to be on this journey together. We’ll do our best to keep this blog updated with what’s going on. For now, here’s what the last several months of our remaining time in SoCal has looked like:

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23_So_Long_SoCal 24_So_Long_SoCal 25_So_Long_SoCal 26_So_Long_SoCal 27_So_Long_SoCal 28_So_Long_SoCal 29_So_Long_SoCal Joelle broke her leg during our last month in town :(

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42_So_Long_SoCal 43_So_Long_SoCalSo long California. We love you and will miss you dearly!

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

In Our Life by CourtneyLeave a Comment

Gary is constantly singing that Rolling Stones song “You can’t always get what you want…You get what you neeeed!” to our children when they whine about [every little] thing. We have made a commitment to share our experiences and journey over the next several years in a very honest way so, in light of that, here is a post about the fact that finances are limited and that the Rolling Stones were totally right.
Some of you may know that we bought an RV a couple months ago. We have wanted an RV for a very long time for obvious reasons:
  1. RVs facilitate adventure
  2. RVs let you go places affordably
  3. RVs are fun (duh)

When we started discussing the possibility of moving to the Pacific North West it made us REALLY want an RV because that area is so beautiful and a motor home seemed like the perfect way to explore it. I had been stalking RVs online for about a year just so I would know when a good deal came along and in February, it did. We got an insanely great deal on a little 22 foot 2002 Minnie Winnie. It was the perfect little adventure mobile for us. The kids were stoked out of their minds and so were we!

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However, even though it was an insanely great deal it was a lot sooner than we were actually planning on buying an RV. We hadn’t had time to save up the amount that we wanted to and it was still a big stretch for us financially… doable, but a stretch. About the same time we found out that I got into grad school, there were some sudden repairs that needed to happen to the RV, and before we knew it we were further in debt and stressed out about the upcoming costs of moving, school tuition and the other normal unexpected costs that seem to come along anytime your finances get a little hairy.

We had a decision to make. Was it worth it? Was the dream of exploring and adventuring in an RV with our family worth the stress and financial burden? Was having that vehicle more important than being able to confidently pursue the calling that we feel on our lives? Did God provide the money we have so that we could spend it on this awesome THING? Or did He provide it so we could spend it doing the things He has asked us to do?

It was a hard decision. But in the end, keeping it and spending our money (and emotional resources) in that way, at this time just wasn’t consistent with how we want to live.

So we sold it.

I thought I would shed a tear. I thought Gary might be bummed out for a week. I really thought the kids were going to be beside themselves. But when it drove away last weekend I felt relieved. We were back on track. As we walked back inside after it drove out of sight I heard Gary humming “You get what you neeeeed….“Amen, Rolling Stones. Amen.
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A Season of Change

In Our Life by Courtney16 Comments

OsideSunsetWe want to let you all know about some changes that are happening around here. There are some major shifts taking place in our family…Mentally, spiritually and physically.

The basic news (for those of you who don’t want to invest in reading the rest of this post) can be boiled down to this: We are moving to the greater Seattle area later this summer so that I (Courtney) can pursue a masters degree in International Community Development at Northwest University. Some things are also staying the same – We will still be operating our photography and design businesses out of Seattle, so if you know anyone in the area who needs some photo or design work have them hit us up. We’ll also be making many trips back to CA for the weddings we already have booked for the summer and fall of 2015.

Ok…so how and why is this all happening? Let me start by saying that it’s been a very strange year that, in hindsight, feels a whole lot like a year of preparation.

God has been bringing Gary and I side by side through a journey of seeing what we HAVE been living for versus what we SHOULD be living for.

WhatWereReadingOver the last year, while being prompted by various books, Bible studies and relationships, we both started asking the same questions at the same time: What are we doing here? What is the point of our life? As Christians, we hear (and say) a lot of things about how we are supposed to live for “something greater than us”…and we heard and said those same things. But it didn’t actually effect how we lived very much.

Which is exactly what we are now trying to fix. We’ve felt called to a global mission of some kind for a very long time. It got put on hold for several years due to the children being so little and being in “survival” mode, but now that they are older we both feel newly awakened to our calling and prepared to take the first steps in that direction.

During the last six years of being a full-time mom and this current year of being a homeschooling mom, I have felt like a fish out of water. I love my children so very much and truly love being a mother. But I feel called and created to do my mothering in a different way than what I’ve been doing it. Not better. Not worse. Different. Parenting in a different way where I can also pursue the passions that I believe God is asking me to pursue.

I feel like I was created to work on behalf of marginalized and vulnerable people. I’m particularly passionate about gender equality and gender-based issues. The problem is that I’m not qualified for any of the positions that I would love to have. So step one is to become qualified to go and do the work I feel created to do. And thus…Grad school.

Gary has always had a wanderlust and also the need to do something significant. Adventures are great…but the idea of combining adventure with something eternally significant gets him so excited.

Here’s the loose plan so far:

Rent our house in Oceanside, move to Kirkland, WA sometime in July or August. The elementary schools are fabulous up there so Joelle will attend a school down the street. We are hoping to live in student housing for families which seems like a really great situation. My degree is a two year program so I will be finished in the spring of 2017. After that, we have no idea what we’ll do. We will go wherever the Lord calls us. If it’s back to San Diego, we’ll come back here. If it’s stateside, we’ll be stateside. If it’s overseas, we’ll go overseas. He hasn’t given us that information yet, so we are just taking one step at a time.

I feel like I’m making this sound like it was an easy process or like it was simple for us to come  to these conclusions.

Let me clarify: It has not been easy. We came to these conclusions after facing a major financial crisis due to an accounting error (which has since been corrected), several major personal crisis (one day in January I felt so frustrated and powerless that I cried for 12 hours), an educational/parenting crisis (I now feel comfortable saying that I am not cut out to homeschool…and neither is Joelle), hours of confused conversation between Gary and I, lots of prayer, therapy (for me), many more tears of both sadness and excitement and endless amounts of wishing God would just drop a roadmap of the next 5 years into our lap.

We (although, I should mostly just say “I”), still have many fears about this impending change. What will all this change do to the kids? How on earth am I going to have time for freakin’ GRAD SCHOOL? What if it’s too much? What if Jo hates her new school? How are we going to afford all of this? Our girls are very close to their grandparents and the thought of moving them away from those relationships makes me super sad. But in the midst of all these worries, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what God has for us, so I know that He is in control of all of it.

Our life is about to change radically. We are expecting to learn many things, but mostly we are hoping to learn more and more how to live a life fully abandoned to the will of God. Each step made in full obedience to Him.

IMG_9901_SeattleWe are planning on blogging regularly about all of our experiences in an extremely transparent way so that others can see how beautifully messy life is in the midst of trying to live in a way that pleases God. Hopefully it will be an encouragement to other people whose lives are filled with messy real-life sort of things. If that’s you, we hope you’ll join us and maybe shoot some encouragement back every once and while. Lord knows we all need it.

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Wrapping up 2014

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

2014 GandC Family01What a whirlwind of a year 2014 has been! Here’s one last blog post to catch everyone up on Team Christenson. Lately around here its been fun and busy. Here’s a bunch of random images of us doing what we do best… beach, travels, sunsets and hanging with friends and family.

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2014 GandC Family08(above) Tooth down (again)!!! And Happy 6th Birthday Jo! (below)

2014 GandC Family09 2014 GandC Family10Somewhat semi-annual backyard family campout! So crazy, so fun.

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To the north!

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(above) A brief work-trip up to British Columbia – insanely beautiful… gotta be back there asap!

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(above) Shoppin’ for RV’s, and celebrating Joelle’s first day of Kindergarten! (below)

2014 GandC Family24 2014 GandC Family25 2014 GandC Family26 2014 GandC Family27 Mexico surf trip with the boys. Somehow we scored some really good surf down there, and scored copious amounts of tacos.

2014 GandC Family28 2014 GandC Family29 2014 GandC Family30 2014 GandC Family31 2014 GandC Family322014 Gand Family-45Glamping at El Capitan near California’s central coast.

2014 Gand Family-40 2014 GandC Family33Joelle took her training wheels off during our trip, big kid bike conquered!

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(above) Wetsuits for Christmas for the whole fam!!! :) And some tattoos of course (below)

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!!! See you in 2015.

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Orcas Island

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by CourtneyLeave a Comment

Orcas-Island-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-01Recently we visited Orcas Island (in the Puget Sound….Washington State… basically Canada) for Gary’s family reunion. It was a super quick trip with nonstop action, but so fun and insanely beautiful! We seriously can’t wait to get back up there and spend some serious time exploring the islands in the beautiful PacNW!

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Let’s get outside: Colorado

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by GaryLeave a Comment

Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-01 Last month we took a trip to Colorado to shoot a truly awesome wedding, and we decided to extend the trip and bring the kiddos along to have a family styled vacation up in the Rocky Mountains :) From free booze on the flight (because we flew on the 4th of July – and because Southwest is awesome) to throwing high fives at 12,000ft and jumping in ice cold lakes and rivers, we had an awesome time… more below…

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Above: Work / Light Testing photos from the wedding we photographed… can we just say that we are extremely grateful for our awesome clients who fly us to rad places to document their wedding day?! Living the good life and doing what we love together. Below: The next day we cruised up to Estes Park and met up with our family friends “Team Knudsen” from San Diego to go rage in our cabin for the following week…. 4 kids versus 4 adult.

Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-04 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-05 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-06 Above: Joelle is the best photo bomber of all times. Below: getting caught in the rainstorms every afternoon and a random kid pep rally that they came up with all on their own.

Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-07 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-08 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-09 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-10 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-11 Above: We did several days of hiking around the Rocky Mountain National Park and all the kids were complete champs! Below: here’s the champion of them all, Cheeks, gettin’ her Tennis face on :)

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Above: This is what a timeout looks like at 12,000ft. It’s not always fun and games folks. Below: It’s always Beer:30 in the Rockies! We had ourselves a grip-load of very tasty brews while venturing around.

Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-17 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-18 Did a little hike (sans kids) up to around 10,000ft and jumped in an ice cold lake. Nick’s form is top notch.

Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-19 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-20 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-21 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-22 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-23 Colorado-2014-Gary-and-Courtney-24Thanks for stopping by. We had a complete blast in Colorado, as we always do :) We just love it there! Until next time, party on good people. Party on.

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Paris Birthday Surprise

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Courtney4 Comments

Remember that time Gary gave me the surprise of a lifetime and whisked me away to Paris for my 30th birthday??? It’s so outrageous and the sort of thing that happens in chick flicks that three weeks later I’m still a little afraid that maybe it was all a dream.

I knew he’d been planning something. He had blocked off my birthday weekend on the calendar 6 months earlier and made me promise not to plan anything Friday-Sunday. Little things had me suspicious a couple of times…like how all the google ads on his computer were for Paris hotels and attractions. But it’s absurd to go to Paris for a birthday in general…let alone for a day and half, so I dismissed it.

Then a week before my birthday our little family went out to breakfast and he gave me an early birthday present. It was a gorgeously wrapped little box with a perfect set of antique keys tied to it. I opened it and inside was a beautiful lock to match the keys and a flight itinerary to Paris with my name on it….Leaving the next morning and staying for a full week. The lock was to put on the Pont de Arts as a symbol of our undying love.

Geez. I’m crying again just writing this. (Disclaimer, I’m a cryer…so there’s lots of crying involved in this story.)

First I couldn’t believe it. Like…I couldn’t actually get my brain to accept the idea that I was going to Paris the next day. Then I started bawling. Crying like a baby into my french toast.

Gary had arranged everything. My parents were going to watch the girls, we had a ride to the airport, a beautiful little flat booked, dinner reservations on the Eiffel Tower on my birthday and even a spreadsheet of restaurants, bakeries and attractions that he had researched. It was crazy. And insanely awesome.

The fact that I was going to Paris didn’t actually sink in until our second flight from Salt Lake City to Paris. At which point I started laughing and then crying again.

At that point I decided to accept randomly bursting into tears as a part of my life for the next week. I did it a lot….like three or four times a day at least. Whenever I looked around and got crazy overwhelmed by how loved I was. And how beautiful life was at that moment.

We don’t get very many perfect moments in life. But this was mine.We decided to be terrible photographers and great people and leave our big camera at home. We didn’t want to feel the pressure of taking great pictures…We wanted to give ourselves the freedom of just experience things in person, rather than through a view finder. So the photos you see here and nearly all of the photos we took (from our phones and trusty point-n-shoot). But we have some amazing memories.

We ate a lot of incredible and insanely buttery food and then burned it off by walking at least five miles a day. We drank a lot of champagne (we brought a couple of bottles of my favorite that I had insisted on buying for my birthday before I knew about the trip.) And we had a crazy good time.

When in doubt, make out under the Eiffel Tower. If possible, involve a delicious rose wine from Provence.Gary had made us reservations for dinner on the Eiffel Tower for my actual birthday. It was GORGEOUS. There was a misunderstanding and they sang him happy birthday instead of me which was one of my favorite moments of the whole trip. I sang along and then we laughed til we cried. But it might have been the champagne that made it so funny.
Oh and the lock? We decided to be subversive and put it somewhere the Parisian authorities would never try to cut it off. So it’s in a perfect little spot with an amazing view.

You’re supposed to throw the keys into the Seine, but we kept ours…and promised to move it every time we got the chance to visit Paris. It’s like our little promise to not let this be the end. Of grand gestures. Of crazy, irresponsible adventures. Of surprising each other. Of traveling. Of being hopelessly, madly in love. Of drinking champagne and making out in public. I don’t want this to be the last time. I want it to be the first.

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Mammoth Winter Getaway

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by GaryLeave a Comment

We got a few of our favorite families together and rented a pad up in Mammoth for a week to go play in the snow. The snow level in the Sierra mountains was on the depressing side, but we made the most of this “winter wonderland” by finding any snow we could, exploring the surrounding area (hiking, hot springs, fish hatchery, etc) and making it to the summit of Mammoth mountain to take in the views (even managed to do a bit of snowboarding). The kids raged, the adults raged, we successfully brought in the New Year, and we all had a fun family styled winter getaway :) Thanks Verdugos and Knudsens for bringin’ THE PARTY!!!