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Our Summer

In Our Life by Gary3 Comments

What a summer! Phew. Lots happened, lots is still happenin’, and our fall is lookin’ to be just as bonkers with some fun trips and amazing photoshoots all over the place… lets try and catch ya up. First up, we had our mugs shot by the the amazing Thrive Photography when Julie was visiting from Tennessee (image above and a few images scattered below are proof of her awesomeness – she just nails families and we’re so grateful to her for capturing our growing family). Speaking of, Joelle is about to turn FIVE (what the what?!) and Charlie is quickly approaching three. So nuts. This summer we constructed a Family Summer Bucket List (thanks to our friends over at the Happy Family Movement). The list had everything from swimming with Leopard sharks, to backyard campouts, beach bonfires, riding on a boat, jumping off a diving board, collecting seashells, fishing, beach bonfires, etc … all items on the list helped us make having fun together a priority this summer. Below you’ll find some images of our summer … 90% of it was spent in or around the water – which is what you’ll see lots of images of below :) … we just can’t help it, we’re a water family… and what’s a summer without a lot of pool parties and beach bbqs & bonfires with friends?

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Eli to Mt Everest

In Make An Impact, We Heart Travel by Gary16 Comments

Everest-Base-Camp-ExpeditionA CRAZY IDEA:

This story began almost two years ago when I (Gary) was approached by Justin Reimer (founder of The Elisha Foundation), and Kevin Padgett (our Team Leader) with the idea of trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp. However, the idea was bigger than just a group of friends going on an adventure. This adventure had a purpose. The purpose was to raise a significant amount of money for The Elisha Foundation (TEF) and raise awareness of those impacted by disability around the world. Eli Reimer (Justin’s 15 year old son who has Down Syndrome) and several other teammates signed up for the trip and we all began mentally and physically preparing for the long road ahead.

I had the great responsibility (and privilege) of being in charge of all-things-media related of our trek: logo, website, fundraising materials, soft goods (t-shirts, patches, flag), as well as documenting the trip through my photography and being the DP (Director of Photography) for all the videos we were creating for the trek. It was the perfect combination of my gifts and passions, I loved every minute of it!

TEF_EBC_Logo TEF_Tshirts_800 TEF_Website

THE PREP WORK:

(FYI, the split/square images throughout this blog post are all iPhone images that got Instagrammed)

Our team spent the year leading up to the trip training, gathering gear and planning out all the logistics of our nearly 80 mile trek through the Himalayas. I was extremely grateful for my li’l families support, involvement and encouragement during this season of training (lots of running and hiking through suburbia here in SoCal). I was also blown away by the generosity of those around us who lent me their outdoor gear for the trek. Most of what you see below was borrowed or gifted from a few VERY generous buddies (Jeff, Taylor, Kyle, Amos, Jim, Kevin… THANK YOU!!!).

Part of the prep included fundraising for The Elisha Foundation. Each trekker committed to raising $10,000 for the organization. With our local and global community’s help (mainly from a crap-ton of awesome photographers who we love and respect), we we’re able to raise over $11,000 for TEF in less than 30 days via our blog (view the fundraising blog post here). By the time we left for Nepal in March, the entire team had collectively raised nearly $100,000 for TEF!!! Throughout the whole process of fundraising we were continually blown away by everyones generosity. Thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!!!

With my bags packed, prayers prayed, and passports in hand, I left for Los Angeles International Airport to meet up with our team for the journey to Nepal… and ultimately Mt. Everest Base Camp (dunt dunt dunnn). The image below is when Nate Strubhar (the video dude), and I (the photo dude) first met Eli at LAX. Eli was the main focus (media wise) of our trip so Nate and I’s primary objective was to capture and retell his story. I was really excited to get to know Eli and eager to start documenting his journey to Everest.  We boarded the huge jumbo jet and took a 10,000 mile plane ride together to the other side of the globe :)

THE JOURNEY BEGINS: Kathmandu

After roughly 38 hours of transit, we arrived late on the night of March 4th in Kathmandu, the [very busy] capital city of Nepal.

Early the next morning we met with our guides to go over all the details for the trek. Our next stop with them was their trekking supply store in the city where we picked up the final necessary gear and supplies for the 16 days we would spend on the trail.

From there we were taken on a quick tour of the city of Kathmandu. The global perspective on disability tends to be fairly critical and stigmatizing so as we headed out into the city we were concerned about how Eli would be received. There was a notable absence of those with cognitive disability as we visited the various religious monuments and spectacles of Kathmandu. There were a few curious stares at Eli but no perceivable comments.

The city of Kathmandu seemed to be very religious (there really isn’t much to do other than go and visit various religious sites throughout the city) but the spiritual vibe of Kathmandu is kinda heavy and dark. There are idols everywhere and people offering gifts to the gods in hopes of appeasing them or gaining good luck. The people in the city were generally polite but a little forward and constantly trying to sell you something…very different from the people we would meet in the mountains who were generally more calm, helpful and welcoming. After a couple days in the bustling city we were ready to ditch the smog and noise and hit the trail.

Throughout the day in Kathmandu our team began to connect on a more personal level. Many of us had just met for the first time as we went through security in LA so it was great so get to know each other as we experienced our first bit of Nepali cuisine together in the city. It became clear early on that this team was a blessed collection of personalities. We honestly enjoyed each other every day of the trip. The camaraderie and humor on this trip felt like it was at an all time high the entire trip. :) I really loved our team! Let me introduce you to them…

MEET THE TEAM:

(Above, starting left to right) Team leader: Kevin, residing in Montana. Eli and his father Justin from Bend, OR.Nate, hailing from Maui. Meghan and Carly (cousins) from the San Luis Obispo area (CA)

Tim, Dr. Lisa, and Gary, all from SoCal.

A SKETCHY FLIGHT:

We woke up early for our flight on a small prop plane to the mountain village of Lukla, where we would begin our trek. We ate a quick simple breakfast (mainly eggs, which would make up a large portion of our daily diet while living on the mountain), double checked that our trail duffle bags (to be carried by porters on the trail) were at or below the 15kg limit and then took off for the airport. After a slight delay we finally boarded our flight and took off from Kathmandu for the 30 minute flight straight up to the mountains. Lukla is rated as one of the most dangerous airports in the world. The runway is only 1,500 feet long, has a 12% gradient, and it sits on the edge of a mountain/cliff at an elevation of 9,383 ft. It’s a do-or-die kind of landing. If you come up short “BAM!” right into a cliff, if you don’t stop in time you’ll run into a huge brick wall that “protects” the village… needless to say, there is little room for error… which means that conditions need to be nearly perfect in order for these small planes to make the landing – thus the reason why there are so many delays in and out of this airport (sometimes lasting up to a week). For me personally, this flight was the one thing I was most worried about for this trip.

The flight  from Kathmandu was CRAZY beautiful. As we rose above the city smog, you could see the Himalayas reaching up towards the heavens. It was jawdropping! Words or pictures cannot do it justice – these mountains are just freakishly large – the Himalayan mountain range has over 100 mountain peaks exceeding 23,000ft. We descended over a handful of ridgelines before the runway of the Lukla Airport came into view, cut into the mountainside in front of us. We approached quickly and …BANG, rattle, rattle we were there! (and in one piece…thank you Jesus!)

After landing you walk across the backside of the runway to officially start the trek to Mt. Everest. From this point forward there are only trails (footpaths) in and out.

LIFE ON THE TRAIL: The “Lowlands”

So the first part of the trail is what I’m calling the “low”-lands… even though it ranges from 8,500 to 14,000 feet (hardly “low”). The trail winds through trees, through a long and steep valley and back and forth over a glacier fed river. This first part of the journey is fairly comfortable. Temperatures are in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and there’s a lot of local villagers going about their normal mountain routines (herding livestock, farming, gathering wood, etc.)

We stayed and ate in small Tea Houses along the trail and shared rooms with a team mate – for me that was my good buddy and media partner,  Nate :) Our team gathered for each meal and for afternoon “cookie & tea time” in the common area of the tea house that is often heated by a toasty, warm yak dung fire (pictures of our accommodations are further down in this blog post). The tea houses are situated in little villages along the trail.

The Sherpa people make up most of the population here in the mountains. Originally migrants from Tibet, these people are made for mountain living. Their lungs and hearts are enlarged and they are generally shorter and stockier. Carrying large loads is a daily norm for the Sherpa people. Most of what you see on the trails (buildings, bridges, food, drinks, supplies, etc) was all carried on the back of an animal or a person. Again, there are no roads up here. Every morning our porters went on ahead of us, each carrying two 15kg duffel bags of our extra gear. I’m still in awe of the young boys who helped carry our load. They were grateful for the work and we were grateful to the pay them :) The trekking industry is one of the most lucrative in Nepal so although it’s hard work to carry gear and guide teams, the pay is pretty great compared to other jobs. We made sure our porters and guides felt our appreciation each day with high fives, cheers and hugs (and tips when the journey was complete).(above) If supplies aren’t flown in on a plane to Lukla, then it’s created in the villages or carried up the trail by human or animal. You would not believe some of the loads the Porters would carry. (below) In the lowlands, every now and then, you’d get a little peak at Everest. She is super elusive – always being hid by the mountains surrounding her.
The first couple days on the trail we crossed a lot of suspension bridges. Most of them seemed fairly safe, even with the heavy loads of trekkers, porters and animals that passed over them each day.

In the “lowlands” you see a lot of cows and donkeys (yaks are at the “higher” elevations). I called the donkeys below “Donkey Bombs”. It’s not uncommon to see these very tired animals stumble down the trail or slip and fall on ice or mud… so I was just waiting for one of these tanks to fall or get hit and take off or explode or something ;) It sorta felt like a video game at times trying to dodge the “donkey bombs” coming down the trail.

You see a lot of prayer flags, prayer wheels, rocks with carvings on them and temples throughout the journey. We spent a day at a monastery in one village where most trekkers who summit Mt Everst come to get blessed by the Monks. We were able to briefly sit in on one of their daily prayer ceremonies. The artistry and attention to detail inside the monasteries was unreal.

ELI ON THE TRAIL:

Eli is a fit and strong young man but none-the-less we were concerned about some of the physical challenges that can come with Down Syndrome – low muscle tone, heart issues, etc. Due to the unknowns of Eli’s unique physiology we didn’t know how his body would respond to the rigors of the trail and effects of high altitude (even though his doctors all approved and released him to go on this trip). Because of this uncertainty, our Team knew that every overnight stop in the villages along the way was a “summit” for Eli. As we would approach our stop for the night one of us would call out, “Summit #3…” or whatever number it was. We all hoped that Eli would make it to that magically significant “Summit Day” at Mt. Everest Base Camp but knew that each and every step was a missive accomplishment.

Tea breaks and music stops with Eli were a normal part of life on the trail. Music really helped Eli stay motivated, as did stories and a hand or arm to hold while hiking. On various days of the trek we all had the chance to take Eli under our wing and make sure he was in good spirits. But he also helped us and pushed us every day as he led the team on the trail for the majority of the trip. He was a champion! Each day I was impressed with his physical stamina. He honestly outdid most of us on this whole journey. While the rest of the team was getting sick, loosing our appetite and loosing sleep each night due to the high altitude, Eli charged on, ate enough food for two people at every meal and slept like a rock every single night – he was made for this sort of adventure. :)

On our way up we stopped at a village where a statue of Sir Edmund Hillary sits. This Kiwi is a legend around here. He was the first person to summit Mt. Everest (1953) and during his time in the Himalayas he fell in love with the people and the land. He visited often and built schools, clinics, airstrips, etc. He loved the Sherpa people and they loved him. Below: a “yak attack”…K, not really, but they were running all over the place at the higher elevations. They reminded me of North American Bison: beastly, large and hairy. The Sherpa’s use them as pack animals and a source of meat at these extreme elevations.

I called this day on the trail “The Lord of the Rings” day. There was a cliff that dropped off thousands of feet to the right and steep steps climbing up into the clouds. It got colder and colder as we trekked further up into the mountains. Waking up to frozen water bottles INSIDE our Tea House was proof of that. ;)
(Above) Looking down from our trail that was carved into the side of the moutain. (Below) Looking up through the clouds you would randomly see a HUGE mountain peaking every now and then – reminding us that we still had much more to climb.

LIFE ON THE TRAIL: The “Highlands”

As we marched on, the trail was a mix of steep ascending steps, uneven rocky terrain and wandering descents. The temperatures changed from cool mornings to cold mornings to just being cold all day long. Our bodies started to feel the strain and show the effects of altitude gain as we adjusted to having 40% less oxygen then is available to us at sea level. As we climbed some steeper terrain breathing was more labored and our pace slowed greatly, but we pressed on into deeper valleys where the glaciers become part of the terrain. We lived in these “highlands” above 14,000 ft for a full week.

The landscape seemed semi-lunar with broad valleys dotted with massive boulders then shifting to fields of rocks. It was barren but it had a stunning beauty.

Prayer flags are hung by trekkers and locals with the belief that the wind carries their prayers as the flags flap in the wind.It snowed a ton one night, so… snowball fight at 15,000ft… “when in Rome” ;)Lets talk about accommodations, shall we? As expected, the trip was not all about being “comfortable”. There are three basic options for trekkers: Tents, Tea Houses or Lodges… all are cold, all are fairly primitive, but all offer at least some form of protection from the elements. We stayed in Tea Houses each night along the trail.

A Tea House has a large common area for resting and eating meals together and a small kitchen that is always bustling. The tiny bedrooms are generally down a narrow hallway built off of the main common area. Electricity was mainly solar at this point in our trip. If you needed to charge something, you paid for it by the hour. I slept with my batteries and cameras so they wouldn’t freeze to death. ;) The rooms we stayed in had little to no insulation from the cold, but hey, they blocked the wind and we had a place to spread out and unpack/repack our gear, a place to lay our heads and even a pad to sleep on so it was “mountain style luxury” ;)

In the Tea House common area there was a single stove fed primarily by Yak dung…yes, you read that right. We were above tree line so instead of burning wood the people burn dried out patties of yak dung. The owner of the Tea House would only run the stove from about 5pm until bedtime and unfortunately this heat never made it down to our rooms. We would rest together in the common area after a long day of hiking. We would have a lot of tea, journal and play various games together…in most cases “Bananagrams” which I brought in my pack. It’s a good thing our team was filled with awesome and funny people, because we spent A LOT of time in close quarters. I can happily report that we sincerely enjoyed each other’s company each day on the trail and in the Tea Houses.

We were mostly vegetarian on the trail because the meat up there – mostly Yak meat or chicken – was not sanitary. We ate a lot of noodles, rice, toast and eggs… don’t even get me started on eggs. We had SO MANY stinkin’ eggs each day  because they were the only real source of protein besides energy bars. Towards the end of the trip we were all eating very mechanically – purely for the fuel/energy. (Below) At most tea houses they had a big solar disc out front that would quickly boil water from the reflecting rays of the sun – that’s how intense the sun was at this high of altitude. We all had hats, sunglasses and loads of sunscreen to protect us.At some of the tea houses there were children running around. Life up here is simple and slow. If you want something abnormal or specific to eat or drink, you have to wait 5-7 days for it to come up the mountain so it’s “what you see is what you get” when trying to buy things up there. For some reason you could always find Snickers, Everest Beer and Pringles in every village all the way up to Base Camp.

Food-born illness quickly became a theme on our trek. 6 out of the 9 team members got wretchedly sick but somehow the sickness became a rallying point for everyone and team bonding was elevated as we encouraged and pushed each other to keep going. Eli and I were two of the fortunate three to be spared from the sickness.

Mt EVERST BASE CAMP:

(below) At various points along the trail Mt. Everest gave us little glimpses of her massive and very elusive glory. At this point, we had been on the trail for 10 days and were ready to reach our final destination. We honestly never imagined that the entire team would make it but somehow the goal of Everest Base Camp was finally within our oxygen starved reach.

A long day of trekking through the wreckage of glacial rock debris brought us up to a ridge line alongside the Khumbu glacier and from there we could see the top of Everest barely peaking out from behind the massive mountain range. Everest is the tiny, windblown peak second from the right in the image below. *Click the link below this next image to get a closer view of the area – what you see in the bottom left is a village with big buildings. Follow the glacier on the right and it leads you to Base Camp.

CLICK HERE to view the above panoramic image LARGER!!!
(once you see the image full screen, click again to zoom in/out)

The terrain approaching Base Camp is all small boulders and a landslide area of gravel, shale, and rock that is being continually carved out by the glacier. As we approached Base Camp we tried to really wrap our minds around what was happening and what we were accomplishing.

And then finally, at 17,598 feet above sea level, WE MADE IT to Mt. Everest Base Camp!!! There we were – at the foot of the highest mountain on Earth. It was all very surreal.

Celebrating with lots of high fives, hugs and Snickers.

(Above) Eli claiming the victory! This kids a true champion of life :) I love the moment captured in the image below of Eli and his father Justin embracing at Base Camp, and I love these words from Justin as he reflected on his son’s accomplishment:

“We were standing in the midst of a collection of the world’s highest mountains all around us and there stands Eli, my son. My son, who because of his disability would be pushed to the fringe of many societies and not even be thought able to walk down the street, spent 10 days hiking up into the foreboding yet beautiful mountains of the Himalayas…is now standing at the base of the highest mountain in the world. God created Eli so uniquely that he has now touched thousands of lives through simply walking a hard trail up some mountains much the same as he has had to navigate the mountain of his own disability. Tamara and I are humbled but we are grateful that God has given purpose in this Everest adventure and that He has a glorious purpose for the disabled.”

Everest Base Camp actually sits on a huge glacier,  known as Khumbu (in all the big pano images on this blog, you can see that the glacier comes down straight from Everest and wraps into the valley floor – this glacier is GIANT in size). So as you can see below, Base Camp is just sitting on a big pile of ice topped with dirt and rocks. Our journey to Base Camp was before the big expeditions (to summit Mt Everest) typically begin. So there were only a few tents set up here and there at the foot of Everest. There was, however, a lot of expedition gear coming up the trail as were heading back down because April is when people start attempting to summit Everest.

Kevin and I took a moment to explore the glacier ice falls a little bit. It felt like being on another planet. The ice was incredibly beautiful. The image below doesn’t do the size of this area justice – that was honestly the hardest part about this trip as a photographers… the scale of these surroundings are just CRAZY huge. Sometimes it helps throwing people in the frame to give it perspective, but most times it doesn’t help… like the photo below… those ice walls are actually very large, yet a very small part of this massive glacier that flows down from Mt Everest.

CLICK HERE to view the above panoramic image LARGER!!!
(once you see the image full screen, click again to zoom in/out)

In the midst of of the celebration at Base Camp, I took a moment to remember my family and memorialize this moment in time. For me personally, it was hard to step back and experience/absorb this trip. I felt like I was working for most of it since the reason I was there was to help document the trip. This moment spent by myself at Base Camp was when things started to feel real. I just sat there thinking of my family and everyone back home who supported me through all of this. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as grateful as I did in that moment. A once in a lifetime experience.

KALA PATTAR: Sunrise view of Mt Everest

Having successfully reached Base Camp we endured a restless night of sleep in the village of Gorak Shep at 16,962 feet. The night was frigidly cold as the temperature in our rooms dropped to around 5 to 10 degrees (colder outside). Early in the morning Tim and I woke up early to hike up to the top of Kala Patthar (18,192 feet) for the best view of Everest that you can experience on this trek. By the light of our headlamps we slowly began our ascent towards the summit. This was probably the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done and it was mentally straining as well. The day before had been extremely long (getting up to Base Camp and back down to the village of Gorak Shep) and then we got little to no sleep because of the high elevation. The climb up Kala Pattar was a “quick” climb up 1,230 vertical feet, at dark, in freezing conditions (and with no water since my Nalgene lid was frozen solid) in hopes of reaching the top in time to view the sun rising over Mt Everest (Everest is the peak on the left – below).

Tim at the summit (above). The photo below gives you a good idea of the area. On the left side of the frame is the Khumbu glacier moving down from Mt Everest and sweeping down the massive valley that it created. Base Camp sits close to that “elbow” where the glacier turns. The big dark peak on the left is Mt Everest. Even at this vantage point (the best view on the entire trip) Mt Everest is still elusive and hidden behind other seemingly larger peaks.

CLICK HERE to view the above panoramic image LARGER!!!
(once you see the image full screen, click again to zoom in/out)

We summitted just in time to experience the warmth of the sun’s rays and the jawdropping beauty of the sun rising over earths highest geographical point. Standing on the tip-top of Kala Pattar marked the highest either of us have ever been: 18,192 feetTim and I quickly got down to the village with just enough time to eat a quick breakfast and then join the team for a long hard day of descending. We had accomplished what we set out to do, but the work was far from over. We had to climb all the way down to where we started. Celebratory popcorn was in order later that day after a successful journey to Everest Base Camp and a beautiful sunrise on the summit of Kala Pattar.

THE JOURNEY HOME:

Our team made a rapid descent down the trail. It took just a few days to go down what took us over a week to go up. Each day down the trail our bodies are grateful to take in more and more oxygen rich air. We raced back to Lukla and hopped on what was literally the last flight out from the mountain before winds and clouds shut the airport down for days. Before we knew it we were airborne headed for home. According to this guy (Nate, below), the flight out of the worlds most dangerous airport on an old sketchy prop-plane through the Himalayas was a complete “snore-fest” ;)

(above) Once we arrived safely back in Kathmandu we signed flags and celebrated with our guides. They were so great to work with! (Hamnath and Tulsi, our faithful guides, below) They even bought Eli a few gifts: a t-shirt and a “chicken hat” (an inside joke from the trip). We honestly didn’t know how the people in Nepal might treat Eli because of the stigma that disability has in this country, but everyone we came in contact with was gracious and helpful towards Eli and our team.

Oh, there’s one more story to tell… Eli and his famous BBQ chips…
The very first time I met Eli (at LAX for this trip) he told me many tales about his beloved Lays BBQ chips :) They were his favorite thing to snack on, and the single thing he talked most about. We had intentionally left one can of chips back at our hotel in Kathmandu. It served as a source of inspiration for Eli’s trek to Base Camp. We literally made up songs about these chips on the trail, talked about them dozens of times a day, and would dream each night about these tasty little snacks. As soon as we returned from our successful trek at Everest Base Camp we opened the BBQ chips and celebrated Eli’s victory! Go ahead Eli, slam that can, you deserve it buddy. :)
As we started our journey home we told stories, relived moments, talk about BBQ chips some more and tried to process all the things that made up this epic, historic and purposeful adventure. Our hearts were full of joy, accomplishment and so many emotions as we finally came around the corner out of U.S. customs and were greeted by family, friends and film crews welcoming us home.

Before we knew it, Eli’s story had spread rapidly across the nation and around the world within the following week. His story was seen and heard by literally millions of people around the globe, reaching at least 40 other countries through radio, internet and television.

We knew that Eli’s story would be different and we hoped that it would get some attention and build awareness on many levels. But we never imagined the type of publicity Eli’s story received after we returned from Nepal. We never set out to break records or anything like that. We honestly didn’t know if Eli (or any of us for that matter) would even make it past day one!

The whole point of this trip wasn’t that Eli would do something no one had ever done before (although the media loved that and spread the news far and wide).

The point in all of this was to spread a message of hope and love. To be able to talk about disability in a different light, and maybe help the world understand that it’s nothing to hide or run away from. We wanted to show and talk about how each of us are created uniquely and for a purpose and how each of us have value. Most of all, that we have hope in something greater.

THE STORY ISN’T OVER:

The journey to Everest Base Camp is a massive accomplishment but it pales in comparison to the journey of those impacted by disability. Struggle, pain, and difficulty mark their trail. Unfortunately, a majority of the world’s disabled do not have the support of a team or community pulling for their success. These priceless friends have so few resources, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.

Jesus modeled a life spent mostly with the marginalized and/or physically broken. Those experiencing disability continue to be pushed aside. Through the funds raised and the awareness created by this trip the Elisha Foundation continues to expand its reach into the lives of the disabled. They cannot do it alone. Your skills, talents, abilities, prayer, and funds are critical to accomplishing the mission, inspired by the life of Jesus, to impact the lives of those experiencing disability by providing needed spiritual and physical resources. With your help we can change one sweet life at a time. You can be a part of this great adventure with a purpose.

Below is the documentary we put together that retells the story of this historic trek. 

And this video below is the fun lighthearted side of the project:

To find out more about the Elisha Foundation and how you can get involved, please visit their website: TheElishaFoundation.org We would encourage you to support them however you can – the work that they do is life changing for those impacted by disability.


Eli is single handedly the most inspiring person I know. He’s a world changer.
GREAT JOB ELI! SO PROUD OF YOU BUDDY!

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West Coast Road Trip

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Courtney4 Comments

 

As I mentioned in the post about our hot air balloon ride, I (Courtney) get/arrange adventures for Gary for any gift-giving occasion instead of buying him things so I knew that I had to do something BIG for his 30th birthday which was at the end of January. My solution was a road trip of epic family-style proportions. Gary has been talking about a roadtrip up the coast of California for the last few years and I decided it was finally time to make it happen.

In order for the epic level to be where we wanted it to be, we knew that we couldn’t have this adventure on our own. Randy and Erin Hill (of He & She Photography) and their little guy Linus were an obvious choice for travel buddies since A) They’re awesome and B) They’re really awesome. View their images from our trip on their blog.

After ridiculous amounts of planning we were set to go. We spent the first night at the Hill’s little ranch in Paso Robles (Central CA Coast) strategizing about how to fit 7 people and all our crap into our rented minivan. Several hours and a few glasses of wine later we finally got it all to fit. Barely. (BTW – all the side-by-side square images are from what we Instagrammed – follow us here)

The next morning we took off bright and early in order to make it to our first stop in Big Sur. On the way we stopped to see the Elephant Seals near Morrow Bay (they’re fascinating and disgusting… they got all “National Geographic” on us and were fighting and mating and all that crazy obnoxious seal stuff).

The next break was at Ragged Point which has the most incredible view of the coast line and where my child threw the world’s most horrific temper tantrum (just keepin’ it real folks.)

The final stop for the day was McWay Falls which looks like something out of a movie. Hidden waterfall that pours into the ocean. Ridiculously beautiful and the scene of my other child throwing a horrific temper tantrum. BTW, this whole time Linus was a complete angel. Obviously.

It’s hard to tell in these images, but there was a massive swell that hit the west coast during our trip, the waves were easily over 20 feet tall. It was loud, huge and beautiful.

We finally made it to Big Sur in the afternoon and checked into our glorious little cabin in the woods and explored the area. We thought our cabin had a kitchen, but it didn’t, so we roasted hot dogs over the campfire.

The next day we continued onward and upward towards San Francisco. This was the longest day of driving that we had. Thank goodness that rental van had a DVD player for the kiddos. We also stopped  in Monterey at the world’s most amazing playground.

Somehow Gary had never driven over the Golden Gate Bridge (he says he’s never even seen it but I just don’t believe him.) so we stopped for the obligatory San Fran shots of the bridge and let the kids rage around.

We randomly pulled over for potty break (there was a fair amount of “I need to PEE and/or POOP!” moments coming from the back of the car) and found an incredibly gorgeous spot to take in another beautiful sunset. It was also kind of a dreamy shooting location and we just couldn’t help ourselves.

Above, Joelle is a professional photo-bomber… and below, Linus is a professional hat steeler ;)Lots of this (dancing, above) on the trip… and lots of Charlotte falling down – she’s the less coordinated one out of our bunch :)That night we stayed in a spot we found on Airbnb that was half really cool and half really weird. Just part of the adventure I guess.

Mendacino and Fort Bragg were the next stops and then we found Sea Glass Beach which is exactly what it sounds like: A beach that is almost entirely made up of sea glass instead of sand. Who knew that pollution could be so lovely? Linus was beside himself with how beautiful it was and decided to just roll around in it and bathe himself in it. Freakin’ love that kid. Jo kept exclaiming “It’s so  BEAU-tiful!” and then illegally collected half the beach and stashed in it my pockets. I dumped [most of] it back out before we left. Charlie was just confused about where the sand was.

Quick stop in Eureka for some brews and into the Redwoods for a night. This is when the weather turned on us. However, the rain did not stop Gary and Randy from illegally approaching some terrifying and bad ass Elk in a field that was surroundedby large signs reading “DANGER Do Not Approach the Elk”. It also did not stop us from attempting a rainy hike to see the ginormous trees, although it was cut short by my children whining about the rain and cold.

After an overnight driving break in Redding involving a mall playground and random thai food, we went on our way through Mt. Shasta and into Central Oregon to our final destination: Bend.

Bend was full of the usual fun: Good beer, good friends, family, snow, sledding. We attempted some family walks during which our children were mostly just confused and upset by how cold it was…except Linus who was confused and upset about why he had to be inside so much. Gary’s family threw him an amazing birthday party celebrating his last 30 years which was only slightly dampened by the fact that most of Bend had come down with a crazy flu. I happened to get that same flu at spent the evening in bed with a fever which was totally crappy.

Charlotte lookin’ for someone to POWN with that snowball – if only she could see through that hat and her hair ;) Also, here’s Charlotte falling down (below), again :)

Gary got to go backcountry snowboarding with some buddies (Matt and Kyle). 

The weekend finished up with several other coming down with the flu so we decided to bolt on Monday. We pretty much made the drive in one straight shot through the night (with one quick stop in Redding to explore their new sundial bridge and grab some dinner), landing back in Paso Robles around 2am.

Overall the trip was lovely, quick, a little chaotic and exhausting but completely worth it. We wish we would’ve had more time! I think we could have spent several days at each spot we stopped at! There were lots of things we wish we could’ve done that our kids were just too little for so I think we might do a repeat (but more extended) trip in a few years. Overall, a great and extremely memorable trip to ring in Gary’s 30th. Huge thanks to Randy and Erin for rallying with us and being fabulous travel buddies.

And most of all…Happy Freakin’ Birthday to the love of my life. Can’t wait to be with you for all of the next 30 years.

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Gettin’ Published…

In Make An Impact, Our Life by Courtney10 Comments

Well folks… We’ve got some big news. I (Courtney) have been trying to figure out how to make this sound less random, but I finally just figured that it IS pretty random, so I should probably just spit it out. Here it goes: I wrote a children’s book. And it’s being published :)

Since I found out that it will go to print I’ve only told a handful of people because it still just doesn’t quite seem real. I’m really not sure how to write this post so I figured I would just answer the questions that people have asked me when I told them the news. Ready? Here it is…

What is the book about?
The book is called Growing Global Kids™ and it’s a book for children ages 3-6 about two small kids who hear about life in a developing country and realize how crazy blessed they are. Once they understand how much they have, they feel compelled to help other children who don’t have as much as they do. The solution offered in this book is child sponsorship so the two kids end up sponsoring a set of siblings and building a relationship with them. My goal for the book is to help parents pop the affluent and often entitled “bubble” that our kids (or at least OUR kids) seem to be growing up in by making them aware that they are incredibly blessed to have the life that they do. However, rather than depressing them with the news that the rest of the world is not as blessed as they are, I hope to empower them to make a difference. It is my humble opinion that kids have the power to change the world if we just gave them resources to do so…this is my attempt to put at least one small resource into their tiny hands.

My goal is to eventually have a series of 4 or 5 books of this nature to help parents and kids come together and tackle some of the major global issues of our day.

Am I illustrating it?
Oh HECK no! I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. I am working with the phenomenally talented Thomas Monson…an artist in Portland, Oregon and a friend of ours from back in the day. We are in the process of illustrating it right now and should be done with that part of the book production by March. I can not WAIT for you guys to see the artwork that Tom has created for the book!

When will it go to print?
Hopefully by July or August we’ll be holding it in our hands. :)

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Ok…Where did this idea come from?!?
I got the idea about a year and a half ago. I honestly don’t feel I can take much credit for the idea as it seems to have been given to me rather than created by me. After attempting to ignore the idea for the book for about a year (due to paralyzing fear), I finally gave into the deep compulsion I felt to write it and sat down and penned it last summer. I submitted it to a publisher in the Midwest in October and received a contract shortly after.

So that’s the story :) I’m so excited (and terrified) for you all to see it. I feel very naked sharing this with the world and yet at the same time extremely honored and undeserving of my role in this project. My hope for this book is that children can be inspired and empowered to make a difference, parents can have a tangible way to help grow their child’s sense of gratitude and ideas about generosity and most of all that more and more children around the globe can be sponsored, stay healthy, get an education and grow up to make the world a better place.

Thanks for listening/reading! We’ll keep you posted as we get closer to print and let you all know how you can pre-order your first dozen copies once it’s done. ;)

 

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Hot Air Ballooning

In Our Life by Courtney2 Comments

It’s no secret that we love adventure. But what you may not know is that we are both terrible gift-givers. And it doesn’t help that Gary is impossible to buy for.

So instead of buying Gary gifts for holidays and birthdays, I buy him adventures or experiences. There are several reasons why this is awesome:
  1. We don’t need any more stuff nor do we have room for it.
  2. Stuff only lasts so long, but the memories you make adventuring last forever.
  3. Going on an adventure together builds our marriage.
This year for Christmas I got Gary something he’s been wanting to do for a LONG time: Hot Air Ballooning.
I signed us up for a sunset flight in Del Mar. We had no idea what to expect and we were slightly nervous about how old fashioned the technology of it seemed to be. You stand in a basket connected to a ginormous balloon and the only way to control it is with a blow torch that controls the height of the balloon…there is actually no way to steer the thing. They gave us a terrifying schpeal about how to duck under the shield so to not get singed by the flames and how to hold on to the basket in the event that the balloon gets dragged along the ground upon landing.

[we absolutely loved the uniqueness and design of this balloon – so beautiful!!!]

Take-off was kind of a mind bender. We went UP with startling speed and nearly bumped into the other balloons around us, but once we were up in the air it was GORGEOUS. Totally silent (when they weren’t using the blow-torch) and floating super slow through the air. We got a gorgeous day with minimal winds, clear skies and amazing visibility. For an hour and half we floated over beautiful homes while taking in breathtaking coastal views. At one point we were about 3000 feet off the ground but somehow it wasn’t scary at all.

Landing was a little crazy though. Since it’s not an exact science we ended up clipping a tree with the bottom of the basket and landing in the middle of a busy street while annoyed drivers waited patiently for the thing to move to the side of the road out of their way.
Overall, it was a great experience. Just risky enough to be fun, but not enough to be terrifying. The balloon we took up was a limited edition balloon made in Spain with beautiful artwork custom made for Hendrick’s Gin. So naturally we concluded Gary’s Christmas present adventure by stopping to get a bottle of Hendrick’s to enjoy that night.

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Mt Everest Base Camp Fundraiser

In Make An Impact by Gary70 Comments

Meet Elisha Reimer (above right). A vibrant teenager from Bend, OR who is the eldest of 5 kids, loves sports and the great outdoors, and has Down Syndrome. In March, I (Gary) will have the honor of joining Eli, his father Justin, and a team of supporters in Nepal as we climb to the Base Camp of Mt Everest to raise funds and awareness for ‘The Elisha Foundation’ (TEF). My purpose on the team will be to document the journey and tell Eli’s story as he ascends to the foot of the worlds highest mountain. As far as we know, he’s only the second person with that disability to attempt such a feet. He’s so excited for the challenge and has been training in anticipation of the trek.

The struggle our team will face on this mountain poetically mirrors the struggle of a family caring for a person with a disability… except that their journey is not just for a few weeks, but for a lifetime. It’s a relentless struggle that often makes the whole family feel isolated and hopeless. This is where The Elisha Foundation (TEF) comes in. Through its Respite, Retreat & Reach programs, TEF provides encouragement, community and rest to those burdened with the care of a disabled person. They also help educate and equip people around the world (both families and volunteers) to provide proper care and help to break down barriers that are faced by those with disabilities and their families. We strongly believe in this cause, have actively supported the efforts of TEF for the last 4 years and have been thrilled with the results of their work. To view more information about this trek, please visit www.Trek4TEF.com

TEF has recently begun a ministry in Ukraine where the need is massive. Our help is needed to continue this work! (The images below are from our good friend Benjamin Edwards who joined TEF in Ukraine and documented their work there this last summer.)

There is a huge social stigma in Ukraine against people with disabilities and generally speaking, they are not seen as real people. Parents are strongly encouraged to put their special needs children into an orphanage which has led to over-crowding and poor conditions. Parents who decide to keep their disabled children at home are faced with unbelievable challenges and live in isolation. The new work in Ukraine is a grassroots ministry near the city of Chernigiv that was launched this past summer when Justin (Eli’s father) took the whole family (including all 5 kids) to live in Ukraine for 3 months while they got the programs started. They are empowering locals to educate their community and providing resources for families that are caring for someone with a disability. They have also created a team of people who are committed to visiting a couple of the local orphanages to spend time with and encourage the residents there.

So here’s the deal: We’ve committed to raising $10,000 (yikes) specifically for TEF’s work in Ukraine. We’re totally intimidated by that amount, but we know how far those funds can go and believe that with your help we can make a huge impact! We need you to give as much as you can to extend The Elisha Foundations global reach, specifically to the orphans with disabilities in Ukraine. As you consider giving, we want you to know that we are covering all personal costs for this trip (including your PayPal transaction fees!) so 100% of what you donate goes straight to the work in Ukraine. Alright, LET’S DO THIS!!! Here’s a few incentives for you as you give:

We will get your address from the donation form and send you the postcard when we get back.

VIEW LIMITED EDITION OPTIONSAfter donating please following the instructions underneath the ‘Donate Now’ button and leave a comment to let us know your choice (A or B). We will get your address from the donation form and send you the option that you chose.

VISIT THE GALLERY of images that AMAZING photographers from around the world have generiously donated for this cause – After making your donation (below), please leave a comment on this blog post and note the number associated with the print you would like to receive.

*UPDATE: All matching funds have been used. Even though we can no longer match funds, any small amount will help and go a long way, so please consider helping!

Adam & Shawna (0 of 1 left, San Diego, CA)  |  Ana & Jerome (1 of 1 left, Cabo San Lucas)  |  Aim & Arrow Photographers (1 of 1 left, Santa Cruz, CA)  |   Benjamin Edwards (0 of 1 left, Bend, OR)  |  Carly Loves Amos (0 of 1 left, Bismarck, ND)  |  Cypher Photography (1 of 1 left, Holton, KS)  |  Gary & Courtney (0 of 2 left, Oceanside, CA)  |  He& She Photography (1 of 1 left, Paso Robels, CA)  |  Jim & Ravyn Photography (1 of 1 left, Portland, OR) |  Love Made Visible (1 of 1 left, Cape Town, S. Africa)  |  Mark Brooke Photographers (1 of 1 left, Ladera Ranch, CA)  | Mathieu Photography (0 of 1 left, Ladera Ranch, CA)  |  Nate & Jenna Photography (0 of 1 left, Maui, HI) |  Photographs By Anjuli (0 of 1 left, Escondido, CA)  |  Reaux Photo (1 of 1 left, Lafayette, LA)  |  Sara & Rocky (0 of 1 left, Dallas, TX)  | Stone Crandall Photography (0 of 1 left, Encinitas, CA)  |  Thrive Photography (2 of 2 left, Nashville, TN)  | Wild Eyed Photography (1 of 1 left, Toronto, Canada)

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!! We are overwhelmed with gratitude and humbled by your support and response. We cannot adequately express how blessed we feel to have a community that believes so strongly in helping those in need and putting to good use the abundance we have all been given. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

(If missed your opportunity and would still like to donate, by all means, please do so below! We’d love your support and every penny of from your donation will still go straight the cause! Thank you so much!)



AFTER DONATING, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW – using your name (or as anonymous) and the amount you have donated so that we can thank you, record the donations in one place, match applicable funds, and note which ‘Giving Rewards’ have taken place.

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G&C in Italy

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Courtney1 Comment

We had the awesome pleasure of traveling to Italy to shoot Shawna & Adam’s destination wedding in a small town in the Tuscan countryside (view their wedding blog post here). So we wanted to show you a few behind the scenes images and some fun travel images of our journey through Italy.

We flew into Pisa, and train-ed it over to explore Florence for the day before heading to the Tuscan country side where the wedding would take place.

Once we finally arrived in Poppi, the town where the wedding was taking place, we quickly got to work documenting the Villa where everyone was staying (and where the reception would be held) and the mideaval section (and castle) of the small town of Poppi (where the ceremony was taking place). We had such a great time working with Vince (and assisted by Krysta) who do all the film work for Shawna & Adam’s destination wedding. Here’s a few images from the day before the wedding of us all working, running around scouting and doing a ‘day before’ portrait session with Shawna & Adam:

The wedding day was a ton of hard work, but every minute of it was so enjoyable. Here’s a few behind the scenes images …. to view all the finished work from this destination wedding, click here.

Krysta, assisting with the makeup on the day-of (above), and enjoying herself at the reception below), haha :) Oh, and yup, that’s a castle below… where to ceremony took place! What?!

After the EPIC wedding. The four of us (Krysta, Vince, Gary, Courtney) headed to the northwest coast of Italy – Cinque Terre – for several days of exploring and hanging out. We stayed in Vernazza, and Krysa and Vince stayed in Monterosso. Here’s a few images of Vernazza:

During the day, we’d connected with Vince & Krysta for some fun and exploring:

Out of nowhere it got hot one day as we were exploring some of the other coastal villages… so we did some underwear swimming in the Mediterranean… “when in Rome” – or “Cinque Terre” anyways ;)After we left Cinque Terre, we flew out of Pisa and landed in London to spend the night and do some more exploring before jetting back home to see our crazy kids. A HUGE THANK YOU to Court’s folks, Dennis & Marsha, for watching our kids so we can have this adventure together. We appreciate it so much!

Thanks for checking out our journey to Italy. It was a whirlwind, but such a fun adventure! Enjoy the journey, G&C

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Cabo – Behind The Scenes

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Courtney1 Comment

We decided to fly the family down to Cabo a week before a wedding we photographed. Here’s a look at what we were up to on our extended work/play trip (hint: TONS of pool & beach time, lots of naps and relaxing, amazing seafood and cocktails, and loads of little baby sea turtles).

Christensons in Cabo 01 Christensons in Cabo 24 Christensons in Cabo 29 Christensons in Cabo 06 Our view for the next week of partying with the kids and their super adventurous grandparents.
Christensons in Cabo 05 Christensons in Cabo 02 Christensons in Cabo 03 Above: Charlotte was obsessed with one of her toys, “the cow”, while we were there. She took him everywhere. And Joelle, below, became champion of the pool! She did a lot of swimming without her “floaty” (a very big deal, folks)… she’s turning into such a fun big girl!

Christensons in Cabo 04 Christensons in Cabo 07 Christensons in Cabo 08 Christensons in Cabo 09 Christensons in Cabo 12 We had the opportunity to hang with some new baby sea turtles. It was such a cool experience. Charlotte (below) still talks about them to this day. Joelle named hers ‘Squirt’.

Christensons in Cabo 13 Christensons in Cabo 11 Christensons in Cabo 14 Christensons in Cabo 15 Christensons in Cabo 16 Christensons in Cabo 17 Christensons in Cabo 18 Christensons in Cabo 19 Christensons in Cabo 20 Christensons in Cabo 21 Christensons in Cabo 23 Christensons in Cabo 28 Christensons in Cabo 22 Christensons in Cabo 27 Christensons in Cabo 26 Christensons in Cabo 25 Christensons in Cabo 10Christensons in Cabo 32Christensons in Cabo 30Christensons in Cabo 29.2

Well, that’s it! We seriously had a great experience down south. Bringing family/friends along an any travel makes it so much more fun!

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Fall: The End is Near

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Courtney1 Comment

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We just got back from an epic little trip to Colorado for a recent wedding (teasers below). We’re nearing the end of our crazy wedding season and decided to go out with a bang… We’ve got three destination weddings in the next month: The first is next week in Boston, followed immediately by a wedding in Italy and then we wrap up the month with one more in Cabo San Lucas before hunkering down in November to wrap up the season with a few more here in SoCal. What an amazing wedding season it’s been! We’ve bounced all over the place, met some incredible people and had the pleasure of documenting some amazing wedding stories… one of our best and busiest seasons yet! We’ve loved every second of it, so seeing the awe inspiring fall colors in Colorado was a perfectly beautiful way to mark our arrival into the home stretch of our season…

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Traveling with Kids

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Courtney14 Comments

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We love to travel. And we have 2 small children. Travel and children generally do not go hand in hand and we get a lot of shocked expressions when we tell people how much we travel with our kids. By the time Joelle was 6 months old she had been on 28 planes and qualified to go through the “Expert Traveler” TSA line.

The shocked expressions do not come from people thinking that we shouldn’t travel with our kids, the shock comes from the fact that many people think that you CAN’T. As though you and/or your child(ren) will actually implode after a certain number of hours in the air/car or days on the road. FACT: you won’t actually implode. FACT: you will most likely feel like you might at one point or another.

Bottom line: you CAN travel with children. It’s not easy. It makes every trip about 400% more difficult. But it also makes every trip about 400% more fun which is why we do it.

This year we have road tripped up to Paso Robles to see our friends Randy and Erin of He&She Photography, took the family to Maui, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest and next month we’re taking them to Cabo San Lucas for their first international trip.

The most recent trip we brought the kids on was to the Pacific Northwest to shoot Courtney & Jay’s wedding in Portland before heading up to Seattle for a little reunion with Gary’s family. We decided to document this trip and share it will you all so you could get a glimpse into both the FUN and the “fun” parts of traveling with kids and hopefully inspire you to take your family on the road to make some memories together. We also want to share some of our tips/tricks for making flights and car rides less hellish and more fun.

Traveling brings our family together, bring us all so much joy and we hope will make us a super tight knit family unit for the rest of our lives. We hope it does the same for yours! Happy travels!

A couple of disclaimers:

*We don’t bring our kids on every trip we take. The majority of our destination weddings are quick and are just the two of us. When we do bring the kids, we extend our trip (at our expense) and we typically either fly out one of our moms or meet one of our moms in the places we go. Or we bring the kids to places where we have friends who are willing to watch our kids or know great and dependable sitters to watch our kids which makes shooting a wedding possible. This is also often allows us to travel without carseats and pack n’ plays. We have rented carseats, and we have brought them on several occasions, but on this particular trip we were meeting Gary’s mom (Laloni) in Portland with carseats and a pack n’ play so that we could travel super light.

**Our kids are terrible sleepers/nappers, so we don’t wanna hear any of this “but my kids would never ______” stuff ;) If we can do it with kids who never sleep, you can do it with yours :) Here’s the behind the scenes images from “traveling with [crazy] kids to the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy:

(all images were taken with either our fancy pants iPhones or our trusty Canon s95)

01 Traveling with Kids 02 Traveling with Kids 03 Traveling with Kids 04 Traveling with Kids 05 Traveling with Kids

We have a couple of trusty tricks for the airplane:

1. Take a trip to the Dollar Store before the trip, spend $5-$10 and pack a bag of “surprises” for the plane and pull one out every hour or so. Some of my favs: Mini coloring books with markers included, playdough (we bring stamps for them to stamp the dough with), new books, ColorWonder stuff for Charlie so she doesn’t destroy the plane, stickers, etc. Just be sure to hide them once you get to your destination so they are still fairly new on the trip home.

2. Snacks. Snacks. More snacks. We don’t eat a lot of junk food or real snacky type foods so when I buy lollipops, cheez-its, fruit snacks, etc it’s like the most exciting thing ever and can entertain them for a long time. Also…when flying with babies or toddlers, swallowing and chewing can help their ears equalize on the way up and down so I always bring something chewy for them during that time.

3. Make everything a big deal. The drink service is the main event on our flights and we turn it into a 30 minute ordeal deciding what kind of drink to order, whether or not we want ice and practicing how to ask the flight attendant for it. Going to the bathroom can also be a 20 minute process, getting there, looking at all the cool stuff in the back of the plane, etc.

4. Media is a fail-safe. As tempting as it is to just whip out the iphone/ipad/dvd, I really recommend holding out on that as long as possible because I promise you’ll want to use it at the end of the flight and if they’ve already used it for an hour or two they’re going to be over it, whiny and bored. So save it for the end when you REALLY need it.

5. Be flexible. On the road with kids is not the time to stand your ground on what they can eat/drink, when they should nap, how messy they can get, etc. It’s also not the time to stick to a plan regardless of what’s happening around you. Go with the flow, understand that everything takes FOREVER and be ok with it. I realize this is easier for some of us than others. But attempt it. You’ll all be happier. I promise. ;)

06 Traveling with Kids 07 Traveling with Kids 08 Traveling with Kids

Above: Joelle is hiding [curbside] in the luggage to surprise Grandma Laloni, who picked us up at PDX. Then we went straight to Mt Tabor for a picnic and some play time (below).

As fun as it is for us to experience a new eatery (which we LOVE doing), it’s often not so much fun for the kids (or with small children for the other people dining), so we often get our food to go and have a picnic at a park with a playground. Yelp has an option to search for playgrounds and is a super useful app when traveling and looking for a kid-friendly play spot.

09 Traveling with Kids 10 Traveling with Kids 11 Traveling with Kids After checking in and partying at the hotel (and after some swimming), we hit the hay early. The next morning (since we’re [always] up early) we headed out to grab some breakfast at Tin Shed (delish!!!) and ran around Portland.

12 Traveling with Kids 13 Traveling with Kids 14 Traveling with Kids 15 Traveling with Kids 16 Traveling with Kids 17 Traveling with Kids 18 Traveling with Kids

Above: Post naps, pool and dinner, we hunkered down in the hotel closet (out of the way while Laloni attempted put Joelle to bed) waiting for the kids to FINALLY fall asleep, then off for a date night! Met up with the totally awesome Jim & Ravyn for some brewskis. Love them!

The next day was our work day. So Gary’s mom partied with the kids downtown Portland and we went and photographed the awesome story of Courtney & Jay’s wedding day.

Below: Early the next morning, we fueled up with some local coffee/pastries for our drive from Portland to Seattle. While trying to get something for one of the kids in the car Courtney totally spilled her whole cup of coffee in her crotch. Flexibility = KEY when traveling with kids :) ‘Cause sometimes your coffee ends up in your crotch.

19 Traveling with Kids 20 Traveling with Kids We arrived AT THE LAKE (Lake Tapps, WA), for several days of max chilling and family hangin’ with Gary’s family.

21 Traveling with Kids 22 Traveling with Kids 23 Traveling with Kids 24 Traveling with Kids 25 Traveling with Kids 26 Traveling with Kids 27 Traveling with Kids 29 Traveling with Kids 30 Traveling with Kids 31 Traveling with Kids

Above: Again with flexibility… our kids were sick the majority of the trip and I finally broke down and took them to the Doctor. Turns out they DID need some meds. Poor babies. :( But they were such troopers the whole trip for being sick!

Below: date night, downtown Seattle!!! Caught the sunset on the wharf (overlooking the Puget Sound), Hit up Odd Fellows for dinner (legit), and Molly Moon ice cream for dessert (too legit… fair trade chocolate FTW!).

32 Traveling with Kids Travel day home from Seattle to San Diego! PAAAAAARTY!!! Warning: The flight home is never as fun as the flight there.

33 Traveling with Kids 34 Traveling with Kids

Above: This is pretty much what it feels like corralling kids through airports ;) Chaotic, fast and over burdened with STUFF.

Below: Prying open Charlie’s mouth and discovering she had eaten half of some random dude’s luggage tag she had found on the floor. :/ Seriously.

35 Traveling with Kids 36 Traveling with Kids 37 Traveling with Kids Always filling up water bottles everywhere we go… always. Such a thirsty little family.

38 Traveling with Kids 39 Traveling with Kids

Above: Pre-flight dog piles on the airport floor and making new friends on the plane.

Below: Moral of the story… even though at times you will feel like this:

40 Traveling with Kids … it’s all 3,000% completely worth it to travel and create awesome memories with our kiddos because of moments like THIS:

28 Traveling with Kids

*Happy adventuring and enjoy the journey* – Team Christenson

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Lately, Round Here

In Our Life by Gary1 Comment

We wanted to give you some quick insight into what’s been goin’ on around here lately (besides lots-o-photography – we’re deeeeeeep into the raddest wedding season we’ve ever had the privilege of working)… so, here’s a bunch of Instagram images from our fancy pants phones. This is what life at The Christenson household typically looks like. Enjoy!

01-InstaChristensons As you can quickly tell, we LOVE us some coastal livin’ :) water activities :) :) and our crazy kiddos :) :) :)

02-InstaChristensons 03-InstaChristensons 04-InstaChristensons 05-InstaChristensons 06-InstaChristensons Growing old is rad (above: parenting, SUPER early mornings and [old man] ear hair… just keepin’ it real for ya). We also really love takin’ road trips, slip ‘n sliding, more coffee, fair trade chocolate, pool parties and the beach (below… way below).

07-InstaChristensons 08-InstaChristensons 09-InstaChristensons 10-InstaChristensons 11-InstaChristensons 12-InstaChristensons We recently finished our backyard and are LOVING livin’ in it and throwing parties. We’ve been slowly fixing up our house since we bought it a couple years (it was a massive fixer-upper in need of some love and care), and this backyard was one of the final major projects. We LOVE the results [and the backyard camp-outs and parties with friends]!!! THANKS for stopping by. Catch ya later. – Team Christenson

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QUICK!!! To Paso [Robels, CA]

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Courtney2 Comments

We like roadtrips. So a couple weekends ago we headed up along the coast to go party with the awesome Hill family. They recently relocated to Paso Robels so we took them up on their offer to come slumber party. It was a beautiful weekend of country living, kids running around all crazy, dogs doin’ their cuddly th-ang, rainy/chilly weather, lots of good food, fires in the fireplace, wine and beer tastings, coastal town exploring and other random acts of awesomeness. Here’s some imagery from the long weekend-o-adventures (FYI, The little square photos are images from our fancy pants iPhones (via Instagram)).

PasoTrip-01 PasoTrip-02 PasoTrip-03 PasoTrip-04 PasoTrip-05 PasoTrip-06 PasoTrip-07 PasoTrip-08 The Hill family!

PasoTrip-09 PasoTrip-10 (1) PasoTrip-11 (1) PasoTrip-12 (1) PasoTrip-13 (1) PasoTrip-14 (1) PasoTrip-15 (1) PasoTrip-16 (1) LOVE this image (above) of the little family unit known as TEAM HILL. And the image below is pretty much how the whole weekend felt. Lots of activity with kids and dogs and beautiful landscapes all around. What a beautiful weekend away!

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Maui Oh-12

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Gary14 Comments

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201201 Just got back from another vacation adventure to Maui, HI. We didn’t get much sleep [at all], but had a complete blast!!! Did lots of beach sessions, hiking, surf trips, scuba dives, fishing, seafood eating, whale watching, and other random acts of awesomeness on this trip. Here’s some of our favorite images from our time together. (FYI, the 3 square images next to each other throughout this blog post are all images we Instagram-ed)

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201202 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201203 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201204 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201205 Drove around the island for a day of waterfall swimmin’ and bamboo forest hikin’. That (bottom left) is Charlotte, our youngest, takin’ a nap in the trunk of our rental van… don’t worry, it was parked, with the hatch open, under a tree, in the shade :)

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201206 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201207 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201208 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201209 Our girls (above) weren’t the biggest fans of water on this trip for some reason… probably b/c it was “winter” and the water was only like “80 degrees” ;) We had the crazy privilege of boarding a privately owned yacht for two days of epic adventure out at sea (below). We were super duper “models” for a marketing shoot for the boat… so we got to fish, scuba dive, whale watch, snorkel with turtles and even swim with 75+ spinner dolphins off the island of Lanai. It’s an amazing boat! Luxurious AND loaded with every tool you might need for a fun adventure. It felt both awesome and weird living someone else’s reality for a few days.

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201210 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201211 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201212 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201213 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201214 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201215 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201216 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201217 Did some Stand Up Paddling together (mostly just swam around and hung out)… SUP-ing is all the rage now-a-days.

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201218 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201219 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201220 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201221 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201222 Charlotte was pretty stoked at the beach, and ate lots of sand :)

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201223 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201224 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201225 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201226 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201227 Gary’s mom, Laloni, joined us on this trip to make it a massive WIN WIN WIN. We’re so grateful for her help, and for watching the kids while we had some adventures with just the two of us.

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201228 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201229 Lots of fresh fruit, shave ice and early mornings with the girls (up before the sun the majority of the trip).

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201230 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201231 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201232 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201233 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201234 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201235 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201236 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201237 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201238 Back on the boat for day two of playin’ in the big blue ocean.

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201239 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201240 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201241 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201242 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201243 Back on land we snuck away to a private beach house near Makena for a few afternoons of swimming and swinging.

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201244 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201245 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201246 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201247 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201248 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201249 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201250 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201251 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201252 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201253 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201254 Did loads of hanging out with some of our besties: Mike & Ciara Woodard, Nate & Jenna Strubhar and Dave & Sally Englert.

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201255 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201256 Played with a GoPro for an afternoon. Here’s Court body surfing a li’l wave (below). Check out some of the videos here.

Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201257 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201258 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201259 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201260 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201261 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 201262 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 2012 67 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 2012 68 Gary and Courtney Photography Maui 2012 69

 

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Why We Travel

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Courtney5 Comments

WhyWeTravel3 It’s no secret that we love to travel. But for many people the question is WHY? Especially with kids? And why on earth do you love it so much? The flights, TSA, jet lag, hotels, long car rides, unfamiliar eateries, and PACKING…I mean, it’s not all fun and games, so what’s the deal? Let us give you our top 5 reasons for why we travel: WhyWeTravel1 1) ADVENTURE We LOVE to have adventures! “Adventure” (as defined by Gary) is anything that has great ‘story potential’. It’s stuff that makes the highlight list at the end of the year. New experiences that stretch you, challenge you, get your heart pumping and makes you say “Holy crap! This is amazing!” at least once. Shark diving, cliff jumping, snorkeling, sky diving, ATVs, hiking, boating, climbing, crazy foods, new cultural experiences, etc. When you travel, opportunities for adventures often arise and since you’re already having so many new experiences there is a sense of “why not?” so you end up stepping outside of your comfort zone and having adventures you would never have at home. WhyWeTravel2 2) FUN FUN is one of our core values, which means it’s a value we refuse to compromise. No matter what happens in our life, we will still strive to have fun. We have SO MUCH FUN together! It’s one of the reasons we fell in love and it’s one of the reasons we’re still in love! We love having fun with our kids, we love having fun with each other, we love having fun with our friends and family. When you travel, new fun things are everywhere! Because everything is new, it’s exciting and it’s easy to come up with fun things to do. Fun stuff also fills your relationships with happy, exciting memories… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves! WhyWeTravel3 3) BUILDS RELATIONSHIPS It’s a fact that you can’t just travel with anyone. When you travel your true colors come out. You’re exhausted, hungry, dirty and completely out of your comfort zone… so there is very little left for shallow politeness. You also end up in situations where you have to make decisions (where to eat/sleep, what to see, etc) that can very easily create conflict. It’s also a fact that experiencing a certain amount of conflict AND working through it leads to better/deeper relationships. So, done right, you get to build better relationships with your traveling buddies. You also get to build relationships with people who are different from you all over the world. This opens your eyes to other people’s perspectives, lives, struggles, joys and cultures. Relationships like that can only serve to enrich your life! WhyWeTravel4 4) ADJUSTS OUR PERSPECTIVE We don’t know about you, but its easy for us to get really comfortable in our little privileged bubble. We’re by no means rich, and we are in no way referring to the privilege of the “1%”… even the majority of the other “99%” are privileged when compared to the rest of the world. It’s easy to sit here and begin to see how much we DON’T have when in fact we are incredibly blessed by so much. Freedom, rights, food, safety. For us, stepping outside our bubble and into someone else’s readjusts our understanding of the word “need”, makes us grateful for our abundance and more generous with everything we have. Traveling drives home and reinforces the desire we have to positively impact the world and the people in it. Travel also makes you think BIG. When you see how big the world really is and yet how interconnected we all are it makes your ideas bigger, your inspiration broader and your dreams more far reaching. WhyWeTravel5 5) HELPS US APPRECIATE GOD We know that there are people of all different spiritual backgrounds reading this and we are not trying to force this idea on anyone… we’re just sharing with you where we’re coming from. Our relationship with God is the most important thing in our life and travel vastly enhances that relationship. We believe that God created this amazing planet and we think He wants us to experience and appreciate it! Seeing all the beautiful places and meeting all the incredible people He made enriches our life and vastly increases our appreciation of God and everything he made. We are better able to worship and appreciate His handiwork having seen more than our tiny little piece of the pie at home (though, that’s pretty freakin’ amazing too!).

We’ve tried to keep this short and clearly failed. But we hope you have a better understanding for why travel is awesome and that you are inspired to do so! When you do, please share with us so we can experience it vicariously through you. Thanks for reading!

Happy 5 Years

In Our Life by Gary16 Comments


Happy Anniversary to the love of my life!!! Courtney, I love you more than you could ever know. It’s absolutely mind blowing that we’re already 5 years into this incredible journey together. Meeting you in Maui over 6 years ago was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. What an awesome story our journey has already been, and I’m looking forward to the BIGGER story that we are just starting on. Happy 5 years!!! Here’s to many more.