Monday, November 28, 2011

The Great Outdoors

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving week we did something for the first time ever: an Outdoor Challenge as a couple. Our friends Matt and Brandi recently celebrated their birthdays, and so their spouses coordinated a surprise activity at the UNC Outdoor Education Center for a group of friends. Marcos has done similar activities with the boys as an Assistant Scout Master and he was so brave and agile. I, on the other hand, am afraid of heights and looked like this most of the afternoon:

In preparation for this day, I had spent the week thinking up all sorts of disasters, usually culminating at the scene where I, as the overweight and unfit member of the group, was stuck trying to scale a wall with one leg dangling down either side, and nobody could push me over. Luckily, there were no walls at all, and things ran fairly smoothly. The weather was absolutely perfect for mid-November (mid-60s), we really enjoyed the three leaders of our activity, and they trained us very well in safety on the ropes so that our falls were few and not of the dangerous variety. Here we are with our helmets and harnesses after the safety lecture.

The main gist of the activity was that there were multiple "challenges" - steel cables connecting a number of trees in a clearing in the woods, that were all about a million feet off the ground (I like to write it like it feels). Our job was to make it from one tree to another with our partner through each challenge. Although we were all fastened to upper cables via our lobster claws attached to our harness, we weren't supposed to use the lobsters for support - we were to use the cables provided as part of the challenge. Above, the Matts practice their falling on the pretend cables, so that if it happens up in the trees, they know how to right themselves. Below, Marcos and I all harnessed up. It was my last calm moment of the afternoon.

And can I mention that if you want to bond with someone, do something that makes you feel like you might die any second? There were a lot of kissing sessions up in those trees!

The first part of the obstacle was to climb up a dangling wooden pole ladder and get to the first platform in the trees. As Brandi and Matt are demonstrating above, then we had to somehow secure a dangling stationary rope, and swing ourselves across the great divide from one platform to the other. This my friends does not feel very tricky until you see how many feet are between you and the ground.

The next challenge was to cross the log, which was my all time least favorite event. There was NOTHING to hold on to, and probably thirty feet of bridge to cross. I don't think I've ever had my adrenaline pumping so wildly for such a sustained amount of time. And then there was Marcos, who jogged the last half of it just because he's awesome like that.

The next challenge was definitely a partner challenge: steel cable to stand on, with dangling ropes spaced intermittently across the span. We have so many photos from this day, but often they were zoomed in on people, so I love that the one above helps me to appreciate how far we were off the ground. Below, Margie and Mark work their partner magic. They were a riot to watch.

Taking a break at the platform between events! Yes, we tackled the bad boy and lived to tell about it! And in case you were wondering whether my fear was grounded (no pun intended), I think the photo below captures our very high position in the trees...

Alyssa and Scott go across together, and Marcos poses for a photo. It was such perfect weather at such a lovely time of year. Fall in North Carolina is pretty killer.

Mark and Margie waiting for their turn at the platform, and birthday girl Brandi leading the way.

I don't think any explanation will adequately explain the difficulty of this next challenge. There were two parallel cables, and each partner had to make it across together, holding each other's forearms for stability. It was like dancing on dental floss, hundreds of feet above the ground.

The next challenge was fun, with loops of cable hanging down between parallel cables. Alyssa and Erianne did the splits! And just like that, the tree course ended with a zip line down from the last platform.

With a bit of time left after our high trees course, the instructor David took us to the BIG zip line, which until recently, was the longest in North Carolina. Above are Marcos and Mark racing up the net ladder to the tall platform, and below is my photo from the top of the platform. You can see that the zip line ran from the platform, down across a road, a pond and a field. For some reason, after the other challenges, this one didn't feel quite so scary! Maybe because there was nothing to do but let go.

This photo above of Brandi flying backwards down the zipline is one of my favorites. I accidentally captured her fairly clearly with the trees whizzing by. Love it! Below Erianne and Matt, instead of racing, held hands down the entire length of the zipline.

It was such a fun afternoon, with good friends and an opportunity to do something new and challenging. It may be another year or two before I forget about the log event and am brave enough to do it all over again, but I feel grateful for friends who help us get out of our comfort zones and do things that strengthen our trust for each other as a couple and reteach us how to root for each other in all situations. Happy Birthday Matt and Brandi!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cemetery Photo Shoot

Down the street from our house is a cemetery that I've been admiring for weeks. It just wears autumn really well, and every time we drive by I think, "Wow, it's just so... peaceful in there". So, I asked my friend and neighbor if she would be willing to bring her camera and get a few photos of our family. She was so nice to help us capture a few images of what we look like in the fall of 2011.

If I remember correctly, professional photographers feel like 18 month-olds are the most difficult age to capture, and Gigi is - you guessed it - just over 18 months old. I think the difficulty has something to do with 18-month olds being very quick and mischievous, and at the same time not verbal enough to understand a good healthy bribe to keep them still. Gigi was all over the place, but we were still lucky enough to get a few really cute shots.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Beachy Keen

Over one of the last weekends in October, we took a day off and caravaned with some friends to the Outer Banks for a beach trip. It is a yearly tradition to go with the Hills, and this year the Thaynes and my mom joined us for the fun.

We arrived late on a Thursday night, and each family claimed a room and hit the sack. In the morning, I woke up early with the first bit of light in the window, and quietly got up to run to the store for bacon. We were in charge of breakfast that first morning and my vision for the meal definitely included bacon. As I got into the car, my feet itched for sand, and I went to the windy beach alone and accidentally caught the sunrise. It was a superb way to start the day.

We stayed at our friend's beach house in Kill Devil Hills, which is one of our two usual hang-outs when we head beachward. Our friends the Bramwells are from our hometown Kailua, Hawaii, and when they moved to North Carolina about five years ago, the only way they could survive the adjustment was to get a small house near the beach so that they could get in their surfing, kite surfing and salt air fix. We've been lucky enough to stay there a number of times during the off-season, when they are no longer renting it out. The place is stocked with Hawaii memorabilia, sea shells, and Hawaiian music. We love staying there and it feels like an extension of home.

Here are the Hills, waiting patiently for the bacon to finish.

After breakfast, the first thing we did was head to the beach, where we stayed for hours, until we could no longer survive on our snacks and we needed lunch. It was a bit cool, but perfect weather for late October. We dug in the sand...

...watched the ocean with Tutu and took mommy photos...

...dodged waves...

...flew kites, and ate snacks.

In the evening we went back to the beach as a group, and even saw dolphins! They are such beautiful creatures, but we had to capture them with our eyes and hearts because they were just too far away for decent photos. Luckily, my other models were up close and personal. I couldn't get enough of the colors of the champagne sky kissing that metallic green ocean in the background. I asked Marcos which of the following photos was the best so I could know which he wanted me to post, and he said that he gets reports that I don't post enough photos, and that I should leave all of them up. Problem solved.

The next day was Saturday and the Hills were on for breakfast. I love these photos of the kiddos hanging out.

Saturday morning after breakfast we gave another valiant effort at a beach trip, but it was short lived. In one tiny day the weather had become windy and cold!

Which made it perfect for snuggling, catching all the thrift stores and beach stores I've always wanted to check out, and taking out the Bramwell's beach cruisers with my boyfriend. Cheeee-hoo!

On Sunday we went to church at the ward out at the beach, and then headed home after a warm lunch! Thanks friends for making our beach trip exactly as full of relaxation, good company, beach time, fun and great food as we were hoping it would be.