she went out west

Sometime in January/February Omar told me I should go visit a friend somewhere once Asa turned one. I think I had a ticket bought to the west coast in less than a day after the first serious conversation about it. I don’t need much push in the travel department. Sweet friends from Miami live in Portland, and a dear friend from college and on was living in Tacoma. So out I went for eight days. I flew into Portland and was the woman who oohed and ahhed over every tulip and flowering tree. “These flowers look fake,” I told Abbie. She responded, “That’s funny coming from someone who lives in the tropics where I think the same thing.” True. But spring tulips really are amazing. Portland was full of conversation and food and catching up with old and new friends. A highlight was definitely the Sokol Blosser winery outside of Portland: sunny skies, 65 degrees, and a generous wine tasting.

After a few days I took a train north to Tacoma. I had high hopes for the train ride, but all expectations were shelved when I realized the woman behind me was indeed going to be on the phone the entire time giving a play-by-play of the (uneventful) ride to the lucky person on the line. Tacoma was full of more friends and conversation and rest. Seattle showed off with her gorgeous weather, and my friend and I ended our day there with an absolutely delicious dinner at Delancey in Ballard.

There really is so much more that could be written. There were the sweetest times with friends and their kids. There were the most soul-encouraging and challenging conversations. And there were donuts. But I’ll let tons of photos say the rest for now.

on to the next stage

I remember that moment in June of 2013. That moment that I knew, I knew, that we were done having kids. That I could leave baby world behind. We got married young (at least in my mind) and chose to have kids soon after marriage. I knew the day would come when the babies wouldn’t be babies any longer, and I could walk down more paths that wouldn’t exactly work for our family while there were tiny people in the house.

And at that moment in June of 2013 I thought we’d hit that day.

Guess who was pregnant at that moment in June of 2013? Ha.

Don’t so many of us have that conflicting cry when we find out about an unexpected baby? Joy for the life, guilt for not being totally thrilled, conflict because you just thought you knew you were ready to walk down a different path?

I knew I didn’t want to struggle in some of the ways I did when Lenna was a baby. Simply put, I wanted to do too much. I was overwhelmed with baby world and wanted to have a place in the world outside of daily mothering. At one point I seriously started to explore what it would like to homeschool, partner in ministry with Omar, go get another Master’s, and be the mother to a toddler. I can’t even type that now without laughing. I am completely aware that for some that might be doable. For me? I know my limits, and I would’ve gone down in a blaze of (not)glory while dragging a family behind me.

So in June of 2013 when we found out that Asa was on his way, I think some of the sadness was that I had to just wait. Just be patient for another couple of years. That to fight it would result in misery. My misery and my family’s misery. I knew there would be little to no travel for us for a year and a half or so. I knew there would be little time for classes and outside commitments. Soon after I decided to consciously enjoy the season. I’ve always struggled with enjoying pregnancy, but I gave it my best shot. I have really good memories of my time in the hospital with this last baby. Of night times with him in the newborn stage. Of watching older siblings learn how to love on a baby.

And as a result I think we enjoyed Asa’s first year the most out of any of the kids. We didn’t love him any more, we just enjoyed him more. He’s been a textbook easy 4th baby, so I know that helped, but I’ve just not sweated anything (regarding him) this past year.

Omar has always been great at shooing me away to some other city once the kids hit about a year or so. This time was no different. A few weeks ago Omar brought it up and we started planning. I bought a ticket to fly out to the west coast. It’s still so weird to think that the time has come where I can do these things again.

That season I was so fearing of having to go through again is over, and I got a pretty amazing kiddo out of it. And perhaps more importantly I learned more about what it means to hold my plans and big ideas loosely. This is important because about a week after I bought my ticket to Portland/Seattle area, our calendar started to fill up: classes here, conferences there, weddings, Omar’s work travels. I don’t always want to be looking forward to the next big thing or the next time to travel. I want to enjoy the days filled with school and laundry and not be caught off guard if God decides to place everything on hold again. No baby jokes, please.

a week in advent

And then a full week of Advent flashed before my eyes.

The highlights were a beautiful wedding by a lake (complete with coffee on tap), a stay at my aunt and uncle’s (also by a beautiful lake), a visit to a new brewery in Deland, a trip back south, an unexpected purchase of a new dishwasher (Did you know they sell them according to decibel levels now?! Too funny. Ours is 51, if you’re curious.), painting the front of our house (Those with four children and small budgets paint in long, drawn-out stages. For now we request that any visitors only look at the house once they are directly in front of it.), and finally, gingerbread houses with the kiddos. It was the first year that I didn’t have to help them at all with the decorating. I got to stay out of the way for most of it, and they got to sneak an ungodly amount of candy as a result. Win-win.

the twelfth of december

Twelve and a half years ago Omar and I went on our first date in Winter Park. First dates are always kind of awkward, and this one was no different. We dressed up and went to a restaurant out of our price range. I remember exactly three things about that first date: it took only 15 minutes for a bad seminary/bible joke to be made, Omar and I had to switch seats so the TV wouldn’t be a distraction, and as we were walking around after dinner I looked down at what I was wearing and realized I had let my mom buy me a dress that was so un-me (unbeknownst to her, at the time I was just so thankful she bought me a dress) and I wore it and felt strange the whole night. There you have it.

Fast forward two years. We were back in Winter Park walking around. Omar suggested we have a seat on a bench. And the next thing I knew we were engaged.

Jump ahead 10+ years. We found ourselves in Winter Park on our way to a wedding. But this time there were no uncomfortable dresses, nervous first date laughter, or nerve-wracking proposals. This time it was two people completely comfortable with each other, with their fourth kiddo along for the ride.

We topped the night off with a dinner at Cask & Larder (which I swear got their name from this site), and Asa now knows about rock shrimp, fancy hams, pork burgers, and beer-fried donuts.

colorado in pictures

Here is part of the photographic evidence for Asa to prove that he went to Colorado. Four children (one strapped to me most of the time) and a new camera and insanely intense mountain sun didn’t exactly make it ideal for me to take a lot of photos. And at one point all of those factors made me want to set the camera down, but I resisted the temptation. I wanted us all to have a record of our time out there, over/underexposed pictures and all. 

The sunrises and sunsets were breathtaking. The flowers and trees were gorgeous. Everything around us was such a stark contrast to where we live. I never got quite the photo of an aspen tree that I wanted. I would be content to live in a forest of them. So beautiful.

Asher commandeered Elisha’s camera for most of the trip. That boy took pictures of everything. I loved it. I have a great series of him taking photos and included a few here. 

Our last few days were spent in Denver. In good Ortiz fashion we made sure to organize our days around food. We hit up Pizzeria Locale a couple of times for lunch. Biker Jim’s fulfilled Asher’s reindeer hot dog eating dreams. Breakfast at Devil’s Food was delicious, and the ice cream at High Point Creamery was definitely something to write home about.

You were pretty fantastic, Colorado. 

the 10th in photos and words

Four years ago I wrote a post that informed the world that Omar and I were going to go on a big trip for our 10th anniversary. It came across like perhaps we would be bringing our children on this trip. Oh, no! I was quick to clarify. This would be a kidless trip. A big, kidless, international trip.

There was a trip.

Not kidless.

Not international.

And it came with a mortgage in our back pocket and another baby on our hip.

It was a good trip. A wonderful trip. A trip we could have never done on our own.

The big, kidless, international trip will come.

Instead, I spent the morning cutting up pancakes, downing Howley’s crab hash, and sipping mimosas so orange you’d think they were made with Tang (they weren’t) all while dodging drool from the littlest. The kids loved that we celebrated with them. We loved that we had a coupon.

And the rest of the day was just utterly ordinary. A trip to Target. A mid-morning coffee break. Phone calls. Reading. Settling of disputes. Swimming in the pool. Bedtime routines.

Omar had to work tonight which is perfectly fine. I get time to pour a glass of wine and reflect and be thankful for 10 years with him.  And lest you think this is all peaceful and solitary, one of my kids is drawing a picture of the wineglass and another one is peeking out the window onto the back porch so she can watch me.

Happy 10, Omar. I love you.



recovery and my kitchen

Asher at High Point Creamery in Denver

The whole needing a vacation after your vacation? That almost held true for us. And we kind of got it. Omar took off the whole week once we got home. It was perfect. I don’t remember anything we did, and I’m pretty sure it’s because we did nothing.

Monday will mark two weeks since we got back from Colorado. Back from a week of playing and hiking and exploring. And not making meals. You know you’re a mother of four when the first thing that pops into your head when asked about your favorite part of Colorado is, “Not! Making! Meals! For Five! Days!” But then I recover my thoughts and say something about mountains or elk.

Thank you, kitchen staff of the YMCA of the Rockies. I love you.

But now we’re back in the routine of our days, and feeding kids and kitchen things are back on the brain. Things like this timer app called Thyme that has a timer for everything on your stove and in your oven. It’s brilliant, and I see it ending our kitchen conversations about which timer was for which dish or pot.

I had s’mores on the brain while we were out there, but somehow it just never happened. And then this morning I saw this – skillet s’mores dip. And while I should be detoxing from vacation food, it’s high on the to-make list.

And lastly, all transitions back into post-vacation reality would be made easier with a KettlePizza. I’m not usually excited by grills and grill accessories, but this. It turns your Weber charcoal grill into a pizza oven. What’s not to love?

More Colorado photos and stories to come.

hey, colorado! they’re coming for you

Alright anyone and everyone who has been to, lived in, loves Colorado. Comment, email, or private message me and share what you love! Share what a family of six should do or see in the Granby and Denver areas of your great state. Because we’re all coming. ALL. Together. The six of us. To sleep in the same room together. For eight nights. Together.

Kidding aside, we’re all very excited. For all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve never made it to Colorado. And truth be told, I never would’ve thought it could happen in the near future. But one day last fall Omar saw an ad for a seminar titled “Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching” in Books and Culture. He applied and got accepted. And amazingly, the kind people who have organized it have invited all the families along, too. The mornings will be class time for Omar, and then the afternoons are open for exploring and family time.

The kids are thrilled, though I know they have no concept of the sites they’ll see. My south Florida coastal children believe the big overpass in Miami is a “mountain” and think a high of 70 calls for a sweater. Their little minds are going to be blown. We got a list of everyone attending and where they live, and I believe we’re the most southern by quite a distance. We will be wimps in the evening and early morning temps but we’ll be tan wimps.

So here we go. Next Sunday is the day. Let there be short security lines and seconds on in-flight peanuts.

on resolutions and photos

My big resolution of 2014? Bring a baby boy safely into this world and pray the Lord helps us transition to a family of six with as much grace and patience as possible. Done.

I think I’d feel like an overachiever if I tried to do anything more. Except for a certain trip we’re all taking to Colorado in June. All six of us. I’ll give myself a six month resolution: Don’t freak out about the impending trip for the next six months.

Overachieving aside, I did spend much of the day thinking about photos and cameras. For much of the past year my camera sat on the left stereo speaker. It didn’t see much action, and if you would pick it up there would often be a little Nikon-shaped dust outline. I love having the iPhone camera, but to be honest I haven’t even been taking many photos with it. My 2013 photo repertoire consists mostly of sporadic Instagram shots and many (many) photos of random things my kids make or just bring to me and beg, “Take a picture of this, Mama!!” (case in point – the above photo of Lenna’s lunchbox). I used to say no, but they’ve worn me down and it’s just faster and less painful for all involved to point and shoot. And when I do pull out the camera to capture some cute faces? They won’t. sit. still. So many blurry pictures (case in point – the photo below).

But there is an Asa coming. And a trip to the Rockies. And I miss the photos. I’m finally getting around to printing my blog books from 2012 and 2013. And last year’s Instagram book…and 2011’s 365 photo book. Oh my. It’s a bit of a backlog, yes, but it’s worth it. And prepping and formatting all those pictures into book form just makes me want to take more.

So there will probably be some kind of photo project this year. Perhaps a photo a day? A family photo per week? We’ll see where the next few days and weeks take us.

advent days to christmas

Omar and I gifted each other a trip to Charleston to see friends for the second weekend in advent. Savannah has become a required stop for any trip north of Florida, and this trip just confirmed its status as number 1 pit stop. I came across Fabrika and Omar found Back in the Day Bakery. And Charleston? It’s a blur of good friends, lots of conversation, and lots of restaurants all packed into a mere 36 hours. It should become an advent tradition.

Back home Lenna got to attend her first ladies’ Christmas party. She was thrilled that she got to dress up and stay out late and then stay up even later with her papi telling him all about it.

Christmas pjs might become an advent sewing tradition. Or maybe just the pillowcase.

I think Elisha’s favorite advent activity was a campout by the tree. The boys lasted the whole night. Lenna? Not quite.

And as for Christmas Day? Elisha’s easel dreams came true. Asher is now the proud owner of Ed the betta, and Lenna’s baby swing is beloved.

Advent is now over and today marks the second day of Christmas. Omar went back to work, and for the first time in forever, I was itching to take all the Christmas stuff down. I’m usually a big proponent of celebrating Christmas through Epiphany, but this year? Not feeling it. Getting day-to-day things done is starting to take more effort, and it feels like big trees and decorations are getting in my way. I’ve caught glimpses of my profile (heck, even my shadow) recently and been taken aback a bit. I’m just ready for this little guy to be here, and perhaps cleaning this season’s things away and checking off to-do lists makes me feel like it will happen just a little sooner. What? You didn’t spend the week before Christmas cleaning out closets, getting rid of all unneeded baby clothes, and organizing all your tax documents? I drew the line at removing doors and sanding and painting. Lord willing there will be a squishy 9 month old around next Christmas, and that will definitely distract me from the to-do lists and push me back into a celebratory mood.

to Greenville and back

Well. Greenville, S.C. is just lovely. So lovely that I felt I had to inform Omar about 30 times a day that I, indeed, thought it was lovely. At one overly-excited moment I even shouted out, “It even smells lovely here!”

This makes it the third year that I’ve traveled with Omar for work to our denomination’s meeting and declared that we need to pack it up and move to the host city (Nashville the first year and Louisville last year).

Not really. There is too much holding us here. And we know this is where we need to be, without a doubt. And I don’t know if I could handle a world without ocean and traffic and humid heat.

But rolling green hills and waterfalls through the center of town would be nice.

new york, new york

i know it’s been over a month and a half, but i can’t imagine printing out this year’s blog book and only having a few pictures of some shoes, a doughnut, and a church ceiling from the quick posts i did while i was up there to document our whole trip. so here are some photos, some commentary, and a quick video.

walking off the eggs and grits and doughnuts with my brother on our way to The High Line.

eating pickles and chicken sandwiches and drinking clove and anise infused cocktails (and sneaking sips of my brother’s bloody mary) for lunch at Joseph Leonard in the west village…it is vacation.

doughnuts from Dough in bed-stuy.

Birreria on the tip-top of Eataly. if someone were to ask me how to describe Eataly, i’d have to say that it’s like the Walt Disney World of italian food. 20 dollar per pound sausage! 40 dollar panettone! long lines! and alas, no rides.

the first day we got there was cold and windy and wet and perfect weather for Momofuku ramen and steamed buns.

i was reading edward rutherford’s novel New York while we were there. it’s a historical novel tracing the history of the island of manhattan from the 1600s to present day. one of the oldest structures you can still visit is Trinity Church on wall street. we stepped inside and realized there was choral rehearsal. it seemed very informal and fast-paced. we sat for a bit and listened. we then learned it was a last-minute rehearsal for a benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy victims. bach’s mass in b minor would be performed the next night…for free. so saturday night we headed to the concert. it was absolutely beautiful. here is a clip of the rehearsal:

after the concert we headed to The Flea theater where we were able to see omar’s brother on stage for the first time. a good night.

Liberty fabrics and a rainbow of wool felt at Purl Soho.

and lastly, as we were walking through central park, there was a jazz band playing. as i pulled out my camera to snap a few pictures, guess who walked in front of me – bill cunningham.  if you haven’t seen the documentary on him, it’s a must.

one day. someday. i’d love to live in this beautiful city.

november thirteenth

one day i’m watching ice skaters in the park and listening to choirs sing in old churches and hunting down restaurants in soho. the next day i’m curled up next to a boy of mine who asked for some cuddle time and wanted to know what we did each day, and then the next day i’m standing in the kitchen mixing cookie dough with the littlest one.

it’s good to be back.