Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The end of our Christmas

Twas the night AFTER Christmas,
when all through the house,
not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse.

The stockings were emptied,
the presents unwrapped,
we'd just all settled down,
for a long winter's nap.

Okay.........enough of the rhyming. Around 11:30 pm on Christmas night, we were suddenly awakened by several brilliant flashes of light (the kind that light up the whole house) and 3 or 4 deafening booms. Instant pandemonium, and with no idea what was making the horrible racket...FEAR!!! We looked out the blinds for great balls of flaming I-don't-know-what in the front yard or SOMETHING! Nothing visible, but darkness. The boys ran out of their room demanding answers. The power had gone out with the first boom, so Mike is scrambling to find a cell phone to call 9-1-1. Our hearts are racing and blood pressure is high while we dig out flashlights and dial for help. All while waiting for the booming to resume.

Its all rather amusing in retrospect, but wasn't the least bit funny at the time. After our call to 9-1-1, the PUD showed up and found the cause of the problems right across the road from us. They stumbled around in the dark for awhile over there, apparently fixed whatever needed fixed, and the power came back on. End of story.

But WOW! Talk about feeling like sitting ducks in a nuclear war! Like I said......pretty funny. In retrospect. :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A "Mom-of-the-Year" moment

Grant will NOT be nominating me for the 2007 "Mom-of-the-Year" Award and here's why:

Last Thursday, Grant had a very busy evening scheduled. He went to school all day, came home on the bus, and then had to be back at the school for basketball practice at 5:00 pm, and across the street for the Elementary Christmas Program at 6:30 pm. Very do-able, but busy.

At ten minutes before 5, he hollered at me in my home office that we needed to get moving or he was going to be late for practice. I dropped the appraisal file I was working on, grabbed my keys and off we went. As we hopped in the suburban and slammed the doors, I looked over at him, in shorts and a t-shirt, and said, "You didn't grab any clothes for the concert, did you?" I got a blank look in response. "GRANT, you're not going to have time to come home and change! You need clothes to wear!!" Grant starts to hop out of the suburban, and, being the wise Mom that I am, I tell him, "I will run in and grab you some clothes! I'm faster!" Sixty seconds later, I am back with a polo shirt, and a new-looking pair of jeans out of the clean laundry (Our school Christmas concert is not very formal, and most kids wear jeans. I'm willing to go along with that, as long as they are clean and not overly-faded-looking.) Finally, off we go to basketball practice.

The next hour is a whirlwind for me. Pick up girls. Pick up Dane at wrestling practice. Take girls home. Food. Mike decides to stay home with the girls. (We had ALL done the High School Band Concert the night before.......) Dane goes with me back to the school for the Elementary Christmas Program.

As Dane and I are walking down the sidewalk towards the high school gym (where the program will be), we notice Grant coming out of basketball practice across the street. Even in the semi-darkness under the streetlights, something doesn't look right...........Dane asks, "What's wrong with Grant?" I reply something about not being sure. Grant appears to be holding his stomach with both arms.........He spots Dane and I coming down the sidewalk and starts towards us, still hugging his middle. ???

When we get close enough, Grant yells, "MOM!!!!!! You didn't grab MY pants! These are DANE'S PANTS!!!!"

Suddenly it becomes clear. He is holding his hands around his middle because he is literally holding the pants up under his armpits!! The legs are dragging on the ground and Dane is laughing uncontrollably!!! Grant looks LESS than amused, but it was impossible not to laugh! Keep in mind, Dane may only be 22 months older, but at this point in time, he is about 12 inches taller and 60 pounds heavier than Grant!!! :)

So anyway..........there was NO time to run home and get different pants. We got creative and used the belt that Dane was wearing to secure the jeans around Grant so that he didn't have to hold them up. He wasn't overly happy about it, but honestly, in the middle of a group of 250 or so kids....Nobody noticed!!! And, quite a large number of kids were there in basketball shorts and t-shirts, so I guess we could have skipped the change of clothes altogether. But it is somehow better in my sick little mind to have my child there in a new-looking dark blue jeans and a polo shirt, than in sweaty shorts and a t-shirt.

Grant............even if I'm not Mother-of-the-Year, I love you!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Do you believe in miracles?


When I started this blog and titled it "In the Midst of Miracles," we had just reached a point of stability in life. The girls' adoptions were final, we were living in our new home, I had just opened the appraisal business, and everything was going great. Our life is not easy every single day--that wouldn't be normal. But overwhelmingly, we continue to be very blessed. Every once in awhile, I get a reminder of exactly how I continue to live surrounded by miracles. Here is our most recent miraculous story:

In April of 2007, my youngest daughter, Jennica, was diagnosed with a very serious neurological condition called Nystagmus. It is a condition that, while caused by the brain, is manifested in vision and has to do with convergence. It is generally very debilitating, and the majority of people with this diagnosis never have vision better than 20/60 and, therefore, never have driver's licenses, often struggle desperately with basic reading, and other very basic functions that contribute to leading what most of us consider a "normal" and independent life. Most written sources on the condition state that there is no cure and that it is permanent. Period.

On top of the diagnosis of Nystagmus, we were also told that, much of the time, Jennica's brain was most likely only seeing what her left eye was seeing. When her left eye was covered, her brain engaged the right eye, but as soon as the left eye was uncovered again, the brain returned to the use of only the left eye. Puzzling...and worrisome!!

Fortunately for us, our eye doctor has expertise in the field of brain-eye connection (which is why we were there to begin with). She was able to tell us that both of Jennica's eyes physically have good vision. The problem was not in the vision, but in the way that the brain perceived the vision. So............with this heavy load to bear, we went home with a stack of exercises to work on. Dr. Inverso was quite positive that, because she is so young, we had a good chance of "re-training" her brain. WOW! Heavy-duty stuff......Especially for a newly-turned-three little girl. And remember from earlier posts, this is a child that we were told at birth had a high likelihood of autism, a very high probability of learning disabilities, and heaven-only-knew-what-else. Jennica has defied the odds and has NONE of the issues we were told to expect.

Now, I admit that after reading all the information on Nystagmus and what we were facing, I wondered if this was finally going to be "the one." The thing she couldn't overcome........

On November 30th, Jennica went back to her eye doctor. I'm overwhelmingly humbled and thrilled to report that the Nystagmus is GONE. G-O-N-E!!! And just as miraculous, her brain is now "seeing" with both eyes!! The eye doctor worked and worked to make sure that she was giving a correct report, and finally admitted that she could find no sign of either condition! WOW! We will continue with the eye exercises for several more months, just to be sure that we have given her brain an opportunity to solidify what it has re-learned, but the likelihood of these conditions returning is reportedly very, very slim.

So our stubborn, wonderful little daughter has once again beaten the odds. She has DEFIED the odds! Nothing short of..........well.........a miracle!!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Yeah, yeah, yeah.......I've been ignoring the computer

I arrived home late last Thursday evening via a rather circuitous route through storm-ravaged western Washington. I have to admit that I was unprepared for the vastness of the storm damage. Shortly after daybreak on Friday morning, I was standing in our front yard with my mouth hanging open at the sheer number of fallen trees. One hundred-year-old hemlocks and spruce snapped like twigs on the 20 acres of timber surrounding us.

We got lucky! Although we have numerous trees down, nothing hit our home or outbuildings. Power was restored late Wednesday and has remained "on". Other than a whole lot of trees to clean up, we have NO damage!! Far too many others were not as fortunate and I feel for them! Many roads still remain closed, and the clean-up of flood waters to the east of us have barely begun. What a mess!

It's nice to be home! I gained a lot of knowledge at my classes, but it sure didn't turn out to be a great time to be away.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Here I sit...

Still feeling worthless tonight. I'm buried in classes, evaluating the effects of financing concessions on market value, compounding rates of change, sinking fund factors, and other appraisal mumbo-jumbo. While Mike continues to hold down the fort at home with the kids. All roads in and out of the region continue to be closed due to massive numbers of downed trees, mudslides, and flooding. The power lines that are down are the BIG ones, so I'm relaying news to Mike that they are saying they will be without power for another 2-7 days. I'm not yet sure when I will be able to get home. Its a real possibility that my class will end in a few days and I may be stuck here for an additional day or two. Geez..........I hope not!!

But.........since I've spent all this money on these classes, lodging, etc., and I can't get home anyway, I'm trying to focus on the course content so I take home some valuable knowledge. Honestly, the information so far is not really NEW to me, its just being applied a lot differently. The "common sense" ends of the business I do really well with. I can isolate major contributors to value and all that. The more complex financial calculations sometimes get me flustered, as I don't always see a practical day-to-day application for them. But here I am, and in order to complete my designation, I have to have the course hours, so.....what the heck. Complex financials and all......

As usual for me, the largest gain from classes is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS from my classmates. I thrive on meeting people from different backgrounds and different places. The appraisal industry, as a whole, does not generally attract people directly from college. And freshly-graduated high school students very rarely go off to college with the goal of becoming an appraiser. The end result is that you get an incredible melting pot that makes up the group of people known as real property appraisers. And this class is no different!! We have a 60ish-year-old retired paramedic that broke his back in a helicopter accident working Lifeflight, we have a 70ish+ retired Navy guy, we have a 45-year-old real property investor that owns apartment buildings across three states and is just entering the appraisal business, we have a Japanese immigrant that got a clerical job at an appraisal firm and has decided to become an appraiser herself. We have people from Alaska, and California, and Hawaii, and Texas, and Puerto Rico, and Virginia. And we are all very diverse and bring different skills and backgrounds to the field. FASCINATING!! As is also typical, there only about 5 women in the class of 30+. In the lower-level appraiser courses, the ratio tends to be more equal, but the higher level courses........for whatever reason, many of the women just don't pursue that high. I hope it changes in the future!!!

My new Puerto Rican friend has spent five weeks in the United States since September, all in appraisal education. He is very advanced in the field, but only a year older than I am. He is nearing completion of both his MAI and SRA designations (a huge accomplishment), and is flying through the class with ease. The incessant rain here is driving him insane and he is anxious to get home to his wife, children, and sunshine. His English is quite good, but I have taught him two new words: nit-pick, and folks. And today he learned the phrase "back seat driver". :)

So........I need to run and get something for dinner and then it will be back to my motel room for a long night of studying. As boring as that sounds, I have to admit that it is downright luxury compared to my family's current accomodations.......sitting home in the dark and waiting for the world to reconnect them to the "outside".

Monday, December 03, 2007

A hurricane hits home...and I miss it!!

Here's the deal...I live with my husband and children in my hometown. My husband is not anative, but I've lived there pretty much my whole life. And, in the Pacific Northwest, we don't often experience "extremes" in weather. We get a lot of rain, but temperatures rarely drop below 35, and rarely rise above 90. We get a few days per year on each end of the spectrum, but for the most part, things are very moderate.

So, I'm currently out of town for two back-to-back professional education courses. I leave town....and lo and behold, the biggest windstorm of the last 45 years hits. I'm sitting several hours away, warmly enveloped in a nice hotel with a ton of shopping, restaurants, etc. nearby......while my family about gets blown off the face of the earth!! Talk about a WEIRD feeling!!

Today, I spent most class breaks on the phone with Mike, receiving constant updates. They have already been without power for 24 hours, and are being told to expect another 2-5 days without power. Literally, every major road in and out of town, as well as all the surrounding towns and cities, is closed due to downed trees and/or flooding. Interstate 5 is closed between home and my current location, due to massive flooding. Mike says that the 10 acres of undeveloped property behind our home looks like it was freshly logged due to the massive number of fallen trees. A window in my parents' home just miles away blew out from the sheer force of the wind. WOW! So much for living in a moderate climate!

So.........while I sit here typing in the cozy warmth of my motel room, my husband and children are home in the dark, eating cold food, and hoping for the off-chance that tomorrow might bring restored power. Schools are closed.......work is cancelled.......and a tree fell on the girls' day care facility. In stark constrast, this evening I had grilled cajun shrimp alfredo for dinner, at a wonderful restaurant with many friends and colleagues from all over the country. We watched Monday Night Football on a big-screen TV, and laughed with our fellow classmate from Puerto Rico as he yelled obscenities in alternating Spanish and heavily-accented English. We invaded Starbucks at 7:30 pm...while my family sits at home in a dark home, in a dark town, in a very dark and flooding region of Washington State.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pull up a chair...

Okay, Folks...You better grab a cup of java, or whatever it is you drink, and pull up a chair. I've been absent of late, and have some catching up to do. I'm finding that when I get this far behind, it gets more difficult to sit down and blog because of the sheer volume of information bursting forth from my head. (Nice visual, eh?) In any case, I've been a busy girl, so here it is:


1) My sister's ordination in Spokane was a fantastic experience, and I'm so glad that my Mom and I made the trek to be there! She was surrounded by 300+ great friends and family members, and it was an occasion to remember. Many people flew in from many places so they could share in the celebration, and they were gracious and wonderful. Her church family threw a classy party after the ordination, complete with a great meal cooked by a REAL chef and live music. No paper napkins in sight! So a huge congratulations to Marj! We are so proud of you!


2) As a side trip with Spokane, Tiersten rode over with us with the idea that she would spend a few days near Spokane with her grandparents (Mike's parents) who live closeby. She is such a confident and spunky kid but, much to our amazement, she was NOT a happy camper with this plan. The biggest point of contention was that she was away from her SISTER. She demanded to talk to Jennica on the phone regularly, and absolutely insisted that she come back home with my Mom and I from Spokane when we left. So.......her trip was cut a little shorter than planned and we're all still a little stunned. We thought she would LOVE being the lone center of attention for a few days. Goes to prove.........just when you think you've got your kids figured out........ :)


3) Dane's Football Awards Ceremony also occurred in the last few weeks. I always find it enjoyable to sit back and watch my growing sons interact with friends and coaches in these settings and this time was no different. He is clearly respected and is often the brunt of large amounts of good-natured ribbing and harrassment, which he dishes back as well as he receives. Last year, he earned the nickname of "Dane-gerous" during football season. This year, they ended the season simply calling him, "Touchdown." He was elected by his fellow teammates as the "Most Inspirational." The team went through some real learning experiences together this year (more off the field than on) and I'm proud that he earned that award. Way to go, Dane!! Grant is very much looking forward to being part of the Junior High team next year, as Dane bumps up to High School.


4) On November 9th, Mike and I and six of our closest friends flew to LA and took a 4-day cruise to Mexico on the "Monarch of the Seas." Several of us had never cruised before and I admit to being a little skeptical as to whether this was going to be "our thing". Honestly, we had an ABSOLUTE BLAST! If you haven't tried it, I strongly recommend cruising as a GREAT way to travel. We have so many great stories and memories from this trip that will stay with us a long time. The international crew provided outstanding service and spoiled us rotten, the food was terrific, and the weather was great.........right up until we landed back in Seattle in the middle of a storm. :) The photo posted below is of the 8 of us in Ensenada!

So.......now that I'm rather getting used to living out of a suitcase, we're home for a few weeks and then I'm off to a killer 8 days of continuing education. In the meantime, I hope this blog finds you all busy and happy!!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Celebrating with my sister!

This weekend, I will be in Spokane celebrating my sister's ordination with her. I'm honored to be attending, and honored to be the youngest sister of this amazing woman. As a child, she was constantly in trouble for openly speaking her mind, but today, I see it as one of the greatest of her many assets. She is one of the most passionate people I know, and has the intelligence to turn that passion into positive things. Please read the following link:
http://www.stonewallnews.net/pages/full_story?widget=full_story&content_instance_id=832&open

Never one to travel the easy path, Marj.......you've earned this one!!! I'm so proud of you!! See you Saturday!!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Some welcome news in the appraisal world

I do not often post about the many varied issues that are important to the appraisal world, as I use my blog as a personal place to share family stories and photos with friends near and far. However, today is a big day for appraisers nationwide, so I'm going to make an exception and celebrate in print just a little.

Dane had an orthodontist appointment this morning, so it was late morning before I reached my desk. One of the first things to hit me from my computer was today's headline that New York's Attorney General is pursuing a lawsuit against a LARGE business group, with some evidence that they have been pressuring appraisers to fraudulently inflate market values.

Virtually every appraiser in the United States has been subject to, at one time or another, pressure to state a market value above or below a certain range. Regardless of who has applied that pressure, it is a stressful component of a profession that, by sheer nature, needs a reputation for ethics and honesty. Unfortunately, many appraisers have fallen prey to that pressure. I myself have dealt with pressure and spent many a sleepless night staring at the ceiling and wondering if, by holding my ground, I have alienated enough clients that I will need to apply at McDonalds next week.

The current mortgage mess in this country can be at least partly blamed upon greedy lenders, greedy consumers, and greed at every other level of the transaction. Those of us that have steadfastly refused to fraudulently inflate values are excited to see some progress being made to regain professional appraiser independence. WAHOO!!! Its going to be interesting to watch this case as it progresses, and the "ripple effect" on the mortgage industry as a whole could be enormous.

We survived!

Well..........despite Tiersten getting sick yesterday and coming home early, and despite Grant's sickness Tuesday night, and despite Jennica being completely insanely hyper through trick-or-treating and until 10:30 pm last night.........we survived another year of Halloween!

I do have an amusing point to make......we were SO busy trying to get everything done and get everywhere we were supposed to go.......we did not take ONE SINGLE PHOTO of the kids in costume. My Mom did..........but I didn't.

And lastly, a funny story about Jennica. We got home about 8:00 pm, stumbled in the door with all four kids, and Jen promptly vanished. Five minutes later, Mike looked at me and asked, "Where did Jennica go?" I shrugged my shoulders and we started calling for her. I walked into her room just as Mike was dragging her out from under her bed by her ankles. Still dressed in full costume, and stuffing candy into her face as fast as she can unwrap and stuff. Mike looked at me with this totally exasperated look and said, "Guess who I found under her bed eating candy?" Before I could even answer, Jennica gave me this huge cheesy ear-to-ear grin and gave me a "thumbs up" sign. I couldn't help but almost laugh. So Mike turned to her and asked, "Jennica, was eating all that candy worth getting in trouble?" (She had been asked to take her candy bucket into the kitchen!) All he got was another big huge cheesy grin and another "thumbs up" sign. Yi Yi Yi!! What are we going to do with her??

Hope you had a Happy Halloween! The best thing about Halloween? It only lasts ONE DAY!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Well...THAT was an interesting evening...

Every family has them.........evenings that are so full of chaos that you feel like your hair is on fire. Once again, I'm a control freak. (Have I mentioned that before?) So...I did everything possible IN ADVANCE to be prepared for yesterday evening, knowing that we had many things to do in preparation of Halloween and wanting to hold down the stress level so we could enjoy some family-bonding time carving pumpkins. This is how it went........and enjoy the humor because we are!!

Grant comes home from school. Lets me know that he has volunteered to bring brownies for his party today. Grant and I put together his costume. (I'll post photos later...) Dane comes home and both boys get to work on some random chores.......feeding dogs, picking up their room, that sort of thing. (Dane's last day before wrestling practice starts.) Go to store and get brownie mix and go pick up girls. Get home, start dinner, Mike comes home. Mike and I fold five loads of laundry while dinner is cooking. Dane mixes up brownies and gets them in pan. Brownies bake while we eat. Clean up everything after dinner. Dishwasher running. Brownies cooling. Now baking cookies because brownies smell good. Pack 6 pumpkins into the house and carve them. (Thank heavens Mike had gutted them all Tuesday evening.) Clean up pumpkin mess, try to keep Jennica out of trouble. Cookies cooling. Empty backpacks from school, load backpacks with costumes and whatever everyone needs for school. Get laundry put away, cut up brownies and get them ready to transport to school. Get girls in pajamas. Get girls in bed. Load an appraisal file in computer that needs to be ready in the morning. Send off a few business emails on loose ends with different files. Empty dishwasher. And at 9:15......Grant starts throwing up. Clean carpet. Mop bathroom floor. Wipe down wall. Finally stumble our way to bed. At which point, Mike says, "Sure glad we had a nice relaxing evening at home. We really needed that." Laughing out loud........

Every family has evenings like these.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm the Halloween version of Scrooge

The title of this blog pretty much says it all. Halloween as a kid was great fun. Halloween as non-Mom adult wasn't even too bad. But I gotta say, Halloween as a parent pretty much sucks!

Parties started last weekend. Parties are still going. Parties will take place all day tomorrow. Every day I explain to the girls that today is not the trick-or-treating day. We've been talking costumes for WEEKS. They will be tired long before we ever hit the trick-or-treating trail. I am, by nature, a "let's-make-it-at-home" type of parent when it comes to costumes. Unfortunately, the gazillion football and school and work events that in which we have been partaking have not really left ample time in the schedule to make costumes. Grant and I are making his costume. We went easy with the girls and they are "zipping" into their store-bought costumes.

And then there is the whole candy thing. We teach our children not to ask strangers for candy, and not even to ask people they know for gifts. And then we tell them that Halloween is exempt. Go ahead, kids.............dress up in a costume and its okay to to knock on people's doors and expect them to give you candy! And does anyone's kids really eat that candy? Our sits around for weeks, we eat the stuff we like, and finally dump the rest in the garbage. We have the additional problem that we only trick-or-treat with families we know. Many of the stops along the way involve grandparents or elderly people that don't get many trick-or-treaters, so they all have something "special" set aside for our children. Our kids are likely to come home with BIG candy bars, toys, cans of pop, and possibly even some cash. Not kidding here!! I trick-or-treated the same neighborhood as a child and one house was famous for giving silver dollars!!! And remember, we live in a rural area, so trick-or-treating is a driving from house to house event. No walking here!!

Before I was a parent, I knew a Mom that actually told her kids to go home after trick-or-treating and eat ALL the candy they wanted. Sometimes, she said they ate until they barfed. But the kids knew that when they went to bed, whatever was left of the candy went in the garbage. At the time, I thought it was a bizarre concept. Looking back, I have to give her credit ... it was a way to bring an abrupt end to Halloween leftovers.

Tonight, we will carve our pumpkins at home. And then, tomorrow, we'll stuff little people into costumes, smile, and do the whole nine yards that is Halloween in America in 2007. I will congratulate children on their costumes and hand out candy. I will chat pleasantly with other parents. But if you happen to see me out trick-or-treating, know that behind the smile...........I'm hoping that Martha Freakin' Stewart chokes on her carameled apple.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The "Man in the Pot"

As a parent of four children that are all virtually "fearless", I admit to taking great delight on the rare occasions that one of them actually shows a little genuine fright. I am quite seriously afraid of snakes and all four of the kids know that and flaunt it whenever possible. So.......I just consider it getting even. They've all been known to dangle things that slither........just to watch me squirm. This summer, Jennica even thought that the garter snake she found should come inside. YUK!

To get to the point of this story, Jennica went to Mary Bridge Hospital with Mike yesterday for her routine ear-tube check. (By the way, tubes are out and ears are great!) On their way home, Mike stopped by a Halloween store to look for a skunk costume for Tiersten (Yep......a skunk!). As they walked in the door, Jennica immediately spotted a huge pot with these life-size moving legs sticking out and kicking!! She flipped out and pretty much climbed Mike's legs!

Several hours later, when they got home, the "man in the pot" was all she could talk about. I was totally clueless and she was SO earnest about telling me and so frustrated because I was grasping her seriousness, but couldn't imagine what in the world she was jabbering about. Mike explained, and I tried very hard not to laugh, as this was obviously very serious to her! We have continued to tell her that it was a silly decoration and she doesn't seem to be having nightmares, but it sure made a BIG impression!

Serves her right for dangling a snake in my face.......... :)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I can see the light in the distance...





This coming week is our LAST week of football for 2007! Two weeks ago, I couldn't wait to get there, and now I'm going to be a little sorry to see it come to an end. Both of our boys have really matured this season and its been wonderful to watch! There teams have also been incredibly successful, with only one loss to each team. And, important to the Mom here, NO MAJOR INJURIES to any kid on either of their teams. With one week still to go...I'd better knock on wood......


Also, this past week, I turned 39! Mike made dinner on my birthday and my parents joined us and the four kids for cake and ice cream. It was nice to be home for the evening! And......last night, Mike shocked me with a surprise birthday party! He had started making some noises on Thursday about doing some house-cleaning, at which point I didn't catch on. I still didn't totally catch on Friday night as we were working around the house together and he was doing a more in-depth cleaning than usual. But Saturday, I got a little suspicious that SOMETHING was up. In any case, I still didn't guess that our usual rowdy group would all show up at 6:00 pm dressed in Mexican costume, carrying a ton of food, and........a pinata!! As always, we had a great time together and it was a lot of fun. I even won a round of Poker!! (Now that I think about it, maybe they let me win because it was my birthday. Nah........they're not THAT nice. :) ) In any case, by the time we re-possessed our children and got them into their own beds, it was 2 a.m., but THANKS to Mike and the rest of the gang for a great birthday! A few more weeks and we'll be sailing the West Coast of Mexico......


Lastly, a few weeks ago, we upgraded our camera. The last one had been as tough as nails through a lot of abuse, but a cup of apple juice on our camping trip this summer was just too much for it. We're having a blast playing with our new toy as, obviously, digital cameras have come a long way in the last few years. I've posted new photos of each of the kids above. At top, the girls playing on the playground at one of Grant's games. The photo of Grant (#26) was taken in Pe Ell on October 14th, where he had probably the best game he's ever had (so far anyway)with two fumble recoveries, two quarterback sacks, and some general knocking-other-people-down. And, lastly, the photos of Dane (in green,#50) are of him making a touchdown, and doing what he loves most..........smashing somebody on the gridiron (he's the guy in green on the TOP of the pile).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I feel like a hamster on a wheel...

Its Sunday night at 6:30 pm. If I could do anything I wanted right now....hhhmmmmm........I think I would go to bed and pull the covers over my head and sleep for a solid 12 hours with no interruptions. I'm in that mood where I just want to be left ALONE for awhile.........peace and quiet........ALL ALONE!!!

It actually was a good week and I'm truly grateful for that. In fact, I feel a little ungrateful even admitting that I'm craving time alone. But its one "benefit" of being a one-appraiser-business that we generally get a lot of time alone (I don't think I've mentioned that my trust assistant, Jennifer, has moved to Vancouver..... ) and we get accustomed to that mind-organizing time. This past week was just one of those that the schedule was VERY full every minute of every day with activities involving other people and I've got that "hair-on-fire/claustrophic" feeling tonight of not being totally brain-organized going into Monday morning. I HATE that! The "control freak" in me really NEEDS to know exactly what to expect every moment of every day this coming week. If I'm prepared for the things that I KNOW are going to happen, I deal better with the unexpected things that always come along. Am I making ANY sense here?

I've actually got some really funny stories to share from the kids this past week, but I'm too stressed at the moment to think they're very funny. I KNOW they're funny, but I can't focus enough to put them down in words.

So now that all you people know how truly insane I am.........well..........yeah. Good night!! I'm still running on the hamster wheel......

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I'm starting a club...Wanna join?

Its been awhile since I've gotten on my soapbox, but upon reading the news today, I'm motivated to express my not-so-in-demand opinion. So here goes...

I've decided to start a club. People Against Poor Judgement On My Space. PAPJOMS. Hmmm....That doesn't really have a ring to it. Well........something like that. Wanna join?

Now, before you get your hackles up, I'm not against My Space itself. I'm against "Poor Judgement" on My Space. In my experience, this happens to include almost the vast majority of My Space accounts that I have surfed, but let's just say thats a coincidence. And My Space is not the only one of these venues--there are others that are equally as obnoxious. So please include those as well under the heading that I am terming as "My Space".

Here are my gripes:
1) My Space is providing an easy venue for VAST amounts of poor judgement to surface. I've seen two news stories in the past two weeks involving sex offenders using My Space as a method with which to meet their victims. Both of these instances went so far as to actually result in the victims meeting these criminals and crimes being committed. All of the involved victims were below the age of 18, and apparently, using My Space without parental supervision or guidance. (Not to say that the parents would have been any smarter than the kids.....)

2) My Space is the host of a whole lot of photos, text, etc. being posted with NO thought to the PERMANENCY of internet record. Gone are the days when a note was passed around a high school english class stating who has a crush on whom, who got drunk at what party, what girls are using birth control, or whatever that week's rumor may be--when the note died, so did the permanent written record. Today, these messages are posted on My Space. To be accessed forever and ever. Its bad enough that our teens are engaging in as many adult activities as they are, but to have them posted publicly on My Space? Yikes!

3) And this is where I really start to feel the gripe--Our college and adult users that are exhibiting as poor of judgement (or more so) than our teens. Photos of obscene gestures at the camera, photos of obvious drinking binges, photos of all kinds of things that 30 years from now you don't want your boss/grandchildren/world to witness. Come on, people!! Where is your self-respect? Where is your class? For heaven's sakes, play! Enjoy life! Have fun in whatever manner you desire, and live with the consequences! But don't allow it to be posted on the internet!!!

Consider the permanent societal impacts of My Space. Are our heads-of-state going to be attempting to confirm a Supreme Court Justice in 30 years and My Space photos from a fraternity party suddenly surface? How many sex offenders are out there surfing for their next victim right this minute? How many of us have a moment or two (from which we learned a lesson) and prefer that it would stay a very private lesson and not posted on the internet?

In closing, I'm going to submit the perfect example--I had two close high school friends that briefly dated an upper classman. That upper classman is now a politician. He is highly respected in his field of work, as he should be, for the adult that he has become. I could tell a few stories about him from our younger days. But thats all they are......stories. No My Space posting. No photos from my cell phone that I downloaded to the internet. Just fond stories of silly high school days. As it should be. He has nothing to fear......

If he had been born 20 years later, that may not have been the case, and a scandal could be waiting to break at any time. Despite his hard work. Despite his excellent track record in his job. Despite the responsible adult that he is today. Despite the good he is doing in legislature getting some important bills passed that will benefit our society.

So........If you are a My Space user, and if you perhaps have a photo or two posted somewhere, and if perhaps there are obscene gestures made at the camera, or other immature postings....Enjoy them. Because you might just live to regret the poor judgement you used the day you posted them.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Grant.....little and tough!!


Grant played another football game on Saturday. In this one, they finally met their match and they got beat. They put up a heck of a fight in the first three quarters, but finally got by-passed late in the game.


Grant, again, had a couple of great runs. He is on the smaller end of the kids, but tough as nails!! Its not unusual to see him pushing the last yard or two to a first down with four or five guys hanging on trying to bring him down. This week, he got his arm stomped on, but kept on a trucking!


I took the attached photo from the grandstands this past Saturday. Grant is #26, and he's standing next to teammate and good friend, Darrol. Darrol is about "average-sized" for the boys in their division. GROW, Grant!!! :)



Speedy Gonzales meets Batgirl

The already-a-handful Jennica has developed a few new skills lately, and is finely honing a few that she had previously revealed to us. Its giving me a serious case of "absence-of-patience-itus". Let me explain...

First of all, our youngest daughter has the longest and skinniest legs ever to be seen on a three-year-old. No case of the preschool chubbies here......her thighs and calves are long and muscular. And, boy, can she use them!!! This kid can RUN like the wind!!!

Second (also probably related to those long, thin legs), she has recently learned to climb things VERTICALLY. Like cabinets, specifically. And she is FAST!! She climbs up on our countertops lickety-split, we lift her down, and she's back up there in a heartbeat.

Combine these skills with the fact that she has no fear of ANYTHING, and we've got a problem on our hands. She always manages to get some form of "contraband" out of an upper cabinet(all the lower ones have Jennica-proof child locks on them), hops back down off the countertops and runs for her room like Carl Lewis. She does a "Pete-Rose-type-belly-slide" under her bed, tucks her feet up, and the only way to get her out is to lay on your stomach and drag her out by whatever body part you happen to grab! The other alternative is to leave her under there and ignore her, but thats not real practical if you're trying to get out the door to a football game, or preschool, or wherever else we're headed.

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH. Once again, she's got us thinking. I will give her credit for that! The standard punishments don't work with this child so, once again, we're having to get creative and think of ways to outsmart her, and provide a deterrent, all at the same time.

So if anyone out there has any suggestions for how to deal with Speedy Gonzales and Batgirl all rolled into one........we're listening!!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Eau de Football Socks

Before delving into the true subject matter of this post, I need to establish a few things:
1) I'm not a wimp. I can bury a deceased cat. I have shoveled endless mountains of horse poop. I have personally witnessed an autopsy on a cow (better known as a "post", which is short for post-mortem exam, and it was very fascinating). I will even pick up worms, spiders, and anything else except snakes. (NO SNAKES!)
2) I'm not a wuss. I am a parent of four, so I have caught vomit in my hands in a classy restaurant, I have changed diapers that exceeded the norm on the disgusting scale, and I have tried to discreetly remove dried boogers from a snotty nose.

So don't take it lightly when I say........MY SONS' FOOTBALL SOCKS ARE DISGUSTING!!

This is not our first year of football, nor is it our first year of sports. I have seen sweaty socks before. I have seen muddy socks before. And I have seen smelly socks before. In fact, I played sports myself, so I have had my own fair share of gross socks. But I gotta tell ya......for some reason, this year is different!

This year's football socks are appearing in my house with a stronger, more pungent, indescribable odor. And they are WET. This is the Pacific Northwest and we have had rain, so I know that part of the moisture is from the ground, but still.......EEEEEEWWWW. And when the arrive in my laundry room inside out, its all I can do to reach into them to turn them back right-side out, but if I don't, there are chunks of grass that are still there when they come out of the dryer. Now.....The logical solution is to insist that the boys turn them right-side out or they don't get washed, right? Been there and tried that and its simply not realistic. These boys get up at 6:30 am, are at school all day, don't get home from practice until after 6:00 pm, and still have homework to do and dinner to eat and fall into bed at 9:00 pm exhausted. As long as they are honor students, great citizens, and are considerate of their parents, I am willing to cut them some slack and deal with the socks.

But every time I reach into the laundry hamper and come out with a handful of wadded, wet, smelly socks, I can't help but wince. Give me blood and guts anyday! Football socks are NASTY!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No More Brace Face!


After almost three years, Dane got his braces off today!! Wahoo! Now.....the fun part is that we took a picture of him the night before he got his braces on and took another photo of him tonight. The really shocking thing is not his teeth, but just the sheer amount that he has matured. WOW! See below!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Two weeks later......the story of our Saturday





Between busy-ness and sick-ness, its taken me a full two weeks to get this posted. But in any case...Here it is!!

Two weeks ago today, we sprung a surprise on a friend for his 40th birthday! His wife planned the day, got everyone together, and off we went to Emerald Downs! This is the same couple that we went there with in July and they had such a great time, that Kelly decided to surprise Chad with another day there for his big 4-0!! He had NO clue what was going on, and was greatly surprised!!
So......all 8 of us crammed into the Crawford's Expedition and away we went!! Of course, after my BIG win last time, I had high expecations. As usual, pride cometh before a fall. I started off with a bang, which only further fueled my pride, before losing all of my gambling cash. I think the most fun I had all day was watching the fool in front of us that very loudly kept announcing his total losses. At first, he was amusing, but when he exceeded $1000 before 1/2 the day was over, I decided that he deserved to lose. Everybody in our group lost except the Portmanns, but none of us lost even a fraction of what that loud-mouthed jerk lost!!!

After a day at the races, we proceeded on to dinner at Hooter's! Keep in mind.......we are normally a pretty tame crowd. After all, we have 11 children between the 8 of us, and we are all intelligent adults. Several of us had never been to Hooter's (me included) and I have to admit, its a tad over-rated. You can turn on your average TV sitcom and get skimpier outfits!!! But, for a 40th birthday and with such great company of great friends, we had a blast!! Lesson learned--do NOT drink anything that Andy orders by the round. And Kim, next time I'm volunteering as the designated driver. :)

A little late-night shopping and a late movie ended a great day!! I only hope that Chad has as much fun as the rest of us!! Happy 40th Birthday, Chad!!

We are headed for Mexico on a great big ship with this same great group of friends in a few months!! WAHOO!! I can hardly wait.......





Another week gone......


Whew!!! We have finally reached the end of this week! A little worse for the wear, but everyone is present and accounted for!!

First of all, after my last post on how shy Jennica was on the first day of preschool--she blew through the door on Tuesday like an old pro. She has hit the ground running and is loving EVERY minute of it!! She has a couple classmates that scream every morning when their parents leave them, while I feel fortunate if she remembers to wave good-bye to me!! We arrived at the school one morning along with two buses full of kids, so there was a large crowd of kids trying to get in the front doors all at the same time. Surrounded by a large crowd of kids, Jen looked up at me with the biggest grin ever and said, "This is COOL!!" She really loves everything about going to school!

Tiersten has settled back into the school routine and is happily back with her group of friends-Chloe, Hannah, and Hannah. I find myself worrying a bit that the four little girls that are so inseparable are becoming a little "clique-ish", but the teachers have assured us all that they are making sure that the girls are interacting with the others in the class. I recognize that my concerns are probably extremely premature, but the last thing I want is my daughter to be one of those "Mean Girls."

Also, Tiersten's eye appointment on Wednesday went about as we expected--the doctor had made a MAJOR error in Tiersten's vision prescription. Instead of needing glasses for extreme near-sightedness, her new glasses are now being re-done with ONLY a correction for her astigmatism. HUGE difference!! The doctor was very apologetic, gracious, very willing to pay for the error, and I'm trying to be understanding that doctors make mistakes, too, but I'm still rather annoyed with it all. I know...........move on, Beth.....its not the end of the world...........BUT STILL........

Dane's first football game was Thursday night and he did very well! He never came out of the game even once, had an unassisted quarterback sack, and seemed to be busily running all over the place knocking people down. His weight is beginning to drop again, so we're working on getting him to increase his calorie intake and food volume. (All together now......POOR DANE!! What a hardship to have people telling you to eat MORE!! Don't we all wish we had this problem?)

And, last but not least, Grant's first full game was today. They absolutely demolished the opposing team!! Grant had a LOT of playing time, gained a lot of yards, had some great tackles, and got his first touchdown! Unfortunately, a flag went down on the play so his touchdown didn't count, but his Mom still counts it as a touchdown! Way to go, Grant!!!

Onward and upward!!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Five days of sickness...and still no end in sight

The humor of being "jinxed" has long since worn off. Nobody here is laughing anymore.

Jennica stayed "barf-y" the rest of last Monday. Tuesday, her illness moved to another orifice, and that lasted until Friday. (She's a cute kid.......but a lousy appraisal assistant.)

And over this past weekend, despite following her with a can of Lysol all week, I GOT IT!!! AAAAAHHHHHH! I'm slowly getting better, but yesterday, the weather was gorgeous and all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and hope to die. Truly delightful!

But life goes on, sick or not. Grant had his first football game on Saturday and did really well! It was actually a Jamboree thing-y, so they really only played like 10 minutes or so. He's carrying the ball quite a lot this year, and came within inches of a touchdown before being levelled to the ground. He also had an unassisted tackle, and some other good carries. Way to go, Grant!!

Dane's first game is this Thursday. He's going to be starting at center, and defensive end. His team isn't real big, so he will probably play the whole game. As in the ENTIRE game. Gonna be exhausted when he's done.

The girls both started preschool today!! WAHOO!!

Tiersten has different teachers and a different classroom than last year, and is actually in a differently-funded program this year with a whole different set of rules, so she's going to have to adapt a little. Her lead teacher is very young and pretty and looks like what a preschool teacher SHOULD look like. The assistant teacher is also terrific! The class is, just at first-glance, probably about 30% ESL students, so they have a full-time interpreter in the classroom to attempt to get the non-English-speaking students fluent before Kindergarten next year. A daunting task to me......but they really do a fantastic job. Tiersten will be reading by Christmas if she stays on her current track.

Jennica has been eagerly awaiting her big preschool debut for a whole year!! Much to my surprise, she was NERVOUS today, and very subdued. Her teacher wanted to get a photo of her upon arrival, and Jen wouldn't even smile. She stood very quietly against the wall with her hands folded and wouldn't look at the camera!! TOO FUNNY!!! I thought about telling the teacher not to get used to this "shy child", but nah........they'll figure it out soon enough! She was a bit of a handful at preschool testing, so they have already seen a little of what she is capable of. (From Jennica when they wanted her to show them she could hop on one foot..."I'm NOT hopping for you. I'm playing!!!")

And life is never dull around here. To add to the "fun", Tiersten's new glasses, that had been so eagerly anticipated, arrived last week. Keep in mind--we had consulted with a highly-respected specialist on Tiersten's eyes to get this prescription. Everyone RAVES about this doctor. Well....not sure what went wrong, but T can NOT see out of these things. AT ALL!!! No way--no how. We have tried to get her to wear them, even a little, and it just doesn't work!! She can't see three feet past her face. So.....the doctor (who is currently booking appointments in January) must have heard the irritation in my voice on the phone and has managed to "fit her in" this Wednesday. Sure......we NEEDED to drive to Olympia this week. On the same day that I have an order due, and an evening full of football practice and Open House at the school. Seriously here.......I'm rather laughing. Thats what we get for having four kids!!

So........its been a long, last 7 days. But all is good and things could be SO much worse. A little bit of stomach flu and trying to be 3 places at once is not something to whine about!!!

More soon on that delayed post about what we were up to two Saturdays ago.......

Monday, September 03, 2007

JINXED!!

We spent Saturday with friends (more on that later after I've had a chance to download photos) and between the four couples, we have 11 kids total. So......we happened to end up in a conversation where everyone was regaling their worst "vomiting child" stories. Some real doozies!! BLECH!!! Mike and I did a lot of listening and finally volunteered that our kids are not much for barfing. The rare flu........sure. But we honestly couldn't remember the last time that one of our kids had up-chucked.

We should have knocked on wood!! No kidding.......Jennica showed up in our bedroom at 2:30 this morning, "I puked!!" She was covered in it, but very matter-of-fact about it all. I seem to remember crying and wailing when I threw up as a kid. Not Jen. So we stripped her down, cleaned up the mess in her room, got the laundry going, got her back to sleep and all that. She threw up AGAIN at about 7:00 this morning. So now she is being followed by a bowl everywhere she goes. :)

Open mouths......insert feet. The Saturday crowd is going to get a BIG kick out of this one.....

Friday, August 31, 2007

Gotta love three-day weekends!!

Yippee!!! A three-day weekend!!!

This has been a rather odd week and I'm not quite sure why. It started off with me in a "shopping mood" and, let me tell ya, I did pretty darn good indulging that one!! One of the things I spent money on was a matching set of MP3 players for Mike and I. We have talked about buying them for quite a while and just never seemed to get around to it. To be an appraiser in 2007, you have to be pretty techno-savvy, but I don't own really anything that is a techno-TOY. I do now! And I'm loving it!!! Of course, Mike and I are down-loading totally different music to our respective MP3s. Very funny to see how blatantly different our musical tastes can be. (Of course, the difference would be that I HAVE musical taste......Back at ya, Baby!!)

And somehow, I became once again buried in work again this week. I've got a whole host of complex orders again on my desk!!! While I admit that I am gaining tremendous experience and knowledge in the process of researching all the value complexities involved, the brain power that it requires is unreal. Then again, I have to admit that I bore very easily and this keeps me from getting bored--never a bad thing. And I'm developing a great library of research material, and a brilliant peer group whose opinions I seek out and trust to tell me when I'm headed in the wrong direction. I've also taken some big career steps recently, which I'll have to blog about at another time, and all these complex orders will come back with interest later on. However, even Mike had to tell me to quit obsessing this week, from one Type-A personality to another.

We're off tomorrow to have some GREAT fun!! Don't want to jinx the day, so I'll post about it on Sunday, while I'm working. Yes.......I will be working quite a lot this weekend. Gotta catch up before Tuesday arrives with a whole set of new orders. But don't worry....I've played plenty lately, so this is just the grindstone hunting me down.

Have a good weekend!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Where do you get those meek, mild children?

In the past few weeks, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I think Mike and I have officially become "those" type of people. You know the kind. The ones with the rowdy kids. Sigh...

As mentioned in a previous post, last week was our County Fair. We went several times, of course, and the girls got more confident with every trip. On Friday night, we could have given them some money and we're about 99% sure that they would have happily run off to the carnival without a single worry. WE would have worried, obviously, but they would have been totally oblivious to anything except the rides. In fact, we didn't even make it in the front gate that night before they had partnered up with another little girl that they know from the Day Care and they were off and running with Aubrielle!! LITERALLY running through the crowds of people while we were frantically trying to slow them down and get them to listen to us. Both girls were just so totally confident and comfortable in this moving mass of people.

And then, with our new bicycles, we have been riding in the evenings quite regularly. The girls ride in a little cart behind Mike. It was very warm yesterday, so many people were out on the rail trail enjoying an evening stroll/ride, which is where we also chose to ride. Of course, all these people seemed to be relaxed and leisurely and peaceful. And here we come!! The girls are yelling and laughing and making all kinds of racket in the cart. For awhile, we tried to keep telling them to lower their voices, but we reached a point that it seemed like we were making more noise telling them to be quiet than the amount of noise that they were making! So.....we gave up!! At least they were HAPPY and not fighting or crying!!

And on Sunday, we ended up in JCPenneys at the mall. Jennica took off!! We turned around and she was GONE!! Once again, totally confident in a completely strange place. We panicked, of course, and split up to find her. Mike found her looking at some things just totally unconcerned that we were out of sight! AAAHHH.

So I want to know---where do you get those kids that you see clinging to their parents' legs? And those kids that are so shy that they bury their faces if a stranger says "hello" to them? And those kids that walk across the street holding their parents' hand, or ride meekly in a shopping cart through a grocery store without trying to climb out??

Because we have FOUR freakin' kids and NOT ONE OF THEM has been meek and mild!!! At Dane and Grant's ages, their self-confidence is becoming a tremendous asset. But at ages 3 & 4, its a great big pain in the neck for us as parents!! I remember wanting to throttle the boys when they were toddlers for exactly the same behaviors that the girls are exhibiting now. What are we doing wrong??!!?? The girls have very strict rules and are consistently disciplined and the whole works, but you can't take a confident child and MAKE them afraid to leave your side!! AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! I guess I just have to keep reminding myself that someday it will be a good thing. And I will have a lot of gray hair.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Awakened by loud trucks

Very early this morning, we awoke to very loud trucks in our driveway. Yahoo....The concrete trucks have arrived!!! Even as I write this, the contractors are still outside working the huge slab that is about to become the foundation for our new garage. The weather has been less than cooperative, so they've been sitting at a standstill for over a week with the forms complete and afraid that if they poured, the sky would surely open up and dump huge amounts of rain. But today is the big day!! Progress!! Hopefully, the framing and all that jazz will go quickly, because there is only so much time now before winter and we want it totally complete, with paint and all.

And with that said, fall is definitely arriving. We're beginning to have those evenings where the fog rolls in shortly before dark and there's a different feel in the air.

The boys are both hard into football now and loving every minute of it. Grant is covered in bruises, and even got his hand smashed into the ground by a cleated shoe at practice last night. When I picked him up, I could tell just by the look on his face that he was in pain from something, but he had "toughed it out" and made it through practice without quitting. Its pretty swollen this morning, but fortunately, just a bad bruise. His team doesn't practice today, so he's got a day to rest it.

As for Dane, his football cleats look HUGE. Not sure when his feet got that big. And he seems to have grown another inch or two. Or I'm shrinking... :) He said that there first day of conditioning yesterday was "easy." He'd better not let the coaches hear him say that. And now on top of football practice from 3:30-6:30 every day, he's going to add Pep Band practice from 7:00-?? on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He's been invited, along with a few other Junior High kids, to play his trombone with the High School Pep Band for High School football games, so that will be one more thing to keep him busy.

Things are getting back to normal.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trying to get back in the swing of things

After my lengthy vacation, I'm having a really hard time getting back into the swing of working. My brain has a serious case of concentration-itis and I can't focus on ANYTHING. So.....here I sit at my desk and nothing seems to be motivating me to get it in gear. Maybe if I spit out some of my thoughts here, it will help. So here goes.

1) Grant has started football practice. His head coach taped his name across the front of his helmet, followed by a number. So Grant's helmet says, "Camenzind 95". The name thing I got right away, as their practice jerseys are not numbered and all the kids look the same once they get helmets on. Duh. But whats with the number? I asked Grant and he said that it is his weight. I about died laughing. Positive PROOF as to why most girls don't play football. Even at age 12, I don't know many GIRLS that would let a coach write their body weight for everyone to see. Now, you have to realize that in Grant's league, you have to weigh below a certain amount to carry the ball, so it makes sense to plaster it on their head while they are building the team, but still......It was good for a hearty laugh.

2) Dane entered a pencil sketch in our County Fair, and also the sunset photograph that I posted a week or so ago. He's always received wide acclaim for his sketch work, but this is his first attempt at photography. Lo and behold, he crashed and burned on the sketch, while the photograph received "Best in Class". He's still scratching his head over this one.

3) I had an interesting day of appraisals earlier this week. First, got attacked by fleas in a very infested house. Lovely. And then had a job at a home where the property owner has a medical-use license to grow and use marijuana for his/her personal treatment of their medical condition. The property owner was very forthcoming about it, showed me their licensing paperwork, but STILL........it was a little weird to see all of this stuff under grow lights and all. WOW! Yeah......I know.........I live under a rock and I'm very naive. I like it that way, so leave me alone. :)

4) Once the kids all start school, is the weather actually going to be really nice? Its been a very wet summer for us, and its going to stink if the sun comes out AFTER they go back to school.

5) The suburban is covered with Mt. St. Helens ash from our road trip last weekend. The sun is out at the moment. I could go outside and wash it. But then I wouldn't be getting any work done. But I'm not getting any work done by sitting here blogging anyway. Hmmmm.......Its a dilemma.

On that note, this seems to be deteriorating, so before I talk myself into going outside to wash the suburban, I'm getting off of here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ho hum, Ho hum, Its back to work I come...

Vacation is officially over. Today, like it or not, was back to business as usual. In the last month, we've had a steady stream of family from far and wide through our home, followed by 10 days of being gone, so the return to routine is actually welcome in some ways. Being the control freak that I am, there is comfort for me in habit and routine. Two weeks from tomorrow, and the boys go back to school. Another 6 days after that and the girls start preschool again. I'm actually looking forward to regular schedules and bedtimes and all that.

On the down side, I came back to the appraisal world with the mortgage industry in continuing chaos. The largest mortgage servicer in the country is Countrywide, and all of us in all areas of the industry and waiting to see what their fate will be. We all knew that the robust market of 2005 wouldn't continue forever, but I don't think any of us imagined that the downturn would reach as high as Countrywide. Then again, investment carries risk and I think it is wise for all of us to remember that.

So.........I am home. I went on vacation to get a break from work. Now I'm back from vacation to get a break from........playing too hard? Go figure.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Folly

I'm still on vacation!! Neener neener neener. Making the most of it!! The below is my Friday silliness. It was sent to me by my eldest sister, so its all her fault!!

Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of callouses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

10 things learned while camping


1) I admit that I WANTED to go camping. I have great memories of camping when I was a kid and wanted to build those same memories for my children. What I didn't understand was that the reason I have great memories of camping was because there was no work involved for me. As a parent, camping is an entirely different experience. So...take it from me...What I really wanted was to go camping again as an eight-year-old where the day consisted of sleeping, eating food that someone else prepared, sitting around a fire that someone else built, playing, bicyle riding, swimming, eating again.......

2) Sometimes when there is blue sky in the west, it really does sunshine the next day. Whaddayaknow.

3) A 6-man tent is an oxymoron. No tent should ever hold more than 4 people. Period.

4) Choosing a campsite near the bathrooms was a smart move. Choosing a campsite away from the lakeshore was a smart move. Choosing a campsite VERY near the playground was not really such a smart move. Our little girls were naturally drawn to the laughter of other children swinging and playing. That would be okay for part of the day. But ALL day EVERY day got to be a bit much. Almost enough to make you wish that you were a neglectful parent that could just say, "Go!!! I'll see you when it gets dark!!"


5) Give a 14-year-old a digital camera and he can take a LOT of pictures. Sure glad we're not developing all that film.

6) Give a 12-year-old a fishing pole, with which he catches two fish, and he is suddenly the world's largest teller of tall fish tales. Very funny!!

7) I like frogs. I don't like thousands of little tiny hopping frogs all in one place. Not kidding here.


8) Wearing shorts around a campfire makes your legs hot and you eventually pick up your chair and move farther back.

9) I taught my children to make toast on a campfire. :)


10) What is with the people that camp in big RVs and never come out? Why go camping if you're not going to go outside? I don't get it...






Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Just dropping by...


...for a quick update. Vacation is going well and I'm trying not to even THINK about the fact that its not going to last forever. I will post again tomorrow with a little more detail, but for now, enjoy the attached photo. My 14-year-old son, Dane, got control of the camera for several hours over the last three days and took some really fantastic pictures!! He's been a sketch artist forever, but this is a new outlet for him and I'm really impressed. Good night!!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

On Vacation

I am just dropping by for a quick update as we're ON VACATION!!! WAHOO!!! I'm trying to stay away from the computer as much as possible, as I find it irresistible to check my email.....which reminds me of work......which ruins the whole point of vacation.

So.....I will be updating when I officially return to the computer-based world of appraisal on the 20th. Until then.....maybe I'll drop by and maybe I won't. :)

Have a good one!!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Time to buck up...

After my "the sky is falling" post the other day.......I've made a concious effort to buck up. We all have our down-and-out days, but enough is enough. And my life, even on the very worst day, could be a WHOLE LOT worse.

So...life is looking up again. The pile on my desk is slowly diminishing as I have stopped accepting new orders until we return from our vacation. The last of the particularly-difficult orders are gone, and the weight of those brain-crushing bruisers has lifted. Whatever backlash comes.........it is what it is. I do not and will not unethically fabricate numbers. Period.

My sisters and their families are both here visiting. One of them lives in Minneapolis, so yesterday's bridge collapse is being closely watched and hits close to home. Its good for all of us to be together, and our parents will gain a new appreciation for the peace and quiet when everyone goes home again. The four boy cousins, ages 15, 14, 13, & 12, continue to be close and enjoy their time together with wild games that none of the rest of us understand.

And last, but certainly not least, today is our 5th wedding anniversary. It has gone by incredibly fast, and this particular year was a specific milestone for me for personal reasons. So Michael.......we made it. Thanks for the five best years of my life!! I love you!! 1, 2, 3...... :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What? WHAT??!!!?? What did I do to deserve this?

Ever noticed how sometimes life seems to magically "gang up on you"? You know its true.....admit it!! There are even phrases for this magical occurence. Like, "When it rains, it pours." The person that came up with that one was feeling seriously ganged up on.

Well.....I am SO there. Its Tuesday, and I am wishing it was Friday. Before a summer vacation and I am in the 7th grade. So I could be a sloth all summer like Dane is being. Still too young to have real responsibilities, but old enough that you've got some options on what you do with your free time. Ahhhh.........that sounds so good. I think I'll go spend five hours riding my horse. Dream on.

So here's the deal. 99 days out of 100, I really like my choice of careers, but the last few weeks I have had a number of really tough assignments. The kind where you go to bed at night and stare at the ceiling and wonder if there is some valuation angle that you have forgotten, and then you get in the shower in the morning and feel yourself questioning your opinion of the highest and best use of the property. And you think about it some more every minute of every day. You finally get the darn thing submitted, and then the phone calls begin. Why is this or that stated such -and-such way? Did you consider this or that? All while you're trying to move on to the next three complex reports....AAAHHH.

So my neck has been in knots, I've been fighting stress headaches, and I'm trying to convince myself that "this too shall pass". And then Jennica decides not to sleep last night and we're up and down with her from 2:23 am to 5:15, when Tiersten decides to join the party. Sleep deprivation does not help me out.....

And then something happens like this morning. I'm happily pulling out of our driveway, and see a squished black kitty in the road. I'm pretty darn sure that it is our kitty, but I keep driving as I don't really want to get the girls upset and I don't think there is anything I can do anyway. I will be back home in 15 minutes and go take care of the cat. So, 15 minutes later, I'm driving back and cat is still in the same place in the road, but sort of sitting up. Oh......GREAT!!! Cat is badly injured and didn't even have the courtesy to die instantly. Now Beth has to make the "life or death" decision on the cat. Thankfully, I'm good friends with our vet and she gave me the honest-no-holds-barred opinion that kitty has massive head injuries and deserves to die with dignity. So now.......when the girls get home, we get to break it to them that Daisy has passed away and is buried in the backyard. Sigh........

Jennifer was here this morning and I'm so tired and stressed that I was barely completing sentences when I was speaking to her. I am WORN OUT!!! I have stopped accepting orders in anticipation of clearing the desk before vacation, but the phone continues to ring. And ring. And ring.

So this is a GRUMPY post. Bah Humbug! 10 days until vacation.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Crazy Busy

For some reason, I seem to go week after week telling myself that life will be quieter and more relaxed NEXT week, or after some specific event in the future. I think it must be my brain's coping mechanism, because when next week gets here, or we get past whatever the specific event happens to be, things are never more relaxed...we're simply on to the next series of activities, things to do, and places to be. I'm feeling the need right now for some "down time", and the frequency of my headaches tells me that I'm pushing too hard. But I'm not sure what I'm supposed to remove from the schedule, as its already about as bare-bones as its going to get. Oh well! Onward and upward and trying to be grateful that I have the opportunity to be so involved in life.

The boys are home from camp and had a really great time!! There were about half as many kids as attended when I went years ago, but that doesn't seem to have dulled the fun any. Dane has been quiet, while Grant has been the storyteller so far. This is a bit of a role reversal for them, so its been fun listening to Grant jabber. I had no idea that Grant had an ability to blow Kix cereal out his nose for great distances, but he was a member of the championship team. Yep...I'm serious. Gotta love Junior High Camp!! :)

I've gotta hit the road here shortly, as I'm in the field all day today with the usual odd mix of properties. Maybe in my next life I will be one of those lucky appraisers that works in some area with a whole bunch of identical housing developments with an abundance of truly comparable sales. AAAAAHHHHHhhhhhhh....What a soothing thought that is......

Have a good day out there!!
Beth

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ahhhhh.........Camp Bethel

This past Sunday, we dropped the boys off at Junior High Camp. I attended the same camp as a kid, and later counseled there for several years. I have some great memories and, oddly enough, several of my old friends are directing/counseling my boys this week, or have children that are attending as campers. Like a magnet, Camp Bethel seems to draw us all back eventually, in one way or another.

In any case, I hope the boys are building the wonderful friendships and memories. I haven't heard from them, and I'm sure I won't until after they are picked up on Saturday. They are doing what they should--being boys and enjoying life away from home to the fullest.

For me, camp always went far beyond the basic activities of rafting, swimming, and campfire. When I tell old camp stories, I find that I often describe the schedule and what we spent our time doing, but that is not truly what Camp Bethel was to me. It was so much deeper, but something that I can't really put into words. To say that I grew up with my fellow campers sounds silly when said aloud, as we truly only spent one week together each year. But in many ways, they had just as much influence on my life growing up as my school classmates, with which I spent nine months each year.

This is a story that portrays my innocence at age 15 or 16. I have never told the boys this story, so I'll have to let them read this when they get home. Here goes...

Almost all teenagers arrive at camp with some expectation that they are going to stay up all night, or sneak out, or do some other "something". I was no different. I had been attending camp for several years, but I was now a teen and liked to think of myself as slightly rebellious. Living in a small town where I was highly recognizable did not give me much opportunity for rebellion, as I was totally convinced that if I so much as spit on the sidewalk, my parents would find out. But here I was......an hour from home with no parents for an entire week.

So, one evening, another girl in my cabin and I decided that we were going to sneak out in the middle of the night. She was also a girl from my hometown, and someone that also harbored an inner rebel. (Yeah right!) We made an arrangement that one would wake up the other at a certain time, and we discreetly set out our clothes and shoes so we would be able to dress quickly and quietly. The time came, and we slipped quickly out of our cabin. Now on the front porch, we exchanged big grins and tiptoed down the stairs, quite pleased with our success thus far.

Now.......this had been fully pre-meditated and we're feeling quite smart. We have outsmarted our cabin counselor and all the other girls in our cabin, and we are outside at 2 a.m. with no adults in sight. We are REBELS.

However, we forgot a few things:
1) Its dark, heavily wooded, and the cabins are approximately 30 yards apart with virtually no exterior lighting. It is so dark that we can hardly see the myriad of paths that wind the way through the camp to the main complex.
2) Its cold and foggy. We are on a large chunk of property located at the south end of the Olympic Rain Forest--a solid 20 minute drive from the nearest town. Isolated ocean beaches are not too far to the west. At two o'clock in the morning, its none to warm. Mosquitoes like this environment and they are hungry.
3) We are ALONE and without a plan. So........we go and throw rocks at a boys cabin until a couple of boys come out. Of course, they ask what we are doing. We tell them, "Sneaking out." Brilliant.
4) We stumble around on the dark paths for approximately 10 minutes with said boys, trying to come up with some entertainment that will not involve waking up any adults. We're avoiding the main complex, so as not to get seen by someone who may be up moving around. However, by avoiding the main complex, we are also without light, heat, and any activities that may be slightly amusing at 2:00 am.
5) One of us finally caves in and mentions that we are cold. Three other heads nod in agreement. We go back to our respective cabins and back to bed.

We are teenagers. We have successfully rebelled.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

For Mike and his Dad



This has taken me a few weeks to get posted, but here it is!!

For Father's Day this year, Mike sent a plane ticket and Mariner's tickets to his Dad. His Dad flew into Seattle one afternoon in late June. They went to the game together, spent the night in the city, ate out, and Wayne flew home the next morning. They had a great time together and, since Mike and I never seem to see any of our parents without our herd of noisy children, it was nice for the two of them to get to spend some rare father-and-son time together alone. Of course, the girls weren't real happy about missing out on hugs from Grandpa Wayne, but they saw he and Grandma Sharla in May and will be seeing them again soon. I think its good for them to learn that Daddy gets time with his Dad, too.






Friday, July 20, 2007

Its 4:30 pm on FRIDAY!!!

Okay.........Gotta get something out of the way here right off the bat....For any of you lenders out there that may be checking this blog because it is linked to my business web-site, I know that this is my THIRD blog of the day, but I do not owe you or anyone else any reports today. I am officially caught up with all deadlines (wahoo). I realize that Monday is coming fast, and the deadlines start all over again next week, but I purposely scheduled some "screwing off" time for today, and I have actually spent most of it working. So don't be sending me any of those internet-transmitted guilt trips.

Back to the subject at hand...Since it is 4:30 pm on Friday and I'm screwing off, I just checked the blog of one of my favorite internet blogger cohorts. I'm either very tired, or it is truly THAT funny. Not sure which, and I don't really care. So anyway, the list below is extracted from the Beast Mom. And since I just listed her name here, I'm not breaking some copyright laws, am I?

So here it is!!! Editor's Note: The comments in red have been added by me, myself and I, and are not to be blamed on Beast Mom.

Top 10 Children's Books That Didn't Make The Cut
1. Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and Other Urban Legends
2. Pat the Cockroach
3. Guess How Much I Loathe You (Never liked that stupid rabbit anyway. I know some divorced people that could have written this one...)
4. Green Vegetables? Who Needs 'Em? (Amen. 'Nuff said.)
5. A Kids' Guide To Slothfulness (I think Dane did a book report on this in 7th grade.)
6. How To Become The Favorite Child (Hmmm. Marj & I know who wrote this book--LOLOL)
7. Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Whiners (I wrote this one!!)
8. If You Give A Grizzly A Cookie
9. Flushing Goldie (I forced my mother to help me bury a goldfish or two...)
10. Winnie-the-Pooh & Piglet Go Hitchhiking

Anyway, Happy Friday and thank you, Christina the Beast Mom, for tickling my funny bone!!

The stupidest marital argument in the world

Mike and I got into a really stupid marital argument last night. So all you married people out there--top this one!!

We had a brief war of words arguing over who got to rock Jennica last night at bedtime. Not who HAD to rock her, but who got the privilege of rocking her. Now...keep in mind that this is OUR CHILD. She's not going anywhere!! We've been doing this for 3+ years, for heaven's sake, and she still really craves this 10-minute rocking session each evening to help her unwind before we lay her down. It was not like this was the last rocking session we were going to get...


Now, we don't argue over this subject every night, but it is something we both enjoy doing. Yesterday, it just happened that Jen and I had spent a long afternoon in Olympia at an eye appointment, and I was hoping to end the day with her, since it had been a rather special one-on-one day for us. Mike's point was that I had gotten to spend the majority of the day alone with her and he wanted a little time with her while I spent some time with Tiersten, who he had picked up at Day Care and taken out for dinner. He had a rather good point, so thats how it went, and I enjoyed chatting with "T" for a few minutes while he rocked Jen.

On a separate but related note, we have sorted entire boxes of photos recently. It has been a BIG job, even though the majority of our pictures are stored on CDs. In the process of sorting pictures, I found the attached photos among the menagerie. I had completely forgotten about this picture of Mike with Jen, and it made me smile to remember what a chubba-bubba baby she was at that age. The picture of Jen and I was taken by one of my sisters last summer at our parent's home. Even though that photo is only a year old, its amazing how much our littlest girl has changed in that relatively short period of time.




Great Flaming Marshmallows!!


The boys have been bugging us for about a year to build a firepit in the "back forty." Due to the location of where we wanted to put it and the work involved with clearing and levelling that area, its kind of been a lengthy process. I think the boys forget that two years ago, there were thirteen huge hemlock trees on this portion of our property that are no longer standing.

In any case, my sister and her family are coming from Minnesota for their annual two-week Washington summer vacation. The boys have had a big goal since last winter to have the firepit completed before their cousins arrived. So...we buckled down, moved the dirt, cut the last of the brush, hauled the pea gravel and the bark, put up the fence and the blocks, and its done--complete with a nesting family of chickadees in the birdhouse on the tree. We've even got enough room to set up our tent on one side.


I have to admit that we're pretty pleased with the final result and have already used our firepit quite a lot. Its very peaceful to sit back there around a fire, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, smelling the woodsmoke, and just spending time as a family.

So, Erik and Matthew--beware!!! Dane and Grant have got plans for you and this firepit involving a tent, sleeping bags, and lots of marshmallows. We're looking forward to having you all here!!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Oh, de doo-da day...




This past Saturday, we ran away to the races!! For several weeks, we had been planning a day at Emerald Downs with friends, and it turned out to be an absolute BLAST! We left all of our many children at home, and had a grown-up day of nothing-but-fun!!


Now...Mike and I have been to Emerald Downs before, but it has been several years. And for those of you that might not know, I spent 20 years of my life consumed in competitive horse sports, so this is right up my alley......


We all wagered small amounts, after careful scientific analysis of the racing programs and horses in the paddock, of course. (Yeah right!!) The program helps, and so does viewing the horses being saddled, but there is still a LOT of luck involved. Just ask Kelli about the lame horse that won the race!! (So much for my "expert" advice...)


In any case, the HUGE highlight of the day was when I won an EXACTA!! I bet $4.00, chose two horses that I believed would win first and second place in the race, and they finished first and second as I had predicted! For the really thrilling part.......I won $395.80 on my $4.00 bet! Now thats some serious winning!!! WAHOO!! Several other small wins added up, and we came home with a lot more money than we took!


Most of all, it was great to get away and spend the day with our friends. Good food, good company, and good fun! Even on the ride home in the Suburban. :)


Oh, de doo-da day!!!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Independence Day

We had a GREAT 4th of July!! Spent the majority of it at home, with a quick dash to Tokeland so the kids could play in the sand on the beach for awhile. (The boys would still be there digging if we had agreed to leave them...Not sure how we got such beach-loving kids!!)


In any case, it was hard to get back to work today. We stayed up too late BBQ-ing and laughing around our new firepit, and then the boys set off a ton of fireworks once it got dark. Tiersten enjoyed the fireworks immensely and thought that was some serious fun. Jennica fell asleep on my lap in complete exhaustion before it even started. :) Even the dogs were hoarse today, as they barked even while crated.


Some photos above of the kids at the beach! Hope you and yours had a great day!!
Top Photo: All four hooligans, digging to China.
Middle Photo: Tiersten, dancing with her shadow
Bottom Photo: Jennica, trying to get warm....bbbbrrrr

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tinker-bumbler


Tiersten likes Tinkerbell. I mean REALLY likes Tinkerbell. She can spot anything with Tinkerbell on it a mile away. She has a Tinkerbell blanket, and for her birthday, her brothers bought her a Tinkerbell "dress-up" oufit--complete with wings. They picked it out themselves, which was a rather cool thing to do.


Yesterday evening, she dressed up in her Tinkerbell outfit after dinner and was dancing around the house. She accessorized with a tiara and her high-heeled Cinderella shoes. It was quite the ensemble!


As she was twirling around, I made a suggestion about a leap I thought she should try. She very promptly tripped in her shoes, got tangled in the dress, and crashed into the piano on the way to the floor. Oops! Worth a couple of good bruises....


She's a cute Tinkerbell, but not a very graceful one.