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 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.