Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A post about Josh

I forgot to mention something rather important...

Joshua has finished school!! His last rotation ended on Friday afternoon. He will have one week off, one week of an informal transitional meetings with the other students, then one week before he starts his first job. Wow. Did I mention we are moving to Spokane within that time frame? And he is graduating? 

So far this is how Josh has spent his time off: 

He also has gone mountain biking, golfing and clubbing; I just don't have pictures of those activities. Rough life huh?

Ski to Sea 2009

Well, it is Memorial Day weekend, so that naturally means: Ski to Sea! The Ski to Sea race is a multi-leg team race that starts at Mount Baker and ends in Bellingham Bay. There are 8 people on a team with 7 legs. They are:

x-country ski
downhill or snowboard
road bike
mountain bike
ocean kayak

This year the family did not put together a team, so Jule, my neighbor and x-country ski replacement for last year, became free agents. Jule found a team that needed people, and we joined. Of course, I did the x-country and this year Jule did the kayak. 

Like last year, Jule and I drove up the mountain on Saturday to check out conditions and have a practice ski. Unlike last year, when we were childless, this year we had all four children. Jule's husband went fishing all day, and my hubby went mountain biking and kayaking with his brother and friend. 

The kids had a blast in the snow and just playing around. We had PERFECT weather the entire weekend and Jule and I just traded skiing and watching kids. 

After our lovely time on the mountain, we had a team meeting at our captains house. We had never met these people before and we needed to get our bibs and shirts, etc. Our team members consisted of four women who all recently turned 50 and wanted to "do something big", 2 college-guys who were also free-agents, and Jule and myself. Quite a mix! We had a great bbq and the kids all enjoyed playing around on the swings and playhouse. 

This year the race started at 8am. But they close the road up to Baker at 7:30. Plus, civilization is at least an hour away, so I woke up at 5am to meet my team at 
5:30 to get to the top of the mountain! We camped in my brothers yard again.

Since I was alone, I left Levi and Claire sleeping and Aaron watched them till I got back. He even took them to church!

The skiing conditions were great this year. The course is a 4 mile loop on 
the downhill portion of the resort, so it is a lot of big up and down hills. Lots of carnage! Supposedly the x-country ski portion of the race is where there is the biggest degree of skills between the competitors. There are some super fast people (fastest time this year was 17 minutes!) and some really slow people who are on skis for the first time (times close to two hours). I did the race is 40 minutes this year,which is a vast improvement over my time in 2007. 

Once I cross the finish line, I hand the timing chip to the downhill skier, who, get this, hikes UP the ENTIRE MOUNTAIN and then skis down. One of my carpool mates jokes that it should be called the UPHILL ski/snowboard! 

After the skier crosses the finish line, and hands over the chip, the runner starts to head down the mountain. This is a brutal 8.3 mile run completely downhill. I think they drop 2000 ft in elevation in 8 miles. Crazy on the knees! 

The road remains closed until about 9:30, but then they only let a few cars out at a time, since there are so many runners on the road. The cars also have to drive on the left. This year there were 415 teams. 

We just waited with the other skiers at the top till about 11am, when we came down. I was back at Aaron's by noon. I then got the kids ready and we headed to the finish line where we could watch Jule end the race.

They had fun waiting, put we eventually had to leave to pick up Josh, who was kayaking nearby. We barely missed Jule's finish! But we all went out to dinner and then had a bonfire at Aaron's; complete with oysters provided by my uncle!

The next morning I went on a long country run early in the morning. Everson is so beautiful! We packed up and headed to Birch Bay to do some clamming. This was our families first time clamming, but it is so fun! Levi got quite a few and I am going to try my hands at clam chowder tonight. 

All in all we had a terrific weekend! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Three little dinosaurs

Immediately after we got back from Spokane, Levi, ever the artist, decided to express his feelings about our trip by drawing. This is what he drew on Sunday night.

As you can clearly see, Levi, Will, and Luke all have dinosaur tails on. We are calling it "Boys with Tails"

After I published this post, and read it to Levi, I was instructed that I gave the incorrect order of the dinosaurs. The CORRECT order, from left to right, is Will, Levi, and then Luke. 

Gold Creek Trout Farm Field Trip

Instead of preschool today, Levi and Claire and his class, went to the Gold Creek Trout Farm in Woodinville. It is basically a u-fish farm and Levi has been talking about this field trip for days! As it turns out, Claire was my brave one and she caught the first fish of the group.

First the tour guide/owner (I never caught her name) gave us a tour of the facilities. They raise fish by removing their eggs, hatch fish, stock ponds, and provide u-fishing. Here, at one of the holding tanks, are the really big trout. The guide, in purple, is throwing fish food to the hungry trout. A couple kids got wet, mostly Claire, because she was continually putting her body as close as possible to the fish at all times. 

Finally, after the tour, it was time to start fishing! We worked in teams, so while Claire fished, Levi was in charge of scooping the fish from the water with the net. Here is Claire waiting for her first bite. 

And here is Claire's fish! She was so proud!

She had no problems holding her fish while I snapped a ton of pictures. 

Next it was Levi's turn to fish. The trout kept eating the food off his hook without biting the hook, and Levi started to get frustrated. Finally, after baiting the hook for the fourth time, he caught his own fish. 

Here is Claire struggling with the net and Levi's fish. 

At home I finally convinced Levi to hold his fish so I could take his picture. 

And here are my happy kids with their fish. Claire kept telling hers "I love you little fishy!" It was super cute!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Is it supposed to be this difficult?

Friday afternoon, Josh and I loaded up the kids and the car and we headed off to Spokane. The goal? Find a place to live beginning in June. I had done a lot of research, mostly on craigslist. I had contacted five landlords and had scheduled viewings of their rentals. Online these places looked great. Their listings said wonderful things about the rentals! Words like "charming" and "quaint" and "relaxing evenings" often were used to describe the homes. Ever the control freak, I was adamant about staying within a reasonable budget. 

Once we got to the address, we soon discovered why such great prices corresponded to such vague words. 

We stayed the weekend at our friends house, the parents of Will and Luke. We arrived shortly before 9pm, and we knew we had the right house because all we could see in the twilight night was two little boy faces and four little boy hands plastered against the large living room window that overlooked the street. It was so adorable when these four friends reunited! They played until almost 11 that night! 

W & L's daddy, who just passed the bar by the way, has lived in Spokane his entire life. Not only is he a true Spokanian, he also delivered pizza's in his early college years, so he knows the layout of Spokane like the palm of his hand. It was seriously the most amazing thing I have seen! He took one look at my list of five and within seconds told me which places would be okay, and which ones I should abandon all hope for. Not trusting W&L's dad, I insisted I see all the houses my self. 

I should have listened. Three of the five were terrible. One was okay, but super small and the last one? Well, the current tenants never got back to the landlord, so we were not able to go inside. As luck would have it, that last house was awesome. At least on the outside. 

W & L's dad scoured the paper and craigslist for us and found us some decent places in some great neighborhoods. We drive and looked. Several ended up being rented, some looked fabulous on craigslist, not so great in person, and a couple ended up being very promising, just not available till July, and we need to move in June. 

We did so much house hunting on the weekend, we were totally burned out by Sunday afternoon. Then we found a house 5 blocks away from Will and Luke. The pictures looked amazing. The yard was fenced in. There was a two-car garage. It was totally out of our price range. But we walked by anyway and I fell in love with it. 

We set up a walk-through and I just fell in love with it more. This home was almost completely destroyed by a fire a couple years ago. The couple that bought it, is a contractor, so he totally remodeled the entire house. There are dark and beautiful hardwood floors on the main level, stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, bay windows, two lovely bathrooms, new carpet in the bedrooms, a very large family room and attractive paint in all rooms. This is totally not a rental that I am used to! 

My step-father taught me early in life that you can bargain anything. And really, you can. What is the worst that can happen? You will hear "no." You just have to be prepared for the "no" when it comes. 

Now, this house was being offered at $1295/month. As a bonus for signing a year-lease, the renters would get May for free. Because we were there on May 10th and the home was obviously not rented, I assumed that the advertisement for May's rent free, would transfer over to June if the home was not rented in May. So I called up the landlord after the tour and offered them this: instead of a month free, we would pay $1150/month. She did not like that, so I then offered her $1200/month. That is when I discovered that the "rent special" they are offering is NOT going to be carried over to the next month if the home is not rented. In other words, they are only offering MAY for free, not the first month. 

Mathematically my way is financially beneficial to the landlords. Assuming they don't rent in May. IF they rent in May, they will make $14,245 for one year, May to May. If they took my offer of $1200/month, they would make $14,400 for one year, June to June. She said she would talk to her husband and get back to me. She did, very fast. They counter offered $1250/month. 

Taking a risk, I stuck to my original offer of $1200. Several reason really. One, the house, while not in a bad neighborhood, it is also not in the best. If renters in Spokane can afford $1300/month, they will look to the South Hill, where the super fancy and very nice neighborhoods are. Another reason, it is a corner lot. We will hear two ways of cross traffic. The house is definitely the nicest on the block. And I took a gamble that since it has been on the market for almost two months, it was not going to rent at that higher price, especially since the offer is only good in May, and May is quickly approaching it's halfway mark. 

I gambled and I lost. Thinking on the long drive home, Josh and I reviewed our finances. We asked friends and family for advice. Making a long story short, we decided that we would call them up and accept their offer. Right when we got home, I reviewed Josh's salary information from Sacred Heart. Turns out he is making more then I thought. Turns out we should have accepted the house in Spokane. Then I looked up the ad again to get the landlords phone number. That is when I saw it. In large letters "utilities included." That is right. The price of $1250/month includes water, sewer and garbage. Wow. Great deal. 

I called right away. She did not answer. I left a message. She has not returned my call. This morning when I looked up houses in craigslist, I saw that she re-posted the home, using even better description words and nicer pictures. So, there is my answer. She is taking a gamble that they will rent the house this month. I was betting that it would not. I am going to keep watch to find out who wins. 

I guess the only good of this, is that I know that we can afford more than we originally thought. So, now I have some more prospects and places that we are interested in. Wish us luck. This is much harder than we thought!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Makeup Anyone?

Apparently there is a great make-up company called e.l.f (eyes, lips, face). Well, they were purchased by Nordstrom, so the name of the company is now changing. In an effort to clear out their inventory with the old name, they are having an amazing sale on some fabulous make-up. Everything is only $1.00. Yes, I typed that correctly. ONE DOLLAR. Here is the link in case anybody in interested in some seriously great deals.