Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Arlie at the Variety Show!

Here is Arlie doing her gymnastics/dance routine to "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen!

Harrison at the Variety Show!

Here's Harrison at the Variety Show, singing "Angels". Enjoy!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mother versus Parent

Something that's been on my mind........I think there's a huge difference between being a mother and being a parent. Being a mother means you give birth to a child. Any girl can become a mother. Being a mother means you protect your offspring with a vengence, love them fiercely, and would essentially die for them. It's a primal thing. But being a mother does not make you a parent. Being a parent is the "business" side of procreation, and requires a lot more effort. Even taking into account pregnancy, labor and delivery, being a parent is thousands of times harder than becoming a mother through giving birth (and no extra points if you got drugs and a c-section!). Being a parent means you are the one who does the day to day drudgery of raising a child, while at the same time enjoying the day to day rewards of raising a child. It's a delicate balance. Being a parent sometimes comes with difficulties - just like in the corporate world, you may have disgruntled "employees" (children), poor performance, lack of motivation and sloppy work habits. But you also have great performance reviews, praise and appreciation, and the satisfaction of a job well done (albeit not nearly as often as the disgruntled side!). But being a parent means you are the one who spends countless hours at dance classes, volunteering in the school classroom, rising at dawn to make lunches, talking about sex and other uncomfortable topics, going over homework, hiring a tutor, or a counselor, or taking the child to endless doctor appointments. Sure, you have fun with the kids - from time to time a really great day can be had and there are vacations, day trips, movie nights, game nights, and just hanging out. But being a mother is a walk in the park compared to being a parent. Being a parent is hard work. The consequences of your actions last forever. There's no do-over. You have to be ever-vigilant. You love, you protect, you nurture, you discipline and still there's no guarantee of the outcome. But it doesn't matter. Being a parent means you love them no matter what happens. Being a mother means you brought them here. Being a parent means you keep them here, safe and sound, as long as possible, and when you turn them loose, you hope there are no missing pieces or loose ends. You hope they are solid. You do your best but it's not enough. Being a parent can't make you a mother. But being a mother can make you a pretty good parent. It's what you do with what you have been given. You can only be a mother to the children you birth. But you can be a parent to any child.

Blue Heron

When I got home from yoga this morning I caught a glimpse of the great blue heron that likes to roost in the pond near our house. I decided to seize the opportunity to get some great photos and hurried over (after frantically changing my lens to zoom in) and got these photos. The heron seemed very peaceful, just standing and looking around, while two ducks floated in the pond below him. But a red-winged blackbird apparently took offense to this great intruder and proceeded to flap around the heron's head to shoo him off. It didn't work so the blackbird tried another tactic - pecking the heron on his butt! That worked and he took off over the housetops. Pretty cool!

We Love a Parade!

Well, except in Seattle. Arlie was invited to walk in the Woodinville All Fool's Day Parade over the weekend with her gymnastics center. She was SO excited to be in parade......however...let's just say it definitely rained on our parade! It poured actually. And was cold. And icky. And the whole thing was not very enjoyable. But we managed a few photos anyway. We might sit this one out next year!

Harrison in the talent show!

Harrison performed a song called "Angels". He has a really great voice and gets a lot of audience approval when he sings! Even a sore throat didn't stop him. Future American Idol!

Arlie in the talent show!

Arlie performed a gymnastics routine to "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen. Hannah choregraphed it for her and she was GREAT! Lots of clapping and cheering for her from the audience. Here are a few photos........

Variety Show!

The day after the concert was the Variety Show at the elementary school. I've been in charge of this show for the past five years and this year went off without a hitch. Those of you who have been reading this blog since it started, which was just about one year ago, will remember that last year's show was cursed - snow, power outages, etc. - kept us rolling from March through May until the show was finally done! This year it couldn't have been smoother, so it was a good night! Here are some random shots of the kids and I'll post video of Harrison and Arlie's performances.

Choir Concert

The day after Harrison and Arlie were in their marimba concert, Hannah was in a choir festival at the local high school. Her choir performed three songs and then were given constructive criticism from judges who are professionals in the field. They did quite good (although Hannah would disagree with me!) and the concert was enjoyable, although long because of all the "judging" comments in between sets. I failed to video tape it, which was SO stupid of me considering I had a video camera with me. I was too busy trying to get pictures without the flash (and was not very successful either!). Here are a few shots of the concert.

Photos from Marimba concert

Here are a few photos from the Marimba concert.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stylin' baby!

I just had to post some photos of Myla, one of the little girls I nanny for. She is such a cute, smart funny little girl. She's two, but nothing close to "terrible"! Just look at that sweet face!

Marimba Concert at school!

This is a video of Harrison and Arlie's marimba ensemble performance at school today. They practiced in the marimba club twice a week at lunch recess for six weeks! They will also be playing in a fundraising concert for our sister school in Uganda in May. Cool!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jazz Baby!

Click here to see the CUTEST little boy in the world beginning his future in jazz! This is my great-nephew Kaden, playing his tunes from Abu Dhabi!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Harrison's trip to Olympia

Harrison took the traditional 4th grade trip to our state's capital in Olympia. He had a great time, marveling at the marble, the ornate decorations, the chandelier that can hold a Volkswagon bug in it! Did you know the dome is the fourth largest masonry dome in the world? Or that the chandelier is over 100 feet high? Harrison also got to meet and get his picture taken with Brad Owen, the lieutenant governer. The best part was participating in a mock trial where Harrison got to play a defense attorney. Here are a few photos he took while visiting. Enjoy!


What a world we live in. Last weekend I took my son's ten year old (female) friend to her basketball game. While the game was being played, Harrison sat on the sidelines knitting! See, girls can do anything! So can boys!

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Party!!

Last night (after the hell that was morning) we had our annual St. Patrick's Day party! This is a favorite of Jeff's, complete with homebrew (Lusty Leprechaun this year) and Scotch eggs, corned beef and cabbage and shamrock salad. I made carrot cake with Irish cream frosting, and we had homemade Bailey's and wine to round things out. We made it a potluck so people brought TONS of food and it was devoured by the masses. We had about 45 people in and out throughout the afternoon and it was a lot of fun! We actually killed the keg (a first at one of our parties, but we did get a head start on this one at my book club a couple of weeks ago!) I always forget to take pictures at parties, and this was no exception. I did get a few of the kids before the party which I will post. Hannah's wearing Lucky Charms pajama bottoms that Hayley, Jeff and I also wore for the party! I wish I was better about taking photos, but when I'm hosting a party, I just don't remember to do it. Hayley suggested next time I put her in charge of photos and I think that's a great idea! Anyway, enjoy. And next year, come and join us!!

St. Patrick's Day Bitch and Moan Festival

Yesterday we participated in the 25th annual St. Paddy's Day Dash in downtown Seattle. Or should I say St. Paddy's Day Splash. Or, as the title suggests, The Bitch and Moan Festival. This was to be a culminating project of sorts - we had been working on ten weeks of "living healthier" and making changes to our diet and exercise (with limited success, I might add), and this 5K was to be the "celebration" at the end. Well, daybreak brought 33 degrees and snow. We rolled out of bed at 7:30 a.m. and dressed in long underwear and layers. Begrudgingly we headed downtown to falling snow with flakes as big as the palm of your hand! We were running late so Jeff dropped us off and we were on the opposite side of the Seattle Center from the start line. So, huffing and puffing before we even started the race, we found the starting line just as the starter gun went off for the "yellow wave". Thinking we were the purple wave, and therefore the last wave, we didn't rush to get in line. Oops. The yellow wave WAS the last wave so we quickly realized our error and skipped across the barrier to get in line. At this point, Jeff was parking the car and planned to meet us along the route. Several minutes went by while I waited for his call. After 20 minutes or so, I finally called him. He was ahead of us by a few blocks, having started at the wrong spot. We met up and that's when the hell began. After walking several blocks, we began to hear Harrison complaining about........well........EVERYTHING! Let's see, here are some of the more notable complaints: My legs hurt. My ankle hurts. This must be more than a 5K. Where is the turnaround? You said it was just around the bend. I can't do this. I think I'm having a heart attack. My legs are so tired. I can't do this. Why can't we jump over the barrier? I'm tired. Stop walking so fast! I can't do this!!! Of course, he COULD do it, and he did, but the 1.5 hours of constant complaining, coupled with freezing rain, wet feet and the fact that we were dead last made the whole experience about as pleasant as putting bamboo shards under one's fingernails. I believe I said things along the lines of: NEVER AGAIN! Hannah and Arlie walked so slow that the "sweeper" police car was on their tails the last half of the race, and when we crossed the finish line, the crews immediately started taking it down! We stepped across the finish line and headed to McDonald's where we indulged in Egg McMuffins and hot cocoa while we sat dripping and soggy and freezing. And that, my friends, is spring in Seattle. Hannah and Arlie came up with a slogan to help us decide whether or not to leave the house next time we decide to do something like this (oh, but I did say NEVER AGAIN, right?). They said "Rain and snow? Don't go! Sunshine? It's fine!" Don't let the photos fool you. It was pure misery, despite the fake smiles. Did I mention NEVER AGAIN???

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Breakfast in Bed

This morning Harrison brought me breakfast in bed - a bowl of Lucky Charms, a Pop Tart, some strawberries and orange juice. He even put a little flower on the bed tray. What a boy!

Rocking the Wii Fit!

Jeff set up our Wii Fit yesterday and we had so much fun with it! Hannah played for over an hour. Harrison is the hula hoop master (haha)! I played every game available to me, then managed to unlock some new stuff and nab the top spot on all the games (until the kids got on after me and wiped out my record!). It was fun and a different way to exercise. I broke a sweat and felt like I just had fun doing it, not like I was exercising because I had to! This morning Harrison and his friend have been playing it for a long time and it's nice to see them entertained (esp. on this rainy Seattle morning) with something physical rather than watching TV!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wild Kingdom

Today I was at work. In suburbia. And while on the phone with Jeff, something in the wetlands outside the Lee's house caught my eye. It was a coyote. A big one. It crept closer and closer and I narrated this experience to Jeff on the phone. "Oh, my God, he's coming to where I play with the girls.......oh, wow, he just pounced on something......eww it was a RAT!" then on to "he's right behind the fence in the yard. If I was out there I could reach through the fence and touch him! He's pouncing again, eww.....it's a mouse!" When the coyote actually walked right on the fenceline at their backyard, I decided to go outside and see if he would run or not (I know, stupid - what if he decided "not"?). He was startled by the sound of the door opening and skittered off, but only far enough to look back at me, then saunter on his way. Wow. I have never seen a coyote that close before. I mean, coyote encounters around here are not THAT rare - I saw one in our playground just a couple of years ago, and earlier this year another one was on the playground and actually swiped on of our dogs' toys. Nearby, I once had one run across the street in front of my car. But to see this animal up close and SO close to the house where I care for two small children was a little bit scary. I'll be keeping close tabs on them for sure when we're outside! As I was relaying the "coyote incident" to Julie, she spotted a pair of bald eagles soaring over the house. They continued to circle, occasionally being "dive bombed" by a hawk. The house backs up to a large wetland area and the wildlife is always distracting and entertaining to me. Mostly I see ducks, geese and red-winged blackbirds. But today was Wild Kingdom! Cool!

We got a Wii!

Finally, we joined the ranks of........well.......EVERYONE it seems, and purchased a Wii gaming system. Now, I have NEVER played video games and can't even really work the controllers, so having an X-box the last several years was nothing to me. I had exactly ONE thing I did on it and that was a fitness program, which only required a few button pushes before running and then I could set the controller down and just watch the screen. But it seems everyone is Wii crazy and we tried it at a friend's house and loved it. The thing I like most is that everything requires standing up and moving, so much better than traditional video games or just watching TV. And it's FUN! And, best of all, I can actually DO IT. Yes, I can control these games (ok, my kids would beg to differ as it took me a while to make a Mii last night because I couldn't control the remote), and it's fun to play. I played golf last night (and I've never played golf in my life - not on TV or in real life) and it was fun, although I did "triple bogey" the first hole, which, even though I know nothing about golf, sounds pretty bad to me! But I beat Hannah at bowling (with many strikes - which in real life would be a miracle for me!). I'm excited to try some of the other games (oh, I did suck at tennis, which would also translate into real life). What I was really looking forward to was the Wii Fit, which is an exercise program. Everyone I know who has it loves it, so I wanted that addition, but alas, they were sold out at the two stores we tried. So, we will have to keep looking for that one. Bottom line is that we're hoping this gaming system will get the kids off their butts and doing something a little more calorie-burning than watching TV or sitting at the computer. We considered it an addition to our "home gym" which we are slowly building (a treadmill is next). And a little bonus prize for Jeff getting a job so quickly (thank you, tax return). I'm sure Wii are going to have a lot of fun with it!

Book Reading = Slow Going This Year!

I finally finished "Three Cups of Tea". It was a great story, but WAY too long and detailed for me. I mean, what this guy did was amazing and really pioneering, but I got a bit mired down in the details of who's running which country, etc. Suffice it to say, it was a hard book to get through, and that's just not enjoyable for me! But, me being me, I have a hard time NOT finishing a book, so I will push myself to finish it, even if I don't enjoy it. However, that leaves me with precious little time to read what I do enjoy (and life is short, after all!) so I plan to try and read something frivolous and fun before delving into "The Scarlet Letter" which is our next book club pick (and which I only have until March 20 to read - UGH!!). I might cheat a little. I'm pretty sure I've read it before. The bottom line is that I really am slow going this year compared to last in my book reading. I'm at five books right now. Two for book club, one for "fifth grade book club" at school (something we participate in with Arlie's class) and two of my own choice. I guess it is only March. Two books a month is pretty good. Not that I'm racing, but I just felt like it took me ages to get through the last one.

Another thing I've noticed is that this time-suck called "Facebook" takes up precious reading time! At night, I find myself logging on to my laptop, checking email and Facebook, instead of reading! Now, I enjoy checking my email and sending messages to friends on Facebook, but it can really get you mired down if you're not careful. And frankly, I find Facebook to be a little boring. After reading "status updates" or adding a new friend and checking out their profile, I am done and off. I don't play the stupid games or send people "virtual" gifts (please, sending me a "virtual" margarita - I want a real one!!!). I can't imagine how much time that would take to get involved in those games (not to mention they want you to send it to "24 of your friends" and I just can't stand bugging people with crap!). So, I'm trying to take more time to just read. Oh, and we just "bundled" our TV, internet and phone into Fios which means we have about 5 zillion channels on TV to choose from. The saving grace there is I barely know how to turn on the TV at all, so finding anything to watch would take hours as I scroll through the offerings. It took me 15 minutes to find the show I wanted to watch the other night. I was about to just give up. I guess I'll learn but something tells me I'd be better off NOT learning how to access all those channels. Nah, I think I'll just read a good book.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Staying in Seattle

It's official - Jeff accepted the position with Seattle Genetics and we're staying in Seattle. It was THIS close last night, and we were almost settled with moving to Post Falls, ID for the other position. But we factored in some additional expenses, and the fact that we can't sell the house in this economy and it just made more sense to stay put. It will be a challenge making ends meet on his new, lower salary. But we will make it work. We always do!

The advantages are many, of course, mostly just that our lives won't change much at all. We love our house, our neighborhood and our friends/schools/jobs so we will be happy staying right here. The appeal of living in a smaller community and perhaps having a better standard of living and less financial struggle still appeals strongly, but perhaps that's for another day. For now, we're grateful for what we have and happy that Jeff found a job after only a month in this scary time of high unemployment.

I think it really speaks to Jeff's skill and determination that he was able to find a job so quickly. He worked so hard and it paid off. The fact that he even had two offers to choose from is amazing, considering how hard it is to find anything these days. So, a big shout out to Jeff for making it happen! He rocks!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


A couple of days ago, I was getting ready to make a "to do" list and then decided to do a "have done" list instead. It was a LOT longer than my "to do" list (which, ironically, I crossed nothing off for the day). Anyway, here's my "have done" list for a random Monday. I didn't go to yoga this day because it was canceled, so I thought I had this whole, huge, promising day in front of me. Funny how time flies when you're doing the mundane.

- woke at 5:45 a.m. and made 4 lunches
- checked email
- paid bills
- called gas company to find out how to lower gas bill (nearly $300 the past two billings!)
- reprogrammed thermostat to reduce heat during the day and night (already hearing complaints about how freezing it is in the house - what 58 degrees is too cold for you?? haha, that's only at night and when we're not home, however, I forgot I have an unemployed husband - oops - who was home during the day)
- turned hot water heater down a smidge to save money there, too
- transferred money from severance pay to checking account to pay off credit card debt
- called cell phone company to change plan (previously mentioned unemployed husband racked up some serious minutes over the last month, driving cell phone bill up to $285!! Yikes!!!)
- paid cell phone bill online (sobbing quietly the whole time)
- paid off credit card debt (more audible sobs this time)
- made new chore charts for kids (mwahahaha)
- made list of rules to go over for family meeting
- put dinner in the crock pot
- dyed my gray roots (hey, we all have to do maintenance!)
- showered and dressed
- folded laundry, switched loads from washer to dryer, dryer to folded
- made bed, picked up room
- transferred work stuff to new backpack from sloppy tote bag
- cleaned out stair drawer (this is a chest of drawers with a drawer for each family member where "stuff" accumulates throughout the day/week that frequently needs to be "reissued" somewhere else)
- folded laundry, switched loads
- went to work for an hour (then Hayley came to relieve me)
- came home to grab some stuff, then picked up younger kids from school
- stopped at a store on the way to dr. to return $30 "breathing dogs" the kids spent their money on that didn't work
- took two younger kids to dr. for their well-child visits
- came home and finished dinner prep
- ate dinner with family (husband arrived from an out of town interview to find supper on the table - oh, the domesticity of it all!)
- had family meeting to discuss rules not being followed (peppered with snarky comments, sarcasm and lots of complaining, along with several smacks upside teenager's head who decided sleeping on the table was akin to "listening")
- checked email/Facebook
- watched "The Secret Life of The American Teenager" with the girls
- climbed into bed, fired up laptop and checked email/Facebook
- talked to husband about job interview that day
- fell asleep somewhere around 11 p.m.

See? It's amazing how satisfying it is to make a "have done" list. Besides, am I ever really going to "update scrapbooks" or "fix digital frame", both of which are on my "to do" list? Nah........I'll just wait until inspiration or some miracle hits and I've accomplished those tasks and then add them to my "have done" list! I have done a lot!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I Have a Headache

Literally and figuratively. My head just hurts trying to make this decision about moving/not moving. Here's the situation - a job in Seattle that doesn't pay enough (we were barely making ends meet with Jeff's previous salary, and this salary is considerably less, plus I'm not getting my full child support these days.........so, we'd have to learn to live on a LOT less, and worry about making the bills each month), but a job that's close, the stability of a good community/friends/neighbors, living in our house which we can't sell anyway........or moving to Post Falls, taking a loss on our house, going into unfamiliar territory, taking a huge risk, but making a better salary (still less than before!). The cost of living there would be less, but we would start out at a disadvantage, having just dumped our house (or worse, not being able to sell it for months/years). It's waaayyyyy too much. I've remained calm and supportive throughout this layoff business and I'm starting to feel myself unravel now. I don't like stress. Not this kind of stress anyway.........I wish we could just snap our fingers and make a decision. Jeff negotiated a tiny increase in salary for the Seattle job, and tomorrow will try to negotiate a better deal with the Post Falls job and by Friday morning, a decision will have to be made. My stomach is in knots. What to do?? Feel free to weigh in. We're certainly no closer to a decision today than we were yesterday.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

Now we have a quandry. All things considered, in this economy it's a good quandry, but it's a quandry nonetheless. Jeff is entertaining two job offers. One involves staying right here in Seattle, in our home, not changing our lives, except for the teensy little problem that the job doesn't pay as much as his old job and we were barely making ends meet with the previous salary. He would like the job, but it's not a dream job by any means. (Not that anyone can afford to be picky in this economy). The second offer involves moving out of state. The pay is better, but the move would be expensive. Plus, selling our house right now would be next to impossible. But Jeff would LOVE the job. It's more of what he's looking for and he would be very happy at this job.

But.......moving would disrupt our lives. It would be expensive. We'd lose our great neighborhood and neighbors. We'd lose touch with many people - friends, colleagues, etc. On the other hand, we would have a chance to live in a less expensive area, lead a slower paced life and maybe get ahead. What to do?

He has to make his decision by tomorrow afternoon. No pressure! Geesh......too bad he doesn't have more time to decide. Either way, he should be working by next week, so we will be getting a salary again. It just might be a smaller salary and we'll have to learn to make ends meet another way. Very stressful day. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Simple Sunday

Jeff is off at another job interview and I'm blogging from my bed, which is currently being shared by Shade and Charlie (ick, but not worth the hassle to kick them off). Today was a good day. Jeff and I slept in and then he brought me Starbucks and donuts for the kids. Harrison went with some friends to a "mini curling camp" where he got to try out the Olympic sport of curling. Interesting! He enjoyed it and has two more Sundays to try it out. When he got back we all piled into the car and headed to Country Village where we fed the ducks (great way to get rid of stale oyster crackers, gross cereal and old pita bread!). Then, we went to a fancy cookie shop and had various sugar-laden treats. We had two extra kids with us, so with the seven of us in there, one couple asked if we were having a party. I said "oh, no, these are just my kids!" Last stop was a little shop that sells realistic looking animals that "breathe", on which Arlie and Harrison spent $30 each of their own money (update - Arlie's dog's battery door won't shut and Harrison's doesn't work at all - we'll be heading back tomorrow to remedy that!). Hayley, Hannah and I all got some cute scarves and Hannah also bought a hat. It was a nice outing with the kids, even though it rained buckets and is still pouring down. Stupid Seattle weather! It did make for some cute pictures though.