Monday, December 15, 2008

I couldn't resist mentioning...

Finny is in the middle of playing a Dora the Explorer game on the computer. She has been asking me to get her something to drink most of the morning, but I have been running around doing things and keep forgetting. So finally, exasperated, she said:
"Hey Mumma, can you vamanos and get me some milk?"

So, maybe her French preschool hasn't been sinking in, but Dora Spanish has infiltrated nicely...

Monday, December 8, 2008

E-The Kids

Molly got her report card last week and it told us pretty much exactly what we already know. Molly is a sweet and gentle girl, who is thoughtful of others and fun to be around. She doesn’t struggle with school but she also doesn’t immediately grasp new concepts that are being taught. Molly learns well though with time and repetition. She has lots of friends and is a pleasure to be around.

Finley is quite different than Molly. She too can be thoughtful and sweet, but is not nearly as gentle. She has a more independent streak that can almost seem quirky. She has started numerous collections of things, often for no apparent reason. She is very quick to pick up on concepts and has a great memory for many things. For the most part she isn’t concerned about what others think and makes a lot of decisions based on her gut instincts.

Both girls love to cuddle and hug. They love their bedtime stories almost as much as they love stalling at night. They now share a room with two loft beds and it is pretty hard to get them to stop talking. Molly has an especially hard time falling asleep at night and nothing makes her happier than to have a partner to share in her insomnia.

I took Molly to her soccer game today and the bribery seems to be sort of almost working. The thing is, everything I mentioned about Molly above…about her being gentle, sweet, cooperative, friendly etc…… is innate to her…and of course has been reinforced by us. Unfortunately, these are not the traits that make for the best soccer player. In fact, they make for a very passive, non-confrontational little girl who is quite happy to have the other team go by her unimpeded and score over and over again. Let’s just say Molly doesn’t yet quite grasp the nature of competition and sport. I find it a bit difficult to watch and also hard to relate to in a way that could help me teach her what she needs. From my earliest memory I recall having a level of desire to compete that was much higher than any skill I possessed. Because competing always came so naturally, I can’t really understand how to teach this to someone else. Having said that, Molly seems happy enough to go out in the cold December rain and run on a muddy field, so that is a great start. Perhaps with time the penny will drop. In the mean time I have started to bribe Molly. If she keeps running after the ball, instead of standing in one spot, and does it all game, she will get to go to McDonald’s afterwards. Every few minutes today, she would look over and give me a thumbs up to seek reassurance that she was on the McDonald’s track. Sure enough she was, and we ended the afternoon with a chicken wrap and hot fudge sundae.

The girls are getting excited about Christmas. The season started with the Bright Nights celebration in Stanley Park for the Christmas lights (a few of which I had put up on a volunteer day), hot chocolate and train ride. We also all went to the Echo Memoirs staff Christmas party before I had to take off early to make my basketball playoffs at Vancouver College. We have 4 more events over the next couple of weeks before things finally slow down for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

E-The Kid

It's December 3rd and Luc has now been with us for the better part of two years. Time creeps by. Luc is a fun loving little guy. He is very good natured boy who likes to laugh, run, wrestle with his sisters and play with cars. He loves balls, especially when he is hitting them with his hockey stick. He also is pretty stubborn and gets frustrated when he can't get his way. No doubt part of his frustration comes from his inability to express himself. Despite understanding pretty much everything we ask of him, Luc has only a couple of dozen words that are comprehensible. He has sounds for almost everything, but they have little relation to the English language. The poor guy loves music but seems to have a really poor ear......which he probably gets from me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What a hole!

In an effort to escape the encroaching damp greyness of Vancouver, Eric and I (and Lucas, who we can't quite shake just yet) escaped to the sunshine. We took a mini-holiday to Arizona and Nevada, managing to hit Las Vegas, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon and Phoenix. It was hot. It was dry. It was wonderful.

Being an extra-sensitive flower, Eric needed a bit more Vitamin D, so he headed south a few days before me and the little guy. We flew into Vegas (Lucas was just about as good as an almost two year old can be on the other words, it was a long flight filled with countless whispered renditions of "Skinimarinky Dinky Doo" and enough knee jiggling to permanently disable my lower thighs). Eric arrived nearly half an hour late at the airport looking pretty grim. He had driven up the day before from Phoenix to watch some of his Delta firefighter colleagues compete in the World Combat Challenge. Some beverages were consumed. Let's just say, Eric was wearing his sunglasses inside. I was just glad to see him, since images of shallow graves dug in the desert were starting to worry me when we arrived to no Eric in sight.

Vegas seemed bigger, brighter and busier than I remembered. But I almost wept when Eric reminded me that it had been over thirteen years since we'd last been. I would have guessed it was just a few years ago. Next time though, no kids. Lucas is a terrifically fun boy, but Vegas is not meant for toddlers. The buffet was a hit: endless watermelon. But there was considerable vigilance required around the pool (and let's face it, that's not exactly the definition of relaxing), and he quickly tired of the Combat Challenge scene.

Neither Eric nor I had ever seen the Grand Canyon, so we left the Casinos behind and spent the next day driving to Flagstaff. We spent the next two nights in a Drury Inn. We had only planned on one night, but we were so impressed that we booked another. They had free drinks in the evenings (beer, wine,, appetizers), a free hour of long distance per night, fantastic free breakfast in the morning and huge, nice rooms.

The terrain in Arizona changes incredibly quickly, and Flagstaff was almost twenty degrees cooler than what we'd enjoyed in Las Vegas. Almost enough to make Eric (my sun-seeking pasty white guy) turn back. Having said that, our day at the Grand Canyon was as spectacular as you could wish for...panoramic views and a cloudless, sunny sky. Even though I knew I'd be seeing one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World (quick, name the other six...), I was still overwhelmed by the scope of that big, big, really wide, humungo hole. We spend hours there, stopping at all the viewpoints (where the canyon always managed to look slightly different, which I thought was a bit weird...I mean, a hole's a hole, right? But somehow, not...). It was impressive, despite my early misgivings that they charge you $25 just to drive through the park. That seemed a bit grubby to me, charging to see a natural phenomenon. But, the park is stuffed with things to look at and infrastructure to facilitate your viewing pleasure. So, fine. Take my 25 bucks. Go save another condor, or whatever.

We drove the disappointing Route 66 while in Arizona, and I have to say, in a country of rampant commercialism...what the heck? Peach Springs? It sounds so cute, like you should just stumble upon a kitschy but adorable diner where a bleach blond, beehived waitress with a scowl and an order pad reveals her heart of gold when she slips you a free slice of apple pie. Yeah, not so much. Hard to know which was the bigger hole: the Grand Canyon or the segment of Route 66 we drove.

Phoenix was nice. We stopped by the foreclosed house we bought a while back and lamented that it is far nicer than where we live. We consumed far too much Sonic slush. We stayed with a guy Eric met on the plane last time he went down (I know, I was suspicious at first too, but this guy is really nice...if we disappear though, check into this further). Oh, and Lucas learned to drive.

Then we came home.

And because we are negligent bloggers, here are some Halloween pictures:

Our Lucasaurus (courtesy of the costume my mother sewed for my brother in about 1987):

This shot is waaaaaay scarier than the dinosaur:

Finny went out on Halloween as an evil stepmother/wicked witch (the point I think she was trying to make is that she wanted to be nasty...):

And finally, a Webkinz panda bear:

Oh, and me as a zombie-bride head:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Now We Are Six

Pictures all taken on October 11, 2008

The End
When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.
-- A.A. Milne from Now We Are Six

With the regularity of our blogging having taken a steep decline, I cannot detail all the happenings around here lately, but I would be seriously remiss to not mention Molly turning six.

Our six year old. A wonderful girl. A gentle, tender soul who is much concerned with the well-being and comfort of those around her. She can still astound me with the depths of her daily kindness. Her greatest generosities are reserved for her brother. He is the recipient of constant tickles, cuddles and drive-by kisses. But come to think of it, so are we all.

Molly retains the most delicious immaturity. No Hannah Montana or High School Musical for this little girl. She is all stuffed animals and baby dolls. She still sneaks her hand up the sleeve of my shirt to give my arm soft rubs. All you have to do is mention hugs and she sprints to your lap. For a mummy who craves numerous daily doses of butterfly kisses and neck nuzzles, she is the ideal offspring.

But not at all babyish, our Molly. Maturity abounds. She shows compassion and empathy unlike any I am capable of. Her imagination is well developed and well used. Her new love of reading is opening up fresh worlds to her, something that is nothing short of pure pleasure for me to observe and share.

This girl is a treasure. All six years of her.

Molly had three birthday parties: two with family and one with friends. The friends one was today (a little late, but give me a break!!). We picked up the kids (9 of her friends, consisting of 8 girls and 1 brave're the best, Nate!) from school and then braved traffic to get out to the Westham Island Herb Farm pumpkin patch. Just let me insert a hat's off to Karen, our guide, and the Ellis Family for the fantastic farm experience.

This was a very real farm and the tour offered to the kids was informative, age-appropriate, and tons of fun, not to mention great birthday party value. We saw cows, chickens, donkeys, and a rabbit. The kids got to feed the animals; a pretty unique opportunity for our little urbanites.

They even got to see a barn stuffed to the rafters with hundreds of thousands of potatoes, all destined for the White Spot french fryer. Actually, I thought it was sort of reassuring to think of a big chain locally sourcing their produce. Makes me think a little more positively about the old Pirate Pack.

They had a haunted house set up, which the girls went through screaming the whole way (note to self: ear plugs wouldn't be a bad idea when next hosting six year old girls...they aren't so much's really just the pitch that is problematic). They kids headed into the adjoining patch to pick a pumpkin.

Then it was back to a beautiful picnic area in the middle of the Herb Farm to enjoy birthday cupcakes.I have nothing but glowing praise for Westham Island Farm...they really extended themselves and offered a truly terrific experience for a gaggle of six years olds.

Next, it was off to Eric's fire hall in Ladner.

He gave the kids a tour of the trucks and then offered a demonstration of how he quickly dons his turnout gear for a fire. Once he was suited up, the shift captain offered me a hose and told me to soak him. Which I did. Good fun. Sadly, our camera battery had died by them, so no pictures. Molly opened gifts and then it was time to troop home. I think the kids had a good time and Molly seemed to have fun, so mission accomplished.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

E- Nobody to be found

Life can get pretty crazy when you are working nights and have your days filled with activities. With night shifts after Molly's birthday on Saturday afternoon and a Thanksgiving lunch at our place in Point Roberts on Sunday, the weekend passed in a blur. On Monday night we had yet another Thanksgiving dinner, meaning we had a lot of eating in a little time.

We decided to take advantage of the good weather to put our old couch out on the road for any takers. It took three days but eventually our bait worked and we pounced all over the opportunity to move the big grey beast. We were happy to have it recycled to a new family but it looked kind of good on the road as well.

My personal highlight of the weekend was watching the Rock Band performance by Les, PJ, Jason Wood and Paulina and the total look of astonishment on the faces of our parents who claimed not to recognize a single song.

At work we had a big fire on a night shift. Because some other trucks were tied up on calls, my Engine was the third on scene, even though we had to drive 25 kilometres to get there. By the time we arrived the small kitchen fire had spread across the whole roof and down many of the walls of the tinder dry cedar house. With the roof falling in there was nothing left to do but fight the fire from outside. I had a 2 1/2" flowing a lot of water on the roof, but couldn't make any progress until more help arrived. It took the better part of an hour to put the fire out.

The next night we had a really unusual call. It came in as "Engine 1 respond emergency to Highway 10 and Highway 17 for medical aid. Pedestrian reported struck by a car. Shoes and jacket found but no victim." By the time we arrived, the police had already blocked off the whole highway. We saw the shoes and jacket on the ground. About 100 metres of the outside lane was covered with body matter before it abruptly ended. Another 100 metres further ahead was the smashed up car that had struck the pedestrian. Lots of evidence of somebody needing help but no-body to be found. We got out our flashlights and started searching the area. With the help of the police helicopter lighting up the road, it wasn't long before we ruled out the possibility of any victim in the area. Weird!

It wasn't until the police told us that a bus stopped 5 kilometres away in Richmond with brake problems that we pieced together what went on. It turns out the bus following the car that struck the pedestrian didn't see it happen and ran over the body. After dragging him for a few seconds, the victim got caught up in the axel where he stayed until the bus driver noticed some braking trouble. He got a pretty rude shock when he went to check it out! With the mystery solved, we were pretty happy to hear he had crossed over to Richmond and we wouldn't be responsible for extricating him from the bus.

I don't know what Finny was doing with the diapers, but it made me laugh.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Coming home from Point Roberts tonight, we were a bit later than we thought we would be. Eric went to get some exercise and I headed home with the kids. By the time we pulled up in front of home, I had one baby sleeping and two very tired girls. Three needy kids. One weary mother. A common complaint.

We park on a busy street, so I don't really relish leaving kids in the car for any period of time. I dashed Molly to our stairs and unlocked the door. Then back to carry the other two together. I woke up sleeping Lu and cuddled him in front, then around to the other side to piggyback Finny. They actually balance out pretty well...sort of like in elementary school when you used to carry a backpack in front and another in back. No one else did that? Hmm.

Anyway, I was carrying the two in the house when Finny slipped out of her somnolent state.

"Mumma, Lukey has sleep all over him. He smells like sleep. Sleep smells so good." She then inhaled deeply the top of his head slumped over my shoulder. We walked in the door and she sniffed again, "Home smells good, too". And up to bed she went.

The four year old mind is so very good.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

E- Almost home again

Tuesday night and the trip is pretty much over. All that's left now is the 40 miles back to the airport and a quick flight home. My four days have been a whirlwind of people to meet and homes to see. Like many Canadians who are so unimpressed by our own real estate prices I have been following the Phoenix foreclosure market for about the past year with increasing fascination. I had to see if the deals look as good in person as they do from I decided to come down to see for myself.

I have been lucky to come across some very helpful and skillful people down here to guide me through this process. I really can't say enough how good the realtor and some of her contacts have been. And the deals, at least the price the banks is advertising, have been as good as I expected. However, even with great deals and good people, it isn't an easy thing to do. Part of that is by choice. In an age where the amount of information is virtually limitless (local rents, comparable sales, school ratings in district, bank rates, property management agreements, renters rights, demographical statistics etc....) this process can be as complex as you want to make it. And when fear, risk and money are involved, it is hard not to dive headlong into as much information as possible, especially in a market that's not your home.

Yesterday I spent the day with the realtor, Connie, and a guy I met on the plane, Ed. Having selected specific criteria to narrow our search from the thousands of available foreclosures to the ten we felt most promising, we drove to each of them and spent 15 minutes inspecting their condition. Surprisingly, most were in good shape and in nice new, well maintained neighbourhoods. For most of the day we went from house to house in the 100 degree heat with only a quick stop for an In-and-Out Burger. Back at Ed's before dinner, we were able to look at all recent sales, listings and rentals in the neighbourhood before deciding on our top prospects.

Today, Ed and I spent 6 hours meeting with property managers, accountants and bankers to get the exact information we needed to proceed. By the late afternoon we were ready to put offers in on a couple of homes. They are nice places that will be great buys if the banks accept our offers. My down payment will be minimal and there should be slightly positive cash flow, which is really the holy grail in terms of cash flow investing in single family residential homes. Will I get the home? Will it work out? Will it rent? Will the tenants be a nightmare? Will the market crash significantly further? I don't know any of this yet, but I did learn a tremendous amount on this trip. Most importantly I know I gave myself a good chance to make a great investment for my family's future.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

E- I love the heat

I really do. It was 105 degrees when I landed in Phoenix today and I really enjoyed it. Yes I did turn the air conditioner on full blast, but I also went for a walk in the park and sat by the pool for a while in the heat.

I made the decision to come down here yesterday afternoon. Les and I worked to quickly get all the bookings done in time to give me a couple of minutes to pack before I headed off to work.

My Belgian beer, meat and bread dish went over well at the hall as did our training. We blacked out the whole building with a smoke machine and did search and rescue scenarios. Even on a slippery floor it is tough to drag out a grown man wearing 50 pounds of gear without any visibility.

My shift ended at 8am and I decided that I had enough time to buy a couch that someone was selling in Richmond before going to the airport. This would make more sense if I was going to the airport a couple of kilometers away in Richmond instead of the one in Bellingham which is completely the opposite direction. However, I managed to get the couch, stop for breakfast and still make my 11am flight with plenty of time to spare. The Allegiant flight was great and amazingly hassle free. I have never had such polite and pleasant airport and security staff as this before. Our flight landed at 2pm and I was driving the rental car by 2:10. I guess this is the advantage of the small airports.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fall Fun

The air is getting crisp and the leaves are rapidly turning. That means that Autumn is upon is, something which I love and Eric laments. This is the first season of soccer in our there anything cuter than little girls in soccer uniforms? This is Molly and her best friend Maya in full soccer gear, right down to shin guards and cleats.

Running out for their first shift together they were told to remember two things, in this order: first, have fun...second, you can't hold hands while you play.

We only saw them sneak in a couple of hand holds, and the above picture is evidence of one lapse.

Here is a good shot of Molly's biggest fan: Lukey. He darted onto the field a couple of times in pursuit of the ball, but for the most part, he was great. I was talking with Maya's mom about the difference between the family experience for the first born versus the third born kid. You can be sure that Molly was never woken up early and tossed into the car to spectate a kids' soccer game...but before you feel too sorry for Lucas, you can also be sure that she wasn't getting a whole donut to herself at 22 months, either (don't judge me...he'd be so sad to not get what the other kids get).

Molly seemed to enjoy her first foray into organized sports.

We have also been enjoying September in Point Roberts. Observing the chill in the air, the girls wondered if our local fairies might be in want of a bit of shelter. Never ones to shy away from a challenge, we headed out to the yard to build winter fairy houses. You can see our efforts below:

This last shot is of Lucas chasing my around the yard with my coffee. I had it outside...trying to keep awake and keep warm. He apparently didn't appreciate me leaving my cup sitting on the grass because he kept following me around, yelling at me to pick up my coffee. He spilled most of it in his frantic efforts to save it. Ironic.

Fall has also brought one more treat to the family: a new cousin. Eric's sister Amanda, her partner Sven and their daughter Hannah welcomed little Pippa into the world yesterday. We visited the new babe today and the kids were most impressed with her. Lukey especially was entranced...he wouldn't stop asking to hold her and when he had her cradled on his wee lap, he smothered her in kisses and head pats. Congratulations to the new family of four!