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.