Mother's Day, Zoo Trip

Mother’s Day 2010 was awesome. It was awesome because I have a beautiful, kind, loving, wonderful, and amazing family.

Mother's Day, Zoo Trip 001

We started the day by going to get blood drawn. I was due (way over due actually) for blood work to be done and since I have to be fasting it’s tough to find the time to get it done. I figured early morning on Mother’s Day would be the best time because there’d be no one there. I was right. We were in an out in 15 minutes. (A first!)

We were supposed to go to the beach for the day but the forecast on the coast called for clouds and a chance of rain. Here in town it was sunny and high of 70. I’m pretty darn sick of clouds and rain and chose to stay where the sun was.

We went out to breakfast, then to the zoo.

Mother's Day, Zoo Trip 025
Giraffes are my favorite. So peaceful and serene.

Going to the zoo is always bittersweet for me. On the one hand, I never grow tired of the beautiful creatures. On the other, I feel bad that they’re caged and not free. I know the Oregon Zoo does wonderful things and I fully support all that they do, and I’m sure the animals are there for a reason. But I can’t help but feel a bit sad anyway.

Like this guy…
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He just seemed like he’d rather be somewhere else. He wouldn’t look at the crowd.

This mama duck and her baby seemed happy, though:
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These ducks were hanging out with the giraffes and gazelles…
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…who seemed happy enough.
But this guy looked so sad:
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This one seemed to be enjoying the sun as much as we were:
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And this guy? Well, he loved Jack. A LOT!

A train ride at the zoo is always fun, too.
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After the zoo we drove out to Kayla’s work and had some ice cream. Some of us were pretty tired.

Mother's Day, Zoo Trip 129

It was a wonderful mother’s day and I’m so very thankful for my incredibly awesome family.

There’s a few more pictures here.

2009 Recap

I really can’t believe what a blur 2009 was. Every year I think, ‘this is the year things will slow down’ and all it does is speed up. I guess the older you get the faster time flies. I wish I had known this when I was younger and quit being in such a dang hurry to get older! 😉

Here’s a 2009 recap with some Christmas, Birthday, and Mia (who’s doing great, btw and did NOT come down with Parvo!!!) pictures thrown in for fun.

Way too cute!

January: We purchased a new camera and I’ve bombarded this site with photos since. I’d like to think I’m getting better at taking good photos at least. 🙂 This was the month I also revealed how obsessed my kids have become with nerf dart guns. Kayla finished and came home from her internship at Disneyland.

FebruaryMarch: I (Tracie) turned 29 AGAIN. For the 11th time. Imagine that? We spent a beautiful weekend at Lincoln City, OR for my birthday. Cody turned 8 in March. I didn’t report much else in February or March and now it seems to be a blur. I really must post more often! If for nothing else, so I can remember what the heck happened throughout the blur of each passing year.

Um.. is it REALLY for ME?

April: I remember April without even having to look at the archives. April was the month that I discovered Thing #1. While having Thing #1 investigated, the docs found Thing #2. April was the month my poor poked, prodded, dyed, cut open, accessorized, and even burned boobies will never forget! April was pretty much all about my boobs. How fun! Except, not. April was also intense for other reasons (court hearings related to Lil Miss H’s adoption) that was supposed to but didn’t happen and a crap load of phone calls and drama related to that.

May: This was the month we bought our Suburban and spent the first of THREE weekends at Cathy’s house. How cool is it that we got to go to Trout Lake three times this year? And technically we went for a few hours one other time and to BZ on Christmas Eve too. That’s five trips east of Hood River this year to see Cathy and family. Maybe we can shoot for even more in 2010?? My mom also took me to see the American Idols live in concert which was pretty fun. I also remember complaining a lot about medical bills this month.

Ooooh. Aaaaah.

June: Ahhh June. How could I forget E. Coli June? June was the month I gorged myself on ate a little too much cookie dough and will never forget it. (Remember the whole cookie dough recall thing?) Technically I don’t know for sure that I got E. Coli but I know I got damn sick and that’s just too much coincidence. I rarely even eat cookie dough. Kat turned 18 and got her GED. I went with Lil Miss’ kindergarten class to the Oregon Zoo and I got a lot of laundry done.

July: was memorable for the record breaking heat. 108 degrees was just way too freakin’ hot! It was the month we camped downstairs by air conditioners, and spent money we didn’t have to buy more air conditioners. Oi. We had our annual Fourth of July party and had a blast! Casey turned 11. I also did a lot of laundry.

It was like a snuggie party!

August: Jack and I celebrated our 15th year together and our 10th wedding anniversary in gorgeous Seaside, Oregon; the same place we honeymooned. Someone ran over our mailbox kiosk, we spend insane amounts of money we didn’t have on school supplies and clothes for the kids, and I did a lot of laundry. I’m sensing a theme here.

September: was all about Pearl Jam! Well, not JUST about Pearl Jam but it was definitely one of the highlights of our year (along with our anniversary). Jack turned almost 40 (muhahahaha) and we spent Labor Day weekend at Cathy’s in Trout Lake and had a blast. The kids started back to school.

Thumbs up!

October: Miss H’s adoption was finally finalized! Jack’s Godzilla got an upgrade, and of course there was Halloween.

November: Kayla turned 20 (*gulp*), Jackie turned 15, and Kevin performed a solo in choir. We spent Thanksgiving weekend with almost all the family at Jack’s grandmother’s.

Another thumbs up!

December: Much holiday and birthday madness ensued. Kevin turned 18, Melissa turned 14, and Lil Miss turned 7. We adopted Mia, our little Rat Terrier from the Oregon Humane society who rescued her from an overwhelmed breeder in Tillamook, Oregon. She was quite sick and the first week with her was a blur of sickness, vets, and crap loads of money we did not have flying out our window to get her better (in addition to all the Christmas and Birthday shopping…) Hopefully the insurance she came with will come through and cover most of it! We spent Christmas eve at Jack’s Grandma’s and paid Sarah and her family a visit. The day after Christmas we drove up to Cathy’s and spent the night so we could visit and fix her door. New Year’s eve was spent quietly at home with family. It was a good end to a great year.

What IS it?

2009 had its ups and downs for certain. I look back on the year and feel lucky and very thankful that mostly there were ups. We are certainly blessed.

Happy New Year!

Dull moments? What are those?

Last week we drove down to The Dalles to celebrate Thanksgiving with a LOT of Jack’s family. Try… 40 of us. In one house. It was a little bit loud, a little bit chaotic, and a whole lot of AMAZING.

Thanksgiving 2009

We left Grandma’s house around noon on Friday to head to Cathy’s house. Everyone kept asking me if there would be snow at Cathy’s house and foolishly I told them all no. But as we got closer and closer to Cathy’s it became apparent I was wrong.

The road to Cathy's house

Not only was there a couple inches of snow but a fresh blanket had fallen on Cathy’s mountain (AKA Mt Adams) and treated us to this:

Cathy's Mountain (aka Mt. Adams)

And this:

Cathy's Mountain (aka Mt. Adams)

For Troutlake, there really wasn’t that much snow, but it was enough to make the kids squeal with delight and disappear into it for an hour or so despite not really being dressed for it.

Snow - Nov 27 - Cathy's House

We got home late Friday night then spent the weekend pretending we were the Griswold’s as we cut down our tree then put lights on the house.

Here’s a tip for you: Never EVER say “lets not go all out this year“. What undoubtedly happens is you put even MORE lights on the house and go more “all out” than the year before. Trust me on this one.

Christmas Lights and Tree

Christmas Lights and Tree

See?

And see the tree to the right there? That took Jack two hours. He actually climbed the tree, trimmed it, climbed it some more, had a ladder IN the tree and came out sweaty and covered in spiders and pine needles. If I weren’t fearing for his life I would have found it comical.

This tree was much easier to decorate:

Christmas Lights and Tree

This past week was a whirlwind of work … and stress from work … for both of us. This weekend we’re taking it easy and the only thing planned is Kevin’s school’s musical production of Fiddler on the Roof. Kevin is playing the part of Tevye and if you’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof you’d know what a huge part that is. It’s so huge that all the rehearsing (plus the choir rehearsals) caused him to lose his voice last night. It’s better today, but he wasn’t too happy.

This may be the last weekend we relax until next year … considering THREE of our kids celebrate birthdays this month, plus all the Christmas festivities.

At least there’s never a dull moment around here.

End of Summer

Today is the official first day of fall, and it’s going to be 90 degrees. *melt* But the end of summer for us was the first day of school:

Sissa and Mo, first day of school, September 2, 2009.

Sissa and Mo, first day of school, September 2, 2009.

Lil Miss & Cody on the first day of school, September 2, 2009.

Lil Miss & Cody on the first day of school, September 2, 2009.

For Kevin, you’ll have to use your imagination. I had to drive him to school the first day at the butt-crack of dawn and in my sleepy stupor I totally forgot to snap a picture. I suggested to him in the car on the way there that we could take one when he got home and he said “nah, that’s OK”. Then didn’t come home till 8:30 PM. Stinker.

The weekend after school started was Labor Day weekend. We had plans to go camping. Unfortunately we didn’t make those plans till about two weeks prior and every campground in the known world was booked solid. Then the weather forecast was looking pretty grim, so we decided to go Camping at Cathy’s. She lives in the wilderness and we could totally ignore her house and camp in her yard and it’s be like real camping. If the weather turned bad, we could camp on her living room floor. It was win-win.

Then Jack’s work decided to mess with us and declared everyone had to work through the holiday weekend and any scheduled paid time off between then and October 1st was canceled. I was spazzin’. (You may have noticed if you follow me on twitter or facebook.) There were tears, angry words, and disappointed children. Then… they said “oops, we lied, that’s next weekend”. Well, DUH. We all knew they’d be working the weekend AFTER Labor Day. That’s been planned for a long time. So the tears were for nothing…

Unfortunately the weather forecast just kept getting worse and by the day before we were to leave, the weather gurus said there would be lots of rain, high winds, and thunderstorms at Cathy’s house. We left the tents at home.

We drove up there in a rain storm, but even in the rain, the Columbia Gorge is beautiful. By the time we got to Cathy’s the rain had dissipated and the kids got to play with the cows.

Cathys House, Labor Day, 2009 030

Cathy's House, Labor Day, 2009 030

They had more fun feeding those cows. The cows weren’t complaining either. Every time they saw the kids come outside they’d saunter on over to the fence.

The weather was nowhere near as bad as the weather gurus said it’d be. There was no wind, no thunderstorms, and only occasional rain showers with sun breaks in between.

Rainbow at Cathys

Rainbow at Cathy's

We had a blast! We were lazy, watched movies, hung out on Cathy’s back deck looking at the incredible landscape, and visited my best friend in the world. A perfect ending to our summer. View the rest of the pictures here.

2009 Fourth of July Fireworks

We had an awesome time yesterday celebrating Independence Day with family and friends. This has become and annual event with us and I look forward to it all year. This year was our seventh year in a row hosting a party and fireworks show!

Today we’re dealing with the aftermath: lots of cleanup. 🙂 We’ll be finding firework debris in our yard for another year or so. (Thanks to those who helped last night!) I uploaded a photo and video sampling of our two-hour show. Here’s a slideshow:

To those that weren’t able to make it this year: You were missed and we hope you had a wonderful holiday!

New Graduates

Here’s a quick update on the new happenings in our crazy household. This week flew by in a whirlwind of activity:

Jack had surgery on Tuesday to correct the issue with the gland in his neck. That went very smoothly and fairly quickly despite the surgery taking a bit longer than anticipated due to scar tissue build up from his surgery 11 years ago. Basically it was the polar opposite of my recent surgery experience.

Thursday was the last day of school for my kiddos. Their first day of summer was stormy and a bit wild weather-wise. There were even warnings of cold core funnels. (I’d never heard of those before) but fortunately we didn’t see anything like that and our patio furniture survived the weather this time.

And to top if off Kat turned 18 and we went to two graduation ceremonies. Casey graduated elementary school and will be in Junior High School next year. Katherine graduated high school. Here’s our new graduates:

Casey, Katherine, Graduation 005

Casey, Katherine, Graduation 031

Congratulations to Mo, and Kat!

Kindergarten Zoo Trip 2009

I chaperoned today at Lil Miss H’s Kindergarten class Zoo trip today. Jack and I have always traded off going on these trips with our Kindergartners and thought we were done getting to go to these. But along came Lil Miss H and I got to go one more time! (Not that we can’t go anytime we want but it’s fun to go with the school too.)

We had a blast!

Here’s some photos:

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Kindergarten Zoo Trip 083

The rest are here: Kindergarten Zoo Trip

Suburban

As I posted Friday, we started looking for a new rig. We thought about a passenger van but we wanted something a bit more rugged, something that could go over a mountain if we wanted it to. Something with four wheel drive.

I did quite a bit of internet research and had my heart settled on a Chevy Suburban. Jack is more of a Ford man and wanted an Ford Excursion. Either would work. While rare, both have versions that seat up to nine people. The only problem is the larger sized Excursions seemed to be very rare. At least around here. There were far more Suburbans to look at.

We looked at an ’06 Suburban on Friday at some sort of “close out” event at a local dealership. The salesmen weren’t actually from Vancouver, though. They were just using the (otherwise empty) dealership to sell their stock of repossessed and lease-returned vehicles.

The ’06 Suburban was feature packed, but seemed a bit rough on the ride. If there’s one thing Suburbans are known for, it’s their comfortable ride. It was hard to put my finger on it, but it just seemed like the vehicle had seen some hard times. It had fairly low miles (64,100) for an SUV (most we looked into had 80K plus miles, even newer used models), and it seemed in good condition, so I chalked up the ‘rough ride’ to not being used to riding around in a “truck”. It only had 8 seats, something I wasn’t thrilled about. But at that point we realized how hard it was to find the 9 seat versions of these SUVs. We decided to make an offer anyway.

I’ve dealt with car salesmen before. Actually I should say Jack has dealt with car salesmen before. But these were the most sleaziest sales guys.. EVER.

The salesman and the sales manager sat us down in a tiny stifling hot room, whipped out their scratch paper and started writing numbers down all over the place, circling the numbers here and there, and basically doodling on the paper while trying to seem like they were working hard on “figuring out the numbers”. It took an effort on my part to not laugh in their faces while telling them to STOP with the hokey dramatics.

Despite the fact that we told them they would not be pulling our credit and that we had our own financing, they made us sign this paper stating that we’d drive the vehicle away THAT DAY if we all agreed on the terms. We hesitated at this. Why do we have to sign for anything before we even really talked numbers? They explained “the bank” (the ones who owned this supposedly repo’d or lease-returned vehicle) required it. We obeyed, then made the mistake of giving them our phone numbers.

We had already looked up the value of the vehicle at kbb on our iPhones. (kbb.com is iPhone-friendly by the way.) We already knew the ballpark figure we’d be offering. The salesmen saw what we were doing so grabbed their kbb printout of the vehicle and told us their sticker price. It was $2k higher than the suggested retail on kbb. We were like “wtf?” They just continued talking out their ass, avoiding our questions, giving us a bullshit runaround while doodling on their paper.

I have to give them this: They could write numbers and make circles really really well. My 6 year old would be proud.

What we offered was dead center of the high and low values on kbb. It was a fair price based on our research. They balked at us, but remember, their sticker price was $2k over the norm with no reasonable explanation as to why. The sales manager claimed the bank would not take the number we offered as the vehicle was going on auction on Tuesday and they would not take less for what they could get at the auction.

Jack and the “sales manager” bickered back and forth about that for a while. It wasn’t a public auction, it was a dealer auction. Did they really think we are stupid enough to believe that a dealer would pay 2k more than the kbb value at an auction? Call me crazy but that doesn’t make sense at all.

The sales manager did the “have to talk to the bank” crap and kept leaving the room to “try to get our offer approved”. We know damn well he went into another room, picked his nose, then came back. That’s how they work.

Jack stuck to his guns, stating over and over the only price we’d pay. The sales manager left the room one last time, then came back claiming he talked to the bank and the bank counter offered with 1.6k more than our bottom line. He had written it in big letters on his doodle paper, and put a few circles around it. We said sorry and turned to leave. He and the salesman chased us down to the parking lot, continuing to show us the big number and circles. We kept saying, ‘sorry. not happening. We offer this and only this and that’s that”.

He changed his tone to be that of someone who understood so he was going to work with us. Then he pointed to the SAME number again and said “we agree on this right?”.

Um… NO? Didn’t we JUST tell you 60 times NO NO NO? He was like “but come on? We AGREE!” Jack was like “no, WE DON’T AGREE”. The guy practically whined saying ‘WE ALL AGREE!!’.

Was he trying to do some Jedi mind trick on us or something??

Then he tried to guilt-trip us. He said the salesman who assisted us worked hard for us and spent a lot of time with us. So we should all AGREE on their number.

First of all, the salesman didn’t do shit. He just followed Jack around like a desperate starving puppy while Jack waited for me to arrive to the lot. Second, there was NO GAS in the vehicle. NONE. And the salesman couldn’t get their company gas card to put gas in it to allow us to test drive it. WE drove it to the nearest gas station and WE put $5 in it. Out of our OWN pocket.

That reminded us. They owed us $5.00.

The weird freaky sales manager dude with his uber Jedi mind powers (haha) kept trying to convince us that WE ALL AGREE while the sales dude went looking for $5.00. I think our eyes WERE glossed over at that point, but it really wasn’t because his Jedi mind powers were working like I’m sure he thought they were.

We got our $5 and tried to make a break for it. Jack beat me to his vehicle first and hightailed it out of there back to work. I had to buckle in a child so I didn’t escape so easily. The sales guy chased me down and tried to get ME to buy the Suburban for the number WE ALL AGREE on. I played dumb telling them my husband did all the numbers in the household and I was clueless. He tried anyway repeatedly the whole time I was getting in my car, buckling my seat belt, starting the car, and backing out. He practically chased me down the street!

He then called my cell phone later that evening. Fortunately I missed the call so he left a voice mail saying they really wanted our business. Their offer, the number WE ALL AGREE on, was still good. I didn’t return his call.

What part of WE DO **********NOT********** AGREE did they not understand?

Yesterday we did some more research online, looking for anyone who had what we were looking for. No one really did, or if they did, the mileage was way too high for us to consider. So we went scouting local dealers ourselves. And found her. The ’04 Suburban that seats 9.. .the ONE we’ve been looking for. The mileage was 4k less than the mileage on the ’06 the freaks tried to sell us, and it was priced fairly.

It also had some gas so we could test drive it without having to fork over some cash. That’s always a bonus.

I drove it first and instantly I knew THIS is what a Suburban is supposed to feel like. It was smooth, like butter and exactly what I envisioned it would feel like. That “rough” feeling was not there at all. The engine was clean, the interior in excellent condition, and had brand new tires. Overall it was in better condition than the ’06. It had the ninth seat and… it was priced seven THOUSAND dollars less than the ’06 from Friday.

I realize two years on a vehicle can make a difference, but this had LESS miles than the ’06 and was in better condition. I don’t think I’m so crazy thinking the crooks were asking way too much for the ’06.

We didn’t snatch it up though. We wanted to be sure. We spent the next several hours scouting and calling around. NO ONE had a 9 seater. Some dealers tried to sell us passenger vans instead and one even told us for a low ten thousand dollars we could convert a passenger van to a 4WD (lolz).

We looked at Expeditions, Excursions, and Explorers. We looked at Tahoes, other Suburbans (lots of Suburbans) and none compared. It all came down to the ’04.

On top of the that, the dealer selling the ’04 was good. It was the actual owner of the dealer working that day and we could tell he was reading us and acting accordingly. He recognized we wanted to be left alone and stayed away keeping himself busy but still nearby if we had a question. He let us do our little iPhone research and didn’t butt in. Even when we left to do more scouting, he didn’t give us any hassle. He just thanked us for our time and off we went. Of course we came back, with an offer in mind. STILL he didn’t push us. He let us look over the vehicle some more, talk, etc. He left us alone to make our decision.

When it was time to talk numbers, there was no scratch paper, no numbers, no circles. He told us he tried to follow Costco’s way of pricing and mark up all his vehicles a certain percentage (15%) and that was that.

The price he was asking for the ’04 was more than fair, yet Jack still managed to talk him down a bit and we all settled on a price. It was THAT easy with this guy. And guess what? WE ALL AGREED. 😉

A short time later we drove this home:
New Suburban 008

We grabbed the kids and took off for a family member’s birthday party in Portland. It wasn’t a big trip… but… WE ALL RODE IN THE SAME VEHICLE. There was no figuring out who was going to ride where, or who could go or stay. We just… went!

And for those naysayers worried about how much gas this thing is guzzling (yes we’ve already been teased for this), we’re driving ONE vehicle to haul our kids around instead of two. So we’re really not consuming any more than we were before. 🙂 We’re keeping our minivan for the times when it’s just the 7 of us, and for around town driving. The Suburban is our weekend vehicle.

Edited to add: I forgot to mention the second phone call from the sleazebags. Just after we finalized the deal on the ’04, Jack got a call on his cell phone from the sales guy from the ’06. He called to let Jack know that their offer was still standing. They were still totally allowing us to drive their crappy ’06 away for $1600 more than we wanted to pay. Wasn’t that nice of them?

Jack told them, “I just bought an ’04 in better condition and with less miles for $7000 less than your piece of crap. Don’t call us again”.

It made his day.

Trout Lake 2009

Last weekend we crammed the kids and dogs into our minivan like sardines and took off for Cathy’s house in Trout Lake, WA. The kids pitched a tent in her front yard so it was like camping for them.

I’ve missed my Cathy-friend so it was awesome to see her. And the scenery. OMG the scenery. I took 439 pictures. I’ve uploaded 39 of them here: Cathy’s House, Trout Lake, WA Most of the mountains, grass, and animal pictures I took were views from Cathy’s back porch.

Here’s a small sample:

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Cathy's House, Trout Lake 093

Cathy's House, Trout Lake 129

We discovered on this trip that we have really really outgrown our minivan. I haven’t mentioned it on here yet but we’re moving from fostering to adopting my niece. So our family has “officially” grown by one. (She’s legally free to be adopted now, we’re just awaiting the finalization … which could take a long time.)

Whenever we travel to family or a friend’s house, we try to bring food. At the very least some snacks and drinks so we’re not putting anyone out. We couldn’t even fit one small cooler in our van with the two dogs all the seats taken. In the past whenever we took *all* the kids, we’d rent a passenger van. We figured we were saving a lot of money by doing that. But we realized that it limits us way too much to depend on renting whenever we want to take the whole, or even just most, of our tribe anywhere.

R&D recently got a big SUV and that was also part of our inspiration to actually look into this. We’d love to be able to toss the kids, the dogs, and some gear and take off on a weekend here or there and not be limited by the miles, time, money, etc. that comes with renting a vehicle.

And I really want to be able to steal away to Cathy’s house any time it’s possible and not have to worry about which kids get to go with us.

Kevin's Do

For those who may have been concerned, don’t worry. Kevin’s not really an emo rockstar teenager nor does he wear his hair like that on a regular basis. I have proof!

See?

See?

Wait. Oops. That photo may be a little bit old.

How about this one?

How about this one?

No? He sure was a cutie though! Notice how straight and manageable his hair was here.

Did you know I was robbed of experiencing my first born child’s first professional haircut? If you didn’t know that, it may explain these next few photos.

Kevin gets his hair cut short, for the first time in years.

Kevin gets his hair cut short, for the first time in years.

Kevin left it completely up to Jack to decide how to cut it, so Jack micromanaged the poor stylist until it was just right.

The stylist thought she'd leave the bangs longer. Jack said, Um, No!

Kevin left it completely up to Jack to decide how to cut it, so Jack micromanaged the poor stylist until it was just right.

Hes still a cutie! Now with manageable hair again!

He's still a cutie and looks so grown up now!

I wasn’t there during this milestone event when a teenage boy decides he wants to look a bit more clean, more refined. Not quite so rough around the edges. At least I have photos so I wasn’t completely robbed this time.