Spring Break 2014

Spring Break came early with the arrival of Uncle Sam. Jayme was out of school for a long spring break, thanks to budget issues with the school district. So Jayme got Thursday and Friday off as well as a full week off of school. Anthony had requested time off for the whole run, but was only able to get the Thursday & Friday. So when Sam said he wanted to come up in the last minute… the timing could not have been better.

The Sunday before Jayme’s school break, the three of us drove to the airport and picked up Sam. First stop was breakfast and we headed over to Biscuits for a welcome breakfast. Second stop was to home. We were not even in the door when Jayme started to spill his planned agenda for Sam. Jayme had worked out Sam’s whole day for him and was a bit crushed when the reality that Sam was not a new toy for him.

The weather for the first half of spring break could not have been better. Sunny and in the 70’s. This meant bike riding, Basketball, and a whole host of outdoor events came into play for spring break.But on the first full weekend the whole family leaped at the chance to get outside and work on the yard.

Last year we planted some blueberries and some raspberries and after seeing a full year of rain and sun. We now knew the best planting areas and worked but a yard plan over the winter.

But first, Joshua and Sam took to the roof and cleaned the gutters and swept the winters collection of pine needles off. Followed by Joshua dusting the whole roof with Moss-B-Gone, which looked like a dusting of early spring snow.

Anthony and Jayme worked on the lawn in the back yard. Or rather the lack of a lawn. They scrapped off the moss and raked up the pine needles, tree branches, sticks and leafs. Then Jayme started to dig up all of the rocks that remained in the new lawn area. We also spent some time measuring and laying out a tree house plan for Jayme.

Anthony removed the rotting wooden railroad tie staircase and planted some new ground cover. He then moved the Raspberries to a section along the back fence, an area that gets much more sunlight and will be right next to a planned walkway to the tree house. So, you know, free snack food for the kiddos.

Clearly all of us had done too much over the weekend. Both Anthony and Joshua were sore for most of the week. Each morning both Dad’s wake early, groan in pain and then leave the still sleeping Sam and Jayme and then trudge off to work. Jayme and Sam of course, both slept in for hours.

Once the weekend ended so did the nice weather. The temperature dropped into the high 50’s and low 60’s and a steady rain fell. This cooler weather was followed by a warm rain which set our yards plantings into hyper drive. Over night the blueberries went from planted sticks to sticks with little green flags.

So with the rain, Sam and Jayme stayed indoors, went to the movies and re-watched the Lego movie, baked cookies and worked on Anthony’s homework assignment. Jayme’s school sent no spring break homework home, so Anthony invented some. Worst of all and MUCH to the hate and loathing of Jayme, all the grownups thought this was a great idea. Anthony asked Jayme to find one chapter book, read it during the week and then write a book report. At first Jayme was very upset, but Sam used the homework as a type of structure for the day. So Jayme could watch TV or play video games but then he would have to read his book for an hour. In the end Sam had Jayme reading 3 chapters a day. By the end of the week Jayme had read the whole book himself.

Mid-week, Jayme was invited to a birthday party. Funny thing was it was to the same bowling alley that Jayme’s 9th birthday party was at. Also the invite came from a kid that was invited to Jayme’s party, yet did not attend. This fact was NOT lost on Jayme. But he did not hold a grudge. The night before the party we took him to Toys R Us and he picked out a very nice wooden box art pencil/pen/chalk set for the kid. This turned out to be a great present as the birthday child was really into making little paper projects.

Jayme ended his spring break with a trip to OMSI with Uncle Sam. He even got to go into the diesel engine submarine.

Christmas 2013

Home from our trip to Orlando and free from plague we settled down for a nice Christmas at home.

Joshua had the whole week off, in fact he had the rest of the year off. So Jayme was free from having to worry about any issues at all about with all day daycare. So the two of them had a second mini vacation  and quickly got to work decking the halls, hanging Anthony’s lighted garland and pick up the perfect Christmas tree. The on Christmas eve, we all worked together to hang the bulbs.

Christmas day

We had made it clear to Jayme that Disney World was his main present and not to expect Santa to bring the huge pile of toys he has had in the years before. But he was still excited and jumping for joy when he came downstairs and saw Santa had come. After a yummy breakfast we sat down in our new formal living room and began opening the presents.

We had been ordering smaller gifts since October and since many of Jayme’s wishlist items were fairly cheap we were able to get everything on his list. But don’t tell him that!

Pokemon was top of his list and he walked away with several pre-made decks and tons of little accessories. Next on his list was Lego and Santa brought several small kits. We also picked up 2 cool sets from the Lego store in Orlando the week before and managed to get them home a wrapped without Jayme seeing them. Jayme had a very decent pile of goodies by the time we had finished.

Joshua also made out like a bandit. Santa Anthony and Santa Jayme bought him a K-cup machine (which has seen non-stop usage since that day) and a Soda stream machine.

Anthony happily got his yearly stack of Doctor Who DVD’s and a few other British shows.

We spent the rest of Christmas hanging out building lego sets and eating. Jayme and Anthony made some Christmas fudge and then we had a small Christmas feast of Ham, Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, broccoli with cheese sauce, hawaiian rolls and sparkling cider.

With the possibility of a future adoption placement in 2014, this was perhaps our last family Christmas together as a trio. Something that the three of us did not fail to feel and talk about. Jayme may have started the conversation about wanting a brother, but the Dad’s have made sure we keep the conversation going so he will know what adding a child to our home will really look like.

 

Thanksgiving 2013

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With the holiday season upon us that can mean only one thing, the string that connects Joshua with his Mother began it’s yearly tug and before we knew it we were on a pricey plane ride to Salt Lake City.

Jayme had the whole Turkey week off of school. Unhappy with our current full day care we pulled Jayme and Joshua stayed home Monday and Tuesday and Anthony took all day Wednesday.

Wednesday night Anthony and Jayme loaded up our suitcases and drove to the airport. Joshua took the Red Line Max in from his work. The parking in the economy lot was crazy, we ended up parking way in the back. But once we got to the airport, check in took only minutes and the security line was practically none existent.

We had used a chuck of our Delta miles and were able to get a very affordable flight to SLC. The only downside was we had to return Saturday morning at 8am or the price would jump $400.00. So this meant we had limited time with family.

Our flight was at 6:20 pm and this was also the first time we have flown where we could keep all of our electronics and gadgets out and running from gate to gate. So one Doctor Who Christmas special later, and the plane was touching down on the tarmac.

We gathered our suitcase (once we found the correct baggage claim) and our hotel’s free van came by and picked us up. With 40 people expected for Thanksgiving, Great Grandma and Grandpa’s house was packed to the rafters. So Anthony booked us into the airport Hyatt Place hotel.

This hotel is so us, we love the computer terminal check in and check out process. Jayme loved the swimming pool, it only took him 3 mins on property to find it and explode with glee. The dads had a big king bed and Jayme had a pull out sofa bed all to himself.

The next morning we woke, showered and headed down to the free breakfast. Afterwards, Anthony headed back to the airport via the free hotel shuttle to pick up our rental car. This time we got a very cheap economy car from Thrifty. Total cost was $15.00 per day.

After picking everyone up at the hotel we headed over to the family estate around 10 am. Grandpa was in full cooking mode and the whole house smelled wonderful.

With 40 people coming the whole house had been converted into a restaurant. The greenhouse was cleaned out and set with tables and chairs. The backyard patio was enclosed with plastic and a large heater was keeping the ‘new” room toasty and warm.

We spent the day visiting with relatives and  meeting our new nephew Rowan for the first time. Jayme spent most of the day playing with his 2nd cousin Grace and being fascinated by his new baby cousin. Anthony spent the day trying to get as much face time with the baby as possible. (Cute pictures of this can be found on the Shutterfly albums)

Dinner was at 4 pm, total guest count was a bit lower then expected only 36 people. We ate out on the enclosed patio and then we held court in on the patio and chatted until late in the evening.

The next morning we had hotel breakfast again and then headed to cousin Nova’s work. She works for a big snow plow company and in the lobby is the 1990’s movie version of the Batmobile. Jayme loved it and then he got a private tour of the production floor.

We then headed over to the family house and spent the day relaxing with family.

There was a very big adoption subplot to our visit this year. Just a few hours before we boarded our flight to Salt Lake, our adoption worker emailed us 3 large PDFs filled with additional information on a sibling group we submitted on (a 6 year old and a 1 year old). The caseworker liked our profile and was very interested in us. This became the subplot for our whole visit.

Halloween 2013

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Halloween time, our third Halloween together as a family. All the photo’s are up on our ShutterFly account. If you need an invite let us know!

Finding the outfit

First year was Darth Vader, then last year was Harry Potter. This year was a tough one to figure out.  For over a month we kept asking Jayme what he would like to be and he just didn’t know or the ideas he came up with were a bit out of reach.

First he wanted to be Sonic the Hedgehog. But he didn’t like the costume we found online. Then a Dark Sith Lord from Star Wars, but as soon as he learned he would not get a new light saber he fell out of love with the idea.

So with a little over 2 weeks to H-Day we stopped by the Halloween costume store. Last year we picked up Jayme’s Harry Potter outfit there and he loved it, so with figures crossed we started shopping.

This year the costumes seem to all be zombie related. Zombie Storm troopers, Zombie soldiers, ect…  Both the dad’s said no to Zombie anything. At 8 years old, we still need the cute photos for not only us but the rest of the family. That and Zombies are such a dark subject for an 8 year old.

It was then Jayme found his costume, a Jack Sparrow pirate costume. It was perfect. Jayme also decided that he was not going as Jack from the movies (which he has never seen) but Jack from his Disney Infinity game. You see Jack from the game has a sword….

So we had to find a sword. Then the devious demon known as Jayme announced that Jack from the game also had a gun and ALL PIRATES needed guns to look real.

Now our house has a firm zero gun policy. No real or toy guns are allowed in the house. So when the NO came, this caused a bit of a pout in the store. But the pout wore off quickly when Anthony let him know that we didn’t need to get a sword either if not having both would be an issue.

 

Pumpkin Chucking

Pumpkin carving was not as intensive as it has been in past years. We got 3 large pumpkins for carving and Jayme picked one up on a field trip.

Jayme created a Creeper pumpkin, a Creeper is one of the monsters from Minecraft. Anthony created a ghost pumpkin and Joshua did a Minion pumpkin.

The one new thing this year was Jayme really wanted to save all of the seeds. With a huge backyard who could blame him. So after the carving Jayme had to pull all of the seeds out of the guts bowl. He laid them out with Anthony on some newspaper to dry.

 

The Big Night

Halloween traffic was CRAZY. By the time everyone got home it was late almost 6pm. So we had kind of a mad dash getting Jayme into his costume and some pizza into his tummy.

When we came to getting in the Captain Jack Pirate outfit, the hardest bit to get on was the pirate hair. It itched and many bobby pins from Anthony’s old princess in training makeup tackle box had to be deployed to move the non-itchy parts away from his face. But once the hair was fixed Jayme was ready to go.

We made it out the door a little after 6:30pm and into our cul-du-sac. Like each year, Jayme had a bit of a hard time getting into the routine, when the door opens Jayme was more interested in seeing into the neighbors house then the candy being offered.

So the first couple of houses the door would open and Jayme would say “Hi” and then start snooping. He would thank them for the candy and then let them know if they had a nice house. Both of the Dad’s laughing so hard from the curb, we were crying. We did a family huddle for a little Halloween reminder of what to say and we then worked up a little script and within a few houses he had it down and was starting to really get into it.

At what was going to be our half way point for our families evening Jayme walked past a child in a mask and came to a full stop turned and followed the kid calling out to him. Turns out the kid was in Jayme’s old behavioral classroom from last year. Jayme then begged us to let him join his classmates group and since we all were going the same way we did.

It was a real window into the future for our family. One of the biggest questions we keep asking our self’s about re-entering the adoption program is how will our family meet the needs of a brother for Jayme. What needs and struggles can our family cope with and still meet everyone’s needs and surpass them. Then most importantly how will that impact Jayme. So seeing Jayme interacting with a child who fits some of the needs that lot of kids in care struggle with, was very informative and answered a lot of questions we had.

Jayme’s classmate is a very hyper kido. He seems to be just as impulsive as Jayme was a few years ago. All night long his classmate was really ramped up. Jayme was very excited but pretty calm. It was really amazing to see that side by side comparison. When your in the trenches it’s hard to see the progress Jayme has made, but not tonight.

Now Jayme’s classmate was not out of control, he had great manners and was a great kid to be around. But… and it’s hard to explain, Jayme had a body calmness that 2 years ago we never thought he could ever have achieved. What it made more amazing is none of the Dad’s or parents had to point this out, Jayme figured it out himself. At one point Jayme turned to his friend and said “I know you’re really excited, I am too, but see, I have a calm body.” I wish I would have had my video rolling!

The two stuck together all night long and really enjoyed each others company.

Of course Jayme still had a few Jayme moments; when his sword fell off his outfit or when his jean button would come undone under his outfit, he still needed his own moments of redirection. But both Dad’s were so impressed how well Jayme played and worked with his friend.

The classmate’s Mom seemed impressed by how well the boys interacted as well, so well that we exchanged numbers so the boys could do a play date in the future. Upon hearing that, Jayme wanted his friend to come over right away and wanted us to make weekend plans. It was so cute and a great way to end a long evening.

 

SUMMER DAY CARE PRISON

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Last summer our family was very lucky, Anthony was laid off of work.

This wonderful news came just days before the end of the school year. This meant that Anthony and Jayme were able to spend the summer together and Jayme did not have to go to summer daycare. The two of them had a wonderful summer of learning and bonding.

Unfortunately, this year with both dads were gainfully employed and with no Uncle Sam or other family nearby and  free; Jayme had to head off to daycare.

For the past year Jayme has been attending after school daycare run by the local school system and doing a wonderful job. This daycare is a mainstream program with no extra supports. But the staff are well trained and really get Jayme. One of the staff members even shares Jayme and Anthony’s passion for all things Disney. The only downside, of course, is they are closed over the summer break.

So Jayme and a few other  kids from his daycare were hosted at another school run day care site. Every member of our family refers to this site as the bad daycare (and a few other non pc phrases).

Now in fairness to the daycare, they are not unsafe, nor do they beat the children, feed them grey gruel, or lock them in leg irons. But this daycare site was and is just not a good fit for Jayme. You see all summer long the daycare was maxed to capacity with kids, it was hot and staff seemed to working hard each day just to keep order and not go insane.

Also from how Jayme describes it the kids are mostly left to self manage and entertain themselves. Translated into therapy-speak that means a world with very low structure and Jayme thrives with structure. So much so that he even tries to enforce structure on other kids. Summer daycare was in fact, probability, the most unstructured environment he has known in years.

When we first told Jayme that he would be going to that daycare we had a small explosion. Jayme hates going to this daycare. In the ramp up to the first day he begged Anthony to quit his job, suggested that Uncle Sam move back in and even tried to get Joshua to work from home and take care of him. On a positive note this gave us the chance to have a lot of family talks and we did a lot of work to reassure away his fears. It was a great chance to tell him and show him that we trust him and he is a “big boy” now.

Privately, the Dads mentally justified summer day care as a necessary evil on two fronts;  First, both dads had to work. As much as we wanted not to, we had to. We also knew that Jayme needed as much exposure to “the outside world” we could get him if he was going to make it mainstream 3rd grade, which was our summer time goal.

 

The Results:

Peer interactions proved the hardest for him, the older boys picked on him. Jayme was too big to play with the younger kids and socially unsure how to interact with his peers and older boys.

Jayme’s peer to peer communication skills and social warning system are of a much younger child. Coming from such a controlled world, first at the Morrison center and then the behavioral classroom, his skill set of how to be a “normal kid” is far away from the other 8 year-olds. The flip side of that is Jayme expects a higher level of behavior from his peers than most other children his age. If he has to follow all the rules then everyone else should as well.  For years now he has been taught everyone does…

Jayme got bullied quite a bit. Kids can be very mean. Another area he struggled with was that Jayme reacts very differently than other kids his age. He has been working and learning to make good choices but… You piss him off – he might cry, he might also overreact and tip a table on your head. Although we have made great progress on the later.

The summer for the dads was a long parade of notes home and many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many talks with Jayme. This was pretty draining for all three of us. There was more than one long conversation after Jayme was in bed if Anthony should just quit work and be a house husband (oh god please).

All summer long we had to keep going back to the love and logic training we had prior to the adoption to reassure ourselves that allowing him to fail safely now was so much better now then when he older and fails in a much larger way or worse, fails in 3rd grade. Another way to put it we needed him to fail and learn now with kids he would never see again then make those mistakes in mainstream 3rd grade and derail a very important step in his life.

At some point towards the end of the summer we could tell the staff was done trying to work with  or around Jayme. We started to get notes home of minor issues that should have only needed some redirection, but now had became major official notifications. The notes also came with very knowing glares and looks from the staff to the Dad’s.

Jayme would become very distraught at Daycare when they would tell him they were sending home a note or would threaten him with one. So much so we had to request that they not tell him about any notes.

But the notes kept coming… After a big blow up and meltdown because Jayme (the child with diagnosed impulse control issues) ran and got a ball that was 3 feet outside of the school bounds we got home a one day suspension. Then within two weeks of summer break’s end we received a full three day suspension. This final “punishment” was for Jayme hitting another child after the other kid spit in Jayme’s face, all because Jayme had the basketball the other kid wanted (yes, people had to hold the dads back, please show me any adult who would not defend himself after being spit on! Yet the 8 year old is suppose to, as if!

Luckily, Joshua was able to work from home for the suspension days. The hardest thing was the suspension was anything but a punishment for Jayme, he was free from daycare prison. Even working on homework all day was a million times better than being at the daycare he hated.

The Dads hated summer day care too, but Jayme learned more life survival lessons over the summer there then he could of at home with a dad. Still, it was a very hard summer for all three of us. It kinda slowed down everything, even our 2nd adoption plans as every night seemed to be an all hands on deck moment.

On the last day of daycare after we up picked Jayme and had the long wonderful Labor Day weekend ahead of us, we stopped by Toys R Us and picked up Disney Infinity as a reward for surviving day care! It’s like Disney’s version of minecraft. No better reward could be given for surviving Summer Daycare for our little hero.

The following week school started and we were so glad to be back at our good daycare, the dads hugged the staff!

 

Restoring the DeSoren Aqueduct

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 We have slowly been working on bringing our yard up to match our neighbors. But the one big thing that has been the biggest obstacle turned out to be the lack of water. Our property rests under huge pine trees. These trees block most of the rain fall from our property line, and what water does get though is sucked up by the huge pine trees. This has left us with dry, hard acidic soil.

We ran into this problem when we tried to plant some bunch-berry ground cover. Our first attempt ended with half dead plants. The ground was bone dry even after several days of rainfall; the pour plants didn’t stand a chance. So Anthony heavily tilled and improved the soil, replanted and then mulched the top. He then ran the sprinkler hose out to the curb and watered the heck out of the plantings for a week straight. But even now the ground dries up quickly. So a long term solution was needed.

At one time our home was a garden, one of the past owners really took pride in planting flowers and bushes. There are little clues all around the property of its former glory. But the biggest clues are all of the pop up sprinkler heads around the property. The only issue is the sprinkler system doesn’t work. When we moved in we assumed it was dead and would just have to be dug up at some point.

After we removed the spider infested chicken coop, we noticed that when the previous renters built the coop, they did so on top of 2 sprinkler heads. Since the old coop area has been designated for our raspberry garden we knew that the berries would need plenty of water. The idea of using a hose and sprinkler was not a very appealing. Finding these 2 sprinkler heads made us think about trying to resurrect the watering system.

In the back of the house, the main water supply to the irrigation system had been capped off. The PVC pipe line to the water main was broken and discarded carelessly next to the manifold system. But next to back door was a very new looking irrigation system controller, after playing with it for a while we realized that if we could just repair the broken pipe, we might have a working system.

Some other people might measure a project in its length of time to complete, or the total cost. We measure our home projects in the number of trips to Home Depot. Repairing the sprinkler system turned out to be a 5 trip job.

Before we stared we wanted to hook up the lawn hose to the PVC and see if anything would come to life. Our tests showed that the lines did work; we were able to get one of the front yard sprinklers to come to life. But it looks like the manifolds were dead. Some of the motors worked, some just buzzed and they also seemed to be pretty poor shape. So they had to be changed out. This was a bigger job then just fixing one line. So we held off until Sunday to attempt it.

After breakfast, Anthony and Jayme headed down to Home Depot and got our first round of parks. We replaced the main water PVC supply line and added a shut off valve for some extra safety. Then each manifold was cut off and each one replaced with a new one. Joshua came in behind Anthony and Jayme, and began the wiring.

After waiting for all the glue to dry we had our first test. The system is setup into 5 zones. We fired off zone one and all we got was some bubbling out of a single head in the back yard; something is wrong with that line. Luckily it is watering an area we plan to dig up so it was no real loss.

Fired up zone two, nothing happened. Jayme ran all over the front and back yard up he could not find any water. In fact we did not find anything on zone two until later in the day we tried again and part of the hillside opened up. One of the sprinkler heads was broken off and buried.  The PVC was even broken so we made repairs and it appears that zone two is only one sprinkler head. But again, this is an area we plan to dig up and have no need to water at this time.

Fired up zone three, the whole north fence line sputtered to life. This was an area that we really wanted to work, we now can plant some wonderful things along our back fence line and hopefully block a bit of our neighbors yard.

Fired zone four and the back half of the front yard sprang to life. We played with the sprinkler heads and they might have to be replaced. But the line is good! Zone five turned out to be the raspberry garden area and the very front of the front yard. We spend the rest of the day adjusting each of the zones sprayers while Jayme tried to get as wet as possible.

The next weekend we decided to expand the system and cap off the area’s not being used yet. Capping off was easy, but adding the new line was more of a challenge.

We wanted to add one sprinkler head to the front driveway area where Anthony planted the bunchberry. This required adding 30 feet of PVC line, 2 bends and one sprinkler head.

Thankfully Joshua had picked up a pick-axe to plant the blueberries, so digging the 30 foot trench took half the time it would have with shovels. It still took us over 2 hours to dig the line and glue up the parts. But it proved to only be a 1 home depot run job.

By dinner time the trench was filled back in, Jayme and Anthony had cleaned and restored our little rock trim on the driveway and the sprinkler system was covering everywhere we wanted. We celebrated with Burgerville for dinner with raspberry shakes.

Keeping up with the Jones

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Before we purchased our new home, one of the main selling points for Jayme was the fact that there was a little man made pond in the front yard. It’s not a very large pond, only about 6 feet across. But each time we would visit the house, Jayme would insist that we turn the pond on so he could play with it. After we moved in, one of our first outdoor projects was fixing the pond.

The pond was very stony, mostly dry and what water was in it was thick and very smelly. A small early spring heat wave dried up the little water left in the pond and gave us our first excuse to start work on the pond.

Anthony and Jayme changed into some dirty clothes, put on some rubber gloves and started to clean out the pond. We had thought there must be a hole in the lining.  Every time Jayme would  fill the pond it would drain out within a few hours. So our goal was to clean out the rock and look for a hole to patch. But as we cleaned it out, we learned what was really going on. The water was not flowing out but down. Our shallow rocky pond turned out to be about 4 feet deep filled with rocks and gravel. The pond seemed dry, but only the top inch of exposed rocks was dry.

It took two weekends to hand lift all the rocks and gravel out of the pond and reach the plastic liner. It was a mucky smelly mess! But after cleaning and filling the pond liner, we found zero holes. It was a very pleasant surprise.

Over a few weeks, we made a few trips to different nurseries and before we knew it we had a great little pond, no fish but we had several frogs move in.

With the pond clean we now had a new problem, what to do with the piles of river rock we dug out to the pond. In the end we decided to artistically lay it in strips down our driveway. Sort of dry river bed effect, Anthony moved a few bigger rocks down and the front yard was starting to take shape.

It was about then that our neighbor ordered several yards of black mulch and mulched his front yard and gardens. Our little weedy adjoining hill and pond rocks seemed to just scream eye-sore; so we headed to Home Depot and purchased some lawn weed fabric and 20 bags of mulch. Anthony and Jayme also picked up 2 small huckleberry bushes which should grow to about 8 feet in height and help hide our fence (a future project).

We spent the weekend laying the weed block and raking mulch, but by the time we finished we had a very respectable looking hill adjoining our neighbors amazing yard.

Our front yard is MASSIVE, with all of our work only about 1/8th of the front yard is now presentable. But still the neighbors liked what we did so much that they bought some rocks for their driveway to match ours. Who knew we were trend setters!

We still need to removed several small trees and bushes, expand Jayme Pond, plant some grass and fix the sprinkler system! But we feel that we are no longer a huge embarrassment for the neighbors.

Spring Trip To Disneyland

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When the stress levels in our house get too high. Things get rough for our family. Little problems become big. Jayme starts to act-up more at school and daycare, Anthony starts looking for ways to be a stay home dad and Joshua becomes crazed housemaid. So identifying when our family is stressed is very important for our families well being.

Having survived the house move and all the drama that came with it, our family needed a break. We all knew it and we had gotten to the point where it just had to happen. So the dad’s decided to look for a weekend getaway.

We looked at renting a house on the beach, but it was all so pricy. For those prices we might as well fly to Disneyland!  Huumm Disneyland….

So on a boring Thursday night, May 9th, we all arrived home and had a simple dinner. After dinner we all sat down on the sofa together and asked Jayme if he wanted to go to school the next day, he said no. So then asked him if he wanted to go to Disneyland and he said yes. We said… ok.

Having packed all the bags the night before so all we had to do was load the car and drive to the airport. It took him a few minutes to process it all in. But, by the time we got to the airport he was bouncing for joy. Clearly this trip was want the doctor ordered because by the time we got to the airport everyone’s mood was better and everyone was smiling.

We parked in long term parking and rode the shuttle in for our 8:30pm flight to LAX on Alaska Airlines. The flight was very short and before we knew it we were descending in to LAX. This flight marked Jayme’s 11th flight. He has become quite the seasoned traveler over the past two years.

We gathered our luggage and headed to the Thrifty car rental shuttle. It was here that the travel, excitement and hour of the day caught up with Jayme. He started to get a bit fussy and wanted to be held. Jayme is 8 years old and at times about 4. This was one of those times.

Once we had the car we pulled out our iPhone and headed off to the hotel. This trip Anthony found an unbelievable combo deal with the airfare and the hotel, the hotel being the Anaheim Travelodge International. Now…. we are not picky, as long as the room is clean and nice we can put up with just about anything. But we knew all was not well when we hit the elevator it smelled like someone had done well… you know in it.

The room itself at first glance looked ok, plain but ok. But in the morning we noticed in the bathroom huge water marks and mold told a different story. Anthony and Jayme tried to put on a cheery face, but Joshua was not happy. Years ago we had gone on a trip and stayed in a 2 star hotel, after that trip Joshua had a travel restriction on our family staying in anything other than a 3 star hotel or higher. The Anaheim Travelodge International was a 2 star. But we did get one real plus out of the hotel,  Anthony is not allowed to book anything other than the Disneyland hotel for our next visit, per Joshua. So our next trip should be amazing!

 

Friday

What the Anaheim Travelodge International lacked,  the parks made up for. We woke the next morning and skipped the nasty free breakfast in favor of Lenny’s…. ah Denny’s.

We arrived at California Adventure a min after rope drop. Knowing how long the lines can be at Car’s Land we decided to spend the morning there and made a beeline for Radiator Spring Racers. As we crossed the entrance the wait time sat at 1 hour. Normally we would never get in a queue with an hour wait, but know how long this line can be. In our last visit Joshua did not have a chance to go on RSR because of the long queues, so this was all new for him. Jayme passed the time taking photos of strangers; his normal vacation hobby and the dad’s had their  first chance in weeks to just talk and relax in the warm sun. The hour wait turned out to really be only about 45 mins! We  all loved the ride and once again, our car won the race. As we exited we noticed the wait time was hovering at 260 mins, so grateful we came early!

We spent the morning exploring Radiator Springs and the boardwalk area of California Adventure. But once lunch time arrived we had a real adult treat planned, lunch reservations at Carthay Circle.

Carthay Circle is the new fancy restaurant in California Adventure. We arrived and check in on the first floor, they asked us to take a seat in the lounge and all three of us sunk in to big leather sofas and waited in the dark cool room. After a few minutes a host arrived and took us to our table, which was on the second floor. We had the option to take the stairs or the elevator, Jayme chose the elevator.

The restaurant is very large but is broken up into many small dining rooms. We were taken to our room, which only had 7 tables in it. A few minutes later our waiters (note: waiters) took our drink orders and our dining experience began.  We planned to take advantage of the World of Color reserved seating offered by the restaurant. To qualify for it each person in the party must to order a main course and a desert or appetizer. We met and beat this. Each of us ordered an appetizer, main course and desert. All three meals were AMAZING! Each of us ate of each other’s plates, with the exception of Jayme’s fish, which he inhaled in a matter of minutes.

But the best part was dessert. Each of us ordered something. Anthony ordered cheesecake,  Jayme a chocolate brownie and Joshua ordered, but did not eat, the Strawberry Rhubarb tart. I say ordered and not eaten because Joshua mistakenly let Jayme try a bite before he tucked in. Before Joshua knew what had happened, Jayme had inhaled the whole tart and was asking for more! Anthony nearly fell out of his seat he was laughing so hard.  After wonderful lunch we rolled our self’s down the road to our dirty hotel and took a long post lunch nap!

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The 2nd highlight of the day was World of Color. This was our second time watching the World of Color show as a family, last time we arrived an hour early, had reserved standing space and got an amazing view. We had a front row view in section D3, we felt like kings. This time we seemed to have topped even that. The Carthay Circle reserved area was a little further back but was on a higher tier in section Y3. We arrived an hour early like last time and were the first group escorted to the reserved area. Over the next hour only 3 other small groups joined us. We ended up having a huge area almost to ourselves. This felt very awkward as we looked down at everyone else packed in like sardines. The show was outstanding and as we left the park we could feel that the stress bubble we had been living in for the past few months had been popped.

 

Saturday

Disneyland park day! We again skipped the yucky free breakfast at our hotel, but this time we headed to IHOP for breakfast. The price was about the same as Denny’s but there were more food options.

People always ask what our battle plan is when visiting the parks. I tell them three things; Go early, use the fast-passes and take a nap. Today we did not veer from that strategy.

We headed right to Space Mountain, as that was the one ride Jayme loves above all others. As we entered the standby line we also grabbed fast passes. We had a 10 min wait, rode Space Mountain then walked over to Star Tours with a 10 min wait, then walked back to Space Mountain and rode again with our fast-passes. Within the first hour we had done the Space Mountain twice and Star Tours. As we exited Space Mountain the wait time was over an hour and Star Tours was the same.

This was Jayme’s third trip to Disneyland, so he has a little map of the area in his head now. We spent the rest of the day following that little map. Jayme was our junior park tour guide.

After our nap and dinner we had one more little surprise planned for our boy. Anthony had signed us up for the Fantasmic Desert party again. We ended our day again as Kings, being served deserts and drinks in our private reserved seats watching Fantasmic!

 

Sunday

Today was travel day home, but our flight home was not until 10:45pm. So we had another full day at the parks ahead of us. We checked out of our flop house and loaded the car with our bags and left over desert party treats. We then drove over to the massive Disneyland parking lot structure and parked on site.

We had park hopper passes so we were able to visit both parks today and take in any rides that we missed or that Jayme wanted to ride again. We started in California Adventure were Anthony was forced onto California Screamer. He was promised that when the car went upside down, Jayme would hold his hand. Jayme lies…..

With no hotel to escape to for a nap, we were pretty hot and tired when we got to the car at evening. The car itself was roasting! Jayme passed out in the backseat about halfway to the airport.

For our return trip we flew back on United with a connecting flight in SFO.  The flight home was uneventful until SFO, when we transferred to a much smaller jet. So small that we had to walk out onto the tarmac to board. We had done this before in Hawaii, but it was still a thrill for Jayme. Once on-board the thrill was over and Jayme passed right out.

Photos are online of our trip!

The Chicken Coop

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The one “extra” item we received when we bought our house was the addition of a large wooden chicken coop. It was on a side of the house that we rarely traveled too, so it was not something that had to go right away. But as berry season came, so did the desire to have our own little raspberry garden. Anthony has very strong memories from childhood of walking through his Grandmothers garden eating until his little insides burst, and for some wacky reason wants to pass on that experience to Jayme.

IMG_0145We placed an ad on Craigslist under the free section. Within 1 hour we had 14 E-Mails, by the next morning we had 23. But to be fair we started at the top of the list. After a few E-Mails we arranged a time for pick up.

The winner of our free coop arrived Thursday night around 6pm. Looking at the coop we had thought that it could be removed in panels. But as we started to take it apart we realized that the whole thing would have to be taken apart, piece by piece. “Luckily”, we had lots of help. The nice lady who came brought some tools, a large truck and her 5 year old son.

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The 5 year old was the official gatherer of all of the screws and when something needed to be hammered he was front and center ready.

Jayme who had blown it at Day Care that day and prior to their arrival was told he would be having a quiet night (no tv, no video games). Jayme was in his room and quite happy not to have to come out in the heat and work until he hear the 5 year old. The fact that a kid was on HIS property and he could not play with him became the ultimate punishment for poor Jayme. Jayme kept calling out to the kid from his window and really really wanted to help.

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Taking the coop apart and loading it on the truck took almost 3 hours. But worst part of the whole tear down was the little coop part itself. It was built on top of a packing crate. There was no way to take it apart, so we had to carry it up and over our fence. This was fine in itself expect that it had about a TRILLION spiders living in it, on it and under it. We found one that was a good 3 inches across and thick. None of us turned out to be very brave when it came to spiders.

When everything was loaded the little boy decided he wanted to stay for dinner. This mom explained that he really bonds well with other guys, and we are pertty amazing guys. In fact, he wanted hugs from both us before he left. We had to break out our special needs training, stanger danger traning and suggest high fives or handshakes to him. He was super cute and our interaction with him really drove home the feelings that we need to buckle down and get our adoption paperwork turned in for Jayme’s brother.

That night when we tucked Jayme into bed, Jayme wanted to hear all about the chicken coop tear down and more importantly the little boy. We told him about what we did and the spiders. He seemed to have lots of questions about the little boy. When we got done telling him about everything he said “You should adopt him, (the little boy).”. Anthony told him that the little boy already has a family. Then Jayme said “Well, you can just take him away from his family and then he can be adopted.” As soon as he said that Anthony had to hold back the tears.

Bedtime ended with lots of hugs and kisses. Talking about family and what it means, telling Jayme that we are a family forever and no one would ever take him away again.

Easter 2013

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Apart from ice camping for Easter, we tried our best to have good Easter weekend for Jayme

2Friday night Jayme and Anthony sat down and watched the 1977 animated classic ” The Easter bunny is coming to town” with  the voice of Fred Astaire. It’s a wonderful tale about where the Easter Bunny comes from and why we eat eggs on Easter. Of course none of it was true, but it had lots of catchy songs.

Saturday we took a bike ride around our new neighborhood and checked out the sights. We also got Easter haircuts. Later that night we picked up a Papa Murphy’s pizza and Joshua located the new episode of Doctor Who for us to watch. We don’t know how, but Jayme is a total Whovian…. total shock right? We all snuggled on in our new media room under blankets and watched it our our big screen.

On the big Easter day Jayme came bouncing down the stairs and found a HUGE brightly colored basket of chocolate rabbits, chocolate eggs and assorted Easter candies.

Anthony boiled up 3 dozen eggs and Jayme got to paint and dye everyone of them. One of the kits Anthony picked up was a tie-dye egg kit. They dry all shiny and glossy and some of the colors that Jayme used on the eggs  turned out really amazing. He even mixed a pale green egg with a extra wash in the yellow dye to make a bright Kelly green egg. He is quite the artist!

Once the eggs dried, the Dad’s hid them all over the yard, front and back. This year Jayme was VERY specific that he wanted a full on Easter egg hunt, so the Dad’s being pushovers complied.

Jayme took his time and hunted everywhere for the eggs. At one point we saw a big dog in our yard and got a bit worried that we might come up a few eggs short (with the dog eating a few), but a final count at the end showed that Jayme had found them all!

Easter Ice camping

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It was a wonderful Friday evening.

After weeks of cleaning the old town house we were about to spend our first free weekend together in our new home, best of all it was Easter weekend and the 6th anniversary of our domestic partnership (10 years total this fall). The weather forecast could not have been better, super cold at night but 70’s and nice during the days.

Anthony stopped off at Fred Meyers and picked up eggs, Easter candy, a new basket for Jayme, 2 different egg dye packs and 2 special movies for the weekend, The Easter Bunny is coming to town and From the Earth to the Moon. Jayme has been into space lately and the whole DVD series was at Wal-Mart for 12 bucks, great box set for some early prep work for our fall visit to Cape Canaveral.

Joshua picked up Jayme early from day care and the two of them arrived home and entered via the garage. They then headed right outside to work in the front yard clearing fallen branches and weeds from the area.

Anthony pulled up in his car and made his way inside with the goodies and groceries via the front door. As he put his key in the lock he noticed that there was a little yellow door hanger. It read “Per your request, the gas has been shut off.”

Now for years now we have impressed into Jayme that adults are supposed to behave like adults in moments of stress. That big boys do not yell. Big boys do not throw things. Big boys do not use bad words. But…. when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary… sometimes, yes sometimes, adults not only can but will lose it.

We had been working every night for a month and were emotionally drained, physically dead exhausted and to became suddenly confronted with the very real fact that the whole family now has to camp in a cursed house without heat and no hot water for the weekend (and possibly longer). It was just to much for us. Jayme cried, Anthony stormed and Joshua yelled. It was not a pretty picture.

What was a pretty picture was how our family recovered and pulled together. A quick call to our “good friends” at a certain Northwest based gas company,  reviled that their customer service center was closed and had been closed for a whole and complete minute. This billion dollar public utility apparently does not work weekends, because clearly no one needs services on the weekend.

But they do have an emergency number, and this being an emergency we called it. We were a bit shocked to find that this Northwest based gas company,  had maned their emergency phone line with Vogons. After speaking with the Vogon on the phone we learned that they had not just switched off the natural gas to the wrong house, as we first suspected. You see we had called them to do just that for our old home. We had asked for our names to be removed at our old house back in February and switched over to our new home. What we found was:

  • They had no record of anyone living in our new cursed house
  • They still had the gas on in our name in a house we no longer lived in!
  • They could not even find our new house after several minutes of searching.

The Vogon on the phone refused to do anything to fix the issue, which we found impossible to believe. In fact the Vogon was so unhelpful it make we wonder if he wasn’t messing with us. He did offer to E-Mail a customer service representative and promised that they would contact us quickly.

Being E-Mail people this gave us new hope and we asked what the E-Mail turn-around time would be, the reply we got was a bit iffy and muffled. We asked if anyone in that department worked on the weekends and he said “I don’t think so”. After I pressed harder he said ‘No”. Which begs the question of HOW IS EMAILING SOMEONE GONE FOR THE WEEKEND HELPFUL IN GETTING OUR SON SOME HEAT TONIGHT!

With ZERO help coming from this Northwest based gas company and there crew of unhelpful Vogons, our family (20+ year, pay on time customers of this Northwest based gas company) switched into full crisis mode and we took quick action. The sun was setting and the house was growing colder and colder. Joshua jumped in the car and headed down the hill to Walmart, to buy some cheap floor heaters. He returned back an hour later with no heaters. He had tried several stores, no one was carrying them, he even tried Home Depot. While he was gone Anthony made a hot dinner and distracted Jayme with TV and warm food.

We told Jayme we were going to have a no heat party and moved Jayme’s bed into our room. We then placed the only little space heater we had onto our room and cranked it to high and turned on the master bedroom heater fan to full. For the next 4 nights this would be our whole world once the sun had set. The three of us all slept in the same room, each of us with double blankets.

Saturday morning we headed down the hill to our old house. The original plan was that we would be handing over the keys today, but we called and pushed off the hand off until Monday. For the weekend at least we would be showering at our old house.

By Monday, a full weekend in the ice cold house has gotten Anthony sick, made Jayme more on edge and made Joshua even bigger nasty grump. Monday was our anniversary, Easter had been overshadowed by the gas issue. We really wanted our anniversary not to be.

We called our Northwest based gas company first thing Monday morning praying that our anniversary would not be spoiled.  Thankfully, the weekday Vogons said would send someone right out…. on Tuesday.

Our nightmare continued.

Anniversary canceled, Monday night Anthony and Joshua boiled water on the electric stove and each of us took a 2 inch lukewarm bath in Jayme’s bath tub. Not how we thought we would be spending our anniversary. 2 inch solo bath and a child in our bedroom.

Tuesday, while we were at work they entered our home and turned the gas back on. Our world is back to normal until the next part of the curse kicks in. Until then we are looking into alternative energy sources so we can be ready for the next time a utility company fails us and so we can have hot water during the zombie apocalypse.

PS. If anyone would like to buy a house and has cash, we are willing to make a deal!

Moving Day

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We don’t know how we did it, but Moving day landed on the 3rd anniversary of the first day of meeting Jayme. You know… because moving isn’t emotional enough for our family.

We woke at 6:30am and the three of us loaded into the family car for a short ride to the U-Haul center. Anthony and Jayme headed in and got the keys to our 24 foot moving monster.

It took a few tries to back our moving truck into position in front of our townhouse’s garage, the townhouse street and all of our neighbors parking on the red fire lane stripes didn’t really help.

Our plan was to make three trips. First trip to load everything we could ourselves, second trip to have paid movers get the heavy stuff and then the final trip for everything else.

The three of us started to load the garage into the truck. For weeks we have been packing and stacking boxes in the garage. So on moving day it was just about moving those boxes a few more feet into the truck.

By 11:ooam we had our first load ready to go up the hill. With a few exceptions we just reversed the process and unloaded the truck into the new garage.

We grabbed some McDonalds for lunch and Joshua stayed behind to clean up the Laundry Room (see our last post) while Anthony and Jayme headed to the townhouse to get the cats locked in the bathroom and meet the movers who were coming at 1:00pm

Paying the movers was the BEST money we have ever spent! There is just no way we could have completed without them. Within 8 minutes of their arrival they had more on the truck then we had in 2 hours. They moved the washer and dryer, our 300 pound latex bed, Jayme’s bunk bed, our big screen, the dining room table, the sofas, and much much more. They filled the 24 foot truck from front to back.

Once back up the hill they unpacked it all as well. But this time we asked them to unpack into the house, rather then the garage. Everything got in ok with 3 exceptions. First our huge sofa was too big to go in the front. So the movers had to take it in via the kitchen sliding glass door. The second issue was they moved Joshua’s rope out of the truck and into the garage, so on our third trip we had to improvise (we thought they had taken the rope by mistake). The third issue we didn’t find out about until the next day, our washing machine was broken. Turned out the suspension rods were dead, they were well used and the move killed them, not the movers fault. The movers did run over our set time by 45 mins but they worked the whole time and we feel the money was well spent.

Third trip we ran back for the last of the items that could not come by car. We have the townhouse until the 30th so we knew we could just run back and forth with the cars for the little things. So we made a real effort to get the large times on this last run.

With the last of the big times in our new home, we got ready for a little welcome home party. We promised Jayme that if he was good and we got all our stuff moved in we would buy Wreak-It-Ralph and have a pizza party.

So at 7:30pm Anthony and Jayme headed out to Papa Murphy’s and picked up a family sized Chicago stuffed pizza. Then stopped at Safeway for sodas and then all three of us plopped down in our new family room with our TV jerry-rigged to the PlayStation for an impromptu party. No one got to sleep until 11:00pm.

The next three weeks we have been doing something every night. Cleaning the old house  and getting the last bits out is proving to be a MUCH bigger task then we thought. Jayme’s bedtime is at 8:00pm so we have a very small window to do anything at the old place before we have to feed, bath and bed the little one. This upside down schedule has been murder for the Dad’s and made the transition to the new house much harder on Jayme. In the end we decided to only have one person at the old house and keep Jayme at the new and on his normal schedule. But this added more issues as doing the work alone after working hard all day slowly draining our will and we are really starting to doubt this move.

But the end is within sight. Easter weekend we are going to be all done and have a nice family weekend with NO DRAMA or house work!

 

 

Popcorn

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With a week to go before moving day and Jayme’s room completed we wanted to do one other room. We choose the laundry room now known as the cursed room.

We first took down the florescent work light fixture and started to remove the popcorn celling. This proved to be a HUGE job. We bought a portable water sprayer and put down 2 layers of plastic sheeting on the floors. Jayme and Joshua sprayed and Anthony scraped, and scraped and scraped.

At the end Anthony was covered head to toe in wet white goop. It was a hard call what looked worse the floor or Anthony. But thanks to the double layer of plastic sheeting the floor cleaned up very easily. So I guess Anthony looked the worse!  The whole process took 2 hours if you count prep and clean up.

Step two was to add a ceiling fan. This involved making a whole bunch of holes. Our first hole was around the old light fixture. We wanted to look up and see if we could just add a light/fan combo unit. But we found out that the ceiling joists ran the wrong way. So we had no way to run the venting to an outside wall. With the laundry room backing up to the garage we thought we might be able to vent into the garage and the out to an outside wall. Again this proved undoable.

Third hole we cut a large corner piece of the ceiling out hoping it would land under a little secret utility room we found between the master bathroom and the garage. But it too did not appear to be achievable. A bit heartbroken and tired Jayme and Joshua headed out to find lunch as we had spent the whole morning trying to find a spot for the ceiling vent.

While the boys found lunch Anthony keep drilling holes. First one landed just on the inside of the Master bedroom but only 6 inches from the wall and the secret utility room behind it. It was a true EUREKA moment. The last pilot hole landed in the secret room!

The solution for the venting had us cut a 6 inch hole in the floor of that secret room and running insulated ducting from the fan location through the floor, into the secret room then out into the garage attic space then finally to an outside wall.

Next was a trip to Home Depot, were they now know us by our first names. We picked up the wall paint, wall patches, joint compound, a ceiling fan, double wall light switch, 15 feet of wire, 25 feet of insulated venting, a 4 inch hole bit, new switches and a new wall switch plate.

We had to cut two final holes in the popcorn free celling to allow us access to run the wires and expand the light switch box. Running the wire proved to be the easy part. Rewiring 2 switches for 3 hours was beyond us. Now in fairness two ourselves we ran into 2 messed up issues. First, the switch was wired in series and once we finished adding our new line the downstairs bathroom wall plug stopped working and second the old box was very narrow. Took us 3 trips to Home Depot before we found the right type of box to install that would work. Luckily we had our main fuse box scheduled to be replaced the next day and Joshua was able to ask them to figure out why the second plug stopped working. Turns out it had nothing to do with our perfect wiring job. A tripped GFCI outlet on the 2nd floor was the issue. Itwould have taken us years to figure that out!

Once we had installed the fan and Anthony nearly cut off his finger and gave the required blood offering to the demons living in our cursed laundry room, we wired up the fan and switched it on. We bought a super quiet version since the cat box was destined for this room and we normally have it running 24-7. We turned it on and the first thing we noticed was it sounded loud. Looking at it we noticed that the fan drum looks lopsided. So the curse strikes again, clearly more blood was needed to appease the spirts. At some point we have to take it apart and see if we can re-center it. The troubleshooting shooting book has the how to… but we just have not had the time to fix it yet.

Anthony spent 2 days patching the ceiling and sanding it smooth. But as we got to the night before the move we just didn’t have the strength or will power to stay up all night painting. So we decided that we could just push the washer and drying into the middle of the room and at some point paint around them.

After the movers left we plugged in the washer and you guessed it, it didn’t work. A $275.00 house call later we had a working washer. Jayme and Anthony painted the room changing it from a ugly peach to refreshing light blue called “refresh”.

The last item will be the new blinds for the room, we have them but we are feeling a little blood weak, so we dare not risk it now.

DeSoren Abbey UPDATE

Right now we are at the furthest point we have ever been in the home buying process. For the past 3 years we have rented a wonderful 3 bedroom townhouse. But the townhouse has some issues; It is near the freeway which means we have that car/ocean noise, There is also very little area for Jayme to play outside, and as Jayme as grown larger the townhouse has grown smaller and smaller to the point that adding another child would make our living conditions VERY cramped.

But we found a new house that would fix all of these issues. 4 bedrooms, on a super quiet culdesac, large kitchen/family room, land for gardening and for Jayme to play outside. It’s also still in Happy Valley and more importantly in Jayme’s school district. it’s also very close to where we live now, just a bit further up the mountain.

Anthony found the house online. It was priced a bit above the price range we had been looking at all of last year, but not above our budget. Deb our realtor took us over and right away both of us loved it.  When we found out that the neighborhood had a annual Christmas lights contest everyone was all in.

We placed an offer and began a biding war with a stubborn computer. The home is bank owned and the bank uses an online bidding process. Nice thing is you get an answer every morning at 6am. But your talking to a computer and not someone you can really barter with. The computer knows only numbers and the minimum offer it can take. It took several offers before we found the right offer combination that worked for us and we accepted the computers counter.

Next step was to inspect the place. We all drove over to the house on a Saturday afternoon and got to watch the sewer line be inspected. The inspector lowers (shoves) a camera on a hose down into the bowels of the house and inspects the pipes all the way to the city sewer. The best thing is we got to see it live AND he gave us a DVD to take home and watch again and again. Who needs Netflix when we have sewer inspection video! Our pipes passed with flying colors.

Next inspection was the full home inspection. The inspector came out and found a few things that we got us a bit worried. First the grading on the backside of the house is a slight hill. There was some concerns about water run off and the foundation, but no was damage found. Second was the fuse box, which turns out is a Federal Electric, we have been told that they tend to catch fire. The final issue relates to the first. Under the house the plastic sheeting has been torn and there is some standing water and debris on the plastic. The inspector could not tell where the water had come from. There were no signs of leaks in the foundation and no rot under the house.

So we knew we had some landscaping, some cleaning and a new fuse box to have installed. We got an estimate on how much it would be to clean out the crawl space install new plastic tarp. Then asked the bank to make the repairs and with a shock they came back with an offer to knock some money off the agreed sales price. Thrilled we accepted. We now just need to set some of that savings aside and make the repairs before we move in.

Last step was loan appraisal and now we are waiting for the loan paperwork and our signing date. We have been told it will be in the last week of February. So come March we might be homeowners.

 

Jayme’s trip to Salt Lake City

So after our family Christmas, it was time to fly off to the winter wonderland of Salt Lake City.

We all woke early, Anthony had to head out to work and Joshua and Jayme had to finish their last minute packing.

Joshua and Jayme drove to the MAX parking lot and transferred to the MAX. It took about 50 minutes to get to the airport but Jayme loves riding the MAX. Jayme did wonder why the green line didn’t just continue to the airport. After picking up some snacks and COFFEE, we were able to board our non-stop Delta flight.

We recently counted and this was Jayme’s 8th airplane flight since he moved in with us. And as normal he did great.. a very uneventful flight. Much to Jayme’s delight it was snowing in SLC.

After we got our bags and found our rental car we headed off to meet the whole clan. Jayme was really excited to see everyone and quickly went to work making himself the center of attention. He was super excited to see Uncle Sam again and kept asking where cousin Aspen was. We had a nice family dinner at Eve’s house and it was great being with the whole family for a late Christmas.

On Thursday Jayme went out with Uncle Sam while Josh, Shiloh and Taylor caught up and played at being adults. Jayme went sledding and made snow angels.. He really loves the snow it was a lot of hard work keeping him out of it  he kept saying he wanted to go play outside in it.

Friday, we spent with Shiloh as he had the day off. Guess what we had for lunch! Jayme’s favorite,  pizza. Joshua also found out that he had been living in Oregon for way to long as driving was a real challenge. Yes he knows how to drive in the snow. But apparently getting the car over 65 mph (70) is the challenge. Speeding is just not done in Oregon.. We spent a nice quiet day with Shiloh and then picked up Taylor from work. After that we headed back to the grand parents house and spent a nice quiet evening at home..

Saturday was a blast as his cousin Aspen had come down and they were so happy to play together. You could hear them throughout the house just singing and dancing have a great time. Saturday was also the Baby shower so after we dropped the girls off the boys went bowling. Joshua plays great with the bumpers on, Jayme does not need them. Jayme was thrilled that he was spending so much time with his uncles and that Shiloh taught him how to throw the ball really fast. Of course he kept saying that this was nothing like the video game and how he is much better at that.

After bowling we headed back up to the baby shower and Aspen and Jayme played around a bit more with some of the toys. After going and renting ski equipment, for Sunday,  we headed back to the grandparents and set up for dinner and presents. Nothing like a second present opening to make the kids go wild. Jayme didn’t seem to quite grasp that this was also more for Aspen as she had spent Christmas with her Mom and now was spending it with her dad. It’s really hard to explain to Jayme why she had all of these presents and why he had so few (at least in his eyes… all of his presents filled one suitcase on the way home). He was really enthused by the model train set (paintable hobby thingy), and the legos, and the new game of operation (from Aunt Daisy).

Sunday was ski day. Jayme had never gone skiing before and this was a real treat for him. For fun Uncle Shiloh and Josh switched kids. Josh took Aspen out and did different runs while Shiloh started the process of french fries and pizza.  Jayme had a blast and by the end of the day was making it down the hill without falling. Maybe later this year we will have to take him out on the mountains in Oregon.

Monday we went and played with Aspen again at Uncle Shiloh and Taylor’s house.  After a while Grandma showed up and we went out to one of her favorite Vietnamese places for lunch. Jayme tried everything and ate really well considering how picky he can be. That night we met up with cousin Nova and Uncle Sam and went out to the movies for Monsters Inc. in glorious 3D..

On New Years day, we left Salt Lake and headed home. We had a great trip and enjoyed seeing all of our family and friends. Next year Christmas will be in Portland (hopefully).

 

 

 

Christmas 2012

It’s hard to believe that this is our second Christmas with Jayme.

Last year, Grandma & Grandpa and Cousin Kristen all came up for the holidays. We had planned that this year, we would expand that to include all the uncles and our new sister in law. We had big dreams of a huge Christmas dinner, TONS of Anthony & Jayme’s fruitcake (see shutterfly for video) and all of the family here in Portland together.

But we ran into one small problem… pregnancy. Who knew a 2 dad home would have to worry about that!

It seems that Doctors frown on very pregnant women flying. So that meant Aunt Taylor and Uncle Shiloh could not attend. But we knew we had to get the family together, with Uncle James being transferred from his naval base back east to Guam for several years, this was the last chance for a long time to have all 4 brothers together Christmas. So with Taylor and little baby to be, Rowan, grounded in Salt Lake, we knew we have to give up on our Portland Christmas dream and  move it to Salt Lake City. The tough part was that with Anthony just starting a new job, we also knew all three of us could not go. So a plan was created to keep our family unit together for Christmas and then on Boxing Day Jayme and Joshua would fly out.

With just the three of us, Christmas was as low key as Joshua could get away with. Anthony and Jayme LOVE LOVE LOVE Christmas. Everything must be decorated, there must be homemade fudge, cookies, divinity and fruitcake. The tree needs at least 4000 lights on it or it looks dull. It seems that Poor Joshua loses the War on Christmas a little more every year.

4 years ago, the two of us lived in co-op that required every home be lit for Christmas. So we had a “small” investment in exterior holiday lights when we relocated to our condo. That first Christmas we were the only ones to bedazzled our home. This year we were one of the last to get our lights up. Seems that we were trend setters.

For our tree this year, we skipped the tree lots and joined in on a large group Tree Hunt. We all traveled all the way to Mt. Hood to a U-Cut tree farm. They had a nice pancake breakfast with juice and hot chocolate. We teamed with Suzanne and her grandkids, Jaden and Ava. The drive was worth it as Jayme got to pick his own tree, something he took very seriously.

When it came time to cut down the tree, Jayme insisted that HE would chop his own tree down. For the full week prior he had been talking up how he was going to cut the tree, and how it would fall. He had it all worked out. With some careful instructions from the tree farmer, Jayme got to saw away on the tree… for a few minutes. It was very cute, but it didn’t take long before Jayme consented/requested into letting the nice man with the gas powered chainsaw cut it down for us.

Christmas day was again a great day for our family. But it started off a bit bumpy the night prior. Jayme was SO excited for Santa’s visit, getting to sleep was just not possible. We had put Jayme down at his normal bedtime but hours later, he kept coming out and asking if it was morning yet or if Santa had come yet. Jayme still believes in Santa, or rather wants to.

At one point we thought we had him down, so we started sneaking the presents down from our room to the tree. While Joshua kept watch on Jayme’s door, Anthony arranged the presents and filled the stockings. At some point Jayme awoke and walked over to his door. Upon opening it he saw Joshua, who was guarding it… they both promptly screamed in fright…. TOO FUNNY.

Christmas morning we had fresh homemade waffles and POG. The unwrapping ceremony was shorter then last year. With just the three of us it was hard not to let Jayme go nuts. Again we spoiled him, getting him WAY to many things, but as was pointed out to us while he was in Foster care Jayme was never spoiled, just the opposite.  So he has earned a few years of being showered with love and presents.

The best moment of the day was when Jayme got his final present. Right after everyone woke up and while Anthony was making breakfast, Joshua took Jayme out to pick up Starbucks. This gave Anthony the time he needed to move Jayme’s final gift from it’s hiding place into Jayme’s room. Once we had finished opening all the gifts around the tree we started to clean up and all  three of us headed up to Jayme’s room carrying his new stuff. With Jayme leading the way he didn’t notice Anthony video taping him as the ascended the stairs or turning the corner into his room.

As Jayme ascended the stairs he was talking about which Lego set he was going to open first and then he turned the corner. The only thing he said was “What the”. There sitting on the table that we had moved into his room the week prior was a new to him silver shiny iMac with Star Wars Angry Birds playing on it’s screen. He set down all of his new toys that moments ago had meant the world to him and made a beeline for his new computer.

We had found the computer on Ebay, it was used and needed a memory upgrade. But it was just what Jayme needed. We spent a week of evenings locked in the closet of our bedroom loading educational software, adding hardware, locking down websites and programing the parental controls. We struggled for a while, if a computer was a good present for a 7 year old, but he is so drawn to electronics that we felt that giving his him own computer would give him an edge over other students and force him to improve his reading skills.

The rest of the day was spend playing with our new toys, watching Christmas movies and getting ready for SLC…

 

Frighttown Dragons End of the Season Potluck and party (or we hate T-ball part 2)

Jayme’s T-ball season came to end one week after school broke for the summer in a big potluck at Oaks Park.

Coach sent out a online sign-up form for each family to bring something to the potluck. Anthony was on top of it and of course over cooked. He made his spinach pasta salad, hawaiian style mac salad, a fresh lemon carrot salad, cajian cornbread and his Grandmothers raspberry marshmallow desert.

It took all three of us to carry all of the food to the car… this should have been our first sign that Anthony overcooked. We drove down to the amusement park in perfect wether. It was a wonderful day; sunny, warm and not a cloud in the sky. It was also the opening day for the summer season at the park, so the parking lot was full. We parked on the other side of the park, down by the roller skating rink (more on that later) and walked the whole park to find our picnic area.

We were one of the first to arrive and quickly helped layout all the food. On top of the food we brought there was this amazing bacon potato salad (which we have since recreated at home), lots of chips, hot dogs and brats.

While everyone assembled  coach handed out the ride bracelets and we slipped away to ride a few rides before lunch. The first ride was the ROCK-O-PLANE, it’s a blue wire cage that your locked into on a small ferris wheel. Since you travel upside down, professional coward Anthony stood and held the bags as our two brave hero’s Jayme and Josh locked themselves into their cage of doom. The first few times around Josh would hit the lock bar and the two of them would do a full upside down loop. It was about 2 mins’s into the ride that Anthony first noticed something wrong… No one was getting off. The wheel kept going and going and going and going. The operator started waving and trying to get his supervisors attention as he could not get the wheel to fully stop, slow yes, stop no. Our poor hero’s were stuck on the ride, going around and around for about 15 mins before a mechanic was able to come over and manually stop the ride so each rider could exit.

Freed from their cage we headed back for lunch, which was great! It was nice to talk to the other parents when we all didn’t have to watch the kids play t-ball.

Once lunch was done everyone headed out to ride the rides. Jayme grabbed us and away we went. We did all the rides even most of the little kid rides. The one that scared the HECK out of Anthony was the Screaming Eagle. For some reason Joshua felt this was an appropriate ride for Jayme. And Jayme had NO issue with this great plan. Once again Anthony held the bags but as he watched his son and Husband 100 feet in the air spinning to their deaths… he was forced to walk into the video game arcade to avoid  his very very rational fears.

Once we had done most of the rides we headed into the roller skating rink. Roller skating at Oaks park is something Joshua and Jayme have been doing for a while together. Each Saturday is Daddy Joshua day and the two of them head out and give Anthony a day off and get some one on one bonding time together. So the two of them were pros on their skates. Anthony… well his last time of skates was sometime in 1995. It took awhile but Anthony finally got his skating legs back, with only one fall on his butt!

The three of us must have been a sight as the T-Ball coaches 3 daughters took pity on us and kinda adopted us and hung out with us. It was very funny watching Jayme get his 7 year old flirt on with each of the girls.

We spend most of the afternoon skating. Everything was going great until they played YMCA. Right in the middle of C, Anthony fell down. Now to save face… Anthony decided to land ON his face, instead of his rear, because that would be embarrassing. When he got back up on his skates he had a HUGE egg sized swelling on the side of his face. He skated in and was mobbed by employees with ice packs and worried faces. He was in no pain, but he was done for the day.

After 20mins the swelling was gone but a nice black eye was starting to pop up. So we said our goodbyes and headed home.

Apart from Anthony failing on his face it was a wonderful day. The Dad’s still hate T-Ball but will aways love and cherish the memories all three of us had made this season.

DeSoren Abbey

 

DeSoren Abbey

Since Sam has left, getting back that extra room and space in the house has really underscored the need for a bigger house. Having that extra room has really changed how our household runs, and we like it! So we have jumped back into the house hunting market. Last time we did this was before Jayme came into our lives, back when we lived in SE Portland… Seems like 3 lifetimes ago.

Our goal this time is a 3-4 bedroom house with a master bathroom with a tub and a nice big shower. We need a fenced backyard and a nice open family space inside. We need a bigger house for some elbow room. We also need to stay in Clackamas and more importantly inside Jayme’s school district. Once we find the perfect home, we do have some big plans for it. Jayme and Anthony want to plant a garden… There has been a lot of discussions about raspberry plants, loganberry bushes and a treehouse. They also wanted a swimming pool, but the Joshua has issued a big no on that idea.

We have been looking in Happy Valley (our preferred location), the unincorporated Clackamas area, Milwaukee and now Damascus. So far, we have put in offers on three homes and each time we have been kicked to the curb. But each time we have learned a bit more about what we are really looking for and what we would be willing to settle for, which only adds to our depression.  It seems that home inventory is down 30% from this time last year and what is on the market seems to be priced pretty high. Or another way of looking at it is our taste preference is priced higher then our means. We are also a bit worried that even with most of the homes on the market being short sales and foreclosures this might prove to be a weird upside down sellers market. But we have not lost hope yet… Sort of.

The first house was great, located in Happy Valley, a short sale priced to move. Four bedroom home with a pretty nice hillside view. It had a great upstairs area, a kinda scary, but fixable deck and this amazing unfinished basement that had SO much potential. Visions of a huge family space and theater room and a 5th bedroom  danced in our heads as we signed the offer. Knowing it was going to be popular we even offered more then asking and got rejected. This was kinda of a blow to us. We really felt we had it. It was then that this house hunting process started to feel a lot like the adoption process we had just gone through. The waiting, the rejection, the weird rules and forms.

The second home we found that we loved was a fixer upper. But one priced very very low for the area it was in. The prior owners had done some very interesting home improvements, which would be easy to remove, but there was also some water damage. Even that would have been pretty easy to fix. We got pretty excited about this house and even did a run to Home Depot to check out diferent flooring options and paint colors. Like the first house, we offered more then asking and just like the first house we were rejected. This time we didn’t feel as bad because there were 13 other offers on the table. But it was still a blow to us. Seems we are still a bit raw from the adoption roller coaster…

The next house was a great 3 bedroom house with a nice master and great backyard for Jayme. Only two problems, first they were asking WAY to much for it and second – it is in Damascus. Not that Damascus is a bad place, but its a long commute for 2 people who work in downtown Portland. (That and we will never get Scott S. to visit us out there) The house was  a short sale that had been on the market for almost a year and it needed a little bit of work. Our wonderful agent did comps that showed that the house was $25k overpriced and even at that price we felt it was overpriced… mostly because of the very strange neighborhood. The house across the street just had sold for 50k less, but the house behind that sold for 50k more and they are all the same cookie cutter houses, nice cookie cutter homes, but what’s with the huge price differences?  So we came in with a bid  we felt was fair. More importantly one we felt comfortable with and could sleep through the night with. They came back with a counter offer of 40k more then we offered and the inglorious positon of backup offer if we wanted it. So we happily walked away from the deal.

Perhaps we should move to Disneyworld, prices down there are much better, but the commute to work each day to downtown Portland might prove to be a killer.

That New Car Smell

So after almost 9 years driving our little 2001 Chevy Metro, we have upgraded to a new car. It only took 5 months of discussion, which is GREAT for us. Took us twice that long to pick a new sofa for the house. Before we left for our trip to Hawaii we had our eyes on a Ford Explorer or Honda CRV, but after driving 3 different Dodge Calibers on the islands, we started to rethink our plan.

We first started looking in Portland, but ended up in Vancouver. We drove to our local our Dodge dealer (well local as in Gresham), but they didn’t want to work with us over the phone and via E-mail and we got that slick car salesman vibe from the dealership. So we contacted Dick Hannah Dodge in Vancouver Washington. They were able to work with us and answer all our questions over the phone and via E-Mail.

Our one big demand was it had to fit our budget and it HAD to come with as many the bells and whistles we could afford. After driving our no frills Metro for all these years, we needed gadgets. Anthony wanted the uber hard to find blueberry/black color, Joshua wanted iPhone attachments.

After a bit of searching the dealership found a Uptown version of the 2011 Caliber in Idaho for us, it has power everything, Navigation, Iphone compatibility, steering wheel controls, cruise control and more! Once we signed some “fun” paperwork and had an agreed on price, it only took 4 days before we had the car in hand.

Our car salesman was and is a pretty incredible young man. A Iraqi veteran, we had a very frank conversation with him about our respect for his service and how he feels about the current and that past POTUS. No icky car salesman vibe from this guy. (If anyone needs a Dodge we have his card!)

Jayme loved the new car, he told Anthony that we should throw the old car away. He kinda got mad that we told him we would be keeping the old one as our second car. He made sure that his pink car seat was only kept in the Dodge. Clearly he had made his mind up, until he found out that the car has remote auto start. He thinks the car is broken because it keeps starting everytime he gets in the car 🙂

The biggest issue now is who gets to drive it to work each day… So far Anthony is winning, but Joshua is known to be super sneaky. The battle lines started at the dealership when Anthony moved the car seat over behind Joshua’s back and ran out the door with Jayme, only to castle in the new car with a cheezy grin on his face.

We feel we did really well getting the car on our terms, still we only plan to keep it for 3 years as we know we will need to upgrade to a bigger soccer-dad car later as Jayme grows, but for now we are pretty happy and we have new gadgets!

 

 

Independence Day 2011

Our first 4th of July together as a family was a BLAST!

The night before the big day, Jayme and Anthony headed into the kitchen and mixed up 2 batches of ice cream base. Jayme loves to cook and loves to be apart of cooking for the family. Once the ice cream base was in the fridge chilling Joshua took Jayme out to the fireworks store and picked up a little over $50.00 in fireworks. For our holiday weekend, Joshua was our pyrotechnics master and Anthony was cook master.

When the big day came we started cooking our 4th of July feast we had homemade hamburgers (which Jayme helped with), we also had a big batch of hot sweet buttered corn on the cob. YUMMY!

The hardest part of the day was Jayme having to wait. His normal bedtime starts at 7:00pm, but we all decided that he should and would stay up late to see the fireworks at night. We tried unsuccessfully to get him to take a nap. He agreed to the nap and headed to his room, pulled the covers over his head…. and watched a movie on his iPod. This did not go over very well with the Dad’s. We had a hard time not taking away fireworks from him and us.

When the sun was setting we started the fireworks setup. We found a extra floor tile in the garage and wrapped it in tin foil, this served our as flat base for our fireworks. Sam and Anthony gathered up the deck chairs and moved them out to the driveway. Joshua got a bucket of water and ran the hose out to the curb and attached our hand held garden sprayer. Anthony & Joshua then sprayed down all the plants and the roadway that was downwind of our launch area. Yes, we were the over protective parents…

We started out with sparklers, the sales lady told Joshua that they were the old fashion type, the type we “had as kids”. So we were expecting metal rods of hot white Magnesium death, what we got was paper and wood sticks that kinda fizzed… a bit for 10 secs. A big let down for the grown ups, but UBER cool for Jayme and the neighbor kids.

Guess we should explain that last statement, as we started with our sparklers, two kids from down the road came over and started to watch us. First from across the street, then from our driveway. Jayme offered them a sparkler and then they asked us if they could have a sparkler and we made them first go get permission from their parents. They came running back within minutes with the ok, so they joined our family celebration. They quickly took Anthony and Jayme’s seat an Jayme crawled into Uncle Sam’s lap. It wasn’t until about 30 minutes into the show that their dad came over to meet us and see if his kids were safe. (see how fast it took for us to become judgmental parents LOL)

For $50.00 worth of fireworks, we sure had a long show. Joshua lined up the fireworks (small to large) and we set them off  one at a time. Between acts we would hand out the wimpy sparklers to the kids who had a blast with them.

After the last firework was launched and we cleaned up our mess, we said goodbye to our two new friends and headed inside to eat our homemade ice cream. It must have been good as Jayme got in trouble for licking the bowl clean.

 

 

EPCOT and the Candles

We woke the next day to frigid temperatures. The overnight low was 29, a bit of which we felt up close and personal at Mickey’s Very Merry
Christmas party. So we had to really motivate ourselves to get up and get back into the weather. Today marked the first day WITHOUT
having to wear long johns. The high was suppose to get up to 60’s, so we felt a bit confident. We had breakfast reservations at the
Grand Floridian Cafe, inside the Grand Floridian Resort at 9:00am. So after showering and dressing we jumped in our little Kia rental and drove over to the Grand Floridian.

The Grand Floridian is known for it’s life-size holiday Gingerbread house that they hand make each holiday season. So after we checked in at the Cafe and

got our buzzer we spent a few minutes exploring the gingerbread house and the rest of the amazing resort decorations. The Grand
Floridian’s holiday decorations made our own hotel’s christmas swag look like they had just hung a bunch of cheap junk from the dollar
tree and called it good. The resort and decorations were amazing.

Once we got to the restaurant, it was shocking to see how many people got turned away for not having
dinning reservations, yet we got right thanks to Anthony.

We like simple breakfast places that do traditional american breakfasts well. We love places like Biscuits here in Portland. Every trip to Disneyworld we find ourselfs looking for a Biscuits type place on Disney property. Turns out the Grand Floridian Cafe is not. It was a nice breakfast but a bit high brow and poshy weird. Example, Joshua ordered the Steak and Eggs special. It came out looking all arty, the steak was a bit too charred but the frittata, (ohh the frittata) which was served as an after thought filler was super yummy.

After our Posh breakfast we drove down to EPCOT. EPCOT is hands down our favorite park, we love world showcase. This visit we tried to get in all the
new things they had added since our last visit. First up was Kim Possible World Showcase adventures. You sign up and get a converted flip cell phone. A
little cartoon game then sends you to one of the countries in World Showcase on a secret mission to help Kim Possible catch the bad
guy.
It is really well done. The game is interactive with objects and place in the park. Like window displays will change to fit the story line,
flags will raise ect, all activated from your phone/communicator. It was really cute although not really aimed at our age bracket,
but still fun. We did 2 of the 7 adventures, England and Norway. We saw a lot of parents working with their kids to solve the puzzles. We also saw a few kids fighting over who go to hold the Kim Possible Communicator aka cell phone, it was pretty funny.

The other neat new event going on was the Santa’s around the world. Each country would have a storyteller come out and tell about the Christmas Traditions of their country. Morocco was interesting since they don’t do Christmas and China had a very expressive storytelling telling the Monkey King story. That evening we had Candle Light Processional Dinner reservations at the Nine Dragons restaurant in China.

How to discribe Candle Light Processional…. Well here is what Disney says:

Candlelight Processional is a special holiday event held nightly at the American Gardens Theatre in Epcot theme park as part
of Holidays Around The World. The event retells the stirring story of Christmas with a special celebrity narrator accompanied by a
50-piece orchestra and a mass choir.


Before we flew down we signed up for the dinner package, which gives us guaranteed seating for the show. But do to our last minute trip planning all they had left was headed over for dinner Nine Dragons restaurant. So think of it as The Christmas Story Christmas dinner, just with out the smiling duck. Well that was our spin on it. Dinner was ok, Nine Dragons is a very very tamed down American Chinese food restaurant. Not bad, but not really good. The meal was a bit forgettable so we will talk about dessert. Anthony likes rice pudding, Joshua LOVE LOVES it. So when we saw rice pudding on the menu we both jumped for it. What they brought to the table was black. Rather two bowels of black food substance, with sugared wonton chips on the side. Seems the chef wanted something different for desert. So he made the rice pudding with black rice kernels still in their uneatable hulls. Taste? Bland. Texture? Well imagine rice pudding with quarter inch long strands of straw in it. It was a textural disaster. Straw wallpaper paste.

After “dinner” we walked up towards the Candlelight theater area. The first show was just wrapping up so we figured we should get inline for the next. The line turns out wrapped all the way down to Japan, many of the people in line with us didn’t think we would make it in. As we waited passersby’s would ask what the huge line was for. The best response we came up with “Oh this line? This is the fastpass line for Soarin’ ”

Even at the back of the line we got great center row seating for the show. The special guest narrator was Steven Curtis Chapman (never heard of him, but apparently he is famous or something), he read the story of the birth of Jesus Christ straight from the Bible, Luke’s version. What we and about 25% of the crowd had expected was going to be a nice mix of traditional holiday favorites with some Disney Characters and movie tie-ins (Like every other Christmasy thing in the park). Turned out to be a very religious event. It was like going to church or mass, which is ok but NOT what we were expecting at all in a theme park. It was funny to look around and see other peoples faces and reactions to a religious event in a theme park. It reminded us a bit of the Blackadder Christmas special…….

Blackadder:
Shall I begin the Christmas story?

The Prince Regent :
Absolutely, as long as it’s not that terribly depressing one about the chap who gets born on Christmas Day, shoots his mouth off about everything under the sun, and then comes a cropper with a couple of rum coves on top of a hill in Johnny Arab land. Edmund

Blackadder:
You mean *Jesus,* Sire… ?

The Prince Regent:
Yes, that’s the fellow!
Keep him out of it. He always spoils the X-mas atmos!

The music was great. There was the main professional Disney Choir and then flanking them on each side were local high school choirs. It was pretty moving. One funny thing was as all the high school girls sang out with all their might and the high school boys… well they moved their lips. So you had this very powerful and loud female sound to the evening. It reminded Anthony of his Choir in High School, all the jocks pretending to sing, because singing was gay. As the temperature dropped down to 31 our resolve to stay for the whole event started wane. We also started to regret the lack of thermal underwear. In fact the theater started to clear out as it got colder and colder. We started to feel very sorry for the orchestra who had to play in the cold. We did make it to the end, many did not. Now we sure a few of you will call us Philistines or worse. But when the choir got to the last song, the hallelujah chorus, the couple in front of us stood up. Which completely blocked our view of the stage. At first we though “Hey, would you mind sitting down or moving down the row and out, we still want to see the show?” But then a few more stood and then some more. At this point it was clear half of the audience was unsure why the other half just stood up. There was some real confusion, which totally took our attention away from the performance. It took about a full minute for everyone to cave in and stand up as well. We like dorks just sat there, not sure what the heck was going on and we were sure we did not want to stand like sheep in the cold.


Seems many years ago on March 23, 174, The musical score “The Messiah” was performed for King George the II. Now at the end durring the final Hallelujah Chorus, for some reason the King stood up. Some say it was his gout bothering him, some say the though it was the start of the National Anthem being played so he stood so people could see and praise him better, some say he was moved by the music. But regardless of the why, royal protocol dictates that when the monarch stands, everyone in the monarch’s presence is also required to stand. Thus, the entire audience and orchestra stood when the king stood during the performance, some say initiating the tradition in English speaking countries. The post event irony of this is our contemporary audience all stood directly in front of the US revolutionary war themed American Experience pavilion, you know the one celebrating our nation’s break from the King of England…. not sure if our founding fathers would have approved. After the show we headed out of the park, skipping the fireworks. The cold finally won.

 

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

As the tempature dropped and the sun faded, we drove down I-4 towards the Disney World resort area from Universal Studios. To save some money on our trip we decided to drop down a level to a Value resort but upgraded the dining plan to Deluxe. In the past we have only stayed in the moderate resorts so we really didn’t know what to expect. We picked Disney’s All Star Movies. To cut to the end, we were not really impressed. It felt like a large Motel 6, which is not a bad thing, but we kinda were expecting it to have more of the Disney level of service and quality.

Our semi-sour impression started at check in. We did the online check in, which promised to make check in quick and easy, it wasn’t. Seems they had just started a 3 day computer switch over and no one seemed to know how to do anything. Because of the computer change over we got stuck with 2 double beds, which meant we slept apart for 5 nights as the doubles are more like large twins. Not the arrangement one wants when you on vacation looking for  1 on 1 time….

The room as clean but very worn. Unpainted wall patches, rusty patches on the bathroom tile and the rooms furniture was very dated worn and on dresser drawer was broken. But we were at Disney and the room didn’t really matter that much, or at least that was what we kept telling ourselves. By the end of our vacation we knew one thing very clearly, we would never stay at anything under a Disney moderate hotel again, this hotel was not for us. Every time we where by the Magic Kingdom the conversation was “Which of these Deluxe hotels shall we stay at next time?” Not, should we, but which one…. It was kinda funny. Oh, by the way, Polynesian was the answer.

After inspecting our “room” and unpacking a little. We got back in the car and drove up to the Magic Kingdom. We learned after our first trip that having a car is a huge plus. The Disney bus system is great, but there is nothing like being able to just get in the car and go and not rely on a crowded bus. When your tired or wet, the bus never comes or goes fast enough.

We parked at the transportation center parking lot and opted for the ferry boat crossing to get to the Magic Kingdom. Bay Lake was cold but smooth and glassy.

The park was all decked out for Christmas. Sadly a lot of the flowers and trees where wrapped up to help save them from the frost, but all the other decorations were up and glowing in twinkle lights. We got into the park a little after 4pm, got our wristbands and started to explore.

The Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a hard ticket event. Which means they close the park to only those guests who buy the party tickets. For us it means less crowds! We love Mickey’s not so Scary Halloween party. So we were really looking forward to the Christmas party. The party began at 7:00pm, so we had 3 hours to kill.

Since we are Disney nut jobs and had JUST visited Disneyland in LA a short 6 months ago, we found ourselves lost for things to do. So we headed over to the People mover, which is not in Disneyland anymore and it became our first ride of the night.

It took us a bit to get into the swing of things mostly do to the cold, but by the time we got to the Haunted Mansion the Party had begun. One of the highlights of the party are the free hot cocco and cookie snack stations dotted around the park. Which we took advantage of all night long with the temperature dropping to 28 degrees!

We skipped the first Christmas parade and rode Space Mountain, But we did watch the second Christmas parade from our favorite spot in Frontierland (same place where we watched the Halloween parade). We love Halloween parade and the Christmas parade was just as good! One thing we noticed is that Disney must have hired every short dancer on the East coast. Row after row of short gingerbread men, short toy tin soldiers, short, short short.

The Christmas fireworks were very nice. The accompanying music was a mix of secular and religious music and done very tastefully. The Fireworks themselves were impressive!

The party run until 12:00am, but at about 10:30ish we were cold tired and worried about our 7:00am wake-up call for EPOCT. So we called it an early night and headed back for the car.

CHECK OUT OUR PHOTOS!

The LIGHTS, gasp!

We woke Monday morning tired. This was our first day dealing with the 3 hour time difference. So our 8am wake up call was really a 5am one. We took turns showering and getting dressed. We also broke out the long john’s Anthony had picked up at Target the night before our trip. They proved to be a trip saver!  Layered head to toe, we  headed downstairs for the free breakfast.

The free breakfast wasn’t bad. Several favors of yogurt, bagels, toast, english muffins, juices, assorted cereals & hotel brand coffee. The popular item as the fresh waffles, which we skipped on the first day. The breakfast room was very empty, perhaps 3-5 other people, it was a hopeful sign to us that we would have the park to ourselves today.

We finished breakfast and exited out the side door to our rental car. It was then the weather introdused itself. HELLLOOOO ANTHONY AND JOSH, I AM COLD, YOU CAN CALL ME 49 WITH A 20 MPH WIND. Which at that point we both decided even in our layers to drive and park and pay rather then walk over to the park.

After parking our first stop was to the second floor Starbucks in Citywalk, where they didn’t seem to know what Soy milk is. After picking up 2 Venti caffeine/hand-warmers we walked down to the park walk way. We stood at the split where you walk left for Islands of Adventure/Harry Potter or right for Universal Studios we paused and judged the crowds. 95% were heading left, so we of course headed right.

Universal Studios was EMPTY, we arrived about 30 mins after rope drop. Parts of the park were not open yet and the park staff  had parts of the street closed off. The whole park was decorated for Christmas and looked great. We did every single ride as a walk on, no waiting at all. Men in Black, Mummy Ride, Simpsons Ride and Shrek all ZERO wait.

The best part of the day came when we rode the Men in Black ride. The theming of the ride is very cute. It’s setup as a copy of a 1960’s world fair attraction, you enter and start to hear a tape play back of an announcers welcoming you to the worlds fair, the lights go out and the taped voice garbles out and you find out that you have been selected for Men in Black testing and a hidden door opens and you travel through. Now the funny point came from the Universal Studios cast member. His job is to drop the rope and make sure we all move into the hidden door way. Well, as the lights dropped and the taped annoucer voice trailed off. The cast member said in perfect dead pan monotone voice “The lights….gasp.”. We both burst out laughing. The first thing that ran through our heads was, you really should not read stage direction out loud. “The lights….gasp” became our mantra for the whole day.

By noon we had done the whole park so we decided to walk over to Islands of Adventure and see how bad the lines were for the new Harry Potter ride. We wandered up though Islands of Adventure and did a quick walk through of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Themeing was AMAZING, it’s like being on the set of any of the Harry Potter movies. What was a downer was the crowds, the Harry Potter land area is VERY VERY small, In fact of all of the themed areas in the Islands of Adventure this felt the smallest and did not absorb the crowds at all. Long lines for the wand shop 3 min show (which we skipped).

Hungry, we skipped the 50 wait for the main Harry Potter ride and walked over to an adjacent land “Jurassic Park” and had some fake garden burgers for lunch. It was during lunch we had our first encounter with what we called “Abandoned Grandmothers”. Right across from our table was a little old lady in her wheelchair, clearly left behind by her family because she could not kept up. It was one of the saddest things we saw over and over again during our trip. The senior most member of the family unit, stuffed off to the side ALONE to watch the bags as everyone else had fun. Over the course of our trip we saw it again and again and kept saying, “Oh there’s another abandoned Grandmother…” We even joked that we should take photos to make a shame on you website. The worst was a case of this was on our final Sunday in Orlando. Grandfather in his wheelchair, in the freezing cold, placed alone at the head of the standby line for Candlelight processional at 11:50am, (first show is at 5:45pm). Come on people, what are you thinking?

After lunch and our first abandoned grandmother we decided to bit the bullet and stand in the cue for Harry Potter and the forbidden journey. First impression of the cue line…. WOW. We hit the line with posted 20 min wait which stretched to 40ish minutes due to the ride breaking down. But wow the theming in the cue line is amazing. You walk under Hogwarts castle, and then out to the gardens then back in, past moving and talking portraits, the headmasters stairway and finally run into Harry, Ron and Hermione who explain the story line premise of the ride to you. Harry and the gang are NOT animatronic, they are video done in such a cool way that you swear they are standing there.

After Harry and the gang you then get on the actual ride itself, which is not a roller coster as much as it is super high tech dark ride. You ride most of the time on your back facing the action, movies and animatronics. The seat/bench your on is at the end of a robotic arm that moves you up, down and side to side. There are no inversions and you do not travel upside down. The story is a bit cheesy and they try to pack a bit too much content into the ride, but it was fun. We both did come off the ride feeling a bit light headed and woozy, so be warned.

We spent the rest of the afternoon over in the Islands of Adventure. Joshua loves the Hulk roller coster which Anthony refuses to board. About 5pm we left and headed back over to the Universal Studios park for the Macy’s Holiday Parade. Which we ended up watching twice. Once as it came down and then a second time as it did a loop onto itself. After the first viewing we tried to get around it to get to the mummy ride and ended up stuck on the wrong side of the street across from the Parade termination end point. So we got to see the parade twice.

For dinner we left the parks and drove a block to the Cracker Barrel. We had never eaten there before, but we like country cooking so decided to give it a try. The pick turned out to be a good one, we loved it! We even liked the southern waitress that non-committally served us.

After dinner we stopped off at Walgreens and picked up some snacks for the room and some lotion. Both of us had wind burn on our faces from the constant all day cold wind. Our faces looked like we had been skiing all day. Once back at the hotel we curled up in bed and watched an old movie “Guess who is coming to dinner”, before passing out for the night.

The next morning was also our last day at our hotel. We packed put our bags and headed downstairs for a late breakfast. Having skipped trying the waffles the day before, they were top of our list. Unfortunately, we got cut off by a rude staff member. Anthony headed over to the SELF SERVE waffle bar and begin to make 2 waffles, one for himself and one for Joshua. Anthony got the first one loaded and the staff member walked up and shoved herself in front of Anthony, which took some doing as he was standing 3 inches from the hot waffle makers. The staff member then proceeded to make a waffle for another hotel guest. WE both got a bit vocal about how rude she was and we gave up on the waffles. It was pretty clear how steamed we were as retreated to our table. So after she made the other guest waffle for him at the SELF SERVE waffle bar she them made another one for us. You know to do us a “favor”. She was the only negative thing really about this hotel.

Day two  at Universal Studios was another cold one, but not as windy. So it felt much warmer even though it was colder. We left the hotel and it was in the high 30’s. Having done everything multiple times the day before with no lines, it was shocking to see crowds. We had to wait for 4 or 5 mins for several of the rides. We did Harry Potter again and also tried butter beer. Anthony says it tasted like the uber-cheap generic diet cream soda his father would get when he was little kid. They fill the butter beer glass with the soda and then squirt some foam on top to make it look more like beer with a head on it. The foam is very gassy, the one tablespoon they squirt on top foams up quite a bit and in turn made us both burp quite a bit. It was good, very sweet tasting, kinda pricy but worth it for the experience.

We left the parks about 3:00 pm and headed down to Disney to check into our hotel and to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

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Our 2010 Disney World trip

For our family Christmas present this year we decided to go to Disney World. As normal, this was kind of a last minute  plan, which is not always a good idea when doing Disney as things book up quick. We only gave ourselves about  about 2 months to book and plan. Since we started on our adoption journey we have been very hesitant to use up vacation time. But after some of the stressors we have had recently, we desperately needed some 1 on 1 time together.

In the past, we have only ever traveled down to Orlando during the hot late summer months. So we were looking forword to the cooler but warm weather and the Disney Christmas Events; Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the Candlelight Processional & the Osborne Lights.

We booked 2 nights for Universal Studios Orlando at the Marriot Fairfield and 5 nights on Disney property at Disney’s All Star Movies Resort. This was our first time in a Disney Value resort (more on that later). But with the discounts that we got from booking a cheap Disney resort we upgraded to the deluxe dinning plan which gave us 3 sit down meals a day. With Dining reservations in hand and paid, cheap airfare booked and a car rental for $8.00 a day, we started off on our trip pretty jazzed thinking about all the Disney Pins we could afford to buy.

Our flight down as on Sunday December 12th. We got Sam up early and took him to the airport with us then intrusted him with our car for a WEEK! We underestimated the airport lines…. which where a bit more backed up then when we flew to Phoenix last month for Thanksgiving. We got to the gate with only a bit of time to spare.

Our air carrier was Delta. We both like Delta a lot even though traditionally it  “Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport”. Free internet on the way down was great and our seats were comfortable. Although, we did not  get a window seat, which at first was a bit of a concern as Anthony really likes the window seats, the short travel times and comfy seats made up for it. Portland to Atlanta then Atlanta to Orlando.

Our first sign that the weather might be colder then we would like was in Atlanta, or Hot-lanta as a Facebook friend called it. It was snowing as we landed in Atlanta. The snow didn’t stop for our whole 45 min layover. We stopped by our terminal’s food court and got coffee and pizza for lunch. The African (from South Africa) Barista asked if were from Europe, guess he had never heard a NW American accent before, we were in the deep south….

We got into MCO at about 4:30pm with no delays, walked out like pros to the car rental lot. In past trips we have gotten pretty lost and confused. This time no issues, even figured out the short cut. Grabbed our Alamo rental, a Kia Rio and headed off for Downtown Disney.

The weather, well it was cool. When we left Portland it was in the 50’s. Orlando was about 60ish. So still nice in our book. but on our last trip is was in the high 90’s with 100% humidity. This new weather was a bit of a shock and added to our weather fears a bit . The weather forecast for the Orlando area for the next few days was SCARY, 20-30 degrees overnight with highs not much higher. Luckily we had overpacked to be prepared for any weather, lots of long pants and shorts!

We ate dinner at our tradtional first night place, the Raglan Road. Joshua ordered the Shepard’s Pie and Anthony ordered the Pie in the Sky (chicken pie). But the appetizer stole the show. We ordered the Flat Mate – Guinness banger, caramelized onions, tomatoes and Dubliner cheddar cheese flatbread. YUMMMY! It was quickly devoured as was the complimentary soda bread and honey.

After dinner we walked the Downtown Disney area and pre-shopped all the pins we were going to buy for our pin wall before the week was out. Tired and jet lagged, we drove up to the Universal Resort area and checked into our home for the next two nights, the Marriot Fairfield.

The Fairfield was cheap and right across the street from Universal. We got a king bed on the fifth floor with a view towards the park and  perfect view of the backside of the Wallgreen’s parking lot. The bed was comfortable but came with very very small pillows for some reason. Also the free in-room wireless was nowhere to be found. Our first night the temp dropped to 46 with high winds which continued all the next day.

One visit, one award & two trips

Fall has arrived and we are past our 1 year point on our home study. That anniversary is not marked by happy thoughts. In less then one year we will have to have a whole new one written for us. It’s frustrating it’s hard not to feel a bit of hopelessness. The whole process has started to feel like we have been packing the car for a great road trip for 2 years and can’t seem to back out of the driveway. But we keep trying to focus on the positives. Like  how amazing that road trip is going to be and how great our new caseworker has turned out to be.

But the big family news was Joshua’s mother stopping by for a one day quick visit as she traveled north into Washington. It caused a great flurry of activity in our house. We spent all day Saturday cleaning an prepping the house, Sam even cleaned his room! We aired out the future kido’s room, washed the sheets and made it a bit more adult with some nice fresh flowers. We always like it with family visits. (Yes Kristian, that is a hint)

Sunday morning Joshua drove out to the airport and picked up mom while Anthony cooked breakfast. German pancakes with homestyle potatoes. We spend the day chatting and ended the day with a nice homemade dinner (Anthony’s cheese manicotti and Anthony’s Grandmothers rassberry marshmallow dessert- YUMMY!). On Monday Joshua and Sam took mom to breakfast at one of our favorite breakfast spots. It was great visit and a prequel for our upcoming trip to Phoenix.

The following weekend Anthony attended Portland’s Coronation to watch our good friend Scott step-down as Portland’s Emperor and to help celebrate the Lovely Suzanne’s 10 year as a Rose Empress. During the Queen Mother of the America’s address, Anthony was called to the stage and bestowed the honorary title of Speaker Emeritus of the ICC Parliament for his work in helping with the founding of the International Court Systems Parliament and his for his service as it’s first Speaker of the House.

We have two fun trips currently planned coming up soon. For Thanksgiving all three of us (Anthony, Joshua & Sam) are flying down to Phoenix and then staying over for Joshua’s parents 30th wedding anniversary party.  It’s going to be a huge family get together so expect a long post and lots of photos from that upcoming adventure.

Then a week after we get back from Phoenix the two of us are flying back east to visit the mouse. Thanks to some great deals from Disney we have upgraded to deluxe dinning and have several great dinners planned at our favorite restaurants. We did downgrade to a value hotel the All Star Movies Resort to save some money, so we are sure will have some thoughts on that as well to post. We scooped up tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, have Candle light processional tickets and are planning a 2 day side trip to Universal studios to visit the new Harry Potter land.  It’s going to be a very Christmasy trip.