The chronicles and ramblings of a stay-at-home father raising his three beautiful girls, Anya Rose, Caitlin Rose and Reegan Rose.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Great Wolf Lodge

It's been a quiet week in Issaquah, Washington, my home town.  Today marks the first day of mid-winter break, another week long vacation from school and the scourge of all families without an at-home parent. The Roses and I are all very excited to celebrate all the President's day festivities going on around town.  First we're going visit our neighbor, the postman, since he gets the day off.  Then we'll pretty much carry on with our normal lives.  What a holiday!

Last week we took a two day vacation to the Great Wolf Lodge.  For Christmas, Santa gave the girls a one-night stay at the indoor water-park just south of Olympia.  With rates in excess of $400 a night on the weekends, we thought it would be best to sneak down there in the middle of the week and save ourselves a couple hundred bucks.  After school last Wednesday we made the hour and a half trek and stayed until Thursday night. 

One of the great things about Great Wolf Lodge is that they have other activities to do besides sit in the water-park.  Don't get me wrong, the slides, the wave pool, and the play structures are awesome, but the chlorine levels in that place make you want to rip your eyes out.  I know that chlorine is important, especially when hundreds of kids are swimming around and you almost never see any of them in the restrooms.  My girls can't go 20 minutes without taking a leak, but they all miraculously made it all day without needing to use the facilities.  I guess the big sign that says in capital letters, DO NOT PEE OR POOP IN THE POOL is more of a suggestion than a rule.

So after an hour in the water-park, we cleaned up and registered to play MagiQuest with the girls.  MagiQuest is this awesome, interactive scavenger hunt that takes you throughout the Lodge to find certain objects to fulfill your quest. With magic wand in hand, you have to bring to life pictures, treasure chests, crystals and statues in order to save the fairy princess and slay the dragon.  The Roses had a blast.  They must have played for at least 6 hours.  The other great part of the quest is that it spans 5 floors of the hotel, leaving the players to go up and down stairs constantly.  They didn't even realize they were getting exercise (and Lord knows they needed it after all the pizza and ice cream we were eating).

After two days of excitement, we were ready to come home and go back to school.  For such a short vacation, it sure was amazing.  On the way home Alicia and I agreed that such a short getaway was actually really great.  We could spoil the kids all we wanted because we knew it was only going to be for a day.  We ate junk food, played games, went swimming and burned through money like it was toilet paper, but hey, Santa picked up the tab!

Tip of the Day - If you tell your children Santa bought you a trip to a water-park, don't let them catch you paying for your room with your credit card.  I had to explain to Anya that Santa wanted me to pay for the room, but that he was going to reimburse me after he cashes out some of his IRA which he didn't want on do in 2013 for obvious tax implications. It confused her enough not to ask anymore questions.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Seahawks win the Super Bowl!

The Seahawks won the Super Bowl!  In the event that you haven't heard, I am disappointment that your only source of pop culture information is a seriously delinquent blog about a dad raising his kids!  In any event, life around Seattle has been pretty amazing!  While we normally get months of rainy weather, the past few weeks have been awesome!

We had some friends over to watch the big game with us.  It was apparent to me that it was going to be a special day when we noticed outside our living room, picture window, two squirrels going at it on the fence in our backyard.  As the two rodents played 'Shelana the oak tree woman and a guy named Burt,' the Seahawk's forced a safety on the opening play of the game. It simply was meant to be.  While life was being created in our midst, we knew too that something special was growing in Seattle.

The Roses all caught Seahawk's Mania.  I guess the real reason they were so excited to watch the Seahawks win the Super Bowl is because I told them about what life was like when the Twins won the World Series back in 1991.  'Oh yeah girls, it was awesome!  I got to take the day off school!  I got to go to a parade!  It was one of the best days of my life!  If the Seahawks win, we're going to do the same thing!'

Well the Seahawks did win and it happened during one of the coldest weeks of the year.  While the rains held off, the weather for the day of the parade was a brisk 30 degrees with a wind chill of just 10 (I know Minnesotans, you'd be wearing shorts at the beach if you had a 10 degree day...).  With two moderately sick kids (moderate meaning probably too sick to go to school, but functional enough that you would relish in the 3 hour break from them), I didn't think it would be a good idea to sit outside for 6 hours to watch the parade.  The Roses were disappointed, but when I offered to buy them ice cream and watch it on TV, they were satisfied.

While the cold weather, the projected crowds of 700,000 people, and the hacking coughs of my children may have been the reason I decided against going to the parade, I think deep down it was because it wasn't for my true team, the Vikings.  I think with similar circumstances, I would have brought my girls to a Vikings parade.  Here I thought I bled blue and green, but I guess that purple dies hard.

Tip of the day:  The 'Shelana the oak tree woman and a guy name Burt' reference was from the movie The Great Outdoors; 1980s movie quotes can add more flare to a blog then a couple of gay men to a house party.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reegan, Reegan, Reegan...

It appears as though fall has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest.  The long sunny days are making way for the overcast, rains of autumn.  While the Roses were sad to say goodbye to the pools, beaches, and sundresses, they have been having a wonderful time in school.

Caitlin and Anya absolutely love going to school.  Anya loves learning and following directions and Caitlin loves to play with her new classmates.  Anya will tell me all about her day, including the punishments her schoolmates received when they don't follow the rules.

Anya - "(Name omitted for legal purposes) got in trouble again today for making bad choices. He's lucky though, when he pushed Johnny, he could have gotten an Uh-Oh ticket but instead teacher only made him go to his desk for 2 minutes.  If you get 2 Uh-Oh's you have to stay in from recess."

She's like a 6 year old rule book!  Anya just soaks in everything that's going on around her.

Caitlin is doing very well in kindergarten.  She loves going to school and I'm pretty sure she hasn't realized that she's actually doing real school work.  KK has never really liked to work on her letters or spend time sounding out words, but she has been bringing home things they've been working on in class and she seems to be enjoying the learning process.  It's weird, for some reason when I tape a pen to her hand and scream 'WRITE YOUR LETTERS, DAMNIT!' she hates learning, but when she goes to a caring kindergarten environment she thinks it's fun...  Go figure?

Potty training has continued to hit a snare with Reegsy.  Yesterday she managed to go through 5 pairs of pants.  After the 4th accident of the day I told Reegan I was going to give her a spanking if she wet her pants again.  I've never tried to spanking as a consequence of wetting her pants before, but the putrid odor coming from the mounting pile of soiled undergarments clouded my judgment.  And just a point of clarification here, Reegan's pee doesn't smell pleasant.  I've changed my share of diapers here and I know that most pee is a little rank, but Reegan's is downright offensive!  It's like the urine of a 80 year-old dehydrated woman.  So when she pissed herself for the 5th time yesterday, I followed through on my punishment.  With Alicia sitting right next to me, I gave her a good hard spanking.  As I waited for Reegan to start crying, she turned to me and said with a straight face, 'That didn't hurt.'  Then she pulled off her pee stained pants and went back to playing Barbies.  Alicia tried to keep from laughing as Reegan yet again defied my efforts to control her bladder.  If she wasn't the cutest, most expressive and excitable person I've ever met, I might actually stay made at her for more than a minute...

Tip of the day - Just because someone doesn't have much hair, doesn't mean they want the snarly hair that falls off of your head.  Almost daily Reegan will run up to me with a handful of hair, and say, "Here Daddy, for your head so you can have some hair!"  If I wanted a full head of hair (which I totally don't) I wouldn't take it from the head of someone with a dew like Harry Dunne's from Dumb and Dumber.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dreams Coming True

It's hard to believe that the school year is just around the corner (I mean it's not hard for me, I've been counting down the days for a few weeks.)  We've had a busy summer and the girls are having a blast.  Here are a few of our recent adventures:

Two weeks ago I decided to take the Roses to Alki Beach in Seattle, a beautiful sand beach that stretches a mile of the Puget Sound in West Seattle.  We packed a lunch and were planning on making it a day of sunbathing, castle building, and all around good times.  After we parked the van a couple blocks from the beach front, the girls took off down the uneven sidewalk in their flip flops. Within seconds, as the echos of my plea "Don't run in your flip flops!!!" still resonated down the street, Reegan face planted on the uneven concrete.  They say that there are only 2 things you can count on in this world, paying taxes and death, but I'd like to add a third, a Schmidt girl running in flip flops is the precursor for a Schmidt girl crying with a skinned knee.  I managed to calm her down as we continued to the beach.  Since it was low tide, we decided to wade into the tide pools and look for critters.  Now I didn't intend to add salt to Reegan's wound, but encouraging her to enter the salt water with a freshly skinned knee may not have been the best idea...

To soothe things over with the little one, I decided to rent a 4-person bike and cruise the beach front in style. We picked out our cruiser, but unfortunately, only Anya was tall enough to reach the pedals.  The younger two sat in the back and enjoyed a free ride as Anya and I worked the 200 lb vehicle into motion.  We made it about 500 yards before Anya joined the crew of the vertically challenged, leaving the old man to pedal up and down the beach by himself.  It was a beautiful day and we had a great time, but two hours of peddling was wearing on my patience and I was ready to jettison the dead weight I was carrying.  We brought the bike back and made our way back home.

Last weekend it was Reegan's 4th birthday!  Can you believe our baby is already 4?  I mean she's still not potty trained, but she looks like a big girl!  For her birthday she wanted a pink kitty, something she had been talking about since we left the farm where she had been terrorizing real kitties.  Reegan wanted a 'a pink kitty about this big' (imagine her arms about 12 inches apart); very practical, very specific.  I love it!  I know each year I can make this kids dreams come true.  I can hop on Amazon.com and pick out EXACTLY what she wants for under $20 and the kid will jump around the house in excitement when she opens up her present.  Anya, on the other hand, has asked for a $300 Power Wheel and that I make her stuffed animals talk with her for her birthday.  Talk about a kid set up for disappointment!

Two nights ago Anya had to go the nearby hospital for a sleep study.  For anyone whose ever slept in the same house as my eldest daughter, you know she snores like a trucker.  She was referred for a sleep study last year when her dentist noticed her irregularly large tonsils.  Since we reached our insurance deductible for Reegan's arm surgery, this is going to be the year of all elective medical procedures!  We are guessing they will be taking out Anya's tonsils and adenoids, but we had to do the sleep study to rule out other more serious causes of her snoring.  We enjoyed the one on one time we had with me at the hospital and she liked all the special attention she was getting.  She did a great job and was able to get a full nights rest (at least that made one of us... The 5'8 cot they had me sleeping on was a little small.  Have I mentioned there are a lot of Asians out here?)

Caitlin is getting all excited about kindergarten.  We went to the store to pick out all her supplies.  Last time we went to the library, KK picked out a DVD titled 'Getting Ready for Kindergarten.'  As soon as we got home she put it in the player and sat attentively as she learned all about her first year of real school.  She is excited to meet all her new classmates and start school like a big girl.

Alicia is doing very well at her job at Clifton Larson Allen.  The summer is Alicia's busy season so she has been working like crazy.  Even when she is working 65 hour weeks, she always manages to get home around 5:00 for dinner and hangs out with the girls until bedtime.  We've been going to the pool in the evenings and Mom is having as much fun as the Roses swimming and diving for toys.  After the kids go to bed, she'll power up her computer and put in another couple hours.  

With Alicia working so much, it makes it easier for me to put in time studying for my teaching courses.  I'm halfway through my first course and things seem to be going well.  I have a lot of hoops to jump through these next few months, but I'm tackling them one at time.  I'm even starting to get excited about the prospect of getting back into the classroom, the thought of bringing in my own paycheck wouldn't be so bad either ;)

Tip of the Day - A poisonous Hobo Spider can only survive for 4 days in a mason jar without food or water.  We happened to find a large spider in the garage and I thought it would be fun to put it in a ice cream pail and show the Roses.  When our neighbor came over to see what the fuss was about, she confirmed the poisonous spider was a Hobo.  They are easy to identify as they are the only spider that carries a stick with a red bandanna holding all of his belongings.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer time...

It's been a while since I've written a blog and the girls are building a fort nicely in the other room, so here goes...

We've been busy ever since we left for MN.  We had a great three weeks on the road, but we're happy to return to the Northwest.  Spending time with family is always a treat, but so is sleeping in your own bed at night.  

Three days after we came back from MN, my dad flew out to stay with us for the week.  Alicia had a weekend conference at Lake Chelan and we thought it would be a good idea to bring Papa along to help watch the kids so I could spend some time with Alicia.  For the three days we were to spend at Lake Chelan, our van had more shit in it than we had on our three week trip to Minnesota.  While Alicia had to do quite a bit of schmoozing at the conference, the girls and I were able to spend our days in the pool and on the beach.  On Monday afternoon, we decided to rent a boat and take the girls tubing.  We spent four hours floating around the lake, tubing, fishing, and generally enjoying life.  On Tuesday Alicia and I were able to go golfing in the afternoon as part of the conference.  My golf game is similar to Reegan's ability to use the toilet; unpredictable and frustrating.  Luckily we were playing in a scramble, so I felt good about myself as long as every 4th shot went in the general direction I was intending.

When we arrived home from Lake Chelan, Ben and Dianne were waiting for us to pick them up from the airport.  They managed to take a bus out to Bellevue to make our drive a bit shorter.  They spent the week with us enjoying everything the Pacific Northwest has to offer.  After a couple days in Issaquah, we decided to head out to Hood Canal for a weekend getaway.  A few weeks ago, Alicia and I won a weekend stay at a small cabin near the Hood Canal, and what better time to check it out than with family.  While the cabin was small, we spent most of our time on the water.  The Hood Canal is a saltwater fjord (not that I have any idea what that means) and is great for all kinds of shellfish.  At the first beach we went to, we spotted a small jellyfish swimming in the shallows.  While I was nervous to get close to the jellyfish at first, a four-year-old Armenian assured me that they can't do you any harm until they turn red, and with that solid base of information, I scooped it up in a bucket.  When I brought it on shore, I asked the girls not to touch it, but like everything else I tell them, it was ignored.  The girls pet the top of the jelly-body tentatively until our Armenian friend reached in, grabbed the creature, and hurled him back into the sea.  

The next morning I thought it would be fun to see what it was like catching oysters so we went to another shellfish beach.  We got to walk a couple hundred yards through thick, messy sediment before getting to the seashore where a group of Asians were catching and harvesting oysters.  Caitlin and Reegan loved when the mud oozed over their shoes and ran between their toes... In hindsight, had I simply explained to Caitlin that mud baths act as great exfoliates and old women spend good money for their age defying results, she would have probably had a blast.  While the girls could have cared less about the oysters, they did notice that the shoreline was teeming with tiny crabs with pincers too small to pinch them.  They grabbed my coffee cup and filled it with sand and pint sized crabs.  They were so excited to collect the little guys for Mommy and I was excited to see Mommy's reaction to such a disturbing surprise.

On Tuesday afternoon we took Ben and Dianne back to the airport.  It was a blast having them here.  We love sharing our Northwest experiences with all our friends and family. 

Yesterday the house was quiet and our plans were nil.  For the first time in a couple weeks it was time to clean the house, do the laundry, and prepare for the start to the school year.  As some of you may know, I will be heading back to school this fall to pursue my license in education, grades 5-12 Social Studies.  My term starts August 1st and I should be able to finish in a year and a half.  New adventures abound where ever we go and I am excited to see what the future may hold for us...

Tip of the Day - A long car-ride with a coffee cup full of crabs provides hours of cheap entertainment and good conversation.  

"It's MY turn with the crabs!  I want crabs!!!"
"Ben, did you give Dianne crabs?"
"Mommy's going to crap a solid-gold-brick when she sees that daddy is coming home with crabs!" (okay maybe the girls didn't say that one... ;)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Good times 'round the bend

It's been a whirlwind couple days at the Schmidt house.

Last week, in an effort to avoid having a landlord sell a house on us again, Alicia and I decided we were going to try to buy a place.  I got in touch with a great Realtor and lender combination (Jesse Paulson and Julie Jones) and they were able to give us some options.  The housing market is so hot right now, that houses in our neighborhood are going at 100k over what they were a year ago.  Basically that meant for us to buy, we'd have to move about 20 miles from where we are now.  New schools, new friends, new everything. With only a month before we had to move out, we needed to act fast.  We scheduled some showings for last Tuesday evening.  On Monday night we had 5 potential houses that we felt comfortable with.  By Tuesday at  noon, they had all sold.

Tuesday we had a change in plan.  With the market so hot right now, we figured it would be best to just rent a place for 6 months to a year and reconsider our options at that time.  We applied for a few homes with no luck.  The rental market too is surging and bidding wars are driving up rent prices by upwards of 30%. My dreams of keeping the girls in their current schools was slipping away.

Finally last Sunday, a home in our same neighborhood went on the rental market.  The landlords live a few miles away and have an investment property they plan on keeping for a number of years.  It is significantly smaller than the house we have now, but it was in our price range and we decided to go for it.  After a couple days of waiting we heard we were the top candidates.  Finally!  All we had to do was pass the background check and we were good to go.

That's when we received this message:

 Hi Alicia and James,
I am sorry to inform you that Mr. James Schmidt did not qualify the background check criteria. We won't be able to go ahead with your rental application. Once again, we are very sorry.

At first I was dumbfounded.  What could they possibly have found on me?  I had that murder conviction expunged years ago! I asked what exactly they found and it turns out there is a James Schmidt in Minnesota with several civil judgments against him and they turned up on my check.  It was a long sleepless night. In the morning I contacted the company that ran the background check to see what I had to do to clear up my name.  After talking with them for a few minutes, they agreed that the James Schmidt they reported was not me.  They agreed to contact the landlord and explain the mistake.  Hopefully it wasn't too late.

Yesterday afternoon, the landlords agreed to rent to us and we sign the lease today.  We can move in on June 1st and we have until the 15th to be out of our house.  The Roses will all go to the same schools they did last year and we will be only a mile from our old house.  Relief doesn't begin to describe how I am feeling.  I know we have a couple weeks of hard work ahead of us, but knowing that we have a decent place to live makes it easier for me to get through it.

I want to sincerely thank all my friends and family who reached out to me last week.  I wasn't in a good place.  I was upset that we had to move and I was overwhelmed with what we needed to do.  Over the past few days I have been in constant communication with realtors, landlords, leasing companies, and mortgage lenders, and nothing was working with our timing.  I was fried.  What got me through was the tremendous support I received.  I felt like George Bailey standing at the bridge in It's a Wonderful Life, and I had a whole slew of Clarence's (the angel guy) to put things in perspective for me.  To all my family and friends whole listened to me babble about my challenges, fears, and insecurities, thank you!  Even though some of you may be 1000's of miles away, you were with me last week.

Tip of the Day - James Schmidt, pay your damn bills and quit getting sued!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The uncertainty of life...

Well it's been a tough week in Issaquah, Washington, my current town...

After spending a week reminding ourselves of how annoying the weather in Minnesota can be, we're back to the beautiful weather of spring!  We spend half our week up at the farm and the other half with Papa and Nana in Minnetonka.

Life on the farm is always so peaceful.  Each time we visit, it seems like a hundred things in our lives change, but life on the farm remains the same.  It's very enduring to have a place where you know exactly what to expect; the kids will have a blast playing with their grandparents and cousins, Windsor diets will flow in the shop, and there will be a constant chatter of how much better the Viking's will be next season.

Down in Minnetonka, the Roses had a blast playing with their Papa and Nana.  Unlike the farm, where you always know what to expect, life with my parents is like living in Pandora's Box. What project will they be working on next?  What new place are they dying to take the kids?  What did Wally eat this week to make himself vomit for days on end?  So exciting!  We're so blessed to have such unique and different grandparents!  I couldn't imagine a better way to expose my kids to all the different ways people can happily live their lives.

It's been a bit stressful up here in Issaquah.  It's always hard coming back to Washington after seeing all our family and friends in Minnesota, but we recently learned that our landlords would like to sell the house.  Our lease is up in a month and we're scrambling to figure out what our next move is.  Do we buy the house from them?  Do we find another rental?  Maybe we should live in an apartment until the real estate market cools down around here?  Maybe we should just buy something smaller a little more in the country?

To the casual reader, all those things sound like perfectly viable options, but in my head none of them sound very appealing.  It's a scary proposition.  I don't know what the future holds and I would really like to know how this is going to play out.  I know in the great scheme of things this is just a tiny speed bump, but I can't see anything but a huge bolder right in my path.  I have a tendency to take a stressful situation and allow it to impact all areas of my life.  I haven't been this depressed and anxious in years.  I haven't been able to eat or sleep and I've been breaking down several times a day. I'm trying to keep a positive attitude with my family but inside I'm a wreck.  Keep me in your prayers, I'm needing them...

Tip of the Day - Life seems to give you all the answers you need, but all in their own time.