Saturday, April 16, 2016

Crazy, Happy Update

I tell ya, when you lose momentum on blogging it becomes hard to figure out when to post, how much to post, or whether to post at all.  I try to play catch up, write too much, and get bogged down.  So I won't do that.  My goal here is efficiency. We will see how it goes.

Spring break for the girls was the last week of March.  Craig visited from Colorado for the first few days.  We enjoyed some of our favorite DC activities.  We walked around monuments and memorials, did two hikes along the Potomac River, had coffee at our favorite cafe at the National Cathedral, and spent some quiet time at home cooking and trying to play Craig's mandolin.  He is an avid rock hound, with his own mining claim and he crafts beautiful jewelry, so he also spent some quality time at the Natural History Museum and other museums on his own.  It was a wonderful visit.

The consensus from all our visitors is that Washington, DC is a gorgeous and fascinating city.  People are always surprised that our neighborhood in Bethesda is so wooded and beautiful, yet minutes from the city.  We agree. Of course it has strong downsides driven by population density, most notably the abhorrent cost of living, traffic, and high density of jerks.  But it is a great place to visit!  (Or, I can now say in hindsight, to come live for a year or two sabbatical).  We certainly look forward to coming back for visits after our move and I hope that my work will bring me back from time to time.

On Tuesday of Spring Break, we drove the girls two hours north to Gramma Vicki and Steve's house, enjoyed brunch, and then left the girls for four days of spoiling and fun and Craig and I drove to the airport. Craig returned to Colorado and I flew to Portland for a 72-hour, whirlwind house hunting and general reconnaissance trip.

I'd been studying the Portland housing market religiously for three months, which had me mentally prepared for the brutal reality of the housing market for buyers.  As just one example, one of my new coworkers in Portland just finally went under contract to buy a house, on her 13th offer, having been outbid on her first twelve offers.  She paid $76K over asking price!  So I went in with tempered hopes to see all the houses that met my search criteria of size, price, and location, to get to know neighborhoods, to visit a private school that serves children with hearing loss, to visit my new office, and to find apartments that offered month-to-month leases in the probably event that I would not find a house to buy before we move

My sister joined me from her sleepy island home in British Columbia.  This was the first time we were together without kids since before her 10-year-old son was born.  She offers great insights on things like home buying, schools, and neighborhoods, and the trip was even more fun to have sister time.  We stayed with Arlene, who is the mom of my dear Boise friend, Diane, and she was a wonderful, laid-back host.

On our first day, we met my realtor and saw 13 houses, which comprised everything on the market that met my criteria.  The very first house we saw was wonderful in every way, and all others were either not nearly as nice (for as much money) or comparably nice but more expensive.  Most were simply nowhere near as nice.  I immediately knew I'd found our perfect house.  However, I also knew that there were already 3 offers on it, and the sellers were out of town from Tuesday through Friday and so offers would continue to collect for three more days.  That night we crafted my offer, and I finalized a letter that I'd written to introduce myself as a potential buyer.  The letter was pretty awesome (if I do say so myself) and I gave them a juicy offer.  I felt comfortable that my offer was justified in terms of market value and it felt like a strong offer.  Then I waited.

The next few days I visited my new office and met new colleagues (all around awesome) and we visited the private school (also awesome, but poor location and I desperately want/need to get away from paying private school tuition).  We toured more neighborhoods (let it be said, I love Portland).  We ate tons of great food and drank plenty of great coffee and a cocktail or two. And I checked out some apartments and summer camp options.  It was busy!  I was going about 100 mph the whole time and I wore out my poor sister.

I took the red eye flight home on Friday night at 11 pm.  We expected to hear on my house offer on Friday evening.   I'd told my realtor that if I didn't get the house, she could text me the news so she didn't have to deal with my initial disappointment, and that I'd call her back.  At 6 pm, my phone rang and my realtor's name popped up.  Oh my gosh!  The phone was ringing!   I got the house! Apparently, in addition to my strong offer, they said they absolutely loved my letter and wanted to see me raise my girls in their house. (A few happy tears may have been shed).

Since then, the details with buying the house have all proceeded smoothly, and all major hurdles have been cleared. So I'm convinced it is, in fact, ours.  My realtor has met the sellers and describes them as "probably the nicest people I have ever met."  Our home has plenty of space for us and, a dream come true, space for guests.  The contractor-owner has remodeled the kitchen and both bathrooms and beautifully landscaped the yard in the past 5 years.  There's 12 different kinds of perennial fruits growing in the yard (including hops, we are growing hops, that is just so... Portland!) A couple weeks ago, the owners planted veggies in the vegetable garden for us to enjoy this summer.

Home, sweet, sweet home:

Our view. The Willamette River is 2 blocks away, Over 150 acres of wilderness, riverfront parks are within 3 blocks, and I hear that on a sunny day, you can see Mount Hood.

Part of our yard.  It's not a 2-car garage.  It's a 1-car, 1-raft garage.  I'm in a bit of disbelief that this will be ours.

Since the Portland trip, I've been swamped with work, move planning, fun, and Deb came for a visit last weekend.  Our apartment is stacked with boxes and will be in disaster mode for the next month.

I am happy. So so happy!

I took this photo the day after I returned from my Portland trip -  Easter Sunday with cherry blossoms in DC, enjoying family, nature, spring, adventures, and new beginnings.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Classical-Beatboxing at the Kennedy Center

Feeding seagulls from Georgetown waterfront.  Kennedy Center
is in the background with the Watergate Building complex to the left.
One item that was unchecked on our DC Bucket List was to see a performance at the Kennedy Center.  On my drive to work I get a stunning view of the sun rising over the Potomac River and Kennedy Center, with the Washington Monument in the background. And we go to the Georgetown waterfront frequently, which has great views of the Kennedy Center as well.  Every night at 6 pm there is a free show offered, and there are plenty of family events offered as well.  So I just needed to decide on a show and make it happen.

Last year we enjoyed seeing the National Symphony Orchestra at a free concert, which was part of their NSO in the Neighborhoods event.  We missed that event this year so I looked up what family programs the NSO was offering.

Score!  I got tickets ($11 tickets!) to two events and we saw the first one last Sunday.  It was the full NSO performing with two guest artists, Wyclef, an electric cellist, and Christylez Bacon, a "Grammy-award nominated hip-hop artist, beat boxer, and multi-instrumentalist" who grew up in DC.  We watched YouTube videos  before the show and got pumped up to see them perform live. They performed all three of these songs, which helped the girls enjoy them even more because they had heard them before: (Videos here and here, worth a watch! And this one... yes, "try Mambo Sauce" is now on our DC Bucket List.)

The family concerts at the Kennedy Center are short and sweet.  No one minds if your kid is wiggly or singing along, and they typically include audience participation.  They are only an hour long, the perfect length for a kid.  Carys was tired and she got squirmy after a couple of songs, but Fiona loved every second of it.  Christylez (prounounced Chris-Styles) talked about growing up in SE DC, how he couldn't afford instruments and so developed as a musician using his own voice and buckets for drums.  He taught the audience some simple beatboxing sounds, and had us participate in several songs.  He writes songs that tell of everyday DC experiences and talked about how he uses his music to bring people and cultures together.  If there is one thing I most love about the DC experience, it is the bringing of diverse people and cultures together!

We followed the Sunday afternoon concert with dinner at Whole Foods in the nearby Foggy Bottom neighborhood (which of course, the girls call Soggy Bottom). Such a fun day soaking in DC!

We have tickets to another NSO concert in April, to see speed-painter Dan Dunn perform with the NSO.  I've got to say, the payoff for our move to DC is here. We have our exit plan and now it feels like we are on an extended working vacation - comfortably settled in and enjoying the best of DC without the stress or rush that a one or two week trip to DC would entail.  (Nonetheless I do recommend a one or two week trip to DC, especially with school-age kids who can appreciate the culture and history).

Bring on the cherry blossoms!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Logisticating Portland

I have been in denial about how much work it is to move cross country.  My new job is not footing the bill for the move.  Had I taken the other job offer, the move would be paid for and orchestrated by my new employer.  Unfortunately, I had no wiggle room to negotiate this benefit with the job I accepted.  So here I am, where I was nearly two years ago, facing a self-financed, coast-to-coast move.

It's not so bad the second time.  (Can I say that, having not really gotten started?). My plan is to use all the information I learned on my move east and apply it in a westerly direction.

The big difference with our impending move is that I am going with the mindset that we might stay awhile.  And so I am planning to buy a house.  Oh but it is a painful real estate market!  Housing values have risen sharply in Portland over the past five years and in just the past 12 months they have increased by 10%.  Houses are selling for 20 to 80K above asking price, on the same day they are listed, to cash buyers.  I talked with one of my soon-to-be coworkers in Portland two weeks ago and at the time she was waiting for a reply to her NINTH bid!  Eight houses she's been out-bid on!

I've been studying the real estate listings for two months.  So I have a good understanding of the market.  Last weekend a fantastic (for real, truly awesome) house came up.  I tried to put an offer in, and planned to hop on a plane to see it before the inspection.  A friend-of-a-friend, who lives in the same suburb (and who has turned out to be  my Portland Guardian Angel), went to see the house for me and she and the realtor agreed that it was a great house for the price.  And then I didn't even get my offer in. The seller accepted an offer at 9 am on the first day it was available for showings!  It must have been an above-asking, cash offer for the sellers to not even want to see other offers.

So in the end I spent most of my weekend researching the house and neighborhood, and on the phone, and obsessively studying the 360 tour and photos.  All for naught. Well, probably for a good dose of reality.

I'm headed to Portland for a quickie 72 hours at the end of the month. My sister is joining me and we - with no kids (God bless Gramma Vicki!) - will do some intensive recon. The realtor has two days blocked off to show me houses and drive me to neighborhoods.  I have tempered my hopes for the trip - my goal is to get a better lay of the land, narrow my focus to a few neighborhoods, and try to find a short-term rental so I can house hunt once we get there.  I hate the idea of multiple moves, and especially hate the idea of having the girls switch schools multiple times.  But there may be no way to avoid it.

On Sunday night I was frustrated about losing the house so quickly, but then reminded myself that I was experiencing the very definition of a First World Problem.  In the grand scheme of things, I'm unbelievably fortunate to be in a situation where we can consider buying a home, in a great city, where we are moving so I can start a fantastic new job.  The right house will come along.

Driving the "where to live" decision is, of course, the "where to go to school" decision.  I am leaning towards living in one of two suburbs south of Portland, West Linn or Lake Owsego, both of which have excellent schools.  Unfortunately, many Portland city schools leave much to be desired. There are a few neighborhoods and schools in Portland proper that could work.

To complicate the decision-making, there is a private elementary school called Tucker Maxon Oral School in SE Portland, not too far from my work, which has the same type of program as my girls' current school.  It's an integrated oral school where 25-30% of the students have hearing loss and use hearing aids or cochlear implants, and the rest of the students are typical-hearing peers. They have small classrooms and audiologists and speech therapists on staff.  And, being Portland rather than DC, they also have a big, beautiful school yard complete with goats and chickens.  (Goats and chickens excite me as much as fancy-sounding curricula).  It would be the obvious choice, except that I desperately want to get away from private school tuition.  It's a shame that money is a factor in this decision.  But it is.  Previously, I thought that Carys would do great at any good public school.  But she seems to be losing even more hearing lately, so it's just hard for me to know what to do.  Of course, nothing has to be a permanent decision, but when you're buying a house, it feels pretty permanent.  To help make this decision, I'm scheduling appointments with her current ear doctor, teachers, audiologists, speech therapists, and the school psychologist to do what I do best, overburden myself with information.

I am confident it will all sort out.  If we did it in DC we can certainly do it in Portland.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Valentine Sickies

I have to start with this photo.  I asked the girls if they wanted to wear pink, red, and/or hearts for their Valentine parties at school. Nope, they insisted on wearing their new track suits.  Super fly!

The Parenting section of Murphy's Law states that children will fall ill at precisely the wrong time. But then again, is there ever a right time to be sick?  I can now answer yes, yes there is.

The girls' school is having a 4 1/2 day weekend, which started Thursday at noon (why? because the kids have days off school constantly for no good reason, that's why).  Katharyn and I swapped kids- she had mine on Thursday afternoon and I took Axel on Friday.

When I picked up the girls Thursday night, they were tired from a busy week, Valentine's parties that morning at school, and an afternoon trip to the Air and Space museum with Katharyn.  Carys woke me up late Thursday night, complaining of a sore throat.  I gave her tylenol and she fell back to sleep. On Friday morning, Fiona complained of a tummy ache, chills, and a headache.  Around noon I got an email from school saying that a kid in Fiona's class was diagnosed with the flu.  By that time, both Fiona and Carys were feeling crummy, had mild fevers, and I was squirting hand sanitizer on Axel every five minutes.

Fiona has had a cough for a week or two, and a couple days ago had started to complain that one side of her forehead hurt. Sounded like a sinus infection to me, but I took a wait and see approach. But with both girls going downhill fast on Friday, and the note from school about flu, I dragged all three kids to the pediatrician.  Flu tests were negative (we did get our flu shots this year).  Instead, Fiona was diagnosed with a sinus infection and Carys has both strep throat and an ear infection. Sheesh!

After the pediatrician, I dragged all three kids to the grocery store where we loaded up on garlic, ginger, fruit/veggie popsicles, and Strawberry-C-monster smoothies.  Then I dragged them all to the pharmacy to pick up a boatload of antibiotics.

We spent the rest of Friday playing with a fresh batch of warm, homemade play-doh and watching movies.  Today we had the laziest day ever. We stayed in our PJ's, watched movies, did Valentines crafts, and read.

I have to say that I am very impressed with the girls' timing, getting sick the first day of a four-day weekend.  Plus, it is frigid cold outside, our normal Saturday family karate class had already been canceled, and we had no plans for the weekend.  So we are lying low and hoping to get everyone recouped by Tuesday.

I've been pretty good about cooking food from scratch this year.  This weekend "healing and comforting food" is the theme.  Yesterday I adapted a new recipe to make a ramen-style soup. It was loaded with ginger and garlic, and had veggie broth, sesame oil, soy sauce, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, spinach, scallions, tofu, and udon noodles.

I loved it. Fiona said she liked it but then didn't eat much of it. Carys flat out would not eat it.  (They'd better learn to like it, because I'm making it again!)

Today I baked one of my old, favorite recipes that I haven't resurrected for awhile, Mountain Honey Ginger Snaps.  I make them with lots of fresh ginger. They are warm and chewy and one of my favorite desserts to serve after Asian/Indian food.  Of course, the girls liked these.

After the girls went to sleep tonight, I prepared their Valentines for the morning.  It's fun that they are now old enough to look forward to traditions, like getting valentines in these little mailboxes that I bought for Valentines Day three or four years ago.  We made these woven heart baskets together today and I filled them with chocolates and stickers and put them in the mailboxes.  They also have cards from Gramma Vicki, me, and each other.  I will enjoy waking up to hearing Fiona - the early bird - padding her little feet out to the kitchen and opening her cards and mailbox.

While being sick is never fun, the girls seem to be having some fun between bouts of feeling like crud, and I am happy that we have a few days before school and work to shake the gunk.

Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Against The Odds


In light of yesterday's post where I described Carys' challenges, I thought I'd share that she's not letting anything hold her back.    

Carys is now 4 1/2 years old and loving preschool.  Her teachers are fantastic.  They put together the most creative themes and provide brilliant opportunities for the kids to explore and learn. Their current theme, inspired by the students' interests, is "Build it Bigger, Better, Brighter." The theme combines building and engineering, two things that Carys loves.  Carys has taken off with writing words and reading and her teachers do a great job teaching to her as an individual.  I couldn't be happier with her growth, she is just blossoming and I can see her confidence building.

Carys loves to write.  I often find scraps of paper with lists that she has written.  Or she will write a letter, asking me to tell her correct spelling and then she will address the envelope herself and mail it.  I believe the last letter she wrote read:

"Once Upon a Time.  
Dear Craig.  
Come visit us and I want to visit your house.  
Love, Carys. 
The End."

Today I came across this list and had fun deciphering that it was a list of items she wanted to prepare for her nanny's birthday:

"Tape (check), Paper (check), Decorations (check), Birthday Hats. Happy Birthday."  Her handwriting is better than Fiona's!

And all of a sudden, her reading of simple books has become easy and fluent.  I took this video tonight. Interestingly, she's not stuttering as she reads.  (Different part of the brain at work, I guess).

I'm so proud of this kiddo. Just like when she was a baby, I think of her challenges and worry, and then I take one look at this bright soul, and I know she's going to be just fine.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Health Update

Lest you think everything is going swimmingly...

We continue to have health challenges.  Fiona's indicators for kidney function have declined a bit each year.  She takes a daily medication to decrease protein leakage in her urine.  Protein in her urine is a sign of kidney dysfunction and the act of leaking protein in itself can cause additional damage to her kidneys. Otherwise her kidneys are functioning well enough for now.  She gets bloodwork several times a year and when I think about it too much, it can feel... foreboding.  Fiona's awesome DC nephrologist, the Chief of Pediatric Nephrology at Children's National Hospital, up and retired on us with two-weeks warning. So I think we'll put kidney checkups on hold until we move to Portland. Fiona's Boise nephrologist, who cared for her from the time of her acute illness, actually lives in Portland and flys to Boise once a week to see patients.  So as long as he hasn't retired I'm hoping Fiona can see him in Portland.

Carys has some more pressing and worrisome issues.  For the first time since her birth, she's registered a significant decrease in her hearing.  Since her hearing had always been stable, the drop was an unpleasant surprise.  Her most recent hearing evaluations state that without her hearing aids, she hears only about 5% of speech sounds at a normal speaking volume.  That seems pretty darned deaf, though she's not yet close to being "profoundly" deaf, which is the level that typically indicates a need for cochlear implants rather than hearing aids.  She's starting to max out her hearing aids capacity though.  And without her aids, she seems more and more likely to tell me that she can't hear what I'm saying.

In addition, Carys has developed a significant conductive component to her hearing loss. So now her loss is not classified only as "sensorineural" (related to the hair cells in her inner ear not working) but as "mixed" because there is a conductive component due to middle ear fluid and/or eardrum dysfunction.  In Boise she had three sets of tubes and you may recall that in one ear, her audiologist screwed up while getting an earmold impression and ripped the tube out of her ear by letting the sticky polymer reach her eardrum. Well, that same eardrum is now retracted (which is hard to explain but essentially means it is pulling in toward her middle ear and not functioning correctly).  Is the retraction related to the "accident" at the audiologist? I don't know; it just occurred to me recently that it could be related. She also seems to have persistent fluid in her ears due to eustachian tube dysfunction.  Her current ENT, also a fantastic doctor at Children's National, does not think it is wise to put in more tubes. So there's no "fix."  I am hopeful that the conductive component to her loss could be reversible and she could regain some of the hearing she's lost over the past year.  Her doctor said it's possible but not probable. And then of course, it could continue to worsen.  Sigh...

Carys' other worrisome issue is that she has developed a very serious stutter.  It began10 months ago as a mild stutter that started literally overnight.  I learned that many children go through a temporary developmental stage of stuttering and outgrow it.  Since hers was mild and she didn't show risk factors for persistence, her school and I took a wait-and-see approach.  It came and went for the next 6 months, which is common pattern with developmental stuttering.  By fall, I requested to have it evaluated by speech therapists at her school.  At that time they said it was still mild and their recommendation was to continue to monitor it.  I was comfortable with this in large part because of the expertise at her school. She attends a school with a mission to serve children with hearing loss.  Fifteen percent of the students have hearing loss.  Their curriculum is focused on language and literacy and they have a full speech and audiology staff.  She is in a class of 14 students with two MS-level educators, one of whom is a speech language pathologist.

Then right before Christmas, her stutter got worse, and it has continued to worsen dramatically. She now shows a number of risk factors for development of chronic stuttering.  Her teachers also became very alarmed, right at about the time I requested that formal speech therapy start.  So we are all on the same page, she has a serious problem. She has started speech therapy this week.  Other than the stutter, Carys' speech and language is excellent, she scores higher than average compared to hearing kids.  So it has been discouraging to have this stuttering issue arise out of seemingly nowhere.

I'm worried.  Her stutter is consistent and impossible not to notice.  Sometimes she will repeat a word or syllable upwards of 10-20 times.  I've done my typical obsessive googling and have implemented strategies at home to try to help.  These include: 1) Slow down our rate of speech. I read that Mr. Rogers is a good example of slow and methodical but not abnormally slow speech. 2) Never interrupt each other. 3) Never draw attention to or comment on Carys' stutter. (Comments like "take your time" do not help).  4) Simply listen patiently to whatever Carys is saying.

I'm not the most patient person in the world. And Fiona is really impatient!  So these new communication guidelines for our household are probably just what we need anyways.  But poor Fiona is being challenged with making these changes.  That kid just cannot stop talking. And Carys is a talker too.  Even before the stuttering issue, I would get exhausted with never having any silence, and the two of them constantly talking over each other.  I would have to tell the girls to stop talking for a few minutes, "Please I BEG of you stop talking!"   So I am hoping that the silver lining of this current challenge is that everyone learns to chill out.  Quiet down, be a better listener, take turns in conversation, and develop some patience.

As for me and my health issues...  since realizing my impending heart attack last year was not really an impending heart attack but just stress-related acid-reflux, I've been doing much better.  I get more sleep and generally stress less.  Otherwise I've largely ignored my own health checkups.   It's just too much of a chore to find doctors out here, take hours and hours off work to fight traffic and sit in waiting rooms for inordinate amounts of time.  I plan to get back on track in Portland.

Whenever I think about all these challenges, I daydream about how great it would be to work part-time and have time to focus more on the kids' needs and to create more space for my own health and well-being. I think the biggest challenge of being a single parent that is impossible to "get" before living it, is the never-ending marathon that you find yourself in when you do it all on your own.  There's no break in demands.  Throw in some unexpected challenges and it can wear a person down.  I'm hopeful that in Portland we'll find a peaceful home and create a good routine with more openness and space and that such an environment will foster health for us all.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Magic Boots

When deciding to move to DC 18 months ago, I made the difficult choice to weight the "work" side of work-life balance.   I did not want to leave my home, friends, and life in Boise for hectic and expensive DC.  But I desperately wanted to get back onto a secure and rewarding professional track. And so we left our home and community of friends and moved to DC. I  have continuously reminded myself that this is a strategic step in my career to gain new experience and hopefully open doors back west, and that we are lucky to get to know such a beautiful and unique city.

My job here in DC has turned out to be great. I've learned a ton and feel that I bring skills and experience that are an excellent fit for my duties.  There are some negatives to my job, but I can live with them and they are outweighed by the positives. But living in DC has been tough.  From my perspective, DC is a mix of wonderful, not-so-great, and downright miserable.  For example...

Diversity of every kind
History everywhere
Countless cultural opportunities
DC is a beautiful city

Competitive and money-oriented culture
DC is a big city (and I am not city-folk)
Hot, humid, and buggy so being outside in summer, my favorite season, is unpleasant

Downright miserable: 
It's really hard to make friends
It's really hard to make time for the friends you do have due to the hectic pace of life
Abhorrent traffic 
Crazy-high cost of living which, for us, means living in a tiny apartment

The commute alone regularly makes me want to get in my car and start driving west.  DC traffic is truly absurd.

I've tried to maintain a sense of humor and a positive outlook, and continue to tell myself that our time in DC is temporary.  At some point "the right" job offer back west will present itself and we will be grateful for this experience.  And so I've focused as much energy as possible on enjoying it while we are here.  We've explored museums and monuments, cultural events, nearby cities, beaches, and parks, and we've reconnected with East coast friends. Yet it is not home and never will be. This environment does not feed my soul.  It's been difficult to bench my core values, which are to put my energies towards friends and outdoor experiences, in the name of professional gain and financial security.

Last fall, as we entered our second year in DC, I continued to vacillate between content and discontent.  Hardest was not having an exit plan.  I didn't know how long we would be here, and what our next step would be.  I just knew that I was committed to sticking it out until that right next step became clear.  

Enter the Magic Boots. Deb sent me a gift certificate to Title 9 Sports for my birthday in August. In early December, I told her that I'd decided on a new pair of boots.  I added, "now that I have the appropriate boots, I'm sure I'll get a job offer in some great little mountain town back west!"  These are western town boots, not DC boots.

It was not 3 days later when, in the span of about 48 hours, FOUR promising job opportunities arose. Opportunity #1 was an invitation to interview for a federal job in McCall, a beautiful, tiny resort town in the mountains 2.5 hours north of Boise.  Opportunity #2 was with a federal agency in eastern Washington state - the job would not be announced until early in 2016 but in talking with the hiring official, I learned that I would have an excellent shot at it.  So excellent, in fact, that he asked if I could fill in for the position on an interim basis until they filled it permanently. Obviously I can't leave my current job and pull the kids out of school in order to work in Washington state for a few months.  But I told him that I was looking forward to applying for the permanent position. Opportunity #3 was with a consulting firm in Boise - they were looking for a fish biologist with my experience and asked for my resume.  I sent my resume but in the back of my mind was thinking that I want to stick with a federal career. Opportunity #4 was an out-of-the-blue email from a federal agency in Portland, OR, saying they obtained my resume and cover letter from a previous job announcement that I'd applied for, and they asked if I'd be interested in talking with them about an upcoming position.  

All that in 48 hours! It was nuts. As the emails rolled in I told Deb about each of them and we decided that it had to be the magic boots!

I'll avoid boring you with details and summarize.  I was offered the McCall and Portland jobs, and so the yet-to-be-flown job in Eastern Washington and the consulting firm were thrown out of consideration immediately.  I had the fortune of getting both offers simultaneously.  In typical fashion I agonized and researched ad nauseaum.  I quickly realized that I would prefer the McCall mountain lifestyle, but the Portland job was a far better professional opportunity. And so I accepted the Portland position. We are moving to Portland!

Every single interaction with the Portland group, from first contact through interviews through negotiation of my offer has been an absolute pleasure. My impression is that I'll be joining an effective group of smart people who respect each other, do great work, and have a lot of fun doing it. My education and experience are an uncanny fit for their needs.  After my interview, my boss-to-be decided to expand the job description so that I would become "proficient in all aspects of their portfolio and poised for advancement."   I am thrilled; the work is exactly what I want to be doing, for an agency that I respect greatly.

The icing on the cake of this job offer is that my new boss has agreed to wait for me to start in June. When discussing start date I told him that I have a preschooler who will be starting kindergarten in the fall, and that finding a couple months of preschool is probably harder than finding college.  Not to mention the fact that Carys has some issues that require the special services at her current school right now. My boss-to-be understood, saying "those are real life concerns."  He replied, "I'll work with you, it's more important to bring the right people on board than to have you start immediately." So the end result is that I have a very reasonable amount of time before the move to find a house, school, and summer camp. And we have four months left in DC to enjoy the wonderful aspects, laugh at the not-so-wonderful aspects, and check off those last items on our DC bucket list.

I feel fortunate, excited, and proud of myself for making some tough choices to get us to this point. And the girls are very excited too - I've promised them a house with a yard, beach and ski trips, and, eventually, a dog.

Portland, baby, here we come!

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