Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Letter 2004

A blast from the past... Trying to find all of our Christmas letters from prior years. I've found about 5 of them. I know there are about 6-7 more out there and I'm still searching. This one is from 2004.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Friday, August 01, 2014

Price vs Volume Calculation

Entering this here so that I don't forget. I seem to use this often these days!

Volume effect = (new volume – old volume) x original price
Price effect = (new price – old price) x new volume

Courtesy of

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Frozen is the best movie of all time

Maybe it's party talking, or the fact that my kids and Rachel are out of town at the moment, but I am feeling very nostalgic about the movie Frozen. When your kids or family is away, the "Do You Want To Build A Snowman" song suddenly becomes a sad and lonely melancholy melody.

A week or so ago the four of us got in the car to rent Frozen from the local Redbox. The first Redbox we visited was out. We went to 4 more Redboxes around Tacoma, then Safeway and then the local video store, but they were all out! So we rented on Amazon. The whole family instantly loved it. Including Jude, who originally thought he was going to hate it. The next day Jude and I went to Best Buy and bought the DVD. We all watched it again that night. Then the next morning. Then a couple more times. Then again this past weekend!

At the same time we've also been listening to the Soundtrack on Spotify dozens and dozens of times. Greyson knows most of the words. Jude keeps replaying "Let It Go," over and over again. It's the cutest whole-family bonding movie we've ever experienced!

As I was doing some research into Frozen, the story became so much more fascinating: That it took Disney decades to bring it to fruition. That the the songwriting team that developed such memorable melodies was actually a young husband and wife couple. That a young composer (Cristophe Beck) wrote such a beautiful sweeping score. And that a young mom (Jennifer Lee) made a mid-career switch to storytelling and became the award-winning director. And who knew Kristen Bell could sing!

I love that our whole family loves this movie. Maybe it's that I'm all by myself this evening but thinking about what a great time our family has together watching Frozen makes me really miss them...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Note to Self: Don't Forget to Add These Stories

The allure of Facebook and Twitter is that it makes posting microscopic updates simple. It makes us lazy humans. No more thoughtful (longwinded) blog posts... so as the months progress I need to remind myself to update this blog for the following stories:

1) The cost of buying 1/2 a pig and 1/4 cow from a local farm. There isn't a lot of good information on what you get for your money, and knowing this, I specifically maintained pictures and weights of the boxes of final meat vs the originally quoted weight. Plus "before" and "after" prices to provide a good point of reference between buying your own cow vs purchasing piecemeal at the local supermarket.

2) Rachel's 35th birthday party in which a dozen or so of our awesome Tacoma friends celebrated her with food and music. The no-contest highlight of the evening was at the local music venue when the band asked for all ladies with birthdays to come on stage (nice coincidence). Rachel walked on stage with well over a hundred loud and boisterous Tacoma Gen X'ers looking on, and proceeded to back-up sing Def Leppard's Pour Some Sugar on Me. I have pictures! Not because I want to embarrass Rachel. Quite the opposite. I want to celebrate her beauty and youth and sense of fun for future generations. Rachel is not just a super mom and finance / accounting / project manager / process improvement super star nerd brainiac, but she is also a dancing and singing and partying queen!

3) Greyson's 2nd visit to the ER for yet another head wound. Can you believe it!? That boy has a target on his head. Actually this is a good story because we learned from our mistakes the first time we went to the ER and paid something like $1500 out of pocket. This time we went to Urgent Care which was (a) faster, (b) less stressful, and (c) $200 or $300 total out of pocket.

4) Christmas? Not sure if any good stories this past Christmas. I seem to recall it was nice and calm. Oh, actually, the cool story of this past Christmas is this: We stayed at our home in Tacoma. A concious decision on my part not to head down to Oregon when we were down there for Thanksgiving and we were about to go down there for New Years. So Christmas morning was very nice and pleasant. But once the gifts were unwrapped, Christmas suddenly got very boring. Very boring. What do you do!? Well, at around 1:00pm, I suddenly told Rachel, "hey, let's go down to Portland. If we leave in the next 45 minutes we can still have dinner with your family." So I booked a cheap hotel and we loaded the kids up and were gone 45 minutes later. I love being spontaneous and I appreciate Rachel's flexibility and spirit of adventure.

5) Nanny tax spreadsheet. I created a super handy nanny tax payroll tracker that also includes the amounts to include in your quarterly 941 schedules and year-end W2. It is a super awesome one-page spreadsheet for the "do-it-yourself" household employer. In fact, if it takes me a while to update this story with more information and you happen to land on this blog randomly in the meantime and you'd like a copy of this, then just send me an e-mail and I'll e-mail you this spreadsheet directly.

6) Others?.....

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Bread and Christmas

Oh Christmas breads. I love thee. Stollen. Panettone. Babka. Marzipan filling. Without you Christmas would be much less tasty. Other things I love about Christmas: vin fiert (Romanian for "hot wine" - or "Mulled Wine" as we would call it in America). Wood fires. Random community holiday events. Random church holiday events. Santa. The excitement of seeing Christmas through the eyes of my three-year old and five-year old boys. But European-style Christmas breads. For me personally you can't really enjoy the holidays unless you have a couple wonderful Christmas breads.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rachel's 2013 Convoy of Hope

I am very proud of Rachel. Six months ago she was asked to participate on the 20-person planning committee as the asst treasurer for the Convoy of Hope's Tacoma event. Off and on for six months she's been meeting and planning with a local team of volunteers after work hours. Well today the Convoy of Hope event seems to have been a nearly complete success. 1000 volunteers and 7000 people took over Mt Tahoma high school in S Tacoma. Participants received free groceries, school supplies, lunch, shoes, family pictures, haircuts, music events, medical and dental check-ups, kids fun area... Probably a lot more too. I happened to stop by and was in sheer amazement at the scope of this event. There were police managing traffic. It was a big deal. It is clear the community need was very great and much appreciated. I'm proud of Rachel and her scrappy team for helping to plan and execute such an enormous community event. I love you, Rachel!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Iced Coffee

My (Rob's) current favorite drink of choice is iced coffee, followed closely by drip coffee. Both with cream. Sugar is optional. There are a lot of friends and acquaintances who assume because I work for SBUX that I must drink 20 free caramel white chocolate mochas every day. I admit I did something like this at first. That phase lasted for a month or two, then graduated to simply coffee.

I think this is the sort of casual anecdote that is best served on Twitter or Facebook. But I suppose I was feeling a bit verbose.

Friday, July 19, 2013

ER Visit: Cash vs Insurance (or "An Illustration of US Healthcare Cost Madness")

Following up from a prior blog post (Greyson's head wound ER visit). The following illustration shows the difficult, almost roulette-like choices you have to make during a stressful health crisis. Choices without data, without information, without prices.

If you find yourself at the Emergency Room and you are deciding whether or not to hand over your insurance card, or whether to spin the wheel and hope paying in cash costs less, consider the following metrics:
  • Issue: Toddler gets a cut in his forehead. To make it sound worse, let's call it a 2-inch head laceration.
  • Treatment: 2 minute application of super-glue to laceration + otter pop.
  • Total full price: Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, WA charged $1,988 for the "facility" charge plus $142 for the "ER visit" plus $315 for something called "Superficial wound fac professional fee" for a grand total of $2,445.
  • Payment Decision: You know, or you think, or you hope that you're correct that you read somewhere long ago that nobody pays full price. Door # 1: Do you use your high-deductible ($5K deductible) Blue Cross health insurance knowing that they won't pay anything, but also knowing (or hoping) that you would likely (hopefully) benefit from their implicit "hospital/insurance company negotiated hand-shake discount"? Door # 2: Do you spin the roulette wheel and just say to the doctor treating your child and the administrator with the guffawed look on her face that "I'm not giving you my insurance card. Just bill me after the service is performed and hope that I pay up."
So what do you do? First of all, you should not have gone to the ER in the first place. That was your first mistake. Never go to the ER ever ever ever. But since you are already here, you do the logical thing and hand over your insurance card. You go down the insurance path. So how did it all turn out? See below:
  • Total Patient Cost with Insurance: $2,445 full price - $871 "Blue Cross Members Discount" = $1,574. Ouch! Should have told your toddler to stop whining and walk it off.
  • Total Patient Cost without Insurance: $2,445 full price * 60% (aka, 40% Mary Bridge's standard "we take pity on uninsured freeloading bastards of society" cash discount) = $1,467. Congratulations! Despite paying almost $1,500 for a simple cut wound, you can take a trifle of solace in your assiduity and risk-taking which saved you $107. Of course, you would not know that you saved $107 because you never opened up Door # 1 because transparent pricing was never available to you. So you still probably feel like you were taken advantage of.
I think the key takeaway here is that in the bizarro world of healthcare costs, you really have no idea what you are getting into. You can be as smart as a whip. You can pre-plan and call your insurance company to see what your benefits include. You can do everything humanly possible, but you cannot tear the veil of secrecy between the healthcare provider, insurance company and patient.

If we had price transparency in healthcare the way we have nutritional value labels on cereal, we could probably reduce our healthcare consumption in half.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

One Hundred and Sixty One

What is the largest fathomable number in the universe? According to Jude it's 161. As in, "Dad how fast can a dragster go? Can it go 161 miles per hour?" Or "Aww, we're never going to get there. It's like 161 miles away." Or "I want 161 bouncy houses."

For the littler Greyson, the biggest possible number is 61. As in, "Mom I see 61 cows," and "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle 61 bells all the way!"

Friday, June 14, 2013

Recollections For My Dad: A Modern Renaissance Man

Happy Father’s Day 2013 to my dad. I am so proud of him. He lives in Texas and I live in Washington so we don’t see each other more than 1 or 2 times a year. We really miss each other. If I could live in the same city as my dad then I would be perfectly content. We would do all sorts of crazy things and he would teach his grandsons life skills that someone growing up in the 60s learned. He is a Renaissance Man of many many skills and qualities. He is literally (not figuratively) a CEO, a pastor, a writer, a scholar, a carpenter, a world traveler, an ambassador, and a deeply devoted husband of 30+ years and father to 10 children. I sometimes say that I grew up in a “Cosby Family” situation where the parents and the kids all love each other deeply. No major drama, just the manifestation of the idealistic Rockwellian American Family.

Below are some recollections of my dad from my childhood. This is not comprehensive. It’s a living list and I hope to update it from time to time:
  • I remember my dad’s 30th birthday. It was at Camp Tillicum. Now that I am something like 35 or 36 (I literally can’t remember), the fact that I remember my dad’s 30th birthday is pretty impressive. He was just a little kid back then!
  • I remember as kids going to parks with my dad.
  • He was a professional trumpet player for a bit. He would tell me fun stories of his glory days in his 20s when he could hit a triple E. He would recall a song played at Azusa Pacific University with a choir. The choir began “And the trumpets all sound! …” and dad responded with some fun high notes. I can sing the tune in my head courtesy of his story.
  • I remember as kids my dad putting out the tarp and camping under the stars in the Redwood forest.
  • I remember going deep sea fishing a few times off the California coast.
  • I remember as kids when our house caught on fire in Oregon City. I was 4 years old. When my mom and my sisters returned to see the house in an enormous fireball. I ran across the street, towards the inferno. The firemen and police assumed I was running to the house to sacrifice myself to save a toy or some such nonsense. I remember thinking how dumb their perception of me was. I was simply running across the street because that’s where dad was standing.
  • I remember as a kid driving home one day when my dad was so beside himself with frustration at my sister Jennifer’s pre-teen dramatics. He warned her, “you stop or I’ll stop this car and lick you!” When Jen kept it up he stopped the car and literally licked her. Not in the figurative “hitting” sense. Literally licked her cheek. Kelleigh was stunned. Jen was sooo grossed out that she stopped her histrionics and the rest of the car ride home was light and jovial. Problem solved! I’ll never forget that.
  • I remember in high school when my dad and I performed Christmas carols in front of the church for Christmas Eve service. Just a trumpet and a sax.
  • I remember in junior high my dad stepped up and coached my little league team because no one else was going to do it.
  • I remember my dad sending me post cards and letters every day when he took a 30-day trip to Nigeria. I think I was 9 or 10 years old. They were my connection to my dad when he was 5000 miles away. To this day those are some of the very very few personal mementos I’ve kept for 20+ years.
  • I remember my dad co-writing a manual for how to start a church from scratch. “The Phone’s For You.” Probably wouldn’t fly in today’s cell phone and privacy-conscious society, but cutting edge in its time. And I remember he didn’t get any credit for it, but his family knew and was very impressed.
  • I remember my dad, as a pastor and itinerant pastor, giving the same “Ordinary People” message dozens upon dozens of times. And each time he sang “God uses ordinary people just like you and me…” And each time his ethos and credibility totally worked on the audience.
  • I remember buying him an Eddie Bauer watch for father’s day one year. And there’s a funny story about that on my blog.
  • I remember how adventurous he was, despite having no money in our early days, he and my mom always took us camping and on road trips. Grand Canyon, Glacier, Florida, Idaho… My dad could drive almost 24 hours straight just to avoid staying at a motel. And then in his 40s and 50s he discovered Priceline and suddenly he consistently stopped his cross country trips at 4pm each day just so he could enjoy an evening swim at a cheap hotel. Enjoying life, one evening at a time!
  • I remember my dad being incredibly, incredibly entrepreneurial. He was a pastor, a teacher, a trumpet player, I think he was a bus driver (or maybe that was Grandpa?), he started a carpet business, he started churches (lots of them! How many, dad?), he started an international adoption agency, he sold sound systems to churches, he bought and repaired and sold dozens of houses. I’m sure I’m forgetting many interesting other ventures.
  • In my estimation my dad has always been indefatigable. He never runs out of energy. Sometimes to his kids annoyance: “Why can’t we just sit here and watch TV?” Dad: “No, get off your lazy butts and let’s go on the lake!”
  • My dad, who to his own admission was an extremely average student with self-described poor literary skills, later developed into an extraordinary writer. He recently wrote about my sister Angela’s adoption in “A Stormy Night in Bucharest.” Available on his company’s website:
  • Speaking of his years managing an international adoption agency, I am amazed and impressed by his harrowing tales of travel to Eastern Europe, Asia and Central America. As a leader in the adoption and non-profit industries, his many hundreds of international trips have often led to some boarder and immigration confusion as to whether or not he was a diplomat or spy.
  • I remember getting food poisoning with dad in Guangzhou, China in 1999 at either the hole-in-the-wall kitchen where we ate poisonous snake and dog for lunch, or at the beautiful dinner buffet at the White Swan Hotel that evening. Either way… what a night. No fun for anyone. But a great story thereafter.
  • I remember back in around 1985 when my dad – about 32 years old … younger than I am today – and the rest of the family is packed into our nasty 1983 Chevrolet station wagon. We called it the tuna boat. And for some reason it was during the one year when the paint was stripped off and it was covered in ugly grey primer paint. Not sure the story here, but suffice to say we were very poor and it was the 80s. So here we are in “classy” Southern California. A big family in a beater tuna boat with Oregon license plates. I was in the little tiny seat in the back that faces the opposite direction (like the Brian Regan skit minute 1:40). Some teenager on a BMX hits our car with his fist. My dad yells out “You Jerk!” And the ballsy teenager peddles back to the car and yells at my dad something like, “Take your family back to Oregon,” and my dad grabs his arm and says something like, “If you don’t go away right now I’ll break your arm.” And boy do I remember the look of fear in that young man’s eyes. I was proud of my dad and that perpetuated the “my dad can beat up your dad” childhood banter.
  • Dad is an “extroverted introvert.” He is a pastor, a church leader, a board member, a speaker, he is comfortable talking in front of thousands of people, he is a social networker, he loves to bring people together and nurture relationships. And yet he loves to relax and recharge in the evenings to prepare him for another day of being a World Changer.
There is so much more about my dad than could possibly be captured here. He loves his family and would do anything for them. If he were Walter Bishop he would create a machine to travel to a parallel universe if it meant showing them that he loved them.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Tacoma ER Alternatives

This article is primarily geared internally to my family in order to have a public repository of urgent care information. This situation came up when a month ago we innocently took Greyson to the ER to get stiches for his head. Earlier he had belly flopped off the toilet and onto the corner shower tile. We responsibly called our pediatrician first and explained, “Greyson is bleeding pretty bad, yo! My gut tells me this needs stiches.” Our pediatrician, for better or worse, responded with the perfunctory “go straight to the ER, do not pass go, I am a mindless robot” line that is so frustratingly contributing to the problem of bloated high-cost US healthcare. Had the pediatrician responded with just an ounce more curiosity, wisdom or social consciousness, he/she may have offered other options. “Is the cut a superficial cut or is it life threatening? Oh it’s superficial? Oh then you should come on in. Or go to urgent care. Or go to the local free clinic. Or go to the fire station. Or go to Home Depot and buy superglue. Turn it into a fun human body DIY project for the whole family! Just don’t go to the ER.”

But in following the doctor’s perfunctory hackneyed prognosis, we unwittingly gave away over $1000.00. That is the difference in cost between an urgent care or clinic, versus the $1500 owed to the for-profit local Children’s hospital.

So for the sake of keeping a good internet-accessible record that is available via any smart phone on the way to a local Tacoma urgent care facility, below are the good local cheap Premera In-Network options for virtually any non-life threatening emergency. All of these (possible exception of MultiCare Express) can handle stitches, sprains, nasty wheezing, high fevers, burns,pretty much anything that doesn't require a jackhammer, scalpal or life support, etc:

MultiCare Gig Harbor Urgent Care Center
4545 Pt. Fosdick Dr N.W.
Monday through Friday 8am to 8pm
Saturday, Sunday 8am - 4pm
Holidays 8am to 5pm

Mary Bridge Pediatric Urgent Care - Gig Harbor
4545 Pt. Fosdick Dr N.W. Suite 145
Monday through Friday 2pm to 8pm
Saturday, Sunday and Holidays* 10am to 4pm

MultiCare West Tacoma (formerly Westgate) Urgent Care Center
2209 North Pearl Street, Suite 100
Monday through Friday 9am to 9pm
Saturday, Sunday, Holidays* 9am to 5pm

MultiCare University Place Urgent Care Center
4210 Bridgeport Way W.
Monday through Friday 9am to 9pm
Saturday, Sunday, Holidays* 9am to 5pm

US Health Works Medical Group
2624 South 38th St, Tacoma, WA 98409
Monday – Friday 7:00am - 7:00pm
Saturday 9:00am - 5:00pm

MultiCare Express (In Rite Aid)
7041 Pacific Ave (East side), Tacoma, WA
Monday - Friday 9am to 8pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am to 6pm

Mary Bridge Pediatric Urgent Care - Olympia
3504 12th Avenue NE
Olympia, WA 98506
Thursday & Friday: 5pm – 9pm
Saturday & Sunday: 12pm – 8pm

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Strategic Offsite

On Monday, Rachel and I started what is sure to be an ongoing event: a strategic offsite. For those not in the business world, this is simply a buzzword that refers to a period of time during business hours that is half-related to business matters, and half-related to gloriously wasting time.

A typical strategic offsite will look something like this:
30 minutes: Icebreaker activity
30 minutes: Introduction to the day
1.5 hours: Strategic visioning
1 solid hour: Lunch
1 hour: More strategic visioning
30 minutes: Wrap-up
2 hours: Fun team-building activity such as golf, scavenger hunt, or bowling
1+ hours: Happy Hour. Call your spouse to tell them you'll be home late

For Rachel and me, we started our day at the fabulous new "Art House Cafe" in Tacoma's Stadium District. Great new place, it reminds me of the clean, crisp, hipster cafes you typically find in more international cities. The staff graciously didn't mind at our open laptops where we studiously identified the balances of our various investment and debts, and created paths towards paying down frustrating student loans. We took our strategic visioning to "7 Seas Brewery" in Gig Harbor, where sat in the corner of the beer garden - ale in one hand, keyboard in the other - creating and manipulating spreadsheets to help us meet our financial and family goals. Vacations were planned, summer camps were reserved. It was productive indeed!

And our fun team-building time waster? Iron Man 3. Which was, in retrospect, ironically the least fun part of the day. I think if I had it to do over again I would have gone to the park and played frisbee with Rachel. I tend to have more fun talking with Rachel than sitting side by side watching a brain-numbing action romp.

We're looking forward to another Strategic Offsite. Maybe we'll make these quarterly. Sometime in August I will hopefully post again on this subject.

Friday, March 08, 2013

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Over 20 years ago my siblings and I pooled our money and bought our dad a nice $60 Fathers Day watch from Eddie Bauer. The World Traveler watch that featured a map of the world with day/night overlay so he always knew, instantly, whether it was day time or night time in Moscow and Mumbai.

But as with many electronic devices, eventually - 2 or 3 years later - the watch capitulated and died. But fear not! Eddie Bauer's lifetime satisfaction guarantee is as ubiquitous as its flying goose logo. To test EB, my dad returned the watch with receipt to the store from which it was purchased. The store honored their guarantee and he left with a brand new watch. Not the same, but one of equivalent quality and masculinity.

Fast forward another couple of years. The watch, firmly fasted to my dad's wrist 24/7, once again yields to the pressure of time. My dad no longer has the box or receipt, but goes back to the same location and exchanges for a new watch of similar quality.

Fast forward another 3-4 years. Once again my dad's timepiece runs out of steam. This time they live 1000 miles away, have no receipt or case. Just a watch with an EB logo. He calls customer service to explain, and they happily mail him a $100 credit good for a new equivalent watch.

Fast forward another 5-6 years. My dad, perfectly content with his 4th watch, sadly watches it kick the bucket. Not deterred in the slightest, he excitedly calls the customer service line to explain the situation. True to its lifetime guarantee creed, Eddie Bauer mails my dad another $100 credit.

Fast forward another 4-5 years (if you're counting, that takes us to today). Like clockwork, my dad's 5th EB branded watch ticks its last tock. Perhaps he was a bit apologetic, perhaps giddy at the prospect of getting a new watch, or perhaps apprehensive at asking for another watch, I don't know (I could probably ask him). One thing I do know is that he is never angry. Not even at a watch brand that keeps on breaking. He is a gentle lovable giant among men. And he wasn't angry. He just called up again. Maybe everyone there knows him by now, or maybe he's just another customer. But at the end of the conversation they agree to send him a $120 credit to buy a new watch, an apology for the inconvenience, and their thanks at being a loyal Eddie Bauer customer.

And today my dad now has his 6th watch in 20 years. A $60 investment. And depending on how you measure ROI, up to an approx. 600% return. Not bad!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Dad's Personal Day

What a lovely day so far. Park with the boys, skipping rocks into Commencement Bay, visiting the new LeMay Car Museum, and as the boys are asleep I'm preparing BBQ ribs, BBQ baked beans, and potato salad. On top of it all is perhaps the most lovely and warmest sunny day of 2013. Possibly even reached 60 degrees today.

Jude and Grey at Foss Park in Tacoma - what a great view everyone in Tacoma has. The beautiful bay and Puget Sound in the distance behind the giant random globe.

My first time letting the boys just throw rocks. Who knew little boys could spend an hour simply throwing rocks. Right after this picture was taken, I pulled the boys away to take them to the next activity. But Greyson didn't want anything to do with it. He wanted to stay and throw rocks.

BBQ ribs in progress - yum!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Favorite Poem

I read an article this evening that triggered an old warm and familiar memory, that of my favorite poem. My favorite poem happens to come not from a typical hero of literary renown, but rather from the pages of Tolkein's Rings trilogy. Its context and universalism resonated with me when i first read at age 13, and continues to this day. In Tolkein's novel, Bilbo says goodbye to Frodo, whom he believes he will never see again in this lifetime. Bilbo sits beside the fire of his warm comfy room, reminiscing on the vastness and the color of his life. Then he paints an allusion of the world as it will be after he departs.

I sit beside the fire and think...

by J. R. R. Tolkien

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


I (Rob) drive about 80 miles each day... maybe 75 miles a day, from Tacoma to Seattle and back. Now mind you, it was sort of a strange quirk that caused this situation to be our reality. We moved from Seattle to Tacoma because Tacoma is where Rachel's company was located. Then her company moved to Seattle! So now we both commute 80 miles a day from Tacoma to Seattle and back. What does one do for 2 hours a day? For a couple of years, I listened to music and NPR. What do you do when music and NPR get utterly untenable? Somewhere along the way I thought, "this is a good opportunity to 'read' some of those classic books I should have read but never got around to reading." To make a long story short, below is a running list of the unabridged audiobooks that I have listened to since around mid-2011.

Below are all unabridged... meaning, yes, I really did listen to 22 hours of Moby Dick and 26 hours of Midnights Children. In no particular order:
  • Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  • Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
  • Shalimar the Clown, Salman Rushdie
  • Epicenter, Joel Rosenberg
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
  • The Girl who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson
  • The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
  • Good to Great, Jim Collins
  • I Hate People, Littman & Hershon
  • Pirate Latitudes, Michael Crichton
  • Watership Down, Richard Adams
  • Man from Beijing, Henning Mankell
  • Bringing up Boys, James Dobson
  • The Pale King, David Foster Wallace 
  • Love & Logic /  For Early Childhood, Fay & Fay
  • Moneyball, Michael Lewis
  • Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  • Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
  • Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
  • The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
  • Angelmaker, Nick Harkaway
  • Beowulf, Unknown
I may (but honestly not likely) in the future provide a brief summary on each of these books and novels. However, in the meantime if anyone has any questions on whether I found a particular book enjoyable or enlightening, feel free to send me a note. I'll respond within 24 hours. Each book had its strength and its weakness. Some were half good and half boring. Others had potential but fizzled out.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Jan 1st was the start of our strict new family budget. Our objective: to pay off our student loans. Our strategy: $125 weekly food budget, $50 "fun" money and $200 all other / miscellaneous. Until now, we spent money pretty frivolously: Indian food one night, sushi the next night, new pair of shoes the next day, etc. Individually these things don't seem so harmful, but in aggregate they add up. Now on week 4 of our budget, we are on track to save maybe $500 / month if not more. We are thankful to my sister, Kelleigh, for getting us excited about budgeting and for her advice along the way. We're not entirely sure how to start budgeting for big things we will need eventually (new tv, printer, vacation, car) but in the meantime we press ahead with our immediate goal of paying off our student loans by 2014.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Stock Based Comp

Ask me about forecasting stock based compensation expense sometime. It's magical. Pure magic. Ta da

Friday, September 14, 2012

Greyson's Big Boy Bed

Greyson is now sleeping in a real twin-size bed. About a week ago he finally expressed a desire to jump out of his crib (he was big enough to do this about a year ago but thankfully gave us almost one more year!). There he was, straddling the crib. In pain, and a little afraid of the precipice he was about to fall from. That's when we knew it was time to grow up. So a couple days ago we set up the bed. At bed time I asked Grey, "do you want to sleep in your crib? NO. Do you want to sleep in your big boy bed? YES. Okay then stay in your bed or else I'll put you in your crib. OK." and just like that, Grey is now sleeping all the way through the night in a big boy bed. What a sport.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

SBUX Store Portfolio Mix Chart

Here is the graph I mentioned earlier: an interesting "Tufte" way to visualize Starbucks' store portfolio mix over the years beyond simple pie charts. All information is publicly available here on the investor relations website.

Instead of looking at information from one year to the next, the story becomes much more meaningful when the entire depth of time is a central axis; and rather than derailing the conversation about the number of licensed and company-operated stores, we focus attention merely on how the ratio moves over time.

Hurricane Isaac and Tufte-style Supercharts

I was impressed by this "Tufte-esque" graph that shows projected path of Hurricane Isaac. Weather seems to provide the four-dimensional data values that makes chart plotters salivate. I'm always looking for ways to go "beyond the pie chart" in my day-to-day data interpretation and presentation. I found perhaps a new way to interpret the portfolio mix of our licensed and company-operated stores over time. Okay, not a "new" way, but different than how I have seen leadership discuss our sizable store portfolio over time. I'll post after I have a chance to edit and show only the historical, publicly available portion.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Long Week

Excited to see the family. Rachel and the boys have been in Medford, OR for 8 days with Grandma Linda while I've been in Seattle trudging through the annual budgeting season at work. Having been through this a few times I knew to recommend the family take a few days to do something fun that didn't require my attendance. This week I've counted 70+ hours at the office. Doing what I love, mind you, but hard and exhausting nonetheless. that's what she said It's been lonely too. FaceTime is a nice invention but no substitute for giving two little squishy irascible boys a hug. Loving the idea of having them all back today.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

My Brilliant Wife, CPA

The other night I was giving Rachel some highlights from my day. At one point I mentioned something like: "I found money that we can include in our company’s annual budget! It’s related to capitalized interest income. It’s very arcane and difficult to explain but I can try. Are you familiar with it?”

Rachel: “Well no, not really. I’ve never worked with it… But… I know that it’s the interest you would charge for your capital projects by multiplying the accrued spend by either the company’s LT debt rate or an appropriate third-party benchmark interest rate. And that as the interest income is accrued at the corporate entity, it is offset by a balance sheet entry at the BU level. And that once the project is placed into service it would depreciate along with the underlying asset over its useful life.”

Rob: [moment of silence, mouth slightly ajar] “Are you freaking kidding me!? You’ve never touched capitalized interest in all of your years of accountancy, and yet you still manage to give the best, clearest and most comprehensive explanation of anyone I’ve come across? You truly are a brilliant corporate CPA.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Review of "The Pale King"

I just finished listening to all 16 excruciatingly incoherent discs of David Foster Wallace's unfinished "masterpiece," The Pale King. Recommended as a Pulitzer Award finalist on NPR. Amazingly, even though you may listen to the admittedly pleasant narrators unabridged words for a *mere* 18 hours on audio CD, I was still, on several occasions, tempted to call it quits and throw my hands in the air. But I listened. Hour after hour. To 50 chapters of unrelated stories; 50 virtually unrelated lives; 50 unrelated and incoherent ramblings of what the author and editors call the theme of "Challenging the Notion of Boredom." I listened to every word, I didn't skip a minute. And the end of the book - an odd drug-induced recollection from a work picnic - is just as unimportant and unconnected to any part of the novel as the front of the book - a man's disjointed thoughts about landing in an airplane. And in between we are introduced to utterly forgetful and unimportant characters.

The book cover and synopsis say it all in flagrantly unambiguous language: 'This is a book about boredom.' As you read it, you become bored. You ask yourself, "why am I reading such a boring book"? And unless you are one of the people who responds, "Oh! How brilliant! I am reading an utterly exhaustingly boring book about boredom. I feel like I'm a party to an utterly drove and bourgeoise inside joke! Huzzah!" then you will be one of the people who says, "This is by far the most pointless book I've read in my life. I award myself no points for gaining knowledge, or for bemusingly passing the time. And may God have mercy on my soul."

Monday, July 09, 2012

Can't Get Enough of These Two

These boys are getting older. More mature. Looking into the distance absent mindedly as if posing for an album cover. This picture currently graces my work laptop. Makes me want to head home and snuggle with those pudgy cheeks.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Grandpa's Celebration of Life

Nearly the entire Mardock clan is in Portland / Salem to celebrate and mourn the passing of the Mardock patriarch (Marvin Mardock).

Relatives flew up, and over 100 friends and family attended the memorial. Dad gave a brilliant 20 minute tribute titled "My Pop." Uncle Mike, Aunt Gail and Jennifer added wonderful and touching stories from their childhood. Much more to add in a future blog post about my grandpa, a true world changer. I miss him, I'm sad that there are so many stories I haven't heard, but I'm blessed to be one of the "older" grand kids who has three decades of memories.

"Husband for 62 years, father of 3, grandpa and great grandpa of 40, pastor, evangelical leader, world traveler, PhD, professor, NAIA track coach of the year in 1980 at Azusa Pacific College, cancer survivor, author, poet, humorist, professional musician, gardener of giant pumpkins... Given the gift of life and maximized it to its fullest. A world changer."

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Day with Dad

With mom taking a personal spa day with her sister down in Portland, Jude and Grey got to hang out with their dad. And no, thank you very much, dad doesn't just turn on the TV and drink root beer while the kiddos squabble. Oh no... when dad is watching, fun things happen. Today we woke up, ate a hearty breakfast, and headed over to the Tacoma Children's Museum, where both boys played and Jude made an "art catapult" (literally a catapult made of popcycle sticks and rubber bands that shoots ink onto the wall). We then walked over to the Tacoma Glass Museum, walked down the ship canal area, and headed home. Then after naps we're heading to Kandle Park so they can visit with their little friends, 3 yr old Thor and 1 yr old Vann (yes, Thor is his real name and he has quite a similar disposition as well!)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Day off

Taking a random vacation day today. Unfortunately it's just a "work around the house" day. At one point I took Greyson to Lowes and he was a barrel of laughs and smiles. Here's a fun example from our trip back to the house:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A couple of fun pics

Not sure how these photos will come through on this new Blogger app, but below: 1) Jude, dad, greyson, and mom at a mariners fan appreciation day... With moose. 2) Jude and grey being a cute couple of hams in Jude's new upstairs bedroom. 2) Jude and grey helping dad put together an Ikea dresser for Greyson's new upstairs bedroom.

Monday, February 06, 2012

New Blogger App / a-da

Trying out the "official" Blogger App. So far, eh. Anyhow, what I attempted to say a couple of times tonight is simply that Greyson is adorable. He manages to convey an impressive array of thoughts and feelings by speeding his one word: a-da. Like The Smurfs, a-da can be used in many situations, such as: "hey there! I want that," and "here you go." I'm being called away again. This just isn't the night to update anything...


I'm dedicating this blog post to my lame blogger app that froze after I had invested 20 minutes into a pleasant recap of the last few weeks. Thanks lame app....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 27, 2012

New upstairs, new rooms

A couple of weeks ago we got fresh new carpet installed upstairs. I pulled out the old carpet and moved furniture... And painted, prepped, cleaned up 20 yr old cat, dog and human pee. Yuck. Anyway, brand new fresh smelling carpet. It looks beautiful. We moved the boys' room from downstairs so that they both have their own rooms upstairs. We installed a couple of heavy duty swiveling baby gates. The kids haven't slept better in their lives. They no longer wake each other up and sleep in much longer. Rachel and I are loving our new home. Their old room downstairs is now our office. Everything looks great and is much more "feng shui."

Friday, December 02, 2011

Dreaming of Hot Dogs

Enjoying the day, thinking about my family. Thinking about Jude and how cute he is. The other evening he and Rachel discussed what he was going to eat for breakfast the next morning. Then the next morning - Rachel already half-way to Seattle - I open Jude & Greyson's door to pick up fussy Greyson. Jude jolts up, out of deep slumber, and declares: "Mom said I can have yogurt, a hot dog and warm milk in the green cup with the green lid for breakfast so I need yogurt, and a hot dog. And warm milk in my green cup. Can we get that *now* daddy?"

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Greyson's 1st Birthday

Greyson Zachary and family celebrated his 1st birthday today with lots of family and friends. Festivities were held at Uncle Mitch, Aunt Kelleigh, Grant, and Cole's house in Dallas, Oregon. When we sent out the evite a month ago, I recall I said something like, "We know what you're thinking, 1) didn't a Mardock baby just have his birthday, and 2) where the heck is Dallas, Oregon?"

 The response, which I think is still funny even after writing the evite a month ago, was:

1) The Mardock / Wood / Bellamy pool of kiddos certainly is expanding. But THIS is Greyson's first, and arguably most important birthday celebration. If you happened to go to Jude's 2nd or 3rd birthday, we thank you heartily, but his 1st birthday a couple of years ago was definitely the most critical. Furthermore, we totally get it: there are lots of kids, especially around Sept / Oct. (Note Chris and Jeanne's 2nd baby is expected +/- 2 days from Grey's birthday). We'll probably start to double up on birthdays in the future. But THIS is Greyson's singular day to shine. So we hope you can join in for an hour, two, or more!

2) Dallas, OR is practically a suburb or Portland. Merely 45 minutes south. Party is held at Mitch and Kelleigh Ratzlaff's house. Kelleigh is Rob's sister. Mitch and Kel's house affords everyone rain or shine party success at an affordable rate :-)

Yes, I know Dallas is more like 2x 45 minutes from Portland, but I didn't want to scare away potential guests!

In attendance today were Great Grandpa Mardock (Marvin) and Great Grandma Mardock (Olive), Aunt Dani and Aunt Joanne, Uncle Andy, Uncle Adam, Uncle Josh, Uncle Isaac, Tiffany (our excellent friend from George Fox), Great Uncle Bob, Grandma Linda, and of course a bunch of little toddlers and little boys: Grant, Cole, Isaac (another one), and Carter.

Greyson, we love you. We have high hopes for you and we are excited for your future. Here's to another 79+ years, you little tiger, you!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nehalem Bay State Park

The Oregon State Park system owns a few dozen yurts that you can rent for a reasonable overnight rate. However demand far exceeds supply and you have to reserve about a year in advance. That's exactly what we did about one year ago: rented a yurt near Manzanita, OR for the weekend. Now, at the time the weather forecast showed clear skies. Who could have foreseen that one year later the weekend would be one of the wettest in months...

At one point I recall Rachel suggesting that we just rent a hotel. But we stuck with it. Mitch, Kel, Grant, and Cole met us there for one evening. We enjoyed great family time. The boys wrestled in the small space, Greyson was typical Greyson (he woke everyone up at 3am). Despite the rain, we went to the beach, ate at Mo's, drank coffee at sleepy monk, and even visited the tillamook cheese factory. Tue next day the sun rose for our long and relatively peaceful drive back to Tacoma.

This was our first time camping, and although it was in the posh confines of a yurt on the Oregon coast, it was still a little challenging. Thankfully it just gets easier from here. Maybe I should reserve the yurt for next year...

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vehicle Repair: Maintain vs Cut Your Losses

Maintaining a failing vehicle is a good analogy to stewardship in a corporate finance setting. Consider: in 2006 we bought a beautiful rebuilt (aka ‘salvaged’) 2004 Honda CRV with only 5,000 miles for $14k. At the time, the blue book value for a similar CRV not salvaged was close to $25k.
Considerations for taking this risk:
1) We desperately needed a car. And we strongly prefer to have a small SUV like a CRV, Rav4, etc…
2) We don’t have much money. A year earlier we had left the Peace Corps with hardly any financial assets.
3) We’re highly materialistic people so buying an old beat-up 1980s Mazda just wasn’t an option.
We saved ourselves over $10k and we had a beautiful car that we otherwise could never afford.

Here come the financial considerations. At what point would you, as a financial professional, “maintain the asset” or “cut your losses”?
1) 1 year after we bought the car, we finally check out the growling noise emanating from under the hood. Turns out it’s the transmission, and it needs to be replaced.
  • Cost = $2500.
  • Decision = Maintain the asset. I just bought this car. I’m ticked off. But since smashing the car with a baseball bat isn’t an option, I pay up.
2) 2 years after we bought the car. The transmission starts to growl again. Clearly the disreputable mechanic didn’t do a very good job of rebuilding the transmission.
  • Cost = Not sure but probably another $2500 since we don’t have a warranty
  • Decision = Do nothing. Let the transmission run into the ground.
3) 4 years after we bought the car, the radiator starts to leak on a barren highway between Bend and Portland. Scared and nervous, we manage to keep going with a $3 bottle of “bars leaks.” Upon returning to Tacoma, we get the car checked out. Indeed, we need a new radiator, pipes and thermostat.
  • Cost = $900.
  • Decision = Do nothing. I’d rather keep plugging up the leaking radiator with “bars leaks.”
4) 5 years after we bought the car, something stinky (literally “smelly”) is going on. Not only is the radiator still leaking, but the water pump is leaking, tubes are leaking and the thermostat thinks that everything is hunky dory. Prognosis: still need a new radiator, and also water pump, tubes, serpentine belt, and a couple of other belts.
  • Cost = $1500.
  • Decision = Maintain the asset. We had gotten over a year more of run time on the old radiator. And it isn’t uncommon for a vehicle with over 100k miles to need a new water pump. Pay up.
5) 2-5 years (at the same time) the transmission is growling louder, people start to tell us “wow you should get that looked at” (our response: “no, we know what it is already.”), it starts to sputter, and finally, in year 5, it starts to hum. The hum is loud, like a fog horn coming from under the passenger’s feet. Prognosis: the current transmission specialist says it best: “you got a crappy transmission. It needs to be replaced.
  • Cost = $2500
  • Decision = ? What would you do? $2500 would keep the car running for likely another 5 years, at which time it’s definitely time to get a new car. Keep in mind that other than a brake replacement and new tires, no other work has been done on the CRV. No tune up, no timing belt. It runs really well.
In the corporate finance setting, it would be asked, “has the asset been fully depreciated.” Answer = not really. It was paid through a low student loan interest rate, which we’re slowly paying off over the next 20 years. Next the finance person would say, “what are my alternatives”? The alternative, as we see it, is to invest in a new car for our new life stage: ie, a bigger SUV capable of hauling around 2 boys and their soccer gear. Cost = $40,000. Loan term = 5 years at 5% interest. Monthly payment = $700. Breakeven analysis: getting the transmission repaired will pay for itself after 4 months of new car payments.

In the corporate setting, they would likely continue to maintain the asset. But it still stings. The only true way to solve this dilemma is to make a time machine and decide not to buy the car in the first place. But even then… even then… even then… after all the repairs, we’re still cheaper than if we had bought a new CRV in 2006.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Summer Vacation 2011

Yessir, finally! Were on the road with the two boys. First stop is Portland and a night at Chris & Jeannes place. Highlights = putting the two boys plus Daylon down to sleep and ordering Urban Fondu desert takeout. Then this morning Jude and I went out to get coffee and breakfast for everyone else. Driving through Portland's Forest Park, Jude asks me to stop so we can find bears. So... That's what we did. We found a turnoff and explored Wildwood Trail for a half hour. No bears, but Jude and dad discovered that he has an innate love of the outdoors. This is gonna be a fun boy to raise. Greyson will love the outdoors too, I'm sure...

Day 2: Salem (Dallas) with Mitch, Kel, Grant and Cole. Absolutely loving the family time, the BBQ, and watching Jude, Grant and Cole wrestle each other. Grant and Cole treat Jude with great "delicacy" (delicateness?) as they play the night away. Jude loves his older and wiser cousins, and the four parents realize we really must make annual plans to rent a vacation home for a long weekend.
Day 3: Bandon (S. Oregon Coast) driving through the Willamette Valley between Salem and Corvallis reminds me why I love Oregon. Lush woody hills, vineyards, creeks, lavender farms, fruit stands, orchards. It's a beautiful place. Grey slept a good 3.5 hours on our way across the coastal range to Bandon. Once in Bandon, we check into our inexpensive motel with a room literally overlooking the famous sea stacks and cliffs. After dinner, Jude and I drive Grandpa Don to the tiny airport where don has his Cessna tied down. Jude watched ad Grandpa Don took off into the sky. Quite a memorable moment for Jude, seeing him fly off into the clouds. Back at the motel, we put the kids to sleep and Grandma Linda keeps an eye on them as Rachel and I walk hand in hand on the cliffs as the sun drowns out over the horizon.

Tomorrow, breakfast, then off to Medford!
Day 4: Bandon to Medford. It's 9:15 am and Jude is still asleep. What's up with this kid? Is this the beginning of a stage on life (also known as the rest of his life)? ...

The remainder of the day is spent in the car driving the tiny road between Bandon and Roseberg with grandma in the front seat and Rachel wedged between the two car seats in the back (not sure if we've me filmed this but when our CRV eventually dies were getting a bigger suv). Greyson, once again, sleeps the entire ride from Bandon to Medford (3.5 hrs). Upon arriving in Medford, we fire up the backyard BBQ and grill some protein. Linda's yard looks great, good job landscaping over the last fee years! After the kiddos go to bed, we watch a mildly entertaining Liam niesen action flick.

Day 5: Medford. Jude and grey wake up pretty early from an already poor nights sleep. Linda goes to work and it's time for Grey's mid-morning nap. When he finally wakes up it's about 11am. By this time, rob and Rachel are in dire need of good coffee. We dive over to Jacksonville and spend an hour at Pony Espresso. Rachel logs onto her work computer to check her email and belatedly turn on her out of office notification (oops). Jude has been a good boy at Pony Espresso so as a reward he and dad visit two playgrounds. The first one he "don't like it the wood chips" (he didn't like the wood chip surface). The second park he liked the school bus, but the flirty jr highers are hogging the drivers seat. Later that night, Rachel and rob enjoy a humble date playing mini golf and racing each other in go carts.

Day 6: Crater Lake. Unfortunately I've let the story lapse by a couple of weeks and I'm finishing up this story 2 weeks after it ended (it's currently July 28th). If I recall, Day 6 was our last day in Medford. The sun decided to shine that day - ostensibly because we no longer had the time to swim in Don and Linda's pristine pool, the sun decided to mock us. Around mid-morning, we packed up and visited Del Rio Vineyards in Gold Hill, Oregon. Had a great time visiting Delores, one of Linda's great friends and one of Rachel's old friends and mentors for her days living in Medford as a child. From Gold Hill we trekked through the state and national forests to the rim of Crater Lake. On cue, both kids squaked, complained and cried as we pulled into our parking spot from the long journey. This caused our Day 6 sight seeing to prematurely end, and we departed to our small, tiny, rustic and downright uncomfortable Mazama Village Cabin. At this point on our trip, both boys are tired. Mom and dad haven't slept well in several days, and we're beginning to get tired. Just when we start to feel a little cranky, we grab an incredibly satisfying dinner buffet at the Annie Creek Restaurant in Mazama Village. I'm not sure why they don't market this place, but it's fantastic. Definitely worth a stop if you happen to be on highway 62 in the middle of nowhere. I wish we could say we slept well that night, but it was actually the worst night of all. Not because the place was small or uncomfortable... just because the two boys were miserably omnipresent through the night.

Day 7: Bend. The next morning we packed up and drove the 6 miles back up to the rim. We once again oooh'ed at the lake's beauty and serenity. Then scooped up the boys and drove up the highway again. Our destination this time was Bend. Our hotel wasn't ready so we stopped at the Lava ... Something.. national monument. Not sure why I can't recall its name, but it had the word Lava in it, and it was an over-sized lava dome right off the highway. Very fun, very scenic, lots of pictures. Jude enjoyed chasing the squirrels. We arrived in Bend at a beautiful, overpriced, and rather lifeless inn with a view of the Deschuttes River. If I recall, that night spent an hour at the play ground, finally letting Jude swing and slide. Funny how no matter how nice and swanky you plan your vacation to be, if you have a toddler, they just don't care. They only care about the play ground. Lesson learned. After the park we found good Thai food and settled down in our big, fancy, clean, beautiful hotel room. Incidentally the boys slept well that night, leading me to believe that the environment does influence their attitudes and endurance.

Day 8: Back home. But not yet. First, we awoke, visited our favorite Bend coffee shop (Thump), and drove down south to the High Desert Museum. This was a winner. We really enjoyed the variety of things to do and see here. It was very toddler friendly, and interesting enough to keep the parents curiosity going. When both kids were worn out, we loaded them up and drove the long distance back to either Portland or Seattle (we decided it depended on how the kids were doing). About 2-3 hours after we left Bend, both kids had still not fallen asleep for their naps. It was getting bad. Jude had gone from loopy to plain mean. And Greyson swung between quiet angel and beastly infant. But then, around Mount Hood, both boys fell hard into deep sleep. Rachel and I decided if the boys were still asleep we would continue on home to Tacoma. And incredibly, thankfully, and mercifully, both boys were asleep for 3 hours between Mt Hood and around Tacoma. Back home in Tacoma, we unpacked, enjoyed our familiar home, took Jude to a park, and got ready for my parents to arrive that evening from Austin, TX. Yes! The adventure continues!

I'm not sure what sort of family vacation we will do next year, but it will undoubtedly be NW local, and will involve playgrounds, swings, slides and fields to run in.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tell Me About Your Day Today

Jude, my adorable toddler, recent graduate to the 3-5 year old room at daycare (he's about 2 3/4 yrs), uses cunning and skill to keep me in his room as long as possible at bed time. His recent trick is to ask me how my day was (no doubt a play on the same question I had asked him over the past few months). So inevitably, because the question is so cute and because he is so directly asking me to respond, I answer: "well after I dropped you off at school I drove up to seattle..." Jude: "Seattle? That's where the base-a-ball is, the the Mariners." Dad: "that's right, Jude, good job!" [10 second pause] Jude: "Tell me about your day today daddy."

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Extreme Busyness to an Unnecessarily High Degree

The other day was typical in a day in the life of Rob and Rachel. At 5:30pm, Rachel calls me to explain that a realtor is showing our home in 90 minutes.

Now a couple of notes here: 1) I'm still at work in Seattle. 2) Rachel had just gotten home from a long day working in Seattle and had just picked up the kids in daycare. 3) We live 60 minutes from Seattle in Tacoma. 4) Our home is on the market and could be shown at a moments notice (it's been on the market for over a year).

Back to the story, I fly home and arrive 60 minutes later to see my lovely wife literally wiping down the counters with a whiny toddler in the other hand and an infant strapped to her chest in a baby bjorn. One part incredibly impressed, and another part a little bitter about life, I can't think of what else to say but, "wow, Rachel. Thanks for cleaning the house and watching two boys and starting to make the dinner that we now can't eat for another 1 1/2 hours and for doing it all after you worked for 9 hours and commuted for 2 hours."

We didn't think we would have our home on the market for over a year. We thought it would be a couple of months. So at the time we started looking for a church in the community we intended to move to. And we found a great church. In Bellevue. 60 minutes away. And we enjoy our small group that we attend, 45 minutes away. So that's commuting 5 days a week plus twice on Thursday and again on Sunday.

Even though Rachel and I work a mile away from each other in Seattle, we can't commute together because our daycare - like all others - has a 10 hour limit per day. So Rachel wakes up at 5:00am (I sleep in until 5:30) and she leaves the house at 6:20. I stay and take the kids at 7:30. Rachel returns to Tacoma in time to pick up the boys by 5:30, and I try to get back home by 6:30.

Rachel was just offered her third promotion at work (she declined the first two) and she is now a manager of accounting with people, project and budget responsibilities.

We would love to have time to do a hobby, jog or get more involved, but few social activities meet between 11:45 and 12:15 noon weekdays...

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Little Boys

Here are a couple of cute pics of the boys, Jude (2 3/4 yrs) and Greyson (9 months). The like each other a lot. Grey cracks Jude up constantly, and Jude is a caring and nurturing older brother.

J and G in a typical ham-ish pose.

Another typical pose: Jude slightly annoying Grey.

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Obligatory June Update

In the last few months a lot has transpired, but unfortunately I've done a poor job of documenting this. Jude is a hoot - he's speaking complex sentences, using new verb tenses and counting into the teens. Greyson is sitting up and can stand with a little help. Rachel has transitioned back to work from 4 months on maternity leave, and Rob was promoted to the next level at work. The house was recently refinanced and we save a couple hundred dollars per month on our mortgage, and we've made our backyard look lovely with a new patio set and a Traeger wood pellet grille.

In July we're tentatively scheduled to vacation for a week in Oregon, and later in July mom and dad Mardock are coming to visit for a week from Texas.

Lots of specifics... hopefully I can start providing more interesting and humorous details to come...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hamilton Pool (Austin, TX)

Jealous of my family in Austin. The picture below is my niece, Natalie (daughter of Matt & Jen) at Hamilton Pool, south-west of Austin. We lived in Austin, knew about Hamilton Pool, and still never went. Next time we're there...

Thursday, February 24, 2011


A quick note to memorialize an important milestone: Greyson's first night in his room, away from mom and dad. Jude and Grey both share a room now. Mom and dad can finally have a quiet conversation without fearing of waking up the infant. Jude pretty much enjoys his new roomie. We hope this relatively easy transition continues!

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Simple Faith and Sinking Islands

The other day as I traveled yet another hour from home to work, I listened to a moderately interesting article on NPR about the tiny South Pacific island nation of Kiribati. Almost entirely Christian, its inhabitants pray every day that tsunamis and climate change won't sink their country for all eternity. Their prayers are so focused, so humble and so sincere: "lord we ask that you come to Kiribati and lift up our islands so that your children don't sink into the vast ocean. Protect our country and lift it up [literally]."

I'm not sure why, but it struck me immediately that to the people of Kiribati this was not only a personal prayer of protection, but it was also a prayer of significant geo-political consequence. "Protect us from actions that are often beyond our control. Help people in distant lands to understand that their environmental impact has a direct correlation to the survival of our country and our very existence."

I thought: this really puts into context the valid yet fear-laden, vociferous and over-discussed geo-political prayers among some in America who pray intensely for things that in the end - I believe - are of lesser significance to the lord: the prophetic notion of the caliphate, the presidents anti-Christian theories about universal access to healthcare, and the infallibility of Israel's earthly leaders.

I may change my thoughts in a month or two, but right now my belief is: focus your prayers on the things that matter most: be thankful for the gifts of grace and mercy. Be thankful that we have a place in the lord's kingdom. And pray for protection for your family against the sin, temptation and separation from his word.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Goings On + Mom's Visit

Jude is speaking in full and complex sentences. Very cool. Greyson is a gigantic infant. At 4 months he is almost 18 pounds. He's in 9-12 month clothes, and he's growing out of his sleep sacks. Greyson still sleeps in our room bc we're afraid to put he and Jude in the same room (selfishly we are only concerned about our own sleep). Jude got a warning at daycare today to "be gentle" after he pushed Garret down for no reason.

Rachel started work last week after a 4-month maternity leave. During that time her office moved from 3 miles away to 36 miles away. Major bummer. However... Two big positive results of the move are that the company felt bad about making 1000 people drive 2 hrs a day so everyone gets 1-2 days a week to work at home. And, rachel's in a vanpool with 5 other super nice ladies that leaves just down the street at 6:30 am, and leaving the office at 3:55 pm. When a meeting is about to go long, Rachel can say - in all seriousness - "I'm sorry I've got to leave to catch my carpool." I would love those 2 small luxuries but my schedule isn't too bad (qtr-end earnings release not withstanding).

Finally, mom (Carol) has been up here with is for 2 weeks. She's leaving tomorrow, and we are already very sad. She has been helping out during the critical transition from rachel's maternity to her starting work. And with Greyson's daycare not ready for him we absolutely needed her to be up here. Mom very graciously offered her time for two weeks, and it sounds like she's loved every minute bonding with Jude and Greyson. Jude lover her very much. And Greyson feels very protected, comforted and loved by her. We love you mom (grandma) and appreciate your time here from Texas. Thanks dad for giving her up for these two weeks.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Closing out 2010

Yes, we know it's February, but this post is dedicated to the last couple of fun events of 2010: Christmas, and New Years Beach Blast.

Christmas: We let Jude open one give per night starting two days before Christmas. This was done "not" because we lack patience, but from prior year learnings we knew that Jude needed to understand that inside the pretty paper were some nifty gifts. Unfortunately it still didn't quite work this way.

Christmas morning came, Jude and Greyson wore matching pj's, mom and dad made a hearty breakfast and relaxed (just the four of us). When it came time for presents, Jude became fixated on each gift. When we opened an Elmo DVD, Jude wanted to watch the entire thing - no longer caring that there could potentially be other exciting Elmo products under the tree. In the end, I think we continued to open Jude's gifts up until New Year's Eve.

New Years Beach Blast: We celebrated the annual "Bellamy" Beach Blast this year in Pacific City, Oregon in a giant 3 story, 8 bedroom house. Okay, I'm not positive it had 8 bedrooms, but it "officially" slept 30 people, and unofficially it could comfortably sleep probably 80. Normally our family - with all the new noisy kiddos - fills a house to above capacity. Not this time. It was an uncomfortably huge house with a surprisingly teenie-tiny kitchen. Overall the trip was a resounding success with lots of great memories. Mitch and Kel came and some of us went to the beach, climbed the dunes and scanned the immense horizon (it was uncharacteristically clear that week, not a cloud in the sky). Lots of board games, Jude played in the tide pools.

For me though, the highlight was driving on the beach in Josh's new 4x4, then getting impossibly stuck in a sand dune. Jude and Heather tried to help as much as they could but eventually Chris picked them up at a gas station. Josh and I stayed, on our bellies, under the truck, trying to scoop sand from under the entire area. Sand was well above the axles. Over an hour later in the pitch black night, Josh and I (with the help of 4 local boys) plowed the truck free. It was an exhilarating moment for us all and will remain a great bonding story for decades to come.

Whew! Now that these stories have been recalled, we can focus on the new year and family news to come.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A moment to reflect

Literally. I have a free moment. What do I do with it? Rachel and Grey are up in Seattle and Jude is down for a nap. I just trimmed the hedges and made myself a chocolate Abyss (stout) milkshake. The house is "show-ready" clean. Now I pause and reflect. Should I chop some wood? Clean the fireplace? Paint a wall in the basement? Or just enjoy a moment to enjoy the quietness...

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Monday, January 10, 2011

The Adventures of Polo and Jude

Dad: What do you want to read tonight?
Jude: I want to read Polo and the Dragon
D: Okay, but this time you tell me what’s going on in the story.
J: Okay

D: Alright, let’s see. Polo goes out on an adventure … his boat gets stuck in the ice … He can’t get out. He’s stuck, oh no! What happens next?
J: yeah!
D: Polo looks in back of him and what does he find?
J: a treasure chest
D: and Polo opens the treasure chest and what does he find?
J: a marker!
D: that’s right. He takes out the market and what does he draw?
J: a door!
D: and he opens the door and where does he go?
J: yeah… … … in a jungle!
D: that’s right. He’s walking through the jungle and guess what he finds?
J: a … a cave!
D: and inside the cave he finds a table. What’s on the table?
J: food, the dragon’s food!

It’s fun for us to see the wheels and cogs turn in Jude’s head. Thanks to Kate J. for introducing us to the adventurous dog and his many animal friends. Thanks to Polo the evening bedtime ritual is consistent and always enjoyable.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Jude’s English skills have come along nicely since his first word “banana” about 6-8 months ago. Jude now speaks in complete sentences, such as “I want to go to the beach,” and “Mom, the baby has poop in his pants! That’s funny,” and “Where did Aunt Heather and Uncle Josh go?” Below are a few notable Jude-isms that help his parents know exactly what is on his mind:
  • How about. He says it in front of just about everything to express his desires. As in, “how about milk? How about candy? How about read a book?”
  • Dump it out. That is to say, “I want to help prepare food with mom or dad, specifically in the blender or mixer.”
  • Milky. Aka milk. Not sure why he calls it this but I suspect it’s a bad influence at daycare
  • One three, one three, one three, five! This is how Jude counts
  • Have it in the microwave. Jude love his milky, but if it isn’t at least ceremonially and momentarily placed in the microwave, it isn’t yet ready to drink.
  • BIG (barrel voiced with hands wide open) … *little* (tiny voice with fingers pinched together). Followed by infectious belly laugh.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snowy Adventures to Walla Walla

Lest we forget to record our favorite memories of 2010 for all eternity, we here briefly reminisce about a fun adventure to Walla Walla. A huge winter storm for the ages struck the Northwest a couple of days before Thanksgiving, threatening our long-planned trip with Jude and Greyson to Walla Walla. We never seriously entertained the idea of staying home though. There was too much family to see, too many people to introduce Greyson to, and too much food to eat to stay in Tacoma. Instead Rob ensured he could install snow chains (if needed) and we packed up and departed across the treacherous Cascades. With Chris, Jeanne and Daylon in tow, our two cars conquered the passes with minimal slippage. A few long hour later we arrived at our half-way point at Glory and Blake's house in Yakima. The next morning we finished our journey on uncleared icy highways between the tri-cities and Walla^2.

The rest of the time at the huge concrete mansion was spent playing games, eating, watching movies, and taking care of our two sick boys (yes I neglected to speak about that extra burdensome variable).

Overall a fantastic trip, Greyson's first road trip, and a great and memorable Thanksgiving adventure in (and to/from) Walla Walla.

Can Rob actually install snow chains properly? Check!

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Very Proctor (Tacoma) Halloween

This little community we live in just seems to get cooler and cooler. Early on Halloween Day, Jude's nap and Greyson's incessant need for milk kept us from going to the local Tacoma zoo for family-friendly trick-or-treating. As the afternoon drew on our options grew more limited to the point that we said, "let's just walk to Starbucks." On a total hunch we also discovered that Tacoma’s Proctor District shuts down and all the stores hand out candy to kids. We quickly dressed up Jude into his lion costume (roar!), and Greyson into his Pea In The Pod costume and strolled our Bob Duallie up the street to the Proctor Starbucks.

We were so impressed by our little community. Families and kids were everywhere in Proctor. If we can’t manage to sell our house for another year we won’t be too disappointed.

The afternoon was a crisp and clear fall day. Leaves falling, blue skies, it was gorgeous. Greyson did such a great job of sleeping the whole time! After a just a few stores, Jude figured out to put his bag out in front of him so that people could drop candy inside. On the way home Jude practiced roaring like a lion. Later in the evening Jude helped hand out candy to trick-or-treaters as mom and dad enjoyed a warm mug of Romanian style “vin fiert” (spiced / mulled red wine).

Jude helped dad carve three pumpkins. He helped by pulling out the innards and throwing them into the trash.

Our adorable little Pea in the Pod: Greyson at 1 month and 2 days old.

Dad and Jude walking through the Proctor District old town shopping area gathering Halloween Candy. We’ll definitely do this again next year if we’re still in the area.

Jude having a great time roaring at all the other residents. In his simple lion costume, Jude made quite the impression.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

3 Weeks In...

Three weeks after little Grey came home from the hospital and it appears we've got a pretty decent routine working. Jude has really stepped up to the plate. He has shown a loving interest in his new little brother and is sure to include him in his daily activities. Although only 3 weeks old, we can already tell that Grey has a much more easy going personality than his intense and colicy older brother when he was 3 weeks. Grey's constant feeding cycle is to he expected. Rachel tries to get rest on Wed-Fri as Jude stays home now on Mon-Tue. Dad has taken over parent duties for Jude's unpredictable nights.

This tiny phone makes lengthy appreciations more difficult, but we are both very thankful, beyond words, that Linda could stay with us for 3 weeks before Greyson was born and after. And this weekend Carol is going to stay with Rachel for the week. This means a lot to us and we are very thankful.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Greyson Zachary

We are proud parents tonight. Welcome Greyson. Born tonight at Swedish at 7:18 pm. 8 lbs 6 oz and 20 in long. A healthy and beautiful baby boy.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Last Quiet Night

Were scheduled to have Greyson tomorrow. This feels like the night before you get married. Lots of thoughts going through our heads, including, "wow this is going to be the last good nights sleep for about a year."

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I Want Pants ... Well Who Doesnt!?

The other day Rachel handed me a half-dressed Jude (shirt and diaper). However, at the same time I had planned on quickly running to the backyard to fix something. Therefore, I quickly threw some shoes on half-dressed Jude to take him outside with me. Upon fastening his shoes, Jude protested: "I want pants. I want pants. I want pants" until I understood what he was saying. "You want pants?" I repeated. "Yeah." And, slowly but surely father and son are learning to communicate with each other.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Jude's Octopus Cake

(Aka Jude's Second Birthday). On August 30th, Jude celebrated his second birthday with friends and family at the Portland Children's Museum. It was very cute watching over a dozen small children (mostly toddlers) waddling, running and tripping all over the room. A big thank you to all the little kids whose moms and dads let eat octopus cake with Jude: Grant, Cole, Drew, Isaac, Macy, Ayla, Evan, Joel, Addi, Pailey, and Daylon. All super cute and loads of energy!

Also a big kudos to Jeanne and Rachel for making the coolest octopus cake ever. After researching them online, Rachel decided she could make her own, but better and cheaper. Between she and Jeanne, it was pretty brilliant.

(more pictures soon)

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Greyson on His Way

I am the happy and proud soon-to-be father of Greyson TBD Mardock. Sometime between September 25 and October 5, Grey will complete the Mardock family: dad, lovely wife, and two spry little boys. I can’t wait. Greyson, we’re waiting with great anticipation for your birth in the next few weeks! Love, Dad

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Ferrari of Tricycles

This past Saturday we woke up with a great idea to buy Jude a simple tricycle for his 2nd birthday. Novel, says I; nothing says easy lovin’ than getting a simple ready-to-ride trike from Toys R Us. This from the family who researches so long into what kind of baby carrier to buy that by the time we get it he’s too big for it. But oh, life for the Mardocks isn’t as easy as simply going to Toys R Us and getting a $20 Radio Flyer.

At Toys R Us we discover that tricycles have actually “devolved” over the past 20 years into cheap, breakable plastic garbage heaps and cost $60 and up. (Of course when I was a kid, they were American-made solid steal and rubber). Rachel and I reconsidered the simple notion of buying a trike. We decided to search around the Tacoma area for other options to no avail. All garbage. Then we discovered there was this uber-fancy German trike company called Kettler. Hand forged by real Teutonic engineers, with all the bells and whistles. The particular one we were interested, I called the “Ferrari of Tricycles.” The Air Navigator. This bad boy has real air-filled tires, plus a push handle for the parents. But then it gets better: the Air Navigator's petite frame belies the fact that it’s approved for up to a 400 pound human. Its rear wheels swivel like a shopping cart so that the parents can push the trike seamlessly without lifting and repositioning the trike (lest it veer off the sidewalk and maim the poor child). And lastly, its front wheel locks so that the wheel is always pointed straight ahead. Another must as parents push the lazy child up and down the block.

I must tell you, I had stars in my eyes. Clearly I wanted this trike so much more than Jude could ever care. At $250 though, it was just a hard justification to make. Didn’t we wake up that morning just wanting a simple $20 trike? How did we get from Junker to Ferrari? After much introspection and consideration about whether the trike should be a family heirloom or just a toy, we decided to keep the money and get the trike from Toys R Us. At $60, it’s still more than we want to pay, but I feel like we avoided an epic frivolous purchase. Certainly Jude would appreciate that money towards his college savings plan. Although with a weight limit of 400 pounds he could still easily ride the trike to college.

So ends our trike story, and onto another story: whether or not Rob and Rachel will invest $700 on the swankiest duallie stroller on the market, or whether we’ll ever get it through out heads that humans have been raising babies for millennia without the aircraft aluminum frames, Baby Bjorn carriers, and video baby monitors…