Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Aleese Gahvey-gup

Words only carry the meaning given by the immediate speaker. This concept is part of our post-modern heritage, and makes conversation nigh on impossible for anyone taking this truth to heart. For instance, I can say, "I love my husband" but, if my definition of husband is different than yours we can not truly communicate since we are essentially speaking different languages. Our home is full of this peculiar style of conversation - one person saying something quite plain while the rest of our family stands utterly perplexed. I had no idea it was rooted in our society's continuing disconnect with absolute truth, but I see now how intimately the two are related. I first noticed it when I was a nanny in the early years of my marriage. Amanda, the 2 year old I cared for, clearly asked for, "deerie-oos."

You want deerie-oos?



Yes! Deerie-oos!!!

We played the dance for several hysterical moments before I finally grasped the meaning she assigned to this word, "You mean cheerios?"


Amanda let out an exasperated sigh, "Deerie-oos." The nearly audible "duh" punctuated the word.

Fast-forward to our own 2 year old, Hannah, when she began asserting her likes, and dislikes: Dip.



You don't want this?


I took a stab in the dark, "You mean nope?" She nodded emphatically with that same piecing look Amanda held years earlier. The one that says, "How many times do we need to go over it?"

We were soon in the throws of another 2 year old (apparently 2 is the age generally accepted for assigning new meaning to words, and expecting the world to conform without any explanation). Bethany was given to tummy aches, which seemed to correlate almost exactly with bedtime. Each evening, within 10 minutes of being tucked in tight, she would meander out to the living room and explain that her tummy hooted. After a week of this we asked her what would make her feel better.

A spot.

A spot? What's a spot?

A spot! 

At this she pointed to the cupboard and emphatically restated the obvious, "a spot." So I lifted her up to the cupboard, that she might show me this alchemist's dream of tummy settlers, when she pulled from the shelf the bottle of Tums Antacid tablets. 

You want one of these?

She nodded her head vigorously, and then held the tablet in her little hand and restated its true name, "spot."

And so the list continues until a couple nights ago our current 2 year old exclaimed from the backseat of the van, "Aleese gahvey-gup!"


Aleese gavey-gup.

I have no idea what you are saying, Mary.

I wanna hear Aleese gavey-gup!

We listen to Christmas music in our vehicles from the weekend proceeding Thanksgiving until Christmas. We own several great cds, one of them being Time Life's A Treasury of Christmas. It has all the classics, both new and old. Our whole family gets giddy when we prepare to take it out for the season. I began skipping through the songs until at last Mary laughed in delight that, "Aleese Gahvey-gup" was playing. I was apparently pronouncing it wrong all these years when I called it, Feliz Navidad.

We are now faced with a difficult situation. If we want true communication our society tells us we must agree on the definitions of the words we use. I used to believe chips went into dip. A spot was a small circular drop or stain of a substance different from the surrounding material. Deerie-oos and Aleese Gahvey-gup were gibberish. However, if I continue in those truths I will be unable to participate in conversation with my children. This is obviously unacceptable. And so our home has plunged into relativity, ignoring the standards set by absolute truth and embracing with abandon the definitions set forth by the speaker.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Professional Wrestler

Caleb: Mama, do you think that I would be a good wrestler with adults?

Me: Hmmm, no I don't think that is a good idea.

Caleb: Why?

Me: Because you are still a boy. Wrestling against men would hurt you.

Caleb: No, I mean when I grow up... like when I am 152, or 50. After I have grown that much do you think I would be a good wrestler?

Me: At 152 I think you will be an excellent wrestler.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mary Ellen Is Two

Mary Ellen is two. This may seem obvious to you, as it clearly states in the sidebar that her birthday is December 27th. In fact, she is nearing three even as we speak. But she has hit two in her personality, and so as to make sure she doesn't miss anything she has hit it particularly HARD.

Mary is our most stubborn, rebellious, and downright naughty child to date. She makes Leah look positively tame! We didn't catch on in the early days to the extent of her unruliness because she hid behind the cloyingly sweet exterior of a petite, blonde haired, blue eyed, quiet child. She spoke later than my other children, and when she did it was in a tiny voice coveted by Whos all over the world. Boy, were we bamboozled - not so, anymore!

Mary screams when anything is not going her way; and I mean screams. She refuses to wear anything she did not pick out herself. Mary squawks at sitting down for dinner, standing up for getting dressed, laying down for going to sleep, and in all other instances willfully chooses to be contrary to the generally accepted norms of body placement protocol. But to all this I would be willing to turn a blind eye if she would but stay (prone positioning being optional) in her bed for nap and bedtime.

Mary hoodwinked the tent! We finally took the silly thing down, and instructed her to stay put. This worked marginally well if you count success being quiet and out of bed versus being loud and out of bed - either way she was constantly out of bed. When we moved it was apparent that her crib was not going to make it into the new room. We transitioned her rather abruptly into Leah's big girl bed, moving Leah to one of the bunks. Mary was thrilled. Of course, I don't know that she has spent more than 5 minutes in it over the past 4 weeks.

The other night I finally had enough. I was tired, feeling icky from the pregnancy, irritated with the still chaotic interior of our home, and generally fed up with my little ogre. I told Christopher that I thought we needed to bring back the crib. He wasn't here to listen to her stomp around with her sister's boots on during nap time. He didn't have to deal with picking up every toy she destroyed during her quiet time. He wasn't listening to the heartbreak of her sisters that once again their diary, doll, game, book, dress, stuffed animal, or blanket was taken hostage and had war crimes committed against it while in her camp. Yep, I was done.

Christopher brought me back to reason, as he does so often. He reminded me that putting her back in the crib would not solve the problem, and would probably only make matters worse. He pointed out that she needed some better boundaries (like a stone wall), and firmer consequences (I'm thinking Siberia).

That's all fine for you to suggest, but I am the one home alone with her! I am the one that has to manage adding this to my already packed day!

You're right, hon. Well, I think our only other choice is clear - military grade reform school.

I am making inquiries in the morning... unless she kisses me first.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Or, You Can Just Cut The Counter

After nearly 2 months of living with WalMart Classic Rooster vinyl tablecloths tacked to the sub-counter of my kitchen we are getting tile! Not just tile, but beautiful gloss 8x8 inch white tile that stretches from one end of the counters to the other, up the backsplash and across the window sill. Ahhhh....

Of course, as anyone knows who has done tiling (or watched in wonder as someone else did it) laying tile requires more than just dividing the counter's square footage by the tile measurements to come up with the amount of rough material necessary. One of the more important steps is a mysterious, and deeply guarded secret that tradesmen alone know the power of called, "setting center." This task precisely determines the spot where every eye ever to enter your home will rest. It does not matter if you have purple ostrich feathers protruding from the ceiling in the upper-left corner of your entry, if center is not placed correctly in your kitchen all guests will immediately recognize your foible, and comment ruthlessly on the inadequacy of your feng-shui. It's important stuff.

So our tile setter came last night to "set center", and begin the rough layout for our counters. The general rule is that the kitchen's sink is used as the central mark, and everything radiates out from it. In fact, this has become such a trend that many architects are designing the sink to be an obvious focal point of the kitchen layout. Our home was apparently not designed by an architect, since the sink is not center for anything from our cupboards to counter length. And because our non-architect also lost all of his issues to Architecture Digest (before reading any), there is no true center to the kitchen... anywhere. This makes tile layout somewhat complicated. But our tile master was up for the task, and began giving us option after choice on how we could set center. The final plan took into consideration the peninsula that stands center stage when entering our kitchen, and therefore makes an ideal radiating point. Then my naivete over tile setting became glaringly obvious as once again I was asked where I wanted full to begin. Um... what? Because our counters don't run in only one direction we had to decide where we were going to start with full tiles. This means deciding whether to have full tiles at the base of the counters, at the top of the peninsula, or at the joint of the peninsula to the counter because, once again, our non-architect/ghetto designer did not own a tape measure which would have helped him logically choose coordinating depths and widths for the varying countertops. We were stumped. The eye was automatically drawn to the peninsula, making it the perfect selection to receive all full tile priority, but that left a sliver running the entire length of my sink counter which was, admittedly, ugly. And then it happened! The reality of home ownership came down like an angel singing Glory Hallelujah. Our tile setter suggested we cut about two inches from the overhang of the peninsula to allow for a full tile at both the peninsula's end AND the sink-counter. It was brilliant. Christopher and I stood stone still for a full 30 seconds trying to grapple with the reality that we could simply cut our counter to match our tile, rather than the more acceptable version of cutting the tile to match the counter. It was our house!

And so we did.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

One Year Old!

Josiah is one year old today. I can hardly believe it. He has grown so quickly, warming our lives with his smiles, personality, quirks, and habits for 12 months. I can literally look back to yesterday when I delivered him. I remember last week when I took the pregnancy test that told us we were expecting our son. How did it go so fast?

I remember nursing and rocking him to sleep in the middle of the night. Now he is eating graham crackers!

I can still see his beautiful infant smile. Now the smile lighting up his face has 8 teeth included.

His cuddles have been traded for independence.

The tiny onesies outgrown for jeans.

My littlest baby is a full grown toddler. He loves to walk everywhere. He explores everything. Nothing is safe from his mouth! He is babbling, saying Dada when he is happy and Momma when he is sad. His laugh has a belly chuckle to it that melts anyone's heart. I miss the tiny baby I brought home from the hospital. But I am thrilled to pieces at the idea of watching him continue to grow, change, and experience the next stage in his precious life.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Order

In case you are stopping at Starbucks on your way through Marina my order is:

4 pump
no water
extra foam


Whoever Loves God Must Also Love His Brother

1 John 4:21 says, "And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother."

One of our strongest missions is to teach our children how to love their siblings. I grew up as an only child, and can remember so well the desire I had for brothers and sisters. I envied the giggles underneath the blankets, or the shared stories of a history that began at birth. I longed for the camaraderie that comes with sharing everything from toothpaste to nosebleeds. I automatically thought that having siblings was the only part of the equation necessary for close and lasting relationships between children of the same parents. Ha!

Christopher has two sisters, and while he loves them both he wasn't raised with an understanding for the priority of building friendship into those relationships. He remembers the prevailing philosophy was more, "as long as it doesn't get loud enough to bother mom or dad," than one of, "is this encouraging a deepening of mutual affection for one another." There has been much pain and regret for loss of friendship over years spent in unconnectedness. He automatically thought siblings would tolerate one another, but gain their true friends from outside the home. Ha!

We were both wrong. Big surprise there *wink*. God has truly opened our eyes to better understand his design in family, and the relationships built in a home that loves him, and respects one another. We don't have delusions that our children's only dear friends must come from inside our nest. That would be absurd, not to mention unhealthy. But we are quick to point out to our children that their siblings will always be their brothers and sisters, regardless of whatever else might happen. And we don't believe that children can simply be left to forge those relationships alone. Children need training in how to be friendly with their family members just like they need training in every other venture from brushing their hair to addressing an audience. Learning to seek forgiveness, not harboring a grudge, communicating expectations, and genuinely thinking of another person first do not come naturally to anyone, let alone a rather self-absorbed little person. As parents we must take the initiative to teach our children the value in their brothers and sisters. For us, in particular, it is vital that we acknowledge the reality of sacrifice necessary from the entire family as a result of our choices to trust God for our family size. The payoff is no different for me, than it is for my children. I am willing to give up comforts and conveniences for another human being - and I want my children to want the same thing. But as an adult I have the advantage of perspective, and control. So, we try to be diligent in our communication with each child about the reasons why we have submitted to the conviction we hold so dear. And in the midst of it, we also work to allow them the most enjoyable fruit of our decision - the blessing of real relationships with all their siblings.

Only time will ultimately tell if we have done our job well. But I am so excited as more and more of my children's spontaneous responses are centered around the friendships with their family members. A couple of night's ago was a perfect example. Caleb and Bethany were scheming all day on how they could have a "sleepover" with each other. They were so well-behaved that I knew it was the night to allow them this treat. When I went into their room to check on them before bed their were fast asleep in each other's arms. What a precious picture of brotherly love!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Man's Home Is His Castle

Our many friends, family members, and even acquaintances have been so endearing in their interest over our transition into our new home. The most commonly asked questions is:

Are you getting settled in your home?

Christopher and I both struggle with how to answer this question. On the one hand, we don't want to appear as though we aren't getting anything done by answering, "Ha! Settled? Are you kidding? We aren't anywhere NEAR settled! We still have boxes in every room, the countertops in the kitchen are raw plywood with vinyl tablecloths (WalMart rooster print!) tacked to the top, all three bedrooms need paint, the garage is an overflow of yet-to-be-unpacked boxes mixed with yet-to-be-finished-using-them tools on top of all the normal garagy stuff you find in a family our size (think clothing - each gender, every size 0-10), the window covering are ordered but sheets still hang over the bedroom windows, and so on and so on goes the list.

But, we have gotten used to our new freeway exit. The kids have met other children in our neighborhood and become fast friends. The ease of cleaning our new hardwood floors continually reminds us of the blessing in purchasing an older home with oak short boards already installed. We realize every time we chose a color, put a nail in the wall, look out at the dirt pit which is our backyard right now, that this house belongs to us. We own it! And we are settling into that feeling very nicely.

We are excited to finish a few more projects on our list of priorities for the home. Of course there is always something around the bend! We have are our eye on certain landmarkers that will definitely carry a sigh of relief for their completion. However, we are excited that no one can come in and tell us how to manage our house. No one can intrude on our property for the sake of an "inspection." No one tells me what they are, or are not going to do in my house. I am settling very nicely into that freedom.

All in all, we are getting settled. It is taking much longer than anticipated in some areas, but the process is a reminder that Rome wasn't built in a day. And at the end of it all, the house is really just the outside shell for what a man's REAL castle is: his home, which is his family; and in that, we are completely settled.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Little Feet

Your house must be a zoo!

At the surface this statement is innocuous. Indeed, a house with 12 little feet can certainly be a bit lively at times. However, I recently saw something more subtle, and probably unconscious in the disparagement our society continues placing on large families. By mere merit of belonging to a large family, many erroneously buy into the belief that children cease to exist as independent beings. This could not be further from the truth. Please indulge me while I demonstrate a possible heart attitude at the foundation of this all too popular off-the-cuff remark.

A zoo is, by definition, a place full of wild animals meant to be enjoyed from a distance, but never embraced as a home for humans. It contains bars, fences, and gates to keep contact to a minimum. The architect's design of any zoo has one primary focal point - to give visitors a seamless window into another's habitat without actually endangering the viewer of inclusion in the scene. And at the bottom of it all there is the dehumanizing effect of equating the pitter-patter of children's fee to the dull thud of hooves, the eerie scraping of talons, and the wily tread of paws.

My little feet are not a pack of wolves, nor a herd of elephants, neither are they a flock of geese. This is, I assume, perfectly evident to you. I also assume it is perfectly evident to our culture, at large. What I do not believe is so evident are the individual lives attached to each set of little feet, making them not merely members of the "Mob", but perfectly ordained, indispensable people with a unique purpose as different from any other human on this planet as you.

Each person has an identifiable print to their toes, similar to their fingers. There are no two sets identically alike, even in twins! My children do not look around them and think, "Now who are all these crazy people with whom I share a house." We don't memorize stripe patterns, or tag them for recognition by researchers. I doubt you look at the children in your home and wonder how you will ever keep them straight. Do you forget their names? How about their favorite story, or worst fear? Do you keep blanking on what they look like when you try to pick them out in a crowd? These are certainly ridiculous questions. But in bringing the subtle to the obvious I think the point can be made that often those questions are wondered about me, and my family. How can I keep them all straight? How can I remember all their food aversions? How do I manage all those kids? The answer is rather simple: the same way a mom with one manages her child. I consider myself the mother of six only children.

I have Hannah, an only child, who is bright and competent. She is a natural leader, and takes responsibility very seriously.

I have Bethany, an only child, who loves art and beauty. She gives generously from her heart in soft, gentle ways.

I have Caleb, an only child, whose robust energy stops only for bedtime. He genuinely encourages with uplifting words of affirmation, and recognizes the importance of verbal communication.

I have Leah, an only child, who finds the hilarity in nearly any situation. Her use of expressionism bears the mark of a master.

I have Mary, an only child, who never doubts her own mind. The confidence, and comfort of her own skin shines through an independent personality.

I have Josiah, an only child, whose smile is readily given to anyone. He is equally at home in the comfort of my arms, or wandering the house oblivious to anyone.

I have my only child due in April. What a wonder of delight their little feet will be when I first lay eyes on them.

These children are not an indescribable horde of wild beasts. They are not merely a noise level to be endured for a few moments, and them ignored. When someone asks me how I have the patience for them all, while they stand at my hip, it is essentially asking me why I would want to put myself through "such an ordeal" for no justifiable end. I have a beautifully justifiable end: little feet.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tagged with Four

My friend Julie, who also writes a blog, was "tagged". She had to open her picture directory, choose the 4th file, then choose the 4th picture, and blog about the picture. In turn she "tagged" me to do the same. However, I am in a conundrum. I own a MacBook, and no longer have my pictures ordered in a directory with specific files. I use iPhoto, and at am immediate glance I have several hierarchical options for choosing photos. I can open up "Events", I can open up the "Albums" I have created, I can open up "All Photos" and simply blog about the 4th picture, or I can open up "Recent Events". All these options are shown along the sidebar, and not in the least organized in a manner making one more obviously the lead dog. So, in order to make sure I cover my bases I figured I would go ahead and do them all.

The first, in Events, is Leah. She is about 2 1/2 here, and putting on her daddy's socks and tevas. She LOVED shoes! She still loves shoes, including her pink cowboy boots she is almost outgrown, but insists on wearing almost everywhere anyway.

This is Hannah around 18months! Before we knew how sensitive her skin was we would give her bubble baths rather regularly. She loved the bubbles, and would gleefully play in the tub for nearly an hour. Our house was an old Victorian, and the tub was a cast-iron claw foot. That thing would keep the water warm for a full minute, which meant by the time she was ready to get out she was pickled, and freezing! It never bothered her.

This is Hannah with baby Caleb. He is about 2 weeks old here, with Hannah weighing at 4 1/2. Both Hannah and Bethany loved to hold their living baby doll. She is still such a great help in taking care of the little ones. Caleb was such an easy baby. He slept when he was supposed to - ate when he was supposed to - and generally coo'ed at everyone. We were smitten with our first son!

The last "folder" in my directory is Recent Downloads. This is the birth of my 6th child, second son, Josiah. My labor and delivery for this beloved son was the most difficult I have ever experienced. The complications surrounding the surprised arrival of Josiah on November 18th will have lasting ramifications on all future deliveries. But this moment was one of the sweetest I have ever experienced. And God was so prevalent in the midst of the entire ordeal. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's Good To Be Appreciated

I was sitting in Caleb and Josiah's bedroom this evening, working on more unpacking, when Caleb came over to my side and sweetly said,

I am glad you are alive, Mama.

Thank you, Caleb. Why do you say that?

Because if you weren't, who else would unpack all these boxes?

Um, yeah.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lesson #238

Lesson #238: Not all doorbells are wired equally.

Our doorbell was sorely lacking in usability when we bought our home. By the time the first crew of workers were through the actual fixture had vanished, and a new one was needed. In the numerous shopping adventures to Home Depot I picked up a simple, yet functional replacement that would cover the multiple holes created by its predecessors while providing an easy to use doorbell button. It sat in my home, along with several other Home Depot finds, for several days until today I finally had the chance to install it. I figured the less-than-ten-minutes it would take to attach a couple wires and screw it onto my door frame was a perfect project while girls were putting away laundry 

I am not sure how other homes are wired for doorbells but my home apparently insisted on using the thickest wire imaginable for the job. Instead of small copper wires easily bent for the contacts in the doorbell mine are thick enough to do the job of a 220 volt generator. Apparently the original installer believed if it is was good enough to do, then it was good enough to do overboard.

So, after the initial ten minutes came and went, and after I learned the finer nuances of my doorbell and how the button light, contacts, and housing fit together, and after I worked to fit the excess wire back into the wall, and after I silently vowed to never allow an electrician the satisfaction of wiring another doorbell for this home or any future home I might ever own, I installed my new button.

It works. I think that is the general ideal - but sadly I feel quite unappreciated for my 30+ minutes of labor for an obviously standard mount buzzer. Fortunately I have you to listen to my tirade so I don't feel completely invalidated! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If No One Is Around To See The Hose Does It Still Spray Water?

As we drove home from church several weeks ago Caleb noted the vegetation along the side of the road. He was understandably curious about how the "wild" trees lived; and as we passed copses, bushes, and substantial undergrowth he wanted to know how they were watered.

When it rains it waters the wild plants.

Christopher reminded Caleb of our famous fog, noting that it is really moisture in the air, and how it serves to give water to the plants. Caleb thought about this and replied:

So they get water from that - and from the hoses.

No son (I explained superciliously) there are no hoses in the wild. God doesn't use hoses for the woods.

Except that hose, Mama.

Sure enough, as we drove by the paltry attempts at landscaping the overgrown patches of weeds by our (old) home there snaked a single solitary hose nearly hidden, but quite clearly observable by the ever humbling eye of my son.

Yes, Caleb, except that hose.

We're Here!

WOW - what a ride! I am sitting in my very own home, wondering how on earth I arrived in this place. I think back over the last several months, and it still seems a dream. How did we go from looking at buying in the next couple of years to closing escrow in 3 months? The only thing I know for sure is the prayers of the righteous, and my God, literally sustained us through one of the most difficult transitions Christopher and I have ever faced. Thank you to everyone out there that wrote encouraging emails, interceded on our behalf, and generally sat in the home stands and rooted for us. We could not have made it without you.

Our move went incredibly well. We had several men from our church, and good friends, that showed up to lend their muscle for the better part of last Saturday. Then they left, and I sat in my great room (living/family/dining room) and saw nothing but boxes and out of place furniture. I look around me now, and I see mostly boxes and out of place furniture! All in good time.

The children are absolutely in love with their new backyard. Of course, it might have something to do with the fact that it is mostly dirt. Oh, and Caleb can play construction to his heart's content. We are working on taking apart a paver patio, so he is forever stacking, moving, building, and generally reeking mayhem with the loose pavers. No crushed toes or fingers - yet.

I am learning to live in a rather constant state of transition. Just when I think I might be able to finalize one project I am halted by the need to either manage a child, or the realization that the current project can't be finished until a separate project is completed. For instance: I can't unpack my linens until I finish cutting the shelves for the linen closet, which I can't do until I get particle board from Home Depot, which I can't do until I have a place in my garage to house it, which I can't do until I organize my garage, which I can't do until I have a solid 6 hours to work on it with my hubby, which I can't do until our children are gown. Therefore, the linens will remain in a stack on the edge of my dining room table until the end of the age. There are worse things in life.

We still need to order our tile for the kitchen counters (the raw plywood was covered by felt-backed vinyl table clothes with the "traditional WalMart Rooster" design last week! This makes for a much cleaner, albeit humorous, kitchen.). We still need to paint most of the rooms. We still need to organize furniture, pick out window coverings, get an area rug for our great room, put up pictures, hooks, and towel bars. We do not have established homes for much beyond basic necessities, our plumbing has already backed up in the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room. The electrician has been to call at the tune of $1500 to fix an apparently "homegrown" job from the previous owners in splicing our disposal/dishwasher outlet into separate circuits, per code. I need to buy a digital thermostat, pick out a new doorbell, rearrange my children's wardrobes per new room assignments, and relabel drawers with my handy dandy Ptouch. The videos are still packed so the entire household has memorized Barbie as Rapunzel, Rescue Heros the Movie, and Mary Poppins. Our shower drain was installed incorrectly before the previous owners tiled, so we are all using the same shower in the hall bath, and none of our light switches are situated in logical locations.

BUT! We can hear the ocean from our driveway. The neighborhood is so quiet, with gracious neighbors. We love our beautiful hardwood floors, open floor plan, and brick fireplace. The home has wonderful bones, and we are throwing away our moving boxes! God is good.

(PS - We simply stayed up all night last night to find the 6 hours of uninterrupted time for our garage organization. If we stay up for the next 3 weeks, working through the wee hours of each night I think we might pull off the rest of the unpacking.) 

Friday, September 19, 2008

Demand To Close Escrow

Here I am, again writing about our journey through the wonderful world of home buying. This process has been, to say it gently, emotional. The ups of a God performing miracles on your behalf, and the lows of dealing with impossible after impossible situations has left Christopher and me spent. When we went into the escrow office last Thursday to sign papers all I really wanted was for this whole thing to be done.

The signing went fairly well, although our escrow agent was not in attendance, so rather than have all those final questions about financing, closing cost estimates, and quirky realty-speak explained we had John condescending to us with one comment, advising us with incorrect information the next, and always reminding us that it was, "good we brought our questions so we could make sure and get them answered." It was incredibly anticlimactic. But we persevered, knowing that in only a few more days the house would finally be ours!

On Monday we met with our realtor, Margarett, to have the final walk-through. We took a couple of pictures with the family in front of our soon to be new home, and as we began to part ways Margarett asked Christopher if he had told me about the last minute glitch facing our close date the following day. What glitch?

Apparently the selling bank (remember, we bought a foreclosure) was disagreeing about their point of responsibility for the pest work ordered, and performed, on the house. Their computer system said they did not approve it, and they were working to get the backup invoices from the actual work so they could issue an approval. "This is nothing to worry about," Margarett assured us. "The escrow company has already filed a special form that will allow them to fund and record on the same day. I had to deal with this in the purchase of my own home, and while it obviously isn't ideal it shouldn't cause any extraordinary problems." My first reaction was to clarify that we had a written contract which clearly spelled out the seller's financial obligation in paying for pest work. "Oh yes," Margarett confirmed, "they will approve the work, they just need to verify with their backup invoices before they can issue an approval." Famous last words.

Christopher decided to take the first portion of Tuesday off so he could be home when we received the call that we owned a home. We waited. We waited a little longer. Finally at about 11:30am Margarett called, but instead of the joyous proclamation that she had keys to bring us we were told that it might be just a bit longer before that approval came through. We were again assured there was nothing to worry about, that the approval would probably come through later that afternoon and we would close escrow the following day. She would call us as soon as she heard news either way. Christopher headed off to work with a heavy heart, and I made phone calls to rearrange the work we had already ordered to begin that day on the house. Both Christopher and I had that sinking feeling that this wasn't going to be easy.

We spoke with Margarett later that night, and found out that the approval was not coming through that day. Apparently Countrywide had a system wide glitch that they were aware of, and needed to fix. Why they didn't approve our contract, which they wrote, and fix the problem on their own time was driving me near to distraction. Basically the worksheet used between Countrywide and their listing agent wasn't synchronizing accurately, and while the listing agent had confirmation of the seller's commitment to pest work the sellers computer did not have this same confirmation. The point needs to be made again... we all had the same written contract which stated on page 4 that the seller was to order and pay for pest inspections, and section 1 repairs/remediation (basically those things that show active infestation of pests and/or damages directly related to active infestation). Once again Margarett assured us we should hear from Countrywide first thing in the morning.

Wednesday morning dawned with no news from Countrywide. It turned into Wednesday afternoon, still with no news from Countrywide. At this point we were being told that a manager higher up in the organization should have the approval form. We were getting fed up! This was our house. We had done everything to get our paperwork filed, get our money to escrow, manage all the disclosures, agree to all the fees, and finally be prepared to close on the date stipulated by our contract which was signed on July 25th! The ironic thing was that Countrywide made a huge stink in our initial requirements for making an offer that we be prepared to close within 45 days - no exceptions. So here we were, over 45 days later, and they were the ones making the exceptions. Not only making exceptions, but admittedly aware of the issue before our escrow was to close, but doing nothing to take care of it in a timely manner. Christopher realized we were going to just sit and wait until we decided to make it evident that we weren't going to sit and wait. He contacted Margarett and told her we needed to escalate this to the next level. Margarett prepared a Demand To Close Escrow and we filed it at 1:15pm on Wednesday giving the seller a countdown of 3 days until they were in complete breech of contract, and we could pursue legal recourse.

It is amazing what a single piece of paper can accomplish. At 6:30pm we suddenly had word from Countrywide that the approval for the pest work came through! We would close escrow the following day. We were relieved to be one step closer to the end of this process. Late the next morning we received the call that all the money was in escrow, and recording would happen at 1:30pm.

Margarett came over at 2:30 to give us our key, along with flowers, a new welcome mat, some champagne, and even "Just Moved" postcards she had made with the picture taken at our final walk-through. It was a neat moment.

Friday, September 12, 2008

big means BIG

Many of you may have done me the favor of reading my post about God being big in our home buying adventure. Little did I know at the time of writing that post that there was a sequel already in the works. It never ceases to amaze me how I limit God. But through this process my appreciation for his absolutely amazing "bigness" has been firmly established.

Starting where I left off, we were just over 2 weeks out from close, and everything was coming together smoothly. Then, rather suddenly the floor dropped out from under out feet! Christopher received a phone call a mere week before we were slated to sign escrow papers that our financing had some to a screeching halt. A necessary third party component to our mortgage was denied. YIKES!

I interrupt this news report to give you the following: For those of you, like me, who believe ARMs are the appendages attached to the side of your body you can read this little paragraph for a fuller explanation of the details. Apparently when you do not invest at least 20% of your own capital into the purchase of a home you are required to carry a special insurance policy with the lender as your beneficiary. This special insurance is called Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI. Basically, statistics show that those people financing more than 80% of the purchase price are more likely to default on their loan. So PMI is issued until you have paid into your principle 20%, or your home's value has increased enough to appraise 20% higher than the original purchase price. PMI is standard, and if your lender accepts your financing package and is in the process of underwriting your loan then PMI is generally guaranteed. It was certainly nothing we, nor anyone else, anticipated giving us a problem. Now I return you to our regularly scheduled program.

Our PMI was denied. Our lender, who owns his own mortgage company and has worked in this field for decades was shocked! Our credit portfolio made a very strong statement of good credit risk, and his investors were excited to give us our loan. But the PMI company, Radian, said our appraisal was inaccurate, and placed the property far above actual market value. We could not understand what they meant. Our appraisal came back 15k over our offer and stood very solidly in the middle of the comparisons used for the context of what the market could bear. The only statement Radian could give for the reason of denial was the decision to mark our finished garage as a benefit to the property value. Apparently the truth is that finished wall board, double paned windows, stained wainscoting, and upgraded louvered garage doors should have been noted as a liability. That makes sense. Who wants a pretty garage? And anyone mentally well would willing pay over 15k to have the garage reverted to open wall studs, old wood garage doors, single light bulb fixtures hanging by chains, and rickety single paned windows. But I digress. The main point is that we were sitting dead in the water.

Of course our first reaction was to panic. What do you MEAN we have no financing? What do you MEAN we don't have a loan? What do you MEAN? We were told that we could go with a government subsidized program and be guaranteed PMI, but we would need to deal with some of the nuances from the program. Christopher continued to feel strongly that buying our home was something we were doing to get away from government intervention - financing with them would be a somewhat major step in the wrong direction. Our lender told us that he might be able to work something out if we came up with a more substantial down, and that he would also "do the ole hale Mary pass", where he took our application and put it back out to his investors to see if another set would bite. The theory was that a new set of investors might allow us to get a different PMI company. When we asked about Radian changing their minds we were told that was an impossibility. Apparently our lender doesn't know my God.

Friday came and we were no closer to hearing anything, but our nerves were shot. We kept holding onto the fact that the bible says God brings all things to completion which he starts, and we knew that God had started this home-buying adventure.

Saturday was awful. In an attempt to help support the original appraisal our lender went ahead and issued a government appraiser to the site. This appraiser got in touch with the listing agent, who then got in touch with our realtor. Our realtor called us to say that the listing agent was distressed over what appeared to be a "bait and switch" on our behalf, namely one of the largest components to the government subsidized program is the agreement of the seller to pay 1.5% of the selling price into the program for future funding of other candidates. This clearly affects the sellers bottom line profit and can not simply be added without negotiations. The listing agent said we would need to renegotiate the entire contract. YIKES! Later than day our own agent called us back and tried to assure us that things were going to get worked out. She realized we might have felt a little alarmed at her initial call, and felt badly that she may have scared us. It was nice that she called, and it was nice that she encouraged us, but the fact was that we knew we didn't have any money to buy the house and no amount of pleasantries changed it.

Sunday we get a call before we head out the door for church from our lender that he thinks we may have a deal, with the original loan application, but he will be in touch with more when he gets it.

Monday afternoon our lender announces that he has heard back from Radian and they have changed their opinion on our appraisal! They accepted our PMI, and the investors are still eager to fund our loan. We are in business!

Tuesday morning Christopher gets another call from our lender that because the original loan stopped in the underwriting process he had to restart the entire process again. This has caused some thins to be reevaluated, including interest rates, which had dropped since we first locked. To our utter amazement we were told that because of the PMI debacle the new loan configuring would take these falling rates into account and, along with an increase in our credit score since the initial application, we would end up with a below 6% 30 year fixed mortgage. Speechless would be an understatement. Apparently God wanted to make sure that the previous humanly impossible circumstances were made clear by yet again making the impossible the very reality of our lives.

With our loan in our back pocket, our signing date set for 9/11, and a crew of people lined up to start work on the house once we closed, Christopher and I felt like nothing more could touch us. You will need to read the rest of the story in the next post because, we are beginning to learn, there is always a sequel.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Honey, Bunny, Bearie and Mac

Leah is the equivalent of a bag lady when it comes to her bed, and the arrangement of stuffed animals that reside upon it. She usually has at least one baby doll, some smallish marine mammal, a few bears, two or three random animals purloined from her siblings' beds, and of course Honey, Bunny, Bearie and Mac.

We didn't realize there was a naming scheme until we began limiting the number of animals she was allowed to sleep with each night. While going through the rigors of explaining why she didn't need all seven beanie bears I grabbed one of the sacred four and receive a howl of utter desperation.


Bearie? Okay, not bearie. But certainly you don't need both baby dolls? And I think you can live without...


Leah, you won't even allow Mac* to look at you, much less come near you. You can't sleep without Mac? (Shakes her head emphatically) Alright. But you need to put back this fish, and you can also put away...


You named this one Honey? (She nods her head, while sucking her thumb) Are there any others that you simply must have with you?

She looks at the chaos on her bed, and grabs only one more. Bunny.

I have to have BUNNY, Mama.

So you need to have each of these four? You can't live without any of them?

Nope. Honey, Bunny, Bearie, and Mac all need to stay here with me or else I won't ever sleep.

We still deal with weeding out her bed from time to time. I find hair bands, Sunday School pictures, single socks lost from their mate forever, and of course seven dolls, two pairs of shoes, a missing pajama shirt, and her sister's book. But we have struck a deal that works for everyone - I am allowed to remove all the excess toys down to a sheet, blanket and pillow as long as I understand that Honey, Bunny, Bearie and Mac do not fall into the category of "excessive", and must live next to her pillow until Christ returns.

I won't be utterly shocked to find them in heaven.

*Mac is our next door neighbor's dog. He is a big dog who could mean business if he wanted to, but has been adopted by our children as their dog while we work on Daddy's resolve for a puppy of our own. Mac's owners gave Leah her stuffed Mac, and even wrote his name on a cute little dog collar that her version wears. We have been working for the better part of 2 years on breaking Leah of her fear of dogs, so the irony of her choice of beloved stuffed animal is made all the more humorous to us.


Mary knows how to say, "Josiah." She is quite cute when she says it. Lately however, she has taken to a less intimate nomenclature.

Mama, Someone is hurting me. (Josiah is grabbing her hair.)

Oh no! Someone is getting into your fizzy. (Josiah is teething on my seltzer water can.)

Ahhhhh, stop it Someone! (Josiah is using her as an aid to help him stand.)

We have no idea what prompted this dehumanizing progression. She doesn't use it exclusively, and can be heard just as often cooing his given name while covering his face with kisses. In fact, even when she uses her new pet name it isn't reserved only for discipline. She will kiss "Someone" and scold "Josiah." Whatever the reasoning, we all find it pretty hysterical.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Can We Welcome You To The Kirby Family?

There is a reason door to door salesmen have such a bad reputation. They inspired an entire marketing scheme aimed at advertising a home owner's distaste for their presence before even knocking. The "No Solicitors" sign can be found in classic metal, scripted with airbrush in country colors on wood, handwritten on a note taped to the doorbell, and of course screamed from behind a closed door by a 70 year old biddy. We should have recognized the reason for this national defense. We missed it.

Adam presented himself at our door one fine Saturday and asked Christopher if there was a room in our house that we would like "dry" shampooed for free? He noted that we was a demonstrator for Kirby vacuums, and for the painless task of listening to his sales pitch he would clean any room at no charge. We had just been talking about the need to rent a Rug Doctor for our family room, so this seemed providential. Christopher told Adam we would be ready for him in 15 minutes. Within moments my peaceful afternoon was gone. We raced around to get toys off the floor for the shampooing, and I had to run upstairs and get out of my pajamas (I told you we were planning on a relaxing afternoon). No sooner had I gotten upstairs but Adam was back, some 10 minutes earlier than expected. Eagerness can be a good characteristic. 

I decided to go full bore and take a shower, allowing Christopher the delightful task of entertaining our new friend for the vast majority of his stay. I figured by the time I arrived downstairs some 30 minutes later our floor would be close to finished, and I could go back to relaxing on my couch, albeit cleaner than originally anticipated. You can imagine my surprise when I walked into the family room and was met by Adam, a very unshampooed floor, and small white disks strewn across my carpet (for hygienic purposes they don't actually attach the bag until after you purchase the machine, so they use a special chamber which sucks the dirt into a clear canister and onto white discs of vacuum cleaner bag material so you can see what the inside of your very own Kirby bag would look like. I am convinced they are trained to leave these discs lying around your home in an attempt to subtly remind you of the disgusting state of affairs resting beneath your feet). Adam was very pleasant to meet me and seemed utterly unperturbed that he had been there a solid half an hour with nothing more to show for himself than a cleverly designed display box housing all the mighty Kirby's attachments.

I am in therapy to try and forget what happened next, but apparently I am not paying my shrink enough for the "total recall" plan. I remember, quite vividly, Adam spending the following 2 hours wasting our time while he tried to sell us a TWO THOUSAND and TWO HUNDRED dollar vacuum. Apparently we are going to die as a result of the dirt housed in our carpets. We are certainly experiencing unprecedented illnesses due to dust mite excrement on our tongues in the morning. We have only our lousy old vacuum to blame for the wear and tear on our lovely, military grade, rented for decades carpeting. And with the new Kirby model we could use the latest technology of "dry" shampooing to insure a thorough clean every time. "So, can I welcome you to the Kirby family?"

We tried to explain that we were buying a home with all wood floors, and would not have the issue of carpet padding trapping all that dirt, dander, and death. We tried to humor him when he raced upstairs into our bedrooms, uninvited, while my baby took a nap. We were gentle, kind, and long suffering when he attached and reattached the same special nozzle 7 times because he had forgotten just one more thing he was supposed to show us. One of the best zingers came when he finally accomplished the "dry" shampoo; and we marveled at how poorly conceived the design to turn the Kirby into a shampooer was managed - water sloshing out of the open receptacle while piles of foam thoroughly soaked our carpet. We even allowed him to jump on our trampoline while we discussed the possibility of purchasing the vacuum (read: figure out how to finally get him to understand we weren't going to buy). But it was finally time, and Christopher broke the news.

Adam was nearly speechless. He couldn't believe we didn't seriously want to purchase this wonder appliance, which did practically everything including make dinner. He asked Christopher what would make him reconsider, and without thinking Christopher blurted out, "I don't know, take 50% off the price." Well, Adam was aghast at this suggestion noting that he had never heard of such a thing before. Yeah, that was kinda the point! We reminded poor Adam that we weren't going to have any areas in our new home with wall to wall carpet. It didn't make financial sense for us to purchase such a substantial vacuum. We reiterated that we did not utilize credit for spontaneous purchases and were not comfortable taking that much money our of our checking when we were closing escrow in only a few weeks. Adam continued to remain speechless.

He finally broke the spell by deciding to call his up-line manager and find out what kind of deal he could make for us. We tried to dissuade him, explaining we were not buying the machine. He called anyway, but received only his manager's voicemail. Ahhh, we sighed internally. Maybe now he would get the point! We were growing weary, and were ready to have him gone. And yet Adam persisted. He began to explain that we would certainly never see the kind of sale his team was offering for quite some time. He became snippy, mumbling under his breath about how much he hated packing up "these beasts" when only moments before he had been asking us if he could welcome us to the Kirby family. In the midst of this tirade his manager called him back and after several moments Adam hung up and announced that he was authorized to give us the Kirby for 15% off. This was such a significant price reduction he was sure we would jump on it. In fact, he stopped packing his "beast". We held firm, once again reminding him that we were not interested in spending that kind of money on a vacuum at this time. Adam began to pack again.

Over the next several minutes, while Adam literally took his sweet time getting his things together, I tried to initiate conversation with him about his job, how much he liked it, and what had made him get into the business. I thought perhaps it would help ease the embarrassment he must be feeling at spending nearly 3 hours in someone's home and having nothing to show for it. Had I not known he was in his mid-twenties I would have thought him closer in age to a 4 year old throwing a bit of a tantrum. He barely acknowledged my questions, giving me the briefest possible answers, and continued to huff and puff about how much he detested packing up. Suddenly his phone rang again. This time it was his area supervisor asking for a status update. Adam explained that we just weren't interested even though he had already offered us the exorbitant deal of a lifetime. After several moments of listening Adam recalled to his supervisor that Christopher had mentioned the "50% off" deal. Adam listened for another minute, and then hung up the phone. He stopped packing, went over to a piece of paper with the original sales price and promo information on it and wrote $1100 on it before handing it to Christopher. "I can get it for you for the price you asked."

"Adam, I don't want to buy it. I am not interested in it."

"But you said you if it was 50% off that would be the right price. Well, here it is."

"Adam, I don't want to buy it. I changed my mind."

"You said you would take it if it was 50% off. I have never seen this before. They have never reduced the price like this before. You will never get this kind of deal again."

"Adam, we don't want it."


Christopher finally had to say to him that he was tired of discussing this, and he needed Adam to pack his things and get out of his house. I don't think I have ever seen my husband come so close to decking someone out of sheer exasperation than that day. It still took Adam nearly 10 minutes to leave. His supervisor called him again, and Adam recounted, in front of us, how Christopher told him he had to get out of our house. He didn't say goodbye when he left.

A few weeks later Leah was talking about how much she missed her friend. 

"What friend, Leah?"

"You know... my friend. Adam."


"Yeah, with the vacuum. He's my friend."

Thankfully we don't run a democracy in Odd, we run a monarchy and Adam has not been invited back.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Pssst, I have a secret and I'm not gonna tell you.

Remember those days in elementary school when keeping secrets meant purposely dropping hints so your friends knew you knew something they did not? You were queen of recess for that one afternoon as all the playground consulted with you to learn your secret. Best friends were dropped, all bets were off, nations were divided and rejoined under the auspices of who was (and who was not) worthy of your secret. And if you had a genuinely good secret to tell you could set yourself up with power and influence on the monkey bars for the rest of the year. You had to be careful though, because that fired burned in both directions and God-forbid if someone scooped you! I don't know that there was a shunning worse than the overrated secret, except perhaps the loud fart. But I digress.

I was never good with the secret game. I never seemed to be "in the know", and when I was I genuinely didn't want anyone to know my secret (like being the one who farted). I liked immediately sharing whatever juicy tidbit I had with my girlfriends as quickly as possible. I would rush to school, race to the playground, run home to get on the phone, whatever was necessary in order to talk, talk, talk about my secret. I have always preferred talking, not secreting.

My aversion to secrets remains to this day. I can barely contain my enthusiasm waiting for Christmas. I would actually prefer to tell someone exactly what I want for a birthday present rather than manage the suspense of a surprise. Because of all these factors I knew I could never hold in this secret:

Christopher and I have been eternally rewarded with a microscopic blessing due in April. What a mighty God we serve!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

God is Big

For those of you who share my belief in the living, universal God you no doubt have heard the cliches that talk about God being big. We chat in our lingo about how God can move mountains, nothing is impossible for him, he is over all things, he works all for the good of those who love him, and on and on. We study biblical testimonies of God's miraculous intervention which supersede any human understanding, and take comfort that God CAN work in these mighty ways. But, dare I admit it, I think we often (and certainly for myself) don't truly expect God TO work on our behalf in this same way. There seems to be a delineation between the God who literally parted the waters of the Red Sea, stopped the sun for a full hour in the height of the sky, allowed a 90 year old woman to conceive, fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes, and even rose from the dead, and the God who lives in our hearts today. Apparently the new God doesn't need to make himself known in these same powerful ways. We have the entire inspired Word of God in the bible, and because of that the form of revelation given to many of these biblical patriarchs isn't necessary to repeat. I don't need to see the dead raised to life, because I have God's word, which is never false, telling me how he accomplished the fact. In a small way it is similar to my husband telling me he bought milk. I don't need to go with him to the store to believe that he did it. I trust him, and I know that he doesn't lie. I have been to the store before, and watched him purchase milk. The concept is not new to me. I hear him, and I believe. Because I believe he bought milk I go into the fridge with the expectation of finding milk. Here is how that same illustration often works itself out in our spiritual lives. God tells us he bought milk. We say we believe God, since we have read the accounts of how he bought milk for others before us. But instead of going into the fridge with the expectation of finding milk, we go to the store and buy it ourselves. We do what we believe. 

I have been learning over the past 2 years how strongly I actually disbelieve the promises, and power of my God. The bible tells me that God, "eagerly rewards those who believe him." I don't live in a way that shouts MY GOD EAGERLY REWARDS ME. I often live with a cloud over my head that constantly whispers, "I don't have enough faith to even pray for God to reward me."  The conviction that God doesn't want to pour himself out on behalf of a child who constantly thinks so little of him has been strong! So, what is the application? Believe God for bigger things, and start recognizing that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob's God is mine as well.

We have always said it would take a literal miracle for us to buy a home on the peninsula. Our conviction to place children above any economic station means we have not spaced children according to a saving's account, job promotion, or income security. We have been pregnant during lay-offs, given birth during huge job transitions, and generally not followed the rules of prudence set down by our culture. I didn't work outside the home in our early years of marriage giving us a cushion of income. And the decision to homeschool has meant more expense, with less ability to offset it by me earning a supplementary living. We have always had a peace about these decisions, and the places it has put us. We don't own a fancy car. We don't have gobs of savings. We don't own a home we can call our own. But we have Hannah, Bethany, Caleb, Leah, Mary and Josiah. Which one would I trade for any of the above "securities?" That is a laughable question. But it doesn't change the fact that there are times our hearts yearn for something more than renting in the hood *wink*. This desire has grown stronger over the last several months, and it is why I have been so absent on my blog! We were working through the myriad scenarios and questions associated with purchasing a home, and wondering if perhaps we were being given our miracle.

I can't imagine anyone reading this could be uninformed about the sub-prime housing market collapse, but in case you don't have a clue about what I am referring to there has been a serious blow to the appreciation in homes across the nation. This crash is so serious that even in areas of rather stable progress, like the Monterey Peninsula, homes have depreciated upwards of 50%. For the first time in our adult lives home prices have actually fallen into our price-point. We began hearing all manner of encouragement to "get into" the market now. But we were reticent. After all, much of the reason the market was so soft was directly linked to people buying too much home for their budgets only a few years ago. People told us we should "get into" the market then but our decision to do precisely the opposite probably saved our shirts. We were in no mood to trifle with spending multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars on a blunder we had avoided previously. But was God telling us he had bought the milk?

Through a series of "coincidences", of which we fully give God the glory, we met a real estate agent who had a large family of her own, and could understand some of the more unique challenges facing a family with many children. She also lived in Marina, and since we have lived here our hearts have quickened to this quiet town. We very much like the idea of staying here permenetly. She was well suited to help in that goal. Armed with very little real understanding of this whole process we jumped in, head first.

The first thing worthy of note is that when the nation makes a statement about its housing market being "soft", it means exactly nothing in plain English for the Monterey Peninsula. I had assumed I would walk into a home, marked down from something-I-couldn't-afford to something-I-could, decide if it was what I liked, pray over it for a few days, make a decision to offer something-less-than-the-buyer-wanted and with tears of appreciation for saving them from utter ruin the owners would gladly accept my bid. Little did I know that even in a soft market Marina still has incredible investor appeal along with first-time-home-buyers like myself seeing the possiblility of a dream turned reality in every MLS listing. The first home we even looked into was in escrow with no less than 8 back up offers standing in the queue - eight back up offers on a home already in escrow. This was soft?

It didn't take long to realize we were not going to have the scenario exactly like I had imagined. We began pursuing homes the instant they appeared in each day's listings. Again and again we would go to a home only to be told that there were 2, 3, even 4 offers already placed. The reality of dealing with a bank-owned property made itself evident as the combination of our price-point with our square footage needs did not allow for many owner-sold homes. We began questioning the difference between our wants and our needs. Did we really want a cul-de-sac? Did we really need a 4br? Some of those questions were good, and helped us see what could be changed in the future but lived with for now. But in many ways I gave up hope on finding my dream home, and began concentrating on trying to find a house of reality. We put in our first offer but were shot down after an interminable wait of nearly a week by an all cash offer. We put in a second offer and once again lost, this time to a bid snuck in moments before our own. We were growing weary. Each home being listed was covered in agents and prospective buyers within 24hrs. We noticed that each home fell into three categories: gross - and by the way you need to be a general contractor to buy this place because the previous owner lost it in the middle of a flip and oh yeah, they never finished the kitchen or bathroom; this is gorgeous, being sold by its owners, and will never be in the price point we can afford for a million years; and bank-owned, priced-below-market-value steals which meant we simply didn't have the financial package to compete with aggressive cash investors. I distinctly remember the moment when I threw my hands up, told God I was done, and prepared to rent for the rest of my life.

It is amazing that when God is preparing to do something big he usually needs to make sure you are worked to the end of your capabilities so there is no question about how the next event could have worked out itself.

#100 Miracle Drive came on the market to the tune of tens of thousands below market value. Our realtor saw it first thing that morning from her office. Christopher saw it first thing in the morning from work. I saw it first thing that same morning from home. I contacted our realtor, found out the scoop, and made plans to see it bright and early the following morning. In the mean time I had to work to get specific paperwork in order because it was bank owned, and required additional documentation for any prospective buyer's financing - namely a pre-qual letter from the foreclosure bank itself. The next 24 hrs were a blur. To list all the details would make your head spin, and my fingers ache, but suffice it to say we "somehow" *wink*:  coordinated to view the property for the first time with a plumber (MLS listed that copper piping vandalism had occurred but did not specify to what extent damage was done), go back later in the afternoon to view the property with a builder; discuss some serious stains looking like a major infestation of mold; get our fully processed pre-qual in a record 7 hours; discuss the reality that all copper piping was ruined, and the entire house would need to be re-plumbed; try to see past the outdated kitchen, horribly abused carpet, and wallpaper-happy decor in every room; and ultimately make the decision to put in an offer.

We knew as we put our offer in our realtor's hands that there were already 2 offers on the table. We were told specifically that the foreclosing bank would be dealing with all offers simultaneously, and would expect us to put forward our best offer with only a single verbal counter. We knew there was no way we could compete with cash investors. We also knew that the work needed to bring the property up to livability was extensive, and getting our lender to agree to finance a home with no working plumbing was impossible. Yeah, this was what you might call a LONG shot. Our offer was placed on Saturday.

On Monday the listing agent called our realtor to confirm she had received our bid. She noted that there were still offers coming in, and she expected at least 3 more by days end. She added that we would receive a disclosure agreement verifying we understood that we would absolutely receive a single verbal counter which would be our one chance to add any addendums to our offer. Basically we were buying a house on eBay, guessing at how high the other bidders were willing to go without losing your own neck. Not particularly the kind of place you want to be when you are trying to buy your first home!

On Wednesday our realtor received the next call from the listing agent asking why she had not received the disclosure she spoke of on Monday. Apparently it was lost in our realtor's email spam folder. In a record 30 minutes we faxed, emailed, pdf'ed, signed, and submitted the delinquent document. There were 6 offers on the table. Ours was not even officially submitted yet because of the missing form. 

Three hours later the listing agent called our realtor to verify details in our offer. We had asked for a closing cost credit, in hopes that we could use the money to fix the plumbing and potential mold infestation. We also hoped our lender would agree to finance on the house without working plumbing if he saw that we would have the money after close to repair it. The listing agent said our offer needed to specify what our intentions were with the plumbing. She was very clear in explaining that no lender would be allowed to finance a house that did not pass health and safety in the appraisal - which pretty much means you need running water. The MLS listing information was VERY clear that the foreclosing bank was selling this property "As Is", and would not be held responsible for repairing any damages. We had seen this in several other foreclosure homes where the banks basically cut their losses and while you got a deal you also got a dirty house in need of a lot of love. After discussion and prayer we chose to amend our original offer and ask that in leu of the closing cost credit the seller would pay for all plumbing repairs. This was going to far! Never before had our realtor heard of a bank taking on such extensive repairs for a foreclosure property. However, there was still the single verbal counter-offer promised, and we could reassess then.

Nothing on Thursday.

On Friday afternoon my realtor called me... our offer was accepted - no counter offers, no negotiables, no fuss. Not only was our offer accepted, but the seller agreed to pay for the plumbing, heating vent work, repainting (the entire interior of the house including wallpaper removal and retexturing of walls), carpet removal, wood floor repair, pest inspection, "green" termite remediation; and we received the closing credit we had asked for in our original bid before the plumbing addendum was added. It was all there, in black and white!

As we have moved through this dream world it has been one thing after another showing God's "biggness". There are times in our lives when we need it. Like the Israelites through the desert, being led by the presence of God in a pillar of fire or smoke day after day, Christopher and I have needed the very real presence of God in this decision. Inspections, repairs, financing, budgeting, and timing have all been insurmountable obstacles at one point or another during our journey, but each time we simply remind ourselves that if God bought us milk he put it in our fridge. So we continue looking for God to work it out, and so far he continues to make sure that every aspect comes together smoothly.

We are now just over 2 weeks out from closing escrow, and the excitement continues to mount. I am giddy with anticipation to pick out colors for my walls without asking anybody's permission! Christopher is looking forward to working in our backyard. Even the kids are tickled about the provision of God in this huge adventure. It is such an incredible journey, and I look forward to updating you more as these Israelites prepare to cross the Jordan, and enter their promised land (flowing with milk and honey *wink*).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Little Things

These two tidbits came out from Leah and Caleb over the last couple of days. I knew I couldn't let them get away.

Leah: Mama, on yur birfday I'm gonna buyed you a BLUE present! Yep. And it's gonna be a beautiful blue princess unicorn my little pony doll. And I can play wif it wif you.

Caleb: Mama, do you know what I'm going to live in when I grow up?
Me: No, Caleb I don't.
Caleb: I'm gonna live in Escrow.
Me: In Escrow, huh?
Caleb: Yep. That way I can always be right by you.
Me: That's awesome!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hope My Hi Will Make You Smile

Christopher received this email recently, and laughed so heartily that he printed it for my amusement. Together, we have reread it a couple of times and continue to laugh out loud. Since I have been missing in action for several weeks (I promise a more thorough blog soon) I thought this would be a good reintroduction of the inhabitants of Odd.

This is taken exactly as it was written - word choice, punctuation, and all. The title of the email is:

Hope My Hi Will Make You Smile

Hi there

Where are the sunrises of my love? Where are romantic nights and days with beloved soul mate? I feel like an orphan, and my soul suffers very much. I hope that my letter to you, who is stranger yet, but who can become native soul mate very soon, won't be occasional into your mail-box and, I hope, it will become special for you.
I hope that you won't see only the attempts to get acquainted with you into my letter; I hope that you will be able to read between lines my desire to tell you that happy future waits for us if we decide to be together.
You are strong and smart man, I am pretty woman, and we are single and we in search of love. I see no reasons which will prevent us from being together and to be called a couple. 
I know that it is too early to speak about serious relations, but you have time to think.
Don't be in rush, your decision is very important for me. I am here and wait for your important choice.

See you
Irina P.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Speedy Man

The children are often allowed a single piece of candy after lunch. We keep a box in our cupboard which houses smarties, individual fun-size chocolates, lolipops, and the like. The routine varies only slightly with each child asking if they can have a piece of candy as they clear their plate from the table. Today, Caleb added the important fact that his candy was vital to his Speedy Race he was preparing for in the front.

This is going to make me go extra speedy.

Well, it is a good thing you have it!

Oh yeah. I will so need this when I go outside for my speedy race.

He left, and apparently ran his speedy race with great success. So much success, in fact, that he decided to come back in about 10 minutes later and request a second piece of candy.

Can I get another piece of candy, 'cause I have a speedy race again, and I need it.

No. *chuckling* You know the rules, Caleb. You already had a piece of candy, and you don't need another one.

Okay. (He contentedly goes into the bathroom, and calls out) I'll just get some speedy water then.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tools of a Darker Humor

I believe in the Sovereign God. I know that he works all things together for my good. I know I can trust that in times of difficulty he has a greater plan unfolding through the ages. I know that whatever I go through in my own experiences they are designed with my particular strengths, and weaknesses in mind. I know that God actually purposes certain circumstances to come about for my teaching. The reason I know this is because I can never get through any line without it becoming the longest, most complicated, utterly disorganized queue... ever. No exaggeration. 

Shall I elaborate? Good.

If I need to run into the store for 3 things, and there are 5 checkstands available for my use, it will take roughly 10 times the length of time for me to get checked out as it did for me to select the 3 items I needed in the first place. Here is a taste of what happens to me (mind you, these are all real life examples, and absolutely resemble the people portrayed in the anecdotal retelling) -

"The Goof"
This happens when I select the shortest line available only to find that the person in front of me has goofed. They entered the wrong pin, and have now forgotten the correct one but they still insist on using THAT card; I stand idly by while they fish out of their purse the scrap of paper with 17 different combinations of numbers presumably assigned to 17 different cards of which one will supposedly work. The person then leans over to the clerk and shows them the piece of paper asking, "Which one is it?"

"The Wall"
After struggling to make it through the crowds with my children in tow I am finally standing a mere 2 people back from the checker. The customer being helped inquires about a sale in the weekly circular. The clerk verifies that the circular she is referring to was published for last week's sales. At this point the scenario goes one of two ways, but they equal the same thing. One of them is wrong, one is right but both refuse to go that extra 10th of an inch to recognize their mistake. The battle escalates, one insisting the date is right, one insisting the date is wrong while the rest of us watch helplessly as a wall is built over a mere 30 cents.

We can all appreciate being new to the job. You feel foolish, never quite able to get your feet under you. Who doesn't have a special place of patience for Day 1? How about Day 1 unsupervised? The clerk looks so fresh, so blissfully unaware of the mayhem surrounding her that I figure her line must be slightly more enjoyable than Mr. Grumpface. I load my things onto the conveyor belt (and can I stop here and make a note about why I don't leave the lines I enter once I realize they are again tools of a darker humor? The invention of the conveyor belt to aid cashier's in speeding up lines is a fraud. The only thing it does is quietly steal any autonomy you may feel with the line. Once your produce is on that black ribbon of death you are committed. How many times does a different clerk offer to take you to the next checkstand if your things are already unloaded? Never, that's how many. I have sat for literally 15 minutes with only one person in front of me while gobs of people blow through the lines on my right, and left all because I made an unspoken covenant of " 'til death do us part" when I placed that first cucumber on the conveyor belt.) By the time Miss Newday finished my transaction my entire cart was rung up, voided, and re-rung with multiple variations of change being owed, and at least 42 instances where a trainer would have proven invaluable.

"Tape Replacement"
This is one of my favorites. I stand in a small line, making my way to the front with relative ease only to be informed immediately before it is my turn that the cashier has run out of register tape. They will need to change it before they can continue ringing. I remark that I will wait, but they insist on me moving to a different line for fear that I will be unhappy with the length of time it will take them. I try to assuage their guilt but there is no arguing, and by the time I am finished with my purchase through a different checkstand my original cashier has replaced their tape, and helped 4 customers.

"Error #349b"
I am aware that God is so convinced of my need to experience trying circumstances in lines that even when I am not purchasing an item the person who I am with will undoubtable receive my line treatment. My friend and I advanced to a "self-checkout" where the system treats you little better than a 1st grader. She had two items to purchase, and after swiping the first the screen goes blank, shouts that the item is unrecognizable with "Error 349b" in bold print, then reverts to the homepage display. She tried again, tried the other item, tried the first item until we both realize we need the supervising clerk. 10 minutes later we have tracked down the clerk who is obviously disgruntled that she has to work with peons, but after several more screens my friend finally has her purchase completed only to have the weighted bag holder yell at her for placing unidentified objects on it. So I stand by, holding fish in both hands while she pays so we can finally be done.

I could continue. If I pick the short line it will take twice as long as the long line. If I pick the long line, full of 2 or 3 item purchases it will be nearly 4 times as long as any other. The line I am in gets closed and merged with another. I give the clerk the benefit of the doubt only to find that my misgivings were completely deserved. It has gotten to the point where my husband, and friends will often ask me which line I would choose, and then go to the opposite one.

But I remain optimistic. Someday I will choose a line that runs smoothly, is correctly marked, takes me to the right counter, gets me out quickly, and ultimately behaves the way lines are meant to behave. I just have to figure out what God has for me to learn, and learn it. Apparently the last 15 years hasn't done the job yet.