Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The House Hunt

We are buying a house!

While I've posted a bit on FB about this, the thought of writing a blog post has felt a bit daunting...what to write? Where to start?

Remember that post I wrote a while back about being content with the space we had (our 2 br condo), and just doing what we could to maximize that space? We tried really really really hard to do just that.

It didn't quite work...Not long after we decided we needed to rent a storage unit (sometime in late May/early June), we decided rather suddenly that it was simply time to seriously explore our options as to finding a larger home for our growing family. In our research, we found that it was actually more possible than we had previously thought. So we started moving forward. We are fortunate in that Nick's parents were able to qualify for a home loan to buy a house for us, until we are able to qualify ourselves, so we don't have to wait until we sell the condo; but we will be making the payments (like we're "renting" the house from them, only when we take over the mortgage the amount we've already paid towards the home will be deducted-- it's a pretty sweet deal for us, as it will cheaper still to do it that way than to rent). I am ever so grateful for my in-laws, and touched that they trust us that much.

As a note, because some might wonder why we don't just rent our condo...We have looked into renting our condo, and will end up doing that if we can't sell it by early September (which is when we move into our new house). However, new lending regulations require a home to be rented out for at least two years before the mortgage on that home no longer counts against the loan limit. So, we will try to sell the condo first; if that does not work, or we cannot get a high enough offer (we owe more on the condo than what it is currently worth, but are prepared to make up the difference up to a certain amount), then we will start renting.

It was a little stressful, putting our condo on the market and beginning the house hunt, not knowing if/when we would manage to actually sell our condo or find a new home. We worked hard, repainting our condo and doing minor repairs, filling up a small storage unit with stuff to make our condo less cluttered for showings. I had anxious visions of us selling our condo, but then not having a new home to move into; or on the other hand, finding the house we wanted to buy but then not being able to sell our condo and ending up with two house payments. But we prayed and did our best to do all we could and follow the promptings of the Spirit.

We ended up viewing seven or eight houses total, but none of them felt quite right. We did find a large house in a good neighborhood, a foreclosure and a major fixer-upper. We did make an offer on that house, but with little hope of success as there was already a previous offer on it. Nick really liked that house...I never really felt quite right about it, worried about the amount of work that would need to be done and wondering how we would be able to make the time to work on it in order to make it just livable. All of the homes we viewed that would actually be suitable for our family would have required a good deal of fix-up work. All of the homes, except one...the final home we looked at...

Last week, Nick was gone on a fifty-mile hike for five days. We had not discussed before he left what I should do in his absence. I figured I would continue to house hunt, just in case, but didn't expect to find anything...I tooled around on the MLS and hammered our buyer's agent with new listings, which she looked into but told me she didn't think they would work for us (based on previous homes we'd visited with her). On Monday afternoon, I found a new listing that had been up for just a few days; it looked promising, so I called my agent about it. She thought it was worth looking at, so we scheduled a showing for the next day.

Prior to the showing, I said a prayer for guidance. With how quickly all the good and affordable homes were being snatched up, I realized it might be necessary to make an immediate offer on a home if it turned out to be suitable. While my agent assured me that I could make an offer on a home, and we could still back out later if Nick did not approve, I was still pretty nervous about making a mistake and Nick being upset with me. So before I viewed this home, I prayed to God to let me know-- to give me a feeling-- right away whether or not it would be a good home for our family.

I drove to the house and the first thing I noticed--which had not been apparent from the pictures--was the very steep driveway, which was not a good first impression. But, I was already here and figured I'd go ahead and view the rest of the house. I pulled up onto the driveway and put on my parking brake. The boys and I got out of the car and explored the yard while we waited for our agent. She finally showed up, and we viewed the rest of the house.

It was a nice enough house. A bit of a fixer-upper, but nothing insurmountable, and in better shape than the previous house we'd made an offer on. Generally, I would have been inclined to like it-- it certainly had everything Nick would want in a house, including a fireplace in the living room and a wood-burning stove downstairs. The boys would have enjoyed the yard. It had four bedrooms, and plenty of room. The kitchen was not exceptional, but I could have been happy in it...But even as I registered all its good qualities, I could not forget about that steep driveway, and the sinking feeling I'd felt upon first pulling up. I knew it wasn't the right house for us, and I finally told my agent, who seemed a little disappointed (even she thought it was the perfect house for us), but was supportive of my decision and we left. I got the boys back into the car, and pulled out. My rear bumper scraped the road as I backed out! Yet another confirmation that I had made a the right choice...

After this experience, I was starting to feel a little discouraged. At this point, every promising listing had been explored, and there was nothing left. And yet, that same afternoon, I once again found myself perusing the MLS, willing myself to find something I'd missed before. I was little obsessive about it, really. I must have done the same search four or five times that day, with still the same results, until...

I found a brand new listing! There it was, with "New Listing!" in bold green letters. I clicked on the listing and began to read the details...I immediately called up my agent and asked her to schedule a showing, which she did for the following day.

As I had done with the previous house, once again I prayed for guidance, and for good measure spent a whole hour the next morning in scripture study and meditation. It felt good, and I was at peace. Even before I actually saw the house, I had a good feeling about it. Once I finally walked into the place, all my good impressions were confirmed and I knew it was the home for us. I called up my mother-in-law, and she and our agent wrote up and submitted the offer the evening of that very same day (it was Wednesday).

Ours was the first offer to be submitted. We learned after that that there had been several other showings after ours. This house was in huge demand, and we were ever so lucky to be the first offer in line...Though I don't really believe it was thanks to luck alone, but God guiding me and my desire to follow His promptings in my efforts to find a good home, that led me to find that listing when I did.

Still, I was apprehensive about what Nick would say, how he would feel, when I announced to him that I'd made an offer on a house without him...Sure enough, when he finally got back home and I shared the news with him, he was a little upset, and understandably so. I was nothing but accepting of his feelings and apprehensions, though, and did my best to reassure him and be sensitive to how he must be feeling (I would have had similar anxieties had he gone and made an offer without me). He, too, generously granted me the benefit of his trust as much as he was able, and we had an open dialogue over the next few days as we awaited the time he would get to view the house for himself (the current residents didn't want the house being shown without one of them present to keep an eye on things). He finally did, yesterday afternoon, and officially gave it his seal of approval.

We are scheduled to close on or before September 6th. We're pretty excited :) A detailed description of the house itself will be given in another post, this one is long enough ;)

And if all goes according to plan, we will never have to move again...that will be sweet...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

So you think you know what it means to be a Parent?

Being a parent is more than just childcare; it is more than providing discipline, structure, love and nurturing, protection, education and behavioral modeling. You may have studied all these things. You may have read every "parenting" book on the market. You may believe you know exactly how you plan to raise your children, when you do have children.

But until you actually become a parent, you cannot fully comprehend what it is to be a parent.

Looking up "parenting" on, I found myself latching on to one particular idea: the adjective "parent" is defined as "being the original source." Biologically speaking, this means that if you are a child's parent, you are the "source" from which that child came. But there is so much more than biology that goes into being a parent.

Being a parent means being the First: the First to love your child as your whole world, and the First to wish he'd never been born (fleeting though those thoughts are, they can still creep in unbidden); the First to help your child, and the First to hurt his feelings; the First looked up to when he needs a role model, and the First to disappoint when he realizes you're not infallible; the First to cheer him on, and the first to criticize. You get the idea...

A child has many adult influences in his life-- teachers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors...But none of these people has as much inherent power to influence him as does his own parent. When you are a parent, you realize (either consciously or subconsciously) that every single thing you say or do to, with, or for your child, has the power to affect the rest of his life. This is the awesome responsibility and burden of being a parent. Now, you may believe that you shoulder this responsibility for a child in your life who is not your biological offspring, and if so then congratulations (or condolences)-- you can consider yourself a Parent. Otherwise, you just don't know...

It is so easy for some other adult to observe my children and think he or she has the perfect answer to how to deal with their problem behaviors. For example, it's easy enough for a well-meaning individual to suggest to me that I put my baby in a crib to "cry it out" to sleep at night, and that this will cause him to start sleeping through the night and our whole family will be able to sleep better, be livelier, etc. etc. But when I consider this option as a parent, suddenly it all becomes much more complicated. Maybe crying-it-out will help my child to sleep better-- but maybe it will also have other effects, not all positive. Maybe he will come to believe that I won't respond to him when he needs me. Maybe he will be sick one night but he won't cry to let me know. Not to suggest that parents who use this method of getting their children to sleep are bad parents, or that their children will necessarily grow up with abandonment issues. Just that for me, personally, the worry associated with this method was not worth it for me to try, so I didn't-- the consequence being (perhaps) that I now have a 3-year-old who still struggles to sleep at night (then again, my 6-year-old has always slept just fine).

But this is not a post to discuss the ups and downs of sleep training. And I will confess to not having all the answers there-- even after having my third child, I'm still figuring it out.

Parenting is not a static process. What is often referred to as a "parenting style" will constantly change and evolve over time as a person "grows" into his or her role as a parent. I am not the same person now as I was when I had my first child, and I have "parented" each of my children a little differently so far. I made mistakes with my first child, that I tried not to repeat with my second (I did some things right, too); I made a whole lot of mistakes with my second, that I vowed not to repeat with my third. Oh gosh, did I ever mess up with my second...Of all my children, he is the one I worry about most, and the one for whom I am most sensitive whenever anyone tries to "advise" me on how to parent him. Not because those people might not be right in their advice, but because I already know what I've done and am doing wrong, but they are not in my shoes and cannot understand the particular dynamic that has brought me and my son to where we are now.

With my third, I finally am getting to a point where I more or less know what I'm doing, but even there I worry about the little mistakes I've made...

Being a parent means constantly second-guessing every word and every action. It means being painfully aware of your child's misbehavior, and feeling powerless to stop it. Or finally figuring out how to fix one problem, while being immediately presented with another (sometimes as a direct result of "fixing" the first). Being a parent is learning to accept your child as his own person, and learning to let go of the need to control him because you were under the faulty assumption that you could, in fact, take full control over how your child turned out. Yet at the same time, you will always feel responsible; you will berate yourself over and over again with the belief that every bad thing your child has done is somehow a direct result of something you did (or didn't do) sometime in his early life, and you will feel a sense of accomplishment every time you witness your child doing something good.

See, I've only been a parent for six and a half years, so the above paragraph is something that even I do not have a full grasp on yet, but my realization of these things sprouts a little more every day as I watch my children grow.

Being a parent means exuding confidence as you teach, discipline, and guide your children, while inwardly cringing at your own ineptitude and wondering if you're really doing the best thing for your child.

Parenting a child means learning to understand him as an individual-- to be responsive, and to adapt your "parenting style" to his particular personality and needs. One of the mistakes I made with my second child was to assume that everything I did with my first (which for the most part worked pretty well) would work equally well with my second. This kind of assumption-- that all children are the same-- may work in a classroom or daycare setting (indeed, I assume it pretty much has to be this way, because employing thirty different methods of dscipline and care all at the same time would be impossible for one person), but it doesn't work as well in a parent-child relationship.

Of all the adults in my child's life, I believe my husband and I are the ones whom our children should be allowed to feel the most comfortable with, to be themselves (warts and all). I would rather have my child be himself with me (where I can still have some influence to gently guide him and help him to change if necessary) and employ his skills of tact and facade with others, than to put on a front of good behavior for me but secretly misbehave when I'm not around (or believe that he can't express himself in front of me because I might get mad).

So, you really think you know what it means to be a parent? Good for you. Do share. Because I'm still trying to figure it out.

Maybe we can figure it out together...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Five Daily Habits Every Boy Needs to Learn Before He Becomes a Man

If you are already a Man, developing and maintaining these habits are guaranteed to make your wife or girlfriend very happy. If you are a parent raising a Boy, help him to develop these habits now so that they are well-ingrained in him by the time he moves out.

 They’re not difficult tasks, nor time-consuming, but they will make a world of difference.

 ONE: Once a day, after using the toilet and before flushing, wipe down the toilet bowl rim with a wad of toilet paper. Then use a cleaning wipe to wipe the floor around the base of the toilet.

            --These two areas can get really nasty really fast. But a little daily maintenance can make the job of whoever is assigned to clean the bathroom weekly a little easier and less disgusting.

 TWO: In the morning, before leaving the house for the day, clear your bedroom floor. It isn’t necessary to put everything back exactly where it should go (but you can if you want), but just clear the floor. Put stray items into a designated bin to be sorted out at the end of the week or when you have the inclination.

            --A clean floor makes the whole room and house feel cleaner, and may just save your wife’s (or mother’s) sanity. It also makes it easier for the floor to be vacuumed regularly.

 THREE: After eating, clear your own dishes. Scrape off excess food into the garbage (or disposal if you have one), then place the dishes into the dishwasher if possible, or on the counter next to the sink.

            --Makes the job a little easier for whoever is washing the dishes that night. I say place the dishes on the counter versus into the sink, because for me personally I don’t like having dishes just thrown helter-skelter into the sink as I just end up having to rearrange everything before I can wash them (but I currently don’t have a dishwasher so am washing everything by hand).

 FOUR: At the end of the day, when you undress, place your clothes directly into the hamper, or hang or drape neatly if you plan to wear them again. If there are use-again clothes that have been draped or hanging for more than 24 hours, put them away in your closet. After a bath or shower, hang up your own towel back where it belongs. Put your shoes somewhere out of the way so they don’t get tripped on.

            --There is no quicker way to make a place look untidy than by throwing around some old laundry. And it takes hardly any more effort to hang up a shirt than it takes to drop it on the floor. But if you don’t take care of your clothes yourself, no one else is going to want to have to handle your used laundry—at least not until it’s time to actually do the laundry.

FIVE: If you generate a piece of trash (gum wrapper, clothing tag, etc), dispose of it properly right away. And while you're at it, if you go to throw something away and the trash can is full, empty it out.

            --Litter is bad enough on the street. Who wants to deal with it in their home?

That's it. As a mother of three boys (so far), I plan on beginning to develop these habits in my own sons NOW. They're still pretty young, but it's never too early to start, and my oldest is definitely old enough for most of these (maybe not taking out the trash yet).

I need a good picture now so I can put this on Pinterest haha...