Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorable Days

We just finished a lovely four day weekend (Jon took Friday off, plus Memorial Day here in the U.S.). I was surprised just how lovely it was, and I'm hoping this bodes well for the summer. As I've said before, weekends are historically not fun around here. Probably because our expectations for rest and relaxation are too high and at complete odds with our children's needs for constant attention and activity. We need to be better about hiring babysitters, or maybe just enforcing longer quiet times because the kids will just not leave Daddy alone for one minute. He can't even go to the bathroom without Isaac banging on the door wondering why Daddy has abandoned him.

Possibly it was a good weekend because we hit the right balance of productivity, activity, and inactivity. Or maybe my expectations were incredibly low. So what did we do?

Friday was all about the cars, as we took them to the shop to prepare them for the upcoming 28-hour drive in July. While car-less, we went on a short walk and worked on the yard. In the afternoon Jon took the kids to the skate park in the afternoon while I headed to the hardware store. I love hardware stores. So full of possibilities.

Saturday the kids got hair cuts. Anna was very specific about the length she wanted her hair, and it turned out quite nice. She looks older, like a real kindergartener. Isaac still suspects the trimming will hurt, and typically scowls through the procedure. At least he sits still.
The weather was perfect in the morning so on the spur of the moment we ate lunch outside at a nearby restaurant. (I can't speak for everyone, but for us one benefit of having slightly older kiddos is an increase in spontaneity. And I mean that in a fun way.) All this occurred at a local outdoor mall, which had recently turned on its water feature, and after lunch Anna had a great time getting soaked to the bone. Isaac was content to watch. He's pretty timid about such things, but maybe next time he'll take the plunge.
In the afternoon I went on a great bike ride, just as the winds began to pick up in a big way. They still hadn't died down by dinner time, but since I'm stubborn I decided to go ahead and grill the burgers. Paid the price, we did. Within about five minutes the temperature inside the grill shot from 300 to 650 degrees, with flames licking the top of the lid. Jon figures that the high winds may have created lower pressure inside the grill sucking out extra propane. Whatever the reason, we ended up with hockey pucks. Still better than cleaning up the grease that would have covered my kitchen, I say.

Sunday brought church and a farewell lunch at my aunt-in-law's house. All of our local family attended, and it was fantastic. Jon's aunt, besides being a culinary treasure, really knows how to throw a party. We played volleyball, used water guns, chatted up a storm, ate tons of food, kicked the soccer ball, brought out the croquet, and even wandered over to the train tracks to watch a locomotive steam through. Isaac is still reminiscing about that last one. I just love our family, and I'm so heartbroken that we're leaving. This is why I'm glad we had this get-together early on. Any later in the moving process, and I would have sobbed throughout.

Monday morning we went on a short (distance wise, about 3.3 miles) and long (time wise, about 2.5 hours) hike. The trail was fairly flat, with a view of both the mountains and plains. I was glad to be somewhere with a view of the big sky and the openness that defines our neck of the woods. I anticipate the same mildly claustrophobic feeling we had in Connecticut to be present in Maryland, so I wanted to experience the opposite. Looking far off into the distances feels restful somehow, for both my eyes and my brain.
Back to the hike: The kids did quite well. All told Isaac only needed to be carried about .75 miles. I completely forgot to bring the toddler backpack, and will not make that mistake again. The boy is getting heavy and doesn't relish riding on Daddy's shoulders. (Meanwhile, Anna is unable to understand why she can't ride on Daddy's shoulders no matter how often we explain it to her.) Isaac inherited some super cute and sturdy hiking books, which he loves and which were perfect for this trail. (Such a surprise when preference and utility meet up in a toddler.) I will never forget his big eyes and appreciative smile when he looked at the mountains and said, "Those mountains are big! They are as big as me!"
Later that day we went to another BBQ and hung out with friends, as well as people I wish we had time to know better. Again, I'm glad these group gatherings are happening early on. On the other hand, given that I accidentally turned on the sprinklers while a bunch of people were in the front yard, perhaps it's a good thing we're moving on....

Today, Jon is back at work and the kids and I are back to our usual stuff. Preschool is over, which is both nice and challenging for obvious reasons. Now that the buyers are a sure thing (read: they cannot back out without losing their earnest money) I feel I can make some plans for the next couple of weeks before packing begins in earnest. Nothing very busy, but it will be nice to do some fun things and see some fun people.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Things I've Learned

Somehow my kids have found an animated Godzilla series from the 70s on Netflix, and have decided it's their new favorite show. I'm so glad there's only eleven episodes.
Anyway, it's been an up and down couple of weeks. The current buyers seem uncertain about whether they want to go through with the purchase of our house. Nonetheless, this week (the 11th hour) they appear to have gotten their acts together. Sort of. They also seem to be very novice buyers and are kind of focusing on things that really shouldn't have their attention. This has translated into extra inspections and requests that have been annoying at best. Despite this, I hope they go through with it since I don't relish a return to Showings.

Rather than dwelling on these ups and downs, and my (remarkable unsuccessful) attempts to emotionally rise above them, I thought I'd offer a quick list of what I've learned through the home selling process. In random order...

(1) When buying a home, the only things that matter are location and layout. And possibly termites.
      Rug is 15 years old? Windows lost their seal? Paint is scuffed and the wrong colour? Cement walkway is uneven? Grass is dead? Appliances are outdated? No central A/C? Furnace about to go?


     I'm serious about this. Such things can be fixed. Yes, it will cost money (both the buyer's and the seller's), but every single one can be taken care of. On the other hand, unless you're buying a mobile home, location is forever. As is the layout (although this can also be altered somewhat, for the right amount of dough). Same goes with problems that influence the integrity of the house, like termites or water damage, or expansive soil. We've all seen Extreme Makeover Home Edition - sometimes it's cheaper just to tear the place down, and who wants that hassle?

(2) Regardless of #1, the first thing I will do after buying a house is to sink money into things which do not actually matter.
     It's the little details, like fancy faucets, granite counter tops, or tile in the bathrooms that make a buyer fall in love. Once a buyer has fallen in love, very little will stop them. These things that cost a mere fraction of the total price of the house can make it or break it for a buyer. Never mind updating that furnace or spending money on landscaping to maintain the drainage. Put a groovy sink in the downstairs bathroom instead. I'm not trying to sound superior here, because I get distracted by the exact same things when renting or buying. My hope is that I have learned to follow Rule #1.

(3) Birds will always live and poop on a house that is recently listed for sale and/or newly painted.
      In the very few weeks between completion of the exterior paint and putting the house on the market, a family of birds decided to exploit a small hole in our siding. Currently, they have a lovely little nest filled with three or four babies. After consulting with an exterminator, the best plan is to let them be until the babies leave the nest. This has been annoying for aesthetic reasons and noisy reasons since their nest is right over the master bedroom.

(4) My children do not need toys.
     Like most sellers we stored many of our belongings, including a large proportion of toys. The kiddos haven't noticed their absence as much as I expected. Which leads me to wonder what else I could have included in April's garage sale.

(5) Cognitively, I am at least of average skill when selling a house. Emotionally, I am a mess.
     It would appear that, through much prayer and the advice of numerous friends and family, I have made some appropriate decisions throughout the course of selling our home. This is truly through the grace of God, since every time there's even a hint of a "challenge" (read: bad news) that requires action or a decision, I first shoot off into orbit and only Jon can talk me back down. I'm usually great at administration and seeing things objectively, but it is a real struggle when the subject matter is personal. Selling our home is one of the hardest things we've ever done. 

(6) Don't skip on the maintenance and deep cleaning.
     Many of the items we've agreed to take care of before closing are things that should have occurred on a more regular basis. And much of the deep cleaning I did before we put the house on the market should have been done with greater regularity. Had we kept up more effectively, it might have eased my stress during this process.
But probably not.

(7) Keeping the time short between going under contract and actually closing is also to the sellers advantage.
     Currently, there's a long time between the last contractual deadline and the actual closing date. During this time I anticipate an increase in my basal anxiety as I prevent Isaac from creating holes in the walls/windows.

(8) Make an offer.
     We got a decent amount of feedback from potential buyers during the showing process, most of it not very helpful. One of my biggest annoyances was hearing that "the list price was too high."
I thought this was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard. People, if you feel the list price is too high and you are interested in the property, then offer what you think it's worth. You might be surprised.
(9) Just don't move. If you can at all avoid it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mara vs. Naomi

It's a rare, rainy day here in Colorado and I have a few child-free hours. My plan was to begin packing up some basement things (seasonal items, etc.), but Jon suggested that I use this time to think. Think through a list of To Dos, come up with a moving schedule, etc. Probably a good idea, this thinking thing. The events of last week need some processing, and we need a plan.

In truth, last week was horrid, bottoming out on Thursday. For starters, there was a terribly sad tragedy with one of Jon's co-workers. That difficulty, coupled with numerous visitors and an above average work load made for a very hard week for Jon.
Additionally you may recall from the last post, that we received an offer on the house on Tuesday, which fell through by Wednesday afternoon. Well, that wasn't the end of it. There was further back and forth until... I guess until my tipping point was reached. You see, I also spent a good deal of Wednesday looking through our photos of 2011 (I do a Best Of album each year). So many lovely memories, and the ache of what we are about to lose really sank in. So on Thursday, when we were asked to take an even greater loss on the house, I just lost it. It wasn't a lot of extra money, and I tried to be unemotional about the whole thing, but that was not going to happen. Not one penny more, I thought. It's just too much to ask.

And would you believe that was the right choice? Turns out emotional decisions are not all bad. In this vein I think of Ruth and Naomi. Ruth made an entirely emotional and illogical decision to stay with Naomi, and look where it led. I've been taking such comfort in the story of Ruth and Naomi lately. Obviously, we are not in such dire straights over here, but it is a great example of hope and God's faithfulness in times of great change, when life brings it's shocking turns. It's okay to feel sad and angry and emotional. God would rather we beat His chest than beat empty air. At least then we're facing the right way.

So back to our own story. The original buyers ended up backing down from their initial request and agreed to draw up a contract with the original terms. But in the meantime another offer came up. Our realtor took the reigns, there was some back and forth, and we ended up accepting a better offer from the second buyer. We're still losing a ton of money, but every little bit helps. This example reminds me that God is also in Maryland, preparing a place for us. So we've been praying with the kids about this very thing, specifically that He will provide good friends for them, and schools they will love. Something concrete and practical they can look forward to.

Time to start packing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Twenty-one and counting

I'm slightly strung out on Vicodin today, owing to three gum grafts that were implanted this morning. It's my second of four surgeries (gotta drag it out, thanks to insurance) and no more fun the second time around.
The upside is that I have child-free day to recover (big thanks to Jon's parents!) and hence a spare moment to sit down and process our lives for the last month or so. All the bits and pieces and cleaning and odds and ends that come with preparing for The Showing of a house were finally completed and our house has had 21 visits so far. And if all goes well, we'll be under contract later today. I ought to be rejoicing about that, but it really doesn't feel very good. We're losing so much money that I'm feeling mild to moderately depressed. Granted, it will be a relief to stop the constant cleaning and attention to detail that comes with showings. (True confession: my inner clean freak was thrilled to have an excuse to clean the bathrooms, etc. every day)
Overall, ambivalence best describes our current emotions, and isn't that the most logical response to such a move? If there were nothing positive about leaving, there would be no reason to go. And if it were all positive, it would suggest there was nothing valuable left behind. As it stands, the obvious benefits are that Jon will have a job he values (and values him) and that may lead to actual job security. The obvious downsides are emotional, financial, social, familial, and just about everything else. And yet peace reigns supreme for us. We are doing the right thing. Almost every indicator points to the folly of this adventure, but we both know it is the right path. I'm pretty sure that makes this a God thing.

Communicating our internal peace and faith to the children is another matter. Isaac has been acting out lately, possibly reflecting the recent stress and and busy-ness related to The Showings. I've tried to work in some fun things while we've been out of the house (swimming, parks, zoo), hoping this extra togetherness will help. For Anna's part, her sleeping issues have worsened. She knows we're moving, inasmuch as a five year old can process that information. I've tried to couch this as an adventure, but I don't think she's buying it. If we're not moving to Disneyland, then we really shouldn't be moving at all.

One of my biggest dilemmas was how to handle Isaac's third birthday. He hasn't had a real party thus far, and I wanted to make it a special day. Thankfully, Jon's mom took on the task and we had a lovely afternoon at their house. Lunch, cake, gifts, and cousins. Isaac adores his older cousins and what could be better than an afternoon with them? Gifts, maybe. I thought the poor little guy was going to explode before we got to his gifts, so we spread them out through the day. Grandma and Grandpa watched via Skype while Isaac opened their gifts in the morning, then another gift before lunch, one before the cake, and a couple towards the end. He got a lot of Star Wars paraphernalia and car related items, which is exactly what he wanted. I am planning to throw another party with few friends once the house is under contract. My boy will have his pinata!

More immediately, we're waiting on Jon's future employer to get us the actual official offer letter. Until then, we can't know definitively which moving company we'll be able to use. Which is kind of important, no? I suppose I could begin packing the stuff in the basement, but there are spiders down there. And the days are so nice right now and the basement is so dark. Not that I can take advantage of the sunshine today, what with an ice pack on my face and sharp pain in my jaw. Apparently I can't even vacuum for 24 hours (I specifically asked about that), which is sad mostly for Isaac. He is terrified of that loud machine so I wanted to complete the chore before he returned home. Well, I shall try to make the most of this forced down time. Maybe I'll start dusting. Or maybe read The Hunger Games, if I can just convince my inner clean freak to take another Vicodin.

Update: The offer fell through and I vacuumed. I postulate a causal relationship.