Always Crazy, Always Fun, Always Love

Ray Romano once compared life with twins to living in a frat house. As he put it, "no one sleeps, there is a lot of noise and a lot of throwing up." I find this very true with 4 young children, including twins. However, though things are always crazy, we always try to have fun and, most certainly, always love each other.

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's Ours!!!!

The most recent news!!

As I alluded to in my last post, we had the FHA appraisal and, as the realtor feared, it appraised lower then the selling price- about $7000 lower!  We weren't sure what to make of it at first.   At first I wasn't worried because that appraised price was only $2000 less then our actual loan price- which is the selling price minus our 3.5% down payment.  I thought maybe they could give a little and we could pay a little more and all would be good.  I was shocked to find out that FHA will only give a loan for 96.5% of the appraised value (the appraised value minus the 3.5% down)- which meant we were $7000 off.  We felt very discouraged- we certainly didn't have the $7000 to make up the difference or even 5% of the loan to do conventional versus the FHA loan.  We hoped something would work out with the sellers because we also didn't want to start looking at other houses and then have to pay for another inspection, etc. 

However, I found as I researched that we did have a basis to ask that the price of the house be changed to match the FHA appraisal.   This is why-

--it would also be a huge hassle for them to find another buyer.  Turns out this FHA appraisal sticks to the house for 6 months- they would not be able to sell it FHA to ANYONE unless at that price.  Their only option would be a conventional loan which is harder to do in this economy to find someone who wants the house at that price with that much down. Doable maybe, but more of a risk of the house sitting on the market longer.

--I had heard of two other instances recently where the seller lowered the price to meet the FHA appraisal- evidence of it being a buyers market for sure (and further evidence we can NOT sell our house right now and that renting really is our best/only option since we don't have lots of $$ to pay it down...there is no way FHA would appraise for anywhere near what we owe on it....)

--they bought the house from their parents over 15 years ago at a very low price- and both work in professional jobs and are building their retirement home. They aren't hurting for money..... And they know Aaron's family in town and know we are part of that family.... I couldn't help but hope that would count for something too.

So, on Saturday, we submitted an addendum to our contract that the selling price be changed to match the FHA appraisal.  We held our breath and waited to see if they would refuse completely and end the contract or (as we most suspected....) submit a counter offer.  We started to seriously consider how much we were (and were NOT) willing to put down and repairs we might be willing to give up for negotiations. 

Sunday, our realtor called and said simply that the sellers realtor contacted  him to say the sellers had signed the papers but she would not be able to send to him until today.  He didn't know what exactly she meant by "signed the papers..."- did that mean they were accepting the price reduction (which is actually 12K less then their original asking price) or that they were counter offering?!  We were excited- at least we knew they weren't turning us away.

So the realtor calls this morning and said THEY ACCEPTED THE PRICE!!!!  We are getting the house- with all repairs previously agreed to and even at $7K less than agreed on!!!  We just can't believe it and are beyond thrilled.   This will be a huge blessing in making it easier to manage this house as well since we can't sell it- makes it a little less scary and more doable. 

As we started this process I prayed for guidance and that we would be led where we should go.  Everything had happened so quickly and every hurdle that had the potential to break the deal has been quickly resolved to our benefit.  This has gone so much better than I ever even thought I could ask for.  Here is another interesting thing:  We were so worried about this appraisal and I kept praying that it would appraise for the right amount and all would be fine.    All week long, the thought "It will appraise for " this amount" and all will be fine."  Of course- that was when I thought that amount was close to our loan value anyway- before I understood how FHA worked.  Well, that number in my head is EXACTLY what it appraised at- and even though things seemed dismal for a day or so, it turns out that it not only worked out okay, but even BETTER!  I firmly believe that was God answering my prayer and telling me what it would appraise at and that- even though it would seem scary at first- that it would be fine.  We close on June 15th and will begin to move soon thereafter!  (should make for an exciting 11th birthday for Kenny on the 16th!)

So, let me close with this testimony- that God hears our prayers and answers them and leads us.  I know all too well that sometimes it isn't the answer we want (that was pretty much our entire 2011......) and that can be so hard but God knows what we need better than we do.  But when the time is right and when it is what you are supposed to do, it is amazing how things fall into place.  Even when prayers are not being answered as you had hoped, hang in there because God has plenty of blessings just waiting for the right time.  There is no doubt in my mind that we have been blessed over and over again these last few weeks and our prayers have been answered. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Last Days.....

Do you like the ominous sounding title?!  Ha!  No worries- this post is not ominous at all.

The last couple weeks of school can be quite busy with all of the end of the year flurry of activities.  It sometimes has this air of "What can we cram in one last time before the year ends?"  It can get a little hectic, but I have also decided that there is no other time of year that my motherly pride shines more than this.  It is a great time to be reminded just how wonderful your kids are as you are there to support them in their various activities.  Here is the last few days....


Jacob:  The day started with a "poetry breakfast" at school.  This was to finalize the poetry unit the 3rd graders have been doing.  My wonderful friend Amy watched my girls so I could enjoy the time with Jacob.  It was an opportunity to eat some muffins, drink some juice and enjoy his work.  He got to share his poems with everyone at the table and we got to listen to the other kids as well.  I always love to read what my kids write- especially poetry- it seems to say a lot about what is going on in their heads.  I don't have any to share right now because the teachers had to keep the books to be graded, but I will share when he brings it home.  He did a wonderful job at coming up with creative ideas.  His favorite that he wrote was about a man named "Tam" who enjoyed eating "ham" (it was his limerick.)  It was also fun listening to the other kids at the table and neat to learn about them.  For example, I learned that one girl has a critically ill uncle who she is clearly worried about because he appeared twice in her poems.  My heart ached for her and her mom who was there with her.  I learned the favorite food of a boy at the table was "greasy pizza" since it also appeared more than once in his poems!  Anyway- as I said, I will share some of Jacob's poems next week when he brings the graded project home.

Kenny:  Thursday evening was his first band concert!  There was a concert in the fall, but due to a time mix up, we totally missed it.  He plays trombone and did a great job!  I didn't have my camera because Aaron had taken it on his business trip so I took a couple pictures with my phone, but only one turned out even useable at all.  He saw me trying to get a picture and kept making faces!

 That is him all the way on the right in the front.


Kenny: This was a day I was worried about for a week and a half!  They had announced at school there would be a talent show for grades 5-8 and Kenny thought it would be fun to do a magic show- he came home and told me he had signed up at school they had approved him.  I was immediately nervous.  I know the "tricks" he wanted to use and that they would be pretty easy to see through.  Not to mention he has had some bullying trouble in the last couple years ranging from mild to severe so I feared how the kids would treat him.  I also had plans Friday night but ultimately decided to cancel those plans and let him participate and be there for him.  I didn't want to dampen his excited spirit- especially when it was something he WANTED to do. I have been having a hard time finding things he wants to do.  But, all week I worried about how it would go.  I helped him practice his tricks over and over and was just honestly not sure how it would go.  But, I also told myself- how much would they REALLY expect of a 5th grader anyway?!  I prayed that all would go well.

There was a mandatory practice Wednesday after school and I was hesitant to let him stay for the practice- again because I just didn't trust the other kids.  Before he got out of the van for school in the morning, I made sure he knew my cell number from memory and told him to be sure to call me and for any reason I would come get him if needed.  I never heard from him and was so nervous hoping all went well.  When I went to pick him up, I walked in the school and there was a group of girls standing there- one girl I recognized from his class.  As soon as I walked in, she recognized me and said, "Hey, Kenny did a really good job!" and then another girl I didn't recognize piped up and said the same thing. I thanked them for saying so but I really wanted to hug them and tell them they had no idea how much they had just made my day and eased my fears.  I did tell Kenny's teacher in case he wanted to pass the compliment onto the girls parents, that their daughter gave such a good compliment on her own- which he said he would. (many of the 5th graders have been behaving pretty rotten so this gave the teacher an opportunity to share something GOOD).   We continued to practice his show to get ready for Friday.

SO- we go for the "big show" Friday night.  There was a lot of kids doing a talent at all different levels, so it did continue to put my mind at ease.  And the audience- parents and children- were very supportive to all acts, which was so wonderful to see.  The only down side was the show went waaaaay long.  It was supposed to go from 6-8. We reached the intermission at 8pm.  I was worried about Kenny since he had been waiting so long and so just as the intermission was ending, I went to check on him. I was glad I did!  He was crying.  A teacher was there and said that the kids were all getting stressed because it was taking so long and Kenny (and others) were getting a little crazy so she just told him to sit and calm down.  Being he was so stressed he thought he was in trouble (which she said he wasn't really) and he melted down.  I talked to him a while and he calmed down and perked up. It was almost time for his show so I went back out to watch.  Kenny didn't even take the stage until 8:40!  The show didn't end until 9:35!

Kenny did an absolutely outstanding performance!!!  He was so fun!  He came out smiling- no indication of the meltdown he had had just 20 min. before.  He showed no fear (he said later he thought he would be nervous but he wasn't) and he ENTERTAINED the crowd! He was a natural!  His magic was at the level of a 5th grader at best, but he was genuinely FUNNY!  The crowd (which was about 1/3 of the original size since it went so long, many had left) laughed and clapped and really enjoyed him.  He made eye contact, connected with them, joked as he went and just had fun.  My pride in him was BURSTING!  I was so proud and so THANKFUL that I didn't let MY fears stop him.  Here are some pics:

Kenny the magician....

Here, he even called up an assistant from the crowd to make a quarter appear magically from his ear:

Here he shows his hat as he made a matchbox truck magically disappear into it-
He also put a bead into a cup and made it "disappear" but on his first attempt, he dumped the cup upside down to show the bead had disappeared and, well..... the bead didn't behave and came falling through the cup onto the floor.  Instead of getting flustered or embarrassed, he just rolled with it and laughed and said, "Well THAT wasn't supposed to happen! Let's try that again!" And he did- just kept right on going!
Afterward, when he came and sat down with us, this boy a couple years younger then him came up and asked for his autograph.  His mother told his later that as soon as Kenny was done, the boys was so excited and said, "I HAVE to get his autograph!"  Kenny was so thrilled to give it!  

They only gave a 1st prize in each category and he didn't win, but he had so much fun and I really think this boosted his confidence in a big way which was more than I could ask!  It also showed me he has a talent for entertaining. 


Kenny and Jacob:  I have felt like I have failed as a parent in the swimming department.  Here they are 11 and 9 and had only had swim lessons once before. They were just so expensive that I just kept putting it off.  But, thanks to some friends I discovered a way to get them cheaper and signed them up for a recent session over the last 5 weeks. This morning was their last swim lesson.  They did great and got certificates.  I watched during their lessons and have seen a huge improvement over the last 5 weeks!  They both have their strengths and weaknesses.  Kenny does a strong swim stroke and swims pretty far pretty fast.  But, he fears the diving board and never once got brave enough to try.  Jacob's swim stroke and kick isn't quite as strong yet, but he would go off the diving board over and over any time the teacher gave them a chance! 

We are going on a beach vacation in August, so I really wanted to be sure they got some lessons.  If I can squeeze in another session before that, we will do!

Jacob:  This afternoon, he had another piano recital!  His teacher gives her students lots of chances to publicly perform.  Thankfully, Jacob has no fear of playing in front of others!  Here he is with his teacher, Christine, and then playing:

The recital was held and a cute little ice cream cafe so OF COURSE we HAD to get ice cream after, right?! I mean, he did such a great job and deserved a treat and the cafe was so kind to let them have the recital there that they deserved the business.  Not to mention the bright blue mid-80's day...... ya- ice cream was a must!

So, as a humorous close to this post.... I felt I must document the occasion and take a picture of the kids together eating their ice cream.  Well, I tried 3 times and could NOT get them all looking at me AND smiling.  That was too much to ask.  But some of the expressions are hilarious so I just had to post all 3.

So, I know this has been at least 3 posts in one and if any readers are still hanging on, I am impressed.  But, sometimes I prefer to just "get it all out" in one post while it is all fresh in my mind instead of trying to remember to post it all through out several days.  My main purpose here it to document history anyway.

More house updates coming soon..... we have hit a snag (FHA appraisal came in low) where things could go really good or really bad from here.  We are praying for good.... I am waiting to see what happens and will post everything when I have more to tell.  Hopefully by tomorrow or early next week, we will know!!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

New House Update

So here is the latest news.....

We received the results of the radon test and it measured 5.8.  The inspector said anything above 4 should be remedied.  We were talking to our neighbor (here....) who said that when she bought her house 4 years ago, the radon tested at 10!!!!  Wow!  So, she had hers remedied.  This involves pipes under the basement floor that go out the side of the house.  These pipes have an ever turning fan (or something of the sort in them....) that catches the radon and blows it out through the pipes.  I figure if hers is that high 20 yards away...I'll bet ours is too!  So, the 5.8 where we are moving doesn't seem so bad!  But, apparently, radon is now the second highest cause of lung cancer aside from smoking. Yikes!  And, it did occur to me that the elderly neighbor next door who lived there before our current neighbor did die of throat cancer.  Of course her husband smoked pipes like a chimney also so hard to say.  Got me thinking anyway.

At any rate, we added the radon to our list of requested remedies.  We were nervous because our list was not small and not cheap.  They came back and agreed to remedy everything on this list...except for repairing the half-bath in the basement.  They don't want to do it because it involves tearing up the basement floor to fix the pipes underneath.  It is a little annoying because they advertised the house as a 2 1/2 bath so they SHOULD fix it.  BUT, after talking it over, it just wasn't a deal breaker for us.   We didn't choose this house because it had a half bath in the (un-finished....) basement, we just thought it was a cool perk.  We will likely not fix it ourselves either due to the expense and we don't want to dig up the basement either (we had to do that HERE for heaven's sake!!) We are considering just pulling it out and using it as a storage closet. There is still 2 fully functioning and newly redecorated full bathrooms aside from it anyway.  So, we accepted the agreement because they are, after all, fixing all of the safety issues without complaint, which won't be cheap.  I am grateful for this because we really needed a house that wouldn't be too expensive to maintain since we will still have this house to worry about.  After their remedies the biggest possible problems will be the air-conditioner- it is over 20 years old and could go at any time. But for now, it works fine.  The roof will also need replaced in a few years, but the inspector felt it had a good solid few years so we can prepare and save for that.

The next hurdle will be the FHA appraisal and inspection.  FHA has to appraise it to be sure they feel it is worth the cost of the loan as well as any small repairs they want made.  If everything goes well with that then we can set a closing date- probably in mid June!!!  I will update on that in a few days when it is done!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The WHOLE Story.... at least so far....

Oh my- I can not believe it has been 3 weeks since my last post!  And for once I have had a lot to say- but things have also been so crazy that I just haven't had time to sit down and spill it out. Because I haven't written any of this down before, the story has gotten long and must be told for memory's sake.

So, it seems very likely that we will move over the summer and we are even currently in contract on a house.  Here is the story of how it all came to be:

We have actually wanted to move for years. We outgrew our little shoe box (as I not-so-affectionately call it...) when the girls were born.  But the timing and money were never right.  We tried to sell while I was expecting the girls and Kenny was getting ready for Kindergarten- but there was not a lot of interest and we found a school for him to go to so we decided to stay since we could at least afford to live here.

Over this past year, we have been strongly considering moving again.  While the boys are in a good school- especially considering where we live, it no longer really suits Kenny's needs specifically and we have felt the need for a better environment- both school and neighborhood-wise- for our children.  We began to seriously consider moving this summer and began to make preparations for our house including fixing the bathrooms and painting.  We weren't sure where to begin exactly or what to do, but we were talking about it at least.  It became clear that, due to the market in this area, we would have to rent out our house instead of selling it (unless we had $20K to take to closing, which...well...not even close, I'll just say).

Earlier in the year I had submitted the application for the girls to go to the same school the boys go to. I have to apply through the district lottery because it is not the school we are assigned to.  So, I was shocked when we received the letter that the girls were on the wait-list.  I seriously could not believe it.  How could they wait-list us when we have two children at that school?!  I think right then was when I decided we would do what we could to move.  I still wanted a back up plan though and talked to the principal to find out if there was anything he could do about getting them in.  He said not to worry, that it would probably be fine and he would make some phone calls.  But I still felt there was no guarantee and that maybe this was our chance.

Over the next couple weeks, we talked to both a couple that could help us rent it out and buy a new home and also a realtor. After prayerfully considering what both had to say, we decided to allow the realtor (Scott, referred to us by Amy- he is her brother-in-law) assist us in buying the house.  He also has connections and information on renting out the house.  By the time we met him, we had been pre-approved through a mortgage broker for a new loan and Scott had sent us some homes via e-mail that we may be interested in.  When we met with him on Friday, May 4th, we developed a plan.  It was determined that it would be easier to rent this house AFTER we had left it for two reasons.  1) It wouldn't have all of our stuff in it and 2) we could refinance this house to a lower payment- but we can't do that till after buying a home or it messes up the credit and could cause problems for the new loan.  So, since we had been pre approved, we decided we should start looking.  We decided that night to look at 2 houses that had struck our interest.  One of them was definitely not the answer. It was a house right down the road from my parents house that Aaron and I have always admired.  But going inside, it was easy to determine it was not the house for us.

The second one we completely fell in love with.  We really liked it before we even went in and just loved it more when we visited it!  Surprisingly, it is not a whole lot bigger than this house- only about 300 sq foot bigger.  I had said that because the market is down now, it would be the time to get that bigger house we had not been able to afford before- yet this house is the one I fell in love with.  I found as I looked on line at least at bigger houses, they really didn't "speak" to me- but this one did!  And while it is not huge, it is bigger than this one and would fit us all just fine.  I have never been one to want much more than I need anyway.

It is a cape cod style built in 1929 and totally updated with little to no outdoor maintenance needed and updated bath and kitchen with beautiful woodwork all the way around.  It has 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and is two doors down from the schools. It is only about 25 miles from our current home so we are still close to family and friends.  Here is a picture of the outside (I won't post indoor pics until it becomes ours since it is not our stuff inside....)

We decided even though we hadn't looked around much that it just felt like home and was totally "us."  We could see ourselves there and were imagining where we would put things. The house had only been on the market 5 days and had already had 2 showings the day before and 2 more scheduled the next day.  Not the type of house that was likely to last.  So, we decided to not risk losing it and put an offer on it.  The sellers counter-offered and we accepted!

Everything has fallen into place so very easily and so much quicker than expected.  We are looking at closing in mid-June.

But then, we had the home inspection yesterday and it did turn out some problems.  Nothing too major but things that do need fixed that could be deal breakers if not remedied.  We expected some things since it is an older house, but didn't expect much since it is kept so immaculate.  But there were some troubles.  Here are the biggies 1) Out dated wiring in the attic that needs fixed/ replaced as well as one of the bathroom fixtures.   2)  the 1/2 bath they advertise in the basement doesn't even work and the 1st floor tub runs slow.  3) Mold on the basement walls- it would just need professionally scrubbed and sealed and it would be fine.  4) Possible high radon- apparently very common in older houses and nothing anyone can do about it- it occurs naturally in the ground and seeps up through the foundation.  We won't know the levels until Friday.  It is fixed by pipes being inserted under the ground that pump it out away from the house.  (I had not heard this until a couple days ago but apparently Radon exposure is the 2nd largest cause of lung cancer aside from smoking....)   So, at any rate, it is all fixable- it will just cost a fair amount of money that we shouldn't have to pay.  So, if they agree to remedy it, then all is well and the sale will continue. If they don't, then we may walk away and have to restart our search.  I really hope they remedy it and think it likely that they will!  First of all, I think they would want to keep the sale. Secondly, if they refuse to fix and we walk away, then they will have to report those things on the property disclosure- making others less likely to buy until it is fixed.  Third, the current homeowners seem to be "well to do" from what information we have gathered and should be able to afford it.  Fourth, they know Aaron's uncle that lives in this same town- and know Aaron is his nephew and will hopefully keep that in mind....

So, once we move, the plan is to refinance this house, get the bathroom finished (hopefully before we move...) and painting done.  Hopefully the refinance is done by August and then we will use property managers to help us get a renter in here.  Our new house is priced low enough and interest so low that- with the old house refinanced- the two mortgages actually aren't horrible.  Not that we could easily afford it, because we can't- but it makes it a little less scary.  Plus, with using property managers, they will take care of advertising, background checks, etc- which also makes it less scary and more likely to get good renters.  I am NOT a risk taker at all which is why this is so scary, even though it also feels surprisingly right.    This is likely just about the biggest risk I have taken in my life.  I always choose "safe" but I guess the time as come for a little courage and a lot of prayer.  And that is just it.  I have really been praying a lot and with they way things have moved along, I feel we are being led in this direction.  Even if things don't work out with this house (which I really really hope they do....) then I know we are at least being led somewhere and we will follow and I have faith that it will all work out.  All I know is we have had a good realtor, good mortgage broker, a good inspector, good credit and God on our side that is taking this big thing we were scared to death to do and making it manageable to where we actually may have found our ticket to a better area.

Oh and one last thing.... now that it seems highly likely we will move, the principal called today to say he got the girls in.  Sigh.... I am relieved to know the back up is there, but I also feel bad knowing I made him work to get us in (though I don't think it was any tougher than a single phone call...) and now it is likely none of my kids will go there.  But that is part of what makes me think this is God nudging us.  If the girls had been instantly accepted before, we wouldn't have worked so hard to move and would possibly have ended up wimping out and staying yet...another...year... in our 5 year house that has turned into 11 1/2 years. I couldn't believe they had been wait-listed but maybe it was for a reason. 

This is so long, but I really needed to bring the story up to date.  I will post more as I get more updates and things move along.  Things have gotten a bit crazy and busy and it has all happened really fast but life is also full of excitement and possibilities!!!