June 18, 2016

The smallest of things

I'm sitting here on my bed next to James as he watches a PBS show. Thomas is napping, and Alan also started to snooze on the couch. Zoey is chewing a bone. The window is open and the fan is bringing in cool summery air.

As we get closer day by day to this momentous change - moving in to OUR house - I keep noticing the smallest of things.

This tiny apartment has been our home for over two-and-a-half years. It's not glamorous. It's gotten more claustrophobic as we've grown and as we just KNOW there's more space right around the corner.


We've absolutely made this place our home.

Alan's found us creative storage solutions to take advantage of every space. He's rearranged furniture countless times to accommodate the season of life we've been in. James learned how to eat and walk and jump here. We brought Thomas home here. Countless minutes of every day life and special events and family and friends and living and loving happened here.

I'm so ready for something better. For a space we can grow and love and learn in. But closing ANY chapter is hard. Saying goodbye to the known. Saying hello to the mystery of the future. As I pack these boxes, I'm taking careful stock. Offering my thanks for all we've had here, and marveling that this small, bare, empty space can hold an entire world for an entire family. So powerful.

We're also going through a shift in mindset. Since we've been in Denver, we've had a storage room to hold Alan's tools, our Christmas tree and decorations, all of my children's books (my boys have a pre-made library and they don't even know it yet!)... and in order to use any of those things, it's a huge ordeal to unpack and repack the storage room.

We won't need to keep that storage room any more.

We're not just packing, we're bringing everything HOME with us. What a revolutionary concept. We don't need to be split in two spaces any more. We can find a place for everything, and really dig into this life of ours whole heartedly.

Can't wait.

June 11, 2016

Things James Says

Jeez, this kid talks ALL THE TIME.

I know my mom and dad must be wiping away a tear from laughing so much. (I was/am a big talker.) But literally - on the drive to daycare the other morning, James told an entire imagination-based story for something like 7 minutes straight. No input from me. Not stopping. Every sentence connected with "and" or "and then". It was incredible! Not enough coffee yet, folks.

But he continues to have these fantastic phrases and I have to write them down.

"Check out me!"
He loves to have me or Alan witness his feats. Jumping on the bed. Playing with a toy. Being silly. Love this one.

"What's this one called about?"
Asking the title of something, or the name of something new he hasn't encountered before.

"Moooooom! Mom? Mom!! Mama!"
Yep. This is happening. Life as I know it is over. I used to joke with MY mom that it was kid-sonar - pinging to see where Mom was. That's absolutely what it is. And James is already doing it with me.

June 4, 2016

The House Story

So... we bought a house!

In my opinion, it's a crazy magical, stars-aligned, kind of story, so I've gotta share it. 

To start: we met with the bank right around Christmas 2015 to talk about our situation and see what work we could do to improve our credit and help us be great candidates to buy a house. Kind of terrifying, but it wasn't as bad as we made it out to be in our heads. We made some great progress and decided to start looking in March (knowing that our lease at our apartment ended in September). 

I crowd-sourced some referrals for realtors and jumped in. I picked someone, also found a local lender I liked, and we were off. The marvelous world of checking out houses via showings, taking about square footage, lot size, type of building material... sheesh. We put in a couple of offers on properties, and while we liked the first house, the second one wasn't that awesome... and we ended up not getting either of them. Like... there were ~20 offers put in on each property. 

We're not millionaires, but we're both working. We were looking for a single family home with a garage and a yard, but the market here is nuts right now. Things are snapped up left and right, often by people with suitcases of cash. (I didn't actually see said suitcases, but I'm imagining.)

We started to get discouraged, and were even looking at condos/townhouses, but that honestly made my heart hurt. We didn't want to settle for something that wasn't really what we wanted, but with the market conditions and our unique situation (using a VA loan), it started to feel overwhelming and hopeless (even though I knew it could take 10+ offers before we were successful).

Ultimately, we weren't really "clicking" with our realtor. To be honest, since Alan and I were brand-new newbies at this whole thing, we weren't really sure WHAT to expect or what was "typical" or usual. The realtor wasn’t doing anything “wrong” per se, but her strategies and our needs didn’t seem well aligned.

We decided to “break up” with her, which honestly was pretty stressful for me. Like, I called but couldn’t figure out how to say it and ended up crying afterwards. Ugh.

I felt way super anxious, and everyone we called up to this point (trying to connect with another realtor) just reinforced that anxiety. Yes, I know it’s a crazy market. Yes, I know our price point is “low” (seriously??). Yes, I know that a VA loan can be perceived poorly from a seller’s angle… but I don’t need someone to reiterate how many “challenges” we have, or how hard this is going to be. I’m doing that enough in my head. I need someone who can help me see the forest, not get wrapped up in the trees.

Alan’s manager at work happened to walk by and mentioned that her dad is an appraiser, so maybe he had a realtor recommendation. I was kind of sarcastic as I listed off all the things that we needed: someone who was ideally a veteran or who had extensive VA loan experience, someone who had great understanding/patience with first time home buyers, someone who could help us stay motivated and positive as we worked through this process... She literally typed to her dad as I rattled those things off, and he (amazingly) had a recommendation for Jenny York (in the military with tons of experience with VA loans and some refreshing new ideas for strategies we could try).

I called Jenny on April 22 and liked her, but wanted Alan to talk with her as well before we decided to work with her. He liked her proposals and ideas, so we made the decision. She helped with the “break up” with our previous realtor, set us up with access to the MLS and we decided to meet on April 30 to view a couple of houses. We brought the boys with us this time, and to be honest – the showings were kind of a mess. It was rainy/sleety and terrible weather, first of all. We saw a house in Aurora that was “meh”, and we couldn’t even see the second one – there was no key in the lock box. Ultimately, it was helpful because we were able to stop after that and talk about what we liked/didn’t like in the “meh” house and develop a plan for moving forward.

When I got to work that Monday (May 2), the MLS auto-search she sent us didn’t have ANY possibilities based on the screeners she put in place. I decided to do a manual search, knowing that I’d have to wade through some not-possibles (like cash-only offers, etc.) but I was just curious to see what was on the market in general.

There was a “back on the market” listing that popped up that wasn’t there over the weekend – it was listed literally just minutes before. It looked like everything we were looking for – but I wasn’t sure based on the notes. It mentioned that the previous buyers had backed out due to “loan terms, appraisal and inspection”. I immediately emailed Jenny to ask her to check the hidden broker remarks to find out what that meant – if it was a problem with the house itself (inspection/appraisal) we couldn’t consider it because of the VA’s standards.

She came back and said that no – they had backed out due to their loan terms/conditions, nothing to do with the house. Eek! I told Alan, and we scheduled an evening showing so that Alan could get off work, grab the boys from daycare and we could go see it. The sellers came back and canceled our showing request, stating that it was too late. They’d been out of their house all day and had a kid and a dog of their own. (I get it.) So Jenny rescheduled an earlier showing at 4:30, and I was the only one able to flex my schedule and make it happen.

I knew as I drove up it was just the right house and neighborhood for us. As weird as it sounds, the sunlight was just this amazing, glowing light in the late afternoon and I pretty much live-texted Alan as we walked through. 

It. Was. Perfect. 

Maybe not “perfect” showroom quality, but everything we were hoping for (3 bed, 2 bath, 2 car garage, yard) and more (corner lot, huge crawl space for storage, deck out back, great school district).

Alan trusted me (plus he saw my pics as well as the public listing information), and we put in our offer the next morning, along with a personal letter I wrote to the seller (we were up until midnight putting our whole heart and soul into it). Jenny also immediately went into action building rapport with the seller’s agent and writing letters and emails on our behalf as well. The seller is a military veteran with a Purple Heart, just like Alan (I noticed as I walked through the house he had a notebook with the MOPH logo). He has a wife and a young daughter, and while our offer wasn't the highest... it was the best fit for them as well as us.

Turns out, that since the previous buyers backed out, HE lost the opportunity to buy his next house so he was not just looking for a high offer – he was looking for a solid buyer. He also needed to rent back the house from us so he could find that next house, and since our lease doesn’t end until September, we have all the time in the world to grant him (plus, WE don’t have to sell anything in order to buy his place). It’s freaking incredible how things lined up in just the right way for both of us. He accepted our offer on May 4, just two days after we saw the house and 4 days after meeting our realtor in person. Yowza.

And they’re nice people, too. We haven’t talked to them extensively, but Alan ended up speaking to the seller briefly the day we went to the house to look at it and take a couple of measurements. They have a 7 year old daughter, apparently the school bus “stop” is right in front of our yard, they like the neighborhood, they’ve had sprinkler system issues (ha – MOM, you can help with this, I bet)… and for some reason, he has two gas BBQ grills. He’s going to leave one behind for us (how freaking nice is that??) and depending on their new place, he’s willing to leave us a lawn mower, etc. if he doesn’t need it at the new place. Ah-mazing!!!

We ended up closing on June 3, 2016 and in one fell swoop became home owners AND landlords (ha!). We're expecting to move in the beginning of July after we get the interior repainted... 

...and I don't know if anyone has ever loved their house more than we're going to love THIS house. <3