Sunday, March 16, 2014

In Our Corner

Buying and/or selling a home is a very scary, very emotional process. I have learned how important it is to have someone who knows this process, inside and out, in your corner. We found that in our real estate broker, Marie Boatsman. She is absolutely A-MAZ-ING! Over the past 5ish years, she has helped us buy two homes and sell one. Each time, with patience, kindness, insights, and years of experience that were invaluable to us. We met Marie, when a friend recommended her, and have never thought to go with anyone else since. We would never enter into a real estate transaction without her help and guidance. With each of our situations, she went above and beyond in helping us end up with everything we were hoping for, and more.

When we bought our first home, we were looking for a fixer-upper so that we could buy in our prime location. When she took us to look at our first home, we were nervous. We liked everything about it: the size, neighborhood, overall location, layout, yard. You name it, we we were in love. But it seemed out of our reach. How could we afford something so perfect? She worked her magic, and within a few days, our offer was accepted. We not only got the best home available, but we were safely within our budget.

Photo: I am a week late but last Friday I got to give this adorable family keys to their new home in Sherwood! This home was a long shot for them in the sense that it was a short sale and we had no idea how long we would have to wait... but less than 3 weeks went by and we got approval!! Definitely not a typical short sale timeframe but everything works out for a reason! I'm so happy for the 4 of you =)!
Our new home!
Five years, and two babies later, we decided that we were out-growing our beautiful first home. We turned to Marie for help, and she went above and beyond helping us to get our home in tip top shape. The house was on the market for less than three weeks when we received an offer, which we countered with a full price offer, and the buyers accepted it! It was extremely difficult to leave our first home, but Marie helped us feel comfortable and made sure we were knowledgeable about all of the steps of the process.

Fast forward a few months, and we were ready to being the search for our forever home. We, once again, turned to Marie. Not only did she help us find our dream home, in a not so great buyer's market, but she helped us to navigate a new home-buying obstacle......the short sale. We put an offer on our home, expecting it to take months to hear back. Within three weeks we had heard from the bank, and they had accepted our offer! Then came the next hurdle, the inspection. Because the house had been a rental for years, then sat empty for a bit, the house needed some maintenance. We were told by everyone (including the house's real estate agent) that banks don't help with these costs. Marie submitted a new offer based on the things that needed to be done, and a couple of days later we heard the amazing news. They had once again, accepted!

Marie made all of these deals happen. She used her expertise to help us to get everything that we wanted out of each and every transaction. Every one of these situations had the potential to be an uphill battle, with tears and disappointment at the end, but Marie is a miracle worker, and refused to let that happen. We couldn't be happier to have her in our real estate corner, and we are so so so happy to call her a dear friend.

If you are in the market for someone to help you find or sell a home, contacting Marie is the first step in reaching your real estate goals!
Here is a link to her Facebook page:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Big 3-0

I have spent my whole life ignoring this specific number, this specific birthday, this specific realization. When I was young, I never thought of thirty as "old", but I have always thought of it as mature-the end of the childhood/young adult phase of life. It always seemed so far away. A distant future, that I didn't need to think about just yet. Then it happened, time went by-elementary school, middle school, high school, college, grad school, the first 5 years of teaching, a wedding, and two births-and here I am.......thirty.

Why does the jump from twenty nine to thirty seems so big? Why have I always thought of my true grown up life beginning at this exact day? I have no answers, I have no reasons; but it's true. Did I really change over night? Of course not. Did I go to sleep youthful, energetic, and happy, but wake up wrinkled, tired, and frail. Nope. Yet I still feel it. A change.

Thirty is just a number, it is just one day of my life. Nothing more, nothing less. But it does seem to hold a great deal of power over many of us. I still believe that thirty isn't old, but mature. It's no longer in the distant future, it is now in my past. The day has come and gone, and the only thing that has changed is my answer to the question, "How old are you?"

I would have to say, that the hardest part, is that it seems as though yet another chapter of my life is behind me. Yes, there are many more ahead, but this one was great. One that I wish I could revisit from time to time. Not just in memories and in pictures, but really visit. I do embrace the future. There are many wonderful memories to be made, new chapters to write, pictures to be taken. But no matter where my future takes me, it can't change how thankful I am for my past.

Thirty years is a long time to learn, grow, and shape yourself. Every one of the days I have lived has made me who I am, and every day from now on, will shape the future me. So, although I'm working on truly embracing this new era of my life, I am owning my uneasy feelings. I am embracing my day to day. I will enjoy it. I will love life. I will be thankful. Everyday.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Buying a Short Sale

When we began looking for our new home, we had no intentions of focusing on a short sale or foreclosure, but it didn't take long to realize how great of an idea it would be. We had the perfect situation. We were renting a comfortable, nice home in a great neighborhood, we had the down payment saved, and we felt no rush to find a home or move. We were ready to find the perfect house, even if it meant waiting months to hear whether or not we got it. We also realized that the homes we were most excited about, just happened to be short sales. We found quite a few right off the bat, that we wanted to give a shot. The first house we made an offer on-we were out-bid. But were given "second place" position-meaning, if the first buyer's offer fell through, we would be next in line.

The second was a beautiful home, in the perfect neighborhood, but was a rental for years, so it didn't have the best up-keep, and needed lots of updating. We decided to put an offer in on that one as well. Our plan was to keep looking at any other homes that we liked, while waiting for either of the short sales to come back. We thought that news from the bank (one way or another), would end up being our timeline for finding something else. We thought we would have tons of time! Short sales usually take months. We had three weeks. The bank accepted our offer on the second home almost immediately (for a short sale), which floored us, our Realtor, and the seller's Realtor. No one expected that.

When we found out, we panicked a bit. We had just seen another home-not a short sale-earlier that night, and were trying to decide between the two. Luckily, the offer came on a Friday, so we were able to give ourselves a couple of days to figure it out. We decided, too quickly, to put an offer in on the new house. The second we signed the paperwork, I panicked. I knew instantly, that I didn't want the offer to go through. After letting Joe know how I was feeling, we quickly contacted our wonderful, patient Realtor, and rescinded our offer. I felt horrible, but I knew that it wasn't the house for our family. I'm so glad that I spoke up!

We thought long and hard that weekend. We came out knowing that the short sale home was the one for us. We waited for the inspection, which came back with a few issues, but we had a plan. We asked for the bank to lower our price based on the repairs needed. Once again, we were told that dealing with a bank might be difficult, and the seller's Realtor was sure that they wouldn't accept our new offer. Three days later, we got news that the bank had accepted it. Yay! Once again, we waited for the appraisal to come back. Today it did. Once again, great news!

It has been six months since we moved into our rental, and here we are packing again. Short Sales are nothing to be afraid of. Although I know that our situation is not at all the norm, it is possible. Short Sales can offer buyers a wonderful home, for an even better value. This time, the move will be far less emotional, more exciting, and we can't wait to make our new house, our home!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rental Life

We have been living in a rental home for almost 6 months now. It has gone by quite fast and has been a relatively easy adjustment to make. Although it has been easier than we expected, there have been some rough parts, some of which we didn't plan to be an issue. When we moved, we thought it would be nice to live in a home where upkeep was not our responsibly, where we could call the landlord anytime we had an issue. Well, that hasn't been as easy as we thought. Having a landlord to call when something goes wrong, means that you have to deal with a landlord. Ours has not been so wonderful.

When we moved in, we realized AT THE WALK-THROUGH (apparently, no one had any idea before that), that the fireplace and the stove didn't work. We could care less about the fireplace, but a stove is a bit of a necessity. When the issue was "realized", the landlord told us that it would be fixed before we were to move in a week later. Needless to say, that didn't happen. In fact, a week after we moved in, it was still being figured out.

Who figured it out? Oh, not the landlord. We did. We talked to HomeDepot, we had to be here for the handyman who took the old stove out, for the men who were to install, then the electrician, then the when the men came back to install it for a second time. All of which HAD to happen during a the normal work day, of course. Then there was the hot tub. When we moved in, we were told we had a choice: use the hot tub and be responsible for maintaining it, or they would pay to have someone come to clean and weather it. We chose the latter. It took almost a month for someone to take care of it, with the water sitting in it, running periodically.

All of these issues were made enough, but then came the realization of going from a house that is our own, into a house that is not. Our boys' bedrooms are plain, boring, and covered in scribbles and stickers from the previous owner, there are boxes of the owner's junk in the garage, that was left for us to find, pack, and store, but the worst part has been the drive. We only live one town from our previous home. It adds about 15 minutes to Joe's drive in the morning (because he leaves so early), but about 20-25 minutes more to both of my commutes and Joe's evening drive. This has been quite an adjustment both for our evening family time, and our wallets. It costs us about another $100 a month in gas to live where we are-a fee we didn't plan on.

Now that we are in the process of purchasing our forever home and we can see an end in sight, we can see our time in the rental for what it has been, a time to look for our real home, time to save a bit of money, and time to figure out what we are not willing to give up. Location, size, yard, and neighborhood. I'm sure that there will be time where we have fond memories of this house and our time here, but I'm not holding my breathe for that day.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Teddy Bear Picnic Birthday Party

Since my baby boy was a wee squiggle, swimming in my tummy he has had two nicknames- Gummy Bear (given to him by his Auntie Alyssa, because she said that he looked like one in the ultrasound photo), and Teddy Bear (his middle name is Theodore, after my husband's grandfather). So it was only natural that his first birthday go along with these nicknames. In searching for Teddy Bear themed party ideas, I quickly realized that everything was for baby showers, and NOT birthday parties. Well, I wouldn't let that detour me! I had done a home-made birthday party before-my oldest son's 2nd birthday was Toy Story themed, and I made everything from: activities, decorations, signs, cupcakes, snacks, games, art projects, etc. I could do it I did.

I scoured Pinterest for ideas, then I was on the prowl for anything and everything that just might work. I don't know if I'm extremely lucky, or if planning ahead, looking in several places, and being open to changes is the answer, but it all fell into place perfectly. I love the Teddy Bear Picnic song, and we have a plethora of the stuffed scoundrels lying about our home, so once again.....I went with it.

Here is how it turned out, where I purchased the supplies, how I made the projects, and other miscellaneous things you might want to know, when planning a similar birthday extravaganza:

 Don't Forget Your Disguise!
A line in the song refers to all the Teddy Bears wearing a disguise to their big party, so our guests got to wear them too. Bear-ear hats were waiting right inside the door, with a sign reminding them to take one. They were easy to make, only required a sharpie and brown paper, and the kiddos LOVED them. They wore them all day, and many took extras home.

Teddy Bear Picnic Table
This is the "picnic" table where the goodie bags, and yummy treats were housed. Gummy Bears, sandwiches, Teddy Grahams, Trail Mix, cupcakes, and adorable bear cups to store the tasty treats, were laid out for snacking.

Teddy Bear Picnic Framed Lyrics
Also, a Dollar Store picture frame displayed a verse of the Teddy Bear picnic song. These were placed throughout the house for people to read. I tried to match the verse with the activity that would take place in that area. Now, these verses are hanging in my Teddy Bear's bedroom. What a great keepsake!

Picnic Party Favor
Each child that attended the party went home with a Teddy Bear plate, set of silverware, and a Teddy Bear storage container filled with gummy bears or teddy grahams (depending on their age). I was told by several parents that they loved this idea, because their kids were getting something they would actually use. The kids were begging to eat dinner with their new plates/silverware, so I'm guessing that they liked the idea too.

Cookie Decorating Station
This was one of the best ideas! The kids absolutely loved decorating their own teddy bear cookie. It was nice for me, because that was one less thing I had to prepare before the party, and it was nice for the parents/kids because the kids were entertained. It was extremely easy to set up, required little time, and was very inexpensive.

1st Birthday Picture Collage
I made one of these for my older son's second birthday, and it is still hanging in his bedroom almost two years later. It was a mommy-favorite, and more than anything, I wanted to do it again for my little Teddy Bear. Cut out the number needed from a cardboard box, glue/tape pictures to cover the cardboard, then hang! It's so fun to see the changes in your baby when sorting through the pictures, and it's fun to reminisce with party guests when they take a peek.
 Easy Teddy Bear Cupcakes
This is the easiest decoration idea yet! Bake cupcakes, frost, stick a teddy graham on top. Done. Quick, easy, inexpensive, and everyone loves a cupcake with a little something on top.

Teddy Bear Ice Cream
No picture of this sweet treat. Sorry! But it is also a wonderful way to make good use of that cookie cutter. We thawed, then refroze ice cream into a foil pan. Then when it was time for ice cream, we pulled out our trusty cookie cutter, and used it to "scoop" the ice cream. There was a little trial and error (1.take the ice cream out and let it sit for a bit before trying to cookie-cutter it. 2. Warming the cookie cutter under hot water first really helps), but it was so so cute, and the kiddos were so excited to get a teddy bear-shaped ice cream.

 Teddy Bear Sandwiches
These were awesome! Everyone loved them, and they were so easy to make. Since bears like fish, we made tuna sandwiches, then used the same cookie cutter (we were getting as much use of the thing as we could) to cut out adorable little teddy bears. I'm still in love with this idea, and I think I will try to do it again for future parties of various themes.
Teddy Bear Smash Cake
Everyone one year old needs his or her own cake on their birthday. We enlisted the help of the boys' Meema in making a teddy bear cake, just his size. It was perfect for our little guy, and it was oh so sweet!

In the end, I'm so glad that I couldn't find any generic red and blue checkered plates with teddy bears on them. I enjoyed making this party unique and special, and I enjoyed seeing how much everyone who attended enjoyed the little touches. More than anything, I love that I can show my little Teddy Bear pictures of this wonderful day, and tell him that his mommy did this all for him!

Nolan's 1st Birthday Party: One Year and Ten Days in the Making

Big Brother!
Every mommy dreams about, and dreads their child's first birthday. Party planning tends to be one way to bury the sadness that your baby is growing up. Nolan's first birthday came with an extra side of sorrow, when I realized that it fell on a conference day (meaning I would be working through the evening hours). Knowing that this is probably our last, first birthday party and that his actual birthday would be one I would spend away from him, I went full force into making his party a special day for both my boys, as well as Joe and I.

Cookie Decorating Table
I spent over a month planning for Nolan's big day. We came up with the perfect theme, and created several crafty projects to make the day fantastic. We were all looking forward to it......then life happened. Three days before Nolan's party, Liam got a fever. We had planned to go out on a family field trip the Friday before the party, since we wouldn't be able to celebrate on the big day. Because of Liam's fever, we stayed home. We kept hoping he would get better in time, but when Saturday rolled around and he was still feeling crummy, we decided to cancel. It was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make so far.

Every one of Liam's birthdays have been awesome. Joe and I have taken the day off every year to do something fun, and his parties have always gone off without a hitch. Now, poor Nolan. Mommy works 10 hours on your birthday (the first one!), then we cancel our family outing, now the actual party! It made me feel horrible!

Joe was fantastic in helping me see that we could salvage the situation. We quickly came up with a plan to reschedule for the next weekend (in between two other birthday parties). We were so lucky that everyone was able to come, even with the very short notice. Then life hit again. One week, to the day, of Liam's fever beginning, Nolan started acting uncomfortable. We were going to have this party, even if it meant that I would give flu shots, antibiotics, and vitamin C as party favors, so we rushed him to the pediatrician to try to get him healthy ASAP.
Nolan's cake
We were relieved (as relieved as you can be to hear that your child is sick), to find out that he had an ear infection and would be given antibiotics to help kick it in the rear. At least he wasn't contagious and we could treat it! By the time his party rolled around, his ear infection was better, but the antibiotics were making him quite sleepy/spacey. We had his party and it was awesome, even if he looked like a zombie the whole time.

Thank you to everyone who joined us in celebrating our Teddy Bear's first birthday! It meant a lot to us that you changed your plans, just for him. We have such amazing people in our lives!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Red-Eyed Return

Back before Liam was born, there were two years when a mysterious and persistent rash occurred around my eyes. Both years, the redness began right around the holidays: the first, the week before Thanksgiving; the second, on Christmas Eve. The rash began the same way, a pin-prick sensation all over my eyelids-top and bottom. The intensity of the pin-pricks quickly went from an annoyance, to a burning sensation. It felt as though the skin around eyes was sunburned and chapped. They were dry, peely, and sometimes swollen.

My dermatologist, primary doctor, several specialists, an ophthalmologist, and my Thyroid doctor, all tried to figure out what could be causing this occurrence, as well as a treatment which would cure, or at least, help treat it. I went through countless topical ointments, natural lotions/creams, allergy tests, and even a biopsy, with no sign of relief or answers. After 6 months (the first time), the rash went away on it's own. We may have done something that helped, but no one knew what. The only thing that seemed to help, was to be on prednisone, a strong steroid, with many side-effects. Even several rounds of this only eventually worked(?).

The next year, when it happened again, we were ready with the steroids, but still had no answers. The second time around, it only lasted for three months. Only three months!?! Only three months of looking and feeling horrible. Only three months of even more stares than just being bald warrants. Three months of sick days, missed family functions, and hiding out in our apartment. I'm used to looking "different", I'm used to the stares, but the pain of the cold, the wind, the light, were so horrible that all I wanted to do was hide out.

The next year, I was pregnant during the holiday season, and like my other auto-immune "issues", pregnancy seemed to hold off the red mask. I flinched at every tingle or dry patch the next year, but nothing came. Same for the next. Then another pregnancy. I was just starting to feel comfortable. Big mistake! I was just starting to think that something might actually have gone away on it's own. That maybe, just maybe, alopecia, eczema, allergies, and a wonky thyroid might be enough for one person to handle.

I was wrong. Over the weekend, I felt the familiar tingle. I tried to head it off with benadryl, lots of eye-approved, all-natural lotion, and extra care to not touch my eyes. It didn't work, and every day since, it has gotten worse and worse. Yesterday, was horrendous! My first day back with my students, and my eyes were sore, red, dry, heavy, and swollen. Just walking to the door of the school was a painful errand, with the cold and the wind stinging with every step.

Since Nolan is still nursing, even the ointments and steroids that helped in the past, are not an option. So, I continued to be proactive. I have put lotion on my eyes every hour or so. I take benadryl at night before I go to bed (since that's when my eyes tend to swell), and again when I wake up (to correct the swelling that has still occurred), and I am washing my hands constantly. Today, I am much better. Still red, a little sore, and the tiniest bit swollen, but I feel as though I have just a tad of control over the situation.

Although I am quite aware that I have no real control, and body will do what it does, I at least feel as though I am making progress. Hopefully, being persistent will have it's payoffs.