Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Offer

Seventeen days into having our house on the market, and it was beginning to wear on me. Keeping the house spotless, toting two small boys and a dog everywhere I went, and checking my phone on a constant basis, hoping for news of another showing or an offer, was getting exhausting.

Of course, the day came when we were hosting a dear friend from out of state. I was taking her to Portland to meet her sister for an afternoon of family time, when the text came. "I would like to show your home ASAP." Being in NE Portland at the time, I freaked out a bit. I had not brought the dog (the one and only time I went anywhere without her in those 17 days), our house was a disaster, and our office was set up as a guest bedroom, complete with a air mattress and suitcases.

Emily was kind enough to take on the job of texting the realitor back to let him know that it would be a couple of hours before the house would be in showing shape. He was kind enough to agree. After dropping her off, I drove home as quickly (and safely) as I could. I also called Joe to let him know the situation, when he decided to leave work early to help me set up the house. When we finally arrived at home, we had 45 minutes to prepare the house and get out.

We did our best, and I can safely say that our house looked pretty good when we left. It was a super hot day, so we drove around rather than hanging out at a park or walking around town as we would have normally done. After Nolan had a quick snack while parked in a quiet neighborhood, we started to drive out to the country, when I got the message that the potential buyers were done looking and that our house "showed very well."

That evening we headed out to a birthday party for our good friends. While finishing up our dinner, my phone rang. It was our realitor with some interesting news. They couple who had viewed our home that afternoon wanted to make an offer. They suggested that we drop our price quite a bit, as well as pay closing costs. We were very excited about the offer, but we knew that it was not something we could agree to. We had a tight window for profit, and the current offer wouldn't allow for any.

We took that evening, and the next morning to decide how to proceed. When I told our realitor that we wanted to counter with a full price offer, but would cover the closing costs, we were all convinced that the negotiations would be over. A half an hour later, we had a deal! Everyone was shocked. I couldn't believe how quickly we had gone from frantically cleaning to celebrating.

As with any real estate transaction, there are hurtles to clear and speed bumps to cross, but just seeing our home go pending in less than three weeks was amazing! We owe it all to our wonderful realitor, who worked so hard to get our house out there for people to see. She is truly talented when it comes to sales and marketing, and we are so so so lucky that we had her in our corner.

Now, fingers crossed for a positive outcome from the inspection!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Glass Scattered and Nothing Changed

It finally happened. The conversation I have been dreading, yet planning for since I found out I was pregnant with Liam, was had today.

As I pulled away from our daycare to take the boys home, Liam told me about his day. All the fun he had with his friends, what he ate for lunch, and how he had put his leg (fully clothed with shoes and socks) into the pool, etc., when he quickly changed the subject. Here's how it went:

Mommy: Why did you put your whole leg in the water?
Liam: I was hot.
Mommy: Well, you could have taken off your shoes and socks first!
Liam: Mom.....?
Mommy: Yes?
Liam: The other Cassie has hair.
Mommy: Yes, she does. But I don't! (saying it with excitement, but feeling a bit panicky)
Liam: Nope, you don't........why not?
Mommy: I have something called Alopecia. Can you say Alopecia?
Liam: Aloe-pee-sha.
Mommy: That's right! That just means mommy's body doesn't like my hair, so it makes it go away. But that's okay. I like not having hair.
Liam: Ya! Lots of mommies have hair, but some don't.
Mommy: Yep. Some mommies don't have hair, some daddies don't have hair, some kids don't have hair. Just like some people have red hair, or blonde hair, or brown hair. I just don't have any!
Liam: Mommy, I like you with no hair!
*This is the point where my heart melts*
Mommy: Thank you honey. I love you, just the way you are, too!
Liam: Yep.

I have known for quite some time that Liam would notice my differences sooner or later, that the questions from the kiddos at his new preschool would prompt comments, and that I would have to explain why. I was worried about how he would respond, whether or not me being different would make him feel differently about me, that he would be ashamed or embarrassed of his mommy, and about how I would help him understand without making it a big deal. I saw this conversation as a potential "glass shattering" moment (for my friends who watch How I Met Your Mother), that he would never think of me the same way.

I should have never worried about it. My son loves me for me. Just as my students, he looks past my lack of hair, and sees me. He is so smart and understanding. He already knows what parts of a person are important. I'm so proud to call him my son, and I can't wait to see how his empathy and respect for others, and their differences, grows as he does.

Liam and his bald mama

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Preparing Our Home for Visitors

After making the decision to sell our home, we learned (very quickly) what it would take to get our house into showing shape. A lot of work! We knew right away that we needed to do some yard work, deep clean the whole house, declutter, etc. What we didn't know, was how much work it would be to keep it in viewing condition for more than a day or two.

It was quite the chore to have the house spotless for the two weeks that it took to get an offer. It definitely complicated things that we have a three year old, 7 month old, mini Aussie, and two black cats. Needless to say, I had to sweep/mop every morning. I began each day cleaning, making our bed, and dusting our bedroom and bathroom. Then I would move on to Liam's room, and vacuum the whole upstairs (stairs included). Then I would barricade it from the kiddos and pets, so that they wouldn't cause me to re-clean.

As for the downstairs, we made our office/Liam's playroom into a no-go zone from the beginning. We cleaned it very well once, then stayed out of it. As soon as breakfast was over the kitchen/dinning room were cleaned top to bottom. Next came the downstairs bathroom and the living room. At this point, I had to make sure that Nolan was well-fed, changed, and contained to either the pack n' play or his bouncer, and Liam had also eaten, gotten dressed, recently emptied his bladder, and was entertained with a movie or show, so that I could sweep/mop.

Maizy and the cats were locked outside for the duration of the cleaning session, but when we were ready to leave for the day, I would go around and get Maizy through our gate, so that the house could stay pristine. The cats were not so lucky; they spent their days outside. To clarify something I mentioned above, I tried my hardest to be out of the home as much as possible while we were showing the house. The thought of having to get Maizy and the kids out, while leaving the house at it's best, all within the hour notice that we would get, made me panic. So we spent most of our time either at my mom's house visiting, or just out and about.

This was my life, everyday, for two weeks. I'm glad that it was summer break and I was home all day, because I don't know how I would have done it if I would have been working as well. Because Joe works so early (5:30-2:30), he was unable to help with keeping the house clean. He did as much as he could at night, but because we still live here and use our things every day, there were many chores he just couldn't help with.

Another complication was Maizy. She is a talkative puppy, so we didn't feel comfortable leaving her home when people came to take a look at the house. We were sure she would annoy them, which is not a good way to get people to feel comfortable in the house. Because I had her in tow, I couldn't go just anywhere. It had to be doggy friendly. I was hard!

I don't know how people do it long-term. Two weeks really isn't that long to have your house on the market, but it was the longest two weeks ever!

My tips for being ready to show your home, especially with kids and/or pets are:
- Keep it clean: Put dishes in dishwasher right away, do laundry as it comes, pick up after kids often, etc.
- Sweep/Mop/Vacuum daily
- Clean once in the morning, and then get out!
- Create/keep a cleaning schedule: we really cleaned the bathrooms every other day, cleaned the kitchen nightly, mowed the lawn once a week, watered the lawn nightly, etc.
- Attend to all kids' needs, then make sure they're entertained when you clean
- Brush the animals nightly
- Turn on Scentsy (or the like) air fresheners in the morning, then turn them off before you leave for the day
- Declutter/Lightly pack the things you don't use
- Pack away a good portion of toys (kids don't even miss them, and then there isn't as much for them to scatter throughout the house)
- Plan ahead- a place to go, your daily cleaning schedule, etc.
- Pack a bag for the kids/pets and leave them in the car (one less thing you have to remember in a rush)

I'm so glad that I worked so hard to keep the house at it's best, but I'm also so glad that this stage of the process is behind us (hopefully)!


Friday, August 23, 2013

The Decision to Sell

This will be the first of a series of posts about the ups and downs of selling our home, renting, and buying our forever home; and doing it all with an infant, a toddler, a dog, and two cats.

Joe and I were happily surprised when our beloved friend and Realtor scored us an amazing deal on our first home in our dream town. It had everything we wanted! Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a huge open kitchen, and a large yard for our future kiddos. It wasn't until about year two, while nearing the end of my first pregnancy, that we started to notice a few things that we were not too excited about. The master bedroom is on the bottom floor, while the two others are on the top. We have been told we will like this separation when our boys are older, but as of right now, I hate it. We are all cramming into the two upstairs bedrooms because I just can't get comfortable with sleeping on different floors.

We have also realized how important an actual laundry room is to us. Our current laundry situation consists of schlepping our baskets of dirty clothes down the stairs and out into the garage, where our washer/dryer buts up to our over-sized truck, making it impossible to open the door to the dryer all the way. I always drop clean clothes onto the dirty garage floor, and I hate that I have to sort the laundry in our hallway leading to the garage. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and folding everything requires taking up our living room, and then schlepping everything back up the stairs.

These things might not seem like big issues, but there are a couple of, more frustrating parts, that have clenched our hopes for a new place to live. The street we live on is lovely, and has a cute park just two blocks away, but it is also a through street for people trying to avoid lights. At peak commute times, we see car after car barely slow for the three stop signs that are within our view. I have seen countless children in scary situations because people go too fast and don't stop at the corners. It's scary.

Obviously, this is a huge issue for us, but the biggest deal breaker is the living space. Our bedrooms are all a great size, but our living room is quite small and is organized in such a way that it's difficult to arrange furniture. We want to have celebrations and family/friend gatherings in our home, but we have never felt comfortable doing that here. It's just too tight of a fit.

When we heard that the housing market had changed drastically from a stagnant market to a great sellers market, we contacted our trusted Realtor and set up a meeting to discuss the specifics (what would be required of us, what we would list the house for, how long it might take, etc.). We were shocked to hear how much value our home had gained in just a year and a half-we had checked in previously and were told we would lose quite a bit of money at that time.

After a couple of weeks of discussion between Joe and I, we decided that this was the time. We believed that our flexibility, having the upper hand as a seller, and the potential profit, were all too good to pass up. Although we wanted to sell, we felt no rush. We are not to the point of feeling like it's a necessity yet, but we know that day is coming. We thought this situation would help keep our stress levels at a minimum (more on that later). So, to finally get to the point, we put our house on the market the end of July.

The process has been stressful, exciting, scary, interesting, and a definite growing experience for our family (and that's just in the first month). Future posts on this subject will include: preparing our house for the market, the selling process, packing with kiddos, any snags that we have/will hit along the way, finding/living in a rental, and in a year or so, the buying process. It's a long road with a lot of steps, but we have a lot of support from our family, friends, and our amazing Realtor.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Life Lessons in Disney Movies

Anyone who truly knows me (well anyone who can claim to know me at all) knows that I love Disney. I have three black circles imprinted on my body to prove it. So I find it frustrating when people blame Disney movies for girls not having a realistic view of life. Yes, most of them are unrealistic, and yes, some of them portray the main character as someone who waits around for her prince to come, but there are also some wonderful life lessons that can be found within their story lines.

I have many issues with those who complain about the plots of these movies. #1- They are MOVIES! They are not meant to be realistic. Is Sesame Street based completely on fact? Nope. Yet no one complains about the lessons that their kiddos learn while watching it. #2- You can't expect young ones to learn anything from any movie without some parental discussion. It is up to the parents to make anything a teachable moment. #3- What is wrong with children developing a sense of magic, excitement, and hope. We live in a scary world. I for one, am completely comfortable with my boys thinking that these things could happen as long as they can.

If you are a parent who wants their children to see a lesson in everything that they watch, then I have compiled a list of life lessons and discussion points that correspond to some of the most popular of Disney flix (even the ones where the leading lady is not so ambitious).

#1- Beauty and the Beast: In the opening scenes of this movie, Belle is considered an outcast in her town because she is "odd" for wanting to read and isn't interested in Gaston (the catch of the town). The lesson: There are so many! Education is important, think for yourself, never play dumb for the benefit of others, and be who you are.

#2- Aladdin: The title character spends the whole movie trying to be someone he's not to impress a girl, who ends up caring for him just the same in the end. The lesson: Once again, be yourself, people will love you for you, not what you can do for them. Also, there is no easy way out, life is hard whether you are rich and powerful, or poor and hardworking.

#3- The Little Mermaid: Ariel believes that she would fit in better as a human, but everyone else believes humans are horrible creatures and that she is naive and needs protecting. The lesson: Don't judge others by what you think you know about them. Get to know them! Also, sometimes you just have to do what you know is best for you. Stop listening to the opinions of others and take the leap!

#4- Tangled: The main character knows that something about her life story isn't right, so she escapes her home (more like a prison), and sets out on an adventure to find out where she really came from. The lesson: Never let anything get in the way of finding out the truth.

#5- Lady and the Tramp: A story about two dogs who fall in love, but are from opposite sides of the tracks (literally). The lesson: Don't judge people based on where they come from, base your opinions on their actions and how they treat you.

#6- Mulan (One of my all-time favorites): The title character spends her whole life being told to be a cookie cutter Chinese girl. She shouldn't speak unless spoken to, she should marry a "fine man", and bring her family honor by fitting into the female mold. Mulan doesn't listen, and ends up sparing her father from fighting/dying in battle, and saves China. The lesson: Girls can do anything! This is a total girl power flick! Be who you are, and be proud of that person.

#7- Sleeping Beauty: I'll admit, I had a tough time coming up with a lesson for this one. Considering this story is based solely on vanity and a girl's inability to take charge of her own life. But I was able to find a lesson in that. The lesson: You don't want to "sleep" your life away waiting for the perfect man/woman to sweep you off your feet and take care of you. Take charge of your own life, be your own hero!

#8- Robin Hood: A classic story! Robin Hood steals from the rich to give to the poor. Now, I'm not going to tell children stealing is okay, but I thought of this one in terms of bullying. The lesson: standing up for others is important, even when there are consequences for you. At least in our school district, there is just as much focus on the importance of not being a bystander to bullying as there is to not being a bully. It's important for children to know that standing up for someone might be an uncomfortable thing to do, but it's also the right thing to do!

#9- Cinderella: This is yet another story where the title character dreams of being a princess with a handsome prince by her side. Through magic and a great pair of shoes, she gets it. The lesson: (once again, there are a few) #1- Don't let where you begin life, dictate where you will end up. #2- Stand up for yourself, when others push you around. #3- Mean people get what's coming to them. #4- Working hard and being driven are wonderful qualities to possess.

#10- The Jungle Book: This one is all about the song! The bare necessitates are all you need! Friendship, food, shelter, and love are all you need. Material possessions are not important, your experiences and the memories you make with the people that you love are what's going to make your life a good one!

The overall lesson of this post: Look for the lesson in everything!

*Watch out for more Disney lessons! Coming soon: a list for boys and another for girls!!*