Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Journey with Joshua

If you're someone who's been reading my blog but not necessarily talking to me on a daily basis, you might be under the impression that this process has been a bed of roses the last few weeks. We sold our house really fast, we're buying a beautiful new one... If you're anything like me, you might read the words on the screen in front of you and imagine that I have some luscious green grass growing here in these parts. But that's always only part of the story. Here's the rest.

We came home from Rochester exhausted but bouncing off the walls with excitement about our new house. At last, I felt like I had something to be excited about. The past few months have been emotionally draining: Greg has been gone more often than he's been here, there's a huge For Sale sign in the front yard of the house I thought I would be living in for the next twenty years, and every time I went to visit New York it was cold and gray and depressing. Greg had taken to calling the drive from Rochester to Pittsburgh the "trail of tears," because I would cry the whole way home after every visit.

Finally, a ray of sunshine was breaking through the dark clouds of the last few months. Our home had sold in five hours. We'd found a home we loved in Rochester and had a contract on it. I had visited a Christian homeschooling program while I'd been there and loved it, too.

Then, the bottom dropped out from under my feet last week, and I found myself in a freefall of fear.

On Monday night, my realtor called and told me the buyers of our home here in Pittsburgh had backed out of their contract. We were back at square one, it seemed.

As I was listening to her on the other line and trying to process what this all meant for us, I heard a sound from downstairs that terrified me. It wasn't an intruder. It wasn't the cry of an injured child. It was far worse, my friends. It was vomit.

Yep. Boys 1, 2, and 3 dropped like flies to a horrendous case of the stomach flu over the course of the next 24 hours. Greg was scheduled to be gone from Sunday afternoon through Friday night, and so busy with traveling and meetings that he could barely text, let alone help me figure out how to handle the house situation.

Given my history, I anticipated feeling despair. Sadly, that's often my knee-jerk reaction to adversity. But this time, it was different.

What I want to to tell you is that instead, filled with the Holy Spirit and spiritual maturity, I simply rested in God's unfathomable peace and knew He would take care of everything in His way, in His timing.

The truth was, I found myself gripped with fear. I was so afraid of all that this might mean for our family. Would we have to put the house back on the market? Would we have to lower the price? Would we need to cancel the contract on our new home and continue this exhausting life with Daddy in one city and the rest of us in another, indefinitely? My stomach churned, and sleep was elusive.

So God reminded me of Joshua.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the story :-).

Thursday, March 28, 2013

And the House We Chose Was...

House #2!!!!!

We are so excited, and can't wait to strip some wallpaper and swim in our pool! Stay tuned in the months to come for some before and after pictures!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

House #3: Familiar on the Outside, Different on the Inside

So the first day that I went out with my realtor was sort of a bomb. I didn't see anything that I liked, and I felt badly because she was so sure that I was going to like several of them. Greg had to keep reminding me that we weren't going to buy a house that we hated because I didn't want to hurt my  realtor's feelings :-).

She was awesome, though, and completely undeterred. No worries, she announced firmly when she dropped me back off at the hotel at the end of our day. We WILL find something that you LOVE, I know it.

The next morning we went straight to this house, and it was the first one that I actually liked. On the outside, it is very similar to the house we live in now: a cedar-sided, center hall colonial with big, spacious rooms. It was on a wooded lot and had an attached garage, and I immediately took a deep breath and thought to myself, This could be it!

I loved the living room - beautiful built-ins, a fireplace, and open to a sun-filled office that they added on a few years ago.

Here's another view of the office. It would make a perfect classroom - the only thing I wasn't thrilled about was that it was completely open to the other living spaces, which is not ideal. It's open to the living room on one side and the family room on the other, and our school room is often pretty messy. There are books and papers and markers and playdoh and glue sticks and clay all over the place - we're a busy bunch in there. I just am not sure that I want that mess so visible to my type-A eyes all throughout the day as I'm living in the rest of the home. Doors are a beautiful thing.

I loved the kitchen. The woman who lives there now went to cooking school, and you can tell. Top-of-the-line appliances, and just a very cozy space. I could really see myself cooking and baking in there while I watched the kids playing in the backyard through the big windows.

The family room. One word: UGH.

I felt like I had entered the local Moose Lodge. Horrid. 

The dining room. It had potential. It was crying out for some wallpaper removal and a fab chandelier, but I could work with it.

The master bedroom. 

Here's the sad news. This basement? It looks nice in the photos. I thought so too. The reality? Pretty bad, people. The ceilings were LOW. The carpet was DIRTY. And the worst news by far? It smelled like CAT PEE. If someone wanted to torture me, they could get any and all classified information out of me in five seconds flat if they tied me up in a room that smelled like cat pee. I HATE that smell, and it is impossible to get rid of. It's funny because I whispered to my realtor that I thought it smelled like a cat, and I think their realtor overheard me; when we went back with Greg later that day, there were about 400 scented candles burning in the basement. We almost passed out as we were assaulted with the competing smells of vanilla, fresh linen, apple cinnamon, and cat pee. Ummmm, nice try lady. 

I loved the back yard. It was small but idyllic. Smith kids would have a blast in this little corner of the world.

There you have it - House #3.

So which one did we choose?

Stay tuned to find out!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

House #2: Lots of Space, Lots of Wallpaper

I was really excited to see this house, because I'd been stalking it online for weeks. It was a little above the top of our price range, but we were hoping that because it had been on the market for a while, the sellers might be willing to accept less than they were asking. I think I took the virtual tour of this house about fifty times before ever stepping foot in it, so I felt like I knew it before I even walked through the door.

I loved the turned staircase with the oriental rug runner, and I loved the airy two-story entry. I hated the wallpaper... and there's lots of it.

When Greg and I were buying our first home, the one we fell in love with had many rooms of wallpaper. No problem, we both said enthusiastically and smiled at each other, imagining long Saturdays as newlyweds telling jokes and stripping wallpaper. Just like those musical interludes in the romantic movies, we would get that wallpaper down in no time as we laughed and bonded and tossed tiny scraps of paper at one another.

Ummm, after about one hour of scraping horrible granny-flowered wallpaper off the walls of our master bedroom, we were hurling insults at one another and seriously considering putting the house back on the market.

So I hate wallpaper.

But I love this study off the kitchen... Chloe and I have already dreamed of all the hours we could spend in front of the fire during those long Rochester winters, reading great books and sipping our tea. Oh, how I love this study.

The kitchen has its goods and bads. I'm not usually a dark-cherry cabinet kind of girl, but these cabinets are very good quality, and it might actually be nice not to have white cabinets that show every speck of dirt and splash of spaghetti sauce. My children are not the neatest eaters, and I'm not the neatest cook.

The granite looks green to me. I hate green. Greg insists it's black. I think it's green. It also has black appliances, and I hate black appliances. First world problems, people. I can deal.

Yes, that carpet is new. Yes, that carpet is green. Enough said.

The master is really nice. Not huge, just the right size. The best part is that there are two closets! His and Hers. Pretty swanky, huh? Not sure if we really have enough clothes to warrant two closets, but it's a convenient space to lock naughty children store things.

The basement was one of the things we loved about this house. It's fully finished, and it's a walkout. Walkout basements are highly coveted in Pittsburgh, where so many houses are built on hills with integral garages. Because our kids play so much in the basement, both with eachother and with all their friends, I would love to have a big, bright space that didn't feel like a dank dungeon. You can get crazy creative with paint and lighting, but at the end of the day, if a basement doesn't have windows it usually looks and feels kind of cavelike. The basement in this house is awesome. It's not fancy, but it has lots of space and lots of light. It walks out onto a patio in the back yard and would really be a wonderful place for the kids to play and host homeschool gatherings.

There's even an efficiency kitchen!

And last, but certainly not least, the piece de resistance?

Oh yes, that is a pool. A pool, in Rochester? My thoughts exactly - at first. But over the last few weeks I've learned that Rochester really isn't the frozen tundra I thought it was. Its weather is in fact eerily similar to Pittsburgh's. They probably get more snow in an average winter because they're on Lake Ontario, but believe it or not, people, they do have summer! And though I never thought I would want the maintenance of a pool, the idea has grown on me greatly as I've considered the fact that I would no longer have to drag four children, twelve floaties, three pairs of goggles, five beach towels, five sets of dry clothes, three pairs of sunglasses, one giant bag of pool toys, and five lunch bags into my minivan, out of my minivan, back into my minivan, and back out of my minivan, every day - all. summer. long. I could just walk through my yard, open my nice secure fence, sit down on my lawn chair, and watch my kids play. No longer would we have to race to the pool as soon as it opened, stay for two hours, and then drive home like maniacs as we tried to keep Charlie from falling asleep before we got home. I could put him down every afternoon, bring the monitor out to the pool, and watch my kids splash and play all afternoon. 

Suffice it to say, the idea of a pool is growing on me.

So there you have it - House #2. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

House #1: Move-In Ready, Horrible Yard

Greg and I always love the tag lines they assign to the different houses featured on each episode of House Hunters. Things like, "Small Rooms, Big Potential," and "Bad Location, Nice Yard." Greg has made an art form out of coming up with his own hilarious, often inappropriate tag lines for houses we drive by. They usually involve something very descriptive about the way he imagines they smell inside.


I decided to attach my own tag lines to differentiate some of the houses we looked at last week. Without further ado, here is House #1:

It was one of the first homes that I saw when I arrived last week.

The dining room was on the left-hand side when you walked in the front door, and I loved it. The blue was interesting - not necessarily what I would pick, as I tend to be more of a traditionalist when it comes to dining rooms - but cool. I liked it.

The living room is on the right, and is open to the family room. The living and family rooms in our house now are similar, and I really like this layout. It's very conducive to having people over with enough room for everyone to be comfortable, and the furniture we have now would be perfect. I wouldn't even have to paint!

The kitchen was nice. Again, not really what I would pick, and not quite as big as my kitchen now, but lovely and adequate with plenty of room for a family of six.

Down the hallway you see in the picture below is a really pretty laundry room, entrance from the attached garage, and a study that would be perfect for our school room.

The master bedroom and master bath were tucked away at one end of the upstairs hallway, and were very nice.

One of my favorite parts of this house was the finished walk-out basement. It was sunny and bright and would be a perfect playspace for the kids. There was also a bedroom in the basement with big windows looking out into the backyard - a perfect guest room for all of the visitors we are hoping to host :-).

This house was pristine - I felt like I was walking through a Crate and Barrel catalog. The big issue for us was the yard. The house is in one of those new neighborhoods... lovely, custom-built homes, but small yards that all back up to one another. We are not used to this, and don't particularly like it. We by no means have a big, awesome yard in Pittsburgh, but we do have quiet and trees. We can sit on our deck in the afternoon and hear the birds and the wind rustling through the trees and... not much else. We have neighbors on both sides of us, but we're not surrounded by them. My realtor and I were standing at the window in the picture above, looking out at the yard, and she said, reading my mind, "Kinda makes you feel like a goldfish in a bowl, huh?" 

That being said, this house is awesome. We could move right in and not even have to paint! It has all the space we need with the exception of a full bath by the guest room, but it appeared there would be unfinished space where we could add one. No house is perfect, so we're going to have to compromise on something...

Stay tuned for House #2!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

House Hunters, Rochester Style

House Hunters is one of my all-time favorite shows. Before we cancelled our cable last year, I had pretty much seen every single episode at least twice. Truth be told, it was sort of pathetic. I could usually describe the house they chose before Suzanne Wong had spit out her opening lines.

The funny thing is, after last week I can tell you with absolute authority that house hunting is no picnic. I thought it was going to be a blast!!! After years and years of living vicariously through Suzanne and the people who traipsed through three houses apiece, I couldn't wait to do it myself.

Last week we sold our house in five hours (God is good, people!) and I headed to Rochester eager to commence my own House Hunters experience. It was equal parts depressing, exhausting, and stressful, with a tiny bit of excitement divinely thrown in so I didn't hop in my Hyundai and head back to Pittsburgh for good.

I thought it would be fun to document some of our experiences last week on the blog for posterity.

So which one did we choose?

Stay tuned to find out!

21 Months Old & A Snow Day

A few weeks ago March came into Pittsburgh like a lion and we woke up to piles of clean white snow.

Our youngest one turned 21 months old that day.

He was entranced...

...and went from window to window

admiring the way the world had changed overnight.

While I sighed and the neighbor shoveled and the local news crew interviewed a slew of winter-weary warriors on the way to their nine-to-fives...

a delighted little boy found the ordinary extraordinary...

...and the teacher became the student.

"This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118:24