Thursday, July 31, 2008

A conversation with Daddy...

"Hi, honey. I just wanted to let you know some things before you go to the cabin.... You have to turn on the water under the porch and plug in the water heater. Your mother left you some dishwashing soap, and there's a plastic tub full of paper towels and stuff under our bed....

The weather should be really good. It was beautiful when we were there last weekend. Nice breeze, and we didn't see a single bug. If you go over to Emerald Isle, it'll probably be crowded. Your mother put up some new curtains in the bathroom, and you haven't seen the miniblinds I put up yet....

You might want to take the new I-70 to get there; it's a good way to go. You remember that produce stand we used to stop by? We got some good peaches there last weekend, and they have homemade peach ice cream....

They're having a gas war in Kinston, so I'd fill up there. It'll be more expensive at the beach. The new neighbors behind us are nice; I told them you'd stop by and let them meet the baby. Have a good time. Love you."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scuffed shoes...

I got up this morning early to go and look at a house with the realtor. I was so excited about this new listing that I didn't sleep well last night. Lots of pros, only a couple thought provoking cons... but I had no peace. As much as I'd like to manufacture it, it wasn't there. So I was grumpy about that, wishing and wishing I had had peace about it. David saw it with me, and he wasn't sure about it either, but he could eagerly check off all the pros on my list with me. Grrr.

But after that realty adventure, I took Seth over to a new friend's house. She has 5 kids, and they have one car for the family. She isn't able to come and visit others during the day while her husband is at work, so some of us in our MOPS small group are going to her. I sat with her and heard her story while Seth was thoroughly entertained by her sweet children. It included health problems, job losses, tough times learning home maintenance after renting for ages in New York, tight finances... and God's grace working throughout. She had such peace and gentleness in the midst of her circumstances. I was humbled, and I realized afresh how little I truly have to grumble about.

I saw my life with the new eyes that only come after imagining yourself walking in shoes much more scuffed than your own. I will wash my dishes, fold my laundry, and smother my son with kisses with extra gratitude today.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Choose the View...

I feel this post deeply. There is so little in our surroundings that we can truly control, but God is sovereign. (Bonnet tip to Sallie.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Last weekend...

I'm finally getting up the photos from last weekend at Mimi and Pop Pops. It's been a long time since we spent much quality time with our darling nieces, Olivia, FaithLyn, and Elise, or our strapping nephew, Judson. They were so much fun! They are sweet, happy children who handle being flown across the country without their parents extraordinarily well. Mimi is of the "no guts, no glory" school of grandparenting. Not only did she transport everyone back and forth from Texas, she planned activities, crafts, and meals for every day of the visit. Whew!

All 4 of the swimmers. Seth is getting ready to dump a bunch of water on himself and his hapless victim, Elise.

Judson and Seth are only 6 months apart. They may have beaten us to having kids, again, and again, and again, BUT, we had the first boy, even if it was by only 6 months! =) These two are almost the same size, and Judson was kicking Seth's pants in the motor skills department until this week. I think he is very close to pulling up all the way...

Pop Pop got to celebrate his 60th birthday with all his grandchildren (the reason for all of Mimi's maneuvering to get them to VA.) They all decorated his cake. Faithlyn started them off, writing "Pop Pop" in her designated food coloring color. The decorating got progressively more eclectic after that. Even Seth got a color, though he was a bit wary of the whole business.

The Best Nest...

Morning in the neighborhood.... Seth isn't up yet, and I'm sitting here with the leftover Dr. Pepper from yesterday, enjoying the beauty of the day.

This little family had a pretty quiet Sunday. Ok, quiet for us. =) During Seth's nap, David decided that he would go online and look for a good realty search site. He now thinks that ZipRealty has the best one. You can search using a map with houses flagged on it, and he thinks we may be able to get an autogenerated email list from that.
We also decided to check out a couple of houses I'd been curious about ourselves. That was really educational and informative for us. We've decided to cross an area of town off our list. If we'd like to live in a sketchy neighborhood, the one we currently live in is far better than the ones across town. =)

Another house I was curious about was a nice house in a nice neighborhood, but it needed a lot of updating, probably including a new roof, so potentially expensive updates. And there was a smelly runoff creek to the side of it. Hmmm.... wonder if my amazing, horticulturally erudite and landscaping architect brother could help with that problem? =) We asked a family walking by if they knew anything about it. Ahhh, mystery explained. It had been sitting there so long because the owners wouldn't budge on the price.

We came back home, and I felt empowered by knowledge instead of beaten down. =) I think having low expectations helped. I knew I would probably find that there were good reasons why those options weren't available, and that's what I found.

Sunday morning in church found me talking about the latest developments with our Sunday school teachers, who have recently moved. I know this probably shouldn't have been a surprise to me, but one of their first comments was that looking for a house is stressful and not a lot of fun. Well, at least its not just me! That made me feel a lot better in some unexplainable way.

When I get home from looking at houses, David sings me a little ditty with a tune he made up. Mom and Dad have the book called "The Best Nest" by P.D. Eastman. The little birdie husband sings, "I love my house, I love my nest, In all the world, My nest is best." So when we come home, and I look lovingly over our place, I get serenaded. =) It's great. I love it. If you haven't read the book, you should. My favorite part is when Mrs. Bird decides to build her house on top of the bell in the church belfry. I guess you can imagine how that eventually goes...

I think this house hunt thing is going to be an exercise in patient waiting. We can sit back and wait for something we can get excited about to come on the market. So we will... and I will stop looking at realty sites for the week. I want a break. Every day we stay in this place is a day that we're saving more money to put toward the next one. Win, win.

And we're going to the beach this weekend! Mom and Dad have an old fishing cabin that I've alluded to before, and its close to the actual sandy beach! So we're headed out on Thursday night for some family vacation time. Yeah!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More hunting...

We went out hunting again this morning with a new realtor. We fired our old one. I found myself asking, "What would Mr. X think, and would he even show me this house?" when I looked at listings, and that finally bugged me enough that I decided I wanted out. I'm glad we didn't look at much with him, or I guess I would feel more guilty.

So we called a lady who came highly recommended. I think she'll do much better for us. She's friendly, efficient, aggressive, and doesn't argue with me. I think she's probably the best we can do with a realtor. I think I've decided I just don't like realtors much, and I wish the whole house buying system didn't involve them at all. They take big chunks of commission, and people price their houses higher as a result of having to pay them their big chunks of comission.

This morning we looked at:

a. a smoker's house that had been ceramic tiled, living room, family room, everything but the bedrooms. The back yard looked into the parking lot of an apartment complex next door. I asked the lady if she would've priced this house at that level. She said, "I think I would've listed it at ____," naming a price almost exactly what they listed it at. I was not amused.

b. a choppily laid out house with a large back yard that backed up to a fire station and a major road.

c. a house we couldn't get into because of some key issues that had a long narrow back yard with no grass or trees, due to deceptive acreage quoting on the listing.

d. a house that had a lot going for it but had a weird living room layout.

I'm not encouraged. I'm even grumpier than I was before. I guess this process isn't going to be any fun for me, no matter who my realtor is. I want the house we lost more than ever. And I want to stop looking and hunker down in here more than I did before.

I need perspective. I need to go and look at pictures of people living in mud huts in Africa. And I guess I need to do a lot more praying for contentment. But it's a lot easier to have contentment when you're not looking at ugly, overpriced houses. I wanna quit doing that. Anybody think its possible for me to just have something fall in my lap through word of mouth if I wait long enough? =) I usually try not to spew all my negativity all over this blog, and this post may come down later, but I thought I'd let y'all know what's going on.

Now I'm going to get pie cherries at the grocery store and prep for our dinner guests...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Still here... and Baked Oatmeal...

It's been a crazy week. I could go into it, but its all good, and all mundane enough, so I won't do much of that. I've swapped babysitting favors multiple times, had a doctor's appointment, hosted my parents for a night so they could sit so I could break my back checking out hundreds of bargain rabid mommies at the state's largest consignment sale, watched Amy's baby overnight for her, etc. And I'm really looking forward to the weekend. So... no pics now of last weekend. Maybe later. After I pick my tongue up off the floor.

I did find time in the middle of all that to make baked oatmeal one morning. While babysitting twins, so I don't know what I was thinking, but... It makes a ton, is healthy, and saves well. But don't try to eat it in your car while driving. I got baked oatmeal all over my floormats. But its not mushy, so I only spent 10 minutes picking up crumbs. And Seth loves it.

2 1/4 c. quick oats or 2 3/4 c. oats
1/3-1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. raisins
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1 t. cinnamon
dash salt
3 c. milk (I used powdered skim, and you can't tell at all. It's a cheap way to use milk in baking.)
1 egg
1 t. oil
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 8x8 dish. Mix all ingredients together well, and pour in. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until center is set.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bummed, no, fine, no, bummed...

Yesterday was kind of a bummed day. I was babysitting for a friend by prearrangement, but yesterday wasn't a good day to be doing that. Seth didn't sleep great all weekend, and he wasn't wanting to nap good there. He was a total pill. And I wanted down time at home, too. Laundry and grocery shopping are still calling my name.

I was sitting on the stoop last night, and I realized that I was bummed about losing the house. I'd been ok with it before, but I wasn't yesterday. I realized what I'd liked so much about it was the private feel it had from sitting so far back on a large lot with plenty of trees. That's rare around here. And to top it off, I noticed that the house I'd been trying to talk myself into buying a couple of weeks ago... similar ranch, a little smaller, similar size lot, similar price... was already gone. That told me again what a good deal this one had been.

I was talking on the phone to a friend about it, and I also realized that part of the problem I was having too was that I was bothered by mishearing God's voice on this. It just seemed like too many coincidences to be coincidence, you know what I mean?

David had just talked me out of quitting looking the night before, saying he had a feeling there was something out there. I go to the pool, and there's a girl there who's never come to playgroup before, and she tells me about it. I go by right away, and its perfect. We'd decided not to keep looking with this realtor, so there was no problem there, and it helped us be competitive in bidding. I even thought some similarities with the owners seemed like more than coincidence, too. She decorates with country antiques like me and my mom, her husband knows David's boss, and his boss used to be on a board with my dad, we're from the same county, etc. I know it may not seem like a lot from the outside looking in, maybe you had to be there, but it sure seemed like something to us.

I don't want to mishear. I want God to be able to lead me because I'm looking for His will on the "not so plain cut" things in life like house buying and pet getting and Bible study choosing, etc. So it bothers me if I misunderstand hugely.

I talked to David about this last night, though, and he agreed that it really did seem like God wanted us to bid. The natural reason to us was that we were supposed to get the house. But... that doesn't have to be the reason. We agree that God made it clear that we should bid, so we did what we think He wanted us to do... but it doesn't have to follow that the reason why He wanted us to bid was so we could live there.

This is the time when blogging really becomes journaling for me. It gives me a chance to process by writing out my thoughts and feelings about something. This is a lesson I've learned before and will probably have to learn again. I'm sure I'll have good days and bad days while we're house hunting. Thanks for "listening."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

You win some, you lose some...

Well, we got outbid. The other couple came back with a higher offer. We are suspecting that it was their list price, plus an agreement that they didn't have to do anything like new paint, new carpet, tree removal, etc. We called them yesterday evening when we hadn't heard from them, and they told us they'd accepted the other offer, and that it was higher. They didn't give us a chance to make a counter offer, but it wouldn't have mattered. We couldn't have offered their list price, and it wouldn't have been wise to do so.

I have had a wild swing of emotions. Initially, there was anger, disbelief, sadness, acceptance, stony, coldblooded resolve to become a more hardened person, etc. You have to get at least a bit emotionally attached to a place in order to make an offer on it. That's just the way it is for most people. You have to imagine where your furniture would go and how you would live in the space. I wouldn't want to go through this over and over again. There is no lasting damage, but its been a roller coaster weekend, and I don't want to have many of these. I'm just glad it all happened in about 28 hours instead of over weeks. =)

Sometimes its hard for me to accept that Americans are mostly about cold, hard cash. I am included in this, of course, but I like to think that I have my exceptions. =) I was hoping that this couple would give us a break over a few thousand dollars. In my estimation, from getting to know their background and how much they paid for the house years ago, I thought that they could afford not to be persnickety, and they might be willing to help out a nice, young family on one income. I'd heard stories of people doing that. I was hopeful it could happen in our case... within reason, of course. I had visions of them saying, "Well, the other couple offered us a few thousand more, but David and Ellen are just so sweet." I know, spare you my fantasies, right? =) Nope, it's all about the bottom line, people. I'm learning as I go, and I guess I just learned a valuable lesson.

I am also learning to hold things loosely. I am very thankful that I can let this go with this little pain. I think we would've been very happy there, but we are also happy here. I am hopeful. I wasn't at first. At first, I had a temper tantrum and got really angry because I really wanted to live in this neighborhood, and we can't afford most of the houses in it I've seen listed, and woe is me, we'll never find anything really desirable we can afford here, and we'll have to give up and move out to Timbuktu, etc., etc.. You have to imagine this with wild gesticulating and yelling interspersed to get the full picture.

I'm actually a little relieved to be so clearheaded after a night's sleep. Honestly, I think that the other couple offered more for this house than it's really worth. We know the tax value, and the couple also told us what it was appraised for. The buyers may have trouble getting financing for that amount based on the appraisal. I dislike anyone trying to get me to overpay for a box of cake mix, much less an expensive piece of real estate. We're not overpaying. We will move on.

God is in control. If he wanted us to get this house, we would've. We would've come along last week before they had another bidder. There is a reason for this. I would like to know all the reasons we were subjected to this exercise in futility. I may not ever know all of them, but I can speculate at a few.

We know more about the bidding process now. We've seen it in action, its been demystified, and we can see what we need to do and not do to be competitive. I've found a house I can love, and I know what that feels like. I also know that I can walk away and be ok. We know now how to look at tax values and comparable sales online. We know what kind of realtor we want or don't want in the future, and we know the terms we're willing to agree to with a realtor. I am more willing to sit patiently and wait for the neighborhoods and locations I'm most interested in, barring a directive from God to look elsewhere. We have increased confidence in our gut feelings about houses. We apparently have similar taste to other people, so we won't end up buying a "beautiful" house that everyone else thinks is dog ugly. =)

This was a good learning experience overall. And we had a great time with the family this weekend. We're good. I will survive.... =)

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Ok, so we're at my in-laws for the weekend, hanging out with our sweet nieces and nephew from Texas. We're pretty frazzled and spazzed and all the other zzzz words. We're also a bit on the edge of our seats...

We got a call from the homeowner yesterday afternoon. Here's how its going down. They got the other offer from the other couple, and we get the impression that its pretty comparable to ours. They are an older couple, and they've already done a good bit of work trying to get ready to sell, and they're hoping to be done. They offered to take some off of our offer price if we would agree to do the painting and new carpets. They gave the same offer to the other couple.

We called this morning and told them we'd accept the offer. But... the other couple hadn't called them back yet, and the wife told me they weren't comfortable telling us they'd accept without waiting to see if the other couple would accept their similar offer. She said they'd never done this before, and she honestly didn't know what they'd do if we both wanted to accept. I don't think they're honestly wanting to create a bidding war. They didn't jump on doing that in the beginning; they just made us the same offer. (I think they just want to be done and living on their farm.) In a bidding war, I think we'll lose.

But I still have peace. I honestly feel that God is going to give us this house. I can't explain it. I know I could be wrong. I don't think we can go up, and I don't think that would be prudent, but I'm not worried. I know that God can touch their hearts and create the desire in them to let us have it if that is His will for us.

And I believe strongly in the power of prayer. We are in a house full of Christians who are praying for God to intervene for us, and most of all, that His will will be done. I was getting my face on this morning, and I thought, "You know, I need to go upstairs, get on my blog, and ask my buds to pray for me, too." So that's what I'm doing. I have discovered a community of Christian love on the internet, and I appreciate your encouragement and your prayers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

This morning...

We made an offer this morning. We walked around the house more and drove the neighborhood. We feel really good about this. We were also realizing that this is a smaller house for the neighborhood at 1700 square feet, so that's one reason we can afford it.

The homeowner said that the lady in the competing couple told her she'd be dropping an offer by today. We have offered what we can afford. I am praying that if God wants us to have this house, they won't ask us to negotiate on that.

At this point, I know I'll be sad if we don't get it. But I have seen now that God does actually have houses, rare though they may be, for us in this area. I have lots of hope! Please be praying this weekend. We will talk to her early next week for sure...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Our house... maybe?

I went over to look at the house at 4:00 today. Before that, I was all keyed up all afternoon. I didn't even know what to pray. I called David, and told him I thought this looked awfully good from the outside. He told me to call him if I thought he should come over and see it.

I got there, and it didn't take long before I just felt like this was it. I called David. He said he had a hunch, and he got a preapproval letter from a lender. That definitely surprised me. It's a wonderful house. It has so many of the things we've been looking for for our family. The bedrooms are on the small side, but the kitchen and family room are big, and they connect. There's a sun room/screened porch off of that with a view of the woodsy back yard. It's got trees, bushes, more trees, and more bushes. The windows are huge. There are hardwoods in the living and dining room, and they're good sized rooms. I really like it a lot. Everything isn't perfect, just like y'all said, but enough is perfect that I feel really good about it.

David is with a friend tonight who used to be a realtor and a broker. They're trying to figure out stuff and run numbers. We decided last night to fire our realtor and look for another one (after a long conversation about how I don't want to feel like I have to ask this man's permission to look at particular houses), so I don't feel the least bit bad about doing this without him. We never signed a contract with him anyway, and we only looked at some houses with him twice. Hopefully he won't have hard feelings, but I feel like we had clean motives.

But, anyway, I'm incredibly thankful for someone who can help us with all this in the absence of a traditional realtor. We would be in so much trouble without Tony. God bless him. He's getting a big birthday present this year. Maybe a weekend's worth of babysitting and an all expenses paid getaway.

Now it's input time again for y'all. I have peace about this house. I think the couple who are selling the house are just good folks. (They're an older couple with grown kids who want to move to the family farm.) The wife told me when I called before going over there that they might have another offer on the house. I believe she is telling me the truth. She told me that another couple told her that they'd be making an offer today or tomorrow on it, but she also said that's all "pie in the sky" without the offer. They have a realtor, so we could bid under them, and they'd still break even because of that. But if the other couple does come through, we could lose it if we don't make an offer tomorrow. What should we do? I'm basically afraid to wait to make an offer because of this other couple.

I seriously think the only reason this house is still there is because they're not selling with a realtor or on the web. I think that's also the only reason we can afford it. I have seen some seriously ugly and badly located houses out there that many people want a lot more for than this. This couple doesn't have a mortgage anymore, and they can afford not to try to ask for way too much. This is all FYI. =)

Now its feedback time. The lines are open. =)

4:00 p.m. today...

Went to the pool this morning... talked to a mom who lives in a neighborhood I've been salivating over for a year now.... was told about a for sale by owner house there... went by on my way home from the pool... it's beautiful...gorgeous yard... in our price range without relentless lowballing... and I'm going by there at 4:00 today. If you're reading this before 4:00... please pray for wisdom. I want to KNOW for sure. I have goosebumps about this one. I hope its not a big ol' dud. Thanks for going on this roller coaster ride with me. =)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Cozy little blessing...


Since all great and small gifts come from our Father above, then He must've given this little blessing to me today! I had been wanting to buy a Cozy Coupe car for Seth for quite awhile, but they're pretty tough to find used. There wasn't a single one in good condition at any of the consignment sales I've been to, and the price tag for a new one is kinda steep.

I had a dentist appointment today, and a sweet friend kept Seth for me so I could go. As I drove by on the way to her house, I saw this little beauty by a trash can. It was still there on my way back from the doctor, so I stopped and asked the family if I could have it. (I sure didn't want to take some kid's toy that had been left by the trash by mistake!)

It was covered in dirt and grime, but everything works! I may see if I can get the "hubcaps" off to WD-40 the wheels. It's amazing what a hose, dish soap, a magic eraser, and a little elbow grease can do.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Rainy day posting...

Whew! It's been a whirlwind around here. Seth and I got back from Mom and Dad's in time for us both to get an afternoon nap. David got home by 5:00ish, and it was out the door again for our membership short course at the church. Mom drove up to babysit, since it was Friday night and Saturday until lunchtime.

If anything, the membership course only cemented my confidence in this church. The head pastor who has been there for over 30 years taught the whole thing, and I have a ton of respect for that man. His maturity is awe inspiring. He has led the church to truly major on the majors and minor on the minors, and that is exactly what I look for in a pastor these days. As far as the major issues, like the church exisiting solely for the purpose of glorifying God and looking first and foremost to Scripture for what that means, he's hitting it on the head.

Every matter is bathed in prayer at that church. They listen for the Holy Spirit's leading before moving forward, and they're willing to go forward in faith, even when they don't know exactly how God is going to accomplish something. It's not a one man show; there's a plurality of elders. I see a lot of genuine humility exhibited. The pastor admitted that he had been wrong to oppose some programming, and that he'd had to be shown the light.

I feel like I've been in churches that have tended toward opposite extremes in the past. On one hand, I've been a part of churches who didn't follow the Bible unashamedly on the major stuff (like when it might offend some people). On the other hand, I've been a part of churches who made minor points of specific doctrines too important in their zeal. I think we may have finally found a balance that I can get excited about. We came back from our membership class pretty refreshed.

And now the weekend's over, and we're getting back into the nitty gritty of everyday life. The rain is pouring down. We haven't had a good, rainy day in awhile. I think it's just the kind of relaxing atmosphere that Seth and I needed today. He slept until 10:00 this morning! I think it was the combination of the dark day, and that he was worn out from the last week.

He helped me wrap some presents this afternoon for Sarah's private baby shower tomorrow. I kept putting little pieces of tape all over him, and he'd pull it off and say "sticky, sticky..." over and over. After I was done, I offered him one last piece of tape. He took it, and without any prompting, for the very first time ever, my child said, "thank you." !!!!! It's been a red letter day in this household.

Thanks for all the cabinet advice! I think I decided on a middle of the road policy. I have put rubber bands (David's suggestion) around the handle nobs of most of the cabinets in the house. I have left 2 cabinets in the kitchen that are available for him to use all the time. They have tupperware and kitchen towels in them. He loves his tupperware cabinet. I know that I will have to teach him which cabinets he can't get into later, but at this point, they all look alike, and I'm worried that he'll be confused. We're going to work on some of the other "no touches" first. =)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thanks, my wonderful commenters...

Wow! And double wow! I really appreciate all the kind, soothing, helpful comments from my internet buds. It really helped a lot to hear that you just knew a house was right for you, even if it didn't match the checklist you'd had in your head. I need to hear stuff like that. I can get easily overwhelmed with lists.

I think its much easier to pick a temporary place to live on a short time frame than this is. There are just so many options. Our current rental we picked in a weekend after looking at 5 houses. We had to move soon, we had one weekend to look in, and this was the best one, so there ya go. Easy peasy. It was perfectly clear that this house was the one for us. Sometimes I think Americans have far too many options. There is such as thing as the tyranny of unlimited choice.

But I digress... I'm at my parent's again. Seth and I left yesterday morning after breakfast. David is gone all this week and part of the next at another trial in Wilmington. The thought of spending all week alone with a small child wasn't appealing, so when the going gets tough, the tough go to Nana and Papa's.

Seth thinks this place is better than Disneyworld. Mom has tons of cabinets he can open filled with exciting junk, like container lids and little toys and old raffle tickets. He has already spent HOURS moving these tickets from one container to another. =) Dad is taking us out to lunch today, AND I get to spend some time with an old friend this afternoon. Living in an hour and a half from my parents has so many perks. I'm glad its not much farther than that, though. The screaming usually starts at about 1 hour and 15 minutes into the trip. Must... not... give... in and use the DVD system that came with the used van. I'm not ready for him to know its there yet. =)

Monday, July 07, 2008

11:26 p.m. after more house hunting...

Yup, its late, but I can't sleep just yet. I've spent the past several minutes painting '80s wood trim white in my head in the house we looked at tonight. I figured it was time to get up and do something productive, like write about it. =)

So, we saw another house tonight. It came on the market today, and being the rabid type A house hunter that I am, we were on the doorstep, realtor in tow, by 6:35 p.m. tonight. =) It's in our price range, the layout is the best I've seen so far, and its in a good neighborhood. There's a screened in back porch, and the yard is pretty large and has grass. It even has a large kitchen with lots of counter space.

So, what's the problem, Ellen? Of course, I had to find one. It's a corner lot, and there isn't a lot of tree cover, especially on the side, and it... just... doesn't... feel... private... enough for me. Me who grew up on 20 beautiful acres. Me who wants to feel private and secluded. Spoiled little me.

I guess I'm struggling with trying to figure out what God's will is for us in the housing area. I want to want what God wants for us in a house. Trying to figure out what that is and separate it from what I want is tough for me. How do I figure out what God's housing goals are for our family? As I was standing on the back porch, watching the few cars pass by on my left, I had the thought, "What if God doesn't want me to hide from my neighbors? What if He wants me to be out where I can see them so they feel comfortable coming over and talking with me?" What are His goals for our future home life? How do I figure out the priorities?

I think we have the priorities for the layout of our house mainly figured out. It doesn't have to be large, as long as there is a separate space to homeschool. We would like to have good open living room space to entertain in, have Bible study in, etc. We would like to be able to fit 6 people around our dining room table comfortably. Yeah, all of these are preferences, but they're preferences that I think would serve people (family and friends) well. Maybe the private lot with lots of trees is more my thing. Sigh.

David wants me to have peace before we pursue a contract on something. I worry that I won't have peace because my selfish desires are too tangled up with whatever God's desires are for us. There are so few things that are actually "needs" in this life. I want to keep everything in perspective and not get greedy and restless, always looking for something better. Ok, I guess I have "picky" guilt in a world where many of the people I know may live in apartments or townhouses for the rest of their lives.

Anybody out there dealt with these issues in their own house hunting? How did you filter out the important and God honoring from the unimportant? What were you praying specifically that God would show you as you looked?

Yankee Doodle Boy...

We had a wonderful 4th of July in my home town... Last year, we watched the fireworks from the Capitol Lawn in D.C., after picnicking at the Supreme Court. Last year's parade was down Constitution Ave... But honestly, I'm less impressed the D.C. fireworks and the D.C. parade than most people think I should be. I would've rather watched the hometown fireworks from our special spot behind the chiropractor's off of Cherry St. I would've rather waved at my third cousin riding on the Girl Scout's float. I know, they all think I'm crazy, but holidays for me aren't about who can put on the best show. They're about family and friends and traditions.

This 4th of July, I got to take my son to the parade in my hometown. We got to park at my great-uncle's and walk down to the route, just like we did every year growing up. We stood around with my relatives and chewed the fat while the locals rolled by. It was exactly as it should be. And my mom supplied the tiny flags, left over from parades of years gone by.

I don't know how many more years I'll get to watch the parade with my Great-Aunt Mary. Aunt Mary is a local institution. She was my preschool teacher when I was a tiny tot. When I got married, she gave me her recipes for chicken casserole, homemade playdough, and green eggs and ham. Every year, she dresses up in a dress and bonnet and tells stories to the children in the pumpkin patch. She plays the kazoo and the ukulele. Her smile can light up any room, and I think she's still the most beautiful woman in it, even at 83. You'd never know she was 83, since she still seems to have boundless energy.

When I was a little girl, my Aunt Mary thought that our town should have a parade for the littlest children to participate in. She didn't think it was fair that the tiniest tots should be left out. That led to "Miss Mary's Children's Parade". It occurs every year before the 4th of July over at the town hall. I remember how Miss Mary put her tape player with patriotic music on her wagon, held a flag high in her other hand, and started high stepping to the music. We all followed her... an uneven line of red, white, and blue, be-ribboned babies. Some of us rode in wagons pulled by parents, and some of us rode bikes with festooned training wheels. We went round and round in circles, and it was Aunt Mary who made it exciting. I couldn't have been any cooler on that day. I was "Miss Mary's" niece.

After Seth was born, I asked Aunt Mary if she would make him something, something that I could tell him that she made for him one day. I was thinking of something simple, like a sock monkey doll. She couldn't limit herself to that, oh no, sir. Aunt Mary sewed him a Raggedy Andy. She hand sewed his face and a little heart on his chest that said "I love Seth." I'm not going to let him play with it much. One day, when she's gone, I'm going to need to have it around to cuddle.

Aunt Mary is only one reason why I love my home town. They don't make 'em like her anymore. And her special type doesn't grow in big cities. D.C. may have marbled monuments, but I've got something just as precious... unforgettable small town people.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Lentil Taco Filling...

Last night, I tried this recipe from the Hillbilly Housewife, modifying it to meet my own specifications. It was really good with lots of flavor! And I felt so healthy eating dinner... =) I had raw spinach leaves and carrot sticks with it. Try it, especially if you're trying to come up with some tasty vegetarian things to add to your menu plan.

Lentil Taco or Burrito Filling

3/4 c. lentils, rinsed and drained
3/4 white or brown rice
4 c. water or low sodium broth (I used chicken)
1 or 2 bouillon cubes, if using water
2 T. chili powder
1/2 t. cumin
1 t. onion powder
1/2 t. garlic powder

Put water in a 2 qt. saucepan, and heat to a boil, adding all ingredients as its heating. After it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45-50 minutes.

Afterwards, you can put it on lettuce for a taco salad or make burritos or tacos out of it. I ate it last night on flour tortillas with a little cheese sprinkled on top. Seth will be having some for lunch today with a little cheese. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Girl Talk and the Runaway Bunny...

I just finished reading "Girl Talk" by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre. When I picked it up, I wasn't sure exactly what it would be about, but I knew I was overdue for reading it. =) See, I went to church with Nicole and spent a little time in playgroup with her. Her husband was our youth pastor in DC, and her in-laws are a wonderful couple that I enjoyed getting to know a bit. I would call her an acquaintance, but I wish I could've gotten to know her better. Oh well, I got to know her a little better through this book.

And I highly recommend it! I don't have a daughter, but I think some of the principles can apply easily to any parent/child relationship.

One of the themes that I took away from it was simply not giving up in pursuit of your child's heart and trust. The authors' made note of the fact that our culture tells us that it's normal for your teenager to pull away from you and keep you in the dark about their heart's desires. This isn't a biblical model, and you shouldn't let it happen without a fight.

"From time to time my daughters brushed aside my efforts to talk or probe their thoughts. Occasionally they felt awkward, and I had to wait patiently until they were ready to divulge. Sometimes they were happy to chat about trivial stuff but hesitant to share what was on their hearts... Though it wasn't always easy, I sought to lovingly persevere and promote godly conversation."- p. 51

Another important principle that this book brought to life was the importance of humility for moms. I thought this was a great quote, and there are many more like it...

"To help our daughters catch the beauty of biblical womanhood, we must inject our conversations with personal confession and humility and admit when we fall short of God's design. If we proudly seek to present a faultless image, our daughters may well throw up their hands in despair. But when we share our own sins and also our experiences of God's mercy on the sometimes-bumpy trail to godliness, it will encourage our daughters to persevere. Although we must employ wisdom in determining what is appropriate to disclose, our honest communication will make it easy for them to share their own temptations and sins."- p. 54

I think that my parent's generation tended to err on the side of presenting themselves as perfect authority figures. Our generation will probably err on the side of being "friends" to our kids without authority. I think "Girl Talk"'s approach is a wonderful happy medium.

My own mom managed to model a lot of this to me without ever having the benefit of this book. She pursued a relationship with the teenage me, and I didn't shut down with her as a teen. We had a good relationship then, and I can say that she turned out to be right about why every boyfriend I had was not the one. =) I cared about her opinion then, whether I showed it or not, and I still care about it now.

Over the weekend, I picked up "The Runaway Bunny" at a yard sale. I hadn't opened it, but I knew it was a classic I vaguely remembered. I was reading to Seth after I finished my own reading of "Girl Talk," and I picked up the board book to try with him.

In case you don't remember, this book is about a little bunny who wants to run away from home. He comes up with many places he will go and things he will become in order to get away. His mother patiently tells him, in her quiet way, how she will change and move in order to pursue him.

" 'If you become a rock on the mountain high above me, ' said his mother, 'I will be a mountain climber, and I will climb to where you are.' "

In the end, he realizes that he can't get away from her love. Reading it with Seth for the first time nearly brought tears to my eyes. It's a beautiful metaphor of God's love and pursuit of us, and it should inspire us to pursue our own children in love. Gently, quietly, and humbly, of course.

Easy way to copy things...

I really enjoy Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in my Dryer. And, thanks to my computer savvy husband, I've come up with a good way to save all these tips for later on.

If you have Microsoft Word, go in and pull up a new document. Then go to the recipe/tip you'd like to save, highlight it, hit cntrl C, then go back to the empty Word document.

Now, this is special, at least to me. Go to the menu, and under edit, select paste special. Then select unformatted text. This will copy the item you want in there without anything funky, like weird spacings or colored fonts, etc.

I've been saving craft and activity ideas for when Seth is older in their own Word folder. I have another one for recipes. I also make sure to copy and paste the URL for the place where I got the tip so I can pass it on to others. This really works for me!