Bought a House (and a new camera!)

We closed on our house on Friday! Since the main deadline for getting the house "livable" is the impending arrival of the baby, it was great news that we could close so quickly....more time for Joe to work on the house! There is a LOT of work to do on the house (pictures will come soon...you will have to see the "before" shots!)...and even working full time on it, it will be a challenge to get it livable in a few months. We're discussing what livable really means...the house definitely won't be DONE in a few months, so what are the requirements to be living there? It's easy for me to take for granted how knowledgeable and skilled Joe is at so many aspects of construction and house stuff....it will be fun to see what he gets accomplished in the next months.

I'm definitely ready to be in our own, stable place for awhile...and the "nesting" hormones (which are very real!) that come with this third trimester of pregnancy are only amplifying that desire. My mom jokes that I'm "nesting" in her garage, because that's where all our stuff from the RV is being stored...so I'll go in there and pull out baby things, see what might match for a nursery. And I'm nesting at Tom and Stacia's house...they get the girls in mid-November, so they've had to re-arrange bedrooms and get beds/dressers all situated for two more children....and I've been (happily) helping (nesting) with those tasks.

Joe has been battling a respiratory thing for several weeks now. A few weeks ago was the worse...he was laid up for several days with a fever, aches, and deep deep cough. He had a chest x-ray, and it wasn't anything bacterial...so at this point he's still just trying to let it run its course. But it's been no fun. He's just been fatigued and sore....

We're also been waiting to hear on the firefighter thing. The "tentative" schedule said that the next round of testing (oral examinations) would be at the end of this week. But no one has been notified as to whether they have advanced or not. Someone Joe knows who also took the tests called Human Resources at the end of last week (even though, at the first tests, they had strongly been instructed NOT to call Human Resources to find out results! but come on, this is getting ridiculous!) and they told him that nothing had been sent out yet....couldn't tell him when results would be sent out....but then said if he didn't hear by the end of this week it probably wasn't a good sign. I guess the fire department doesn't mind the potential of over a thousand people calling to see what's going on?

We replaced our camera. Ironic time to fork out that kind of cash, but oh well. So there has been a lack of pictures, obviously, and I will try to make up for it now that the camera is back in my hands! I included a few shots of Rowan...I took some pictures of a friend's family (see below) this weekend and Rowan helped me scope out some locations beforehand. The fall days here have been gorgeous (although not quite warm enough for no sleeves...that's just Rowan for you...and the hat, of course, what can I say? I just ordered a copy of "The Highly Sensitive Child"...several friends recommended it and when I did the little self-test on-line for her, and she matched just about every criteria, I realized that I could benefit from a little more understanding of her particular ways). Speaking of Rowan, she loves pre-school....is loving all the time she gets to play with cousins and friends...is eagerly anticipating her new sibling (she has her heart set on a sister) and told her daddy this morning that "some people think that an asteroid hitting the earth killed off all the dinosaurs." She got a (bad) rug burn a few days ago on her abdomen...but refused band-aids or any sort of care for it (that highly-sensitive thing, she won't tolerate band-aids) but was keenly aware of how it was healing. She told me the next day that there was "interstitial fluid coming out, it's kind of like a liquid" and when I asked Joe about it, sure enough, he had told her the day before that the burns were wet because of interstitial fluid....not thinking she'd actually retain it! Rowan is a lot of fun to be around...and while of course the never-ending routines and tasks of parenting can get old sometimes, for the most part it's just a pleasure to be with her. We have great conversations, play hard, read a lot. I'm trying to remind myself what a newborn requires...and trying to soak up these last weeks with just Rowan. Here she is:

Just a quick shot of the Herweyers from this weekend...I'm not done editing all their photos yet...but what a gorgeous family on a gorgeous day! I'll share more later.


Michigan Update

Lots has been happening the last few weeks! Hard to know where to start. This will be a long post! Joe got here just a few days before his firefighter testing. He had an eventful trip cross-country, to say the least. Had a few problems with the truck (he's become quite the mechanic this year...so he took care of it on the road)...and then was stranded for 5 hours with a U-haul tire flat waiting for U-haul to get their act together (he pulled a small trailer with the stuff we've lived with all year!) He had no problem finding veggie oil on the road...and made it back in a long 4 days. We haven't sold the RV yet, but decided to leave it in CA in the hopes that it will have a better chance of selling there with the more temperate fall/winter weather! We have 2 people going to look at it this weekend..it would be really nice to have this thing off our hands (and the cash in our pockets!)

Joe got here and hit the ground running. I had been looking at houses and narrowing down our options, so the first day he was here we went and looked at my top 5 or 6. At the end of the day, there was one house that stood out above the others...and we spent the next few days going back, taking an inspector through, looking carefully in all nooks and crannies. The house is foreclosed...someone had bought it with the intention to flip it, and apparently ran out of money. So the house is in mid-remodel....they did a lot of demolition, but didn't put much back together. So there is literally NO kitchen or bathrooms...just the spots for them. No toilets, fixtures, counters, cabinets, or appliances....nothing. There is some new drywall, but the house is basically a clean slate. It's a classic Grand Rapids 4 square, all brick, big front porch, nice oak floors, solid bones.

One of the best parts about the house is the neighborhood. It's on a great block. The first day Joe came to see it, we met some neighbors who we were sure the realtor was paying to try to convince us to buy this house. 10 of the neighbors participate together in CSA (community supported agriculture) and take turns each week going to the farm to pick up bushels of fruit and veggies for the neighborhood. There are 16 kids under the age of 8 on the street. To top this off, one of my very best friends, Katie, just bought a house less than a block away. It's about a half mile from Rowan's pre-school, a little over a mile from my brother Tom and his wife Stacia's house, and within 2 miles of many other friends.

This house really is an ideal situation for us. We wanted to re-do a kitchen anyways, and probably would have eventually re-done bathrooms, too. So not having them is actually better for us...we don't have to do the demo OR pay for someone else's work! We had our offer of $77,000 accepted (it was listed for $82,900)...and that's cheap, even in Michigan's real estate market. Because the house is so affordable, we will have some money to put a kitchen and bathrooms in.

The timing also works out fine for Joe to work full-time on the house for awhile before moving in. He really wants to see the firefighter process through, and we won't know whether or not he gets that job for a few months. If he gets it, he'll have the time to work on the house because training doesn't start until January. If he doesn't get it, we won't know until November or December, so he wouldn't pursue other full time work until then anyways.

Speaking of firefighter stuff...Joe took 2 days of testing last week and it went well. The first day was a multiple choice, general knowledge test. He estimated that there were 1200 people there to take the test! The second day was a written test...about 24 hypothetical questions that required written answers. Joe said that about 3-400 LESS people showed up for day 2 of testing, apparently self-selecting themselves out because day 1 was too hard. They grade these tests and then a certain number (we have no idea how many) will move on to the next phase, which is an oral examination sometime later in October. Hopefully we'll hear soon whether or not he advanced to that stage. After the oral examination comes the physical testing, and finally oral interviews.

Other than house and firefighter stuff, we've been busy doing all the other business of moving: new driver's licenses and car registration, figuring out house loans, trying to sell the RV from across the country, getting insurance and doctors figured out, getting settled into pre-school, etc. Joe has also been doing some odd jobs for friends and family.

We had an unfortunate (and almost unbelievable) week financially. It started on Monday when, in separate incidences, our credit card AND Joe's debit card were stolen. The credit card number was stolen on-line somehow, and luckily we noticed right away that some strange transactions had taken place. We got that cancelled right away...but still a pain in the butt. Within an hour of that, the bank called to say that they saw some suspicious charges on Joe's debit card (like 4 tanks of gas in a day!)...and we realized that Joe had inadvertently left his card at an ATM machine the previous week. Again, we got that all cancelled and taken care of....but still no fun. Then Tuesday morning as Rowan and I got in the truck to go to pre-school, I realized right away that the truck had been broken into. I know that this sounds incredibly stupid, but we had left our camera in the truck the night before. Neither of us can remember EVER having left the camera in the car....it was just really bad timing and bad luck. We were staying at Joe's parent's house...and they live in a gated community, couldn't feel more "safe." So we got the camera...and our garmin (GPS)...and a computer-timing thing for the truck all stolen. Over $3,000 worth of stuff. Right now their home owner's insurance is saying they won't cover it. Ouch. I'm not a materialistic person and could do without just about any of my possessions....but my camera? That one has really hurt.

They say that God speaks through children....and Rowan sure spoke to me that day. I was pretty upset about the camera, and when I realized it wouldn't be covered under home owner's and we might not be able to replace it, I was crying. I explained to her that I was upset that my camera had been stolen, that it was important to me and that it cost a lot of money. "But mommy," she says, "we still have food! Maybe someone else needed the camera, maybe we needed to share! We can buy another one!" and later, trying to make me feel better, she recited a litany of things that were not affected by the theft: "you can still read to me! we can still look at the stars and find shooting stars! we can still hike in the woods! we can still have hot chocolate when it gets cold!" and on and on she went, trying to remind me of the bigger picture, that we're going to be okay.

And she's right. We are.

Already in the few weeks we have been here, I have been thankful to be a part of every day things going on in the lives of friends and family. One of my best friends, Jenny, lost her mom to cancer in September...and I got to be there for the funeral and to spend some time with Jenny before she returend to California. My grandpa had his hip replaced, so I've been able to see him in the hospital and help with transport and other things. My friend Katie and her family moved this weekend, so we got to chip in with the truck and extra hands.

One huge blessing that we've been a part of in our extended family is that my brother Tom and his family are adopting 2 little girls....and it's all become firm and official in the last few weeks. It's hard to describe how much it fills me with joy to be here for this kind of stuff....Rowan and I took care of their son, Seth, on the morning that Tom and Stacia got to meet the girls for the first time. It's one thing to talk on the phone or over e-mail about these huge things going on in our lives...it's quite another to sit there face to face and hear about the first time my sister-in-law met her new daughters, to see the tears! Shae is 4 and Tayva will turn 2 next month. The girls will come to live with Tom and Stacia by the holidays. Lots of changes for their family and for all of us--we are excited and could all use prayers!