Hopeful Thoughts

A Year in Review

Come Friday morning when I wake up, the little guy that snuggles next to me each night will be a full blown one-year-old. As I consider how quickly the time has flown, I’m also blessed to reflect on what has transpired in the last year of our lives.

July 29, 2010 at 5:40 in the morning, after nearly 24 hours at Inanna, Grayson emerged into our lives with my little sister and my best friend standing by. In the days and weeks that followed, we were showered with love from visitors. We hosted my entire immediate family…(Mom, Dad, sister, 2 nieces, nephew), with the exception of my brother in law, but including my parents dog. Ryan’s sweet mother was waiting patiently in her car, already in town, for the moment’s notice to come and see her new grandson. To top it off, several families in our amazing little church brought us meals.

We settled into a little routine and in September, I started my little tutoring business. This kept me busy four afternoons a week, but it was a great way to be home with Grayson. Thanks to Hawley, Gus, Allison, Joey, Kaycee, Nathan, Emily, and Kim for helping make that possible by watching my little guy. The business is flourishing and I love being able to work with the kids in this way.

Ryan has continued to enjoy his job as a game programmer, though his official title is “Senior Software Engineer”. He started in September of 2009 at Bonfire Studios (while I was in Argentina). In October of 2010, Bonfire was bought out by Zynga, providing more stability to his position.

Just before Grayson was born, we closed on our house. We’ve experienced lots of ups and downs during Grayson’s lifetime, though we are so glad to be in a house with the little guy around. In September, we were able to put our home buyers’ credit to work and pay for a complete replacement of our HVAC. Then, we turned around and spent whatever rebate we got from that overhaul on a brand new water heater when the old one exploded in December. The joys of an old house! Our AC unit was 35 years old, the furnace dated almost as old as the house, and the water heater was over 20 years old. Recently we’ve had the roof patched from wind damage, and replaced a belt on the tenant’s dryer. I think we need the kitchen drains worked on next.

We have been able to get some work done improving the house in addition to all the repairs. Grayson’s room got a fresh coat of Viking blue paint, thanks to the help of his Grandma, and it’s looking better and better as we add to it. This spring, we hired a crew to do a major overhaul on the yard. Trees were trimmed and brush was cleared and the result is impressive. Next on the list is an exterior paint job, scheduled to take place in the next few weeks, and landscaping with new sod in the fall.

The house is such a blessing. We’ve hosted two baby showers here this year, as the size and layout of our living and kitchen areas works great for big crowds. We still have great tenants in the apartment, who plan to stay for awhile. Not to mention the amazing neighbors in the houses on either side.

And speaking of babies, in Grayson’s first year, we’ve welcomed 3 new babies into our church, two new babies into the neighborhood (one right next door), and are anticipating 5 more over the next 8 months in our little church. Add to that my high school BFF, and we are just bursting with excitement over the babies!

In March, we were finally able to trade in my old car for something more safe and appropriate for mommy stuff. Goodbye rusty white 1999 Camry, hello shiny graphite grey 2011 Outback.

We live pretty far from my side of the family, but thanks to Ryan’s great job and my tutoring income, they haven’t seemed so far away this first year of parenthood. We traveled to my parents’ house for Christmas, I was able to visit my sister in MI over spring break, my mom came for a two-week visit in April, and G and I were able to meet my sister and her kids in NC in June. We’ve been blessed with 3 or 4 visits from Grandma (she’s a great babysitter) and made a couple of road trips to see her in Austin as well.

In December, our dear friends, the Rambows, returned form their stint in Argentina. We were blessed to have them back in our lives for 6 months before they left earlier this month for New Jersey. Emily kept Grayson some for me during tutoring and we are so grateful that he was able to play with their little girl.

I could go on and on about the things that have happened over the last year, but it would take forever. Of course, it would have been easier if I’d blogged all along than to try to cram it into one post anyway! Suffice it to say that it’s been an eventful time, but we are grateful for all we’ve been blessed with.

What do you think??

Excerpt from our contract with the home warranty company:

“Pre-existing conditions are not covered by this contract. However, for Buyer’s and Seller’s coverage only and for systems that become inoperative due to normal wear and tear, there is no denial of coverage (“No Fault” coverage) for: (a) malfunctions that existed on the effective date of the contract if, at that time, the malfunction was unknown and would not have been detectable by visual inspection or a simple mechanical test, (b) malfunctions caused by a lack of maintenance, rust or corrosion © malfunctions caused by improperly installed equipment and (d) malfunctions caused by mismatched system sizes. Undersized or poorly designed systems relative to the square footage are not covered by the “No Fault” coverage.”

Excerpt from our home inspection report which is being cited as the reason behind our denied coverage when the current issue is a fan motor that won’t function:

“The ambient air test was performed using thermometers on the air handler of both Air conditioners to determine if the difference in temperatures of the supply and return air are between 14 degrees and 22 degrees which indicates that the unit is cooling as intended. The supply air temperature at main home read 61 degrees, and the return air temperature was 70 degrees….This indicates that the main home unit is not cooling properly and a licensed Heat/Air contractor should inspect for cause of problem.”

Staying Cool at 35 Weeks

I knew being pregnant in the summer wasn’t going to exactly be “fun”. I expected to be hot and uncomfortable. I didn’t expect to be unable to be cool in my own home.

At 35 weeks pregnant, I’ve gained 28 pounds and am finding it much harder to assume comfortable positions around the watermelon that now resides where my stomach once was. Add to that the fact that our air conditioner hasn’t been functioning for nearly 2 weeks, and it’s pretty hard to take.

We knew the AC unit was old when we bought the place. However, it WAS cooling the house. At least it was until we woke up on June 21, the morning after the big party, to a house nearing 85 degrees at 8:30 in the morning and we heard a grinding noise coming from the unit. NOT cool! We shut it off, since it wasn’t working.

So, we called our Warranty company to send out an AC repair guy. Due to busy schedules, no one could come out until Tuesday. On Tuesday, the brilliant man who came out told us that there was absolutely nothing wrong, that it was just old. He claimed we needed a new unit. We turned the unit back on and left it running and grinding, however, so we could at least cool the air a bit.

Unhappy with this diagnosis, we called the AC company and asked that they send us another guy. This guy came on Wednesday. This time, the unit was cleaned, inspected, and we were told we needed a new fan motor, which couldn’t be replaced because the unit was so old they didn’t make the bracket needed to install it. He also tried to sell us a new unit, naming a price that he obviously pulled out of thin air. He claimed the warranty would cover part of the cost, but he didn’t tell us which part. These guys left, we still had no cool air, and later that night, the unit completely quit running altogether. Ryan even resorted to going to Wal-mart at midnight to purchase a small window unit which he finished installing in our bedroom at 3AM.

We again contacted the warranty company and asked that they send us a different AC company, because we felt the prior company wasn’t being honest with us about prices. We were finally assigned another company last Friday afternoon, but were unable to contact them until Monday. When I called this guy, I was told that he no longer worked with our Warranty company. He listed several other companies that he would be happy to do work for, but not ours. Needless to say, our confidence in the resolution of the situation was wearing thin.

The call was re-dispatched at least twice more, but it wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that we finally got another AC guy out to the house to look at the problem. This guy didn’t really tell us anything different, but it’s what he didn’t tell us that made us a bit more confident. He didn’t give us any estimates until he could talk to the Warranty company to see what they were willing to do. At last! Someone who seemed trustworthy!

However, our problems were still a long way from being solved. As I write this, it is Friday, a full 11 days since we first called the Warranty company with our complaint. We are waiting on them to decided what to do. They asked for a copy of our inspection report, which we’ve sent. However, no feedback has been given. Since this weekend is July 4th and many people will be off work on Monday, we can’t expect anything to be done until Tuesday at the earliest.

In the meantime, we’re spending lots of time in the bedroom and not even able to enjoy the rest of our house. I tried to cook once, which only resulted in my nearly having heat stroke with the additional heat from the over.

I’m trying to enjoy the cooler weather God has provided though the rains over the last week. I’m grateful for the break from the 100 degree days. However, I will be much happier when this whole situation is resolved.

Happy Birthday, Ryan!

He asked for tools for his birthday, so what else could I do??

My amazing husband turned 30 last week. It’s been a crazy year for us both, what with moving, quitting my job, my mission trip, his new job, getting pregnant, buying a house…

With all of these changes, I felt like he had earned an AWESOME party this year. Since we just closed on our house June 4th, it seemed appropriate to combine it with our housewarming and plan for a slew of people. I got busy pruning the weeds out of the yard and making plans to feed 30 plus people.

I also planned for some great entertainment. I enlisted the “Lightening Crispies” to perform their classic rock tunes. I can’t say I hired them, because they agreed to do it out of love for Ryan and free food. We are so blessed by the friends God has provided for us. I told my friend Taylor, the drummer, that it’s probably not unusual to have a friend’s band play your birthday party for free. The unusual part is that our friend’s band is actually REALLY GOOD!

The Lightening Crispies set up on our back patio. There is a drummer hiding behind the lead singer! I promise!

The cake was also a splurge. I actually ordered it from what most consider to be the best bakery in town, Candy Haven. YUM!!! It didn’t turn out to be as expensive as I thought for the half sheet cake, but it was worth every penny I paid. I will use them again in the future.

This was a lesson in planning, that’s for sure. I originally figured 6 pounds of hamburger to feed the crowd, but I went ahead and bought 9. We ended up using 11!! I think there were over 40 people in attendance by the time all was said and done.

A view of the band as they warm up. Only a few people now, but this yard was full by the end!

Our grill. We purchased it Super Bowl weekend, but it really served it's purpose this passed Sunday. Over 40 burgers and 30 hotdogs!

This party was also a huge confirmation of the decision we made to buy this house. Even with the band set up and the rows of chairs for people to watch, there was still plenty of room for the kids to throw a football. When it got too hot, there was plenty of room inside the house for people to sit down and visit without feeling crowded. The kitchen is plenty big to prepare and serve the food, even with separate stations for drinks and cake!

Sunday was AMAZING! We’re so grateful to all who have loved us over the years and have assisted us in the process of buying this house and planning our awesome party. Thanks for sharing it with us!

We OWN this place!!!

The front of out first place!

The front of out first place!

It’s official! As of noon on Friday June 4th, 2010, we are HOMEOWNERS!!! We were hoping to be official a week earlier, but getting documents from a seller all the way in Hawaii caused us to push closing a week. No big deal, though. It just means our first payment won’t be due for another month!

Home ownership is pretty cool. We’ve already been living in the house since September, since we started out as renters, but now we can really start making this place our home. It’s got a few quirks, but we’ve also found some cool surprises. The furnace is about 50 years old, all three bathrooms will need updating, the apartment needs foundation work, none of the electrical is grounded, and the yard is a MESS, but we discovered that the front yard has a fully functional sprinkler system!


We’ve also discovered that my husband is pretty handy. The hall sink hasn’t worked properly since we moved in. There was a plumber out right after we moved in back in September who managed to get the leak to stop, but we’ve been living without any hot water since that time. The seller paid for us to have the valve replaced, but the faucet knob was so stripped that you still couldn’t turn the water on, so we weren’t much better off. Ryan decided that this was going to be his first big home improvement project. We went to Lowe’s, bought a new faucet and some tools, and two days later, our sink is fully functional!!!

The original faucet.

The original faucet.

Ryan begins to take out the old faucet by removing the drain pipe.

Ryan begins to take out the old faucet by removing the drain pipe.

Notice there is no water spilling out.  He's doing great!

Notice there is no water spilling out. He's doing great!

No more knobs!  The faucet itself was a bit of an issue to get off.  Ryan ended up sawing off the drain mechanism in order to get the final parts out.  I guess it was too old and rusty to get out any other way.  Good thing we planned to trash it from the beginning!

No more knobs! The faucet itself was a bit of an issue to get off. Ryan ended up sawing off the drain mechanism in order to get the final parts out. I guess it was too old and rusty to get out any other way. Good thing we planned to trash it from the beginning!

The naked sink.

The naked sink.

Shiny new faucet that runs both hot and cold water!  Complete with a working drain.  All we had before was a hole!  It's been almost a full day since it went in, and no problems to report.  Way to go Ryan!

Shiny new faucet that runs both hot and cold water! Complete with a working drain. All we had before was a hole! It's been almost a full day since it went in, and no problems to report. Way to go Ryan!

So one project down of many more to come. We’re going to hire someone to paint the outside of the house once we get our tax credit, but we plan to tackle many of the other projects on our own or with help from friends. On our “To Do” list: landscaping, interior painting and drywall repairs, new tile floors in both bathrooms, new counter in the master bath, new grout and caulk for the tubs in the master bath and the apartment bath, moving two interior door ways to create a true galley style kitchen with more counter space, a new roof, new locks on all the doors, … there’s more, but I can’t think of it all right now.

We are really excited to own this house and are grateful for God’s provision in being able to do so. We never would have found this place without Taylor and Allison who clued us in last spring that it was coming open to rent. We’re thankful to Charlie, our landlord, for letting us know he was going to sell it instead of just putting it on the market. We’re grateful to Ryan’s dad for helping with the downpayment. And were grateful to our incoming renters. God used each of these pieces to provide, and now our baby will be born into a house!!

Making a Home out of a Rental?

Ever since we moved into our little rental house, we tossed around the question of “What if the landlord were to sell this place? We’d dream about whether or not we could afford it, and what we would change if the place were actually ours. We knew they were just dreams, but we talked about it a lot.

Well, back in January, while we were hanging out with our neighbors from the adjoining apartment, stuck inside due to a giant snow storm, the landlord called. Much to our surprise, he announced that he wanted to sell the house.

Seems great, huh? But we felt we were in NO position to buy. Since Ryan was laid off back in June and I quit my job, we’d only just gotten back to the point where our savings was building up instead of depleting. Where would we get a down payment from? Not to mention, how could we afford such a place?

After going around and around with a new series of “what ifs”, Ryan started to do some research. We contacted a mortgage broker just to see if we could even qualify for a loan. Turned out that, due to amazing credit, we did qualify for enough to buy a house. We decided to pursue the possibility. It turns out that our next door neighbors are realtors. We hooked up with them and went looking to see what else was on the market in our price range.

After looking at houses all weekend, it became more and more clear that the rental house would be a great deal. It costs a bit more than we’re comfortable paying on our own, but we’d ben getting the rent from the apartment, which makes it more affordable on a monthly basis than a lot of cheaper houses. In fact, since nearly half the mortgage would be paid by the rental unit, we would save nearly $100 a month compared to what we are renting for! Not to mention the location is great. We are close to the university, which means any improvements we make will only add to the value over time.

So, the decision was made, we just had to figure out what we were going to do about a down payment. Sometimes all you have to do is ask, and Ryan’s Dad came through for us. He has provided the entire down payment. Praise God!

At present, we are under contract for the house, just in time to qualify for the $8000 tax credit. Inspection happened over the weekend, and we’re in the process of final negotiations. We’re hoping to see several professionals in the next day or so to assess some of the problems found on the inspection. There wasn’t anything unusual, but we do want to make sure we can come up with the time and the resources to make some needed repairs.

Hopefully, if all goes well, we will be home owners by the end of the month. And we don’t even have to move!!!

Week 21

I’ve just finished week 21 of my pregnancy, and I can’t really focus this post on all one thing. So, we’ll consider it a summary of the week!

Spring has sprung in Denton, TX and you can see the proof all over the ground and feel it in the air. The weather has been beautiful for most of the last couple of weeks. (We don’t need to mention the freak snow storm that blew threw last Sunday morning when Ryan and I were out of town at my mother-in-law’s house. That make the second snow we’ve missed this season.) On the pretty days, my neighbor, Allison, and I have enjoyed walks around our neighborhood with her dog. We didn’t have to venture any further than our front yard to see these beautiful Texas Blue Bonnets. I’ll never consider myself a Texan. I’m a Carolina girl forever, but I do love the Texas state flower.


When I haven’t been basking in the sunshine, I’ve been working to finish up some craft projects. This week saw the completion of the giant stack of baby wipes and my first real knitting project.

wipeStack WipeEdge2 wipeEdge

The wipes are simple squares of flannel that I cut and stitched around using the zig-zag function on my basic sewing machine. It should have been an easy project, but sewing machines and I do not get along well. It took me many days of sitting for just a bit at a time to get through my pile of squares. My machine constantly jams up. The thread pops out of the bobbin feeder, breaks off from above the needle, or a myriad of other issues that cause me to stop mid seam to set things back up correctly. I was SO READY to be finished.

Knitting is now one of my new favorite past times. I learned the basics several years ago and managed to make a scarf that I wore when my husband and I traveled to Russia back in 2005. I was happy to have that project done and decided I was pretty much done with knitting because it had been so difficult, and even painful. However, something was tugging at me recently to just try one more time to create socks. You may have noticed that I never posted a picture of the blue crochet socks from months ago. That’s because they didn’t shape up right and I finally pulled them out altogether. Well, today I can show you finished socks at last, but they are KNIT and not crochet! It turns out that I never really learned my basic stitches correctly, and this project allowed me to figure this out and now knitting is almost as easy as crochet. I’m looking forward to all the new types of projects this will allow me to do.

SockProgress FinishedSocks OneFinished

And finally, here’s the belly shot for the week. This was taken Friday, the end of week 21.


While Ridding my House of Dirt...

My house was in desperate need of clean floors. Sweeping is not my favorite thing to do, but the dust bunnies were beginning to take over, so it had to be done.

So, I pulled out my “duster broom thingy” and the little duster pads and set to work. After pushing the dirt around with THREE of the pads, I still had to go back with my regular broom and dustpan to finish the job. As I clipped the third pad in place, I thought, “what a waste of time and money!”

I don’t have to stop in the middle of what I’m doing to replace part of my broom. I don’t have to go back over what I’ve already done with another tool after I’ve used my broom. I don’t have to buy refill pads for my broom. I’m not creating MORE trash in the cleaning process by throwing away those silly pads when I use my broom.

broom Swiffer


Christmas Decorations!

This is our first year of marriage to live in a house. Our apartment was so small that we could only put up a little 4 foot tree, and it was always in some awkward place and in the way. Not to mention, no one could enjoy it but us. We hardly ever had people over simply because our space was so cramped.

This year we have room for a full size tree! I went to Target and bought a 7 foot artificial Cashmere Pine. It’s placed right in front of the window so, not only us and our guests can enjoy it, but also those driving by can see the glow in our window!I picked our ornaments to match our pretty new curtains, and Ryan helped me pick out the tree skirt to coordinate as well. We spent a lot of time searching for the perfect topper. I wanted silver wire and lights. We found lights, and we found silver wire, but we couldn’t find the two together, so I settled for just silver and we moved on to search for the perfect wreath to hang over our fireplace. We found it at Michael’s, who also turned out to have our perfect tree topper! Now I have to return one, but our tree is perfect!

It was a special treat this year to have Ryan’s Mom and Grandmother join us for Thanksgiving dinner. They hung around on Friday long enough to help us string the lights and hang the ornaments. Thanks!



Oh, and did I mention we were distracted on our shopping trip by a little something to use year round?


Lost Routine. If Found, Please Contact ASAP.

Well, I’ve been back from Argentina for almost three weeks now. I really thought life was going to slow down and settle into a routine once I returned home, but that hasn’t been the case.

Iarrived home on a Sunday. Tuesday I was scheduled to fill out my paperwork to into the Substitute teacher system in my district. I planned to spend the rest of the week working on the house and getting re-acclimated to the US. I figured I’d start subbing the following week about 2-3 days per week and work on building up my tutoring business.

However, the plane landed, and I hit the ground RUNNING.

The day I returned home, there was a big party in our back yard. An older couple that attended our church is serving as missionaries in Tennessee. They are in a very poor area and have lost a great deal of financial support since the economy crashed, so our housemates organized a fund raiser to help them out. We all had a great time and it was a lot of fun.

This little corner of the patio was the perfect space to function as a stage.  Our back yard is AWESOME!

This little corner of the patio was the perfect space to function as a stage. Our back yard is AWESOME!

RemiAndEliDancing Lounging groupGrilling

Monday morning I got up around 9:00 and noticed a missed phone call with the prefix of the school I just resigned from. There was no message, but I just knew they wanted me to sub. I didn’t call back. My house was still a wreck since I didn’t have much time to unpack before I left the country.

I spent the whole day unpacking and organizing the house. I worked so hard that I haven’t had to do very much with any of the main living areas since then. The living room is pretty much how we want it (especially since our new couch arrived TODAY!) Not to mention, my HUGE kitchen is in working order with all my stuff put away and EASILY accessible.


Tuesday, I received another call from the school. This time I returned it, and, sure enough, they wanted me to come in as soon as possible because it was a math teacher who was out. I explained that I had to fill out my paperwork that afternoon and Wednesday would be the soonest I could start if the sub office would even let me begin that quickly.

Tuesday should have been an easy day, but when I got into my car, it wouldn’t start. My neighbor and I hypothesized that it was the battery. She took me to buy a new one. I also managed to get rides to the district’s Central Office and the BTCL that night. Late that evening, Ryan learned how to install a car battery. Luckily, that was the fix! Yeah for my awesome husband!!!

Wednesday at 8:00 AM, I headed up to the school to sub all day, and then I had tutoring immediately after until 6:30.

It turns out that the teacher is VERY sick. After 3 weeks, he is still in the hospital and not expected to be released for at least two more weeks. Thankfully, there is another Math certified sub in the district, and she and I will be able to split the days, but it still winds up being a much more demanding sub job than I expected when I decided to sub. Because I worked in that department, I am expected to teach as much as possible. The teachers there are working hard to provide copies and plans, so all I have to do is show up, but I am working the entire time I am there, including grading papers. The difference is, I don’t take them home.

I am praying that he will get well and take his classes back soon. I’ve spent a total of 9 days there so far. Coming up, I will be teaching 4 days next week and at least 2 the following. There’s even been the murmurings of “what ifs” and would I be willing to come back.

Where’s the routine in that???