Friday, April 29, 2011

God's Provision: Our Home Story, Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

We gave house hunting a break while we settled into life with a family of seven, but by October, we were back in the game.  One day in mid-November, Brian took the day off and we went on a morning house hunting blitz.  The night before our trek, I asked several people to pray for us.  I was again dreading the hunting part, and though we had been very private about our search thus far, I wanted support from the Body of Christ before we headed out this time. 

We looked at one house that was okay, another two that were not, and then we walked in House B.  We had been warned that the house was occupied and might be a bit messy, but we were surprised to find it tidy and clean.  It had an open floor plan, large bedrooms, two bathrooms, and it sat on a 2-acre plot of land.  The price was just at the upper end of our price range, but Sharon said we could easily offer less.  We were taking this as God’s yes.   We sat right there in the living room and discussed how to proceed.  We went home for the afternoon, and then met back in the real estate office to sign a contract for an offer on the house. 

What followed was a week of highs and lows.  The seller countered our offer and then we countered her counter.  It seemed as though life revolved around waiting for the telephone to ring.  She countered again and we countered her counter again.  Six days after our original offer, we got word that she accepted.  We told the kids at dinner and we were all so excited we could hardly eat!  It was a Thursday and we were waiting to hear details of when to set up the inspections for the following week, but details never came.  A phone call from Sharon revealed that while the seller verbally accepted our offer, she never signed the contract and now she was having “seller’s jitters.”  We prayed with fervor.  We asked that the Lord’s will be done. 

Thanksgiving Day was a little emotional as we waited to hear.  At our Thanksgiving meal, each person wrote something they were thankful for on a leaf and attached it to the thankful tree.  I wrote “our new home” and prayed that it would be so.  On the following dreary Tuesday, Brian called me in the afternoon.  Sharon had called and told him that not only was the seller not going to sign the contract but she was pulling the house from the market.  The clouds matched my mood and my tears competed with the rain drops.  God was giving us another clear no.

We struggled hard that time.  We wondered why God had taken us so far before saying no.  We wondered why we would find a home that seemed so perfect and yet have it taken away.  We vacillated between anger and disappointment and discouragement.  Yet somehow we were still thankful.  Knowing that we had prayed for God to give us a clear yes or no took the pressure off of us and reminded us that it was all in His hands.  If House B wasn’t the one, there must be something better for us. 

With Christmas upon us, we gave house hunting a long intentional rest.  We needed emotional rest and we were too busy with holiday preparations to spend time searching anyway.  In late January 2011, we geared up again.  Brian was in his seasonal break from work so we had a lot of time to devote to walking through houses.  It seemed like we were doomed to repeat the cycle again.  Online pictures looked great, but in person (in house?) things were in terrible shape.  We walked through homes with broken windows and missing (copper) pipes and leaky roofs.  Though some homes were workable, others were most definitely not and we began to wonder if for now this was God’s clear no to buying a house at all.  Sharon was a bit more optimistic.  One day after a discouraging round of house shopping, she said, “There is a house out there for you somewhere.  We just need to find it.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

God's Provision: Our Home Story, Part 2

About nine months in to our home search, we found out we were expecting a new baby.  Not only were we discouraged about finding a home, now we felt desperate.  We knew that with a few months, we were going to need to either find a new home or  figure out a way to add a fourth child into the kids’ bedroom or find a place for all our ‘stuff’ so we could open up our third bedroom.  It was a daunting  but necessary task.  Once I emerged from the haze of morning sickness, we began calling Sharon again to set up home showings.  
Sharon was a wonderful family-friendly real estate agent, never minding when the kids tagged along (which was most of the time).  The kids were troopers and loved exploring the nooks and crannies of any space we wandered, but I really hated the home-looking process.   I dreaded the days where we drove around, visiting four or five homes at a time.

February 2010

In April 2010, a year into our quest, we went to see a House A.  The home was workable, but we didn’t think so at first.  We went to look on a Monday morning on our way to my ultrasound to find out whether we were having a boy or girl.  We kind of liked it, but the bedrooms were small and the dining area was part of the family room.  The house sat on about half an acre and had a open backyard.  We left the property and went on to our day’s main event.  We found out that our tiny babe was a girl—our Alaine.  All week, we discussed the house and tried to decide whether to proceed.  By Saturday, we decided that with a bit of work, we could make the home our own.  We e-mailed Sharon and told her we wanted to make an offer.  However, we found out that just the night before, the house had gone under contract with another buyer. 

The following Saturday, we were looking at yet another house when Sharon mentioned that House A was already back on the market and with a bit of digging, we found out that the septic system had failed an inspection, meaning repairs were needed that were beyond our budget.  God had given us our clear no.

For several months, we even thought that an investor was going to buy House A to do the repairs and sell it back to us, but he kept hitting road blocks-- a clear no.

September 2010
Through much of our house-hunting, we kept quiet about it.  We are private people and so we kept this aspect of our lives private.  I didn’t mention it on my blog and only a few people (my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, a close friend) knew we were looking, but no one really knew the extent of our search.  I think we were afraid to get anyone’s hopes up because the search was such a roller coaster ride for us. 

We held off as long as possible, but a little over three weeks before Alaine was due, we moved Benjamin into the “big kids’ room.”  He had been sleeping on a mattress in our room so we moved that into his “new” room since there wasn’t room for another bed.  We bought new matching bedding for all of the kids so that the room seemed special, if a bit cramped.  Three days (not weeks) later, on September 1, 2010, Alaine was born and took up residence in the master bedroom. 

Part 3

The Conclusion

Monday, April 25, 2011

God's Provision: Our Home Story, Part 1

I have been intending to share this story of our home-buying experience  for weeks now.  I think it will be a wonderful story for my children to look back on and I pray it will be an inspiration  and testimony of God's greatness to someone else.  However, as I tend to be long winded and it was such a daunting task,  I decided to wait ...until this last intensive week of moving. Makes sense, right?  (In my defense, writing is a stress reliever for me.)  

Disclaimer:  I said I was long-winded so be prepared for a few "To be continued-s."  

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The path to owning our first home could only be described as a journey.  The journey was winding and long, discouraging and thrilling with multiple starts and stops.  When we began, we could not have imagined the end results or what it took to get there. 

May 2009
Our story began in April of 2009.  We had started to outgrow our 3-bedroom townhouse.  Our four kids were six, four, two and seven months old.  Our smallest bedroom was serving as a storage room so we had three kids in a mid-sized bedroom and the baby (Benjamin) shared a room with us.  We didn’t feel financially ready to buy a home, but we knew we needed something bigger so we began a tentative search for homes online.  We found one that seemed reasonably priced with enough space on a quiet street with a small yard where the kids could play.  During our Saturday wanderings that week, we decided to drive by since the house was unoccupied.  When we pulled up in front of the house, we noticed a car was already parked in the driveway.

May 2009
A quick walk-through of the house was real eye-opener. It had no heating system whatsoever and was not even built according to code, but the experience introduced us to our real estate agent, Sharon (whose car was parked in the driveway).  In the kitchen of this wreck of a house, she took the time to find out what we were looking for, how many bedrooms we needed, and asked our price range.  

Over the months, we narrowed down what was important to us in a home.  When we began, we thought we knew what we wanted, but walking through house after house after house helped us determine what would work for us.  We needed at least three bedrooms—a master bedroom, a boys’ room, and girls’ room.  We needed a separate dining room or a large dining area to hold our large table.  We wanted a house out of town with its own well and septic.  We wanted a home with a yard for the kids to play.  It didn’t have to be huge, but we wanted them to have room to move. 

The problem was we only felt comfortable paying a certain amount per month for our mortgage.  We were pre-approved for a bigger loan, but we didn’t want to take it.  This self-imposed price range made our search difficult because most of the homes we looked at were either too small or in terrible condition.  Imagine homes with broken windows, no appliances, birds’ nests in the eaves (or dead birds in the corner), holes in the walls, or words painted on the doorposts.  We saw it all.  We learned that pictures on the internet are no indication of the actual condition of a property.  Photographers have quite a way of finding the angle that eliminates the ugly parts of a room.  If by chance, a well-maintained home at a reasonable price came through the system, it usually got snatched up before we had a moment to go see it. 

October 2009
We became so discouraged that periodically, we stopped house hunting altogether.  The car Brian was using to drive back and forth to work was on its last leg and he had the opportunity to buy a used truck at a fabulous price in October 2009.  We paid cash to avoid a car payment, but that cut into our savings.  We kept pinching pennies and kept putting money slowly back into our account, but we learned to make do with our current home and figured out ways to make the space work for us.

It was hard when we would get our hopes up.  Sometimes a house would make us too excited.  We’d find it in the newspaper and talk about its potential.  We’d drool over the pictures or the square footage or the fenced-in yard.  Sometimes just walking onto the property was enough to dash our hopes.  Other times, we’d still be in love after a walk-through, but the price would be just a bit out of range or the home needed a tad too much work.  Still other times, the home would go under contract right as we prepared to make an offer.  Emotionally, it began to take its toll.  We began to pray that the Lord would make it very clear to us—that if a home was not for us, there would be a clear no and if it was for us, there would be no mistaking it. 

Part 2 
Part 3
The Conclusion

Friday, April 22, 2011

Preparing Our Hearts (For Resurrection Sunday)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 
and are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.
Romans 3: 23-24 NIV

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Words worth dwelling on...
"Glorious Day" by Casting Crowns
adapted from the hymn "One Day" by L. Wilbur Chapman:

Audio-only version of "Glorious Day" 

My Easter music post from last year  (another adapted hymn)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Know What You Believe

This glimpse differs from the ones thus far.  

1) It is not a visual, pictorial glimpse.  

2) It is a little wordier than my usual glimpses.

This time I'm giving a peek into a subject I added mid-year out of a need and a passion: Biblical worldview.   Two young guys came up to our door, handing out their religious literature one evening.  Usually, I smile, take their booklets, and promptly throw them away... but that day I was compelled to talk to them.  I was amazed at how persuasive they were and, though I held my own in the conversation, I realized I needed to be more prepared for the next time.

Then over the course of the fall and winter, we were involved in a very sticky situation, where we found the need to defend our faith and define our belief system.  A line was drawn in the sand.  Feelings were hurt.  Misunderstandings were many.  Through this, I felt a burden to teach my children the foundations of our Christian faith and why we believe what we believe.  

I want them to be able to know truth, to stand up for truth, and to recognize un-truth when they see it. 

In my late-night searching for worldview curriculum appropriate for young children, I stumbled across this special Adventures in Odyssey series by Focus on the Family. 
The Truth Chronicles: 11 Stories on The Power of God's Truth

Already fans of Adventures in Odyssey, this was perfect for my kids and right on their level.  We listened to one episode each Friday morning before lunch, but spontaneous family conversation continued all week.  

We discussed how we decide what is true and on what we base all truth.  
We considered whether we can decide our own truth or whether it is the same for everyone.  
We talked about the difference in judging a person and judging a person's actions...and loving a person even when we don't love what they do.
We talked about loving the world versus loving Christ.
We marveled at God being three in one.
We considered if there was ever a justification for disobeying the laws of the land.  
We discussed whether our walk with the Lord is based on knowledge or on feelings.  
We pointed out that loving someone can sometimes mean telling them something they don't want to hear.
We talked about having compassion for the lost.

"And this is my prayer:  
that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight 
so that you may be able to discern what is best 
and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."   
Philipians 1: 9-11

As I finished typing this out, I realized it may be mistaken for a product review and I guess in a way it is, but there was certainly nothing in it for me.  I purchased this with my own money and wrote about it because I felt passionate about the subject!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tri-Moms: Cheap and Quick Recipes

I love to bake.  I am at home with flour and sugar and cake pans and cookie sheets.  I can throw things in without measuring and know that it is going to turn out alright.  When I'm baking, I don't mind being in the kitchen.

Dinner is another story.  I don't have a knack for cooking, but I really love food and I love to eat so I want what I fix to taste good...and I want to feed my family well.  My solution is usually to prepare a one-dish meal that includes a meat and a vegetable and then bake some bread to go along with it because bread means baking and I love to bake. 

I thought and thought about a recipe to share and realized that my most basic go-to meals are already on my site.  (I'll include links at the bottom.)  I get into such food ruts because when we find a meal that I like to cook and that my family loves to eat, we eat it all the time!  But bread?  I'm never in a rut because I love to bake.  Notice a theme? 

I love the smell of a yeasty bread rising in the kitchen, but yeast breads are not quick.  When I need bread on the table fast, one of my go-to recipes is a basic corn muffin.

Kristin's Corn Muffins

1 cup yellow or white cornmeal
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg
1 cup milk
¼ cup oil

Stir until well blended.  Spoon batter into well-greased muffin pan. 

Bake for 12 minutes at 400 degrees.  

  :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Links to a few of our go-to meals:

This is the place where I'm supposed to say, "Go see what the other Tri-Moms Suzanne and Kathi have to share," but Suzanne is having major site issues and won't be able to participate at all this week.  I am playing hostess again (in Suzanne's place) so after you take a few minutes to visit Kathi, come back here to link up your own recipes below! (And don't forget to grab the Tri-Moms button located in my sidebar.)

Up next: Tri-Moms talk Baby Weight Loss
May 3
Linky Hostess: Kathi

Coming Soon:
May 17: Coping With (Hubby) Working Long Days
June 7: Beginning Homeschooling
June 21: Routine

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Collecting Goodness

Words that I found especially good this week:

(a word on end-of-the-year homeschool panics) 
from AmyL.


(a word about letting go of self ) 
 from Hannah 

(words about being present for our children) 
from another Amy

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Moment Captured

Psalm 103:13
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Slow and Steady

We go to closing on our new house this week.  (Still need to write up a post about that...someday!)  We are not hoarders, but the amount you accumulate with five kids is amazing.  Or maybe it is just when everything from your entire house is tucked into a box and stacked in one place, it looks like a crazy amount of 'stuff.'  This is only the second time we've moved in our married life.  We moved into our first apartment when we got married and we moved into our current townhouse exactly 6 years ago when Gavin was a toddler and Maddie was a little eight-month-old dumpling of a girl. Now, we have five kids and our baby girl is Alaine, who will turn 8 months on moving weekend.  

Thankfully we have a little over two weeks to move from here to there (as opposed to the five days we originally thought!) so we've chosen to do this transition in baby steps.  Baby steps have meant packing three or four boxes a day instead of doing marathon packing...and making a list of phone calls to spread out over weeks instead of spending all day on the phone...and driving boxes over on several weekends instead of saving everything for moving day at the end of the month. 

Still, it is crunch time and the house is starting to look bare.  Daily a child will say, "Hey, where's my fill-in-the-blank," and I have to sheepishly answer that I packed it.  And does anyone know how many calories an exclusively breastfed, teething baby consumes in a day?  Neither do I, but I'd like to think it makes a serious dent in the calories I've consumed through stress eating.  I guess it also helps that she is fussy and needing to be carried everywhere which surely burns off the rest of the calories. 

Seriously, though, we are more than thrilled about this new adventure-- this new place to settle and grow.  We are grateful for friends who hand deliver moving boxes and others who invite the kids to play while I do the work. We are excited about a dishwasher and a backyard (with lots of grass to mow!) and  a large back deck and  a kiddie pool and open windows and pink paint.  We are thrilled for friendly arms to  move the heavy stuff and offers of food for busy days.  We are requesting prayer for calm.  We are thankful for the Body of Christ in action. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Children's Book Monday


The Year of Miss Agnes 
by Kirkpatrick Hill

I read about this book online or in another book.  I'm not even sure where, but I remember that the short description interested me.  A teacher in the wilds of Alaska who instills in her students a love of learning?  Hmmm. I scribbled the title onto a sticky note and then put it away...for another day... because first we had to finish reading about Molly.  Then we moved on to another book, but as we were polishing off our last few chapters of  Celeste, I remembered my sticky note and figured the time was right. 

When the hold came in, Brian picked it up for us one evening on his way home.  It was a skinny book with no pictures, but we dove in anyway.  That first night we read two chapters.  

I think I loved this book so much because it reminded me of our style of schooling. 

Miss Agnes arrives in town after a long succession of unsuccessful teachers.  The children are discouraged and don't enjoy going to school.  The parents are discouraged and think book-learning is a waste of time. when there are more practical matters of hunting and fishing to attend to.  Miss Agnes breathes a breath of fresh air into the one-room schoolhouse.  Miss Agnes doesn't believe in grades or tests.  Miss Agnes puts away the old textbooks and brings out abstract art instead.  Miss Agnes hangs maps on the wall and plays opera and reads Sherlock Holmes.  Miss Agnes teaches them to write cursive and use sign language and create timelines.

"You have to keep learning all your life," she said.

That was a good thing to think about, always learning something new.  It wasn't like you had to hurry up and learn everything right away before the learning time was over, it was like you could kind of relax and take your time and enjoy it.

Just as the school children begin engaging their minds, though, they find out Miss Agnes plans to only stay the year, just like every other teacher before her, and so they fight disappointment and discouragement again.   We mourned for the children and wondered  if Miss Agnes's replacement would ever be able to equal her. 

When we sat down to read that last day, we had three chapters left.  Alaine was a little fussy, but the kids kept begging to read anyway.  I bounced and I walked and I finished the book.

The book ends with a question and as I turned over than  last page, and closed the book, Maddie said, "Read one more chapter.  Please, please, please."

"That's it," I said.

Gavin chimed in with, "Well, we need the next book."

But there isn't another book.  We are left to ponder and decide for ourselves.  And perhaps be inspired to add a spark to our learning, too.

Visit Kathi's place today for more read aloud inspiration.

And won't you consider joining Elise at her quiet spot for book ideas on Monday? 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Let's get together, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Let's get together, yeah yeah yeah. 
Think of all that we could share. 
Let's get together, everyday 
Every way and everywhere.
 And though we haven't got a lot,
We could be sharing all we've got. 

A glimpse at learning in a group:

This year we were able to meet with some friends once a month  in a Charlotte Mason-style co-op.  We rotated homes and rotated snack-baking duty. 

It is much more fun to paint with friends...
October 2010

... and take a  nature walk (or run) in a bunch...
November 2010

    ...or have tea (or juice) time when you are together.
February 2011

And sharing a story is always better with someone else. 
April 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tri-Moms: Introduction Time!

It began as Facebook banter among friends. 

"We should start a blogging group," says one.  
"Yes, let's!" says another. 
"But what would we talk about?"
"And what makes us different from other blogging mom groups?"

And so it went...and before we knew it, the three of us had dubbed ourselves Tri-Moms and created a button and brainstormed a schedule and decided to go for it!  There are three of us (hence the name Tri-Moms).  There's me, of course,  and then there's Suzanne from TheJoyfulChaos  and Kathi from A Heart Like Water --two red heads and a brunette, and between us we have 17 kids!  

Here is how it works:  Every first and third Tuesday of the month, we blog a topic...something we know well...something you probably know well.  Each of us will post our thoughts and we invite you to post yours, too, on your own blog.  (The three of us are taking turns with the linky so that we each have a chance to play hostess, but we'll be sure to let you know where it will be each week.) 

In case you are meeting me for the first time, I'm Kristin, wife of Brian for almost ten years.  Together we are the parents of Gavin (8), Maddie (6), Owen (4), Benjamin (2), and Alaine (7 months).  I've had three natural childbirths.  I nurse.   I delay solids.  I homeschool.  I have an Etsy shop.  I love to read great books.  I love my children.  I love my husband more.  And I love our Saviour most of all.

This week I am hosting the introductions linky.  I'd love for you to take a moment to go meet Suzanne and Kathi, then introduce yourself to all of us through your blog and come back here to link up. Grab our button,  too, while you're at it!  (It's located on my sidebar.)

Up next: Tri-Moms talk Cheap and Quick Recipes
April 19
Linky Hostess: Suzanne

Coming Soon:
May 3: Baby Weight Loss
May 17: Coping With (Hubby) Working Long Days
June 7: Bulk Shopping
June 21: Routine 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Guilty Pleasures

Peanut M & Ms


Vanilla Coke

Computer time after the kids are in bed

What are yours?
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