28 March 2013

Magic Months

This afternoon, shortly before nap time, my apartment was eerily silent. Abigail was somewhere, doing something bad, but for 5 minutes, I didn't want to care. The baby gates were closed off, so I knew whatever she was doing couldn't be that bad. So I just let there be silence until my guilt levels were too high to ignore. I went out hunting and stumbled upon this:


I had left out Matt's old law school textbooks (I had been using them as steps during physical therapy), and Abigail discovered them. She was flipping through it gently, carefully, not tearing or bending any pages. Just turning, reaching the end and starting over. She became a bit frantic when she thought I was trying to take it away.

Since we last spoke, I've picked up a new frugal habit.


Herbs. I wanted to do this during the 31 Days Campaign, but never did. Then the winter struck and it was too cold in our apartment to do anything. But Matt found these little $1 kits at Target for basil and cilantro. It came with seeds, dirt, and a little green house. Above you can see the cilantro - they are only good in the little green house until they are 3 inches tall. Anyway, I'm excited to begin harvesting, learn how to dry, and make some seasoning. I really want to grow some mint so that my kitchen will always smell amazing (I'm a mint junkie).

I also reached the end of my first month of meal planning. I have to say, it went really, really well. I found that the best part of a meal plan is actually also the best part of having a Rule of Life: dinner doesn't get thrown off when my day does. Significantly less pancake dinners, significantly less grabbing of a Hot 'n Ready. When Abigail's sick or laundry takes forever (damn community washers) or I have a last-minute appointment, I already know what's for dinner and I know I have the ingredients in the cupboard. There were a few times I ruined dinner (I suck at non-instant rice) and a few when I forgot to pre-soak the beans, and we ended up with a slacker dinner, but the days were significantly fewer than they were the month before. I also noticed a serious savings in the food budget. We were able to buy everything for Easter (basket, candy, toys) and transfer a fair bit of money to the household and entertainment budgets without scrimping (in the future, we plan to slowly cut back the food budget and funnel the extra money as outlined in our Dave Ramsey money plan). Lastly, I don't really struggle with excess food in my cabinets or throwing away expired food from the fridge, but I can see how a meal plan would easily eliminate those problems.

In sum, meal planning takes work, but I think it is worth the payoff.

(Side note: I plan to write a more extensive post about my Rule of Life now that I've finished the book and lived it for a few months next week, so stay tuned if you're interested).

Today I official moved Abigail in to her 18 month clothes. I find this an exciting time because I really enjoy dressing Abigail up and having a new palette with which to work is way fun. I buy her clothes primarily from Carter's (on sale with a coupon) and from used kid clothing stores. I really like the used kid store because I can afford brands otherwise too expensive. And I personally love Gap Baby clothes.


One time I went in the actual Gap Kids retail store. I practically gagged on the price tags.

Matt and I thought Abigail looked particularly adorable today in her hooded number with some skinny jeans.


No offense to cute kids everywhere, but you haven't lived until you've seen Abigail toddle in some skinny jeans. So. Freakin'. Cute.

Anyway, the warmer temps as of late have allowed us to re-institute evening family walks. These last two evenings, we even stopped by a park for a few minutes to let Abigail play. She's come along way since last fall. Now we can hold her hands while she toddles across the little bridge and slide down the slide on the toddler playground.

She's really growing a lot. They say that ages 12-24 months are the "magic months" for typically developing kids - once they can walk, they really start to develop a personality and grow cognitively. They say that for kids with Ds, those months are from age 2 to 3. Abigail is hitting her stride a bit early, 22 months, but she is really, really getting the hang of things. The developments are almost daily.




She's getting so big. But at the same time, she's still so little.


Under 20 lbs and not yet walking.


I guess this is what they mean when they say "enjoy every stage." I want so badly for her to be walking, but with each passing day, I see more and more little girl as my baby fades away. Permanent only in my memory.

But I look forward to the Abigail I have yet to meet. The one who is developing more and more each day. The one who will one day say "I love you" and hold my hand when we walk. But in the meantime, I'll take the advice of the little old lady at the grocery store and enjoy each step. Each crazy step.



25 March 2013

Abigail's Strengths

Thank you all for a very successful World Down Syndrome Day 2013. My blog saw a record-setting amount of traffic, my Facebook was blowing up all day, and the email I sent around caused at least three people to tear up. I can't even count how many people let me know in some way that the way they approach people with specials needs has changed since meeting Abigail or hearing her story. It's flattering and humbling to know that we've touched people. I pray that each year, we can continue to spread awareness, at least a little, until we achieve the ultimate goal of Abigail being Totally Accepted by this culture of death we live in.

I fully plan to step down off my soap box and resume my normal posting topics, and I think today's post will be a good transition back into "normalcy." It deals with special needs, but also with daily life.

You see, on Friday, we had one of those meetings. So during therapy all week, the therapists have been doing evaluations to type up and pass out at the Sucky Meeting. Abigail's occupational therapist, after finishing up the eval, asked me to name Abigail's strengths. I paused, baffled. Her strengths? I don't know, all we ever seem to do is talk about what she needs to improve on. Strengths? I stammered out an answer that would better fit the question, "Describe your daughter in three words." My answer angered me. How could I not even be able to name my daughter's strengths?! Last night, it finally struck me: Abigail's strengths depend on your definition of strength.

Normally questions like that (What is strength?) really piss me off. What a useless discussion to be having: let's define something everyone already knows! We might as be discussing whether or not it will rain on May 18, 3042. So please know that my own question disgusts me. But how we define strength changes what Abigail's are and even whether or not she has any.

I realized that I would say most people define strength as "something you are better at than most people." As much as my family, friends, acquaintances, and society as exposed on reruns of sitcoms on Hulu are an accurate depiction of America, I'm better than most people at crocheting, writing, and I say I have a stronger work ethic. My fine motor skills are above average, but my hand-eye coordination and whatever it's called when you're good at sports, are pretty below average. My social skills, verbal communication skills, and ability to "take it as well as I dish it" are below average.

As far as we define strength as "better than average," Abigail has no strengths. She has been observed, tested, analyzed, and reported on in a very thorough manner, and there is nothing that she is performing at or above her age level. Even in her very best category, she is still functioning at the level of someone two months younger. I suppose we could leave it there - and say that some people have no strengths, only weaknesses, but being her mother, that isn't a very satisfactory answer for me.

But what if instead of comparing ourselves against others, we define strength against ourself? As something "I-don't-fail-at-as-much-as-I-fail-at-other-things." For example, compared to other people, I'd say I'm an average cook. I usually follow recipes, I struggle with certain dishes, but I usually only need 1 or 2 tries to get a new dish right. Compared to how many times it took me to get through Jillian Michael's 6 Week 6 Pack dvd straight through without dying, I'd say cooking is one of my strengths.

If we were to compare Abigail against herself, she has a lot of strengths. She's good at physical activities, imitating me, helping me clean up, putting her shoes on, and helping dress herself. She's good at getting her point across and reading and expressing emotion. Maybe not compared to most 22-month-olds, but compared to her personal batting average, she's a super star in these categories.

I have since realized that Down syndrome and "Keeping up with the Jones" syndrome are mutually exclusive. Having Ds "protects" you from having Jones syndrome because it forces you to stop looking to society to define your value and worth. We all think we are immune, but until I was forced to question my deep-down sense of self, I had no idea how ensnared I was/am. The further I get in this "life with kids" stuff, the more I realize how rich and materialistic our nation is. I understand on a much deeper level now, how hard it truly is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Being rich is like a precursor to Jones syndrome like pre-diabetes is to diabetes.

Having Abigail isn't a cure to Jones syndrome, I have no magic vaccination now, merely, my eyes have been opened to my own faults and weakness. Now comes the long, dramatic battle of trying to overcome them. Overcoming odds? Another one of Abigail's strengths.

19 March 2013

My Scary Life

Is this the face of a blood curdling monster?


What?! You don't think so? Well, neither do I, but based on the way some people treat us, you'd think they were looking at a different face than we are.

I've lost friends over the fact that my daughter has one extra chromosome. I've had cashiers ignore her her smiling, waving pink-pea-coated self in the shopping cart (she's really into waving right now). I've had people stop and do double takes when they walk by her and realize she's different. And then there's the world at large with upwards of 90% of babies with Down syndrome being aborted and Denmark striving to be Ds free by 2030. We live in a world that actively attacks people with Down syndrome, so I have to admit, if I didn't know that this is what Down syndrome looked like,


I'd probably be pretty scared of it too.

If you didn't know anything about Abigail and I told you I had a little girl nearing two, what would you expect my house looks like on an average Wednesday? Would you guess this?




Would you guess our daily activities looked something like this?







If you said "yes" to any of the above, you'd be right.

My life changed when I had Abigail, and I can't separate the changes of having a kid from having a kid with special needs, but I can tell you that a vast majority of my life looks like that of any other stay-at-home mom. We move a little slower, sure, and I'd definitely say this life is harder, but it is certainly not any scarier than any other life.

That's the big thing about Down syndrome: it looks a lot scarier than it really is.

My life is harder like a new workout routine is harder. The first few days after you try a spider plank suck - everything aches and you wonder if you'll ever be able to lift your arms up to brush your own hair again. But then you settle in, you get use to spider planks, and even though while your in position -your shoulders burning, your obliques screaming as you bring your knee to your elbow - once they're over, they're over, and you aren't even sore anymore.

We meet with a new specialist or we get bad news from an established one and life seems really scary and hard and bad. But you get over it, you come out stronger, and the next time you have to wander the halls of the hospital, you find yourself hoping the lazy vending machine man finally got around to restocking the Milky Way bars instead of crying.


Today is World Down Syndrome Awareness Day and I want you to be aware that my life is pretty normal.


I talked about some more serious issues on Monday. Today, on the actual Day of Awareness, I wanted to be a little bit more personal. And what's more personal than a photo?


My life is a lot scarier from the outside than it is from the inside. If there is any one thing that I could let everyone in the world know about Down syndrome, that would be it.

18 March 2013

World Down Syndrome Awareness Day 2013

This Thursday is World Down Syndrome Awareness Day (3/21 because Ds is 3 copies of the 21st chromosome). On Thursday, I’ll have a more personal post talking about our family’s journey, but today I’d like to raise awareness about a topic that we still struggle with on a regular basis and talk about our goals on World Ds Awareness Day.

If you would like to make a financial contribution, please consider donating to Nella’s Triple Crown. Kelle and Nella are friends of ours and I had the pleasure of meeting Kelle last World Ds Awareness Day. She is a huge inspiration to thousands of people in the special needs community. 100% of donations are given to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), which strives to “be the national advocate for the value, acceptance, and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.” The NDSS is a huge supporter of local Ds organizations and fundraisers, and is a vital component in creating a national community that honors and celebrates individuals with Ds and also alerts the public to new bills that could impact the Ds community.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Using the r-word as slang is not okay.

Retarded.

I blog about this topic a few times a year, but did you know that we still have friends and family who refuse to stop insulting my daughter? Let me explain.


Let’s say you and I are having lunch together with a friend named Dan. We’re talking about what movies we’ve seen lately when Dan pipes up.
“You haven’t seen that movie yet? Don’t bother – it was so retarded.”

What is Dan using the word “retarded” to mean? He’s calling the movie stupid or lame or pointless. To Dan, retarded means stupid, lame, or pointless. But that’s not what it means. Retarded just means slow or delayed.

Abigail is retarded. She has delayed development. But she is not stupid, lame, or pointless. Now maybe you and I are good friends with Dan and we know he didn’t mean to call my child stupid. But that’s exactly what he just said.

So if Dan’s point isn’t to call Abigail worthless, he should have just called the movie worthless.

“You haven’t seen that movie yet? Don’t bother –it was so lame.”

When we throw around the r-word, we are saying that the only characteristics, or at the very least, the most notable characteristics, about the intellectually disabled are that they are mindless, valueless, a waste, idiotic, dumb, and ridiculous. When I hear people say the r-word, Abigail's face flashes into my mind. And she is not stupid, senseless, nor foolish. And whether or not we mean to say that, that is exactly what we are saying when we toss around the r-word.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*


There are a lot of causes in need of awareness out there. Sometimes it seems like there are more causes than there are days to go around. With our one day, I want to lay out very specifically what I hope to get out of World Down Syndrome Awareness Day 2013:

5. I hope people remember that Abigail is not a Down’s kid. She’s a kid with Down syndrome.

4. I hope people realize that just because Abigail has an extra chromosome, she is not always na├»ve, happy, and loving. She’s not a golden retriever, she’s a person. She has a full range of human emotions, and it is degrading to suggest otherwise.

3. I hope you remove the word "retarded" from your vocabulary. And when you hear friends and family say it, you let them know. I like to tell people: "Hey now, there's a difference between being stupid and being delayed, let's make sure we know what it is."

2. I hope that when you encounter another child or adult with a disability, you treat them exactly like you would any other individual.

1. More than 90% of babies with Down syndrome are aborted. If you or someone you know is considering an abortion due to such a prenatal diagnosis, call the National Down Syndrome Society hotline (800-221-4602) with her and get her the support she needs to bring her child into the world.



13 March 2013

A Board Game on a Wednesday

A few weeks ago, Abigail kicked Matt's ass in a rousing game of Pirates of the Caribbean themed Life. Her and I played on the same team and she picked the best ship (job), best pirate (salary), and best mascot (stock? maybe?). She loved it - spinning the spinner, moving her piece across the board, setting the money in a pile. We had fun too - a nice change of pace from the usual stacking of blocks. So when board games were on sale at Target, we picked up Candy Land. She likes to flip the cards over, point to the color block, and make her piece dance around the board. It's pretty cute.

This time last year, board and card games of any sort were an anathema. Matt was two months away from graduating law school, and as every family of a graduate student knows, there is no time for playing games that close to the end of the semester. Not that there is ever very much time for game playing in law school.

So Matt and I had this running joke that after the bar exam, we were going to play a game on a Wednesday. No classes, no case recitation, no papers, no presentation, no law review, no exams. We'd play Monopoly Deal or Oceania or Pirates of the Caribbean Life on a Wednesday, and how novel would that be?

Last year, the holidays, the spring, and the fall were hectic - the Sprint. The time in between required endurance - the Marathon. That long, low period that required just as much focus as milestones, but a significantly different type of stamina. All of life is kind of like that, not just in law school. The long, dark, post-December winters are the Marathon portions of life. When the mile markers are few and far between, when the clouds are thick and the air cold. You have to keep pushing yourself even though there is no end in sight.

That is where I am right now. There is nothing big and exciting going on, just the hum drum, indoor, bland routine of a housewife. There isn't much to write home about, or blog about, as it were. But unlike last year, now we get to play board games on Wednesdays.

And that is exactly what our life has become. Of course there are still dishes and bills and a looming stack of mortgage paperwork, sweeping and bread making and therapy. But there's time for Wednesday evening board games and Friday night card games now. We don't feel guilty when we go for last-minute family walks on the rare day when the sky is clear and the air is warm-ish. We plan trips to the zoo and dream of taking a family vacation one summer soon.

Family time in law school was a brief, carefully scheduled evening, just one night or afternoon a week. Now it's planned or spontaneous and sometimes takes priority over doing the taxes.



08 March 2013

Frugality and Growth Spurts

No new news on the house front yet. Still trying to secure a firmer pre-approval from a bank before our offer can go any further. Since I've put all my interior decorating and organizing dreams on hold, I thought I'd do a bit of updating on our frugal adventures as of late.

(NOTE: See the end of this post for the resources I'll mention below)

I realized that I haven't done much updating as to our frugality since the dawn of 2013. Well, I do continue to homemake 100% of the tortillas and tortilla chips that we eat, and I still make bread and crackers a majority of the time, but sometimes I will buy a loaf or box if we run out before I have time to make more. I realized that making bread with a breadmaker would be much more efficient, so I have been perusing Craiglist and hope to check out the Salvation Army/Goodwill soon to try and hunt down a good bargain. My mom hinted that if we haven't found something by the time we move to Michigan, we may just get one as a housewarming present. In the meantime, I'm putting my old loaf pans (two metal, one glass) to good use:

Flour-dusted pugliese (pronounced please-y) is a light and fluffy Italian bread that is easy to make and few in ingredients.

For a few years now, I've made half-hearted attempts at creating a weekly meal plan, but I never seem to stick with it. I've been following a couple of frugality blogs and know from past experience that the most frugal homemakers out there live by a meal plan, so it's long been my goal to eventually get around it joining them. I'm pretty good at throwing things together with what I have in my fridge, but more times than I'd like to admit, we end up with a pizza or making pancakes because I didn't plan ahead.

I'd been feeling the urge to go through my folder of random recipes (both electronic and tangible) and sort through them. As I was organizing, I realized how many recipes I'd been wanting to try for literally years, but just never had for one reason or another. Not only dinner recipes, but also homemade spinach artichoke dip (perfect for an at-home date night), and whole wheat cinnamon rolls.

Concurrent with my cleaning experience, I picked up a book at the library called The Kitchen Counter Cooking School (I borrowed the 2010 edition). The subtitle is pretty self explanatory: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks. The author, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate, is really good at explaining cooking techniques in writing. I've only read the first few chapters, but I already learned the correct way to hold a Chef's knife (turns out I've been doing it wrong all these years and the right way gives you way more control over the blade), how to slice an onion, and how to cook veggies so they aren't bland and mushy. The book is pretty engaging and I often find myself reading it while standing in my kitchen examining my knives and my slicing and dicing technique.

The book is great for people who hate cooking or are scared of the kitchen and also people like me who have a certain sense of confidence in some areas, but rely on boxed or canned goods for most of their recipes.

So I finally wrote up a 1-month meal plan. It includes meatless Fridays (since it's Lent and we're Catholic), breakfast-for-dinner Sundays, and leftover Wednesdays. I included meals that primarily require ingredients and techniques I'm comfortable with, but most of them will push me to grow in one small way, like homemaking the refried beans that will go into tonight's burritos. The goal is that by the end of the month, I'll emerge with a greater set of kitchen skills.


My process:
1. Go through my recipes and set aside the ones that sound the best.
2. Jot down the meals in my planner, starting first with days that had the least flexibility (like meatless Fridays).
3. Go through the recipes and make a grocery list for ingredients I don't have.
4. Check out the grocery store fliers and dig through the coupon book.
4. Go grocery shopping and make dinner!

The entire process took a several hours, to be honest; although I did finish it in one day. And my grocery list scared me half to death. It filled up 1.5 pieces of 8.5 x 11 notebook paper (front sides only). I kid you not. I wish I'd taken a picture just to show you the craziness. My anxiety increased when I checked out the store flyer and found that it wasn't a good sale week. We don't have a warehouse membership and I don't think it's worth my time to drive to 3 different stores to get the best sale prices (even before I had a kid and lived in the city I hated doing this). I kept carefully track of the total in the margins of my grocery list, and when I left the checkout aisle? The damage was only $154. I kid you not. An entire month's worth of dinners, plus breakfast and lunch foods, for only $154. I will have to double back for things that don't keep, like bananas and milk, but I estimate that I'll spend less than $50 throughout this month on food. $200 for a family of three to eat comfortably in Chicago, IL.

The reason the total was so cheap was because I was buying ingredients, not boxed food. Spaghetti squash costs the same per ounce as a box of store brand pasta on sale at my grocer. Limes were $0.25 each and is the only thing I didn't have for a sauce for an upcoming dinner. A 10lb bag of flour (white, unbleached) cost me $6.29 and covers me for tortillas for a few meals, crepes, breadsticks, bretzel rolls, cinnamon bread for french toast, regular bread for sandwiches, burger buns, calzone dough, and pot pie dough. That's intense savings! Just from buying the stuff I need to make stuff for myself. Plus you get less preservatives, less additives, and usually, less calories!

I don't plan to make everything from scratch though, at least this time around. I did buy enchilada sauce in a can, Abigail has boxed, name brand granola bars, and the pizza we'll have on Friday the 15th is a Jack's shrink-wrapped number that was $2 a few weeks ago. I need to take this one step at a time.

The biggest critique I see against frugal meal planning is that it takes time. It takes time to make the meal plan and time to make the things that are normally pre-packaged. This is a real and valid critique. I would caution that making dinner is a lot easier when you know days in advance what you'll be having, you have all the ingredients on hand, and you're making something that you really enjoy. But it still takes time. I budget an hour to make dinner since I'm new to most of these recipes. Abigail sometimes gets frustrated and I've had to sacrifice my organized tupperware cupboard to her whims. We all want more time, money, and to be healthier, so we each have to find our own careful balance between homemade burger buns and destructive children.

But it's VERY important that if you opt to ditch a homemade pot pie in favor of something from a box that you do so because you understand your own personal balance and NOT because you're scared of making a pie crust. Cause otherwise you're just a victim of Marie Callender's marketing department. And what kind of life is that?

The last update to my frugality spree is that I finally made my own laundry detergent. I was quite skeptical at first because I had such bad luck with dishwasher detergent that I actually just broke down and bought some. But homemade is just so. freakin'. cheap. that I had to give it a shot. It took all of 10 minutes to make and I stored it in an old Ovaltine can. After the first week, I asked Matt if he noticed anything different about his laundry. He responded that he didn't. We are in agreement that homemade detergent cleans just as well as store-bought detergent. My whites and colors look the same. But I'm saving serious dough by switching. We're talking less than $2 vs. about $5-6 for the small jug of fragrance and dye free stuff we were buying.

Moving on to everyone's favorite Chica, we have a mad terrorizer:


Abigail's new thing (one of many) is to pull things off shelves and sit in them. I need to clear out another row of stuff on our shelves. Or load up more bankers boxes so they are too heavy for her to move.

She's getting to be quite a confident push-toy walker now, and can say "goldfish" (as in, the cracker) and "daddy" in addition to "kitty cat." She says "mama" in a pathetic voice when I'm disciplining her. The cute little manipulator. Her words are still pretty muddled, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who can understand them, and sometimes I think maybe I'm just so excited for her to talk that I'm hearing what I want to hear instead of the babble that she actually speaks. She can understand tons of what I'm saying now, and obeys short commands. The developmental "growth spurt" for typically developing kids is right around their first birthday. Out of nowhere kids suddenly start walking, talking, understanding, having an attitude, all at once. (I understand the biological reason behind this, but most of my readers will probably find it boring). For kids with Ds, this occurs on average just after the second birthday. Abigail is (at least, physically) slightly advanced for a kid with Ds (or so we've been told), so it makes sense that she's hitting her stride as we approach the big 0-2.

It's getting harder and harder to wear her out indoors, so I'm pretty psyched for this weather to warm up so that I can let her loose at this awesome-looking toddler park I found while getting lost site-seeing in my own neighborhood. Either than or we need a house with a basement. Damn employment gap.


Resources

- Calculate the calories in your homemade recipes here.

- The laundry detergent recipe I use is this one. I made a very small batch to see if I liked it before I whipped up a big one. I'm still using that first recipe I made last month!

- A kick ass spaghetti squash recipe (I used regular ground beef because it was way cheap).

- Cheap and easy pretzel bread that makes GREAT burger buns and requires minimal rise time.

-Cinnamon roll and breadstick recipes (which I have yet to try).


UPDATE: I thought I should probably throw in a disclaimer. Part of the reason our food budget is slow low is because I rarely buy meat (usually only 1-2 packages a month) and I make it last a long time. Our main meat is chicken and I only buy it on sale. We get the biggest ham and turkey we can find during the holidays, cook the entire thing, then freeze the leftovers in Ziplock bags for future meals. I very rarely buy beef and usually only use 1/3 lb ground beef in recipes that call for 1lb, supplementing with rice, beans, or even just veggies.


06 March 2013

Hang Ups

I'm going crazy over here, my friends. Three days ago we decided to put an offer in on a house, but that offer is still just sitting around, waiting to be sent to the bank. The house is a short sale and the seller liked our offer, but his bank has to sign off on it too. But they can't send it to their bank until our bank passes along a slightly more substantial pre-approval letter. To avoid going into personal financial information, we're not looking to put 20% down and the private mortgage insurance (PMI) such terms require do NOT like Matt's gap in employment. Even though we have a letter from the Court of Appeals confirming the position. Even though we have a second letter detailing salary information. When we first met with the bank, they sent us on our merry way with a vague pre-approval letter that made the PMI seem like it wasn't a big deal. Now that we want to move forward, it has manifested itself as a big deal. We're onto Plan B and we do have a Plan C, but with each plan that falls through, it becomes less and less likely that subsequent plans will pan out. It's a lot of send me every document you have that outlines in explicit detail your financial status right now, now, NOW! So I plop Abigail in her crib with a book and a pacifier while I frantically click around on the computer, trying to compile all of our financial documents into one clean PDF copy to send over. Then I wait. And wait. And spastically check my email every five minutes, hoping to hear back from someone. The buying and selling agents like our offer and Matt and I feel comfortable with the future mortgage payment.

But then there's that damn gap in employment. Plan A bank explicitly told us that if we had a pay stub from the new job, this wouldn't be an issue. PMI would like us.

But we can't very well have a pay stub from a job that hasn't started yet, now can we?

Matt and I have started tentatively broaching the subject of what to do if the house falls through. The prospect of a few more years of renting really sucks.

We're praying that if it's God's Will, we get this house.

Okay, my sick whiny child has decided that I've had enough time on the computer. I've already had to stop three times to intercede on the behalf of a cornered kitty. And now I'm typing one-handed.

Oh house with a dated kitchen! How I would love thee!

05 March 2013

The Difficulties of My Vocation

Abigail is very confident that if it isn't fun, she doesn't have to do it, if it isn't yummy, she doesn't have to eat it, and if it isn't familiar, she doesn't need to pay it any attention. She's all play and no work, and if I want her to work, I need to ask with a spoonful of sugar so she forgets there's work involved. And just like any other almost two year old, even "hot - don't touch!" is a power struggle. There's a simple biological explanation: her prefrontal cortex is still developing. In laymen's terms: she's just a kid.

But I'm not a kid. So while I get time to do things solely because I wanna (I try to squeeze some in every day), the bulk of my day is filled with things I have to do. I struggle with maintaining a healthy balance between all the to-dos. I'm the kind of person who would prefer to focus on a project, hammering it out until it's done, but that's almost never how things work in this house anymore, especially when we get home after a few days absence. I need to sit down and go through all the papers the Realtor sent us home with and check all 18 emails she's sent me (okay, slight exaggeration; more like 12). I need to follow up with the bank, touch base with our inspector, get recommendations for an electrician, just in case. I want to just sit down and get it all out of the way in one fell swoop.

Once I finish that task, I have a stack of mail to go through, an empty fridge to fill, a bag of dried beans that need a six hour head start before dinner time, a floor to sweep, and a kitchen table that could pass for a filing cabinet to clean.

And then there's Abigail. Whose pretty sure that there is nothing fun about mommy sitting at a computer. And whose also very certain that phones are way fun and whatever banker I'm speaking with at the moment would like to hear her two cents. She needs me. And I need time in prayer, time to exercise, and time to develop new product for Sheep & Co.

So I'm learning how to balance. How to throw some beans on the stove without stopping to wash the dishes we left in the sink when we left on Thursday. How to utilize the 5 minute distraction a stack of blocks brings to cross only one person off my "to call" list. How to delegate the stack of mail to my husband, whom I sometimes still forget isn't in law school.

It's hard and I fail at it a lot. My mind understands it a lot more than my heart acts it. This here vocation of mine is really challenging for me. Abigail's mama and Matt's wife needs to express her priorities throughout her actions. She needs to be more patient. She needs to do things she doesn't necessarily want to do, but needs to do. She needs to stay focused on her purpose.

04 March 2013

A New House?


I'll make this short and sweet, my friends, because we're in Michigan, our home state, and I've got my attention divided three ways from Sunday. (I don't really know what that expression means, my husband is a big fan of it). We're here to house hunt - we have about five months before we need to move in, so it'd be great to close a month before we need it, giving me time to clean, paint, etc.


We've been married almost 5 years, but never spent more than 21 months at one address. We're ready to settle down. We're ready to be done with community laundry rooms, loud neighbors, and fighting for the good parking space.

I'll spare you the long, boring stories of dragging Abigail house-to-house-to-condo 14 times over the course of 2 days, but suffice to say, we're putting in an offer this morning on cute little 1950s brick number. A traditional, modest home.


We viewed three properties twice, the second time dragging my handy man father with us to point out potential problem areas in a sort of pre-inspection. Then we went back to our favorite, the one above, in the evening to see what the neighborhood was like after dark. My mom has spent the better part of these last few days watching Abigail so we could get a good feel for the house we wanted. Our Realtor tells us that it's a stable, consistent neighbor with few renters, no nearby subsidized housing, and a good elementary school, but we take it with a grain of salt, since she is a salesperson after all.

The home has a decent living room with nice-looking carpet, a dated but charming kitchen, three small bedrooms with well-worn hardwood floors, and a finished basement with the most dated wood paneling you ever did see. A large, covered patio overlooks a big, fenced backyard and backs up to a wooded lot with small creek. The one-and-a-half car garage is in good condition and the driveway is paved. It met our qualifications (a fence, a garage, three bedrooms, a basement, a good deal), and appears to require no immediate maintenance before we move in (a formal inspection will hopefully confirm this). The house is a short sale, so the process could take awhile, but our Realtor is well-versed in short-sales.

The biggest problem this house poses is a possible having dissimilar metals in the electrical system, so some such deal. It is a make-or-break problem. We'll have to write it into the contract. Good thing my husband is a lawyer.

More details to come later, but for now, we've got our fingers crossed.