Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Glimpses: the reassuring moments in parenthood

I think parenting and the experiences within varies due to your own personality, life experience, and expectations.  My perspective and parenting path might not line up with yours.  With that said, for me... I've put a lot of stock into how my kids are being raised (and by stock I mean pressure, and stress, and worry, and self-critical bs).  I've thought and thought about if I'm doing it right and I have analyzed a lot.  I've toggled with nature versus nurture and inborn characteristics versus my very own scarring of them.  It's mentally exhausting.  The biggest lesson I learned in motherhood is that the mental exhaustion far exceeds any practical exhaustion (and I've had a rough sleeper, friends!).  There is so much thinking... so much... and the kicker is that you can think all you want and try to figure out if you are doing it right, but you don't really know that answer until your kids are grown, and your time to raise them has passed.  Talk about a steep climb. "Create this project, from scratch.  Please keep tweaking it, but you won't know if it's working properly until 20 years from now.  If you see that it's faltering at that point, well, too bad.  Your re-drafting time has ended.  Society now has to deal with the malfunctions."  Granted, that's giving nurture a ton ton of credit... nature holds a strong hand  too.  Regardless, for those years where you are trying and trying and not sure how you are doing as a parent, I want to share something that I've seen.  This something the provides a glimmer of hope, even if fleeting, and should be tucked away and saved for those times when you feel as if you are raising serial killers and sociopaths.  

I've read and heard "look for the good.... catch them being good."  That is a good tactic because it's the bad and the naughty and the messy that jumps out and grabs our attention.  If you start to notice the good, you will start to see the glimpses.  

The glimpses are small moments in time when your child does something that is genuinely kind, or virtuous.  These glimpses reveal core character and are small bits of reassurance to tell you "well done, keep going!"  These glimpses are not to put you on a high horse, because if you go there.... Murphy's Law tends to take effect and the evil spawn version of your child will come out and reign for a bit.  These glimpses are small, often.  They come and go quickly.  Soak in the glimpse, tuck it in your heart, put a smile on your face, and keep fighting the good fight.  You won't truly find out  if you should have done something different until they are grown, but these glimpses are like the glasses of water set out along a marathon.  There's still a long way to go... miles and miles... but the water is momentary boost helping fuel you on for the miles ahead.  

The worst time for catching glimpses is when you have only preschoolers, toddlers, and babies.  Those years, for me, feel so hard and with little recognition for the work put in and the glimpses tend to pass quickly as toddler emotions reign.  My first three were born within 3 years.  I had a 3 year old, one year old, and a baby and I felt defeated pretty much all the time.  My oldest was an epic tantrum-thrower and bull-headed as they come.  My second would cry at the drop of a hat and he was painfully clingy and whiny. My baby was wonderful. God threw me a bone there (until she was 2.5... things got real after that). Three of them, one of me, and strong personalities- d.e.f.e.a.t.  

My oldest was by far my hardest at that point.  I saw so many negative attributes and fought so many fights with him.  I didn't know how he would turn out.  I recently watched a home video from that time.  It was a "dance party" that they were having.  My oldest was dancing around with the end of a piece of bread -think Panera-.  At one point he's alone on the video and my 17 mo old, #3, comes toddling in.  She makes one small gesture to him and then the glimpse happened.  I think I missed it back then, but as a slightly more seasoned mom (5 kids ages 9 and under now), I saw it.  He saw her gesture.  He took the piece and ripped her of a chunk.  He gently handed it to her, he picked up his  piece and continued to dance. 



That glimpse took maybe 10 seconds to complete, but seeing him now, he still has the heart where he will share and help out the younger ones without any struggle.  Those fleeting 10 seconds revealed so much and during a time when he was so very hard for me to parent.  He saw her need and without any struggle, he shared something that was only his.  I didn't ask. I didn't demand.  I didn't even see it happen.  But it did.  I'm sure the remainder of the day was him fighting with his brother and going up against me.  The world didn't stop spinning and he wasn't perfect from that moment on.  A glimpse is a small sign that you are, in fact, doing something right in parenting, but you have to be aware to catch it. 

Glimpses come in the form of other people's genuine kind comments about your kids.  They come in the form of rules followed with intent.  They come in acts of kindness.  They come in the moments when your child thinking outside themselves or make a good decision.  They come in outings gone smoothly.  They come in polite exchanges with adults.  They come when they don't think they are being watched.  They come in any shape and size and duration.  Sometimes they are a millisecond and sometimes they linger, but however they come... when they do come: see them.  Savor them.  Allow momentary relief and feel free to share what you saw with your child, praise them.  

Parenting so often feels like an uphill battle.  It's loud, messy, stressful, and long, but if you look for the glimpses, it can sweeten the journey.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Going Home: Part 4

House officially listed this next chunk of weeks felt like a continual checklist and a test of.. something.

Here are the raw details:

Showings: 6 in the the first 9 days

Offer(s): 2 came in on the 10th day.

Details: An offer came in from Patrick and from a showing.  The showing offer even countered above asking price when they heard we were going to choose Patrick's offer. It still wasn't enough to go above the profit we would make from Patrick's offer, so we accepted his.

Inspections: SCARY.  This was one area that felt like it could completely halt this process.  New house: Went well all-in-all, but the final verdict was that it needed a new roof, new downspout, had mold in the attic, and a crack in the chimney.  Being that it's 102 years old, so so so so many things looked great for it's age, but those things we couldn't deny or ignore.  We decided, even if it caused us to walk, we needed to ask for a new roof.  So we did.  And they said: yes.  The sellers said they would replace the roof, add a downspout and add a fan in the attic.  We will handle the mold and crack in the chimney.  Townhouse: Went smooth, no big surprises or issues.  We had fixed a lot through the preparation process and fixed a ongoing leak prior to the inspection.  Anything that came up was minor and Patrick didn't ask for further repairs.

Pretty details from inspection day

Mortgages: Those just took time: compiling resources and emailing documents and waiting.

Fear of the Unknown:  During this part of the process, especially once inspections were done, all of a sudden I started questioning everything: Is this the right house?  What if it costs too much to maintain?  What if something is really wrong in it that the inspection didn't catch?  What if it's haunted?  What if we hate the neighborhood?  What if the kids hate the new school?  What if they make no friends? What if this isn't the right time to move?  What if we don't have enough money for closing? What if... what if,,,, what IF!?  This part drove me absolutely crazy because it was so consuming and added so much internal stress for me.  There were a few people who would say "You must be so excited?!"  All I could think was "I'm terrified!!!!"  I truly was not excited.  The move felt massive and I felt uneasy.

Packing:  Once we got to about a month away from closing I was able to start packing and the process started to feel tangible again.  Boxes started to take up the front room of our house and the weeks ticked by.

Tenants:  The one snag we hit was that the tenants of the new house would not leave.  Two weeks out from closing: still there... no leaving in sight.  Jim had wanted early entry and it looked less and less likely.  Finally, one week away from closing they moved all in one evening.  6 days before closing we were notified that we could do our walk-through the next day and get the keys.  WHOA!

5 days before closing we walked through and were handed keys and spent the next days before closing cleaning, moving over boxes, and organizing said boxes. We bounced from house to house all week.  The girls and I spent the mornings at the new house and afternoons at the old: cleaning and organizing boxes in the new, cleaning and packing at the old. We had help from our parents and friends and by week's end we had all of our stuff moved over.  My father-in-law was over every day from Sunday to Friday. My mother-in-law cleaned with me several days, cooked for us, and kept the little girls Thursday into Friday.  My parents came home from the beach Thursday to help wrangle kids, clean the old house, and help move items to the new.  My friend Emily came one night with a meal and helped me clean the new house.  Marc and Jong helped with the move.  Ruth took Elizabeth one afternoon. Dawn too her another.  Nick and Kari took the boys one afternoon and Jim and I worked our tails off all week.  It was an absolute team effort and we couldn't have done it without help.   By Friday both houses were ready for closing.  We sat down that afternoon and signed our townhouse over to Patrick and signed papers taking on the new house as our own.

I didn't feel scared.  I didn't feel overwhelmed or afraid.  I didn't question or second guess.  I felt ready, calm, and confident.  It felt right.

Leaving closing and walking into our house was so rewarding.  Piled with boxes... littered with stuff... we. were. home.  There is a beauty in change and reward in challenge.  At one point I would have felt way more comfortable turning back and clinging to my safe predictable townhouse, but I would have missed so much reward.  Saturday morning Jim took the kids out in the yard to throw the baseball while I unpacked the kitchen.  We have never been able to do that without packing up and heading to a park.  We fit within this house and it already feels like home.

The next chapter starts for us now... the story is yet to be written, but I have a good feeling about this...

Going Home: Part 3

One major step accomplished: the decision to make an offer.  A million steps lie ahead...

Because Joel is family, or just awesome... I don't know, but he agreed to come over and rattle off the things in our house that need to change before it would be "show ready."  I pride myself on my organization and I can keep a pretty clean space, but let me tell you.... selling and staging a house is entirely different.

Jim and I walked through our townhouse with Joel, me with paper and pen in hand and wrote down everything he said:

New porch light.
No playroom. Make this the dining room.
Stage the current dining room as a breakfast nook.
New mulch out front.
New plants.
Re-do the whole back yard.
Make it look like you have 2 kids instead of 5.
Clean all marks and smudges.
New basement flooring.

The list went on and on.  We didn't get offended.  We didn't get overwhelmed.  We took Joel's suggestions, make a check list and got to work.  We put everything Joel mentioned on the list and ranked them in order of importance.  There were easy things and hard things.  There were cheap fixes and expensive projects.  Essentially we removed our style and personal touches and kept things "light and bright."  Jim and I worked in all our free time to complete tasks on the list.  In the following two weeks, our house became a neutral space.  It was no longer ours, but not yet anyone else's.  We kept up with normal life, but also threw ourselves into our home projects.  I remember being at a party during that time... I had been dressed in sweats and painting trim until 10 minutes before we left.  I was exhausted and mentally preoccupied thinking about what project I would work on when I got back home and how much was left to do.  We jumped all in with fixing our house and were almost actors in outside life.  Normal life wasn't where our priority was.  "What's wrong?" I was asked while at that party.  "Nothing!" I said.  How could I sanely explain that I've been working non-stop on house projects when a week ago nobody was aware we were interested in moving.  I would sound insane, so I played normal while mentally immersed in our house process.

That same week Joel stopped over to officially have us sign the papers to put in the offer.  Papers signed and submitted, we found out the new house was owned by the neighboring church.  The church board had to meet for each step and every decision.  This actually was a blessing for a few reasons.  There were days of lag between steps, which allowed us time to be ready to sell.  A few days after the offer went in, it was accepted!  They didn't counter on price, amazing!  They did counter us on the time frame.  We asked for a contingency of sale of our old home.  We set a date in September to have to "sell by." They were ok with us having the contingency, but it was mid July at this point, and they countered for us to be under agreement by August 1st.


We have two weeks to sell our home?

We were ready, though.  We did every project big and small.  "Game on.  We've done our best... let's do this."  It's in God's hands whether we can sell that quickly, but we have done our due diligence.  Addendum signed and submitted, we are officially under agreement for the new house and are set to put our townhouse up for sale.

Two days before we were officially set to list, Jim came home from work and announces "I might have someone to buy our house."  "Wait... what?  Are you serious?"  "Yeah, there's this guy at work who has been looking for a house and hasn't found what he wants yet.  He's interested."  That same day, Patrick came over for a quick unofficial showing just to see if the house matches what he wants.  It does.

When we sit down with Joel to put our house up for sale, we write in Patrick as an exception.  If Patrick buys our house, we can do it as a private sale instead of going through the real-estate company.  That would be awesome, but we are fully prepared to do showings and entertain offers from wherever they come.  We buckle up and get ready for the ride...

All of a sudden, we are officially on the market.  The house which welcomed all our baby girls home from the hospital, the house where the boys learned to ride bikes, the house where we grew our first roots... was in limbo.  It was up for grabs.  It was out there for the picking.  It was no longer ours. 

Going Home: Part 2

"Interesting Property," the subject line read.  I opened the email and there was a link to an old MLS listing.  "The house isn't on the market yet, but it looks promising.  I know the listing agent.  It's a good property."  I clicked the link and flipped through the pictures from when it was listed a year ago...

First impression: "It... is... beautiful" I thought.  It almost looked like too much to be our house. Fancy wood trim, beautiful front porch, four full bedrooms, second floor balcony... I'm a simple person: clean lines, minimalist style, no frills.  This house has frills.  I couldn't help be excited, but... this house, mine?  I can dream, but there's got to be a catch.  This house is beautiful, but... there's got to be a but...

It's in town.  We don't want to be in town.  It means a switch in schools for the kids.  We don't want to switch schools.  It's only a 1/3 of an acre.  We want more.  Did I mention it being in town... it's in the borough of Macungie.  We wanted to be up on the mountain. We wanted to be away from everyone... in town isn't for us.  Busy street, no thanks.

The beauty of the house sat in my mind though.  "Ok, let's just see where it is..."  Still not listed, we decided to do a drive by.  We piled in the car and headed 5 minutes into town.

"There it is, guys!" I said.  If there is one thing I can say for the house, it has a presence.  The house stands proud against the street.  It holds the beauty of the era in which it was built and stands tall amid the younger townhouses and churches on the street.  We took a side street to see the back of the house and the yard flows from the back of the house, begging to be run on by little feet.  The garage and shed look promising for storage space.  My heart thumps as I soak in each detail as we drive past.
"Let's drive around these side streets," Jim says.  We take a left and meander through the borough streets.  The street the house sits on is well traveled, but these side streets are quiet.  "Hmmm... there's places to ride bikes... places to run... places to push a stroller... nice houses, no commotion."

We go home and are both agree that the house is worth seeing once it's on the market.

Joel warns us "If you like this house and want to make an offer, you need to be prepared to list your house immediately."  No pressure, right?  The following weeks are filled with small tasks like painting the front door, wiping down grime, and thinking about selling.   We don't do anything drastic, because we could walk in this house and turn right back around, but we mentally switch to being prepared to sell and being prepared for things to move quickly.  We don't really know what it's like inside and it may not be worth an offer, but if it is, we want to be ready for that too.

Weeks pass and the house remains off the market.  Did something change?  Are they going to list it? What's the hold up?  "Patience..."

During those weeks I pass the house every-so-often.  I call the house "my house" when I go see it and I stare at it with majesty each time I pass.  There's just something about this house.  Finally in late June, I drive past and there is a for sale sign out front.  I text Joel...

We end up going through during an Open House and decide to go through privately later that week.  It's deemed to be worth a second look.  When we get back in the car after the private showing, Jim asks me what about it.  What do you think?  How do you feel about the house?  My response "It feels like home."  That response miffs Jim, but it's all I can think.  It feels too overwhelming to put words to how I feel.  I mean.... it feels different.  It feels big.  It feels real and surreal at the same time, but mostly, it feels like home.  It feels comfortable. Jim isn't so sure and he just stays quiet.  As the rest of the day passes I get excited and Jim stays skeptical.  That evening we have Elizabeth's family birthday party and all I can think about is the house.  I annoy Jim because its my sole focus.  

For years we have thought about finding our house and we very well just could have just found our house.  How can we operate in normal life right now?  How can we be unsure?  We need to decide! 

We talk throughout that weekend.  Jim's thoughts become clear and mine don't change.  Sunday driving to church, his decision comes.  "I think we should put an offer in on the house. I think it's what we need."  

We contact Joel about proceeding, knowing that things may kick up into a whirlwind from here.  Also knowing that any step could end the process and put us back at square one.  We need to buy and sell at the same time.  We need to work within our budget and make a certain amount from the sale of our house.  There are offers, counter offers, inspections, mortgages, and many other things that could throw this process belly up.  But we are ready and one thing is clear... those weeks, months, and years of "Just wait..." have turned into "It's time..." 

Going Home: Part 1

This past weekend we moved into our new home... this home could quite possibly be our forever home.  If it's not our forever home it's our really really really really really long time home.  It's a perfect fit and we are already in love, but before I get into the details of the new house, I want to jot down the process that led us here.... Let's rewind to 2014.

In 2014 the idea of moving came on the horizon.  We had said our townhouse would be our "5 to 7 year house"  We were nearing 5 years at that point and when the time was right, we were prepared to buy again.  We had our fifth child that year and our townhouse was 3 bedrooms and 1,500 sq. ft. with a minimal back yard and zero grass.  When the time was right, we were optimistic to begin this process and widen our space.  We linked up with Jim's cousin Joel, as our realtor.  First up: finances. We looked at numbers and depressingly, we weren't ready.  We needed more money in savings and more paid down on our house.  So, we had to wait.  

2015 came and the numbers looked better and we began to casually look at houses when the right ones came up for sale.  Our criteria consisted of: 4 bedrooms, a yard, a place for Jim to play music, close to where we live now, and room to grow.  We looked at a few houses, but the time still wasn't right and the houses weren't good fits.  It's depressing to realize again and again "Not yet..." "It's not time...."  In Fall of 2015, we sat with Joel again and he said we should list our house May 1, 2016, whether we found a house for ourselves or not.  It was the best time of year to list and we would have money ready and would have a bit more time to pay down more on our current house.  That became the plan and we slowly worked on areas of our house.  

April of 2016 came and (AGAIN) I didn't feel ready.  I thought, "Would we ever be ready? Maybe we will live on our townhouse forever.  It won't ever be the right time.  The stars are going to have to align."  I was doubting our fiances. We unexpected had to replace a few appliances AND replace the van that same month.  With a sigh, I thought "Well, next year..."  Next year's tax return and bonus would bump us back up and we would be at a good point to buy a house.  Plus, not much was coming up in our price range, which was deflating.  

Just two weeks after buying our van, Joel texted us with a house in Alburtis.  We decided to look at  the house even though it didn't seem like the right time. We saw it and were entertaining the idea of this house: right location, next to a park, decent square footage and then, Jim put on the brakes. "It's not big enough. It won't work."  And he was right.  However, something good came out of that.  Joel told us to look at the numbers again.  With interest rates low and tax rates varying, we may be able to afford more than we thought.  He was right.  Our price range widened and the search opened up again, though I was reluctant to feel ready for buying and selling, but I started scouting Zillow and doing repairs to our house felt at peace with moving when the time was right.  I didn't know when the time would be right, but the thought of moving became much more concrete and almost tangible... it felt like it was only a matter of time.  Right then an email came through from Joel: "Interesting property" the subject line read...