Sunday, November 4, 2007

Vader and Spidey and Pig, Oh My!

For the 6th year in a row, Halloween night was spent at our ward's Trunk or Treat...the greatest Halloween invention in my opinion. Our kids will never need to go door to door to Trick or Treat. Their buckets were FULL...just short of overflowing when they returned less than 30 minutes later. This was Karcyn's first year out on her own. But she just ran around and squealed with pleasure her curly tail bobbing behind her while Jared attempted to corral her. Jake, er, Darth Vader, happily filled her bucket for her. I heard Spidey left Vader in his dust, making his own fortune for himself even though they were supposed to stay together!

Miracles Do Happen

Here's the long and short of it. We've been doing research and getting ready for the home buying process since February, when we contacted a lender and agent. We weren't planning on buying a home for a couple years with the market such as it is (for those of you NOT in the Portland area, the market here has stalled, but hasn't hit rock bottom and maybe never will). It has been frustrating for us as first time buyers. No equity, no substantial down payment, a nice student loan payment and a decent salary. All those factors aren't a good combination. Or aren't good enough. It was especially hard to think about how much these homes were priced at 3-5 years ago. Regardless, we wanted to be prepared and ready because we knew it would only take one desperate seller and/or the right time of year (I feel guilty to think that we were hoping for another's misfortune! But not guilty enough I guess.)

We were locked into a year lease until August. After that it went month to month. We kept an eye on the market and spoke periodically with our agent, Cari, about what was happening. We didn't physically start looking at houses til the end of August, first of September. Only because we figured that was the best chance to find some deals, if they existed.

Working around Jared's work schedule and Jake's school schedule and lugging the kids with us every time we looked at a house was totally draining. I don't think we really saw more than a dozen homes, but it felt like triple that. And we didn't HAVE to move. How do people, who are under the gun, find a house in just a week or weekend? In fact, just a few days before we saw this house (pictured above), I told Jared I was done. I was tired of looking at homes. I just wanted to stay where we were and save money while paying down debt. All the decent homes are only 1200 sq. ft. (which is the size of the rental we're currently in) and though we went back and forth on the issue, we finally decided it wasn't worth stretching ourselves thin for a house that size. All the homes we saw over 1500 sq. ft. were dumps...dives. No joke. IF they were structurally sound to begin with, we would have had to rip up the carpet, maybe the sub flooring and put new carpet in and new paint just to get "smells" out before moving in. Even the kids couldn't stomach some of the smells. When we drove past this house and decided the neighborhood seemed decent enough to actually take a look inside, I was skeptical. I told Jared on the way over "I have no hopes for this house." Boy, was I ever wrong. Not only was it big (well, big to us), but move in ready. One of my few stipulations. I almost couldn't believe it. We saw it the morning of Thurs. Oct. 25th. Of course it was priced at $249,000, the very tippy top of our pre-approval range, that of course we couldn't afford, but we couldn't ignore it's condition and space for the price. (Just to give you an idea for price comparison...a house on our street right now is 1400 sq. ft. and priced at $276,900--3 bed, 2 bath). So we decided to look at it again that night, without the kids and see how we felt about it then. We still liked it. The sellers had relocated to AZ and the house had only been on the market a month. Cari thinks it hadn't sold yet because the backyard butts up to a busy street. Our rental now butts up to a lesser busy street, but there's a high school across the street and that hasn't bothered us.

So even though it was too expensive, we decided we had nothing to lose. Saturday morning, the 27th, we put in our offer. Our agent thought it was a reasonably low offer. Not a low ball, but low enough to give us some room to negotiate up. We were having to work through a relocation company which requires more paperwork than normal and is often slower than other situations. We didn't expect their counter offer til Tues. or Wed. of the next week. Later Saturday night as we were getting ready for bed, my cell phone rang. It was Cari. As I answered I was thinking "shoot, did we forget to sign something" or worse "the sellers totally rejected the offer". I missed the first part of what she said but she eventually announced "They accepted your offer!" Holy Schnikey!!!! In three days we saw a house, put an offer on it and it was accepted with no counter. We were all stunned. Cari insists we have "good vibes" but we know better than that! We feel so blessed. We had the inspection this past Thursday morning and as inspections go (even though this was our first) I think it went well. Nothing major came up to keep us from wanting the house. Our lender doesn't foresee any problems getting approved for a home loan (even with the new restrictions) so we're gearing up for a closing date of November 29th and moving over in December! Our heads are still spinning....

Waiting for Brother

Cooper's birthday was Sunday, Oct. 21st. He got his birthday crown from preschool on Tuesday. Like most days, Cooper can't wait til Jake comes home on the bus. He often asks me as soon as 12:30 if he can go wait for Jake. I try to explain that Jake won't be home til 2:30 and I'll let him know when he can go out. Sometimes I'm met with resistance. Sometimes it's okay. I let him go out a little early on this afternoon. He promised he'd sit by the stop sign. I love the fall colors of the trees on our street in this picture. But more than that, I love that Cooper can't wait to see his brother again.

The Big Five

That's right, Folks. Cooper actually made it to year five. We did have our doubts. Several of them actually. But our lives would be pretty dull without this ball of charisma we call Coop.

The requested theme for the year: a space party. So we invited his friends to come on the "Cooper5 Mission to Space." We prepared for our mission by playing space bingo and making space gorp. Then we watched a real shuttle launch that took us into space. We landed on the moon and searched for moon rocks (in the backyard) with capture capsules (cups) and specimen pinchers (tongs). After we returned to earth we made sure we enjoyed some rocket cake. A successful mission, I think!

The Pumpkin Patch

This was our first trip to a real pumpkin patch as a family (at least that I recall...sad, I know, on both counts) to get our pumpkins for Halloween. It was a beautiful autumn day...not only was it NOT raining, but the sun was shining.
Karcyn had one heck of a time navigating the uneven terrain. But she was happy to roam free. And we were happy to let her roam.

We visited Lake View Farms in North Plains, OR. You have the option to ride the train out to the patch and take the boat back or vice versa. We took the train out and after giving them a choice, the boys opted to take the train back too. So we didn't get to experience the spooky lake on the paddle boat. Perhaps next year. Although, there's always the Roloff Farm (as in the show "Little People, Big World" on TLC) not far from here. And I heard there's a fun patch in Canby, OR. Too many patches, so little autumns!

Chalk Art Contest

Jake decided he wanted to enter his school's chalk art contest held on Oct. 5th. His theme for the night was the "Ladd Acres Astros". It was really cold outside under that covered play area, but he never once complained. Jake loves to draw, but I think he discovered it's one thing to draw with a pencil and quite another to draw with a thick piece of chalk in a space larger than yourself.
The judges gave one award per grade level. The only other second grader Jake recognized was his friend Jake. His friend is not only in his class at school, but in Primary as well. Turns out the other Jake won! I was proud of MY Jake though, even beyond his art. He handled his loss well. Two great lessons were learned to be a good loser and how to lose to your friend....the latter being the hardest, I think!