Friday, September 28, 2012

My trusty Madeline

Fall is my favorite time of year.  There, now you know a little more about me.  Because, you know, it's been said that I don't talk enough about myself.  Wait.  That's never been said about me.  Well, now you know a bit more about me anyway - fall is my favorite time of year.  

What else might you not know about me?  I have a friend named Madeline.  I don't believe many of you have ever met her but she and I go way back.  Back to before I ever had children, in fact.  Back when I was working at the theatre.   

At first I was friends with her cousin, Frances.  Frances was from the farm and always wore her red and white checked blouse with denim blue overalls.  

Frances was a great friend to me while I was at work - until she toppled backwards off my desk one day.  She was completely shattered.  There was no hope for her so she was hauled away.  A couple of weeks later my boss introduced me to Madeline and she's been with me ever since. 

Would you like to meet her?  I just so happened to snap a picture of her this morning.....

Yes, you're right, she is a bit more girly than her cousin.  Frances was ready for working in the dirt.  Madeline can appreciate the flowers in the garden but wouldn't dare go digging around in there! 

What's that?  You'd like to see the back of her dress?  She's more than willing to turn around to show you.....

She apologizes for her large shadow cast on the kitchen counter and wall. 

I'll show you where she keeps her name tag (she hopes you don't think she's a hussy because she's showing you her underside!)

We don't hang out so much in the summer months but she's always there for me when the air turns cooler and I need a warm drink. 

I hope you have a good friend like my trusty Madeline. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Uh, are you cold?

You may have noticed the temperatures dropping recently.  I think Alex has been waiting for the cooler weather.  As soon as he felt a small chill in the air he dressed appropriately.

I also took the opportunity to sort through Aren's dresser and do some reorganizing.  Getting rid of the too small clothes and whittling down his summer stash while beefing up his fall stash.  I even tested this out:
It is something I crocheted for him to wear last winter.  It actually still fits.... but is quite snug to put on so I'll just put it away.

While we're here I"ll just share a couple of other pictures taken even though they have nothing to do with being cold.

Aren interrupted Ajay's Wii time to give him some raspberries.
Alex was was working on his balancing skills.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Getting things lined up (House Story, part 5)

As mentioned in my previous post we went with a house that was bank owned.  That meant it was foreclosed on another family and we feel badly for that family to have lost such a great home.  It is obvious that the home was well taken care of and loved. 

The paint scheme is just as we would have wanted - enough color to have personality but not so much so as to be annoying.  Unfortunately, there are no paint cans in the garage so we don't know what colors to buy for the many touch ups we need to do!  There are vinyl phrases on the wall that we plan on keeping and the rooms pretty much tell us where everyone belongs.  It almost seems as if this house was waiting for us.

During the whole house hunting process, when we were feeling frustrated that we couldn't find what we wanted, I kept telling myself and Biju that God would lead us to where we needed to be when it was time.  The house had only been listed for 2 weeks when we found it so I really do think that God got his timing right.   (It always is, though, isn't it, whether we like it or not.)

But, as with most things in life, just because we'd finally found the right house that didn't mean the path to ownership would be easy.  Right? 

Our agent put our bid in for the house via the internet and we had 24 hours to put the bid in on paper.  We met with our agent at the house and signed what we needed to sign so it could be overnighted to HUD.  We took the opportunity to show the boys around their new home.  (We told them they'd be able to spot their bedroom pretty easily and Ajay shouted "I found it!" right off the bat.)

The perfect phrase on the wall and TWO closets - one for Ajay, one for Alex.  I've loved this "boy" definition since my friend, Angie, put it on her walls for two of her boys.  In fact, I think it's a little gift to us to help remember those friends who have recently moved to a new town.
 The next day we learned that the paperwork would need to be re-submitted because of this or that (all the Ts need to be crossed and all the Is need to be dotted with government transactions) so we met with our agent again.  This time it so happened that my parents were driving through town on their vacation so we were able to show them around. 

We set up an inspection but it had to be postponed because HUD was definite about following protocol and we needed to submit a written request to have the utilities turned on.   So did what we needed to do and set up another inspection date for the following week.  That got postponed, too.  Are you kidding me?? 

A whole mess followed suit but once it all got straightened out, we had another inspection date set up.  We scheduled all the other fun stuff that needs to be done prior to closing (termite inspection, bank apprasial, yadda yadda yadda) and FINALLY we found out that the house was in really good condition.  Our inspector was really impressed with the home and, aside from an issue with the air conditioner, we feel confident making this purchase.

Which is why we feel good about announcing to you all that we're buying the home.  Since this is an "as is" purchase we had the ability to back out of our contract without penalties if there was something horribly wrong with the house that we didn't want to fix.  We're not happy about the air conditioner problem but it isn't going to keep us from buying. 

We are so so sooo excited to move into our new home.  Little things around our current house make me stop and realize "Ooh, that will be different in the new house!"  We've done a little shopping to complete the new rooms and Biju and I have had dozens of conversations after the boys go to bed about how we're going to set up each room. 

There are a few things that put a small damper on our excitement, though.  First, Ajay will have to leave his friends at this school (but we do know a family who attends that school so hopefully that will help).   Alex won't even be able to attend school there to begin with.  We're on the waiting list so we're hoping another pre-k student moves so Alex can take their spot.  And we have to PACK!!!  ugghhhhhh.  I feel a headache coming on just thinking about it. 

But hey - I can't wait to host Bunco once we're all settled!!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

So which one? (House Story, part 4)

Last post I mentioned that we had set up an appointment with our real estate agents to view two houses - a house that had recently been flipped and a house that was bank owned.   We usually see either one agent or the other (a married couple) but this day we were shown around by both!  It was nice having both of them there as we were able to pair off.  I walked around with S. and we talked about some structural stuff but mostly about how one could set up the house.  Ladylike stuff.  Biju walked around with G. and they talked mostly about structural stuff and durability and what not. Manly stuff.

The first house we saw was the flipped house.  It was on a nice quiet cul-de-sac and it was actually just a block down from the house that we had put an offer on earlier in the summer.  It was very spacious inside with all new kitchen appliances and 5 bedrooms.  And it sat on a half-acre lot!  Unfortunately, it seemed as though the flippers had rushed through everything.  We spent probably 45 minutes or more looking around, though, and you don't spend that kind of time at a house unless you're fairly interested.

The second house was also on a nice quiet cul-de-sac and was very close to a school (a school that is ranked pretty high according to!).  There were only 4 bedrooms and the total square footage was less than what we were really wanting but the house was spread out on 4 levels and it seemed pretty spacious plus had a lot of character.  Most bank-owned homes are torn apart.  When people find out they're losing their home they tend to destroy it.  Or at least that's what we've heard and that is what my younger brother experienced when he bought a bank owned home a few years back.  This house looked very well cared for and loved.  There were just some scuff marks on the walls from where things were hung and a couple of ceiling fans/light fixtures missing.

So which one did we choose? 

We went for the second house - the bank owned home.  In fact, we knew before we even left that day that we wanted it.  You hear people say "you just know" and yes, indeed, we both "knew."  No dragging our feet here.  We told our agents as we were standing in the garage that we wanted to put an offer in.  He told us that he didn't want to curb our enthusiasm but he had to do some checking to be sure that the house was still available.  (Yikes, you mean it might already be taken?  At that price, for that house, I wouldn't have been surprised.)

Our agent called us back a couple of hours later and told us it was still available but that it was going to be open to investors (flippers) at midnight that night.   Well, the timing was right, wasn't it?  If we had chosen to see the house in the afternoon instead of that morning we very well could've lost the house to investors again.  So, we had our agent put the bid in and we found out the next day that it was ours! 

My parents drove through town on their vacation and we showed them the house.  Here is my dad with Aren and a couple of neighborhood pets.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Second Thoughts (House Story, part 3)

Last post I mentioned we had taken our house off the market and we hadn't found the right house to move into.  So it seemed as though God's plan was for us to stay put.  After all, every time I had prayed about doing the right thing in regards to our housing I would hear "Be patient"  and "Just wait."  At one point, when I was particularly frustrated, I heard "I have something in mind for you."  Was I just telling myself that or was I hearing God's whisper of comfort to help get me through the doubt? 

[I should mention here that we actually did find a house mid-summer that we liked and it was in the right area.  For whatever reason, though, we couldn't commit.  The price, even though it was within the right range, didn't match up to what we thought the house was worth.  By the time we stopped dragging our feet (after a month!) and decided to put in an offer another couple came in at the same time and put in a higher offer.  We weren't too upset about losing it, though, which just goes to show that the house really wasn't supposed to be ours.]

In August I got the boys enrolled and we kept up our daily routine that had been established in this house, with this school.  Every once in awhile Biju would point out a house he'd seen online.  I wasn't actively looking for houses anymore but Biju liked to keep on top of the housing market.  He liked to see what had sold (particularly the houses we had gone to see) and what type of houses were being listed.  Somehow, though, we found ourselves doing more than just glancing at houses.  We started looking again. 

 At separate computer sessions Biju and I both noticed a house that we had seen before - it was no longer a bank owned home but it was at one point and it sold before we had a chance to snatch it up.  It was now flipped and selling for quite a lot more than the flippers paid for it, for sure!  At first we were perturbed and didn't want to even look at the house.  However, we told ourselves that it was still within our price range and it was where we wanted and it had close to everything we wanted.  Besides, it was possible that we'd been looking at flipped houses without knowing it, the only reason we were being stubborn about this house was because we knew what the original asking price was.  . 

Around the time we found the aforementioned house I decided to look at the list of bank owned houses.  I found a house that, at first, I thought was in an area that we weren't really thrilled with but the price was definitely right and it had a lot of what was on our list.  I e-mailed the address to Biju at work and he drove by after work.  That evening, we decided to e-mail our real estate agent and ask her to set up a viewing for both houses - the flipped house, and the bank owned house - the next morning.  We normally looked at houses after work but with Ajay and Alex being at school we would only have to keep an eye on Aren as we looked around. 

Timing is everything! 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Not much success to start off with (House Story, part 2)

One evening last spring,while walking around the track at the gym, Biju and I came across the topic of selling our house.  We thought we might be ready to sell in a year or two.  Or maybe three.  But the more we talked the more the timeline shrunk.  Then we got a wild thought.  Why not list the house just to see if there would be an interest in the house.  Just to see.   After all, it's all in God's hands.  If it is meant to be it will be. 

We listed our house in May with the thought that we would test the real estate waters.  If the house hadn't sold by the time school started up again we would take it off the market and just wait until next Spring to try again.  

Over the summer Biju and I found ourselves in front of the computer many a night looking through the houses listed online.  At first it was a lot of fun.  We were keeping just about any area in town in mind and we were just looking for the right house at the right price.  We were also willing to look at some of the little towns around us.  Over time, though, we came to realize that if we were moving we really did need to move closer to Biju's place of work instead of further away, so we narrowed down the location.  And the further we narrowed our search down and the more we realized what we wanted and what we didn't want the more frustrating our house hunting became.

We wanted a 5 bedroom floor plan so each of the boys could have their own room as everyone got older and we'd still have a guest room.  We wanted at least 2 bathrooms.  We currently have one bathroom and it is very small.  Brushing teeth each morning almost always results in squabbles and sometimes toothpaste spit onto someone else.  Gross.   And we wanted space.  Not just more space inside the house (bigger kitchen!) but space outside, too.  We currently have a very sizable backyard which allows the boys plenty of room to, well, be boys. Oh, and trees.  We wanted trees that were fairly mature.  Not to mention the small list of things we wanted that would sure be nice to have but would not be deal breakers as long as the house had the more important stuff. 

Okay, so it turns out we were pretty sure about what we wanted.  And we were pretty sure about the price we wanted but we found ourselves looking in higher price ranges because that seemed to be where we were finding most of what was on our list. 

We would call up our real estate agents and line up one, two or three houses to see at a time.  Each time we just felt that it wasn't right.  We just weren't finding "the right house."

August came along and our house hadn't sold so we decided we were pretty darn comfortable where we were, anyway.  It really is a nice house and we've spent the last 6+ years fixing it up to be just the way we wanted it.  So, yeah, we were fine with waiting until next spring to try again. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Please stay tuned for an important announcement

(I called my sister a couple of weeks ago and when my brother-in-law answered I said, in my most professional tone, "Please stay tuned for an important announcement"  and he hung up on me.  Go figure.)

So.  Ready for the big announcement?

We're moving!  

It's not a huge "change your whole life around" move, just an "a little closer to Biju's work and a bigger house" move.

We are soooo excited! 

To be continued.......

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Recipe Wednesday - Black Bean Chili

I found a chili recipe online and made a few adjustments, mainly because I wanted to use what I already had on hand.  This turned out delish and I will surely make again. Just like this. 

1 T. of oil, or so
1 onion, chopped
2-3 T. chili powder (the powder for chili, not the dried chilis crushed into a powder)
1-2 T. cumin
A few cranks of black pepper
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes (or 2-3 med/large sized tomatoes, chopped - keep and use the juices that run off!)
1 14.5 oz. can of chicken broth (use veggie broth to make this vegetarian/vegan)
2 15.25 oz. cans of black beans, rinsed, drained
1 can of sweet kernel corn (don't know the size, I don't have any more in my cupboard right now)
1 tsp. of salt, or so 

In a large sauce pan heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add in your onions and cook until tender.  Shake in the chili powder, cumin and pepper.  Let the spices cook for about a minute then add in the tomatoes, broth, beans and corn.  Season to taste with salt.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or so.

So tasty.  Easy to make up quickly when you've forgotten to plan dinner and you need to rummage through your cupboards to throw something together. 

I topped mine with a dollop of yogurt.  I even threw on some Bugles that we had on hand for some added crunch.  (They get soggy quickly, so don't throw a bunch in at once.)  You could probably get the same flavor/crunch by using Frito's. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Chillin' out and relaxin'

Playing with Daddy's phone - a favorite around our house.

Watching TV ... with feet up on the entertainment center. 

Mommy and Alex playing a game of I Spy Bingo

Tasting Ajay's shoe.

We had some company on Thursday - here is Lisa playing with the boys.

Ajay and Alex reading together - makes a Mama's heart happy.  Aren playing alongside.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Recipe Wednesday - Diaper Wipe Solution

Do you find yourself going through boxes and boxes of store-bought baby wipes? 

Have you found you need to use three, four or five wipes at a time to get the job done? 

7 years ago, when Ajay was tiny, I was lucky enough to find a way to make my own wipe solution.  You can either use some cheap store-bought baby wash cloths or do what I did - made my own cloth wipes.  I'm not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination but I was able to sew enough to make my own squares.  They may not look all that pretty but - who really cares??   You know what they're going to be doing and I can assure you, having straight lines or hidden hems is not important.  (More on the wipes later.)

Diaper Wipe Solution
*Extra Virgin Olive Oil
*Baby Body Wash (or some other liquid soap) - just find something you know baby isn't allergic to.  I would also suggest finding a soap you feel GOOD about putting on your baby.  I don't want to bash here but there are some things in that commercial, name brand baby wash that should not really be on Baby!
*A squirt or spray bottle - I use the peri bottle I got from the hospital (I've gotten one at each birth)

Fill your bottle almost to the top.  Add in a bit of the EVOO (maybe 1/2 Tbs.) and some of the body wash (1/2 - 1 Tbs)....these measurements are guesses because I never measure.  I just give a squirt of each into the bottle.  If I find I used too much oil last time, I'll tame it down some next time.  Shake it all up.  

Now you can grab a wash cloth/wipe and give it a good squirt of solution whenever you need.  These are wonderful because you just wash them with your laundry so you save money by not constantly buying (and throwing away) more wipes.  (If you don't have cloth diaper laundry to wash these wipes with, you could put them in with your whites and wash them on hot.)  These also do a MUCH better job at cleaning stuff up.  Most of the time I only need one wipe.  Only rarely do I need to grab a second wipe. 

As for wipes, I've read about a couple of different ways to make them.  You could cut receiving blankets into squares if you've got some of those hanging around needing something to do.   What I do is find a coupon (I like the 40% off kind) to a craft store and go buy myself some fabric.  I use cotton flannel for one side and terrycloth for the other side.  I sew them together, leaving a space big enough to flip it inside out, then finish sewing it closed.  I've also experimented with just doing a zig-zag stitch around the whole thing so I don't have to worry about flipping it inside out.  (I think my wipes are somewhere between 4 and 6 inches... just whatever you think is best for you and your needs.) 

We do a combination of cloth diapers and disposable diapers but 98% of the time, we use cloth wipes.

Happy Wiping!!

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Aren had his 15 month check up a few days ago.  He was 19 pounds even and almost 28 inches tall.  The doctor reminded me he was around 15 pounds at his 12 month check up, so that means he's gained almost 4lbs in 3 months.  We are so happy!  Of course, he's walking everywhere now, which means his weight gain will slow down, but that is the case with most children this age. 

Taken while waiting for the pediatrician.

He's got 5 teeth - 3 on the bottom and 2 on the top.
His favorite word is "uh-oh" but he also loves to say "Bah!" - bye - and wave and sign for "shoes" so he can go outside.  He also gives us what we call "the money sign" - which is actually the sign for "milk" - it looks kind of like the hand movement you make when you say something like "that's a lotta moo-lah!" 
He still loves to cuddle, he gives his rabbit buddy, Bunny Brickle, lovins before every nap/bedtime, loves to whop his brothers on their heads if they're laying on the floor, and has a new-found obsession with playing with all of our storage containers.