Real Time

I figured a post about real time moving was fitting. I seriously don't know how people move all the time and how they do it all themselves. Even with us hiring movers it was absolutely exhausting! I feel like I've hit a rut... Everything we NEED is found and out, but it's everything else that needs to find a home.
Most organizational systems come with time, so it's hard to determine how I want to arrange a space. For instance I'm having trouble figuring out how I'm going to get dirty laundry from downstairs to upstairs without throwing it in a heap on the stairs. Not that I would know anything about that.

These pictures are about 7 days post move. I just thought it would be fun after I gave the grand tour to slow down and see how real life happens. Not just before and afters. Because honestly, the majority of time spent in a room is the in-between.

And as tempting as it is to throw everything in the basement, that's just not wise since that space has to double as my sewing space/Josh's space. I'd rather take it slow and go through it all rather than rush and stash.

We'll get there someday...

Christmas Card Out-takes!

This is seriously a decision I just pull my hair out trying to make every year. We didn't have professional family pictures taken this year. I did E's newborn pictures and since this was just such a hectic year and we always have pictures taken in the Fall I was just itching for a change. So we'll most likely do them this Spring, still leaving me empty handed with a Christmas card this year!

I decided to go the Christmas-ey route the second my eyes landed on Luke's pajamas. And I knew Emberly had a pair that would match. Next I had to get the shot. Easier said than done.
Since the time of day wasn't conducive to natural light I had to shoot in manual mode, which proved difficult since I had to bring in the most light possible. More light=more movement blur. Argh!

Either he was moving...
Or she was intrigued by his ears...
Or everyone just went nuts...
Deciding on one was actually pretty easy- choose one where both are looking at the camera and no one is moving. So here is the winner winner chicken dinner:
We mailed them a little late this year since we wanted our new address on them. I had them printed at Sams. As much as I love the cardstock large cards, price won out this year. So glad I don't have to make that decision again until next year!!

Merry and Bright

I wanted to break the red and green tradition this year. I love red and green. And I love how the burnt orange/browns from Fall turn into bright reds for Christmas! But I'm also tired of red and green.

Last year I skipped green all together and just went with a red and white tree. I loved it.
This year things were a little more hectic. I've had the idea of a lime green and navy blue tree so at the end of last season I grabbed a few ornaments to make it happen.
We always have a real tree, but this year we just didn't have time. With closing 12 days before Christmas we had to go with what we had. Josh planned an amazingly romantic dinner the night before we closed and our real estate agent had put up a few decorations (including a tree). Being the classies that we are, we asked if we could borrow it for Christmas. Eventually I want to get a really tall artificial one to go in the foyer and then have the real one back here in the living room, but this year we did the best we could. So with a week to go I decorated that baby!
I didn't use any of our sentimental ornaments. I ALWAYS do, but this year, this just worked. I usually do 2 trees, 1 that's themed and the other sentimental. The theme happened to win out simply because they were in the box that I grabbed. Bonus? Blue is Luke's "faybit"color. And alot of the blue ornaments were from our wedding.
And of course we still had our stockings!

It sure was shining on Christmas Eve!

Oh to view Christmas from a four-year-old perspective. How exciting!

When I feel an overwhelming sense of peace...

I am absolutely overwhelmed. I feel blessed beyond measure.

Last May we weren't sure how the next seven months were going to pan out. It was scary having no idea what our next steps were... yet we had to keep making the next right step.

We sold Josh's truck in June. It was a difficult decision. We were a few thousand dollars from payoff. When you pay over 20k in 3 years, it's hard to let it go and give up when you see the "payoff finish line". We only had 3 more months of payments. We also only had 3 more months of income. We knew it was the right decision and we temporarily became a one car jeep family.

We rented our home. It wasn't easy leaving, but we knew it was the right "next step". And we are beyond grateful that family welcomed us with open arms. It's a pretty amazing feeling to go home (the house I grew up in) when you feel you have no where else to go.

And all during this time we applied for jobs. Vigorously. Never letting up. There were days we didn't see an end in sight. We went weeks without a single phone call. But I can say this wholeheartedly... we never doubted the Lord's plan. We never wandered from what we believed. We knew each step was the next right one. And honestly? That was a great place to be. Only a handful of times did I ever freak out (what about the kid's health insurance? and will we find a job with enough income for me to continue staying home?).

After selling Josh's truck we had enough income to live for over a year- even without tenants in our home. Within 15 days of advertising our house, it was rented. And we felt an overwhelming sense that we had been taken care of... again.

We were sure that as soon as we had the guarantee of a job we would begin looking for somewhere to live, never thinking it would be another home. We visited apartment after apartment and settled on one- and we just waited until we had a job offer letter in hand. But it never felt right. I am literally moved to tears by how thankful I am to be able to raise my children in another house/town house. A safe neighborhood with more space than either of us thought we'd be able to afford. We stepped out on a limb when we applied for a loan. We trusted that if it wasn't what we were supposed to do that the Lord would slam that door shut. I also felt an incredible need to guard my heart. I didn't want to get too excited for fear that everything would come crashing down.

We actually went under contract with 2 houses. The first was in mid September. A day after we put an offer in on the first house we called the agent asking to withdraw our offer because we began to panic. We started questioning. Those first few days after deciding are incredibly overwhelming. Josh still had a test at the prison to pass and the government was beginning its shutdown.

We don't regret the decision to pursue that house. It obviously wasn't where we were supposed to be but it taught us alot- the biggest being patience. Their bank would set a deadline (like 4 hours from the time we were at) to have paperwork in and then we wouldn't hear anything for 2.5 weeks. It was incredibly frustrating; but we don't believe we would be where we are today if it wasn't for that house. We asked the Lord for a sign if this wasn't the direction we were to go, and He sent it. I mentioned before that the bank raised the price twice on us (going with market conditions). Our bank and real estate agent had never seen anything like that and we agreed that it was the Lord urging us to move on. As devastated as it felt walking away (we had put about 1k into the house with inspection, utilities, etc) we knew the steps were necessary . We saw what we wanted in another home and it got the loan process started. The second house (which is the town house we are in) was actually under contract the whole time we were under contract with the first house. The same week we felt everything unraveling with the first house, our town house was re-listed after the contract fell through with the previous buyers. With motivated sellers and us as motivated buyers we were the perfect match.

We snagged it literally the day it re-listed.

There's more to the story but one of the reasons the sellers accepted our offer over other offers is because we were already so established in the loan process. See how our ways aren't always His ways? We wouldn't have been established in the loan process if it weren't for the first house. We wanted to move in quickly so it was a win win. Between the time we walked through (1pm on a Wednesday) and we did a second walk through that night two other agents had shown the house. We knew we needed to work fast so we put in our offer. It was accepted the next day (well they counter offered and we accepted).

I still remember getting the phone call. Actually I missed the call and heard it in a voicemail. It was almost an out of body experience. I've had alot of those this year. From our offer/when we went under contract to closing was 22 days. That's almost unheard of.

I look back to all the pieces that had to come together to make this puzzle happen and I am blown away. We are in a 3 bedroom house that costs us less per month than renting a 2 bedroom apartment (and our payment includes some utilities, and HOA fees). We have almost 600 more square feet than we did in our other home with 2 extra rooms (a complete dining room and a basement room), not to mention and entire extra bathroom. We have a small yard. And a 2 car garage. And a fireplace.

Most importantly we are completely at peace with the decision we've made. And I am beyond thankful to the Lord for providing. You know when you get to that point where "thanks" just feels puny in comparison to how you feel? My heart feels like it's going to burst with absolute thanksgiving.

We were totally committed to continuing to live within our means. It was SO tempting to up the max price just $10,000 more dollars to find "bigger houses". But there was absolutely no peace. It was tempting to up our budget to what the bank said we could afford. But there was no peace there either. Our goal was to spend at or below what we would have for an apartment, so we stuck to it. I wish I could describe how I felt when I scrolled through the website (same as I'd done everyday for a week) and saw this house in our pricepoint. I literally started shaking hoping that it was still available. I just knew it would be perfect.

The home we bought is move in ready. It was built in 2007 but wasn't lived in until 2010 because of the economy. When I think of some of the homes we walked through in our price range and then think of what we bought I am just speechless. Most were foreclosures or short sales. Many didn't have plumbing fixtures because they had been ripped out. Windows were shattered. Stair railings broken in half. Holes in walls. One house didn't have a kitchen because the people ripped it out taking with them the appliances, countertops, and cabinets. It broke my heart to see little boy and little girl rooms where people were forced to leave. Airplane ceiling fans. Pink princess wall decals. To see fenced backyards that I knew people had worked hard to enjoy. And in those moments I just thanked the Lord that we had jobs the past 5 years to weather this economic storm. We had stability when many people didn't. And I'm still not sure what we did to deserve that. And I know we did nothing to deserve that. It was simply grace.

You can tell these walls were loved. It feels lived in, yet new. It smells new. Just another blessing to heap on the pile of blessings. We had the money up front for a down payment, to cover closing costs, and to hire movers. All because we diligently worked to almost pay off the truck (which opened the cash to be able to do all this). We had no idea back in June when we made that difficult choice that it would open up the opportunity for us to buy another house.

And with the absolute whirlwind of the last 6 months I want to keep my original perspective. A house is just a house. It's not the be all end all. And Lord help me never forget what He has brought us through, many times carrying our weary souls. In the 7 months since Emberly was born I can count on one hand the nights she has officially slept all night. Many decisions had to be made during periods of pure exhaustion. Another reason I believe we were completely taken care of.

I feel utterly thankful for everything. On top of all this I have been given to opportunity to work a little from home. It's a way to bring in a small amount of income doing something I absolutely love (writing). It's more than I could have asked for or imagined.

I can't wait for my children to grow up here. But I also want to savor these moments. I want to create memories here and not just live. I want this home to be the place we run to when we need to be together. A place where I will continue to cook. Scripture will coat these door frames. And I want it to be a place where I reflect and remember.

Reflect and remember what the Lord has brought us through. That rainy season that we thought would never end. The desert where we felt like we were wandering. A place where I sit completely grateful to be given the opportunity to call a new house home.

New House Tour!

This has been a long time coming!! We started this hunt back in July (looking at apartments) and here we are in December buying another home! Can't even believe this is real life.
We decided to purchase a townhome. A couple things led us here. All the houses we looked at in our price range needed alot of work. We wanted to be able to carry the mortgage payment without me bringing in income and still be able to make our Toccoa house payment if our renters leave at the end of their contract. We stuck to our guns! Like I mentioned, most of the houses needed alot of work. Work that we would have LOVED to do, but don't really have the liquid cash at this moment. Also I worried that if we put work into them they would end up being "the nicest in the neighborhood" which isn't always good for resale. Even the home we had a contract on would have needed probably 15k in work over time (and it was almost move in ready!). The a/c unit was pushing 15 years, the kitchen needed a gut job, the outside needed paint, and the whole inside needed paint.

This move is temporary; temporary in the sense that we know this won't be our forever home.  We're not in the financial position to find our forever home with everything we would eventually like, so we needed to keep resale at the front of our minds.

In a townhouse we will be sharing walls. BUT as soon as that comes in my mind I quickly remind myself that we were going to live in an apartment for a year... possibly with people on 4 sides (next door, above and below). So 2 sides with walls that we OWN isn't really a big deal. Also all yard work is included in our HOA fees. Which means Josh will have more time to be HOME relaxing, not worrying about the grass and bushes.

Also I had a specific list with criteria of what we wanted in a house. These were possible deal breakers if the house couldn't meet these:

The great part? The townhouse met (and EXCEEDED) our criteria except for a fenced yard. We are getting 2 extra rooms (1 more room than the 4 bedroom house we had a contract on) with an extra bathroom and 500+ more square feet than our Toccoa house (700+ if you count the 2 car garage!!). It's 3 stories 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths with a separate dining room, and a finished basement room that will be used for an office/sewing space/manland!

It was built in 2007 (but wasn't lived in until the end of 2010 because of the recession) and the first owners upgraded all the finishes. The home was kept in immaculate condition and we couldn't be happier with our decision, not the mention the previous owners were some of the sweetest people we have ever met.

Now for the tour! Please excuse the differences in pictures. They were taken on 3 separate occasions with various lighting.

Here's the entry way with a 2 story foyer and a beautiful staircase leading upstairs.

The dining room is right off the front door (to the left when you first walk in). This dining room will become the kid's playroom/possibly my office.

Through the dining room is a butler's pantry space with a pantry (I FINALLY HAVE MY PANTRY!) and then to the kitchen which is my favorite! It's an open concept and opens to the eat in kitchen and living room. There's also a built in desk.

We were dying for a fireplace. This set up is absolutely perfect!

There's also an eat- in kitchen (just beyond the counter where the inspector's things are set up).
Also on the main floor is the half bath:

Here's the basement with a door that leads to the 2 car garage. This room is actually quite large- like 300 square feet (half the square footage of our first house (it was a 650 sq ft. cottage!!!). Like I mentioned earlier it will turn into Josh's man land and my sewing space along with some guest space and storage.

The beautiful staircase upstairs:

 Emberly's room:

Luke's room:

And the kid's shared bathroom:

The laundry is also upstairs. Can we collectively say HALLELUJAH?!
Then you have our master bedroom:
 Along with the closet/bathroom.
Ahhhh to have our own bathroom with a shower/tub is amazing!

I'll be sharing a post soon (find it here) about what's on our to-do list. Although this house is beautifully move in ready it needs some personalizing to make it not look so cookie cutter/builder grade. We're planning to keep some rooms the color it came (it was just professionally painted and the frugal part of me wants to leave it), but many rooms already have very specific plans! Also I'm a huge believer that if I'm not 100% sure of what I want, I'd rather wait for inspiration. So some rooms may stay the same now, but they'll be worked on over the next few years. 

We feel incredibly blessed to be in this space and to raise our family here. Now to settle in, celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year! 

High Five for Friday the 13th!!

Here we go! It's been a good but long week!

1. We closed on our house today. Did I mention WE CLOSED ON OUR HOUSE TODAY?! Yep you can expect a house tour next week! Closing was totally uneventful just the way we all like it. And it was great meeting the previous owners. They were lovely people!

2. I feel like I'm a running frantically in circles. Between all this house stuff, birthday celebrations, and anniversary dinner I am absolutely exhausted! Fortunately Emberly is giving me 13 hours at night to recover. 

3. Speaking of anniversaries, Josh is working a back to back shift Saturday night to Sunday (our anniversary) so we celebrated last night at our new house! He got permission to get in and had dinner all set up. He blindfolded me and drove (the round about way) to the new house. 

4. Luke had his Christmas program at school yesterday and his program at church will be Sunday. He has a speaking part so fingers crossed that goes well! The cutest thing he's said this year? I asked him where Jesus can live? (I was looking for the "in our hearts" answer) and he said "the little Lord Jesus was sleeping in the hay." He really is listening to these Christmas songs! 

5. Moving truck should be in Toccoa Monday to get our stuff! So ready to get settled before Christmas!! 

Yay hey it's a pirate party today!

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that my child is "about to be" 4. Like when did that happen?
We decided to have a pirate party. A dragon party was a close runner up-- but it was going to take a lot of imagination that this momma just didn't have. I gently persuaded him that a Jake Pirate Party was the way to go! Yo ho!
Can I tell you that is an absolute beloved "treasure chest"? It's actually my grandmother's index card holder. She'll be gone ten years next year, and it just seemed fitting to use it for treasure (her handwritten initials and all).

The kids had an absolute blast playing at Catch Air. It was the perfect place to host a party (especially a winter party)!

And Emberly was loved on-- alot.

We also learned that Luke is not a dance party type of guy. He literally melted in to me- with a death grip that wouldn't let go.

Then came the food. Lots of pirate food.

Love catching him when he least expects it- wonder what he was talking about?
and lemme tell you how awkward it was to walk around in sock feet. And to be around a bunch of adults in sock feet. And to take a family picture in...
you guessed it... sock feet. ;)

The kids had a blast and I really think this was the highlight of Luke's life. He kept telling me that it was "the best birthday ever, even though I know it's not my birthday yet but we can pretend it is, k?"His real birthday isn't until next Monday the 16th.
He still wasn't sure about blowing out candles. So we helped did it for him.
It was a perfect way to celebrate an awesome little man!