Our New Van

Our new van

This last Saturday, we picked up our new -to-us-van. Back in 2011, we made the choice to be a one-car family, and have been ever since. Our last 3 homes (2 rental, 1 bought) were less than 5 minutes from our teaching jobs, so it made sharing a car pretty stinking easy.

The only time things got a little tricky was 1.5 years ago when we took our two foster boys-– all of a sudden, there were 6 of us and we only had 5 seats! Fortunately we had really awesome friends pitch in and lend us their second vehicle for the 7 months we had the boys. It did mean we needed to drive two cars whenever we went anywhere as a family, but it was nice not having to buy a second car for the short term!

When we moved to TX, we sold our Rav 4 before leaving CA (our stuff was shipped in a crate to TX and we flew), used a temporary solution car that my gracious brother let us have, then decided to lease our Nissan Leaf around Christmas time. We were still living 5 minutes from Jesse’s job at the time in our awful rental situation, but when we bought our house 15 minutes away, we knew a 2nd car was a necessity on the horizon.

Luckily, I have been teaching online from home for the past year, so a 2nd car was something we were able to take our time about purchasing. Yes, there were days where I went absolutely stir crazy, because having the car for the day meant waking the kids up and driving Jesse in to work at 7am, which meant we were all tired and cranky (my kids and I sleep late!). We only took advantage of this option once or twice a month, as a result, because an outing usually wasn’t worth all of the effort.

Sometime in March, a friend of ours told us about a co-worker who was selling a 1999 van for their disabled friend who was heading into a nursing home. Despite the fact that it was 15 years old, it only had 56k original miles! The woman was the original owner, purchased it in North Texas, lived 10 minutes away, and just ran errands in it for 15 years! Despite a few minor cosmetic issues (a bit of peeling paint/rust on the top, too dark of a tint on the windows), it was in great shape.

And, given how old the year of the vehicle was, the Kelly Blue Book value was super low. We were able to pay in cash, without even using up the majority of what we had saved for a vehicle purchase!

The only catch was that we had to wait nearly 2 months to close the deal because the woman’s Medicaid application was in the works, and nothing was allowed to be bought or sold during that time period. We used the time to purchase the Carfax (just to be sure), test drive it, and wait.

Just this past week, we got word that the vehicle was ready, so we picked her up the day before Mother’s Day! This car really is perfect for our family– we didn’t want to spend too much, as I will only be using it once or twice a week to take the kids to the library or the zoo. I knew that if we spent a lot of money, I would feel super guilty about it just sitting in the driveway, day after day. Now we have the best of both worlds! And we can now pick up the boys’ friends, when necessary, without being maxed out for seats.

The major downside to all of this is the precedent that it set for Jesse 🙂 On my birthday, we ended our option period on our TX house, effectively sealing the deal. For Mother’s Day, we bought me a car. I keep joking that the pressure is now on for our 9 year anniversary! 😉

Dallas Snow Days!

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I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun it is to get snow a few times a year. Living in CA for 3 years, we certainly missed having any sort of weather, even rain! Now, we get rain at least a few times a month, and just got 4 inches of snow in the last week!

It’s rare to be getting Dallas snow days, much less this late into the winter season, but we definitely tried to make the most of it. As I mentioned, Jesse not only had 2.5 days off from work (great timing so that we could unpack!), but we also got enough of it on Friday afternoon that Gregory was able to play in it!

Here are a few pictures of us having a ball out in our new front yard!

Snow in front of the house

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Gregory with his snowman Dallas with snowSnow on Victorian House

 

And if you want to know what happens when two little boys get cooped up for a few days….

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Hell Week

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You guys, this past week has been just shy of hellish. Every day there’s been a new problem, crisis or issue to solve, and it’s just left me feeling drained and unable to write. No one wants to live like this, so why would I want anybody to read about it?

But I’ll give you the short version just so you know I’m not making this up. The last I wrote, we had not had heat in our townhouse for many days and our landlord kept sending the same unqualified general repair man to fix it. By Friday, we still didn’t have heat, and we had just made it through one of the coldest weeks of the winter (our highs were in the low 40s, on average). It was so cold in our apartment that I could see my breath and had to keep the kids bundled in jackets and mittens at all times.

After the same clueless repairman showed up 5 hours late for our appointment to repair the d$%* thing on Friday, the weather turned warmer and we didn’t use the heat again. All was well, we thought. The weather got cold enough Monday night that the thing kicked on sometime after we fell asleep. At 4am, we were awoken by black smoke filling the house and the smoke detectors all going off. Bewildered and dazed, we shut off the heat, fanned the smoke detectors, and got the alarms to stop. Not knowing what else to do, we went back to sleep (although I was so sick with worry that I barely slept at all).

Tuesday, I started calling around trying to make sense of what had happened. I called the fire department, our HOA, a heat service/repair company, and finally, a lawyer. You see, we can’t get anything fixed without the landlord’s permission, and yet none of the people I talked to had any jurisdiction over the townhouse. Our property management never returned any of my calls or emails (to this day, no one has called to check or respond to any of my communication, including my certified letter), just sent the same person to try and fix it again. My husband stepped in, however, and said that we would not let this man touch it again, since the fire department forbade us to turn it on without a qualified heating specialist there to oversee (plus the guy CAUSED the problem and had already tried four times to fix it!). We used words like, “in case of a LAWSUIT”, the block burning down (all of our attics are connected), so we got him to back off. A qualified professional did come to look at it in the evening (we were the ones to make the appointment AND pay for it, our landlord could care less), did a few things that were in our rights to fix, and declared it safe.

And then, this morning, I got an extremely angry call from our tenant in CA. One of the fungicide products we applied to the CA house (in order for Section 1  pest items to be cleared for our escrow) was filling the house with such a strong and pungent petroleum odor that our tenants can no longer stay there. Our tenant was so furious she spent a full 10 minutes chewing me out, right before I was supposed to go online and teach my class. I made calls to the termite company, our contractor, and even to the company that makes the fungicide product. All three said that because the product was applied outside, it should be safe, but our tenant insisted that the smell was unlivable and making her child ill. We think that because the heater sucks air out from under the house, it was sucking the petroleum fumes right into the living areas.

Having just gone through a tenant/landlord issue where I felt that the safety of my children was compromised, I actually understand completely. After I spent hundreds of dollars booking a vacation rental for them (they have 2 kids and a dog, so hotels are hard), my tenant arrived and found it filthy and “lived in”, with the second bedroom full of needles and sewing machines (not shown in the pictures)!! We already got a refund, but we had to find somewhere for our tenants to stay at the very last minute. Luckily, my best friend’s parents own a gorgeous mansion of a house there that they already use as a rental property, and so they graciously gave it to our tenants for one night to give us time to find a better solution.

The option period on our CA house is supposed to end tomorrow, and I don’t even want to know the list of demands this buyer is going to bring to the table, but it probably involves lots of $ signs.

And we are so weary. So tired of dealing with this mess. I mean, I would almost pay anything to be done with this situation right now so that we can move out of our scary rental situation and stop simultaneously being a landlord.

So, see what I mean? A pretty hellish week.

I’ve spent my days hovered around my phone, solving crisis after crisis while my kids’ behavior becomes out of control since they aren’t getting enough attention. I spent most of Tuesday in tears, mostly because the fire department chewed me out for not calling 911, telling me what a dangerous situation we had been in. I guess at the time, we didn’t think it was that bad because we got the smoke alarms to go off. Looking back though, I can only shudder to think about what would’ve happened if the kids’ bedroom door was closed and the smoke had just stayed in there. On the phone, I suddenly felt like a horrible mother for not being proactive enough, yet I’m also trying to be smart and reasonable with our finances, you know?

On top of it all, of my autoimmune issues have kicked into high gear, and I can no longer sleep because my stomach is churning and in knots. I am nauseous all the time and can hardly keep food down. My whole body hurts and aches, very similar to fibromyalgia, which it turns out, is how my body now responds to severe stress. I washed my hands the other day, and my skin was so sensitive the water felt like knives. I don’t know how people with diagnosed fibromyalgia live like this every day! At least I know that my symptoms will mostly go away once the stress does. But to live like this forever? My hat is off to anyone with this disease, let me tell you.

I debated whether or not to write anything about all of our troubles, but then I realized– how many other people are going through a pretty terrible week too? I don’t want to be fake. I don’t want people to enviously think our life is sunshine and roses all the time . We all have tough weeks, and we make it through, somehow. I want to record this situation as a testimony to that fact.

Feel free to pray for us as the week draws to a close. We will know soon whether our CA buyer will continue, and whether or not we can finally move out of our TX rental. OR, we might be putting our CA house back on the market, in which case, we need prayer that another buyer comes along right away, especially now that we’ve done a billion repairs and spent all of our savings.

Thanks for listening, as always 🙂

Travel Worn and Weary

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Our family is known for having some pretty spectacularly bad traveling times, especially when it comes to planes going to and fro from TX to CA.

There was once a time when Jesse and I had to spend the entire New Year’s Eve night in the freezing cold Denver airport with our 2 month old Gregory, with nothing to keep us warm but a few jackets that we had in our carry ons. And then, to top it off, the airline lost our bags for over a week!

Another time,  Jesse had to spend 2 hours with Gregory in the airplane lavatory because he screamed the entire trip.

Yet another time, one in which I was traveling with 5 month old Gregory by myself, he screamed so much that when he finally grew exhausted and fell asleep, the entire plane applauded. And then he had a diaper explosion during landing (during which no one applauded, naturally).

I’m not going to pretend that this one was the worst or anything, but it was less than ideal. We were supposed to leave yesterday at 5pm. Because Jesse had an after-school meeting to attend, he had to take us a bit earlier than we would’ve preferred, but I figured it was better to be really early than cutting it super close. We were at the gate waiting for our flight by 3:15. Just an hour and a half to keep the kiddos occupied? No problem. I had snacks, mac and cheese dinner in a Tupperware, and a DVD player armed with lots of movies they’d never seen, along with a handful of toys. What could go wrong?

Instead of leaving at 5, our flight left at 6:45, after delaying it a few times, boarding everyone, then getting everyone back off the plane because the a/c no longer worked. They then switched our gate to one that was across the airport and said it was leaving in 20 minutes. Naturally, I sprinted (I didn’t want to miss the flight I’d waited hours for!) with two unwilling kids… only to wait at the gate ANOTHER HOUR! I had wrangled the kids alone by myself in an airport for 3.5 hours before we’d even gotten on the 4 hour plane ride! Everyone on our plane was more than a little disgruntled by the time we actually made it on, and the stewardess’ jokes about not serving us the good food they had on the last flight didn’t help things.

So, instead of arriving at LAX at 7:45 PST (9:45 OUR time), we arrived at 9:15 PST. The plane ride was actually the easiest part of the trip, because the boys were more than happy to snuggle up with me and watch movies. I had lollipops for take off and descent (we had a brief stop in San Antonio), which helped with their ears. There was only a 10 minute period where Gregory cried because “the bubbles were in his ears!”, but I was even able to talk him down from that.

Upon arrival, we had already made plans to meet our newlywed Uncle David and Aunt Emily for burgers around the corner, and we were hungry, so we went ahead, despite the fact that it was almost midnight in our TX minds.

All was well, until Gregory started gagging. I took him to the bathroom, but he didn’t want to stay there. On our way back to the table, he puked all over the restaurant aisle and floor. After we cleaned him up (all of the super nice servers assured us this was not the first time this had happened), he passed out asleep on the booth.

And then began the four hour drive home, which went from around midnight-4am Texas time. I drove the last leg of the journey, through fog that was so thick you couldn’t see more than 20-30 feet ahead of the car. The dangerous fog element actually helped keep me alert and awake, surprisingly, so it helped in a way. Boy was I exhausted. Wrangling two kids across the airport, a long plane ride, a dinner, and then a 4 hour drive home made for 15 straight hours of travel while on high alert.

But we are here safe and sound, and I am thankful. Gregory woke up happy as a clam, no sickness in sight, and has been eating normally and using Grandma’s potty like a champ. We are just a little tired, but not too worse for the wear!

Here are a few ADORABLE pictures of my not-so-little baby Gregory (who is about to turn 4 in a few weeks…still in shock).

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