Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Review

This year started out with us being more focused on getting ready for Baby B2. New Years weekend was Potty Training weekend for William and we put the cloth diapers away for good. He was ready and the transition went really well! We haven't tackled nap or night time yet, so we still have disposables for that. Maybe that will be a goal for 2017. He transitioned to his big-boy bed in February and did really great with that too! He was a big boy and ready to be a Big Brother! He grew 4 inches and gained 8 pounds this year . . . slowing down finally!

We spent nearly every weekend this year looking at houses and condos, only taking a small break when baby arrived. But we continue to wait for the right home. We made a lot of changes to our apartment to accommodate another family member. There will be many more to make as he is on the verge of crawling. Maybe 2017 will be the "Year of the Move!"

In April, Chris went to Europe to visit friends (I had after all, gone to Australia six months prior). His mom came to help me out. He traveled to The Netherlands, Belgium, and London.

In May, my friends threw me a Baby "Sprinkle" (instead of a shower). It was so fun to get together with a group of women I rarely get to see. I felt so blessed! Little did I know, Baby B2 would arrive just eleven days later!

Stephen Christopher joined our family on Wednesday, May 18 at 10:23 p.m. This was by far the most exciting day of 2016 for our family. After that, the challenges started. We dealt with all sorts of weight-gaining issues and ended up needing to use a dairy/soy free formula while I went on the same type of diet and nursed as much I could. Now, at age 7 months, he prefers to drink a bottle so I pump several times a day. Thankfully, weight is no longer an issue. He has gained a little over 10 pounds and grew around 8 inches! We haven't attempted to get him to sleep through the night just yet as it is one of the few chances I have to get him to nurse successfully. My goals for 2017? Sleep!

We had several people come and visit after Stephen's birth and I'm so grateful for each and every one of them! Chris's mom came right away and stayed for two weeks, his sister came in late June and helped us out for a week. Chris's older sister brought her family for a weekend visit over July 4th and my college roommate stayed for a long weekend in mid-July. My mom wasn't able to come out until September as she had surgery in April and wasn't cleared for travel when Stephen was born. I'm so glad she healed well and is doing just fine now!

The second most exciting event of 2016 was my brother's wedding! We traveled to Minot, North Dakota at the end of July for his outdoor wedding, everything was beautiful and everyone had a great time. Chris was a groomsmen and William was the ring bearer. Afterward we spent a few days in Bismarck with my sisters and parents. I didn't end up making it "home" this year.

I returned to work in September, working part-time (20 hours) from home. We enrolled William in preschool; half-days everyday. He loves it. I love having a little more time to get my work done and focus some attention on Stephen. Transitioning back to work was really hard. I found myself struggling to find a routine that worked and was completely exhausted most of the fall. I know it was this hard (or harder) when I went back to work after William was born as I was trying to work 30 hours then. I think I was a little shocked at how hard it still was. I am not superwoman. I know this now.

We celebrated William's third birthday in October with a little party after his swimming lessons and a morning near Santa Cruz riding Thomas the Train. Chris and I enjoyed the actual train ride more than he did!

The fall was filled with activity. We enjoyed trick-or-treating and the pumpkin patch with great friends. Thanksgiving was a wonderful day with great food and friends. The season providing the prompting for me to remember how blessed I am.

We spent Christmas in Texas visiting Chris's family. We had a lot of fun together and even got to go on a date!

They say the days go slowly when you have a newborn but the year goes fast and that is true again. 2016 was filled with good moments and I have great memories of family, friends, and even some fun. But it was challenging to say the least. I'm looking forward to 2017 and the changes that are coming -- I'm hoping for many!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Christmas was at least two days ago so I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and were able to spend the special day with someone special -- or remember someone special if they are no longer with you.

We celebrated a true Texas Christmas with 75 degree weather and a perfectly cooked prime rib. We had arrived in San Antonio on Thursday afternoon and spent a couple of nights at Chris's parents home before going to Chris's brother's home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They also have two boys the same age as ours so it was fun to let them have a couple of days to play together.

On Saturday, we headed to church with the whole family for Christmas Eve service. The church was beautiful as were our nieces in the choir. William did amazingly well sitting through the service and loved the music. He was even a little cuddly! Stephen on the other hand should have fallen asleep in the car but didn't . . . and then was quite a squirmy handful the whole evening. After the service we headed back to Brad's home where Christmas Eve dinner (tamales) was serviced and presents were opened.

So many presents! William opened a back-hoe first and showed little interest in anything else for the rest of the evening. I had to force him to open his other gifts, which I probably should have just kept wrapped until the following day. Stephen was finally sleeping so I got to open his as well as my own. Baby presents are so fun! (Mine were more practical, but much needed!)

Christmas morning was nice and quiet. The boys played, I slept in (after feeding Stephen three times during the night). Family came over again in the afternoon for dinner. I've been really tired lately and have a terrible time taking naps. It had caught up with me a bit that day and I was having a hard time staying engaged. Hopefully the rest of this week will be restful and I'll feel more like myself!

I don't have many reflections of Christmas to share with you this year. Between the nightly feedings, lack of sleep, and fierce mom-brain, I'm just trying to stay focused on Jesus and all he did for me. My imperfect self needs his constant grace and cleansing. I'm so very thankful God took care of my salvation through his Son and didn't require anything of me, for I know I would have failed. His birth (and death) is the most wonderful gift ever given.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Baby B2: Seven Months Old

Stephen is a funny little guy. He really doesn't like being on his tummy at all so to get around he lays on his back and pushes with his feet. Inch by inch, he ends up all over the place, often going in circles. He loves reaching for his toys and is showing more interest in pushing buttons, pulling on strings and making noise. He is quite content to lay on his side holding a toy or looking around. Crawling seems very far away!

He can sit with some help, not really interested in doing it by himself yet. Food is a good motivator though! He sits quite well when we borrow William's booster chair/high chair. (Can you tell William isn't up for sharing yet? It is still very much his chair.)

He has become quite a babbler and bubble blower in the past few weeks. He also has new sounds to share with everyone! Stephen loves being around people and will often greet everyone with a smile and a coo. 

I feel like we took a break from developmental stuff and focused hard on health. At least I did! In the past two weeks Stephen has had surgery and a lip tie clipped. This involved so many appointments, special instructions, special care and more cuddles. More tears, more wake-ups, and a lot less sleep. Now that it is all said and done, he is doing great! I am exhausted.

We had started to work on sleep training around Thanksgiving and it was going well but now after the past two weeks, we are basically starting over. And we'll start over again next month after our Christmas traveling. Our goals are to have this little guy fall asleep on his own with only two feedings at night. Hopefully in January we can aim a little higher!

Stephen is still loving his pureed foods, not quite ready for chunky stuff yet (trust me, I accidentally tried it!) He loves everything -- pumpkin, green beans, banana, broccoli, avocado. This month we've also added oatmeal to the mix. I had thought I'd wait a little longer for grains but his pediatrician was adamant we start now. Starting solids is such a funny topic; every book recommends different ages for nearly every food. I've decided to use my best judgment . . . and don't judge.

We're looking forward to flying to Texas later this week -- especially since he loves to bounce in our arms and refuses to sit still! He really isn't into looking at books yet like William was at this age. I'm really hoping he takes at least one good nap on the plane.

It's Stephen's first Christmas we are reminded once again of the humble state in which our Lord and Savior came to us! A baby born in a manger with an audience of animals and shepherds was to be the one to take away our sins and reign over all the earth! How strange it all seems as I look at this little guy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Why We Stay

It's really difficult for me to explain the reasons why we want to stay in San Francisco. It's complicated and it feels like there are layers and things unseen (and unknown). Let me try!

We have lived here for over 6 years and it has become home for us. What once seemed scary and uncomfortable has become familiar and enjoyable (biking, public transportation, busy city life, etc). We have a really wonderful community that has gone through so many seasons together and provide love, support, encouragement to us - like family. So when we think of moving, we think of leaving them and that's just too hard to ponder.

But there is more to it than that. Its a strange and new season for us spiritually. When we first moved here we were very mission-minded. We've desired to do ministry here but felt stuck and uncertain for so long and finally, just this year have felt like we're ready for it. We still don't know what this looks like but we've both felt like something is stirring. Finally! I think for me it's a fresh involvement with my church through MOPS. For Chris, it might mean volunteering with youth somehow. Like I said, it's all uncertain. But our church just found a new pastor and with that comes excitement for steps of faith, growth and changes.

Then there is the logistical arguments. When we first moved here, our friends claimed that living on the western side of the city felt like a whole different city all together. No one visited you out there and it took such a long time to get from one side of the city to the other and required a lot of effort to stay connected. We laughed because we came from places that were super spread out and SF is just 7 miles wide. But it is true. If you leave your little pocket-community, it changes life and effects relationships. And even more so when you consider moving outside the city and staying within the Bay Area. People don't make time to cross bridges for play dates or hanging out! Life goes by too quickly and soon you are distant friends living 10 miles apart. When we consider moving we've often said "If we're going to leave the city we may as well leave the state. It would be starting over either way."

There is also a potential increase in commute times if we moved elsewhere. Chris already drives 45 minutes to work each morning. If we move east or south it would be even longer. And moving north means smaller towns, when we really love the urban city.

And then the financial points. My least favorite. Bay Area housing is expensive. I was told this even before I moved here. And it has increased so much more I can't even believe it. We do need to move to a larger space. That much is certain. If we decide to rent a two bedroom space, our monthly rent would at least double if not triple what we pay now (because of rent control, we pay basically the same amount as when we signed our lease). We're looking at buying a house here for two reasons 1) the mortgage could be less than paying rent if we found the right space and stick to our budget and 2) the city provides a really great loan for city residence to buy their first home here if you meet all their requirements. If we leave the city limits, this loan is no longer available to us.

So, we love the urban city. We can walk to a lot, bike, take the bus. There is a lot going on here -socially, professionally and with potential ministry. The city is full of people of all walks of life and that is really amazing. We are part of a wonderful community and don't want to start over. And if the housing stuff lines up as we're praying it will, it could work out and we could buy a house! We've been discussing the pros and cons for nearly two years and although there isn't anything really making us stay, we honestly don't feel ready to leave. So we're doing whatever we can to stay for however long that might be.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Open Houses that Opened our Eyes

Before Stephen was born we toured a number of houses. I remember seeing one that we both really liked. They were closer to the beach which is typically known as the foggy part of the city (but it is sunny every time we end up there) and is much quieter than where we live now.

I have no photos to share or even many details to point out as it seems so long ago now, but what I do remember is that it had space for our family to grow, was cute/clean enough to move into, and felt comfortable to be in. It even had an in-law unit on the lower level next to the garage. This was really nice -- we could have people stay with us! Right?! Well, not quite. This is when we discovered that whatever home we wanted to put an offer in had to be completely vacant. (This is a requirement for the loan we were approved for, not for everyone.) This home had a renter in the in-law and would come with the purchase of the home. It sounds so strange, right. I purchase a house and it comes with someone living in it! And evicting him/her isn't a pleasant thing as there are many laws attached to doing such a thing. (I realize this is common for apartments but this was a house . . .  the in-law is operated under the same guidelines.)

I also remember that the price being a bit high for what we were hoping to pay. So, we decided to pass on putting an offer in and not hassle with the in-law issue. It was early in our search and thought we'd find something better. Now, looking back this house tends to be the one that we keep thinking of and wondering all the "if" questions. Would it have hurt to study up on all the tenant laws and put in an offer anyway? Find a work-around with our loan? Who knows!

A few weeks after seeing that house, we met our realtor to look at three other houses in a part of the city I had never really been in. The houses were priced lower than what we had seen before so we were hopeful that we might actually be able to be competitive when it came to putting in an offer.

I've forgotten the order in which we saw them but they were all interesting. One of the houses was huge, I believe they said it was four bedrooms. Walking through it was a bit of a maze. It seemed like every room led to another room and another and soon you forgot where you were. Each room had some sort of funky red carpet and clashing paint on the wall. There was an area that looked like it had been added on to at a later time which slanted severely downhill and had a bar area and sleazy chairs. I can't even describe how bizarre this place really was. Someone mentioned it looked like several families lived in this home together and tried to make separate spaces as much as possible. They may have been right!

Another home was a two bedroom with a huge basement. An elderly woman lived there and some of her things were still present (which we rarely see in all of these super-staged places) so this one stood out. The kitchen was nice and spacious (also rare) as was the bathroom. But the really interesting thing was the basement. There was a room in the back with at least a dozen sewing machines! And then another area full of sewing supplies. At first, I was like, "this is so cool! I'd have my own built in craft room!" But then I looked at Chris to get his reaction and he mouthed "sweat shop" and that was the end of that. And then on the way back to our cars we noticed all of the vulture like birds hovering over the trash in the street and realized upon further observations that this was "the projects." Let's move on!

And now I've written this much and cannot for the life of me remember that third house! Bummer. Well, you get the idea of the variety of things we've seen!

The other stipulation that we've discovered about the loan we want to get is that it cannot have any "Section 1" repairs required. This includes things like mold, dry rot, or anything "dangerous/safety concerns" There have been three homes we've wanted to put offers on but were not able to because of these types of things being reported at the inspection.

I often even wonder if there are any homes in this city that would qualify for this loan! It's hard to stay positive and hopeful when every home we see has "something" that stops us from pursing it. We have our list of things we want in our home and then we have a list of "no's" from our mortgage broker. The combination of the two leaves us waiting.

Our eyes have seen a lot in this search and have been opened wide to see all the tiny details that might be red flags, they've also opened wide in search and expectation for the one that will be our home. We continue to have faith that we will find it!