Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hello from Virginia and a house tour

Hello from Virginia! 
We closed on our new old home about a week and a half ago and have been busy unpacking boxes, settling in, meeting our new neighbors, and of course, celebrating Christmas in the middle of it all.  It’s been busy and fun and overwhelming all at once.  But we are happy and excited about our new life up here.
The home we bought is a mid-century Ranch.  It is in wonderful condition and was very well loved by it’s previous owners, but there are a lot of updates that we plan to do to make it home for us.  I’ll start off by giving you guys a little tour of how it looked when we moved in.
When you first walk in the front door, you are facing straight into the living room area. (If you turn to the right immediately, you are looking into the eat-in kitchen area).  I love all the windows overlooking our backyard and the natural light that floods into this room.

Same room, different angle.  Standing in the dining room area, facing the living room.  That hallway goes to the bedrooms.

Continuing around through the dining room, here is the view into the kitchen.  I’m loving that brick wall and the character it adds to the area.  I’m undecided on whether I will paint it white or leave it as is.  Your opinions? 

The cabinets will definitely be painted white or replaced with new white cabinets. Also, imagine butcher block counter tops, stainless steel appliances, a farmhouse sink, and subway tile backsplash. And new floors!
Kinda like this:
Kitchen. i like!
via here
or this
Butcher block counters
via here
But right now, it looks like this.

Other side


Master Bath

Boys Room

Peyton’s room

Kids Bath
That sliding door on the bathtub has already come down.
I did not take as many pictures in the walk-out basement.  There is a large living area down there, guest room, full bath, small room, laundry room, and workroom. 
Basement Fireplace (It will be painted white!)

As soon as we finished closing on the house, we started ripping up the carpet in the main living area, dining room, hallway, and bedrooms to reveal the hardwoods underneath.  We wanted to get it up and out of the house before the movers delivered our stuff a few days later. 
We started in the Master.



Tyson and Peyton helped with the labor.  Going into this project, we really had no idea how much work it would be or how long it would take.  But we got all the carpet ripped up and out of the house in one afternoon.
The most tedious and time consuming part was then pulling up all the staples and the tack board that goes around the edge. But it was so worth all the hard work. The difference the exposed hardwoods make is dramatic.
Overall, we are extremely pleased with the condition of the hardwoods. There are some areas that aren’t perfect. It could definitely be sanded down and refinished, but there is nothing that bothers us enough to do that right now. With three kids and a dog that scratches the floors with his claws, we decided to just embrace the flaws as character. They’re old and creaky and I love them.
Here are a few pictures of the space afterwards.


Since then, we’ve done a few other things on our (very lengthy) to-do list. 
On Christmas day, on a whim (as in, I saw a small piece of wallpaper that was beginning to peel up from the wall), I started ripping down the ancient wallpaper in the kitchen. 

We got it all down, but still have a long way to go in there. 
As my father-in-law says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Small steps, one thing at a time, and we will eventually get there. I just have a hard time being patient in the process though. 
I plan to “try” to keep this blog updated with all our home improvement projects.  We’ll see how that goes.
Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!  And Happy New Year to you too!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

House Hunt Update

As I’m sure most of you know by now, we’re moving up to the D.C. area in just a few weeks.  Back in October, Tim and I went on a house hunting trip, put an offer on a house, got outbid and then ended up coming back home without a house.  Feeling a tad desperate and knowing we would need somewhere to live, we started looking into temporary housing options.  But God just kept closing doors on us.  It seemed that every which way we turned, a door closed.  Day after day ticked by with nothing.  At this point, it was already mid-November and the movers were already scheduled to pack us up on the first of December.  Talk about stressful!  We prayed, we questioned, we waited anxiously for God to open a door. 

Then during the week before Thanksgiving week, a few new listings in Virginia and Maryland came available that we were interested in.  Almost on a whim, Tim called his parents to see if there was any chance they could come up at the last minute and take care of the kids for a few days while we made a quick house hunting trip up to DC.  They immediately agreed to help us out; even changing a doctor appointment so they could come up a day sooner than originally planned.  Tim also checked with our realtors (we have one in VA and one in MD) and both were available that weekend.  So since all of a sudden, God seemed to be opening doors for us instead of closing them, we decided to take a step of faith (in the form of a loooong car drive) and see what He had in store for us.

Tim’s parents drove up that Wednesday afternoon and then Tim and I drove all day Thursday to Virginia.  



The plan was to spend Friday looking at houses in Virginia and then there were a few houses we wanted to look at in Maryland on Saturday morning. 



Well, it turned out that we both fell in love with the third house we saw in VA that first morning.  We decided to quickly see the last few houses on our VA list, just to be doubly sure though.  And each time we walked into another house, we just felt more strongly about that third house. So after a quick lunch to pray and talk it through, we were ready to make an offer.  From our previous experience, we knew we needed to act fast.  We wrote our offer, prayed over it (again), and then submitted it to the sellers.

It was a long night of waiting and praying.  And, for whatever reason (most likely from our previous experience of falling in love with a house and then being outbid and losing the house), I lost all hope that night that we were going to get this house.  I cried and I doubted God’s faithfulness and goodness to us. Throughout most of this house hunting journey, even through all the questions and confusion we were facing, I felt God’s nearness.  I heard His whispers.  I knew that His hand was upon us and He was walking with us through all of it, that He had a plan and He was leading us.  But that night all I felt was fear and doubt and discouragement.   I couldn’t hear Him and I couldn’t feel Him near.  I felt completely lost. 



The next morning, since we didn’t know if our offer would be accepted and we had no time to waste, we went ahead and met with our Maryland realtor to see a few houses over there.  And afterwards, we were even more confident about our feelings for the house in VA.  We really loved it, and for us, nothing even compared.  So with nothing else to do but wait (with giant knots in our stomachs), we decided to go to Ikea and dream about all the things we would do to our house, if we got it.  We had just arrived there and were walking through Ikea when Tim’s phone rang. It was our realtor. I’m sure ya’ll have had those moments when time just seems to stand still, your heart freezes, and three seconds seems like a lifetime.  This was one of those times.  So when our realtor told us that the seller accepted our offer (and there were actually multiple offers!), I almost fell on the floor right there and cried from sheer joy and sweet relief.

Right here is where it all went down.



We had a house! We wouldn’t be homeless for Christmas after all!  I would not have to live in a tiny apartment on the 7th floor with three small children and an overgrown Boxer!  God had totally come through for us, seemingly at the last minute. I honestly felt like He had parted the Red Sea for our family. We were ecstatic, overjoyed, triumphant, victorious!  Our mouths probably hung open from complete awe and amazement of God and what He did for us that day and through this entire experience.

As things worked out, we were even able to get the home inspection scheduled for early the next morning before our drive back to Alabama.  It was a whirlwind trip, completely planned and destined by God.  One we will not likely ever forget.  (And if we do, I now have a blog entry to remind us.)



It amazes me to see how God used so many people, experiences, and situations to weave our path over these last few months to get us where we needed to be when we needed to be there.  He had a perfect way and perfect timing and a perfect home for us.  I told Tim that I feel like we’ve been through a maze.  At times, we tried to go the wrong way, but God always pulled us back on the right path each time.  He has faithfully led us through every step of the way. 



I can look back and see that now.  Although in the middle of everything, I felt like we were walking in complete darkness with no idea where we were going or how we would ever get there.  Sometimes, like when we were outbid during our first house hunting trip and lost the house, I felt defeated and hopeless.  But it’s clear to me now that that first house was a step on our path, not the final destination. God used that house to pull us away from putting an offer on the Annapolis house (which would have been a mistake) and then also to lead us to Fairfax.  During that first house hunting trip, after making that offer on the house, we spent days staying in Fairfax eating, shopping, and driving around looking at houses and getting to know the area.  We fell in love with the city, but then ended up leaving without a house.  At the time, that was devastating and scary.  But then in His timing and when the right house for us was on the market, God brought us back (very unexpectedly) and gave us the house He had for us. God works mysteriously like that and sometimes His ways totally blow my mind.

We also realized later, that if Tim’s dad wouldn’t have thought to change his doctor’s appointment and come up a day early (they came up Wednesday instead of Thursday), we wouldn’t have been able to drive up to VA on Thursday, see this house on Friday morning and gotten our offer in by that afternoon.  And considering that there were multiple offers on this house, it most likely would have been off the market by Saturday when we had originally planned to see it.  Crazy, huh?!!


Here’s a peek of our soon-to-be-home.



I can’t wait to get in there and start making it a home for us.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

House Hunting

I guess it’s time for a little update on the move.  So much has happened over the last few weeks that it’s hard for me to figure out how to put it all into words that make any sort of sense.  It has really been a roller coaster ride and I’m still a little bit dazed and confused by all of it.

But anyway…

Back in the middle of October, Tim and I took the kids down to Florida to stay with the grandparents and then we hopped on a plane to D.C. for ten days of house hunting.  Originally, I thought it was going to be kinda like a fun little getaway for me and Tim, a second honeymoon so to speak.  No kids, ten full nights of beautiful uninterrupted sleep, coffee shop mornings, dinners out, some shopping, and of course the house hunting.  Which I am totally into the HGTV show, House Hunters, so I was completely excited about that part of the trip.  I mean, who doesn’t love getting to pick out a new-to-them house?   I had made my list of all my things that I wanted in our next house…  older with lots of character, fireplace, lots of natural light, hardwood floors, white kitchen, front porch, and on and on.  I was ready and I was excited.  (Except for the part about leaving my kids for that long, which was so completely heart-wrenching.) 



We spent the first few days with our realtor in VA.  We looked at probably at least 20 houses and didn’t like a single one.  I fully expected to just “know” when we walked in and I never got that feeling that “this was the one”.  Many times, we walked in and then turned around and walked straight out.  Sometimes, we pulled up to a house and then told our realtor, “um… no.” and we just went to the next.  It was exhausting and a little bit discouraging.  I didn’t like Virginia.



After exhausting all the Virginia possibilities (and probably our realtor too!), we headed over to Maryland for a few days with our other realtor over there.  She handed us a stack of listings and we set off hopeful to find our house.  To make a really long story a little bit shorter, we found two houses in Annapolis that we liked.  They both had their pros and cons and we were stuck on making a decision. There wasn’t a clear “this is the one” feeling, but that night, I talked myself into a decision and then attempted to convince Tim it was the right decision. We had a few more houses on our MD list to look at the next day (just to be sure) and afterwards we thought we would probably go ahead and make an offer on the house.     



But that next day, after finishing looking at all the MD houses, Tim had a very strong inclination to go back to VA and look again before making the offer.  A few more houses had come on the market in VA and he wanted to be sure.  I was not thrilled to be going back to VA, but I obliged him anyway.  We walked through a few houses and I was pretty closed minded about them.  My mind was still set on the house back in Annapolis.  And then, we walked into the third house on our list and Tim and I both completely flipped for it.  We knew.  We loved it immediately and the more we walked around in it, the more we loved it. We honestly felt like the Lord had led us to this house and that this was the house He had for our family.  We decided to put an offer on it that night.  But as we were sitting down with our realtor to write up the contract, we found out that someone else was also putting an offer on it.  It was seriously one of the most stressful ordeals ever.  Of course we prayed and we were trusting that the Lord was guiding us, but the entire time my stomach was in knots.  During the process, we took a short break and when we walked outside, we saw this rainbow.

Can you see it?



It was such a sweet reminder that the Lord was in control.  We put in an offer above asking price (which seems completely ridiculous in this market, right?!!).  And then for over 24 hours we waited and prayed.  It was hard to eat, hard to sleep, hard to think about anything but that house.

But then, to our complete and utter dismay, the other offer was accepted.  “It was much higher.”  What?!!

And then we hit rock bottom.


We were completely discouraged and confused.  There were no more houses to look at.  I didn’t want the house in Annapolis anymore.  I knew the difference then between thinking a house was the right house and walking in and knowing a house was the right house.  And then there was the fact that we really believed that God had led us to that particular house.  No other house seemed right anymore.  Our hearts were set on the that house.  It was supposed to be our house.

And so we kinda stumbled around in a daze for a few days, not knowing what to do next.  We prayed.  I cried.  A lot. Eventually we started looking at short term rentals and apartments.  We needed something.  But God just seemed to be shutting all doors.  The best thing we found was an apartment on the fourth floor.  Which seems pretty impossible to me… three small kids, a dog… I just can’t imagine that working out well.  Lugging groceries up four flights of stairs, taking the dog out at night, up and down with kids, etc…

In the end we came home with nothing.  Nothing. 

This past week, our house here in Birmingham went under contract.  The movers are scheduled to come in a month to move us out.  And the absolutely crazy thing is that we have no idea where we are going to go.  We believe God is faithful, that He has a plan and that He will make a way for us, but right now, that way is very unclear.  Our faith and our trust are being stretched daily. 

Today, in Jesus Calling, I read

“When you don’t know what to do, wait while I open the way before you.  Trust that I know what I’m doing, and be ready to follow my lead.  I will give strength to you, and I will bless you with peace.”

And so we wait…

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Chicken Coop: Grand Tour




Our chickens have been growing like weeds fast-growing chickens. 

Over the last month, Hazel went from this



to this


earning her the nickname “Big Mama”. 


And Penelope has been promoted from sitting on Tyson’s shoulder



to riding around on his head.



In the meantime, Tim has fast and furiously been working on a chicken coop for them to live in. I looked at all kinds of ready-made chicken coops and different plans/designs beforehand.  The possibilities are endless and even overwhelming when it comes to building a coop, but in the end, we decided to transform a children’s playhouse (that we found at Sam’s Club) into a coop. This gave us a framework to work with rather than just starting from scratch.  Several weeks ago, my mom and Rudie were here visiting and we took full advantage of having an extra handyman around to help.  That weekend, the two of them got the main part of the coop put together. 



A few things that were important to me when it came to our coop: cuteness, safety (as in impenetrable from predators), and easy cleaning.  The playhouse was already cute, but it still needed to be converted in into something chickens could safely and comfortable live in.  That transformation took a lot of thought and problem solving on our part.

Here’s a peek at the inside.

If you have no interest in raising chickens or building a coop, you may want to skip this next part where I explain the inside of the coop.

The inside:


Tim installed two roosting bars for the chicks to perch and sleep on.  He put plexi-glass on the front and side windows and welded wire on the back windows (to keep out any predators and inclimate weather). He also built a floor about 18 inches off the ground (you can see the two levels in the next picture below).  He boxed the top floor in (to keep in the pine shavings) and put stairs going down the far side of the coop to the bottom level.  This way the chickens can sleep up top and then go downstairs for their food (keeps their poop out of the food).  This also allows me to use the “deep litter method” in the top part of our coop.  Basically with the deep litter method (google it if you’re interested), I should be able to go about 8 months to a year before I need to clean out the coop. And supposedly it’s healthier and doesn’t stink or anything.  As the old pine shavings get broken down, I will add more as needed and by the end of the year, I should have about eight inches or more of good compostable pine shavings with mixed in chicken poo, which eventually will make amazing fertilizer (black gold) for our garden.

Here you can see both levels.  In the lower level, we decided to use sand to cover the ground.  To clean it out, I use a kitty litter scoop.  It scoops the poop and leaves the sand behind. 



At some point, Tim will put nesting boxes in the back of the coop.  But we have a few more months before the little ladies will be giving us any eggs.

The coop:



We also built and attached an outside run to the side of the coop.



For the most part, I’ve been letting the chickens free range in our yard during the day.  We have a fenced in yard and a dog that doesn’t kill them and this has worked out well for us so far. Plus, this just makes for happy little chickens.  Each evening, as the sun goes down, they head to their coop and put themselves to bed. And then before we go to bed, one of us Tim goes out to close the coop door sing lullabies to them and kiss them goodnight.  But we plan to travel at times, and anytime we’re out of town, I didn’t want them to just be cooped up in their coop.  So Tim built a run and attached it to the side of the coop.  Then he cut a small hole in the bottom of the coop to allow them to come out whenever they please.

Like this:



I wish I had a picture to show you this area beforehand.  It was a giant mud pit where no grass would grow.  Our kids loved it.  Me and Tim, not so much.  Now I love it. 



So that was the grand tour of the chicken coop.  We sure love these little ladies.  They’ve quickly become family.



Tyson especially has grown quite attached to them.



My favorite part of the day is in the evenings when we take any dinner leftovers out and feed them to the chickens.



I love sitting on our back porch swing and watching them scratch and peck the ground as the sun sets in the background.




And one day, I hope they surprise me with some of these.