New Blog!

August 12, 2013

Hey everyone! The hubby has been working on a new blog for me, one that is no longer protected from Google searches. You can find it on my Facebook page or you can message me!

The good, bad and the ugly. Just keepin’ it real here, people.

1. I used to have a GIANT silver dollar-sized raspberry birth mark on my lower lip. It didn’t go away until I was 7.

2. I was sent home one day in Kindergarten for KISSING A BOY. His name was Todd. I remember the conversation with my mom, and I just kept saying, “But MOM! He was so CUUUUTE! I just HAD to kiss him!”

My 1st year of Kindergarten

My 1st year of Kindergarten

3. I attempted to try out for a musical in junior high. I got so nervous, that when it came my time to sing, it came out like a squeak. I ran off the stage crying.

4. When I got my Kindergarten shots, I was so scared and outraged that I kicked the doctor square in the nose with my shoe. They had to bring a few nurses in to pin me down and give the shots in my leg. They hit a nerve and I was unable to walk for a week.

5. I used to take my brother’s stuff and sell it back to him in order to get his allowance money. When that didn’t work, I would convince him that nickels were worth more than dimes because they were bigger, thus our “trades” were in his favor.

I convinced Keith to do many things, back in the day...

I convinced Keith to do many things, back in the day…

6. I was once a cheerleader. I was also politely asked to quit. Long story.

7. I did gymnastics for a few years as a child, and then again in college.

I was always doing flips off of furniture...

I was always doing flips off of furniture…

8. For a few years in a row, my friends and I pogo-sticked the entire Templeton parade route!  I mastered a few tricks, like jumproping while pogosticking! I actually tried a cartwheel with the pogostick…didn’t end well….. My goal was to break the world record, which was something like 15 hours straight. I made it to 2.

pogosticking, 1995?

9. I have always been gung-ho about the pro-life movement. When I turned 8, I had all of my friends bring baby stuff for the pregnancy care clinic instead of presents for me.

10. I hated jam, yogurt, and pizza growing up. My mom used to pack me special lunches whenever I went to birthday parties because I was so picky.

12-13 years old, inner tubing

11. I have been reading since I turned 3. I used to bring chapter books to preschool because I wanted to impress the snot out of people. Instead, I was always alone.

12. I went to Europe on two different occasions. Both times, I spent over $300 in phone calls to Jesse.

On the Eiffel Tower, 2006

On the Eiffel Tower, 2006

13. I couldn’t figure out what to title my first Torrey paper. Jesse threw out “Destiny’s Children” as a joke, but I thought he was serious. I failed that paper. The title also made the “Top 10 worst Torrey paper titles” list for the program. Yup, I’m kinda famous.

Big Sur 2003

Big Sur 2003

14. My friends and I made it a point to go clubbing in every major city that we visited in Europe. We nearly succeeded, until we got lost near the Moulin Rouge at 1am. As a mom, I look back and can’t believe how stupid we were and that we survived.

15. I was heavier in high school than I was in college. Kinda bass-ackwards.

16. When I was 12, I wrote a letter to the CA state senator asking her to make abortion illegal.

17. I interned at a pro-life clinic for 2 years in college.

18. I used to be really good at the violin. I played for 4 years, and even used to perform on Saturday nights at a local bar with my fiddle teacher!

19. I won a magazine story writing contest when I was 10.

20. I was always coming up with ways to earn money. Once, I convinced my friend to dress up like an orphan with me. We went door to door singing for money. We made like $10! My mom made us give it all back when she found out.

21. I was homeschooled for 4 years and loved it!

22. I broke up with Jesse for 3 weeks at the end of my freshman year of college. I had just turned 18, and I was super scared about how serious our relationship already was. Those were the most miserable 3 weeks of my life. When I told him I wanted to get back together, he said, “Well, I’ll have to think about it”. OUCH.

2 years later! So glad he didn't give up on me! :)

2 years later! So glad he didn’t give up on me! :)

23. I FELL ASLEEP during my second don-rags (read: massive final that decides your semester grade) in Torrey. Years later, I heard freshmen talking about, “that one student who actually fell asleep” and I said, “Hey, that was ME!” They were not impressed.

Freshman year, 2003 with roommates

Freshman year, 2003 with roommates

24.  I was almost arrested in Italy. Long story.

25. I used to go swing dancing 3-4 nights a week.

26. As a kid, I was bit by a dog. I was terrified of them for YEARS, and would even walk the long way to the mailbox so I didn’t have to pass by our neighbors who had a dog.

27. My first year of life, I had 2-3 ear infections every month. I was ALWAYS sick. No one knows why, I just eventually grew out of it.

1989 Kelly

28. I was bit by a spider in high school and had to go to the hospital for intravenous antibiotics several days in a row.

29. I used to have dozens of pet rats! I loved them so much!

30. My left foot is HALF A SIZE bigger than my right!

Our New Stroller

July 22, 2013

I’ve been wanting a double stroller for the boys for quite some time. The problem is that most double strollers are a complete waste of time and money. Once you put over 60 lbs. of two kids into them, they are impossible to steer and an absolute pain to push. And don’t get me started on how much trunk space they take up! Courtney and I used to joke that she’d need an extra car just to drive around her stroller.

I’ve heard great things about the BOB stroller line, but I’ve always hated the price tag. Lately though, I’ve been finding myself wanting to go on walks. We live just a 5 minute walk from our main grocery center in Atascadero, and it’d be fun not to use the car every once and a while. We have no sidewalks, however, being out in the country and all, and our roads are quite steep and often mostly gravel.

We also have a day trip to the Midstate Fair planned for tomorrow, along with Big Sur next week. I convinced Jesse that if there were ever a time to get a double stroller, now would be it.

In turn, he reminded me of our commitment to staying on a budget. $400-500 doesn’t exactly fit in, you know what I mean?

But there’s this thing called determination. When I want to buy something, I find a way. I move mountains if I have to. It’s both a very admirable quality, and also a little scary. Why can’t I have this kind of mad perseverance when it comes to prayer?

But I digress. I knew that the only way to get a stroller was to raise the money myself. So, with the help of my sister (who pulled stuff out of my parents’ garage for me), I listed EVERYTHING that we’ve had lying around. Does anyone else have a few things in their garage that they “might want to sell someday”? After 3 moves in the past 2 years, we have a lot of them.

In FOUR HOURS, I made $260.

Hooray, I thought! Now I can go on Craigslist and buy the first BOB stroller I see!

Wrong. I didn’t factor in the fact EVERY SINGLE STROLLER LISTING was written by rude people who never answer their phones or check their email.

I emailed dozens of people over the course of 3 days. Only ONE reply, telling me the item was sold (the listing is still up as we speak. Why are people so rude???).  How hard is it to text back, “No, I want more $ than that”, or, “Sorry, sold”???

I got pretty fed up. So I posted this little number:

Jogging Stroller

Did I really post that? Yes. Was it un-Christian of me? Probably. I do feel bad about it, somewhere deep down under the blind determination that I feel when I want something for my babies. Also, there may or may not have been some PMS crazy affecting me too. And I’m semi-insane without Jesse, who’s been working at the Midstate Fair until 1am the last couple nights.

Whatever. No excuses.

But it worked!!! Within 30 minutes, I got an email from a woman who had been thinking about selling her BOB and got on Craiglist to price compare. My ad was the first that came up.

We met at the park 3 hours later and voila! We now own a like-new BOB stroller for only $60 out of pocket cash!

We went on a walk tonight, and I can already tell that this thing is worth EVERY LAST penny. I was able to turn it with one hand. The boys were super comfy and made up songs together in the seat while I jogged along. Did I also mention that the stroller only take up half of our trunk? And I can fold it up with one hand? Wowza! It’s like the wizard of all strollers!

Alls well that ends well.

July Walk 2013 5


Here were a few pictures from our walk tonight. We live in such a gorgeous neighborhood! I guess I didn’t quite realize how nice the streets are around us.

July Walk 2013 1 July Walk 2013 3 July Walk 2013 4


However fun the walk, it’s always nice to come back to our home sweet home on a hill. :)

July Walk 2013 2

Wheelin and Dealin

July 20, 2013

My mom, sister and I love to spend Saturday mornings garage sale-ing. We got so much this time, it hardly all fit into my Mom’s SUV!

Nothing says vintage bucket like....what???

Nothing says vintage bucket like….what???

Luckily, I knew that I already had the same color metallic spray paint. Ah, much better already!

Luckily, I knew that I already had the same color metallic spray paint. Ah, much better already!

I got this big green bucket for the mudroom to hold the boys' outdoor toys. I already had a few things with the same color green! It's coming together!

I got this big green bucket for the mudroom to hold the boys’ outdoor toys. I already had a few things with the same color green! It’s coming together!

Look at this cute little jar I found!

Look at this cute little jar I found!

With a little glossy white spray paint, it now looks right at home!

With a little glossy white spray paint, it now looks right at home!


These tumblers are also the same green, and were only a quarter!

These tumblers are also the same green, and were only a quarter!

A fun hook to hold my purse

A fun hook to hold my purse

This chair may not look like much, but I have PLANS. Plus, it was only $5! We already made it sturdier with some wood glue in the joints. Next up, paint!

This chair may not look like much, but I have PLANS. Plus, it was only $5! We already made it sturdier with some wood glue in the joints. Next up, paint!

Water shoes and crocs for G, just in time for Big Sur!

Water shoes and crocs for G, just in time for Big Sur!

Best deal of the day-- a set of vintage Thomas the Tank Engine books!

Best deal of the day– a set of vintage Thomas the Tank Engine books!

I got this great condition trampoline for G for $5. And this is what he chose to do on it for the first half hour :)

I got this great condition trampoline for G for $5. And this is what he chose to do on it for the first half hour :)

Luckily, he soon figured it out!

Luckily, he soon figured it out!

Cute pose

Cute pose

Some "color your own" placemats for a quarter

Some “color your own” placemats for a quarter


A brand new womens' Puma track suit! $2!!!

A brand new womens’ Puma track suit! $2!!!

A Nike windbreaker for $1!

A Nike windbreaker for $1!

Some cool gladiator sandals

Some cool gladiator sandals


An Oneill Sherpa Jacket, $1!

An Oneill Sherpa Jacket, $1! Can’t wait to wear it around the campfire at Big Sur :)

Even AJ got a book!

Even AJ got a book!






Want a crash course in adopting? I could sum it up in one phrase: Unconditional Love is terrifying. So terrifying, that it causes confusion and agony for a traumatized child. We learned really early on that the more we repeated how unconditional our love was for C, the more we emphasized that there was NOTHING she could do to earn it or take it away, the more the situation got worse.

For a foster child who has made their way through life by being their OWN parent, manipulation is a second language. They don’t even know they are manipulating, after a certain point. They don’t even understand that they are twisting love into leverage.

Unconditional love becomes translated as the ultimate manipulation, made even more terrifying because they’ve never experienced it and don’t know how to handle it. When normal children encounter something new, they respond according to their personality, but they use it as a learning experience and change as a result. Traumatized kids take something new and scary like unconditional love and try to fit it into a box that they already have within their experience. And, since manipulation and trauma are 90% of their experience thus far, Love becomes the most uncomfortable and unsettling thing out there.

So, we adapted. Learned how to communicate with C differently. Instead of saying, “It doesn’t matter, we’ll love you regardless”, we eased off and said things like “If you do this and this thing, we will be closer”, or, “If you do this, we will love each other more.”

Holy batman, right? As a parent, try imagining for ONE SECOND that you would ever tell your kid, “I will love you more if you do these three things.” It’s inconceivable to me. Makes me want to vomit. But the minute we started operating this way with C, things would get relatively better.

This particular aspect of our dealings with C has taught me so much about our relationship with God. It’s well-known to me that the main critique of Catholicism and Orthodoxy is that we are “works-based” and trying to earn our Salvation, messing with the concept of the gospel. I work at a Christian school where kids say things on a routine basis about how “Catholics aren’t even Christians because they don’t believe in Faith or the Bible”.

Please, hang with me. TRY to think of it along the lines of our relationship with C. When we set out “works” for her to accomplish, it didn’t change the end result any. We still loved her unconditionally. The things we outlined for her weren’t about whether or not we loved her. They were about drawing us closer together as a family, mercilessly tearing down all the sin and manipulation that was keeping us apart.

I can’t speak for the Catholic church, but since I have been a part of the Orthodox church for 7 years next month, I can safely say that I have NEVER heard of good works in relation to “where we go when we die”. All the structure in the church, all the good works we strive for, are only made to bring us closer to God. It’s no secret. You could, perhaps, mishear a homily in an Orthodox church because of preconceived notions, but I promise that if those weren’t in the way, you’d hear the message loud and clear– the Orthodox church does NOT believe that we can earn our salvation. The Orthodox church wholeheartedly believes that good works have a unique and irreplaceable role in bringing us closer to Christ.

Take a few for example:

Going to church several times a week: I’ve seen many a protestant raise their eyebrows on this one. Sundays are all that’s mentioned in the bible, right? I can’t even begin to describe how much healthier my soul feels when I go to church even TWICE a week. It’s like going from eating all McDonalds to organic home-made dinners. It doesn’t mean that I’m trying to earn my salvation, reminiscent of Awanas where the Blue Jewels on the crown were for church attendance.

Forgiveness: I was always terrified by that verse in the Bible about how if you don’t forgive, Christ won’t forgive you. But it makes so much sense. Resentment is like hard water deposit on our heart– we get crusty, and pretty soon the pipes are clogged. We cannot feel or accept Christ’s forgiveness if we are not forgiving others!

Confession: This is a super controversial one for Protestants, because only Christ can forgive sins. However, if you listen to the specific word-for-word prayers that the priests use at the end of confession, it’s similar to what the officiant says during a wedding: “By the power vested in me by the state of ___, you are now man and wife”. Only God makes a marriage valid. And only God’s forgiveness makes a confession valid. But the Church knows that saying things out loud to someone else actually makes a difference and actually has the power to heal and draw us back into communion with Christ! How many times do we say in our own head, “Wow, I shouldn’t have done that, I’ll do better next time” and we never do?

The message I was given regarding works in the Protestant world was, “we do good works out of our love for Christ”. But which comes first? I honestly believe that good works come before love.  We DO things to grow closer to God, and as a result, we feel closer and love him more. DOING things help us love a person better.

The difference? Our good works do not help GOD love us any better. He already loved us so much while we were yet sinners that He sent Christ to die for us. But they do help us, because we are not God, and cannot love Him the way He loves us.

Long and short: when we asked C to do “works” for us, it wasn’t to change whether or not we loved her. We asked her to do them because it was the only thing that would heal our relationship and draw us closer. Likewise, the more we labored over her, the more work we put into our relationship with her, the more we loved her.

I think that God works the same way with us.

I promised that one day I’d unpack a few of my complicated thoughts and feelings about adoption, and the circumstances surrounding our foster daughter’s recent absence from our home.

I can’t say much specifically about the actual circumstances, since to do so would be break confidentiality and perhaps embarrass one of my children. I will say just enough so that anybody who was not privy to my emails knows a few basic details.

“Lil C”, as we called her (my mom Courtney is “Big C”), came to live with us in October. Actually, she lived at my parents’ house, while we parented from afar. It became clear within weeks of her arriving that the trauma and the issues ran VERY deep–much deeper than we were lead to believe. We struggled through about a month and a half, while her behavior got more erratic and dangerous. The police had to come out once or twice in that amount of time.

Around Thanksgiving, both C’s therapist and social workers began pushing for her to go to a group home. They felt that the issues were so deep, that they could only be worked on once removed from a family, since kids with attachment disorder and PTSD only feel threatened and scared by what normal people find loving. Basically, imagine someone holding a knife to your throat. You’d be scared, right? What if someone asked you to do Algebra problems at the same time? That’s what it’d be like to be a 15 year old whose been in the foster care system since 8 months old! (FOR THE RECORD: We could never let a knife come NEAR our daughter, much less be the one holding it. It was just the best analogy for the moment).

But we pushed back, saying that we wanted to give it a few more months. We thought that if we could just get into our own place and stabilize her, things would get better. By the time we got into our house around February, however, things were completely out of control. The police were at our house every single night, sometimes even at 2am (and we still had to wake up with babies and jobs, only hours later). We actually got to know every cop in our city! Our house was already stripped of every type of sharp object, including razors, scissors, and knives. Sometimes, we had to take away bobby pins or picture frames with glass.  I was so stressed out that I would start shaking at all hours of the day– the adrenaline was always pumping, in case I needed to step in and take action. I lay awake all night, praying desperately. Pretty soon, I couldn’t sleep at all. I started bringing the boys into our room and locking the door, out of paranoia. I couldn’t eat either– my stomach was always churning and aching, as though I had the stomach flu. My mom, in particular, became really worried about me, as I lost somewhere between 10-15 pounds in a few weeks. My face looked completely haggard all the time. The funny thing is I didn’t even notice any of this, because I was so caught up in day to day survival.

On one particularly bad day, we had to send our boys to stay with my parents because things got so severe. This was a huge wakeup call for me– things had gotten so out of hand that my babies were no longer safe in their own home. We gave it to the inevitable and cried out for help from the social worker team. Just two days later, after an intense meeting with around 15 government officials (that I sobbed the entire way through), they took C away to a shelter home until they could find the right group home placement. It completely devastated us. Even though I knew it was right, knew that if we continued like this any longer, we would completely fall apart as a family, it was some of the deepest pain I’ve ever felt. I walked around for days, bursting into tears at random moments. Something small, like seeing one of her t-shirts, or smelling her perfume which had taken up permanent residence in her room would send me into hysterics. I felt as though someone had come into my home and kidnapped my child. Eventually, we were able to channel this grief into firm resolve to help her from afar so that she could work on her issues and eventually return to us.

C has now been at her group home in NorCal for 3 months. While she has fixed most of her behavior issues and is finally on stabilizing meds, she has not begun to deal with any of the issues surrounding why she left us and why things got so out of control. Part of me believes this is because she has one established mode of dealing with difficulty– running away and hiding, both emotionally and, sometimes, physically. Just like a video game, when life gets too tough to handle, she blows herself up and decides to move on to the next school, next group of friends, next family. Even now, when being asked to confront the issues, she would rather move on and find another family so that she doesn’t have to work through anything. As we all know, one cannot have a normal or happy life without learning how to face difficulty, sometime or another. We hope and pray that she decides to do this before she “ages out” of the system in just 2 years.

Now that some of those painful memories are out of the way, the next time I write I can unpack some of these crazy lessons and experiences. Adoption has taught me buckets about God’s love and mercy towards us, and I can’t wait to share it!

Our new hutch for storage, along with our bench to the right (which will soon have beadboard and a shelf up behind it) and our desk to the left (waiting for the right chairs to come along!).

Our new hutch for storage, along with our bench to the right (which will soon have beadboard and a shelf up behind it) and our desk to the left (waiting for the right chairs to come along!).

The hutch during the day. Gregory has been using the doors to play church all morning!

The hutch in daylight. Gregory has been using the doors to play church all morning! Within the next week, I’ll paint it gray, with glass knobs and distressing on the edges!

My inspiration picture for the hutch

My inspiration picture for the hutch


The desk area. I turned off the farmhouse light so it's clearer

The desk area. I turned off the farmhouse light so it’s clearer


A closeup of the antique cabinet I bought a few days ago. Only $30!

A closeup of the antique cabinet I bought a few days ago. Only $30! And yes, I’ve switched the numbers to their proper places :)

Jesse and his dad hung my shelves up! Now, I need to get the right galvanized metal tubs and baskets for storage!

Jesse and his dad hung my shelves up! Now, I need to get the right galvanized metal tubs and baskets for storage!

Our contractor finished the door frame today (despite the fact that his wife had a baby less than 48 hours ago!).

Our contractor finished the door frame today (despite the fact that his wife had a baby less than 48 hours ago!).

Now, we have this super long corridor/wind tunnel from our piano in the living room to the hutch! I am guessing that we are talking around 200 ft long!

Laundry Room:Long Hallway




July 13, 2013

Don’t believe it, if you want. I, for one, have seen enough within my time in the church that I do.

An excerpt from this book:



There was once a priest who did not want to serve the liturgy because it was a cold winter day.
The temperature was 10 degrees below zero and the priest knew that the only person who was likely to come to the service was the chanter. The priest had no idea about the Church’s teaching on the presence of the Triumphant Church and how the Divine Liturgy benefits the living and the departed. With difficulty he forced himself to go to church. On the way to church he kept wishing that the chanter would not come so that he would not have to serve and go home. However, the chanter did come.

The priest did the Prothesis (or Proskomedia, the service of preparing the holy gifts) in a hurry and began the Divine Liturgy. Shortly after, some bishops, priests, monks and nuns and some lay people arrived. Most of them sat in the choir section and began to chant so beautifully that the priest forgot about how cold and lonely he was earlier. His whole body was warm and his whole being was all a flame…. When he did the small entrance he noticed that the church was full of people – most of them familiar – he did not pay much attention and just continued with the Divine Liturgy.

When the time came for the Sanctification of the Holy Gifts he saw three bishops, brightly clothed and radiant entering the Holy Altar. They knelt with him and prayed. The priest then stood up very carefully with fear, took the censer and in a loud voice said, ‘Especially our All Holy, Immaculate, Most Blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary…’. The soul of the priest was amazed and filled with divine joy. Peace and heavenly stillness, hesychia, dominated his inner self. When the time came for the elevation and dividing of the Host (Lamb) the whole church filled with the sweetest melodies. The whole multitude of people who were present along with the monks, priests and bishops chanted not only once but many times, ‘One is Holy, One is Lord: Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen’. Next they chanted the Holy Communion hymn, ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good, Alleluia.’

The priest was wondering what to do. Should he partake of the Holy Communion first or step aside for the three bishops who were present? Just as he was thinking this, one of the bishops nodded to him indicating that he should receive Holy Communion and then to Unify and Place the remaining of the portions of the Lamb into the Chalice along with the portions in memory of the Holy Theotokos and the Saints. Having completed this the priest then opened the Beautiful Gate … and saw no one in the Church… he turned and looked back into the holy altar, he looked to the right, looked to the left, the bishops had disappeared, he stood there speechless, amazed. He slowly opened his mouth and chanted the next petition, ‘With the fear of God and faith and love, draw near …,’ and the chanter slowly drew near to take Holy Communion. The priest was still amazed, still wondering! The whole Triumphant Church was present. All those present in the church were persons familiar to him, they were persons that had departed from this life and he would from time to time commemorate their names during each liturgy: ‘that’s why they were present, that’s why they all seemed so familiar’, he thought. As for the bishops in the altar they were the Three Hierarchs: Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory the Theologian.

So many years of study at university, so much research and so many sleepless nights he spent studying and these efforts were not able to give him not even one drop of the sweetness and divine knowledge that this one Divine Liturgy gave him.

Fr.Stephanos Anagnostopoulos, Experiences During the Divine Liturgy p451-453

The Story of Our House

July 13, 2013

Everything from November-February was kind of a blur in our lives, and I’ve recently realized that I never wrote out the story of how we found our house.

I bring this up now because I find myself so grateful for God’s providence in this area. I told Jesse the other night that if I’ve ever had a “Gideon and the wet fleece” testing moment with God, it was this past year. At one point, I actually told God in no uncertain terms that He had abandoned us, and there was no hope, despite how hard we had worked to follow His direction.

I’ll get to all that in a moment. I documented a few of our housing ventures (here, here and here at the beginning of this year, including our desire to wait until summer 2013 (now) to start house hunting again, after our first escrow in April 2012 fell through, just DAYS before Anthony was born.

All that resolve to “wait” changed when we met Caitlin and we decided to become her parents. Legally, we were not allowed to be her guardians if she had to share a bedroom with the boys in our 2 bedroom townhouse (which we loved so much! Only $1100/month, most utilities included, walking distance to work! Talk about a money saver!).

So we jumped the house hunt into high gear. That’s when all the devastation started. Every offer we made was rejected. And housing prices started to rise– FAST. I felt like we were on the Titanic, watching the water rise around us, unable to do anything about it.

We had our offer finally accepted on the “Bedbug House”, as we affectionally started calling it. As problem after problem started to surface with that house (it was even involved in a lawsuit, which meant that no escrow company would even secure the title! Talk about sketchy/scary!), we made some drastic changes in our approach. We were tired of living in Limbo, tired of trying to parent a very troubled teen from afar, while living mostly at my parents’ house once again (even though we were still paying rent at our place).

That’s when Caitlin’s old foster mom of 7 years, also a realtor, offered to start bidding on homes for us ALL CASH (she’s quite wealthy). The plan was that she would pay all cash for a bank owned property (90% of the market here were short sales or foreclosures), and then we would buy it from her. This plan gave us a few huge benefits:

1., With an all cash transaction, the process is quite fast, usually 7-14 days. Our situation with Caitlin was becoming SO volatile (more on that someday), that this became a priority.

2. Banks love all-cash offers over FHA or even conventional.

So we started bidding. There were 2 houses in particular that we tried really hard to get. Reasonably, we should’ve gotten them. On one, we bid ALL CASH, no contingencies, $30k over the asking price! But there were 14 other bids in just 3 days, and we lost. How’s that for a crazy housing market???

Nothing. Things fell through time and time again. We were now well into November, 3 months into the process. We were starting to get desperate. We even started putting in bids on homes we hadn’t even SEEN.

Then we found what we thought would be the PERFECT situation for us. A short sale in Paso Robles, built in 2006, around 2200 sq. ft. Due to extreme circumstances, the house was only 2 weeks away from foreclosure. If you know anything about how short sales work, this was BAD NEWS for the seller. All conventional loans take at least 30 days to go through, meaning that the only way to save the house from foreclosure was to pay ALL cash.

Enter us, right???

It looked as though the bank was going to accept our offer. There was nothing else on the table, they started asking for extra paperwork that showed they were serious. Our realtor was 99.9% confident that we were going to get the house and be able to move in 2 weeks.

So, we put in our 30 day notice on our apartment. Only 6 months after moving in, we were packing up again, just a week before Christmas and RIGHT during Finals week at school. We were more stressed than we’ve ever been in our lives.

And then.

The bank shut down our offer. Told us they wanted $25k more than we had agreed on or they were going to auction it off.

We were devastated. The house was already at the top of what we were comfortable paying. $25k more was just not doable. We knew it. We had a sleepless night or two, making the final decision, but we knew we had to walk away.

There were so many tears over packing up our apartment, homeless once again, nowhere to move but back once again to living with my parents (who were complete troopers about the whole thing!).

Merry Christmas, right?

That week, we started looking for house rentals. Our hearts were broken over losing yet another house, one that we thought was so perfect. We had even showed it to Caitlin, something that we had refrained from doing since we knew how hard all this was on her. It had always been our dream to own a home, but we were now realizing that we couldn’t ignore the obvious– NOTHING was working.

And then we got rejected for rental after rental. Someone always beat our deposit by a few HOURS.

This was when I had my “Gideon Moment”. I cried out to God, asking Him how on EARTH this could be happening! “We were willing to wait for a house, for the right time”, I would say. “But You told us to adopt! To take this hurting teenage girl! How are we supposed to do that, without a roof to put over her head?”

I’ve never been in so much despair. I mean that, in all seriousness. I will look upon those 2 weeks as the hardest to date (and if you know anything about how hard things got with our foster care situation, you know that this is a serious claim!).


Christmas Eve, I spent most of the day in tears and despair. In an absent minded attempt to distract myself, I start browsing Craigslist (hey, it usually makes me feel better!).

On a whim, I decided to check the real estate page. I hadn’t done this in months, because I figured that anything worth seeing would pop up on the MLS page sent to my inbox.

I’ll never forget this moment. I ran across a hastily written ad for a house that was in the middle of renovation. There were only 4 pictures, mostly of the outside.

And then I saw the price. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Why on Earth is it so low, I thought to myself. It was just a tad more than most of the “fixit uppers” we had bid on, only the ad stated that the kitchen and bathroom would be renovated by the end of the month.

I RAN outside to Jesse and showed him the ad. I could see how excited he was.

“Call the guy right now” he said.

“But it’s Christmas Eve!”

“Call him.”

I called Ken, which was his name. He talked with me for a while, heard our situation, and offered to leave his family gathering and meet us at the house in 30 minutes.

Excitedly, we packed up the family and went to see the house, which, as you may have guessed, is our current house. Jesse and fell in love immediately. The entire walk-through, we kept turning to each other when Ken wasn’t looking and making shocked faces.

We told Ken that he would be seeing an offer from us within days. 2 days after Christmas, we sat down with him and drew up an offer with the escrow office. All parties involved decided that we would do the transaction withOUT a realtor in order to save even more on the price. It was a risky move, but we got advice along the way (for the record, I wouldn’t recommend this route for a first time homebuyer. We had been through so many offers and escrows that we knew the process inside and out).

Ken was so great to us throughout the process. For example, the pantry that he installed didn’t come with doors. I told him that with 2 toddlers, the pantry was virtually useless to me without doors. In exchange for us doing the wood staining, he went back to the cabinet maker and had him custom-make some!

Another deal we made: since moving in was our first priority, he let us move in a full 40 days before the escrow was finalized. In exchange for our “rent”, we bought our stove and fridge (we paid around $500 for each of them, so it was a GREAT deal for us!).

And, despite all the hiccups in the escrow process, Ken stuck with us. A fellow scholar (he studied Latin and Greek at UCSB!), he wanted US to have the house, and stopped answering calls from other people who were offering to buy it.

In the end, we got a house for $30k UNDER the market value from the outset. We locked in a great rate, around 3.7%. We moved in middle of February and didn’t pay anything until May, enabling us to do lots of home renovations and projects.

I especially wanted to document this journey because it is such a testimony to me of God’s faithfulness. We ended up with a home that was a million times better than ANY of the ones we bid on. Right after we bought, the market rose 25%, meaning that if we had waited until this summer (OUR man made plan), we would be looking at small condos due to the price change. Also, in the middle of June the feds raised the mortgage rates up to nearly 5%. While that may not seem like much, it would’ve added $100/month onto our payment!

I hope I always remember that despite how hopeless and abandoned we felt, God was right there creating a better plan than we could ever have hoped for.

Valle 31

July LA Trip

July 9, 2013

This past weekend, we travelled down to see TONS of friends in the LA/Orange County area. We have a huge community of friends down there, left over from both college and our early Orthodox days at St. Barnabas.

Our first stop was a July 4th celebration at Mitch and Trenna’s (our godparents) wonderful house in Yorba Linda. They had invited the entire godfamily AND their kids and grandkids. It was a sight to behold– over 20 kids, running crazy, along with around 40 adults. We haven’t been down to see any of them since I was preggo with Anthony, so we had a lot of catching up to do! It was heavenly.

July LA Trip 1

Because Trenna has 5 grandkids, she has a wonderful yard for playing. G got busy right away (after being in the car for 5 hours straight, it must’ve felt awesome to run around and jump in water!). There were kiddie pools, a slip n slide, yummy snacks, a playhouse, and an activity water table!

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Gregory and Jo-jo remembered each other from Elise's wedding last year, so they picked up right where they left off

Gregory and Jo-jo remembered each other from Elise’s wedding last year, so they picked up right where they left off

We lost sight of G for a short while (which was okay, because the whole yard was fenced), and when we noticed him again, he had jumped into a kiddie pool, clothes and shoes and all! He was in seventh heaven.

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July LA Trip 21

I took this picture of Jesse and 2 of our godbrothers, Elmo and Tim

Trenna also had a “grandkids” room, complete with a crib, a twin bed, and a full bed. After the party was over, we were able to put the kids to sleep and then talk to Mitch and Trenna for hours over a cup of coffee. Again, SO HEAVENLY!
The next day, Trenna made us omelettes using fresh veggies from her garden. Then, her son and daughter in law, Alex and Emily, came over with their two kids, Olivia (Gregory’s age) and Mia (2 months old). Gregory and “Livy” quickly got to playing house. Funny enough, Gregory was way more into it than she was!
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When it was time to go, they gave each other the cutest hugs.July LA Trip 12
After Anthony had a LONG nap in the crib, we packed the kids in the car and headed to the Shelbys for a type of “college reunion”. With the exception of the Unruhs and Jason who weren’t present, these people were our BEST friends throughout college. Jesse even lived with most of them in a house, at one point. It’s so special to be able to go back and watch all of our offspring play together!
The whole group, later that evening

The whole group, later that evening

Gregory and Annalyse were partners in crime the entire day. They actually had a planned attack to corner the cat at one point! They shared and played so well that Gregory has been asking to play with her ever since.

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We spent Friday night at the Shelbys in their 2nd bedroom. Saturday morning, we made a breakfast scramble of all the leftover grilled veggies and steak. Then, we headed out to their apartment complex’s pool!

Late Saturday afternoon, we packed the kids in the car and headed to Corona to spend the night at Jesse’s brother’s girlfriend’s house. It was in a newer development in Corona, so it was HUGE and practically brand new. AND we had it all to ourselves since the family had other plans that night.

Also, there was a gorgeous pool with a hilltop view of the valley. Jesse and David swam with the boys while I headed down for some alone time at the giant mall (ANTHROPOLOGIE!!!). But I did manage to take some pictures when I got back.

July LA Trip 9

July LA Trip 8

He kept yelling, “Momma! I got smoochies! Dadda gave me smoochies!”

July LA Trip 7

We’ve discovered that Anthony pretty much hates the water, so he sat with me on the deck and chewed on his boat.

July LA Trip 6

Sunday morning, we went to St. Andrew’s church in Riverside. Normally, we would go to St. Barnabas, our home church where we were chrismated 6 years ago. They were holding a Parish Life Conference, however, so most of St. Barnabas (including our godfamily) decided to go to their sister church, St. Andrews. They just had their church building finished last year, and it is GORGEOUS. Probably the biggest Orthodox church I’ve ever been to! Fr. Josiah modeled it after a church he visited in the Holy Land.
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I didn’t realize just how many people were packed inside until it came time for communion. There were over EIGHTY children in line (all the kids go first so that they can make it to Sunday School)! They just kept coming and coming and coming.
Just a few of the kids, in the choir

Just a few of the kids, in the choir

When it was the adults’ turn for communion, the children joined the choir and sang all by themselves for a good 20 minutes. It was so cute, and it brought tears to my eyes. It truly felt like we were in heaven, worshipping with the angels.
After church was over, our godfamily decided to skip coffee hour (it was a zoo, given the hundreds of people) and go down the street to eat at a pizza/pita place. This was primarily Robin’s idea, mostly because there was a fountain for Jojo and Gregory to splash in. And SPLASH they did! We ate and talked in peace for hours, and they were happily entertained!
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This is not our entire godfamily (there are THIRTY-TWO of us, turns out!), but we had quite a turnout. You can see that Gregory was not excited about leaving his beloved fountain.
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Once we were done eating, we grabbed some Starbucks, changed the boys into dry clothes, and drove 6 hours straight home from Riverside! The boys slept the entire way, stopping only once in Oxnard for In n Out.
Overall, it was an AMAZING trip. We did the entire thing for under $150, and it will definitely be remembered as one of the highlights from this summer! We can’t wait to do it again!

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