Tuesday, December 21, 2010

By The Numbers

3--The number of appointments we had at the doctor's office today

45--The number of minutes the appointments were scheduled to go. Yeah right...

11--Total number of vaccines received by the 5 members of our family.

3--The number of nurses it took to administer said vaccines in addition to both parents.

8.75--The amount in pounds that Annika now weighs. (8lbs, 12oz)

21.5--Her length in inches

89--The percentile Lydia finds herself in for height, no wonder she keeps passing her 4 and 5 year old friends.

34.25--Lydia's weight in pounds, also in the upper 80's percentile wise.

3--The number of times Joshua made the doctor laugh out loud with his antics

1--The number of times he had to sit in time-out while their. Not a highlight.

2--The number of tears Joshua shed during his two shots. He's getting so grown up.

Multitudes--The amount of tears Lydia shed during three shots. She's our drama queen. In fact, she made such a scene that on the way home she told us she only had one shot because she was too worked up to notice the other two. Poor girl. :(

40--Joshua's weight in pounds, glad he's officially big enough for the booster seat he's been riding in since October. :)

105--The number of minutes our appointments really took.

Innumerable--The blessings of three happy, healthy kids!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cute Siblings

We're spending some time with parents while daddy's on a business trip. I'm behind on posting (again!) but with the newborn lifestyle, even when baby's sleeping there isn't much time for blogging.
So, for now, enjoy some new pictures. :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

While I'm still Brand New!

Miss Annika had her newborn photos taken today by our friend, Andrea, and we got some beautiful pictures of the sweetest newborn around (not that I'm biased or anything). It was a lot of fun to watch, and Andrea's so talented and captured a lot of great photo memories that really are so like our Anni.
Another "super-mom" plug, she did all of these with another 3 kids ages 4 and under in the house at the time. :) Here's a sampling of my favorites, Enjoy!

If you want to see more photos, I also posted them to my Facebook profile.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Birth Story

Today was (one of) my original due date with Annika. (Maybe TMI, but there was a 2-day discrepancy between the dates I had and the date my doctor went by, due to cycle length)
So, before I forget, I thought I'd mark this day with Miss Anni's birth story. :)
Where did we leave off? I think I'd updated on here once I'd been officially diagnosed with severe preeclampsia on Thursday, September 30. After initially deciding to hospitalize me for the duration of the pregnancy, my OB reconsidered and sent me home on strict bedrest, taking my blood pressure 3 times daily and coming into the hospital/clinic every other day for a non-stress test.
On Friday, Sue, James' mom drove down to stay with us for the next few days. Shortly after she got here, my blood pressure went up past the limits my doctor had given me, and we headed into labor and delivery. After being in triage for a couple of hours, having labs redrawn, etc. they decided it was just a fluke bump in BP and sent me back home. Saturday I was scheduled to have a NST at L&D which I went to as planned. During that visit I was on constant BP monitoring and the doctors decided the numbers were consistently higher than they wanted them to be, so I was put on a blood pressure lowering medication and sent home again. All went as planned, and in fact my pressure numbers did drop a bit after a couple of doses of the medication. We were settling in on Sunday for another week of bedrest, and even had a clinic visit scheduled for first-thing on Monday morning. Just before we headed to bed on Sunday night, I had my blood pressure checked again. It was high again, very high--148/98--and I called the on-call doctor as directed. She directed us to come in again and the plan was to hospitalize me at that point.
After arriving in triage at about 11pm, we realized it was a VERY busy night in L&D. The until was swamped and during the course of the night they were laboring not one, not two, but three mothers due to deliver twins! Needless to say, the pregnant lady not having contractions was a bit low on their priority list. We sat in the triage room for the next several hours--various residents, doctors, and lab techs were in and out. Labs were run again, and I was put on the monitors both to check on how baby was tolerating the high blood pressure and keeping tabs on my blood pressure. It dropped a bit again once I got into the hospital, but it still wasn't low.
Finally, the attending physician came in and conferenced with us. Even though I appeared to be stable at the time, she told us, she was recommending we proceed delivery of the baby--that night. After the roller coaster of the previous five days, it was not a shock, we had been anticipating the arrival of our baby sooner rather than later, yet we'd had the plans changed so many times it hardly seemed real.
It was now about 2am on Monday morning, and I'll be honest, I was quite nervous about beginning labor without any sleep. I was curious however to see what kind of progress my body had been making on its own, if any. I'd been having frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions during my whole third trimester and I was favorable for so long with Lydia I was hopeful that maybe we'd have some progress. Unfortunately, not so much this time. When checked after being admitted I was a fingertip dilated, not effaced, and very posterior. Great--not good conditions for beginning an induction five weeks early. At that point I was prepared for a long journey. My IV was started, and by 3:30am the resident had placed the cervical ripener, Cervadil, given to hopefully start the induction process. It takes 12 hours for the drug to work, so we were in a holding pattern until the next afternoon as long as my condition remained stable. Thankfully it did, but wow, that was a long 12 hours! Contractions, albeit mild ones, began almost as soon as they inserted the Cervadil. They were fairly regular at about 7 minutes apart and definitely noticeable, especially since I wasn't allowed to leave my bed except to use the restroom. I was again hopefully when the resident came in to check me that because I'd been able to feel the effects I would have made a lot of positive progress. And I'll tell you, it is a sad day when you're hoping someone will tell you it's time to start Pitocin!
During the 12 hours letting the Cervadil do its thing there was a change-over of the residents. I really liked the woman who was on during the night, I wasn't so much a fan of the daytime resident. There was nothing really WRONG with her per-say, we just didn't really click. She came in around 4pm to check me and pretty soon dashed my hopes of having a Monday baby. Per her exam I'd progressed to about 1cm, effaced to about 30%, and was still very posterior and high station. Needless to say, not the progress we were looking for. The resident tried to be empathetic, but I'm fairly certain she's never been a laboring woman herself. Her condolence: "don't get discouraged, cervical ripening can be a slow process, this might take days." Um yeah, thanks for that--very helpful! The only nice thing I can say about the woman was that when I complained that I was afraid that between no sleep and not eating since dinner on Sunday night that I'd have nothing left when it came time to really labor she shocked the whole room. She informed me that she always lets her cervical ripening patients eat--yep, not just jello or broth, but meals from the cafeteria. That information would have been nice to know all day, but I wasn't complaining, I just wanted my food STAT. Once she left the room the nurse brought me the menu and the phone and confided that she'd never seen a doctor let someone eat before, but by all means go ahead and get something. I still think that was perhaps what allowed me to get through the next 12 hours.
Anyway, back to the induction process, since the Cervadil had been so ineffective it was decided that we should try the other drug used for cervical ripening, Misoprostol. The best news about the new drug, it only takes 4 hours for each dose. It was about 4:30 or so when the new drug was placed. We went back to what we'd been doing all day, trying our best to rest. About 6pm, Sue brought Joshua and Lydia in to see us, it was nice to have them visit and helped take the strain of the process off a bit. I felt more relaxed and confident after their visit. At 7pm the staff changed out again, this time for the better. Not only was I assigned a nurse that I really clicked with, but the resident from the previous night was back on (someone I found out later is a good friend of one of my friends) and it was almost time to see what progress, if any I'd been making.
8pm arrived and with it good news. Not only had I made progress, I'd made good progress. Although I was still quite posterior and she was still very high, I was now dilated to 4cm and 60% effaced! The downside was that because she was ballotable (not fully engaged) rather than being able to break my water and let nature take its course, I would still have to be started on Pitocin.
In all fairness to Pitocin, I've never labored without it, so maybe it's just that labor is wicked, but Pitocin is evil stuff. My body does really weird things while on Pitocin. First of all, it doesn't seem to get the message that no matter if my body is making progress, it needs to show up on the monitor, or the staff will just keep cranking the levels. With Joshua the Pit level was so high that by the time my body got the message and contributed it's own labor I was hyper-contracting and he went into distress. For awhile with Lydia, even though I was feeling intense contractions, on the monitor they were showing up as negative (or dipping/inverted) contractions. This time was no different, though I could feel the intensity progressing the monitor was showing barely any contractions of significance. They got closer together, but to someone not experiencing them, they didn't appear to be actively making progress.
The rest of the evening passed as pleasantly as any labor can, I think. While uncomfortable, the contractions were still manageable, so we got comfy. In fact there was a period where the nurse, resident, and I were swapping birth stories. I gained new respect for the resident, who I discovered was a mother of four pre-school aged kids, the last of whom was born this spring in a flurry that the attending physician barely arrived in time for. The nurse and the doctor had working at each others deliveries, both earlier this year, so they were comfortable together. I was able to share that once things had gotten going both of my previous deliveries had gone FAST! Though it was just a conversation at the time, it turned out to be one of the most important bits of information I shared all night.
Monday crawled to an end, and I realized that all of my kids would be born on Tuesdays, and I was hopeful that they would all be born during the wee hours of the morning (Joshua was 3:08am, Lydia 12:29am) but I thought it was actually most likely that my doctor would deliver this baby as well sometime after she came on duty at 7am. I started feeling a lot of pressure around midnight, and while it didn't really feel like the pushing sensation I was familiar with, I asked to be checked. During the past four hours of being on ever-increasing doses of Pitocin I'd moved from 4cm to 5cm, but was unchanged other than that. At that point I realized it could still be a long process and I began to really think about my pain relief options.
I intended to get an epidural during the course of my labor with Joshua, but was barely dilated when I started discussing it with my nurses, and they convinced me to try a narcotic first. During the couple of hours the narcotic was in effect, I progressed VERY quickly, and by the time I was sure I couldn't tolerate the pain any longer I was 8.5cm dilated and being headed to the OR for a probable emergency C-section. (That didn't happen, but that's a story for another day.) With Lydia, when my induction began I was already 5cm dilated and 80% effaced. Because Lydia was also ballotable, I was on Pitocin for a few hours, but because I was able to be up and walking around I was able to get through the contractions. When I finally felt like it was time for some pain relief I was 9cm dilated and pushing just a few minutes later--too late again! So this time I wanted to be more intentional. After delivering two babies without an epidural, it wasn't that I thought I couldn't do it, it was just that I wasn't sure I wanted to. I also knew that things would probably go very quickly at the end, so I wanted a plan. I debated asking for the epidural back and forth, but finally settled on asking for a dose of narcotic pain relief. The plan was for me to get the narcotic right before my water was broken, and I figured it would be fully in effect during transition and pushing. Given my history, I was doubtful labor would last more than a couple of hours after my water was broken, so I'd have some relief, but not more than needed.
It was a nice plan in theory, however nothing over the past couple of weeks had gone as planned, so I'm not sure why I thought that would! After being checked at midnight, I was pretty much on my own through the next few hours. The nurse popped in and out, but I didn't see the doctor again. The contractions continued to intensify slowly, but nothing noteworthy seemed to be happening. I tried to rest as much as possible and James was dozing on the couch. The monitor continued to show only little blips of contractions and I'm sure everyone thought this would drag on for a very long time. I know I was starting to...
At 4:21am I had another contraction just like the hundreds I'd been having over the past 24 hours, except...during the peak of the contraction I felt something like a rubber-band popping internally. It happened twice and my contraction instantly intensified tenfold. I wondered if my water had broken (it had been broken by the doctor in both of my other labors), but there was no fluid gush, drip, or leak. Just the weird internal popping noises. I told James what had happened and went ahead and paged the nurse. During the next contraction my water began gushing. During the midst of that contraction a nurse I had never seen before walked into the room. She calmly informed me that I should get up and go to the bathroom and she'd change the bed. Um, yeah...about that, I was pretty sure I wasn't going anywhere. At this point the contractions were coming nearly one on top of the other and they were INTENSE. To her credit she seemed to figure that out pretty quickly and backpedaled on the request for me to get up, she just put new padding down. She was not, however, taking me seriously that this was going to happen fast. I requested a doctor so I could be checked, because I was pretty sure I was transitioning and was starting to get the urge to push.
Though there are some very great nurses, I'm always surprised that they seem to think they know better than the mom, especially if the mother has had a child before. When I told the nurse I was starting to feel like the baby was coming quickly, she told me that contractions always intensify right after water breaks, but they'd settle down and come more slowly after a few minutes. She was obviously not getting it! I asked for my doctor and my nurse again and was told my nurse was assisting with a delivery in the next room. At this point I knew whoever was there or not there this baby was coming SOON. My body was starting to push unbidden and I felt the incredible urge to join it. The nurse was still taking her sweet time until I mentioned that Lydia had been born 45 minutes after my water was broken. That got her into action, she then paged the doctors again and started trying to prevent me from pushing. She checked me and told me I wasn't complete. That was very concerning to her, much less so to me, I knew it was only a matter of minutes (seconds?) before I would be--but she was very insistent I couldn't push. Again, I always wonder, have you done this??? There's nothing else you can do when you get to that point. Finally after what seemed like hours, but was really only minutes the doctor and nurse arrived. The nurse kept protesting that I wasn't complete--the doctor re-checked and I was in fact complete. It all happened in a blur after that. I knew she was coming and I didn't think it would be long. I pushed a couple of times and then could feel she was crowning. The doctor was scrambling to get her second glove on while she was born. And then it was over. There hadn't been time to get the bed transformed, the doctor wasn't gowned up, and the attending didn't even make it into the room until after Annika had already arrived. The best part of the whole labor--no tears--what a great thing!!! :)
At 4:43, just 22 minutes after the first "popping" contraction, Annika Caroline joined our family. You all know the rest of the NICU story, it wasn't what we had hoped and planned for, but we survived it, and couldn't be more pleased to have Annika as part of our family. We are in love! Happy Due Date baby girl, I'm so glad you're here snuggling with me. :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Fog

Annika came home last Friday (10/22), so we've spent our last week in the fog that envelopes all households with a newborn. We've been keeping a low profile as Annika's immune system is very immature, she's had respiratory problems, and in general we've just been really tired!
Miss Annika is doing well, lots of sleeping, eating, and pooping. Mommy and Daddy have been getting all the snuggles we can while trying to keep the big brother and big sister entertained as well.
Friends near and far have been so helpful, and even though we received such an abundant supply of meals while we were making trips back and forth to the NICU, we've continued to have people offer to keep us well fed--what a blessing!
Our biggest struggle since bringing Annika home has been transitioning from the bottle to the breast, but after getting a nipple-shield yesterday and deciding to breastfeed exclusively for 2-3 days, I think we've made a breakthrough and it's been 24 hours since she's needed to take any of her feedings by bottle!
Hopefully the next post won't be so long in coming and will be filled with cute, snuggly, newborn photos...and of course trick-or-treating pics as well!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On the 12th Day in NICU...

My baby got to try...bottle feeding for the first time! :)

Annika continues to improve each day, slowly but surely. As of today, she's down to room air (21% oxygen) again, on 2.5L worth of air flow on the nasal cannula. She graduated yesterday to an open-top crib instead of the isolette and she's been maintaining her body temperature quite well. She is being given a 3-day course of Lasik (a diuretic to reduce water retention) to eliminate the extra fluid she has from being on IV's for 10 days. We can see the reduction in the puffiness in her face, but the main goal is actually to help reduce extra fluid retention in her lungs. It seems to be working well, as her respiration rate has come down steadily over the past couple of days and except for occasional "episodes" she's staying nicely in the optimal range (20-60 breaths per minute). Because of the reduced respiration rate and longer alert periods, she was allowed to try bottle feeding starting last night, and when we were visiting this morning, I got to give her a bottle! :)

To follow up on my last post, I'm sure most of you heard the update either in person, or via Facebook updates, but we learned on Monday (I think, it might have been Tuesday...my days are running together) that Annika had a probable case of pneumonia on top of the premature lung disease from being born at 35 weeks without any steroid lung maturation. Sunday was a rough day, but we actually didn't become aware of the condition until she was starting to make progress again. Honestly, as rough as last weekend was, we feel very blessed that my Group B strep status was unknown when labor began. What seemed like an unnecessary precaution at the time (I've been negative with both other kids, and was again this time we found out later) turned out to make a huge difference in Annika's life. If we had known that I was group B negative, they wouldn't have started her on antibiotics immediately following birth. Without the antibiotics, the pneumonia could potentially have been even more serious than it was, and Annika could have had an even rougher start than she did. Though the journey still seems far from over, we've already starting to see God's hand working throughout the situation. Though it would never have been what we would have chosen, we can still see how much worse things could have been and how God has been keeping us and our daughter safe when we could not have done anything to protect ourselves on our own.

I think the hardest part for me is still that we're just not sure how much longer she'll be in the NICU. She's making progress on all the goals she needs to be, but I think it'll probably still be a week or two before she's ready to join us at home. It's just a bit frustrating, because everyone says she's doing well, but no one is able to tell us how long the rest of her progress might take. She's really setting the pace right now, so it's just really up to her at this point. I definitely want her to be healthy and as ready as she needs to be before we bring her home, but it gets harder and harder to leave her as she's more aware of our presence and also as we're able to do more and more for her. At the beginning it was obvious we couldn't care for her in the medical condition she was in, but now it seems like almost everything she needs we could do at home with the right equipment. However, they have protocol and so she'll continue teaching mommy a lesson in patience.

We finally got pictures of our whole family together (aren't the kiddos all just too cute?) and I just am so excited to think about our little family returning to "normal" though it may be awhile before that actually happens. In the meantime we'll treasure the time we get to spend with her and rejoice in each step she takes toward coming home!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Week 1

Well, I feel significantly better this Monday morning than I did last Monday at this time. I can't ever say I enjoy any part of labor, other than when it's over. However, I absolutely cannot believe my baby girl is one week old tonight. I don't think it's possible for someone to work herself more into my heart than Annika has this week. Not being able to hold her is incredibly difficult, as it feels like there's not any way to let her know how much I love her without doing so.
I apologize in advance, this may be a bit all over the place.
The first week has been rough, I never imagined this would be as hard as it has been. In fact, before last week, I guess I really never imagined the NICU being part of my story ever. Your entire perspective on everything changes instantly. Leaving the hospital without your baby is something no parent should have to do. I think perhaps I was even more poorly prepared, because while I knew that at 35 weeks she would likely have to stay, I saw it as more of a speed bump than a long term stay. After a week, I don't really know what to believe.
Annika is stable for now. She's still on the ventilator, which she's been on since Thursday morning. They've been able to adjust her settings lower over the past few days, but I haven't really heard talk of trying to take her off it for the past couple of days. I think it's mostly due to the fact that while she's holding pretty steady, she's not really making the forward progress the neonatologists would expect for someone of her gestational age and size. Though she doesn't seem to be in pain, she's fairly lethargic most of the time, and they feel like she's "sick." What they haven't figured out is if it's just the trouble breathing that's tiring her, or if she has some sort of bug that they haven't identified.
Yesterday we were there when they rounded, and the one neonatologist in particular seemed fairly puzzled and concerned. She was not re-assuring to a mother's heart. Their biggest concern is that they would expect a baby of her age to have started producing her own surfactant within the first 1-3 days following birth, and there's no indication that she's done so. Her chest x-ray is still very cloudy, she's still taking too many breaths per minute, which is making her oxygen usage ineffective on her own, and is working to hard to breathe. As a result they've started to investigate if there are other structural issues putting more stress on her lungs. Annika had an EKG yesterday, which didn't really turn up anything explanatory or terribly concerning. She has a few small, very common holes in her heart, but according to the cardiologist almost any baby would have visible holes at this age, just most aren't given an EKG because they close on their own in the first few months following birth anyway.
Today she has tests for liver functionality due to some bilirubin numbers that are atypical, and she'll also have another blood draw to see if she's still has elevated levels of antibodies that are usually indicative of infection. I never thought I'd be hopeful that my child had an infection, and it still concerns me, but if she has a bug that she's not getting antibiotics for, it might be a quick and "easy" solution.
The unknown is what's so difficult for me right now. If someone could tell me that she'll be fine and give me a timeline for when she's coming home, I feel like I could deal with it, somewhat regardless of when it might be. I've already mentally extended my "2 weeks at most" perspective I had before and during her birth. I'm trying to prepare myself for a long road.
Unfortunately, I'm also concerned about the doctor's concern. I don't know about all moms, but I can imagine all sorts of terrible outcomes. I know the statistics on 35 week preemies says they almost all do just fine, but yet all of us know that there are always exceptions to statistics and there's not a worse fear as a parent than the thought of losing your child.
We're trying to take things one day at a time, stay present for our kids at home, and make time for each other, but many times it seems that there's just too much uncertainty to find any "normal" in this stage.
We still cannot thank everyone enough for continued concern and support: calls, meals, offers to help with kids, and asking about how Annika is doing. Thanks for loving our daughter with us, even though most of you haven't yet met her. Thanks for loving us well too! Hopefully the next update can be more encouraging.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Welcome Baby Girl!

As nearly all of you have probably heard, we had our baby girl this past Tuesday. Annika Caroline made her (fast) entrance into the world at 4:43am, and weighed in at 4lbs, 13oz while stretching out to 18."
Though she did make it to 35 weeks gestational age, her lungs are not fully developed. So, the past several days have been a roller coaster ride of adjusting to being a NICU-parent. We're not sure how long this road will take. For the first three days it seemed that we were only moving backwards, with Annika ending up on a ventilator by Thursday morning. She's been holding steady since and today she's actually been making forward progress going down in both oxygen percentage and number of breaths the vent is taking for her. We're hoping that she'll continue to make forward progress, but no one can really tell us when or how that may happen. The kids are both thrilled to have a little sister, but a bit confused as to why they're not able to hold her much (they've both gotten to do so once before she was vented) or play with her, or have her live here at our house. All in all they're doing OK.

Her bilirubin levels rose steadily over the first few days, but she started to poop yesterday, and the levels were down today, so she's only on a bili-light now, and was able to retire the bili-blanket. Even though she hasn't been able to work on eating yet, she's receiving intravenous nutrition, and after initial weight loss, she's picked back up a couple of ounces over the past two days, so we're hopeful her weight is on the way up for good.
So, we're taking things one day at a time and hoping and praying she'll be able to join our family at home as soon as possible. Leaving her behind when I checked out of the hospital was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, for sure the hardest thing as a mom!
Thanks for everyone who has prayed for us and Annika, brought us food, called, taken care of the kids, or supported us in so many other ways, we couldn't have made it through this past week without it!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Who hasn't heard this line a million times? And yet, every so often you realize just why you hear it all the time. Sometimes what you wish for...comes true...just not how you'd planned. For any of you who may not be in the parent camp and are worried about too much mommy TMI, just scroll down to the bottom for the 'what's next' section. We covet your prayers even if you don't want the details!

Many of you know I had my regularly scheduled 34 week OB visit on Tuesday. This pregnancy has been going along without a glitch so far, but on Tuesday there were some anomalies in the regular-visit checks they always run. My blood pressure was up (though still in a borderline range) and I was spilling protein. Given my history of pre-eclampsia with Joshua, I was immediately sent down to the lab for a blood draw and to get set up with a 24-hour urinalysis fo ra more accurate count of how much protein was actually spilling over the course of a day. I was also put on partial bedrest until my follow-up appointment and NST this morning.

James and our friends have been awesome, and the past two days have been spent being able to truly lay-low for the most part. I've been feeling OK, but anxious to see what we're really dealing with.

This morning started out quite well. All of my blood work came back normal, no elevations or anything that would be concerning or indicate stress from the pre-eclampsia, etc. Baby and I had a non-stress test (NST) and everything looked perfect. Heart rate looked great, baby had a good number of accelerations as they like to see, and all indications are that the placenta is functioning well and not being too stressed either. My blood pressure numbers were almost the same as they had been on Tuesday (low 130's over low 80's) and still in an only slightly elevated range and as an added bonus (at least from the view of all women, pregnant or otherwise) I'd actually lost almost 3lbs since Tuesday! However, the results of the 24-hour urinalysis were also waiting for me. According the my OB/GYN the typical amount of protein collected over a 24 hour period should be <.3, my number was 2.2. Yep, more than 7x the "elevated" amount! Unfortunately, this alone is enough to classify me as severely pre-eclamptic. :(

I'm home now on bedrest for the rest of the pregnancy, monitoring my blood pressure throughout the day and watching for any of the other warning symptoms that signal worsening pre-eclampsia. Baby and I will be monitored by my doctor in the hospital or the birth center every two days and have labs drawn each time. If anything changes, I will be hospitalized until the baby arrives. If I present with one more "severe" symptom, I will likely be induced immediately. The best-case scenario at this point would be to make the pregnancy continue until the baby is 36 weeks gestational age (October 10th), we are hoping to be able to make it at least through this weekend when the baby would reach 35 weeks maturity. Given the severe nature of the case, we will almost definitely have a baby on or before October 15th regardless of what happens, as delivery is the only treatment/remedy for pre-eclampsia.

Waiting is not without risks to my health, delivering immediately not without risks for the baby, it's a balancing act at this point. Would you pray with us that we and the doctors would have wisdom to find the right course of action for the best outcomes for both of us? Also, pray for me as I feel so torn between what's best for the kids I already have and doing whatever it takes to protect this baby within, I feel like it's a no-win situation. Lydia is confused and Joshua is worried. :( Would you also pray for James this type of uncertainty and needing to be both the day-in-day-out prarent and the working parent puts a lot of stress on him as well and we all feel like we're on a roller coaster we can't get off?

Thanks so much for all the love, hugs, prayers, offers to help, and support we've been surrounded by over the past few days. We are so blessed to have such a supportive group of family and friends!

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's Fall

Fall has arrived here in Wisconsin, and after a brief return of the humidity of summer last week (which this pregnant lady is beyond done with) we're back to breezy, sunny days and chilly nights perfect for snuggling under a blanket. I love fall!

I'm in full blown nesting phase, which is currently manifesting itself in a need to plan and store food for when this baby arrives. This morning I'm not sure what possessed me to get these yesterday, but they were beautiful, free, and I'm blaming it on the nesting bug.
Not looking forward to all of the peeling, seeding, and cooking down that awaits me today, but the end results will be worth it. Nothing better than homemade tomato sauce/marinara on a cold winter evening. :)

I've got a bunch of other nesting-related projects going, but I'm running out of energy long before I accomplish everything, so I don't think this baby should count on being the first of my babies to have a nursery finished BEFORE she arrives. I'm pretty sure she'll have to wait until 4-6 months just like the other two. Though all the essentials are there and the clothes are even washed and in the drawers and the changing table is stocked, so we're prepared on a supplies front. (In fact with the deal-hunting/couponing I've done for diapers over the past months, if I cloth diaper ~50% like I did with Lydia, I might never have to buy a diaper once she arrives...a girl can always hope, right?)

I'm also trying to soak up these last few weeks of "just" being mommy of two of the cutest kids on the planet. I've been trying to be more intentional about getting an extra hug here and a snuggle there before this next little one arrives. They're just so precious, and while I know I won't love them any less as we add another, they may feel a little less treasured for a bit simply because of all the attention and energy getting through life with a newborn takes. So, I want to pour into them now while I can, and really, I just can't get enough.

Anyway, a sure sign of fall at our house is always the arrival of the pumpkins. I know it's only September, but pumpkins are way ahead of schedule this year, and our CSA farm hosted their annual pumpkin party and end-of-season crop gleaning yesterday. We've been members of this CSA for two years now, and the pumpkin pick was a highlight of our fall last year, so we knew we'd be back. We spent much of the afternoon yesterday wandering the farm, picking crops that were at the end of their production (past the point they were "worth" the farm-worker's labor-hours to try to get more saleable harvest, but with much tasty, usuable produce remaining) and opened up to the CSA members to take whatever they could use for their families. Sadly, the peppers around here have had a bad season, so none of the beautiful red peppers got last year, but the tomatoes made up for it. Oh my, so many. :)
We also picked broccoli, lettuce, a stray onion or two, and carrots.
Then it was off to the pumpkin patch. Joshua was really into it, trying to make sure he had "the biggest one." He wants to decorate his pumpkin right away of course, but we're trying to convince him that he should wait a bit closer to Halloween. He's also looking forward to roasting and eating the seeds. :) Lydia looked at us a bit incredulously when we told her she could just walk into the field and pick any pumpkin she wanted. She settled for one right on the very edge of the patch anyway... As always, no matter what they choose it makes for some fun pictures. :)

So, now I guess all we need to make this fall complete is the little pumpkin waiting to make a debut and making mommy think 6 weeks sounds like a long time!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Smaller, Bigger, or the Same?

Yesterday I had on an outfit I remembered wearing in one of the few belly shots I have from my pregnancy with Lydia. I also realized that the pictures were taken within a week of the same point in the pregancy also, so I thought it would be interesting to compare.
At least for me I feel the particular shirt I'm wearing makes the bump look different sizes, so it's hard to compare unless you've controlled for that variable. ;-)

Anyway, what do you guys think, how does the size compare? Bigger this time, or last?

The first picture is me pregnant with Lydia at 30ish weeks. The second is pregnant with baby #3 at 31 weeks exactly.

P.S. Please ignore the "just woke up" look in the current picture...it's true, but not so flattering!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The After

We're finally done with all our rehab-ing of the house and it's officially on the market again.

We ended up being about 50% over our budget for the project, and 50% over the time we hoped us to take, but we feel a bit like house-flippers from an HGTV show at this point. We've pretty much re-worked every surface of the house in some fashion or another over the past three weeks.

We've did a bathroom re-model, a new roof, a new front door and shutters, re-worked landscaping, paint on every surface in the house, all new light fixtures inside and out, updated a lot in the kitchen, and a lot of touch-up and detail work besides.

We're official on the MLS today and our website is up and running. Check it out: http://205marietta.com. If you know anyone in South Central Wisconsin looking for a house, let us know, we'd love for them to take a look.
You can see some "good" before pictures by heading back to this post or this one from last summer, though a lot of stuff was in much worse shape once the tenants got done with it...as you can imagine.

Now we're back to the wait and see game, but at least we should be able to enjoy the last snippets of our summer without feeling guilt for every minute we're NOT working on the house. Thanks to everyone who helped us make everything happen in three weeks, whatever role you played, there's no way we could have done it without you!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Saga, Pt. 6 (The Finale...We Hope)

I bet you thought there was never going to be an end to this story, right? Trust me, us too.
Anyway, our court date was set for June 12th, and from our perspective it couldn't come fast enough. Our very own moment with Madison's 'Judge Judy', aww, how precious. Check one more thing off the bucket list. Ahem...
Well, remember how tenant-friendly our county is. Turns out the first "court date" is actually a mandatory mediation hearing where a non-judicial mediator meets with both parties to see if they can come to a legally-binding settlement without appearing in court. This was fairly discouraging to us, since you can't get an eviction without attending the hearing, but we would be out of town for the first court date available following the mediation.
We also discovered the weekend prior to the hearing that the state maintains an online database of all the small claims court cases filed and you can search by case number OR name. While this information would have been incredibly helpful several months before, our morbid curiosity was at least satisfied a bit to learn what kind of character we were dealing with. Turns out that between Bill and Sandy, not one or two, but six small claims cases had been opened since 2006 listing them as defendants, either separately or jointly. Furthermore, three of the cases were eviction cases, all since the very end of 2006. Ours would be their fourth, they'd lost all previous cases. At this point we began to assume that our friendly neighborhood squatters wouldn't even show for the mediation, I mean, why bother? For us that would have been a potentially best case scenario, we thought, as a no-show meant an instant writ of eviction.
But June 12th dawned gray and drizzly, much like my mood and who should be waiting for us upon walking into the courthouse waiting room than Bill? Jolly as you please he pleasantly inquired how we were as if we were perhaps bumping into a long-lost acquaintance at a restaurant or grocery store, certainly not as if he were the devious crook who'd given us the runaround on our rent for two months, been squatting for over a month, and was now over $3000.00 in the hole for rental payments, utilities, and court costs incurred. Some people will never cease to surprise me.
We did learn a lot about ourselves and the situation in the hour that followed. Like, for instance, that the non-payment had never been about the money, but rather that he'd never received the utility statements that he'd requested. Or that he was sure we could all agree that we'd done things we regretted in the situation. (Well yes, but none of them in the sense of my unfair treatment of you, Bill, trust me I would be much less of a Mr. Nice-Guy to any scumbag who tried the same tricks in the future and much quicker to bring down the hammer) We also learned that Sandy really thought an ideal and fair solution would be for them to stay until the end of the summer at least. And that we were really devious people who couldn't be trusted to keep our word, so he definitely couldn't pay us until he was completely ready to move out, as there was no telling what we might do to him or the property in the meantime. I started to wonder what alternate universe this guy lives on more and more as the meeting progressed, but the session ended eventually ended with him agreeing to pay in two cash lump sums, one the following week and one the week after, and to be moved out by June 30th. He assured us he would comply lest we use the "ultimate weapon" (eviction) on him, which he would NEVER let happen to Diva and Jr. (Umm, apparently he doesn't know about the small claims record database, either, huh? You mean you wouldn't let it happen a 4th time?) At this point I didn't trust the guy as far as I could throw him, and he probably tops the scales close to 400lbs. so you all can figure how far that would be, so I figured it was yet another game and we'd never see a cent of the money.
Well, some people never cease to amaze me, and on the day appointed for the first lump sum, guess who showed up at the appointed meeting time and place and paid it all, down to the cent, a sum slightly over $1700.00 in cash. The largest bill was a $20. That did bring James and myself a good chuckle (should have taken a suitcase like the movies) and a bit of relief that maybe he'd had enough of his games.
Alas, if that were the case the surprises really would have been over, so true to his more typical nature, he blew off the next payment date and June 30th came and went with him "really working on getting out." The reason for the delay? Well, it's the first of the month, so I couldn't get a truck. Oh yeah, because you haven't known for three weeks (or three months, depending on how you look at it) that this day was coming?
Why you might ask didn't we rush down and get our writ of eviction. Well, turns out in Wisconsin you have to handle all your evictee's possessions with kid gloves. For example, if you move their stuff out you have to hire bonded movers to move it and you can't place it on the curb, but rather must pay to have it stored in a insured storage unit. No selling the property to pay off owed debts either. Also, the process comes with more court fees and a up to 10 day waiting period, so since he was actually making progress toward moving out (there were now boxes and a truck) we decided to go with it for a few more days. Finally on July 1st, James was able to get another $500 cash from him and one key (apparently Sandy had taken the other to work with her--who does that on a day you're vacating a property?) along with his signature and assurances that he'd be completely moved out by 6pm that night. Also, he informed James, they were visiting family in Iowa that weekend and he hadn't had time to get to the ATM since he was so busy moving, so the rest of the money would have to be paid on Tuesday. So, imagine our surprise when upon arriving home from our own long weekend visiting family over the 4th, we found one of their vehicles in our driveway. The explanation? Well, Sandy had become ill over the weekend, so they didn't actually go to Iowa, or finish moving out, but it would be done shortly. And the money? Well, he was waiting on a check to clear, and you know since the banks weren't open Monday in observance of the holiday it would just have to wait until Tuesday afternoon.
To his credit all of their stuff (well, all that they felt like moving...apparently the couch and grill were too large and hassle-some) was out on Monday morning and the other key was left as well, however we got the run-around all day on Tuesday again regarding when he'd actually have the rest of the money. Talk about a case of Deja Vu.
And the house, well considering all that could have gone wrong it's in decent shape. They apparently broke the dryer at some point (I'm assuming during the squatter days, since it would have been our responsibility to fix otherwise) but neglected to tell us. Two closet doors are maimed beyond repair, and they broke the door to the master bedroom. Perhaps my favorite casualty however is Diva's room. I'm fairly certain at some point in our lives this whole situation with the paint will be funny, though I can't say we're there yet. Remember how it all started with sweet nursery colors, transformed to purple/pink/leopard and how we were assured it would return to neutral boring-ness quickly. Remember when that happened, yep that's right, March 16th. Bill's one comment upon moving out was that he hadn't quite been able to complete the painting job (yes, you assume correctly, the one that was supposed to be done by 3/18) in the rush to move out and that he'd run out of paint. He could finish it for us of course, it would just take another day or two. We told him no thanks, we'd complete it, he could just reimburse us. Well, he wasn't joking when he said he wasn't done. In fact, the room looked as if someone had been raptured mid-job. Cardboard, rollers, and a paint tray were scattered around. The coats that were on the wall were providing the poorest coverage and the paint job was the sloppiest I've ever seen. Some pieces were nearly covered, though not smoothly, others had barely any paint on them at all. And oh my, I didn't know you could spill that much paint on the floor and trim if you tried. Basically, the oak trim throughout the room is a lost cause, it'll need to either be completely sanded and re-varnished, or painted white to salvage it. Oh my! And all because a 14-year-old couldn't live with baby blue and yellow for two months. However, my pity for Diva is less than great, as apparently no one has taught the near-woman that when you decide to deface something with a Sharpie, unless you're a mid-east terrorist type, you probably shouldn't write your real name, even if you do put lots of little hearts around it. My two-year-old knows not to write on walls with markers and that she's not even supposed to use a Sharpie anywhere without permission...wow!
Anyway, to wrap up this long saga as best as possible, we're now back to pursuing the rest of the cash from Bill through legal means. We're quite doubtful we'll ever see it again, but as my mom pointed out, I paid a LOT more in college to learn significantly fewer life lessons than this experience has taught us, so all is not lost. We're six months older, but significantly wiser, (albeit more cynical and jaded) and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?
We've definitely concluded that at this stage in our life we don't have what it takes to make it as landlords!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Saga, Pt 5.

On April 26th, Bill told James he'd gotten all his tax issues sorted out and now had the money to pay us our April rent, not seemingly concerned that he was not almost a month late.
The original plan was for them to meet at a local coffee-house around noon. When James checked around 11am to verify that the meeting was still on, Bill requested that the meeting be pushed back until 1pm. Due to the kids naptimes and James' work schedules, 1pm was not going to work for either of us, but he agreed to 12:45, only to cancel a few minutes before. Again.
However, he told James, if he'd just come by the house at his convenience anytime after 3pm he'd be there and have the money waiting for him so he could quickly be on his way. James dropped by after work to find no one home, but a note waiting for him on the door. Inside was a check and a note. This should be good, right? Not so much. The note told James that he didn't have the cash after all, but he didn't want to leave him with nothing, so he wrote him a check. A post-dated check. For $1400.00 For the 30th of April. From an account with neither name verification, nor a number. Opened in Bill's name using our address. From an account, we learned upon presenting it to the bank it was written against, which had been open for approximately 6 hours at the time it was left for James and which contained the grand sum of $100. Um, yeah...
In addition to the non-payment, we had another significant problem brewing. When our agent was at the property for a showing that same week he gave us a disturbing heads up. Anyone recall the move-out date we'd hesitantly and over-generously agreed to? May 1st, right? So you'd think by the last week in April there would be some sign of packing/organizing/preparing to move. Surprisingly, from anything our Realtor could tell there were none. Unsure what to do since about it, we just hoped they were last-minute procrastinators who would magically pack and move as planned in the next week. Though, after the chain of events from the previous month, we were less than optimistic.
About this time, though most of our correspondence had been with Bill, we decided to contact Sandy again and see if she was any more helpful in getting the payment problem resolved. When we got her on the phone she was "shocked" to learn that Bill had not paid the rent. She told us she'd given him the money to do so a couple of weeks prior, and he'd informed her it was taken care of. She apologized profusely and promised that none of their future payments would be late. Future payments, this was a red flag, how was someone who was aware that they were due to move out in just days even mentioning future payments? She told us she was currently at work, couldn't provide us with an email because Bill was constantly snooping in hers and she was in the process of creating another (really? how long does getting a yahoo or google mail account take?I'm pretty sure I could create one, or five, while writing this post.) but would call us as soon as she was finished and get it straightened out. We weren't sure what to believe about all this, until Bill called James in a huff less than an hour later. How could we have gone behind his back to complain to his wife, that was so low, he said he'd get us the money, etc. So, it's a bit hard to believe she's really the clueless, in-the-dark wife if she called him immediately, especially since we didn't hear a word from her again. Ever.
Unsurprisingly, when April 30th dawned, there was no where near the amount to cover the check that was written earlier in the week, and by this point we were honestly just hoping they'd get out on May 1st and we could move on, even if it was without the rent money due us. All we really wanted to do was sell the house. So we emailed asking what time he'd like to drop off the keys since his lease expired at midnight.
His reply? Well, they'd run into some more delays with the house and the little run in with the taxmen had delayed their purchase yet again and they'd let us know when they got that resolved. Let us know, huh? Whose house is this anyway? I've asked myself that alot over the past couple of months. And the money? Oh yeah, he actually doesn't have it, he should have been more open and forthcoming about that. You think? He assured us that we're very important to him though, and he would get us the money as soon as he could.
At this point what I really wanted to know is why he thought that information would be re-assuring. Oh yeah, I'm not actually moving out of your house as promised, and no I don't have your month-late rent, but you're very important to me, I'll let you know when it's available. Does this really placate ANYONE living?
We also informed him that due to his non-payment of utilities for the previous month and a half, he had three days during which he could either provide us with the remaining information we'd need to set up utilities in his name on his behalf, or he could call and change them himself, but we would have them turned off on our end as of the 3rd. (Something we should have done at least a month previously.) Turns out, he must have thought we wouldn't really follow through and didn't leave himself enough time, and apparently didn't have the credit/correct information to use the electric company's online form which may or may not have resulted in a brief interruption of his electric service. Oops! Not.
At this point (about a month too late, again with the hindsight thing...) we started formal eviction proceedings. Only to find that Wisconsin is one of the most tenant friendly states in the country, and oh yeah, our county is even more tenant-biased than the state at large. Our first (and only) step if we wanted them out without the option to pay-and-stay was a 14-day notice of contract violation. No problem, at this point they were not only in violation of the contract, they actually had no valid contract and were squatting. Check! 14 days passed with not only no attempt on Bill and Sandy's part at resolution, but no return contact whatsoever. We spent much of the time collecting data, checking out our options, learning much more about the eviction process than we ever wanted to know, mailing more registered mail than ever before in our lifetimes combined, and trying to be ready to go when the waiting period passed. We called and received a court date for June 12th (thanks to Memorial Day we were one business day short of the required waiting period for a date the previous week) and then got to learn all about process servers, court filing fees, and other legal processes of which most law-abiding citizens are completely unawares. I would have been happy to stay with that group for the foreseeable future, but it was enlightening. Thankfully my wonderful husband has much more patience than I do and was a champ about dutifully filling out forms, following up on forms, and patiently waiting for our day in court. So, though we wanted them out in April, we now were forced to come to grips with the fact it would be at least mid-June before we again had access to the property. And our peak summer selling season was quickly rolling past with us unable to show. :(
To Be Continued...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Saga, Pt. 4

Where were we, oh yes, the meeting with Bill and Sandy.
After arriving at the appointed time and waiting for a few minutes, Bill showed up alone. Turns out Sandy wanted to be there, but couldn't, an excuse that would be repeated often in the future...we're still not sure what Sandy's involvement in what went down after this point was, but needless to say we're pretty sure they could use a marriage-family counselor, though that was the least of our worries.
Anyway, Bill arrived with another addition to his story. The scoop, he said, was that they were planning on a cash purchase of their new home and that they were being "yanked around" by the seller. It seems that his wife didn't want to relocate so she was dragging her feet on moving out and they were now being told it would be the first of May at the soonest before they could get into their new property. Couldn't we please just give them an additional couple of weeks, at least, so they could stay in one location. They'd be extra cooperative with showings, and all we needed to do was say the word and they'd work with us however we needed, even if the showings were last minute, or inconvenient, they were our people.
The furniture and possessions in the property that were in somewhat-worse-than-good condition? Purchases off Craigslist so he could avoid unpacking his storage unit until he got into his big, beautiful house.
His wife? Neurotic, please don't contact her in the future, she doesn't deal well with changes.
And the room color? Well he guessed if he thought really hard about it he did remember us saying neutral, but Diva was just so excited about having her own room again, and she just loved those colors so much, and he's pretty sure if we just gave it a chance we'd see how stylish she'd made it. Um, yeah. Stylish for a 14-year-old, maybe. Buyer appropriate, not a chance. When we reiterated that we did in fact mean neutral, and only neutral he told us he'd get right on that. Couldn't do it the following day as he had evening meetings, but the day after for sure he'd get that fixed right up. He also informed us that he's quite a handy painter and it would be no problem. We dropped the paint off the next morning and assumed it had been taken care of.
Following our meeting with Bill and subsequent conversations with our agent, we reluctantly agreed to the May 1st move-out date, on the condition that showings were being accommodated and the property was in good condition, a situation our Realtor was comfortable with and we felt we could tolerate. We were somewhat concerned that we'd be missing our peak window for a sale this summer with the tax-credit expiring on the 30th of April, but we were trying to do the right thing and not be selfish. What help a crystal ball would have been...
While they did in fact allow showings over the next couple of weeks without too much hassle, we now get to the crux of the problem. As you probably recall, Bill had paid for February and March in cash at lease signing. He'd also provided an advance on the utilities which ran out about mid-March. During our meeting we mentioned that the cash for utilities had been expended and we'd be needing more and he assured us it was no problem, just let him know and he'd get it right to us. So, on April 1st we were anticipating receiving a check for April's rent and the amount we'd let him know was due on utilities. April 1 came and went, no check. On April 5th, the date the late payment went into effect, James called to give him a reminder that payment had not been received and to make sure the money was on its way. Bill was very apologetic and informed us that he'd been out of town the previous week, but he'd get a check out to us right away. By the beginning of the following week, we'd still received no payment, so we checked in with him again. He told us that he'd mailed it the day he and James had last talked (6 days prior) so the post office must have lost it. He'd put a stop payment on his check and get us a new one right away. ANOTHER five days passed. When we had still not received any payment, James and I were starting to get highly frustrated, though Bill didn't seem to pick up on it. As happily as you please he told us that when he talked to Sandy, he found out she hadn't sent the check until two days later, so if we'd just wait another three days he was sure we'd have it. (Keep in mind the postal service had the difficult task of delivering this check approximately 1.7 miles, perhaps as much as 3 if you figure the triangle between his house, the post office, and our house.) Annoyed, but just wanting our money, we waited the requested time and then contacted him again. His excuse? The post office must have lost it again! Really? In a same-town delivery over the course of two weeks the post office has lost not one, but two letters containing your rent check? What bad luck!
He informed us he was just too frustrated with sending the mail and was done dealing in checks, he'd just pay us cash the following day. We agreed that cash would be fine and he and James set up a time the next day to meet. About 15 minutes before that meeting was supposed to happen he emailed to say that he had something "really important" that he'd forgotten about and he'd have to cancel and wait until the following day. This process went on for the next ten days, each day he'd forget about a meeting, or have to leave a the last minute, or once he "had to make a last minute trip to Milwaukee overnight" though interestingly when we dropped by the property on our way out of town at 8:30 the following morning he was present, but he just didn't have the money on him, though he would later that afternoon. All this time, he didn't seem to find anything unusual about his behavior, or understand why our patience might be limited. And again, newbie mistakes, we didn't start investigating our options nearly soon enough.
His next tactic was an interesting one, and one I would never have thought to make up, so perhaps it was true, perhaps he's just a great storyteller. The basics: he directs a non-profit and told James that he'd played "creative" games with our great nations friendly revenue collection service and "gotten busted." According to his story, they'd put a freeze on his account so he couldn't get any money out, but his assets were supposed to be unfrozen "tomorrow" and he'd get us the money right away. During this time he also had a couple of scandalously high utility bills arrive, but when pressed for the money to pay those he made similar excuses and asked for copies of the statements. And so the plot thickens.
To Be Continued...

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Saga, Pt. 3

February was a quiet month. The house was occupied, the money for rent in the bank account, and while we would have loved to have sold it, we thought this renting thing wasn't so bad. We'd mostly just relaxed on the house front for the time being and turned our focus to other things, like our kids, our current home, and well, ahem...expanding our family!
At the end of February, in accordance with our rental documents and our discussions with Bill and Sandy before they moved in, we contacted them to arrange a time to meet with our Realtor at the property to discuss re-listing and home condition, etc. Surprisingly, although it was the final week of Feb. and we'd made it quite clear that our plan was to actively have the property listed on March 1st, we got a lot of hassle from Bill about the need to get into the house. Odd, he'd seemed so accommodating when he moved in. He even went to far to say that he'd paid "extra" in February so he didn't have to deal with showings and did we really need 2 hours to meet with our agents? In all actuality, he was receiving a discount in March to account for the property being listed and needing to work with our Realtor to allow the property to be showed. But, after a couple of fairly snippy emails, he conceded that it did make sense we needed to get in ahead of the list date and we scheduled our meetings as planned. He told us he'd have it in great condition and there would be no issues.
Imagine our surprise then, upon entering the property to find that not only were things not overly clean, but nothing was put away, piles of stuff were lying around, and in general, while nothing appeared to be damaged, it was definitely not being kept in showing condition. All this would have been disappointing and discouraging, but the real issues began upon walking into Diva's bedroom. What colors would come to mind for you if I were to tell you it would be fine to paint a room in a "neutral" color? Maybe taupe, or khaki, cream, white, possibly even a pale shade of yellow or green (though even these could be a stretch)? What about electric pink and bright purple?? Yeah, that's what I thought. Nonetheless, the walls were indeed painted in teeny-bopper shades or pink and purple, with an accessory choice of faux-leopard. Hmmm...not quite what we had in mind, and curiously, probably no more appealing to an incoming prospective buyer than the nursery shades that preceded it. Needless to say, the agents were less than impressed as well and we realized that showing the place with them in the house would be difficult, if not impossible, and we began to wonder what else that had been so clearly defined upfront would be blatantly disregarded. Well, it wouldn't take us long to find out.
The next couple of weeks were spent getting the necessary paperwork in order for the re-list, finalizing our decision on an agent, and in general prepping to put the house back up for sale. During this process we got a call from the tenants saying the toilet was leaking. Wanting to be good landlords, we called our plumber immediately and he was able to come out that afternoon and repair the leak. Or so we thought. We received a call back later that night letting us know the toilet was "gushing" water and we needed to do something else. When I called the plumber back he said if the seal hadn't fixed the issue, he was pretty sure it was because they'd let the leak go for awhile and the subfloor was now water damaged. We'd need to find someone who could repair/replace the subfloor and replace the toilet. Again, imagining that this was a pretty sizeable and urgent problem we were able to find a repair-person to do the work the next day. We called as soon as arrangements had been made (mid-afternoon) and let them know the repairman would be coming the next morning to fix the problem, but got no answer on either of their phone numbers. So, we left voicemail, sent an email, and tried calling again later that evening, all with no response. Having heard nothing, we left the plans in place, only to be woken at 7am to a call from Sandy, who was not a happy camper. How could we have made plans to get this taken care of so soon, it was a in-service day so her kids would be home (with Bill) and had invited friends over all day and why did we need to have it taken care of right now, etc. Again, trying to be considerate, we called the repairman to see if the time could be moved. He was able to push the time back an hour, but was already on his way and it couldn't be re-scheduled entirely (and to be clear, we didn't want it to be delayed, if a toilet is gushing into a sub-floor, I'd like it replaced as soon as possible, I don't want to rip out the whole house) so we called to notify them. This time we made contact with Bill, and he again tried to talk us out of the repair until later. After letting him know that we would be out of town the following week so the repair needed to happen now, he changed his story. Now, instead of "gushing" the water was just dripping and "not that bad." He informed me that he'd only said "gushing" because he was "pi**ed off" and it had been a long day. He also told me they'd called back the previous evening (at midnight) to let us know the timing was bad, but surprise, surprise...there were no voicemails, missed calls, or incoming calls from them all night, or from anyone at that time of night. So yeah, nice try. As it turns out, it was leaking significantly into the sub-floor and it's a good thing we got it taken care of right away, but our view of the tenant-landlord relations took a significant hit at that point in time.
The next week the property went live on the MLS and we had a couple of showings with mixed reviews on the show-readiness of the property. At this point being unimpressed with their ability to communicate, and wanting to make sure all our bases were covered we decided to proceed with making sure their details for an April 1st move-out were still in place. According to the terms of the contract, the initial 2-month rental agreement terminated on April 1, but unless we gave a month's notice, they were able to stay on a month-to-month agreement after that. We didn't really expect to exercise much of that clause, given their April 1 closing date, but again wanting to keep our bases covered, notified them on March 14th that we were just trying to verify their move-out date and that even if there had been a delay for some reason we didn't wish to renew for another month as we needed to focus on a sale. We quickly received a reply that their details had changed and they would now be unable to close until the 1st of May. Would we please re-consider and let them stay until May 1 so that they didn't have to do temporary housing again. We agreed to meet and talk things through the following evening. And that's where the real fun to this story begins.
To Be Continued...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Saga, Pt 2.

Late in January James got a call from our insurance agent. The conversation went something like this:
Agent: I see you have two homeowners policies with us...
James: Yes
Agent: Are these both primary dwellings?
James: No, we live in [current address] and we are in the process of selling [old house address].
Agent: Well, we don't cover unoccupied properties.
James: Oh, according to our policy documents as long as the property continues to be maintained (heated, utilities connected) and cared for coverage is still valid.
Agent: Well, yes, but not when they're so close in proximity to each other. (As an aside, it turns out people don't usually buy a vacation property less than two miles from their primary residence in the middle of a city in Wisconsin, imagine that...) Unless you can prove that you maintain residency at the property at least 1/3 of the time we'll have to discontinue your coverage. You have until the end of the month to either prove that you live their, sell, or find renters (so the switch to a rental policy could happen).
Well, that threw us into a bit of a panic. We tossed around crazy ideas (maybe we could piece together enough furniture to partially furnish the other house and have all or part of us live there a couple of days a week), improbable ideas (maybe we had a brother or friend who could come out and live there temporarily until we could establish rental coverage), and variations on both before deciding the most practical option would be to seek out short-term renters from the public at large. So, we put an ad on a popular classified's website and decided to see what would happen. It seemed like the best, if not the only, decision at the time and we were hopeful that it would be a solution not only to our insurance conundrum, but also to the large sucking sound coming from our bank account due to paying two mortgages every month.
Within a day of posting the ad we had a response. We set up a time to meet and didn't really know what to expect. The next day we met a couple, we'll call them "Bill" and "Sandy" and their two teenagers "Jr." and "Diva" and showed them around the property. Their story, as presented to us, was that they had just sold a property, much more quickly than expected, and were unable to close on their new home until April 1. The new home, we were told, was in a very prominent neighborhood (we'll just call it "Eagle's Airport") on Madison's West Side and would be their dream home, he even rattled off an address. Perhaps warning bells should have gone off at this point, as they didn't look like the type of people who would currently, or probably ever, be able to afford this neighborhood. But, looks can be deceiving and who am I to judge how people spend their money, so I didn't give it too much thought. Furthermore, they were quite eager to move-in as, their story goes, they were living in an extended stay hotel and had finally decided it just wouldn't work for them for 3 months.
Being the newbie landlords that we were, we wrote up a contract (which to our credit was actually decent) from online resources and arranged to meet the next day to receive the security deposit and the first months rent and hand over the keys. We didn't do the background checks and references that we should have and there made our first big mistake. The following day we met Bill at the property and he produced, in cash, all of the security deposit, and not one, but two months of rent money. Perfect,we thought, now we don't even have to mess with collection, late payments, etc. we have it in advance! His only two requests seemed workable. Since it was such a short-term lease, he said, could we just leave the utilities in our names and he could pay us for them as they came in. He'd give us an advance to cover the first month or so, and then he'd get us the rest as we needed it. That would save him and us the hassle of having to change everything again in April when they moved out and into their new place. Also, could he paint Diva's room a neutral shade instead of the nursery scheme that was currently there. Diva, at the ripe old age of 14, just couldn't bear two months in a baby-room, he was never going to hear the end of it. Big mistakes #2 and #3, we said yes to both. Newbie mistake again on the utilities, just didn't comprehend how wrong it could all go with the paint.
We met on a Friday, and by Sunday they were fully in occupancy. We contacted our insurance agent, got the policy changed to a rental policy, and thought the sailing would be smooth. And for the first month or so it was.
To Be Continued...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Saga, Pt. 1

Ok, so I don't really know where to start. At this point, I'm mostly categorizing this all for my future ability to remember. So, bear with me if it's scattered and all over the place...
Backing up, as most of you remember, we moved last June and put our house on the market a couple of weeks later. If doing it over, I would have made sure the house was on the market in March, even if it seemed impossible to keep show-ready with small kids underfoot, but hindsight is always 20/20, right? Anyway, it was listed in mid-June and showings began in earnest. We did some basic cleaning, pruning, minor cosmetic updates, but largely we left it as it was. We knew the roof would need to be replaced at some point in the not-too-distant future, but we were hopeful we could just negotiate some credit to a buyer at closing and not have to mess with the details ourselves. We had A LOT of showings and began waiting for someone to put an offer in...well, the offer never came.
We live in a town known well throughout the area for having great schools, this is a bonus, but it makes the housing market a bit more summer-sales heavy that it might otherwise be, so we knew it was really important to get something figured out by August.
August came and went with lots of interest, but no offers, so we lowered the price and, combined with the tax credit, showings continued in earnest throughout the fall. We really thought we had a buyer in mid-October (someone looked at it 3 or 4 times, but ultimately decided to go with another property) and it seemed our two-house-owning days were numbered. Unfortunately, we're still numbering them...
We've now entered into the winter phase, which as all of you from the mid-west (are there any readers NOT from the mid-west) know means lots and lots of COLD with some snow/ice/etc. thrown in for good measure. The biggest "flaw" in our house is that the previous owners decided to convert their garage space into a family room. This actually is great for the living space in the house, over doubling the non-kitchen/bedroom living areas in the house. However, the lot our house is on, while very deep (hello, HUGE backyard), is also quite narrow. Given that the home is ranch style, there is not room to get around the existing structure to put another garage in the back. So, we're pretty much stuck garage-less unless we want to convert the other area BACK into a garage. Anyway, this is a more obvious downside in the winter when it's cold and you're actively thinking about shoveling and scraping off your car every morning. So, showings crawled to a halt, our listing expired and we were in the process of trying to figure out what our next steps were.
We started seriously considering renting the property on a short-term basis, and even had a meeting with a potential renter set up. We went over to the house to meet with the person who was interesting in renting, but after waiting a few minutes and having him not show up we got a call. He apologized for not having called sooner, but let us know he'd found another place. During the conversation I noticed that the windows on the house were all fogged up--weird, since I'd been in the house earlier that day making sure all was in order. We decided to follow up on it and I'm quite glad we did. When we walked in the house all seemed to be normal on first glance except for the humidity level. But when we turned on the light in the stairway leading to the basement is became obvious what the problem was. The basement was COVERED in water...not just a bit on the floor, but several inches covering everything! We walked downstairs and the scent made it clear is was sewage water from the storm sewer and it was rising quickly!
The next several hours were spent on the phone to the city and working with their after-hours guy to figure out what was going on. Turns out the storm sewer had become blocked just past our house and we were the first lucky recipients of the back-up. However, the blessing in it was that we were there so quickly. From the rate the water was rising (over and inch per hour) we figure we must have arrived within the first 3-4 hours of the backup (this was at 7pm) and it was resolved by 9pm. Had we not had the no-show rental prospect, we wouldn't have been back in the house until the following day at the earliest, possibly not for a couple of days. I don't even want to think about what type of mess that would have been. Also, we were very fortunate that the city acknowledged its ultimate responsibility in the matter and fully took care of the clean up costs, since sewer back-ups are excluded under normal homeowners insurance coverage. However, we spent most of the rest of January working with water-damage restoration specialists and contractors to put the basement back together. And then we got the call...
To be Continued...

Monday, June 28, 2010


Yours truly, at 21 weeks. Over half-way done "growing" this baby! :-D


Yours truly, at 21 weeks. Over half-way done "growing" this baby! :-D

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

One Year!

It's been one year since we closed on this house. Wow, a year already?!?

It's been a busy year, spent making happy memories in this space and it feels 100% like home.
We've changed nothing major, but changed a lot of minor details, that have made it feel more like ours. I think every room but the kids bathroom has gotten a fresh coat of paint, there's only one remaining original light fixture on the main two levels, and most of the faucets have been updated as well. Perennials we planted when we moved in are blooming all around the house,
the deck's been painted and a playset lives in our backyard. Yes, it's been a good year indeed. :)

Happy One Year Anniversary, Home! And many more. :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wedding Bells

This past weekend we attended James' youngest brother's wedding and a good time was had by all! Congratulations Jeremy and Julie!!
Here are some of my favorite shots from the big day! Well, just the reception really. Since James was a groomsman, I was on my own during the ceremony and I had my hands too full handling my two "flower kids" (as Joshua refers to himself and Lydia) once they got down the aisle to take any shots during the actual ceremony as it was a long one, and not much is more boring to lively 2 and 4 year olds during the middle of nap time than a marriage ceremony Especially since their understanding of why they needed to be quiet and calm was non-existent. A big thanks to my sister-in-law, Laura, for her help keeping the mayhem at bay in our pew for the whole service, and to my parents for rescuing the kids when they ran out of steam and needed their beds badly, long before the reception was done!
Dancing with the beautiful bride! Lydia was actually quite miffed when Julie had to put her down to dance with her new hubby and greet the rest of the guests. :)
Oh my, this picture cracks me up every time!
This is probably my favorite from the whole day. So sweet!

Our little family, all dressed up!

No place a tired little girl would rather be than with her daddy! I love this one too. :)