Saturday, February 27, 2010

50 Hours on the Market

When we bought our townhome in 2005, we only expected to live here for about three years. We thought that when Josh graduated from UCCS in May 2008, he would find a job, and we would sell this house and buy one big enough to start a family in.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry

Little did we know that Josh would graduate in an economy that didn't really lend itself to finding a job quickly. Or selling a house quickly. It took him seven months to find a job. (We are so thankful and thank God often that we are both employed right now.) Meanwhile, we put our house on the market in July 2008. It was up for a year. I got soooo tired of having to leave it in showing condition everyday. Some days we took the gamble: no one will want to come see the house today. Then, if we did get a call, we'd run home to clean it up before the showing. We left it on the market until 2.5 weeks before Lorien was born, so you can imagine me rushing home, eight months pregnant and cleaning like a crazy woman ... all for nothing. In that whole year, we got one offer, and it was so low that we couldn't afford to accept it.

We decided that moving with a newborn was out of the question, so we stayed off the market for the last seven months. Recently, though we decided we ought to take advantage of the tax credit for first-time home buyers (since that's probably who is going to buy our house) and get it back on the market. I was dreading—dreading—the pressure to keep it clean. Having a baby didn't make that any easier.

Insanity Week

Since the current real estate market has made it difficult to rack up much equity in our house, we decided to go with a flat-fee listing service and save ourselves paying commission to a real estate agent (even though we have an agent whom we love). To cover ourselves, we decided to work instead with a real estate attorney who would charge us a fraction of a realtor's fee to to the contracting for us. We filled out the forms to list the house on Monday night. It was supposed to hit the MLS by Tuesday night, but there was a glitch and it didn't go live until Wednesday at 2 p.m.

At 3:00 p.m. we got a call for a showing at 4:30. Thankfully, I was working from home that day and could drop what I was doing to get the house ready to show. I got it all done except for 2 dirty pots, which I left in the sink. Lorien and I went to Focus to see Josh, since he was working late. While we were there, we got a call from the Realtor doing the showing, saying that his client was very interested. After a minimal amount of verbal negotiating, we got a formal offer at about 8:00 p.m.

The next day, Thursday, we had another showing. And another offer. It amounted to about $4000 less, because it included a request for us to pay the buyer's loan closing costs. We let them know that we already had another offer and asked if they would like to beat it (thinking they wouldn't, but they did).

Both offers were reasonable, but both also came with slight risks. (The first had a contingency for the sale of her current property, and the second was financing almost the whole amount and asking for closing costs on top, so there was a high bar for the appraisal.)

We spent all day Thursday on the phone negotiating and working out the contracts. Seriously—Josh and I both nearly ran our phones out of batteries talking on them. Friday morning we commenced again. By Friday at noon we had reached a verbal agreement to accept the first offer (the one with the contingency). And at 4:00 p.m. we signed the counterproposal and went under contract.

Fifty hours. Unbelievable.

In the midst of all the negotiating and trying to figure out which was the better deal, Dad Keffer put it this way: "The one thing that's clear is that you were not supposed to sell your place the last time around, and that you are supposed to sell it this time around." Thank goodness!

Now we just have to make it to closing on March 24 and get the money in the bank!

Just for fun, here are the house photos we used for the MLS listing (for those of you who haven't seen where we've been living for the past 4.5 years).

Front door: ours is the unit on the left.

Back door

Pretty and green in the summer

Our postage stamp-sized back yard and flowerbeds in early summer

Nursery #1

Nursery #2

Living room #1: The fireplace is one of my favorite things we did with this place. I have even considered recreating it in a future abode.

Living room #2

Upstairs bath

Master bedroom

Downstairs bath

Kitchen #1

Kitchen #2

Saturday, February 6, 2010

How do you explain... a six-month-old that the reason why her trusty, tasty, comforting thumb is suddenly not working is that her nose is all stuffed up. She tries to go for the thumb at naptime and gets SO frustrated that she can't suck on it as usual. Poor kid!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Six Months In - Thoughts on Babywise

Let me start this one out by saying I realize that just the title of this entry is enough to start a fight. It's amazing how defensive people get over parenting philosophies. So let me also say that I don't think Babywise is the only way to handle a newborn. But it is the philosophy we've used with Lorien, and I want to reflect on the last six months.

For those who aren't familiar with On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep, here's a summary:

Babywise begins by highlighting the fact that babies are born into families and that parents can either choose to revolve the entire family's life around the baby, or choose to raise the baby so that he or she fits into the family structure. The importance of a stable marriage to the health of the baby is emphasized.

Feeding is the next thing that's addressed--helping to organize baby's metabolism so that he or she gets full feedings instead of snacks. And after the first few weeks, helping baby to get the calories he or she needs during the day so that everyone can sleep at night. Even though this is just part of the book, I'm positive that it's the reason most people buy the book, because nobody knows sleep deprivation like the parent of a newborn.

Sleep is another major component. Babywise addresses both naps and nighttime sleep and focuses mainly on helping babies to self-soothe so that they are able to fall asleep without "props" (rocking, nursing, etc. to help baby fall asleep).

The Babywise prescription is that babies sleep, then eat, then have wake-time, then sleep again in regular cycles, increasing in length as baby is able to eat more and go longer between feedings.

Good Press, Poor Tone

We knew we wanted to use Babywise before Lorien was even born, because of the amazingly positive experiences some of our friends have had with it. But here's the thing: several wise parents we know introduced Babywise by saying that you need to take it with a grain of salt and know how to apply your own wisdom to it. After living it for six months, I understand a little better what they meant.

If I have any beef about Babywise, it's that Gary Ezzo's tone is pretty strident. He basically says, "Here's what you're supposed to do with a newborn. So just do it and you'll have a kid who sleeps through the night at 8 weeks. The end."

Guess what: That didn't happen to us. Or to very many people we know. And there are lots of things that newborns do that Ezzo just doesn't allow for. Like totally boycotting daytime naps for three days in a row at two weeks of age. Not that I know any kid who would do that.

What Happens When You Don't Have a By-the-Book Kid?

The principles of Babywise are great. But I found it a little hard to apply at times, mostly because I didn't know what to do when Lorien didn't go by the book. And she definitely did not go by the book. (In contrast, I have two friends whose firstborns were clockwork babies. One says she could set her watch by her son's nap schedule. The other reports that her daughter was sleeping 12 straight hours at night, without a feeding, at 4 months. So I know it's possible, but that's not what happened to us.)

Babywise has lofty goals: babies who can be put in bed awake but tired and fall asleep on their own. Babies who sleep through the night early in life. When this didn't happen on its own, I second guessed myself a lot. How do I help her learn to sleep well? When am I creating bad habits that will have to be broken later? When (if ever) should I let her "cry it out," and for how long? I think the second-guessing was especially hard as a first-time mom, because I had no idea what was within the range of normal for a newborn.

The other thing that was really hard for me was that I had a hard time getting the big picture. I think that's because Ezzo's style is pretty step-by-step, and I really need a bird's eye view to know what I'm aiming for. Now that I've seen things unfold for a while, I have a better idea of how it's supposed to work. In addition, talking to other moms who were further down the road helped a ton. I also found a blog that was super-helpful. The funny thing is that my friends and this blog author handled troubleshooting entirely differently. But they all found ways to work out the problems and they all have kids who are good sleepers and happy babies.

Happy Half-Birthday To You

Six months after giving birth, we have an amazingly precious little girl who regularly sleeps 11 hours at night (8 hours straight without eating). I think that soon, she won't need the 10:00 feeding, and will be sleeping 10-11 hours straight. I also think that she would have made that leap even earlier, except that we chose to wait until six months to start her on solid foods, so it has taken her a bit longer to work up to getting the number of calories she needs during the day. It's a trade-off, and one I'm glad to have made.

Lorien is also happy and very alert when she's awake. And (with rare exceptions) she can fall asleep on her own without crying at all. (Though she does talk to herself while going to sleep, which is pretty funny to observe via nursery monitor.) Some of this, I know, is just her sweet personality. But I have heard too many Babywise babies complimented on their alertness and good nature to think it's complete coincidence. It does make sense: Babies who have their awake-time when they've just had a good nap and a full meal are bound to be happy babies. (I also have another friend who has raised four kids with very different personalities on Babywise and she swears that four happy, alert babies who are good sleepers just can't be a coincidence.)

Getting to Know You

The last thing I want to comment on is something that surprised me about Babywise. Naysayers complain that putting a baby on a schedule is too rigid and neglects his or her individual needs. I found that to be far from the truth. Instead, I found myself observing Lorien very carefully to discover when she was tired, when she was hungry, etc. I had to learn how she communicates with her body language. Babywise isn't about ignoring these cues, but about observing baby's needs carefully and then helping to mold her days and nights into something consistent and stable and healthy.

The bottom line is, I would do it again...and probably will do it again, since we hope Lorien gets to have at least one sibling. And I will probably do things a little differently the next time, knowing what I know now.

Here's my secret hope: My friend who had the clockwork baby for her first had a completely random child for her second. I'm hoping that since I got my random one first, little mister easy routine will show up next. I can hope, right?

Six Month Portraits

I was late taking these and I'm even later posting, but Lorien's six-month pics are some of my favorites yet.

At six months, she can roll over in both directions, but she's not interested in doing it very often. She is much better at sitting up, and can do so pretty stably, although we watch her pretty carefully if she's on a hard surface, because she still wipes out at times. She started solid foods just a week or so before hitting six months. It took her about 3 weeks to really get the hang of eating from the spoon. She is sooooo smiley and verbal. I love to hear all of her little noises. She's had a couple of days lately of really testing out the old vocal cords. She definitely gets her volume from me. :)

Funny things she does: pants like a dog when she's happy or excited, blows raspberries, wags her head back and forth really fast as if she's saying "no." (Thankfully, she hasn't actually learned to say "no" yet.)

She goes to be between 7:30 and 8. I feed her before I go to bed at 10:30, and then she sleeps until about 6 (7 on good days; 5 on not-so-good days). On the other hand, she is a very random napper during the day. Not a bad napper--just random. She needs about 4-5 hours of naps total, but you never know if a given nap is going to be 45 minutes or 2.5 hours. I suppose if that's my biggest complaint, I am pretty blessed.

One other thing: I was very much looking forward to her half birthday because our pediatrician had told us that most newborns who have a sensitivity to dairy grow out of it by six months. So, after 4.5 months with precious little cheese, cream, ice cream, sour cream, etc., I started slowly adding those things back into my diet. The good news is that the painful gas she had as a newborn when she ate dairy did not come back. I was starting to think I was in the clear. But then the diaper rash came back with a vengeance. To the point where she had open sores on her bottom. I quit the dairy again on Monday and three days later, the diaper rash is fading fast. I guess that means I will be foregoing dairy for another six months or so until she's done nursing. Oh well!

OK, enough of my can't-eat-ice-cream pity party and on to the photos. Can't get enough of this girl!