Thursday, August 30, 2012

Big Bro Brady

Buying a house wasn't our biggest news this summer.  If you haven't figured it out by the title of the post and the pic of Brady at the top, we're expecting Trap baby #2!  We've wanted to add to our family for a long time now, but with our constant moving both domestically and internationally, we've had to adjust our plans.  We found out we were expecting only a week after we got home from Germany.  That means we have a little Germany baby and Brady is our Hawaiian baby.  I'm sure any future children we have won't have such special places to say that they were made.

We wanted to wait to make our announcement public (only a few close family members and friends knew from the beginning) until we hit the "safe zone" by hitting 12 weeks, not that any time is every really safe.  More importantly, we wanted to wait until we heard a heartbeat or saw the baby on ultrasound to know that they were alright.  This is something we learned when I was pregnant with Brady and they had trouble finding his heartbeat early on, and I was sent for an emergency ultrasound.  As a first time mom, that was truly terrifying, and fortunately everything was just fine.  Not everyone is so lucky.

I had heard the heartbeat of this new baby last week before I parted ways with my old doctors in Pittsburgh.  I met with the new doctors here in Michigan just yesterday and can say that I feel pretty comfortable there.  During the exam, I had a moment of sheer panic when the doctor felt my abdomen and said that I didn't feel 12 weeks, but more like 10.  That completely freaked me out because there are some women who don't know that their pregnancy has ended and the baby has stopped growing until they see a doctor and it's discovered.  I had just heard the heartbeat a week before, but was still a little nervous.

What's really great about this new practice is that they do all ultrasounds and blood work in the office, so they brought in the machine (since they normally do a first trimester ultrasound and my old doctors didn't).  The doctor was shocked to not only see the baby was doing well, but that it was measuring bigger than 12 weeks!  He took several measurements (at this point they go from crown to rump) and the baby was measuring a full week ahead.  He then measured the head size and it was only a day or two bigger than where I was supposed to be.  My guess is that this baby, like Brady, takes after Andy with a long torso and short legs.

I was supposed to go for a screening for chromosomal abnormalities in Pittsburgh next week (the appointment was set before we scheduled the move), but with the baby measuring big, they figured that I might miss the cutoff for the testing by then. Since they do everything in-house, they did it then and there!  It involves an ultrasound to measure a certain part of the neck and blood work.  The ultrasound was a lot of fun because the baby, like Brady, was crazy and wouldn't stop moving.  The ultrasound tech kept laughing because it would move just as she was trying to get the measurement.  She did get it eventually and it was within the normal range and I should have the blood work results next week.  The best part was that I walked out with about 10 different ultrasound pics!

This was the pic from the first ultrasound the doctor did.  I love how the baby is hanging out upside down. It's amazing how fast they grow at this point, from smaller than a grain of sand to the size of a peach now at 12.5 weeks!

If you look closely at this one, you can see the baby's face.  You can make out the two eyes for sure.

A nice right side up profile shot.

Despite measuring big, the doctor decided not to change my due date, which is March 9 (wonderful timing two weeks after Brady's birthday and only two days before mine . . . NOT).  We've been talking to Brady a lot about babies every since we found out he was going to be a big brother.  Now he spots babies everywhere and gets so excited!  He kisses my belly at naptime and bedtime each day and says goodnight to the baby.  He even seems to understand that the ultrasound pics are the baby.  He's insistent that the baby is going to be a "sissy," and gets very upset at talk that it might be a brother.  Of course, we'd love if he was right, but we'd love another boy as well!  We won't know for sure either way until about a week before Halloween.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Family Beach Vacation - Not Quite as Planned

Almost every year (with a few exceptions for larger trips), we take a family vacation to Virginia Beach.  We stay in the southern part of the city called Sandbridge, which is a private beach lined with beach houses that you can rent.  This year was planned to be pretty special.  We haven't all been down to the beach together as a family since 2008 (including Andy but minus Lauren since they weren't together yet).  We planned it later so that we'd be back from Germany, and even Chris had the time to fly in from California to join us.  It was going to be great to have everyone together for a week on vacation.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans.  A week before we were due to head down, my dad got a call.  My Oma had fallen and they were taking her to the hospital.  Later that night, my dad got a call from the hospital saying that my Oma was in the ICU with a broken nose, a broken hand, several broken ribs, and most dangerously a lacerated spleen.  If she was a younger person, they wouldn't have hesitated to remove the spleen, but since she's 92 they didn't want to do surgery.  It was already late at night and my dad jumped in the car and drove through the night to NYC.  He was optimistic that he'd make it to the beach, but that he'd have to meet us there.  My Oma got cleared to be moved to a rehab facility on Monday of our vacation (we drove down Saturday), but the hospital decided to milk what the insurance had approved and kept her until Friday.  Each day, we knew we were closer and closer to not seeing my dad.  He left four weeks ago and still isn't home.  He's been traveling back and forth between Florida for business and NYC to be with my Oma.  Oma did great in the rehab and was released this past Monday to go home with no need for in-home care.  My dad is not expected to be home until next weekend at the earliest, and by then Brady and I will have moved to Michigan.

Our vacation was definitely not the same without him.  We didn't play Jenga once, and that's something we do quite often, especially at the beach.  We have tournaments on the indoor patio and the swaying of the house on stilts makes it especially challenging.  Andy and Alex did most of the cooking and we definitely didn't go into the water as much as we would have.  My dad is a driving force behind our vacation and it kinda fell a little flat without him there.  He was the most excited about being there during the Olympics.  In 1996, our last night on our beach vacation was the opening ceremonies of the Atlanta summer games.  Back then we went with my godparents and their son who's a year younger than me.  All of us kids took the high chairs from the counter and threw blankets over it building a fort to watch the games.  All four of us fell asleep there and it's one of my dad's favorite beach memories.

Brady who used to be such an amazing little swimmer since the time he was six months old, completely lost everything when we went to Germany.  We are starting at square one and he is terrified of the water, even with a life vest on.  It makes me really sad since he used to swim by himself under water.  He loved the sand, though, which was puzzling since he hated that all the the playground surfaces in Germany were covered in it.  He did his best to keep his hands away from it and if he got even a single grain on his hand, needed me to wipe it off.  Not the case anymore.  He had more fun in the sand than in the water this year.

The poor kid is so skinny that I bought him a ton of 2T bathing suits last summer on clearance and none of them fit him.  In the pic above, the pants are a size 18-24 months and we were constantly pulling them up.

He loved filling his bucket with water and dumping it out.

One night, we made shrimp and pineapple skewers on the grill.  My dad loves pineapple and always jokes that the top can be used as a hat.  Andy gave it to Brady and told him to put it on  his head.  His hair was slicked with pineapple juice after that.

His "cheese" face looks pretty scary.

We always take a nice family shot on the beach.  Usually my dad takes it with his good camera, but we had to make due with mine.  Chris took them and they turned out pretty good.  We only had to take a few, which is good because Brady tends to not cooperate.

Andy's eyes are closed in this one . . .

And mine are closed in this one.  We'll manage, especially since Brady is smiling and looking in both of them.

Time to dig a hole for Brady.

Andy decided to sculpt him some sand legs.

It got chilly and windy under the umbrella, so we had to keep the skinny boy warm.

No vacation is without incident, but we certainly had more than our fair share.  While Alex and Lauren were fishing on the back dock, Kiro fell into the back bay.  The next morning, they discovered he was covered in ticks and had to rush him to a vet.  He had over 50-60 ticks removed!  Poor puppy.  Luckily no one else got ticks.  We brought the baby gate for the stairs, not for Brady but for Kiro.  It didn't fit the opening well and usually we just propped it up against the frame.  My mom went down to do laundry one morning, and as she was coming back up, Brady pushed on the gate and rode it halfway down the stairs.  Fortunately, he wasn't injured.  The last day, we were offered a double whammy.  Brady woke up sick (which couldn't have been worse with the long ride home ahead), and Kiro got out the front door while we were loading cars, running across the street, and causing a rear-end collision.

Well, it wasn't the picture perfect vacation we imagined up until a week before we left, but we did manage to get the perfect picture.  It's so rare to have all of us kids together, that my mom likes to take advantage of the opportunity and get a group picture.  This year, Kiro was the addition, as he's just as important a member of the family.  My brothers both hate sitting for pictures because it takes so long.  I've always had the attitude that if we do it right the first time, then we're done.  We hit gold on the first picture, thus proving my point.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We're Homeowners!!!

The big news of the past week is that we're first-time homeowners!!!  We closed on our new home in Canton, MI this past Friday.  It was a long time coming and it comes with quite a story.  Right now I only have the outside picture for you, but inside pictures will follow when we have all of our belongings in one place for the first time around the beginning of October.

We started looking at houses in March 2011, when we flew up for Andy's work conference.  We always knew that coming back to Michigan was what we wanted and even while in Germany, Andy only applied to jobs that were at the US headquarters in Farmington Hills, MI (where we'd lived before).  While up for the conference, we had a weekend to ourselves, so we started driving around houses that were in our price range in the area we liked.

Since that time, we've kept a close eye on the real estate listings and of course there were many houses we liked that sold.  Our main focus was the Plymouth/Canton area (about 20 min south of where we'd lived before) because the school district was ranked very highly and we'd only heard good things.

By the time we got home from Germany (one month sooner than expected), we had a few we really liked in the area and Andy was already in contact with a mortgage broker to obtain pre-approval (a necessity to have a realtor work with you) and had snagged a realtor.  We were so geared up that when Andy left for Michigan to work (only four days after our return), that very day he looked at one of the houses we'd liked online.  Turned out to be a nice house, but in a mixed area where it would be hard to sell, so we moved on.

A week later, I went by myself up to Michigan (leaving Brady behind with my parents) to do a serious house hunting mission with Andy.  We'd created quite a list and had branched out to several other areas that also had decent school districts, although we still preferred Plymouth/Canton.  The night I drove in, we went through dozens of house listings the realtor had provided and threw out most of them for one reason or another.  We ended up only picking three that we wanted to see in person.  The housing market in Michigan must have picked up right before we got home because houses were getting snapped up in a matter of days after being listed.  One of those three homes sold the day before we were supposed to look at it, so we were down to just two houses, and quite freaked out.

We met with the realtor and looked at those two houses, but neither met with our standards.  We weren't in any rush because Andy was living with a roommate without a signed lease and I was staying with my parents.  It wasn't ideal to be apart, but it was the best choice for us at the time.  The realtor started pushing houses that were cheaper and in lower Canton.  I was apprehensive about this because lower Canton is not in the same school district.  To put it in comparison, Plymouth/Canton is ranked 50th in the entire state and Van Buren (lower Canton) is 392nd.  It was a huge step down when education is very important to me as a teacher.  We agreed to look at a few of the houses before I went home anyway, just to get some perspective.  Lower Canton is over 30 minutes away from Andy's work, and although the houses were nice, I knew that I'd get stuck in the house more just because I was much further from everything.  It quickly got scratched off the list of possibilities.

By the time I drove home that Sunday, we were beyond frustrated and a little desperate.  Andy would continue to see a few houses here and there with the realtor since things were getting sold so quickly.  My next trip up was scheduled for two weekends later.  In those two weeks, we kept searching the listings and watching all the good houses get sold before we even got the chance to see them.  I was starting to freak out and starting to come up with a contingency plan to get Brady and I myself up to Michigan more permanently by the start of fall, since the possibility of getting a house anytime soon was looking so bleak.

Finally, it was time for me to head back up to Michigan, this time with Brady in tow, because he hadn't seen Andy in three weeks.  The night I drove in, we met with the realtor and looked at two houses (neither in the district we wanted).  One of them was acceptable and if we didn't find anything else, we'd figured that we'd have to settle. Saturday afternoon we were set to meet with the realtor again and look at quite a few houses.  That morning, something (or someone) made Andy take one more look at the house listings again.  He found one right at the top of our price range that seemed almost too good to be true from the pictures.  It had just been listed that morning.  He immediately called the realtor to have us see it while we were out.  She said she'd put it at the end if we had time since we had a lot of houses to see.

That afternoon, we went out with our realtor and looked at a whole bunch of houses.  We liked the first one we saw.  It was a little on the older side, but had an updated kitchen and great living space (most of the newer homes we'd seen only had family and dining rooms, and were missing a living room, which I didn't like).  We liked the other houses we saw too, but not as much as the first.  All of the houses we saw that day were in the Plymouth/Canton school district, so we were very happy to have some real prospects where we wanted to be.  Our realtor took the time to drive us through the area and point out all the family-friendly features.

Finally it was time to look at that last house.  We were driving down the street looking for a for-sale sign, and we couldn't miss the house.  There were literally cars parked for a block.  Andy took one look and said, "Might as well keep driving."  He pretty much figured with so much interest and competition on the first day it was listed would lead to a bidding war.  It was already pushing the top of our price range, so we really couldn't afford to go any higher.

We had to wait our turn to get into the house.  When we did, it was everything the pictures suggested and more.  Beautiful two-story foyer, stainless steel appliances in the updated kitchen, a family room, diving room, AND a living room all done in beautiful colors, a finished basement, a patio with a wooded private backyard, and four bedrooms upstairs (they had two girls, so we have to undo the secondary bedrooms). Our realtor asked us what we thought and of course we loved it, but didn't think we could get it with how much interest there was.  She suggested putting in an offer that afternoon (because it wouldn't last until tomorrow) at the asking price and seeing what happens.

We went to her office and signed the offer that was set to expire at 9AM the following morning.  That meant they either accepted or rejected the offer within the next 15 hours.  We went home and I really figured we wouldn't get it.  We had dinner and put Brady to bed.  We were watching TV when the realtor texted Andy asking if it was too late to call.  He said it was fine and we both held our breaths waiting for the call.  She called and said that there were five offers on the house, including ours.  In my head, I figured that was way too many for us to have a shot and we might as well start thinking about putting in an offer on the first house we saw that day.  She said that all the offers were of similar price, and that the owners chose us because their realtor knew our realtor and we had a good lending agent as well.  We couldn't believe our ears!  We got the house that was too good to be true!  I can't remember the last time my heart was racing so fast.

In our offer, it set the closing date as August 17 (we placed the offer on July 14), and gave the owners two weeks to vacate after the closing date (while they paid us rent to be in OUR house).  In the month before closing, Andy went through all the steps with the inspection (there was a high radon reading in the basement, but the owners paid to have a system up in to remove it) and setting up the mortgage.  We couldn't have picked a better time to buy a house, as the mortgage rate bottomed out at 3.375% and is now back up to almost 4%.  Andy signed the papers last Friday and the owners had already left!  That means Brady and I can move in next week instead of waiting until the end of September.  Andy was at the house this weekend painting some rooms and is already setting up the arrangements to have our things brought from storage in South Carolina.  We also have things in storage in PA, that we've had since we moved, so those things will have to come later.  It contains almost all our wedding gifts and so much more, so it'll be great to see the things we haven't seen in over two years!

We are so excited about our new house, even Brady.  He doesn't remember being in the house since it was over a month ago, but every time I show him a picture of the front of the house, he jumps up and down, screaming, "Daddy's house!"  I can't wait for him to realize it's his house too ;)  We have plenty of room, so all friends and family have an open invitation to come visit us.  Just call and see if we'll be in town and we'll be more than happy to have you!

The most incredible part about all of this is that we went from being in Germany to owning a home in less than two months.  Neither of us in our wildest dreams would have thought we could have gotten our dream home so quickly.  Of course, it may not be forever as we know we may have to move again for Andy's job, but at least we can enjoy it for as long as we have it.