Hey friends! Thank you so much for stopping by.  Feel free to take a look around. I have some new content for this thing coming soon, so stay tuned!! 

2015 Christmas Minis!

I am offering Christmas mini's again this year! Last year booked up INCREDIBLY fast, so don't wait!

Here's the details:
- 20 minutes of shooting for $75
- An 8x10 print of your favorite photo from the session, because if you're anything like me, you never print photos for yourself!
- max of 4 people (have another family member? No problem! Each additional person is $10)
- You'll receive 15-20 high resolution pictures in an online, downloadable Pixieset Gallery.
- There are two dates available: Sunday, November 1st and Saturday, November 14th. Both sessions  at park in North County, San Diego.

The discount does not apply to standard family portrait sessions.  They must be booked on the day specified above.  Email me at cmclennanphoto@yahoo.com to book your spot, and I will send you all the information.

And here are a few from last year :)

Bathroom and Bedrooms Before & After

Next up I want to show the guest bathroom, and the back two kids bedrooms. You can see the dining room here, the kitchen here, and the living room here.

We made a LOT of changes to the guest bathroom, mostly making it a lot bigger. We didn't do much to the back two bedrooms besides take out a few windows, add a couple larger windows, and remove a closet door.

How about that bathtub? That was the ONLY shower in the house when we bought it! 
Quaint. I love that you could use the toilet whilst washing your hands. Perrrfect. 

The master bedroom. Notice the window in the top left corner, and another window on the right, and in the right corner, a door to a huge closet. 
Weird with the mirrors, right?
Hallway to the bathroom and other bedroom.

MASSIVE walk in closet. My heart was a little sad to lose this LARGE of a closet, lol. I mean, I could have a party in that thing! 

Hallway into bedroom 3/dining room. Bathroom to the right, and master bedroom to the left.
Second bedroom. 
Again, notice the two high, small windows. 

Hallway leading to the second bedroom, and bathroom straight ahead.
New bathroom!!!

DANG I wish I had had my wide angle for this!!!! Oh well. 

Hallway, sanding in the dining room, looking at the second bedroom door. 
This is the old master bedroom, which is now William's room.
New, normal sized window.
Closet stayed the same.
And, here used to be the door to the ginormous closet, which we closed off. 
This is the second bedroom, which is now Joey's nursery.
Again, the closet stayed the same. 
Again, notice the window, normal sized :)
Looking toward the dining room and kitchen.
Woo hoo! So so happy with the tile in the bathroom. The dark grout is TRICKY, FYI. It will draw your eye to all the uneven, or not lined up, perfectly straight tiles. My husband does not like it, but I still do. I like that it's not perfect, honestly. One, because I don't use that shower (HA), and two, because WHEN it gets messed up some day, it won't be such a bummer. I also love the way the hardwood turned out, and the brick tiles in the hallway are my FAVORITE.

Almost done! Just have the master bedroom and bathroom to show off now, and the backyard. :)

Dining Room Before & After

The next installment of our reno is the dining room. Lots of changes in this little room!
In case you missed the last one, you can find the living room here, and the kitchen here.

Kitchen off to the left, and half bath straight ahead.  How do you like the bars on the window??
Closet in said bedroom. It definitely was a bedroom, but she used it as a dining room.

I'm standing in the half bath taking this photo.  Doorway to the left goes in to the hallway to the back bedrooms, and doorway to the right is to the kitchen. Very closed in! 

Here, I'm standing in where the half bath was originally, which we turned into a small mud room/hallway to the garage.  OPEN!
Sanding in the hallway to the back bedrooms, looking into the dining room, and hey, there's the kitchen!
Standing in the living room, looking into the dining room.  OPEN! And the small mud room/hallway to the garage. We really love how this turned out. If you look up, you can see where we popped up the ceiling a bit, and added some crown. This little pop up adds so much height to the room. One of the best decisions we made! We did  similar pop up in the living room too.

This is fun for me, looking back at all the changes, and I hope its fun for you!  Have a great weekend everyone! I'm off to the Women of Faith Conference this weekend, which means I'll be getting some girl time, and a little break from my kiddos!!!!!!! All the praise hands for that!

Kitchen Before & After

In case you missed it, see the living room here.
Next up, the kitchen!!
Here's the before layout again, to refresh your memory.

Looking towards the front door. The doorway to the left goes into bedroom number 1. 

Looking into the kitchen from the front entryway. Doorway straight ahead goes into the garage.
There was a little breakfast nook at the end of the kitchen.

We saved some of those knotty pine cabinets. I actually really love them. Now we use them for storage in the garage.

And, here is what we did to her..
From the front entry way, looking into the kitchen.  Door straight ahead leads into the pantry.
 Said pantry (Hi cute boy!!)

Copper sink, walnut butcher block counter tops.
Standing in what was the bedroom, and now is completely open, and turned into a bar/island.

I LOVE my cabinets. Love them. They do show dirt pretty easily because they are white. But, I still love them.
I also love this range. Funny story. We originally bought a standard range with the high back from Home Depot shortly after we bought the home. It was a nice range, but certainly not this nice, and really we didn't care that much. It sat in our garage for about 8 months before we were ready to put her in. And once we did, the back panel was taller than the bar by about 5 inches. :( Thank GOD, Home Depot returned the stove, even though it was far beyond the return timeline. I was on the hunt for another stove without the taller back panel, and as it turns out, the BASIC stoves like that start at $1300 (!!!!!). We found this one at Pacific Sales in the back warehouse, where they sell the old floor models and dinged up equipment. This one was an old floor model, which was $3400, but we got it for $1500. Boom! And, it is seriously awesome. A mistake I was very thankful for! 

Ummm hi : Living Room Before & After

Wow. I truthfully did not expect to be gone that long. But then life happens, and you  have to cut things out that were taking up more time than you could give.  So a little 30 second update:
1. I am still taking pictures of people, and even some weddings!!!!
2. I had a baby. Most of you probably know that through Facebook and Instagram
3. We love our house
4. I left my job and for an infinitely more important one - staying home with my boys

I am hoping to be a little more frequent on here. There has been a lot of changes going on in my life (when is there not!) and I think writing them down will be a good form of therapy, and I think my family will appreciate it years from now.

Most of you remember we bought a house in 2013, took most of 2014 to renovate it, and now most of the way through 2015, I am finally getting around to hanging things on the walls! Say what?!!

I have a TON of pictures through the process, however, those seem a little silly to post now. Instead, I'd love to show you some before and after.  Here goes nothing. This was more or less how the house was laid out when we bought her.

And here are the before pictures. It is so crazy to look back through these. I forgot how much we changed!

Standing on the front porch, looking in. Kitchen to my left, extra room the to the right.
Doorway to the extra room on the left, front door, and on the other side of that wall to the right is bedroom 1.

And here is the layout after. I wish I had had a wider lens when I took these!! Oh well, you get the idea :)

Standing in the front doorway, looking in.

Large doorway to the extra room, gone.
Blurry, but the doorway to the master bedroom.
Weird half wall removed behind the front door.

More Demo, more framing

After the first round of demo, the layout and our plans for the house changed a bit... as they seem to do ALL.THE.TIME. So, it meant we had to do more demo.  I think we demo-ed for probably 3 months (keep in mind we only had the weekends to work). 

New windows and doors.  Some of the old windows were odd shaped, and would have cost a fortune to replace because they would have been special order. Instead, we modified the size, since we knew we needed to redo the stucco anyway.  Remember the small half bath? We decided to turn that into a hallway into the garage/mini mudroom (mainly just storage and a bench.. eventually) which also had a door to the backyard.  That's the door you see above.

Window into the guest bathroom.

Will absolutely loved being at the house.  There was always so much going on, so much to explore and play with. I love seeing random photos of him in pictures of the progress. He was right there with us most of the time. 

Back bedroom.
Oh hey, cute boy!

Living room
Garage and new electrical
New plumbing

Master bathroom, and William trying to help dad and Uncle Steve.

Master bedroom

The back right corner of the photo above is where the mini-mudroom is.

Will and Papa

Uncle Steve :) Or, as William now calls him, Uncle Stevie.

Looking into the kitchen.
Spare bath, and a pocket door

Windows in! and Stucco patched.

A mess of thanks

Oh man, these photos make my heart go pitter-patter.  This series of photos was probably from around January of this year.  I thought, hmm, maybe today, I'll post up another blog.. I mean its only been about a month.. hashtag winning. HA. And as I was sorting through a previously written post, I saw these photos at the very end. I decided they  needed a post of their own.

Its funny, how God times things.  We've officially been in our house now for 3 1/2 weeks. Everyone has said to me, Oh you must be SO excited to have your own space! You must LOVE it. And I do! It's been so nice. But the type A person in me really has been struggling. Right after we moved in, we had start working on the backyard, which meant that while the main areas are mostly set up, there are still LOTS and lots of boxes and clutter and disorganization everywhere. I was very honest with myself. I knew that it would take me probably a few months for me to really enjoy my home. So I'm not really surprised that I feel anxious and unsettled. It just takes time. And we've been so busy that I am barely doing what I can to manage just the day to day stuff! Like washing dishes and making sure we have enough clean underwear. I finally cleaned the bathrooms last weekend, because they were just nast. But in general, my house is not spotless, and I get that that is just where we are right now. But from time to time, its overwhelming. And also now that I have a child in my own house, I want to enjoy him and play with him in the evenings, rather than do dishes.

So, finding these photos today was the perfect does of gratefulness and warm-fuzzies that God knew I needed. This room, where these photos took place, is now my bedroom. MY bedroom, and MY bathroom. And they are not only functional, but they are pretty! And nice, even with all the clutter and boxes everywhere. I am thankful for this messy, unkempt place. With dirt and dog hair, and food crumbs and toys everywhere. I REALLY pray that this feeling of thankfulness lasts.

This set of black and white are my FAVE. Once things settle down a bit, I WILL print them and hang them!!

Demo and Stucco

More demo! 

Looking into the spare bath
Gutted kitchen!

Huge closet to be master bathroom/closet

We have some reaaaally good friends who gave us a lot of their time!
This is Rich, under the house, grinding down and cutting out the old plumbing. Lots of sparks.

Oh hey, outside!
Such a busy little guy. Always trying to do something. :)

Framing in the new master bathroom door, and pocket door to the closet.

This is where the fireplace was.  We decided to put the toilet in that little niche.
Big corner shower
In the master closet, where the original door was.  We framed it up, and closed it off.
Hallway into the master.
We removed that huge window, and in its place, put a smaller window and a door.

Wall is gone!
Third bedroom and small half bath... all opened up.
No more closed off kitchen either!

We replaced all the windows. Some of the windows were odd shaped, and would have cost a small fortune to special order. Instead, we picked windows that were off the shelf at Home Depot, and reframed the windows, which also meant we needed to patch in the stucco.  My good friend and coworker's boyfriend does stucco, and he does a really great job. He was honest and told us what we really needed to replace, and what could wait. And basically, it all needed to be replaced.  It wasn't done correctly, and if we didn't replace it, it was a matter of time before we had water damage in the house... sooo we also re-stuccoed the house. 

Will was his just trying to help :) Look at those chubby cheeks! and his elbow dimples?!!

2014 Christmas Mini Sessions

Hey! Remember me!? I'm still alive,  I swear...

You guys, Christmas is just around the corner.. 2.5 months away, which means that you have about 2 months left to send out your cute Christmas cards.

This time of year can be stressful enough, with Thanksgiving, Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts, baking, and Christmas activities. To make your life easier, I'm offering a deal on family pictures this season.

Here's the details:
- 20 minutes of shooting for $55 (doesn't break the bank, and will be quick enough to ensure Dad and the little people won't get bored)
- max of 4 people (have another family member? No problem! Each additional person is $10)
- You'll receive 20 high resolution pictures in an online, downloadable Pixieset Gallery.
- All sessions will take place on Saturday, November 22nd at park in North County, San Diego.

Spaces are limited, so don't wait, and the discount does not apply to standard family portrait sessions.  They must be booked on the day specified above.  Email me at cmclennanphoto@yahoo.com to book your spot, and I will send you all the information.

And here are some pictures from last year's mini sessions :)

New House Decisions

It was so fun to share the before pictures a couple of weeks ago.  Especially because I know what it looks like now, so going through and posting all of the pictures helps me remember just how much we've done. I mean, it's been almost a year. We have not moved in yet because of all the changes we made. So, its nice to look back and think, oh yeah, thAATTS why  we haven't moved in yet. But, man, I cannot wait to live in our home!

Some of the changes we wanted to make came about quite easily. Others came about along the way.  As I mentioned in previous posts, Rich comes from a family of people who have built houses.  We have some family friends who used to own a general contracting business.  Rich has done work with another general contractor.  Rich's dad used to be a framer.  We sought out these people for their input, and to bounce ideas off of when we were figuring out the floor plan of our house. These men are wise, and have such a vision for how everything will work out in the end.  We are so so thankful for their help.

And again, the layout before:

We knew we wanted to utilize the space a little better, and add another bathroom. We wanted to turn the extra living room into a master bedroom, That would leave the fireplace in an awkward spot, so we took it out.
We took most of the plaster down off of the walls.

The third bedroom, next to the kitchen.
Looking through the wall into that huge walk-in closet!
The front door, and looking into the kitchen.  We had already removed some of the cabinets, and the stove. Look at how little Will is!
The kitchen and third bedroom. The door on the left goes out to the garage, and the door on the right goes into a half bath.
No more fireplace!
From the old master, looking into the rest of the house.

The bathroom, where the walk-in jacuzzi tub was! Allll gone :)

Do you like that extension cord, going through the wall? Yeah, the outside flood light plugged into it!!! Totally legal..NOT! And how about the bars on the windows?

The Barranon Family

Cyndi and Michael are friends of mine from high school.  Cyndi and I had a lot of classes together, and she was really smart, so I always knew I could go to her with my questions :).  I specifically remember her being really great at physics.  Why on earth would they offer that class to high schoolers?! I don't believe I was capable of making sense of that subject until I was at least 20. In general, math, chemistry, and biology came pretty easy to me.  They just all made sense and I was really interested in it. I figured I could handle AP Physics as a junior, because, you know, it was a science. That class gave me a swift kick in the rear. I'm LUCKY I received a C in that class, but at the time, as a straight A student, I was beside myself.  Cyndi did better than me in that class, but sitting next to her helped me get through it. She is kind, logical, and we shared the same humor.

It was so fun to catch up with her and Michael, and also to meet their new little one, Michael. He is such an expressive baby, my goodness!  I got more laughs going through all the pictures and seeing all the looks and smiles he had! He is a joy, and I know he brings so much happiness to his parents.

The Journey to our house part 3

Just tuning in? Read part 1 here, and part 2 here!

After the house fell through, we were a little discouraged, but both Rich and I felt confident that God had a house in mind for us, we just had to be patient. And really, the more time we had to keep saving up money for a house that would better suit our needs. 

So, out we went, every weekend looking at houses. We toured one house that was literally right across the street from our church.  It was 3 bedroom, 2 bath, clean but needed updating (Oh how I wish I took pictures of that home! The guest bath was decked out in bubblegum pink.. I'm talking the tile, the sink, the tub and toilet!). It was on a fairly big lot, but on a busy street, and we suspected there were septic issues.  We put an offer in on it, but they went with another offer instead. We actually pass by that house on the way to our new house, and I can't help but be thankful that we found the house we have now.  

We also looked at another house.  It had a great lay out, with built-ins, and plenty of space, but the house needed work. And when I say work, I mean WORK. Like tear down everything, make sure there wasn't any mold, probably rebuild some structural issues.  And, it was at the tip-top of our price range, and not livable in its current condition. I liked it, but knew we couldn't afford it. So, we kept looking.

We found another house in San Marcos, that had such great potential! We needed to fix some things, but it wasn't a complete gut job.  It was on a decent lot, on a great street, and in a great school district. We placed an offer, and kept our fingers crossed.  A cash offer was accepted instead, because the seller really wanted/needed to sell the house by the end of October. 

Rich told Tom he wanted to look at house he had seen on our daily listing updates that was in the same zip code as the home we were renting.  I knew we didn't want to live in the same area as our first house, so when houses came up on the listing that were in the same zip code, I just skipped over them.  I told Rich about it, and he replied, "Lets just take a look at it." It turns out that the house was right on the very edge of that zip code zone, and actually in a great little area.  

The house was on a 1/3 of an acre, with a very overgrown yard.  It was a cute house from the outside.  On the inside, it was pretty old. The kitchen was small, and there was only one full bath, which had a walk-in jacuzzi tub for the previous elderly owner. There were hardwood floors through out, with carpet over some of it, but they all needed to be refinished.  At some point, an addition was made to the house.  Logically, the location of the addition made sense, but the way the house was set up on the inside did not (wait until you see the pictures below).  There was a pool, with a pool house, and a sun room. I could tell that Rich was excited about it.  He called his parents to come by and take a look at it, and my sister and her husband came by too.  For whatever reason, I could not picture our lives in that house. In the other places, I could, and it was what helped me to make the decision to move forward with an offer.  Not with this house. I think part of it was that I felt they wanted more for the house than I thought it was worth.  We would have to redo a lot to the house to make it live-able.  It was built in the 50's, so I knew there were likely plumbing and electrical issues that would need to be addressed. Maybe part of it too was that God didn't allow me to project what our lives would be like in that home, knowing just how much we'd end up changing it to make it the new home it is now. Either way, I wasn't that impressed. 

As we were leaving the house, our realtor's wife, Penny, recognized one of the neighbors. They used to be childhood friends. Tom spoke with them for a few minutes, introduced them to Rich, and found out some particulars about the house. The late owner of the house passed away fairly suddenly from cancer over the summer.  She was a widow, and had no heirs.  In her generosity, she left the profits from the sale of the house to the San Diego Zoo, and the sale was to be governed by a board of trustees. Guess who was on the board of trustees? Yup, our new neighbor friend, Bob. 

We went home, talked it over, and the next day, we placed an offer on the house for $25,000 below their asking price.  We both felt that the house needed some serious work.  We thought it was a long shot that they'd accept it, but put one in anyway. A few days later, the selling agent let us know that they had a cash offer for $15,000 higher than our bid, which was really generous of her, because we had the opportunity to adjust our offer, and we knew the card they were holding. We felt that it was still more than we wanted to spend, and declined to to increase our offer on the house. At that point, we thought we were out of it. Then, a couple of days later, the board of trustees reviewed our bid.  They came back and countered $5,000 more than our initial offer, which was less than the cash offer they had.  It turns out Bob, and the other neighbors, didn't want the house to be flipped.  They wanted someone to buy the house and live in it. We were shocked, and all sorts of happy! We accepted their counter. 

Bob was very upfront with the condition of the house, which wasn't bad.  The inspection came back good.  Everything went so smoothly! I think our escrow only lasted 3 weeks, and it helped that we had everything in order from the first time we were in escrow.  By early November, we were home owners!

I made this floor plan up to give you an idea of the layout.  It will help make more sense when looking through all the pictures :)
The Before Pictures.... I took a lot because I knew we'd be changing a lot. 

Main living room, on the left is the addition/extra living space, and on the right is the front door.
From the front door into the living room
Addition/extra living room
Addition/extra living room
In the addition, looking into the living room
Fireplace in the addition
Hallway back to the bathroom and bedrooms
Back left bedroom
Back left bedroom
Back left bedroom

Back left bedroom
Full bath.  Look at that beaut!!!

Master Bedroom. Door on the right is to the larger closet.
Small closet in the master

HOLY CLOSET!! I was sad to see this thing go, but it was just a terrible use of space.
In the master, looking into the hallway.
Third, middle bedroom.  Door on left leads into the kitchen. The door on straight ahead leads to the 1/2 bath.
Closet in 3rd bedroom
Closet in 3rd bedroom
1/2 bath
From the kitchen, looking into the bedroom. I think she used this as a dining room.


Straight ahead, through the jungle, is the pool house.
Left side of the property, where the pool is.
Right side, citrus trees

Side yard
Let the demo begin!!

Our friend, Brian, getting in on the demo.

My baby! He was barely 1 year old here. Crazy! He had to get a hand in it, too.

A baby for AJ & Tisha

Tisha and AJ live in Arizona, but love the beach. Tisha grew up around here, she and AJ were married in Carlsbad, and now, every chance they get, they come out to San Diego.  This time, they were celebrating their two year anniversary with a trip to Del Mar, and wanted to share their favorite place with their soon to be family of three.  And if their little girl is anything like her momma, she'll love the beach also. 

Baby girl Nelson is the first grandbaby/niece on both sides of the family, and they all already love her something fierce. It's funny, because as new parents, bringing  a new little one into the world, it obviously changes the parents.  Its expected.  But when its the first baby in the entire extended family, it changes them too.  Hearts swell, and love abounds. Grandpa's and uncles become softies, and grandma's and aunties dote on the baby's every need. Suddenly, there are extra blankets and baby toys, and rockers, at each of their houses. What a wonderful thing it is, to have a close, supporting family.  You and your baby girl are blessed, AJ & Tisha! 

Monica & Pieter are having a baby

I love these two so much.  There is nothing better than when a photo session turns into a hour of hangin' out. Sometimes, sessions are awkward.   I get it. People have a hard time being in front of the camera, and so they do weird things with their smiles, and their bodies get rigid.  And usually, it takes a least 15 minutes for people to get comfortable, and open up, and act normal for me. I'm getting better at interacting with people, and pulling them out of the uncomfortableness (ya, i made that word up), but its usually always there for some time. 

Not with these two. It helps that Monica and Pieter are my cousins.  And we always have a good time together.  And Pieter is hilarious. 

Case and point : Pieter could not help himself when I was only taking pictures of Moni's cute tummy.  He thought a little sprig of wheat was just what the photo needed.


I am SO thrilled to meet baby Baker next month!  Love you guys!

The Journey to our House, part 2

Just tuning in? Read part 1 here! Also, enjoy the unrelated pictures of Will drinking a smoothie :)

I gathered boxes, and slowly began packing up the things that we didn't use everyday, like extra bedding and mementos.  We tried to get rid of as much stuff as we could.  I started to look at pricing for a storage unit.  HOLY COW they are expensive!  We knew we would need one for at least a year, and since we were packing up pretty much our entire house, we'd need a decent size one.  We got a few estimates that were around $300, and knew we had to get more creative.

We researched some other options, and ultimately decided to purchase a sea container.  We got the idea from Rich's uncle, who stores his on some vacant property that he owns in town.  It cost us about $1800 to buy the container, have it painted, have vents installed, and have it delivered.  There is more than enough room for our stuff, and the benefits of owning one is that we could sell it for easily half of what we paid.  This saved us thousands of dollars, especially since we ended up being at his parents house for longer than we thought.

We moved all of our stuff out of our house and into the sea container, and my in-laws house the weekend of Easter 2012. We spent a couple of months cleaning the house, painting, installing new carpet, and fixing up things to get it ready to rent.  I used Craigslist to list our property, and it worked out great.  I think we had about 5 people look at it, and 3 submitted applications before we found the people who rent our home currently. Finding the right people takes time!  My advice is to go with your gut. If you feel like something is slightly off, be patient until you find the right tenants.  There are a lot of laws that protect tenants in California, and you don't want to deal with bad tenants for a year.  We originally wanted to rent our house by June, but we found the perfect tenants who couldn't start the lease until July.  We wanted a at least a one year contract, and this family wanted a two year contract.  They signed the contract without having physically walked through the house. And they have been GREAT tenants.  We love them! They are kind, take care of our home, and keep in touch with us.  We are SO thankful for them.

Fast forward a little over a year to the summer of 2013.  We hadn't quite saved up everything we needed, but we decided to start our house hunt because these things take time.  We were looking for something that was at least 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, some land, extra parking, no HOA, close to the freeway, and in a good school district. We knew that we were looking for a fixer-upper; we couldn't afford anything turn-key.

We looked at LOTS of listings, visited a couple of houses that had potential. In August, a house came on the market that really piqued our interest.  It was just a couple miles from our in-laws, close to the freeway, in a decent school district. It was a cute little blue house with white trim on a quarter of an acre, and had a mature oak tree in the backyard.  The listing said the house was built in the 1950's, was three bedrooms, one and a half bath, hardwood floor, decent kitchen, and hooked up to sewer.  The house had amazing natural light, with windows everywhere. and deck in the front and back of the house.  There was space to run around. And one of the best things about this house? Rich's brother's family, and some friends of ours, lived right across the street. I remember going to look a the house, and getting kind of excited, thinking about dinners and block parties, and lots of kids playing.

After we walked through the house, we sat in the car with Rich's dad and our realtor, Tom, and brainstormed how we could make the house work.  There didn't seem to be much renovations that needed to be done right away, so we could move in, live in it and save more money, and then make the additions we wanted. The room they had listed as the third bedroom wasn't really a third bedroom.  It wasn't tall enough, and there were some pretty steep stairs leading down into the room.  We thought we could easily use that as a home office, a playroom, or a kids room, but we would have to rework the stairs.  We wanted to add another bathroom, and we wanted to add a real master bedroom. The house was listed at the top of our budget. In our car brain-storm sesh, we decided to put an offer in at asking for the house.  We thought it might go quick. I think it was a Friday. Within the contract, we asked that the seller cover any repairs due to termite damage. We went home and continued to think about how we could add onto the house to make it work for what we wanted.

Here's where things start to get a little weird. By Monday, we found out they had accepted our offer, but it was contingent on the tenants moving out at the end of September. The turn around for acceptance of an offer isn't that quick, usually. Why didn't they wait to get other offers? Was something wrong with the house? We scheduled an appraisal of the house and an inspection right away.  If something was wrong with the house, they'd find it, right? That same week, we had an inspector come to the house to check it out. That also gave us another chance to really look in, under, and on top of the house.  Rich walked the house with him.

The appraisal came out great.  It appraised for $35,000 more than the asking price.  This was promising, but also caused us to question, again, why they were selling it for less than that, and why they took our offer so quickly if they could have gotten more money for it.

There were a couple of things that came out of the inspection report. 1. At some point, years and years ago, there was a house fire near where the fireplace was. There was visible charring from smoke damage  both under the house and up in the attic.  All of the damaged wood had been re-supported with new beams.  The inspector told us that in its current condition, the fireplace wasn't safe to hold fires.  We were okay with that, because it was right on the floor (no real hearth) and we probably wouldn't have a real wood fire in there because of William. Everything else related to the fire had been addressed and the house was safe from that aspect. 2. The wiring in the house was all messed up.  It was old, with a couple different panels, and it needed to be re-done. Not a problem for us because Rich is an electrician. 3. Some minor termite damage.  Very typical, and we could work with that. 4. Minor things like leaky faucet, and some ducting that should be replaced from the water heater that could be a fire hazard. Also, the jacuzzi tub hooked up underneath the house by an extension cord, when it really should have its own dedicated outlet.   So there were somethings that could be fixed, but certainly nothing substantial.  We were cautious, but still felt like the house had potential.

About two weeks later, we received the disclosure reports from the owner.  If you are not familiar with this document, by law, the owner is to disclose to the potential buyer the condition of the house.  It should include anything that they know is faulty, down to cracks in the walls, as well as anything that has been replaced or updated. If something like mold or dry rot was not disclosed, and we could prove that the owner had knowledge of it, and we went ahead and purchased the house and then had to deal with said mold, we could legally go after the previous owners for the damages. It is in the best interest of the seller to be VERY descriptive on that report. Oddly, the ONLY thing our seller had listed on there was that they had replaced the AC unit. Literally nothing else. Again, weird.  They should have listed that there was a house fire.  Additionally, from the previous listing, we knew that the house originally had a fire burning stove in the dining room area, which was no longer in the house. That should also have been listed.  These were red flags, but they left us confused, because it really left them in a bad position, not necessarily us. Tom pointed those things out to the selling agent, and asked about them, but the other agent stuck to his guns and said nothing else. We discussed it, and decided to keep moving forward.  We were still, however, very cautious.

In late August, we submitted our request for repair.  We listed EVERYTHING we could, knowing that they wouldn't fix the larger things, like the electrical, but hoping they would agree to do some things.  Just like we expected, they turned down most of our requests, except for  a few things, like replacing the ducting on the hot water heater, adding a dedicated outlet for the jacuzzi tub, servicing the AC unit, and a couple of other things. We also had a bid for termite repairs that we submitted to the seller, which they already agreed to do when they first accepted our offer and signed the contract.

Almost immediately, the selling agent came back to us, questioning the termite repairs (there were repairs needed on both decks, and the eaves of the house).  He claimed that they never agreed to cover the termite repairs. Tom politely pointed out that it was already agreed to when they signed the contract initially.  They had to cover it.  The agent made a huge mistake there with the seller by not reading the contract fully! The bid we received was for close to $8,000.  There were a some problem areas, and the house needed to be tented.  There was also wood that needed to be replaced on the deck.  The seller decided to get a second opinion, and wouldn't you know, their bid was only $2,000! Red flag. Still, we stuck it out.

A few weeks before we were supposed to close, we went to church, like we always do.  That morning, the choir sang "Great is thy Faithfulness."

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning, new mercies I see
All I hath needed, Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto thee

As I sang along, I couldn't help but feel it deep in my bones. I tried to coach myself early on, and prayed a lot the beginning to not become emotionally attached to anything we saw.. but fully expecting myself to do that. That's my deal. I'm emotional, and I'm a planner, and with that comes the projection.  Imagining what life would be like in each home. I would imagine parties, and get togethers, and how dinners after work would go down. Playing in the yard, and envisioning our kids running around, and picnics in the front yard, and getting ready for school, and growing up. But this time, it was different.  I could totally imagine what life would be like in that house, but I was really completely surprised at how unemotional I was towards the home.  I felt at peace, and like my heart was protected. I sang that song on that Sunday, and found myself humming it at random times of the day throughout the rest of the escrow process. I knew that God had a plan for us, and that He would be faithful to us, whatever house we were able to buy.

Rich, Tom, and I were all pretty wary about the house. Well, not really about the house, but at the interactions with the selling agent, and how they handled the process. We felt like they were hiding things from us, but from what we could tell from all of our inspections, there wasn't anything too concerning regarding the house. It seemed like the owner wanted out, and quick. There was something off.

The seller agreed to give us $2,000 credit to cover the termite damage (not the $8,000 we had a bid for). They also provided us with the invoice for the handy-man who fixed the handful of things we agreed upon, as well as the invoice from the AC company that serviced the unit. We found out that the tenants were planning on leaving before Sept 30th, as they had bought a house.  Great news to us, because you just never know with tenants. We set a date to sign all the docs for the loan, and we had provided them everything they needed.  Things seemed to be going smoothly.

Then, a few days before we were supposed to close escrow, the selling agent sent Tom an email with some documents from the septic company who they had service/pump the septic tanks. Wait. A. Second. Septic? And tanks, as in plural?! We were not afraid of owning a property with a septic tank. But septic tanks are installed based on the amount of bedrooms and bathrooms the house currently has. You also can't build over where a septic tank is in the ground.  The house had a fairly big lot, but the house was right smack dab in the middle of it. The area of the yard that we had envisioned building the addition would likely interfere with the septic system, especially with there being two.  We were pretty shocked. We wouldn't be able to build on to the house without re-doing the septic system. We asked the agent why the house was listed on sewer, and they said it was a mistake. Niiiiice.  The two tanks on the property were small, and one of the tanks was directly under where we wanted to add on. Also, the septic company could only certify one of the tanks.  The other one was so old, and they recommended it to be replaced because it was likely to back up. Grreaat.

Rich went over to the house to verify where the tanks were located. He also looked around and found some more interesting things.  Remember how they had sent us the invoice for the handy-man who was supposed to fix a bunch of little things? Yeah, well, most of them weren't actually fixed.  The jacuzzi tub was still hooked up by an extension cord.  No dedicated outlet had been installed, even though they said they had done it. The ducting on the hot water heater wasn't replaced. Awesome.

It was really easy for us to make the decision to back out of escrow.  The house clearly wasn't what we thought it was. We could still add on, but it would cost probably double what we thought originally because of the septic tank issue. I was a little bit bummed because we were excited to have our own space again, but also REALLY thankful that we found out before we finalized everything. It would have been a really big mess to find out that stuff after the fact. We found out later that when the current owner bought the house a couple of years ago, it was a foreclosure, and the bank gave the owner a large credit. It was most likely to fix the bad septic system. The owner most likely just pocketed the money, rented the house out, and then started to get complaints about the sinks backing up from the tenants.  Instead of putting the money in to fix it, they wanted to sell it.

We signed the cancellation papers, and were refunded our money. Great is thy faithfulness still played in my head, as we started looking at listings again.

The Journey to our Home, part 1

I feel like the title of this post is kinda cheesy, but I couldn't come up with anything more creative. I've never claimed to be a writer, so I'll just have to deal with it!  If you follow my Instagram, you know that my husband and I are in the process of renovating a home. Today, and in the next few weeks, I'll be sharing what that process has been like for us, starting from the very beginning.  We have changed SO much in this house.  We are getting close to being able to move in, and it just seems like its taking FORRRR EVVV VERRR (High-five for anyone who can name the movie!). Going back and writing out the process is helping me to appreciate every little step, and most of all, see God's provision through it all. 

Bear with me.  This will be a longer post than usual.  Some of these details may be boring, but I really wanted to document this so I can look back on it one day, and remember it more clearly. Also, these pictures are totally unrelated, but still ones that I love, so enjoy!

I guess this story starts with the story of us. Of Rich and I.  With some great guidance, Rich bought his first home back in August of 2008. We were just dating at the time (he proposed in November of that same year), but he was obviously thinking of settling down.  It is a great little house: two bedroom, two bath, open living room and kitchen, on a quiet street, and best of all, he could afford it.  It was a little dated, but none-the-less, it was a great home. One that we could see ourselves living in for a long time, start a family in, even. But we also knew it could be a great rental house, should we decide to move on to something new.  The Lord certainly had his hand in it, because there was a LONG list of offers on this house; a full 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper of offers.  And his was certainly not the highest, nor a cash offer. But, his offer won, also with the help of our amazing realtor, and the house was his.
We married in July of 2009, and lived in the house a few years.  Along the way we made some changes.  We added another room, and replaced all the windows, laid tile in all the common areas, replaced the carpet in the bedrooms, rebuilt the patio covers, and put new stone on the fireplace.
 I love that little house.  We have so many memories from our first years of marriage there. It was the first place I was able to make my OWN.  I became a wife in that home. We held dinner parties, had late night convos with friends and family, and made some big decisions together in that home. We found out we were pregnant in that home.
I didn’t move much growing up.  We lived in San Diego until I was about 5, and then my parents moved into the house they still live in.  In a way, I’m thankful for that.  Though they weren’t outspoken about it, my parents were content with what they had in a home and they made it work.  They rarely did any huge changes.  To this day, my parent’s house has the original kitchen and bathrooms, and its over 20 years old. I remember seeing all these beautiful model homes or other friend’s new homes with updated kitchens, and thinking, oh wow, that’s cool! But, that was it.  I never had a desire for better.  Rich comes from a family of builders. Most of his aunts and uncles, grandparents, even family friends, have either built their homes from the ground up, or bought a home and completely gutted the inside and replaced everything. So, I blame him for all of this. J While I saw our house as our home and began to be emotionally invested in it, he always thought we would end up moving into something else.  Something better.  He cautioned me to not become emotionally invested in that house.

Over time, I started to agree with what he was telling me.  Our house didn’t have a lot of land, just a TINY side yard, which meant adding on was impossible. It was in a community with an HOA (seriously so annoying!).  Our cul-de-sac of 14 homes shared only two guest parking spots, and there was no parking on the curbs.  I always wanted to host things at our house, but that made it virtually impossible.. well that and the parking brigade who would monitor the streets and issue parking violations.  It wasn’t in a very good school district. It was far away from the freeway.  Once, I counted 23 stop lights from our house to the freeway, in just 4 miles!!!!! (Please know that we are grateful for this house! All of these things are certainly live-able.  It took me a while to even consider leaving.)

Rich had thrown the idea around about looking for a new house ever since we were married.  He joked that we could always move in with his parents.. but I knew he was only half joking.  And over time, God worked on me, because it all started to make sense to me.  We could rent our house out, move in with his parents for a little while, and save up for a down payment.  It just never seemed like the timing was right. In 2011, we took a Dave Ramsey financial class through our church.  It was amazing.  We both are pretty good with our money.  Neither of us had any debt going into our marriage.  In fact, at 25, I had never had a credit card. Crazy. The class really got us on the same page and helped us to focus on telling our money where to go, instead of never knowing where our money went.  I highly recommend that class to anyone! Anyway, after the class was over, we started talking about renting our house again. Interest rates were dropping, house prices were low, and rental prices were pretty good. 
In November of 2011, Rich and his parents talked more seriously about our idea.  Really, his parents had encouraged the idea from the beginning, but also didn’t think it was the right time. But now, everything seemed to be falling into place.  God, is this what you want us to do? I thought. It was a great opportunity, but, there were a lot of things I kept mulling around in my head….
How long would it take to reach our goal? Would we find renters?  We would be living with my in-law’s for at least a year…. Which can cause all sorts of complications.. think about it…. How many married couples move in with their parents, and their relationships are still great afterward?! What would my parents think about it?  Where does all our stuff go? All my pretty, new things we received from our wedding, to help make our house a home… packed away?

We mulled the idea over for months, and discussed it with my parents, who were supportive, before we finally made the decision with Rich's parents that we would move in with them.  We decided that we would make the move in April, and hope to have the house rented out by June.  We thought it would take us about a year to save up what we needed and to find a house. 

And then, in January, we found out we were pregnant. 

So, we reconsidered our plans once more.  We would be taking up two rooms instead of one at our parent's house. Would they be okay with that? What about when the baby came?  How would it all work out?  We sat down with Rich's parents, once again, and shared with them the amazing news of a baby coming.  They were ecstatic and completely surprised.  We talked about our plans, and ultimately, we did still want to move in with them, if they were still on board.  Now, more than ever, we could see how beneficial it would be for us to find a better home to raise a family.  They told us that having a little one would never have changed their mind, and they were excited to be apart of it all.  

So, we began packing and prepping our home for our move and for renters. 

To be continued!

4th Of July

Well, its only 2 weeks late, but I'm finally getting to these 4th of July photos.  Truth be told, I actually had these finished a while ago, but have had internet problems. Lots and lots of pictures here!

I love the way these turned out.  Scrolling through them just brings me right back to that day, and I love that. Family mixed with friends.  Yummy food.  LOTS of kids running around.  Great conversations.  It truly was  a perfect way to celebrate our country.

 Look how big baby Huck is!!!

 These three. Always in princess dresses! I can't wait to pull these out when they're teenagers.

 How awesome is that water-slide?! The kids absolutely loved it, although the older kids pretty much took it over.

 Miles and Will kept grabbing handfuls of that mac n cheese with hotdogs, or dipping chips in the salsa.  They are at the height now where they can reach.  And usually if one of them does it, the other is not far behind.  We're gonna be in trouble with those two!

 Treasuring this sweet photo of me and my boy!

 Brody has the sweetest dimples and is starting to give smiles.

Hope you all had equally enjoyable 4ths!

Spring rolls and Chopsticks with a side of grace, please!

I think I've approached the age with Will where I can't take him out to a restaurant anymore. Last week I met up with a good friend, whom I haven't seen in quite a while. We both have had a lot of things going on in our life since we last spoke, and honestly, I really needed some girl time.  The first thing I did wrong was think that I could have an open, authentic conversation with my girlfriend while having my little around. NOT. William was all over the place.  We chose a Vietnamese restaurant for some salmon spring rolls and vermicelli.  Looking back, I think the wait staff at this mom-n-pop place were scared when they saw us sit down because they knew what would come.

The fact of the matter is you can't share your heart on the things you're struggling with when your son is reaching for the Siracha. Or when he's waving the chopsticks around like numchucks (how does he even know how to do that?!), and sticking them in the delicious peanut sauce. Or when he tries to help himself to your friend's fried rice, and his aim is not quite on par yet, so 85% of the contents of the spoon end up on the floor (I think the wait staff just LOVED that.. have you ever tried to sweep up rice?!)   Or when he throws a tantrum because mommy won't let him run about the restaurant, harassing other diners, shoe-less because he insists on kicking his flip flops off every time we sit down.
The longer we sat there, and tried to eat, the more stressed out I became. I was embarrassed that my son was acting that way, and bummed out that my friend and my convo was constantly interrupted. Knowing that I couldn't give 100% of myself to neither my friend nor my son stresses me out. I desperately wanted the time with my friend, but Will wanted my attention also.

I waived my white flag about 10 minutes after our dinner came, apologized, and told her that we just need to go back to our house and finish dinner there.  He was becoming more irrational by the minute, and I knew it wasn't going to end well if we stayed.  I hate to sound dramatic, but I felt defeated.

My friend extended such grace to me the entire time.  She tried keep Will entertained.  She let him eat her fried rice, and helped feed him. She helped me pack up my food, and she even paid for my dinner. It's silly to even feel embarrassed, because it's not like I can control him, but I did.

Once we got back to my house, we set up our dinner on the patio, so Will could play and we could eat.  Almost immediately, the stress melted away.  Will was perfectly happy dumping sand out of the sand box, and playing with the tractors, and my friend and I finished our food and conversation.

A few lessons learned.. for one, no restaurants for a while with my boy.  It's just not worth the stress. Secondly, I want to be better at spending time with my friends. I'm realizing that I am much more introverted and hermit-like than I thought I was.  I am in a stage of life that is incredibly busy, and I've fallen off the radar socially.  Time with my friends is life-giving. Also, it is so easy for me to give grace and be helpful to others, but I have a terrible time receiving it. I guess its a pride issue, that I think I should be able to do it on my own. Typically, when I see a failure, I devise a plan on how to not fail in that way again. This just makes me more self-reliant, and also sets me up for more failure, because failure is inevitable. I get nowhere. I need to recognize and admit that I will fail, and accept God-given grace, in whatever form it comes in.  That day, it was in the form of my amazing friend, who made me feel so loved and supported. I am THANKFUL for friends like her, who can see that I'm struggling, step in, and love me anyway.

Henry Royce Visser

My friends welcomed their sweet baby BOY into the world on May 17th.  Little baby Henry shares the same birthday as his daddy.  What a great birthday present!

Those adorable side rolls!!!  Henry is not even chubby, either.  What a sweet photo of him and his mama.

Austin and Kylee's home is filled with unique mementos of their life.  Its almost like a museum, each item with a story of its own.  Kylee changes things out often also, so every time I go over there, there is something new to look at.  I love it! Their bookcase wall has always been a favorite of mine.  They must have a couple hundred children's books now. Both of Kylee and Austin's parents saved their childhood books for them, and they also received new books as a shower present.  I LOVE that they will be passing along so much history, in something simple as childhood books. I thought this shot would be a great one to look back on because I can only imagine how many time Henry will go to this book shelf and pick out a book for his parents to read him.  This will be a staple in his life.

Before they knew what they were having, they had decided on two names.  During one of our talks, I had told her that I had heard of a little boy Henry who's nickname was Huck, rather than the more common Hank.  To me, he will be Huck :). I love that one of the books displayed was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Also, we couldn't forget lamby, as he is quickly becoming Huck's little lovey.
I love them so much!! How sweet are they?!

Austin was back at work when I came by to take some pictures.  He came home from lunch to be apart of them.  I love that you can see the paint on his work shorts.  There is nothing like being rocked by daddy!
It is kind of hard to see here, but Huck has a little white patch of hair on the top of his noggin.  It's pretty adorable.

There is something really special about watching two people you love become parents.  My two friends have accepted this new responsibility with so much grace and humility. They are honest and authentic about the good things and the hard things. I am excited to be able to share this parenting journey with them. Love you guys!
 This last one represents the epitome of becoming a new parent.  Let the multi-tasking begin! Holding a sleeping baby and baby's musical lamby in one hand, and pouring a cup of coffee with the other. Once, while visiting our cousins in New York, I nursed an 8 month old William, while riding the subway, standing up.  We were in Brooklyn, the car was crazy packed, standing room only.  I put my back against one of the poles, widened my stance a bit, and made sure my nursing cover was in place.  Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do!