Wednesday, December 27, 2006

pictures

See some pictures from our Christmas adventures at Yahoo. Click on the link to the right of the page titled "Pictures of Our Adventures."

Russian government strikes again

Received a letter from Frank Adoption Center in the mail upon our return from holiday travels:

"Roman's post placement report will be due in our office by March 18, 2007. Due to a November 2006 change in the Russian Ministry of Education's post-placement requirements, we have been alerted that post-placement report visits should not occur more than one month prior to your child's adoption anniversary date. Your documented date of adoption is March 25, 2004. Therefore, we are asking that your social worker not conduct her home visit prior to February 25, 2007......
Please remember that your post-placement report needs to be apostilled in your state... and must be accompanied by at least six different photographs of your child. Please choose your photographs carefully, as they will be viewed by the officials in your child's region. Do not submit photographs of your children taking a bath or in their bathing suits."

Oh, golly. Last year, Russia called FAC because they decided our post-placement report needed to be due before its actual due date (thank goodness I had been walking out the door to get it apostilled when they called!). So this year, it's a 2-1/2 week window to have the visit, get the report done, get it to Lansing to be apostilled, and sent to FAC in time. It's our last report, too. Doug shook his head, but I just reassured him - Russia says jump, and we ask how high! A small price to pay for our angel, who is currently napping in his room after a hard morning of playing with all his new toys.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Welcome home... heh, heh.

The smell of poop and garbage in the air. The house at 48 degrees. Sorting laundry to find your cream-colored sweater stained by your new red shirt. Watering the plant to have the water overrun and spill on the hardwood floor. Welcome home, Van Eeuwen family... welcome home.

Well, it's not that bad. An hour later and the poop was cleaned up (thanks, kitties... we'll be calling the vet tomorrow). The furnace was reset, the sweater was Oxi-Cleaned, and the water sopped up. The boy is in bed, and Doug and I are going to unpack & shuffle everything around tomorrow. We had a good holiday, Roman received a lot of great gifts, and we made it home safe. I have until Jan. 8th off, which is great. Looking forward to organizing pictures, other files on the computer, scanning some stuff in, and just relaxing.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Open House that never was

We busted our "bootums" all weekend. All evening Friday, 4-5 hours on Saturday, all Saturday evening, and 5 hours on Sunday... cleaning, painting, packing, painting, grouting. We headed out to Toys R Us on Sunday around 12:30, and Doug thought to swing back by the house to make sure the "guest realtor" showed up. 10 after 1pm, and no one was there. We called our own realtor, who tried to contact the guest realtor - couldn't get ahold of him! So strangely, the agent had volunteered to show our house, then couldn't be gotten ahold of.

Our agent said he'd check to see if it was advertised anywhere and if it was, he'd head right over (he was watching his kids while his wife worked). When we returned around 5pm, it didn't look like anyone had been there. So...

....the silver lining is, of course, that practically everything in the house has been done. Nothing else to pack. Nothing else to fix. A couple things to paint, but no big deal. So now, we need PEOPLE.

Roman, on the other hand, is getting ready for Christmas. I don't think he has a clue of what's in store - he doesn't really remember from last year. We wrapped most of our gifts last night. Today Roman said something sweet while watching Winnie the Pooh - "Hey Daddy, wouldn't it be neat if we lived in a treehouse?" He said it so wondering, so full of imagination. Sweet, sweet little boy.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Surprise! Open House!

Our realtor called Doug today and announced that he had found someone to staff an Open House for us this Sunday, 1-4pm. "Holy crap!" I said, a few times, when Doug told me. There was so much we were going to do over Xmas break, that is being done today and tomorrow.

So... after Roman went to bed tonight (second night in a row of being the sweetest boy ever), I grabbed the paint and touched up the kitchen and spots in the living and hallway where Doug had plugged up holes. Also took down the stereo in the dining room. Doug stripped and re-caulked the tub tonight, so no baths or showers tomorrow!

Luckily, Roman can go play at church from noon-4pm tomorrow, so we'll have time to do other things. Still lots of touch-up painting in the basement, at least 2 trips to the storage unit, and more fun in the bathroom.

In other news, I am progressing through whatever illness has hit me this week. Losing my voice, which was fun at school today. We found a small flashlight and checked Roman's throat out - it was really red and very swollen. But when we ask him, he says his throat doesn't hurt. When Doug put him to bed tonight, he asked in a different way - "Roman, does the back of your mouth hurt?" "Oh, yes" came the reply. "Is that why you've had trouble falling asleep?" "Yes, Daddy." Oh man, we feel bad. So just as usual, Roman is sick right at the same time I am... can't tell me that boy doesn't have allergies.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"You'll shoot your eye out!"

The great movie "A Christmas Story" is taking place in our home this season. Roman is a true boy, getting very fascinated with guns. He makes up guns - popcorn guns, bow and arrow guns (I think a crossbow, although how he knows what that is I'm not sure). His friend Jake at preschool informed me that Santa doesn't make guns, which I was relieved to hear. I told Roman this, and his reply was, "but my Santa does."

Yesterday we were shopping at Meijer and went down the toy weapon aisle (not deliberately). Roman's eyes latched onto one particular package and he grew very excited. "I want THAT for my birthday!" was the cry. Behold! A toy M-16 rifle, nicknamed "The Peacemaker." When you pull the trigger, it shakes and makes great popping sounds. But not so great for a 3-year-old. I just said "We'll put it on the list" and rolled along. I suggested to Doug that just like the commercials, one day we're going to have an 18-year-old Roman sit us down and explain to us why he wants to join the Army.

Santa came to preschool today and we were asked if there was anything we wanted Santa to mention. I wrote, "tell Roman that Santa doesn't make guns." Sure enough, Roman reported this afternoon that that's what Santa told him. But everything Roman has asked Santa for (he's seen him twice now), is nothing that anyone has bought him. I even tried to have Santa suggest Thomas trains, and Roman asked for battery-operated ones (I don't want to get into buying those kind myself, although gifts are fine). So now the dilemma - do we not get him anything he's asked for, and hope that he doesn't notice? Or do we risk the "Oh... but I wanted...(fill in the blank)" and not show appreciation for what he does get?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The break-up

While it is easy for Doug to let go, I cannot. I was falling in love with that house. I felt we had a future together. It was available and ready to start a relationship - it stood there with open rooms, waiting for memories to be made together. It had moved beyond its past affair with color and was ready to start anew... maybe with taupe? It practically asked for me to come into its life, improve its bathrooms, swap its electric stove for gas, and put a gas log in its fireplace. But it was not meant to be.

That house wanted a commitment. It wanted us immediately; in fact, was moving way too fast. December 31, it said. You have to be living with me, or else. We tried to reason with it. We tried to explain that we had to let our current house down gently... we couldn't just toss it into the marketplace, settle for less than its value. Our current house deserves more from us. And we couldn't play the field, start a relationship with a new house before breaking up with our current house. Our financial morals just wouldn't allow us.

So that's where it ended. There was no compromise to be reached. It did try to bargain with us - let's sit down, let's try to work out some mortgage payments - but in the end, the house told us it would take no contingencies. Against its policy. We felt bad, but we had to part with it. We're hoping we can remain friends... in fact, we'd like to rekindle a relationship with it someday - hopefully sooner. But I guess it will take time, and hope that no one else makes a move on that house.

They say that there are other houses in Plymouth, that we'll find a better one someday. It's hard to imagine, when you feel like the perfect one got away.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sharing the season

We think Roman must have been sick for the past couple weeks, because he's been in a great mood the last three days... which makes us realize just how grumpy he was. Our sweet child is back. Some whining, of course, no napping at preschool - but is playing well and is much more patient. Maybe a "switch" turned on, who knows.

As Christmas is just 20 days away, it's been great having Roman understand and enjoy the holiday. He "gets" Santa, but also gets that we're celebrating Jesus' birthday. He's in love with Frosty and Rudolph, as any good three-year-old should be. But most of all, he knows that no Christmas tree is complete without a train going around the base. And ours, according to Roman, is a Golden Train. If you can believe it, I bought it when I worked at K-B Toys back in the good ol' days (1993, I believe). Good employee discount. It's been out some years, packed away some years, but we knew that Roman would love it. Not only does he love it, he will play with it by himself for whole chunks of time - the other day, practically 20 minutes on his own! He likes that it is big and he can put his hands on the back and push. The train hasn't spent much time on the actual tracks, though. Currently it's in its "shed" which is under the footstool in the basement.

I also had a warm fuzzy feeling in the car the other day when I introduced one of Roger Whitaker's Christmas CDs to Roman. When I was growing up, we always listened to this particular album (and by that, I do mean album - the LP, on the record player) along with Pavarotti (Ave Maria, how beautiful) while decorating the tree. So for Roman to enjoy the songs, especially "Darcey the Dragon," is just so much fun for me too. It's times like that when I finally "get" the importance of family traditions.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Stop, hold everything: some clarification needed.

At best, we've been given lukewarm support for our seemingly out-of-the-blue bid on a house. So I thought it best, to reassure those who now think we're certifiable, to express what's been discussed in our household for not only the past few weeks, but in some instances, four years - and some since before we got married.

Why we want to move to Plymouth:
1. We can’t take Roman to the nearby park because of the druggies who get into fights in the parking lot and swear a lot.
2. Neighbors who tear up the street and take the corners fast that I fear for Roman crossing the street when he’s older.
3. The neighborhood we are in is clearly beginning to turn over; we have little in common with the newcomers from Redford, Detroit, etc.
4. To participate in a neighborhood-like activity I drive 25 minutes to Plymouth (band concerts, Santa, school events, eating ice cream on a park bench). These activities are what I grew up doing in a small town, and I want that small town experience for Roman.
5. Because Doug’s job is here (and more variety of future jobs will be here) and I also love my job at my school, not to mention our fabulous church, staying in this area of Michigan has begun to appeal to me. And we have agreed that if living in the Kalamazoo area, my first choice, is off the radar, then living in a “small town feel” area is what I want for my family.
6. I am connected to the Plymouth school community and want Roman to participate in it, especially since I already know the “ins and outs” of how the system works and who to contact with problems.
7. We want a neighborhood with kids in it; there are few children Roman’s age in our neighborhood.
8. If we stayed in this house when Roman began kindergarten, with me working in Plymouth, we would have to either switch him to a daycare which would bus him to school, or we would have to pay for before-and-after school care at the school. Not to mention whether he should do full or part-day kindergarten. None of these choices thrills me: switch him to a third “daycare” in 4 years, so I could drop him off at daycare and he could be bussed to school and bussed back to daycare, when I could pick him up? In the neighborhood we’re looking at, Roman could continue to attend his current preschool if he had to be bussed to kindergarten; or, I would only have a 5 minute commute to work if I was able to take him to school.

Why we want a bigger house:
1. Top amongst all the reasons: storage. We are tired of paying for a storage unit that is rapidly filling up with Roman’s baby things which we are not yet ready to sell or give away; that money could go to better use toward the mortgage on a larger house.
2. As we want a second child in the future, we do not feel our current house has the space to include our entire family. We understand that people all over do it – but we can afford more space with little impact on our budget.
3. The configuration of our current home does not allow for Roman to play outside without me being with him; thinking of the future, we would prefer a house with a backyard that can be seen from a kitchen/living area.
4. It would have a garage.

As for the housing and financial “climate”:
1. We are well aware that December-February is the worst time to sell a house. We did not initially plan to sell our house at this time; however, the price and situation of the house we bid on, we feel, is too fortunate to pass up.
2. We are also well aware, as others may not be, that in SE Michigan the houses that are not selling are the larger family homes priced approximately $200,000 and up. The smaller starter homes in “ring” cities such as Livonia have seen an increase to approximately 112 days on the market. There has been a stagnation in selling price of houses similar to ours; but it has not decreased. I work with a fellow who sold his starter home in Plymouth in 6 weeks, and closed 3 weeks ago.
3. We have discussed with our realtor his “tricks” for getting houses to move and feel confident that we will have traffic.
4. We understand that the company which holds the house we’re bidding on is anxious to get rid of it by Dec. 31. This “puts the ball in our court,” and gives us leverage for the next “counter counter” which we will be submitting Monday morning. (see the end of this post)
5. We have discussed the possible situation of two mortgages and know what we’re comfortable with and can afford, and the length of time we could afford it. We would never use a bridge loan.
6. We have researched how much it will cost us to move and have the money available.
7. We would not have qualified for this new mortgage, nor would our lender approve us for handling both mortgages temporarily if we didn’t have adequate personal finances. We planned in advance (for once) for this very scenario – being able to finance a house or a second child.


That all being expressed, and taking into consideration advice given by family, friends, and our realtor, we are going to attempt to negotiate for this house further. We will accept the company's counter-offer, including closing by Dec. 31, but add on that they pay for 6 months of our new mortgage payments (since they're not giving us time to sell our home first). That will still leave room for the company to counter with something I'm pretty sure we'd still be comfortable with. We talked about possible negotiations offered by the company... But we'll see. Boyd comes tonight at 6pm to do paperwork for getting our house on the market, and we'll also draw up the counter-offer.