Saturday, May 30, 2009

Simple Pleasures

You know how people are always saying that kids don't need toys, just to hand them a cardboard box or something like that? Well, I think that might actually be true. If you give Topher a plastic Walmart sack, he's happy for at least 10 straight minutes (supervised, of course, so he doesn't suffocate.) He's also equally entertained with one of my shoes, an empty paper towel tube, a roll of painter's tape, a page from the newspaper, or a water bottle. He's kind of like a puppy, really.
Anyway, here he is enjoying a simple water bottle:
The best thing about this video is how much Topher loves watching it (I need to take a video of that.) Whenever we play it for him on the computer, he smiles and laughs. I'm not sure if he really understands that he's looking at himself, but I think he might. He loves looking in the mirror and touching his reflection, so I think he's figuring it all out.
A family came to look at our house this morning and they were here for almost an hour, and there is another couple coming to see it tonight. At least we're getting plenty of traffic through here despite the crummy market. We're taking that as a good sign and keeping our fingers crossed.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Waiting Game

This is stressful. Trying to keep this house in show-ready condition ALL the time with Topher spitting up on every surface he contacts and drooling almost as much as Sassy does. Then there's the showings. It is SO exciting leaving the house, knowing that an agent is going to walk a family through your house, but it's SO nerve-wracking, too. I mean, it's weird enough knowing that total strangers are scrutinizing your home when you're not there, but then there's also the wondering about what they said and thought about all of it. I wish I had a hidden camera hooked up so I could at least hear their comments. All I know is that it's hard living in a house that you are trying to sell, and I'm going to worry myself ragged wondering if anyone is ever going to love it enough to make an offer on it. An agent walked a couple through the house today (it's going to be a pain getting everything cleaned up, getting Topher packed, and then leaving for an hour each time, by the way) and I just wish I could know how our house comes across to total strangers. I'm too used to seeing it to know how it appears through fresh eyes. I'm sure there will be many, many of these showings before we receive an offer (which is a little depressing but I'll deal) and each time it will be just as hard to wait and wait to hear if there's any feedback. I guess the main thing to remember is that we've done everything we can possibly do. Now we just have to have a little faith and enough luck to get the right people to walk through the house. It's a lot more fun to be the buyer. I could go house-shopping all day. Before we found this home, we spent an entire day with our realtor, touring about 14 houses. TJ hated every minute of it, but I was having a blast. By the end of the day, we couldn't remember one house from the next. I kind of liked the Grandma house. Which one was that again, the one with the tiled walls? No no, that was the Hodge-Podge house, with the crazy additions everywhere. What about the Diner house, with the built-in kitchen booth? It was fun, being the one in the driver's seat. But now the tables are turned and we're stuck in the backseat, unable to go anywhere until someone offers to drive. Will our luck change tomorrow, or will we still be sitting here, wearily waiting a month from now? I hate not knowing. But I suppose it's a lot better than wondering if your house will sink or float. --KC

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Two-Hand Bottle

Sometimes I look at Topher and I see more defined features...little elf ears and curved eyebrows and longer eyelashes. And the more defined his features become, the cuter he is to me. It's hard to imagine that he could ever be cuter than he is right now, with his button nose and big, open-mouthed smile that turns his eyes into moon-shaped flashes of blue and all his barely-there hair. But I'm sure I'm wrong because when he was born, I thought the same thing--how could anyone get cuter than this?? But now I look at his newborn pictures and I think they don't even compare to how cute he is now. I'm afraid that he'll kill me with his cuteness in another few months. :) I also get excited over the tiniest little milestones (since he's not hitting any big ones lately). The other day, for example, I handed him his bottle and he put both hands up around it and when I let go, he just kept on feeding himself. It does not work every time. He won't even do it the majority of the time, but he can do it. I think at the time I said it was the happiest day of my life. I guess I'm just excited that he's growing. :) He did it again today: I love how his hands are always positioned the same way. To be fair, it is quite the fat bottle and both hands are needed to balance it, but I have to give him credit. He does it well. I'm so proud of my little cutie-pants. (P.S. I saw that our home listing went online this morning, and we already have 2 showings scheduled for this weekend!) --KC

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

For Sale

For Sale. Two little words that represent a YEAR of work and worry and stress and more work. I can't believe it's official...our house is for sale! The realtor was here for about an hour, we signed some papers and agreed on a listing price, and then she stuck the sign in our front yard. It was so easy that it was almost anti-climatic. I mean, we've been working and stressing and wondering for an entire year and in one hour everything comes to fruition. It just seems too easy. We got a rave review from the realtor (and also our neighbors) but we will continue to question the listing price until we start getting calls requesting showings of the house. And if there's not enough interest, we'll just lower the price. The thing about this house is that, if you were to give us a low-ball offer right after a heavy rainstorm, we'd just take it. But on bright, sunny days I look around at all the features of the home and I think that even at full price, this house is a steal. It's hard to stay emotionally uninvolved because we're SO ready to be out of here and to start a new chapter of our lives in a new home. We're listing it below the assessment value in order to generate more interest. We'll know within a couple weeks if it's working. It rained all day yesterday and most of the night, so TJ was up almost all night long again. (Nothing happened, the sump pump is running perfectly, and the basement is thankfully dry as a bone. I think, more than likely, that will be how it is from now on but we just can't shake our nervousness. That's why we need someone to move in who can just ENJOY this house, having no bad memories here because it really is a beautiful home.) But the rest of the week looks dry and sunny so we're happy about that. Whenever I glance out the window and see that white sign in my yard, I feel a swell of pride. It would have been a lot easier to foreclose on this home and walk away, letting it mold and rot. But we continued making our house payments, even when our house was smelling like a sewer and uninhabitable and we were living with TJ's parents. (And believe me, sending that mortgage bill in every month was harder to do than it might sound. We were like, why are we making payments on a ruined house??) And then we just kept sticking it out, one project at a time until the house was gutted, sanitized, rebuilt, inhabitable, and--finally--appealing. We in no way got to this point on our own. It took dozens of volunteers, countless man hours, and more borrowed tools than we can name. This house was our Everest, and I feel like that sign going up in our front yard was like planting the flag on top of the mountain. The view is a lot better from here. --KC

Monday, May 25, 2009

All Done!

We did it! We finished the house! It's hard to name everything we've done this weekend, but the list includes: staining the deck, moving out extra furniture, cleaning the house top to bottom, finishing all the trim downstairs, moving the animals out to the farm, mowing the lawn, planting new bushes and flowers, painting the front door (which was a disaster the first time around because the color we chose turned out to be very wrong), and staging the house as best we could with what furniture we own. The realtor comes tomorrow afternoon and it feels so, so good to say that we are completely ready for her. I am shocked and incredibly grateful that we have made it to this point. (By the way, you may have noticed that our blog has gone private. This was done at the suggestion of our friend who said that people interested in our house might google our names and look at our blog and we really don't want anyone seeing pictures of the house in its flooded state because it ruins the current beauty of the home. Once it sells, we will open the blog back up to the public. Sorry for any inconvenience in the meantime.) Okay, enough talking...since pictures say a thousand words, I will just post our final AFTER pictures. Front of house: Looking in the garage: Walking in the front door: Going up the stairs to the left into the living room: Looking the other way, into the eat-in kitchen: And a view of the kitchen: The 2 bedrooms upstairs (there's also a full bathroom upstairs): Downstairs hallway: Downstairs, going into the living room (there are also 2 more bedrooms and another full bathroom downstairs, which I have pictured in previous posts): I think a video would be more fun. Maybe tomorrow I'll take a video walking through the house and post it. :) I'm so happy. We're both so happy. Can't wait for that "for sale" sign to go out on the front lawn. --KC

Thursday, May 21, 2009

One Last Weekend

Oh boy. We have a realtor coming on Tuesday, camera in tow, so that means we only have one more weekend to get this house in picture-perfect shape. I've been painting like a mad-woman. The windows are done, the closet frames are done, the stairwell is done, and the banister is done. I've also spackled in a few small holes in the drywall and will be painting those today. It's interesting, but the more we get done, the more we realize how much MORE we have to do. I suppose the problem is that we're trying to finish the house, clean the house, and stage the house all at once. So on top of basic things like finishing the trim downstairs, we have to worry about real estate details like landscaping and moving out extraneous furniture. I will say this, though: our house has NEVER looked better. Or rather, after this weekend it will have never looked better. Thank goodness it's a 3-day weekend because we're going to need every second of it. On a different note, CONGRATS to our friends Al and Amanda in Chicago...they just found out they are having a little BOY and we are so excited for them! Al was born one year (to the day) after TJ and we were thinking it would be really strange (and cool) if their baby was born exactly one year after Topher. They are due in October, so it wouldn't be impossible...but really, we couldn't be happier for them and we hope everything goes smoothly. Topher is getting quite "helpful" around mealtimes. I took a short video this morning of how he (eventually) gets the food to his mouth:

Anyway, wish us luck this weekend--we'll need it!!! :)


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

House Update

We are SO close to having a finished home (which is good, considering the one-year anniversary of the flood is coming up in early June.) A whole year, and it all comes down to the final stretch. I have become the painter. Guess who "helped" me paint the ledge white? It was quite the fiasco, really. I had to grab Squash after she had already taken several steps in the paint, carry her by the scruff upstairs with her bright white paws, and leave her in the garage until she dried. Then yesterday, I gave the stair trim a fresh coat of paint so TJ can put a strip of trim down and then those will be complete (I didn't have plastic sheeting, but I had billions of Walmart bags so I improvised): I have also decided to paint the window frames white to match the rest of the downstairs trim. I was afraid it would be a horrible job, but each window is only taking one day to complete and there's only 4 in all, so not a big deal at all and it seems to make a BIG difference in the feel of the rooms. I never realized how satisfying it is to paint. The problem is I have to do it in increments, whenever Topher happens to be napping. So as soon as he falls asleep, I run downstairs and open the paint can and grab my brush and work until I hear him stirring and then I close up the paint, wash/dry the paintbrush, and run back upstairs. I tried to have him play downstairs while I was working, but he quickly realized that he didn't have my full attention and he wasn't happy about it. If I had to make a list of things to do in order to be COMPLETELY done, it would be pretty short:
  1. finish painting windows white (me)
  2. trim out windows and closet frames (TJ)
  3. finish trimming half-wall ledge and stairs (TJ)
  4. re-attach smoke alarms (either)
  5. install matching light covers (both)
  6. paint/install new front door (TJ and his dad)
  7. touch up wall scuffs with paint (me)

That's it...that's all I can think of. It sounds like a lot I guess, but compared to our list a year ago, it's just peanuts. We'll probably be calling a realtor this weekend and getting their opinion of what else we might need to do, what price we should list the house at, and how soon we can have our first open house.

I can't believe how far we have come, and how pretty and clean the lower level looks now. A year ago, I never could have imagined it turning out this well. Here's hoping for dry weather as we wrap up our projects here.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Can You Dance?

We think there are a few words now that Topher really understands. In the bath, he knows what it means to "splash" and on dry ground, he seems to understand what it means to "dance."

Please do not mistake his moves to be a reflection of my own dancing. He's not imitating me...I can't move my hips with that much pizazz. :)


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who Needs Sleep?

Who needs sleep, well you're never gonna get it Who needs sleep, tell me what's that for Who needs sleep, be happy with what you're getting This guy's been awake since the second world war... Who needs sleep? Apparently not Topher. Lately he's been waking up at night, and it bring back memories of when he was a newborn. We thought it was because of his cold and the fact that he couldn't breathe very well, but his cold is all but gone now and he's waking up more than ever. Last night he went to bed too early (6:30pm) and woke up at midnight. I didn't get him back into bed until 2:30am. Then he was up at 5am, and TJ took care of him until he had to leave for work at 7:30am, when I got up and took over again. It's now almost 1pm, and he still hasn't slept today. So what is he doing with all those extra waking hours? Well, he has long, one-sided conversations with Sassymuffin: He spends some time out in nature: He gets some reading time in: And of course, plenty of chewing (this is his water mat with shapes inside that move around): I keep thinking I should have had him back in college when I required a lot less sleep. :) Oh well, good thing he's such an adorable little guy. So much joy in life, so many pleasures all around But the pleasure of insomnia is one I've never found With all life has to offer, there's so much to be enjoyed But the pleasures of insomnia are ones I can't avoid... --KC

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day Weekend

What a great weekend. TJ was incredibly productive Saturday. He mowed the lawn and spent the majority of the day working on the downstairs. He started nailing down the ledge on the half-wall (the cat loves having somewhere to perch again), and he finished the trim in the bathroom and on the landing. It looks sooo great. He worked until he ran out of materials. We are very, very close to being done. One really good weekend with a few extra hands and we could be completely finished. We need to finish and paint the ledge white, touch up some areas with paint, attach the closet doors, put in a new front door, paint the banister and re-attach all the smoke alarms. That's it! I am bound and determined to get this house on the market before June arrives. Sunday was the best day ever. TJ got up with Topher and let me sleep in (which, by the way, is the best Mother's Day present ever) and then I got a card signed by TJ and Topher. It was so adorable to see Topher's "handwriting" for the first time. I had to speak in church, which makes me SO nervous. I have been practicing every day for 2 weeks and I could still feel myself shaking like a leaf. However, my voice remained steady for the most part and I think it turned out okay. People laughed when I wanted them to, and I had a ton of kind comments afterwards. Plus it's such a relief knowing that I'm done and I don't have to be nervous about it anymore. Public speaking was my least favorite class in college. But I'm glad I was asked to do it because it made my first Mother's Day that much more memorable. I still can't believe that I'm a mom--me! Topher, you're the cutest little man I've ever known and I'm so glad I get to be your mommy. We can't wait to move with you into a safer house and watch you get even bigger. Thank you for all the smiles and slobbers. --KC

Friday, May 8, 2009

Baby Limbo

I think we've hit some sort of strange baby limbo. Topher hasn't hit any milestones in a long time and he's lulling us into a false sense of security that he is going to be this age forever. Is it true? Will he forever be this baby who only has a dusting of hair, who can roll across the room but still can't crawl, who can squeak and squawk but never seems to make any purposeful sounds? When I try to imagine him saying something--dada, mama, puppy, up, baba, no--it's just beyond my realm of imagination. When I try to picture him being coordinated enough to crawl or walk into a room, the picture in my head seems too comical to ever be true. We keep waiting for the first tooth to come, but after months of teething now there is still no sign of anything other than drool. I suppose I shouldn't wish him older, but I can't help myself. He is so cute right now but so limited. I know he is frustrated when he lays on his back and kicks his legs as though running in place. I know he is confused when I give him a spoonful of sweet potatoes and he inadvertently loses it all in his lap before it reaches his mouth. I know sometimes when he cries he's wanting us to understand the words he can't yet form. I guess the main question is whether or not, once these days are gone, I will wish them back again. I'm sure the temptation to romanticize babyhood will be there, but for Topher's sake, I'll just be happy that he made it to his more advanced self. What is the real appeal of babies, anyway, besides those adorable chubby legs and sausage fingers and button noses? When people talk about loving babies, they speak of how small they are all bundled up in bed and how cute it is that they can eat their own feet and how good that little head smells. But what is the appeal past all the cuteness? Is it just that they are so dependent and innocent, that they can't yet have an attitude or rebel? It certainly can't be those diapers full of orange poop, or those nights of being wide awake at 3am, or the fact that the little head smells like sour milk most of the day and only has that magic smell right after a bath. For me, I guess the appeal right now is that even though Topher can expose my weaknesses, he doesn't know he's doing it. He can't yet know that we're imperfect, and he can't compare himself to others or doubt himself. He trusts us, and he can't yet think that we're old or lame or out-of-date. Or make fun of our pictures from the eighties. But even still, I can't wait for him to become a little boy. Babies are just the precursors to people, really (kind of their own little sub-species) and if I was only in love with babies, I can't imagine that I would ever be satisfied because they have a tendency to grow up. I'll admit that I don't have that baby gene. I did have baby fever a little before getting pregnant, but it was more all the baby stuff I was excited about. The actual baby was something that was too hard for me to imagine. I mean, you can read all the books you want but they never say, "Your baby will lay on the floor holding a little green pillow and gurgle to it while stomping his feet." (That's just what he happens to be doing at the moment.) "Your baby's gurgles will soon morph into a whining cry when he realizes the pillow is not responding. Your only hope of consoling him at this point will be to offer him a bottle which he will shove away several times before suddenly deciding he is ravenously hungry." But now when I see a woman with a newborn I don't think, Oooh look at that tiny little baby, that's so sweet! Instead, my thoughts are, Oooh, that lady is in for some loooong nights. Wow, I'm so glad I'm not her! Is that wrong? I don't mean for it to sound like I don't love being a mommy. Topher has added a whole new dimension to our lives that we didn't even know existed. It's kind of like living in a two-dimensional world your whole life and then suddenly entering 3D. I love him more than anything, but I also can't sit here and say that every minute of it has been pleasant. I do know that the pleasant moments come more and more often the older he gets, though. I know more milestones will come, but until then, we'll just hang out together in our three-dimensional baby limbo. It's really not too bad here, most of the time. And if you stare straight at that slobbery little smile long enough, you might just mistake it for Heaven. --KC

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Destroying the Rainforest

Topher received a rainforest jungle gym for Christmas and at the time it was hard to imagine he would ever be big enough to reach the toys that dangled above his head. Those days are long gone. Not only can he now rip down the toys, but he maneuvers himself all over the gym, kicking down the palm tree and eating the butterflies. He's all boy. Here he is at Christmas, looking at his toy but not really playing with it: And here he over the last couple days, being his sweet little destructive self:

I love watching him play and entertain himself and yes, even destroy his toys. But mostly I love that open-mouthed, bright-eyed, Gerber-baby expression. Sorry rainforest, baby wins.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Topher Says No

He might not be talking yet, but Topher is definitely communicating.

Could he get any cuter? Nope.



Picture: Bear Lake Utah Rental Home (Site of '09 Berbert Reunion) Ah, family reunions. TJ was exposed to his first Berbert Reunion just one week after we were married (I married him just in time, lol). It was in Montana and the accommodations reminded us of...oh, I think the word we decided on was a "camping retreat." It was interesting to say the least. That was 2005. We have a reunion every other year and we had to miss the '07 Branson affair, but we promised we'd make the next one. Well, it's now the next one coming up this summer, and the location is Bear Lake, UT. Unfortunately, we have become quite car-shy with Topher and our original plan of a family car trip to Colorado Springs and then on to Bear Lake were quickly scrapped when we added up the hours...16 one way. That's a big no. So we were going to cancel altogether, but my mom begged and I did promise I'd make the '09 Reunion, no matter the location (I specifically remember saying that, too, figuring that 2 years was enough time to get everything sorted.) So after carousing some discount travel sites, we went with the Priceline Negotiator and we have 2 non-stop tickets from Des Moines to Salt Lake (Topher flies for free because he sits on my lap). And a rental car once we get there, since Bear Lake is a few hours from Salt Lake. We are still nervous about the flight (obviously we have NO experience combining babies and airplanes) but it's only a couple hours, and then a couple hours in the car (hopefully the mountains will be more exciting for Topher to look at than Iowa fields.) And this time, our accommodations will include the following: TV, alarm clock, air conditioning, more than one foot of space around the perimeter of the bed, and a bathroom that isn't located down the hall. (I think I'll save the rest of my Montana reflections for another blog.) The official Reunion Countdown Clock says we have 83 days to go. Hear that, Topher? That gives you 83 days to get ready for your first flight. Despite my nerves, I have to admit I'm excited to show him the mountains for the first time, and I can't wait to introduce him to the extended family. TJ, thanks for being brave enough to try another reunion with my crazy family. I think we're going to have a lot of fun. :) --KC