Tuesday, December 23, 2014

We're Making an Offer

So, as of today, we are officially making an offer on a home.

We went to look at one of the homes again last night. It was the home we felt the best about, and as we were looking in the backyard, snow was finally falling from the sky and a hawk landed in the tree next door. That was pretty cool. It was our first really good snow storm this year. Hopefully it doesn't all melt.
The hawk is in the center of the picture

We feel pretty good about this home we're looking into, and if they accept our offer, we will get an inspection done. We don't really want to pay for an inspection if they won't consider our offer.

If the inspection tells us things we don't like about the house, we can keep looking. This is our favorite home so far. It has four bedrooms and two bathrooms. It has a large garage and two storage sheds. Part of the backyard is completely fenced in, which is great, and means we can take our time saving up to fence in the rest of the yard.

The house does have a few problems, but it's nothing too serious or that would need to be fixed immediately. It's in pretty good shape.

We're pretty excited about it, and we've been praying a lot. We feel like we could afford the mortgage payments, and with a USDA loan, we wouldn't need to pay a down-payment.

With any luck, but this time next month we'll be in a new home. That would be awesome anyway.

Thank you for your prayers. We know we're doing what we're supposed to be doing, and I know part of that is because of prayers on our behalf.

We'll keep you informed.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Mormon Monday: Christ is the Gift

As you probably are all aware, this week is Christmas!

I love Christmas. I still get super excited about it, even though I'm grown up and not supposed to be a kid anymore.

Part of what makes Christmas so fun for me, is giving presents and preparing surprises for those that I love. Last year, my siblings all pitched in to surprise my father with a treadmill. He was definitely surprised, even though we managed to get him to drive it back to Idaho. That was a lot of fun.

Kevin and I have been watching some different Christmas movies together. Some of the movies we've watched are Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer (a couple of times), Frosty the Snowman, and Elf.

One thing that's been kind of bothering me as I've watched these movies, came to a head when I was watching Elf. I love that movie, and it cracks me up. Honestly, it's probably the only Will Ferrell movie that I like.

However, at one point in the movie, Santa Claus states that the Christmas spirit is believing in Santa Claus.

Now don't get me wrong, I think Santa is a wonderful tradition. However, he is not supposed to be what Christmas is about. In fact, he himself is symbolic of Christ.

Here's a video explaining some of the similarities and symbolism, if you're interested.
They showed this at our Ward Christmas party. I thought it was cute.

According to the dictionary, Christmas is defined as
the annual Christian festival celebrating Christ's birth, held on December 25 in the Western Church. 
By definition, Christmas is a Christian festival. Yet, so many "Christmas" movies avoid any mention the Savior. It is easier to pretend that Christmas is about Santa, then to possibly offend someone who doesn't believe in Christ.

However, if you're celebrating Christmas, shouldn't you believe in Christ?

Link to Source
The spirit of Christmas is about becoming more like Christ. We give gifts because Christ gave us the greatest gift of all: the opportunity to return to our Heavenly Father. His gift didn't cost a lot of money, but it was expensive nonetheless. His gift took a lifetime to prepare, it cost Him His life, and it is applicable to all of us. Any one can partake of Christ's gift if they choose to.

I am so grateful for the gift of the Savior. I've been trying really hard this year to maintain my focus on him and his life throughout this Christmas season. To that end, we are trying to establish a family tradition. We taped a box shut, and cut an opening in the top. Then we wrapped the box up, except for the opening. This became our gift for the Savior. Throughout the month of December, we've been trying to do service, and when we do, we've been trying to remember to write down what we've done on a slip of paper, and place it into the present for Christ. Some days, we've forgotten all about our box and even when we've done service, we haven't remembered to put it in.

Though we haven't been perfect everyday about following through, I like the idea, and it has been fun to see that present sitting there. (Kevin wants to unwrap it though, and it makes him sad when we don't let him.)

On  Christmas, we're planning on opening the present and reading some of the service that we have done. As our children grow older, we are also planning on drawing names daily for someone to do a service for the person that they've picked, and then writing what they did on a slip of paper and placing it in the box.

We hope to make this an annual Christmas tradition.

The hope and peace that the Savior brings into my life is incomparable. I wish that everyone could feel the same comfort and love that I do. It is to this intent that we try to share the gift of the Savior. We don't want to push our beliefs on others, but we do want to give everyone the opportunity to accept them if they are interested. If we don't do our best to share the wonderful gift we have received from the Savior, then aren't we being selfish?

I believe in Christ and I know He wants all of His brothers and sisters to return to live with Heavenly Father. I want to be able to live with everyone too. Heaven wouldn't be heaven without my friends and family there.

I know that Christ was born in a stable and that He lives today. He did die, and He was resurrected. His birth was only important because of the choices that He made during his life. I want to live my life in a way that will bring my Savior joy.

I know these things are true, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Two Dead Mice and Other Miracles

I haven't been very good about blogging lately.

I'm working on it.

We've had some pretty awesomely miraculous things going.

For example, we had a laboratory bill that occurred in July. We haven't been able to pay it until now, due to our rather tight budget. However, we had spoken to the people there, and they had assured us that there would be no late fees.

Even though we have had enough the last couple of weeks, we were going to save up our money and pay off the debt to the laboratory after our taxes came back. It seemed like a good plan, and we both felt good about it.

However, two weeks ago, I started getting a really strong impression that we needed to pay that bill immediately. I looked into our finances, saw that we would have enough to pay the bill out of our savings. I spoke to Grig, and we decided to use that money to pay off the bill. On December 12, I paid the bill online, and our final debt was closed. That was quite a relief for a number of reasons, but I didn't understand the full repercussions until today.

Tonight, as I collected the mail, I noticed a letter from the laboratory place. Thinking it was a receipt for our payment, I opened it up to be greeted by the following words:
*Your account is past due.
*At this time your account has not been placed with a Third Party Collection Agency. 
*Failure to pay the past due amount will result in referral to a Third Party Collection Agency and potentially affect your credit score. 
I quickly went online to check our balance and was relieved to find that it was now zeroed out. I then looked at the date on the past due invoice. The date on the invoice was December 11. So, the day after they sent out the past due invoice, we paid off the full amount.

That is not a coincidence. That is a miracle. At this time, when we are trying to pay for a new home, any impact on Grig's credit score may have been massive. I am so grateful that I followed the prompting to pay off that debt.

We couldn't have paid it any sooner than we did, but the timing was perfect. If it had been any later, it may have really negatively affected us.

I am a very grateful soul tonight.

Here is another story for you:

We've been seeing signs of mice in our laundry room. I first noticed it when I saw that the corner of the puppy food bag had been nibbled through.

After that we started seeing some droppings on the floor. Luckily, it appeared that they only were living in the laundry room, but then, we saw a baby mouse with his eyes barely opened in the kitchen. As soon as we could, we bought mouse traps.

They were just the old wooden kind, but I took a piece of dog food, surrounded it with peanut butter, and used the peanut butter to place it in the trap. Grig then placed the trap against the wall.

This happened at about 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday night. We then went about our activities.

At about 2:00 a.m. (yes, we were up late, but Saturday nights are Grig's only night off, so we sometimes don't got to bed at 8:00 p.m. like normal), I decided to go and check the trap.

To my surprise, not only was it sprung, but two mice had been caught and killed by the little wooden trap!

I didn't take a picture, but if you want to see approximately what it looked like, here is a link to a picture. https://retirenicaragua.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/img_0472.jpg

The picture really was almost exactly what happened to our mice. One had been caught by the neck, and the other had been caught on its face. Evidently we're not the only ones it has happened too.

Grig came out and dumped the mice, cleaned up the trap a bit, reset it, and put it back in the same spot.

The next morning, I heard it snap again, and came it to see that it had caught another mouse. It was in its final death throes, so I left it alone until it finished dying. Grig was nice enough to dump that one two.

So, with one trap, we killed three mice in less than 24 hours. The trap has remained in the laundry room ever since, but we haven't caught anything else, or seen any new signs. Hopefully that's all of them.

As far as the home search is going, we have one home that we are looking at pretty seriously, but we're not sure yet. We're going to look at it again on Monday. I really like it. I hope it pans out!

I hope to put up the fourth episode of Dragon and the Wolf soon. The animation has been done for months, but it has been difficult to find time for Grig to voice-act. Hopefully I can have it done before Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Update on Our Home Shopping

Many of you are probably wondering how our house shopping is going.

We have now visited eight different homes. Four were in our town, one was in a town south of us, and three were in an adjacent northern town.

After a lot of prayer, we're pretty sure we're supposed to move to the northern town. However, we still haven't found the right home. We've liked aspects of almost all of the homes, but we still haven't felt that we know where we're supposed to move yet.

We really liked one home, but someone else has already made an offer on it. We're kind of hoping the offer falls through, but if not, we'll keep looking.

It's been pretty exciting to look for a home, and it's been really fun to look at all the different homes. As we've viewed them, we started realizing what we really want. We're looking for a 3-4 bedroom home with 2 bathrooms. We'd prefer that it have a basement and a fenced in yard. It needs to be in fairly good condition, because we don't have a lot of extra money for repairs. Other than that, we're not too picky. A few trees would be nice, and we'd like it if the kitchen should have most modern accommodations (a.k.a. built in dishwasher).

We've learned a lot about house shopping as we've gone through this journey. Hiring a real estate agent is a pretty good idea. They usually know what they're doing, but it's important to find one that you feel comfortable with and who cares what you want.

It's also important to realize that the mortgage calculators on all of the real estate sites are not going to give you an honest assessment. They will tell you how much the mortgage is going to cost, but they don't factor in other costs like home owner's insurance or taxes. FHA loans tend to add those in. We're looking at getting a USDA loan instead, but it still it is going to have those additional costs.

So, it's important to know an estimate of costs before you decide how expensive of a house to go for. Grig has pretty good credit, but I don't have any. So, while getting pre-approved, our lending agent gave us an estimate of how much homes we were looking at would cost, and about how much the lender would loan us for a home. That helped us to decide how much we really wanted to spend on a house, and how far into debt we were willing to go.

It's been a great journey so far, and we're excited to see where we end up!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dog Park in December

The weather outside kills me right now, kind of in a good way.

Yesterday, Arkhon, Dakota, Kevin, and I went to the dog park. Kevin wore a light jacket, and I wore no coat at all.
A picture of me and Arkhon.

It was about 58 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and it was a perfect day for a walk. So, about 11:00 a.m., we got ready and left. I jogged a bit, but mostly we walked and my arms got a work out as I worked with Arkhon on not pulling. I usually tie one dog leash to each side of the stroller, so if I'm pulling on Arkhon's lead, I have to steer with the other arm. That wore on my lower arm muscles after a while, but he is making great improvements.

We reached the dog park in about half an hour, and I made both dogs sit and stay before they entered the area. There is a fantastic off-leash, fenced dog park at the end of a walking trail near our apartment. Dakota doesn't much care for playing with the other dogs, but she enjoys laying in the sun. Arkhon and Kevin, however, love it!

Kevin made friends with an obese black Labrador who followed him around. Kevin would run in front of the dog, and it would trot after him with a ball in her mouth. That was pretty cute, and they had other people at the park chuckling.
I didn't actually bring the camera, but this picture shows you what it's like outside right now.

Arkhon made friends with a beagle named Loki, and the two of them wrestled and played with occasional interruptions from Loki's brother Thor, who thought he was the boss and dogs weren't allowed to have fun without him.

Arkhon with a different Loki: his brother.
There were quite a few people there, and at one point I think we had around fifteen dogs. Everyone got along great, though there were a few tense moments with a couple of dogs that came in overly-excited.

Dakota tends to follow me everywhere and to lay down wherever I'm standing/sitting. Arkhon likes to stay close as well, and he's pretty submissive to other dogs, so sometimes they pick on him. Yesterday though, nobody bothered him, and he made good friends with a few of the dogs.

We were outside for about two hours. Kevin fell asleep on the walk home, and Arkhon slept a lot of the rest of the day as well.

They sure love each other.
It is wonderful to be able to go on walks in December, but I'm kind of disappointed as well. We live in Utah. Right now, there's supposed to be snow on the ground and freezing temperatures. There's not supposed to be bugs in the air or frost on the visible grass at night.

I'm not really complaining, but I'm also worried about the amount of moisture we're receiving. If it doesn't start snowing soon, the farmers are going to be in trouble this coming year. I also miss the snow. I want to take Kevin sledding and build a snowman with him. It's hard to do that when there's nothing on the ground.

Maybe it's time to start praying for snow.

The Super Twins!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Big Change on My Mind

I've been really bad this last week on writing on this blog.

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving and Kevin's birthday. We've been pretty busy with parties and gatherings.

Do you like Grig's Snake necklace?

However, that's not the real reason that I haven't been writing.

I've had a big thing on my mind, and it's taking up my every waking thought.

We're going to buy a house.

I've been spending hours researching potential homes. We've hired a real estate agent, seen a home, and done a lot of praying. We've been pre-approved for a loan, and things seem to be falling into place.

We have a few homes that we're interested in, and hopefully we're going to get to go and look at them in the next couple of days.

In some ways, this decision happened suddenly, but it feels right. It is time for us to move. We love our apartment, but it costs quite a bit of money every month, and we've found out that paying for a mortgage can actually be quite a bit cheaper than apartment rent. We feel like we're supposed to be in this area for a while, and we feel good about this decision.

Thus, I've been so excited that I haven't been sleeping well and I can't stop looking at potential homes. It makes it hard to focus on anything else.

I'm trying to do better though.

Hopefully I'll be able to get the house ready. I feel really confident that we're on the right path.

There's one home in particular that I'm really excited about. If anyone wants to pray for us as we're making this decision, we'd really appreciate it!

Wish us luck!