Monday, November 28, 2011

Bye bye Luna, hello Hacienda?

After falling in love with Luna and dreaming up all sorts of terrific renovations for her, we’ve come to the point of walking away. Our short-sale offer never made it to the bank, instead the seller rejected it saying he would only consider list price or above, even though the house is now a short sale.

The list price was too high for us given Luna’s state of disrepair. In fact, we doubt that anyone would pay list price, particularly as the house continues to deteriorate due to its failing roof. So there’s a small chance that we’ll see Luna on the other side of foreclosure. If we’re still looking and the water damage doesn’t escalate too much we might still be a perfect match for that dreamy dilapidation.

While we’re sad to walk away from “Noona, giant house" as Luke calls her, and all the hospitality and family fun that she would amply accommodate, I must confess to feeling a twinge of relief. Erik and I so enjoy home projects – the design collaborations, the planning and executing, and the feeling that our home is really ours because we’ve made a creative imprint on it. But of course, Luke and Eleanor are our most important home endeavor, and I was a little worried about Luna taking too much time away from them.

Back at the drawing board, we browsed real estate listings some more. We’re still open to fixer-uppers, but we’d prefer they be a little less extensive than Luna. We’ve looked all over Albuquerque, but no yard enchanted us quite so much as this one.

We call her the barn house, the homestead, the hacienda. Today we put in an offer and are waiting to hear back from the bank once again. Maybe it’s the country life for us after all!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pilgrims ahoy!

Two wee pilgrims came ashore for our Thanksgiving celebration this year. How prim and proper they look!

Until they heard that food supplies are dwindling aboard the Mayflower... don't worry though, we have plenty of leftovers here!

The littlest one is getting awfully close to walking. She constantly stands up from the floor and sits herself down with great control. Much more than Luke had when he started walking just younger than her age. But Ellabelle still prefers the security of crawling, especially with a wild pilgrim boy child on the loose!

We photographed Luke the pilgrim just after his nap. Pre-nap, his hat had starred in skype conversations with both sets of grandparents. But the costume may have caused a little holiday confusion since he wished them "Happy Halloween" just as often as "Happy Thanksgiving"!

Here are a few links if you’re wanting a quaint bonnet or hat yourself. They're so easy that I made a bunch to bring to a lovely Thanksgiving dinner we shared with new and old friends here in Albuquerque. What a blessing of hospitality to be warmly welcomed by the family of friends. And they had two 20-lb. turkeys and a kid-friendly home too! You could tell that they had some background in campus ministry. (:

Can you believe how adorable these little pilgrims were after the dinner? What angel faces!

There's just a three-month age span between the three of them. They love to watch each other and interact a little now. I'm hoping they grow to be sweet friends!

We are so thankful for our little pilgrim pair and for the Lord’s amazing grace in our lives. I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving too!

{More photos here.}

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Touring Tahoe

Our first day in Tahoe, we drove the 72-mile loop around the lake, stopping at scenic pull-offs and encouraging nap time in the car. Here’s Luke sighting the magnificent lake for the first time.

Further south, we admired the view across Emerald Bay and out to the main Tahoe waters. I was surprised to learn that if Tahoe were emptied, it would submerge the entire state of California in 15” of water! Another plaque said that that’s enough water to supply everyone in the US with more than 75 gallons per day for 5 years. And it’s so deep that it never freezes!

That afternoon, we were dazzled by the appropriately-named “Hidden Beach” on Tahoe’s Nevada shore. It felt like a combination of the crystal clear turquoise Caribbean and Maine’s rugged rocky coast. 

For our second day, we got out early. We’d scouted out a lakeside playground where Erik could take some early morning pics of the lake while Luke got his climbing fix. But the temperature had dropped – 30 degrees plus wind meant we didn’t play long!

Fortunately it warmed up by the time we reached the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. We enjoyed a little nature walk through the park’s various habitats.

In a happy coincidence, we found that our visit was perfectly timed to catch the Kokanee salmon spawning in the Taylor Creek bed. We were told that bears are often spotted feeding on the fish during the spawning season, but no bear sightings for us. Just lots of vibrantly colored fish!

Luke loved climbing on a gigantic fallen tree by the shore, and I loved snapping pics of our kiddos in their darling matching sweaters.

The third day we’d planned to drive back to Sacramento in the morning so we’d have time to catch some city sights. But we woke up to snow, and news that the one interstate back to the city had been closed due to treacherous conditions!

A few hours later it reopened, and we were treated to a parade of snow removing vehicles as we carefully made our way over the mountains.

Back in Sacramento, the skies were rainy so we headed to the Railroad Museum for the afternoon. We found the history fascinating, the rows of engines imposing, the mail sorting car impressive, and the glitzy coach cars alluring. Luke often reminds us though that he did not enjoy the train that simulated forward motion with sounds, lights, and rocking. “Luke like train no moving!” But the toy train exhibit enthralled both him and Eleanor. How precious to see them thoroughly enjoy a common activity.

We enjoyed cooking for ourselves in our well-equipped Tahoe condo, but in Sacramento we tried a fancy meal out as a foursome. Luke had his squirmy moments but we think that Ellabelle appreciates fine dining already.

Amidst a whirlwind ten-day trip that included six different lodging locations and eight plane flight legs, our three nights in Tahoe were a tranquil intermission. What a gorgeous, peaceful lake in the off-season. We’d love to return and tackle some hikes there when our kids are older!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tahoe interlude

In between our bi-coastal wedding weekends in early October, we spent a few days at Lake Tahoe. It was less expensive to stay in CA and then fly out to NY directly, so we used the funds to cover a couple days at an off-season ski lodge. So much more relaxing than flying back to ABQ for a few crazed days of laundry, repacking and catching another flight to NY!

While we were too early for the ski runs near our condo in Olympic Valley,

We were perfectly-timed for something just as exciting… repair season! Luke was enamored with the slew of construction vehicles that dotted the town so we made exploring the equipment an evening tradition.

We also came across this super-jump trampoline ride on its last night of operation for the warm weather season. Luke was a bit uncertain at first.

But quickly warmed up and soon was leaping into the air.

Olympic Valley boasted a playground fit for future Olympians. Perfect for the mountain climbing wolf boy!

And Ellabelle, super-swinger. Check out the whole playground photo-shoot here.

Back at the lodge, we sprinted through the chilly courtyard to take a few dips in the outdoor hot tub. Here are the kiddos suited up for a swim!

We loved the sleepy village of Olympic Valley and its off-season toddler fun and scenic vistas.

But of course we did manage to check out the main attraction, Lake Tahoe. I’ll try to write in again soon with a report on our lake time!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wedding week Part 2

Luke had warmed up his dance moves a little bit in the first half of our wedding double header, but he really let loose at Uncle Bryan and Aunt Chelsie’s reception. His giddy audience-activated hyper-drive was on full power, and he loved showing off his moves while everyone else ate dinner. Erik and I were celebrating too because our little boy had done an impeccable job delivering the rings during the wedding ceremony. And how cute he was in his ring-bearer suit! Unbelievably though, we took NO photos of him all suited up. So I’m borrowing these next two from Heather Nielsen, the only shots we have of Luke the irresistible ring bearer.

ringbearerpsp

And we were so honored to have Erik serve as a groomsman for his brother. But since he’d been a groomsman for 3 out of the 5 weddings we’ve attended since having kids, it got me thinking… the next wedding we attend I need to work my way into the bridal party! That way Erik can try his hand at being solo kid-corraller at a wedding service. Here Heather and I try to get a photo with all three of the Nielsen great-grandchildren together.

Thankfully we were able to stay with Erik’s parents and grandparents in a cabin on the grounds of the retreat center where the wedding was held. They were all-star child entertainers!

And our trusty orange-mobile was all the transportation we needed for the weekend. Here’s Miss Elzabel in her typical feet-propped-up position.

Bryan and Chelsie tied the knot on the shores of Lake George, NY.  Not only is that a meaningful area for them, but it also happens to be significant in Erik’s and my relationship. I grew up in NC and Erik in NY, but we share a childhood tradition of camping each summer at the very same itty-bitty campground on Lake George. When I learned that about Erik, it set off my “he’s the one” radar for the second time. Now Bryan and Chelsie’s beautiful ceremony adds another layer to this lake’s romance for us!

The rustic stone chapel where they said their vows was the epitome of storybook charm.

The leaves were just starting to turn and the entire weekend was gorgeously mild and sunny. The weather and every detail joined us in celebrating the beautiful love that this couple has for one another. We are so thrilled that the Lord has brought them together – for the gift they are to each other and to everyone they know. I’m especially delighted to now have such a wonderful fellow sister/daughter in-law among the Petersburgh Nielsens, and look forward to spending time with Chelsie at family get-togethers to come! Many many blessings Bryan and Chelsie!

(A few more pics here.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wedding doubleheader

When it rains it pours! It had been over a year since we’d been able to attend a wedding, but earlier this month we enjoyed back-to-back wedding weekends. Both couples chose lovely locations, but they tested our travel mettle by marrying on opposite sides of the country!

First up was an elegant northern Californian affair for a dear college friend of ours and former roommate to Erik. Erik was honored to be part of the wedding party, and we both enjoyed catching up with lots of old friends. Here we are hanging out at the Sacramento Zoo with Andrew and John. Luke loved the attention from our kind toddler-savvy friends!

Then we drove up to Chico where the wedding was held at a beautiful old church downtown. Here’s the Ella-belle at her very first wedding.

And Luke looking dapper in his suit and tie.

The reception was held at a country club and Luke, Eleanor and I went outside for a few minutes to release some wiggles. I thought Luke was a very lucky boy because I let him pretend to drive a parked golf cart. But then the manager directed a teenage employee to take us for a spin! The thoughtful teen let Luke drive the cart completely on his own over the grass. Later that week we saw another golf cart and Luke insisted on driving it. But alas, his driving permit was a one-time-only deal.

DJ and his bride Ashley make a beautiful couple, radiant with love for one another and eager to build a God-honoring life together. We wish them all the best and hope it isn’t so long until we see everyone again!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Waiting on the moon

Last week we mentioned the Luna house that captivated us. Well, it wasn’t quite love at first sight. When we first walked in we decided she looked like an Italian restaurant with 6 laundry rooms. Erik thought the former owner-husband must have surprised his wife every few weeks by building another laundry room before she came home from work. We wondered if she appreciated his efforts.

But after further reflection and a second visit, we saw beneath her disguises. She has lots of space, some lovely brick floors, beamed ceilings, gorgeous fireplaces, and best of all, the most perfect layout. She also has countless roof leaks, mostly bare concrete floors, a man-eating jungle of an overgrown yard, and is pining for updates galore. But we love the license that leaves for us to restore her with our own creative vision and functional preferences. Erik, ever the wonderful husband, would love to fix her up himself to build a ‘dream house’ for me. And we think she’d be an ideal place to host friends and family as well as church and community gatherings.

So about a month ago, we were thrilled to sign a contract with the seller! I started trolling Craig’s List for rugs, windows, and appliances in earnest. Erik zeroed in on the best roof replacement options. Luke became excited about moving to the ‘giant house’ where there’d even be room for a train table!  Yesterday, however, the contract derailed. We had to terminate because it couldn’t close due to a lien on the property. So now we’re submitting a short sale offer to the bank and settling in to wait. We’ve heard that at times the bank replies in two weeks and in other cases two years go by without a response.

We have prayed, hand-wringed, and discussed this house through and through. We are thankful that the process is in God’s hands now and that He can have our low offer treated as He wishes by the bank. And we’re so grateful for the cozy and memory-filled home we have here right now. We’ll keep you in the Luna loop!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sweet, sour & silly talk

SWEET

Luke waltzed off to play as I tearfully bid him goodbye when we tried out ‘Mother’s Morning Out’ back in September. All morning I missed his vibrant activity. When I came to pick him up, eager to see how he fared, he was contentedly eating a snack and talking to a teacher. So independent! Not missing his mother at all!

So I squatted down to say hi to my big boy. His face brightened as he looked up at me and in his most earnest voice he told me, “Thank you coming back Mommy.”

In the car he shared a few more poignant thoughts. “Luke worried Mommy no pick up.” Of course I told him that he didn’t need to worry because I’ll always come to get him. So he said, “Sorry Mommy Luke worried.”

With sweetness like that, I am constantly reminding him that he’s adored by his parents. And he likes to remind me back: “Mommy loves Luke SOOOO much!”

He also has the sweetest way of delivering thank you and please requests (unless he’s in a grouchy mood!) and in the morning he walks out and sweetly says, “Good morning Daddy!”

And sometimes that sweetness is shared with his sister. A few weeks ago, he asked me to read him a truck book but I wasn’t able to read it right then. So Luke happily moved on to Plan B: “Luke read truck book to Eleanor!” That melted my heart too!

SOUR

Just a couple weeks ago he started the ‘why phase.’ And now he constantly asks us why about everything. I try to preempt the question by giving a reason initially but it has absolutely no effect. There are things that I love to explain and discuss with our boy, but I realize now that there are also many things that I don’t want questioned! How can I teach him the difference?

Sometimes when I tell Luke to do something, he looks at me very seriously and says: “one more minute” with his pointer finger held up. The audacity! He wants to be a little negotiator already.

Well, there are certainly many more sour sayings to report, but we don’t want to dwell on them. So we’ll move on…

SILLY

Luke has been taking excessive precautions in his backseat driving these days. “Daddy no hit lions. No hit purple lions.” We’re also instructed not to hit green horses, blue fire trucks, and airplanes. If you’re inclined to orange dragon road rage, Luke’s the road trip partner for you.

He makes other requests in the car too. The other day he announced: “Mommy, Luke want to jump on monkeys’ bed!!” After a pause, he added another request. “Mommy! Luke want monkeys jump on Luke’s bed!”

He tells me the funniest things when I lie down with him at bedtime. Like this sequence:

“Luke like dinosaurs, Mommy.”  Long pause.

“Luke like dinosaurs no moving.”  Shorter pause.

“Luke scared dinosaurs!”

You keep us laughing Luke!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Disney magic

Of course we didn’t leave Luke out of the extended costume fun. Especially when we had this hanging in our closet. Make way for Mouse Ears!

I don’t think Luke is actually familiar with the iconic Disney mouse. But he still had fun gallivanting around our backyard dressed as a cheerful meadow-dweller. Here he is hiding in a grassy habitat.

Befriending flora and fauna.

Embracing modern transportation technologies.

And planning meadow improvement projects.

This last one reminds me of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Be careful what you do with that stick, Luke Mouse!

More mouse photos here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blooms & Bugs

Our costume fun didn’t stop with the Fire Brigade. Little Miss Ella is too full of personality to be limited to just one costume in this super-cute stage. So when I saw a flower costume at a resale shop and a friend gave me her girls’ ladybug costume, I couldn’t wait to dress our princess up all over again. Here she is, the Ella-Bloom!

Air kisses for her adoring public.

And winter-blooming on a cold morning in the stroller.

Then our garden fun continued, with Ella-BUG!!!

On a hunt around the yard

To find flower petals and other baby bug toys.

We love you Ellie-bug and Ella-bloom! You’re welcome in our yard anytime.

(So many more cute pics here and here.)