Thursday, July 21, 2011

Home Selling Fiasco (Turned Rental Rebound), Part II

While away at our Ross Reunion in Durango, I fielded some calls on my cell for prospective renters. I had called some of the people that had looked at our house before the contract-gone-south incident. One of the families expressed an interest in a lease purchase agreement which at this point, was the most attractive scenario short of an outright sale. Since we were in Durango and they were out on Lake Powell for the week, we agreed to talk when we were both back in Page.

Upon returning home, we spoke again, and they asked to come see the house again. I really liked the couple. They tell me that they would love to buy the house, but because they have been unable to sell their home in Enterprise, UT, they can't purchase anything just yet. They wanted a day to decide while waiting to hear back from another landlord on a home they were also considering in the ward they currently live in. I hear rumor that the bishopric has worked feverishly to keep them in 2nd ward.

I admit, I was feeling very pessimistic. After thinking we had sold our home only to have our hopes dashed, I was feeling like we were doomed. I know, a little on the melodramatic side. I was relieved when they called the next day to say that they would like to rent our home. Great! Cautious happiness. We are planning to sign the lease next week, and they will move in mid-August. We actually saw each other again after making our verbal agreement at the stake Pioneer Day celebration (yes, it is a week early here, no, I don't know why). I tried to introduce them to some people in our neighborhood, and begged all of my friends to be extra nice to them so they would want to make our home their permanent residence.

As long as the 2nd ward doesn't lure them back, I am hopeful that this is it for the AZ house....

Corbin turns 12!

What a milestone! It is hard to believe 12 years ago our little family of three welcomed a new member. Corbin Theodore Martin was born in the Colorado Springs, CO hospital at 11:11 in the morning after a surprisingly short labor. From early on, he was bright, outgoing, funny, and tenacious. We couldn't believe how distinct his personality was from day one.

Corbin has always loved and gravitated toward children. When he was a toddler, he would seek out little babies to soothe and entertain them. As a young boy, anyone shorter than him could count on his help and delight in his playfulness. He is an excellent older brother, cousin, and friend.

Corbin has really developed into a serious athlete in the last few years. Theo has always hoped that some of his boys would follow in his running footsteps. Corbin is well on his way. In fact this summer, he got himself out of bed every day for 7am cross-country practice, and this was all while his dad was away in Texas. He still loves baseball and basketball, but I think running may be his thing. He is hoping to run on the cross-country team here in Amarillo this year.

I am most proud of the developing testimony that Corbin is cultivating. We have tried to read the Book of Mormon all the way through as a family as each of our boys approaches the age of eight. We did this with Corbin, and he has since read it on his own several times over. His primary teachers talk about his participation in class and what a great kid he is. Now he is getting ready to be ordained a deacon. Since Theo has been gone since May, Corbin has had to wait to get this ordination done, and it has been a challenge for him. He is so ready to move on and to take the next step. We are so excited to go to the temple with him soon. More on that soon.

I was sad for Corbin having to spend his birthday without his dad. It was hard for Drake too, but I think even more so for Corbin. We were able to out to lunch with his grandma and grandpa Martin, followed by a small celebration at home with cake and presents. Pretty low key.

I am so grateful that Corbin came to our family! He is growing into a great young man. Happy birthday, Corbin!
Rex leaves a "gift" for Corbin, a single gobstopper.

A special quilt from Grandma Ross

Look at all those candles!

Cap it off with a swim in Lake Powell!

Harry Potter Midnight Madness

For years I have been a huge Harry Potter fan. I love those books! Because I always, always enjoy books more than their big-screen adaptations, I try to think of them as completely separate entities. I must say though, this last movie was awesome!

For a long time my son, Corbin has been trying to convince me that he should be allowed to go to the midnight premier of this last movie. It was scheduled to come out just about a week before his 12th birthday, and he was definitely working that angle. Theo often goes with me to these kinds of things since I am a huge book fan and he is a big movie lover. It works for us. Being without my favorite date, I agreed to take Corbin and his big brother, Drake to this most magical movie night.

We purchased our tickets a day early to be sure we would get seats in our one screen local theater. The night of the big premier, we were doing our usual suff when my sister from Durango sent me a text urging me to go to the movie theater soon. She was sure if a line was forming at her theater by 8:00, we better get going. It was about 9:00, and so I told the boys to go ahead and ride their bikes to do some reconisence. Nice bonus of living in a small town. Sure enough, they called me and urged me to come. A line was indeed forming. I told them to get in line and I would arrive soon. Now before you think I was just letting them do the line-waiting leg-work, I was waiting for my nephew, Ty, and John's cousin, Hank, to arrive from Durango with a humongous trailer for our move to Texas. They still hadn't shown at 9:30 and a second panicked call from the boys about people from the theater marking tickets had me hurrying out the door.

When I arrived, the boys were sure we were doomed to sit in the lobby since they didn't have their tickets when the workers came through the line moments before I arrived. There was some wailing and even a little nashing of teeth. I assured them that I could take care of it and hastened to the lobby. Another bonus of living in a small town, the manager happens to be a high school aquantance, and she numbered our tickets, no problem.

I decided to leave the boys to wait so I could see if my trailer haulers had arrived. At home, still no boys. Another frantic phone call from the line that they were letting people go in had me once again dashing out the door leaving a hasty note.

Once seated, the boys were anxious for the movie to start. There was more than one exclamation that it was taking forever, multiple checkings on the time, and inquiries on how much longer. Finally the lights went down, and the magic ensued. What a fantastic ride! One of my many favorite parts was when Professor McGonagall mobilizes the school suits of armor in defending Hogwarts and exclaims, "I always wanted to use that spell." What was your favorite part?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ross Reunion '11

Each summer for the last several years, my parents, all of my siblings, and their families gather for a Ross Reunion. This year is the first that Theo will miss as he is busy matriculating in Lubbock. We were also missing my youngest sibling this year, but that is a whole other post.

The kids take turns hosting this blessed event, and this year it fell to John and Michelle Gilleland in Durango, CO. In a previous post, I mentioned the soggy adventure we had with baseball All-Stars. Given the fact that I felt too guilty to bail any sooner, our family arrived halfway through the first day of merry-making.

On Thursday, the gang had set off to tour Mesa Verde while we made our way east, just beyond the Four Corners. Man, I am logging the miles these days, just one more reason I miss my husband! We timed our arrival really well as we got to the Gilly's house just before they returned from their anthropologically enlightening outing. On the menu for dinner was the ever popular fare, Navajo tacos. Unfortunately, none of us have any actual Navajo blood in us, and this is a seemingly critical element. My dad likes to play the Wampenog card, but I don't think they know about Bluebird flour or that recipe with the handfuls. Michelle made a brave effort to produce some edible bread dough using her Bosch mixer and a recipe off of the internet. Those of you in the know don't need me to tell you about those sorry lumps of half cured concrete that ended up in the trash. As I am the closest thing we have in the family to a Navajo relative, even though it is only by marriage, and even though I haven't actually made frybead in like five years, I agreed to give it a whirl. Hey, I could only go up from where we were. It turned out decent. I'm not sayin I'm gonna head off to the Tuba City Fair to open a stand or anything, but it got us by. Thankfully, Michelle made some rockin chili, not the semi-edible canned stuff you usually get with Navajo tacos, that more than compensated for my mediocre dough making.

That night, Michelle had a drawing (which we repeated each night) for prizes going to the kids who had done good deeds during the day. I have to say, that was a fun idea. The kids were assigned to watch out for people helping others and being generally nice. They would then write it down and put it in a jar for drawing. The kids were delighted to hear their own names read along with the good turn that they had performed. Check for the positive reinforcement. Loved it!

Friday, we got to go out to Navajo lake to go boating. Big kids got to wakeboard and wake-surf. Littles got to paddle around on inflatables and dig in the sand on the beach. All were happy. First thing the next day was family picture time. Now this can be a challenge as we have grown to a group of well over 30 people, many of them not the least bit interested in posing for a group shot for posterity. Michelle had purchased M&M t-shirts (which have turned out to be surprisingly popular) in various colors to go with our theme of "Making Memories". See the photographic genius below.

Next, we headed into the hills to Durango Mt. Resort (formerly known as Purgatory) to ride the Alpine slides. The monsoons seemed to have arrived a little early this year, and the sky was threatening to give a shower. We all waited in the long lime to ride the ski-lift, and almost everyone at least got to the top. I rode down with Rex on a somewhat sluggish little car, but it seemed to be just the right pace for a first timer. Just as we were coming down, the first drops were starting to fall. Behind us were Drake and Ty. We were watching for them to come down, and watching, and watching, the rain falling at a steady pace now. Then, here they come walking down the mountain, Ty carrying their two sleds. Apparently when the track gets wet, the brakes don't work. From their description of the events, there were some nailbiting moments, some butt sliding, and ultimately a rescue. Ty it seems, saved Drake from certain death by alpine slide by jumping off his own track and halting Drake's careening sled in the nick of time. Poor Skip and Jack were the last to not make it to the top before the rain, although a large chunk of our group was stuck at the top waiting for it to stop as well. They were eventually bused down to the base. Fortunately, the rain let up and all who wanted to were able to slide down the mountain.

That afternoon, lots of the kids went for a trail riding adventure in the Gillelands' 6-wheel wonder, the Pintzgour (sp?). This military vehicle seats like 348 people or something, and the sides can be left open to get the full effect of the outdoors. What a grand time.

Our last day was spent going to church together. It was a great cap to a fantastic few days. John and Michelle are always the most gracious hosts. Our kids never get enough of the fun activities they plan, or the endless things to do in between. I love watching the cousins renew their friendships. I love being able to see how they change and grow with each passing year. As we left to go home, I couldn't help but feel melancholy. I love this bunch of people more than anyone in the world. Knowing that we will be in Texas in a couple of short weeks makes me long for the get-togethers we will have on a less-frequent basis. What a great time Making Memories!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Great All-Star Caper

For many years, our boys have played in the local Little League. This season we had Bowen and Corbin on the same team. That was really nice since they play two games each week. Corbin had actually decided at the time of sign-ups that he was not going to play this year, but focus on his running. Track season was still in full swing at that time. Of course, by the time the first practices rolled around, track was over, and Corbin was having second thoughts. Luckily, we live in a small town and know lots of people. We were able to get Corbin on the team after the deadline. The compromise was that he didn't get an official jersey with a number. He ended up wearing the coach's adult xl.

The season was lots of fun. Our house is about a block from the little league field, so we spent lots of spring nights walking back and forth. Bowen came along nicely for his first year in the majors, ages 9-12, and Corbin developed his pitching skills nicely.

At the closing ceremonies each year, the All-Star teams are announced. These players are voted on by the boys in the major league as well as the coaches, and are divided into two age groups. The All-Star teams get to travel to various towns in Northern Arizona to compete against other kids their age. Corbin having been chosen the last two years, was pretty confident that he would be selected while Bowen was sure his season was at an end. The players lined up on the field, awards were given for the regular season, and the moment of truth had arrived. First they announced the younger team, and to our delight, Bowen's name was announced. That kids smile was brighter than the lights on the field! Then the older team. As they announced the players in alphabetical order, Corbin was trying to look casual. When they passed by the Ms he was visibly shocked. Oh, the injustice!

The dilemma for me then becomes how to balance the show of happiness for Bowen, the disappointment for Corbin, and the humility for both sides as a show of good sportsmanship. Corbin ended up leaving the field early and walked home to wallow in the privacy of his room. It was tough. Looking back, I think Bowen should have gotten more accolades and attention. In our family, Bowen is often the under-the-radar kid. He is easy going, self-entertaining, and relatively quiet, a lot like his dad. He doesn't demand a lot of maintenance. Sometimes, I get lazy about making sure he gets his fair share of time in the spotlight.

As the days wore on and practice (two hours twice a day) resumed, Corbin finished mourning. Bowen was reveling. It was great. He was worn out by the rigorous practice schedule, but so loving it. After two weeks, they played their first game in Flagstaff. Sadly, they lost that first game by a wide margin, and we went home for the 4th of July weekend. Since it is a double elimination bracket, we returned to Flagstaff the next week to play our second, and what we thought would be our last game. To our surprise and a little chagrin, they won the second game!

Now, I had geared up mentally for these two games, but to tell you the truth, I never thought they would have get to keep going. We had our annual Ross Family Reunion coming up immediately following the date of the second game. In following with the theme of my life as of late, things did not turn out as expected, plans went up in the air, and we had to roll with the punches. We delayed our departure to Durango for a day and sent Bowen off to Flagstaff for one more game. Once again, they won!

Another decision had to be made. Do we stick it out and honor the commitment to the team he has been selected to play for, or do we bag it and head to our reunion? After talking with the coach and getting his assurance that they still had enough players, we opted to be finished with the All-Stars journey. Bowen was elated when he got home, both to have won and also in anticipation of seeing his cousins in a few short hours. Way to go, Bowen! I am so proud of you!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Home Selling Fiasco, Part I

The last two weeks have been a rollercoaster ride, and it is not over yet. We have gone from hopeful home sellers, to joyful contract signers, to home buying hunters, to disappointed bag-holders, to likely landlords. Here are the dirty details.

Last week, we reduced the price yet again on our home in hopes of generating some offers. It seemed to do the trick when we had two families come to look in two days. They both seemed to like what they saw, and we ended up with an offer from the first lookers. Since they were out of town, we signed a contract a couple of days later. Elation, excitement, eagerness ensued. Now that we had a buyer, we felt like we should turn on the house hunt in Amarillo. It would literally be cheaper for us to buy a home than to rent, at least when considering month to month cost.

I made some hasty plans, farmed out half of the kids, and jumped in the car. My oldest and youngest boys came with me on the almost 2000 mile roundtrip journey to find a place to call home for the next three years. We found a great realtor, searched the internet, studied maps, and drove tons of miles. I was glad to get a better sense of the areas in Amarillo, and I felt like we had narrowed our search to a handful of places. Theo was busy down in Lubbock doing his school thing and would have to postpone his looking until after we left to return to Page. We had an All-Star baseball game to hit in a couple of days, so we high-tailed it out of there.

So, we were feeling good, albeit very tired from the frenzied pace. The boys were troopers! Once back, there was quite a scramble of laundry, unpacking, gathering, and repacking (our All-Star trip was to be an overnighter). In the midst of all this activity, our buyers popped in for an unexpected visit on the eve of our next roadtrip. I have to say, this left me quite flustered. If you know me at all, you know I like to keep the house fairly tidy. Although I don't dislike an occasional drop-in, I do feel uncomfortable when my house is less than what I consider presentable. They wanted to walk through one more time. They turned on faucets, flushed toilets, asked about schools, daycare, and the peach trees in the backyard. We chatted. They wandered. They left. Something was off.

The next morning, as we were finishing our packing, the phone rang. It was the buyers. They had decided that even though they could get financing, they did not feel like they could afford our home. This was their first homebuying purchase, and they felt like they were trying to stretch beyond their means. How can you argue with that? I wished them the best, hung up the phone, and tried not to vomit on the spot.

Life goes on; that's the way the cookie crumbles; play ball. A few hours later we were on the road to Flagstaff for the baseball game, and my poor children had to tolerate a very grouchy mother. Since about March, all I had been doing was trying to wait patiently to work a plan. Too many unknowns had prevented much action. I thought we finally had a course, a way to move forward. I could start planning my work and working my plan. And then the rug was yanked out from under me. SNAP!

I immediately contacted a couple of people that had looked at our house before to let them know it was back up for grabs. At the very least, there seems to be a lot more interest in renting than there are houses to go around. Hopefully, we can find someone ready to move in and take good care of this place.

Now we turn to the rental hunt in Amarillo. With no down payment, buying has slipped from our grasp. The days are ticking away. It being the 4th of July on Monday, people seem to be taking an extended weekend starting somewhere around last Tuesday. We still hope to be out of Arizona on our way to Texas in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned, more to come.....