Our house building journey…

We have been dreaming of home ownership for 2 decades.  But we had tons and tons of student loans and debt.  We plugged away for years paying that down. Finally a couple years ago we made a plan to save our downpayment.  Then, our kids went to the orthodontist and there went the plan!  All our money earmarked for house savings were going into our kids mouths.  

A year ago we made yet another plan to save for our downpayment.  We hit lots of road bumps along the way because of the tanked economy and Jason constantly getting paid late.  However, in late February we had met our minimum agreed upon goal of savings to start looking at homes.

We had already long since decided what neighborhood we wanted to live in, that we wanted to build, and that we wanted a basement suite we could rent out.  So we were well on our way.  We knew the non negotiable things we wanted and the negotiable ones.  In fact we knew the exact house we wanted to build!  

So, late February there was a huge open house for the new neighborhood we wanted to build in.  We had just met our minimum savings goal and had some more money coming in from some old outstanding monies owed us from child tax benefit.  As well we knew we would be getting a decent refund on our tax return.

So, we went to the open house.  We had already narrowed down our builder to Jayman.  A choice I haven’t regreted for a second so far!  

However, when we went into the Showhome of the model we had our hearts set on, it was WAY above our budget.  It had all the bells and whistles and every upgrade available.  The upgrades were to a tune of about $130,000.  Even without a single upgrade we wouldn’t have enough money in our budget to develop the basement.  

However, the other Showhome they had was a smaller version with almost no bells and whistles.  It was the basic package, with only 2 upgrades.  The upgrades were a bigger kitchen and a center bonus room.  The kitchen was perfect and the center bonus room wasn’t.  We wanted the standard front bonus room because it would be a bedroom for 2 of our girls.  

The price was right.  They could develop the basement for us and we would still remain in budget.  It was the house for us.  We decided in a month we would come back and start the process of buying one.

However, that month timeline changed when we talked to the saleswoman.  Robyn told us that CMHA interest rates were going up on the following wednesday (10 days).  This was saturday.  Also there was only 1 more lot left in phase 1 of the smaller (and cheaper) size.  So we decided right then to move forward and see if we could get approved for a mortgage.

We met with Jordan the Jayman mortgage broker on the spot and started the process. It took 10 days to get approval.  But we got it and saved almost $2000 on the rate increase.  

Next we had to let Jayman know what we wanted for the basement development.  So we did this and waited a couple weeks and got some plans for the development.  Jayman did a great job and we only had minor changes.  Mostly we wanted a tub downstairs so they changed it from a luxury shower to a tub shower combo.  

Then we had to wait to get into design center where you choose your exterior and interior finishes.  Our appointment was 8 weeks after we started the whole process. 

 

By the time our appointment came we had visited every Jayman show home in North Calgary.  We knew exactly what we liked and didn’t.  And in fact, we had simply confirmed that we did really love the Showhome.  We went into our appointment with a solid budget and a very good idea of exactly what we wanted. 

We knew we wanted pretty much everything but the kitchen sink and faucet. 

So, when our appointment came we were prepared.  

Our first of four meetings was with their interior design company. The gal was to show us window coverings.  We were both stressed out!  We didn’t know how much money we would be spending other places, so we were quite hesitant to spend any here.  But even here we knew exactly what we wanted.  We have south facing windows so the house will get quite hot and we knew we needed to deal with that.  We told her to only show us heat saving options.  We considered 3.  But quickly narrowed it down to one.  It was the one we had originally wanted anyways.  Although window coverings were on our list to get we didn’t know if our mortgage would have room for them.  So we got the quote, knowing we could always reject it at final sign off.  

We then were to move onto exteriors, but the couple in front of us were having trouble making decisions.  So instead we had a break and were brought warm oven fresh cookies.  Delicious.

The electrical consultant came early so they sent us to him.  Jason whizzed through the appointment adding wiring for 2 mounted tv’s and several future outdoor cameras.  

Then we went to exteriors.  We took maybe 20 minutes to make our choices. Although later we would discover that the developer had rejected the entire thing.  However, our consultant remedied the situation by talking to them directly and finding out what the problem was.  Apparently our neighbors had already chosen grey and they felt it was too much.  So we changed our trim color from grey to white and our 3 smart panels from black to white and it was approved.  We didn’t even have to go in again.

Then we had a half hour before lunch.  They served delicious salad and Coco Brooks pizzas.  We took the half hour extra break to browse through the options for the interior.

Following lunch we met Kim, our interior designer.  We told her to get the Showhome binder and we began.  We started with the kitchen  sink because we had already chosen a sink and faucet from their showroom.  The sink it turned out wouldn’t work with our laminate counters.  But we had an option 2.  So we went with that instead.  And incidentally saved about  $1500.  We ended up changing the carpet to a darker color and removing carpet from the great room.  

Then I added a bunch of shelves to the laundry room and pantry to maximize storage.  

Finally, I asked if they could possibly enlarge the linen closet in the bonus room to make a real closet for the girls.  She went to check on that and came back asking if we wanted a door on the bonus room.  So for $500 we got a door and for $96 a large closet.  

A week later we signed off on our upgrades.  Now we wait.  We wait for the final drawings to be made and then a final meeting before the ground is finally broken.

I am super happy so far with Jayman homes.  Every step of the way they have been excellent.  They have treated us like family and helped us make good choices and stay on budget.  

Stay tuned for more updates…more when they break ground….

The long break…

I have not written in a long time.  There are several reasons for this.  First we got new phones a couple months ago and my WordPress wasn’t set up.  This just made blogging not easy…so I didn’t do it.  As well following breaking my foot and zero weight bearing and all the craziness that came with that.  I just didn’t feel like writing or really have anything to write about.  And finally homeschooling our youngest and driving school bus and family just don’t leave much spare time!  But I will try to write more often.

Life Changes…

Life always changes, it never stays the same.  Some changes are small and insignificant, others are life changing.

Today, our world was forever changed.  It was rocked and shaken to the core.

This morning the phone rang.  I answered it and my world changed.  My sister-in-law was telling me that my father-in-law had suddenly passed away.  To say I was shocked would not even be adequate!

My father-in-law was that only on paper.  He was always “Dad” to me.  He accepted me unquestioningly as another one of his children, from the very first time we met.  He will forever be “Dad”.  I was blessed with an absolutely amazing birth father, but I was also blessed with an irreplaceable dad who chose to love me, his son’s wife, as if I were his own child.

Dad had a smile that lit up the room!  He may have tried to put on a rough exterior, but anyone who knew him knew he had a huge heart of gold!

My children were his first grandkids, and my daughters were his chance to have a little girl!  He loved his grandkids.  He spoiled them.  He always had treats for them!  He took the kids fishing when they were younger and they loved it!

Anytime we had car trouble, which wasn’t infrequent…the first person Jason would call for advice was Dad.  Dad could figure a way to fix pretty much anything mechanical I think!  Although I wouldn’t say that it was always done “by the book”.  Sometimes it was pretty creative, but it usually worked!

Dad had this crazy soft spot for their dog Babe too!  That dog was spoiled rotten!  His love was poured abundantly on her and she sure never complained about it!

Dad was wise and caring and always eager to talk about the grand kids!  Even this weekend when Jason asked him about some art on the fridge from the younger grandkids, dad’s face lit up and he just couldn’t say enough great things about the 2 grandsons who had given it to them!

I will forever miss Dad!  I already miss his smile and big strong hugs…and I just saw him 3 days ago!

The story of our new home…

Several years ago we decided that we needed a serious plan that would get us into home ownership.  Nearly 3 years ago we moved our family into a house that was too small, with a plan.   The plan was 1 year of sacrifice in exchange for the opportunity to save enough money to buy a house of our own.

That 1 year would turn into 3.  Three very long years of a family of 7 living in a tiny 3 bedroom house.  Pretty much as soon as we moved, 3 of our children went to the orthodontist.  All our plans to save for a downpayment turned instead into plans to pay the orthodontist!  No joke, we were paying like  $900 a month for a year and a half and then still a whole lot for the following year!  And we aren’t done yet.  Keilan is still being paid for even now.

But we got through it.  And they all have beautiful teeth!  We did manage to save money.  We cut every corner imaginable!  No more satellite tv for us. We cut until there wasn’t anything much left to cut!  Then the economy hit bottom.  Jason stopped being paid ontime frequently, and always behind numerous paychecks.  But we managed somehow to still save money.  

The plan had been that we would be in a place to start looking at homes in Feb 2017 with a plan to build within a couple of months of that.  But February came and went.  And we just weren’t there.  The late paychecks had simply taken their toll.  

It was a hard month for me.  All the sacrifices of the past 3 years seemed to be piling higher and no reward was in sight.  Last June, as Jason and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary we made a promise to each other that we would own our own home before our 21st anniversary, or be we’d be in the process of building it.  

We made spreadsheets and budgets and plans and scrimped and saved. But it never seemed to be enough.  We never seemed to quite be able to make those goals.  November 6, 2016 I broke my foot and ended up having surgery and missing 12 weeks of work.  Plus the week I had missed when I had originally broken it, but the Dr said it wasn’t.  Because I missed a week of work,  then drove for a week and a half with my fracture.  And finally missed another 12 weeks of work.  

Please don’t mistake me, I am ever so grateful I live in Canada and that I could access disability unemployment insurance.  It paid the bills.  But of course its a lot less than I usually make.  

So, in January we looked at our numbers and where our savings were at, and we were simply not where we needed to be to buy a home.  If you added up Jason’s yet to be paid wages we were far past where we needed to be.  But that money doesn’t count until it’s in the bank.  

So, February was a dismal month.  I returned to work, But not to the route I’d driven for the last 7 years.  Not even the school I’d driven for for the past 14.5 years.  My wages were severely decreased as all of my extra work had been given away when my foot was broken.  And so the chances of fast tracking the home savings was not going to happen.

Then March happened.  I told Jason I wanted him to file our taxes asap.  And he did.  And we were getting money back.  Money that had been owed to us since 2012 – in old child tax credit was finally set to be paid out in March.  And Jason got a check for some side work he’d done.  I added it together and we were sitting at our bare minimum goal of what we had decided we needed to have saved before we could even step foot in a show home.

March 4 there was a big grand opening event for Livingston, the community we had kind of been seriously considering building in.  It took some persuading, But I convinced Jason we had enough money set aside now that we could start looking.  We didn’t plan on buying just yet, but maybe in April we could get serious.  We had long since done our homework.  We knew the model and builder we wanted.

So, we went and we looked.  The emerge was perfect!  But it was pricey.  And we wouldn’t be able to develop the basement for a number of years.  But we decided it was for us.  Then we started talking to the sales woman and she suggested we look at the smaller home next door.  So we grudgingly did.  And guess what…we liked it!  The sacrifices we would make were ones we were ok with.  And the gain would be we could afford to suite the basement immediately.  So we changed our minds  and went smaller.  

Then we realized that there was only 1 lot left in the cheaper price range.  Now we had to make an immediate decision, do we reserve it and jump in and hope we get approved for a mortgage or do we wait and then have to wait who knows how long for more lots to be released.  So we plunged into the deep end!  

We applied for the mortgage, hoping to beat the rate hikes on the 15th.  And after a week and a half we were approved. In the mean time we signed conditional sales papers based on financing, Because the model home we were purchasing was set to increase in price by $7500 in a few days.  

Then we had to prove to the bank where all our savings had come from, that none was borrowed.  And finally we had to gather all the funds from the various locations so that we could make a deposit and then the final downpayment.  

When we sat down with our sales woman and made all the basic home choices and hammered out a purchase price, we weren’t entirely sure how we would pull it all together.  It was possible to do it, but only just.  By the time all the money had been gathered from our RRSP and TFSA and tax refund and old child tax and general savings, well we had actually met our original goal for our downpayment.  We had basically found an extra  $4000.  Just a little bit extra here and there and it added up to the amount last spring we had written down as our downpayment goal.  Only God could have worked out all the details in this way.  Because remember in February we were no where close to our goal!  In fact we only made it to the lower goal because I was annoyed that our van hadn’t been fixed from an accident we were in on December 23.  So on February 23 I called the other insurance company for about the 3rd time in less than a week and demanded they deal with my vehicle.  I was nice about it, But I was firm.  Our van was written off a few days later and a check on the way, when we went looking on March 4 at Showhomes.  The check would come that week while we were still waiting to hear about the mortgage.  

This whole process of home building has been simply one answered prayer after another.  It has been a road full of provision and blessings!  

Our home building journey has barely even begun, and I’m sure I will look back and it will seem like it was over in a blink!  But for now, it is a lot of waiting and excitement and anticipation! We’ve already had such great provision and completely unexpected blessings!  I can’t wait to see the proposed basement development plans and the reworked second floor plans to meet the developer’s approval!  And in a couple weeks we choose our finishes and sign off on the final plans and then the building begins!  The dirt should be dug before our 21st anniversary, which again allows us to meet our promised dream and goal of our 20th anniversary a year ago.  This Christmas we should spend in our new home!

Lent…

So every year at lent I try to choose something to give up. Last year I chose to purge, 40 bags of “stuff”.  The endeavor was pretty successful.  

However, another year has come and gone and more “stuff” has been acquired.  So, once again  I chose to purge for lent.  This year I am not so optimistic that I can purge 40 bags of “stuff”.  However, my goal was to purge one item a day.  So 40 items.  I’ve far surpassed this.  With my daughter’s help we purged the books.  Easily 200 books were purged.  And the purging has just begun really.  

With our move imminent it is time to purge.  And with us finally moving into a house of our own, it is the opportunity to plan where every item will go and what items won’t fit into our new home.  Our children are getting older and there is so much we can finally let go of.  

And we have discovered the amazing world of online auctioning!  In the past week we have auctioned off a dozen items.  And the money we make is going towards purchasing some of the new things we will need in our new home in the fall. A win-win for us for sure!  

Living with less is really living more.  And living more is really what life is all about!

Compassion…

I have a motto, it is “You can’t do everything, but you can do something.”. I try hard to live my life by this motto, and I try hard to teach my kids to live their lives by it too.

But, I must say that twice this week I’ve been pretty upset by how I saw different people either talking about, or actually talking to homeless people.  Both felt like the person  should simply get a job and stop begging.  One said so quite meanly directly to the person, the other said so out of hearing but to those around them.  I will confess I didn’t say anything to the lady who tore a strip off of the young man today.  However, I did stop and put my hand on his shoulder and tell him not to listen to her and I said a few kind and encouraging words.  And no I didn’t give him money.

In theory, perhaps it is true that people should get a job and work for their own money.  But in my opinion,  it is a highly simplified response to a bigger issue.  Is there mental illness involved, what are the surrounding circumstances, drug or alcohol or gambling addictions, etc.  Not everyone is employable.  And, honestly for a homeless person to find employment is even harder.  They are often dirty and smelly and just don’t present themselves well.  They need a shower and razor and good night’s sleep.  Just to name a few.  But even that is oversimplified.  Yes, there are places out there where they can get these things, but that doesn’t mean that they feel like they can go there.  Even more issues like pride and self esteem and so many more are involved.

My beef is with the attitude some people have towards those less fortunate than themselves.   I don’t believe in enabling people, but rather giving them a hand up.  Many times I’ve given groceries out of my shopping cart or snacks out of my car to those who are hungry.  I’ve bought meals for homeless and my daughter and son have both bought coffees on numerous occasions for the homeless.  I donate monthly to a local shelter that feeds and clothes and sleeps and educates and houses the homeless and helps them to find long term employment and housing and helps with addictions and mental health.  

But I also believe that regardless of how a person got to the street or to the need they are experiencing, they are a person.  They are a human being.  They are a child of God.  They are a son or daughter and sister or brother, a mother or father.  There are people who love them.  They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  They deserve to be looked in the eye and spoken to.  They deserve to be touched, no matter how filthy or stinky they are.  They deserve a hand on the shoulder.  Human touch is so important to each of us.  But imagine if because of your looks and smell no one looked at you or touched you, you became invisible – because invisible is easier to deal with than the dirty needy person in front of you…who must not want to work and would rather beg to get enough money to eat today.  

So, I’m not saying that you need to give money to every or any homeless or needy person.  I am saying you need to treat them as you want to be treated.  Look them in the eyes and say a kind word.  It will likely have them walking away a little bit taller.  Dignity, respect, compassion.  We all want it, so why don’t we start by giving these things away…I bet they will be returned to you multiplied many times over!

Ok, my second beef….

Where is general compassion these days?  It seems like often instead of simply helping a person in need, we judge them.  We decide that they can’t manage their money or they have an addiction or their need is all their own fault.  This may all be true.  But it doesn’t negate the immediate need. Yes, we have to be careful not to enable or encourage existing problems.  But, sometimes or often,  I think we use that excuse as a way to get out of helping at all.

And sometimes, the worst offenders are the ones who have received the most help.  Sometimes we get stuck in a rut feeling sorry for ourselves.  We think and want to believe that we are the worst person off.  We convince ourselves that noone is helping us, so we certainly aren’t going to help anyone else.  The reality is that by simply showing compassionate kindness to someone else we are helping ourselves.  We are widening our world view.  And we are removing ourselves from the center of our own universe.  By showing compassionate kindness we are allowing ourselves to experience the gift of helping others.  Our actions actually make us happier.  They make us feel better.  They also help us to see that there are others out there who are worse off than us.  And they help us to start to open ourselves up so we can actually honestly see the blessings we DO have.  

Life isn’t easy.  We all have rough times and difficult things we face.  But if we can manage to keep our humanity through it all, manage to see the little blessings in the often big mess…we will find we are happier and healthier.  

It is a total myth that money brings happiness.  Happiness comes to those who live their lives fully, despite their circumstances.  It comes to those who treat others with compassion  and respect and kindness.  And it comes to those who look at their lives and are able to see the blessings, no matter how small. 

So, are you living your life fully, showing compassion and respect and kindness to everyone around you, and counting your blessings no matter how small?

The new sewing machine…

A few weeks ago one of Keilan’s science lessons was on the sewing machine.  So, following his lesson I promised to teach him how to sew his own pillowcase.

The thing is…my sewing machine is a pain in my behind.  I have to wiggle this and that and breathe a certain way and hope it will stitch properly for an entire seam.  More often than not it doesn’t and it takes me messing with the bobbin assembly numerous times and taking the entire assembly apart to hope it will work again for a brief time.

I went to show kieran how to sew and I couldn’t even get a full short seam in.  It was incredibly frustrating.  

Finally after discussing it with Jason I decides I was going to replace my sewing machine.  So I started looking on kijiji and checking out online reviews of the machines I found for sale.  

The machine I ended up buying off off kijiji was a little more expensive than  I’d planned to spend, but it was also WAY nicer and had way more features. It had great reviews, so we decided to buy it.  


Last night I finally sat down and figured the machine out.  It’s computerized and far more complicated than my old machine.  However, it was actually pretty simple to use.  

So, I made 4 throw blankets last night; 2 for the couches and 2 for the chairs.  Then I cut the fabric for Keilan’s pillowcase.

Today Keilan and I sewed the pillowcase.  We even did a decorative stitch along the edge.  When I say “we” all I actually did was stand beside him and make sure he stitched straight.  


So, maybe I will sew more now that I have a Machine that I don’t have to fight with to get any sewing done! And I can now sew some pretty cool stitches!