August 28, 2012

Dearest E.

I am sorry it has been over a year since I last wrote. It is amazing how fast time flies and how much things can change. When I started this blog project last year it was a personal goal to help keep me positive and focused on my job search and also a way to seek out a relationship with you. I intended to continue writing at least monthly once I started working, but like most good intentions it went by the wayside. Perhaps it is best to start a year ago where I left off, forgive me for I am sure I will leave out some of the wonderful blessings in my efforts to bring you up to speed...

The day of my last post a major change happened. Around lunch time I finally got a call from the State of Utah on a job I had applied for and interviewed for multiple times. They wanted to hire me.  The training class had already started and was there anyway I could begin training the following Monday? Fortunately I had an amazing friend that hired me knowing I was waiting to hear back on this position and my boss was just as excited for me and my real career to begin. On June 13th I started working for the Division of Child and Family Services. They say the first year is the hardest and the learning curve is about four years if you make it. After three months of training, I am just coming up on my first full year of casework. I've learned a lot about people and politics during my year and I am sure I much more to learn.

In July 2011 we had more exciting news, Dad was rehired with the company that let him go in 2008. For a while he was working at the car wash and the paint store, but we missed seeing him and eventually he decided that seven days a week was too hard to maintain. With both of us making a living wage, last October, we were able to release our housing voucher to another struggling family. I am so grateful for the programs that allowed us to focus on our education and job search instead of scraping by and barely making rent. Without the help we wouldn't have been able to get where we are today and I know that we would still be on food stamps and medicaid.

As we entered 2012, Dad and I had a new timeline for our goal of buying a home. Our tax refund was large enough that it finally paid off the student loans that were fraudulently attached to Dad's social security number. And for the first time in twelve years Dad wasn't in default. When Obama announced the extension of low interest rates until 2014 we decided that our goal would be to get into a home by the end of 2013. We had previously given ourselves a deadline of 2016 when Taco turned twelve. This goal was a daunting one. We have been working on Dad's credit since I married him and we weren't sure if we could get it to the 660 credit rating on our new timeline. We decided we would take the homebuyer education classes and see if we could qualify for a loan in November. And then Divine Intervention took over.

June was rapidly approaching and I was soon to be off probationary status for new hires. Around Bean Dip's birthday I couldn't shake the idea of looking into a local housing program, Utah Housing Corporation. UHC's radio advertisement had been playing about a new program geared to home buyers with a 620 credit rating. I knew that we had gotten Dad's score just about to 620. I couldn't get it out of my mind so I eventually scheduled an appointment with UHC's recommended lender to see what we would need to do to be ready to qualify in November. Never in a million years would Dad and I have guessed we were going to walk away from that appointment "pre-approved" and told to start shopping for our home.

I knew just who to call for our realtor.  I called up the same realtor my parent's had used to buy and sell their first home twenty-some years ago. And so our house hunting adventure began. Dad and I knew the area we wanted, but we had differing opinions on how much house we needed. Dad wanted to buy a starter home and move into our dream home later. I wanted to buy our dream home now and the market was going to let us if we moved quickly. When we started the search there were a lot of homes in the area that were slightly above our price range and all the homes in our price range were short sales with offers. When a home came onto the market in our range it was listed low to start a bidding war. Our agent was great in guiding us through the market. We put a couple of bids on some HUD homes that weren't ideal, but were in our range. And then another agent in our agent's firm had an exclusive listing and we were invited to see the home before it was released on the market.

I was skeptical.  The home had a few quirks that I couldn't stand. This time Dad was persistent. The next day, we discovered mold in the ceiling of the apartment and Taco started having seizures and I was convinced this was the house. We made an offer with closing set for July 31st. I was on a roller coaster of emotions. During our walk-through the agent had said the home had central air and during the inspection we searched everywhere before realizing the A/C unit had been removed during the remodel. We watched the banks deny the short sale offers and home prices around us increase almost thirty thousand overnight. We stuck with our offer even though we knew it would be a very hot summer.

Right after we made our offer, we started having problems with our lender. The gentleman that met us in June wouldn't return our phone calls and we started to believe it was really all too good to be true. A week before closing on a Friday night at 5:05pm our lender called with the news that we were "pre-approved" and not "pre-qualified" and therefore we wouldn't be eligible for a loan for several months. We apologized to our agent and faced the devastating conversation with your brothers telling them the house wouldn't be ours after all. Our agent encouraged us to try one more lender and referred us to a company he recommended.

Like our entire home buying experience so far, Alan was the final piece of the miracle we needed to qualify and close our loan. Alan was worried that we wouldn't have enough time to transfer our loan application to his agency, but it turns out the previous agent hadn't done any work on our loan. Because he hadn't started we had no transfer paperwork to do. Alan's experience with lending enabled us to complete our home loan with no money down. It was truly a miracle. Since closing, the market's risen enough that Dad and I would not have been able to afford a home in this area. The short sales we had looked at in our price range are now listed 70 to 90k higher than they were when our home was listed. I am so glad we listened to the promptings to get our heads in the game with buying our home!

I know our Father in Heaven is looking out for us each and every day. The best part of this home E. is there is a room for you. We wanted to be ready in case your grandparents had a change of heart and let you come live with Dad. I can't even tell you how overjoyed he was to hear they have decided to let you see Grandma Lala again. He misses you and is looking forward to speaking with you during your next visit with Grandma Lala. It seems all things are possible with God.

With Love,


June 7, 2011

Dearest E.,

I am sorry it has been so long since I have written.  Life has gotten crazy around here.  I started my summer job.  Last week I was in training all week.  It was nice to learn so many new skills to prepare for the kids this week.  Nothing could have really prepared me for what it was going to be like this week.  We are only on day two with the kids and I am exhausted.  Overall it was just a bad day and I was really grumpy when I got home. I know tomorrow is going to be better. I really feel bad because after spending 8 hours with the kids at daycamp the last thing I want to do when I come home is play with Taco and Burrito.  

Burrito also graduated from preschool last week and we had a scare with Bean-Dip in the hospital with a head injury.  Burrito did really good at graduation.  I was in training and unable to go.  Grandma and Dad went.  I heard it was great. Until Dad went up to take Burrito's picture getting his diploma and two ladies came in and stole his seat.  They sat down right next to Taco, even though there were a lot of empty chairs and they spilled Dad's Pepsi everywhere!  Dad was very annoyed.  I am so proud of Burrito and how well he is doing with writing his name.  Tuesday was his last day at school.  Now he gets to spend the summer playing at Grandma's house.  I know he is very excited.  Taco is in a "year-round" school system.  So right now he is out and has been for two weeks, but next Monday he will go back to school until everyone gets out on July 1st.  Most of his friends will go back on July 25th but we changed tracks so he has a longer break and will go back in August.  I hope we will get to do something fun before the end of summer. 

Dad is loving his new job.  He comes home exhausted and filthy everyday.  He has moved up from dryer to prep-er.  Instead of hand drying the cars as they leave the tunnel it is now his job to spray off the mud and extra dirt as they come into the tunnel, get the cars on the track and in neutral so they can be pulled through, and to start the wash.  One of the hardest parts of his job is getting the cars lined up so they can move through the line quickly, but never crash.  I watched him through the window for a few minutes last Saturday (they did a record 513 cars).  He orchestrates the tunnel like a pro, getting cars through faster than they can dry.  He boss is very impressed with his work.  I am glad he found something he likes.  If only he could wear some safety gear to protect his hearing.  Now that he spends nine hours a day in the tunnel with it washing I have noticed he is starting to have trouble hearing.

The boys and I are doing well with our Book of Mormon reading challenge. I don't think I've mentioned it before.  In January our bishop challenged the ward to read the Book of Mormon in 6 months.  From Feb. to July 31.  We were super-slackers and just started reading about 2 weeks into May.  We just passed our one-quarter mark.  We have been trying to read one week's worth of the goal every 2 days.  We hope to get caught up a little faster now that we have a good routine.  I have actually never read the Book of Mormon all the way through, so I am excited to get through it as a family.

With Love,


May 25, 2011

Dearest E,.

When I started this blog I didn't intend for it to turn into Kira shares her testimony three days a week. I am sorry, I am just so happy with the changes in our family right now. On Monday we had a moment that made me very happy.

Bean Dip has been in our life for the last two and one half years. We tried multiple times to be involved before, but finally got court ordered visitation in the fall of 2008. The first Christmas we had with Bean Dip we quickly learned that he was unimpressed with homemade presents, hating clothing as gifts and in general completely ungrateful. At our house presents at birthdays and Christmas tend to get semi-ridiculous. We combined parties at Grandma's house and usually have 18 or 19 people present and giving presents. In the last couple of years the middle siblings (too old for a gift to be given on their behalf and not old enough for a real job) have started making homemade presents rather then "earning" a gift from the cupboard to give.

Christmas 2008 was a special year. It was the first holiday we spent with Bean Dip and our first unsupervised visit. My parents decided early on in the year that it would be a "homemade" Christmas. Everyone worked really hard to make their own gifts to give. At first he was excited to open the 18 or so presents before him. But as he started opening it became clear what he thought of our homemade Christmas. Soon presents people had spent hours on were being added to his trash pile without concern. Then I gave him the presents from Dad and me.

We knew that his mom was struggling to afford clothing and because of my super-deal powers we had been able to buy him enough new clothes to take an entire wardrobe to his house and fill a dresser (from Santa) here with things. He was furious. Clothes are presents! Santa doesn't bring dressers! You are just supposed to give those to me because I am a kid." (I guess he hadn't realized that his new dresser was five times nicer than the used one that Taco's clothes were in.) The Santa gifts that were approved he wanted to take to his mom's house. We tried to reason with him, "What will you play with here?" But in the end I caved and allowed several toys to journey to his mom's along with the books that Santa had brought just for him.

The next Tuesday the pile of Santa books was in his backpack. "My mom says I don't have to read these so you can have them back. She bought me a bunch of video games instead." Talk about an ungrateful six-year-old. We knew our work was cut out for us and we needed to teach Bean Dip about gratitude and how to appreciate all types of gifts.

Bean Dip's birthday was this week. Grandma knew that last fall we had ordered glasses for Bean-Dip and had been unable to finish paying them off so he could get his new glasses. She decided that they would pay the balance as his "big" present and only give him a few little things. (Bean Dip was wearing his glasses we got back in 2008. He had broken all of his newer frames. This year his mom got him a pair with her tax return and he broke them after two weeks.) Glasses were a major need. But we were nervous. Everyone had seen how he reacted to non-toy presents and in a way this was a major test to even decide if it was worth gathering everyone for his birthday next year.

The rest of the kids worked hard making their own presents. One especially creative aunt took it upon herself to make him a very personal present. Bean Dip has been told a million times how much he looks like Harry Potter. At first he hated being compared to Harry Potter. This year he finally read the series (he likes reading now) and decided being called Harry Potter was cool. Knowing he had just finished reading it, Prima Donna crafted a wand and a book of spells so he could pretend to be Harry. (The wand was made out of a stick with ribbon and to age the spell book she rubbed the paper with sand to distress it. It was very authentic looking.) I eyed her gift nervously. I wasn't sure what he would think.

He open it early on. He smiled and waved it around and giggled a bit. I tucked it into the safety of my purse and held my breath as Taco brought the glasses case for him to open.
He shook it.
"Don't! It's breakable."
He looked at me curiously and began to peel off the paper. My brother, Sport, who is one year younger than Bean Dip came up behind him.
"What the...?" Sport questioned, "Mom, why did you wrap my glasses case!"
Bean Dip started tearing a little faster. Soon the blue PEZ case was out of the paper. He had Sport show him how to open it.
"NEW GLASSES!" he yelled as he took off the old ones and put them on. "Are these the ones I picked out a long time ago?"
"Yes." I looked at Grandma. I wanted to be sure she noticed the grin that was nearly too big for his face as I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was the best reaction we got all night, although he was almost as excited for the Legos. When all the presents were opened he issued a general "thank you" to everyone and trailed after Grandma who was heading into the kitchen for the finishing touches on the cake. "Thanks for the glasses," he said before dashing off to the trampoline.

Later that night as we were dropping him off with his mom the first thing he said was, "I got new glasses!" She admired them while I explained where to take him to get them adjusted. Then he asked for Prima Donna's present. He showed his mom the wand and spellbook while I unloaded the presents. For once he was excited showing her something homemade. I got into the car with a big grin on my face. Bean Dip has sure come far since that first Christmas.

With Love,