Monday, July 25, 2011

Caving and Camping

(See my earlier post about my nephew's visit.)

My Mom and Dad came to Virginia to see us and to pick up Ethan and bring him back to Indiana. Originally, Mom and Dad were just going to drive out, stay in our guest bedroom, and drive back. But...they got a cool new RV, so they drove out in that, camped in Broadway on Monday and Tuesday, and then took a more leisurely time getting home and camping on the way with Ethan for several more nights. It was great to see my parents' new RV, but even better to spend time with them.

They arrived here around lunchtime on Monday. Ethan and I drove up to their campsite, visited, and swam at the campground. Then all of us came back to Harrisonburg and I showed them our house as we waited for Adam to get home from work. When Adam arrived home, we went to dinner at Clementine's and had a really nice time. Then my parents drove back to the campsite and Adam and I put Ethan to bed.

On Tuesday, I had to do a storytime reading at the Arboretum in the morning, so Mom and Dad came down and Ethan & I showed them a bit of the Arboretum. Then, as I read for about an hour to a big group of kids, Mom, Dad, and Ethan hiked and explored the Arboretum. It was a hot day, so I hope the forest shade helped them cool off a bit!

Mom and Dad, posing nicely at the arboretum. If you can see Ethan's face, you'll see he's being a goober! :)

Ethan pretending to own this rock at the Arboretum.

After I was done, we met Adam for lunch (he had taken a half-day), and all five of us went to Grand Caverns (America's Oldest Show Caves!), just about 20 minutes south of us in Grottoes, VA. It was a hidden gem.

We went on a 60-minute hike with a fun tour guide, and we saw all sorts of things. (No bats, to Ethan's disappointment.) We saw the differences between stalagmites and stalactites, learned how shields and draperies formed, saw water lines, and traveled more than a mile underground. The caves were used for parties in the 19th century. The caves were also considered "neutral ground" during the Civil War, so Union and Confederate troops were often in the caves, recuperating and relaxing together and then had to go fight each other the next day. The history is extraordinary! I'm posting pictures, but I'm sorry if they aren't amazing...caves ARE rather dark of course! I highly suggest you visit Grand Caverns if you're ever in the area!

Yes. We're going splunking. Rock on.

Mom, Dad, and Ethan looking about in wonder.

The group of us strolling through the cave.

Dad, Adam, and Ethan around one of the reflecting pools.

The beautiful Rainbow Room.

Dad and Ethan admiring the Rainbow Room.

Adam and I smiling in the Ballroom. They used to have dances down here in the 19th century! The ladies would wear one gown into the cave, then change into another one inside the cave...both dresses were absolutely ruined, of course, by the end of the night with all the dirt, dust, climbing, etc. Wow.

Adam and I by the 'Ghost Statue"--it was Harry Potter-esq!

Our wonderful guide!

Adam by a wall that has been signed by visitors since the early 1800s.
(No signatures allowed since 1970, but the history on this wall was extraordinary!)

Ethan at the deepest point of the cave, and also where they found another, deeper part of the cave in 2004 which only 11 people have seen! See the thermometer behind Ethan? It reads 58-degrees Fahrenheit. Brrrrr!!

Leaving the cave. The bars above was the original entrance found by Bernard Weyer in 1804. He started giving tours of the cave system in 1806...making this the oldest "show" cave in America!

Outside the caves, Ethan is feeling the wind blowing from the caves. Spooky!

Adam, Mom and Dad--post-cave!

The littlest explorer finally decided to show his face. :)

Mom and Ethan in a mini-train at a playground outside the Caves.

After the Caverns, we made a quick stop at the White Oak Lavender Farm so that my mom could see if their lavender was blooming. Adam and I bought lavender stress balls, my parents bought some presents, and Ethan petted a bunny.

Ethan petting a bunny at the Lavender Farm.

Then, we went back to our house, loaded up all of Ethan's stuff and headed to the campground where my parents were staying. We played putt-putt there, went swimming, grilled out, and toasted marshmallows for s'mores. (Well, my mom, dad, and I toasted marshmallows; Adam and Ethan chose to burn their marshmallows. To each their own. But why did Adam have to teach Ethan that marshmallow preference?) Anyway, it was just about the perfect summer evening!

Relaxing in Mom and Dad's swanky new RV.

Thanks for visiting us, Mom, Dad, and Ethan! We can't wait to have y'all come back now, ya hear? :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ethan's visit!

Adam and I became parents...for a week at least! On July 5th, my 5-year-old nephew, Ethan, came to stay with us for a week. My sister and her family had celebrated the Fourth of July in Virginia Beach with her brother-in-law's family. So, on their way home, they dropped off Ethan (and spent a night with us). They left with their precious 6-month-old, Eva, and....we were left with a happy, talkative bundle of energy.

At the "Castle," a little playground in our townhouse community.

Luckily, I had gotten time off of work--and Adam was able to score a couple of half-days off of his job. :) It really took the pair of us to even start to tire him out. Also, Mr. Oliver never had it so good: Ethan was always happy to go on walks and throw the ball to Oliver. The only thing Mr. Oliver didn't like were the swings, so we had to leave him home on those excursions. I'm going to scatter pics throughout this post, so I hope you enjoy!

While Adam was at work, Ethan and I went to the pool for swimming practice, went to multiple parks, played checkers, checked out books at the library, explored the Arboretum, and much, much more. I'm glad I was able to spend time with such a cute bundle of energy....but, boy, was I wiped out by the time Adam got home everyday! And poor Adam, he worked hard all day, came home, and then was an energetic and enthusiastic playmate until Ethan went to bed. I couldn't ask for a better husband! Adam and I read Ethan Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone before bed each night; we didn't get very far, but we figured that you gotta start those HP fans young! :)

Ethan at the Arboretum, with the ducks!

Fun with lockers! This is at Adam's office building, which used to be a high school.
I had always wanted to fit inside one of these lockers, so I convinced Ethan it would be fun. He had a blast!

Doing a tricky climb...

When Adam had half-days and during the weekend, that was when the bigger activities happened. On Wednesday, we went over to the Schultz house for a cookout--and so Ethan could play with two dogs--Molly and Oliver! We pitched some wiffleballs and played Mousetrap; Ricki and Kyle were amazing hosts. (Plus, because Ethan didn't get to bed until 11, he slept really late the next day! Yippee!)

On Friday, we had planned to do some kayaking, but, just as we were leaving, some rain started. Boo. Instead we went bowling that day.
He's ready to bowl with his 6-lb ball!

Ethan's preferred bowling style:

On Saturday, Adam took Ethan to the Farmer's Market for doughnuts and berries, then to the park. Then, we all drove to Staunton to go on the Gypsy Express, a little train that went around Gypsy Park. Afterward, we went to Kline's Ice Cream, and Ethan showed us how fast ice cream can melt when in the hands of a 5-year-old. :)


The Hopper!

The Gypsy Express! It was a lot smaller than we had thought,
so Adam had to sit a few rows away from Ethan and I. :( Still, it was a cute little train!


Crazy pic...

Ringing the Gypsy Express bell

Adam, chomping some butter pecan

Ethan: before eating his Oreo cookie ice cream cone

Ethan: during. You don't want to see the after! :)

Eating mint chocolate chip!

On Sunday, we went to church and Ethan fit right in with the children activities there. He is sociable and doesn't mind trying new things, talking to new kids, and just being friendly. Amazing! I know I wasn't that brave when I was 5 (am I now???), and Ethan impressed Adam and I with how easily he adapted to any situation. We also took Ethan putt-putting for the first time in his young life. He did pretty well--and he didn't get as frustrated as his that's a positive! And we even did some baseball.

Ethan and I posing during putt-putt.

Ethan at batting practice.

Uncle and nephew getting some baseball time in.

My parents came (in their new RV) on Monday and stayed until Wednesday, when they left (with Ethan) to go back to Indiana. I'll write about that in a separate post. My parents stayed at a campground and Ethan spent the night with them on Tuesday, so driving home on Tuesday was kind of eerily silent. In just that short week, Adam and I had become used to Ethan talking about everything, asking questions, saying nonsense words, etc. When we got back to our house on Tuesday night, we just sat on the couch wondering why it was so quiet! :)

Tired, tired, tired!

Boy, it's a lot of work to take care of a child (and we only did it for a week!!! all parents reading this are probably laughing their heads off right now!!!), but it is so rewarding. Ethan loves singing and dancing to Lady Gaga, so that was hilarious to watch. He tries all different types of food and loved to eat raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and pears. I know I never liked fruits that much at that age (...or at this age, to tell the truth!). His imagination and enthusiasm is infectious, and I happily found myself playing pirates one minute and castles the next. I hope he can come and visit us again soon!

Friday, July 8, 2011

We ALMOST got a house!!

Well, I haven't written too much on my blog lately because we've been in the process of buying a house. Sadly, we are not going forward with our house purchase, but at least we know quite a bit about the house-buying process. Next year, we hope to have saved even more and will be even more prepared...then we'll get a house.

Anyway, this was the perfect little house we found.

It's gorgeous. New construction. Sweet master suite. Three bedrooms, not counting the master (Adam and I were going to declare one a library and another the "room of requirement"). In a little town (Dayton) that's still close to our jobs in Harrisonburg but has a lot of spunky personality and YUMMY farmer's markets. Lots of yard. Drool-worthy kitchen. Fabulous porch.

It also had minuses: square-footage isn't much bigger than our townhouse. Gravel driveway. No sidewalk (but the builders were going to put in a sidewalk for us after closing). No fence.

Overall, though, we had negotiated a great price. The builders/sellers were lovely to work with and our realtor is a true gem. We ran into problems with the financing. We were pre-approved and everything, of course, but the loan we really wanted (a Rural Development loan) turn out to be a problem. We signed the contract on May 23rd and were supposed to close on July 15th. On June 1st, the Rural Development regulations changed. According to our lender, we were now OVERqualified for that loan now. Huh?

It turns out that my teaching salary (since it is on a semester-to-semester basis) shouldn't have been calculated into the overall picture of our finances. However, the underwriter didn't do his job (i.e. left our paperwork on his desk for two weeks). If you want to know the company we were working with, let me know and I will e-mail it to you.

Even though we calculated that we qualified, the underwriter wouldn't approve it and refused to get the information from my human resources department to verify my employment status. (I have a lot of choice language that I use when referring to *that* underwriter.) We switched lenders, but that still didn't work--mainly because we had run out of time. We did qualify for another FHA loan, but the downpayment was a little more than we wanted to pay, and we may have had to borrow money from our parents. Instead, we just decided to wait and save a little more this year and get an even better house next year.

So, I'm sad. In a spot of GOOD luck, though, we were able to stay in our current rented townhouse. Our landlords had been showing the place and had a few offers, but they heard about our loan troubles and waited to sign new tenants. When we found out that we didn't get the Rural Development loan, they told us that we could extend our lease! That was some great news....because I would have hated to either (a) be forced into the larger loan or (b) rush to find a new place to rent.

Next year, I hope to be posting pictures of our house. Until then, though, I'm happy to have a comfortable home with my husband and my dog and steady jobs. Can't ask for much more than that! :)