Why we love the auto wreckers

Our second car is a lease assumption — meaning, we took over someone else’s lease, in theory, to simplify the process of temporarily having a second car so that, in theory, we could walk away from it easily. This hypothesis did not prove itself out, and we often wonder why we fell for leasing again.
Nevertheless, we have a lease on a car, its up in February, we won’t go over the mileage, there’s nothing wrong with it, and we never want to see it again. With a buy-out of over $14,000 we’re glad all of this is true. The previous owner, however, did not put in the factory stereo — even though I asked him too, and thought for a long time, that he had. Once you see what a Toyota factory stereo looks like, it becomes obvious that the one in there will not pass the lease-return inspection. So I called up Toyota to find out what it would cost to purchase and install a Toyota-branded stereo for our car. $800 plus labor, they said.
Eight hundred dollary-doos!
Drove myself down to the auto wreckers and picked up a Toyota stereo for $90. $46 for the mounting brackets, and a quick trip to Home Depot to buy bolts of the right size, and I’ll do the job myself for under $150.
Similarly,  the turn signals in our primary vehicle were acting up. The part from Saturn was $90 after tax, and labor was a minimum of $120 to install it. Went down to the wreckers with a screw driver, pulled the part from a Saturn they had on the lot for $40, went home and installed it myself in about 15 minutes.
I’m not a grease monkey — I don’t even know how to change my own oil. But I can twist a screw driver, and snap some plastic clips into place. Why do car manufacturers insist on screwing over their customers? Why do their customers insist on doing business with them? How dumb would a person have to be to trust the place that sold them their car to actually service it, in this day and age (outside of warranty, that is)?
It costs $110 for Saturn to read the error code from our car computer every time the trouble light goes on. You can buy a code reader once for $30 and read it yourself in under 5 minutes!
$50 worth of tools, and a willingness to do a little work yourself, can save you hundreds a year. Why don’t more people know this?!

Before and After

I couldn’t find many before pictures of the front and back yard, which is too bad, because we did a lot of work on both. The 3-tiered garden in the back still has some rough edges, but is very impressive, and we spent a bit of money updating lights and other fixtures, as well as two years of work on the lawn, that makes the front yard look great. We’re told we have great curb appeal.
Yesterday while I was furiously staining the deck, a couple of home stagers (round 2 for us of interior advice) came by and moved like a whirlwind through our house. Most of the credit for these before and after pictures goes to Nic (and I) for removing the clutter, but the living room really benefited from some professional advice. Check out our pictures and let us know what you think! The decorators want us to change paint colours and replace countertops, and while we agree that our kitchen has a pretty bizarre colour scheme (which we did not pick!) we’re not sure we want to put more cash into this place…

The art and other decor comes from the stagers, and we get a month free of the stuff before they want us to rent it from them. We’ve decided to see how this month goes before we put any more money into the place. After all, we bought it with the weird colors…

For Sale

Well it wasn’t exactly in the 6-year plan, but we weren’t really planning on that plan being set in stone anyway…
So: we’re going to try to sell the house.

It seems like the old proverb “strike while the iron is hot” makes sense here, and while the housing market (here in Southwestern Ontario anyway) has been strong, we’ve been counseled that its beginning to soften; that when it softens, it starts from the top and works its way down. The bottom end of the market, where we currently sit, is still holding strong, while the kinds of house we’d like to get into next are starting their decline. That means if we act quick, we can sell with strength, and buy against weakness.
Our neighbour two doors down, with the same house design and property size as us, just sold for $249,900 — in less than 2 weeks. Considering we bought our place 2 years ago for $219,00 we could make a tidy profit if we could pull off that sale price. If we sell first, then start shopping, we can hopefully buy low at the next level of house up. We’ll be looking in an area of pretty consistent growth, and hoping to do as well with that place as we did with our first house.
These are the ideas anyway. Its not like we’re real estate mavens with tons of experience playing the market. All we know is that as our kids grow, this place is getting a little tight, and that we need to be closer to some of our church community. Which is a shame, because we’ve finally started making some traction building some community with our neighbours…
Actually, there’s plenty of things that are a shame about this. We live in the cutest little village ever, at the end of a quiet street capped by a farm. Granted, we have an active railroad track in our backyard, but otherwise this is an awful adorable place to call home. If it wasn’t a 25 minute drive to get to everything we need, it would be perfect.
Nonetheless, for the time being, real estate is the primary source of investment for us, and if we want it to grow, we need to be active in the market. Its not like we don’t have plenty of experience moving. And we’re approaching this prayerfully, with plenty of decision points along the way where God can correct our course if we’re not getting it right. So far, He seems to be saying go:
– Yesterday we had our real estate agent over to sign the papers to list the house, today the newspaper called and asked if they could put our place on the front page of their fall real estate section. Apparently our house is photogenic!
– Our new neighbour, who we’ve enjoyed getting to know, does home staging as a side business, and came over last night to give us advice on how to prep the home for sale — for free. Aside from the immense amount of clutter we need to pack-up and hide, she said our place looks great, inside and out.
At any rate, we’re not committed to any course of action, save for putting a sign out front, and seeing what happens. If we get what we’re asking, we’ll look to the next step. If the offers come in low, we’ll probably sit it out here and watch the market a little longer.

On Parenting

I’ve had brewing some thoughts on parenting for some time now. There seems to be a modern pseudo-religion cropping up around the sacredness of motherhood, and the importance of doing things naturally. Now, in principle, we don’t disagree with some of the notions that are going around. Certainly being a mother, “giving” life, nurturing a tiny, totally dependent being, and raising children in a good home is a monumental and wonderful task. In our home, we considering “being mom” to be a calling from God, and have structured our lives to give priority to that task. And certainly there’s wisdom in traditional values, and using healthy, natural products free of chemicals where ever possible. Absolutely, we believe that we should provide for our children the best we are able.
However, I’d like to throw a dash of reality into this debate:
1) Babies poop and puke. Yes, this is natural. No, its not beautiful. Poo is gross — even if it comes out of your little angel’s bum. Cloth diapers or manufactured diapers is not a religious decision: they are tools for preventing poo from getting everywhere. That is all.
2) Breastmilk has great, proven and suggested benefits for children, but this is not a spiritual factor, its a practical one. We liked that we didn’t have to pay for formula, and Nicole enjoyed the bonding time with her children. She did not enjoy having sharp little baby teeth biting her nipples. By the time there were teeth coming in, it was high time to ween the kids. And we still cuddled them while holding a bottle until they were so big that their little legs had to drape over the arms of the chair. They weren’t emotionally scarred by the bottle, and more importantly, Nicole didn’t have to be physically scarred by their teeth.
3) “Crying it out” or “Ferberizing” a baby has Biblical logic behind it. Children, although they may be cute and cuddly and fun, are still born with a sin nature. They come out of the womb selfish. Of course we would go to our children if they were crying in fear or pain or hunger — not only could Nicole differentiate their cries instinctually, but I could too, within a couple months of bringing them home. We would never leave Ben or Abi in their crib if they were scared, or had wiggled themselves into a corner and were freaking out cause they couldn’t get out. But you’d better believe we trained the selfish, “I want attention because I’m mad at you for putting me to bed” cry out of them right quick.
Both our kids slept through the night, in their own room, before they were 3 months old. And they slept peacefully, and woke happily — and they only had to cry themselves to sleep a couple times before they learned that the universe didn’t revolve around their demands.
Yup, that’s the point I’m making. Just because you knock boots with your spouse and squeeze a life form out of your hoo-haw (with or without pharmaceutical assistance, also not a spiritual decision), that does not make you mother earth, nor your child the center of the universe. That was not God’s intention. His intention is to create people who give glory to Him.
We don’t pretend to be the best parents in the world, but we have two well-adjusted toddlers who are enjoyable, obedient, affectionate and independent. They have learned, and will continue to learn, the appropriate autonomy for their age. As babies, it was appropriate for them to learn to how to sleep on their own — this is an essential life skill, and has great benefits for the quality of parenting they get. There was no emotional damage to them being sleep trained, and in fact, I would argue that there was huge emotional benefit.
Bed time, wake-up time, nap time, and meal times provide the structure for our children’s day. We can do any activity we want with them, as long as we return to the safety of their routine. It is that very safety that gives them the confidence to try new things. It is that very routine that allows them to participate in an adult world — and to enjoy it. And it is that routine which allows Nicole and I to continue to pursue the other responsibilities and tasks God places before us. Yes, parenting is one of the most important tasks of our lives — but its not the only one.
(We went to Asia this summer to explore missions, and because our kid’s routine was consistent in our absence, and because we left them with people who could love them, while still guiding and disciplining them, we were able to leave our 2 and 3 year old behind for two weeks without any damage to their psyche. The things we can teach our kids as a result of our obedience there FAR outweigh the benefits of breastfeeding a 2 year old!)
I read a study once that measured the emotional health of a child by observing their behaviour in relation to their mother. When brought to a new play area, a healthy child will leave mom to explore confidently. If they fall down, or get scared, they would return to mom for a confidence boost, and then go back to exploration — the assurance that mom is available is enough to convince them that its OK to try again. Routine is similar. It provides a home base for their day, so that they can explore new things and new activities with the assurance that they can return to what they know as normal afterward.
Its for that reason that as soon as possible we began training our babies out of their mostly nocturnal in-the-womb day, into a predictable, daylight day, including a bed time, that save for abnormal circumstances, was set it stone — regardless of their sin-natured opinion of it. The result was that we very quickly established a healthy routine that allowed us to begin “exploring” the world with them.
The bottom line is that homes should not be child centered. They should be God centered. We love our children, and pour unconditional affection, love and loving correction and guidance into their lives. But even as tiny little people, they are their own people — they are not a function of us, and we are not a function of them. Our role is to raise them, not commune with them. Our responsibility is to teach them about the world, their place within it, and their Creator God who made them for a purpose. We protect them, but we do not live for them. Nor they for us.
Some crying and some bruises along the way proves that they are learning to overcome their little challenges, and teaches them how to deal with adversity as they continue to grow. Don’t believe me? Read Proverbs…


Went to Alberta. Edmonton sucked. Calgary was nice. The mountains were nicer. It was great to see my siblings.
I had a more articulate post than this, but it got deleted… stupid beta software. This was really just a vehicle for some pictures anyway: