Sunday, March 19, 2017

Settling In

“Settling” and “adventure” seem polar opposites. Yet we have found settling in to a new home to be quite an adventure! Thus, here’s what we’ve been up to since the last “installment.”


Shortly after we arrived, we visited the schools with whom we had been in touch prior to our move. Our first stop was a small country school 15 minutes from our house (well, after you trek down the hill so really 25 minutes from our house). Ben and Cat met their teacher and we got the sense that this would be a good fit for them.

On to the middle school! In our research, we had learned that the Cortez Middle School had a 21st Century Learning program, separate from the regular middle school program. We had applied for the program but learned on our visit that the best we could hope for is to be put on a waiting list as the program was full. We toured the school and thought the boys should give it a try, even though Micah would not be able to continue with the advanced math class he had started in Greeley.

Last stop – high school. The building had been built only two years ago and we were soon impressed with the great facility. We met David’s teachers and were equally impressed.

The next day was the first day of school after Christmas break and everyone was dropped at their respective schools with lunches and a few butterflies! They came home with happy impressions of their new schools – except Joel and Micah. It was evident after that first day that this would not be the best option for them. The next day they started homeschool via an online program.
When the kitchen doubles as a science lab . . .

Homeschool vocabulary lesson - define "inundated"

It’s a couple months into the semester now and everyone seems well-adjusted to their schools.


Todd worked very hard to transform our home. The endeavor included remediating and repairing walls and lots and lots of paint! The kids and I helped a bit but with work for me and school for them, it fell mostly to Todd. It is feeling very much like home now (pictures to follow).

Welcome, Flash!

Remember our treks up our road? 0.4 mile schlepping groceries? Well, we bought a 4x4 pickup truck that allows us to get up to our house. It’s prior owner had called it “Flash” and so we retained the name. It has been such a blessing!

It’s Official!

On January 23, we closed on the property! Our realtor and dear friend, Mike Smith, made the trek down for that special day. He got a good “before picture” and has made plans to return with his wife this fall. Theirs is our first official reservation. J


We have found a church family at Cortez Church of the Nazarene. They have embraced our bunch and we look forward to “doing life” with them.


We regularly see deer and eagles on our property and twice a herd of elk have wandered through. Foxes, rabbits, ground squirrels, and lizards are other residents we have seen in the neighborhood.

Plans Going Forward

Todd has been working hard to take care of a number of details in moving forward with our BnB. We plan to have things up and running this summer. Stay tuned for details!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Move!

Thanks to the determination and muscles of family and friends and Todd’s amazing Tetris skills, we got nearly everything into one 26 foot U Haul truck on December 27. We spent the next day cleaning and some last minute loading. It was a scramble at the end to find someone to help us with the loose ends that night. One friend agreed to take our bikes (to keep, sell, donate) and another graciously took care of the pile of things that needed to go to the trash or Salvation Army. Where would we be without amazing friends?!
Before . . . 

                                          During . . . 

After . . .    
               Todd's amazing handiwork!  

Goodbye, Greeley! Thanks for 4 great years!

Our trip south really was great. The weather was ideal for traveling – sunny, dry, not too cold. The traffic through Denver and on I 70 was what one would expect. 70 was clear, minus a very few slick spots that were well marked and very manageable. The truck handled well and the kids traveled sans fighting – that’s always a fabulous bonus.
The stunning vistas as we traveled made me think it wouldn’t be too bad at all to make this trip now and again.

We made a pit stop at a rest area somewhere after Vail. We braved the 3 degree F and followed the path to the restroom with 4 feet of snow on either side of us. In contrast, when we stopped next at Grand Junction for lunch, it was so warm we left the coats in the car! No snow on the ground.

When we arrived, we met the current owner of the property. She is as sweet and Southern as sweet tea. 
Future home of Hoffman's Mountain View Lodge
We visited briefly, soaking up the warm goodness of the lodge’s wood stove. After an invite to join her and her son for a pot of chili for dinner, we headed up the hill. 

We made it! 

We knew the road up to what would be our house needed work so we were curious as to whether the truck and van would make it. The truck made it just fine. The van bottomed out – no damage – but it was very clear this wasn’t the best use for the vehicle!
We walked into what will be our home through an open (literally open!) door and was accosted by an acrid smell. Wood smoke mixed with . . . something. Cat pee? Air fresheners? The walls were all filthy with  soot. We wandered the house and found the condition comparable in every room – dirty and neglected. The layout is great for our family with a large kitchen and island, beautiful knotty pine dining area, spacious bedrooms, plenty of bathrooms but would take a lot of effort to make it feel livable.

These walls will need some elbow grease . . . and paint!

We made a plan – to unload everything into the large room off the kitchen and to camp out together in the least smelly bedroom until we can get the place livable. We didn’t want to use the wood stove the first night since we weren’t sure it was functioning properly given the fact that obviously some part of the process had been spewing out on the walls! We watched a couple how-to-deal-with-smoke-stained-walls tutorials then all of us went to sleep in “Goodnight, JonBoy!” fashion. The bedrooms have baseboard electric units so we were warm with the door closed.

 Empty truck - mission accomplished!
The next morning we started unloading the truck about 6am. Micah was the first kiddo up and jumped right in. The others followed suit, the eldest requiring some “encouragement” to get up and join in the fun.

We had it unloaded by 1:30 even though we had taken a 2 hour break around 9 when we had breakfast and the owner’s son came to look at the woodstove and piping. His suggestion was to start a fire and see where the smoke, if any, was coming from. After a youtube refresher video about use of the flue and banking the fire for night (how the pioneers managed without smart phones, I’ll never know!), we started a fire. It drew well, burned nicely, and NO SMOKE from the stovepipe.

After unloading the truck, we went for a walk about the property. The kids picked out spots for tree forts and Todd marveled at the deer trails, while visions of filling the freezer danced in his head! It was warm and sunny – no coats required! The kids got completely filthy which is a beautiful thing. I think I’m going to have to find cowboy boots at a second hand store for them – Catherine got a cactus tine in her foot through the boots she was wearing.

We came back to the house ready to return the truck when we were met with a “surprise” – water spurting from a shut off valve in the main floor bathroom. So the plan to return the truck turned into a Meet the Plumber event. Todd met him at the bottom of the hill to show him the way up and I went into town (5 miles) for a few groceries. I said a few because we decided we need to leave the van at the lodge at the bottom of the hill so whatever I bought we would have to carry. (It’s, I’m guessing, 3/8 of a mile from the lodge to the house). And because there is a ravine between the lodge and house, it truly is uphill both ways. No gym membership required here! J Of course that is not our long term solution – we will have to fix the road or get a heartier vehicle – or both! We will also probably get a four wheeler and trailer so we can easily gather dead fall for the wood stove.

It was good that we met a plumber because the kitchen sink was not functional. So we added bucket carrying to our daily routine.

That night the kids played board games and Todd and I started to wrangle the filthy kitchen. 
                   Functional kitchen - CHECK!

After getting the kitchen functional, our plan was to repair/paint one bedroom at a time, gradually moving the kids out of the “one room cabin.” Then we would tackle the main area (living room, kitchen, dining room) and our bed room. We had bought a ton of paint with Todd’s employee discount at Ace thinking it we would use it at the lodge. It will be used here instead. Or at least some of it. We will also address items of immediate importance that the inspector brought to our attention – namely electrical stuff and inadequate areas on the roof. Getting the wood stove inspected was on the list, too.

Getting internet at the house proved to be a painstaking ordeal. After hours on the phone with the phone company, it was decided that a new modem would be sent. That ended up taking longer than expected because the UPS driver was a temporary replacement driver and was not familiar with the area. It took many calls and much patience but eventually the modem was delivered. Hours on the phone after that and we were finally re-connected with the outside world.
That's our house - WAY up there!

Because my job requires internet access, each day until we got internet at the house, I would load up my “office” into a back pack, hike down the hill, and drive into town to work at the library. Any groceries or supplies we need could be picked up while I was in town and then carried back up the hill. While I was “at work,” Todd began transforming the house.

Within that first week, we got a good solid rain. That’s when we learned the roof leaked . . .

So that first weeks were a doozy! The theme seemed to be “carrying” – carrying things off the truck, carrying groceries up the hill, carrying buckets of water from the sink. But amazing mountain views and the wildlife at our door and the hope of what hard work can accomplish kept us encouraged to keep pressing forward; to carry on.

            View from the driveway at our house.

View from our front porch.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

You Know You're Having a True Real Esate Adventure When . . .

Your realtor tells you yours was the case study for the “Intricacies of Buying Rural Properties” class. Intricacies is such a . . . diplomatic word.

It takes three banks to find underwriting for an unusual property with no comps.

The standard length of time for an appraisal is 45 days.

The official records show buildings on the property that don’t exist.

It’s For Sale by Owner. (Thankfully we have had a wonderful realtor who has helped both sides the process along).

Showings before we had our house officially on the market.

The assessed tax value for the property we’re buying is over two times the sale price.

Prepping a home of a family of seven to be show-ready!

You’re buying a property in the “wild, wild west” where no building permits were required during construction!

Three or four showings scheduled within the first hours of listing.

Coordinating inspections and surveys while living 8 hours away.

Owner lives 2000 miles away.

Four days from listing to contract on our Greeley home.

You’re buying an “as is” property.

The kids and I had been at the nearby park while a prospective buyer was at our house. After what I thought was a reasonable length of time, we returned to find some people with our house info in hand, looking at the house from inside their vehicle.

“Are you our five o’clock showing?’ I asked.

“Uh. . . No . . . “they replied.

“Well, do you want to see the house?” I asked.

“Yes. Is that OK?”

As I began to show them our house, the real estate agent (not ours) was wrapping up the scheduled showing.

A couple of hours later we had an offer followed by a contract later that evening. Which was it? The people from scheduled showing performed by the professional? Or the folks of the street shown around by little old me? Yep, you guessed it - the folks off the street are our buyers!

It will have been eight months from initial call to closing on the place we’re buying.

You have your selling and buying perfectly coordinated . . . until an appraisal goes awry and you find you have inadvertently sold your house out from under yourself.

The craziness requires three extensions to the contract.

Shingles. Not on the roof; on the side of your torso making even the thought of mere movement painful.

You try to coordinate work (for Todd) and school transitions when you don’t know WHEN you’re transitioning!

In short, the pattern has been coming up to a wall thinking “Well, that’s the end of that!” only for the bricks in the wall to rearrange themselves into an opening. There has been a lot of hurry-up-and-wait and how-will-that-work and what-ifs and maybe-we-shoulds . . .  and are-we-crazy??!! But we keep praying about it and have decided to trust the Way Maker. That, after all, is the greatest adventure.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mountain View Adventure - The Backstory

The seeds of this adventure were planted in conversations that started with “Wouldn’t it be cool if . . .” and ended with some variation of us having a place where people could come and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation and where our family could work together to practice hospitality. Perhaps 20 years serving at a retreat center gets in your blood!

Of course the internet is great fodder for dreaming along these lines. Todd would find properties and opportunities online and say to me, “Hey, what about this?” We would discuss its merits, its potential; imagine the possibilities. It’s fun to dream! On one such occasion this past June, Todd found a 15 acre property with three homes including a lodge that had been used as a bed and breakfast near Mesa Verde National Park. It just so happens we were planning to go to Mesa Verde on our family vacation.

“Want to see if we can check it out while we’re down there?”

“Why not?! We’ll be only 15 minutes from there.”

 We pulled up in our loaded-for-vacation mini-van and the seven of us climbed out. The daughter of the owner was to show us around. As she showed us the three homes (all needing some TLC) and lovely wooded property with a stream, she told us about her family. Her parents had five children and had a dream of running a bed and breakfast on a place with enough property for the kids to eventually build their own houses. They had run a successful BnB during the late 80’s and early 90’s but then the dad developed Alzheimer’s. The kids went various directions and, while the property was still special to their family, they were not able to keep up with it. Mom and Dad moved to Florida and various family members took part in looking after the place.
After some elbow grease and sweat equity, this will be the home of Mountain View Lodge.

It struck a chord with me that the original family was so similar to ours – five kids and a dream.

After the visit, we talked about the place. It needed work, but had a lot of potential. The view of the mountains was lovely, the proximity to a national park was ideal, and the deer bounding through the property certainly did not go unnoticed! However, could we afford it?
Kids playing in the creek on the property.

When we returned from vacation the following week, we called our realtor and friend, Mike, and ran the idea past him. The property was for sale by owner and we would need some help to navigate that. We were surprised when he told us the current market value of our home. We crunched some numbers (OK, “we” meaning Todd!) and it looked like if we sold our home, we could afford the Mountain View property. (Mountain View Village is the name the family had given the place.)
View from the front porch – hence the name!

While it looked do-able on paper, I struggled with the thought of leaving our home (which we love), our neighbors (whom we love), our kids’ schools (which we love), and our church (which we love). We had just begun to lay down roots here! On top of all that, it’s been so wonderful to be so close (2.5 hours’ drive) to my parents and extended family.  Could we leave all that behind? Would that really be the right thing to do?

We decided to prayerfully walk down the path and see where it led; see what doors would be opened and what doors would close. And here we are, further down the path, with a contract to buy Mountain View and a contract to sell our house. But more about that real estate roller coaster later.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2014 Adventures

2014 Adventures
Well, you must not have had your fill of holiday letters/family chronicles because here you are reading yet another!  I noticed how many of the letters that have come from family and friends seem to have a theme.  Some are all about beginnings (babies, jobs, seasons of life) others about endings (both happy and sad) still others show a year of transitions.  I think if I had to choose a theme for this past year it would be “continuing.”  Here are how our adventures are continuing –

We continue to love living in Colorado and camp and hike in the Rockies as often as we can.

We continue to enjoy living closer to my parents and grandmother.

We continue to participate in programs, services, events at our church.

We continue to enjoy getting together with our neighbors.

 We continue to revel in the good times and learn from the tough times.

The kids continue to thrive in their school. 

David (13) continues his love for music.  He enjoyed his role as Benny Southstreet in Guys and Dolls (Jr) at his middle school.  He is in band and choir at school and is at the piano every chance he gets. 

Micah (10) continues to love to build . . . anything!  He is really into all things penguin, too.  His sense of humor continues to keep us laughing.

Joel’s (10) continues to be a ready camper – the more rustic, the better!  He continues to be an intuitive and determined young man.

Ben (8) continues to be a well-rounded, happy guy.  He played baseball this spring and is looking forward to his rock climbing class this January.  

Catherine (8) continues to love creatures in all shapes and sizes.  She treasures her new pets – 2 fancy mice!  Her dream at the moment is to be a veterinarian. 

Todd continues his work as a bookkeeper.  A highlight of his year was his fall hunt – 8 days in the Rockies with venison in the freezer to show for it.

I continue to enjoy my online work - teaching with International Virtual Learning Academy and writing for Global Student Network.  I love having a job that lets me interact with families all around the world right from home.

While “continuing” describes most of our year, we did have some adventures in the truer sense of the word this past summer.
In April, I flew to Nevada (yes, all by myself!) for the weekend to meet my wonderful bosses.  I was wowed by the beauty of the desert!


In July the kids and I drove to NY, visiting family along the way.  After some ocean side camping with good friends, we picked up Todd from the airport and headed to Camp Taconic where we camped, visited with good friends, and relived some of our favorite memories from our time there. 

Pennsylvania was the next stop!  There the order of business was lots of games, a visit to Knoebel’s and precious time with family.  We then drove home together. 


In August, we welcomed Emmanuelle to our home for 3 weeks.  Emmanuelle is from France.  Her father was our exchange student when I was in high school!  Emmanuelle fit right in with the family and we had a great time giving her a taste of American life including camping in the Rockies and a rodeo.  We’re already looking forward to her next visit.
In December, Todd and I celebrated 20 years of marriage - how's that for an adventure??!!

While no doubt your ornaments are boxed and put away and likely this is the last holiday greetings you may read, we pray all your adventures of 2015 are replete with the hope, peace, and joy of Christmas. 

And if you’re making any travel plans for the New Year, be sure to consider Colorado – we’d love to have you!

The Hoffmans

The last harvest from our garden. :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Last school year began a new adventure for me.  For the first time all five of my kids are in school all day.  Such a strange experience after 12 years of having kids at home with me every day; so strange that I often daydream about homeschooling!  

The other new phenomenon about this past year is I have been working.  I have been blessed with a job I can do from home.  I write for an online curriculum company (articles, press releases, ad copy, blog posts – whatever they need!) and I put my teaching certification to good use in their online school.  This computer-based job allows me the flexibility to drive my kids to/from school and be there enough that the school secretary once said to me, “You must feel like you live here!”  I have a rare and wonderful boss who understands about sick kids and field trips and truly allows me to give my family priority above work.

I say I do this job from home, but I learned early on it’s not easy to work at home!  At home I have another fulltime job that vies for my attention.  Sometimes when I sit down to work the laundry calls my name, the dishes demand attention.  There is the menu to plan and the subsequent groceries to list.  Oh, and that one closet is still not unpacked and organized from our move a year and half ago!  I try to tackle house and home before focusing on work but with only mixed success.

One thing I found helpful was to go someplace where I could focus without distraction.  We have wonderful libraries in our city where there is wifi and a quiet atmosphere and not one bath tub that really needs to be scrubbed!  The other place I go is my McOffice.  It is just around the corner from the school.  With wifi and unlimited coffee or tea for a dollar, I frequent the place about once a week.  I accomplish a lot in just a couple of hours!  Granted, it’s not the studious setting of the library, but the “buzz” becomes a backdrop I can work with quite easily.

So the first time I tried out McOffice, I got there early, right after dropping my kids at school.  I found a little table clear in the back where the restaurant was empty.  I fired up my laptop and got to work.  I soon learned, though, that I was sitting in claimed territory!  Gentlemen of “a certain age” began trickling in and taking up the spots around me.  The daily coffee clutch was called to order!  They asked after one another’s health and about wives (those whose wives were still living).  They talked about fishing and the weather and current events.  They complained about doctors and knew exactly how Obama should handle the crisis at hand.  Most are veterans.  They politely included me in their conversation, asking what I was working on. 

One gentlemen, a Mr. Lee Law, got up and came over to where I was sitting.  We chatted a bit. 

“I sense you’re a believer,” Mr. Law said.                                                                              

“Yes,” confirming my belief in God and connection to him through Jesus.

“I also sense that I should pray for you.  Would you mind?” he ventured.

This wasn’t the clich├ęd “I’ll pray for you” that is so readily tossed about, meaning at some later time if I remember.  He meant at that moment.  Right there. 

“Sure.”  I said, perhaps a little tentatively.

He put his hand on my shoulder and prayed aloud.  And would you believe the things he spoke in that prayer addressed the very needs of my heart?  At its close I was soul-touched and teary-eyed.

That was on my first visit to McOffice.  Going almost weekly, I felt a little like one of the group.  I have always had high regard for that generation (Brokaw got it right when he called it the greatest generation) and besides, now that I’m in my 40s, any setting in which I’m the young pup is a good place to be!  In November I invited anyone that needed a place to come to our house for Thanksgiving.  (I told Todd that day, “Hey – I invited all the guys from the office for Thanksgiving!”)  They all had plans already. 

Then in February Mr. Law, who had prayed for me and always took time to talk with me morning I worked there, told me he had been diagnosed that past week with cancer.  It was in his lungs, brain, and liver.  He knew the outlook was not good.  He said he knew he didn’t have long. 

Being the kind that often wears my heart on my sleeve, he could tell his news saddened me.  He quickly said something along the lines of, “Don’t be sad for me!  I have had a good life.  Now it’s time to finish the race.  Lots of people have lots to say about living well, but few people talk about dying well.”  The next I saw him he asked about me and my family as he always did.  I asked about his health.  He talked about treatment options and how his family was taking the prognosis. 

I only saw him one more time after that.  He didn’t look well that day.  I followed his example and prayed for him then and there.  The next time I was at McOffice, “the guys” told me Mr. Law had passed away.  I looked up his obituary.  He had died March 13,, 2014. 

I had wanted a picture of him for this post.  There was not a picture with the obituary so I found him on facebook.  Here was his last post:


A new day in which given to serve the Son most high God. I remember reading as Christ carried His cross down the Via Della Rosa how He become so fatigued and a man was picked to carry it for Him, the Jesus Cross. Not many of us get that opportunity to help carry the cross. To step up or not. I choose to step up for my Lord and God.
Going shopping today and also pay a few bills. Get out into the fresh air.

Stepping up.  Stepping out.  I saw that in action.  His willingness to pray for a complete stranger, the way he reached out with care to anyone around him - Mr. Law was on the lookout for ways to encourage, ways to help.  I only knew him a brief time but that is the legacy impressed upon me.

Keeping to yourself is certainly more comfortable and convenient, but where is the adventure in that?!  Instead reaching out to others can turn even a McOffice into an extraordinary encounter.

Dedicated to the memory of LeRoy Law March 29, 1938 - March 13, 2014 ~ Airman, father, grandfather, rehab counselor, hunter, fisher, and ready to be a friend to anyone.  So glad God saw fit to allow our paths to cross, Mr. Law!