Friday, January 30, 2009

Get Your Pens Handy

I took the day off yesterday mainly because I didn't get done what I needed to accomplish on Wednesday, what with all of the Corey stuff (I'd taken Wednesday afternoon off, too, naturally). What stuff didn't I get done? Well, work stuff, actually. Yes, I took the day off from work so that I could... work... for my job.

Okay, I understand how lame that is, especially since I essentially worked from 9:00 in the morning until 7:00 in the evening. But I didn't have to take any calls, go to any schools or see any employers. And I did it at my home in my PJ's and my mom's house in my slippers. Corey was at school most of the time. If I have one less "sick" day because of my weird choices, I don't really care.

We decided to let home choice number 1A fall by the wayside. If things don't work out with our first choice, it has occurred to us that there are other homes out there with new carpet and paint. Plus, the bank that is selling house number 1, which we now call the Gobi house (because of the street name, not because it spans two countries or anything... even if it is fricken huge!) has negotiated until we can't negotiate any further. We signed their last counter yesterday morning, and last night we signed the loan docs.

People keep calling us homeowners, but I really won't feel that way until we have the keys in our hands and they work in the locks!

Our lender, Joe, had told us when we first met that he will repeatedly call us for "one more thing"... to the point that we'll want to meet him in the parking lot after work! So before we left last night Tom asked what sorts of things we should keep handy. We are fairly compulsive about putting things in the shredding pile, although not as compulsive about actually shredding it, so nothing should get too far away if we need it. But it turns out we mainly need to turn in bank statements and paystubs as they come in. Hopefully that will be enough from us to keep things going smoothly.

Dave and Joe say that home buying isn't really stressful, it's just a matter of doing your job and of them doing their jobs. I wonder if I'll agree when this is over.

One thing that has turned out to be even better than we'd planned is that our mortgage will be about $20 less than what we now pay for our cozy little apartment. And the house is roughly two and a half times the size of this place. People keep asking if we have enough furniture for such a place. Absolutely not. But we'll get there... over time. At first we'll be focusing on the necessities: Appliances and window coverings. Then I imagine it'll be a couple of hide-a-bed type couches or something like that for guests. Somewhere in there we'll need to landscape the backyard and get patio furniture. And put up a patio cover.

Oh, and we need to buy dishes. Not because it's a new place, but because I live with guys. What started as a service for eight is now three! dinner plates, five salad plates and seven mugs. I've never been a huge fan of Corelle, but even if I have to get those gawd-awful duck-bordered ones, that's what I'm getting. I need plates that last.

Tom's parents have the same dishes they bought 30 years ago. That's what I need. Not that I expect them to last that long for us, but 10 years would be awesome. Heck, I'd be happy with five years at this point.

Speaking of kitchen items, I have had my eye on a dining table for the past two years now. It seats six without the leaves and up to 12 with them. Depending on the wood, we can get it for $450-$1300. Since that doesn't include the chairs, we'd definitely be going with the $450 variety. It's the same wood as our current table (which seats four to six comfortably as long as you don't want to put any food on it).

Hmm... what else can I add to my shopping list? Probably a lot, but I think I'll stop now. Shopping's tiring!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Note on the Front Gate

Dear Corey,

Please come home. Whatever you did today is something we can talk about. You are my son and I love you. No one has asked you to leave. Everything has been going so well, so I know we can work this out. We've certainly been through tougher, although nothing would be tougher than having you leave.

Please come home.
Please call.

PS Of course the door will stay open for you.

Yeah. It was a rough one yesterday. He is home. We are "okay." Although I have heard him explain why he left, I do not understand it at all. But that goes both ways, I guess. While he heard me explain why taking a walk during the day instead of doing homework was not great, but not at all comparable to leaving in the middle of the night and running around town, banging on people's doors because he thought he was being followed by gang members... I don't think he sees the difference.

I have not gotten a promise that he won't just leave again. I don't suppose I would believe it anyway.

Of all the thoughts that floated and ran and paced through my brain yesterday, the primary three were:
  • Will he go up to the mountains like he had planned to last time?
  • How he handle the cold? It's supposed to be in the 20's to 30's here tonight... How much colder will it be at a higher elevation?
  • Will I ever see him again?
And then, because my mind goes to all the weird places, I also wondered this:
  • If we get the house, are we supposed to move if he's not home by then? He knows how to get to Grammy's house, but what if something happens to her and he has no way to reach us again... ever? Should we just stay here until we know where he's at?
The only question out of all of these that I have an answer to is the third one from up above. I finally saw him again around 4:00 yesterday afternoon. It had only been six hours since I'd last seen him, and four hours since I knew he was gone. There has never been a longer four hours in my life.
It turns out that knowing your child has run away doesn't bring any comfort. Not like you thought it would, right? But if you had to think about your child running away versus being kidnapped, maybe you'd tell yourself "at least I'd know he/she left of their own will" or "at least they're not under anybody else's control." But the truth is, you only know they were safe when they left. You have no idea how things went once they walked down the street. There's no way to know which way they headed.
There is no comfort.

Monday, January 26, 2009


We are at a crossroads. We went out with Dave on Saturday and looked at 18 more houses. We had 26 on the list, but many of the ones we didn't see were short sales (which are anything but short when all is said and done). A few others had offers going and one (that I really wanted to see) has been recently thrashed. So with "only" 18 homes to check out, we had a little extra time to spend (ha!). Sort of. I taught that morning, so we didn't get up the hill until after 11:30.

We reviewed Dave's rules, but still ended up spending more time than we should have at the first house. I think it just had to do with it being the first house of the day. Oh, and there was a man and his teenaged daughter walking their dog. They stopped to speak with us, and I think they made the house more appealing than it really was. Once we got out of there, the next 10-12 houses were a bust. We never made it up the stairs in any of them. In some, just walking in and seeing that the "backyard slope" was really a wall of dirt taller than the eight foot high sliders was enough to send us right back out. As Dave said, "Why would you buy that house? Who the hell bought it to begin with? What were they thinking?"

Another house was too ornate inside. It reminded me of the homes I've visited of people I've met who are from Pakistan and Egypt; lovely, but certainly not my sensibility. Plus, there were two massive "sheds" built out back that were not complete, and based on the workmanship, proximity to the house and the fact that they blocked access to the air conditioning unit, not likely permitted either.

We did check out a couple of one-storey homes. They weren't bad. One would have definitely been in the running if it really had the four advertised bedrooms. The other was equally awesome, but up against a drainage ditch. In California these are cemented, so I'm not worried about erosion and sliding as much as that Corey would explore the length of it. And Mad has her own independent, somewhat feisty little spirit, too. We can't be sure she wouldn't scale that fence as soon as possible. She's just nine and a half months old and has already been taking her first unassisted steps for nearly a week. So a house with a drainage ditch? Out of the question.

Somewhere around three-quarters of the way through Saturday's agenda we finally started to find some decent homes. We had a run of good, better, best and hey, this wouldn't be too bad either! Once it was all over... around 4:00... we stopped for what turned out to be breakfast, lunch and dinner. We rehashed the possibilities, laid out a plan and went back to check out the two we were most interested in considering. They have been ranked as our number 1 and 1A choices. Number 1 is clearly better (brand new paint and carpet, but missing all appliances), but number 1A really only needs paint downstairs (why do so many people think that salmon is an appropriate color for a house? and what the hell is up with three shades of progressively worse/more neon salmon?) and to have a fence repaired. Plus it has a covered patio. We decided to put offers down on both of them and see what might stick.

Dave ran the comps and decided that we should offer about $6000 less than the asking price on each home. We heard from 1A this morning. They countered with a higher price, but said they'd pay closing costs. We have to decide by noon tomorrow.

Dave then caught up with the agent for house number one. They had an all cash offer, but it was lower than ours. He could let us know soon, possibly by Wednesday.

If you're going to have a worst case scenario, this is not a bad one to have. Say we take 1A while waiting one 1, are we then obligated to stick with our second choice if the first choice accepts our offer?

As we were debating the issue over Madelyn's playtime this evening, Dave called again. House 1 had countered... still well below asking, but they'd only pay 3% toward closing costs. It means putting about $3000 more out at the onset than we were expecting. It's not impossible to gather the money together, but we still have to buy a new stove, oven, dishwasher and window coverings. Ack! We want this house, but what are we willing to give up to get it?

A little, but not much, is the answer. My brilliant husband has countered their counter, saying we'll pay an additional $2000 if they'll pay another percent toward closing (which should just about cover it). We'll submit the offer en la manana and should hopefully find out mas rapido. The bank wants a shorter escrow of 30 days, but we're also asking for 36 days to give our broker enough time to get everything done on our end.

Please keep your fingers crossed, put good thoughts in your hearts and wish us the best. We might actually be able to do this.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vacation Stories

I'll admit that I'd forgotten I was going to blog about the trip. Life has just been so busy lately that our limited down time has been spent sleeping. Lucky for you (yeah, I know that's questionable at best), I got a nap this afternoon, so I'm wide awake tonight. I already did a couple loads of laundry and responded to a few emails, so now I'm all yours.
Wait... where are you going?
I was going to have a step-by-step guide to our vacation, but I figured it'd be better to just give you some distilled nuggets of knowledge gained along the way.
1. Driving until you're exhausted... which happens to coincide with 15 minutes after the baby has fallen asleep in her carseat... is never a good idea. If you choose this option anyway, when you do get everyone unloaded and into your third floor outside walk-up "hotel" room in six degree weather, do not be surprised if your teen and your toddler have crawling contests to help them unwind. Hope there is no one in the room below you. Further, do not expect said toddler to fall asleep for at least 90 minutes after everyone's in bed, because she could not be more awake right now.2. Giving a baby a teething biscuit while going through the hillier areas of Missouri is only good as long as someone is in the back seat with her to know that she's choking on it. Thank you, Corey... you saved your sister's life, even if you felt helpless at the time.
3. Watching your husband introduce your daughter to snow is beautiful.
4. Those puffy kids jackets that you hate because they get staticky and also because they make it hard to fit your daughter into her carseat? They are great as something to hide behind in a photo.5. No matter how grateful you are that your son helped keep your daughter from choking to death, you will be extremely upset and embarrassed when you walk in a room to find him rifling through your in-laws belongs. Quadruple those feelings when you discover what he's pocketed. Feeling lost and unsure of where to go from here comes when, a few days later, you realize that he just ripped a bunch of nude photos out of an art book at Borders, where you've all gone to spend some Christmas gift cards. Relief and frustration, on the other hand, come when the store manager accepts payment for the book, but you know she would have just let you leave without anything worse than, "Thank you for letting us know."
***Note: I don't have a problem, per se, with the nude photos. He might have been able to purchase the book whole if he'd asked.
6. You're never too young to learn about cards.
7. There's nothing like a full belly and Daddy's lap to relax a girl. There's also nothing like putting your daughter to sleep to make Daddy proud.8. Sometimes it's hard to remember the difference between knitted and crocheted... but with enough time in Wisconsin, you'll figure it out.9. Traveling is not fun when you're sick. It's worse when your baby is so sick, you're in frequent contact with your pediatric nurse mother-in-law to make sure you're doing everything you can. It's cruel and unusual punishment if your husband is also ill.
10. Changing pads are required for diaper changes, especially when traveling. If you choose not to use one, know that you will:
  • realize that she just peed all over the bedding in yet another motel;
  • watch, fascinated, as your daughter craps all over the bed, the diaper you were about to put under her and... yes, your hand because you were too shocked to move; and
  • know that you are cursed as she pees all over you during an in-car diaper change somewhere in Denver on your way home... and thanks to the stomach bug she has, these are your last clothes that have not been peed, pooped or vomited on, so expect to spend the next 1300 miles or so in your pajamas.
Well that about sums up our trip. We had an excellent time mostly. In two years when we're ready to go again, I'll probably be ready.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Taking My Proud Moments Where I Can Get 'Em

Corey's 15 and in need of something to fill his time while we wrap up the independent study program. Let's face it, the kid needs to be supervised, but there are no babysitters for people his age who aren't immobile or ill. So he needs a job. At his age, the best bet is volunteer work. His availability is awesome, he could develop some outside relationships and *trumpeting fanfare* he could learn something.

My job, for the better part of the past decade and a half has been related to pre-employment and basic job skills. So I'd be the ideal teacher of this information for you. Or your spouse. Or your kid. Or that crazy lady down the street. But not for my son.

I asked my coworker, Jill, if she would work with him and she agreed. They met, oh, about two months ago and laid out a plan of action. Of course, very little of it has occurred since then. Jill sent out a reminder email the other day, which Corey just got to read. He was then compelled (ahem... by his mother) to finish up some of the tasks. One of the "easy" ones is getting references.

He made a list of people to ask. I nixed the teacher he had from third to fifth grade as too long ago to be relevant. Then I made him actually dial the numbers and talk to people. The first one didn't go well at all. He called his instructor and apparently started off with, "My mom said I should call...," which resulted in Derek asking if he could speak with me. So I had to explain it all to him. Then Corey and I role-played asking the next person. Twice. Corey was pretty nervous, but he called her and got her to agree to a letter of recommendation.

Too bad he'd forgotten to get her contact information to use her as a reference. So he spent nearly 10 minutes trying to get out of calling her back, but eventually he did do it. As if it wouldn't be embarrassing enough to forget that in the first place, the person he was calling works at my mom's church. As does Mom. Grammy answers the phones there, in fact, so he had to go through her twice, too.

But *more trumpeting fanfare* he did it! Woohoo! I couldn't hear the whole thing, but what I could make out sounded great, even the second time around. I'm pretty pleased.

In other news, the house hunt is taking up nearly all of my free time. We went out last week on Monday and saw 22 houses, three of them twice. Why so many? The area we're hoping to buy in is about 45 minutes away. So we try to get our realtor for the day and knock 'em out like crazy. I love our realtor, Dave. He has three rules:
  • If we pull up and you don't like it, we leave.
  • If we go in and you don't like it, we leave.
  • This is a cursory inspection, so we're not opening every cupboard and drawer.
Well, there's really a fourth rule, too. He has veto power. If he doesn't like the area or there are too many things wrong with the place, he vetoes it. Why does that work? He knows our taste and sensibilities pretty darned well.

Last week we found the house. Fricken huge, new paint and carpet, two years old, great neighborhood, views of mountains, desert and even some "city" lights. Bedrooms and bathrooms for all the people we now have and all the people we hope to have (including company). Ginormous backyard. Dual a/c. Ahh, yes. Love, love, love. We knew immediately where we'd put the Christmas tree.

But we wanted to check out the neighborhood in the evening when residents would be in residence. That couldn't happen again until Thursday night. We submitted our offer first thing Friday morning. That afternoon we learned we'd been beat to the punch.

We probably could have increased our bid or something, but it was at the top of the amount we want to spend, and there some 4000 homes in the region to consider. We hope the new owners are as happy there as we would have been. We hope we find something just as wonderful and happy-making when we go out on Saturday after my classes.

Tom and I compiled a list of 26 homes we're hoping to see. Since we're starting later in the day, we might not be able to get to them all. Homes are rather difficult to check out in the dark. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I Feel Like Rachael Ray...

when I say, "Yummo!"

Okay, so here's how it went down: Jeremy arrived while I was putting Mad down for a nap. When I came out, he was instructing Corey and Richard in pan selection and proper heat. Then he had them prepare the meat and some veggies and liquid for braising. Knife skills were demonstrated and practiced. When Richard lopped off his fingertip, safety rules were re-demonstrated and practiced some more (not before he was bandaged and dry, folks). Once everything was in the oven, they headed off to the farmer's market in Claremont (oh sure, I jotted his license plate and verified insurance first). Mixed greens and assorted other delish goodies were purchased from "the hippies." I don't know if they went to the groc, too, but Corey didn't spend nearly what I'd expected.

It smelled so wonderful here all day. While they were gone, it was very difficult not to just go open the oven and peak. I figured doing that would ruin it somehow and I wouldn't be party to that.

They came home and chopped and mixed and joked and learned. It was a truly wonderful time for them all... and for me as I sat here, 10 feet from all the haps. The boys washed up all the tools and equipment, including Jeremy's knives and such. I think they would have washed his car and done his laundry if he would have stayed on for a dinner lesson.

Tom arrived just as everything was being served, but Mad was having a hard time getting her second nap, so it was just me and them. I very clumsily tried to figure out if Jeremy was eating with us.

"Nope. I'm not eating, but I am going to hover."

"What?!? Like the cooking shows?" As if I hadn't already pictured him on Top Chef a dozen times.

"Yes. They (the boys) should be hovering, too, and they will in the beginning, so go ahead and have a seat."

Ordered around in my own home, ha!

I sat and Corey "presented" each of the meal's dishes. Then the boys sat and we ate everything up. Well, not really. We each ate about half of our portions. Jeremy said it was because, although the food is great winter food, it was about 85 degrees out.

That's alright. Winter'll be back in a week or two and we can try it again, right? My mouth is watering just thinking about it all.

Then Richard presented the dessert, chocolate pudding cake. It looked divine! It smelled amazing! The boys and Tom convinced me to just let nursing go for one afternoon and try the darned thing. (I feel a little guilty... I probably should have been harder to convince.)

Corey and Richard had a great time. Honestly, so did I, and I really wasn't part of the whole thing until the end.

Oh, and to top off that day? My mom and I had plans to watch the Rose Parade together. It's an annual tradition with us. We've had to tweak it ever since the biennial trips to the Midwest for Christmas. She had Tivo'd it and waited to watch until I could join her. We were supposed to have dinner together, but after that lunch, there was just no way I could eat anything else (and I've got an appetite, let me tell you!). So we drank tea (she'd had a late lunch, too, as it turned out), watched the parade and Extreme Makeover Home Edition and talked about life. It was very peaceful and lovely (well, until I came home and had to deal with my Jekyll and Hyde child... grr!).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Merry Christmas To Meee

Corey is a typical 15-year-old boy in some regards. For example, his room is a complete freaking disaster about 95% of the time. (Again, I say, never, NEVER give a teen boy a room with a bathroom.) So when it comes to birthdays and Christmas... or any gift giving situation, really, we look for experiences instead of things that will end up on his floor, regardless of how cool they were 15 minutes ago.

This year we were going to focus on his interest in seeing plays. However, I stumbled upon something even better. I knew it was something he would love. I didn't realize it would be something I would love just as much.

What is it, you ask?

Why nothing less than a personal chef coming into our home (today!... now!) to teach Corey and a friend how to prepare a meal. After much emailing back and forth between myself and Jeremy (who looks like he's one or two years older than Corey, but who has, in fact, classical French training), and after surreptitiously gathering information from Corey ("Hey Corey... I know you like a lot of different kinds of food. What would you say is something you don't like?" "Um... probably anything spicy. I don't like if things are too spicy"), the menu was determined:
  • Mixed Greens with a creamy Dijon vinaigrette
  • Creamy Polenta in a browned butter and sage
  • Sauteed Mushrooms in a white wine sauce
  • Braised short ribs in a red wine reduction
  • Chocolate Pudding Cakes
Jeremy asked, "Sound good?" Well, yeah! Especially since you asked how many people you, Corey and Richard will be cooking for! I kind of figured that they would cook and then enjoy the fruits of their labor. Who knew I'd get to, too?
And what will it cost us? Groceries, $50 for the lesson and an afternoon of scrubbing up around here. A fricken bargain!
The first thing they did was talk about why one does not need... in fact, shouldn't... cook everything on the highest temperature (thank you!). Oh, and once they get the meat braising, the guys are all heading over to the Claremont Farmer's Market and then to the groc for anything they couldn't get there.
Even more exciting, Jeremy has spent the past 15-20 minutes working on knife skills with Corey and Richard. Of course, someone had to loose a fingertip, and it was Richard, so he's got the blue glove of shame upon his hand to protect himself from any future willy-nillyness.
I will let you all know how it goes... and how it tastes (sure smells good already). I'll have to imagine how the cakes taste, because I'm still nursing and I still can't have chocolate. Mad got a rash the one time I did dare to give it a try.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Christmas Letter

This year, for the first time ever, I am writing a Christmas letter. Yes, I realize I am either a couple of weeks late or several months ahead. All the same. So many of these letters that people write focus on health concerns, scares and other bad things. They tend to end with something like, "we're looking forward to things being even better next year." I'm putting my own spin on the concept this year, and will instead focus on one aspect of life: The Family Photo Christmas Card:

Dear Family and Friends,

With the birth of our Madelyn, and perhaps more so, with the creation of the world's cutest "announcement photo"
(yes, she was almost three months old and, as my dad liked to point out, everybody already knew she was here), the idea of a family photo Christmas card was something I looked forward to creating. I even had an idea, carefully crafted in my (apparently pea-sized) brain, that would allow me to get everybody in the photo without fighting Corey to smile, damnit! or stress out about the fact that no one is looking in the same direction as the baby: A "stack" of our upturned hands... first Tom's, then mine, then Corey's... each hand at a different angle, so most of our fingers would show. On top would rest Madelyn's chubby little starfish of a hand. I even had the perfect sentiment to accompany such a photo.
We had a pretty awesome camera and a fairly puny budget, so DIY was definitely the way to go. After several missed opportunities, I decided to force the issue. This method has always worked well for me in the past, right?
Yeah, no. But time was running out for us to get the photo cards made and mailed. So Corey and I worked together to choose the room with the best lighting (of course it had to be the world's smallest kitchen) and then to figure out the camera settings. We put a red blanket on the floor for our background and took a few practice shots.Then we added Tom to the mix. You can see Mad's nearby, ready for her close-up.Madelyn was a little tired that evening, but she was doing alright.Once we were all set up and ready to go, the next step (and perhaps, the most crucial, yet least well thought out) was to deal with logistics. How do you get a kind of tired, sort of hungry eight month old little girl with a mind of her own to stretch out her hand and leave it there long enough for the shutter to click? We tried everything.That's not it.Mad tried to help, too. (Yes, Corey's hand is bleeding because in the fracas he re-opened a wound from earlier in the day.)At times, we got close to the elusive shot.

Eventually it became clear that the shoot was over.

This really was the last night that we could get it done, so I sadly put down the camera (okay, I was sort of giggling about that last shot) and walked away. Maybe next year I'll be able to make it work. I mean, really, how hard could it be? Mad'll be 20 months old by then. She'll cooperate, right?
Quit laughing, would ya?
Anyway, about a week later, I was looking through what we'd done and chuckling to myself about how it had gone. There was a small feeling of regret that we weren't able to make this happen. And then I saw it...

May the spirit of the season bring your family together.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Lair

Allow me to give you a tour of our home as it is right now. Before I start, let me preface this by saying that I loved this place when we found it... and have argued with Tom (lovingly, of course) about not needing more room ever since. But that was before La Madelyn.

Come into our front yard. On the right is a grassy... well, grass... surrounded on the perimeter by tons of ferns, lavender (from our wedding) and rosemary. A few other plants are dotted here and there, and a huge palm tree stands in the front corner. On the left is our nod to the desert in which we do dwell. Succulents, including a couple of gorgeous aloe plants, fill the area that had once been covered with those hideous garden rocks. It took Corey and I the better part of a summer to sift rocks from dirt. The rocks have since found new homes with various friends and family members. Where the two rose bushes once stood (I had to get rid of them... Mom's house has 32 rose bushes and I was in charge of them when we lived with her), is now a triumphant Mexican sage plant. It's beautiful even as it is in desperate need of some cutting back. The yard isn't huge, but it's been manageable for us, as well as a lot of fun.

Come, into the lair. Open the front door and you'll find our living room. It's not that large, but that didn't stop us from putting in a couch, two big chairs, an entertainment center (which, okay, we got from my dad because I couldn't say no even thought there was no room... and I'm so looking forward to it not fitting in our new place), four bookcases, and a table that is meant to go behind a couch, but is up against a wall instead. The trunk that used to be our coffee table is now an end table so Mad has room to play.

Should you choose to go straight from the front to the back of our apartment, you'll run into a double-sided fireplace. So cool, now if only we could burn any of the wood we have stacked up in the backyard without smoking ourselves out. Leaning up against the fireplace is a seven-foot long box with rails for when Mad's crib becomes a full-sized bed. When'll that be? Oh, probably three or four years from now, but where else it gonna go? On the other side of that is our dining room... with all the standard accoutrements and another bookcase.

On either side of the living room are bedrooms. Corey's (with the sliced screen on one window) is on the left. It's huge and made larger by the fact that his dresser is in the closet (why pretend he'll hang something up?). If we had two kids of the same age and gender, it'd be perfect. It has a full bathroom in it. Never, and I do repeat NEVER give a teen boy a bathroom in his room.

On the right is our bedroom. Also large. And it's a good thing, too, because here's the layout (counterclockwise from the door):
Our ginormous dresser, Mad's ridiculously small dresser (who thought a baby's clothes would fit in there?) and a writing desk (currently serving as a changing table). Turn the corner, there's the stack of boxes of clothes Mad has already outgrown, a nightstand and our bed, with the crib down at the foot. Along the next wall? Why there's a bookcase with Mad's library, naturally, and a small table with our alarm clock... conveniently out of reach so we have to get out of bed to turn it off.

The fourth wall is comprised of our walk-in closet (AKA "storage") and our bathroom. The tile in the bathroom, including the shower, are original... some 45 years of bad taste and mediocre workmanship. The tub has been scrubbed and bleached and even scraped, but nothing aside from replacing it will make it look like new. There is no vent in the bathroom. There's a window, which we can't leave open... not for burglars, per se, but because Corey has repeatedly gotten into our locked room this way. So every 18 months, I paint.

Back to the dining room area; on the left is a "den" and 1/2 bath. In the closet is a wet bar, which confirms the 1960's-ness of the whole place. I am sitting here, nursing Madelyn and typing, surrounded by camping gear, cooking equipment, most of my grandparents' photo albums and assorted stuff. To the right of the dining room is the world's smallest kitchen. It's so small we frequently wonder who thought it was a good idea to block off cabinets that we desperately need with a washing machine (the dryer is on the back patio... no, it doesn't make sense, but we don't have to lug laundry, so we don't complain). If we have the dishwasher open, we cannot open the fridge all the way. The tile counters are a pale, but not pretty yellow. Sort of a grayish yellow. Also original, with original grout as best I can tell.

Out back is a 5-6 foot wide swath of concrete that runs the length of our place. It is used for the grill, recycling (which piles up a lot more now that Tom's driving the truck) and our dryer.

That's home. For now. Sure, we have more bathrooms than we need (okay, sometimes it's not so bad with all the non-diapered people having a place to go... after a long road trip, for example), but we have so little storage that we have to go grocery shopping about twice as often as we should. Or we buy everything we need and then just leave it in the bags on the floor between the living and dining rooms. That's attractive.

So what do we want? It's so funny that you should ask. The answer to that question has changed considerably over the past two months since we began this journey.

"You know, 1600 square feet would sure be nice. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a decent kitchen. Good plumbing, solid electric and a tile roof would complete the package, even if we had to do some minor repairs here and there. A garage or, heck, a carport would be so nice!"

***Perhaps I should have clarified before what. Two of my sisters live in the High Desert. One of them... the one who looks like a 40's pinup girl... lives in a more rural area so she can raise chickens and goats (not even kidding). The other lives in a fairly new development. A few homes are in foreclosure and one caught her eye. 2400 square feet, four years old, great condition, 4 bedrooms, three bathrooms, fireplace, blah blah blah... $87,000. Naturally it was in escrow by the time we heard about it. And nothing remotely close to that price has popped up again, but even doubling that amount it's a good deal.

So then:
"1800 square feet, 4 and 2, big kitchen with lots of storage and room for our big new refrigerator. Solid plumbing, electric and tile roof. A nice-sized back yard would be nice, wouldn't it?"

And then (after spending a day looking at a few homes up there and seeing what's available):
"2000 square feet is probably as small as we'd want to go, especially if we do decide to have another baby. Four bedrooms is good, but if we want to have guests, we'll need five... and what about an office/library? A cul-de-sac would be lovely."

"I'm not sure why we'd go smaller than 2700 square feet. The kitchen can't have white tile or linoleum, and it needs a walk-in pantry. 4-6 bedrooms in a move-in ready, inside-corner lot on a cul-de-sac. 2-3 car garage. Oh, and can we get the laundry room upstairs? Because the one-storey houses look like retirement homes, so we really can't consider those. Thank you."

So we sat back in open-mouthed shock and disgust during the past few years when people paid more money for houses than they should have... and especially at those people who bought more house than they should have, and yet here we are. Thank god we're not looking at glass houses.

They're Gonna Let You Do What?!?

I started this post nearly a month ago, but life took precedence. So what was supposed to be a clever wait-and-see is now a bit of a bad Gong Show contestant wah-wah-waaah. Nonetheless, here it is:

As a child I moved around a lot. By the time I completed elementary school my family had lived in no fewer than nine different abodes. Most of those had been apartments. Some of them were better than others. During the last half of kindergarten and all of first grade, it was a lovely little rental house in the foothills of Monrovia (uh... California, not Liberia... in case you were wondering). Just before the start of second grade, my parents bought a house with a nice front yard and a pretty good-sized back yard. One of those places where you drive through to the back, where the detached garage is located.

My parents, especially Dad, took great care of that house. He repainted the interior, added A/C and fluorescent lighting (Yeah baby... check out the box on my ceiling! Hey, look, my skin's green. Yours, too. Cool!). He tended the front yard and built a dog run behind the garage. An adobe grill was built by hand up against one of the walls.

When their marriage started breaking up, so did the house. The leaky roof wasn't repaired properly. Roaches seemed to overtake the bathroom.
***I remember getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. When the light was turned on, most of them would scatter... unless they were having roachy sex. Bow-chicka-bow-bow!

A short time later, my mom and I moved into an apartment (for the second time... they'd separated once before). It was such a relief to have a clean place. Of course, it was partially "so clean" because we pretty much snuck out. To live in a roach- and leak-free home was to live a dream. Having my own bedroom and bathroom (for some reason I can't recall, Mom gave me the master "suite") was to want to keep dreaming.

When I got married at age 19, we moved to a not-so-great apartment, in a not-so-lovely part of town, at the bottom of a hill that turned out to be the oh-so-smelly-when-it-rained city dump. And when the area flooded and my (mom's) car was filled with runoff? Ugh! Blecht!

A job transfer led us back to my hometown, San Diego. We picked a fabulous apartment in a beach community, roughly a football field or so from the sand. It wasn't until we moved, shortly after Corey's birth, back to his hometown in Oklahoma, that it occurred to me we might look for a house to rent. We did check some out, but the floor heaters made me too nervous for when Corey started scooting around. I'd never had floor heaters, so I didn't understand that they don't really get that hot. For some reason, nobody bothered to correct my misinformation.

In any case, I've lived in a handful of places since then. With the exception of the couple of years I lived in my mom's place (after my office was shut down and I took a 35% pay cut... that hurt the ego a bit...), everywhere I've lived has been an apartment. Oh, there was a period a couple of years before my job changed when I began to think home ownership was not only attainable, but possibly... maybe... beneficial. So I asked friends to let me help when they had projects like painting or gardening. I purchased unfinished furniture and stained it myself. I never got to help with anything I couldn't learn on my own, like plumbing or wiring, so my skills in these areas have remained the same. Perhaps my "wiring" skills have even regressed since Corey became old enough to set up VCRs and DVD's.

When Tom and I married, we did look at houses for rent. Until the housing boom, houses were cheaper than apartments. I'd just always preferred having an on-call handyman to not having the money or the know-how to get needed repairs made. And the idea of bartering with the landlord for a reduction in rent if we did whatever needed doing... not for me, thanks. After everything went crazy, nothing was affordable, and especially not houses where the owners had too much mortgage on their hands.

So... remember that appointment we were supposed to attend one evening in December? Well it worked out great for us. Because I am nervous... okay, superstitious... I would like to add So Far. It worked out great for us so far.

What was the big deal that I'd mentioned but never revealed? We have been approved for a loan to buy a house. And now we are headed in a million directions.

The loan we're approved for is substantial, but not for our neighborhood, which we adore (of course). Do we live in Beverly Hills? Bel Air? Heck, anywhere in LA County? Nope. But apparently the proximity to LA County (seven minutes with traffic... to the county, not the city) is enough to price us out. Our real estate agent, who is the much-respected husband of a coworker, has said that he won't sell us a house in our area because he refuses to put us in the ghetto. The ghetto!

So we are looking up the hill. Up the hill does not mean into the mountains we are nestled against. It really means behind them, in the High Desert. Yes, we will be more deeply ensconced in the 909 than we ever thought we wanted to be. Instead of a 20 minute drive to work (with dropping off Mad at my dad's house), I'll have something closer to an hour. Same for Tom, but he'll be leaving a lot earlier since he starts at 6:00.

Why would we do that to ourselves? I'm going to answer that in my next post.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


I have never been so happy to see California license plates as I was yesterday around 1:00 in the afternoon. Too bad for us, it was still another 12 and a half hours before we pulled up to our door. We are back home from just over two weeks spent driving, visiting and a small number of other sit-on-your-ass types of events. Not that we didn't have an excellent time... we did, and I'll be writing about that in the coming week or so after I clean up a few posts that I've had in the hopper... but our vacations usually entail at least one hike or long walk or something. This one did not. The good news is that we all had a stomach bug (one of those "sit-on-your-ass" events I mentioned...). Okay, that's not really good, but at least there's a better chance I'll still fit in my clothes when I try to get dressed for work tomorrow.

I did get to read a few posts from my blog-homies, but couldn't get a comment to post from my phone to save my freaking life! Not sure how many times I would have a comment that close to done when the whole thing would disappear. So I'll also be trying to catch up with you in the next week or so. As I wash all of our laundry (four loads down... 27 or so to go) and scrub this place into something that resembles clean. Ugh!

Anyway, I just wanted to get something out to let you all know that I've been thinking of you and that I'll be catching up as quickly as I can. I missed a couple of you in particular.

Shan :+)
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