Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Family Pic Thankful

Hugs, kisses, and Thanksgiving wishes!

B, G, & Lil E

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Closing Day!

Brakes and I are closing on our lovgly  (lovely/ugly) little rancher today!  I would love to post a pic of the front, but it is sooo ugly that it wouldn’t be difficult to find if you searched the recently sold list in Northern California.  Brakes is certain we have stalkers (I told him not to flatter himself) but I like to try to respect his wishes (occasionally).  As soon as we disguise it with a coat of paint and perhaps some yard art (fall decor?)  I’ll post our “after”.  Until then feast your eyes on what I’ll be doing for probably the next 24 hours strait:

imageimageimage Removing paneling, ripping down wall-paper, and yanking down curtains!

(please note that these are pictures from the appraisal, with the seller’s stuff, though I would not cry if he left the fancy-pants potty lid.)

Is it strange that I am super excited to get my hands dirty (I know all you sage old renovators are rolling your eyes at my naivety and enthusiasm)?

Wish us luck!

PS: Can I please take a moment to thank my amazing husband who guided us down this path frugally and thoughtfully at every turn?  Its true I may have wanted to punch his lights out a time or two, but my Bargain Man got us exactly the house we wanted at the price we wanted!  I am so proud of (and in love with) you, B!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I’ve Created a Monster!

Who notices something strange about this picture? Is it that obvious?

Copping a feelMy daughter is apparently some kind of pervert. For months now she has been doing what we affectionately call her, “Shark Face.” She lunges aggressively towards my chi-chis, snapping her little jaws. Sometimes she couples this with a grunt, groan, or snarl for effect. (Did I mention she has 2.5 teeth now? I am a saint.)

Recently she has taken to just casually keeping her hand within reach of her favorite chi-chi, pretty much at all times, as depicted in the picture to your left. (Do you see the hidden shame in my eyes as I bravely try to laugh it off? What about her? Please note the devil-may-care expression punctuating her smirk. She looks so entitled.)

Now I have dealt with all of her manhandling and snarling pretty well. I’ve never flicked her cheek (not even with the biting incident of ‘’09), and I’ve casually redirected her meaty paws when they wander wayward at inappropriate times. But the other night at Trader Joe’s I may have reached my limit.

We were on our way to a birthday party for the Unc and Nana Eileen called and asked us to stop and get a little shaved parmesan (she’d made marinara from scratch and it was delish!). Only needing the one item, I didn't bother with a shopping cart or a baby carrier, I just propped Miss Weezy on my hip and we hauled fanny to the check out.

The cashier (male, barely post-adolescent, with accompanying patchy goatee, and an unfortunate predilection for blushing) had just asked for my ID (I may have also grabbed a bottle of wine, which I desperately hankered for a gulp of a few moments later) when Eloise reached across my chest, clasped the edge of my cotton v-neck and bra and used her weight to heft the material aside. Out popped my big boob, practically landing on the check-writing shelf. She lunged after it, mouth gaping, already making slurping noises in anticipation, and attempted to latch on. I froze in horror as the check-out boy stared with eyes like saucers, his face and neck turning a violent shade of purple. Once I regained my composure I jerked Eloise off, ignored her protests, blindly signed the credit-card slip, and practically ran out of the store.

What did I learn from this experience? Eloise does not respect social (or my personal) boundaries and on-demand-nursing is dangerously overrated.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weezy Wednesday: Just Call her Marge!

Does anybody else think my daughter's laugh sounds like that of a middle-aged cocktail waitress, way past her prime, who smokes three packs a day?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Twins.

We’re totally best friends.  We dress alike, wear matching pony-tails,  and do everything together. 

Besties 

I may be in danger of becoming the mom in the Forever 21 dress, chaperoning my besties daughter’s high school dance.   Somebody stop me when she is old enough to realize how uncool it is to dress like your mom.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Thrill of the Hunt: Agave

We did not even glance at the MLS for 3 months, until we saw Agave! This is/was a great house! It had an open floor plan, two levels, a private lot, and mountain views. It was nearly perfect. Scrape the ceilings, ditch the carpet, and fancy up the kitchen and bath, and it would have been the most perfect 2 and a 1, plus a bonus room, ever. IMG_0794We were enamored... as were many other people in the housing market teetering on decline. The listing agent was actually fairly astute and under priced the house by a few percent to create a false sense of affordability. We got all our materials together and I wrote a heart-wrenching letter explaining how our offer (of course, we were low-balling) was not a reflection of the emotional value of their home but truly a reflection of what we, a civil servant, teaching special-needs kids and a humble chemist, finding the cure for Cancer, could afford. Needless to say, they were not convinced, and the place went for $715,000. We never had a chance. I did not even cry- do you see how jaded I’d become?  Bless Brake’s heart; he was really beginning to relish the game.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you!

Brakes and I sincerely thank all of the veterans out there who have helped to make the US a wonderful country in which to raise our little girl. This country may have its faults but there is still no other place we would rather be and we are grateful for the brave men and women who serve our nation!

We salute you!

Fourth

(This picture is an oldie but goodie!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Thrill of the Hunt: Berida

The summer of “07 our obsession with becoming homeowners hit critical mass. We had spent 2 years wasting time, building castles in the sky with homes that were out of our reach or always slipped through our fingers. We were beat-up, fed-up, and exhausted!  After 3 back-to-back false alarms we decided that there was never going to be a perfect house or a perfect time and we just needed to suck it up and put in serious offers.

We went to a walk-a-thon in the community in which I taught. Through the misty haze I watched families circle the track at midnight, walking for a cure and I became moved. I saw myself there, five years from now with a toddler in a jogging stroller and an infant strapped to Brakes’ broad chest. Brakes loves this town; he sees big lots, a cozy community, and close proximity to water sports.

I had always resisted living there because I was a special education teacher for the local school district. Every time I stopped at Safeway on my way home from work I ran into someone from the community I knew. I think this quality could be a really great if I weren’t in special education. But special ed can get really emotional and be wrought with tension. When I go home, I need to be going to a place where I can decompress and sit on the patio with a glass of wine and bitch about what a rough day I had without worrying that my next-door neighbor is behind the fence taking notes on what I say so that she can share them at the next Lions Club meeting. Basically there is an old saying; you don’t “poo” where you eat, and if I lived where I worked, I know I would be asking for many awkward encounters and conflicts of interest.

That said, among the famous fog, and the yearning light in my sweet husband’s eyes, I had a change of heart. We immediately made an appointment with a realtor and put in an offer on a cramped 3 and a 2 with a so-so floor plan but on a gorgeous lot: water views in front, mountain views in back, a truly knock-your-socks-off locale. They were asking $695,000, we offered $650,000 as it had been on the market for a few months. The realtor was not hopeful and accused Brakes of “low-balling,” (which Brakes took as a compliment).

That night neither of us slept a wink. We both felt like we had signed our lives away. Brakes jostled me at about 4:30 am, needing to burn off some steam. My man is a deep sleeper, people. Normally, I could not pay him for action that early in the morning but he was super tense and we had houseguests so he couldn’t get up and work out. (Am I insulted that, in that instance, I was the equivalent to an elliptical machine? No, not really. I got mine. Anyways.)

When we received the owner’s counter offer later that afternoon we both blew a big sigh of relief; they countered at $693,500. Obviously there would be no meeting in the middle. We weren’t even disappointed. We both felt we had dodged another bullet. We agreed to not even glance at the housing market for at least 3 months. We needed to take a break, and quit letting this monster steal our time and monopolize our thoughts. The first weekend house hunting free was a little strange. We didn’t have a great deal to say to each other, but Brakes took me to Chucky Cheese to play ski-ball and drink watered-down beer (admittedly, he felt a little creepy going there without the cover of kids), and by Sunday morning we awoke refreshed and excited to go back to just being us without this giant elephant in our bed between our feet, next to the Monk and the Ru. Our bed is only a queen after all. Two adults, (though, I am very thin) two 50-pound dogs, and a giant elephant; it was a tight squeeze. And we did not even glance at the MLS for 3 months...

-----Update: I was recently chatting with a colleague who grew up on Berida. We determined that our house was sandwiched between her mother’s house and her uncle’s house so she has first-hand knowledge of the home. Apparently it was a genuine crack house the whole time she lived there, and when the crack heads finally OD’d it was bought by investors and flipped. The flippers did a shoddy job and it had a serious mold problem, which the investors handled by merely painting over. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right? Unless it is crack-chemicals and black mold taking up residence in your pores and lungs as you sleep at night! Yikes! Looks like we OFFICIALLY dodged another bullet here... do you see a theme developing?

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Thrill of the Hunt!

Thank you for all of the congratulations on Monday!  We are really excited!  Since I have a feeling I will be blogging a lot about all of this house stuff in the next 10 years few months.  I thought it might be fun to escort you on a trip down memory lane and share with you how we arrived at this destination. 

I alluded to the fact that we had been house hunting for an obnoxious amount of time, 4. 5 years to be exact. For the last 4 years we have spent at least 2 weekends every month, perusing open houses, annoying real estate agents, and getting our credit checked just for fun. I have spent more minutes on zillow and zip then I am proud to admit and I have discovered a hidden talent for making power-point models of floor plans complete with before and afters and our furniture penciled in.

clip_image015

NICE, I know.

Join me as we visit some old favorites from the house-hunting front. These are some of the houses we have seriously, and sometimes, stupidly considered over the years.

Rockhaven:

When we first moved to the bay area we had, oh all of $30,000 we had painstakingly saved when Brakes was in graduate school simply burning a hole in our pockets. We naively thought we would be able to “walk onto,” the Northern California housing market much like Kobe did the LA Lakers, strait out of high grad school. Being the Gas, I took my job seriously and was constantly scanning the MLS, making lists of potential properties I thought we could afford. I set our cap at around $800,000. Ha! We can’t afford $800,000 now and I am no longer an hourly employee and Brakes has earned 2 promotions since then. (This is why Brakes handles our finances.) It is strange though, how the more money we made and the more prices fell, the less we feel we can afford. I guess that is what they call growing up. Sigh.

Anyways, once Brakes brought me back to earth, I started targeting areas we could actually afford and I happened upon a quaint and adorable “village” full of charming Cape-cods. We called it an “emerging,” neighborhood that was “well on its way to gentrification.” There was a house on a darling-ly named street, Rockhaven, which had the most amazing ocean views! We toured this house twice, loving the tiny floor plan, and the large albeit steep lot. At $715,000, it was a little more than Brakes felt comfortable paying so we kept our eyes on it, waiting for its price to fall. It finally sold for $695,000 after 3 months on the market. Brakes was encouraged, he was sure prices were falling. I was heart-broken; sure we had lost our only chance at home-ownership in the bay area.

Three years later, I got lost on my way to a student’s house and ended up in the same “adorable” cape-cod neighborhood. This time my savvy eyes spotted the cars up on blocks in the front-yard and the couches on porches. And I certainly could not miss the freshly chalked outline on the street and the caution tape surrounding a house, where an apparent drive-by had taken place earlier in the week. I realized the neighborhood was still “emerging,” and at a very, very slow pace. As I drove away I reflected on what a silly girl I had been shedding tears over that house a few years ago; I felt like we had dodged a bullet... And, as it turns out, we may actually have.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Weezy Wednesday: Berries in Bed

Weezy decided to celebrate the dropping of her crib (she is such a big girl) by blowing raspberries in bed! Other pastimes include; practicing standing and chewing on furniture.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Yee Gads! I’m an All-Star, Folks!

Okay so confession on a confession time: This morning I received some surprising/embarrassing/secretly thrilling news… a comment I made over at one of my favorite funny blogs (Martinis or Diaper Genies) achieved All-Star status on the confessional Friday report. It involved my favorite subject childbirth and what I may or may not have mistaken for my sweet baby during the pushing stage. Anyways. As I’ve NEVER been an All-Star before (see this post for more elaboration) I thought I should take advantage of this title and prepare a short acceptance speech. So, without further ado:

Oh my gosh! I am so shocked and flattered! I never imagined I would achieve such a status! I really don’t know what to say! I guess I should start off by thanking my parents and my Catholic-school sex education; I apparently skipped the chapter detailing the various holes located in a lady's nether-regions. I would also like to thank my adoring husband, both for impregnating me, thereby providing me with the opportunity to push until my blood vessels burst while staring at my rear-end in a mirror, and also for strategically pointing out the correct anatomy during those intense moments of Eloise’s birth. I should also thank Mari Winsor; I have no doubt that the month I spent doing her 20-minute workout on a vaguely regular basis back in 2003 gave my abs the strength to propel my baby (and other various matter) out of my pachina as effectively as I did. Finally, I would like to thank my pachina; I am sorry I did not recognize you in your time of need, ole'girl! I promise it will not happen again… next time, there will be no mirror.

Monday, November 2, 2009

We Are Officially Off the Market!

So Brakes and I have been casually seeing a variety of women (and a few men too!) ever since we moved here.  We’ve met these people while out and about in the neighborhood, through friends of friends, and occasionally when we’ve wandered into someone's house.  We’ve called, emailed, and spent afternoons with these people, sometimes with the same person over the course of several months, but we’ve never been able to take the plunge.  None of the clever little minxes managed to hold our interest for long… until we met Isabella.  Isabella totally defines what a realtor should be to us.  (What!? Of course, I was talking about realtors; what else would I have been referring to?)

Several months ago, Isabella was showing Brake’s mom (a real-estate hobbyist) some properties on our side of the Bay Area.  They saw a house that Mama B thought was “the deal of the century”!  After 4.5 years of fruitless house searching and many rejected (albeit low-ball) offers, and with a new baby at home, I had NO interest in looking at any more houses.  But, being the agreeable wife that you know I am, I let Brakes drag me to visit the hot property.  That house didn’t work out but Isabella made a lasting impression.  She is the ONLY agent, out of more than 100 agents we’ve spoken to over the last 4.5 years, who seemed to be honest about where the market was going (down).  She did not try to feed us any lines and she encouraged us to offer what we were comfortable with, while other agents would have scoffed at our gall.  She has been savy, honest, calm, and relentless.  When we found our latest house interest she handled the negotiations with kid gloves and I am soooo excited to inform you that:

WE ARE IN ESCROW!

After touring probably 500 homes, writing offers on at least 12 properties, hundreds and hundreds of hours of talking, calculating, and talking some more, we are finally going to be home owners!  Assuming everything goes as planned, we will be closing escrow right before Thanksgiving.

Brakes and I are so excited at this big step, and yes, we feel like we are a bit crazy to be taking on so many changes in one year (although Brakes is practically orgasmic about the write-off potential of a new baby and a new house in 2009)!

I got a great house, with lots of space, on a large lot, with a fabulous view, and Brakes (along with Isabella’s help) got us a wicked-good deal!  Stay tuned for our adventures in homeownership and keep your fingers crossed that things keep going smoothly!