Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Third Refrigerator's the Charm

The third refrigerator we have had at this rental house in the past month was delivered to us this evening.  Refrigerator #1 conked out a few weeks back and after all the organic milk and frozen stuff from Costco went bad, a replacement arrived.  Refrigerator #2 was of the same ilk (old, cheap, seen better days) and Sunday night starting to make a very concerning noise.  The popsicles were all melting and the refrigerator section seemed to be about the same temperature as the kitchen itself so again we called our landlord.  I think the grocery-related financial damage was less complete this time because we drove a bunch of stuff over to our friends' house and then borrowed a cooler from them.  We managed to keep a good bit from being thrown away in another display of obscene waste.  Today I promised these friends (the ones I've mentioned before because they are almost the only people we really know here) that we would soon make more friends in Salt Lake City so that they weren't the only people we had to call whenever we needed any kind of help.  They have been so, so generous and helpful since we've arrived but I can only imagine they would not mind spreading the tasks of helping us out around a bit.

I was talking with Rob yesterday and wondered aloud which would be the better choice environmentally-- to buy one crappy used refrigerator every month or to buy one new refrigerator that would last ten years.  I'm all for buying used items in an effort to keep stuff out of landfills and to not use up so many resources, but I have my suspicions that you may not come out ahead on this one.

Anyway, Sunday night I was just seething with frustration about this rental and was just so, so OVER being here.  I have tried to be careful about what I've said about this rental in general out of kindness to the landlord, who seems like he is having a hard time, but let's just say I will be glad to leave.  Since Sunday, I have achieved a more zen attitude; this house is what it is and not liking certain aspects of it will not change anything or make us able to move out any faster.  Acceptance, contentment-- that's the best path, right?  I am so glad to have had a place to live, and if we hadn't moved to this house, we probably wouldn't have started looking at buying houses as early in our time here and then we wouldn't have ended up in the lovely bungalow we are buying.

I spent most of the afternoon over there today, meeting with hardwood flooring people and painters to get bids for the work we are getting done, and oh, how I think I will grow to love that house...  It is just so charming and gracious and wonderful.  I met one of the owners for the first time and she was super nice; she said her two little boys are so glad that a family with children is moving into it because they thought the house needed kids.  They are quite obviously getting ready to move as the house was all full of boxes and turmoil and mess.  There were workers there doing the last of the repairs that the sellers agreed to do as well; there turned out to be some unresolved permit issues with the renovations they did to the basement and the beautiful big garage they built, but it is all getting hammered (and drywalled and plumbed) out with a great ruckus over there right now.  There were also neighbor children over playing with her little boys (it was a bit of a madhouse there this afternoon, like I said), and I just feel so optimistic about the house and the neighborhood and all of it.

We actually close TOMORROW, which snuck up on me slightly.  I will wire a great deal of money to the title company first thing in the morning and then late tomorrow afternoon we will sign our names a bazillion times and then we will own a house again!  The sellers are renting the house back from us for another week, and then we will start the work we're having done, and then sometime in the middle of September we will get to actually move in.  I'm so excited!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Apparently I Blog Once a Week Now

I drove past the house we are buying again, just for fun, and I cannot WAIT to move into it.  The rental here is wearing on me a bit, but mainly I am just ready to really settle down and unpack all our boxes and feel like we've found our home.  It won't be that much longer, as I keep reminding myself.  We got the inspection back and the sellers say they are going to fix everything we asked them to (despite the fact that those other buyers who were competing with put in a back-up offer that is higher than what we are paying-- we find this puzzling, to say the least, but we are grateful).  Also, we have given the mortgage people document after document after bank statement after tax return and supposedly we are all on track to have money with which to buy this house, so that is also good.  We are supposed to close the end of next week, I think, which is very exciting.  After that, we'll start all the floor refinishing and other stuff we need to do before actually getting ourselves into it sometime the middle of September, probably.  So soon!  And so exciting!

We've been working with Grace on her reading skills for a while and we've run into some frustration.  Months and months ago, even before her 4th birthday, she was so interested in letters and sounds and rhyming and how it all went together and I thought, "Wow!  She is so ready to move forward with this!"  She learned all the sounds the letters make quite quickly, but she has been having real trouble with putting the sounds together to make a word.  She will go through a word and correctly say all the sounds, but then not be able to smoosh the sounds together to make a word.  At first, I thought, "OK, fine, she needs more practice and hasn't made that cognitive leap yet and doesn't get it yet."  The letter-sound connection can be a bit of a rote memory thing and sounding out words is more a skill, not just memorizing.  However, it has been MONTHS now that she has been at this stage and she doesn't seem to be making any headway.  I wonder if she is just not ready and we need to put it on the back burner and not worry about it for a while, or if we should keep plugging away a little bit every day on it to help her make whatever connection is not happening right now.  It doesn't help that I lean toward the first option and Rob leans toward the second.  Grace is finding the process REALLY frustrating right now and is not enjoying herself when we do her reading books and tries to put it off and just generally is not having fun with it, and this of course really worries me.  Wanting her to enjoy reading is right up there with my very top desires for her childhood and I wonder if what I am doing is hurting or helping that.

In contrast, Grace IS enjoying her week this week tremendously because she is doing a swim camp at the community center where we go to the gym and where she'll go to preschool and so forth.  We didn't get any swim lessons in our schedule this summer before now, what with the move and all, so these are the first lessons since last summer.  It is 3.5 hours every morning for 5 days, and yes, she was EXHAUSTED yesterday after I picked her up.  She doesn't nap very often these days, but I predict she will nap every afternoon this week.  Oh, how she loves it, and she is doing so well.  I worked out yesterday and today after dropping her off and I could see her little class out the windows while exercising; it is so amazing to see her little self hanging out in the deep end and actually swimming.  She can't figure out how to take a breath yet but she actually swims.

Oh, and speaking of working out, we have now come to the TMI section of this post.  I have been exercising a lot, most days of the week, since settling into life here.  I have been doing a variety of things: running around our neighborhood, elliptical and weights at the gym, and classes at the gym, like yoga (oh, how I love yoga; at the end of a good class, I feel about as wonderful as after a massage) or a resistance/weight class or whatnot.  Yesterday I went to an indoor cycle class, you know, spinning or whatever.  I tried this kind of thing one other time, way back in grad school, and both times I left with really intense soreness from the bike seat.  Not good muscle soreness meaning I'd worked hard, just pain from the seat.  I did like the class otherwise, though, so rather than immediately decide this is not for me like I did last time, I've been trying to figure out what my options are.  This has led me to google things like "spinning class sore crotch".  Apparently, it is something that gets better as you get used to it, although I find this an unappealing idea.  I don't exactly want my lady parts toughened up, if you know what I mean, and perhaps unsurprisingly Rob says he is categorically opposed to the idea.  Many people on the internet suggest padded bike shorts, and now that I know what they look like, I have realized that about half of the women in the class (the class was about 2/3 women) were wearing them.  Another fitness thing to buy...  I see why being in shape and thin is more and more a privilege of the wealthy.  Between what is costs to buy fresh produce (not to mention organic) and what it costs to do most exercise, it's no wonder that obesity problems skew with economic status.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Goings On and Not Goings On

So what have we been doing with ourselves, other than trying to buy a house?  For starters, we have been going to the pool a lot.  I have spent more time at a pool this summer than I have since I was about 11, I think.  The pool we belong to (the same community center that has the gym we're using and where Grace is going to school in the fall) is great for little non-swimming kids with a big zero-entry area that they can walk around in.  Grace is so brave this summer about putting her head in and has enough motor skill to actually kick and pull her arms and whatnot.  Violet likes to walk in to about knee-depth, then turn around and walk out, then turn around and walk in, then wander off and try to steal some other child's pool toys.

I've also been exercising a lot more than I have in YEARS.  I exercised today, making it now a full week with doing something every single day, even if it was just 30 minutes of yoga on Saturday.  I don't naturally like exercising, but hopefully I can make it a habit and find some things I sort of enjoy and feel physically better.  (And maybe look better too?  I weighed myself this morning and I am FOUR POUNDS heavier than I was last week.  I know that there are many good benefits to exercise that are not weight loss but still, that is a bit discouraging after being really disciplined this week.)

I also have been missing Abbey a lot.  Between when she died and when we moved out of our house in Dallas, I kept thinking I heard her nails on the hardwood floors or her tags jingling on her collar.  I didn't think about it all as much during the really insane period of driving and having no furniture and whatnot, but now that things are settled down, I miss her.  It's been over a month now that she has been gone.  I especially miss having her around late at night when the girls are asleep and we would often be petting her or taking care of her.  Sweet girl...

And now I shall tell you what we have NOT been doing.  I have not been cleaning very much, that is for sure.  I have had some huge mental block about cleaning here.  I think it is partly that it is a rental and thus I don't have much sense of belonging here, and partly that it isn't the nicest of houses so I don't feel motivated to try to keep it nice.  This is counterproductive, of course, because letting the house get dirty makes me like being here even less.  I finally gathered some gumption this past weekend and made Rob help me and the house is now clean.  Now I resolve to not let the kitchen floor ever get as disgusting as it was before I cleaned it yesterday.

Also, I have not been cooking much.  The kitchen here in the rental does not really lend itself to grand culinary exertion and then there is the lack of air conditioning.  We had a spell of quite hot weather that was even a bit humid (well, humid for here) and I just could not bear to turn on the stove or the oven or anything like that.  I have been using the rice cooker a good bit, and we've been eating salad a lot, and we've still been going out to restaurants more than we normally do.  I keep trying to check out raw food websites, but a lot of those recipes (at least the ones that aren't just salads) seem to involve a mandoline (which I DESPERATELY want) or a dehydrator (which I do not).  Anyway, today at lunch Grace declared she was tired of peanut butter and jelly so I may have to step up my game here soon.  Hopefully this won't be too painful because the heat seems to have broken and we have more temperate, arid weather which is much more comfy in our non-air-conditioned house.

And lastly, I have not been sewing, which is a bit of a bummer.  When we started unpacking our boxes, we realized that there wasn't really going to be room for my sewing table and all the associated stuff that goes along with it here in the rental.  By that time, we had also adjusted our timetable so that we would hopefully be in a house of our own within a few months so I decided to just leave it all packed up in boxes in the basement, along with half our kitchen stuff and all our books and so forth.  I am missing it, for sure; the latest issues of Ottobre and Burda came and it was sad to realize that I won't be able to sew any of it for quite a while.  The lack of sewing has motivated me to get out my knitting needles, though; knitting takes up much less space and isn't nearly as involved, equipment-wise.  I decided to try to make a Kina for Grace and went to check out a fun independent yarn shop here in Salt Lake City to buy some very pretty yarn.  The sweater is looking really good so far and I feel quite optimistic about my chances of actually producing a wearable garment within a reasonable timeframe.  I am possibly the worst, slowest, most unproductive knitter in the world, but I am here on Ravelry, if any pals out there want to be my friends.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Home Sweet Home

So our real estate adventures have continued in the past week or so.  We were originally thinking we would start house-hunting in the fall, but now that we have gotten here and see the neighborhoods and see what is on the market and see what living in our rental is like, we have decided we would prefer to move sooner rather than later.  It's not even that much drastically sooner than we were originally planning, actually.  We have this rental house until the end of the year, and many of the houses we have been looking at need a good bit of work.  By the time we went through the process of finding a house, closing, having work done, then moving into it, we would be well into autumn, depending on which house and thus how much work.

Anyway, we found a house (a beautiful, beautiful house) that was so lovely that we decided to make an offer.  It was this charming late-1920s Tudor with a gorgeous kitchen and amazing bathrooms, all done with really high quality.  The house had a really beautiful, special feel, full of light and super-high coved ceilings and beautiful windows.  The neighborhood gave us a bit of pause, not because it was not nice but because it was maybe a bit TOO nice.  Seriously, there were mansions across the street, and it seemed like there weren't a ton of kids around.  It was so, so beautiful that we decided we would like to try it, though. The house was at the top of the price range we were considering and thus our offer was low-ish, and it turns out there was another interested buyer who's been hemming and hawing about the house for weeks.  He had told the selling agent to let him know if anybody else made an offer, so when we did, she did, and then this other buyer went and made another offer.  I know this is a bit of sour grapes on my part, but doesn't that seem like a jerk move?  I mean, someone else had to want the house for him to go, "No, wait, MINE!"?  It seems like what small children do with toys.  Anyway, his offer was higher than ours, so no beautiful Tudor for us.

Then, a few days later, we saw another house that seemed like a great option.  (It was not the next house we saw, of course; we've been looking at tons and tons of them.)  This house was built in 1917 and is a bungalow, sort of craftsman-y.  It also has lovely bathrooms and a great kitchen, and it has a very cozy, livable feel to it.  It has this gorgeous fireplace and a fabulously finished basement with a media room and a nice master area.  It's a bit bigger than the first house, and seems more like a family home; it's really easy to visualize ourselves there, even 5-10 years from now with another kid or two.  There's room for chickens in the backyard and lots of storage.  Not unimportantly, this house was priced much lower and even its asking price would be comfortable for us.  To top it off, the street seems like a better match for us; it's just off of 15th and 15th with fun things to walk to, and the street seems less fancy schmancy and there are more kids around.

So we love this house, we can see ourselves in this house, and we decide to make an offer. We make another low-ish offer, hoping to negotiate and get a good deal on it, but a few hours later our realtor calls us back and AGAIN there is ANOTHER BUYER who was considering making an offer and has now decided to, motivated by us wanting the house.  I mean, really? REALLY?!  As Rob said, what is this, 2005? Isn't this supposed to be a buyers' market or something?  We have decided that we personally have witnessed the turnaround in the housing market, right now, right here, in the last week or so.  You heard it here first.

The selling agent came to both of us buyers and asked us to make our final best offer and he would present both to the sellers.  I thought this is a fairly civilized way to do things; we don't lose the house because we made a first offer planning on negotiating.  We made a nice plump offer and changed our dates to what the sellers wanted and last night, at 10pm or something, the sellers got them both and decided.  And hooray, they picked us!  Supposedly, the offers were very close on price but the dates were what decided it for them.  Interesting, no?

So we will have a house, a home of our very own!  I am really excited about this house, with its big front porch and tin-ceilinged-kitchen and beautiful neighborhood.  I don't have any good pictures (the ones online are tiny) but I will try to get some up as the process moves forward.  We will close near the end of the month, and then do a bit of work (refinish the hardwood floors, paint all the woodwork, paint the walls, maybe refinish the front door), and THEN! We will move into a place of our own!  And be settled and unpack all our boxes (half of which are in the basement of our rental) and be HOME.