Friday, August 29, 2008

Please forward all correspondence to....

....our new house!

I just found out this morning (as I was standing at the vet with Emily strapped to my chest and 2 wet dogs peeing on the floor as they got their Lyme disease shots) that the sellers accepted our offer without changes! So as long as our land deal goes to settlement on September 15th as scheduled, and as long as nothing horrible turns up at the home inspection next week, and as long as a million other things fall into place, we just bought ourselves a house!

We've already had some major drama happening, but that's what keeps life interesting, right? Let me start at the beginning.

5 years ago, when Will and I were bright-eyed newlyweds, we went to the realtor who had sold my parents' house years before (let's call her Crazy Old Realtor), and told her we were looking for some land to sit on for a couple years and then build a house on. Long story short, we were NOT happy with how we were treated by Crazy Old Realtor, but she was the only person we had had experience with before.

Fast forward 5 years, and our priorities have changed. Rather than wait until we could build our perfect house on the perfect land, we were more interested in finally owning our own house; the place where we would end up raising our already begun family. So I contacted a family friend who recently became a realtor (hereafter referred to as Family Friend Realtor) just to get some info. Well, in hindsight you can see, right there was my mistake. You should never mix friends and business, and things only became more difficult when I found out that he works for the agency owned by Crazy Old realtor :-( We decided to give Family Friend Realtor a chance anyway, more out of guilt than anything else. We were working with him, not the agency anyway right?

I can't really complain. He has been less than perfect about some things, but our land is all but sold right now, so I can't say he didn't do his job. However we knew we wanted to go with someone else when we went to build our new house at Linton. Someone who had been through the new construction process before and who was an exclusive buyers agent so we wouldn't get pushed to the back burner in favor of people listing their homes, holding open houses etc.

We have been blissfully happy with our new buyers agent (New Buyers Agent), and we planned to tell Family Friend Realtor that we would not be requiring his services in finding a new home once our land had closed and the topic was broached. It seemed unnecessarily antagonistic to just come out and say "Oh by the way, we have another agent. I know you didn't ask or anything, but we wanted to go ahead and hurt your feelings so there it is."

Everything was fine, that is until yesterday when New Buyers Agent needed a copy of the contract on the land we're selling. I thought I had a copy of it...I SHOULD have had a copy of it, but like so many other things at Crazy Old Realtor's agency, it seemed to have slipped through the cracks. I tried to get it, but Family Friend Realtor was out of the office all day and most of the next morning. I thought there'd be a copy of it in the office...there SHOULD have been a copy of it in the office, but, well, you get the picture. Their secretary treated me as a burden, and it ended up that New Buyers Agent had to call Family Friend Realtor for some info and that's how he found out about the existence of New Buyers Agent.

So he's being less than helpful, and I also got a hurt and angry email from him yesterday (i.e. day from hell) which I had to take a valuable 30 min. to sit down and answer. Thank God his commission depends on our land deal going through, so even though he's angry our best interests are aligned and we have someone to watch out for us on the other side. Closing will be fun though. You never expect real estate transactions to be easy, but somehow I still always manage to be surprised how not-easy they turn out to be.

But all that aside, we are quite pleased with how things have gone. Nothing like happening upon a house that's the best you've seen and has desperate sellers to boot. Now I just have to get my mom used to the idea that her granddaughter will now be living 26 minutes away instead of 19. You'd think we were moving to Iceland.

And rest assured in the midst of all this strife and as much as I complain, Will and I are still very excited and happy that next month we will be moving to Reykjavik...oops, I mean Frederick.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Be it ever so humble...

With an official date and time scheduled for the closing on our land, Will and I still keep our fingers crossed, but we're cautiously optimistic. We're at least a step further towards selling it than we were last time. It also allows us to make a more desirable offer on a house, as we are now "contingent on closing" vs. "contingent on sale". Come September 15th, with any luck it'll all be taken care of!

We originally thought after closing we'd run straight to Linton and get started designing and building our new house, but it's become a more difficult decision than we had anticipated (doesn't it always). We've been working with our buyer's agent, and while we wait for closing we've been checking out other houses in the area. For the most part, the other neighborhoods were built in the early 90's, and many of the houses show it! I walked into a surprising number of houses that had grey, mauve and aqua brushstroke wallpaper, white tile everywhere, pink countertops, and pickled-looking maple cabinets. Blech. The 90's were not a good decade in terms of home decor. No wonder it's the decade that gave birth to the grunge era...the teenagers were sick of living in their parents stark white and tacky houses.

But I digress. Many of the houses were nice, but we would've had to've gotten different flooring, countertops, cabinets, paint etc. before I could've stood living there.

Then we happened upon THE HOUSE. The one that gave me THE FEELING. You know, the one where you utter a wide-eyed "Wow" and start to feel giddy? It was built in '93, but the owners have updated the countertops, appliances, light fixtures, paint colors, pretty much everything so that it feels very contemporary. It has a very nice backyard surrounded by leyland cypress so it feels very private. It is on a corner, so it has a larger than usual side yard, and no neighbors looking in your window on one side. There's a huge beautiful screened-in porch off the breakfast area, a fully finished basement, a really nice master bathroom, a traditional floorplan with enough interesting angles to modernize it a bit, the people even had an upstairs rubber ducky bathroom so I wouldn't have to paint to use all of my rubber ducky themed bathroom items :-)

It has its problems too, of course. No exit from the basement whatsoever, so the super-convenient dog containment system we enjoy now (i.e. putting them in the basement with a doggie door to the outside) is not an option. There's not much storage space to speak of since the basement is finished, but the closets and such are bigger so that may not end up being a problem. The laundry room/mudroom is tiny, although we can probably do a stackable washer and dryer to make that a little better. And it's certainly not as glitzy as a brand new home in a brand new community, but it's also not as expensive.

So now we're in the extremely difficult phase of deciding what will bother us and what won't. If we build at Linton, will it really bother me in the future to have 1/10 acre vs. the 1/4 acre we'd get with the other house? What about the construction noise for the next 5 years as they finish building the community? Will they actually end up building the community pool before my kids are too old to enjoy it? If we buy the other house, will it be a huge pain in the butt to handle the dogs without a basement exit, or will we end up figuring out something that works just as well? Will I drive by Linton and sigh, regretting the fact that we didn't opt for the bigger, newer, fancier house?

There are pluses and minuses to both. Both are perfectly acceptable options. What it really comes down to is this: is the extra glitz worth the extra cost? My gut says no.

So we'll probably end up putting in an offer on THE HOUSE. Their real estate agent is a blabbermouth, and has basically told us they're desperate to sell, since they have already closed on their new house and will shortly be paying 2 mortgages. He also told us the previous contract (which fell through because the buyers couldn't sell their house) was for $20,000 less than asking price, so I think we could get a great deal on THE HOUSE.

This means we could be putting in an offer quite soon, and closing on a house by mid-September! I'm still in shock over that, since I've always thought we'd build so I'd have 6 months or so to prepare. The prospect of being finished in a month with all this real estate mess is compelling though, because it really does take over your life.

It's definitely time. We've been married 5 years, we have a family now, I want to own my own house and be in the place we plan to raise our kids. THE HOUSE seems as close to perfect as we're going to find, and although it has surprised me how difficult the decision has been (you always seem to prefer what you've seen most recently), I think it's the right one for us. Besides, if we decide we made a huge mistake, property values will most likely go up in the next couple of years and we could always sell and build a house in Linton then.

So here we go! On to the next great adventure of home ownership.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Maine-ly terrible

I'll just be honest, and say that our trip to Maine was not the best.  This was mostly because Emily was sick pretty much the whole time.  Not sick enough that we really realized she was sick, but sick enough that she was miserable, and therefore so were we. 

She had a runny nose when we set out, which we thought was due to teething issues since she was also irritable and drool-y.  On the first day of driving, she threw up all over herself in the car, and we had to pull over on the side of I-84 and scrape the barf off her and her carseat.  We chalked it up to carsickness, as she had done the same thing after eating in the car on the trip back from Ocean City.  We turned her carseat around in the hopes that riding facing forward would bother her tummy less (something I wasn't happy about but I saw it as the only option).  Our plan to drive until midnight the first day and then just carry her into the hotel while she remained dead asleep didn't pan out, as she woke up refreshed from her 4 hours of sleep in the car and ready to party.  Ugh, that night was tough.

The next couple days she was really clingy and her nose continued it's interminable flow, but Tylenol seemed to help so we again figured she was just teething.  Then on Wednesday she got a fever and threw up 3 times, once while we were in a bakery, once right after I had gotten her home, changed, bathed, and was giving her a little food again as a test, and once again in that damned carseat.  If you need to know how to take every single piece (including the straps and buckles) of a Britax carseat off, wash it, and put it back on, I have extensive experience.

So the barfing and fever made us finally realize that all the irritability, clingyness, unwillingness to EVER sit quietly and entertain herself etc. was because she was genuinely sick.  Of course we felt terrible :-(  And not just from the horrible lack of sleep.  Since we had to sleep in a squeaky bed in the same room as Emily (who herself is a very loud sleeper), no one got much rest.  Every time one of us rolled over, it would cause Emily to stir and it's difficult to fall back asleep when you're tensely listening to see if your baby is going to wake up.  You start to feel like you really need to roll over, go to the bathroom, do all sorts of loud things.  Emily also likes to shout in her sleep occasionally, I don't think I need to explain why that is disruptive to a good night's sleep.  Come 6:10AM every morning, Emily was awake and crying, except for Wednesday when she decided luxuriating in bed until the hour of 6 was pure decadence, and decided 5:30 was a much more reasonable time to get up.  Trying to wrangle a baby in a house full of sleeping people sucks, since even a happy baby is pretty loud, so I spent my mornings stumbling around Bar Harbor in the morning mist, wasting time until everyone else in the house woke up.  I admit that I did kind of enjoy walking around before it got busy during the day, and Emily and I had some fun throwing pennies in various town fountains, however there wasn't much else to do, as most places didn't open until 8 or later.  I did find some nice coffee shops, but I certainly couldn't find any healthy food at that hour to keep me going on my 1.5-2.5 hour daily trudge so my diet did suffer.  This also made me a bit sick of walking around Bar Harbor, so I didn't do it as much later when the stores were open.  I wish I'd gotten to do a bit more real shopping and less early morning window shopping, but I wish a lot of things about the trip.

Waking up at an ungodly-early hour ensured that we would be freakin' exhausted unless we went to bed at 9:30 when Emily turned in, so that meant we missed out on watching the Olympics with my family, staying up playing board games and drinking wine, going out to the bars etc.  Many of the things that make a vacation with the family fun.  Emily also flat-out refused to wear a helmet, and Will flat-out refused to allow her to ride in a baby seat or a trailer without one, so the bikes we paid to rent all week were used a grand total of twice by us, and the rest of the week my sisters and their boyfriends had fun riding them around.

Emily did allow us 2 nice days, one where we went hiking all day and had tea and popovers at Jordon Pond, and the following day when she hung out with Grammy and Grampy while Will and I dangled off a rock cliff hundreds of feet in the air.  We accidentally hiked a trail rated "Strenuous", much to Will's delight and my terror.  The only way I made it up was because I had heard that there was an alternative way down.  Yikes.  It was an experience though, and a fun day without the kiddo who had made the rest of the week so stressful.  That night I sneaked out, leaving Emily with Will and my sister's boyfriend Christian and went to see Mama Mia at this awesome theater where you can order gourmet pizza and wine (along with other more traditional movie fare) and eat it while watching the movie.  I realized I like quite a few of ABBA's songs, and I really liked the movie, especially the part where I got to drink wine while watching it.

I am glad we went, but I will certainly never be doing anything like this again anytime soon.  I'll stick to places that are closer by and more kid-friendly.  And I know it seems I am blaming Emily for everything, but I truly do feel sorry for her and I know it wasn't her fault.  

I spent a lot of the vacation feeling a little depressed about the responsibilities of parenthood.  It was hard not to, when I was experiencing the hardest part of being a parent of a young child (dealing with a sick kid) while in the other room my sisters and their boyfriends snoozed until 10 then got up to go shopping/biking/out for lunch.  I will admit I felt some jealousy, but then I realized that Will and I had those times too, and very recently (although it doesn't feel that way).  The evil side of me realized that on future vacations I will have fairly self-sufficient pre-teens when my sisters are struggling to eek out 8 hours of sleep and endlessly wiping runny noses and changing barfy clothing.  And as dorky as it sounds, a song from Mama Mia really hit me at the right time.   The song "Slipping Through my Fingers", which is about how kids grow up fast no matter how hard we try to remember each moment, set me bawling and reminded me that even though I was exhausted from holding and entertaining and shushing a sick Emily pretty much every waking minute of my vacation, there will come a time when I can't hold her anymore and she just retreats to her room and doesn't want me to comfort her when she's sick.

So from then on I tried to just enjoy being with her, and kept crying every time I thought of that song :-P  It's mostly because I was hormonal, but I certainly wasn't the only one crying, even though Krista claims that no tears escaped the confines of her eyes, and Kathleen blames her tears on an accidental elbow to the eye from her boyfriend Dylan which necessitated an eye rub with a hand that turned out to have jalapeno residue on it.

So we're back, we survived, and pictures will be up here in a day or so when I get around to uploading them.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Post Fragment

Since Emmy is snoozing, clothes and dishes are washing and "Pizzazy Pizza Muffins" are baking, I figured I'd sit down and blog for a bit instead of doing anything else productive.  That doesn't change the fact that I really should be packing, vacuuming, making calls etc., but yeesh, how much can a person do at once?

The next big event on the calendar is our trip to Maine this Friday.  I thought up until yesterday that we were leaving Thursday evening, but it turns out we're leaving Friday evening and that discovery of an extra day to prepare has made me feel like I have all sorts of time to get ready.  I am looking forward to the trip (as Will'll tell you (that's an awkward contraction (sorry to use parentheses inside other parentheses))) but of course there's still all the prep work to do.  Do you remember trips as a kid?  You were so excited you couldn't sleep for weeks beforehand, you'd start packing random things days ahead of time, and then the day of departure would arrive and all of a sudden your suitcase was magically packed with everything you'd need (even though you yourself had only packed a teddy bear and your favorite shirt), there were snacks handed out while you were traveling and sometimes new toys to keep you entertained for the long flight/drive.  You'd arrive and have so much energy leftover that you immediately wanted to do everything.

Well now I'm the one who has to magically get the suitcase packed, prepare and pack the snacks, buy and remember to bring the new toys and do all the other not-so-fun stuff that makes me less excited about trips these days than I used to be.  I still enjoy them, especially once we're there, but I am kind of sad that I will probably never have another trip that happens the way they used to.  

On the other hand, I kind of prefer it this way, because now I can make sure I have exactly the snacks and clothes I want, and I like exhaustively researching my destination and planning all sorts of activities ahead of time.

Sorry this post is about to end abruptly, but I never got around to finishing it, but I figured I might as well post what there is of it.