Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Kids: All 24 of Them

I've been missing this crowd a lot lately. Got some Christmas letters this week from a few kiddos, and it made me homesick for my travel companions. Maybe it's the time of year or maybe it's because I finally have a house and feel "permanent" (at least for a few years). I probably won't be traveling far for a while. I have a guest room now, and I want to fill it with visitors.

April 2004
Miss you and love you.


Auntie Em

Home sweet home

Day 37: We're unpacked and settled and it feels like home. I LOVE it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Safe Arrival

For Jamie:

The dust is settling

We vacated our apartment on Saturday. We've been furiously unpacking and setting up house. I've taken a ton of pictures but haven't had a chance to upload many. Instead of a pictorial play-by-play, here's a shot that sums it all up.

For the last two weeks, we've been running around preparing for this big shift. My purse became the "catch all" and the only thing I knew I would be able to find during the move. Therefore, every miscellaneous thing without a home got stuffed in. Today I finally cleaned it out. The only thing missing is Waldo.

2 checkbooks
Coffee punch cards
2 Misc to-do lists
Sketch of bedroom with moveable bed (for deciding how to set up master bedroom)
1 pen
$0.75 in quarters
3 pairs of earrings
Lavender sunscreen (it’s 28 degrees outside)
Address book
Cosmetics bag
List of utility companies to call
Results of blood work from Dr. (cholesterol and Vit D levels)
Rx receipt for mega-dose of Vit D
Laminate Flooring brochure from Lowe's
Business card of flooring specialist at Home Depot
Bobby pins
Behr paint pamphlet
16 paint color samples
2 Red Robin coupons
Passports and debit cards
Sink drain stopper from apartment (probably should have left that)
2 notebooks
10 random receipts (gas station, grocery store, WalMart, Dump, TJ Maxx)
Pack of gum (which spilled into the bottom of purse)
Health insurance card
Martha Stewart scrapbook stickers
Target coupons
HairMasters coupon
Toothbrush (from my visit to the dentist 3 weeks ago)
Sheep-shaped tape measure
Cell phone
Coupon for facial
2 rough drafts for power point presentation for work
Umbrella case (no umbrella)
2 Burt's Bees chapsticks

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Uncharted territory

Working on our new townhouse is the first project that my husband J and I have truly done together. We haven't made this many decisions in such a short period of time since we planned our wedding. The setbacks are just as aggravating and the looming deadlines are similar, but there's less emotional pressure now. We are better at bantering and reading each other's non verbal signals. It's really gratifying to work this hard and know that the payoff is going to be so big. That being said, let me share an Unexpected Source of Conflict.

Before I describe it, here are some factors to consider:

1) We are out of our comfort zone when it comes to home maintenance. J has done some construction in the past, and I've done my fair share of household upkeep with a big family and remodeling out of necessity. Updating an existing house to be the kind of home we want is a lot harder than it sounds. Thankfully, we have a lot of friends working for us and with us, showing us the ropes. But we are in over our heads.

2) We're spending more money than we ever have before. One shopping trip to the hardware store resulted in a purchase equal to the price of my first car.

3) We're choosing stuff we have to live with and look at every day: flooring, appliances, furniture, etc. It's not like we can return any of this stuff after a month if we get bored.

For the sake of anonymity, I will describe the Unexpected Source of Conflict as a multiple choice question:

What is the best way to respond to an employee in a big box hardware store who asks, "You folks need any help?"

a) "No thanks, we're good!" (knowledgeable employee saunters off, never to be heard from again).

b) "Hi! Yes! We need help!" (then look expectantly at spouse to do the rest of the talking).

c) "Yeah, what can you tell me about [insert topic-that-spouse-already-knows-all-about here]?"

d) "---------" (blank stares. Crickets in the distance).

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's been one week

In case you think we're lounging around with nothing to do, read on.

Day one of home ownership (11-9-09): Signed Chicago Title paperwork. Left with an ominous feeling, wide eyes, and cramping hand. Final payment due in 2039???

Day three: Keys delivered to work by Real Estate Agent. Hard time concentrating the rest of the day.

Day four: First act as homeowners: bought air freshener for entry way. Musty potato smell subsides. Removed child-proof latches from every door imaginable. I’m led to believe previous owners kept poisonous chemicals in every cupboard. Took down rusty metal blinds from master bathroom shower (Wha?). Purchased 1600 square feet of laminate flooring. Dismantled crummy shelving unit in spare room.

Day five: Shopped at Home Depot for light bulbs and toilet seats. Cleaned previous owners’ black crusty overflow from oven. Pulled carpet up in spare room, found horrifying stains and mold, had panic attack. Ate first meal in new home: PB and honey sandwiches. Forgot to bring a knife; spread peanut butter with screwdriver. Replaced all toilet seats. Promptly clogged toilet; declared first “off limits” zone. Cleaned until 1am. Slept like the dead.
Day six: Shopped for new appliances. Repairman-friend assured us the mold and stains we unearthed are treatable. Recruited my brothers to help pull up all carpets in living room, hallways, bedrooms. Pulled up all carpet-holding-nail-boards. Pulled up all carpet padding. Pulled up all carpet padding staples. Swept and vacuumed all surfaces. Fed brothers. Painted raw wooden floor as moisture block for new laminate floor. The two of us used one rolling brush and one handheld edger brush. Carried our shoes up and down the stairs so as not to spread primer. Primer ran out at midnight. Realized this is going to be a lot more work than we anticipated.
Day seven: This morning we packed our car with the fourth load of boxes. We'll transfer as much as we can into the new garage while the living area flooring is finished. Tonight's project will be removing trim.
Photos coming soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The moment we've all been waiting for

Guess what?

We're moving! Our loan got the final green light last week, and we are mere hours away from being homeowners. We signed the last of the mountainous paperwork on Monday, and we're waiting for our Real Estate agent to call and tell us she has our new keys. The apartment is in total disarray as we start packing all the non-essentials.

Prior to moving in, our projects at the new place include: new flooring, update some or all of the kitchen cabinets, install a security system, fix broken pipe(s), enclose water heater to comply with building codes, buy a washer/dryer and fridge (last owners took theirs) and patch crack in garage floor. We have help lined up and professionals on call, so we're hoping to get started this weekend. CRAZY! I am so excited, but bracing myself to take one step at a time, because I know it will be a process. We've given notice to our apartment managers, so we have to be completely moved out by the end of the month. Between now and then, we'll be consolidating our possessions (we've accumulated a LOT in 2.5 years of marriage), making room for boxes, and cleaning like crazy.

JAK: this picture is for you. My valuables are being given special attention. Rest assured that the new household will be complete since I'm bringing my decorative banana.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Emily's First Comic Convention

I married a comic book nerd. Not the sweatpants-wearing, mouth-breathing kind. My husband is the entrepreneurial, sentimental, historical-context kind of nerd. He owned a comic book store for several years, his collections are based on good memories as a kid, and he knows a lot about the social significance of each era of comic books as literature.

I'm comfortable with that. My Dad grew up watching sci-fi B movies in the 60's and passed on an appreciation for battles between good and evil and not-so-special effects. With three younger brothers, I grew up playing with action figures (though my GI Joe's ran hospitals), watching Star Wars, and reading the occasional comic book. I have no problem with my husband's shelves of graphic novels and superhero memorabilia. We respect each others hobbies (I don't mess with his action figure collections, and he steers clear of my scrap booking supplies).

But yesterday I ventured further into Geekdom than I've ever been. I attended my very first ComiCon.

I tried to look nonchalant as I flipped through enormous boxes of comic books, but for the first half of our visit, I did not leave Hubbins' side. I heard old-timers lament, "Kids these days, and their acid free papers! They just don't read anymore!" I considered buying a T shirt or a clever fictional logo patch, but I couldn't think of a single place I could display such a thing. As I gained some confidence and made the rounds independently, I found several artists on site, sampling their wares. I looked through a few portfolios. I realized the artists (mainly goofy, middle-aged men) were watching me for a reaction as I looked at their renditions of various superheros. Every female body was sketched to it's proportional extreme, and made Barbie look average. I kept walking.

Some vendors wanted to engage me in a meaningful conversation. It felt a little like walking in the mall past the cell phone salesmen in kiosks. Don't give them an inch or they'll take a mile. I whispered to J, "You're going to have to teach me how to avoid conversation. I can't escape!" He said, "Quit making eye contact and don't smile so much. You won't hurt their feelings, these guys are used to it."

It was a very good cross-cultural experience for me. I bought my first comic book, conversed comfortably with J's former comic store coworkers, and avoided the extreme cases of full frontal nerdity (a guy dressed like a member of Insane Clown Posse? Really?).

Here's the comic book I bought, circa 1958.
See? Something for everyone!

I also bought a collection of postcards by artist Alex Ross. I figured the combination of fine art, stationary, and superheros was right up my alley.

Someday, I'll feel as natural as these guys, from our new favorite show, Big Bang Theory.

Check out the other great photos and plot synopsis.

And for the record? My husband doesn't even own a pair of sweatpants.

Friday, October 23, 2009

First time home buyers

That's us, the Property Virgins. (Have you seen that show?) We're hoping to be in a place of our own within the next month. Our offer was accepted in the beginning of September, but the holdup is whether or not we're approved for a USDA loan. I told a co-worker this recently and he asked, "What? The US dairy association is deciding the purchase of your first home?"

No, the US Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program is offering better loans for houses bought outside city limits. But I don't know much more than that. The best link I could find is here, but even looking at the introduction gives me a headache.

Husband says our file is on a desk somewhere in the state capital, waiting for a stamp of approval. I honestly don't know if this is an exaggeration or not. Is that really the only holdup? A rubber stamp? The first time home buyers' federal tax credit currently applies only to sales closed by Dec 1, 2009 (unless that is extended). Time marches on.

So. More waiting. It's really hard to have something so big be totally up in the air. It's like waiting 3 months for the love of your life to accept or decline a marriage proposal. Ack! Everything hinges on this! It's the first day of the rest of my life and I don't know how to prepare. Do I start choosing paint colors and shopping for furniture? Or do I re-organize my closet for the hundredth time to maximize space in our apartment?

I must admit I've been mentally moving in, even though our real estate agent advised against it. The townhouse we're hoping for is a vague ideal at this point, but I've got it all planned out.

Keep your fingers crossed for us, and watch your mail box for a housewarming party invitation, okay?