Friday, December 29, 2006

Picture of our new house

It's Really Happening

I'm feeling a little lightheaded right now. We close on our new house on the 19th of January!

Chester is signing the counter offer acceptance papers today. There was a little bit of a scuffle since the stove that's currently on the premises doesn't work, and we wanted the sellers to buy a new one before closing. The seller was hesitant, but his realtor convinced him to take the offer.

So now we're promised that house! It's so exciting. We drive past it four times a day (to and from daycare), and we keep yelling at the house to take down that darn For Sale sign. It's our house now, and nobody else is allowed to even dream about it.

I had the sad task of writing a letter to our landlady to tell her we'll be out by the end of January. For some reason when we moved into the lower unit, she just put us on a month-by-month lease, so we really don't have a big hurdle to jump over to get out of the house. It just kind of sucks for her that we don't have to give her much notice. I'd much rather be as generous as possible since she's been so nice and supportive of us, but it's just not meant to be. Apparently, people in this area don't believe in long escrows if it's not necessary.

So off we go! It certainly is a wild ride. The house is beautiful and wonderful.

The only drawback is that I'll be sleeping on a different floor from Ben, and I won't be able to check in on him as often during the night. That'll be an adjustment, but I'll have to get used to it. Maybe we'll get one of those video monitors.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Lethargic Ben, but a new day dawns

Chester and I decided that we will never again keep Ben up past his bedtime just for the sake of a holiday. Last night, as Ben was still recovering from Christmas Eve's late hours, we had a little freakout over the health of our baby.

Ben was listless, whiny, perpetually cold, and lethargic. He didn't have dinner; he just sat and cuddled or slept with us and then in his crib. He wasn't running a temperature, but his skin was always cold to the touch. And he smelled strongly of maple syrup. We had to wake him up to take a couple of bottles. Poor widdle guy.

By the way... Ben doesn't have Maple Syrup Urine Disease, although it crossed our mind. Sometimes I smell like maple syrup when I sweat, but the most likely culprit was being around a Finnish pancake breakfast yesterday morning. He probably got some in his hair.

Today, since there's no daycare, my mother (Nana) came down to babysit. I'm glad because it gives Ben some more transition time. And tomorrow, since I don't work, he'll be home with me again.

When we went home for lunch, Ben was so excited to see us. So happy. And he's walking even more! He actually walked from the ottoman to the couch (about five feet) without falling. It was very thrilling. I cried a little. My little boy is growing up so fast.

We've run out of boxes already, so I'm slowly gathering more from around the building all day. It's amazing how many little niches of stuff I can find in our apartment that can be packed. I'm running out, though. Most of the rest is essentials that we'll still need to use. Chester was startled yesterday morning. He went into Ben's closet for something, and he was shocked that it was empty already. I've been a busy lady. What can I say.

We should find out if our offer was accepted today or tomorrow. Pins and needles and all that.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Baby It's Snowy Outside, One Small Leap

Chester was busy digging us out of the remnants of yesterday's snowstorm this morning. About six inches of solid, wet snow. Practically slush. It was almost impossible to use the snowblower. The thrower tube kept clogging.

Yesterday, we put an offer in on the Climbing Tree house. They have until Wednesday to accept or reject the offer. Of course I hope they accept. It's for five thousand under the listing price, appliances included.

After that business, we dropped Ben back off at daycare and went on a little date. Can you believe we had never been to a movie together before? We saw The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith. It was a very nice movie. It made me cry. Both with pity and joy at different times.

It reminded us about how lucky we are. We have a roof over our heads. Warm beds. Plenty of food. Secure jobs. And each other. Our life is so easy, so blessed. Though most times we're living paycheck to paycheck, and we don't have any savings in the bank, we don't have to worry about having a place to sleep or food to eat.

And not only that, we're in pursuit of our own happiness by buying a house. It's all coming together. We took a huge leap and got married, even though we didn't really know that much about each other. It was pure instinct. Our hearts said "Yes, this is the one for you." And we trusted that. Then, even though it took Chester five months to get a job after he moved here, we still started planning a family right away. I was already pregnant before he finally found a job.

Now, we're leaping again. We're buying a house together.

I can't help but privately think about what my life would be like if I had remained with my ex-fiance Scott. He was an actor, brilliantly intelligent, but emotionally troubled and insecure. Definitely not financially solvent. Didn't have a car. But he was the only one I had met who could match me at Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit. He kept putting off moving up here from Milwaukee and getting married.

Thank God he did. The weekend before he was to make the plunge and move in with me, he left a message on my voice mail while I was at the gym. He had just talked to me before I left for the gym. I was blindsided. He said that I was a wonderful person, but it didn't feel right.

I started all my leaps after that. I screamed and hollered for a few hours, but it didn't last long. I moved into a new apartment the week after. And I started going online to personals sites. Including Eharmony. I had a few dates with some local guys. A few months after the voicemail, I finished the eharmony communication levels with a guy from Tucson. And we talked on the phone for the first time on a Saturday morning.

I had gone into work to play online. I gave him my phone number at work, and he called me. That first phone call was magical. We started finishing each other's sentences. It was such an easy conversation, even though we talked about some difficult issues. Right away, we dug all the skeletons out of our closets. We dragged out all of our baggage and laid it all out. We went into the relationship with open eyes.

Within a few days, we knew we would go ahead and get married. I did a background check on him (I'm not a complete idiot or romantic). A few weeks later I flew down to Phoenix to spend the weekend with him.

Leap. I was so nervous walking down the terminal to where he was waiting past the security gates. I was on my cell phone, and he was coaxing me further. It took about half an hour. I kept stopping to sit down and cry and freak out a little. Eventually, we stood face to face. The rest is history. Our history together. A history of leaps and risks and courage and blind faith. And a whole bunch of foolish sentimentality.

It's worked for us. We have Ben. We still get along. We still feel like we're honeymooning.

And we're buying a house!!!!! Yay!!

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Making An Offer" Happy Dance

I've been so busy at work this week. Today we're only working with 30% staff, so nothing will really get done anyway, so I can take some time to blog.

Wednesday afternoon we got the call that we had been pre-approved for our mortgage. Right away, we made an appointment for this afternoon to see the Climbing Tree house again, and we told Realtor Dennis to bring the paperwork to make an offer. We are so very excited about this. When our offer is accepted, I'll post a picture of the house.

This weekend we'll be packing. If everything goes smoothly, like the offer gets accepted right away and all the extra financing chores we have to do happen quickly, we could close in thirty days. Yesterday we brought home thirty boxes from work. I actually like packing, so I'm looking forward to this weekend.

Ahhhhhhhh! A house! We're buying a house! And it's a great one. I've been doing little happy dances for the past few days.

Ugh. Work beckons. Hopefully I'll be able to blog more this weekend, but who knows.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No baby in the belly

No baby in my belly. The spotting yesterday turned into a regular period. :(

Oh well. We'll try more next time. ;)

Life is busy. Behind schedule at work, so I haven't had any time to blog. I miss you guys.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Baby? Are You In There?

I was spotting very lightly this morning. With Ben, I did that a couple days before I was expecting my period, and it was implantation bleeding. Either I'll start my period today, or I'll be pretty sure I'm pregnant by tomorrow morning.

Very slight cramps, but it feels like round ligament stuff. I'm peeing a little every time I sneeze, which is so annoying because I have a cold. So when I feel a sneeze coming on, I squeeze my kegel muscles so tight, when the sneeze comes, then I get all crampy. Darn.

Last night I dreamed I took a pregnancy test three times and it was always positive. So this morning, I took one. Negative. I haven't given up hope yet, of course. I'm not officially "late" until Thursday, so I can't reasonably expect any tests to work yet.

I've been talking to Ben a lot about having a baby brother or sister. I think he'll do okay with it. He's so young. He won't even be two when the baby is born. He loves the babies at day care.

Chester and I decided that once our mortgage pre-approval happens, we'll make an offer on the Climbing Tree house. I think we'd both be heartbroken if it was sold before we had a chance at it. It's a buyer's market, and this house has only been on the market two months... but it's the best one in that price bracket. If it appeals to us so much, of course it'll appeal to other people as well.

We haven't been able to submit the rest of our documents to the underwriters yet because we're waiting for Chester's W2 from Arizona. It takes about five business days for mail from Tucson to reach Wausau. Who knows how long it'll be for the underwriters, especially considering they'll have to work with a credit restoration company to figure out the MBNA "cancelled account" of Chester's. And the holidays will probably slow things up as well.

This waiting game kind of sucks. I'm not fond of insecurity. And I love and need to plan. Right now I can plan, but not realistically. For instance, I spent about two hours on planning out what colors I'll paint each room in the new house. If Chester knew, he'd definitely roll his eyes. I'm also mapping out in my head what stuff we can pack now and what has to wait until the last minute.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

One Stood Above The Rest

Chester and I just got back from our first excursion into the house-buying experience. Dennis, our realtor, is a real go-getter. Hugely successful, he owns a dozen properties in the area that he rents. He's also a "flipper."

He's nice though. He knows our budget, and that we're just looking for a modest house. He reassures us that we'll find the right house in our price range.

So we saw four houses today. Well, actually five, but the fifth was out of our price range. Back Yard house ended up sucking really hard. To be livable and up to code, it would have to be gutted. It's big, but it would take about 50K to make it work. I was sad, but I kind of expected it.

I know I was really excited about it yesterday, but last night and during my nap this morning, I kept having nightmares about it. Kind of like God was gently telling me that it wasn't the one. Even if the yard is amazing.

The Awesome Garage house had some foundation problems, and the left side of the house leaned too much. So that's a no. With our FHA loan, the house needs to pass inspection with only minor problems.

Ugly Blue house was adorable inside. Like a little cottage.. But it was made for people around the five foot range, and we're a few inches too tall. We had to duck to get up the stairs. Chester hit his head, and now he's very resentful of the property.

Climbing Tree house is the winner of the day. Ironically, it's the first house we were really interested in to begin with. There's actually three bedrooms, not two. The third upstairs bedroom is "nursery" sized, but that's just fine. It's the extra room that I wanted.

The kitchen is pretty big, and the front windows on the house are beautiful with multi-panes. The basement is nicely clean and dry. Plenty of room for Chester's project areas. And the kicker? There's a toilet tucked into the corner, just like my mom said we should have.

"Cheryl, you need to have a second toilet, even if it's just in the middle of the basement floor. Believe me. You'll need it."

Chester said he'll want to actually finish it off a bit and add a sink and maybe some walls, and make it a powder room.

The backyard is nice. Very big. Gorgeous climbing tree, though we'll have to fence off the yard next summer. There's even a clothes line in the back.

Dennis, the realtor guy, doesn't think the FHA inspector will find much wrong with the house. The only things he could see was that they'd have to install a railing going up to the upstairs and down to the basement. And the window sills in the garage, as well has the bottom half of the garage itself, would have to be scraped of the peeling paint and we'd have to repaint it in the spring.

We have some time before our pre-approval for the mortgage is done. And Dennis is going to put together another list of houses for us to see after Christmas. So far, Climbing Tree is the winner. It's near the top of our price range, but it's definitely worth every penny. Come on, people, hardwood floors throughout the first floor. It's made for Cheryl!

There aren't a whole lot of nice houses in our price range. Most of them look like bank foreclosures that need a lot of love. We're fine with putting in some work to the house, but it needs to be livable right away, and any money we'd have to put into it would still have to stay within our overall budget and included in the mortgage.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A "Practical" House Hunt?

We got the list of properties we'll be looking at tomorrow from our realtor. Five, but we already knocked one off of the list because it was in the slums and without a garage, so Four. During lunch today, we picked up MickyDs and drove past the other addresses.

I absolutely fell in love with one, and it's not the one with the climbing tree.

It doesn't look like much from the front, but from the alley... The Back Yard! It's broken up into two parts. One area is obviously for children. There's some lawn and a swing set, and it's right off the back deck. The other section is behind the two-car garage, and it looks like it's a garden in the summer time. Both sections are completely fenced off, and the fences facing the alley are covered with mature grape vines.

I really wanted a fenced-in back yard so I don't have to freak out as much about leaving the kids unattended while I run in to pee, and having a separate garden area is fantastic. Another dream of mine.

I looked at that yard and I could already see my growing family playing and working. Ben and his little sib were climbing all over the swing set, and Chester was hauling lumber into the garage. I was puttering in my garden.

Okay. I haven't seen the inside of the house yet. But it's the biggest house on our list, and because of its age (106) and its location (not terrific, not horrible), it's about 8 thousand less than the climbing tree house that has half the number of bedrooms.

It felt really "good." My mom reminded me this morning that I'm a sensitive creature. She related the oft-told story of when I was a toddler. She had to run into a bar where my dad was tossing back a few after work to ask him something. She took me in with her. It wasn't rowdy or crowded or smoky, but it didn't feel "good" to me, and I started screaming my head off. All that bad energy. (No offense, Dana. I know all bars aren't bad).

The downside to this house, besides being on a busy, one-way street, is its age. We'll have to see how recently the plumbing, furnace and electric were updated. I'm hoping I have favor with God and everything is in good working order. Another downside about its location isn't really a downside, but a thing we'll have to live with. It's one house away from our big Athletic Park here in town. That means that it's going to be really busy and loud in the neighborhood when games are being played. But right now, we live about three blocks from our fairgrounds/park area, and we have to live with that chaos when the fair comes to town. We also live four houses down from the train tracks, and that's something to get used to as well. In my mind's eye, though, I think I might actually enjoy the sound of the cheering in the evenings. And I can always take the kids over there for hotdogs.

One of the other houses on our list for tomorrow isn't awful, but it's no Back Yard house (4BR). We call it the Awesome Garage house (3BR). It has newer siding and a newer roof, not much yard, not fenced in. It's almost on the corner of an even busier one-way street, though, and it's right behind a night club. That alone would knock it off my list. I don't think I could ever be comfortable in a place where less then a hundred feet away, people are getting trashed and hyper and then driving home in the middle of the night and early morning. But Chester wants to see it, so we'll go. Maybe the inside will steal my heart.

The other two houses on the list are the Climbing Tree house (2BR) and the Ugly Blue house (2BR).

I'm still hung up on the Back Yard house. It's big enough that we won't have to move out of it in five years as our kids get older. Can you tell I'm infatuated?

Chester says I'm focusing on the emotional side of home-buying, and he's focusing on the practical side of house-buying. I'm okay with that, somebody has to pay attention to the details and resale value, but I hope he develops an emotional bond to whatever house we buy as well.

I've rented five apartments since I graduated high school. Each one, circumstances drew me to it, and it was the only one I saw. For two of them, I didn't even see the inside before I signed the lease. It's called Renting by Intuition, and it didn't serve me badly. I've loved all of my apartments in different ways, for different reasons. I made each one into a "home" and not just a college student's crash pad.

This analytical, practical, logical, necessary attitude towards a mortgage and buying a house kind of puts a damper on my psychic eye.

Another Day, Another Meme

Things You May Not Know About Me:
  1. I'm absolutely amazing at Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit. Seriously. I don't even bother playing with people anymore. The only way it was fair was to be me against three or four people. And even then, people were annoyed. Yes, I have a big head about this, but it's only because it's been proven to me time and time again.
  2. I have three tattoos that I wouldn't mind having removed. They were great ideas at the time, but I'm kind of over it now.
  3. I have over forty scars on my left arm from when I was a cutter in high school. Don't worry, I'm way past that... but the scars, though faded, still remain. I don't know how I'll explain them to my children when they're old enough to wonder.
  4. I peel the dry skin off of my lips while I'm sleeping. My lips are usually red and sometimes bloody when I wake up. I've tried lots of different things, but it's a nervous habit that won't seem to go away. No, it's not attractive.
Things I want to do before I die (in random order):
  1. See my grandchildren get married.
  2. Read the list of "interesting books" I compiled earlier this year. It's huge.
  3. Spend a month in the countryside of rural England.
  4. Go on a cruise.
  5. Learn how to knit and sew well.
Things I cannot do:
  1. Whistle.
  2. Play Chess.
  3. Play Pinochle.
  4. Booty Dance.
  5. Watch professional wrestling.
Things I can do:
  1. Count to ten in Finnish.
  2. Make an awesome Finnish pancake.
  3. Write.
  4. Design fabulous documents.
  5. Give birth to a baby.
Things I love about my Husband:
  1. His tender heart.
  2. His capability to nurture.
  3. His patience with my eccentricities and anal-retentiveness.
  4. His devotion to our son.
Things I say most often:
  1. Have a good time.
  2. Bite it.
  3. On purpose?
  4. I love you, Ben.
Movies I love:
  1. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
  2. Bringing Up Baby
  3. Paris When It Sizzles
  4. Desk Set

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ho, Ho, Home & Maybe Baby

Just because I was on vacation yesterday doesn't mean that my work stopped piling up at work. I'm missing a deadline today, but it's just a matter of how badly I'm missing it. Since I've been busting my butt all day, I'm only about four pages short. Go Cheryl!

I brought Ben into work yesterday afternoon per request. Kind of felt bad. I was in my jeans, and everybody else had to be business casual since the corporate people were visiting. Oh well. People were staring at my son, not my pants. Ben was appropriately cheerful and happy. Very curious about everybody. We stayed here for about thirty minutes, dividing the time between Editorial where I live and Systems where Chester lives.

We start looking at houses on Saturday, but I still don't know what our realtor is going to show us. I emailed him this morning, but he hasn't gotten back to me. I'll give him a call in an hour if he hasn't responded. I'm very curious to see what he has in mind, considering he hasn't asked us any questions about what we're looking for. I'm hoping he's just working on intuition from the list of addresses and specs we gave him of houses we were interested in, but I have a feeling he's just a jerk who wants us to buy a house because it's best for him and his sellers rather than best for us as first-time home buyers.

We made a reservation at a hotel in Minocqua for Christmas Eve. My parents' house is already full for that night. And we didn't feel like camping out in sleeping bags in the basement.

I was too nauseated to eat lunch today. It could have been the sight of Chester's split pea soup that he insists on making with milk instead of water like a normal person, or it could have been the copious amounts of taco dip I consumed this morning since my boss's boss brought in yummy food treats. Of course I could just be pregnant. My left breast is a little sore and tingly today, so it has me wondering.

I could just be obsessing, though, and making up pregnancy symptoms. We had intended to "try" every night during my Fertyl Mertyl week, but by the third night, I was kind of burnt out about not getting to sleep earlier. We'll have to see if it was enough.

Tomorrow I pick up our Christmas cards from the copy place. I hope they don't suck. I hope they're wonderful. Now I just have to find the darn address list from last year and then ask my in-laws which ones moved.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Vacation, Woo-Hooo

I'm off for a day and a half of glorious nothingness. Today I shall celebrate a friend's birthday. Tomorrow I shall nap, and then bring over my Christmas card to the copy place and get that started. I may or may not take a blogging break. We'll have to see how stir crazy I get.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Concussion, Mortgage March, Ben's Stuffy Head

For the record, I'm bummed that I can't access today. It says I'm forbidden. The nerve!

Chester gave himself a concussion this morning. He took a shower by the early morning light, and when he exited the tub, he bent over (in the relative darkness) to open up the cabinet. He smashed his forehead. Hard. He's been kind of swimmy, dizzy and nauseated all day.

The Mortgage March keeps going forward. This afternoon we sign for the personal loan to settle my debt (since Chester's was apparently forgiven). So three weeks from now, I should have a pretty little paper in my hand that says my debt was satisfied in full.

We finally made contact with our realtor (Dennis) today. Chester thinks he might be kind of pushy. I said he sounded enthusiastic. This is just because he's already started looking for houses for us. He has a couple he wants us to see this weekend. Unfortunately, he's still going with the 70-75 price range that the mortgage lady gave him. Chester and I have only been looking up to 70.

We drove past the house on 1st Ave that we love this morning on the way to daycare, and I accidentally said, "Oh look. The bus stop is right in front of our house. How convenient." What can I say? That place has the best climbing tree I've ever seen in the backyard. I almost don't care what the inside looks like. That climbing tree has won my heart.

Ben's not feeling all that great, although he was well enough for daycare. He's over his vomiting, but now he has a full-fledged cold. All he wanted to do this morning was lie on the floor and moan and whine and pound the ground with his hands. I understand. I do that myself when I'm not feeling well. Expressing my discomfort dramatically makes me feel better. Apparently, Ben has inherited that tendency, so although it's annoying and heart-breaking, I can't really fault him the dramatics.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

skinny little butt, but expressive eyes

That's how I would describe my new nephew, Gage. Yesterday, we drove to Oshkosh for my sister's baby shower, which they decided to have after he was born. I was in charge of bringing six presents for prizes for the games, and the beverages and cups.

And we were fifteen minutes late. I was mortified. I'm never late for anything. I guess having a little kid around makes it harder to get out of the house. Oh well. My sister forgave me.

There was food, soda (eventually), and munchies. Then the games started. I bowed out gracefully for them. I didn't want to win any of the prizes I had put together, and the games were all centered around words, and they decided it wasn't fair for me to play. I did help one girl win the word scramble, though. shhhhh.

I got to hold my new little nephew and change his diaper when he exploded. What a skinny little butt and legs. It was a startling contrast to how chubby Ben got almost right away. Gage is a great eater, but he seems to be growing as long as possible first before he starts filling out. He has a sweet face. Very solemn looking. I wuv him already.

On Friday we got the go-ahead from our bank to settle our old debts. I settled with Discover for 40%. Chester settled with his company for 32%. But then something went wrong, and things got confusing. I can't talk about it yet, but the phrase "Merry Christmas" was involved, and my mother said, "Praise God."

It'll only be another week and a half before we can move on to the next step in the process, ie sending our information to the mortgage underwriters.

Is it wrong that we're already really excited about a certain house that's for sale about a mile away? We haven't even seen the inside yet (except for pictures) and I already feel like it's "the one." There's a fantastic climbing tree in the backyard, and it's in our price range. We finally talk to our realtor for the first time on Monday. I'm excited. I hope he doesn't suck.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ick. Ick. Ick. Yawn.

Ben was unusually fussy last night before bed. And then he threw up. We thought it was just a fluke. Ha.

At least twice an hour throughout the night, my dear precious boy vomited. We ran out of clean sheets for his bed, of course. Now there's just some towels for him to sleep on. We also ran out of clean jammies.

Poor widdle guy. We had to give him a sponge bath four times because the back of his head got soaked in the vomit. It's such a distinctive smell. I remember the last time he had a vomiting illness when he was five months old. This went on for a week, and by the end, I was sick to my stomach at the remembrance of that sickly sweet, sour formula smell.

No fever, no diarrhea. It's just a stomach virus that has to run its course. Funnily enough, a couple times after he vomited, he wanted to get up and play for a while. If I didn't actually take him out and let him roll his trucks around, he'd play peekaboo with his blankie.

He was so thirsty this morning. I gave him a sippy cup of Pedialyte. He sucked it all down, only throwing up twice in the process. Despite it all coming back up, it seemed to comfort him, so I allowed it. Then I offered him a 3-oz bottle of soy formula (we keep a stash for stomach bugs like this), and he ate one ounce and was satisfied. He eventually went back to sleep without vomiting again.

Chester is home with him this morning, and I'll switch with him at the noon hour. Needless to say, I didn't sleep much.

Tomorrow is my sister's baby shower, and I had hoped to bring Ben and Chester along, but I don't think it'll be wise to bring Ben around a little baby like that for a few days. It'll be a lonely drive without them. :(

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Nice Cozy People

I think one of the reasons I've been so stressed about this whole loan settlement, mortgage thing is that I wasn't happy with the guy at the credit union. He approved me for the loan, finally, but always seemed to be a real jerk. The last straw? I sent him a long, one-page email asking him questions, stating concerns and comments, explaining things. He replied six hours later with a two sentence response. No salutation, no "hope to hear from you."

I prefer working with cozy people. Someone I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with while I confide the dirty details of my financial situation. This jerk definitely wasn't it. He only emphasized the limitations, the negatives. "The only thing we can do for you is..."

Last night, when we went to my bank to have Chester signed onto my bank account, we got to talking with Tammy, the personal banker who was helping us. She seemed chatty, so I asked her some general questions about loans and financing and credit reports. I wanted to make sure I wasn't getting screwed over where it wasn't called for. She was very helpful and kind. Then I mentioned that I had just applied online for a loan through her bank before I came over. "You could just go through me." "Could you do anything for me?" "Of course..." and then we went over some of the details. Turns out she can give me a longer-term loan for a much lower interest rate, which is exactly what I wanted.

I was in tears by the end of the session. I felt such relief. Now I just wait to see if the online application is going to get me a callback today. If not, I'll be calling her tomorrow to set up a meeting to reapply.

It's nice because she's met Ben (and likes his hair) and Chester. She knows what we're doing to cut our budget down. She knows that we're trying to establish ourselves on solid ground. And she respects that. God I love that in a loan officer.

Along similar lines, the super-duper nice lady who is helping us with a mortgage has a realtor to recommend to us. It's a guy. That startled me. She says he's terrific to work with, and I hope he is. I guess I was just expecting a nice lady to help us with that part as well. I'm trying not to be prejudice.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Barefoot Ben with Cheeks of Pink

Shopping with Ben is fun. At 11 months old, he's a very amusing fellow, but not usually when he's in a big place with lots of distractions. He's too busy looking around. So I'm the entertainer. This is my time to shine. Last time, though, he showed me up, the little squirt.

Mamma: Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way... Ben, do you like the Jingle Bells song? Remember how Mamma sang it while she was in the shower this morning? My, what a beautiful can of green beans. Look, Ben. The label is green with a white background. Don't they look yummy? You love green beans, especially the French cut ones.

Mamma: Deck the halls with boughs of holly, falalalalalalalala. These are bananas. We don't eat the peels, which is the outside. Instead, we eat the insides. They are creamy white and very tasty, especially with cereal. How would you like it if I ZOOOOOOOOMed around the corner like this? * took the corner at high speed so he falls over a little * Haha. Made you giggle. Now people are going to think you have a personality. You can't just rely on your funky hair. You need to have facial expressions. (My son has a tendency to keep a straight face when his father and I are trying to make him laugh. Tough crowd).

Ben reaches down to play with his feet. As I'm walking down the aisle, shopping and talking to him, he has taken off his left shoe. I spy him chewing on it, so I take it and put it in my pocket because I don't want him to drop it when I'm not looking. He gets the right shoe off and that one goes in my pocket too.

So it's winter in Wisconsin, and Ben's bundled in a winter coat, but with only socks on his feet.

While we're in the frozen food section, I notice Ben pulling at his feet again. He's trying to tug his socks off. He's not successful at first. As we're going down the pasta aisle, he succeeds and says "Hey!" loudly. People turn and laugh at him as he holds up his sock in triumph.

I'm amused, of course, but then both of his socks go into my pocket. Now I'm walking around the store, with a boy in a cart. A winter coat and bare feet. I tell Ben that people are probably hoping I buy him some socks and shoes because it's so cold outside.

Mamma: They probably think we're destitute, you know. You look silly with a winter coat and no shoes or socks. Someone is going to come and call Social Services because you don't have your socks on. Do you want people to think I'm a bad mommy? Ha. No Christmas carols for you. You'll just have to listen to the muzak. I refuse to sing along in funny voices.

Ben, of course, didn't care. He was just waving his bare footsies around in the air, enjoying the freedom.

That Blissful Feeling

I have this vision in my head. Not of the specific house we'll buy, but just the feeling I'll get after we move in.

In six months...

I will be quite pregnant with my second child. My son will be walking and talking a little bit. We will be living in a house that we own. I may be quitting my job soon to stay home with my child and my child-to-come. I will have the freedom, if not the time, to garden and dig my hands in dirt that belongs to me. There will be peace, serenity, and hopefully bliss.

Only that "feeling" is bringing me any peace right now. As a rule, I hate change and drama. I avoid it. But I really want to get to that "feeling" and I know that I'll have to go through a bit of hell to get there.

Seriously, I hate getting the mail because there might be bills. Are you actually telling me I have to pick up the phone and call companies that I owe thousands of dollars to and talk to them? Holy crap. Get me a valium.

Come on... need the bliss back.

Getting Ready to Buy a House, Stress!

I feel really guilty for not blogging yesterday. There just wasn't time. I'm coming up against a hard deadline at work, and every chance I get, I'm researching debt settlements and mortgages. I haven't even had time to start browsing online for houses.

What I'd really love is a map of our community with little dots where the houses for sale are. There are certain neighborhoods where I'd like to look, but there isn't a format like that around here. So I have write down all the streets that I want to look at, and then go through each listing to find possibilities. Either that or enter the street address in google maps and see if it's anywhere close to where I want to live. This is why God invented realtors. They can sift through all of that.

We're getting really close to signing a personal loan to settle our debts so we can get a mortgage. I'm only one step away with one credit union, but I don't really like the guy there that much. He almost hung up on me when I mentioned that I wanted to quit my job next year. Really rude. So yesterday afternoon I applied at a couple more places. It still seems odd to me that I'd need to put up collateral if I have a co-signer with an excellent credit score. What's the point of a co-signer if I still need to put up our car as collateral?

Yesterday afternoon I was so stressed. A logo on a page was causing me such angst that I was nearly crying in frustration. "Why is it at 100%? Am I going insane? Shouldn't that be 50%?" Yes, folks. The lady is hormonal. I went to bed at 7:30 last night.

Close on a house by the end of March? Geez. It feels like it's all spinning out of control, but I know it's not. If we can't afford a mortgage, they won't give us one. Right now we're in that in between space where we're not yet qualified, but not yet turned down. I have to get my ducks lined up, shoot them dead, and then hope for mercy.

In other news, December is marching onward. And I still have to use up my vacation and personal time here at work. I'm taking next Tuesday afternoon off to spend with my best friend Mary on her birthday. We'll go out for lunch, paint some pottery at the pottery place, and then catch a movie. And just to be a little bit crazy, I also took all of that Wednesday off as well. I haven't made any plans for it yet. I might spend the morning in bed, and then pick up the boy from daycare and go Christmas shopping.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mortgage, Ben's 5th Toof, Walking

The first half of 2007 is going to be exciting. At least that's what we're going for.

We're getting deeper into talks with a mortgage loan officer. We have some things to take care of on our credit reports, but my mother agreed to co-sign a loan with me to pay off our outstanding bills right away.

The mortgage lady is pushing for us to close by the end of March. I'm perfectly fine with this if it's possible, but we haven't even started house hunting yet. Well, kind of. Yesterday morning we drove around a neighborhood we like a lot. Not a whole bunch of houses available, though. I think we're just going to have to rely on the talents of a realtor.

Ben's news:
He cut his fifth toofer. Now he has two on the bottom and three on the top. He has a big ol' rash on his back and cheeks to prove it.
He took his first step yesterday, not that he's aware of it. Chris was sitting on a chair about three steps away from where I was sitting on the floor. Ben was standing up against his legs, and Chris held his hand for the first two steps, and Ben took it from there. We haven't managed to get him to do it again, though. He chickens out and plops down on his butt shortly after we let go.

Work is crazy busy. I was buzzing around on the 'puter this morning designing some flyers, and now I have only an afternoon to do what I would normally get done in my regular job in a day. Yikes.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Becoming a SAHM

Big talk going on in the Mammacheryl household. As you all know, we're working on having a second child next year. We doubt daycare can give us a really steep discount (oh why can't it be two-for-the-price-of-one?), and it doesn't make sense for me to keep working if daycare costs eat up 80% of my earnings.

The concept of me becoming a stay-at-home mom has been in the background since before we got married. It was always my intention to be a SAHM. Having to work after Ben was born wasn't what I initially wanted, but at that point, we couldn't afford to lose my income. A few months ago, though, Chester got a promotion, and although it was only three dollars more an hour, it definitely makes our lives easier. With some tough budget cuts being implemented, we should be able to actually start saving money. What a concept.

Two babies in daycare is ridiculous, so I'll be quitting my job sometime next year when I'm in my third trimester. Yesterday, I emailed my best friend Lexi about it, since she recently made the leap into the great abyss and became a working-from-the-home mommy. Lexi called me almost immediately, since that kind of conversation is better over the phone. She says she'd never want to go back to working in an office, but she's lonely.

That's just the thing. I am by nature a private person. I have been for a few years. (Life got really chaotic and upsetting near the end of my college career, and I purposefully dropped myself off of the social grid. I needed to repair and restore my soul. Haven't really ventured back out there yet. Still in protective mode.) If I'm given the option between staying at home and going out and visiting people, I will fight tooth and nail to stay home. Social situations make me uncomfortable. I rarely have anything to say, and I hate being the wallflower, the one who just sits on the sofa with a smile on her face, eavesdropping on everyone else's lives. So I stay home.

Work is my social outlet. I'm not exactly a social butterfly around here, but I've made friends and I'm nice to people and people are nice to me. And even though I don't relish all the social situations, I think I'll miss it when I'm gone. It's tough to imagine me going out of my way to get out of the house when I don't have to. Even Lexi knows that when Chester invites her over (because I never get around to doing it), I'll inevitably cancel and feign illness. I've told her to just ignore me and come over anyway. If I'm actually sick, oh well.

On the Ben and Baby front, I also worry that they'll be bored out of their precious little minds. The Wisconsin winters are long and cold, and even if the weather was nice, we don't live in the kind of neighborhood where we can just go outside and play on the sidewalk easily. I won't have a car at my disposal every day, so I can't just pack up the runts and go to the family resource center where they have a play group every afternoon. Hauling a toddler and a baby... and then two toddlers onto the city bus sounds like an excruciating experience.

That all being said, I'm still going to do it. At the end of next summer (if I get knocked up right away), I'll be quitting my job and Ben will be saying good-bye to the ladies at daycare.

I see one of two things happening. I'll either give up the fight and become a couch potato who watches soap operas all day or I'll become Little Miss Suzy Homemaker and be buzzing around the house cleaning and baking. Since I've always wanted to be the latter, that's what I'll be striving for.

Christmas Meme

Pilfered from Mom-o-matic.

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot chocolate by default. I've never tried egg nog, and I'm terrified of new things.

Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Wrapped, of course. It's my favorite part of the gift process, the wrapping.

Colored lights on tree/house or white?
I prefer the simplicity and clean look of white lights, although my parents' tree always had colored lights.

Do you hang mistletoe?
No. We do enough kissing on our own. Still honeymooning. And besides, we almost never have visitors. Impinges on our kissing time.

When do you put your decorations up?
Hah. Well, since moving out of my parents' house when I was 18, I don't decorate for Christmas. I imagine I'll start next year when Ben's old enough not to put everything in his mouth. Then I'll put up the decorations after Halloween.

What is your favorite holiday dish?
The mashed potatoes, I guess. Love the starchy stuff.

Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
The temperature game my father would play on Christmas Eve. As a tradition, we opened all of our presents on Christmas Eve after we got back from church. My dad liked to torture us, so he'd make us wait until the temperature dropped six degrees. We'd be calling the local time/temperature automated system every thirty seconds. It was a control game, but we thought it was fun.

When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
My mother is a devout pentecostal Christian. Therefore, no child of hers will participate in the tomfoolery and sacrilege that is the secular Christmas. I never believed in Santa. Gifts came from parents and friends.

How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
My parents' tree was always fake since my dad is allergic to conifers. We'd start with a base of twinkle lights, add on some garland or beads, and then layer on the ornaments, both the glass store-bought ones and the home-made ones that the kids created over the years. My tree with my own family will also be fake with white lights, beads and ribbons.

Snow. Love it or Dread it ??
Absolutely love it. So crisp and clean and twinkly. I love early morning after a snow fall, and the sun is hitting the snow just right and everything sparkles like diamonds. I don't even mind shoveling. It's like a meditation.

Can you ice skate?
Yes, but not comfortably. I don't think fat girls were meant to skate across an expanse of ice on two tiny steel blades. Makes my ankles hurt just thinking about it.

Do you remember your favorite gift?
Probably my Cabbage Patch doll. We were po' when I was a little kid, and as a rule, none of my toys were new. I didn't really notice, but I really really wanted a Cabbage Patch doll, and they were too new to be able to find second-hand yet. But I got a precious little doll with red yarn hair. Mom even made a cheerleading outfit for her in my brothers' high school colors.

What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Getting together with family. We never manage to get around to it otherwise.

What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Mom's apple pie. I can never get the crust right.

Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Giving. I very much dislike receiving because I find it embarrassing. Since we're hard up for spending money, though, giving is kind of embarrassing too. I wish store-bought gifts could be outlawed for this year. I feel bad giving my siblings tins of home-made cookies when they got me a cd or a nice sweater or a giftcard.

What is your favorite Christmas Song?
I rocked out to The Little Drummer Boy last night. Pah-rum-pah-pum-pum. Ding. Ding.

Candy canes?
Not a big fan of the peppermint ones. I like the fruity kind. In the holiday season I suck on them as a substitute for the cigarettes I still miss smoking.

My Photos Available Online

All of my uploaded/scanned in Ben photos, as well as our Christmas portraits can be viewed at Flickr. Feel free to check them out. I have no secrets from my blog. Okay... a couple.