Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I believe I mentioned that I bought myself the entire Little House collection on e*bay, yes?

Well, as I was reading it, we came upon Laura's 5th birthday.  She was spanked 5 times...once for each year plus one to grow on.  So, now we know it was not just a custom in my family, and it goes back at least a hundred years before my birth. 

In fact, I think Baby Carrie Ingalls was born about a hundred years before me (106 according to Wikipedia).  So, there you have it.  Mystery solved.  (We just finished the chapter on the sugaring dance. I've never read Little House in the Big Woods before so I am enjoying it as are my husband and sons.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I turned 35, and I lived to tell about it. 

I pitched a minor fit and told my husband we were going out to dinner.  Period.  So we did.  We left the kids at home with my m-i-l.  She didn’t have much to say about how it went and Chuckles was not forthcoming with details either, but everything looked OK when I got home.

For dinner, I had a glass of malbec, an apple and pine nut salad over baby greens, stuffed eggplant, and tiramisu (shared) for dessert. The husband had a glass of pinot noir, a calamari salad, penne piscatore, and the other half of the tiramisu.

Then we got $60 in gas for my car and a car wash (I have a 22-gallon tank and needed about 17 gallons of gas). I also got a new cookie sheet, a box of oatmeal, some hot mitts, and an optical mouse. I bought myself the entire Little House collection of books from ebay. Thanks to Julie ALittlePregnant I wanted them.  It was nice. We got home right after the kids’ bedtimes, and they were in bed (supposedly sleeping though I know Bobo was not..he's a polite and quiet Night Owl).  Chuckles was up well before dawn (I suspect to make sure I actually came home). 

I am having a rather hard time with 35, as I said.  It's not particulary because I think I am old.  (I swear I don't look a day over 28.)  It's because I am realizing how much (or how little) time I have left.  It's the rare person in my family who has made it to 70.  Usually, an unusual and rare accident befalls my people cutting their lives short (hit by a meteor, crushed by industrial equipment, fatal plane crash, and so on).  Occasionally, someone dies of natural causes.  It's invariably fast (which is good) but unexpected. 

I suppose this means I have finally reached adulthood.  I no longer feel immortal.  I'm also more closely enmeshed with the future and wanting to be around for it.  For my kids.  And my (theoretically probable) grandkids.  I'm also realizing that my time with my own parents is limited.  Though, truthfully, my parents are still quite young.  My mom is 56 (though she acts much older).  My dad is 58 (and he acts quite a bit younger).  I asked my dad if it made him feel old to have an old daughter.  He said that he feels plenty old on his own, but when my sister turns 40, he's not going to be happy about it.

Maybe that's the way it should be.  Maybe this will make me slow down and appreciate my parents more.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

As a total aside, we always got spankings on our birthdays (one for each year, one for good luck, and a pinch to grow an inch).  We weren't routinely spanked as punsihment, and this was a more playful tradition.  My husband had never heard of it.  (Also, something about having to keep quiet until you had your first bite of cake or the wish you made when blowing out your candle wouldn't come true.)  Really?  Did my family just make these up?  Have you heard of these things?

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I'm about to turn the big 8.  Wait, not that's not right.  Three-five.  Thirty-five.  Right, yes, moving on.  I'm going to turn 35 in a few days, and I'm having a rough go of it.  By rough go, I mean, last Sunday I cried intermittently for 3 hours while children and a husband randomly brought me juice, their special soft blankies, cookies, a binky, and Valentines trying to cheer me up.

Also, I grow my hair for charity.  Actually, I do not grow my hair for charity.  I cut my hair for charity (Pantene Beautiful Lengths).  I've done it twice before (October 2006, November 2008).  Since the last time it got whacked two years ago, my hair has been getting longer and stragglier and stringier.  I've been dying to cut it.  I went to the hair cutting place (beauty shop?) around Halloween, and they told me if they cut 8" off, I could get something in a spikey butch soccer mom.  As I was already having an "I'm an unattractive mother" existential crisis, I opted to wait and let it grow out a while longer.

In the meantime, it got stringier and tanglier and darker.  I'm blonde (mostly naturally) but in the winter, my highlights disappear with the new growth. So, usually, in the winter, I highlight.  Except my long hair was too long to pull through a cap and frost/tip.  It was sad-making.

Finally, today I said enough is enough.  I am cutting my hair and no matter how short they have to make it, it is going.  So, I went.  Here is me before.  Note I am not wearing my good flannel for going to the beauty shop.  I wore the shirt with the hair dye stains. (side note:  I didn't wear a coat because it was a balmy 34 degrees here today, and I did run since I am "training" for the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. This photo was taken post-run, pre-shower.)

When I got home, of course, I noticed that all the blonde parts had been cut off, so I immediately set about pulling my hair through a vinyl bonnet and putting two-part bleach on my hair.  Once it turned the appealing shade of dried straw, I washed the bleach out, tossed some super-hold mousse in and voila.  After:

It's not so bad. By the time this picture was taken, it was late. Wine had been consumed. And cake. I'm ready for bed, but mostly, I think it turned out OK. All told, they cut off about 10" of hair. So, it could be worse.

In case you don't find me to be one-hot-mama though, I am including a picture of the cute.  This is Bobo with two binkies in his mouth (and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to rotate this photo here (I could've done it before uploading but could've should've)).

And here's a picture of us digging ourselves out after Snotorious B.I.G. on Groundhog Day.  23" in 24 hours they say.  23".  Not too shabby.

Lastly, here is one of the cakes I made for Super Bowl.  I'm not a pro, so this can't go to Cake Wrecks.  And why would it?  Everything is spelled correctly and there is not a single sprinkle, baby butt, edible photo paper, or creepy guy on a bearskin rug. 

Goodnight old lady whispering "hush".

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


I want to talk for a minute about the global economic crisis. I will start by saying that I have not been terribly inconvenienced by the implosion of our economy. The only thing that happened to me was that I was unable to sell my house and move my family with me to start our life over in a new town with my new job. Incidentally, that is how this blog started. I started it to chronicle quitting my job, getting a new one, selling my house, buying a new one. Instead it turned into me living apart from my family working at my new job and eventually quitting to be a SAHM for a few months while I looked for work back near the house we still owned. For the record, I am a terrible SAHM. Hats off to people who can do it and like to do it and are good at it.

But I don’t want to tell you the story of me not selling my house. I want to tell you about the time I did sell a house. But first, I’ll tell you about how I came to own a house.

When I was fresh out of college, I moved from Chicago to Ohio. I lived outside of Akron. I rented a $425-a-month 2BR 1Ba apartment with car port. I was living large. This was right after the stressful break up with 343, wherein I was living in an $860-a-month (gorgeous) 1BA 1 Ba apartment with spotty on-street parking and windows that barely closed and clanking radiators.

My new apartment had air conditioning and electric baseboard heaters. A garbage disposal. A double-sided sink for handwashing dishes without a dishpan. It was awesome. Except it wasn’t home. It was an apartment. It was bland. It had no character.

That apartment I couldn’t afford back in Chicago…it had built-in glass-front cabinets, a built-in China hutch, Tiffany light fixtures, plaster, a cute little woodburning fireplace that was not allowed to be lit, original oak floors, and barrel back walls in the spacious kitchen.

The new apartment had off-white, paper-thin walls and beige carpet. It also featured avocado green appliances and Mediterranean-style kitchen cabinets.

I worked hard that first year, deprived myself of many things, and saved up a lot of money for a down payment on a house. Why did I want a house? This is where I play Monday Morning Psychiatrist on my 22-year old self. I came from divorced parents. Life and home had been in turmoil for many years. I had just planned on setting down roots and forming our own family with 343 and that went horribly wrong. I wanted to buy a house, have stability, permanence, and a place for my geriatric cat to live.

Just before my 23rd birthday, I made an offer on a cute, 1400 sf Cape Cod with 3 BR and 1.5Ba. It was all-brick and had a true 2-car garage with opener. It had hardwood floors throughout, a gas fireplace, natural gas forced air heat, and central air conditioning. It was built in 1952 so the walls were an inch thick. I bought it for $96,000 two weeks after I turned 23. I put a conventional 20% down payment on it thus cleaning out my entire savings account. That first month as I needed things (so many things: a locksmith, a plumber, a garbage can, a snow shovel, a rake, mulch, washer/dryer, blinds, insulation, etc), I just kept thinking about my Citibank bill. Eventually, I rebuilt my savings and went on to love that house. It was cute. I had little slopey ceilings in my bedroom which was the whole second floor.

Eventually, Mr. Long-Suffering moved in with me. I made him pay rent. We had a lease contract to protect us both. Mr. Long-Suffering is 6’4”. He didn’t like the cute little slopey ceilings and he didn’t like that his shoulders almost touched both walls as he walked down the hall. But, since the entire mortgage payment was less than his rent had been (and he was only paying half), he liked it just fine. I owned it, and I let him tinker with the plumbing and wiring to his heart’s content. He is not a good renter because he likes to wire things. And hang ceiling fans. And cut holes in the wall. He made a great tenant for me. He would do any household projects I needed done, including adding outlets where there had been none.

Time wore on, and we married. We started to think about having a family. We decided to relocate back to Chicagoland. Mr. Long-Suffering got a job first, I put the house on the market and started looking for work. Eventually, we found a house in NW Indiana close to his work, and we bought it without selling our first house. After a few months, I found a job in Chicago near our new home and moved to Indiana as well.

Our home in Ohio still hadn’t sold. We were confident we’d find a buyer. It was a cute house, updated, and lovingly-maintained (tear-off and new roof with architectural shingles! Remodeled bathroom! Refinished floors!).  We could afford the two homes for at least a year.  (I could afford the entire Ohio house by myself obviously, and Mr. L-S could handle the new house without issue, so it was fine.  Stressful, but fine.)

A buyer came along and made a great offer. We couldn’t refuse. We accepted. They didn’t get the mortgage. They still wanted the house. They asked us to give them $3,000 credit at closing (that’s where they pay you more for the house but you don’t get the money, you give it back to them and they get a bigger mortgage…basically, they finance the down payment). The offer was written up for $115,000 but we would only be seeing $112,000 since we were giving them $3,000 back.

Well, the couple still didn’t get the mortgage. So, the brother of one of them came in and was going to buy the house and the couple would live in the house and pay the mortgage and the bills. The brother, it turns out, had a bankruptcy on his record so all 3 of them had to complete credit counseling to get the mortgage.

At this point, if I had been financing the sale of the house myself, I would have run away. But, this was 2003. Times were different. Banks were throwing money at people who were not credit-worthy. The couple who were going to live in the house were both in their 40s. And together, they didn’t have money for closing costs or any sort of down payment. That tells me they had no savings. Any unexpected bill or home repair could derail them. I have no idea what kind of jobs or income they had. I don’t know whether they had medical bills or legal costs or student loans. I don’t know why they didn’t have the money for the house, but I know they didn’t.

I would’ve given up on this for the time being, rented something nice, and saved money for a year. But, this couple was undeterred. Perhaps, like I had wanted 4 years earlier, they wanted to put down roots and establish themselves as a family unit. The couple who wanted to buy the house was a same-sex couple. Maybe they wanted to prove something to someone by getting a house together. Maybe I decorate in a way that makes my homes irresistible to lesbians. I have no idea.

The credit counseling was done. I think they skipped the home inspection because it cost too much money. I transferred the warranties on the roof, the garage door, and the bathroom fixtures to them. We closed on the house. I have never in my life been so anxious to cash a check before it bounced as I was that day.

The next time I was in town, I drove by the old house. They had done some landscaping and added a window air conditioner to the slopey ceiling bedroom (brilliant!). The house looked nice. They got a dog. My old neighbors told me that they were good neighbors (no loud parties, kept the grass cut, parked in the garage). I was glad I sold to people who kept the neighborhood up.

A year or two later, the police had been called. The one whose brother owned the house was throwing the other one out. The house slipped into foreclosure. Recently, I looked it up online. In 2010, the home that I bought in 1999 for $96,000 and sold in 2003 for $115,000 (officially recorded sales price) sold at auction for $85,000. Whenever I think of the housing crisis, I think of this story. A bank or mortgage broker made a loan to people who were clearly unqualified for a mortgage, and it backfired. If this sort of thing (medical bill, divorce, job loss, etc) were to happen to all the sub-prime borrowers out there, I understand how so many homes are in foreclosure. I understand how home values are plummeting (I can only imagine how horrified my old neighbors were when a house on their block sold for $85,000 thus bringing their property values down and wiping out all the equity they had earned).

What I don’t understand is why the bank gave the brother the mortgage in the first place. Why? Sure, there probably was money to be made, but I can’t imagine that closing costs and jacked up interest rates can make up for the fact that so very many mortgages were made to people who could not afford to repay them. I’ve heard it said that the banks assumed that if people couldn’t pay, they would foreclose but be able to resell the homes for loan value. Perhaps true if 20% down payment were still required, but in a market where borrowers need credit and credit gets scarce, it just isn’t happening.

Anyway, that is the story of my first house.