Archive for the ‘Growing Up’ Category

I’ve been excited to share some news here, but I’ve been putting it off. WE FINALLY BOUGHT A HOUSE! Back in May, I mentioned that we won a bid on a HUD home, and it took until July 31 to actually close on it. We were fine with this, we were in no hurry, and the details of the delay were too mundane to be blog-worthy. But then we finally closed, and I still didn’t want to write about it. I was too upset about how things went down in the last 24 hours that I knew any post would be spiked with vitriol. I wanted to celebrate the house, not rant about it. So I waited. Now, a week later, I feel like I can do that. Though I’m still pissed. Well, I’m still going to rant, but then I’ll celebrate!


Without going into too many boring details, basically Mike and I are new to home-buying, but we had lots of advisers and we believe we asked all the right questions and did everything right along the way. Still, less than 24 before close, our mortgage lender sent us our final closing costs (despite our asking for it days in advance). They were nearly $4,000 more than expected.

When we applied for the loan, we were told we could finance a roof repair that was required by HUD. So we added $3,600 to our mortgage. We asked a hundred times, are sure we can do this? Are you SURE? Yes, he was sure. Turns out, no. And instead of being sincerely apologetic or even offering a viable solution, he sent us the new closing costs, told us he screwed up, and that was it. I don’t know about that guy, but $4,000 is a lot to us. And coming up with that much in 24 hours is no easy feat. We drained our savings and pulled from our checking account which pays our bills. I also shot off a very angry email to the lender, who finally came up with a solution.

They would loan us $4,000 at 6%. Um, no thanks moron.

We did not want to go broke to buy a house. We never EVER would have pursued this if we knew that would happen in the beginning. But 24 hours isn’t a lot of time to contemplate. Literally minutes before our closing appointment, we were in the parking lot talking to our realtor, debating if we should back out. In the end I said, “I don’t know if it’s the right decision, and maybe we’ll regret it. But we don’t have time to figure this out, so let’s take a leap of faith.”

And we did. So we’re now home owners.


Now that I’ve ranted, let me say, I LOVE the house. I had forgotten that I loved it because it had been so long since we saw it. But when we got back in there, it all came back. It needs some work, and unfortunately we now have no money to do any of it immediately. First we replenish our savings, then we dive into projects. But it’s definitely livable, and we’re excited to officially move in.

I wanted an older home with some vintage charm, while Mike wanted something a little more modern. I think we found a good compromise. It’s new enough to have a more modern floor plan and some modern updates, but old enough to have the little touches of charm I love. And there is so much potential. We have lots of plans for the future!

I took some pictures on our second visit MONTHS ago, and I’ll get some more updates ones soon, but here are a couple sneak peeks.

The front door:

Unfinished three season porch for which have big plans:

Fun pass-through window and built-in clock in the basement. And wood paneling! My nieces and nephews are already so excited to play restaurant with that window. Also, hi Mom and Brady!

Big open kitchen. We plan to paint the walls and the cabinets soon (there are more cabinets and counters you can’t see to the right). Then later down the road we’ll update the floor, counters and appliances. And maybe a peninsula or island?

More photos soon, I promise. In the meantime, lots to do! Home ownership is exhausting and expensive. Welcome to real world right?

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Quick update. We’re not intentionally being silent, we’ve just been busy and stressed and therefore haven’t gotten around to writing here. I’m still not pregnant. Last month was a tough blow to the psyche because it was the first attempt after the ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. But we’re rallying and trying again, this month with the help of Clomid* which we used in December, the month I got pregnant. We are hopeful but cautious. Nothing seems to work out easily for us, so for Clomid to work twice in a row would be asking a lot of the universe. We’re doing everything we can to make this happen, but mostly we can only wait.

We finally heard something from the adoption agency we applied through. After a month of hearing nothing, I reached out again and got word that they are going to “check it out.” So, we wait.

We also were invited to participate in a training to become certified foster care providers. We are working with an agency that generally doesn’t place many young children through foster care, but has a specialized program that places young children whose parents have lost their rights. There is a waiting list to join this program and to be on the list of people they call when these types of situations arise. We got on that waiting list in October, and because we hadn’t heard anything, I recently followed up to just to remind them of our interest. Turns out they sent us an invitation letter for the training back in January. Which we never received. So we’re instead invited to participate in May. Until then, we wait.

In addition to the many attempts to become parents, we are also looking into buying a house. It started as a half-hearted idea to maybe purchase the home we’re currently renting, and it has quickly spiraled into a full-on house hunt. We’re only at the very beginning of this process, but if you’ve ever bought a house, you know the loads of fun we’re having.**

On top of all of that — Yes there’s more! — we’re also trying to make some extra money. Mike is currently working a second job as a line cook three nights a week. And I’m doing a hodge podge of random things (proofreading, transcription, home listings for a realtor, etc).

We’re busy and stressed and tired. I hope someday we can look back at this time and be thankful we’re past it. I hope someday we have a child (or two or three or whatever), we own a home, and we don’t have to work four jobs. But for now we’re just trucking along, waiting for that to working our asses off to make that happen.

*Clomid helps stimulate ovulation, an essential part of conception. A thing my body doesn’t seem to want to do on its own.

**That’s sarcasm, but apparently some people actually do think it’s fun…

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Recently, we moved into my Dad’s house. He got married, and moved into his new wife’s house, so we got to rent his on the cheap. It’s nice, because it’s kind of like owning a house without the debt. So far, I’ve had mixed experiences pretending to be a homeowner. Here is a partial recap of my escapades.

The towel bar fiasco:

We have a very small bathroom. Like closet-sized. As a space-saving measure, the previous owners (before Dad), installed a 2-tiered towel bar. It stuck out pretty far, and the weight of freshly dampened towels over the years pulled it loose. Easy fix right? I bought a new towel bar and set out with the best of intentions to remove the old bar and install the new one. 10 minutes and several gaping holes later, I removed what seemed to me to be a not so expertly installed towel bar. Installing mine would be simple. The bar came with wall anchors, so I carefully avoided the studs and drilled my holes. 20 frustrating seconds later, I determined that my stud-finder was broken as I flattened my wall anchor against a stud. Awesome. It was then time to pull out the big guns. I wall-dogged it. Wall-dogs are massive screws on steroids, designed for anchoring into studs or drywall. They did not disappoint, and the towel bar is still hanging. After several coats of Spackle, the walls are even mostly patched. It’s important to note also that Shannon gave me explicit instructions not to attempt the towel bar installation after my first fail. Instructions that I promptly ignored. Had the wall-dogs failed, I would have been in trouble. I love to live dangerously.

The flood of 2011:

On Black Friday, while strategically avoiding humanity at it’s worst by chilling at home, I was washing some dishes and my foot got soaked. I discovered a  plumbing problem that could not be fixed without parts. Off to Home Depot. Fortunately, most of the shoppers were gone, and I was able to pick up a new connector for the drain for $1.99. I even picked up a higher-end toilet seat to replace the cheap plastic one opposite our newly installed towel bar. The sink repair went perfectly, and has been holding since. I also must mention that this was shortly after I successfully installed a saddle-valve and connected the water line to our refrigerator ice/water dispenser. Apparently I don’t suck at plumbing.


I’m an awesome raker. Our yard was consistently one of the cleanest on the street this fall. After a weird lull in November and December, I’m now making a name as a driveway shoveler extraordinaire. I gotta give props to the man-plow for this. The man-plow was a conciliation prize after I chickened out on buying a snow blower at a pre-thanksgiving sale. It’s essentially a small plastic plow blade with a lawn-mower style handlebar. A man (or woman, of course) can get behind this plow and push lots of snow. It’s cut down my shoveling time by, I would guess, 25%. Plus, I get to announce that I’m going out to “man-plow.” I’m not super-excited about the fact that I’m now writing this post to avoid man-plowing for the 3rd time in less than 48 hours, but I guess it was inevitable.


This is just funny and stupid. Right now, I’m waiting for a load of laundry to finish washing for the 2nd time. I had a load of dirty clothes, plus a load in the washer and dryer. I emptied the dryer, transferred the washer to the dryer, then proceeded to load the dryer with the clothes I had just taken out of the dryer. Worse yet, I didn’t realize it until I had folded almost all of the basket of dirty clothes that I brought back upstairs with me from the basement laundry room. Nice work Mike…nice work.

All in all, it’s good to be a homeowner. A sort-of, not really, quasi homeowner.

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Marriage is about lots of things, and many of those things are about evolving. Recently, Shan and I discussed birthday presents. We’ve recently had some pretty fun birthdays. Last year we went on a hot air balloon ride for my birthday. And for Shan’s last birthday her family and I surprised her with an ’80s themed surprise party. This year we went to dinner and a comedy club for my birthday. In addition to these activities, we give gifts. But, recently, we decided to forgo the gift-giving. We will still give each other gifts, should the mood strike us, but we no longer feel the need to buy something specifically for birthdays. If we want anything special and need an excuse to buy it, we’ve agreed to treat ourselves out of our joint checking account to a little birthday gift.

This discussion took place weeks before my birthday. I’m not much of a birthday person anyway, so I wasn’t really expecting a gift in the first place. After our birthday evolution discussion, I really didn’t anticipate anything. Much to my surprise, Shannon gave me a corn dog maker!

One of these days I’ll learn how to insert pictures into a post (or get my wife to do it for me). Until then, imagine a George Foreman grill, but with 6 depressions that can hold enough cornbread batter to surround an average-sized hot dog. Not quite the same as a fried corn dog, but pretty awesome.

(Thank you for the photo, Shannon.)

Devoted blog readers might be aware that corn dogs are my favorite bachelor-snack whenever Shannon is out of town or just absent for dinner. Now I can make my own, anytime I want!

Evolution, it seems, is a slow process. Shannon insists that she didn’t spend much on this gift, but it happened right after we agreed to stop buying birthday gifts. Hmm… Perhaps I’ll do better when her birthday rolls around in December.

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The Weirdness of Growing Up

When Shannon and I met, we had lots of conversations about fun vacations we wanted to take, exciting future jobs, the movies and TV shows we both loved, and lots of other things that were exciting to talk about. Lots of things centered on the here-and-now. Lately, the tide has turned.

Yesterday, we had a discussion about scheduling a meeting with our retirement account representative to assess our investment strategy and decide how to maximize our retirement account effectiveness. Not nearly as exciting a conversations as where to take our dream vacation. But, probably more important?

Let’s be clear. I’m not disappointing that we talk about retirement accounts, work schedules, home improvement, and bills more than we used to. I actually kind of love it. I’m a planner at heart, and I’m so glad that Shannon is too. And it’s not like we never talk about the fun stuff anymore. Hell, we even do the fun stuff we talk about. Look at our summer! Europe, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, skydiving, babysitting. We are wild and crazy! But I’m glad we do the boring grown-up stuff too. And I’m excited to talk to a professional about our retirement. If we can save right, I know we could have some great years of talking about and doing the fun stuff when we retire.

Ultimately, it’s about the balance. Having fun is nice, but growing up is also nice. Nice, and weird.

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So, my Dad is getting married. This is what is happening in my life right now.

Back story. My Mom and Dad split up about 6 years ago. I was living in California, and from what I can gather it was a good decision. There was no animosity. Since then, my Mom has been living in a condo, and my Dad has moved from a rental to a house. It was a little weird to get used to my parents being apart, but I’m handling it. Christmases are even smaller now, but whatever.

And now, this.

Dad went on a dating website, and after some fits and starts, met a woman named Penny. They got serious…fast. Shan and I met her at Thanksgiving, and shortly after that spent a Christmas celebration with her and my Dad at my Aunt’s house. Then the long winter set in. My Dad and Penny went on a vacation together. As far as I know, this is the first vacation he has been on with a woman other than my Mom in at least 30 years. When Shan and I went to his house for Easter, she was wearing a ring. I noticed this within 23 seconds of walking in the door. Several excruciating minutes (hours?) later, he announced what I (and Shannon, I later found out) had already pieced together. And so, my Dad is to be wed.

I’m very happy for my Dad. If he has a chance to be happy late in life (later, anyway), then good for him. And I love Penny. She’s a down-to-earth, genuinely nice person. She’s cool, and I’m glad she and my Dad are happy. However, this is weird. If your parent has never married someone other than your other parent, you wouldn’t understand. I’m also a little freaked out by the fact that my Dad will become a grandparent when he gets married. It’s selfish, but I wanted him to become a grandparent when WE had kids (or my little brother, I guess). I actually got to watch him interact with Penny’s grand kids the other day, and it was unsettling.

One upside in this is that he and Penny are buying a house together. Since my Dad bought his house not-too-long-ago, and got a tax credit, he can’t sell. That means we get to rent a house without going through the nightmare search that goes along with that. Also, I get to be a best man! That’s not really that big of a deal, and it’ll be fairly duty-free, but still…fun!

So, that’s the big news in my life. And. So. Weird. But hey…at least the blog is about weddings again for a post.

Editor’s Note: Mike gives me too much credit. I (Shannon) had NO idea anything was going on until his dad announced their engagement at dinner. I didn’t see the ring, I didn’t suspect anything, and I was completely surprised. I guess I’m not very observant…

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Shannon and I did not marry for money. This is indisputable. Fortunately, we love each other. I saw this fact clearly yesterday in a conversation about moving.

We were sitting in a movie theater lobby waiting for a movie to start, and began discussing what we might do in the next year about our living situation. We have both been sort of anti-house-purchase in the past. Too much work and too much risk. Too hard to move away if you need/have to. But lately, now that we are pretty sure we want to settle in a particular area, we’ve started to consider it. We can get a pretty good deal right now, and probably buy a house that we can grow into and possibly make money off of some day.

We started talking about when we might want to start looking last night, but that discussion quickly turned to the dreaded down payment. It turns out that, when you pay for a trip to Europe and a mini-van in the same month, it doesn’t leave much money for a home down payment. Where would that money come from?

Shannon offered that she had savings bonds given to her by her grandparents. All totaled, they would help us toward a down payment, but not give us one. Then she turned to me and jokingly asked “what do you bring to the marriage?” I replied, not jokingly but in a joking tone, “a van payment and some student loans…oh, you probably meant assets…yeah, nothing.” Sad day for me. Fortunately, Shannon didn’t care (or already knew that fact and had come to terms with it).

The bottom line of our discussion: we have no house down payment. We may have to move into yet another tiny apartment and save for another year to collect a down payment. Any suggestions?

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A new post by Mike?!?

Yes, I realize how long it’s been since my last post. My apologies. I’ve been busy at work, tired, a little lazy, and sort of depressed. I think it’s the seasonal affective thing that people are always talking about. For the first time since I started my current job, I’ve driven home at dusk a few times recently. It sucks, since I start work before 7am. I never thought that, on this schedule, I’d have to drive both ways in the dark. It really got to me. Plus, my job has started to become more stressful, since I’m getting less support from the higher-ups than promised and more is being expected of the kitchen. How do you deal with the expectation to increase productivity and output while being told that you have to make due with 30 hours less labor per week? Thanks boss! By the time I get home, I’ve been too tired to work out. Add to that the over-eating nature of this season, and I’ve begun to feel like crap. I actually had what, in my novice opinion, was a mild anxiety attack. I was getting ready for the whirlwind that is our families’ combined Christmas-mania and my heart started beating quickly and irregularly. This went on for about 20 minutes before I calmed myself down enough to proceed with life. All in all, things have been rough. Moving on.

I’ve realized something over the past few months. There are stakes at risk in my life for the first time. I’ve had jobs where I’m under-appreciated and underpaid before. I’ve felt like crap before. The difference is, now it affects more than just me. With a wife to consider and the possibility of a family in the next couple years, I have to start thinking about my health and happiness in a new light. I have to get it together.

In the wake of this realization, I’m forming a plan. First, I need to see a doctor about anti-anxiety medication. I get way to stressed out about stupid stuff. Second, I need to get my health on track. I’m gearing up for another go at P90X. This time, no excuses. Shan and I have also talked about doing a cleanse diet. We’re not sure what that will entail yet, but I’m intrigued. Even from a professional standpoint, I’m interested in how these diets work. Hopefully I can use my skills to make it enjoyable.

Ultimately, I’ve realized that I have to get on track, and now it’s for more than just my benefit. And that’s probably good. I don’t do much for myself, but I love doing things for other people. Since one of the best things I can do for my family is get healthy, it’s a win for everyone. Wish me luck.

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Oh yeah, adulthood equals bills. You’d think someone would tell me that. I could have put it off a little longer.

Growing up, I remember my mom paying the bills. It involved laying out a bunch of paper, writing checks, balancing a ledger, licking stamps, and using a loud, ancient adding machine. It was a process. The kitchen table was off limits to any other activity for at least a half-hour or so. It was simple though. How did she get there?

Fast forward to our marriage. We’re modern Americans, so we pay bills online. But why, oh why doesn’t everyone have the same set-up for paying bills?!? For the gas we can do a direct debit, but for the electric we have to mail a check. For the cable we can pay via debit card, but for the credit card we have to pay through their website with a routing number. It’s so easy to miss payments that way! Add to that the small town we live in, and we have several bills each month that we actually have to write checks for. What is this, 1987?!?

Complicating things further is the fact that Shan and I were both adults when we met. We have our own bills. Student loans, car insurance, etc. How do you manage those bills? Pay everything together? Pay separate? There’s no standard. We’ve agreed to combine all of our bills and pay them out of a joint account. After much stalling and lots of life getting in the way, we’ve finally gotten around to creating a spreadsheet that identifies all these bills, from rent all the way down to a set buffer for unforeseen expenses. I hesitate to say budget, because that implies that we intend to stick to it rigidly, but it’s a pretty reasonable guideline.

Our guideline dictates how much money we need to make sure to deposit into our joint checking account each month. That way we can set up a direct deposit at work, and we know that we’ll have enough in our account each month to pay these bills. Anything left over in our checks goes into our personal accounts for personal purchases (shoes for Shannon, Wii games for me, gifts we buy for each other, secret gambling addictions…that kind of stuff).

We’ve also agreed to to deposit money into our goal-setter savings account every month. Right now, we’re saving for a trip to Europe. After that, we’ll turn that account into an adoption account. We’ll even begin to put money in our regular, joint savings account for adoption when we can, so we have a foundation when we switch over our goal-setter.

Ah, adulthood. Fun huh?

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The Transporter

It’s no secret, to those who know me, that I sincerely believe that a certain style of vehicle is superior to all others. While it’s true that every vehicle has it’s purpose, one rises above the rest. That vehicle:

Oh yeah…the mini-van!

This is me in the amazing 2010 Chrysler Town and Country. My car is in the shop, and due to a scheduling mishap the fine folks at Enterprise upgraded me for free. The manager was apologetic, and a little embarrassed, when he informed me that they could upgrade me to a mini-van. My response? Sweet.

I know what you’re thinking. LAME. But hear me out.

First of all, the mini-van is large. For a six-foot-eighter like me, that’s key. I’m out of the compact and mid-sized car markets simply based on leg/head room. To be able to sit up straight in a vehicle, stretch my legs a little, and not have my legs around my ears is a blessing.

Also, it seats seven. I hate trying to take several cars anywhere. Let’s go out to dinner! Oh wait, there’s six of us, so we have to take two cars. Oh no! Mike didn’t make it through the light. Now we have to wait for him. I’m parked out front, but you’re parked on the other side of the restaurant. I know…these are minor inconveniences. But they are inconvenient. When you have kids, seating is essential. But when you just want to go out with friends, it’s also kind of nice.

Cargo space is such a perk. With a car, you can’t even buy a dresser at target without having to figure out how to get it home. Much less a couch. And moving! What a pain. But with a mini-van–especially one of the new fancy stow-and-go models, you have all the room you need for anything short of an all-out move.

Allow me to put to rest some misconceptions. It’s not like driving a tank. The new models are as easy to drive, park, and maneuver as my Chrysler LHS sedan. They’re not gas guzzlers. They do have a v-6, so they’re not going to get Honda Civic mileage. But most new models get between 19 and 23 in the city, and upwards of 28 on the highway. And you can’t fit a couch in a Honda Civic.

One final misconception to disprove. They’re not lame. I’ll refer you to the Toyota Sienna adds for all the proof you’ll ever need. You Tube it mother-fathers.

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