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Friday, August 31, 2007

Bubbles and Puddles

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It Never Hurts to Ask

So we got our contract absolved yesterday with the house with oh-so-many problems. We were very surprised that the guy let us off so easy: the Dayton contract is very ambiguous when it comes to allowing either party to terminate the contract, for whatever reason. We were soooo relieved, but still sad. I feel like the guy who admires this really cute girl from afar and decides to ask her out and while she's not perfect things are going great so he finally gets up the nerve to pop the big question only to be told that her insides are infested with cancer and the doctors think her chances for survival are slim to none. The seller stipulated only that he be privy to copies of the inspections. Like, uh, sure: You need all the help you can get. We really don't think the guy realized what a mess the house was in; for all we know, he never even used the toilets and didn't realize the contractors who put down the floors never bolted them back to the ground. But that's the least of his problems.

In the meantime...
We have another contract on a house! Before we moved on to what we felt like were reasonable homes in our price range we decided to low-ball some homes in a neighborhood we fell in love with that is near the school Conner was supposed to attend. We figured, it never hurts to ask, right? And we won't spend much time on it: there were only three houses we had our eye on (not many houses for sale in this neighborhood, period; people move there and don't want to leave) and we'll just give them each our offer and then move on after they say no. We never expected anything to come of it, but we felt like we at least had to try for a chance to stay in that school zone since nothing else right in our price range was available (that we were willing to make an offer on). And since we've looked at every house there is for sale in our price range, we should know.

We weren't the only ones surprised that the first seller we asked accepted our offer! (Like, why didn't we do this earlier?) I believe our realtor's words were, "Well, just call me a Doubting Thomas." We were a bit stunned, to say the least; we also felt like, uh, maybe we should go look at the house again? We had seen the inside once before, but it was many days and many more houses ago. We were also in such a hurry that we forgot our camera so, no, no pictures yet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"If It Seems Too Good To Be True..." probably is. At least that's what my -- oh, whatever. Just about everyone has said that.

The house inspections were a bust. Poor patch job on the roof. Inoperable fireplace. No cap on the chimney, from however long. Termites. And two of the toilets were never bolted down after the guy redid the floors. They're just sitting there. Like, loose. Too bad that wasn't a house Olivia had to go to the bathroom in while we were looking at it. And a couple of the bathrooms had loose tiles where you shower. Other little things done poorly, not readily apparent to the naked eye.

Did I mention termites? Maybe "things" can be fixed, ok. Even big things like roofs. But how do you ever know for sure that you fix all the little buggers? There's only evidence on one wall in the garage, not adjoining the house, but still. How can you be sure that they're really gone? And that they didn't do like a search for a holy grail in the maze of your walls that you just can't see? I don't know and I don't want to find out. We just want out of this house -- or to never be in it. We put in the request through our realtor to terminate the contract; now we have to wait and see how jerky this guy's going to be. In retrospect we obviously should have paid for the inspection before we made an offer. Who knew? Not us. Future note: always have flips professionally inspected before you fall in love. And I did like that house. On the surface. "Sell the kitchen and you sell the house" seemed to be the one thing he did right.

We are so disappointed. Everything seemed to be falling into place so well: really, to land in a new city and start house hunting and find a house and make an offer and sign a contract and close --all within one month! Sounds too good to be true! Oh, wait. I already used that one.

No, Conner did not start school today. Really, the writing was on the wall, although we didn't officially request to terminate the house contract until today, after our realtor received her copy of the inspection and could go over it with us: You know, maybe we're overreacting. She did say, in response to my asking, that she routinely sees inspections this messed up. (My words.) Color me naive that I can't believe someone would try to sell a house, at market value (ok, maybe a little below market: see above, "If it seems too good to be true...") without first getting rid of the termites. Ok, say he didn't know they were there... but not bolting toilets to the floor? I mean, come on. And, if you're trying to flip a house you've never lived in and aren't intimately familiar with, wouldn't it be worth a few hundred dollars to hire an inspector to give you a head's up on anything that might be wrong with it? I guess not, when you've got suckers like us to do that for you.

I'm giving it until the end of the week before we just put Conner in school anyway, somewhere. We really were liking that school, too. It was tempting to just take him anyway and keep him there regardless, but what about next year if we're not in that zone? And what if we end up in Beavercreek? What, I'm going to schlep him all over kingdom come?

I do believe there is a higher purpose to all of this. Something we may or may not ever see. It may not even have anything to do with us, at least not directly. But, really, we've been pretty low, pretty stressed out -- then I come across something like this:

And I get perspective. I mean, we're living in a hotel, but it has rooms. And walls. And a toilet. (That's bolted to the floor.) And beds. Even a full-sized fridge. And we're healthy. We're not rich, but we're not paupers, either. We may not have a home, but we're not homeless.

John and I aren't the only ones tired...

On another note, John just finished our taxes tonight. As I'm typing. Yes, as in the ones from last year.

John: "I just finished the taxes!"


John: "Isn't that exciting?"

Me: "It's, like, September."

John: "Yea! Where are my props?"

More silence.

John: "That takes a huge weight off me, you know." Pause. "Why didn't you tell me to do this sooner?"

(In his defense, you get a big-time extension when you've been deployed. Technically, they're not even late.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

New Things and Old

We have a contract on a house! We made an offer on Wednesday; on Thursday after we got his "counter" we were sure it wasn't going to happen; and today we signed the contract! And got financing and arranged insurance and started scheduling inspections ... which still need to be done, so never say never, but this is the most relaxed I've felt in two weeks. Two years and two weeks.

Conner and I went ahead and checked out his school yesterday, after the negotiations for the house started looking up. (In other words, started up again.) I wanted to at least pre-register, and really just get a hands-on look in case it somehow turned out awful so we could still turn the whole thing off. We both loved it: it's big; and it's a pretty new building. (A lot of schools around this area are older and in need of renovation; still don't have AC, for example. Kind of a big problem this week when many schools started (then promptly cancelled) in this 100-degree heat.) But, more than that, the office staff was very warm and welcoming and competent and with-it. But even more than that, I saw in them the pride in their school that I had sensed over the phone. Definitely a warm and fuzzy.

We happened to get there right as new-student orientation was finishing up, so we saw how the office staff handled hordes of parents with kids teeming around and asking questions. (Which also gave me the added bonus of being able to check out other families and kids.) And they dealt very efficiently with my questions and issues, too, and didn't freak out or act annoyed with our as-usual unusual situation (not many kids moving to Centerville, Ohio who recently attended an Italian school, for instance.)

Conner starts school next Tuesday and he's both excited and nervous. He's glad that he's starting on time -- really, how lucky that this house was zoned for a school that starts a week later than many others here do? And he's really glad that all of the kids in his grade are also starting at this school for the first time, whether they're altogether new to the area, like he is, or just coming from grade schools around Centerville.

I, on the other hand, am more than ready for my vacation from Buying A House. It's not done yet, but all the balls are in motion and I don't want to talk on the phone again for a very, very long time. After all the research I did into lenders and this and that, we just ended up going with USAA anyway. Won't I ever learn? We still have a leftover bad taste in our mouths that the seller really, really doesn't like us. Or, at least, doesn't like that we offered him so much less. And then still offered him less after he said that was his final offer. (Even though he got closer to what he wanted than we did to what we wanted. Hey, it's a soft market, and bidness is bidness.) But he doesn't have to like us. We're just praying that there are no real problems with the inspections as he no less than stated (he said that she said that he said) that he was not going to be flexible in that area. (Apparently, here anyway, it's a real gray area whether a problem found in an inspection is big enough to cancel a deal.) Problem is, he's flipping this house and never actually lived in it, so we're getting about every kind of inspection done that you can imagine. He readily offered at his open house that this was his first attempt to flip, and while he did put a lot of work and money into fixing it, updating it ... well, you just never know.

On another note, if we ever doubted that we really needed to look for a 4-bedroom, living in this hotel has clinched it. The little ones have kept each other up night after night, whether it's not going to sleep for all the talking and mischief, or one (usually Sean-Peter) waking up the other with night terrors or just general I Don't Want To Be In Bed Anymore. We're hoping to close in two weeks. Please! Instead of almost two weeks after that we had originally estimated. Stuff or no stuff, this living on top of each other is for the birds. It truly is the whining and screeching and squealing and belly-aching that takes years off a parent's soul. And replaces them with wrinkles.

Here's one of the little terrors, still not used to air conditioning. Brrrrr!

Here they are about a month ago (still in Italy). What a Cool Cat.

At our back door in Italy: "Sean-Peter, look out for that big, big spider!" She still tells people about that spider. Anyone who asks her about Italy gets regaled with tales, hand motions and all, about the "Big, big spider". Like if you go there that's all you'll see.

In our very empty kitchen, our last day in the house. On the oh-so-dangerous marble floors in front of the walls I painted that our landlord tried to make us pay extra for. ("Red paint." Sad head shake. "Very, very bad.") Never mind that they get, like, $2000 from the U.S. government to paint the house each time one of us military famlies moves into it -- money they mostly pocket when they pay Guiseppe $300 to whitewash the walls. They were just bitter they might have to use real paint in this room. The idea that they could just leave it -- I even touched it up and left them the extra -- is a concept lost on them. Even though everyone who came into my kitchen commented on it and wished they had it, too. (Or maybe that's just me romanticizing how everyone should be so brave with color. In at least one room.)(And really, if you don't even move around like we do you really have no excuse.)
I still love that color. Michelangelo, eat your heart out.
But as much as they hated that color, you should have seen them when they saw Spongebob: they positively shuddered. I guess they don't like the show.John had painted this mural on the kids' bedroom wall. Yes, free-hand. And, yes, we let our kids watch Spongebob.

And finally, in front of our new (to us) van. Still not big enough to swallow up the moans and gripes and piercing shrieks, but we're totally loving it anyway.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I want to catch up on some posts I didn't have time (or the internet connection) for before we left Italy. Sandy had her baby! Their first, and if I were a betting type, not their last: Julien Christopher Ott. Marc is obviously the smitten, doting papa. (And who wouldn't love to be baby-talked to in French?)

Julien was born June 19 and was a month old when I met him. He's healthy and beautiful and looks very, very smart. I am so glad I was able to go to Paris one more time just to see him before we left Europe, as hectic as it was in the middle of our move preparations. Welcome to the world, Julien!

My only complaint is that I'm not at all happy with the pictures I left with: they all seemed either blurry or washed out, for whatever reason. These are the least tainted, of several taken.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream at Sean-Peter

We took the kids to Young's Jersey Dairy outside Yellow Springs, not too far from the base. It was in the interest of self-preservation that we take a break from our relentless house hunting and get out of the hotel for a few hours. We'd heard of this place from Ruth and Mark, who were stationed here years ago, and then recently from our realtor. But we were still surprised at the size of the business this family has set-up for themselves: a little petting zoo; miniature golf; a driving range; a makeshift "train" ride for the kids as well as a tractor playground they can climb on ... and, of course, "the best ice cream around". Leah, our realtor, told us she decided to stop there once on her way back from Columbus late one night. It was almost midnight and she had to stand in line for ice cream. It was good, but sheesh. Wasn't Conner a good sport to pose for this picture? And the one below epitomizes Sean-Peter: in the nanosecond it took me to raise the camera up and press the button, he had climbed the fence and was halfway over to the other side. Now, I did notice his ascent as I was aiming, but I recognize a photo op when I see one. Note his two siblings standing there, calmly watching the cows -- not trying to join them.
And, yes, he's like this all the time.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

House Hunting: Not recommended.

It has been quite the harrowing week of house hunting. If we hadn't had a referral for some childcare for the Little Ones, the search probably would have put us over the edge. The kids went to Deb, another military spouse, so readily you'd think they were old friends. Speaks to the kids' adaptability and amiability; also to the strength and reliabilty of the referral. Thank you, Donnetta!

By Wednesday the kids were tired, we were tired, and we had looked at probably 30 houses without one screaming out, "You're home!" And we belatedly learned that we were looking at the tax figures wrong. That is, we understoond what the figure was, but not the frequency that figure was due. In Las Vegas we are not. Ouch.
The timing for a break from race-car-speed house hunting worked out because Deb the babysitter found out Tuesday night that her husband is due back from his deployment on Thursday. So, no more babysitter. We definitely slowed down, but we looked at enough the next two days to show us how impossibly exhausting it would have been had we had the two- and four-year-old along with us the whole week. We already had an 11-year-0ld whining at us "How many more houses?" and, "What time will we be done?" and "Where are we going now?" Like, duh: there's kind of a trend here of looking at houses.

So we were not feeling a particular affinity toward each other or Uncle Sam: He moves us to Ohio, he wants to gank us for over $300 a month to own a house here, and -- to top it off -- his cousin in Maryland tracked us down right before we left Italy and told us -- again -- that John still owed taxes from when we lived there seven years ago.

Because John had dealt with this Maryland tax problem twice before, we figured it was a matter of dealing with it, again, and getting, again, the same result: "Sorry, our problem, not yours". (Albeit without the sorry part.) Except this time they say it never was John that owed but me. And didn't we mention that before? And oh, by the way, we've shredded any papers that might have proved you've talked to us about this before so now it's on you to prove we're wrong. Too bad we caught you in the middle of an overseas move with all your records in a box somewhere on the Atlantic. (Does anyone else move with seven years worth of tax records in their luggage?)

To say this came at a bad time makes the cliche of saying that would be an understatement sound like an understatement. It's like we're on this sinking boat and everytime we think we've found the source of the leak another one springs up out of nowhere until it dawns on us that someone had retrofitted the shoes we put on our two-year-old with ice picks in the soles. I mean, really: you can't make this stuff up.

So after this grueling week in this hotel room full of snapping turtles wondering if we should just rent a house and be done with it and pay Maryland $600+ we don't think we owe ... John looks around and starts to say, in that goofy, Southern-jive way he has, "I love this Fambly"...only before he can go on to wax poetic about how it's a soft place to fall and he's so glad he has us despite everything, the Accidental Comedian (aka Conner) strikes again: " . . . not much of a choice, though, is there." With no trace of irony in his voice whatsoever.

It was just the comedy break we needed. Conner looked a little confused when John and I burst into laughter, all but falling on the floor with how funny it struck us. The little ones were just glad the Grumpy Parents were gone and not yelling at them for doing kid things so they joined right in, never mind they had no idea what the joke was. And Conner either got it or, what the heck, at least they're not yelling at me, and ended up laughing, too.

Anyone knows a good tax attorney, you can pass him our way. Even if we ended up paying him what we "owe" the State of Maryland, it might be worth it. Did I mention that school starts next week? And, even if I knew what town we'll be living in, I still wouldn't know which school zone it would be ... Oh, and John starts work on Monday, and we're a one-car family until our 4-Runner gets here sometime in September...

One positive note (there is one!) is that we are looooving our van!

********Time elapse************

John read most of this during one of the many interruptions while it was in-process and said that he thought it was a bit "dark". (This coming from him!) I said, yea, so was our week! I promise no more rantings (or at least not for awhile) -- and I'm going to try to find the camera cable so I can download some pictures soon, too.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Princess and the Gremlin

We have settled into our new lodging more in the last 12 hours than we did in the two days we were at the other place -- definitely a good move. We even got the front desk to disable the pay-for-view channels on the TV after John caught Sean-Peter trying to order one of the adult shows, if you know what I mean. They disabled the phones for good measure, too, so all he can call out to is the front desk. We have cell phones now so it's all good.

We've taken to calling Sean-Peter a Gremlin, in addition to other nicknames -- Dr. D (aka Dr. Destructo) and Little Brute ... yes, mom, I know -- they'll be what you call them. We're just calling them as we see it! (And for the record, most of the time I just call him Little Buddy.)

Gremlin came up when John pulled him off the cupboard doors he was repeatedly banging shut, only to have him immediately push the buttons to activate the dishwasher then scamper off on his mischievous feet out of reach so fast John only met air by the time he turned around to smack him on the behind. Instead he shouted after him, "You're not a boy, you're a Gremlin! That's why you don't talk! You hatched from an egg out of our closet!"

Olivia, on the other hand, consistently goes around in her princess wear and insists on changing into a "princess dress" unless we simply start her day out in one. She wore her crown on every flight over here and told anyone who talked to her -- which was about everyone -- that the jewels were real and she collects diamonds -- something her parents were sure happy to hear about as that will certainly take care of our retirement plan.

Friday, August 10, 2007

We Have Arrived

I'm sitting here at the Residence Inn in the Ghetto ("North Dayton"), somehow inspired to post to this blog which came up with transcript in Russian for reasons completely unknown, waiting for our Chinese takeout to be delivered. Chinese food! American Chinese food! Moo Goo Gai Pan. I can't wait.

Between the mysterious Russian, the impending Chinese food, and the strange form of English that Sean-Peter habitually speaks, I feel like I am having the most international experience. All in Ohio. Who would have thought.

We are changing lodging tomorrow. We spent a good amount of our time out this morning stopping at places closer to base that included "Suites" or "Extended" in their name. We would be moving even if the guy that delivered our dinner last night hadn't avoided eye contact with the obvious intent of staking out the place -- luckily we hadn't even unpacked yet -- because this place has a loft with only a ledge for a wall barely higher than the bed that practically invites Sean-Peter to catapult himself over the edge to the floor 15 feet below. Brilliant design.

Moo Goo Gai Pan! Sign out for now.