Sunday, October 14, 2012

Future Home Buyers PSA

Next week we hope to close on our house. This sentence is such a simple thing. It sounds so clean and easy. Like no trouble at all. But it's a ton of trouble. So much trouble. Tedious small details that needed to be dealt with "RIGHT NOW" kinds of trouble.

I'm sure that not everyone goes through this roller coaster of ups and downs when buying their first home. I'm sure that normal people who feel that they are ready to go house shopping actually have a decent amount of savings and a good credit score. I'm sure they are able to shop for homes that they can actually live in. But not all of us are so lucky. We were told 2 months into our offer on our short sale that our credit score had fallen 3 points (THREE POINTS!) and that we couldn't secure financing. We had to scramble to find another lender because apparently 3 points is enough to completely mess with your lending terms.  

It took us two years, three real estate agents, four lenders, and two (almost three but that's a whole other story) offers to get to this point. In the last few weeks we almost thought we wouldn't even get here. Keeping up on your finances when you don't earn much money is probably one of the hardest things to learn as an adult. Last week we must have made and taken at least 50 phone calls, e-mails, and performed various other paperwork tasks trying to make this happen. We've been told we don't have enough money. We've been told our credit score is too low. But we're going to make it work anyway.

It's obnoxious and tiring, but the end result is all that matters. This time next week, I'll hold the keys to our new house. Even 6 months ago I had a hard time imagining that we would even be trying to pack up and figure out when we could move with such extremely busy schedules. As stressful as all this has been, pausing to think back on everything we've been through to get here still gives me hope and a sense of accomplishment.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tying Up Loose Ends

This morning, Paul and I met up with our real estate agent and the inspector to get the house inspected. Fortunately it all checked out in pretty good condition and there isn't really much we have to do to it short of personal preferences. I was driving back to Lincoln to get some more work done and it hit me, once we buy this house, so many of the works in progress we've had over the last few years will finally be resolved.

We've been in a perpetual state of anticipation basically since we got married. I've been anticipating finding a teaching job, we've anticipated Charlotte's arrival, we anticipated buying this house. Lately we've been extremely busy with trying to get the last smidgeons of summer enjoyed (aka camping), visiting Paul's family, my prepping for the Met Audition, and now I feel like I'm never caught up on work for my new teaching jobs. I didn't realize until today that in addition to a voice lesson, a parent night, a coaching, a workshop, and my voice studio lessons, I had forgotten about the alumni reunion concert and rehearsal schedule. Oh yeah, and my birth center's bi-annual picnic is this Saturday (nicely fitted between rehearsals I must say).  These things have felt so far away for so long, it's just crazy how they've all managed to manifest at once. I'd be overwhelmed by it, but I don't have time.

I could probably complain about how hard my life is and how tired I am. But I have never been so happy and excited to be this busy. The hours I do spend with Charlotte feel like they matter more. I feel so much more patient with her and happier to play with her and give her the amount of attention that she wants. Charlotte now gets the benefit of having her days spent with dad in the mornings, grandma in the afternoon, and mom in the evening. It's not the stay-at-home mom situation I had pictured, but I kind of feel like it's almost better. She gets the best of all of us because her time with us is concentrated in a way. Dr. Laura can criticize all she wants. My working and self-betterment make me a better mom.

Now that so many chapters are coming to a close it seems like we should be able to just settle into our routines. We should, but I am really looking forward to the next chapter. Growing my choir programs, advancing in my singing career, watching Charlotte grow up, perhaps having more kids. Now without so many things looming everything else seems so much more doable! Anything is possible.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Curve Balls

Life in mom-land has been interesting lately. A week ago I interviewed for a part time job at Grant High School. I felt like my interview went well but I guess I just wasn't what they felt like they needed right now. I was pretty sad for a couple days but not all that surprised. I've gotten pretty accustomed to losing out on jobs - especially after Washougal.

With every job I've almost had, I've done quite a bit of preparation. I have so many self-made teaching materials and music collections that I'd have to narrow things down when I do finally get a job. However, this is for a high school choir program. So when I got a call yesterday with an offer to teach one period of middle school I was completely thrown for a loop. My knee-jerk reaction was to walk away. But then I thought about it and I decided that it would be worth it to be in district for job openings next year. Especially with the amount of shifting they seem to do with their choir programs every year. I'll practically be guaranteed a high school job in the next few years.

This is all so unexpected and I still haven't even really mentally grasped what this job will do to my life this year. What's more is that I've got another choir I'm starting at Wilson and I've got my voice studio. In other words, I'll have no problem staying busy!

This brings me to childcare. These jobs are still plenty part time. But keeping Charlotte supervised is going to be somewhat challenging. I think what's difficult about it is Paul's work schedule being so unpredictable. If he was actually on a consistent shift we could hire someone without too much confusion. But as it is, I feel a bit bewildered by the whole childcare thing. I suppose we'll work it out just like everyone else does.

Today we're meeting with yet another lender to get paperwork in on our home loan stuff. Our real estate agent e-mailed me yesterday to tell me that the banks are in the final stages of the process and we should have an answer from them in the next few weeks. It would certainly be nice to have a routine around all this new work in our own home.

Back in parenting land, Charlotte's been battling a runny nose going on a week now. I'm resisting the urge to take her to see her doctor since her next well baby visit is really soon and I'm hoping it will just go away on its own. It's kind of nice with my mom back to work because we can have a morning together. This morning we had breakfast and then organized her clothes. Basically I put away small things in storage put her laundry in her dresser while she pulled it all out and spread it around the living room floor. Right now she's trying to climb the tv stand so she can touch the sesame street characters. I'm pretty much going to let her.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

September in a Nutshell

Wednesday night Paul got home from work and told me his mom wanted to talk to us at 8. She had us on a conference call with Paul's brother to tell us that she's met with a hospice care consultant and that she's decided to discontinue cancer treatments. This wasn't really much of a surprise. It also wasn't a surprise when she asked us to make the 400 mile trip north to visit them before she's gone.

Thursday I got an e-mail from our home loan lender that Paul's credit score had fallen two points below the required minimum for us to qualify for the loan. This is the loan we need for the house that we currently have an offer on and are waiting to hear an answer from. He told me it was because of my Sallie Mae loans. Sallie Mae for the win again. So I called them and figured out that I only needed to pay off one smaller loan in order for Paul's credit not to be tarnished by any more late payments - I tend to get overwhelmed by the payments and just don't make them because they stress me out.

So with our bank account close to $700 lighter we are hopefully on target to get his credit score up high enough to qualify before we actually need the loan. *fingers crossed*

Friday I did all our bills - which no matter what I do to streamline the process still always manage to take me hours - and then I took Charlotte up to Paul's brother's to make travel arrangements. As I was waiting for a call back from Enterprise (who gave us a great deal and were very accommodating) I got an e-mail from the HR department from Portland Public Schools. I assumed it was about my being removed from the sub list. Instead it was an urging from one of their staff members to apply for an open high school choir position.

So now I'm waiting to hear about whether I will be interviewing for the job (I assume they don't make many interview appointments on the weekend). This throws a whole new, but not unpleasant, wrench into an already hectic month of September.

I'm in a complete childcare conundrum. I'm going to need someone to watch Charlotte in the morning whether I get the job or not. I can't help but wonder how much work I can do and still be considered an at-home mom. This job would definitely make me feel less guilty just based on the fact that I've wanted it so badly for so long!

The rest of this year is already starting to look like a cyclone of busy. From now until mid-October we have school starting, this potential job starting, setting up my studio, camping, driving 16 hours to visit ailing family with a toddler, the met audition and all of the prep I need to do for it, and the looming possibility of finally buying our house and moving. This seems like a lot to fit into one month!

Monday, August 13, 2012

High Chair Happiness!

Last night Paul and I drove back from Seaside with Charlotte leaving my parents, sister and grandpa to enjoy a day baby free. It was rather nice getting to spend time with my husband alone, even if it was only a few hours (he had to get up early this morning for work). Before we left for the beach, Caitlin accompanied me to Babies'R'Us before my voice lesson to purchase a high chair. I spent this morning cooking up scrambled eggs and hash browns and feeding my baby who is still thrilled with the novelty of her high chair. 

The high chair is something we have put off for quite awhile...obviously about a year. I tend to be rather picky - which I've stated before - about baby products. I don't like things with patterns and too many noises, lights, and gadgets. I like simple things and I like them to be functional. The problem is that functional simple things tend to be twice as expensive as plastic things covered in animal and flower prints. Another difficulty is that things tend to be extremely gender specific, especially when it comes to girls stuff. I've gone out of my way to keep things fairly gender neutral in case we have a boy the next time around. I would feel bad putting my little man in a pink high chair.

I hadn't really shopped much for a chair when I saw this chair on display at Babies R Us. I had assumed we'd probably just get a chair from Ikea. But I saw this and I was sold - especially when the 20% off coupon worked for it! 

The pads are neutral colors, it's very easy to clean, the tray is huge and removable for cleaning. I also like the piece that blocks the crotch so food stays in her lap and the dog can't get it (she likes to feed the dog). The whole thing collapses flat and is on wheels making it easy to move it out of the way when it's not being used. The height is adjustable so that it can be used as a chair at the table, and the seat reclines which might be nice for an infant later. For a baby that likes to climb and stand in high chairs, I really liked the comfortable harness in it as well. So far she hasn't Houdini'd her way out yet, and even better she hasn't thrown a fit because she's contained.

Chicco Polly Magic High Chair
It's probably on the fancier side of plastic high chairs, but I figure it'll get plenty of use. I was interested in the stokke chair, but it's about $100 more, and even though it can be used by any sized person baby to adult, I kind of wanted something that would contain my busy baby better and the stokke chair design doesn't really fit with my other chairs all that well.  

I've only had this chair about 3 days now, so I can't really attest to its long term usability, but I'm happy so far. I felt extra mom-tastic this morning cooking up breakfast and feeding my baby in it. I imagine this must be how most normal people feed their toddler. No wonder people have high chairs earlier!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pre Potty Training

I'm always finding myself in this limbo state with parenting where I feel like I'm either completely incompetent or a total over-achiever. I remember this one time I got a job at a call center and had to go through some rounds of testing so they could keep records of my skill levels. I took a typing test where I had recorded my score and then improved upon it. I told the lady administering the tests that I had improved on my score and I wasn't sure if they'd want to record it. She told me I didn't need to be a showboat. This has always bothered me. 

On one hand, yeah, perhaps I should learn better not to get cocky. On the other hand, this was a rather remedial job and I thought at the time that perhaps I should put myself out there in case there was some chance that they'd want to put me in a job that was more suitable to my skill level. I ended up quitting after two weeks! 

This is the sort of tension I feel with parenting. I'm exceedingly proud of Charlotte and how engaging and intelligent she is. I'm happy to get compliments and I love that people enjoy her. But I feel like I'm always trying to downplay what I like about her to keep from being obnoxious. And then there are times when she's returned to me by strangers because she's wandered off without my noticing. 

Lately I've been contemplating potty training and I keep going back and forth with whether I should even be thinking about it or not. Charlotte is only 13 months old. I am well aware that she is not ready. However she is rather smart, and the reality is that she's very far developed for a 13-month-old. From what I've gathered so far, these are the skills that will make potty training successful:

  1. the ability to signal when she needs to use the toilet - verbally or with a sign
  2. the ability to understand what I mean when I ask if she has to go
  3. the ability to recognize when she's being rewarded
  4. the ability to do the motor functions - pulling her pants up and down, ripping off toilet paper, holding her hands under the water faucet

Right now she can just barely do the first thing, and we're still working on her knowing what "poop poop" actually is rather than mimicking it when I say it.  I keep having this sneaking suspicion that there are things I could be doing now with her though. 

What I've found with many of the articles and blogs I've read is that potty training is a nuisance for parents and a traumatic experience for the kid. Everything starts out with "are you ready?" as in, "brace yourself, this is going to seriously suck." My gut has been telling me that it doesn't have to be that way. I'm actually rather eager to get started.

A few days ago I read this blog and so many of the things I was doing intuitively were put into words! It suggests associating a word or phrase with bowel movements (we have already been saying "poop poop"), letting your baby watch you use the bathroom (she follows me into the bathroom whether I want her to or not), having a potty or potty seat around before you start to use it, having your baby sit in the potty or potty seat when they go if you happen to catch them, and having your baby go diaper free. It also gives a great explanation for why to do these five things and how they will help later on. 

We still have a few months yet before we're ready to start hard core potty training. But I think it can be a far more casual and gradual experience than what so many "experts" would lead you to believe. And perhaps I'm being overzealous, and sure it would be cool to say that my child was out of diapers before 2 years old, but I'm not trying to win any awards here. I'm just really looking forward to when I don't have to change diapers anymore!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

13 Months Going on 2 Years

For the last week we've been battling a case of rosalea with Charlotte. At first we had no clue what was going on with her. She had a high fever for about 3 days and wouldn't eat hardly anything. When a rash broke out the fifth day we were sure she had chicken pox and I made an appointment to take her to the pediatrician. The doctor told me she had rosalia, which I guess isn't uncommon.
Yesterday her rash started to clear up some, but boy was she cranky and today she's feeling much better I think.

Now we have a whole new set of issues to contend with. Our little 1-year-old is going through her terrible twos already. She gets really angry and screams when she can't do something easily, she hits when we take something away from her or tell her no. And she's always testing us! Last night at Caitlin and Colin's she looked Caitlin in the eye as she slowly reached for her candle sticks as Caitlin told her not to.

So far we've been trying to put her in time out in her crib when she's having her tantrums, but it doesn't seem to be making the impression that it should. I'm going to have to do some research and find some resources for parenting approaches. This is not a kid that is going to take no for an answer, and I don't want to beat her or break her inquisitive spirit. I have my work cut out for me.