Friday, April 29, 2005

Speedos or Bust!

Well, not literally. No matter what shape you're in, unless you're an Olympic swimmer in the middle of a competition, Speedos are unseemly and a bit vulgar. The male equivalent of camel toe.

Nevertheless, I've finally started hitting the gym again and am trying to get back into shape. Thanks to the flu a month or so ago, I lost about 12 pounds, most of which I kept off after I got better. Now my goal is to drop another 10 of the 40 pounds I've gained since I've been married, and tone everything up that's gotten soft over that time.

I'm only going twice a week so far, following my customized Army workout with some Nautilus and the elliptical thingee thrown in, but want to try for 3/week, at least on alternating weeks. Nothing makes the work day go faster than a midday workout and a nice hot shower!

Deadline: May 31

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Mixed Emotions

We didn't get the house. While we were apparently "one of the better offers," the winning offer was "substantially higher." I'm guessing that means at least $5k above our offer, if not more, so great for the seller - a nice old guy who'll now be able to retire comfortably and spend his time painting - and back to square one for us.

While I'm disappointed, I'm also relieved that we didn't get sucked into bidding higher than we did and potentially paying more than the house was worth; "worth," of course, being relative. I am curious, though.

I've always been a pretty lucky person for whom things generally seem to work out for in the end so, c'est la vie and on to Plan B. Anyone have any leads on a good no-fee 2-3BR apartment on the Upper West Side?

Monday, April 25, 2005

"Highest and Best"

"Pop quiz, hotshot. How much do you want this house?"

Highest and Best. That's the rules of the game for our bid on the house we want. All offers will go through the listing agent for presentation tomorrow afternoon and the seller will pick the "highest and best" of them, with no counter-offers being made. "Highest" is self-explanatory; "best" represents the variables like mortgage status, closing date, etc., potential tie-breakers in case of equal "highest" offers. We're good on that side of the equation, now we have to figure out the other side without getting ripped off.

Fucking seller's market! The house was just listed last Tuesday!!! With 13 of the 16 houses that have closed in Bloomfield in our price range since last November selling at or above asking price, in some cases well above asking, it's an all-in or fold kind of hand to play.

We were originally going to just round up our bid to an even number, offering $1,000 more than their asking price, but now we're trying to figure out if we should go higher and if so, how much higher. Because it's such a great deal, losing this house would push Plan B back to the front, but because it's such a great deal, it's quite likely the other bidder(s) are having the same debate. Assuming, of course, there really are other bidders and we're not simply being played!

Why can't eBay get into real estate?

Adventures in Real Estate

What a crazy week. We flip-flopped so much on our housing situation, I felt like John Kerry by Sunday night!

Faced with the likelihood of stretching ourselves unacceptably thin to afford a decent house in Bloomfield, we started working on Plan B, an apartment in a Manhattan neighborhood with a good elementary school. Our logic was that the rent would still be cheaper than the mortgage and would include such things as heat and hot water, and was partially driven by issues connected to India's speech-delay and the difference in available services between NY and NJ. She's been progressing noticeably over the past few months since we finally acknowledged the delay, and our evaluation meeting last week left me relatively confident that with therapy, she'll be fine in short order, but there's still the niggling concern over whether or not it'll happen before or after we move, and whether the move will have any adverse affect on her.

It's things like this that make me cringe a bit when getting unsolicited housing advice from friends without kids. Kids change everything and if their well-being isn't the number one factor in the major decisions you make, you're fucking up. Plain and simple.

So anyway, by Friday, it was looking like we were noticeably leaning towards Plan B, but we'd scheduled a few Bloomfield appointments for Saturday which ended up being a litmus test for us. If we weren't still excited by the house option after looking at a few, it stood to reason that our minds were made up and Plan B - with the appealing benefits of cheaper transportation, convenient access to all the things that make living in NYC worth the hassle, and not having to get a NJ license...again! - was the way to go. Instead, we saw a couple of houses we liked, one we came to love, and the scales were once again almost even, tipping slightly back over to Plan A.

The good thing is that it's always preferable to have a tough decision to make based on pros rather than cons, something that's not usually been the case in our previous housing adventures that often left us choosing between the lesser of two evils.

We talked it out, slept on it Saturday night to see how we really felt about it, and by Noon Sunday were calling our realtor to let her know we were ready to bid on the house, a small 100-year old colonial with great wood trim and floors throughout and a huge backyard. There's some compromise involved - the kitchen is awkwardly laid out, the kids will still share a room and we'll have to finish the basement in order to accomodate my sister - but the pros definitely outweigh the cons, among them the fact that it's a full $50k cheaper than the other house we were considering two weeks ago, but has one and a half bathrooms and a 3-year old roof.

Now it's fingers-crossed time as we'll head over there tonight to submit our bid and hope for the best. If it's accepted, we should be closed and moved in by the end of July, just in time for a nice barbeque to celebrate my birthday!


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Our First Pet

Isaac has figured out why we've been looking at houses the past month or two, and has now started making plans. He's looking forward to "big boy school" which means five months of "When do I start big boy school?" At first he was into the idea of having his own room, but last night he decided he still wanted to share a room with India. And that they should get bunk beds, with him on the top, with a guardrail to make sure he doesn't fall out.

And he wants a dog.

So do I. :-)

Not sure what kind, though. Has to be one that is good around kids, that can handle some rough-housing without biting back. When I was around 18 months old, I bit my cousin's German Shephard puppy, Leo, hard on the nose and he never forgot or forgave. Until he was finally put to sleep 16 years later, whenever he saw me he'd go crazy and try to attack. They had to keep him in the backyard or the basement whenever I came over.

I can totally see India biting a dog.

Part of me wants something cute, like a Beagle or Basset Hound or Boston Terrier. A while back we saw a Basenji - pictured, the "African barkless dog"! - but I doubt we'd ever find one in a shelter, which is a must. I wouldn't ever buy a dog from a pet store, and giving $500 or more to a breeder seems like some crazy Nazi shit. Who cares about a purebreed? Certainly not my mixed ass!

Another thing is whether it should be an inside or outside dog. There's appealing things about both, though up north, it couldn't be outside year-round anyway. I'm not feeling those doggie doors people in the suburbs have, either, paranoid that a raccoon or a skunk will wander in the house one night and scare the shit out of me.

I want a cat, too. As much as I like dogs, I consider myself more of a cat person. They're more independent and generally self-sufficient whereas dogs are like kids and two kids are enough for me! Salomé hates cats, though, so it'd probably have to live in the attic with my comic books, which isn't really cool. Depending on the house, of course.

As for the house, we've started to waver a bit on the one we saw Sunday. We still like it but the couple of flaws are looming larger and larger and my mother brought up a couple of other potential issues we'll have to look into so, if nothing else, the most we're now willing to pay for it is $15k less than they're asking, an unlikely successful bid in what is undeniably a seller's market. So it's still a consideration, it's just not as compelling as it was on Sunday. Which, in itself, is a scary thought as the whole concept of "buyer's remorse" has been sitting on my shoulders ever since the mortgage was approved. If we're second-guessing houses to bid on, how the hell are we going to feel once we've actually bought one?


Monday, April 11, 2005

"Backyards Are Overrated."

As someone who's lived in both houses and apartments, played in both grass and brick-strewn empty lots, I agree. But that doesn't mean I don't want one!

The house search took a big step forward yesterday as we went out for the first time since our mortgage was approved - my Army years finally paid off with a nice VA mortgage! - jittery with the knowledge that the game had officially begun, and saw a house that we liked. A lot, actually.

The two main drawbacks are that it only has one bathroom, and a small one at that, and a swimming pool. Pools are other people's backyards! The maintenance sucks and realistically, you can only use it 3-4 months/year in this area. The rest of the time, it's an eyesore. It's a big backyard, though, and the kids will love growing up with a pool, so it's the lesser of the two drawbacks. The bathroom, though, is a big deal. It's small, apartment small, and while there's the possibility of adding one in the partially finished basement, it's an extra expense that will be needed almost immediately.

The positives, though, are pretty strong. Great location, spacious lot, nice interior layout that's big enough to fit our needs (my sister will be moving in with us, trading room and board for after school/daycare pick up services), the aforementioned partially finished basement (for my growing comic collection that I'll no longer be able to afford once we buy a house!) and a half-finished attic. It also has the first master bedroom we've seen worthy of the descriptor, and a great kitchen with a breakfast bar.

Their asking price is at the top end of our limit, the very top, and it's been on the market for three weekends, a long time in Bloomfield where many houses are snatched up within 2-3 weeks, frequently with sale prices HIGHER than the original listing price! The owners are relocating after the school year ends and I did a search of home sales records and found they bought the house 18 months ago for almost $60k less than they're asking now, which I'm hoping means we can get them to drop $10-15k since we're already approved and ready to go and can accomodate their likely need for a delayed closing. That they've been difficult about showing the house works in our favor, too, I think.

The flip side is that it's only April and it's still early in the game. There's not a lot on the market right now and there's a chance we might see something we like better in the next couple of weeks. Of course, there's also the chance we won't and we'll end up with something less than we'd like, or need, and probably for more money!

What to do? What to do?

Thursday, April 7, 2005

The Important Things

This guy I work with says, "I've really mellowed out the past month or so."

We're preparing for a massive move over the weekend, almost everyone on my floor is shifting places, and he's calming himself down as he tells me and a co-worker about the storage facility where we can send the overflow of boxes of media kits, etc.

"I lost my mother last month."

I hate moments like that, especially with people I barely know. I never know what to say and, not being particularly religious or anything, even the simplest platitudes like "God bless." are awkward. Worse, though, is that I recently found out this guy was involved in a crazy case where his wife, who'd been artificially inseminated, had given birth to twins, one white, one black. Turned out the black kid "belonged" to another couple and somehow the sperm, or was it the egg?, had gotten mixed up. Crazy shit, and I've never been able to look at him the same way since.

Anyway, the office move. It's mainly being done to defrag the floor, since the upheaval of the past year or so that combined different groups has left us all spread out in different areas. I found out yesterday that I'm moving to a No Man's Land on the other side of a wall separating me from the primary marketing area. I'll be there with two other marketing people, one who hasn't been hired yet, and some higher-up circ person who reportedly talks too loud on the phone. Added to my month-and-a-half late annual review (that will finally be taking place a little less than an hour from now) which looks like it will result in a promotion and a bullshit "maximum" raise of 7%, I'm feeling kind of edgy.

The Important Things? We're trying to buy a house before the end of the summer, and my staying here is necessary to make that happen. Thanks to our move to VA and the fiasco known as American Express Financial Advisors, when I took this job, I knew I'd have to tough it out for at least two years for credit report purposes. Less than that, they want to look further into your work history, which wouldn't be a good thing in my case. So I grin, grit my teeth, picture the kids playing in the backyard while two churrascos cook on the barbeque, and my comic books are neatly stored in the extra room...and I bear it.

It's definitely worth it; it just takes extreme patience and willpower not to get up and walk the fuck out some days. I have a feeling I'll need to take a nice long walk outside around 2:30pm, though. Hopefully it won't have started raining by then...

Meet the Cast

Hard to believe we'll be married SEVEN years in July!!! I must've put up with some serious shit in a past life. And Salomé must've been pretty bad in hers.

Mr. Incredible and Dash. I never said we weren't enablers!

I'm SO dreading the teenage years...

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Because You Demanded It!

Well, a couple of you anyway. :-)

So yes, like Jay-Z and the common cold, I'm back again (Shut up, Omar!) slipping in quietly, hopefully able to settle in comfortably before anybody notices.

What can I say? At one point after signing off here a couple of months ago, I decided I'd start using my LiveJournal account for the more personal kind of blog that I tend to despise, but there's something about LJ I've never liked and I only posted one thing of interest, along with a few dumb memes. LJ's great for commenting and the threaded discussions, but as an online "journal," I just don't like it. There's a cliquey, group-think feel about it, whereas Blogger seems a bit more individualistic.

Maybe I'm just resistant to change? Or, more likely, I just needed something else to do at work?

Whatever the reason, I'm back, reclaiming my original little piece of the Blogiverse and shifting gears a bit as the new title would imply: "guy stuff." From stories about the kids growing up, to our search for a house, to snarky comic book stuff that doesn't fit over at Comic Book Commentary, it'll be different from the less personal, highly political blog it used to be.

Or not. Who the hell knows?

Speaking of the kids, it's been five months since he first saw The Incredibles and Isaac still insists on being called "Dash." There's days where he won't answer to "Isaac" at all, insisting that his name is "Dash" and that we call him that. Last week, he also decided to switch from "Mommy" and "Daddy" to "Mom" and "Dad" to better sync up with his animated alter ego. No movie's had this lasting an effect on him, and now that we have the DVD - amazing, BTW - I have a feeling he'll be starting school in the Fall insisting his teacher calls him "Dash."

Good stuff.

More to come.