Listening for Steps

Scene from this evening. Luke had gone to bed and Mike had just gotten home. Sydney was in the basement, Mike came down to say hi.

SYDNEY: the air filter in Luke’s room was making a weird noise so I turned it off.
MIKE: I’m almost positive the solution is to turn it off and back on again.
SYDNEY: we can try it when Luke wakes up – he’s sound asleep, let’s stay out of his room. (Knowing full well that Mike cannot not fix the filter right then and there).

Mike goes upstairs to put his pajamas on… and sneak into Luke’s room to look at the air filter. As soon as he opens the door he hears whispered over the baby monitor “Mike, get out of Luke’s room”. Realizing he’s been caught he pauses for a minute or two before taking another step. He takes another seemingly silent step… “Mike, get out of Luke’s room”.

Luke doesn’t realize what he’s going to be up against when he’s a teenager, perhaps I’ll leave the two-way monitor hidden in his room for just such an occasion πŸ˜‰

Side note, Mike was correct. Upon turning the air filter back on the noise was gone. For now.

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That Room

You know when you move into a new house/apartment/condo/space how everything eventually finds its place. Well, almost everything. There are some odds and ends that you’re not quite sure what to do with. It doesn’t make sense to throw it away, but it also doesn’t necessarily fit into your new space. So you collect all of those odds and ends and put them into one spot and just pretend not to notice them.

Mike and I have a few spots in our house that are odds and ends traps. There’s the guest room closet, a few of the bins in the basement storage area, and pretty much the contents of the media room. We’ve lived in our house for almost a year and a half – and those spots have never really been unpacked… or they were unpacked, and then repacked with things that didn’t have a home. I didn’t realize how much sifting I’d be doing these next couple weekends until it was my turn to empty my stuff out of the media room nurseryΒ (Mike took care of his stuff in that room earlier in the week). Thankfully, the emptying out hasn’t taken as long as I thought it would (I’ve only got a few things left in there and I’ve been sorting/emptying for about 2 hours). Somethings have had instant homes elsewhere in the house. For example, my yarn/knitting tucks nicely into two baskets that can be stowed underneath two of our living room end tables, the board games from that room have joined their fellow board games that have been living in the living room under the couch, and books from the shelves in the media room are being relocated to other bookshelves throughout the house (with the exception of the cookbooks, we need to find a place nearer to the kitchen that makes sense for them). There’s a pile of stuff that belongs in my office (I have a tendency to assemble/package things while watching TV) that is slowly making its way up to my office as I take trips upstairs (I tried making multiple back-to-back trips last night and it wore me out).Β There’s also a pile of stuff to donate and another pile of stuff to throw out on Mike’s newly discovered favorite holiday, Amnesty Day.

But then there’s this other pile, it’s got some crafting supplies, scrapbooks, a few knick-nacks, among other things. It’s routed to head up to the guest room (slash, over-flow storage for my office room) – which means that now I have to acknowledge and organize the stuff in that closet. And so the domino effect has begun. I’m sure after I tackle that room next weekend there will be stuff routed for the basement and I’ll need to reorganize down there next. I’ll consider my work completed when the ‘homeless things’ in our house have been pared down to only a few boxes instead of a whole room, a closet and a portion of the basement. Mike and I are by no means hoarders, we’ve just never taken the time to pare down – when we moved in with each other initially, we were combining a fully furnished apartment (mine) with a fully furnished rental house (his).Β Now that the media room/nursery is pretty much emptied, I’m feeling a lot more confident about the sifting/getting rid of stuff road ahead.

On the bright side, it’s a lot easier to get rid of stuff when it doesn’t have a home and has been tucked away for a year and a half. The cumbersome part is just finally making the time to sift/sort/get rid of.

Mortgage 102

On Saturday, while Mike was at work, I happened to check online to see what our bank accounts were up to. Everything was business as usual: bills were paid, paychecks were direct deposited, according to the bank account Mike had recently eaten at Potbelly’s, and our mortgage had gone up. Wait. Oh, nevermind, we’ve been in the house a year, we knew this would happen due to property taxes. *Sydney opens the calculator app on her phone* … *insert expletives here*.

The number on the calculator read $450. Yes, four hundred and fifty dollars! Okay, maybe that’s normal, I’ve never owned a house before.

Because I enjoy to use my calculator app more than most people, I multiplied that number by 12. And then I jumped out of my skin. Our taxes went up over $5,000!?!? That doubles our income taxes!

I immediately shot Mike an e-mail. His response, “there wasn’t enough money in our escrow, they miscalculated our taxes, I have a sheet explaining it in the filing cabinet – we can go over it if you’d like”.

Man alive, whoever calculated our taxes when we bought the house needs a new calculator app on their phone… they were clearly off by a lot. Speaking of lot, why did we fall in love with a house on such a big lot, this is clearly why our taxes are now in the 5 digits!

After a few more minutes of lamenting about affording these new taxes and the size of our lot, I decided to do what I do best. Call Helene.

When I asked mom how much taxes typically go up each year she said $60-$100 and some rare years they go down. It didn’t take her more than a second to figure out that our taxes did not actually go up $450/month. She said that it was a one-time adjustment that you can pay all at once or spread out over months to get your escrow account ready for the next installment of taxes if the bank doesn’t think that you’ll have enough in your account to cover your taxes.

Mike confirmed this when he got home.

Crisis averted. Our taxes are back down in the 4 digits and I’ve jumped back into my skin.

Brrrrr… It’s Cold in Here

On today’s episode of “Thank Goodness We Got a Home Warranty” we’ll see what happens when the heat goes out on Sydney and Mike during a chilly Chicago December…

Our heater has paused (for a few hours) a couple times since the start of the chilly season. Usually it’s when my mom is around, so Mike likes to claim that it has something to do with her haha. Every time that it happens, within a few hours it kicks back in, and things are back to the usual 64-68 degrees. As the temperatures outside continues to drop, Mike decided that it would be a good idea to have the heater checked out – before the ‘pause’ happened again.

The HWA (home warranty folks) sent a heating guy out on Monday. He checked our system and did a little bit of cleaning, but overall didn’t see anything wrong. By the time I got home from work however, the house had started to cool. We went out Monday evening to spend time with friends, and upon returning home noticed the house was down to 63 degrees (it’s set to be at 68 before going to bed – then it’s supposed to drop to 64 while we’re asleep).

Tuesday morning was brisk to say the least. 58 degrees brisk to be exact. Mike called the HWA back and scheduled another appointment for Wednesday morning. When I returned home from work that night, Mike wasn’t home, but he had made sure to put the 3 space heaters that we have strategically in rooms that he knew I’d be in. Although they didn’t totally warm the space, they did take some of the edge off. We both slept in hoodies and put one of the heaters in our bedroom.

By Wednesday morning things had gotten flat out cold. The thermostat read 54 degrees – and it took a hot shower to warm up myself and the bathroom enough for me to convince myself to change out of my PJs and into work clothing. While at the work on Wednesday, I was looking forward to coming home to a nice warm house and getting some Studio255 work done. Until I got an email from Mike informing me that they need to buy a new part for our heater and that it wouldn’t be fixed until Thursday. He spent the entire day on Wednesday at shivering at home while waiting for the heating man to show up, and then to come back with the spare part, only to find out that the part wouldn’t arrive until the following day. By that point, Mike was tired of being cold and suggested we go out to dinner and then spend some time over at his sister’s house warming up. As we drove back home at the end of the evening, I was bummed to get out of the toasty car, knowing that the house would have a chill about it.

When I woke up this morning I was nice and warm. I wondered if perhaps the heat had come back on… until I popped my leg out from under the covers. Still 54 degrees cold. After spending 72 hours in a cold house – all of our dishes and silverware were cold. So my cereal had a crisp taste to it this morning as I ate it out of a chilled bowl using a cold spoon. Also sharing that crisp edge: the toilet seat, my pants and my shoes.

Mike just called – the part has arrived and now the house can get back to warming itself up. Living my entire life in the Chicagoland area, I consider myself to be a fairly hearty individual. I walk 4 miles a day, 5 days a week during my commute – and survive, even sweat a little bit, in the below zero weather. When I visit Florida in the month of January, and everyone down there is bundled up because it’s in the mid-50s, I’m wearing a skirt with ballet flats and a light jacket. But there’s something to be said about being that cold in your own house, so I’m very relieved to know that when I get home tonight, it’ll be normal 68 degrees – no hoodie required.

Let’s look back at the HWA tally thus far: $300 in service fees total to have our oven, air conditioner and heater taken care of in 2012 πŸ™‚

Where did October go?

It shouldn’t surprise me that the months from September through December tend to fly past – with countless birthdays, holidays and parties it’s easy to look up one day and wonder when September 1st turned into December 31st.

This October was particularly busy for us. Having Mike off work between shows for most of the month, we took advantage of his time and went on our long-awaited honeymoon and started our laundry list of things that we felt needed to happen to our house before winter settles in:

– We had a landscape designer come design out what our property could look like. Pending timing and final cost, we may start implementing some of work as early as this fall. It turns out that evergreens are fairly inexpensive this time of year, and the plans have some bushes being planted between our yard and our neighbor’s parking area. That would also require the unsightly chain link fence to come down (oh darn…).

– Mike insulated the attics. Insulation is on my list of things that freaks me out (anything that causes injury just by coming in contact with your skin, thanks but no thanks) so I was really glad that Mike took the initiative on this one.

– Garage door openers came next. I regret to inform anyone eagerly awaiting the time when Mike and I decide to have children, but our first born will be headed off to the garage door guys for payment. I nearly swooned when I heard the cost of having two garage door openers installed. It didn’t help that we have “heavy doors”…

– We still need to figure out the shed situation. Now that we have these nice new garage door openers and the threat of snow looms ever near, we need to start parking our cars in the garage. But not until the riding mower, regular lawn mower and motorcycle find a new home for the winter.

– Our second born child will inevitably be headed off to live with whoever we hire to re-do our driveway. It’s currently very uneven and falling apart, and doesn’t line up with the base of the garage. Currently it has two wooden ramps for the cars to go over. Mike’s particularly worried that when it gets icy, these ramps will be near impossible to get the cars over and into the garage.

What happened to doing fun things around the house, like painting? And mentally redesigning our kitchen for it’s future facelift? No one walks up to your door and is like, those are some mighty fine garage door openers you’ve got there – say, are your doors extra heavy? Or, look at that asphalt driveway, now that’s a driveway! I can practically hear Mom over my shoulder saying “welcome to adulthood!”

The Home Warranty

When Mike and I were purchasing our house, we didn’t ask for much from the homeowner, well, aside from many thousands off the list price. We didn’t ask for any furniture or speedy move-outs – those things weren’t important to us. The only thing that we asked for was a home warranty. Truth be told, neither of us knew what one was prior to the home buying process. Our realtor Jan suggested it – and since it was only asking the seller to shell out an additional $450, we figured why not. Home warranties cover the appliances in the home, typically for a span of one year. Naive, I thought that we’d never actually use it, it would just be like a little extra insurance for a year.

The way ours works is that for every service call we require, we pay $100. If the bill is less than that, we get a refund, if it’s more than that or a whole new appliance has to be purchased – we don’t owe anything over that initial $100.

Well as it would turn out, we haven’t even owned our house for 5 months yet and we’ve already used the warranty twice! You may recall the first call was for the oven. The second call was last week – for the air conditioner. Right before, what I’m going to assume was our last big push into the upper 80’s low 90’s, Mike and I noticed our house was cooled to a chilly 83 degrees, even though the AC was set at 76! I changed the air filter, hoping that would solve the problem. But no dice. The house was still not a place that we could go to beat the heat. Of course it was Labor Day weekend, so we wouldn’t be able to make the call for help until Tuesday. And of course now that it’s fixed – the temperatures aren’t nearly as oppressive, in fact, it’s not even on currently. At least now we know that we should be good to go when things heat back up next summer.

Whatever was wrong had something to do with a capacitor and the exterior air conditioning unit. Even though the grand total would have only been $123 for us without the warranty, one of our friends confided in us that they too had had AC problems this summer… to the tune of over $1000! I was silly to think that things don’t go wrong all that often during homeownership, I’m just glad that I wasn’t silly enough to forgo asking for that warranty. And now I plan to research to find out if I can extend this warranty in anyway.

An Important Corner

I used to entertain a lot in my old apartment in Oak Park. Weekly dinners every Sunday night and holiday parties dotted my schedule. In the two years that I lived in that apartment, I shot mostly film – so between the actual printed photos and all of the gatherings, I had a lot of pictures. And so the ‘Family Photo’ wall was born on the wall behind my couch. It consisted of an amalgamation of frames and I tried to represent everyone who frequented my apartment.

When I moved into the Wilson house that wall was confined to my office (which was later turned into the guest bedroom). It continued to grow as I obtained more frames and photos and eventually overtook a corner of the room. Some of my friends would even give me photos of themselves (usually with me) to add to the wall. My family also made several appearances on the wall. Mike was never a huge fan of the chaotic nature of the wall (the photo frames don’t match and I just hang new ones where there’s space, so there’s no real grid or pattern), but he knew that it was an important aspect of my living space, so when we moved into our new house – we agreed on a place where it could live – and continue to grow.Β It’s still in a corner – now in the hallway.

When I first unpacked all my photo frames and hung them up, there were some empty new frames and the rest were photos of my family, friends and some nice ones of Mike and I. At once I decided that the empty frames would be filled with photos of Mike’s family and friends. This weekend, I got several photos printed for the empty frames in the corner, as well as other rooms in the house. I can’t wait for Mike to get home and see the new faces gracing the corner! I tried to pick photos that he mentioned that he particularly liked. I wasn’t able to get everyone up on the wall that I want represented – but it’s definitely a start. I know that as our family and our group of friends continues to grow the wall will take on a life of its own.

New additions of Mike’s friends and family πŸ™‚