May 23, 2015

Hello Again!

Hello from our new home!


view
The view from our master bedroom

I am happy to report that we are now home owners again! At long last!

It was getting painfully obvious that an apartment was not right for our family of four. There was no space for Alexis that wasn’t covered in Nicole’s toys, and the no place for Nicole to play where she wouldn’t wake up Alexis. The silicon valley was just too impracticable for what we wanted. To make matters worse, with the average rents raising by about 20%, we were looking at another huge rent spike this coming year. The irony was not lost on us that we were paying much more to have a much poor quality of life. It was beyond time to move.

You may have noticed a flurry of posts from me lately. I didn’t want to jinx the sale, and (more importantly) I didn’t want to hurt what little negotiating power we actually had. If a prospective seller was curious enough about us to google our name, find the blog, and learn we wanted out of Silicon Valley, they wouldn’t have much incentive to negotiate with us. In actuality it’s so much of a seller’s market right now that there isn’t much incentive for any seller to negotiate with any buyer, but why risk it? Now that we’ve closed escrow I’ve hit that pretty blue “publish” button on a lot of old posts.

I will likely still be somewhat sporadic in updating as we settle in. There’s a few things that need to be fixed up before this house really feels like home. We’re also a bit short of furniture too. Short term I’m focusing on setting up the home, so by early summer I can dive into my startup with minimal distractions.

Wish us luck!

May 15, 2015

To the Crib

Nicki hated being swaddled, but was quite content to be snug as a bug in the rock n play until almost nine months. Given that Alexis was my little cuddle bug and loved being swaddled all the way through four months, I thought she’d practically live in the rock ‘n play.

That would be a big, fat Nope.

For the past week or so she’s been really struggling at night, thrashing about in the rock ‘n play. She just doesn’t seem to be comfortable in it anymore. Since hitting the four month sleep regression her sleep has gotten steadily worse. She is now to the point of waking up every 45-90 minutes when she first goes to sleep, and then again starting at around 2 am. That, of course, means no sleep for the rest of us.

We were hoping to hold off moving her to the crib until we moved. We worry about the girls being practically on top of each other here, and keeping each other awake. We’re only a week away from our planned move. But with Alexis (and by transitivity us) sleeping so little it just seemed like something that couldn’t wait.

Her first night was rocky. She woke up almost as frequently as she’s been waking up. Last night? So much better. She slept most of the way through the night. No more thrashing. No more frequent wakings. And equally as important, less waking each other up than predicted.

Hopefully this means better sleep for everyone.

For mother’s day this year I decided I wanted to make butterfly footprints with the girls. I had seen the idea floating around pinterest, and thought about doing some as wall art a la project balancing act. It was on my todo list. Then Alexis came home with a potted plant with her footprints that I suddenly felt like I needed them. Like right now.

Luckily for me we have a lot of finger paints around these parts.


alexisbutterflynicolebutterfly
Might have used a bit too much paint…

I will love this addition to our playroom. I am thinking about framing the photo of Nicole with her finger paints to go along side them. My only reservation is that it doesn’t exactly sit right with me to have a photo of one of the girls and not the other. (My sense of fairness apparently extends to my wall hangings.) At least in this case the finger paint is the subject and her face is obscured, I suspect in a few years it won’t be obviously Nicole.

May 1, 2015

Xoogler

Today is bittersweet, as it is my last at Google. As excited as I am for my next adventure, I will miss everyone terribly.

When we moved out to the silicon valley we knew it would not be forever. I couldn’t pass up the chance to work for Google, and having the trifecta of major US based search engines on my resume (sorry Duck Duck Go). Yet Silicon Valley is too expensive and too crowded for it to ever feel like home. We missed having space, both for ourselves and from our neighbors. Paradoxically even though it’s so crowded and takes longer to get anywhere, businesses are opened for shorter hours. A round trip to the store a few blocks away easily takes 45 minutes. The park and daycare are both an hour.

I’m trading in corporate life for start up world, which will allow me to work from home. Doing the start-up thing is a bit of a California right of passage, and a dream of mine since before Grad school. I’m super excited to have the ability to chase this dream while still having the family life style we want.

More details to follow.

April 30, 2015

Alexis at Five Months

Dear Alexis,

You, little miss, are quite determined to leave babyhood behind you. Last month it was standing with support. This month? Sitting unassisted. You started attempting to sit independently at around the four month mark. I remember trying to take a monthly photo of you in the rocking chair for your scrap book and you kept leaning forward, to the point of almost falling over. You refused to use the seatback for support. Since then your sitting has improved so much that they let you sit without being spotted by a boppy cushion at daycare. And I thought Nicole was an early sitter.

sitting

Sitting is just about the only milestone I don’t mind coming so early. Like your sister, you are much happier surveying the land at daycare. You hate being on your back or tummy when there are interesting things going on. Sitting makes your days much more enjoyable. Just remember, mommy is still expecting you to stay a little baby for a little while longer. Pretty please?

playing

This month you started giggling. Mommy is even capable of getting some of those belly laughs (although Grandma always has the magic touch.) You’re also enjoying your toys immensely, and are getting quite good at getting things into your mouth. We have to be extra careful these days since Nicole loves sharing her toys with you. She knows the way to your heart!


babyblues
Love these baby blues

I know your personality will likely go through many evaluation, bit right now mommy thinks you will take after your daddy. You are incredibly easy going and adjusted to daycare incredibly quickly. This personality trait will serve you (and us!) well as there are big changes a comin’.

Love Always,
Mommy and Daddy

April 17, 2015

Offer Accepted!

Nine. Nine offers on nine different properties. That’s how many it took before we had one accepted. Nine. It’s a crazy, crazy seller’s market.

We could have ended the war sooner if we really wanted to by accepting counters. The problem was most of those counters were for more than the comps supported. In some cases, countering would have just bought us a seat to the next round of bidding. It wouldn’t even guarantee an acceptance.

Our offer on the second home we put a bid on was 4.2% over asking – at the high end of what the comps supported. The seller told us that the highest bidder was 8.4% over asking, and if we went up to that price, he’d consider accepting. In other words, he’d take our new offer to squeeze even more than the original 8.4% bidder! That wasn’t the worst one. The offer we put on the fifth home was 5.4% over asking, and way more than the home was worth. We were tired of house hunting, and acting emotionally rather than rationally. We were the highest of two bidders, but the home owner wanted an additional 21%! It almost makes the 6.2% above asking (and above the comps) the seller of the sixth home wanted seem downright cheap. In that case we were the only bidder and had already offered 3.1% over asking.

Then there was the rent back many of the sellers wanted. The seller of the second home we bid on wanted to stay in his home for an additional four months after closing. Alexis would be eight months old before we would be able to fix our current situation of the girls practically on top of each other in a too-small-for-us apartment. In fact, we offered the 4.2% over asking without such a long rent back hoping the seller would take his family to Hawaii for a month or something.

It’s a crazy crazy seller’s market out there. We did learn some valuable life lessons, should we ever find ourselves in this situation again (and by golly I hope we never do!)

Life lesson #1 of buying in a crazy seller’s market without going crazy yourself: Be Willing to Walk Away

We do not bid against crazy, and we do not bid against ourselves. I try to adhere to this philosophy in all my auction type settings.

Many of the homes we toured were easy to fall in love with. Alas, if we fell in love with it there was a good chance someone else would to. If someone else is willing to bid above what the comps support, or above what we deemed the house to be worth to us, we let them have it. Even if the other bidder’s offer was just a tick above our own. We witnessed too many times where these small increments added up to something substantial. If we were going to go up another category in spending, we’d prefer that to go along with another category of home!

Twice we were the only bidder but the seller held off on responding to our offer, waiting for additional bids would come in. Each time we had the option to change our offer in an attempt to get the seller to accept early, and ignore any additional bids. As tempting as it was to offer more in these cases, we knew it would signal that we were desperate. We would essentially be bidding against ourselves. In our estimation it was far better to wait for that second bid and hope for a chance to counter. Of course that means we have to be comfortable walking away.

The most important lesson I learned buying in a sellers market is to walk away, least you become one of the crazy bidders.

Life lesson #2 of buying in a crazy seller’s market without going crazy yourself: Do Not Fall In Love

I was bummed when we lost out on the first home, it just seemed so perfect with it’s custom lighting – a photographers dream! The second home had such an interesting layout, with a downstairs bonus room that could double as a suit for grandparents visits and master retreat complete with fireplace that would have made for a nifty home office. But the one I really fell in love with was the sixth home. The homeowner had decorated it exactly as I would, right down to switching the living room and the dinning room so that the second fire place was in the dinning room. I could picture setting up that second Christmas tree Domingo and I have been talking about. It had a beautiful spiral staircase, walk in pantry, and marble fire places. We may have started as the only bidder on that one, but they quickly collected quite a few more.

To be willing to walk away I had to keep reminding myself that no home was perfect. We ended up wanting a bigger home than the first one we bid on. The second one had virtually no yard, and the sixth one was in the hills without reception, and one of the less desirable school districts. I kept reminding myself of those facts when letting go.

As much as possible we tried to approach things analytically. We can always repaint or redo the floors. We could replace wrought iron balusters with wood. Heck, we can even knock down and put up walls. It’s an expense and aggravation I’d rather not take on, but it is possible. Falling in love is a luxury of buying in a buyers market.

Life lesson #3 of buying in a crazy seller’s market without going crazy yourself: Put in Multiple Offers, on Multiple Properties

Hot homes consume all the oxygen from potential buyers. They were off market in less than a week, amassing anywhere from ten to fifteen offers from opening weekend. We were never going to win against that kind of competition without going crazy.

Our strategy quickly became to look for the non-hot homes: homes that matched our criteria, but for whatever reason didn’t show as well, and had less competition. Usually they were the homes that weren’t fully upgraded, or needed minor improvements. These weren’t always easy to identify, so we’d pick a couple that seemed like good candidates that we would be happy with and put in strong offers knowing eventually one would land.

And one did.

Now for escrow.

April 7, 2015

Back to Work

Tomorrow I return to work after a very generous, very long maternity leave. I am not ready.

I have had an easier time recovering from delivery this pregnancy than my first. I felt like my normal self, physically anyway, within a few days. The first time around I was still feeling the after affects at ten weeks. You would think I would be ready. I most definitely am not.

I could not even work up the courage to do a daycare trial run, where I drop her off at daycare while still on maternity leave for just a few hours to ease her into it. I wanted to soak up every possible moment of baby time.

I thought daycare would be easier the second time around. It is not. I am getting misty eyed just thinking about handing my baby over to someone else to care for during the day. Rationally I know I’m being crazy. Daycare has been a boon for us. Even at a young age Nicole got a tremendous amount out of daycare, and I know Alexis will to.

I think the resistance I’m feeling stems from the fact that there is a good chance Alexis will be our last. Where transitioning to the next phase. It’s one step closer to end of babyhood. I’m not ready. I haven’t even gotten enough of my newborn fix. I’m also not quite where I want to be in terms of crib sleep, or even establishing nursing, and I worry that we’ll lose all the wonderful progress we’ve made.

I blame hormones. I can still use that as an excuse, right?

March 28, 2015

Alexis at Four months

Dear Alexis,

Your daddy and I have a running joke that I didn’t give birth to a newborn, I gave birth to a three month old. You were smiling at just a few days old. You had excellent head control, and were giggling way earlier than one might expect. But your most astonishing feat? Supported standing. At three months old.


alexis standing

When we go to put you down on the changing pad, or sit you in the high chair, you lock your knees. Daddy refers to it as ‘deploying your landing gear.’ I suspect you’ll be a cruiser before a crawler. Of course since you’re still only three months old, you need Mom or Dad to prop you up, and we’re never more than a few inches away, but boy do you love your new found independence.


alexisfourmonths

You’re getting better at grabbing. You have managed to get your toes a couple of times, and the toys that dangle from your activity gym. We started putting you in your high chair in an effort to return to family meals. You dine on toys (when you manage to get them into your mouth) of course. You love the new vantage point. Like your sister you are completely fascinated with the world around you, and love having a seat at the table.


alexislaugh

My maternity leave is rapidly approaching it’s end. I thought it would be easier to return to work this time. Alas, it is never ease to leave your child in the care of another for the first time. I will miss our days together, just as I missed them with Nicole when she was your age. I know we like to joke that I gave birth to a three month old, but do me a favor and remain a tiny baby as long as possible, mmm kay?

Love always,
Mommy and Daddy

March 27, 2015

Fifth Anniversary

fifthanniversary
Still working on that family photo…

Today marks the fifth year anniversary of our wedding vows, and what a journey it’s been!

Five years.
5 years of wedded bliss
4 places of employment
3 continents traveled together
2 amazing daughters
and 1 incredible adventure on the horizon!

I am so incredibly grateful for all we’ve been able to build together. Sure there are sleepless nights, spit-ups and hiccups, but I can’t imagine navigating life with anyone else by my side.

It’s been a surprisingly long week. My parents were visiting while I’m still on maternity leave, giving Domingo and I a chance to cross off some much needed tasks from our to-do list before I return to work. We also kept Nicole home so she could soak up some grandparent attention. Somehow even with the two extra pairs of helping hands the week felt more chaotic than our usual weekends.

One of my things I was desperate to do was get a hair cut. I hadn’t had a hair cut since I was five weeks pregnant with Alexis. It was long, straggly, and thanks to pregnancy hormones – or more specifically the lack there of – coming out in handfuls. It’s still coming out, but now that it’s much shorter and the ends no longer feel like a bristle brush, it’s not as annoying.

Another thing on my chore list was to go to the eye doctor. I hadn’t been since Nicole was a baby. I ran out of contacts a year ago, and broke my current glasses. Since we moved in October 2013 I was using my back up pair from when I first moved to California in summer of 2004. The good news is that my prescription hasn’t changed. If my understanding is correct, that means I’m a good candidate for laser eye correction! Mayo Clinic recommends not having it done while breastfeeding since related hormones can affect vision. I also want to wait until we have a house. A fix mortgage brings a lot of cost certitude. Our rent increased a whopping 24% last year, and is expected to climb further this year. I want to be sure of our financial picture before dipping into our savings.

Speaking of house hunting, we started the process! Hopefully soon I’ll have a happy announcement.

Lastly we started packing & organizing for the move. We had some items in our downstairs storage locker in the parking garage, but the fellow who parks there tends to park fairly close to the door. We made sure to remove the larger items that can be difficult to get out while he (and his car) were away at work. They’re now safely stored on our balcony. We also took recycled three old computers, and through out our vacuum after learning it couldn’t be repaired.

I still can’t believe how fast my extended maternity leave went.

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