Archive for April, 2015

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 really laughing deep belly laughs. Mommy is even capable of getting some of those belly laughs (although Grandma always has the magic touch.) You love it when I pretend to nibble on your neck. 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 evolutions, 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 21, 2015

Thinking Like the Rich

A while back, while on maternity leave with Nicole, I read an article about how rich people think differently than the rest of us. It wasn’t that exciting of an article, but one point struck a cord with me. It seemed so obvious, and yet new at the same time.

“Average people focus on saving. Rich people focus on earning.”

On the one hand, it’s sort of a self fulfilling prophecy. Those who can focus on earning, are typically people who, by in large, work for themselves. If you can control how much work you take on, you can affect how much you earn. Get another client, take another case, etc. In theory at least, there are always details. They’re also often people who earn more to begin with: doctors, Lawyers, self employed business owners.

When you’re working for someone else, you have much less control over your income. Good performance can help get bonuses and raises, but they’re not guaranteed. The payoff often takes longer to achieve.

Savings, on the other hand, is bounded by earnings. By definition you cannot save more than you earn. Depending on the ratio of fixed costs to earnings, there may not be much wiggle room to start with.

This idea resonated so strongly with me in part because one of my roles in this family has been bargain hunter. I take great pride in not overspending, but always hunting for a deal could be backfiring. My wedding is a prime example. Domingo and I married in my third year in graduate school. By my estimate I was able to save us about a months salary by doing the extra leg work leading up to the wedding. If I had hired a wedding planner and spent the extra time focusing on my studies instead, I could have graduated sooner. A month earlier would have been a break even point. Any earlier and I’d come out ahead by handing off the responsibility. My frugal ways may be backfiring.

Of course there’s more to life than money. I enjoyed planning my wedding, just as I enjoy bargain hunting. But perhaps it’s not worth too much of my time anymore, especially as time is becoming more and more a fleeting resource.

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.

On the on the second home we put a bid on our offer 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. Our agent knew the seller’s agent and we felt like we had the inside scoop on what the seller was looking for. We were tired of house hunting, and acting emotionally rather than rationally. We were the highest of two bidders, but the seller suddenly decided she wanted an additional 21%! We were the highest bidder and she still countered us! 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. It was another case of us making an above asking offer and still getting countered by the seller.

Then there was the rent back many of the sellers wanted. Rent back is when the seller needs additional after the sale of the home is complete before he or she can move out. Essentially you become a short term land lord. The length of the rent back is part of the closing negations. 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. We were desperate.

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 13, 2015

Non Hallmark Ornaments

It’s another light hallmark year for me. I wasn’t expecting much. My dreambook arrived, and, well, I don’t see much I liked. I may not be making many purchases this year. Mary’s Bears is cute, but not $19 cute. No way, not to me anyway. Normally I’d shoot for an after Christmas sale, but that seems unrealistic given how hectic things are these days.

Penguin Tales I like, so that’ll probably be my one and only ornament this year. I’m really disappointing there’s no gum drop ornament this year. Those were becoming my favorite.

I’m on the hunt for a “new home” ornament (because we will be moving this year if it kills us.) I loved our 2008 ornament. I’m not a huge fan of this year’s though. All those gems just seemed a little over the top, and this is coming from a girl who does like a touch of sparkle. Perhaps this is another year for a custom made ornament.

One thing I’m strongly considering is purchasing the 2010 Baby’s First Christmas from American Greeting. I didn’t have a baby back then, but I love the little bear on the carousel unicorn. Apparently there were a few years where American Greeting made little bear ornaments: bears sitting on ‘new home’ keys, bears at the wedding cake. The bears went out of fashion and the replacements just weren’t my style. (I really have old fashioned tastes, what can I say?).

I’m drawn to the 2010 ornament. I wish they made one with the 2012 and 2014 dates. I’m thinking about scanning it into the computer to create a 3D printed replica for each Girl with the proper date. The ethical question associated with 3D printing has me hesitating. Surely if the ornaments were still in production it would be wrong to buy one and make copies. Then again, I’d love to be able to back up my ornaments the way I back up my electronic files.

April 7, 2015

Back to Work

Tomorrow I return to work after a very generous, very long maternity leave. I should be ready.

I have had an easier time recovering from delivery this pregnancy than from my first time around. I felt like my normal self, physically anyway, within a few days. The first time around I took longer to heal. I was still feeling the after affects of giving birth ten weeks later, when what semblance I had of maternity leave as a grad student was over.

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. With Nicole I was able to stay home part time and have just mommy-Nicole time. I feel extraordinarily guilty that Alexis will not get that time, despite having a much longer initial maternity leave.

I thought daycare would be easier the second time around. It is most definitly 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. This is a good thing. But I am not ready.

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 feel like I forgot to take in the newborn smell. 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? Until they’re eighteen?