Thursday, April 20, 2006

Join the family debate

Is it time for Sam's first haircut?
Yes, do it immediately or else strangers will think Sam is short for Samantha.
Yes, but take your time. Those curls are precious.
No, longish hair on boys is cool.
Absolutely not, he's perfect just the way he is.
I've seen his mother's father. Just be glad he HAS hair.
Free polls from

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Better than fairy dust

Right now the dude is napping and we're approaching 2 and a half hours. You may think, what a wonderful sleeper he is! Ah yes, unless you consider last night's midnight ride when we piled into the car, pj clad, in hopes of calming a screaming baby who could not be consoled. This morning it seems, we are making up for lost time.

I have been working on weaning him off his formula and onto regular milk because I decided it was about time. His diet is complete without the manufactured nutrition and I'd just prefer getting him off that upon which he's become reliant. The transition has been anything but smooth and it's led to an all out test of wills. The dude screams until he gets his beverage of choice and Mama eventually succumbs to maintain peace in the household. So much for being the resolute parent some predicted. On one hand, I want to be firm so Sam learns that we're in charge but on the other, he’s just my little bambino and I want to make his world gentle and comforting. You should see this kid while he's enjoying his pre-bed bottle of formula. I swear, he cuddles that bottle more lovingly than his precious Prayer Puppy.

Lately though glimmers of baseless toddler fussing have caused me to reconsider making any and all accommodations in the name of a happy baby. I mean give me a break, is organic whole milk so bad? The way he behaves you'd think I was starving him. (A cursory look at his meaty thighs should quickly clear me of that charge.) Or worse yet, you'd think I was trying to take the bottle away cold turkey. Last night, for better or worse, we'd run out of formula so there was no pacifying him with a bottle of his beloved and we paid the price. Bob declared NEVER AGAIN would our household be without the magic powder. I can just see it now, one day he'll come home from work after a rough day and mix himself up a cocktail (shaken, not stirred) of Baby's Only.

At least there's some good coming from the weaning effort. I've renewed my efforts to serve my boys healthy balanced meals. Yesterday we had lovely Swiss Chard Raviolis and tomorrow I'm planning to make Lemony Angel Hair with Crème Fraîche, Parmesan and Artichoke Hearts. And, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be making Thumb Print Cookies to deliver to our new apartment neighbors. To our delight, they have a 15 month old boy who I hope will be so enticed by our cookies that he and his mom will come right upstairs to play in Sammyland. That's great as long as they're not expecting any milk with their cookies.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Extreme real estating

Bob and I have invented a new sport. I liken it to the downhill slalom whereby we go careening down an icy street slamming past what may, to the uninitiated, look like harmless 'open house' and 'for sale by owner' signs. The adrenaline of a new listing warms us despite the freezing temperatures. Scoring is a complicated tabulation of price per square foot, days on the market, current price reductions and lot size square footage. Subjective scoring also plays into the equation. That assessment usually goes something like this:

Me: "Forget that place. I don't care if it's 1800 square feet; it looks like a shoebox."
Bob: "You're right. I think I saw the interior of that house featured in that commercial where the girl just wants to make an omelet. Look at the one down the street though. I think they call that style late-century rambling wreck."

After a day of house stalking with only some success, I ask myself, why don't we do this like normal people? I know the score; I watch House Hunters. Step 1: Hire friendly realtor happy to pull a couple of listings for sure-thing buyers. Step 2: See 3 houses, look at the pros and cons, balance it with price. Step 3: Make a decision and an offer on the hood of realtor's car while still parked in front of house #3. Not us. We need to see every house in the town we like. We drive around neighborhoods trying to spot possible pockets of charm. We size up proximity to key landmarks like Peet's Coffee (Starbucks in a pinch) and Whole Foods. The net result is that in Westborough there are exactly 2 neighborhoods that we find acceptable. In Wellesley, there are slightly more.

The good news is, we've actually found towns that we like and can afford if we indeed move to Massachusetts. The bad news is that the moving situation is tenuous especially since Bob's situation with his customer took a turn for the worse this week. But I can't help that. All I can do is help drive us to the optimal decision IF the work situation improves AND our house sells for a reasonable price. I'll come back to that in a minute.

So, as we look at homes in Wellesley, it becomes quickly evident that in order to buy enough square feet to raise a little family, we'd need to sacrifice quality. By quality I mean we'd likely have to live with a dank kitchen, dark paneling and a halloweenie* basement or something equally unappealing until we can find the means to renovate. The part about picking new cabinets and flooring gets me giggling like a little girl but then I check my head and realize that demolition and renovation would not be fun to live through especially with a toddler who has a proclivity for chewing on construction materials. Anyone have any experience and advice on how to find a contractor who won't rip us off?

Speaking of checking one's head, do you all find the first sentence of this listing to be as profane as I do? Marketing lesson 101: Know your buyer. I felt for a short time like throttling the horrible realtor who thought this description would appeal to potential buyers. Call me crazy but it infuriates me that she's demeaning 10 years of work, equity we've earned on our actual first home and the savings we've managed to accumulate by suggesting that this is what we should have been able to purchase fresh out of school. Is she so out of touch she thinks a young couple makes a combined salary of $250k which is approximately what they'd need to qualify for this uber-mortgage? Or is she such a poor saleswoman that she thinks, starter home = starter family without considering the financial reality of that assumption? Or perhaps she thinks it's normal for one to buy property later in life say, mid-career. After all, according to our friend David who is currently living there, most Parisians will never own their own home. Perhaps Bostonians will be forced into the same predicament. Whatever the case, I believe she must be part of the cartel leading people to believe that taking out interest-only mortgages is a sound way to get into a home. I couldn't help but smile a little when I read this article promising that she must be living in a cardboard box afforded by her real estate salary of $50k which will be so diminished shortly that she and her cohorts will be on their way to the unemployment line.

On the selling side, I'm equally as rapt. Our realtor Max, will surely tell you that we're his most high-strung clients to date. Our place has been on the market for 3 weeks now and in that time, I've devised a website, created a marketing plan and researched all the advertising venues available. Now I'm trying to resign myself to the reality that, short of standing out in front of our gated neighborhood waving a sign as is the custom in Phoenix, all I can do is sit by the phone waiting for Max to call with offers.

*Bob's taken to using this word as an adjective to describe any dark, enclosed, spider-infested section of a home. Usually it's the basement but believe us, some people don't see these areas as a selling drawback. But then maybe they haven't been watching Lisa Laporta's genius.
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