Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yesterday I got a call from a member of our lender's "Customer Dissatisfaction Team." Hey, here's a tip: If your lender has a whole team devoted to correcting mistakes and smoothing over angry customers, and that company would rather pay that team rather than just have capable employees avoiding dissatisfied customers, that might be a good sign to avoid that company entirely.

And it's still not over. At the beginning of this house buying nightmare, I was assigned an agent from the lender to work with. I worked with her until last week, when I started working with her boss, because she was so entirely incompetent. And by that, I mean twenty days AFTER she was supposed to have all her work done, she gave up and gave the work to her boss. I had actually spoken to her boss before and he didn't seem any better at his job than she was at hers. But since he was higher up the ladder, I thought he could help. I was wrong. Three days after their final deadline (which they did not make because...well, I don't know why they won't do their jobs. They procrastinate? They really hate paperwork? I have no idea what is taking them so long) He left a message on my voice mail:

"Would you contact the title company? I haven't got anything back from them for the for the final settlement statement, I've tried contacting them several times this morning and they just aren't responding. They really are slowing this whole process down. If you could call them and get on that, that would help things speed along."

Yeah. Besides his blatent attempt to pass the blame to someone else, the problem was a time difference: The title company wasn't open yet. It was too early in the morning. And why couldn't he have "tried contacting them several times" the day before?

After that I started working with his boss, who is a bit more helpful.

This morning I called the title company to ask if we had a closing date yet. She responded that they needed one more thing approved by the lender, and the lender wasn't responding. At this point, I lost it. Instead of calling the lender, I called my real estate agent. In between flashes of rage, hopelessness and desperation, I left him a message about how I refused to ever talk to anyone from the lender again, and how it was like having a ten year old child who won't do their homework. I informed him I would no longer call them to coax them into doing their own job, that I was done trying, and if that meant we didn't get the house than I didn't want the house. Period.

An hour later I call back from my real estate agent, who apparenly had taken pity on me and called the lender to go on a yelling spree with good results: We are funded (a big step in the right direction) we finally have a last possible day to close (for real this time) and there is even a chance we will have the keys to our new house tomorrow. Yes, that's right: tomorrow. Cross your fingers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fires of Besowin

Did you know you can go read novels on Amazon for free? You can go read the first three thousand words of the novels entered into the Amazon Breakthrough competition. I recommend this novel:

It is awesome.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

So remember how I said that after seven months of looking, I found a house I wanted to buy? I changed my mind. I don't want to buy that house anymore. I don't want to buy any house anymore. Ever.

This has been the wost experience of my life. At first it started off as stressful, but exciting; There big decisions to be made, but Drek and I handled them and it looked like things were moving along. It was the first of March that things rapidly went downhill. We were supposed to have an answer from our lender on March 7. After weeks of me calling them DAILY, leaving messages, emailing, begging, threatening, pleading, flattering, blackmailing (okay, I'm exaggerating on that last one) they FINALLY gave us an answer on March 22. Two weeks and a day late. The answer was positive though: we got the loan! The house was ours! Or not: See, when we signed the offer, the seller had us sign that March 25th was the very last day we could close, or we couldn't buy the house. Basically, they gave us so many days to get our act together, and if we couldn't, then they didn't want to work with us.

Well, it wasn't us who couldn't get our act together. For over a month we have been waiting on the lender. For over a month they have done...nothing. They are entirely incompetent. They failed their goal of closing on the 25th. Miserably. In fact, today is the 29th and we STILL haven't closed. We are STILL waiting on the lender. Even worse, their only answer this whole time, starting the first week in March, was "We're working on it! We'll get it done as soon as possible!" So we still don't have any idea when we'll close. Best guess is Friday. An even better guess is two months from now, or when pigs fly.

This whole time we've been waiting on them. This whole time we keep thinking that we'll close "in just a few days". So this whole time we've scheduled plumbers, contractors and carpet guys to come fix our house, but we keep having to reschedule because we still don't own it. We've reserved U-hauls and had people lined up to help us move, but have had to cancel because don't have a place to move to. This whole time I've been packing, and then repacking because I don't know when we are actually moving.

Up until March 24th, we didn't know if the seller would still work with us. Since we signed an agreement that said we would close by March 25, we didn't know if they would back out. Last week, on March 24th, things were really bad. Here was the scene:

We told our landlords we would be out of our apartment on March 25 (because we thought we would have an answer on March 7, close on March 11, fix up the house and then have plenty of time to move our stuff over to the new house in a nice, relaxed fashion. Hah) and our lender was still telling us that they could make the deadline and we would close on March 25 and get the keys that same day. We asked our landlords if we could stay just one more day. They said yes! So we told the contractors to come on Friday to make the house livable, then we rented a U-haul for March 26th. We asked people to help us move and lay the flooring on the tht same day. Everything was ready to go. BUT, I still believe the lenders. They had been telling the same thing for three weeks! I didn't think we would close on the 25th, and I didn't think the sellers would still work with us after that, but we had to be out of our apartment...

So I went looking around at other apartments. I found a great place with a floorplan I liked. I called them up and asked if we showed up on the 26th with a U-haul could we move in? They said yes, so I didn't cancel the U-haul or the help. I figured I was moving, I just didn't know if I was moving into a house that I owned, or an apartment that we were renting.

Well, I was right that the lender wouldn't make it, but I was wrong about the seller. The seller gave us an extension: on the night of March 24th the seller said they would still work with us, IF we closed before April. So now our closing date is in April. Can we still buy the house? I don't know.

I wish we had moved into that apartment. I don't want the house anymore. This whole thing is a nightmare. I would rather rent the rest of my life then ever go through this again, or go through it now. I would rather live in a cardboard box under a bridge then go through this.

So, here is my recommendation to you: If you want to buy a house, save up money in a fancy briefcase. When you think you have enough, find a house you like, knock on the door, and tell the owner you will give them the briefcase full of money if they will vacate the premise within two weeks. That might be better. Maybe.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Candy Doesn't Have to Have a Point. That's Why It's Candy

It's been cold here and very wet. Yesterday it was a bit sunnier so we decided to go have a little beach side fire with tinfoil dinners and marshmallows.
The recipe was a bit new:

Two Ritz crackers + 2 mini chocolate kisses
roast a marshmallow and sandwich it in between. It is both salty, and sweet.
It's very good. Although, I tried it with a gingerbread-flavored marshmallow and liked it even more. It was like Christmas in my mouth. We might have to start roasting marshmallows on Christmas eve.

And then we heard sea lions barking, so we went to investigate:
They were sleeping, so they let us get really, really close to take pictures. Not close enough to touch, but still, I was only a few feet away:

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday in March.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You Know, I Care About My Carbon Footprint, but Most People Out There are Making Carbon Snow Angels

Confession: When I was little (like, ten) I wanted my future husband to be a carpenter so he could build my daughters a dollhouse. Okay, it might have been so he could build me a dollhouse. I've always wanted a wooden dollhouse. I'm not sure if my obsession started with reading The Dollhouse Murders, but I do remember loving that book and reading it several times (I was a very morbid child). When my mom would go to the craft store, I would spend hours in the miniatures aisle dreaming about each tiny piece of furniture and how I would fit it into my dream doll house.

Anyway. A few weeks ago I went looking on Craigslist and came across an ad for a consignment sale. I had heard of them, but wasn't quite sure what they were, so I checked it out. Here is it in a nutshell: I go through my kid's clothes and toys and take out anything with rips, stains, or anything faded. The remaining stuff I tag and drop off. My stuff is sold alongside everyone else's stuff. I get 60% of my profits. At the end of the time, I go back and pick up everything that didn't sell. It's like a garage sale, but you have a lot more prep work and you don't have to sit there and sell stuff; that part is done for you.

I love the idea. Buy stuff for cheap, sell old stuff and get some cash. It's a lot easier to find the clothes I want because the selection is huge, and all of it is like-new condition. It's just as great as shopping in a store, except everything is cheap, I'm giving my money to moms instead of big corporations, AND it's not new, so it's better for the planet, the economy, my wallet and...well, everyone wins.

And, since you are selling stuff, you get to go in before the general public and see if there is anything you want to buy from other sellers. This is where I bought Ash's pants. I also bought a few dresses, a few books, a few toys, and...

A wooden dollhouse. I know! I know! It was a silly purchase. My kid is way too young, and it's just taking up space and blah blah blah. But I've always wanted a wooden dollhouse and look how perfect it is:
It opens up, the roof comes off, all the shutters and doors open and close, and there was even some cute little furniture pieces:

Oh, I love it.

(Isn't my quote so clever?!)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

So Long Thy Power Hath Blest Me, Sure it Still Will Lead Me On

About five years ago, or is it six? How old am I? Too old. Anyway. A while ago, in March, I decided my life...well, sucked. I was miserable. I wasn't doing what I wanted to be doing and when I asked myself what I wanted to be doing in five or six years, I could clearly see that my life was not headed in that direction. What did I want? I wanted to be married to a great guy who loved me. I wanted a baby I could sing to sleep with Primary hymns and lullabies. I wanted to have peace. I wanted to have hope. I wanted to find happiness.

So I changed. I changed a lot. I cut off ties, I made new ones, I dropped bad habits and tried to start new, better ones. A big part of that change was to go back to church, a place I had not been in a year. I needed directions on how to get where I wanted to be, and I thought going to church could help. I remember how tough that first year was. I wasn't sure of myself, I had a very, very hard time sitting through church meetings and I spent a lot of time trying to distract myself. But I kept at it. I healed a lot. I changed a lot. I grew a lot. Church did help. The gospel gave me those directions, encouraged me, helped me, guided me. Somewhere along the line I could actually sit through three hours of church meetings. Somewhere along the line I started wanting to go to church.

And then, today, as I sat in Sacrament meeting with my awesome, super-good-looking husband who loves me and my beautiful, perfect little baby whom I sing to sleep at night with lullabies and Primary hymns, I realized something: Oh my gosh, I made it. I'm here. This is what I wanted all those years ago. I wanted to sit here, just like I am, and want to be in church. I wanted to listen to the speaker and be blown away by the peace, love and happiness I felt. I wanted to feel the spirit so strong that I knew, without a doubt, that God loves me, personally. The speaker today gave such an amazing talk, And yet, I'm not sure if it was that his talk was really that awesome, or if I was just finally ready.

I can't even express how grateful I am for what I have. I can't begin to express how much I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I can't begin to tell you how much peace, hope, love and true happiness it has brought me. It is amazing. A true miracle.

Find Places of Worship Near You

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What a Plan. Simple, Yet Insane

Seldom have I encountered a situation with less solutions than the situations that parenting brings everyday. No...that's not quite right. Seldom have I encountered a situation with more solutions than the situations that parenting brings everyday. That's the frustrating thing: There are too many solutions to each tiny little problem.


Problem: Toddler will not eat carrots.

Solution: Just cook them with brown sugar and butter and they will gobble them right up!
Solution: A toddler's taste buds need to adapt to new food; keep giving her plain, raw carrots until her taste buds adapt and she will love them! Adding butter and brown sugar will only make her always HAVE to have brown sugar and butter.
Solution: She's not ready for carrots. Try again in a few weeks. Until then, don't give her any carrots so the novelty will make the appealing.
Solution: If she doesn't eat them for lunch, offer them to her as a snack, and then for dinner, and then as breakfast, until she's eaten her carrots.
Solution: It's because she's been psychologically traumatized by carrots. Don't offer her any carrots of any form ever, she'll learn to accept them when she's ready; on her own terms.
Solution: You're vegetarian? Not eating carrots is her way of rebelling against you. Think of it as her pre-teen rebellion. Give her a thick slab of red meat. That will dissolve the issue so she can eat carrots without betraying her cause.
Solution: She's asserting her power. Give her a choice between carrots and peas. If she chooses peas, don't make her eat carrots.
Solution: Carrots aren't in season right now, she doesn't like them because it goes against her internal clock. You shouldn't be offering non-season vegetables to her.
Solution: You're the parent. She's the child. She needs to listen when you tell her to eat her carrots. FORCE HER.
Solution: She has some sort of allergy to carrots. She feels bad when she eats them, so she's learned not to eat them. You should trust her.
Solution: Have her eat one bite for every year she is old.
Solution: Forcing children to eat food, even one bite, gives them eating disorders. Never push food on children.
Solution: If you eat your carrots, your child will eat her carrots.
Solution: You never gave her raw carrots as an infant because she didn't have teeth. She sees you eating carrots and assumes carrots are adult food. If you stop eating them, she will start eating them.
Solution: It's because she has anxiety at the dinner table. Are there problems at home?
Solution: You should read books and watch movies about eating carrots! Monkey see, monkey do!
Solution: She's not getting enough sleep and night and is too exhausted to chew raw carrots. You need to adjust her sleep schedule so she has energy to eat.
Solution: It's because you are a bad parent. If you were a better parent, she would be a better toddler. Obviously.

And even if I pick a solution, and she does start eating carrots, I don't know if I picked the right one, if it was just a phase and she would have done it on her own, or if I made the wrong choice and have now damaged her beyond repair.

It's just so frustrating! Why isn't there one simple answer? Why isn't there a "how to raise your child step-by-step" with pictographs? Why can't my toddler tell me the reason she isn't eating carrots so I can make an informed decision? Why is it that the more information I gather the harder parenting becomes?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Stranger is a Friend You Just Haven't Met Yet

Top o' the mornin' to ya!

Wake up, get dressed in my shirt with an Irish flag. Eat a traditional Irish breakfast:

Decorate the house for a small celebration:

Eat a dinner of Irish Stew and Soda bread (my best batch yet!) with friends and family. Play a few game, including one where green dice are rolled and if you get doubles, you have to hurry and get dressed in leprachan clothes and eat an entire pixie stick (an orange one of course) before someone else rolls doubles.

End the day by following little leprachan footprints to a pot of delicious gold.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Bake Pies and Wake the Dead. I Live a Very Sheltered Life

Ah, pi day. I decided to keep it low-key this year; no parties, or pie eating contests. Next year we'll do that.

This year I made Shepard's pie for our main dish, sweet potato puff pie for our side dish, and cherry cream pie for dessert. I also invited a few friends over for dessert and they brought pies to share! So for dessert we also had a homemade apple pie and a a homemade coconut cream pie. Yum!

This is the third time I've made the sweet potato puff pie. I LOVE it. It is seriously delicious. But then again, I love sweet potatoes, so yeah.
Sweet Potato Puff Pie

3 cups mashed, cooked sweet potatoes (from a scant two pounds)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter (if the potatoes aren't hot, melted in the microwave in 10-second increments)
4 eggs
1 tsp rum extract (if you're feeling daring)
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl with an electric mixer. Transfer into a buttered pie dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean

Sunday, March 13, 2011

C'mon. Let's Go See How Much We're Going for on eBay

I held my very first yard sale ever yesterday. It went well, I think. Since we live in an apartment, I put all the stuff on the corner of the apartment complex, which is on a main road, so we had a lot of people stop. It was a nice warm day and the sun was shining so much that I got pretty sunburned. It was a good way to spend a morning.

I sold my stuffed animal skunk collection. I've been collecting stuffed animal skunks ever since I decided the skunk was my favorite animal. I had just under twenty different skunks. I only kept a few: one is a puppet that I thought Ash would like, one is a skunk costume that comes in handy every halloween and two are little glass skunk figurines that my mom had when she was a child. I sold all the rest. They were sold to different but all of them sold. The last two to be sold were my favorite two. I had them priced higher than the rest. A little girl around six years old saw them and asked her grandma for them. She only had two dollars, which was the price of one of them, but I sold them both to her for two dollars. She seemed really excited. It was very "Toy Story 3" moment for me. I hope she takes good care of them. I hope they are happy with her, since with me they only take up space in the bottom of the toy bin and never get played with.

Friday, March 11, 2011

We're Always Behind this Metal and Glass. I Think We Miss That Touch So Much, That We Crash Into Each Other, Just So We Can Feel Something

Last month I went to the post office first thing in the morning. It's one of those places that is too far to walk and the bus doesn't go there, so I drove (although this was before my No Drive Week). I mailed my stuff, buckled Ash into her carseat, got in the driver's seat, (miraculously) buckled my seatbelt, backed out of the parking stall into the aisle, and then had to wait. I stopped to wait for a car in front of me. While I was stopped a truck began to back out of their parking space. I honked to let her know I was behind her, but she kept coming, so I laid on my horn. She crashed into us leaving a huge scrape on the side of our car, a big dent, no door handle and the taillight hanging off. Her truck had a tiny scratch on the bumper.

In this blog post, I was in another car accident. I was a passenger in a friend's car and again, we were not moving. We were stopped at a red light and were hit from behind. Two years ago Jasmine was parked in a parking lot (I was not in the car at the time) when another car backed into her. That's three accidents in a little over three years where I WAS NOT MOVING. Does this prove it's harder to hit a moving target? I think it proves that even though I consider myself a bad driver, at least I have never CAUSED an accident. So other people must be worse drivers than me.

Anyway, not a bad accident; I was not moving. She was going slow, everyone was buckled in. She was really nice. She apologized, gave me all her insurance info, her name, phone number, address and driver's licence number. But not her licence plate or VIN number and I didn't think to get it from her. We didn't call the police because she said Sunland cops don't respond to no-injury accidents and I was dumb enough to believe her (but also, I hate cops, especially Sunland cops so I'm not saying I was hard to convince). The next day I talked with her insurance company, did all the claim stuff, filled out papers, got my car inspected blah blah blah. All that boring crap that goes along with car accidents. A few days later they called to inform me that although they insure the driver, she was not driving her car; the car they insure, so they will not be paying for anything. At that point I was told I needed to call her and get the car's owner's info. Except she won't return my phone calls (of course). Our car is broken. It's drivable but ugly and we can't open the back door. Also, I need a new carseat for Ash since this one was in an accident. These things are being taken care of very slowly, with dozens of phone calls to my insurance company made while Ash is sleeping.

The odd part is, even this accident was in no way my fault. I feel guilty. I feel like I knew better than to be out driving, using a car, killing the planet, and even that I, personally, should not be driving, because I feel I am not a good driver. That's why I hate driving. I feel guilty when I drive. I feel like I'm doing something wrong. I feel like I'm sneaking around behind the cop's back. Why do I feel that way?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Metal shop? Oh, Miss Nalca's Interpretive Dance, Two Semesters. I Was Usually in the Back Because of My Weak Ankles

Today I drove to a birthday party for a friend (the bus doesn't go there and it's too far to walk). While sitting at a red traffic light the car next to me honked their horn and I was startled to see the man driving the car had his window down, was leaning out, and was trying to tell me something. I hesitated, unsure what to do in such a situation. He was young looking, tan, with sunglasses on and he didn't seem angry, so I rolled down my passenger window.
"Is your name K La?" He asked. I was stunned.
"K la Maidenname?" He said. I was slightly nervous at this point.
"Don't you recognize me? It's me!" He said his name and then, in fact, I did recognize him. More from his voice than his looks. He was a boy I went to High school with, we lived a few blocks away form each other. How weird that we run into each other sitting in traffic in Sunland. Crazy.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

I Can't! I Lost the Defuser Gun When I Misplaced the Invisible Car

And so ends my self-imposed No Driving Week.

Thursday I needed to go to a non-grocery store. The store is only about a mile away, and there is a bus, but the bus would only take me the last quarter mile: kind of a waste. So I put Ash in the jogging stroller and went for a walk.

It was surprising. When you walk, you see things that you don't see while driving. I discovered that my city is very walking-friendly. The sidewalks are extra wide (and don't randomly end like in Burgville) there are always cross walks, and I even found a walking path next to the sidewalk that took you along park benches and trees in case you wanted to go the scenic route. Speaking of scenic route, I'm amazed how much of this city is not-city. I found a beautiful waterfall surrounded by palm trees, a brook that ran along a forest, and dozens of trees and bushes in random places. It's just beautiful!

We got to the store, got what we needed, and walked back. I have no idea how long we took, but I know it was a lot longer than if we had used a car. I also know the next time I need to go, I'll just walk. It made for a much more enjoyable day.

Friday a friend picked us up and we went to the outlets for some shoe-shopping. She dropped us back off at home at the end. It was a nice outing, but she did have to go out of her way to pick us up and drop us off. I think that is the main problem of not driving: it forces other people to pick up the slack.

I liked this week a lot. I liked taking the bus, I liked walking, I liked how I felt like I got to spend more time with Ash. When we were waiting for the bus or going for a walk, we would talk and play and tickle. I can never do that while I'm driving. It made me feel like a better mom. It also made me feel like in better shape, since I was walking so much, and like a better citizen of earth, since I was reducing emissions.

The downsides are obvious: Cars are freedom. That's why they are so popular. Without a car you can't just go when you want, you have to plan around bus routes, walking time, weather and other's schedules. Still, I don't really mind that. I think the benefits far outweigh the extra planning. Like I said: the problem is that I feel like I'm punishing others. There are some places that are too far to walk and the bus can't take me: the ocean, the library, friend's houses. If I want to go to those places, or if other people want me to go to those places, they have to come get me, and that's just annoying. I have awesome friends who have volunteered to take me places, but can I really ask them to spend extra gas money because I don't want to? The answer is no. If I got me driver's licence taken away, or if I lost my car, sure. But just because I don't want to drive? No.

So, I think I will take the bus to go grocery shopping (as long as I remember my purse). I will walk to the store and anywhere else I can. For now, I will keep the car and use it only to go places I cannot go on the bus and are too far to walk. For now.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Who Needs a Car in L.A.? We Have the Best Public Transportation System in the World

I hate driving. I really, really, do. For a while now I've been looking into alternatives. This week was declared "no driving week" and I've tried to stick to it. Monday was easy: I didn't go anywhere. Tuesday Anna drove me to a fun outing, but today was different. Today I needed to go grocery shopping.

So I used Google maps to plan my route using Sunland Public transportation (har har. Yeah, I know, it's on oxymoron). The good part was is the bus stop is close, and has a route directly to a grocery store. The bad part is the bus only comes once per hour, so if you miss a bus it's an hour long wait.

Today I hoped to make the 9:06 bus so I left the house all ready to go shopping when I left to walk to a doctor's appointment. Sadly, the appointment went longer than expected, so I missed the 9:06 bus. I went home, Ash got into the backpack, we played, cleaned and then headed out the door. We found the stop, waited, boarded the correct bus, paid in exact change and got off at the correct stop. I was just beginning to feel accomplished and self sufficient, when I opened my backpack and discovered I had forgotten to re-pack my purse. Meaning I didn't have any money for groceries, or for the return bus ride. Oh noes.

Thankfully Mandy had called me before I left and told me to call her if I got stuck. I was stuck, so I called her. She came to my rescue and saved the day. I finished grocery shopping and since the bus didn't come for another thirty minutes Ash and I hung out in the pet store looking at birds and mice and chinchillas. Afterward I once again found the correct bus stop, boarded the correct bus, paid in exact change and got off at the correct stop. It was a successful day, I just wish I wasn't so scatterbrained. Yeash.

But it was good enough that I will do it again. I think the bus is a great way to get the few places on the bus route. For everything else: well, that's still a problem.