Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The HElliotts Buy a House

As promised, here is the whole story. If you're looking for the really fun part of the story, scroll down to "The HElliotts move in."

The Search
First off, we started looking for houses the beginning of October, not really knowing what we were looking for, other than 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, fenced in backyard, and a good location between our jobs.

In case you haven't looked, there are a million of these houses.

We immediately found our dream home on the Multiple Listing Site (MLS). Perfection. Move-in ready, but still enough to be done that we could put our own finishing touches on it. Our real estate agent (Carol Hyatt - she was great - let me know if you'd like her contact information) takes us straight there on Day 1. It took about 5-10 minutes for us to learn our lesson about getting our hopes up looking at houses online. The realtor who took the pictures of that house should consider becoming a professional photographer for Southern Living.

Then Carol had some in mind that we had totally dismissed because they looked cookie-cutter. They turned out to be incredible. We loved them, one in particular that stayed in the #1 or #2 spot throughout our search, but they were a little further away than we wanted and the school system was a little questionable. Nevertheless, this opened our eyes to a whole new type of house to start looking for.

So we looked.
And we looked.
And we put in offers.
And we kept looking.

Then I finally caved on my no-split-level rule mid-November, and that's when we found it online. It was a foreclosure and the bank was accepting bids until 5:00 the next day. Carol got us in to look at it first thing the next morning and it was perfect! It was older, so in some ways, it was a little more spacy, though it's nothing huge. Either the previous owners or the bank, or both, did a lot of work to update the whole house. It had so much of what we had been looking for all along.

Carol got our bid in by 5:00 and let us know the next day we had won it! We were so relieved because we had already talked to the apartment complex about breaking our lease and being out by the end of December and it was sounding like we were on track.

The Contract
It mostly sounded that way because we didn't understand any of the legal jargon the broker was using to talk about the contract we were still trying to finalize. All we knew was that the contract stated we'd close no later than January 5, but earlier if "everyone was ready" - and we were READY.

But the contract wasn't. Apparently with foreclosures every single, tiny, itty, bitty detail has to be perfect. And that took a few weeks. By the time we had it finalized, the new latest close date on the contract was in early February. We kept thinking the whole time that we were going to lose the house for some reason. To the point that we didn't sound too excited about it when we told some of our friends and family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

By mid-December we realized with bank holidays and whatever other kind of vacation time people have, we'd probably not be out by the end of the month. The people running the apartments were great and gave us a month extension without a penalty. Things were floating along pretty well.
The inspection was fine. Mostly minor issues. Then the mortgage company had their assessment which made the seller fix some of the major issues (like the broken water-heater). Yay! That's less we have to deal with, except it was January and the bank had to go through the bidding process and whatever else to hire a contractor and then the contractor has to go out and do the work. 

And then a miracle happened! Everything fell into place and we scheduled our closing date for...
Monday, January 27.

The HElliotts Move In
That's right people. We closed the day before Snowmageddon 2014 struck Birmingham. We had a tight moving schedule set in place which would be nuts, but it had us living in the house by Thursday of that week and all of our stuff out of the apartment by Friday (the last day of the month and our deadline with the apartments). Yes, we were down to the wire.

So Monday we danced circles down the aisles of Home Depot getting a few items we knew we needed for the house to make it liveable. We already bought a refrigerator the day before, to be delivered Wednesday or Thursday. It was glorious.

And then there was Tuesday. Scott took our baby (ok, toddler) to daycare and loaded the minivan to the max with the first of at least 2 loads he was supposed to take that day. In the meantime I'm at work feeling giddy about the "dusting" of snow we were supposed to get later that day. I knew the view from work would be gorgeous.

And it dusted. I gave a group of adults from Columbiana an introduction to the museum, looking out the window and noticing the snow starting to pile up slightly on the pavement thinking to myself, "Hmm, that's interesting." You see, snow doesn't usually stick to the pavement this deep in the south.

When I got back to my desk I got a phone call from Scott saying he already couldn't drive back up the hill to the apartment because it was too slick. Two seconds later, we were told we could leave work. And, as everyone knows, it was too late by that point. 

Scott and I decided he would go ahead and go down to the house to turn some of the faucets on so that none of the pipes would bust that night since the house was no longer winterized. It took him several hours to get from there to the daycare at our church, but his saving grace was everything in the back weighing him down which kept him from slipping on the roads. It took me 10 hours to join him and baby girl at the church where we slept for the night.

Wednesday afternoon we made it back to the apartment, but couldn't do much else besides box things up. Thursday we made it down to the house and the refrigerator was delivered. That's when we found out that we didn't have the right connection for the ice-maker. No big deal, we could live without ice for a while. Friday, all of the large furniture was moved and we slept our first night in the house. It was utter chaos. The nursery was the first thing set up and was good to go for little buddy, but nothing else was where it was supposed to be and we still had TONS more stuff to move. The apartment management gave us an extension through Sunday.

Also on Friday night - I realized I had forgotten to call the utilities to switch them over to our name because of the insanity earlier in the week. The power company wasn't a problem. The gas company is apparently good for nothing from Friday night until Monday morning. With the snow and everything they were able to come out and shut the gas off, but turning it on during a weekend is unheard of.

So we had to boil water for baby girl's baths. Monday morning we put in a request for someone to turn our gas on. They get there Tuesday only to decide that our one gas appliance, the brand new gas water heater, is not up to code and they tagged it unsafe and would not light the pilot. One of the major issues was that the exhaust came out of the side of the house and could build up carbon monoxide under the overhang of the roof right next to baby girl's window. Huh. NOPE. The only option would be to build a long pipe in the front of the house to make the exhaust come out on the roof instead. Once again....NOPE.

Long story short, we got a free electric water-heater from the power company and the contractor who installed the gas water heater bought it back which paid for the installation of the electric water heater, which, lucky for us, was a little cheaper than usual because there was already an electric hook-up for one.

In the meantime, we were getting some plumbing issues fixed. One day, while the plumber was at the house working on minor issues we knew about from the inspection, we asked about connecting the icemaker to the sink (where the current tubing was attached). Apparently the pipes under the sink were so corroded it would cost us tons of money to replace a bunch of pipes to make it possible.

Whelp. We've both lived without automatic ice before and we were happy to do so again to save a few hundred dollars. The next day my mom turns on the self-cleaning option on the oven (because it was seriously awful in there). That night I come home hearing some sort of soft "shhhhhh" kind of noise behind the stove. In the meantime, we were worried about another leak from the guest bathroom because the garage had water coming down into it and it didn't start until after baby girl's bath.

Finally mom and I pull out the oven to see what was going on and find that the plastic line for the icemaker that was threaded through the cabinets, behind the stove, to the refrigerator had been melted and was lightly spraying water all into the cabinets and the back of the stove. And that was the night I learned where the water shut-off for the house is.

Luckily, we found out the next day from the plumber that there is actually a separate line to the refrigerator for ice coming directly from the water supply line (not the sink one that we melted), which made that project much cheaper.

During this same time, Scott was trying to hook up our washer and dryer. Scott is pretty handy and when he saw the hose from the previous owner's washer was still attached, he knew he could take it off. Then when he saw that that connection was too corroded, he bought the parts to fix it. But when he saw that the pipe attached to that was too corroded, he had to call the plumber and they had to cut into the sheetrock to replace all the nasty corroded pipes. 

And then we noticed that the dryer vent was also in the sheetrock. Huh. Interesting.

Luckily, Scott has a handy friend who had the tools and equipment to install a new vent and came over the next weekend to do that.

There are a few other projects we have in front of us that we plan to work on soon, but have spent the last couple of months emptying boxes and enjoying the house just being livable. We had no idea that in the end, the contract was the easiest part of all of this.

So that's our fun first house story! We're still finding little pain in the butt things along the way, but nothing serious that we can't fix with one of the upcoming projects we have planned anyways. Are we the only ones who've felt like we moved into a money-pit? I'd love to hear some other stories! 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Happy New Year!

Hi friends!
DISCLAIMER: I started this post back in January, so forgive any dated information.

It's been a while, but here's a quick summation of the last year for the HElliott clan as we break into 2014.

New Starts
I started exactly a year ago as a part-time Museum Specialist after about 8 weeks maternity leave. My job requirements changed so that I could do more of the museum work that I enjoyed. It's been awesome and I love the people I get to work with.

Scott started a new job last May which has made HElliott life in 2013 interesting.  He has been working nights, so our schedule has changed drastically and our social life during the week has taken a slight toll.  However, he took the job with the understanding that this shift was not permanent, and so we look forward to later this spring as a time to transition back into a normal family schedule where we can all have dinner together on weeknights with a well-rested Scott.

These last couple of months I've been working full-time temporarily, which has burned up our patience twice as fast. Without our mornings together, Scott and I haven't been able to see each other awake at all during the week, unless he comes and takes me out for lunch. It also means that he has to wake up with the baby regardless of the godforsaken time he went to bed. For someone only getting an average of 4-5 hours of sleep, he's been very perky. If everything goes to plan, this should end after this week when I go back to part-time.

And speaking of insanity, we bought our first house! It was a foreclosure and we won the bid before Thanksgiving, but figuring out the contract was a whole different story. Actually this entire house ordeal deserves its own blog post, because moving in was the best part. Stay tuned.

So we love the house. We've been in it since the end of January (the VERY end), and we're still unpacking boxes, but for two people unpacking on their own while supervising a toddler, I think we're doing pretty good.

Full-On Toddler
The changes Charlotte has gone through since she started pulling up in August, walking in November, and now have been crazy. (Look at the date of my last post. See the correlation?) I used to think life would be so much easier once she could just tell me what she wants. Unfortunately, that happens at the same developmental stage where you can't keep giving her what she wants just to pacify her like you could with an infant.

I'm not saying we don't feed her when she's hungry, I'm just saying we won't feed her sugary treats whenever she wants them - or blueberries at dinner (bedtime tummy-aches are the WORST.) But of course, she doesn't understand that. And what better way to tell an adult you mean business than stomp your feet and wail? I mean seriously, the child stomps her feet. Where in the world did she learn that?? My guess: that special trait is probably floating on the X chromosome I donated. Along with sheer determination. You think you're distracting her from something, but really she's just going along with you until you're done and she can go back to doing what she had planned to all along. It's a sad feeling to feel like your toddler played you. It's also exhausting keeping up the ruse until it's time to eat or go to bed so that she never gets the chance to play with that death-trap she's been thinking about all day. But, and I can't emphasize this enough, it's fun as hell. She'll chase you, or run away from you, play peekaboo with you, headbutt you, dive into a friggin' ball pit, and then always come right back to you to hug you and make sure you're watching. Best. Feeling. Ever.

I absolutely take this stuff for granted a lot of times, until I get the hug. It focuses me. Think about it. You could be running around doing your usual routine at work or running errands on top of a long day, and if someone just walks up to you and hugs you (a friend or a relative, not a stranger - yikes), what else can you think about but "Oh yeah. Someone loves me. You know what, I love you, too! And hanging out with you is way more fun and meaningful than anything else I'm doing right now. Let's play!" Love it.

Right now, I've got nothing in this department. Especially with the crazy full-time schedule, there's no time. I did get a cheap jogging stroller, though, and I'm SO excited to get to take little buddy for rides on some morning jogs through the neighborhood when I go back to part-time.

The ladies of the family did get together for the annual Disney Princess Half-Marathon. I believe that deserves a blog post of its own as well. It included much hilarity including biological warfare done by my mother of all people. Trust me, you won't want to miss this one. Spoiler alert - none of us ran the half-marathon.

That's mostly what's been happening with the HElliotts these last few months/half-year. I'm looking forward to sharing more details with you all soon...and you should look forward to reading them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013



My hate for bugs is boundless.  Most people who know me learn this quickly.  I hate everything about them.  They have no respect for private property and invade homes.

My relationship with cockroaches especially has had a checkered past - but let's be honest, has anyone had a good relationship with a cockroach?

The first thing I hate about cockroaches is how juicy they are when squished.  I hate it so much that when I kill one, I don't even bother looking under the pile of books or shoes I killed it with.  Nope, I leave it for my exceptionally understanding husband or I bribe friends/roommates with a cheap mexican dinner to do it for me.  Judge me all you want.  I don't care.  It's not going to change.

My husband's favorite story to tell is when I killed one with a pile of phone books while I was on the phone with him.  This was before we were married and in a long-distance relationship.  The phone call was on a Monday.  The pile of books was waiting for him in the middle of the floor when he came to visit that Friday.  My hero.

There are two particular incidents so far in my life that has scarred me and my outlook towards these creatures.

The Screaming Cockroach of '08

I'm going to share a little something about myself that may seem weird:  When I sleep at home by myself, I sleep with a light on.  I know.  But it's something else I don't plan on changing.

This is very handy for situations like the screaming cockroach of '08.

It was summer and I was living in Georgia in the second story of a house with two roommates and it was pretty hot up there in the summer.

One particular night I did my usual routine where I slept with the light on, waking up now and again to look around for anything that might be crawling on the walls or ceiling (the year before my apartment was crawling with earwigs - which, of course, added to my paranoia).

Low and behold, 3:00a.m.  I wake up and see a cockroach on the wall across from my bed.  I get out of bed antsy and angry and find a shoe.  Strangely, the bug didn't move, but whatever.  At least I didn't have to hunt for it, right?

I do my "gross-bug-jig" and then walk up to it and swing.

Half a second before the shoe hit the bug (well past the point of no return), I swear to God, IT SCREAMED.

After doing a more intense "jig" and cursing, I decided I had to call someone and talk this out.  My husband and I were on friend terms and talking every once in a while on the phone, and I figured he would be the only one who wouldn't get mad at me for waking him up with this at 3:00a.m. (2:00 his time).

Yeah, he laughed at me.  I still don't know that he or anyone believes me.  But I swear it screamed.  It was a high-pitched, shrill scream.  I'll never forget it and it's part of the reason they all freak me out.

The Beach Incident of '13

Can you tell this one was recent?  VERY recent.

My husband and I took our 8-month old daughter to the beach with my family this year for the first time.  It was great!  Lots of fun.

We had a room for us with two beds and enough room to set up our daughter's pack 'n play for her to sleep in.  One bed was a full bed and the other was a twin.  My ever-chilvalrous husband let me have the full and he slept in the twin up against the wall.

He had to leave a day early to go back to work, so when he left, we piled a bunch of baby girl's stuff on his bed for packing.  The second night he was gone was the last night we were there.

Well, baby girl was getting fussy and having a hard time sleeping that night, so after several times of calming her and her waking back up again, I decided she would just sleep with me in my bed.

Unfortunately, the window AC unit was blowing right on her, so I decided to move into Scott's old bed.  She was already awake, so I didn't mind making lots of noise moving everything off of his bed to put it on mine.

We laid there for several minutes - baby girl is asleep and I'm fading fast.

I felt a little tickle on my hand, but figure it's just the blanket folding over and brushing against my hand.  So I move and it stops.

A little bit later, I feel a little tickle on the small hairs at the bottom of my ponytail and decide I'm still catching a little bit of wind from the AC unit.

Baby girl was dead asleep at this point and I decided to put her back in her crib.  Luckily, she stayed asleep this time (YAY!).

I turned around to get back into my bed (the full-size bed) and realize all the baby stuff is on it and I didn't want to risk waking her up.  So I turn to get back into Scott's bed.

And there, on the middle of the pillow, was THIS

Ok.  Not that, but what I did see was the biggest friggin' cockroach EVER.

I did my nasty-bug-jig while screaming silently and grabbing my hair, and ran outside in the hall to collect myself.  Once I realized there were no other bugs on me and that it hadn't laid eggs in my hair or anything (because that's where my logic takes me every time), I went back in and grabbed a shoe.

The bug had moved to the side of the bed at this point, and I swear when I walked closer it lifted its head and looked around.


This made me hesitate enough for it to get away.  I mean...what if it screamed at me?!?!?!

Well, I can't sleep in a room with a cockroach running rampant.....soooo...I moved to the upstairs couch.

I felt so bad about leaving baby girl down there to defend herself. I even woke up my mom to make sure she'd be ok.  Stupid, now that I think about it, but who really acts rationally at 2:00 am?

So I watched her monitor for a couple of hours straight until I decided to participate in some candy crush saga therapy and eventually fell asleep.

I'm pretty sure that during the 3-ish hours I slept, nothing happened.

The next morning I was told that it could have been a Palmetto bug.  I haven't mustered enough courage to google it to find out the differences between it and a cockroach.

On top of everything, I was convinced the bug crawled into our luggage.  So I left it to my husband to unpack everything.  And he was amazing enough to do it, because he knows me.

**For mommy points, I'd like to point out that I had broken my nightlight rule for those last two nights at the beach to make sure baby girl got her sleep.  See what happens?!?!?!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ways College Prepared Me for Parenthood

Aside from those who go to college purely to meet their significant others, most of us don't realize how much college prepares us for parenthood.

I'm definitely not talking about classes.  What little I remember about my child development class, didn't really help me with bringing home a newborn.  This may be different for others with different majors, but I wouldn't know.

It's the real life situations from college that prepared me.  Here are the ones I found most relevant:

5.  How to cram a lot of junk into a tiny space.  We've all had that hellaciously small dorm room for at least our freshmen year, sleeping on a bunk bed with our knees to our chest.  Then, 10 years later you get pregnant and are blessed to get tons of big items you can't use for months.  What do you do with it?  You learn how to stack and stack high.

You also make a visit to IKEA, which was a huge eye-opener a few years too late.  Great examples for later, though.

Not only does it teach you how to cram, but it also teaches you how to live with less and really narrow down your bare necessities, which leads me into the next item....

4. How to live on a tight budget. Who knew brussell sprouts went well with bananas?  You do - because of that last week of the semester cramming for finals on your last dime, knowing all you had to do was survive with enough money for gas to get home (and yet you still had enough for a cheap mexican dinner).  You also now know that Angel Soft may not be Charmin, but it still gets the job done.  Truth is, you wouldn't have experimented with nearly as many products in the grocery store if you weren't on such a tight budget.

And now you know how to do the same for your kid.  They don't know that no one else mixes vegetable beef with prunes, and they certainly don't care.  Oh, and by the way, does that cheap formula do just a good a job as that expensive name brand of supplying nutrients?  Why yes - now that I can quickly scan the nutrition facts - yes it does.  (E-mailing skills also helped secure a money-back guarantee if baby C didn't find the taste agreeable.  Skills that were honed in college.)

3.  Being messy is ok.  I honestly owe this one to my experience as a camp counselor during my summers in college.   

Baby spits peas in your hair?  Eh, I've had worse.  Baby sneezes banana through her nose?  I've seen a camper put long strand of carrot in his nose and pull it out his mouth - I can handle this.  Baby poops a multi-colored rainbow?  There was much worse done in the dorm's community bathroom.

This also goes hand-in-hand with a new mom's new shower schedule.  Been a couple of days since your last shower?  I've gone a week, and we were outside hiking a lot.  I'm not proud of it, but it gave me some perspective.  It's definitely gross to go a few days, but I'll always know that could be so much worse.

2. The more clothes you have, the less laundry you have to do.  Out of clean underwear with no time or energy to wash?  Go buy some new ones.  Or in this case, how many onesies can she wear in a week before we have to do a load of laundry?  At one point, we could go almost 2 weeks before we had to laundry for baby girl.  Then we had to start using bibs.  I'm currently considering buying a new chunk to extend our laundry capabilities.  Those things go quick with 2-3 meals a day, although she's luckily keeping drool during playtime to a minimum.  Our new idea is just to feed her in just her diaper.

We owe much of the excess clothes situation to grandparents and friends. To date, we've only bought 2 outfits for her. The rest are from others, which has been awesome. Thanks everyone!

1.  Coping with sleep-deprivation.  The parenting class said to not be surprised if you only get a few hours of sleep a night, and they made it sound scary.  I imagined accidentally falling asleep while holding her, or nodding off while bathing her.  Because that's when it would happen, of course.  During some incredibly vulnerable or high-risk situation.

Well, turns out it's nothing compared to the little to the completely sleepless nights spent in college doing whatever kind of tom-foolery we were up to (mostly Phase 10).  And sleeping when baby girl slept made me even livelier than I was in college.  I felt pretty well-rested, comparatively speaking.  Don't get me wrong, I was tired, but not near as tired as I was pulling all-nighters writing papers or finishing projects at the last minute.

So here's to college - a place where you push yourself to your limits and come out having learned something either about yourself, or your major, or both.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Date Night

Most have us have been there before.

Wrapping up work on a Friday night so you can get home, unwind and then blow off your nightly chores and routines to get out of the house with your significant other for some fun.  There's something about stepping out of the front door without dragging along the 100 lb. carseat and a 50 lb. diaper bag that makes you feel young and free.

And, if you're like us, you get out the door and have to decide between taking your sportage or the minivan.

NOT our van...but what if....

It's become an understood rule for me and my husband that on date nights, we take the sportage.  These are our nights to feel young, sleek, and sexy.  Just to give you an idea of how much we associate personalities with cars, you should know that the red sportage is named "Fiona" and our Honda Odyssey (the minivan) is named "Homer" (get it? Homer?).

Back to date night - we're already smiling at each other and making jokes as we get to the sportage.  My ever-chivalrous husband opens my door for me.  I sit and wait for him to join me on the other side, admiring how much moisture God can physically pack into a molecule of oxygen in such ridiculous heat.

He gets in and cranks on the car and we both turn to each other and remember that the car needs more freon for the air conditioning to work.  This means that in order to keep from looking like a hot and sweaty mess on our date......we would have to take the minivan.

WISH we had this excuse.

True story:  We recently bought this tough-mother of a van after Scott wrecked his car a few months ago.  Minivans were the best deals we could find for the amount of space - and after cramming an entire nursery into two cars last Thanksgiving, it made total sense.

We bought the minivan, and of course, my response is, "What the hell happened to my life?"
While my husband is thinking, "This. Is. AWESOME!"

How do I know he's thinking this?  Because #1.  He volunteers to drive it all the time (before the AC in the other car ran out of freon).  And #2.  He bought a little stick-figure family to put on the back of it.  He has obviously embraced the minivan stereotype.  I'm still working up to it, though the AC situation is helping.

So we look at each other, both knowing our only option.

I'm telling you, nothing sucks the fun out of the date night than driving everywhere you go in your family's workhorse vehicle.  I mean seriously, we could hear the stroller banging around in the back and we kept finding rogue diaper bag items roaming everywhere.

And of course, instead of ignoring all these things and pretending we're in some sort of hot rod, we make comments and joke about it the whole time:

"Well, this feels sexy"
"Wanna take a 'stroll'?"

I might as well have just gone out wearing sweat pants and a pony tail.

Even more disappointing was coming out of watching Iron Man 3 to find the minivan (with the stick people family on the back) in the parking lot.  Aw yeah....'cause we're cool like that.

Ultimately, I would not recommend this for a date night, simply because you still don't feel like you're getting away for a few hours.  However, if you're like us, you make the most of it and have fun anyways.

So I say to you, future-date-night-disasters....bring it.