Thursday, January 31, 2013

Our Phoenix house hunting trip

We are on our way back from our house hunting trip in Phoenix.  It's kind of been the trip from hell - not at all what we were expecting - and we're glad to be on our way home.

Sunday morning we looked at 7 houses, I think.  We saw a few that we thought were decent houses, but none of them had exactly what we were looking for.  We liked one on Mulberry Street quite a bit, but the master bedroom was downstairs and the kids bedrooms were all upstairs.  It also had this casita thing, which was like another room, but separate from the house, so we couldn't have really used it as a guest room since you had to walk outside to get in to the house, and it didn't have a bathroom.  If it had had a bathroom, it would have been a lot better, but I still didn't like the fact that the we would have been on a separate floor from our young kids.  It was a nice house, but the paint was all pretty dark and it didn't let a lot of sunlight in on the main floor, so it was a little bit cave-ish.  Mark really liked it, but I was never sold on it.

On Monday we looked at a BUNCH more houses.  I'm not sure how many we saw, but it was between 10-15.  The first one we looked at was great, except that it had the master and 2 other bedrooms upstairs and then a 3rd bedroom downstairs, and that just won't work for us.  It also had solar panels that were owned outright and have the house a net electric bill of zero for the entire year, which is a HUGE savings in Phoenix were your electric bills are easily $300-400 during the summer months.  We liked that house, but it just wouldn't work for us.

The second one we looked at was on Glenrosa and we LOVED that house.  We walked in and it immediately felt like home.  It had EVERYTHING we wanted in a house (with the exception of a gas stove and double ovens - but those were more on my dream list than anything else).  It had the master bedroom and 3 other bedrooms upstairs, plus a small loft area right by the stairs that would be perfect to put a desk and also a GREAT playroom with french doors with nice blinds on them right next to the loft.  So the kids could be in there playing and I could be working on the computer right outside the playroom.  The playroom is actually kind of two rooms, and there is a connecting jack and jill bathroom to the playroom and what would be Abbie's room.  Abbie's room had a small walk in closet and so did Ben's, which was right next door.  Ben's room shared another jack and jill bathroom with the 3rd bedroom upstairs, that would eventually be baby #3's, which is right next to the master.  There's a huge linen closet in the hall, and then we have a huge master suite, with dual walk-in closets, dual vanities (one even had a sitting place for me to put on my make-up) separated by a large soaking tub and a separate little room for the toilet.  The shower had two shower heads and a large seat in it and the master bedroom is big enough to have a sitting area and a bedroom part.  We also liked that our room was closest to the stairs, so you'd have to go by our bedroom to access any other parts of the upstairs.  The downstairs of the Glenrosa house had a good sized guest room with it's own bathroom, that was away from the rest of the house, which I prefer.  It had another bathroom with just a toilet off the main entry.  It has a formal living room with a fireplace and lots of windows, next to a court yard area that are accessible by double doors from the hallway, next to the large family room that has large windows on both sides looking out to the courtyard and the back yard.  The LARGE kitchen has beautiful granite counter tops, with a very large island and nice cabinets, and it's right next to a breakfast nook area where we could put our kitchen table.  There's a walk through butlers pantry to the large dining room that our new table would look great in, and that is directly across the hallway from the court yard area.  I would say the size of the family room/kitchen/breakfast nook at that house is about the same size, space wise, as our entire kitchen/dining room/living room/ both kids bedrooms and downstairs bathroom plus more at our current house.  And then there's the back yard.  It has an amazing covered patio with a built-in grill that we could expand on to turn in to an outdoor kitchen later on down the road if we want.  We could put ceiling fans out there also and speakers since the hook ups are already there.  The backyard was at least 3-4 times bigger than most of the other ones we saw, if not more, and the pool is gorgeous and deep enough on one end to dive in, but shallow enough on the other end for a "Benj area" as we were calling them.  They're like little built up areas where you can put an umbrella in the pool and the water is less than a foot deep so you can lounge in the water or put babies there to splash around also.  It also had a 3 car garage with one stall being separate and the perfect place for Mark's work shop.  Obviously, we are in love with this house.  The huge downsize is that it's listed for $315k, which is $15k over our budget and it's in a newer area so the taxes are about twice what they were in other areas.  But on the flip side, there is a park literally 3 houses down, and the high rated elementary school is about a half mile away and Mark's work would be about 10 minutes away.

We saw a bunch of houses after that on Monday and none of them even came anywhere close to the Glenrosa house.  We basically had our #1 house picked out, and then the Mulberry house was about #5 and everything else we saw was #10+.  In other words, there was a HUGE gap between our #1 house and our #2 house.  We saw some nice houses and some houses that would have been great if we'd wanted to put a ton of work in to them, and some very nice houses that were 30 minutes from base, and that's just not what we wanted.  We looked at about 7-8 houses up in the Surprise area and while Surprise is a nice area with decent parks, it just didn't appeal to use nearly as much as the Litchfield Park/ Goodyear area.  Monday we went home knowing that the Glenrosa house was what we wanted, but we just weren't sure we could afford it because we'd talked to a lender and he gave us a quote for the monthly payment to be over $1800, which was well over our $1650 limit we had set.  We were discouraged and stressed out and went to Red Lobster for dinner to discuss it all with my parents and try to figure things out.

While we were at Red Lobster, Mark was looking at CNN and saw a news flash that a pilot from Aviano had gone down in the Adriatic and we both immediately started trying to contact friends back home through email and Facebook and by the end of the meal, we had found out it was our good friend, Luc Gruenther, that had gone down.  For obvious reasons we were devastated and worried sick and all of a sudden the house situation was the least of our concerns.  For the rest of our trip, we were constantly checking FB and our emails for updates from friends back home, trying to figure out more information on if Luc had been found and on how his wife, Cassy, was doing.  We would fall asleep looking for updates, waking up in the middle of the night and check numerous times for updates and then check first thing in the morning for updates.  It was horrible.

Tuesday we went back to the Glenrosa and Mulberry houses to look at them both again, and confirmed that we did still love the Glenrosa house.  We also went and saw a few more houses and tried to look at some model homes, but they weren't open.  We looked at a house on Windward Ave that was a decent house and we decided that house was second on our list, but it still was ranked about #4 compared to our #1.  Tuesday night we made an offer on the Glenrosa house, but as of right now (Thursday at noon) we still haven't heard anything back.  We know that they're moving because of a relocation of his job, and that they've only lived in the house for a year.  There were appraisers there both days we saw the house doing appraisals for the relocation company and we think that's why we haven't heard anything back from them yet because they're waiting for the appraisals to come back.  We offered them $292k after looking at the comps in the area and knowing that they only paid around $296k for it when they bought it.

Wednesday we just hung out in the Arrowhead area and shopped a bit for baby showers coming up and we heard news that Luc's helmet and parachute had been found, which gave us great hope that he was still alive.  About an hour after we'd received that news, I got a call from Brittney (who was watching our kids) saying that Abbie had tried to pick Ben up and dropped him face first on to the tile, which knocked both of his front teeth out.  Great.  So then it was the mad scramble to try to figure out what we needed to do for him and Brittney was calling the nurse line, and I was trying to get ahold of my dentist friend in Italy to see what she should do.  Brittney ended up having to take him to the Pordenone Hospital because the base dentist wanted a chest x-ray to see where the missing tooth was.  (Brittney found one tooth, he swallowed the other one.)  They ended up not giving him x-rays because they listened to his lungs and he sounded fine.  His mouth was still bleeding, but other than that and a huge lip, he was back to his normal happy self.    She ended up taking him to the pediatric dentist on base on Thursday (Italy time) and they x-rayed his mouth to determine if any thing was broken or if there were any parts of the teeth left in there, and there weren't.  The ped. dentist and his pediatrician also wanted a chest x-ray done just to make sure that the tooth wasn't in his lungs somewhere, and it's not.  Ben was a champ laying there during the x-ray also.

Today we got up early to leave Phoenix and still hadn't heard anything about the house.  Ben is doing well though, so that's a relief.  However, right before we boarded this flight, we got the news that they found Luc body and that he didn't make it.  We are absolutely heartbroken to have lost this amazing man in our lives, and even more heartbroken for my good friend Cassy, who is due with their first child in a few weeks.  We feel so helpless being an ocean away from everything going on at home and are ready to be back to be with our kids and our friends.  I'm going to call our realtor during our layover and hopefully she'll have a counter offer from the sellers by that point.  Not holding my breath though...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Munich in December


The last weekend in December, we drove two cars up to Munich so we could drop our Volvo off to be shipped back to the States.  Since we bought that car here, Volvo will ship it back for us “free”, but you have to pay to get it back up to the Factory in Sweden, and to ship it from Aviano was like $1200 and to ship it from Munich was under $400.  So we drove up there.  Our friends, Brenda and Ben, met us there with their 2 kids for the weekend also, so it was fun.  The night before we left is when I got the first round of the stomach crud so I was up most of the night, which wasn’t fun.  But I drove the Volvo up and Mark drove the Passat up with the kids so I definitely had it easier, which was probably good since I still felt a bit queasy.


So it’s taken me a month to get this post up, and now we leave in 2 days to go back to the States for 6 days to buy a house and I have about 4 zillion things to do between now and when we leave in less than 48 hours, so I’m not going to do much commentary on these pictures.   On top of that, I have a squadron coffee tonight, and I have to take Ben to the dr tomorrow for the third day in a row to check his current ear infection that won’t go away, and Mark is flying nights and is super busy at work too.  Life is just crazy right now and I feel like February will be so much more laid back, but in reality, it probably won’t be.  But I’d still like to think it will be.  Anyway, enjoy the pictures! 





I got a bunch of cute pictures of Abbie on this trip.  She’s so photogenic and I have fun editing them.  She and Braden had a good time playing together and we’re hoping to see them again on our layover at Ramstein on our way back to the States during our move.  Also, the first night we were there, Mark was up with the same crud I had the previous night and Ben woke up with diarrhea EVERYWHERE.  You could smell our room from down the hall.  Fun times for sure..  We felt bad for the cleaning lady, especially since we couldn’t open the windows at all.  But luckily both of our kids do pretty well when we’re all sharing a hotel room.  Hopefully that continues while we live in a hotel room back in the States until we close on our house.  We’ll see!


We spent most of Saturday at Dachau Concentration Camp, but I will put all of those pictures in a separate post.  Hope you’re having a good January!!

Friday, January 18, 2013


It’s a weird thing, watching your entire house be packed up before your eyes.  I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t at least a little bit hard.  It’s very exciting, for sure, but it’s also a little scary saying goodbye to all your things.


So we’ve traveled a lot since being in Europe.  We’ve been to Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, The Netherlands, England, Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Greece, Turkey and of course all over Italy.  Our main souvenirs at most of these places have been magnets for our fridge, and we have quite the collection of them now.  We also got t-shirts from some of the places, especially for the kids.  Some day I will cut them all up and make a quilt from all of them.`


Some of the places we went, we got vases, in hopes to some day have a place to display them.  The ones on the left are from our squadron and Burano.  The one on the right is from Turkey.


The vase below is from Ravello, Italy on the Amalfi Coast and the platter is something from Nove, Italy that I won here.  (I took pictures of all of this stuff before it was packed to prove that it was in one piece when it left here.  Hopefully it’ll all arrive in one piece in AZ.)


Our one huge souvenir from our time in Italy is this table that we got at the bazaar this past fall.  It is an antique table, supposedly made from floorboards in a monastery in France.  It is a HEAVY table, and made without the use of nails or screws, so it couldn’t be taken apart to be shipped.  The table has a ton of character, which we love, and is obviously not something we can replace once we get back to the States, since I don’t think there are a whole lot of these floating around the US.  I am very nervous about how they packed it in the crate and I argued with them about putting as much stuff as they did on top of it, but Mark, the packers and the TMO lady all assured me that it would be fun.  Hopefully they’re right because I’m going to be majorly P.O.’d if we get there to find it’s broken.


I also didn’t get a chance to see how they packed up my demijohn’s either, so I hope that these all make it one piece too.


Giuseppe Pino is an artist that sells his paintings in the BX area a few times a year and every time we’ve seen them we admire them.  I love his work, so at the last bazaar, Mark and I bought one, and we love it.  Again, this is not easily replaceable either, unless I can get him to paint us another one and ship it to the US.  I would love to have another one of his paintings, but they’re pretty darn expensive.


We also got these paintings of Venice and Rovinj, Croatia and had them framed.  They’re original artwork, and the framing/matting cost us a pretty penny, so hopefully the arrive undamaged also.


The painting on the left is painted on an antique roof shingle.  We also got this at the bazaar, although I am fairly certain that we picked out a different one and somehow the one we picked out got switched with this one, so when we went back to pick it up, it was already boxed up with our name on it.  I thought we’d picked one out with a painting of Venice on it, not giant mushrooms….  A little disappointed about that, but by the time we opened it and figured out that it was the wrong one, we couldn’t do anything about it.  Boo.  And the big wooden bowl is an antique bread bowl – again, from the bazaar.


Overall, we had 10 crates full of the things we’ve shipped so far.  They estimated it to be between 10k-11k lbs.  We are allowed another 1250 lbs to go in our unaccompanied baggage shipment at the end of February, so hopefully all the rest of our things fit into that.  We’ll see!!  I’ll be happy to see our stuff on the other side, for sure.


I have to say, I like this house much better without all of our stuff in it.  We have so much more space and it seems brighter and more open.  We kept the things we use the most, so it still feels like home, just without all the clutter, which I love.  We might have to do this minimalist living once we get back to the States too, although by then I’m sure I’ll be happy to get all my junk back and to not be sleeping on an air mattress anymore.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Interesting start to 2013

This year has started with a bang.  It seems like it’s one thing after another for us right now and it’s a tad bit exhausting.  I’ve been busy, but I like it that way.  The first Saturday in January, I went to Venice with 4 of my good friends from here and we had a great time shopping and eating at the Hard Rock CafĂ©.  It was my first time going to Venice with the girls, and I wish I had done it more often while we lived here.  It was a lot of fun spending time with them, and I got a cute purse from Venice also.  Over the next 8 days, I had a meeting and a luncheon to attend, but couldn’t because Ben had pink eye so I couldn’t put him in the childcare for those events.  Good thing I took him to the doctor since he had his first ear infection also, but after the first dose of antibiotics, his ears and eyes both cleared right up, thank God.  I also helped host 2 baby showers for good friends here, and that was a lot of fun.  I managed to finish their quilts for them and I’ll post about those soon.

Last weekend we were supposed to get the house ready for the movers to arrive on Tuesday, but Mark was sick with pink eye, a cough, a cold and a fever and I wasn’t feeling the best due to this stomach bug I’ve had off and on since after Christmas.  I felt queasy, had diarrhea and had no appetite what so ever.  The upside to it is that I’ve lost 6 lbs due to not feeling the best, but I think a lot of it has to do with the stress of the move and the anticipation of what’s to come.

Last weekend I also managed to drop my laptop off of my lap while I was in bed, and it landed on our hardwood floor and ruined the hard drive.  I sent it to a computer guy here and he couldn’t get anything off of the hard drive, so any of the photos you’ve seen on the blog since August are not gone.  I’ve lost my copies of all of them and the ones on here aren’t print quality.  I could have cried.  I’d spent hours working on editing pictures of a friend that I took for her in December, and I was almost done with them.  Lost all of those also.  (I still have the originals, just not the edited ones.)  I had just emptied my phone pictures and videos on to my computer and I lost all of those too.  I am heartbroken by it and I really hope that someone can figure out how to get the pictures off of it.  I lost all of my saved recipes on it, all of my favorite saved websites, everything.  I can’t access anything that I had on that computer anymore.  It completely sucks and I feel bad that I ruined the computer.  Not a good way to end one year/ start another, that’s for sure.

So the movers got here today and we had very little prepared for them.  We had to get everything separated that we want to keep with us here for the next 6 weeks while the majority of our stuff is shipped to AZ.  We managed to get the majority of it done today while the movers worked, but we still have some to do tomorrow and the movers will be here all day tomorrow also.  They think they’ll be able to get the rest of the house done tomorrow but I’m not holding my breath for that one, unless they stay super late, which I really hope they don’t.  It’s hard enough with the kids when they stay until 6pm, but any later than that is infringing on dinner time and the start of our night time routine.  We’ll see how it goes, I guess, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if they came back on Thursday also.

I’m already worried about our stuff being shipped.  I have my new stainless steel pots and pans being shipped and I told the guy packing them that they couldn’t be touching each other at all or they’ll scratch each other up by rubbing metal on metal.  He threw a bunch of them in a box, all piled on top of each other, but luckily I saw it and told him to redo it.  I wanted him to wrap them all individually but he just shoved packing stuff in between them, and that was only 3 of the 7 of them.  So hopefully the other 4 aren’t packed on top of each other.  We have a bunch of vases and plates and other very breakable things that we’ve gotten during our travels and I’m really hoping that those will arrive in one piece.  I’ll be pretty upset if they don’t.  And I’m worried about our antique table that we bought at the bazaar too.  I just really hope it gets there okay.  I would have preferred that they packed it differently than they did, but everyone assured me that it was okay.  I hope they’re right.

The next few weeks are going to be pretty busy.  I’m going to Slovenia with my friend Brittney for the weekend this weekend.  I have a Bunco game night this week, dogs vet appointments and a squadron coffee next week  and then we leave to go house-hunting in AZ for a few days.  February will be fairly laid back, but it’s the calm before the storm for sure.

This is our 6th military move in our 7 years in the military, so it isn’t our first rodeo, thank God.  I feel a little more laid back about this one (obviously, since we didn’t really do ANYTHING to get ready for it), but I’ll be glad when it’s behind us for sure.

I’ll post more once our stuff is gone and I have more time on my hands, which might not be until February!!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ben at 13 months


Ben is a cruising machine now!  He cruises all over the place, but he’s not brave enough yet to let go of anything.  He also much prefers to have both hands hanging on to something for support.  He’s getting a little more graceful in this sitting from standing and can now lower himself down slowly to crawl to wherever he wants to go next.


Ben currently has his first bout of pink eye and his first ear infection, which led to his first dose of antibiotics.  Because I had him at the doctor today to diagnose his infections, they weighed him again and he weighed 23.1lbs (so he lost .7lbs in a month) and he’s 32.1” long, so he’s another 10th of an inch longer.  I was a little concerned about the weight loss, but the doctor said that he’s not too unusual when they’re sick for them to lose some weight.  Since it’s not a ton of weight loss, I’m going to keep an eye on him and see what he weighs when he’s feeling better.


Ben blows kisses regularly now.  We’re still trying to remedy his screaming at the top of his lungs when he wants something (usually something we’re eating) and he’s doing the signs for more and drink and eat and milk much more frequently.  He says mama, dada, and bubba (my nickname for him) a lot and he’s starting to say mama when he wants me.  He’s starting to hold toys up to his ears now to pretend they’re phones and he babbles a lot.  He has a “lovey” that he sleeps with every night and he loves that thing.  We have a spare one, and we had a laundry basket full of clean laundry in the living room.  He dug through it and found his lovey and was happy as a little clam when he found it.


I can’t remember if I wrote this last month or not, but Ben is in size 4 diapers now and all 12-18 month clothes, and he has been for a month or more.  He’s completely off of formula and drinks about 12-18 ounces of organic milk per day.  We’ve cut him down to 1 nap, and he naps for about 2-3 hours in the afternoon and then 12 or so hours at night.  He LOVES to play with remotes and he’s so tall he can easily get them off of the tv trays we usually have them on.


It’s amazing to me the difference in our kid’s personalities.  Abbie was very intense at this age, and she was a screamer and always had to be involved and moving and doing something new.  Ben is MUCH more laid back and does a lot better entertaining himself.  He likes to be held, but he’s fine if you’re not moving, although he does love to go for rides in the stroller or in the Ergo.  Ben is much more whiney than Abbie is though, and I think that has to do with the fact that by this age Abbie said 8-10 words and knew 15+ signs, so she could communicate with us better than Ben does right now.  I think he gets frustrated by that, so he whines when he doesn’t know what else to do.  He’s sleeping much better than she did at this age, but he’s always been a good sleeper after the newborn phase.  She wasn’t cruising at this age, just walking on her knees, which he doesn’t do at all really.  I think later on in life they’ll balance each other out very well.

Abbie at 13 months and Ben at 13 months.

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Oh, and Ben LOVES popcorn!!