The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Yearly Archives for 2005

Mommy Instincts

I’m going to take a day off from my story about the Montage condo. Don’t worry, I’ll finish it up tomorrow.

So the cold I thought was finally leaving my house made a last minute u-turn to give me one last smack and to really get baby Gray but good. The Dayquil I had been taking fairly religiously stopped making the aches go away Wednesday and my sweet Grayber started to get snotty-nosed that same day.

We both made hearty attempts to shake it off and tough it out (favorite expressions of my Dad) Thursday, but it just wasn’t working for either of us. Gray was awake most of the night last night, utterly inconsolable. This morning when he woke up he looked like someone had punched him in both eyes:

pink eye1.jpg

When I saw his sad pink circles, I quickly made an executive decision and called the doctor to make him an appointment. I have to say, one of the generally undiscussed challenges of motherhood (at least undiscussed so far as I have heard) is the challenge of when to drag the kids to the doctor. The thing is, we tend to get a bad rap for jumping the gun. Everyone knows those moms who are constantly sure something is deathly wrong with their children, and I think this is an easy mentality to fall into. When you are totally and completely responsible for the health and wellbeing of another human being, I think it’s easy to question yourself and worry that something will go horribly wrong. But, of course, we all want to look like we’re handling it just fine and that there’s no panicking involved. God forbid we bring them in to the doctor only to have him say that nothing is wrong and we had overreacted to some little imagined symptom. No one wants the reputation of the Mom who cried pneumonia.

Anyway, I ALWAYS struggle with the timing of bringing my boys in to the doctor, but today, I just decided. I looked at those eyes, and even though they weren’t really bloodshot or all that gooey, there was definitely something wrong. And to add to that, it’s Friday of a holiday weekend. So if I didn’t go in today, we wouldn’t be seen except at urgent care, until next Tuesday. So that sealed it for me and we went.

BOY am I glad we did. The doctor confirmed that Gray does have pink eye, and not only that, but nasty ear infections in both ears. Plus, when he woke up from his afternoon nap, his eyes had gotten so bad they were completely glued together. EW.

So today, on the positive side, I am proud of my motherly instincts. Ooo, and Jason brought me home some new cold medicine that is finally making me feel like a human again. Yay for Aleve Cold and Sinus!

Be Careful What You Wish For (Part II)

When we left off, my clients had just been informed that the ‘condo of their dreams’ was available.

We hightailed it out there and met with a salesman. This is where things got a little sketchy. When I showed up my client was just finishing signing documents. I knew going into this that this transaction wouldn’t be like the residential resales I was used to. I knew they would have their own contract and that the process would be closer to that of a newly built house. I had even tried to get my hands on a copy of the contract before we went to the original sales day, but had been turned down. Regardless of all of this knowledge, I was not prepared for the total lack of information or control we were given. He was handed a contract and given no time to read it. He signed and then we were taken to the unit. They even tried to get him to sign off on a ‘final walkthru’ right then and there, which we successfully diverted by explaining that we would be having a professional inspection done.

Luckily, in all of this, my client could not obtain a cashier’s check for the earnest money that day because of the short notice, so he made an appointment to come back the next day and drop that off and sign the final paperwork. This gave me time to take home the 40 page contract he had just signed, as well as the Public Report (a document release by the county that gives basic information about the property, utilities and the surrounding area) and review it all to see just what we were getting into.

It turned out what we were getting into was a bit disconcerting. I am used to entering into the Arizona approved residential resale contract, which is meticulously balanced for both sides of the transaction. I understand the rights that are covered and what all of the clauses mean. I feel comfortable in using it, that my clients, regardless of whether they are buying or selling, will get a fair shake by the contract. In the Montecito Montage conversion contract, the buyer has little to no rights. There were several things about the public report and the contract that worried me the most:

1. The condo complex is in an official flood zone. This can affect the ability to get a loan as well as insurance prices.

2. The contract specified that if the close of escrow was delayed by the buyer or the buyer’s mortgage company for any reason, Montage has the right to charge the buyer an extra $100 per day.

3. The contract seemed to indicate that if the buyer decided to use his or her own lender as opposed to a ‘preferred lender’ and that lender could not complete the transaction, the earnest money would not be refunded to the buyer

Part III tomorrow…

Be Careful What You Wish For (Part I)

Remember my condo clients and our day at the Circus Montage? Well it turned out that our roller coaster ride with the Montage condos wasn’t meant to end where we left off.

When we left ‘sale day’ on December 3rd, we were told my clients’ names would be put on a backup list for a two bedroom condo and if any of the people who had signed a contract to purchase a two bedroom could not fulfill their end of the deal, they would begin contacting people on the backup list to see if they would want to purchase instead. Because my clients were so interested in this condo complex (we had visited 20 or so other condo complexes in the previous weeks and none of them measured up in location or amenities), we made several calls to the sales office over the next few weeks trying to determine where they stood on the backup list and whether there was still a chance to purchase or not. We even began watching the MLS for the condos that had been purchased to be resold (or ‘flipped’). I was surprised to see that even though none of the condos had officially closed escrow yet, several appeared for sale. I contacted one of the agents on a condo (she also works for Century 21 Arizona Foothills and we had met before) and she explained to me that a property can be sold before it changes hands the first time. The buyer actually purchases the interest the previous buyer had in the property. (Yep, it’s confusing to me, too.)

Anyway, the point is that the condos that were appearing on the MLS were being listed for $50,000 to $75,000 more than what we had been expecting to purchase them at from the Montage sales office. This made it apparent that the only way my clients would be purchasing in this complex would be by original contract, not resale. I could tell my clients were pinning all of their hopes on the possibility of that backup list.

In one of the calls I made to the sales office, I managed to find out that we were number 102 on the backup list. This was not a good sign. They continued to tell us that they would call if they had anything for us. Finally, the week before Christmas I received an excited call from my client that he had called the office that day and it apparently had been the right moment to call, because they had just had a two-bedroom fall out of escrow that was available for my clients to purchase, IF they came right then.

For a bit, that call was a dream come true. As a newbie Realtor (I’ll probably call myself that for 10 years or so) I tend to get more emotionally involved with my clients and their hopes than I probably should. Purchasing and selling a house is such a huge, life changing event. I want them to get everything they want. I knew that my clients had seen what else was out there and that a Montage condo was what they had their hearts set on. I had been very concerned it wasn’t going to happen. So for the moment, I felt like we’d won the lottery.

Stay tuned for Part II…

When the Dust Settles

Is it really over? Has Christmas actually passed us by? And I’m still alive? I think it’s a holiday miracle. This was definitely one of those years I was sure I wouldn’t survive. Between my overly ambitious and unrealistic plans for handmade gifts and the cold that has been lingering in my chest for the last 10 days, I was planning for a psyciatric institutionalization or just flat out death from stress. OK, I may be exaggerating a bit, but honestly, I couldn’t be happier that the holidays are on the down slope and could be considered, in all regards, a success.

Holiday Photo Highlights

Jason’s work party:

The gift exchange with my best girlfriends:

Christmas morning at our house:

Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa’s:

And that is the holiday in a nutshell. Stay with me this week, I have several real estate and craft stories I’m dying to tell!

For Grandpa JT

My dad emailed me last night from Biloxi, Mississippi that he misses my boys, which is silly because he saw them four days ago. I think it’s a little lonely to be sleeping in a sleeping bag in a loft with 75 strangers, especially for an Arizona guy like my dad, who likes his weather hot and dry.

My dad’s out there doing what you wish you could, he’s spending a week helping out with the hurricane relief. He has worked at a large company with really decent benefits for a long time now, so he ends up with a bunch of vacation time every year that he doesn’t like to waste. He’s learned that he isn’t the kind of guy who’s going to enjoy two weeks off before Christmas to shop, so this year, he decided fairly spur of the moment, to take some of his vacation time to go out and help. He’s been writing email about the experience every day and it certainly sounds interesting. He’s spent a day gutting houses destroyed by the water, and another setting up and repairing donated computers for a job fair that will take place today. He’s sore, but they’re feeding them well and he enjoys meeting new people, so he’s happy.

Anyway, he requested that I put up pictures of the kids, so Grandpa JT, this is for you:

Gray says Hi!
(Ben’s at school, but he says Hi, too!)

Keep up the good work. I hope I’m as tough and adventurous as you are when I’m your age (which, uh, isn’t going to happen unless I get tougher and more adventurous as I age).

A Fire in the Hearth

Life has been chaotic here as usual. I have been much more focused on the impending holidays the last week or so than my real estate business, but soon it will all be over and I will be back to business as usual. In the meantime, however, I want to pass on a little story and some advice about protecting your investment.

A couple of weeks ago Jason, Gray and I were in the living room watching some TV before bed, when Ben came running out of his room and down the hall to us.

“There’s a fire in my room!” he shouted, and we responded immediately. Jason jumped up and ran back there. I grabbed Gray and followed. There was a fire, but don’t worry, it was really minor and Jason put it out in seconds. It turned out that Ben had tossed his ‘Blue Blankie’ (his security blanket) up in the air and it had landed on top of the halogen lamp. when he pulled it down a piece of it had caught fire. In the end, the only damage was to Blue Blankie.

Last week I got an email that another agent in my company’s house burned to the ground and was a total loss. A couple of days later while I was at an appointment, my potential client told me a story of a house around the block that had burned down the day before. There were two more less than a mile from my house that went down just before this weekend. Each of these stories made me a little sicker to my stomach. We had been SO lucky. It could have been so much worse in so many ways.

For the most part, the fires lately have been attributed to a couple of things:

1. Misuse of fireplaces – In AZ we just don’t get to use them very often, so when we do, many haven’t been properly cleaned, or people just don’t know the correct safety procedures.

2. Electrical lights in close proximity to dryed out trees – Winter is the dryest time of the year here, and most people don’t keep their trees sufficiently watered, and many people leave their tree lights on all night.

Both of these hazards are fairly easily fixed. So keep them in mind over the holidays, and consider giving a fire extinguisher as a gift. We bought our new one at Lowes last week.

National Clean Under Your Couch Day

I read somewhere (maybe here) that one of the things you should do before you die is create a holiday. I reserve the right to make up several others later, but I’ve decided to do my first one today:

December 6th, I dub thee, National Clean Under Your Couch Day.

I decided today that my living room really needed a good scrub between the cracks before we put up our Christmas tree and start stacking up the gifts. So for the first time in a really long time I moved the couches to vacuum underneath. It was a fairly horrifying experience.

Yep, all of that junk was under my couch. If your couch is even a quarter as disgusting underneath, it’s probably worth it to get under there. So go home tonight and celebrate my new holiday. You’ll sleep better at night.

The Good, The Bad and The Pretty

Probably all three of these things could be separate posts, but they are all fresh on my mind from the weekend, so you’re getting them all in a clump:

The Good – The Boat Parade at Dobson Ranch

Last Friday night we took a ride on my parents’ Christmas decorated pontoon boat:

We rode out to one of the several parks on the lake and met up with the 13 other contestants in the Dobson Ranch Boat Parade. It was too fun. I tend to be a bit scroogey about all of the hoopla that surrounds the holidays, but this was a holiday event that got me in the spirit. We played holiday music from a stereo on the boat, but one of the other boats had a live band on board playing carols. It was awesome. The winning boat was made up to look like a pirate ship full of Santa’s:

And here’s my attempt to catch the boats all lit up when it was dark:

The Bad – Sale Day at the Montage Condo Conversions

Saturday morning I got up early and met my clients who have been looking to buy a condo up in North Scottsdale out at the first sale day of a complex they have been particularly interested in. We had visited and checked out the models a few weeks before and they liked it enough to be preapproved with the preferred lenders at the complex and make an appointment on sale day. We were told our appointment was at 11 am and our slot number was 73. We assumed this meant that we were number 73 on the list to purchase one of the 200 units. We were very very wrong. The entire event was a circus. We had to valet park our cars and then were put on a shuttle to a tent in the complex. In the first tent we were told to wait until our appointment time was called. It quickly became apparent that we were actually number 73 in the 11 am time slot. There was a time slot called every half hour starting at 7:30 am and EACH ONE had roughly 100 people in it. Once our time was called we were checked in and ushered to another tent where we waited, standing, for several hours for them to call our names. At least an hour before this happened, the announcer (most annoying announcer EVER) declared that all units were sold out. We continued to wait just to put our names on a backup list. It was a dismal, spirit crushing experience. We are officially back to the drawing board.

The Pretty – My First Hat!

I spent most of yesterday knitting a hat for Gray:

I felted it this morning and will post pictures of it when it’s totally done. I’m going to make one in the opposite color scheme for Ben (green with a brown stripe). Fun!

Hope you all had crazy fun weekends too!

Chipotle Meat Loaf and Mashed Potatoes

I tried a new recipe last night from my latest Cooking Light Magazine (somehow, lately I have a subscription to it, even though I don’t remember ordering one… but hey, I’m not complaining!) and we very much enjoyed it. It is ‘healthy’, in theory, though I have to admit that I used an entire egg vs. just the egg white and I used more sauce on top than it actually called for. Plus, I paired it with homemade mashed potatoes with lots of butter, salt and sour cream and a little bit of horseradish. So they may have actually canceled out any of the ‘healthiness’ intended by the meatloaf. Regardless of the nutritional value, this meatloaf tasted good. I tend not to be a huge fan of loaves of meat, but this recipe has a special zing that won me over. (By the way, I also halved the recipe in the magazine and decreased the cooking times a bit. It feeds three or four adults the way I made it.)


Package of ground turkey breast (1.25 lbs)
1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/8 heaping cup of regular oats
1/8 heaping cup of dry breadcrumbs
1/8 cup of tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 clove of garlic, pressed
1 egg
Couple of shakes each of parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, basil
1 chipotle chile, diced
1 teaspoon of the adobe sauce from the can of chiles

1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon adobe sauce

Mashed Potatoes:
5 red potatoes
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon ranch dressing
2 tablespoons horseradish sauce (or to taste)


Put red potatoes on to boil. Combine all ingredients for meatloaf in a large bowl and mix with hands. Place in a greased 9 by 5 loaf pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Combine sauce ingredients. After first 20 minutes brush top of the meatloaf with sauce generously. Bake 20 more minutes. Remove potatoes from water when fully cooked (pretty soft). Place them (skins and all) in electric mixer bowl with rest of mashed potatoes ingredients. Mix using paddle attachment on lowest setting until combined (feel free to add more of whatever until the taste/consistency is correct. Mashed potatoes are an art, not a science.). Slice meatloaf and serve with a big scoop of mashed potatoes. It’s down home cooking with a kick!

Happy Closing Day!

Today we are closing on the second of my good friend, and current client’s houses. Woo hoo! I have spoken with the title company and they are waiting on the wired funding from the Mortgage company, and I have spoken with the Mortgage company, who has sent the funds. So, right at this moment we are waiting for the money, which is floating through space, to make it to it’s destination, so the title company can record the deed and close escrow. There’s absolutely no one I can call and urge to hurry up or beg to do their job. We just have to wait. Which is not easy.

I know my client is feeling tense right now because she currently officially owns no houses. They are leasing-back their old house through Friday (it closed yesterday) and will close on their new house some time today. I can completely understand this stress. Every single one of my clients has said to me at some point, “I’m homeless!” All of the transactions I have done so far have been double-sided and have included a short lease-back, so that my clients could close on their old house and therefore have the money to buy their new house. It’s actually the easiest way for the whole thing to be set up, because then they don’t have to move twice, but it does involve this little moment of panic. It’s a natural reaction.

See it’s difficult for those of us who are control-freaks. I can say this about my current client, because she knows it, and hey, I am totally one too, and I know it as well. We’ve discussed before that we think it has something to do with our birth order. We’re both first children. But I digress. Real estate is a bucking bronco. Most of the time you can’t tell it where to go, you just have to hold on tight and hope you stay on top. Deep breaths, for those of us who aren’t good at not being in charge.