Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ending Summer

Last week, in addition to Jetty Island, we had a friend of Gareth's over a couple of times. The first day we decided to do some neighborhood exploration and went to a local park we'd heard good things about. It looks like a nice park - an area where you can run/walk/bike, a soccer field area, a butterfly garden, and a nice playground. Unfortunately for the big kids, the zip line was broken. Nevertheless, they had fun playing with the other equipment for a good hour or so. Then we stopped at a local toy store on the way home to check out what they offer. Seemed like a decent store and a good place to buy puzzles. Perhaps a little pricier than our previous toy store, but not by too much.

The next day we headed over to his friend's house and hung out there for a little bit before heading to Golden Gardens. The boys decided to wear wet suits. Getting those on was a workout! But I think they were glad to have them because it enabled them to play in the chilly water for hours. Malcolm wasn't as willing to touch the water here because the waves were a little more raucous. He had fun digging in the sand and building sand castles, along with an occasional trip to the water to check out the seaweed.

They spent most of the day trying to topple one another over into the water

Fascinated with what the big kids are doing

Mal needing to use the toilet multiple times meant many trips across the scorching sand for me. Ouch! Next year I'll be sure to have some water shoes or something, both for protecting my feet from the sand and for enabling walking on the rocky beaches around here.

Over the weekend we got some much needed rain - and some not-needed wind. We've got one somewhat large branch down in our backyard and lots of little twigs. Lots of people lost power, but our block never did. Saturday afternoon we debated, but then braved the weather and went to a barbecue with a couple of our friends. Gareth was in tears when he thought we might not go, and I was pretty disappointed as well. It's been hit or miss getting together with friends this summer between us moving and their various summer activities, so I was really looking forward to this gathering. I'm glad we went - the winds calmed down and the rain even stopped for a while. And we all had a great time.

We've still got a week and a half before school starts, but I'm taking the GRE this coming weekend, we've got some things to get together before school starts, and it's supposed to be rainy all next week. So while summer isn't quite over, it definitely feels like things are winding down. I think this past week was a good way to bring summer to a close.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Jetty Island

Jetty Island had been on my list of outings to take for a while. Apparently it's a nice place to hike and see birds. But you have to make reservations on the ferry and I'd never quite gotten around to doing so. So when a friend emailed with an opportunity to go with them and someone they knew, who'd already made reservations, I happily said we'd join them.

We had reservations for the 10:15 ferry, so needed to be there about 9:45. Google said it'd take 30 minutes, so we left an hour early since I had never gone before and had no idea what to expect from the traffic (most morning traffic would be heading south into Seattle, but there is a Boeing location north as well, so hence the playing it safe). Turned out there was no traffic, so we made it there just after 9. We managed to kill an hour by paying for parking (only $3 for the day - not bad at all for Seattle area!), using the restrooms and checking out a sculpture near the dock.

In the end there were some empty seats on the 10 am ferry, so we got to go over on that one. The ferry ride lasts all of two minutes, but the kids still enjoyed it.

Mal looks grumpy, but he wasn't. He hadn't eaten before we left, so hence the bagel munching here. He had excitedly climbed onto the bench on the ferry only to look down and see the water and decide that seat was a little too scary. So I held him in my lap instead.

We didn't hike around the island on this visit, but instead spent the day on the beach. It was low tide when we got there. There was a sign posted about ghost shrimp at work and to be careful of sinking sand. As you walked out closer to the water, sure enough, the sand was full of little holes. As you stood on the sand you would slowly sink into it. It was a very weird feeling. As long as you kept moving things felt pretty normal. Sinking into the sand wasn't too big of a deal for big people, but it did cause Mal to fall over once. Apparently the sand doesn't drop off for a long ways; it was really disconcerting to see Gareth wading out incredibly far. But I think the deepest in he went was up to his waist. The water was incredibly calm in the morning, so Mal surprised me by wanting to play in the water. Usually he wants to stay safe on the beach, but with the water being so warm and not very deep at all, he loved playing in the water today.

The little kid in the background of the picture of Mal was no bigger than him, maybe even a bit smaller, to give you an idea of just how shallow the water is for quite a distance here.

After a couple hours we managed to get the kids to come back to the beach for some food. Then Gareth got to try out the kite he got last Christmas. He'd tried one out at a beach gathering at the end of last summer and loved it. Ever since getting his kite he's been begging to use it. I'd hoped to try it out long before now, but with moving and all we just haven't had the opportunity.

The kids all took turns flying the kite. Whoever wasn't flying the kite would try to catch the kite's shadow. The wind was perfect and they were able to get the kite quite high. After an hour or so of that it was back to what was left of the wet portion of the beach now that the tide was coming in to play with the sand and water some more. There were more waves by now, so while Mal was willing to go in the water still he didn't want to go out as far or without holding my hand. The kids were all disappointed when it was time to go, but the grown-ups wanted to avoid traffic getting home. Malcolm fell asleep almost instantly on the drive home.

Definitely an outing that will have to be repeated, both to check out the nature walks and for the beach. The beach never felt crowded, which was surprising to me. I suppose having to take the ferry, not being right in Seattle, and the limit of 60 passengers per ferry ride helps to keep it that way.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Camp Quest

The day after moving in we drove Gareth up to Camp Kirby on Samish Island for Camp Quest. I'd had him pull together all the stuff he needed Friday night so that I could run a load of wash Saturday evening and so it would all be in one place after the move Saturday.

He was the first one from his cabin there, so we didn't get to meet anyone else in his cabin. We signed him in, handed his stuff over to his cabin counselor, let Mal check out the totem pole and the water a bit, and headed back home. It felt weird to put Mal to bed in his room by himself that night. We spend the week assuming Gareth was having a great time.

We picked him up last Saturday. He greeted us with a big smile and immediately started telling us about camp. One of the first things he said was, "Can I come back to this camp next year?". He got to go kayaking and do some archery. He tells us he didn't try rock climbing, but will next year. And he opted against swimming after being told the water was cold (I'm doubtful it was since it's been so warm this summer). They had crafts as well. One day he made an architeuthis out of yarn:

They did some problem solving/building type activities and sang the typical announcements camp song, and had a campfire with songs and stories. He says the food was delicious. Each cabin put together a skit. I haven't figured out exactly what the plot of Gareth's was yet, but he got to play the role of the Fartis, which is "just like the Tardis but it needs nuclear creeper farts to power it". Clearly a skit written by 8 and 9 year olds.

From his description it sounds like he had a great time - and we'll definitely plan on him returning next year. And I'm sure I'll be much less nervous sending him off next year since things went smoothly this year.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Moving In

I promise house pictures will come. But right now the place is a huge mess, so pictures will have to wait. 

We started trying to figure out how to get our mail the Monday after closing. It's taken two weeks, but the whole thing is finally taken care of! There's still a sign covering the outgoing mail slot warning of a hornets nest, so we can't send mail out yet, but we can finally get our mail. The whole process was way more frustrating than it needed to be. I was ready to sign us up for a PO Box today if I still wasn't able to access our box.

The same day I was told there was a hornets nest in the mailbox, we got our washer and dryer delivered. That's when we found out that there was no breaker in the panel for the dryer. The dryer outlet wasn't connected to anything. I also discovered a sewage leak in the garage that afternoon. I wasn't expecting much, but decided to email the realtor and see if there was any recourse for this stuff from the seller or the home inspector. He was awesome and told us he'd reach out to them and would cover the cost of fixing both so we could get them done right away. Thankfully the electrical wasn't too bad. The wiring was there, just not connected to the box. And messed up on the outlet end (it would've blown the dryer if we'd been able to turn it on right away because there was no neutral or something). But no holes in walls were required. Took a little longer to get the sewer pipe problem fixed. It did get taken care of eventually though.

Our mason guy started working on tuckpointing the day after closing. We got a call late that morning telling us that he was shocked our chimney hadn't already fallen over. The chimney didn't need tuckpointing, it needed to be rebuilt from the roof up. We went over that afternoon to look at it. Sure enough, you could easily tell the bottom of the chimney and the top were not at all lined up. Thankfully our credit for the tuckpointing was enough to cover the additional cost of rebuilding the chimney.

We moved all our big stuff into the house this past weekend. It was soon discovered that our queen bed will not fit up the stairs to the master bedroom. So Ryan and I are sleeping in the basement bedroom until we figure out exactly what mattress we want (probably some kind of memory foam because it comes all rolled up - easily fit up our stairs!). Not an expected expense, but what would home ownership be without all sorts of unexpected costs?

Sunday we drove Gareth up to Camp Kirby for his first ever summer camp. We'll go pick him up Saturday. It felt a little odd to put Malcolm to sleep in his room (in his new bunkbed, which he loves) all by himself. We realized he would never get to sleep with the sun shining right on his face, so we came up with a great window covering:

At some point we'll get something better than cardboard boxes to use as window coverings. But we were lucky to have a curtain rod for the shower this morning. We'd purchased one, not realizing it was one that required hardware to hang. I ran to Home Depot just before they closed and grabbed a cheap one. 

I'm realizing that deciding decor for a house is really difficult. Soap dispensers, for instance. Ryan seems to want something nicer than the plastic softsoap bottles from the store. So we were looking at them and it was completely overwhelming. What will guests think about my taste if I choose dispenser A vs dispenser B? Do I even like any of these? There are just far too many choices. I'm not great at visualizing things, so that doesn't help. And the tile and other fixtures are all the same in the bathrooms here at the moment. But I'm not sure I want all the bathrooms to look exactly the same. I can't even figure out soap dispensers - the thought of window treatments just makes me wince. The good news is that we have lots of time to get things just how we want them.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Househunting, Part IV

After knowing that things weren't going to fall apart in the home inspection stage, we needed to finalize our lender. I did that the day I found out my grandmother was dying. We went back to the lenders we'd been considering to see who had the best offer for us this time around. In the end, we went with a different lender than we were planning on with the first house we offered on.

I had to head to my grandmother's funeral in the middle of all this, so waited on deciding the insurance until I got back. I was hoping to just stick with our current insurance provider, but we found a PNW company that could offer us a much, much lower rate than our current provider.

Then we had to get a few more things from Ryan's new job for our mortgage. But once that was done it was just waiting for the appraisal. And that's where things stalled a bit.The appraisal happened at the very end of June, but with the July 4th holiday we didn't get the report until the next week. The report was good, except that the lender wasn't happy with the comps the appraiser found. Because one of the above grade bedrooms in the house is non-conforming it was difficult to find houses in the neighborhood that had sold recently that were comparable. We ended up having to get a desk review, which takes three days.

In the current housing market you worry a bit about the seller getting annoyed at having to push the closing date back several times (we initially set it as 7/2, pushed back to 7/10 because we all took time with the inspection, then to 7/15 because the appraisal took longer than expected to come back, then to 7/24 because of the need for the desk review). But as our lender said, this was completely out of our control. We'd been credit approved and ready to close for some time. If the seller had wanted to avoid this delay, they should've added an egress window to the non-conforming bedroom (something we plan on doing as soon as possible, just to get some light and air circulation in that room, but also because dying in a fire doesn't sound appealing).

The west coast is a bit odd in that you sign all your papers before the closing. The only thing that happens on closing day is the escrow company disperses money and gets the deed and mortgage recorded with the county. And you get your keys once all of that is done. We were told to plan on signing papers on Thursday, the 23rd. Then we got a call Thursday morning from our lender letting us know the escrow company was having a major network outage and so we may not get to sign that day (which would potentially push closing back yet again). Thankfully things ended up coming back online and they were able to hurry and get the paperwork finished. They called me just before 2 pm to set up an appointment. Our paperwork was in Bellevue, but we were going to sign at their downtown office, meaning I needed time to get the kids to a friend's house and take the bus there. They wanted to know if we could make a 3pm appointment. So I had them send Ryan the instructions for the bank for our cost to close and he ran to the bank downtown while I rushed the kids to our friend and then rushed to the bus. I made it into the building right at 3. And then we waited for 30 minutes because they hadn't managed to get all the paperwork over from the Bellevue office yet.

Eventually it all came and we got to witness our signatures undergo evolution while signing a ream of papers. Then Ryan showed me his new office (great views of the Sound, Space Needle, and Pike's Place) before we headed home.

Things were supposed to be easy on closing day. Our wire was set up and we were waiting to hear from our lender that things were all set and from the realtor that he'd got the keys. Instead, I heard from the escrow company at 11 that our wire hadn't come through yet. I told them we'd set it up and they said it might come soon, they'd wait a bit longer. I got a message from Ryan just before 1 that they'd called him and I needed to call them. The wire still hadn't come, and we were now running out of time to close that day (because the lender couldn't wire their money until ours had come and wires can't go after stuff closes on the East coast at 2:00 or 2:30 pacific time, but it really needed to happen by 2 so that the escrow company could get the other stuff in for recording by 2:45). So I gave them my reference number and they told me that wasn't a correct number, that there should be a different one. I immediately called the bank, who insisted to the bitter end that that reference number was the only one there ever would be and that they'd sent the wire. I told escrow this and escrow said that wasn't true. I called back the bank and made clear that I wasn't happy they were messing with my home purchase at the end of business on a Friday. They agreed to call some people and look into it. In the end the wire made it, but not soon enough for the lender. Our lender was able to call his company CEO and get funds released another way so that we could close. It was hectic and stressful. And I guess it wouldn't have hurt to close Monday instead of Friday, but everyone else seemed so concerned about it all, I guess because they all like to actually close when they say they'll be able to.

So now we're homeowners. And that's rather terrifying. But exciting also.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Carkeek Park

We've been helping a friend out with childcare this summer, taking Gareth's best friend for a day here and there. The past couple times we've just hung around our place, letting them play Minecraft, ride bikes, water play in the back yard, and hanging out with other friends at play street (you can get a permit here to close your street one day per week so kids can play in the street; the friend's we go to closes their street from 2-5pm, but another family from Gareth's class last year closes their street from 9-5).

But this past week we made a trip to Carkeek Park. We went first thing in the morning, hoping crowds wouldn't be too large then. There was a Campfire Kids daycamp going on, but even with them the crowd was totally manageable. We hung out by the salmon slide for a while and then Gareth and his friend wanted to head to the beach. Usually when we're at Carkeek I say no to the beach (because I always forget there's a beach there and don't plan accordingly), but this week I just went with what they wanted. And we had a great time.

Of course, the view was beautiful as ever.

The big boys crossed the seaweed strewn rocks to get to the water and wade and play in the wet sand. They even found an intact shell with a creature still inside which they brought back to show us and then took back to the water.

Mal preferred to stay in the dry sand with me. We found a couple logs to sit on and played with rocks and shells, took pictures, and ate snacks. The train goes by between the beach and the park, and the boys all enjoyed watching it. Mal didn't like how loud it was when the train whistle blew, but once he covered his ears he was fine.

We've got about 15 pictures of close ups of Mal's face and him sticking his tongue out. He really likes to have control of the camera.

Gareth's friend cut his toe on a barnacle just before we left. The Campfire nurse was nice and gave us antiseptic and a bandaid to get us home. We got him bandaged up at home, ate lunch, and hung around the house for the next few hours doing the usual stuff (Nerf guns, Minecraft, playing with water outside) until it was time for him to go home. Aside from the cut toe, it was a fun day all around. And nice to have an excuse to just relax and have an outing in the midst of house stuff.