Monday, December 31, 2007

Pretty Dresses

One of the best things about having a girl is that I get to dress her in pretty dresses. This one was a gift from Aunt Lisa and Uncle Jonathan. Anne wore it to Terri's Christmas Eve party and had a lovely time with Tommy and Mikey--hi guys! Thanks for sharing your trains with Brad! That's Grandma holding Anne, wishing she had a red Santa Claus dress, too.

This dress is just too precious--it was from Nana and Papa Frank. It was a lovely surprise on Christmas morning, and Anne wore it for her 12-month pictures the next day. Those pics will be coming mid-late January.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Anne's Birthday

Anne turned one yesterday! I am such a bad mother: I completely forgot it was her birthday until my mother called at 3pm to say happy birthday (thanks, Mom!). Hey--I was busy moving from MD to NC--give me a break!

These pictures were taken in Aunt Lyndsey's very nice apartment while we were in NY celebrating Christmas. Anne made a nice mess for Aunt Lyndsey.

She's a little tired, and doesn't really care that we're all singing.

Ah, but wait! Here is a bright shiny thing that is moving all around. Let me try to grab it!

Daddy presented Anne with Grandma Ludovici's famous homemade chocolate cake.

She liked it so much she went for the rest of the cake. I won't show you the resulting pictures. Let's just say that Grandma turned her face away from the destruction and that there was carpet cleaning and vacuuming involved.

P.S. Thanks to Grandma for supplying the pictures!

The Move

We're officially in North Carolina! The move went shockingly well. If you have known us for awhile, you know that our last two moves have been horrendous. Just awful. This is the first move that didn't end with the movers presenting us with a bill twice the original estimate. For anyone interested, the moving company is Town and Country Movers. I found them on movingscam.com, as one of the few recommended companies. They were the cheapest of the estimates, and they did a great job. I highly recommend them.

Thursday they came and packed everything up. Yesterday they loaded everything on their truck, and Doug and the kids and cats and I drove down to NC and spent the night in a hotel. Today they arrived at 10:30am (they had left MD at 4am!) and unloaded. Then they unpacked and removed all of the boxes and debris. They just put everything on the floor, so the whole house is a royal mess. I unpacked most of the kitchen, so that's about 75% complete, but our china is on the dining room floor (hello, baby gates!), the pictures are scattered throughout the living room, and Brad's bedroom...

...the problem with Brad's bedroom is that he doesn't have any furniture other than his bed. Anne has the crib and the changing table/dresser. Brad has a bed. And the two bookcases that were in his room went into the basement (they're cheap and from IKEA and I knew they wouldn't survive another move (and they didn't!) so they are in the basement experiencing a second life as garden tool holders). So all of his books, and toys, and clothing--EVERYTHING--is on his bed and floor. You can barely walk in his room.

And some rooms are mostly bare: we have no dining room furniture, and the fourth bedroom/bonus room is empty except for the old china cabinet (which I have now designated as a children's toy cabinet). It's pretty funny: most of the rooms look like a hurricane hit, but some rooms (including Anne's) are mostly empty!

So the game plan for tomorrow is to go to our new church, and then my aunt and cousin are coming to babysit so Doug and I can visit every Walmart, Target, and KMart in town in search of a white chest of drawers for Brad and some cheap bookcases for his room. I've been online and haven't found anything I really liked, though I do have one backup option.

I'll keep you updated!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Job Update

Hooray! I (Nicole) have managed to come to agreements with both my current and future employers. I will officially start work at my new job February 1, but I will go to NC for training on January 2, 3, 4, 5, 12, 19, and 26. We're almost done with this horrid commuting thing--come February 1st, we'll all be together under one roof and no one will ever take another business trip again. Right, honey?....Honey?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Water Tower Debacle of '07

Brad has asked for a water tower for his train set for months now (see a previous post a few weeks ago). So I finally ordered one from Amazon, thinking, I'll get free two-day shipping and we'll get it by Wednesday, in plenty of time for Christmas. Fast forward to last night. When I opened the Amazon box, I discovered that they had sent the wrong water tower!

Brad has wooden train pieces, so I thought I was ordering this one. But Amazon sent me this one, which doesn't work because it has a plastic track and won't work with the wooden tracks. When I went back online to make sure that I had ordered the right one, I discovered this is what I had ordered--you can see that while Amazon has a picture of the right tower, the title matches the wrong one. Oops on Amazon's part. Still, I thought, not a big deal, I'll just order the right one and have it shipped to Grandma's house. There is plenty of time.

Not exactly. At this late date, the water tower won't ship before Christmas because Amazon sells it through a third-party. And even usually-helpful Google couldn't help me find one that would arrive before Christmas for less than $50. Wonderful.

So I called every single Target, Walmart, Toys R Us, and Barnes & Noble in the greater Annapolis/Washington, DC/Syracuse area. Only to be told, "it's out of stock," or, "we have it, let me go get it....oh, I couldn't find it, I guess the computer is wrong," and, "we have two, but they've been damaged..."how damaged?"..."they're crushed." Finally, finally, I found a B&N on Rockville Pike that had ONE left, that was in stock and intact. After spending 30 minutes in traffic to drive 4.9 miles during my lunch hour, braving the holiday parking madness, and traveling back to the office, I am pleased to report that I have secured a water tower! Christmas can begin.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

MY animals

The kids fight over these stuffed animals constantly. The kitty and the giraffe. It's not like we have about 76 other animals to play with--no, they both want these two specific animals. Here, Anne has managed to wrest them away from her brother.

House Update

I can't believe I forgot to post on the 12th! We're officially homeowners!!!!! This is such a huge milestone for us and it has really boosted our net worth--I'm looking forward to looking at our month end spreadsheet on the 1st of January!

The painting is going well, and we have carpet people and cleaners coming next week. The sellers repaired everything we asked them to repair, and we're just so ready to be in NC.

This is our last full week in Maryland; on Friday we leave for a Christmas in New York, and when we return we pack and leave the very next day.

Doug has been the one doing the long distance commuting for the past few months; in January I will be the one working in MD during the week and going home to NC on the weekends. I'm really not looking forward to that at all (dreading it, actually), but it can't be helped. I think I'm in denial--I need to purchase or procure an air mattress for myself, but I haven't done that yet. And one of my colleagues has offered to let me stay at her place during the week and I haven't followed up on that either--I think if I I don't think about it, it won't happen! Sigh. I need to get going on those things.

Tired Baby


We took one last visit to the Baltimore Children's Museum today, and Anne was just plain tuckered out when we got home!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Family Weekend

Brad LOVES his new coat and hat and "glubs."

And Anne is walking with the little walker thing (I have no idea what it's called!)!! She walks everywhere with it and is so happy, laughing all the way. She will be walking before we know it. I guess this means I need to get her some shoes...

Doug left today to go to North Carolina to....CLOSE ON OUR HOUSE!!! Not that we're excited or anything. He meets the real estate agent at 8am Wednesday for a walk-through and then they head over to the lawyer's office at 9am for closing. I'm not going because we didn't want to take the kids and have me take time off from work when I'm in the middle of a job search (still trying to find my replacement, no luck so far, and hopes grow dim as Christmas approaches... :( ) .

Anyway, the real estate agent was going to charge $150 for a power of attorney! Thankfully, one of my co-workers is a lawyer, and she looked over the one I found online and made a few changes, but pronounced it acceptable. Even she was shocked that they wanted to charge $150 for a document that was less than one page long! And another co-worker is a notary, so I was all set with that.

At any rate, we will be homeowners on Wednesday! Very exciting! And the movers are all set to pack us up (best move ever, when someone else does the packing) on the 27th, which will be our last night here. Less than three weeks, and we'll be in NC!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Cutie


Okay, I know....I'm just too busy to take pictures!!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cutie Pie

Thanks for the dress, Grandma!

Bad news...we don't have a candidate for my job after all, so we're back to square one. Please pray that I find someone quickly so I can join my family in North Carolina. And please pray that I can find a job in NC!

Funny news...Brad has decided that he wants a water tower for his train set. And that's all he talks about (they have one at Barnes & Noble). They are about $20, but I'm not going to rush out and buy something just because he wants it. We've instead been talking about looking at our money and seeing if we want to spend our money on that--hey, it's never too young to try and impart some fiscal responsibility. Anyway, this morning this is what our conversation was like:

"Mama, can we get a water tower? I want to get dressed and go buy one. Can we buy one?"

"We'll see. They cost money and we need to think about it. We can't just go buy things because we want them. We need to think about the money."

"I think we can go buy one today. Can we get a water tower? A red water tower?"

"Not right now. We'll see."

"Did you just say yes?"

The kid has a one track mind (don't worry, we've decided to get him one for Christmas).

Saturday, December 01, 2007

For Certain Interested Parties

The Melissa & Doug wooden train table. I like it because it doesn't have a train painted or bolted on it, so the children can use it for things other than trains, plus there is a nice storage drawer for the train parts. And Brad wouldn't have to worry about Anne sitting on his tracks and breaking his bridge.

Bad Blogger


Okay, okay, I am officially a bad blogger. But I have a good excuse! Over the past week and a half, we've chosen a painter and paint, carpet and carpet installer, had the house inspected and asked the sellers to fix everything, and received their agreement (yay!), chosen a mover, set a move date, set up utilities, had Christmas pictures taken (Anne wore the dress above in the pictures...a little hint of what you'll be receiving!), signed a homeowner's insurance policy, completed all of the financing papers, made airline reservations, hotel reservations, secured childcare for December....let's see, what else?

Oh, I can't believe I forgot: we sold the Maxima! For a paltry sum (that's another story, more of a rant). But we now have a bit more money for our house down payment and one less car, which means our insurance/gas costs will go down, which makes me very happy. And they'll probably go down even further when we leave MD.

I also found someone who is a really great candidate to take my job! I'm so thrilled--now I can stop worrying about that and focus on finding a new job in North Carolina...wait, now I have something new to worry about!

I also need to get our cell phones switched over to a new area code, and T-Mobile probably doesn't have service where we will live, which makes me very sad. They are the least evil of the cell phone companies and have great customer service. If I do switch, though, I will definitely go with Sprint, but only because they have a special hotline for Consumerist readers (if you don't read the Consumerist, you must start!). So if anything goes wrong, I have a lifeline.

I think that's it with the updates...remind me to post the Tale of the Cursed Pictures--you're going to want to hear about that.

If you've made it this far, here's one more pic for you:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving to you, and Happy Anniversary to us!

Today is our 4-year anniversary, and the best one so far. It's also Thanksgiving, and we have so much to be thankful for. We are so blessed to be moving to this area--Doug's job, our home, the schools, our pre-school, the church we'll go to, opportunities for Doug to preach. I think NC is going to be very good for we Bakers. Praise God for his wonderful and generous gifts.

Happy Thankgsiving, everyone!

Other Stuff

Not only did we find a wonderful house, which, by the way, was lived in by one family for 15 years. And they did a marvelous job of keeping it up--everything is new within the past three years or so.

But we also checked out lots of schools. I am not thrilled at all with our base school, in fact, I know our children won't be going there. Our base year-round school is better, but the principal has not been good, and over the past three years test scores have declined and parents have been unhappy. However, we have three more years until Brad will start kindergarten, and a lot can happen in the WCPSS in three years. And--a very big and--the schools here are excellent and fluid. You can pretty much decide where you want your child to go, and the schools here are SO much better than the DC area. In DC we would have either had to send the kids to a poor public school, or break the bank with private school tuition. We really like the school options here.

Anyway, the best thing about our year-round school (and I am so thrilled that they offer year-round schools) is that it is right across the street from Doug's office! How wonderful is that? He can stop in for the class play if he wanted to! Which should tell you about the distance from our house to the school/his office: it's not far at all. He'll have, on a very bad day, a 15 minute commute.

We also found an excellent pre-school and I need to confirm our enrollment for January tomorrow. I toured a billion facilities, and this one is 20 minutes away from our home, by far the furthest away, but it's really the best one. So we'll be paying a small fortune for the privilege of sending our children there, but it's only for three years for Brad, tuition decreases every year as the kids get older, and I will have complete peace of mind, knowing this is an excellent school.

So the pre-school is 20 minutes away from our house, Doug's office and the elementary school are about 10 minutes away, and I really hope to find a job that is not much further than that. I am thrilled to death to be giving up the Washington commute--what a waste of time. I spend 2 1/2 hours (at least!) on the road each day--that's 2 1/2 hours that I can now spend with my family. Are we excited? No, not at all!

They're Here!

We have pictures! We arrived at the house for the inspection only to discover that our camera had broken again. We're going to have to get it repaired again, or possibly get a new one. Anyway, our wonderful inspector offered to let us use his camera, and he just emailed me all 34 pictures! Such a nice guy. Without further delay, may we present:

Our home

Outside

The house itself. Oma approves of the landscaping. She says we have two beautiful, low-maintenance English rose bushes, and two rosemary plants in the front yard. I told her she's going to have to give me gardening lessons. It's going to look gorgeous in spring with the roses blooming!

The view from the front porch (we're in a cul-de-sac!)

The view from the back deck--we love that we back up into woods. It's a beautiful view and offers a bit of privacy. Plus, the backyard is pretty maintenance free--no mowing to do!

The swingset that Brad is just going to love, and Anne will too someday.
When you walk through the front door, you have the coat closet directly in front of you, with the hallway to the kitchen slightly to your left, and the dining room on your right. We knew we were going to like this house right away because you walk into crown molding and hardwood floors. Plus, there is a defined entrance area--you're not walking right into a room or up stairs, which not all houses we looked at had.

This is the dining room on your right, with the crown molding, chair rail, and hardwoods.

This is a blurry picture of two very nice features: a programmable thermostat, and a swinging door into the kitchen--I love that door!
This is the kitchen, which didn't look so great in the photographs on the realtor's website. Those cabinets are new, and include a lazy Susan, which I really like, and the counter tops are just lovely. This is our realtor, Debbie Braxton, with FM Realty.
You can see here the tile back splash, which is throughout the kitchen, and the very nice refrigerator. We'll probably need to replace the stove in a few years. The dishwasher is new. The white door leads to a good sized pantry. There's also another pantry/storage area that I didn't get a picture of--we'll have plenty of space!

This is the eating area, overlooking the back deck, and the family room to the left.
The family room has the same hardwoods (in fact, the first floor is entirely hardwoods) and crown molding, plus a working fireplace (which everyone seems to have down here). The fireplace needs a clamp to keep the damper open, and the fan lights buzz, so we'll have to fix those things.

This completes your tour of the first floor. I'm realizing that I did not take pictures of the garage or the basement! Almost no homes here have basements, and this house has one. It's partially finished, and it's where Doug's office and books will be. Plus, there are two large unfinished sections which we will probably finish in ten years. I suppose we could put a bathroom down there if we wanted to. You also walk out of the basement into the back yard, which is nice. The basement was a huge selling point for us--I'm so sorry I forgot to take pictures!
We're now upstairs, in what will be Brad's room. The paladian window you saw on the front of the house is actually his bedroom window. The upstairs is going to need the most work. We're going to remove the wall paper here, and paint the entire upstairs, including doors. I'm thinking blue for Brad's room, and I have the shade I want in my mind, but I can't describe it. But it's going to be nice.

This will be Anne's room, which I'm going to paint green, and again, I know the shade that I want. I plan on accenting the green with a purple flowery motif. So it won't be a sickly sweet pink girly room--it's going to be a delicate, feminine green/purple foresty room. The blinds in this room need to be replaced as well. One of my other favorite features of the house: this fan!

This is the master bedroom, which looks small, but is actually a nice size. We'll paint in here as well.
And these are the doors to the master bath....wait 'til you see that!
This is the jacuzzi tub in the master bath, overlooking the backyard. The floor in the bath is tiled and beautiful, and the window on the tub has blinds that you pull up, rather than pull down, so you can have light and privacy.

The master bath sink: I love the light fixtures, and the top and cabinets are the same as the kitchen.
The best feature: these faucets! They're so elegant and charming--Doug and I both love them.

The master bath shower, which is actually bigger than most of the other showers we saw. Most of them were one door, and you stepped into a tiny shower. This actually has a little seat and is a nice size. The shower head (sorry, I didn't get a picture of it), is new and has a lot of features.

The master bedroom closet, which is a decent sized closet. The white boxes on the left go with the sellers, but the ones at the end are built-in.
The children's bath, which we will obviously be painting. The shower handle leaks, so we'll need to have a plumber fix that. And eventually, a few years down the road, we'll have the floor and sink replaced (floor is vinyl and I'm not keen on the sink). The toilet is an eco-flush....our inspector was impressed by that. There's also a solar panel on the roof.

And this is the infamous 4th bedroom/bonus room/home theater. We will be painting and replacing the carpet in here. There is another window on the other side of the room, so it should be nice and bright when we get done with it. I'm not sure what this room will be...probably a guest room?

The laundry room (with Maytag appliances) is off the bonus room.

And this is a little closet off the bonus room, which I think they're using as their server room. We'll probably use it as a closet. What's behind the door, you ask?

Lots of attic space! So, for those of you keeping track, we have attic space and basement space: a rare find here in NC.

So, this concludes the tour of the new Baker Family abode. Our checklist before move in day is:
Repair fan light buzzing in family room
Get clamp for fireplace
Fix leaking in upstairs bath
Remove wallpaper in Brad's room (and stickers from ceiling)
Paint entire upstairs (including doors)
Replace Anne's blinds
Carpet the bonus room
Fix stairs to basement (they squeak terribly)
Carpet said stairs

And that's it! Very minor things and we'll be able to move in very quickly. We're thrilled to death to find this house and VERY excited about moving in.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Still here...

We are supposed to be on vacation, but we have been running all over Cary getting things done. Doug is working at his office, and he had a stack of paperwork about an inch thick that needed to be filled out (which is good, because the more paperwork, the better the benefits!).

Between yesterday and today we:
Contracted on a house
Contacted three lenders and received two GFEs (still waiting on the third)
Contacted two insurance brokers and received estimates
Picked an insurance broker
Called two movers for estimates (need to call one more)
Visited seven preschools and called a bunch more
Tentatively decided on a preschool
Filled out a mountain of paperwork for Doug's new job
Filled out a mountain of paperwork for our realtor
Filled out a mountain of paperwork for the finance guys

Tomorrow we will:
Visit one more school
Select a school
Go to our home inspection (and take pictures) and make of list of what we want fixed/painted
Post pictures to our blog (so stay tuned!)
Start getting estimates for someone to paint/carpet/do anything else
Lock on a loan
Go to dinner to celebrate our 4th anniversary!

Please pray for me: I still need to hire someone for my job and I'm having a hard time of it...I'm just not getting a lot of resumes to choose from. And if you are in the DC area and know of anyone that is a good accounting/office manager, send them my way!

Here's a pic of our babies, whom we miss:

Monday, November 19, 2007

We got it!

The sellers accepted our offer! And, they will be paying up to $5,000 in closing costs! The inspection is scheduled for Wednesday, and we're tentatively closing December 17th. I'm going to take some pics during the inspection and will try to post them that day.

We are SO thrilled!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

We did it!

We just put an offer on a house!!! We're waiting to hear back from the sellers and should hear from them by tomorrow evening. We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this house. Everyone pray that we get it!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

House Hunting

We are in Cary, NC (just south of Raleigh) looking at homes. We visited 16 (!) today, and immediately narrowed it down to five. Upon further reflection by ourselves at dinner and reviewing our needs and the photos online, we've crossed off three more, leaving ourselves with two very nice options. We're pleased with both, though there is an issue with each house which we have to work through.

Our broker is sending us more listings tonight so we can go out tomorrow after church for yet another pass. We will probably make an offer this week! More updates to follow.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Congratulations!

Aunt Lyndsey passed the bar! We now have an attorney in the family, so you can take all your legal woes to this woman:Don't those chubby cheeks inspire confidence?

Congrats, Lynds--we love you!

Mt. Vernon

Brad is the one in the lower right hand corner.


Doug took Brad to Mt. Vernon for the day a few weeks ago while Anne and I had some Mommy-n-Anne time at home. Brad had a great time (and so did Daddy!).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

One more update...

...thanks for all the emails about our (poor) health. Doug is fully recovered from the kidney stone, Brad's MRI is done, Anne has an appointment tomorrow to see the doctor, and my sore throat is almost gone. Just in time for vacation/Thanksgiving!

Update



Brad did really well during his MRI today. He was actually pretty wound up and wild when we arrived at JHU. Thankfully, they got us in fairly quickly. And this year they had him lay down on the stretcher while the medicine was being administered, which was a much better idea than having me hold him, which is what happened last year. He was pretty restless as he dropped off, and it was a good thing he was laying down.

When he woke up he was hungry, and then promptly fell asleep again while I drove around really awful parts of Baltimore, completely lost, until Doug came to my rescue from NC with Google maps (thank you Doug, and thank you, Google!). He was pretty out of this afternoon, too. I tried to keep an eye on him and didn't let him walk around much, because he couldn't walk that well, but he still managed to fall off of the couch.

Doug is taking him back up on the 27th to meet with the neurosurgeon for the results.

Pictured above is Brad is his new jammies from Nana and Papa Frank. He LOVES these pajamas, and requests them every night. He's always sad when they're in the wash. I always ask people to buy bigger clothes than he needs, so he can wear them a long time, and these pjs are a little big--he walks around the house holding his pants up with his hands, and every few minutes he'll come up to me and say, Mama, my pants fell down! As if he's totally surprised and they didn't just fall down five minutes ago. He is absolutely hilarious in them!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My baby

Poor Brad. He had no idea why I was fattening him up at dinner tonight. "Do you want more pasta, sweetie? Okay, here you go....How about an oatmeal square? Would you like one? And some crackers--you like crackers? No, you want cheerios? Okay, here's a bowl. And cheese, would you like a cheese stick? Do you want another oatmeal square?"

He's too young to realize that something is seriously wrong when Mommy is offering all of his favorite foods at once. (Mayday! Mayday! Not the natural order of things!)

He can't eat anything else before the MRI tomorrow--he can have apple juice until 8am, but that's it. This is the kid who wakes up asking for food. And the worst part is that I have to feed Anne in front of him. I can just see the waterworks and tantrums tomorrow morning when Anne gets a nice big bowl of oatmeal and a bottle and Brad gets...apple juice. Until I take it away from him. Poor kid.

I had some pics to post, but Blogger is giving me error messages, so I'll try again tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

It's Official:

Doug is the new Director of Public Relations for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Say that five times fast.

We're moving to NC!!!! Finally, an affordable home and good public schools. Too bad I can't take my office and transplant it in Cary. :( Well, it's a new opportunity for us, and we get to see family more often (hi, Oma--see you next week!), and I'm excited.

On a different note, we Bakers are falling apart. Doug was in the ER yesterday with a kidney stone (in Greensboro, NC, without me!), I'm home from work with a throat so sore it hurts to move my neck, Anne (still) has a runny nose, and Brad is about to have another MRI (Wednesday). Please pray for us!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Three Years Old



Here are the last two pics from our session. To everyone who received pics of Anne: if you have a preference regarding a picture of Brad (pose/size), let me know. I can definitely accommodate size, and will try to accommodate pose preference.