Your cries have been heard!

I’m surprised at the number of pleas, petititions, and even demands for more photos. Sorry to keep you all waiting. I have posted two new photo albums, one for Kayla and one for our new house in Texas. You can click the photo to go to the photo albums.

kayla sucking her toe house picture

Hallelujah, we’ve scored!

Buying a house can be a daunting task, but Dallas has treated us well. We have three days invested in selecting our new home. I spent a day looking at houses on my last trip down here to get a feel for the market. On this trip, our intent was to buy a house. Yesterday we looked at over a dozen houses. That’s far too many to keep all the details straight, but just enough that a real estate agent can get a really good feel for exactly what you’re looking for.

Yesterday we dialed in the compass and today we marched. We looked at only five houses. Two were houses we returned to for a second (and a third) look and honed in on two houses, both of which we really liked. We deliberated a bit, visited both houses again, and finally settled on the slightly more expensive (159 vs 155) of the homes.

We placed an offer of $150k and they countered with $153 which we gratefully accepted. We are extremely pleased. Even though both houses are terrific, we know we made The Right Choice. There have been a considerable number of “coincidences” that have confirmed it. It’s as if someone is in control and we’ve been able to see Him working behind the scenes to make everything fall into place.

Our Texas address is 313 Crooked Creek, Garland, TX. Our closing date is July 25th, and we’ll be able to move in any time thereafter. It’s time to start packing!

Greetings from Dallas

What a day. We looked at over a dozen houses today, ranging in price from $134,000 to $189k. We’ve been fretting over how to make the $134k house work because it’s such a great deal but it just doesn’t have enough space. It’s adequate, but cramped and we’ll be here for 4 years.

We’ve found several very nice houses that suit our needs wonderfully and range from $160 to $172k. Although that will seem high to our friends in Cadillac, it’s terribly reasonable compared to housing in Seattle, Atlanta, and many other metro areas. That’s about as good as can be expected for a nice home within 20 minutes of downtown.

Greetings from Oklahoma City, OK

In the spirit of being footloose and fancy free, on Sunday evening we decided to pack up and drive to Texas to buy a house. Yesterday we left home around 1PM and spent the night in St. Louis, MO. Today we once again got up bright and early (9:45, just in time to catch breakfast) and got onto the road by 12:30. This traveling with a baby takes a wee bit longer than we’re used to. If all goes according to plan, we’ll arrive in Dallas at 9:45PM this evening.

Tomorrow we meet with Jack, our realtor. We’ll spend a day or two house shopping and then return home. Unfortunately, I did forget my Compact Flash adapter for the laptop, so there won’t be any photo uploads on this trip. Kayla is a good traveler. The motion lulls her right to sleep. We wake her to feed and then let her go back to sleep.

Home Maintenance

We’ve been working away at the house a fair bit lately. Nearly all the drywalling is done and we’ve finished up all the mudding and sanding. How do you know if you’ve been working with mud for too long? We’re not sure, but we figure it’s at the point where you begin looking for holes to fill that aren’t in the wall.

We’re in the home stretch now, all the walls are finished. Nearly all of them are primed and a few are painted.

The cost of kids

In planning for our life in Texas, we need to have a budget planned. One of the unknown factors in the equation is child care costs. So, to aid myself in the guessing, I looked up the average costs or raising a kid in the U.S. The USDA (Department of Agriculture) publishes these stats, and the monthly per-child costs for a two parent median income family is as follows:

Housing: $270
Education/Daycare: $110
Miscell: $80
Food: $90
Transportation: $95
Clothing: $35
Health Care: $50

Monthly Total: $730

Can it be? Does it really cost $730 each and every month to raise a kid? Most parents I’ve talked to don’t think that’s so out of line. When you decide to have kids, you need a bigger house, more furnishing, and invitably, replacing furnishing, all of which contributes to that $270/mo for housing. Nothing else looks terribly unreasonable, so we end up spending $8,760 a year, per child.

If our family follows the trends of average Americana, we’ll have $158,000 invested in Junior before we can kick our pride an joy out of the house. The average American family (household) has $8,000 in consumer (credit card) debt and 2.3 kids. To just pay their taxes, child care, and debt payments amounts to the first $34,000 of their paychecks. That sum would raise several families with children in most parts of the world.

Pregnancy & Dallas

We are preparing to enter the 29th week of our pregnancy. I am no longer straining to see a pregnant belly. For the longest time (about 26 weeks), the only discernable difference was the enlarged mammaries. While those are some fantastic side effects, the real deal has finally arrived and Jen’s belly is now protruding. In fact, she now follows it around as it leads the way. Our “face to face” conversations are now belly to belly instead. Junior is growing rapidly.

Last week I drove to Dallas. At 9:30PM on Wednesday evening, Justin and I piled into the Jetta and headed South. We arrived in Dallas 23 hours later and sacked out. On Friday I attended a “Discover Dallas” event hosted by DTS. I got to sit in on a couple classes, meet several professors, and chat with the President of the school. I learned a lot about DTS and what to expect there. I’m pleased to report it was all good.

DTS was quite a bit bigger than I thought, with nearly 2,000 students. It’s one of (if not the) world’s largest non-denominational seminaries. In 1994 it was the sixth largest seminary, period. I’d guess it’s moved up since then. Dallas is certainly in Texas, where they do lots of things in a big way. The worlds largest seminary (SBTS) is there. Whereas most major cities have a mega-church or two, Dallas has dozens, with several that exceed 10,000. Where you might find a religious school or two in most cities, Dallas has dozens. It has been said that Dallas is “in the buckle of the Bible belt.”

That’s not the only thing “big” you’ll find in Dallas. Dallas sports the highest concentration of tech industry outside the silicon valley. Step aside Seattle (which we referred to as “Silicon North”). On Saturday, our real estate agent took us around to help us get a feel for the real estate market.

Yet another “big” is the amount of house we can get for our money. We can get a new 4 bedroom, 2 car garage house with a golf course in the front yard and soccer fields in the back yard for $173,000. Best, it’s only a 20 minute commute into downtown. The options in that price range are many, diverse, and overwhelmingly good. To buy that much house in Atlanta or Seattle we’d expect to be paying twice that, or having a commute measured in hours.

I’m feeling more ready to move to Dallas as each day passes. The house here in Cadillac is making rapid strides toward completion. Our monster profiles are updated and we’re watching for opportunies in Dallas. The pregnancy and health insurance concerns are the only obstacles to leaving before the baby is born.

Enroute to Dallas

We’re cruising past Oklahoma City just now. So far we’ve had a perfectly uneventful trip. We’re about 3 hours from Dallas. The only “odd” thing to happen was getting an email shorty after getting out of Cadillac from a client with a “down server”. I have been unable to make a SSH connection from my Sprint cell phone connection, a recent problem. I need to figure out what’s up with that, but it just happened we were driving past my clients site so we stopped in and fixed his mail server.

They treated us to dinner, we each had to pack in a 22oz steak. It was awfully difficult work, but Justin and I managed to deal with it gracefully.

Gas meter covers

Today I learned why it’s a good idea to have the little plastic shields over my natural gas meter. We were down in Marshall at Mike Surls birthday party over the weekend. Around 7pm we arrived home to find the temperature in the house a tad bit chilly at 38°. I reset my furnace (high efficiency self-ignitor) and it still wouldn’t ignite. That can only mean that there’s no gas coming in.

I put my boots on and found my gas meter covered in ice, including the little “breather” port on top of it. I’m not fully certain what function it plays but I guessed an important one. I fetched a crow bar and liberated it from its ice cocoon. I could smell gas at the meter after that so I guessed that something good had happened. After rebooting the furnace, it auto-ignited and roared to life.

Apparently the sun melted snow from the roof, which dropped onto the gas meter where it instantly froze. It looks like I’ll be doing something about that soon. The house is now warming but it’s taking a while. I have to sign off, my fingers don’t cooperate with the keyboard when they’re this cold. I type even worse with my gloves on. I can’t understand why it’s taking the house so long to warm, it only -8° F outside.

Update (Jan 2011): Meter-mate wrote me a note informing me of their existence.

Labor Day

Rather than taking a vacation, we lived up to the name of the holiday weekend. On Saturday we helped Mike & Deb load a bunch of furniture into their truck and a trailer to haul back home to Marshall. That took all day.

Sunday afternoon I tore out my old garage door opener and installed a new Genie opener. The trusty old Craftsman had finally given up the ghost. The new opener works quite well, despite the abused condition of the door. I also cleaned up the garage while I was out there.

Monday was a car care day. Jen vacuumed all the carpet and cleaned the other surfaces with Armor All while I washed, scrubbed, and finally waxed the exterior and treated the windows with Rain-X. The Jetta is looking mighty fine right now. So fine, I had to post a picture of it on the Jetta page.

After finishing up the Jetta, I cruised over to Home Depot and purchased a few boards that I needed to trim out the windows and closet door frames in our new master bedroom. The new master bedroom is nearly completed. We’ve moved all our furniture in already. The only things left to do is paint the closet and install doors.