Wednesday, May 25, 2005

House Building Adventure: It Begins

At Dada's First BBQ we happened to have our builder there. He's very patient with the plan development process but he had, apparently, reached his limit and mentioned that he really wanted to get the house construction started. This served to light a fire under both the architects and us, so we finalized the last few details (placement of the home theater projector in the living room, selection of appliances, etc.) and they got him a set of plans he could take to the city to get the necessary construction permits. On our end, we got with the loan people and set up a closing, scheduled for May 31, to close on the construction loan.


So this is it--we're about to pull the trigger on this puppy and no going back. We're pretty sure we have everything in order--cash in the bank, sufficient income to make the eventual mortage payments, and what not, but still, being faced with the immediate reality of having to make a huge financial commitment, including bringing a honking big check to the loan closing, really brings it home that This Will Change Everything.

We had a bit of a bad moment when we noticed that the good faith estimate for the construction loan said we'd have a monthly payment of 48,000 (that's "thousand") dollars. But of course that was a mistake on their part. The real amount is much lower (but still much higher than our current mortage payment). There was also a question of whether we would need to provide another down payment when the house was built and the construction loan was converted to a full mortage, but apparently not--we cough up big now and then we're done. Whew. I had started thinking seriously about selling my car....

Now that the plans are pretty much final, I took some time and tried to simulate the house using The Sims 2, a simulate game that lets you build and furnish houses. The following pictures show the result. The game is limited in what you can do, in particular, there's no way to really represent the roof treatment on the exterior of the house (which you can see here: Barley + Pfieffer drawing). But the interior does a pretty good job of capturing the proportions and layout of the house and furnishings. Note that we do not plan to have a hot tub next to the screened porch--it's just that the sims really need to have a hot tub in order to be happy and, in terms of simulating the social workings of the house, it substitutes for the sauna, which there's currently no way to create in The Sims.

The exterior at night, looking from the south east. In the real house the main roof will be a shed roof sloping up from the front at a low angle and the roof over the screen porch will extend out over the entry patio.

Long view of the ground floor. There are even band instruments in the music room at the back of the house. I had to simulate the baby grand piano with a bunch of end tables.

Here's the upper floor, with the master bedroom at right, showing all the bedrooms. The little square room next to the showers in the master bathroom is where the sauna will be.

This is the view from the living room toward the kitchen. The divider between the living room and dining area will be a flat wall with cabinets beneath for A/V equipment. The flat wall will serve as a screen for a projection TV system. On the dining room side will be cabinets for china and such.

This is the view looking towards the screened porch. This gives you a pretty good idea of how the screened porch helps make the relatively narrow house feel bigger. Also, the stairway is proportionally too big in this house so that two sims can use it at once. In the real house it will be half as wide as you see here.

Finally, here's a detail of the kitchen and laundry area. In the real house the area under the stairs will be a closet. The washer and drier will be in the foreground. We're getting side-by-side front-loading washer and dryer that sit up on pedestals so that the doors are about at chest height. There's also a laundry chute from upstairs that dumps into the laundry room.

Catching Up: We've Been Busy

It's not so much that we've been busy, I suppose, but that the new demands of everyday life have left us with little time or energy to keep up with the blog. That and the fact that we aren't really reaching the same level of excitement hour-to-hour that we did while we were in China.

So what's been happening? Back on the 14th of May we had Dada's First BBQ, our annual meat fest where Eliot smokes a bunch of meat and we invite everyone we know over to eat it. This year it also functioned as something of a coming out party for Dada. We had a lot of fun--there were a number of families with children, several near Dada's age, and they had a good time playing together (the tub full of ice water for the drinks and watermellon seemed to be a favorite with the toddlers). Everyone enjoyed the meat (brisket, prime rib, and sausage from Austin's Smokey Denmark. Unfortunately, we were so busy making sure no-one went hungry that we never took any pictures of this event. Doh!
Dada is now walking with confidence and starting to run.

She's also growing like a weed. We can tell when she's having a growth spurt because she gets grumpy for a day or so and then starts eating like there's no tommorrow. She's also cut most of her teeth--I think she still has a couple of molars to bring in, but she's got a pretty happenin' toothy smile now.

She's starting to really walk with confidence and run a little. I found that the half-empty mall near our house is a good place to take her to run around--wide halls with few people to run into and, when we're tired, we can watch the kids ice skating.
Just Monday she started walking on the grass in the back yard by choice. She also likes to slide on her little play scape, which now she can get to on her own, without us having to carry her to it.

She's starting to say a couple of words more or less clearly--"more", "doggy", "no", although it's mostly babbling. She still loves to play "mobile phone", where she holds anything vaguely phone like to her ear and walks around babbling in a clear imitation of a phone conversation. It's really quite amazing how accurate her imitation is, complete with pauses, laughter, etc. I'm in Dallas for the week and when I called home last night, Julie put her on the phone. When I said something real, like "Dada, this is daddy" I got no response, but when I imitated her phone babble she babbled back. Not sure what it means. Her babble and mine sounds vaguely like Mandarin. I'm certainly not saying anything real--no idea if she's trying to.

This last weekend we went to a new member's meeting for Families with Children From China (FCC), a local group started here in Austin that mostly facilitates play groups and such like. That was fun--Dada got to meet other little girls near her age. We're hoping this will give us some more play group options. They also organize a couple of events every year, such as a Chinese New Year celebration. Everyone seemed very nice.

This picture is a little fuzzy, but if you look closely you can tell that it's a female cardinal on a nest, which is right outside Dada's bedroom window, nestled in the overgrown rose bush that serves as landscaping at the front of the house. We haven't looked at the nest from the front, but we assume there are (or soon will be) eggs. It should be interesting to watch the progress of this little bird family over the course of the summer.

Yesterday Julie got out the wading pool and it seems to be a big hit. Now that summer temperatures are settling in, a wading pool is a good idea, especially as the sand box is placed where it is in direct burning sun during the middle of the day, which seemed nice in March but now is only suitable for playing Laurence of Arabia, a game that Dada's really not old enough for yet. She still hates taking a bath but she loves the wading pool. Go figure. I think it's the hair washing.

That's about it on the Dada front. She's eating lots of different things. I've tried giving her very small amounts of spicy stuff, like salsa and the sauce from lamb curry, and she seems to like it. At least she didn't spit it out and start crying. I'm hoping we can help her develop a taste for a wide variety of foods before she gets to the stage where she'll only eat mac and cheese and peanut butter.