Playing Catch-up

Well, a belated Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope you had a great day, whether you celebrate or not, and that you have plans to celebrate the New Year in a way that brings you joy.

Things are going pretty well around these parts. There is much to report, so I will fall back on the bulleted points to get the job done. (I’m alternating bulleted paragraphs because I don’t like that you can’t keep a space between them otherwise. Sorry if this is distracting.)

  • My husband and I have had the weekend alone, and it’s been tremendous. It’s been exactly what we needed. I promise to write more about it soon.

We left the kids with my parents on Christmas night, came home, watched the new Mad Max (Fury Road–crazy, but good) and then went to bed. Upon waking we picked up our disaster of a house because a cleaning lady I had schedule was set to come at 1pm. The chaos of the house had been driving me crazy and no matter how hard I tried to get it under control, with both kids home I just couldn’t do it. So we spent four hours just picking it up, so the cleaning lady could spend four hours cleaning it. Now it’s immaculate (or close to it) and I feel 100x better.

  • Related: I really do think that a monthly house cleaning would go FAR in keeping my anxiety at bay, and at $140 a shot (that includes a sizable tip) I might actually be able to manage it. My goal is to spend the next three months closely tracking our finances so I can figure out if we can add that line item to our budget, because I think it would be more beneficial to my mental health than therapy at this point. If we had someone come once a month it would provide the impetus needed to pick up, and inspire me to get rid of stuff on a more regular basis. It would also keep the dust and cat hair under control, which is better for all our health. If the last few years have taught me anything it’s to know and respect my limitations, and keeping a clean house is one of them. If this could make it manageable for me, I really want to make it happen.

We have had considerable difficulties with our new tenant, which I’ve been so upset about I haven’t even come here to put it into words. The good news is that the issues have been resolved, and that the nightmare prompted us to get a second opinion on some plumbing issues we were told were unavoidable. $1,200 later (mostly financed by in my in-laws as a belated combined birthday present–they wanted to get us a new fridge but we never pulled the trigger, because the only problem with our is the inside light doesn’t work–and a combined Christmas present), a valve is keeping our water pressure in the ideal range, and now our pipes don’t hammer when the washing machine runs or our tenant takes a shower. Our original plumber told us we needed all new pipes to fix those issues, but that was not at all the case. I wish we’d sought a second opinion earlier, but I guess I usually assume people are going to tell me issues can’t be fixed, so I accept it when they do. I’m not sure where that attitude comes from, I suppose a general ignorance about house stuff. We definitely learned our lesson and will seek second and third opinions in the future.

  • Oh, and the best news about the plumber is that he had to reconnect our heating duct when he added an expansion tank to our water heater, because the water heater and regular heater ducts were connected, so now we have heat again! This weekend it was getting into the low 30s at night and one night it was so cold that every time I rolled into a section of sheets that weren’t warmed by my body I jolted awake. Sunday we were out of the house long enough to run the heat with the windows open for a few hours and that night we got our first taste of sleeping in a toasty 52* (that is a good temperature to set for the night, right?) I’m definitely worried about what this will do to our PG&E bill, so we’re going to keep the thermostat low (or off completely when we’re not at home), but at least we won’t be freezing in the mornings. (What do you keep your thermostat at? I was thinking 60-62*.)

We were having a SERIOUS ant issue that was starting to get me really depressed. I read a couple articles about how ants in California come in to find water during droughts or escape the rain during storms, so we’re basically fucked and there is nothing we can do. I cried, a lot, about it, because it was getting to the point where they were EVERYWHERE, and massive in number. But I researched some bait traps and put them in strategic places and the cleaning lady got rid of any unseen food remnants and so far we haven’t seen an ant in three days. I know they will keep coming back, but I don’t feel so hopeless about the prospect of cohabiting with literally thousands of them.

  • We got a letter from the water company authorizing a $500 credit due to us fixing the leak in our tenants’ toilet. The whole ordeal still cost us $500 dollars, but it’s better than nothing. We’re also hoping that the lower water pressure will keep our water usage down moving forward.

Christmas day was okay. My daughter was very much into “are there any more presents for me?” but she wasn’t too upset when the answer was finally “no.” My son was actually almost as into the present-opening as his sister, which I hadn’t even considered, as he wasn’t that interested two months ago at his birthday. He had a lot more fun playing with each toy he opened, and it was fun to watch him rip apart presents that weren’t even for him (with the permission of the correct recipient). All in all it was a fine day. I really can’t complain. (Except that my daughter had pink eye and my son ended the day with a 102* fever, but otherwise it was fine.)

  • We finished the second season of Broadchurch (loved it, David Tennant is a master) and Interstellar, which we also really enjoyed. It’s been so nice watching good television and awesome movies.

We’ve been eating out strategically during our weekend without the kids, keeping the financial damage at a minimum (and using Christmas cash from our parents to pay for it). We’ve kept it to small food trucks and pop-ups, eating huge meals so we can skip a few or just eat a snack at home to tide us over. Oh, and we’ve been making all our own drinks at our place.

  • My husband and I happened into the library the other day and then he randomly eyed some new graphic novels on a shelf, which prompted us to seek out the graphic novel section, where I found a ton of comic books I just saw at a store and really wanted to read. I felt like a kid at Christmas, only it was the day after Christmas and I was just borrowing books from the library. I brought home ten graphic novels and I’ve already read five. It’s been a lot of fun to lose myself in the comic book world again. It’s been a long, long time. And I’m stoked to know that my library has so many graphic novels. I had no idea they carried DC and Marvel comics in such vast quantities. It’s going to take great restraint to keep this under control moving forward. 😉

Last month I finally filled out the paper work to get my paycheck direct deposited to our new checking account. I have also changed all my auto payments to come out of that account. My husband is half way through those same steps. By 2016 we should be spending from the same joint accounts. I also have a new budgeting tool to help me in 2016. I will write more about it presently.


So yes, right now, things are good. I have a ton to say about my marriage and how important it us for us to get away from our kids for a few days. I have even more to say about the new year and managing expectations. There is much to say, but I’ve already said enough. And I need to keep exercising, so I can shower, drink a bloody mary and go see Star Wars at the new Alamo Draft house (complete with drinks and food).

I hope you’re all having a good time in the space between holidays. Thanks for standing with me through the past few months. I hope I have something valuable to add to the conversation in the months to come.


  1. This is all such good news! Especially about the heat. We have a programmable thermostat, so I keep ours at 62 when we’re out of the house, 67 when we’re home, and 65 when we’re sleeping. This may be obvious, but it was pointed out to me recently that that’s the temperature at the center of the house, not the walls/Windows. So if it’s warmer outside, you may be comfortable with a lower thermostat temperature, because it will be more consistent throughout the house.

    1. I was wondering where the temperature was taken but that makes sense. All our rooms are on the edges of our house and it certainly leaks heat like a sieve (it’s almost 100 years old), so I don’t want to be throwing money away. Maybe when we’re home I’ll up it to 65 and keep it at 58 at night…

      1. We had somebody come to our house to talk about replacing the windows, and he took the temperature on each window to show us heat loss. We ended up not being able to afford the replacement windows, but it was eye-opening.

        This year, we just got an electric fireplace. My coworker swears hers costs her $10/month in electric bills and it heats her whole house. We’ll see how that works for us! At any rate, it’s in our draftiest room now, so it should help keep all the heat from escaping through that room (the living room).

  2. Glad to hear that so much has been going well! I shivered when you were talking about what you set your thermostat at. Of course, growing up in WI and now in IA, we have totally different temps than you do in CA. We have a programmable thermostat and in winter we keep the thermostat at 73 during the day and 72 at night. That’s really the lower limit of what my body can tolerate, otherwise I’m shivering all day and night.

    1. This is us too – Iowa winters! We keep ours at 69 day and night, but we have geothermal so it’s a different feel… A bit cooler than central air, or that’s what they tell us. 😉 If our house was set to 60*, I’d freeze in the mornings. Our kids rooms are the coldest in the house and going lower than 69* would truly make their rooms way too cold.

      1. Well, we have been freezing in the mornings, so we’re used to it. I think in CA, people wear a lot of layers, and there is definitely an expectation that you’ll wear a sweatshirt inside before you turn up the heat. Even at school that is the expectation. Maybe because we can get away with not turning on the heat that way? Or maybe I just grew up with cheap parents who didn’t turn their heat up. I do think that if the house were actually at 70* I’d be uncomfortably warm. When my classroom gets to 70* I turn the window fans on…

        1. Whoa, 60* would be FREEZING in our house as well. Coloradans dress in layers for sure and I would hazard a guess that we handle cold temps way better than most Californians, but if our thermostat was at 60* it would be unbearably cold in our house in the winter. Maybe the difference is that your “cold” is low 30s at night, but that’s a very common temp here, and often down to 0 or below, so we are losing heat much more rapidly out our windows/doors/etc? We set ours at 68* in the winter and that’s about as low as we can handle (and we like sleeping in cool rooms!).

    2. Is it really in the 70’s in your house? That would feel warm to me. Do you wear long sleeves in the house in the winter? Here there is an expectation you will wear a sweatshirt inside. At least that is what I have always understood. Maybe I’m crazy!

      1. I’m currently sitting on my couch with a sweater and sweatshirt on. I also have socks on, but my feet are freezing! My husband is a large man with lots of extra weight, so he’s not as affected by the cold, and Gus also runs warm.

  3. I’m with you on the cleaning lady – I have someone come every other week (one time/month she just does the downstairs for $60 and the next time she does the whole house for $80). She’s truly not a very good cleaner (you get what you pay for, right?) BUT it is still SO worth it to me if for no other reason than every two weeks it gets me and my husband to actually put all of our stuff away (and I almost never clean a toilet or a bathtub). If needed, I would be willing to sacrifice many things in my budget to keep this – as you said, it helps keep my anxiety (and self-blame and guilt, especially) at bay.

    1. Yeah, I will definitely be trying hard to make it fit into our budget, but we still need to get some money set aside for savings and if we can’t manage that AND get a once monthly house cleaner, it won’t be happening. I’ve never had one before, so I’m used to it, but I do believe it would be really good for me. Of course, we can’t have something just because it would be good for us.

  4. Yay! Glad to see good news.

    I think our area is similar in temp. We have a programmable thermostat. We keep it at 66 during the day 7 am-5 pm, 68 5 -8 pm then 67 at night. I think maybe you might actually use less power if you don’t let the house cool way down such that you have to heat it way up. But it may depend on the house. We used to keep our house 64 at night and during the day. We had elderly cats and I bumped it to 66 during the day.

    Yay for cleaning. I need to see what it would cost for us. I was predicting much more for 4 hours. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ve been wanting 1x week but maybe 1x month would help. It’s better than 0x month which is where we are at now.

    Ants: our kitchen is upstairs. We are not disgusting but the place is not spotless. For 6 years since we bought the place Not a single ant. Then last year they came. Ugh! We neatened up (hard to control crumbs with littles) and we brought Planet Orange in. They use an eco- friendly spray–Rosemary vanilla or something. It took a few months @ $60 per month but they haven’t come back. We even skipped a bunch of months. Sadly our kitchen vigilance went downhill but still they haven’t come back. Anyway it’s a safe way to keep them away with no danger to kids and pets.

  5. Our thermostat is set to 60 when we’re out of the house, and 67 when we’re home. At night, it goes down to 65. Both the boys have programmable heaters in their rooms because our heating system is so inefficient (basically only heats the living room, hallway, and dining room).

    I’m looking forward to hearing about your time away from the kids. McRuger and I find that “alone time” is so needed in our relationship!!

  6. Clean is lovely. Help makes huge differences.
    Ants are never ever fun. Finding entrance points EARLY ON before they set up a new homestead is key.
    Glad you had some real adult time.
    Super happy Christmas Day went so well. There is so much excitement it is always fraught with …. opportunity.
    Cheers to all!

  7. I am ridiculously whiny about cold so my pellet stove is coming on right now and it’s 74 in my living room. In my (pitiful) defense, it’s cooler in the bedrooms, I keep the AC at 80 in the summer, the stove doesn’t use much electricity, though we do have to buy pellets for it, and I am wearing fuzzy pants and a long sleeved fuzzy shirt. Yes I was cold.

  8. The Dept of Energy did a study that you definitely save money when you drop the house temperature if you are not around and that it doesn’t cost more to heat it up when you get home. So….we keep the house at 55 when we are not home, 68 when we are home, and 64 at night. We definitely wear sweatshirts in the house, slippers, etc. but our daughter is still young enough that we don’t want her to freeze in her room (it’s the coldest room in the house). We used to keep the house more like 64 while we were home pre-kids. Chicago winters can get really cold.

    As far as a housekeeper, our Christmas present from my parents was some money to hire a housekeeper once a month for part of the year. Hopefully we can keep it up after the money runs out but I am super excited about it. I have only had a cleaner come twice in my lifetime and it’s just so worth it and so nice. Have you asked around to friends to see if they have anyone cheaper? Ours quoted $120 for once/month cleaning. It’s going to be nice to spend the time with my daughter instead of worrying about cleaning as much around the house.

  9. I love this post, and laughed at your descriptions of a) tidying up for the cleaners – yes, we always did that when we had a cleaner, and b) the excitement over the library finds, as I have felt very excited by borrowing all my e-books from the library. I hardly buy any books from Amazon anymore. I also love the fact that you and your husband got to have some together time.

    I always find US and European discussions about temperature interesting, and puzzling, because I find it unbearably hot inside in winter both in Europe and the US. It’s winter, folks, you’re supposed to wear layers and long sleeves! And I can’t imagine what those higher temperatures cost, both in financial terms and in use of resources.

    I’m imagining your temperatures are more like ours in the winter, and although our heating system is obviously going to be different from yours, we turn it off when we’re not here (mostly), and always turn it off at night. I find it easier to sleep at night (we have a winter duvet) when it is cool, but have the heat programmed to come on just before I get up, so it isn’t unbearably cold as I run to the shower!

    Happy New Year, and all the best to you and your lovely little family!

  10. The library is so awesome. I agree that having a cleaner come in is good motivation to tidy up. Sometimes I even manage to get rid of stuff instead of throwing it in a closet on the pre-cleaning days. We pay a LOT for our cleaners, they just raised the rates and I considered for about 5 minutes cleaning the house myself. then I came to my damn senses and decided I’d just look for new cleaners!

    1. Look for new cleaners! These people cost so much less that the big company we used to use (when they have sales). It does cost so much, but if it helps me keep the house picked up (which I just don’t seem to be able to do on my own) I think it will be worth it.

  11. We have cleaners come once every couple of months and they just do a 4 hour clean (concentrating on the 2 baths & kitchen), and I TOTALLY think it’s worth the $120.

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