It’s been eleven months since we moved our entire family to San Francisco. The year has been incredibly hectic but I think things are starting to settle down, just in time for an insane summer.
The kids and I finally joined Ted in San Francisco. Moving wasn’t too bad since the movers packed us. However, it was challenging to fit all our stuff in our rental house.
Our first au pair hated San Francisco and transitioned to another family. Fortunately, I didn’t have a job yet so I had a little bit of time to find a new au pair. However, it was stressful to find my original childcare plans disrupted. Eventually, we found a wonderful au pair who worked really well with both of our kids. In addition to looking for a new au pair, I spent the month unpacking and trying to organize everything. I also started learning my way around our neighborhood. However, the lack of an intellectually stimulating job started to make me depressed.
Mountain View offered me a job as soon as my background check cleared. I accepted, which took care of the depression problem. However, my next challenge was finding enough childcare. Au Pairs are only allowed to work 45 hours a week. In principle, I agree with this rule. I personally think the au pair program doesn’t have enough safeguards for young people who may not speak enough English to get around in our country by themselves. However, having a job down in Mountain View meant I was gone from the house 10-11 hours every day, depending on traffic. So I needed to find additional childcare. In Colorado I had a lot of success finding good caregivers from care.com. However, I discovered it doesn’t work as well in California. I don’t know why but a huge percentage of the applicants in the price range I could afford ($20-25/hr) were very flaky. I spent the next several months trying to nail down enough reliable childcare and I think it caused everyone in the family a lot of stress.
We did manage to go camping in Yosemite and introduced our au pair to the US tradition of hot dogs and smores. I think she was amused by the experience though she did have a bit of trouble with there being no showers in the camp (we did have flush toilets though!).
In August Calvin started school which finally gave him a chance to meet other kids his age. We had sent him to a summer camp but the same kids didn’t always show up each day. In the future, if possible, it might be good to try to move right before school starts rather than right after school ends for the year. We also managed to go camping one more time near Lassen.
By this time Jaeger and I realized that we hated being renters. The rental we had was pretty good, for San Francisco. However, it drove us nuts that we couldn’t fix the small but glaring problems we had with the house, such as no light in a deep dark closet — we used flashlights. Also, while the property management company was very, very nice and came right away whenever we had problems, they rarely fixed the problem the way we would have. For instance, by the time we left we had four separate keys for the house. One was for the front door, one was for the back door, one was for the door at the bottom of the stairs and one was for the door at the top of the stairs (we think it use to be rented as two separate units). Anytime there was a problem with a lock they’d just go by another door knob from Home Depot.
We were very fortunate to have sold our Colorado house for a nice profit which gave us enough of a down payment for a house that would be considered obscenely expensive anywhere in the US but San Francisco or New York. In San Francisco, it was enough to comfortably get us 2 beds and 1 bath with “potential” in a moderately popular, but not trendy, neighborhood. Unfortunately, because we had an au pair, we needed a minimum of 3 bedrooms and 2 baths (at least if we wanted to maintain our sanity). Our rental lease wasn’t up until February but we started looking in August because we knew it was going to be hard to find something that met our bare minimum specifications.
We continued going to open houses looking for a house that would work for us. In the months we were house hunting we saw some pretty insane houses. Most of the houses in our part of San Francisco are on 25′ wide lots with varying depths. The houses almost always touch each other. The second floor of the house usually contains 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, and 1 bathroom. The first floor of the house will either have a huge garage area that covers the entire 2nd floor footprint or a 1 car garage with additional living space that 90% of the time was finished without permits. One house we saw had obviously been finished without permits and then, when they needed to sell, they just ripped out all the unpermitted walls leaving really weird spaces. While I wasn’t planning to insist on a permitted first floor, I did want assurances that it wouldn’t kill us, which was sometimes hard to obtain.
We found a house that looked promising but only had 2 bedrooms and 1 bath on the top floor. The first floor was unfinished. We considered the feasibility of finishing the first floor and had tentatively decided that we could probably afford it when the pest inspection came back. The estimate was enough more that I didn’t feel we could risk it.
One of my grandfathers died in October. I wasn’t expecting it but it sounds like others had been for a while. He died in his sleep at home. We loaded ourselves and our kids on a plane to Portland for the funeral. The night before we all met at my grandmother’s house for haystacks. It had the weird family funeral feel of being both sad but also a chance to see people you haven’t seen for years.
Also in October we found another house that looked promising. It was a 4 “bedroom”, 2 bath house with real permits for the bottom level. You had to go outside to get to the “bedrooms” on the first floor but it fit our basic needs (though we’re really not sure how they got permitted for those bedrooms). We submitted an offer but were outbid by a couple of thousand dollars. Our realtor seemed slightly miffed they didn’t even try to counter as this is rounding error with the prices of San Francisco homes.
It seems like in hot real estate markets open houses become a much bigger thing. A day or two before the weekend our realtor’s assistant would email us potential open houses with comments. Usually Jaeger and I would go together, though I went by myself for some of the less promising sounding houses. Then, if the house looked like it had actual potential we’d talk to our realtor about it. I walked to almost all of them from our rental. I’m firm believer in understanding the neighborhood by walking it. I walked a lot of miles and saw many houses. However, by November fewer houses were coming on the market and I was starting to worry that we’d have to extend our lease.
The first weekend in November there were only 2 houses that matched our bare minimal requirements. Most of the houses we’d been looking at were between 1200-1400 sq feet. However, one of the houses on this list was 3000+ sq feet. It was so much bigger than most of the houses in our price range that Jaeger and I weren’t convinced the square footage was correct. However, we went and saw it and it really was huge and had tons of bathrooms and bedrooms. Way more than the 3 bedrooms and 2 bath we were hoping for. On the upside, it was almost a brand new house. On the downside, it lacked any historical character. We contemplated.
Then the election happened. We saw the house for the second time the day after the election. Do you remember that big stock market crash when they realized Trump won? To afford San Francisco we have to supplement our normal income with stock. So far this strategy has worked out. However, I was worried about buying a house if suddenly we had a serious economic downturn. In Colorado we could live on my salary for brief amounts of time if we cut out the extras. This is not feasible in San Francisco. We waffled for a bit but finally decided the house was too good to pass up so we made another offer.
Given our experience with the last house, we went on the higher end of the range our realtor suggested. It turns out there was another potential buyer who was looking at the same comps and made almost the exact same offer. This time the realtor did come back to us and asked us to give us our last “best” offer. We were already on the edge of what I was comfortable with but we didn’t want to lose again with just a couple of thousand. So, we went up another 20k and called that good. I was not convinced that was enough to get us the house but I really, really didn’t want to go higher. As it was we would need to supplement our Colorado profits with Jaeger’s stock for the downpayment. Both our realtor and I were quite surprised to learn that the sellers accepted our offer. I tend to be a pessimist and don’t believe a house is mine until I move in. However, things were looking positive.
Thanksgiving this year was on the Logan side and corresponded with the biennial Logan family reunion which includes Jaeger’s grandfather and all his grandfather’s siblings. It’s at Leoni Meadows, near Grizzly Flats, CA as many of the Logans live in California. This was the very first time we were able to attend without flying and it was so much easier. We invited our au pair to go with us to experience the grand US Thanksgiving tradition. She later said that all we did was eat, cleanup, prepare food, and eat again which probably does cover Thanksgiving in a nutshell. Calvin and Julian had fun running around but there aren’t that many kids their age around. Most of Jaeger’s cousins have not managed to produce children of their own (though Jaeger is one of the oldest).
Our 2nd au pair’s term was up in January. We had hoped she would extend but she’s a software engineer and wanted to get back to a “real” job which made sense. So, we started interviewing au pairs again. However, unlike last time, we had enough time to consider au pairs that were still in their home country. I think interviewing au pairs is more an art than a science. We eventually narrowed down our choices to two au pairs who both sounded good. We decided to go with the au pair who really enjoyed reading as we felt it would probably help her mesh with our family better.
In addition to finding a new au pair, we had to find additional supplemental care for Julian. Because of the high babysitting turnover I decided to focus on daycares this time. Unfortunately, there were almost no daycares with openings. However, I did find one daycare that had a morning-only program that looked like it might have openings in January. I contacted the provider and arranged to go on a tour. It was a home daycare that aimed to have the children playing outside at least 90% of the time. Given how active Julian is I thought this would be a really good match for him. We applied and to my great relief we got the one “full-time” spot that was available (full-time in this case means 8:15-12:15).
Also in December we managed to close on our new house. Like all real estate transactions I have been involved in, there were tense moments. However, it all worked out in the end. In Colorado, at closing, the buyers and sellers actually sit down at the table together and sign the papers. However, in San Francisco these transactions are asynchronous, which I found pretty strange. We signed our papers and then needed to wait for the sellers to sign theirs later in the day. Eventually, we heard the house was officially ours. Though, the sellers were going to be “renting” from us for a month while waiting to move into their new house.
At the end of December we went out to visit my parents. While we were moving out to San Francisco, my parents were also busy moving. They lived in Longview for all but the first two years of my life so it was very weird to see them in an entirely different city. They’re now about a couple of hours north of Seattle, depending on traffic. One of the main reasons my parents moved up there was to be close to my brother, who also moved around the same time we did from Tennessee. My brother and sister-in-law have a kid who is about 6 months younger than Julian. They’re still a little young to play together but it was still cute to see them together. In addition to my immediate family, all remaining grandparents visited as well as Aunt Carolyn. Jaeger and I also managed to sneak away for a couple of days to have alone time in Seattle without the kids. It was amazing to be able to sleep through the entire night without having to go in and calm Julian down. We also filled our movie quota for the year by watching two movies in two nights :)
In January Julian started his part-time daycare. Our second au pair was still with us for the first week so she helped him transition before she left. We had found another good au pair but she wasn’t scheduled to arrive till the end of January. We were also scheduled to move into our new house and I didn’t want our au pair to try to settle in to our rental only to be moved a week later into our new house. In the meantime, we used grandmothers to help fill in the childcare gap. My mom came out for two weeks, during which we moved into our new house. The she left and Jaeger’s mom came for another two weeks and hepled us settle in and helped our new au pair learn her duties.
Most of February was filled with getting settled in our new house. This house is way better than I was expecting but there still were, and still are, lots of minor projects to work on. We have spent much money at Home Depot and Amazon.
March continued the trend of being busy. We took a long weekend and went to Tahoe. We enrolled Calvin and our au pair in ski lessons, while Ted indulged in skiing more interesting routes. I stayed with Julian. I had intended to find a babysitter for him so I could relax but delayed too long so no one I had been recommended was available. However, it was still interesting to see a new town. It reminded me a fair amount of Colorado ski resorts, right down to the lack of vegetarian food options.
A few weeks after that Yanthor and Anya came to visit us and we had a lot of fun playing games together. It was so good to see them again. That’s one of the biggest problems with living way out in San Francisco. At the very end of the month Jaeger’s mother flew out to help take care of the kids while I went to a conference in Maryland.
The conference was like being back in college. I had signed up for a pre-conference “hackathon” on Sunday. I had been meaning to learn how to use the ILS’s APIs for a while but never had time so I figured signing up for the hackathon would force me to learn them. It turns out that most of the others who signed up hadn’t really played with the APIs either and had varying levels of coding experience. The leader asked how many developers there were and only 3 people raised there hands, I was not one of them because I consider myself a librarian, not a developer. However, it turns out what he really was asking was who knew how to code which was a larger number of people (though still less than half the people there). We formed into three (too large) teams and then spent most of the rest of the conference working on our projects to have something to present at the end. I got to bed before midnight every day but it was really close some nights. My team won 2nd prize, my share was $21, which would have been more impressive if there had been more than three teams :) However, I did learn a ton, including finally getting a github account. In addition, to the hackathon I did a presentation on using Python to automate reports in the library. I was targeting this toward people with no programming experience but with an interest in learning. I was surprised at the wide variety of people who turned up. In spite of the wide range, it seemed to go really well.
Fortunately, April has been a little less frantic. Though, I don’t know how it is already almost over. We did have some excitement last week. While I was gone to my conference Calvin had chipped one of his front teeth. Last Thursday I took him in to get it filled and then dropped him off to school. Less than an hour later, and as I was almost walking out the door to go back to work, I got a call from the school saying he had a cut on his knee and needed to see the doctor. I reserved judgement till I got there but it was indeed a pretty decent gash that obviously required stitches. I wasn’t sure where the nearest urgent care was with parking (I don’t go anywhere in San Francisco without parking if I can possibly avoid it) and so I instead went to the nearest hospital. 3 hours and 7 stitches later we were back on our way home.
One reason Jaeger and I decided to move to San Francisco, apart from it being more convenient to fly to Asia, was for the culture opportunities. I don’t think we’re really taking advantage of that yet. However, Jaeger and I did manage to see Hamilton this week which was pretty amazing. This was also a very pretty good month for authors. We went to Borderlands and got Yoon Ha Lee to sign Ninefox Gambit and then just yesterday we saw John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow at a Google Talk in Mountain View.
Now that we’re in our own house I feel like we’re finally starting to settle down and start enjoying San Francisco. Though, summer is looking very busy so maybe I just need to give up on boring and enjoy the couple of weeks of calm I have left.