Zandstra Family Blog

Updates on PJ, Jennifer and a trio of whelps

Testing the WordPress app. May 5, 2013

Filed under: by PJ,Uncategorized — PJ Zandstra @ 8:14 am

Just testing the WordPress app on my phone. Ignore this.


Been a while… May 2, 2013

Filed under: by PJ,Family Life — PJ Zandstra @ 10:57 am

Last post in July 2012? Jeez. Well, I guess our life isn’t all that fantastic and I don’t really have time to write.

Hrm. The boys are just over a year old. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of youtube videos of them, but I’ll link some more!
August dinner shenanigans:
Dominic hates it when anyone is in the kitchen and he isn’t.
and there’s more where that came from.

Kara is three and a half and doing rather well for competing with twin babies.

Work is weird. We just laid off 15 people today and we’re gonna hire 5 different people in the next 6 months. Our focus is changing as we complete more and more offshoring. We’re now more of a engineering and design center than ever and doing very little manufacturing. My role is changing as well as there’s a transfer to r&d in the works if I play my cards right. I’m confident I’ll get the job.

Jen is a time and a half mommy. Some how she’s still finding time to make it to the gym. She must have an awesome baby sitter. Ahem. Jennifer

I’ve made some progress, too, but I don’t have pictorial evidence.


Nerd Fitness, Day 1 July 18, 2012

Filed under: by PJ,Fitness — PJ Zandstra @ 8:45 pm

I guess this is as good a place as any to record this. We’re not using it for anything else.
Anyway, I Googled “How to create your own workout plan” and this was my number 1 result: which led me to the whole website. Nerd Fitness is perfect for me. I’m not a fan of DVD coaches being super cheery and having zero percent body fat with perfectly chiseled abs.
I started this tonight: I managed to get through 3 full circuits. I’m surprised I got that far. I didn’t rest enough in the first circuit, so I paced myself later and had much better results.  I like it.

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Gluten Free, Gum Free, Tollhouse Cookies – SPZ Edition January 15, 2012

Filed under: by PJ — PJ Zandstra @ 10:05 pm

Here’s an experimental recipe I made up.  It’s a the Tollhouse Cookie Recipe but I modified it with this gluten free, gum free conversion table for quickbreads.  Turned out very nice and my test subjects’ only complaints was that they wanted to eat more but knew they shouldn’t.  I used quinoa flour and cornstarch.  They don’t rise a large amount, but still enough.

  • 6.6 oz of flour: Almond, Amaranth, Brown Rice, Buckwheat, Corn, Millet, Oat, Quinoa, Sorghum, Sweet Brown Rice, or Teff
  • 2.8 oz of starch: Arrowroot, Cornstarch, Potato Starch, Tapioca Flour, or White Rice Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Tollhouse Nestle Chocolate Chips. (Yes, they’re gluten free.)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  1. PREHEAT oven to 375F
  2. COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Set aside.
  3. CREAM Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.
  4. ADD eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. ADD Gradually beat in flour/starch mixture.
  6. STIR in morsels and nuts.
  7. DROP by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
  8. BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Switch & rotate pans halfway through.
  9. COOL on baking sheets for 3 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

How we bought a house January 13, 2012

Filed under: by PJ — PJ Zandstra @ 8:43 am

I originally wrote this in four installments on my LiveJournal in October 2009 and, except for formatting, I’ll leave it mostly unedited. Oh, there’s some swearing, but it’s bleeped out. – Steven Zandstra, January 9, 2012

On buying a house, part 1

I’m still sick, so you get more LiveJournal posts!

We’ve learned several lessons about buying houses. One of them was a $900 lesson that could have been avoided with a simple 5 minute conversation. I’m still mad about that. I have to try to forgive those involved every time I think about it.

However, our current status is that we have an offer in on a short-sale and we’re just waiting on word from the bank. (A short-sale is a compromise between bank and house owner to sell the house, avoid foreclosure and save credit ratings.) If you wanna know how we got here, then hit the jump.

So, our first offer on our first house was what I’ll call the Wolverton house. Why that? Because it’s on Wolverton street, duh. We went looking one weekend. We looked at 7 or so houses and settled on this one. It was cute and in a good neighborhood. It was valued at $115ish and they wanted $85ish. 30 grand off a house? Yes, please! So, we looked at it. There were foundation problems, but as long as they didn’t add up to over 30 grand, we’d still get a bargain. (Side note: north east Texas has the equivalent of Yazoo Clay. SideSide Note: Yazoo Clay is a clay in Mississippi that is very responsive to moisture and will cause foundation problems if not properly watered.)

We got the inspection, $400. The inspector said the obvious, “You have foundation problems, you need carpet, some gutters, etc…” We decided that we could deal with that. Since there wasn’t carpet to rip up, getting foundation work would be that much easier. We weren’t ecstatic with the results, but we could deal with it for that house.

We got the appraisal… Here’s where things start to go wrong. I’m gonna back up a minute and explain something that neither of us understoond at this point. We’re getting an FHA loan. They require significantly less down payment. They’re insured by the government. You have to be a first time buyer. I thought that was the only difference but I was wrong.

Again, we got the appraisal, $450. Normally, an appraiser drives by the house to make sure it’s actually there, then compares the lot with the lots around it and computes a value based on the property and the neighbors. Sounds simple, right? Yeah, but that’s not what this guy did. What this guy did was another inspection. His so-called appraisal report came back with things like “You have foundation problems, you need carpet, you’ve got a faulty electrical switch upstairs” and other things. We already knew all this. What was the point of all of that?!

The point was that the lender would not give us money until all of that was fixed. WHAT?! Yeah, we’d have to pay for the foundation work, get carpet installed, and get an electrician out there before they’d even consider giving us the money to buy it. So, at this point, we’d have to sink $20,000 into a house that we don’t own. Not. F***ing. Happening. After some anguished deliberation, we cancel the contract.

So, at this point, we’re out $900. This could have all been prevented. I’m really mad at my lender regarding this. Had we known that the FHA loan such stringent house condition requirements, we wouldn’t have bothered. Any idiot could see that the foundation was bad on that house. There were some cracks that were so big you could shove a pencil in them. However, the order would have to be: (1) Foundation Fixed (2) Money loaned and there’s no way we could do that. If she had said, “By the way, the house has to be livable without any serious foundation problems before we can lend you the money” then we wouldn’t have bothered. It would have been obvious.

We’re out $900, but some lessons were learned. This is house number 1 of 3. I’ll talk about number 2 next time. It’s shorter and not as bad. Number 3 is ongoing and horrendously stressful, but there’s a chance it could work.

On buying a house, part 2

I’m not sick, but I like finishing stories, so here’s part 2 of buying a house. It’s really short, and Jennifer already spoiled it but I’ll type it up anyway.

So, after the fiasco with the Wolverton house, we were better armed with what to look for. This trimmed our house lists much, much thinner. Before we even got to the houses, we scoured the descriptions for things like “foundation problems” or “won’t pass an FHA” inspection. We looked for one weekend or two (I’m not sure which) and decided that a little house (1300ish sq ft) with 4 bedrooms (one was tiny) on Las Brisas. Thus the Las Brisas house.We weren’t 100% thrilled with it, but it would likely pass an FHA inspection. That fourth bedroom was the size of a large closet. The garage was only one car, which wasn’t good, and wood paneling, while not bad was very odd.It was a foreclosure, so the bank proceedings should be simple. There’s no seller to deal with because the bank already owns it and therefore will be a bit more giving in certain situations. So, we put an offer in on it and then come to find out that the house already *had* an offer at the bank and it was accepted.So, we wasted our damn time. The house shouldn’t have even been on the market two weeks before we even looked at it. We were kinda pissed. This is the second time we thought we were playing by the rules, but someone pulled the rug out from under us. I really, really hate it when you do what you’re supposed to, but it fails anyway. I feel lied to or betrayed. The house was in the MLS system! It should have been on the market, but it was de facto off the market by the time we looked at it.


On buying a house, part 3

Alrighty. So we did buy a house, it was on our third outing. If I miss anything, Jennifer, please fill in for me.
Jenny and I weren’t picky. We were mainly concerned with the fact that the house didn’t have holes in the walls (we saw one that was missing sheet rock on the bottom half of the entire house), and wasn’t having foundation problems. I figured everything else would be fixable. I wanted a two car garage, but I’d take a one car if it was the right house. Little did I know how little choice I had.We get ready for a third round of house hunting. Around midweek, we plan with our agent, Thayne Sterling, who is awesome, to look around the coming weekend. That Friday, Thayne gets a call from our lender that the State of Texas’s down payment assistance program ends next Tuesday. Our lender had no idea either. There was nothing in the paperwork that mentioned an end date, so I don’t really blame her….

What the ****?

To give you a bit of background, the State of Texas has/had a program that provided 5% of your home’s value (up to $4,000) interest free for three months, banked on the $8,000 federal tax credit. So, Texas gives us 4 grand, we buy a house, then the Fed gives us 8 grand, we pay back Texas and keep the difference. We assumed that we had until the Federal program ran out, December 1st. This was September! We thought we had three months!

[Editor’s note: In 2009, there was a Federal Tax Credit of $8,000 if you bought a house as a primary residence and promised to stay in it for 3 years. – PJ, 1/13/12]

Does that put it in a better perspective? It’s September, we think we’ve got until December 1st and Friday at 4:30pm (yes, 30 minutes before everything closes) we get a call that we’ve got until Tuesday. We were devastated. This meant that we had to pick a house and we had to get EVERYTHING done by Tuesday, close of business (or so we thought). Jennifer was devastated by this, but she held it together.

Thayne apologized profusely, though it wasn’t her fault at all, the State pulled the rug out from under us. We looked at the houses, knowing that we had to pick one. We had a list of around five houses. We looked carefully, but none of them fit. At this point, Jennifer broke down crying. The stress of pregnancy, house hunting, our old apartment’s crappiness and the threat of losing our down payment assistance was too much. Both she and I are completely emotionally worn out by the whole process. We’re done. We don’t really care what the house is like as long as it’ll pass FHA and isn’t a complete wreck. Unfortunately, none of the houses we looked at that night would pass an FHA or they were complete wrecks. We were at wits end.

However, there was tiny chance that there was a house for us. In the last round of house hunting, we saw one house that was okay but not great. It wasn’t in terrible shape, but it wasn’t in perfect condition either. It only had a one car garage (which was a negative for me) and it looked like the previous tenants were DIYers that didn’t really know what they were doing. The carpet was terrible, the garage had seen better times and there were hairline cracks in the foundation.

However, given the choice between another apartment and this house, I’d choose this house. So, we went to look at it again. Jennifer didn’t care anymore what we were looking at. All she cared about was whether we could get financing and whether it was livable. We weren’t thrilled with it, but we settled on it.

So, that night, we put in an offer. We had to get this done ASAP because Tuesday was our deadline. We got the offer over to the seller. I’m a little vague on the time line on the following because I was losing my damn mind, but the timing is important. We send the offer on Saturday. We wait. We expect action on this on Monday because we expect the seller to want to sell ASAP, and we need something signed to send to the State for the downpayment assistance. We wait. Nothing. Emails, calls, voicemails, all nothing…

Tuesday morning at 10:30am rolls around. Thayne gets a contract back. They’ve added a repair stipend to it. They’re going to give us money from the sale proceeds to repair stuff on the house. We’re a bit confused, since we didn’t ask for it and who hands over extra money, but whatever, we’ll take it. We sign and return it. We get all the paperwork over to our lender.

She basically says that it’s too late. We’re floored. We were told Tuesday. It was noon on Tuesday. We thought we had done as we were told. Our lender says that there’s no way she can complete the paperwork and get it to Austin by tomorrow morning. Get it to Austin? I said that I could get it to Austin if that was the problem. I could, Jen could, and even Thayne offered to drive it to Austin. Our lender backpeddles a little saying that they have someone driving to Austin that night, so that’s not really the problem, but that they can’t get the paperwork done in time.

At this point, I’m pissed. Every step of the way, I’ve played by the rules that people set for me. I’m not trying to zig when I’m supposed to zag. I’m jumping through the hoops that I’m supposed to. I’ve done my part and I’m being told that it’s not enough. If it’s not enough, why was I told that all I needed to do were these things?! Eventually, our lender changed her mind and said that there’s a chance that they can get the paperwork done today. She said that there were no guarantees, but she’ll do what she can. Later, Thayne told me that she told our lender to try harder. Our lender said she couldn’t. Thayne said that she wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept insisting until our lender gave in and said that she would try again.

Eventually, she got those working on the paperwork to take it home after work. They got it to Austin. They got it in the door in time. They took the paperwork. We were accepted. This means we had down payment financing. This means our loan could be, not is, but could be approved, pending bank confirmation.

Is this the end? Nope. You know how the story ends: we bought the house. This isn’t the end. This is the end of part 3. This was the first hurdle. More in Part 4: The Bank Sucks And Sucks Hard.

On buying a house, part 4: The Bank Sucks

Apparently I pretitled this installment as “The Bank Sucks and Sucks Hard.”

Yeah, I’d say that sums it up well.

Well, after the jump, I explain how I hate money lenders, love my real estate agent, and further prove my hate for large corporations.

This one won’t be as detailed as the past few entries because I’ve much less time in my life lately and it’s been 6 months since this happened. Wow, I’ve owned a home for 6 months now. Jeez.

Anyway, once the state accepted our paperwork, we kind of took a short break. That was our deadline, right? Well, yeah, kind of. Anyway, we took a short break. Nothing much happened as we were waiting on the bank to get back to us.

Around this point, our lender changes. OH JOY! Our old lender’s company gets bought out. That means that all the paperwork I did for the first lender gets faxed to the second one and I don’t have to sign my name 45 times and send people massive amounts of financial information, right? WRONG. I have to do it all over again. Not freaking happy. Also not happy at anything unexpected, but, knowing my life, I should have expected something bad to go wrong. No, no, I’m not a pessimist, not at all. /sarcasm.

We finally hear back from the bank. They tells us it’ll be 45 days before they even *look* at the sale contract. Notice that sentence doesn’t contain any timeline on how quickly or slowly they’ll approve or reject the contract. FORTY FIVE DAYS BEFORE THEY EVEN OPEN THE ENVELOPE. Our sale contract is for 45 days. That means by the time the bank opens our file, our contract expires.

No, this ain’t happenin’. We could get an extension on our sale contract (and we start that) but it won’t really fix the problem. The problem is that we have to buy the house by December 1st for the Fed’s $8,000 tax rebate. If we don’t get that tax rebate, then we don’t get the State of Texas’s downpayment assistance. If we don’t get that assistance, then we don’t buy a house. Okay, you ask why that’s a problem. If we wait 45 days for the bank to say “yes” and then we have another 21 days of paperwork for loan processing, that would put us at Thanksgiving at the earliest. That leaves around 4 days buffer time. NO ONE DOES ANYTHING OFFICIAL THE WEEK OF THANKSGIVING. Also, how likely is it that the bank just tells us “yes”? How much more likely is it that the stipulate some minor crap on line 37 of paragraph 3 of page 42 on how loud I just farted violates the sale?

This isn’t gonna work. Thayne tells the seller’s agent. The seller’s agent wants to sell this house as much as we want to buy it, so she’s on board with rushing it. Surprisingly, she gets the bank to rush it. They really do. This is, probably, the first good thing to happen. If you think about it, it’s not so much good, as it is “expected”. So, this is the first thing to go as expected. Yes, welcome to being a Zandstra.

Oh, and did I mention that our apartment move out date is fast approaching? I’m not really sure where I’ll be living in 3 weeks at this point. I’m sure that my landlord is really tired of me extending my move out date and I’m sure she’s pretty tired of me in general, as she and I don’t really get along.

We’ve got 2 weeks left in the apartment. The inspection goes well. I submit the financial paperwork that our new lender wants. I wait in helplessness. Four days pass. OUR LOAN IS APPROVED… again… Ugh. We get all the paperwork done, we’re waiting on things. My moveout date is Nov 14th. The Texas downpayment assistance thing is available on the 13th. Yes, I have one freaking day to get this done.

Okay, it’s November 4th. Our lender is out of town until November 9th. MOTHERF***ER!!! WHY DO YOU PEOPLE HATE ME!!! Oh, and he didn’t give any advance notice. Oh, and he didn’t assign anyone to work on it while he’s gone.

I can’t remember when, but our lender really wants to put a time restriction on some repair money included in the sale contract. No one else wants to do this. He’s the only one to bring it up and I still don’t know why he wanted to do this. I’m freaking out because I’m not sure where I’m gonna live, if they’ll actually let me buy a house and he’s trying to get me to do major home repair in the latter half of November. Screw that, no! Not happening! I’m pissed right now just thinking about it.

Then, my grandmother, Mama Jeanne, dies. This was really a curveball, but it puts things in perspective. I was worried about a house and the greatest woman I’ve ever met dies. I was a bit more subdued about things after this.

I get back into town. Strangely, it all goes well. There are no hiccups. We sign everything, we hand over a lot of money (on paper, anyway) and it’s done. We have the keys.

I’m emotionally exhausted, but a homeowner.

So, at the end of it all, I’m happy with the house we bought. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do. I still haven’t gotten any paperwork that the seller said they’d send, but I doubt I ever will. Our real estate agent, Thayne Sterling, is an awesome, amazing woman. Our lenders were either average or sub-par. The whole process was about as fun as getting a root canal through your stomach, but I’m much happier than I was six months ago.


Ack! March 25, 2010

Filed under: by Jennifer — Jennifer Z @ 9:16 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve been bad, bad, terribly bad at updating. Here’s some photos. More words later. :)


Oh, the stresses… September 16, 2009

Filed under: by Jennifer — Jennifer Z @ 1:39 pm
Tags: , ,

Baby Z is doing fine… had an appointment yesterday, heartbeat is still great! Going in for a gestational diabetes test in 3 weeks (ick), but don’t worry, it’s all routine. I’m at a bit higher risk of getting it because of other conditions, but hopefully it’ll be nothing. I don’t have any symptoms, hopefully I’m not one of those gals that walks around with it with no symptoms.

We’re still house-searching. It’s becoming a bit frustrating, and I’m getting a bit worried about getting it done before the First Time Home Buyer’s Tax Credit expires on November 30th. We’re going out to look at a few on Friday, hopefully we’ll find something good then.

Photography has been slow lately. I haven’t gotten out much to do anything fun, and I did a wedding a week or two ago, but haven’t gotten around to working on any of them for my website. Just haven’t had the energy with all the stress. Trying to take it easy :)

Hope you’re all doing well!



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