Wednesday, August 6, 2008


When Patrick and I bought our house last November, we looked all through the Fox Valley. We decided on our town because there was easy Metra access, and we could afford a house on one of the most beautiful streets in town with gorgeous historic homes. Mind you, the house we bought had been lived in for the last fifty years by one couple. The house had some SERIOUS updating to be done. In fact, it still has its original 1925 bathrooms - complete with 1925 toilets. They're the most horribly water inefficient things ever - but we heart the hex tiles on the floor and the subway tile on the walls. Eventually, we'd like to restore them and make some changes.

One of the best things about the house is that it has a lot of room to grow with. There's a huge walk-up attic and a complete basement. Both, however, are unfinished and will require quite a bit of work to make them livable spaces.

This brings us to our current predicament.

My mom was providing my great-grandmother "Granny" with 24 hour a day Alzheimer's care for the last five years of her life. She gave up working as it simply wasn't compatible with trying to keep Granny from hurting herself or walking down the streets confused. Mom's had a hard life. A very, very hard life. Granted, a lot of this is her own fault. Those of you who have been long-time readers (from my old site) know that my childhood was peppered with her going in and out of rehab. I didn't live with her after I was 11 years old. Now, in her defense, she was a wonderful parent before she tried escaping an abusive philandering husband in bottles of vodka. She's been sober almost fifteen years.

She was promised the opportunity to live in Granny's house once Granny passed as a thank you for her years of unpaid labor bathing Granny, changing her diapers, etc. And then the heirs sold the house out from under her - with 30 days notice for a pittance.

We've had a very strained, distanced relationship up until the time I got pregnant with Julian. Now Mom is essentially homeless. My grandmother has asked her to come live with her, but she's a bipolar alcoholic and I honestly think that one of them would end up killing the other (or herself) before the end of the year if they moved in together. Mom is a brilliant person - though she has only a high school education. She's fluent in american sign language. She's patient, and great with children. She's an artist and is incredibly creative. She also suffers from an anxiety disorder and hasn't held a steady job in over 3 years.

After long, careful discussions, Patrick and I decided that we would ask her to move up here from Dallas and be our nanny. It would allow us to help her, without giving her a handout... and would ensure that Julian was being watched by someone who loved him as much as we do.

She agreed to do it. I was honestly a bit surprised. The catch is that we'll be completely supporting her. COMPLETELY. Gas, groceries, housing, utilities, etc. Essentially as if she was an au pair. Which brings us to the housing issue.

I'm currently on unpaid maternity leave. I.e. no cash flow coming in. We've got savings, but not a ton. Our original plan was that we'd buy a second small home for her to live in (in our names) as an investment property. Gives her privacy, gives us some potential return on the outlay of money for housing, etc. Great idea except the well, not being paid part. We can do it, but the minimum downpayment would essentially drain all of our savings. Once I go back to work, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. We could easily do a second home in six months or so, after I've been back to work for awhile. That, and I'm a bit hesitant to take on another mortgage not knowing for sure if she's going to be happy with the arrangement.

So... that leaves us with two options. Get a short term lease on an apartment. Cheap monthly expenses, but we're just throwing the money out in a way.

Which leads us to the (probable) solution we're going to take... finish out our basement and let her live with us for six or eight months while we save up for a down payment on a second place. She would have a separate entrance to use if she wanted, and we'd be putting in a bathroom, bedroom and living area downstairs. It's virtually soundproof from the rest of the house. The only thing we'd be sharing is the kitchen. There's a separate back door that goes to the landing between the kitchen and basement. Putting the money into the renovations rather than rent would greatly increase our property value, and give us much needed space for a playroom and additional guest room once she's gone.

Patrick's dad is a general contractor, and we're calling him tonight for his thoughts and ideas. It wouldn't be a perfect situation, but it would help us more than the other option for a temporary solution.

I think we may be crazy. But sometimes, a little bit of craziness is what's necessary.

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