Recession Mama

{June 17, 2009}   Big = Expensive

By: Heather


Mamas and Papas,

 I love to take walks in my neighborhood. I like looking at all of the different architecture and landscaping of the homes. They’re really beautiful and BIG.

hp house

I used to wonder what it would be like living in a large home, filled with nice furniture, artwork, a pool and manicured lawn. I can now tell you it’s expensive. Really expensive!!!

willowood 055

We are blessed and fortunate enough to have our dream home. It  has everything we’ve ever wanted. I could walk a few blocks away and ask a very famous former Dallas Cowboys football player for a cup of sugar. But I imagine that his maid would slam the door in my face and call the police.  I can also show you Dick Cheney’s old crib.

Dick Cheney


 I’m not trying to brag. I just want to point out– be careful what you wish for. You just might get it… and then some. Along with all of the extras and the prestigious neighborhood comes high property tax and lots of expense.


Let me give you an example. Just last week we had two big storms in as many days. The kids, dogs and I hunkered down in the wine cellar while the tornado sirens blared. The power was out, the weather radio was missing and we had just one flashlight. I used my cell phone to track the weather while the kids watched “Kung Fu Panda” on the laptop . Ally, our 55 pound dog, sat on my lap and nervously panted in our faces. Bella, the 45 pound dog, took a nap under the bottles of Merlot. Storms do not phase her.

 Bella 001

“Gross Ally!” “Your breath is stinky!” my daughter chokes out.

“Mommy Ally is scared, Bella is brave and I’m smart.” My son remarks after declaring that “a meteorologist could tell us what’s happening if the power would just come back on.”

I admire his use of the word “meteorologist” and  pray that we’ll get through the storm without any damage.

Finally the power comes back on and the weather clears. The excitement is over. But the expensive repairs are approaching.


 Just as we crawl in bed the fire alarm goes off and a smoke detector gets stuck in panic mode. 


Lots of screaming and calming down later. I discover that I can’t reach the offended smoke detector, so I call for help. (my husband was stuck on a plane trying to get home)

“I don’t see any fire, so PLEASE don’t turn on the sirens.” I tell the fire department. “But I want to make sure my house doesn’t burn to the ground.” 

 cartoon truck

Firefighters and a cop show up about 45 seconds later (they’re located on the same block) with the lights flashing and the sirens singing. The neighbors come out to investigate.

“Mommy that fire truck is cool. Can I have one?”


At least the firefighter is cute and cordial. The cop answers my curious son’s questions. 

They leave about 45 minutes later with an “all clear.” The smoke detector is now dangling from the ceiling, but at least it’s  quiet. 

This will require a call to the alarm company. And I begin to wonder how much this will cost.

The next morning it rains buckets and buckets. The streets flood, the power is out and more problems and more bad news knocks on our door.

“What’s that on the floor?” my sons asks as we watch the storm from the window.

“Water!” The roof, that was just repaired, is leaking onto the “fine” artwork.

We find another leak in a fireplace and the dollar signs start falling like the rain. Buckets and Buckets.

“Mommy if it keeps raining we’re going to turn into an OCEAN.” My son determines.

I call the roofer and the alarm company.

Finally the rain lets up, the sun begins to shine. But a dark money cloud settles over our house.


A few hours later the roofer arrives and tells me that “leaves” are to blame for the leaking and that our chimney needs a cap.

Chimney’s wear hats?  I ponder to myself.

“How much will that cost?” I ask the roofer

“Not sure. We’ll have to get a number together,” he says.

This is never good.

The alarm company comes to the scene to replace the smoke detector and fix the alarm.

Problem solved. I write a check. 

But he recommends that I replace all of them. (There are more than I can count.)

“Why? Don’t they work?” I ask.

“Yes. But now they won’t match.”He says.

“We’ll live.” I assure him.

The AC guy, who had been previously scheduled, shows up to give me an estimate on replacing the unit in the pool cabana. (this is a problem unrelated to the storm.)

“By the way it’s hot in my bedroom. Can you check it first?”


More problems… repairs will be needed. I prepare to write more checks and contemplate pouring myself a drink. I opt for coffee instead.

The pest control guy soon joins the party and tells me all is well.

“Finally!” “Something is going right.”

The ants in the pantry are history. Yeah. Everything else is fine…   EXCEPT he can’t  spray the cabana because it’s flooded.

“FLOODED!” More mopping… more money down the drain. I make a panicked call to a friend to bring over a wet vacuum.

What in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is going on? My house is less than 10 years old.

Meanwhile, my 1941 fixer upper home is weathering the storm. No problem. 

I had slightly hoped a tornado would blow that old house away, but it stood tall and defiant. It has earned a make-over. (see post “Recession Rubble in the Bubble” for more on that.)


summer '09 001

We feel really fortunate to have a beautiful home and we really enjoy it. But WOW when it rains trouble it literally pours. There’s a LOT to maintain. Sometimes it feels like a full time job.

I’m still adding up the current maintenance and repairs… plus waiting for estimates. But I think we are looking at upwards of $10,000 to fix, repair and replace everything. I can’t blame the storm for all of the trouble either. Insurance won’t cover it either.

I’d just like to add that I’m pretty certain that whenever a company drives up to my address it automatically adds on 10 to 15 percent. It really irritates me. This is why I stay loyal to companies that do a good job, give me a good deal and are honest. 

Some people call our neighborhood “the bubble”” because life seems pretty idyllic here. It is pretty wonderful, so I don’t mean to complain. But trust me we’ve got trouble right here in River City too. And that starts with “T” and ends with “E”xpensive.

 price tag 

Katy says:

Great post, Heather! It’s easy to judge people by the size of their houses (or wallets). But everyone’s got their share of Troubles (with a capital T). And it’s interesting to hear that everyone is trying to weather the storm, either, figuratively, in this recession, or literally, as in your case. And yes, the bigger the house, the more money it takes to furnish and fix.

recessionmama says:

Thanks Katy. I really hate to complain when there are bigger problems in the world, but I needed to whine just a little bit. Now I’m done. I also want people to figure in the cost of maintaining a home when they buy one. It’s not enough just to pay the mortgage, you have to plan for unexpected costs and maintenance. It stinks. I can cross off the vacation we were planning for our wedding anniversary. That money will now go towards repairs. But at least we’ll stay cool and hopefully dry. :0

Katy says:

I think a lot of people don’t take into account the amount of money it takes to maintain a house. And when you buy…no one tells you these things either. Before I bought my loft, I was completely clueless about property taxes, home owners insurance, home owners association dues, and the list goes on and on…

craig says:

I am hoping that all the paint is in tact? The rain storm was one of the worst in Dallas history. Losing large mature trees are always hard to replace and least all your trees made it through the storm. Hope all is well

recessionmama says:

The trees are still standing The paint survived. Yeah! But two of my ac systems are out and have to be replaced. (not related to storms) I hate spending money on those things, but am grateful we can afford to do it.

Lydia says:

Hey Heather – great post! Glad you guys came thru the storm safe and sound. It was really spooky up in Plano, too. The “joys of home ownership” can be a challenge, no matter how big or small a house you have. I’m fortunate to have purchased a home with my parents last year. I’m really learning all the things you have to do that were always Dad’s job when I was younger… Who know radiant barrier attic insulation would be something I would be interested in and saving $$ towards?!? I’d rather have a new laptop or a high def flat screen for the living room! We too had the insurance adjuster out to assess some slight damage in our sunroom. There’s this thing called your “deductible” that is such a rude surprise! 😉

recessionmama says:

Yes! So funny Lydia. The deductible is so rude. I’ve bumped into him a few times.

Carla says:

Wow, I didn’t know it was that bad, Heather. Holy smoke alarms, that’s crazy news, but I’m glad you guys are OK. That storm, for the record, was N-U-T-S, NUTS. And you’re right, when it rains it pours, but look at it this way: when all the repairs are done, you’ll have all new stuff and no worries (hopefully) during the next storm.

recessionmama says:

Let’s hope. But all that money has essentially cancelled my “10 year anniversary” vacation. Oh well. Guess we can eat at “Wendy’s” like Al and Tipper Gore do for their anniversary. But I’d rather park my butt on the beach than eat a frosty.

Heather B says:

I’ve been corrected. It’s the Edwards NOT the Gores who eat at Wendy’s for their wedding anniversary.At least I knew it was a Democrat.

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