Out of gas

Better go get yourself a cuppa, this is gonna be a long one…

So. In July, I found a secondhand gas oven on Gumtree (Australia’s Craig’s list) for $150. Because ours was falling apart, and half the nozzles in the oven were covered up by melted plastic (thanks to a toddler who put something in there one day and we didn’t notice till it started stinking). We hired a gasfitter to come and install it. I kept the oven racks from the old oven, so we could cook 4 pizzas at once, and it was good. It even had automatic ignition (on 3 of the burners) and a fan. It was working pretty well.

Then we started noticing a smell. Not all the time, just every now and then, we’d notice a waft of gas smell. (Or, to be pedantic, the stuff they put in the gas to make it smell so you know it’s leaking.) Since it wasn’t always there, we couldn’t tell if it was us, or if it was blowing in from a neighbour. But Darrin did some poking around one day and found a leak in the pipe coming up out of the ground which goes into the house where the oven is. He found the leak.

So last Friday, we had a gas guy come out again to fix the leak. In the process of all that, he did some testing on the gas line, and said we’ll need a whole new gas line from the meter. He said couldn’t leave the gas on when he left for his next job, but that he’d send someone else out with a temporary hot water system that we could hook up and at least have hot water over the weekend.

He left, and almost immediately the next guy turned up with the temporary water heater. He got it into the bathroom and realised he didn’t have the right fittings to hook it up, and it was 5 pm by this time and the plumbing store was closing. So he had to go and send someone back in the morning to connect it.

Did I mention this all happened on a day when I was getting ready to go to Victor Harbor for the weekend with some friends? Yeah. So Darrin got home around 4, and the first guy was still here. I’d been planning to wait till Darrin got back from work before I left, but then all this happened, and I didn’t feel right leaving before all the water heater stuff was sorted. So then the second guy left, and a few minutes later, so did I.

I had a great weekend, by the way. By the end I was ready to get home, so it was about the right length of time to be away. First time I’ve been away without kids in 5 years. Second time I’ve been away without kids since I had kids! Must do it more often.

So now we’re trying to work out what to do about it. As I’ve mentioned previously, this house is a pile of crap. Okay, not literally, but it’s falling apart everywhere. It’s 60 years old. It’s one of those houses they put up quickly and cheaply in the 1960s when Adelaide’s population boomed. Houses like this have been getting knocked down all over the place for at least 20 years. When we bought this place 15 years ago, the family was expecting the same thing to happen, but were glad we were going to live here. And we had thought about knocking it down ourselves and building a new house, but it’s a lot of hassle and money that we really don’t have right now. And I’m not willing to go into massive amounts of debt with a house payment that’s more than 25-30% of our income.

All week since I got back, I’ve been emailing & texting real estate agents & plumbers, trying to work out the best thing to do for the least reasonable amount of money. We had another plumber recommended to us, but he can’t come see the place till Monday afternoon.

We’ve been thinking, what if we get an electric water heater and put in an extra circuit to handle that? So we had the original plumbing company come out to do a quote. I haven’t heard back from them about that yet, but the quote they gave us to redo the gas line was $6000.

Oh, and what they didn’t tell us, but the other plumber did, is that the rules state that if you have gas on a property, you HAVE TO have gas hot water. Or solar (which is backed up by gas anyway), or heat pump (which is more expensive). So that leaves us having to replace the gas line after all, and trying to find the cheapest person to do it.

Because we don’t want to be here forever. Personally, I was DONE with this house 5 years ago when I found out Micah was on his way. But we’ve stayed, because, firstly, we weren’t organised with money to move, so we worked at building up our savings, and then covid happened, and we didn’t want to move when things were uncertain, and then Darrin quit his job and it took 9 months to find a new one, and then we had another lockdown so he was off work for 3 weeks, and we’re still waiting for him to get a decent number of hours consistently.

But now, it seems we don’t have a choice. We have to do something. Selling the house would put us in a good position to do whatever we wanted. But it’s a pain in the neck packing and cleaning and house hunting and paperwork…but we don’t have a choice. Even if we get a new gas line put in, how long before something else breaks that’s even more expensive? It’s time to get out. And we have a friend who wants to buy the property to put a new house on it for himself. So that part would be easy and quick.

But it sucks that we’re being forced to do it before we’re ready. And do we rent or buy? Renting means we don’t have to fix anything, but the houses I’ve looked at that would suit us, even with rent assistance (through Centrelink, the place where you get government payments…eventually, if you fight hard enough and sign in blood in triplicate), our rent would be more than our mortgage payment + council rates (property tax) + property insurance + water bill. We’d have a huge chunk of money in the bank, so we could wear the extra cost for a while, but I wouldn’t want to do it for very long.

Renting means landlords who allow pets are few and far between. And probably cost more. And we have two cats. But it also means we’d have some time to find the RIGHT house to buy.

Buying means we have a new-to-us house that’s OURS (and the bank’s, of course) and we can do whatever we want there. If we can find something suitable.

So yeah, I don’t know what we’re going to do yet. But stay tuned for updates.

20 years ago today

Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I woke up at 8 am from the best sleep I’d had since switching from the night shift a few days before, to a beautiful blue sky. I had a good feeling about the day.

I got on my computer and checked my email and the Bannerbored, a message board for fans of Steve Taylor who also used our IRC channel called #bannerman. I saw a post from my friend Alex in Canada saying to pray for New York, because a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

Yeah, right, I thought. I thought it was one of those internet hoaxes that were so common in those days. I mean, how many times have we seen that kind of thing in movies? Total hoax. And I couldn’t believe my intelligent friend had fallen for it.

But everywhere I looked online, I saw the same thing. And I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but at some point I realised that maybe this wasn’t a joke and turned on the TV. And I think I saw the second plane hit, or I tuned in just after, and the good feeling I had about the day was replaced with impending dread.

This was when I knew it wasn’t an accident. It was deliberate. And the country wouldn’t lie down and take it.

We were united. We weren’t Republicans or Democrats. We were Americans.

I’ve been gone now for almost 18 years, and from what I see from over here, the country is more divided than ever. I’ve certainly never seen it this divided in my lifetime. The 60s we’re pretty turbulent I know, but I wouldn’t know if that was worse. It’s hard not to worry whether I’ll even have a country to go back to when I finally get the chance. I just have to keep reminding myself that God is in control, and ask him to remind me when I forget.

Priorities.

This exchange just happened in our house.

Micah asked to play a game on the computer, to which we said no, because our rule is that kids don’t play on computers until after lunch.

He asked again, and I said “Kids don’t get to play on computers in our house till after lunch, or in very extreme circumstances like if Mum and Dad are sick, and can’t be bothered, and let you do whatever.”

Darrin said, “Careful, don’t say that or Caleb will start poisoning our food!”

Caleb: “No I won’t, because I might get the dosage wrong and kill you, and then who would fix the computers?”

Yep. Definitely our kid.

The grocery bill with 4 boys

It sounds scary, and sometimes it is. And we don’t have coupons in Australia like they have in the States. But I have a few tricks I use to feed everyone without going over budget (most of the time).

First, I set a weekly budget based on what Jordan Page recommends. Her rule is to budget $100 per person per month, starting at $300, and then break it down by week. So a family of 1-3 people would still get $300 to spend each month, and about $75 each week.

Now Jordan Page lives in Utah, and there’s quite a difference between the cost of living there and here, not to mention our currency isn’t worth as much. So I plugged $600 into x-rates.com and use that as my monthly grocery budget. When I first did it, it came to $900 a month. Which was about $300 less than I was used to spending, but I thought I’d give it a go. Ever since starting to listen to Dave Ramsey, I’m always on the lookout for more ways to cut spending and save money. 900/4=225. So $225 is what I give myself to work with every week.

Here’s another tip I learned from Jordan. She says before you go shopping, make a meal plan from the food you already have in your kitchen, and write the shopping list based on what you’re missing in the meals you’ve planned. This has been a game changer.

Example: I find ground beef and cheese, and half a tub of sour cream. This screams tacos to me, but I don’t have taco shells or tortillas. So I put those on my list, along with any other taco fixings we like.

Another example: there’s most of a roast chicken in the fridge that needs to get used up. I dig around in the freezer and find a bag of broccoli. There’s a yummy chicken and broccoli casserole that I make, so that goes on the meal plan. But I can’t find any bacon to garnish on top, so bacon goes on the list.

See how that works? It’s made a huge difference to the grocery budget, and in turn, our overall budget.

Another thing I do is look for marked down meat. If I have space left in the budget after I’ve got everything on my list, I’ll stock up on sale meat or marked down meat, and keep it in the freezer for later. We bought a chest freezer when Caleb was born, so we have a ton of space for that kind of thing.

And I shop at Aldi as much as possible. Their prices are usually about 10-20% lower than Coles and Woolworths. When I do shop at the big supermarkets, I scan my loyalty card to earn points and money off my shopping. I try not to get sucked into the bonus offers, unless it’s for something I need anyway.

I also use an app called Receipt Jar, which lets you scan your receipts and get points. When you get enough points, you can redeem them for gift cards or a bank deposit. I’ve already redeemed $30 this way (the first time I used $15 to put toward a new car battery when we needed one, and the next time I got Coles gift cards).

I’d like to say I only go shopping once a week, but I often go a few times for emergency chocolate runs. Which is totally a thing, by the way. Don’t judge me.

11,700 chickens

This is a post to stir my oldest son, who has a Minecraft server that nobody’s been able to connect to for weeks.

The reason? He built a mob spawner that spawned eggs, which hatched into 11,700 chickens.

Yes, that’s the correct number of zeroes on that number.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program…