The biggest change in our lives since last year (last year?!?!) is that we BOUGHT A HOUSE!
What I learned throughout the process:
• It’s not so bad living with your parents for 16 months, especially when your parents are two of your best friends, your mom makes dinner almost every night (we had a mutually beneficial arrangement: we bought the groceries, she prepared the meals), and they have a Netflix account. We had a routine of tucking the kids in, then claiming our "spots" in the basement (my dad on his chair, either Aaron or my mom on either end of the couch, and me in the middle), and watching Schitt's Creek, House of Cards, or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. We watched Orange is the New Black and Shameless, too, but those got a little awkward with the ‘rents right there.
• You don’t realize how much useless crap you own until you have to box it all up and move it.
• You can’t bribe a cat to love you by feeding it whip cream. (But you can turn that cat into a beggar who will follow you to the fridge and whine, meow, whine until you feed it whip cream.) Oops. Sorry, Mom and Dad for training Pip to beg.
• It’s not fun bringing your kids to showings after work. Even a little bit. They don’t want to be there, and you feel like a nag constantly reminding them not to touch or open anything and don’t run in the house and no! you can’t sit there! (In other words, all the things kids naturally want to do.)
• It’s true that you can become friends with your real estate agent after spending so much time together. We even went on a double date last month.
• The No. 1 lesson we learned? Online MLS listings can be deceiving.
I asked my beautiful single friend Kelly if this is what it’s like to online-date. You see a photo, you read the description, you think, “I like the looks of it! I like the sounds of it!” You start daydreaming about the possibilities. This could be THE ONE. And then, when you “meet” it in reality, it’s a gigantic letdown. Photos can be dishonest (whether on accident or intentionally). Photos don’t show you the cigarette smell trapped in the paint or the disgusting animal stench in the baseboards and wood floors, the postage-stamp sized backyard, the choppy layout, the neighbor who has a regular ol’ junkyard in front of his house, the “issues.” After months of shopping, you start to view new online listings with more skepticism than you did in the beginning, before you knew any better. You maybe like the looks of it, you maybe like the sounds of it, but you’re not gonna REALLY get your hopes up until you see it in person, because you’ve been burned one too many times already (even though you did as much research in advance as you could). There is so much to be said about seeing a house in person.
During our search, there were a few homes that caught our eye, but our house was the first one that was realistically within our budget that caught our eye: in a family-oriented neighborhood, with a pantry! and a big backyard! and a three-car garage! and a decent layout! only minutes from my parents’ house! We spent more than an hour at the showing. (We were there so long that the homeowner had left and returned and was sitting outside in her car, waiting for us to leave.) The fact that we felt so comfortable there seemed like a good sign.
After some deliberation, we decided to go for it. We submitted a personal letter and a family photo along with our offer, per our realtor’s advice. Aaron crafted a beautiful letter and I softened some of the PR edges. Could our journalism degrees help us in this situation? I didn’t know. I just knew—in this cutthroat housing market—we had to do what we could to stand out from the competition.
The day after we submitted our offer, we learned that the homeowners had received two other offers (the home had been on the market for less than 24 hours). I had never been part of the home-buying process/game before, and I didn’t like it. I was used to instant-gratification shopping. I see a shirt I like, I try it on, it fits, I can afford it, I buy it. Not so when you decide to buy a house,which is ONLY THE BIGGEST INVESTMENT OF YOUR LIFE.
If we stood a chance, it was pretty clear that we needed to up our offer by a considerable amount no later than the cut-off of 5 p.m. We got our second offer in just under the wire. It felt like gambling. And then, more waiting. It was exciting and scary all at once (kind of like having a baby). When we hadn’t heard anything by 9 p.m., I was mildly disappointed, but figured it wasn’t meant to be. That house wasn’t our be-all, end-all dream house, I told myself. The spring market is just heating up, there will be other homes out there. I went to bed. I was just starting to doze off (next to Ben, on that little rickety futon we shared in my parents basement) when Aaron quietly opened the door, tiptoed across the room and sat on the edge of the bed. “Kim called,” he whispered in my ear. “We bought a house.”
“Are you serious?” I popped up. “It’s ours?!?”
He told me the story—about the other offer and how our letter (!!) tipped the scales in our favor. It took a minute to sink in.
We bought a house.
We both went upstairs to tell my parents, who were thrilled for us and maybe a little sad, too, that they’d be losing their housemates. It really was a good living arrangement. It would be another two months before we closed on the house (at the homeowners request, at no economic hardship to us), and then we would move out and start a new chapter in our lives.
I have never felt this way before about a home. I’m in love. I actually want to spend time at home. I want to make things pretty. I want to raise our boys right here.
I’ve lived in my share of places: three of my parents’ homes, two itty-bitty college dorm rooms with Tonya, a rental with seven of my college friends, a four-plex with three of those friends, a duplex with two girlfriends, a post-college rental with three friends in St. Paul, a shitty house in West St. Paul with my boyfriend and another couple who fought all the time, then a ground-level apartment with my boyfriend within walking distance of Sweeney’s in St. Paul. I loved the location but things were not great in that ground-level apartment. After dating for two years, we were starting to fall apart. Or maybe, more accurately, I was starting to have a change of heart.
It took me meeting this really cute guy, a fellow reporter (who flirted by flinging rubber bands at me from across the newsroom) before I realized I didn’t want the relationship I was in. It had been fun and passionate and on a deeper level than anything I had experienced before, but it wasn’t what I wanted for my forever.
While I was living in St. Paul, the cute reporter guy and I developed a comfortable routine of hanging out at work, eating lunch together, and working out at the community center after work. It was innocent enough at the beginning. We were friends. (I even tried to set him up with Tonya.) It became pretty obvious after time went on that we had a connection. We wanted to spend more and more time together. I knew I had to end things with JJ, and I dreaded it. Where would he go? How mad would he be? What kind of evil person was I? We were supposed to be soulmates. I don’t even remember how I broke up with him, but it definitely was not a mutual agreement. He started spending more time at the bar and when he was around, he was justifiably bitter. He told me I wasn’t the person he thought I was. I’m sure I wasn’t. The person he thought I was would have married him.
So, I said sayonara to the ex and the apartment and moved back in with my parents. Within months after the breakup, he had moved to New Mexico.
During this time, Aaron was living in an efficiency apartment on Marshall Avenue, and before long I was spending a heck of a lot of time there. After working an evening shift at a Mexican restaurant—I made such little money working full-time at the paper that I worked a second job as a server—I’d call him from the pay phone across the street from his apartment to let me in. (Yep, I sound ancient.) I have no clue why we didn’t just make another key. Aside from the fact that I had to call him to let me into his apartment, our relationship was easy. When people over-analyze every little move of the person they’re dating or wanting to date, I know I sound smug but it just shouldn’t be that complicated. It should evolve naturally. Maybe I just can’t remember the drama anymore—that was almost 20 years ago—but I think we were compatible from the get-go, we respected one another, we had shared interests, we were honest with one another, and we really enjoyed being together. There were no games. We wanted to hang out so we hung out.
At that point, I was pretty sure I wanted to marry Aaron (as sure as you can be at 27), but I also had this urge to move out of state. It was like an itch that I had to scratch. Tonya and I had been talking about it for awhile, then 9/11 happened and scared us into staying, but the burning curiosity never went away. After many long conversations, and with the support of Aaron and our families and awesome friends, Tonya and I packed up our meager belongings and drove her Honda Civic out to Washington in '02. We didn’t have jobs, we didn’t have a place to live, and we didn’t have any warrants out for our arrest. We had nothing but freedom. We stayed with our friend Beth for three weeks in Tacoma, Washington until we found a cute Melrose Place-like courtyard apartment in Portland, Oregon—pool and all—and signed a lease. I only remember bits and pieces of that apartment, mostly how dark it was in the corner unit, how we furnished our apartment with second-hand crap from some thrift shop in Hawthorne (we purchased a futon and a couch, and took turns sleeping on one or the other), how we had an old neighbor named Jerry and a young neighbor with glasses (no idea what his name was) who would regularly stop by with two Corona Lights, and how the couple in the unit above ours had a very active sex life. We weren’t in our apartment all that much because we spent our free time exploring Oregon, and entertaining our visitors. Within a few hours, we could be at the ocean or on the mountain. We were near Multnomah Falls and the Rose Garden and Powell’s. We lived on Northwest 23rd (similar to Grand Ave.) and were only two blocks from Restaurant Row. The people were gracious and welcoming rather than cliquey. It rained but it never got too cold. (I didn’t even own an ice scraper that year, I used my library card to get the ice off my wind shield.) I learned how to be the new girl and made some excellent lifelong friends and tried jicama for the first time and developed a taste for Starbucks and Bridgeport. I learned to snowboard on Mount Hood. I grew to like the person I was and started to figure out who I wanted to be—and I learned to appreciate Aaron and our relationship in a whole new way.
I have no regrets about moving away for a year, especially to the Pacific Northwest, but I felt like I was missing out on a lot of significant moments with my family and friends. Portland wasn’t home. I knew, deep down, that my heart would always be in Minnesota. (Aaron was willing to join me out West but I was ready to come home.) I moved back nearly one year after the time we had left. Tonya stayed out there. The hardest part of leaving was leaving without her.
During the drive back to Minnesota, Aaron called to tell me that he bought a cute little place on the East Side. He was so excited. Not long after I was back we were living together, and not long after that we were engaged. The 100-year-old house was supposed to be our “starter house.” Only it wasn’t. We stayed for 13 years. We shared many milestone moments in that house—we got married while living there and added two beautiful boys to our family—but it never really felt like a place we’d plant our roots. And then some asshole(s?) shattered the glass in our back door while we were at a Super Bowl party, walked into our house, walked upstairs, helped themselves to two bottles of birthday gift perfume and stole our family’s sense of security. The break-in accelerated everything. We moved so fast, we never even said goodbye to our neighbors who had become kinda sorta friends. (We house-sat for them and fed their fish while they were in France.) I still feel guilty about not telling them we were moving. One day we were there, the next day we were gone.
And then we lived with my parents ... until we closed on our house! So, in total, this will be my 13th address.
We let the kids finish out the school year before sleeping at our house for the first time since we knew it would be an adjustment. The morning after our first night in our new house, we got hit with a freak hail storm. It sounded like the Big Bad Wolf was trying to blow the place down. When I came downstairs, Adam and Ben were already awake, huddled together under a blanket on the couch, quivering in fear. The storm did NOT help our already-scared-of-tornadoes-and-severe-weather anxious child or his little brother. ((We used therapy tactics to get through it.)) After assessing the damage, turns out we needed a new roof. Nearly all of our neighbors needed a new roof. Welcome to the neighborhood! Here’s a big pile of golf ball-sized hail as a housewarming gift!
|All Hail the New House. Mother Nature has a warped sense of humor.|
Our neighborhood isn’t quite as social as I hoped it would be, but I like that our direct neighbors both have kids, two in junior high in the house on one side of us and five kids on the other, ranging from kindergarten to high school. Their two youngest girls go to Adam and Ben’s school and seem like sweet kids. One afternoon Ben and Elly made bracelets together, and my heart nearly grew three sizes from the sheer cuteness of it all. I pretended to be weeding and shot this pic.
|Trial and error.|
I love the fact that all of us have a bedroom upstairs, and our own bathrooms. I love the linen closet and our his-and-hers closet and the views when looking out our bedroom window, when we can see our fenced-in yard.
|Our mess of a patio before. It was pretty neglected.|
|Our weeded, power-washed, expanded patio after, with new landscaping (lots of mulch!) and a freshly sanded/painted railing and stairs. We bought a new patio set and inherited another one from my parents.|
Throughout the summer, we tried to mix in weekends at home with busy weekends away, and I think we had a decent balance.
|I was worried no one would show up to Ben's seventh bday party at the YMCA. I was wrong. I will forever be grateful to my friend Karla for having her girls on backup just in case there weren't any RSVPs. That's a true friend.|
|Hydrating between innings|
|Happy birthday, Aaron, Betty Danger's style.|
|Annual family weekend away. This year we went to Mille Lacs. Also? Hammerschlagen.|
|Summer sunshine and good pals|
|Jump, jump around ... get up, get up, and get down|
|Cocktails in Crivitz, north of Green Bay|
|Golfing with Green Bay buddies|
|Sparklers make every Fourth of July better|
|Swimming with Grandpa|
|Grandpa Rick came to almost all of Adam's baseball games (so did Grandma Patti and my parents)|
|Pizza Farm for Jeremy's big 4-0. He had a separate surprise party at Crave.|
|Happy birthday Adam! We had a family party at a local park. Cousin Logan spent the night.|
|Team Bride (my SIL's FUN bachelorette party dt Mpls!!)|
|The stunning Aprils|
|I would not recommend going to Valleyfair the day after you host a bachelorette party.|
|Hanging out with these guys made Valleyfair worth it (hangover and all)|
|Good times - no lines!|
|Brayden is one! Major props to my brother's gf Ashley for the cute lumberjack theme. (The cake looked just like a stack of buttery pancakes!) Her Pinterest theme was adorable.|
|String sisters' offspring. (Minus Evan.) We try to get the kiddos together at least once every summer. I love that my best friends have little ones who are also friends.|
|April and Mike finally tied the knot after 18 years (and three kids) together. Beautiful wedding, beautiful bride, so much fun.|
|We're so fancy!!! (First time being in a wedding together - other than our own.)|
|The more glitter, the better.|
|I paid $177 to have this dress altered and it was still too long. I solved the annoying tripping hazard by tying the side in a knot.|
|Patti and her handsome sons|
|End of the night|
|Family vacation in Alex - Arrowwood Resort|
|I loved the manageable size of this waterpark, unlike some of the big ones we've been to (Kalahari, The Wilderness, etc.). I never worried that they'd be out of my line of sight.|
|We got a behind-the-scenes tour of Carlos Creek Winery|
|There was a mini golf course right outside our hotel room door.|
The boys were in paradise.
|Geocaching for the first time. We're hooked!|
|T, Sam, and Evan had a layover at the MSP Airport on their way from Idaho to DC. Surprise visit!|
|Aaron's uncle Jay turned 50 and brought the adults out to dinner. What a guy.|
|Date night in Stillwater. I still get butterflies.|
|Ben originally wanted to be a zombie banana (WTF?) and Adam wanted to be something scary. Instead, they were a vampire and a jester. We were lazy this year.|
|Aaron, my dad and I wore wigs that night. I still love dressing up.|
Now that Halloween is over (everything except a pile of candy) we’re heading into the snowy holiday season and I’m psyched. I can't wait to get a real tree, I can’t wait to decorate the mantle, and I’m stupidly excited that I’ll be able to park my car in a garage—I’ve never had that luxury before. But what I love most about this home is that we live in a safe, family-friendly neighborhood without sirens regularly piercing the quiet. That peace of mind is priceless.
Another big change is my work environment. After working with my boss Sara for 11 years, it was like a punch in the gut when she gave her notice last spring. Good friends had “left me” for better opportunities throughout the years (KF, AH, AW, KD, AFG, KM), but this was different. I reported to Sara, and for years she had been a constant in my life. She knows that I don’t check my Outlook calendar and sometimes forget about meetings, and I know that she’s not a fan of potlucks and likes Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc, Diet Coke, running distance races, and OVERCOMMUNICATING, ALWAYS. She gave me flexibility and freedom and she made work fun. She was a fountain of marketing knowledge (and work history!) and over time we became friends. I think our bond started when we were pregnant at the same time in 2007, both “fake” drinking at Nancy’s Christmas party. We worked together during the Golden Age of Sales, when newbie college grads were making $70,000 and the seasoned reps were easily pulling in six figures (the darlings of the company). We stuck it out through the economic downturn and housing recession and survived not one but two rounds of layoffs. We experienced that uncertain day when our publisher announced that the company had been sold and he was done leading us (“You’re done today?” Amanda asked incredulously. “Today,” Steve answered looking a little lost.) We attended so many going away happy hours … we eventually lost track of how many people left, there were too many to count. The marketing department changed and changed and changed again, friends came and went, came and went. We rolled up our sleeves and did whatever was necessary to keep the sales team happy and events afloat and sections sustainable. We understood the agony of worrying about how everything was going to come together (without errors!) and the pride we felt when we somehow pulled it off. It’s been awhile now since she left, and contrary to popular belief, the marketing department didn’t collapse. I value her advice and consider her one of the smartest marketing professionals out there, but even more importantly, I’m glad that our friendship wasn’t just situational. We’ve gotten together, just the two of us, a few times after work and we’ve gotten together a few times with the old marketing department or old coworkers. Our conversations are entertaining, enlightening, and honest.
There was more turnover after Sara left, but I’m ok with it: a changing of the guards. I don’t know what the future will bring (do any of us?), but I predict there will be more ch-ch-ch-changes in 2018.
I’m ready for it.