Tuesday, March 29, 2016

This is where we used to live

The big news in our lives is that we’re looking for a new (or, more accurately, new to us) house. FINALLY. FINALLY. FINALLY! **insert an obnoxious amount of exclamation points and happy music here.** After writing about realtors for the magazine this fall and finding a duo I thought could be “the ones,” we contacted them (it’s a daughter-in-law/father-in-law team), met with them, liked them, set the wheels in motion as to “What if we could sell this place? What if we could move to a different school district/family-friendly neighborhood/bigger house?” and received valuable, realistic advice about what, exactly, needed to be done to sell our house. At one point we were so upside down on our house I worried that we’d never get out. Times have changed in the real estate market, though, and our realtors gave us something we hadn’t had in YEARS. They gave us hope. 

This winter we devoted nearly every weekend to Operation Sell Our House, gave many, many, many dollars to Menards & Home Depot, and devoted many, many, many hours of labor into home improvement projects (I did some serious de-cluttering and heavy cleaning, but the repairs/improvements were all Aaron, my dad, our friend Russ, and my brother-in-law Josh, who runs his own painting company. When the job was outside of their comfort zone, our trusty, affordable handyman stepped in). Our house was ready to list one week before our goal of March 1. In 10 days we had 10 showings and one of those became an asking price offer. Say whaaaat?!
Goodbye, dear sun porch. I'm so sorry that we only ever used you as storage and not as you were intended to be used. My mom sewed all the curtains. Josh and Aaron painted.
Fingers crossed that everything goes ok. If it does, they close mid-April. 

I’m cautiously optimistic that everything will work out, but have a hard time getting too excited and probably won’t truly *celebrate [*=drink like I did at my 21st birthday] until every legal paper is signed. I’m trying not to freak myself out about what could go wrong (could the sellers financing fall through?!?!), but why is selling a house like having a baby in that so many people want to tell you horror stories of either their own or their friends’ experiences? Thank you for giving me YET ANOTHER REASON TO WORRY.

Long ago I emotionally detached myself from the house and am more than ready to move on, despite the fact that it’s full of milestones for us: The first place we ever lived together, our first address as a married couple, the location of our "taco" vs. "burrito" fight, and where we had both of our bouncing baby boys. The truth of the matter is, it's a good house; a solid house (so well-built), but we've outgrown the space and we're ready for a change of scenery and a new beginning in a new neighborhood.

We just only started looking at homes in our price range of $2 million (ha ha haaa I’m so funny!) and it is pure insanity in the market right now, with homes in the affordable price range being snapped up in a matter of HOURS and bidding wars pushing home prices up to $10k (or more!) above what they’re actually worth. If you find a home and you like it, ya gotta act lightening fast, then hope that other people aren't ALSO putting in offers. And I find it really, really, really weird that not only are we moving this spring, but my MIL is moving in with my BIL and his fiancé, who moved to a house on 6 acres last weekend; my younger brother and his pregnant girlfriend are moving from an apartment to a house in a few weeks; my good friend Alex moved into her own apartment two weeks ago (freedom! Independence! New chapters!), and my good friend Jeremy is moving in with his girlfriend May 1. Who else wants to join our Moving Club?!?!

In order to celebrate another trip around the sun (gosh, I am OLD), a group of us went snowtubing at the usual spot, where I've been going since my 26th birthday. I decided this will be the last year of a fun annual tradition (it’s just too much work coordinating … I’m not going to say we won’t ever go again, but the occasion won't be in celebration of my birthday). By the end of our session, both boys had mastered the tow rope. Especially Ben. After riding up the hill on Aaron’s back for the first part of our session, we thought we’d let him try it on his own towards the end and WOAH. He figured it out right away (he has more upper body strength than I realized) and once he did, he was totally fearless. He didn’t even wait for us at the top or bottom of the hill, just kept getting in line and going down solo, over and over and over again (there were hardly any people there or I wouldn’t have been comfortable letting him do this. I could always see where he was, and we had a lot of friends/family in our group keeping an eye on him, too). Who was that independent little 5-year-old?!

On another cold but not snowy weekend, Aaron and I had a date night at the Beer Dabbler on the State Fair fairgrounds. OUTSIDE. It was SO COLD and Aaron forgot his hat. He was freezing but he toughed it out (the beer helped). I discovered a new beer there, Shake Chocolate Porter, from Boulder Beer. I also waited in line for the Castle Cream Ale from Castle Danger. Every other sample was just a bonus. Beer. Yum. 

We had the "Last Sleepover" at my MIL’s house before she moves (my sweet and sentimental SIL April kept playing “The House that Built Me” by Miranda Lambert). Lots of memories for the siblings in that house. There's part of me that thinks, "It's just a house. You'll make beautiful new memories in another place!" but I get it. I was just as sad when my parents sold the house I grew up in. I used to drive slowly past the "old" house when I was home on break from college (did they plant new flowers? Move the old swingset? Do something different to the porch addition?), and I've had many, many dreams about that house since then. The house where you grew up becomes part of you. How could it not?

Aaron, April, and Josh at the house that "built them."
couldn't make it.
The whole family went to my brother Shawn’s annual ice fishing contest on a balmy February day, when there was so much standing water on the lake that if you slipped and fell—and it was EXTREMELY slippery thanks to the recent weather warm-up—you instantly got soaked. A lot of people didn't go because they were too nervous about unsafe ice conditions. There was still a good foot of ice, though, so I wasn't concerned. I trusted my avid fisherman dad. (We didn't drive on the lake — we took a four-wheeler out.) My brother, who organizes the event every year, was too sick to go, so my dad and SIL Trish hosted the event. About 30 people showed. I didn't fish, I just socialized. (I have more fun that way.)

We celebrated my dad and niece Eva's birthday with family at an un-named Grand Avenue restaurant and had the worst service I have EVER experienced IN MY LIFE, but the company was pretty spectacular. I'm glad we share this birthday tradition with my sister Mary's family

I also went out to dinner with my best high school girls at a restaurant in Forest Lake, where we mostly talked about our kids. (So much subject material with eight kids under the age of nine!)
I love that we have history together, and have been VIPs in one another's lives as we graduated from high school and college, said "I do," and years later peed on sticks (aka took pregnancy tests) and became moms. We have always been very open with one another, whether we're complaining about family or job stress or kids, and I love that we can be serious or stupid, and our mutual admiration and unconditional love only grows stronger with every year that passes by.

String sisters 2016

Once again, I worked at the company's annual Food and Wine show (but not at the wine glass table for a change! Score!) and was THRILLED to be scheduled an early shift, so I could hang out with my family for a few hours before closing time. Aaron usually stays home with the boys while I work, but he attended this year and was a total social butterfly. I *think* a good time was had by all.

A few weekends ago I organized a successful Girls’ Night Out with 11 of us, ranging in age from 29 to 45. The girls were mixed from different parts of my life: high school, college, family, old work friends, girls I met through Aaron, and then THEIR friends. We consisted of marrieds, singles, divorcees, moms, stepmoms, homeowners, renters, Republicans, Democrats, a fierce firefighter, two talented art directors/designers, a defense attorney, a writer/editor, a physical therapist, an FBI intelligence analyst, a tough-as-nails car dealer, an ad rep, a hair stylist, and a health care specialist. We started out at a really cool brewery in northeast Minneapolis and then went to a total dive bar, complete with a Guns N Roses cover band, where we ended our evening. 
No, no. I’m not being totally honest. 
Some of us ended our evening in the drive-thru of Taco Bell, just like old times.

Recently I had dinner with some writer/designer girlfriends, and was reminded how fortunate I am to have such smart, insightful, passionate, funny, honest, confident, TALENTED, and kind women in my 'circle.' At one point, Amanda, Katie and I worked together at the newspaper (along with our dear friend Emily!), then Amanda left and told me about a job opening at a certain magazine, and then—years later—told Katie about another open position at the mag, and the rest, as they say, is history. We worked with Jamie and Kirsten, lunched together, and supported one another during good times and sad. It's down to just three of us "old-timer's" working together now, but I know we'll ALL stay in touch long into the future. Our conversations are so interesting (and honest). 


Adam and Ben are in a groove at school, and it makes me feel like throwing up whenever I think about moving into a new district (especially Anxious Adam). I know now is the best time to rip off the Band-Aid, Adam will only be in third grade next year, but the thought of taking a kid who NEEDS routine out of his routine (new house, new neighborhood, new school, new friends) breaks my heart. We went through so many agonizing screaming/crying/fingers-clutched-around-my-neck mornings at preschool, and then we went through many, many nights of School Dread and mornings of I-don’t-want-to-go-to-school! protesting and crying, before graduating to anxiety-induced migraines at school and regular calls from the nurse. Adam still gets the occasional migraine, but not like before. He has a special bond with his best friend Michael, and I like that he's in with a nice crowd—especially after some incidents with a less-than-positive influence (Cameron!). He is completely comfortable with his school and the routine. That, to me, is golden. The fact that he's doing SO WELL academically is icing on the cake. He was even invited to attend an enrichment camp for “high potential students” this summer. He can push our buttons when he wants (he can be so incredibly STUBBORN), but in general, he is a good kid, a good student, a good friend. He listens, he's respectful, he asks questions, he participates, he adds to the conversation, he is so eager to please. Sometimes his competitive side gets the best of him and he tries to finish his homework too fast, then winds up with 'fixes' that could have been avoided, but he usually understands the assignment and does his homework without complaining as soon as he gets home from school. (Ben, not so much. He only has homework once a week and it's already a battle.)
Now that the snow has mostly melted, Adam is obsessed with playing basketball in the driveway. Yesterday his goal was to make 1,000 baskets. He was a Mini Man on a Mission. It took him all day, but he got there. He likes watching Disney's A.N.T. Farm and the Food Network's Cupcake Wars with Ben, and playing computer and Kindle games. If we had a gaming console, he's the kind of kid who wouldn't know how to control himself or limit his game time (and therefore, we will never own one). He loves reading jokes from his joke book, coloring intricate pictures, and playing Trivia Crack. His favorite foods are Chipotle burrito bowls—although we took a long break when the media reported so many people getting sick—and pesto noodles, spaghetti, burgers, slices of ham (no bread), Big Daddy's Pizza at school, lasagna, cheddar broccoli rice mixed with hamburger, mac and cheese, waffles, my dad's french toast, scrambled eggs, grilled pork chops, and steak. He would eat steak every night if we could afford it. His favorite dessert is a root beer float.   

During conferences, Ben’s teacher told me that he's doing really well in math (“I think he's going to be a math whiz when he's older”) *Are we sure these are my kids?!? Math was always, always, always my most challenging subject. I dreaded math class, math homework, math tests. I felt like a big dummy in high school and college. Math was the bane of my academic existence! and she told me that his reading is above where it’s expected to be, but he still has a hard time refraining from talking when she’s talking, and can occasionally be disruptive to the class. Aaron and I have talked and talked and talked to him about being respectful of the teacher when she’s trying to teach, and waiting to talk until she’s done, and did you know those words just JUMP right out of his mouth before his brain can stop them?
He can still be our grumpy old man (especially when he's tired), and when he's in a mood, it's best to just leave him alone. He says his best friends are Drew, Tatum, and Sidney, two of which are girls, but if he's ever invited to any other girls' birthday parties, his immediate reaction is "Nope. I don't wanna go. She's a girl." He's scared of the Sesame Street comforter at my parents house, yet will go down a waterslide without any fear. He's very opinionated about his clothes, and prefers wearing athletic pants and sports-team sweatshirts over anything else. He regularly asks if he can wear shorts, even in winter. He remembers the names of songs and artists and loves watching The Voice and American Idol. He's a big fan of Pharrell and Harry Connick Jr. and a total fashion critic when it comes to J Lo's wardrobe choices. He LOVES hockey and regularly wants to be Canada when he and Adam are playing floor hockey (neither one of the boys can skate ... yet). He is terrified of a stuffed deer head in my parents' basement and requests an escort whenever he needs something from the basement because "that deer ... it LOOKS AT ME." He loves to count money, whether he's selling raffle tickets for school or counting his loot, and will spend way more time than is healthy rearranging his ones and fives and counting, counting, recounting his greenbacks until I have to tell him to put his money away before he loses it, money is not a toy (my brother Nick's girlfriend Ashley joked that the only person who loves money more than Ben is Trump.) He reacts to red food dye and sugar with extreme hyperactivity, similar to how I imagine about five cups of coffee would affect an adult. Suddenly he has no volume control and just wants to GET RIGHT IN YOUR FACE! AND WON'T STOP MOVING! AND LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! WOO HOOOOO! (We're trying to limit those foods in his diet, but it can be challenging.) He can be very animated and do some hilarious impressions, but he does NOT like to be the center of attention, so there goes any hope of an acting career. He loves playing basketball with Adam, but doesn't really care if he plays on a team. He does NOT want to EVER PLAY T-BALL AGAIN (so boring!), but definitely wants to play soccer again (so fun!). Both kids just barely tolerate swimming lessons, but only because they love their teachers, otherwise they don't look forward to going. At all. Even a tiny bit. (We don't care. They'll go until they can swim on their own in water over their heads.) His favorite foods include Jimmy John's, burgers, ham sandwiches (no mustard, just mayo), hot dogs, mac and cheese, powdered donuts, pizza, and steak. His favorite dessert is sherbet or ice cream sandwiches. He'll try almost anything once. Just the other day, he told me that one of his favorite school lunches was the shrimp. The SHRIMP? I had NO IDEA he liked seafood. I really do love this stage in their lives ... I mean, every stage is gratifying and rewarding in its own way, but I do NOT miss naps, diapers, constant safety/choking hazards, and tantrums. (Truthfully, we still get those sometimes.) It's been a long winter consumed with house "stuff," so we recently surprised the boys with a trip to the Kalahari indoor waterpark in Wisconsin Dells ... even though rates were completely inflated for spring break and we should be saving every penny for future home expenses. What the hell. Everyone needs a break, amirite? This was the fourth time we've met our Green Bay friends in Wisconsin Dells (three times at the Kalahari; once at the Wilderness) and every experience is better than the last, especially now that Ben is tall enough to participate in nearly everything the "big kids" do. They walked around the house singing "I wanna go, to, the Kalahari ..." I even painted my toenails for the occasion. Yep, I go ALL OUT for vacation, baby! 
Are we there yet? Are we getting close? How many minutes now?

Adam - I may have found the cause of your frequent migraines!
Perfect fit.
3D game at the indoor arcade/theme park.
We played MANY games of mini golf (18 holes!)
Adam hit the jackpot and won 1,500 tickets!
Pure joy!
Ben's favorite place to be (mini golf course).
Quinn, who has three sisters, was thrilled to have his buddy Adam around.
Kenya, the Kalahari mascot. I was shocked when the boys asked for a photo.
Our motley crew.
Hot tub a la mode ... half is hot, half is cold.
We do it all for these smiles.
Sign of a good vacation.