On Neighborhood Living: The Endless Snow Day Reprieve

A little over two years ago, I asked Facebook a Very Important Question — because this is the Age of Social Media and all Very Important Questions must be crowdsourced. God forbid I make a Very Important Decision by simply conferring with my husband, my partner in this life journey. Nope, gotta ask the Internet first.

All the same, I asked my Facebook friends whether we should choose a house in a neighborhood or a house in the middle of nowhere.

Before I begin discussing the answers my friends quickly spewed forth, I must state that a large number of my Facebook friends hail from my hometown — which is not really a town. It’s a blip on a road. I grew up on 89 acres of blissful solitude, my grandparents my only neighbors. To this day, I still sit on the front porch in no pants and drink my morning cup of coffee when I visit The Farm; no one can see, and even if they could, no one would care. While I grew up wanting to move away, it took living in close quarters during college and thereafter to realize that, oh goodness, I like my space. Many people who grew up in my hometown feel the same.

As the responses began to trickle in, the resounding answer skewed toward living in the country. Even though the other house that we considered at the time had an unknown water source (eventually we learned it was a spring, not a well), people felt pretty adamant about space and privacy and the beauty of country living.

I took their feelings into account as my homesick heart sided with all of my country living friends, but we ended up here. Here, in this beautiful house that fits our family so perfectly — and just so happens to be in a quiet neighborhood on the edge of the country. It’s kind of like the best of both worlds as we can easily and quickly go for long country walks or runs. But yes, we ended up with the neighborhood house for a myriad of reasons — some of which I only find out as we continue along.

Like today.

Today. The 14th snow day. FOURTEENTH SNOW DAY. It may only be the 13th, but I’ve simply lost count. In short, my children have not gone to school for a full five day school week since before Christmas Break began on December 20th. Desperately behind in work and over stimulated by the non-stop noise and presence of togetherness, I’m a little… punchy.

But I’m also absolutely thrilled to be living here, in this neighborhood, instead of there, miles and miles away from civilization.

Because I just called the babysitter, a teenager who happens to live two doors down from us, and asked if she could walk over for an hour this afternoon so I can go to the gym, get my training run for the Pittsburgh Marathon in, and be alone for an hour. Not only did she say yes, but she asked if she could take them sledding — thus wearing them out as well.

I want to walk out into our plowed, clear streets and kiss their salty, ashy goodness. I want to stand in the middle of my neighborhood and yell, “BURGH BABY WAS RIGHT!” She was one of the few who touted the benefits of living in a neighborhood, a reformed country-liver herself. I want to jump up and down and fist pump and chest bump with my elderly neighbors; they are so awesome and they love my noisy family despite ourselves. I want to shout to the high heavens my deep love for our small, quiet little piece of heaven. But it’s small and quiet, so I simply stand at the window, sipping a coffee, blinded by the bright white of sun on snow and give thanks for blessings we don’t know we need at the time that we receive them.

Fist Bump to the Sky

Okay, and maybe a little bit of a fist bump to the sky.

 

 

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We Only Own One House!

We sold our old house yesterday. Commence in the throwing of confetti and general celebrating!

I have wanted to talk, Tweet, Facebook, Instagram and generally shout about the process since we accepted the offer from the buyers while in Chicago for BlogHer ’13. But after my initial announcement that the house was under contract, I didn’t say another word on social media or the blog. I don’t believe in superstitions, but the whole process stressed me out so much. I didn’t dare write about it in case it fell through; I didn’t want to jinx it or eat crow if something happened and this wasn’t “it.” I also approached the buying of our current home in the same manner: SURPRISE! WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!

But back to selling the old house: Two years after listing the old house and 18 months after buying our current home, she’s sold. 18 months after paying two mortgages, we will pay only one mortgage payment next month. Sweet sighs of beautiful relief.

After finally exhaling the breath I’ve been holding for about, oh, 15 months, I got reflective on how we’ve changed as a family over the course of our home buying years. Part of the reflection can be pinned on the buyer’s mortgage lender guy, the same guy that did ours when we bought the old house in 2006! As he looked at us, and then did a double take at two sons instead of one, I realized we’ve changed a lot over the years.

Take for example, this picture of my husband, shooting me an annoyed look on the day we bought our old house in February 2006.

Josh is Mad

He just wanted to get inside, out of the cold, with our three-month-old, chubby-cheeked BigBrother. Also, he might have been hangry before hangry was a thing. I now recognize that look in his eye quite well.

Back then, our family was just the three of us. We were figuring out how to be parents, how to communicate like adults in a marriage, how to manage work-life balance, how to be new home-owners, how to manage life in general. Eventually LittleBrother joined the family and we learned we needed to learn more about parenting, especially about parenting two instead of one. We learned how to be an immediate family of four. We spent a lot of time learning about ourselves in our old house.

We were young back then, with our first house purchase. Young as a married couple, young as a family, young in chronological age which means, while not the determining factor on maturity, we were young in life experience as well. We were wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to take on home improvements and life in general.

Then we got older. And wiser. And possibly (definitely) tireder.

In 2012, we looked like this on the March afternoon that we purchased this house:

YAY HOUSE!
Please note that my husband is very hangry in that photo. So very hangry.

We were intensely happy with our home purchase — huge back yard! home office for me! giant playroom -slash- family room for the boys! all the space! all the normal neighbors! hooray! — and quite optimistic about the “improving housing market.” Surely that meant our old house would sell soon.

It didn’t.

Paying two mortgages for 18 months was never the plan, but it became the reality. I plan on writing more about that in another space at another time, but know that we survived. We aged a lot, both in gray hairs and in life experience. But we also thrived.

And yesterday, we looked like this:

September 2013, We Sold the Old House

The look on the two adults’ faces in that photo? The word you are looking for is relieved, as Alexandra stated so perfectly on Facebook. Relieved indeed.

We plan on being here, in this home, for years and years to come. Lots of projects remain: the kitchen needs an overhaul, I still need to paint the awful bathrooms, eventually we need non-70’s carpet in the playroom -slash- family room, general updates here and there. We’ll grow and change a lot more over the next seven-and-a-half-years — and beyond.

I imagine when I look someday back at the relieved looks on our faces in yesterday’s photo, I will think of the time that came immediately before — the two mortgages, the waiting, the stress — with something less intense than I feel at this precise moment. It’s still new and fresh; I still feel like licking my wounds a little bit. I hope when I look back on the stresses, I can say without a doubt, “It was hard, but it was the right thing for our family.”

You know, like so much of living life and making decisions as a family. So hard, so right.