Nov 14, 2014

The New House

It's around midnight.
Doug is snoring next to me, and as usual, I'm still awake.
Outside, the cacophony of a pack of coyotes possibly murdering a neighbor dog somewhere in my cul-de-sac, makes me realize I need to write some stuff down about my new home.

My new home is very different from my old home.

Although our new home is only a 7 minute drive away and a 2.8 mile walk away from our last home, (I just google-mapped it.) it feels like a whole different world. For starters, we are in a different city now. And within that city, we are living in an area with a veeeeery different feel and esthetic. There are no sidewalks in my new neighborhood, only horse trails.

There are horses in my new neighborhood.

There are low-density housing laws so we're not living blocks away from apartments any more. (And our friends in those apartments.) There are lots of big yards with neighbors who don't need to hang out at the community pool for recreation. (95% of our neighbors have backyard pools.)

In my particular little subdivision, most of the homes were built in the late 80's. (Ours in 88.) Some of our neighbors are original owners and many are empty-nesters and grandparents. That means this neighborhood, coyotes not withstanding, is veeeeeeery quiet. Eerily so.  Once my kids are asleep, there is no more noise on this block. (There are some teenagers, but evidently they don't hang with boys driving cars with super loud mufflers like I did in High School.)

For the longest time, pulling into the neighborhood, and then into our driveway, just felt weird. We are three houses down from my sister Laura. It always felt normal like we were going to her house. Until we had to make the mental adjustment to it being our house. Not normal. Weird. We kept having to remind ourselves: "Hey, we're home. This is OUR home. We're not going home from here!"

And for quite awhile I just had this overwhelming sense of sadness. I feel like it's not super normal to mourn when moving out of a rental. But maybe I should have had a good cry and gotten it over with. Because for the longest time, I had (and still occasionally have) these pangs of sadness over what we left behind. (Which, now that I think of it, has been the case after each and every move.)

We really, really miss our old neighbors. There were a lot of kids in the old 'hood. And lots of great families. We were able to make great friends just by hanging out at the community pool. Of course, we're still friends with those friends, and they're only 7 minutes away. But I won't see them nearly as much. Now meetings will have to be scheduled and planned for and driven to. And they'll be fewer and farther between.

Now don't get me wrong, we'll be just fine. There are a million positives to this move, obviously. I just wanted our first impressions recorded somewhere. And I want to always remember that the last three years in "Ann's House" were good years. That we loved our home and loved our neighbors and that they will be sorely missed.

And now it is 1 a.m.  The coyotes have moved on, and I need to go to sleep.


Nov 12, 2014

Our House, In the Middle of Our Street

(Published out of order--this was the first "new house" post I wrote but never finished and published.)

We're officially homeowners! (For the third time...hopefully the last).

We moved out of our three year rental against our will and into another rental for four weeks. Just after signing the lease on the second rental (hereafter known as "Half-way House") we discovered our dream home had fallen out of escrow.  We didn't think we could afford it, but the mortgage lady worked some dark magic and we somehow got it.  Now, when I say it is my dream house, I'm being disengenuous. It is not even remotely my dream home in and of itself, except for one key element: it has a big yard.

As Doug and I have looked and looked and looked at homes over the last three years, almost all of them have come up short in one area--the size of the backyard. Our first rental had a tiny yard.  Literally, just a back patio. Barely big enough for the tiny 6 foot trampoline we found at and a patio table.

So for years I've been day-dreaming.
Wishing for a yard with enough room for a BIG trampoline.
Longing for a yard deep enough to set up a volleyball net, throw a baseball or kick a soccer ball...

But as we looked we discovered that even if the property info listed a larger sized yard, it was taken up with a huge slope, a ginormous pool, a long drive-way, or some other unusable space.

Newer homes being built around here seem to be getting larger, while the lot they sit on gets smaller.
Sure, 4,500 square feet and five bedrooms would be fabulous, but NOT 5.5 baths with 5.5 toilets to clean. And not sitting on a lot barely big enough to hold the house!

My sister and brother-in-law kept telling us to look for the yard, not the house.  They pointed out that in their neighborhood, all the homes sit on .5 acre(ish) lots. We pointed out we couldn't afford their neighborhood.

But then the home three doors down and across the cul-de-sac fell out of escrow.
A home built in 1988 sitting on a half an acre flat lot.

It also has some other huge bonuses: A downstairs office that we've converted into to a guest room and a downstairs full bath.  This is perfect for visitors and especially perfect for my Mother-in-law who has bad knees. This was #2 on our wish list: Downstairs guest room and full bath!

Upstairs there are four bedrooms. We decided to keep Max and Sam together in one, Gabe and Gray together in another, and use the third for a play/bonus room. Linc will stay in our walk-in closet a little longer and then we'll figure out where to stick him when he moves to a toddler bed.

#3 on my wish list: Place to corral every single toy and game we own. Check!

Since moving in, we've deep cleaned, (previous owners had several pets and we have several pet allergies between all of us.) painted, done a lot of work on the backyard including removing three very large dead trees, and started remodeling the downstairs bathroom and upstairs boys bathroom due too leaky grout and mold issues.

My current project is acquiring rugs to cover some of the hard floors to dampen the noise produced by five boys in a big echo chamber. Sometime down the road we'll work on living room furniture and stuff for the walls.

One of the huge bonuses of this house lives three doors down the street: My SISTER and her family. We love hanging out with Laura and Jeff and especially love late night snack time after the kids are in bed and spontaneous hot tub parties at their house.  Laura has four daughters whom we love a LOT! Their oldest daughter Ashlin has been our #1 babysitter since we moved here. Since she is now out of state for college, the job falls to Makaila. Even Dania, who is Max's age, loves to help with Linky and takes him on walks. Their youngest, Kirra, is Sam's age and she loves to come over to play. It's been a lot of fun having them so close and seeing the cousins hanging out together.

I want to post some house before and after pictures, but there are no good "afters" yet.
Those will be forthcoming...

For now, I think I'll send the boys into the backyard and go take a nap!

Aug 18, 2014

First Week of School for 2 and 3

Gabe and Sam started school last week at yet another new school.

For Sam, this is yet another major life change. Let's quickly review:
Preschool - Miss Judean
K and 1st grade - Sollars Elementary in Japan
2nd grade - ME
3rd grade - Charter School
4th grade - ME
5th grade - OE

Evidently, his teacher is one of the best so we're hopeful he'll have a good year and make some good friends. One plus is that he'll be at the same school as his cousin.
(Did I ever mention one reason we left the military is because one of our children doesn't handle change well?  To protect this child's identity I'll call him S. Dub.  No, no---Sam W.
Hopefully, this will be the last big change in a long time.)

Gabey is starting 2nd. He's also been through a lot of change going to preschool in Japan, Charter for Kinder, ME for first, and now OE.
Last year he was Mr. Popular and had a million friends.  This year he's a little more uncertain about his place. I'm hoping things go well for him. I wouldn't mind if he had fewer friends, and did more work at school, but we'll see.
(Funny Gabe story: Every day when I pick the boys up I ask what they did for snack/lunch/recess and who they played with.  On Friday Gabe said "Well, at snack I played "Nut Cracker" with some boys in my class." There was a long pause while everyone pondered how to respond to this little nugget. Gabe said "You have to slide down this thing with bumps on it and it really hurts!" Ahh--so it IS what it sounds like.  I see. We all burst out laughing. I said "Maybe you should tell the boys you'd rather play tag next time.")

Two boys down, two to go!

Jun 12, 2014

European Vacation Day 3 - Ste-Mère-Église, Normandy Beaches, and The American Cemetery

The next morning, Wes asked the lovely proprietor of our BandB if we could eat breakfast at 7:30am instead of 8:30 so we could get an early start.  She graciously agreed and than proceeded to serve breakfast promptly at 8:30.  Which worked out great since Doug and I were a bit jet-lagged and it's just possible we weren't exactly ready to go right exactly at 7:30a.m.

The breakfast, however, was worth waiting for and included a delicious croissant, crusty bread, a selection of different cheeses, yogurt, granola, various yummy jams, and heated milk with SCHOvit (similar to Nesquick)

 And then we were off to our first destination: Ste-Mère-Église.
{The town's main claim to fame is that it played a significant part in the World War II Normandy landings because this village stood right in the middle of route N13, which the Germans would have most likely used on any significant counterattack on the troops landing on Utah and Omaha Beaches. In the early morning of 6 June 1944 mixed units of the U.S. 82nd Airborne and U.S. 101st Airborne Divisions occupied the town in Operation Boston, giving it the claim to be one of the first towns liberated in the invasion.}

This is where paratrooper John Steele got caught on the church steeple on the morning of June 6th, 1944. Ste-Mère-Église was the first French town liberated on D-day.  There is a model of John Steele on the roof, and the stained glass in the church (blown out in the war and replaced) depicts the heroic actions of that day. (We had just watched "The Longest Day" before coming so it was neat to see this place in person!)

Wes and Doug
See the white thing hanging off the roof? That's a model of John!

Stained glass with paratroopers
After walking through the church, we went into the Airborne museum across the street.  They had some pretty cool stuff in there.

(I love this lettering!)

Dress made from parachute silk
Next, we drove over to Pointe du Hoc
{Pointe du Hoc is a promontory with a 100 ft (30 m) cliff overlooking the English Channel on the coast of Normandy in northern France. During World War II it was the highest point between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. The German army fortified the area with concrete casements and gun pits. On D-Day (6 June 1944) the United States Army Ranger Assault Group assaulted and captured Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs.}

This area is still littered with enormous bomb craters.  It's hard to see how large they are in the pictures, but they were pretty impressive.
Bomb crater

The bombed out concrete bunkers are still there

It's too bad more people don't realize how amazing American history is!

 Lunch was a quick stop for Panini's:

 And then on to Omaha Beach.

 Realizing how far our troops had to run in wet clothes, carrying heavy equipment and under extreme enemy fire, was very sobering. Omaha is a VERY big beach.

We didn't spend a lot of time on Omaha Beach because we had one last thing to see.  The American Cemetery:

Hard to describe so I won't even try. I'll just say that I wish every single American could have the opportunity to visit.

That night we went back Bayeux for dinner. While walking around looking for a restaurant, we stopped at a little art gallery and I bought a small piece of pottery. It's very cute and joins my collection of other small pots, mostly from Japan. Maybe one day when we're rich and famous I'll be able to afford a pot bigger than my hand.  Maybe.

I ordered some sort of puff pastry with chicken and apples and mustard seeds on it and, to get you out of your suspense; yes, it was delicious.

Then back to our cozy lodgings for one more night...

Jun 11, 2014

European Vacation Day 2: Breakfast in Versailles, Dinner in Normandy

Tuesday morning at 6:30 am we arrived (a little early) at Charles de Gaulle airport in France. A few minutes later Wes and Tami arrived to pick us up. They had driven from Germany and stayed the night in Paris.

From the airport we headed straight to see Palace of Versailles.

Since I left a still-nursing baby at home with my sister, I had to take frequent breaks to pump. (and dump.) While Tami and I sat in the car chatting (and one of us pumping), Wes and Doug wandered off to find us some breakfast to eat in line.
Delicious success! Pain au Chocolat
Some yummy meringue thingy
That morning at Versailles, we bought a six day Paris Museum pass.  This was a very good investment and allowed us to skip some long lines later on.

Peaking down a roped-off hall

 The palace was very cool to walk through.  It was also extraordinarily crowded.
Just a few thousand of our closest friends
Marie Antoinette and her two oldest children
I think this may have been the chapel. Pictures are wonky because
they were taken over the heads of the unwashed masses.
One of the ceilings.  The art was incredible.
After touring inside the palace, we left and found some sandwiches and fizzy drinks in the charming town outside the grounds.

Back to Versailles to visit Marie Antoinette's "Hamlet". The Hamlet is a small village built on the grounds where she went to escape the rigors of court life.  But it's not exactly right next door.  

It was a chilly day but we had enough layers to keep us warm.

 We walked down through the courtyard and then rented bikes!


The Hamlet was extremely charming and I'm glad we got to explore and enjoy it.  
Next stop, Normandy!!

After leaving Versailles, we drove straight to our Bed and Breakfast. At least that's what I think we did.  I immediately fell asleep and missed seeing the beautiful French countryside.  
(At least I think it's beautiful.  I was asleep.)

We made a quick stop (at Le Clos des Pommiers in Tracy-sur-Mer) to check-in and change for dinner, and then went out again. 
Beautiful view of the grounds
Our happy and cozy room!
We drove to nearby Bayeux for dinner and wandered around for awhile trying to find a place that could seat us.  It is such an amazingly quaint and beautiful little town--I couldn't stop taking pictures. 
All decked out for the 70th anniversary of D-day

Eventually we settled on a little Creperie and had our first dinner in France.  
And it was amazing!
May I humbly suggest that if you're ever in that neighborhood, go to the same restaurant, and go ahead and get what I got! And may I also suggest that if you ever have the opportunity to have something smothered in creme fraiche, you take it!

This was the first of many times Wes and Tami had to translate menus for us.  They were very good sports about it and gave us some excellent recommendations.
Sweetened coconut on my desert crepe! Why didn't I think of that?!?!

It was a pretty full and magical first day in France. 
If I had had to rush home the very next morning, it would have been worth the trip.