First, the house news! After many nail-biting moments, we finally did close on both houses. The old house (henceforth to be called Dunsinane House for clarity's sake, since I'm not going to give you the address) was sold for its asking price, although we had to pour quite a bit of money into the repairs. The buyer, a young woman buying her first home, seemed unbelievably suspicious. Not only did she insist on many different repairs, but even after the work was done she (or rather, her agent) would pick apart the invoices and demand they be redone because they weren't worded properly, or didn't have seals on them, or whatever. It was kind of ridiculous and I felt like we were being given the third degree, with threats to back out at the last minute if all their demands weren't met.
In the end, though, we found out the real trouble was that the buyer's father was convinced his daughter was making a huge mistake. He was sure that since the house was inexpensive, old, and in the town it's in, it must be falling apart. So he constantly questioned everything, which is why his daughter got spooked and demanded so much extra stuff. I don't really regret selling the house to her, despite the trouble -- at least our house is going to someone who is excited about it and plans to take good care of it.
Dealing with all the repairs, though ... was a headache and a half. It seems that a contractor who does a good job, at a reasonable price, at the time he said he'd do it, is rarer than diamonds. We had roofers whose price wasn't that great, but who promised they could get the job done that week, before our inspection got done. Nope, took them a MONTH, they added extra money onto their bill that we never agreed on, we had to keep calling them back to put our bathroom vent back on, and after the fact we found out their price was about a thousand dollars more than another company would have done.
(I never ever ever in my life want to be in a house that is getting the roof worked on again. Constant bangs and crashes left me jumping out of my skin, and I actually started to have trouble breathing. I have always known that it would be idiocy for me to have a job working with, say, explosives or jet engines, but now I am SURE. My system just can't take loud noises.)
The plumbing was an even bigger headache. The first guy we had come out diagnosed the problem, a cracked waste line which had some sort of break or tangle under our front lawn, but wasn't authorized to give an estimate -- but he thought five grand at least. We had his boss out to give the real estimate and got $3500. Better, but still, quite a bit more than we could afford considering the other repairs we had to do at the same time. Finally we got a different company out and they agreed to do it for $900. Sweet deal!
Only, it wasn't really a sweet deal because after they fixed the pipe, we started to get water in the cellar. The first time, they thought it was because they'd left the old pipe in place and the water was getting in through there. (Seems reasonable, and also WHY did they leave it in place?) But instead of taking it out, they plugged it up and said it would be fine now. Nope, more water. They came out again, dug the yard up again, and found they had somehow broken the fresh-water line, which was gushing water out. (Oh dear.) I thought for sure that would be the end of it, and we set to drying out the cellar, when one day we found fresh puddles. I did some sleuthing of my own (that is, running faucets and then running down to the cellar to check the pipes) and found out that the sink was the actual culprit. The drain of the sink was never hooked up to the new waste line, it was hooked up to the OLD waste line, which of course was hanging right out into the cellar and dripping the water right out onto the floor. Once I told the plumbers the problem, they were able to fix it in an hour. But seriously, that's FOUR visits for one repair. They always came back promptly and didn't charge us for the further visits, which was the honest thing to do, and that's why I haven't given them a horrible review calling them nasty names. But .... I wouldn't hire them again. I'd pay for the monstrously expensive guys and hope that the extra money would get me some competence.
On to the new house -- which I'll call here Powhatan House, for the same reason as the other pseudonym. It really is gorgeous. John's the one who really fell in love with it, whereas I ... well, I keep dreaming of a house in the country with the cows and everything, a dream that gets further away all the time. But I have to admit, it's a nice house, larger than we thought we'd be able to afford, in a pleasant neighborhood a little closer to John's work than the old one. There's nothing to really dislike about it. I just hope I feel at home there.
What gave me hope that it is the right house for us is that is has great gardens, both edible and ornamental. Here's a picture of the back of the house -- note the chimney (two working fireplaces!), deck, and screen porch.
It's a split-level -- living room, dining room, and kitchen on the main level, where the entry is; family room and play room downstairs, and bedrooms upstairs. It has my non-negotiable features -- more than one bathroom, and .... a dishwasher! It does not have central air, which is a real downer, but of course that can be fixed eventually.
Anyway, so we were under contract for this house and things were going great. But then two weeks before the closing, we got bad news: the appraisal had come back for $10,000 less than the agreed-upon price, and the bank was not willing to let us buy it for more than the appraised price unless we made up the difference in cash. Of course we didn't have the cash because we spent all our cash fixing up Dunsinane House. And we couldn't redo the whole loan (trying to make our down payment smaller so that we could have some cash left to make up the difference) because there wasn't time before we would have to move. We tried to bargain with the sellers to bring the price down, but they refused to budge even a little, because they were convinced our appraiser was wrong and their house was worth more than that. We tried to get the appraiser to adjust the appraisal, but after making us wait over a week, they denied the claim. We had a week before we closed on Dunsinane House and two weeks before we would be homeless, and the whole deal on Powhatan House was falling apart. We looked at other houses but everything else in our price range sucked, and anyway, you can't buy a house in two weeks unless you've got the whole price in cash. So we were looking at short-term rentals where we could live while we continued looking. I felt like everything was collapsing around us.
And then, miracle of miracles, the bank suddenly "put us in a special program" wherein they'd agree to the original terms of the loan. It seemed to be because we and our realtor harassed them so much, pointing out that leaving us with so little time to spare was entirely their fault, and they figured it was best to placate us rather than being That Bank that destroyed our homeowning dreams. Or whatever. At any rate, we were back on to close right on time, and that was the last complication -- we signed the papers and now own the new place!
We don't actually move till Friday, because the old owners of Powhatan House needed time to arrange their new housing in another state, so we are technically renting Dunsinane House from the lady who bought it and the old owners of Powhatan House are renting from us.
The closer we get to the move, the more trepidatious I feel. What if I don't feel at home there? What if it's actually harder to keep track of the kids in so much space? What if I find myself desperately wishing we'd never moved, that we'd just put up wtih living here two more years so we could have gotten out to the country?
On to the kids. They have not been at their best at all lately, probably because of the chaos in their lives (on this day, you can't play outside so the roofers don't drop things on you! on that day, we can't be home at all because there is an inspection! on the other day, we can stay home but we can't flush the toilet! also, all your toys are packed up!) and perhaps also because I haven't been pouring positive emotional attention into them the way I'm supposed to do. This, more than anything, is the part that shatters me about having kids so close together -- that I change from the mother who enjoys spending time with her kids and snuggling them and answering their million questions, to the mother who's hunched in a chair begging them to please, please, not touch or talk to her. I do try to force myself out of that zone, but it's hard. I just want to be alone and quiet so much.
Anyway, in that vein, instead of talking about all the many misadventures the kids have gotten up to lately, I want to talk about the good side of each kid. I don't want to forget this stuff.
Marko is so brilliant these days. He reads more and more fluently, still only the easiest kind of easy readers the library has, but definitely real books. He reads Little Bear and Mouse Soup and Pete the Cat. Sometimes I can't read with him so he sits and tries to puzzle them out for himself -- yelling out every minute or so, "How do you pronounce T-H-R-O-U-G-H?" Reading with him is difficult because Miriam insists on being on my lap and will try to grab the book away. And Michael gets on the other side of me and tries to "read" just by guessing from context. But I try to do it every day because technically, we are really homeschooling this year, and because when a child is able and interested in a subject, you have to jump on it THEN, not later.
(Some of these "easy readers," though, I question their vocabulary. One story began with the sentence, "The two friends would often take a walk." No big deal to you or me, but that adds up to only THREE words that follow the rules and FIVE that don't. Way to make a kid give up on the first sentence because he thinks the whole story is going to be that hard.)
John finished reading The Hobbit to the boys and is now reading, by Marko's demand, The Fellowship of the Ring. I think it's waytheheck over their heads, but Marko is super excited. I track their progress by what they pretend each day. Lately it's Barrow Wights and Tom Bombadil. Marko has a "one Ring" he made out of a twist tie, but that wasn't good enough so he got me to make him this one:
It makes me so happy seeing him pick up all his parents' obsessions.
Michael ... poor Michael. He's almost always the problem child, and when he's not, he's just the middle child whose achievements never seem like a big deal because Marko's done all that stuff for years. But he is a delight all the same. He's in that four-year-old stage where their love language is having you attempt to answer a million hypothetical questions: What if we were walking in the woods in the dark and there were bears? What if the sun came down to the earth? What would happen if a germ ate my sandals?
It gets super annoying when it goes on constantly. Especially in the car: Why can't we drive on the other side of the road? What would happen if we did? Why are there lines on the road? Why is that car blinking its yellow light? The same questions are repeated every trip and he doesn't pay that much attention to the answers, he just wants my attention.
On the other hand, he's so adorable that one is willing to put up with a lot. He still has kind of a lisp and his gap-toothed smile is just ridiculously cute.
And 85% of the time he is a really, really sweet big brother. He loves to get Miriam involved in his games. He gives her hugs and kisses and tries to get her to sit on his lap. It's adorable to watch.
Miriam gets cuter every day. I try not to pick favorites but HOW COULD I NOT? Not only is she almost two, which is Peak Cute in my opinion, but she's learning all kinds of new and adorable tricks. For instance, she likes to play complicated pretend games now: all the steps for what you do with a baby, all the steps for making dinner. Today she was packing up her toys in bags and carrying them to different rooms, saying she was "moving to the new house." It's the cutest thing in the world.
She is annoyingly helpful, in the sense that I am not allowed to wash dishes, do a load of laundry, or make dinner without her involvement. She drags over a chair and "helps." And she really wants to actually help -- she's not just splashing in the water or tasting the food. She wants to do exactly what I am doing. Unfortunately, she's no good at most chores so she makes more work for me while at the same time making me feel overstimulated and overwhelmed because even housework, a usually kid-free activity, has become this exhausting Montessori thing. I am sure it's for the best, as long as she doesn't lose interest in helping the instant she becomes competent, but boy would I rather do chores by myself right now.
Her obsession with cooking extends to her preferred shows. She will pass up kid shows for a chance to watch "show foodie," meaning shows in which people cook. She enjoys the YouTube channel "Tasty" and in the evenings before bed we watch Parts Unknown. Food plus travel, what's not to like? Well, the part where I finish the show with the munchies, walk into the kitchen, and find the food in my kitchen is not at all like the stuff Anthony Bourdain was just eating. But I mean, other than that.
Of course she has hit the terrible twos lately, in conjunction with my milk mostly drying up so that she spends all day climbing on me, very difficult to settle down or console. Nights are sometimes great and sometimes simply awful -- we will be nightweaning after we move. She's moved from extreme independence (refusing to hold my hand in parking lots and throwing fits when I insist) to extreme neediness (demanding to be held the entire time we are out and refusing to walk anywhere). You know. Standard two-year-old stuff. That's why they are so cute, to make up for how hard they are.
But man, listening to her talk. She'll go on for some time telling a story she remembers of something that happened to her: "I fell down! I hurt my cheek. I cried. Mama put bandaid on. Feel better! Got back on merry-go-round." I'm pretty sure this is an advanced level of talking for an under-two. I wish I could share a video, but she never obliges for the camera. She's too interested in looking at herself. Here's a photo though:
She's also every bit as affectionate as Michael, if not more so. She loves kisses and hugs and often says, "I like you Mama. I like you Mama." If someone is sad she tries to figure out how to cheer them up.
And baby? Baby is for-sure alive -- I heard the heartbeat yesterday. I'm relieved, and relieved that I feel relieved instead of disappointed. I feel like every child deserves to be wanted, even if they aren't. I still don't exactly want a baby. But I definitely don't want a dead baby, and at this point those are the only choices.
I feel pretty okay these days. I had a week of crushing headaches, though I think those are just the standard ones I get in stormy weather rather than a symptom. And my back was giving me a lot of trouble for awhile there, but I started being extra careful with it -- never kneeling, never lying on my back -- and it's mostly okay now. I mostly do not feel depressed or anxious, but I do feel hyper-sensitive to sensory things. I wish I knew what causes that. I do know that in past pregnancies, weaning or partially weaning always helped. Perhaps it's a depletion thing. I take vitamins already, but if there were some tablet I could be taking that would make me no longer want to tear my skin off when Miriam wants to sit on my lap and be fidgety .... that would be great.
I expect my next update will be from our new house!