Sunday, July 3, 2016

7 Independence Day takes


Happy Fourth of July to my American readers!  It's not my favorite holiday, mainly because I don't care for loud bangs going on all night.  And of course American patriotism can sometimes take on a jingoistic tone that I really don't like.  I love my country and don't want to live anywhere else, but I also think that criticizing it is part of the point.  "Love it or leave" is cult language, not American openness.

On the other hand I used to love the Fourth of July a lot because it was the time of our family's reunion.  My great-grandfather's birthday was nearby, so we would celebrate both together.  G-gpa would put on his ridiculous 1920's bathing suit, take out his hearing aids, and leap in the freezing lake.  Nobody else would be brave enough to get in the water, except me!

After G-gpa died, the reunions shrank down a bit, but we still had them.  I have so many great memories of swimming with my second and third cousins, the stomp rocket contest, the water balloon toss, the push-the-marshmallow-with-your-nose race.  (Having the Clarke profile -- i.e. a big nose -- really helps with that one.)  The last time I went, my grandpa was starting to decline from cancer.  It was the only time I've seen him less than a glowing picture of energy and health.  He had a brave face and a good attitude, but he confided that his doctors weren't trying to cure him anymore, just to give him time.

He rallied enough to participate in the paddleboat race -- the main event of the day -- and I was lucky enough to be his partner.  Despite his illness and my inexperience, we won!  For a moment I couldn't help but think, maybe this means he isn't really going to die.

That was the last time I saw my Grandpa.  I sobbed as we pulled away from their house.  I knew there was no way I could afford to fly back out anytime soon, but I also knew I'd never be ready to say goodbye.  He was a special person and things just aren't the same without him.

*clears throat* Anyway, it makes the "Glorious Fourth" not a huge thrill for me these days.


So I haven't given you all any updates on our house situation!  When we finally got it on the market -- a process that took longer than I would have thought -- it sold in three days for our asking price.  What a relief -- especially as attempting to keep it clean for people to look at it, and finding places for us to go during showings, were both extremely difficult with these kids.  I would kick them outside to clean the house for a showing, go out to check on them, and they'd be drawing on the outside of the house with charcoal.  I am kind of amazed we managed, especially as I've felt very lethargic lately.

I thought that meant our worries were behind us, though, and they really weren't.  First we had to bid on the house we wanted, and had to hold our breath for quite some time because someone else almost got it away from us.  Then our house had its inspection, and that was nervewracking too.  The inspector spent three hours checking every last thing, as if eager to find something, anything, he could ruin the deal with.

The roof, we already knew we had to fix, and that wiped out most of our savings.  The inspector found a cracked pipe, too, and insisted we hire a plumber to send a camera down to inspect the rest of the line.  More problems were found, and we had to drop almost a thousand more dollars to fix it.  (That went on the credit card, ugh.  Though we should be able to pay that off before it accrues any interest.)  And the inspector also was concerned about the foundation.  Nothing specific, he just was "concerned"!  The buyers demanded we hire an engineer to look at it -- $750 just for an assessment!  The assessment came out just fine, so we thought we could breathe out.  The engineer said that it might be good to pour a little concrete at the base of one column, and we thought, "That doesn't sound so bad.  We could get that done for cheap."

Well, despite having an engineer's recommendation -- the recommendation they insisted we get! -- the buyers still weren't sure.  (When I say "the buyers" I really mean the buyer's agent.  I really like the lady who is buying our house, but she has never owned a home before and I think the agent and inspector are teaming up to freak her out, for whatever reason.)  They wanted more work done.  And they wanted the plans to be drawn up by an engineer ($$$) and the work to be inspected by an engineer after (more $$$).  Now we've found a contractor to do the work, and she says because the work is being planned by an engineer, that puts us into a category of work that needs a permit and the permit will take weeks to get.  It's just one ridiculous thing after another.  And all that money is going to come out of the proceeds for the house -- which, between the down payment on the new house, the realtor's fee, and paying off what's left of our mortgage, doesn't leave a lot of leeway.  We thought we would have enough money out of this house to pay down our car loan, but NOPE.  I just hope we have enough money left to buy a washer and dryer for our new house.  I'm not really keen on washing our family's copious laundry in the tub ... again.


I am just staggered by the unprofessionalism of all the contractors we've dealt with.  It seems to be everyone's habit to say "we'll be out there tomorrow" every day for weeks.  The roofers said they could get the work done in time for our inspection, and they didn't even start until two weeks later!  Then it took them over a week to finish what they said was a two-day job.  Not because they spent a week working on it, but because they would come, work for awhile, and then vanish and not come back for days.

The roofing work has been the worst for me.  The kids couldn't play outside because they might have gotten hit by roofing material or poked by nails.  And the constant banging was like a nail file on my nerves.  I felt anxious and starting having trouble breathing again, like I had a few months ago.  But, at last, it is finished.  Now we just have to pick dozens of nails out of the yard.

We had to deal with some unethical plumbers, too.  They gave us an initial guess of $5000 to fix our waste line, and then the official estimate was $3000 -- I guess to make it feel like we were getting a bargain.  But another company came out and did it for $950.  So I'm not sure what the extra couple thousand were supposed to be for -- John's guess is, they saw the "for sale" sign and figured we were in too much of a hurry to get a second opinion.


I have to acknowledge that it could be a whole lot worse.  We feared the engineer would find serious structural damage in the foundation, which could have cost tens of thousands to fix.  It would have not only destroyed our sale, but made the house unsellable for the kind of money we needed to get for it.

Or we could have lost the house we want to buy, if our house had sold even a day slower.  To me that wouldn't have been a huge deal; there are other nice houses.  But John was extremely attached to this one.  And I have to admit it's very nice.  It's over twice as big as this one; it has a room we could use as a playroom; it has a dishwasher and a vegetable garden with blueberry bushes.  And it's on a quiet street that's on the end of town closer to John's work, so it will shave a little time off his commute.

Really, we're very lucky that things have gone as smoothly as they have.


I'll miss this place, though.  I have a lot of happy memories here.  Of course we never meant to stay long, but knowing that hasn't stopped me from sending down roots.  I love spending time in the back yard, or under the plum tree.  I hate the thought that we might be gone before my tomatoes get ripe.

It's hard to imagine waking up in the morning in the new place, wandering downstairs, getting breakfast.  Where will I drink my tea?  I have a spot here to drink my tea, at my desk which faces out the front window toward the rising sun.  The new place faces west.  So where will I put my desk?  Or will I want to sit at the dining room table?  I just don't know.  It's weird to think about.

I like continuity in my life.  If there is to be change, I want it to be one thing at a time, while the rest of my life stays the same to buoy me up.  But my life has never changed like that.  It's involved a lot of getting into airplanes and flying across the country with two suitcases.  I have more continuity in my life now, to be sure -- I have my family to come with me wherever I go.  But the kids, of course, just keep growing and changing.  It feels like trying to hold onto a river.


Part of the nostalgia in all this comes from going through our stuff.  Of course we've had to go through our attic and throw as much stuff as possible out -- we don't want to move with dozens of old copies of The Philadelphia Bulletin and a broken tennis racket.  But it's hard.  John does it with ease, consigning whole boxes of books to the giveaway box and bags of old letters to the trash.  Not I.  I wistfully look through folders of old college notes and sketches of scenes from novels I was writing and poems in made-up languages, and I can't part with a thing.  I do try.  I threw out some old stuck-together letters from boarding school and some cards we got at our wedding.  But that caused a pang and maybe I shouldn't have.  I've got enough change in my life right now!

I've read articles about the KonMari method and how you're supposed to get rid of anything that doesn't spark joy.  Admit you'll never read those books, wear those clothes, whatever.  The thing is that my stuff really does spark joy.  Old journals?  Letters?  Notes John and I passed to each other in class?  So much joy.  I readily get rid of old clothes, but most everything else stays.  Even jewelry, despite the fact that I never wear jewelry.  I like to take it out and look at it and remember the people who gave it to me.

I read an article about tattoos lately, saying that it's just a desperate grasp for commitment in a world where nobody gets married and everybody gets divorced.  (Most people still get married.  Most marriages last.  C'mon, people.)  But someone commented that it's hard enough that so many things have to change, even if you do have real commitments in your life, and a tattoo is something you can always take with you, no matter what happens to your other stuff.  And I get that.  I'm still scared of needles, but it is a tempting idea.


I feel ... eh.  Not horrible.  I feel randomly sad some days.  I have very little energy right now but hopefully that will pick up soon when I get into the second trimester.  Food still sucks.  I hate it all.  Well, that's not true.  A lot of it sounds delicious and then I feel ill afterward.  Fatty things make me feel like I ate some bad sushi.  Acidic things give me heartburn.  Vegetables sit in my stomach like a pile of rocks and then I get bloated.  Dairy makes me gag.  Bread, crackers, and ramen noodles are acceptable, but you can't live like that!  So I try to plan very carefully what I'm going to eat and then eat teeny tiny portions of everything.

My stomach's pickiness has caused a lot of wasted food.  Well, really, it's Miriam who causes that, it's just that I'm used to eating her leftovers and lately I can't make myself do it.  She will come up saying "I hungee, I hungee."  I offer a million things and finally she picks one.  She has a bite, throws it on the floor or gives it to the dog, and then comes back: "I hungee, I hungee."  If I physically feed her, she'll eat more.  I remember Marko having a stage like that too, where he would starve to death if you didn't put the food in his mouth for him.  I guess it's just an almost-two thing.

I suspect the lack of eating is why she is sleeping so badly.  I'll put her to bed at eight and she'll wake up at 9:30 or ten, go back to sleep in her bed, and then wake up again around midnight.  At that point I just bring her to my bed because I've had bad luck trying to get her back into her bed that far into the night.  But I do not like sleeping with her all night.  She always lies on my arm and it falls asleep.  I want to work on getting her to sleep better, but that's always a challenge because to get a child to sleep better, you generally have to sacrifice your own sleep for awhile.  I'm barely functional as it is!  So I'm saving it for after we move.

I finally got around to contacting the midwife.  I'm getting the same one as last time, because we were very happy with her work -- or, honestly, her nonwork.  A midwife is someone who can be trusted to sit back and NOT do anything when she doesn't need to do anything.  But she also said all the right things at the right times, and basically seems competent and confident.  She brings calm and positivity into a room.

I feel anxious about my first appointment with her, which will be in a couple of weeks.  Till I hear the heartbeat, I don't feel that sure that we are even having a baby.  Something in the back of my head keeps bugging me that something is wrong.  On the other hand that may be just my anxiety talking.  If I can finally hear the heartbeat, I think I'll be able to put those thoughts to bed and start focusing on actually planning for a real baby.

Happy Fourth of July weekend, all.   Hope you are having a pleasant one.

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