Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Choosing to Jump

It's funny how when we were a year out from moving we'd research areas and apartments to get an idea of exactly where we'd be moving to and how much money it would cost us. Now, as our moving date is just around the corner, we barely even speak of it. We simply paint, clean, and pack away -- oh, and drink many glasses of wine at the end of the day.

On Saturday we met with our realtor to touch base and sign some paperwork. The ball is rolling. Tentative date for the house hitting the market is April 15th.

Three weeks away.

To say I'm freaking out is an understatement. It's going by so fast now. Too fast. It seems there is not enough time to get everything done. I'm feeling very overwhelmed. I worry how the kids will do-- sure, they're okay now, but what about when we start packing away their room? Pulling away from the house for the last time? These last 7 years have been in this house. So many memories were made here. It was a pain in the ass at times but it always made some sense in this crazy world; a security blanket. Of course I am second guessing our decision. I'm scared.

But, I tell myself we need to move on. We're all together. We're healthy. We love adventure and hate regrets. This decision has been a long time coming and pretty well thought out. It's like standing at the edge of a diving platform and having lots of time to think about your decision to jump or not. You fret and worry and have anxiety and second guess yourself. But then at one point you say 'fuck it!', and you either close your eyes, jump, and hope for the best, or you turn and walk away. So, we're jumping. Pinch my nose, close my eyes and hoping for the best.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Not My Deam

Here I sit on a Tuesday night, still recovering from yet another clip of harried renovation projects this past weekend that this house just continuously spits-up at us. I'll think we're almost done, and then I see the dirty walls (never even crossed my mind that walls actually get dirty until I had kids) and realize okay, they really do need to be repainted.

And so we painted the living and dining rooms. For the third time.

And now the sunroom needs some help. Then we still need to finish our master bath. And then the basement. The garage needs lot of cleaning. Then we need to make our yard all pretty and shit so people can envision their happy little lives here. I need to scrub the bathrooms on my hands and knees like Cinderella.

Oh my god will this ever end? The house isn't even on the market yet and I just want this to go away. I don't want this fucking house anymore. I don't want to clean it, fix it, or paint one more goddamn wall.

I'm already stressed out, and to top it off my dad is also in the hospital, so that doesn't help. It's times like this where I simply loathe this place. I want to go back in time and kick myself for buying this house. What the hell were we thinking?! I am beyond burnt out with all of this house crap. If we didn't need every cent in the bank for this move I'd sell this house for next to nothing just to get rid of it.

We have one month. One more month of working our asses off to get this house ready to be someone else's dream. This isn't my dream. This isn't what I want for me or my kids. It's a nice house I guess; it deserves some love, and I will gladly hand it over to somebody who will love it like I never could.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

If I Could Talk to Myself 7 Years Ago

Wouldn't that be nice? To be able to go back in time and warn yourself somehow and give yourself some good advice? Maybe hopefully avoid a giant screw up? And in a way that wouldn't completely freak your younger self out--like a mysterious letter or something. I'm sure we all have at least one time in our lives that we could have used the knowledge from what we have since learned, and today I'll share mine.

The time would be 7 years ago, while Jason and I lived in an apartment in the quaint town of Branford, CT with our son (an only at that point). Oh, how simple life seemed then. We feverishly scanned realtor.com daily and were dead-set on buying our first home because, well, raising children in an apartment? How irresponsible!

If I could slip a letter to my younger self, I'd tell myself to not do it. To please for the love of anything sacred in my life just step away from the computer, don't contact that realtor, and just shut the hell up about it all. Not only do I wish I could give myself advice from what I've learned over the years, I want to give it to you too. If you're currently renting or just even thinking about buying your first home, I have some unsolicited advice (well, you are on my blog, so maybe it is solicited... ).

So, here's my advice after being a homeowner for nearly 7 years:

First, a question, do I really own this home? Because last time I checked I was paying the bank every month, and if I don't pay, I get kicked out, much like if you don't pay rent. So... maybe I am renting it from the bank for 30 years with the bonus of painting without asking them for permission?

Do not buy a home if you are in debt. Seems pretty obvious when you hear somebody say it to you, but surprisingly we do it. I did it. I know people who have done it. And then we're even further down the hole. If you have a few hundred--or even just a few grand--in debt, then maybe that's not too bad. If you have a stable job with good income and a good amount (a really really good amount--I'll get to that next) in savings then have at it. You'd probably be okay. Maybe. But when I hear of so-and-so who buys a house with tens to hundreds(!!!) of thousands in debt, I can't help but cringe and feel terrified for them, followed by my mind being blown to the sheer irresponsibility, which is then followed by the realization and commiseration of that powerful societal pull and lure of owning a home. I've been duped too.

But really, if you are in debt don't do it. Those with large debts usually don't have a great amount in their savings account. Your house will need repairs and upkeep (and at some point a huge unforeseen expense), which all costs money, which will only add to your debt.

Do not buy a home if you don't have any savings! This one is tied in closely with the one above. If you don't have anything in savings--meaning not enough to live on for 6 months to 1 year without income--then step away from the realtor. Please.

We had "savings"when we bought this house. It was about $6,000--which we naively thought was enough--and it didn't do anything to save us from the unexpected. Jason's salary was cut, a huge hospital bill emerged, and some pretty big house repairs required our immediate attention.

Bye-bye savings account.

Hello living on credit cards and racking up debt.

It took us years to get out of that debt (and it's still not all gone!). It was stressful, frustrating, depressing, and at times terrifying. You may have a great paying job now, but what if your salary is cut? What if you lose your job? What if you need medical care and are left with a massive hospital bill? What if you need a new roof or electrical system? Maxing out credit cards for home repairs or renovations is foolish. And good luck trying to actually start saving money while trying to pay down debt and attempting to pay for house repairs or upkeep all at the same time. Houses are a huge money and time suck; if you can't give either one than you have no business buying one.

Don't buy if you can't put at least 20% down. Those first-time homebuyer programs are enticing, aren't they? You don't even need to put any money down when purchasing a home. We didn't. It sounded awesome at the time. The closing costs were wrapped into the mortgage--we didn't need to bring any money to the table.

Now I realize how terrible that is. Our mortgage would be a lot smaller if we had at least put 20% down. But honestly,I think that should be the absolute low-end. I think 35% would be even better, and in a perfect world--50% or just cash. If you are looking at those programs, don't fall for the 0% down jazz. If you can't put anything down on a home--say it with me now--you have no business buying a home. Why? Because if you can't put money down, you have no money. If you have no money, that means no savings. If you have no savings, you have no cash resource to protect yourself from the massive sinkhole of debt and the huge financial burden of homeownership.

The End.

If you are not ready to settle in an area for the long haul, do not buy. If you are still climbing that corporate ladder, not in love with the town, or totally unsure of your life plans, the last thing you should do is cement yourself in one area. Of course, this is what a house does. It prevents you from just up and moving to take-up new (and probably better) job offers or any other life situation that would require a hasty relocation.

Jason and I thought we'd live here for 5 years (at the most), fix it up a bit, and then sell it. You can't see me, but I'm laughing so hard right now. As if selling a house (for a PROFIT, mind you) is a given and oh-so-freaking-easy. What the hell were we thinking? Were we thinking at all? Sometimes I don't know; I think the ideal was the leader in this gem of a decision.

Do NOT settle. Jason and I knew we never really liked the town we bought in. We knew walkability and convenience was important to us. We knew we hated living in small and isolated areas far from public transit. But when we saw the house we could buy, we were smitten with the idea of it all. "Oh", we told ourselves, "it'll be okay. We'll have our own house, after all!"

Nope. After those highs wear off you are left with everything you hate. And then you'll have a house to take care of on top of it. If you know something is really important to you, do not settle on taking anything less.

Do not buy if you don't like a lot of responsibility. I'll admit it; I don't like a lot of responsibility. I like to keep my life simple and as stress free as possible. Why I have three kids, I don't know, but every other aspect of my life is kept as clutter-free as possible. I don't like to own a lot of stuff (that sounds like a house, and they're pretty big, too). I don't like owing people lots of money (hey--sounds like a house again with that hefty loan you have to pay back). I don't like having to keep throwing money at something that I hate (House). I don't like having to take care of something so intensely (again house--but it could be kids too... at least they grow-up, right? Oh, and that's why I have cats instead of dogs and I kill everything I try to grow).

So why in the world did I think buying this house was the right decision?!

I honestly don't know. But after all of this, I do know that houses are always needing something. They require a lot of your attention and bank account. You become enslaved to it. I don't like slavery.

So, if you are like me, you really have no business buying a house.


Those are my main sticking points, in a nutshell anyway. I could go on a tangent with this stuff. If you're wondering if I will ever buy again, the answer is maybe, but only if every single one of these requirements are met:

6 figures in our savings account--even after a down payment . Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Not if you live in one of the most expensive areas of the country with the most expensive real estate, want to be able to retire, help with college expenses, and to keep up with those damned house repairs.

We have enough money to put down. Yup. Not doing it otherwise. I'd really like to put down 50%. Being able to buy it outright would be even better. If that takes until I'm 90 then so be it.

It is not a single family home. I'm not worrying about a yard ever again.

I want to die there. I'll have to be living in a place I love so much that I could die naked in the middle of the street and be okay with it.


You won't listen to me. I probably wouldn't have listened to me either. I'd think, "That was just her experience with it; I know mine will be better! Besides, I am just dying to paint a room any color I want (I don't know why but that is always the #1 or #2 reason for buying a home I hear people rattle off)!" I guess that is the beauty about making mistakes and learning from them on your own.

So, future first-time homebuyer, good luck to you. If you don't want to take my advice, maybe at least let it take some space in your mind if only for a minute or two. But... even though advice is great, maybe the best thing really is just finding out for yourself. You might love it. You might get lucky. A letter from the future might be the worst thing right before you're about to make a mistake. I mean, that's life right? Learning from your mistakes and making changes. Besides, if there was a letter sent to you from your future self right before every big mistake, that would surely be a lot of letters.









Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Two Months!?

So here it is, January 2015. It's strange, but when it was December--just last month-- this whole moving thing seemed years away. Now, since it's January, time seems to be in warp speed mode and it just crept up on us.

We are putting the house on the market in about two months. That seems like nothing considering all that's still on our list. We are almost done with the ceiling, but then there is the garage, the master bath, and just decluttering and cleaning. Did I mention cleaning? Ugh. The worst part in my opinion. If there is one thing I hate it's deep cleaning, though it does feel awesome after its actually done.

I still can't believe this is really upon us; it's crunch time. Finally!

In other news, my first guest post is up on the Family Friendly Cities site. I'm really looking forward to contributing more--especially as we're transitioning into an urban lifestyle. It should be interesting so stay tuned.

I'm nervous. Excited. Overwhelmed (feeling mostly this right now with the sale of our house looming overhead). My mind is going a mile a minute with all we have to tackle before spring, but I need to remember to take a deep breath and just put one foot in front of the other.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Another Year

This will be my last post of 2014. It's not really due to being a terribly non-consistent blogger (okay, well, maybe a little), but because it's the holidays and all things family, friends, presents, and eating will ensue until next year begins. Starting on Wednesday, the kids are out of school and Jason is on vacation until January 5th. Not to mention Jason works from home tomorrow too (I swear he has the best boss ever). We're all getting 12 wonderful days together.

There are so many things for me to be grateful about. This past year actually didn't suck. It was productive and reflective. For the first time in years I am actually happy. We are not drowning in debt; there are no health issues; Mason is getting the therapies he needs; we are planning for our future. After what seemed like forever living under a dark cloud and almost losing everything, this year was amazing.

One goal I've accomplished this year was finally--after 13 years--get my Associate's degree. I started college in 2001. Yes, freaking 2001 when I was 21 years old. After moving across country countless times, having babies, retaking courses, changing majors, and losing some credits I finally finished. So, 2 years of school took 13, but at least I finished (the first in my family to get any college degree). I will probably continue at some point but right now I don't even want to hear the word school.

Another great personal accomplishment this year; remember my exercise regimen I started back in May? Well, I'm still at it. Jason is at it too and he is looking fantastic. He actually lost a ton of weight and gained back some long lost muscle. My weight loss and toning has been a bit slower though. It's been a little annoying--especially as I see the pounds practically melting off my significant other--but I know overall men lose weight faster than women (thank you monthly hormonal fluctuations) and I'm getting there. I've been pretty active my whole life, but I've always--always--stopped working out and caring how I ate right around the holidays and then would pick it up again in late spring. I doubt it's a coincidence. Holidays = lots and lots of awesome FOOD! And for us, cold weather of course. It would always cause me to shrug my shoulders and just get lazy about it all. Then I was always playing catch up in the spring. This time it's different.  I think the key is we're motivating each other. Earlier this month I was busy with finals, got walloped with a nasty virus, home reno, and just getting wrapped-up (pun intended) in the holidays, and usually this would mean just stop with the exercise and healthier diet. Not to mention the cold weather and it getting dark by 5. This time I had Jason telling me to get off of my butt because I'd feel better for it. And he was always right. I do the same for him too, and now I feel we are a united front on this. Not only am I (finally) seeing and feeling physical benefits from this, but I also feel great mentally--better than I have in years. My energy is also returning. And for the first time ever I will not be playing catch up this spring!

Now on to the house. The renovations are moving along, slowly, but moving nonetheless. We finally finished putting all the drywall up onto the ceiling. It was hard work and we had some setbacks due to a really nasty virus that hung around for two weeks, but the dirty part is done (those tiles were beyond gross). Next is taping, sanding, painting, and crown moulding. Who knows when that will happen, but hopefully soon as our goal for placing our house on the market is March (or April. Probably April... ). After the ceiling is the master bath, which is mostly just some painting and heavy duty cleaning, and then clearing everything out with a massive dumpster. After that its; just small things here and there. We're pretty much at the end of it all and it feels great.



This Christmas will be our last one here in this house that we've made a home over the course of 6 years. It's a mixed bag of emotions for sure, but I'm hopeful. We're all hopeful and looking forward. This year was great and I'm anticipating 2015 unlike any other. But for now, I'm just savoring these last days of 2014 with my favorite people in the whole wide world.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cities Are For Families Too!

Recently I came across an website called Family Friendly Cities. Their mission is to engage residents, families, city planners & public officials to make cities more hospitable to raising families and allowing residents to age in place rather than flee to the suburbs. Instead of moving out to the far suburbs for more space or better schools for your kids, why not stay in the city and help make it a place where your children can grow, spread out and thrive? Why not help and work towards improving local public schools?

This is the stance of Family Friendly Cities, and one I believe in as well. They are also featuring urban families and those who have made or plan to make the transition into urban life after living in the suburbs--like us. Today our family was featured, and I plan to make some guest posts in the future regarding living and raising kids in the suburbs, as well as during and after our transition. There will be more families featured every month and there is also a survey for you to take so be sure to check it out!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Things I Will Miss: Sherwood Island State Park

Is there anything better than walking the beach in mid-fall? I think not. It's the best of both worlds: it's still gorgeous, but not crowded or steaming hot. Also--it's FREE (In case some of you aren't aware (like those of you on the west coast) we have to actually pay to gain access to our beaches over here--sometimes almost $20 a car!).

By far,our favorite beach while we've been living here in Connecticut has been Sherwood Island in Westport. It is a massive space with the perfect mixture of sand, beach, grass, trees, and hiking trails. We often go during the off-season and enjoy a picnic, hiking, and just taking in the breathtaking views. 

I will definitely miss this place when we move. I thought about it yesterday as Jason and I leisurely strolled behind the kids who were excitedly blazing the way on the hiking trail. I brought it up to him, and he agreed. So many great family memories were made here--are being made here. Yesterday was another one of those great days. We had a little picnic, hiked, collected shells and rocks on the beach; we ended up staying for a little over 2 hours. 

Hopefully, there will be more of Sherwood Island that we'll be able to cram into the next 8 months. After that, we'll just be left with photos.  



Empty beaches are the best


Closed for the season


We got a picture of her with me actually SMILING! I'm treasuring this one!


BTW, Hannah lost her first tooth. You can tell in this pic. ;)



Father and daughter.


November.









I LOVE this tree. Every time we go there I just have to take multiple
pictures of it.



Hannah took this one!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

November




I love November. There is something undeniably gorgeous about it. I love the way the colors of the leaves are darker; only layers of burgundy, deep orange, gold, and rich browns remain. The way the sun shines through the windows, leaving shadows stretching across the floor; the way it bathes the woods in gold.

These shadows are always the same. They leave me with a deep, longing nostalgia every time. Every sunny, gorgeous late November afternoon as the sun settles lower in the sky, I feel that longing that makes me pause. It's those damn shadows that are cast onto the floor, or wherever I am at the time. These shadows are always at the same angles, the same lines.

I'm brought back to my childhood home. November. The days colder and shorter, yet gorgeous and golden. We were all stuck inside together, extending into each other's space. There was a pot roast in the oven (always on a Sunday), and football on the T.V. These memories seem so simple, yet are so dear to me.

Sometimes I long to get back to that place in my mind, but it's not because I want to be a kid again. I think it's because we were all still young and healthy.

And together.

Now, mom is dead. My dad is, well, just there; living in the past. That house has changed. All of those spaces empty. Though those shadows still crawl through the windows and across the floor every November, I wonder if my dad sees them. I wonder if those familiar angles and lines bring him back in time, too.

I've always loathed when older parents told me to "enjoy it now", or that the kids get harder as they grow so embrace their youth. But, I think I might know what they mean when they say that. Maybe they mean enjoy it now while we are all still together. While we are all healthy and our family has really just begun. Enjoy it before they fly the nest, before they have their own lives and children; before I'm dead and gone.

So I try. It's difficult sometimes when it's the 13th hour and it's been nothing but tantrums, but I try to remember I'm making my own November--their November. These will be their memories. What will they think of them? What will they miss? What bit of nostalgia will  bring them back?

Someday in the near future, I will be with my sisters again in our childhood home, but it will be a somber gathering. After my dad dies, the house will be empty, and we'll need to go and inventory everything, take apart and away; dismantle. What a strange feeling that will be. We'll be taking apart the life that my mother and father built.

That will happen to us, too. Someday.

But for now, I'm here. We're all here. Still young and healthy. Our family young and open to life's possibilities. It's now time for our Sunday dinners; our lazy late afternoons; our season. Our November.























Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Ceiling's the Limit

There is a little more than 4 months left before our goal time of putting the house on the market. During the summer it seemed we had all of this time and we put off a lot of projects. Now it's fall, and time is speeding by and we still have a good amount of things to finish before we can even consider the house market-ready.

For instance, below is a picture of our next project. Actually, it's been "our next project" since late August. But here it is, October, and there it still sits.



It'll get done. Someday...

We need to take down the horrific (and damaged) acoustic tile and put up drywall. Honestly, I am looking forward to this project about as much as I'd look forward to getting all of my teeth pulled without anesthesia. We researched, purchased tools--even bought a nifty drywall lift. Still, it sits there, taking up space and becoming a both a stage and a truck stop for Ethan's trucks.

It's just we are so done with this house and planning and anticipating this move and just want to get the fuck on with it. These past few months have also been full of typical stress in the form of school, ER trips for Hannah's asthma attacks (thankfully we finally have or own nebulizer system at home!), and countless meetings and fretting over Mason's IEP process at school (actually, tomorrow is the day where we find out if Mason qualifies for an IEP or not. Ugh). I'm just physically and emotionally spent. The last thing I want to do on the weekend is rip down acoustic tile--especially when that is the only time we really get to enjoy any time together.

But, enough with the excuses. I know we need to get this done, We will. We promised ourselves we'd at least have the ceiling up by Thanksgiving. Not the taping, sanding or crown moulding, but the ceiling. That's better than nothing, right? And then it's our bathroom and the huge task of cleaning out the garage that's pretty much been our storage and makeshift dumpster for the past few years. Yeah-- it's pretty scary in there.

We're so close to the finish line. Just waiting for that last push to get us there.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Lure of an In-Town Greenwich Farmhouse

One such gorgeous goddess of an 1890 farmhouse.
I knew we shouldn't have. I knew it would tempt me and throw a wrench into our very direct plans. For two years we knew where we moving and exactly why, but after this weekend I'm not as sure anymore.

This past weekend we went to a few open houses in downtown Greenwich. Yes. Houses. Single family homes. I hate them, remember?

Oh my god, these houses. Not anything spectacular like brand new gargantuan  mansion material (most of those are in the country far from downtown anyway), but absolutely gorgeous in-town farmhouses. The kind that remind you of New England and all that is great about it. Right smack-dab in the middle of downtown. With sidewalks. Within walking distance to the train. And restaurants. And a movie theater. And a pharmacy. And school. And... and... you get the picture.

We've lived in Greenwich before. We moved from Boston and were looking for an apartment downtown that would be an easy commute to White Plains for Jason's work. We had a modest one bedroom basement apartment. I fell in love with Greenwich; we both did. We lived there from the end of my pregnancy with Mason up until he was 8 months old. I missed it so much.

Now, we can actually buy something in downtown, and looking at some of these houses yesterday opened up a little doubt in my mind about moving to Brooklyn instead of staying in Connecticut. It was just so damned tempting actually seeing and visualizing a life there like I had dreamed of for years after we left. Now that dream could actually come to fruition, we don't want it as much. Figures, right?

Jason's commute would be about 1 1/2 hours until his office moves into Manhattan again (whenever that will be), and once back in Manhattan just under 1 hour. The best part would be we could get rid of one car, and he could actually walk to the train station. We'd also be closer to family than if we moved out of state.

But then I think about the repairs, the upkeep (uh, especially 100 year old farmhouses), and just it not being New York City. I try to think about what's best for our family. What's best for the kids? Us?

First world problems, I know, I know. I just wish I had a crystal ball that would tell me what to do. We're going along with getting the house market-ready, and in 6 short months it's go time. I hate not having a direct, sure, concrete goal. I thought I had one, but after this weekend it went a little hazy.




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