Monday, May 26, 2008

Ask, And Ye Shall Receive

My cynicism about out "stink problem" was unwarranted.

Late last night I finally submitted our official notification that we had a problem. By today (a holiday, no less) the property management company had already notified the owner, who called and left us a very apologetic message.

Guess what? It smells like sewer's the sewer! When the owner bought the house, she smelled it too. Turned out there is some capacity or fit problem between the sewer and the old house, so there is a filter that needs to be changed by the city every so often. And the time has come. The owner is letting the city know and we should be back in business in no time.

What a relief. The house will not collapse or give us mold poisoning (as far as we know.) There will be no opening of walls to investigate, disrupting our lives indefinitely. No mystery. A simple fix. I can't tell you how thankful I am.

So, hey! As soon as the city takes care of it, we are all set for visitors. You can even have a shower and eat a meal without fear of odor-induced nausea, unless my addled mental state leads to a cooking mishap.

It's nice to know that we can stay put and enjoy the things that originally made us excited to live in this house while looking for our next place to land. Fantastic.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Extremely Mixed Emotions

We sold our house. Well, it's under contract, anyway, to close by June 30th.

With this sale we lost about half of the equity we'd gained from our previous house purchase and sale. I won't lie, that hurts. Nothing like selling one's house for waaaay less than one paid for it to beat down one's pride. It's embarrassing.

On the other hand, we sold our house in what is certainly the most difficult market for sellers since we've been old enough to be in the housing market. It sold to two MD's who could have certainly afforded a nicer house, with a big kitchen and a garage. So I'm thankful. A little sick to my stomach, but thankful nonetheless.

We were fortunate enough to ride the market up...not as spectacularly as many did, but enough to be able to lose half of it and still be able to afford a place to live. I don't feel shy about complaining about our stinky rental house, but it does seem wrong to bemoan selling our house at a loss. It is a blessing that we made enough on our first house that this move (buying in Boise at the height of the market and being forced to sell at the bottom) won't ruin us financially.

Needless to say, I cried when our final counter-offer was accepted. Sad that we lost so much money. Relieved that we wouldn't have to pay rent AND mortgage indefinitely, all the while lowering and lowering our asking price.

Of course we still have the inspection to get through. It's not a done deal until we close, and if it falls apart I may need to be institutionalized for emotional overload. I have been so loony and absent-minded this week. When discussing an acceptable sales price, I kept saying an amount $100,000 greater than the actual number. Small difference. I put a lid on my empty tea cup to keep the tea I had forgotten to pour warm. Instead of drying off with my own towel after my shower this morning, I grabbed the towel that we had used to mop up the bathroom floor after last night's crazy rainstorm. So we really don't need any more big news. I will become a danger to myself and to others.

But, for now, I'm celebrating. Any excuse to drink champagne. So I hope you'll raise a it of champagne (Amanda), Diet Coke (Juli), tea (mom), a Billionaire (Andrew), instant coffee (dad), or a PBR (you know who you are) and join me in a toast: To Selling Our House!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Overheard This Evening:

Nels is stirring an empty pot on the kitchen floor and saying to himself,

"I'm making lemon juice-inade. A special kind of cocktail for kids, not for grown-ups."

It Only FEELS Like We Made a Terrible, Terrible Mistake. Right?

When we arrived at our new (to us) home late last Saturday night, two things took primacy over my thoughts of falling into bed:

1. The trains don't just rumble on by us. Our street crosses the tracks a block away, so several warning blows of the whistle are in order. Every time. This is both startling and ear-splitting. Soon we discovered that it is not uncommon to go for a stretch of several hours with a train passing every 30 minutes.

2. The kitchen and pantry stink. Reek. Not quite as bad as when an animal dies under the house or in a water pipe and starts to decompose, but at least as bad as a leaky septic tank. Bad enough to cast a pall of despair over my heart as I crawled into my sleeping bag and tried to ignore the worry that I had moved not to an old, charming house, but to an old dump of a house that will smell bad forever and ever amen.

Sunday morning we had such a challenge trying to wrangle showers that I was completely convinced; renting this house was a very bad idea. There was not enough water pressure to keep the water diverted from the faucet to the shower head. Making the attempt resulted in a very loud keening noise that reverberated spectacularly around the room. We got clean after much effort and then set off for Newberg for the family celebration.

After Mother's Day brunch (which was quite nice, despite Nels embarrassing me) we came home and I scoured the kitchen while Shaun unloaded the moving truck. The necessity of doing this (surprise) made me very crabby. I expected to find the house clean, but the kitchen floor was dirty enough that it made me doubt how clean the rest of the kitchen was. I couldn't face the thought of moving our dishes and food in without making sure it was really and truly clean.

On Monday we finished unloading and returned the moving truck. By the evening it was obvious that both Willem and I were getting sick. By the next morning the gastro-intestinal nightmare was in full force. Also the water pressure finally wimped out enough that even a weak or noisy shower was out of the question. Sponge bath time. I felt very pioneering. And very annoyed.

I'm not really sure about the next few days, as being sick made me really sleepy and I took a lot of naps. I know I didn't cook and that I ate about a third of what I usually do. I know that the kitchen stink got worse and worse and that we realized that the upstairs also stunk to high heaven. Plus you all know how hot it got out here in the west. That didn't help the smell. One night I went to bed feeling bad for not making any progress on the unpacking (being sick), and I was thinking that we had just spent so much money and energy moving to a place that was stinky beyond what I thought I could handle, and I just cried.

On top of the sick and the smell, I was experiencing a bit of culture shock. On Monday Shaun had met the across-the-street neighbor, who gave him a jar of honey and told Shaun that a bunch of stolen cars had been found after being dumped in the ravine across the street from our house. And it wasn't the first time. This neighbor helped the police tow the cars out. Later we met our next-door neighbors, a police officer and a probation officer. They separately warned us about the first neighbor, citing the "bad company" he keeps. Too late! He already gave us honey!

On Thursday we still had no shower capability to speak of, and getting more than a few inches of water in the tub took an eternity. This was the day that Willem started throwing up. I finally got better by Friday, but he just got worse and worse. The property management company sent some plumbers out. They poked around but needed to turn off the water to really figure out the problem. They couldn't find the main. Shaun hadn't been able to find it either. They left, saying they'd have to call the city to find out where it was.

On Saturday morning there was water pressure like...a normal house! We all got showers. The kids got baths. We thought that perhaps the plumbers had gotten hold of the city and the problem was solved. Then...nothing. No water at all. There's a lot of construction going on around our house, so Shaun went out to take a look. He ran into another neighbor and told him what he was up to. And THAT's how we found out that our water is supplied by a well on someone else's property and that the pump had failed. The plumber they brought in did a temporary fix (resulting in our awesome showers) and then cut off the water to our house (they didn't know we were here relying on it) in an effort to keep the pressure up to the other two houses. Our property management company only would have had to look in their file to see that our house was on a well and not city water. I had even told them that the city told me they did not provide our water when I called to put service in our name.

So our water problem is being solved, but our house still stinks, and I have little confidence that our property managers will take it very seriously. We think there is a sewer line broken in the wall or something wonderful like that. That's what it smells like. At least it's not the WHOLE house. Mostly just the kitchen/pantry (bummer) and the upstairs landing and our bedroom. So, really, you could still visit us. If you're not afraid of a little train-related hearing loss.

On Sunday Willem had been laying around and hardly talking for two days. He wouldn't walk. When I had to carry him around he was deadweight. So to urgent care we went, leaving with a prescription for a really scary anti-nausea medication (we didn't end up giving it to him) and the realization that we were going to have to take him to a hospital for an IV if he didn't start keeping any fluids down within the next day. Oh...Nels also threw up everything HE ate on Sunday.

On Monday Shaun started his new job, and because God never gives us more than we can handle, both kids showed marked improvement. No one threw up. They ate. Shaun also got the low-down on our neighborhood from the receptionist at his work, who just happened to grow up across the street from our house. Even SHE warned us about the dodgy honey-giving neighbor!

In order to combat the blues brought on by the water problem, the stink, the noise, the kids being sick, and the worries over crime, I took a stroll around the yard. The lilacs had already bloomed and shriveled, which was sad, but the bug-eaten peony buds were the last straw. I didn't think the house was haunted. I only felt it might as well be.

If you want to hear a good story some time, the receptionist at Shaun's work can tell you about her childhood neighborhood's haunted house, where someone supposedly came to a bad end in a basement manhole.

Uh huh.

I miss Boise.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Oh, Shuck.

It seems fitting that I inadvertently taught the boys the word "crap" this week, because that one word sums up the week fairly well.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't ALL bad. The drive from Boise to Vancouver went surprisingly smoothly. It's all about managing expectations. And praying. I was anticipating a difficult experience, so I was thrilled when it went well. The boys were really good. Really, really good. I only got sleepy for the last hour of the drive, at about 11:00 at night. Shaun drove the huge moving truck with our Honda on a trailer, and I followed with the kids.

At one point we stopped for gas and then decided to venture straight across the busy street for dinner. Shaun waited for a break in the traffic and headed out. I followed close behind, forgetting that he wasn't able to move as quickly as a car would. Thus I found myself with the van perpendicular to the center turn lane, traffic appearing from both directions.

"Oh, crap," I said. You wouldn't believe the amount of attention and concern this remark engendered in my passengers.

"What's the matter, mommy? What happened? Crap?"

We eventually got across the street without incident, Willem happily singing, "Crap, crap crap crap crap" all along the way.

Nels readily accepted my admonition to not use the word "crap" himself, and didn't even mention the incident to Shaun when we met inside for dinner. In fact, he waited until the next day at Mother's Day brunch to bring it up. About 20 or so of Shaun's extended family were gathered to celebrate at Shaun's grandparents' retirement home.

In his best "just making conversation" voice, Nels turned to his grandma and said, "Mommy said a bad word when we were driving."

"What did she say?"

He leaned in, and in a stage whisper, said "Crap."

Lucky for me that's about the worst language I let fly under stress. And it's not that I think it's so awful that I said it. It's just a bit unseemly for my 4 and 2 year-old boys to go around saying.

After brunch Shaun unloaded about 75% of the moving truck's contents himself while I scrubbed the kitchen, which was dirty and stinky upon our arrival.

On Monday, Shaun's cousin Jason and his family came and helped us with the rest of the work. The best part was that their boys played with ours, keeping Nels and Willem happy and entertained all day. The boys fell into bed at 6:30 and were down for the night!

I crept into their room at 9:00 to put Nels' training pants on him. (Yes, we're still working on getting through the night dry.) He propped himself up on his arm and said, "Oh, shuck! I went to bed without my training pants!" He's said it a few more times this week. I don't know where it came from, but I'm glad it's here. I'm thinking it'll make a great replacement for "crap."

Well, now at least you know we're here, and I'm thankful to have that drive behind us. I'll have to gather my energy for the next post, in which I will explicate the many ways in which this week has been so shucked up.

Friday, May 9, 2008

ALLmost Outta Here

Well, we thought we would leave yesterday. We have way too much stuff. We took an extra day to finish packing and will be on our way to Vancouver tomorrow. On the plus side, we got to hang out with our dear Boise friends the Hamiltons for one last evening. Amanda put up subway tile in their bathroom, which Shaun hadn't seen yet. So he got to see that. These Hamiltons are extremely talented people, and we will miss being so close to them.

I'm quite sure I won't be posting photos from our drive tomorrow, but we do have some from the last time we made the drive, not so very long ago. I can't be bothered to figure out when exactly it was. Very recently. It's pretty spectacular. At one point we stopped to "feel the wind" and Willem was so cute that I couldn't pick a favorite from those. So you will find a "Willem feeling the wind" series. Enjoy!

p.s. Double-click on all the photos for the full effect. It's totally worth it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

"Gone Country" at Grandma and Grandpa's

Don't they look like they're about to chase off a trespasser with a shotgun? Or perhaps they're thinking about tracking down a critter for tonight's supper.

Happy Birthday, Shaun.

Yes, I forgot that Shaun's birthday was coming up already (well, remembered and forgot about a million times), until our realtor asked us what the date was yesterday when filling out some paperwork. We're lowering the asking price of our house again.

Shoot! I said. Tomorrow is Shaun's birthday.

I plan to celebrate the day today by watching Shaun perform amazing feats of moving strength. He's already packed all the books and carried them up the stairs. He's taken apart a few bookcases and wrapped them meticulously. I think the kids' toy storage bin is now packaged more carefully than it was when we got it shipped to us in the first place.

Fortunately for me (at a total loss as to what to have for a special dinner), the neighbors invited us over for dinner tonight. They are excellent cooks.

We have less than a week left in Boise, and of course it's one of the busier weeks on our family calendar, even without a move. Shaun's birthday today, our 8th wedding anniversary on Tuesday, moving truck packing on Thursday, driving on Friday, unloading on Saturday, Mother's Day on Sunday.

In case you don't see any updates on this blog for a while, please refer to the previous paragraph.

Also, happy birthday to my brother-in-law Cliff, who performs amazing feats of strength for his family every day as well.