Thursday, August 27, 2015

Selling our home

All photos courtesy of Twist Tours

Neil and I just finished signing the closing documents on our house. By the time this post is live, the money will be in our account and we will no longer be homeowners. *Insert celebratory cheers!* All things considered, the sale of our house went smoothly, and we couldn't be more thankful for how things turned out.

This house was the first home we owned. It was where HP was born, learned to walk, and said his first words. We have so many good memories from our time there: walks through the neighborhood while wearing HP, exploring the creek and trail in the parkland behind our house, baths for HP in the kitchen sink before bedtime, conversations with neighbors, and snacking on our harvest from the front yard, to name a few. It was a good home to us.

We moved out of the house last summer to be in a more walkable location. This spring we decided that we would sell when our tenants' lease was up at the end of June, regardless of whether or not we were leaving Austin. Things moved faster with Neil's job search than we anticipated and we ended up with a very small window to get the house ready to sell after our tenants moved out and before we left town. We managed to list it the day after we moved to Bloomington.

The first weekend we received six offers--five above asking price. I thought it would be smooth sailing from there, but we went under contract three times before it finally sold. It all worked out for the best, as the final contract was actually the best offer we had received throughout the whole process. We were incredibly lucky with our timing for both buying and selling--we bought before the market took off in Austin and sold in a strong sellers' market.

We bought the house in the spring of 2012 and moved in just a few weeks before HP was born. To anyone considering buying a house while pregnant, I recommend not buying a fixer-upper. I am sure that is obvious to most everyone in the world, but apparently not to us. Here's the list of work we've done on the house since buying it (items in bold done by us, and by us I mostly mean Neil):

  • Removed ceilings and abated the asbestos (asbestos was in the popcorn on the ceilings and was cracking/peeling)
  • Installed new ceilings
  • Patched, cleaned, and stained concrete floors
  • Put in radiant barrier in the attic to improve energy efficiency
  • Installed new insulation in the attic
  • Installed a ridge vent on the roof
  • Installed a whole-house fan
  • Refinished the pantry with all new wood
  • Put in a garden and built compost bins 
  • Replaced a rotting window in the enclosed garage with French doors 
  • Installed a solar tube in living area
  • Remodeled the kitchen
  • Remodeled the bathroom
  • Installed new energy-efficient windows
  • Repaired the foundation
  • Replaced the back half of the roof (the front had been replaced a few years before we moved in)
  • Installed a new bamboo privacy fence
  • Refinished the bathtub
  • Repaired drywall cracks
  • New paint everywhere (ceilings, cabinets, trim, and walls)
On the one hand, I am so glad we put the work into the house. We were able to sell the house for a profit. Most of the price increase was due to appreciation (the market in Austin is bananas), but a big chunk was from the work we did. I feel fortunate that Neil is able to fix/remodel/install things for a fraction of the cost a contractor would have charged. That said, many weekends during the first two years of HP's life were spent on house projects. In retrospect, I wish we had bought something more move-in ready. I console myself with the knowledge that we made the best decision we could with the information we had at the time.

I have many thoughts about what we will look for in our next (hopefully forever) home. But for now, we are going to enjoy a few months of just being renters.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How meal prep is saving my sanity

In Austin I had a friend who regularly spent her Saturday or Sunday afternoons prepping meals for the week. She would make muffins, cook and shred a chicken, make a soup, and generally get ready for week's meals. I was always jealous of the outcome, but never motivated to give up a chunk of my weekend to do it myself.

Not wanting to put in the time was only part of the reason I never did any meal prep. The main reason I resisted is because I thought I didn't need it. Cooking dinner every night wasn't a burden; I enjoyed it. HP was (and is) interested in the process. At our rental in Austin, he would often stand on his climber and help chop (rather ineffectively, of course), put ingredients in the pot, and stir. I enjoyed spending that time with him and I liked that he saw how our meal was made each night. When he wasn't up for helping he would usually play independently in the living room without (too much) complaint. Some days Neil was even home early enough that he would hang out with HP while I listened to All Things Considered and cooked, which was the best.

Enter child number two. What used to feel relaxing and enjoyable has now become stressful. At the end of the day, HP and E are both demanding my attention. Neil usually isn't home until the bulk of the dinner work is already completed. My patience levels when I am not sleeping well (thanks E!) are limited. Not a recipe for a happy household in the hour leading up to dinnertime.

I knew something had to give and reading about Shutterbean's meal prep was the final push I needed to give it a try. I've been doing it for three weeks now, and I am officially sold. Here's what I accomplished last week:
  • Frozen burritos for lunches or last-minute dinner
  • Hummus
  • Carrots, celery, beets, and green beans prepped for snacking
  • Chickpeas and black beans soaked and cooked for meals
  • Veggies for all meals prepped (carrots, onions, acorn squash, peppers)
  • Tofu chopped and marinated for snacks and meals
  • Dozen eggs hard-boiled for snacking
  • Two dozen muffins for breakfasts (minus the peach and honey, plus cocoa)
It was so worth the few hours it took. I caught up on podcasts while I worked and Neil took the kids out to the park. Meals were a breeze all week long, often requiring no more than ten minutes of hands on time from me. Throughout the day it was easy to reach for a healthy snacks since there were multiple options ready to go. And on Friday, when I just couldn't deal with the world, I pulled out the freezer burritos for dinner.

I may not find the time to make it happen every week, but I am going to try. Even I only wash and chop some of the veggies for the meals, it will go a long way toward making the end of the weekdays feel calm and smooth. Well, calmer and smoother anyhow. At this stage, I will take what I can get.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Baby's first bike ride

It's official. Everyone in the family is now on a bike. A biking family of four! I am so glad to have reached this milestone.

There is conflicting advice on the best time to start riding with children. Just like with HP, we waited until E was around ten months to start riding as a family. This age felt comfortable for us because it was when (1) both our kids were sitting very confidently by themselves (and had been for some time) and (2) the helmet finally fit.

E's first ride was a week or two after she turned nine months. We weren't planned on starting then, but HP needed to go to urgent care and we hadn't gotten our front seat set up for her. I loaded the kids in the trailer and off we went.

She hated it.
Fast forward three weeks. We adjusted the straps on our beloved Yepp Mini and the Lazer infant helmet to make the ride safe and comfortable for E. We took a short trip to visit Neil for lunch at his work with plans to continue on to the local children's museum. The museum was closed for cleaning, but all was not lost as HP enjoyed playing in the fountain outside City Hall. E hated wearing the helmet--which was her main protest in the trailer. More specifically, she disliked getting the helmet on. Once we were moving she was content. I wouldn't say she loved it, but she didn't complain when we were on the road.

HP's preschool was a huge motivator for getting E on the bike. His class is only three hours long, so if we walked the 1.5 miles each way E and I would be spending most of the morning taking him there, rushing home for her nap, then walking back as soon as she woke up. It would be a lot of sitting in the stroller for E and while I love a good walk, I didn't want to commit to six miles every preschool morning.

I was not completely satisfied with the way the front seat sat on the Yuba Mundo (pictured above) so I decided to switch to my Electra Ticino for the preschool drop-off. Success! E seems to be enjoying the ride more each time we go.

It is such a relief to be biking again. I had gotten used to walking everywhere over the last ten months and honestly didn't feel too anxious or impatient to bike with E. But getting back on the bike was like talking to an old friend I hadn't seen in years. We've only been biking a week, but I already feel the same wave of freedom I felt when HP reached this milestone. Biking is easier, faster, and more convenient.

E, welcome the world's superior form of transportation. I hope you are ready for many family adventures traveling on two wheels, because now that you are on a bike there's no stopping us.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Life lately

We are settling into life in Bloomington. Some thoughts on life lately:

August in Indiana is lovely. Such a welcome change from Austin this time of year. I know, I know, we'll pay for come winter. But no need to focus on that now; I'd rather soak up every beautiful second while it lasts.

We live so much closer to Neil's work than we did in Austin. Twice already we've met up with him for lunch at a nearby park. One of the many perks of small(er) town living.

Earlier this week HP and I went to a "Meet the Teacher" for preschool. That's right, my first born is going to preschool next week. How did he get so big? I know that he is going to rock it. It will give him an opportunity to make new friends here and spend time with another adult in charge. It will give me time to myself and to focus on E. A win all around. This year he'll be going two days a week for three hours in the morning, which I think will be just right.

Baby E. What can I even say? She is the sweetest, happiest little lady around. It is almost enough to make me want another baby. Almost.

I've been in a reading slump lately and have had trouble finding something that sucks me in. I have three book club books coming up later this month (two through meetups here in town that I am doing in an effort to meet new people and one through Google Hangouts with college friends). I haven't started any of them. I guess I know what I'll be reading for the rest of the month!

E is so close to being ready to regularly ride a bike. We need to get her helmet situation sorted and then we'll be off. I am looking forward to the speed and ease of traveling by bike again. Soon! Until then, we'll continue wheeling around town with the double stroller.

Life finally feels like it is slowing down as we find our new normal here. After the whirlwind that was the spring and early summer, I am enjoying the slower pace. Especially when slower pace = impromptu trumpet concerts.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Am I going to miss this?

I wrote this back in March, but never got around to publishing it. So, here it is, four months later! Things are feeling easier in some ways, and harder in others. Such is the nature of parenting.

There have been many nights lately where we will be eating dinner and Neil will ask me how my day was. I look around and see HP melting down, E is in my lap nursing because she is tired and too fussy to be set down anywhere, and the house is a complete mess. So in response, I just start singing this song and after a beat Neil joins in.

Because moments like those? We aren't going to miss.

But there are plenty of moments that we will. This afternoon we were outside (March in Austin is perfection). While we waited for Neil to get home HP was busy dipping a paint brush in water to wash off the chalk drawings we made yesterday. E was content hanging out, being her relaxed little self. I was laughing with HP and smelling E's feather soft hair. When Neil arrived we decided to have a picnic in the front yard. And I thought, I am going to miss this.

I just went back and reread Glennon's Carpe Kairos essay. I think I should set a reminder for myself to read that once a week, because it always makes me feel less alone. Lately, parenting has been hard. So hard. At the end of the day have me in tears telling Neil how very not okay I am hard.

I am fairly pragmatic about my parenting experience. I known there are parts I am going to miss, but I also know I am not someone is going to wax nostalgic for these early years. I will remember the hard moments, the just-trying-to-survive moments, and the please-God-let-this-be-a-phase moments.

When I look back on this time, I hope I can say that I did my best to soak in the sweetness of having an infant and a toddler. But I also hope I remember that sometimes even that was too much to ask, and give myself a high-five for just making it through.