Posted by: Michelle | January 20, 2009

gardens and food

Sunday I decided very on-the-spot to make a brunch for everyone. I cut op the aging potatoes into home fries with fried onions and shallots, made omelets, bacon and toast with jam. Even with just two burners in a terrible old oven I find it much easier to cook in my own house. I love having a dining room even if it i difficult to keep the room clear since it is the also the entry to the house. I do wish the girls were better able to entertain themselves, sometimes I wonder if they would even notice if I threw out every toy in the house. It seems they never, ever play with toys but rather follow me around. Maybe it will be easier in the spring when we are not so cramped in and crazy with cabin fever.

I am planning the spring garden and have ordered 6 chicks for April so we can have eggs. The seed catalog are pouring in now, and the number of varieties is so staggering and overwhelming I almost want to give up thinking about it. I am going to keep it small this year, 2 raised beds and a few trees (lilacs and fruit) and think about the ground covers and perennial gardens next year after I have experienced a full four seasons here. I am still not sure where I might be able to get full sun in my yard. I know the sun is at a dramtically different angle in th winter, but even in the aerial photos for the maps there are only a few places in full sun, including the leaching field – I can’t grow much on a leaching field. Only the most shallow-rooted plants and even then… ick. I thought we could simply re-purpose the paddock area since it has had years of horse poop dropped on it but I don’t predict that it is going to get even 4 hours of sun, never mind the 8 needed for most vegetables. Plus I can see that it has a lot of standing water in the spring and fall. I might put the raised beds right outside the back door. The chicken coop might be moved around, or it may be permanent, I haven’t decided yet.

Posted by: Michelle | December 21, 2008

moved, in the past tense finally

I don’t know that I have ever gone through anything exactly like this before. I have moved at least two truckloads of stuff into a bare house. The whole autumn was so incredibly insane and whirlwind I feel like I am hungover. From the whole hassle with the loans and the constant photocopies and travelling an hour to the mortgage rep’s office with grumpy children and the inspections and insurance and moving vans and mops and buckets and lost cats and lost keys (not to mention no one thinking we could do it) and now here I am for the first time in many years living in a space where there is room for everyone to have their own stuff. Somehow I made it happen, and the house is almost finished. There are a few dozen other tasks which need to take place, changing the faucet here, a toilet seat there etc. but the house is almost done. I knew it would be a lot of work going in and I was right. There is just no way to move without it being a real tragedy of time and ATP spent lifting, dragging, attending and fretting.

For the first month, Milly pretty much followed me around crying all the time. She didn’t know what to make of the place, and although she loved running around in the open spaces she was confused and came to me constantly for comfort. She is calming down now and plays for a little bit buy herself, and often with Zella. Zella goes outside much less than I thought she would tough I admit there have been more rainy and now snowy days than sunny ones. It is still a struggle to convince her to get dressed for the weather, she hates wearing socks and shoes and hates warm pants even more. She would wear dresses over her Crocs sandals forever if she could. There is a lot of work to do with the barn, and the basement but we are getting the living areas really workable and I think another week we can declare that part of the house done and move on the simply maintenance. I have been waiting 10 years to get to “maintenance”! We have been so cramped for so long, and I moved in to a full house to begin with so coming here with 1000 more square feet of space, and the enormous purging of goods that happens when people move (and most of the purging, I discovered, happens as I unpack – packing was too rushed to make decisions, now I am throwing stuff away at leisure) it really and truly feels like a new beginning. Finally!

We had flu the week before and week of Thanksgiving but still managed to pass a lovely holiday with my dad. We had a turkey from a local turkey shop, already cooked (I had to re-heat it rather than cook it but it still took 3 hours), potatoes, squash and green beans. Lots of pumpkin pie. Adam missed a lot of work from moving and then being sick but he is catching up now. Every time I got the rooms cleaned out more of our stuff would arrive, screaming to be dealt with one time (put it away or throw it away!) which has stretched everything out perhaps longer than it needed to be.

So much other stuff has happened, it is all jumbled together in the mess of this move. I have to sort that out now too.

Posted by: Michelle | November 16, 2008

up too late, with a mask on

I can’t listen to this snoring any more, it is making me homicidal.

How strange that I have moved into a house filled to the brim with spiders, when I have been so terrified of them. I am learning to get over it. There was one already building a compact little nest in the crumpled paper surrounding some DVDs, I casually let it out onto the propane tank outside and continued unpacking. I suppose if it had been on my hand I would have become unhinged.

Everything has been bats lately, a disturbing story from a friend, and Zella’s new webkin. I remember when I was small my dad shot a bat while demonstrating a gun in the yard. What a terrible noise as it fell. Now he is so pissed off at life (all of a sudden?) he can barely speak to me. I have heard from him, briefly, once this week and he was combative and pretty much crazy. I can’t deal with him when he is like this, full of weird notions and ready to argue. Bah. I was wrong about so many things, maybe moving closer to my dad was one of them.

I want to get happy again, lately it has felt like far more disaster than joy.

We have been living here for about 3 weeks now but we are still in the process of moving. Dragging it out! I never knew a bandaid could be ripped off so slowly. Tomorrow hopefully the rest of my stuff will come out of Watertown (leaving only attic junk and Adam’s mystery collection) and I can continue this glacial progress of unpacking. This endeavor has shown that deep down my children have a capacity to despise me.

Posted by: Michelle | November 8, 2008

Title “required”?

The move is coming along as it must. That is all I am going to say about the metropolis of boxes we are squeezing our lives around.

Posted by: Michelle | October 29, 2008

everybody moves

It is true, everyone has to move some time. People with more belongings than us, people with more heavy furniture, more valuable belongings, all of the above. Everyone moves. So why am I finding it so incredibly difficult? I made this happen; from two people in debt with hideous credit and a mediocre income to two people with paid off debt, decent credit and a great income to two people with all of the latter, signing on a new house. I made this happen. Like nearly all of the moves in my life, this one is a happy one; from a problem place to a better place. Yet I am finding the process of moving , the hard work and the upheaval devastating as I have in the past. I see why people stay in the same miserable homes years after things have gone south. I see why people die in the same inadequate little starter homes they bought at age 22. I get it now.

My dad came over last week, took a look at the mountains of boxes and cookie crumbs all over the floor and said, “this is almost a tragedy” – it does feel like a kind of tragedy though of course it isn’t. We love our new house. We love our great yard and quirky barn. But somehow we have managed to drag out this move – instead of ripping a bandaid off, this is like pulling it off slowly, one agonizing arm hair at a time. It is so hard to see the big picture; our old place barely looks like we have even started packing though we have been working on it for over a month. The movers bring our heavy stuff Sunday but there will so much more detritus left even after that.

That is not even getting into the amazing amount of hard work required to unpack this place. There just aren’t enough SpongeBob dvds in existence to keep these kids occupied enough even to lay down some contact paper on the ancient cupboards in the kitchen. We have not even begun yet.

I find that my mind is aggressively drifting into diversion – I am focused inwardly on totally unrelated things, revisiting and rewriting history to suit my needs. I just want this to be over so I can come back to the present.

See Adam’s flickr stream as well as my new house set to see progress, or lack of.

Posted by: Michelle | October 2, 2008

Iphone test post

I just want to see how the iPhone version of wordpress works. We just had a miserable meal at a miserable restaurant – we figured out that, on paper at least, we would spend slightly less if I just take the kids out to eat every day rather than continue these useless grocery store trips. Last week we spent over 200 bucks at the grocery store and still had nothing to eat except breakfast foods. So for the last 3 weeks we live here, it’s Panera every day.

Posted by: Michelle | October 1, 2008

moving soon…

…but you’d never know it. I don’t know why I can’t get the energy up to packing. The task just seems SO amazingly huge. It IS amazingly huge. One would think that the more a person wants to move, the more eager they would be to pack up and go but that is not necessarily the case. When I moved from my townhouse out west to here, I was very eager to move but I had to do the packing and moving alone and it was nearly impossible to get going with it. Subsequently a large portion of my personal belongings were abandoned there, something I still feel awful about all these years later. I was still tossing stuff into boxes as the movers were there and they finally said, “that’s it we are going!” so whatever didn’t make it onto the truck had to be picked up later; Adam and I went back in 2 separate cars (him driving my car and me driving my dad’s) to fit whatever we could in there but that still left a lot of stuff. The movers were also shitty and broke a lot of my furniture. The move 7 years before that (to move into the townhouse) was nearly as bad, there was a blizzard and my stuff had been in storage for 2 years at that point so it was dusty and cobwebby. Both of these moves had something in common which makes me think this might be a common scam of some sort. Both were less expensive movers from the newspaper or similar claiming to have a large moving truck and 2 or 3 guys. BOTH called the day before the move saying “sorry the truck broke down so we can’t do it… unless you want to rent your own truck”. It seems too much of a coincidence that both times these cut rate movers had the same thing happen. My dad is looking into getting a mover for us, and I warned him away from these fly by night places that I suspect do not actually have their own trucks.

I have packed maybe 2 boxes. Adam has packed up approximately 35 book boxes already and that has barely dented the library. I think we are going to have to unload the books then come back with the empty boxes to pack up the rest! This would be feasible except for the fact that we will probably not have shelving set up for some times. We are not going to move all at once. We close on the 17th and the owners have 24 hours to finish their move and get their animals (horse, ducks, etc) out to their new house. Then on the 18th to 21st or thereabouts, we are going to come in and PAINT as many rooms as we can because we know that if e move in first, we will never paint. I am having a hard time deciding on colors. A really hard time. Then I am scheduling a cleaning service to come as soon as we finish that and get the painting detritus moved out, and at that time I will plug in a whole bunch of Feliway diffusers. After the cleaning service the internet is installed, we will ideally be getting a plumber right away to add washer/dryer hookups to the first floor bathroom (we don’t fare will with basement laundry!) and we will be starting to bring stuff over with my dad’s trailer hitched to Adam’s truck. Adam is going to bring his own horns and tools, we will probably move the lighter weight stuff and computers and really fragile/breakable things. Sometime in there baby gates need to be installed at the top of the stairs both on the second floor and above the basement stairs, and we will put litter boxes where they need to go (I am thinking basement only, this may require a kitty door). Then we will (fingers crossed) have a real moving van to haul the heavy furniture, insanely heavy washing machine and dryer combo (they are stacked and cannot be separated) and the 60 or so book boxes and other crap. My fabric and sewing furniture also weigh a lot. The girls have a play kitchen that weighs a ton, it was so difficult getting it in here, almost as hard as the couch. I am really worried about stuff getting broken since it will be a decade before we can afford to replace anything. While the movers are moving stuff in, I guess the cats will just be in their carriers somewhere (?)

After all that, we still won’t be moved out completely – Adam will then have to go through the attic and move out what is ours. He doesn’t want to do this while we still live here because of the loose asbestos up there. Anything not protected from the dust up there we will toss. Somewhere in all this there is supposed to be a yard sale.

Because this whole ordeal seems so daunting, I am having a hard time mustering up any motivation. The bigger the job, the more I respond with fight or flight.

Posted by: Michelle | September 26, 2008

I will buy this issue

Because I want to blow this cover up to poster size and keep it forever.

Posted by: Michelle | September 21, 2008

we are moving!

All of a sudden, and I am still not sure how it happened so fast, we bought a house. A month ago (see my last post) moving into more space seemed kind of hopeless or of not hopeless definitely a little “maybe someday.. who knows” then all of a sudden the train kicked into gear and BOOM, we were signing a purchase and sale agreement.

It started back in March of ’07. I took a first time homebuyer’s HUD approved class from a housing authority/ redevelopment on the South Shore. I could see the home prices were starting to stabilize and with the information in the class it seemed that maybe we would be able to buy something. Ideally, we wanted to buy something farther away from the city and set Adam up with a telecommuting gig because if you get really far south house prices become much more affordable – but a daily commute to Newton is really not an option from Sandwich, for example. All the time I was in the class I vacillated between thinking, “we can do this!” and “hm, I don’t think this is feasible for us”. We spent the summer of ’07 in Greenfield to be closer to our back up hospital for Milly’s birth and during that time we rented a house. Having all that space and relative privacy (and most memorably, SPARSELY furnished rooms!) really made it difficult for us to back to 2 bedroom, 2nd floor living with our newly enlarged family. Of course right after Milly was born Adam lost his job BUT was hired again immediately at a new job for 50% more income, now it seemed the house dream was a little closer even if we now had too much annual income to qualify for HUD programs like Soft Second mortgage, etc. and not to mention his new job is not easily accessible from South Shore commuter lines (he is at the very tippy end of the green line) and telecommuting for this company is out of the question. Se, a year ago we had things in our favor and things against us too.

I think what happened is that last fall we never moved back in here, despite physically seeming to do so. I think mentally we had left this place, and the shape of things really shows it. So last winter, around February I think, I applied for the mortgage pre-approval and was devastated to discover our credit scores had actually gotten worse from the ones done a year before in the class. Even my “ok” score had fallen and I felt so discouraged I didn’t know what to do. I decided, with some good advice, to take whatever money I had saved and use it to pay down the bad debts we both had rather than try to save for a down payment. It wasn’t actually that I had saved the money but what happened was that when my mother died 2 years ago, she left her IRA unspent – in one offhand comment in the hospital on her last day, my dad asked her what to do with that money “should I split it between the kids [my brother and me]” and she nodded and said “yeah, do that”. So that was that. I asked my dad to withdraw the funds for me – there was a huge tax out of it – and I paid off all of our old debts except for Adam’s student loans (in retrospect I wish I had at least paid 1/2 of it or tried to because that ended up the worst marks on his report). Adam approached his family for help with that loan but then decided against my advice to try doing the “rehabilitation” and began payments on that. The problem with that is it takes 9 months for them to pull him out of default status (therefore 9 months before we can consider shopping for a loan) and there is still the bulk of the loan at the end, lowering the amount of mortgage we would qualify for. We moped around for a few months, looking at the home listings all the while and I could see that prices were coming down a bit but as we are a one-income family it seemed we would still need to buy a “dump” to break into the housing market and that was discouraging to us yet we totally accepted it. The need for space and privacy was enough that buying a home in shabby shape seemed OK. I knew going in that there was no way we would have a mortgage payment under 2000 so that was not a surprise.

In June I tried the mortgage pre-approval again and was thrilled to discover that my Fair Isaac score had come WAY up – my plan had worked – and now I was eligible for a loan. However, despite all the money I put into it, Adam’s credit score had not risen at all. It was because of his student loans which were divided into 4 loan and each had hit him with negative marks each month. Our adviser suggested he try for an FHA loan, so it took me a while but I got the paperwork together after about a month or so (I procrastinated for a long time but then when I saw a house I wanted sell immediately for 25k less than the asking price I kicked it into high gear). Right away he came back and said we were pre-approved with the condition that Adam get rid of that student loan debt. One can’t get a federal loan with a federal defaulted loan. Quickly I set up with our buyer’s agent to look at some homes in our price range and Adam went to work appealing to his family for help discharging the loan.

There was a house I was interested in last spring which came of the market but then came back on again late in the summer. I wanted to see that one right way and that week we looked at a total of 9 houses. Some of these – most of these – were really dumps. Two were foreclosed and unlivable – contractor specials only. A few were nice but one stood out (the house that came back on the market) as having not only move-in condition but s-p-a-c-e and privacy. Privacy was the most important thing to us, ideally we wanted a house out in the woods with no nearby neighbors and we didn’t quite get that but the home is nestled back in trees and fits the bill closely enough. There weren’t many houses in our price range in areas Adam could conceivably commute to in less than 1.5 hours each way so that narrowed it down to maybe 10. We immediately eliminated any that needed a lot of work, those under power lines and those too close to the street, etc. my first choice ended up being the best bet so we quickly made a low offer as the original price was out of our range, got a counter offer and accepted it. Just like that! We went from “I don’t know if we will be buying a house or when” to “hey we got one!”. We are very happy with the choice. We went into this thinking we would be getting a real dump, something small and crappy, but we are moving into a nice home. It is honestly more than I thought I could hope for!

Our new home:

has almost an acre
is totally fenced in with a discreet fence
has a horse barn and paddock
has a dry basement
has two full baths :^)
a dedicated office (4th bedroom on 1st floor) for both of us
a dedicated (but wee!) sewing and knitting room so no more yarn storage in the living room

It looks like I just missed the listing pictures (they were taken down recently) but I managed to grab a few and I made an album. Check it out! Keep in mind, these are the listing photos and the current owners are very neat so when we live there it will look a LOT different ;^)

We close on October 17th and will move probably over a period of several weeks, with one “heavy moving” day in which we need a truck and some movers.

I have dread about the move, my last few moves have gone HORRIBLY. I am totally overwhelmed with the idea of packing! My inclination is to let a lot of it go to the last minute since moving is horrible no matter what and why stretch it out? We don’t have to be out of here by a certain time so we can piddle things over there for a while after closing. I am also worried about the high monthly payment. Since we put so little down, we have to pay upfront for mortgage insurance and that is figured into the monthly payment as well as the town taxes and homeowners insurance. It is 40% of Adam’s take home pay. I am trying to keep a positive spin on it, after all every homeowning peer I know is paying about 40% of net income for mortgage plus insurances and taxes. I look at it like this – we will have the same income left over as we had for total income when Zella was born. We managed then (but barely!) so I think we can manage it now. The hardest thing will be planning for unplannable emergencies!

Posted by: Michelle | August 17, 2008

wishy washy saturday

Today was another wash. I suppose Adam has his projects and made progress on them but I didn’t do anything but sneak a nap in. It is funny how I don’t really get weekends off, but I still look forward to them with an almost insane glee because at least most of the time there is someone else here, someone with a driver’s license. Someone that, even if he is totally resistant, I can hand everyone off to if I absolutely must. So I did that and took a nap. We watched Goonies because Adam saw it for $5 at Target and thought Zella would like it – she did – but I was annoyed by the archaic and ignorant dis on asthmatics at the end. Like, the boy (Sean Astin) starts to “grow up” and tosses his inhaler aside mid-attack saying, “ah, who needs it!” I wonder if I noticed that when I first saw the movie?

We are behind on the orders and it is almost too stressful to talk about half the time. It is so hot in the attic and when it rains, too humid for the plastics to cure right. Also we are nervous about the asbestos up there. It would be so much easier if we had the space.

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