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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How We Got Here

Wanna know a secret? We were planning to move to Montana. Or Washington state. Away from Texas. Away from 82-degree Boxing Days and 90+ degree/humidity months without end in the summer.

We'd been planning it for a year. D already had winter clothes picked out. I had looked at snow suits for Mal on Zulily. We had a mortgage officer. We were READY.

And after months, we realized something: James can't find work in quaint little towns in the Northwest. Kalispell, where we looked originally, doesn't have much tech. And if James found a job where he could telecommute, we still couldn't get internet fast enough to do what we need to do. Spokane has more tech jobs, but two things: One, pay. It's like 60% what James makes here, and housing isn't 60% cheaper (it's less, but not THAT much less... as opposed to Kalispell, where housing is as much or more than here). Two, lots of places out that way still use Microsoft in their programming, and James has zero desire to work for a MS house ever again.

We really had researched everywhere, determined not to move anywhere that the comfort index wasn't at least a little better than here, because, why else go? And after seriously 13 or so months of this stuff, after discussions about how much James actually likes Austin (when does he have time to enjoy it?!), we realized that it made sense to look here, but closer to his office.

At the same time, our apartment complex was getting more ridiculous with their stuff, including a call asking me to make sure our kid didn't come into the office (which is attached to the clubhouse, which is open to residents) in just a diaper because it WAS a place of business and he was being "distracting." Even after one of the assistant managers had told James it was no problem. We wanted out, and soon.

We found a house we really liked near where we were living. It backed up to some trails that lead to a small park, and it seemed to be within our price range. We called the mortgage company we'd been working with when we were considering Seattle, and asked if they could help us in Texas. Turned out, they could and even though we worked with a guy who is in Bellevue, WA, the local office is actually in the same building where James works! He never realized this until a visitor to his office walked him out a different way and he saw it then.

Before we looked at the house we really liked, we had a "come to Jesus" moment of sorts. We were told that, yes, we'd been approved for actually a little more than the asking price of the house. However, we are not young people. If we took out a 30-year loan and paid it off exactly as timed  (and we're REALLY hoping to pay it off earlier), we'd be in our mid-70s, still trying to come up with this giant payment. Plus, we could do it now, but it would have meant tightening the belt on some fun and maybe even some generous things.

So we recalibrated.

We dialed it back. WAY back.

And we started looking nearer James' work instead of down where we were.

The first weekend in November, we went to see two houses and really liked one. Enough to make an offer on it. It was kind of quirky, and neat, and literally right off of Mansfield Dam. It was likely the least expensive house on that street, with most in the half-million and up range. We made a super lowball offer, though, because it was obvious that it needed a bit of elbow grease to make it habitable and comfortable... And we don't do elbow grease, so we have to pay people.

The seller took offense, at first answering with a "No, thanks," then when pressed by our Realtor to make a counter offer, said, "Come back with a serious offer and we'll talk."

Which we were prepared to do. We offered much less than we were willing to pay. I don't know why we did that, but in the meantime, I'd found the house we ended up buying. We came to see this house on the following Tuesday, and... the house was fine. Adequate. Not bad. Pretty nice. But it was the yard that made me tell the Realtor, "I think we just bought this house."

After we saw the house, my older niece, who'd come to watch Mal so we could concentrate on the house (he immediately fell in love with his room, playing "peek-a-boo" in the closet the whole time), Mal, and I had a picnic lunch at Jones Brothers Park. It was raining, but we were under a pavillion. It was beautiful. Knowing how close that would be... It just added to the house's value.

The sales process was riddled with frantic hurry-ups and unbearable waits, as per usual... but buying a house in 2016 is so much easier than buying a house in 1999! Legal digital signatures save so much time and gas, it's just incredible.

Our house is on two lots, and there was a third we wanted, too. So the big hold-up in our process was the site survey. The lot is extremely wooded, and he had a difficult time getting in there and getting everything staked out. They expected the survey to be completed the day after Thanksgiving, and it didn't actually come back until about 8PM on December 14, nearly a week after our contractually-named closing date.

We'd rescheduled so many things (moving box delivery, movers, carpet stretcher, etc.) several times, and were looking at a December 27 move-in, when the planets aligned and the VA appraisal came back in like 18 hours, then the mortgage company funded and the title company scheduled everyone so that we were able to close on December 16. We moved December 22, and have been unpacked since Christmas Eve (I'm a little manic about that whole thing; I hate living out of boxes!).

James' office is closed the week between Christmas and New Year's, which is cool because it's like a paid vacation that doesn't count against his time off, so it's nice that he's able to rest so much of the week, instead of busting it like we did over the weekend!

Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who's been excited with and for us. It's a pretty big deal. My husband has never owned a home before, and it's seriously bringing out a side of him I didn't know he had! He has gone to the hardware store pretty much every day but today; he got a work bench; he is talking about all of this stuff he wants to do. It's darn sexy, if you asked me. Which you didn't. Moving on.

D is settled in and drawing. Mal is finding so much to explore, and asking every day for "Star Wars and slide," which is the park, where there are 2 Darth Vaders up for Christmas... and a slide. We are exploring the town and neighboring areas, and meeting our neighbors. So far, so good.

Lots of handyman visits this week. Hopefully by Friday, the money hemorrhage stops, as we'll have everything paid for and handled. Oh, one delightful (?) thing we've found is a lot of the local companies coming out only take cash or checks. Who still has those?! James has to drive in to Cedar Park in the morning to get a money order from our bank. We're going to open up an account with the local bank tomorrow or Friday, too.

So that's it. I'll shut up about it now. Maybe. :) Again, thanks for hanging in with us during this big transition! It's nice to be home.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Wonder

I very seriously spent most of today walking around saying or thinking, "I can't believe we live here." As we explore more on foot, I'm realizing what a gem we have found, and how very very blessed we are.

The day started with Mal and I waking up... IN HIS ROOM! We got him a futon mattress, and he fell asleep in my arms on the couch last night, so I carried him in there and laid down with him. Eventually, we're planning that he'll sleep alone, but just getting him used to sleeping in his own room (even if he chooses to sleep in our room, too) is a great step in the right direction.

And, actually, it was a win/win because my husband has gotten to the point where he snores pretty much constantly, and I'm a light sleeper. So I got some zzzs, he got more from my not waking him up to ask him to roll over, and Mal was... well, normal. Woke up about 5 times before the "we're about to get up" superfeed.

Anyhoo, we got up and played a while, and Mal ate a couple of the super awesome protein balls I'd made last night. Then James got up, and we had some scrambled eggs. We let Mal open his presents because I'd talked last night to D, who preferred to sleep in.

Okay, here's something funny. When D was little, I always made sure we were up and dressed and camera ready. Kid Number 2? It was a warm Texas night, so...

He was really happy to see Trolley!
I had gotten 4 packages of Haribo gummies for the kids, and Mal picked out the Twin Snakes. The ides of that is that there are two snakes connected at the head and tail, and one is sweet while the other one is sour. It happened that there were 3 combinations, and that the red, orange, and yellow snakes were sour while the green, blue, and purple snakes were sweet. It took Mal one time of looking at each to figure that out, then he would pull them apart, eat the sweet one, and then put the other snake back in the bag. This evening, he tried to power through a lemon one, and James got that on video. It was hysterical.

This morning, we went on a walk, having seen the entrance to "Canyonlands Trail" about 1/5 of a mile from home on our walk yesterday, and decided to take it to see where it led.



I'm so so glad I hadn't researched this, because we found beautiful surprises around every corner. It was a gorgeous (and not too long) walk. I'm glad James felt like he could make the trip.









It was amazing! And this whole circuit from our house to the trail to the end and taking the streets back to our house is under a mile. However, I did it twice (later with D).

For lunch, I made pigs in a blanket, because when I was at the store the day after we moved, it was the only thing I could fathom being able to throw together, as tired as I was. I also cooked some delicious Dr. Praeger's Broccoli Cakes as a side dish.


When D got up, more presents were open. No pictures for that, because, you know, teen. But we hold the smiles in our hearts, natch. And D loved the chocolate candy seashells and little glass dragons.

Mal watched some Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood while we all kind of did our own thing, then this afternoon, when we thought Mal was ready to take a nap, James fell askeep on Mal's bed so the kiddo and I went on another walk.

We walked over to the park, because Mal kept saying, "Star Wars" and "slide." (There are 2 Darth Vaders, a C3PO, and a Yoda in the Christmas display.) After that, we walked up the hill toward town.


I love this bank of mailboxes. We've been told that our route is a training route, so the actual delivery sucks. But this... it looks like people just set their mailboxes up at the end of a road in no numerical order. There is more than one street included, and they seem random. Some of the boxes don't even have numbers at all. I also wonder how they decided the base: Home Depot 5 gallon bucket with concrete? Cinder block? Something else? There is an art about it. I might be a nerd.

We found tha tthe Exxon was open, although it was posted that they were closing at 9 PM "to celebrate Christmas." The bar next door was open, the parking lot packed. We got a soda and I was ready to go home, but Mal kept asking for "Star Wars" and "slide." So we went back to the park.

For the first time ever, I got to see the park in the sunlight! When we looked at the house, it was an overcast Election Day. Since we've been here, it's been cloudy and/or raining. But look!



THEN we walked home.

With all of that walking, two circuits of the Canyonlands Trail, then to the park, to town, back to the park, and home, and I still only walked about 3.5 miles.

For dinner, I made sliders, and, man, were they fantastic. We had some herbed super sharp cheddar, cut up a tomato, and sliced a couple of avocados.


Mal was getting pretty weepy about stuff, so we got into the car to show James a Christmas tree that we'd seen whilst out. On our way home, he fell asleep and is once again in his room. I told James that I'm going to sleep with him a few more times, and then talk to him to see if he wants to try it on his own. But I think he needs to know it's coming and agree to it.

Anyway, that was our Christmas, low key, like two of the most important people in my life like it. I had a great day, too. Again, walked around a lot, thinking, "OMG, I can see this lake within 2 minutes of leaving my house ON FOOT."

I adore this house (pictures coming next week, if the sun will cooperate). We are so fortunate to be in a small town where we can walk to the library; to a park where we can play, picnic, and fish (and later, go out on the water, if we get a kayak or something); to a few small restaurants; to that amazing trail that also skirts the lake; to a gas station for emergency candy and soda runs. Yesterday morning, one of our neighbors brought us a pan of cinnamon rolls. I just Facebook friended the relative of a friend of a friend because she lives just across the way (and don't even ask how I know this information, because I'm not sure!). James met a caddy-corner neighbor when he came out one day, and found out that guy helped paint our fence the last time the place was remodeled. So we know the names of 3 of our neighbors, almost 1 a day! I *should* know 4, but I cannot remember cinnamon roll lady's husband's name, even though she told me. I only remember hers because I seriously used it in every sentence while she was standing at the door.

I feel more at home this fourth day of living here than I've felt since I can remember (I told James the Nuthaus might have been handicapped because I moved into there with such excruciating back pain, it was more than six months before I could even sit on the couch or lounge at all). We are blessed, and I'm feeling it mightily this Christmas night, even as I relax in the comfort of our extremely effective air conditioning.

And to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Living and Learning

Mal is adding words to his vocabulary all of the time. He cracks me up so much these days.

One of his favorite things is to walk around saying, "Messy, messy," and actually helping clean up! I guess I'm wearing off on him.

He also says two things when he likes food. When he likes pretend food, he says, "Num nummy!" Then when he likes real food, he says, "deeee-nit-chit!" with the same emphasis on every syllable, as though they are three separate words.

Last night at dinner, he ate 5 leaves of lettuce from my salad. It is the first time in mroe than 15 years of parenting that one of my children has willingly eaten salad like that. It'll be interesting to see whether that was really something he liked, or he was just being entertaining.

Today, Mal figured out two cool things. First, he realized how to ride his tricycle. He'd been practicing for weeks, unbeknownst to me. He likes to climb onto the tricycle when we get home, asking to go for a ride. That's always the worst possible time, because I typically have an arm full of groceries, or I need to use the restroom, or grown-up lame-o excuses. Anyway, today we were waiting for a box to be delivered, anyway, and after I put my stuff up, I went back outside to hang out with him. He was sitting on the tricycle, pedaling forward until the chain stopped him, then backward until the chain stopped him. He was riding his trike!

I unlocked it and moved it out from under the stairwell. He was working on how to get his feet into a position to start pedaling as he was kind of pointed uphill, but once we got him on a flat surface, he took off! It was so cool to watch. We never tried to get him to do it. He did it on his own time and in his own way.

The other thing he figured out was how to turn on the spigot downstairs.



He tried unsucessfully a few times, then he got it. And he got it GOOD. Like full throttle, he turned it on.


"Too loud!" I turned in off for him, and then he was ready to go upstairs and watch Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

That, by the way, is his favorite television show. He likes Dinosaur Train, too. He thinks any train is a dinosaur train, so I'm not sure how educational it is. Anyway, there are so many things he seems to have learned and retained from watching and re-watching literally every episode in its 7-year run. I just wish kids were as easy to redirect in real life as they are in the show.

Today, I wore a t-shirt tucked in with a flannel shirt over it. I pretty much never ever wear my shirts tucked in. Mal likes to rub my back (if I'm holding him) and my belly (if we're lying down) when he nurses. Well, he'd stick his hand up under my flannel shirt and rub... my other shirt. When he looked and noticed that the pants and shirt annoyingly came together, he tried to pull the waistband away from the fabric of the shirt, and kept saying, "Open. Body. Open."

He has made up his own sign for "broken." When something is broken, he talks about it by holding the fingers of one hand in his other hand and bending them backwards. It's pretty interesting.

There's more, but my brain is fried. It's a busy, exciting, exhausting adventure with this kid!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Clearing Out and Pondering Stuff

We have this really cute curio cabinet that I mistakenly thought was a bookshelf, so I put books on it and... well, a picture is worth a bunch of words, apparently, so:


In addition to the wavy shelving, it was leaning forward. Way forward. And the shelf is on top of another cabinet unit, so you're basically looking at a death trap waiting to be sprung.

So, I did what any responsible parent would do: I gave the shelf to someone else. And as I was clearing it out this week, I came across a few things that made me stop and think. Dang, I hate it when that happens.

The first thing I found was this.


I bought this magazine in early 1998, about the same time I was buying tickets to go to the 20th anniversary sing-along showing of Grease at a theater in Las Vegas. I know, I know. Here in Austin with the Alamo Drafthouse, there are sing-alongs all of the time. But this wasn't the case nearly 20 years ago.

I loved Grease, and I thought this would be a neat magazine to have for posterity's sake. I was living in a condo near the airport at the time, and this magazine traveled with me to the house we bought in northwest Las Vegas, then to Boys Town, then to Washington state for a few months, back to Las Vegas, to our move to north Texas... For some reason, I remember that I kept this in the broken drawer of my built-in vanity at the house in Sherman. Anyway, when I went through the divorce and moved into the RV, it was there, and then to the Nuthaus and now to Vogelfutter.

So I look at this magazine now, and I wonder, "Why?!" I have zero emotional attachment to this thing, and why do I still have it?! I should just throw it away, but I can't help but feel that someone else might want it. But probably not. This thing has traveled with me for nearly twenty years! It's time for it to go bye-bye. Because I just can't remember why, or come up with a new one that justifies keeping it.

Another thing that I came across was James' 4th grade journal, and I set it aside to read last night. It was entertaining and insightful from beginning to end.

Three weeks in, James announced that he'd developed a couple of opinions about the school year: "1) I'm going to like the 4th grade. 2) I am not going to have to study harder." Have I mentioned that my husband is very very smart? Because he is and always has been. No joke.

Anyway, the thing that struck me most (yes, even more than the introduction of the "new" game of Frogger that he happily discovered delivered to his Safeway) was this thing.


Yes, he's a proud little guy. That shows up several times in his writings. But I love the enthusiasm of his "greatest idea." AND the "Why not?" attitude.

For a day or two, at least, because then this happened:


Do you hear a balloon deflating? The "wah-wah" trombone of Debbie Downer? "We don't get to do, nobody will supervise us."

It makes me so so sad. For fourth grade James, and for every kid who ever had an amazing idea that got shot down by a grown-up because it wasn't important to the grown up to try to find a way to make it happen.

Listen, I understand. There are probably liability issues with allowing a group of unsupervised kids use the gym or the front lawn or whatever outside of school hours. I get that teachers have families and lives and already give more than they have to to the school.

But, dang it, if just one person could have been there to say, "We can't do this officially as a school thing, but let's try to figure out how to make it happen, anyway..."

Sigh.

This. This is one reason I unschool. I want to see what the kids are going to do of their own volition. Maybe it's sit around and watch videos all day. And maybe it's writing a play comparable to Shakespeare or Miller. Or maybe it's just using the oven for the first time, even though you've always been scared of it, because *you* wanted to bake brownies, not because someone told you to make something.

Adults often complain that kids are not motivated or lazy, but the truth is that a lot of times, they just don't want to do the stuff we want them to do, things that seem important to us, but for which they have no context and don't find important in the least. What if we set them free to pursue what they find important? What could they accomplish? What would Mrs. White's 1981-1982 4th grade class have accomplished?

Finally, I've been seeing (and reseeing) a bunch of memes lately about the things that "drive me crazy": things like not replacing the toilet paper roll, but just putting a new roll of TP on the counter; a kid folding laundry but not doing the "right" folds on the towels; that kind of thing. In fact, I was doing a search for the toilet paper meme, and, good grief... You can actually get a sign to put in your bathroom that says, "Replacing the toilet paper will not give you brain damage." Someone PAYS to have a sign like that in their house.

I guess if you're using it as a humorous reminder, okay, whatever. But there is an anecdote that I believe was in 30 Days of Purpose, and if not, it was in something Rick Warren wrote... and it's literally the only thing I remember about him except that when he and his wife went to visit some small African village, their helicopter blew the corrugated steel roof off of the school building.

Anyway, he said that he used to get really bothered by the fact that his wife didn't refill the ice trays when she used ice. He said that every time he had to refill them himself, knowing he hadn't used the last ice, he would grumble in his head, if not out loud. One time, he was so bothered, his self-talk went like this: "Seriously, this only takes six seconds. It's not like--" Then he realized "it only takes six seconds" applied to him as well as to her. He allowed himself to consider whether his wife was worth serving, with kindness and no ill will, for six tiny seconds, as he did something that was very important to him, and apparently not important to her.

I've remembered this for probably 15+ years. I don't always practice it, but I really try to.

Do you know what I do when I got into either of our bathrooms and the toilet paper is out? I replace it. Do I get mad at the person who let it run out and didn't replace it? No. I sincerely don't. I'm sure I do and don't do things that the other people in this house wish I did differently, too. It's nothing for me to fix the toilet paper. I hope it's nothing for them to extend grace to me.

There are lots of things that could and used to get on my nerves that I realized don't bother me when I don't let them. Most of that annerved reaction is because of pride. Because I feel like I'm not being respected or that my time is too valuable to waste doing whatever it is that didn't get done.

An example: The other day, the trash was put out for the complex valet service, which means the container we use for recycling was outside. We just put a recycling bag in the pantry to use until we pull the empty can back in. My older child had brought some trash up and had basically just sat it on the floor, on top of the bag, but not in it. Me from several years ago would have gone into the bedroom, marched the child back into the kitchen, shown the child the offending trash, and insisted that it be put away correctly. This time? I just put it in the bag and mentioned later, "If you don't feel like putting the trash into the bag, just leave it on the counter and I'll throw it away." And the reaction made me think that it wasn't intentional. It hasn't happened again, either.

There is enough to be genuinely bothered about for me to waste negative energy at the people in my house. We're all on the same team. And now I'll get off of that soap box.

By the way, if Mal ever folds the towels, I'll put them away however he manages to stack them. I don't care. You can't see them when the cabinet is closed. Done and done.

Finally, somethnig... uh, interesting. James' co-worker brought these and thought I might appreciate them. Because I'm a moo-cow, you see? *sigh*


If you think that looks dirty, you're not alone. From this page: "Thought it was a certain action of the boys, and later learned that only 'milking'." Oh, those boys.

And speaking of boys, the same co-worker who brought this in for me is the one who drew a "cool/weird" scale about me and put me way higher on the "weird" side than the "cool" side.

Anyway, I'm going to have these for breakfast in the morning, so wish me luck.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Packing Books

I woke up this morning because Aish was whining at the bedroom door.

I let her in, and all of Mal's craziness broke loose. I have a sneaky suspicion that Laura was keeping him barely reined in up until that point.

I planned to get up and join them, but she insisted that I needed to snuggle with Aish for a while.

I pick my battles. I wasn't about to argue about this one.

But eventually I made the bed around Aish and joined them. It was a pretty relaxed morning for us, really. I went back later and noticed that our quilt was in shambles and pretended to care. Laura told me that Mal does this to her at least a dozen times a day.

I blame Rudy. I can't believe she'd say such an awful thing about our child.

He has my genes. How could he possibly be difficult?

There's an Indian restaurant in the vicinity that I've been meaning to check out. So we made a tentative lunch date before they left for church.

Unfortunately for those plans, I was starving. And running really low on caffeine.

(Laura bought me a new coffee pot that's supposed to just make the stuff every morning. I'm not sure what went wrong with it this morning).

So I went to breakfast at Jim's. I sat at the bar next to a woman who really wanted to chat. I should have been social and charming, but I just didn't have it in me. Being married has rubbed off a lot of my rough edges, but I'm still convinced that Sunday's my day to relax and recharge.

About a third of the way through that meal, I started thinking that I should stop so I'd have room for lunch.

But then the waitress finally showed up with my first coffee refill. I asked for a to-go box then, but they were super-busy.

Somewhere about that time, Laura sent me a message that friends from church were bring us boxes.

I got serious about leaving then.

But not serious enough. I got home and found the boxes waiting for me. I was kicking them in the door when Laura sent me a text that they'd just ditched them there because no one answered the door.

Oops.

I kicked them into the middle of the living room, chugged my to-go coffee, put the rest of my breakfast into the fridge, and headed to my hot lunch date.

The food was great. The company was better.

Mal ran around like a crazy person, but no one seemed to care.

My perspective may be totally skewed here. I didn't spend any time at all chasing him around, since I'm doing my best to stay off my feet right now.

I got home and had a major case of "full belly, time to sleep." I managed to stay awake for a couple of hours, but then I had to collapse for a nap.

I warned Laura that it was coming, and I think she felt a little bitter about it. I wish Mal would let her take one even once in a while. I really do try to keep him contained to let her have some space, but I don't know how she manages.

Anyway. I woke up, and she was packing.

So I decided to pitch in. Since I'm helpful, and nurturing, and caring, and that kind of stuff. (Why are you laughing? I could be that way if there was something in it for me).

Actually, this reminds me of some random thoughts that popped into my brain while I was parking for my lunch date.

I remembered about a thousand other lunch dates I've been on with other people. And how they were all about control. And who was giving more. And just snarky stupid bullshit. Or the complete opposite of "You need clean socks for this trip? That's an interesting problem."

Have I ever mentioned how nice it is to *know* that your "better half" not only really is your better half, but is also on your side?

But I was writing about book packing.

This may be surprising to the people who know me, but I think there's a good chance that I have more books than Laura does.

I know. It's pretty tough to believe. But there's a pretty good chance it's true.

I woke up and packed a few boxes while Laura was doing the same. Then I decided I was done for a while, but she found one more box that I could pack.

I have two bookshelves in one corner of our bedroom that are just packed to the gills.

Each shelf has a back layer, front layer, and then a couple more layers stacked on top of both.

I think I got a significant portion of those books packed today. Maybe about 20%.

We have a recliner that sits in front of those books.

Mal enjoys running around that recliner.

I stacked book boxes up until he didn't have enough room to complete that circuit.

He was really upset about this.

So he crawled in, grabbed a book, crawled back out, and tossed that book into the last box that I was trying to pack.

He's trying to help! He is contributing!

I'm all snot-nosed and teary-eyed just thinking about it.

When we moved here, he was just annoying little blot who screamed for attention constantly.

Now he's trying to help.

He might wind up being just as much trouble, but he's making a conscious effort to be part of the solution.