Sunday, February 27, 2011

If You Give Your Spouse a House

If you give your spouse a house,
she'll want a front door with no holes in it.
So you'll tear out the old door and put in a new one.
When she sees how nice the new door looks, she'll want a new storm door, too.
Then she'll want a kitchen with no snakes in it.

You'll have to go to the home improvement store to buy a new kitchen.
She'll want to go with you.
When she gets to the store, she'll notice that they have lots of pretty paint and all sorts of neat floor tiles.

She'll ask you to take the baby so she can compare paint shades.
She'll start comparing.
The paint will remind her of the pedicures she used to get, back in that previous life.
So she'll start crying in the middle of the home improvement store because obviously she will never get another pedicure again.

When she's done, she'll drag you over to the appliances.
She'll need a new stove and a dishwasher. And a king-size Twix.
Then she'll ask you to help measure each of the appliances and write down the prices.
While you're doing that, she'll ask you where the kids are that she asked you to watch back when she was crying in the paint section.
You'll race around the store in a panic until you realize that they're still right next to you.

When she sees the children, she'll remember that they have to go back-to-school shopping.
She'll suggest that you stop at Target on your way home.
Going to yet another store will make all the kids so cranky that they start crying too.
So she'll try and bribe them with candy.
Then they'll demand more candy.

She'll probably decide that the whole trip was a huge waste and say it's time to go home.
When you get there, she'll see the brand new storm door and the new front door that goes with it.
Seeing the door will remind her that her kitchen is still full of snakes.
And chances are...
if she thinks about that kitchen,
she'll want to go and buy a new one.

(thanks to Laura Joffe Numeroff for the inspiration)

Friday, February 25, 2011

My tax-fueled angst is good for something

If you have ever had two and a half home-based business and did independent contractor work with four kids and three dogs and moved across the country to another state for business reasons in the middle of the year after one of you had a real job and cashed out some of your retirement to buy a foreclosure with cash which you then had to fix so that you could continue doing your home-based business, then you will know why doing the taxes this year is causing me to have minor (major) heart palpitations.  It is so friggin' time consuming!  And yes, we were going to have a pro do this for us, but as it turns out, the pro is not going to organize and itemize each of our Home Depot receipts for us and that is the part that sucks.  True story.  I was totally getting everything ready yesterday so that I wouldn't have to deal with it this year and I realized that once I was done "getting everything ready" the rest of it would be easy.  Am I really going to pay someone $318 to do the easy part?  H to the E to the double L no!  'Cause that's not how I roll.

The good news is that from my tax-fueled angst sprang forth some hilarious material for ThatDonkeyGuy, who is a brave, brave soul for irritating me in my time of uber frustration.  And as much as I quite literally want to punch him in his tiny, stuffed donkey face sometimes, the product is always so entertaining that I'm willing to put up with it.  Hopefully he will also rocket to YouTube stardom soon and with the proceeds we'll be able to build our chicken coop!  And finish our goat fence!  And put goats inside our goat fence!  And all the other wacky things we are totally unprepared for but absolutely willing and excited to do.

In conclusion (that's meant to be a funny way for a grown-up to end a last paragraph): sorry for the lame post.  My brain is mush, my house is a wreck, there's a stuffed donkey reading over my shoulder, and two little girls who have already named the chickens that we don't even have yet.  My baby is shoving pencils under the fridge.  My son is shoving a granola bar between the couch cushions.  Oh and look, that dog is eating a turd.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

God's not gonna call you on the phone

For years we tried to move back to Texas.

Digression: I love you, my sweet Lone Star state, what with your awesome, chops-bustin' people and your biggy biggness and your super fine economy.  You have my alma mater (and high school, too.  Yes, east Dallas is how I roll) and the best Mexican food this side of Mexico (go to Danal's, eat their salsa, and think of me).  You know how they say that in America you feel like you can do and be anything?  Texas is like America times a thousand.  If you are a fan of America, you won't be able to not love the way Texas and Texans make you feel.  End digression.

We looked for jobs and we looked at real-estate and we asked our friends about neighborhoods and schools, and it just never came together.  Now listen- God is not going to call you up or send you an email ('cause if he did, some people might get jealous and then he'd be all "Hold on nature and the universe, I'll be right there...just gotta send out 7 bajillion emails real quick").  If you are doing your best and trying your hardest and things are just. not. coming. together. Then stop.  Stop.  That is God's way of telling you that your plan is not His plan, and guess whose plan always wins?  Well, yes, usually mine, but the right answer here is: His.  So that's where we found ourselves just a little over a year ago.  Asking each other and God what we ought to do instead since Texas (my sweet) was just not working out and BLAM: Michigan.  Everywhere I turned: Michigan.  Everything I read: Michigan.  Every time I saw my family on facebook: Michigan.  Okay fine, yeah, that is a big part of all this, the whole Huge-and-awesome-family thing, but the funny (not haha) part is that we never even took that into consideration until Michigan was already haunting us in our dreams.

For a while, I was like a kid who pretends she doesn't understand the instructions because she doesn't want to do the task (yeah, y'all know what I'm talkin' about!).  "Too bad Michigan sucks" I even said one day and Tommy (you'll notice he's a little more level-headed than I am.  In general.  Except for the Donkey thing.) replied "Why?  Why does it suck?"  And of course, I didn't have an answer for him.  Because Michigan doesn't suck.  I just didn't know what the frap I was talking about.   And the more I learned and did, the clearer our path became.  The faster the pieces fell into place.  I grew to love this state's 19 million acres of forests and over 3,000 miles of coastline, her abundant fresh water and dramatic seasons.  And I can honestly say that from the day the word "Michigan" first crossed our lips to the day we closed on our actual house in actual Michigan that we bought off the internet for $27,000, approximately six months had passed.  Just six months!  Yes, I am still recovering from the whiplash. 

 I like to call them "signs".  Tommy likes to say "providential".  Whatever you want to call them, we get them all the time, as if He knows that we still need some reassurance every now and then.  Like when we found out that the person who owns all the land around our property goes to our church.  And has a daughter in the same grade in the same school as our oldest daughter.  Who is also in the same CCD class and on the same Odyssey of the Mind team.  Beautiful, empty land all around us that happens to be owned by a person we would have certainly become friends with anyway.  These kinds of things have been happening almost constantly on this journey, letting us know that we are on the right path.  A path we could never have imagined before, but one that feels so right now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Finding a House on the Internet:step 2

A few days ago, I started a series called Finding a House on the Internet.  Here is the second installment (for any of you who've been holding your breath, sorry it took so long!), all about the schoolin'.  And even if you won't ever have kids,  you should still read it.

If I remember correctly, we left off with a stern prohibition against you looking at homes outside of your price range, and with you pretending to listen and then still looking at homes outside your price range.  Quit that this instant!

By this time, you should have a short list of houses not-next-door to the gas station or across the street from the sewage treatment plant, and whose kitchen windows don't look directly into your neighbor's bathroom windows.  For each of these houses that are starting to show promise, you must check on the reputation and rating of the local public schools even if you are not planning on using them.  A good school district will be better for your resale value and may help to ensure that your neighbors value education.  Not a guarantee by any means, but it surely won't hurt.  A few national sites to use for this research include GreatSchools, SchoolDigger, and Public School Review.  Once you've looked at national rankings and read the reviews, it's time find the individual district web-sites (google is your friend!).  Read the teacher bios and the letter from the superintendent.  See what's on the calendar of events.  Google the names of the individual schools and the names of the principals.  Maybe you’ll start to be able to envision yourself in that environment.  Or maybe not.  Whichever one it is, trust your instincts

After all that reading, it's time to look at practical schoolish matters such as distance from house to schools (ideally short, but not too short) and distance from schools to nearest liquor store (ideally long).  "Why" you ask "should the distance from the house to the school be short but not too short?"  Excellent question!  Short so that kids (yours or the children of your future buyers) can get to school quickly, or even walk if needed, but not too short or you'll have an obscene amount of traffic, including buses, passing in front of your house at least 2, but probably 4, times per day (if you have never been stuck in school drop-off or pick-up traffic, trust me: you. do. not. want. to. live. there!)  Virtually drive the route using google street view or google earth.  How many major intersections will you have to go through?  Are there sidewalks?  How much traffic is in the streetview?  I don't know how much of any of these is ideal for you, I'm just saying you should know before you leap.  As for the liquor stores, I'll let you extrapolate on your own.

 Once you've whittled the list down even further, get on facebook or twitter or your email and ask your friends if they have any friends who live there.  You will be shocked at how small this world is!  Make their acquaintance and ask them questions.  Don't be shy.  You are about to BUY A HOUSE OFF THE INTERNET, for the love of Pete.  Now is not the time to be timid!  Plus, most people really do love to help other people and they will happily answer questions from a friend-of-a-friend.  They might even offer to drive by the house for you (yes, this really happened to me.  Complete stranger.  So kind!) to "check things out".  You'll never know if you don't try, so put yourself and your questions out there.  If you have no friends (make some!) or have never heard of facebook (get on there!), you can also join one of the bazillion regional and national forums, chock full of people (like me.  As in, literally me) living wherever it is you want to live who are just tooooo excited to tell you every thing there is to know about where they live.  Trust me, we loooooove it when people want to hear what we've got to say, especially if you start with "We are thinking of buying this house sight-unseen...."

Once you've done all this, it's time for step 3....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hey, the pioneers didn't have dryers

A few years ago a good friend of mine was telling me about a family she knows in some New England state (read: cold in the wintertime) who live a super eco-friendly, green sort of life.  "They have three kids and they don't even OWN a clothes dryer!" to which I responded "What?!?!?" followed by "I could never.  Just never."  And I looked at little 3-month old Paul in my lap and was sure it was true.  We were living a typical suburban life then...two cars and smartphones and endless traffic, on a cul-de-sac with an HOA that prohibited (among all sorts of other things) clothes lines.  How could my imagination make the leap from that moment in that kitchen with my baby boy in my lap to a time that would require, or even enable, me to live a dryer-free life?  The unbelievable series of events that would lead to today would have been just that: unbelievable.

Before I go on, I'll make a confession- I've probably never done anything only because it was "green".  But I have done many "green" things because they're cheap.  That's gotta count for something, right?

Anyway, when we got here (or "upon our arrival") the laundry-room/future workshop looked like this:

so we had to make something work and it had to be cheap.  Solution: no dryer

So now, despite all my adamant claims to the contrary those few short years ago, for three seasons out of the year we lug every bit of our soggy laundry outside to the real clothesline, and during the winter we hang it here in our den on this handy-dandy drying rack from  Because we have four kids and we don't even OWN a clothes dryer.  And do you know what?  I love it.  I love every second of the meditative silence of hanging each little piece (because if someone wants to talk, then someone gets to hang.  No one wants to talk when mama's hanging).  And I love being able to give the chore to my big girls if I need to, because it's easy but time consuming and makes them feel the consequences of putting stuff that's still clean into the dirty laundry hamper.  Now that, ladies and gents, is a win-win-win.

Friday, February 18, 2011

This is what I was made for

It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it, you want- oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain

There is a giddiness in the air, my friends.  Pure giddiness!  The children can feel it.  The dogs can feel it.  Those chirpy birds and that croaky frog and most especially this very high-strung girl can all FEEL the glorious approach of spring.  We can smell it.  We can see it in the sky and hear it in the wind.  It is so magical in our tiny corner of this incredible world that I can barely stay in my skin!  Oh yes, I do know that real spring doesn't even arrive for another month, but do you realize what that means?  It means we get weeks and weeks of this!  This anticipation of new life and new growth and new things.  This revealing of things that we'd forgotten were there and the unveiling of things we didn't even know we had.  And today, along with all that, came a truly uplifting revelation: this part of the season, in all its rapid change and absolute wonder and threat of chaos, this is what I was made for.  The restlessness and doldrums that come from a changeless sky and all its seasonal predictability are, quite happily, a thing of the past.  What we are enjoying in the air all around us is a feeling of all-things-are-possible.  This transition from winter to spring is what my entire life has been about. 

 Before now, in all those grown-up years spent in southern California, I didn't know what I didn't know.  If I did, I'm fairly sure I wouldn't have been able to stand being without it, and now that I do, I'm certain I can never let it go.  Give me these cool, gusty winds and that soggy, fertile soil.  Rejoice with me in the brisk days and the cool nights and the planning and preparation and anticipation.  Let me revel in the prospect of a new world bounding forth all round me.  My heart has finally found itself amid all the rugged beauty of this seasonal uncertainty.  This place, this feeling, is my Michigan.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Finding a House on the Internet: step 1

Okay, it is finally time for a real, useful, how-to post, ‘cause I know people can only handle so many anecdotes about my children before they yell “Who really cares?!?!  Get to the parts where you almost die and stuff!” at their screen.  So instead let’s talk about how to buy a house off the internet, because even though you haven’t told your husband/wife, it’s been a secret dream of yours for years (or at least ever since you started reading this blog).  Am I right, or am I right? 

When I say “how to buy a house off the internet” I do not mean how to put in offers and compare comps, because I am no realtor (Maybe someday).   What I do mean is: how do you pick one house out of the thousands upon thousands plus thousands of houses and decide to buy it without ever seeing it?  First, you’re gonna have to make a list.  If he/she is anything like my husband, he/she would probably rather scrub bird droppings off your porch railing with his/her own toothbrush than make a list, but you tell him/her that if he/she ever wants his/her very own dang porch railing covered in bird droppings, then he/she’d better help you make a frappin’ list! (I promise that’s the only sentence I’ll do that in.  As tiring as it was to read it, it was even more tiring to write it, I swear).  The list must include, but does not have to be limited to: budget, size of home, amount of land, level of fixer-upper-ness, and what you must be close to (church? airport? major hospital?).  Oh, and what does close mean?  Just making this list will probably be harder than you imagine it will be.  For example, when you find out that your spouse doesn’t have the appreciation for craftsman style architecture that you do, you might have to have an existential meltdown and drink a little too much wine and then forget to finish your list for a few days.  Hypothetically.

 Once you’ve got list in hand (which in itself could take weeks), you can get to the good part- finding your house!  For national real-estate ogling purposes, I love Trulia and, plus any and all local and regional websites you can find.  The most important rule is that you MUST NOT look at houses outside of your price range.  Strictly prohibited!  The minute you do, all the homes in your price range will look like absolutely decrepit hovels, so do. not. do it.  When you find a house that meets the criteria on your list (you made the list like I told you to, didn’t you?),  google the address.  See every version of the listing that you can find.  Google the name of the selling agent.  Find as many photos as you can.  Quit looking at homes outside your price range.  Look at the google streetview and google earth and the bing birds-eye view.  Which direction are the windows pointing?  What would you see if you looked out your kitchen window? Quit looking at homes outside your price range.  How many inches away is your closest neighbor and what does their house look like?  What will you have to look at every day on your way to work or the grocery store?  If the house is next to a gas station or across from the sewage treatment plant or some other potentially unsavory locational element, the MLS listing is probably not going to tell you that, so you have to find out for yourself.  And seriously, quit looking at houses outside your price range!
If you’ve gotten this far, then you’re ready for step two….coming soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Renovation 101: Avoiding Electrocution

You will be pleased to know that despite the ludicrous potty-training situation that we had gotten ourselves into, it wasn't too long before we got ourselves back out of it and were able to come out of hiding, everyone clean and fully clothed.  Naturally then it was time for more renovations.  Well, it was my time for more renovations.  It was Tommy's time to be very, very sad.  Because I have to take care of a baby who still likes her mama best ya know, and because I, as you may have heard, am a total klutz, so trusting me with power tools whilst babies (dog and human) scamper around willy-nilly is likely to turn into a national anti-crazy-people parenting case, or at the very least a trip to the emergency room.  Or so I said.  Which means I took on my most loved role: Master of the Universe, while Tommy took on his most abhorred role: That Grunt-Work Dude.

"We can just do it real quick."  Ever since the following project, that's the phrase we are (I am) not allowed to say anymore because every time one of us (I) says it, the project always takes at least 8 days longer than expected, costs a minimum of an additional $375, and results in our children learning all sorts of fancy new words.  That project, of course, was the other half of the kitchen.  It seemed simple enough- tear down walls, run wires for new electrical outlet and phone jack, recess pantry into basement stairwell, hang drywall, paint, install the.....okay, fine.  When you write all down like that, I guess it doesn't seem so simple.  But we (I) thought it was going to be so simple, especially after we (Tommy) had already done the real part of the kitchen, with all sorts of success.

First, there was the small matter of the asbestos sandwich, which the boy was all too happy to help me with because, as it turned out, he recognized the crowbar from a certain Spongebob episode in which a certain blow fish boating instructor goes totally bonkers ballistic because of some insert-totally-annoying-thing-here.  "You're just wike Mrs. Puff!" he cheered.  Why thank you.
Our first delay was that the paneling that was on the wall was not a sheet of paneling.  Instead it was individual pieces of wood fitted together with a tongue-and-groove joint, so each piece had to taken down individually.  But they couldn't be taken down individually because somehow they had been installed before the floor and ceiling.  So the floor and the ceiling were all smashed up against them in an evil, smashy manner.  The only way to remove them then was to cut each piece in half first using a jig saw.  Yes, if we had a reciprocating saw, we would have used that, but we don't so we couldn't.  So there's Tommy, going at the paneling with the jig saw, the plugged in, electric jig saw when he saw this:
 And do you know what this is?  No!  Not another snake skin!  It's a live electrical wire leading to nothing!  For real.  A fat wire coming up through the floor, between the studs, draped precariously over a random nail that was live which had been narrowly missed by my dear husband and his jig saw.  Take that, electrocution!

Once we had gotten the paneling off (and run wires for new electrical outlet and phone jack and moved the light switch and fixed the insulation), but before we installed the new cabinets and counter tops, Tommy recessed our new pantry into the wall....

 and rested it on a platform that he built in the stairwell leading to the basement.  He is so smart!

Tada!  After only 8 extra days, an additional $375, and a whole bunch of fancy new words later, the other half of the kitchen was complete.

 I am sitting at that table right here, writing this to all of you.  Yes, we still need to put up the trim, and yes the ceiling and light fixtures are a hot mess, but my goodness....can you believe the difference?  It absolutely blows my mind that we have a kitchen like this.  Man, if we can do that, we can do anything.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"I'm sick of looking at BUTTS!"

You probably remember that time that we decided to get three dogs instead of finishing our kitchen.  If you have never had a brand new puppy, not to mention two brand new puppies and an old farm dog, I don't know how I can convey to you how, once you bring them home, your life immediately revolves totally and completely around stool.  Literal stool.  As in feces.  Oh, and urine too.  In case you can't tell by now, I am usually a go-big-or-go-home kind of girl, so I am going to give you one guess as to what I decided we should do once we brought home three new dogs to a half-finished house.  You guessed it!  Potty train our son!

In retrospect (that's what I say every time I'm telling you about one of my bad ideas) we probably should have waited a few more weeks for that, but my "logic" (using the term loosely) was that we would already be on waste-product patrol and the carpet shampooer would already be at-the-ready and we would already be beside ourselves with irritation and sleeplessness and stench, so why not just get it over with?  Why not just rip off the gigantic band-aid of smelly digestive remnants?  Because potty-training three live creatures is easier than potty training two, haven't you heard?  And Tommy, having been married to me for over 10 years, knew that there was no reasoning with me at that point.  But he tried anyway (bless him), and lost, because I do not lose arguments.

As awful as you are imagining those hundred?...weeks to be, I can promise you it was worse.  Every time we turned around, someone was peeing on the carpet.  Or pooping in the closet.  Or chewing on an electrical chord to distract us from the fact that someone else was peeing and pooping on the carpet in the closet.  It was madness.  We were literally housebound.  And every 5 minutes..."Where's Paul?  Where's Chevy?  Quick!  Someone find them.  No!  Stop!  Stop peeing!  What the heck?!?!  You just peed, like, 6 minutes ago!!!".  Day after day after day of this, with no end in sight, until one night, my sweet daughter Lizzy burst into tears in the dining room.

"I am so sick of looking at BUTTS!" she sobbed.  "This is never, ever, ever going to end in a million years and even if it does, by the time Paul finally quits running around with no stupid pants on, then it's going to be Ceci's turn and we're gonna have to start aaaaaaaaaaallllllll oooooooooovvvvvvverrrrrrrrrrr  aaaaaaagggggggaaaaain!"  Followed by much flailing of many limbs and the mighty gnashing of all her teeth.  So we decided that we were wrong (yes, we were both wrong, because he agreed to my crazy plan, don't you see?) and tried to put a diaper back on Paul.

Have you ever been called stubborn?  Or contrary?  Perhaps evil?  Those are all things we really wanted to call him when he adamantly refused the diaper and, after days and days of pretending he didn't know what the heck we were talking about with all this ridiculous potty drivel, insisted that he be permitted to use the toilet.  "Because", he said in his best big boy voice, "diapers are for babies.  I am not a baby."  After we had decided to give up on potty training him.  Oh my good lord, raising children teaches you patience and fortitude like nothing else on this earth.  If you have children but you have not bought a fixer-upper off the internet, I can promise you that what you have already done is way harder than fixing up any house could ever be.  Because the house can't argue with you.  The house can't talk back.  And, unless you have a real bad situation on your hands, the house will not poop on the closet floor.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

10 signs you might be living at my house

Have you ever been confused about where you live? Have you ever thought that maybe you live at my house?  If so, here is a simple questionaire to help you determine once and for all if you are in fact my new roommate.

10. What kind of walls do you have?  If you can count 5 different kinds of paneling, but only 2 of them are actually made out of wood, you just might live at my house.

9. If you have to unplug the washing machine every time you're done with a load because the water valve for the cold water drips and threatens to electrocute you, there is a chance you live at my house.

8. Yes, you have to use the dripping cold water valve because the hot water valve doesn't work at all.

7. And don't forget the bucket.  If you got a drip, you gotta have a bucket!

6. Do you have a dryer?  Yes?  Then you definitely do not live at my house.

5. Check the heater vents on the west side of the house. If they are not connected to the furnace and you have them all covered with some toy, piece of trash or old towel because otherwise they would actually make the rooms colder, then you might be living at my house.

4. And because the heater vents are not hooked up, you have a small space heater in the den which readily heats everything in a 2 foot radius.  But the room is 35 feet long, so......

3. Look at the electrical outlets and light switches on exterior walls.  If they have packing tape around them because back in December you realized that cold air was rushing in all around the edges, then yes, it's possible that you live at my house

2. Can your kids find 'pictures' in the water spots on the ceiling?  No?  Then you can be sure that you do not live at my house.  What?  It's just like cloud gazing...only...gross!

And the number one sign that you may in fact be our newest boarder....

1. Every time you turn around, there is something to laugh at, something to celebrate, or at the very least some super-secret spies to meet.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Always wonder. Never worry.

As I mentioned yesterday, some readers have asked for the story of exactly how we got here and a description how were able to save up enough money to make this happen.  In an old family blog of ours, I used to give some literal money-saving pointers.  You can read them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.  And for even more budgeting tips, take a look at this site, which I heard about from a fellow money-saving friend.  So in lieu of talking about changing our finances so that a family with kids can save $27,000 (because there really are so many more of them out there in google land), I thought I'd talk about changing our hearts instead.

Things have not always been easy for us.  There have been times in our marriage that things were downright hard.  I remember, when our first baby was still a baby, scrounging change from around the house so that Tommy could walk to the store to get milk because we didn't have enough money to put gas in the car to drive there.  I remember having a four hour total daily commute to and from work when I was 5 months pregnant with our second baby because we were living with my in-laws, I needed to work, and that was the best job I could find.  I remember our house getting foreclosed on and having to move into a two bedroom apartment when I was 8 months pregnant with our third baby because the adjustable rate on our mortgage adjusted and we literally could not make the obscenely high payments and still afford to feed our family.  And guess what?  Those are the days we still remember and marvel about.  All of those were the best freaking days of my life because without any of that, I wouldn't be here where I am now, in this wonderful place with these incredible children and this amazing story to tell.  My dear husband and I would not have the kind of love and appreciation for each other that many can only dream of.  I would not be able to look at a snake skin under my kitchen sink and say "Oh my gosh, people are gonna crack up when they hear about this!"

Worry anticipates the worst.  Wonder plans for the best.  What I mean to say is: when will you have time to conjure up all the crazy and ill-advised ways for you to realize your dreams if you are wasting your time imagining all the ways things could go wrong?  Example time!

Worry Guy:
Oh my gosh!  We can't pay our mortgage!  We're gonna lose our house!  Then we'll be homeless!  On the streets!  And kids are going to be criminals!  Then Lady Gaga is going to become presideeeeeeeeent!  Waaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!

Wonder Lady:
Oh my gosh!  We can't pay our mortgage!  I wonder how this is going to work out?  Maybe we'll actually be able to start saving some money.  Maybe I'll get to spend more time with my kids.  Maybe we could start, like, weaving our own cloth or something.  Yeah, and sell it on Etsy.  We could be the most famous family of cloth weavers this side of the Mississippi!

If you really want...WANT....something, first you have got to stop worrying that it's never going to happen and start wondering how it IS going to happen.  And then start doing it.  Quit listening to them.  According to them, we got married too young.  We had kids too soon.  We did a crazy thing by buying a house we'd never seen in a place we'd never been.  And we, we who made all the wrong choices and broke all the rules, are having the most exciting, adventurous life that we could ever have imagined imagining.  We are not special or different.  We are just like you.  All we did is exactly what you and anyone else can do- we let our hope be bigger than our fear.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

How to save $27,000, part 1

Several readers have asked me to detail exactly how we managed to save enough to buy this house and move across the country, especially as we are relatively young and have four kids.  I'm working on a real post, but I wanted to start everyone off with this simple tip, brought to us by the fine folks at Saturday Night Live.  Gosh, I do love me some Steve Martin.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

My nemesis smells like an egg

There is so much you can't do until you do something else.  Figuring out which comes first has been one of our biggest challenges, what with a to-do list of approximately 3.7 million items.  Luckily, I am super awesome at that kind of thing, so when contractors let us know that they thought we were out of our minds to be laying new carpet before we put a drop of paint on the walls, I quickly responded "Tell them to lay their infant child upon that mold-infested mop of skinned Elmo...

and then come talk to me about how we're doing it in the wrong order."  Because it was definitely not the wrong order.  I know what's up here, folks.  What's up is a lovely playroom instead...

Now when people (not many) come over, I'm pretty sure they ask themselves why we have not torn out and replaced our dump of a bathroom.

 It really is quite the nasty thing.

Pieces of ceiling tile that simply refuse to stay parallel to the floor despite the application of several varieties of fastening device dangle precariously over the commode.  The top layer of wood laminate on the vanity is peeling off.  The walls are covered in some kind of floral vinyl paneling.  (Bet you didn't know those words could all be said in a row like that, did you?)  
The shower is the most disastrous of all the disasters, though.  Happily, we have a shower curtain that I keep closed at all times so that no one's eyes bleed after seeing it.  So, why?  Why have we not torn that decrepit thing out yet?  It's because we have a tiny bit of an iron bacteria problem.  And by "tiny bit", I mean "enormous, elephant-hiney sized" iron bacteria problem.  This problem makes our bathtub look like this:
and the inside of our dishwasher look like this:
and our toilet tank look like this:
and my toenails look like this:

Hah!  Just kidding!  Did you hold your breath there for a second thinking I was going to make you look at a picture of yellow toenails?  You're welcome.

It's so bad that our tap water smells like a boiled egg and tastes like one too.  It killed a Brita filter in three days.  It haunts me in my dreams and makes me listen to nails on a chalkboard.  It refuses to be exorcised.  Oh yes, we've tried.  It laughed at us.  A big hearty, evil laugh.  Like a cackle.  An egg-fragranced cackle.  But do you know what my nemesis does not know (I hope iron bacteria doesn't read blogs)?  That I secretly love him....because I never have to bother to scrub the bathtub.  Hah.  In your face!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Help me write this thing!

The other day I created an "about us" page at the top only because I wanted to make a ThatDonkeyGuy page and it looked weird having only one other option up there (hey, I'm being honest here) but judging by the traffic, it seems that readers are actually interested in what that page has to say, and I feel flattered but also bad.  I feel bad that it doesn't really say anything, but I'm not sure how to fix that.  This blog truly is about the ridiculousness and the how-to of doing what we're doing (you know, buying a fixer-upper in Michigan off the internet sight unseen for $27,000) and so rambling on about us personally for any length of time makes me feel a  little contrived and silly.  What are people looking for when they go to that kind of page?
Here's where I could use your help.  Ask me something.  Whatever you think should be on the About Us page, ask in the comment section below.  I'll open up anonymous posting for this so people who don't already have blogger accounts or who would normally be a little embarrassed to post can participate (did you hear that, spammers?  Knock yourselves out!).  It can be something expected (Where did you crazy lovebirds meet?) or something a little less so (Would you rather have hiccups for a year or have to hop on one leg for 16 hours straight?), and I'd even love some questions or suggestions about this house buyin' and fixin' business to inspire future posts.  Thanks in advance to everyone who participates.  It'll be way better this way than if I just wrote the silly thing myself!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

It doubles as a frog day spa

We've been getting a lot of lessons in finding the silver lining on our clouds lately.  For example, it's probably good that most of the electrical wires in the house were torn out to be sold for scrap before we got here, because we probably would have tried to use the breaker box as it was, thereby causing a horrendous fire and burning down our home.  Cloud: trespassing; burglary; not being able to see.  Silver lining: not being dead.

And so it was with our basement, which we sort of assumed would be accessed from the outside, you know, like the root cellar in the Wizard of Oz, on account of the fact that is it was listed as a Michigan basement with a dirt floor and all.  Upon arriving (doesn't every surprising revelation I share with you start with "upon arriving"?) we discovered that not only was there access from the kitchen straight down to the (dirt floored) basement
there was also easy access from the back yard

which was how our stuff-stealer had gotten the pipes and wiring out of the house whilst the doors were locked.  I couldn't help but wonder why the heck the floor would be dirt or what the heck we were going to do about it, until we left Tommy alone to do all that fixin' and an enormous storm blew in.  The kind of storm that he had never seen in his life, which was so intense that he was sure the whole house would be gone by the time he returned (from his bath in the sink of the public restroom at McDonald's).  Happily, the house was still standing.  In 6 inches of water.  Not the main floor (thank you 8lb 6oz little baby Jesus in your flaxen diaper!) but rather, that fine specimen of a basement, whose walls were so cavey-inny that the mass quantities of water from the storm (some call it "rain") that soaked into the ground around our house promptly shot through these spaces in the cinder blocks onto the floor of the basement to end all basements.

And hippity-hopping up and around the stairs were all manner of froggy-type creatures who had apparently decided that the water in our house was infinitely more fun to play in than the water in the actual pond, which is located precisely right over there.  But have no fear dear readers, because, if you'll recall, the floor is made out of dirt.  Dirt that's connected directly to the real earth, into which water absorbs at a beautifully fast rate (we discovered.  Upon arrival.), and by the next morning, it was all gone.  Just gone.  The basement was dry.  Cloud: unusable hole of a basement with floors made of dirt.  Silver lining: no frog day spa under my living room.
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