House Hunting Fever Has Struck

I love looking at houses. I love going to open houses. I love to watch Rehab Addict and, to a lesser extent, shows like Love It or List It and Property Brothers. So to be back in the position of someone who is searching for our next house is really fun. Yes, I scour Zillow during lunch. Yes, Zach and I have made a pretty extensive list of must-haves, would-likes, do-not-likes, and don’t-forget-to-check-fors. Even the boy is in on the hunt. “Does it have hardwood floors?” he asks about every house we view online.

We recently identified a neighborhood and even stumbled upon a house we thought was perfect. We checked off almost everything on our wish list as we roamed the rooms. We sort of fell in love. Then we learned more about 100 year floodplains. Ummm…no. Michigan’s capital city is located at the convergence of two major rivers and a pretty dynamic creek. It’s had major flood events in 1904, 1947, and 1975. I’m not sure I want to press my luck with floodwaters. So, we crossed that neighborhood off our list.

Lansing, like many other larger and older cities, is a patchwork of neighborhoods, some nice and safe, some not so nice or safe, and in almost any given spot on the map, if you go four blocks one way or the other, you can find yourself in completely different neighborhoods. Plus, you never can tell when a neighborhood is on the way up or might take a sudden turn the other way. That makes staying within city limits a dicey proposition. Outside of Lansing, though, it’s harder to find the type of home we want at a price point that will work as we consider sending our son to a private school. Then there’s the matter of everywhere else we go on a regular basis: church, karate, work. You don’t want to be too far away from any of those places that you go several times a week.

While we puzzle out the perfect spot to transplant ourselves, we continue to do the work in our house to get it ready to list. We’ve moved bookshelves, cleaned out files, stowed away hobby items, and started the process of repainting most of the woodwork in the house. There’s a lot of cleaning out to do — the garage, the attics, the basement, the littlest pack rat’s bedroom — and a few bigger improvements to consider, like kitchen countertops and a new garage door opener.

Lucky for me, I finding purging, cleaning, and painting to be cathartic.

This, That, and the Other During a Busy Week

I can hardly believe my good fortune, but I am headed back Up North this weekend for a few more days at Lake Louise, this time with just the boy in tow. He’s old enough for Kinder Camp (K-2), which is just for a weekend with at least one parent or grandparent staying on. I’ve never been to this particular program before, but I hear there are nice afternoon nap times (this is for me — the boy hasn’t napped in four years) and earlier bedtimes than what has become standard at the junior high camp (I think I heard 8:30 rather than 11:00). I do believe I shall have time in the evenings to finish a book I’m reading and who knows what activities we’ll be doing during the day.

On a very happy note, I’ll be going up eight pounds lighter than I was last time and I’m hoping to continue losing while I’m there. For someone who was pleasantly surprised to have no to-do list just a month or so ago, I’ve suddenly turned into someone with many little goals — weight loss, house purging & sprucing, novel reading, writing, etc. — and a few new responsibilities at work that I’m still getting my mind around. It’s been a stressful week, so I’m happy to be leaving it all behind for one last little bit.

On the purging front, Zach and I went through a bookshelf last night and actually found things we could part with. I’m hoping for further sifting tonight with a couple other shelves, then possibly moving the emptied shelves up a narrow and twisting set of stairs to the upstairs landing. Our potential realtor advised us to open up a doorway to the bathroom we never use, which we had blocked with bookshelves in the office, in order to stage the house correctly when the time comes. And there’s no time like the present to get some stuff out of the office, which is wall-to-wall furniture right now. I’ve already cleaned out a cupboard for the boy’s overflow of art supplies and gotten rid of a small shelving unit. What I need now (desperately) are some big empty Rubbermaid bins for extra fabric and yarn of mine. And then I think, maybe I should just get rid of the lot of it! Or at least a lot more of it.

You ever watch shows like Love It or List It and think to yourself, yes, there have been many real improvements in this house, but the biggest one is that there’s not so much CRAP ALL OVER THE PLACE! It seems like it is rare that a house is truly too small — we all just have too much STUFF. Sometimes I just want someone to back a garbage truck up to the front door so I can commence tossing. But . . . it’s not all my stuff. And I live with two of the sweetest little pack rats there are. So, storage solutions is the name of the game.

Time to get on it!

The Big Purge Begins

July has been an odd month around here. My eggplants aren’t growing (like, not at all since they were put in the ground), the biggest crop of mosquitoes in twenty years has hatched (yet I’ve escaped with nary a bite!), and a week or so ago I got a phone call out of the blue from someone who worked at a real estate office asking if I knew anyone in our neighborhood who was thinking of selling their house. Apparently, the housing stock in my quite desirable neighborhood is very low. Rather than wait for clients, this realtor was taking the initiative to find them.

It so happens I don’t know anyone who is wanting to sell. “What about you?” the man asked.

Well…

The truth of the matter is that we had a realtor give us an assessment two or three years ago that did not turn out terribly favorable. We bought our house in November 2005. When a realtor hears that, she gets a pained look on her face and says, “Ooo…” Lansing real estate hasn’t recovered as well or as quickly as some other cities and the comparables in our area (which seemed to be all she considered) didn’t allow her to get us a price point we could work with. So we figured we’d be here for the foreseeable future. Not that that’s bad. We love our house. Everyone loves our house. People walk in the door and they are compelled to comment on how cute or adorable or classy our house is.

But when we bought our house, we weren’t planning on having a child. The boy will soon outgrow his small bedroom, we live near a very busy street, and we live in the worst school system in the area. His particular elementary school is one of the best, but come to find out he can only go there through third grade as the school is being completely converted over to Chinese immersion and the contemporary students will go…I don’t know where. We had thought we could stay here until the boy was a sixth grader (despite the size of his bedroom). In June we found this was not the case and began fretting about what to do next.

Enter this random (or was it?) phone call.

Sure we would be disappointed by what this new realtor would say, we met and talked about the house. Unlike the previous realtor, this new guy took into consideration the substantial improvements we’ve made over a decade in our home — the new thirty-year roof, the renovated bathroom, the incredible landscaping, etc. And when he came back with the numbers we were pleasantly surprised. His recommended sale price was a full $20,000 higher than the old realtor’s recommendation a few years ago. Suddenly, moving to a different school system was a real option. We decided we will likely put the house on the market in the late spring next year.

And you know what that means: ten months of purging, cleaning, touching up paint, and getting every room ready to show well. It means getting rid of crap that has accumulated over a decade of living in one place. It means my recycling bin will be full every time it is put on the curb. It means lots of lists and projects and weekends with mom over helping me scrub and sort and sell. (My mother once moved house five times in less than four years, by herself, with two children under five. She is an expert.) I’ve already begun to ruthlessly go through my file drawers and bookshelves and magazines, and I have a detailed plan worked out to tackle every inch of the house over the coming months.

I’m not sure exactly which community around here we’ll end up in, but after ten years in one place — the longest I’ve lived somewhere since my childhood home on Lesperance Court — I’m excited about the prospect of finding the right house for our family of three in a great school system for our son. It will be difficult to leave such a beautiful home and yard, but a new place will be like a new canvas on which to design another beautiful home and yard, armed with the knowledge and experience we’ve gleaned from the past decade.

So beyond the usual fare of articles about writing and Michigan and pretty pictures, for the next year or so this space will be a place for me to share with you the odyssey of moving house.

Summer canning has begun…

Canning has begun in earnest. The pantry shelves are bare and Michigan’s bounteous fruit crops are coming in.

Ten jars of strawberry jam, ten jars of currant jelly, seven jars of strawberry lemon marmalade.

Red currants ready for the stove

And leftover strawberries for dipping in sugar and eating.

Cherries, blueberries, and mulberries will fill out the rest of July, then blackberries, raspberries, peaches, tomatoes, and peppers in August and September, and apples and pears in September and October. I’ll be trying out my new pressure canner as well for things like beans and whole fruit I couldn’t do with a water bath.

Last year I hardly canned at all and was forced to buy store-bought raspberry jam. Ew. I’ve been too spoiled with homemade to ever really enjoy that stuff again.

And Spring Slips into Summer

Foamflower, hostas, and a stunted Japanese maple frame an angel bought years and years ago and then forgotten in the garden behind the garage. Now she has center stage in the main shade garden.
Foamflower, hostas, and a stunted Japanese maple frame an angel bought years and years ago and then forgotten in the garden behind the garage. Now she has center stage in the main shade garden.

Have you ever told yourself you’d change and then actually done it? This weekend I really lived my new “to-be list” philosophy. I did do a lot, but I never made a list of things to accomplish and then checked it off, item by item. With everything I did, I felt no rush, no pressing need to do it now, no guilt in the doing or the not doing.

I spent time with my son at Van Atta’s Greenhouse and Nursery, I mowed and transplanted and weeded, I filled a dozen or more pots with annuals, I managed to keep the kitchen pretty clean. Saturday morning, Zach and I were talking about finally putting in a new fire pit sometime this summer. By afternoon, it was there! Suddenly we were roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in the backyard.

On Monday, the boy and I went downtown to visit the various war memorials and monuments and statues, and to check out the “fuzzy” Capitol building (the dome is currently covered with scaffolding as they do maintenance of some sort). We were practically the only ones downtown. We talked of war and sacrifice and men and women who served. We talked about how our state became the Arsenal of Democracy, turning auto factories into factories that made munitions and tanks and Army vehicles; how women built the machinery and the ammunition that finally subjugated the axis powers in WWII; how some wars must be fought and some do not make a lot of sense; how some people come home heroes, some come home to sneers and derision, and some never come home at all. We talked about men in our family who fought and those whose number never came up.

The wind was gusting and it started to rain on us. By the time we were home again the sun was out. We watched Charlotte’s Web for the second time in two days, and now the boy is a spider (with just four legs) who gives spider hugs and spider kisses and makes his webs out of the pile of dirty laundry his father gathered at the bottom of the stairs.

In the coming days we will celebrate the boy’s seventh birthday, his class will take a field trip to the zoo, we’ll take him to his first Brandi Carlile concert (shh–it’s a surprise), he’ll have a birthday party at the park with his friends, and we’ll celebrate with some family the next day.

May is always a big month here.

But I’m not sweating it. I’m loving every minute of it.