The TownHouse story

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After!  After much work in only 10 days it looks great.

September ended with as much busy and crazy as it started.

As I mentioned we did not renew our tenants lease.  We expected some cleanup and we expected to have it rented for Nov 1, maybe with an early move-in mid-October.  I’m very glad I did not procrastinate because the day she was moving out I was there with the clipboard writing the to-do list.  Luckily I got a painter to start the next week and flooring scheduled for the following Tuesday and in the week and a day from her handing over the keys I;

  • replaced the dishwasher <- ended up doing this DIY with the help of vacation mom.  Together we have more courage and actually, we work well together.  We both laughed when one of us got sprayed in the face because we turned ON the water that was apparently already off…  We notice the thing the other doesn’t and it works out well. Only took 2 trips to the store to get the right part.
  • replaced the doorbell – how it broke nobody knows… Glad I had experience with installing my Ring earlier this season so I knew how absolutely simple a device it really is.  img_2486
  • I found a great light fixture with VacationMom at the re-home store and then had to fight with it for over an hour to get modified to fit the space. (it had a too long downrod) and as is common I’m finding with second hand, it didn’t quite have every bit and part needed for an install.  I got creative and a little Frankenstein and 3 trips to the store and finally it is up and looks great.  The old one is now in my garage because it really was not bad, it was just dated, and is now in my list of projects for future garden decoration.

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    bever.  only answer.  Look at the difference in old (top) and new (bottom) paint, looks so fresh and clean and bright!

  • Found a perfect match to the door that was eaten by a beaver (only logical explanation), ordered it, bird-dogged it through the manufacturing system and actually got it 5 days post order instead of the 2 weeks they estimated.  Asking nicely does work!  I also figured out how to chisel out the hinges to match and now you can’t even tell what door is new.

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    prehung door… well, it got me 50% of the way to hang it, chisel got me the other half

  • Replaced all the doorknobs/locks – because that is always what you do.  I can change a doorknob and deadbolt in under 15 min, faster if the packaging is already open.
  • Picked paint and picked it up.  This is fairly minor overall but it was harrowing because I had to go to my least favorite paint place and even though I gave myself 40min to get this done I was still nearly late to pick up the kids.
  • revarnished all the windowsills – a skill I picked up from fixing our old house last year.  I’m very glad to have painted wood in this house.
  • Picked carpet!  easiest part but I’m mentioning it because I am proud I talked the sales guy down $500 on the price.  The install guys were really nice and also fast, the entire place was done by 4pm.
  • Purchased and installed roller shades.  Again, something that is easier than I expected but also a bit of a pain.
  • Replaced the patio door handle.  These are not standard by the way, took 2 trips to find the right one even with detailed measurements and pictures.  Once I had it, it was a fast job, probably because of all my deadbolt training over the years.
  • Installed a blind on the front window.  Easy once you figure out the clippies and what way goes up.
  • Installed a shower head because a new one was faster than cleaning the old one
  • Last but not least, I scrubbed and scrubbed.  Every door, every switch, the tub was tragic but now much less so, counters, floors, fridge…  She actually left it ‘ok’ but I wanted it to look good.  There was less that 1 trash can full of stuff to put out and a desk was left behind but the new family seems ok to keep it.

That is a long list and I got that done around kid duties, Homecoming week, and I even managed a workout and my own house didn’t devolve into chaos for lack of attention.  The hard work paid off though because upon listing we got a plethora of applicants and my top pick looked at it on Sept 27th and called me that night to take it.  It was a frantic rush at the end because they ended up arriving a day before I expected but I had been trying to be done early anyway so the last hour was frantic but enough and all weekend it felt great to have it off my plate.  When I got rent on Oct 1 with no issues or delays or stories or anything it was better than my birthday!  We didn’t get any rent for September so I’m double happy to see the cash flow after the spending to rehab in the month.

The rental home experience is probably different for everyone, I’ve gotten a ton of hands-on experience as well as a network of professionals I can call on.  The plumbing and electrical I’m doing is more because there is a lack of professionals, but, it also isn’t as hard as it seems if you go step by step and have a pocket computer at hand to look up all the things.  We have been truly lucky with tenants, even the ‘worst’ one was not all that bad.  I tell myself that she honestly saved some sanity because the paint and carpet should have been done a year ago but I was mid move then and had zero energy for the project and she didn’t care about paint or carpet (should have been a sign!) but she did pay rent 13 of 14 months and that counts for a lot.

This week the kids had off Monday so we were lazy around the house and yesterday I got to all the things that had been on hold during the project.  Today I burned nearly the whole day on computer things but October bills are paid, odd things are handled and/or asked about and I’m moving on to the next big set of projects – garden shed and driveway expansion.  Both are started and both are stalled but now both are going to get some special attention and I hope to have progress on them soon.

Sitting still for 30min is still rare

Did I say that things would get more quite in September?  School has been in for nearly 3 weeks, I should be eating bonbons by now.

Well….

First, it took a little to get into the school routine.  For anyone who thinks you have ‘tons’ of time while the kids are at school, it is actually 9am drop off, 3:40 pickup – a nominal 6h and 40min.  So while I’m technically child-free for 6h and 40m lets chop off 10m for the amount of time you need to dwell in the parking lot so you have a spot.  This is a *me* thing, I’m more happy and calm with a few min in the car waiting then rushing or getting there late and worrying about running over a kid in the parking lot. Then take out 45min for commutes and you end up with around 5.5hours to get everything done.  Don’t get me wrong, every once in a while that feels like an epic stretch of time.  Compared to the time I have in the summer or what time I had with 3 at home it is an amazing gift of minutes and seconds to use as I see fit.  BUT.  They fill up fast especially because everyone thinks you have tons of time since your kids are in school!

Mini rant finished, I used that first week to actually get out from under the laundry and housekeeping backlog, the storage room is no longer a pit of shame, and the garage isn’t exactly clean but it also isn’t a disaster.  In the middle of August, I decided that our renter really didn’t need another year of mutual stress – she is really great but the house was a struggle for her and I was along for the ride like it or not.  I’m glad I’ve met her, I wish her well, but I also curse her love of double-sided tape that I’ve been scrubbing off the walls.    On the plus side, I already have a painter hired, carpets selected, new (to us) dishwasher waiting on an install and more or less the place was ok.  This is a project I’m equipped to handle but it is a ton of non-routine work that I’m bumping any fun projects to get done on the timeline.

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how I feel about cleaning other peoples messes….

Fortune (and a good market) is smiling on us because within a day of listing the place (Tuesday) I had 50 people interested, 10 filled in an application, 3 were fantastic and I’ve offered it to the top already with #2 and #3 informed.  If anyone is in the position to be listing a place, and, for my future self here is my method this time;

  • List on Facebook Market place, Zillow, and Craigs list
    • I would note Craigs list is NOT on future lists, 3 inquiries only and nobody followed up by actually filling in a form
    • Zillow yielded 3 however, they have a vetting process for renters where they do a background and credit check and keep on file, very nice perk
    • Facebook was the majority for sure and ate my time replying to each and every inquiry
  • Once they started pouring in I created a Google Form asking for all the info I felt I needed.  Key points for me are monthly income and number of people in the house but I also asked all the reference questions etc.  I just googled ‘application form’ and typed up a combo of the questions I felt worked for us
    • As with any form, do what you can to add a free answer “other” or “anything else” because you would be truly surprised with the great info that comes from asking an open-ended question.  My current #1 bumped someone because of their answer to one of those.
  • I answered every inquiry with a copy/paste sentence and link about getting lots of interest, please fill in this form (link). This simplified the process because I basically deleted the 50 conversations and relied on the people who cared enough to fill in a form.
    • 2 days post I have modified my reply with ‘we have a list of applicants but if you would like to still be considered (form link)’.  I’m still getting requests but this makes me feel better just in case my 3 tops fall through.

Even with my streamlined method, I’ve used an hour or so a day working on the computer to manage it all.  The process of choosing contractors was straightforward, for me it was a combo of price and timeline, I filled 2 days with research and interviews and got it done.  I’ve been going non stop on this since Monday night and I’m taking a break today because I need it but plan to bring it home this weekend as primary prospect is viewing on Wednesday and I want it to be move-in ready.

 

For my sanity, even though I should have been doing something more productive for my own house, I did this project that has been on the list for 2 months.

Right now it looks pretty normal, framed print, good size, generic frame.

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HOWEVER it is actually an Ikea frame that I flipped so the deeper back is facing out and I filled the entire area with cork so I can pin up kid art more easily, and, change with the seasons.

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The frame fell in the spring and broke the front glass but the frame was ok.  When I got it I intended to change the art frequently, but, the metal pins holding in the back were fragile enough that they started to wear just changing the print once so I don’t feel bad gluing them in place by putting cork on top of the tabs.  It cost $12 in cork tiles because I needed two-pack but I like the way it looks and I hope it will function like I want.  Making changing art easy will make me actually do it!  Prying apart the frame was certainly not easy.

Other than home stuff, #1 has joined a running club 2x a week and likes it. #2 and #3 are in a new gymnastics gym that is really working them hard, both were put up a level and the coach is teaching them a ton already – 90min class and I get 2 sweaty, happy kids. We went to an event 6h away from home so we made a weekend of it and the weather was perfect fall.  School Board stuff is back in full swing with committee meetings and obligations that are fun but do eat up the evening.  I need to get on the planning of Halloween and all my favorite fall outings, fingers crossed that the house gets rented easily and I can move on to the next thing that may or may not consist of me building something big, the biggest thing I’ve ever contemplated attempting.  I’m getting help but it is still a big one!

And now we are up to date in my world of running around.  Hope you all are having a productive fall too.

Happy September

We did it!  We got through the summer and they are now back in school with, I think, the perfect level of excitement for school and sadness for leaving summer behind.

I just wrote a giant update with all the things we did and while I was uploading the pictures Lars felt the internet was ‘going slow’ so he refreshed it, therefore, bouncing my post into nonexistence.

well, here are the pictures at least.

Nose pressing excitement to go back and see friends and teachersimg_2285

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starting 6th, 4th and 2nd.  Everyone is very excited

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enjoying a backyard fire over the last official weekend in the summer

Last weekend we went to the Minnesota Renaissance fair, one of the biggest and best, and met the mermaids, fairies, jousting knights and lots of great performers.  I wouldn’t normally go to this since our SCA is the ‘real thing’ but it was fun to pay tourist. Our friends suggested it and it was a great thing to do with the group.

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Two weeks ago we did another super Minnesota thing – we went to the state fair.  Our state fair is like what you see in the movies, it is giant and full of outstanding things from giant produce to crazy food to tons of livestock.  We even found out that cows like to cuddle.

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I had written a lot more, we did sleepovers and played in dozens of parks and started the wizards unite phone game.  We biked and cleared out the garage and found stuff in boxes we forgot we had because at a year later no box is allowed to remain unopened.  I’m annoyed that I lost all my words but I didn’t lose the summer and on this precious weekend I’m not going to waste time being annoyed or redoing things.  I’ll post again soon, I have time now to actually do stuff!

 

Travel complete

We are back in MN.  We didn’t follow the original travel plan but the best part of driving is you can change the plan.

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The transition back to ‘normal summer’ took just a little bit.  Kids are playing, swimming, friends visiting, bikes are ridden, chores are somewhat done and a little bit too much TV is watched.  I made the rule that as soon as I get up the TV goes off, that does get me a little more time in the morning.  It doesn’t go on again until late afternoon and the plan was they had their chores and list stuff done but see sentence 2 about how plans go sometimes.  They actually don’t ask much anymore because if they know they didn’t do ‘the list’ they are going to get sent on a task so they mostly fill the time with epic imagination games.

I also had a good conversation with a friend about how boredom is good for kids.  Gives them time to reflect and think about stuff.  Their little brains need time to marinate and mature.  They are also quite ready for school to start even though we still have about 2 weeks to go still.

Our 2 weeks in PA were fun.  Got to see nearly everyone we wanted to and some people we didn’t even expect.  A random ‘best moment’ happened when a bunch of us were actually waiting for someone.  We decided to just sit on the ground under a great shade tree and it was like transporting back in time to the teen years with no pressing responsibility and just hanging out with friends.  The moment was fleeting as time passed and we actually were responsible for things but it was a memorable moment.

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I got home early enough to actually get to another SCA event.  Semi-independent kids make all the difference, they went to classes and played with kids – thanks to the kind kid-friendly teachers willing to let a pleasant 7-year-old bang away on leather for an hour or more. **I actually do watch them and do ‘drive-bys’ but I don’t want them to see me so unless I see trouble I keep away.**  They are learning independence in a very safe place but I also don’t want people reading and thinking I just let them free range and be other peoples responsibility.   It was a nice little event overall even though it ended with some drama, this isn’t the place for details but I want the note to future self if I ever need it.

Earlier in the summer, I came to the realization that summer is NOT the time to try and do big projects since we are actually pretty busy with kids and travel and fun summer stuff.  We got some things done early on but I’m putting a hold on my personal expectations until after school starts because then I’ll have some uninterrupted time to work with.  Without the pressure to constantly do stuff, I’ve gotten stuff done anyway.  We got our ring doorbells installed, replaced a ceiling fan, added electronic door locks, and super cleaned the pantry.  The to-do list still exists and I still try to do something productive daily but giving myself the break was a good idea – highly recommend it.

And now we are as up to date as a blog post covering nearly a month can be.  Onward to back to school shopping today, state fair this weekend, friends visiting next weekend and who knows what all in between.

Mid vacation

Today I opened my laptop for the first time in nearly 2 weeks.  It sounded like a pinball machine dinging with all the alerts and messages that it had qued up in its little body.  I’ve been having a great time with just my phone, a few facebook posts, skim the emails for anything urgent and basically back in the bag.

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ready for my role, I don’t usually wear this outfit but I enjoyed visiting an early period fashion

I’m on our traditional 2-week camping adventure in PA.  Every year is a little different, every year it is nicely the same.  I can nearly walk the site with my eyes closed but each year there are new areas I become more acquainted with.  This year I got to participate in a cool ceremony for a person I think is great, it was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m am so glad I was in a position to do it.  This year is also 100% less stressful.  Sure, still a bit of stress over this or that – a difficult person, random drama, or, an uncontrollable situation but since I’m not at max stress from moving it is all much more manageable.

Why do I vacation in a place that is built to be not relaxing?  I’m trying harder this year to take a break here and there but old habits die hard.

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our camp

The positives, aside from the role I got to play included giving a fun camp tour, watching my kids excel at boffer, seeing my kingdom have a great time on the field, seeing two friends new babies, tons of time to have conversations with friends from various points in my life, I’ve helped a few people out, built a great camp, attended a class I’ve been meaning to get to and even the weather has been really pretty good.  The kids have hit a milestone of being able to be (even) more independent and it is very nice to know they are happy and taken care of by our fabulous nanny, and, she isn’t frazzled because they are overall less needy.  We are growing into the tween phase that includes boys stopping over but I gave a stern lecture to my camp family against any threats against any boy.  The adults do mean well, but, “I’ve got a shovel” is a threat that we need to let go of.  It isn’t cool the threaten kids, and, if you don’t mean it (and they really never did) don’t waste your words on something people auto-dismiss. Slowly slowly we can shift away from empty threats that imply our children are helpless.  I think the phrase that actually hit home was when I asked them to think about if they had a son and someone said that to them – I’m sure the parents of the boy who has been hanging around did as good a job as me, and, I would be pretty offended if I heard someone threaten my child based on nothing but their age and gender.  I also want the kids where I can see them so having the camp that is friendly is one of my goals.

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tour group photo opp!

I’m short on my hour of internet here, I got the mundane life details dialed in and the bills paid.  No matter how vacation brain I am, bills still need attention and an hour now prevents a ton of problems later.  Next up I pack up Lars who could only join us for a few days and then Friday we put this all back it the box and move on to vacation part 2 – the NY phase.   I’m visiting family and friends and I can’t wait to see them even though I’ll be missing Lars and the house and pets and friends at home.  Pennsic, as always, is a special time and place and I’m glad we can come.

 

Checking in before checking out

Hello internet friends!

Last week I had the pleasure of a week of kid’s at day camp where they had a fantastic time and came home not just dirty but also sticky and at the same time crunchy?  Girl Scout day camp is totally different from YMCA camp.  Far less structure, far more messy fun.  2 of my 3 like it better but I think the hold out is more a rules follower, and, she didn’t have any of her particular friends there.

The positive of camp is that I got all day (kinda) solo to get stuff done around the house.  The negative is that means all I did for a week was head down work around the house.  By the end, I was talking to strangers in the grocery store for the company.  I did get a bunch of computer work up to date and fixed our insurance and worked on other grown-up money and house things that weren’t broken but needed solid attention.  I did not get the sewing or cleaning done as intended but who thought I would?

I volunteered to be a bus parent, meaning I had a list of kids that should get on and off the bus.  Pretty easy job especially since an Alpha Mom took over the job because ‘she already knew everyone’.  The other volunteer and I let it go, she did know everyone, and the times we tried to do a more formal parent sign to get child method she really fussed over how long it took.  ANYWAY, she asked if we could do it solo the last afternoon and morning since her child was doing the sleepover and that is reasonable except suddenly we were in charge of a crowd of untrained parents who expected us to know them all by sight.  Oh well.  AND.  That was the day that the one kid, you know the kid, the kid who you know would be trouble at some point because of the sass rolling off her like waves at the ocean – well she hops off the bus and no parent is there for her.  No problem, her parent has been late the last few days, who of us hasn’t had a tight drive.  Then I ask why she isn’t sleeping over like all the others her age are, her reply is she has lacross and is going back later that night.  A reasonable explanation, sure.  We wait 15 min and call her mom, she tells us that mom is at work she is expecting dad.  Ok, what is dad’s number?  She has no idea… I call my leader friend who is running things and she finds a number in the permanent file.  We call it.  Oh, did we mention she meant her stepdad?  We called her dad who lives 4 hours away to say we had his kid… bet that was a fun call between former partners (perpetual parents though!).  Actually, he did help and we got the step dad’s number who was on his way. We wait for another 15 and get the feeling he may have been ‘on the way’ to the wrong place… yup, we get a call he is at camp, she was indeed going to lacross but stepdad was picking her up at camp for it since it was that end of town.  In the end, he collected her and there were smiles all around since we all were pretty chill about a random spare child.  It wasn’t a bad day to hang out in a parking lot for an hour and hey, I would rather have an extra kid then be missing one.

The camp week also had all of the afternoon rushes that school does so that was something I didn’t miss.  The race to gymnastics, jujitsu etc worked out but I’m glad we are at home most of the summer.  The crowning moment of the week and my motherhood career is from that Friday when #3’s very good friend invited her to a sleepover on one of the few days between their vacation and ours.  I had a drop off window but it would only work if I went directly from the bus.  Recall the sticky, crunchy child comment?  Well, I dropped off a filthy child, hungry child to her friend’s house.  Good thing the mom is super nice and we get along really well.  I actually don’t feel bad because I know they have so much fun and #3 really can shower solo.  She came back the next day full of bounty from the farmers market clean and with clean clothes in her bag!  It was a sleepover miracle.

This past week has been all about getting ready for being gone for a month.  We are going on our traditional 2 weeks in NY and 2 weeks camping event in PA – we just don’t usually string them together.  Poor Lars can’t come to much, work is very work right now and I’m proud of his efforts but a solo month is slightly daunting.  I truly won’t be alone, I travel with one friends out there, have my parents and a ton of friends at the event, and the hardest thing will be driving from PA to NY.  I’ll kidnap my mom to drive NY to MN with me at the end and I know it will be fun and relaxing in a crazy sort of way.

The positive of my 3 at home with me is we have fun doing stuff and I plan differently. We got stuff done but we also had a book club, friends over, park time, swim time – all the good parts were back.  I still wanted some solo time to gather my leaking brains because of their various urgent needs but it has been a fun week overall.

Anytime I’m overwhelmed these past two weeks I just think about last year.  I may be packing for a month but I’m NOT packing 100% of my possessions to move to storage since the new house wasn’t ready yet.  I may be cleaning so I don’t come back to something sentient but I’m not waking up at 4am to scrub tubs and clean the shell of our former home.  I might be stressing the details of camping and travel but they are peanuts compared to juggling mortgage, closing, crazy buyers, behind builders, where my kids will physically sleep and eat the vast unknown of a giant life change that is mostly out of your hands.  Any emotion I feel this week about being gone for a month is minuscule when measured against the emotions of leaving the place I brought home each child.  On the other hand, just because I’ve handled worse does not mean this is nothing but I think this year things will be better overall because I actually have brain space.

Ok, this is my last day and while my list isn’t crazy, I still have a list.  Off to do the things that I can and tomorrow we drive.