A Series of Fortunate Events #6: In which we buy a house (deja vu)

It took longer than we hoped it would to sell our house. But there are plenty of people out there who've had to sit on a house for years, so I can't complain. However, the selling of our house definitely would not fit in this series. It was more of a series of UNfortunate events, at least for us. Once it was FINALLY done, we were ready to buy a house here. We called up our super lovely real estate agent from the rental hunting.

We tried to stay in the same sort of area, so that our girls could stay at the school we had fallen in love with. Originally, I'd really thought I wanted a split level. Our rental was a split level, and after living in one for a few months, its glamour had worn off. So we were no longer looking for that.

We went to open houses, we checked places out with our realtor, and we did innumerable drive bys. After a few visits to one house, we were really excited about the potential. It had a master bedroom upstairs and down, and it had a couple of bedrooms with a pocket door in between. So perfect for the girls! We'd have to do quite a bit of painting (so creative with the colors, these owners were). But the layout was pretty good, for the most part. Biggest drawbacks: the backyard was right on a major highway, and there was a pool. The highway issue was iffy. It had the concrete wall, so it probably wasn't TOO noisy. But the pool. Two problems there.

1. I am a Nervous Parent.
2. Captain America and I are not really maintenance pros or fixit people. Sounded like a lot of work and expense for the 3 months out of the year you can use it.

We were ready. Time to put in an offer. We'd either tear out the pool, or figure out what to do with it. Get the girls some swimming lessons. Get a giant fence to keep out neighbor kids, which was my biggest worry (just last summer a girl here in town wandered into a neighbor's pool and drowned - so sad).

My parents were coming down for the weekend, and we thought it'd be nice to have my dad take a look at it before we made anything official. I think it was a Thursday when we made our appointment with our realtor for Saturday. On Friday she called to say, "There's another one going on the market Monday just a few blocks away - do you want to see that one while we're out?"

Saturday we went and looked at the house again. It seemed workable. The pros outweighed the cons. Then we headed over to the next house. It had a similar layout. Only it didn't have the pool that made us nervous. And it didn't have a highway in the backyard, IT HAD A PARK. SOLD! After one look (just like our first house), we put in an offer. We had it all settled before the MLS realtors got to look at it.

The best part? That other house would not have worked nearly as well for the baby we ended up adding. Also, by the time we ended up moving I was pregnant enough to tell people, and I didn't have to carry anything! Or scrub the floors of the rental on my hands and knees!

We're no longer in exactly the right school zone, but we're close enough that we can stay (unless numbers at either of the schools get completely out of whack). This house has been just perfect for us. The timing was everything!


A Series of Fortunate Events #5: In which we find a rental

If you'll remember back on Series #3, we moved. Because of a wedding. After Captain America accepted his new job, the company set us up with a realtor to help us transition. We brought the girls with us for a marathon day of rental and house shopping. No really. NINE HOURS STRAIGHT.

We weren't sure at first if we wanted to go ahead and buy a new place, or if we should rent for a while to make sure we liked the particular area and sold our other house. So we spent an entire day looking at various housing options. With a 4 yr old and an almost 6 yr old. Our realtor was incredibly patient, and one of the first I've ever met who seemed to have no desire to push us out of a price range we were comfortable with.

We found a house we really liked. But we had no idea how long our house would take to sell. And we had no idea if it was a neighborhood we'd want to be in. The yard was the size of a postage stamp, but that really appealed to Captain America, who had to spend 2 hours to mow our yard.

We decided to check out plenty of rental options as well. Quite a few were easy to dismiss. Funny smells. Strange layouts. Too small. No place for me to work. We found one that we liked. Nice layout, nice looking neighborhood, nutty landlord. He spent the entire time talking about how much he hated DirecTV, and if we rented from him we were banned from ever getting it. We'd be tied to a year lease, which was a little tough since we wanted more freedom to buy something once our house sold. One more place to check...

The last place was a side-by-side duplex, split level. It was a little tough to look real closely, because the family that currently lived there was home (awkward). But it was nice, too, because we could ask them questions. Our realtor smooth talked the landlord into a 9 month lease by offering to help him rent it again when we were leaving. We had lunch, looked at a few more places, and decided to go with it. He had another appointment to show it at 5, and we knew it would rent quickly.

At the time we were just looking for a place that would work for the short-term. But what ended up happening, is it put the girls in the most amazing school! They've had two years of the most fantastic teachers, in a really great facility. That was the only place we looked at in 9 hours that was in the right zone for that particular school. We knew nothing about the schools in the area, so we had no idea to try and choose it. There's a lot of good schools around here, but I can't imagine a better one for us.


A Series of Fortunate Events #4: In which we buy a house

I don't know if you've gotten this impression yet, but Captain America likes to be prepared. He is also extremely fiscally responsible. Before we were even ready to buy our first house, we made an appointment at the bank. We thought maybe in a year we'd be ready to buy a house, and we just wanted to know what we needed to do in the meantime to make that happen. We were at our Lake Wobegon bank, talking to one of the VPs. I don't think he dealt much with people asking about loans they might like to get a year from now. But I'll tell you what, it made the process an absolute piece of cake.

After a while, we started house browsing, so we'd know what was available and to get a better feel for what we could get for the amount of loan we were comfortable with taking out. We looked at many, many houses. Big houses and little houses. Starter houses. Two bedrooms. Three bedrooms. Two levels. Ranch/rambler. In town. On the edge of town. Just a lot of houses.

We finally got to the point where we were ready to actually think about buying one. After much, much looking, we found one we thought we liked. We didn't love everything about it, but there were a lot of things we liked very much. Of course, being Lake Wobegon, we knew the people who owned it. That added a little extra comfort because we knew they were most likely taking good care of it. It had shiny wood floors. And new cupboards. But it was also old, and had a tricky staircase that made it so you couldn't get more than a full-size bed upstairs. It had a nice porch. And a cute backyard. But no garage that you could really park in. Pluses and minuses like every house. We'd checked it out a few times. We were doing our final pre-offer walk through and were very nervous because we just wanted to make sure we made the right decision. When we were done, the realtor said, "Well, just so you have another comparison, another house just came on the market that we can check out."

So off we went. It was a rambler (or a ranch - I think it's a regional thing like soda or pop). It was the most outdated house I'd ever seen. It had dark green, inch-long shag in the living room. There was burnt orange linoleum in the kitchen. The bathroom had old gray carpet, and flocked red velvet wall paper. It was really awful. But we saw some potential. If you looked past the decor, it was a great little house. The backyard was ginormous (which seemed like a great idea at the time). It had a two car garage.

Just like that, we switched everything and put in an offer on the new house. After the usual negotiations, we bought our very first house. We gradually made some updates. My first babies were born while we lived there (not actually at the house - I'm not a Duggar for petessake). And when it was time for Ella to go to kindergarten, we lived right across the street. I watched her walk home every day.

But what if we hadn't made just one more stop? I'm sure we would have been perfectly happy in the other house as well, but this one really was a perfect fit for us.


A Series of Fortunate Events #3: In which we move

In late October, early November of 2008, we headed to Southwest Wisconsin for a wedding. We'd never thought much of that area, let alone actually been there. Captain America's job was really stressing him out, so we were looking forward to our weekend getaway. We'd heard Southeast Minnesota was really beautiful, but as we headed south of the Twin Cities for Rochester, I wondered what these people were thinking. More flat farmland! Nothing wrong with it, just not any different than what we were used to seeing. Only minus the pretty lakes.

Then as we approached the area, we started the descent through the river bluffs. Wow. That was kind of pretty. Then we crossed the Mississippi. And also the Black River. Apparently 7 rivers met there. Who knew?

We checked into our cutesy northwoods style hotel, and when we opened the curtains, we could see a field, with river bluffs behind it. A few deer were frolicking in the field. I'm not kidding. We had the evening free, so we drove around a bit and had dinner. We joked about moving there. "Look at our new Barnes and Noble!" "Let's walk around our new mall!" It was just sort of nice to pretend. We had a lovely weekend, and we went home.

The following spring, it was clear Captain America needed a new job. We started looking around. Didn't see anything in our area. We looked at cities closer to where we were. One day we sort of off the cuff said, "Let's just throw Wisconsin in the mix." We didn't think anything would come of it.

Captain America wasn't having much luck. Then he found a job description at a place in the town we'd visited. It seemed ideal for him, but he didn't want to get his hopes up. After a couple of phone interviews, we were driving back through those bluffs. This time for an interview. We had to change our tourist point of view and try to figure out if it was a place we were willing to live.

Apparently all it takes for me to feel at home is a hilly descent overlooking a body of water. I've had that in the only three towns I've ever lived in, and that drive always feels like I'm being told, "Welcome back...we missed you..."

After a lot of discussion and prayer, it seemed like a good fit. It's been almost two years, and it's still a good fit.

All because we went to a wedding.


A Series of Fortunate Events #2: In which I lose my keys

I've written about how Captain America and I met before. But now it's the next in my Series of Fortunate Events. Which will last as long as I write them. Which means this could very well be the last installment. Sad.

Picking up where we left off (see Event #1), I met Captain America at a movie night. He offered me Pepsi (a fact which proves he had a lot to learn about me). He and his roommates were set to give me a ride back to campus, since they were in on-campus apartments and I was in the dorms. On the way I realized I'd left my keys in my dorm room. It was now after midnight, and the dorm system was locked up nice and tight. I went to their apartment to call my new roommate. My new roommate who wasn't home yet. So I waited at their apartment until she came in an hour or so later. Or several hours. I don't know.

Can I stop for a minute here? Just to say: Thank you, Jesus. Thanks for putting me in the middle of a group of people whose idea of a wild night was ordering a bread bowl at Perkins and walking around the park *after it closed at 10 pm* (oooooo) and not in the middle of a mess of drunken hockey players where this story might not be such a highlight of my life. Because, frankly, the chances of the drunken soiree were probably a whole lot better. And I'd run off to college up for whatever. That is to say, unopposed to the drunken hockey party.

We all sat around and talked forever. Laughed. Listened to music. When I finally got a hold of my roommate to let me in, Captain America offered to walk me back to my dorm. The next day I called him to get help finding my classes. I think we were dating a week later.

All because I went to a bike camp in 8th grade, and then lost my keys as a brand new college freshman.

Fortunate, indeed.