Thursday, January 26, 2012

Desperate Dreams

We were never really the corner lot type.

When Hubby and I started looking for a place together, we looked for something small and near the beach. Once we learned that even a cardboard box near the beach was out of our price range, we switched to small and "with personality." Our first home was a small townhouse with cedar beam ceilings, a loft, and tons of character. We gutted it, made it our own, and loved it. We planned out our lives together: cheap cars, small house, big life.

This worked out really well until we decided we wanted a second baby. It had already been challenging to fit the three of us and all of our stuff into the tiny spaces of the townhouse: Hubby's racing bikes (note the plural) were often stored in the dining room; his rappeling gear and our camping equipment hung in the baby closet; the baby's playpen was more often a storage container than an actual area for Ben to play; and our kayak was stored in a relative's garage. There was absolutely no way we were going to be able to add another person to this adorable little box with character.

So we started to look for our first real Grown-up House. Due to some really crazy and serendipitous circumstances, we were able to buy our dearest friend's house from her ex-husband...the same house where we had taken our first photo together as a couple, the same house where we had celebrated our graduate degrees at a dinner party hosted by our friend, the same house we had seeked refuge in when we needed advice and our friend's guidance. The house was outdated and her ex had not really kept up with it after she moved out; we could not even consider living in it until we gutted the whole place. But it was way bigger than we ever dreamed we could afford and had a pool and a two-car-garage and was on a corner lot and had such special meaning to us from our early years of dating. So we swapped our Big Life plan for the Big House version and told ourselves it was still Our Dream--just a different one.

It wasn't that we wanted a fancy home. Anyone who knows us can tell you we are not fancy people. We just wanted the most we could get in a time when South Florida real estate was at its most ridiculous peak. And we figured if we were going to give up our big trips and our big outings and get ourselves into a massive mortgage, it may as well be for a place that held some meaning for us (a pool and an extra room didn't hurt, either).

Fast forward 4 1/2 years.

The inside of our home, although not fully furnished yet (if ever), was airy and modern and inviting. The backyard was our Key West-themed tropical paradise. We had put it all into this house: money we had and money we didn't; time gutting it all and time replacing felt as if we had sold our souls in order to have The House. But despite our efforts, we still had not finished it. And as we sat at the sparkly granite bar counter of our sparkly remodeled kitchen in our sparkly spacious house, lists of bills and notes of pending projects confronted us, and we couldn't see how we could ever complete the rest. We had left the biggest and most overwhelming project for last: the front yard was a disaster and an embarrassment. Between the mortgage payments, the preschool payments, the debt we had gotten into because of the house repairs, we just didn't see how we were ever going to be able to come up for air.

For the first time, we considered the possibility of letting go of the house. We were tired of the mortgage payment. We were tired of pulling up to a house that looked like it had been abandoned. We were tired of giving up weekends away so that we could have a paved driveway. Facing the possibility of selling the house, I was overcome with emotion. I became unreasonably petulant: why couldn't I have it all? The house and the life we wanted (even if it had to be toned down a bit)? We began to wonder if maybe we had made the wrong decision.

This conversation took place in July.

A month later, Hubby applied us for "Desperate Landscapes," one of his favorite DIY network TV shows. The show does complete (and often over-the-top) facelifts to front yards that are the laughing stock of the neighborhood. And although we certainly qualified, the cynic in me didn't think we had a chance. So...I scoffed. I poked fun. I complained when I had to help with the application process. I even went so far as to declare to Hubby: "Okay, here's the plan: if we get picked for the TV show it will be a sign that we did the right thing with this house and we stay." Yeah, right.

We got the news that we had been selected the week after Thanksgiving. Hubby suggested that from now on, I just listen to him.

Hmmm. He might have a point.

Last Thursday, at 6:45 in the morning, the first of many trucks arrived at our home. By 8:00 am, we had three camera crews, a catering tent, a full production studio tent, the host of the show, 25 workers, and 10 of our nearest and dearest (who took days off from work, shuffled their children and responsibilites, and did what they had to in order to be there for us). By 4:00 pm, our front yard had had a $30,000 make-over.

Thanks to Hubby's optimistic nature, our friends and family, the DIY network, and perhaps a little of that What-are-the-chances-kind-of-luck, our house was suddenly finished. As I looked around, I wondered how the heck circumstances changed so drastically (and sort of weird-ly) in such a short period of time? It was as if the Universe had paid us back for our hard work.

In addition to all of this, right around Christmas time our mechanic (of all people!) told us about a new refinancing loophole. Hubby chased that tidbit like a maniac. We closed on that the week before the TV shoot. Somehow, we went from a mortage we could barely afford on a house that looked like a construction site to a monthly payment with breathing room and the nicest house on the block.

I'm not really sure how all of this happened. In less than 6 months, we've gone from total doubt and frustration to freedom. I am a big believer of the Universe, Karma, God, whatever, and I'd love to chalk it up to that. But really, I know that plenty of hard working, good people are stuck in houses they can't afford (or losing houses they can't afford), and are not waiting for a TV crew to show up and landscape. I understand how lucky we are right now. I am just sort of still in a daze...incredibly grateful that Hubby insisted on taking a chance, that the producer liked us enough to pick us out of 100's of applicants, that I had a boatload of friends and family members who dropped everything to dig holes and shovel dirt, that now when we make our mortgage payment we can actually truly afford it, and that somehow, suddenly, we no longer feel "desperate" about swapping a Big Life for a Big House.

P.S. I will post an update when I have the air date of the show....we are not allowed to post any before/after shots until then! So these are some of  the "durings"!

Being a star is such hard we are filming the moment when the show's host, Jason, reveals the suprise plan.

And this is only a sampling of the people on our front lawn!

Between camera crews, catering (!), producers, helpful friends, trucks, dumpsters, equipment, they took up half our block and then some!

The producers' tent
Jason Cameron (the show's host), ME!, Tracy (producer & overall kick-ass person), Hubby

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Wave "Bye-Bye" to the Crib: Another chapter in the baby book closed

The finality of it startled me.

I had been struggling to untie the knots holding the crib bumper in place.

I had not been contemplating.

I had not even given it a thought. Then, there it was: the finality. My youngest (and last) had slept in his crib for the last time, and I had not even known it.

We knew we were just about ready to get rid of the crib. Aidan Kai had been asking for "a big boy bed" ever since we had made the suggestion, weeks ago, when big brother Ben had gotten a loft bed as a hand-me-down. The only thing we had been waiting on was finding the time to paint and assemble the new bed, so we could transfer Ben's old one over to Aidan's room. When we found ourselves with an unexpected day stuck at home (due to a week-long sibling-shared virus), we figured "May as well."

So we built the new bed. We moved the old Big Boy Bed into Aidan's room. Hubby went out and bought the new mattress. I took Aidan Kai to Target to pick out his First Ever Big Boy Sheets (Lightning McQueen).

Even when Hubby texted me that he was "soooo sad" about getting rid of the rocking chair to make room for the new bed, I didn't think twice about it. In fact, I was a little surprised by this unexpected sentimentality, he being the one of us who is always, always looking forward; never, ever missing the baby stage; rarely reminiscing. I shrugged my shoulders at the text, thinking the rocking chair (the same one we've sat in night after night to rock and sing and read to at least one of our boys for the last 6 years) was kinda dingy and banged up and a mess, anyways, so really, what was the big deal?

Then I got down to the frustratingly difficult task of the knots on the crib bumper...the bumper we debated purchasing for so long with our first baby...the patchwork quilt Pottery Barn bumper with the maps of Hawaii and the little palm of our little splurges for our first nursery. And there it was, in the middle of a particularly stubborn, manicure-ruining knot: the realization that we would never again have a crib. We would never again pour a sleepy little boy, rag clutched tightly in his tiny fist, into a crib. We would never again walk into a room, sleepy and bleary-eyed and wishing we could just be left to sleep a little longer, to find a little boy, too eager to wake up, too eager to play, too eager to start his day, his little arms outstretched in the air, asking to be "out," out of his crib.

When the boys were littler, we were always half-wishing that we could fast-forward...get through Whatever Tough Stage we were in: newborn, colic, diapers, 24/7 clinginess. We are usually pretty good about moving on, getting to the next stage, starting a new chapter. When we donated the high chair, we nearly threw ourselves a party.

But we are loving this stage now, where we can really talk to our oldest, see him turning into a little person, a real contributor to this family; but still enjoy having a little one among more diapers, but just enough baby fat and fumbling and cuteness to make him The Baby. So now, all of a sudden, we don't really want time to move on. We don't want them to grow up much. We don't feel trapped anymore, in this thing called Parenting. We, apparently, have grown up right alongside them.

So to know, in such a concrete way, that time is passing, that the boys are growing, that The Baby is really not a baby anymore, it's unsettling and liberating at the same time. And within the joy, there is that little sadness: there is no more crib; hence, there is no more baby.

Last night was the last night we would be the parents of a baby. Last night was the last night our littlest would sleep in his crib. Last night was the last night, except, we didn't even know it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What are the chances?

When I was 16, I had my tonsils and adenoids out. I had to spend the night in the hospital for observation because I bled too much during the surgery, according to the doctor. A week later, I sneezed in the middle of the night and burst something, which caused me to hemorrhage through the back of my nose. I spent 4 days in the hospital. That sort of shit never happens from a routine tonsillectomy.

When I had my second son, I felt something "funny," and called the nurse. It turned out to be a prolapsed chord (click here for the full story on that adventure), which is really, really serious and "never happens." In fact, during my whole recovery in the hospital and even when I went back for my follow-ups, several nurses, doctors, and interns greeted me gleefully with "ooooh, you're the prolapsed chord!"

This past Friday, I went in for an endoscopy and Bravo probe test, a procedure that should have taken 15 minutes and one my doctor has performed "hundreds of times" without any issues at all. But this is me, and at this point, you should be noticing a pattern. The first probe (a tiny device they implant in your esophagus to measure for reflux disease) was faulty. Hmmm. That never happens. They try with a second probe. It, too, is faulty and does not latch onto my esophagus. "Must be a bad batch," figures the doctor, which he says has never, ever happened, and proceeds to pull the second one out. Upon its exit, the little shit decides to fall into my throat (the capsule, not the doctor), and lodge itself behind my sinus cavity. Now, this really never happens. Afraid it will slip into my trachea and go into my lungs (something "of concern," as the doctor explained later), my gastro now has to call in an ER ENT and put me under general anesthesia (as opposed to just the lovely dose of Michael Jackson drugs they had used to lull me to sleep) and use special tools to free this damned tiny capsule that is supposed to be oh-so-easy-and-effective-and-is-really-a-nothing-sort-of-test-but-yields-such-great-results.

Bottom line? I am that 1%. You know, when doctors say "sign here because here is the fine print of what could happen, but never does"? Yep. Me. Not always. But 3 out of 4 of my surgical procedures have yielded these amazingly fluke-y results.

I came home from the hospital Friday a little pissed off. I had been waiting to have this test done for weeks now, and had been looking forward to getting it all over with. I had expected to be at work all afternoon and, other than having to carry around a little device to monitor the levels of acidity from the implanted capsule, I should have been no worse for the wear. Instead, I could barely chew, I had blood clots coming out in my tissues, and swallowing felt like I had glass embedded in the back of my throat.

And, I admit, I have a propensity for all things pessimistic. Not always. But often. I have been known to go down the path of doom and despair and throw myself quite the pity party.

And, on top of all of this, I have had a rough few months. (I always feel the need to pop in the disclaimer here that "it could be worse"....that "I am grateful it hasn't been anything serious"...that I have just had "some minor medical annoyances," lest I tempt fate because I really, really do know that what I have been going through for a few months is, really, in the grand scheme of things nothing. But all that said, I have felt, pretty much, like shit in one way or another for the last few months.)

But despite all of this, for some odd, unexplainable reason, I didn't feel that bad Friday after all of this. Mentally, I mean. I just sorta shrugged my shoulders and chuckled at it all. I figured it could have been a lot worse, and I was home and was okay. The doctor said he'd make sure I would not be billed for the procedure (which was going to be almost 2K out of pocket because of this oh-so-special-probe-capsule-thing), and that the endoscopy showed nothing serious. I had been symptom-free for a few days, and perhaps with the results of the endoscopy alone, I would be able to resolve the whole problem. And as if that attitude wasn't enough to surprise me, I was also like: "Well, being that 1% sometimes is a good thing, because all sorts of amazing things have happened to me in my life that, statistically, probably never really should have."

What?!? Who said that? Was that really, truly me looking at the silver lining, without even being reminded to do so? That never happens...

But it's true...I immediately thought of all those times I've had the same reaction ("I can't believe that happened!") to good stuff...

Like ending up living in the very house where I took my very first picture with Hubby...the same house I slept in one night when I was running away from my old life, in the very room that now, 12 years later, belongs to my son.

Like after spending 4 years and all of our money (and some we didn't have) on fixing up said dream house, and feeling like maybe we had bitten off more than we could chew...cause really, how are we ever going to get it all done?...and what are we going to do about the thousands of dollars of work that still needed to be done to the outside?...after giving everything up for this place and thinking maybe we had been nuts all along and looking for a sign that we did, in the end, do the right thing...we got selected out of  "hundreds and hundreds" of applicants who tried to get their front yards made over for the DIY Network TV show "Desperate Landscapes."

Like I walked out on a terrible marriage, despite what everyone around me thought and advised, and not only lived to tell about it, but truly ended up with my happily-ever-after.

Like the second time around I married someone who truly turned out to be my Soulmate (I know how a lot of you feel about that term; if it makes you feel all uncomfortable and cynical-like, feel free to plug in any other appropriate term there instead, such as "great provider," "best friend," "Mr. Right," whatever, just as long as you get the gist).

Like that crazy, terrible 1% chance thing that happened with Aidan's delivery? Well, there is even a smaller chance that babies who are born with a prolapsed chord suffer absolutely no trauma or injury...and he never so much as missed a breath.

Really, what are the chances of any of those things happening? So sometimes, being in that crazy-minority-percentage-of-that-never-happens is a really, really good thing.

I am so damn tired of being negative, of expecting the worst, of worrying and waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was as if it took more energy to be pissed, depressed, and worried about what had happened, than to just accept that it did, look for the good, and move on.

I know: obvious for some of you.

Completely earth-shattering for me.

So maybe, just maybe, I'm evolving...? Learning?

And really, what are the chances of that?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Year in List: 2011 in Review

Life has been a bit chaotic much good, a "Busy" is the best way to describe the last few months. Hence...not a word in here since November. November! What IS that? I'm supposed to be a writer, a blogger, a person who likes to reflect and ponder and share and spend time around here (not to mention around "there"...where you all, my fellow bloggers and those of you who inspire me on a regular basis are writing). But nope, nothing...not a post on turning 39 (39!?!), my last 30-something-birthday. Not a post on the holidays, the magic of seeing my little boys enjoying Christmas more and more each year. Not a post on our first (annual now?) New Year's Eve party during which I ended up having oh-so-much-fun that I had to be tucked in by my friend a full hour before the dancing ended (and I NEVER miss some dancing, but fortunately, I did miss the clean-up). So I promised myself that, at the very least, I would post a little something about the year in general, even if it is way late. And so, to keep within the theme of "no time" and "too busy," I shall turn to my lists again, a form of cheating, I suppose, but a true reflection of how my brain has been working lately.

What 2011 was for me:

1. Lots of running for the half-marathon...then race day!...and, please, no more running for a while

2. Disney, Disney, and more Disney (I think we are all done with the annual pass concept for a bit)

3. Ailments: sinus infections, bronchitis, asthma, neck spasms, GERD (this item could also be listed as "WTF?!?" and/or "Could Be Worse")

4. Trying new (old) activities: can you say "Shimmy" and "Ommmmm"?

5. Not having enough money to continue with bellydancing and yoga (see above)

6. Not having enough money for a lot of stuff

7. Making new decisions about money

8. Discovering, much to our relief and amazement, that the cosmic theory that if you are responsible and generous with money, it will come back to you

9. 50th anniversary party (I think we worked harder to plan this event than our own wedding, although Lord knows, my parents deserved it)

10. Potty training

11. Potty training

12. Potty training (yes, I know...the topic deserved three listings, trust me)

13. Good-bye VPK, hello Kindergarten!

14. Personal makeover: good-bye long hair (and discovering that my hair really does not define me...heavy stuff about frivolous beauty decisions)

15. Home makeover: hello, DIY network (ever heard of "Desperate Landscapes"? They're commmming!!!!!!!!)

16. Soccer-Boys (but so NOT Soccer Mom)

17. How the fuck did I turn 39?!?

18. Reminding myself that Gwen Stefani is 42 and Sarah Jessica Parker is 46

19. Hubby and I rediscovering Us (and more importantly, recognizing the need for a rediscovery)

20. Our latest acquisition/project/adventure: an RV (and setting out to prove that Fashion Girl can also be RV Girl)

Here's to a new year: to always improving myself, to trying new things, to going back to old things I loved, and to taking some risks. Cheers!