Peter ended up changing his mind several times about exactly how/where he wanted to approach this venture, and I was growing uneasy with the possible terms and conditions of such a deal. But in the end, I did as any loving wife would do: I rolled my eyes as a signal of my lack of ability to relate to the male extreme-hobby syndrome, let out a sigh to convey that the whole idea was somewhat silly and unnecessary, but that I would humor him anyway, and asked how much it would cost us. The bottom dollar didn't seem like it would damage our finances in a permanent and irreversible way, so I agreed that he could have his fun in the sun, provided he agreed to fewer other train travels throughout the year, and that we could take another family vacation to FL sometime during 2006.
So the flight was booked and the hotels reserved for the week of my spring break, March 5-11. A month or so after these arrangements were made, we got a buyer for our house and a timeframe of about a month to get packed and moved out by March 30. YIKES! Of course, being the wonderful wife I am, I did not put a guilt trip on Alex, freak out on him, or demand that he cancel his trip and help me pack. Well, I actually might have been tempted to do one or more of these things, but I was way too preoccupied trying to figure out where the hell we were going to move to.
I mean, we knew we wanted to move into Pittsburgh, but we didn't expect things to--boom--happen so fast! We debated, should we rent for a while till we get the feel for the city and be sure we knew which neighborhood we wanted to be in, and also leave room for the possibility that Alex might get a job offer on the west coast? Or should we forget wasting our money on rent and having to deal with landlords, and just purchase? But it soon became apparent that we simply wouldn't have time to buy a house and close before we'd need to be out of our place. So our options were either a short-term lease while we found a house to buy (which meant we'd have to move twice) or just rent for the time being. All the rentals we looked at (short and long term leases) were awful--complete dives for more than we're paying for our current mortgage. We were becoming really discouraged and nearly panick-stricken. I was literally on craigslist and citypaper every spare second, making phone calls between classes and trying to figure it all out before Alex was to set off to CA. In fact it was two days before his plane left that we were at the end of our rope. We only had one more place to check out, and it didn't seem promising. The landlord we spoke to over the phone warned us that he'd rented out the place to college kids and that they'd trashed it. He assured us that he was going to have everything in order for the next tennents but that it didn't look like much at the moment; we'd have to use our imaginations and look past everything. Then there was some question as to whether the place was a house or an apartment. The guy's friend we spoke to (he wasn't sure if he'd be there personally to show it to us so he had us talk to his friend to set up a time), made mention that she lived in the front part of "the building" and our "apartment" would be in the back, but the landlord kept referring to it as a house. We knew we didn't want an apartment; a townhouse maybe, but definitely not an apartment.
Discouraged, we phoned my dad on the way to look at this last place. We asked him if we might be able to stay at his place for a few months while we found a house. Since he's pretty much in Cleveland all week, he said it would be fine with him, but we should talk to my stepmom, since it would impact her more than him. We hung up, resolving to call my stepmom on the way home. And then, what happened next was nearly unbelievable. We pulled into the *gated driveway* of this *house* (turns out the landlord's friend's place is a a separate building, but the exterior wall are touching--sorta like a townhouse effect, except the front building faces the main road, and the back building faces to the side) on the southside a few doors down and across the street from one of our favorite vegetarian restaurants, and a few blocks from the new southside works. What stood before us appeared to be a duplex, but we soon learned it was a single house that simply had two front doors--one to the kitchen and one to the living room. We walked into one of them and were suddenly taken aback. O.k., so, to be in total mint condition, the carpet could have standed to be replaced, and the walls could use a fresh coat of paint, but they were both arguably in better condition than our house, and were quite easy to see past. This 100 year old house had been totally gutted and modernized inside. There was a tile kitchen floor, vaulted ceilings and new appliances and cabinets. The living room was huge! There was a enclosed courtyard for the kids to run around in and there was a half bath on the main floor (which is something I really wanted but didn't think I'd find; it's such a pain to go up and down the stairs every time your 2 year old has to pee). Upstairs were two big bedrooms with exposed brick walls and a loft area above each bedroom--each loft had 2 sky lights and was practically big enough to serve as a bedroom in its own right. There was a huge closet between the two lofts and a full bathroom between the two bedrooms. Absoutely everything was updated. The landlord told us he'd have all the carpets replaced, new paint (which he was in the process of doing when we arrived), and everything would be in order by April 1, and that cats were o.k.. We took the place on the spot. It was a little more expensive than the other rentals we'd looked at, but it was lightyears ahead of them all in quality.
So when we phoned my stepmom, instead of asking if we could stay with them for a few months, all we needed to ask was, if need be, if we could stay with them for a few days, which seemed to be a fine arrangement. We stopped by the next day to pay our security deposit and take some measurements while the landlord had employed some people to help paint, and then the following morning, Alex left for L.A. Really, I didn't even have time to complain, and I was so excited that we'd found such an awesome place, that I couldn't really be too upset.
But now reality has set in, as I have been spending the past few days trying to pack and keep the house in order and catch up on all the neglected laundry and school work, while somehow keeping the kids from missing their daddy and driving me crazy. It's been a tall order and I still have until Saturday night before Alex comes home to help me out. Of course Ashley appears to be teething and has slept horribly every night, waking up screaming several times during the night (even though she's literally right next to me), and then arising before 8 each morning, only to be crabby all day.
Last night we purchased a used double stroller for $50 (thinking it would come in handy with our upcoming city life) and then tried it out at the dollar store, where we discovered that the piece of crap was completely impossible for anyone but the incredible hulk to manueuver, and the kids just kept fighting about what candy and toys they wanted to buy and arguing with me about it. When we got home Ashley was crying inconsolably just before bed, then kept me awake half the night. She and I woke up at 7:40 because Sarah had gotten up and come back into the bedroom with loud hiccups. Blearey-eyed but unable to get back to sleep, Ashley and I sat up. Ashley crawled over to the window and asked me to open the blinds. I pulled them up and she peered out the window, and immediately became upset because she wanted to see daddy's car. He's in CA, I reminded her, but she took no solace. Instead, she tried to comfort herself by playing with a toy she'd left on the nightstand the night before, only to have Sarah grab it from her and refuse to share. Several minutes of stern explaining of the merits of sharing to Sarah (while Ashley screamed in the background) and I was able to get Sarah to temporarily relinquish the toy. I come out to the kitchen to make coffee and immediately was asked to make peanut butter toast and baked potatoes and the cat sat by her bowl looking up at me for fresh water and food. Finally after all the other creatures of the house were satisfied with their breakfasts, I could grind some coffee, only to realize we were out of soy creamer. *sigh* Multiply this by 24 hours/day, and you'll start to get the picture of how this week has been going so far.
I guess I just need to look at the positives. Soon this will be but a memory, and I am sure, in some ways I will miss the serenity and history of this house. Indeed, I think I would have major difficulty parting with the sentimental value of our home if I were not an atheist. If I actually believed that the spirits of my grandparents were blessing this house or somehow that they were watching over me, I would probably feel way too guilty about leaving. But being that they are dead and gone, while I still mourn the loss of all the memories I shared here, I know they are just that--memories, part of the past. My present and future is taking me elsewhere, and I know in my heart that we are making the right decision for our family. Many people cannot relate to wanting to live in an urban area; they can't think of suburbia as anything other than a utopia. I am reminded of the movie "Far From Heaven" where living the 1950's version of a perfect life, is, well, not always as perfect as it sounds. I'm sure living in the city won't be perfect either; every place has it's faults, but it's a matter of finding which faults matter more to you. The lack of culture, the car-dependence, the unwalkable-ness, the solitude, and the horrendous commute of living out in the sticks are faults that, to us, outweigh the increased traffic, higher taxes, higher crime rates, and poorer air quality of the city. On the flip side the benefits of city-life, to us, outweigh those of suburban/rural life. Being able to walk or take public transportation practically anwhere you want to go, having easy access to cultural and educational ammenitites, being near alternative resources (health foods, vegetarian restaurants, diversity in general), having athletic facilities all nearby (ie. the bike trail, the oliver bath house, the rock climbing wall), a quick commute leaving more family time, and other such things are extremely important to us. In a nutshell, we are city people. It's completely valid to be a suburbanite, but it's also completely valid to be an urbanite...
So that's where we're headed; about to open the next chapter... I will soon post pictures of our new pad!