Sunday, March 15, 2009

The House Hunt

The rental market here is insane here in Florida right now. Finding a decent place literally meant checking Craigslist, the paper's site and MLS on an hourly basis and going to go see the place the second you could coerce the landlord into meeting you there.

At first, we had nothing but a price range. We looked at detached villas in "Town Center" type communities where you never have to leave the gates. It sounded like fun for a minute, like a permanent vacation, but then I began envisioning myself in this "Children of the Corn"-type neighborhood where everyone knew your business and the average age was 60. Reading their clause about "nuisance" dogs deemed "obnoxious" by the neighbors being evicted made me realize that it might not be the best choice for us. Also, you did have to leave the gates for school and I wasn't thrilled with the school district. I'm pretty sure the gates would have done a better job of keeping me in than others out, and the new goal is to be less anti-social, so I got over the idea pretty quickly.

We also looked around here, within walking distance to Big Kid's school, but the thought of driving past the same landmarks and being so close to what was "home" stung too much. I did find one really big house with an amazing rental rate and begged the agent to please choose us, after jumping through crazy hoops just to be able to see the house with three other couples, all of us negotiating for it there and then in the kitchen. She told me she went with someone else and then called me back several times in the next couple of weeks begging us to take it when that fell through, but by then I realized I wanted out of the whole area.

We finally decided that this had to be a total life style change. That this was our chance to be in the school district we wanted in an area that we liked. We wanted to live in town and near the beach, and had a specific school in mind for Big Kid.

My mom and I got in the car and drove up and down every single street that met our criteria. We stopped in one place 5 blocks to the beach, a teensy little cottage with a white picket fence that was built in the 30s. It had warped wood floors and the low ceiling would only work for a vertically-challenged family like ourselves. It also had a loft with a library ladder and I could easily see little kid tumbling face first onto the sloped, scratched floors below. For just Mr. Ashley and myself (and maybe even Big Kid), it may have worked, but I knew between the questionable electric and the loft, little kid would surely find a way to kill himself.

We found another place, not downtown but in a great neighborhood, that had four bedrooms, a great layout and a built in murphy bed and office in one of the rooms. We met the landlord there and I loved the big screened lanai, the fenced yard, the skylights, the big tile...everything. The only downsides were HIDEOUS concrete countertops and a tiny, tiny master bathroom. I had Mr. Ashley meet me back there that evening and the landlord fell in love with our family and seemed eager to rent it to us. We went out for beer and tacos that night and decided to rent it, ugly countertops and pathetic bathroom situation and all.

Up until this point, Big Kid seemed pretty unaffected by house hunting. He would hop in the car with his notebook of lists of what he was looking for in a house: he wanted it to be light orange and have either a farm, a treehouse, a studio or a pool. He would point out houses along the way that might fit our criteria, whether they were for rent or not. He skipped through empty houses happily, fine with all of them.

A few days later, I looked over at him and saw him teary eyed. I asked him what was up and he began blinking rapidly to hold back the tears and told me that he didn't want me to live in a house without a nice bathtub. My heart melted and I hugged him and told him that a bathtub was not important and my home will be wherever my boys are, and he cried that he just wanted me to have a good bathtub, that I need nice baths. It completely broke my heart.

He had a similar reaction about my job. He must have overheard me on the phone, because when I hung up he said, "What did I hear about you losted your job? How did you losed it?" I told him that he misunderstood, I didn't lose it, I was just going to start doing it less and that would be so nice because I wouldn't be as busy now and we can hang out more.

"But you love your job, mom. We hang out all da time, you should dest still get to do your job." I promised that I would still get to do it but that it would be awesome to have more time to play. He looked doubtful. I swore that I was happy and that this was a really good thing. He continued to look skeptical.

I realized then that he was absorbing more of the truth than we intended. We tried not to discuss anything but the fun stuff in front of him, and I only cried alone in the car after dropping them off or out by the chicken coop, but he was obviously worried about things.

Mr. Ashley ended up not faxing the application back in time and that house was rented to someone else. Let me tell you--hell hath no fury like a woman who has already mentally arranged her furniture and fallen in love with a school district. There has only been one other time I've ever been that mad at Mr. Ashley. He knows that when I'm that mad, I tend to stay awake and fantasize about punching him in his snoring back as hard as I can, and lying back down and faking sleep as he wakes up in pain. Seriously...I was mad. MAAAAAAAD. He slept on the couch for his own safety and I put myself into an anti-anxiety drug induced coma for a weekend of sleep.

He woke me up Sunday to tell me he had found a 3 bedroom three blocks from the beach and near my favorite downtown park. I broke my vow of silence to go see it and he feigned excitement as I stood on the terrazzo floors and imagined life within those wood paneled walls, watching a snake slither across the rotting back deck. If you sat on the toilet in the master bathroom, your knees touched the pedestal sink and you were staring at your washer and dryer. The wind whistled through the 70s style jalousie windows and I gazed at the mansion across the street and imagined them as my neighbors, having to look at my kids' bikes in the driveway.

Sure, my children would go to the best schools, we would live in the ultra exclusive downtown area for cheap, we could walk to the finest restaurants in our city, enjoy jazz bands in the city park on Sundays and go to the beach three times a day if we wanted...but the thought of my knees pressing against that cold porcelain sink base and living without closet doors or proper flooring in this musty old house made me want to cry. Location was definitely not everything.

The next day, I found a tidy little house back in the non-downtown neighborhood I liked. The landlord was nice, the place was immaculate, but it only had 2 bedrooms and 1200 square feet. I could imagine a nice little life there though, and I was exhausted by the search for houses. I told the landlord to give me 24 hours, fully intending to sign the lease.

Wearily, I did one last search on Craigslist and found something in an area I hadn't really considered, but wasn't opposed to. It was as big as our home is now, totally renovated and in a country club community well known for its family-friendly atmosphere. It was within 5 minutes to Target and 5 minutes to the beach (both big factors). It was zoned for a new school with good reviews and what they claim is a more individualized curriculum. I was hopeful. I called the landlord and my parents and asked them both to meet me there (another fun house finding fact--my parents, as helpful as they are, really really really wanted to see every house we seriously considered) and I knew upon walking in the front door that this was the house for us. I told the landlord I wanted it before we finished the tour.

The layout is fabulous, kitchen is fabulous, bathrooms are fabulous--it is great. I can imagine living there for years and the landlords would like for us to. They may be a little bit neurotic, our contract negotiations got a little wacky, aggressive and invasive, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it was just pre-renting jitters and not long-term nuttiness or anything. Luckily, they'll be long distance soon.

So, I sign our now thoroughly negotiated lease tomorrow while we get our kids together to play. I go part time March 23rd. Our move in date will be April 4th.

New life starts soon whether I'm ready or not.


cw2smom said...

That's wonderful that you found a place that you love! I hope your landlords are good to you and that you enjoy lots of great times in your new home! Blessings Dear Girl! Lisa

Anonymous said...

Yeah! Hold on tight because here you go! It is definitely harder going through "tough times" when you have children. My oldest hears way to much...even when we think he isn't listening somehow the next day he will bring up "something that has been bothering him" in conversation It's hard ot protect them, especially when you are dying's hard to put on that happy face! hang in there...the house sounds perfect!

Renee said...

It was fun to read about your house-hunting adventures. The rental sounds great - I hope I get to see it! We are still daydreaming about a vacation down there at some point this year, but who knows if that will work out. (I hope it does though.)

So will Big Kid finish up the school year at his current school or will you switch him to the new school in April?

-The Renee

Unknown said...

He's definitely finishing the year where he's at--he would lose his mind if anything interfered with that. I've been dropping hints that next year he'll be at a new school and he's reluctant but will come around.

Ella said...

Congratulations on finding such a perfect rental! I am happy that the lemons are turning into lemonade for you.

I know that you have probably thought of it already but if it is such a great rental market have you considered renting out your own home as opposed to doing a short sale on it? There might be people out there who need an upscale rental but aren't in the market to buy right now. And this might keep you from losing it all.

I hope that you don't think that I am being too forward.

Happiness is a rental that you love! Have a terrific day!!


Carrie said...

I'm so glad you found a nice place- I hope that'll help this whole tough time be a little easier. Good luck with the move!

julie & joe said...

I'm so glad you found a place that suites your needs. There is nothing worse than settling for a rental and being cramped and miserable.

Peggy's Place said...

So glad you found a place. I know you will make it a warm and inviting home. Will the owners let you keep all your pets? Chickens and all? As far as the new school, you get to start from scratch so you won't sign up for any *library* days, or any volunteer stuff. Hang in there.

Unknown said...

The chicks will go live with my parents' flock and that makes it so much easier. Big Kid gets really sad about Chicka and has vowed to make her a poster for her new space and to bring her crackers on the weekends.

They're cool with the others.They wanted to meet the dogs...taking an 80 lb German Shepherd with hip dysplasia somewhere in an SUV is NO EASY TASK and Murph acted like a freak, but they were acceptable enough I guess.

Janetta Gray said...

1. You should write a book. Seriously. The more I read, the more I am certain that you would have a very long list of novels. & a HUGE fan base!

2. I'm very glad that the house hunt went well & that you found a place to restart your life.

3. Big Kid's worries--not about himself (usual kid thought), but about his awesome mom having a big bathtub is proof that you are a great parent! I hope that yesterday's very rude commenter didn't make you think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Once you get all settled in your new digs - you'll sit back & finally sigh a well deserved sigh of relief. The burden will be gone & you'll have come out the other side with what really matters. Mr. Ashley & the 2 boys.

Decades ago, my Dad told me (in his Walt Whitman-esque) that the tighter you try to hold onto sand the more that will slip through your fingers. Sand being a metaphor for anything that you can not control or can no longer control or should have never had to begin with.

He went on to say that without all the sand in your hand it frees up your hand to take someone else's hand (for help) or take hold of something else that isn't so fleeting like sand.

Not to get all philosophic or anything, but maybe what you had before was sand held too tightly. Now you have your hands free to hold something new or take someone else's hand.

Former Fat Chick said...

We moved every 2 or 4 years most of my life. It was an adventure, my Mom made it so every time. We were allowed to be sad about 1 day, then it was FORWARD, stuff to do, friends to make, fun to have. It has made us a very tight nuclear family.

jennyandcompany said...

you make it sound like such a fun adventure! i'm glad you found your new home.

yay for being close to the beach, and a new school without the stupid non-lunch-buying mom!

J said...

You know those little cabin things they sell at Home Depot in the parking lot? My husband, myself and 2 boys under 2 years lived in one of those for 6 months. It had a teensy bathroom with an unbelievable small shower, bedroom just big enough for a bed, and a main room that is smaller than my office with a kitchenette. It was tight to say the least. Every time money gets tight with us, I think back to those days and thank God we're not in that place anymore.
As for Chloe from the last post. Some moms are better moms when they stay home, some moms are better moms when they work. Neither scenario works for every mom. I have found that people that judge you are usually jealous of you. Maybe she wants to work but has succumbed to the bullying of the idealogy that the only good mom is a mom that stays home. I say screw that! Whatever is good for the mom (within reason) is what's best for the kids. An unhappy, stressed out, never knowing how the bills are gonna be paid mom can not be good for kids.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there hun, sometimes things end up being perfect in the end. You just have to loosen up on your grip and let it happen. When you get handed lemons make you a lemon martini. Works for me!

Theresa said...

What a great resolution! The rental sounds great. We're all pulling for you!

Anonymous said...

I am so so so sorry to hear that you guys are going through this right now!! The new house sounds amazing and I hope everything turns out great with all the changes coming up in your life!

Anonymous said...

Hey Ashley-
The paragraphs about Big Kid wanting you to have a bathtub are literally the saddest thing I have read during the recession.

My best friend lost her job last week three months into marriage and is facing a whole host of fallout and struggles. She's a writer and both you and she (despite one of you being a stranger and one of you being a girl I've known since I was born) have the ability to make me laugh almost every time I read your writing.

Both you and my friend have followed domestic routes of life where I have not. I've been married to a job in publishing and biz development (confusing) for several years, and it's paid off in terms of stable, creative, relatively lucrative work for me that has (so far) survived the economic woes.

I am happy that both of you have your loving families to support you and to validate what you do and how you struggle.

But I have this to say to both of you, as fifth-grade-teacherish as it may be: Please keep writing. If the country needs anything right now, it is sensitive, relatable women who are able to articulate the fears and concerns we are all suffering through and remind us that it's important to laugh and smile and chill out and take a look up from what you're doing, and outside of yourself. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You'll make it a wonderful home! And the pain of this all will eventually ease. You're doing what you have to do... You all will adjust and have an amazing new life in your new, lovely home. XO

Red said...

Wow, just getting caught up and I had no idea this was going on. But it sounds like you have a plan and are heading in the right direction.

Seriously, please give some consideration to writing a book! And please, keep writing! You always manage to put a funny spin on the shittest stuff and that's what sometimes keeps the rest of us going.

Mom of One and Another on the Way said...

I am just getting caught up too. Thanks so much for sharing your life with us. You are a great mom! Your family is going to be just fine. Hang in there... you're going to be able to enjoy the adventure.

~Gretchen~ said...

we're having the opposite reaction. one day, melody heard me mention to someone on the phone that we might end up moving. now, as we're driving around, she points out houses we can move into. she's figured out what for sale signs look like and petitions for moving with every one we pass.

Anonymous said...

Creating a book was one of the first things I thought of when I read about your job going part-time. My grandparents rented houses all my dad's childhood years. He turned out just fine, and my grandfather travels the world in his retirement years. You know the house isn't what makes a home, and luckily you have found something that you'll all love.

Anonymous said...

That's fantastic that you found a new home! I am so happy for you! I am sure everything will work out just fine.

clemsongirlandthecoach said...

Here's what I know. My children have moved 5 times. They are 6 and 8 next week.

They are happy and fabulous and have 84,000 friends. I promise you this...BK and LK wil be fine. They will be more than fine.

They'll be happy.


Human runner said...

I just found this blog, and I love it. Great writing... I've been laughing out loud at Big Kid's Starbucks issues. I'm sorry to hear you're going through all of the house/job stuff right now. Glad you pinned down a rental.

jenn said...

The rental sounds wonderful! I'm so glad the right thing turned up.

The bathtub comment from BK was heartbreaking. It's amazing how much they pick up on without our realizing.

Ceci Virtue said...

oh, Ashley! Good luck! I'll have my mom light some candles for you ('cause she's apparently always at the church lighting them for me, her heathen daughter...) and I'll be crossing my fingers for you or doing what ever godless heathens do.

I'm glad you found a place that suits you. Nothing drives me more insane than that search for the right place. The dashed hopes of the ones that didn't work out, the fear of having to take the ugly one 'cause you need to pronto. Somehow or other, we always find what's right for us, don't you think? Some how or other, we always get what we need.

Liz said...

SOO glad you found a place!!

Isn't it amazing how much STUFF little kids pick up on?? There's just no hiding from them!

PS - This line, right here is why I adore your blog. "...when I'm that mad, I tend to stay awake and fantasize about punching him in his snoring back as hard as I can, and lying back down and faking sleep as he wakes up in pain."

Melodie said...

How does BK like the new rental? Is he satisfied with the size of your bathroom? He's too cute and way to caring. He may never move out, but at least he'll be watching out for you, right?

Anonymous said...

You know when you're going to LOVE your new house? When something breaks. All you have to do is call the landlord. I miss those days!