Home Is Where He Isn't, Anymore
Zero to Ezra in Five Photos or Less

Moving Forward By Staying Still

I'd start this post out with the usual barrage of OMG and I can't believe it but frankly, if this ISN'T the face of a newly minted second grader, I don't know what is. 

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I guess this is as good a point as any to mention a little side plot line in our lives that certainly didn't FEEL little, even though I chose not to blog about it, but: We were planning to move. We've since changed our minds.

Oh my God, 10 words to sum up over SIX MONTHS of crazy offline craziness. That's so not fair.

We decided over the winter to put our townhouse on the market and look around for a single family in the same general area. We set an end-of-the-school-year deadline for ourselves and completed a monstrous to-do list of painting, fixing, improving, decluttering (or decrapifying, as we usually called it), you name it. All the stupid little piddly house shit you know you need to do but...don't.

(Apologies for including "you" in my procrastination process, if you are not the sort who lets stupid little piddly house shit pile up around you until you are boxed in by shit mountains.)

I packed and purged and donated; Jason powerwashed the deck and ripped out and replanted landscaping. None of our friends saw us for months unless they were willing to show up with some paintbrushes. (And of course, they were, because that's what awesome friends do.) I washed windows and wielded power tools. While we were in Williamsburg I paid a handyman friend to live at our house and power through the remaining items on the list. Because there was A House.

It was nearby, even closer to Noah's and Ezra's schools. Bigger than what we had — the boys could have their own bedrooms, or Noah and Ezra could at least share a bigger room and not be so on top of each other — but nothing huge or obnoxious. A cozy little house with a big yard and a home office for me. It wasn't perfect but it was damn near close. Like all the properties on the market at the time, it had been for sale for awhile. There'd been a price reduction. The townhouses in our little cluster were selling fairly quickly, on the other hand, so we just need That House to stay on the market for two, maybe three more weekends before we could make an offer.

It sold the next week. I still haven't fully recovered. 

It was around that time that two more things happened: 1) Noah was integrated into general education for math, and 2) the real estate market in the DC area lost. its. damn. mind. 

A "lack of inventory" created a panic, essentially, with buyers going insane over everything — ANYTHING — that hit the market. Everything was under contract within days. Escalation clauses drove prices up and up and up. A small fixer-upper in our neighborhood (WITH A MOLD PROBLEM) went for $100,000 over its list price. We could no longer be sure we could even afford houses we didn't even want, much less the ones we did. 

Our agent kept sending us listings from other, nearby neighborhoods — all ones we'd said we'd consider back when we started the process — but that's when thing #1 would rear its inconvenient little head.

I didn't want Noah to change elementary schools. We didn't want Noah to change elementary schools. What seemed like not such a big deal a few months before — it's not like we would change districts, his IEP would transfer, we're in a district and area where the schools are almost uniformly excellent, he'll get all new teachers next year ANYWAY and we could hate them — seemed like the Single Stupidest Thing We Could Do. 

We love his elementary school. LOVE. He's been there since preschool, he knows every teacher and administrator and they know him. And they LOVE him. On Valentine's Day a homeroom teacher who is not Noah's homeroom teacher handmade an extra class valentine just for him, because he stops and talks to her every morning and she finds him so sweet. And his IEP team...well. There's no way to talk about them — the principals, the special education teachers, his OT — without resorting to over-the-top hyperbole. They are the best.

His current special education teacher in particular, is beyond wonderful. She took a kid who (in September) claimed to not know how to read because he would give up the second he came across an unfamiliar word, and transformed him into a kid who now reads chapter books at a third grade level. She'll call me on the phone and we'll talk for an hour if Noah's having an off day, and basically goes above and beyond to help him succeed. Noah loves her, naturally. She's the kind of teacher who prompts me to write gushing emails to the school administration, just so they know. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE OVER THERE? AN ANGEL STRAIGHT FROM HEAVEN. GET YER DIP-TET. ETC.

But restricting a house search down to a single, not-especially-huge elementary school? Sisyphean ordeal. We were lucky if ONE house came on the market every few weeks, and the chances of it being 1) in our modest price range, 2) not a shit hole, 3) not getting 200 escalating offers on it by Sunday night, OR 4) being a house we even halfway liked in the first place were ridiculously low. 

A townhouse up the street from us sold in three days and suddenly we were barraged with hand-written letters from people who'd lost the bidding war on it. Were we thinking of selling? Could we please let them know? Here is a picture of our dog and brand-new baby; please sell us your home, we don't even care what color you painted the living room.

And so one night, not very long ago, Jason and I sat in our lovely, freshly painted living room and decided that really, we didn't want to move. The improvments we'd made and the massive decrapifying had resulted in a beautiful home. We shared a wall with neighbors and had no garage or extra bedroom and I sure wish this house had X, Y or Z, but...dude. This house is fine. This neighborhood is wonderful.

(We're in a no-outlet loop so the neighborhood kids all roam free-range style, going from house to house and yard to yard for hours after school. Noah and Ezra yell goodnights and other important messages from their bedroom window to a little girl in the house behind ours, a kindergartner who has become their most beloved playmate. Two nights a week are "dinner party nights" where they go to her house for dinner or she comes to ours. What decade is this? What sitcom is this?)

It was still a little disappointing to admit real estate defeat. The idea of a new home is always exciting (especially when you're still in the dream world of realtor.com listings that all look so glorious until you see them in person and realize there's seven huge power line towers looming over that backyard hot tub). But we couldn't risk selling our house too quickly and then being stuck and buying something else because we had to, even if it wasn't exactly what we wanted.

And what we wanted most of all was for Noah to return to second grade at his current school. So that won.

Yesterday I found out that 1) Noah will be fully integrated into the general education classroom for all subjects next year, and 2) his current special education teacher will be transitioning to second grade right along with him, to provide support and any pull-outs to the smaller group that she might think he needs on any given day. 

And that, as they say, is THAT. 

We were planning to move. We've since changed our minds. And we are so totally okay with it.

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Comments

Hannah

Your neighbourhood sounds like a dream. I wouldn't sell, either. Even without the decrapifying.

Judy

I was born in 1942. Your neighborhood sounds like what I grew up in, the freedom for the kids, the safety, the assurance for the parents. I wouldn't trade that for a hundred houses with bigger bedrooms. You made the right decision.

Arnebya

The best part, though, is that the boys probably don't have any damns left to give about being on top of each other. They just don't. Sure, it's nice to have all the other stuff (my list still has an extra bedroom and bigger, modern kitchen and side and back additions) but we're cool. I wish we had great schools to be the reason though (instead, ours is that we're lazy, we're comfortable, we care less about whether our kids like/enjoy the house, and our collective credit score is -16).

SarahB

Thanks for following up on that mention you made awhile back about possibly wanting to move...and congratulations on your decision and your *new and improved* current house thanks to all the work you did!

We've been in the DC real estate market ourselves these recent months and made a lot of expectation adjustments along the way. We will very soon be moving to the lovely suburbs of Montgomery County. We're beyond thrilled and look forward to settling in and never, ever moving again.

jocelyn

Stay. The kids will be in college before you know it, you won't miss the maintenance on a bigger house.

beth

There's so much to love about this post. Congratulations to all of you. Sounds like you had a good year.

Alicia

Love this post. Love it more with the Raising Arizona reference. God love Frances McDormand.

Courtney in FL

I'm sold! I will be packing up my little "IEP, but mainstream child, but not fully mainstream" child and promptly moving to your school district! Because I am over our school district (plus the private schools we tried). OVER! Sounds like you guys found a happy solution!

Kari

Smart choice Storch family!! Yeah for Noah and yeah for not having to deal with real estate nightmares. Repeated showings, with little boys, dear God I nearly lost my mind. Of course we left our first house to get into a lovely school like yours, and have NEVER regretted it!

Sally

Timely post. We have been having this debate at our home too. Our house is fine, just not as shiny and decorated as a different house *could* be. Last day of school I noticed how teachers from all grades, counselors, para profs, and knew my sons, by name, wished them a great summer- high fived my little guy and told him they could not wait until he was at the school. It hit me, we are home, this is meant to be our home. Its the whole community not just the house I guess. Plus bidding wars and the like are best left to an HGTV binge!
Cheers to adult decision making!

*m*

Great call!

Katie

I could write 10 million words about this post, but I will just say it sounds like you made the best choice for the best reasons. now i am going to convince myself we should move so we can fix our house and then live in it happily as well.

Lisa

I totally want to live in your neighborhood. I haven't talked to my neighbors since before we moved in over three years ago :(

Cara

Oh hey - life doesn't get much better than that. Yeah, you!

I've been thinking I want to pretend we're selling our house and do all the stuff we'd do if we were. Now I'm convinced.

Cara

Childhood friends, good neighbors and the perfect school are worth so much more than a new house. I am still closest to my friends I made in elementary school and have the fondest memories of vacations with neighbors and neighborhood parties. I would have made the same decision. Plus, now you have an awesome looking house! You should host a party!

Korinthia

It's like you did your own version of Love It Or List It.

flybigd

That final picture made me choke up. So happy for your family.

Susan

What sitcom indeed? Sounds perfect. We actually think our 2600 sf single family home is TOO big, but it is very very close to the best elementary school in the district, and our real estate market has similarly lost its mind - so we will be staying, and resisting the urge to fill up the space with crap.

Sabrina

"boxed in by shit mountains" is totally my house right now and made me laugh hysterically. We're not moving, but 3 kids in a townhouse creates a lot of clutter that I just need to be able to get rid of!

RzDrms

I cried at the end, and that beautiful face/expression of Noah's did it. Love that kid; he's my favorite blogger child, truly.

Also, can you line in a different district but still send him to his current school? Meaning, is that fact Written In Stone? But I do love all the wonderful things you said about your current area/home.

Whatever the case, I really wish y'all all the best. Hugs.

Portia

It always seems unfair when people put in so much work doing improvements and purges and everything under the sun to their home -- right before they sell it, so they never get to enjoy it. I love that you guys did all this work to your home, and now YOU are the beneficiaries of it. Also, YAY for Noah!

Paula

Great decision!! You are totally right about the DC real estate market being crazy.

I hear you about the clutter, though. But think that with 3 kids the clutter will follow you wherever you go. Even to a bigger house. Because kids want to play with stuff, and the stuff has to be with them at all times and they want to be with you at all times, so guess where their stuff ends up?? Yeah, stepped on too many Legos to count.

Lauren

I would love, love, love a post about how you make it work with five people and a dog and a cat in a small(er) space -- have you written about that before?

Beth

This is such a beautiful post, and I'm glad you realized before it was too late that you are exactly where you need to be.

DB

We recently went through the same thing, but we did end up buying a new house. The market here in Colorado is also going crazy - almost every house we looked at was under contract THE SAME DAY it came on the market.
We were able to do this because our district allows "inter-district" transfer which our current principal already approved - so although we are now in the boundary for a different school because it's in the district our newly-minted second-grader isn't changing schools. Have you asked your district if this is allowed?

Maxine Dangerous

That smile is the sweetest! :)

Kacie

I. LOVE. THIS. :) xoxoxo

Melanie

End of 1st grade, 1984, my parents moved us from our very small overcrowded shoved up next to your neighbors house on a cul de sac to a monster of a house outside of town on an acreage. They wanted us to have our own rooms, and have animals, and a big garden and blah blah blah. My siblings and I HATED it. We missed the close knit kid community- calling out windows to each other- playing in the mud pit behind my neighbors house- knowing my friends parents as well as my own. We missed it all, and felt lonely and isolated. My sisters and I all jammed into one room anyway, we never had more than the cat we moved in with, and the garden thing never happened either. Clearly I am still bitter. Sometimes parents have a vision of what would be good for the family without really knowing what would be good for the kids. Good on you- in my humble opinion you made the best kid friendly decision that could be made. Cheers for a great school year- does Ezra go next year?

Barb

Yes! We lived on a street like yours when my kids were younger. Everyone looks out for each other's kids too. Noah is awesome...........

Kailee

I hope this crazy market keeps up. We will be selling our DC area townhouse later this summer. Very, VERY much looking forward to moving out of our rental here in Denver and getting into a house of our own.

I'll take a neighborhood like yours, please!

Nancy

We went through the same machinations, minus the Special Ed concerns, last spring and summer. We repainted the entire interior, replaced crappy carpets we had hated. Went to open houses with gorgeous, HUGE kitchens, envisioned kids in separate bedrooms and still having a guest room. And took a few breaths and realized we love the peace and quiet where we are. No, the kids don't have playmates on our street. But we can bank the extra cash towards college and paying off the house early. The shiny huge kitchens still lure my thoughts, but the idea of tripling our mortgage to get one was pretty sobering. And we're happy here.

Congrats on Noah's plans for second grade - way to go big guy!

Thrift Store Mama

Sounds like it all worked out in the end. And it sounds like the right decision for Noah. You can always move next year.

After living in the DC area for 22 years (came to college here and never left) we are moving (husband and two daughters) to Colorado in August. It is terrifying and exciting all at the same time.

autumn

Besides, packing to move and then the unpacking just stinks. See the pile of rubbermaids still packed with the same stuff we moved into the First house 8 years ago that we haven't unpacked.

And now that you know the joys of less clutter, you don't have to fill a bigger home with more junk. Congrats on the smart move. Maybe a re-fi is in order, take advantage of those interest rates without packing a box. . .

Christine

Yay Noah. Yay your beautiful house in your lovely street. Yay no boxes to pack. Win/win, I say.

Suzy Q

Oh. Oh.

The free-range kids in the neighborhood thing? The awesome school and teachers? The spruced-up house you already own and live in? Yes. Yes, to all of it.

PS: Real estate has lost its damn mind everywhere. Is it 2006 again? Bah!

Rachel

DC real estate is bonkers! We're in Arlington and our friends received 16 offers on their home. So glad to hear Noah will be staying at his awesome school. And love the Raising Arizona quote.

Jess

I bought a DC area home last year, and it really is a pretty crazy real estate market. My realtor said that there could be a lot more people who could sell because they assume the real estate market is depressed but not realizing DC is in its own crazy bubble of crazy.

In any case just because you aren't buying now doesn't mean you can't revisit the subject when Noah's a few years older and is moving on to middle school.

Kati

We have a neighborhood just like yours. Full of awesome kids and awesome families. And we are moving. I get a ball of anxiety in my stomach when I think about it. Glad that you are so okay with it. Smart move, my friend (who I don't really know, but you know the internets and all)....

Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian

It sounds like you made the absolute best decision possible. I just finished buying a house myself only a few weeks ago, and it's crazy insane how much the real estate market has exploded lately. If we hadn't found the house we did at the exact moment we found it, we'd be completely out of luck! (and money!)

Jen

Sounds like a wonderful outcome. Instead of someone else enjoying your updated home, YOU get to while Noah and his brothers continuing doing great.

sbc

yes to the crazy DC market! we bought a townhouse in December and already got a letter asking us (and I'm sure all our neighbors; we're not special) if we wanted to sell. Stuff in our neighborhood sells in a week and our elementary school SUCKS (high school is very good though). Even if I won the lottery I wouldn't move. Packing and unpacking are the worst.

Ladotyk

Home is where you are, and it sounds like you are in a great home. Your kids will look back so fondly on their childhoods!

Nancy

great post! I remember a few weeks ago you mentioned that all the toys got relegated to the downstairs. good for you, but MAN that stinks about that one house. enjoy your great neighborhood!!!

Jenna

Nothing can be better than that sweet smile. I wouldn't trade that for a new and bigger house. I'm glad for Noah.

lisa

When you described the spiffing up process at the top I thought, "I bet they'll decide they like this house just fine."

The same thing is happening in my neck of the woods - I want my own parking and an extra sleeping space for guests. I get begging letters from Realtors. But the market ween BOOM while I was procrastinating trying to decide if I should fix the bathroom with the holes in the wall for me or for "the market" I guess, like you, I've won.

Hey, small, quiet, accessible, friendly. It's more green and sustainable. The universe made us be more excellent.

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