One of the many things which has been keeping me….occupied….is the bit where my family has to move this summer. Our lease was up for renewal at the end of June, and our landlords wanted to not only raise our rent again, but to make us pay for water — the only utility currently covered under our lease. See, when our water heated (not maintained since it was installed in the mid-80′s) recently broke and flooded our living room (“Are you sure you did not spill a bucket of water?” – landlady), they noticed that the water bill for this place was high. Of course, they continued to overlook the fact that we’ve been telling them about multiple leaky faucets for four years. Starting to get the picture? Yeah, well….even if we weren’t still working on paying off our medical debt, this place….and those landlords….wouldn’t be worth paying even more. I’ll spare you some empathy nightmares about things like mildewy carpeting laid directly over cracked concrete foundations, and kitchen drawers made out of cardboard (because unlike the wooden ones originally in there, the cardboard ones made at home at least slide in and out), and not bother going much further into that part of the story.
The trouble — well, the first trouble — of course, was finding somewhere to move TO. Care of the aforementioned medical debt, our credit is still terrible and our savings wouldn’t buy a day’s groceries, so we’re not exactly in the position to buy a house yet. As much as we’d hoped to not have to move again until it was into a place of our own, we were going to be stuck with at least one more rental. The usual “fun” of having to rental-hunt was even more of a blast this time around, though, because apparently in the four years since we had to do it, the rental listings — across multiple sites — have been overtaken by scammers. No, I will not drive by the outside of a house, ignore the realtor signs, fall in love with the outside, take your word for the fact that I’ll fall in love with the inside, send you a ton of personal information and money, and trust that you will send me the lease and the keys….all because you’re a God-fearing Christian working for some church/social service/educational program somewhere in Africa. I got back many variations on that theme. I also got some identically worded ones to the effect of, “I’m sorry for not replying sooner! We thought we had the place leased, but the renter backed out at the last minute, so now we’re trying to get it leased ASAP. You were the second to reply to the listing. Now, I’m not going to answer any questions about the place until after I know you’re seriously interested in it, and I’m not even going to give you a vague idea of where it is. Every time we have done that, the house was broken into. So, please fill out this remarkably in-depth renter survey — which includes all your financial information, but don’t worry, we don’t actually care about your credit — and then after that, we’ll tell you where the house is, and arrange a viewing.” Riiiiiigjht. Nothing fishy there, either. Point of fact, of the first 30 rental listings that were even potentially worth my responding to, 28 of them turned out to be scams, one was a real listing but wasn’t as advertised, and one just never got back to me. The hunt continued in that vein, but after that I gave up counting. Things were not looking good.
While all this was going on, some local friends of ours were dealing with their own problem. About two years ago they’d bought this fairly nice house and started fixing it up, but maybe six months ago the dad in the family got a job transfer opportunity he couldn’t turn down….in another state. The mom and kids stuck it out here so that the kids could finish their school year, but in the meantime the family was split. The dad was renting a whole house in the new state so that the family would have some place to all move into together ASAP, but it’s not like they’d counted on selling the house here, yet, or were prepared to do so even if it was anywhere close to a seller’s market. They also didn’t want to be long-distance landlords to strangers, OR leave their property vacant for years.
If there’s music playing in your head….a sort of semi-conscious soundtrack accompanying the reading of this post….this is about where the tone of the music distinctly changes.
Yep — they offered to let us rent their house! Granted, we can’t pay them as much as they are paying for their mortgage each month, but since right now they are paying for two houses and not getting ANY of that back in rent, they’ll still be a good bit ahead of where they are. They get to leave their property in the hands of people they trust, and it frees them to bring their family back together. If we hadn’t agreed to take their place, they were going to have to spend at least another year separated when they thought their time apart was possibly almost over. The thought of that was intolerable, and, again, the alternate non-us alternatives were other kinds of exceedingly bad ideas.
We get to live in a much bigger and nicer property than our current one, for about $200 less per month than we’d be paying here if we renewed the lease here again. We can quite possibly live here until we’re ready to buy our own home, assuming we don’t buy this place off of them once we’re in the position to do so. We get landlords who are friends instead of slumlords. (And they do have a set of their own parents local to here, to potentially serve and landlord-y middle-men if needed for arrangements in emergencies.) We get to transition Ash into a new home that is at least familiar to him already, since he has played there a number of times. We get to NOT have to hunt for rentals any more — a point of considerable note, since we’d found NO other viable options, and time was running out. The new house is no further from Steffan’s workplace, although the commute will get slightly longer in the winter just because he’ll be taking a less direct route to spare our 4-wheel-drive-less car the worst hills. The new house is only slightly further from a collective of grocery stores, hardware stores, etc., than our current one is. We’ll no longer be right next to a park/playground and within-walking-distance-for-me-on-a-good-day of a library branch, but that makes less of a difference now that Ash is in school, and I’m not making near-daily use of both, all year long. Also, whereas it used to only be inconvenient living next to a park on a few holidays and a smattering of random occasions throughout the year when people had some other excuse to party outside, the habits of our neighbors have been getting worse and worse. This school year the spacial challenges of a kid with curb-to-curb busing on his IEP and a residence at the end of a dead-end-street (something we never thought of anything but the advantages of, before school busing snaffoos and flopped lawn sale attempts) were complicated further on a regular basis by a ridiculous number of cars parking illegally in the cul-de-sac at the end of the street — you know, the spot ANY vehicle not pulling into driveways not their own, let alone something the size of even a small school bus, needed for turning around. This spring, and no doubt we can look forward to this into the summer, there has been a loud party going on in the park every Friday, Saturday and Sunday practically all day and night….and here and there, on other week-days as well. So….no, we won’t really miss it quite the way we might once have expected. Also, although we don’t know where Ash will be placed (it’s not like he goes to the school he’s zoned for, right now), there is a very good chance that his school will be within-walking-distance-on-a-good-day-for-me from home. We’ll still have the curb-to-curb busing on his IEP because of Steffan’s variable schedule and my mobility issues, but it does improve the chances of, on those rare occasions when Ash gets really sick or something and needs to be picked up from school early, not needing to call Steffan at work, have him try and arrange for another manager to cover for him, have him drive to get Ash and bring him home, etc. I also would have an easier time being able to volunteer / chaperone for his class, because I wouldn’t necessarily have to rely on Steffan being able to get the day off so that he could be the transportation. There’s more about the school issue, below. Eniways…
Both families get the satisfaction of helping the other out. It works out pretty well for all.
I won’t say that theirs is our dream house, but it’s a whole lot closer to it than the rental we’re in now. We’ll probably have at least twice the useful space, for a start. Part of that is due to the difference in square footage, part of that from the layout, and part from the fact that they have forced-air whereas this place has electric baseboard heaters….so we’ll only have to dodge little grates here and there, as opposed to losing entire walls because nothing can block the heaters, or even safely get too close to them without melting. Their single-family is a “split level” deal. If you come in the front door, the floor you’re on has the kitchen, dining room and living room, arranged in a rough sort of doughnut, so there’s pretty good visibility from one area to the next. The kitchen has an impressive amount of cabinet space. The living room is a fair bit smaller than the one we have now, but it won’t matter as much as it would otherwise, because we won’t have to use the living room for combined den space, play/therapy/homework space AND office/computer space. If you go up a couple of steps, there’s a hall off of which are three bedrooms and the full bath. The master bedroom will be ours. One of the others will be Ash’s bedroom. The third will turn into
the office for all our computer-related things, our files, etc. That one will probably be locked when not in use by one of the grown-ups, since Ash knows he’s not allowed to use the grown-ups’ technology unsupervised, and he usually has the self-control to follow the rules, but… the play/therapy zone. (Ash’s inflatable walled trampoline is dead again, so we’re debating whether we should get an actual mini-trampoline, and then get something like this — preferably while it’s still on uber-sale — for his ball pit. Switching the use of one item back and forth would be nice to not have to do any more, and each of these separate things together would not take up THAT much more space than one giant inflatable walled bouncer. Also, they’d be easier to stash away for temporary use of the space for other things, they won’t take several hours to inflate, and they aught to be harder to break constantly via hard-to-find leaks. Ash doesn’t use the inflatable walls of his bounce-trampoline as much anymore for sideways crashing and for flipping over the sides, and since they always deflate almost immediately, it’s not like they are actually providing any safety over a wall-less bouncing surface. That ball pit thing should be compatible with his tunnel and his sensory hide-out tent….as in, they could be connected if we wanted them to be. Admittedly it would be harder to bounce or to play in the balls WITH another kid at the same time, but that happens pretty rarely anyway, relative to his use of these things alone. Also in this room, we’d put his book and toy shelves, his desk for arts and crafts, the ceiling-rig swing chair for spinning, etc.)
Oh, and their bathtub isn’t a comfort-molded hydrotherapy deal or anything, but it IS deep enough to actually soak in….again, a big step up from what we have currently, and a very happy thought since my 30-something little old lady’s body benefits greatly from soaks.
If you go down a few steps instead, you come to….well ok, here’s where I don’t have the layout totally straight in my head yet. At one point there’s a half bath. There’s a door that leads to the garage. It’s a single-car garage, which is what we have now. (Ours here acts primarily as storage space, as the workout zone, as well as a spot for the messier crafty projects, such as making castle beds.) There’s a semi-finished basement split into two areas, one of which will hold
our exercise equipment our computer/office area, and the other of which will hold the shelves for the grown-up library (we need to acquire a comfy chair and a small end table), with space in the middle that will get used for an air mattress for the occasional guest that would prefer not to be awakened by Ash bouncing into our living room and on top of them at 6am. There’s another offshoot into a utility room where the water heater is, and the hook-up for our washer and dryer (conveniently, the only appliances they are taking with them are the only appliances we own). Our chest freezer will probably end up in that space, too. There’s also a fourth bedroom with a 3/4 bath directly off of it (shower stall, but no tub), that will end up turning into our studio space.
NOTE: Upon further reflection when we were just there for a birthday party, we don’t think that we can fit both the den space and the play/therapy/homework space in the living room. So, we’ll have to make the living room just den space with a corner for Ash’s homework/project desk and a mini computer desk for him, and move his play/therapy area into the 3rd bedroom up there, instead of making that our office. That forces us to move our office downstairs, probably into the space we’d thought to use for the exercise stuff, and once again have THAT stuff set up in the garage. I regret losing the notion of having our workout stuff in a more temperature-controlled area, and the notion of having no particular reason, for years to come, for Ash to ever have to go below living room level. On the other hand, I like the idea of finally having our den space separated from the play/therapy zone. I mean, sure, Ash will use the den space as well. BUT, the living room won’t have to look like a grown-up space above a certain number of feet from the floor, and an aesthetically chaotic kiddie zone below that. It will be far more relaxing for me.
The layout is going to take some getting used to, because it’s a very different division of space from what we’ve been living with since….well, more or less since the place we were in the process of moving into, when I had Ash. (Well, we were SUPPOSED to still have two months!) For the past four years in this last rental, almost all awake-time has been spent in one area of the house, because the living room was a den space, a play/homework/therapy space and an office space in one, and the eat-in kitchen was wide open to the living room, which the half bathroom and laundry area were also off of. We’d head upstairs for baths and bedtime, but aside from that, most of the day, if at home, was spent moving together from one area of a single large space, to another. I think this change could be good for us, organizationally, and I think it’ll be a nice change, aesthetically. I think it’s coming at a good time, since Ash is only recently more able to navigate from one room to another and back again, with only minimal supervision (at least on most days). Having the bedrooms as an offshoot from the communal living space instead of as their own private floor will feel a bit odd for a while, but probably won’t make as much difference as it feels like it will, because of things like the fact that side-to-side sound insulation tends to be better than up-down sound insulation, and because of the fact that we’re not giving up use of door locks. Well in any event, it’s what is going to happen, so we’d best get used to it!
There are hardwood floors. They are worn down hardwood floors, but I hardly care. Oh, how we’ve missed wood floors, in our four years here with this horrible, semi-shag, 70′s brown, wall-to-wall carpeting! Wood floors are so much easier and faster to keep clean and sanitary, and they are so much healthier for Steffan’s asthma. Well ok, below living room level there are tile floors, but that’s still way breathing-friendlier than carpeting.
There’s a smallish front yard, a driveway that’s possibly two cars deep and three cars wide (nicer than our one-wide-but-three-deep driveway here, when it comes to unavoidable shoveling in the winter), a back porch, and a rather nice and oh-so-helpfully-mostly-FLAT back yard space. We’re inheriting some fencing to help us enclose the back, since our yard here — which we enclosed via a rather patchwork combination of fencing types — is smaller. We might use the wooden snow-fencing sections of our current fencing to create a visual border around the front yard that we can plant some partial-shade flowering vines on, and possibly use the plastic mesh parts of it to section off areas of the back yard space so as to, say, keep balls from being kicked into the garden zone. We’ll probably do our gardening closer to the house in the back yard, both because there’s more sun there and because it aught to be easier to run a hose from wherever the spigot back there is bound to be. We’re thinking of trying some flowers, as well as some herbs, fruits and vegetables. I’d like to take our black raspberry bushes with us and plant them along one side — I’m hoping the transplant will go decently well, since the move this time should happen pretty much after they are done bearing fruit, so they aught to be starting to go dormant and can be cut down first. I whimper at the thought of losing the bushes, because it took three years to start getting an awesome harvest from them, last time. I’m also thinking of trying the trick where you staple weed fabric to the bottom of a wood pallet and then fill it with topsoil, to create a kind of self-contained gardening space for small plants in rows….and then letting strawberry plans get freely runner-happy within that. I hear if you attach copper ribbon around the outside, it keeps slugs out. Further towards the back of the yard, where there are more trees and shade, we can put the swing-set with its various attachments (sometimes I unhook a swing or two and hang a hammock or a pull-up bar or a board swing) and the sandbox. If we ever nab one of those adjustable basketball hoops for Ash, we can put that there, too. That leaves the middle of the yard for open space for running around, kicking balls, playing frisbee, setting up the kiddie pool or the sprinkler, etc. There’s a shed in one back corner of the yard, too, in which we can keep the mower (we need a new one of those too, unfortunately….Steffan is eyeballing an electric model, because he doesn’t want to go with gas, but our purely-human-powered reel mower just isn’t going to….ha ha….cut it), the gardening tools, the pool and such when they are off-season, the rake, etc. We wouldn’t want to put the snow shovels all the way out there, but the rest of it should be fine, and that’s less clutter in the multi-use garage.
The family that owns the house will be moving out during the first week in July. That being the case, we had to get our current landlords to extend our lease THROUGH July. Blessedly, their lack of thoroughness served us well for once, and they overlooked the part of the original lease which says that if we need a month-by-month lease renewal, we have to pay rent-and-a-half for those months….they just signed off on changing the end date of the current lease. Ok, technically they could’ve done that because we gave them advanced warning, we’ve been here for four years already, and they decided to be nice. There is far less precedent for that kind of behavior, however, than there is for them simply borking the job. Eniways, the plan is for the other family to move out of the house during the first part of the week, and then for the dad to try coming back to clean up after them and to finish off necessary minor fixits before we move in, during the latter part of the week. He’s not going to finish any major renovations or anything, but there are things like pulling up the old carpet and carpet staples from one of the bedrooms that hadn’t had the hardwood revealed yet, replacing two broken screens, and reconnecting the wiring that would allow us to have cable internet, because we’re not budgeting for FIOS and since the house was set up for FIOS, it can’t get DSL. We’ll also finish any walk-through type things we aught to do, relating to those little details of a household that are useful to be aware of.
We’ll also come in around this time and start doing things like installing our fencing, transplanting berry bushes, and repainting the bedrooms. We’re not going to invest in repainting everything, although they’d let us, but the bedrooms….yes. For one thing, the two kids’ bedrooms upstairs are purple, and the one downstairs is a sort of lime green, and neither of those colors are quire relaxing enough on a wall for our needs. We’ll probably make the one downstairs — the one that’s to be the studio — white, just to reflect light better. The bedroom that’ll be Ash’s room will become light blue with a border of dark blue accented by glow-stars. That’s what he wants, and played a part in his incentive to process the coming transition. The bedroom that’ll be the play/therapy room will probably be plain white or pale blue, depending on what ends up making the most sense in terms of buying paint. The master bedroom is currently painted white, so we don’t more-or-less-NEED to repaint it the way we do the purple and bright green rooms, but I’m so tired of the “rental-neutral” color scheme since that’s all we EVER lived with since getting the first place of our own over a decade ago….where everything is off-white with brown trim….that I think I’ve finally earned a bedroom I can paint marbled shades of pale sage and mossy greens.
Eniways, we’ll end up with 2-3 weeks to bring things over in small installments when we’re going over to the house to work on things, anyway. I’d love to say that we can bring over a carload almost every day and have a whole lot less to do and need a smaller Penske truck to fit it on on the big moving day, but that probably doesn’t balance out against the gas cost of making that many extra trips, as much as we’d like for it to. We’ll plan our big move — with the moving truck, and actually changing addresses — for the weekend of the 21st-22nd. The aim will be to get the rest of the household shifted over, get everything into at least the right room, and get the major things set up. With some things — like Ash’s castle bed — we’ll have no choice but to deal with take-down, move-over, and set-up-again all during that one day. This leaves us slots around Steffan’s work schedule, during the last week of the month, to also come back here and do the final deep-cleaning, repainting of window trims that had paint ripped off by tape from having to seal plastic over the windows all winter, etc., before our lease here runs out. We’d technically be in the new house for a week before the new lease would kick in for August, but that’s not a huge deal since we’re orchestrating all this with friends, and we can have the utilities and services transferred over whenever (or as close to whenever as we can get such things scheduled). It will be quite a nice change to actually have a chance to clean and make hardware changes and such to a new place BEFORE moving into it, as well as to not have to deep-clean an old place while trying to move out of it.
It’ll be more complicated a process than simply settling our old things into a new place, of course. Having just paid for a move and a moving truck and the painting supplies needed before rooms are full of stuff, it’ll be a while, for budget reasons if not also opportunity ones, before we can get all the new hardware, bits of furniture and shelving, etc, that we need to adapt and best make use of the difference in space (and in some cases, accommodate Ash’s changing needs). I think we can make it work, though, and….with a little time….work pretty well.
The biggest trick in all this, is that their house is in a suburb of the city we live in now, and that means a different school district. Now, thankfully — and otherwise, we could not have responsibly gone with this plan, no matter the financial and spacial benefits — it’s another GOOD district for SpecialEd, with some comparable integrated programs and, as it happens, a larger budget. We’re telling ourselves that all available evidence suggests the transition will be a positive one. All the same, even if the new program meets or exceeds all of our expectations and hopes, there is the element of change to deal with. Although Ash finished his conscious acceptance of the household move within a few hours of being told outright about it (we’d been building up to it for a while, as well)….once he knew it was a house he was already comfortable in, that THERE he could have his castle in a blue bedroom with glow-stars, and THERE we could, although we’d still wait for home-ownership for furrier pets, at least start him off by getting him a fish….the processing still took its toll, and we have been waiting to give that more time to sink in, before pointing out that he’ll also have to switch schools. We’d like to think that the emotional transition won’t be as rough as it could be. Ash has thus far lived in three houses over the course of his life, but only one within the past 4 years. He has, on the other hand, already been in 3 schools over the past two years, because his (2 month long, half-day, special needs) pre-K summer program was in one school, his integrated K & 1st grade classrooms have been in another school, and the integrated summer program that he was in last year, was held in a third. He’ll remember everything about and miss elements of and people in his old school, more than he’ll be upset about or shocked by getting to experience a new one. Unfortunately, he will be starting from scratch when it comes to motor planning, sensory filtering, and his navigation of the school at large. Now, his current program groups SpecialEd teachers, available classroom aids, and therapists by every two grades, so next year, even at the same school, he would’ve had a different GenEd teacher, a different SpecEd teacher, different aids in the room whether they were assigned to him or not, and a different ST, OT and PT. (Granted, he ended up with a different Spec Ed teacher and only one of the same therapists between K & !st, anyway, just because of how things played out with kids who stayed behind, kids who graded-up, etc.) His “specials” teachers — music, art, gym and library — might or might not have changed. Some classmates would already have been familiar to him, the school administration would already have been familiar to him, and the general population of the school as a background to his day would already have been familiar to him, but the core of his “team” would have changed anyway. I’d like to think he can maintain a friendship with some of the classmates he’ll be leaving behind, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
We have his major major majorly important CSE meeting tomorrow afternoon. There are going to be a HUGE number of people there: myself and Steffan (until he has to leave for the end of Ash’s school day….which is also the first day back after a Memorial Day extended nearly-whole-week-off since they didn’t have any snow days this year, so think good thoughts for a first day back that pretty much everyone who regularly works with him, will be missing the end of), Ash’s GenEd teacher, his SpecEd teacher, his ST, his OT, his PT, his principal, one of his vice-principals, two school psychologists, a Special Education Liason, and by her own request, the assistant to the Director of Special Education for the district. Issues debated will include an aid, ESY, playground accommodations, SAD therapy accommodation, therapy services, other tools, supplies and accommodations in general, and curriculum tweaks, in terms of both his challenges and his strengths, and also, of course, his IEP goals. Ash’s SpecEd teacher is hopeful that learning about the transfer will make them more likely to honor his needs without the budget-based reserves that come with the expectation of having to PAY for what they agree his needs are. Of course, we need lots of prayers not just that this CSE meeting goes splendidly, but also that it transfers smoothly over to the new school system (for which I also have to update his 20-page profile).
One of the trickiest of the tricky things is that logistics could interfere with even the smoothest and most acquiescing of CSE meetings and school system transfers, in terms of summer programming this summer. The thing of it is that we’ll be moving, and Ash will be shifting between school systems, part-way through the summer, and probably part-way through any given summer program. Things are further complicated by the fact that he needs to be bussed. All things considered, we could use some extra, ESY-this-summer-specific prayers, too, because on top of all the usual reasons why summer programming is a very good idea for Ash, and ESY summer programming an even better one….orchestrating a move when he’s never out of the house, adds another layer of oh-dear-God entirely.
And that, my friends, is the long and the longer yet actually shorter than it could be, of it. Please light a mental candle, make a wish, think good thoughts, pray, or whatever your goodwill variant is. All of this seems incredibly lucky, but we still need a lot of good luck to get through it well.