Coming home: coffee, chaos, and the importance of eyeball time

24 days ago we returned from Chile to begin an extended summer holiday in the United States.

Arriving on the 3rd of July, we were launched head-first into PURE Americana. Grilled food, fireworks, backyard lunch gatherings with friends, kids in wading pools. Ah yes, the North Country in July is truly an experience.

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After a few days we turned our sights south, loaded the family into the car, and headed to the Twin Cities and Southern Minnesota for 3 weeks — just 21 short days.

Oh how the time does fly.

But we Bartells know how to do 3 weeks well. After all, this isn’t our first rodeo. Give me a calendar and some flexible hours to divvy up and I can find a way to fit 6 months of social events into those 3 little weeks.

And SO, my friends, it came to pass that — even in that wee bit time — we managed to make eyeball to eyeball connections with OVER 80 dear friends and family members.

Yes. Over 80.

(pause for impressive oohs and aahs – I’ll wait).

Isn’t that AMAZING?

We somehow also found time to go to a children’s museum, a zoo, a county fair, a full-length musical, countless parks, 4 swimming pools, 3 lakes, an outdoor learning center, and no fewer than 18 restaurants or cafes (believe me, I have Lucas’s stashed hoard of children’s menu drawings and word search puzzles to prove it).

Oh yeah, and then there was that time I squeezed in a kid-free jaunt to Phoenix and road-tripped to the Grand Canyon.

This is NOT the minor leagues, my friends.
We play for keeps around here. 

***

Well, this evening we returned once again to the Northland –my mom and dad’s house. And I cannot tell a lie: IT IS GOOD TO BE BACK. To settle into the guest house and know that bags can stay comfortably unpacked for three whole weeks. To rest in this quiet space. To not battle the traffic and construction zones and general go-go-go that the City creates in us.

I breathe deeply tonight and have no official plans on the docket for tomorrow. Nowhere to be but right here. Yes ma’am. Glorious.

And yet —
I already miss my other heart home — that city that ushered me into adulthood and the people that reside within those cherished spaces.

People that quite literally span EVERY. SINGLE. CHAPTER. of my story. Childhood friends, college friends, work friends, Hong Kong friends, former students, mentors, cousins from BOTH sides of my family tree, aunties and uncles. Heck, I even ran into an old choir director of mine while haunting the late night aisles at Cub Foods!

These people: They are critically important to me and to my story. They are the music makers. They are the time keepers. They are the ones who show up again and again regardless of years and distance.

They remind me that who I am is anchored deeply in who I have been — and in those who have linked arms and walked with me all these many years.

What glorious roots have been strengthened these past 21 days. And all the bleary eyes and late nights and overpriced children’s meals are 1000% worth it.

Because the people are worth it.

Thank you, Southern Minnesota, for the beautiful soul hug. Oh how I cannot wait to do it all over again next summer!

… And Northern Minnesota, be forewarned:  We’re ready for ya!
xoxo

2018 Andrew

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Come stand in the light: Fiesta de la luz

It is winter solstice; the longest night of the year.
My heart holds this night especially dear because my eldest was born on the solstice five and a half years ago – in another hemisphere, on another continent perhaps, but solstice all the same.

We named him Lucas.
Light-bearer.  Brightly shining.  Luminous.  

(I wish I could claim that the poetic beauty of this was intentional, but alas!)

Tonight his little mitten fits snuggly inside my cradling hand; although even now I can see that this will not always be the case.  Someday he will have fingers that stretch beyond my own.  Indeed, someday he may not wish to hold my hand at all — that is, until he grows enough to change his mind and double back to my outstretched palm.

But on this night — there is no hesitation.
Not when you’re five.

A raptor calls out, cutting through the icy air as it soars above our ceremony.  He is equal parts reverent and belligerent — not unlike our troupe of Kinder companions.  For many wee ones, this is their first Fiesta de la Luz.  It is also mine.  And as always, the list of things we do not know extends far beyond that which we do.

So we do what we have learned to do best:  we follow the one in front of us, use each of our senses to full capacity, and hold tightly to the hand that has chosen to accompany us into the unknown.

Rocks crunch and shift under our slow steps.  Lentamente. 

Candles flicker ahead and wait in patient darkness behind.  Respira Profunda.

A community of voices release their gentle words and melodies into the growing twilight.  Sube el fuego mas alto.

We approach, family by family, together through the darkening night.
Breath steaming. Cheeks pink.  Always wishing we’d worn that second pair of socks.

Now that our moment is upon us, ceremony takes full command of the ship and even the smallest of us can feel he has a part to play.  Step by step, hand in hand, we travel through the spiral of pine boughs and oranges and candles and songs.  My eyes are downcast as they so often are, fixed predominantly on my little charge.  And such a choice would seem regretful – the exceptional beauty of the enveloping moment lost on rocks and sweaty gloves and rubber boots.

Except it isn’t.  And I’m not. Because my view is tremendous.

Through it I see his eyes, bright and flashing – seeking the center where his teacher waits to greet him with bonfire and candle prepared.  I see his index finger twitch and wiggle as he adjusts his rustic string lantern with the least disturbance possible.  I see his sweet mouth moving – carefully shaping foreign words as he sings songs which are, to my endless amazement, no longer foreign to him.

We arrive to gentle smiles and nods that speak of wholeness and safety.  Of belonging.
And at long last, at the center, my son’s lantern is lit.

But not just his; I have one too.  It was there at the center, waiting for me the whole time.

And so we find that the journey out of the spiral is duly lit.  One entered, dark and cold.  Two emerged – filled with light.  Joining the chorus with voices all the stronger for having taken the journey.

Sube el fuego mas alto.
Ilumina nuestras vidas.

***

We stumble into this space together, grasping the same dark candle.  Seeking guidance, uncertain of our steps, filled with anticipation.

And the beauty in the journey is that we leave with our light ablaze —
But the miracle in it is that we leave with two. 

We are not sent into the encroaching darkness for the purpose of mere survival. One would suffice for that.  We are sent forward twice as rich and full as we arrived.

What shall we do with this abundance of light we now possess?

For surely the spiral doesn’t ever really end.  It extends to the very reaches of our galaxy.  To the center of our souls.  To the outstretched hand of our Father.  To the little hands nestled safely in my palms.

Light-bearers all.

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I have never

I have never had a day where I didn’t have access to food.

I have never had someone directly threaten my life or the life of my family.

I have never had to decide which bills to pay and which to “roll over” into next month.

I have never found my house/wallet/pockets/bank accounts entirely empty of money.

I have never seen the inside of an addiction rehab center.

I have never had to buy medical devices to aid myself or a family member in completing ordinary, everyday tasks.

I have never worried about a family member stealing from me or considered hiding valuables when they come over.

I have never feared that the outcome of an election would jeopardize my safety and security.

I have never stared into empty cupboards and refrigerators and wondered how I was going to feed my family.

I have never lost the function, even temporarily, of any of my limbs.

I have never sat across from a doctor and received a diagnosis for something potentially fatal.

I have never had to bury a close friend or family member as a result of an act of violence.

I have never been the victim of physical assault.

I have never been robbed of more than $50 USD.

I have never visited anyone I know in prison, or even a county jail house.

I have never been evicted from my place of residence.

I have never worried about the interest rate on my credit cards because I have always been able to pay them off in full each month.

I have never worried that a broken-down car might mean losing my job.

I have never raised my children alone.

I have never held more than 2 jobs simultaneously.

I have never opted out of bringing myself or my child to the doctor because I couldn’t afford it.

I have never been forcibly handled by a police officer, nor have I felt fear for my personal safety upon seeing someone in uniform.

I have never worried that my husband will hit me.

I have never filed paperwork for a visa to another country and worried that I would be denied.

I have never served in the military or witnessed armed conflict.

I have never found that my heat/electric/gas has been shut off due to not being able to pay my bills.

I have never been fired from a job.

I have never sat for hours at the bedside of my child, my spouse, my siblings, or my parents in an ICU, nor have I been in one myself.

I have never been in a serious accident requiring medical attention.

I have never been addicted to a substance that alters my decision making and lifestyle choices.

I was never beaten or verbally abused as a child.

Oh the things I haven’t done. Haven’t experienced. Haven’t lived. A never ending list of things I cannot understand or view through a lens of personal experience.

Humility. Empathy. Patience. Find me and guide me through my not-knowing. Help me remember the mighty list of things I cannot see. For this list is a thing of beauty, of gratitude, of privilege —

— of rarity.

Let me look into the eyes of those I meet and honor their own unspoken lists. Give me the strength to keep my mouth shut and listen for the untold stories that dance between their words.

This is not right. This is not who we are.

A note:  The title of this piece proclaims that “This is not who we are.”  When I say this, I am referring to “we” in the individual sense, not the American government, whose history in such matters is complex and fraught with troubles.  It is my sincere belief that we, as individual citizens and souls DO carry compassion, human dignity, and the welfare of children as our core tenets.  And when we as individuals use our core goodness to demand better, the United States also rises and begins to right the ship.  It is that individual to whom I address this story.

***

When Lucas was two and a half years old we took a trip to Beijing.  We had our passports, visas, and entry documents in order.  Our itinerary was printed.  We had sufficient money in our pockets and in our bank accounts.

Nothing to fear.

Upon our approach to immigration, however, we were flagged down and brought to a small office where they asked to see Lucas’s passport.  The woman looked at it, then whisked it away.  Immediately my inner Mama Bear grew anxious at the disappearance of such an important document.

Next we were led into the office and told that Lucas might need a more detailed medical exam.  In broken English, peppered with Chinese commentary from the secondary officer, we were asked a variety of questions about Lucas’s health history.

I had all the answers to all those questions.  And yet, my Mama Bear instincts still rose up inside.  I still was not holding any of his documentation.

After a brief temperature check, his third since arrival, a medical exam was deemed unnecessary.  The Chinese officials jotted notes on our entry forms and escorted us out of the room.  Then the secondary officer matter-of-factly told us to proceed to the nearest immigration line.

But I did not move.  Because I still did not have Lucas’s passport in my hands.

I asked for it and she said, “No, we don’t have it anymore.” 

I counted the passports in my hands – holding them up so she could clearly see.  Two. We had only two for the three of us.  Still, even with such clear-cut evidence, she insisted that she did not have Lucas’s passport.

By this time the English speaking officer had left and only the secondary-officer remained.  My heart beat faster as she demanded in rapid-fire Chinese that we move along.  Another official stepped into our space – making his presence silently known.

And then I lost it.  Shaking and angry, I refused to move from that small office doorway.  I raised my voice and willed myself to speak Chinese.  To be understood.  Four years in Hong Kong, surely I could say something more meaningful than “bus stop” and “Singapore noodles” and “Thank you?”

But I could not.  Until this moment I had never needed to because there had never been anything to fear.  My papers were in order.  I was legal.

Yet all that legality didn’t stop the sickness, terror, and rage from rising up inside of me.  Because all I could imagine was Lucas being taken away into some back office, alone and scared.

Without me.

I pointed sharply again and again at the office door and repeated in English, “I don’t have his passport.  YOU have it. Go in and get it NOW.”

At last, the officer turned and went into the office.  I watched from the doorway as she moved piles of papers and files back and forth across the desktop.  She opened folder after folder… and there, inexplicably tucked inside a random file near the bottom of the stack, was Lucas’s passport.

She didn’t make eye contact as she handed it to me, two hands outstretched as is customary for such important documents as this.  She didn’t apologize.  She just turned and briskly walked away from my lividness.  My fear.

My deep, aching relief.

***

Oh America – you can argue all day about legal vs. illegal.  Asylum seeker vs opportunist.  Dangerous vs. beneficial.

But don’t you dare argue with me that a parent and child should be forcibly separated at the border of a foreign land.  That a parent should be given no indication as to where their child is being sent or when they will be returned.

Don’t. You. Dare.

I’m no expert on foreign policy, but I am a mama – one who routinely crosses borders with her children.  And yes, I have felt apprehension at border crossings – even though they have been entirely legal.  Even with money enough to buy my safety. Even with a privileged country of birth signed and sealed on my passport.

I have been in heated confrontations where I have no chance of understanding the words spewed at me.  I have seen police officers and wondered if their intent was pure or if I looked like quick money.  I have clutched my baby tighter and my purse looser, just in case.

And I have had to face the reality that I am a guest in someone else’s country.  Legally, yes, by the grace of some paperwork and a quick rubber stamp which buys me three more months.

But what if the police knocked on my door tomorrow, arrested me, and took Lucas and Andrew away?  Maybe I have done nothing wrong.  Maybe I can even prove that.

Would any of that matter in that moment?

What if they were sent away for a week… two weeks… a month while the tedious wheels of bureaucracy turned and indifferent clerks sorted through my case?  What amount of time would be deemed an “acceptable amount” for two boys aged 5 and 2 to be kept away?

What if Lucas and Andrew were kept in a detention center with 500+ other foreign children for the duration?

What if they had been transported there on a train with no sense of where they were going and no language to ask all the questions they have?

They are so small.

What if they were afraid at night?  They so often are.

What if they needed me?  They always do.

Who would change Andrew’s diaper, or think to put him in one at all?  Who would look Lucas in the eye and help him breathe through his terrified screams?  Who would put toothpaste on their brushes?  Who would care that they love geography and the Solar System?

Who would make sure they were kept together, lest they face this nightmare entirely alone?

What if I had no idea how to get them back?

No.  I don’t want to hear your argument about this one.  Not this time.  Because all I need to do is look into the eyes of my sons and I have every answer ever written in stone.

This is not right.
This is not who we are.

It’s not about the adventure.

There are days when the “adventure of it all” is enough to sustain you.  When rough edges are optimistically referred to life experiences and you patiently slog through the hard work of “learning a place” because you can see it getting smoother with each passing of the plane.

Those days routinely come when the sun is shining.
Often on Saturdays.
With a belly full of blueberry pancakes.

***

But as we all know, the act of living is routinely… routine.  And more often than not, capturing that high-talk of adventure would take a reach far greater than what we are willing to extend.

When the washing and hanging and moving and rotating of laundry still results in damp pockets and musty, crunchy towels.

When you wonder how much ever-loving time has been spent hauling and chopping and stoking the fire with wood. The answer: too damn much.

When, even after all that time and effort, you STILL lose your rhythm and let the fire die out three times in one day.

When you stayed up far too late reading about earthquake preparedness and now you cannot sleep because you are mapping out the best route to your children.

When school drop off/pick up consists of driving up a mountain and down a mountain and up a mountain and down a mountain… on a gravel road so narrow and weather-worn that you literally hold your breath on two separate passes, praying for the best.

***

There are days when you simply don’t feel up to the challenge of learning how adult all over again.  Because truth be told, adulting is hard enough as it is.

And it’s far harder when making a Spanish language phone call can paralyze you in your tracks, or when you have to ask three people for help to buy a tank of propane, or when you cannot speak plainly with your son’s kindergarten teacher, or when your mom sends your medication and a month later it still hasn’t shown up.

…Or when your son says he’s “tired of hearing Spanish all day” and “why can’t we just go back to Grand Forks?”

***

Why can’t we just go back?

Oh my sweet boy.

On the hard days your mama has asked herself that very same question.  And I can only tell you this:  Because we are not that season.  Not yet.

This is a season of doing hard things, and celebrating simple victories.

This is a season of stumbling, and learning how to weave and flow.

And yes, this may be a season of cussing, but at least I now know how to do it in another language.

And I could go the route of reminding you that all our “troubles” really show is that we have food, a car, access to school, a working fireplace and wood with which to fill it.

But I know those truths won’t make your heart feel any better tonight.
Not when you’re frustrated and lonely.
Not when you’re tired of “new.”

***

Instead, take heart dear one.   Let’s go and cook dinner together.  After all, I’ve figured out how to make my own cream of mushroom soup so grandma’s spaghetti recipe will taste just like home this time around.  And see these fresh herbs?  This morning I learned how to ask for them by name at the market and the owner went around back to get them special for me!  While it simmers on the stovetop, warming the house, will you help me fold some laundry?  Look at how my clever new method has dried our underpants and socks in record time.  And guess what? After dinner you and your brother can wash away all that grittiness in a hot bath.  The new propane tank was delivered last night, so we can fill it up nice and full this time.

Little man — the day will come when we will think we know too much to celebrate these simple victories.  When hot water and fresh herbs might, once again, not be considered enough.

We will forget about this.
One always does.

So while we still have this fleeting moment, and eyes to see it,
Let’s not forget to celebrate it now.

When parent-teacher conferences lead to questions regarding your child’s time in utero, and other good life choices

This is my son’s Kindergarten here in Chile.  It’s a Waldorf school.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Waldorf, it’s a gentle, nature-based school where kids learn to whittle, bake bread, and correctly identify native, seasonal plants.  They go for long nature hikes in the mountains and play with toys made from felt and tree bark and the like.  And there is no technology.  If you’re thinking the word “Hippie” and feel compelled to say it aloud, go ahead.  It’s okay.  😉

Now, I have to be completely honest here and admit that this wholesome philosophy does not, in fact, accurately reflect our daily lifestyle.  *Pauses to stir the mac ‘n cheese and yell at the kid that he has 5 more minutes on his iPad before dinner*  Even so.  We truly value what the school creates and strive daily to bring the heart, if not the entire practice, into our own home.

So today, just shy of two months into the school year, my husband and I had our first parent/teacher conference.  And you guys… it was SO great.

The teachers go through a questionnaire for all new Kinder kids.  And it’s HUGE.  Kid you not, the lad’s teachers spent over an hour going through the questions with us.

(“Hey look Honey. This parent-teacher conference comes with a free comprehensive Spanish lesson! How generous!”)

  • They wanted to know about my husband and me, our personal skills and interests.
  • They wanted to know what meal time and our home routines are like.
  • They wanted to know what my son loves most in this world; what makes him tick.
  • They wanted to hear about his fears and how he sleeps at night.
  • They asked about any major life changes that Lucas has experienced in his five years of life (Spoiler alert: He’s had quite a few).

They even asked about Lucas’s birth experience?!  How was my pregnancy with him? Were there any unforeseen challenges?  How and where and what time was he born? Was his brith a positive experience or were there complications?  How about his first months of life? Did you feel supported?  What was his temperament like?

Now I know some of you are thinking:
“What in the hell sort of teacher conference was this?”
Or maybe:
“That’s none of their business!  Why on earth would they want or need to know that?!”

But I have to say – it was a very empowering and honoring experience.  The time, intentional interest, and sincerity they showed in him… in us.  They want to know these things so they can better know my son.  So they can meet him right where he is at and support him in all the big and tiny ways they can.

And it has been a really long time since anyone asked me about my birth experience with Lucas.  So yes, it mattered to THIS MAMA that she was asked.  Because I may not be an expert on many things in this world.  But these boys?  These little lives that were formed from inside my very body?  Nobody on this earth knows their story as well as I do.  Nobody.

And today, my expertise was honored and heard.

***

I’m a middle school teacher who strives to be intentional with each of my students.  I build deep relationships whenever the opportunity arises.  I try my best to see and hear parents, letting them know that they are the most important factor in their child’s life.  But I have never had the opportunity, nor the inclination, to go that deep and to know that much.

Even if I had, I’d have never been allowed!

I mean, can you imagine showing up at the fall ISD 381 Parent-Teacher Conference and being asked about your labor and delivery experience?  😀

But still, I wonder:

What would education look like if it were POSSIBLE to know each kid’s life story back to his days in utero?

How would our relationships with students change if we knew the rhythm of their home routines?  Their personal fears and challenges shown only to a select few?

Would we criticize less? Ask better questions?
Would we be trusted more?

And hear me out: Not everything I shared with his teachers fell lock-step with the ethos at the school: the constant upheaval, the intensity of our home life… the iPad time.  The Bartells and Waldorf are certainly not a match made in Heaven. But there was no judgment or lecturing or indoctrination.  Just a desire to get a fuller picture of the quirky, unique little boy they encounter day after day.

Yes.  I want to be a teacher like that.

Today I am thankful for Lucas’s school.  For his teachers who took SO much time with us and placed such value on our story.  And oh the sweet, sweet knowledge that each of their 15 students was handled so delicately and with such grace makes this experience infinitely more precious.

Our stories matter.  It’s so nice when someone agrees. xoxo

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House Hunters International: Pucón

When you watch House Hunters International on TV, part of you knows it’s not really altogether real.

What I mean is, you know there’s no way they only saw three houses.  Who only sees three houses?  Also, you have to assume that many things are staged… because it all looks so seamless.  And people are always happy when they come back to check on them.

No way is that accurate.  Occasionally someone’s gotta be irritated about the bad plumbing or the crappy kitchen layout or the horrifying rat infestation, right?

Through all the smoke and mirrors, however, one does hold out hope that some authenticity remains — and that hope is precisely what buoyed me as we embarked on our own international house hunting mission back in February.

***

The first glaring fallacy of the show is the time factor.  Good TV is not made by watching amateurs flounder around… so they pare that sucker down to three houses in 40 minutes.

In reality it’s like 12-15 houses over an ENTIRE MONTH OF YOUR LIFE.

The second glaring fallacy of the show is the knowledgable, on-hand real estate agent.  We had two agents help us (neither of whom who were actual licensed agents) but most of the time flew solo off of AirBnb properties or “friend of friend” leads.  It was really piecemeal.

FUN FACT: When the International House Hunters show really DID come to Pucón for an episode, the “real estate agent” was a dude who is now a friend of ours… and (*spoiler alert*) HE IS NOT A REAL ESTATE AGENT EITHER!  😀  He showed the couple the property they were already renting as their 3rd choice and then chose two other properties off AirBnb at random.  Sorry to kill it for you, but sometimes the truth hurts.  😉

True to the show, Rich and I  had to weigh pro/con lists for each place and stick to our guns on the non-negotiables.  We even were treated to some 11th hour, “made for TV” drama (which, let’s be honest, in real life is not a desirable trait).

***

So – how’s it go down?  Well, like the show let’s begin with the fundamentals.

Non-negotiables:

  1. Strong internet connection for Rich’s work
  2. Double paned windows and/or well-insulated walls
  3. Three bedrooms (or two and an office space)
  4. Outside the “red zone” for volcanic eruption danger

Wish list items:

  1. Quiet, natural space with a good view
  2. Under 20 minutes’ drive to Lucas’s school
  3. Modest size – around 1000 square feet
  4. Non-treacherous road conditions (you read that right… that was negotiable)
  5. Possibly with a private or community gated entrance
  6. In the ballpark of $800 USD a month.

Not asking much, right?  In fact, we were so flexible that we willingly toured everything we could including:

  • Private gated condos
  • Summer cabañas
  • Mountain lodges
  • Apartments
  • Duplexes
  • Single-family homes

We dug deep into our Hong Kong roots and looked as small as 640 square feet.  We humored people to look at sprawling 5 bedroom villas.  We searched on the volcano, near the lake, in town, in the country, furnished, unfurnished, and everything in between.

And you have NO idea how hard it was to find something that actually ticked off all four of those “non-negotiable” boxes!

For example…

We were sent a house that was in a fantastic community, a gated entry to the property, single family home, natural and quiet, good internet… but which had NO INSULATION.  Quite literally plank walls to shelter from the elements.  Rich likened the interior to his Boy Scout camp cabin – and wasn’t far off.

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No insulation?  Big problem (and a common issue here).

And then there was the good internet, safe, quiet, fully furnished condo complex that lacked character but was forgivable… until you heard about the “communes fees” and the electric bill (as the house had no wood stove to offset costs).  Waaaaay over budget!

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Pool – yes!  Gym – yes! Character – not so much.  Price — YIKES.

Or the time we went to a house that seemed to tick all the boxes… except for the fact that it wasn’t even remotely furnished.  Not a single appliance to speak of.  Plus, one had to  turn a blind eye to the EPIC building code violation with regards to the upstairs death trap, er, I mean “loft.”  These sorts of do-it-yourself hack jobs are also really common here.

We did this 12 times.

And each of these dozen viewings required us to navigate hard-to-decipher directions on backroads crisscrossing the region, with kids in tow, in Spanglish, and on a strict deadline as our move-out date in the summer rental property quickly approached.  It was a rather stressful and frustrating experience, truth be told.

***

In the end, our hard work and diligence paid off and we found our little gem.

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The Bartell family has a home!

A cute single family home in a quiet, gated neighborhood with a comfortable mix of six local and international neighbors.  It has double paned windows, a high quality heating system, 3 bedrooms, good internet, and a yard for the boys.  Plus it’s located near town, passably close to Lucas’s school, and firmly in a green/yellow volcanic safety zone.

All boxes checked, even most of the wish-list ones. Total win!

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… Mind you, there was the awkward moment wherein our real estate agent failed to tell us that SHE was, in fact, the current tenant and that her PARENTS were the owners?!

But don’t worry — it turns out they’re all good, kind-hearted people so this *oversight* is forgiven and we move on, pride comfortably swallowed.  😉

***

Checking in: Two months later

Are we still pleased with our choice????
Like so many other families on the show:  YES.

  • The wood stove heats a radiator system that keeps our home toasty as the weather cools.
  • The boys love their shared room and the ample yard space (and incredibly prolific chestnut trees).
  • Rich has properly cluttered his private office space. Our neighbors are inviting and supportive.
  • And me? I am happy to have a home of my own once more, one in which we can find rest and solace.

All in all, many lessons were learned through this arduous process – many of which I am glad I don’t have to repeat any time soon.  More than anything else, however, I have learned that I have NO desire to work in real estate.