and then we bought a house

  1. Got married.
  2. Had a baby.
  3. Sent a kid to college.
  4. Bought a house.

Yeah, I think we’re officially grownups now.

We closed on a house on Thursday in a suburb about 20 miles away from our current house. The good news is that it’s less than four miles from my work and the commute involves no freeway and a maximum of two stoplights. That’s hard to be mad about even if we did end up leaving the confines of our beautiful city of Minneapolis. I will miss it dearly, so it’s nice that we can get there in less than 15 minutes.

We started house-shopping in the end of June. We were kind of guessing at what we could afford and what we wanted to afford. We’ve been paying a CRAZY low amount for rent the past few years, so we’re spoiled when it comes to leftover money for living expenses. The biggest thing we knew we wanted to do is avoid being broke as hell all the time, sitting in our living room pissed off because all of our money was going towards a house payment.

We found our realtor (Joe Anderson with Re/Max) from a referral on Twitter. I mean, where else do you find anyone anymore, right? But then we realized we probably needed to figure out how much money some crazy financial institution was going to give us, so we found a super awesome loan officer (Cheryl Stuntebeck). We found Cheryl’s information on Joe’s blog, because if you’re not finding a referral to some sort of professional on Twitter, you might as well look at blogs. THE INTERNET, YOU GUYS. IT’S GOING TO TAKE OFF. (I seriously cannot say enough about Joe and Cheryl, so if you’re buying a house or selling a house or doing something that required financing for something to do with your house, these two are A+ individuals, the cat’s pajamas, the bee’s knees, and stand up solid dudes and ladies.

We got pre-qualified and it wasn’t anywhere as scary as I thought it would be, plus we had a heck of a lot of information we actually understood when we left Cheryl’s office. We let Joe know we had money to spend and we were off.

At first, we wanted to live in Minneapolis and only Minneapolis. Joe took us around to a few houses one night and then we realized maybe Minneapolis wasn’t the exact right answer. We expanded to Richfield and St. Paul, and then we added West St. Paul and Bloomington. My real hope was to stay as central as possible, just meaning I didn’t want it to take a half an hour to get to my friends’ houses in Minneapolis and I didn’t want to spend more than half an hour commuting one-way.

We looked at a house that was in the path of about 19 runways from the MSP airport, which was super cute and would have fit us nicely, except it was also right next to the freeway. While both of us grew up next to train tracks, this was more like growing up in a box car. That same trip, we went into a house that had been flipped and the doorways were so narrow my shoulders barely fit through. There was a super awesome house on that trip that we absolutely adored and then we got into the one part of the basement where the teenager would be sleeping when he was home from college… and the ceiling was less than six feet tall. We like our teenager’s head and face, so we decided that probably wouldn’t work.

We looked at a house in St. Paul that had a heavy punching bag hanging in the kitchen and one near our current house that smelled like fourteen cats decided to have a pissing contest in the front room. We saw gorgeous old houses that would do great on shows like Property Brothers. We saw so, so many stucco houses.

Our checklist wasn’t terrible. We wanted at least three bedrooms, with at least two of those bedrooms on the same floor. We wanted a decent sized kitchen with more counter space than we have now and it needed to be upgraded enough to where we wouldn’t have to do any major  updates on it for the next few years. We didn’t want to walk into a house that would require a ton of work, but we were open to a few projects! And we really wanted to make sure the big ticket items weren’t anything that would have to be immediately replaced, like the roof or electrical or central air, etc.

Our dream list included things like central air, fenced in backyard, main floor laundry, no stucco, decent neighborhood, four bedrooms, finished basement and a two car garage.

We somehow ended up with everything on our checklist and our dream checklist. Not only that, but we came in way under what we were approved for and feel super comfortable about that six digit figure we’ll be paying on for the next 30 years.

We packed in a load of boxes on Thursday right after we closed and another two car loads yesterday. Today, we took over a carload full of our wall art and stopped to pick up a new TV stand we bought. We also headed to the furniture store where we bough a new coach and loveseat. So, things are moving along at a pretty good clip. We have movers coming on Labor Day to deal with the heavy furniture crap, so we’re hoping to be able to move most everything the rest of the week and be living in our new home on September 8th!

And then, I swear to everything, we are done with anything major in our lives because I’m about exhausted from all of these life changing events. I mean, there’s probably nothing else left to do anyway until retirement, right?

two semesters until my 20 year bachelor’s degree is complete

There only thing standing between me and a grubby little piece of paper saying I’ve received a Bachelor’s Degree is 20 credits. TWENTY. That’s five classes. I’m taking three of those this fall semester: Conflict Resolution, Organizational Behavior and (wait for it) The American Male. You like that third one, right?

I’m getting my degree from the College of Individualized Studies at Metro State University in St. Paul. What that means is I was able to go in and really customize my degree plan to things that I felt best fit into my area of concentration, which is Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Or I/O Psychology for those of you in the biz or those of you who just want to seem cool. My school offers a B.S. in Human Resource Management, but it required courses that caused me to break out in hives just by reading the titles: Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, College Algebra, Boring Spreadsheets III, How to Run Reports Nobody Will Care About, etc. I know how to do some of those and, for the rest, I just ask someone in another department to give me the answer. That’s how grown up jobs work, kids.

I’d originally selected a class called Psychological Testing. I wasn’t incredibly looking forward to it because it had proctored tests, which means actually going somewhere other than my couch to take a test and being super paranoid about the proctor standing over my should watching my every move. Or however that works.

Well, lo and behold, ONE WEEK before the semester was supposed to start, I happened to login to our Student Services portal to see that this Psychological Testing class has been dropped from my schedule. Did I mention it was one week before the semester was supposed to start? And did I mention that I have my next two semesters very specifically planned out? I know I definitely didn’t mention they didn’t notify me of this cancellation. That was my favorite part.

I emailed my advisor with a list of three options I felt would fit into my degree plan. He didn’t respond. The next day, I signed up for The American Male and emailed him to let him know that all the classes were filling up and there was no way in Hades I was going to push this out another semester. The third day, I emailed another person and left two voicemails, because HI, I MEAN BUSINESS. My advisor finally calls me back, says, “Wendy, you’re beating up on me today!” To which I respond with, “Here’s the thing, guy that reminds me from Stanley from The Office, we just need to wrap this up so I can graduate next semester. That’s all.” For some reason I’ll never quite understand and never really want to understand, he felt it appropriate to say, “Okay, okay, okay. You can spank me. I deserve it.”

Nope. Just nope. No, no, no. 

But I got over it pretty quick because he okayed the change on my very detailed degree plan and all was well in the world until I had to go pick up my books and explain to them I already had to return two of them because the class cancelled. That took over an hour and I’m pretty sure they marked the wrong ones as returned, but hey, whatever.

This semester wraps up mid-December. My last semester will include Statistics and my required Capstone class. If I don’t wind up curled up in the fetal position eating the Statistics book for a midnight snack, I’ll finally be finished in May of 1996. That’s exactly 20 years after I graduated from high school.

That’s the stuff Aesop’s fables are made from right there, you guys.

happy 2nd anniversary to my wife

I feel like there’s gotta be mandatory things you need to look for in the person you eventually marry. Those things probably aren’t the things that you think about when you’re in seventh grade and writing your first name and the last names of your only two boyfriends ever and possibly Kirk Cameron and Jonathan Knight. (My choices in the latter of those two were questionable at best. I see this now.)

But then you’re at a bar one night with a pal, talking about how firm your butt is (like pals do, of course) and someone you’ve kind of been eyeing from across the way walks up to you. The first thing out of her mouth is “Aren’t you Wendy from the Internet?” and the first thing out of my mouth was, “Yep. Feel my butt. It’s really firm.”

The next thing you know, your pal has left the bar and you’re out on the smoking patio with a handful of drag queens talking to this person while her date for the evening is just standing there not really realizing what’s happening. This run-in at the bar turns into a handful of visits to dog parks, some dinner dates, and a few evenings of watching American Gladiators in my Uptown Minneapolis apartment. 

Then there’s a 10 year old that’s thrown in the mix, which involves a need for a bigger place to live and a signed lease together. That new place begins to get too small and too accommodating to bats in the basement and squirrels in the wall, so you move to a house in North Minneapolis where you decide to adopt a kitten. And then you move into another house in the same neighborhood and adopt a puppy. 

Five months after that, you get married. Six months after your wedding, you and this person from the bar are expecting a baby. And then a month before your 2nd wedding anniversary, you have an offer accepted on a house and you move your college kid to school a couple of weeks after that. 

If you don’t have the right person through all of that, it’s seriously going to suck. When you have the right person, it’s a pretty sweet deal. When you have the right person, the terrible things don’t seem so terrible and the good things seem even better. The right person loves you when you’re too exhausted to function, when you’re jacked up to level 11, when you don’t finish things that you start and when you just won’t stop talking about work the time. The right person says “I’ll support you 100%” and you don’t doubt they mean it. 

The right person teaches you and learns from you. They laugh with you and remind you where the line is between funny and absolutely not appropriate. They understand your loves and your passions and your whole slew of things that make your blood pressure shoot through the roof. When you average a major life change a year, you want to look at the person on the couch with you and be able to exhale because you know that whatever it is will work itself out as long you tackle it together. 

You want to wrap up with work and be able to sink into home when you get there. That right person feels like home every second of every day. It’s this unequivocal, unparalleled feeling that you come home to because you feel safe and you feel so much love that it makes your head explode if you really try to think too much about it. 

So I got all that. It’s pretty nice. I won’t be trading it for anything anytime soon. I love ya, wife of mine. We got a good thing, you and me. We’re a heckuva US. Happy anniversary. 

  
(The traditional 2nd year gift is cotton. I’m assuming there will be cotton in the curtains being left in our new house that we close on in three days, right?)

this guy’s off to college

It’s crazy to think that a little over eight years ago, I met this little dude at a dog park in St. Paul. I was dating his mom and it was going well enough that an introduction to her son was appropriate. The first time I met him, he searched my pockets with a metal detector. The second time we met, he got stuck trying to hide in the back of my SUV so he could go home with me.

When he and his mom first moved in, we’d catch him going to sleep every night watching one of those dogsitting DVDs where the squirrels run across the screen every once in a while. He claimed it help him go to sleep. Hey, whatever works, dude.

Since then, I’ve watched him change schools, move addresses, land awesome internships at non-profits, get a sweet theater ushering gig, figure out the public transportation system, gain a massive amount of healthy confidence, overcome crappy teenager things, get excited about volunteering multiple times, become angry about injustices in the world, ALMOST CRY AT THE END OF FURIOUS 7, immediately become an amazing big brother and develop into a full grown man that, more than anything, is an amazing human being.

Tomorrow morning, we move him into a college that we’re pretty sure was made just for him. He wants to double major in Biology and Secondary Education, so he can eventually teach high school science classes. He doesn’t want to do that, though, until he’s gotten a chance to do some work out in the field, so he can teach his students from the book and from real life experiences. He wants to study abroad at least once and it would be a dream come true for him if he could land an internship with the Disney World College Program. And this kid? I know he can do all that and more.

I will miss his face, his need to Google everything all the time, his knack for memorizing the weirdest Wikipedia pages, his willingness to help everyone around him with anything without question, his hilarious sense of humor, his gigantic heart, his true authentic self, his long monkey arms that can reach every shelf and pretty much everything else about him.

I know you’ll do great things. You already do.

Go get ’em, tiger.

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our disney vacation – part 1: how to fly with an infant

The four of us went to Orlando in June, the exact day after the oldest child graduated from high school. Twenty four hours after he received his diploma we were somewhere between Minneapolis and Orlando eating tiny pretzels and counting the minutes until the plane landed.

Amelia, the teenager and I had flown together before to Chicago a few years ago. And Amelia and I have flown a handful of times for quick extended weekend trips, so we do well together when we travel. The wild card in this whole situation was the latest addition to the family. At the time of our vacation, he had just turned seven months old, which means he doesn’t understand logic, can’t explain what he’s feeling and feels the need to grab and/or touch anything within his go-go-gadget arms’ length.

You know where there’s a lot of advice on babies in general? THE INTERNET. You know what I’m about to do? Add to the swath of unsolicited advice that you can find about babies on the internet. This is what worked for us. If it doesn’t work for you, #sorrynotsorry. Because, you know, every baby is like a magical snowflake.

First Flight!

Our baby: He’s pretty high maintenance. He requires a lot of stimulation to keep him entertained – wrestling, bouncing, tickling, etc. He was (and still is) solely breast fed. He gets snacks of all sorts, but they’re for fun and just learning about how not to gag himself with a handful of smashed banana. Since he was 12 hours old, he has been adamantly opposed to being held still. His poop smells really bad. He can occasionally lose his ever-loving mind if he doesn’t eat EXACTLY WHEN HE NEEDS TO EAT, DAMMIT. I love him dearly and wouldn’t trade him for a million other babies (or bucks), but he’s no cakewalk. He’s lucky he’s the most adorable thing on the face of this planet, as far as I’m concerned.

Our big gear: We brought along one of his car seats and a stroller. We flew Delta and checking that kind of stuff is free. To my understanding, a lot (if not all?) of other airlines are the same way. Now, there’s a great deal of concern that the airlines can damage your car seat when they’re drop kicking it into the airplane. Some people say if you check your car seat, it’s the same as having it in a car accident, which then makes it null and void and not safe anymore. The FAA recommends your baby ride in a car seat in the plane under the age of 2. The NTSB and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the same thing. But, we were apparently like – SCREW THAT. And we were comfortable with it.

Our child hates riding in the car. He would rather have his toenails clipped than sit in a car seat for any amount of time. He might fall asleep after we’ve been driving for at least an hour and that’s if we don’t make any sudden stops or turns. There was no way we wanted to be subject to that in the confines of an airplane. And we knew when we got to our rental car, we’d rather have him in something he was at least familiar with to ease his struggles and our ear drums. Judge us and our decision if you want, but keep in mind you’re the one reading this for advice. BOOM.

We bought bags to put the car seat and the stroller in to protect them as much as possible and it was really convenient not trying to drag both of those large items to the gate. We took the stroller completely apart and we were able to strap both of these items onto our rolling luggage. It wasn’t easy to carry it all from the parking garage to the check in area, but we managed.

What we kept with us: Without our Kinderpack, we may have lost our minds. Since Amelia was wearing the baby in the pack, she didn’t have to take him off. They got manually patted down, but it was a lot quicker than trying to untangle a kid from a stroller and then put him back in before you head to the gate. Plus, it gave Amelia both of her hands to do other things that needed to be done. Baby carriers are magical and they make traveling a million times easier. Kinderpacks are our favorite (I will gladly tell you all about them!), but there are obviously other options. Not as cute, but whatevs.

In our Diaper Dude, (it’s not just for dads, but I’ll save my gender in parenting speech for another time) we had a brand new Doc McStuffins toy he hadn’t seen yet, his favorite rattle ball and three more small quiet toys. We had zip lock bags full of freeze-dried yogurt drops and weird puff-type cereal for babies. We were also stocked up on baby Tylenol, teething oil that smells like clove cigarettes, homeopathic teething tablets and his trusty amber necklace. (We do our research. We’re good.) We also had half a dozen pacifiers. And best of all, we had the opportunity for him to nurse.

Our results: We got to Orlando without anyone punching our baby and that was our real goal! It was just over a three hour flight and it actually went pretty well. He nursed during take off and landing to prevent his ears from doing anything that would bug him. We popped a pacifier in his mouth whenever we could convince him to take one just to again avoid that ear stuff. We gave him snacks. We looked at toys. We looked at pictures of Mickey Mouse that I had on my iPad. It went in sort of a nurse, sleep, distract, distract, feed, distract, stand him up and let him look around the plane and repeat pattern. He even got his first set of wings from the flight attendant.

In summary: Your baby isn’t going to be perfect. Hell, your husband/aunt/uncle/full grown travel companion isn’t going to be perfect. People that are going to get pissed off at a baby are the same people that are just looking for a reason to be pissed off. Child-hating travelers are ridiculous and almost stupid if they think they’re never going to run into an upset child on a flight. I know it’s inconvenient to have to listen to someone yammer away for an entire flight, but if it’s not a little kid, it’s going to be that nutty lady that has to talk about every single person that’s on the family tree or every gastrointestinal issue her dog had three weeks ago.

And really, your baby is going to feed off your anxiety and stress, so figure out a way for you to handle yours. The baby will follow. Don’t plan on reading the entertainment magazine you bought in the airport. If you did buy a magazine, it now belongs to your baby. The strategy here is distracting that kid – food, boobs, toys, movies, pictures, more boobs, you name it.

Ultimately, you know your kid best. If he’s going to scream bloody murder and throw his feces across the cabin of the plane, maybe don’t go on vacation. Save your money, because both of you are going to need therapy one of these days.