I am over the moon excited today to feature my Daughter Chelsie’s very first post here on Mama Carp!
After the new siding and windows were installed we stood back and were thrilled to see the exterior transformation of a house that needed some love. Yet, my dad still wasn’t impressed. It was missing something… shutters. He called me and explained in depth the importance of adding them to our home because it would make it, As cute as a bug’s ear. I’m still unsure of where he got that line from and have yet to actually see a bug’s ear… but if it is really as adorable as our little house became, then he is completely right. Four years later, every time that I drove into our driveway, this is what came to mind.
We recently moved and sold this home to a great couple. I had a location change for work and we chose to buy a house closer to reduce our drive time. I have incredibly mixed feelings as I reminisce the memories of this house, which we made our home. Looking back at the pictures, I cannot believe the things that we learned and accomplished together and with the support of our families. This was Ryan’s first house to fix up and our first home together. It was the home that we became a married couple, started our family (with our two kittens) and spent our mid-twenties.
My parents have primed me over the years to walk up to a house that may look like a complete nightmare and look past the disaster to the “bones” of the house. Through my excitement of a new project, I did not even think of how Ryan may interpret this adventure. I am so thankful that he dove right into it with me without question. And as he now says, “The student became the master”… I still believe us to both be students but we sure have come a long way through trial and tribulation.
Through this, I want to take a moment to reflect on the crazy memories and be able to close this chapter as we have just begun another.
Demo Date Nights.
Why not have fun and be productive in your free time? I feel that my Dad would be proud of this rhetorical question. But it wasn’t all fun and games… there was that one time shortly after moving in that the sewer backed up in the basement. I am unsure if there is a more bonding experience for a couple in this situation than wearing facemasks while taking turns holding the shopvac. Pretty sure we won’t ever forget that one.
The Mattress and the Microwave.
We are cheap. Cheap people make sacrifices. Looking back we probably should have rented out that apartment for one more month until the house was finished. But instead we complete the upstairs bedroom and decided that all we needed was a mattress and a microwave… both on the floor. We would wear sandals to get down the uncarpeted stairs and through the sheetrock dust in the kitchen before leaving the house, to spare my fabulous shoes. All in all, it sure created an urgency to get things done and we learned how to live together in tight quarters. Ryan still reminds me of this every time that he wants to exploit my frugality.
Woodchips and Getting Engaged.
The root system of a large silver maple pulled up the front yard five feet, destroyed what was the driveway and began affecting the road. We made the decision to invest in cutting down this tree to avoid any other complications or potential damage. There was a large stump left which took multiple tries to grind down and to remove much of the root system. This left a massive pile of wood chips. Ryan had asked me on a date to the place where we had first met for dinner, claiming that it was our “year and a half anniversary” a week earlier. All potential hopes were put to rest when he rescheduled for the next day because it was the “only night that he could borrow a trailer to move the woodchips.” Hours later and a full trailer, we were finished. Ends up, that was his “Plan B” because the ring that he ordered was not ready in time to pick up. Sure enough the next night we went to dinner and walked to the middle of the Stone Arch Bridge. He then chose that we should just “keep walking”. By the time we made it to the other side of the bridge in my five-inch heels (and I am sure that he felt that the ring was burning a hole in his pocket), he got the courage to ask me to join him for the rest of his life…. Something that I was waiting for since our first date.
The Kitties and the Air Ducts.
Ryan explained that he was able to get away with getting a ring without me noticing because I was distracted. Earlier in the week he had agreed that we could commit to adding two kitties into our lives… I was on the mission to making it a reality. I had found two Doll-Face Persians brothers that were the same colors of the cats that I grew up with. A man was having a hard time finding homes for them in Kansas during a tough drought. We happily bought them and arranged to have Ryan’s Mom and Step-Dad drive them to Des Moines where we could meet half way. Boss-man and Grey-man quickly stole our hearts and have become a highlight in our lives. We had finished enough of the house for it to be safe for these little guys…except the heat vent covers… they were vintage vents from the 1950’s that we needed to find. In the meantime we put a cardboard box with holes punched in it for airflow. Yeah, we didn’t invite anyone over during this period of time. Anyway, one day we hear noises coming from under the wood floors. Ryan quickly realized that the box had been moved just slightly and our new kittens were missing. Those little naughty kitties were running through the dirty air ducts. We had to pull up a floor air return cover and fish them out. After a long kitty bath we had cleaner air ducts and a reason to fix them quickly. A full day of shopping Minneapolis salvage yards we found these expensive covers and restored them with a new coat of paint. We quickly became aware that being cat parents was going to be a learning experience.
The Seventy-Foot Long Retaining Wall, the Dirt Pile and the Driveway.
A year and a half later our wedding day was approaching. Anyone that has been married or supported the process knows that it all hits the fan two weeks before. Not only did we have the usual explosion of things to do, but many unusual. For example our priest decided to leave to Africa weeks before the wedding leaving us unsure of who would marry us and with no idea how to write the little hand out. To top it off while I was complaining about it all, my cat jumped into the toilet. At that point, all I could do is laugh and take a moment to appreciate that I would carry these memories. Meanwhile, Ryan was on a whole other level. He decided to build a 70-foot long retaining wall, re-grade the front yard and pour a two-car driveway. To this day, he claims that it wasn’t pre-wedding jitters but he wanted to be sure that it was done before it snowed. Our friends and family came to see our new house and drove up to our massive dirt pile. I am thankful for the neighbors who did not complain when it sat there for over a week while we were on our mini-moon at the cabin. Oh and then it snowed on it… and remained covered there until spring.
Two Flights to the Bathroom.
You also need to make sacrifices when prioritizing. The initial sacrifice from being cheap was moving in to a house that wasn’t finished… which included the bathrooms. One winter, Ryan added a new skill to his “tool-box”, tiling. He completed what is to this day, my favorite shower ever. He started the bathroom in the basement first so that when it was done he could complete the upstairs bathroom and we would not skip a beat. After finishing the first, we bought our new house. It also needed a lot of love. Priorities switched and his time was needed at the new project so that we could move. We then lived with only one working bathroom in the basement… two flights of stairs down for the next five months. This is my claim to being “low-maintenance”. After moving he finally finished the upstairs bathroom, just in time for the new owners to enjoy.
Family Time and Free Labor.
Thank you to all of our family members and friends who left their mark on this home. We could not have done it without your love, support and labor.. lol. We owe you a big party and a few days of painting at your houses. I wish that I had photos of all of you!
Before and After: