Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This Old House

I am sure that the year 1959 was a great year. Not exactly being a history buff, I probably couldn't tell you anything significant that happened that year. I do know of one insignificant event that took place that year, which has come to have great significance in my personal life. An A-frame, red (well technically pink) brick house was built on Seminary Avenue in Shelley Idaho. A little over five years ago, in the year 2006, Dirk and I were house hunting. He had just been offered his first post-graduate job with Wells Fargo Bank. Baby number two was on the way, and we needed more space than our tiny two bedroom apartment provided. Though we were thrilled at the amount of Dirk's starting salary, along with the prospect of possibly having meals that consisted of more than Tuna Helper or Rice-a-Roni, we quickly found that we were fairly limited as to the type/size/age of home we could afford. Most of the homes were very small, dark, and dingy. Almost all had the kind of basement you're terrified to go in as a child- lots of cold cement and pipes. Not exactly what I had in mind. When I pictured my first home, I had always imagined white pickets, and a fresh, sunshiney country charm. Our realtor took us to one home that was in one of the "seedier" parts of town (which in Idaho Falls means there may be people on the block who mow their lawns every two weeks in the summer, as opposed to every week). We were in the house for literally about 1 minute. We walked in, saw the 700 square foot "bungalow" complete with green indoor-outdoor carpet, and a smell which would suggest that the aquarium in the corner had not been cleaned in a very, very long time, and our realtor promptly turned for the front door and led us out without a word. I was starting to get discouraged. Maybe we should just find a bigger apartment to wouldn't be so bad. A few years down the road, when we were a little more financially stable, we could look again. When I had all but lost hope of finding a home in which to raise my children that didn't look more like it should be condemned and torn down than lived in, our realtor asked if we had considered looking in the Shelley area. Shelley is a small town (population of about 3,000) just south of Idaho Falls. We hadn't thought of it before, but it would only mean about a 20 minute commute into town for Dirk each day. We figured we may as well look. Our realtor said he had a specific listing in mind. He described it as a "charming little house in a good neighborhood". Charming......little......both words I had heard before..... realtor code for old and cave-like. I did like the "good neighborhood" part. And Dirk and I were immediately charmed with the town and the neighborhood. Main Street reminded me a little bit of Mayberry. There was a greasy spoon diner where I could easily imagine the local farmers swearing over their morning coffee, an antique shop, a tiny hole-in-the-wall pizza joint and even a little old theater called "The Virginia". I spent my childhood in Virginia. I took the name of the theater as a sign. Shelley was, by all accounts, a quiet, quaint, and ideal looking town. Then, we pulled up to the house. Our first instinct was to tell our realtor to keep driving. It was an A-frame with giant wood framed picture windows. The weeds in the front bed were literally taller than our two-year-old daughter and the fence looked like it hadn't been painted in over 50 years. But there was what appeared to be a brand new roof........."potential.......look for the potential", I kept reminding myself. So, we ventured in. The first thing that struck me was the openness. The A-frame structure of the house, while not exactly appealing from the outside, also made for a high, vaulted ceiling on the inside. That, combined with the big picture windows, made for a light-filled, very open room. The kitchen was literally falling apart, and there were windows looking into the garage. The garage had once been a carport. It had been enclosed at some point in time, but aparently whomever had changed it ran out of money to wall up the windows. But the kitchen was spacious, and curtains were a quick and cheap enough solution for covering up unwanted windows. We ventured further in. There were three bedroom upstairs, one which had a cute little butterfly and flower border perfect for a little girl, and one which had a car and train border for a little boy. That sold it for me. It was meant to be. We made an offer the next day, and were the proud owners of a new (yet very 0ld) home within the week.
In the past five years, we have completely redone the kitchen, and the basement, and have made many other minor improvements inside and out. Still, there are days when I look around and think that no matter how much I scrub, scour, and redecorate this place, it will still be a half a century old house, and it will still look dingy and outdated. The interior designer in me is constantly thinking of complete room makeovers that would look fabulous, if only I had the money. My design style has now become "shabby chic" out of necessity. I take the shabbiness around me and try to make it look chic. My four year old is a great help in that department. He has put so many dents in our pine wood coffee table that several people have asked me what I did to antique it (seriously). Underneath said coffee table, I have stacks of interior design magazines filled with pictures of beautiful rooms. Sometimes I thumb through them and dream of all my home could be. Sometimes I just want a fresh start.
As it turns out, there is currently a small possibility that Dirk and I may be buying a new home in the near future. There is a possibility of a great job in Salt Lake City which Dirk has applied for. When I started thinking about how on earth we would sell this place in the current housing market, I began to think of how I would advertise it if I were a realtor....... "Lovely old home with lots of updates and fenced back yard, in great location. Within walking distance of school, library, park, and pool..........swing set, perfect stump in backyard for tree house........perfect house for young family." Then it occurred to me- This is the perfect house for a family. And, when it comes down to it, all the memories we have made in this house make it more beautiful and more comforting to me than the most luxurious Beverly Hills mansion could ever be.......I have brought two babies home to this house. Two of my children have learned to ride bikes in the school parking lot across the street. We bought our first (and last) puppy in this house. And a million other little memories. Now that the possibility of actually leaving this place looms before me, I am beginning to wonder why on earth I would ever want to leave this old house.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fair Day

All in all I believe strongly in moderation. I strive to live a fairly well-balanced life, without a whole lot of excess. Of course there are days when I play too much and don't work enough, and vice-versa. There are nights when I stay up too late and mornings when I sleep in too long. And of course there are those nights when nothing will do to end the day except an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's. I'm really not making a very good case for myself living moderately here, am I?! But seriously, I don't generally have a lot of excess in my day to day style of living. There is one major exception to this rule of moderate living: Fair day. The Eastern Idaho State Fair is held at the Blackfoot fairgrounds every year the week of Labor Day. Every year, my mom and I go to the fair on Friday. Usually my mom's friend Jill meets up with us for at least part of the day. We try to arrive when the gates open, at about 9:00 a.m., and leave when they start kicking everyone out, at about 11:00 p.m. Now, one (especially one who isn't fond of fairs) may wonder what on earth there is to do for 14 hours at the fair. I will enlighten you. First and foremost, there is the food.......Pronto Pups, Tiger Ears, Tortados, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate covered raspberries, Wimpy burgers, corn on the cob, pork and seeds, trout, freshly baked bread and jam...........just to name a few. The first rule of fair day is: absolutely no counting calories. In one day, we fill our yearly quota for deep fried fattening foods. Then there are the exhibits. The best (and worst- which can be even more entertaining at times) of local photography, painting, sketching, quilting, crocheting, stitching, wood-working, pie baking, cookie making, cake decorating, canning, giant vegetable growing is all on display! My mom, Jill and I all decided that our favorite artist this year was Kort Duce. He had submitted three paintings of what we dubbed "country modern pop art". Each depicted a very vibrantly colored rooster in a different scenario. In one, the rooster was on the beach with a surf board. In another he was on the handle of a frying pan in which some eggs were frying (cannibal rooster?). And in the third, he was, quite fittingly, acting as an alarm clock on a woman's bedside table. Now, I ask you, where else are you going to find art like this? And where else are you going to find deep fried escargot? That's right. Not a typo. We Idahoans can take anything meant to be chic, elegant or high class and put our redneck spin on it with a gallon of fat!
For me, fair day is a day of freedom in a way. There is no laundry (although, there are plenty of people who will need access to a good washing machine at the end of the day), no screaming, fighting kids, no meals to cook......just a thousand tastes, sights, smells (good and bad) to take in. There is nowhere I have to be at a certain's a day I can drop all of my pressing responsibilities and just be. This kind of occasional excess is important for everyone. I think that as mothers, we sometimes don't take enough time for ourselves. We spend every minute of our time and every ounce of our energy trying to make our children's lives as carefree as possible, yet we sometimes forget that we need the occasional carefree day as well. I have always been an advocate of girl's night/weekend/fair day out for this very reason. For me, the occasional splurge or pamper, or quiet time gives me the balance I need amidst all of the chaos that automatically comes with maintaining a household full of three young children. And, after a day of over stimulation, I begin to crave the stability of my daily routine.
This year, my mom and I did something we hadn't yet done at the fair. We braved (and believe me- it is brave, because you can see men literally hammering the rides together the night before the fair opens) a few fair rides. We rode the Ferris wheel, and ended the night on the swings. It seemed fitting. For a few minutes, I was suspended in the air, my legs dangling free, not a care in the world. Already this week, when my children have fought, my dog has chewed up yet another household item, or my baby has screamed, I have looked back at that moment and been reminded to just breathe. Oh- and by the way- I have the COOLEST mom in the world. Sorry to disappoint you if you thought you did.