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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Welcome to our new house...

As promised, I'm posting more pics of the house we're buying. (For those new to our house buying soap opera, we made our first offer on this place last fall to the original owner...then the house was foreclosed on before we could complete the purchase...but eventually we ended up getting a better price on the house from the bank.) We're scheduled to close at noon on Tuesday, July 27...keep your fingers crossed for us! In the meantime, we're scurrying around collecting paint chips and prioritizing needed repairs and updates. In a nutshell, the first floor looks pretty good except for the kitchen which needs to be renovated (sigh...). Initially, we'll have to make do with a good deep cleaning and new appliances, counters and cabinets will come later. See the breakfast bar where the purple cup is sitting? That wall separates the kitchen from the dining room, making the kitchen really cramped...so the wall is literally on our hit list. We'll be knocking it out to open up the space into a huge kitchen/dining area. Another advantage to removing the wall is that it opens up the "butler's pantry" that is tucked into a nook between the kitchen and dining room. This beautiful old built-in china closet will be the perfect place for my cut glass!

The second floor has 4 bedrooms but another wall will be coming down to make a master suite/office combo for Mom and Dad. Eventually a 3rd bathroom will be added just off the master suite...but for now, we'll make do with minor repairs/updates to the two full baths currently in the house. As I mentioned in my last post, the girls have chosen the two attic bedrooms for their space. Kate in particular has always wanted to live in a quaint garret like a starving artist. Shhh, don't tell them there's no bathroom up there! Maybe they'd like a couple of quaint chamber pots.

The 3 boys are still debating whether they want to split up between the two remaining bedrooms or use one bedroom for sleeping quarters and the other as a study/computer space. Right now, we're thinking triple bunks in one room, desks and spare bed in the other room. That way, the boys can have more space to use daily but we'll still have a room that can be used for guests as needed.

The second floor also has another favorite of mine, a truly beautiful old walk-in closet with huge linen cupboards that will accommodate even our biggest comforters. I love the fact that the closet is big enough to store our vacuum cleaner, too.

There's a lot to like in the new place...but there's lots to do to fix it up, too. Did I mention the ancient knob and tube wiring? The walls made of horsehair plaster and lathe? How about the leaking hot water heater? And the roof leak? And then there's the basement...it's everything I hate in a basement. It's musty, creepy, damp, poorly lit and has big spiders. It smells like a basement (or a crypt). Ewww...However, it also is much needed space for our laundry room, storage, Craig's workshop, and a game room for the kids. Craig has a plan to powerwash the walls and floor, then paint the whole thing with Kilz to improve these conditions before we move in. Otherwise, I'll be going to the laundromat.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Photos of our new digs...

After months of struggles, monkey wrenches, and curve balls in the process which included foreclosure on the house we were trying to buy...we are within a few days of closing our deal. We have a mortgage commitment and a few hurdles have been cleared on the seller's side. That means the bank who owns the property scurried to make necessary repairs (adding smoke alarms and fixing unsafe stairs) and pay back fees owed on our future home. Even today, I was shooting emails and faxing documents to our lender and trading phone calls with our real estate agent...if all goes well, we'll sign the papers and pick up our keys on Tuesday, July 27. (Hmm...the stack of paperwork involved here is beginning to resemble an adoption dossier...good thing I have lots of experience with that sort of thing!)

Anyway, thought it might be fun to post some pics of our "new" place. The rooms are empty, it needs cleaning and painting, not to mention tons of updating...but it's 3 floors (not counting the basement), 6 bedrooms and quite a bit more square footage overall. These are good things with 5 kids; it also helps that we'll only be moving 2 blocks from where we are now...so no change in schools, not even a change in phone number.

Here are the dining room and living room.

Here's Kate's attic room, complete with bookshelf and reading nook.

Tanya's attic room has a built in desk and a ton of shelves.

More pics soon, stay tuned to see where the rest of us will be sleeping!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vacation Adventures

It's been a whirlwind of activity for us since the kids finished school. We celebrated July 4th with the requisite cookout followed by fireworks. We walked to our usual viewing spot at a local park which overlooks Salem Harbor. The kids ran up and down the beach and climbed on the rocks as dusk became dark; once the show began, they all settled down on a blanket with Mom and Dad to ooh and ahh over the display. As we returned home, the boys tried to scare each other with stories of zombies and monsters that lurk in the night while the girls ignored them, calling them "immature". All in all, it was a pretty normal family outing.

A few days later, we headed to New Hampshire for a week of vacation. We've owned a place in Lincoln, a great little town in the White Mountains, for several years now and we all love going there every few months. There's a lake for the kids to swim and fish in, not to mention a river and woods and hiking trails to explore.

There's also a rec center with a pool, an exercise room, racquetball courts, tennis courts, basketball, volleyball....well, you get the point.

Add in the fact that bedtimes are later, more snacks and junk food are consumed than normal, and bathing suits are worn from dawn to dusk, and it's the stuff that childhood dreams are made of under any circumstances. This time, it was made even better for a few reasons.

This summer, we invited Madiyar's friend from Kazakhstan to join us for our NH vacation. Borya (now known as James) was adopted by a family in PA at the same time we adopted Madiyar and Aniyar. Borya's mom Anne is a good friend and blogger buddy of mine so we have been able to keep the boys in touch and get them together a few times already. The summer plan we put together will end up giving the two friends almost 3 weeks together. Borya flew into Boston for his 9 day visit with us, then Borya and Madiyar flew to PA yesterday for 9 days with Borya's family. At the end of the visit, Madiyar will fly home again...no doubt immediately begging for another visit with his friend the second he steps off the plane.

We also celebrated Max's 13th birthday in NH, spreading it out over a couple of days since we were driving on his actual b-day. He didn't seem to mind getting his gifts on Friday, Saturday, and even the last present on Sunday. He tried out his new fishing rod and swim mask; he was especially delighted with the collection of James Bond movies that Dad got for him. Mom managed to rustle up his favorite food for his b-day dinner...barbecued baby back ribs...which we ate outside near the lake. Life was exceedingly good for Max since he could be as messy as he wanted, then jump in the lake to wash off. We even had a cake shaped like a cheeseburger for our newest teen.

Overall, the week was a blast even with an extra teenager to feed (and boy, can they eat!) Madiyar and James enjoyed walks into town to the Dollar Store where Madiyar used entirely too much of his spending money on candy and gum, then worried that he wouldn't have any money to spend in PA. (A lesson in budgeting, my son!) In general, the kids were all really good, probably due to the fact that they were in the lake for hours each day and when they weren't swimming or chasing minnows with a net, they were doing other fairly cool things.

One day, we went to Lost River Gorge where the kids explored caves and Max spent some of his b-day money (Thanks, Aunt Karen and Uncle Mike!) panning for gemstones at the Lost River mine. Another time, we went to Loon Mountain where we had all kinds of fun. We ziplined (yes, even Mom...in spite of my fear of heights, it was awesome! As I told the girls who put me in the safety harness, zipping across the Pemigewasset River on a thin cable is not nearly as dangerous as parenting 5 kids.) The kids also spent a few hours climbing the rock wall and jumping on the bungee trampoline (they loved doing back flips high in the air). We rode the gondola to the top of the mountain. The boys thought the gondola ride was too slow (they were hoping for a death-defying thrill ride) and there was nothing to see at the top (apparently they were unimpressed with the stunningly beautiful view on the surrounding mountains); the girls were thrilled to see a wedding in progress on the mountaintop and loved admiring the bride's gown and flowers. Men really are from Mars and women from Venus, it seems.

Kate and I managed to sneak in some horseback riding, realizing one of her dreams. We spent an hour riding on the mountain trails with a sweet college girl named Annie. She and Kate chattered away as Mom enjoyed the view from the back of the biggest horse I've ever ridden. Andre is a huge grey who is half draft horse; I loved talking to him softly and watching his ears swivel toward me at the sound of my voice. It was a relaxing hour in spite of the 90 degree heat.

The kids also liked tubing and body surfing at the Cascades Park, a part of the Pemi River that has some fun rapids to ride through. Mom and Dad preferred taking Dad's new kayak out on the lake where we could wave at our cherubs standing on the shore. We couldn't hear them bickering from the middle of the lake...it was a nice change of pace.)

Another positive of the vacation was the significantly reduced screen time, especially videogames. Except for a few pinball games in the Rec Center and some TV, the kids were off the couch without complaint. We did treat them to a movie at the theater in town where they saw "The Last Airbender"...and Dad liked it, too. Mom liked missing it in favor of some time in the whirlpool tub with a good book.

We drove home on Friday afternoon and were greeted by exuberant greyhounds who clearly missed us. We unpacked the vehicles, ordered pizza for dinner, and started some laundry. Madiyar repacked his bag with fresh clothes for his trip to PA and the two boys flew out on Saturday to start the next leg of their summer adventure. We now find ourselves with "only" four kids...and it feels a bit strange.

Now on to our next project...we close on our "new" house (as new as a 100 year old house can be) in a little over a week. Then the real fun begins...painting, repairs, moving. I can hardly wait...until our next vacation anyway!