Friday, February 2, 2024

How is life in a sticks and brick house? Our Three-Months-After-Closing Report

Over nine years ago we bought the motor home that we have lived in since then. Full-time RVers call a stationary house a "sticks and bricks" home, to differentiate it from our RV that was our home for almost a decade. Now it's been several months since we signed the final closing papers where we officially became the owners of a house without wheels. After the closing costs were finished, we still had plenty of major purchases to furnish it. But because we purchased this house "as is" it had lots of things inside. Some of those things we wanted and needed, and some things we did not. For example, the kitchen was almost completely equipped, but we had to buy new flatware. We hadn't picked out forks and spoons since the bridal registry 43 years ago! But it had most of the things necessary to fix meals and bake cookies. 

We have a second kitchen in this house. It's in the basement and it is child-size. We have the wooden stove and cabinets that Denisa's father made for his three little girls over sixty years ago. It's been used by children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren over those years.  In this three-months-after-closing report we can verify that another generation is still happy to play with it.

Both of our grandchildren enjoy playing in the basement. It took us close to a month to get that messy full basement cleaned out and organized. The center of the basement has a play house equipped with furniture. All it needed was a little imagination--that includes Eli putting the finishing touches on his plastic dinner. The basement also includes a corner for Denisa's crafts, a corner for Mark's wood shop, a corner for exercise equipment, and lots of play space.

Upstairs, the third bedroom houses a twin bed, the piano, and Denisa's sewing machine. One of Carter's favorite activities at this sticks and bricks house is sewing doll clothes.

While we were sewing together, she said that she was so happy to learn how to sew. Then she told Gram, ". . . and when you're dead I can teach my granddaughter how to sew too." Well alrighty, that just warmed Gram's heart in a weird kind of way. We were still smiling when the first doll dress was finished and was modeled by Carter's American Girl doll.

We have a reading corner, and Eli likes to read here. We also are gathering a nice supply of stickers, trucks, and puzzles--more of his favorite activities. None of that would have fit in the motor home.

Another major purchase of this first month was a new mattress. We had to do lots of research since we hadn't bought one of those in a while. We also bought a new bed spread, and Mark added cool indirect lighting in the master bedroom, bathroom and entry way. The master bathroom was also a major project, cleaning and resealing the grout in a walk-in shower that is entirely too big for this little house. We estimate that we spent about 40 hours in that shower--not taking showers, but restoring it. We didn't remember to take pictures of those finished projects, but we did remember to take a living room picture. It includes a mish-mash of furnishings from many different sources: the big television set that our son donated when he got a bigger one, the love seat with two electric recliners and the television stand that came with the house, a glass-top end table that Denisa found and repainted the base, a brown recliner from Mark's Mother's house, the round stain glass duck that Denisa made many years ago that her sister had been storing, clocks and vases that were left in the house . . . The gas fireplace was broken and Mark had to order two different parts to fix it. It's bits and pieces from many sources that make up what we now call home.

A television set once hung in the spot over the fireplace. But it was at the wrong height and we were gifted the bigger television. So Mark took down the old television and all its hardware, spackled over all the holes that left, repainted the wall, and carefully hung that very heavy oak-framed stain glass duck. It was a major project, but it made our place feel more like home since that duck was part of our last home. We appreciate Denisa's sister and brother-in-law taking care of it for the last nine years, and then gifting it back to us now.

Another major project was restoring the wooden floors in much of the house. It took a lot of time on hands and knees, but they are now shiny and clean enough to work on puzzles.

The house also came with a solid wood dining room table. But it was badly damaged with water and heat and the remains of craft projects. We used a table cloth for most of that first month to cover all the damage.

But we had some pretty weather days, and we decided it was time to refinish it back to its past glory. Our deck made a great place to strip off all that old damaged finish and do some sanding.

We stained it to match the kitchen woodwork. Five layers of polyurethane later it is a beautiful piece of furniture once again.

We'll have to wait until next spring to spruce up the yard and the outside of the house. For now we are getting used to the idea of having to mow once again. It was a nice nine-year vacation from mowing. While our son mowed for us the first time, we finally bit the bullet and made another purchase--a new lawn mower. Even with all the things included in this "as is" house, we have made a record number of purchases this year. But we are continually surprised at the things we find in the house that we don't have to purchase--a crock pot, rakes and shovels, plates, end tables, Christmas decorations, griddle, outdoor furniture, fall wreath, mixer, place mats, salt and pepper shakers, toaster oven, exercise bicycle, towels, food processor, desk, wheel barrow, cheesecake pan, computer printer, lamps, fans, saws, rugs, plastic storage containers, food processor . . . It's been an interesting three months of finding treasures in this house.

It was a full month before we felt we had enough time to get some exercise and start exploring our new home town. We are really enjoying the trail system surrounding us. Even though we are in a Kansas City suburb, we can walk a half-mile from our front door and feel like we are out in the country.

That's a wrap-up on our three-months-after-closing report. It's much different than traveling around the country in a motor home, but we are beginning to feel quite at home in our new house. We like our sticks and brick house, but we want to add that we're not finished traveling!

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Girl Trip 2023 - Kansas City Style

Denisa, her mother, and her two sisters have been going on girl trips for the last thirty years. While we have driven or flown all over the country in those thirty years, our annual trips have gotten simpler in recent years. Denisa's 93-year-old mother requested a trip to Kansas City this year. Her priorities were to see our new house, and to visit with our son's family. One of Denisa's sisters also requested a stop at Baskin Robbins, because they no longer have these yummy stores in Oklahoma.

We went to Kansas City on a girl trip about ten years ago when Mother was more mobile. On that trip we went to the Arabia Steamboat Museum, the World War I Museum, the downtown Union Station--lots of the best tourist stops in Kansas City that we still recommend. But this trip centered more on family time. We thought this was a cute picture of 5-year-old Carter escorting her grandmother and great grandmother into church on Sunday morning.

Because nap time has to be scheduled into girls trip these days, we also had to have a quiet activity. Who knew that our exciting girl trips would now include putting together a 1000-piece puzzle?

The highlight of our trip was attending a dinner theater performance. The New Theatre and Restaurant in Overland Park is actually not new. It's 51 years old. The building is new, and features tiered seating and lighting so that every seat is a good one. We enjoyed the buffet meal, and our young daughter-in-law joined the old girls for this part of the girl trip. After we finished the all-you-can-eat buffet with choices like Pasta Fusilli, Golden Fried Basa, and Pan Asian chicken, we settled in for the live theatre production. We enjoyed "Always a Bridesmaid" starring Morgan Fairchild.

We ate out and played cards, and Denisa was glad to share her grandchildren with her mother and sisters. Her sisters have graciously shared their grandchildren with us over the years while we waited for our own. It wasn't a really exciting adventure for Girl Trip 2023, but it was good food and good fun and good fellowship. That's the best ingredients for a successful girl trip!

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Autumn Invitations

While we have kept busy with projects to get our new house in order, we won't turn down an invitation for fun. Autumn was full of good family invitations. For example, our son's family invited us to the Apple festival in Weston, Missouri.

The first stop was the Red Barn Farm, where we enjoyed riding the pony and feeding the animals.

We tried the apple cider donuts and bought ornamental gourds on this beautiful-weather October weekend.

Our younger son made another trip to Kansas City, so he got to enjoy the apple festival as well.

Downtown Weston was decked out in all things autumn, with plenty of photo opportunities.

While the boys headed home for college football games and nap time, the girls went to the orchard to pick fresh apples.

There are few things sweeter than a juicy tree-ripened apple that was just picked. The orchard owners encouraged us to try one right off the tree. 

We also got an October invitation to fly to Houston for the Texas fall band competition. Kansas City has a brand new airport that opened in 2023, and we looked forward to experiencing it for ourselves. The art inside the airport is big and beautiful.

Our nephew and niece picked us up at the Houston airport and treated us to five days of fun. We got to play some pickleball in their warm October weather down south.

But the timing of our trip was determined by the band competition that their two oldest children were competing in that weekend. The band first performed at the local high school game. This is Texas--where everything is bigger and high school football is big league. The stadium had a jumbotron, and the players entered the stadium through a three-story inflatable entry and smoke. Welcome to Texas high school football! The football team was pretty good, but we have to say that the band's half-time show was even better!

The big event was the Saturday band competition. We watched as these 6A schools put on flashy shows. The Woodlands high school marched 300 students on the field. Besides all the buses to transport that many band students, it takes three more eighteen-wheel trucks to transport the huge props that are part of this elaborate show. They have five minutes to get everything on the field, eight minutes for the high-energy show, and then two minutes to get off the field. The Woodlands band made the finals, so we were back in the evening to see the top ten bands perform again. It was a great treat! 

While the judges tabulated the results, all ten of the bands lined up on the football field. We were excited to see that The Woodlands band got first place and will continue on to state finals in a week. (Spoiler alert--at state they qualified for nationals in Indianapolis. There they came home with an impressive fifth place finish at the grand national competition.)

We flew back to Kansas City just in time to see some of the best fall color of the year. 

The trees on our street were at peak color.

The view from our back deck included a kaleidoscope of autumn reds, oranges, and yellows.

We got back to Kansas City just in time for another important October invitation--to Eli's third birthday. We now have a three-year-old in our family!

After being in very warm Houston, we got a bit of a jolt of how cold it can get in the Kansas City area in October. We were wearing gloves and coats for the final game of the fall soccer season. While everyone else was watching the game, Gram was keeping Eli busy by reading books.

We got another invitation, so we made another autumn trip. This time we were headed just west of Wichita, Kansas, where our great niece was the female lead in her high school musical. She made a beautifully green Fiona in the Shrek Musical, and we were so impressed with the talent in this show's cast. Of course, Elliott was the highlight. Her years of dance and voice training, and lots of natural talent really made her look like a professional!

Just a few days later we got to celebrate another autumn activity. We started the morning of October 31 at Carter's school. That cold snap caused us to bring out our big wool coats that haven't been out of the closet for many years. But Carter didn't even need a jacket when she walked by during the school costume parade. She's Isabelle from the movie Encanto. This character has long dark hair and turns everything she touches into flowers.

Eli loves dinosaurs, so he was a blue T Rex.

Our son Luke was also in the dinosaur theme, but his costume was riding a dinosaur. He was also carrying a shy blue T Rex that didn't exactly understand what halloween was all about. 

But when he figured out that all the neighbors were giving out candy, he suddenly was no longer shy. This little blue dinosaur took Grand-dude's hand and walked all over their little neighborhood.

Yes, it's been an autumn full of great family activities. It feels like we're in a good place enjoying some great invitations!

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

We bought a house--now the real work begins!

After a week of pondering if this was the right house for us, we signed a contract. Now the real work begins! We had really gotten to know the owners' daughter that was selling the house, and she trusted us. So even though the closing date was still a couple weeks away, we started tackling some of the projects around the house. One of those was the gutter system. Instead of funneling the rain water away from the house, it was disconnected and the water was flowing under the driveway and sidewalk. That will have to be repaired, so Mark started working on the gutters to make sure that this drainage problem wouldn't happen again.

He thought digging the trench to bury the drainage pipe would be a simple half-day project. He was glad to find a shovel in the garage to do the digging. But then he got his first lesson in Kansas rocky soil. He was glad to find two pick axes that were also in the garage inventory. It took two days of chipping away at the rocks to make that trench. If something happened so that we didn't actually close on this house, he donated some hard labor.

At the same time that Mark was digging ditches outside, Denisa was inside cleaning the kitchen. Remember that we were buying this house "as is." That included treasures (and junk) throughout the house. The family left all the cabinets full of dishes. After living in a motor home with four plates, four bowls, and four glasses, Denisa was overwhelmed. She found a set of eight place settings, and another with twelve. She found everything from a crock pot to a griddle to a food processor to a blender. All the appliances that didn't fit in a motor home were left in this house. We worked for several days after our son and daughter-in-law returned from Switzerland and they took over child-care duties. We did stop working long enough to celebrate Denisa's birthday with a home-cooked steak dinner and coconut cream pie from a local bakery.

In the middle of this busy time, we also got to spend good time with our children and grandchildren. We vowed that we wouldn't pass up any invitations from them. So when they called to ask if Gram wanted to go with the girls to a pumpkin festival, she was all in.

Then it was time to make the trip to Oklahoma to pick up some of our belongings to put in this house. Nine years ago we gave things away and we didn't keep anything in storage. But some of our things are returning now that we will have a home again. Some of our best things burned in the wild fire that destroyed Denisa's Mother's house a year ago. But we still had a few things at Mark's Mother's house and at Denisa's sister's house. We rented a u-haul trailer to get them from Oklahoma to Kansas City. Denisa is a bit of a planner, and she cut out scaled versions of each furniture piece to make sure they would fit inside the trailer.

Some things were in the barn hay loft, and the rest were upstairs in Mark's Mother's house. But we managed to carry them all down all those steps and got them loaded in the u-haul. The sun was setting when we hitched up to the trailer that was filling up.

We drove on to Oklahoma City to pick up a large antique armoire and another old dresser that Denisa's sister and brother-in-law had been graciously storing for us. We were surprised to remember how many boxes of photo albums and scrapbooks were stored in that armoire. But Mark and Joe kept packing things in that u-haul trailer until everything fit. We even got the little play kitchen cabinets that Denisa's father made for his three daughters over sixty years ago. They were headed to Kansas City for another generation to play with.

We closed on the house on October 4, and our son helped us to unload the trailer. Now more of the real work began as we started the cleaning. Those that follow the blog know that Mark is known to climb up treacherous mountain paths and out over tall ledges. He channeled that adventurous spirit when cleaning out the tall ledges that haven't been touched in a while.

The ceilings in the bathroom and the entryway are crazy tall. The last owners were an elderly couple who weren't able to climb to the top of the ladder and stretch up to those heights. So the new "elderly couple" owners were finding 14-year-old dust to clean.

Instead of climbing mountains, Mark was climbing trees to get on top of our very tall house. A native elm was allowed to sprout and grow too close to the house. So Mark was up on the roof to trim the branches. Another adventurous project will be removing this sizable tree.

We continued to find things that we would need. Yes, there was a big shop-vac in the basement, and a full set of cleaning supplies. We also found an angel food cake pan, Christmas decorations, rakes, a full set of rubbermaid storage containers, and a whole collection of Boyd's bears. We found lots of things that we didn't need, and we made many trips to the local goodwill store to share our bounty with others.

All of our kids have been great to help! Our oldest son and our daughter-in-law showed up with their lawn mower to do our yard. Our younger son came to help with some heavy projects. But, again we made sure we stopped to have fun. It was pure joy to have the whole family together, playing in the parks and walking the trails in the new town where we just bought a house.

It's just 2.4-miles to our son's house. So when they called to invite us over for breakfast crepes we were there in five minutes.

We are spending lots of time cleaning and sorting through the contents of our new home. It's a new adventure and a new stage of life for us. But we don't plan to be here all the time. We still have lots of traveling to do. Our travels might be a little shorter in duration and take different forms, but we still plan to continue to wander God's wonders--even though we bought a house and the real work has begun.