i finished the first book in my personal book club (hooray!). bittersweet by shauna niequist. a mommy writing about life being a little rough, seemed to fit, and it did. one chapter struck a chord with me. shauna cleverly wrote a letter to the new owners of her last home; and in the process closed that chapter of her life. she admitted it wasn’t her favorite space, but it held so much for her during those years. and that’s exactly what 13433 Utopia Rd was for me. so here we go…
dear new renters of utopia,
welcome to the house we called home for six long years. she doesn’t look like much, i know, but give her time, she might surprise you. if she were a dog, i’d put her right up there with a mutt. you know, the kind of mutt that might be a little rough around the edges, don’t really know her whole story, and of course, has tons of quirks. that was this house for me, a mysterious story and very quirky. yet somehow, one day, i realized it’s not just any house. it became our home, the backdrop for all my life’s richest memories. so welcome.
okay, first things first. yes, those are lemons. perhaps the renters before us watered them with steroids? that would explain why they are larger than human heads. those giant yellow ornaments will dangle above your front door all year long. they’ll smack you in the face until you learn to duck, and they’re not great for juicing. however, when it comes a conversation piece… these guys will not let you down. everyone loves to talk about them… the neighbors, the mail man, the Mormons, and those solicitors that come every single day.
so the place is small, you’ve probably figured that one out. 1100 square feet, 10 of which make your kitchen. here’s what we recommend. practice patience and dance skills, it’s a tricky fit with more than one person. if the fridge door is open, you’ve cut your square footage in half and blocked the only pathway into the kitchen. never quite figured out the best way to unload the dishwasher without hurting your back. not a lot of room means leaning over sideways to unload that beast. get rid of all your kitchen extras. there is no storage for anything outside of the basics, nada. now pay close attention if you’re planning on using the oven: it’s 20% hotter than what the dial reads. remember 20% and we might have just saved your marriage. now onto another 10 foot of space— the master bath. it’s tight. i will say this, if you’re 9 months pregnant and trying to get into that shower, just turn sideways and suck that belly in a little, it can be done. to change the temperature of your shower, you must turn the water completely off to adjust the lever. give it a few tries, eventually you’ll convince yourself it’s normal.
if you sense the house comes with a rough story, it does. my sister and brother in law lived in this home before us. they were in a pretty successful band (which would explain the wires hanging from ceilings, holes in doors, holes everywhere actually, and why the entire garage is converted into a dark blue sound proof room). great music and even greater memories filled that space. but very sadly, all that was good in that home went silent. the silence poisoned their marriage, and eventually, that house witnessed a marriage painfully fall apart. when we moved in, fingerprints of their marriage were all over the house. i wanted to change things to make it feel more like our home, but it was hard— knowing when we removed this or that, we were actually removing evidence of them, their marriage. little by little, we put in fresh carpet, painted walls in bright bold blues, pinks and lime greens (your welcome). we repaired, re-repaired, re-re-repaired, and finally gave up on the mail slot that hangs from the wall of the 3rd bedroom (don’t say we didn’t try). and yes, the kitchen is hot pink. it seemed a perfect compliment to your white fridge, off white stove, black dish washer, and mustard yellow counters.
you’re already moved in, moving trucks long gone, so here’s the scoop that you didn’t want to hear. you are the only house on the whole block that doesn’t have a dog. big mistake. especially at 4am, when the howling-fest begins; you’ll quickly realize your exterior walls are paper. you hear everything. and those neighbors to your left (yes the one with five cars, a boat, and sometimes a giant RV), their 20 something son is very popular, lots of friends, lots of noisy friends. the parties are so loud, you actually think they’re in your backyard. easy fix: make a run next door, quick knock, ask for 20 something Ethan to bring the friends inside and turn down the booming music. remind them people actually sleep at 2am. don’t be surprised, if Greta— his mom, answers the door. apparently partying runs in the family. now, about fridays. fridays are neighborhood trash day. all you need to know… it’s loud, loud, very loud. if you want your kids to take any kind of nap on fridays, you’ll need a blasting sound machine, a utility sized fan, and a prayer to keep them asleep. and lastly, if you ever ask the question, “did you hear that?” i hate to say it, i really hate to say it, but you have guests. remember how you’re the only house on the block without a dog? for some terrible reason, critters love that home. critters as in, raccoons, skunks, stray cats, and rats. yes, rats. it’s the worst i know. call a pest guy, get it taken care of fast. and while your at it, call the termite guys too. sinking floor in the kitchen and master? thank the termites.
okay, it’s not a perfect house, i know. but i think you’ll find that even with the imperfections, there’s a lot to love about this mutt of a home. at christmas, people wait in 30 min traffic just to see the red and green glory on hickory street. but not you, you’ve got north county’s best display of christmas lights just down the street! and starridge park, sweet starridge park. that place never fails to bring the sanity back, and it’s just around the corner. and honestly, there’s nothing better as a family, than an after dinner stroll to the local RiteAid for ice cream. in time, this house will be the backdrop to all your family memories, and that’s when the fondness will grow. we’ve loved that house into a home. our one christmas tradition was born in that house, decorating with a mug full of hot chocolate and baileys. we fell in love with linoleum in that house, if you ever want to start a spontaneous water fight, rest assured, it cleans up like a dream. baby showers and dinner parties hosted in that house; believe it or not (with all the furniture cleared of course) we hosted a Christmas party for 6 couples in that living room, and it was awe-some. we did a lot of growing up in that house; when life was throwing big punches, we sought out counseling and made some very grown-up decisions. dreams were fulfilled in that house, quit our jobs and traveled the world for seven glorious months; life was never so sweet. we did a ton of saving in that house too; thanks to some very generous parents, this season of saving allowed us to collect a nice size down payment towards our first home. we became a family in that home, little Naomi took her first steps and said her first words under that roof. soon after that, in the itty bitty back bathroom, a little white stick told us we were bringing another soul into the world. despite the size, the history, and the quirky nature of this house, i will say this… we made some of our best memories in every inch of that 1100 foot space.
naomi you are so much fun! your big spunky personality comes out in everything you do. you’re confident and independent, but still love to hug and cuddle. you are climbing everything and pulling out everything. putting everything on your head! we went to our neighborhood block party and all the big kids couldn’t wait to play with you! you made everyone laugh and you loved the attention! you talk so intently. we try our hardest to catch what you’re saying, but it’s not as easy, you’re using so many words! you love to floss! you open your mouth patiently while mommy flosses your little teeth. you still love bubbles; picked you up from the church nursery “do you know this girl loves bubbles?!” you sure do! still a big fan of that curious monkey, but mommy’s been sneaking backyardigans in for variety. you love to dance, in fact, you pull others onto your dance floor too and say “thaiss” (dance). daddy made you laugh over dinner, and all by yourself you said “daht fsunny” (that’s funny)! mommy sneezed, and you said “thess ewe” (bless you)! you’re creative. you opened up the cupboard, pulled out all the paper towels and by yourself, you stack them high and enjoyed knocking them all to the floor! you like closing your eyes, and pretending you disappear! that’s new, you started pretending. we had our first tea party this month, and you invited the bear and monkey to join us. we even have invisible tea parties outside, and you hold your tea to your mouth rub your chest and say “mmm, thass thood” (that’s good) and pretend along! lows* your 5th ear infection this year, or just perhaps one very long 3rd ear infection. you learned the “go dead weight” tactic. you ate a piece of chalk, all of it. you started this bad habit of over stuffing your mouth with food, to the point you gag. nice. papa took you on your Monday Costco trip, and when you got into the cart, you threw up all over yourself. papa had to clean it up all alone (might be his low of the month!). when grampbill and uncle jim visited, we took a special trip to Phil’s BBQ. you discovered if you scream, people look at you, you liked this. after mommy told you, “we do not scream inside” you looked right at mommy and let out a quieter, yet very defiant scream. mommy’s learning a lot with you miss naomi! mommy and dad left you for a moment too long, when we came back you were so proud of your self, as you were standing tall on top the kitchen table! you say no a lot. mommy said “said it nicely” and very sweetly you said “no thank you” (melted my heart). obsessions* hats, blueberries, dancing and rice.
aria you’re a stud of a baby! you’re tough and strong. mommy and daddy are amazed you’re rolling over both ways at 3 months! you hold your head high and sit in the bumbo just fine. you impress us. you can hold a toy and bring it to your mouth! you’re entertained by videos, things that dangle above you, and your sister. she has made you laugh a good time or two! you make lots of noises. we just love to hear you babble! mommy and daddy moved you into their closet, we think you like it, but your sleeping doesn’t show it! lows* mommy and daddy have had serious breakdowns as you had long streaks of waking up every 1.5 hours through the night. at 3 months, you’re waking at least 3-4 times a night, and then waking up in the morning ready to play at 5:45am-6:45am. we do not like this one bit.
a big thank you family & friends who shared moments with us this month: hillary clan (celebrating your birthday at urban solace, a beautiful morning in del mar and hosting shwarma on your deck)! celebrating anjuli here at our place, with sam’s home made bbq sauce! shanah & mesch (a gift i will never forget)! ama (bday shopping at nordies for you— only to discover boots for me)! grampbill and uncle jim (perfect summer night on the back deck)! family dinner with the Cross family swinging by! brooke-ky-tatum-priscilla and their beautiful babies for brunch (a full house of babies made for a full heart)! jamie, mimi and angry birds. witnessing jaylene’s baptism & committing her life to jesus (strolling to EFCC in our new double stroller). a morning with irene and jamie on a blanket on our front lawn. brenda drive-bys. an afternoon with brooke kids & randi kids at EFCC’s huge water play day. sharing a mid-day with emily and northboy (hearing a life story never gets old). molly and the lion. entire cast of friday night lights. all the tuesday, thursday & saturday basketball buddies that compete with and beat up my husband— thank you and stop it. our neighborhood for great evening walks, trader joe run-ins, and an occasional coffee machine borrow!