In the fall of 1999, Firstborn was quickly approaching his second birthday. We were living in a house that had a big backyard, but it was rather hilly, was unfenced, and backed up to an intersetion of a very busy four-lane road. Not the best place for a little boy to play.
One day when the landlord's son was at our house for some reason, I just sort of wondered aloud if they owned any houses with a fenced backyard. As a matter of fact, they did, and one had just been vacated. He told us where it was and we went to take a look. Not only was the yard fenced, the house was at the end of a cul-de-sac and it backed directly to a park! It was still in the same basic area of town, but about five miles east of where we were currently. I wasn't working anymore, and Craig was now in practice and this house would actually be that much closer to his office.
Grumpy Mr. Gates, after thinking it over, agreed to let us move to the other house. The rent was a little higher: $525, but that was still half of what he could have got in that area. It was kind of funny; Mr. Gates had actually built this house some 30 years previously (and three others that encircled the cul-de-sac) and basically used our old house as the model. It had the exact floorplan, except that it was just slightly larger and the master bedroom had an attached 1/2 bath.
The above picture was taken about 18 months after we moved in. The blossoming tree is an apple tree, and when we moved in, in Oct. 1999, it was covered with big, juicy organic apples. Right before we found out about this house, we had gone apple picking and I had talked about how grocery store apples taste nothing like off-the-tree apples, and wouldn't it be neat to have an apple tree in your yard? I don't remember the specifics, but around the same time I had, for whatever reason, been wishing for a porch. As you can see in the photo below (my sister and I, 2000) this house had a little porch where we could put chairs.
Because of those things--the fenced yard plus a park with a playground for Firstborn, the apple tree, the porch--I kind of felt like this was a little gift from God. Not that I had been longing and praying for those things, just that He had heard my little passing wishes and bundled them up into a package for me.
Inside, the house of course needed work in the decorating department. Some people choose not to spend any money on a house they are renting, and I get that, but we always felt that even if we didn't own it, it was our home, and a little paint and whatnot would go a long way towards making it feel like a home to us.
Mr. Gates put in the kitchen floor right before we moved in. I wasn't sure what I thought about it, but at least it was in good shape. The kitchen also had these dark and filthy cabinets.
We took all the doors off, scrubbed them, painted them white and added inexpensive knobs. Below is the best after picture I could find. This is Skippy, about to get his first solid food. He was born in this house. And I do mean in. We had a home birth in a pool of water. Awesome!
We put this plaid wallpaper on one kitchen wall with a coordinating border of hens in baskets. At the time, I love, love, loved this wallpaper. I call this photo "Mad About Plaid" since it catches the lovely combination of tablecloth, wallpaper, shirt and sweater. Just so you know, I did not normally use that tablecloth. It was a one-time thing.
I perhaps should also point out that the wallpaper was part of an overall 'flow' of the house. There's a bit of gold in the plaid that coordinated with the living room wall color, which was the same color as Firstborn's room. I had deep red curtains in the living room and our bedroom was dark red.
The landlord also put in this new carpeting for us. Blah. It was that really thin, flat, industrial stuff. Unfortunately, there was no hardwood underneath. But again, at least we knew it was clean. Some previous renters had put in the jailcell-esque wallpaper. Funny enough, Craig had told one of his classmates about Mr. Gates and his cheap rent when they were still in school together, and we later figured out that this was the house he lived in. They actually were the ones who put in the fence, for their dogs! But I don't know if the wallpaper was their doing too.
We stripped the wallpaper and painted. I even remember the color: Ralph Lauren 'Edwardian Gold'. My grandma, who was in failing health, came through with my aunt and uncle, who were moving her from Michigan down to Oklahoma to live with them.
This is a view of the park over our back fence.
And this is the playground area. It had this cool sprinkler thing that was on a timer and any time you wanted to, you just turned it on.
I have good memories of this house, but I also went through a very depressed period here. It may have been postpartum depression, I don't know, but several things worked together to that end. Firstly, five miles didn't seem far, but all of my church friends lived within a mile or two of each other ten miles in the opposite direction of our new house, and I suddenly felt left out. They would watch each other's children for one another at the drop of a hat, call each other from the grocery store and ask if they needed anything, etc.
And you have to know this area to understand, but this house was just inside of a loop created by a freeway. People on each side of the loop think the other side is "way out there", and it's a chore to go that far. I didn't get many visitors unless I specifically invited them, whereas before I would, at least on occasion, have people just drop by.
Also, financially, things were very difficult. Craig had been in practice only two to three years, and in hindsight, we just hadn't given it enough time, but it wasn't bringing in enough money. (This is the time when the toothbrush incident occurred and burned itself in my brain.) We went to a Christian financial counselor, and he was apologetic, but basically didn't have anything he could tell us that would help (we were already on a budget and all that), other than you've got to figure out how to make more money.
So we, maybe mostly me, started thinking about buying an existing successful practice. I began searching the trade publication classified ads, making calls, even making some visits.
We thought we wanted to buy one that was located in the doctor's house, and would therefore include the house and Craig would work from home. We looked at two or three of those in different states. But in the end, that's not what happened.
To be continued...