The Year of Pain


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Today Seren turned 11 months old.

On Tuesday I heard a noise that was not quite what I expected to be hearing and ran around the corner to find Seren halfway up the staircase. I was careful not to startle her, and just watched her go the rest of the way up.

So, well, I guess she can do that now.

I really need to stop underestimating this baby. I was lulled into a false sense of security because her siblings were so lazy such late walkers. This kid in an explorer. The Year of Pain has officially begun. In the past three days she has scratched her chin, cut her wrist, smacked her head countless times, face planted while trying to run-crawl away from me, and been hit with the door twice. As far as childhood goes, this next year is my least favorite. Kids are adorable at this age, but they’re so damn uncoordinated that they are constantly being hurt, no matter how diligent you are with watching them and wrapping them in bubble wrap.

Another new development is Seren has discovered the piano. She can’t get enough of it! She stands next to it and puts her little hands above her head to hit the keys. She is so enthralled by that instrument that I was worried she’d pull the piano bench down on herself in her eagerness to be near the keys, so I brought out the mini piano. Now she can stand at a piano that’s just her size and play and sing to her heart’s content. Of course, now I have to worry about her pulling that down on herself.

This next year is going to be challenging, but rewarding. Let’s hope her guardian angel is up to the task!

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Aglamping we did go

Last weekend was the annual glampout at the golf course. True to form, we went, but only Jesse and the older kids slept over, myself having the sense to leave with the baby to sleep in our own beds. Jesse was giving me a hard time about it until I pointed out that the golf cart taking me back to the car was filled with other mothers with babies who were leaving their husbands behind to stay with older children. In other words, sane women.

There was no hot air balloon this year, which turned out to be a good thing, because in lieu of the balloon they set up a giant bouncy obstacle course and water orb area, and let’s be honest, the balloon was kind of boring. It was a whole lot of waiting in line for a few minutes of vertigo inducing torture.

Karis was an independent little social butterfly, meaning I barely saw her the entire time. She was off gallivanting with friends, zip-lining, watching catfish get caught, playing on walkie-talkies and gorging herself on treats. I did manage to pin her down for a few minutes during the S’more eating, but it was short lived.


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Brecken, on the other hand, was more inclined to stay close to camp. He thoroughly enjoyed the obstacle course…


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…and did the water orbes not once, but twice.


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I love this night shot Jesse took; it’s very E.T.. Brecken was one of the last kids to do the orbs and I got to listen to the orb lady complaining about how much she hates her job. I totally understood. Never mind the sunburns and water-logged feet you get from schlepping kids in giant hamster balls around a pool all day, the setting up and breaking down of their equipment is intense. According to the orb lady the blow up pool they use weighs 700 pounds when dry. That’s DRY, you guys! Now imagine folding that sucker up still wet and getting it on the truck. I wanted to stay around and watch how they did it, but Jesse refused to sit around with the orb lady any longer.


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They played Despicable Me 2 on a big screen as the night came on. My kids were too hopped up on S’mores and brownies to show any interest, but I thought it was a genius move because it corralled a good portion of the young ones and started to calm them down. Seren was having none of this, by the way. She was her tolerant, awesome self for most of the day, but by this time she was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to snuggle to sleep. I was hauling her around in the Ergo, but she wanted a bed.


The next morning I awoke at the crack of dawn because last year Jesse said everyone woke up by 6:00 and he wanted to get going right away. It broke my heart to wake up the tired baby, but we soldiered on and got back to the camp at 7:00 only to find SLEEPING tent dwellers. (Side note: Seren LOVES riding in golf carts. I think she likes the wind on her face. I need to get her a bike seat!) I roused the troops, aired out the decidedly pungent tent, and began packing up while everyone else grabbed breakfast.

It was such a fun time for the kids, and despite the extremely hot weather we enjoyed ourselves. I guess I’m a wimp though, because glamping really takes it out of me. It took me two days to recover! And I’m not the only one. I put the baby down for a nap and thought to myself gosh, it’s quiet. Upon investigation I found every member of the family passed out cold – even the dog.


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Vintage awesomeness, now in travel size

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My house is where old things go to not die. It’s like the opposite of retirement. I love things with history to them; furniture, linens, utensils… they are all welcome here. Luckily I married a man whose mother also loves old things, but loves even more to give old things away to family members. Her kids usually have very little interest in her offerings. When she starts telling them the history of a tablecloth their eyes glaze over and they develop nervous ticks. Well, good. More for me!

This blanket is one of my favorite acquisitions. It comes from the old Maine house (like most of my furniture). I think it’s called chenille, but every chenille blanket I’ve ever seen is more fuzzy. This blanket only has tufts of fuzz. I adore it! If anyone knows specifically what this type of material is called, please let me know.


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I used the blanket as the backdrop/soft padding for this photo series I did with Seren. I love the texture and the pop of color.


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The blanket is soft and weathered. The material is very worn and fragile. It has a few rips and has been repaired several times. It was large enough to cover a twin bed – maybe even a double. I think it was made for that awkward in-between size bed that is no longer made. (Huns – I bet this would have fit the weird midget bed we used to sleep on.)


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Notice I say it “was” large. It’s not so big anymore. I spread it out, picked the sturdiest area and cut it into a crib-sized blanket. Then I crocheted a border out of matching yarn. The result is rather charming. Here it is, with Jesse’s creepy old teddy bear to show size.


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Karis saw it and immediately fell in love. “Who is this for?” She asked.

“Well,” I said, “it’s crib-sized. Who do you think could use a crib sized blanket?”

She wrinkled her nose and said, “Seren already has a million blankets. This one should be for me!” So I told her I would make her a lovey out of the leftover blanket. God knows there’s plenty of it left. The challenge will be finding a swatch that’s relatively undamaged.

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Loads of weekend fun for zero dollars

We had a very busy four day weekend Internet, and it didn’t cost us a dime. On Friday I took the kids bowling. But wait – how did I do that for free? Do I know a guy that works at the bowling alley? Nope. We’ve been bowling free all summer. We signed up for the kidsbowlfree program. We’ve taken the kids probably around six times. It’s fun for the whole family, AND it’s in air conditioning.

Brecken was being a butt-head.


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Then he somehow started bowling spares and his attitude improved – but not to the point where he would actually let us take a group photo. See? Total butt-head.

The other children were a delight.


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I still can’t explain their freakishly improved scores though. They continue to employ their own special bowling technique. Karis’s is part swan dive, and Brecken’s is very much a sacrafice-yourself-on-a-grenade maneuver. He usually ends up sprawled on the floor after each release.


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Look at that! Mama Bear only beat K-Dog by ONE POINT!


Saturday found us heading to the Santa Ana Zoo for free admission. They were having some sort of Labor Day festivity. I’m not sure what it was all about, but OSHA was involved, and there was a bounce house obstacle course that they would only let one person go through at a time. It was hilarious. The line stretched longer and longer as Mr. Safety waved in a person, waited for that person to come out the other end waaay down the field, then waved the next person in.


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The Santa Ana Zoo is really the red-headed step child of zoos. It’s a great place to take a toddler to get out of the house and walk in the shade, but don’t expect to see amazing animals from the far reaches of the globe. They have mostly monkeys. Cute monkeys, ugly monkeys, monkeys that look like skunks, pygmy monkeys that I want to keep in my pocket… You get the idea. Zoos depress the hell out of me, so I don’t usually take the kids to them, but like I said, it was free. Free admission, hotdogs, SNOW CONES! All free. The kids were ecstatic, and so was Jesse’s wallet.


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Seren was less than impressed with the Macaws. (Or maybe it was just that she skipped her nap…)


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Karis rode the KARISell (Jesse’s clever play on words) and Jesse and Brex rode the train.

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When they came to find us after the train ride we invented a new game. He texted me to ask where we were, so I texted him back a pic of Karis sitting near a sign and told him to come find us. Once they found us, they ran off and texted us a pic of where they were. This game can go on for hours. It is Karis’s new favorite thing in the world.


I was SUPER excited for Sunday. I am a lover of history, and Huntington Beach was having their annual Civil War re-enactment!! (FREE!) True, California’s involvement in the Civil War consisted mostly of sending gold east to the Union, but that doesn’t stop re-enactment enthusiasts from setting up a battlefield and playing at war.

I am a LARPer at heart. If I could spend my days on the set of a historical movie or in one of those re-enactment villages I totally would. Except for one thing. Why are the majority of those people bat-shit crazy? (Am *I* bat-shit crazy and just don’t know it?) The re-enactment folks at Huntington Beach consisted of two types. The first type was the sweet, retired people that have a passion for history and set up tables with old photos and try to teach people a lesson or two. Imagine Walter White before becoming Heisenberg, but teaching history instead of chemistry. The other type, and dare I say it, vast majority of reenactors, appear to be either nerdy college kids or homeless men with a thirst for whiskey and a love of unfiltered cigarettes.

Take this guy for example:


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He was super friendly and more than happy to tell us all about his company and their flag. He was a wealth of misinformation. Apparently there are no proficiency exams given out to reenactors before they get into character. He kept talking about the infamous member of his company that was HUNG (I get a gold star for not correcting this dude.) for assassinating Lincoln, and when I asked the name of the man he hemmed and hawed and said, “He was the guy standing right next to Mary Surratt.”

(I took the liberty of researching this. The man in question was named George Atzerodt, and though he conspired to kidnap Lincoln, when the plans changed and he was supposed to kill Vice-President Andrew Johnson, he ended up getting drunk at the hotel bar and wandering the streets of Washington. So, yeah, doesn’t surprise me that our reenactor friend was feeling a bit of hero-worship over the guy.)

The kids really seemed to enjoy themselves, crazy people notwithstanding. Their favorite part? When Jesse bought them a donut. Their second favorite part? GUNS and SWORDS! *sigh* Where does this obsession for violence come from?


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As the soldiers readied themselves for battle I made my way back towards the car with Seren. I knew the cannon would be too loud for her up close. The kids stayed with Jesse on the sidelines of the battlefield, so I was alone (not counting Seren) as I passed a few Union soldiers. Suddenly I was crying. Call me an overly emotional wreck, but I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t crying for these goofy reenactors, but for the real men they represented. It is estimated that around 750,000 died fighting the Civil War – and that’s not even taking into account those that died as a result of the destruction of their homes and lands. Those were real people. Those real people had families. Every one of them was someone’s baby once. It’s true what they say, having children changes you. I now look at everything with a mother’s heart, through mom-goggles.


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All in all, I was glad I went to the re-enactment. I look forward to going to one on the east coast some time. It was fun to get out there and explore our area with the kids. The Huntington Beach area is beautiful, providing you can ignore the random meth heads and skeevy pervs that leer at discretely nursing mothers.

Our weekend festivities ended with a B-B-Q at our house with Apple Josh and Aunt Dany. There was food and fun and games galore. We are exhausted. I’m wondering how I’m going to handle Glamping next weekend. Remind me to go to bed early tonight.

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Crib notes

Seren has spent this first year of her life sleeping in a travel crib. We got it when we lived in a teeny tiny NYC apartment. It served well for Karis until we moved into an actual house and inherited a cute Jenny Lind crib from a family friend.

Brecken also spent the first year of his life in the travel crib. We kept it next to our bed in the master bedroom, too nervous to leave him unattended with an exuberant toddler in the next room. When he outgrew it around eleven months he graduated to that trusty old Jenny Lind crib too.

Well, the Jenny Lind crib has long since been repurposed into a toy table and a fabric rack. With Seren able to pull herself up and shake the travel crib like King Kong it was time to get her a proper, stable cage. I mean bed.

I went to Babies R Us and found a not-too-ugly crib for two hundred dollars! Perfect! What are the odds that the ONLY crib I didn’t find completely fug also happened to be the least expensive? Jesse would be thrilled!


That crib had been discontinued, and they couldn’t sell me the floor model for liability reasons. “Why not?” I asked. “Because I put it together.” The butchy team member answered. “But I’m going to take it apart and put it back together myself.” I said, reasonably. She then launched into a long monologue about the strict California liability law systembeuracracyohmygodmakeherstoptalking.

I asked if any other stores had the crib in stock. Two did, but they were far away and it would take two to three months for them to be shipped, because that makes perfect sense?


I went online in search of a crib. I found some. Boy did I find some! Sadly, all of the interesting, non-ugly, vintage-y cribs were a bajillion dollars. Even the super ugly, yet somehow extremely popular sleigh bed cribs were mad expensive. Why would I want to spend ridiculous amounts of money on a piece of furniture I found extremely depressing? Then I found a semi-classic looking crib for a little over three hundred bucks! Is it my dream crib? No. But it was as close as I could find on a budget. Plus, I had plans for this crib. Oh did I have plans!


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This crib’s finish was a bit meh in my opinion. I have had it up to my armpits with mass-produced, cookie cutter things. I decided to make this crib a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture. Enter Annie Sloan chalk paint.

I have to give a gold star to my husband for not batting an eye when the first thing I did to this brand new crib when I took it out of the box was take a sander to it and round off its edges in a charming, uneven fashion.


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Then I started to paint it! I got the first coat finished that night, then the next morning I did the second coat. It looked good, but it was missing something. This crib was calling for a fleur de lis! I put the crib on hold and got all dressed up for a mom-date with Mimi! She took me out to sushi for my birthday. It was the first time I had eaten at a restaurant without a kid in years. Years. I’m not even exaggerating. After lunch, Mimi chauffeured me around to various home improvement stores to check out their molding selections. They sucked. Not a fleur de lis to be found. Michaels came through with a flat fleur de lis, and I bought two, but I didn’t love them. I took them home and sanded their crisp edges until they were softly rounded. Once I attached them I realized that not finding a fleur de lis in the molding section was super lucky, because these looked great!


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Finally I applied the wax coats. First clear, then dark. That wax is like magic. Suddenly my crib looked like it came out of a fairy tale. It’s charming, and unique, and one-of-a-kind. Totally worth the sore hands.

I wish I had a cozy little nursery with sunlight filtering through lace curtains to showcase the finished product, but Seren sleeps in my room and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, so you’ll have to settle for a shot of the crib in my living room. Pretend it looks like a nursery from a story book cottage.


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Here there be dragons! (infant/toddler costume dragons, that is!)


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Last year was a totally lame year for us in the Halloween costume department. I played the I-just-gave-birth card and didn’t dress up. We let the kids pick out cheap costumes at Target – they were THRILLED. Ingrates! (One day they will appreciate my hours of labor at the sewing machine to make them custom, adorable costumes. One day…)

Anyway, to make up for it, this year I plan to dress up. I’m not buying a ready made costume, or a slutty-fill-in-ANY-profession-or-object. Jesse and I were brainstorming and we decided to go as our favorite binge-watching series characters. Jesse picked his based on how little effort he could get away with putting into it. He’s going as Dexter! (His full costume will consist of a lanyard with Miami Metro forensics ID and a donut box. Perfect.) The kids are undecided, but leaning toward Rocky Balboa, and Princess Leia. I have decided to go as Daenerys – Mother of Dragons! Naturally that means Seren will go as a dragon. No, it’s not the most original idea – if you Google it a million images of women with dragons in Baby Bjorns comes up – but it will be fun nonetheless.

I popped over to  to do a review and found the perfect baby dragon costume in their costumes for babies section.

I made the mistake of ordering a size bigger than I needed. I went with size 12-18 months because Seren would technically be 12 months at Halloween. It’s about 3 inches too big for her arms and legs. I’m too lazy to deal with returns (which are super easy – return unworn items within 10 days for a refund) so I’m going to hope she grows a little more in the next two months and make it work.


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As far as the costume goes, the quality is pretty darn good. There are little wings that Velcro securely to the back, and a hood that will keep little heads warm if you’re trick-or-treating in a cold climate. We wont be. We seem to be forever destined to live in eighty degree weather. There are worse fates.

The designer of this costume gets an extra gold star because the bottom leg area snaps open for easy diaper changes, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

For those of you overachieving parents out there that want to fully embrace the season, check out these Halloween activities for you and your baby. (Can you tell this is a random, obligatory link for an affiliate of some sort? Disney is everywhere.)

I’m getting excited for Halloween, Internet! I don’t know why, considering my neighborhood is a post-apocalyptic wasteland on that special night, but I can’t help but still get excited. You should be excited too – you’ll get to see me as Daenerys with a muffin top! You’re welcome!!

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You’ve got mail

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Brecken loves to draw, but he really has no interest in printing. He regularly takes twice as long to finish work than his fellow classmates. When homework calls for printing practice it’s like pulling teeth to get him to focus. So I stopped fighting him on it. Instead I went to the craft store and bought a little mailbox. It looks like a miniature version of our real mailbox. I set it by their chore charts and told them it was their personal mailbox. Then I put a stack of stationary and little cards in their supply drawer and let them figure out the rest.

They did not disappoint!


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Brecken still tends to do more illustrating than writing, but he is developing a love for written correspondence that will hopefully last a lifetime. Emails and Facebook messages are all fine and dandy, but nothing beats the intimacy of a handwritten missive from a loved one.

Also of note is Karis’ love and adoration of her brother that she happily writes about. It’s hard to imagine these notes were written by the same girl that fights with him over who gets to pick what to watch on t.v..

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MTV Cribs, baby style

Jesse: “What is this charge for three hundred and ninety-eight dollars?!”

Me: “That’s for the new crib.”

Jesse: “We never agreed to buy that crib!”

Me: “Yes we did, remember? You said to get the ugly one, I said ‘gross’, and then your mom said to just get it because we can use it for the next five years. It turns into a toddler bed, you know.”

Jesse shakes his head in exasperation. Then he pulls up a very mod, oval crib on his computer screen.

Jesse: “I still think we should have gone with this one. How much could this possibly be?”

Me: “Expensive. I know four hundred seems like a lot, but I promise you, most cribs are five to eight hundred – and ugly. I was being reasonable. The ones I really liked were a few thousand…”

Jesse finds the price on the mod crib.

Jesse: “NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS? Are you kidding me?”

Me: “See? Four hundred doesn’t seem so bad now does it? It’s a cute crib. Wait til you see what I do with it!”

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Officially aged out of prime marketing demographics

I come to you today older and wiser, Internet. My 36th birthday was on Wednesday! It was a wonderful day full of doing whatever the hell I wanted. (Consequently, the house was a disaster and homework folders almost didn’t get filled out.)

My birthday present to myself was feeling good in my own skin. I woke up and said, “Damn I look good! Time for a birthday selfie!!” Then I took this blurry picture:


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I love it because it shows what a hot-ass 36 year old I am, and the look of intense concentration on my face is what I look like every time I try to do ANYTHING with a cellphone. Anything. Those that know me, know I have BRF. (Bitchy Resting Face)


But add to that me having to do something on a small screen and you’ve got yourself one helluva scowl.

The kids were super excited it was my birthday because CAKE. Jesse ordered my favorite cake, but still complained about how he wishes I had a more sophisticated palate. His bitching about my cake preference has become a birthday tradition, and I’m okay with that. I return the favor every time I have to make him carrot cake. Bleugh.

As a gift he got me 16GB of RAM for my computer. I have spent the last 3 years living with 4GB of RAM and beating my head against my desk as I waited for my machine to do the simplest of tasks. The true gift came when we tried to install the RAM. We couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t go in easily and we feared breaking something, so we called the help number. Our call was answered by a man who must have had a head cold? I hope? He was a very heavy mouth breather. He started out sounding like Nicholas Cage in Peggy Sue Got Married, then he advanced to “The call is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE!”, and by the end of our help session he was full on Darth Vader.

I kept snickering as he talked and Jesse kept putting the phone too close to me. I didn’t want the phone near me because I kept imagining Darth Vader breathing on my face. Ewww.

Anyway, Darth knew his stuff, and we fixed the RAM!

Next up was a sushi dinner at my favorite sushi place. (My annual eating of fish meat, if you will.) Then it was home for cake.


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It was a delightful birthday, and I hope the other members of the 8*20 club had an equally special day. I have all my birthday cards from family sitting atop my counter next to my left-over cake which will be consumed tomorrow as I watch episode three of Outlander. Life doesn’t get much better than this. I am a very lucky woman indeed.

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Good riddance.

We recently had our streets slurried. That’s where a bunch of miserable men come around and put fresh black gunk on the road in the hot, hot sun. (Seriously, I hope these guys make a LOT of money.) The end result is a very pretty, smooth new road. Ta-da!


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I have some very exciting news to share with you, Internet! It all started about two weeks ago. It was the day after our street was slurried. I mention this because of course my ass-hole neighbors couldn’t even let us enjoy ONE day of fresh, new black top on our street. No, they had to go and fuck it up by ordering this:


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That is a POD. (Portable on-demand storage) They ordered at least two of those things and filled them to capacity. Then a POD truck came and scraped up the road even more as it hauled them away. Watching those PODS get filled was very exciting for me. Can this be true? Are the ass-hole neighbors moving?! Their house has been foreclosed on for almost two years now, but I never thought I’d see the day that they actually left.

Then this happened:

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!!! Yes, that’s a MOVING TRUCK!! They filled that sucker up too. I did a little victory dance at every piece they put in there.

According to city records they had to be out of there by August 11th. (An early birthday present for me?) So guess what also happened on August 11th? I threw a party! I spent the morning in the kitchen, happily singing to myself as I baked a shit cake, because what better way to  celebrate shitty neighbors leaving than with cake?!


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I couldn’t help snapping one last stealth shot of the Queen Ass-hole as she loaded the last of her belongings into a car:


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That’s her standing in her usual spot where she liked to watch her dog dump on my lawn. (I was standing behind my space shuttle at the time so you can’t see my lawn.) I didn’t see her stupid little dog, Zeus, so I thought he must be at their new location shitting on their new neighbor’s lawn, but as I came out to get mail I walked right into him pissing by my door one last time. I didn’t even bother to yell at him. Or her.

So that was that. The ass-hole neighbors were gone!

The next part of my story should come as no surprise to anyone.

I came outside the next day to find extremely disreputable looking vehicles in front of my house. One of them was the unpainted, gun metal grey of ugliness, the second was a truck of many colors, and the third had blue fire blazing across the hood. Yes. Blue fire. I thought, is this God’s idea of a joke? Surely these are not my new neighbors.

They weren’t. (BIG SIGH OF RELIEF)

They were glorified garage salers. My ass-hole neighbors were apparently hoarders. (Again, not surprised.) After they loaded up their necessary items they left everything else to be sold. On Wednesday I came home from taking the kids to school to find large signs throughout the neighborhood advertising an “estate sale”. *cough*

Estate sale?  *giggle*

Of course I went to go look. You know you would too, Internet.

Oh Internet, words cannot describe the special aroma of funk and despair that greeted me upon entering that house. That place was filthy. Filthy, and still full of crap despite several PODS and trucks having been loaded up and hauled away. Even more entertaining were the price tags affixed to the dusty dishes and pieces of furniture. They were offering such things as a corroded, disgusting plastic patio set for the bargain price of $200.00. Dude. They should have been paying people to haul that garbage away, not expecting people to pay them for the honor.

I made my way through the whole house because I was curious about the layout. I was careful not to touch anything, and breathed through my mouth as much as possible. Two of the rooms downstairs were taped shut. I shudder at the thought of what must have been behind those doors. One can only imagine.

Before leaving I wandered into the backyard to see what my derelict fence looked like from their side. I couldn’t see it. The entire fence was covered in vines with visible rat nests and spider webs. The entire yard was the outside equivalent of the inside.

After several days of hosting an estate sale, the activity next door finally died down. I can’t help but wonder what they are planing to do with all the crap that has been left behind. Will the bank send a cleaning crew over in hopes of attracting a buyer faster? I dunno. As gross as that place is, I wouldn’t be too disappointed if it sat vacant for several months. I like the idea of having zero neighbors on that side.

If and when that dump sells, I will be sure to befriend the new owners. I will be first in line to offer them a basket of fresh baked cookies and welcome them to the neighborhood. If they have a dog I will tell them about all the great dog-friendly parks in the area. We’re going to be BESTIES Internet! Or, more likely, it will be bought by a reclusive, mysterious Chinese family that cooks strong smelling foods and converts spare rooms into walk-in closets. (The majority of my neighborhood is populated by reclusive Chinese women and their children. Their husbands are wealthy Chinese businessmen that stay in China and send money to their families in the states. It makes for an almost post-apocalyptic looking neighborhood; especially around any holiday.)

Of course, it could go the other way. My new neighbors could be even worse than the ass-holes. They could be loud and unruly. They could be cat enthusiasts. They could have teenagers. Teenagers that play in a garage band. Death metal garage band teenagers. Yeah. That’s probably going to be the case.


Remind me again why I don’t live on a farm in the middle of nowhere?

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