The Munchkins

Life with identical twins

Rich color

Spring of 2016 we had the new fence put in. They recommended we wait to stain it. We probably could have stained it last summer but didn’t, so it was high on the list of projects for this summer. Unfortunately, every weekend we were home and free it was either rainy or cold, so we couldn’t do it. Finally, the stars aligned and we were able to get some staining done on Sunday.

I wanted to try to match the stain color to my house color, so I went for a darker, reddish brown. I had rebate checks for Menards, so that was where I headed. There are two kinds of Pittsburgh outdoor stain, and even though I’d tried to research it, I couldn’t figure out what the difference was between the two types so I asked at the paint desk. Here’s how the conversation went.

“What’s the difference between these two stains? The Ultra and the Paramount?”

“Well, they’re … different.”

“Different how?”

“They’re just different. The Paramount is new and they say it’s better.”

Um, seriously? Isn’t it your job to know this? Since my preferred color was in the Paramount line I went with that (Canyon Sunset for the win). A different guy mixed the stain and tried to get an answer for me. He said that the Paramount line is supposed to more of a satin finish, but I’m not really sure about that either.

We started Sunday morning about 9:30am. I had bought one of those hand pump weed sprayers to use, we also had a roller and the block brushes. It took us a bit of trial and error to figure out what worked best, and how to control the splatter and drips. The roller was great to get the stain on when we had big surface areas to cover, but the sprayer got the stain into the tighter areas. I rolled, and the girls came behind me and worked the stain in with the brushes. We would spray stain where I couldn’t get with the roller, or in the nooks and crannies behind boards.

The six foot privacy fence sections took forever, but once we got beyond those the shorter sections went relatively quickly. Unfortunately, that was right about when the sun came out and it got hot fast. The girls very quickly wished me luck and headed into the air conditioned house. Luckily, after one more section I was in the shade and was able to finish without passing out by 1:00pm. Not too bad? I had thought that we could stain some, take a break, stain some more, take another break, but I forgot how messy staining is. I bought latex gloves for us to wear which was key, but once you’re dirty, you’re only going to clean up once so I just kept at it and had the girls bring me water.

The color is gorgeous. It’s a rich, dark brown and I cannot stop staring at it. I’m really hoping the rain stays away so we can do the other side of the yard next Sunday. Now that we’ve started, I want this project complete!

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Sold

A few months ago the housing market in my area started getting a little nuts. Houses were selling for way more than they normally would and my interest was piqued.

Every month there was some sort of money stress. While my renters were great, they paid their rent through a website and since it was a transfer, it didn’t actually get to me until the 5-8th, depending. I always tried to have some cushion, since both mortgages and piano lessons and a multitude of other things happen at the beginning of the month, but that didn’t always work.

When I bought the new house without selling the old, I used money from my investment accounts to pull together the down payment. When you’re a single mom, a financial cushion is non-negotiable and now my cushion was very slim. I was rebuilding my accounts, but that was going much slower than I had hoped (please see vet bills, kids activities).

I did a bunch of research and honestly, keeping the rental is the smart financial decision. It’s cash flow positive and over time I would make far more money keeping it than I would selling it. But, as we all know, financial decisions aren’t based on the numbers alone. I was definitely feeling the weight of this money anxiety and felt like selling the house was the right move. After talking to my realtor, we agreed to put it on the market June 2 after the renters moved out.

Overall we had about 60 people look at the house. It was brutal because once again, every other house was selling within hours of hitting the market and yet here was mine with no offers and people citing deal breaker after deal breaker in the feedback. My house is quirky. It has a tuck under garage and the basement has a weird layout, the bedrooms are small and the lot huge. It’s not necessarily a house you walk through and think that you need to make an offer on it immediately. Mentally, I began thinking through what I would need to do to rent it out again, and what I would do differently (raise the rent, hire a lawn service).

After three weeks on the market I got an offer, but it was very low. I stuck to my guns and countered, but ultimately walked away from it. There was a huge part of me that wondered if I should just take the offer, but I also knew that I would be bitter about it and I didn’t want to walk away from this house unhappy. My parents came up and we spent a day sprucing things up, doing things I didn’t do initially because I hoped it would sell quickly. Right after that, I got another offer and this one was solid and the price I was looking for. I happily accepted.

I really waffled over selling this house. I love the idea of a rental property as an investment vehicle. Finding renters was easy, and I had already done a bunch of updates to the house, so the risk of unexpected expenses was low. But the truth is that while the house itself is great as a rental, the yard isn’t. It’s huge and requires a ton of upkeep, much of which I was still doing. Despite promising me they would, the renters didn’t rake the leaves last fall. Well, they raked them into a pile and then left them there while the grass underneath died. I was over there all the time trying to keep the weeds under control which honestly, is practically a full time job. Any waffling about selling vs continuing to rent went out the window in June as I realized all of this which was good, because it meant I have zero regrets about selling and I’m not second guessing that decision at all.

I was at the house a few times last week and was able to get the last few things out of the shed that I wanted, and say goodbye to each room. I may have done some ugly crying, but that’s what happens when you live somewhere for 14 years, have amazing neighbors, bring home two daughters, lose a dog and a cat, and gain three more dogs. A lot happened there, so it felt good to properly say goodbye. I wish I could have stolen the strawberry plants, but we’ll just have to plant some next spring at the new house.

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The Floor!

Is done! And the room is finished except I didn’t hang any pictures, just in case we rearrange.

Thursday. My dad came up around noon. The night before the girls and I had moved as much out of the room as we could. My dad and I moved the big stuff to one side, tore that carpet out, then moved it to the other side, and tore the rest out. Then we tackled my bedroom the same way. I was also trying to work, so in between I would run upstairs and do some testing, reply to emails, then run back when he needed me. It was chaotic.

About 3:00 we went to Menards to pick up the flooring and the paint. I knew I wanted to repaint, but I didn’t think we would have time. I’m so glad my dad pushed to paint Thursday. It’s so much easier painting when you don’t have to worry about getting anything on the floor! I know some people like to go with lighter colors in basements to lighten them up, but I’m a huge fan of darker colors. I think it warms things up and makes it cozier. I painted the basement Mega Greige by Sherwin Williams and I love it! The paint color made a HUGE difference in the way the basement feels. I knew I wanted a darker greige (I wanted something a little warmer than what I have upstairs) and had done some research on pinterest, but had never actually seen the color in person until we got it on the walls. Dodged a bullet there! We finished up about 7:00. Long day.

I give the girls a mental health day each school year where they can pick a day and stay home. Delaney decided to cash hers in on Friday. I tried to talk her out of it because why not pick a day when you can watch tv all day? But she wanted to help her Grampy. Best decision ever! She was a workhorse! She totally understood how things needed to go together and was the perfect coworker for my dad.

Delaney and my dad started putting the flooring down while I painted trim outside. Delaney came up a few times saying it wasn’t going well and I started to get nervous. Finally I went downstairs to see how bad things were.

The flooring I bought was cheap, and we weren’t sure how much that was playing into things and how much an old house with walls that aren’t straight was. I did some googling and found that people had issues installing Tarkett floors, so we were just about to take it back and get a different floor when I did some more googling so we could watch installation videos. My dad tried it one more time with a different approach and things worked better. This is the only laminate floor I’ve installed, but my dad said it was awful and much more difficult than other floors. So don’t go with Tarkett. My parents would highly recommend Pergo floors. They are very snap and go. All of that said, going with laminate flooring is by far cheaper than replacing the carpet over and over. With dogs and kids, it’s also so much easier to clean. When we pulled up the carpet, there was a ton of dust and crap underneath that they had never picked up. It can’t be good to be breathing all of either!

My mom came up Friday late morning and cleaned my house. That was fabulous. It was due for a deep cleaning and my mom was up for the task. Thanks Mom!

Delaney worked hard until about 2:00 when I took over. To install the floor you lock it in, then use a hammer and block to get things tight. I looked at my dad and said “How on earth did Delaney do this?” It was a lot of work! She was even installing pieces by herself on Saturday! Caden tried helping when she got home from school, but this type of thing is not her jam, and she retreated to her hammock swing to read. We worked until about 5:30, finishing up the living room.

Saturday Delaney and my dad laid the floor in my bedroom. It’s a much smaller room and they were almost finished by the time I had to run the girls to ballet. When we got back, it was done! The rest of the day was spent laying down the trim and the finishing pieces. That stuff took forever. Lots of cutting, cleaning, filling nail holes, and more cleaning. We worked until 5:30 and then headed out for dinner.

When we moved in we tried to be thoughtful, but the layout didn’t work. We rearranged things so that as you come down the stairs and turn the corner, all of the girls’ stuff is there. They don’t love coming down to the basement, so I wanted their toys/art/craft things close to the stairs. They’ve spent a little time organizing, and are excited about their new spot.

We centered the tv on the wall, and then moved the couch over so it was centered on the tv. One of the things I hated before was that nothing lined up! The couch wasn’t centered on the tv, and it just felt weird. So even though the couch hangs off the wall a bit, it works much better.

When you came down the stairs and rounded the corner, the first thing you used to see were the dog crates. It made the basement look so junky. Now they are tucked into the back corner, all lined up. The dogs aren’t quite used to it yet, but they’ll figure it out soon enough.

With the dogs, the basement smelled. We didn’t spend much time down there, and I was embarrassed to even have people over to show them my house because of it. We love our upstairs living room and that will still likely be the place we spend the most time, but now at least I’m not embarrassed of my house. It’s like a weight has been lifted! I’m hoping to do more entertaining this summer and show it off!

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Bathroom makeover 

Last fall I did a lot of painting. I repainted almost every room in my house as well as the trim. Every time my realtor came over there was something else we spotted that needed touching up. Then we moved into the new house and I repainted the main floor. I love painting, I love the transformation that happens so quickly, but I was burnt out. I bought the paint to repaint both bathrooms but never painted them.

After living in this house for a year I finally feel ready to finish decorating. I’ve done a tiny bit of shopping and found a few prints that I love, but they were for the bathrooms and it seemed silly to hang them before I painted. With the girls and I both off on MLK Day, it seemed like the time to paint.

This is my bathroom. Before on the left, after on the right. You are going to have squint hard to see the difference! It’s definitely more obvious in person. Before it was a darker green. It was fine, but I wanted to lighten it up a bit. From the start of prep to finished painting it only took two hours! I love small rooms.

This is the print I found at Kirkland’s. It was on sale for $39! I obviously broke No Spend January to buy it. I maybe hung it a tiny bit high, but when I look in the mirror my head is perfectly in the top of the flower which makes me happy.

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(This collage saved smaller, no idea why.) The girls bathroom! This room was an awful tan before, same green as my bathroom after. Oh my! It looks so much better now! It matches their shower curtain, and the elephant prints we found at Christmas are perfect. This room took me an hour start to finish. The crazy part is that as I was painting, I found some traces of black paint by the trim. I think this bathroom was black in a previous version. It’s a super tiny bathroom, so I can’t imagine it black. There were definitely some crazy design choices made in this house.

The full pic because the shower curtain was cut off in the collage.

When we had to get the old house ready to go on the market I completed a ton of tiny projects that I had put off doing for ages. Nothing took me more than a few hours to do, and most only took 15 minutes. Most of those projects I’d meant to do for years. Once they were done the house looked so much better! I hate having tasks hanging over my head, but I get caught up in “I don’t have enough time to do that!” far too often. After that, I vowed I wouldn’t put off doing small things that can have a big impact on how the house looks again, but of course I did. I’m a little annoyed with myself that I took this long to get three hours of painting done, but at least it’s done now.

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All the light

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Enough with what I want to change, let’s talk about what we love about this house. These windows continue to be the best part of this house. So much natural light I can’t even tell you! It’s amazing the difference it makes. We spend the majority of our time in the living room/kitchen area, basking in the light. On top of the light is our view. I love looking out on the green grass of the golf course. It’s nice to see the sun set again!

An old neighbor asked what was different about this house. It’s a little bigger, and I do love having my own bathroom, but it’s the flow of this house that has really made a difference for us. We spend so much more time together now that the kitchen is connected to the rest of the house. No longer are the girls in the living room watching one tv, while I’m in the kitchen watching another. It’s amazing.

What else? We love our backyard, how it’s smaller but still big enough for the dogs to run around in and the kids to play. We love our quieter street, where we can walk the dogs almost every day. The girls love the concrete driveway that is so much better for scootering than our old, bumpy asphalt one.

At this stage of the game, I’m also excited to decorate the house for Christmas. Last year was a total blur! I’m hoping to really dig through out holiday stuff and get rid of the stuff that just doesn’t work here, and figure out what does. Bring it on! (but not the snow)

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One Year

We moved into our house one year ago today. I closed November 5, painted for two days, then we moved in on November 7. That first month was pure chaos! This house is set up very differently than my old house and it took a lot of work (mostly by my parents) to organize and put things away. That work definitely highlighted other projects I wanted to do.

I know very little about the history of this house except what I’ve been able to piece together from a few conversations with the neighbors, but I do know this – Whoever did the first renovation did not do a very good job. I highly doubt they used licensed contractors (my neighbor said they used friends) and that’s evident in the work they did. The guy I bought the house from fixed a lot of their mistakes (thanks!) but there was only so much he had time to do.

Here’s a state of the state on my list of projects.

They used box cabinets for the kitchen and while they *look* nice, they are incredibly inefficient and some of the doors are loose. This project is at the top of the list, but I’m glad we waited because the plan for the remodel has changed many times. More than anything, I want to make efficient use of the space, while still keeping it an eat in kitchen. We eat all of our meals there and I don’t want to lose that. New cabinets, new backsplash, and new flooring. I’m debating between tile and the fancy linoleums, but I want white/light and most of the fancy linoleums seem to be darker patterns. With my dad in retirement mode now, this will have to wait until end of summer 2017.

The garage is technically attached to the house, but you can’t actually go straight from the garage into the house. It’s a pain, and I’d really love a mudroom. We’ve thrown around the idea of enclosing the porch which would accomplish both things, but I just can’t seem to pull the trigger on this. It seems like it would work, but I don’t really want to lose my front door and I can’t seem to picture the entrance. This one’s on hold.

I love having my own bathroom, but they did it in dark slate tile. I’m more of a white subway tile girl, so I’d love to redo it. Also, they did the shower drain incorrectly. The drain sits higher than it should so after every shower I have to squeegee the inch of water that didn’t drain. It angers me every single day. Every day. I finally asked my brother how much it would be to remodel and it’s way more than I’m willing to spend. Some day I will have a dreamy, white spa like bathroom, but this is probably not that house.

Both bathrooms need to be painted. This is an easy one! I have the paint, but by the time I was done painting everything else, I was worn out. I just need to pick a weekend and get it done! But I can’t seem to find a weekend with a full day open so I can crank them both out. This winter?

I very quickly replaced the dishwasher and the dryer within a week of moving in, but our crap side by side refrigerator is still here. I loved our side by side at the old house, but here, the freezer door opens right into a wall, which means you can only open it so far. It makes it very difficult to get things in and out of the freezer, or to even see what’s in there. I’ve done some research, I’ve measured the opening, but at this point I think I’m used to it. If I ever find a spare $1500 maybe then?

There’s a ton of landscaping I want to do! He did what he could, but he had no idea what he was doing and that is evident. I tried to replace and add things this summer, but the damn bunnies chewed a lot of stuff down to the ground. But, this will definitely happen next summer. I want more color!

The list of projects I want to do has grown and shrunk, depending on what is annoying me that day. I can’t even remember some of the things I wanted to change that first month! I will tackle some things, but at this point we are prioritizing travel over home remodeling. Maybe someday, especially if it will increase the resale value, but at this point, I’m really just focusing on the kitchen, since I spend so much time there. Although if you ever hear about me renting a jack hammer, you know the slate tile has finally pushed me over the edge!

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Backyard Zen

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This is my view most nights. I sit at our patio table and read my book, play mancala, watch Annie chase the squirrels, and hang with the kids and pups. I love it.

You can kind of see the flowers and shrubs at the back of the yard, they are a mess. The previous owner took out the rock back there (thank you!) and planted a lot of stuff, but he didn’t really know what he was doing (so says my neighbor). There are large shrubs planted in the front, with smaller plants right behind them that you then cannot see. Lots of day lilies planted randomly, with hostas in between them (which again, you cannot see because they are short).

I’ve added a few strategic flowers that will add color, and am plotting what to do next year. I don’t love the day lilies, but there are a lot of them so I’m considering moving them all to the back. There was not a lot of spring blooms, so I need to add that in, and I’m waiting to see what it looks like this fall with the sedum I planted. There are four hydrangeas, but they are not doing the best. They are always thirsty, and I think the bunnies get them. Even with Annie patrolling, the bunnies eat a lot of my stuff. It hurts. But, I’m loving being able to plant flowers in the ground and not just in pots! It’s fun to wander the nurseries and actually be able to buy the pretty perennials rather than just passing them by.

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New Fence!!

The new fence is in! My dad tore the old fence down last Sunday, they put the new fence posts in on Monday, but the fence didn’t go up until Saturday. All week we had to take the dogs out on leashes and that did not go well. I have no idea how people have dogs without fenced in yards.

before

A quick reminder of the before. The fence was awful. If you didn’t have dogs maybe you wouldn’t care, but with dogs it just was not safe.

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The first fence company I talked to wanted me to do a 6 ft privacy fence around my entire yard. Um, no. It would have boxed in the yard and wouldn’t have been neighbor friendly. The second fence company actually listened, and came up with a plan to do privacy on one side where we need it, but a four foot scalloped picket fence everywhere else.

After the fence was finished we were out in the yard with the dogs chatting with these neighbors. Their dog (the pitbull who jumped the fence last fall) and Annie were racing back and forth along the fence line, playing and racing each other. We were dying! Also, all three dogs passed out completely at bedtime. Midas slept for an hour without moving a muscle that’s how tired he was.

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The crazy thing? They build the entire fence on your property! I thought they brought it in in panels and just put it up but no! This allowed them to keep the fence all the way to the ground, even though my yard goes up in the back by the golf course. I was super impressed.

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This is the view we’ll have when sitting on the patio. The neighbor’s patio is right on the other side of the fence and while he isn’t out there much, I really wanted privacy here. I’m super happy with it. It looks nice and I no longer have to look at his 1,452 lawn ornaments.

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One Week In

One week in and things are much better. Like so much better.

I didn’t post much last week because it would have been a lot of frustration and negativity and poor me pity parties. I’ve been fairly stressed out since we started this process and the chaos from moving in only compounded that. Packing was easy. Unpacking was not! I packed up a few boxes each night, spending maybe 30 minutes doing so? Unpacking was overwhelming, especially since it seemed like we had something going on every night. I was not doing well with all of the chaos. My parents heard my frustration and came up Saturday morning. By that point we’d at least gotten the girls toys and art supplies unpacked and mostly put away in the basement. My dad reorganized the garage, building a bunch of shelving, and my mom reorganized the basement. The work they did was huge! No more boxes and totes everywhere, everything is put away. It was like a weight was lifted off my chest, I can breathe again. Huge thank you’s to my parents. Without your help, I have no idea how I would have done all of this.

While I definitely have more projects on my list than I thought I would, I’ve also realized that I really do love this house. I may not like it at times, but long term I think it’s going to be a great place for us. The flow is really nice, we get amazing light through all of the windows, and the yard is perfect for us. The girls spent Saturday and Sunday scootering around the garage, driveway, and street, something they couldn’t do at our old house. Annabelle spent the weekend in the backyard watching the golfers play through and enjoying the sunshine. I definitely had my moments wondering if this was all a giant mistake and deciding how many years to live here before selling, but now I feel like we could be here for awhile which is such a relief.

A few pictures of the house!

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These are the windows in the living room. They face west and bring in amazing light. I love having floor to ceiling windows! The dogs love them too and spend a lot of time on their beds here.

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The living room! Same viewpoint as last week, just with furniture. There is a wood burning fireplace in the corner. It will be interesting to see if we use it, or convert it to gas at some point.

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I had no idea where we were going to put the piano. Kristina and I talked through a few options when we were painting, then moving day came and we realized those weren’t going to work. Someone recommended this spot (between the big windows and the door to the backyard). I couldn’t believe it when my dad measured and it fit perfectly! Such the perfect spot.

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This is a crappy shot of the dining room, but best I could do in the late light. It’s similar to my old dining room, but just a touch bigger. We found the black cabinet at Target this weekend, which will work perfectly for barware and my cookbooks. My mom had talked about refinishing the table dark, but instead has decided to paint the chairs black, and leave the table as it is. If nothing else, we’ll find a tablecloth we like. (And by we, I mean my mother.)

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I loved loved loved the doggy door at the old house and had intended to put one in here this spring, but we are all smitten with this floor to ceiling glass door! (I believe there is a screen for it in the garage for summer.) Annie will often just sit and out look out, and there hasn’t been any issues getting the dogs in and out.

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Here’s the backyard. I’d guess it’s about 1/2 the size of my old yard? I worried it would be too small but it’s perfect. We can always see the dogs, no matter where they are, yet they have enough room to run. We back up to a golf course, and I worried Annie would bark nonstop at the golfers, but she’s been great. There is another matching concrete bench, and enough space that we should be able to have a table, and possibly a glider swing. I’m hoping to do some sort of pergola, or something where I can string those cute outdoor lights on. Since we lost the screen porch, we’ll be spending a lot of time out here. I’m excited!

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Check in

This past week has been absolutely crazy. Tuesday and Wednesday I was in California. Thursday morning was the closing. Closing went very smoothly (thanks to my incredible lender) and then I headed to the house to start painting. On Thursday afternoon I painted the girls room, then came back that evening and painted the guest bedroom with Delaney’s help. On Friday my amazing sister-in-law came over and we were painting machines! We painted the entry way, living room, kitchen, bottom half of the dining room and the hallway. That night I came back over and painted the top half of the dining room.

Some notes on painting. Rule number one – buy the good paint! I used the Duration line by Sherwin Williams and it’s absolutely dreamy! Covered well in one coat and just went on so well. We didn’t need to tape anything. Second note, just do it! Kristina and I both said painting is our favorite. It’s a diy job that we can do without our uber talented husband/brother/father, and it’s instant gratification! As the gray went on the house started to feel more and more like my home. (I once again used Mineral Deposit by Sherwin Williams. It’s a blue/gray and again, I cannot say enough good things about it. It sounds like it would be a cold color but it’s not!)

A little before and after for you. He inexplicably painted everything a yellow? Which just didn’t work with the white trim and the gray stone everywhere.

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Saturday we moved and unpacked. It was an exhausting and frustrating day. When I first saw this house everything looked so perfect and updated and the more time I spend here the more I realize that was all a facade. The furnace is old, the windows are old, the trim is cheap, the closets are shit, the dryer is 50+ years old and the kitchen is wonky. It’s adding up to be a lot more projects than I ever expected, and those projects will all likely need to happen earlier than I expected. It’s been a rough week, topped off with the neighbor’s pit bull jumping the 2.5 foot fence Monday morning and eagerly greeting my dogs who were not so eager to greet him. If you know a fence guy, clearly I need one.

I don’t live well with chaos, and right now the entire basement is boxes and tubs and stuff everywhere, so that is priority one. I think with a night or two of organizing and a few trips to Goodwill, we’ll be in better shape there which will do loads for my sanity.

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