An Ode to Two Houses

Jul 19, 2020

When you move, it is always a tradeoff. You never leave behind everything you didn't like about your old house in exchange for perfection in your new house. Even people who design and build their own house (as my parents did in the late 90's) usually find things they would have changed or not done or added in retrospect.

Such has been the case with this house. There are, obviously, a lot of things to love about it. That's why we bought it. But there are also so many good parts of our old house that I am fiercely missing as we adjust to a new space. We knew this would be the case. When we first looked at this house and deliberated if we should make an offer on it, Mike and I listed out the pros and cons of each space and weighed them against each other.

You already know how the debate ended. Here we are in our new house and finding so many things to love about it. But Mike and I have both been guilty of saying, "Wouldn't it be so nice if our house had [some aspect of the old house]?" Or, "I sure do miss [fill in the blank from the old house]."

The thing I'm realizing is that it's nice to miss an old space and feel some longing to go back--it means we were happy there. It would be so sad if we were relieved to put a house and a neighborhood behind us, which is thankfully not the case at all.

I'm also realizing that it's nice to grow into a new space. It feels good to have to struggle with it a bit because you really come to know it in the process. That's right where we are with this new house. We're trying to figure out where and how to arrange our furniture. We're adding shelves and buying new pieces to make the space work better for our family. We're dreaming of bigger changes down the road.

As we transition from our old house to this one, I wanted to take a minute to record a few favorite things from each house.

First, I am really missing these things from our old house:

1. My flowering cherry tree (better known as, the princess in my front yard). It seems like every spring I have to talk about my cherry tree at least once because I am so completely charmed by her. I had always wanted a flowering cherry tree, and we planted it within the first two months of buying our house. She was just a little thing to start with. I was sure the kids were going to snap her skinny, twig-like trunk right in half. But every year she grew by leaps and bounds until this year she was more like a regal queen than a delicate princess. She was even big enough to accommodate a child in her branches. Knowing that it would be our last spring with her was so bittersweet. I soaked up her beauty. (And don't worry, we already cleared a spot in our new front yard and planted another cherry tree.)

2. The peach tree. Yes, another tree. I'm sorry, I just love trees. We planted this one, too, and this was actually the first year that we were going to get a good peach harvest. I've tried to take good care of it (with help from my expert gardening friend), and it has grown so much in the last two years. I pruned and thinned it this spring, even while knowing we weren't going to be around by the time the peaches were plump and juicy. I hope David and Emilee thoroughly enjoy it, and maybe we can even beg a peach or two from them.

3. Built-in shelves. You might remember that a few years ago, Mike took out the brick wall that was in our front room and completely redid it with a new mantle, fireplace, and built-in shelves. I loved that space so much. It brought character and beauty to the room, not to mention extra storage for books, games, and puzzles. I'm really feeling the loss of it in our new place since there is nothing like it and not even really potential for something similar.

4. A bathtub. Four bathrooms in our new house and not a single bathtub. It's kind of ridiculous actually. I am not really a bath taker myself, but I love a bathtub for my kids. So yes, I'm really missing being able to put Ian in the bathtub and have him be completely entertained for a good half hour. Not to mention that it's much easier to wash a child's hair in a bathtub instead of a shower.

5. Air conditioning. This is something Mike is missing more than me. It's not that our new house doesn't have an air conditioner, but just that it is almost completely ineffective on the second floor. The thermostat is on the main level, so it stays nice and cool there, along with the basement. But the second floor (where all of the bedrooms are) gets unbearably hot in the late afternoon and evening. Maybe someday we'll get a second air conditioner installed, but for now, Mike just has to reminisce about the pleasure of going to sleep in a nice, cool room (although, I admit, that I often felt like I needed to bundle up in those circumstances).

6. A view from the kitchen window. I used to be able to stand at the kitchen sink washing dishes and watch the comings and goings of the entire street. I could recognize on sight each neighbor's car, including boyfriends and relatives. I knew the dog walking schedules of each family. I was entertained by the frequent drama of the group of fourth grade girls. Sometimes, if I was lucky, a horse and rider would even canter by. Now I just look out at our dilapidated back fence. It is probably the most boring window in our entire house, which is too bad because I actually spend a lot of time at the kitchen sink.

7. Flat, quiet street. Speaking of the street, I miss it sooooooo much. In fact, it might be the thing I miss the very most. I don't know if we will ever be able to match that street. It was just the best. It was wide and flat--perfect for rollerblading and riding bikes and playing games. And it wasn't connected to any through streets, so pretty much the only traffic we got was from people who actually lived on the street. Our kids played in it a lot. Since moving, they have hardly been in the street at all . . . partly because it is too sloped to be able to rollerblade safely and partly because I've forbidden it due to it being a busier street. I'm still trying to figure out if there's anything we can do to make street activities more accessible again.

8. A big backyard. This was a hard thing to give up. In fact, when we made our list of pros and cons, it was probably the biggest con for the new house. Our old backyard contained a shed, swingset, trampoline, garden, pumpkin patch, raspberry patch, giant maple tree, two smaller maple trees, and three fruit trees, and it still had plenty of room to run around and play. In our new backyard, we had to cut down an apple tree just so we'd have room to squeeze in the trampoline. It's a downgrade, for sure (not to mention that we lost the best backyard neighbors ever).

9. Front porch. The front porch was one of my favorite things about the old house. Mike built a swing  for it, and in the evenings, we would sit there with a beautiful view of Mt. Olympus and chat with all of our neighbors. Luckily, I didn't actually have to give it up because . . .

. . .  our new house also has a wonderful front porch!

Here are the things I love about our new house (and I apologize that I don't have very many photos--we're not quite there yet).

9. Front porch. The porch is slightly bigger than the one at our old house. For now, we just have a few patio chairs on it, but we have plans to install a swing (or two). It has a great view of the mountains as well, and we've met a large percentage of the neighborhood just by sitting outside in the evenings. I love big porches, and I'm so grateful that both of our homes have had one.

8. A big master bedroom. In our old house, there were two places that really felt cramped: the kitchen and Mike's and my bedroom. Our bedroom had a tiny closet where we tried to cram our clothes, shoes, a drying rack, the vacuum, temple bags, knitting supplies, hats, and scarves. It was ridiculous. Our room usually looked more like a laundry room than a bedroom because it's where all of the clean and dirty laundry passed through. It technically had a "master bathroom," although I use that term very loosely since it was not any bigger than the bathrooms on airplanes, and it opened out into our room like another tiny closet. Basically, our bedroom was not much of a haven. But now, it is! It's large and spacious. It has plenty of room for a desk and a couple of chairs in addition to our bed and dresser. It has a large closet that doesn't feel one bit cramped. The bathroom, although not huge, has its own shower with a dressing room leading into it. The dressing room actually functions perfectly as a craft room for me, which means I can leave my sewing machine set up all the time and don't have to put away my project before I'm done. The bedroom has a ton of natural light, amazing views, and is so peaceful and quiet. Basically, I love it so much. There have been several times when Mike has been working on a project in the room and has a bunch of parts and tools laid out all over the carpet, and we ask each other, "Can you imagine all of this in our old room?" and we just laugh because it wouldn't have even been possible, let alone so completely convenient.

7. A dishwasher. Yes, after fifteen years of marriage, we actually have a dishwasher!!! And as much as I said I didn't mind washing dishes by hand, it is actually SO nice to be able to just load all of the dishes into the dishwasher after a meal. It has made cleanup so much faster, and we use far fewer paper products than we used to. A dishwasher is kind of magical.

6. A laundry room. Equally magical is having a real, honest-to-goodness laundry room. I mean, it's just incredible. I'm no longer tripping over laundry baskets in the kitchen, nor do we have the constant hum of the washer or drying accompanying almost every meal. Something surprising also happened when we moved: our dryer all of a sudden started working much more efficiently! In our old house, the dryer usually took two full cycles to get the clothes completely dry. Now it only takes one. I guess the new house must be vented better or something. I am able to get a couple more loads in per day now that I'm not waiting around for the dryer.

5. The view. This might be my very favorite thing about this house. I love natural light, and I love being able to see in all directions, and this house has both. Plus, since it has a second story and is situated on a bit of a hill, it means that we can see even more. I love to watch the sun rise over the mountains from my bedroom window and the sun set over the valley from Bradley and Ian's bedroom. It's true that I don't have much to look at from the kitchen window (see above), but on the whole, I can actually see so much more from this house.

4. Garage. We haven't reaped the full benefits of this yet since Mike is still building shelves so we can organize all of the tools and yard equipment that got dumped in there when we moved. But eventually, we are looking forward to parking our van in a garage like real adults.

3. Fireplace. Our last house had two fireplaces, but neither of them worked. This one has a gas fireplace in the living room, and it works beautifully. We moved in at the end of May, so we haven't had a ton of opportunities to use it, but during a brief, rainy cold snap, we turned it on, and I was like, "Okay, you're my new best friend." I anticipate lots of cozy evenings by the fire this winter. (We also hope to eventually give the fireplace a bit of a makeover since right now it is surrounded by ugly tile and doesn't have a mantle.)

2. Large kitchen island. I haven't mentioned the kitchen much because, to be honest, there are a lot of things we don't love about it. The large island in the middle of it was originally one of those things. We felt like it was too big at first, but in the weeks since we moved in we, mostly Mike, have changed our tune. It's just so nice to have such a big workspace for making pies or multiple dishes at once. Gone are the days of feeling like the kitchen couldn't handle a second chef at the same time. And if we ever get to have people over again, I'm sure it will be great for buffet-style entertaining. (But in spite of falling in love with the size of the island, I despise the pattern and color of the countertops.)

1. Easy access to the backyard. Even though the backyard is pitifully small, it does have a couple of things going for it: it's accessible from both the kitchen and living room; and it has a large covered patio (as well as a balcony). Both of these things make it great for outdoor dining and entertaining. There are many things we want to do to make it more aesthetically pleasing and inviting, but the potential is there.

All of these things are really nice, but I didn't even mention the main reason for our move. Last year, we decided we really wanted to be closer to the boys' schools. They have been going to an out-of-boundary elementary school, which consequently funneled them into a different junior high and eventually a different high school. We could have moved them to the boundary schools when the time came, but we decided we didn't want to. We felt really good about their school situation. We also could have stayed where we were and still had them go to the out-of-boundary schools, but we thought it would be nice to be by families that loved and supported and went to the same schools we did.

So we started looking for a home within a very small perimeter. There was basically only one neighborhood I was willing to leave my beloved street for. As you might guess, looking within such a narrow boundary meant that homes for sale were few and far between. When this one came up, we jumped on it--not because it was perfect per se, but it was located just where we wanted it. We feel fortunate that we actually really love our home in addition to it being in the perfect place.

And we sincerely hope that we will eventually get to reap the benefits of being closer to the kids' schools, even if this will not be the year for it.


  1. It looks like a great new house! And I am with you on the dishwasher! It's so nice you finally have one!

  2. That's a great way to look at a move -- honoring the things you miss while being grateful for the parts you love. You guys would be great neighbors.

    I'm looking to make some new friends in my neighborhood. My original circle has all college kids now, and I need to find a junior high or high school lawn mower! Heaven forbid I have to take it up again myself when the boys go back to school. So if I walked by your porch I'd be giving Aaron a very appraising eye...

    1. Haha, I would let you hire him in a heartbeat! I'm hoping he can start to mow some lawns next summer. It would be a great way for him to earn a little money.


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