Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wild Oak: the backstory

{Our move has now become very old news, but it was such an emotional and well-photographed journey that I just can’t move on without recounting a little more of the Wild Oak tale.}

Sitting on the couch with the kids in bed, Erik and I were plagued with indecision. We had discussed the Roadrunner house so extensively that there wasn’t much left to say. We liked her and were ready to be done with house-hunting, but she had a few issues that made us uneasy.

Erik went back to his work, and I refreshed the client portal website one more time, wishing there was a magic answer lurking inside the computer. Hmmm… a new listing, but no photos. Typing the address into Google maps, I was immediately intrigued. Its backyard faced the mountains, something that none of the homes we’d looked at in our target neighborhood had offered. I zoomed in and my pulse quickened when I saw a big fenced yard with an open nature area on two sides. The property listing details were promising too. “I think this could be the one!” I squealed to Erik and we pored over the limited details together.

We drove up to the house the next morning filled with nervous excitement. Would this be the perfect ending to our house-hunting saga, or did the lack of photos conceal hideous flaws? Big flakes were still falling and everything was covered in white from a surprise snowstorm. The curtains of snow accentuated the quiet natural setting of the neighborhood, making it feel more out in the country than it had before. As Luke jumped out of the car he charmingly exclaimed, “These trees smell good!” We all loved the fresh pine tree scented air and the magical arch they form over the path to the entry.

Our realtor was delayed by the storm, so we explored the snow-blanketed property until she arrived. Approaching the front door from the other side of the driveway, we loved the casual hacienda feel and the covered porch that beckoned as a dry and cozy refuge. Eleanor, too new to walking to trudge through snow, ran back and forth on the porch, giddy with everyone’s excitement.

Looking over the gate into the backyard had a Narnian feel. Particularly since it was early April and only a few days prior the weather had been quite warm.

Our anticipated mountain views were completely hidden by the falling snow, but knowing that not too far away soared rock-faced mountains added to the magic.

We loved all the established shrubs and trees throughout the property, and this just-starting-to-bloom crabapple may have sealed the deal for me.

She sits right in front of the living room window, and I could imagine myself anticipating her spectacular display all winter long.

When our realtor arrived and we went inside, we’d had so much time to peek through windows that instead of feeling unfamiliar, we happily showed her around as if the house was an old friend’s. After the frigid temps outside it felt especially cozy, and the sparse furniture left by the seller gave plenty of space for us to imagine our things in the home.

Typically when we viewed homes we left Luke and Eleanor with a babysitter or traded off running in so we could leave the kids in the car. But they came with us on this spur-of-the-moment viewing, and their laughter made the perfect soundtrack as they charged through the rooms together.

It was love at first sight, so without even seeing the home’s initial enticement –the mountain views – we placed an offer. Later that afternoon we returned on our own while we anxiously waited to hear back from the seller. With melting snow and better winter gear, Luke and Eleanor raced along the side of the house under the gorgeously twisted wisteria vines.

The mountains were peeking out under the clouds and we could see the nature preserve exquisitely dressed in snow. I noticed a dog running along just beyond the fence and wondered where its owner was. Then it struck me that he wasn’t running like a pet, more like a wild animal. A wolf, I thought! Shocked and awed for just a millisecond, my next thought went to Luke – who had slipped around the corner out of sight. “Erik!” I yelled, “Where’s Luke? There’s a wolf!!!” We dashed around the corner fearing that the rest of the pack was circling our son.

Thankfully we soon found Luke, and once our fear for his safety subsided, we were left with the thrill of seeing such a majestic animal. For several days I clung to my wolf identification, because the animal looked so similar to the wolves at the zoo, but eventually I was convinced that it must have been a coyote since wolves don’t live in this area. Of course we weren’t able to snap a photo amidst the missing child drama, but both Erik and I got a good look at him striding through the snow back here. 

The sighting inspired us to want to build a little lookout stand in the back of the yard so we could watch for wildlife with our munchkins. It could be a family ritual akin to Owl Moon, a favorite storybook of Luke’s.

We gave names to most of the houses that we seriously considered buying, and the surprise snowstorm, woodsy smells, and ‘wolf’ sparked this home’s name – Wild Oak!

Her wild magic didn’t disappoint when we returned several weeks later, keys in hand, as her brand-new owners. Another passionate storm had just set in, this time covering the ground in hail. Driving up, the piles of hailstones almost looked like flower petals, and the drumming on the windows seemed to herald our arrival.

We ordered pizza, unloaded Solveig – all toys, since Luke was quite worried they’d be left at our old house – and ate dinner on the floor in Wild Oak listening to thunder and lightning from the retreating storm.

As Luke held Eleanor’s hand to help her on the step, we were struck again by what a perfect place this is to raise our wild little pair!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Luke the backhoe operator

When we moved the rest of our furniture in a few weeks ago Luke told Erik, “Thank you for making it the perfect house. It’s so pretty I can hardly even believe it!” Well, much of our boy’s boundless home enthusiasm is traceable to a certain star-crossed day in May. The previous owner agreed to put in a new septic system for us and slated the job for the morning of the house closing. We’d spoken with the contractor and he welcomed Erik to come see the system as it was getting put in the ground. So amidst the flurry of packing and closing arrangements, Erik and Luke drove up to Wild Oak, not sure if they’d catch the septic crew or not.

When they arrived, the crew was hard at work with the side yard all dug up. There were mounds of dirt everywhere, big trenches, and a shining yellow backhoe. During the lull while the crew waited for the inspector to arrive, Erik inspected the septic system while Luke climbed atop dirt piles, explored trenches, and marveled at the big machines. Once the inspector gave his okay, it was time to fill the trenches and cover the tank.

But before the backfilling began, Rafael asked Luke if he’d give him a hand with operating the backhoe. Luke was a little hesitant at first, but once he realized that the levers moved the hoe, he started pushing them back and forth with gusto!

Judging by the jerky swinging of the hoe Luke could use a little more practice, something the foreman noticed while he was talking with Erik. He suddenly called out, “Watch out for the gas line!” Rafael had things under control though, and Luke’s time at the wheel was free from disasters of any kind.

What better moving enthusiasm boost could there be for a three-year-old vehicle-loving boy!?!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Luke the bedtime singer

Luke’s bedtime can bring trying power struggles, outlandish childhood fears, and priceless memories. Luke asks a string of questions each night as Erik sings him a few hymns before bed, such as “what inheritance mean?”, “why Jesus fight?”, and “where Jesus?” It’s a precious time to talk to Luke about these things and let him think them through for himself. Luke’s longstanding favorite song is Be Thou My Vision, and he sings it so adorably. A more recent popular request is the old hymn What Wondrous Love in its restful minor key. Tonight a new favorite arose, for Luke and his parents.

Luke: “My song about sinking down, Jesus save us – but different from song you sing Daddy.”

Luke sings: “Jesus died on cross for our sins and I was sinking down and Jesus save us… [pause]… from bumblebees… with big stingers… so we no need to be afraid.”

Luke: “Daddy you know that song?”

Erik: “No, Luke, I don’t know that one. But it’s a very nice song.”

Luke: “Yeah. That my favorite song.”

We love your songs too, Luke!