Finally Five

Charlie turns five years old today. Yesterday, he was only four, a BABY. Today he is five, Imminent Kindergartner.

Portrait of the young man as a birthday boy.

Portrait of a Young Man as the birthday boy.

Incidentally, it was Haircut Day on Easter (isn’t that how you celebrate?) and Charlie surprised us when he asked for a close cut. He has had long hair for a year or so – mostly because he was terrified of the buzzing noise the clippers made and refused anything more than my Edward Scissorhands-like approach to trimming his hair. However, seeing as he was almost five, he hiked up his big boy pants and asked for short hair when I plopped him in the chair. We had grown attached to Charlie’s long locks but after a consultation with Bob, who said it was Charlie’s call to make, I fired up the clippers and got to work. The very next day, Charlie came down with a mysterious high fever that has kind of put a damper on his birthday week. Naturally, Bob and I are assuming Charlie’s long hair gave him some sort of Samson-esque power, like immunity to illness, and now that his hair is gone, he has succumbed to more mundane problems.

Now, for a few things that Charlie, at five years old, enjoys:

1. Doc McStuffins. For awhile, we thought Sofia the First would usurp Doc McStuffins in the race for Charlie’s attention span and brain matter but Doc has maintained the top spot for several months now.

2. Engaging anyone that has time for a chat. When Charlie has exhausted our patience with detailed stories of farms and farming equipment, he moves on to absolutely everyone else. Walking your dog? Enjoying dinner out? Working the counter at the hardware store? You are all fair game. Yesterday, I explained kindly to the family next door just trying to mulch their flower beds that when they tire of Charlie’s elaborate discussions about tractors and Gators and combines, they could simply ask him to stop. Everyone is extremely patient, even when I can tell they’re devising an exit strategy in their head.

3. Lego bricks. But Charlie is only a fan when his older brother is playing with them. Charlie is also fond of anything Millie is playing with. The competition runs deep between those two.

4. Strawberries. I’m not sure Charlie will survive this spring strawberry season without turning into one giant berry. He finds them utterly delicious and will eat an entire cereal bowl’s worth for dinner.

5. Shooter guns. There was a point and time when Bob and I at least feigned concern that the kids were fascinated with weaponry. No longer. I believe some kids are born with the innate desire to pretend to shoot things. Charlie owns a few Nerf guns and a couple of old-timey style muskets and pistols. They are all over the house therefore, my main reason for despising our home’s gun culture is because I repeatedly trip over them.

6. Driving. Charlie has a natural affinity for driving and maneuvering. We noticed this when he quickly mastered navigating his play Gator in and around the house and garage. Bob has begun letting him steer when they park the car after work and Charlie just thinks it is the coolest thing EVER. And, the kid has skills.

7. Watching John Deere videos on YouTube. He could do this for hours. This requires supervision though, as some of the tractor-themed videos on that site can quickly veer off in other directions (read: women in bikinis).

Now, for something that Charlie, at five years old, doesn’t enjoy:

1. Anything related to school or writing or coloring or markers or drawing or reading or scissors or acknowledging in any way that school is going to happen this fall whether he likes it or not and his days of unschooled loitering outside will come to an end.

For the longest time, Bob and I have talked about how Charlie seems to be taking his time maturing. He was a lazy walker, a delayed talker, a late independent potty-er. Everything in his own time, on his own schedule. As the middle child, he seemed to cling to his status as “little guy,” never fully relinquishing the title of baby to Millie. Now, with a crisp haircut and the purchase of some sneakers that actually fit his feet, we went from toddler to BOY all in one day.

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Congratulations, Charlie, on turning five. You’re a whole hand now!

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Seasons

I received the call from Bob late the night before. His dad had died. He was gone. Just everyone heartbroken.

I stayed up well past midnight looking at family photos and crying for the loss.

When the boys, who had wandered into my bed sometime in the wee hours of the morning woke me with their low talk and giggles, my mind immediately went to the news. I looked over at the two of them and told them what had happened. That their Grandpa had passed away.

Henry’s brow knotted in concern. He knew why Bob had been out of town and he knew this was expected.

Charlie was confused. He sat straight up in bed, all tousled hair and sleepy eyes, and asked with the earnestness of a four-year-old trying to understand something that he cannot, “Is it the end of him?”

“Is it, mom? Is it the end of him?”

My words, a jumble of pre-coffee cloudiness, struggled to explain. Yes, the end but no, no, not the end at all.

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Oh, Charlie. Your grandfather is a part of you on some cellular level that is beyond my comprehension.

Every time you pine to be outdoors, it is not the end of him.

Every time I find you laying on the grass, just staring at the sky, it is not the end of him.

Every time you collect kindling around our house for the fire pit, it is not the end of him.

Every time you dip your fishing pole in the pond, it is not the end of him.

Every time the natural world brings you endless joy and wonderment, it is not the end of him.

When you are kind. When you are deliberate. When you love. When you laugh. When you just exist. It is never the end of him.

Small Space Embrace

Once we had decided on the general location where we wished to relocate, Bob and I had two main requirements during our new house search: a basement and a garage. Our previous homes lacked these two features and we were eager to experience the joy of pulling into a specialized parking space attached to our own home while in the middle of a driving rainstorm. And, we were desperate for a space where the kids could be sent when the sheer volume of their existence made me want to punch a unicorn (more specifically, the 30 minutes prior to dinner).

We also really wanted a home that felt cozy. We missed the smaller spaces and little nooks and crannies of our first house in Alexandria. But, we needed actual full-size closets to go along with all that character. Our Richmond house had storage to spare but it’s large size was a lot for us to maintain and keep clean. Plus, I was always losing the kids or yelling up the stairs or across the entire length of the house. Some of the rooms went mostly unused. We needed the best features of the two homes – coziness and closet space – combined into one house plopped on top of a basement with a garage attached.

In addition, we had a whole entire separate wish list of things that would be nice: a screened-in porch (bugs – so many bugs in the South), first floor master (trying to think practical and long-term which just proves we’re getting older), a gas fireplace (Bob is scared of indoor fire) and, lastly, we were really hoping for a nice open view since the mountains are one of the reasons we zeroed in on this area to begin with. All of these things would be nice, we thought, but since we’re easily swayed, none of them were deal breakers.

We’re still amazed that we found a home that checked everything off our wish list(s) and then some.

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At about 1,800 square feet, the new house is definitely cozy but with an unfinished basement of roughly the same size, it easily holds all of our stuff. It is light and bright on the inside thanks to an abundance of windows and we love, love most everything about it.

Bob and I decided, well before moving day, that we were going to take six months to just clear and clean the home (C & C because we cannot do anything around here without naming our efforts). We are a bit weary of major home improvement projects and since this home is in such good shape to begin with, we’re going to take our time and spend our first few months in the house enjoying the scenery without feeling rushed to make big changes.

The only exception to that rule may be painting. The entire house needs to be repainted since there is an awful lot of faux finishes and strong color choices working against us currently. And, the trim and doors throughout are ivory so if you have any suggestions about what works with cream-colored woodwork, we’d be happy to hear it.

(All of the following pictures were taken on closing day and shortly after we had dumped the contents of our two cars throughout the house.)

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The kitchen is a great size and sits at the front of the house which I really like since it captures the views from the large bay window where we’ve placed a small table. I don’t love the cabinets but they’re in good shape and have some really nice built-in features. The appliances are in excellent condition and the only plans we have for this space in the short-term are to remove the too-low microwave and replace it with a standard vent, switch out the faucet for one that I can actually fit a pot underneath and to paint the dark red, rag-rolled walls.

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Off of the kitchen and foyer sits the combination dining room/living room. More faux painting adorns the walls in this room but with french doors that lead to the big screened-in porch, I’m willing to overlook them for a bit. There is also a column/room divider thing (I’m not even sure what to call it) that we confirmed with the previous homeowner is decorative and not structural. It needs to come down. It’s… odd and visually makes the dining area seem huge while limiting the furniture placement on the living room side. Naturally, it’s also faux painted. My parents are visiting this month and I have a feeling my Dad would be delighted to get to demolish something.

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There is one central hallway that leads to the bedrooms and which also contains a super convenient laundry closet. The kid’s bedrooms are on the small side so furniture placement has been tricky. The previous owner had a third bathroom rough-plumbed in the basement when the home was built so we envision eventually finishing off that space with another bedroom, bath and family room.

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Millie’s room has three large windows that catch the morning sun coming over the mountains.

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Our master is generous in size and came equipped with a headboard and faux-leather-looking wallpaper! Awesome! However, it also has a completely renovated bathroom with a great walk-in shower and fancy heated floors (that we never turn on). It accommodates my desk perfectly since I don’t have a dedicated office in this home. It’s very cozy and after having hardwood floors throughout virtually every room in our Richmond house, I definitely prefer carpet in the sleeping spaces. It’s just softer both visually and underfoot.

This house has so much potential and we get excited talking about opening the wall between the kitchen and dining area or running rough-hewn beams across the cathedral ceiling in the living room or replacing the vinyl siding with a lovely, soft yellow HardiPlank but it’s also the first house that we’ve lived in that we haven’t felt like we need to do all of that all at once. We’re too busy right now enjoying the view.

This morning's sunrise.

This morning’s sunrise.