Vandalism: The Honeymoon Has Ended

I looked forward to today for weeks. Felix didn’t have school, but no longer has a daycare spot. Miles had school. Oren had daycare. It was going to be a Mommy-Feefer adventure day, just the two of us, and we were going to see the Minions movie and eat popcorn for lunch.

I felt it would be just the thing we needed, as my poor middle child is still struggling with this invasive baby in addition to fearing the new house.

So, as we walked out to get in the van and head to our show, the teenager next door shouted to me from the porch, “I’m so sorry.”

As it turns out, this teen is banging a girl. This girl’s ex-boyfriend is enraged at the situation and decided he would demonstrate his feelings by vandalizing my neighbors’ house. He threw some eggs, evidently, threatened the neighbors with a knife and, along the way, slashed our van tires. Because he thought it was the neighbors’ van.

I felt a great many feelings today, but top among them was utter sadness that this golden day with Felix would now be spent in the crucible of police reports and insurance reports. It was a crushing blow to me because I feel like my life is a precarious row of dominos and this event really sent the whole line crumbling.

I called the police, made a report, and waited for roadside assistance to come help me put the donut on the van so I could get the tire replaced in time to gather the other children.

Bless his soul, Felix said we didn’t have to go see Minions. We could find ants and drown them! Or feed leaves to a caterpillar. Or play Zingo! So we did all those things, and then I put him down for nap and tried to quell my panic that, 3 hours later, there was still no donut on the car and I was going to miss the last available appointment to get the tire replaced before Gathering Hour.

I felt all the familiar panic feelings, went through all the phases of problem solving. Could I call Uber and put my car seats in another vehicle? Could I somehow ride my bike? Could I call upon people to at least stay home with some of the kids while I…what?

A new friend stopped at Target and brought us some popcorn as I tried to salvage some more adventure from the day.

Other neighbors implied that I’ve broken a social taboo in involving the police. I actually witnessed an old van drive slowly past, 2 men inside shouting, “That’s just what he needs! To be thrown in jail. God damn, he did slash those fucking tires.”

The parents of the banging-teen came out to wrangle another neighbor to put the donut on my van. They offered me cash for the tire, told me not to call the police. Assured me this punk wouldn’t be back.

The damage is done. I feel unsafe at our house right now, I feel uncomfortable accepting their money for the tire, and I just want to crawl into a hole and hide.

For now, all is well with the van and all boys were retrieved. I’m still really angry that I didn’t get to take my boy to the movies.

Posted by on September 3rd, 2015 No Comments

Ground Hog Chronicles: Chapter 1

Groundhogs infuriate me. I used to not give a crap about them, until the groundhog at the old house ate my entire hydrangea bush I planted in honor of Felix’s birth. I planted it atop his placenta, and so it bloomed brilliant and bright and bountiful. And that varmint ate the entire thing, stems and twigs and leaves and all.

I’m pretty sure the same pig followed me to the new house, where I’ve planted nothing of value, but have seen this massive creature ambling around my back yard.

This Point Breeze Groundhog (PBG) gives absolutely zero shits about me. He made eye contact with me, maintained eye contact, and pooped in the middle of my yard. Like a human toddler marking his territory.

When I told facebook this story, some of my new neighbors urged me to get a trap. Except the city has this whole new procedure where you have to apply for a permit to trap something in your urban yard.

Ok, I filled out the paperwork and awaited my permission. I was not anticipating a phone call, during which a city employee asked me questions like, “And why would you like to trap this groundhog?” I had to pretend he was eating my hostas, because I couldn’t bring myself to tell this dude I needed to beat this groundhog, who’d challenged me with aggressive pooping.

Once I got permission to trap the beast, I decided I’d walk to my new friend’s house to borrow her trap. Except she lives much farther away than anticipated and the trap was about the size of Felix. Probably weighed as much.

I alternated carrying techniques to lug that sucker the half-mile home, and fielded many, many questions along the way. “You trappin’ a raccoon??”

“What you trying to kill?”

“What in the hell is that cage for?”

It was an awkward and interesting way to engage the new neighbors for sure.

This morning, Felix and I set the trap with produce of his choosing: half an apple, 5 grapes, 3 strawberries (sliced, obviously), and a tomato (only slightly bruised).

When Miles got off the bus in the afternoon, he and Felix went to check the trap. Lo, some beast had eaten all the fruit and not tripped the trap.

Until tomorrow, groundhog.

Posted by on September 2nd, 2015 No Comments

A Golden Day

Three very excited and interrelated things happened today.

First, I met a new friend on my street. She has a son Miles’ age and a baby Oren’s age. She lives on our side of the street, so I could conceivably send Miles there solo because there would be no street crossings, and so not only was I excited to meet someone approximately my age on my street, but I feel optimistic about more potential friends for my kiddos.

Right after I left, I learned that the expensive grocery store now offers curbside pickup. This means I can order all of my groceries online and drive to the store, not get anyone out of their carseat, not drag anyone across a parking lot full of maniacs, and not listen to anyone weep while we wait in line to check out. I simply order my groceries online at home while my children play Tegu blocks, drive to the store, and Deyonte brings them out.

He puts them all in the back of my van for me and hands me my receipt through the window, which I don’t have to open all the way if I don’t want to.

I was so excited by everything about this that I forgot to order peaches, which I need to make the peach poundcake I’ve been hankering after. I will admit, I did a fair bit of moping at not having these peaches. I mean, the weather has cooled off. I could conceive of turning on the oven! Alas.

But! Then! My first new neighbor friend texted me to see if I wanted any peaches, as her father brought a peck she couldn’t eat in time. I am back to having neighbors who drop fruit on the doorknob. Golden, juicy peaches.

I whipped up the batter and, while we still have no overhead light in the living room, I’m sitting on my sofa enjoying my Internet while I wait for my pound cake to bake up. Tomorrow, I get to deliver some slices to my new neighbors.

Posted by on August 26th, 2015 2 Comments

The Settling

We’ve decided we’re as unpacked as we are going to be. If it’s not out of a box yet, we probably don’t need it much. So now we just putter around avoiding all the small things necessary to make it a home. We have hung most of the toilet paper holders. We still need a shelf in the lazy-Susan-cabinet, so all the stuff for that cabinet is on the counter.

We’re also meeting the neighbors and getting familiar with neighborhood.

So now we need to settle in to this chapter of our lives. We need to settle on the best route to school. We need to settle back into our jobs. We need to settle in to life with enough space for all of us and room to spare (I just agreed to host 40 people for a potluck to celebrate a visit from the author of this wonderful essay).

This is it. We live here now. There are 5 of us, and we are all settling into our new Team Lev Headquarters. We’ve even settled on a new team name. My father-in-law coined us “Lady McPherson and the Point Breeze Boys.”

Posted by on August 24th, 2015 1 Comment

A Decade of Pittsburgh

Last weekend, after we sold our house, we sneaked out of town to the farm where we got married. My boys ran around the yard where we said our vows. Our rabbi came back and we held a naming ceremony for Oren in Corey’s grandmother’s house, where we signed our ketubah. It was lovely.

And when we got back, we remembered we’ve been in Pittsburgh for 10 years. A decade of living in this place that was once thought to be a stop-over in between “things” in our lives. A rest stop for graduate school.

Now we’re on our second home here, we’ve made 3 little boys here, we’ve dived into the public school system here and joined nonprofit boards and made careers. I mean, Corey has a career and I’m feeling like I have a career, even if it’s small because I’ve made choices around my parenting.

But we can make these sorts of choices here, because Pittsburgh!

When we moved here, Corey felt like I should have a blog. I didn’t even know what blogs were, so he made one for me and wrote the first post. Then, the same day, I wrote my first ever blog post. It was about moving and finding a wonderful building and falling in love with it online.

How true this felt, as I sit at the dining room table in my new house that I knew we’d buy when I saw the pictures online.

Thanks, Pittsburgh, for one decade of awesome. I hope to stick around here for another 2 at least!

Posted by on August 19th, 2015 No Comments

Why I’m Eating Chocolate Squares Today

  1. It’s pouring, pouring, vomiting rain outside and I’m able to see just how badly damaged our downspouts are.
  2. Related to this, I’m standing outside under my children’s Eric Carle umbrella watching the rain pour from the broken downspout right into my basement window wells
  3. I’m profiling a woman who works for WIC in Allegheny County, which means I have to get permission to interview her, which means dealing with multiple layers of administrative offices for social services. And having to re-explain why I’m calling each time. And having to re-spell my name each time.
  4. Yes, L-E-V. No Y. Right. Just 3 letters. I know, it does sound like Love, doesn’t it?
  5. There’s still no electricity in my living room and it’s hot and I just want to turn on the ceiling fan, which I couldn’t do if there was electricity because we weren’t given a remote control for it. 
  6. I have to take all 3 kids for blood tests for lead since we now live in a 120-year-old house and we’re having work done. That’s right. Someone will approach Miles with a needle, and I’m going to have to be in charge of him during this. 
  7. We have basically zero dollars in our checking account today, but provided closing goes well tomorrow we will have tens of thousands of dollars…
  8. The main reason I am eating chocolate squares today is that we close on our house tomorrow. I hope.

Look at that river of inexplicably-soapy water just flowing into my window well and, subsequently, my basement.

Posted by on August 10th, 2015 1 Comment

Settling in the New Hood

Since Monday, we have made the following headway in settling in our new neighborhood:

  • walked to the hippie food store, passing idle construction equipment en route, occupying all my boys for almost an hour
  • made Facebook friends with 2 people living on the new street
  • invited one of these new Facebook friends over for a beer, which…
  • we went to the nearby East End Brewery to get in growler-form
  • walked to/from the spray park
  • met some neighbor kids at the nearby Westinghouse playground, where local kid Josiah tells me there are sometimes parties with hot dogs and mac n cheese
  • greeted old friends who are now close neighbors, and who came bearing another growler of delicious beer

I still feel a little bit like I’m staying in a hotel, but each time I hang a familiar pot on the wall or sleep soundly in my new bed, it feels closer to home.

Closing on the old house is scheduled for Tuesday. I’ll rest easy after that happens…but likely not before!

Posted by on August 9th, 2015 1 Comment

Observations from My Probably-Last Night On My Deck

Despite all my promises not to care if the new owners change things about the house, I’m feeling protective over a text from my realtor that they don’t want the compost bin. I’m afraid this means they are just going to throw their food scraps in the garbage! I’m choosing to remain hopeful that they are A) installing a garbage disposal or B) springing for a barrel-type composter with a crank.

After I got the children to sleep, I climbed up into the garden that’s been reclaimed by the knotweed to dismember the compost bin. It came up from the ground easier than I thought, and I was able to spread the not-composted scraps under the fertile soil. Here’s hoping the remaining egg shells and corn husks disintegrate in the sun before closing. More likely, the knotweed will cover the pile until nobody knows there was once a composter there.

This is one of my last days to live in a house with central air conditioning, so even though the heat has broken and the air feels lovely, I will keep the AC blasting inside and soak it up while I can.

The new rain cap that the buyers asked us to install on the chimney has trapped a large pigeon, which our roofer suggests was probably living in the chimney and inexplicably didn’t fly out during the installation. Our choices are to wait for the pigeon to die in there or hope that Derrick can stop by sometime very soon to try to pry it out.

Window treatments are agonizing to purchase. I stopped at the new house to put sheets on the newly-delivered king sized bed in the master bedroom, and realized the 46-inch wide windows have no coverings. So I went to 3 stores to search for something simple, became paralyzed with indecision, and am now using my deck time to search online for different sorts of shades.

There will never again be a place as serene as this back deck, with a wooded hill across the yard.

I think the bats are mating back here because they are flying around screeching in pairs.

Tonight is a Blue Moon, which my dairy farmer children are pissed they won’t see…except they will see it because they get up early enough in the morning to watch it set. Anyway, so determined was Felix to stay up until dark that I didn’t realize he’d sneaked downstairs, hid under the dining room table to poop in his Jake and the Neverland Pirates Pullup. He scared ten years off my life and is weeping next to me on the deck, searching for the moon like Harold, sans purple crayon.

I wish I had a beer, but I’ve been reluctant to go to the grocery store to buy more things to move to the new house. So instead I have Chambersburg peaches, and it’s just as good.

Posted by on July 31st, 2015 1 Comment

Plumber Texts and Other Strokes

Here, you see water bubbling out from the cracked gutter above my storm drain. On the plus side, the crack makes it super easy for my plumber to access the pipe with his snake! (In the background, you can see the termite-riddled shingles on the mud room)

I’ve almost stopped having strokes each time I talk with contractors at the new house. Almost! It’s just that it’s all SO EXPENSIVE. We have a budget, and the porch not being a death trap after all will really give us some leeway, but let me be the first to tell you there will not be enough leeway for a fantasy kitchen remodel.

Or even to paint the inside of the house.

All the “this and that” requests from the buyers added up, and this morning, I woke up to a text from our new-house-plumber: “I snaked the drain and only got 6 feet. There’s a pretty major problem.”

And then I haven’t been able to reach him ever since! I know he turned the gas back on to the kitchen, so that’s cool, but I have no idea what constitutes major to him and how that compares to what constitutes major to me. In terms of dollar bills.

Corey says this is not stroke worthy because he was only snaking the storm drain. But then he took that sentiment back because there’s so much concrete and so much roof and what the hell would we do with the roof runoff.

I’m not currently working on any writing projects apart from my long-term blogging gig. This is fortunate because I fill all that time on the phone with contractors, insurance agencies, home warranty customer service, and appliance delivery guys.

I’m trying to focus not on the plumber text, but instead on the round piece of wood I snagged from the roofer’s scrap heap at my current house. He was chopping out pieces of the eaves to install vents and I’ve been wanting a piece of this house to carry with me. I’m gonna hang that puppy on the wall at the new house and stare at it lovingly. It can be my focal point when we finally get the estimates for the fireplace bathroom renovation.

Here, you inexplicably see soap bubbling up from the same cracked sewer drain pipe.

Posted by on July 29th, 2015 1 Comment

Dear People Who Will Buy This House:

You’ve asked us to fix a few things in this house, and honestly, I’m glad. The house can use some TLC. It’s looking tatty around the edges, so I’m glad the roof is getting a spruce up and the basement drywall is getting a haircut.

We didn’t mend the porch boards like we should have, but I swear to you I refinished the deck between pregnancies. I couldn’t keep up with the back vegetable garden, but just know that once zucchini plants thrived in that fertile soil. You’ll find playground balls in your yard, tossed down from the elementary school up on the hill. You’ll curse the barking dogs at 5am on the nights you sleep with the windows open.

But you’ll love watching the moon rise through the back bedroom windows or soaking up the sunset with your feet on the rail of the deck.

As we prepare the house for the touch-up work, boxing up all the possessions we’ve gathered as we built our family here, I’m awash with nostalgia for this house and what it’s meant to our family. Corey just took a binocular case from the mantle (there used to be a gilded mirror mounted there, but we pried it down. I think you’ll appreciate that) and shook its contents into a Ziplock bag: tissues printed with $100-bills, a handful of beer-bottle caps, medals from the Kids Marathon, and Matchbox cars. So many Matchbox cars.

If you aren’t careful, new owners, you’ll step on rogue Matchbox cars in the dark as you roam this house.

I remember buying this house, and wrinkling my nose at the holes in the wall where the former owners never mended the damage caused by their baby gates. These holes are still in that doorway. If you look at all the other doorways (and I’m sure you will) you’ll see chunks of paint rubbed off from our pressure gates for our babies.

I wonder if, as you paint the living room a color to suit your tastes, you’ll notice where the wall is scratched from the back of the green chair, where I sat to nurse all three of my boys.

I wonder if you’ll grumble at the deep dent in the wall near the bottom step, where little boys picked at the plaster as they sat in timeout for this infraction or that.

Will you paint over the tire marks on the basement walls, where I learned to carry a bike down the steps, heaved over one shoulder, after I commuted to and from work in Oakland?

This little house was where I learned to be an adult, where we became parents, where I built my freelance career from my seat on the back deck, looking into the woods while the Rose of Sharon bloom.

Beyond these walls and this yard (that’s never quite tended properly), you’ll find the best neighbors you never thought existed. These neighbors will cut your grass when you’re in the hospital and take your garbage out when you leave town. They’ll throw you a farewell party with pancakes, Pop-tarts, and poetry.

These neighbors will bring you plates of home-grown figs and freshly laid eggs. They’ll mulch your flower beds if they’ve got some to spare and they’ll drop frozen broccoli on your porch steps when you have none for dinner.

Of course, it’s not polite for me to leave this letter for you on the counter or tell you all of this at closing. What I’ll probably do is what the former owner did when we closed on this house in 2007. I’ll take your hand and look in your eyes and tell you, “Just enjoy this house. Enjoy it!” Because I know you will. You’ll make it yours and it will feel like home to you.

Posted by on July 26th, 2015 1 Comment