Funky, but just over 1,900 square feet and in your dream neighborhood.
I am co-working with my husband at our favorite local restaurant snacking on sliders and french fries. Once a month our church hosts Parents Night Out, which gives us four hours of childcare on a Saturday for a mere $15 per kid. (I don’t know about you, but we never turn down cheap babysitting.) I nudge Brett with my elbow, skimming the rest of the e-mail.
“House alert from Libby,” I say, dipping another fry in ketchup.
I click on the link, curious what “funky” means. Aha. The bathroom is pink, the ceilings are made of tile, and there is a toaster—an actual toaster—built into the wall of the kitchen. The latest episode of This Is Us flashes through my mind.
Nevertheless, some selling points worth mentioning: a backyard the size of a small soccer field, a living room with giant windows, good-sized closets in all the bedrooms, and did I mention the backyard?
Our eyes twinkle as we scroll. Could this be our Cinderella house? A pumpkin waiting to be transformed?
We want to see it! I type back, grabbing a few more fries.
We pull up five minutes before the open house starts with tamed hair and brushed teeth, cautioning our kids to behave themselves. Be good listeners! Do not run or jump or scream or touch ANYTHING.
The realtor pulls up to the house the exact same minute as us and I feel awkwardly overeager. Is it even appropriate to show up early to an open house? Does this read as passionately interested or annoyingly aggressive?
I offer my biggest smile and apologize for being early.
“We have tee ball at 3,” I explain.
Her eyes light up at the mention of tee ball and I work that angle for a few minutes. Yes, tee ball, this is Everett, mmm-hmm, we’re just your average darling family, are you falling in love with us yet?
“Well, let me show you the house! It needs a LOT of work,” she warns, fiddling with the lock box.
We brace ourselves, and step inside.
We make an offer slightly over asking. My husband and I stir all day, sending anxious texts back and forth. Do you think we’ll get it? I try to stay busy but can’t seem to stop myself from pinning paint colors and flooring options to my secret ‘Dream House’ board on Pinterest. I’m already too attached.
Later that evening, we learn there is another interested buyer, but no formal offer has been made. Yet. Our realtor texts and suggests we write a letter. My husband smiles at me and winks, “You better get to work.”
Taking a deep breath, I grab a handful of chocolate chips, light the candle next to my bed, open my laptop, and begin.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to put an offer on your beautiful home. When my husband and I stopped by the open house yesterday, our two boys went straight for the backyard to look for rocks and sticks. They make themselves at home anywhere, as most five and three-year-olds do.
We’ve had our eye on this neighborhood for a long time, but all of the homes that have popped up for sale have either been too small for our growing family, or way out of our price range. This house, your house, is our Goldilocks home.
The back bedrooms are a generous size—one for our boys to share, and the other for (hopefully!) one more baby some day. The light in that front bedroom is so beautiful, and I already know where I’ll put my beloved rocking chair.
I'd love to tell you a bit about us.
Everett is five and loves to build things—tracks, dominos, legos—you name it, he loves to put it together. We call him our little engineer. Carson is three and loves hot wheels, but can usually be found wherever Everett is. They love to play outside, ride bikes, kick their soccer balls around, and jump on the trampoline. I can already picture them in this new spacious backyard: running free, playing catch, swinging from a tire swing, and throwing water balloons in the summertime.
My husband Brett works for a ministry as a software developer. He commutes 40 minutes to and from work every day but we live in Sacramento because we love the city so much. Our community is here, our friends are here, our church is here. I work from home as a writer, and one of my favorite parts about this house is that little nook next to the sliding glass door in the master bedroom. Right now there’s a sink in that spot, but I’d like to swap it out with a desk. I could write in the afternoons with the sun streaming in—one eye on my stories and one eye on my boys.
In the city of Newark, California, there is a small house on a street called Wingate Place. On the right side of the house, if you look very closely next to the fence, there are handprints in the cement. My handprints. I lived in that house from the time I was nine months old to 12 years old. I remember on Christmas mornings my parents used to put a baby gate at the top of the stairs to stop my brother and me from coming down too early to see our presents before they had set up the video camera. I remember my tiny bedroom, my desk, my American Girl book collection, and how I used to sit curled up in my bed writing fan mail to Leonardo DiCaprio (he never wrote back, in case you were wondering). I remember dinners at the kitchen table and sleepovers with my best friend in the living room. But most of all: I remember how I felt in that house—safe, secure, and loved.
Everyone knows a house doesn’t make a family. Love makes a family. And what I want you to know about our family is that we are a family of love.
For the past four and a half years, we’ve been living in a rental that we’ve come to love as our own. We moved into this house when I was six months pregnant, and it’s the only house that Carson knows. This is where he learned to walk, and where his big brother learned how to ride a bike. If these walls could talk, they’d play a soundtrack of tiny feet running up and down the hallways, late night giggles between brothers in their bunk beds, and thousands upon thousands of apologies and I love you’s.
We will be sad to leave the house we’re renting now, but make no mistake: we’re ready to love a house we can call our own. We’re ready to settle down, put roots in the ground, and build a life where our kids can feel safe, secure, and loved for a very very very long time.
We’re ready to put tiny handprints in the cement.
We hope we get the chance.
Ashlee, Brett, Everett, Carson, and (we hope! someday!) future baby #3
“Can I watch George?” Carson squeaks as we walk in the door. One drop-off down; one to go. I have exactly 50 minutes to shower, get dressed, get my three-year-old dressed, and get back out the door. A box of Valentines on the kitchen counter catches my eye while I pour Cheerios into a cup.
Is the Valentine’s party today?! Crap.
I turn on Curious George, place the cup of Cheerios in Carson’s lap, and grab the box of Valentines. Upon further inspection, I realize the $3 store bought Valentines require assembly. The cards need to be torn apart, scented tattoos placed carefully in the insets, and then topped off with a heart sticker. I roll my eyes to nobody and start signing Carson’s name in messy cursive, not even bothering to pretend he had anything to do with it.
Four valentines in, my phone buzzes on the table. I slide my finger across and hit speakerphone.
“Hello?” I say, tearing another sheet of cards.
“Congratulations! You got the house!” I hear on the other line.
I drop the cards and stand up in disbelief. We got the house? With our first offer? In THAT neighborhood? A million questions swirl in my brain. When will we get the keys? Could we put a treehouse in the backyard? How big of a fire hazard is the toaster in the wall?
Libby tells me what comes next—inspections, paperwork, blah blah blah. I am only half listening. I can’t believe it.
“Do you have any other questions?” she asks.
I replay the last four days in my head.
“Just one,” I say, “Did the letter make a difference?”
She laughs and briefly pauses, “Absolutely—the letter sealed the deal.”
I hang up, smiling, and go right back to assembling valentines, scribbling Carson's name on tiny Paw Patrol tattoos, day dreaming about where we'll put handprints in the cement.