I am now an US, not a ME

Yesterday I set out on a mission.  A full day mission involving five hours in a car, a list of 7 houses and a weight on my shoulders.  But I was going to make it an adventure.  An experience.  A journey.  If nothing else, it would be a day well spent listening to good tunes, on a beautiful day, exploring a town I’d never visited.

Yesterday I set out to the beach towns of Rhode Island to find a house for my family to rent for a week this summer.  The kids were in school.  Tim was at work.  It was up to me.  I decided to bring my mom along to keep me company , keep me from falling asleep, and voice her opinions (when asked) so I could use my HEAD in making a decision.  Not just my heart (which I tend to do with things like this).

I had my list of homes that I had selected from a real estate website after having asked the Twitterverse about their thoughts on the area.  I had my price limit.  I had my criteria in ranked order of importance.  I had Tim’s trust.  I had Hannah’s desires (‘The ONLY thing I care about mommy is that I get a bunk bed.” were the words she left me with yesterday morning as I dropped her at school) in mind.

I was very hopeful as I set out on this two and a half hour road trip that I’d find something perfect (There I go seeking perfection again…).  The pictures on line of the houses that I saw sold me at first glance.  “Ocean front”, “Beachy”, “Sunsets”, “Open Deck” , “Waves crashing at your feet” were words that excited me as I printed out the images for my journey.  But having looked at just under 100 (yes, it was a painful experience) houses before choosing the one I currently live in full time, I was well aware how pictures can be deceiving.  Very deceiving.

The first house I arrived at was a perfect example of deception at its best.  The picture I held in my hand as I drove into the cracked, slanted driveway could barely compare to what stood in front of me.  I wondered at what angle the picture had actually been taken.  And how they were able to edit out the houses on either side of this one that sat mere inches from its walls.  I didn’t even step foot out of the car.  I looked at my mom (who was trying very hard not to show her distaste on her face) and said, “Ok, Moving On!”.

We drove in silence to the next three houses.  Each worse than the last.  Window panes falling out of windows.  Paint chipping from shingles.  Empty beer cans sitting on yards and porches.  Overgrown shrubbery blocking any “view” that may have once been viewable.  I was growing concerned.  Very concerned.  I couldn’t believe I’d be going home with Nothing.  This is our one family vacation we take a year… I had to go home with SOMETHING!

Feeling exasperated, I typed into my GPS the next address on my list.  I heeded Mrs GPS’s directions into a small, quaint neighborhood with Nantucket style homes lining the streets.  I held my breath as the number of the house grew closer and smiled as I saw it up ahead.  I pulled up to the cozy looking shingled home and actually stepped out of my car (for the first time yet).  It was quiet.  And still.  Were those waves I heard crashing?  I smelled salt water. I walked around to the back of the house and saw Just Water. For as far as I could see was the ocean. The back of the house was mostly windows and a large back deck that brought me immediately to sipping a glass of wine while watching the sun set.  There was a small strip of grass before the rock wall where the waves crashed.  I pictured Hannah and Luke kicking a ball back and forth on the grass and eating hot dogs from the charcoal grill that sat by the steps to the deck.  Charcoal. I love the smell of charcoal.

“Ahhhhh….” I said to my mom who also was relishing the view and imagining the happiness that this house could bring ME.  This was what I was looking for.  Serenity.  Beauty. Peacefulness. Vacation.

But.

The house was tiny.  The family room was 1/3 the size of ours at home and the one at home is barely big enough for the four of us to sit and play.  There was no beach right there for the kids to swim in.  We’d have to get into the car and drive a mile to the closest beach.  The rocks at the foot of the property heading down to the ocean could be treacherous.  I’d constantly have to be vigilant to be sure one of my kids wasn’t toppling down the jagged wall. I didn’t feel right not checking out the last three homes on the list.  Even though my heart was set on this one.

The next two homes again were shabby in a not shabby chic sort of way.  Dilapidated. Unattractive. Disrepair.   The cozy house was looking like the best option.  My heart kept telling me so.  And then we pulled up to the last house.  A large Victorian house, not in perfect condition but Not So Bad.  Fine.  Peeling wallpaper and chipped paint in each bedroom could be overlooked.  A crooked stove and dusty couches I could glance over.  There was a huge fenced in yard with whiffle balls strewn about.  A big rubber bouncy ball sat on the steps.  The beach where we could actually swim, was in the far off, barely visible, yet walkable distance.  Sitting on the porch there was no sound of waves crashing.  There would not be a scenic sunset each night as we sipped our cocktails. There weren’t floor to ceiling picture windows overlooking the water.

But.

The house screamed Family.  A place to play and run. A walk to the beach pulling a red wagon filled with beach toys.  A bike ride to the ice cream shoppe. An early morning stroll with coffee in hand to the beach to sit while the kids built a sand castle.  Space inside to build Lego houses and zoom cars and trucks on the hard wood floors. A gas grill to quickly cook up burgers and hot dogs.

My HEAD was telling me THIS was the right house as much as my heart tugged me to the other.  And I realized that this was just another example of how life is about Us now.  The FOUR of us. Not Me.  Not me and Tim.  This was another gentle reminder that the choices I need to make need to be for Us. Not better.  Not worse.  Just different.

My mom and I talked about the two houses for most of the drive back.  The pros.  The cons.  How I “couldn’t go wrong with either”. But I realized I COULD go wrong.  I wouldn’t feel right in the scenic tiny house with the spectacular views if my kids were sitting there wanting something Else.  Something more fun. Something more Right for them.

Hannah asked me last night as I put her to bed to tell her about each house.  I first told her the bad news that the house did not have a bunk bed but quickly moved on to the beach and proximate ice cream shop which seemed to satisfy her.  I told her about the top two choices in detail, letting her feel like she was part of the decision making process.  She seemed to love how they both sounded but what she said in the end sealed my decision.

“You know mommy.  I really don’t care so much about the sunset.  It’s pretty for a minute but then the rest of the day the sky looks the same from any house, right?  We can go see the sunset from somewhere else, right?  I just want to have a beach that Lukey and I can play on.  Playing is what matters.”

Well said, Hannah.  Well said.

Note: I hope this post doesn’t come off that I’m ungrateful for renting a house this summer.  I’m thrilled that we are able to go ANYWHERE for vacation, and either house would be amazing… but it did strike me that the decision making process is so different now that we are an entity of four, not two.

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “I am now an US, not a ME

  1. Your story reminds me of an old Berenstain Bears book – the one where they search and search for the perfect picnic spot. I’m glad you found your spot. And Hannah’s right. Playing is definitely what matters most!

  2. Oh, a beach vacation! What a delight. Making the best decision for your family will be so much more satisfying in the end, though it is sort of a startling revelation. I hope the four of you enjoy the ice cream, the hot dogs, the sand between your toes, and your time together as “us.”

  3. I think the metaphors you draw in here are beautiful.

    Looks can be deceiving (at least pictures).

    Sometimes the “cutest” is not the most family friendly.

    The sunsets are perfect for adults, but not as delightful for children.

    Your agenda to remember the “us” part not the “me” part. I think this is the most important lesson.

  4. Becca,
    The best house will be the one in which the memories will be made. It is not a permanent residence, the sky will look the same for every minute before and after the sunset. But what WILL matter is if you have enough room to move around, there is ample play space…

    Happy you have narrowed it down to two…even though you are now four!!

  5. It took us a year (almost exactly to the day) to find the right house to buy, so I very much understand the pain you’re talking about in perusing those 100 homes. And seven for a summer rental? I’d do it.

    It is so hard to make the decision for US vs. ME. We saw a gorgeous townhome that would have been lovely for just me and D (we loved the craftsmanship, the high-end kitchen, the great layout for entertaining friends). But I couldn’t imagine raising kids there — no indoor play space at all, and nothing but the townhome parking lot near a very busy intersection for outdoor activities. Sigh …

  6. Nicki

    Way to go, Becca! Great find and, if I had the money and the time, I would come rent the smaller one for the week – just me – and you could come visit me one night. 😉

  7. “Playing is what matters.” I love it! So true.

  8. I get it!

    The place that we find houses to rent (the 2 times that we have) is home away. Not spammy! I love this site! you enter what you want and go to town. http://www.homeaway.com/?cid=E_Orlando_IB_T_20100323_Logo_Image_LGG

    • I actually used them! They had a fabulous selection of homes and made it so easy. Thanks so much for sending this along… I’m glad I’m not the only one to shop for houses on line!

  9. We go to California for a week each summer and rent a place and, just like yours, our kids are all about the beach. My husband, even, becomes a goofy dolphin as well.

    But we know when something doesn’t fit. We tried to change cities last year and all of us felt out of sorts. We switched back to our usual spot as soon as we could and all of US (it’s like one blob of a mind now!) heaved a sigh of relief.

    • All I want is to breathe a sigh of relief when we pull up to the house. I want the family to get out of the car and say, Ahhhh… this is just what we need! I think the house I chose will be just that… at least I hope so!

  10. 5kidswdisabilities

    Especially on vacation, when you have wet clothes, sandy feet and beach toys everywhere, you want to have a house that is comfortable. A tiny house would fill up with “stuff” pretty quickly!!!!
    Lindsey Petersen
    http://5kidswdisabilities.wordpress.com

  11. I’m glad you ended up finding a house you liked! It really can be hit or miss! Just curious where you finally decided on. Like I said before our family has a timeshare in Misquamicut and it is a townhouse but it is right on the beach and we love it.

    It is funny what you have to consider once you have kids. We went to Montreal and had to get a suite so we didn’t have to sit in the dark at 730 when the boy went to bed! Things change but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

    • I wanted so badly to find a place in Misquamacut. So beautiful there but there were so few houses to choose from. sooo… We we’ll be in crowded Narragansett. We’ll be there the very end of August so I’m hoping it won’t be quite as busy as July. I’m happy that there is so much to do in walking distance and the beach is beautiful.

      The kids should love it and really, that’s what matters!!

      Sent from my iPhone

  12. I was feeling that ocean breeze as I read your post and thought…oh I want to do that too! Alas it’s not in the cards for us this summer since we just had a family vacation to Floriday in January. However, what I would say is that I know exactly what you mean about having to do a new kind of thinking when it comes to these things. It was just the kind of thinking we didn’t do when we went to Florida. Our vacation turned out okay…but the biggest mistake we made was allowing my parents who travelled with us to choose the location of our condo. They had no desire to be in Orlando, according to them there was nothing to do. So we ended up more than an hour out of Orlando and had to schlep the kids for more than an hour each way whenever we wanted to go in. BIG mistake. I won’t allow that to happen again.

    I’ll be thinking of you guys on your vacation, enjoying the sunrise and sunset, and living the beautiful family picture. So nice!

  13. You are a good mom…you’ll have a wonderful vacation there. Enjoy.

    Alex aka Ma What’s For Dinner
    http://www.mawhats4dinner.com

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