The Home We Live In

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By Aimee Tafreshi

Today was a momentous day. Today we closed on a house in Midland, Texas. Now, if you know anything about the housing market in Midland, you would know this is an enormous feat. But if you are not familiar with this area known as the Permian Basin, please let me fill you in. The rents here rival San Francisco’s, and it’s not because of the panoramic views of trash blowing along the highway or the smell of carbon emissions from the jacked up trucks clogging the roads. This flat and desert-like area in West Texas is in the midst of a huge oil boom, bringing workers in every day from places like Canada, Louisiana or in our case, Amelia Island, Florida.

Our family’s road to home ownership in Midland was a rocky one. The first hurdle was to sell our home in Florida. When we first listed our home for sale in the early summer, I assumed the house would sell in about a week. According to our realtor, our house was priced to sell, and we agreed with her assessment. When we bought our family home in 2013—the first home my husband and I had ever purchased—Florida’s real estate market was still recovering from the Great Recession. The house had been sitting as a spec home for about a year and was within our modest budget. After being a seasoned student of real estate prices in my hometown of Austin, we jumped on the purchase price and were newly minted homeowners.

The two-story, stucco home on Amelia Island sat in a quaint neighborhood of exactly three streets. The house with its porch and columns resembled a Craftsman style home with a Florida vibe. It was perfect for our then family of five—the updated kitchen opened up to the family room, which contained high ceilings and a sliding glass door to the patio and backyard. A separate living area greeted guests upon entry into the house, which later became a quiet spot to work, read a book on the couch or host a relative on the pull-out sofa. I jokingly referred to the front room as the “blue room,” with its soothing ocean-hued couch and abstract paintings decorating the walls.

Our master bedroom was situated downstairs, while the three secondary bedrooms were upstairs with a loft in the middle, which served as an additional living room for the kids. (This play area usually bought us a little more sleep in the morning pre-twins). When we moved into the home, it was the summer of 2013, and our youngest had just turned one. We also had a two-year-old son and rising kindergartener. We were in the toddler/young children years, and my husband Alex was about to start a grueling sea tour in the Navy. My daughter attended her first day of kindergarten at the local elementary school as we were moving in, and we found a great Mother’s Day Out program for the boys. The pristine beach and local YMCA were a short bike ride away.

We spent five years in that wonderful home, the most time I have ever spent in one house in my life. During that period, Alex had several months’ long deployments. We visited Disney World for the first time ever. We welcomed two rescue dogs to our family, Faith the German Shepherd and Dolly the Great Dane mix. Our kindergartner grew up into a rising fifth grader, with long limbs and glasses, but maintaining her red hair and creativity. And our youngest baby graduated from Pre-K (twice!) and was finally ready to begin his own kindergarten journey. In our last year in the house, we brought home boy/girl twins, the first babies of ours not born on Texas soil. Our oldest football-loving son was convinced they were destined to be Florida Gators. Our daughter helpfully suggested, “Let’s just tell them they were born in Texas.”

After five years in the same spot, we knew most neighbors and celebrated various birthdays and some holidays together. When the twins were newborns, they pitched in to help with driving the older kids and walking them to and from the bus stop. Our extended families were thousands of miles away, but we had created our very own village in Florida.

As we made the difficult decision for Alex to leave the submarine force after 12 years of service, I was torn between wanting to stay on Amelia Island or return home to Texas. He job hunted in both areas, as well as the Southeast, and I mentally prepared myself that the odds of staying on our little island were slim. On the occasional night out, filled with merriment and a little booze, I was fond of declaring, “I’m never leaving the island!” Many came to our little island for a slower way of life; few left it willingly.

As the final months elapsed, we tackled some fun things on what I thought of as my Florida bucket list. Alex surprised me with a trip to swim with the manatees at Crystal River for my fortieth birthday, an excursion I had coveted before I ever lived in the Sunshine State. My daughter and I explored the (man-made) tropical paradise Discovery Cove to celebrate her tenth birthday and swam with a dolphin. We never did make it to the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot, the Florida Keys or the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, which boasts live mermaid shows.

When we decided on a job offer in Midland, and the “For Sale” sign went up in the yard, I remember thinking that one day, this would be the house that we “used to live in.” We would drive by and say to the children, “Look, we used to live there.” My present was about to become my past, and the thought made me sad and nostalgic. Change is hard and also reminds us that our time on earth is fleeting and impermanent. During my evening walks with the dogs, I would take in the dense trees, circling hawks, lizards scampering on the sidewalks and honking geese dining on the field behind our fence. I know now that Midland does have some trees and nature but Florida is exploding with natural beauty.

When it was finally time to leave, our chaotic departure felt like a surreal break-up with little closure. A few days before vacating our home, we celebrated my son’s sixth birthday with my in-laws at their rented beach condo, and then the twins’ first birthday at our favorite Mexican restaurant where they always treated us like family. While the movers packed and loaded, we stayed at a VRBO property near the beach, where we walked on the shore for the last time. I wondered when I would walk on the beach again. I took in the constantly churning water, the soft sand, the thousands of little shells, the carefree feelings of my children. They had no idea what the future held. The innocence of children is perhaps a great coping mechanism. It is not their job to worry about moving logistics and real estate. They simply live in the moment, enjoying the experience only for what it’s worth.

We barely had time to say goodbye to our friends, neighbors or church, where we were baptized as adults. And our house hadn’t sold yet. Alex reassured me, when a family looks at our home, they will make an offer. The current crop of retirees scheduling showings didn’t appreciate the stairs or proximity to schools, but we knew a family would.

When we finally arrived in Midland after a very dramatic cross-country drive, involving an unexpected pit stop in New Orleans, we were fortunate to stay in a corporate rental, a new construction home in a booming neighborhood filled with young families following the smell of oil.

Fast forward to today, and we have now spent four months in the temporary house about half the size of our old one. We are all sharing rooms, and most of our worldly possessions sit in storage. A family of five finally checked out our house in Florida, and they jumped on it. From the looks of their Facebook posts (I’m not stalking them, I swear! We have a friend in common, so I happened upon it in my Newsfeed), they look ecstatic in their photos, holding up a picture of their new home, the house we used to live in.

And in the crazy real estate market they call Midland, we found a house of our own. After months of searching and losing out on listings, we were finally in a position to buy. As of today, we are the proud owners of a sprawling ranch style home in an established neighborhood with mature trees. In Florida, we took trees for granted; here, one is lucky to own a single tree; the newer neighborhoods boast beds of multi-colored pebbles. Walking through our new home over the past month to figure out tile backsplash and paint colors, I felt a sense of excitement and hope as I watched my now young toddlers walk briskly in circles around the house and shut themselves into bedrooms. The bigger kids excitedly picked out their new bedrooms and weighed in on wall colors. I noticed the Halloween and then Thanksgiving and now Christmas decorations adorning our future neighbors’ front lawns. Baby swings suspended from tree limbs dot the street.

I miss our curated village and house on Amelia Island. And I hope our old neighbors let us tag along to the annual Food & Wine Festival next year (hint, hint). But I’m ready to turn the Midland house into the home we live in.

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The Daily Six: November 9th

Kids Clothes

$19.99 and Under at Gymboree

Holly Dress– $16.99 Perfect for the Holiday Season

 

Shop all Gymboree sale here.

Mama’s Wardrobe

Nordstrom Fall Clearance

Pair with skinnies and booties (or sneakers) for an easy fall look. This tiered long sleeve tee by Caslon is on sale for $23! Comes in a variety of colors.

 

Shop Nordstrom Fall Clearance here.

Baby Gear

LILLEbaby Early Black Friday Sale

Up to 50% Off Select Ring Slings and All Season Carriers

  

Shop LILLEbaby sale here.

For the Home

25% Off Entire Store at Kirkland’s

Cozy up by your glowing fireplace all day long with this Red and White Snowflake Sweater Throw! You will love the woven texture of this lovely blanket.

 

Toys

Design & Build Water Blocks– $19.99

Turn any water play area into the perfect space for creative building!

Wildcard

Buy 1, Give 1 at Zulily

Do some good while you shop this holiday season. Click banner for link.

 

 

Happy Shopping!!

*This post contains affiliate links*

The Daily Six: November 8th

I am a mom who wants it all. I want my house to be beautifully decorated (so that my kids can destroy it- ha!). I want to feel good in the clothes that I wear and I want to feel good about what my kids wear to school everyday, too. I want nice makeup, though I rarely have time to put it on, and I want all of the best baby gear so that my baby will thrive.

The caveat of course is that I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg purchasing all of these things, so I love to find a good deal. I spend more time than I should hunting for sales and my inbox is overflowing with promo emails from almost every retailer you can imagine. So why not share my passion for a good deal with fellow mamas? Below you will find my top picks for today! This post contains affiliate links.

Kids Clothes

25% Off Nike at JCPenney

My boys LIVE in Nike and Under Armour… These pants sets are perfect for fall and winter!

nike pant set   

Shop all Nike boy here.

Mama’s Wardrobe

40% Off with Promo Code WORKIT at Loft

I am loving these Mixed Media Shirttail Tees & Sweaters for my postpartum bod. They are flattering, forgiving, and oh so cute!

    

Shop all Mixed Media Shirttail Tees & Sweaters here.

Baby Gear

DOCKATOT DELUXE+ DOCK for $138.75 (normally $185)

Meet the game changer in infant & toddler comfort!

For the Home

25% Off Entire Store at Kirkland’s with code VETSDAY

A unique twist on the traditional holiday wreath

  

Toys

Krate and Kids Ikat Playhouse- Sale $89.40 reg. $149.00

This sturdy white playhouse will provide the perfect foundation for any kid’s imaginary adventures.

 

Wildcard

Kohl’s- 40% Off Matching Family PJS

Happy holidays! Share laughter and love with your matching family in these Jammies For Your Families matching pajamas.

Shop all matching pajama sets here.

Happy Shopping!!

 

Fall Traditions, Old and New

By Aimee Tafreshi

In August, my family made a cross-country move from a beautiful, pristine island in the northeast corner of Florida to the wide open, dusty spaces of West Texas. We arrived just in time for the beginning of the new school year and hurriedly ordered school uniforms and supplies as our first order of business. Still living in a corporate rental with most of our worldly belongings in storage, we took a triage approach to life, prioritizing the creation of a sense of normalcy while in housing limbo.

When we arrived in Midland, my husband relished the zero humidity heat. He is one of those people who will proclaim that 114 degrees isn’t so bad without the added moisture in the air. While I am inclined to agree, I felt slightly nostalgic for the muggy dampness of the usual southeastern and Central Texas summer and complained that the sun felt more intense here, amplified by the lack of trees.

When we face transitions in life, the world goes on with business as usual; the sun still rises and sets, and the seasons change. It was with some excited anticipation that I awaited the first cold spell in Midland and realized that none of our five children had appropriate winter gear, or even as much as a windbreaker. During our hasty exit from Florida, there was not enough room on the U-Haul for our winter clothes, so they were relegated to storage. Sadly, I didn’t even pack a pair of fall boots, which for any woman who cares much about footwear, is a major fashion dilemma. We might be able to wear socks with flip flops during a “Florida winter,” but here in Midland’s more desert-like climate, it actually gets cold.

As I counted down the days until the temperature would dip into the 30s, I convinced my more fiscally conservative spouse that a shopping trip for fall attire was in order. An upside to living in a larger city is better access to shopping. There isn’t a Nordstrom, but there is a Dillard’s, Old Navy and Banana Republic (Outlet). On Amelia Island, I had to drive over an hour to visit a mall. As I presently walked into various retail stores, I felt overwhelmed by the choices and sheer abundance of clothes. I promptly got over that feeling and put a big dent in my budget at Carter’s and Gymboree so my kids wouldn’t freeze in the unfettered winds of West Texas.

As the cooler temps arrived, I began to feel happiness again. Fall is my favorite time of the year, and it’s not because Starbucks was now offering pumpkin spiced lattes. I love the feel of the breeze on my arms before it’s too cold to wear a t-shirt. Autumn also happily coincides with football season, the perfect excuse to veg out all day Saturday with Game Day and the best match-ups. (Who are we kidding?—we have 5 kids!—but we watch what we can. We’ve managed to turn one into a football fanatic and are working on the others.) My husband and I have taken turns at the local fields watching our 8-year-old son experience his own “Friday Night Lights” during his flag football games. I love just sitting and watching, pausing from life to take a breath and let someone else do the running around.

We’ve also explored the local family-run farm—they seem to have these all over America judging from my friends’ Facebook feeds—where the kids cheer on piglets as they race, play tug of war and roll down the field in a big barrel. There’s something refreshing and freeing about letting your kids run loose on a big tract of land with old-fashioned entertainment, no charger required. We have visited this agricultural wonder three times now and have enjoyed different experiences each visit. My favorite new memory is probably seeing my kindergartner fly down a metal slide sitting on a burlap sack with a look of half terror and half exhilaration on his face. (I had to explain what “burlap” is.) I loved that I could set my 15-month-old twins down and not worry about lack of child proofing or them getting into trouble. Hay, dirt and grass are good for the soul.

This past week was a great example of new traditions paired with some old ones. The week didn’t start off with the highest expectations. I found out my husband would be away on business for the week of Halloween. For some people, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But for me, Halloween is one of my top three holidays. The image in my head of the whole fam dressed up as The Incredibles instantly went poof. (We would have been in good company with the fifty percent of American families who dressed up as this brood of superheroes.)

Not one to be deterred, I gamely took the kids to a pop-up Halloween store where they picked out non-coordinating costumes including a character from Harry Potter (I couldn’t tell you her name if I tried) and Dracula (I sadly noted that a duplicate vampire costume collected dust in storage). My oldest son and I originally had big plans for him to dress as a “Zombie businessman,” one of those original ideas that sounds easy until you realize it will take one to two trips to thrift stores, the effort of deconstructing the second-hand clothes into zombie threads and the artful application of make-up (or face paint, as I tell my boys) to achieve the desired ghoulish effect. I love nothing more than playing with face paint, but two lurking toddlers would likely thwart my artistic efforts. So we dialed it in and decided for my second grader to channel Dallas Cowboys’ player Dak Prescott, a costume choice that would require minimal time and effort. I silently thanked my son for choosing this slacker option. A more ambitious mom would have at least zombie-fied the quarterback.

With not enough time (or the desire to spend one hundred more dollars), I forwent the Etsy option for the twins and found some cute Bert and Ernie costumes on Amazon. When the day arrived, I realized that I absolutely couldn’t go as myself, as scary as that would be, so I headed to Party City at 8 a.m. and found a budget-friendly witch costume in the young at heart but, let’s face it, middle-aged, soccer mom section. And of course, I needed an authentic looking broom stick (every mom should own one—how did I not have one?), witchy head piece, ‘90s style Goth black choker and classy spider web tights to complete the look. We were finally ready to make our Halloween debut in Midland.

Unfortunately, the perfect mix of summer sunshine and autumnal breeze dancing around earlier in the week made way for its ugly cousin: cold, rainy and dreary. It was Mother Nature’s cruel Halloween parlor trick. When we headed out the door, the thermometer showed 48 degrees, and we lacked layers, outerwear, and most importantly, common sense. After all the work that poured into costuming multiple kiddos, taking bad photos and the resulting EF5 devastation in our too-small temporary home, there was no turning back. As we rounded the block, the babies were too cold to cry, reduced to a look of shock. My timid Dracula deadpanned to an adult, “I want to eat you,” a slight deviation from our rehearsed “I want to suck your blood,” spoken with a vampire accent.

My exuberant sons also attempted to beat the crap out of a jolly adult dressed up as an inflatable T-Rex. I finally had to ruin the Halloween magic and yell, “Stop beating him up! There’s a real human inside that costume!!!” The final dramatic moment occurred when we witnessed an English Bulldog gallop free from his owner and proceed to pee and poop all over the pebbles (we have rocks, not grass, in these parts). The stout fellow then turned his attention toward us, charging me and Dak Prescott, who screamed, “He’s going to attack us now!” I prepared to shield the babies in their stroller, and the pup ran full speed toward me and jumped up on my dress in a flash, aiming his slobbery jaws toward my lips. I simultaneously wondered if there were poopy paw prints all over my new witchy get-up and how I could dognap this slobbery blob of pure love and happiness. Alas, he sprinted back to his amused owner.

After trick-or-treating on two streets, we returned home with frozen limbs and overflowing buckets of candy, just what we needed on a school night. The babies were never happier to be in their cribs, their pale chubby arms felt like cool ice packs, and I hoped they would thaw out overnight. Despite the Arctic blast, the older sons were ecstatic—I think my daughter was too; she was frozen like Audrey from Christmas Vacation and could only nod and grunt.

As I began to clean up the scary mess that was Halloween, I breathed a sigh of relief that another holiday was in the books. Now I could look forward to Thanksgiving, where my dear mother would do most of the cooking and cleaning, thank the Lord. (Sorry Mom!)

50% Off at Gap- Top Picks for Kids

I love shopping for my littles at Gap, but I rarely purchase items full price because they frequently have great sales and today is no exception. Gap is currently offering 40% off all items with promo code STYLE, and customers can score an extra 10% off with code SHOP.

With the holiday season around the corner and 4 kids who are growing like weeds, I can’t think of a better time to stock up on some festive pieces to carry us through fall and right into winter. Check out my top picks from the Gap In the Family Event below.

Baby Girl (NB-24M)

Gap Holiday Print Sweater One-Piece Gap Ruffle Bunny Fairy Sweater Gap Car Peplum Legging Set GAP UNICORN GARTER HOODIE SWEATER

Shop Baby Girl Sale Here

 

Baby Boy (NB-24M)

Gap fox one-piece sweater  Gap fair isle one-piece baby boy  Gap Christmas Sweater Baby Boy Gap Holiday Outfit Set Baby Boy

Shop Baby Boy Sale Here

 

Toddler Girl (12M-5Y)

Plaid Ruffle Dress long sleeve dress Fringe Hoodie Poncho Toddler Girl plaid dress

Shop Toddler Girl Sale Here

 

Toddler Boy (12M-5Y)

holiday tee Gap Plaid Shirt Fair Isle Sweater Gap Toddler Jeans

Shop Toddler Boy Sale Here

 

I had a hard time narrowing it down to just four pieces per category because there are so many cute options at Gap right now. I highly encourage you to check out the full sale following the affiliate links provided above.

Happy Shopping!