I had to do something really difficult today; I had to decline an offer that Little Miss received from the Selective Enrollment Schools in Chicago. Out of 28 seats, our little girl was selected, based on her test scores, to fill one of them in a highly competitive Classical school – our top choice for her – that’s ranked the second best elementary school in the state! After weeks of touring the schools in Chicago, and hours spent poring over which ones would best match her needs, talking to parents who navigated the complicated school system, and applying and hoping for the best, the congratulatory email arrived in my Inbox…the week we arrived in Austin. I didn’t even know how to react.
Thank you, universe, for this cruel, cruel joke.
I’m incredibly proud of my big girl, but this was just too much. After shaking my fist at the sky and doubting ourselves for relocating, I reminded myself that we chose Austin for its stellar public school system. Here, Little Miss doesn’t have to test into a good school or hope against hope that she will win a seat in the lottery for magnet schools. The only thing we need to do is to move into the neighborhood of our school of choice, and they’re at least more affordable than the neighborhood with decent schools in Chicago. Also, both girls can attend the same school here, rather than having Pickle go through the same process to see if she will be accepted into the same school as her sister, which I was informed was near miraculous.
I have since been pouring my energy into yet another time-consuming school research, and I think I finally honed in on one that would work really well for her. The next natural step is to find a house in that neighborhood. Easy enough.
Except it isn’t. It’s proving more difficult than we had imagined, because it’s a seller’s market here, and the really good houses go even before they hit the market. They have these “Coming Soon” signs before they put up “For Sale” ones so people who drive by get a chance to look at and bid on the house before it even gets recorded in the system. At a school tour today, I met a family who relocated from Atlanta, and they had to put an offer on a pre-MLS house sight unseen, and even then, they had to contend with three other offers! C.r.a.z.y.
So guess what we’ve been doing every other day? Yup, driving around the neighborhood we like, looking for signs. Literally. I even plan my running route there to do just that, but it’s not always fruitful.
Much to my excitement, something great did come along this week. Of course it was the day My Guy left for Chicago when this house came on the market, which meant I had to see it by myself (or rather, with the girls in tow at the time when they should be getting ready for bed, which made things reeeeeally interesting), take a video and pictures for him, and then we talked and talked and talked about putting an offer down. It will be his first home-buying experience – our first together - and we wanted to be sure. But by the time we were, the sellers had already accepted another offer. GAAAAAH! All this within 24 hours of the house showing up as “new” on the MLS. Just when I was really starting to see us there. Just when I was really loving the idea of being in that house.
It was a huge disappointment to me. HUGE. I was so bummed that when the girls were in bed, I searched the house for some chocolates or whiskey for consolation. BUT THERE WERE NONE! The universe must hate me. Thankfully, a dear friend mentioned over email that she would sometimes just eat chocolate chips straight out of the bag, and I leaped out of my seat. Yes! I have that! And I proceeded to stuff my face with them to help me swallow the bitterness of my disappointment.
I wasn’t thoroughly out of my funk the next day either. I went for a run to “shake it off” but running in 80 degrees and climbing hills on top of that proved more torturous than helpful. How much more hostile could the universe be, I thought. What eventually did it for me was getting my girls from school and tossing our evening routine out the window when I found myself spontaneously announcing, “Who wants ice cream?”
What can’t ice cream cure?
The weather might have been awful for my run, but it was beautiful for dining, exploring, and ice-creaming. The glorious blue skies and breezy, sunny day encouraged us to linger outdoors with our (healthy!) Mediterranean dinner. After which, they bee-lined for the (not-so-healthy but oh-so-delicious) ice cream. The adjacent park shaded by gorgeous live oak trees beckoned us to stay awhile, and we did, allowing nature and ice cream do their thing with me. With sugar-fueled kids near bedtime, they expended energy by further exploring the area, aptly named the Arboretum. Intrigued by paths that went into a lush greenbelt, we decided to follow it and found this little pond, tucked away in its own little world.
The girls were thrilled with their discovery. There were a lot of squealing and “come here, look at this!” and “Whoa!” and just a general high that comes with happy kids doing happy kid things. With me in the middle, how could I not be pulled in by the brightness of their joy? It was exactly what I needed to extinguish the darkness that threatened me.
Granted, lest you think I have perfect children (hah!), they still managed to whine and protest (“I don’t want dinner first, I want ice cream now!” and “I don’t want to go home and go to bed!”) and I did get frustrated at some point, but I suppose parenting two kids on my own in this still-strange city while My Guy’s away for work, that’s about as good as it was going to get. Actually, looking at the all-girls week we’ve had, I think we did pretty well together.
I’m learning my way around (without the GPS!), our routine both grounds me and gives me space to work and to breathe, and the girls, well, they have been great and they have been a pain, which kind of cancels out each other, if you ask me. With My Guy 1,200 miles away for five days, I figured, to survive this, I need to be less ambitious, like giving fewer baths and feeding them dinner in front of the TV on a couple of occasions to avoid cleaning their mess at the dining table. (Hey, don’t judge.) And whaddya know? It worked.
When they’re with me, they’re my constant source of amusement, like when Pickle woke in the late evening to pee, then went back in her room and out of the blue announced in her sleep-tainted voice, “Mommy, when I grow up, I want to drink coffee,” before snuggling back in bed for the rest of her slumber. When they’re in school, I know they’re learning and growing and accepting and giving.
It is working out well for us here. Despite painfully declining the school offer. Despite the pang of a setback in our home search. Standing at the Arboretum lookout, in awe of the sight before me, and hearing the sheer delight in my girls’ voice, I had to trust that we made the right decision to come here. We will find a house that we love. The girls will flourish. Our family will be happy here. Even if it’s not readily apparent, I have to believe that whatever we do, whatever we end up with, it will be – it has to be – better than what we had before.