Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A New Dream

The dream lasted 2,627 days.

Today, at 12:30pm, we sold the de Jong Dream House.

Niels and I started this blog on May 11, 2011 as we prepared to break ground on what would become the de Jong Dream House. We built the most earth-friendly, energy-efficient, universally-designed home we could afford. We built it with the idea that it would be our forever home, where our son would grow up, where I (Jen) could live comfortably with my brain injury, where we would welcome family, friends, visiting teachers, soccer coaches, refugees, college students, and anyone else needing a place to stay for a day, a week, or more. We envisioned play dates and game nights and dinner parties. We didn't imagine me becoming a quilter, but my love for the craft took bloom here. Our dream was that eventually, my mom would move into in the in-law suite. Our dream was that we would never move again.

Pardon my slight detour down memory lane...

Whew, who's cutting onions around here? I loved the process of building this house. I have loved living in it even more.

But as that wise sage John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens when you are making other plans."

The only thing we couldn't anticipate when we dreamt up this home was what our boy would grow up to dream up for himself.

We love our home. It has truly been our dream house. But we love our son more.

For the last six years, our son has been fortunate to attend a highly-rated community choice school where he is able to work at this own (accelerated) pace in all academic areas. He has been able to work with the school counselor and an understanding hub teacher to help him with the emotional development that is more challenging for him. 

He has been inspired to dream of a future in aerospace engineering. As his parents, we are privileged to have the means to fully encourage his dream. He has attended countless STEM camps, visited many of the NASA space centers, and has twice gone to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. We realize, and he realizes, that many families do not have this same opportunities.

As his time at his school winds down, we have had to figure out what is next for him...and us. Our local school is well-respected, and deservedly so. It's part of the reason we built in this community. But when your child is an outlier, what is good for most is not necessarily good for each one. So, about 16 months ago, we started looking at our options. Niels is very good at what he does, so he is frequently recruited to consider other jobs. Instead of a quick, "Thanks, but no thanks," we listened. We briefly thought about living in Nashville, Phoenix, Orlando, and even Brussels. But Niels really likes his current employer and there wasn't enough incentive to leave.

Next we looked at schools. We live in an area with many great school districts, lots of private schools, and, fortunately for us, and all day, tuition-free gifted school. We very nearly dismissed it because it is over an hour each way from our current house, but we realized we would regret not considering giving him the opportunity if it was at all possible. D took the entrance exam and passed with flying colors. In December, he spent a day at the school. When we picked him up, he was beaming. He loved meeting kids with the same passions and quirks as him. We loved that knowing that he will have good friends in middle school ..and no tuition. We did not like the commute. We quietly realized that we would have to move.

It took awhile to wrap our head around leaving the house we poured so much time and energy into building. We knew we would need to lower our expectations because a new house would not be 100% designed and decorated by us. Housing costs in our area have soared in the eight years since we built our home. We met with our current builder, but knew immediately that we couldn't afford to build this house again, even in the same location, let alone closer to Cleveland where land is more expensive. We met with other builders. Even with our lowered expectations, building was still going to cost more than we really wanted to spend, and even if we could build a house, finding a lot that helped with the new school commute was a greater challenge than we anticipated.

So we started looking at existing houses. So. Many. Houses. Nearly every Saturday and Sunday, and often in the middle of the week, we were going to showings and open houses. Though we knew we couldn't afford the same quality, we still needed a floor plan that worked (or could be renovated to work). By the way, if you want some home buying humor, check out Please Hate These Things on Instagram! The "What were they thinking?!" photos of homes for sale brought some much needed levity to our days of searching.

As much as we really wanted to just pick up our house and move it, we had to prioritize what we really loved and needed in a new home for the next chapter in our lives.

As we were making this realization, my mom came to her own bittersweet conclusion that her days as an independent horsewoman had come to an end. Mom is still young at heart and feisty, but also ready to let go of the responsibilities of her own place. By moving in with us, she is able to have more disposable income to work through her bucket list, to travel, to have a built in puppy sitter for Murphy, to help D navigate his tween and teen years, and yes, help me out on my bad brain days. 

Our house hunting list included:

* a ranch with finished basement
* 4 bedrooms, including a first floor in-law suite for my mom with a sitting room and no stairs, and a guest room so we can continue to welcome friends and family around the world
* Office for Niels
* Craft room for me
* Within 45 minutes of school/work
* Close enough to stores and social activities for mom and I to find our people
* In our budget

Preferably, we'd find a house:
* with wooded or lakeview lot
* with unique features like a pool or tree house, or cool architecture
* has an en suite for D
* was either less than 10 years old or has had all the major systems updated in the last ten years

Our big prayer during this whole process was that we would find a house that D would be excited about. When we first started looking at houses, D understandably had a really hard time. This is the only house he remembers. Moving is hard enough for us, but especially so for him. We didn't promise him veto power, of course, but privately we decided we wouldn't buy a house that he didn't love.

The first two items on our list knocked off about 98% of the houses we saw on Zillow or any real estate site. My new biggest pet peeve is a space being advertised as an in-law suite when it is located in the lower level or above the garage. That may be a great option for teens, a nanny, or guests, but not so much for the grandparent set!

We joked with our Realtor that we were looking for a unicorn. We hoped it existed, but were skeptical. She and her associates were rock stars as we looked at just about every house that fit our criteria in an hour radius around Cleveland. After thirteen years in Ohio, I finally know where all the suburbs are!

We were starting to make peace with an extraordinarily long commute for the boys for the next four years. But then, we found the Lake House.

We'll share more about the new house after we close. My fellow quilters will especially enjoy watching me transform this area into my new sewing studio with long arm!

But today, we will be sad and mourn the end of this wonderful chapter in our lives. The new owners are letting us stay until school is out so the next few weeks will be busy with packing, making some updates to the new house, setting up Vesper View Studio, celebrating the end of D's elementary school career, and remembering all the happy memories we have made in this home.

I cannot begin to show pictures of all the friends and family who have made our years here so much fun, but here are a few snapshots of what life has been like in the de Jong Dream House.


We won't be quite as excited to move out as we were when we left our little temporary apartment to move here, but we are looking forward to new adventures in our new home. Each of us found something in the lake house that was above and beyond what we hoped for, and while we will come to love our new home, our dream house will always have a very special place in our hearts. 

Ultimately, a house is just a house, no matter how much we love, laugh, cry, and dream within in. For us, the de Jong Dream House has been the home we always love. But the dream, the dream of us and what we will do and be together as a multi-generational, international family and how we will love and welcome others, that dream will continue at the lake.

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  1. Oh I can relate to you in so many ways! Never when we married and started our life together did we dream of some of the things that happened to our family. Accidents(me) health issues(me), 2 gifted neuro-atypical boys, one neuro-typical girl) It is hard to let go of one dream and embrace a new one. Holding on to the great memories will help. And we learn some great lessons on the way. May your new adventure turn into a blessing for you. I have looked back over the years and seen where I have become stronger and more resilient and learned to be kinder. But some of the time I did not love love all the things that we went through. Thanks for sharing your journey. You helped remind me that it really is the people we love matter the most not the things.

  2. It is bittersweet to leave. I still mourn our house that we raised our son in, and sold 2 years ago. It was the right thing for us, but I will always love that house. Good luck as you negotiate these waters. It is hard to leave a place that has so many memories. Mourn it appropriately, then move on. You are doing the right thing!

  3. Oh great now I have tears....at work....when I'm not supposed to be on my phone.

  4. Oh, Jen--some people are always so excited about the next new thing, houses included, but for me, moving is always a bittersweet event. I think of my mom, who would still occasionally say to me, "I thought I would live all of my life in that house in Anaheim"--the first house she bought in California; coming from Iowa, where families passed houses down through the generations, why would she have thought she would ever move? But move she did, and I was glad, because the house I grew up loving was the next house. :) I understand what you are feeling--I still miss the camellias we left in our house in California *15 years ago*, as much as I love our rural Oregon home and know it was the right move for us. If only we could take the old place with us, somehow. I was thinking--your photos would make a wonderful Shutterfly photo collage poster in your new home. Maybe something like that would help the transition? Just a thought. After we had been here awhile I made a collage of the people who had come to visit us in our new home as a visual reminder of the happy memories we were making up here, miles from the place I still referred to as "home". Thanks for sharing with us. Oh, and I wanted to add that I was in a gifted program through school and being part of that group was outstanding and the bond we shared and the understanding between us was priceless.

  5. Change is always hard. Especially after building your forever house, it would be especially difficult to move. The back porch on your new home looks so peaceful and maybe your new, awesome craft room will give you something pleasant to look forward to. Congratulations on finding your unicorn!

  6. Best wishes in your move and your new home!

  7. Ah, now I am inteara... beautifully written. I am anxious to see the new house it's still catch myself in tears when I think of leaving my beloved Arizona. But new chapter, new adventures...

  8. If there was ever a bittersweet post written, it's this one. I am not even sure how to comment. I want to say I'm so sorry for the loss of your forever dream home, at the same time that I congratulate you on finding your unicorn. When people mention the things they do for the betterment of their children... this. This is one of those things. I wish all the best for your husband at his job, and for D when he starts at his new school. And for you as you set up your new sewing space. I must say, all that natural light has me sighing with how amazing that will be!

  9. I had to come over from IG to see what would make you sell your house! I agree with all the reasons you did so, and think you were so fortunate to have a dream house for a few years. The lake house looks awesome! I look forward to watching you transform that into a new dream house. Will you change the blog name to the DeJong Lake House? =) That quilting space looks amazing!

    1. I'm not sure about changing the name yet. We did save the website de Jong Lake House to redirect here. I don't think I'm ready to let it go yet!

  10. Heartfelt good wishes on the new chapter in your life. Your dream house was amazing. Your lake house looks amazing. Your family is amazing. I think your next phase will be very rewarding.

  11. Bittersweet moment in deed, but you will never regret finding the best place for your son. Middle School is rough and hard to get through unless you meet others like you. You've done the right thing! Thanks for sharing on Wednesday Wait Loss. I look forward to your next dream.

    1. Thank you. It's so hard to say goodbye to this house we love, but seeing D excited about the move, even taking down things from his wall and sketching out his new room makes it easier. He is happy so I am happy. Such is the life of a mom.

  12. This is extremely exciting news! Anytime we have to leave something we truly love it is so hard, but it looks like there is so much new adventure coming your way it will be so worth it in the end! I can't wait to see where this new leg of your journey takes you guys and all the opportunities for little D.

  13. A bittersweet story - I'm glad you found a home that fits. The next chapter awaits. Love your new home and sewing space.

  14. Congratulations on your bittersweet new adventure! It's always good to hear about the support and success that other people's children find when they've been struggling. I'm sure your family will find more happiness in the dreams that lie ahead.

  15. It is bittersweet, but you are moving for the good of your family, and it is a wonderful new adventure that will create so many more wonderful memories. Beautiful story with so many wonderful memories. Good luck on the move, I hope it goes swimmingly for you and your family!


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