Update: on 8/9/14, the family we have been dreaming of bought our house. we are so thrilled to have found people who see and will continue the love and care we have cultivated here. we can now let the home and neighborhood we have loved so well pass into hands we know will appreciate and take care of it just as much as we did. may you always live in happiness here!
After over 20 years, 1 college degree, sundry jobs, 6 cars, 3 boyfriends, 7 ferrets, 3 dogs, 4 cats, 1 husband and 5 children here, I am leaving Michigan.
We are relocating our family to the Pacific NorthWest in Eugene, Oregon.
We're listed on all the MLS and real estate sites,
but none of them could possibly ever convey the best things about living here. Nor the reasons why my house is 'specially awesome for families dealing with food and other allergies and sensitivities. I decided to blog about these benefits here. Plus, I thought it would be awesome if potential buyers could read about what kind of neighborhood it actually is - something you can't get from calling a realtor and booking a showing.
I would tack on at least a couple hundred to the list price of a house I wanted to buy in Oregon if they'd provide this much info about their house as I search from across the country! Since my blog is published globally, just in case you are not able to come and tour my house in person and you are the one who wants to buy it, you'll surely appreciate all the details and pics I'm about to put up. If not and it serves no other purpose, it will be my long good bye to the house where I learned to be a homeowner, neighbor, wife, mother, lactation professional and advocate for children with food allergies, among many other metamorphoses.
Read on to get all the answers plus more info than you probably ever wanted about our home!
We have lived in this house in Royal Oak, Michigan for over 16 years now. It's a trendy little city chock full of bars and restaurants and all kinds of entertainment venues. Wonderful little shops and businesses. It's a young town, a fun town and a town with excellent school ratings. It just made the headlines as one of the best places in America to live for single moms and one of the top 10 places in the country to raise children.
Our house is an easy bike ride to downtown Royal Oak. Close enough that even our 6 year old can readily ride there and back, but far enough that we're not in the middle of the bar fights, drunk drivers, panhandlers, crowds, traffic, parking stress, or rat infestation that started there with all the restaurants.
Here in the North part of town, we can ignore massive crowded events like Arts, Beats and Eats and Dream Cruise if we want to. Lots of people looking for homes in Royal Oak specifically want to live close to downtown, but as a wife of a police officer here for 23 years, take it from me: if you have kids, you want a little distance between your family and downtown.
If you buy this house, you will be living on one of the safest streets in the city. It's in the section of the city with the least reported crimes and police calls. Not only that, but 3 police officers in one form or another (retired, auxiliary, etc...) live right on this block. We also have a smattering of school teachers, a couple of lawyers, some technical professionals, a lot of hospital employees and a few auto workers as well as a couple of small business owners with companies related to home repair and renovation.
Royal Oak has a booming real estate market right now, with too much demand and too little supply of family homes. As we start out on this journey of selling our home, it has become obvious to me that there is really no way to impart the value to our real estate agents of the allergy-friendly life we've set up here, so I decided to put it on my blog.
We bought this house in 1998. It was a 990 sq foot, 3 bedroom ranch, no garage - with the ugliest bushes you ever saw. But it backs up to a park, with a gate leading straight out there from our yard - and we thought we might have kids someday. There was no garage -and we didn't want one obstructing the view into the park. Back then, many houses on this street did not have garages for the same reason.
Like all Royal Oak homes, the bedrooms were tiny, the closets almost nonexistent and the natural light minimal.
By the time were were pregnant with our 4th, we knew we had outgrown our home. We could either add an addition on or move into another house. We love the neighborhood. Everyone here looks out for each other. Neighbors here call you when your dog gets out and trots past their house. They bring in your trash cans when they get blown down the street. They water your lawn and take care of your animals and plants and mail when you go out of town. We all take turns mowing the lawns of the elderly on the block. We bring them meals when they aren't feeling well and shovel their snow and check up on them. So we decided to add on.
We widened the doorway to open the dining and kitchen areas to the living room downstairs. We turned the front bedroom into a mudroom with a perfect large cubby under the stairs for storage or pets. Almost half the room became an enormous coat closet, as rare as hens' teeth in Royal Oak! It's hard to capture in pictures, but this closet is twice as large as most Royal Oak full bathrooms.
We turned the former master bedroom downstairs into a girl's room. This is bedroom #2.
Bedroom #3 we had custom painted by a local artist with a theme from their favorite book, 'Where the Wild Things Are', when our 1st two were toddlers. If you're local and you've ever seen the 2nd street sub shop with Marilyn Monroe and Groucho Marks, that's the same artist. Or if you've seen some of the county buildings with Civil War scenes painted on them, those are probably Matthew Music pieces, too. He works completely freehand and it took him about 11 weekends to do this room.
The entire house is all wood floors with the exception of an office in the basement. We replaced the picture window with a bay before we did the addition and put in all new double pane, vinyl windows as well. A friend helped me do a special paint technique in the living room that is a combination of ragging and dry brushing with 3 colors: curry, pomegranate and root beer. Yes, I was pregnant when I picked the colors - how did you guess?
We like to put a small Christmas tree in the bay window every holiday, to save floor space and have it front and center in the window.
In the hall, a friend and I did a technique with the plaster where we pushed real leaves from outside into the walls, removed them and then rubbed a mix of 'melting chocolate' (yes, pregnant again! Are you beginning to see a pattern? ) and glaze into the leaf impressions. I constantly get raves about this hall and wish I'd done it in a bigger room now, as well.
Then comes the downstairs bathroom. I guess by now you've figured out that I don't like boring houses with white walls everywhere. Or carpet with all of my allergy kids. A couple of people have suggested that in order to sell the house, I might need to tone it down or repaint over my vivacious colors. Realtors have echoed this over the phone - but once they come in, they change their minds and tell me the colors are very warm and tasteful. Repainting is not an option with my skin-disorder and severe allergy guy - but even if i could, I wouldn't want to. In person, the colors are lively and warm. They replenish and energize me through the dark winters here.
Besides the paint fumes, we have to keep chemicals, fragrances and off gassing to an absolute minimum for our open skin disorder child. This means I very seldom use traditional/ commercial cleaning products. For the tubs and sinks, I use Mrs. Meyers cleaning solution in sage, verbena lemon or geranium, very diluted. I use Dr. Bronner's in peppermint, lavender or eucalyptus on the kitchen tile floors. Sometime I switch it out for soap nuts liquid soap. (Not nuts or even related to nuts - they are actually berries). For our wood and glass, we use white vinegar. Commercial detergents have never seen the inside of our washer or dryer - nor has fabric softener of any kind. We use soap nuts exclusively on our laundry.
When he shows signs of harboring a skin infection, we will have to give a (very diluted) bleach bath, and then use it to disinfect the bathroom, to prevent him from re-spreading the bacteria around his environment. I don't use it on a regular basis for house cleaning. We use only natural hand soaps, nothing antibacterial/antimicrobial - and if we buy anything synthetic new, we open it and let if off gas until the smell is gone before being able to use it. We do this outside in the shed when weather and product permit, otherwise we leave it in the basement, in the office down there.
We wash our dogs with Dr. Bronner's soaps and can only use aloe and olive oil on our little guy. No hairsprays, perfumes, colognes, scented candles or air fresheners can be used while our youngest is in the house. During showings as we sell the house, we have signs up requesting that no food be brought in and we do light a candle near the dog's bed per realtor request, letting our sensitive guy play outside until the smell has cleared. So, if you are fragrance sensitive and want to book a showing, call ahead and ask that I not light the candle for your showing!
The best compliment I ever got on my house was something a stranger said when a friend brought him in to introduce to me:
"Wow!", he exclaimed, "Being in your house feels like getting a big hug."
Knowing it's a non-toxic, allergy-friendly big hug makes it even squeezier.
The colors are so rich here that I also swear it's why I had such easy babies. Babies are always fascinated and engaged with their surroundings here because they are so vivid.
For the downstairs bathroom, I used Venetian Plaster. I then stenciled over it and sealed the stenciled areas.
Next comes the kitchen. Hold on to your wigs, because it's a doozy. Apparently the kind of kitchen that puts real estate agents at risk of spontaneous combustion. Yes, I have been told one trillion gazillion and seventy hundred times that it will never sell with my collage of pictures on the wall. Yes, I've finally taken it down. I will add pictures of it without the collage.
We just remodeled it in the fall of 2013. We tore it back to the studs and replaced everything. This kitchen has never had a trace of peanuts in it. Nor a trace of dairy; not even a hint. There is one large pantry for all things gluten-afflicted, and the rest of the kitchen is gluten free and usually top 8 allergen free, as well. Egg is treated as a very controlled experiment in this house and literally taken straight outside or eaten standing right over the sink if it's too cold outside.
The appliances are all top of the line stainless steel. We tossed the flat top electric stove and ran a gas line for a good gas range. The dishwasher is the biggest they make currently: 16 place settings. They all come with a transferable extended 5 yr warranty.
The microwave ("Don't put metal in the science oven!") I didn't even want but my husband says the resale value of our entire home could hinge on having, is huge and fantastic. It has a pop-out section that hovers over the stove and sucks up steam and smoke right up to turbo speed. Sometimes even fast enough to keep it from getting to the smoke detectors. Don't ask me how I know how long it takes for smoke to get from the stove to the smoke detectors. Which, by the way, were all upgraded to be hardwired into the house when we put the addition on.
The fridge makes ice (does it tell you how outdated our old kitchen was that my kids still think this is some kind of sorcery?) and has french doors instead of that lower back-torturing big drawer for the bottom half. Best of all, there's never been dairy or peanuts in it!
The sink is a humongous drop-in farmhouse apron front sink that is perfect for someone not overly burdened with height. I like it so much, I want the exact same sink in my new house in Oregon. You could grind up a large pair of shoes in the garbage disposal. The cabinets are custom and solid cherry. There's a lazy susan in a corner unit that is solid wood and very sturdy; not the usual flimsy plastic ones I see in all the kitchens I've been looking at.
The countertops are beech butcher block and I maintain them lovingly. I oil them every 3 weeks with food grade mineral oil. I love cooking and feeling how they actually warm up with the kitchen, instead of always being cold like granite. We got enough cold outside with this polar vortex winter we just had -I am so glad I did not invite anything cold into my home!
The tiles are slate-inspired ceramic in natural colors. The floor before was mostly white - and with 5 kids and 2 great danes, I loathed it. Ditto the white cupboards. In searching for a new home in Oregon, if I see a white kitchen, I can't run fast enough.
We also put in a back door (above)where there used to only be a window (below):
The wainscoting/ chair rail is the very last completely original decor left on the house. One of the nephews of the couple who originally built and lived in this house came to visit from out of state a couple of years ago. He was elderly and said it would most likely be his last trip and he so wanted to see the house that held his best childhood memories again. We gladly gave him a tour and he wept when he saw the wainscoting was still here. I haven't been able to get rid of it ever since. We just use murphy's oil soap on it, sand and restain it and reseal it every 7 years or so.
A room that no longer strikes fear and loathing into the hearts of real estate agents.
Super deep pantry with solid, sturdy wood shelves.
Solid wood lazy susan - 99% of the lazy susans I see in houses today are the flimsy plastic Ikea kind. I am really going to miss this one that easily held all my heavy glass tuppweware.
Oversized cabinet for countertop appliances with tiny shelf on top for spices - they stay fresher in the dark, you know!
As a family dealing with life-threatening and severe multiple food allergies, being cautious becomes a way of life. Never varying from safety measures is what keeps food allergy kids safe. We've all become almost trained to be ultra careful in the kitchen. You wear proper protective and hygienic clothing, you treat the equipment here with respect and you never take chances.
I hope all of our precautions can benefit another family who needs an allergy aware home!
The kitchen should be a safe place for everybody, my food allergy kids would be the 1st
to tell you this.
Use whatever protection or precautions necessary to prevent cross-contamination: that's what we do!
Next we go down to the basement. It's only moderately "It rubs the lotion on its body or it gets the hose", as we partially finished it.
It's cram packed full of boxes right now. We also had to pull up the carpeting we had installed before our son was diagnosed with an open skin disorder.
In looking at new houses in Oregon, I always like to ask, "What project would you want to do next if you weren't moving out?" to see what kind of needs I might be inheriting. If someone asked me that question, I would say we would like to put a bathroom in the basement laundry room and finish all of it except the work room/storage area.
The basement is ginormous and provides for so much storage that we have never missed a garage. But we would like to put some bamboo or cork flooring down there and finish the walls and ceilings eventually, if we were staying. We have vents installed down there for temperature control and my kids play down there all the time, so aside from the ugly flooring and open ceiling in the laundry room, it's a perfectly great basement. No scary sump pump things, no flooding unless your kids are learning how to do their own laundry and let a sock clog the drain of the sink next to the washing machine or you don't keep up on the seal around the footing of the house in spring, when the snow is melting.
This Superman is cardboard - the 3 story laundry chute now empties out where his legs are.
Another custom painting by local artist Matthew Music.
The superman is yet another custom painting by local artist Matthew Music. (The Hulk is cardboard).
These cubby units are anchored to the walls for tipping safety and will remain with the house when we sell it.
Here's what the basement is like currently:
Here's an idea of it before the boxes...
This is the storage area. The shelves in the back are super deep, like 8'.
The room is a lot wider than this picture captures.
We use a commercial grade dehumidifier down here as our allergy kids can't be around mold or mildew - plus we hang our clothes on a line in the laundry room to dry. You can tell by the smell down here that we have a completely dry basement, no issues with dampness or mildew at all.
Here are the furnace and water heater. Water heater is a top rating of 90 for efficiency and is a huge 75 gallons. More than enough for dishwasher to be running w/ washing machine and a shower to be going while someone fills the giant garden tub. This furnace is a 90 for efficiency and the one in the attic for the newer addition is an 80. Both water heater and furnace down here have been replaced in the last few years and are newer. We use the HEPA ultra allergen filters on the humidifier portion of the furnaces and replace them every 3 months. The one in the attic was installed with the addition in 2005, so 8.5 years old at the time of this writing.
The central heating and cooling for the newer addition is completely separate and we have found the ability to keep the different levels of the house at drastically different temperatures to be a huge benefit with a child with skin allergy and fragrance sensitivity issues. Air conditioning dries these kids out and contributes to eczema and hyper reactiveness. Turning off the cooling system upstairs as often and as long as needed so he can sleep with more normal humidity helps him tremendously. If a guest arrives with lots of perfume or fabric softener on, we can keep the air on in one half of the house where the guest is, and let him go hang out in the other half, where we open all the windows.
This is the finished room in the basement. We use it as an office/man cave for my husband, but if an exit was added that complies w/ code, it could easily be another bedroom. It's the only area with any carpet in the entire house, as our youngest son never goes in here.
Next we go back upstairs and up again to the 2nd story. We added this addition on in 2005, so as of this writing, everything in this part of the house is only 8 1/2 years old. If it was a child, it would still be throwing tantrums.
The stair landing is approximately one Great Dane large.
While I'm on the stairs, I should add that we have baby gates installed at the top of each stairway as well as the bottom of the main one - and in most bedroom doorways. The hinges are permanent, but the gates are easily removable. The one at the bottom of the stairs can be swung back and forth 180 degrees to either secure the bottom of the stairway or close off the mudroom opening to the living room: perfect for keeping muddy or wet dogs isolated until they dry.
Even more perfect for halting incoming hordes of children during Halloween or birthday parties to request that they go wash allergen-y hands before coming into the house. We can leave these gates with the home if requested; otherwise, we are happy to take them with us.
Even more perfect for halting incoming hordes of children during Halloween or birthday parties to request that they go wash allergen-y hands before coming into the house.
The gate going down to the basement has a customized cat or small-dog sized doorway cut into it. Before any of our children were allergic to cats, we customized an area of the laundry room for their litter boxes with a framed cutout in the gate as well as the wall b/t the stairway and the laundry room. We added shelves that were staggered like a staircase going down the laundry room wall and placed their boxes beneath this area. No cats have been in the home since 2007. No smokers have ever lived here, either. (We have met all of the previous owners, since the home was originally built).
Bedroom #4 is the first room you come to at the top of the stairs.
This room has a vaulted ceiling and a roomy window seat with storage. The bedroom window faces south for lots of sun and cross breezes from the park behind the house flowing into the room. You can see through the entire park and across several blocks from this window. We continued the wood floors into the window box and closets.
2 kids can share this room easily. Double closets would be perfect for winter/summer separation of clothes for a single inhabitant in this room, as well.
After coming up the stairs and facing the doorway to this room, the expansive family room opens up to your right.
The stained glass piece in the octagonal window is easily removed, leaving a normal glass fixed window. We are happy to leave the stained glass piece if requested; we are equally happy to take it with us if not.
This is probably our favorite family spot in the house. It's perfect for TV watching and family snuggles. The living room downstairs won't fit us plus 5 kids and our 2 giant Great Danes for those long LOTR marathons.
It's been pointed out to us by more than one realtor that we priced ourselves out of our neighborhood when we built this addition. I don't know why people say this like it's a bad thing. We love being the biggest house on the block. When we are up here in this room, we are literally above it all. The noise of traffic and lawnmowers and car headlights shining in through your windows. No prying eyes for when you're nursing a new baby and all your shirts are covered in spit up and it's easier to just go without. Have at it up here! Nobody is going to see your lush milky mams except for a couple of robins - and maybe a lucky cable guy up on a pole.
We can look out any of these windows and see for blocks and blocks. When the weather is cool and we open all the oversized windows and the breeze is swishing and undulating through the room, all we can hear is the rustle of the treetops and the city melts away and it feels just like being in a treehouse. When the neighbors spray chemicals on their lawns, when they have a gathering and someone lights up a cigarette, when they're doing laundry and the scented fabric softener exhaust makes you feel like you drank grape perfume, when the solicitors and proselytizers are making their rounds and can see you ducking and slinking on the main level of your house...up we go, above it all to another plane where the air is clear and clean.
In the mornings when the sun comes up, there is no structure around to block your sunrise. The morning light streams in and sets the place aglow, completely unfettered. Same thing at sundown. I love it when neighbors come up here for the 1st time and express amazement to see their own home and neighborhood from the vantage point that being the biggest house on the block can provide. You can see your kids playing outside almost anywhere in the neighborhood, without ever leaving your family room.
There is also an office up here. French doors lead you in to where the magic you are reading right now happens. Vaulted ceilings and huge windows continue in here and make this corner of the house feel very spacious.
No closet means this is a bonus room. My favorite thing about this room is the light. It gets both southern and western exposures and all of my most temperamental plants absolutely thrive in this room. Extra deep windowsills in every room upstairs just beg you to grow plants indoors.
Children are another story. Be careful about leaving them in the extra deep window sills. Apparently they wilt.
The other room upstairs is the master. It takes up almost half the width of the front of the house and is large enough for our whole family to sleep in, if needed. Not that we have that problem with our well-adjusted and independent little darlings. They know mommy and daddy's room is for mommy and daddy and that children should sleep alone in their own beds, in their own rooms.
We have a 3 story laundry chute straight to the door outside the laundry room in the basement that is a lifesaver. As long as you don't let the kids try to drop their stuffed animals down it on top of a pillow, for a fun ride. Then it gets jammed up. But don't worry if it does happen - we'll leave you the special pole with the hook duct taped to the end that we designed for just such misadventures!
We also built in a digital wall safe that stays with the house. This room features oversized windows like the rest of the 2nd floor, but also a walk-out bay window that is spectacularly ginormous. You feel like you are standing on the bow of a ship into the middle of a front yard when you stand in the window and look up and down the street. There's a big skylight, too. This room catches light even on the greyest of days and we find ourselves coming up here a lot in the winter to do big projects on the floor like puzzles and lego kits. I had the idea to put a beautiful stained glass hanging lamp right in the center of the bay, and seeing it lighting up this room from outside when we come home at night warms my heart. It's a unique touch that I haven't seen anywhere else around here!
The kids across the street say when the curtains in the bay window are backlit at night, it looks like a castle bower or something.
The master bath is at the back of the house. We wanted the largest tub we could find for all the kids to get in at once. We also needed to build a roomy shower to wash our giant Great Danes in. This is a bathroom you can line the kids up in and do haircuts and then send the pets up to get washed with them after their buzzes and clips!
Side by side or stacked 2 deep, you can get 4 biguns in the deep part and a little one on the seat. If you have a littlun that's too small to take a bath so big, that's okay - he can use it as a mini shower until he gets big enough for the tub!
And here's a bonus: this is one place in the house I actually did not give birth at! (Seriously, we rented an Aqua Doula, don't worry). Another bonus: no oils, bubbles, fragrances or other luxury/fun type products used in this tub. Not even shampoos, conditioners or soaps. Our kids have to wash in the shower with cleansing products before they can get in the tub. The jets have also never been used during a bath, but only run about once a month to clear them out and keep them working. Part of our littlest guy's skin disorder requires frequent soaks in plain warm water free of any chemicals, fragrances, etc...
If you have littluns, a bathroom like this can make potty-training a dream. We finally installed the permanent baby potty rings so you're not always having to replace and remove them for little ones learning to use the toilet. Not that it was ever a problem with our little bundles of joy.
But really though - for some reason, other kids in the family are willing to lounge around and hang out in this spacious and light-filled bathroom while a sib is taking care of some pottying - It's one of those parenting mysteries I've never figured out. Sort of like some mysterious group rite of passage or
sibling bonding thing, "You need never face the scary flush alone, bro - we got you."
I often ponder this childish phenomenon. In another room. Without someone on a toilet.
Right off the master bath is the master closet, one of the rooms in this house that is nearest and dearest to my heart!
A picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll let the pictures do the talking:
This was our rusty old tin shed before:
Behold the Taj Ma-Shed that stands before you today:
We use the bottom for storage and the top is a playhouse. It's wired for electricity and has a lightbulb, flip switch and outlets so when your kids have the neighbor kids over for sleepovers in the playhouse, nobody has to be scared of the dark! Or when your middle schooler brings home a bad report card, you can threaten him with being banished to live out his teens there.
I may have mentioned that we live on a park and it's great, but the one thing it lacks is a decent sandbox. As a mom of 5 kids that are 7 years apart, I can tell you the things that they can all do together that keeps all 5 happy and squabble free for hours on end are few and far between, but a sandbox is definitely one of them! (The others are sleeping, swimming, legos and Minecraft).
We made the one that your kids could end up playing in for hours while you sit inside and eat bonbons and scour the celebrity gossip magazines like everyone thinks a mom does all day! We made it extra large - almost schoolhouse sized- and filled it with plenty of clean, good quality play sand. We built a custom, A-line cover to keep out animals, leaves and snow - and to provide shade on hot days.
This is a 12 year old boy who spent most of the day in the sandbox, designing a city for his little bros and sister's action figures and cars. A 12 year old who didn't have time to get on any electronic devices or turn on the TV because this is what he was doing instead.
If you buy this house, you are buying a house where the parents act like parents and set limits on children sitting inside all day while their brains turn to mush. We make them get outside instead! - Continue this house rule and the children will thank you for it!
Aside from the kid friendly features, it's a great backyard, but if you really want a garage, you won't mind building one and taking space from your yard because you live right on a park! We've had one mapped out and priced in order to give prospective buyers an estimate. You wouldn't have to lose the playhouse or the sandbox and a 2 car garage would cost under $15,000 to build and take about 4/5 weeks to complete.
We love growing things and try to plant minimal pollen-producing plant and trees around the house for our seasonal allergy family members.
This is the front gate to the dog run, which runs along the left side of the house as you view it from the street. It ends beside the back steps in the back yard with another gate. If you bought my house and didn't need a dog run, it would make a great little gated garden area. With free Great Dane fertilized ground!
This is the back gate of the dog run, between the shed abad the back of the house.
I planted morning glory beside the gate, in the hopes that it would grow and drape all over the fence to give privacy to the dog run. In case your dogs are shy about their bathroom business.
Tulips come up annually under the redbud tree at the left corner of the house.
Around the middle of the dog run, I planted orange trumpet vine. I keep it cut into the shape of an umbrella tree. this should provide some really nice coverage on the fence in another year or two.
We planted a redbud tree at the left corner of the house - the bright pinkish-lavender blossoms against the dark bark of the tree every Spring are breathtaking - this is one of my favorite trees. The blossoms turn into leaves, so there's no yard cleanup in the Spring with this tree.
Redbud and tulips in early spring!
Redbud in full bloom!
The tall posts are perfect for a Halloween spiderweb.
After several years of thriving flowerbeds in the front of the beds,, I have started planting Hydrangeas to fill in the back.
This one is my pride and joy. I bought it sickly and sparse and have nursed it back to full bloom.
I love colorful flowers around the house - and they do very well here.
The children are especially hardworking and helpful - they enjoy weeding and deadheading the flowerbeds and always respond with enthusiasm when asked to help.
There's a city manhole cover in front of the house that I like to keep a pot of flowers on.
This is to the right of the porch, as you face the house. We planted a Rose of Sharon tree here and it has really taken off.
When in full bloom, it almost completely covers the bay window. It's so lovely to look out the window right into a mass of blossoms. This tree is a late Fall bloomer, so it lights up the yard w/ color when everything else is fading.
The view from the family room upstairs in Winter.
This is the right corner of the house. The bush in the back is a snowdrop bush and the only thing in the yard with white blossoms.
It blooms in Spring and then provides lush greenery for the rest of the season to hide the meter I planted it in front of. I added the 2 Hydrangeas last season.
Covering the cover!
Before we turn and go along the right side of the house into the back yard, here is the view looking across the front yard to the neighbors on the left, as you face the house.
Here is the view to the right of the house, as you stand facing it.
Looking down the street from the front yard in the Fall.
A spring sunset as seen from the front yard, no photoshopping or color editing!
Another spectacular sunset from the front yard in Winter.
More views of the trees up and down our street:
We think one of the best things about our house is the curb appeal. We hope when somebody new buys our home, that they will keep up the tradition we've begun of having some of the best and showiest flower beds around! One tip I can share with you is to make the kids a part of the yard work. We give them their own pot to plant with flowers every season. It's their job to tend their own plants.
If you give them half a chance, you will find that kids love yard duties like watering the lawn and helping to mow and will leave their play with a good will to tend to gardening chores!
That's the whole house and front yard. Follow me around the right side of the house (as you face the front of it). The plastic play equipment is gone, but the broken paver stones remain.
Both sides of the back yard are lined with lavender lilacs. They are taller than the 1st floor of the house and smell wonderful for about a week or so every spring. The kids have made paths through the small groves of lilac trees and call these their 'forages'.
Our yard looked like our (childless) neighbor's before kids.
The kids love being asked to go outside and pick up their playthings so we can try and keep the back yard looking as nice as the front -
once I get them outside, it's my secret evil plan to keep them there!
We have lots of pots for flower gardens around the back yard.
These bushes turn a gorgeous fire red in the Fall.
This is the back gate into the park.
The view into the park from the 2nd floor in Winter.
It can't take a 165 lb hunk of dog meat leaping on it - imagine that!
We grew a garden for a little while, but the chipmunks and squirrels got more of it than we did!
Last winter, the snow got so high that the dogs and kids could almost just step over the fence.
A people bush! They're growing all over it. Hope it's the sweet kind and not the sour.
Lots of good worms in our yards! We don't use weedkiller, chemicals, pesticides or even fertilizer companies due to our allergy/sensitivity kids.
We get a nest of baby birdies on the meter at the back of the house every spring. Or wait...screeching, bald, constantly hungry: these might be my own babies.
Mama is never far.
Sometimes a baby leaves the nest before it can fly well and they can seem to bond with people.
Now we come to one of the biggest assets of our home: the park! My kids practically live out there. All the neighbors along the block keep an eye out and know who's coming and going. I can see every foot of it from my back windows. It's a sports park w/ lots of softball and baseball and soccer games and lacrosse practices, but it also has a great playground, tennis courts and basketball courts.. The equipment was transplanted from the 1st school my kids went to here: Mark Twain. Right now as we're selling this house and booking showings, it's our saving grace that we can take a last minute showing by getting the dogs on their leashes and running right out into the park to wait it out. It's very dog-friendly and lots of neighbors bring their dogs in the evening when nobody is out there and we have a doggy playgroup.
It's wonderful not to have a neighbor behind you and to see that big, open expanse of green or white...or a massive, impenetrable bank of fog when you look out the back yard. I love knowing where my kids are all the time and it's been worth its weight in gold for severe food allergy kids who can't have playdates in their friends' homes. "Let's meet in the park!"
When my husband volunteers to coach the kids' sports teams, they play right behind the house. We've got a clean bathroom when we need it and a sink to wash hands in, in case of contact with teammates' unsafe foods. I can watch practice and be making dinner at the same time.
My kids all learned to ride their bikes on the grass in the park and to ride rollerbaldes on the tennis and basketball courts here. I'm glad I have taken as many great photos of it as I have to remember what a big part of their childhoods its been.
The park is one of the biggest features of our home that I am going to miss. In fact, we are hoping to find a home as close to a park in Oregon as we can get. As I've mentioned before, we'd rather have a park than a garage, even!
If you lived here, you'd already be home. :-)
So many wishes!
We get a frozen lake out here that people actually come and ice skate on in the Winter.
A late night snowy Christmas break playdate in the park!
We get skiers in the park all winter, too.
Eerie tree at night. The glow is the playground.
This was sunset from my back door 2 Valentine's Days ago. No photoshopping or color editing.
This is my favorite tree in the park. It was planted the first spring of my first baby. I take pictures of it every year, knowing that it has been growing as long as he has. I get it in every season. I hope one of my good neighbor friends will take at least one a year for me after we move.
The park is an awesome part of movie into our-friendly life, I know, but I do feel obligated to let you know the one downside of it. Be prepared. This is what it looks like when you tell the kids they can't go to the park today:
And this is what it looks like when you go without the dog:
Which brings us to the last selling feature of our home for allergy families: the school.
We worked with the local elementary school for 9 months to make it safe for our anaphylactic peanut allergy daughter.
They went peanut restricted for the entire building and grounds when she started kindergarten 2 years ago. The classrooms were already peanut and tree nut free.
They also had the standard "nut free" table in the cafeteria.
We are the 1st school in this part of the state to go completely peanut restricted. Many families request Oak Ridge as their school of choice for this reason. We have An allergy Awareness Committee, of which I was proud to be the chairperson last year. I know the mom who formed the committee and I know the mom who is taking it over and they both have children still attending the school and this makes me completely confident in asserting that this is the best school locally for children with food allergies.
We make posters identifying our food allergy students. We ask parents to bring in emergency kits w/ info and meds for allergy students.
Oak Ridge encourages you to bring in an Emergency Anaphylaxis Plan. The staff are very 504 proficient and knowledgeable.
Dr. Parrott is the awesome Principal at Oak Ridge. He is a wonderful advocate for all of our allergy students, remaining steadfast yet sympathetic to parents and students on each side of the issue. The bottom line is always clear with Dr. Parrott and the bottom line is following district policy to the letter. Dr. Parrott also works very closely with Dr. Doshi to help keep all students at Oak Ridge safe.
Miss Sue is the secretary at Oak Ridge and the 1st line of defense for our food allergy students. She goes out of her way to help students dealing with health issues and my youngest became quite attached to her as he transitioned to better health and the ability to attend school for full days.
We have special procedures, containers and notifications for when peanuts or other restricted allergens accidentally make it into school.
We make sure all staff are trained in the use of Epi-Pens and Auvi-Qs, even subs.
We remind parents throughout the year of our food safety policies, including over the holidays and during field trips, class parties and other outings and celebrations.
There are signs up all over school promoting awareness and we decorate the halls with a theme for Food Allergy Awareness Week every year.
In addition to all of this, our school sits literally right next door to one of the top allergists in the state. Dr. Devang Doshi is the head of Pediatric Immunology and Pulmonology at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. If your child has a severe reaction or asthma attack at school, trust me - you want it to be a school next to Dr. Doshi!
If that wasn't enough to make you want to move into my house with your allergy kids on the spot, one of our local fire stations is also practically on school premises. The back of the fire station butts up to the rear parking lot of Oak Ridge.
The 1st year of the new peanut restricted policy, the ROFD let us redirect parents to drop off their donated peanut-containing candy into this bin in their parking lot, to keep it off school property.
My son hit his head on a pole last year and got a goose egg and the school ended up calling 911. The paramedics were there in 2 minutes.
I hate that by moving away, we are giving up this kind of response time with kids as seriously allergic as mine.
Finally, Beaumont hospital is a straight shot just a few minutes right down 13 mile Road.
Across the street from Beaumont is the other best allergist around, Dr. Abdul Bahrainwala. If one of my allergy kids has a serious reaction at school and Dr. Doshi isn't in or can't fit us in - we go straight to Dr. B.
Either way, my child is with a top expert who knows everything about their issues within minutes. He's also the guy who advocated for my daughter and recommended the school go peanut free and helped us through the process. You can't put a price on that kind of safety net and support system!
Finally, as many of us have learned the hard way, you can have the best school district, the best Principal, even the best other parents in the world...and none of it will make a bit of difference when you need it to, if the teacher isn't on board.
I've been an Oak Ridge parent for over 8 years now, through 5 kids. There are only a couple of teachers that didn't have my kids in their classroom. Oak Ridge teachers were amazing in their open-mindedness and concern for the safety of all food allergy, celiac disease and asthma children in their classes.
One teacher who really stood out was the one who got my son with the skin and growth disorders. His condition requires constant lotioning throughout the day or he becomes red, itchy and flared up until he can't do anything but scratch and cry.
This is my guy with a classmate the same age as him. Not only did his 1st grade teacher stop whatever she was doing constantly throughout the day to remind him to do it or to lotion him herself, she made sure there was someone else to do it if she wasn't going to be there. Dr. Parrott checked in on him throughout the day constantly when there was a sub. I simply can't imagine there is another school anywhere that cane make me feel as safe and comfortable about the care of my son and debilitating issues than Oak Ridge's Kate Rybicki (and her parapro, Miss V!)
Royal Oak Middle and High Schools are also allergy aware, although peanuts are not restricted from the cafeterias.
So there's my allergy-friendly life in this home, and you're welcome to step into it. It's been a wonderful life in a fantastic home. Babies have been born in this house.
They've been nurtured and loved and have grown like weeds in this house. When they outgrew it, we made it bigger. Now they have their own room to grow in their own space. If your family is large or growing that way, your children won't have to squish up together in small places to sleep. In this house, they'd never have to huddle up with the pets to sleep.
No perching on uncomfortable surfaces to sleep for any family in this spacious home!
Whether or not they will anyway is a different story!
This home is in a wonderful place. There are great neighbors here. Well, there is one gang of noisy, unkempt kids you should keep an eye out for - oh wait, I think most of those are mine! Nevermind.
None of the 3 families that have owned this home have gotten divorced. All of the children born while living at this address have gone on to lead very successful lives, making their parents very proud. I am sure ours will, too!
This is the house people come by to see the fabulous flowers. This is the house all the kids in the neighborhood end up playing at most days over the summer. Lucky for you, all the parents around here know my allergy kids can't come to their homes, so they let their kids come here all the time. If you move here, you won't have to go through the social awkwardness of one-sided playdates. As soon as you mention food or severe environmental allergies, it will click into place for them as they remember us!
Odds have been overcome in this house -astronomical odds stacked against members of our family. Disasters have been averted, lives have even been saved. This house has only been lived in by heroes who save lives and risk their own for others - 2 firemen and one police officer. Catastrophic illnesses have been diagnosed and treated and made manageable. Quality of lives have been drastically improved. Gratitude lives here alongside overwhelming love.
There's good juju in this house. The people who have lived and loved in this house have received untold blessings. Even the garbage men seem to recognize this and stack our cans reverentially.
We've raised our children in this home with love and respect and that's what they give back to the world.
We put our hearts and souls into this house, but we're ready for our next adventure. The kids are so excited to move, they are practically percolating.
So if you've been looking for an allergy-friendly house in the Royal Oak area, I just sat down all day today and wrote this for you. Your house is waiting for you, we'll take care of it until you move in.
Don't delay, because if you need a house like this and it sells to someone who couldn't care less about all the allergy benefits, that would almost be a crime.
You're not going to have to deal with new paint, new carpet, carpet that just got cleaned, pet dander, mildew or mold anywhere before you move into this house. Or the consequences of dealing with those issues. If I could find this house in Oregon, I'd be overjoyed. Every house we are looking at is going to require between $15, 000 and $18,000 worth of replacing carpeting with hard floors. Everyone seems to have cats, so add another $1200 or so to get the ducts cleaned -and then most houses have outdated or nonfunctional filtration systems, too. Those can be between $1,000 and $6,000.