Here are the short and long versions that I wrote for my mom's "Christmas" letter which I guess will actually be sent out in mid- to late-January.
One paragraph version
We bought a HUD house in Mandan in February and fixed it up while finishing the family condo renovation project, moving from the condo to the house two weeks before Easter when Anna's family visited us. Anna worked January-May as the Assistant to the Chief Committee Clerk of the House for the ND Legislative Assembly. Then she traveled to Virginia to get the last of our belongings off of the sailboat and returned for summer school to kick off her pursuit of a diagnostic medical sonography degree at BSC. I built 400' of cedar picket fence so that Louise can enjoy our entire yard. I built a wraparound porch on the front of the house—"just" the base, with the columns and roof to be completed in 2022. Dad helped extensively on all these construction projects. I left Cloverdale for a job at NISC, still doing network administration. The sailboat almost sold, but then didn't. Anna has been babysitting baby Brita every morning and continuing college classes. We got married on New Years Eve!
As 2021 opened we were hard at work remodeling Eve's old condo which we were living in. For a while we had been doing dishes in the bathroom sink and living out of two small bedrooms, one as a bedroom and the other serving as office/living room/storage. I think by January we had the kitchen and living room mostly back in order so life was good.
I was settling in to my Network Administrator role at Cloverdale Foods which I had started in November 2020. Anna was working January-May as the Assistant to the Chief Committee Clerk of the House for the ND Legislative Assembly. She worked with a lovely group of people there and really enjoyed it.
We also spent January working on purchasing our own house in Mandan. This was a HUD house that had been foreclosed on in November 2019 so vacant for over a year. It had no power or heat so was very cold and unwelcoming to prospective purchasers such as ourselves. One funny memory is of when we tracked snow in with our boots one day and then a couple days later when we returned to look again the snow was still sitting there on the living room carpet. But the house did have some cool features like cast iron radiators and stained glass windows, and living in 130 year old house seemed like something we should try, so we went for it.
We closed on February 1st and promptly started trying to heat the place. This was of course during a crazy cold snap of about two weeks constantly below 0 degrees F. A small electric heater thawed out the utility room in the basement, but more was needed. A large electric heater was procured and made it comfortable to work inside but also hurt on the electric bill--I figured something like $15 per day! We started meeting with contractors, and after many appointments and disappointments decided that the only reasonable option was to get started on it ourselves.
Usually I just remember it as, "yeah we fixed the pipes that were burst from freezing". I think I have suppressed the detailed memories! But if I really try, the memories flood back of my dad and I splitting every evening and weekend for at least a month between the condo and this house. Almost every day included a trip to Menards. Who would think there are so many different pipe…things. Little by little we worked our way through the water pipes and hot water heating system: pressure test a section, cut open walls and ceilings to find the leak, fix it, repeat. Getting one radiator working in the basement was a huge milestone. Then one in the entry way, and another in the bathroom upstairs. Finally a big one in the dining room. Now it was pretty much spring so that was enough heat to live there until winter, though it wasn't exactly warm in the bedroom.
Then about two weeks before Easter we started to move in for real. Also we thought it would be a good idea to invite some of Anna's family to stay with us for Easter…what a rush! They actually did help us with a sizable list of repairs and cleaning so it truly was a great holiday.
I spent most of June and July building 400' of cedar picket fence around the yard. That's turned out to be a lot of fence, and it was a crazy hot summer too. But little by little it got done. We had done the contractor courtship dance for the fence, and replacing the porch with roof, again on both not finding any reasonable options. In August I started on the porch. Just the learning and planning on this was an accomplishment. I set about digging out the old piers and putting new ones in--a delightful way to entertain myself on more crazy hot days. Oh yeah, our house doesn't have air conditioning so until we ramped up on window air conditioners the house would go from 90 during the day to 80 at night. Soon beams and joists were going up, and then the supremely rewarding stage of putting on the deck boards. My dad helped a lot on this too; it has been great to work on all these projects with him.
As winter approached we started to get cold in the bedroom, so I finally got the radiator plumbed in up there. Anna really got going on all the wedding planning details, and she started babysitting Britta for Laura and Brandon. We had a great Thanksgiving with Eliot and Caroline visiting for a week. Every evening we had a grand meal at a different sibling or parent's house--very busy but very fun! Then we were off to the Twin Cities for Christmas with Anna's family and our wedding on New Years Eve.
The wedding and celebration were amazing and a fitting way to cap a really great year. Thank you to all who were there, and who have been there for us. We are so happy to be back!