Our new house!

After much deliberation we have made our California housing selection. And the winner is….

HOUSE #2: Los Gatos “Big House”!

We are thrilled to finally have a place to call home here in California. The house is amazing, we love our neighborhood, and we can’t wait to settle in!

Now that we have the lease signed and the keys in our pockets we can work on phase 2 of the move: coordinating 3 different shipments of household goods, setting up utilities, finding a preschool, and baking the neighbors cookies so we start off on the right foot.

Thanks for coming along on this journey with us! We are ready to accept visitors, so come on down, friends!

Until next time, here are some photos of the new place:

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Posted in Kids and Parenting | 2 Comments

House Hunters: Silicon Valley

Since I arrived in California a week ago I have had one mission: FIND US A HOUSE. We are currently living in corporate housing, which has actually been sort of amazing. Our apartment complex is not too shabby…in fact, I think it might actually be a five-star resort and they just gave us keys to the wrong place. But I’m not complaining.

In a few weeks, though, we’re getting kicked out of the resort (er…apartment) so we need to find something more permanent. The rental market here is crazy (I have literally been on the computer when a house is listed, called the agent, requested a viewing for that afternoon and gotten a call back before my scheduled viewing saying that the house has already been rented). The houses, if they’re any good at all, are available one minute and then gone before you can dress the kids, go to the bathroom, lug your diaper bag down to the parking garage and buckle the car seats.

But that doesn’t really matter anyway, because nobody wants to rent to you if you have a dog (which we do) because they’re afraid the dog’s nails will scratch up their brand new hardwood floors (which they will). Oh, and another thing. The rent here is expensive. Shockingly so. And, so, it’s been a week of many deep breaths and faith and pleading with landlords to just consider our sweet dog and “let’s try this again’s”.

After many dead-ends, we have finally come to a place where we have some good housing options. I now present to you 3 of our top-contenders in this edition of House Hunters: Silicon Valley. Now that we’ve narrowed it down, maybe you can help us out. Which is your favorite?

House #1: Santa Clara Luxury Apartment

IMG_8864 Description: This is the apartment we’re living in now, our corporate housing “resort”. It is located in Santa Clara.  Our apartment is on the third floor and has 3 bedrooms/2 bathrooms. If we decide we don’t want to move, we can just stay here (or in one of the other thousands of apartments just like it that are run by the same apartment company).
Monthly Rent: I don’t even know, but there are a lot of Ferraris in the parking garage.
Pros: 5 salt water swimming pools, huge central park with running trails/playground/fields/basketball/tennis; free yoga/Zumba/spin classes in the state-of-the art on-site exercise facilities; on-site movie theater with free movies every week; on-site Starbucks/pizza place/taco restaurant; brand new apartment with all the bells and whistles.
Cons: We’re on the third floor, which means every time the dog needs out or we have to leave the house it is a 20-minute ordeal to dress and pack up the children, walk 3 flights of stairs/wait for the ridiculously slow elevator, and get outside; 30-45 minute commute to Jon’s office (and we all know how much he LOVES traffic…); no yard for playing or entertaining; only 1 reserved parking spot

House #2: Los Gatos “Big House”

Audrey big house Description: Located on the border of Campbell and Los Gatos on a quiet dead-end street (there’s an elementary school at the end of the road). The house has an open floor plan with 3 bedrooms/2 baths. There is also a detached 3+ car garage/utility room.
Monthly Rent: An arm and a leg
Pros: By far the biggest house we’ve seen with spacious bedrooms that we might actually be able to fit beds into AND two family rooms that you could actually fit furniture into; fully fenced yard with a covered patio, grassy play area, and a separate “hot tub” patio that is just waiting for a sandbox (or maybe a new hot tub!); weekly gardening service included (because, in California, apparently that sort of thing is considered standard); brand new stainless steel appliances in the kitchen; a ginormous detached garage with wall-to-wall storage, a full fridge/freezer, and a utility sink; in a great school district
Cons: At the top end of our budget; moderate commute to work (15-20 minutes); we have to provide our own washer and dryer; can’t walk to Starbucks in under 5 minutes

House #3: San Jose Remodel

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Description: A newly remodeled home (as in, they’re still finishing the remodel this week) in the heart of Silicon Valley. 3 bedrooms/2 bath with an attached 1 car garage and a fully fenced back yard with mature fruit trees. There is also a large workshop/storage shed in the back yard.
Monthly Rent: #allthemoneyIMG_9022
Pros: Fully remodeled with state of the art appliances, newly tiled bathrooms, fresh paint, and new hardwood floors; great location in a quiet neighborhood 10 minutes from Jon’s work; plenty of storage; wood stove for all of those cold California summers; window seat in the dining area off the kitchen; brand new washer and dryer included; separate den in addition to the bedrooms; great price for the area
Cons: Small bedrooms; shop/shed is directly outside the back door so it would be difficult to see the kids if they were playing outside and I was inside; no air conditioning; kitchen is mostly closed off from the rest of the house

Sound off! Which one would YOU choose? We’re signing a lease on one of these beauties this weekend, and our choice will be revealed tomorrow :)

 

 

 

Posted in Daily Life, Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

85 Things To Do In A Seattle Summer

Well, folks, it’s actually happening: we’re finally moving to California! Tomorrow morning I’m boarding a plane with the boys and, two hours later, we’ll arrive in San Jose ready to begin this next adventure.

Before we leave Seattle, however, I thought I’d give you a little (and by little, I mean massive) recap of what we’ve been up to here for the last month. It has been a very busy, action-packed summer for us in Seattle (which, by the way, is literally the most amazing place to spend a summer. It’s true. I looked it up on Wikipedia). So, just in case any of you want to visit Seattle some time, here is a not-so-brief rundown of what you could look forward to doing while you’re in town:

1. Squirt water guns
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2. Shop at Costco (interesting factoid: Costco was founded in 1983–the same year I was born–right here in Seattle)IMG_7954 3. Visit the house that you own but never seem to actually live inIMG_7982 4. Go for a waterfront walk and marvel at the majestic beauty of Mount Rainier in the distanceIMG_8006 5. Make Trader Joe’s “Fudge”: Combine in a food processor one whole box of Trader Joe’s unsweetened cocoa powder, one whole jar of Trader Joe’s coconut oil and one whole tub of Trader Joe’s creamed honey. Spread the mixture in a pan and fridge it until hard. Try to stop yourself from consuming the entire pan in one sitting.IMG_8007 6. Make yourself a breakfast of scones and Barry’s tea to remind you of IrelandIMG_8010 7. Visit Northwest Trek to get up-close and personal with some Northwest-native wildlifeIMG_8029 8. Be so busy that your kids literally take all of their naps in the car while you are driving between activitiesIMG_8057 9. Run around GreenlakeIMG_8073 10. Go on a private tour at Starbucks headquarters with an insider, and be jealous of the employees who get to use the do-it-yourself espresso stations located on every floorIMG_8083 11. Meet up with your mommy friends and cuddle all of their new babies that have been born in the past yearIMG_8084 12. Watch the Blue Angels doing practice flights over I-5 during Seafair WeekendIMG_8089 13. Build sandcastles at Alki BeachIMG_8098 14. Take in a stunning view of the Seattle skyline with your even more stunning sister :)IMG_8104 15. Take your dog for a walk at 9:00 PM and revel in the fact that there’s still another hour of daylight left.IMG_8122 16. Decorate your own 100% recycled organic fully biodegradable Seattle placematIMG_8125 17. Refuse to look at the camera or smile for a photo with your 91-year old great grandmotherIMG_8139 18. Complete your first engineering project with Daddy: an LED flashlight!IMG_8176 19. Play in your friends’ awesome backyard IMG_8177 20. BBQ every dayIMG_8184 21. Eat Dairy Queen Blizzards (you may get the idea of a DQ Blizzard stuck in your head, and you may have to drive to 5 different locations in 2 different cities before you find one that is still open, but it will be worth it)IMG_8204 22. Light sparklers, and always remember: safety firstIMG_8244 23. Watch The Sound of Music at an amphitheater and get misty eyed when Maria literally walks down a mountain signing “The hills are alive with the sound of music…”IMG_8261 24. Play with Grammy in your secret hideoutIMG_8264 25. Swim in a riverIMG_8303 26. Spend the weekend with your grandparents who live over the river and through the woodsIMG_8311 27. Play at your favorite place in the world: McDonald’s IMG_8316 28. Make a “Countdown Caterpillar” to count down the days until you move to California (!)IMG_8317 29. Visit awesome fruit standsIMG_8319 30. Bake treatsIMG_8323 31. Find a book of your mom’s childhood books and spend hours reading them togetherIMG_8324 32. Jump down sand dunes at Pacific Ocean beachesIMG_8344 33. Play mini golfIMG_8376 34. Fly a kite with your grandpaIMG_8383 35. Strip down to your skivvies so you can swim in a lake on a hot dayIMG_8385 36. Try–and fail–to capture the “Super Moon” with your iPhone cameraIMG_8390 37. Spend way too much time spent in Seattle traffic. Seriously, folks, this is a problem.IMG_8395 38. Meet up with some awesome moms for a workout in the parkIMG_8399 39. Get wet at a splash padIMG_8415 40. Eat a picnicIMG_8418 41. Buy an entire family of Potato Heads off Craigslist. Sit back and relax with a magazine while your children entertain themselves for the rest of the summer.IMG_8424 42. Husk fresh local corn and grill it up for dinnerIMG_8428 43. Get a pedicure with your mom on her birthday (Happy birthday, Mom!)IMG_8434 44. Pose as a Giant Pacific OctopusIMG_8438 45. Go for a walk at Chambers Bay. Well, try to go for a walk at Chambers Bay, but get a flat tire on your stroller and spend your time on the playground instead (and vow to always bring a patch and a tire pump with you from this point forward)IMG_8441

Go to iconic Seattle restaurants and wait in ridiculously long lines at 46. Dicks 47. Ivar’s 48. Red Mill 49. Salumi 50. Ezell’s and 51. Paseo. Consider it time very well spent.
IMG_8457 52. Spend a day in the park catching up with dear friendsIMG_8476 53. Jump on rocks. Why not.IMG_8494 54. Tend to your backyard garden. Sit in the dirt and eat kale straight off the stalk.IMG_8508 55. Pick apples, eat apples, throw apples for your dog like they’re tennis balls. Apples, apples, apples.IMG_8510 56. Pick wild blackberries and 57. Bake blackberry slumpIMG_8511 58. Play on millions of playgroundsIMG_8512 59. Go to a U-pick organic blueberry farm. Pick berries until your buckets or your tummies are full, whichever comes first.IMG_851460. Hike to the bottom of Snoqualmie FallsIMG_851661. Drive a tractorIMG_853062. Go on an alpine hike to Lake ColchuckIMG_857163. Use a loo with a viewIMG_860364. Watch “Frozen” with your grandma and 65. Make paper snowflakes (who cares if it’s the middle of August and 90 degrees outside!)IMG_860465. Visit the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth. While you’re there 66. eat a bratwurst, 67. dance to the oompa-band playing on the stage in the center of town, 68. sip a brew in a beer garden (extra points if you wear lederhosen or a dirndl), and 69. rent a giant inner tube or an inflatable raft and float down the Icicle RiverIMG_861070. Maintain a 27 year-old tradition and go out on a (belated) birthday date with your dadIMG_868171. Jump on your friends’ trampoline
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72. Get a Chinese Foot Massage (it will be the best 20 bucks you’ve ever spent, trust me.)IMG_868773. Wander through a rose garden IMG_868874. Reconnect with your college roommateIMG_873175. Spend a day meeting the animals at Woodland Park Zoo
IMG_872076. FaceTime with Daddy every night because you all miss each other like crazy when you’re living two states apartIMG_873577. Drive down to Longview so you can get 4 generations together for lunch at Grandma’s favorite restaurant in the whole wide world: SizzlerIMG_874178. Run out of gas on I-5 (I wasn’t driving, so we’ll just chalk this one up to another adventure on the road) and 79. Call 911 for roadside assistance (according to Google, this is what you’re actually supposed to do). Get a recorded message that all lines are busy, so please try your call again later. 80. Call 911 again and get the same recorded message 81. Call 911 for a third time and get the same recorded message. 82. Call 911 for a fourth time and actually speak to a person. Be thankful you didn’t have a REAL emergency. 83. Read running magazines in the car while you wait for roadside assistance and pray that a passing semi truck doesn’t knock your car over. 84. Thank the nice Incidence Response man who comes and gives you free gas so you can drive to the next gas station.
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85. Watch the sun set over Puget Sound
IMG_8684…and just soak it all in, because there really is no better place than Seattle in the summertime. To all of the people and places that made this month amazing, thank you.

Until next time, Seattle! XxX

Posted in Daily Life, Kids and Parenting, Moving, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In the Middle

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It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride.
Everything will be just fine, everything will be alright.
-Jimmy Eat World, “The Middle”

Last month we left our home in Ireland for our next great adventure. This is not, of course, the first time we have left our home. Just over a year ago we left our home in Washington when we moved to Ireland–and now we had to do it again. With both moves we left our friends, our home, our church, our kids’ schools and playgrounds and favorite places. We left it all. And now, three weeks after moving from Ireland, we find ourselves in the middle. In the middle of this wild ride called life.

We decided to spend some time at “home” in Seattle this month before heading down to California. We wanted to spend some time catching up with our friends and family before moving yet again, another great distance away. It’s been a much-needed time of refreshment and joy for our family. We have laughed with our friends and celebrated with our family and it’s been altogether wonderful. As lovely as this time in Washington has been, though, it’s still just the middle. Jon left a week ago to start his new job in California (which he LOVES, by the way!), and I’ll be joining him there next week with the boys. This place is just a stopping-off point, not the end destination. We are living in the middle.

And then there’s the cultural “middle”: the reverse culture shock. In some ways living in Ireland was very similar to life in America, but in other ways the two could not be more different. I was away for a full year, fully immersed in another culture, and coming back “home” has had its confusing moments.

The pace of life is slower in Ireland. There aren’t as many people there. You drive on the other side of the road. When you go for a drive you see farms instead of endless traffic jams. Different types of foods are readily available–and other types of food are not available at all. There are not 5 bajillion Starbucks and Taco Bells and Best Buys and Home Depots and…well, there just are not 5 bajillions of anything in Ireland. The weather is different. The topics of conversation and the words you use are different. Different. So many things that seemed so different when we first moved to Ireland became my new norm…and now that’s all been turned upside down again. To be honest, I feel a bit lost–which is a very strange thing to feel when you are in the place where you should finally be found. I am an ex-expat. I am living in the middle.

But it’s all good. Crazy and confusing as it’s been, I enjoy this ride and I really don’t think I’d have it any other way. Yes, we’re living in the middle–but isn’t the middle just the beginning of the next part? I am excited to see what the next part of this adventure has in store for us. I know that it will have challenges and changes and all of those other things that come with new life experiences–and that’s great. I’m ready for it.

It just takes some time.

Everything will be just fine.

Everything will be alright.

Even better–this is something I learned in Ireland–everything will be grand.

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DIY Custom Children’s Books

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As a former classroom teacher, I know the power of reading with children. It is not a surprise, then, that reading is an important part of our daily routine. I’m always seeking out new reading material to keep my little guys engaged–something to keep the reading game fresh and interesting for them. Their favorite books, however, do not feature any characters you’ve ever heard of.  They aren’t books about a cat in a hat or a mouse you take to school (although they love those ones, too). No, their favorite books feature their favorite people: themselves!

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I started making storybooks for David when he was a baby. As I was sorting through the thousands of photos that we had of him up to that point, I came to the realization that most of those photos would never be seen by anyone. They would remain locked on my computer hard drive forever, never to be printed or put to any actual use.  I happened to have a voucher that I needed to use for a photo book, and the idea for a customized storybook was born.

To make the storybooks, I just order a photo book online that I have customized with photos and text. For inspiration, I use other books or basic concepts to write out a story that goes along with the photos I have selected. It’s quite simple, and the books have already become family keepsakes.

Here are a few tips for getting started on making your own customized storybooks:

  • I make all of my books using online photobook services. Shop around for photo book deals. By looking for bargains I can usually get the price of a book down to about $10 with shipping included–that’s cheaper than just about any new children’s book you can find in a book store! Group discount sites like GrouponLiving Social, and Amazon Local offer up photo book vouchers quite regularly. Also try visiting the photo book sites directly as they often run promotions on their website or on through their subscription mailing lists (some of my favorites are PicabooShutterfly, and Mixbook).
  • Try following a pattern that you find in another book your child enjoys. One of David’s favorite books I’ve made for him is called David’s Busy Day based on the book Lulu’s Busy Day by Caroline Uff.IMG_6553
  • If you really want to let your creative juices flow, make up a story adventure that features your child and some of their favorite things.
  • Older children can compose their own stories and you can work on the computer together to build their book. Make sure to include a dedication and an “About the Author” page!
  • You can also base your book on a concept that you want your child to practice: ABC’s, counting, opposites, rhyming words, feelings, animals, shapes, etc.IMG_6555photo (14)
  • Instead of using photos, try using your child’s artwork as the illustrations (just scan or snap a photo of their drawing or painting and upload it onto your computer).
  • Make a special folder on your computer for photos that you think you might like to use in a book. Every time you download photos from your camera, add to the folder any new photos that you like and build it up over time.
  • Enjoy the process and the product–hopefully these books will become treasures that you can look back on for years to come!

From our family to yours: happy reading!

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Posted in Crafts and DIY, Educational Activities and Learning Games, Kids and Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love, Teach, Grow Has Moved!

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It’s official, friends: I’m official! I have taken the next step in this blogging adventure and have registered a proper .com address for this blog. You can find me now at:
*drum roll please* http://www.WeLoveTeachGrow.com  

While the web address change will not affect your, the reader’s, experience on the blog, it is an exciting move for me.  With the change of address I will also be changing the direction of the blog a bit. I will continue to write about my mommy experiences and tips, but I also want to include more stories from my family and our travels here. For those of you who have been following my other blog, To Ireland We Go, I will begin adding posts on WeLoveTeachGrow.com relating to our transition to life back in America and our new adventures in California.

Cheers to a renewed beginning, and thanks for coming with me on this next adventure!

 

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A Birthday Love Note To My Son

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As a mother, I am the first woman who will love my sons. I want to love them well. I want to show them what true, genuine love looks like so they will recognize it when they are older. For now, though, they are still my babies. My babies who are growing and changing every single day. Last week, in fact, my youngest son celebrated his second birthday and I found myself wondering again, “Where does the time go?”.

Since before my boys were even born, I’ve been writing them love letters. Every year on their birthday I write them a special birthday letter to commemorate their special day. Last year I shared Jacob’s first birthday letter and now that another year has passed, it’s time to share birthday letter #2. Happy (belated) birthday, sweet Jacob: may all of your dreams come true!

A Love Letter To My Son On His Second Birthday

July 26, 2014
Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean
You are 2 years old!

Dearest Jacob,

Happy second birthday, Snuggle Bear! This has been one incredible year for you, for all of us. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that you have experienced more in your two short years than many people do in their entire lives! This has been a busy year for our family, to say the least. In fact, right now as I write this letter we are flying over the Atlantic Ocean toward our next adventure. Life never slows down, so I hope you enjoy every minute of it!

This year we were living in Cork, Ireland. We moved from Seattle all the way to Ireland just a few weeks before your your first birthday. I was just thinking about how you have had three birthdays now, and have woken up in a different country on each of your birthdays thus far (born in Seattle, first birthday in Ireland and today, your second birthday, started off in London). I don’t think we’ll be able to keep that trajectory up for much longer, but it is pretty interesting!

We had so many exciting adventures this year in Ireland that it’s hard to even remember them all. We visited castles and cliffs and beaches. We drove tractors and milked cows. We spent countless afternoons watching the animals at Fota Wildlife Park (the giraffes were always your favorite). We visited medieval towns and Viking villages and ancient landmarks. I know that you won’t remember any of this, but you did it and you were there and it was incredible. As you get older I will show you pictures and tell you stories about Ireland. I will remind you of the wonderful friends we had there and the beautiful places we visited together. And, even if my words become your only memories of that time in your life, Ireland will always be a part of your story.

While we were living in Ireland we seized the opportunity to travel through Europe. You were a trooper and a fantastic little traveller! In London you saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and the massive Tower of London. In Paris, you went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and gazed into Mona Lisa’s eyes at the Louvre. In Spain you rode on camels and learned how to say “Hola! Adios!”. You saw the world this year, and travel will always be a part of your story.

And when we weren’t out traveling or “adventuring”, as I called it, we had our daily life. The life where we walked David to preschool in the morning and then went running on the trail by the water. The life where we went to the Farmer’s Market and drank hot chocolates. The life where Daddy would come home from work and give you wrestles and helicopter rides. The life where you loved reading books and playing with “colors” and chasing Bota through the back yard. The life where Day-Day was your friend and your mentor and your hero. The life where, in this one short year, you learned how to talk and walk and run and jump and climb and hit your brother back. It’s been a big year for growing and changing and learning. All that you have learned is now a part of your story.

And the story continues. We are traveling across the world again, right back to Seattle where it all began. We are spending a few weeks in Seattle visiting our family and our friends and our favorite places. Then we will move on to the next chapter of your story: California. I don’t know what this next year will bring us, but I’m just happy I get to spend it with you.

This year you have been to so many places, done so many things and experienced so many changes. And, despite all of the changes and crazy adventures we’ve taken you on, you have stayed the same: sweet, cuddly, attentive, curious, gentle. You have a magical way of brightening our days and calming our fears with your sweet smile and your snuggly hugs. I love you more than words can say, Jacob, and I am so glad that I get to be your mom. Happy second birthday, sweetheart, and may God bless you this year and always!

All My Love,
Mommy

Posted in Holidays and Traditions, Kids and Parenting, Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment