Washington: Week 1

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Friends, it’s official: we are Washingtonians! One week ago we left California, and now here we are: already fully saturated by the love–and the rain–that make Washington home.

Our first week back in Washington has been a bit of a whirlwind as we attempt to get our feet on the ground, and hit the ground running at the same time.  I feel a bit like those unfortunate guys in the YouTube videos that are running on a treadmill at the gym, lose their balance, and go shooting off the end of the machine. I’m running, running, running, but I’m not so sure how to find balance yet. We’re definitely still in transition and I think it will be awhile before things calm down and we can really feel like we’ve settled here.

It’s been a busy few days with a lot of emotions, but overall we are just so happy to be here, to be starting this next chapter of life for our family. Here’s a run down of what we’ve been up to since our move from California:

Saturday:
I flew up to Washington with the kids and my saint-of-a-mother-in-law, Debi, who spent all of moving week in California helping me manage children and moving companies and school drop offs and last minute necessities.

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While we were flying up, Jon drove his car–somehow he managed to drive 860 miles in only 13 hours, which is approximately half the time that it usually takes our family to drive the same distance in our minivan. My dad and father in law met my crew at the airport to help transport all the people and all the stuff (and thank goodness they did, because that is no easy feat).

We are currently living in temporary housing while we wait to close on our house in Woodinville and move in there. Our temp housing is in Redmond near Marymoor Park, and Jon’s office is close enough that he can walk to work on a trail that runs behind our house. The house is gorgeous and hasn’t yet been utterly destroyed by our children, so it feels like we’re on vacation. The house also has 36 stairs from the ground floor to the top floor, so I feel like I won’t even have to go to the gym as long as we live here. Win win.

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On Saturday we were also reunited with our dog, Bota. We are so grateful to have our Bota girl back after several weeks apart (my dad drove Bota up to Washington a few weeks ago so she wouldn’t have to be traumatized by yet another plane trip):

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We’d love to host a play date for any of our local friends who want to come visit, so just let me know when you want to come over!

Sunday:
We were tired from our day of travel the day before so we had a slow start to our morning. Once we were up and at ’em we decided to drive by OUR NEW HOUSE! This was the first time we got to see our house in person so it was really fun to, you know, prove that it actually exists. Unfortunately we weren’t able to go inside (the seller is in the process of moving out), and as soon as we saw it David started crying because he missed our old house in California…so a lot of big feelings there. I was really excited to see it, though, and I can’t wait to make this house our home.

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In the afternoon my parents came over to visit, and then they took Jon to the airport. Yes, just 20 hours after arriving in Washington he flew back to California for his first 2 days of on-board orientation with his new company. See, California? I told you we wouldn’t stay away for too long!

Monday:
While Jon was in California I kept busy with the kids here in Washington. My sister came over to visit and we spent most of the day hanging out at home catching up and playing about 5,000 rounds of hide-and-seek (baby Hannah sucks at hiding, btw).

In the afternoon we had a special outing to David’s new school (he will start classes on Monday):

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We got to meet his teacher and see his new kindergarten classroom:

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And spent a long time playing on the school playground:

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Jacob was also excited to see the school as this will be HIS new school come September!

Tuesday:
We went to MOPS! Last Wednesday was my final day of leading my MOPS group in California, and less than a week later I was already plugged in to a new local group–I guess I just couldn’t stay away! I love the community of moms at MOPS, and I immediately felt right at home. It was wonderful to meet some new mom-friends and continue being a part of something that is so close to my heart.

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In the afternoon we checked out a local park and much merriment was made by all:

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Wednesday:
Jon got back from California and immediately high-tailed it to get in for his first day of work at the local office. He humored me when I told him that I needed a “first day of work” photo to commemorate the occasion:

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After we got Daddy off to work we drove up to Edmonds for a friend playdate. It happened to be my friend Michelle’s birthday, so it was the perfect excuse to get a few of the old gang (and our plethora of offspring) together for a visit.

In the afternoon we explored the trails near our house and went on a critter hunt. The boys had fun collecting all sorts of PNW creatures like snails and worms and the most Washington-y of all creatures: slugs.

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Thursday:
Thursday started with a thrilling adventure to the grocery store. Turns out when you move into a temporary house for a month you still need to eat and generally live…and fast food for every meal only cuts it for so long. This was a major grocery store trip that required me restocking an entire pantry and fridge, so I did my research. Mostly. I found a grocery store that had in-store childcare (SCORE!), and my plan was to ditch the boys so I could muscle through the tedious shopping trip without their “help”.

As it turns out, I arrived a full hour before the childcare center opened, and Hannah was already getting cranky for her nap. I decided to cut my losses and just keep the boys with me. Thankfully there was a pile of Easter candy at the front of the store marked 90% off that I shamelessly used as a bribe to keep the boys from running up the aisles like wild banshees and generally causing absolute mayhem.  We got our stuff (mostly) and got the heck out of there as quickly as is possible when you have two boys running up the aisles like wild banshees and generally causing absolute mayhem.

In the afternoon we had a very special play date at a park near our new Woodinville house. Earlier in the week I had posted in a local Facebook group that David would be starting at his new school next week–a mom who has a daughter in David’s new class saw my post and she set up a playdate for David with several of his new classmates and their moms.

We had a lot of fun meeting new friends and probably would have stayed longer if a crazy thunder-and-lightning storm hadn’t cut the playdate short!

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Since Daddy had walked to work in the sunshine that morning…and now the weather had turned to chaos…we decided to rescue him with the car. Turns out this was a very good idea. Jon’s new office has free food (umm, HELLO!) and it just so happened that Daddy-pick-up-time coincides with feed-my-tummy dinner time. We had a delicious dinner where the boys literally licked their plates clean and declared it the best meal of their lives. And, since I didn’t have to prep or cook or clean a single darn thing, I had to agree.

While we were at Jon’s office we also picked up the final installment of care packages that his company sends to the kids of new hires (the boys had already received 2 other care packages before we moved, so they knew what they were in for as soon as they saw their “thumbs up boxes”):
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The excitement was palpable as they opened their special presents…and even Hannah was overjoyed to play in an empty box with packing materials (babies are so easy to please!):

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Friday:
This was our last “free day” before real life and routines kick in full-force next week. One of my goals this week was to give the boys lots of happy experiences to help make this transition positive for them. Moving is rough on kids, and I really wanted to help make some happy new memories together right away.

And that, my friends, is how we ended up at the most amazing indoor swimming pool!

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We had a blast spending the morning splashing and sliding and swimming in the lazy river. It was so good that 2/3 of the kids fell asleep on the car ride back home, thus giving me an opportunity to write this blog post 🙂

It’s been a very full first week in Washington, and we look forward to many more wonderful weeks (and months and years) to come!

Virtual House Hunters

Earlier this week I dropped a bomb on you when I let you know that we are moving back to Washington this weekend. I left you with a bit of a cliffhanger as to where exactly we will be moving back to so, as promised, here is Part 2 of The Great Peterson Moving Saga.

One of the biggest draws for us moving back to Washington (Besides our family and the liquid sunshine, obviously.) was the fact that we can actually afford to buy a home there. Living in the Bay Area and dealing with ever-increasing rent prices and the instability of having to move every time your landlord is murdered (True story, this actually happened to us) made us realize that renting was not for us. We needed to buy a home and make it our own. So began the quest for home ownership.

Now, this was not just any ordinary housing search. This was a housing search that had to be conducted from a different state, with a very tight time frame, and with a budget (a budget that we started off thinking was excellent, and ended up realizing was completely insufficient. But more on that later).

When we bought our first house in Washington 11 years ago, the housing market was…ahem…a bit different. Then: two 23 year-old BABIES, buying a house with stars in their eyes and a zero-down loan in the bank. Now: a family of 5 with a dog, buying a house in one of the fastest-growing real estate markets in the country.

We went into this housing search thinking that it would be like it was back in 2006 when we went out to look at a few houses, made an offer on the one we liked, and bought it after we’d thought it through and made some decisions and felt ready. So, we booked ourselves a quick weekend trip up to Seattle to do a whirlwind housing tour, sure that by the end of the weekend we’d pick out the house of our dreams (which, with our budget, we were sure would be any darn house we wanted), and move on merrily with our lives.

Our good friend, Rob, is a real estate agent (the best there is) and he spent the whole weekend with us driving around looking at houses and neighborhoods (Meanwhile, the grandmas and grandpas came and played with our kids at our hotel). When all was said and done, I think we visited about 30 different houses over the course of 2 .5 days. It was a LOT.

But it was all good, because the very first house that we saw on the very first day was THE ONE. It was the size, location, and style that we were looking for. It was within our budget. It was a beautiful neighborhood. It. Was. Perfect. So, we made an offer–a really strong offer that was over the asking price with no contingencies and a pre-inspection completed. We were 110% sure that this would be our house. We flew back to California with our offer on the table, and we knew that we’d get the good news that the house was ours by the end of the week.

Well, the end of the week came, and so did our news about the house. Only, it wasn’t the news we’d expected. There were several other offers made on the same house (OUR HOUSE), and we weren’t even in the top 3. If we wanted to increase our offer by another 10%, they told us, then we’d at least be competing in the top 3 offers (so very generous of them to allow us the opportunity to compete even further). Since we’d already offered all that we had, however, we couldn’t offer more (remember, there’s this thing called a budget and this other thing called a loan…and they kind of have to line up if you actually want to buy a house.)

We were devastated. Both of us felt so, so sure that this was going to be our house and our happy little ending to our story. After all, everything else had already lined up perfectly, so why didn’t this? As I discovered, this was just another opportunity to trust God and follow him–after all, we had prayed that he would close doors where we weren’t supposed to be, and this was just another closed door in a series of closed doors.

In the end, this first home-offer experience was a reality check for us. The housing market had changed, and we were the unlucky participants. So began phase 2 of the house hunting process: online house hunting.

We wouldn’t have another chance to fly up to Washington for in-person house hunting before we actually had to move there, and Jon’s company would only pay for 30 days of temporary housing once we arrived, so our options were becoming more limited. Even if we found a house that we wanted to buy on the day that we moved to Washington, we wouldn’t have time to close before our temporary housing allowance ran out. And if your temporary housing time runs out, that means you have to move. AGAIN. And since we really, really, REALLY wanted to cut out the number of times we’d have to move during this transition, we decided to suck it up and try something that we were initially very uncomfortable with: trying to buy a house that we wouldn’t get to see in person.

Over the course of the next few weeks we sent our friend-agent Rob and Jon’s parents out to look at several more houses with us remotely via FaceTime in the craziest housing market I’ve ever encountered (possibly even crazier than the Bay Area, which is saying something). The housing market in Seattle works like this: Houses are listed on Thursday, they do open houses Friday-Sunday, they accept offers Monday-Wednesday, they review offers on Wednesday afternoon, and you know by the end of the day Wednesday whether you’re an offer winner or an offer loser. When you make an offer, you need to offer at least 10-20% over asking or you won’t even be in the running. An all-cash offer is much preferred. Then, to make your offer stand out you need to remove every contingency, include a personalized cover letter with a cute photo of your family, and then offer more money. Because, really, the few sellers that there are just want more money.

So, we followed all of the crazy Seattle-area homebuying rules and we made offers on 5 houses. None of them were accepted.

I was getting to that point that I get to when I think our family is going to be homeless (or have to move a gazillion times before my children finish kindergarten). I started researching Craigslist ads for rentals in the area and I had them send over some applications. Time was running out, and if we weren’t going to be able to buy something then we’d better figure out a Plan B.

While I was sorting out our rental options, we had one final offer on the table. It was a great house, but we were so discouraged at this point that we really didn’t expect anything to happen with it. And just then, when I thought nothing would ever happen, IT DID. The Wednesday review date came up and THEY ACTUALLY LIKED OUR OFFER!!! We got the house! Our closing date is scheduled for May 11, so before we know it this will be home. I honestly could not believe that after all of the searching and rejections and stress of being so far away we were actually going to get our happy ending after all.

So now, friends, do you want to see it?! Do you want to see the house that I hope to call home for a very long time (or, as Jon says, “Long enough to let the ink dry in their address books.”)? Of course you do!

I now present to you, OUR NEW HOME!!! (note the “Pending” tag on this photo. Best tag EVER!)

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Here’s a quick run-down of the stats (To the best of my knowledge. Remember, I still have not actually seen this house yet):

Location: Downtown Woodinville (For those of you not familiar with the area, Woodinville is about 30 minutes northeast of Seattle and is best known for it’s  charming small-town feel, wineries and farm-to-table restaurants). This will be about a 15-20 minute commute for Jon (or he can ride his bike less than 10 miles on a trail to work).

Size: 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms (approximately the same size as 3 Bay Area homes combined)

Yard: AMAZING! Half an acre that backs up to a former golf course…it basically goes on forever. There’s a garden (that I will surely kill by the end of this summer), a fire pit, a dog run, and oodles of space for little boys and their dog to explore together.

Schools: Top-rated and close by. David is going to finish out his Kindergarten year at his new school starting the first week of May, and Jacob will begin Kindergarten there in the fall (!).

Parking: Plenty for our guests who will come visit 😉

There are so many reasons why this house will be perfect for our family. It has space for each of our kids to have their own rooms. There is space for Jon to have an office so he can finish work at home if he needs to and not have to stay late at the office. The neighborhood is quiet yet close to all of the shops and activities that I need to shuttle between during the day. We will be close enough to our former church that we can reconnect with our friends who are still there. We will be mere minutes from all of our family in the area. My favorite winery is just down the street.

I could go on and on, but the point is that we are just so stinkin’ excited about this! Being able to buy this house is the answer to a thousand prayers, and we can’t wait to see how God uses us in this new community where we are being planted. Please come visit us soon, friends, and in the meantime here are a few more photos of our home (wow, it feels good to say that!):

 

What To Do In The San Francisco Bay Area

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In a few weeks we have a good friend from Ireland who will be coming to California for the first time. Ok, ok…she’s more than a friend. She’s my all-time favorite babysitter, and I’m kind of hoping she’ll fall in love with America and move here forever. And by “here” I mean the spare mattress in our guest room. And since I want her to love America, I thought I’d give her some ideas of top-notch destinations to see once she arrives.

I logged in to my blog to pull up a post on what she should do when she visits the Bay Area only to realize that I have never written that post! How have I lived here for 3 years and never given you all ideas of what to do when you come? Better late than never, so here are a few of my favorite things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area:

San Francisco:
If you are coming to the Bay Area, it’s likely because you want to visit the foggy city. Even though it’s only an hour away from our house, I don’t venture up to San Francisco that often. I have kids with small bladders and it’s a bit of a to-do…and it’s cold in The City (California has made me soft–so soft that minor temperature changes have become deterrents. I’m sorry.).

There are hop-on-hop-off tour buses in the city that will take you to many of the top landmarks, or you can buy a MUNI (bus) pass to get around quite easily. If you have your own car, you may want to just park it somewhere that doesn’t cost more than your mortgage and walk or take public transportation within The City because parking here is no bueno. San Francisco is only 7 miles x 7 miles, so it’s totally do-able to see most things by foot anyway.

Now, on to my favorite spots to visit in the city.

Golden Gate Bridge (duh)
I always start my venture over the bridge at the view point and visitor center on the San Francisco side of the bridge. If you’re driving your own car you can park for $1 per hour while you hop out to look around and shop for Golden Gate souvenirs. I always walk out on the bridge so I can look up at the copper spans and down into the deep blue water.

After stopping by the view point I like to drive over the bridge and up to the Marin Headlands. You park up by the old Army barracks and take a short walk out to the best view of the bridge anywhere–you’re slightly above the bridge looking down at it, and it’s absolutely breathtaking.

If you’re feeling more adventurous you can rent a bike on the city side and ride over the bridge on 2 wheels (there are several spots to rent bikes, but we got ours at the Sports Basement when we did this ride pre-kids). You can ride over the bridge and right back to where you started, or you can ride all the way to Tiburon and catch the ferry back to the city.

Fisherman’s Wharf
This is a fun area to explore. There are lots of (overpriced) shops and restaurants, and even a Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Go check out the sea lions on the pier, eat some bread bowl clam chowder, or even charter a boat out around the San Francisco Bay (highly recommended). We like to walk up to the Buena Vista for an Irish Coffee and then over to Ghiradelli for free chocolate samples and ice cream.

Fisherman’s Wharf is also where you catch the boat out to the most infamous prison in America: Alcatraz. If you want to visit Alcatraz, plan ahead–the only way out there is by boat, and spots fill up quickly. Your best bet is to buy tickets ahead of time and reserve your spot online as soon as you know the day that you want to go out to the island.

Trolley Rides
Speaking of Fisherman’s Wharf, there’s a great spot to watch the trolleys turn around in front of the Buena Vista and, if you want to, go for a ride! Taking a trolley ride is a lot of fun and about as iconic as you can get! I like riding the route between Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square (shopping, hotels, restaurants, and more shopping). This route passes close to Lombard Street if you want to hop off and check out the twisty-turnies.

Golden Gate Park
Go for a walk on the gorgeous trails, rent a boat at the Stow Lake Boathouse, or check out some of the museums–the California Academy of Sciences (where you can walk through a 3-story rainforest biodome and view a myriad of sealife in the aquarium) is my fave.

Chinatown and Little Italy
There is so much to explore in these little neighborhoods of San Francisco. Eat your way through the streets, poke your head into the little shops, and enjoy the world-class people watching.

Catch a Giant’s Game
San Francisco loves their hometown heroes, the San Francisco Giants (Baseball, people. They’re a baseball team.). Head over to AT&T park for a game or, if you’re like me, just nosh on some garlic fries while enjoying the gorgeous views over San Francisco Bay.

San Francisco Zoo
I loooooooove zoos! Every time we travel I have to see the local zoo, and I love visiting the local zoos where we live. The San Francisco Zoo is a good-sized place with all of your favorite animals: giraffes, monkeys, penguins, polar bears, lions, and a tropical rain forest building. There’s also a cute little train ride that goes around part of the zoo and decent food in the cafes. It’s definitely worth checking out if you have an open day!

Bay Area Discovery Museum
This is more for those of you who are traveling with little companions aged 1-7 years old. Just over the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, I love this children’s museum for its interactive exhibits, indoor/outdoor play spaces, and pirate ship playground overlooking San Francisco Bay. Insider pro tip: the first Wednesday every month has FREE admission!


Day Trips From San Francisco:
Outside of The City there is still plenty to do! Here are a few of my top picks:

Wine Country
Take a tour bus out to Napa or Sonoma for a day of wine tasting and soaking in the beautiful scenery. Or, if you still want to go wine tasting without the crowds, head south toward the Santa Cruz Mountains (where we live!) and sample dozens of local wineries in a single afternoon.

Beaches
From San Francisco your best bet is to head over to Half Moon Bay so you can dip your toes in the Pacific. Continue south to Santa Cruz if you want a day of amusement park fun at The Boardwalk: rides, fair food, and a giant wooden roller coaster await.

The Redwoods
Ummmm…some of the biggest, oldest living things ON EARTH. Need I say more? It’s worth a trip. Some forests to check out if you’re near San Francisco: Muir Woods (12 miles outside of the city), Big Basin, Portola Redwoods State Park, or Butano State Park.

Silicon Valley
Now, I’m partial to Silicon Valley because this is where we’ve been living for the last few years. It really is a unique spot to visit, especially if you’re into technology and tech companies. All of the big tech companies are based here, and many have visitor centers you can check out: Apple, Google, Facebook and Netflix to name a few.

Monterey and Carmel-By-The-Sea
These are some of my all-time favorite coastal towns. They’re just so quaint and beautiful and slow-paced that they make you feel a million miles away from any care in the world. If you make it to Monterey, be sure to check out the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, go sea kayaking with the marine life, or go out on a whale-watching tour. If you’re in Carmel, drop everything you’re doing (which is probably not much of anything if you’re in Carmel), and eat brunch at Mission Ranch. Just trust me on this one, and send me your thank you card later.

Now that you know what to do, all you have to do is come enjoy your own San Francisco treat!

10 Rules Of Mommy Laundry

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Back before I had children I remember contemplating what life would be like once I had babies. I imagined how much fun it would be to share in adventures with my offspring and how wonderful it would be to see them learn about the world around them. I knew too, of course, that there would be certain work associated with having children: more cooking, cleaning, and tending. One thing I was not prepared for, however, was the sheer amount of laundry that amasses each day when you add kids to the mix.

I have three children now, which means I do laundry approximately every ten seconds. We actually have a sixth member of our family, and it is the mountainous laundry pile that lives downstairs next to the washing machine. Laundry for days, laundry for weeks, laundry for eternity.

Since I spend such a large chunk of my life devoted to my family’s laundry pile, I have noticed a few patterns. A few rules of mommy laundry, if you will:

  1. If you touch it/smell it/look at it funny, it’s dirty.
    We aren’t risk takers! We don’t want to risk cross-contamination! Never ever ever put something that could potentially be dirty back in your drawer.
  2. Set clothes next to the laundry hamper.
    Science has proved that there are adverse magnetic fields surrounding the laundry hampers of children that make it nearly impossible for soiled clothing to actually make it in to the laundry hamper. Next to the laundry hamper, in the vicinity of the laundry hamper, even hanging on the handle of the laundry hamper is the best we can hope for our clothing.
  3. Only put one sock in the laundry hamper.
    Goodness only knows what would happen if two matching socks actually made it into the same batch of laundry. Would there be sibling rivalry mid-cycle? Would civil war break out in the dryer? We dare not find out.
  4. Leave your underwear inside your pants.
    Who are these crazy people who take the unnecessary extra step to separate underwear from the inside of their pants? When I go to put my pants back on, won’t I need to wear underwear, too? Let’s streamline efficiency here, folks, and just leave the undies inside the pants.
  5. Wear white in the mud.
    Let’s go puddle hopping! Or play soccer! Or roll down a hill! You know what is the perfect color to wear for these outdoor pursuits? White. Always white. That way you can see the efforts you made at enjoying your mud-laden experience. Clothing is merely a canvas for your creation.
  6. Leave crayons in your pockets.
    You never know when you might need a crayon, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and always leave one or two of them in your pockets. That way when your pants go through the dryer the crayons can melt and leave beautiful multi-colored wax on everything (including the dryer). Jackson Pollock would be proud.
  7. Poop in your pants.
    It’s just funny and it makes mom laugh.
  8. Eat spaghetti while wearing your “nice clothes”.
    Mom doesn’t buy us too many nice clothes, so when we get to wear them it’s a special occasion. Special occasions call for special food, like our favorite food: spaghetti. And do you know what’s even better than eating spaghetti? WEARING spaghetti! Those nice linen shirts and frilly dresses look great with a little added décor.
  9. Have diaper blow-outs when you’re wearing tight-fitting clothing.
    What fun is a diaper blow out if Mom or Dad can actually change you easily? Wait until you’re wearing a tight romper or something with loads of tiny buttons. It’s super fun getting out of these outfits once they’re smothered in poo. Mom will be so excited that she’ll do a whole separate load of laundry just for you and your little surprise!
  10. Find the non-washable paint, and use that.
    Yes, I know they have shelves and shelves full of washable paint at preschool, but why use that junk when you can get your hands on the good stuff? Non-washable acrylics are far superior. When you’re using this non-washable paint, also be sure to not roll up your sleeves, and certainly do not take any precautions not to spill on your outfit.

May your days be ever full of love…and laundry.

Out of Control

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This week at MOPS we started something called “The 28 Day Challenge”–basically a month-long truth or dare game for grown-ups. It’s awesome. On the first day of our challenge, the “truth” was to tell about what ways you feel out of control in your life.

Ummm…hold up. Are there any ways in which I actually feel IN CONTROL in my life right now? The jury is in, and the answer is a big fat NO.

This past month has been a bit of a whirlwind. Literally. January started with a series of storms that left us stranded, isolated, cold…and completely out of control. Those four days that we were trapped in our house with no electricity and no means of escape were some of the most “out of control” feeling days I have ever experienced.

Then Inauguration Day happened and…well, ya know. Out. Of. Control. (I want to keep this about me here, so we’re going to just mosey around all of this political mumbo jumbo for the time being. Moving on, now.).

And then there is my personal life. Let’s just say that there was a huge decision out on the table that was going to affect every aspect of our family’s life. It was monumental. We spent months praying about God to open doors so we could have some sort of discernment when making The Decision. A few weeks ago we finally made up our minds and committed our hearts to The Decision. Right when we were patting ourselves on the back for making one of the biggest decisions of our life and getting excited to move forward with everything–BAM! The door shut. Out. Of. Control.

This month has taught me that my world is actually quite small, and it doesn’t take much to move from hunky-dory to earth-shattering. I have spent a lot of time praying and crying and questioning everything over the past few weeks. It’s been terrible…and wonderful.

I’ve had a lot of time to think this month (turns out, sitting in a dark house with no electricity for four days allows for a lot of thinking time). In all of my thinking, I’ve realized something. This is important, now, so pay attention:

The World and my little world are not mine to control.

THEY ARE NOT MINE. None of it is mine. The world? Not mine to control. The weather? Not mine to control. Political leaders and their decisions? Not mine to control. The Decision and it’s outcome? Not mine to control. Not. Mine. To. Control.

And, guess what?  I’m fine. Weary and confused and with an aching heart many days, but fine. Because someone else who is far more capable and compassionate and omniscient than I am IS in control.

Out of control, I have realized, is an opportunity to live out my faith. If I say, “Yes, God, I trust you!”, then I have to actually TRUST Him. I have to trust Him in the storms and in the answers to prayer that aren’t the answers I wanted to see. I have to trust Him in the good times AND the difficult times. When I feel out of control, I have to trust Him that what He says about himself and who He is and what He can do is true.

Control is not ours for the taking. The irony of control is that the only way to actually gain control is to release it–to sacrifice my false sense of control to the One who actually IS in control. Only after I release control can I experience the peace and the hope that comes from trusting God.

As mind-blowingly difficult as “out of control” feels, it is actually a very good place to be. I don’t like out of control, not even a little bit, but I’m going to allow it. I’m going to take a step back and just sit with my out of control for awhile. I’m going to take my doubts and my worries, and I’m going to turn them into prayers. I’m going to look for the blessings around me and celebrate the good that still happens in the out of control. I’m going to trust God.  And then? I’m going to watch in amazement at what happens on the other end.

So, if you’re joining me in the out of control club, welcome. Welcome to the chaos and the confusion and the craziness. But more importantly, welcome to the hope that comes through trusting the One who is in control.

Starry Eyed

 

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You may have noticed that things have gone kind of quiet on here lately…for a whole month, to be exact. Life has been BUSY. In the last month, both boys celebrated their first day of school (all the “WOOHOO”s!), which is a whole thing. Getting kids early to bed, and early to rise every day with a hearty breakfast in their tummies and a healthy lunch in their backpacks is no joke. And while the kids have been celebrating their first days in their new adventures, I have been busy preparing for a first day of my own. Today all of my efforts came together and the adventure finally began!

But before I tell you about the new adventure, let’s rewind a bit.

About 2 years ago, shortly after we moved to California, I joined a group at our church called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). I’d heard of MOPS for years (in fact, my Mother-in-law was one of the founding leaders of MOPS International back in the early 80’s), and I had several friends in MOPS groups, but it just never worked out for me to attend a group of my own. Once we were in California, however, I knew that I needed to find a place for me. A place where I could connect with other moms AND get a break from my (darling) children (who were completely overwhelming to me at the time).

MOPS has totally filled that space in my life. As soon as I joined the group at our church I started meeting new mom friends and getting connected. It was love at first sight. For the past 2 years, MOPS has been the thing I most look forward to every week. It’s been a total game-changer, and I’m so glad I finally decided to be a part of it.

Now, fast forward a bit. Shortly after I started attending my MOPS group, I was asked to step into leadership. But not just any role, the main role. Like, be in charge of the whole group. I’d only been in the group for about 2 months, so I was honored that they would even ask me…but  I had to say no. This was right when we were considering homeschooling the boys for the following year, and I knew that I couldn’t lead both my boys and the MOPS group well. I declined, but I told them to think of me again in the future if they needed more leaders.

Fast forward another year, and the opportunity came up again to take over leading the group. Hannah had just been born and I was sensing that homeschool wouldn’t be the right fit for our family the following year. If we didn’t homeschool, I knew that I would have the time and energy to pour into MOPS and I could give a leadership role the attention it deserved. The timing was right this time, so I said yes! The next few weeks were a blur of learning as much as I could from the standing coordinator before she handed the reigns completely over to me. By the end of May, the transition was complete and I found myself suddenly in charge.

Over the summer I planned leadership retreats, tracked down about a dozen community leaders to come speak at our group, worked with the church staff to plan and execute publicity and marketing materials, and tried to learn as many of the behind-the-scenes details as I could. There are, as it turns out, a LOT of behind the scenes details that go in to running a ministry.

Everything was coming together beautifully. Then, about 3 weeks ago, tragedy struck. Our ministry leader and my mentor, Dee, suddenly passed away. Dee was a huge advocate of MOPS, and she had a great love and passion for our group. Her passing was a shock to me and to everyone in our church and community who knew and loved her. At her memorial service a couple of weeks ago, hundreds of people filled the room to share funny stories and precious memories of this incredible woman. Dee will be greatly missed by me and by her MOPS family.

But even in the face of tragedy, today came.

Today was our first official meeting of the year, and it was amazing. We had about 50 moms at our first meeting, and as I was walking around the room everyone seemed to be having fun and connecting well with one another. We had a huge breakfast spread and there was enough coffee for everyone. Win, win, win.

My team worked so hard to make the room welcoming and gorgeous (thank goodness for them, because I still haven’t even figured out how to hang up pictures in my house!). I was so busy running around that I didn’t get many photos, but here are a few photos of the room before the moms arrived this morning:

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Everything ran smoothly, and I am so grateful. Grateful for the incredible moms that I get to travel with on this grand adventure, grateful for God’s provision, and grateful for the calling to leadership.

This morning I gave a brief talk at the group to introduce myself and the MOPS International theme for the year, “We Are The Starry Eyed”. It went something like this:

MOPS Welcome Talk 2016: We Are The Starry Eyed

Like all of you, my family is very important to me. I love my family more than life itself, and I will do anything for them. Well, almost anything. There is one thing, however, that I have sworn off until my kids move out: housecleaning.

Not too long ago, before I decided to boycott housecleaning, I decided to vacuum my house. Now, you have to understand that even before I quit housecleaning, I did it very rarely. Like, only when the filth and the general level of broken health codes required that I do something.

Unfortunately, we had reached that point, and the cleaning simply had to be done. Between a dog, two boys who spend most of their waking hours tromping through the woods, and a baby who is learning the fine art of “self-feeding”, our house had reached a new level of disgusting. Even I couldn’t ignore the mess any longer.

So, when the stars aligned and I had both a napping baby AND two boys happily playing Legos in their room at the SAME TIME, I seized my opportunity. I quietly slipped upstairs so the happily playing boys wouldn’t realize I was trying to be productive (A mom’s productivity is, of course, the quickest way to make her children need her). I took out my vaccuum and I spent 20 minutes attempting to remove the layers of filth that had accumulated in the month or so since I’d last braved housecleaning.

When I finished vacuuming upstairs, I proudly surveyed the work I’d accomplished. As I was patting myself on the back, however, I realized something. It was quiet. TOO quiet.

Every mom knows that TOO quiet is the second most-feared sound, next to the terrifying high-decibel scream that follows the silent scream when your baby gets hurt.

I took a deep breath and headed downstairs to the boys’ room, bracing myself for what I would find. When I tried to open their bedroom door, however, it wouldn’t budge. I finally pushed my way through and discovered the source of the barrier: clothes. Lots of clothes. Piles of clothes. In fact, strewn across the floor was every single piece of clothing our family owns (P.S. We own too many clothes). Clothing from every dresser and every closet and every shelf was piled in the center of their room. Forget that I had just spent an hour folding laundry and putting it away that morning. Now, we had MOUNT LAUNDRY…and it was about as tall as Mount Everest.

But we were just getting started. I walked down the hallway to put the vacuum away in the laundry room. When I entered the laundry room, I was greeted with pure chaos. The boys had emptied our craft bin and “decorated” the entire room with streamers and stickers and paper cutouts and scrapbooking decor. It looked like someone had taken a Hobby Lobby and shook it out all over the room. It was, the boys declared, a party.

And just when I thought I’d seen enough, I looked down and saw the dog’s water dish. Where there should have been clean drinking water, there was a yellow puddle. I didn’t even need to ask the boys, because I already knew. They had been using the dish as target practice–PEE target practice. And, in all honesty, I was quite impressed they were able to aim and hit such a small target with such accuracy. That takes mad skills.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or scream or just pass out right then and there. So, I decided to take some age-old advice: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Since this was a PARTY according to them, we had our party. We put on the party hats that were lying on the laundry room floor and we finished hanging the streamers over the door. We jumped in the pile of clothes like it was a giant leaf pile.

And then we got to work. We dumped out the dog dish and disinfected the living daylights out of it. The boys learned how to fold socks and pants and shirts. The party is still up in the laundry room, because it’s actually kind of cute and it makes laundry day a little bit more fun.

I made a conscious decision that day– one that didn’t come naturally, but that was necessary in that moment (for my sanity and the physical safety of my children). I decided to embrace the mess. Because, in the end, isn’t that what life is like?

There are times in life when everything seems to be going well, but then–BAM!–some MESS happens. The drawers of your life are emptied out into a giant pile in the middle of the room, and you can’t even see around the mess.

A tragedy strikes your family. You long for another baby, but it’s just not happening. Your husband leaves town for business right as your toddler contracts a double ear infection. Your housing situation falls through. Loved ones pass away, and you are reminded of the fragility of life. We see injustice in the world, and it breaks our very hearts. You’re having an “I Quit” day and you just want your mommy, but Mom lives a thousand miles away. You yearn for a better tomorrow while just struggling to get through today. Motherhood is full of dark times. There is pain. There is sorrow. There is despair. Darkness comes in many different forms, and we all face it at one time or another.

But there is hope! Even in the darkness, we can find the light of hope. This year at MOPS we will be joining together as friends and comrades to support each other on the front lines of motherhood. Through both the light and the dark–no matter what we are going through, whether it’s a “dark” struggle or a “light” joy, we are in this together. Because together? Together we are stronger. And together, we are The Starry Eyed.

Starry Eyed means looking for the light, even when darkness is enveloping. It is an opportunity to hope recklessly and to witness God’s presence guiding things seen and unseen, comfortable and uncomfortable. Starry Eyed means running wildly toward hope when it seems that all else has been lost. Starry Eyed means finding the wonder in the mundane (Can I get an “Amen” for endless piles of laundry and dishes?!). Starry eyed means finding comfort in the kindness of friends and strangers alike. Because this journey of motherhood? It can be rocky and confusing and downright scary. But as the Starry Eyed, we find our hope and wonder and kindness together–and we find refuge.

Psalm 139:12 says, “Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”

When we are going through the dark times of life–the chaos and the mess–we can find our refuge in God. We can choose to live courageously in both the light and the darkness, because He’s GOT this. We can perform significant acts of kindness that will send ripples of light out into the world. We can open our eyes to wonder, and choose hope over fear. We can move forward courageously, because we are the Starry Eyed.

When we reflect back over our lives, this year is going to stand out. It will be the year that we decided to live fully by both sunlight and moonlight. It will be the year that we embraced the beautiful mess that is motherhood. And the best part is, we will experience it all together.

So, thank you. Thank you for joining us on this journey at MOPS this year. YOU are important, and we are so glad you’re here. This will be a year where we will be stretched to challenge ourselves as individuals and as mothers. It will be a year that we will create new friendships and deepen old relationships. It will be a year when we will laugh and cry (and laugh and cry some more…because we’re moms, and that’s what we do best). It will be a year of learning to embrace both the dark and the light, because…

we are the Starry Eyed.

 

10 Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom

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This week I read a hilarious post over at Scary Mommy called 20 Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom (disclaimer: the linked post contains language a shade more colorful than my own). Before I even read the article I was giving mental high-fives to the author because…amen, sister. I felt like I could write my own “Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom”. So I did.

With the joys of summer (full-time kids is intense) and a husband who is working on an increasingly more demanding project at work and an infant and a dog who has both a broken tooth and a Urniary Tract Infection (Lord help us all), I’m finding that I, too, am tired. Not like *yawn* “I’m sleepy, let’s go take a nap” tired. More like “just wake me up when they’re teenagers and ready to do their own laundry and cook their own dinner” tired.

And here’s the proof:

  1. Story time under false pretenses
    Let’s read a book, kids! Oh, wait…what’s that? There’s a movie version of that exact book (or at least a movie in a similar genre/theme/category as said book)? And it’s available on Netflix? Hold up, this is real world learning. Text-to-film connection or something. Let’s start the streaming (and excuse me for the next 74 minutes while I lock myself in my bedroom…)
  2. I encourage “independence”
    Yes, you can make your own breakfast (a spoonful of peanut butter topped with chocolate chips). Yes, please dress yourselves (no underwear, backward pants, inside out shirt). Yes, you may play quietly in your own room (dump out every toy box and empty every game box into a mountain of toy shrapnel in the center of the room). You’re on your own, kids.
  3. I can’t find my sunglasses
    They aren’t in the car. They aren’t in my bag. They aren’t in any place where a reasonable human being would put them. I blame the kids and/or dog for hiding them and while I contemplate appropriate punishment I happen to walk by a mirror. And then I find them. On top of my own head.
  4. Time warp
    Dinner is served at 4:30 and we’re wrapping up the bedtime routine by 6. What’s that you say, dear children? Why is it still light outside? Because of the tilt of the Earth… and the end of Mommy’s rope has officially been reached. Goodnight.
  5. Cooking takes on new meanings
    If I have warmed something up–whether by oven, stove, or microwave–that counts as cooking. Actually taking raw ingredients and transforming them into edible fare is a totally different ballgame, and we just don’t go there now. Frozen chicken nuggets? Not anymore–I cooked them (at 425 for 9-11 minutes). Marie Callender’s chicken pot pie? Tastes just like homemade (vent the packaging and microwave for 5-7 minutes).
  6. Nightly routines
    …now consist of tucking in the kids and promptly passing out on the couch with a bowl of popcorn on my lap.
  7. I go to the gym
    …but not to work out. They had me at “90 minutes of free childcare”.

4. I lose track of things. Like counting in order.

9. Bath time
My kids love bath time, and they’re happy to stay in the tub for a good 20 minutes.                That’s the time equivalent of 16 games of Chutes and Ladders. Added bonus: bath                  time = contained children, contained children = contained mess. Added, added                        bonus: they come out smelling better than they did going in. Win, win, win.

10. Early riser
This is counter-intuitive, but waking up early actually helps me counter-balance the            perpetual tiredness. You see, I know that once the wee ones awaken, there’s no                      stopping this train wreck. So I’ve started setting an alarm and waking up before                      everyone else in the house (and, as it happens, before the sun itself makes                                an appearance) just so I can have 2 minutes of peace before the crazy begins. If that’s            not absolutely insane, I don’t know what is.

I could keep going on and on and on…but I’m just too tired to keep writing. Good luck, moms, and good night.