The 10 Stages of Summer Vacation With Kids

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Today is our first official day of summer vacation!!! I know some of you have already been on summer vacation for days, weeks, maybe even a full month by now…but for our late-to-the-party kids in the Pacific Northwest, today is Summer: Ground Zero.

While “summer vacation” may stir up different memories or bring to mind different connotations for each person, for the stay at home mom it means one thing: INSANITY. You see, by “first official day of summer vacation” I mean that this is day 1 of approximately 100 that all three of my precious children will be with me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No breaks. No schedules. No commitments. Just me and my crew.
All. The. Time.

Of course I love my kids and I honestly do look forward to summer vacation with them…but there are some definite shifts that will happen over the next three months. I like to think of these “shifts” as the 10 stages of summer with kids:

Stage 1: EXCITEMENT!!! (Lasts for approximately 1 day)
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for!!! SUMMMMMMMMERRRRRR!!!!! Visions of sunshine and popsicles fill their heads. We have so many plans and good intentions. There is so much to do, so many places to go, so many experiences to experience. And now–NOW–is our moment. Hooray!!!!

Stage 2: Getting Into The Swing of Things (Lasts for approximately 1 week)
You start tackling all of the must-do’s on your summer bucket list. There are oodles of fun things to occupy children in the summer and you do them all–Bubbles! Plastic kiddie pools! Water balloons! Playing with the neighbors! Riding your bike! Everyone is mostly having fun and the thrill of doing something new and different is still there. Capitalize on this while you still can.

Stage 3: Boredom and Bickering (Lasts for approximately half of summer)
The novelty of the kiddie pool has already worn out. Those new books have already been read. The neighbor kids left on vacation. There is a non-stop chorus of “I’m bored!” and “Mommy, play with me!” echoing throughout your (incessantly messy) house. Your children have become tiny lawyers and are able to argue unceasingly about literally everything. You check your calendar and realize that you only have 10 more weeks to entertain your minions. You can do this.

Stage 4: Family Trip (Whenever your husband was able to schedule his PTO.)
By now you have realized that, as a parent, you do not ever take a vacation with your children–you take a trip. There is a distinct difference between a vacation and a trip: A vacation is fun; a trip is simply a way to move your bored/bickering/picky-eating/sleep-refusing children to a location other than the comforts of your own home. You reason that the mental, physical, and financial anguish you endure for the sake of your family trip is being made up for in the construction of “happy childhood memories” for your children.

Stage 5: Rally (Begins at the beginning of month 2 of summer vacation)
Woah! How did a whole month of summer already go by?! We’re almost halfway through summer vacation and we haven’t done half of the stuff we wanted to do! You rally the kids together and make a push to get back on track. Let the fun re-commence!

Stage 6: Summer Camp (Hopefully you have at least 1 week of camp planned somewhere in your summer. If not, there’s probably still time to find one if you book it RIGHT NOW. Haha! Just kidding. They all filled up back in January.)
Ahhhh…finally, a break. I don’t care if it’s only from 9:30-12:00, this week of art/robotics/Lego/sports/VBS/gymnastics/outdoor adventure camp was worth every penny of the $600 registration fee.

Stage 7: OMG Is Summer Over Yet? (Begins somewhere in the middle of month 2 of summer vacation)
The dog days of summer are dragging on. There are still tens of days left until school starts, but everyone is already spent. You spend extra days at the gym just so you can use their free childcare. You hire a mid-week babysitter so you can “run errands” that involve sitting by yourself in an air-conditioned car while your children ask somebody else 5,000 times if they can have a snack or play on their tablets again.  You write pre-emptive thank you notes to next year’s teachers because you already realize that they are saints.

Stage 8: Finish Strong (Begins 2 weeks before school starts)
Heads down, now, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other: forward momentum is what we’re going for here. Finish those summer reading programs. Make your kids sit down and finally write the letters to their out-of-state friends and family that you had intended to have them write every week of the summer. If you have any energy left in your reserves, plan a few fun little outings that your kids can share about when their teacher asks them “what they did this summer”. Maybe even cook a meal that isn’t a piece of meat grilled on your BBQ. We’re not going for gold here, but let’s at least try to finish the race on our own two feet.

Stage 9: Back To School Panic (Begins 2 weeks before school starts)
SCHOOL?!?! How is this happening?!?! We had so much time and we did…NOTHING!!! But now it’s over and we’ve got to MOVE! Gah! Go to 12 different stores to buy school supplies because none of them had the correct brand/size/quantity that is very specifically required by your school. Argue with your children over backpacks and lunch boxes and appropriate new shoes. Force your feral offspring to get haircuts. Send yourself a mental note to start all of this back-to-schoool mumbo-jumbo in July next year.

Stage 10: Joy (The day before school starts)
Joy! Overwhelming joy. You made it!!!
Your heart is full. Even though this summer had its ups and downs, you wouldn’t trade it for anything. After all, this summer was 1/18th of the summers you’ll ever have with your kids before they grow up and leave you forever (SOB!). You got to spend precious time with your children who are growing up more and more by the minute, and you made lasting memories together–the kinds of memories that they’ll recount to their own children some day. You carpe diem‘d the summer like its never been carpe diem‘d before.

And now? Now you get to send your children–a little bit bigger and a little bit more refreshed–back to school for another year of growth and learning.  And maybe–just maybe–you’ll celebrate with a mimosa tomorrow.

Happy summer, friends!

 

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How To Kill An Axe Murderer

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So the other night we had a harrowing situation: My brave husband and I rescued ourselves from a would-be axe murderer.

At least, that’s what we’re telling ourselves.

At about 10:30 we turned off Netflix (Because we’re grown-ups with kids, and Netflix is what happens after bedtime for grown-ups with kids.) and we went upstairs to get ready for bed. We were about to turn off the lights when all of a sudden our fierce guard dog (ok, fine, she’s a geriatric Border Collie who happens to be missing half her hip and half her teeth) came running into our bedroom. She cowered behind our bed with her ears pressed flat against her head and her tail between her legs: something had scared the living daylights out of our poor pup.

And then we heard it. From downstairs we heard a dim knocking sound, like a small object falling. And then silence. And that was all the assurance we needed to know that an axe murderer had surely broken into our house.

I snatched up my cell phone and retreated under the covers–I mean, the burglars or whoever they were would probably find me anywhere I went, so I might as well browse social media from the comfort of my own bed while I waited for my demise. Also, I could  call 911 from my phone if need be. That would probably be more important. Plus, I don’t have the best track record with defending myself from suspected burglars–the last time I thought I heard a strange sound I grabbed the best defense weapon I could find: a can of maximum strength hair spray.

Jon, however, sprang right into action. He grabbed a small arsenal of knives from a secret drawer in his bedside table and I realized that 1) We have secret drawers in our bedside tables, and 2) My husband had been waiting in anxious anticipation for this exact moment, and he was prepared for what would come next.

From the safety of my blanket cave I could hear Jon ninja-creep down the stairs as he methodically cleared each room and closet in the lower portion of our house. While he searched the house I couldn’t help feeling proud of this brave man who would sacrifice himself for his family that was nestled safely out of harm’s reach while he fearlessly rushed into the fire of the unknown.

After scrolling through about 3 days of Instagram posts, my gallant husband returned. He didn’t have any bad guys with him, but he was now wielding a giant steel framing hammer. If you don’t know what it looks like to see your husband creep into your dark bedroom brandishing a framing hammer, imagine Thor going into battle and you get the picture.

Upon investigating every square inch of our house, Jon did notice that our basement door had been unlocked. Maybe someone could have snuck into our house…but if they did, they were either invisible or camouflaged because they definitely could not be found. Plus, Jon is our family’s reigning hide-and-seek champion, so if anyone could have found a bad guy it would have been him.

Shortly after Jon returned to our bedroom, however, we heard it again: that dim knocking sound like an object falling. Jon rushed back downstairs directly to the source of the sound.

And this time? He found it! The culprit of the sound. And it was just as sinister as we had imagined. The sound was coming from…

OUR ICE MAKER.

Yes. Our ice maker.

You see, I didn’t actually know that we had an ice maker. I hadn’t ever made ice in our “new” fridge (granted, we’ve lived here for nearly a year now…) and there’s not a water spout in the fridge so I just assumed there wasn’t an ice maker either. Jon Who Notices Everything thought this seemed fishy (Wait–you haven’t made a single ice cube in A YEAR???) so earlier that evening he spent about 2 seconds looking at our freezer and found the switch to turn on the automatic ice maker.

Presto change-o! Our freezer now makes ice!

And the dim knocking sound that sent us on an hour-long midnight rampage was just the sound of our newly-formed ice falling into the collection tray.

So, now you know. If you ever suspect that an axe murder might break into your house, maybe start sleeping with knives and framing hammers by your bed. Or just check your ice maker for suspicious activity. Either way, sweet dreams!

An Ode To Summer

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Well, hello there! It’s been awhile, and I’ve missed you.

I didn’t plan on taking a mostly season-long hiatus from writing, but this thing happened. This thing called summer. Well, not just Summer, but Summer With Children…which is a whole different thing. Summer is sitting at the beach with a good book and working on your tan like it’s a full-time job (or, at the very least, a paid internship). Summer With Children is spending three hours packing for the beach, 1 hour wrangling your children into too-tight swim suits and chemical attack spray (sunscreen), 45 minutes searching for a parking spot at the family-friendly beach that is big enough to host your minivan/SUV/church bus, 1 hour waiting in line at the potty, and 20 minutes being paranoid that one of your children will drown before packing it all up and heading home for nap time.

Day in and day out. For approximately 70 straight days.

There is another reason that I haven’t written in so long, and it’s mostly my own fault. It’s also partly Google’s fault.

This may surprise you, but I’m a big fan of lists, notes, and words in general. I’m also a big fan of keeping my words forever. It was quite a shock, then, when I logged in to my Google account a few weeks ago and noticed a red bar at the top of the screen proclaiming that my Google-Stuff was at 99.9999999% capacity and that I could not write another single word without deleting something.

Now, this was a problem because ALL of my computery stuff is Google-Stuff: Gmail for email, Google Docs for word processing, Google notes for my notes, etc. Besides oggling my friends’ cute photos of babies on Facebook and pinning recipes that I’ll never cook on Pinterest, I basically do everything on the Google platform.

And since I am an everything-or-nothing girl, I deleted everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Old documents from my teaching days: Gone. Grocery lists from pre-babies: Gone. Email folders: Gone. I literally had every email I’d ever sent or received since 2004 (it was quite enlightening, by the way, to re-read classic gems like “RE: How To Reset Your AIM Login” and “Engagement Photo Proofs”). I didn’t actually mean to delete EVERYTHING, but somehow it was just easier than weeding through 80,000+ files to determine what would make the cut. So, somewhat inadvertently, nobody made the cut and we’re starting a new team from scratch.

Unfortunately, among the players getting “cut” was my Google note for blog posts I wanted to write. I actually didn’t mean to delete it, but somehow it was tied to those 80,000+ emails that I didn’t want to weed through. I had kept a running tally of writing ideas ever since I started this blog 5 years ago…but I  managed to delete it during my manic delete-a-thon. Whoops. And, so, now I have to come up with new ideas which is not such a bad thing, but it does require, you know, thinking. Something of which I couldn’t be burdened much with this summer.

You see, I’ve been busy summer-ing lately. I could have written more, but I simply chose not to. Before I even deleted all of my clever ideas from Google Notes, I had made a conscious decision to just step back for a few weeks and let life happen. Cancel the plans and the commitments (and the internal blog deadlines) and just be.

I didn’t make any real plans for this summer: we didn’t go on any big trips, we didn’t sign up for any camps (except for that week-long camp that I signed up my kids up for, and only went to one day of because I’m just that lazy of a summer-mom). In a rather anti-me fashion, we just did each day and each week as it came. As a result we had the space to be spontaneous or lazy or, in most cases, a little bit of both.

Some days we spent time with friends. Some days we didn’t leave the house: we just stayed in our pajamas and played outside and ate Popsicles and Cheetos for lunch. Some days we did chores and errands until my kids and myself held a mutually irate opinion toward one other. Some days we counted a dip in the pool as “bath time”. Some days were cooperative siblings and empty roads and sunshine. Some days were squabbles and traffic jams…and STILL sunshine (Oh my goodness, this Seattle summer was ALL sunshine ThankYouJesus!).

It was exactly the summer I needed. Because after a year of total upheaval and Big Change and unsettling I just needed some time to…be. To experience this new place and who I am here. I needed to open my (new) doors to (new and old) friends. I needed to be neither on nor off a schedule, but be ascheduled–completely without a schedule. I needed to reconnect with my kids before one goes off to first grade (Somebody please explain to me how that happened?) and the other goes off to his last year of preschool (SOB!). I needed some time to see where God would lead me, who He would have me connect with, and do the God-ordained work of keeping three children and one mother alive and mostly sane, 24/7 under one roof.

And the good news, friends, is that it worked! I can say with confidence that this summer has been everything that a summer should be: unburdened, carefree, and invigorating. I am renewed, refreshed, and relishing these last few weeks of the season. I feel settled in who I am and where I am, and I’m ready to roll with the punches that are sure to come when Fall steals the show. I’m ready to embrace the year ahead and resume life as normal, schedules and all. I am going to make it my mission, though, to retain a bit of summer all year long. To hold on to the spontaneity and the ability to step back from my schedule, and just be. To live each day as if it is a long, carefree day of sunshine (I may need to invest in one of those sunshine lights, by the way).

Summer, you beautiful thing, you’ve been good to me…but as with all good things, even you must come to an end. Change is coming once again, but I’m ready. So here’s to new beginnings, and to holding on to the light of summer all year long.

Until next time, Summer!

 

When Life Gives You Water Damage

You know the old adage: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Now, I happen to enjoy both lemons AND lemonade–but what do you do when life gives you something else? Something else like water damage? In your BRAND NEW HOME? I guess you do the only thing you can do: have a good cry and call the plumber, in that order. And then, maybe, pour yourself a tall glass of something cold (perhaps lemonade) while you ponder your next move.

On Friday morning I was rushing to get the kids out the door so we could get some errands done in the small window of time before the day was shot (turns out when you have 3 little kids, there are approximately 2 hours in the day when all children are most likely to be the least sleep deprived/hungry/cranky/angry at their brother/still have two shoes on their feet and when you actually stand a chance to accomplish anything at all).

As I was running out to the car for the third time (First time out the door: buckled kids in the car; Second time out the door: grabbed a handful of granola bars to feed the “hungry” children in the back seat who had just finished breakfast two nanoseconds before the first trip out to the car; Third time out the door: retrieving my gym bag from off the top of the washing machine) I noticed something. There was a pool of water in front of the washing machine.

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Strange, I thought. Water shouldn’t be there. Maybe a hose connection came loose the last time I did laundry or the tub was too full of water on our last load. These things do happen, right? Oh well, the kids are already buckled in the car and now we’re down to only 1.75 less-cranky errand-running hours. I threw a couple of towels on the floor in front of the washing machine and dashed out the door.

When I returned from our errands two hours later, however, the small pool of water in front of the washing machine had morphed into Lake Basement. Water was seeping out of every closet and doorway along one side of our house and the entire downstairs level of our house was filling with water. Our very own swimming pool, just in time for the heat of summer!

I quickly panicked and commanded the water to stop. I felt like Moses trying to part the sea. Only, the water didn’t listen (like some other people I know in this house) and it just kept spilling out of the doorways. I threw Hannah into her crib for “nap time”, turned on Netflix for the big kids upstairs, and ran back downstairs to re-assess water-geddon. It still hadn’t stopped, and I still didn’t know what to do.

After a few frantic phone calls to Jon, my father in law, the water company, and some amazing plumber I found on Yelp, help was on its way.

Turns out the problem was that our hot water tank burst…the same hot water tank that just two months earlier our home inspector had checked off as not needing to be replaced for at least 5 more years. Well, we showed him! We’re over-achievers in this family, and we can do in just two months what it will take most families five years to do!

After we got the water to our house turned off and the plumber began draining what remained in the hot water tank (most of it was already on the floor, so NBD) we began to assess the damage.

This is the entrance to our storage closet that leads to our crawlspace. You can see the water line on the door as well as the laminate floor that covered most of our basement and the ugly-as-sin 1960’s carpet that was inside the closet (the carpet acted as a sponge, which was actually a very good thing for us in this case).

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We called our insurance agency who suggested we call in a restoration company to begin a dry-out of the space. Our plumber was fantastic (local friends: Call Ryan at Seattle’s Best Plumbing if you ever need plumbing help!) and he had contacts at a restoration company who left another job and came straight over to set up our drying space. And that is how our basement became a tropical oasis of 6 super-charged (read: LOUD) drying fans that run 24 hours a day for 3-5 days.

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They had to seal off portions of the space with plastic sheeting for optimal drying, and every time I walk into the basement now I feel like I’m on set for Dexter and I’ve just entered a kill room.

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After setting up the kill rooms…er…drying rooms, the restoration company got to work ripping up the water-damaged flooring. After removing the first layer of laminate, they did a standard check for asbestos since our home was built pre-1970’s. And, lucky us! The asbestos meter turned green. Ugh. Turns out there was a second layer of laminate under the “new” laminate, and this second layer was original to the house. The glue used to lay the original laminate contains asbestos, so now we get to have an abatement team complete the floor demo. So much excitement in so little time!

And, since we’re already on the crazy train, we decided to get off on one more stop. Now that we have to replace all of the flooring in our basement we figured we might as well begin the remodeling project that we had slated for this space (never mind that this project was on our 5-year plan, not our 2-month plan).

The laundry area currently has some vintage 1960’s cabinets and countertops. Or, I should say, the laundry area HAD some vintage 1960’s cabinets and countertops.

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We decided to remove all of the ugly cabinets now so we can install our new flooring all the way to the wall. And I have to say, the cabinet demo is one project our boys were more than happy to help with!

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In all of this, though, I have to say that I truly am grateful.

I am grateful I was home on Friday and could find the leak before it got too out of control (we had planned on leaving the next morning for a weekend out of town–I can’t even imagine what a disaster it would have been if this had all happened a day later than it actually did!).

I am grateful for all of the helpers who came to our rescue: the water company that was at our house to turn off the water within 5 minutes of my phone call, the awesome plumber, the great restoration company, the genuinely concerned insurance adjustor.

I am grateful that we have insurance! Oh my goodness am I glad we have insurance.

I am grateful that we’re actually going to get rid of the ugly-as-sin carpet in that closet. Really, it was SO ugly.

I am grateful that we have a brand new hot water tank that won’t need to be replaced for at least 10 more years (ah, better make that 5 years JUST IN CASE).

I am grateful that we had this leak…because without this leak we never would have hired professionals to come rip out our flooring. And had we not had professionals come rip out our flooring, we never would have done an asbestos test. And had we never done an asbestos check, we would have started the remodel ourselves somewhere down the road and been exposed to all those nasty chemicals. In a way, this leak may have spared our health.

I am grateful that it’s just water damage. Our family is safe and healthy and totally fine. It’s just stuff, and stuff can always be replaced.

I am grateful because now we have another story to tell.

I am grateful because today? Today I choose to embrace the unexpected.

And that, my friends, is some good lemonade.

 

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!)

Home11

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!