The Winner of Our 2015 Housing Search!

Let me start by qualifying that this is the result of the 2015 housing search. I don’t want you to get confused because, with the exception of 2007 and 2011, we have moved at least once every year for the past decade. Now that we’ve cleared that up, drumroll please…

And the winner is: Los Gatos Mountain Home!
(House #3 for those of you who participated in my Facebook poll yesterday comparing the three houses we were considering)

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We are thrilled at the opportunity to live in this amazing house! The most amazing part of the house, though, is the story of how we came to it.

On a cold morning in January I was getting the boys ready for school when I heard a knock at our door. It was our gardener, and he had some news: our landlord had passed away. Since he was also the gardener for our landlord’s other house–the one he was actually living in–he was the first to know the news of our landlord’s passing (freebie life lesson: people who work in service fields–secretaries, janitors, gardeners–are always the first to know important news. Treat them well.). I spoke with our rental manager that afternoon and he confirmed that our landlord had indeed passed away, and his family was sorting through what to do with his assets (our house included).

A week or so later I got curious about our landlord–Who was this man that had so suddenly expired? I knew his name and address, so I decided to Google his obituary. What I discovered was shocking–instead of an obituary, all I found were news articles about his murder. Whaaaaat?!?!  Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. I’m living in the middle of a real-life urban legend.

Over the next few months, our landlord’s brother and daughter battled in out in court to see who would gain possession of his assets. We knew that as soon as the court case was resolved or our lease expired–whichever came first–we’d probably be asked to move out. Sure enough, in early July we got notice that we would need to be out of the house at the termination of our lease (August 31).

For the first few weeks of July I went into housing-search panic-mode. I still have PTSD from looking for houses here last summer, and I was NOT looking forward to going through the whole process again. Why, you might ask, were you so worried about the housing search? Well, imagine you’re looking for a house to rent because the only houses you can afford to buy are not in the same state you live in. And because the cost to buy is so high, everyone is forced to rent. And there are approximately 5 bajillion people at any given time who are fighting over the same crappy “affordable” houses to rent. And you have a dog and two obviously loud children (which, for some reason, is not as appealing a combination to leasing agents as a young power couple who work 80 hours a week and summer in Nantucket). You get the picture.

So began the house-stalking. I would literally wake up every morning, open my computer, and refresh my housing searches on Craigslist and Zillow. Any and every house/townhouse/condo/shack in the woods that met our criteria was starred and I’d send them an email or text. Every single listing said “No pets, NO DOGS, DON’T EVEN ASK”, but I’d ask anyway because–hey, ya never know. I’d do this whole process again 5 or 6 times during the day, and again right before I went to sleep. It’s a full-time job.

Between online searches, I’d load the two obviously loud children up in the car and we’d drive around to all of the houses that wrote back that they’d consider accepting a pet as long as we gave a deposit of half our life savings and a blood promise that the dog was not a savage beast with giant dragon talons hiding under her sweet furry paws. In the 2.5 weeks that I was actively searching for houses, we visited well over a dozen houses all over this traffic-ridden region. It was raucous fun.

By Wednesday of last week, I was spent. Not a single house had panned out. One house smelled distinctly of death and urine. One house had 20 people waiting outside in the driveway for the open house–10 minutes before the open house was even scheduled to begin. One house was literally falling apart every time you touched it (this would go GREAT with my never-destructive boys). One house was in a neighborhood surrounded by barbed wire fences (not actually, but that maybe would have been a good idea). It was, in short, discouraging. Heart-breaking. Exhausting. I was spent.

After having a good long ugly cry over the fact that we would NEVER NOT EVER find a house in this awful-yet-somehow-still-wonderful place, I decided to try a new strategy. I was getting desperate. I reached out to a mommy-runner Facebook group that I’m a part of, San Jose Moms Run This Town. It’s a great network of local moms, and I thought if anyone would know anything around here it would be moms who spend their days carting children around and running through local neighborhoods.

Within a few hours of posting my housing woes to the Facebook page, I had several women from the group respond that they would help me look for houses in their neighborhoods. By the next day, I’d connected with another mom whose neighbor was about to put his house up for rent. She gave me his contact information, and I turned my house-stalking instincts to him. I’m sure he appreciated this.

As soon as the owner gave me the home’s address, I loaded up the boys in the car to drive up and see the house in person. From the owner’s description of the house when we spoke on the phone, it sounded too good to be true. Plus, the rent was significantly lower than any other house I’d found–I figured there must be some massive flaw that I was missing. I just had to see it with my own two eyes.

Driving up to the house was surreal. Jon’s dream ever since we moved here has been to move to the “mountains” (not mountains like you PNW’ers know, but large hills covered in Redwoods and gurgling streams). The house is located just past the town of Los Gatos (Imagine your quintessential all-American town with historic Victorians and Art Deco architecture. Now throw in a bunch of multi-millionaires driving Lamborghinis, and that is Los Gatos.). The house is nestled in the woods so you feel like you’re a million miles away from everything, yet you can still be at the closest winery and local coffee roaster in 5 minutes.

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When we got to the house Jacob had fallen asleep in his carseat (this is what happens when your loony mommy throws you in the car for yet another house expedition right in the middle of nap time). I parked the car on the side of the house (because it’s a one-lane road and I didn’t know where else to discreetly spy from). The current tenant was out working in his garage and somehow he noticed my conspicuous SUV parked outside his house. Thankfully he was a friendly and  pretty normal looking guy, and he invited us in for a quick look around while we were there.

I grabbed the sleeping child and the crazy one, and we trekked in for our unscheduled house tour. When we got inside, I was floored. This wasn’t just a house, this was a great house.

The living room has sweeping vaulted ceilings covered in gorgeous cedar. There’s a wood-burning fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows leading out to one of five decks.

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The kitchen is massive. And all appliances stay (not the case in most of the rentals we looked at because, I don’t know, if they charge you an arm and a leg for rent I guess they feel like they can punch you in the stomach, too, while they’re at it).

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The master bedroom is not even a bedroom. It’s a sanctuary. It has those same huge gorgeous ceilings as the living room. There’s a gas fireplace to warm your toesies as you snuggle into bed. There’s a walk-in closet the size of most Silicon Valley homes. There’s an en-suite bathroom with a soaking tub and a glass shower. There are not one, but two private decks.

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Downstairs has two bedrooms with views of the creek, a full laundry room (complete with cabinets and counter space for all of your sorting-and-folding needs), and a two-car garage.

The community consists of about 50 homes along a 1 mile stretch of private road. From what I hear, it’s a close-knit group of people with oodles of children running amuck. Perfect.

Or nearly perfect, at least. There are a few aspects of the house that will take some getting used to. Like the fact that there’s no yard–the house faces the road and backs up to a creek so any time we go outside I will need to have my eagle eyes watching kids and dogs. And there’s no cell service (which Jon assures me he will remedy). The house is heated with propane (propane = $$$…good thing we don’t get real winters in California!). For the few sacrifices we will be making, though, we knew that this house was The One.

We called the owner back that night and emailed him our application (and for good measure I also attached the cutest family photo I could find and a personal letter that I wrote in hopes of helping our case right along). The next day the owner called us back and gave us the news I never thought we’d hear: WE GOT THE HOUSE!!! Jon still hasn’t even seen the inside of the house, but we knew it was the right one and we signed the lease.

Perhaps the most amazing part of this whole story is how perfectly perfect everything turned out. We had a list of everything we needed in a house, and the things we wanted but didn’t think we could ever get. We prayed over that list every night and (not-so-patiently, on my part) waited to see how our prayers would be answered.

Now I can tell you for certain, those prayers were answered. Every prayer–from the location to the price to the timing of the move-in–are exactly what we prayed for. Or better. Because that’s how God answers His children. He always gives His best–not good–the best. It doesn’t matter how many times I re-learn this lesson, it always leaves me in a state of sheer amazement.

So, in not so few words, that is our house story. I am grateful to Jon for putting up with my irrational fear of homelessness. I am grateful to my new friend and neighbor-to-be Melodie for leading us to this house. I am grateful to the owner for taking us with our crazy kids and our sweet, calm dog (dragon talons excluded). I am grateful. And that’s a good place to be.

Almost as good as being home.

Reflections At One Year Post-Ireland

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I actually don’t even know where to start this one. Every time I try to write this post I get overly emotional and I can’t get the words out. You’d think that after a year things would get easier, but they don’t. The truth is, I loved Ireland and most everyone and everything in it, and I miss it deeply. Tomorrow marks one year since we left Ireland for our next adventure in California–and what an adventure it has been! Since moving to California we’ve experienced the highest of highs…and the lowest of lows. And the manic-depressive nature of this year has me missing Ireland even more.

On the “high” side, we’ve relished in the daily sunshine–we spend time outside every day, and for the first time in my life I didn’t experience a single day of SAD (if you don’t know what SAD is, then you obviously don’t live in a rain cloud like we used to, so don’t worry about it). We’ve been blessed to reconnect with old friends (you know, the dear friends who you visit wearing sweatpants and messy hair so you can laugh and cry together). We’ve met incredible new friends and neighbors who already feel like family. Jon’s job gives him joy and fulfillment like he’s never had in his career before. We’ve spent countless days exploring the beauty and excitement that surrounds us in the Bay Area. Our children have flourished in their new environment and are truly happy. Life is good.

And, yet. The lows. The lows this year have challenged me to my core. In many ways, this has been one of the most demanding years of my life. We’ve had to make difficult decisions: parenting decisions and financial decisions and housing decisions and school decisions. Seemingly endless decisions. Decisions with long-term repercussions that took some serious thinking and planning and praying. We had a miscarriage which, alone, was the most difficult season I’ve ever walked through. Add onto that the fact that I still feel a bit like a foreigner in this big, new place, and it’s a lot to take in.

This year has made me yearn for a simpler time, like our year in Ireland. I know that I look back at Ireland with rose-colored glasses because, as difficult as this year has been, Ireland had even more challenges. And, yet.

In Ireland we were connected with people so kind and so welcoming, who poured their love into our lives from the first day we met, that a lot of the challenges just seemed to melt away. I’m still searching for “my people” here–the community who you live life with every day, both the highs and the lows, for better or worse.

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In Ireland things were, quite simply, more simple. Stores didn’t open until lunchtime, and they closed before dinner (ok, it wasn’t quite that bad, but it wasn’t the everything-you-want-when-you-want-it mentality that we Americans are so accustomed to). It took an hour to drive to a town 10 miles away, because the only way to get there was to drive through your man’s field and about a dozen sheep paddocks. You ordered goods off a CATALOG…using your TELEPHONE. You spent cold rainy nights (which is near enough every night in Ireland) cozied up in a pub with your family, a pint, and some good craic. You paused every day to drink tea. You didn’t hustle and bustle because there was no reason and no place to hustle and bustle to. Ireland was a lot of slowing down and being still. It was good for my soul, and it is the polar opposite of living in the high-paced conundrum that is Silicon Valley. After a year, I find myself yearning again for the simple.

And, yet. Life goes on, and life IS good. Our year in Ireland impacted me profoundly, but so has this first year in California.

In this year I have learned to follow God more closely. There has been little time for complacency, and endless opportunities for seeking His will. All of the decisions and difficult times have drawn me closer to Him than ever before, and I could not have gotten there without facing the challenges that I did this year.

This year has taught me to cherish the relationships I have, and to hold my loved ones both in my hands and in my heart.

I have learned this year to be bold in who I am, even if that is different from the status quo. This has meant learning to block out the other voices so that I can trust my gut and my instincts. I have seen that sometimes the right thing to do is to quit, and it’s usually good to try again. I have learned to be confident in my faith and my foundation, and that is priceless.

IMG_4256This year has taught me to appreciate the special, ordinary moments. Finding my kids snuggled up together in the same bed, sleeping in each others’ arms. Accomplishing a goal–running a race, finishing a long-anticipated project, learning something new, potty training a toddler. Making a favorite recipe from scratch. Calling an old friend at just the right time. Enjoying a cold treat on a hot day. My boys playing happily in the sandbox for over an hour so I can write a blog post in peace 🙂

One year is plenty of time to learn and to yearn–and I’ve done plenty of both this year. Ireland will always keep a piece of my heart but, if this year has taught me anything, it’s that my heart has an endless capacity for growth to make room for the new loves and experiences that come my way.

An Irish Blessing
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!

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A Photo Tour Through My Silicon Valley Home

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Ah, home sweet home. A few short months ago when we found out that we would be moving, I started dreaming about the kind of home we would have in California. Little did I know that finding and securing a house in Silicon Valley is about as easy as walking backward on a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Oh, and you have to pay a ransom of your entire life savings to do it.

In the end, though, we did find a house that we are now making our home. Since the STARTING price of a home in the area is a hair over $1 million (seriously, people, I do not understand this craziness), we decided to rent for awhile so we can feel out the place. Even if we did have that kind of money to shell out, we weren’t going to do it right away. Moving with three-week’s notice halfway around the world with two young children was enough drama for me to handle in one summer–no need to throw in real estate agents and endless house tours on top of that.  Now that all is said and done, we are quite happy in our new pad. It’s a great house in a cute neighborhood and, as long as we only eat peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni, we can even afford the rent.

This weekend we’re having a housewarming party at our new house but, since most of you won’t be able to make it in person, I thought I’d give you a little tour here. So, welcome! Welcome to our home.

We usually enter our house from the side door because that’s where our garage is. If you come in off the street, though, you get to use our front door that is usually reserved for guests and my Amazon Prime delivery guy.

IMG_0659Turning to your left from the entry way you see the door to our mudroom/laundry room and our playroom.

The laundry room is quite the unique feature for a home in this area, as most people seem to have their washer and dryer out in the garage. After 13 months of walking through the rain to my garden shed to do laundry in Ireland, though, I could not be more thrilled to have everything conveniently located inside my house again.  There is a door from the laundry room that leads outside to our back yard, but we’ll get to that in a moment.IMG_0662Just outside of the laundry room is our ginormous play room and book nook.
IMG_0660 Yes, we have a playroom. In our pre-kid days, this probably would have been our living room with a big screen TV and surround sound and all kinds of pretty, breakable knick-knacks on the shelves. In reality, though, the children have taken over our lives…and our home. As a result, the kids claim approximately 90% of the home’s square footage as “their space”.IMG_0661There’s a little hallway off the playroom that we use to access the “south wing” of the house. The first room in the south wing is David and Jacob’s bedroom. We decided to have the boys share a room in the new house because we wanted to reclaim the third bedroom for ourselves. It’s a pretty simple room, mostly because the boys make it their mission to destroy anything they can get their hands on (Case in point: the bookshelves. I’d been wanting to hang these vertical shelves on a wall for three houses now, so I was ecstatic to finally put them up in the boys’ bedroom. It took only a few short hours, though, for a boy to attempt climbing the shelves, rip said shelves off the wall, and fall into a scream-y, shelf-y, book-y heap on the floor. We re-hung the shelves and nobody’s tried to climb them again since.)IMG_0683 We also got the boys bunkbeds for their new room. They mostly use the bunkbeds for mountaineering practice, as they climb up anywhere BUT the ladder, and flying lessons, as they find their way down any way BUT the ladder. IMG_0684 Next door to the boys’ room is their bathroom (a.k.a. the target practice room).IMG_0682 The last room in the south wing is our office. Despite our best efforts to make this room into “our space”, we have already set up the Pac ‘n Play (“baby cage”) for those nights when the boys’ “sharing a bedroom” just isn’t working for any of us.IMG_0687 Moving right along, now. If you were to turn to your right from our entry way, you would enter the “north wing” of the house. There’s a big wall that divides the space in this section of the house, and I had a lot of fun decorating it with family photos and memorabilia.IMG_0681Right behind the family collage wall is the master bedroom. To be honest, I have put very little thought into this room. The only important thing was that we finally get to sleep in our own bed again, so we didn’t really care about anything else. The room has a lovely assortment of mismatched Ikea furniture and Rubbermaid storage boxes lining the walls–Martha Stewart would be so proud. There’s also a bathroom off the master bedroom that has the home’s only bathtub. As a result, it is always full of bath toys and hooded bath towels.photo (24)Just outside of the master bedroom is the kitchen and Great Room. Even though our house was built in 1941 it’s seen a few upgrades over the years, including the kitchen’s white tiles and florescent lighting (circa 1993) and stainless steel appliances (circa 4 months ago).IMG_0679The kitchen’s island opens up to our Great Room, a shared space for our living room and dining room. Our family spends almost all of our indoor-time hanging out together in these rooms.IMG_0674The dining room has double doors that open up to a patio, a breezeway to our detached garage, and our back yard.IMG_0671 The back yard is one of my favorite features of the house. It’s a large yard with plenty of room to run around and play. And, since it’s sunny and 70 degrees every day here, we pretty much live out here. Our dog, Bota, is queen of the yard and will only come inside the house now if we entice her with food that the boys have thrown on the floor at dinner time.IMG_0665IMG_0666Another spectacular feature of our house is the garage. It’s huge, and we’ve crammed stuff into every square inch of it (40% of the shelves contain baby paraphernalia and kids’ clothes, 40% contain Jon’s tools and electronics gadgets, and 19% contain holiday decorations and outdoor gear. That leaves 1% of the space for my stuff: a pair winter boots and a box of mementos from my childhood.)IMG_0667The garage also houses a shop sink, a stand alone freezer, and a second fridge (mostly used for Mommy and Daddy’s beverages).IMG_0668That’s it for the house, but as you’re leaving this is the view down our street. The road ends at a dead end where there are two elementary school–a standard public school and a parental involvement charter school. With David starting Big School NEXT YEAR (?!) this could come in handy.
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Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed your tour. Let me know if you’re ever in town and we’ll blow up the air mattress–er, set up the guest suite–for you!

New Beginnings

To say that the last few weeks have been busy would be a drastic understatement. Busy doesn’t even start to cover it. Since we left Ireland two months ago, almost every aspect of our lives has been uprooted and altered; we are truly starting over. New jobs, new surroundings, new churches, new cars, new doctors, new dentists, new schools, new activities, new friends. This has been a season of ceaseless “new beginnings”. It’s wonderful and thrilling. It’s confusing and exhausting. It’s a lot to take in.

For starters, the actual moving is overwhelming. The packing and transporting and sorting and unpacking of people and things. So. Many. Things. Some of the Things I don’t even remember because they’ve been packed away since our last move…or the move before that…or any of the eight moves we’ve made in the last nine years. So many Things, in fact, that it’s taken three weeks and four different moving crews to get all of the Things to the same place (by the way, I owe my undying love to these moving crews who lifted and heaved and pulled the Things while I sat  in my kitchen ticking boxes off a list.)

IMG_9434 And now that all of the Things are off the truck and reunited together, every room of our house looks like this. It’s like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Toys ‘R Us and Barnes & Noble and UHaul got together, called all their friends, and decided to infest every square inch of the house.  They’re snuggled up together in closets and under windowsills and in the middle of our walkways. The boxes have taken over.IMG_9495

So, the other day, it kind of all hit me. I was scrubbing poop (not my own) out of the shower for not-the-first-time-this-week and I lost it. I yelled at Jon to PLEASE JUST PUT THOSE KIDS TO BED as I stumbled through the towers of boxes toward the kitchen where I was hoping I could locate a box containing some sort of disinfectant for the unfortunate shower. I was tired. I was full of self-pity. I was so OVER IT.

And then I saw this photo sitting in the middle of our mantle, and it made me stop in my tracks:

41023_672557737000_5220193_n“Hey, Jon. Where is this photo from?” I shouted down the hall (because there was no way I was going to weave my way back through THAT maze again).

“A box.” (duh)

“No, I mean where were we? When was this photo taken?”

“At that dance. You know, when we were in college.”

And then I actually really lost it.

Here I was–surrounded by moving boxes and feeling sorry for myself–looking at a photo of my 19-year old self dancing with that crazy-cute guy she had a crush on. I didn’t know it then, but I would marry that crazy-cute guy. And we’d start a new life together. And we’d have crazy-cute children together. And we’d travel the world together. This was photographic evidence of our first “new beginning” together.

And this is what I realized in that moment of unexpected brokenness: new is not easy. There is a lot of heartbreak and hard work and abandonment of comfort that comes with a new beginning. Whether it’s starting a new relationship or a new job or a new life in a new place, new is difficult. But in those hard times, there is another realization: we were created for new beginnings.

As I was staring at that photo on our mantle, I was reminded that, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Christ is constantly, ceaselessly changing us, breaking us, growing us. Without new beginnings, we would quite literally be nothing. When you think about it, life is really just a series of new beginnings. New beginnings are not to be feared or loathed. No, new beginnings are a gift, even if they do come wrapped in trials.

So, with my new-found respect for my new beginning, I am pressing on. On with the unpacking, on with the scheduling, on with the organizing, on with the making of garage sale piles (Seriously. How do we have so many Things?)

On with this new life, because life really is good.

 

A Day Living In Corporate Housing

This whole move has been full of new adventures and “firsts” for our family: our first international flight in business class (ammmmazing…), Jon’s first weeks at his new job, and our first taste of corporate housing.

Now, if you’re like I was a few short weeks ago, you have no idea what corporate housing even is. In short, corporate housing is home purgatory. It’s where newly-hired employees (at least, the ones with excellent relocation packages) go to wait out their time until all of their STUFF transports to the same place they are so they can actually live in their own house.

We lucked out and got placed in a pretty amazing apartment for our corporate housing stint. Most of the people living in our complex are just regular apartment-dwellers, but a few of the units are rented out to people like us. Before we arrived, our “relocation team” (how fancy is that?!) went in and stocked our apartment with furniture and dishes and hotel-esque artwork so it would be ready for us to move in, plop ourselves down, and carry on with life as soon as we deplaned in California.

Buckle your seat belts, friends, because I’m going to take you on a journey that many people never get to experience. Welcome to A Day Living In Corporate Housing:

6:45
 Wake up and make your bed. You feel obligated to make your bed properly every morning because it’s so much prettier than the mussed up pile of blankets you’re used to. There are pillow shams. There’s a decorative throw. There is even a duvet-less down comforter –and it’s still WHITE (well, it was white until your kids smeared Cheeto dust all over it).
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7:00
Sneak out of the apartment before the kids wake up so you can take the dog down three flights of stairs and outside for her morning relief. If you wait until the kids are up, this chore will take at least an hour.

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7:30

Walk into your closet to get dressed. Snarl your nose at the 3 dresses and 2 pairs of shorts that you’ve been wearing ALL SUMMER because your entire wardrobe consists of what you could carry on an airplane.IMG_8782 7:45
Start what is sure to be the first of many loads of laundry today. When your entire family is living out of suitcases, you have to wash the same things many times.IMG_87808:00
Take a breakfast and coffee break. Thank goodness the baristas are cute.

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Build with blocks. You’re getting really good at building blocks, mostly because this is the only toy that fit in your suitcase when you moved.IMG_8828

Take advantage of this quiet-ish moment to call on the house listings you found on Craigslist last night and preschools that you are researching for your 3 year old and banks that need your new address and relocation specialists that need to coordinate the packing and shipping of your worldly possessions that are spread across two continents.

10:00
Pool time! This is the best part about living in an apartment–daily access to FIVE swimming pools! Marvel at how your children are beginning to resemble actual fish.
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Catch a free class at the on-site yoga studio.

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12:00
Come home from your morning adventures. Dry off and get dressed. Throw a major tantrum. Real life still happens, even when you’re living in the corporate housing resort.IMG_8803 12:05
Ponder your options for lunch. Settle on some scrumptious options that were not available in your year living abroad (God bless America?!).IMG_882212:30
After lunch, take a walk around the apartment complex. This will take approximately the rest of the day because the apartment complex is actually the size of a small city. No joke.IMG_8808 1:00
Stop for awhile to watch people working out in one of the exercise facilities. Sometimes it’s more fun to spectate than participate.IMG_88071:30
Rest in the outdoor lounge areas and cozy up to the outdoor fireplace (even though it’s sunny and 75 degrees here. Every day. Yes, it’s OK to be jealous.).IMG_88112:00
Visit the “apartment community” playground. Blow some bubbles for good measure.

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3:00
Catch a free movie at the on-site community theater. Help yourself to popcorn, candy and drinks in the free concessions room.
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Return to your apartment to find your daily doorstop delivery. You now order everything online because you still can’t figure out how to move a carload of groceries from the underground parking garage up to your 3rd floor apartment with two small children in tow.
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5:15
Put all of those delivery boxes to good use: 3-2-1-BLASTOFF!!!IMG_9073

…and if the empty boxes fail to excite, flatten out the packing paper and create the world’s longest mural.
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Make dinner. Since you only have 2 pans and 1 large spoon, opt for a preparation-free dinner. Thankfully your relocation team stocked your fridge and freezer before you arrived with gourmet offerings like frozen lasagna and broccoli that steams in its own bag in the microwave.IMG_8790

5:40
Watch cartoons in the living room while Mom “cooks” dinner.IMG_87796:30
Go for a family walk on the trail near your apartment to work off that scrumptious dinner.IMG_88206:45
Stop in the park at the center of your apartment city and throw some balls for your dog. You never have to bring your own dog toys to the park because there are about a thousand rogue balls hiding in the bushes that line the park.IMG_8931 7:00
Go for a quick spin in Daddy’s sweet rental car. Pick up some ice cream for dessert.IMG_9156 7:30
End the day with a nighttime dip in the hot tub.
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Tuck in your friends and say goodnight. You’ll all sleep really well because you basically sleep in a cave (props to Dad for covering all of the bedroom windows with tinfoil to block out that strange light we aren’t used to…the sun.)

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Our new living arrangement has had its ups and downs, its challenges and its benefits–but, mostly, its been fun. And, like never before we are experiencing the truth in this statement: Home is where your heart is. Home is not a house, or even a place. No, home is where there is love.

And, no matter where life takes us, our family is always home.

85 Things To Do In A Seattle Summer

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Seattle! XxX

In the Middle

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

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

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

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

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

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

It just takes some time.

Everything will be just fine.

Everything will be alright.

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

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My “New” Blog!

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We are in the midst of many changes right now as we transition from our life in Ireland to our new (old?) life back in America. We’ve had a wonderful first two weeks back in America visiting family and friends and places that we have missed in our year abroad. And, just as we are starting to settle into our holiday here in Seattle, it is all coming to an end. Tomorrow Jon and our dog Bota (and Jon’s mom who will act as a travel companion) will drive all the way to San Jose, California in one 16-hour shot so Jon can start his new job on Monday morning. I will be staying on in Seattle with the boys for another two weeks while Jon adjusts to his new new routine at his new job. It’s all just a lot of new.

Along with all of this new, I have decided to transition most of my posts from this blog to my “new” blog at WeLoveTeachGrow.com  (this is actually my other blog that I maintain in addition to “To Ireland We Go”). Now that our time living in Ireland is officially over (I’m still not sure how I feel about this little fact) it seems appropriate to re-focus my writing on my new direction. Those of you who have been following this blog have offered me such encouragement and motivation this year so, from the bottom of my heart, thank you! Even though I have never met many of you, you have been a huge source of inspiration for me and I hope we can stay connected through WeLoveTeachGrow.

On to the next adventure we go!

Love, Teach, Grow Has Moved!

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

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

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

 

Back To America

Right now I am sitting in my parents’ house in Washington state–the very same house that we spent our last night in before we left for Ireland just over one year ago. It’s strange and surreal and altogether wonderful to be back. Back to the familiar, back to our loved ones, back “home” (whatever that means…I’m still trying to figure it out). The journey back to America had its ups and downs but, if I have learned anything this year, it’s that the best adventures rarely go according to (my) plan.

We left Cork on Friday night, July 25th. This also happened to be Jon’s last day of work in Ireland, so he basically got home and we loaded up the taxi with our 12 bags, double stroller, travel crib, and two car seats for our ride out to the airport. It was a crazy feeling to be leaving one adventure for another, to say our final goodbyes to this wonderful place that we had come to know as home:
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The plan for Friday night was to fly on the last flight of the night out of Cork, spend the night in London, then wake up early to catch the first flight of the morning into Seattle. After we got checked in, however, we realized that our flight to London had been delayed an hour. Oh well, we thought, that will give us time to eat some dinner before we board. As we were eating our dinner, an announcement came over the speakers to notify us that our flight was delayed again. And again. And finally, at the time we were supposed to be drifting off to sleep in our hotel in London, our plane arrived:
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The hour-long flight to London was uneventful, and we even landed at the brand-spanking-new Terminal 2 at London-Heathrow. It is a beautiful terminal that had only been open for about two weeks:

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Unfortunately, if you land at 11 PM at a brand new terminal that has only been open for two weeks, there are no signs or people to direct you on where to go once you land. It’s nothing more than a brightly-lit, stainless steel-encased ghost town. Which wouldn’t be a problem if you knew where you were going. We did not know where we were going.

Well, we knew where we were going, we just had no clue as to how to actually get there. We knew that our hotel was at Terminal 4, which we thought would be easy enough to find since it’s IN THE AIRPORT. Silly us. Turns out, London-Heathrow has a circumference of 25 miles. Nothing is easy to find. Nothing. Especially a hotel that is in a totally different terminal from where you are and it’s now 11:30 and the shuttles have stopped running for the night and the only person you can ask for directions is a cleaning lady who’s texting while she pushes her mop aimlessly down the corridors. So, what do you do in this situation? You ask the cleaning lady for directions. And she tells you to go through the underground tunnel. So you do. For 45 minutes:

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Just when you think you’ve entered the tunnel that someone finally dug all the way to China, you pop out at Terminal ? where there is an exit to a street. You spy a “Hotel Hoppa” bus and run frantically for it with your two small children and arms full of luggage. The driver says he’s on his last round for the night so you push your way on and find the only available space in the middle of a crowded aisle. It’s at this point that the bus driver tells you he does not go to your hotel, but he’ll take all of your cash and drop you off there at the end of his round anyway. So you empty your wallet into a fanny pack he has hanging off a bar at the front of the bus and hope he can actually manage find the elusive hotel at Terminal 4.

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So you ride the Hotel Hoppa bus to every other hotel in this city-within-a-city-airport and curse your decision to choose a “convenient” hotel. Eventually, just after midnight, you arrive at the hotel. Thankfully the children have already fallen asleep in the stroller so you just wheel them up to the room and dump them into bed. No screaming, thrashing, arguing bedtime tonight, thankyouverymuch.

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You hardly sleep because the hotel room is too small to set up a crib, so your squirmy toddler has to share a bed with you. He likes to lay across you and pull your hair in his sleep. Oh well, at least somebody’s sleeping. You’re actually thankful when the alarm goes off at 6:00 because you know you can get up and take a hot shower, and hopefully that will wake you up enough to make it through the next 12 hours of travel.

So, you see, the first part of our journey was the “downs” of the “ups and downs”. But every down must have an up…right? From here on out it was up, up, up–all the way up to the magical world of Business Class travel.

Now, we are normal people. Coach-Class people. People who have only ever wondered and dreamed about what it would be like to be Business-Class people. And, for the first and probably last time in our lives, we found out. Our Business-Class experience began with a visit to the exclusive British Airways lounge where we feasted on freshly-baked pastries and fruit and lattes and whatever else we fancied:

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After our tummies were full we got some wiggles out in the play room before it was time to jet out (no pun intended).

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This day was also Jacob’s 2nd birthday. We told him he was a very lucky boy to travel around the world on his birthday because he would have the longest birthday ever (32 hours, to be exact). Jacob posed for a quick birthday photo before we boarded our plane:

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Jacob loves Things That Go, so his big birthday gift this year was a trip on the Big Plane. He was pretty stoked:

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When we found our fancy-pants Business Class seats they greeted us adults with champagne and our tiny travelers with orange juice. They were already speaking my Love Langauge:

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After I got the boys situated in their seats I reviewed the 4-page guide that explained all of the wonderful things about flying in Business Class. Wonderful things like a gourmet menu (I chose the Caprese salad, steak, and chocolate mousse) and a fine wine list. Wonderful things like a gift bag full of spa essentials to keep you refreshed and fuzzy socks to keep your toesies warm. Wonderful things like outlets at your seat so your iPhone battery stays fully charged throughout the flight. First among the Wonderful Things, however, is the fact that the seats lie down completely flat to make full-length beds. And there are dividers you can raise so you don’t even see your children. And you can put on a movie for your kids while they’re lying in their comfy beds eating the free jelly beans and candy bars and whatever else they fancy and they’ll fall asleep. For 5 hours. Ahhhhhhh….

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So, yeah, Business Class is amazing. And I’m glad that I got to do it at least once in my life so that now every time I pass those seats on my way back to Coach I’ll know exactly what I’m missing.

Before we knew it, the flight was over and we were touching down in Seattle. After we got through passport control and customs (an hour-long ordeal) we finally made it to baggage claim where we were greeted by our much-missed family. Many hugs and kisses and high-fives were exchanged.

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We managed to collect all but one of our bags–the missing one, David’s suitcase, was mistakenly claimed by some unsuspecting passenger. I’m sure she was quite surprised to get home, open up the bag, and find nothing but 3-year old boy clothes and a wet towel that I had shoved in at the last minute when we were rushing out the door. When she realized her swap, she returned the bag to the airport and they promptly drove it down to us. David didn’t really mind, though, because he was too busy playing with squirt guns in his undies to notice some missing clothes:

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We all slept well that first night and our jet lag was nearly non-existent (thanks to our super-comfy flight over).  The next day, Sunday, we had a family celebration at my parents’ house for Jacob’s birthday. And, this being our first full day back in America, we ‘merica’d it up with burgers and corn on the cob and watermelon and Goldfish crackers and Funfetti cupcakes and all kinds of wonderful American goodies.

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Jacob (and by Jacob, I mean David) had fun opening his birthday presents:

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It was an all-around wonderful day with friends and family and food and fun.

 

The next day, Monday, we drove up to Everett to take care of some business at our house. While we were there we met with the U.S. moving company that will be moving our THIRD shipment of STUFF to California (how do we have so much stuff?!?!). In addition to our business, we also had some time for a bit of fun. And, as you can tell by our faces, it was a LOT of fun:IMG_7954Yep, that’s right: Costco. Oh, how I’ve missed the gallon-sized jars of peanut butter and the adorable children’s pajamas and the num-num-nummy jalapeno-artichoke dip. Seriously, I missed Costco more than just about any other U.S. location. And now that we have visited Costco, it’s official: we’re back. Back in the land of the big and the plentiful and the unusual. Back in America.

It will take some time to get settled in again (especially since we still have months to go before we can finally settle into a house in California), but I can say one thing for certain: it is so very good to be back.