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!

 

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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.

 

Mommy’s Summer Bucket List

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After nearly 11 months since the first day of school, today marks the LAST day of school before summer vacation officially begins! We started this school year in early August in California, then moved to Washington this spring where they have an extended year due to excessive snow days this past winter…it’s been a long haul, and we’re all ready for a break. To celebrate the occasion I sat down with the boys this week and formulated a “summer bucket list”–a compilation of all of the wonderful things they’d like to accomplish over the next 10 weeks. It includes childhood gems such as making their own ice cream and sleeping outside under the stars.

As we were writing the boys’ summer bucket list the thought occurred to me that my own bucket list would probably look a bit different. Of course I want to eat ice cream and have adventures as much as (if not more than) the kids. Now that I’m on Team Mommy, however, my priorities have…shifted. As such, here is my Mommy Summer Bucket List:

  • Do NOT lose my cool when the kids whine that they’re hungry for the 3,000th time today. Especially if it’s only 10:00 AM.
  • Finally teach my kids how to tie their own shoes so I don’t have to tie them a million times a day for them. SELF EMPOWERMENT, people.
  • Wear my swimsuit like a boss. I’m gonna rock that thing like I’m Honey Boo Boo.
  • Remember to put on the dang sunscreen.
  • Read. Pinterest recipes, Lego instruction manuals, and books authored by anyone named “Seuss” don’t count.
  • Drink more wine. Our new hometown is the “Napa of the North” and boasts over 140 wine bars and tasting rooms. I’m going to have to drink a lot of wine if I want to make even a dent in the local offerings. This is basically just me supporting local businesses, which is basically community service, which basically means this is a social justice issue.
  • Resist the urge to hand my kids over to electronic babysitters every afternoon at 2:00 when we’ve all had enough of each other’s physical company for the day.
  • “Sleep in” past 7:00 at least once (this will probably require the assistance of the electronic babysitters before 7:00 AM, but this is a totally different purpose so it’s totally allowed).
  • Have 24 hours go by without saying any of the Phrases I Never Thought I Would Say (PINTIWS). Examples of PINTIWS include but are not limited to: “Don’t pee on your brother!”, “Pencils are not for stabbing!”, “Raccoons are not pets!”, and “Dude, where are your pants?!”.
  • Take a nap in the hammock. While “hiding” during a round of hide-and-seek.
  • Make friends with all of the other moms who have cool houses and pools in their back yards in hopes that they’ll invite us over to play.
  • Do not kill all of the plants in my yard.
  • Find a reliable method to minimize the number of public tantrums/fits/fighting matches between siblings we exhibit on our daily outings.
  • Eat healthy. And by “healthy” I mean that I will attempt to serve carrot sticks along with our hot dogs and marshmallows.
  • Drink water. Water mixed with coffee, cream and sugar is permissible.
  • Exercise. And by “exercise” I mean go to the gym multiple times a week to take advantage of the 2-hours per day of free childcare.
  • Do up-cycled craft projects with my children. All that beach sand I just vacuumed out of the car? Sand art! Red Dye 40-stained popsicle sticks? Popsicle stick log cabin craft!
  • Enjoy it. Because let’s face it, I only get 12 more of these summers with my oldest child…and only about 4 of those will be summers that he actually wants to spend any time with me. So no matter how long the days are (and they are LOOOOOOOOONG in the summer!) or how bored my kids get, just relish this season because it will be over I know it.

Now it’s your turn, friends: What’s on YOUR summer bucket list?

The Wedding Vows I Should Have Written

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Today marks 12 years since Jon and I said “I do”.  It’s actually kind of unbelievable to me that a dozen years have already passed since our wedding day…and by the same token it feels like our lives have been joined together for a lifetime already.

Jon and I got married the day after we graduated from college. Two days before our wedding I had celebrated my 22nd birthday. We were full of hopes and dreams and aspirations for the future, and we were babies. We didn’t think we were babies, but WE WERE BABIES (Oh my goodness, Mom and Dad, how did you let me do that?!).

While I wouldn’t change a single thing about the (early) timing of our wedding or the road we’ve been on together since then, I have had some time to reflect on that fateful day and all that it means. Since June 12, 2005 I have had the privilege of living another twelve years. And with time comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom. If I were to go back 12 years and talk to that 22 year-old girl wearing the homemade wedding gown, I would share some wisdom with her.

I wouldn’t necessarily tell her to change anything, but I would share some of the lessons I’ve already learned. I’d tell her some of the secrets that took me a decade to discover, some of the tips that actually make life more harmonious. And if I were talking to that giddy bride, I’d tell her to rewrite her wedding vows and make them more realistic. They’d go something like this:

I, Allison, take you, Jon, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward.

I promise to love you equally on the days when everything is going perfectly and the days when nothing is going right. 

I promise to admit when I am wrong, to apologize, and to forgive freely. Even if I am mostly always right.

I promise to tell you the truth–not just when it’s easy or convenient or you ask me to, but also when it’s messy or hurtful or makes me look bad. It’s worth looking bad for a moment if it means that you can trust me for a lifetime.

I promise to make you the first priority in our family. Our kids will be freaking amazing, but you will come first. I will save time and energy and love for you. Even if I’m beyond-tired from late-night feedings or trying to manage laundry piles with gaggles of children hanging from my ankles, I will still make time for you. Because today we choose each other, and each other is a relationship worth keeping strong no matter what sacrifices might need to be made.

I promise to always put the toilet paper roll so that the paper feeds from the top of the roll.

I promise not to blame you for things that are beyond your control, or things that should actually be in my control, but to handle situations as they are: situations that can always be resolved.

I promise to love you when we are so broke that we think we’ll have to foreclose on our house, and when we have enough money to travel the world. Together we will learn to see the lean times as a way to trust in God, and the times of provision will teach us to be grateful and generous.

I promise to support you in your decisions and your pursuits, even if they aren’t quite the same as my own.

I promise to respect you through my words, actions and attitudes.

I promise to advocate for you and always choose your side of the argument: we are (forever) on the same team.

I promise to buy you the “correct” brand of cheese, toilet paper, yogurt, underwear, cereal…well, everything. Even if it takes me 50 years, I will learn all of the “correct” of everything and I won’t let any of that other garbage into our house.

I promise to learn to love the things that you love, and to participate in your passions with you. 

I promise to laugh with you often. 

I promise to chew with my mouth closed and not talk while I’m eating.

I promise to love you as an imperfect sinner (just like myself), and not hold you to the impossible standards of perfection that may seep into my mind.

I promise to walk with Jesus, to change my ways if that walk needs some work, and encourage you in your own walk.

I promise to learn with you.

I promise to follow your dreams with you, wherever they may lead us.

I promise to love and to cherish you, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you.

Happy anniversary, Jon! Thank you for putting up with me and loving me so well–I can’t believe how lucky I am to have you.

Twelve down, 50-ish to go!

xoxoxoxox,

Wifey

A Photo Tour Through My New Washington Home!

Two weeks ago today we moved in to our new home in Woodinville, Washington (Pinch me! Is this real?!). The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of unpacking, arranging, purging, decorating…and carrying on with life as usual with three young kids. For some reason, even when you literally have to rearrange your entire life children still want to eat 50 billion times per day and need laundry washed about as often. We’ve worked hard, though, and I am proud to report that every single box is unpacked (can I get an Amen?!).

We’ve started to put our stamp on the place (and by “stamp” I mean muddy footprints on the hardwoods, popsicle stains on the carpet, and fingerprints on the windows) and–slowly but surely–it’s starting to feel like home. As is becoming tradition on this blog after a move, I thought I’d give you a little tour of our new digs. In the spirit of helping you feel right at home, I didn’t even clean the house for you. Full disclaimer, the following photos are just “Thursday Afternoon Chic”, exactly as I found the place when I actually remembered to take the photos–so, welcome! Welcome to life as we know it–a even if it is a bit messy at times–and welcome to our new home!

Now, let’s begin.

Our house is on half an acre at the end of a dead end street, so it is very quiet here. We’re talking, I can hear the leaves blowing in the wind and the squirrels mocking our dog down below. The boys can go outside and ride their bikes or play in the front yard and I’m not even worried about anything horrendous happening to them. It’s ideal.

This is the view of our house from the street–to the right of the giant purple rhododendron bush there is a long driveway (I’d guess we could fit 6 cars in it, though it’s capacity is yet to be fully tested) that leads up to the 2-car garage. The landscaping is gorgeous…for now! I’m trying to enjoy the beautiful (weed-free) gardens while they last, because who knows how long they’ll stay in this condition with me and my brown thumbs!

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If you walk around to the side of the house you’ll come to our vegetable garden. Right now there’s not too much growing in there: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, chives, and mint. And weeds. Lots of weeds. If I can get my act together next spring I may try my hand at growing some actual veggies.

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Continuing past the garden you enter the huge back yard, which I have taken to referring to as Peterson Park. The yard backs up to a former golf course, so it seems to go on forever. One of our favorite things to do here is to sit out on our deck or in a hammock (Maybe with a glass of wine…did I mention that Woodinville is known for it’s wine?) and just…be. It’s so quiet and peaceful and beautiful that you don’t even need to do anything to enjoy it. Just being here is perfect. The kids and the dog agree.

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If you were to explore the yard a bit, you’d find all sorts of gems like an abandoned tree house, lopsided bird houses, and a fire pit that’s in need of a bit of TLC.
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We have plenty of plants and trees in our yard, but this little darling is one of our favorites. On one of David’s last days of school in California they had an arborist come to class to share about trees. Each child got to bring home a little California Redwood sapling, and we brought ours all the way to Washington with us. I hope David’s little Redwood will be happy growing in the great Pacific Northwest!

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Walking back toward the house you can see the back of the house and our little storage shed. You can also see the back deck that has become our second living/dining room.

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On nice days, the deck is our favorite place to be. It’s perfect for barbecues with friends…

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Or splashing in a water table (BTW, Hannah is obsessed with water. She literally dumps bucket after bucket of water on her head and stands there with her mouth wide open trying to catch it all in her tiny little mouth.)

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Now that we’ve seen the outside of the house, let’s go inside! This is our front door, complete with our 20,000 pound cement goose that we received as a practical joke but now is part of our family and our Irish welcome sign.

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Opening the front door you now enter our…entry way!

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If you walk straight through the entry way, you come to our kitchen. It’s been nicely updated and I’m in love with the long island.

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One of the most charming (Read: aggravating) features of our kitchen is that it lacks any sort of pantry or food storage arrangement. Look at that photo of the kitchen–there are NO CABINETS! Turns out our family EATS, so we need to store FOOD. And lots of it. So, we’re in the midst of planning the addition of some new cabinets and permanent storage for our kitchen…and in the mean time, our kids (and dog) are loving their full access to all the food, all the time (This is the boys getting caught red-handed feeding the baby graham crackers on the floor).

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Directly in front of our kitchen is our (very) informal living room/kiddie playground. This room is complete with a gas fireplace and (nearly) floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the front yard.

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Connected to the living space is our dining room–one of my favorite features of this house is that from a single location on the main level I can see the kitchen, the front door, the back yard, the dining room and the living room–which is absolutely necessary when your kids cause as much mischief as ours do.

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Moving back toward the entry way on the main level you will come to a powder room.

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Just outside of the powder room is a half-set of stairs leading up to the bedrooms (After our temporary housing that had 36 stairs to get from the main level to the bedrooms, I am loooooooving the measly 6 steps that it takes to get up to the bedrooms here!)

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At the top of the stairs is the kids’ bathroom. It has tiles halfway up the wall, which is ideal for children who like to splash their bath water and little boys who like to pee on…well…everything.

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Upstairs there are 4 bedrooms. David has a Pokémon-themed room, complete with his own Pokémon training gym (trapeze). This is what his room looks like after I make him clean it…

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…and this is what it looks like after David gets home from school.

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David loves his new room, though, so that’s what really matters!

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For the first time since they can remember, the boys each have their own room. It’s been great for them to have their own space that they can really make their own.

Next door to David’s room is Jacob’s room: Dinosaur Kingdom.

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Jacob’s room is complete with a rock climbing wall (This little project was our way of smuggling wood into the moving truck…the moving company wouldn’t move raw lumber, but once we drilled those rock holds into the sheets of plywood that we already had in our garage they HAD to move it! Us: 1, Movers: 0).

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Across the hall is Hannah’s room: The Three Little Bears Woodland Wonderland (it’s just a purple room with a few bear things, but feel free to pin).

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Next to Hannah’s room is our master bedroom. I have done exactly zero decorating in here but, man, that bed is comfortable.

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Our bedroom has a unique bathroom/closet set-up. The bedroom is open to the vanity (Double sinks for the win! No more whisker clippings clogging up my sink, thankyouverymuch.) and the…closet rods? It’s the strangest master closet ever with everything just hanging out in the middle of the room, but somehow it works. One redeeming part of the master bath is that there are heated floors. I may or may not go and curl up on the floor next to my sink in the morning while contemplating my response to the shrieking baby down the hall.

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There is a separate little room that has the toilet and the shower. The shower is one of my favorite places in the house–with 3 shower heads and a door that locks, it’s basically paradise.

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That concludes the tour of the upstairs.

Now going back down to the main floor, there is another half-set of stairs right off the kitchen that goes down to the first floor. We are using this entire floor of the house as a catch-all for all the crap we don’t want to put away or deal with right now so…there.

Currently the first thing you come to at the bottom of the stairs is our swingset. Well, at least the boxes full of pieces that will eventually become a swingset. In the meantime, the boxes are perfectly suited as a baby jungle gym.

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The first room you come to on this level is our laundry room. I spend a lot of time here. That’s about it.

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Next to the laundry room is a doorway that leads to Jon’s sanctuary (his office). He actually installed a new touch pad lock on the door last night, so muggles (and children) can’t even get in. He does all sorts of secret stuff in there…I don’t know exactly what, but I’ve heard that there is a beer fridge and at least 3 gaming systems set up within those walls. Since there is a lock on the door, this room also happens to be where we are hiding our few possessions that the kids have not already destroyed with their anti-Midas-touch.

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Next to the office is our…Mess Room? What would you call a room that has a fireplace, a bookshelf, Costco overflow storage, cabinets that we ripped out of a bedroom, stuff I’m trying to sell on Craigslist, and a half-completed floor puzzle? I don’t know what you call this room, but we have it!

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Just past the Mess Room is another bathroom, a couple of storage closets, and the door to our garage. We managed to clean up one side of the garage so that Jon can park inside.

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The other half of the garage…needs some work. In all fairness, the boxes are just waiting for the moving company to pick them up and the bikes will move out to our storage shed…so hopefully in the next couple of weeks we’ll actually be able to fit two cars in our two-car garage!

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And that, my friends, is a wrap! We are thrilled to be here, and we are excited to use this house to bless others. We look forward to hosting you here–whether for a dinner on our deck, a play date in our living room, or even a slumber party in David’s bunk bed 🙂

Thank you for joining me on this tour, and we hope to see you here soon!

Finally! What You ACTUALLY Need For A New Baby.

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Can I tell you a little secret? It’s absolutely amazing and I am so over the moon about it that I just might burst. Okay, are you ready?

I’m going to be an auntie!!!

Jon’s sister, Stefanie, is expecting her first precious bundle of joy (AKA my new niece/nephew and cousin to my babies) and I could not be more thrilled! I am so excited to walk alongside my dear sister-in-law as she prepares for this wonderful new journey.

Motherhood comes with many things: Love, joy, peace, patience…nausea, heartburn, stretch marks…and GIFTS!!! So, so many gifts. But how do you know which baby items are heroes…and which ones are zeroes? Well, my friends, you have come to the right place. After 3 kids I have zoned in on which baby items you should “Buy, buy, baby!”, and to which ones you should just say “Bye bye, Baby”. Read on for my how-to guide on filling your own (practical) baby registry!

Must Have
(Seriously, buy these things. You are going to use these things every day for the next few years, so buy stuff that you really love. They will basically be like your third arm so you want the best there is, right?)

  • Carseat: They literally will not let you take your baby home from the hospital unless you have a carseat that passes their safety check. Buy one that is easy to install in your car and that fits in the stroller you want to use. Also, just in general make sure you like the way it looks because you’re going to see it approximately all of your waking moments for the next 2 years.
  • Crib: Eventually you will want your own bed, so that means baby must have their own bed. Buy one that is safe and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
  • Portable Crib: This is one of those things that I didn’t think I would need that often, but it turns out I use all the time. When we go to grandparents’ houses or playdates or vacations or move and have to live in temporary housing for a month or two we always need a portable crib. You don’t need a particularly fancy portable crib, but it should be lightweight and not take up a ton of space when it’s folded up. Don’t worry about getting one with a bassinet or little toys hanging off the railing–as long as it will fit in your trunk and you can carry it one hand while you balance the baby in her carseat on the other hand, you’re golden.
  • Stroller: Oh my goodness, buy the best stroller your money can buy. You will use this thing every day, so you’d better love it. If you run, buy a jogging stroller. If you like space saving items, buy a Snap ‘n Go for your car seat and an umbrella stroller for when they’re older. If you like cute things, buy a cute stroller that makes you go “ooooooohhhhhhh” just because it’s so adorable. If you think you’ll have another baby in the not-so-distant future, buy a stroller that can be converted to a double. If you like all of those things, buy all of those strollers (I did).
    *P.S. If you live somewhere rainy (I’m looking at you, Seattle.) buy a rain cover to go with your stroller. Trust me, you’ll want to be able to get out of your house even if the weather isn’t cooperating.
  • Baby Carrier/Sling: Some babies love to be held, and some moms just need to use their hands while holding their babies. There are oodles of baby carrier options, and you may want to try out a few before you settle on one (word to the wise: Just because you like a particular baby carrier does not mean your baby will like the same carrier). I have an Ergo that I have used for 7 years with 3 kids and it’s literally falling apart at the seams because I use it so much. Some people love their Moby wraps (How on earth do they put those things on?! I feel like I’d need to go back and get a Master’s Degree–or at least a Girl Scout badge–just to tie that thing on!). Some people love their Beco Gemini or their fancy-schmancy Tula…ya know, just get what you like.
  • Diapers and wipes: Babies poop. All the time. When Jacob was born we went through 110 diapers in the first week alone. Whether you decide to use cloth or disposable diapers, stock up ahead of time to save yourself some last minute runs to the drug store in the middle of the night when you’re already sleep-deprived and in super-good moods (I’m pretty sure that’s NEVER happened to us).
  • Diaper rash cream: Because babies poop. All the time. I like Butt Paste (yes, that’s its real name) and Vitamin A + D ointment (this stuff is also great for chafing if you’re running a marathon, btw.)
  • Snot sucker: Babies get stuffy noses and, unless you can teach a 2-month old how to blow politely into a tissue, you’re going to need a way to get those boogies out. This thing seems gross but it’s really not (even though Jon STILL refuses to be in the same room as me when I’m using it), but I assure you it is 100% necessary. Just buy it and try not to think about what you’re doing when you’re using it.
  • Nail Clippers: While I fully support using these early formative years to teach the value of a decent manicure, there’s another important reason why nail clippers are a new-baby essential. Your baby may seem all sweet and cuddly and innocent, but they aren’t always all that they seem. One night you will put your soft little baby to bed, and the next morning you will pick them up to discover that they have grown razor-sharp death talons at the ends of their fingers. Baby fingernails are sharper than steel, and they WILL cut you. I have the flesh wounds to prove it. Buy a pair of nail clippers that you can grip easily (because squirmy, angry babies will think you’re trying to cut their literal fingers off their hands when you go to use the nail clippers).
    *Pro tip: When your baby is small enough to not use her MMA skills to ward you off, just use your teeth to bite off those little finger nails. It’s a little gross, but not nearly as gross as most of the things you’ll do now that you’re a new mom. Mommy Nail Biting tends to be safer for all involved parties, and those soft little baby fingernails are tricky to get with traditional nail clippers.
  • Basic clothing: Turns out babies really don’t need that much in terms of clothing. A few onesies, a few sets of footie pajamas…maybe a couple of cute outfits if you’re feeling put together enough to leave your house. You should also buy a few sleep sacks because apparently blankets can cause serious harm to thrashing-in-the-night infants.  Other than that, though, you really don’t need to buy any clothing. Chances are your baby will outgrow or spit-upon any clothing you do buy them, anyway. Find some good deals at garage sales (or, better yet, bum baby clothes off your friends with kids a bit older than yours who are already trying to get rid of all their old baby clothes to make room for all the other kid crap they’ve acquired).
  • Baby feeding supplies: Dude, your kid has to eat. This is baby survival 101. If you’re breastfeeding (or thinking about breastfeeding, or once tried breastfeeding, or may possibly potentially probably try breastfeeding in the future), you probably qualify for a free breast pump through your insurance company–just call them and ask. No matter how you choose to feed your baby, however, you’ll also want some bottles for those times when you want to throw your baby at a sitter and get out of the house for a few hours alone. There are approximately 10.7 billion brands and styles of bottles available, however, so may the odds of selecting the perfect bottle that your baby will actually use be ever in your favor.
  • High chair: You have to have a safe place to put your child that is not your own lap during meals. How else will you ever eat? Eating is super important. You must have a place to offload the child. I have a cheap-o space saver high chair that you strap on to a regular chair and it does the trick.
  • Plastic bibs: Forget those cutesy cloth bibs. Buy something heavy duty and easy to rinse off in the kitchen sink because these things get DIRTY. I have used these Björn bibs for all of my kids and I swear by them.
  • Nursing pads: Fact: Your postpartum boobs will leak. Buy some disposable pads if you don’t want extra laundry (me) or some reusable ones (if you’re less lazy and more environmentally conscious).
  • Nursing clothing: See above ^. You don’t necessarily need nursing-specific clothing from a maternity store, but some v-neck or button down shirts with a sports bra (if you’re less endowed) or a nursing bra (if you’re more endowed) will do the trick.
  • Maxi pads: While we’re being truthful here, this one is super important. Your boobs won’t be the only thing…ahem…secreting extra fluids after childbirth. You need some heavy-duty maxi pads at home. We’re talking the Extra-super-all-night-MAXI maxi pads. Buy a few boxes and just stash them in your bathroom until you come home from the hospital. You’re welcome.
  • Mommy Undies: And, while we’re being super SUPER truthful here, buy yourself some granny panties. Buy them bigger than you think you’ll need (if you were a size 4 pre-baby…well, you won’t be any more. Sorry, the truth hurts.), and make sure they’re comfy. Again, you can thank me later.
  • Water bottles: If you are nursing a baby you will be thirsty. All. The. Time. I literally stash water bottles in every room of my house when I am nursing and I have Jon on-call to refill them. *Sidenote* Buy the kind that won’t spill if you bump them in a delirious state in the middle of the night.
  • Caffeine: There, I said it. New mom, you will be addicted to caffeine. This is a fact. Embrace it. And the 20 pounds that come with it.
  • Help: Please, friend, start looking for help now. Grandparents, friends, neighbors, babysitters, that nice elderly lady from the checkout line at the grocery store. I cannot stress this enough: you need a support network. You NEED people to help you when you’re in the trenches. Parenting is not something you can do alone, so start building that web of help now. Trust me.

Nice To Have
(Now that we’ve gotten through the absolutely necessary basics, here are a few extras that can fill out your registry. These things are good, but you can absolutely get by without them. You may use these things a lot…or you or your baby may hate them and you’ll want to throw them away after the first use. My advice? Bum some of these things off friends, find good deals at consignment sales or garage sales, or shop on Craigslist. A dollar saved is a dollar you can spend on your baby’s college fund. Or wine. Both are equally necessary to modern child rearing.)

  • Diaper bag: Yes, you do need to have somewhere to stash a few baby basics when you leave the house. A larger purse or backpack (or gallon-size Ziploc bag) will work, but you can choose a cute diaper bag if you’d prefer. Just make sure it is durable, easy to clean, and super easy to carry (I prefer backpack straps or messenger styles).
  • Swaddle blankets: I buy the ones with Velcro because I can not for the life of me figure out how to mummify a squirmy baby.
  • Nursing cover: Because modesty. A blanket or  extra sweatshirt works just fine, but nursing covers are cute and convenient and make you feel like less of an exhibitionist in public.
  • Rocking chair or glider: You will spend many, many hours up with your baby in the middle of the night. Choose a chair for your nursery that is comfortable…maybe even comfortable enough to fall asleep in.
  • Changing table and changing pads: You can literally change your baby’s diaper anywhere: On the floor of your car, in the middle of a public restroom, on the grass in a park. You just might be more comfortable at home if you have a proper changing table (which, by the way, could be the top of a dresser or a guest bed). You may also want an extra changing pad to keep wherever you do your main “living” if it’s not on the same floor of your house as where baby sleeps.
  • Diaper pail: Any ordinary garbage can will work, but I really like this diaper pail because it uses regular old garbage bags that I can buy for approximately .002 cents/bag at Costco (forget the Diaper Genie…that thing will make you broke faster than a stock market crash!) and it keeps the stink mostly contained.
  • Baby swing: Some babies hate the swing, and some babies live in them. My oldest son practically lived in his swing for the first few months and I owe every moment of sleep that I actually got during those weeks to that precious piece of equipment. My youngest hated her swing and would scream any time I put her in it. Go figure. See if you can borrow a swing at first to see how your baby reacts–and if they like it, buy your own!
  • Rock ‘n Play: They didn’t have these when my first baby was born, but by baby #3 the rock ‘n play had established itself as a mommy necessity. It’s basically a sling that baby can sit in or sleep in, and it keeps them slightly upright which babies seem to prefer over being flat on their backs. As a bonus, you can keep this right by your bedside or easily move it throughout the day so baby can nap near you. Like the baby swing, this thing can be a lifesaver for mommies with babies who don’t want to sleep in their crib!
  • Baby bouncer: Sometimes it’s just nice to have a place to put your baby while you’re cooking dinner or taking a shower (haha! This one is a joke, because you won’t actually have time to take a shower!), and most babies seem pretty happy in a bouncer.
  • Baby monitor: If you are a super sound sleeper or if you sleep far away from baby’s bedroom, it might give you peace of mind to have a baby monitor. You do NOT need a $400 video monitor that you can watch remotely with an app. Just the cheap-o one that beeps when your baby is screaming super loud will do just fine. In all honesty, though, by kid #3 I turned off the baby monitor and just relished in the momentary semi-silence while I tried to sleep.
  • Pacifiers: Some people swear by the binkie, but my kids never liked them. I have to warn you, though: pacifiers are a bit of a rabbit hole. If your kid likes them, you’ll end up having to play “Binkie Fairy” with them when they’re 2 years old and don’t want to give them up. You have been warned.
  • Baby bathtub: The kitchen sink does just fine until they can fit in the regular tub. Showers with Daddy are also favorable.
  • Baby toys: Seriously, though. My baby’s favorite toys are empty cardboard boxes and the dirty socks that are strewn about my house. If you want to buy your very own num-num Giraffe or super organic green learning toys, go for it. Just know that your little prince(ss) will nearly always go for your germ-infested car keys instead.
  • Baby Safety Gear: Yes, we want our babies to be safe. Obviously.  Do we need to buy all of the available safety products to keep them safe? Not necessarily. After 3 kids we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s actually more important to keep our stuff safe from our babies than to keep our babies safe from our stuff. So, we put a gate around our giant TV and a lock on our liquor cabinet. See? Everyone’s safe.
  • Smart Phone: Because you’ll be up at night…a lot. And you may need to keep up with celebrity gossip and Instagram feeds. Life goes on even when you have a baby, you know.

Totally Unnecessary
(Just save us all some trouble and don’t waste your hard-earned maternity leave money on these things)

  • Wipe warmer: How cold do baby wipes get when they’re sitting in your presumably already-warm house? Suck it up, Kid. If cold wipes are the worst that life has dished out to you, you’ve got it pretty good.
  • Peepee teepee: This is an absurd little contraption to put on top of baby boys’ little…peepees…so they won’t…pee pee….on you while you’re changing their diaper. Guess what? Little boys will always pee pee on you, even if you have absurd little contraptions getting in the way of proper diaper changes. Just buy yourself some goggles and call it good.
  • Shopping cart cover: You really do not need to schlep extra stuff with you every time you leave your car. Plus, shopping carts aren’t that dirty anyway (Well, not compared to how dirty your baby already is if they’re rolling around on the floor and licking every single thing within their reach.). If you’re really worried about shopping sanitation, wipe down the cart with a baby wipe and put a blanket down on the seat. Done.
  • Tiny baby shoes: Newsflash: Babies don’t walk! Don’t buy those adorable size 0 TOMS, even if they’re sparkly and soooooo cute. They’re still $40 and your baby won’t wear them or care about them. I promise. Go to the Nordstrom’s cafe and buy yourself a mimosa instead.
  • Cutesy baby stuff in general: I bought my first baby a 0-3 month old bath robe. It came with slippers. It was soooooo cute! But guess how many times he wore the cute robe and slippers? Zero. Zero times. Do you know why? Because 0-3 month olds don’t wear robes and slippers. They just don’t. Even if they’re super cute.
  • Baby-specific versions of items that  you already have: Do you already have towels? Wash cloths? Combs? Then you don’t need baby towels, baby wash cloths, or baby combs. Turns out babies are just smaller humans who can use the same thins bigger humans use (for the most part). No rush to go out and buy a smaller version of something you already have so your baby can outgrow it before they even get to use it.

Now it’s your turn–Chime in here in the comments if you have any zero or hero baby products!

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!