Fortunately This Will All Be Over Some Day

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Today marks 6 weeks since our school district announced they would be closing for in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Six long weeks that have essentially thrust me into a time warp. From that fateful day onward, our world began to slowly (and then quite rapidly) shut down around us–and what a whirlwind it has been!

I have started a routine with my kids each morning where we write down the day’s date together–not so much because I care what day it is, but because if I don’t write it down I fear we will never find our way out of the COVID-chasm again. You could ask me a question such as what I had for breakfast this morning or what day/week/month the International Olympic Committee announced their deferment of this summer’s games, and I would simply look at you with the same dumbfounded look. I just don’t know. We have entered a supernatural realm where time nor space nor work nor former purpose seems to hold any significant meaning. For better or worse: The world has changed.

And, speaking of “for better or worse”, I like to play a little game when life becomes tragically hilarious as it has at this moment. The game is called “Fortunately/Unfortunately” and it goes a bit like this:

Fortunately the world is still spinning.

Unfortunately everything in the world has had to shut down.

Fortunately, my 3 adorable/precious/loved/needy/not-yet-self-sufficient children still have school.

Unfortunately, all of their schooling has moved out of the classroom and onto “the cloud”.

Fortunately, “the cloud” is not an actual cloud, because all of the airlines are shut down and it would be quite difficult to reach the clouds by our own might.

Unfortunately, this means my children are doing school at home. Yes, even the preschooler.

Fortunately, we have internet access and computers and *me* to oversee the daily learning/weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Unfortunately, even teachers working in one of the most tech-savvy pockets of one of the most industrialized nations on earth run into tech issues during remote learning. And Zoom is full of perverts.

Fortunately, my son is too preoccupied with turning his computer background into a mythical Pokémon creature during his Zoom lessons or typing “toot” in the private chat bar to notice any of the tech glitches that may or may not occur during this time.

Unfortunately, he still has to learn the material presented during lessons. Even if they’re on a cloud.

Fortunately, his mom has basically given up on hardcore academics at this point and is pretty well appeased by “good enough”.

Unfortunately, school is not our only preoccupation.

Fortunately, baking and consuming massive amounts of empty carbohydrates is not a difficult task to pull off.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the new jeans that I bought back in February will fit me any more.

Fortunately, I haven’t even tried them on since February (#yogapantsforthewin). Ignorance is bliss.

Unfortunately, diet and exercise is still important. Even when you’re in lockdown.

Fortunately, I have a 100% legitimate excuse for not making it to the gym.

Unfortunately, the gym being closed is not a legitimate excuse for sloth.

Fortunately, my husband is a born-again Cross-Fit converter and we have enough gym equipment in our basement to make Gold’s Gym shudder behind their no-cancellation-policy long-term contracts.

Unfortunately, simply possessing gym equipment does not somehow make you magically fit.

Fortunately, my friend makes Facebook Live videos of her workouts so I can join with her to sweat it out.

Unfortunately, my kids and dog always want to join in my workout fun (Sidenote: The best part of working out is that you do it without your kids and dog.).

Fortunately, I have learned that I can sit my kids in front of a screen for an hour, slip outside with my yoga mat, and nobody ever even realizes I’ve tried to do something without them.

Unfortunately, no good thing lasts forever, and eventually you have to return to the screen zombies.

Fortunately, my children are totally fine with me turning off screens and they never throw a fit or scream or stomp or cry when screen time is over.

Unfortunately, this is a true story. Children losing screen time without losing their minds is a paradox that does not exist in reality.

Fortunately, our TV is password protected and I’m now strengthened from my invigorating bout of exercise. Off go the screens!

Unfortunately, now I have to make dinner. The children are not pleased. They are *just a colossal smidge* tired and cranky and demanding my attention, even though I’ve basically done nothing today except give them my attention.

Fortunately, I have a fridge full of food because I just picked up my once-weekly grocery order last night.

Unfortunately, I have to cook all of the food. Again. For the “Every meal of every day”th time since this lockdown began.

Fortunately, as with all things in my life at this point in time, my acceptance of mediocrity has reached an all-time high. Hot dogs and chips it is.

Unfortunately, this dinner is lacking a bit of pizzazz.

Fortunately, there are several dozen wineries in my town that are now offering free at-home no-contact delivery. Which brings me to my next question: Which pairs better with fire-roasted frankfurters and crispy tortilla strips: Syrah or Zinfandel?

Unfortunately, after dinner we still have to kill a few hours until bedtime.

Fortunately, family movie night has become a nightly occurrence.

Unfortunately, even with Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, Plex, PrimeVideo, and a collection of old DVD’s there is nothing to watch.

Fortunately, all of the movies my kids had been anticipating being released in the theaters are now being directly released to home streaming.

Unfortunately, the new Trolls movie costs $19.99. To rent.

Fortunately, it’s still light enough outside in the evening that you can just send the kids outside to play instead.

Unfortunately, your kids seem bent on climbing high trees and jumping off of moving objects. You remind them that they may NOT, for any reason, break a limb right now.

Fortunately, your kid who broke his arm in September and had to wear a cast up to his armpit for the first 6 weeks of first grade understands the severity of the situation. He implores his siblings to comply. Kind of.

Unfortunately, we have spent most of the evening arguing over unwatched movies and safe outdoor playtime tactics, and now it is time for bed.

Fortunately, it is time for the kids to go to bed.

Unfortunately, the kids will not stay in bed forever.

Fortunately, we are putting the kids to bed. Right now.

Unfortunately, the kids getting to bed can not happen soon enough.

Fortunately, both parents are equally motivated to get the kids to bed and we move them through the bedtime routine in double time.

Unfortunately, one kid has a wiggly tooth (WHY AT BEDTIME MUST YOU HAVE A WIGGLY TOOTH?!?!?!) and another kid has somehow outgrown all of their pajamas.

Fortunately, the tooth fairy can still make house calls during quarantine and Amazon carries pajamas.

Unfortunately, everything I order on Amazon is now taking approximately 23 years to arrive.

Fortunately, we’ve sorted out both the tooth and the pajamas, and the kids are finally in bed.

Unfortunately, we have to do this all over again tomorrow.

Fortunately, we have another tomorrow. Another chance to do life a bit differently, to take a step back, to lower our standards, and to try something new. Tomorrow is a gift, and even this will all be over some day.

 

 

 

 

How To Homeschool On The Fly In The Age Of The Coronavirus

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Late last night our school district outside of Seattle became the first school district in the nation to close due to concerns about the Coronavirus. Effective immediately, and for an indefinite period of time, all schools are closed and shifting to a remote learning model “on the cloud”. Translation: ready or or not, we’re all about to homeschool!

While I 100% support our district’s decision to move to this model, I know from experience how daunting the task ahead will be for families. I used to be a classroom teacher, and I’ve homeschooled before. Teaching is my jam, but helping my own children learn at home was a totally different league.  Let’s just say there’s a very good reason why I’m not still homeschooling.

My kids were only 3- and 5-year olds the last time I attempted homeschooling, so I’m definitely a bit out of practice (And I’ve never done this with a 1st grader, a 3rd grader, and a preschooler, as I’m about to attempt.). While I am by no means a homeschooling (or “cloud schooling”) expert, I did pick up a few tips and tricks during our oh-so-fun year of “Mommy School” that I want to pass along. Just remember: we’re all in this (separately) together!

Set Expectations
Make sure the kids know that this isn’t just a never-ending weekend. These days at home will be a learning time that they will be expected to participate in the same as if they were away at school. Attendance will be taken, they will need to check in for certain online classes, and they will have assignments to complete within specific time frames. Bonus: They can do it all in their pajamas with their dog curled up underfoot.

Gather Supplies
For our particular scenario, students will need a computer, internet access, and a few  physical supplies in order to attend Coronavirus School.

Our school district has come up with a plan to move all learning “outside the four walls of the school and onto the cloud”, which basically means kids will be completing and/or submitting their school work online. Each physical class in the real world now has a virtual Google Classroom where students and teachers can interact with each other virtually. It’s actually really cool! And, since we had a bit of warning that this was coming, teachers spent the school day yesterday as a bridge day. They trained students how to use these new-to-them online tools and had time to practice using them under teacher guidance. In addition, our school district has made available computing devices and WiFi hotspots for any students that need them in order to complete their “cloud learning” at home. Really, I can’t believe how well-planned this whole thing is on such short notice and in such an unprecedented circumstance!

Each of my kids also came home yesterday with a backpack full of physical tools (textbooks, workbooks writing journals, books) to use at home. In addition to these supplies, it will probably be a good idea to have basic school supplies on hand. This is what I’m going to have available in our homeschool space (More on that in the next section!):
-Pencils
-Pencil Sharpener (At the beginning of the school year I bought this fancy sharpener and it’s been a great tool to have at home!)
-Crayons/markers/colored pencils
-White printer paper
-Lined notebook paper
-Headphones (so my kids can work on their computers simultaneously with minimal disruptions to each other).
-Computer microphone (we had to get one for my third grader because his PC doesn’t have a built-in microphone)
-Small dry erase boards with markers and erasers
-Ibuprofen (for Teacher-Mom)

Since we are yet to put any of this into practice, I’m sure this list will evolve over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, if you want to stock up you can find most of these items in the Dollar store (Or, if you don’t want to even set foot in the world of viral outbreak, just have them delivered from Amazon).

Set up Your Space
It’s important for you (Teacher-Mom or Teacher-Dad) and for the kids to have a dedicated space for school at home. This can be the kitchen table (This is a great choice because it’s central and you can spread out a lot of junk learning tools on it at once) or a home office with tables  set up for the kids. Or, really, just sitting on the floor in a hallway. For the love, do NOT set up school near a TV/XBox/Switch/Pokemon card collection that will be more enticing than the schoolwork that lies ahead!

Schedule Your Day
You need a plan some structure for your day or you will all go crazy and quite possibly end up in a mental institute (Which is probably quite clean and Coronavirus-free, actually, so that might not be a terrible back-up plan).

As you make your “School Day on The Cloud” schedule, think about what will work best for your family, and don’t be afraid to adjust as you go. Set a time in your day when schoolwork will get done–maybe this is first thing in the morning when everyone is fresh, or maybe it’s in the evening after Mom and Dad get home from work. Agree on an amount of work and/or an amount of time that you will dedicate to schoolwork during the first chunk of work time, then take a break (this is when you kick your kids outside for 30 minutes to roll around in the mud puddles). If your kid usually eats snack at school, eat a snack at the same time. Try to have lunch at the same time every day…again, consistency is key. Plan a block of time for independent or shared reading somewhere in there, then schedule a second chunk of work time later in the day (if you can muster it) and call it a day.

A typical homeschool day usually lasts only 2-4 hours, compared to 6.5 in a regular school day. YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO 6 HOURS OF SCHOOL “ON THE CLOUD” (Sorry to my childrens’ teachers who are probably reading this, but I’m just telling it how it is in the real world!). Just do what you need to do, and don’t burn yourselves out.

I’m using a checklist with my kids so they know what needs to be accomplished each day and can move at their own pace. Here is the checklist I’ve made for my kids to follow:
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What About Younger Siblings?
Great question! I have a preschooler who will be joining us on this grand learning adventure, so I will also be curious to see how this aspect all plays out in practice. Some tactics I’ve tried before to help minimize the distraction of a younger sibling with marginal success:
-Having simple activities prepped and available that the younger sibling can work on independently while I assist the older sibling(s). Think: coloring pages, simple puzzles, Play-Doh, building with blocks, Duplos, or an iPad with noise cancelling headphones (#kiddingnotkidding).
-Do “school time” during the younger sibling’s nap time
-Childcare swap with a neighbor or trusted friend so you can take turns playing with younger siblings and helping your school-aged kids complete their schoolwork.
-Hire a teenage babysitter (They’re all out of school right now, too!) to come entertain one or more children while you help your school-aged child.
-(Weather permitting) move school outside–younger siblings can play outside while you sit in the grass or at a picnic table to do schoolwork with your child
-Let your school-aged child work independently while you care for the younger sibling.
-Involve the younger sibling in the learning. Have your school-aged child read to them or teach them a concept they’re learning about (Teaching is the best tool for testing comprehension!).
-Turn on Frozen 2 in another room and walk away.

Use Bribery Liberally
Please don’t judge me, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, and bribes work wonders. Maybe the kids earn screen time for finishing assignments. Or a trip to the drive-thru for ice cream after they’ve chosen to read rather than squabble with their siblings for __ minutes. We’re only trying to make it through a few weeks here, so no long-term habits are going to have time to fully grab root–I say bribe away!

Plan Enrichment
School is all well and good, but we all need a break from the rigor every now and then. Consider both academic and non-academic enrichment you can offer your children while they’re at home to help keep everyone’s minds and bodies moving. And since we’re trying to maintain social distancing, here are some ideas you can implement from the comfort of your own home.

Academic Enrichment Ideas:
-Learning games such as Uno, Cribbage, Chess, Scrabble, and Bananarams
-Do a puzzle
-Read! You can even ask Alexa to tell you a story and “she” will comply
-Play academic games on a website like Starfallor ABCMouse (subscription required)
-Write a letter to someone–they would probably love to hear how you’re doing in Ground Zero of the Coronavirus Apocalypse!
Do a science experiment 

Non-Academic Enrichment Ideas:
-Get moving with an app like Go Noodle! or Cosmic Kids Yoga
-Bake (Math, Literacy, and Science all wrapped up in one!)
-Arts and crafts (You can literally just pull stuff out of your recycling bin and tell your kids to get creative with it!)
-Make homemade Play-Doh or Slime
-Create a song in Chrome Music Lab

Give Yourself Grace and Space
School-at-home can be stressful. There is a different dynamic when the environment and the people involved in school change, and this is a process that can take a very long time to feel comfortable. Give yourself (And your kids! And the teachers!) grace–this is a big learning curve!

Also, give yourself physical space to decompress. If things in the living room-schoolroom start to get rowdy or out of control or just feel off, take a break.  Maybe this means taking your kids outside for a walk around the neighborhood or banishing everyone to their bedrooms for “silent reading” so you can take a shower and eat the chocolate you have hidden in the laundry room. After everyone catches their breath, come back together and begin again–I promise, you’ll all feel better!

And if all else fails, just remember: This, too, shall pass.

Stay healthy out there, friends!

When Life Gives You Furnace Failure in the Dead of Winter…

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Eating breakfast by the fire to keep warm.

This summer I wrote a post titled “When Life Gives You Water Damage”, a harrowing tale of how our hot water tank blew up a few months after we spent our entire savings buying a new house. The resulting water damage led to us completely tearing out one whole level of our house, discovering asbestos in our home, completing an extensive abatement, and subsequently not putting back together a single thing. Exciting stuff around here, folks.

That post was such a huge hit that I’ve just been dying to write an encore post. Well, life is funny and–lo and behold–I now get to write part two of the “When life gives you…” saga! So, without further ado, I now present “When Life Gives You Furnace Failure in the Dead of Winter”…

Last Wednesday we went to bed later than we should have because we are parents of young children and that’s exactly what all sleep-deprived parents of young children do. Of course we know better than to stay up past our bedtime, but the hours between 8:30 PM and midnight are so quiet and so calm and so lacking in the responsibility department that we can’t help but to stay up to savor them a bit longer that we should. So, per usual, we went to bed late and were banking on getting a few solid hours of sleep before the kids (and by kids, I mean Jacob) would come bounding into our room at 5 AM (per usual).

At about 3:00 in the morning, however, Jon and I were rattled awake by a…rattling. A very LOUD rattling coming from our heating vents.  Knowing that loud rattles are never a good thing we said a silent prayer that the rattles wouldn’t wake the baby and we tried as best we could to fall back asleep between the every-20-minute-cacophony that was shaking our house. Needless to say, the baby managed to sleep but we did not. Furnace: 1, Parents: 0. Adulting is so hard.

The next morning, Thursday, the rattles were still occurring every time our heat turned on so I decided to call an HVAC expert to come out to our house and examine the mystery. The first five places I called said sure, they’d send someone out. Next week. NEXT WEEK?!?! This sound is so loud that we can’t sleep in our own house…and goodness knows what happens if the rattles turn into an explosion or a furnace fire or something (Hey, these things can happen).

Sixth time was a charm and they had someone that could actually come out to do a same-day examination of the problem: Huzzah!

A few hours later Roy showed up at our house (Ironically, he arrived at the exact moment that our new generator was being delivered. The generator that we bought because when our power went out a few weeks ago I swore that I would never spend another night in a cold house without heat. More on that soon.)

Roy spent a few minutes fiddling with this and that and then he gave us the verdict: Our 50+ year-old furnace was dying, and we needed to say our final goodbyes. The death could take minutes or days, but the inevitable was just around the corner (Oh, and by the way, he said–If the furnace makes a loud boom and then smoke fills our house and sets off all the fire alarms, don’t be too concerned. This too shall pass.)

So, with the knowledge that this would be our furnace’s final day(s), Roy set off to locate the necessary replacement parts and place an order. I was left wondering what to do–I mean, what does a furnace want to do in it’s final hours–was there any unfinished business we needed to attend to? Did our furnace lead a fulfilling life or did he have regrets? Should we lead a vigil? Prepare the memorial? In the end, we just decided to let Mr. Furnace live out his final hours in peace doing what he was created to do: heat my house.

At 6:00 AM on Saturday, December 2 our furnace sputtered it’s last breath. The loud rattle became a high-pitched whine, which became an unbearable screech, and I pulled the plug (shut down our heating system). RIP Mr. Furnace, you will be missed.

Now I don’t know if I mentioned this yet, but it is December. In Washington. Which means it is cold. It is literally freezing outside. We’re talking ice-on-the-ground and the-dog’s-water-dish-is-frozen-over cold. So, when your furnace dies in the dead of winter you kind of want the heat restored ASAP.

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Our frozen deck railing this morning. Baby, it’s cold outside!

Unfortunately the HVAC company was closed on the weekend so I couldn’t call to ask them if our needed parts had, in fact, been ordered or when they might arrive. I was getting impatient knowing that we’d have to go at least the weekend with no heat, and by 3:00 in the afternoon I decided to be that person and call our HVAC repair man on the weekend (He had given me his cell phone number, so I can only assume he wanted me to bother him on his day off).

When I got a hold of poor ‘ol Roy he was, according to him, sitting on the recliner in his living room so he didn’t exactly have all of the information I was requesting (Strange that he didn’t think to have my work order information with him on the couch). He told me to plug in some space heaters and call the office on Monday morning. Fine.

We went about gathering all of our space heaters (we even borrowed an extra space heater from our neighbor who recently went through a similar ordeal…we’re calling it the Furnace Curse of 2017) and turned on our gas fireplace. Unfortunately, we learned that plugging in more than one or two space heaters at the same time in the same region of the house would blow the breaker and all electricity on that circuit would turn off.

So now we got to play this fun game of musical space heaters where I’d rotate space heaters from room to room throughout the day to try and evenly disperse the heat. At night we’d bundle up in our fuzzy pajamas and layer on as many blankets as would fit on our beds. It was all so cozy! But still, I wanted my heat.

So, first thing Monday morning I called the HVAC office to see where my dang furnace parts were. The receptionist told me that they found the necessary parts in Oregon and they were being shipped here presently. They would arrive that afternoon and then they’d schedule the install. Phew! Just one more day. I can do this!

Well, Monday afternoon came and went, but no parts arrived. The HVAC office called me back and let me know that the parts were now scheduled to arrive on Tuesday afternoon, and they could possibly install it on Wednesday morning. Then finally, after all of the drama, the parts arrived! I am happy to say that as of 8:42 AM Wednesday morning, we officially have a fully-functioning furnace again.

And, even though we had to spend nearly a week with no heat in the dead of winter, there was some good that came of it.

We got to spend extra time together as a family, huddled around the only space heater and the fireplace.

We gained a renewed appreciation for the simple things that we take for granted.

The parts we needed to have replaced are covered by a warranty and, now that they’ve been replaced, will probably last us for years to come so we will (hopefully) never have to do this again.

Jacob (who is always awake by 6:00) was so smothered in blankets that he didn’t stir until 7:00 or later every morning. SLEEPING IN FOR THE WIN!!!

We got to try out all of our new winter snow gear…indoors (It works!).

And, of course, we made memories of the caliber that I’m sure we’ll be talking about for years to come. Life doesn’t always go according to plan rarely goes according to plan, but that’s all part of the adventure. These twists and turns along the way are what keep life interesting.

Now, my friends, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to crank up the HEAT on my brand new FUNCTIONING FURNACE. And as I enjoy this particular warmth and comfort, I wish you exactly the same: that you would experience the warmth and comfort of this season.

Happy holidays, and may your furnace be ever-functioning!

 

 

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.

 

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!

Home

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“When will we be home?”

Lately Jacob has been asking me this question. Frequently. Like, several times a day. It’s a simple enough question, given the right context. Say you’re out running errands or visiting a neighbor. Or maybe you’re away from home for an extended time, on vacation or traveling somewhere. There are plenty of scenarios where the question “When will we be home?” makes sense. What makes Jacob’s query unusual, however, is the fact that he almost always asks me, “When will we be home?” when we are, in fact, at home.

I can’t blame the kid for his confusion. In his 41 months of life he has already moved “home” 3 times, and over 9,000 miles at that. In fact, this August will be the first August in his entire life that we will NOT be moving to a new home (and only the 4th August in over a decade that our family will stay put. I’m actually in the process of petitioning the government to change the name of August to Moving Month.). For Jacob, home is an impermanent idea more than it is a place.

His question simultaneously amuses me and breaks my heart. After all, one of my jobs as a parent is to provide stability in my childrens’ life…and how can I do that if they change homes as often as they change their underwear (c’mon, folks, we all know how little boys roll).  As much as I want my children to be able to set down roots and call a place their own, however, the question of “When will we be home?” has gotten me thinking.

Maybe there’s something to be said for the realization that we are not home. Something to be said for living life a bit differently, a bit unsettled, on purpose. Something to be said for adjusting to a place while trying also to avoid fully adjusting. Something to be said for the fact that all of us are outsiders, in a way, and that we will never truly be home until we are with Jesus. The Bible tells us that we are strangers, pilgrims, aliens and sojourners on earth (Hebrews 11:13-16, 1 Peter 1:1, 2:11-12) and that our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20).  This place, this entire planet, is not home. It is a place of work, a battlefield, and a proving ground, but it is not home.

If I truly believe this–that my entire life is just a stopping off point on my journey–then it changes things. Radically. It changes the way I teach my children about home and, in fact, changes the very definition of home. In wanting to provide those stable roots for my children, then, maybe I don’t need to have a single place that we call home. Maybe instead of cement, our foundation will be The Word. Maybe instead of doors, we will open our hearts to God and to others. Maybe instead of windows, we will reflect the love of Jesus to the world. And in doing so, maybe we will help bring others home.

I don’t know when or where or if we will ever settle in a home, but I do know one thing with certainty. With hope there is home, and I have enough hope to carry me through infinity Augusts.

And in the end, I will truly and forever be home.

 

A Photo Tour Through Our California “Mountain” Home

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Ah, home sweet home. This week marks one month since we moved into the house we now affectionately refer to as River House (even though the “river” that supposedly runs behind our house is currently only a dry creek bed. I’m sure the massive El Niño they’re predicting for this winter will take care of that in no time, though).

It was a bit of a gamble moving out here–we’re getting a steal of a deal on the rent (by Bay Area standards, not by normal human standards), but the house is in the “mountains” (Californian for tree-covered hills). Even though it is physically quite close to civilization, there is an absolute feeling of remoteness. Though only two miles separate River House from town and the rest of Silicon Valley, the two places sometimes feel like they are worlds apart: Mountain people drive trucks instead of Ferraris; in the mountains you hear crickets and cougars (yes, large wild cats share our property) instead of The 101 or 85; in the mountains your gardener is Jesus, not Jesús from Ramirez Brothers Landscaping. And even though we’ve only been here for a month, I kind of love it.

I know you’ve all been curious to see what life is like out here in the boonies, so here’s a peek inside our little mountain life.

We are probably the only house in the mountains (or anywhere, for that matter) that has a large cement goose wearing a dress and an Irish welcome plaque at the front door. You really can’t miss us.
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Once inside the threshold you enter the Great Room. Turning left you’ll see our living room and school corner. My favorite part of this room is the massive vaulted cedar ceilings and the river rock fireplace (we’ll talk more about the necessity of that fireplace in a moment).IMG_6503

To the right of the living room is the area we’ve set up as the dining room and, beyond that, the kitchen.
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I love our kitchen at this house! It’s spacious and bright and, as of last week, fully functional. See our brand new fridge? This was a gift from our landlords two weeks after we moved in…after our old fridge died. We went 4 days with no working fridge which made storing food and eating fresh food a bit of a challenge. The ordeal gave me a greater appreciation for my pioneer ancestors. With the help of our generous neighbors offering us space in their fridge and a chest freezer in our garage, however, we persevered and survived the Great Fridge-pocalypse of 2015.
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The kitchen is so spacious that I actually have empty drawers and cabinets–and that’s saying something considering we own such obscure kitchen gadgets as an apple-peeler-corer-slicer and a Turkish coffee station.IMG_6519

Remember how we’re living in the mountains, and it’s full of wonderful surprises? Well, no tour of our kitchen would be complete without the inclusion of our little kitchen friends, the ants. And the gnats, but they’re too small and too fast to snap a photo of.IMG_6518

Off the kitchen is one of our five decks. This one is currently housing our BBQ…and a drying rack with our swim gear.IMG_6512

Speaking of the decks, we spend quite a bit of time out on them. This is Bota’s deck (she allowed a guest for the photo op):IMG_6514

And the boys’ play deck:IMG_6130

Back inside the house, we’ll finish the tour of the top floor of the house. Just off of the Great Room/Kitchen set up is the master bedroom (or, if you ask the boys, The Boys’ Second Bedroom):

IMG_6471Notice the utter lack of grown-up bedroom furniture. We had sold half of our bedroom furniture before we moved to Ireland, and then we sold the rest of it this summer so we wouldn’t have to move it. This was before we realized that we actually need bedroom furniture for absurd purposes like HAVING FURNITURE TO USE. Our mattress is currently sitting on the floor, I’m using a Rubbermaid container as a night stand, and I literally found Jon’s nightstand in a dumpster. It’s actually pretty cool, because we feel like we’re in college again. Not to worry, though, because our real Grown Up furniture has been ordered and is en route as we speak (!).

From the bed you can see our two private decks and gas fireplace–once you look past the Rubbermaid nightstands, it’s quite the retreat. IMG_6469

The white door you can see to the left of the fireplace is our closet. It’s a massive closet with ample storage for our clothing (and our full suitcases and boxes full of clothing, because it turns out bedroom furniture like dressers are actually useful for things like holding your clothes).IMG_6473Continuing on through the master suite you come to the master bath. The soaking tub is so inviting to my achy pregnant body but, unfortunately, I can’t use it. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but California is in a DROUGHT, which means there are water restrictions in place. And by water restrictions, I mean our mountain home is basically siphoning water from the city through a straw and if we go over our allotted amount, the water police will come knock down our front door. And they’ll fine us thousands of dollars, but whatever. Alas, the soaking tub will have to wait.
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Finishing up the tour of the master suite is our…office corner? I don’t even know what to call it. We have a dresser, filing cabinets, boxes of crap we don’t want to unpack, a bookshelf, school stuff, and a random office chair (with no desk) crammed in there.At least there’s a pretty little deck to go stand on if you want to get out of the mess!
IMG_6472This is also where we house our modem (for the world’s slowest internet) and our landline telephone (because we don’t get cell phone reception at the house). See, it really is like we’re in college again.

That wraps up the top floor of the house! Now, down to the first floor.

The boys’ bedroom is the first room you come to at the bottom of the stairs. We have their bunkbed set up so they can practice their climbing and diving skills from more precarious heights.
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Opposite the bunk bed is the boys’ dresser and reading corner. Pay special attention to the most important addition we’ve made to the bedroom: our eye in the sky camera.IMG_6496

Since the boys are now residing on a different level of the house from the parents, we considered it prudent to install surveillance apparatus. The camera allows us to capture all of the bedtime moments when the boys are anywhere but in their beds.IMG_6425

Next door to the boys’ room is the nursery/storage room/guest room/play room (don’t ever let me be your interior designer). This is the nursery side of the room (Yes, we are 4 months early, but it was just easier to set everything up than store it):IMG_6475

The closet in this room is stacked floor to ceiling with baby paraphernalia: IMG_6477

The opposite side of the room is currently acting as the boys’ play room (because this room has a door that locks, thus containing the mess and the temptations).

(Not pictured: the center of the room, the “guest room”, where we will set up our blow-up air mattress for anyone who wants to brave a visit).
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Also downstairs is the boys’ bathroom. It’s cute, but it smells like pee, so I try not to go in there.IMG_6474

We also have a lovely laundry room downstairs with a utility sink (an absolute necessity with children, I’ve decided).IMG_6479

One whole wall of the laundry room is lined with floor-to-ceiling cabinets. The cabinets are chock-full of electronics equipment (What, that’s not what you store in your laundry room?)IMG_6480

Outside of the laundry room is a linen closet and our game closet. We rarely play games, so I find it absurd that we own this many. Anyone want to come over for a game night soon?
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If you go down the hallway past the laundry room you come to our garage. It’s pretty well organized with storage along the walls, infinity toys on one side, and a narrow sliver of empty space down the other side where Jon can maneuver his car inside to park (it’s a very shallow garage, so it’s quite amusing to watch this transaction take place).IMG_6494

Outside the garage we have our yard. Yup, that’s it. Our property line extends 6 feet on either side of the house and is backed by the (dry) creek and a canyon wall, so this is the entirety of our outside space.IMG_6488

You may have noticed a wooden fence in front of the house (see the photo at the top of this post if you need a refresher), and you may have thought that was a nice little fenced-in yard. You would be wrong. What that is, my friends, is the propane tank enclosure. Because we live off the grid in the mountains, our main heat source for the house is propane gas (what?!?!). Since moving here, I have had to endure propane safety lessons with the gas company and join a propane users support group. True story. Thankfully it’s still FREAKING 100 DEGREES EVERY DAY HERE, so we haven’t had to try out the whole propane gas heat thing yet.IMG_6482

Now, I mentioned earlier that the fireplaces were important, and now you know why. With propane being our main source for heat, and propane being VERY EXPENSIVE, we are told that we will be relying on those fireplaces more and more as the seasons change. As such, we are stockpiling wood scraps and collecting them in aesthetically-pleasing boxes around the outside of our house. You’re welcome, neighbors.IMG_6483

Now, with all drawbacks (bugs, propane, water restrictions, slow internet, no cell service, no yard) aside, River House really does suit us well. Every time we walk out our door we are greeted with nature’s playground:IMG_6493

We have woods and canyons and creeks to explore. It feels very much like the Northwest, and very much like home.IMG_6441

And, though you can’t see the houses or the people very well in this photo, we have incredible neighbors. Neighbors who invite us over for dinner and let us borrow their fridge when our fridge dies and who invite us over for bonfires and s’mores and whose kids have Power Wheels drag races with our kids in the street. The neighborhood is teeming with children the same ages as our boys and we’ve all made fast friends. It’s a wonderful tight-knit community, and we feel lucky to live here.IMG_6486

I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour through our mountain home, and let us know when you’re ready for a visit! I’ll even blow up the air mattress for you.

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!

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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Our Trip Home: From A to Z

Yesterday we returned from an incredible three-week holiday at “home” with our loved ones in Washington state. This was our first time returning home since our move to Ireland six months ago and we savored every moment of it. As with any trip of that magnitude, there were ups and downs during our stay. Here are the alphabetical highlights of our trip:

The ABC’s Of Our Christmas Vacation

IMG_0169A is for Annual Christmas date: I have gone on a Christmas date with my mom every year since I was 4 years old. It’s something I look forward to every year…no matter how old I get! We’ve done lots of different things for our dates over the years, but my favorite is always going to see Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker. And, since I was feeling nostalgic this year, that’s exactly what we did. After our matinee performance (which was beautiful, as always) we walked around Seattle Center to look at the fountain and the Space Needle all decked out with lights. Then we walked up the street to the Melting Pot for some delicious cheese and chocolate fondues. It was a perfect evening, and I couldn’t ask for a better date!

IMG_0551B is for “Besties”: We’ve been missing our friends, so it was great just spending time with them and catching up. It’s amazing how time and distance can’t even change the bond you have with your best pals! From evening runs to dinners out and gatherings in peoples’ homes, every moment we had with our friends was precious. In addition to seeing our friends, I also loved meeting all of the sweet new babies that have been born since we were last here–the future best friends of our children, I’m sure!

C is for Christmas:

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We had a very low-key Christmas this year. We celebrated Christmas Eve with Jon’s side of the family and spent Christmas day at my parents’ house. The boys had a blast opening all of their Christmas gifts (David’s favorite gift is a tie between his blue basketball and all of his new Angry Birds gear; Jacob just liked rolling around in all of the wrapping paper). After brunch we went for a walk around the neighborhood and played with all of our new toys. We ended the day with a yummy Christmas dinner (ham) and a noteworthy Christmas film (Curious George’s Christmas Special). Then it was off to bed where visions of sugar plums danced in our heads.

IMG_0040D is for Dentist: We love our dentist so much that we made time to visit him during our little stay in Washington. We all got cleanings, and Jacob even got his first turn in the big chair. Both boys did great job letting the dentist clean and count their teeth!

E is for Everett: During most of our visit we were staying with my parents in Federal Way, but we made a few trips up north to our former hometown of Everett. While we were in Everett we got to visit friends, check in on our house, and visit some of our favorite local places. We wish we could have spent a bit more time up there visiting more people but, alas, time was of precious short order on this trip.

unnamedF is for Family: Our family is the main reason we decided to pack up and head home for Christmas–and thankfully we got to see a lot of them! Besides our local family in Washington, we also had family members come up from California and down from Alaska to visit while we were there. To all of our parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nephews, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who we got to see: thank you for making the time for us. It really meant the world to each of us to spend time with you!

IMG_0802G is for Grandpa: Unfortunately, four days after we arrived in Washington my grandfather passed away (you can read my tribute to him here). Grandpa was an incredible man, I loved him dearly, and it’s difficult to say goodbye. Still, though, I am so grateful that I got to spend some last moments with him before he passed–I will never forget that last day that I spent with him. Living so far away from home now I realize that this was God’s grace to me that I got to say goodbye in person and spend time mourning with my family. I love you and I miss you, Grandpa!

IMG_0177H is for Holiday With Lights: For the second year in a row now we decided to brave the elements and venture out to Holiday With Lights at Wild Waves, a local theme park. The whole park is decorated for Christmas with beautiful lights. Most of the rides were open–we enjoyed going on the carousel and the roller coasters (which are a bit scarier in the dark!). We even got to visit Santa just in time for our annual photo-op.

I is for iPhone: A few days before we left Ireland for our trip to Washington my iPhone died. I was a bit panicked for those 3 days that I didn’t have a phone. How would I call people? How would I check the weather before I went outside? How would I get people’s status updates on Facebook in real time? It was terrible. So, as soon as our plane landed we made an appointment for me at the Apple store to see if they could revive my poor little phone. In the end, though, the phone was bricked–as in, it was as useless as a brick. I sucked it up and traded in my “brick” for a new phone–and life went on again.

IMG_0814J is for Jetlag: Traveling with kids is difficult. Traveling halfway around the world and dealing with jetlagged kids is horrible. I’ve discovered that, for kids at least, it takes about 1 day of adjustment per hour of time difference that you travel. So, if you travel through one time zone, you’ll be back on track in one day. If you travel through 8 time zones like us, though, it takes 8 days before the kids figure out again how to sleep at night and not be terrors during the day. Moral of the story: jetlag SUCKS.

IMG_0533K is for Kid’s Museum: On Christmas Eve my mom and I took the boys to the Tacoma Children’s Museum for a fun morning of play and exploration. It was a beautiful museum with lots of fun activities that were perfect for the boys (and, best part of all, it’s totally free–donations accepted, of course!). Both boys loved the water play area, the drums, the soft “snowballs” that they could throw down tunnels and tubes, and climbing on the giant DaVinci-esque flying machine.

IMG_0418L is for Leavenworth: Jon’s parents live over the mountains (and through the woods…) in a little tourist town called Leavenworth. The town is in the middle of the Cascade Mountains and is set up to look like you’re in a Bavarian village. It’s all very cute and unique. We spent 3 days over in Leavenworth visiting Grammy and Grandpa Pete. During our stay we played in the snow, fed the deer that frequent their yard, walked through town, played pool, and relaxed by the fire. We had a great time on our mini-vacation!

IMG_0452M is for Mars Hill: Mars Hill is our former church that we attended for several years before moving to Ireland. The church has several campuses and both our church in Everett and my parents’ church in Federal Way got new “homes” while we were away. We got to visit both of those new buildings for services and catch up with our friends there. All I can say is “Wow!”. God is so good!

IMG_0561N is for New Year’s Eve: We rang in 2014 with some of our closest friends. New Year’s Eve was spent at our friends’ house where we played games, visited, and caught up with each other. We also started what will have to be a new tradition: a Christmas tree bonfire. The Christmas tree was quite impressive going up in flames…and it made for a nice warm fire on a cold evening.

unnamed (2)O is for Oregon: On January 3rd our family from near and far gathered in Longview, WA for my grandfather’s memorial service. It was a lovely Military funeral complete with Marine color guards and a gun-salute. It was a wonderful time for our family to spend time together, share memories of Grandpa, and honor his life. After the funeral we drove down to Oregon where we were going to spread Grandpa’s ashes the next day. Eleven of us stayed in a huge beach house called Arch Cape Lodge right on the Oregon coast. The next morning we drove out to one of Grandpa’s favorite places: Cannon Beach. When I was growing up we would visit Cannon Beach frequently and I have many fond memories of playing in the sand and walking out to Haystack Rock with Grandpa there. It was Grandpa’s wish to rejoin his fallen comrades in the Pacific after his passing, so Cannon Beach seemed like the perfect place. Incredibly, the day that we were at Cannon Beach to spread Grandpa’s ashes was one of the most beautiful, crystal-clear sunny days that I’ve ever seen at that beach–especially in the middle of winter! Yet again, God’s grace shone through.

IMG_0677P is for Pike Place Market: You can’t visit Seattle without a trip to the iconic Pike Place Market. So, of course, we went. We walked  through the market admiring all of the fresh fruits and veggies, the wide-eyed seafood, the lush bouquets of flowers, the samplers of homemade jams. And, since we were already there, we stopped by the new Storyville Coffee for a little pick-me-up before heading over to the Seattle Art Museum (it was First Thursday so admission was free–definitely an added bonus!). Then the icing on the cake: we walked down to the Seattle Waterfront and went for a spin on the Great Wheel. While it wasn’t quite as impressive as my last giant Ferris wheel ride in London, the views were definitely worth the price of admission!

Q is for Quiet Time: I took several naps on this vacation. That’s a rare enough occurrence that I thought it warranted it’s own little shout-out here. So, to the grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles who played with my kids so I could sleep: from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

IMG_0458R is for Russian Spa: Jon and I met up with a friend in Seattle for a new and unique adventure: our first experience at a Russian spa. The spa, Banya 5, consists of a tea room/relaxation area and a large room with several pools and saunas that you circulate through. At one point you go from a 240 degree sauna right into a 45 degree icy plunge. It literally takes your breath away. Crazy as it sounds, it was all pretty fun…and even a bit relaxing.

S is for Stomach Flu: It all started with one person having an upset stomach–and, before we knew it, every person in our family was sick with the stomach flu. For one solid week (Christmas inclusive) we took turns being sick and passing our sickness on to each other. By the end of the week, 11 of us had our turn with the sick bug. It was miserable. The one saving grace is that I wasn’t sick alone, which meant I had people to help care for my children and let me sleep when I felt like death. Moving on…

IMG_0809T is for Travelers: The boys did so well traveling on this trip. During all of the plane rides and car rides and airport layovers I just kept waiting for one of them to explode in an uncontrollable fit. But it never happened (Thank you, Jesus). In fact, both boys actually slept for the majority of our long flight home. It definitely helped that we had good seats on our flights and fun new toys from Christmas to keep everyone entertained. Still, though, I am so proud of them. What great little travelers we have!

IMG_0521U is for Ummelina: Instead of giving each other gifts for Christmas this year, Jon and I decided to go out on a special date. We started our date at Ummelina day spa where we each got glorious 90-minute massages and plenty of pampering. After our massages we walked down the street to Purple Wine Bar for a delicious dinner of bacon poutine, braised short ribs, lamb meatballs and pasta. Not exactly spa food, but it was incredible. We rounded out the evening at the cinema watching “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (by the way, we both give the movie two thumbs up). It was a wonderful evening with an even more wonderful date!

IMG_0640V is for Volcano: On New Year’s Day we drove out to Mount Rainier National Park (the mountain, by the way, is technically a volcano). My sister, her husband, and my nephew Noah were up visiting from California and they REALLY wanted to see snow. Washington has had very little snow so far this winter, so we had to drive deep into the mountains to find some good playing snow. It was a lot of driving, but the mountain rewarded us with an amazing day. We ended up having clear blue skies and sunshine, a bit of a rarity this time of year. All of the kids (and kids at heart) had a great time sledding and sliding and frolicking in the snow. Quite the start to 2014!

IMG_0666W is for Washington: Washington is where we came from, and it will always be home to us. Being back home reminded me of what a beautiful and unique place Washington is. After being away in Ireland for several months we were able to see things with new eyes and appreciate things in a different way. I heart you, Washington!

IMG_0376X is for Xbox One: Jon ordered himself a new XBox while we were in Ireland and it was waiting at my parents’ house when we arrived. Ah, boys and their toys…

Y is for Yummy Food: There are so many foods that I’ve been craving since we’ve moved to Ireland. And, me being me, I decided to try to eat ALL of them while we were home: Macaroni and Cheese, Pho, Reeses, Goldfish crackers, graham crackers, Mexican food…you get the picture. I guess the diet starts next week?

IMG_0683Z is for FeliZ Cumpleanos (Spanish for Happy Birthday): I know that it’s a bit of a stretch, but there is a “z” in feliz. Plus, this is really important. On January 2 we celebrated Jon’s grandma Doreen’s 91st birthday. NINETY-ONE! If I live 91 years I hope that someone will dedicate at least a few sentences to me on their blog. Grandma Doreen is an incredible woman: kind, confident, joyful, strong, and sharp as a tack. She is a big part of our lives, and we were blessed to spend this special day with her. We celebrated with a small family dinner at her house (decor provided by fresh flowers from Pike Place Market) and red velvet cake for the birthday girl. We love you, Great-Granny Doreen!

Our trip home had a little bit of everything: adventure and relaxation, excitement and heartbreak, health and sickness. What it had the most of, though, was love. I love my family, I love my friends, I love this place that we come from. I think Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz had it right: There’s no place like home.