Monday, February 2, 2015

Big, BIG changes

So, 2015 is going to be a big year for us, full of some big, big changes.

Maybe you heard that the newest Senge is expected to arrive this July 4th? We had a peek at the baby last week and it looks like the girls might be getting a baby brother! We have the big 20-week ultrasound later this week, so hopefully we'll be 100% sure then. So that would be a new adventure for us! I'm excited to have a good excuse to buy new baby clothes...

And then, a few weeks after that, we're going to bid farewell to California and move to Seattle (well, the greater Seattle suburbs). Washington Senges will outnumber the California Senges for the first time ever (I think?). The count is currently 7 to 1 (CA to WA) and before the end of the year will shift to 3 to 6 (CA to WA). Crazy!

In the next few weeks we'll purge our belongings, pack up what we can, and then let the movers pack up the rest before they load it on a truck on March 1st. We'll load up the car with the kids and the cats and hit the road, making our way North over a few days until we get to the furnished apartment we'll rent until we're ready to make offers. We'll do more research on cities and neighborhoods and schools (and restaurants!) while we wait for our house to sell and close. And then we'll try to find and buy and close on a house with enough space for a work-at-home dad, a crafty mom, three kids, and our hopefully frequent guests. I'm hoping we can have new keys and be reunited with our stuff before this baby is born. I'm praying that everything goes as quickly and smoothly as possible, because I don't even really want to think about what will happen otherwise.

For more than a few years, we've been trying to figure out what to do with our life. At some point a while back, we decided that we wanted to leave LA. We never really transplanted well here, and at this point, we are baked to a crisp and tired of year-round summer and 80+ temperatures. And traffic. We hoped to be able to move closer to family, back to the town where I grew up. For a long time, we scoped out real estate and tried to figure out a way to make it work, and we just couldn't see any way to afford the space that we wanted.

Then we realized that since I wasn't working, and Jon was working from home, we had the chance to move anywhere. We looked into moving to Paris, or Hawaii, but didn't think that was a smart financial or logistical move, at this point. We kept wracking our brains to figure out where we could afford to buy enough house in a climate that we could tolerate. And then Jon suggested the Seattle suburbs, specifically the cities and neighborhoods around the Boeing factory (not a coincidence, that part).

Jon and I have been to Seattle separately, and together twice and loved it every time. In the years since, I've tortured myself periodically by looking at Seattle real estate, always shocked at the size and quality and price of houses there, compared to California. I never really actually imagined that we'd move there, but when Jon suggested it, I was immediately interested. We did a lot of research and identified a few areas that had a good number of homes in our price range that met our criteria. We decided it would be a practical financial decision, and it would let us have another kid if we wanted. So now we're having another kid and we definitely need a bigger house, ASAP!

After a lot of internet research, we needed to take a trip to see everything in person and make sure it really was as good as it looked on paper. We wanted to go in November, but were all traveled out and taking another trip sounded especially horrible with the all-day baby sickness. So, we finally carved out time and were able to head up there last week, which was just about the latest we could do it and make a final decision and still have enough time to make all the arrangements we need!

We left the kids at our house with Jon's parents for our longest, furthest trip away from them. Yikes. We flew on separate planes, because we're worrywarts um, pragmatic.
Jon found me on the ground at SEATAC. And, like a total #avgeek creeper, took a pic of my plane from his plane.
Luckily, we got to text each other in-flight, though it was pretty spotty service. And we didn't miss the kids too much because they are tiny terrorswe were so busy our hotel was right on Puget Sound, literally over the water, and they upgraded us to a room with a jacuzzi tub and a fireplace.

The view from our hotel window. Yes, please!
There was a ferry stop just next door the hotel, close enough that I'm sure passengers could have seen me au natural in the jacuzzi tub (don't worry, I'm not an exhibitionist). The waves from the wake would noisily announce the ferry before it arrived, and would continue for another few minutes after it departed. It would lull us to sleep each night but was so loud, it would wake me up at ten to five every morning with the arrival of the first ferry. I fell back asleep, don't worry. Two of the mornings, I saw a sea lion (seal?? probably a sea lion) swimming around right outside the hotel while I ate breakfast. It was a really great stay at a really nice hotel.

We were right next to the Mukilteo lighthouse, too. We're looking forward to checking that out again when it's open, and playing at the lovely waterfront park there!
What are these amazing red trees??
So even though we just wanted to take jacuzzi baths and sleep all day, we spent four 10-12 hour days driving 436 miles around the North Sound areas, and also down to Tacoma, to see these cities and neighborhoods and homes in person. We loved the cool weather, the clean, fresh air, the many opportunities for outdoor activities and adventures, the easy proximity to the water, the beautiful-looking schools and parks and libraries, and the ease of getting around. We thought their traffic was pretty cute, compared to L.A., at least what we saw. I'm sure it gets awful, but since we don't have to commute, I'm pretty sure that we can schedule our outings around peak traffic times.

In Tacoma, we drove around one of the neighborhoods the realtor recommended we see, and I totally commented on how much I loved the curved wrap around porch on this one house. We stopped for a coffee a few minutes later, and I looked up the address for the house where Julia Stiles lived in the movie "10 Things I Hate About You," since the realtor had mentioned it was in that neighborhood, and realized it was totally the same house. So we drove past again and I took a photo like a crazy stalker.

Then we drove around Stadium District, and I insisted that we pull over to see Stadium High School which you may remember from the aforementioned movie. You can't get the full effect from your car on the street, so I made Jon get out and walk up with me. He didn't remember the school, so didn't really get why I wanted to see it so badly, but was suitably wowed once we got there.

We walked past the stadium first, and it's every bit as impressive as it looked in the movie.
Remember? When Heath Ledger was doing this? Oh, Heath.
Anyway, Jon was already impressed by that point. And then, this. 

 I mean, seriously. I want to move to Tacoma just so my kids can go here. They'd be in good company, with alums like Dale Chihuly and Irv Robbins of Baskin-Robbins fame.

Seriously, it's like Hogwarts. We were pretty disappointed that the kids weren't all wearing wizard robes. There was a student sitting on a bench, waiting for a ride, and I asked her all kinds of weird questions about the school and what it was like to go there, and what happens behind those awesome attic windows, and whether we should move to Tacoma and send our kids there. She was cool about it, and definitely gave the school and the city a good endorsement.

We talked to a lot of people, including lots of friends of friends, and asked everyone we met where they lived and if they liked it and where else they might move, if they could, and where we should move. Everyone seemed to love where they were, and where they were from, which was both helpful and not. Basically, everyone seemed to suggest the areas that we had already identified before our trip. So we concentrated there, and tossed out a few spots that just didn't feel right, and ended up with about 3-5 forerunners. We figure the more places that we are open to, the easier it will be to find something as fast as we need to.

We left satisfied that we could find a home in a neighborhood that would meet all of our goals, but a little disappointed that we didn't feel starry-eyed in love with any of the areas we saw. I keep telling people that it feels a little bit like settling down to marry the pretty good-looking guy who's family-oriented and financially stable but kinda boring. A friend said we needed to find the kind of guy who's charming, with a sense of humor, and a little bit of a daredevil that you're head-over-heels for. And I actually think that the one city we were prepared to like the least might actually be that guy. We liked it so much more than we were expecting to. We'll have to drive around a little bit more, but the neighborhoods and downtown areas that we saw were really charming and appealing. We also saw a few houses, one in particular, that are just dream houses. So we are much more interested in that area than we thought we would be.

This one particular house has been on the market for 243 days, and we've been watching it for a good long time. We wanted to see it, because it looks so beautiful in photos and we wanted to see if we could identify the reason that it hasn't sold yet. Well, it looks even lovelier in photos, and though I can see some reasons that people might be hesitant to buy it, I would live there in a heartbeat. I legit cried real tears as we walked through the rooms, I was petting the walls and doors and fixtures like a crazy person. I could immediately envision our family living there, our kids growing up there. It's the kind of home that really shapes and defines your childhood. It's truly magical, a place I would have loved to grow up in.

I mean, come on, here. Can you believe this one-hundred year old home is approximately four times the size of our current home and is on the market for less than we paid for our house? Let's live vicariously for a moment, shall we? Because if we don't buy this place, one of you should so I can come visit you here. (Furniture and grand piano not included.)

As we were leaving this house the first day we were in town, a beautiful, full rainbow appeared (the only one we saw while we were there). We went back the next day to park in front of the house and walk up to the downtown area, to get a feel for the neighborhood and what we'd be able walk to (public library, anyone?). We found an Irish pub for lunch and just as we were about to go in, the Boeing Dreamlifter flew over. I thought Jon was going to cry from excitement. I'm not sure there could be two more perfect signs...

There are some factors about the house's location and the layout that give us pause (did I mention it's 100+ years old?), and it's a bit more than we were wanting to pay. But we are seriously thinking and talking about it, and I know we'd be wonderfully happy there if that's what we decide. So we'll see if it sells before we're ready to make an offer (there's an open house this weekend! Eep.). No matter what, I know the right thing will happen and we'll end up in just the right place, at just the right time - even if it's a little different than the schedule I have in mind!

So that's the adventure we have planned! We're hoping to have enough space for our friends - and their kids - to come visit. We're looking forward to getting up there soon and starting to explore. I know the Boeing Factory Tour is top on Jon's list. We stopped by one of the days and were totally lucky to see one of the Dreamlifters take off.
Boeing's Biggest.
On our last day, we stopped at the Red Hook Brewery for lunch, and actually had enough time to take the tour. Lovely grounds and building, delicious food, and great beer. What could be better? I can't wait to go back when I can actually order a pint or two!

We were super happy to find that the area where the brewery is also boasts over 50 wineries. Perfect!

So we'll keep you updated on our new adventures in our new home state, and we'd be thrilled to share some adventures with you, too! Come visit!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Colorado is for family reunions - Clark Edition

After we said goodbye to the Senges and the Avenue Hotel, we hopped in our car for a rainy drive to the greater Denver area to visit with all the Clarks. Our first stop was to my cousin's house, who had graciously offered to host a little get-together for anyone who was able to come by.

The lovely hostess and I, in a flattering soft-focus. 
As soon as we arrived, one of my aunts asked what Ivy had in her cheeks, and another asked if she had the mumps. Oh, aunties. And Ivy scored a giant bowl of ice cream from another of my aunts, plus a cookie! She was thrilled.

I was so glad to see everyone, and so glad that I actually got to visit and chat with each of them. And the girls were so glad to have some little cousins around to play with! And I even remembered to take a photo with my Grandpa before we left.

The next morning we went over to my Grandma's house to spend the day with her. She had lots of fun things for the girls to play with, like tri-ominos. Grandma spent some time teaching Alice to fold down the corner of each page of an old telephone book to make a door stop like the one she had in her office. It kept her busy for a good long while...

 She also had an Omnichord that Ivy thought was pretty cool...

Grandma took us to lunch at Larkburger, which we loved. Really delicious food with a simple menu and a simple store. Kind of the same idea and set-up as Chipotle, but with yummy burgers. My Grandma likes them because they offer adorable tiny burgers that are just the right size for a light lunch (in addition to full-size burgers, too!). I would love to see them expand out of Colorado!

After lunch, we headed to the Butterfly Pavilion.  We arrived just in time to see them release some new butterflies for their first flights. I was expecting them to open a box and a fountain of butterflies to erupt into the sky. Instead, the girl would reach into a box, carefully retrieve a butterfly and hold it (I think by the wings? She must have been wearing special gloves?), tell us a thing or two about it, and then toss it into the air. It was neat to see, but rather unceremonious!

They had between 700-1000 butterflies in their enclosed rainforest, which did not include any of the plants that the butterflies liked to eat or lay their eggs on. Apparently, if they furnished the butterflies' favorite food, the butterflies would devour them entirely. I must not have heard what they actually do feed the butterflies. There were little feeders all over, though...
The girls were tired and restless, but I was absolutely enamored. There were butterflies there that I have never, ever seen, and I have certainly never seen such large butterflies, or so many. One of my favorites were the blue morpho. This is not a great photo, and this guy is a little ragged, but their backs are the most beautiful iridescent blue. The undersides of their wings - what you can see from below, or as they flap and fly - are much more nondescript, but as they fly along you see these amazing flashes of blue. 

 I also found that I liked the swallowtail butterflies, with the more elaborate wing line. They just looked so beautiful fluttering around. I could have stayed there all day!

The oils on our skin can damage the butterflies, so we aren't supposed to touch, but no one told that to the butterflies who were delighting us all by landing on peoples' hair and clothes. 

After they made sure we weren't harboring any stowaway butterflies, we headed over to the Crawl-A-See-Em (it took me a minute, too) to visit Rosie, the famous tarantula. I think Ivy would have held the giant spider, she seemed pretty excited to see it through the window, but she wasn't old enough and that was probably a good idea (for the spider). Alice definitely did not want to hold it, but I gathered up my courage and set a good example for her.

 I am not a fan of spiders, especially enormous ones, but I know there was no danger so I went for it. And I wasn't even scared! She is a desert tarantula and liked my warm hands, so she stopped to take a rest there. Her legs felt like little q-tips tapping along. I was told not to pet her, because the hairs on her legs are so sensitive that even the softest touch would feel like someone holding us down and tickling us. So I just held my hands open nice and flat for her, since I also learned that her fangs have enough venom to give a bite that feels like a bee sting. And I did not want to get bit by a tarantula.
Her handler gave her a little tap on the leg and she walked right back into his hands. And then I got a sticker to commemorate the occasion.

This is a different tarantula. Probably not as nice as Rosie.
 I'm not sure we saw the whole museum, which was really intimate and accessible, but the girls were getting ornery so we took them to the little play area and interactive exhibit room.

 Then we said goodbye to Grandma and headed home for a quick nap.
 And because I rarely get to see my kids sleeping up close and in person, I almost always take photos when I can.

 After a nice little nap, we headed to Downtown Denver to meet my Aunt and Uncle for drinks and dinner at some of their favorite spots.
 Prost Brewing has a nice little tasting room with some great German-style beers (and pretzels!).

The girls colored and we sampled the wares. Note how Fun Ivy is reaching for the baby beers, instead of the coloring books. I think that photo sums it up for these two...

When we got too hungry, we took a walk down the street and over a bridge to a favorite pizza joint.
 But first we had to pass this sculpture that looked like a glowing pile of innards...
Protos Pizza was delicious. The girls were really behaving well for being out so past their bedtime, so we let them share some ice cream for dessert. Ivy's favorite!
 And then we walked back over the bridge.
The next day, we met my cousin at Dinosaur Ridge. Sadly, her kids were in school so Alice and Ivy didn't have any little ones to keep them occupied. We skipped the museum and headed straight for the "hike" up the paved road, stopping along the way to check out all the fossils and tracks. The rock strata here was part of a long "dinosaur freeway" in the shoreline sediments of the Western Interior Seaway.

But first, we enjoyed a field full of prairie dogs! Our Colorado family makes fun of people like us, but we don't have those adorable little vermin where we come from!

We were also excited to spot a real-life reptile slithering into the rocks. He's hard to see, but he's a squiggle right in the middle of that crack in the rock.

 It was SO COOL to see real dinosaur tracks. I loved how they shaded them so you could really make them out.
There was a little spot at the base of the rock that you could actually climb up, so Alice climbed up to perch in a little hole and take a photo with some dino tracks

The girls had a fun time playing with my cousin's sweet dog, Pumpkin, and fighting over who got to hold my cousin's hand or the dog's leash, or my cousin's hand AND the dog leash...

My IronWoman cousin got Alice to run up the hill while Pumpkin waited patiently, and then Alice would call her to come and she would take off as fast as her short little legs would carry her.
Pumpkin, waiting patiently.
 Around the backside of the hill, there was a section where you could see the underside of the dinosaur's footprints, where the weight of the dino made the soft ground bulge out. Super cool.

We had lunch after the hike, and I got some lap snugs from Pumpkin, which was extra nice because I was missing my own furry babies. Then we headed off to my Aunt's house for a short little visit.  But first, we made a quick stop so we could try our first Dunkin' Donuts coffee and donut. Jon hypothesized that it was going to taste like comfort, like the thing you miss when you move away from home. And you know, meh. I understand that the insides are more like a Starbucks than the donut shops I'm familiar with, so I could totally see having a nice, reliable spot to hang out with your coffee and donut (or lunch?) and your laptop.

At my aunt's, we walked down to the park around the corner from her house and played until Alice needed to use the bathroom...
And then we went back to her house and played outside, and with her collection of kids toys. We even got to see the bunny that lives in the trees outside.

And then we headed back to our home base at my aunt and uncle's house and another of my cousins brought her three kids over for dinner. Alice and Ivy had lots of fun playing with the bigger girls!

My aunt and uncle have the sweetest dog who was feeling a bit under the weather while we were there and the crowd of galloping children didn't help. She tried to tuck herself out of the way...

And the next morning, we said goodbye to my aunt and uncle, and to Colorado, and hit the road. After a bumpy ride home, I was extra glad to jam out the back door. We love using the air stairs and grabbing seats in the back when we fly Southwest! 

Air stairs!
So thanks for the good times, Colorado - and family! Hope we can get back soon!