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!