Monday, February 29, 2016

Our Two Year Anniversary in California

Two years ago we were battling jet lag with an itty bitty Forest as we recovered from a journey that took us from the dreary skies of Scotland to the year round sunshine of Northern California. 
We haven’t celebrated a 2 year anniversary in any location since Jonathan’s first assignment in Midland, Texas (we set a record there at 2.5 years). We were in Houston 18 months and then on to Aberdeen for 21 months. We were told to expect our time in San Ramon to be shorter than 24 months but then the bottom dropped on the price of oil and as a result, Jonathan’s next job is a bit trickier to figure out. 

The entire industry has been turned on its head so it isn’t quite business as usual. We are very grateful for Jonathan’s job security and since we absolutely love living in the Bay Area, we consider any additional day that we can call this place home a huge blessing. 
I just cannot imagine a better place to raise a family. It’s a small town community feel with all the amenities of 3 major metropolises within a 40 mile drive. We love our neighborhood, we love our church, we love the proximity to so many great travel destinations. 

Recently Jon and I were joking about how every time our family or friends  come to visit us they always want to do a side trip- to Napa, to Monterey, to Tahoe, to Yosemite. We joked that if we lived in Houston they would just come to see us for us, but in Northern California we feel like chopped liver compared to the stunning landscapes at our fingertips. #CaliforniaProblems 

Of course we don’t mind because we usually tag along for these side trip and they generally come with built in babysitters. Plus it’s been such a great excuse to explore the state and create memories with our favorite people, but it’s true. People come all the way out to California, they want to see more than just your rugrat and the neighborhood park. 

But sometimes Jonathan and I feel like San Ramon is such an amazing place, there is hardly any need for a vacation. We took a family trip to Hawaii while we were living in Houston and while in Maui we struck up a conversation with a guy from San Diego. When the topic of how amazing Maui was came up he was like ‘Meh. I mean, I basically live in paradise so I’m not sure why I flew all this way to see the same things I have at home.’ Inwardly I was like ‘what a jerk!’, but years later this conversation comes back to me any time we travel. 
Hiking trail in our neighborhood. Seriously. Been here 2 years and it never gets old.
We have gorgeous hiking literally down the street from us. We have vineyards 20 minutes away. 

Remember when Forest wasn't mobile yet and I could actually relax at a winery? Bliss!

Depending on traffic, in 40 minutes, I could be staring at The Golden Gate Bridge. I mean, Maui is still one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen, but I get that it’s hard to swallow the cost of airfare and a rental property when what you have at home is fairly comparable. Why spend money on a big vacation when you have such world class culture, beauty, food and wine practically at your doorstep? 

But all the perks come at a high cost. That’s been our biggest complaint. It’s unaffordable to live here. The housing prices alone are enough to make you want to cry, but those steep prices spill over into everything- groceries, babysitters, gas, preschool. We are doing fine but certainly not managing to save at the same rate we are used to. 

But our mantra here is ‘you get what you pay for’. The city is safe and clean and walkable with a park on every corner and some of the best public schools in the state. We are tucked in a valley surrounded by picturesque hills and the sun shines 330 days out of the year. 

A cold winter day is 55 degrees while the ideal weather of spring and fall seem to span the majority of the year. I can’t imagine many places with a higher quality of life so we keep our griping about prices to a minimum. It’s honestly our only complaint about living here. Well traffic is also a bummer but we’ve learned to avoid it unless absolutely necessary. 

Anytime Jonathan brings up the topic of a relocation I totally shut down. I’m in total denial that we will ever have to leave. I just want it so bad. I want this to be the place that we call home. I want this to be the place that Forest grows up. I want him to go to preschool at our church. I want him to continue to have toddler hiking classes that we can sign up for. 

I want access to parks on every corner. 
I want him to attend excellent and safe and diverse public schools. I want him to grow up in a town where kids still walk home from school and ride their bikes to the corner ice cream shop. I want to continue taking him on weekend/day trips to the beach or to the mountains. 

I know our time here is dwindling down and that eventually I’ll have to pack up our possessions and move across the country (or the world) once again. Just like Louisiana, Texas and Scotland, California has wormed it’s way into my heart and will one day add itself to the long list of places I feel homesick for. 

For now, we are just grateful for every moment we have here and are trying our best not to take it for granted. This month we will welcome two sets of visitors and will be exploring Yosemite in the snow and then will be headed back to Tahoe. We consider ourselves very blessed indeed. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Bad Case of Blogging Blues

I feel like I’m forcing the whole blogging thing lately. I don’t necessarily want to give it up, but I find that most of the time I’m at a loss for what to write about. Being a Stay at Home Mom is endlessly fascinating to me, but I know that those of you without 2 year olds probably aren’t too interested in day to day nuances of power struggles and the excitement of preschool milestones. 

But since 99% of my time and energy goes into nurturing this little wolf-child of mine, it’s 99% of what on my mind most of the time and therefore, out of the heart, words flow. What did I used to write about? Oh yea- traveling and living abroad! Seems like such a long time ago. 

But even in Aberdeen I felt I hit a lull once we had been there for a while and then blogging topics effortlessly came back once we were back in the relocation cycle again. We didn’t expect to be in California for over two years so now that we are about to celebrate our 2 year anniversary Jon and I are getting antsy. 

We know that we can’t stay here indefinitely but are quietly minding our business hoping that somehow we slip through the cracks and get to say awhile. All the while we have this nagging feeling that this is the calm before the storm. And while I love the calm, the storm gives me much more to blog about! 

But as uninspired as I feel to document our lives sometimes, I’m always so grateful to have posts to look back at and help me recollect the different stages of my life. I have to remember that ultimately, this blog is for me- a sort of public diary where I grapple with the blessings and sorrows and even the mundane everyday events that encapsulate our lives. 

It’s hard to believe but I know that one day I’ll look back and my memory of what a typical day with a 2 year old Forest was like will start to get hazy. So I’ll be glad that I went on and on and on about teething and play dates and crafting projects. Thanks for riding along with us! I figure for today I will just do a big random photo dump to let y’all in on the exquisite normalcy that we are enjoying these days.   

There were about 5 rainy weekends in a row due to El Nino. As soon has we had a decent forecast on a Saturday we headed to the Oakland Zoo. Little buddy is an animal lover to the fullest so always loves going to zoos. 

One good thing about being ridiculously tall is that Forest was able to ride all the rides. The height requirement on most of the rides was 36' and Forest is officially 37.25' (!!!). Good thing because I can't imagine the tantrum that would have resulted if he weren't tall enough to drive the cars!
 Or the planes.
 Or the cars again.
 And again.
 Mardi Gras didn't go unnoticed in our house. Forest had a friend over and we made Mardi Gras Masks to mark the occasion. I think our little artist did a great job. 
Forest continues to love building towers....and equally enjoys knocking them down.
 His new favorite thing is building tunnels for his trains...

 .... and knocking them down.

In this scenario 'The Hulk' was responsible for knocking down the tunnel and therefore received a scolding from Forest and was sent to time out:
Forest takes weekly swimming lessons which he greatly enjoys. His favorite part is that one of his best buds is in the class with him and they both get a kick out of stuffing themselves  in lockers. I guess if they get bullied in high school (hard to imagine with their size...) they will be adequately prepared.
Forest lately has been loving to play dress up. Since we don't have many dress up options, he improvises with Jon and I's wardrobe.

The recent rain has made the hills around our house a vibrant green. One perk of Forest's early wake up calls is that my weekend runs usually coincide with a gorgeous sunrise.

Safeway (our local grocery store) is doing a Monopoly game and Jonathan is super serious about it. Anytime I make a grocery run, that evening Jon sits down to systematically place the newest stickers on the board. Forest, of course, wants to be just like his daddy but Jonathan, of course, won't let the toddler anywhere near something as precious as a Safeway monopoly board, so instead we always set him up with his Melissa and Doug stickers. The resulting scene is pretty stinkin' adorable.
Spring has sprung in San Ramon which means lots of outdoor play dates. I love that Forest has found a kindred spirit in some of his buddies who also have joyous and adventurous souls.
These two in particular are two peas in a pod. I love that at this age they are actually playing together. So sweet.

 A few of F's aforementioned buddies are enrolled in a nearby co-op preschool that is fantastically play-based. F is registered at our church's equally fantastic preschool starting in September, but anyhoos, this other preschool was hosting a community science day for preschoolers this past weekend and Forest had a blast! I was so impressed with his ability to go from station to station and take instruction and interact with both kiddos and adults in a confident manner. He is growing up!

 Forest's normal park problems (ie running away and having zero intrest in the play structures) are getting much better recently. He will usually stay on the playground 80% of the time, only needing redirection a few times. He always asks 'daddy go on slide with forest?', and who could possibly refuse that sweet request?
PS. I always think Forest looks huge unless he's standing next to Jonathan. Then he looks so small. Hard to believe that the doctors are predicting he will be even taller than his dad one day (6'2-6'4 is the range they gave us at 18 months). 

And here are just a few recent videos of the little guy:

Giving his momma a heart attack:
Ok friends! Life is about to pick up the pace a bit so hopefully I will have a little more on my mind to blog about.