We are Allison and Geoffrey, married former Brooklynians who used to live in Maplewood, NJ and are now making a go of the West Coast (Seattle) with our two girls, Olive & Matilda, and our four-legged boy Lincoln. We like to share and rant about politics, social media and soccer, and throw in some other stuff we find interesting.
Pics of our kiddos can be found here:
Geoff's blog can be found here:
Email: allisonandgeoffrey (at) gmail (dot) com
Twitter: @allisondunmire & @djgeoffe
One year ago, we packed up all of our belongings and moved across the country to try a new city on for size. We told ourselves it was an adventure, that it didn’t have to be permanent, and that we owed it to ourselves and the girls to give Seattle and West coast living a shot.
It’s been pretty great, y’all.
Despite the fact that we will always consider New York City to be the center of the universe, because obviously, we also think Seattle is pretty terrific so far.
Since we arrived, the following awesome things happened:
We haven’t noticed the Seattle Freeze phenomenon I was so worried about; in fact, quite the opposite - we’ve made some lovely and warm friends who are helpful, giving, and reliable.
The summer was gorgeous, sunny and 75 degrees each day, and not humid. We enjoyed lazy days at farmer’s markets and the girls splashed in Lake Washington. I do not miss the humidity and heat. We spent much of the summer outside.
Leaves changed to vibrant colors in the fall and the overabundance of evergreens made landscapes still appear green and lush. We spent much of fall outside.
The winter was, as promised, rainy and gray. I found it to be no worse than winters in Cleveland and Syracuse, which also came with snow and brutally cold temps. I do not miss the brutal cold. We spent much of the winter outside.
The spring was gray and rainy, but we took local advice and escaped to LA and Hawaii for sunshine refills, and when we got back flowers and azaleas and rhododendrons were blooming everywhere, bringing color and energy to the area. We spent much of the springtime outside.
It is amazing how much of a mood-lifter it is to comfortably spend so much time in the fresh air. And on the chilly or gray days, I found it so nice to snuggle into a warm cardigan and scarf, with a hot cup of coffee to warm my insides.
We explored and rode ferries and ate our fair share of kettle corn and rainier cherries and Washington state apples. The girls discovered their favorite parks and playgrounds and museums and indoor play spots. We still have a long list of things to see and places to go.
All of this brings us closer to Friday, when we will board a cross-country flight to take us back to Brooklyn, upstate NY, and Maplewood for a week and a half to visit our favorite people and places. Despite how great this past year has been, and how comfortable life is in the Pacific Northwest, there is nothing quite like the feeling of returning home, even if just for a visit.
Do our ears have bones? Do our red blood cells sleep?
Olive is insatiable. She rarely stops talking, and questioning, and moving. She is high-maintenance and intense, to say the least. I lose count of how many times a day I tell her to FOCUS.
Typically, my desire for her focus is centered on the outcome I’M trying to achieve. More than likely, that outcome is how to get shoes and coats on and get us all out the door in a timely manner. She is not at all interested in this outcome. She would much rather, like today, “just draw one more picture, Mommy.”
And who can blame her, really? She is four. She is supposed to learn by being creative, exploring the world, experimenting, and asking questions.
Reading this Wired article today was a bit of a DUH moment for me. I mean, I basically knew this, but I needed a reminder and wake up call. It really inspired me to reboot the way in which I communicate with her. Limit the stressful pushing and rushing. Allow more time for creative freedom and expression. It is my responsibility to change MY rigid expectations to allow her to grow intellectually without boundaries.
Now, I’m not saying that we should be late to school everyday, or that she doesn’t have to follow rules. But if I believe in child-led learning in the classroom, then that should extend to our home, too.
Answer questions with questions.
Let inquisitiveness lead.
Investigate on the internet.
Don’t be afraid to not have the right answer. Figure it out together.
Summer was gorgeous, but fall has definitely arrived here in the Pacific Northwest. The leaves are changing to ruby reds, warm rusty oranges, and vibrant yellows. Nature is truly screaming out for attention, using it’s last breath before winter arrives. The days are now cooler, shorter and more overcast, so when the sun peeks out it becomes a celebratory treat. The last of the yellow jackets are trying to make their way indoors for the warmth, much to my chagrin. Our heat is on and coats are worn, and a few mornings we have even broken out the hats and mittens. In the morning, I relish in the rich coffee this city has to offer, and in the afternoon, it’s a hot tea that warms me up.
The change in seasons means fall holidays and festivities, and we have been keeping ourselves busy, as usual, with discovering fun and exciting things to do with the girls. Olive is enjoying school, looking forward to the start of the birthday party circuit, and making new friends.
"Aurelia is my favorite friend because she has the same haircut as me. And she is nice."
She is in love with her weekly ballet class, learning Spanish, and answering the question of the day each morning when we get to school.
Today’s question: How many seconds can you stand on one foot? Her answer, personally tested: 7.
Tillie is beginning to talk more and more, and her favorite things to say are “No” and “I want”. Go figure. She loves to chase after Lincoln and happily screech at decibels that cause short-term hearing loss.
Geoffrey has been enjoying his job, is training for the Seattle half-marathon in December, and did some ridiculous strong-man-type event called the Tough Mudder, which he naively assumed up until the point of arrival was just a 10K run in the mud. Oh, how very wrong he was. My only rule was that he do his own laundry from that event, and not make me go to watch.
I am working for Scripps/ulive for a bit, which has been a nice change of pace. It will take me just about to the holidays, when we will be travelling back East to Ohio to visit my family and celebrate Tillie’s 2nd birthday. Great friends are coming to visit us in Seattle for Thanksgiving, so there is much to be thankful for already.
Here’s hoping you and yours are enjoying the changing seasons and upcoming holidays.
It’s been exactly one month since our plane departed Newark and touched down in Seattle. The move and flight itself was a bit like how I assume it feels to jump out of an airplane (not that I’ve ever attempted this) - difficult to imagine, easy to dread, and yet once you’re in the midst of it, you forget what you were so worried about and just try to enjoy the ride.
First, Nellie, our beloved Volvo, was loaded onto the back of a tow truck and sent off for her very own cross-country move. That morning Geoff and picked up a minivan rental to use during our last few days in NJ. We spent the rest of the day packing up five suitcases with everything we would need to A) take with us on our flight and B) get us through the first few weeks in temporary housing before moving into our rental home on 7/1. Clothes, cherished blankets & loveys & stuffed animals, toys for entertaining, snacks for the plane, sippy cups, laptop, iPad, chargers, car seats, dog bag, dog food, raincoats, rainboots, etc, etc, etc. The list was a bit overwhelming, and the pile of stuff even more so.
The professional packers arrived the next day and proceeded to wrap and box all of our worldly possessions with a shit-ton of paper (a shit-ton is an actual form of measurement). It was somewhat fascinating to watch two (!) guys work so quickly and in one day tackle a job that would have taken me weeks with two little ones underfoot. That said, having someone else pack your stuff does have its drawbacks - finding your silverware in the same box as the TV remote controls can make for a bit of frustrating unpacking. We’ve been here a month and just located our beach towels yesterday. Desperately. As we were headed out to the beach. They were in a box marked “wicker baskets and winter gloves”.
The movers arrived the day after the packers and loaded up the truck. You certainly don’t realize how much stuff you have until it gets loaded onto a truck. This time there were five guys. They proceeded to tag every box, item of furniture, bike, grill, etc with a green sticker with a barcode. I didn’t realize what this nifty system was all about until we arrived and had to check the box numbers off of the master list as the movers brought the boxes into the house, so we could be sure that all of our boxes & things made the journey cross-country and through storage. Geoff and I are still peeling green labels off of our things. Just when you think there can’t possibly be any more, that you have DEFINITELY gotten them all, you bend down to help the girls at the kiddie table and wouldn’t you know it, a green sticker right there on the table leg! There is no end to this fun.
That night, with all of our beds and belongings in boxes, relocation services had booked us at a hotel 45 min *farther* from the airport than our actual home (thank you so much for that, Microsoft). This wouldn’t have been a big deal, but our flight was relatively early (8A) and we had to return our rental car so this tacked on some extra time in the morning. On travel day, we got up somewhere around 4:30A and got to the airport by 6, at which point Geoff dropped me, the two girls, the stroller, the car seats, five suitcases, the carry-ons of entertainment/snacks/changes of clothes, and a partridge in a pear tree at the terminal entrance. I made him take the carry on of our laptops and also the dog(!) with him to drop off the rental car because I AM ONLY ONE PERSON AND I HAVE TWO HANDS AND I AM NOT INSANE THANKYOUVERYMUCH.
I then flagged down a skycap and waved a handful of cash at him to prettypleasewithacherryontop help me get all of these things into cargo on a plane so I didn’t have to worry about them for six hours. I may have asked him if I could check in the children.
He was not in a joking mood.
Little did he realize, neither was I.
And then, my knight-tess in shining armor arrived, in the form of Angie, our nanny, who was flying with us for the first week to help us A) get there without losing a child or animal along the way and B) watch the girls so Geoff and I could do super fun things like go the DMV, grocery shop, and negotiate for a new car.
She took the girls while I dealt with all things checking in and excess baggage. Geoff arrived from the rental car shuttle and we were on to the next big thing. Security.
So I know there are a million and one ways to travel with kids, and everyone will have their own method and suggestions and “this is how WE do it” stories. I spent a decent amount of time before the move thinking this all through, and this is how WE did it, and we actually made it through security in pretty decent time.
First, we decided to buy Tillie a seat on the plane. I know, I know, she is under two and can still technically sit in our laps for the trip. Two things. 1. We weren’t paying. 2. Even if we were, I would still buy her a seat because I certainly wasn’t interested in 28 pounds of a (wiggly, squirmy, wanting to “WALK WALK DOWN DOWN WALK WALK”) kid in my lap for 6 straight hours. I needed to be able to strap that little lady in. This meant, however, that I needed to bring her carseat on board, and therefore, needed an easy way to get it to the plane.
So I bought a product with the worst name ever - the GoGoBabyz Kidz Travelmate. It basically has a telescoping handle and straps to your car seat and turns it into a wheelie piece of luggage that (here’s the best part) you can harness your kid into. It felt a *bit* weird to wheel Tillie around like a suitcase, but she seemed fine with it, so we rolled with it. Punny!
We also brought our umbrella stroller - on this we placed the bag containing the 20lb dog and our multiple carry ons:
1) Olive’s backpack with things to entertain her - activity books, crayons, markers, stickers, and a bunch of fun small gifts all wrapped in wrapping paper (thanks Bari!), and most importantly, a fully charged and loaded iPad with enough shows to last for the full flight,
2) Diaper bag carry-on full of changes of clothes, diapers, wipes, snacks, and a few small things to entertain Tillie, along with my wallet and sunglasses,
3) The last carry-on, which had our laptops and all of our very important paperwork that we needed to keep on our person for the move, like birth certificates, deed to the house, social security cards, passports, etc.
We made it through security quickly - got all of our things on the belt, then Geoff carried the dog, I carried the baby, and Olive walked through on her own. We asked for a hand-wand of Tillie’s car seat with the GoGo Travelmate thing attached because it is too big to put through the machine, so waiting on that took an extra few minutes, but overall we breezed through. We had the stroller to push all of our stuff through the airport, and Tillie in her sweet ride. Off we sailed to the gate.
The plane trip was uneventful, as one always wishes plane trips to be. Olive binged on shows on the iPad and Tillie binged on snacks. I even got to watch a few shows on my laptop while Tillie took a snooze (another check mark for bringing the car seat on board). Before we knew it, we landed in Seattle and were reunited with our five suitcases, and Geoff was off to pick up the rental car.
This was our first little hiccup - although we had requested a mini-van and confirmed the request in advance, the rental car company of course had no record of this and only had a Jeep Liberty. After much huffing and puffing and pushing and shoving, we managed to get all six (don’t forget Angie’s suitcase!) into the car. Yes, one was in my lap in the front seat. And Angie was wedged between two car seats with the dog in a bag in her lap and stroller folded up behind her head. It was the literal definition of a clown car. We sucked in our guts, closed the doors, and hit the road.
The thing with temporary housing is that it is just that, temporary, and people and families are moving in and out every day. So despite the fact that our three bedroom pet-friendly apartment was confirmed the day before the flight, the DAY OF the flight we received notice that, actually, that unit was extended by the current occupant so they would be giving us a two bedroom. In a different town. 20 miles away. Again, first world problems, but just a bit of a pain in that I had researched things for Angie to be able to do with the girls in the first town. This other town had not even crossed my radar. Back to square one.
We arrived, unpacked, hit the grocery store, and settled in to make the best of our one week with childcare and two weeks in temporary housing. We used Yelp to find the best Thai food in the area and the best playgrounds. We ran all of the painful errands we could without the kids in tow. We hit the Space Needle, the Armory, the Chiluly Garden and Glass, and the International Fountain. We became members of the Woodland Park Zoo. We checked out more farmer’s markets than we could count, and discovered one in walking distance from our rental house, before we even moved in there! All this, while also getting new driver’s licenses, receiving Nellie the Volvo from her cross-country trip, and negotiating a lease for Geoff’s new commuter car. I also joined a mom’s group I found online as well as a few Meetup.com playgroups for moms with kiddos. Through these groups and resources, we found indoor bouncy places, parks with splash pads, and even took the kids on a trip to a nearby farm for a tour. We were busy. But we were also looking forward to moving into the place we plan to call home for at least the next two years.
On July 1st, we hightailed it out of temp housing and made our way to meet the movers at our rental home in Kirkland. It just happened to be a record-setting heat wave day for the area - something like 95. To say it was uncomfortable would be putting it mildly, as most houses out here don’t have AC, including ours. With lots of water and fans, we made it through the day, checked off the boxes on our list as they came in the door, and in the end, we weren’t missing anything and there were just a few small things with minor damage, which we expected. Success!
Geoff went back to work the day after the move and I spent most of the first week in our home unpacking while the girls explored the house and their new rooms & playspaces. Now that we are (mostly) unpacked, I am starting to have moments where I feel like this is home. It is surely a strange but comforting feeling to have all of our furniture and pots and pans and towels finally at arm’s reach but yet so far away from where they once were. It feels like bizarro world, and we are living in it.
My heart definitely hurts at times - I really miss my dear friends and neighbors in Maplewood, and I’ve had tough moments when Olive asks about visiting her friends from school. That town and the friends we made there are certainly something special, and I’m not sure yet if they can be replaced so easily.
But what turns me back around after these moments is thinking of the many places I am excited to explore with Geoff and the girls. Museums, zoos, trails, ferries to nearby islands and exploring parks & little downtowns & neighborhoods and berry farms and wine country. Tasty, delicious food. State fairs. Kettle corn. Pho. Edmonds and Issaquah and Mount Rainier. Summer festivals galore. Weekend trips to Portland and Vancouver. Family vacation to Hawaii in the springtime.
This is all so very new to us, but we are up for the adventure. Bring us your best, Seattle. We are here.
The word is now officially out - Geoff, Olive, Tillie and I are moving to Seattle. Geoff wrote a lengthy blog post detailing his decision - (http://futuristlab.tumblr.com/#51126154786). Here is my side of the story.
Geoff and I have called NYC home for a combined 17 years - Geoff moved to Hells Kitchen in ‘96, and I got my start in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, back in ‘99. In 2003 we decided we liked each other enough to get our first apartment together in Park Slope. Two years later, we made it official and tied the knot on the rocky East River shore of Brooklyn Bridge Park. We got a dog, Lincoln, and spent much time enjoying sunny lazy afternoons in Prospect Park or enjoying a pint with friends at local watering holes. In 2009, we welcomed our first little bean, Olive Sophie, and she changed our lives for the better. We loved Brooklyn but craved a bit more space for our growing family, so when she was 9 months old, we bought our first house and de-camped for the NJ ‘burbs. Never did we imagine, on the day we both stepped foot in NYC, that we would end up in New Jersey. But Maplewood welcomed us with open arms with the kind of long hug you just don’t want to end. In 2011, Matilda Frankie joined our family, a born and bred Jersey girl, and we settled in to our suburban lives. I left my position at FoodNetwork.com to stay home with the girls for a year, and spent my days chasing after Olive at the Maplewood pool and watching Tillie take her first steps in our home. We lived and loved there.
Six months ago, I returned to work at Scripps, this time working for an internal video-centric start-up website set to launch on 6/5 (uLive.com). The pace has been wild, and the days have been long. Despite all that, its was great being back at work with some old friends and colleagues and I was enjoying my revived career.
In February, Geoff was contacted by Microsoft for a position. He interviewed with a few folks by phone and then they decided they wanted to fly him out in early March to meet with the whole team. I went along on a lark, thinking that this was all good fun, a chance to take a trip alone without the kids, and a great opportunity to visit a city I’ve never been to. In the back of my mind, I had a nagging feeling that I should be taking this all more seriously. We had a great time - two days out of our trip were amazingly sunny and 65, completely uncharacteristic for the time of year. While Geoff interviewed, I had some kick ass coffee, explored fun neighborhoods, and wandered without a destination. We had impromptu neighborhood tour and terrific sushi dinner with a colleague and friend of mine and her husband. It was brilliant. We left full and relaxed. But I still had a nagging feeling.
The day after we returned, the official offer came in. NOW my nagging feeling turned into full-fledged panic. This was REAL. We needed to make a decision about whether to leave our home for the past 14/17 years and try something new. Geoff was on board - this was terrific move for his career, and he was looking forward to a slower paced lifestyle. I was unsure. How could we leave our home, our community, our friends? For the next few days, I lived in an odd hazy reality - going through the motions of my day, my work, taking care of the kids - but all the while thinking about the move. Should we do it? It was an adventure! The kids are young! When will we ever get the opportunity again for a fully-financed move out to the West coast? We would be stupid not to take it!
Logically, I knew all of these things. My brain understood them. My heart, on the other hand, needed convincing.
We didn’t seek out this move, and I felt a bit shell-shocked by all of it. The details, complications, and logistics all multiplied in my head to epic proportions. Everywhere I looked in our town, I found things I would miss. The trees were just beginning to bloom, and the first tulips and daffodils were peeking out. Everything was green and lovely and I began to think about how much I love summertime, with the lazy days and dusky evenings at the town pool that the girls love so much, and the circus that comes on July 4th. The Turtleback Zoo, where the girls love to toddle around and peek in at the animals, and pet the sheep and goats. And the shore, only an hour’s drive away. Watching the girls running through the front yards on our street with all of the other kids from the street while the parents chatted about the weather, town news, vacations. All of the amazing things in the city that Olive hasn’t really seen yet, but knows about - the Empire State building, the Statue of Liberty, showing her where mommy and daddy got married…I was going down a dark spiral. I even became sentimental about my NJ Transit commute, which, truth be told, made me question my sanity a bit.
Days after I told Geoff I was on board and to accept, I returned home from work and had a sobbing meltdown in our kitchen. How could we leave our home? He was disappointed, and I hated disappointing him, but had to be honest about my feelings. He agreed to let Microsoft know the next day that we had changed our mind and couldn’t make the move. I called and texted the few friends that knew, saying, “I can’t do it.”
The next day, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders. Nothing to do, no planning, no phone calls. Our life would stay the same.
Our life would stay the same.
I went about my business, went to work, took care of the kiddos. I felt something else, besides relief. I tried to identify the feeling, and once I did, it scared me.
I felt empty.
Why would I be so scared to try something new? Isn’t life about taking chances, and risks, and challenging yourself? Isn’t that how you grow as a person? What lesson would I be teaching my girls if we didn’t try this? What story would we be telling 10 years from now?
I called Geoff. “Let’s do it. No going back, no changing my mind. I’m on board and this is my final decision.”
Today we find ourselves booking one way plane tickets to Seattle for June 15th. Having our last days at work. Planning good-bye parties and a birthday party for Olive and finalizing the rental of our home (that was one security blanket I needed to keep, just in case). Sifting through our things to purge or sort into three piles: to fly with, for temporary housing, for final housing. Looking for a place to call home.
But the best part about this journey has been figuring out that I already found it - home is wherever I am, with Lincoln, my two girls and Geoffrey by my side.