If you need proof that the Seattle Freeze has melted, Broadview parent Erika Almanza Brown is it. When she's not volunteering at her 5-year-old daughter's school, actively running her neighborhood’s Buy Nothing Project, planning social gatherings for friends and neighbors, working with the La Isla Foundation, a non-profit she helped launch for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico, or organizing a Play Street, she's documenting it all on her Instagram @ParentingInSeattle. Read on to learn more about how Erika is diving headfirst into life and connecting with her community.
What neighborhood do you live in?
We live in the North Seattle neighborhood of Broadview, thankfully two blocks from our library branch, which is our early reader’s most favorite place in the world next to bookstores—seriously, she started reading chapter books independently this summer at the age of four. We need all the free books we can get, please!
What do you and your husband do for work?
We relocated to Seattle from the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area for Donald’s job opportunity, and no, it was not Amazon nor Microsoft. He is a scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency. More specifically, Donald is the Quality Assurance Manager for the Laboratory Services and Applied Science Division in the regional office. We thought he could secure a position down the street at the headquarters in our nation’s capital but no, across the country it would have to be.
Prior to our move to Seattle, I was a fourth-grade teacher, and then I successfully ran my enrichment tutoring business out of my home, planning and conducting one-on-one 60-minute lessons for over 25 students in grades K-10 weekly with a waiting list ten students deep. Although I moved across the nation, I continued to tutor my students via Skype. Among other things, I started my path towards a writing career but decided to put that on hold to become a mother.
When our daughter was born, I attempted to juggle writing projects, my tutoring clients, parenting an infant, but quickly realized that something had to give. So, I chose motherhood, making our daughter my only student, knowing her young, formative years would be fleeting where work would always be there waiting for me. It took me three and a half years to accept that becoming our daughter’s primary caretaker (I prefer this title than “stay-at-home-mom” because I assure you, we rarely “stay at home”) was something I worked hard to achieve alongside my spouse—earning five higher education degrees between the two of us, paying off debt years ago (save our mortgage), becoming healthy enough to carry a child—and thus could be proud to fully accept this privileged role we worked hard to allow for me to take. So, what do I do now? I am our daughter’s primary caretaker, and when time and opportunity permit, I write articles.
Where might Seattle parents run into you and your family around town?
We enjoy supporting the arts and exposing our budding ballerina to the ballet and musicals. She has attended Pacific Northwest Ballet Nutcracker performances, and we finally introduced her to musicals this year with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory followed by Cats at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Next up, Frozen-The Musical this February! When we are not at the theatre, we love to spend time by the water, often camping near lakes and waterways where we kayak or go tidepooling. When we are closer to home, we go on walks or accompany our daughter as she rides her bike around our neighborhood, peek into Little Free Libraries for treasures, and oftentimes end up at the Broadview Tap House, our local watering hole complete with food trucks and a kid’s play area. During the warmer months, we pack up our dinner and find a patch of sun outside on our deck, front lawn, or head over to Carkeek Park where we sit on a blanket enjoying our picnic overlooking the Sound watching the sun set over the Olympics. Got to soak up that Seattle sun!
What's the best place you've traveled as a family?
The best place we have visited as a family is hands down, Málaga, Spain, the Andalusian port city on the country’s Costa del Sol. This lovely, picturesque city was one stop in our six-city tour of Spain during our 10th wedding anniversary, and we left knowing we’d return, which we did, five years later to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary only this time with our then four-year-old daughter in tow. We stayed at an AirBnB flat in the heart of the city but a block from the Cathedral of Málaga, where the bells chimed on the hour every hour until 10:00 p.m.—a truly delightful sound.
We ate where the locals ate including Casa Lola, where we feasted multiple times on its array of “pinchos”, sliced baguette topped with combinations of protein, sauce, and vegetables. We loaded up on Jamón Ibérico (Iberian ham), olives, freshly baked breads, and Manchego cheese at open markets that we would pack for picnics on park benches alongside playgrounds often situated overlooking the Mediterranean Sea (Seattle city planners, take note). Our family immersed ourselves in Spanish culture by taking “siestas”, naps at mid-day, dining late and well into the evening followed by a walks afterward through the lively cobbled stoned streets packed with people of all ages and backgrounds in search of gelato or churros and a “cafecito”. We took a step back in history by strolling through the historic, Alcazaba, a Moorish palace-fortress, built in the 11th century, and hiking up the steep path to Castillo de Gibralfaro, a castle built in the 10th century on a hilltop overlooking the entire region. Since my husband was reading Who was Pablo Picasso? to our daughter, we thought it fitting that we take her to the world-renowned artist’s birthplace and museum to see his work for herself.
In the end, our goal was to blend with the locals but, our daughter really wanted to take part in two touristy activities: a horse-drawn carriage ride through different neighborhoods and a ride on its Big Wheel at sunset. Since we agreed that she too should have a say in our itinerary, we relented and were pleasantly surprised by both experiences. It turns out, the youngest in our family does have great ideas, too.
What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
I don’t plan any of the details for our family vacations. We travel often, multiple times a quarter it seems, and although my close friends and family know me for being a super organized planner for events like social outings, gatherings, and birthday parties, I do not plan any details of our trips. Sure, I make suggestions of where to go and when (the impromptu trips are often my idea), but it is my adorably studious husband that plans the logistics from booking our flights to finding where we’ll stay.
Perhaps it is because I am so terribly busy with running our household, cooking new recipes from scratch weekly, volunteering at our daughter’s school, actively running our neighborhood’s Buy Nothing Project, driving our daughter to and from her extracurricular activities, planning many socials and celebrations for our neighbors, school community, and “chosen family” here in Seattle, hosting out-of-town guests, and up until October, having led the La Isla Foundation, a non-profit I helped launch for Puerto Rico hurricane relief, that I do not have the bandwidth to take on the role of travel agent. Also, I don’t even pack our bags! Yes, I realize I married up; you need not tell me.
Is there anything you're working on that the Seattle's Child Community could help you with?
Find me on my Instagram account, @ParentingInSeattle, where I share Seattle-area gems including those we find on our travels. It’s my demonstration that we parents are like our fellow Seattleites who like the outdoors, seek great food, and support local breweries just like those sans kiddos. We just so happen to be training the next generation while we’re living life in the PNW.
Moreover, I just started an Instagram account called @TheBrownsLiveGreen, where I plan to document our attempts in living more environmentally conscious by reducing waste. For instance, this spring, I started to buy bulk pantry items using our own containers and bags from grocery stores and significantly decreased our meat consumption at home. I am pleased with our new habits but know there is room for improvement and hope to use this platform to learn from similarly minded people as well as those who may be curious about what our changes in habit look like in hopes they too try it at home.
Let’s take this green living journey together!