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weaning

Breastfeeding is the best. I was raised hearing my mom’s blissful stories of nursing us in the middle of the night in her LaZBoy chair and streetlight pouring in, falling asleep there until morning, how it was a nearly religious experience for her. So, although clearly many moms don’t get the chance or things don’t go as planned, I really had my heart set and every ounce of my being determined to make it work.

It turned out not to be an issue with my baby born two weeks past his due date- he just latched on and that was it. Even in the early days of nursing him every couple of hours, the I looked forward to nursing sessions when I could just sit and hold my peanut and do nothing while single-handedly nourishing a new human. And getting a rush of relaxing hormones and eating big plates of food. What’s not to love?

I went back to work at 5 months. I pumped three times a day to keep my supply up. It worked. I baked lactation cookies that I still make because they’re so delicious- wheat germ, oatmeal, nutritional yeast, flax seed. None of it is proven to work- neither is beer. But I did it all anyway, and it worked, or something did. We normalized breastfeeding in restaurants, cars, parties. Not one person said anything or made me feel uncomfortable. He started signing for “nurse”- the little hand squeezing a cow’s udder.

A year went by. I had always planned on “at least a year,” not knowing how it would feel at that point. I heard that some moms were hating it, and so over it, and that’s totally valid and their experience, but I couldn’t relate. It felt like the gift of all gifts- total nutrition, relaxation, stops the crying, gets them to sleep, and gets them back to sleep in the middle of the night, soothes after vaccinations and during illness, I mean this is a miracle that our bodies can do this.

We kept going. at 18 months, it started seeming like I “should” think about weaning but it didn’t feel like the right time yet. We were still in it. We went to a group two-year birthday party of one of my mom’s groups and still-nursing moms gathered for a nursing photo. There were only 4-5 of us out of 30 or so. I was the only one who hadn’t night weaned.

The following month, I finally night weaned E, and it wasn’t that bad. A little crying and then back to sleep. Then we slept through the night except for that tricky 5:30 nurse which I was pretty lax about right up until the end. A little wiggling and then a little whimpering and then a tragically thirsty “nuuuurse?” and I could not turn him down (and I didn’t want to get up and deal with the crying). Get in position, pop the boob, and go back to sleep. A lovely built-in solution.

Then it seemed like I should see him through our move- why take away this comfort during a time of potentially high stress? We were pretty solidly moving away from nursing in restaurants and on airplanes. I discovered the redirect. He was pretty easygoing about it. As we eased into our Chicago routine, he was nursing after school, at bedtime, and upon waking up.

This fall, I procrastinated. I gave in a lot. I wasn’t totally committed. I gave myself to the end of the year- I could tell he was ready! But was I ready?

The final push took about 6 weeks to the end of the year- I cut out the after-school nurse (substituted by activities, Halloween candy, videos), then the morning nurse on Christmas Day. Easy enough to jump out of bed and get something going.

I was always emotional contemplating the Last Nurse. The second-to-last one was naptime on New Year’s Eve, and I could tell my supply was down to almost nothing, E nursed gently as he drifted to sleep and tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt so grateful and sad all at the same time. My baby isn’t a baby anymore, and he’s strong and healthy and well attached and ready to disconnect from me in this way that connected us every day of his life thus far.

In the less than a week since then, he’s gotten more cuddly. He backs up to me so I’m spooning him and asks me to “close the door” which is to put my arms around him. He created a new song that goes, “Your BOOBS! Your BOOBS! Listen to the boobsies!” And sometimes he just wants to touch them for a minute, to know that they’re still there, that I’m still here. He’s transitioning just fine. And he’s eating about three times as much food.

My body is winding it down too, it’s painful and I have cabbage leaves and do hand expressing in the shower every day but my boobsies are quickly getting the message. Very curious how this will change my (enormous) appetite, metabolism, and mood. I’m now at a conference for three days so lots of distractions here, and a hotel room to myself where I sleep fitfully, searching for my boy.

2 years, 7 months!

xo

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new year

Happy New Year from Scottsdale!

I was asleep at 9 on New Year’s Eve. This certainly sets a new record for me and could have been even earlier if my sugar-crazed youngster hadn’t been spinning like a whirling dervish around the house as I tried to corral him toward bed. I was up early yesterday morning refining my 2017 thoughts and goals (like hella early), and then did an intense treadmill run with my uncle, then a trip to the Hall of Flame fire truck museum (recommend), then a family party. I was beyond ready to experience the changeover from the lush perspective of sleep.

I’ve always gotten reflective around New Year’s and, as an adult, have almost always set goals (“drink more water”) and/or come up with themes or mantras (I remember one angry year was, “I am not responsible for other people’s shit”). Then I would go out to several parties, drink massive amounts of champagne, and end up going home with that guy who always seemed like a great idea at the time.

I’d wake up sick. Many New Year’s Days were spent in bed, mourning the choices of the night before. It just seemed like part of the deal- this is what people do, at least it’s what my people did. But I was also aware of the paradox of waking up already having broken all the resolutions in the wee hours of the morning, feeling like the year was already jinxed.

And it was, in so many ways. I later learned how to take better care of myself but jeez Louise I’m 43 and just starting to get the hang of it. These are the things that give me pause about being a parent- is my child going to make dumb choices well into his thirties? Can I spare him in some way? I know that answer is no. I can warn him. We all make the dumbest dumbest choices in younger years. I may look back later on dumb choices I’m making now, but I already feel so much better. I don’t exactly regret it all because I had to go through all that to get here (and obviously there were some good times) but yes: youth is absolutely wasted on the young.

This New Year’s, the state of our nation may get even more 2016-y before it gets better, but I sense more hope now. I sense more rational people standing up, a more committed and sincere army of love fighters rising. Love always wins. Everyone knows this. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. That’s my hopeful position. (I’m a little nervous that what we thought was 2016 will turn out to be our new reality although I’m a little puzzled by all the celebrity deaths… that can’t go on this way, can it?)

Today, my silent Fitbit alarm went off at 6am so I could get up for my one hour of meditation and writing. This is new. I tried it last year at this time and it didn’t work at all. E awoke within ten minutes, discovering my empty side of the bed. This ends up being worse than not even trying because then you’re up early with a not-sleeping kiddo. So, I ditched that plan within three days.

Last year at this time, I was consumed with the problem of where to move. I had crunched some numbers and I knew I needed to leave SF, but it was not clear to me where to go. I had a short list of cities. I spent much of my mental bandwidth in the spring working that problem, finally realizing that it would be idiotic to go anywhere that I don’t have family, deciding on Chicago, visiting in April, returning to find a place in July, moving in August. Then we spent a few months getting settled- buying furniture, hanging pictures, getting the household flow figured out. The arc of the year delivered us to Arizona for Christmas, settled and ready to think about new intentions.

Long ago, I set myself an end-of-year deadline to wean E, and I did it. I’ll write about this later because now E is up and watching videos next to me on the couch, under a cozy blanket. It’s pouring rain and starting to get light.

My new morning routine will go like this: get up an hour before E to meditate and write. And I’ll also join the Y, where I’ll work out after dropping him off at school a few times a week. That’s pretty much it. It’s going to change my life.

Of course, today we’re on vacation, so we can just sit here and look at videos like this one.

Wishing you the best year ever. Don’t get sucked in by those “New Year, New You!” magazine headlines- you can and should and will remain the old, beautiful, you.  xoxo

hall-of-flame

 

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life in these times

And then the world turned upside down.

Glancing at today’s date, I realize it’s actually been a month since the election. It’s been a slow-motion nightmare. With moments of hope or at least distraction. On the night of the election, I indirectly watched the results coming in by monitoring my facebook feed, allowing the night to be curated and reported by whatever friends had the energy or wherewithal to post. Kind of like the way I watched horror movies, back when I ever would have the occasion to watch a horror movie, which is to say through my fingers. It was excruciating. As I lay awake for most of that night, with my innocent toddler sleeping beside me, I felt horribly responsible for not doing more to fix and protect our broken society. I felt so deeply fearful for all the children.

I do already think about life before and after November 8 as being completely different eras- remembering the glowing, warm, fall days of autumn colors and pride that we were about to elect the first woman president. All of us confidently wearing our pantsuits. The relief that the election nonsense would finally be behind us. The idea that government would carry on.

Ah, how naive we were, how out of touch. Well, now we know the truth, as painful as it may be. And the circus is actually playing out as the cabinet is assembled. I still have hope that something will derail this presidency before it begins, but I/we are mobilizing in the meantime because it’s clear that we must fight and continue to fight for the rest of our lives. I just read a dialogue between Noam Chomsky and Harry Belafonte on Democracy Now that left me feeling quite hopeful tonight. It comes and goes but we are certainly nowhere without hope. And gratitude.

It’s Sunday night and I sense that I’m writing because I yet again worked through a full cycle of houseguests, Thanksgiving, new furniture, and a business trip, and just caught up with myself again. The stuff is put away, the living room rearranged, the cleaning ladies came on Friday. Many, many to-do items checked off the list. I’m sitting on my new couch, with my feet up on the new ottoman, next to the sparkling Christmas tree, as snow falls outside my window.

These first snowfalls are so lovely. Peaceful, quiet, white and fluffy. It hasn’t been too cold yet. E will get his first real playtime in the deep snow this week. He’s curious about it and excited. He goes outside every day with his classmates unless it’s below 15 degrees.

E is super stimulated by school. When I pick him up, he is buzzing and lately wants to play a game of running away from me screaming and laughing while I’m trying to get on his hat, mittens, coat, and boots (not a game I enjoy). The other day, he informed his good friend A’s mom that A was coming with us to the train restaurant, which was not our plan nor something we had discussed. He also insists on getting a cup of water (or four) before we finally get out the door. He really seems to like being there.

Once I walked in a little early and they were doing Zumba. Unfortunately, it only ever takes him about four seconds to realize I’m watching- I would love to be a fly on the wall. But they clearly are having a ball bouncing around. It always seems like he has a lot of girlfriends, even older ones from other classes. It’s crazy to think that they already have a private social life at two and a half.

He is also super jazzed about being with his cousins. He flips into a totally different mode when they’re around. When it’s just the two of us, he is either begging me to nurse or watch videos or he’s climbing precariously on furniture or coloring his hand or emptying a shelf, quietly by himself. (Sometimes he reads a book, which is obviously my favorite option.) Once in a while, of course, I sit down and do an activity with him, but when we’re home I’m usually making food, cleaning up, or preparing to go to bed or leave the house. When E and S are here, they are immediately inventing entire imaginary games, doing laps, and fiercely disinterested in whatever the adults are doing. The adults can actually relax and have a glass of wine. E sits down to eat 2-3 bites of food and then is called away to continue his busy itinerary.

It hit me over the past couple of weekends that I don’t really have friends yet in Oak Park. I have two great friends in Chicago, and some great moms I’ve met at the school or through my sister or through local facebook groups. We had a housewarming party and it was lovely. I have some mom crushes that I hope turn into friendships. But it takes time. I’ve realized, even while still in SF, how important it is to have the same plan-making “style” as other moms if it’s going to work. For example, I won’t last long with someone who’s flaky. I can do either planning far ahead or super-last-minute spontaneous stuff, but not everyone can. I also need to get out of the house at least once a day unless one of us is sick. I have a bad habit of assuming that partnered moms are unavailable on weekends.

I went to the SMC Chicago holiday party today and am going to pursue local SMC friendships- yet again, I remembered how much these women kick A. There’s nothing like a friendship between SMCs (especially with kids the same age).

Two final anecdotes about videos and nursing. The other day, E said, “ho, ho, ho!” and I thought- where is he getting this, I haven’t said anything about Santa. I’m not even sure we’re doing Santa. I said, “Who says ho, ho, ho?” and he said, “Father Christmas!”

I asked his teacher about it and she said, no, they hadn’t covered that. It gradually dawned on me that he got it from Peppa Pig. He LOVES Peppa. It’s British and cute but not especially educational. It’s not harmful either. I think Daniel Tiger is probably better content though. I tried to get him on Winnie the Pooh today and he loved it for fifteen minutes and then wanted Peppa. Continuing to try to strike the balance- I absolutely need him to be occupied sometimes. But I can’t stand the whining the rest of the day. Sometimes it seems like he lives to “watch bideos.”

And, his other favorite pastime, nursing, is finally winding down. I took a business trip that caused my production to decline quite a bit and now we’re down to only bedtime and waking up. I think most of my dragging my feet on this is not wanting to rock the boat on routines that work. How will he go to sleep? I don’t know. I made a picture book for him tonight called, “Evan Says Goodbye to Nursing.” It starts with him nursing as a newborn and ends with how he’ll always get all the cuddles from Mommy that he could want. He was coy about it and pretended not to understand. My self-imposed deadline is the end of 2016.

Since my house is now furnished AND the cleaning ladies came by AND the light was pretty, I took some photos to share. This is our place! Please come visit us.

PS I can’t find a good recent photo of the two of us, so it’s going to be New Year’s photos this year or nothin’. You’re all still on the xmas card list. xo

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balance

It’s an absolutely gorgeous fall day- warm with goldens and greens and reds flickering in the trees, sunlight at low angles. I had identified earlier in the week that I wasn’t feeling “energized,” so I packed a lunch and took E back to Morton Arboretum for a 3-mile run and a picnic at the playground. You can’t always predict the weather or traffic or moods but it’s such a bonus when you know what that thing is you need, and you get it, and all those other things fall into place too.

It was such a weird week- I was on a work deadline which pushed my work hours into all hours. The election polls took a stressful turn. I started falling asleep nightly with E at 8pm and doing the thing where I wake up again at 1am with my clothes on, my bra digging, my belt pinching, my contacts stuck to my dry eyeballs. Then, to make matters worse, I decide to get up, spend an hour or so zoning out looking at Facebook, and then end up getting sucked into work, and then doing dishes, and then losing half the night and ending up exhausted. This started happening nightly- a sign that something is off-balance. Usually, I’m a pretty consistent 10:30-6:30. (Another sign is when I struggle to do any balancing poses in yoga.)

We all have bad habits when we’re tired or stressed. It’s funny to be 43 and still becoming self-aware of them (I guess they evolve…). I also stopped putting clothes away or cooking. I have a mountain of clothes piled on the guest bed  currently (but you should take it as a good sign that I ignored that to write.) Fortunately, eating out meant that I’m not behind on dishes.

I resolved to buy a fitbit that vibrates so I can just surrender and go to bed with E and wake up an hour or two early. I get blissed out just thinking about it. But- when I sort-of tried this the other morning, it didn’t work.

I had fallen asleep at 8pm as usual but this time took the precaution of taking off the bra and the belt and the contacts. Also, I turned out the lights. I tried to stay awake but no contest. This would be another good application of the fitbit- the alarm 30 minutes after putting E to bed if I’m adamant about not losing my evening.

But, when I woke at 1am I was so deeply tired I couldn’t even be bothered to change into pajamas (to be fair, I was wearing a cotton shirt and jeggings, which was not all that uncomfortable). (Also, basically all my clothes are in a giant pile on the guest bed.) I magically woke on my own at 5:30am and tried to sneak away, but the kiddo awoke and followed me to the bathroom. So, back to bed and this time I slept until 7:30- oversleeping! To say the least. Truthfully, I probably woke because he was already stirring. That’s where the Fitbit buzzing will be awesome. I will sneak away like a thief in the night! Will he ever not sleep in my bed/room? Yes. When? No idea…

So, I’m ordering the wrist Fitbit once I finish this post because I just hadn’t gotten to it yet. But, in the meantime, I got my period, which seems like perhaps the most meaningful piece in the puzzle- my cycles have totally changed since giving birth and this may be a new facet of the new one: total exhaustion PMS. I’m normally terrible at seeing patterns like this and since moving here my period has surprised me every time. (I swear it’s been like every three weeks but who has time to track it… I probably need an app…) I got it and thought, were there any signs this week? YES, in fact. See above.

We’re also verrrrry gradually weaning, OK not really, but I know changes go along with that too, and there are some big quality of life upgrades that will come with that (although hormones can be wild cards). Maybe I won’t be laying down with him at bedtime forever? My goal is to wind down nursing by end of the year. At this point, he only nurses first thing in the morning, when he gets home from school, and bedtime- on weekdays. On weekends, it’s a free for all. I’m going to eliminate the nap nurse, hanging on to the fierce hope that he will still nap. Then I’ll take a four-day trip to NYC/Boston in a couple weeks. Then we might have to just stop and I dread it but, like so many things, the dread might be worse than the reality. Or not…

Right now he’s taking a long long nap and I’m rocking in the rocking chair as I type. If he keeps going, I’ll shower and make dinner. (I mean- I’ll order the fitbit!) Most of the time, I got this. Without good sleep though, it’s a house of cards…

Here he is in his fire truck (huge hit) and then this afternoon at the Arboretum. Wishing you all a peaceful week with the best of outcomes for our dear nation.

xoxoxo

fire-truck

morton

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I’m gonna be a FIRE TRUCK

I recently identified the gremlin that says, “If I take time for me, all the other stuff won’t get done.” I’m calling BS. I just got E down for a nap. The kitchen is a mess. I have a giant bag full of farmers market goodies waiting to be put away. Toys everywhere, vacuuming needed, the bathroom really needs a clean. Big work deadlines next week. And so, I quite consciously sat down to write. I may even meditate after this. And what needs to get done will get done.

Because, really, it’s never done, right?! So what difference does it really make if I take time for me first? Me First. New slogan? Oxygen mask, etc.?

We’re having the kind of cosmically idyllic weekend I fantasized about before moving here. My sister picked E up early from school yesterday to play with his cousins at their place. Then we all sat around my big farm table with all three kiddos on the bench and had lasagna. My nieces stayed overnight because my sister and bro-in-law both had early morning stuff to do (note that D is going door to door for Hillary in Iowa as we speak, YAY!), we had a big scrumptious breakfast of blueberry pancakes and egg scramble, went to the playground, and then the girls went home while E and I went to the last farmers market of the season, meeting up with dear college friend K who was working a bake sale fundraiser for her chorale.

It’s overcast and weirdly 77 degrees today. Aside from this anomalous weather, it’s been getting pretty darn crisp in the morning and evening hours. E was sick this week so I got him a nanny and worked from the library. Stepping outside at 5pm to come home, it was cold enough to want mittens. Maybe 45 degrees. What struck me was the smell. I had forgotten the smell of the slow decomposition of leaves and it triggered memories from my childhood. Those memories get called up much more often here since this place is so much like the place I grew up. I knew we were returning “home”-ish but I didn’t anticipate all the visceral reminders. I like them. We’re home.

And now it’s already Halloween. It’s the unofficial main city holiday of San Francisco, so I’ve had my share of big and small celebrations over the years, always put my costume together the day-of, and was really distanced from the kiddo perspective. Living in apartments all this time, there was never an opportunity to hand out candy or see kids in costumes. E was too little in his first two years to do anything much so it didn’t really matter… we did some little Halloween parties. But now we’re here, where every other house is decorated with lights and cobwebs and gravestones and ghosts, just as E is coming into consciousness about what it’s all about.

He decided early that he wanted to be a fire truck. I might have prompted him. Like- I asked him what he wanted to be, and then gave him some ideas. Fire trucks are definitely his favorite thing. At the same time, I had a disincentive for him to want to be a fire truck since the costume is not exactly simple.

Ask him what he’s going to be for Halloween and he’ll lean in, bug his eyes, and say, in a quiet and intense voice, “I’m gonna be a FIRE TRUCK.” I knew I could not disappoint.

So, I found a DIY “recipe” from a Pinterest-y mom who randomly had all the perfect stuff, you know, just laying around the house to make a fire truck costume. For me, it required two trips to Michael’s to the tune of probably $50. So silly. I now have red and black spray paint (as well as gray primer), yellow and silver duct tape, black ribbon, and a glue gun. A glue gun! These things were never my forte. I’m the least crafty person I know. I think I did realize, though, that you don’t have to necessarily be talented- if you can find a “recipe,” it’s really like cooking: you just follow directions. I did veer off the recommendations and try spray painting styrofoam- and that resulted in disintegrated styrofoam! Good to know. Cardboard was better anyway.

You guys. His firetruck costume is totally amazing. It took probably 2 full evenings and several mid-day painting sessions. My work was fueled by love. I’ll unveil the magic for him perhaps Sunday night, or Monday morning. He has a Halloween parade at school (I will be there between meetings) and will trick or treat with his cousins. We will obviously take many photos with the cutie in costume but here it is without him:

We’re carving our pumpkin later this afternoon and we have cider and pumpkin pie and, yeah, I’m getting into all of this!

Last night at bedtime, the girls requested a story from my childhood. So I told them about Halloween- the homemade costumes (I don’t recall anyone buying a costume, ever), how they were inevitably covered up by coats and hats and mittens because it would be snowing sideways or cold rain or some other unwelcome weather, and how we trick or treated after dark. Memories reactivated. And relived.

Grateful to be here for all of the above. Happy Halloween!

xo

cousins

 

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living here

I decided not to play the next concert due to a conflict with a work trip, and then I decided to have the babysitter come anyway, and then I realized that I could go to a CAFE and WRITE. It’s revolutionary. I’m sitting here with a cup of tea and pumpkin pie. I sort of can’t believe it.

Even better, this outing happened to correspond with the final presidential debate and after skipping the first one out of nervousness and then slogging through the second one while bawling and yelling, I’m ready to to sit out again. More than ready. Thrilled.

Back when I was five months’ pregnant and visiting over the holidays, I met my dear friend K at this café and I believe we sat at this very table, in fact. As we crunched through snow walking back to the car, I had no clue that I’d be living here in less than two years.

People keep asking if it’s “hit me” yet, that we moved across the country, that we live here now, and that we no longer live in California. So far, not really. I’m sure it helps that this place, or at least this region, is my original home. The rhythm of life, the way the air is extra crisp in the mornings now, the changing leaves, even cruising slowly around town as if I’m a teenager again in my family’s old stationwagon with the wood siding… it all feels familiar. So instead of leaving home, it feels like we went back to an earlier home.

If anything has hit me, it’s how much my life feels the same, but easier. Fewer friends close by, and I do miss them and am starting to feel out of touch already. But it’s also nice to have fewer obligations. More mental space too. I’m working with a life coach now, refining my daily routine, digging into the enneagram and The Desire Map and contemplating bigger dreams. I have some old friends here and family cruises through often. J arrives Friday from New Orleans!

E is growing and learning. What a delightful human he is. This week, he stopped crying on drop off. He asks me to walk him into his classroom and then he keeps walking to the teacher and doesn’t look back. He comes home bursting with stories: “So, Mom!” (in the past two days, he’s been working on mastering “so.”) A friend sent me a Golden Gate Bridge key chain, and he identified it- not as San Asisco as in the past- now it’s the Golden Gate Bridge. But- he still calls an an excavator an escalator and an escalator an alligator.

Sometimes he remembers something I said once, a month ago. Like- I mentioned to someone that maybe when J comes to visit, he’ll polish my crystal chandelier as he did with the ones at his house. And now every time E points at the chandelier, he says “J is going to work on it.”

I’m going to do a DIY Halloween costume, God help me. This is not my forte!!! I better not tell you what it is in case it’s a failure and we do something else 🙂

Very excited for pumpkins and pies and Christmas lights and slippers.

I’ll be on alert for what’s hitting me when, and will let you know.

For now, I’m grateful for all the long-distance check-ins and I just love you guys.

xo

school-photo

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on the other side

Boy it has taken forever to clear this space to write- every night, I try to pick one most-urgent thing (build the new dining room table? meal plan? do my monthly report for work? pay bills? blog?)- and literally half the time I just crash early with E.

To pick up where I left off: how lucky and surreal to be dropped off at the airport by one sister and picked up at the destination airport by the other one. Flights are too fast for moves- you kind of need a road trip to mentally transition. It’s disorienting to emerge from airport short-term parking into the hot and humid night and watch unknown neighborhoods whiz by thinking, OK this is home now.

I woke up the next morning with a momentary pit in my stomach- I did it. I left California. I still felt that mid-air limbo, wondering what would happen when I landed, so conscious of everything I left behind.

But then we just got swept up into the day and it felt nice. The first ten days or so just felt like visiting my sister. When my car got delivered, it was my first true evidence that this was permanent. Your car doesn’t show up from the west coast unless you’re staying. I took it in right away to got the punched-in bumper repaired and the body shop guy repaired it in 30 minutes and put it on the house: “Welcome to Chicago.” Then, I told the cashier at Trader Joe’s the story and he handed me a bouquet of flowers. Seriously- the people here are nice. Just Midwestern with a dose of small-town nice. In the way that I grew up with, which makes it feel like home.

Our move-in was totally smooth. I spent about ten minutes in the new place before the movers and my parents arrived, went from room to room doing a hasty surface clean with a nice-smelling plant-based cleaner. It was in pretty much perfect condition- my paint colors all turned out beautifully, all was spotlessly clean. I would have burned sage, meditated, etc. etc. but there was no time. Thank goodness my parents were here to start the unpacking with me over Labor Day weekend, my mom carefully lining the kitchen shelves with paper, my dad fixing and tinkering. It’s such a gigantic job.

They got me to a great point of functionality (especially the kitchen) and then headed home. When they’re not here, I feel like I make only incremental progress. I just get exhausted and distracted. I ordered a new dining set because I have a full-on dining room with a beautiful vintage chandelier, and my old stuff wasn’t cutting it. Once all the boxes arrived, I built like a chair a night. Now I have four chairs and the bench ready- just need the table. I was going to do that tonight but here I am, writing.

The ginormo living room has a play area but virtually nothing to put toys away into other than a couple of small bookshelves. So obviously that is a disaster that expands throughout the rest of the place on the daily.

The rest of the space contains a toddler-size table with two chairs, a glider, an Ikea comfy chair, and a loveseat. And a whole lot of packaging from the dining set, and my piano which was the last item to join us a week ago. E has been riding his tricycle around, inside.

Also, there’s nothing on the walls yet, anywhere.

Our bedroom is pretty much done although I need to order nice new bedding. The back bedroom (my office) is a pleasant, quiet, sunny place to work. I still need a lot of furniture and home accessory items- it’s echo-y with few rugs, and dark without enough lamps. It will come together in time. I’m not racing to buy new stuff after paying some hefty moving bills. We love the deck and backyard- feels so expansive just to run out back and kick a ball.

E has weathered the transition beautifully. I started him at one school and moved him two weeks later. Even before we moved, I started getting emails from them about teacher retention and parent communication, and then both of his teachers resigned in the short time we were there. It seemed OK but I was uncomfortable knowing that I didn’t know what was really going on. Eventually, I texted the mom who recommended the place back in May or so- and, sure enough, she gave me an earful about 12 teachers leaving since June and how much she tried to work with them before pulling her daughter out just the week before. Clearly, it was a disaster- the teachers weren’t treated well. I couldn’t imagine sending E back there ever again.

So, I didn’t. I had him start at a new school the day after learning the full extent from this other mom (it was a Friday!). It was the other school I had considered and at the time they were really slow to get back to me. On the day that mattered, they answered the phone.

So- E did the move, then 10 days at my sister’s, the 2 weeks at the first school, moved in to the new place, switched schools, and then was home sick with a fever for 2 days and 3 different new babysitters. He got a little clingy after that but jeez, who wouldn’t?

His new school is wonderful. They walk twice a day to a playground (which is a total of approx 2 miles), which he loves. They have a private facebook page where they post photos and videos every day. The other day I was mesmerized to watch him in a Zumba class! Believe me, I wish I could post that here. I love the Montessori approach so far.

He’s making friends at school, one of whom also just moved to town and lives two blocks away. We ran into them on Friday night at the train restaurant, which was cosmic because I almost invited them. Or maybe not cosmic because of course we’d all be at the train restaurant with 2yo boys on a Friday night at 5:30pm?

The Oak Park Working Moms Facebook group is intense- even more active, or maybe more personal, than Main Street Mamas in the Bay Area, which had thousands. You can post a request for recommendations and you’ll get 85 responses in a day. I am bookmarking the one about winter coats. There were links to specific products, sales, lots of wisdom of experience, and even from people who also moved here from California.

I started rehearsing with the symphony and it’s great. It’s funny to me, in a way, that this is how I choose to spend my one precious night out per week. These community symphonies often feel the same; we’re the ones who went to music schools and summer music camps and ended up with regular jobs, a little nerdy, a lot of talent. And an undercurrent of kindness. I’m loving the music and we already have an all-Beethoven concert next weekend.

E is totally thriving on spending time with his cousins. He started riding his tricycle and wanting to pee on the potty. They just had their first sleepover over here last night. I swear he starts using new words and phrases after a little time with them, lately, “Because,” has become a favorite, and, today, “I guess.” “Mommy! We live in Chicago.”

I feel so lucky that we didn’t have more bumps through the transition and I feel pretty much at home already. I don’t drive around thinking, “how lame,” or “I can’t believe I’m not IN the city,” or comparing everything to SF and west coast in my head, or whatever I feared. I do drive around noticing that the sky or the light or the trees look like the ones I grew up with. I love how easy it is to park and also walk most places we want to go. It’s a beautiful town with tall tree canopies, lovely architecture, and wide sidewalks. The early twinges of fall, actual falling leaves and chilly breezes, feel nice. What I’m missing already are my mom friends who could spontaneously grab margaritas and Mexican food post-school-pickup with the kiddos. Or casual weekend playdates. Those take a little while to get into place. I’ve just joined the SMC FB group for Chicago and there are a few women in this very town. We both are missing sister B.

I’m slowly working into a pattern of how to keep in touch with Bay Area friends- phone talking a bit more, emails, and I love a spontaneous Facetime call!!

Someone asked me today what I miss most about SF- and it’s only been a month, so I’d say nothing yet. It will catch up with me. For now, though, I feel like my life is intact- just in a different place.

And for that I have mucho gratitude. Please call, facetime, and visit us! xo

train-park

 

Uncategorized

the goodbyes

Here we are, suspended between cities, in midair between all the goodbyes and all the hellos.

I finally managed to get the iPad charged up with sufficient videos and apps to keep E busy in his seat next to me that it dawned on me that I could write a post from here, this moment, this critical turning point. On the way to the airport, I said to my sister that when E is older, he’ll say, “I was born in San Francisco, and when I was two we moved to Chicago…” And this is the day we moved.

The goodbyes really ramped up over the past five days. After seeing people the previous week, we always ended with, “I’ll see you before we go…” and then we started the real goodbyes. Saturday was our Hasta Luego Party in Golden Gate Park with many friends from all phases of life: high school, college, studying abroad, past work, current work, single moms, Labyrinth Moms, the band, past neighbors, school parents, etc. etc. It was a game of “This Is Your Life”- in the best way. Fortunately, people largely  took over watching E romping around with his buddies so I could have a moment with each friend. It was foggy but not too cold. I cried, I laughed, but mostly I acknowledged the upcoming change and how much each person has meant to me. It felt so important in terms of my own processing as well as providing a kickoff for newly-long-distance friendships.

I came away feeling the warmth of so much love and also emotionally maxed. I tried to nap with E afterward but my brain was buzzing. We went out for sushi with dear friend L and stayed up drinking wine with her and J. I didn’t sleep well. It felt so monumental. I never second-guessed our decision to leave, just felt the magnitude of it.

On Sunday night, I went out with some of my best college and study abroad friends L and C for bubbly and a fancy dinner in the Mission and felt the bumping energy of the Mission in a new way as it fades from my proximity. We had one of those California dinners where every bite bursts with freshness and impossibly perfect balance. After all these years, it seemed impossible that we wouldn’t be within an hour of each other to easily plan such dinners in the future. No matter where we are, though, we’ll find each other.

Monday was my last morning in the office. I had a moment with my colleagues- our team of three has become two. S gave me the mirkat that we used to hold up over the wall instead of popping up to say something. I ran a couple of errands and rushed home to meet the trailer, which (of course) came at the very tail end of the 12-4pm window, preventing me from taking my car for its last SF checkup. I picked up E and we had a pizza party with neighbors and friends. Saying goodbye to J, a single mom and school parent, was one of the saddest- we saw her and her sparkplug S almost every day. The spontaneous dinners, the weekend playdates, the pickups and drop-offs… We were in the same boat.

After they left, I said to my sister B that we should be done with the remaining packing within an hour or so. It actually took five hours. The stuff just keeps coming at the end…we were done at 1am. The next morning, E and I went through and said goodbye to each room and remembered some good times there. My voice was all wobbly but I pretty much held it together. We said goodbye to our street, to the waterfall and the geese and the buffalo in GG Park, and the fire truck- all on the way to school. The movers came and loaded the trailer in two hours. I had time to run a couple of last errands with my dear friend K and go for a walk through the Presidio, breathing in the cold fog that I know I will eventually miss, the smell of eucalyptus, the obscured view of the Golden Gate Bridge..

After K left, the apartment was empty minus my luggage. I swept each room tearfully, remembering when I first moved in, just days before getting pregnant with E. I remembered bringing him home from the hospital, the weeks and months with Mimi and Chacha. It was the perfect apartment at the perfect time.

The mover said they would pick up the trailer the next day, a day for which I did not have permits, so, after several panicky phone calls, I realized I was powerless there and left hoping they’d get it that night (they did!). The car shipper said that he’d get the car the next day instead of the planned day after. I’m pretty sure the piano mover showed up on the wrong day too but that could have been my mistake. There are always curveballs when moving… and we rolled with it. But just as I was saying how everything had gone perfectly, I crunched my bumper into a parked car in front of me while pulling out of my hood for the last time- just heightened emotions and distraction but, man, it’s a big dent. That further rattled me on the way out.

Friend and neighbor L had offered to drive us to Palo Alto to my sister’s so she could bring my car back for the car shipper the next day. She was the angel who helped me get the place and she was a critical help on the way out (and everything in between). She was with me for the bumper crunch and to pick up E at his school. Every single teacher cried while saying goodbye. The kids painted a tree made of hands that said “We Love You, E.” I saw another dear friend M and her daughter L at pickup who’d been on vacation- and the tears kept rolling. I really had a pit in my stomach at this point. I’m taking E away from so many known good things.

Pulling away from the school, my GPS app took me past the gray, murky ocean and through some hilly, foggy neighborhoods I’ve never seen before on the way to 280, which turned out to be Colma, a totally random way to leave. A few minutes later, we emerged from the cloud into the golden afternoon California sunlight of the peninsula. L stayed for a bit at my sister’s, then said goodbye and drove away in my dented car. E immediately said, “Where’s L going?” and I said, “She’s going home.” To our former home. I had handed her all my remaining keys.

We had burritos with B and J and went to bed early. Today, we kicked a ball and blew bubbles in the park. Of course, it’s hardest to leave my sister. Definitely reassuring that she encouraged me to make this move even before I was thinking about it and is also in a happy new relationship in a sweet little house and a growing business… After ten years in the same city, though, this will be an adjustment. And I hate taking E so far away from her.

We drove to the airport in tears, making plans. When E was saying goodbye, he said, “See you tonight!” He asked if we were going home. He really gets a lot of this- he knows that the boxes and the disappearing furniture signify something big. And he always knew we’d be going on an airplane to Chicago to see his cousins. I don’t think he understands the goodbyes..

I feel good now- relieved that all the packing and planning is over and all of our worldly possessions are on three different trucks. I’m grateful that the goodbyes were hard because that means we had a good time. I’m a little scared. Excited to set up a new home minus a lot of junk. Ready to hit the ground running (after some rest as we camp at my sister D’s while our stuff is in transit).

We did it. Most of all, I hope this move brings the awesome upgrades that I think it will. The weight of the decision is so much heavier since it is a critical turning point in E’s life too.

Here’s to our next chapter- may it be as sweet as what came before it.

xo

Uncategorized

packing

Last time J was here visiting, we went over to help my sister pack as she prepared to move in with her girlfriend. As he gleefully packed her kitchen in the space of just 1.5 hours, I realized that of course I would need his help with my move as well. This is a guy who is masterful with anything related to order, symmetry, spatial relations, and general meticulous organization. I bought him a ticket from New Orleans to SF with miles and he arrived Monday.

One thing I’ve noticed since deciding to make this big move is how I’m missing having a partner for the first real and deep way since E was born. There are many things about having a partner that I have kind of been surprised about not missing or craving–but when it came to making all these big decisions, I miss having someone to talk them through with. Someone who was equally invested and able to process with me on a daily basis. I specifically am missing that as I’m processing the emotions of all of it.

Where should we move? When should we move? Which apartment should we take? Which school should E go to? Which mover should we hire? What about the piano mover? The car shipper? Should I bring the couch? Should I sell the couch? Should I give away the couch? What does everyone have against my couch?

I’ve leaned heavily on family and friends in recent weeks as I work through all these decisions, and everyone has been incredibly helpful. And- I don’t want to speak too soon, but this move feels like we’re seriously dialed in to the flow of the universe.

But back to my couch- everyone has a different opinion. I bought it 12 years ago, which of course seems like last weekend to me. I bought it new, which means I spent a lot, and bought it right in the showroom, for full price, and so clearly on some level I believe that I must keep it for the rest of my life. It’s literally the only piece of furniture I’ve bought new outside of Ikea. But, beyond that, it’s just been a comfy and constant presence in all my places since then. It’s light yellow with messy pillows and outstretched armrests that want to give you a hug. It’s huge- people can easily stretch out and sleep on it. I thought I should bring it. My whole family said an emphatic no. J said, absolutely no. (My sister D said to bring it but she hasn’t seen it in a couple years.) I asked J, “What do you have against my couch?” J does not mince words, “It’s dirty.” I looked it over and he’s right. It’s kind of dirty, and old, and slightly worn. And a huge thing to move. I went to Craig’s List and realized that all the free couches pretty much look like mine.

So, I’m giving it away free. If I am so lucky! J has his doubts. And this is just one of so many decisions.

I could not ask for a better friend, brother, and decision partner than J. He’s close with his older sister who is also a single mom- so he knows how to step in and be monumentally helpful. And he loves to help, loves to be efficient, loves to check things off the list. He BARTed in from the airport and I met him in the Mission where we bought boxes, caught an Uber, and picked up E. Each day last week, we went to work (we work together), came home, made or ordered dinner, then he cleaned up and started packing while I got E to bed. Yesterday afternoon, we finished up work, got my car washed, bought more boxes, installed a new windshield wiper, and picked up some groceries before getting E. Today, I had E with his former nanny almost all day and we both worked hard for six straight hours and basically got it done.

At several moments, I caught J whispering, “Damn, I’m good,” as he perfectly laid the final object into a box like the last piece of a puzzle. He used rugs to wrap fragile mirrors, he was giddy when he found leftover plastic bags with zippers that perfectly held the right combo of stuff, and he was distraught when we realized that my iPad had been missing for several days and likely got put into one of the boxes by mistake. (He called my phone while I turned on my dog hearing and went box to box until I heard it, ringing nestled in a box of books.) The guy takes the whole thing really seriously, and at several points during the week had a crisis of confidence that we would never get the whole job done before he had to go. He was way more stressed than me. (In part because it was really all I could do to get through our regular daily routine and I kept barely helping and going to bed early.) His brain simply works differently than mine in this respect and I’m so lucky that I could even dream of summoning that kind of help.

As I write this, an email just came in from someone interested in my free couch, and she has a truck, and she can pick it up tomorrow. My heart just started pounding. I’m having a bit of a hard time letting this one go as I’m in blogging mode with my back against one of the outstretched armrests, this couch has been my friend. I almost cried when a fellow single mom picked up E’s kitchen today…

E is not missing a beat. I wondered if he’d start noticing stuff was gone, like his kitchen, but we seem to have left out just enough toys, just enough books, and just the RIGHT toys and books (so far, the ones he’s asked for have all been the not-packed ones). Other than vying a bit for my attention while J was here, he’s just himself. He thinks a little more about Chicago, and his cousins, due to my prompting (he wants to go to the train restaurant). He just started saying “OK” as much as the rest of us. He refers to any semi-obscured space like under the couch as “behind the jungle.” He has such a great sense of humor. We quickly develop series of inside jokes like, “It’s a what?” “It’s a boing boing.” “It’s a what?” “It’s a what?”  “It’s a boing boing.” “It’s a hippopotamus?” “No, it’s a boing boing!” Then it doesn’t come up again for five days, and out of the blue he goes, “It’s a what?”

I really do think I’m calmer about the “where” because my “why” is coming with me.

We have something like 42 boxes packed, movers booked, plane ticket bought. We left out a few dishes, pots and pans, utensils. The amount of toiletries and clothes that you’d have on a 2-week trip. A few odds and ends. Probably the amount of possessions that Marie Kondo would say is optimal. No rugs, nothing on the walls. It’s so freeing to be so uncluttered (and, ultimately, this is probably the most organized I’ve ever been in my life).

Tonight, J, E, and I bundled up and headed out for pizza into the thick fog, E on his trike. It was such a normal night in SF, and yet everything is about to change, and yet not really.

Tomorrow my couch goes. And E and I will enjoy these last ten days in a way that I’ve never been able to enjoy such a big transition.

Ready.

Thank you, J.

xo

con jorge

 

Uncategorized

moving

Egads, it’s been over a month. This will be a bulleted post. Here’s what’s been happening:

  • I’m on the couch in a rare moment of evening quiet, listening to foghorns in the distance. I feel like I haven’t stopped moving or working or planning or thinking for the past six weeks.
  • We found a new place in Chicago. It has lots of space, a deck and enclosed backyard (!!!), two bedrooms, laundry, dishwasher, parking, hardwood floors, high ceilings, lots of light, tons of closets/cabinets, vintage details. It’s a ten minute walk from my sister’s house. It’s 4 blocks from downtown and trains. Landscaping, snow shoveling, storm window installation, and heat are all included. I had been tempted by a thoroughly-modern urban downtown place (no parking or outdoor space), a tiny single family home (too expensive and weird kitchen), and a just-OK and potentially truly not-great save-money-for-a-house option (important to be happy when we get there)… And this was out of probably 15 places I saw! The primary downside to our new place is the glass top electric stove. And my dream of an open kitchen will have to get shelved until our next move. But I’m getting a grill for the deck and wow did that overall work out well. Thanks to my sister D and bro-in-law S for child care and helping me work through the problem over four intense days.
  • Coming back after vacation and diving back into our regular routine, I have many mixed emotions. I notice my tendency to get more negative on this place now that I’m on my way out (makes it easier!), more frustrated in the frustrations. (UGH the fog. HOW did I ever manage this tiny bathroom sink. I HATE my commute. Etc.) I also notice how much my current apartment feels like home.  I notice the teachers at E’s school giving him many more hugs and kisses on arrival and departure. I notice the impermanence of all the objects in my apartment, at this very moment sitting right where they’ve always been. I feel all the moves that lead up to this one. I dreamt last night of an old boyfriend. I’ll wake up one morning and SF will be in my past.
  • A friend emailed me and asked for my three primary emotions at this stage. I thought about this for half a day and wrote back:
    • 1. peaceful. This decision took a while to happen but once it was done, it was so obviously right. It doesn’t surprise or shock me anymore, it’s just the evolution of our life. It will not be perfect but it will be great.
    • 2. expansion. This is not an emotion but there’s a feeling that we can grow in our new space- especially knowing I can fling open the back door and be outside on the grass (or snow).. E will grow there. And me too.
    • 3. anxiety about everything I’m about to have to do. All I have to do is imagine moving a big family with a whole house and I realize that my move is super tiny and simple. But, still, juggling purging and sorting and organizing and packing and reserving a mover, piano mover, car mover, and then camping out with boxes and camping out without boxes- all with E and a pretty crazy month work-wise… It’s normal to feel nervous. I know we can do it.
  • I’m starting to feel more disengaged, like a ghost floating through the city, no longer looking for new connections. No one is investing in newer friendships with us now either. It’s normal. This is is why it’s better to leave soon after making the decision to leave, since otherwise you’re just waiting. It’s like breaking up when you still live together. In fact, it is that.
  • National and world news has been unbearable. As soon as I can, I’ll be devoting time to helping elect Hillary Clinton.
  • Flying back on Sunday, I realized it was my last time flying home to SF. I thought about how much I have loved flying home to SF. And I’ve done a lot of it in the almost 20 years I’ve been here.
  • I chopped my hair and turned 43 and bought rad silver Birkenstocks.
  • I got into the Oak Park River Forest Symphony. Rehearsals begin August 31!
  • I ran every other day on vacation, 3-4 miles, and felt like a human being again. I can’t wait to build this into my new schedule.
  • E can sort of differentiate San Asisco from Chicago and knows there’s an airplane that separates them. Mostly, though, he knows his family, and he knows that they show up all over the place.
  • We’re home wherever we’re together.

our new backyard