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May 25 2012

Moving Once Again Amidst Madness & Excitement

By at 11:29 am
dora the explorer hot air balloon

Hasta la vista, Texas.

My husband asked me the other day if our lives would ever be sane. I reminded him of a promise I made when we married: marriage would never make our lives boring. What an understatement! Not all of our adventures have been fun, but you could never accuse our married life of being dull or uneventful.

We are about to embark on our fourth move in three years and our second across the country. Things in Texas never jelled. It never felt like home and our attempt to move closer to family ended horribly. So we circled our wagons and are heading back East. A wonderful house rental fell into our laps, and for the first time since we moved out of our parents’ houses we will have a backyard! Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 1 2012

Settling Down in Texas

By at 2:31 pm

Texas flagAs I am fast approaching my six-month anniversary on arriving in Austin, Texas, I thought it would be a good time to stop and take account of everything.

The last time I wrote about arriving in Texas, it was pretty much a pity party and everyone was invited. Many of you responded to my RSVP request with emails of support, friendly suggestions, and even a few shidduchs for my husband with his job search. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 7 2012

In What Town Will We Find “People Like Us?”

By at 2:36 pm

We’ve outgrown our apartment. We rented it almost two years ago, when I was not-yet-pregnant, and Jon was not-yet-convinced that Brooklyn was the place to be. Now, he is convinced, and we have twin baby girls, and we have to move.

The home-hunting process is hard. I could gripe endlessly about the seriously gross places we’ve visited, houses “priced to sell!” where sellers didn’t bother to take out the trash before a viewing, simply because their home sits on prized New York City real estate and therefore, buyers will swoon even if a roach or two creeps out from hiding. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 27 2012

Friday Night: All Florida-Bashing Ceases on Shabbat

By at 11:43 am
palm trees

Shabbat shalom, indeed.

Over the summer we moved from Brownstone Brooklyn to suburban Florida. While our three children are thrilled about year-round pool and playground access (which actually is pretty awesome), for me it’s been a rough transition.

I miss my friends. I miss my kids’ friends. I miss my kids’ schools. I miss the front porch of our 100-year old house. I miss being able to walk a few hundred feet to get a coffee, a light bulb, or a manicure.

So yes, I complain about our new home. A lot. Luckily for those obligated to listen to me, though, there is one 25-hour period each week when I cease all Florida bashing. See, on Shabbat, I kind of love it here. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 21 2011

From Urban to Suburban

By at 3:04 pm

boca raton beach

Boca is beautiful, but what's the catch?

Last week, Lili Kalish Gersch shared with us the trials and tribulations of living in a cramped urban apartment with a young kid. Here, we get the flip side from Boca Raton’s newest resident.

Our motivation in moving from Manhattan to the suburbs in South Florida was to save money. We loved most things about our urban lifestyle–the convenience of most errands being only a block away, the ability to order any meal we wanted any time of day, the fact that just walking around the block with our dogs was filled with sights, sounds, and probable run-ins with friends. New York is absolutely a Jewish city but in the way that a cabbie from Haiti will call another driver a putz and the Greek diners serve matzo brei in the spring.

We chose Boca Raton not only because it was close to my parents but since it was relatively affluent, we thought that we might be able to find some of the things we loved about city life like great restaurants, stellar schools, and lots of activities for families.

In New York, being a homebody usually meant you were into things like good restaurants, movies with friends, or a yoga devotee. Here it literally means you don’t go out at night. As a mom of two toddlers, I wasn’t even close to living a socialite lifestyle but like most people I knew, I would get together with friends at least a couple of nights a week.

What I miss most is those “only in New York” moments that can’t be replaced in another region.  Call me unsophisticated but I loved the times I saw Mick Jagger in a restaurant,  a woman walking with a parrot on her shoulder, or Gossip Girl filming in Central Park.  Here in Florida, I’ve lost that feeling of possibility, the sensation that any minute something exciting could happen.

Although the move has afforded us a far nicer lifestyle then we could have had in Manhattan, I can’t help feeling that living here is temporary. It doesn’t quite feel like “real life.” Sometimes it seems like I’ve moved to a Jewtopia where everyone is rich, impossibly fit, and their last name ends in -man, -berg  or the name of a precious metal.  Everyone I speak to, from new friends to neighbors, asks what we’re doing for the holidays. I haven’t experienced this type of Jewish immersion since summer camp.

Of course it’s cool to be able to go swimming every day, and my kids and I love seeing all the strange new wildlife down here. We went from pigeons to pelicans and from rats to reptiles. But most evenings when the sky turns into a screen-saver perfect sunset, I still feel this is all fleeting.

In my mind I’m picking out fall clothing and making plans to meet my Mom friends in the park for a playdate. I like to pretend time has frozen there without me. I really had an amazing and supportive network of friends–most of whom I met after becoming a mom so we bonded in that way only parents in similar stages can, over sleepless nights, toddler meltdowns, and Moms’ Night Out. And although I’ve met a ton of great new moms, the relationships all still have that new car smell. Intellectually I know it takes a while to adjust to a new place and for friendships to grow into a comfort zone. But for now my heart still belongs to NYC.

Nov 1 2011

Everything is Suckier in Texas

By at 11:15 am

So here I am.  I arrived in Austin, Texas, just over a month ago.

We had a bid ready for a beautiful house.  I was committed to giving life here a 110% try.  We were just waiting for my husband’s written offer letter of employment.  He had already accepted verbally, but we needed it in writing.  We could not bid on the house without it.  We waited and waited and waited.  An email arrived asking for a call at the end of the day.  The Senior VP who wanted to hire my husband managed by consensus and allowed another executive to veto my husband at the 11th hour.

My heart hurts for my husband.  How dare someone disrespect him this way?  I wanted to hunt this man down and give him a verbal lashing.  Instead, I hugged my husband and said, “Oh well.  Just means something better is around the corner.  We’ll be fine.”

In the meantime, we have no place to call home, no job, and once again, no baby.  Yup, I had another chemical pregnancy.

We had our first date night in a long time last night. It was not one of our usual fun-filled evenings out together. My husband’s head is consumed with finding a job and mine is filled to the brim with pregnancy stuff. We are “go with the flow” type of folks, so I know it will all be fine and we will end up where we are supposed to be.  But I feel so alone right now.  I miss my momma friends in New York dearly.  A phone call or email is not the same, and who has time?  Meeting for a walk in the park or a quick cup of coffee was always so easy in New York.  I miss seeing Aiven play with his friends and I worry that he may suffer from the lack of interaction with other kids.  Time to get into a mommy group here I suppose. But I have no idea where to find one.

The Upper West Side of New York, with all of its Jewishness, good friends, easily accessible playdates, and really scrumptious food, consumes my thoughts.  I have been plunked down in a land of brown, drought highways, fast food, and nary a Yid for miles.  I used to pride myself on being able to spot a Jew at a hundred paces. I have to look a couple states away to really utilize that skill here.

But the good news is that my plan to escape Texas has legs!  The difference now is that my husband is on board.  Austin is not the Austin of his college days.  He is not the boy of yesteryear.  Requirements change and he sees that now.  He has been applying to jobs (mostly mostly management consulting in technology or finance, for those of you who want to help him out) in different parts of the country, and I can tell he is excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. Right now things are hard, but it won’t last indefinitely.  I know that our new home is somewhere over the horizon.

Aug 30 2011

My Friend Moved Away… and I’m Sad

By at 1:15 pm

One of my closest friends has moved away, and at the risk of sounding dramatic, I am heartbroken. You see, she wasn’t just a friend. She was a Mommy Friend. Those of you who have struggled to keep old friends and make new ones through the transition to parenthood can probably relate to just how sad I am to see her go.

We met at one of those inane Mommy and Me classes that would have been a weekly torture session had I not found a friend. We started out with a few tentative play dates—would our kids (then about 9 months old) get along? Would we have anything to talk about? Is it possible we might actually like each other?

It was all of the above, and more. Not only did our children take an instant liking to each other, but she and I became incredibly close over the next couple of years. All of the moving parts that have to fit into place for Mommy friendships to work actually did. Our schedules matched, our parenting styles were remarkably similar, and our children had a great time together, and soon came to prefer each other to almost anyone else. Best of all, she and I became great friends. We actually found points of connection beyond our kids—we talked about our families and friends, the transition to motherhood, and questions about our career paths.

Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 15 2011

Fearless While Flying

By at 10:29 am

Figuring out how to travel with a baby can be a challenge.

You learn a lot about a person when you travel with her. My newborn is no exception to that rule.

On a recent weekend, my new family flew from Boston to Washington to hunt for a new home, in advance of our upcoming move. Before traveling, we asked our pediatrician, my Mommy and Me class leader, and other new parents for travel tips. We were told to be the last on the plane – rather than first – and to be sure to nurse at take-off and landing. These were useful tips, especially since as new parents, we’re always learning. However, they didn’t totally account for the quirks of my fearless daughter, who revealed some new facets of her personality during our weekend away:

Airport Security. TSA’s agents, for their part, did nothing to make things easy. We had to deconstruct the Bugaboo stroller base from the car seat and put it all on the conveyor belt for screening. When they pulled the insulated bag with my pumped milk for additional screening, I became antsy they would toss it and followed the TSA employee holding that Medela carrying case like a hawk following prey. Luckily, TSA’s light test proved I was carrying breast milk, and the screener returned it to me. Lila, who was in my arms throughout this ordeal, looked entirely unruffled – until we had to get her strapped back into her car seat.

The Flights. As we’d been advised, we boarded last. Lila seemed enthralled by the large number of new faces to study in this new place with a never-before-seen ceiling; ceiling watching is one of her favorite pastimes. Lila was extremely cooperative and focused on eating at take-off and landing. In fact, Lila seemed perfectly content. We had never seen her smile more.

This smilefest transpired in spite of turbulence, which we encountered flying in both directions. Mommy became nervous as our flight bobbed and weaved unpredictably, but Lila remained perfectly placid. On the way to Washington she didn’t even look up during meal time; she remained focused on feeding.

On the return trip, Lila wasn’t interested in eating or remaining obscured by my multicolor-dot nursing cover. During both take-off and landing, Lila did her best to bat back the nursing cover, so that she could see everything around us. Her big eyes hungrily took in everything she could see from my lap. And while she may have noticed the air pressure changing as the plane shifted altitudes, she never cried. Lila took the swings in stride, as if Daddy were rocking her to sleep.

Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 11 2011

Planting Roots, Leaving L.A. Behind

By at 9:38 am

Sarah's plants. Some of them will even be planted in the earth.

I’ve heard the stories at least a hundred times: My Great Grandma Tsiryl dry-heaving over the side of a steamer ship as they rolled up into Baltimore Harbor in 1904. A pregnant Great Grandma Esther stoically clutching the belly that held the baby that would one day be my grandfather while ocean waves battered the hull of the last ship out of Europe before World War I.

Two different women from two different places, and yet they shared such a similar experience with each other and with the thousands upon thousands of other Jewish immigrants who left Eastern Europe for American shores. They crammed their lives into small suitcases – sometimes with incredible forethought, other times in great haste, they kissed their families goodbye, and on trains or buggies or by foot they traveled over hostile terrain toward distant harbors, and ultimately onto ships that would take them excruciatingly slowly, slowly, slowly away from the achingly familiar.

(Cue Itzhak Perlman playing something in a minor key.)

And like so many others who left the cities and shtetls of Eastern Europe during those fragile years at the turn of the 20th century, my Great Grandmothers made it work.  They gave birth to American babies. They raised their children in broken English. They played Mah Jong and drank coffee with other landsman in cramped apartments in big cities far away from their childhood friends. They waited for letters from their families. They dreaded the inevitable telegram. They celebrated mitzvahs and simchas at the synagogue. They sat shiva. They buried their own on foreign soil. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 1 2011

Little Apartment, Big City

By at 12:14 pm

We’ve been sleep-training our baby, which means moving the big boy temporarily into our room so he and the baby don’t disturb each other with their midnight mayhem.  I’m antsy to reclaim my space, and after one recent failed attempt to bring them back together I railed at my husband: that’s it! We need a house! We need more rooms!

Ever the Vulcan, he calmly explained to me that by the time we find a house, bid on it, get financing, close and move in, presumably the sleep issues will have already worked themselves out. Spoken like a man who grew up in a little apartment in a big city.

I, on the other hand, grew up in a big house with more rooms than we really needed. And as our family grows, sometimes our two bedroom apartment in Washington DC feels like it’s bursting at the seams. We’ve started to understand why almost all of our friends dutifully left downtown for the suburbs when baby number two came along. And yet we stay…happily, most of the time.

Raising children in a big city is a mixed bag. For instance: We live in the nation’s capitol. This is awesome, and means that my older son gets to see the White House, the Capitol Building, the Smithsonian museums, and the memorials as a matter of course, and has an amazing array of international friends. It also means that the Vice President’s motorcade zooms past our apartment—noisily—at all hours of the day and night. And I suspect that suburban moms don’t have to stand over their children’s cribs loudly shushing to drown out the sound of the Free Tibet protest down the street.

Then there are the people. Cities seem to economically favor the young and unencumbered and the older and established. What this means, practically, is that in addition to a few 4-year-old playmates at shul, my big boy has befriended the 86-year-old retiree who studies Talmud with my husband and a gaggle of doting young professionals. I love that his world is full of these positive and sometimes unusual things—older Jews continuing to be active and razor sharp, younger Jews voluntarily engaged with Jewish life.  I also kind of wish, though, that our community was filled with more families that looked like ours.

In my imaginary suburban life, I send my kids into the backyard to frolic with the (as yet imaginary) dog on our beautifully manicured lawn. But here in real life, I guess I’ll content myself to grab the kids and head to one of the seven beautiful playgrounds walking distance from our cramped city apartment. While we’re there we’ll probably hear at least four different foreign languages and meet a bunch of new people. Maybe the suburbs can wait.

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