Monday, December 24, 2018

What I Hope I'll Remember - Christmas 2018

Our boys are four (and a half!) and two, and Christmas is pure magic. Every day is a true joy, with something new to discover for them or for us that enhances the spirit of the season. But I find myself wondering if I'll remember the perfect little moments, so I want to take a moment on this Christmas Eve to write a few of them down. What I hope I'll remember about this year's Christmas:

The boys' current obsession with music, specifically Christmas music. For each new song, we hear a mini-chorus of, "What song is this?" from the backseat, and they both know almost all the words to several songs, including "Jingle Bells" (all the verses, too!), "Rudolph," "Feliz Navidad," and a few others!

Spending two full days with their cousins (my brothers' 20-month-old twins). They are running, climbing, talking, giggling, learning machines, and we love them to pieces!

Actually finishing our gift wrapping somewhat early, but still being up past 10 pm on Christmas Eve (mostly due to Terry building Marshall's big-kid bike!).

Marshall being terrified of most television shows, especially The Grinch, and prohibiting us from watching it this year (or reading the book!). Maybe next year?

Declan copying almost everything his brother does related to Christmas but not really understanding most of it and rolling with it anyway. That kid is the essence of joy, wrapped in a slightly chunky, deliciously squeezable toddler package.

Marshall running out to the living room each morning to build the newest piece of his Lego Advent Calendar from his grandparents. (We also got for Declan, but he opened all the pieces within two days and we haven't seen them since...) His focus and innocence astounds me every day.

Our first visit with kids to the City at Christmastime, including riding every single escalator at Nordstrom and checking out the tree at Union Square.

Juggling the magic and joy of Christmas as well as a tough phase for Marshall, where transitions are especially tough again and we're dealing with LOTS of tantrums over even the most minor requests. It started several weeks ago and has carried us right up to Christmas, but we're hoping this phase passes soon.

Marshall and Declan requesting to see various Christmas lights displays every day on the way home. Favorites are "Jack" (a huge display with one Jack Skellington among tons of other snowmen and lights) and "music lights" (our neighborhood's light display with accompanying music).

Being willing to forego some traditions in favor of my sanity, more time together, and realizing that we don't need to check off every tradition to make the season special.

Mostly, feeling genuinely focused on this beautiful season and finding ways to spend time together as a family. Terry and I feel so, so blessed to have each other and to be raising these wonderful little boys, and we are more and more grateful every day for all our extended family and friends with whom we can share the ups and downs of life. Wishing a very happy holiday season to you and yours.

Monday, December 3, 2018

One Year in the Bay Area

December 3. One year ago today, we packed up our sweet, beloved apartment. We tucked away all our belongings and all our memories and loaded them into a giant truck. We spent one final night in a hotel in our favorite neighborhood and then made the drive up the state to northern California.

I remember all too well the day we arrived at our new home. We were, of course, emotionally exhausted. Our kids were tired and probably confused about the move. Marshall was three and a half, and Declan was just over a year old. We arrived on a cold, clear evening, and I got my first glimpse of the new neighborhood.

Of course moving days never go smoothly. We had to wait while our landlord made her way through traffic to us to get our key. Then she wanted to show us the house, but I just wanted to get dinner for the kids and get to our temporary housing, since the moving truck with all our belongings wouldn't be there for several days. We were cold and tired, and I felt overwhelmed.

And so began what may well be the hardest month of my life (so far). Terry was focused on starting his new job and making a good impression, so I wrangled two toddlers all day at our temporary housing while he worked long hours and then came home to give the rest of his energy to all of us. I struggled with Declan transitioning from two naps to one, so every day was different and I couldn't plan what to do with the kids. Marshall, too, was teetering between napping some days and not napping others, so the change of location didn't help at all. I was also still working remotely for my job in LA and scrambled to squeeze in as much work as I could while the kids slept or played or whenever Terry was home.

I look back on those days--the temporary housing, the move-in at our actual place, the transition for myself and the kids--and remember a blur of tears, physical and emotional exhaustion, questioning whether we had made the right choice to move. I needed help and didn't have my village yet, and it made me so, so tired.

On top of all the regular moving stress, our landlord didn't warn us that our roof would be replaced during the first week we moved in, so we walked out one day to find roof debris all over all the boxes and items we had not yet unpacked and were storing in the garage. My stress shot through the roof (pun not intended), and I broke out in "stress bumps" all over my tongue, making talking and eating pure agony for several weeks.

Despite the stress of the move, we quickly found a Christmas tree in an attempt to get in the spirit of the season. Exhausted and overwhelmed as I was by the daunting piles of boxes, I was determined to put out our Christmas decorations.

In that month, the blur of holding two boys at once, rocking one kid while shushing another, crying a lot, and running errands just for the sake of getting out and having something to do, I did find joy in my sweet boys. Little moments are frozen in my memory, like driving around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights (while waiting for Declan to fall asleep, to give myself a one-night break from putting Declan down while Marshall ran in and woke him up every thirty seconds), or sipping hot chocolate with Marshall at Whole Foods. In the last week or so, as the leaves on the trees and chilly weather have started to resemble the conditions we saw in our neighborhood upon first moving in, I've felt a mix of emotions--some joy at being so much more settled, so much more confident that this was the right choice, and some anxiety, recalling how hard that time was and how difficult the months were that followed.

And then--slowly, slowly, we started to find our groove. By January 8, the one-month mark in our new house, I had unpacked every box and had made the place feel more like home. Terry hit a stride at work and has been loving it ever since. And we finally realized that our dream of living in the Bay Area had actually come true.

We visited national parks with stunning redwoods.

We took full advantage of our Christmas gift from my brother and sister-in-law, a membership to one of the best children's museums in the nation.

 We visited San Francisco several times, and it is now one of Marshall's very favorite places.

(Barking like a sea lion)

We found new beaches and embraced the reality of always being cold at the beach.

We met Thomas the Tank Engine in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

We visited Monterey Bay Aquarium and had a pretty good time. :-)

 When I felt ready, I accepted a job offer, and now I feel very proud of what I do and where I work.

But I must mention that the in-between time was really, really hard. I felt so lost and confused for a solid half of a year. On one hand, I was the one who had always wanted to move back to the Bay Area (where I grew up), but now that my wish had come true I was missing LA (a place I struggled to love for so long!). I felt detached and mixed emotions toward my husband. I was proud of him and grateful for his hard work getting us closer to our long term goal, but I found it hard to be happy for him when I had been forced to leave a wonderful job and our favorite apartment ever. Now, looking back, it's much easier to feel like it was always going to be okay, but I want to acknowledge that for a while I did not feel okay.

In January, Marshall started a preschool program that, while not the exact replica of the beloved program he enjoyed in LA, has been a wonderful, nurturing second home for him. In October, Declan joined, too, and we have built a small community of friends for the whole family. We like the weather better here, a little less heat and sunshine-all-the-time and a bit more rain and chill when we need it. As shown above, we are truly embracing all the local day trips and opportunities that the Bay Area affords. For me, it is a blessing to finally live close to my family again, after 14 years of being more than five hours away. Plus, sourdough bread is one of my very favorite things.

We miss LA. A lot. We miss the incredible food, our wonderful friends and family, our adorable neighborhood, my job, our work communities, the jacaranda trees, our perfect apartment. We miss the comfort of feeling comfortable, of knowing the streets and the sights and the sounds so well. We miss UCLA--the place where we met and fell in love and where I worked for so many years. We miss driving by the hospital where we brought our boys into the world. LA will always, always hold a place in our hearts, and I think both of us feel like we might want to go back one day.

But now, the Bay Area is our home. And really, all those cliches about home being where the heart is and how it's not where you are but whom you're with that matters--well, they're true.

Tonight we shared a bottle of champagne to celebrate one year in the Bay Area. It was probably the toughest year of our marriage, even harder than bringing each of our children into the world, because we each experienced it so differently, so separately. But now, we are safely here. We are together. Our boys are settled and happy. We are both grateful for our jobs and feel good about what the future holds. We get to spend time (though never as much as we would like) with the people we love. We get to appreciate California and its opportunities in a way we didn't before. It was all a total gamble, but I'm glad we took the risk together. Our marriage is stronger because we found ways to communicate even when it was hard, and we kept each other and our boys at the center of our focus amidst the chaos of moving, transitioning jobs, feeling off-balance.

One year after our long, bittersweet drive up the state, we are very, very happy. Here's to whatever is next!