I Left My Heart in…well, you know.

When does a place start to feel like home?

This is a tricky question. I’m 37 years old, and I’ve moved around quite a bit in my lifetime. But, I don’t remember ever feeling like I was sitting around waiting for someplace to become “home.”

When I was a kid, we moved a lot. Pretty much every year while I was in grade school. But, places always felt like home because that’s where all my stuff was, and that’s where mom and dad lived, and so that made it my home.

When I first moved to college, I was just so excited to be there, and to have a place to call my own. I transferred in the middle of the year from junior college to state college, so for a semester, I had my own dorm room. Then the next year I’d have a roommate and a dorm room. Then an apartment for a few years. None of which I never considered to be “home”, because I could always drive up to my real home. I was just someplace I was staying while I went to school.

The year I moved in with my now husband, I suppose that felt like a home. It was an itty bitty place, not even as big as my current bedroom. But we set it up like a real home, it felt very homey, and we felt like we had made it a home in that “playing house” sort of feeling you get in a new cohabiting relationship. We had a few other places together before we got married, and it was the same feeling really.

When we got married, we were renting this dumpy little house, but it was a house and we were married so it very much was our home, and felt like home. We had even talked about offering to buy that house on the off chance we stayed in Wisconsin (we had been long planning to go elsewhere after college, but you never know what will happen, right?). Although, looking back, buying that house would have been a mistake. It was very literally crumbling apart. It would take a lot of work. But it was a cute little place, just what we needed at that time.

When we moved to California, Brien went there ahead of me to start his new job, and I spent six more weeks in Wisconsin to be in my cousin’s wedding and to tie up all the loose ends that go with moving long distance. I was so ready to leave there and be with Brien again, and so ready to live in California, leaving was easy and arriving was even easier.

Brien had semi-furnished the place, and he had the dog there with him already, and I felt like I had arrived at home right away. I missed my friends and family back in Wisconsin, but I did not miss Wisconsin. Wisconsin wasn’t home anymore.

And every new place we moved to in California felt like an upgrade. From our apartment in Silicon Valley, to a flat in San Francisco, to a house in San Francisco. Everything felt like home, especially after we had a baby. I loved San Francisco, and I loved that last house.

Then we were forced to move. The landlords who had been living in Arizona, and then Texas, were moving back and wanted their house back. Our lease was coming to an end and we had to move. In the time we lived there, we had another baby, and a whole bunch of life experiences, and moving out of that house broke my heart.

We found another place, a much smaller place, and it took a good long while for me to feel at home there. I was bitter about having to move, and bitter about downsizing. The location was nice, which softened the blow. Eventually I grew to call that place our home.

Here in Arizona, the feeling of home is taking a while. Even though we chose to move here. Even though the cost of living is amazing. Even though we own our own house now. Even with all of that, I’m struggling.

I hated leaving San Francisco. I had dreamed of living there for so long, living there was an absolute pleasure each and every day. Even when fighting for parking. Even when stepping over the ever-present sidewalk feces that is somehow a problem there. Even living with houses butted up to other houses. The magic of that city was never lost on me.

And I am still adjusting to the weather here. The hottest I ever saw it get in San Francisco was 89 degrees. And that was just one day. The coolest I’ve ever seen it get here was maybe like, 75 degrees. And that was overnight. The sun burns hot and bright all the time here. In San Francisco, the sun was a surprise, a blessing. Here, it is a constant, and it feels like a mean sun, in comparison. The half mile walk to and from Bowie’s school is torturous in the afternoon. I can feel the sun burning my skin. By the time we get home, I’m literally drenched in sweat. I’m not used to it yet, and I’m wondering if I ever will be.

The city, while still a city, makes me feel suburban. Everything is spread out. We drive a lot. No walking a block to the market to get the forgotten dinner ingredient. No walking three blocks to the (nonexistent) ocean. And the houses don’t touch. Something that probably pleases most people, and should likely please me, but it just feels weird, after 10 years of living that way.

Of course I like it here. There are a lot of benefits. A backyard, a front yard, less noise, more space, less sidewalk feces, and the aforementioned cost of living. I do like it. I am just waiting to love it.

I use the phone app Timehop, which shows you your social media posts on that day from 1, 2, 3 plus years ago.  The app is reminding me that one year ago, we were vacationing here. And it dawned on me, I still feel like we’re on vacation here. Like we’re just visiting for a while and then we’ll go back to our real home. And obviously I know that’s not true, but it’s a feeling I just can’t shake for some reason. I feel like there’s a place we need to get back to. Like we are permanently San Francisco residents, and that no matter where we go, that is where we belong.

It’s silly to even enumerate the ways the cities are different, and how many things feel different, of course it’s different here. I should take Tucson as a whole, and embrace it, and find a way to make it feel like home. Because it is, after all, our home now. I don’t know why I keep breaking it down in my head like this. And I find myself talking to people here and inserting the phrase, “In San Francisco…” a lot in conversation. I can hear myself, and I feel like the, “This one time, at band camp…” girl, I feel like they’re thinking, “When will she just shut up about San Francisco already?” but it’s as if I can’t help it.

I had the privilege and pleasure to live in San Francisco for a decade. And now my family and I have moved on. Why is it so hard to accept? I knew it would take time to get used to things here, I just didn’t know it would take this much time. I didn’t think two months in that I’d still be wondering, why doesn’t this feel like home? Am I being ridiculous? I’m being ridiculous, right? Have you ever had this happen? This unshakable feeling that you just belonged somewhere else?

We weren’t forced to move here for any reason. We chose this place. We chose this place for quality of life. For our boys. So, why should I be such a stick in the mud? Somebody tell me this is normal, please.

We’re In Tucson

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but a long-distance move sure keeps you busy. It was a very adventurous move, and I’m so glad to be here in Tucson, unpacking and settling in.

When we left San Francisco, we had lofty plans to drive to Palm Springs, stay the night there, and continue on to Tucson the next day. But, a lot of last minute cleaning, an unanticipated trip to the city dump and a couple of minor snafus had us pulling away from the curb hours after we had planned.

We hit the infamous Bay Area rush hour traffic, and drove for hours but only made it 90 miles in the first leg. We stopped for dinner which took an exorbitant amount of time due to an understaffed diner, so we got an even later start again.

By the time we had actually hit the Palm Springs area, it was 5 a.m., so we took a half hour cat nap and decided to just keep on truckin’. We were tired, but the desire to just have the drive over with, and be at our new house was energizing enough to get us through.

We pulled into the driveway late on a Saturday night, and discovered we didn’t have water. We dealt with that, and then plopped our exhausted selves into bed.

Settling in has been going well. Things are finding a place, and it’s really feeling like home. We’re low on furniture, because we gave it all away when we left. But we have what we need, and we just got fancy new couches a few days ago.

Many neighbors have stopped by to introduce themselves, including some board members of the neighborhood association. It’s been great getting to know people, and I can’t wait to meet more people when the boys start school.

I still have moments where I miss San Francisco like you wouldn’t believe, but for the most part I’m fine. I certainly like it here, it’s a great city with a lot to do, and I love our house and the fact that it’s OURS. It makes it feel even homier to know that we own it ourselves.

So, stay tuned for stories of all of our Tucson adventures, there’s going to be a lot of them!

A Letter to my Sons as I Move them 800 Miles From Home

Dear boys,

I moved around a lot when I was a kid. I moved every single year in grade school. New school, new neighborhood, new friends, new everything. Every time we moved we had to start all over again. Sometimes I had to give away pets, which was so sad.

I also moved a bunch of times in middle school and high school. We just changed houses in the same city, but it came with a lot of the disruption of a long-distance move. And I switched houses every year in college.

I always told myself I would find a place I loved living and never leave. And I found San Francisco. And it has been the most amazing 10 years of my life. This city is amazing, and I felt so fortunate to be able to be raising my family here. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one city, and I consider it to by my home.

The one caveat to living in such a great city is that it costs so much. We are throwing so much money at food and rent alone, it’s a miracle we have anything leftover for other stuff. And we looked into buying a house here. Hahahahahaha. Not only would it cost us in the neighborhood of $1 million, but we’ll still be living on top of each other in one of these tiny row houses.

So, mommy and daddy decided to expand our house-buying horizons, and now we are moving to Tucson. Which you guys seem totally stoked about, but I’m afraid for the feelings that will come when reality sets in for you. And I’ve got all these childhood memories flooding back to me of how it felt to move. To be the new girl once again. To have to make a new room mine again. To have to get used to a new city’s way of doing things.

I’m sorry to be moving you to a new city. San Francisco is where you were born, and the only home you know. And I hope you’re old enough to remember how awesome that was. But, Tucson is great too. And you’ll find lots to do, and tons of new friends to hang out with.

I understand now how my mom and dad felt each time we moved. How hard it must have been for them to uproot us all those times. But, they were following opportunities, and they knew they were making the best decision. And as parents, that’s all we can do for you guys really, just close our eyes and jump into the abyss and hope this is really as right for our family as it feels right now.

We are going to make the absolute best of Tucson. It’s a fun place to live, very vibrant and beautiful. We are going to make new friends together, we are going to find our new favorite restaurants and parks and museums. We are going to get a new library card and find a new swim school. We are going to be able to do what we do here, it will just be a little different at first. But we’ll get the hang of it.

Let’s also try to enjoy our last three weeks in San Francisco. Let’s go to all of our favorite spots and say goodbye. Goodbye for now, because it’s not as if San Francisco is going anywhere, we can and will visit.

It’s going to be awesome, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. I love you guys.

Mom

First Grade So Far

first grade

We have a first grader in our house now. A FIRST GRADER. We have now completed week one back at school, in the new first grade routine. A rocky start, but not as rocky as the start of the school year last year. And last year’s start was better than the year before. Progress.

I recently acquired a ton of new readers, so I will take a brief moment to explain our kiddo’s situation a bit. When he was in preschool, we were having major issues with his behavior. He was being very aggressive toward the other kids, and also toward us, for no apparent reason. After some meetings with the preschool director, lots of reading and research, and some visits to an occupational therapist, he was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (a good place to read up on this is here).

When asked why he was pushing or hitting other children, he’d respond with, “I thought they were going to bump into me.” Or, “I was afraid they would step on me.” He was so sensitive about his body-in-space issues and his personal space bubble that he was trying to avoid being hurt or touched by taking matters into his own hands, the only way a 3 year old could figure out how to fix his environment to suit him.

So, we saw some therapists, tried some intensive therapies, changed some things at home, and he’s made amazing strides. He regressed a bit when his younger brother was born, but we’ve made progress since then too. He’s still very sensitive to his environment, and has trouble regulating his emotions.

Calling names, swearing and screaming have replaced the hitting and pushing. The verbal has replaced the physical. For example, now if someone comes “too close” at school or on the sidewalk, he says, “They’re dumb.” Or something to that effect. Even though he doesn’t know them, and they haven’t done anything.

At first, I was just glad he wasn’t hurting other kids. But now, I’m not sure it’s any better. With the physical stuff, at least we could point out that not a lot of other people go around hitting and pushing everyone around them. But with the language? People call each other names all the time, even just as a joke. I’ve had to make him stop watching even certain G-rated movies because characters are going around calling each other idiots and morons. And swearing? I can curb my language to the absolute best of my ability, but how do I keep him from hearing it in public? People walking by our house on the street are yelling swear words. So, the language is proving much more difficult to correct.

I think he’s doing remarkably well in first grade, considering what an adjustment I’m sure that it was for him. We always said we were going to make him do workbooks and reading exercises all summer, and we were going to spend the last few weeks of summer vacation getting him back on his school year schedule, with an earlier bedtime and earlier rise time, etc.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Between the move taking over our entire month of July, and his complete and ugly unwillingness to do any of the above, we didn’t do much of that. But August 18 eventually showed up at our doorstep anyway. And he had to wake up at 6 am, and he had to eat breakfast instead of zoning out in front of the TV. And he had to get dressed and then walk to school, instead of, you know, zoning out in front of the TV. He doesn’t respond well to transitions. Which is a total understatement. I mean, the kid basically shuts down when we ask him to change into his pajamas at night. And this was a pretty big change. So, I feared the worst.

The first day went well, though he was a bit grumpy and exhausted afterward. The second day was ROUGH. He said “shit” a few times and ended up in a time out (which I’m not wild about, but it’s her classroom, so *shrug*). I took away some privileges for the afternoon because of the swearing, so it was a fitful, screaming, name-calling evening. The third day was better, but he told me later that his shoes kept coming untied and he had lost his lunch box so it was “such a horrible day!” Day four was good. Normal. Got his work done, didn’t get in trouble. Day five was better but still rough, I think he was just tuckered out. We went for ice cream after school to celebrate the end of the first week. He got called a name by another kid as we walked to get ice cream, and was incredibly emotional about it. I sympathized, but also reminded him that he does that to other people. Which he didn’t really respond well to. But, he was very well-behaved that afternoon. Perhaps because of the promise of the weekend ahead of him.

ice cream

I hope this week and the weeks to follow go just as smoothly. I hope he doesn’t get too comfortable and start acting up. But as far as I can tell, the wrinkles in his personality caused by the SPD are starting to smooth themselves out. And he’s maturing into a great student. His teacher and I just take things one day at a time.

Now, his behavior at home…that’s another story for another time. But hey, one step at a time.

banner

Onward

 

I still remember the moment we pulled up in front of this house.

We had a lease in an expensive neighborhood that was about to run out, and if we renewed, the landlord would raise the rent. Again. We were desperate to move to our current neighborhood, where we’d have more space, lower rent, and be super close to a kick ass preschool that some of our friends’ kids went to.

Everything we’d looked at or found on Craigslist was too small, too pricy, totally dilapidated, in the wrong neighborhood, or, in one instance, above a liquor store. I remembered seeing a picture of this particular one on Craigslist, but it had blended in with the hundreds of other pictures I viewed of total duds, and those we couldn’t afford.

When we pulled up to it, it was like we were breathing fresh air again for the first time in a long time. And then we met the super sweet, very inviting landlord. And then we went inside, and really fell in love.

I always knew in the back of my mind that we were only renting and would have to leave someday, but that didn’t stop me, or all of us, from letting it start to really feel like home. Our home.

This year we made some big plans to buy our own house. Which is no small feat in San Francisco. So, we made some big budget plans too, and a savings plan that will hopefully take only a year, and then we’d be ready to move onward and upward. One more year here, we thought, and off we go.

So, when the landlord told us they wouldn’t be renewing our lease this year, that instead they themselves would be moving back in, it knocked us on our butts and we didn’t even know what hit us.

We were faced with grim prospects when it came to new places. We had lived in our old house for 4 years, and in that time they raised our rent by $100. In the meantime, rent for similar places had gone up $1500. Which we could probably afford, but then all that saving up for our own place that we were going to do would have gone out the window. So, we had to try to stay close to the same price, but find something livable.

The first apartment I looked at made me want to cry. It was tiny, dark, dingy, falling apart, had ancient appliances and had a fire escape out the window of what would have been the boys’ room. And for that kind of rent, I could never see myself raising my family there. I looked at a few more in that range.

We completely lucked out, really, finding the house that we did. It’s a similar style house, it is actually a house and not an apartment, we can use the garage and backyard, it has laundry, it has nice-sized bedrooms, it was a really good fit for us. And best of all, rent was about $100 less. 

We made a huge effort to impress the landlord. Luckily we have good credit scores, and a good relationship with our past landlords, and the new landlord really seemed to like us, and the place was ours.

After we moved most of our stuff in, we had some odds and ends at the old place and a ton of cleaning to do. As I chipped away at it, and the old place got emptier and emptier, it really clicked that we were leaving that house behind. And I realized how sad that made me.

Typically I don’t get too attached to houses. We moved around a LOT when I was a kid, and when I was in college I moved every year. Moving was just what you did at the beginning of every summer. When we moved to California, we had an apartment for two years in the Silicon Valley. Then we moved to the city, and lived in that flat for three years. It was hard to leave that one, because that’s where we had Bowie, where we became a family. But, leaving there was our choice. We had reasons. We wanted a different house.

Leaving this one was not our choice. We loved living there. We had even joked about asking them if they’d sell it to us, once we were ready to buy.

Like I said, we knew it wasn’t our house. That someday we’d have to leave, for one reason or another. But that didn’t mean we wouldn’t be surprised when we were asked to leave, and supremely bummed out to have to go.

So, out of sadness, anger, frustration and just plain old disappointment, I’ve started noticing all the things I’m not fond of in the new house. The house that seemed like it had fallen from the sky directly into our laps, a gift from some higher power at just the moment we needed it.

A list of things I don’t like about our new house:

1. It’s not our old house.

2. It’s further from Bowie’s school. So mornings mean a long walk to school, or driving him there.

3. To do the laundry or go into the back yard, we have to go outside to the street level and in through the front of the garage. Mildly annoying.

4. Also annoying about the cars driving by: we are right on the corner, and unlike most of the other intersections in our neighborhood, it is not a 4-way stop, but only a 2-way stop with oncoming traffic that does not stop. So, at least once a day, often more, I hear someone skidding to a stop and honking their horn incessantly because another driver wasn’t paying attention.

5. There’s no dishwasher.

6. There’s no garbage disposal.

7. There’s a street light right outside our bedroom window.

But, it’s absurd, really. We went from functioning house to functioning house, roof over our heads to roof over our heads. Being picky about the house is certainly a First World Problem. And I really need to remember that.

Besides, there’s a good number of things I do like:

1. We’re 3 blocks from the ocean.

2. The next door neighbors are a really sweet older couple that have already stopped by to introduce themselves, given the boys a small gift, repaired a little hole in the sidewalk near our driveway, given us protips about the street parking here and pulled our garbage bins back to our house on garbage day.

3. I have a lot more space for gardening than I had before. So much more! Barring gopher issues, I should really have a lot of success back there. The yard also comes complete with a peach tree and two pear trees! Gotta love that.

4. The kitchen is bigger and more open. I can see and hear what the boys are doing either from the living room or from their bedroom while I cook and clean.

5. The whole house is brighter. There are so many more windows in a corner house, and the way the house faces, we have sun almost all day.

6. The house is SO MUCH LESS DRAFTY. That was one of the things I highly disliked about the old place. You could feel the wind blow through the glass in the living room. So, nice, new, non-drafty windows are a plus.

7. We have much better cell phone reception than we had before. I used to have to go outside to make a phone call, or at the very least go all the way to the back of the house and stand next to a window. But here, I can make calls all around the house! In the living room! In the KITCHEN!

We are likely only going to be here for one year. Bowie’s first grade year. Ferris’ first year of preschool. It should zip right by. And maybe after my feelings of loss start to ease up I can let myself settle in and really enjoy it here. We’re still in the city that we love, and we’re still in the neighborhood that we love, and we still have a place to call home. I’m grateful for all of that.

Different

Whenever I have a conversation with a friend who already has more than one child, the topic of how different they all are from one another always comes up. Little Johnny did x, y and z. Little Susie did none of those, she did a, b and c instead.

The basic feeling you leave this conversation with each time is HOLY LORD, my baby was such an awesome sleeper / eater / pooper / bather / babysitter stayer-wither that surely, SURELY, another child will just be hell.

I’m trying not to psych myself out too much on the subject. But, there are a few things I’m starting to wonder about as Life With Two Children creeps closer and closer.

Here’s a list of the things Bowie never did:

1. Spit up. Never. Really, he literally never did.

2. Require formula. Breastfed like a champ. Took me a few weeks to get used to it, but he was right there from day 1.

3. Need to go to the emergency room. Not once! Well, knock on wood, the kid is only 4. But I read about people having to take their infant to the ER and I can feel the terror in my veins.

4. Get constipated. Never. Not once. Oh the horror stories I’ve read about babies who can’t poop.

And some things Bowie thankfully did spectacularly:

1. Slept. At first it was the typical newborn wake-every-two-hours routine. But, within a month he was sleeping 4 hours at a time overnight, and slept through the night at 3 months old.

2. Like I said, breastfed. Zero issues. 13 months. Nailed it.

3. Self soothed with a pacifier. As a wee one, he had trouble keeping it in his mouth. But, it always worked to help soothe him to sleep. See also: didn’t become a thumbsucker.

4. Didn’t get attached to a lovey. I kind of secretly hoped he would. It’s just cute. I also assumed he would, as for a time in my own childhood I couldn’t leave the house without my stuffed Bugs Bunny, two small stuffed dogs and two blankets. But now I’m pretty glad, both because I’ve never had the “WHERE’S THE LOVEY?” bedtime scare, and also it says a lot about his confidence.

5. Transition to a toddler bed. SEAMLESS. Well, he fell out the first few nights. But after that ended: SEAMLESS.

So, I kind of have a mini heart attack whenever I think about having to do these things all over again with Little Man #2. Clearly it won’t go they way it did before. There’s just no way we could be that lucky twice.

And there are some things Bowie didn’t do well at all. Like not even a little bit:

1. Potty training. Holy hell you guys, it took us an entire year and a half to get this kid fully, completely, wearing-underpants-instead-of-Pull-Ups potty trained. When people warn you as a new parent that you’ll be dealing with lot of pee and poo, they’re not talking about diapers. 

2. Fall asleep alone. As a baby he would nurse until he fell asleep. And when I weaned, I gave him a cup of milk which he drank to fall asleep. And when we finally, begrudgingly, took away the cup of milk around age 2 1/2, one of us had to sit in there with him or lie in his bed with him until he drifted off. We’ve only been able to leave him alone in his room, unassisted in any way, to fall asleep for about 3 months now. Yes, three months ago, I was still climbing in bed with him. And even now, bedtime is still not without its hang ups.

3. Napping. Well, he did fine. Average. I mean, I did tell you he was a great sleeper. But, he was totally done with naps by age 2. I was so jealous of all my playgroup friends who were so bummed to have to leave to get home for naptime. I wanted to shake them and yell, “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW LUCKY YOU ARE?” Not that he absolutely won’t ever take a nap, BUT if we allow it, he will be up until 10, maybe 11 p.m. So not cool. But I have friends with 4 year olds who can allow a nap, and still have a reasonable bedtime. SO. JEALOUS.

In a perfect world, some of this stuff would be exactly the same for the new dude, and some stuff would be totally the opposite. But, need I remind you, this is not a perfect world? It’s a little terrifying, the prospect of not knowing how all this stuff is gonna go down. I feel pretty confident doing this mom thing, but they’re going to hand me a tiny, squirmy, blank slate of a human being in 5 weeks. And it’s going to be, “What the heck do I do with this?” all over again.

If you have 2 or more kiddos, how did it go for you? Were they pretty much the same as each other? Or were they so vastly different from each other that you refuse to believe that they are made of the same genetic material?