Friday, November 21, 2014

Boston!

I am a bit back blogged, so I'm writing a few posts at the same time.

We are moving to Boston! Matt got a job with Eaton Vance, an asset management firm, and he started earlier this week. I freaked out a few weeks ago that we didn't have a place to live and decided to go find one. I did, and we'll be living in Newton, on a lovely street in a lovely neighborhood filled with families. It's about a four minute walk to the train, a seven minute walk to Newton Highlands (a mini downtowny area) and about a 15 minute walk to Newton Center (a bigger downtown area with great coffee, ice cream and felafel (and other stuff too)). We are renting the house, and we will look to buy at some point in the next few years.

We are really excited about Boston - we have a couple of good friends, a few excellent cousins, and we know a few other people - but it's very much a new place for us. We haven't lived there, and to be honest, we hadn't really considered living there until it turned out there were loads of jobs that interested Matt there. It seems like a great place to live - smart and interesting people, mountains and ocean all close, a nice city to enjoy, lots of places to travel to in only a few hours...we think we will be happy there. We are aiming to stay for the long run - and we will see how it goes!

One thing I keep trying to remember (and this book, "Homeward Bound" super helped with this) is that Boston isn't "home" yet. While in our heads we were "going back home" - we're now going to be in a place where we don't know where to get things, we don't know whom to call when something breaks, we don't have a posse of friends, we don't know whom to ask for lots of specific things. This is a new place - even though America is still "home." We will have to be patient with settling there, but we're optimistic.

Just in case moving across the world and into a new climate wasn't enough excitement, we're also going to have a baby. Baby is due in early June but will probably be born in May, since I will need another c-section. So far everything seems good.

Big changes coming our way...

Serious FEAR of Winter

I grew
 up in Michigan. I grew up skiing, sledding, playing in the snow. I walked to work when I lived in NY City, throughout the year. I love cold weather. I love winter. But I am terrified of this winter.

We came to the US in Jan of 2012 (super fun trip for me...ok not really...), but that was for five weeks, we had one kid, and I was pretty much inactive with lots of help. I was also in the US in March 2009 when I studied at Wharton and I came during a SUPER cold and snowy time in January of 2013 for a work thing on Cape Cod. Other than that, no winter in seven years and also no winter with kids. And I have seen complaints on Facebook, especially last winter, about how brutal it is with kids.

What am I afraid of? I can't figure out the details of how it all works.
* Kids can't go in car seats in puffy jackets. Puffy jackets are warm. Currently Sam has her warm, winter jacket and her warm-ish fall jacket for the car. If we're running into the house, so can wear the fall one, but otherwise, she wears the warm one, gets into the car, takes it off, puts the other one on and gets buckled into her car seat. This requires her to figure this all out in a small space of a car, and it also requires me to turn around over the back of the front seat to help her - all twisted. Is there an easier way? Unclear. In and out of the car has been a challenge - but we are getting better at it the more we practice. Samara and Elie are totally fine and patient with it - it just seems like such a pain in the ass!

* Elie has been sleeping in a long sleeved onesie and warm pajamas with a warm, armless sleepsack. He seems fine, but my parents' house is warm. What if our house in Boston is not warm? What else can I put on him, since he can't do blankets?

* This is a simple one - but I have basically only worn flip flops and keens for the last seven years. How do you bend down to tie your shoes when you are carrying a baby who takes off the second you put him down?

* What if the kid doesn't keep the winter gear on? Sam didn't keep on gloves when we were here in Jan 2012. Her hands froze and she still didn't keep them on. She didn't get the logic of "I put the gloves on and my hands stay warm." I just got one of those super warm sleeping bag things for Elie's stroller, so hopefully he won't need gloves anyway...

* What is too cold to go outside? I can't imagine keeping my kids inside all day - we have to go do something in the afternoon or Samara is a piece of work in the evening - so shall we go to the library each day? I think we will probably just go outside unless it's below 20 or something. Is that right? Is that too cold? Who knows!

The carrying of all of the stuff plus the kid, holding the other kid's hand, while I myself am in full puffy gear with gloves (or god forbid without gloves)...it's all just a mystery at this point, but we will sort it out. Piece by piece.

On the other hand, Samara is LOVING the snow, and Elie is LOVING watching Sam love the snow. Sam needs to wear her winter boots everywhere (thanks Pam!), because she absolutely cannot handle walking where it's shoveled. She needs to walk where the snow is deepest. And she has the biggest smile on her face. And he watches her smile and cracks up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Traveling with Kids

Apparently I didn't complain and whine enough about traveling with my kids. While we were visiting people in the last few weeks a few people told me that they were surprised to hear me say that I was done traveling - that it was hard for me and it exhausts me. They said I make it look so easy. So I wanted to set the record straight - I have a HARD time traveling! The kids, on the other hand, are almost always amazing. It's just me.

These past two weeks we went to Boston, Westchester (outside of New York City), Washington DC and San Francisco area. Matt wanted to go to Israel, Ireland, a major road trip in the US and probably five other trips as well. I said I would not do international travel and I would go for two weeks. I mean, our kids are four (she's easy) and one (he's NOT!). So this is what he came up with. All in all, it went super smoothly, it was great to see people (as many as we could - not time to see everyone we wanted...), the kids were amazing and super flexible, and I was tired and complained a lot. If it were up to me, I would never travel right now. Before we had kids I was up for nearly anything, all the time. Now...I am stressed by sleeping situations, finding food to eat for each meal, nap times and bed times plus dealing with my kids while I'm exhausted.

Sam and Elie slept in tons of different places. They slept in my cousins' bedrooms in Boston, Sam slept in three different rooms in our friend's house in DC, with a gigantic horse on the floor of an extra bedroom in Briarcliff Manor and in a bedroom on the floor of a random Air B&B house in Palo Alto. She slept in her car seat. She slept on the plane. We tell her it's nap time, and sometimes while in a vehicle she needs incentives (after you wake up you can have an m&m...), but she's amazing. She puts her thumb in her mouth, closes her eyes and she's gone. ("Daddy, how can you fall asleep without sucking your thumb?") Elie was also a champ in four different pack n'plays and in loads of different rooms and car seats. He's a bit trickier, but hey, he eats, so you can't have it all...

So, now we are done. Perhaps a long weekend up north, but I'm pretty sure that's all. For years.

Samara suspicious of Uncle Jeff in the sukkah

Elie with Nancy in Boston

Savta was super helpful in Boston

Samara and Sadie

We met Jerry and Makenzie in Delaware for a quick hello

Samara meets her cousin, Andrew for the first time

Samara, Bubbie and Aunt Pearl in Virginia

Samara and Max, super heros!

Ice cream with Max and Stella

"Mom, take a picture of me like this" (in the airport)

Visiting Uncle Dan's music shop in Menlo Park

Elie enjoys the lunch at Google, and we enjoy Dheeraj!

Group shot at Google with the Lollipop which was announced that morning

Uncle Dan wins the award for best uncle of the week


Tall redwoods!


Tall when they're lying horizontal too!

Visiting David at Apple

Reviewing safety procedures on the plane

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sleep Trained...again

The biggest news recently is that Elie has been sleep trained AGAIN. He sucked so bad at sleeping recently that we had to rock him to sleep EVERY time he went to sleep. My back was breaking. My arms were weak. I HATED putting him to bed. At night it sometimes took an hour to get him to fall asleep. We missed going out to a Tiger's game because of it. Ugh.

(Other than that, he has been a lovely, happy baby. Learning lots of new things each day. Still only has one word: quack (as in a duck). Eats nearly everything. Smiles. Laughs. Makes jokes. Just COULD NOT get himself to sleep for his life)

Then, two weekends ago, I had a luxurious three day weekend in New York City. I went for a friend from childhood's wedding (I wasn't actually invited to the wedding, but that's another story, and the bride and groom were happy I was there - and it was an AMAZING wedding, and I was so glad I was there too!), and I added a few days to see a few other people whom I love and have a bit of childless time to catch up. I had good catch ups with Ellen from Pardes (and met her daughter for the first time), had fantastic time and good food with Eli, had breakfast with and got to meet Emily, Ari's new fiancee (Ari from Singapore...), my cousin Hallie, Vishal and Therese from Singapore (and I met their son for the first time), friends Jeremy and Terese and their kids, Julia (also from Singapore...) and then I got a great walk and chat with Sarah and met up with the camp friends (Freya and Daniel) for Jay's wedding. Wow - to have no responsibilities beyond myself. Wow - to walk and walk and walk in this city that I love. And wow - that wedding...it was amazing to be around people who were part of the formative years of Melanie, and also it was just a beautiful, beautiful wedding with a fantastic bride and groom.

So...I may have drank a bit at the wedding...and also perhaps I didn't go to sleep so early...so by the time I came home on Monday I was pretty useless. At night I tried to rock Elie to sleep a little bit, but I had no energy. I was hating every minute of it. So I gave him a kiss, told him I loved him and I left him in his bed.

And he cried.

And cried.

And cried.

For FIFTY minutes.

But then he slept through the night.

Tuesday morning he woke as normal, nursed, ate breakfast, and I put him down to sleep again, with a kiss and a few minutes of rocking, but he was not sleeping.

And he cried again...for fifty minutes.

Now I had told people he was literally not capable of putting himself to sleep. I had previously let him cry for HOURS, and it was just awful, but the truth is that I always went in eventually. I hadn't had my hard assed approach (at least in a few months) that no matter what (other than fire or something seriously wrong), I would not go in his room from 7pm - 7am. I don't think I realized that I hadn't actually given him the chance.

I KNEW that if I went in, even after 45 minutes (which is the time I had set for the last few weeks), he would then know that I was coming eventually.

Tuesday afternoon I did the same thing, but he only cried for five minutes.

Tuesday night NO CRYING. And since then (other than once when he was super late for his nap and he was super hungry) NO CRYING!!! Even when he slept in my brother's bathroom last weekend (that's another story) and my parents' house for naps and for a night. Nothing!!! I don't know if he goes to sleep right away or what, but he's quiet and he is rested when he wakes up. Boy do I love him more.

In other news we had a LOVELY time in Chicago this past weekend, visiting my brother, a few cousins and a few friends. We weren't able to fit too much in with nap schedules, but we got a few minutes at the park with Daniel, Annie and Judah, a yummy taco dinner, a playground date with Marla, Kirsten, Ian and Lily, a lovely catch up with Eric's mom, Phyllis (also from Singapore), a nice time with our cousins and a super brunch with Matt's friends (and mine too at this point...) Christen and Brian and their awesome daughters. We loved all of the visits and overall the travel was easy.

A few things I have noticed:
Many of the people I love visiting I met in Singapore. I don't think I realized it would be that way when I met them there, but it turns out they're really good friends, we have a lot in common and I care a lot about them. Who knew?! :)

Samara is still seriously hard to manage. When I ask her to do something she says, "NO!" a lot of the time. And I'm not quite sure what to do about it. I got the book 1-2-3 Magic, as I heard that is helpful, but man is it exhausting to have to spend a half hour on getting dressed, then 20 minutes on going to the bathroom before we go to school, anther 10 on which shoes to wear...oh, and that's just before 8am. She's also still very difficult with food (though getting SLIGHTLY better). That's really frustrating too...

I don't think the culture shock of anything has really hit too much (yet?). I have a few moments, but nothing that has totally freaked me out or overwhelmed me an unreasonable amount. There are still a lot of details to sort out, so perhaps my brain is busy with those. Car seats. Warm clothes for the kids. Mobile phones. Closed toed shoes. New York. Chicago and upcoming travel too...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Stable Instability

We are living in stable instability. At least for Samara. We are stable. We are living at my in-laws. Sam is in school (thank goodness!), loving four days a week at Temple Israel and one day at Bright Loritos, in Chinese. She's loving gymnastics. She loves stable routine. Yet...our stuff is on a ship. We aren't staying in Michigan past year-end. None of us really wants to get too invested in our life as it is now, as it will change very quickly, and we will have to just get all settled again. Matt and I are trying to deal with that reality as well as possible, but poor Sam. These are hard things for an almost-four-year-old.

Overall, we are doing great in our temporary life. We are enjoying being so close to family. We are loving the weather. We are loving not having to work. We are definitely enjoying...but it's also a hard time since nothing is forever, and like I said, it's some hard adjustments for a little lady.

Elie at Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo

Since I last wrote, we went to the west side of Michigan with Matt's parents, and we stayed in my cousins' gorgeous place, right on Lake Michigan. THANKS LENORE AND JOEL!! We had a lovely stop at Bell's brewery for lunch, fun on the beach, lots of relaxing time (including GORGEOUS sunsets) on the porch and just chilling in South Haven, a little hike, a farmer's market, a tour of my father in-law's childhood homes...it was great time for the in-laws and kids, and relaxing for everyone.

Elie after eating blackberries the size of plums
On the Kal-Haven trail


Before sunset at Sleepy Hollow
Funny faces in South Haven
Fran and Tom with Elie in South Haven


Fran and Sam at the beach in Sleepy Hollow

Elie and Tom 

Sam and the snorkel and mask she wouldn't part with, eating her sweet potato fries and yogurt

After that we headed up north towards Harbor Springs to meet Jeremy in Mark and Paula's place. THANKS MARK AND PAULA!! On the way up we test drove a car, we swapped our rental car for one with tires that held air, and we had a fantastic dinner at Short's Brewery. The few days up there were also filled with great outdoor activities and just great time with Jer.

Jer and Elie at the Pond Hill Farm, outside of Harbor Springs

Sam also at the farm

Sam and Jer at the farm

Natural balance beam

Petoskey

At dinner at Legs Inn

Since coming back, Sam started her schools and programs, Kitty has decided to come out and hang in the rest of the house more often, Elie got vaccinated, we got a car, we made loads of trip plans...and we have tried to relax a little bit. Elie has been sleeping through the night in South Haven and also for the last few nights, so that has changed my life.

I am reading Homeward Bound by Robin Pascoe, about repatriating from the perspective of the trailing spouse (pathetic term, but it's what I am right now...until I get my own thing going). Matt's reading one called Homeward Bound about readjusting a family, and we're discussing main points. We are trying to stay flexible and chill about the whole thing while also remaining on top of issues that may be challenging for any one of us - and also at different times.

Random, no? This was in Saugatuck, near South Haven. It seems to have NO relation to the real Singapore, which makes no sense!

Road trips are boring

First day of school at Temple Israel


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Walking Away

I am writing this from my in-laws office in Michigan (and I actually started it a full four days before I'm finishing!). That means that we actually, finally left Singapore. Though I have been ready to leave for a few years, it was indeed sad to finally walk away.

Leaving our apartment where we brought home our two children, where we had endless important discussions, where we hosted holiday and shabbat dinners with dear friends, played many games of Settlers of Catan, cooked so many meals, lived with our helper for 2+ years, was on bed rest, worked from home two days a week, while I worked at Standard Chartered...lots of significant memories to walk away from.

The weekend was full of organizing - what do we need for the airplane? For two days in a hotel? For three months in Michigan? What do we not need until we move to our new home - ie. what will go on the ship? What do we not need at all? And which of that can we give to someone who would use it? Which should we donate? Which should we throw? ...All of that makes for a lot of piles and a lot of organizing.

Monday morning we woke up almost as if everything would be normal. Sam got to facetime with grandparents. We had our normal breakfasts. We got her dressed for school and took her there...and then the craziness began. At exactly 9:30, the buzzer rang and Venon showed up, went through our apartment with us to make sure he knew what to pack and what not to and then his guys came up and so it began. Everything we were shipping got wrapped and put into boxes. In addition, a mover came in the morning to take the couch and bed, leaving ZERO furniture in the apartment, other than what we were bringing with us (both baby beds and a bookshelf). It was HECTIC. There were loads of people. It was sad.

We brought Sam back for lunch on the floor and then tried to give the kids naps in Mariana's apartment upstairs. Elie napped, but Samara never fell asleep. At least I got a chance to SIT and relax and talk to Mariana, which I always enjoy. By Monday afternoon nearly everything was out of the apartment.

Monday night in the hotel was awful. Sam was a wreck and was a challenge, and the kids didn't fall asleep until late. I couldn't fall asleep until 2am (bad pillows, hot room, plus just a few things running through my mind). At 3-5 Elie was up and freaking out. At 7 Sam and I got dressed and went to get some breakfast at the mall before taking her to her last day of school.

Tuesday our amazing cleaner came and cleaned the WHOLE apartment - top to bottom. While this happened, Sam was at school and Elie and Matt were napping in the hotel, I got one last coffee with Susie, who has been my closest friend in Singapore for the last few years - a friend who has helped me navigate through parenthood (for the first and second time), being a working mom, big decisions, bed rest, etc. Sitting at my favorite coffee shop and processing life with her was critical to my state of mind. After she left, I ran a few errands, we handed over the apartment, said goodbye to all the ladies and kids in the condo - kids I have watched grow for the last 3.5 years - and walked away. No more City Square. No more Farrer Park MRT. That whole part of our identity is now in the past...

Elie in mine and Matt's empty bedroom

(Handover of an apartment without keys is less dramatic, I have to say. After we handed over, we could still get in and finish things, as the door has a code...and we knew we could go back until we actually left Singapore...so maybe that makes it all less painful!?).

Saying goodbye to Samara's school on Tuesday afternoon was super sad for me. Sam attended this school since she was 18 months, with our helper Rose. Then she went three days per week until I was on bed rest, when we upped it to five days per week. She has LOVED it there, and it has been such a source of support and love for her. The teachers, head of school, administrators...everyone...are amazing. Samara has learned soooooo much, and I have so appreciated the community feel and support they have given (and their flexibility) during the last 1.5 years, which have been very hard for me. I cried saying goodbye to her school.

The flight home was surprisingly easy. Sam slept three hours of the first eight hour plane ride and quietly watched movies for the rest. Elie slept a few hours of that plane ride and at least half of the second. Neither freaked out at all. They were amazing. I tried to hold it together as best as I could. I was like 80% - maybe more. Not bad.

Sam doing nail stickers (thank you, Shana!)

Elie sleeping on the plane. And Matt and I are even happy!

Since we have been home, we have been surviving and that's all. Living on about two hours of sleep each night for the first four days was super rough. Now Samara is adjusted and Elie is up from about 1 or 2 am, but at least we can split that part, so we're doing a bit better (ok - just last night was a bit better). We have only up to go with this sleeping thing!

Now Singapore is behind us. It's all about making decisions about our future. First up: holiday with Matt's parents to western Michigan and Jeremy to northern Michigan and probably buying a car.



That's our orange container that is currently on a ship called the Berlin, heading for New York, then it will hop on a truck and end up in Michigan in the beginning of October

Sam, Lucas, Thomas and Oscar played in creative ways with the boxes in Sam's old room

Hanging in the living room

Peeking Samara in her room

And this is how it began...check out the rocking horse box

Fencing

Saying goodbye to Teacher Winnie at LeapSchoolhouse

Saying goodbye to Teacher Zeela and LeapSchoolhouse


Right before we got on the plane...at 5:15am or something obscene like that. LAST PHOTO IN SINGAPORE!!! This is what our family looked like when we left...