Monday, August 15, 2022

Leaving Newton

After seven and a half years, we are leaving Newton. We moved here with a just-4 year old, a 1 year old, a pregnant belly and a kitty. We first lived at 31 Miller Rd, where we rented for 18 months as we got our bearings. While we originally thought we could get to know the area from Miller Rd and later buy a house wherever we wanted to be, we learned that we wanted to be exactly in our neighborhood. 

On a run, Matt saw an open house sign at a house on the field. It hadn’t come up on our search, because it was listed under-value. He did a quick tour, called me and told me to run over. I had about five minutes to run through it before the agent left. We got approved for a mortgage that day, put in an offer later in the day, a few back and forths, and out of 21 bids, ours was accepted the next day. That set up our life in Newton.

Being in our home, in our neighborhood and our community has been wonderful for us. It was really hard to break into Newton and find friends who had space in their lives for us while we were at Temple Shalom, where the kids first went to preschool. That first winter we were here - we moved in December - was the winter there was 100" of snow. It was awful and lonely. It took a few years, but once we met more people, started at Bowen Elementary school, met our neighbors and found friends, we finally built our village. Our people and our life over the last few years – honestly even in covid - have been idyllic. Kids playing outside with friends from the neighborhood, walking to school and activities, lake a few minutes away, amazing grocery store/s, people who fill our life, the nicest neighbors, hiking close by – genuinely it’s been a wonderful daily life in Newton. 

Leaving our house and that life has felt very sad. This is the house where our kids have become people. Their rooms were where they learned to sleep through the night, experienced the pandemic and learning on zoom, read books together at bedtime, played games at the tables and on the floor, spent endless time in the back yard, on the patio and on the field. These are our memories and their early childhood, and now the stage is sealed. Over. Walking into the house after it was emptied, especially the bedrooms literally took my breath away. (We are not selling the house. We are renting it out. We genuinely plan to be back.) 

As my friend, Caroline said, “it’s only sad because it was so good.” It was so so good. I love our house. Our neighborhood. Our neighbors. Our community. Our life. 

I am pretty tired from the pandemic and being the primary parent of three children for the last seven years. Matt works and travels a lot. I sort of just want to stay home and read books and never leave again. I try to remember how our life was in Singapore, traveling all the time, experiencing new things, meeting new people, and it all exhausts me to even think about. Yet when we lived in Singapore, our friends' kids who were functional people were so cool. They understood so much and thought about different things. We said we wanted to make sure our kids lived their lives abroad a bit. Get some perspective and gain some resilience and see some shit. But gosh, now that we have three kids, it's so much harder, and again, I'm just so so tired. 

We realized that it's now or never. Samara will be in high school in three years, and we didn't want to move our kids in high school (ideally). Matt's work makes sense from London. He covers countries in the Middle East and Africa for his company. London doesn't have a language barrier (for the most part). It's a place we have been a bit, experienced some of the language and culture from travel and Singapore (Singapore was British), and I decided I could muster enough energy to make this happen. So the plan is to move to London for three years. 

When we recognized London was a real possibility, the kids applied to the American School in London (and they also finished applications for Southbank International School, but we didn't pay the hefty fee of something like 300 pounds per kid, so they didn't officially apply - this was just in case ASL didn't work out, though if we were planning to live abroad for many years, I would have chosen this school. The curriculum is so damn cool and I bet it makes for some super neat and functional kids.). ASL has an American curriculum, so transitioning back and forth from their schools in Newton will probably be as smooth as possible, given an international move. It was also recommended by our good friends there and other friends here, so this decision has driven when we leave (next Tuesday), where we plan to live (somewhere around St John's Wood area) and will strongly influence our experience in London. ASL gets something like 300 new students each year, so they have major infrastructure for welcoming new families. They have a huge document on how to get settled in London. They pair us with welcoming families. They have new family meet ups and coffees. This is exactly what I need at my sadly tired stage. 

In terms of logistics, two and a half weeks ago we had everything taken out of our house that we plan to ship to London. This included our beds, kitchen table, toys, some clothes, dishes and kitchen stuff, a small couch, bikes, bedding etc. It was supposed to go on a container last week and get shipped to London to arrive in the beginning of September. This did not happen. It is now schedule to get into a container on 28th Aug and arrive at end of September, but we are not optimistic. 

Last week we had everything else taken out - some items to send in an air shipment (mostly clothes and some games) and everything to store (couch that's too big for a London home, ping pong table, grandfather clock, dressers and random shit), which we will get back when we move back into our house. My car is currently full of photo albums, cabbage patch dolls and documents that we will keep in Michigan. Everything else will fly with us to London next week.

I am in Cleveland for some serious Vilensky time and then we are in MI with grandparents for a week. Back to Boston for two days, and we fly next Tuesday to London. We have an air bnb for 40 nights (I emailed them to see if we can extend, given our sea shipment situation, but we haven't heard back). School starts 8/31 with orientation on the 30th. 

Off we go...

And two other updates:

Camp: Elie and Samara went to Camp Ramah in Canada. Elie went for 2 weeks and Samara for 3.5 Elie came back last week and LOVED it. It blew his mind. Not sure if he will go back (we are specifically not asking this question for a few months), but he absolutely loved it. So much so that he didn't open 90% of the letters sent to him. "Why would I want to sit and read a letter when I could be playing with my friends."

Samara (trying out Sam for the summer) is still there, and I know they had a rough start, but then decided to stay. I genuinely have NO IDEA if they're having fun or how they're doing, but we will find out Thursday.

My leg: I was on crutches only for three weeks. Then I could walk in the boot with crutches. Then I could walk in the boot without crutches. Then I slowly started ditching the boot at the end of July. Now I can totally walk. I can even go for a walk. It's taking a lot of time and effort to get my muscle back, but it's coming back. Doc said I can play tennis sometime in October or November. It's slow, but it's getting better.

Pics since my last post, out of order as always, and too lazy to re-org

Last day of school - 1st, 2nd, 5th

Samara and their teacher, Mx Torres

Koby and Barbara, who has cleaned our house since he was born. We love Barbara.

Koby and I went kayaking with Caroline on the Charles. Beautiful. But a drought made the water level VERY LOW

Bigs off to Ramah. Elie for 2 weeks. Sam for 3.5 weeks

Visit from Dena, Alma and Shalem

Samara boosted before camp and after covid

Susie brings me amazing flowers. What a beautiful photo. I will miss this lady.

Samara the minute the braces came off

Michigania 2022

Obligatory Walloon selfie

4th of July with Markus and Jill - high school friends

Elie and Koby get boosted (Sam had just had covid, so we wanted for them)

Theater for the first time in years. WICKED

Samara and Adele on the last day of school

Samara, Charlotte, Benjamin, Elie and Koby. What a group. We will miss these kids.

Wrote this post while I was at Seth's house. Got to see his fam, Mike and Jo and their fam from Columbus and their friends and other family members. What a treat. Filled my soul Photo credit: Emily via Jo's phone

Last time playing with Evan. Life will be different without Evan in it everyday.

Bonus time with Tamara while we waited to pick our kids up from the Ramah bus in Toronto. It was SO SO nice to catch up. But then the bus was super late and it was very stressful. But we made our flight.

Me this year at Michigania. Boot. Crutches. Golf cart. But it was still so super fun.

We had a wonderful day on the cape with Matt's friends from grad school. Shame that the photographer who took the ONE PHOTO of us totally sucked.

Samara will miss Orly so much

Last day of school celebration on Weeks with our neighbor friends. We will miss them all so much.

Moms of all of the kids above. After the 5th grade moving-on ceremony. I will still in a lot of pain and super not enjoying life at this point in the summer.

Samara wrote this on their arm at camp. Guess in Canada when you say you're moving to London, it might mean something different. Nothing a sharpee can't solve. Photo credit: Shana

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Spring '22

General Updates

It's been nearly six months since my last post. In the end, Koby's second PCR was positive, and our whole family ended up getting covid in Dec/Jan, other than Samara. (Samara uses they/them pronouns). They ended up being in their room for EIGHT days straight. Alone. In heaven bc endless screens and friends on facetime, etc. and no brothers or obligations. Everyone else got well after my post on 12/31, and I had a cough and super tiredness for three months. But then I did finally get better.

In other updates, kids took ice skating lessons this summer and can now all skate well. They also learned to ski! Elie and Koby - especially Elie - LOVED skiing. Samara learned how to do it and then the last time we went, they skied off the side of the trail into a water pipe thing, and it was so scary, they never want to ski again. My goal was that they all learn to ski this winter, so if they ever have a friend who invites them to go skiing with their family, and they really want to go, they can have the option. On recommendation from a friend, we chose a place that was 1.5 hours away and just booked every Saturday we could. I think it ended up being four times. I took them alone the first time (I was still not feeling well, so that one was hard, but I also had HOURS to ski by myself and just BE by myself - that was magical). Then Matt and I took them together (and WE had daytime hours together with no kids and no work - also magical). I also went skiing for a day with two lady friends - so so nice to ski after about 17 years?!

Elie took our covid time at home and learned by a youtube video how to solve a rubik's cube. He is now incredible at it - like actually incredible.

Unrelated, I had found the Newton Centre Minyan sukkot before the pandemic and obviously stopped with the pandemic, but in December I re-found that minyan - or half of it, as it re-launched as Minyan Ma'or, part of our Temple Emanuel. I genuinely HATE the services at Emanuel, and I absolutely LOVE Minyan Ma'or. So I have been going to that as much as I can. Even read torah for the first time in years. It's a lay-led minyan, where everyone participates to make it happen. The davening is so inclusive, beautiful, and everyone just knows what they're doing and is a PART, rather than it being a performance FOR them. I genuinely love it, and the people have been so welcoming. People introduced themselves to me/us and it really feels like community. Samara has gone with me a bunch, and while they read a book for the most part, they are absorbing it and really enjoy the cookies at the end.  

The boys tried flag football this spring and loved it so much. They were really good too. It was cool to watch though sometimes a bit too competitive for my liking (perhaps the parents more than the kids...).

And Samara tried theater and was in Annie in the winter and now Seussical the Musical on Friday. They are loving theater, and we love that Samara found something they like!

Samara and Elie have had a few sleepovers with friends. We really missed this for two years, as it seems sort of like something kids should do. They have had so much fun. And Elie needs to practice for sleep-away camp!

We traveled in an airplane. We went to Florida in Feb. It was great to get back in the world. We don't ever need to go to Key Largo again, but we did have a good time.

We FINALLY made it to Michigan in April, after cancelled trips in November for Thanksgiving and December break. It had been since the summer. We were very grateful to have Passover with family for the first time in three years. Sort of - we did host it last year with my parents and some cousins, but it wasn't my parents' house and my mom's cooking or Matt's parents' house w their cooking. This was way more normal and wonderful to see everyone. Luckily, my mom required testing before the big seder (ok - I required it, and she agreed to require it), and we did have one positive test, so that avoided some covid at the seder, but it also, sadly meant that we didn't have a huge chunk of family there, which was super sad.

I also went to Toronto to visit Shana, which was so absolutely lovely. Great to reconnect, as we hadn't seen each other since the week before the pandemic hit us AND I got to spend time with her kids and Daniel, whom I really hadn't seen in years. They're all spectacular, and it was such a gift of a weekend.

Matt started work travel again. He has been on a bunch of trips including to the Middle East, Africa, London and DC. It's a bit more of a pain to travel now, but it truly invigorates him and it's important for his work. And me being alone with the kids now is so not what it used to be. It is so so so much easier. Even kinda enjoyable. 

And a super sad update

I could probably write a whole book about it, but since we got Rainey, she has been super anxious and has guarded us and our house. We worked with trainers and we were able to make it so we were safe at home if we were alone. We trained her so if our kids approached when she had a bone or a high-valued treat, she didn't guard it. My kids could be near her, and I didn't fear for their safety. BUT, she was incredibly aggressive when anyone else (except a very select few) came near our house. Growling, angry barking and lungeing. Luckily she has always been on a leash and nothing has HAPPENED (other than when she bit me when she was going after another dog, and I got in the middle), but I absolutely believe it would have, if I were not so vigilant and had her on a leash always. She angry lunged at three year olds and small children multiple times. She lunged and angry barked at men. Some dogs. The letter carrier on a daily basis. 

Kids, friends and piano teacher started coming over and coming in the house, and we got a crate upstairs so we could remove her from the situation. But then the kids' friends didn't necessarily (and understandably) listen when I said please knock before you come in to use the bathroom, and the kids were genuinely at risk of getting bitten. Or a friend would open the front door to call for one of my kids. I was so stressed that someone would come in and I wouldn't be around to be sure she was in a crate or on a leash. She would have attacked. We loved Rainey so so so much, and she was such a huge part of our lives, but she was putting our friends and family at risk. And it was so so so stressful for me. And what if there was a dog off leash and came running up to us? She went after them, and if they weren't a dog that listened and left her alone, it would have been BAD. 

We also started considering an international move. We realized that Rainey definitely couldn't move to London, as she can barely walk down a street that has any cars (she had ONE walk route in the neighborhood, and it was quiet. Would NOT walk on busy streets at all), and she can't have people coming up to her, because she has been aggressive with many. She can't have people coming in and out of our house - which would definitely happen on both ends of a move. When we talked about getting a dog, we knew we could move (even abroad), and we said we would definitely bring the dog with us. But unfortunately Rainey was not that dog. We talked about finding a foster family for her for a few years while we are away. 

So I called the rescue where we got her to ask what our options are. They said they likely can't take her back because of the aggression. I asked if they could help find a foster family while we are away, and they said they can't because of aggression. Rainey actually had a lot of red flags at the beginning, but it was such a busy puppy adopting time in the pandemic, I don't think they were paying attention, and we certainly had no idea. I wish I would have known that what I saw were not things that were trainable, but they were real problems in a family with kids. But I didn't. So we got her, we loved her. We did everything we could (daycare every week to socialize her, even though I work at home, but she can't socialize around me, because she guarded me. Took her to the vet to desensitize her literally every week for MONTHS and then every month for months to be sure she could go in without being prohibitively scared. So much training. And just so so much - genuinely all that I knew I could do to help her and us make it work).

The behaviorist that works with the rescue said she doesn't seem like she belongs with our family - or any family and said that it would be unethical to rehome her. They suggested that I call shelters to find out if they would take her, if I really wanted to try. This was so shocking, as we went from looking for a foster family to keep her while we were away to realizing maybe she doesn't belong with our family to thinking about ending her life - and I had no idea any of those would be options in this situation. It seemed crazy.

I called MSPCA and the North Shore Animal Shelter, who have behaviorists and often do take dogs with aggression, and they all said they can't take her and suggested putting her down. I talked to our vet tech who has worked closely with Rainey and also the vet. We considered redirection training (which our contract with the rescue forbade). And the vet said that even with that training, a dog like Rainey has a good chance of being aggressive if they get scared, and he has seen what happens when this isn't taken care of before it happens. We tried weeks of doggy prozac to see if that made a difference. It did make her a little less miserable at home, but she still had all the same aggression. 

I begged the behaviorist from the rescue to come look at her - as everyone was giving advice based off of my assessment, but maybe I was off. So after about 5 weeks of trying, she finally came out and suggested that we put Rainey to sleep. She said she (and everyone - including my kids) was not safe in our house and explained Rainey's behavior and how she knew that. Putting that together with the vet's same advice, we decided to do it. It was the hardest decision, as it is NOT 100% clear, and people will super judge it, and we love her so so much. But we also recognized that Rainey was not a happy dog. She was so stressed so much of the time, and even when she was "happy," she was fairly neutral with us. She barely wagged her tail (other than in the morning when she saw us and also when she saw her other favorite family - the Caseys). Walks were miserable - her tail was never up. She was so scared of everything. We had to wait two weeks, because Matt was traveling, and he didn't want us to do it right before he left or when he was gone, so it ended up being a VERY LONG SIX WEEKS of struggle, sad, mourning and more sad. Samara made a bucket list for Rainey's end of life, including Samara reading all of Stuart Little to her - and including her eating doggy ice cream, saying goodbye to a bunch of friends, and meeting others. Playing frisbee in the yard everyday. Eating chicken. Eating peanut butter. Going to Cold Spring Park and Mt Misery - both of her favorites..there were many things, and Samara made it all happen. 

And then Samara and I took her to the vet a few weeks ago. The vet (Dr Jarbeau and Kim at Kindness Animal Hospital - so highly recommended) was so so so great with her - including all the meds - and so great with us.  She died eating hot dogs. We are so sad to not have her, but we went through the process explained above with all the kids, so we had all mourned so much before it happened, that when it finally happened, we all felt and feel relieved. 

More Current Update

And now...I was invited to join a tennis team this spring, and it has been a life highlight. I have LOVED playing tennis with competition. I have done cardio classes with really good people for the last 4 or so years and LOVED it, but never any games. 

The first match was at this creepy white and anti Semitic feeling country club, and I lost that one (I was super in my head), but since that, my partner and I kicked ass. It has been so fun and so so much winning with great points. This was the last match of the season. Our team was in first place, and we had to win two matches to stay in first place. The team we were playing was in second place. It was definitely our best competition all season. 

First set we won 6-4 and worked HARD for it. It was the second set, 2-2. Opponents were serving, and this was the 5th or 6th deuce on the game. She served to me, return, then she hit it short. I went to run up to get the ball and felt like someone was standing four feet away and threw a ball at my leg SUPER hard. It genuinely felt like I had been attacked by something on the outside. I went down and was yelling "what just hit me!?" like a crazy person. My calf super hurt, but it didn't feel like a pulled muscle. Someone brought me ice. Games stopped on the other courts. No one, including me, knew what the hell was going on. I sat there for a while, trying to figure it out, and at some point realized I was dripping water from the ice all over the court, and that is dangerous if we keep playing. So I tried to get up and I realized I couldn't walk. 

I was done with the match and genuinely had no idea what was going on with my leg. My teammates helped me get to a chair in the shade, and I sat there with ice trying to figure out what this was. The other team's captain called her friend who is a physical therapist, and she said it sounded like a torn calf. What the hell is that? She said go to ER or urgent care. So I called my doc to find out what they recommend, and they suggested urgent care. Sure enough, that was the diagnosis. Got to see an Ortho the next day who said no walking 2-4 weeks then PT and should be back to normal in 3 months. So boot and crutches it is. And poor Matt has to do EVERYTHING around the house. I cannot carry anything. I cannot even stand for more than a couple of minutes, or it starts to throb and super hurt. It is not ideal.

And the tennis team won the division! Two other pairs had some HARD games and won!


Samara had a lot of friends with covid last week. Thursday morning they got symptoms, and we tested. Negative, so off to school. Friday still mild symptoms. Tested again. Negative so off to school. Tested again Friday night. Negative. Then the weekend we were just outside, so I didn't test (though we did do a piano recital inside with our friends, and I SHOULD have thought to test. oy). Monday morning before school we tested because they still had symptoms. Faint positive. They stayed in their room Monday and Tuesday and played minecraft with Shira and Maddy who are already out of school in Ohio and Michigan (grace of God, thank you Shira and Maddy). Then today, day 6, they felt fine. Tested negative, and off to school. Pretty amazingly convenient covid experience, though I do feel bad that we exposed people Thursday through Sunday - my kids almost always have symptoms in some way, so if there are negative tests, we kinda have to move on, even though I know it definitely doesn't mean no covid. Ugh. AND it seems like our infections from December/January are helping the rest of us not get this, at least so far.

Photos not in chronological order

David Ruben took this when we met up with them and Isla at the Newton Highlands playground. So nice!

Bake off that was fun while it was fun and then got really competitive when there were winners for different categories and no overall winner

Weekend with Shana in Toronto!

Samara selling pizza after school with some of their friends

Ice skating lessons with Charlotte

Purple hair! Or tips anyway

Ladies' ski trip!

This was Rainey's last walk in Cold Spring. Whenever we walked there, she jumped up on this log and walked it like a balance beam. Every single time. Thanks for the pic, Susie

Rainey on her balance beam

First time hanging out inside with friends - after we had covid, and we tested Samara beforehand. It felt so luxurioous

Harry Potter and Rainey cuddles - with three cozy blankets

When mom was super sick with covid and had no say, Koby got a mohawk

Samara with baby cousin Isla in FLA

Hotel room in Key Largo - it's way cheaper to squeeze into one. Koby on the pull out couch. Samara on a cot. Elie on a blow up mattress on the floor (definitely can't sleep with koby...) and Matt and I shared a bed.

Visit from Bubbie and Zaydie and they go to go to Samara's Hebrew school program with t'fillin

Back to the keys...

Manatee. We saw quite a few - they're so super cool

ridiculous dolphin thing...

Dive boat to go snorkeling

Our beautiful backyard after a snowstorm

and our front yard and the field across the street. man are we lucky

Elie's science day project this year on Coral Reefs with Mia, Vito and Evan

Samara as the police officer in Annie

Samara on the violin. But doesn't want to play anymore. It's hard too learn on zoom in 4th grade and then be thrown into an orchestra with expectations of you playing when you have no idea what you're doing. Maybe we should have supplemented with private lessons, but they weren't that interested...guess that's done.

Kites with Orly

We did a tour of the Michigan Football Stadium. It was so so so cool to have access to all of it, but the tour guide did it in nearly TWO AND A HALF HOURS, and that was way too incredibly long for our family (and the other family with three kids in our group!). Kinda annoying because it could have been a life highlight, but instead it was actually really hard to sit through!

Walks with grandma. Not often, but nice when they happen


When kids' friends at the breakfast table feels like it's something so incredibly know you've been living in a pandemic for a few years

JV Lacrosse right in our front yard!

5th grade Red Sox game

With little siblings who are all friends!

and Koby who couldn't BELIEVE the wave!

Rainey's last hike at Mt Misery

Some last goodbyes

Funny hats for Samara and Leo our beloved crossing guard

Perri's bat mitzvah

Koby's flag football team at the last game

Our walk to school crew. This will be different next year. We love these guys.

Samara as a bear waiter in the school play, Fables

Started this in 2020 and finally finished it a few weeks ago (with a break of about a year and a half). Kids couldn't really help, because the instructions were too hard to go back if there was a mistake. But I felt accomplished. Now what to do with this (and all of the kids' lego things they build that are filling up every surface we have in the house...)

Purgatory Chasm with friends (and Elie was sick)

Koby got a hoverboard for his birthday. And Samara and Charlotte made scones that he can eat while hovering

Informal piano recital on zoom for grandparents

Samara finally tested positive

Calf injury is the weirdest injury ever. Now it's all yellow

Visit from Savta and Papa