Creeping of Christmas

I just stood in line 20 minutes for a cheap red plastic cup. It was free. It has a major corporate logo on the side, and if I use it after 2pm between now and January 7, 2019, I will receive fifty cents off every $5 “Holiday” drink.

If you are in the know, you know I’m talking about Starbucks.

In my defense, I needed coffee this late morning anyway, as I am currently sitting in the college library prepping for my third exam of the year. I have the expensive habit/routine of needing my ‘bucks fix prior to studying. I get the drink, I find the quiet corner of the library with the great view of a large oak tree out the window, I put on my beats and I get to it.

Because Starbucks has my email address and knows how Basic I can be, they sent me the reminder last night of their latest marketing ploy and it stayed in my mind. Honestly I’m not a big latte or mocha drinker, I tend to take my coffee iced, cold brewed, with just a splash of sweet cream. But learning the holiday drinks are back and I could get something free out of it, I braved the line and ignored the mobile ordering option.

I was one of the last to get the free cup before the store ran out; according to the Starbucks Subreddit, other stores were out by 6am. I felt that consumerism smugness come out, mwhaa ha ha I got something you didn’t! – but now I just feel like a corporate cog.

Ladies, gentlemen and everyone in between, today is November 2nd. We still have a freshly carved pumpkin on our front porch and the leaves in New Jersey are just starting to turn into spectacular shades of yellow, orange and red. Can we all enjoy fall for a few weeks before the whitewash of red and merry take over?

On one hand, I’m excited for this time of year. The anticipation build up, seeing my kids enjoy the holiday season, listening to Christmas music and decorating our home is so much fun. I do love it. But our culture is creeping these darn holidays out sooner and sooner. School started in September and the store loaded themselves up with Halloween decor. Christmas crap was on shelves before Halloween even started.

Yesterday I used a free hour without kids to check out Marshall’s and Home Goods, I had the idea of purchasing Thanksgiving swag since we are hosting this year, but the stores were all Santaed out. Really? Really? I can’t buy some fake leaves or a stuffed Turkey to display on November 1st?

Beyond this frustration, I also hate how we are supposed to spend an insane amount of money every year to show how much we love one another. It’s nearly an American Patriot Act, this obligation, and each year the pressure is more and more. My kids don’t need anything. They still play with the wooden train set my oldest has had for seven years. They putter around with crappy old toys all the time and they are happy.

So it’s with excitement, resentment, cynicism and optimism that I end this post with a “Happy Holidays!” This one phrase is loaded and you can take from it what you wish. I’m going to focus my next few weeks on FALL and cover my ears if I hear a Christmas Carol until the day after Thanksgiving – expect, of course, I’m in line to get my .50 discount on a holiday cup of cheer.

Struggles of the Student Mom

My blog is two years old! It’s amazing to think about where I was two years ago, when I started this blog as an outlet and break up of time, to where I am today. Two years ago I was snuggling newborn baby H and deep into that newborn bliss. I can say without hesitation my fourth trimester with H was the most enjoyable fourth I had of my three kids; I was confident, secure in my parenting choices, and H was the best newborn I’ve ever known. The kid scarcely cried and loved his swing so while I was deep into nesting mode (not leaving the house) I really had a lot of free time on my hands.

Hence Suburban Doldrums.

Now, H is two and very opinionated, loud but still a sweetie- we have a new home in a new state, and I’m in my third semester of pre-nursing courses. This semester I’m taking A&P 2 and it’s consuming most of my free time.

Don’t get me wrong, I really love learning about our body and how it works. It’s just dense material and takes a lot of deep concentration to learn. It also means any time I’m not studying, caring for my kids, or cleaning my new house my brain is completely fried so I can not bear to read anything for pleasure, yet alone try to update the old blog.

Of course, as I type this I’m doing the old college trick of PROCRASTINATION- I’m sitting in the college library with my various notebooks and binders trying to study for the midterm exams and I’m finding any excuse to avoid it. That’s alright though….. this quick check-in is enough for now. Yes, I’m still here, yes I still mean to write occasionally, and yes my status of a part-time-student-mom is all time consuming. One day, friends, one day I’ll be as diligent with the updates as I am about studying the systems of the heart, blood vessels and immune systems. Just not in this current season.

style

So- a million years ago I was a single girl living in NYC. I was sitting on the front porch of the house I lived in, surrounded by various airline roommates and I remember one male and I talking about style. I bemoaned my lack of personal style and he was very insistent that any clothing decision was in fact style and that I had a very clearly defined sense of it.

I laughed and looked down at my uniform; a white skirt with a black tank top. “This isn’t style, this is what I wear on any given day,” I said, which is true. Even now I have a very monotone, predictable clothing sense that bores my husband to death. Black is my favorite. I’ll do muted solids on occasion. If I’m feeling festive maybe a floral print.

He insisted I had a particular look, that was stylish, to which I still disagree. Maybe I’m predictable but my clothing picks are based more on laziness and frugality. Items I bought over a decade ago still work because they are plain and simple.

So, now … I’m facing another challenge. The challenge of interior decorating.

See, we bought this big fancy new house and my previous decorating “look” was basically- oh, we need a couch, so here’s a couch, and it sort of goes… over the years I’d find something at a yard sale or thrift shop, sort of like it, so bring it home and claim it as my own. This haphazard approach made my old home cluttered and disorganized.

This new home is a clean slate. Literally. I now have empty walls and a very pretty, very empty room on the main level. One of my girlfriends, who loves to decorate, asked, “Are you modern? Are you traditional? What’s you look?” and all I can think of in reply is something along the lines as, “Easy?”

I AM drawn to mid-century modern, but finding the discipline and focus to keep with a single palette is challenging. It takes time and money. Plus, I’m like a kitten chasing sunbeams, I have a really hard time staying focused and I’m also pretty impatient. I look at our empty sitting room and I just want it done, like, now.

I have the hardest time finding inspiration on Pinterest. Or blogs. Or IG. These platforms work for some, but I find them waaayyy to commercialized and sterile. The aesthetic that popular websites have is just too perfect. I’ve tried, really tried, to find value in Pinterest but I think I think I joined the club too late. Plus it feels so much like a game of “look how great I am” and “my home is better than yours because blah blah blah”. It’s impossible for me to look at a style blog and feel good about myself, which probably speaks to my own lack of strong self-confidence.

So what’s a girl in a fancy new home to do? I’m working on the impatience, and I’m trying to take it slow. I’m only going to buy what I love, and even if that sitting room is empty for many months, that’s okay. Plus, rather than feeling inadequate because of my lack of style, I’m going to remember what that roommate all those years ago assured me of, I do have an inherent sense of style and if I just follow my gut on it’ll please me.

new house, new gym, new jersey

Once again I rededicate myself to writing more frequently. It does seem like I do this way too often; I know as a blog reader it’s tiresome to hear from someone “This time I’ll be different!” so I hope if you are out there reading this you’ll feel patience for me and keep reading. When I started this blog nearly two years ago I was deep in the mind state of newborn baby bliss, happy, at home with lots of down time. I’ve noticed the same pattern with several of my friends after they have children; a sense of reinvention once a new baby comes (whether it’s your first or third).

I had a good rhythm and theme going for a while and it slowly dwindled down to infrequent updates and somewhere along the way I lost the voice I was establishing so here I am, trying again.

As the title states, I am currently sitting in our new home located in our new state. The house is big – gigantic even- especially compared with the small bungalow we lived in for six years. For example, I used to vacuum my entire house using only two plugs in our old home. Like, I’d plug into the wall and the length of the cord would reach half of my floors, and then I’d just plug into another wall and finish up. My new three-story house, however, requires 3 different outlet changes per floor.

Everyone said to me, “Have fun cleaning such a big house!” when I told them about moving. I’ve since realized they meant it sarcastically or slightly meanly. But, it’s been over a month since I moved in, and in a weird way I’m *still* finding it actually *fun* to clean. Yes, I have four bathrooms now. But I’ve dedicated every Tuesday to deep cleaning bathrooms day. I blast “Today’s Top Hits” on Spotify and spend about an hour scrubbing the johns. This heightened focus on one job at a time makes the cleaning bearable.

I’m still setting the schedule down but thus far I dare say it’s almost easier to keep a tidy home in a big home compared with keeping a small space tidy.

***

Another big part of my life as a mom is going to the gym. Seriously, it’s like 30% of my week. I made a hasty decision to join the local Y and I am regretting it. The facilities are not updated, and it’s not as big as we are used to. I’m someone who has to take fitness classes and the two I’ve taken so far have been impressive, so that’s a positive, and I actually like that the classes are co-ed and I’m much younger than the average YMCA fitness class pupil.

But I miss my old gyms gleaming studio. I miss the sense of “awe” you’d get in the weight room, or cardio room – it was just bigger and nicer. There’s a superficial part of me that looks down on the dowdy Y and craves a flashier fitness club. I didn’t even realize I was a snob in that way – and I’ve promised myself to give it a good six months before looking for greener pastures.

***

I’m really loving living in New Jersey. I was never a Long Island fan, and I find the locals here are friendlier and easier to talk to. I’m still struggling with the idea of having to make new friends, because as every mom knows, finding good mom friends is essential but feels impossible at times. I know it will happen eventually and in the meantime, if I feel bored, I can always find a corner to scrub or a place to dust in my immaculate suburban mansion.

 

B*DAY

Yes, this is the day of my birth. A day that means so much when you are a kid, and gradually the importance fades as I settle deeper into “adulthood”. I don’t even want to think about how old I am; it’s not that I’m ashamed, but it just seems like such a high number.

35.

Thirty-five.

I think about where I was 10 years ago; I was celebrating with my flight-attendant-training-class. We went to hibachi and I had shots of sake. Ten years prior to that I was in high school, it was the last day of school, and I probably managed to cheat death by driving around and drinking beer with my friends. And ten years before that, at age five, I think we had a T-Ball party?

My point is, I’m to the point where there are multiple decades to reflect on and that’s just odd.

My kids woke me up this morning, snuggling, singing, excited. I still look at the three of them and I’m in wonder. I grew all of them. They are all their own person. I would have never dreamed I’d end up with three little blond kids, living in a small house on Long Island as a stay-at-home mom.

Birthdays are about celebration but they are also about reflection. Like, where was I a year ago, compared to now? Last year I was working at Starbucks every few days. Since that time I’ve completed and aced both Chemistry 100 and Anatomy and Physiology 1. I’m actually that much closer to nursing school. My kids are healthy and thriving. My husband and I still joke around and like spending time together; he’s my best friend. We are moving off the island and settling into a new home.

But last year, on my 34th birthday, all of this wasn’t even in my mind grapes. Nursing school was an idea; but now it’s becoming a reality. I’ve always known Long Island wasn’t my permanent home, but I honestly didn’t expect my husband to ever leave his motherland.

So, it is with whimsy that I sign off here and wish myself a happy day of birth. Where will I be in a year? Will our new suburban mansion be filled to the brim with homey decorated touches? Will I be in actual nursing school? Will Holden, the baby (currently aged 20 months) STILL be breastfeeding? (Oh god I hope not…) And then, gasp, ten years from now at aged 45— where in the heck will my life be? Eli will be about to graduate from high school, I’ll have two other teenagers … ok, with that, I’m really saying so long. It’s just to much to consider.

closing day

Today, we sell our home. Today it’s no longer “ours” but theirs. We are renting from them until the end of June, but according to the laws and the banks it’s no longer my home once we sign those contracts.

It’s funny how I sort of took for granted this house. It’s little, and we never got around to redoing a lot of the cosmetic dings and dents that were here when we bought the place six years ago; if anything we’ve just added more. But, it’s been home to me for longer than any other space since I moved out of my parents house at 18. Two of my three babies have only known this cramped space.

The family we are today grew in this humble little ranch house and even now, hours before we sign it away, I can’t picture living anywhere else.

The home we are buying in Jersey is over three times the size of our current one. Our kids will have their own room, and no longer will my kids fight over who’s turn it is to use the potty, because the new house has four bathrooms.

My husband loses me in the 1,000 square foot home now; I laugh at the thought of him actually losing me somewhere in the three story suburban mansion we are buying. I will truly have reading corners and nooks to escape to now.

But I can’t really picture it, yet.

So, to the little yellow house we’ve called home for over half a decade, thanks. You’ve been great. I’ll miss your creaky floors and beat up doors and the scary dank corners of the basement that I still haven’t gone near. I’ll miss my flowers and garden and shrubs and the views of the squirrels and birds in the backyard.

I know the family buying you will love you and care for you better than we’ve done, and I wish you well.

house hunter’s fallacy

HGTV’s “House Hunters” shows a perfectly packaged trio of homes for a potential buyer to purchase. The home buyer and their agent tour the properties and complain about wallpaper or the price or the location but generally speaking all homes shown are plausible future addresses for the buyer. When it came out this show is mostly staged I sort of shrugged my shoulders and moved on, but now that I’m living the life of an actual “House Hunter” I am enraged that this show was ever seen as anything but fiction.

We’ve seen about twenty homes in person. Put one offer on a house that I loved, really loved from the moment we walked in, only to see a cash buyer come in at the last possible hour before the contract was agreed upon by the lawyers. And now we are dealing with an FSBO who presented himself as a gregarious friendly guy, but now is just playing games with us.

The most disheartening part of this home search is how little I like most of the homes. You can scan on Zillow for hours and think you have a good idea of a home’s feel, look, location; nothing beats being there in person. At all. I’m going to get permanent scowl lines from wrinkling my nose up so much during our house hunting.

Moving out of state is hard, but the hardest part is driving to the location just to look. What was last month a fun road trip adventure, is now just an arduous traffic jammed torture reminding me of how much time we are wasting.

I think my heart isn’t over losing my dream home. I don’t think I can fully invest in a property until we are at the altar of contract signing. There’s a real chance we will end up in an extended-stay hotel this summer while we compromise and negotiate our way into a new home. And I’m already tired of it all.

Forgive me for this maudlin post. I’m sure next week I’ll have great news and within a few months I’ll be typing into the blog in a shiny new-to-us home, looking out my window into a big green lush backyard where our new neighbors and best friends are BBQing with us – but right now I’m just discouraged. I want a perfect real estate agent to sweep me into the perfect home like now, okay? Thanks…

 

 

real estate games

It’s becoming another mad spring. We’ve decided to put our home up on the market, and once it sells we are moving to New Jersey. I now spend all the time I used to devote to scrolling social media to scrolling Zillow. Who knew Zillow was so addicting? Seeing homes go on the market, drop their prices, add open houses, and then go to the very elusive and secretive “pending” status consumes much of my time now.

We (my husband and I) are in the very lucky in that we should find a home pretty easily that meets all of our “must haves”. Dealing with real estate agents (the buying agents) is annoying, but luckily we’ve found a selling agent locally who I trust to look out for our best interest.

The idea of starting all over again in a new location used to make me excited. I have wanted to move off of Long Island basically since we moved here; it’s so crowded and expensive and people seem impatient and I hate traffic and the last Christopher Nolan Batman movie scared the crap out of me because while “Gotham City” (Manhattan) was cut off by the exploding bridges, it also meant ALL of Long Island (Gotham Island?) was cut off too and the reality of living on an island didn’t appeal to me anymore.

But having to meet new mom friends, new circles, new social groups seems hard. It was hard here and I was younger and thirstier back then, now I’m older and less interesting. I’ve really settled into my schooling here and I could have seen a future in the local community college nursing program, I’m now moving to an area with a totally different program I’ll have to re-navigate around. Even my gym, my precious “me time” space will no longer be the same; the reverence and admiration I have for all the gym instructors will go away and the routine I’ve set up will be gone too.

But the time is now. My commuting pilot husband has been driving 3+ hours to Atlantic City for work for over a year. We can’t expect him to continue this for the rest of his career. Even though I’ve never fully embraced Long Island as my “home”, hopefully, we can settle into a real neighborhood in New Jersey and it will become my family’s permanent place.

Spring time is always a rush of change and new beginnings and we shall see what this upcoming one brings.

 

the joys of a little boy

Holden is my baby, the youngest of three, and my second son. But in so many ways he’s my first “boy”. My eldest, Eli, was a shy, studious toddler with a fixation on doors and trains and books and was quiet until he was 3. Literally. He didn’t really start talking until then, and this was after 18 months of speech-language therapy. Compared with our second child, Luella, Eli was easy as a toddler. Luella has her moments of drama and misbehavior, but she is also capable of focused play and is a pretty good listener.

But Holden. Man, Holden.

He’s that toddler who climbs. Climbs up high and dances at the top and dares you to stop him from repeating it once you drag him back down. He really enjoys pushing stools up to the kitchen counter and grabbing whatever he can reach, which is quite a lot. It’s terrifying to admit, but I’ve turned my back to him for seconds only to come back and see him brandishing a knife that I thought was out of reach. His grin as he waves it at me is mischief defined.

As I’m typing this out I’m realizing I just should ban him from the kitchen forever.

It’s just so obvious to me that he delights in naughtiness. When I tell him “no” his face lights up and he looks absolutely pleased with himself. He’s the first kid of mine to actually want to play in the toilet and the dog bowl and with the cleaners we store under the sink (which is child proof but he grabs for them whenever he can slide his quick hands past us when we open the cabinet doors).

He also enjoys carrying toys around and hitting me in the face with them, or his sister or brother if I’m not around. “Holden, are you going to hit me with that?” I’ll ask and he’ll wind up his arm and say, “Noooo” right before taking aim.

Okay, now I’m making it sound like he’s just this terror of a child who likes violence and danger and obviously there’s way more to him than that; it’s just funny to me how much of a boy I’ve got on my hands here. He needs limitations and constant supervision and this Mom has had two older kids who didn’t need a hawk-eye kept of them all day long, so the adjustment for me is hard.

Plus, for all his trouble-making, he’s insanely sweet and cute and those moments seem more tender because of his other stinky side. For example, today at the library program, whenever there was a toy prop for a song (like bells or bean bags) he’d bring me one first, before getting himself one. The kid’s not even 18 months old yet but he’s spoiling his mom. He hands me the toy and I swear winks before turning back around for one for himself.

And he’s just as likely to plant spontaneous kisses on my face, randomly, as he his to try and beat me with a metal toy truck. The kisses far outnumber the hitting and there’s nothing quite like having my rascal toddler bring me a book to snuggle up on my lap with. He melts my heart faster than butter on a frying pan with these moments.

They say every child is different, and this is true. My kids are all individuals but I never really thought my sweet baby would turn out so much more “boy” than his older brother, and even this, my third-time go-round with a young toddler, it’s a different ride and trip daily. My Holden is exasperating and funny and thrill-seeking and sweet and I finally have an understanding of what those moms who use the hashtag “boy mom” are all talking about.

Oh Holden. Stay my little sweet menance forever, sweet boy.