Friday, September 26, 2014

Good-bye, Childhood

Last night was the end of an era: Derek Jeter played his last game in Yankee Stadium as an active player (I'm sure he'll be back in pinstripes for Old-Timers' Day at some point). And I cried. And I cheered. And I felt . . . old.

Getting married, having a kid, turning thirty: did any of those events make me feel old? Nope. But watching the Captain take his final bow at shortstop? It was like saying good-bye to my childhood. And despite the initial thought of feeling old, I couldn't help but also be transported back to when I was twelve years old.

In 1996, my family moved to Texas during the ALDS. Though I had been a Yankees fan since birth, 1996 was the first year that I remember being really into the team and baseball. Previous to that year I had watched occasional games with my dad, and I even asked for a Don Mattingly poster at the school book fair as a reward for having four teeth pulled (because, you know, having a poster of a man with a handlebar mustache near your bed is completely normal for a ten-year-old girl). 

An early fan of pinstripes.

But there was something about 1996: the Yankees were finally good again; they were enjoyable to watch. There was something about Derek Jeter: his skills, his energy, his youth. There was something about cheering for my team as I moved to the south. And though we were in Houston, not Arlington, Texas was the home of the Yankees' ALDS opponents, the Rangers. I remember feeling like the Yankees' win over the Rangers was a personal victory during a move that I was not happy about (I even made sure to wear my Yankees World Series champions jacket to the rodeo in February just to let everyone know that I was a Yankee through and through). And then there was the ALCS, and the Orioles, and the Jeffrey Maier incident. We had been staying at a friend's apartment until our house was ready, and we moved in to our new home right before the World Series. I remember being in our new family room, sitting on my shins, my elbows on the ground with my head resting in my hands. I remember watching each of the six games. I remember in the last game getting up to pace the room during the top of the ninth inning. I remember Charlie Hayes catching that pop up for the final out. And I remember the joy I felt in that moment. I remember staying up past my bedtime to watch the postgame activities and interviews.

Now, fast-forward eighteen years to last night. Mike and I were watching the game in our new living room. I was sitting on the floor in the same position I've been sitting in since I was four: resting on my shins with my head in my hands (it's not as comfortable as an adult, but I can't seem to break it). Mike and I watched the game—both of us feeling the emotions of seeing a ballplayer we grew up watching taking his final bow in the Bronx. In between the top and bottom of the ninth, I got up to check on R, who had woken up an hour before crying. And as I turned the corner back into the living room, I heard Pirela get the single and then Gardner coming up to bat. And like every other Yankee fan, I knew it was going to come down to Jeter . . . and I was stressed. I felt the pressure for him. I looked at Mike and told him as much. I watched Gardner lay down the bunt and advance the runner into scoring position. And then I started pacing. And rocking. And holding my hands to my face. Just like I did in 1996. 

And then we listened to Bob Sheppard's voice for the last time: Now batting for the Yankees, number two, Derek Jeter. Number two. We watched Jeter walk up to the plate. And then he did it. He did what he has done so many times. Captain Clutch. And it was amazing. I jumped up and down, flailing my arms around, high-fiving Mike. In those few moments, it was as if this were a World Series game. (I wish; wouldn't that have been the best ending for him?) And I smiled and felt that joy that I felt eighteen years ago. I saw Jeter's teammates, the guys with him from the beginning, standing in front of the dugout (as Mike and I said, like the veterans waiting in the cornfield for the newest player to join their retired game). And I stayed up past my bedtime watching all the postgame festivities and interviews. 

Seeing Jeter in the interviews, with more wrinkles and less hair, the twelve-year-old left and the thirty-year-old returned. I was reminded of the eighteen years that had passed, of watching Derek Jeter in so many moments—the good and the bad (because he wasn't always perfect). No, if you measure him against other greats, his stats aren't at the top of the boards. But he sure does know how to come through in the moment. You can't deny that the man was a great ballplayer. Sometimes it's not just about leading the boards but about the passion, the drive, and the charisma in combination with the skills. Should he have started in the All-Star Game this year? Based on numbers, absolutely not. But there's a reason he was voted in. And despite not having "the numbers," he produced.

I grew up listening to my dad talk about the Yankees of his youth, and R will most definitely grow up learning about the Yankees of her parents' youth, namely Derek Jeter. Like her mom, she's a Yankee fan from birth, and I can only hope that one day she'll have a player like Derek Jeter to admire and grow up watching. And man, when that day comes, I'm going to feel really old.

R's first trip to the Bronx.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

We Have Exciting News . . . Part II

Here we are again. I'm baiting you with exciting news, just like I did three years ago. This time am I announcing a pregnancy? Is R going to have a little brother or sister?

Eventually, we hope. But no, not anytime in the next nine months. That's not what our exciting news is. As with our exciting news last time, there's a new job. 

For a couple of years now, Mike and I have been the couple who cried wolf move. When we first started seriously dating (which, let's face it, was shortly after we started dating, period), we talked about where we'd want to settle down when we had a family. The answer had always been Chicago. In a perfect world, we would have loved to stay near New York City, but it's an expensive place. And in order to afford a house within commuting distance, Mike would have had to commute at least an hour each way (and that's at the least). Chicago offers more affordable suburbs with access to a fantastic city, and that's how we made that decision.

So . . . are we finally doing it? Are we finally moving west?

Yes. But not to Chicago. To Western New York. (Yes, you read that right, people who have heard me say for years I would never move to Western New York. Seriously, one day I'll stop saying never.) In just a couple of weeks, Mike and I are relocating to Buffalo, New York—home to his beloved Sabres and Bills (Lord help me) and a food I don't particularly enjoy, but I guess I better start to. For the last year, we actually thought we were moving to Chicago; Mike's company had said they would transfer us there at the end of this summer. Unfortunately that fell through a couple of months ago, and that's when Mike decided to open up the job search by applying to positions in Columbus and Buffalo.

I know what you're all thinking: Buffalo?! I've always wanted to go there! It doesn't have quite the appeal of Chicago, but there are certainly a lot of pros on the list as to why this move is good:

  • First and foremost, we'll be closer to both sides of our family—just ninety minutes from Mike's parents and five hours from mine, which is much better than now. And if there's one thing we've realized after having R, it's how nice it would be to be closer to our parents and my sister, brother-in-law, and obviously R's cousins.
  • We'll still be in the state of New York, which means it's easier for us to hop in the car for a long weekend in the city with friends and family. It also means that we'll still get the YES Network. (Not that there's much to watch this season.)
  • Obviously it's much cheaper to live in Buffalo. Sure, we'll have to get a car (holy moly), but even the car payments, insurance, and rent will still be cheaper than what we're paying now. This means we can actually put some more money in savings for our eventual house (how novel of an idea!).
  • We'll be close enough to Toronto for a quick "city" fix. Missing theater? Toronto. Want to see the Yankees? Toronto. Just need a change of scenery? Toronto.
  • Mike's commute will be much quicker; he'll be home by five thirty, which means an added hour each day with him and R.

Change is hard. It felt great to finally make the decision, but that doesn't mean it's been easy on us since. Not to mention, until this weekend, I had never even been to Buffalo except in passing on the way to Niagara Falls. It's change, and it's a leap of faith. But I'm not new to this. And that's how I know I'll be OK. And during our time in Buffalo this weekend, people were raving about it—I honestly felt like everyone we spoke to worked for the city or something: they were selling it that much. And, thankfully, I can talk to a brick wall, and I have absolutely no problem with going up to a woman with a baby and asking her to be my friend. Seriously, I'll do it. And Mike's company is very family-oriented, hosting monthly get-togethers for their employees, so we'll hopefully meet some people through that as well.

When my family was moving from Virginia to Texas when I was twelve, and I was really upset about leaving my three best friends, my mother said that there was no guarantee that my friends wouldn't move away too—and they all did within the next two to three years. Part of me would love for my friends to start moving away, so we're not the only ones. But then I want them to stay so we can see them when we visit NYC. It's selfish on both accounts, I know. I spend a lot of time with my mommy friends discussing this. While I know we'll have friends who will forever stay in New York City and its surrounding areas, and while there are lots of parents who raise kids in New York City, it's just not for us. This move was inevitable, but it doesn't make it any easier to say good-bye to a city that was very good to us. The idea of leaving our friends and family in New York City is not something we're looking forward to. What makes it even harder, for me, is that we're not telling my grandparents, who live forty-five minutes outside the city. They're not quite all with it, so there's no point in upsetting them for something they won't remember or comprehend in a day or two. But for all our other friends and family, they know we'll be back to visit. 

Buffalo will be good for us. It will be great for R. It will great for our families. We know this. We may have to remind ourselves of this often on the hard days, but deep down, we know it to be true. This weekend we went to Buffalo to find a place to live. We're going to rent for a year or two to make sure that we do like Buffalo, and if so, renting in Buffalo will allow us to save some money for a house there. So while we're renting, we're going to live in the city to get a feel for it and to research where we'll want to eventually settle. We thought we found a great place, only to be turned down because the landlord doesn't want a family (clearly we should have brought R with us so he could see how chill she is. Not that I generally wish ill will on people, but a little part of me not-so-secretly hopes he gets two disrespectful tenants instead). We did have reservations about the landlord, thinking he may be a bit of an annoyance . . . so his turning us down isn't all bad. We do feel like we're settling a bit on our second choice, but it's a rental, not our forever home. And there are certainly some positives to it too. Everything happens for a reason, and everything really does work out in the end. These are two things I've always believed, which is why I know that this move will be good for us regardless of what happens.

So there you have it: our exciting news part two. For those of you who live in NYC, we'll be doing a going-away party soon. For any of our friends and family, please come visit us once we get settled (and my guess is you'll want to do this before winter or after, though everyone tells me I'm exaggerating how bad it is)! I mean, I know Buffalo probably isn't at the top of your traveling bucket list, but Niagara Falls and Toronto and the Finger Lakes are a hop, skip, and a jump away. And who knows, maybe after just a few weeks I'll have the same mentality as everyone else we talked to and I'll be selling you on Buffalo itself.

I guess I should probably break out those Bills and Sabres shirts Mike got me now. . . .

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sixteen Things I've Learned in Sixteen Weeks of Parenthood

I said weeks ago I was going to write a post about ten things I have learned in the ten weeks of motherhood. Well, lesson number 873: Finding time to write a blog post is hard. Really hard. And if I have the time, I may not have the energy or brain power to put thoughts to screen.

It truly is crazy how fast time flies. Today R is sixteen weeks. So without further ado . . .

Sixteen Things I’ve Learned in Sixteen Weeks of Parenthood (in no specific order)
Note: If you’re a dad, feel free to insert “dad” where I say “mom” when appropriate. I’m an equal-loving blogger.

  1. I like pink. A lot. Who knew? I was never a pink person (though, ironically, of the five bedrooms I lived in—houses only, so not including my New York City apartments—two of them were painted a shade of pink). Having a daughter? Well, that has made me a pink person. Especially after spending nine months of not knowing the gender. I’m super glad we did it that way, and I was perfectly fine with all the gender-neutral items, but once I started getting the girly stuff, I realized how much I loved it—especially the pink!
  2. Never say never. I used to say I’d never put a headband on my daughter if I had one. I don’t know why I was so vehemently against headbands, but I definitely had strong opinions on them. Cue daughter. Turns out headbands are pretty dang cute. I prefer the smaller headbands; I’m (personally) not into the big flowers and bows, but I guess I can’t say I’ll never put one on her.
  3. No amount of sleep deprivation pre-baby will prepare you for sleep deprivation post-baby. I don’t mind the 3:00 a.m. feeding, for some reason I find that one really enjoyable, even if I am exhausted. But there was a week or two where R was waking up every two hours, which meant I was waking up every ninety minutes. And even though she seems to have hit a pattern now that is manageable (goes to bed at seven and wakes up at eleven thirty, three thirty, and seven thirty), I know there will be regressions and teething and colds that will mess routines up and cause some exhausted days. Mike and I used to joke that my all-nighters for freelancing acted as a good form of “spring training” for mommyhood. Wrong. I will admit I am a high-functioning human being on very little sleep after years of practice, but I don’t bounce back from sleepless nights as easily as I did when I was pulling all-nighters and going to the office.
  4. Speaking of the office . . . for those who do not know, my office is now my apartment. I am an official stay-at-home mom and freelancer. Finding time to do my work, which is now my sole source of income, on top of my work of being a mommy, is really, really hard. I always knew this would be the case, but actually living it has brought this knowledge to a whole new level. There have already been a few nights of working until R’s three-thirty feeding and then going to bed after that. Thankfully, Mike takes over on the weekends, so I get to sleep in and catch up on all the work I didn’t get done during the week. Hopefully R will start to take better naps in her crib during the day so I can get more work done then.
  5. Sometimes I miss my nine-to-five. Yes, I have a job that I love and I can do it from home, but there are days when I miss going to the office, talking with my coworkers, knowing pretty much exactly what my day is going to be like. When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom at some point (my theory: I’m the daughter of a stay-at-home mom and I loved how active she was in my childhood), but then I found a job I loved. And there was a lot of internal back-and-forth on what I wanted to do and what was feasible in this day and age. Thankfully, my nine-to-five job opened up a world of opportunities to become a freelancer so I can continue doing what I love—and what I’ve worked hard to achieve—and be a stay-at-home mom, which is perfect timing for our family right now. But sometimes my little assistant just doesn’t provide the same kind of break as walking into a coworker’s office and chitchatting for fifteen minutes. Sure, she and I talk a lot . . . but she doesn’t have much to contribute to the conversation just yet.
  6. I’m not getting nearly as much unwanted advice as I thought I would. I was warned a lot that this would happen, but so far it’s been manageable. Most of the advice I’ve gotten has been helpful. (By the way, speaking of advice, I don’t think I will ever tell someone “to sleep when the baby sleeps.” It’s just not feasible past the first couple of weeks. I sleep when the baby sleeps if the baby is sleeping on me and I can’t do anything else. If I can get her to sleep elsewhere for any time longer than twenty minutes, I take that time to get everything done that’s been building up . . . you know, like a shower, eat, the essentials.)
  7. Moms aren’t as catty and judgmental as some people (read: the media) will lead you to believe. There’s a lot out there about how moms like to judge other moms. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, but I’ve been pretty fortunate to have mom friends who aren’t like that. And these aren’t mom friends I knew pre-baby—these are ladies who I met randomly through and now see once a week: stay-at-home moms, work-from-home moms, nine-to-five moms; breast-feeding moms, formula-feeding moms; married moms, engaged moms. We support one another, because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what kind of mom you are. You’re a mom. Period. I also love that in the rare case I post something frustrating on Facebook, friends, both old and new, chime in to offer support, which has been really nice.
  8. Babies come with so much stuff. It’s ridiculous. (Yes, I realize this is a first-world convenience; babies can actually make it by with very little.) There was a brief moment when Mike and I considered staying in our one-bedroom apartment until we figured out where we wanted to settle. Thank goodness we didn’t do that! As much of a pain moving is, it’s nice that R has her own room; it’s nice to have space for the Pack ’N Play, the bouncy seat, the Jumperoo, the play mat, the swing, etc. Because one day R will like one of those things a lot . . . and another day she’ll hate it and like something else. Not to mention that our new place has space for an amazing couch that has been our lifesaver.
  9. I love my body. Flab and stretch marks and all. I have to say that I have never felt more confident than I did during the last year. I loved my pregnant body, and I’m not hating my body now. I have been noticing a bit more flabbiness around my midsection lately (because breast-feeding burns so many calories, it gives you a false sense of security: you think you can eat a lot more than normal . . . which you can, but you know, not, like, an entire six-pack of Reese’s eggs . . . oops), but still, my body made a baby. And that’s pretty freaking awesome. It had to stretch and accommodate a near-nine-pound baby; I can’t be mad at it for that.
  10. Getting myself dressed each day is a struggle. I like to tell myself that by staying in my pajamas, I’m really just saving on laundry, which then in turn saves me from going to the Laundromat more often (because it’s an eight-minute walk and a couple of hours of my day; it’s not like I can just do a load here or there). As comfortable as pajamas are, I do feel pretty sloppy most days. Especially since I’m constantly interacting with messengers and mailmen, so it’s not like I’m holed up and people don’t see me. This will most likely change when this terrible winter is over and we go out of the house more often.
  11. Some days I feel like I’m just barely treading water. Others I feel like I’m—to borrow from Cards Against Humanity—being a motherf------ sorcerer. I feel like the latter when I get tons done. For instance, about once a month I’m able to sit down and go through cookbooks and websites looking for Crock-Pot recipes. I then create a very large FreshDirect order, have the groceries delivered, and spend a day or night getting a whole bunch of meals together to put in the freezer. That feels like a major success. And recently the recipes I’ve made have been really good, which makes it all the better (because there’s nothing worse than putting a new recipe in the freezer, putting it in the Crock-Pot when you’re ready, and then hating it when you eat it and having nothing else in the house).
  12. I spend most of my days looking and acting like a complete idiot. Anything to keep R happy and smiling (and trying to get her to giggle, since she’s just starting to figure that out—greatest sound ever). I hate singing and dancing in public. HATE it. I have to have quite a bit of liquid courage to go on a dance floor, and it better be packed so I can melt into the crowd. And I freak out about even being near a karaoke bar for fear that people will force a microphone in my face, even if it’s a group song. My most embarrassing moment was trying out for The Sound of Music in high school. I was the type of person who wanted to be a part of everything, and I love musical theater, so this seemed like a logical thing to try out for. It should be noted that I can’t sing. At all. It was terrifying and embarrassing and I didn’t even have to check the cast listing to see if I got a role in the background (because that’s all I wanted, I mean, I wasn’t completely fooling myself). Now I dance and sing all day, stupid songs, made up songs, nursery rhymes, you name it. Whether R is smiling at me because she likes it or she’s laughing at me is yet to be determined.
  13. When you find something that works, it’s the most amazing feeling. In an effort to get R sleeping better at night, our doctor told us to put her to bed earlier. We had been starting her routine at eight o’clock because that allowed Mike some time with her when he got home from work. Well, now we start getting her ready at six thirty, and she’s in bed by seven. She still wakes up at the same times to feed that she did when she was going to bed at nine, but she’s not waking up an extra time or two in the middle of the night just because (or to fart, because there was a week where she was waking up consistently at two in the morning to toot). And with her earlier bedtime, I have an extra two hours now. Not to mention, trying to eat dinner with her before was hard; Mike and I can eat leisurely these days.
  14. When something that works stops working, it’s the worst feeling ever. R used to sleep six hour straight. I knew it wouldn’t last, because 1) it was too good to be true (parenting isn’t that easy), and 2) other moms had told me those sleeping patterns are pretty normal around weeks five through seven, and then babies go back to every couple of hours after that. Despite knowing this, the first day after that six-hour night, you think, OK, so tonight was a bad night, we’ll go back to normal tomorrow. And then the next night, you think, Well, crap. Parenthood really is a whole bunch of trial and error. What works for some families doesn’t always work for others. And what works one week may not work the next.
  15. Shopping for a baby is so much more fun than shopping for yourself. Their stuff is just so cute. And there's so many mixed emotions when they grow out of a group of clothes. You get excited about the new stuff, but you get so sad about packing up the clothes that have become too small for your baby.
  16. There really is nothing like the love you have for your child. I didn’t need sixteen weeks to figure this one out. It’s just with each week, my love for her grows so much more. Even with the bad days, the exhausted days, the whiny days . . . being a parent is still awesome. 

Our little sixteen-week-old

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's: A Great Day for Daughters

Let me start by saying that I have many blog posts going on in my head. I'm generally always writing, even if I'm not physically writing or typing something out. The problem is getting enough time to sit at my laptop to write them. There are three posts I want to write today: Ten Things I've Learned About Myself in the First Ten Weeks of Motherhood, a post about Derek Jeter's last season and how I'm handling that, and a post about Valentine's Day, which I started thinking of this morning. Seeing as today is Valentine's Day, I think it's best to go with the timely post. So look forward to Eleven Things I've Learned About Myself in the First Eleven Weeks of Motherhood and a post during spring training about Derek Jeter.

I've never really had a set opinion on Valentine's Day. On one hand, yes, there shouldn't be just one day that you're made to feel special and loved by whomever your Valentine may be. Love should be a 365-day thing. But on the other hand? It feels good to have a day where your love is recognized a little bit more than the other 364 days.

Everyone loves Valentine's Day in elementary school. I remember how much fun it was to go to the store and pick the pack of valentines that spoke to me. Would I be the only one with Doug-themed cards? (For some reason, this is the first pack that jumped to my mind, though other years were filled with My Little Pony, Disney princesses, and Care Bears.) What kind of cards would I get? There was a party in class. There was candy or cupcakes from the class mom (aka my mom) and bags that we decorated earlier in the week to place at the end of our desks for our valentines to be deposited in. But then middle school happened and puberty hit, and Valentine's Day came with expectations: without a boyfriend or girlfriend, you couldn't celebrate. You spent each class period hoping a secret admirer would send you a candy gram. For me that never happened. Admittedly, I  felt like an ugly duckling during middle school, and the boys I had crushes on never returned my affections. Valentine's Day just reminded me of this.

But that didn't mean I didn't have a valentine.

Here's what else I remember about Valentine's Day post elementary school: my dad. Each year he picked out three boxes of See's Candies: one for my mom, one for my sister, and one for me. There was always a card. There's still always a card. Despite wanting to not put too much weight on Valentine's Day, I remember feeling so special when I saw that card and box of chocolates from my dad.

Last night I told Mike I didn't do anything for Valentine's Day. I felt bad about it--I'm usually very good about getting a card at the very least. But after being in Ohio, battling a cold, and the snowstorm keeping us in yesterday, today just kind of snuck up on me, and I didn't make it to the store (and the sidewalks are too slushy/icy to go out today with R). Despite my forgetfulness, Mike still made me feel special. This morning the doorbell rang. When I answered the door, there were flowers from him. And I had this moment as I took the flowers in one hand, holding R in the other: What will be R's tradition with her dad? I have no doubt he'll make her feel special 365 days a year--I can already see R wrapping him around her pinkie. Will R feel like an ugly duckling during those dreaded teenage years? Will she find as much comfort in her dad telling her she's beautiful? (Will she tell him he's only saying that because he's her dad?) Will a Valentine's Day box of chocolates, or a bouquet of flowers, or whatever their tradition may be make her heart smile knowing that whatever her relationship status there's always one man who will be her valentine? It's pretty awesome to think about.

If you love it/celebrate Valentine's Day: Happy Valentine's Day to you.

If you hate it: Happy February 14, just one day out of 365 that you are loved.

And whether you love it, hate it, or are indifferent to Valentine's Day: Go get some chocolate. Because today is a day to indulge and love yourself; no one's judging.