Friday, June 24, 2022

It Feels Like a Long Time Ago Now...But Also Not

I was going through some of my old files recently, and found this one—from Day 51 of Quarantine, back in early 2020—and I couldn't get over how far away this feels, how many of the details I'd already forgotten, and how many still feel like they happened last month. And yet, that 5 year old is about to be 8. That little one starts kindergarten in a few months. Today's the last day of camp for her at her preschool and well, the feelings are being felt both sad and ready. 

Anyway, here's this, so it has someplace to live. 


Day 51. 

I have been with my kids, consistently, every day, for more than 50 days straight. We have developed a rhythm, the three of us. 

Breakfast to the sound of Abby Hatcher or Wild Kratts, or—when they look at each other and smile, their own secret signal—Ryan!, they scream. Schoolwork to the sound of a 5 year old counting to 100 and a 2 year old repeating, repeating, repeating the numbers alongside him—15, 16, 17, 41, 73, 89. Late morning, as I type emails, and fix sentences, as I check in with invoices and scroll through social media, it’s the tapping of lego’s, the screaming from the bedroom that she wont leave me alone and he wont stop that. I sit quietly, and mostly ignore them, drinking more tea. Usually, it calms down. Sometimes it doesnt, and I stomp my feet up the stairs, the high-pitched tone of my voice echoing through our small hallway: I said stop! I need 10 minutes to write this! I’m going to separate you! 

Lunch is another episode of Wild Kratts or Abby Hatcher, sometimes Ryan. Sometimes, they eat as they talk to my parents, my brothers, my sister in law on the phone. They talk about their day, they do puzzles. Then I take the phone, prop it up in the kitchen while I make something quick, eat it while I’m standing up. I’m done says the 5 year old, can I have the computer now? Yes, I tell him. Can i? asks the little one. Sorry lady, I say, it’s nap time. 

We lie in her bed, read her a book. When it’s closed, she turns her face toward the wall and I wrap my arm around her. I love you, I say. She whips her head around, her dirty blond curls covering the pillow, I love you she mouths, exaggerating her L’s. I cuddle with her and I close my eyes. Almost every day, I fall asleep for 10 minutes. Almost every day, I count down to 10, then force myself to get up. 

It’s quiet then, for the next hour. I walk through the living room, picking stuff up on my way. Sometimes, I go into my room and close the door. Type some more. sometimes, I put on bravo and watch the real housewives or summer house or vanderpump rules. Occasionally, I go downstairs on the treadmill. That doesnt happen very often, but when it does it feels nice. Mostly, I listen to the silence. 

She wakes up shortly after, her head sweaty and her curls slightly matted. Her face has those sleep creases, and she looks softer than usual. She asks for the phone, and I usually say yes. She sniffs out her brother and lays down next to him. Today, she was on her back on the floor of her room and he was on her bed. It reminded me of those long summer days as a kid, when you had a book or a tv show, and not much else. 

Soon after, our day starts up again. We go outside or we go to the kitchen or we go in the living room. I don’t know, usually, what we do. 

John comes home and, once he’s showered and back with us, they jump all over him. We talk about dinner, usually I sneak back into the bedroom for a few minutes to be by myself. 

Our dinners are the same as they’ve always been. The four of us facing each other across our rectangular wooden table. We play a game called trivia, where we make up questions to ask the kids. We quiz them on their favorite parts of the day and their least favorite parts. They always choose wisely, mulling it over. sometimes all four of us favor the same things. 

There is clean-up, and there are sometimes baths. There is arguing over teeth brushing and arguing over how tired we are. But then there is bed, and books. 

I turn the TV on, eat something else. There is a glow, and I am tired. 

There is a rhythm to all this, as there always was. But there’s a rhythm to us, as there wasn’t before. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Reflecting, Finally

I spent three months at home with two kids under 6. My husband’s job is essential, so he was out of the house 5, sometimes 6 days a week for 10 hours at a time. I would lie down on the bed almost immediately when he got home. I let the kids watch their screens, videos of kids they started to mimic. I won’t say ‘too much’ time, not anymore. 

We went on walks, put up a wall of homemade art, and I made their favorite ‘charcuterie boards’, which, if you’re a parent, you know are the easiest to make of all the meals. I wrote maybe one article a week, at the height of it, and I was grateful for those early morning hours making sense of scientific studies, even though I worried the whole time if I would ever write more than that, if I was losing so much steam in the process. 

We spent time at the beach with our families in July and August. Days here and there in houses other people had rented, that other people had created their lives in. I’m grateful for this stroke of luck. For these people. 

I wrote more stories. People cried during interviews. A rawness I swallowed as I continued asking questions. 

One of my best friends passed away in September. She had been sick for a long time. She beat Covid, and she lost too much. It felt devastating in a quiet way. When someone is so tied up in your growing up, in your becoming-who-you-are, letting go of them is like letting go of a part of yourself, too. 

Mourning her was so different, the fact that it even had to happen so far from fair. There were no long dinners, sharing memories and hummus in a dimly lit restaurant in Williamsburg. We texted photos and memories back and forth. We double masked to talk to each other in the parking lot. 

That same month, and the couple months that came after, hit so much harder. Work went back to its normal pace. Life was somewhere in between. A 6-year-old learning to navigate virtual math lessons in his orange and green bedroom. A 3-year-old learning to not touch the front of her mask. A 37-year-old learning to buy flowers from Trader Joe’s, to spread a puzzle out on her office table, to cut herself some slack. (The hardest part of all.) 

I missed my coffee shop, I missed my yoga class, I missed the stack of magazines at the book store. I can tell you it takes exactly 45 minutes to walk that loop around the neighborhood.  

Things felt stripped away in a way they never had before. I started therapy, and I think it’s helping. Someone else helping connect the dots between then and that.  

In the fall, we did a soccer league in our backyard with a few kids. It felt like breathing in a way I never thought something like that could. How could I, really. Our masks on, our blue Adirondack chairs side by side. Kids eating pizza and cupcakes together for the first time in months. A neighborhood birthday party like you imagine from the 1960s. 

Our stories are so similar to others, and also so undeniably our own. 

I saw my niece only a couple of times between September, when she was born, and January. I haven’t met my new baby cousin yet. Didn’t get a chance to congratulate my cousin, in person, on his engagement. Etsy gifts and Amazon thoughts take the place. 

One thing standing in for another. 

We spent long Saturdays with one of our favorite families, ordering lunch and sometimes dinner on the same day. Kids playing video games and walking, pajama-clad, down hallway runways. Something we never would have done if there had been sports and dance class and required activities. The pro list. 

Back in May, we went to a park. We hadn’t been out of the house much, at that point. Masks still felt new and awkward on our faces. We parked far away, put our picnic blanket down on a spot of grass far off from the rest. We were nervous as we ate our sandwiches and strawberries. 

We went to that same park this past Saturday, two days after my first dose of the vaccine. The kids put their hands out for their masks, Ellie knows how to adjust hers to fit around her ears. They feel normal on our faces. We asked to borrow someone’s sanitizer when we forgot ours in the car. We ate our snacks on the side of a bridge, overlooking a waterfall. School is open every day now. 

Is this what it feels like to feel normal right now? Is this grief, just the same as it always was and always has been, since forever? Some days those coffee shops full of people don’t feel far off and sometimes it feels like my home office might swallow me up. 

There’s jealousy and resentment, gratitude and grief, sadness and emptiness, all mixed together. Hope even too, sometimes, when we say we’ll meet in Boston in September to remember that first place we met our friend, when we swap links to beach hotels in Mexico, when we know we’ll be fully vaccinated by May. 

And maybe this is just now. Trying to connect the dots between then and that. Trying to make the deadlines, and the dinners. Watering the flowers and watching them grow.  

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Quarantine, Day 40

Next door, my neighbors are planting a garden. They are mowing the lawn, and pulling up weeds. Sometimes, their sons play badminton on the lawn, a net that goes up and comes down.

Outside, there are people walking. In singles, and in pairs. Sometimes there’s a family of five—two kids on bikes, one in a jogging stroller pushed by a mom in yoga pants, followed by a dad on the phone. White masks, blue masks, patterned-scarf masks.

It’s still cold out.

I’ve been inside, mostly.

My days are similar and not. I am still working from home. I am still parenting at home. I am still making breakfast, and brushing toddler-sized teeth. Calling after them to get changed, and to wash their hands, and to clean up their messes. I am still folding laundry, and I am still making grocery lists, and I am still sending emails.  

I am drowning.

In worries about work and about family. About making sure that’s wiped down, and that’s washed. About baking that, and starting this. About finding the right words, and about when that check is going to come in.

I’ve been wanting to lie down, mostly.

I try to string words together and I get about halfway there and then it peters out, as if the string fell slack and everything followed suit.

I think about reading that career-focused book. I think about reading that inspirational book. 

I miss things, and I don’t. I want to sit in my usual spot, surrounded by magazines. I don’t want anyone else to know what I do with my day.

I feel guilty, mostly.

Every meme and every post and every everything tells you: It’s ok! It’s not the time! Just be happy to be! Look at all this time we have! Look at the puzzle I made! The signs I made! The detailed multi-colored projects I made!

We all rationalize it in different ways. My best friend who works till 2am every day, tells me that she woke up at noon, but it was ok, because sometimes you need it. No schoolwork got done today, someone else says, too many things were ordered today, someone else says, but it's ok because sometimes we need it. The friends whose kids are on iPads, and the friends who kids aren’t. But it’s ok, because sometimes they need it.

A collective convincing.

I watch TV and read my books and think and think and think. But it’s ok, because sometimes I need it.

Every thought I have is fragmented. Starts and then stops. There’s nowhere for them to go. And then: if I didn’t waste this hour, if I didn’t waste this thought, I could have read something, or finished something. Accomplished something.

But it’s ok if you don’t! Now’s not the time! But the time feels crushing. And it takes so much effort to talk, to fix, to pretty. It takes so much effort to get your shoes on, and your jacket on, and your patterned-makeshift mask on.

It’s so much.
It’s ok! Not right now!

Because sometimes we need it.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Regular Day

Two things happened yesterday, a Wednesday.

John dismantled the crib and replaced it with a mattress on the floor of Ellie’s room. She’s been waking up every night and coming into our bed, and we suspect it’s partly because the crib—set up like a toddler bed for the past couple months—just isn’t comfortable anymore. There is no sheet to cover her growing two-year-old body, no comforter to be wrapped up in, no pillow to lean on, even though we did put one in there. So we thought switching to a real bed might help. But since we haven’t bought any other furniture, it’s a twin-size mattress on the floor for now. Pink, gold, and teal polka-dot comforter from Target, pink fluffy pillow, new sheets.

This all happens while I’m sitting at Starbucks, finishing an article I have due. I come home and walk into her small bedroom—the changing table, the rocking chair, and other remnants of a nursery still visible—and at first I’m excited. How cute it looks! Should we add twinkle lights? Some netting, to make it look like a tent? To make it look like one of those cozy nooks you save on Pinterest, and think, maybe, someday. When she’s old enough.

But then I look in the closet. And it’s all there: The crib, in pieces—big ones, and small ones, the bars flat up against the wall. The box full of her brother’s baby clothes (coming home outfit, first walk outside outfit) is sitting there too.

Just like that, it’s gone. That crib that’s been there for 5 years. More, if you count the months it sat set up and empty, waiting for its first occupant, and then its second. The crib where we put them as 4 month olds, as 6 month olds, as 12 month olds. That we covered in pacifiers for Ellie, so she could find them in the middle of the night. That we worried Luca would climb out of, even though he never did. That we lined with blue sheets, and green sheets, and grey chevron-patterned sheets. That we leaned too far into as we put one down, then the other, holding our breath the whole time.

There are pictures that stand out: The one of Luca waking up, dressed in only a diaper. The one of him on his first birthday, balloons in hand. The one of the two of them, sitting inside the crib paging through books—something they did every morning for months.

And there it is, and there it goes. And that’s how it goes, I guess.

Later that night, I’m in Luca’s bedroom with him as he gets ready for bed. He was about the same age as Ellie when we switched him to the bed he’s in now—this boy who now takes the bus to school, who is up for his first taekwando belt test. Camping comforter from Target, fox pillow, blue sheets.

Every day, he comes home from school with a blue pouch full of books. One about a day at the beach, another about insects, another about hippos. The sentences are short and repetitive; there are power words, sight words, whatever you want to call them. He’s a 3Y reader now, which means something important, they say—and means it’s working, since he was 2Y just two weeks ago.

He starts reading, quickly flipping through the pages, getting stuck on a few words here and there, but mostly making sense of all of them. Are, the, hippo, water, waves, hat.

I think about all the books I’ve read over the years that meant something to me: Bridge to Terabithia, The Baby Sitter’s Club, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, On the Road, What She Saw, Bird by Bird. How all those first words added up to summers spent reading in the backyard, to airplane rides to Italy with a stack of Superspecials, to a day in bed during the first trimester of my first pregnancy, reading, and reading, and reading. How lucky he is, to be on the brink of all that, I think.  

Then Ellie walks in, with a Sesame Street book about colors in her toddler-sized hands. It’s not a book from Luca’s pouch, from his reading list. But we lie there in bed, me in the middle and one of them on each side—and he reads it to her. He asks her questions, gets her to point to the colors. She claps her hands when she gets them right, and he quickly picks up on the pattern of the story, doesn’t miss a word.

There was a quote in a beautiful article I read today about the tooth fairy and baby teeth: “Sometimes I just hold them. Noah’s in one hand. Eli’s in the other. Proof of their babyhood. Proof of the mouths they left behind.”

And I think how true, how true, how true. Baby teeth, cribs, first words, first books.

They say it all moves so fast, which it does. But sometimes, not fast enough that we don’t stop and see what’s happening all around us, as it happens. As we pick up Cheerios from the floor, as we step on broken crayons in the middle of the living room, as we fold crib sheets and put them away.

So here we are, when a regular Wednesday becomes a milestone, one to remember. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just another day, in a long line of endings and firsts—that sometimes we notice, and sometimes we don’t.  

But that mostly, we’re glad we get.

Photo by Nicole Angelova on Unsplash

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Five Things I Learned from My 100 Days Project

So for anyone keeping track, back in August, I decided to do a 100 Days Project wherein I would write something every day for 100 days. But my last entry was written on Monday and today is Sunday. That’s basically a whole week where I haven’t written anything here. And I think I’m done—at least with this project. So the real title of this post should be: Five Things I Learned from My 60 Days Project. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Writing is still my number one. I still do it, in some form or another, every single day—both for my day job and for fun. And doing this for the last 60 days has actually taught me a ton: about priorities and timing and choosing the things that are really important. Here are a few of the things I learned:

You can make time: When I first started this whole thing, I was most worried that I wouldn’t have much time to dedicate to it. I work a full time job, have a house and a family and a whole bunch of other boring life responsibilities. But I found that, since this was something I wanted to do, I could find the time when I needed it—in the morning, after Luca went to bed, on my lunch hour. And I also found that since JB knew how important it was to me, he was up for helping me find the time too. 

Three times a week is a charm: What I did notice though, was that I really only wrote things that I felt were of quality about three times a week. The other days, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, often felt forced—I was doing it more because I had to then because I wanted to. And while I know that sometimes the best things comes out of holding yourself accountable, I also want to be able to put the time into the things I actually want to write. Which is basically how I ended up at 60 days instead of the full 100.

Planning is good: Some weeks I would look ahead and think of the things I could write about. It was good to work sentences around in my head and think about new or different ways to structure things. Those were about where to eat on Cape Cod, and how to wake up early for the gym and what 33 looks like.

But off the cuff works too: But then there were the days when I had nothing and I sat down in front of a black screen and something came out. Some of my favorite pieces ended up being written that way: the were about values we want to pass on to Luca (this is one of my all-time favorites, actually), on the importance of practice, and on being mindful.  

Inspiration is everywhere: That’s a super trite statement, I know. But the truth is it’s the truth. I learned this from my magazine days, but if you’re paying attention, ideas are all over the place. In the moment that makes you stop in your tracks. In a podcast you listened to. In a conversation you had. Hell, in that random thing you overheard or that comment you read in that Facebook group you just can’t seem to pull away from. Of everything this project has made me think about, this is the one I want to keep on hand the most. Realizing that even the most mundane, everyday things are full of inspiration and meaning is the secret to making it all worthwhile, I think.

So here we are, 60 days out, and I’m pretty proud that I’ve kept it up this long. I’m still going to write as often as I can, and I’m so happy that I was able to find this space, to find myself here, over all this time.

It’s been like getting back to the core of things—and now it’s figuring out what it all looks like from here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Weekend in Burlington, Vermont

One of the most common things you hear after you have a kid is the importance of “date night.” I’m not putting it in quotes because it’s not a real thing, but mostly because it IS such a thing. Some people complain they don’t get to do it enough, other people seem to do it every week—and I would guess most of us fall somewhere in between, trying to hang with our person whenever we can, while still dealing with all the daily life stuff.

Which is why, other than an overnight at our cousin’s wedding last year, JB and I haven’t actually been away, by ourselves, since Luca was born. (Though lots of times when we go out to dinner or out with friends, L will sleep at my parents’ house.) They were up for extending the babysitting a couple days, and so we decided, in part to celebrate our 5-year wedding anniversary, to head up to Burlington, Vermont for the weekend.

It's a 5 hour drive and though we planned to get on the road early, that didn't actually happen. We wound up stopping in Albany for dinner at New World Bistro Bar, though, and it was totally worth it. 

It was late by the time we got up to Burlington, so we called it a night. The next morning we were up--not that early!!--and were happy to be in walking distance of basically everything. They have a great farmers market on Saturday mornings, so we walked around there before have breakfast at Monarch & the Milkweed. The waffles are basically four mini waffles stacked high, and are so good! (I tried to take some artsy food photos but, a food photographer I am not, so no go on those.) 

It was overcast and a little windy, but it wasn't cold or raining so we decided to go for a long bike ride along the Burlington Bike Path. We wound up doing 20 miles total, which was awesome. I was pretty proud of myself until we turned around to go back: it was so, so windy and so much harder that I almost couldn't hang. I made it in the end, though, hah.

After the ride we went to American Flatbread, which Dorna and Maulin had recommended--and it was great. 

That night we walked around Church Street, going into a few stores, before finally heading to The Farmhouse Tap & Grill for a late dinner. I loved the vibe of the whole town--it's young and fun and just so charming. I could totally imagine living there. (We obviously Trulia-ed all the cute apartments we saw :) 

On Sunday, we went to The Skinny Pancake for crepes and then walked around a bit more before getting on the road. The foliage was sort of half and half the whole time, but on the drive home it was amazing. Despite all the hype, fall still manages to get you every time. 

Anyway, I know everyone says it, but the weekend away was just so nice. JB had picked the place and the hotel and it was perfect. I get why people stress the importance of the whole date night thing--it was good to reconnect and put ourselves first and all that. And of course we missed L and talked about him a ton, but from the photos we were getting, he had himself a pretty good weekend too. 

So, here's to connecting and to remembering who we are, and to being ourselves, all at the same time. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Here and Now

Sometimes, when I'm not sure what I want to write, I let my mind wander. I could come up with this kind of list, or that kind of list. I could write about one thing or another, on and on until something clicks or settles and there you go. One of my favorite parts of working in magazines has always been the pitching and the brainstorming. I'd sit on the train and let my thoughts jump from one thing to another, a concentrated effort to be creative that usually resulted in at least a couple good ideas. 

Nothing has really stuck out today. Maybe a list of things I did today? That's navel gazing at its finest. Does anyone else care that I folded a couple loads of laundry today? That I went to work, that we had burgers for dinner? Maybe I will one day, though probably even I won't give much of a second thought to that. 

I could write about other things: that Amanda Knox documentary was, in the end, super interesting. I didn't follow the case much at the time, but I'm going to wholeheartedly agree with the Internet that that Nick Pisa guy was the worst of the worst and basically gives all journalists a bad name. Same goes for that misogynistic investigator. Definitely worth a watch. 

But mostly I've got some of the same things on my mind that I've had all week--about balance and decisions and trusting the process. 

And so I'm going to choose the here and now, forget about the rest and go put those folded clothes away, instead.