The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Monday, September 11, 2006

London checklist: Days One & Two

Arrived in one piece: CHECK
Launched new London blog: CHECK
Found pizza place which also delivers wine: CHECK

Friday, September 01, 2006

Empty squares

As digital as my world has become in recent years, there are a few things I prefer to keep analog. At the top of this list is my calendar. I've never been able to wrap my mind around Outlook or any other calendaring software. My brief attempts at converting to a Palm Pilot were an abysmal failure. I simply love giant paper calendars (the bigger, the better) with huge squares in which I can keep track of our crazy lives. There's something satisfying for me about writing appointments and dates down by hand, and my mind works best when I can view a whole month's worth of engagements at a glance. I even like to keep old calendars and look back at them over time. Those squares filled with scribbled reminders of past events are as good as any diary I've ever kept; a record of the years I've lived.

Over the past several weeks, I've been particularly grateful for the physical size of my calendar as I've struggled to fit as many appointments and playdates and dates as I can into a short period of time. I've been squeezing engagement after engagement into our days, staring at the full squares and trying to figure out where to fit in just a few more things. With August now behind us, I flipped forward to September this morning as I fielded yet another "we'd love to see you before you go" call. And there it was, staring me in the face: just over a week of jam-packed days and then... nothing. No playdates. No coffee with friends. No meetings. No adult events which will require a babysitter. No appointments. No kids' activities. No back to school events. Just row after row of empty squares.

My future may be filled with promise, but it is devoid of concrete plans. Structure and a new kind of schedule will inevitably come in time, but for now, what I have is a blank slate and a blank calendar to remind me of that fact. Those empty squares are unnerving as hell. Perhaps it's time to switch to Outlook after all. I think the one-day-at-a-time view might be about all I can handle at this point.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The skinny on my pants

A friend of a friend who relocated to London just a few months ago has been an invaluable resource for me these past few weeks, patiently helping me to answer such all-important questions as "will I be able to get my kids into a decent school," "are there items I won't be able to find in London which I should bring with me" and "am I an idiot if I think that I will be able to find room in a London flat for the entire train set, the huge dollhouse AND the oversized plastic kitchen?" (Yes, pack as many ziplock bags and Pullups as you can find, and ixnay on the itchenkay, in case anyone else has the same burning questions.)

She happened to mention in passing this week that the fashion scene is somewhat different in London than in suburban New Jersey and she's found that she's not necessarily wearing a lot of the clothes she brought with her. Given the price of apparel in the UK, I asked her to elaborate a bit. If my wardrobe needs some spiffing up, I figured, I might as well do it here before I go and save a few pounds. Her helpfully detailed answer stopped me cold. "Not a fashion maven," she wrote, "but here's what I've noticed... boot cut totally out, skinny pants."

There was some other ridiculous information about everything being dressier and women wearing heels to the playground, but I really couldn't get past that first sentence. I was blinded by the skinny pants.

When I first heard about the resurgence of skinny pants I kind of laughed it off. My group of friends tends toward the casual and the classic, and we're not quick to jump on trend bandwagons. I figured I had a year or two before skinny pants made it to our neck of the woods, and I knew that even if I decided to pass on the look altogether, my social standing was not likely to suffer as a result.

But now here I am moving to a major metropolitan city. I'm already going to stand out as the crazy foreign lady with the crude American accent. Do I want to further increase my chances of complete social ostracization by wearing unfashionable clothing?

And so yesterday found me in a Gap dressing room, staring at my skinny-panted reflection in the mirror and muttering under my breath. I'm too old for this, I told myself. No one who wore a trend the first time it was popular should be caught dead in the same look 20 years later. At 5'2", the whole long and lean thing was lost completely on me and my bottom half simply resembled a short blue triangle. I have absolutely no hips to speak of and I was wearing a size 4. And yet somehow, I looked hippy and fat in those skinny jeans. It was awfully hard for me to believe that I was ever going to want to put those things on my body.

I stood in the store for what felt like an eternity, staring at those ugly pants and thinking about the value of fitting in. And then I bought them. Those skinny jeans, with the tags still attached and the receipt tucked into the pocket, are now a symbol of my hopes for this move. It is my fervent dream that I will find a group of women who proudly wear boot cut pants to befriend in London. The day that I am able to mail my new skinny pants and the receipt home to chichimama so that she can return them for me would be a victorious one, a sign that I have made it in London without compromising myself. But if that doesn't happen, at least I'm prepared. I will be a hippy, triangular Londoner if that's what it takes to blend into my new environment. But goddamnit, I'm not wearing heels to the playground. Ever.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

If it weren't for a healthy dose of cynicism, I'd be a mess right now

Only 10 days remain until we leave for London and I should by all right be focused on sorting and organizing our belongings for shipping and storage Instead, I am up to my ears in social engagements as we try to fit in final visits with more friends and family members than I can count. Julia has playdates scheduled for every day, and on some days she's juggling two different sets of plans. Evan's got his share of dates set up as well. And as for me, I am doing drinks with one set of friends tonight, going out for dinner with a second set on Saturday and fitting in meals with 4 or 5 other sets of friends and family in the next week. I barely have time to breathe, let alone think about packing. And still, my phone keeps ringing and my inbox keeps flooding with requests from people to set something up before we depart.

I should be touched. I am touched, and incredibly appreciative of the outpouring of love and support our community of friends and family has demonstrated since we announced our impending departure. And yet, I'm also a little put off. Not by the fact that my life is full of such wonderful people, certainly; I'm incredibly grateful for that. But for every friend who I frequently see and whose presence I will honestly miss on a daily basis, there is another friend who I never see who suddenly must get together now that I am leaving. "Even though we rarely see or talk to each other, I consider you a very good friend and you hold such a special place in my heart," an email I received today read. It was easily the dozenth time I've read or heard a variation of that thought in the past month. And every time I read or hear it, I want to scream "well then why haven't I seen you for months or even years?"

When we were debating the wisdom of this move, one of the deciding factors for Paul was the fact that he never sees any of his friends any more. We're all so busy with young children and daily life that people who we used to see on a regular basis have become once-a-year engagements for us. "If we come home once or twice during the year and see them all, we'll be ahead of the game," he reasoned. As a stay at home mom, I naturally see my Mommy friends a lot more often than that, but I had to agree that he made a good point. I genuinely like and enjoy the friends I've made since my kids were born. But I know how easy it was to meet people through my kids and I'm confident that I'll be able to do that again in London. With a few notable exceptions, I suspect that even though I'll miss them, I'll get along just fine without my friends for a year or two.

It's hard not to feel sad during our current whirlwind tour of goodbyes. It's hard not to look at all of the familiar faces that surround me and mourn the distance that will soon separate us. It's hard not to wonder if we will be blessed with even a fraction of these friendships abroad. It's hard not to think about what I'm leaving behind. But it's also damn hard not to feel just a little bit cynical about the friends who are coming out of the woodwork, too. Yes, I'll miss them. Just as I've missed them for the past several years when I haven't seen them. London, New Jersey, it's all the same if we don't bother to pick up the phone.

Too cynical? No doubt. But if this line of thought keeps me from drowning in a puddle of my own tears as I say 10 days' worth of constant goodbyes, then it's worth it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

34 going on 5

Back in the days when Paul and I were living together, but not yet engaged or married, I could never figure out how to refer to him when I was talking to people he didn't know. "Boyfriend" seemed too limited for someone I shared a sink and a closet with and "the man I live with," while technically accurate, just plain sounded dumb. I usually just talked about "Paul" as if his identity was a given and let people ask if they were unsure. These days, I do something similar with chichimama. I feel funny saying "best friend" as a grown woman, but the regular "friend" seems a hopelessly inadequate word to describe the person who knows me best, supports me the most and touches my life in so many fundamental ways every single day.

Saying goodbye to chichimama, even temporarily, is going to be the hardest part of moving for me. We've already tried to find ways to compensate for the miles that will be between us, but I know that we both sense the huge gaping hole which will be present in our lives once we're no longer around the corner from each other. I've been trying to use her annual August trip to Maine as a trial run for not leaning on her so much in my daily life, but so far I think we're both failing pretty miserably. She left Monday, and we've already spoken 5 times. First, she needed to find out which hand C should hold his tennis racket in. Then I found myself standing outside Old Navy with no idea how many pairs of size 3T hand-me-down jeans I had from her for Evan. Then M changed his travel plans slightly and she called to revise the dates she needed me to keep an eye on her cats. Then I needed to know which contact lens mail-order company had been lenient with the date of her last eye exam when she had recently reordered lenses. Then A's fever came back and she called for a consult. It is becoming overwhelmingly clear to me that I made a fundamental error in not calculating enormous long distance charges into our London budget.

I'm confident that I'll end up getting an A illness update at some point today, but she was on my mind, so I checked in on chichimama's blog first thing this morning to see how A was feeling. I was skimming quickly before my kids woke up, figuring I already knew most of what I was about to read anyway, when the second and third paragrpahs of the blog entry stopped me cold.

New best friend???? What the hell is she talking about? Is this supposed to be a subtle dig at me? I know that she's sad and anxoius about the fact that we're going, but she's also been incredibly supportive and she's not the type to be vindictive. But here it is in black and white. She's replaced me. Already! Where did she get a new best friend so fast? Oh my God, I'm going to lose my best friend over this move! We can't go!!!

I re-read her entry, looking for clues to my replacement.

Oh. "New best friend, the on-call nurse." Well, that makes more sense.

Carry on. Feel better, A. And chichimama, I'll talk to you later, my best friend...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Knock, knock. Who's there? Opportunity.

Eight months ago, depressed by the start of yet another "same old, same old" year, I made a New Year's Resolution to seek out a new direction for myself. On the advice of some very wise friends, I took my time on this project, waiting for the right opportunity to present itself rather than aggressively trying to hunt it down. "You'll know it when you see it," they kept reassuring me.

I wondered some days about the wisdom of this approach. More often that I care to admit, I was convinced that this year was destined to end up every bit as boring and uninspired as it began. But in the end, my friends were right. The year was half over before opportunity finally came knocking. But when it did, I immediately recognized and embraced the new direction my life would take this year. This one was worth waiting for.

It's official. Next month, my family and I are moving to London. Instead of a familiar, comforting and entirely too predictable start to yet another school year, this September will mark for us the beginning of an adventure which I can neither envision nor fully anticipate. My life for the next year or two will be anything but the boring re-tread I had feared it might end up to be. Whether that turns out to be a positive thing for me or not remains to be seen, but the knowledge that at the end of this experience I will return to my current life somehow changed is a welcome certainty. I'm excited and I'm terrified and I'm overwhelmed all at the same time. But mostly, I'm incredibly grateful, both for this opportunity and for the friends who encouraged me to wait patiently for it.

The beginning.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

This is what my life has been reduced to now that my daughter can spell

"Do you think it's too hot to go to the man made body of liquid construction today?