Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Two Months!?

So here it is, January 2015. It's strange, but when it was December--just last month-- this whole moving thing seemed years away. Now, since it's January, time seems to be in warp speed mode and it just crept up on us.

We are putting the house on the market in about two months. That seems like nothing considering all that's still on our list. We are almost done with the ceiling, but then there is the garage, the master bath, and just decluttering and cleaning. Did I mention cleaning? Ugh. The worst part in my opinion. If there is one thing I hate it's deep cleaning, though it does feel awesome after its actually done.

I still can't believe this is really upon us; it's crunch time. Finally!

In other news, my first guest post is up on the Family Friendly Cities site. I'm really looking forward to contributing more--especially as we're transitioning into an urban lifestyle. It should be interesting so stay tuned.

I'm nervous. Excited. Overwhelmed (feeling mostly this right now with the sale of our house looming overhead). My mind is going a mile a minute with all we have to tackle before spring, but I need to remember to take a deep breath and just put one foot in front of the other.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Another Year

This will be my last post of 2014. It's not really due to being a terribly non-consistent blogger (okay, well, maybe a little), but because it's the holidays and all things family, friends, presents, and eating will ensue until next year begins. Starting on Wednesday, the kids are out of school and Jason is on vacation until January 5th. Not to mention Jason works from home tomorrow too (I swear he has the best boss ever). We're all getting 12 wonderful days together.

There are so many things for me to be grateful about. This past year actually didn't suck. It was productive and reflective. For the first time in years I am actually happy. We are not drowning in debt; there are no health issues; Mason is getting the therapies he needs; we are planning for our future. After what seemed like forever living under a dark cloud and almost losing everything, this year was amazing.

One goal I've accomplished this year was finally--after 13 years--get my Associate's degree. I started college in 2001. Yes, freaking 2001 when I was 21 years old. After moving across country countless times, having babies, retaking courses, changing majors, and losing some credits I finally finished. So, 2 years of school took 13, but at least I finished (the first in my family to get any college degree). I will probably continue at some point but right now I don't even want to hear the word school.

Another great personal accomplishment this year; remember my exercise regimen I started back in May? Well, I'm still at it. Jason is at it too and he is looking fantastic. He actually lost a ton of weight and gained back some long lost muscle. My weight loss and toning has been a bit slower though. It's been a little annoying--especially as I see the pounds practically melting off my significant other--but I know overall men lose weight faster than women (thank you monthly hormonal fluctuations) and I'm getting there. I've been pretty active my whole life, but I've always--always--stopped working out and caring how I ate right around the holidays and then would pick it up again in late spring. I doubt it's a coincidence. Holidays = lots and lots of awesome FOOD! And for us, cold weather of course. It would always cause me to shrug my shoulders and just get lazy about it all. Then I was always playing catch up in the spring. This time it's different.  I think the key is we're motivating each other. Earlier this month I was busy with finals, got walloped with a nasty virus, home reno, and just getting wrapped-up (pun intended) in the holidays, and usually this would mean just stop with the exercise and healthier diet. Not to mention the cold weather and it getting dark by 5. This time I had Jason telling me to get off of my butt because I'd feel better for it. And he was always right. I do the same for him too, and now I feel we are a united front on this. Not only am I (finally) seeing and feeling physical benefits from this, but I also feel great mentally--better than I have in years. My energy is also returning. And for the first time ever I will not be playing catch up this spring!

Now on to the house. The renovations are moving along, slowly, but moving nonetheless. We finally finished putting all the drywall up onto the ceiling. It was hard work and we had some setbacks due to a really nasty virus that hung around for two weeks, but the dirty part is done (those tiles were beyond gross). Next is taping, sanding, painting, and crown moulding. Who knows when that will happen, but hopefully soon as our goal for placing our house on the market is March (or April. Probably April... ). After the ceiling is the master bath, which is mostly just some painting and heavy duty cleaning, and then clearing everything out with a massive dumpster. After that its; just small things here and there. We're pretty much at the end of it all and it feels great.

This Christmas will be our last one here in this house that we've made a home over the course of 6 years. It's a mixed bag of emotions for sure, but I'm hopeful. We're all hopeful and looking forward. This year was great and I'm anticipating 2015 unlike any other. But for now, I'm just savoring these last days of 2014 with my favorite people in the whole wide world.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cities Are For Families Too!

Recently I came across an website called Family Friendly Cities. Their mission is to engage residents, families, city planners & public officials to make cities more hospitable to raising families and allowing residents to age in place rather than flee to the suburbs. Instead of moving out to the far suburbs for more space or better schools for your kids, why not stay in the city and help make it a place where your children can grow, spread out and thrive? Why not help and work towards improving local public schools?

This is the stance of Family Friendly Cities, and one I believe in as well. They are also featuring urban families and those who have made or plan to make the transition into urban life after living in the suburbs--like us. Today our family was featured, and I plan to make some guest posts in the future regarding living and raising kids in the suburbs, as well as during and after our transition. There will be more families featured every month and there is also a survey for you to take so be sure to check it out!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Things I Will Miss: Sherwood Island State Park

Is there anything better than walking the beach in mid-fall? I think not. It's the best of both worlds: it's still gorgeous, but not crowded or steaming hot. Also--it's FREE (In case some of you aren't aware (like those of you on the west coast) we have to actually pay to gain access to our beaches over here--sometimes almost $20 a car!).

By far,our favorite beach while we've been living here in Connecticut has been Sherwood Island in Westport. It is a massive space with the perfect mixture of sand, beach, grass, trees, and hiking trails. We often go during the off-season and enjoy a picnic, hiking, and just taking in the breathtaking views. 

I will definitely miss this place when we move. I thought about it yesterday as Jason and I leisurely strolled behind the kids who were excitedly blazing the way on the hiking trail. I brought it up to him, and he agreed. So many great family memories were made here--are being made here. Yesterday was another one of those great days. We had a little picnic, hiked, collected shells and rocks on the beach; we ended up staying for a little over 2 hours. 

Hopefully, there will be more of Sherwood Island that we'll be able to cram into the next 8 months. After that, we'll just be left with photos.  

Empty beaches are the best

Closed for the season

We got a picture of her with me actually SMILING! I'm treasuring this one!

BTW, Hannah lost her first tooth. You can tell in this pic. ;)

Father and daughter.


I LOVE this tree. Every time we go there I just have to take multiple
pictures of it.

Hannah took this one!

Thursday, November 6, 2014


I love November. There is something undeniably gorgeous about it. I love the way the colors of the leaves are darker; only layers of burgundy, deep orange, gold, and rich browns remain. The way the sun shines through the windows, leaving shadows stretching across the floor; the way it bathes the woods in gold.

These shadows are always the same. They leave me with a deep, longing nostalgia every time. Every sunny, gorgeous late November afternoon as the sun settles lower in the sky, I feel that longing that makes me pause. It's those damn shadows that are cast onto the floor, or wherever I am at the time. These shadows are always at the same angles, the same lines.

I'm brought back to my childhood home. November. The days colder and shorter, yet gorgeous and golden. We were all stuck inside together, extending into each other's space. There was a pot roast in the oven (always on a Sunday), and football on the T.V. These memories seem so simple, yet are so dear to me.

Sometimes I long to get back to that place in my mind, but it's not because I want to be a kid again. I think it's because we were all still young and healthy.

And together.

Now, mom is dead. My dad is, well, just there; living in the past. That house has changed. All of those spaces empty. Though those shadows still crawl through the windows and across the floor every November, I wonder if my dad sees them. I wonder if those familiar angles and lines bring him back in time, too.

I've always loathed when older parents told me to "enjoy it now", or that the kids get harder as they grow so embrace their youth. But, I think I might know what they mean when they say that. Maybe they mean enjoy it now while we are all still together. While we are all healthy and our family has really just begun. Enjoy it before they fly the nest, before they have their own lives and children; before I'm dead and gone.

So I try. It's difficult sometimes when it's the 13th hour and it's been nothing but tantrums, but I try to remember I'm making my own November--their November. These will be their memories. What will they think of them? What will they miss? What bit of nostalgia will  bring them back?

Someday in the near future, I will be with my sisters again in our childhood home, but it will be a somber gathering. After my dad dies, the house will be empty, and we'll need to go and inventory everything, take apart and away; dismantle. What a strange feeling that will be. We'll be taking apart the life that my mother and father built.

That will happen to us, too. Someday.

But for now, I'm here. We're all here. Still young and healthy. Our family young and open to life's possibilities. It's now time for our Sunday dinners; our lazy late afternoons; our season. Our November.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Ceiling's the Limit

There is a little more than 4 months left before our goal time of putting the house on the market. During the summer it seemed we had all of this time and we put off a lot of projects. Now it's fall, and time is speeding by and we still have a good amount of things to finish before we can even consider the house market-ready.

For instance, below is a picture of our next project. Actually, it's been "our next project" since late August. But here it is, October, and there it still sits.

It'll get done. Someday...

We need to take down the horrific (and damaged) acoustic tile and put up drywall. Honestly, I am looking forward to this project about as much as I'd look forward to getting all of my teeth pulled without anesthesia. We researched, purchased tools--even bought a nifty drywall lift. Still, it sits there, taking up space and becoming a both a stage and a truck stop for Ethan's trucks.

It's just we are so done with this house and planning and anticipating this move and just want to get the fuck on with it. These past few months have also been full of typical stress in the form of school, ER trips for Hannah's asthma attacks (thankfully we finally have or own nebulizer system at home!), and countless meetings and fretting over Mason's IEP process at school (actually, tomorrow is the day where we find out if Mason qualifies for an IEP or not. Ugh). I'm just physically and emotionally spent. The last thing I want to do on the weekend is rip down acoustic tile--especially when that is the only time we really get to enjoy any time together.

But, enough with the excuses. I know we need to get this done, We will. We promised ourselves we'd at least have the ceiling up by Thanksgiving. Not the taping, sanding or crown moulding, but the ceiling. That's better than nothing, right? And then it's our bathroom and the huge task of cleaning out the garage that's pretty much been our storage and makeshift dumpster for the past few years. Yeah-- it's pretty scary in there.

We're so close to the finish line. Just waiting for that last push to get us there.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Lure of an In-Town Greenwich Farmhouse

One such gorgeous goddess of an 1890 farmhouse.
I knew we shouldn't have. I knew it would tempt me and throw a wrench into our very direct plans. For two years we knew where we moving and exactly why, but after this weekend I'm not as sure anymore.

This past weekend we went to a few open houses in downtown Greenwich. Yes. Houses. Single family homes. I hate them, remember?

Oh my god, these houses. Not anything spectacular like brand new gargantuan  mansion material (most of those are in the country far from downtown anyway), but absolutely gorgeous in-town farmhouses. The kind that remind you of New England and all that is great about it. Right smack-dab in the middle of downtown. With sidewalks. Within walking distance to the train. And restaurants. And a movie theater. And a pharmacy. And school. And... and... you get the picture.

We've lived in Greenwich before. We moved from Boston and were looking for an apartment downtown that would be an easy commute to White Plains for Jason's work. We had a modest one bedroom basement apartment. I fell in love with Greenwich; we both did. We lived there from the end of my pregnancy with Mason up until he was 8 months old. I missed it so much.

Now, we can actually buy something in downtown, and looking at some of these houses yesterday opened up a little doubt in my mind about moving to Brooklyn instead of staying in Connecticut. It was just so damned tempting actually seeing and visualizing a life there like I had dreamed of for years after we left. Now that dream could actually come to fruition, we don't want it as much. Figures, right?

Jason's commute would be about 1 1/2 hours until his office moves into Manhattan again (whenever that will be), and once back in Manhattan just under 1 hour. The best part would be we could get rid of one car, and he could actually walk to the train station. We'd also be closer to family than if we moved out of state.

But then I think about the repairs, the upkeep (uh, especially 100 year old farmhouses), and just it not being New York City. I try to think about what's best for our family. What's best for the kids? Us?

First world problems, I know, I know. I just wish I had a crystal ball that would tell me what to do. We're going along with getting the house market-ready, and in 6 short months it's go time. I hate not having a direct, sure, concrete goal. I thought I had one, but after this weekend it went a little hazy.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The First Day of School; the Last Day of Something Else

Mentally I was still in the middle of summer vacation, but this morning the calendar insisted that it was in fact August 25th and school was here, like it or not. Our household now consists of not only a 2nd grader, but a Kindergartner as well. We now have two school-aged children.

Oh my god. They are growing up.

The morning went very well; I was honestly a little worried about how it would go getting two non-morning people out the door on time, but it was pretty nice. The kids were excited. They were goofing-off. I'm sure nerves played a part in this, but regardless, their behavior surprised and delighted me.

Me, on the other hand, well, I had a pit in my stomach. If you know me you know I don't cry about the first day of school, or any socially recognized milestones for that matter. I'm weird like that, I guess. I usually feel pride, excitement and joy from seeing them grow and become an independent human being. I'm not the mom who blubbers to her friend about their ":baby" growing up.

But today I was that mom, except it was my husband I blubbered to.

I don't know exactly why it was different this time... but I think I know. This year our district implemented full day Kindergarten, and I was not aware of this until literally two weeks ago. They sent a letter home stating it, and though I was happy for Hannah to have that much need peer social interaction (especially her neuro-typical peers), I was also caught off-guard. I thought she was going only 2 1/2 hours a day. I was mentally prepared for that. I was mentally prepared for her to still be home with me most of the day. Half-day Kindergarten was supposed to be that mental buffer before the all-day absence of 1st grade.

This morning, when they both walked up the steps onto that bus, I felt a little sadness creeping in. I'm so happy they are growing up; I'm so proud. But now two of my kids are in school full time; our days staying at home are over. Forever. Now it's just me and Ethan, and it's a little eerily quiet around here... and lonely. I already miss Hannah asking me "When is Mason getting home?" over and over again.

Is it really over with her? Is she really going to school now? Just like that, it's done. I guess I feel a little guilty for not enjoying it more. That time in our lives is gone forever; there's no getting it back.

Dammit. I'm not supposed to cry about this.

Also, a part of it is a realization that I'm staring down that corridor of life after staying home with young kids. The oh-my-god-I've-been-out-of-the-workforce-for-ages-what-am-I-gonna-do thoughts are at the forefront more often, and honestly it's scary. This shit is going on with or without me; we're all growing older; life goes on.

So, here I am. Sitting in the sunroom drinking some coffee with the sound of one lone little boy coming from the living room. It's like I'm here with just Mason again--the way it all started. Just me and my little boy. It's really odd. But I know I have two more pieces of my heart a few miles away, and they'll both get the biggest hugs they ever got when they get home today.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Summer Vacation on the Jersey Shore: Wildwood

Last week we took our first family vacation. We wanted to go to somewhere along the Jersey shore,since we've never been, and ended up going to Wildwood, NJ. We stayed in a quaint little (and I mean little) hotel for three days and two nights. I was wondering how the kids would take it (especially Mason), but they all did great.

Okay, well, that's only half true. You see, we had a three year old with us. Is it ever really a vacation with a very young child in tow? No. Not really. Ethan was off-schedule with his naps and was pretty miserable with a few tolerable moments in-between, but hey, he's three.

Other than that and the overcrowded and over-priced boardwalk, it was great. The beach was beautiful and reminded me of my fave west coast beaches with tons of space and real waves. The place where we had the most fun though were the arcades. The kids loved the games and cashing in their tickets. Morey's Pier  was really fun too. We went to the Mariner's Pier section which had lots of kiddie rides. Ethan went on two--both involving trucks, of course--and Hannah and Mason had a blast on just about every kiddie ride there.

It was fun, but we won't be back. For such a long drive, we could go more local and get the same thing or even better. I also realize I'm not a fan of boardwalks--especially one where they shout about "amazing $10 deals" on tee-shirts through a damn microphone as you're walking by.

Jason is on vacation all this week too, so we plan on taking advantage of what the rest summer break has to offer before it abruptly ends. Both Mason and Hannah are back to school on the 25th and I am so ready. I think they are too though; they're probably just as sick of me!

I still can't believe summer vacation is almost over. September (and another birthday) is not far off. We are approaching six years of living here.

Six years.

Time really does fly. We swore we'd be here no longer than three years, but six years later here we are. It's funny how that works, isn't it? By the time we finally move next year, it will be seven years. It will be tough leaving home after that long, but better then than 10 or 20 years down the road with even deeper roots.

Anyway, enough of that and time for a huge photo dump.

They loved the bunk bed in our hotel room.

Ethan and the big wide Atlantic.

This is as far as he'd go in. I'm learning he is not a beach kid.

Mason, on the other hand, LOVED the water, but not a fan of the sand!

We saw a self-serve frozen yogurt shop on the boardwalk and just had to stop there.

Mason was pretty over-stimulated at times. I swear the boardwalk was much busier than this
picture shows.

The girls.

She was determined to reach that pedal!

The pier at night.

Ethan was IN HEAVEN.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Finally, a Diagnosis.

Mason at 16 months doing what he loved best, going for a stroll
 around the block.
Ever since Mason hit the one-year mark, there was "something" that was different about him. We'd ask the pediatrician and she'd insist that he was just a normal toddler--he was "too advanced" and knew his numbers, shapes, and looked at you when you called his name. Jason and I were fine with those answers for a long time, or at least we just accepted them. When we dug deep down though, I think we always "knew" it was "something".

Mason had a few words he used by one year. He said "mama", "dada", "ball", "book", all the usual words little ones start to utter at that time. He seemed pretty typical; just a quiet, easy-going baby.

Then, it all just... stopped. He stopped using those words and said "gah" for everything. He pointed though--he pointed as he said "gah", so it couldn't be, ya know, that. He looks me in the eye. He smiles. He's too loving. It can't be that.

But he'd never actually play with toys, though; he'd play with parts of toys for hours. He hand-flapped.  He'd run crying from other kids and would rather walk around the block with me than play at the park. He'd scream when family came to visit. He showed interest in things like speed limit signs and would want to walk to the one by our house and just "stim" in front of it as long as we'd let him. He barely spoke. In fact, he didn't utter another single word until 2 1/2 years old.

Looking back, it is so painfully obvious. But we'd ask family and friends' opinions and they'd all assure us he was fine. Our pediatrician was also ready to discount any concerns we had, because well, he was just "too sweet" and "too smart". We believed all of that, probably because we wanted to. We were happy with the "quirky" label.

Everything changed when Mason started school though. There was no denying he was not a neurotypical child. There was no denying he was struggling and needed help. It got to the point where his teacher would actually call me at home when he was absent to make sure he was really absent and didn't just wander from the bus on the way to class.

I finally demanded our pediatrician send out a referral for an evaluation. We had that long awaited evaluation this past Friday, and the results were as I long suspected. That "something" has a name.

Mason has autism.

Just typing those words is strange. It's strange because I knew it all along. I guess it's like now all of his struggles and differences are finally being recognized and I am not just an overprotective mother "reading into everything". Everything makes sense now. 

As I looked at him though the one-way mirror last Friday, I couldn't help but feel guilty. There he sat in that room with two strangers, answering their questions and doing their puzzles like some rat in a science lab. It was difficult to see him struggle like that. I was a fly on the wall for the first time; how often do you get to observe your child through a one-way mirror? It really dawned on me then how much he struggles socially, and I just felt sad for him. People can be so cruel, and he has a long life ahead of him--one where he'll one day have to navigate all on his own.

Nothing has changed though. I don't feel any less love for him; he is who he is. The only thing that has changed is that there is a socially recognized name for his behaviors, and most importantly, now we can get him help. He is still Mason. He is still my beautiful son.

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