texas

In January of the new year our family is moving to Houston, Texas.  So, in the interest of fair and balanced blogging, I’m going to start this blog on a uber-positive note by identifying three positive things about Houston.

  1. No snow
  2. Good food (I do like Tex-Mex)
  3. Nice people (they have to be better than DC politicians)

Now I’m going to get real.  Since the idea of moving to Texas has completely shaken me to my core.  I’ve spent countless weeks on an emotional roller coaster, with random useless (and obviously ridiculous) thoughts going through my head.  How will I make a life for us?  I vehemently dislike Ted Cruz.  I’m for Gun Control.  I’m Pro-choice.  Where will I find my people?

Texas

When J. transitioned from active duty military three years ago, the job he took was located in Houston, Texas.    We chose Arlington, VA for our family.  My family lives here; I grew up here; and simply put – this area of the country is pretty darn awesome.  Yes, there is a high cost of living, but schools are great, neighborhoods are walkable, climate is mild, and you have all the cultural/sports/newsy etc. benefits of Washington DC.   We wanted to raise our kids here.

So this meant for the last three years, J. has been commuting to Texas.  And that has sucked.  For all of us.  The kids have taken notice; I’m tired of being an only parent during the week; and J. is tired of Hilton hotels.   We originally figured that the commuting job was better than a deployment, but in terms of quality of life, that wasn’t exactly a high bar.

For better or worse, we have decided three years is all we can manage.  So we made the collective decision that it’s in the best interest of the family to move to Houston.

In some ways, we have moved so often, another move to another city seems almost routine.  Generic, even.  It’s an adventure (we like adventure, right?) And in other ways, with the intentionality that we set to establish our home in Arlington, VA, this move is the hardest of all.  It is hard for the three kids, the dog, and a home in our name.  And it’s super hard for me.

Moving itself is hard.   Moving always forces me out of my comfortable habitat.  My friends, my home, my community, and my touchstones.  Although I love adventure, I’m also a creature of habitat and I like the safe and familiar. I like my daughters’ school. I like my local Starbucks.  I like knowing where the best grocery store is, and where my favorite park with the perfect swing is.

I also like to be in control.  Of everything.  Transitions, and moving, are about learning to accept being out of control.  Moves are chaotic, and my ability to surrender to that chaos is supremely tested.  And remembering that chaos is normal, and (with enough checklists to keep me occupied), I will be fine.  I will be fine.  I will be fine.

It’s a hard lesson to accept.   For me.  For all of us going through life transitions.

So Texas, we are coming for you, and I will learn to like you.  I know it. I will be fine.

On life choices

Three times in the last month I’ve had similar conversations with three different women.  Two times it went like this:

I’m quitting my job.  I can’t stand it anymore. I hate being away from my kid and I don’t love my job.  Am I crazy? Am I going to be bored as hell? Should I do it?  

One time it went like this:

I feel like I’m only doing things half way.  Half time at my job. Half time with my daughter.  And I don’t feel like I get the respect I deserve from my job. What do I do? 

And all three times, my answer went something like this:

I don’t know.  I’m not you.  What do you feel like you should do?  The one thing I can offer is this: life is not a long perpetual linear line.  Life is more like a series of steps – some are really high – some are really low.  But the thing about steps is they all have a beginning and an end.   And right now – at this very moment in time – what does your step look like?

Do you have small kids? Do you want to care for them all the time? Can you afford to live on one salary? Will you miss going to the bathroom by yourself?  Do you love your job?  Will you miss the thrill of a career?

Because – bottom line – 90% of us mamas have some sort of guilt.  Guilt that the job isn’t good enough.  Or that we are good enough mothers.  That there isn’t enough time in the day.  That someone else is raising our children.  Or that we went to graduate school for international economics and are now reading library books to inattentive 2 year olds.  That life can and will be better if we take a different step.  And maybe it will.   And maybe it will just be different.

But remember. The thing about steps is that they are finite.  You take one. And then another. And then another.  You can make one decision (and it may be a big one) and then decide if it’s a good one or not.  And then make another one to change course.  Take a different step.  And re-evaluate.  THAT is a beautiful thing.  There is peace and goodness in that knowledge.  That one choice doesn’t define YOUR life.

Steps

I remind myself the transience of life’s choices daily.  When the kids are acting up and I wish I could go back to my career.  Or when they are wonderful and I know when they are older, I’m going to miss these days of summer childhood bliss.   Or when I spend time with our extended family close to home, where we chose to live, not where we need to live.  Or when the kids are tucked into bed and my husband and I dream about life after …

So if you are contemplating taking that step, take heart in the knowledge that no matter what it looks like, it’s not forever.  The kids won’t be little forever, and that job won’t last forever.  For better or worse, nothing is.

a family completed

I’ve been a little MIA lately. My friends noticed it first and then I knew it was bad when the lady who works at the front desk at the gym noticed (which is pretty impressive – and makes me feel a wee bit embarrassed about not going to the gym more often).  And maybe you have noticed that this blog has gone – um – unattended for a bit? Or maybe not. Either way, I’ve been in hiding.

I’ve been suffering from – ta-da – pregnancy.  Yes, that’s right. Let’s just call it what it is.  It’s not morning sickness (and whoever came up with that misnomer has really done women a giant disservice).  It’s good ole fashioned pregnancy sickness – nausea, tiredness, crankiness, carbohydrate-craving madness for a full 12 weeks.

So, yes. That’s right. Wrap your head around it. J and I took the plunge into the deep end for the third time.

What made us decide to do it?  Well, it wasn’t the extra bedroom upstairs that’s going unused (however, it did make it a little bit easier to justify).

Really, it just felt like we weren’t “done”.  Like our family wasn’t quite finished yet.  Our girls are magnificent and have brought such joy into our lives.  And yet, there was something or someone missing.  But still, the answer for me wasn’t quite THAT simple.

Kids are a LOT of work, and they are expensive.  And – let’s be honest – the world is easier for families of four.  Restaurants have more tables for four people, hotels book for four people, and cabs fit four people.  And of course, there is this terrifying survey that says moms of three report the highest stress levels (even out-stressing moms of four and more kids).  The idea that you wouldn’t physically have enough hands to hold your kids to cross the street – I mean, people, come on!

And on top of that, three kids blow my mind a little (OK, a lot).  Although I had siblings, they were much, much older.  So I grew up feeling like an only child.  Most Americans are with me on this one.  Here in America, white, college-educated women—a good proxy for the middle class—have a fertility rate of approximately 1.6.  That’s a declining fertility rate.  Most middle-class Americans aren’t having two, let alone, three, kids.   

Still, this past year as I watched my girls grow into preschoolers, I couldn’t shake the feeling that our family didn’t feel complete.  So – after much deliberation on the subject of number three – we bought a minivan and we decided to go for it.  And a few weeks ago, we found out we would be adding a little boy to our house of princesses.

And just like that, any reservations I felt about having three children immediately melted away.  We will be complete as a family of five.

…even if we will have to lie about our family size to get a decent hotel room.

packing for little people

Sigh.  I remember a time when all I needed on any trip would fit in one of those beautiful small wheely suitcases.  I’d pack a few hours before, swing all my belongings effortlessly into a cab, run into the airport, stand in virtually no security line, and ease into my airplane seat.  And then a few minutes later, a nice stewardess would serve me free drinks and food.

Am I dreaming or did I see that in a movie somewhere?  I swear it happened.

We are leaving tomorrow for a road trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania for the Fourth of July weekend and I’ve barely started packing for our family of four.  That’s not like me. I usually start packing days ahead of time.  But at this point I’d rather dream of someone else doing the packing while I sip my coffee.

For me, traveling is an exciting adventure.  But one of the things that makes it a nerve-wracking and anxiety-wrenching activity is packing for the girls.  All the crap they need befuddles me – the double amount of clothes, the diapers, the wipes, the toys, the snacks (C. is a walking eating machine).  And then the complete unpredictability of their nature (did I mention my princesses were actually cavemen in disguise?)  I used to try to pack for every possible scenario – and then when the TSA patted J. down for a sippy cup with apple juice I just HAD to have, I decided that I probably could get by with a bit less.  Lets be real – I was being neurotic.

So when it comes to packing for our family for any travels, I stick to some basic rules:

1) You can never have enough underwear and/or diapers.  Really, this needs no explanation.

2) You can never have enough dry food. Sure; I’m all for trying experiencing new food in different places but there is something great about always having a reliable graham cracker nearby in case of a toddler meltdown.

3) Apps are your friend.  I download a few new ones every time we travel.  Yes, I’m that mom whose preschooler has taken over her iPad.  Go ahead, judge me.  I also bought these toddler headphones and my 4 year old freaks out when she gets to wear them.  We can sit her next to complete strangers as long as she gets to wear her headphones and watch a movie.

4) Be selfish. Always pack a magazine for myself; on that very slim off chance I may get 4.5 seconds to read something I most certainly don’t want it to be the in-flight magazine.

And unless I am going backpacking in the middle of nowhere (and that certainly doesn’t sound like something I would do) – there are going to be stores where I can buy things.  Like extra clothes.  Or A.’s favorite sippy fruit snack.  Or the soundtrack of Frozen theyjusthadtohave.

So I guess can relax.  And leave the packing until, well, a few hours before.  Now I’m going to have another cup of coffee and pick out my magazine.