The end of the #RoadToSixPointTwo

Since I’ve last blogged many, many months ago, I’ve become a legitimate runner. I now have a real training plan, drink PowerAde Zero (and eat real carbs!) and have plans to run my first two real “long” races – my first 10k in October, and my first half marathon in February. I think about things like hydration belts, Sweaty Bands and Body Glide, which all sound like they’d be a lot more fun than they actually are!

So, why did I start this journey? In part, boredom. Although I’ve been insanely busy with work over the summer, I wanted to have a new goal to work towards. Yes, I do have other goals that are more important, but they are practically unattainable, including (1) finding a new home for my family and (2) learning how to braid the girls’ hair in either French or Fishtail style. So, I needed an achievable goal. Many of my similarly aged friends run long distances, including full-time working moms, so I thought, why can’t I? If I am ever going to run a half marathon in my life, I wondered if I was more likely to do it at 41 or 45. And hell, if I was going to get myself to the Walt Disney World Resort in 2017, the only way to justify it was to run 13.1 miles, right?

As I started training, I discovered that running gave me permission to take time for myself, and as a full-time working mom of three, I treasured the time alone (shhhhhhhhhhh, don’t tell Patrick!). There was absolutely no one around outside at 5:30 a.m. in Allston (cars or pedestrians), and I could take any problem plaguing me (personal or professional) and just let it roll around in my head as I ran. By the time I was finished running, the problem seemed totally manageable and I usually had a solution for it. And no matter what life threw at me on a “run” day, I could take it in stride. It was as if the run took the edge off the crazy. For real. Talk to me on a “non-run” day, and you’ll easily be able to tell the difference.

But the biggest motivation for running came when I discovered that NOTHING makes me happier than seeing the sunrise. There’s something amazing about the subtle way the colors in the sky first change, that first dot of reddish sun peek over the horizon and those rays of sunlight starting to creep across the water (be it the ocean, a reservoir, or the Charles River). There were so many mornings where I’d snooze a bit and remind myself that I didn’t HAVE to get up to run. But then I’d lace up my shoes, stumble out the door and as soon as I saw that first hint of light in the sky, I’d be OFF trying to get to the best possible point on my running route to see the sunrise. And take a million pictures while my fellow and more legitimate runners rolled their eyes at me. #WillRunForSunrises #SorryNotSorry

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Sunrise over Narragansett Beach, Narragansett, RI (July 2016)

The beginning of my running journey was actually pretty easy. The summer flew by, and I racked up the miles. The first time I ran six whole miles, I gained so much confidence and just had this feeling in my heart that I was going to achieve my running goals and be able to finish the half marathon without getting “swept” by the Disney balloon ladies. I never stressed about my pace, and instead focused on building distance and endurance. Even with the time I spent snapping pictures, and doing “intervals” (i.e. walking) up the big hills, I was somewhere in the realm of a 12 minute mile, which felt pretty good for a relatively new runner despite some people asking me, “but don’t you want to run a 10 minute mile??” (Well, yes, of course I want to run a 10 minute mile…and I also want a condo in the city big enough to fit my family, so your point is what?). Depending on my route distance, my pace this summer was between 10-12 minute miles.

But now it’s September and this race stuff is getting real.  My first 10k is only ten days away. And with all my focus on building distance and endurance, I’m afraid I didn’t spend enough time focused on pacing and speed. Although I don’t care about my time for the half marathon (really, it’s a runDisney race and part of the fun is everything you get to experience on the course), I really care about my time on the 10k. In order to get “preferred” placement in a corral in the middle of the half marathon pack, I have to submit a proof of time of about one hour and fifteen minutes, which is roughly a 12 minute mile pace. If my math is correct.

Given where my pacing has been on my training runs, this goal *seems* achievable. (And shush, all you experienced runners who can do a 10k in under an hour….this is my story!). However, there is a certain word that keeps creeping into my brain no matter how I try to avoid it. Well, two words actually. “Can’t” and “fail.” I keep hearing that running is “90% mental” and I believe it. In these last few days, I’ve been trying to get myself into a positive frame of mind, despite recent personal and professional setbacks. I need to view this first 10k as a fun experience, knowing that I’ll be in one of my favorite places in the world, and that the worst thing that can happen is that I won’t hit my goal time. Well, no, actually the worst thing that could happen is that I get a horrible race photo, with an awful pained facial expression mid-stride along with three chins and muffin top. But seriously, if I don’t hit my time, I won’t get a “preferred” corral, and I’ll be somewhere way in the back for the half marathon. Is that really a crisis?  No. Will it allow me to come back and PR on this same 10k next year??  Hells, yes.

I have to keep my head in my own race, if you will, and try not to worry about the six-foot tall, 22-year-old Barbie doll blowing past me with the swishy blonde ponytail wearing a Victoria’s Secret “sports” bra that doesn’t actually support anything and booty shorts. The only person I’m really competing with here is myself.  I can’t expect that I’m going to be crushing races this early into my training, but by golly, I’m hoping those booty shorts start looking good on me too pretty soon! 😉

For those of you who are more experienced runners, what are your best pre-race tips? How do you spend the week before a big race? More importantly, what are your must have songs to get you pumped the morning of your race?

#RoadToSixPointTwo #TheEndOfTheRoad

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Smile! You PAID to do this race! (After my first 5k on September 21, 2014). #WillRaceForFinishersMedals

 

 

 

 

#39TilYouGetItRight

I’m feeling reflective in the last few minutes of 2015.  Although this has been a year of loss and frustration, 2015 has turned out to be one of the most remarkable and memorable years of my life.   Like the #39BucketList, I’m really sad to see it go.

The #39BucketList started on the night of my 39th birthday.  I found myself alone in New York City on a business trip for a brand new job. My new boss had dinner with me, but once he headed home for the ‘burbs, I was alone for the rest of my birthday.  The city and evening stretched out ahead of me.  Was I going to go back and sit in my hotel room? Hell, no!

On that night, I decided to take advantage of as much of the city as I could. I wandered all over midtown Manhattan alone. I sat outside for a while watching the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center. I went to the very top of the Empire State Building (yes, I paid extra to go to the 102nd floor). I went to the really cool Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel and had a drink (try the Matilda!). I went shopping at H&M after midnight. Crazy, I know!

#39BucketList was never a specific list of things that I wanted to do before I turned 40. It was about saying “yes” to things that are important, that feel right and that make me happy. While it may sound juvenile and a bit selfish, it was a frame of mind to help me become more comfortable in my own skin and get me and my family on a better path. Instead of simply enduring life, I wanted to enjoy it.  It’s not that I’m not incredibly grateful for everything that I have. I am lucky to have a wonderful family, healthy children, and (while it’s not anyone’s ideal apartment) a roof over my head. For me, happiness means appreciating everything that I have, but also dreaming that there’s always something exciting around the corner.

As painful as it was to turn 40, I truly had an INCREDIBLE 39th year in 2015. For the first time since I was in my 20s, I traveled all over the country. In one year alone, I took four trips to NYC, two trips to DC, and trips to Houston, San Francisco, Cleveland, Chicago, the White Mountains, the Walt Disney World Resort (of course!), and more trips to Atlanta than I care to remember. On each of the business trips, I had the opportunity to meet, present to, and get to know all kinds of people. As much as a natural introvert as I am, I always feel a little sparkle inside when I’m out there in front of people.

I had the opportunity to be on TV, to the delight of my inner teenager, who was convinced that she’d dye her hair blonde, move to LA and become an actress.  I had a blast coming up with nonsensical soundbytes such as “the bustle of the city” and “gotta have these peppers,” all while showing off one of my favorite places in the world.  It was an AWESOME experience, even with the ridiculously frizzy hair and the wardrobe malfunction issues.

I found my voice on social media. I have come to love Twitter, a mini virtual universe where something is always going on. I have quite an eclectic Twitter network, made up of approximately 40% Disney enthusiasts, 30% social activists (many of whom I discovered during my #NoBoston2024 days), 25% professional contacts, and 5% spam accounts…well, ok, maybe it’s 25% spam accounts, and 5% professional, but whatever. Most of the time on Twitter, I feel like I’m the weird girl sitting alone at a cafeteria table talking to herself, but it is really fun to connect with people you’d never actually meet in real life.

I didn’t think anything would top the TV experience, but it was a spur of the moment cruise to the Cape that truly topped off my summer.  My husband and the kids were staying with my inlaws on the Cape, and as I had to work in the city, I planned to meet them later in the week.  Rather than take the bus (which was really the most cost-effective and sensible option), I decided she need to take the Provincetown Ferry, declaring it a #39BucketList item.  And I’m so glad that I did.  There I was, sitting in the open air on this ferry boat, my legs propped up on my suitcase in front of me.  The water was a little choppy that day and the boat was just speeding along, rocking in the waves, the ocean spraying in my face every so often.  I had no little people to care for, no worries that Bree was going to jump overboard, or having to take Owen to the bathroom.  I was completely relaxed, listening to my favorite playlist on my iPod, and just watching the as the city faded away into the place where the sky met the ocean.  The sun started setting, and I thought the ride couldn’t get any better.  Until I saw my first whale!  I’ve never been on a whale watch (that I recall) and so I just watched this whale in amazement. And then I saw another whale.  And then another. And I could see more in the distance – a random tail shooting up, a spray of water.  I think I saw about 10 whales in total.  Completely amazing and an experience I’ll never forget.

Even though I’ve crossed the threshold of 40, I am going continue the Bucket List idea.  One of my friends posted the perfect hashtag on Facebook that cemented this all for me:  #39TilYouGetItRight. Obviously, 40 is not an end point,  and while I can’t use #39BucketList anymore, the purpose and idea behind it doesn’t have to go away.  Maybe the next decade will be about pushing myself to really explore what excites me and what I’m really passionate about. More than anything, I want to feel more of that “sparkle” that I felt a few times over the past year. I’ve always admired people who knew what their dream was at an early age and chased it. It finally occurred to me this year that the reason I haven’t found my “dream” is not because I failed, but it’s because I never identified what that dream really was.

I am sad to see 2015 go, but can’t wait to see what adventures await in 2016.

 

40 Reasons Why Being in Your 40s is Fabulous (really)!

  1. All the bands you loved in college are now on reunion tours and you can afford to get the really good seats.
  2. You can listen to Maroon 5 without embarrassment.  You score “cool” points for singing in the car while driving the kids to school.
  3. And, it’s not at all weird to crush on Adam Levine because at least he’s in his mid-30s.
  4. You can relate every guy you’ve loved in your life to a Taylor Swift, Katy Perry or Pink song, and you can’t help smirking while you sing along.  Jerk.
  5. You’ve figured out that simply wearing activewear gives the appearance that you work out.
  6. Same deal with a FitBit.
  7. Shapewear not only becomes socially acceptable, but expected and welcomed.
  8. Anti-aging skin products are now fully justified purchases as they are medically necessary.  They may not fly with the IRS as FSA-approved purchases, but your spouse cannot protest the cost.
  9. You are that much closer to retirement.
  10. Yet you are still smack in middle of the most desirable TV demographic.
  11. And you are still not *quite* yet at the age for bifocals or scary tests that end in “-scopy.”
  12. Do you still own any clothes, shoes, or purses from your 20s?  If so, congrats!  They are now vintage.
  13. You’ve figured out how to hide a bag of fun size Kit Kats from your family and so that you “forget” to hand them out to trick or treaters.
  14. You remember to hit up Target the day after Halloween for the 50% off Kit Kats and hide those too.  Beach season is over, anyway.
  15. If you have children, you stop feeling like the camp counselor or babysitter and more like a mom.
  16. If you are single, you can now *usually* spot and resist the allure of a “bad boy” — he may be exciting, but you have no time for that drama.  Been there, done that, have the T shirt.
  17. You finally got over that guy that ripped your heart out in your 20s.  Jerk.
  18. And you’re mature enough to be friends with said guy without getting sucked into a Vortex of Emotion.  He’s still a jerk though.
  19. You’ve forgiven your old boyfriend (one of the nice ones) for the whole “unanswered prayers” comment he made years ago because you’re there now too.
  20. Even as you grow tired of your own bull$hit, you have the optimism that there’s still time to change.
  21. There’s no shame in falling asleep on the couch by 8 pm.
  22. Or getting up at 4 am.  They have all those “early bird” sayings for a reason.
  23. You stop feeling like you need to compete with other moms.  They are going to better at some things, you’ll be better at some things, and it’s just best to find some to call friends.  All moms need good friends.
  24. Speaking of moms, you don’t have to wear mom jeans. Cute jeans nowadays do all the lifting and tucking for you.  Or come with stretchy waistbands.  Leggings?  Yeah, they ARE pants as long as your top covers your butt.
  25. You’ve finally figured out which clothes look good on you and you stop trying to make maxi dresses happen.
  26. You’ve learned to accept swim skirts, cover ups, and modest suit cuts, and for the first time since you were a little kid, you feel a bit more comfortable at the beach.  And you don’t miss being ogled at by gross old guys.
  27. You don’t have to worry about getting carded, unless you just ran to the liquor store and forgot your license (damn it, I’m 40!).
  28. You no longer get pressured to do shots at a bar.  Unless it is your husband’s 40th birthday and you are still in your 30s.  In which case the night may take a sharp, nasty turn and we shall never, ever, ever think about that again.  Like ever.
  29. You have fewer, but closer, friends.  Which is good because the limited time you have to socialize is too precious to waste on anything less.
  30. You really do stop caring what most people think of you.  It could be because you are just too damn exhausted to care, but it still counts.
  31. You have more credibility at work, no matter your field or job, if for no other reason than you’ve been in the working world for at least 20 years.
  32. And you are *that* much closer to deciding what you want to be when you grow up.
  33. You mentor the high-potential junior staffer at work because you used to be that girl.
  34. You also mentor the hot mess at work because, at times, you’ve been that girl too.
  35. At least one person looks up to and admires you, whether you know it or not, and even if you still feel like a hot mess most days.
  36. You finally settle on a title for your memoir.  And it doesn’t have a hashtag!
  37. You own at least one pair of nice sunglasses, a watch, or a great piece of jewelry that came in a robin’s-egg-blue box.
  38. You drive a car that has four hubcaps, both side mirrors, and is absent of major dents or rust.  (Oh, this one doesn’t apply to ME per se, just generally to people in their 40s).
  39. You have fun on Facebook watching friends, old and new, living their lives.  Some married their high school sweethearts and now have teenagers of their own.  Others are on second marriages becoming the modern day Brady Bunch.  Some are welcoming brand new babies at 40.  Others are world travelers, pursuing careers & dreams.  And all of these are valid places to be in life.
  40. You appreciate the meaning of “it all happens for a reason” because you understand that every heartbreak, missed opportunity and closed door put you closer down the path to where you are today.  And you are mostly satisfied with where you are today.

 

#39bucketlist

I had to give something up this year.  So I chose the gym.  Even though I’m probably three slices of bacon away from a heart attack, I accepted the fact that it is better for me to just allow myself to work out on weekends or when the opportunity strikes than having to feel guilty for not making the time to go to the gym on a regular basis.

Last year was the year to Just Say No (please refer to last post entitled “Just Say No”).  I was overwhelmed by having my two girls in public schools for the first time, taking on a teaching job, juggling work and home life and trying to prevent my husband from nominating me for Hoarders:  Buried Alive.  I said no to joining Parent Council, I said no to putting Emma in Orchestra and generally put the brakes on extending myself any further.  I even stopped writing my blog, which must’ve been sad for the three of you who read it. (Hi, Patrick!).

What a difference a year makes.

I am turning 40 this year, and this year is about saying yes to things that are important, that feel right, and that make me happy.  Yes, this is something that I shouldn’t need a milestone birthday to prompt me to do, but my 20s were kind of a mess and my 30s were about finding myself, so I hope that my 40s will be about me feeling comfortable in my own skin and enjoying my amazing family.  #39bucketlist is a frame of mind that I use to make choices that will help get me and my family on a better path.

Where has this journey taken me so far?

I changed jobs.  Like three times in one year.  I’m no stranger to moving around professionally, but even this surprised/embarrassed me.  It was so sad and painful to have to leave the other jobs, particularly because I really liked and respected my bosses, but in the end I arrived in the right place.  The funny thing was that I didn’t even apply for my current job – I decided to say yes to a call from a recruiter for a position I felt I was overqualified for and didn’t think I wanted.   It’s only been a couple of months, but it’s amazing what a difference the right job makes.  I’m doing work that I love (even when it makes me want to pull my hair out – my fellow HRBPs will understand what I mean) as part of an incredibly talented, smart and hardworking team of Type A personalities.   I don’t know where my career will go from here, but I absolutely know that I am in the right place right now.

I said yes to Parent Council at Emma’s school.  I figured that if all three of my children end up going there, it was worth my time and energy to get involved.  Now as a Parent Council Secretary, I help creating flyers, stuffing mailboxes and taking meeting minutes.  But I also get an insider’s look at the school, access to the administration and an opportunity to voice my opinion.

I said yes to applying to the Disney Parks Moms Panel.  Yes, that would be a third unpaid “job,” but it would allow me to write AND would legitimize my obsessive love of planning Disney trips!  I only made it to the second round but met some awesome people who are equally obsessive about planning Disney trips and learned a LOT in the process.  For example, nomenclature is very important to Disney.  I like to think that I did not make it to the third round because I forgot to put the “Disney’s” in “Disney’s Hollywood Studios,” and not because I wasn’t “magical” enough!  It was fun to see who made it through to the Panel, and I look forward to trying again in the future.  It also inspired me to restart my blog and to become more active on social media.

And coming full circle back to quitting the gym, I said yes to running again.  Specifically, I picked up the hobby popular with so many of my similarly aged and situated friends:  running races.  Please be clear – by “running races,” I mean to say “finishing races,” and short ones at that.  I’ve done two 5ks so far, and would love to work my way up to a half marathon by 2016.  By the way, if any of you have training plans that can get you shape to run 13.1 miles when you can only run once or twice a week, please call me!

I may not be a fast runner or on the Disney Parks Moms Panel, and I may have set myself back years in my career trajectory, but I know that all of these steps I’m taking are at least keeping the heart attacks at bay.  Which is good, because I’m not ready to say no to bacon.

 

For the good of the family….

I reread the email several times, wishing I could take a shot of vodka or something similarly strong before hitting Send.  After several months of waiting to see if we’d be winners in the Boston Public School lottery (we were) and in the Brookline housing market (we weren’t), the time had come for me to email Bree’s current school and let them know that we are moving her to Boston Public preschool in the fall.

I should feel very happy about the money we’ll be saving with two kids out of private, full-time (gold plated) daycare, but instead feel an incredible heaviness in my heart.

Bree has been going to this school since she was three months old.  It is all that she knows.  Over the first four years of her life, she has had some of the best teachers I’ve ever seen, and we have gotten to know some of the nicest families I’ve ever met.   Many of her best friends have already moved up to Pre-K as she’s a few months younger than they are (damn Fall birthdays!) and I don’t think it’s fully sunk in that she won’t be joining them in September.  We’ve been talking to her for several months about this possibility, even taking her to an Open House to visit her new school.  I’ll never forget her reaction when she walked into that empty classroom (which oddly reminded me so much of my old elementary school in Northfield, NH).  Instead of running around excitedly, she stepped in, stopped in her tracks and wheeled around, informing Patrick and I that “this is BAD!”  She sat on my lap during the Principal’s presentation, her big blue eyes wide as she watched her future classmates, some who weren’t even three yet, tearing the library apart, pulling books from the shelves, knocking over art supplies (and to my shock, USING the art supplies, which were not set out for our use).  Most of the other parents didn’t even try to stop their children, and I walked away from the whole thing wondering, what did I get our family into?

But I kept a big smile on my face that day, telling Bree that her school was great.  And I do think it is a good school.  The curriculum is focused on reading, and most kids are reading before they enter “real” kindergarten.   But do I believe that it’s the best place available for my daughter?  I’m not so sure.  So here’s the conundrum that we all face as parents – how and when do you make decisions that are right for your individual child versus for the good of the family?   If you are fortunate enough to have various childcare and/or school options, when do you decide that you’ll settle for “good enough” for one child in order to save your family a little bit of money?

While I’m sad that Emma is also moving on to a new school, I do not have the same concerns about her.  I know that I could drop Emma off in any environment, and she’d be just fine.  Emma has always had a preternatural and somewhat eerie confidence and independence about her so that on the times when she does have a breakdown/tantrum or admits some fear, I have to remind myself that oh yes, you are only five.  I also feel like I know more about Emma’s school and am confident that she’ll learn all the right things in Kindergarten.

Perhaps I don’t give Bree enough credit, but since the day she has been born, she has been an incredible force in our family – both in a joyous and a terrifying way.   At her best, she is utterly charming, completely amusing, and empathetic to her friends who are sad.  But she’s also very sensitive to how others treat her.  It breaks my heart when she tries to engage in a game with Emma, who just shrugs her off.  And for a while recently, she was having “bad drop offs” at her current school – crying and screaming when I leave, “Mommy, please don’t leave me!”  I’m sure at least part of it is an act.  At least that’s what I tell myself when I head to work.

Many people say that transitions like this are harder on parents than they are on children.  Maybe I’m just overly sensitive because I moved around a lot as a child, and hated the transition between schools. I made the decision that I would try to minimize the number of times the kids move. Maybe I won’t actually be able to control it; we’ll see. I love the idea of friends growing up together!  Bree is excited to go to her new school.  We let her pick out a new backpack and lunchbox (Brave/Princess Merida, unfortunately the “jazzed up” version).  We’ve made plans for her to continue activities with her “old” friends to maintain those relationships.  And since my job is the parent here, I will continue to keep up the big smile and the encouraging words and try to keep the faith that it will all work out in the end.

But will I be able to hide my tears at next week’s “Stepping Up” day at school?   We shall see…

Bree School

Real estate wars

“I don’t think I’m ready to give up city living,” Patrick said to me last week, as we were contemplating putting in an offer on a great townhouse in Newton.  This took me by surprise as he never really was a “city person” and I’ve always suspected that he resented the fact that I dragged him here.  But then I thought maybe he’s finally fallen in love with the same part of the city that I have!  Several years ago, when Patrick and I first moved to Allston from our place in West Newton, we set out to explore Coolidge Corner, a Brookline neighborhood just a ten minute walk away.  As we neared the town center, we could see that a crowd was forming on the elementary school lawn.  Then, we heard a familiar female voice.  We looked at each other.  Could that be….Kay Hanley, the lead singer of Letters to Cleo?  It was!  She was performing a free concert as part of Brookline’s 300th anniversary.  And Buffalo Tom was set to take the stage later that day.  All sorts of people, college-age kids, families and young children were there, dancing.  That’s when I first realized what a special place Brookline was.  I started to notice old couples, walking hand in and hand and pictured Patrick and I spending the rest of lives here.

Three kids and almost eight years later, we have built a wonderful community of friends and families through our Coolidge Corner school/daycare many of whom live in the neat brownstones lining the streets.  Attending playdates at our friends homes has allowed us a peek into their lives and how we too could be living.  Popping into Panera on virtually any day at nearly any time means that we’ll bump into at least 2-3 families we know.

North Brookline is truly the best of both worlds; it is urban living in leafy neighborhoods.  You have the T, you have the bus, you have a CVS on every corner. Who needs a yard when you have your choice of a million playgrounds within a short walk? Restaurants, bars and shops?  Got it!  Dunkies or Starbucks?  Yup, and a few other coffee shops too!  In the summer, you have free family concerts and movies in the parks.   Do you have children?  If so, you can’t swing a dead rat without hitting a fantastic school.  What don’t you have in Brookline?  Trash on the streets, for one thing.   Brookline takes pride in its public works and it’s not unusual to see ride-on street sweepers driving up the sidewalks during the morning commute.  I went running one morning and nearly stepped on a (dead) rat, and it was gone by the time I was returning home.  Yes, there is crime.  Read the Brookline police blog sometime and all you’ll hear is shoplifting, shoplifting, not stopping at a stop sign, and more shoplifting.  But you don’t often hear about violent crime or murder in Brookline.  It is city living but with clean streets, excellent schools and relative safety.  We live two streets over from the Brookline/Boston line, and it’s like two different worlds.

However, there couldn’t be a worse time to buy in Brookline.  There is very little inventory on the market, which means there will be multiple bids submitted on the day of the first open house.  It’s not for the wishy-washy.  Like buying soup from a certain vendor on the TV show Seinfeld, you’d better know exactly what you want, quickly place your order, then shuffle down the line to wait.  But if it were only that simple!  People engage all sorts of strategies to get the winning bid – dropping contingencies (including inspection, can you imagine??), offering a 30% down payment or even PAYING CASH.  Seriously, if you have $600k just sitting around in cash, why the hell are you looking at these dinky apartments???  Then, there is always the sympathy vote – people sending letters to the sellers telling them how much they love the property, including pictures of their babies (I’ve even heard of people submitting a picture of their babies taken inside the open house – kind of weird).

Looking for a new place is like having a part-time job – studying the Redfin alerts all week, carefully planning our Open House strategy, researching the schools and before-and-after care, constant calls and emails with our Broker trying to get some inside scoop.  We go through the whole analysis on a weekly basis – do we move to the suburbs to buy something affordable, but then tack on significantly increased commuting time and cost and somehow having to coordinate the kids various drop off and pick up?  By the way, what’s up with school starting at 8:30 or later?  And no, I don’t consider 4-6 hours to be “full day Kindergarten!”  How do people actually work, especially if you work over an hour away?  Assuming we do find a good school solution for Emma, the smart thing to do would be to  wait another year, and save up some more money.  But that also means staying in this neighborhood with the constant parties and vandalism, the guy in the building who can’t seem to stop smoking pot in the common areas during the day, and in this horrible apartment with a kitchen not big enough for two adults to make breakfast in.   There’s the fact that I promised myself that I wouldn’t be here for another September move in, and particularly not with the same futon I’ve had for 20 years.  And the sad fact that I’d just like to live somewhere I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have people visit us.  I’m a 37-year-old mother of three with a successful career living like a poor college student.

Didn’t win Powerball tonight, so I guess it’s onward with the search.

Set fire to the snow

I initially wake to the sound of a siren. For a moment, I don’t open my eyes. Sirens are very common in the city, and it’s only 7:30 in the morning. But the very next second, I smell the smoke. It smells strong, and like melting plastic. It’s enough to get me out of bed to find the source. I race to the living room to open the shades.  I can see several firetrucks on the street, and smoke billowing from somewhere close by.  I can’t see which house it is, or any flames, but then I see ash starting to swirl down past the window.  That’s when I start to panic.

I wake up Patrick, who is on the couch.  He got up with Owen a couple of hours earlier and they are both in deep sleep.  I tell him to go get the girls out of bed in case we need to evacuate.  It turns out that they were already up; their room reeked of the smoke – apparently, the smoke got trapped in the airshaft.  I sent Patrick outside to investigate.

The fire was three doors down.  The thick smoke was billowing towards our building, and because our apartment is so drafty, it smelled terrible inside.  Our new car with the three carseats was parked right in front of the burning house.   At first we thought we lost our bumper.  It turns out our bumper was fine – the fire hose connected to the hydrant was the same color as our car, and from a distance, it looked like the bumper was hanging.  I heard a firefighter call out “we don’t have any water!”  That really scared me.  How long would this fire burn?  Would it travel all the way down to our building?  I also thought about how crazy it must be to fight fires in the city – the streets are narrow, cars parked along both sides.

I wasn’t sure if the fire was traveling, or if it was safe to stay home breathing in the smoke.  I decided it was better to leave.  The kids were already dressed, but what do I wear?  What do I take with me?  It’s not like our building was on fire, and we needed to get out immediately.  I had time to think.  If you could only take one outfit with you, which would it be?  The jeans were easy – I had a new favorite pair.  I went into my closet and was kind of overwhelmed for a minute looking at my shirts and sweaters.  How could I choose?

I realize this makes me sound materialistic, and I guess that I am.  Obviously, getting my family out safely is the top priority, and in a real emergency, I wouldn’t spend one second thinking about what to take.  With a few minutes thought, I took my Nook, my external hard drive with all of the baby pictures, my wallet.  I was already wearing all of my best jewelry – my wedding and engagement rings, my stud earrings from my mom, the new necklace from P, my Erickson MJS ring.    It’s not an accident that I was wearing all these things – not only are they my everyday favorite jewelry, I actually do think about the fact that if I needed to leave quickly, these are the (material) things I would most sorely miss and would be the most devastating to lose.  I also thought about grabbing bottles for Owen and was momentarily angry at myself for no longer breastfeeding him.  But then I came back to my senses and realized that, if needed, we could buy bottles and formula.  Even if we couldn’t return to our house, CVS is still around the corner.

One game I’ve always hated is when you are asked to decide between things in a hypothetical emergency. You know, if you have five minutes to evacuate, what would you grab?   What if you had twenty minutes?  An hour?   The worst is having to decide who you would save if you could only save one person.  I’m not sure why I’ve obsessed over this through the years – I must have been traumatized by Sophie’s Choice as a child.

Ever since I became a mother, I’ve become paranoid about certain things involving my children.  Drowning in a pool is right up there.  But fire is number one.  We live in a weird apartment – the girls room is all the way down a narrow hallway, and we have bars on our bedroom window.  I often lay in bed at night planning out escape routes, contingencies, thinking about what I would grab for the kids depending on the weather.  I think about where my shoes are, especially if I had to grab the girls and escape through the air shaft.  All my thinking and planning didn’t help me today.  I was frozen for a couple of minutes, weighing the options of what we should do.  But I  believe that it’s because I had time to think about it, and that if it had been a real emergency, there would have been no hesitation.

We all have our quirks – before we could leave, P insisted on clearing all of the drains on the street.  Once the water started flowing, the street quickly flooded from all of the snow piling on the side of the road.  Since we live on the ground floor and are prone to flooding, I was worried that we’d have another sewer back up.  P was worried about my car getting flooded, or at the very least, getting trapped once the several feet of water froze.

Once we were all dressed (we threw snowpants on the girls in case we’d be gone for a while), we went outside to take refuge at our Dunkin Donuts.  The police had taped off the street starting at our building, and they were not letting people down the street without showing proof of residency.  I saw a large crowd gathered down the other end of the street.  As usual, the lovely kids in the hood drew pictures of penises and dirty sayings in the fresh snow on all of our cars.  My car had “I heart chooch” written over a picture of a penis on my windshield.  What on earth is chooch?  Why do they always draw penises, anyway?  A lone red Solo cup rolled around on the sidewalk.  These things really struck me as so juvenile and silly compared to the horror that had taken place just a few doors down. We saw some of the firefighters at Dunkin Donuts and one told us that several people jumped out of windows to escape the fire.  A group of kids at a table nearby lived right next door to the fire – one guy was lamenting the fact that he was wearing his beer and pretzel print pajama pants, but there was no time to get dressed. I know how he felt – last night, I wore a tank top and boxers to bed.  Had this been a real emergency today, not only would I have been humiliated, I would have frozen my butt off.

No one died in this fire, but we heard that one person is in critical condition.  I am anxious to hear about how the fire started.  The residents in that building were mostly BU students.  Living in a densely populated area with so many students around, I always fear someone falling asleep with a cigarette, or forgetting to put out a candle.  At the end of the day, we can’t control what other people do.  But this definitely made me realize that having an emergency plan is really important, and perhaps that a little paranoia is not a bad thing.