Sunday, February 16, 2014

Feelings from the First Two Weeks

I've hardly blogged at all since we got here (I've kept up with my Weekly Happenings posts on my regular blog and I wrote one post about our beginings here after the first weekend). While that's been good and maybe even neccessary, I know I'll regret it later if all I have is a record of what we did during this initial time and not a journal of all the overwhelming emotions.

Valentine's marked two weeks that we've been in Clinton Hill. In Brooklyn. In New York City. It's been a HUGE transition for me and some days are great and some days are pretty rough. Awhile back, I sent a Facebook message to Peyton (we couldn't really text well because of issues with his phone) and in it I said "hard is hard, yo". I was being sort of silly, sort of serious. Anyway, it's become a bit of a catchphrase between us and between me and a few of my close friends. I think it's important to keep a perspective on how great my circumstances are, but also to feel the freedom in acknowlding difficulty. So far, everyone around me has been really gracious about allowing me that as well.

That said, it's been overwhelmingly more good than I had really predicted- at least initially.

 I had thought I'd HATE walking so much. Suprisingly, I really don't. For some reason, and maybe it's just in my head, but it's so much easier to walk here (physically) than in Mississippi (I mean, aside from the FEET of snow, ha!). I noticed it when we visited in August and I've felt it now, too. I think it has to do with the incredible humidity back in the MS, but I would get out of breathe so easily (even in cooler tempatures) and it just exhausted me more. It's been REALLY cold (like one night we got in and I freaked out because I couldn't feel my fingers to unzip my jacket and it totally felt like something straight out of a Jack London novel and I knew I was going to DIE) and I haven't had appropriate shoes/clothes because it took so long to get our stuff, but even still...not so bad.

I was also worried about being cold ALL the time, like even inside. Not the case. There are laws governering heat control in NYC and basically heat is included in the rent and it's required to be kept above a certain tempature. Ultimately, it's much more comfortable to me here than what Peyton kept it on back at home. To some people, I think it might be a little too warm- I saw a ceiling fan on in the window of a building across the courtyard! This may not seem like a huge deal, but I'm SUPER irritable when I'm cold. Not really outside, but when I'm in my own house. Like just want to scream irritable. So that was a really big positive.

Speaking of, I love our little apartment so much. This is going to be terribly hard to explain, but there's something about having all my stuff "close" that I love. I'm enjoying our bed being in the middle of the living room with all our books and the one TV and the kitchen literally steps away. It totally reminds me of college and maybe this is weird, but I dig it. Also, the kids' room is working out really well. At our house at home, their room was actually smaller (someone of Facebook assessed the situation quickly after seeing it- they got the master) and their toys were kind of all over the house. Contained and organized, sure, but very spread out. Here the stuff that was in the den and the play kitchen that they didn't even use much because it was in the (off limits to Graves) real kitchen is all in thier room. I really like it being contained that way and in some ways our little flat with the sleeper sofa seems like it may turn out to be a more sophisticated abode because of the lack of excess kid crap everywhere.

I'm loving the small indulgences, as well. We've gotten some really amazing take out and it's been great to just sit and visit with Peyton or watch TV together. At home, we would spend a good bit of time in seperate rooms and even though I'm planning to get the guest room set up with the big computer in there, I hope it will be less of an issue.

Finally, I'm loving the freedom from obligations. While I loved everything we did at home (Annie's school, our church, ect.), it's nice to have a break from that. Peyton has said several times that if nothing else this adventure will be worth it because we can press "reset" and just sort of reprioritize and analyze the places we truly should be involved. This is really huge with him because he has a lot of things he really wants to do and it will be good for him to pull back from some of them (like working extra hours) and reasses. I know we'll get busy with all kinds of stuff up here, but it's been a nice break.  I feel like this paragraph makes me sound super lazy, so I do want to include that like I said above, Peyton and I are spending more time being present with each other. Another thing is that in some ways I feel like I actually talk to some people (my sister, for instance) more than I did before and I love that.

Additionally, Peyton has seemed really happy, accomodating, and quick to compliment me. He seems like he laughs more easily and is just in a wonderful mood. I don't think it's a permanent thing where he'll always be more good-natured in his beloved city, but I think the "reset" thing is really helping him. Also, while I know he misses his coworkers from his store in Byram, his job here is actually much more low stress in the sense that it's a much "slower" store. I don't think either of us realized the toll his job was taking on him at home. Of course, he's getting tons more excercise just walking around and I think that lifts his mood. And I think he's just excited to be here, living a dream!

Like I said, though, this adventure has already been not without hard emotions. It's been more "stress" than "sadness", which is something I hadn't really anticipated. I think a lot of it has to do with how long it's taken/taking to get settled. There's still some left unpack and we don't have access to the storage space (for carseats, cat carriers, ect.) that is part of our lease until March, so we'll kind of be at a standstill even when most of our stuff is unpacked. There have just been some days, especially before our stuff got here (it was almost two weeks) where I just literally felt like I wanted to rip off my skin or punch every living soul I saw in the face. I get sadness and sorrow, but rarely do I get frustrated and angry like that. I'm feeling more and more like myself the further and further along this place comes and those moments were (THANKFULLY) pretty fleeting.

And I know I've been able to take it in stride more than I would have a few years ago. Cookie sent me a text the other night saying how "easy going" I had gotten and I really appreciated her words. It reminded me of the time in Charleston when Annie was about three months old and Cookie told me I had really grown up and wasn't so high maintenance after becoming a mom because I totally acted like a normal person and just ordered something else when they didn't have a grilled cheese on the menu. (FWIW, we had just driven thirteen hours in a Buick with five people, stopping every two and a half hours (per doctor's orders) so I could nurse Ann Peyton. 

That got me thinking. In some ways, I think I handle "big" stressors better than small, daily things that are really no big deal. For example, I told some of my friends that honestly, overall these two weeks were probably less stressful than the week we had to transition Graves out of his crib because he kept climbing/jumping out. For some reason, that sent me into orbit more than this. Probably because it messed up my routine and I couldn't ever see it returning to normal.

Another example is how I used to be (and probably still would be) really uncomfortable taking the kids in a department store in the double stroller by myself. Alot of that had to do with Graves's behavior and how unpredictable he was and how for some reason a store with "carts" were much more in my comfort zone. But, I plopped them in that thing and basically jogged to make our connecting flight two weeks ago and since then I've taken them on a couple of spins by myself- each time involving going down about three stairs at the co-op that there's just no way around. I'm still stratagizing if there's a better way to do that- right now I leave Graves strapped in and make Annie get out and manhandle the thing down the steps, but it looks like he (and I) are about to die and more than anything I'm scared someone going to walk up and chastise me about it. I think that is what it ultimately comes down to for me. Some lady fussed at me about not having them dressed warmly enough and a security guard was rude (two seperate days) and I just take those things to heart. I think that's why I used to be so scared of going in Belk with them or of taking them to friends' birthday parties. I was just SO concerned with being judged by other people. One of my goals this year is to work on letting that not affect me as much.

I will say that I've had a few sad days as well as lots of stressful ones. They've been similar to ones I had at home, though. But there is a sense of lonliness and of fear of the unknown as far as how long we'll be here and such. One thing that has been incredibly helpful is talking and texting a LOT with my friends and family. Another thing that is helpful is knowing that we have friends who are planning to come visit. Ashley and Carrie are coming in May and Cookie and Conrad are coming on Labor Day weekend, I think. Ellis and Minda are also planning to come and those all give me things to look foward to.

One REALLY hard thing I didn't anticipate is how hard my dad is taking it. I knew it would be difficult for my mom and it has been I know, but overall she's coped really well. Daddy's just broken down in tears a few times, though (not in front of me) and that breaks my heart to hurt him that way. He's so incredibly close to Graves (and Ann Peyton, but he and Graves have a special bond) and I know when he sees pictures of his little buddy smiling in the snow it's killing him. Daddy is not one given to much emotion, so I know this is an intense greif he's feeling, if only for a seaon. I told Peyton the other night that by the time we get back home, even if it is only a year, Graves will be a very different little boy. So much changes between almost three and almost four. Again, I'm heartbroken over that. And I'm just very, VERY thankful for modern technology.

The other thing that's been hard has been navigating this with Annie. Graves is mostly excited about any and all adventures so that's really been a non-issue. And Ann Peyton has done great, mostly. But she did get really scared of the subway and she also had one night where she cried and said she wanted to go back to Mississippi. It was a long, hard night but I'm thankful that was mostly it. I realize we're very fortuant to have made the transition so easily, but that one night made me ache for her so badly.

I'm also just really craving more routine. While I've loved being without outside obligations, I'm itching to get back in the game with homeschooling and I'm really ready to start blogging more consistantly. Both kind of stress me out that I'm falling behind and while it's more stress than sadness, I feel like stress inevietably leads to anxiousness which leads to sadness and I think some of sad days are intensified by not having a routine in place.

Again, little things bring me comfort, though. For example, before the move, I seperated a good many toys that just aren't developmentally appropriate for Graves and packed them in a different box. When we unpacked our books, I made a little section of the bookself espesially for Annie to enjoy during Graves's naptime and so far it's been a big success. Little things like that are helping me feel "centered" and like something is in my control.

So much isn't, though, and I know that's a big lesson (maybe THE big lesson) in this adventure.

This is our second weekend here that Peyton's had to work and I still couldn't figure out a way to make church happen for the three of us. There are literally two churches within walking distance- one is an Episcopal one that I think will just lean too liberal for my tastes and one is a Baptist church that I can tell is basically 100% African American. I'm planning to check out both (I'm really open to at least trying anything that is a legitimate Christian church, i.e. not the Church of Scientology or whatever), but I'm planning to do it when Peyton can go with us. Also, in time I know I'll be able to navigate the buses (and hopefully the subway) by myself with the kids and that will open up a lot of options to us.

 I know I'll figure out something eventually, but I really beat myself up (and again, got way to worried about people's hypothetical opinions). Thankfully God has whispered to me (in the voice of a sweet friend and in my own conviction) that He is here in the chaos and that there is abundant grace for a few Sundays not spent the traditional way. I'm certianly praying that the road to our temporary church home is a short one, but I'm finding the Lord in so many new ways in the interim. I'm learning to trust Him more, to talk to Him more, and to let go of being in control.

I'm so thankful for this adventure, if for nothing else the way it's helping me learn about myself, the way it's making me appreciate the relationships I have and stretch myself to form new ones, and the way it's helping me to grow in my faith.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Brooklyn Beginnings: Thoughts on the First Few Days in Our New Home

Well, we are HERE. We got here Friday and it's now Monday. And we're getting adjusted (or trying to). I'm trying to really go with the flow, but our stuff from the moving cubes won't be here until Wednesday (just two more full days after today). I think for me, one of the hardest things in the world is feeling "unsettled". I just feel like there's not a lot I can even start to do and the poor children had fun running around a basically empty apartment yesterday, but it's quickly loosing its novelty. Anyway, a few things:

The Good:

- We are HERE. Our whole family is together again. Praise the Lord. And Peyton is being really kind and patient, despite that we're both really tired and easily frustrated.
Friday morning alarms. So not what I'm used to, but we made our seven AM flight. 

- The kids have been so happy to see Peyton and vice versa. Sadly, he's working a lot right at first and I know that's really hard, especially for Annie.

- Speaking of the children, the flight went so smoothly.

- In fact, I was sweating and shaking, but we made our TWENTY FIVE MINUTE connection.

- Also Graves and Annie have really adjusted to their new environment a lot already. Kids are so resilient.

- It's a small step to making the place feel like home, but our Ikea delivery came and Peyton is going to assemble everything soon. We actually started (and finished!) the sofa bed between midnight and two last night (the bad is that poor Peyton had to get up at six to work; the kids and I slept in).

-The apartment is really nice and spacious and I think we'll love it. Here's a little sneak peak (incidentally, Friday was my first peak at the inside of the apartment with the exception of one picture I had seen).

- I did my first several loads of laundry at the co-op laundry room. It's in a different building, but we are SO thankful to have one on the property!

(This was Peyton's laundry from the past month, ha!)

- We got our first big snow! Apparently, precipitation is precipitation and I have a weather headache, but our "yard" looks so beautiful I hardly even care.

The Bad:
- Our huge bag with all our clothes in it got lost. We stood around waiting a long time at baggage claim and then had to file a report and all that. All was fine, though, and I got it the next day. The good is that it was only a minor inconvenience that had me stressed for a little while.

- Things that are really tiny have been so frustrating to me lately. I thought I had also left my make-up bag on the plane. Honestly, I mostly wear stuff from the drugstore and one of the two quality things I had in there was almost totally out. So not a big deal. For some reason, I beat myself up so much about it. I just had been SO proud of myself for keeping up with everything and making our connection. I know that's so silly, but I just let myself get worked up over several things I felt like I did "wrong". Graves had just colored on the wall at the apartment and I felt like I was not holding things together well at all. One thing that is really hard about this state of transition is that things aren't "toddler proofed" at all yet. For example, at home Graves is not allowed to have crayons anywhere but in his booster seat. The day before I got irrationally upset because I felt like the security guard here at the apartment thought I was stupid (I couldn't remember the name of our building and it took me forever to think to just tell him our address, then I couldn't get my door locked or unlocked very quickly or easily and he just seemed frustrated and put out). The good here is that I'm learning a lot about giving myself grace.

- One drawback of the co-op is the lighting situation. There's no overhead lights except in the hallway, bathroom, and kitchen. And Peyton has been and will be working long shifts for a bit, so we haven't had time to get any lamps. For now, after dark, we've been playing in the hall!

- Lastly, I totally thought we had lost Darth when the Ikea stuff was delivered. The good is that we found her!
The kids and I walked up two different sets of thirteen flights of stairs looking for her. I was so heartbroken. She's such a nervous soul and I knew she was terrified wherever she was. 

This was the worst part. Peyton told me to tell her she could look out the window to see if she could spot Darth in the courtyard. I think it is making her feel better. She's been saying thins like "We'll just have to stay forever and look all over this whole city for her" and "I have an idea of something we can do every day- we'll walk around and look for our kitty and then...WE'LL FIND HER!"

She was in a closet. That I had looked in five times. Peyton said I could just say he found her. I said "no, I'll tell whoever". He said "You're so okay with looking like an ass". I said sure. He said he wished he was more that way. I said it was harder for a man, I thought. He said that was true but not good. I agreed. Another Herrington mini convo analyzing gender and perception and intelligence and personality. Missed him so bad.

The Ugly:
- Our apartment was not cleaned the way we were told it would be. Not even close. I'm not the most cleanly person ever, but this was pretty far below my standards. The kids feet were BLACK from the floors. Yuck. We've cleaned some, but there's still more to do. The good is that, despite a few flaws, our land lady and her husband are friendly people who love children and are supportive of our family, unlike some previous places we looked. Which means much more to me than a clean apartment.

- The kids got the stomach bug the first day we were here and we ran out of diapers. I wasn't just going to put them in the stroller and walk around looking for them, especially since I didn't have a DIAPER for Graves. We made do and he wore 4T panties and somehow I didn't have TOO many messes to clean up. The good (the VERY good) in this situation is that it didn't happen on the plane.

The Truth: 
Changing cat liter, paying bills, calling about a terminated life insurance policy...things I've never had to do myself before. And this week I flew on a plane without another adult with me for the third time in my life (the other two were the second leg of a trip to California in which my dad paid for Peyton to fly with me to Atlanta to get me on my connecting flight and the first leg of the return trip in which Daddy again paid for Peyton to go receive me in Atlanta and safely escort me back to Jackson). It was Ann Peyton's second flight (she doesn't remember her first) and Graves's first. This adventure is making a grown up out of me in a way that nothing, save having my own children, ever has.

- I'm still a little amazed that I flew with the guy in the bear hat below (and his sister, but she's pretty even keel with this sort of thing) on a plane by myself. Honestly? The last time I was this proud of a personal accomplishment was almost three years ago when I pushed his near eight pound body out without the first drop of medicinal aid. Both involved a lot of fear and now both have given me a new sense of confidence in myself and what I'm capable of. If I gain nothing else from this year, it will be a stronger faith in a God who empowers and a deeper sense of what He can do through me if I listen to Him instead of the voices that tell me I'm not strong enough for this.
If he doesn't look ready for an adventure, I don't even know....

- A little order seems to go a long way with me. Today I worked really hard at cleaning the apartment; it took about an hour but I got the filthy bathroom and ONE closet cleaned. Now, I just need to figure out what to do about this floor that's turning the kids feet BLACK. We've used a squirt and scrub mop twice. So naive. Pretty sure I'm about to either get a legit mop or better yet some cheap towels so I can scrub all 800ish square feet of this wonderful little place. I organized what I could and I put things on shelves. I stacked diapers and cleaning supplies and unpacked things I could unpack without hangers and dressers. I also tried to be intentional about observing small blessings around me. 

One of my favorite things so far is this kitchen window right by the stove. I wanted so badly to live in a brownstone, but this feels so "New York" to me-- being able to see the dozens of windows that dozens of other families are living behind.

Another fun perk is that the water out if the tap is freezing cold (I assume because of the climate). And yes, not having any dishes has brought recycling to a whole new level. 

- While it obviously entails a lot more effort here, getting outside today lifted mine and the kids spirits and improved attitudes all around, I think. 

We walked up and down the main street in our area this afternoon. I'm still not brave enough to try to get us to a church by myself! 

This was a pretty nice bonus, too. We may be strolling every day until his room is set up and gated (I tried for an hour yesterday to get him to lay down and rest. It was very frustrating for both if us.)

The one negative thing about our walk was that a lady at the co-op fussed at me as we were coming back because I didn't have on a jacket (I took it off because I was sweating pushing the stroller and was sweating) and because Graves's legs were "exposed". I think I need to make it a goal in 2014 to let things like that roll off my back. I will say that because I was feeling more refreshed and more alive, her comments didn't bother me the way the security guard's attitude had. 

- I guess this post is kind of coming full circle, but the main thing is that I'm just thrilled to all be together and to be starting this journey finally! 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Here-- Home

We made it! We're here- home! It sounds so strange to say that. I'll post a big update later today or tonight.