Saturday, September 16, 2017

Summer 2017: Vermont photos

The gang of four on the steps of our Vermont mountain house

Everybody dressed up for Topsy Turvy Tuesday at camp

Visiting the Vermont Farm Museum on yet another perfectly gorgeous summer day

Our morning visit to the pigs at camp. Just before Amelie starts screaming as I carry her, kicking, away from camp for the day.

Leo and Amy snuggle on the deck with the amazing view.

Camp Mommy for the toddlers often consisted of swimming at the boat landing across the lake from the girls' camp

No filter. Is there a more beautiful place than my beloved camp?
that's the old hand powered Ferris wheel in the background.

One of the two times we saw double rainbows in our two weeks in Vermont

Discovering the magic that is Maple Creemees aka (real) maple syrup flavored soft serve.
(No, I didn't invent the spelling)



Practicing for the overnight

Laughing hysterically as we sing along to Sugar at the top of our lungs

Hiking the AT with the babies

Packed and ready for the overnight

Backpacking Mommies

Play time at stream by White Cottage snack bar

Summer 2017 Round Up

All in all, we had a wonderful summer. The best part of it was finding out that I had gotten my job back. I didn't realize how much stress I was carrying until this burden was suddenly gone.

As much fun as an adventure in Mexico would probably be, I'm a creature of habit and I love our life here. I would probably take the leap if not for the fact that I couldn't get this job (in my daughters' school) once I left it. Plus, after a summer off, I'm like my job again. Yay. It's fun and challenging and rewarding. And not crazy busy yet. My feelings may change back once I get swamped again. I'm searching for ways to control the pace a bit better. No real resolution yet, except for the bright idea of not trying to get as many things done for myself between patients. That might slow the pace a bit.

I'm exceedingly grateful to my job right now, in any case, for allowing me to have these magical summers off. This one was practically perfect. Here's an overview of our adventures:

  • two weeks in Vermont (I skipped the final week of school, only 1.5 days with students in the building, to give me one of these weeks off). Calliope and her friend Eleanor went to my former summer camp, an incredible Quaker community. It was wonderful to see some old friends there on staff and as parents of current campers. We stayed after camp almost every day to go swimming in the magical lake there. Slightly less magical on weekends when the horrid Canadian Geese overtook the place. Yuck.

    They loved it and the toddlers loved seeing the pigs and ducks every day (but Amelie decidedly did NOT like being forced to leave with the Mommies each day). Calliope successfully stayed the whole night for the overnight at the end! I was very proud (and surprised, especially when Eleanor opted to come home at bedtime, that C stayed).

    We shared a beautiful house on a mountaintop and appreciated the view and especially the sunset each day. The noise of having the living room on the top floor (not ideal for my napping toddler) and the general mayhem of four children in one house for two weeks was challenging for us at times -- I have a really hard time with noise (so does C sometimes) and my children are usually not loud so it was a big change for me -- but we survived. Next time I think we should have some planned separations but overall it was great.
  • two weeks back home again. I can't actually remember much of what we did. We saw some friends and went to playgrounds almost daily and visited the beach once. I love the beach and always wonder why I don't go more often but then I spend five hours cleaning sand out of everything we own and then I remember. It's always amazing to me that there are gorgeous beaches within 30 minutes of us in Brooklyn.

    I think I also spent a LOT of time cleaning up and organizing the apartment and running errands. It's really hard for me to do a lot beyond the day to day during the school year becuase I just get so tired and I'm so busy and there's so much to do just to keep up. So this was satisfying. And exhausting. I did a lot!
  • Ten days in Mexico! We flew to Mexico City, spent a night there, and then rode with a driver to San Miguel de Allende along with Jackie, fellow SMC, and her two kids, ages 6 and almost 4. We stayed in the same gated community on the outskirts of town but had our own tiny apartments which worked out well. And the community had a lovely heated pool (with shallow area for toddlers) and hot tub so the children were in heaven.

    SMA was beautiful and the people were lovely. What a warm and child loving culture! It was hard to see much in a day with so many children but we did our best and had a lovely time. I'm fantasizing about going back next summer and putting the children into day camp there for a truly immersive experience. There's a circus camp that looks amazing.
  • A week back home. It had been scheduled to be a week of cabin camping with our SMC friends Jen and Luna but I realized it was too much after the last minute Mexico trip. So we bailed on that and had a nice week at home to recover from our travels. Our friends were mostly away so we were on our own and that was nice (and rare for us) for us to bond as a family.
  • Two weeks of Spanish immersion camp in Brooklyn. Both kids went (along with their besties Eleanor and Leo) and I shadowed a pediatrician for the first week. It was a rough transition for Amelie but by the second week she was waving cheerfully goodbye and having a great time. The second week I had to myself -- the first time since I gave birth six years ago! I had a doctor's appointment and got some things done but also spent some delicious time reading on the couch. What a treat! And it was neat to see the kids speaking a bit more Spanish.
  • One final week off which was bookended with a weekend to the Hamptons to see the honorary grandparents on one end and my niece's bat mitzvah in Rhode Island at the other. The girls got spoiled and doted on and it was lovely. Amelie is completely in love with my brother and calls him Daddy. Well, she calls all men Daddy, mostly, but she wanted his constant love and attention. She also loved attention from all the relatives, and all the teenage girls, and the DJ at the bat mitzvah party... basically, she was the life of the party.
  • Now just ten more months until I can do it again! Time to start fantastizing. 

What's New With My Girls

(Written in August but not published until September)

As mentioned in the last post, both girls are going to Spanish immersion camp in Brooklyn. We just finished the first week. I was shadowing a pediatrician all week so they were doing before-care as well.

Calliope did great but poor Amelie had a rough time with her first drop-off experience ever. She's normally a very outgoing, fearless little girl so I assume it was the lack of transition that made it so hard for her. Poor baby. Each morning she started crying earlier in the journey.

At least on Friday she finally ate some lunch. The rest of the week she refused to eat and barely napped. Poor peanut.

I wanted to remember a few funny things that she says before she outgrows them and I immediately forget them:
  • sun screen is "ice cream"
  • hot tub is "hot dog"
  • when she wants to be picked up she says "hug?" (instead of the more typical "up")
  • today she said "Mommy, help on it?" when she wanted me to "turn it on"

And in major Calliope developments... I had to drag her out of the apartment yesterday to go practice bike riding after a month break -- she never wanted to go when I suggested it. There were a lot of tears and some yelling on my part but she finally, finally, rode her bike across the parking lot of a nearby junior high school. I told her one more time and that was it, she could go home. She did it one more time. I cheered for her and told her it was time to go. She mournfully said she wanted to do it again. And again. And then she was riding circles around the parking lot.

Today when I reminded her we were going to practice again she readily agreed... and for the first time ever, actually managed to pedal a little bit on the sidewalk on the way there. She rode around the parking lot joyfully and the whole way home.  I see family bike rides (with Amelie in a baby seat) in our very near future, at last.

So proud of my girl and relieved that my yelling didn't seem to do any permanent damage.

Our embryo recipient, came to visit this weekend. She is 22 weeks pregnant today. She spent some time with Calliope, building a volcano and then making it erupt. Perfect activity for C. Not too far from me but didn't require me, either. I think they really bonded.

Leslie looks radiant. She's 46 but looks much younger. I'm so happy she's growing "Super Baby Cousin" and indirectly growing our family!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Matter Is Settled

Well, it's been an overwhelming summer. Emotionally speaking. But all's well that ends well.

A couple of weeks ago I received my pink slip in the mail. At last.

And later that night that I received a phone call rescinding that decision.

We made enough political noise that someone got embarrassed, we'll never know who, and the decision got changed, just like that.

We only have funding for one year so it'll be an uphill battle but I'm cautiously optimistic that more time, we'll find a longer term solution.

Once I finally found out... I was so happy and relieved.

And then the next day I was disappointed.

Mostly now, though, on balance, I'm happy. I'm finally resting my brain and actually enjoying the summer, now that I don't have all that ambivalence. It was so hard to live my life, not knowing what would come next. I was trying to take an online class on building niche websites -- which ate up every moment of free time -- and keeping a scathing eye on my apartment, trying to see where I could declutter and prepare for staging my apartment (if I moved to Mexico I would rent out my apartment). And in between, I was trying to think about schools in Mexico, and medical insurance here and abroad, and car storage versus selling my car (aka my dead mother's car so a more emotionally weighty decision). And a million other tiny decisions.

I also, to my surprise, had a phone interview for a possible job in Mexico. She's not quite ready to hire yet (and obviously I wasn't ready to commit to moving to Mexico!) and it wouldn't be my dream job (or my dream salary) but it might be a good option for at least a while. So I'm keeping that in the back of my mind.

But for now, I keep dreaming ahead to the time when both my children attend the same school in Brooklyn and (fingers crossed) I work in the same building and my childcare bill drops to practically nothing. I imagine I'll feel terribly liberated. We shall see.

And if I end up losing my job at the end of this school year... I hope I'll take the plunge and move to Mexico then. But really, I think my ideal time to go would be the middle school years. When my children are done with this amazing school I think I'll feel much more unmoored.

Whether my children will want to move to another country with me by then is an open question. I'm not wildly optimistic.

In the meantime, I hope we will go back to Mexico next summer for a longer visit, and maybe even send the girls to summer camp there for a couple of weeks. They're doing Spanish immersion camp right here in Brooklyn and it seems great but with lots of little English speaking children around them, they're clearly not learning as fast as they would in a Spanish-only environment. Of course, they might have a lot less fun if they felt totally over their heads in that sort of environment.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Clarity For a Moment

I just got off the phone with my brother (who can be great sometimes... which makes our occasional conflicts all the more hurtful, but that's for another day) and he helped me clarify things. I know how quickly the anxiety creeps back into my restless mind so I'm going to write it all down and see if I can save it for the next anxious day.

He asked me what idea brings me joy. Mexico. Without a doubt. Mexico and getting to watch my girls grow up. Slowing down. Watching the proverbial ants in the sidewalk. Seeing my girls speak fluently in Spanish.

I think about how (some) older people say that the happiest time in their lives was when their children were small... but they didn't realize it back then. I don't mean to romanticize small children. Certainly there is plenty of drudgery and potty accidents and spilled milk and temper tantrums. But also. My heart has never been so full. My miracles!

My brother was asking me about the jobs I'm currently interviewing for. He asked me if I was excited about them. I laughed ruefully. Not so much. It's more of the same work I'm doing now, but starting over in a new community. One that almost certainly won't match the one I'm in now... where I'm already bored of the work. I stay because Calliope is in the building, and I love getting to know her teachers and her classmates and being a part of something amazing. This school is truly exceptional.

But moving to a new school, with a more limited population (high school only or middle and high school) and having to build all new relationships and figuring out how to get Calliope to one school and me to another... not exciting. It sounds tiring. Like trying to mentally and physically hang on for the next school vacation.

The interview yesterday went well. But I didn't love the medical director. She might or might not be my collaborating physician at my theoretical new job with them. But I've adored my thee consecutive medical directors I've had the pleasure of working with at my current job. And what a difference it makes. My previous job, which was the same place I interviewed at, I did not love my collaborating physician and it was hard. Of course I was a new provider back then so needed more support back then than I do now. Still, I'm a person that likes to collaborate with my colleagues. If I have an intimidating or unpleasant collaborating physician, I'm unlikely to do that.

My plan had been to try and get as far along in the interviewing process and then introduce the idea of taking time off when I get an offer, or close to it.

But my brother pointed out that maybe that plan is creating a lot of undue stress. Why interview now for jobs I don't want? Why not plan on Mexico and see how I feel? He and I can both imagine a big possibility that time in Mexico might lead to as yet unimagined possibilities. Either here or there. Maybe I need space to dream.

Why not do the thing that brings me joy? I haven't had trouble getting interviews so far and I've barely spent any time looking. (I recognize that this is an enormous blessing, as it hasn't always been that way, and I'm enormously grateful for that.) Why not plan for an entire year in Mexico? I can always come back if I hate it. Of course I'll have to figure out how to sublet my apartment and a million other details. But one rarely regrets the opportunities she's taken. Usually regrets are for the things left undone.

Like becoming an SMC -- the best thing I've ever done -- maybe it's time to take the leap.

Our best friends and nanny-shares for almost five years now.  Our Brooklyn family. Will be very hard to leave them.

Wonderful kind school friends

Who wouldn't want more time with this?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Living With Uncertainty

We received news at work a few weeks ago that the state had cut our budget by two thirds.

We are hoping the city council might approve $3 million to support NYC school based health centers. No idea when that is being voted on. I've adapted a letter which should be sent to all the families in our school building (which houses two different school), asking them to call their city council members to ask for their support of the measure. The school and the PTA offered to help me send out the letters but so far haven't responded to my draft... Stressful.

Then there's the possibility that our hospital (which also provides some of the funding for our clinics) will close some but not all of the clinics. If they decide by performance, I won't have any worries. But if our union intercedes, I could have issues because I have fewer years of seniority than two of my colleagues. It's a strange situation because we were unionized at our previous hospital but we were acquired by a non unionized hospital. So we're this tiny pocket of unionized staff in an otherwise non-union hospital. The hospital wants us to leave the union but of course then we face pay cuts and working during the summer...

I've been contacted by a couple of recruiters and interviewed with one school based health program in lower Manhattan. It looks amazing, like a professional health clinic with gorgeous facilities including dental care and health educators (who do time consuming tasks like reviewing birth control options to teens so I can do more clinical work) and time for administrative work. But I didn't get a warm feeling from the two folks who interviewed me, and they didn't respond to my thank you note. That might just be because I told them I wasn't available to accept a position yet and would have to wait until I hear about my current job. But of course it worries me.

So last week I followed up with the other recruiter and just this morning sent times I'm available to interview for positions in Brooklyn. I actually worked for this school based health program when I first graduated but I left my job there (split between two different sites, and a second NP at each) for my dream job at this school, working with preK-12th grades, two blocks from my (then) home and with summers off. I've been here ever since, more than ten years.

They now offer summers off and a slightly higher salary than I get now, with a productivity bonus to boot. So that sounds great... except for the fact that I won't be in the same building with Calliope anymore. And I'll have to figure out how to get her to and from school. All of which are first world problems, I admit, but are still challenges. I'm rather heartbroken at the idea of not being a part of her school community anymore. It's not like I see her all that much but I love that I know her teachers as colleagues and am here if she ever needs me.

Then there's my other, zanier, ideas. See right now my childcare budget is out of control. I am burning through savings and will continue to do so for the next two years, until Amelie starts public PreK. And I'm so busy. And frequently stressed. For the amount of savings I spend each year, I believe I could live without working in Mexico. Not forever, but for a year or two. And I would get to spend time with my girls! They would learn Spanish! (Well, Amelie is with a Spanish speaking nanny but Calliope only speaks a little Spanish and it would be different for both of them, and me too, to be really immersed in a Spanish speaking culture.)

It all sounds quite dreamy. But then the details get me down. Figuring out health insurance. Figuring out the details of subletting my apartment. Just how much stuff would I have to empty out? Is there enough of an expat community there to keep our social selves happy? Would I homeschool Calliope or send her to private schools there? Would private school costs eat up my ability to live affordably there?

If not for summers off (here), I think I would want to try other kinds of work. It's hard to imagine starting over in a new school community after investing ten years here. But. Summers off.

So then I start thinking about part time work. Something that keeps my childcare costs low. Another SMC told me she's making a killing off her part time lice removal business.

And someone else told me I should pursue medical concierge service. Like, being an on call medical provider that makes house calls. People actually pay for membership into such a service, even apart for the cost of the visit. My friend used this when she lived in Toronto and loved it and said people will pay a huge premium for the convenience. But. How do I figure out all the logistics? Medicals supplies. Scheduling. Back up.

I've contacted a pediatrician I used to know to ask if I could shadow her in August, just in case I go this route and need to see babies and toddlers again. I'm out of practice with them. I've got Spanish immersion camp for two weeks for the girls so I could shadow her then, assuming the dates work for her then. And then I think about all the money I'm spending, between going to Mexico for an exploration of it as an option plus Spanish immersion camp -- I only meant to do one or the other, not both.

I get so overwhelmed that I start praying I won't lose my job because there's too many choices. Which seems ridiculous. In my heart of hearts, I know my priority is more time with my girls while they are still young. Staying at this job serves that purpose, because I'll get more time with them in the long run, by being in the building where they go to school. But if I lose this job... going straight into another, similar job when I am already rather burned out and wishing for more time with them and instead having to invest extra time in commuting and building a reputation in a new place... that seems crazy. Versus taking a year or two with my girls, either in Mexico, or here, trying to build a part time gig.

Of course I haven't even addressed the potential heartbreak of letting my nanny go, and the enormous guilt I would feel over that.

Goodness. My head is spinning.

Trying very very hard to stay in the present and remember I'm not going to make any decisions until I know about my job. But I don't know when I'll know and it's hard.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Last week, after several weeks of anxious waiting... Leslie saw the heartbeat of her tiny embryo on the ultrasound screen! I'm going to be a Super Auntie! (we are calling the future siblings Super Cousins, since genetically they are siblings but obviously not being raised that way). I couldn't be more thrilled... and relieved!

I sent these to Leslie for her first Mother's Day. Wishing her a lot less sleep for her second one.