Small Town

Well I was born in a small town And I live in a small town Prob’ly die in a small town Oh, those small – communities. John Mellencamp “Small Town”

A cool song. I was born and raised in Philadelphia. As an adult, I moved to New York – Brooklyn to be exact. I lived in Brooklyn for more than 4 years. From there, I lived in Manhattan for the same amount of time. I then spent a little over two years in the Bronx.
Besides being a bit of vagabond, you’ll note there is no small town in my past. So, unless you count my time at my college (State College, PA – the main campus of Pennsylvania State University), I am as big city as you can get. Well, that is until my family, and I made our way out to the suburbs of North Jersey nearly six years ago.

THE MOVE

I couldn’t take it at first – the suburbs, that is. I don’t like mowing the lawn (http://larrydbernstein.com/sort-of-green/), and I like noise, and thrive on activity. Yet, I’ve adjusted. There is peace and quiet and space. I love the space. So even though a part of me will always miss the city – Manhattan in particular – I am okay here in the burbs.
There is a sense of community in a small town. When I think of small towns, I think of familiarity. When I lived in the various boroughs of New York City, I was in high rises (some were higher than others), and I would see the same people coming in and out of the building. Yet, I knew very few if any of them. We shared hallways but not lives.
It’s not like that here in the suburbs. Now, it’s not like I know everyone, and we get together for brunch once a month on a rotating basis. Still, you can’t help but see people around whether it’s at the bagel store, the dry cleaner, the bank, or the town pool. At one point in my life, I probably would not have cared about this or even found it suffocating. Now, there is something about it that I find nice, decent, and comforting. It’s as if because of our proximity, we are bound together on some level.

OUR TOWN ACTIVITIES

Our town does some nice things to foster this sense of community. There is a Memorial Day Parade. The fire engines, police cars, EMTs, local servicemen, and high school march. You can watch the whole parade in less than an hour. There is nothing cool about it. But we’ve gone multiple times and enjoy it every time. We get to see and appreciate those who support our community.
Yesterday we attended a carnival at the local public school. The carnival was simple – none of the rides is about to make its way to Six Flags. We were there only a short while, but the boys had a lot of fun. They went on some rides, ate some popcorn, and drank some Coca Cola. We saw past and present classmates of SJ (who attends the school). Also, my wife volunteered to work at one of the booths. The tickets and snacks were pricey. But we didn’t complain. After all, the purpose of the carnival was to raise money for our local schools.

My wife hard at work at the booth and dealing with two clowns.

My wife hard at work at the booth and dealing with two clowns.

SJ & BR - two swingers

SJ & BR – two swingers

The boys and I enjoying the fair.

The boys and I enjoying the fair.

This big city guy is content. “It’s good enough for me.”

No One Said It Would Be Easy

One of the great things about blogging is community. My guest blogger today is Elske, and she and I have been following each other’s blogs for a long time now – mutual fans you can say.

 

Elske is a software developer by day, freelance writer by night, but her main job is being mummy to 21 month old Elisabeth. Her blog (elskenewman.com) focuses on her life as a first time mum and life in general. Her lifelong dream to become a successful writer.

 

In today’s guest post, Elske writes about her experiences when Elisabeth was first born.

About four years ago I went to the cinema with a colleague. This particular time we were going to see ‘The Young Victoria’, a film about the first few years of Queen Victoria’s rule and her romance with Prince Albert. Very much my kind of film.
While we were waiting for the film to start, we caught up on the work gossip and what was happening in our home lives. Because we were both very busy at work we had lots to talk about, and we initially didn’t notice that the film hadn’t started yet, it was late.
When the film finally started, we both stared at the big screen for a few seconds…..then looked at each other…….this was not ‘The Young Victoria’……we had gone to the wrong screen…….unbelievable………..what to do? We quickly decided  we would stick with the one we had mistakenly selected…..which was ‘Marley and me’………a film about a dog, not quite the same genre.

 

It turned out to be quite a funny film, I enjoyed, but it wasn’t until I watched the film again after having Elisabeth that I noticed a particular line. When Jenny Grogan (played by Jennifer Aniston) is having a particularly difficult day with her baby, she asks her husband (John Grogan, played by Owen Wilson) why nobody told them it was going to be so hard. His reply was: ‘They did, you just didn’t listen.’

This is very true for a lot of parents. You are given advice repeatedly:

your life will change dramatically,

you’ll be tired beyond belief

every task you performed pre-baby without thinking about it will become 10 times harder be proud of yourself if you manage to get up in the morning and get dressed.

Yet, you are still shocked when it happens.

I know I was. My sister had a baby 18 months before I did. I stayed with them for a few days when my nephew was only two weeks old and I saw them struggle through these early days. But even so, I didn’t realize the enormity of the task of looking after a baby until it happened.

The first day my husband went back to work, I didn’t get dressed until an hour or so before he got back home. Getting dressed was the only thing I did other than caring for Elisabeth. The second day I unloaded the dishwasher. I clearly remember feeling frustrated with myself as I saw my exhausted husband clean up the kitchen, cook me dinner, and tidy up without a single complaint. I knew he appreciated how tired I was from nursing, getting up during the night and generally just looking after our little girl. However, I felt like a failure.

It was a big relief when my sister told me that she didn’t do any housework for months after my nephew was born it. Knowing that my sister, who is an amazingly strong woman, had gone through the same thing made me relax a little. I wasn’t failing miserably (even though it felt like it), I was doing my job, which was (and still is) looking after Elisabeth. Everything else could wait.

After a few weeks we settled into a routine. I occasionally managed to get out, although it was quite depressing to tell my husband that we did lots. Then I started listing what we had achieved, and all we had done was gone to the shops around the corner. The first night we had dinner at the table together felt like a huge achievement. I don’t think my husband realizes how much he supported me by not expecting me to do anything more than make sure Elisabeth was ok. Not once did he look disappointed when he came home and saw from the state of the kitchen how bad our day had been.

During those first few fragile weeks, I felt like the whole world was expecting me to have a lovely time with this wonderful little creature we had created, and I felt bad because I wasn’t enjoying her as much as I thought I should. Every mother I met seemed more capable, confident, and happier. However, these confident looking mothers will tell you they had the exact same difficulties. You just hadn’t noticed because you were too tired to pay attention.

Now here is the truth, I love my daughter more than life itself, but having a baby is hard, very hard, and there is no shame in admitting this. Happy parenting everyone!

Feeling Better

102.3! No, I am not referring to a radio station.

“I told you I didn’t feel well,” I said, vindicated. I was shaking, my teeth were chattering, I was itchy, and I felt a perpetual need to pee.

And I was scared.

The last time I had a fever was about 30 years ago. I was 10. I woke up on Saturday morning, excited to play little league basketball. As a child, I lived for little league; some of my best memories come from me playing on various teams for the Bustleton Boys Club. I played basketball and baseball. My soccer career ended after one year when I didn’t even score one goal (I was robbed!), and my team was 1-7-1. Anyway, I woke up and called for my mom. Five minutes later, she removed the thermometer and diagnosed me with fever.

“But doc, I want to play. My team needs me.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Ahh mom. Come on. I’ll be fine.” I tried getting out of my top bunk bed. Was it me or was the room spinning? It was me, and I was done. I resigned myself to missing my game. Turns out the flu bug was going around, and many kids had to miss the game.

So, you could say I am not used to being sick.

My family and I had been at a synagogue event – parent/child learning. My wife was the organizer, so she was running around making sure everything was going smoothly. As the hour turned to 8:30 pm, SJ was getting cranky, and I was feeling more and more uncomfortable.

“Will you take me home? Daddy doesn’t feel well. So, can you take me home?”

SJ said through muffled tears, “What about mommy and BR?”

“They can get a ride home from someone.”

“Okay. You can take me home, and I’ll take you home.”

“Thanks buddy. I really don’t feel well.” BR told my wife we were leaving. She was ready for this contingency. A meltdown can come at any time at that hour. She just did not expect me to be the one melting down.

A rough Saturday night of Advil and fitful sleep followed. However, upon waking up Sunday morning, my fever was gone. G-d bless drugs. I probably should have relaxed and taken it easy, but I didn’t. After all, I am not used to lying in bed sick.

102.3 is back to being a radio station. And that is music to my ears.

 

Want To Be There

“Okay, fine, good.” These are the answers I get when I ask my children about school. None of the responses – including the good – go along with enthusiasm. When I ask for more details, it is as if the children were trained by the CIA and refuse to give out information. However, there are those rare days when the children are excited about their school day. Those are great days, and I love to share their enthusiasm. SJ had just such a day on Monday.
I work 5 days a week. I am out of the house by 6 A.M. and return at approximately 4:45 (work often continues after the children are asleep). My wife works five days a week. For three of those days, she is in the city. She leaves just after she drops SJ off for school and returns home by 7 P.M. The two days she works from home she is expected to be working her standard eight hours.
I am thankful that we are both employed and have managed to stay so throughout the recession and the tepid recovery. We have not had to fret over bills (though I occasionally forget) and have not had our salaries reduced.  We have been fortunate. No complaints despite the long hours. That’s life, and we accept it.
When SJ gets excited, it is hard to understand what he is saying. He talks fast, and his details are all over the place. Yet, on Monday he was very clear. He was happily rambling on about a Thanksgiving Festival his school was going to be having. SJ informed me that BR, my wife, my mother, and I were all invited and there was room for everyone. He would be singing songs. There would be food for everyone. The details kept spilling out of the smile that was his mouth.
He was thrilled, so I was excited. Of course, I would go to see this grand performance. “When is it?” He had no idea.
“Come on daddy. Let’s look at the note in my back pack. They sent a note home for you.” He hurried down to the kitchen, opened his back pack, took out the note and gave it to me. He instructed, “Read it.”
I read the note and was sickened. The big event was on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at 1:30.  Why? Why do they make these events, psyche the kids up, and then schedule them during the workday? Of course, the notice mentioned how we must reserve as the event has been a tremendous success in the past with many family members attending. How can they attend, I wondered? Don’t they have jobs, daily responsibilities?
I’m sure all of the parents have daily responsibilities. However, many find a way to fit this event into their schedule. But I can’t. I can’t go. I feel guilty. I feel like crap. I have a limited amount of days I can take off of work – like everyone else – and have used some already. My wife does not know if she can make it either as she is in the office on Tuesdays. Lastly, we don’t want to pull my other son out of school to attend. My mother, however, will be attending. Thankfully, she is retired and enjoys attending the children’s events.
So, SJ will have representation. Despite this, I am angry about being put in this situation. As a father and educator, I am thrilled to see my son excited about something at school. I am glad the school has gone to this effort which is motivating students (well, at least one). It is no one’s fault.
Sometimes, it really would be nice to be in two places at one time!