14 Things I Wish I’d Known about Love

2dRW0jnAs we walked out of the school, her face reddened and tears started to flow. “Noah yelled at me,” my six-year-old said of her crush.

“He yelled at you? What happened?”

“He said ‘You’re ruining the whole play!’”

“Why did he say that?”

“I tapped him on the shoulder and he got mad, but I was supposed to be Maya’s baby and that’s what babies do.”

She cried harder. My baby’s heart was broken.

As we drove to the doctor’s office, I tried to impart some wisdom about love and boys and everything that comes with them. The only thing my mom ever told me when I had a broken heart was “There are other fish in the sea.” As a survivor of many heartbreaks, I wanted to be a little more helpful. That, and Valentine’s Day, got me thinking. What do I know now that I wish I knew then? What would have smoothed my path and saved my heart? It’s not all appropriate for a six-year-old – I’ll dole it out as she needs it. But armed with this knowledge, I hope to be the kind of mom who IS helpful in the area of romance, and I hope it’ll save my daughter some heartache. So here are 14 things that I wish I’d known about love. read more

Back to normal, and not soon enough

imagebot (1)One. More. Day. Tomorrow starts the first normal week we’ve had in two weeks. Fifteen days, to be exact. Fifteen long days.

School started last week, on Thursday, but it snowed Friday so school was cancelled. At least we got a one-day reprieve. My husband and I don’t have any alone time these days unless both the kids are at school during the day. Since we moved, the kids won’t go to sleep in the new house without a parent in the room (See “Home Strange Home” below), so we rarely see each other at night.

We were luckier than some parents. Our son’s preschool is also a daycare so it was open most of the break. Only our six-year-old daughter was home with us for all of that time. She takes up a lot of our energy. She bores easily and then she starts trouble or she whines. It’s not like we don’t give her attention. We do. We play with her. My husband taught her checkers and chess. I bake with her. We made peanut butter cookies. We take her to the supermarket – she likes anyplace that sells stuff. We even had a girls’ day. I took her swimming and to lunch and to fro-yo, but we can’t compete with the entertainment that school offers. read more

Tuning out

Crying HeadSometimes, in a marriage, everything you do as a couple clicks. Sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t know what the hell’s going on with my husband these days. He’s usually an attentive, compassionate guy and when I have a goal for the family, he supports me, but not lately.

He was out of town for three days this week, and usually I miss him, but this time I was glad he was going. He’s been working on de-cluttering the house for more than a month now – we’re drowning in toys and kids’ old clothes, yet every single weekend, he asks me what, exactly, he should get rid of. I told him what to trash at the beginning. I was specific. And the next week when he asked, I told him again. And the next week, again. And I’ve been as clear as I possibly can, but every weekend, the question comes up again. And every weekend I say the same thing. And, adding to the strife, the project keeps us physically apart, because, as any parent knows, it’s impossible to throw stuff away with kids around. We could be trashing concrete blocks and the kids would say, “Noo, I want to play with those!” So I take the kids out of the house and he stays at home and works on the project. read more

The battle of the stresses

Stress 2My husband thinks he’s cornered the market on stress. Okay, he’s got a very demanding job; he works a lot of hours, he’s on call 24/7 and he does carry a lot of stress on his shoulders. But the other day I mentioned that I had more stress than usual and you’d have thought I’d said I got abducted by aliens.

“Stress?” he said. “What are YOU stressed about?” Seriously, that’s the way he said it.

I don’t know how two people who live in the same house, eat dinner together and sleep in the same bed can be so far apart in their understanding. I began to explain. read more

My real (estate) obsession

Ever since my dad died, I’ve been obsessed. Every day, I pull up real estate listings and study the photos, map out houses, calculate mortgages and research schools. My dad left us some money – enough for us to leave this sodden hell hole and move back to Maryland. But I’ve jumped the gun a bit.

To move back East, we need several things to happen. First and foremost, we need my husband to get a job there, because we don’t have enough money for him to retire. And his prospects will greatly improve once he takes the CPA exam, coming up in January. Second, we need to sell our house, because we don’t want to support two houses. When we moved to Seattle, we couldn’t sell our house in Maryland, so we rented it and took a big loss each month on the mortgage. We don’t want to do that again. Third, we have to wait until we can make a down payment on a new house and have some money left for emergencies. Because my dad did a half-assed job on a do-it-yourself will, his estate is tied up in probate, and may take two years to settle.

Nevertheless, I’m spending much of my working hours looking at houses for sale in Maryland. I conduct searches, pore over the pictures, and send them to my husband, which I’m sure gets annoying after the first six or seven.  I know that by the time we move, we won’t be able to buy any of the houses I’m looking at now, but I’m so excited about the prospect of going back home that I can’t help but look.

What’s so great about Maryland? Well, for one thing, we loved it there. We lived a block from the Chesapeake Bay and we loved walking down to the water on the weekends, hanging with the neighbors on the pier or attempting to go out on the boat. We only took that glorified buoy out twice and had problems both times, but we had a boat and a body of water in which to drive her.

We also had friends there – a whole bunch of friends who promised to babysit back when I was pregnant. We plan to take each and every one of them up on their offers when we get back. Most importantly, the people there were genuine. Seattleites are super nice on the surface, but they turn on you if you try to develop a friendship. With the exception of two women, all of my friends here are from somewhere else, and the two from Seattle have both lived elsewhere.

We love the weather in Maryland – real seasons, including warm days from March to October. When my daughter wakes up here, she asks, “Is it not raining today?” and it breaks my heart. I hate that all she’s ever known is rain nine to eleven months out of the year. I want rain to be the exception, not the rule. It snows in Maryland and although I’m not a fan, snow is a kid’s paradise, and I want our kids to experience it.

There’s the kids’ education to consider, too. Here’s a nice surprise: I looked up the school rankings by state and Maryland was number one. I’m thrilled about that. Seattleites would rather have less competitive schools and “a better work/life balance.” Someone actually told me that. When their kids enter the job market, I can guarantee that not one interviewer will ask them about their work/life balance. Suffice it to say that our East Coast values differ greatly from the values here.

Last but not least, there’s family. When we move back East, we’ll live three hours from my husband’s family and four hours from mine. I want the kids to grow up seeing their family more than once a year. I want the kids to learn about their cultures — Greek, Cuban and Southern.

You may ask, “What the hell does this have to do with the blog, Maria? I thought it was supposed to be about relationships.” All of these reasons – even weather – come down to relationships. We want the kids to grow up in a place where people are genuine, whether they like you or not. I don’t want them to learn to pretend like the people do here.

We want to be among friends. When we lived in Maryland we saw our friends all the time. Here I’ve gone a year without seeing a close friend who lives 35 minutes away.

Drier, warmer weather means people get out and interact with each other. I think the weather plays a big role in keeping people isolated here. People keep to themselves in the fall, winter and spring, and in summer, it seems like there are more people here because you actually see them.

And then there’s family – my BFF and my new birth family, my husband’s mom and his huge assortment of cousins. My husband and I suffer here from a lack of close relationships and the kids suffer because aloofness is the norm.

We miss our people – those who made our lives so rich when we lived back East, the new family we’ve discovered, and the old family we had to leave behind. In light of that, is it any wonder that I can’t wait to get back? Who knows? Maybe we will get there sooner rather than later. And when we do, I’ll be prepared.