At Home in New York: One Year Later

Stanton, the girls and I have called New York home for about a year now. I feel as though I spent the beginning of our time here—summer through spring—in a slightly frazzled state. Moving, getting to know another city, enrolling the girls in school and activities, trying to write as much as possible, finding our house—there were a lot of, um, moving parts. 🙂

But summer is upon us once again, and things feel as though they’re in a good place. We love the sweet town we’re in. We especially appreciate its walkability. It’s so nice to simply go outside and enjoy the nearby nature trail, or walk (Stanton and me), bike (Grace) and stroller over (Anna) to local shops and restaurants. One morning recently, the girls and I had such a good time just walking over to this local park, and hanging out.

Of course, that was right after we stopped by Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee (me) and donuts (all of us)… #healthylivingfail

1_Park

The girls have been asking Stanton and me for a pet—specifically, a puppy. Their pleas haven’t yet persuaded us, but our next-door neighbors offered up a great middle-ground solution: babysitting their puppy from time to time. We’ll see how that goes, friends.

We closed on our house a couple of months ago. My friendly yoga instructor recommended her friend, a wonderful Realtor, to us—it is a small world. We’re so thankful to have found our home.

Here are a few pictures.

2_Front Porch

We love our front porch. My mom and dad kindly passed along their not-needed-anymore wrought-iron furniture to us, and it’s allowed us to really enjoy this outdoor living space. Many a morning, I find myself reading “Madeline” or “The Very Busy Spider” to the girls.

3_Family Room

We still need to find (and/or unpack from the many boxes still in the basement) some additional art and décor for the family room. So far, though, we very much appreciate its cozy vibe. Speaking of passed-along furniture, the dining-space set once belonged to Stanton’s grandparents. We are grateful to be stewards of this beautiful family legacy, which traveled amazingly well from Texas to New York.

4_Sunroom

Possibly our favorite part of our home is the sunroom/breakfast nook, nestled behind the kitchen. When family and friends visit, everyone instinctively gathers here. I happened upon the table and benches in a local furniture store, and they’ve become the perfect spot for the girls to eat, color and ask me over and over if we can please get a puppy today.

Lately, the girls have been having so much fun in the backyard. Yesterday after a Fancy Nancy-themed tea party, Anna worked on her T-ball swing. Toddlers: The busiest among us.

5_Backyard

While Stanton was traveling for work soon after we moved in, I enlisted my dad to help with some around-the-house projects. Ever the comedian, he called, “Hey, Melis, look at this!” as he pretended to struggle with hanging curtains. Thanks again, Dad. 🙂

6_Dad Curtains

One of the things I most appreciate about this part of the country, the Capital Region of New York, is the beautiful nature all around us. On our little street alone, there are towering trees; evergreens abound and provide lush color all year. I’ve said to family and friends that being here is a literal breath of fresh air.

We’re lucky that so many loved ones have already come to visit with us. One of my favorite moments from our first year here was this September day, when Stanton’s mom and dad came to be with us. We loved apple picking at Indian Ladder Farms, catching up and simply taking in the splendor of the Helderberg Escarpment.

7_Indian Ladder Farms

The first time I laid eyes on this breathtaking slope—driving upon it from the Hudson Valley—I told Grace, “This is amazing.” Amazing, Grace.

Stanton and I do a fairly good job, I think, of keeping in touch with our families and hometown pals. We do owe our good college friends, though, some quality time. Folks in Virginia—we’re hoping to be your way later this year, or early next. ❤

The longer I’ve lived in the Albany area, the more I’ve learned how easy it is to get to other cool parts of New England and the Northeast from here. For example, Boston, Montreal and New York City are all about a three-hour drive away.

My favorite weekend getaway thus far has been to Manchester, Vermont. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been, friends, but this place is gorgeous. Stanton and I spent some time there for our nine-year anniversary and loved the glorious green mountains, quaint Northshire Bookstore and delicious local restaurants we tried (Thai Basil, Cilantro Taco and The Reluctant Panther).

We can’t wait to go back with the girls.

During this season in our life, it can be difficult to organize formal play dates. What have been so encouraging, though, are all the kind friends we’ve come to know through informal fellowship at our church, Grace’s preschool and the Y. We still miss our church, school and community friends from San Antonio, but love keeping in touch with these special people through Facebook, phone calls and texts.

In the winter, Grace took ice skating lessons at our Y. Then one weekend, she taught me how to ice skate at Empire State Plaza downtown. My 5-year-old daughter was so caring toward me, and patient—it was, friends, one of the best moments of my life.

After living in the South for 11 years, I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy winter again. But it was fun, overall. Rediscovering all four seasons with the girls has been fun.

Many years ago in Virginia, one of the first things Stanton and I bonded over was our love of country music. Sometimes when we’re driving, we hear Tim McGraw’s contemporary classic “Humble and Kind” on the radio. I feel the song’s closing lyrics: “Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you…always stay humble and kind.”

We don’t know what the future holds. In this moment, though, things feel good. I’m very grateful.

I hope to pay that positive energy forward as we continue to get to know our community and surroundings.

8_Soccer Field Sunset

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

The Art of Letting Go

Stanton, the girls and I moved into our new house here in New York about two weeks ago. About half of our belongings—possibly more than half—remain in boxes in the basement. We’ve broken in our new home, though. The girls’ favorite books cover the coffee table; various pairs of sneakers and flip-flops clutter the back porch; and loved ones’ greeting cards, along with Grace’s preschool artwork, adorn the refrigerator.

The first few days here, I cleaned the kitchen, made the beds, unpacked the girls’ clothes (how do they have so many clothes?). I thought I could get everything “all set up” by the end of that first weekend. Ha…ha…ha.

The delivery guys for the washer and dryer needed more time than they originally estimated to maneuver the appliances downstairs. A customer service manager from a local utility company stopped by to share information. And the girls called for my help in collecting dandelions for their backyard tea party.

Interruptions to my grand plans. Distractions. Or…life.

There’s a quote I like, and you may have heard it too: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” (credited to John Lennon, and Allen Saunders). As I picked dandelions with my daughters, I acknowledged that I needed to let go of my “all set up this weekend” plan. I needed to be realistic, present, flexible.

The art of letting go.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become better—more practiced—at letting go. Letting go of unrealistic expectations. Letting go of past hurt, and loss.

Dandelion

The other day, I saw several deer—a family, maybe—walking through a neighbor’s yard. Big, beautiful deer. I thought of my Poppy, a hunter.

Four years ago, when Poppy passed away, I would have felt a pang in my heart. Today, I still feel that hole in my life—that emotional and physical absence—but time has tempered the pain, and has helped me feel, first and foremost, gratitude for all the time we did have together.

Everyone is different. Everyone feels differently, heals differently. People become who they are based on their unique blend of nature and nurture.

For many of us, we decide how we approach each day. We can endeavor to meet all the action items we bullet-point for ourselves, no matter what, possibly becoming impatient and irritable in the process…or we can roll with the punches, grace under fire.

We can keep mourning disappointments and heartaches…or we can find silver linings in those experiences, those lessons learned.

For many of us, we decide how we approach each day.

After Grace was born, I began recording my first-time-mothering “lessons learned” into a newspaper’s parenting blog, which I later turned into my first e-book, “Diaper Bag, Coffee, Let’s Go! 237 Tips for First-Time Moms.”

That’s right, friends: 237. It was an earnest effort, my hope to provide all the encouragement and positive vibes I could to new moms who maybe were uncertain and overwhelmed as I had been.

Years later now, I’m glad I wrote that book. Other moms still buy it and let me know it’s a helpful resource, which makes me happy. And personally, “Diaper Bag, Coffee, Let’s Go!” is almost a scrapbook of that season in my life, first-time motherhood. I’m glad I wrote that book, but I probably won’t write more tip books, especially related to parenthood. Because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to let go…of trying to do everything perfectly.

And, simply, of trying to do everything all at once.

Babies need food, diapers and a warm body to fall asleep against. Basically, that’s it. (Newborn Grace didn’t care that I’d spent hours researching the best crib mattress for her color-coordinated nursery, or the top-rated baby monitor that year.) And older kids don’t care that you haven’t yet hung up the window valances in their rooms. What they say instead is, “Mom, help us pick these yellow flowers!”

(“They’re called dandelions.”

“Dan-de-lions? Like lions?”

“Kind of…”)

Grace is 5; Anna’s 2. They play well together now and sleep (fairly) well at night. Stanton and I have powered through those early, oh-so-tiring years of parenthood. We’ve walked through some difficult times, together, and have made the journey through intact, with a deeper appreciation for each other. This chapter in our life feels so good, so refreshing.

Yet the thought flickered across my mind. When might the next tough thing, that we need to overcome, happen?

Just as quickly, I had to remind myself to stop. Enjoy. Live.

And let go of trying too hard, of worrying and fast-forwarding too much.

“Mom! We need more dandelions!”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

You’re Annoying, I Love You, Talk to You Soon: On Siblings

This past Easter weekend, I got to see my three siblings. We gathered at my parents’ house for the holiday. It was really nice to be “home” together again.

Josh still lives and works in our hometown; Jared is near Philadelphia; Jenna has adopted Queens as her hometown; and I’m now up the Thruway in New York’s Capital Region.

When the four of us talk with one another, we still refer to our parents’ house, the house we grew up in, as “home.” The main reason for this, I think, is because siblings—and any people in close relationships—have developed their own shorthand over time. No backstory, explanation or even punctuation needed. On our group texts, I often communicate with X’s and O’s (and the occasional heart emoji), while Jenna prefers the eloquent, “AHHHH!!!”

Another reason for the “home as parents’ house” shorthand is because for many of us, we learn what “home” means through our families: our parents and those who are like parents; our brothers and sisters.

Home is one of those words that’s more feeling than language. Kind of like when I say to Anna, “I love you,” and she replies by giving me a hug—“I love you, too.” Home is like a hug: You are pulled (back) in; you are loved; you are known.

No one knows us quite like our siblings do. After all, they had complimentary courtside seats to all our cringe-worthy coming-of-age moments. While reminiscing during Easter dinner, Jared couldn’t help bringing up the memory of my wearing bulky sports goggles during my middle-school basketball-playing days.

“Again, with the sports goggles?” I said.

Our parents’ 35th wedding anniversary happened to be the next day, Monday. Jared had suggested we recreate an old family photo as our gift to them, a la this Huffington Post article. So we did.

We chose this picture, which hangs in our parents’ living room.

Original Picture

Then we asked Stanton (our honorary sibling) to make the new memory. Which he did:

New Picture 2017

The four of us haven’t changed much in 20 years, have we, friends? 🙂

Josh, Jared, Jenna and I laughed a lot as Stanton (and Grace!) helped pose us for this picture. It was fun. Later, our Mom and Dad told us they loved it.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, for all sorts of reasons. Certainly, simply having siblings doesn’t guarantee friendships with them.

In my personal experience, though, I am very thankful for my brothers and sister. And I hope, more than anything in this world, that my own daughters have many happy, healthy years together. Stanton, who has three siblings himself, agrees.

Siblings had those courtside seats to all our awkward years. They also were the people we shared summer vacations, Christmas mornings and much more ordinary moments with—instant playmates for after school, the best kind of comfort when Poppy passed away. We have a shared childhood, history, love. We may let others’ calls go to voicemail, but we answer theirs. Likewise, we know they’ll be there for us.

Something that touches my heart is watching my girls become close to my siblings, as I have. Whenever someone brings up Josh, for example, Anna smiles big and says the same three words in slow, sweet succession: “Josh—big—nice.” Yes, he is.

Life is funny. When we’re young, we argue about who gets to ride in the passenger seat next to Mom, or who got the biggest slice of dessert (“That’s not fair!”). When we’re older, what we really appreciate is getting together “at home” once again…with those familiar faces, telling the same stories over and over, so that even the honorary siblings know the punch lines.

“Again, with the sports goggles? You’re annoying.”

“I love you.”

“Talk to you soon.”

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Don’t miss Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

18 Signs You’re Home

Earlier this week, I was at my neighborhood Hannaford, a regional grocery store chain in upstate New York and New England. Anna was sitting in the shopping cart, munching on Goldfish (contentedly, but not for long), while I zipped us up and down the aisles, finding what we needed and tossing everything in the cart. Clementines, green beans, tortillas, red enchilada sauce, macaroni and cheese (always macaroni and cheese).

Stanton, the girls and I have been living in the Albany area for six months now, and after these six months, I have a pretty good feel for this grocery store—where everything is, which cashiers are fastest, the girls’ new favorite deli meats (who knew Grace would discover she loves salami?).

I was feeling more and more “home” every day. Then in the soup aisle, I recognized a familiar face: one of the pastors from our church. “It’s great to see you,” I told her—and it was.

One of the hardest things about moving to a new city is not knowing anyone yet. Not having friends, or people you can turn to for doctor recommendations, or any sort of community—yet. So for me, that morning at Hannaford was special, in its extraordinary ordinariness. 1) I knew my way around the grocery store aisles. 2) I bumped into a new—dare I say—friend.

I was home.

Here are a few more signs, friends, that you’re home.

3) You have new local favorites at “your” grocery store. These days, I can’t imagine not having Against the Grain Gourmet three-cheese frozen pizza, which I discovered at Hannaford, in my freezer, or Dominick’s Gourmet Pasta Sauce in my pantry.

4) You have usual orders at some favorite local stops: your neighborhood coffee shop, the pizza place, the deli outside your office building. You don’t need to study the menu before you walk in or call ahead; you already know what you like.

5) You know where the light switches are, and which lights they’re for.

One of the hardest things about moving to a new city is not knowing anyone yet. Not having friends, or people you can turn to for doctor recommendations, or any sort of community—yet.

6) You have some tried-and-true “things to do” with out-of-town visitors. We’ve been lucky that already, quite a few family and friends have come to visit us in our new hometown.

We’re still learning the ropes, but we feel pretty good about taking summer guests to the nearby Five Rivers nature trails and TwisT ice cream shop; folks in fall to one of the many beautiful surrounding apple orchards; and winter travelers to the New York State Museum downtown for a ride on the historic carousel.

We have yet to experience spring, but look forward to the annual Tulip Festival in Washington Park and whatever else may be in store.

You have some tried-and-true “things to do” with out-of-town visitors.

7) You’re home when you have a driver’s license and corresponding license plates for your current state.

8) And when you can enter your ZIP code at the gas station from memory, rather than consulting a Post-it stuck on the back of your credit card.

9) You’ve figured out other logistics: your primary care physician, your kids’ dentist, your older daughter’s dance studio, your younger daughter’s library story time, an auto repair shop you can trust (thank you, Broadway Auto Clinic!).

10) Your wallet contains membership cards for some of these places (e.g., the local library, fitness center, figure skating club).

11) You can get around without needing to Google Map every move.

12) A place’s roads are cool symbols of local culture, I think. I see a lot of Vermont license plates in my community, reminding me that the border of the Green Mountain State is just an hour’s drive away. Along with these license plates come bumper stickers with sayings such as “Eat, Sleep, Ski, Repeat” and “Go Vegan.”

Back in my San Antonio neighborhood, on the other hand, I saw many Nuevo Leon license plates (Nuevo Leon is a state in Northeastern Mexico, about 250 miles from the Alamo City). In my seven years there, I’m pretty sure I never saw a “Go Vegan” bumper sticker in South Texas. 🙂

Your mental pictures have readjusted.   

You can get around without needing to Google Map every move.

13) You can chat in a semi-knowledgeable manner about local life. For example, I was happy to pass along to another “new-to-here” mom that kindergarten registration is happening now, which I had heard about from my dance studio mom friends. It really does take a village.

14) You have new local websites to check in on (www.timesunion.com, www.alloveralbany.com, New York State Writers Institute).

15) You have a feel for the local lingo. When people tell me they’re going “downstate,” I now know they’re referring to New York City—which is worlds different from “upstate” (although there seem to have been conversations about what exactly “upstate” entails). And in winter, when neighbors mention they’re spending the day at “Maple Ridge,” I know they mean the local ski ridge as opposed to the local park of the same name.

16) You know your mail carrier and UPS guy. And they know not to ring the doorbell around 2 p.m., when your toddler is napping.

17) You’re stocked up on gear. By which I mean, I haven’t owned a pair of snow boots since before age 22, when I graduated from the University of Richmond and then spent the next 11 years in Virginia and Texas. Neither has Stanton. Thanks to L.L. Bean, however, we’ve got new winter gear, and we’re prepared (hopefully!) for everything from snow shoveling to sledding and snowman-building this season.

Your mental pictures have readjusted.

18) Stanton, the girls and I were lucky to have a wonderful holiday season, and I hope you did too. We spent Thanksgiving in Texas with his family, and Christmas in Pennsylvania with mine. We got to catch up with lots of loved ones—share happy times together—everything was great, and very special.

Late on New Year’s Day, we got the girls to sleep. We had just driven back to Albany that afternoon. So after the past few weeks of holiday traveling and several rounds of bedtime stories, we were alone together in the living room.

We got comfortable on the couch. Stanton opened a bottle of Saratoga lager. I had my evening cup of tea. We turned on an old episode of “Parks and Rec.” Lamplight glimmered across the TV screen, and on the beer bottle.

Stanton stretched. Sighed. “It’s good to be home,” he said.

It made me happy to hear him say that.

And I agreed.

couch

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Becoming Locals in New York’s Capital Region

I love this colorful mural, painted onto the side of a brick building at the corner of Madison and Main avenues in downtown Albany, N.Y. It’s one of my favorite local “finds” so far, as I’ve started to get to know the Capital Region of New York.

1_urban-illustration

I haven’t spent much time in the downtown area yet—with the exception of the regional DMV. 😉 We all know that waiting an hour or two for your DMV ticket to be called (and, hopefully, accommodated on the first try) is a rite of passage every local-to-be must experience, as you exchange one state’s driver license for another.

I’m happy and relieved to share, friends, that I have crossed this nerve-wracking rite of passage off of my “Moving to New York” checklist. My new driver license should be arriving in the mailbox within 7 to 10 business days. I’m also happy to report that the majority of the employees I met at this DMV were kind and helpful—in particular the older gentleman who checked me in with a warm “Welcome to Albany!” and assured me I probably would be done in time to pick up my older daughter from preschool (I was). Thank you, sir.

dmv

As time goes on, I look forward to checking out The Egg, Washington Park and other iconic downtown sites. I also need to keep brushing up on my parallel-parking skills, which, presently, are very poor. 🙂 In the meantime…

The natural beauty in this part of the country can take my breath away. My favorite spot, currently, is Henry Hudson Park, located along the Hudson River about 10 miles south of my colorful mural. Looking out at the water, framed by these ancient mountains, makes me feel PEACE.

2_henry-hudson-park

A bonus: The girls have fun on the nearby slide and monkey bars. The locals seem to enjoy gathering at the various boat launches to take in the view, or kayak and canoe. Many folks here are active and outdoorsy; I’ve seen kayaks atop many a Subaru Forester, which seems to be the locals’ vehicle of choice. Kayaking the Hudson: also on my must-experience list.

What distinguishes the locals from the not-from-here’s? I would say knowledge of hidden gems—the inside scoop. Our neighbors clued us in to a popular walking/bicycle route known as the Rail Trail. Stanton, the girls and I enjoy walking, biking, stroller-ing and scooter-ing along it, especially on weekends.

3_rail-trail

Perhaps most importantly, locals know all about food. Trusted grocery store, best pizza place, favorite mom-and-pop café. One neighbor kindly gave us a gift certificate to Romo’s Pizza, her favorite local pizzeria. We took home their famous “Gracie Pie” for dinner one evening and loved it. The Gracie Pie is a Sicilian-style pizza with cheese on the bottom and sauce on top.

4_romos-gracie-pie

While the girls and I were waiting for our Gracie Pie, we discovered a local bookstore called Tattered Pages Used Books in the same outdoor shopping village as Romo’s. It was closed when we were there, but the book lover in me can’t wait to return.

5_tattered-pages-used-books

We live in a town a bit south of Albany, more suburban than urban. I was happy to find yet another local bookstore, I Love Books, in our neighborhood. In addition to literary works, I Love Books offers up items such as puzzles, toys and wine paraphernalia. 😉

6_i-love-books

Close to I Love Books is Amelia’s Garden, a local fabric shop. Grace needed a fat square for a “friendship quilt” that her preschool class is making—such a sweet idea. Amelia’s Garden is a cozy, colorful breather from any mom’s to-do list. For a minute, I even considered signing up for one of their sewing classes; then Anna had a meltdown. Maybe one day, friends.

7_amelias-garden

One recent weekend, we stopped by one of the many “harvest fests” this region celebrates during the fall. This particular event was held at The Crossings of Colonie, an expansive park in Albany’s most popular suburb. I took this picture of the girls beside the pond that anchors the park.

8_the-crossings-pond

The Harvest Fest featured the Albany Drum Circle. This friendly group entertained everyone with their music. Thoughtfully, they also invited anyone who was interested to pull up a chair and learn some basic rhythms. This has been one of my favorite experiences here so far—learning what a drum circle is and watching it firsthand. Very cool.

9_albany-drum-circle

A friend of friend happens to live in Schenectady County, north of Albany. One Saturday morning, we met for breakfast at the comfy Union Café on a lively main street. I accidentally ordered a “ham and bacon” omelet—I meant to say “ham and cheese”—but you know what? That unexpected burst of bacon made it simply wonderful. Bring on the pork, right? 🙂

10_union-cafe

My very favorite local restaurant, thus far, is Extra Napkin, located on Delaware Avenue, which bills itself as “Albany’s Main Street.” First, the customer service here is excellent. The owners and their team are so friendly and sincere. Second, I adore the name: Extra Napkin. Because who doesn’t need an extra napkin—especially when you’re running in for quick but delicious burgers with your kids?

About those burgers… I appreciate how this restaurant sears their name onto the buns. A cool detail.

11_burger-extra-napkin

Last but not least, I love the chill vibe at Extra Napkin. This pastel-painted bicycle, part of the exterior décor, sums up the best of Extra Napkin—and possibly even the Capital Region as a whole.

12_bicycle-extra-napkin

Adventurous. Down-to-earth. Unexpected.

I have a long way to go before I’m a local, friends. But I’m starting to figure things out. And I’m grateful for the journey.

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

The Things That Make You Feel At Home

Grace’s first day (last year!) of preschool was earlier this week. When Anna and I picked her up, Anna waved happily. The feeling was mutual—Grace presented her little sister with an arts and crafts project she’d made. Grace had written “ANNA (heart shape) GRACE” across the top.

“Aww!” I exclaimed. When we got home, I hung it up on the refrigerator, in true mom fashion.

Then I looked at our rental-house refrigerator and realized, “This house feels like home.”

1_magnets-on-refrigerator

A refrigerator with mementos magnet-ed to it—this resonated “home” for me. Our most necessary kitchen appliance was no longer a blank slate, but the keeper of a note from an old friend—a card from a new one—and a heartfelt gift from one daughter to another. Our kitchen had become personal.

Intrigued by the idea of refrigerator psychology, I walked through our temporary living space to find other indicators of “home.”

This rocking chair, for sure.

2_rocking-chair

Stanton and I bought it a couple of months before Grace was born. We’ve had it for more than five years and two cities now. And I’ve possibly spent at least six months, collectively, in this chair, for all the times I’ve rocked Grace and later Anna and for all the times I accidentally and so easily fell asleep holding a sleeping, deeply loved little girl in my arms.

This rocking chair for sure. No matter how worn it gets, I don’t think we’ll ever let it go.

And this painting.

3_painting

A Christmas present to Stanton and me from my mom, painted by an artist from my Pennsylvania hometown. It’s our first piece of “good” art. It’s something to build upon, and for quite some time in San Antonio, it gently reminded me of where I grew up.

Now, the opposite of good art: the girls’ playroom.

4_playroom

You may be wondering, friends: Did Melissa clean up this space—stage it, in fact?—before she snapped this shot for her blog? The answer to your question is, “Yes.” 🙂

Yes, I’m guilty of editing my real life, every now and then, so that the messy details (e.g., toys EVERYWHERE) don’t appall you.

Self-presentation disclosure aside… The girls use this space to create Sofia the First castles out of LEGO bricks and Lincoln Logs, play “Restaurant” and chase each other. They like it because it’s cozy and theirs; I couldn’t live without it because it’s contained (due to a baby gate, not pictured), allowing me a few minutes to myself once in a while.

Both girls are wide awake by 6:30 a.m., and there’s near-constant activity in our day-to-day life until about 8 p.m. At which point I decompress over a cup of tea.

5_tea

Stanton was thoughtful enough to prioritize the unpacking of my pink tea kettle, which I remember I bought back in Richmond, Va., with a Target gift card that a co-worker had given me as a wedding gift.

Two evenings in a row this week, the girls and I saw another recently relocated family at a neighborhood playground. I had a “refrigerator psychology” moment in the playground too. You also feel at home when you feel a sense of community somewhere.

A refrigerator with mementos magnet-ed to it. A worn-out, cherished rocking chair. A pink tea kettle.

And people you’ve come to know.

HOME.

What makes you feel at home, friends?

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

 

Settling Into Our New Hometown: The Beginning

In the summer of 2009, Stanton and I moved from Richmond, Va., to San Antonio. We road-tripped southwest over the course of a weekend, stopping to sightsee and sample local flavors along the way. I remember devouring the best macaroni and cheese of my life at Dreamland Bar-B-Que in Birmingham, Ala., and walking on the beach in Biloxi, Miss., before driving to New Orleans for café au lait and beignets.

Fast-forward to this summer. Moving cross-country with kids leaves little wiggle room for epicurean indulgences or “the scenic route.” About two minutes into our flight from San Antonio back to the East Coast, Grace wondered, “Mom, are we there yet?” just as Anna wiped her chocolate-covered hand across my khakis.

If you’ve ever been on a plane for a three-and-a-half-hour flight and seen a mom traveling solo with two small children, trust me: Nobody wants to be “there yet” more than that mama. 😉

Once the four of us arrived together at our new home, though, we were excited to begin exploring our surroundings. First up: The girls couldn’t wait to pick dandelions in the backyard. Kids—it’s always the little things.

1_Backyard

Now, you have to figure that whenever there’s a big change in your life (new baby, new job, new home—whatever it is), there will be a bump or two along the way. Something probably will not go as smoothly as it could.

For us, the major bump was our moving company. Unfortunately, they didn’t deliver the furniture from our Texas house to our New York house when they said they would—it arrived much later than promised.

The silver lining in this experience was that there wasn’t much for us to do in our mostly unfurnished new house. So the girls and I got out and about right away and began getting to know our new hometown.

One of our first stops: The library.

2_Library

Our local library has a wonderful children’s section, which the girls love. A friendly mom whom I met there invited us to join her and her Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group at a nearby park the following day. So we did.

All the moms were kind and welcoming. I very much appreciated them, as well as the “inside scoop” they shared with me about other fun, family-friendly local activities. Thanks to these moms, we’re making plans to visit neighboring apple orchards, the New York State Museum and indoor trampoline parks.

3_Park

I’ve been here in the Albany area just a short while now, but I’ve figured out that Dunkin’ Donuts is the locals’ chain coffeehouse of choice. There is an awesome-looking local espresso bar about a mile from our home, and I can’t wait to drop in and do some writing, too. In the meantime, the girls and I have been hitting up the closest Dunkin’ for our afternoon pick-me-ups.

4_Dunkin Donuts
On the second or third night in our new home, I was surprised to feel a lump in my throat. Earlier that day, I had received a “thinking of you” package from my San Antonio friend Haeley. Coincidentally, two other good friends from San Antonio (Ashley and Michelle) had also texted to let me know they were thinking of me. I cared for and appreciated them and their friendship so much, and was feeling a sense of “friendless-ness” in my new hometown.

6_Notebooks

Making friends and developing friendships take time. I have been touched, though, by the friendliness of everyone I’ve met so far, from the MOPS group to the college students who serve up great sandwiches at “The Village Butcher” by the espresso bar to our neighbors. One afternoon, our next-door neighbor stopped by with this lovely bouquet of sunflowers from a local dairy farm, right after another neighbor dropped off a container of freshly sliced watermelon and strawberries.

7_Flowers

These kindhearted gestures have helped Stanton, the girls and me settle in and begin to feel at home.

One evening, the four of us were eating a simple pasta dinner together in the dining room. Grace and Anna were sitting at their “Frozen”-themed activity table, while Stanton and I were sitting cross-legged on the floor (our furniture had not yet arrived, remember). We were eating and talking, and I looked around and thought, “I couldn’t be happier.” So I let them know, as you should in moments like this: “I love you guys so much. This is all I need. I mean it—this is everything to me.”

“Love you too!” Grace yelled. It was nearing her bedtime, and she was getting silly.

“You!” Anna yelled along, throwing her hands up.

I looked across the “Frozen” table. Stanton looked back and winked.

It’s a cliché, but it’s true: Home isn’t what you have, or where you live. It’s who you’re with.

Home is who you’re with.

8_Extra Napkin

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.