Archive for May, 2011

I Need the Darkness, Someone Please Cut the Lights

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In Arcade Fire’s song Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Regine sings about the conflict between getting sucked into the suburban sprawl and the lure of the city lights. The entire album, which won album of the year in 2010, focuses on the suburbs, but this one song rings true right now since we are moving from the city out to the suburbs.

I grew up in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio and went to college in the middle of the Indiana cornfields, but most of my adult life so far has been in the concrete jungle that is New York City. I reunited with Carrie while she was living here for grad school, and if not for that, I probably wouldn’t have ever lived in a major city. Five years later, I’ve discovered that everything that drew me to the city in the first place has been overshadowed by annoyances.

Five years ago, as a single guy recently out of college, the city was energizing, the subway was exciting, and the diversity was charming. Now, as a married man with a two month old daughter, the city is draining, the subway is taxing, and the diversity is annoying.

The chorus of Sprawl II goes, “Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small; that we can never get away from the sprawl; Living in the sprawl; Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains; And there’s no end in sight; I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights.”

I think if you’ve always lived in the ‘burbs, it’s easy to take for granted the quietness of your backyard, the ease of hopping in the car and driving to the store, and the community of a small town. But once you’ve lived in the throngs of a major city for a few years, you realize how much you miss those things.

When I worked at the NHL, one of my co-workers had lived his entire life in Manhattan. He had never played soccer on grass and didn’t even have his driver’s license because there was no reason to get one. He was a great guy, but I couldn’t imagine what that childhood must have been like.

I want Brooklyn and my subsequent kids to grow up playing soccer at the local fields on the weekends, learning how to drive when they turn 16, going to the mall with their friends, and doing all the things I used to do. I still hope they are able to grow up well-rounded with a respect for other cultures and types of people, but frankly, I don’t want them to be influenced by the many negative aspects of the city.

Now, I’m not saying that NYC (or any big city for that matter) is the only place that has problems. Every small town, every suburb, has its share of issues as well. But due to the sheer population and hodge-podge of cultures living in such close quarters, there are many more negatives than there are in the ‘burbs.

We loved our time here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I will always believe that New York is the greatest city on earth and I think everyone should live here for at least a year. As Frank Sinatra sang, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” and I certainly think that’s true.

After four years on the Upper East Side, we chose to move to Washington Heights last summer in order to save money. We knew we wanted to start trying to have a baby, so we decided it was time to really start saving. In the past year, we got a dog, had a baby, and were able to save a good chunk for an eventual down payment, but it became apparent that city living was no longer for us. As we counted down the months and days to Brooklyn’s arrival, we knew we had to move closer to family. Fortunately, my company was gracious enough to grant my request for a transfer to the main office in Chicago.

I look forward to Brooklyn growing up with her cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents close by; to coaching my kids’ little league teams; to not having to spend every penny of vacation money on trips home to visit family; and to buying a house with a yard so we don’t have to trek to the park for some fresh air.

We will always cherish our time here, the experiences we had together, the friends we made, the preaching of Tim Keller, the amazing food, and the lessons we learned, but now it’s time to close the chapter on New York and begin our journey in suburban Chicago.

The Brooklyn Bridge, The End of the World, and a Nosy Lady

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With the impending move, we felt like we needed one last romp around the city, to remember what we will be leaving, and especially to show Brooklyn what this amazing city is like outside of the little Washington Heights bubble she has lived in for her first two months of existence. While it was a little sad to know we may never see these sights again, we realized just how right the decision to move is at this point in our lives, and we gained a new appreciation for the handicapped and those with small children who live their lives in the city.

In Central Park

My good friend from college, Jon (Snake, for those of you from Taylor) was in town for work, so we met up with him for lunch at Shake Shack on the Upper West Side. We ate on the benches outside the Museum of Natural History (yes, I somehow made it five years in NYC without going to a single museum…sad, I know). Brooklyn was pretty good up until this point, but was starting to get fussy, so we walked into Central Park and walked all the way across to our old neighborhood, the Upper East Side.

After a quick Starbucks visit (always a must), we got some pics at the reservoir in Central Park, and then walked back through our old haunts. Luckily, our favorite bartender in the city, Jara, was working at Bullpen, our favorite sports bar on the UES, so we went in to say goodbye and introduce her to Brooklyn. She served us many a drink and meal on college football Saturdays the past few years when Michigan and Notre Dame were playing at the same time and we were forced to go to a bar to watch.

We then got on the train and went down to the Brooklyn Bridge because Brooklyn can’t leave NYC without ever seeing the famous bridge she’s (not really) named after. We walked halfway across, got some good pics, and walked back. By that time, Carrie had to feed Brooklyn again, so we stopped at some benches at the foot of the bridge. A guy nearby started counting down, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1….” and surprise! the clock struck 6pm and the world didn’t end today after all. Who knew?

We walked over to the 2/3 train and took it up the west side to our favorite Thai place, Land. When we got off the train, to our amazement, the ground was soaked and people were just folding up their umbrellas. It had been perfectly sunny the entire day up until that point, and somehow, for the 30 minutes we were on the train, it stormed like crazy, but was done by the time we came back above ground.

Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Bridge

The train was a pain in and of itself, as Brooklyn wasn’t feeling her stroller, so Carrie was carrying her in the Moby wrap and I was holding the stroller on the PACKED train, feeling the dirty looks burning holes right through me as people were forced to contort their bodies around the stroller (that wasn’t even holding a baby) to hold onto the poles.

Dinner at Land was amazing as always, except that Brooklyn always has this knack for waking up and getting fussy right when the food comes. I mean, there are certain things you can count on in this world, like the sun coming up, the wold not ending on May 21, 2011, and Brooklyn not letting us eat peacefully.

After dinner is where things got really interesting, as if God was confirming to us that it was indeed time to leave this city. We left Land, which is at 82nd & Amsterdam, and walked across to try to catch the A train on Central Park West. We carried the stroller down the subway stairs only to realize that the A was running express from 59th to 125th, so we would either have to take the downtown A to 59th and transfer to the uptown, or walk across to the 1 at 86th & Broadway.

Brooklyn enjoying her first trip to the Brooklyn Bridge

We didn’t really want to go back downtown, so we walked across to the 1. We got down the stairs just as a 3 train was pulling away. Hmmm, that’s weird, the 3 train shouldn’t be stopping here. Apparently the 1 train was skipping that stop today. The 2 and 3 go to the Bronx, not anywhere near our place, so we have to take the 1. So we got on the next train that came by, a 2 train, and took it to 96th and transfered to the 1. Then, we found out that the 1 was only going to 168th (we go to 191st) due to construction. Great. It’s 9:30, we’ve been out all day, Brooklyn is so tired, and we don’t want to get off at 168th because it’s not a great neighborhood and hard to catch cabs there.

We decided we would take the 1 to 125th and transfer to the A. Unfortunately, that involved carrying Brooklyn and the stroller down a huge set of stairs from the 1 train, and then walking a few blocks across a dicey neighborhood at night and then down more stairs to the A.

We made it just as a train was pulling in. Whew, finally some luck, we thought. Nope. As soon as we got on, Brooklyn lost it. Screaming as if we had just ripped off her arm. We were trying to calm her down, but she was tired and hungry and overstimulated from a long day, and nothing was working. It’s hard enough being “those people” with a screaming baby on the subway, annoying everyone else. But then, this lady gets up and comes over to us and has the following exchange with Carrie:

Lady: “What’s wrong with her?”

Carrie: “She’s hungry and tired.”

Lady: “Well why don’t you give her a bottle?”

Carrie: “She’s breastfed.”

Lady: “Well you’re supposed to pump so you have bottles.”

Carrie: “Yes, but she won’t take a bottle.”

Lady: “She won’t take a bottle? Well what about a pacifier?”

Carrie: “She won’t take that either.”

Lady: “Well do you have one?”

Carrie: “No, we don’t have one with us because she refuses them.”

Lady: “Well shouldn’t you hold her?”

Carrie: “We’re getting off soon, so I’ll just have to put her right back in the stroller.”

Lady: “How far are you going?”

Carrie: “To 190th Street.”

So then the lady goes back and sits down and says to her friends, “It’s okay, they’re getting off in a couple stops.”

It took everything in me not to punch the lady, and it infuriated Carrie as well. She handled it amazingly, but was really upset because she was already horrified that her daughter was screaming on the subway and there was nothing we could do about it at that point, but then this nosy, meddling lady pretty much made her feel like the worst mother ever in front of a train full of people.

It was a great day overall and some of the places really made us sad to leave the city, but the difficulty of taking a baby in a stroller through the city, and having strangers who always think they know better tell you how to handle your kid really made us glad we’re moving out to the suburbs. We realized how hard it must be for handicapped people in this city because it’s really not designed for them at all. Most of the subway stations don’t have elevators, MTA service has gotten continually worse over the past five years while prices have continually risen, and sidewalks are so packed with people rushing past that it’s hard enough to push a stroller, let alone a wheelchair or anything like that.

We lived the city life for five or six years and loved it, but now that we have a family, and life is about more than just having a good time together, it’s time to go.

Brooklyn Two Month Update

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It has been way too long since we have posted anything and I’m sure you’re wondering if we fell off the face of the earth. The past five weeks since the last post have been very busy and filled with smiles, squeals, and lots of crying.

Through the first few weeks, Carrie had been having some trouble with breastfeeding and getting a good latch. I’ll let her get more into that later, but she hired a consultant to come in and help her out and since then, things have been great. The only problem is that it’s working so well that we’re having trouble getting Brooklyn to take a bottle now. She just won’t do it.

This is her new favorite way to sit during her awake time

Sleeping has been good and bad. I guess it depends on the day. She’s starting to sleep longer at night and some nights she goes 6-7 hours, eats, goes right back to sleep, and all is grand. But last night, we put her to bed around 9pm, she slept until 3:30am, and wouldn’t go back to sleep until almost 6am. Carrie & I took turns trying to rock, bounce, and will her to sleep and it was pretty frustrating. So we’re trying to find the right balance of sleep and awake time throughout the day.

During her awake time, we are really starting to see more of her personality emerge every day. She smiles and squeals a lot and she’s just on the verge of laughing. Carrie heard her laugh once in the middle of her sleep, and now we can tell she tries to laugh but can’t quite figure out how just yet. I think within the next couple weeks she will be laughing.

A week ago, I had to go to Chicago for work, so we decided to do a pre-move and drive from NYC to Chicago by way of Ohio. We left Friday night after work and made it 3-4 hours before stopping for the night. On Saturday, we drove to my parents’ house in Tipp City, Ohio, where we went to dinner with them and then went to their new church (www.thebridgetippcity.com) for the first time. They got to show their granddaughter off to their friends. On Sunday, we went the rest of the way to Nana and Pappy’s house in Winfield, Illinois, where we spent the week.

Brooklyn with her cousins, Gavin, James, and Eldon

It was Brooklyn’s first road trip, and she did really well. She only screamed a couple of times. One was when we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper construction traffic on I-80 for about 45 minutes and she screamed the entire time. The other time she screamed for more than a minute or two was while driving through Columbus. I kid you not. Further proof that she’s a Michigan fan. All-in-all, she did great, and so did Buddy, who came along as well.

Brooklyn got to meet her three cousins, Gavin, Eldon, and James, and they all loved her. Gavin was so proud that he got to hold her all by himself and he couldn’t quite figure out how old she was when we told him she was seven weeks. “She’s seven?” said Gavin.

It was a great week, and we left Buddy with Nana and Pappy while we returned to NY for our last three weeks here. Now, we’re trying to pack and get everything ready for the big move. We’re also trying to take in all the fun things (and restaurants) we love about NY before we go. This Tuesday is our three year anniversary, so we’re looking forward to celebrating that!

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