Downtown to the Northeast

Six weeks ago I posted the following on Facebook with a link to a story about a shooting at the gas station kitty corner to our apartment:

Two years ago if you told me I’d hear more gunshots in Ithaca than I ever heard in 15 years living in LA (Palms) I wouldn’t have believed you. Now, helicopters? Definitely not hearing those here.

I was awake when the shooting happened and the noise woke up Xavi. He asked “what’s that noise?!” before going back to sleep.

I truly wasn’t exaggerating. Palms isn’t the safest area of LA and more than once I saw LAPD on my block. One time they wouldn’t let me back on to my street as they searched for a suspect. I had to sleep somewhere that night, so I crashed at my friend Alfred’s couch. Another time on my way back from a run an officer stopped me and once again I had to wait. I could see and hear the helicopters overhead. I remember the homicide of a teenaged girl walking home from the high school around the corner.

I knew LA, though. I felt safe enough in my neighborhood to go for runs after 10 pm. 

No accidents on this side

But Ithaca threw me for a loop. I should’ve done my homework.

When we were planning our move we didn’t have a chance to visit to look for an apartment. Instead, we relied on some new contacts to share leads and info about the neighborhoods. One guy, P, told us he’d ask his landlord if they had any vacancies coming up and shared info on where he lived. The location was just six blocks from the Commons. It was 1.5 miles away from Cornell and close to several bus lines. It was in our budget, furnished (a plus so we could cut down on the furniture we needed to move and thus save some money), rather newly built, had parking, no snow shoveling required, and best of all P didn’t have any concerns about the apartments or the landlords. 

Sign us up!

It was fine until I realized we were three floors up without an elevator, the windows didn’t have bars and we were at a major intersection near the ambulance dispatch place and the railroad tracks (a plus for Xavi). 

This is a diesel. I want to see a steam engine.

That summer when people asked how we were settling in, I brought up the noise. If it wasn’t the emergency vehicles, it was motorcycles, trucks and speedsters.

Our second year we got used to the noise and kept the windows closed more often. It was cooler that way and they blocked a lot of the noise. That didn’t help the crazy though. There were a couple of shootings, a stabbing and several car accidents. One collision sent an SUV in to the heavy wood planters surrounding the main door. That’s the same door I’d take on my way to the bus stop or to walk the six blocks to the Commons. The people involved in the accidents we heard were all okay.

All this didn’t make us decide to move. I liked living close to all the things. We could easily walk to church, the library, a number of parks, playgrounds, waterfalls, work, and the Commons. But for a family of four, the two bedroom apartment was too small. Plus, I really wanted someplace where the kids could play outside close by. The park a block away was fine for bubbles and kicking around a soccer ball, but it could also be little sketch. I didn’t want Xavi asking “what’s that funny smell?” or “what’s he doing?” if we saw someone smoking weed.

Unsure about all this nature and bugs

A few days ago we traded downtown Ithaca life for what counts as the suburbs of Ithaca. 

Good thing it’s been a few years since I read Into the Woods

We’ve been here three days and have seen two deer, gotten a bunch of mosquito bites from being at the playground and local running/walking path, and met two boys close in age to Xavi. He’s complained about kids playing basketball outside and clamored for a bicycle.

It’s not bedtime yet, is it, daddy?

And you know what? I think it’s the perfect time.

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Adjusting two years later

May and June were a trip. Literally. Early in May, we went to NYC for Eric and Sandrine’s wedding. Sean and Eric grew up together and have been friends since first grade. Naturally, the wedding was full of old friends and tons of fun. A few weeks later we were back in New Jersey for Charlotte and Andy’s wedding. Again, we reunited with many good friends Sean met through and old job and on a football team in NYC.


Finally, on June 16th we attended Andrea and Jon’s wedding in Battery Park Gardens. There were great views of the Statue of Liberty and ferries. And again, more great friends we hadn’t seen in a while. Sean is a popular guy with lots of friends in NYC.

The weddings were all a ton of fun whether we had the boys with us or not, but a few things kept coming up:

a) There were a few friends who didn’t know we no longer lived in LA. This wouldn’t have happened if Sean and I hadn’t taken a hiatus from blogging. Right?

b) We kept having to try and answer the question “So, how do you like Ithaca?” without whining about missing friends and family.

I can deal with snow in April, humidity and rainstorms in the summer and a paucity of decent Mexico food. The distance from family and still not having many friends here makes it hard to say, “We love Ithaca!”

I miss out on a ton in LA. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I have un chingo of tías, tíos and primos. We are close too and in LA there was always something to celebrate (birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, graduations, etc). Also, I’ve been missing out on the current baby boom despite adding my own 2016 baby. I’ve only met two babies from the 2016-17 crop. There are three I haven’t met. One (my niece!!!) is due in August.

I know I’m not the only one who misses California. Just a few days ago we surprised Xavi with a trip to the Sciencenter. On our way there he kept wanting to know if the surprise place was California where he’d see tía Lori, grandma Luz, grandpa Charlie and some friends. He loves the Sciencenter but I still felt guilty that we can’t take him to California more often. At least Archie is too tiny to unintentionally guilt trip me. I do enough of that when I think of how he hasn’t had the same interaction with grandparents, tías and tíos that Xavi had as a baby.


And then there’s just feeling bummed about our social life. In February, Sean got me the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. He knows me well. I was impressed and happy until I realized that in order to play Selena Lotería I’d need to go to a social activity or have friends over for a game night. And bright red MAC lipstick? I had no occasions at time for getting all fancy. Ni modo.

See?! I told you I was whiny.

But there are perks. We are driving distance to NYC and Long Island. This means that we were able to attend all three weddings for longtime friends. If we lived in LA we wouldn’t have been able to afford the back-to-back trips. Xavi and Archie do have a grandparent and a loving uncle nearby.


There’s a bittersweet silver lining. My father-in-law, Kenton, passed away in January after battling cancer for several years. When we lived in California he was well enough to travel, but that changed in recent years. Being a 5-6 hour road trip away meant we got to see him about once a month and thus he got to spend more time with Xavi and got to meet Archie.

So, I can’t whine but be thankful for the way things work out.

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The crying room

On Sunday we changed up our normal schedule. Rather than go to 10:30 am Mass at the church a few blocks away we chilled in our pajamas a little longer and opted for the 11:30 service across town. A plus of waiting would be that the second church has air conditioning and it was close to the mall so I could get a pedicure afterwards. Work has been very busy and stressful and I wanted to treat myself after the successful ending of two high school engineering summer camps for 89 juniors and seniors.

We arrived to church a little late and sat in a pew close to the door. Throughout the service, Xavi was a little noisier than usual. It wasn’t crying or screaming, but noticeable if you were sitting near us or if the church was quiet. Typically, we bring toys, books, crayons and snacks to entertain him. Still, some days he’s more active and noisy. No one has ever commented on his behavior.

Except Sunday.

Just as the priest was starting the Eucharistic Prayer (in a Catholic Mass, it’s shortly before Communion, everyone is standing and the priest is the only one speaking), Xavi crossed to the other side of our pew and walked in to the center aisle. I walked over to ask him to come back and he resisted a little as I pleaded. Just then, an elderly lady crossed the aisle to whisper to me, “You know, there’s a very nice children’s room.” She nodded back toward the children’s room, also known as a “crying room” in older churches.

I might’ve said, “Yes, I know.” But I’m not sure. I just wanted get back to the other end of the pew where Sean was standing and bring Xavi with me.

The comment stayed with me and made me more upset. Tears of indignation started to well up and I was noticeably sniffling. Sean tried to comfort me, but I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom to try and calm down. When I returned from the bathroom I told Sean I wanted to leave and we left right away. (I hate being an angry crier.)

Sean asked what the lady told me and was indignant too. “Xavi was hardly the only kid in there making noise.” He also noted that she had looked over at us several times.

Since I didn’t talk to the lady, I don’t know her intention. She may have thought she was being helpful, but I felt shamed especially given that she wasn’t sitting near us and went out of her way to inform me of the children’s room at a particularly quiet/reverent point in the Mass. Xavi was just being a toddler and Sean and I were doing the best we could. It also felt weird since we don’t usually go to this church and I’ve never used the “crying room”. I’ve peeked in through a window and it looks fairly small and like a place nursing moms might want to go to for more privacy.

I’m not opposed to choosing to use a room for families with small children. St. John Vianney — the church I grew up in — was fairly modern and didn’t have a separate room. St. Augustine, the church we attended in Culver City, was many years older and had a children’s room. Once Xavi was more mobile, we’d sit in there most Sundays. It was often nuts and sometimes the sound system didn’t work so as adults we barely heard anything except the kids. I also didn’t like being separated from some of the more active parts of the service, like singing. And there was that one time when older kids were not nice.

I see children’s/crying rooms like a nursing cover. No one should make you use one. If it’s your style, then go for it. It’s illogical to expect all parents of small children to hide away. We wouldn’t even fit in there!

I’d rather not use a children’s room these days. I like that Xavi participates in his own way in the service. On Sunday before he started getting more antsy, he tried to sing along to the hymns. It was cute.

cayugafaces

I wish I hadn’t let that lady get to me so much, that I would’ve just forgotten her words. But that’s never been my style. I’ve always gotten too emotional and now that I’m pregnant and a mom who wants to protect her son it’s worse. Plus, being homesick and missing the younger, more diverse church communities we were used to adds another element.

But people are going to judge whether it’s in a church that has couples promise to raise their children as Catholic, in a restaurant, airplane or mall. I should probably develop new coping mechanisms or retorts.

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The first Ithaca winter

Earlier this year I tweeted.

I made it a mini goal.

Frozen.

I had three key reasons. First, weather posts on social media seem a bit lazy. There are so many other things to post about. Second, I wanted to avoid any responses from friends and family in LA gloating about the 70-80 degree weather in the winter months or the “I told you so” comments. I don’t need reminders of how nice and warm it is in LA this time of year, I see it all over social media. Last, I wanted to avoid the “welcome to real winter” comments. As an LA/Southern California booster of sorts, I chafe at comments that my hometown doesn’t have a “real winter” or seasons in general. Why does northeast/midwest winter count as “real winter” when the country (continent, planet, etc) is home to a variety of climates? It’s silly to think winter much closer to the equator and at sea level would be as cold as it is several degrees north. Plus, someone always has it worse. I’m sure Canadians laugh at what a NYer calls cold.

Running around in the snow

All that said, I haven’t had much to really complain about. Winter hasn’t been that bad. Ithaca/upstate NY avoided the big snowstorm that hit NYC and the mid-Atlantic about a month ago with record snowfalls. The temps have been mild for the region, especially compared to last winter, so I’m told. Ithaca and the university are really good about dealing with the snow we do get (max has been a few inches/day). The university doesn’t even do snow days. I don’t drive to work so I don’t need to deal with brushing off snow or waiting for the car to warm up each morning. I don’t need to spend much time out in the elements because the bus stops are 4-6 blocks away (max) and 1 block away (minimum). And we don’t have driveways or sidewalks we need to shovel or maintain in the winter.

Long coat status

Of course, I had to upgrade my winter gear. I bought a short down coat (Nordstrom Rack, for the win). This replaced my every day wool blend coat that no longer closes (this one). My generous in-laws gave me a long and very warm down coat for Christmas that is perfect for the days it’s in the 20s and below. I haven’t had to buy any additional underclothes to keep me warm under thin pants because the coat does it’s job. Sean and I exchanged snow boots as Christmas gifts and my sister hooked it up with warmer gloves.

Exploring the Children's Garden

Xavi is still adjusting to Ithaca winter. He has fleece-lined jeans, snow pants and a few puffy coats. We try to get him to keep his hats and mittens on, but he/his hair have their own ideas. He insists on being carried when it’s colder than the 40s, but otherwise he’s happy running around.

Wind chill warning

Sure, there are weekends when I just want to hibernate. See above. (I didn’t even know wind chill warnings were a thing.) Sean was the only one who went out that day and it was only for very quick errands. It took him longer to get dressed than to run the errands. I didn’t think Xavi needed to experience what -22 feels like. That weekend was an exception.

Overall, we’re managing, but I do miss hoodie weather and almost all things LA (not traffic though, Ithaca is nice in that regard). But what’s new?

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