Posts By sfcitymouse

Happy 1- year birthday, dear blog! And my introduction to the Writing Salon.

Screen shot 2015-05-26 at 12.05.57 PMIt has been one year since I launched this blog, which also occurred about 7 weeks before giving birth to child #3. Although the timing of that might have seemed a bit mad, I know, I realized that if I didn’t get it started before the kiddo arrived, it may never have happened. And that was certainly a correct assumption.

Through sleepless nights and the chaotic realization that adding the 3rd is not quite as “easy” as some claim (“As in, no sweat, you’ll barely notice you have another kid…”??), I have managed to publish around 12 entries. Certainly, I had aimed for higher frequency, but honestly, getting individual entries written, edited and published has been a small feat. I have a mountain of ideas all the time and copious notes and limited, dedicated time in which to polish and serve them up. I call this a happy problem, to be sure. Troublesome to me would be the issue in reverse.

The blog pursuit also created an opportunity for sticking a small toe into the waters that represent something outside of the kids and household. Truth be told, there are many moments I want to run headlong back into my old career and aspirations and pursuits, but at least writing has given me back a few moments of individual freedom. And also allows me to enjoy big, important moments with my very small kiddos.

Along the road of my blogging journey, I was lucky enough to find two other mommy blogger friends that have children at my son’s preschool. What are the chances!? We all cover different topics and it’s been fun to have others with which to share the journey. So, I was thrilled when they invited me to take a writing class with them at the San Francisco Writing Salon. The best thing I ever did was to just sign up, despite having no idea how I would figure out child care coverage and honestly, barely reading the description of the class. I did a running, flying leap right into the deep end of the pool. It wasn’t until the 3 of us were walking through the cool corridors of the mixed use building on evening #1 did we start whispering nervously and looking at each other, “Are we going to have to share our writing? Who else is taking this class? What did we sign up for??!!” We had no idea. And then we simply walked through the door.

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Held in the evening, our class met in a modern loft space in the Mission district, a neighborhood that I don’t often get to visit. The class was intimate and comfortable, with students seated around in the living room section of the loft. As this was a journaling class, students held notebooks and journals and pens on their laps, while sipping coffees and teas, legs tucked up and underneath them, perhaps, seated on one of the couches. No computers, no desks. It gave off a very relaxed, creative vibe. Very San Francisco. Urban, cool and edgy, with talent bouncing and rebounding off of the small, art covered walls of the space.

And we were lucky to be surrounded by a group of such talented poets and photographers and journalists and fine artists and hobbyist writers. Everyone was generous in sharing personal experiences and thoughts and ideas. And all were supportive, which created a safe writing environment for generating content, as well as occasionally sharing passages. I loved it. It was exactly what I needed.  It was an awesome, inspiring, invigorating experience.

And it solidifies another key reason why I brave raising my young family in this urban environment: to be able to drive across town and sit with a very talented group of folks on a Tuesday night who either are already doing great things or are working on their next great pursuit. It keeps me motivated, feels relevant and provides rich texture to my life.  I can’t wait to take the next class.

So, happy birthday, dear blog!  It has been a wonderful, interesting year, punctuated by this latest foray into the Writing Salon.  I can’t wait to see what comes next…

Until next time,

The City Mouse

Please check out my talented fellow mommy blogger friends!

A Glamomorous Life

Future Stella, I Love You

And, of course, our teacher, Ben Jackson wasn’t just any teacher, but a professor and poet who just won a prestigious and competitive writing award himself.  Tor House Prize

 

Where ghosts, gold & hipster coffee collide

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After 17 years spent living in San Francisco, I still find tiny slivers of pure paradise tucked around corners and nestled between buildings, just waiting to be discovered. This week found me uncovering one of these hidden gems in one of my very, very favorite slices of the city. I’ve always known it as the “antique district,” though technically it’s the “Jackson Square Historic District.” It’s part nostalgia for me recalling a previous life spent doing some work in this part of town and partially appeals to my personal aesthetic.  Jackson Square is rich in history, coming to life during the Gold and Silver eras in San Francisco.  It retains most original buildings of the 1850s and 1860s and immediately transports one back to that time for a moment.

Mr. City Mouse recently opened office space in the antique district and I was lucky enough to join him for a coffee one morning. Truth be told, the uber-hipster coffee options are plentiful in this neighborhood. And he literally went down a quick list, debating options, “…the organic café is pretty great or the coffee truck always has amazing coffee…wait!  I know exactly where we should go….” And he led me down a street, around a corner and then abruptly, turned in the middle of the block and walked me through a wrought iron gate spanning two brick buildings. What appeared before me, made my skin tingle. It reminded me of Europe. It was hidden. It was intimate. It was old and new all at once and was ringed on all sides by small office spaces, housing start ups and funds and firms. There was a quiet, almost silent, desperately throbbing energy to the space.  This was Jackson Place and the home of the Jackson Place Cafe.

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It’s billed as …”one of San Francisco’s best kept secrets.”  And I would agree.  It’s idyllic. While sipping a piping hot espresso, one is shadowed by wrought iron railings and twinkly lights. The bricks, climb high above the trees, chipped and uneven, beautiful in their asymmetry with grays and burnt orange, faded to almost white in places.  Flickering gas lamps strain to cast their glow amidst the bright sky, which filters down through the towering buildings.  Strangely, the city ambience largely dissipates in this oasis and one is left listening to a soft music soundtrack of I’m sure, whatever Pandora station was chosen to set the mood by the barista. On my visit it sounded like the selected station may have been “John Mellencamp.”

20150417_092922_resizedIt’s here that one can grab a specialty coffee, made with care at the window. The Jackson Square cafe serves a limited menu of coffees, breakfast and lunches to go: High in quality.  Artisanal.  Expensive. Delicious.

20150417_092005_resizedI do love history and sitting in the plaza, I could almost feel the energy of a long-lost century and evoke a vision.  If only these bricks could whisper their secrets from the past…. I’ve got to think that the energy and pulsating drive of the Gold rush pushes up and through the toes of those now innovating in industry within these walls. The ghosts wander about here, I’m sure, in their tattered clothes and bottomless shoes abandoning boats and salty oceans for dusty hills, under a blazing California sky, searching for sparkle among the rock.  And now I’ve discovered this, too: a bit of brilliance hidden among the concrete.

A few fun facts about the Jackson Square Historic District:

-It’s one of the oldest commercial districts in San Francisco

-It retains almost all original commercial buildings from the 1850s and 1860s

-It recalls the Gold and Silver era

-The waterline previously bordered this district and it partially sits on landfill

-Some of that landfill is made up a hulls of ships, abandoned in the rush to the Gold county

-Now it’s home to interior designers, law firms, creative agencies and architects, to name a few and has undergone a bit of a renaissance of late

I’m very much personally inspired by this space and will be making regular pilgrimages here when I want to breathe in the history of the city and enjoy a perfect cup of coffee.  It’s worth a stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.

http://www.jacksonplacecafe.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_Square,_San_Francisco

How can I turn back time? Oh, wait. I can’t: 72 hours in New York City.

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I do believe that I earned my true City Mouse moniker this year, when, upon realizing that I definitely needed a postpartum, adult vacation and mental “escape from it all” chose New York City. Not the beach or the mountains or the wine country. But, a long weekend in Manhattan. To many, it may not make sense. And, I can understand why it doesn’t, on the surface.   We already live in a major metropolitan environment. We do “city living” every single day of our lives. I was, though, so thirsty for stimulation and to quench this, sought out the best remedy I could think of: NYC, a cure for stimulation under-load.

Manhattan is just SO super-sized in every way: So many more restaurants, and so many more really, really good ones. More museums and monuments. More theater and thespians and talent. More amazing architecture and arts. And honking horns and history. It’s loud and vibrant and chaotic and I love it.

It also very much represents a time in my life without kiddos: A place that I traveled to for work and pleasure.   Upon reflection memories flash like an old-fashioned slide show in my mind’s eye.  Click! There I am shooting commercials along cobblestone streets and among sooty, blackened warehouses,  in the West Village, wrapped in the hazy, humidity of a June day.

Click!  Me with Mr. City Mouse, savoring a carefree, pre-kid date night devouring pillows of warm, doughy gnocchi bites, washed down with plum, cherry, tobacco-spiced Barolo at Babbo. Click! Ambling together through the Chelsea Market, delighting in a fresh, buttery croissant, and strong espresso, with no real destination in mind or schedule to keep.

Click!  Enjoying a pre-kid vacation with a girlfriend, spending hours walking through Soho, The East Village, The West Village, Midtown, shopping and talking, laughing and eating and drinking. Only to return to our hotel when we were ready to flop, exhausted from our adventures, upon crisp white linens and fluffy comforters. And relish sleeping to our hearts content until we did it all again the next day.

Upon reflection, subconsciously, I’m sure my first post-kids NYC quest had something to do with trying to recapture a little piece of that old life. Just to feel, for a second, like I used to feel. Breathe it in, touch it, grasp at it. Then let it go again.

And so, a few weeks ago, we embarked upon Manhattan with no real agenda in mind, by design. As any parent of small children can understand, in family life, there is ALWAYS a schedule. So, to operate without one felt luxurious. Apart from a few optional dinner reservations, there was no place that we had to be.

When well-meaning friends asked me retrospectively about our New York trip, you’d hear me say, “It was great! A real treat.” And it was. Having some time to unplug is always a relief. Having not slept more than about 4 hours at a time in 5 months, I luxuriated in sleeping from sundown to sun-up. Having a date weekend with the hubby is also rare and fun and a gift. The truth is, that while it was a wonderful weekend, it was quite different from my expectations.

What I realized is that, while Manhattan has largely remained exactly as I remember leaving it before children, I’m not exactly the same. And the juxtaposition was a bit startling. First, I was tired. I was a tired mom. I was a tired woman. Not the same tired, as I remembered from past visits (“site seeing” tired or “two glasses of champagne too much” tired.) I was to-my-bones exhausted. And I felt the conflict of wanting to get out and experience the city, fighting with my body and mind’s desperation for sleep.

I also realized that after 4 years of having been in the triage unit of mother-dome, always listening or awaiting the next calamity, I was having a hard time relaxing. I got on the airplane, thinking that I could leave it all behind. My unfortunate realization was that I was running like a tightly wound spring. And there wasn’t a transcontinental flight long enough, nor enough complimentary glasses of wine to massage out all of the kinks and rough spots and deposit me on the other end of the country, relaxed, fluid and restored, as I’d hoped. I landed in New York City still feeling the coursing electricity of parenthood alertness and wasn’t able to turn it off.

I also had the illogical feeling that I may never, ever or for a very, very long time, get to go anywhere or do anything like this again. Despite my husband reminding me, rightly so, how irrational this was; that we were fortunate enough to still have the opportunity to travel, I couldn’t shake that motivation. “What if I don’t get back to New York for another 8 years or ever again?!” “We have to hit the Chelsea Market like the old days! See a show! Carriage ride through Central Park! Ice skate in the plaza! Have martinis at the King Cole Bar every night!!” “Aaaggghhh!” And, I’m actually not exaggerating here. At all. Despite not having a schedule, I drove an imaginary, irrational agenda in my mind as though I were on a work-release program from prison, about to be returned in short order. I drove myself crazy. I drove my husband crazy. I was just plain crazy, all around.

It made me realize that what I was desperate for and couldn’t quite recapture was the laissez-faire attitude of the past. Before kids, we did travel all of the time, all over. And speaking of time, we frequently had a lot of it. And because our ambling mornings were not exceptional, we naturally just soaked it all in, in a carefree fashion. Because that’s not the case anymore, everything we did on this trip took on heightened meaning and importance for me, which necessarily increased the pressure, stripping away the very thing I sought to recapture. At the time, I was confused and frustrated. With a bit of hindsight, I can see what I was doing and the natural result.

On the bright side, there were moments of pure bliss, for example wandering uptown through the Upper East Side in search of a late lunch, stumbling upon Le Charlot. It’s one of those tucked away neighborhood spots, slivered between brownstones of gray and beige. We tucked into a red, upholstered booth and devoured large bowls of mussels and crisp glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, while the table of 7 next to us, carried on a raucous conversation in French. It was totally unexpected and exquisite.

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And my husband truly put together a first class experience for the weekend, complemented with 5 star treatment and dotted with memorable meals. It was a gesture of love. For me. Knowing that I needed to get away and unplug. He orchestrated it all and it was truly wonderful and I am eternally grateful.

I have great memories from this trip. I’m so happy that we were able to get away. My lessons learned? Realize, really, really realize that life is different now!  As Mr. City Mouse keeps reminding me, “We have 3 children under 5!”  Remember that.  Embrace it and adjust for that fact. Keep it simple.  Don’t try to tackle everything all at once.  Be realistic about stamina and energy levels and schedules and expectations.  Build in downtime. And of course with a little more sleep most everything is more enjoyable. So, know that.  (Hurray for sleep training and a baby that almost sleeps through the night!)

I love New York. I can’t wait to go back again. It’s still one of my favorite things to do. Next time, though, I promise to keep the trip in perspective.  Be kinder to myself.  And my significant other.  Be more realistic.  And just enjoy the little moments along the way.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

We love eating our way through a city. Here are a few notes from the trip:

Gramercy Tavern- Flatiron District

A classic and my favorite of the weekend. We dined at the bar for dinner, which was lively and fun!

Bill’s-  Mid-town

We lunched at this converted 1890s townhouse and former prohibition speakeasy. The atmosphere?      Clubby and cool.

Marea-  Central Park South

Apparently, this is a hot new restaurant and the wait staff let us know how privileged we were to be dining there. Service grade: F-. The food was creative and exceptional, but we definitely paid for it. I had a case of sticker shock, too and we’re used to big city pricing.  Ouch!

Gotham Bar & Grill- West Village

This was a return to the scene of my first career business trip and first ever meal on an expense account at age 24.   It’s still as special and exceptional as I remember it after all these years.

Bill’s Bar & Burger-  Meatpacking District

What a great spot for a delicious burger in one of my favorite spots in the Village. The Fat Cat was named one of the best burgers in the country and I agree. Delicious!

King Cole Bar-  Midtown

How could you not feel decadent enjoying a Manhattan cocktail in this Manhattan staple?  A definite worthy classic, cocktail stop.

 

When I grow up…Another “stump the band” question from the 4-year old.

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There are definitely days as a stay-at-home mom or “person on a mommy-sabbatical” as I like to call it, that are a blow to one’s ego.  Having had a full life and robust career before kids, it can sometimes feel like an out-of-body experience to go from dynamic, discerning decision-making to a tedious and tiring toddler tango.  Yep.  I have some rough days.  With that being said, the City Mouse in me, relishes the urban environment and activity that’s just outside my door as it feels like my past life is right there, a grasp away and easily attainable again, should I choose to make that decision.  This is where I grew up in my career and that certainly helps.

So, it was particularly poignant on one of these tough days that I had a fascinating interchange with my little guy.  (Sometimes, I wonder about the mythical power of a child’s intuition.  Have you noticed this?)  Recently, as the welcoming darkness of daylight savings time- bedtime enveloped us and we were snuggled up on the bed, stories in hand, my 4-year old asked, “Mommy? What are YOU going to be when you grow up?” I’m pretty sure my mouth opened and no words came out. I was left, well, speechless. And, no joke, here are the responses that immediately ran rapid fire through my head, “I’m already grown up.” “I’ve already made my choices.” “I once was an… advertising….hmmm.. …. And now I’m a…well…hmmm.” But I didn’t say any of those things. I just paused.  And, after a beat, took it head on. “Well, I’m going to be a businesswoman and a mommy and a writer.”

“I’m going to be a fireman and a circus clown.” He replied concisely.

“Got it.” “That sounds like a great plan.”

Ah. To be young. The simplicity of that question at that age is delicious, yes?  His answer was not filled with the angst and momentary defensiveness of my potential answer. I couldn’t help it, but my emotional response was something that I had to physically swallow down after a day feeling a bit disconnected in mommy-land. “Mommy was someone, too once! Someone important! Someone people listened to and someone who was paid quite well for her expertise. Someone with dreams, ambitions, and frequent flyer status!!” Settle, down, there, momma. Settle down. You don’t need to give him your resume. Yet.

I actually did love that question growing up and through college and through my twenties since I found the possibilities endless and exciting. Starting from a young age, answers fluctuated:

  • a veterinarian
  • an actress
  • an acting coach
  • a lawyer
  • a teacher
  • a sports agent
  • an athletic administrator
  • a speech pathologist
  • an advertising sales rep

And I’m sure many others I’ve forgotten.

Although I was completely taken aback by the question, I paused to realize that I’m still entitled to an answer. It’s not like “it’s all over” for me. I’m still writing the next chapter of “what I’ll be….” Making it easier, in my mind as mentioned, is maintaining our city life at this point. It still feels to me like the possibilities are endless. The opportunities are plentiful and the center of the world is close to where we are. It’s buzzing. It’s invigorating. It’s humming and you can feel it through your feet. There are so many people who I encounter daily who are doing great things and starting ventures and living out passions and that is truly inspiring.

Truth be told, I have a few ideas of “what I’ll be” next. It’s my next endeavor. I’m planning to make a plan. And I can’t wait to start working on what’s next and sharing dreams for the future… with my little firefighter-  circus clown.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

The Six Week Boot Camp: Or, perhaps the most important thing that I will ever write.

 

Screen shot 2014-11-04 at 9.12.31 AMThere are certain things that I definitely wanted to know before having children (the ins and outs of childbirth), things I didn’t want to know (how much they would really change our life) and things that I didn’t know, I didn’t know, but wished I would’ve known. The topic up for discussion, falls into that last bucket.

It’s a message that I would love to get out to all new parents and I feel compelled to now, having just gone through it…for the 3rd and final time.  A subject, about which, I rarely hear anyone discuss.  It’s as simple as understanding that there’s a very difficult time with a newborn, that doesn’t last forever, but may test you, your marriage, your strength and cause you to question your sanity in your decision to ever have had a child/ another child in the first place.

It’s a time period that I wasn’t aware of until we were going through it. A time that no one mentioned to us until we were in it and by then it was a little too late. I’m calling it the Six Week Boot Camp.  Weeks one through six. The first brutal six weeks at home with baby.

Now, I don’t necessarily blame all of my dear friends who mostly had their kids before me, for not sharing this information. It is amazing how sleep deprivation can creep, like a subtle blackboard eraser and wipe out all of the notes and cues that were chalked quickly into your memory bank during the early days of new parenthood. In fact, even after having done this two times before, it wasn’t until my husband and I were deep in the first six weeks, for the third time, that we started recalling hazy memories, “Oh, yes…that’s right….7pm is THE WORST. We won’t get to sit down together at the end of the day for weeks….yes, I remember that now…I had forgotten that game of pass the baby in the evening…that’s right….…Swaddle, shush, swing, repeat.”

The difference for me this go around is that I mentally prepared for this time period because I KNEW how hard it would be. I KNEW it would be a huge challenge. I KNEW that I needed as much mental toughness as physical resiliency. In my mind, and I’m actually not really kidding, I pictured myself putting on a combat helmet, lacing up my boots, head down, determination strong. I had the advantage this time. I KNEW it was coming. I KNEW I could survive it. I KNEW it would get better.

I’ve been thinking about this time in terms of Boot Camp, but more specifically, Navy SEAL “Hell Week,” the most difficult stretch of training that trainees endure on their way to becoming Navy SEALs.  My husband and I are lucky enough to know a Navy SEAL.  A real life warrior.  I know enough about these special forces to be respectful of their accomplishments and in awe of the training process. Stories about Hell Week describe it as a test of physical endurance, mental toughness, pain, ability to perform under physical and mental stress. Additionally, this 5 ½ day test takes place on fewer than 4 hours of sleep.   It’s said to be the greatest achievement in a trainee’s life and leads to the realization that they can do more than they ever thought they could.   To me, the parallels are striking. Yes, different in many, many ways. But, definitely relatable and true, at a high level:  The conquering of a symphonic feat of physical, emotional, mental strain.

I will never be a Navy SEAL. But, I have come to think of those first six weeks as the closest I will ever get to Navy SEAL Hell Week. It’s been my equivalent of Hell Week. And I’m glad that I know that now.

The Navy SEALs have a motto that I think works just as well for the Six Week Boot Camp with your new babe and is oh, so appropriate for new parents to understand, embrace and remember daily: THE ONLY EASY DAY WAS YESTERDAY. The only easy day was yesterday.

So, mama. Remember this: Yes. The only easy day was yesterday. Set that  expectation for six weeks. You will have nights that you may not sleep at all. In fact, you will go for months without any sort of continuous night’s sleep. You may be perpetually hungry and thirsty depending on the number of children in your family, your nursing schedule, and other daily life responsibilities. You will need, in your sleep- deprived state, to conquer tasks of balance, strength and agility.   You will feel the physical manifestations of the emotional stress.  You will have moments when you lose your mental edge and think you can’t do any of it for one more minute. You will give up nearly everything else in your life for these six weeks. You will have moments when you would pay $100 for 5 minutes of sleep or a 10-minute shower. Your baby crying and sometimes, in conjunction with your other crying children will drive you to your own tears. You will need to draw on a depleted tank of intestinal fortitude to put one foot in front of the other. You will put on a brave face for kind visitors. You will mask your pain.

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But, mama, you WILL succeed. HOOYAH! You will conquer this period and come out stronger than before. It may be the hardest thing you ever do. But you will do it. And it will get better. And the fruits of your labor will be recognized. And you will, eventually, get back to being you. And, as a couple, you and your spouse will get back to being a version of the couple that you remember. And you will have fun again. And you will get sleep again. And, happily, mama, it’s actually very likely, that you will have no memory of these first few weeks. You will simply know, with pride, that you survived it all; that you can accomplish most anything else that comes your way. You are stronger than you ever thought possible.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

 

The CPMC “Celebration Dinner.” Aka, my hamburger journey: SIR-MIX-ALOT to Spruce

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I come from a long line of burger and fry fans, on both sides, but particularly on my mom’s side. The genetic code is strong in this area. I fondly recall that nearly every time my brother and I would stay with my grandpa (maternal) for a weekend while my parents were out-of-town, we’d inevitably end up at one of the great Seattle burger, fry and shake establishments. And for my grandpa, I believe, that was his definition of “dining out.”

The places I recall visiting with the most frequency include Burgermaster http://www.burgermaster.biz/, the Seattle classic, Kidd Valley http://www.kiddvalley.com/ and the incomparable, Dick’s http://www.ddir.com/. Dicks: equally enjoyable at 1:00pm and 1:00am, as anyone that went to college anywhere in Seattle knows well. And, for those of you not from Seattle, Dick’s Drive Thru is enshrined for all of eternity in the SIR-MIX-ALOT classic, Posse on Broadway. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/sirmixalot/posseonbroadway.html

“Dick’s is the place where the crew hang out-
the SWASS like to play, and the rich flaunt clout-
posse to the burger stand, so big we walk in two’s-
we’re gettin’ dirty looks, from those other sucka crews-“

Word.

But I digress…..Even with this strong and early training in the art of savoring a delicious burger, hot off the grill, I, truth be told, now see a burger as a pretty good excuse to devour the accompaniments: fries with ketchup and a milk shake or an icy cold diet coke. And, 99% of the time, you’ll find me ordering a veggie burger, in the case that I’m out with folks for “burgers.”

With this declaration comes one exception, The Great Spruce Burger. This is top of mind now, considering  our recent hospital stay.  Let me explain.

At the hospital where we’ve delivered our children, there’s a very nice tradition wherein you are provided a “celebration dinner” on your last night’s stay at the hospital for both you and your spouse. They provide linens, and from a special menu provided, you choose your meal. The idea is that you and your spouse, enjoy a memorable last night in the hospital with your new, little offspring before journeying home the next morning. Again, it’s a sweet and personal gesture and one in which they take great pride.

A few weeks before we were due with #1, I met a friend of a friend and had an off-chance, random conversation with her at a barbecue. She passed along one of the best pieces of baby advice that I had been given at the time and to this day have ever been given. “Don’t order the celebration dinner,” she whispered conciliatory. “We ordered the steak dinner with our first and it was what you imagined, Hospital Steak. In fact, my husband wasn’t even sure if was beef.” I grimaced. I’m a bit skittish about ANY suspect meat and if given the choice would become a full-fledged vegetarian versus having to face down any slightly suspect meat product on a regular basis. She then shared her secret. “Instead, we ordered take-out burgers and fries from Spruce!”

Immediately, I grasped the brilliance of this concept.  At that point, I didn’t even realize you could order any take-out from Spruce, admittedly, a high-end eatery.

As background, Spruce is a Presidio Heights establishment which has earned a Michelin star, hosts famous clientele (we saw Robin Williams on our first outing, RIP) and is definitely in a category of fine dining or special occasion. With that being said, the bar, although swanky, is replete with tasty nibbles, at a lower price point, perfect for a weeknight date-night (including said burger).

And so, when our #1 was born, we politely declined the celebration dinner at the hospital. This was admittedly and unfortunately, a little awkward since the nurses do make such a big deal of it, starting from about the time your little bundle pops out. “Don’t forget the celebration dinner(!!),” we heard over and over.

Once, we politely bowed out of the dinner, our plan was in place. My husband strode in with champagne and our Spruce burgers and fries and we thoroughly enjoyed a gratifying and savory treat after what had been a frenetic few days of labor and delivery.

So, what makes this meal so memorable? Well, to start, the fries are in another category of fry altogether and the secret, we found out, upon inquiring, is that they are fried in….. duck fat! This may not sound obviously appealing; believe me. It is. Perfectly crunchy on the outside and pillowy on the inside, it imparts such a deliciously fried flavor that you really don’t need sauce of any kind to top it off.

The burger is served on a self-described “English muffin” which it really isn’t. At least it doesn’t resemble the variety that I’m used to slinging out regularly with peanut butter and honey to my little crew at home. Instead, it’s some sort of crispy, buttery flaky goodness that holds the impressively seasoned and thick patty of beef together. Served with homemade, perfectly cured and thinly sliced pickles, special sauce, slices of thick tomato, onion and picked red onions, the burger is left open for you to determine which combo of toppings to add at your heart’s content. It goes without saying, this is not a light meal. However, after a protracted delivery process and with a couple of sleep deprived nights already under your belt, it really hits the spot.

And so, for us, this has become the new tradition. With #2, we, again, danced around the celebration dinner with hospital staff and ordered our Spruce Burgers. And it was repeated a third time with our newest addition a few weeks ago.

So, for any of you that may be having children now or in the future, somewhere around the North part of the city, you may want to consider crafting your own “celebration dinner” from the menu at Spruce or any of the number of other great local take-out spots. It may be more of the celebration that you’re looking for, or just a way to craft a sweet and personal memory of what is a very special time with your new little family.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

Three’s company? Three’s a crowd? The jury is out.

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Because, as I sit here, rounding out the last few dwindling hours of my “due date” and still, formally, the mother of 2, I have some time to write this post, completely in the dark as to the state of the union of the matter of 3. 3 children. It’s been interesting the responses we’ve gotten after letting both strangers, friends and family know that we were expecting 3. Some of the comments or questions we’ve received are as follows:
1. Do you have to move? Or the closely related, do you have enough space? Enough bedrooms? Are kids sharing rooms? Answers: No. Yes. Yes. And Yes.
2. Do you need a new car? Or the closely related, can you fit 3 car seats in your backseat?
Answers: No. Yes. With a little advanced planning I purchased at the outset, the only car seats on the market, capable of fitting 3 across. To answer the obvious question here, yes, we had conceptually planned on a bigger family from the beginning.
3. “Well, god bless you guys.” Shakes head in disbelief. Says the random dad in the park who was with his own 2 who are 18 months apart.
4. “Well, you’ll certainly never walk anywhere with 3 which will make the suburbs that much more appealing.”
5. “Once you have 3, you can just add a 4th and it’s no big deal.” Said by a few mothers of 4.
6. “Once you have 3, you are just really into the kid-thing so it takes the pressure off of pretending like you can have your own life back.” Said by a mother of 3.
7. “All I can tell you is, get enough help. The 3rd turned me into a full-blown alcoholic that first year.” Said the beleaguered, stone-cold, un-smiling, dead serious mom I met at a drop-in gymnastics class. She WAS NOT JOKING. Shudder.
8. “I really want a third child, but I can’t get my husband on board.” Said by a number of San Francisco moms and testament, I think to what happens, particularly in the city. Start doing the math, again, as previously discussed and it’ll never justify going beyond 2.

I love gathering all of the perspectives from acquaintances and strangers alike. Although, as a rule of thumb in life, I take all advice with a grain of salt, I do listen to the little nuggets that are given to me and sort through it all to make my own judgement.

Truth be told, I don’t know what it will be like with 3 kids in San Francisco. I’ve never done it before. At this moment, I’m trying to wrap my head around how the pick-up/ drop-offs go, getting 2 kids to different schools, hauling the newborn around and nursing and shuttling to and from activities of the older children. Hmmm….have it figured out yet? Nope. Not a clue how to do it. But it will come. Will the 3-kid thing mean we never walk anywhere again? I’d like to think that’s not the case. That would be a huge bummer. I’ll let you know on that one.

We are about to enter into yet another new phase of life in the city: Parents of 3 children, all 4 and under. And I’m ready to see what the next year has in store. It’ll be a guaranteed roller coaster ride-style adventure to be sure. And we’re about as strapped in as we’re ever going to be. Here we go…..!

Until next time,

The City Mouse

Beautiful torture: The last few days & weeks of pregnancy

pregnancyIf any of you have waited for the labor and delivery process to start, you know well and I am just now learning with #3, how truly torturous this wait can be. Even with the well-honed knowledge of what is to come, I’m still ready. Meaning the real stuff, not The Pottery Barn Kids kind of blissful land of receiving blankets and super-soft stuffed bunnies and perfectly layed out nurseries.Screen shot 2014-07-01 at 10.45.50 AM.
The what’s to come I’m talking about is the no sleep, adrenaline highs, postpartum lows, post labor contractions that bring tears to your eyes, narcotics, stool softeners, donut pillows, crying that just won’t stop (often for mom and baby), creative sleeping positions with newborns in chairs, beds, couches, sitting up, laying down, stress over the other kids waking up and handling the family changes and just keeping the wheels from falling off forever. The fear of setting all the kids up for lifelong adult therapy sessions that were certainly….Your Fault, particularly after the recommended “screen time” per kid, per week was consumed in your first day home from the hospital. Those kinds of what’s to come events. Still. Even with all of that, the difficulty of the last few weeks/days can leave one yearning for the sweet escape of JUST HAVING THE BABY!

At various points in the last few days, I thought the pressure of carrying my 4 year old- 42+ pounder down the stairs might be enough to induce labor right there or just push #3 right on out. No such luck. Or getting kicked in the stomach by the tantruming 2-year old who simply decided a diaper change was not preferable AT THIS EXACT MINUTE! might also do the trick and entice #3 to get the heck out of there and fight back on her own. But that didn’t happen either. I had never paid attention before to those, “How to jump-start labor” articles and tips because I didn’t have to. We barely had our acts together in time for #1 and #2 who were 5 days early respectively. But now, I’m taking tips left and right: Spicy Soup at Dosa? Serve me a bowl, Lyon street steps? Let’s get walking. And I can’t even claim a good, hopeful Braxton Hicks contraction in the last week. ARGH!

I am trying really hard to heed well- meaning advice to enjoy this time and it’s so true and sweet. This family of 4 has an impending expiration date and we’ve been making memories and soaking it in and snuggling in bed with the 4 of us and it really has been important and meaningful. However, the physical limitations of my current “situation” are almost too much to bear sometimes.

For once, we are really ready: the room is set up, hospital bag packed, baby clothes washed and hung, camera charged. And I kind of hate the anticipation. I’m longing for (or maybe just reminiscing about) the situation of #1, where, on my very first day of maternity leave, I kicked into labor unexpectedly and ran around the city like a crazy woman buying all of the last-minute essentials (nursing bras, bouncing chair, etc) that I assumed I had another week to procure. Just in the nick of time actually worked pretty well. Who knew? I’m 39 weeks tomorrow and shouldn’t complain, I know. I mean the due date Isn’t Even Here Yet. But it feels like it should be! And I’m ready to have myself back. Even a sleep deprived, hormone crazed, hanging by a thread version. At least I’ll be able to tummy sleep, have a cocktail and actually hold my other kids on my lap without them slipping off due to lack of room as it is now. Please! Let’s get this party started!!

So, with that being said, I’m going to wrap up this post. I’ve spent too long sitting anyway. I have some serious walking, stair climbing, jumping jacks, child wrangling to do…. If you hear from me next week and I’m still with child, it ought to be a pretty interesting entry. Who knows what kind of creativity that angst will inspire. Certainly something great.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

“But Why?” My existential trip to gain a Residential Parking Permit.

Van NessToday I ventured to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency office to obtain yet another Residential Parking Permit. Having moved 5 times in the 15 years that I’ve lived here, this is certainly a task I’ve done before. This morning’s conundrum was a debate of taking the 2-year-old with me or waiting to go by myself. For those of you San Franciscans that have completed this task, as I would guess the majority of you have, it’s an interesting trip in and of itself. Located at an unappealing stretch of “South Van Ness” the crowd surrounding the area and the actual citizens waiting at the office make up a varied and diverse population. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily feel unsafe going down there. What gives me pause are the not one, but two ARMED security guards, the metal detector to enter, the bullet proof glass enclosed customer service agents with their “safetyCOM” intercom used to communicate with each person. And because this is the office that handles parking tickets and disputes too, WITHOUT FAIL, there is always an altercation of some sort around the paying of parking tickets, booting of cars or disputing of charges. I’ve born witness to these disputes every time and not being a fan of conflict of any kind, count the seconds until I can get my green placard and get the heck out of there. I’m guessing these disputes account for the presence of guns for the security team and employees, carefully ensconced behind a protective barrier.

So, this morning I decided that I WOULD bring my daughter on our field trip and actually have found in the past, that strapping a baby to your chest and trekking to the office ensures immediate if not instantaneous line cutting, as they try to shuttle you quickly through the process. A strategy that I’ve used on more than one occasion. Our trip was easy and uneventful while inside the office. My daughter actually softened up one of the beleaguered staff that helped us who chatted up my daughter through the aforementioned “safetyCOM” and gave her some paper and pen to draw with as I gained my permits.

As an aside I always walk up to the window when my number is called and want to give a preamble explaining that I’m NOT there to rip them a new one, I promise to be pleasant, cordial, have all of my documentation in place and simply want to complete this transaction quickly so that they, too, can take a break for their lunch or whatever next respite they have from this evil window. Inevitably they all start out the transaction the same way (a) either, dukes up, assuming you’re a slightly hysterical or crazy nut, ready to tear into them for a parking infraction that they had nothing to do with or (b) already rolling their eyes at what they assume to be an ignorant newbie to the city without the proper documentation to obtain the required RSP (Residential Parking Permit.) “NO! You CANNOT use a printed check as proof of residency, no your driver’s license certainly doesn’t count and can’t be used either. And where is your updated car registration?!” DENIED!” I actually can’t think of many more unpleasant jobs in the city. But I digress….

So, this morning’s interesting twist came as we left the office and my daughter, embracing the freedom of walking and the desire to do much by herself, ambled out of the building down South Van Ness avenue, wearing a backpack and sunglasses that she insisted upon and true to her nature, started to try to engage everyone we came upon. It really wasn’t that big of a deal until we passed a homeless man, curled up on a backpack, taking a mid-morning nap on the sidewalk. I KNEW intuitively that she would find this fascinating. And of course she did. Despite me taking her by the hand and trying to distract her and move her along, she started yelling (which is her version of talking), “SLEEPING!” “SLEEPING!” She pulled away and went for a closer look. “SLEEPING!” If left to her own devices I’m sure she would’ve squatted down on her little legs, cocked her head to within a few inches of this man’s face and tried to wake him up. A trick she’s mastered at home on various family members. Because she’s only two I was able to simply respond with “Yes, he’s sleeping. He’s sleepy and taking a nap.” And that was that, we moved on to engaging with the nice man at the Goodwill drive-thru cleaning the driveway with a blower. FASCINATING! According to my daughter.   As I drove away I began to think about my 4- year old and how his questions around the man sleeping on the sidewalk would have been more sophisticated, more numerous- one after the other, eventually leading to, “but why??” as most questioning sessions do with the 4 –year old. As a parent I find that what starts off as a simple question and answer session, can turn quite existential after the 4th or 5th “but why?” And the tired mom in me sometimes has to resort to the “I don’t know. It just is.” “Just because.” Sigh. Having done no research on the best way to talk to our children around the homeless population I was curious what other people do. Certainly, as kids reach school age there are more appropriate ways to cover this topic, but within the 3-5 year old age I’m at a bit of a loss in how to deal with it. “Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a home.” “But WHY?”…. And you can see where this leads after the 3rd, 4th, 5th “but WHY?” Raising kids in the city, this is something that I’d like to get ahead of, but haven’t given it much thought. And now it has me thinking….without many answers. Candidately, I think I could host an adult dinner party, broaching the topic of the SF homeless population and really dig into some serious issues by following the lead of the 4-year old and pushing into the “why” of it all.

Until then, I’m interested in figuring out how other parents have dealt with this in the city. Do you have a good response? City Mouse would certainly love to hear.

Until next time,

The City Mouse

Time for a “Time Out!” : Lesson #1 from a FTSM (First Time Summer Mom)

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Being the FTSM (First Time Summer Mom) of a preschool aged child, I now pay attention to and read the other funny articles and self-deprecating mommy- blog posts on coping with summer vacation/ end of the school year panic and fatigue. This one has been circulating wildly around my Facebook feed and while I can’t totally relate yet, I now get it more than I would have cared to before.

Personally, school for my son has been an amazing, transformative and life-saving transition. For me. Really. For the 3 years before school started, I lived unstructured days with two very small children, struggling to fill time from sun-up to nap time and nap time to bedtime. At least that’s what it felt like most days, if I’m being honest.

However, a nice perk I realized was that after 15 years of working professionally, having limited flexibility in my schedule and spending the last 5 years of it commuting 3 hrs each day to the Silicon Valley, the initial openness and freedom of a day on maternity leave was sweet and delicious. I loved that I didn’t use my car, have hard deadlines and could relish in focusing on a new little being without attention being pulled in multiple directions. That was year #1.

Years 2 and 3 at home began to get difficult for me and I missed a routine and purpose in leaving the house. Sometimes I wistfully gazed at the receptionist at the doctor’s office, for example, thinking, “Wow, you got up, showered, you’re here doing your job and making plans to go to lunch with friends. Sounds AMAZING!” On some days, I was really, really jealous of the receptionist.

Once my son started school, a new routine began of drop-off and pick-up, 5 days a week, every morning and I loved it: Getting up to an alarm again (I can’t believe I’m saying that), showering and anticipating the few fleeting minutes of social time at drop- off with the other moms. I felt I had a purpose and a place to be, at least at 8:45 and 11:45. And I’m sure my son got some benefit from school, as well! Smirk.

As the school year was drawing to a close, I had my first, “Holy Hell” moment of, “What do I do once school is out?” Complicating matters was knowing that I would also be facing down my last few weeks of pregnancy #3. A rough combo. Thankfully, my son’s preschool offered a summer school option that we’re taking advantage of, but until then have 2 weeks off in the interim.

I recently read another blog post about a fellow mom/ blogger attempting to be a super summer mom (June 6th post) and thought it was funny and honest. I don’t know that I’ve aspired to be anything quite that heroine like, but I did think that I could attempt, at least a few fun outings with the 2 kids despite my expanding girth and decreasing mobility. Over the course of 4 days I offered outings to the zoo, the park and walks over and over again. And each time, my 4-year-old said, “No thanks. I’d rather stay home and play.” And we did. Just stay home. And it dawned on me that my little guy has been on a treadmill, too and needed some decompression time.

After a big first year of school, he got up every morning, 5-days a week and went to his “job.” Every weekend morning, we typically threw the kids in the stroller to go for walks, get coffee and get some outside time. The result is that there were few mornings during the year where my son could just have some leisurely play time at home. In pajamas. Nowhere to go. And that’s just what he wanted to do. When I took a step back and just let him direct the day, I could see that all he wanted was non-scheduled time. Well, of course he did. I’m sure he felt like those first few months after I was on maternity leave where I realized, despite exhaustion and the feeling of being overwhelmed, the beauty of having nowhere you had to be. No shower necessary! No need to dress up. And my son reacted the same way.

I have to say we had some good days at home and it worked well with my increasingly tired, pregnant self to just lay low. Like some overused mommy cliché, when given free time, my son actually got out a cardboard box for some self-directed imaginative play, “Let’s make a fire station and pole!” And had a blast entertaining himself and playing with his sister all day long. The other change I made, which is quite rare, is took a day off from trying to multi-task around my house like a crazy woman and just sat on the floor and played with the kids or was able to just be there in the room when they were playing, which they LOVED. I was a passive part in their imaginative play. “Mommy, you’re in the wheelchair and we’re taking you to the hospital….weeeoooooweeeoooo!….Ok, it’s another ambulance emergency.” And they’d scamper off and back again. And I’ll had to do was sit there to play my part!

You’d think as a mom who is home with her kids, this would occur ALL THE TIME. Play time: mom & kids, around the clock! I’m sure I thought it would be the case before I had the kids. But it’s amazing how much of the non-glamorous house stuff you have to do all day long to keep everything running smoothly. Maslow’s bottom- of –the- pyramid hierarchy of needs kind of stuff. You know food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep.

It’s interesting because I’m a big believer in some of David Elkind’s philosophies espoused in the “The Hurried Child.” My central take away being, to slow down and decrease planned activities, refuse the pull to over schedule and focus on free play. I thought I was embracing this by having almost no outside school scheduled classes or activities at such a young age. However, I realized that the pull of all of the tantalizing places to go right outside our door was a double-edged sword, causing me to get up and out of the house and inadvertently “schedule” our “unscheduled” time.

My ah-ha moment this week was that it’s good to just take a “time-out” in the best possible way and find the fun things literally in our backyard. I can’t say that I plan to have boxes of homemade crafts and art stations and all other manner of ready- to- go- at- home activities all summer. We have this 3rd kid thing looming and all. But I will, when I can, take time to take a “day off” with my kids, get on the floor and just be. Lesson #1, I guess from this FTSM (First Time Summer Mom).

Until next time,

The City Mouse

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