Sunday, June 24, 2007

No place like home

On our house hunting trip, we flew to Oakland and headed straight for Santa Cruz. We weren't meeting with our relocation agent until the following morning, so we wanted to take advantage of some of the free time we would have during the trip to see friends and maybe ride a roller coaster or two. I was prepared to enjoy the time in Santa Cruz. I didn't expect it to make me so sad.

At first it was just the pleasant nostalgia I always feel as we drive into town. On our first trip back to Santa Cruz after moving across the country, we turned onto Mission Street and pulled up beside a hybrid car with Nader and rainbow bumper stickers. It made us smile and feel at home. As we drove along Mission on this trip, I commented to Brian that everything always looked pretty much the same and that no matter what the restaurant was at the corner of Mission and Bay, I'd always be stuck calling it "that place that used to be Marcelo's." I was smiling and felt at home once again. It's kind of like seeing a beautiful young woman on the street as opposed to seeing my sister: when I see the beautiful woman I don't know, I'm struck by her appearance, but with my sister people tell me she's pretty, and of course I think so, but when I look at her, she just looks like herself to me. When I came over a hill after getting off the freeway in Laguna Beach in April, my breath was taken away by the sight of the ocean, but Santa Cruz just looked like itself to me as we drove into town. Santa Cruz in comfortable and familiar even after five years of being away.

(I'm sorry, did that simile not really work? It's the first thing that comes to mind and that's the best I can do on a Sunday morning, I'm afraid.)

Later on in the day, as I walked into Natural Bridges from the park's back entrance on Delaware, enjoying the mingling scents of the ocean and the eucalyptus trees, I suddenly wanted to cry. That was when it hit me that we really weren't going to be moving back to Santa Cruz. I've know that for some time, and I also know it doesn't make sense for us to move back: houses are expensive there, there aren't really jobs for either of us, and pretty much all of our friends have moved on. Still, that knowledge didn't really hit me until I was walking down a path to my favorite beach, a path I'd walked countless times in the past: to go lie in the sun with Brian on the weekends when he lived on Beachview; to have picnics and fly kites with friends on holiday weekends; on long walks from campus to home as I was training for my marathon. Then I realized that that path, that beach weren't going to be part of my day-to-day life the way they were five years back. It was somehow easier to accept the loss of that when I was on the other side of the country.

I know we're making the right decision with where we're moving, but it's hard to realize that moving back to California doesn't mean walking to the lighthouse to watch the surfers at Steamer Lane, or getting our burritos from Taqueria Vallarta. We won't just make an impromptu trip to the Boardwalk to ride the Giant Dipper once, or spend the afternoon wandering up and down Pacific Avenue. I've been away from those things for some time now, and I'd stopped missing them the way I did when we first left California, but I'm missing them again now I'll be much closer but not getting them back. I suppose I've idealized Santa Cruz to a certain extent, because I don't find myself feeling the same attachment to Martinez, where I spent my entire life up until college. Maybe it's because Santa Cruz is where I "grew up" and found an identity apart from my parents. It's where Brian and I met and fell in love. It's beautiful in both immense and minute ways. It was gorgeous when we were there last week--sunny and warm, with nice waves out on the bay. But it had seemed perfect to me in November, too, on the grey day when we drove up the coast for lunch and that evening when we went up to campus in a misty rain. I suppose that a lot of the beauty of the area for me isn't just in the actual surroundings, but in the familiarity and memories.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Does one have to be stupid to decide to go to Target on Saturday, or does being at Target on a Saturday make one stupid?

Next time someone asks me about my decision to stay at home with Adriana I'm going to tell them it's less about quality time with my daughter than about the ability to go to Target while everyone else is at work.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

House hunting

Last weekend, Brian, Adriana, and I headed to California for a house hunting trip. The experience was very different from finding a place to live in the DC area five years ago. Back then, I came out to DC on my own, spent some time looking around, and figured out what I wanted for myself. Of course, we'd talked extensively before I headed out about what we wanted, but I didn't have to negotiate with anyone as I realized that neither the Virginia high rises that Brian thought might be a good idea nor the Georgetown basement apartments that I had envisioned were right for us. After a weekend of riding Metro and taking wrong buses to get around, we ended up in a condo (above ground, but not in a high rise) in the suburbs for a little more than half of what we were paying for our little house in Santa Cruz.

Now we are moving back to California. Our rent is going to go up, although we fought it (and fought with each other over it). We both went on the trip this time. Instead of newspaper listings, a cell phone, and a Metro card, we had easy access to Google maps and the VTA website so that we could check commute times, as well as a relocation agent who took us first on a general neighborhood tour around the South Bay and Peninsula, and then pulled up listings and took us to view various condos and apartments. The whole experience was vastly different. We negotiated with each other and bounced ideas off the agent.

I think we'll be happy in the place we chose. It's in Mountain View, which we wanted but then decided we couldn't afford. Before we left for California, we decided that we would focus on San Jose, and after an evening wandering around we decided we loved the idea of being right in downtown San Jose. Then we discovered we couldn't afford it. Well, we could afford it, I guess, but we weren't willing to pay that much. During the neighborhood tour, I started thinking Campbell might be good, with lower housing prices and a cute downtown area. Unfortunately, the commute for Brian didn't look good. Then we fell ridiculously in love with a complex in North San Jose that was everything I didn't want in a neighborhood: office park after office park after office park. We are apparently suckers for pretty views and granite counters. But Mountain View seemed like a better bet and the apartment is spacious and seems pretty nice. I feel like such a housewife whenever I say it, but I am excited to have a kitchen larger than what we have now (not that it would take much), in spite of the fact that the stove is electric rather than gas, and I love that not only do we have our own washer and dryer but that they are not taking up room in the kitchen. Brian is already totally in love with the balcony, which gets lots of morning sun, so we're planning on growing herbs and maybe geraniums. We'll be able to walk to the library, parks, and restaurants, and on Sunday we saw that the farmer's market looked big and crowded. I'm excited about our move.

I'm not sure at this point which house hunting method I prefer. I liked the independence of looking for a place on my own, but I'm glad that Brian and I found a place together. I felt that I was exploring more as I visited places using public transit, but the relocation agent and his car made it easier to see a lot of places in one day. The hotel we stayed in was more comfortable than the hostel I stayed in five years ago, but I didn't meet cool women to go out to bars with. But one thing was definitely better about this house hunting trip: when my plane landed at BWI five years ago, it was ten at night and the pilot reported that the temperature outside was over 90 degrees with ridiculous humidity; on Thursday when we touched down in the bay area it was relatively cool and not humid at all.

This is really happening, isn't it? Part 2

We have a place to live! We've put a holding deposit on a place in Mountain View. I don't know why I find it so surprising when we do basic things like this. I wonder if I was in so much shock when we were making progress toward our move to DC five years ago.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

Every father loves his baby, but it's been wonderful to see Brian with Adriana. To see the way he holds her and cares for her and loves her. I know the first few days after she was born were terrifying for him (and for me!), but I think he changed every single diaper the first week and it was amazing to watch him with her. And still I don't think there is a better sight than that of him holding her.

Brian in scrubs
Minutes into fatherhood

Brian holding Adriana
Two days

Brian holding Adriana
Two weeks

Brian holding Adriana
One month

Brian holding Adriana
Two months

Brian holding Adriana
Three months

Brian holding Adriana
Four months

Brian holding Adriana
Five months

Happy Father's Day!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Five months

One day recently, I was giving Adriana some "naked time"--letting her play around on a thick towel on the bedroom floor. She was lying there completely naked, smiling at me and trying to fit her feet into her mouth, while I put away laundry. I looked down at her and suddenly realized that someday this baby will yell at me and slam a door. Will get a driver's license. Will go off to college. I thought for a moment that I might like to stop time right now and stay here forever.

Right now she is just a wonderful, beautiful five-month old baby who rolls around naked on the floor. She likes when we dance around the house with her and when we sing to her. She likes having raspberries blown on her belly, and playing peek-a-boo. Giggles and growls and coos lead to shrieks and belly laughs as Adriana explores her vocal range. Sometimes I think she sounds like something out of Jurassic Park, but mostly I just try to get as many laughs out of her as I can, because I have never heard a more wonderful sound. I think I need to make a recording of her baby laughs and squeals, so that I can play them back some day far in the future when she yells at me and slams a door.

She charms people wherever we go with her big gummy grins and funny baby noises. "Are you always such a happy baby?" people always coo at her. Sometimes I want to invite them over for one of her fussy days, the days where she still giggles and smiles, but intersperses those with fussing for no apparent reason. One of the days where I think that the only thing I haven't tried is getting up and dancing for her, and suddenly I turn on some music and do a funny dance and she laughs. And then five minutes later she's fussy again because she's hungry, but she can't concentrate on eating for more than a minute at a time because the cat just walked by, or the dogwood branches outside the window caught her attention, or she suddenly realized that the spinning ceiling fan deserves her complete attention. But mostly I say that yes, she is a very happy baby, because most of the time she is. I know that I have a very easy going kiddo.

She lets us pull her up to sitting and sometimes will support herself for a couple of seconds in a seated position by leaning forward onto her hands. She rolled over from her tummy to her back for the first time the day after she turned four months old, and immediately did it twice more when I rolled her back onto her tummy. Then she didn't do it for three more weeks. Recently she's been focussed on going back-to-front, and sometimes, despite my explanations about "back to sleep" and AAP recommendations, she rolls onto her tummy to sleep. On Friday morning when I set her down on my bed, she rolled from her back onto her tummy and saw a blanket that she wanted. So, with a lot of grunting and wriggling, she used her knees and feet to push herself toward it (with her face shoved into the mattress). Finally she grabbed the edge of the blanket and rolled onto her back, shoving a corner of the blanket and her thumb into her mouth. "Am DOOOOOOMED," I emailed a friend. This little girl wants to be mobile, and I see my job getting a lot harder in the near future.

But I don't actually want to stop time right now. Even though it seems that everything is going too fast, every new stage, every new development, every single little change seems so amazing that nearly every day is better than the last.



Sunday, June 10, 2007

This is really happening, isn't it?

Today I booked one-way tickets to Oakland. I think we might actually be moving back to California.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Not even the rain

baby hand and old hand

Adriana holding her great-grandfather's hand. Photo by Brian.