Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We Have Tenants!

One of the main things that has been adding more stress to our upcoming move is finding someone to rent our apartment.  We purchased it 3 years ago as an investment, and when S got the call, it took a lot of convincing on my part for him to agree to hang on to it.  He wanted to sell and get it off our backs so we didn't have to worry about it overseas.  I on the other hand, said hellz no, we're renting that sucker.  I mean, we have to keep it and wait for the property value to steadily go up and then we sell it, right?  Right.  Because this is all based on my irrational fear that if we sell it now (for basically what we paid for it), that I will just be leisurely perusing the "for sale" ads online 20 years from now and see it listed for something like, 1.1 million dollars.  And wouldn't that be a kick in the face?   Yes.  Because it has happened.  Just ask my dad about that two-bedroom condo on Central Park West that he had the opportunity to buy in the mid-70s for $80,000.  Yup.  Gold mine.  And he turned it down.  S thinks I'm being a little dramatic, but you never know, right?  Right.  Which brings us to the title of this post - we have tenants!!  You hear that?  That was the sound of relief.  So, come September 1st there will be new residents here.  And we will officially be landlords.  Whoa.  What was that noise?  Oh yeah, the stress returning...

Friday, May 25, 2012

7 Things I WILL Miss...

A short while back I discussed the things I will not miss about New York when we move.  Of course, with that list comes the alternate list of things I absolutely will miss when we're gone, because lets be honest, New York is a kick ass city.   It is smelly sometimes, yes.  It is expensive as hell and drains your bank account faster than you can blink, yes.  And it can drive a person to want to grab a tourist by the shoulder and shake them while screaming, "Please do NOT stop in the MIDDLE of the sidewalk to take your pictures!  People are walking here!" But I love this city to the core and despite it's shortcomings, I will miss it terribly.  The list is long. I could type all night about the conveniences of New York, or the charm, or the hustle and bustle that both excites and amazes me, but I will not make you sit through my long, never-ending list.  So, consider this the abridged version. 

  • Food/Restaurants - S and I love to eat.  We like to maintain a healthy lifestyle and consider ourselves well-balanced eaters, but we don't hold back when we see something we just absolutely have to try.  Like, for example, when we went for a run in Prospect Park last summer and discovered the Food Truck Rally that had set up shop in Grand Army Plaza.  We quickly did our routine loop all the while thinking of those trucks.  Mmmmm...Kimchi Tacos, Falafels, homemade ice cream sandwiches.  Did we run enough miles to justify such a feast?  No.  But who cares? Will all these food trucks ever be in one place at one time, ever again, like it is today?  Maybe not. So we ate.  And we loved every minute of it.  We later found out those Food Trucks would become an "every-third-Sunday-of-the-month" set up until late October, so yeah, we kind of chilled out on the face-stuffing after that.  But I guess what I'm trying to say is that the food here is amazing.  All the restaurants, the cafes the food booths at flea markets around the city, it's all amazing.  People aren't afraid to experiment with new and delicious combinations, and S and I love to try them.  We will miss just popping into our favorite places for a quick bite or standing in line at the Brooklyn Flea for a People's Pop on a hot sunny day.  We will miss sidling up to the food truck on the corner just because it's new and looks interesting.  Bottom line: we will miss eating in New York.
  • Prospect Park - I mentioned this park earlier, so now would probably be a good time to tell you that it is my all-time, hands-down, most favorite piece of greenery in this city has to offer.  When I first moved here, I was a Central Park girl.  I ran there, I sunbathed there, I met my friends for picnics there.  I loved that park.  But then I moved to Brooklyn, and my eyes were opened (by S, of course, since he is the one who introduced me) to a whole new type of outdoor space.  You see, Central Park, dare I say, is for tourists.  It's beautiful, it's breathtaking and it inspires some of the most amazing photographs and paintings in the world, but it is there, in my opinion, for others to look at.  It's not for you to live in, relax in, just...be in.  That's what Prospect Park offers and more.  From the second you enter, you sense this familial vibe...children riding scooters, teenagers playing frisbee, mothers and fathers pushing their babies in strollers, family reunions being held on the lawn while old men stand around laughing and grilling hamburgers...  This is everyone's backyard, and you see that all around you.  And I'm not the only one who feels that way.  Ask any Brooklyn resident to name their favorite park and most will tell you Prospect Park.  And we're not alone.  Frederick Law Olmsted one of the designers of both Central Park and Prospect Park, once stated that he viewed Prospect Park as his greater achievement.  And I think he was right. 
  • Bodegas - One of the conveniences of living here is that you can get just about anything you need at your local corner store, or bodegas as we call them.  Ran out of toilet paper?  Quick, run to the bodega.  Need milk for the baby's nightly bottle and the grocery store is already closed?  Throw on your flip-flops and pop across the street to the bodega.  Sure, other places in the country have their Circle K's or Quick-Marts, but you have to actually drive there 99% of the time and a quick trip can turn into a long one pretty fast.  Bodegas on the other hand are on every block.  A trip can take less than 5 minutes door to door, and I have never, not one time, gone to a bodega and not found what I was looking for.  Sure, you might have to use the generic butter instead of the organic, gluten-free, or whatever, but you will find butter.  You will find just about anything.  I once had my sister visiting from out of town and she decided she wanted to bake something.  We'd gone to the store to purchase all the necessary baking ingredients, only to get home and realize, "damn, I don't own a baking pan."  But! I could just whip across the street and get one! My sister insisted I not do that and tried to convince me she really didn't need to bake (all the while making fun of me for not actually owning a baking pan) but I insisted that she did, and that it would be no problem for me to run over to the bodega.  90 quick seconds later I was back and proudly holding up one of those tin-foil baking pans that you throw out when your done with it.  She looked at me and asked where I got it.  When I told her, she was shocked.  "Wow, that was fast.  They sell those there?"  See?  Total convenience.  I will miss the heck out of that convenience too.  And yes, my sister baked up something delicious that night and we enjoyed every morsel of it.
  • E's daycare - When S and I first found out we were expecting a baby, I insisted we hire a nanny.  I knew they could be expensive so I started doing my research.  I was convinced we could pay for a more affordable nanny (affordable being $600 a week, yeah right!) and quickly learned that, yeah...we're not the Rockefeller's.  So we 86'd that idea rather quickly and started researching daycares instead.  One option was right down the street from our apartment and our neighbor's daughter, who was one-year old at the time, had been attending since she was 4-months old.  So we talked to her mom, toured the daycare, talked with the staff and asked a million and one questions.  We were hesitant, not because we saw or heard something that made us question the daycare's abilities, but because E was our baby and we were about to make a decision to leave him with perfect strangers at such a young age (he started daycare at 3 months).  Those first few weeks were not fun.  I resisted the urge to call and check on him every hour and tried to tell myself he was okay.  And he was.  And over the last 10 months we have watched our tiny helpless baby grow into a happy, smart, energetic toddler who absolutely LOVES his daycare.  He has friends and his favorite teacher is Miss Gloria, who he calls Nana.  (Shhhh, don't tell his real Nana, my mom ;))  He has a smile on his face when I drop him off and a smile on his face when S picks him up.  He loves it there and we love it for him.  We will be sad when we have to say goodbye, but we will always hold Sunshine Daycare in our hearts.
  • Reading on the subway - What?  Reading on the subway?  Yes, reading on the subway.  One of the simple pleasures in life is curling up with a good book and immersing yourself in the world of child wizards or romantic dramas involving characters like Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.  And for me, that place is the train.  My daily commute to work is 45 minutes each way, and I spend every second of it with my nose in my book, ignoring the pushing and shoving or talking that goes on around me, and placing myself squarely in the world of imagination.  Before I know it I am at my stop and my commute is over.  Time flies so quickly and I love it.  However, sometimes I want to keep riding the train  just so I can continue to read because I am always dying to know what happens next.  But yeah, you have to go to work, right?  Anyway, this has been my routine for the past 10 years.  Reading on the train has always brought me joy, and I will truly miss it when we are gone.  I will have to find a new place to curl up besides a hard, cold plastic bench, I guess ;-).
  • The Arts - This is a no-brainer, but duh, this city is packed full of fun, artsy things to do.  A couple of our favorites are First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum, where the museum is open late the first Saturday of every month and opens its doors to the public for a free tour of the museum, and Celebrate Brooklyn concerts outdoors in Prospect Park.  But of course I can't forget the old stand-bys like The Met, The Guggenheim, MOMA and more.  Culture and art is around every corner and it gives this city so much life.  I know we are setting off on an adventure where living all over the world will bring its own set of cultural rewards, but we will always be nostalgic about the culture we found here.  It's like your first love - you never forget it.
  • And finally, I will bring this list to a close by saying that above all else, we will miss our friends.  We will miss the impromptu brunches on a Saturday morning, and the roof parties, and the kiddie play dates at the playground.  We will miss the conversations over glasses of wine and we will miss the community we have become a part of over the past decade.  We have made some truly wonderful friends here and we will forever miss them with all our hearts. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's Official...and Other Things

S got his official salary offer in the mail last week.  It was better than we expected, so it was nice to be pleasantly surprised.  He also received confirmation that our packout is scheduled for July 12th.  Seeing that we can't check into our Oakwood apartment until July 14th, we will be staying at a hotel for a couple nights after we have bid adieu to all our worldly goods.  No worries, though.  Since we have decided to rent our apartment, those days will allow us time to do a little touch-up painting and cleaning (while the apartment is sans furniture) before the new tenants move in.  This will be our first "landlord" experience, so we're a bit nervous about it, but we're being optimistic.  Given the economy and housing market we're just not ready to sell.  We might be singing a different tune in a few years, however. 

On a related note, we've been trying to do a little purging in preparation for packout, but we really don't have that much to throw out.  Even though we've been in the same city for the past decade (give or take) we have moved into new apartments just about every year or two during that time. Because of that, we have become pretty skilled at doing the whole "getting rid of things you don't need" thing.  Also, tiny apartments with little to no storage don't exactly lend themselves to a hoarding-type situation.  I did sell a few items on eBay recently, though, and managed to net a few hundred bucks out of them.  A little extra spending money is always lovely, wouldn't you say? 

But with all the  planning and purging and organizing going on these days, we have still found some time for fun.  This past weekend was quite busy in fact.  S ran the Brooklyn half-marathon Saturday morning and we attended our neighbor's 2nd birthday party later that afternoon.  Sunday was spent traipsing around the First Annual Great Googa Mooga Festival, which was a food, beer and music event in Prospect Park.  S and I took E to meet up with some good friends and their two kids.  We sampled delicious beer and ate yummy pulled pork sandwiches from Dinosaur BBQ and roasted chicken with macaroni and cheese from The Red Rooster in Harlem.  For dessert we devoured a spectacular item called "crack pie" from Momofuku Milk Bar.  Needless to say we were stuffed to the gills, so we headed over the the stage area to listen to the bands play.  E had fun doing his own toddler version of dancing while S and I laughed and took pictures.  The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm.  It will be days like those we remember fondly after we move.

See that fork?  The kid ate more than Mom and Dad together!
Listening to music on Dad's shoulders.
E and Mom chillaxin'
Our friends, Jenn and Chris (and their two little ones).
Taking a dancing break to pick some grass.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Mother's Day and A Baptism

Today was Mother's Day.  It was also the day we had E baptized.  S and I are both lapsed Catholics so we decided to add saving the kid's soul to our ever-growing list of things to do before we move. 

The day started out like any other Sunday with a quick run in the park, but it was followed up with a special Mother's Day picnic of bagels and coffee.  After that, we chased E around the playground and pushed him in the swings for a bit before taking him home for a much-needed nap.  Once he napped and we all got dressed in our Sunday best, we headed over to the church. E let us know he was not in the mood to be carried and insisted we let him walk instead.  We happily obliged.

We arrived at the church, chatted with the priest for a few minutes, and let the little guy run around to burn some energy before the ceremony.  Don't worry, the church was empty.  He wasn't disturbing anyone but the Holy Spirit. He did, however, stop briefly to pose for this adorable pic. 

"Mom, I'm only wearing this tie because I love you."

While the little monkey ran around, we waited for my cousin and her boyfriend to arrive.  They were coming to serve as witnesses since E's true godparents don't live nearby.  Then, it was time for action.  E met with the priest...
"Who are you?"
Then the priest got down to business pouring some holy water on E's curious little head and followed that up with a big fat smooch to his noggin. E was not a fan of the water, especially after it went into his eyes, but he did a good job of not screaming or making a fuss.  In fact, I was quite proud of my little guy.

All in all, it was a fun day.  The weather was perfect, everyone was in a joyful mood, and best of all, no cranky toddler meltdowns.  That's the best a mom can hope for on Mother's Day.

A photo op with Daddy

I love my little guy

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Seven Things We Won't Miss

I've lived in New York for ten years.  I moved here when I finished college and spent five of those ten years sharing tiny apartments with awesome roommates in Manhattan.  After I met S, we moved to Brooklyn where we have been for the past five years.  S moved here immediately following college (way back in the day, before I moved here), but he packed up and headed South for grad school after only a year.  But the city never left his soul, and he came back.  He has been here for the past 6 years. 

New York is a city that we both love inside and out.  It's a city that oozes with energy and fun and excitement, but it is also a city with community and friends and lazy afternoons in the park. It is a city we will greatly miss.  And while S and I could sit around waxing nostalgic and discussing all the things we will miss about New York, there are also a few things that we absolutely will NOT miss about this city.  Some things that we are actually excited to put behind us and that make planning this huge career/lifestyle change all the more exciting.  What are they?  Well since you asked...

7 things we won't miss:
  • Urine Scented Subways.  Yes, the subways are convenient when trying to get from Point A to Point B and they're part of what keeps this city functioning from day to day, but honestly, they stink.  Like pee.  Like a big stinky toilet, and it ain't pretty.  Some stations smell worse than others, but every station  still has that unmistakable odor every time you descend underground.  That smell will not be missed.
  • While we're discussing the subway, let's talk about service disruptions on the weekends, which is another thing that will not be missed.  You see, whenever the Metro Transit Authority decides something needs fixing, they do it on the weekend.  Okay, I get that.  No one wants their weekday commutes thrown out of whack.  But unfortunately it means your normal routes and regular trains are probably not running on the correct schedule, if at all.  Sure, sure, the MTA tried to make it easier on passengers by creating The Weekender, a nifty little map that tells you all the changes, cancellations of service and whatnot, but it still sucks.  Spend 1.5 hours trying to travel what in the end amounts to 3 miles?  No thank you. That is why we rarely go into the city on the weekends. Or we drive.
  • Wait, did I say drive?  Yes. And we drive over potholes the size of craters.  We will not miss those potholes.  And neither will our car.  And neither will our right wheel hubcap that we lost somewhere around Exit  31 on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.  S still claims that pothole just came out of nowhere.  Yeah right.  Bye-bye hubcap and adios potholes.
  • The lack of closet space.  We love our apartment, but we have two closets in the whole place. And yeah, that just doesn't cut it.  Our poor son, E, doesn't even get one.  Why?  Because Mommy uses his while Daddy uses the one in our bedroom.  His clothes have been relegated to a three-drawer dresser and Tupperware bins under his crib.  Poor kid.  At least he has his own toy box.
  • Dishwashers.  You don't find many in NYC apartments, and boy do I MISS dishwashers.  I haven't had one in TEN YEARS.  S will tell you that I would rather scrub toilets with my bare hands than wash even the smallest dish, and he would be right.  I hate washing dishes and I actually dream about the day I can take a crusted pot or pan and toss it in the dishwasher without a care in the world.  Cascade can do all the work for me.  I don't mind.  Really, I don't.
  • Winter.  I was born and raised in the South.  I had seen snow once before moving up here and that was during a freak snow storm when I was seven.  And by storm I mean 2 inches that melted the next day. While snow days here can be beautiful, that beauty usually lasts for the first 2 hours.  After that, all the bus exhaust and speeding taxis turn it into an obstacle course of black slush.  The whole city turns grey and depressing and cold.  None of that will be missed.
  • And finally, the high cost of EVERYTHING.  S and I have grown used to the obscenely expensive rents, the high cost of food, gas, etc., but it is still refreshing to travel outside of the city and purchase, say, a beer for $3 instead of $7.  I can still remember one of my first trips back home after living in NY for a year.  I offered to buy the first round of drinks for myself and three friends, and when the bar tender told me the amount I handed him two $20 bills for what I thought was a $30 tab.  The bar tender handed one of those $20 back to me immediately and continued to make change from the other $20. Turns out the tab was $13, not $30. My jaw dropped.  Here I was thinking $30 was cheap for four drinks and they weren't even that much.  Sigh.  No, we will not miss those outrages prices.  
But with all that said, we will still miss living here and we plan to come back to visit often.  Tune in next time for a list of things we WILL miss about this place.  Hint: another park besides Central Park. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Quick Hello

Welcome to our blog!

We are a family of three (well, five if you include the dog and cat, which we do) who is about to embark on a new adventure in the Foreign Service.  My husband, S, recently got "the call" to join the 168th A-100 Foreign Service Officer class.  So, come July we will be packing up everything we own here in Brooklyn and moving down to Washington, D.C for his training.  It will be hard to say goodbye to all we have known here for the past 10 years, but we're ready for a change and we're excited for whatever our travel orders have in store for us. 

So how did this whole thing come about, you ask?  Well, it all started two years ago when S decided to take the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), which is a multiple choice and essay style test that is the first step to becoming an FSO.  He decided to register for the test on a whim, and lo and behold he passed. But like I said, that was the first step. Next up? the QEP.  S had to write five essays about his work experience, qualifications etc.  He has an MFA in creative writing and has spent the better part of his life writing about one thing or another, so yes, he passed that too and received an invitation to take the OA, or Oral Assessment, which is an all-day, three-part interview in Washington D.C.   By February 2011 he was heading down to our nation's capital with a skip in his step and all the confidence in the world.  Only thing is, that confidence wasn't enough for him to pass.  He walked away feeling utterly defeated and reported back to me (then 7 months pregnant with our son) that he had failed with a 5.2.  A 5.3 was passing, so yeah, he was *this* close.  So back in February 2011, we were done.  No more Foreign Service.  S made the decision that he wouldn't pursue it again, and that we would concentrate on settling into Brooklyn life as soon-to-be parents.  Except anyone who knows S knows that once he starts something he can't and won't quit unless he gets what he wants, so yeah, he decided to go for it one more time.

By June 2011 he was taking the FSOT again...and he passed.  And then he submitted his essays for the QEP, except this time the rules had changed and he had to submit six.  And he passed.  The dreaded OA loomed before him and he scheduled to take it in November 2011.  He brushed off his previous defeat and faced it head on.  And. He. PASSED!  He walked out of there with a 5.4, a passing score, but still middle of the road as far as scoring is concerned.  You see, passing the OA still wasn't the end of the line.  He still wasn't guaranteed a job.   He still had to pass his security and medical clearances (which he did in February 2012) and then get added to the Register, which ranks potential officers according to their score from the OA.  Anyone with a score higher than his ranked above him, but since you also expire after 18 months if you don't receive a call, people get added and fall off all the time. The Register is like a living, breathing thing that changes frequently.  Bottom line, S was added to the Management Register in late February, at which point we sat back and waited as S rose to the upper third of the Register.  By April he was high enough to get a call for the July 16th class, and here we are.

We have been on a roller coaster ride for the past two years, but it's not over.  There is still a lot that lies ahead.  For now, we are concentrating on purging some of our things, getting paperwork sorted out, registering our 1-year old son for a new daycare, reserving our apartment at The Oakwood (where they house FSOs during A-100 and other training), mentally preparing ourselves for the inevitable chaos that is sure to rear it's ugly head, and anticipating the bid list and our future post.  And we're excited.  Here we go!