Home is

My husband and I purchased our first (and current) home almost 8 years ago. The decision came out of a steep hike in rental costs, need for more space (e.g. not an apartment) to accommodate the birth of our first baby, and was financially possible due to a fortuitous event in my husband’s career.

We were over the moon when we bought it. My parents purchased their first home in this country when I was 14 years old. My in-laws lived in a humble house (side note: I have known my husband for 15 years and have still never been to his house because his mother-in-law is embarrassed to show it to me) and still owed mortgage until we paid it off for them before purchasing our house.

It was a blessing and felt like a huge lift. It was the most money we had ever spent on something. We felt like adults. For context, when we moved to our current location four years before the purchase, we had a negative net worth due to my hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical school debt, very little savings and zero investments. We had received no financial education from our families (this is not a complaint – we received everything we needed in terms of love and encouragement from them, and they also didn’t have the financial education to pass down to us) and they were not in a position to lend us money for a down payment. Buying this house was a big deal for us. I remember sitting out on the deck after we closed and received the keys for the first time. We sat under our fig tree and thought about the years to come.

I don’t recall what our dreams looked like then, but I can tell you that we have been so fortunate these past 8 years. After struggling with sub-fertility (my doctor’s term) due to secondary hypothalamic amenorrhea caused by excessive exercise and caloric restriction, we were blessed with 4 amazing children. I have had an incredibly successful, stable and fulfilling career with the same employer and supportive colleagues who feel like family. My husband has been able to take career risks and has taken on a variety of roles with a concrete financial upside. The equity in our home has grown significantly these past 8 years.

But there’s a catch that others have made us feel self-conscious about and it’s this: our house is a bit over 1700 square feet. It has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It sits on a small plot of land. This has apparently caused some concern for our friends and acquaintances. I say this facetiously, but it has been quite surprising to me how many people see it as fair game to comment on. Starting when I was pregnant with my second child, people began asking us when we were planning to move. Many people have said “I don’t know how you do it with all of your kids!”. In truth, some of those questions have been inspired by our own ambivalence through the years. What is enough space? Is there a certain amount of square footage that is appropriate to have per family member? Do we need a two-car garage? A guest room that is always open to accommodate visitors? A larger yard?

Here are the amazing things about our house:

-it is incredibly affordable, allowing us to commit a much larger chunk of our income to investments, savings, travel, helping our families, childcare and private education for our children

-it is mostly updated, with us having poured money into new bathrooms, a new garage, a new detached office, landscaping and aesthetic odds and ends

-our neighbors are normal and kind; we are used to them and they are used to us; they don’t complain about our kids making noise and we reciprocate by being the best neighbors we can possibly be

-it is very close to my job, which has allowed me to be very involved in my kids’ lives, despite having a full-time career

Some of the ways in which we have made due with the space:

-we have 3 kids in one room currently, and our youngest in a separate room

-I have an “in home” office in our new garage; when the kids are at school/camp, I work from the desk in our bedroom, but I have a place to do video visits when needed that is quiet and private. One of my friends, upon seeing this, commented that I have a knack for using small spaces, and this comment warmed my heart

-when visitors come, we give them our bedroom and sleep in the playroom, on an air mattress

And yet I sometimes hear a gnawing voice in my ear that says this home is not enough. Through the years, friends who lived in our neighbor when we moved in have left. Many have moved out of state, to lower cost of living areas where they could afford larger homes. Some have moved into larger homes in our area, having taken advantage of their home equity plus financial gains. Now that we are at a private school, many of our friends live in homes that cost many times more than ours. It is hard sometimes to come back from visiting these homes and not feel like our space is “less than”. Despite the comforts of our space, despite the nooks and crannies we are so accustomed to, there is still that feeling of “wouldn’t it be nice?”.

And just this week, my son’s friend came to our house. On the drive over my son asked him “How would you compare my house to yours?” and he responded with “I like mine better, also – it is much bigger.” Like most aspects of parenting, our children’s heartbreak hurts more than our own. I don’t want my children to feel like their house in “less than” and maybe I am just projecting here, because my son moved on to another question without comment or a second thought.

But despite these thoughts and mild annoyances, I stick to my belief that our home is perfect and just enough. It is the doorway through which we carried all four children home after their births and hospital stays. The playroom evolved from the place we held them to sleep while watching TV to stay awake to where they crawled, walked, tumbled and now play video games. I see them hug and snuggle together before bed or run around the backyard collapsing into giggles, and I know we are not doing them a disservice. They are learning to be close, to be together, to be compassionate siblings. We have great kids and I think this home has played a role.

The day might come when the kids needs more space – when they are teenagers and want to blast music and lock themselves in their rooms and hang out with their friends alone. When they’ll have real homework and need a quiet place to work. When my husband and I will need privacy for conversations. But today is not that day.

Have friends or families commented on your living arrangements? How do you respond?

Grateful for

My parents grew up poor. Rationing food, wearing hand-me-downs, and walking to school in broken shoes poor. On Christmas Day, the well-off kids would show off their fancy toys and my parents, ashamed, would hide their knick-knacks and knock-off toys for fear of being teased.

To this day, my mom (now well-off), still hoards plastic bags from the grocery store to re-use in the home. She clips coupons and visits five different stores to find the best deal. She keeps clothing from twenty years ago because, who knows, she might wear it one day.

My father used to collect any money he could to buy a candy bar at the store. Years later, one of my earliest memories is stopping at a gas station to buy a Snickers bar, simply because he could. We snacked on our bars at 11 o’clock at night (this was the 80’s, people, there was less judgment around child-rearing) and listened to music on an 8-track player.

Because my parents grew up poor, they never wanted my brother and I to grow up wanting for anything. We lived in a working class suburb in my early childhood and my parents scrapped together jobs – delivering pizzas, working overnight at a factory, serving as senior home aides – to make money until they could obtain their professional licenses and move into the middle class.

Now that I have kids, my parents spoil them as well. My kids have too many things and we do our best to dwindle down the piles, to explain to our kids why they can’t buy everything, to have them understand that there are children out there who don’t have the opportunity to own allofthethings – ultimately, to have them understand that things are just things, and there is no end to the hedonic treadmill.

In my experience, it’s easier for someone who comes from modest means to understand why they can’t have everything, and to be grateful for what they do have. I wonder how I will teach my children, who are being raised in a bubble, the art of gratitude, grace, modesty.

Supermarket Sweep

When the kids fall asleep, I suddenly feel like I’m in an episode of Supermarket Sweep. Does anyone remember that show? Contestants had to run through the aisles of a grocery store, packing it with as many groceries as possible, in the hopes of collecting the most expensive goods.

When the kids fall asleep I am like one of those contestants – frantically racking my brain for what needs to get done before the little ones awake. I completely forget my To Do list as the most salient tasks in front of me pop up – folding that pile of laundry, washing all of the water bottles and snack containers from the morning outing, putting away the produce we’ve collected from the farmer’s market. So, yes, often there is a lot of cleaning and organizing. Sometimes there will be a work task – following up with a patient by phone, responding to a time-sensitive e-mail, editing a paper or making headway on a deadline. Sometimes (less often than I’d like), I opt to do something creative – reading (New York Times, New Yorker, the current book club pick, another book of interest) or writing (here or in my journal). I respond to messages I haven’t responded to in days. And sometimes I decide to take a nap, because as soon as the kids wake up (more energized than ever), round 2 begins!

So here I am, typing up a few words before the littles wake up. I’m feeling sleepier than usual today so I may opt to take a nap afterwards. Just another day in my glamorous life!


We spent the weekend doing #allthingssummer. We played outside almost all day – at the playground, the beach, the pool. We rode bikes, splashed around, ate outdoors. It was hot but so so lovely. It brought back fond memories of summertime in NY. I don’t know what it’s like for those who grew up in California, but if you grew up in NY, you savored the summer.

As a child, I remember hot days kicking a soccer ball around the park behind our home, climbing trees with my friend Michael, and spending days swimming in Kristen’s pool. Now, when I say pool, you may be envisioning a beautiful in-ground pool with a diving board. Kristen’s pool was above-ground and in retrospect not much larger than a hot tub. But at the time it was the bomb! Kristen was the only kid I knew with a pool and it was key for those hot summer days. My parents would also take me to the community pool. I loved it there. I would swim for hours! My lips would turn blue and my teeth would chatter but I would refuse to leave the pool. I fondly recall learning how to dive here and feeling so proud.

A few years later and a little bit older, I remember long days of  running around the neighborhood. I would wake up in the morning and eat bowls and bowls of cereal (Blueberry Morning was a real favorite) while reading. My mom would tell me to focus on one or the other (in retrospect, she was right) but I would keep on downing cereal and taking in the words. Once I had carb-loaded, I’d head out the door.  I’d meet up with friends and we would spend hours running around. We’d ride our bikes, rollerblade, play tennis (and pretty much any other sport one can play outdoors), pop over to each other’s houses, and find creative ways to pass the time. We’d come home hours later tired and dirty.

Hot, sticky NY summers also called for a lot of ice cream and ice pops. For a while I was really into the patriotic, red, white and blue pops. This must have been before I became obsessed with chocolate.

Older still and we’d stop for bagels before spending the day at the beach. The Long Island beaches were always crowded once Memorial Day hit. We’d put on our tanning lotion (these were my pre-derm days; I wish I could take them back now that I see the sun damage on my face) and lay out on the beach for hours. We’d head back home tired and happy. On other days we’d hang out at a friend’s pool or canoe. And there was still ice cream.

So many memories – too many to jot down in one sitting, but I hope to pass these very same memories onto my own children. So looking forward to all that summer 2017 has in store!

Before you have kids

I read an article once that made me crack up. I just tried to find it but to no avail, so if anyone knows knows of it or the author – let me know! It was hysterical. The premise was this: before you have kids, relish in the simplicity of the pre-kid life. The example they used was leaving the house. Step outside, they said. Just step outside your door. It’s that easy – you’re out! Once you have kids, this will become a daily obstacle.

Truer words have never been spoken. It takes forever to leave the house. I actually don’t think that it takes all the much longer with two kids as compared to one, but the jump from zero kids to one was massive. Now before leaving the house I have to change diapers, juggle nap schedules, pack the diaper bag (which inevitably takes forever), convince my 2 y/o that leaving the house is a good idea, fit the stroller into the car, find everything to put in the diaper bag (takes longer than expected since the house is almost always a disaster because who has time to clean!?), and usually come back into the house once or twice because something was inevitably forgotten.

The thought of this exhausts me!

So parents-to-be, do yourselves a favor: if you want to do something, relish in the ability to just do it. You won’t have this opportunity again for many, many years.

On Children, by Khalil Gibran

I think about this often. My life at the moment revolves around my kids – a 9 month old and a 2.5 year old. When I am at home, I do not have a minute to myself. The days fly by in a blur of mealtimes, nap times, and activities to entertain the kids. The hours pass while we watch the kids play in their playroom, stroll outside with one baby in the carrier and one on his Strider bike, wash dishes, do laundry, clean pump parts, cook – the list goes on. These are lovely moments – reading books on the window seat, playing peek-a-boo, and even answering the same question over and over again. I have already seen how these little people are born with their own desires, disdains, and personalities. I know that it is only a matter of time before they fly away from me. They will make their own friends, create their own worlds, and go on to have busy, busy lives. It is the nature of things and I am trying to prepare for it. For now, I am soaking up these precious days – trying to be as present as possible despite so often being exhausted. And in the back of my mind trying to remind myself that these children are not my own.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.