Saturday, August 31, 2013

What I'm Into: August



On the Nightstand:
I finished a book...hallelujah, am still working through two and started a new one. 

Reflections for Ragamuffins: Daily Devotions by Brennan Manning 
My friend Mallory suggested that I chose a couple of keystone habits and commit to those things for the trip, in order to sort of feel a sense of familiarity and routine. It worked great and one of the things I chose (along with writing daily) was reading from this book. Brennan's words are just loaded with grace and for me, that brings peace.  

I finally finished this. It was a really good read. Nothing super deep, but I think it spoke to where I am right now with parenting. Again, it was just so full of grace and those are messages I need to hear these days.

I'm going to finish this, but I don't know when. I hope this month. I wanted to love it more than I do and I'm just reading so many other things that interest me more. 

Like this! I read a good bit on the plane to NYC and almost regretted it. It's so good and it's actually a book I'm in no hurry to finish. Peyton mentioned that he thought it was the kind of book that would lend itself well to being a "bedside book" and just reading a few pages each night. It would literally take like less than a minute to do so. I think maybe that will be a keystone habit :)


I started this one the plane ride home and read a pretty big chunk.  I really, really like it. In fact, SO FAR it's one of my favorite parenting books I've ever read. It's got a Love and Logic feel, but it goes so much deeper to the "heart" of the child. It's less about behavior modification and more about teaching children the skills they need to cope with all the situations they will face in life.

This has been sort of a weird month and we haven't made it to the library much (or at all) and we also took a break from homeschooling and our Five In a Row books. That said, just this week I decided to do something for Graves (it makes me really, really happy when I can figure out small things to build in our day that are specifically for him). Before his nap each day, we're reading a couple of pages (as his attention allows) from this book. It has stories in it, but right now we're just going through the pages of colors, letter, shapes, ect. Things I need to be focusing on with him anyway. It's such an old book (it was mine growing up) and I love the classic feel, as well. 

On the Shelf:

Real Sex- Lauren Winner
I'm really excited about this one. A good friend recommended it and I know it will be really beneficial just based on my friend and his standards for writing and his ideas about sexuality. 

Immersion Bible Study: Psalms- J. Clinton McCann
We did this series in our Sunday school class for awhile and loved it and Peyton and I decided to do it on our own when the class moved onto something else. We initially got the Joshua one, but for some reason, had a hard time getting through it. So we're giving this one a shot. I have to be honest. My Bible reading lately has been the worst it's been in years. I really want to get back into Scripture and I'm hoping this will be a good place to start. 


At the Theater (or from the couch):

The Last Clinic
So, this girl was at the CPC a few weeks ago filming for a documentary. It turns out she'd done a short one about the attempts to close the abortion clinic here and she decided she wanted to tell the other side of the story, so she was filming at the CPC. Anyway, I had to watch the video of the old one. It didn't change my opinion or anything, I'm still very pro-life, but it does give you (or it gave me) a bit more understanding of  "the other side", especially one of the physicians who provides abortions. It seems like he's a truly gentle man who is honestly doing what he feels is right. Of course, I'd strongly disagree with him as I see it as the taking of an innocent life and I will live out the rest of my days trying to steer women away from that clinic, but it's weird and hard and humbling realizing the guy doesn't seem like the monster I thought he would (and kind of wished he would be, if we're being really honest). 


On the Small Screen:
I literally did not watch a thing besides Nightly News. Like I said, weird month. I like watching Nightly News just to stay updated and that pretty much is a keystone habit. I do it every night, super late, last thing, after I crawl in bed. It's always interesting and like I said, I feel like it keeps me (somewhat) current beyond, like, Miley. That said, it's been hard to watch because SYRIA. Oh my word, Syria. My heart is all kinds of broken every night thinking about it. 

In My Ears:
They sent Peyton a messed up hard drive, so we had to reorder it and again I'm without a monthly playlist. We did listen to some great tunes on a short road trip the other day including, but not limited to, They Might Be Giants, Of Monsters and Men, and Warren Zevon. Good, good tunes. 

Around the House:
I haven't changed up or done anything fun this month. Ordinarily it seems like there's something, but this month nothing. 

In the Kitchen:
Nothing super exciting. In fact, I've been on kind of a cooking strike this month. I know, sort of sounds like normal. But really, it's been worse. The kids have been eating a lot of sandwiches and fresh fruit, Peyton's been eating eggs and black bean burgers, and I've been eating...way to much junk.

Anyway, I did make this chicken mango salad and it was not awful, but probably not worth repeating. I made some old favorites (chicken spaghetti and tuna croquettes) and I made these turkey burgers which actually were pretty darn good. 

In My Closet:
It's been a polka dot sort of month...
[All three c/o Target]

I also enjoyed wearing an old skirt of my mom's from when she was in college-- 40(!!) years ago!

Peyton is obsessed with his litertature tees from here, and I couldn't resist getting AP one from her favorite book. And then I couldn't resist getting one for Brother Babar, too. 
I'm pretty proud of his little shorts- I whipped them up myself!

In My Mailbox:
I'm trying to get us outfitted for the big move and Land's End some down coats way marked down. I really need a petite xs, but for half off the XS will work wonderfully (and honestly it will be nice to have room to layer under it). I think it would look pretty absurd without the belt, but the belt makes the extra fabric less obvious. 

I also ordered AP some shoes to go with her uniform. I've found it really helpful to get her a pair of red Converse and a pair of white lace up Keds in the Fall because both can be passed down to Graves. I got these off eBay and they were still a little damp from their inaugural washing- well, inaugural at my house anyway. But I think they just sparkle. I doubt anyone will be able to tell that Annie's first day of school isn't necessarily their first.


In My Cart:
As nice as it is to have a couple of pairs of gender neutral shoes, it's fun to have a pair of fun, slightly girly cute ones, too. I picked these up at Target. Again with the polka dots, ha!


I also hit up the first of I think three consignment sales I'm going to this Fall. These are some of my favorites I got for the kiddos.

Lastly, when we were in NYC, we did a little thrifting. I found this skirt and two dresses for $5 a piece!

On My Heart:
I've been so overwhelmed lately with just being smacked with reality. I just feel like there's so much pain in the world and sometimes it pops up in the places you least expect it. From all the homeless people in New York to people right around us that I would never have guessed are undergoing terribly hard things. 

In My Prayers:
- I'm praying for a specific family at our church who is going through such hardships. 
- I'm continuing to pray for Annie's little school as the the school year draws near. That He will guide her teachers and guide us in educating her. 
- I'm praying that I will be wise in how I use my time and carve out space for myself, for relationships, for the Lord, for schooling and cooking and writing and for everything else I'm forgetting. 

On the Calendar: 
September is starting to look busy. School starts, the Junior League year starts, and we have a few other things going on. I think it will be a good month! 

Linking up with Leigh again as usual!

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Best Case Scenario for the Worst Case Scenario



I've mentioned (exactly once, because it's quite obviously extremely embarrassing) how I, in a terribly anxiety ridden season of my life, asked Ellis maybe a half dozen times if Peyton were to tragically die couldn't we just get married and live in a completely celibate marriage for the rest of our days. Obviously, this was before Peyton and I got married and before El even met Minda. But still it was an insane and inappropriate proposition.

For awhile, there had been another question in the back of my mind I really wanted to ask. But I was afraid that it was, similarly, a position that was frankly unfair to put him in. Not equally inappropriate, but an equally burdensome cross to bear.

When we asked El to be Annie's godfather, we all saw it as a role that would be filled in the context of (hopefully) a spiritual mentor and an adult friend. Someone she could look up to, someone she would have a special unique relationship with, and someone that hopefully she could go to with hard things. Additionally, he would be someone who would take (and has taken) a special sort of interest in her life.

What we did not mean was that he (and later Minda) would be hers (and later Graves's) guardians were something tragic to happen to us.

El and I had just had a conversation about how he's just not at a place in life where he's ready for children. It was, honestly, quite awesome to find out that he had made peace with the idea of eventual children. Marriage? Someday kids? This keeps getting better and better. I was happy for him that he wanted children to have a place in his future and assured him that he'd be a wonderful father and that (along with the writing of his first novel) watching that unfold would be one of the great joys of my life, as his wedding was.

But then a few weeks ago, through a series of texts where I was discussing our will and plans in case something happened to both of us, he just offered.

He offered to take them if something tragic happened and Peyton and I were both gone.

And just like that, I didn't have to ask (which is good, because I'm not sure I ever would have).

I know that if a tragedy were to occur and something happened and I were without Peyton, I'm at a place now where I don't need a "back up husband". [Which is a damn good thing. Because that would be a pretty unhealthy thing to have.] But I do need a back up family for my children. We have several dear, dear friends that I know would do an amazing job raising them.

But this guy? This guy that is (aside from Peyton of course) closer to me than anyone not blood. That's who I want them with.

And his wife? His beautiful, kind, maternal, servant-hearted wife. That's who I want them with.

This couple? This couple who shares so many of our values. Who tell me all the time how much they admire my mothering. Who push me to be better than I am and who remind me of Grace when I fail these little souls. That's who I want them with.

These people who I know cherish them. Who want the best for them always, even if that were to come at great cost to their own lives and dreams. Who I know would walk sorrowfully and speak tenderly through the greatest grief our children would probably ever know.

That's who I want them with.

And thankfully, were anything (God forbid) to happen to us, that's exactly where they will be.

Weekly Smorgasbord

Wow! It's been so long since I've done one of these. We were getting ready for a trip, on the trip, and then readjusting from the trip. So I haven't been doing a lot of blog reading. Today I actually spent way too much time doing it! Anyway, here's some links from the past little while: 



On Parenting;
Posted: 21 Aug 2013 10:01 PM PDT
I love this. So much.

On Homosexuality:
Posted: 22 Aug 2013 12:11 PM PDT
I ordinarily like a lot Thabiti Anyabwile's stuff, but I feel like this piece is really not helpful. For one thing, I personally find it terribly difficult to love someone as Christ commanded me to if I'm constantly in a state of recoil over their bedroom behaviors. Secondly, while I have pretty strongly orthodox Christian sexual ethics, I don't think this is the way to get there. I'm going to go where Pastor Anywabwile warns us not to, but there was a time in the not too distant past when those people in the board room would have reacted in horror had he explicitly described intercourse between a black man and a white woman. In fact, I'm confident I know people who, if they were completely honest, would still be disgusted by such a union. Whereas alternatively, I can think of no words describing gossip that are strong enough to produce a near vomitous reaction, even though we see powerful New Testament admonitions against it.

On Breastfeeding:
Posted: 04 Aug 2013 10:51 PM PDT
"Furthermore, our culture says a breast is considered sexual because it can be used in a sexual way. But so can our mouths, our hands, etc. Breasts are such a big deal in the US because we've made them that way, not because they are innately so. In many cultures, breasts play almost zero role in sex, but hips, legs, the nape of the neck, even feet are seen as sexy....I think our culture's intense focus on the breast as a sexual object is terribly harming to women in many ways, breastfeeding being just one aspect of that. And frankly, it's something that I refuse to cater to or to teach my children. "

 I'm not currently breastfeeding  and I can count on both my hands the people I've nursed in front of sans cover- my husband, my other child when I was nursing my second, my mom, a handful of close girl friends, and exactly two men who were not my husband. So...I'm not in the ballgame now the way Kristal is and I've yet to be. That say I fully support (and admire, truthfully) women who breastfeed in public.

On Carseat Safety:
Posted: 17 Aug 2013 12:36 PM PDT
My car doesn't even have a LATCH system (old!), but this is good info.

On Life:
Posted: 17 Aug 2013 12:40 PM PDT
I love this.
Posted: 17 Aug 2013 12:39 PM PDT
So heartbreaking.
On Interfaith Relations:
Posted: 18 Aug 2013 02:38 PM PDT
Powerful.

On Introverts:
Posted: 21 Aug 2013 09:48 PM PDT
I love this. I realize it's kind of trendy now (mostly because I think being labeled an introvert had a bit of a stigma for a long time), but so many of these are true for me. I think it really all comes down to where you get your energy from and how you process things. Less with if you're "outgoing" or "friendly".


Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Weekly Happenings Post #230 (August 19-25)-- Back in the Saddle (Or Slowly Getting There)



Last week was strange. I just felt so "off". I've been so incredibly inpatient with the kids and I hate that. And they seemed ridiculously cranky and irritable, too. Not sure if it's the chicken or the egg, but it's very cyclical. I think some of it was just being gone and being out of our routine and some of it is still being tired from the trip.

I know I sound so lame, but I'm just not in great shape. Peyton had told me months ago that I needed to start walking to build up my endurance because this would be like no walking I had ever done before. I remembered walking a bunch in Chicago when I was pregnant with Graves and decided to follow his advice. But the Summer came and it was just to lovely for me to add another thing to it, so I didn't. Honestly, the first couple of days were pretty rough and I was exhausted, but it wasn't as terrible as I thought it might be. I think part of it is that even though it rained some, the humidity there is not comparable to here. Exercising outdoors (even walking) here is (for me) really hard on your respiratory system. Plus it was definitely not cool, but the heat wasn't near as bad.

But I think it sort of caught up to me. I've been took quite a few naps and TRIED to go to bed earlier.

I got up and got ready to go to the CPC on Monday. It was sort of hard getting back in the swing of things and I had forgotten how to do some stuff. Ha! There was a girl there that is making a documentary about both sides of the abortion issue in Missisisippi. She was actually from Brooklyn, so it was neat talking to her. I got gas on the way home and Peyton had to leave pretty quickly. The house was a WRECK (he had gotten the kids to clean up their room) and I was kind of stressed. I got to work and picked up and did dishes and laundry for the next couple of hours. I fixed the kids lunch and then put them down for naps. Graves never did fall asleep and he pulled the bulletin board of the wall. I finally just put AP in there and they striped the bed. OMG.
It appears my kids have gotten very good at mess making. However, Annie just informed me that they were "changing the sheets" because "our Little People teeteed on them". 

I did get some sewing done, I ate my lunch, and I got on the computer briefly. When they got up, we played and then they ate supper and had baths. I worked on my sewing project some more and cooked turkey burgers for myself and Peyton. He got home and we visited and ate and then I finished a post and cleaned up the kitchen.

I got up feeling kind of yucky on Tuesday. And then Peyton realized he was supposed to be at work. It was actually probably good because I got myself in gear. I took the trash to the street and put Graves's car seat in my car.
I was struggling with getting the seat tight and mentioned it on Twitter and someone suggested getting in the seat to tighten it. Best install ever!

I took a bath and worked on laundry and did dishes and the kids had a snack. We worked on tracing and memory work and finished pretty quickly and then I worked on cutting out some laminated tracing sheets while the kids did Play Dough. We ate lunch and cleaned up and then they rested. I started a post, got on Twitter, took a short nap :), and made a dessert for Ultreya that night. When they got up, we all got ready and headed to Ultreya after a speed clean up of their room. It was good and Peyton met us there. He went to get a headlight on his car fixed afterward and I put the kids to bed. They took forever to go to sleep and I finished my post and put some pictures on Facebook. Peyton and I chatted and went to bed.

Wednesday was weird (and frustrating). I just couldn't seem to get anything done. I slept a bit late since Peyton was home, but I still got up before nine. I needed to send a few emails and between that and getting a bath and talking to Peyton some, the morning was gone. He told the kids a story (they were dying for some attention from him and he had been busy all morning) and left for work. I started my dishes and laundry routine and helped the kids clean up their messy room. They ate lunch around one thirty and we skipped our school routine for the day. I got them settled and got sucked into something on the computer. I ate lunch and then started to get ready for church. I went to help the kids get ready and I realized they had been playing in their "special things" boxes.
Don't worry, I found his baby hair. Or actually his sister did. 

Don't know which I get a kick out of more- her outfits or her faces!

We did a quick clean up and left for church. We're doing this new thing where we listen to a video tapped message from the bishop and then break into small groups and discuss. It went well. Since Graves had skipped his nap, I put him right to bed and AP followed right after. I got on the computer and worked on a post and put pictures on Facebook until Peyton got home. We chatted and went to bed.

I got up and we got ready on Thursday to go over to the Howie's for a play date. We had a great time and came home and ate lunch and took naps. I ate my lunch, got on the computer, and took a short nap. The kids wanted to swim in their little pool so badly.
I so didn't want to do this and it started raining after five minutes and thundering after ten (I knew it would). But Summer is almost over and the reality of not having a yard next year is on my mind a lot and I think the five minutes I spent in a chair under the little overhang by that door were maybe the most well spent ones I've had all week.  

Childhood is so beautiful.

We came in and dried off and ate supper and then I let them take a long bath together.
They love eating lettuce with raspberry vinaigrette. They decided the lettuce is leaves (an obvious choice for a little boy 'saur and a little girl 'saur). And the dressing is, well, pink dressing (an obvious choice for a pink-loving little boy and a pink-loving little girl). 

We all played and I folded laundry and talked to my mom and then I put them to bed.
Peyton's love for the literature tee is OOC. I actually think it's kind of a cool quirk about him that this is essentially the top half of his casual wardrobe I love that I get to be married to such a fun, unique dude. 

Annie cried so hard because she was worried her prince would fall asleep again while we did her nighttime routine!

I got on the computer and worked on a post and made this mango salad for supper. Peyton got home and grilled the chicken and we talked and ate and went to bed.

Peyton was off on Friday and it was a full day. We got up a little late and then I took a bath and got ready. I started dishes and laundry and had breakfast and we left to run errands. We went to Payless, CSpire, and Radio Shack. We got home and I dropped Peyton and the kids off and ran to Target and Kroger. Peyton put the kids down for naps and when I got home he took his car to the shop (it ended up needing a new battery). I ate lunch and got on the computer for just a few minutes and then I started getting ready because we had a moms social thing . Peyton got home and the kids got up and I made a dessert.
They did this during naptime. Cords on blinds give me anxiety. I told Peyton I was just so thankful no one was hanging from it. Gah, I'm so morbid. 

He took the kids outside to swim in the little kiddie pool and I left for the thing. Y'all- it was fun but I was out SO late. We ate, visited, and then played a game where we basically just answered questions about ourselves. I enjoyed myself but I was so drained by the time I got home. Peyton and I chatted and went right to bed.

Saturday was busy, too. We slept late. The kids actually both came in our room and crawled in our bed and went back to sleep (Annie before five and Graves around six). When we all got up, we hustled and got ready to go to Granny's. Peyton ran to the store and made chicken salad while I got ready and got the kids ready. We left and got to Granny's before noon. We stayed all afternoon and Peyton helped his dad bush hog. Granny was feeling sort of bad and that made it a little bit of a harder trip. I just didn't want her to feel like she needed to worry about feeding us or keeping the kids entertained or whatever. We did have a wonderful time, though.
Barefoot on the back of a pick-up

fans of the fried chicken (one more obvious than the other)

Minnie commented on another picture I put up on IG and said she sits just like I did when I was her age (i.e. not like a lady). She's riding in the car the same way I am now...at twenty eight.

After we left, we headed over to Ellis and Minda's since we were about half an hour away. Minda cooked supper and we just visited. We had "noodle bowls"- so yummy and so pretty. After we ate, we all took their dog for a walk and winded up at a little park in their neighborhood. Annie was so sad we had to leave the AWESOME park (haha, it was tiny!) and had a huge melt down. I know she was exhausted. The kids both fell asleep on the way home, in spite of having slept between Granny's and El's house.
Driving in the night and singing "Werewolves of London" and howling with your sweetie. Next time, I think we'll try to find a Warren Zevon bar in NYC. We are so weird.

Before she went to sleep, we moved on to Annie's favorite- Wilco. She's weird, too.


We put them right in bed and pretty much went to bed ourselves.

We got up on Sunday morning and bathed the kids and got ready and headed to Sunday school and church. It was a good lesson and a nice service. When we got home, I stripped the beds and started laundry and Peyton fed the kids lunch. We put them down and I ate and then I went to a Junior League orientation for my project this year. I'm working at the Children's Museum and I think it'll be really fun. I got home and did a few more quick things and then it was time to get ready for church.
feeding Cheez-Its to the neighborhood ducks who stopped by our yard

She's wearing my nightgown. That plus her hair is hysterical to me. It gets worse if you can hear her voice. NYC isn't going to know what to do with this chick. Country comes to town. 

Like father, like daughter...had to get her a tiny literature tee. So excited to find her favorite book!

Can't forget Brother Babar! Gah, they both look so big.

Obsessed. Jon jons and bishops or literature tees. Whichever.

We went to the evening service and ran by Walmart and came home and fed the kids and put them down.




I searched for some Winter coats online for them and went to bed.

I had a hard day emotionally today, but I think this week is going to be really good.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Sharing More About the Search (Part 2)


A couple of days ago I shared some of our narrowing down process that we used before the trip. Today I wanted to write about the visiting and evaluating we did on the trip. For starters, we did not plan ONE thing that we had to do on this trip besides visiting neighborhoods. In other words to all those friends asking us if we saw a Broadway show- we did not.

I had sort of mixed feelings about this. I knew it would help me to keep things minimal, but leading up to the trip I thought we'd do something like that at least one or two nights. [And we did have a couple of nice dinners!] I was just a little sad because I knew that we wouldn't have many, if any, opportunities once we moved because of the childcare situation. I don't care how highly you come recommended, if I don't know you or know someone WELL who knows you WELL, you can't watch my kids. We've had very few non-grandparent babysitters and they are young girls I love dearly and trust completely. However, two days before we left my mom called me about to bust saying she met a college friend and her precious college aged daughter in T.J. Maxx and how she is moving to NYC for school. Minnie was gushing and her momma kept telling Minnie how she was a believer and how she (the mom) had been praying for a family to mentor her and she would love to babysit for us some. Whatever comes of it, it gave me the peace to let go of trying to do a bunch of stuff because THIS IS OUR ONLY CHANCE.

It turned out to be great because we were so tired every night and I wanted to blog and just chill out anyway (I know I'm a weirdo). I love traveling, but sometimes it can be so tiring when you try to pack a lot in. There will be time to see a lot of things, but this was perfect. I can honestly say it was one of the best trips I've EVER been on. I think I loved it so much because pretty much all we did was eat out and talk to people and basically learn their stories. Those are basically my favorite things in life.

Someone asked me how we were doing this- did we have specific plans of places to visit or were we just going to walk around and talk to locals the whole time? Well, sort of both. Peyton and I both made lists of places (restaurants, shops, ect.) that we wanted to hit in each area and a couple of events (the Brooklyn flea and Fort Greene farmer's market, for example) and those were sort of our framework. We punched them in on Google maps in our phones so we could tell how far apart they were and figure out a good order. It was helpful because it just gave us various destinations so we weren't wandering aimlessly, even though the actual places weren't terribly important.

Anyway, here are the neighborhoods we saw (fifteen total) and our overall feelings about them:

Manhattan
There were some great spots in Manhattan that we really liked and some other places that we just didn't feel like we'd fit at all. 

1. East Village
Peyton gave the East Village 7 out of 10 for diversity and friendliness of people. I gave it a 6 out of 10 for the same reasons, plus community resources. However, I felt like the housing stock was a bit lacking. 

One thing about looking back on this is that you realize after having seen it all, you probably wouldn't have scored things the same way you did towards the beginning. We got a generally great vibe about the area and talked to some super friendly people. It seems SUPER laid back for Manhattan and I enjoyed it a lot. I felt safe, but not always right in my comfort zone (there were quite a few homeless people at the park in the afternoon). So I guess our ratings were pretty accurate for this one. That said, there were definitely neighborhoods we liked better. I think some of it, for me, comes down to it just not feeling as "clean" as other places. It was by no means trashed, but it just wasn't aesthetically pleasing. Also, while I think it's about the best we could do, Manhattan-wis (aside from Harlem) to meet our "family feel" qualification and still have some semblance of diversity, areas in Brooklyn seemed much more geared toward our stage of life with two little ones. 

2. Hell's Kitchen
Peyton: 4/10 for lack of attractiveness and community interaction, few young children; however it felt safe
SD: felt safe, however very few things to do, park was dirty, and streets were busy and cluttered

We weren't too impressed with it. It did feel really safe (probably moreso than the East Village), but there just wasn't much to it. We stopped at one park and there was a lot of trash and very few children. In fact, the one family we talked to, the mom was in the area for work. There were lots of auto places (like tire stores)  around and main streets seemed cluttered and not super interesting. I don't know that I would say it's "gritty" so much as "grimey" :)

3. Morningside Heights
Peyton: 6/10 for beautiful sorroundings, serene atmosphere, and community; lacked enough diverity
SD: 6/10 for quaint atmosphere, sweet families, and racial diversity; drawback is lots of college students, not as many families.

I really have this feeling that if we choose Manhattan this will be our neighborhood  See what I mean about the ratings? We gave it the same as the East Village and in my mind it's hands down a much better place for us. I think I'm drawn to it because it feels manageable  The pace is slow and it's beautiful. I told Peyton that in many ways, it feels like a little Brooklyn. I do think we kind of got an unfair picture, though, because all the Columbia students and faculty weren't there yet. And I get how living in the bubble (one we're not really a part of) might get annoying.

4. Manhattanville (West Harlem)
Peyton: 2/10 because it seemed unsafe but it was very affordable
SD: 1/10 because it felt pretty sketch (NYPD presence at the subway station, lots of graffiti, ect.), no pretty housing, no green space, and it just felt like a concrete jungle

I've got to honest- this was the one area we truly didn't give enough time to. We made it a priority to revisit everything we felt that way about but this one. But Peyton felt slightly unsafe and that's rare and that was enough for me to write it off (and by slightly unsafe I don't mean he felt like there about to be a drive by or a gang rape while we were standing there; I mean I don't think he'd feel comfortable with me and the kids being there alone at night or with himself taking a stroll back from the train at midnight). Columbia has bought up a large chunk of this area though, and I think it's going to change rapidly, if it hasn't already started to. 

5. Lenox Hill
Peyton: 5/10 for safety and affordability, but loud 
SD: 3/10 because it was very loud and overwhelming and it felt so business like

We eliminated this one pretty quickly. It was just so "hustle and bustle" and although nice, it just felt so business-like. One guy wouldn't let Peyton charge his cell phone in a (very casual) restaurant and there were tons of outlets. Not that that is the hugest deal, but it felt a lot like what the unfortunate stereo-type of New Yorkers looks like (busy, rude, only looking out for themselves). This was SO not our experience over all, and I'm sure it could just be a bad vibe we got from the area. The pace alone was overwhelming to me. 

6. Yorkville
Peyton: 6/10 for affordability, safety and accessibility; but lacked cohesive community 
SD: 5/10 because it was family friendly, but not very diverse and I felt like it had aspects about it that were a little pretentious

Yorkville was decidedly better than Lenox Hill, but it still didn't feel like much of a fit. It seemed to be  a pretty good spot for families, but it was definitely lacking the diversity we wanted and I felt like I would struggle with being self-conscious around super wealthy people. 

7. Upper West Side
7/10 for safety, amenities and diversity in some areas 
SD: 7/10 for safety, and accessibility; however there was a lack of a community feel 

It keeps getting better. This is pretty much the Manhattan neighborhood people recommended to us. And I can see why. The park is accessibly, lots of museums. And in some areas it felt more diverse. Then we realized it was because we were getting near some public housing. Which, I'm not saying is just the worst thing ever, but we wanted an area where the diversity seemed more...organic?

8. Harlem
Peyton: 7/10 for diversity, gorgeous buildings, and rich cultural history; however still not a widespread sense of safety 
SD: 6/10 because I love the culture and the history, but (and this varies block to block) I still struggle with feeling uncomfortable, out of place, and unsafe (This one was the hardest to evaluate yet) [P.S. Peyton was upset with me because Harlem has some gorgeous parts and I used a couple of crappy pictures, but to me that's the reality of it.]

This is one of the hardest (if not the hardest) for me to evaluate. There was so much we loved about it. I love the history and the culture and some of the people we met seemed truly wonderful. Salt of the earth kind of thing. But I was a little disappointed I've read Annie several books about this area and it just intrigues me with all it's history and stories. Even though people are kind of shocked we were looking there, I couldn't not.  I  felt uncomfortable in a lot of areas, to be blunt. I was prepared to feel unsafe. But it wasn't always "unsafe" uncomfortable (sometimes it was). It was just that I didn't feel like we'd fit, or that in just a year's time we'd fit. At first Peyton asked me if it just bothered me that we were pretty much the only white people around. It wasn't that. It's hard to explain, but I thought at first there really wasn't much of a sense of community. Then I realized there probably was, we just weren't part of it. People didn't smile and nod at us when we smiled the way they did most other places. I just knew it would be very difficult to assimilate our little white suburban upper middle class family into that environment. For example, some of the areas in Brooklyn where we looked seemed to have a reasonably sized African American population. But it's different to try to fit in with people sitting on their stoops than with people throwing loud boom-boom Summer parties late at night like Harlem is sort of infamous for. Peyton and I talked a good bit about it and it's still an area I'm interested in. If we don't live there, I hope we'll visit a lot because the interactions we did have were some of the best on the trip (but they were in very specific areas of the neighborhood that we had heard were safer) and I do want to try to experience more of the culture. 

Brooklyn

I was kind of blown away by Brooklyn. I really feel like it's where we'll end up. I sort of had a feeling going in that I'd fall in love with it, but I knew Peyton had his eye on Manhattan (and has forever). I'd literally been praying for months leading up to the trip that we'd not only get some clarity, but that we'd be on the same page. I was so terrified we'd love different things. It turns out, though, that we're both leaning pretty strongly toward Brooklyn. 

1. Fort Greene
Peyton: 8/10 for beautiful architecture, open sky, and weekly markets
SD: 9/10 for gorgeous housing, tree lined streets, and young families. It seemed pretty hipster but we loved it

We really liked Fort Greene. It was the first neighborhood we saw in Brooklyn and I just adored it from the start. We stepped out of the train station and it was like another world- a really lovely world. The skyline is obviously lower and it just felt like a good balance. That's how I came to see Brooklyn in general- a perfect middle ground between "the city" and home. It just seemed so manageable. Fort Greene specifically had a lot to offer- super accessible to Manhattan, it's own park in addition to Prospect Park, and the farmer's market and flea market on Saturday. Just a lot going on! 

2. Clinton Hill
Peyton: 8/10 for lots of friendliness, diversity and safety. 
SD: 9/10 for a "neighborhood" feel, friendliness, huge smiles and lots of little ones. 

By the end of the trip we established that Clinton Hill was our favorite neighborhood and it's where we'd really like to live. Probably the thing that set it apart more than anything else was the way that its residents touted the community feel- several used the word "neigborhood-y" to describe it. Additionally, it was the most diverse of the areas that we still felt very safe in. NOW, when I say we felt very safe- there are areas of the neighborhood I wouldn't be comfortable in. Gun violence is not entirely unheard of. It's surrounded by some neighborhoods that we decided we needed to stay away from. But the neighborhood  itself, for the most part, seems safe. It feels just far enough outside my comfort zone to be okay. 

3. Prospect Heights
Peyton: 7/10 for library and park access. 
SD: 7/10 for the same reasons and nice, well kept housing.

There is a lot to love about this neighborhood  the library, the park, the zoo within the park. Just so much great stuff. That said, I think we maybe rated it a bit too high. There were a lot of other areas of Brooklyn that we just felt a more cohesive community vibe and honestly, in the ones we are looking at, the park and library are pretty close anyway. 

4. Prospect Lefferts Garden
Peyton: no score because we didn't have time to revisit and our visit was super short 
SD: 3/10 because I've heard some good things and prices were reasonable but overall I didn't like how urban it felt and the streets we saw didn't seem very family friendly. Proximity to the Botanical Garden is pretty cool, though!

Peyton: 6/10 for beautiful houses and friendly people; probably where we'd go if we were buying, but not the best neighborhood for kids 
SD: 5/10 loved the homes and people, but few restaurants and groceries aren't easily available; also, I was a bit nervous on the main commercial street 

We didn't give this one a fair shake the first time, so we went back and revisited on a day when we had more time and weren't so exhausted. We still felt a little weird on the main street, not as unsafe as the first visit but I wasn't entirely comfortable. We talked to several residents (one who invited us into her home!) and got a better feeling for it and honestly, in some ways we were drawn to it. It has a big West Indian population and for some reason, I think it would be easier to assimilate in that community than one that's almost exclusively African American. I think some of that is my own prejudice and some is the actual nature of the culture or what we heard about it. Either way, I don't think we'll wind up here. It's still just a bit too far out of my comfort zone, the feeling (of being safe) varies block to block, and honestly the lack of grocery/restaurant access would be rough. 

5. Park Slope 
Peyton: 7/10 for safety, beauty, and wonderful restaurants and shops, but pretty expensive and less diversity than some neighborhoods 
SD: 7/10 for gorgeous brownstones and fun shopping and proximity to Prospect Park; drawbacks same as Peyton's 

This one is *the* neighborhood for young families in Brooklyn. We liked it, there were beautiful shops and great restaurants  But again, we didn't get the community vibe we had elsewhere. It seemed like people were busier running errands and such and it didn't seem to have the diversity other Brooklyn neighborhoods had. I will say that one thing that draws me away from it is similar to what draws me away from living in Manhattan. While I know that if we live in Brooklyn we will go into the city frequently, I don't know that the reverse would hold true. It just seems weird to live on "the island" and say hit up the Fort Greene farmer's market on Saturdays. In a similar way, I can see us enjoying all that Park Slope has to offer (playgrounds, restaurants  ect.) while living elsewhere. But we probably wouldn't live in Park Slope but venture out to say Cobble Hill to wander and talk to people in that neigborhood. 

6. Carroll Gardens
Peyton: 8/10 for somewhat diverse, well developed neighborhood and beautiful homes 
SD: 8/10 because I love the front gardens (funny because our yard in Mississippi looks like Hell) and friendly people 
I just adored the front gardens. I think this is my runner up behind Clinton Hill. Really Fort Greene would be, but it's much more expensive than any other Brooklyn neighborhoods we looked at, excepting Park Slope. 

7. Cobble Hill
There wasn't anything super distinctive about this one, but we got a good feeling. There was pretty, affordable housing and friendly people, so we liked it. 

That's everything we saw, fifteen neighborhoods in total. I feel like we have a pretty good feel for things and have some options. We're so excited about seeing where we'll end up.