Home on a Saturday Night


Here’s a not so secret secret about me. I don’t like not having plans on the weekend. When the weekend rolls around and I’ve failed to make social plans, my mood drops to somewhere between anxious and depressed. When I’m home all afternoon and night on a Saturday, especially a Saturday on a three-day weekend, I feel like I’m not carpe-ing the diem, not living my life to its full fun potential.

But, this is why I like living with other families. When I’m being lazy at home on a Saturday night, they are too. And it feels a little less like time-wasted, and more like quality time with the housemates – making dinner, cleaning, doing laundry. Banal, yes. But perhaps not quite so lonely.


Slacking, building and choosing

Tech geeks that we (some of us) are, we have decided the primary communication between house members will be on Slack, a messaging app.

“What?” you say, “Your primary communication method isn’t speaking face-to-face?” Sure, sure, that would be very civil and touchy-feely. But no, we prefer to message each other making no sound but a vibrating notification, like passive-aggressive bots.

At every house meeting I say: “You all know that blah blah blah.”

Housemates: “No, I didn’t know that.”

Me: “But I posted it on Slack! Why does no one read my Slack messages!”

Housemates: “Well if it was less than 72 hours ago, we might not have read it. Remember the rule about 72 hours.”

Me: “It was a month ago.”

Housemates: “Then maybe we’ve forgotten.” (Ok, they didn’t actually say this).

Me: <Grrrr>

Tonight I was sitting with Harry and I mentioned that I posted the dinner with the neighbors to the #calendar channel of Slack. If you aren’t familiar with channels, think of them as ongoing e-mail threads with particular topics, or themed chat rooms. Harry said he wasn’t on that channel. He didn’t even know about it. My own husband was ignoring the channel I created.

“Did you invite everyone?” he said.

“Yes, I wrote @channel.”

“That’s not how you do it,” he said. He opened the channel. “Wait, is anyone even on this channel?”

The channel showed a long history of Eliza dutifully posting every house event since April (APRIL!) and every scheduling change.

May 23rd – Eliza: House dinner tomorrow (Monday) at 7:15. Enchilada casserole.

June 8th – Eliza: Scott, the blinds guy, is coming Wednesday at 2 to install the missing blind.

June 10th – Eliza: Scott, the blinds guy, changed his appointment from Wednesday to Thursday at 1:30.

You know when you suddenly realize everyone has left the room while you were facing away, and you’ve been talking to yourself for the last 2 minutes? Make that the last 4 months!

Color me sheepish. Now I know why Wes inexplicably did not know I had scheduled regular Tuesday night house dinners. And why no one moved their things away from the windows for the blinds installation. And why everyone was ignoring me. Sorry, everyone. My bad.

On another note, I’m boiling a sponge now because it smells like a rat died on it. This is no knock on anyone’s personality, but could we just please, please, PLEASE squeeze out the sponge and place it in the holder when we’re done using it? That’s really my main wish in life.

Things in the house are going more or less smoothly. Anna’s planning a garden party. She showed me the plans tonight and they look exciting. They look like the kind of thing I would never have thought up myself. A mud bath for the children? Herb gardens in dresser drawers? Wow! Some of us doubt that our party will accomplish all she has planned, but I very much hope to be proven wrong.

We’ve had scaffolding and floor covering in the living room to install sound absorbing acoustic panels on the ceiling because we have a grave echo problem. The stairs have cardboard on them that make a cracking noise with each step. Not like cracking eggs; more like cracking granite. You can no longer sneak up the stairs to spy on your children. While scaffolding and thunderous stairs aren’t an ideal match with young children, the project has had big benefits.

The main advantage of the construction is that Chris the Task Rabbit is now in our house every day pounding on our ceiling. You couldn’t ask for a more pleasant companion. Jeremy chats with him for hours at a time and he never complains or makes snarky comebacks. Today I overheard Jeremy taking things to the next level with Chris. The ellipsis in the following quote indicates it was preceded by 79 minutes of Jeremy talking.

“…and after we do this work we can build a house together.” Jeremy said to Chris, “Then we can all live together.”

I love that Jeremy is so keen on Chris. I also love that, to his almost-four-year-old mind, building a house and moving in with a guy who installs your ceiling panels is just a normal activity.

Jonah calls Nate “Da-da”. Nate is not his dad. He calls Audrey “A-da” and Anna “A-na”. Always with excitement. He calls our nanny, Glenda, “Hola” because that’s what she and I say whenever she arrives. He even says “Leif” and “Mina” sometimes. What does he call himself? “This.”

We had this housemate outing that Audrey planned. Biking and a picnic! Nate, Anna and Leif couldn’t make it to so it ended up being just my family and my sister’s family.

“Only our two families,” I said to her as we coasted in the sun on our 2-wheelers, “But not our parents.”

“Our chosen family,” she said, “Parents are your given family, but then you have your chosen family.”

“Only I didn’t choose you,” I said.

“I didn’t choose Mina either,” she said.

“I didn’t choose Mina either,” I said, “Or Wes, or Jeremy or Jonah. I only chose Harry.”

“And I only chose Wes.”


We pedaled for a while, having exchanged these not necessarily complimentary remarks.

“But we chose to live together,” I said. Ah, that’s the important bit. Chosen family.


There is a German word for (gemütlich) it and an even better Danish word (hygge). I’ve felt it throughout my life though it has no name. Playing cards with my dad, sister and friends in the evening. After a Thanksgiving meal playing charades with my parents, aunts and uncles. In my college suite where we gathered and joked about sex instead of studying. With my 20-something roommates, sitting around the kitchen table, talking and laughing about everything. Vacations in shared cabins with good friends. We need a compound word that means “a warm group of people laughing in the evening.” I wish I spoke or German or Danish. In Chinese you could use the word 熱鬧 (loosely translates to “hot-noisy”), which is how I’ve heard big family meals described.

I’ve always believed that my life would continue to be full of that hot-noisy. It ended abruptly the year that I got pregnant with my first child and bought a house. My roommates who were like family to me moved out. The replacement roommates kept to themselves, and so did the next set and the next set (with a few exceptions). So I felt lonely and built five bedrooms into my dream house to make sure it would be full of people. I built a common area with room for everyone a kitchen at its heart.
I must have missed some critical piece. Maybe it’s because the house isn’t cozy enough or because the kids are too young? Maybe everyone has Things To Do that are more important. Maybe I’m just not fun anymore. I don’t know, I don’t know. I go to sleep troubled every night. I worry about chore wheels, dented floors and children’s conflicts. I’m finally realizing those are all decoys. My mind and body are disconnected because of chronic sleep loss so my emotions aren’t as clear to me as they once were. But I know now what it is that I want so badly it aches. It is that thing that has no English word, that sounds gooey or antiquated when you try to name it (“the soul-feeding company of merry spirits”?) I need this. It isn’t happening yet. Dinner is frenzied with young children, we put them to bed and then the house seems to die for the night. I don’t know how to even ask for it, or how to make it happen.
Then should I post this in the blog, for my friends, roommates and family to maybe read, or forget to read? For the World Wide Web to know? Would that make the lonely less? Would that create an awkward flurry of unspoken concern in my house that only makes things worse? I tend to scare people away with my blunt desire. But I’m going to work toward it. Because I need this, you see.

Erm, gaah!

Things continue to go somewhat wrong in a variety of ways, all of which are basically predictable, and none of which really matter in the long haul.  (But, man, some of this stuff gets my goat…)

Rather than to vent, though, I’ll point out that it would take a lot more drama than this to outweigh the enormous benefits of having a full cast of adults (plus a few extras) riding herd over the Agents Of Chaos who would otherwise utterly destroy my mostly-comfortable and somewhat orderly life.

Plus, my housemates are certifiably cool in a variety of ways that matter to me.

Also, Mina seems to be genuinely enjoying many of the aspects of living with other people of approximately her height (and intellectual acumen, and volume level, and with her bizarre toddler-y interests).

So: if I have been grumpy at you lately for something you know isn’t a big deal: I concede that you are right.

(Nonetheless, I will be terribly grateful if you would please quit doing that.)

(Also, whatever I have been doing that annoys you: by all means share, but just one at a time, if you please.)

Getting Better


It’s surprising to me how much my two-year-old daughter’s moods affect my own, but they do. She seems to finally be settling in. And therefore, so am I.

Last night she even let her one-year-old housemate hug her. Correction, not just let him, ASKED HIM to hug her. Repeatedly. It almost brought tears to my eyes, because this has been one of her (therefore one of my) greatest struggles. Plus, watching them hug and then clap together was one of the sweetest things I’ve seen in a long time.

She’s also finally peeing at home. Yes, this was a thing. She was holding it from the time she left daycare until she returned there, not comfortable peeing in our house. This means she’d sometimes she wouldn’t pee for up to 21 hours. It was really stressing me out. But that problem seems to be gone (and yes, she will probably not appreciate me posting about her urine problems years from now).

Also, last night, she cried before bed because her cousin wasn’t there to sleep with her. I found this charming.

Most importantly, she has returned to the happy kid she once was. Sure, there’s the occasional (read: daily) fight about wanting MORE AND MORE oatmeal, MORE AND MORE toothpaste, etc. But, I don’t see this as moving related.

With my daughter feeling happier in her environment, I am too. Last night I watched a movie with a few housemates in our new “chill out” room. And it was good. I like to hear people’s voices downstairs when I wake up. I like our kitchen being full of people when I get home from work.

And I’m looking forward to making the house cleaner, more organized, and less cluttered as time goes on.

Strangely calm and composed

Hm, I guess that person would be me.  😀

I’m not usually described as “calm” (too much energy), but perhaps unstressed is more accurate.  I am not feeling any stress from this new housing situation.  Am I happy?  Heck yeah!  Feeling at home and in my element?  Absolutely.  Loving living with others despite the chaos of boxes, the lack of kitchen shelves/cabinet doors, the almost complete lack of furniture in our bedroom, or any of the other slight frustrations?  Definitely.

One of my reason for feeling so comfortable in the house is my personality: as I mentioned before, I’m an extreme extrovert.  But another is how clear it is to me that my son is much much happier here with his faux-siblings around most of the time than in our old house where there were no other kids at home and our housemates worked every day.  He probably has my extroversion, and he’s just a lot happier here.  (I wouldn’t call him calm or composed either, though.)

I’ve also lived in coops for so many years that I’m accustomed to the general “social contract” that comes with.  I am not picky, so I don’t have a lot of policies I want to communicate with others.  But since I’m not picky, I don’t mind following most policies if it makes my housemates happy; just let me know.  There are a lot of things we haven’t worked out yet, like who does which chores or where to put all our stuff.  But I know we’ll figure it out eventually, and in the meantime it is refreshing to live with a bunch of people who are kind & thoughtful.  Looking back at my past coops, it seems like most of the real problems came from housemates who were just too selfish or self-centered and unable to be thoughtful or generous or empathetic.

Oh, and let’s not forget that my house growing up was so messy on a daily basis that one time when my dad asked a police officer inside (because he’d seen a teenager jump the fence at the pool next door) the officer thought our house had been broken into and trashed.  So I have a very high tolerance for mess, but I’m not messy myself.

So I’m happy to be that person who’s just really content right now.  Could it be improved? Sure!  And it will be.  We make great strides at organizing every week, and that is no small feat when smushing three families into a one-family house.

Oh, and it could also be happiness by comparison: we spent the previous six weeks couch surfing with a one-year-old.  Our last place was very small and our son would get so bored there that he would literally beat on the door and cry.  So I took the bus into Berkeley (from Oakland) and spent the entire day shuttling him from the YMCA to the library to a restaurant for lunch to the occasional muddy park (because it was raining almost every day during that month) and back to the Y and back to the library for 8 hours every day because we had no nanny.

So maybe that was just so stressful for me that this seems like heaven!


One big happy family

For the first time since my second child was born my husband is spending one night away. If we still lived in our old place I would have been scared to handle my two kids at night on my own. But with families around it’s ok. I noticed today I was waiting subconsciously for him to come home, and I had to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t coming home tonight. When he is home, then everything feels right. After the fourth time I caught myself waiting, I shifted my thinking. My husband is my family, the person I lean on the most. But in this new house we have a new, bigger family. We are here to lean on each other. Just a little at first, and then maybe more once we build trust.

We made dinner. Anna put up with Jeremy “helping” her cook in the kitchen while I sort of watched the younger kids and tried to chop sweet potatoes at the table. We sat down to a tasty dinner and the kids all ate with only minimal plate-throwing and choke-vomiting (1-year-old M.O.) Then my sister came home with her friends and their kids, initiating a delightful buzz of adult conversation and children fighting and playing with pillows and ride-em vehicles. Way past everyone’s bedtime, my sister read to the older cousins while I put the baby to bed.

Remember Real World where they put all these random people in a house together and incited them to quarrel? I have not watched reality TV since the 90s, so perhaps that’s still the standard plot; I don’t know. Either way, this is our Real World. I’m expecting fights or people not able to handle things. Especially considering the boxes everywhere and the disorganized kitchen. But for now, it’s working just as I had hoped.IMG_9363


It’s the one-week anniversary in the new house (it was when I started writing this). I have been crazy overwhelmed every minute, with no rest and no leisure for me or my husband. Some of our roommates seem strangely calm and composed through the chaos (especially Rusty Dog). I would like to have that kind of personality, but it seems I’m pretty excitable.

Good parts: having people around all the time. I don’t have a lot of need for alone time. I’m most at ease when I’m sharing a space with a few people I know well. I love waking up to a bustle in the kitchen and someone frying eggs. After the kids are in bed if I have any energy at all I walk downstairs and feel the quiet comfort of people using their laptops and sipping tea.

I love the casual collective parenting that happens effortlessly. It means I can steal a few minutes for myself in moments I never could before we moved. As the only party with two young children, rather than one, I benefit more than anyone. I can sleep in a bit even after my co-parent has left for work. Thank you, roommies!

In writing the list of good things, I started to forget what the difficult parts are. Which means I’m getting more sleep. Still, let’s disclose them…

Difficult parts: There are dozens of tiny household policies to be defined, discussed and communicated to everyone. I general enjoy these kinds of conversations, but I started to get very weary partway through the week. At its worst, it is policing and being policed. For example, “Hey, do you mind if we don’t listen to talk radio in the common space?” that was me policing. Mostly it’s just peaceful discussions, but usually only with 2-3 participants. Then you have the remaining 3-4 participants not aware of the discussion, so you have to schedule a part 2. This should all be resolved with a house meeting, but good luck scheduling that on short notice! Also, we have to inform the nanny about any decisions that affect her.

One issue is particular to me and my husband because we built the house. Every choice we made about the house becomes something we have to explain or defend or just sort of shrug at and say “oops”. Why do we have an induction cooktop that renders half of our pots useless? Why can’t we install shelves in the upstairs hallway? It’s really very hot in here! And so on.

The bittersweet parts: The sound of children playing loudly. Happy chaos, but sometimes too much chaos. Right now – sad, troubling, but a tiny bit satisfying – the sound of two children crying, neither of which is mine.

Four kids under four? What were we thinking??


Four kids under four means there’s always someone crying, or whining, or yelling with joy (all equally annoying, it turns out). There is always someone needing oatmeal, or asking for milk, or chasing the dog, or hitting their cousin, or dripping snot down their face. It’s rarely relaxing and it’s never easy.

This is my take. And I’m somewhat surprised by how hard it’s been for me. It may be due to how hard it’s been for my daughter, who has been a whiny mess since we moved in. I thought this was due to the flu, which she caught the day before we moved. But the flu seems to be gone, and the whininess and tantrums seem to have stayed.

A think a lot of my stress also comes from the state of the house, which I know is temporary (I know this because I repeat it to myself constantly whenever I’m home… “this is temporary, this is temporary.” A mover’s mantra.) Picture a whole family’s worth of boxes taking up every room in the house. Now multiply it by three.

My hope is that once the boxes are unpacked and the kitchen is organized (I guess my husband’s need for order has rubbed off on me more than I realized), I will be a calmer, happy person. Unfortunately, those words cannot describe me at the moment. I look forward to returning to a better me.