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So Rick and I have been kind of, sort of looking at houses OUTSIDE of New York City.

Like in Westchester.

And Jersey.

And can you even believe we are considering leaving Manhattan?!

Here I am pretending to be some cool, hip urban mom while secretly scouting out wrap around porches and manicured lawns.

Are you disappointed in me?! Look it’s not a done deal.  We’re just looking around.  I may not even be funny in the suburbs. I just don’t know.

But let me thank my brilliant, longtime friend Margo who advised me not to name this blog, “The Manhattan Mama Diaries.” I told her I’d be in New York City FOREVER. She said, you never know. That girl is quite a visionary.

Our potential dash to the suburbs is being spurred on by several defining moments.

We have been turned off by the New York City private school application process. At one required “playdate,” the Director of Admissions was just grilling my shy girl Dylan in this really chipper, friendly, relentless way.

So do you have a dog? Did you eat breakfast today? What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite color? Can you make a snow man out of playdough? Can you count these little plastic bears?

Man, even I was starting to have heart palpitations.

I finally turned to the Director of Admissions and said, “She’s only 4. This is too intense. We’re going to leave.”

Which is a polite way to say…. Get someone else to count your stupid, crappy plastic bears.

And then there was this recent bitter cold, rainy day where I could barely hang on to my umbrella in the crazy gusts of wind, as I tried to maneuver my double stroller through the narrow streets of the west village.

All freakin’ day long.

And then another afternoon, Rick took the girls to the Hudson River Park and both Dylan and Summer started scaling the most perfect, climbing tree.

Until Rick was notified that it’s a $1,000 fine for climbing trees.

Per child.

Kids should be able to climb trees, right?

So that’s how we ended up somewhere in Larchmont, NY on a Saturday morning.

The town was charming and lovely, with vibrant leaves falling so eloquently, so perfectly – that we started wondering if we’d somehow been transported to an elaborate movie set. But I think it was actually real because I never saw any craft service spreads.

And then another weekend, we found ourselves meandering around Montclair, NJ.

And Dylan, who has a real passion for New York City payphones, seemed to really like the Montclair ones too.

And they must have less germs, don’t you think?

But for now, the suburban payphones and the climbing trees will have to wait.

Dylan is still a city kid.

Enjoying a perfect, glorious fall day here in Manhattan.

mama bird notes:

Don’t forget to enter our Psychobaby giveaway this week. We are giving away the Ugly Dolls Babo’s Bird and the Hey Ugly Icebat Journal. To enter, just leave a comment on the mama bird diaries and mention the word UGLY. Good luck mama birds.

64 Responses to no climbing trees here

  • Pearl says:

    I have this romantic idea of what motherhood and childhood must be like in Manhattan… the hustle bustle urban hipness of it all. But I honestly dont think you would be any less cool if you left the city. If anything, the city will be a little less cooler if you leave.

  • izzy's mama says:

    How could you? Even here in Jersey City, the closest I could get, I still miss being “in” the city. Waking up amongst the hustle and bustle is better than having to take the Path train to get there. That being said, that whole private school picture you paint (which is somewhat better a few minutes away) does sound dreadful.

    I’m sure you’ll find amusing things to dish about wherever you decide to go.

  • PAPA says:

    I had some friends in NYC think of leaving as well (they’d lived there 12 years) and then they looked and found something but didn’t commit.

    NYC is like a bad boyfriend/girlfriend you just can’t leave.

    Well, you can. But you’ll probably go back.

  • Diane says:

    Oh, there is plenty to write about in suburbia – and most of the living is quite funny, especially as it relates to your neighbor’s ugly lanscaping or window treatments. OH – guess what I found out in Budapest this week. Barack means peach in Hungarian!

  • Portia says:

    Girlfriend!! Come on over! I grew up in Essex County and I have to tell you that Montclair is pretty darn perfect! It is SO close to Manhattan by train…Montclair is also culturally diverse and has great businesses and restaurants there. I go to a great nail salon and spa right on Bloomfield Ave. I’ll hook you up if you decide to buy a wraparound porch there and the girls would love it too! They can def. climb trees here…they can even have a treehouse! Was that a good enough pitch? LOL!

  • Nicole says:

    I hear you!!! After some of the same incidents and some very inquisitive and demanding pre-school interviews (he was just 20 months and they asked him to draw a picture of himself and sign it – “if you can”), we decided to leave the city behind us. It ended up to be much farther than anticipated – we are actually now living in the French countryside close to Geneva, but at least we have a garden and a lot of trees to climb all around us.

  • Dixie Chick says:

    I’ve always wondered what you did about infant carriers and carseats in a taxi or on the subway?
    It would break my heart for my shy eldest daughter to be judged in such a manner for those competitive schools. Good luck with whatever you decide. Your blog will be interesting no matter what.

  • K says:

    Just moved last week from downtown Manhattan to Oyster Bay Cove, Long Island. My 2 yr old is in a wonderful 2’s program out here and we are expecting #2 in late Feb. Its a beautiful area. It took us 2 yrs to find the perfect house– good luck. P.S. Its a 50 minute train to manhattan from the Syosset train station.

  • kristen says:

    We were totally happy in our apartment in Brooklyn Heights until the school thing. Big. Turn-off. Even with the ‘legacy’ friend that could hook us up. Feh.

    First it was Ditmas Park. Then Larchmont. We couldn’t get our heads around NJ. We even had this convo during the big blackout in 06′:

    “we are NEVER moving to NJ. all those people asleep on the benches and in the parks, lived in NJ. don’t take the test for your acupuncture license, we’re not moving.”

    2 months later, we closed on this house.

    Please do look in our town because it’s even closer to the city than Montclair AND since the town is named for trees, the girls would not be lacking in climbing materials.

  • Marinka says:

    That interview sounds like a nightmare and also like it may been on the Upper East Side.

    We flirted with the idea of the suburbs this summer. And by “flirting”, I mean thought about it briefly. My heart rate is going to return to normal any moment now, I think.

  • Robin says:

    Humor travels well. I am 364% sure you’ll stay funny, even in New Jersey, which is not so ugly after all. In fact, you might find some new material in the burbs!

  • Robyn says:

    The nice thing about NJ is that it’s SO easy to get back to NYC. I always thought it would be difficult to raise kids there b/c of the lack of space, so I understand your curiosity about the ‘burbs.

    Just promise you won’t get a minivan…!

  • Cathy says:

    That’s exciting! I lived in Chicago for a number of years, but the thought of trying to get a stroller on the subway made me hightail it to the burbs.

  • JoLynn says:

    If you move I’ll miss all the info. of what’s going on in the city!!! 🙁 Yea, I heard those private school’s are something, we have a few like that in Ct. as well!

  • Michelle says:

    The preschool stories are enough to scare me! Although, I will say this, I have the opposite problem here having a hard time finding a good school w/o driving an hour each morning.

  • Daphne says:

    If it makes you feel any better, last week I parked next to a mom with a toddler perched on a potty in the back of her car, waiting “forever for her kid to poop.” There’s material out here too, I promise!

  • francine Kasen says:

    DO NOT KNOCK THE MINI VAN !! I keep my golf clubs in it, with a change of clothes, and whenever I have a early break from work, and the sun peeks through, I can “hit a few”. When “the girls” want to take a road trip to the shore or NY or to a show, we can all fit in one vehicle. Since January I have had my LARGE van windows painted with international voting statistics, to encourage the electorate, and more recently, I upgraded it with voting procedure, and pithy statements like, “Hope is not a dirty word, it is the seed of Progress”. And “Don’t let them Steal it Again, VOTE”. Yes my friends, a van is a very useful tool for social change, a rolling motel room (portable toilet and all), a tour bus, Bike transporter, tournament dog carrier, and best of all, on trash day in the burbs, you just might see someones “perfect” little girl’s vanity out at the curb, YOURS FOR THE
    TAKING! Everyone makes fun of me…..until they need good-old-Fran and her UGLY van, to make the perfect day! I will never be without a van….but I also long for a 2-seater convertible in my life!

  • jean says:

    When John (my husband) and I lived in New York and were pregnant with our first child, we thought about moving outside the city because we knew we couldn’t afford private schools (starving artist types that we were) but thought we wouldn’t get back in to the city often enough as we’d probably have to move at least an hour outside, and we decided to move back to Michigan to be near my parents. (They were an enormous help with our girls.) Now we live in a Michigan village and I’m ready to get back to civilization now that our youngest is a hs senior and I’m way over my Martha Stewart experiment…Oh, and my
    Town and Country has the best musical accoustics!

  • Rhea says:

    climbing trees should never have a fine, and holy cow about the prove preschools in your neck of the woods. That’s ridiculous.

    I used to be suburb snotty until I moved into one. Now I’m just happy to have space and room to grow my children.

  • Kim says:

    That preschool sounds a little rough..

    And I wonder how many real estate agents will be tracking you down now because of this post..lol

    Larchmont is beautiful.. I have friends there.. stunning ..

  • Erin says:

    we are thinking of moving to a smaller community too. probably 5 years. i want petunia to have tree for climbing and yards and awesome public or private schools full of potential! and maybe a little slower pace of life. good luck in the house hunt!

  • Kristin says:

    I am glad to see that the pay phones in the suburbs are as ugly as the ones here in NYC! (Sorry, had to get the ugly in!) Dylan looks just beautiful jumping in the leaves!

  • Allison T. says:

    So not going to judge your consideration of moving out of the big city, especially because I’ll just be back here remaining jealous for as long as you still live there.

    But I will say how about that admissions gal? Eeek! Now THAT sounds like it’s straight outta some movie set.

    BTW- stumbled across your Graco videos as I was looking up stuff online. You’re such a rock star, and a ubiquitous one at that. (I just love that word).

  • The suburbs can be ugly, that’s for sure. (See how clever I am?!) But, damn, brick sidealks and an available preschool? Hmm. Trade-offs, trade-offs. You should consider the Midwest. We’re a pretty shade of blue out here, too. (*wink*)

  • ErinB says:

    I totally vote for Westchester area- purely because its closer to me :-} If you go to Jersey we will NEVER see each other. seriously! its something to consider…. xo

  • MN Mama says:

    I am sure this is not easy for you my friend. I agree with Daphne…. quality people come out of NJ… Rick, Daphne and me! I know you love the city but I also know you want the best for your kids. You and Rick will do what is best. Take your time with your decision.

  • jennifer says:

    Say it ain’t so! i do feel this urge for the ‘burbs whenever we visit my brother in Westchester–my kids love it there so much and talk about their cousins every day…how nice it would be to have space, trees, run around barefoot in the yard, and be closer to family. And then i think about commuting time. Everything has pros and cons, right?!

  • Diana says:

    I won’t say the grass is greener… but there are benefits to each… I often long for the city life I knew growing up for my daughter. But I tell myself as long as she’s exposed to city, country, suburb and more, she’ll be ok. And in the meantime I try to enjoy where we live to the fullest!

  • feener says:

    i swore to my friends I WOULD NEVER MOVE TO NJ. NEVER. EVER. We were all about westchester, and then we realized we could not afford westchester unless we went pretty far up, so we thought well why not go south and at least be near the beach. i am 10 minutes to the beach and love being a jersey girl. it is a hidden paradise, i don’t mind people thinking nj is gross, keeps it a secret.

  • Aunt Marcia (Guess Whose?) says:

    If you have the money, keep a pied-a-terre in Manhattan (split cost with like-minded friends); or else just figure on moving back to The Big Apple when your last child is off to college. I thoroughly enjoyed my years in Manhattan; but at some point you want clean air, the smell of grass not gas, and when I look up; I like seeing sky, not skyscrapers. The ‘right’ Burb will be just as interesting…Westport???

  • ewe_are_here says:

    I had to cheer when I read:
    \\\”I finally turned to the Director of Admissions and said, “She’s only 4. This is too intense. We’re going to leave.”\\\”
    Because you\\\’re absolutely right. Waaaay to intense for a little four year old.

    And you\\\’re right, kids should be able to climb trees.

  • sam says:

    oh kelc, you finally broke! i know, i did too! i left nyc two and a half years ago but i have to say i’m missing the city right now. i do think about this issue a lot though and i think it is easier to be in the country when you have kids. (can we please not call it the “suburbs”? the “country” sounds so much better!) no rain/sleet stroller schlep, no 500 square foot kill self feel, no cement playground avec pee smell + used condoms. it’s sweet and beautiful in the country…but i do miss the grooviness, i think i’ve lost my edge. oh well, it wasn’t that sharp anyway!

  • Lanie says:

    You will be funny in the suburbs – or if you stay in the city (decisions are not my thing, as you know). Great pictures of Dylan!

  • Marisa says:

    New York City’s subway system in the dead of summer – UGLY. Just think, the burbs won’t have the smelly part of the city, but you can always go back to visit! Wheee!

  • amy says:

    Speaking from someone who moved from the hipper part of town (but not in a city as cool as NY;) to the less hip, more minivan part, I have to say that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Still, I miss our old neighborhood. You really need to just decide where you’ll all be better off. I mean, you can climb trees during weekend outings outside the city, right? But the school thing is hard. It’s good not to buy into that overly pressurized system–it can get pretty ugly and is hard on the kids in the long run. Good luck with your decision!

  • The Mom Bomb says:

    Half the families in our neighborhood are NYC exiles. I think the trick is finding a decent neighborhood where you can actually meet people and lay down some roots as opposed to feeling isolated. And as much as I love where I live, I wouldn’t mind being able to WALK somewhere once in awhile.

  • tracey says:

    Seeing as how I’ve lived my entire life in the suburbs, I honestly cannot picture city living, especially with children. Not that I haven’t TRIED to envision it, especially as a single person, but with kids… The space would be the most limiting thing for me. That, and I can’t yell very loudly in an apartment, can I?

    That alone seals the deal. You can yell as loud as you want in the burbs.


    It takes some adjusting though, if you’re used to walking to everything. Here, we have to drive to everything. Not only because of distance but because most towns aren’t designed for walking.

  • lilith says:

    I’m a city kid. I was born in a big city, grew up in one and I’m now living in a small town, not the suburbs or the country but close. And while it’s nice for a while, we’re are planning to move back to the city in a couple of years.
    The whole “it’s so much nicer for the kids out there” is overrated, I wouldn’t want to miss my own childhood city experiences. If every now and then you long for nature, take a weekend camping trip to some remote places. For me, that worked perfectly. Loved the nature and loved coming back to the city :-).
    Now how do drop the world ‘ugly’ in here ? 😉

  • MamaGeek says:

    I’ve lived in NYC and in the burbs and I must say both have their positives and negatives. I’ve grown to enjoy the burbs more and more. BUT IT WAS AN AJUSTMENT.

    Wishing you happy hunting!

  • Madmad says:

    Ay! Big decisions! Hard ones! But I do know you’ll be funny wherever you are. AND, you may feel free to adopt my life plan: moving back when the kids are fully cooked.

  • OHmommy says:

    I would do anything to get out of the suburbs and into a respectable city. My heart has always been in a city.

    But I guess that is why I want it so bad. Because I can’t have it. We are in Cleveland to stay. waaaa….

  • Buffy Blackwell says:

    How’s this for pulling the sympathy card in a bid for swag:

    I just got out of the hospital and I feel ugly. May I please have the free stuff?

    (I know–perfectly shameful yet true)

  • Shannon says:

    I think no matter where you live, you wonder if someplace else might be better for your family. I think about it all the time and yet, I am still living in the same place where I grew up – and most days, we’re happy – just like Dylan in the cute falling leaf pic.

  • Margo says:

    Ha – – thanks for the shout out. Glad this marketing/branding girl could be of help. Can’t imaging your blog not being called the mamabirddiaries. Such a perfect name for you. xo

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