• Archives

  • Categories:

We finally made it back to Philly

We celebrated the arrival of 2020 with nearly one year old Adam and our extended family at my father-in-law’s house. There were hats and fireworks on TV and simply enjoying each other’s company. A couple days later we flew back to California and had no idea what 2020 would bring. Turns out, it would bring a pandemic that meant that we couldn’t return to Philadelphia and see our family for over two and a half years.

So, with an additional kid in tow, we were grateful to finally make our way back to our townhouse in Philadelphia in September.

The first hurdle was the flight with two little ones and all their stuff. We spent our spare moments for over a week making lists, getting everything ready, and packing for the trip. It was exhausting. I prepared myself for the worst on the flight, and while it’s tiring to entertain a couple kids awake and trapped in their plane seats for five hours, they were reasonably happy for most of the flight. I’m sure it helps that part of the travel prep was making sure they had lots of things to do, videos loaded on their phones, and way too many snacks.

Once we safely arrived, two hours late thanks to flight delays that are the norm now, we spent two weeks there. Our goals for the trip were to visit with as many friends and family as we could, and to “open up the house” which meant taking care of whatever came up, planned and unplanned, as we settled in. The tasks ended up being:

  • Get rid of the hole in the rough-in bathroom downstairs that allowed a mouse to get into the house
  • …and clean up after the mouse
  • Replace the garbage disposal, which inexplicably stopped working
  • Power wash the deck, and key spots on the house
  • Put up some gates to prevent the kids from falling down the stairs and/or leaving the house

We had a large gated play yard in the living room designed for life with a baby, so it was weird coming back with two kids, neither of whom is a baby anymore. The gated area was useful for keeping the toys contained, but that was about it. We also didn’t exactly have a plan for where little Aaron would sleep. We had always assumed that the boys would be sharing a room by now, but with Aaron’s poor sleep schedule, we haven’t made the leap. As a result, we shifted our plans several times, and Aaron ended up sleeping in a bathroom (it was safe!) for a few nights before we cleared out an unfinished room downstairs that we converted into a little room for him.

I also quickly discovered that our door-free home office is not optimal for serious business calls or virtual presentations with the kids playing above me. Which leads me to the fact that while MJ was handling the majority of the above tasks, I was working overtime for a launch event, virtual conference, and in-person conference, all of which I’d been preparing for over the past couple months. I was considerably more stressed and crunched for time than I would have liked on this trip, and I hope that next time we’re in town I can actually find some time to just sit and relax and enjoy our home.

The lack of downtime also reminded me how much I’ve changed since we bought the townhouse. The goal of the townhouse was always so we’d have a home base to easily come back to as we raised our family. MJ’s family in the neighborhood could see the kids grow up, visits to my family that’s spread up and down the east coast would be easier. But for the first several years of having the townhouse it was during our long child-free existence. We had projects, but the chore overhead was nothing like our home in California, which meant I had a lot more time to relax, catch up on some of my open source work, write, and read. The vast difference with this trip was shocking in a way I didn’t expect, and still haven’t quite come to terms with. For now, I am focusing on how much joy our little ones bring me, and in my moments of pause, I remind myself that this very young age is a season, and they won’t always be so in need of my constant attention. My work is personally fulfilling and many of my hobbies can wait.

Ultimately, the trip was successful by our simple metrics. We managed to see several family members, and shared a couple meals with friends. The townhouse is now in reasonable shape for our next visit, which is good because our next visit won’t be until the chilly weather around the winter holidays. I wish I had taken more pictures though, we really didn’t get enough, and the boys and their cousins won’t be young forever.

MJ and I also took the time for a date night at The Continental Midtown, and we met up with some other families at an au pair event at Washington Crossing, where the boys had a lot of fun running around.

I got to have my Philly food favorites: pizza, buffalo chicken cheesesteaks, hoagies, east coast Chinese food, and some really great Italian food.

East coast shrimp egg rolls and sweet & sour chicken, nothing like it in the west!

My beloved cannoli

Work-wise, I completed my virtual conference, with much success!

And then I spent time getting ready for the second week, when I went down to the city for the Open Mainframe Summit, which I’ll share more about at a later time. It was also a resounding success, and as a smaller event in a familiar city, it felt like the perfect way for me to ease my way back into conference travel. The key components of preparation were logistical, and making sure my Raspberry Pi 400 was up to the task.

In addition to the obvious, what I think I gained the most from this trip was a fullness of heart I hadn’t felt since before the pandemic. As an introvert, I would have imagined two and a half years at home would be bliss, but even I truly missed people. It was tiring seeing so many people, but I’m grateful we did this time, because it was so nice to reconnect. Now as the COVID threat starts to fade, I’m eager to get back to seeing more of my friends and family.