Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell, 2012

This is it, my friends. Another year is drawing to a close. Tonight we bid farewell to 2012 and start anew in 2013.

This year has been one that I will not soon forget. It has both flown by in an instant and passed at a snail's pace. The days have seemed long but the months have been so very short. I suppose this is the New Baby Time Warp, but however it may have felt as it was happening, today I am left with the feeling of, "how has 2012 gone by already?"

This year has been one of immense change for us. My life today, on the precipice of 2013, is almost entirely different from what it was as I rang in 2012 one year ago. Last New Year's Eve, I was happily abstaining from champagne for the sake of the baby girl in my belly, as Eric and I rang in the New Year quietly in our Hoboken apartment, with a stop outside at midnight to watch fireworks over the New York skyline. To put it mildly, this New Year's Eve will look a bit different.

Obviously, the most major life-changing event of 2012 was the birth of sweet baby Elizabeth Alice, our dear Ellie. Our lives became entirely new as of 3:27 p.m. on March 29, and since then we have been cherishing every up, every down, every moment of figuring out who we are as parents. Watching Eric as a father has filled my heart with even more love for him than ever before, which was a tall task. As Ellie's mother, I feel so incredibly fulfilled. I feel like this is the life I was meant to live. Motherhood was something I always wanted for myself and now that I'm in the midst of it, it just feels right and I love it so much. Ellie brings us so much joy every day, and I am so, so happy that she is finally here. I just adore our little family.

2012 has brought other changes for us, too, of course. Most notably, we left the NYC area and returned to our roots in Florida. Hand-in-hand with that move, Eric hung up his lawyer hat, saying goodbye to the firm and his law career. (More on that soon!) It still is hard to believe that we have now left behind what were once such defining characteristics of our life together. We're really off to a fresh start this new year.

And 2013 certainly has some exciting things on the horizon for us. For now, we will be enjoying our months in St. Petersburg with our family, and then are excited to move to Jacksonville this summer. We are looking forward to Eric's new career with much anticipation, and can't wait to settle into a routine as a Floridian family. Ellie will celebrate her first birthday in just a few short months, and she is constantly growing and changing and keeping us on our toes. 2013 has much greatness and many new, happy memories in store for us, I just know it.

But all that starts tomorrow. Today, I am spending the day reflecting on where 2012 has brought us and the roads we traveled to get here. I'm remembering the happy times and the challenges, the tears and the laughter. It has been a crazy roller-coaster of a year but we have very much enjoyed the ride.

VIDEO: Our 2012 in pictures
(Music is Idina Menzel's "No Day But Today")

Thank you, friends, for once again sharing our year with us. Thank you for all your kind words and warm wishes as our lives have changed so drastically (and continue to do so!). I am so blessed to have such wonderful friends, such a loving family, good health and oh so much happiness.

Happy New Year, all! I wish nothing but the best for you and yours in 2013.

Signing off for 2012,


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dear Ellie - Nine Months

My dear Ellie,

Today you are nine months old, and that means that I have known you for as long outside of my belly as I knew you on the inside. Considering how much joy you brought me when you were in my belly, it hardly seems possible that you could bring so much more on the outside. Plus, you kick me in the ribs considerably less now, so I have to say I enjoy having you on this side of things.

This month has been completely nuts for you, and I have to say, you have been a real trooper. We moved from New York City to Florida early in the month, which was a huge change in itself. On top of that, before we left the city we spent weeks carting you around to any and every New York sight we could possibly think of. Then, when we finally got to Florida, we were busy not only with unpacking and settling in, but also with taking you to see family and friends right off the bat. All that finally calmed down a bit just in time for all the festivities of your very first Christmas. Needless to say, you have been one tired baby this month, but I think you're starting to settle in and get used to your new surroundings and way of life, and that's great to see.

On top of all that craziness, you decided to sprout a couple of teeth this month. You started teething in earnest for the first time the day before we flew to Florida, working on both bottom front teeth at once. This was less than ideal timing. There were many tears, many tantrums, much clinginess and many restless nights. We did our very best to minimize your discomfort as much as possible, but you were just not happy. I will admit to warning you that the Tooth Fairy may not bring you anything for these teeth someday, as she will want nothing to do with these Devil Teeth. That is not true, of course, but the first teething experience was just not fun for any of us. Of course, I imagine it is quite an uncomfortable process, especially for a sweet baby who never knew pain like that, so you are more than entitled to complain. And now that the hurt has passed (until next time), you look adorable with your new toothy grin.

You have really been vocal about your opinions this month. Not that this is particularly new, but this month you have really perfected your Tantrum Squeal. If things are not going your way, you are not afraid to tell us about it. You are a baby who knows what she wants and you will make that known. I have to say that although I may feel differently in the moment, that is a quality I admire about you. I hope that as you grow you will always feel confident to speak your mind and clearly express what you want in life. I do hope you find other ways to do so instead of the angry face and squealing, but I hope the strong will sticks with you.

Probably the most notable change this month has been your Mommy Phase. All you seem to want in the world is for me to hold you and carry you around while you suck your thumb. This is quite understandable, of course, given all the recent upheaval in your world. But this phase has brought mixed feelings for me. On the one hand, it's wonderful. Up until this point you have been so all about Daddy that I assumed you just considered me The Lady Who Brings The Milk. It has been so nice to feel like you really want to be with me, to see you seek me out in a room and reach for me, or to get your little scoot-crawl going as fast as your arms and legs can manage to get you to wherever I may be. When you reach my feet you pull yourself up on my legs, reaching as high as your arms will go until I pick you up. When I lift you up, your little body leans into mine as you wrap your arms around me and bury your face in my neck. You have been more content to cuddle with me than ever before, and where once you required constant play and stimulation, you have been happy to just sit on my lap for hours. You climb all over me, of course, but stop regularly to lay your head on my chest, resting quietly and sucking your thumb. Every time you nestle into me like that, it makes my heart soar. It is a feeling I always dreamed of and one I never want to forget.

However, the downside to this phase is that if I don't instantly pick you up, or if you can't get to me, you get so upset. Your face crumples and the tantrums flow freely, as do the tears. There is much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Of course, this is also the only time you ever say the "mama" sound. When you're happy, it's all "dadadadada" all the time, but when you're upset, you just wail "maaaaaaaaa maaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" as you lean forward and lay your forehead on the ground, because the weight of your troubles is just too much to bear. It is the saddest thing. It got to a point this month where I felt distraught about this Mommy Phase, because I missed your smile. As much as I love having you want to be with me, it seemed every time I walked into the room you would instantly go from happily playing to wailing in distress until I held you. I missed seeing your face light up with your adorable grin when you saw me, missed hearing you laugh, missed watching you play. Last month you were just so happy and I missed that joyful little girl, because I felt I rarely got to see her this month. It was a bit discouraging and sad. But ultimately, I just tried to remind myself to focus on the good parts of this phase, because in the blink of an eye you will be too busy with your own things to come hang out with your ol' mom. So I have tried to soak in those moments of you pressed against me, or reaching up for me, longing to be close. And now your happiness seems to be returning, so perhaps the phase is on its way out and it will be all dadadadada again before I know it. Until then, I will treasure each bit of closeness while I can.

In other developments, you are wearing me out with your mobility. You love living in a large house now, with lots of room to move and places to explore. You crawl all over the place and pull yourself up on everything. You especially love to pull yourself up on the back of the couch so you can look out the front window, or on the sliding glass door to look out into the backyard. You have gotten very fast at your scoot-crawl and it continues to make me smile every day. I also love to watch you stand and examine things, or sit and play with your toys. I just love to watch you take in the world.

Your sleep has been all over the place this month, but given the developments we've already covered here, I think that is to be expected. You are still waking up through the night, and naps have been a bit hit or miss since we arrived in Florida, but I think things are finally starting to sort themselves out. You also started sleeping in your own room for the first time this month, a transition that was much harder on me than it was on you. As nice as it is to no longer spend my nights being afraid to move for fear of waking you, I miss having you so close to me all night long. You are still just a few feet away, but it's still much further apart than we have ever been. I miss you!

Just a few days ago we celebrated your first Christmas. It was such a blessing to be able to do so here, with all of your family. We had an exhausting Christmas Eve/Christmas Day as we hopped from place to place, but it was perfect. You were an angel in church on Christmas Eve and tore into your presents on Christmas morning. You visited with everyone, smiled, laughed, crawled and played. You got a great number of noisy toys for Christmas, including a walker from Santa, a laptop from Grandpa, a toy house from Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Stephanie and a toy remote from Grammy. So far you are enthralled with all of them and the books Santa brought you have hardly been touched. Isn't that the way it goes? Regardless, the whole Christmas holiday was so much more magical for your daddy and me this year, all thanks to you. It was so much fun to introduce you to all of our traditions and watch you experience it all for the first time. I already cannot wait to see how much more fun you'll have next Christmas, and I especially cannot wait to teach you the real meaning of Christmas as you grow. We are very blessed, my sweet Ellie.

Baby girl, here we are, nine months in, and I still cannot believe you are really here. Your daddy and I still regularly ask each other, "can you believe how cute she is?" because you are just so unbelievably cute. And funny, and silly, and sweet, and precious, and perfect. I am so in awe of you. As I sit with you in those quiet moments during the night as you nurse back to sleep, I just stare at you and feel so overcome. I am overwhelmed with love in a way I never could have imagined possible. My heart just aches because it is overflowing with love for you, your daddy and our family. I am so very lucky.

Happy Nine Months, my love.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear Ellie,

I can't believe you are nine months old. You are climbing and crawling all the time and are getting so big. You have officially doubled your birth weight, which was on the high side to begin with. Emotionally, you have been pushing the boundaries on both ends of the spectrum.

On the positive side, you have been really excited about people and things this month, which is just the coolest thing. You flash a big grin and bounce up and down when you see someone you haven't seen in a while or that you are excited about. At a minimum, this includes my coming to "rescue" you every morning, but you also like your new toys, the dog and are beginning to do this for much of your extended family. You have also perfected the art of raising your arms when you want to be picked up and you love to climb up my legs until I lift you. You are mimicking noises more often and seem to enjoy doing it. In fact, you were so smiley at the beginning of the month that you would regularly scrunch your face up as if you could barely contain your excitement. This face has officially been invited to join your sneeze moan and raspberry-blowing as charter members of the Cuteness Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, sweetheart, this month has also seen you learn to cry on purpose and throw a super tantrum. These fun activities seem to be most strongly manifested in your new obsession with Mommy. Fortunately, I have been able to distract you during the past couple of days so we can play and mommy can work or do something besides hold you while you suck your thumb. However, Mommy's arms have been a pretty popular hangout spot these past couple of weeks. Before I learned the distraction technique, you would sit in front of her and scream with everything you could muster, which included some pretty high-pitched screeches and laying your face flat on the ground. It is simply maddening to see you so upset, and even more maddening to watch you flip the switch the second she picks you up. I don't know what we are going to do with you, but I really hope we can figure out a way to channel this single-minded strong will to something good so it does not get used against us too often in the future.

For the sake of completeness, I should also talk about all of your movement. You started climbing over things the day after I wrote your last letter and have only gotten better and more frequent at pulling yourself up and "scooting." I can hardly remember a time when you just laid in one place, though we have plenty of pictures to suggest it actually happened. I think the huge growth in your mobility has been fueled, in part, by all of the extra space at Grandpa's house. I suppose this may be a metaphor for how the larger move we are making as a family is really in your best interest. The theory is basically that you can use your mommy and me a lot more than you can use things and that our happiness with work and life will help make you happy. I probably owe you a fuller explanation for the move we are making, but for now the theory will have to do. In fact, I can already tell you that it works in reverse. Watching you be happy is the most satisfying experience I have known. It is so simple and yet so profoundly beautiful.

I love you so much, my Ellie, and I would be lying if I said I didn't understand your fascination with Mommy.

All my love,

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."
- Luke 2:10-11

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours!

We are having a wonderful Christmas so far, making great memories as we celebrate the Gift of Jesus' birth with our families. We have so much to thank God for this year and we are so happy to be with family as we do just that.

I hope you all are also having a wonderful holiday filled with loved ones, lots of laughs, good food and happy memories. Merry Christmas, my friends!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Our Last Night

I can't believe I'm about to write my very last recap of a fun NYC outing. That is blowing my mind.

Before we get to that, in case you're wondering how Florida life is progressing, our belongings arrived last Friday and we've been working hard to get unpacked and settled. A word (or two) to the wise: I do not recommend moving 1) at Christmas time, and/or 2) with a baby. Both things really complicate your life.

It's nice having our things here, but we have yet to establish a routine, something that I'm sure will finally happen after the holidays. We have just been so busy I feel like I've barely had a moment to come up for air. It has been a non-stop mad dash of car registrations, new driver licenses, unpacking, visiting family, working, trying to do some kind of Christmas preparation, etc., etc. I haven't read a blog or responded to email in a timely manner or had a night to just sit and aimlessly watch TV in weeks. The silver lining there is that being so busy has kept me from dwelling on all the Christmas in New York Fun I'm missing out on, but the flip side is that I'm sure the homesickness is going to hit like a ton of bricks after the holiday craziness. Every now and then I'll get a passing moment of "oh crap, we're really not going back," but for now, that thought really hasn't been allowed much space in my brain. Check in with me again mid-January.

And it is very strange to think that this post will conclude my NYC-related recaps. It's all Florida from here on out. I hope you're ready for the change, my friends. I plan to share more about what exactly we're doing here shortly after the New Year, so stay tuned for that.

Our last night in New York was a perfect one. We took the ferry from Hoboken into midtown, which gave us great dusk views of the skyline as we approached the city. I made sure to point out all the notable buildings to Ellie.

On the ferry

Look, Ellie! The Empire State Building!

We then walked east, through our old neighborhood and over to Times Square. Ellie made this a bit taxing by doing her "lean as far backwards in the carrier as I possibly can" thing. At least she was having fun?

She's a weirdo.

Even though we had already taken Ellie there the week prior, we made our way back to Rockefeller Center to take in the tree one more time.

In front of the tree

On the Promenade

Eric's friend Dave met us by the tree to meet Ellie, and kindly snapped a few family photos for us.

That girl loves to pinch.

Our NY family

We also paused on the Promenade to recreate one of my most favorite pictures of us from our time in New York: us in front of the old Saks snowflakes in 2009.

Left: Christmas 2009, after seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Right: Christmas 2012, with our baby in tow, bidding farewell to our city.

We then walked back over to Sixth Avenue to take in the large ornaments and Christmas lights once more.

Eric and Ellie and giant Christmas lights

Then it was over to Times Square, just because well, it's Times Square. It just seemed fitting to end our time in the city with a pass through Times Square. Once again, we stopped to recreate an old photo, this time one we took while Eric was a summer associate in the city, before we even moved there. We had just seen a Broadway show and were enjoying our night out in the big city. We weren't even married yet at that point. Five years of marriage, four years of New York life and one baby later, we tried to recreate the magic on our last night in the city.

Same spot, 2007 and 2012

And with that, we decided to call it a night and close out our city life. We walked back to the PATH train and I couldn't help but shed a few tears as I looked back at what we were leaving behind. I felt brokenhearted and unable to imagine not walking those streets every day. Frankly, I still can't imagine it.

We took the train back to Newport and walked from there back to Hoboken along the waterfront. I spent the whole walk trying to memorize every last detail of the skyline, every peak of every building and every glittering light. I don't ever want to forget exactly what it looked like.

For dinner that night we ordered in Italian from a favorite local place and drank a good amount of wine, trying to both reminisce about our New York life and prepare for the next day and all the change it would bring with it. That was our last real moment to reflect before the madness that was the day of our travel to Florida.

That night was a perfect way to say good-bye to the city: just roaming around midtown, through our old neighborhood and past these major NYC sights that used to be a part of our daily lives. I've said it before, and I'll be saying it for the rest of my life: we were so blessed to have the opportunity to live in that great city, and our time there will be remembered often and fondly. I love that city.

And now, with this closure of the New York chapter, let our Florida life commence.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Goodbye, Bryant Park

The Friday before we left New York was Eric's last day of work at the firm. As I mentioned earlier, they gave him a rather nice send-off, complete with a going-away party and an autographed David Price baseball as a parting gift. I think Eric was very flattered, and although we're very much looking forward to what lies ahead for us, we are so grateful for the opportunities that job has provided for us. That firm job is what brought us to NYC, making dreams come true, and I am so thankful for that.

While Eric was saying good-bye to coworkers, Ellie and I made the trek into the city to visit yet another of my favorite holiday destinations: Bryant Park. Of course, I have said a gajillion times that Bryant Park is my favorite park in the city. They have so many fun events in the summer, it's such a nice place to have lunch in the fall and spring, and the holiday shops paired with the ice skating rink in the winter is just all so very charming. So, I wanted to be sure to make a stop there before we left, both so Ellie could see it and so that I could enjoy it one last time. When Eric's party came to a close and he left the office for the very last time, he came to meet us there.

The first thing we really checked out was the tree. It was looking quite lovely (and large!) in blue and silver.

Ellie and me in front of the Bryant Park Christmas tree

Pretty blue lights

We then circled around the ice rink, watching the skaters go by. A couple even stopped to talk to Ellie! She just stops all kinds of traffic.

Hanging out at the Pond with my girl

A little bit of a scrunchy face!

We then spent some time doing some shopping at the holiday shops. Most notably, we were in the market for some New York artwork. Earlier in the week we went to the holiday market at Union Square, where we bought Ellie some stunning artwork featuring New York landmarks for her nursery (pictures to come!). But we also wanted a piece more suitable for our living room. There was a booth at  Bryant Park that had caught our eye in years past, and ultimately, we purchased a painting we love from that local artist. After the holidays we plan to hang it in our new digs, so I'll share pictures then!

Browsing the shops

Quick shopping break at the fountain

With our large painting in hand, we figured it was best to call it a night and made our way westward to the ferry terminal to catch a ride back to Hoboken. It was a great afternoon, and a very nice way to celebrate the end of Eric's time at the firm (well, that afternoon paired with the bottle of champagne we consumed later that night, of course). I just love Bryant Park all year round, but especially at Christmas. I already miss that place!

Beautiful Bryant Park

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Another one of the Very Important Things on our list of things to do before leaving New York City was taking Ellie to Macy's to meet Santa Claus. As it has been said, the Macy's Santa is the one true Santa, so we knew she just had to go before we left town. We decided not to waste any time with this matter and headed in to Herald Square as soon as we possibly could the very morning after Thanksgiving.

Sure, we knew it was a gamble - Black Friday crowds could be atrocious and make the line epically long. I was really hoping, however, that insanity would be on our side, in that no sane parents would actually bring their kids to Macy's Herald Square on Black Friday, so the line wouldn't actually be too bad. I'm not sure if that's what helped or if Santaland is just a well-oiled machine, but we really did move through the whole thing quite quickly, and it was every bit the magical experience we hoped for.

Santa is here!

Before you enter Santaland, the line snakes around in front of the Santaland Express. The Conductor pleasantly shouts instructions and the elves smile and chat with you as you wait. When you finally reach the train platform, you ring the bell and off you go!

The conductor shouting instructions to the passengers

Ellie dressed in her Christmas best and ready to board the Santaland Express to the North Pole!

Ring that bell, Ellie!

After ringing the bell, you walk through a train car, complete with the sound and feeling of the tracks rumbling beneath your feet (a rather nice touch, we thought). Then, you disembark at the North Pole and step out into a winding wonderland of fun, whimsical holiday creatures in all sorts of festive scenes.

Left: Ellie and Eric arriving at North Pole Station
Right: A fish-pop vendor

Snowman choir

Only 308 more gnome steps to Santa!


The countdown to Christmas

In front of Santa's flight map

I have to say, Macy's did a good job of making waiting in line fun, and we were ready to meet the Big Guy in seemingly no time at all. The elves ushered us back into Santa's little room, where Ellie plopped down on his lap, totally unfazed, and posed for her very first picture with Santa:

I could tell Ellie was quite excited about the whole thing, and not only did we leave with a great picture as a souvenir, we also each got a button to prove we met the man himself at Macy's.

I met the man himself at Macy's Santaland 2012!

As I mentioned earlier, Macy's Santaland really is a well-oiled machine. I was impressed at how quickly everything moved and the great lengths they went to to make it (and made sure it stayed) perfectly magical for the kids (and adults, for that matter). It was a great Santa encounter!

And, it left Ellie all tuckered out in her adorable little Christmas outfit.

Sweet Christmas baby feet

However, Macy's has not been Ellie's only Santa meeting this year. We also hit up the mall with Achilles in tow to get a full family photo with the man in red:

And then, upon our arrival in Florida, we went to the annual Angelini Christmas Party (the Angelinis photographed our wedding and Ellie's baptism and have become great friends over the past five years), where Santa once again made an appearance.

(Photo by Jason Angelini Photography)

At this rate, Santa will be old news to Ellie by the time Christmas actually gets here! But so far, overexposure doesn't seem to have dampened her Christmas spirit one bit. I think she's ready to see what Santa will bring her for her first Christmas! And I suppose he better get it right, given that she's had three opportunities to tell him what she wants, right?

My Christmas sweetheart!
(Photo by Jason Angelini Photography)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Lights, NY Style

On our Farewell, New York tour, two must-see stops were Rockefeller Center and the Time Warner Center. I really wanted Ellie to see some of our Christmas favorites.

So, on our last Thursday in New York, Ellie and I headed into the city to meet up with Eric when he left work. We all agreed to meet at the Time Warner Center to see my current favorite NYC holiday sight: the Time Warner Center holiday light show. When we arrived, I was happy to see those huge, beautiful stars suspended from the ceiling. The problem, however, was that I didn't factor in timing. It was mid-afternoon at that point, but the light show does not actually start until 5:00 p.m., something that neither Eric nor I thought of ahead of time. So, we just snapped some pictures of/with the stars and went on our way.

Stars hanging from the ceiling

So pretty

Ellie is very impressed.

Eric is starting to master the self-taken portrait of all three of us!

From there we made a quick pass through the holiday shops at Columbus Circle, then walked over towards Rockefeller Center. On our way, we stopped to check out some of the decorations on Sixth Avenue. The big ornaments are my favorite!

Nutcrackers on Sixth, and Radio City Music Hall

By the big train

Hanging out by the ornaments

After Sixth Avenue, it was time to see the Rockefeller Center tree at long last. As it turns out, I'm pretty sure the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was the very first Christmas tree Ellie ever saw. So I suppose we're setting her up for a lot of disappointing trees from here on out, because it's all downhill from Rockefeller Center, right? But, the tree was looking as festive as ever, quite lovely indeed. We spent some time wading through the crowds to take it in from all angles.

Ellie checking out her first Christmas tree. I think she likes it!

Family photo at the tree!

We also took a few minutes to watch the light show on the facade of Saks, which I thought was better than last year but still far inferior to the old snowflakes that used to adorn the building.

Watching the light show

Happy Holidays from Saks!

Even after all that, we were still feeling pretty good...

They kill me. we hopped on the subway to go back to the Time Warner Center to catch the light show after all. We made it with a few minutes to spare, and I loved seeing those lovely stars dance to holiday music. However, it was much different than I remembered: I thought in past years, the music played on and on continuously, but now it is only two songs every 30 minutes. It's possible I'm just remembering it wrong, but I think it's more likely that the curse strikes again: every time I pick a favorite NYC Christmas thing, it changes for the worse! But, it was still a beautiful sight and I'm glad I got to see it one last time.

Stars in green

Stars changing color during the show, and one tuckered out little Christmas baby

I'm sure she loved the show even if she slept through it!

It was a perfect Christmas evening in the city, and I'm so glad we were able to take Ellie to see these holiday sights that we love so much. There's just nothing like New York at Christmas!