Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween 2012: A Fairy Tale

Happy Halloween from the W. Family!

To celebrate the day, allow us to tell you a little fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a princess named Snow White, and she was the fairest in all the land.

This angered the Evil Queen, and Snow White was forced to flee to the woods to avoid the Queen's wrath. When the Queen discovered where Snow White had gone and that she was alive and well, she disguised herself as an old woman and went off in search of Snow White. She offered her a poison apple, that would put her into a deep sleep with just one bite.

The Evil Queen in disguise successfully tricked Snow White, who took the poison apple (much to the chagrin of her dwarf friends!)...

...and took a bite!

Oh no! What had she done?

Snow White indeed fell into a deep sleep (and that's how you know this is a fairy tale, because this particular Snow White does not sleep).

But not to worry! A handsome prince came along and saved the day!

And so, they all lived happily ever after, and Snow White remained the fairest of them all.

Happy Halloween, my friends!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Discovering Columbus

When I was in the city with my friend Jess for the J.K. Rowling event a couple of weeks ago, we passed through Columbus Circle on our way back to the subway. Columbus Circle is right in my old neighborhood, and it's another one of my favorite spots in NYC (especially at Christmas). I noticed that the Christopher Columbus statue in the center of the circle was covered in scaffolding, and assumed it was being repaired or cleaned or some such thing. How sad, I thought, that I would probably not get an unobstructed view of it again before we leave.

Some of my favorite pictures we have of the statue in Columbus Circle, taken in December 2010

But wait! Not so fast!

Yes, Columbus is currently covered in scaffolding, but not for renovations. Rather, it is an art exhibition  by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi. As described on the Public Art Fund website:

Tatzu Nishi (b. 1960, Nagoya, Japan) is known internationally for his temporary works of art that transform our experience of monuments, statues and architectural details. His installations give the public intimate access to aspects of our urban environment and at the same time radically alter our perceptions. For his first public project in the United States, Nishi has chosen to focus on the historic statue of Christopher Columbus. 
The marble statue, which rises to more than 75 feet atop a granite column, was designed by the Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo. It was unveiled in 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's first voyage to the Americas. Despite its prominent public location, the statue itself is little known, visible only as a silhouette against the sky or at a distance from surrounding buildings. 
Nishi's project re-imagines the colossal 13-foot-tall statue of Columbus standing in a fully furnished, modern living room. Featuring tables, chairs, couch, rug and flat-screen television, the decor reflects the artist's interpretation of contemporary New York style. He even designed wallpaper inspired by memories of American popular culture, having watched Hollywood movies and television as a child in Japan. Discovering Columbus offers both a unique perspective on a historical monument and a surreal experience of the sculpture in a new context. Allowing us to take a journey up six flights of stairs to a fictional living room, Tatzu Nishi invites us to discover for ourselves where the imagination might lead.

Well, I read that and was all, WE HAVE TO GO. How cool, right? Admission to the exhibition is free, but you do have to have a timed ticket, so we made our reservation for 1:30 on Thursday afternoon and off we went.

Eric and Ellie ready to head to the top of the statue

We didn't have to wait long before we were allowed in to begin our climb to the top. I have a sad history with sketchy staircases (like when I couldn't make it to the top of St. Rule's Tower in Scotland), and I'm not really stoked about heights either, so I just tried to focus on the coolness of the situation and tune out Eric's repeated statements of "man, that landing sure is shaky!"

Up we go!

Passing the base

Up above Central Park!

The climb may have been a little nerve-wracking, but it sure afforded some nice views when we made it to the top.

Looking north up Broadway and Central Park West

Southwest corner of Central Park

When we first walked into the "living room," I couldn't help but laugh out loud at the scene. I mean, how does one really find oneself in a living room 75 feet in the air with a giant statue in the middle of it? Oh, New York. You never disappoint.

My first view of the exhibition

We got right to work examining Christopher Columbus from all angles, as well as enjoying the other features of the room.

Hello there, Chris!

Hanging out on the furniture

Eric and Ellie enjoying the views

Enormous feet

Books on the shelves

On the left, a sampling of the American Pop Culture wallpaper, and on the right, Eric and Ellie catching up on the news.

Family shot with Christopher Columbus, thanks to the mirror on the wall!

It sure was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Columbus. Thank you for having us over!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dear Ellie - Seven Months

My dear Ellie,

Seven months! You're practically a grown-up. I can hardly believe seven months has passed since I first saw your face, heard your cries and held you close to me. What an unbelievably wonderful seven months it has been.

This has been a huge month for you. First, we started solid foods with you this month. You have tried oatmeal and a variety of fruits and vegetables, and so far have enjoyed everything except avocado. You're always willing to try whatever I put on the spoon for you (you even tried quite a few bites of the avocado, despite the faces of displeasure you were making!) and you're eager to help that spoon find its way to your mouth. I love seeing your reaction to each new food we try, and I hope you are always so interested in trying new and unfamiliar foods. Especially when you travel (something else I hope you will do a lot of!), you should always try to sample the local delicacies - it adds so much to your experience!

You started off the month focusing on making new sounds. You started shrieking, which delights me to no end and always makes me smile. You also really enjoyed seeing your daddy or me cough, and would laugh and try to mimic it back to us. Sometimes you would really cough, other times it would come out as a shriek instead, but either way, it was adorable.

Now, however, your vocal practice seems to have taken a bit of a back seat to your motor development. You are blowing my mind with your motor skills these days. First, you finally mastered rolling from your belly to your back! You started doing that with some regularity the very day I wrote your six-month letter and complained that you still couldn't do it. So, you seem to have inherited your dad's desire to prove me wrong. That's fine with me, though, as it gave us some respite from having to constantly flip you back over when you woke up on your belly and got angry. That calm was short-lived, however, because one day I heard you fussing in your crib during nap time and when I went to check on you, there you were, just sitting up and looking at me! You very sneakily learned to sit yourself up, which is now causing all kinds of sleep problems that I'll get to shortly.

As for other motor skills, you are also able to get on your hands and knees now and you just sit there and rock back and forth, intent on whatever objects may be in front of you and just out of your reach - usually, Achilles. You are obsessed with that dog these days, always smiling and laughing at him and doing your very best to maneuver your way over to him. I think you will definitely be crawling in no time flat, and he will be your motivation to fully master that skill. Poor dog, I'm not sure he knows what lies ahead for him.

Aside from getting on all fours, you also like to climb all over Daddy and me and are now able to pull yourself up to standing by holding on to our legs or arms for balance. These things always develop much more slowly than I expect, so I'm sure this won't actually be the case, but these new motor developments seem to have happened so suddenly and developed so quickly that I'm pretty confident you'll be dancing a jig by your first birthday. It seems like you have been in non-stop motion from the very beginning, when you were still in my belly, and I have a feeling that once you get fully mobile, I am going to be one chronically tired mama.

Speaking of tired, we are in the midst of challenging sleep regression. It all started when you got your first cold and your napping skills took a hit. Then you finally got yourself back on track and were napping so well for a few days. But then, the sitting up happened. Now you spend many nap times just sitting up in your crib and crying; you seem to not be able to figure out how to lie back down. If we try to lay you back down, when we walk away again you scream and sob like we just stabbed you in the heart, which is just really not very fun for anyone. This is causing you to be overtired, which has moved your morning wake up time to consistently between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. We said we could handle all this, because you were still sleeping well at night. Well, even your nighttime sleep has been affected now. You seem to be sitting up in your sleep during the night, which naturally wakes you up and leads to that unhappiness about not being able to lie back down and settle in to go back to sleep. I usually nurse you just to calm you down and then you will sleep again pretty easily, but this is still a big change for a baby who has been sleeping straight through the night for months. You seem so tired so much of the time, so I hope you can get all this worked out soon. I think you will.

I mentioned that you had your first cold this month - talk about heartbreaking. I'm not sure I'll ever forget the sound of your coughing fits, your red-rimmed, bleary eyes or the miserable expression on your face as you struggled to breathe through your open mouth. Usually you find sneezing quite funny, breaking out in big grins every time it happens, but there were no grins during your illness. All I wanted to do was make it all better for you, but I could only do so much. I felt so terrible that you felt so awful but you could have no idea why you felt that way or that it would go away soon. I was recovering from a cold myself, so you and I spent several afternoons just curled up in bed together, sleeping the day away. My poor, sweet baby. I'm so glad you felt better as quickly as you did!

Something new this month is that you really prefer to be carried. You still like your stroller just fine, but after a while, you decide you're done with it and just want us to hold you. We've been getting a lot more use out of the carrier and wrap we have for you this month, and the stroller has taken a back seat. Other things you particularly like these days include: your Jumperoo, your panda toy, being sung to (especially "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," the Winnie the Pooh song, and "Be Near Me, Lord Jesus" at nap time), being tossed in the air and watching videos of yourself. You also still love glasses, my iPhone and the remote control!

Ellie, I just love being your mama. I love to watch you experience things for the first time. I love the way you snuggle into me when you're sleepy. I love to watch you play and explore the world around you. I love to hear you laugh. I love to watch you figure out what your body can do as you move in so many new ways. I love to see your personality develop before my very eyes, and I love that I am constantly getting to know you better. You are just the coolest thing and I can't get enough of you. I'm so lucky that I get to be here all the time and spend so much time with you and believe me, I try my hardest to cherish every moment. Sometimes I just look at you and can't believe you're really here, and you're really you, and I really get to be your mother. I am so incredibly and indescribably blessed.

I love you so much, Sunshine. Happy Seven Months.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear Ellie,

For the first time in seven months, I am having trouble writing you a letter. It may be that this month has actually felt normal and I am not initially inclined to check off the progress you are making. By normal, I mean to say that Mommy and I have seemingly developed routines for the daily things we do with you and can sense that there is a mutual trust developing. I do not mean to suggest that you have been especially cooperative, because that would be false. For example, Mommy and I have certain expectations for how you should be sleeping, but you have been all over the map. This month has seen you go from learning to do it on your own, to showing regular signs of sleepiness and taking predictable naps, to varying the amount of time you stay down, to refusing to take certain naps (though never the same ones from day to day), to no longer sleeping through the night. Notwithstanding your insistence on being unpredictable, Mommy and I have gotten pretty comfortable discussing our plans for you and trust that we are doing the right things (or at least the best we can). In other words, I might actually be comfortable with the notion that I am your parent.

My writer's block is particularly interesting because this has been a very productive month. You started eating real food (which you seem to love), got sick for the first time (which everyone hated), stopped loving the stroller, started loving the carrier and have managed to grow even cuter. Most notably, you are working hard on movement. In fact, the day after I mentioned it in your last letter, you took heed and finally conquered rolling back over. (Just in case it's that simple, I will take this opportunity to complain that you are not yet potty trained.)

At seven months old, you now sit up and lean in all directions and are insistent on trying to climb. I love that you seem to have no fear of falling and don't get too upset when you do. Incidentally, for some reason, you also enjoy when we hit you (lightly!) on your head. I'm not sure whether you fear failing, but can say for sure that you have very little tolerance for it. I am a big fan of that attitude and don't mind putting up with the resultant fussiness.

As for the trouble with this month's letter, I have another thought. Your regular nap times (whether or not you decide to use them to sleep) and your earlier bed times have given me enough time to realize that you are actually going to grow up and read these someday. Knowing that, I can't be sure which Ellie I should be writing to? The one who has just learned to comfortably read on her own? The teenager who no longer thinks I am one of the most interesting people in the world? The undergraduate who needs money and may be nostalgic for home? Or perhaps the one that is starting to raise her own kids (which I hope does not overlap with any of the others on this list!)? I don't think I have settled on an answer to that question and thus probably feel self-conscious about the best way to write to you. It is so surreal to think that you, the adorable baby girl who squeezes my neck and buries her head in my shoulder when she is tired, are going to live your life at all of the ages I have experienced. Unable to fully comprehend this, I am left to speak to you today as I do when we are taking a walk or getting ready to sleep. Essentially, like you know what I am saying and that we are best friends sharing a vulnerable moment of heartfelt honesty, where we say the things to each other that the stresses of life don't give us enough time to admit to ourselves.

I love you so much and cannot express the joy I get from holding you because each time honestly feels like it is the very first.

Keep up the good work and know that you and your Mommy are my favorites.

All my love,

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Dangerous Combination

The fuzzy hair and the big blue eyes. I am powerless to resist.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Family Fun

This past Saturday, Eric, Ellie and I enjoyed a delightful fall day together. I must say, usually I must be dragged into fall kicking and screaming. In my mind, the only redeeming quality of fall is college football. Why? Because fall means winter is coming, what with the cold and the wet and the way too many clothes ALL THE TIME and it lasts FOREVER and UGH. But, this year, we're leaving in December (boohoo!!!). As sad as I may be about that, cold, dreary weather for months on end does not loom ahead of me this fall. Instead, we'll be enjoying Florida sunshine. I'll miss the charm of an actual winter-y Christmas, but hey, sacrifices. I'll be at the beach by March!

Anyway. The lack of winter dread this year has really helped me to embrace and cherish the changing seasons, and Saturday was a perfect day of fall fun. We started the day off with a family portrait session in Central Park. I bought a Living Social deal for a photographer back in January, and we saved it for this very occasion. We met her at the Bridge to take some pictures with the changing leaves as our backdrop, and we had a great time doing so. Ellie was super tired (we were very much in the throes of her nap strike) so she refused to smile for almost the entire session, but it was still a fun way to spend a beautiful fall morning. You can see a few teasers on the photographer's Facebook page, but I'll post more here when we get the full set in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, here are a few we snapped ourselves after our official photo session:

With my pretty girl by the Bridge

Ellie enjoying the fall foliage ("Don't mind me as I go ahead and eat this leaf, Mom.")

Ellie and her Daddy

On our way home, Ellie fell asleep in her carrier. Given her lack of naps, we decided not to go home and wake her up and spent quite some time wandering Hoboken so she could keep sleeping. That's nothing to complain about considering the weather was perfect, but really. Can't that baby just sleep without making it into a whole production?

When Ellie woke up we went home and grabbed some lunch, then went back out to Pier A Park for the Hoboken Harvest Festival. Hoboken really is such a great family town, I must say, and I'll be so sad to leave here. The Harvest Festival was small but very fun, with train and horse-drawn carriage rides, pumpkin painting, live music and dancing, a hay maze and a petting zoo. Fun for the whole family!

Horses along the waterfront

Train rides

Ellie and me watching Irish Dancers, and I'm thinking how well-suited my constantly-kicking baby may be for Irish dancing someday.
(And yes, she's totally rocking a pumpkin hat. Obviously.)

Hay maze


Ellie meeting some goats

She was a hit with the sheep, and I was not sad to have wipes to wash her sheep-licked hands.

Fall girls

We were most excited about the pumpkin painting, not because we wanted to actually paint pumpkins, but because they had all the unpainted pumpkins laid out in a sort of tiny pumpkin patch. We have been desperately searching for a relatively nearby farm or some such thing that we could easily get to on public transportation so we could take Ellie to a pumpkin patch, but we came up empty. Honestly, what do a couple of new parents have to do to get a picture of their kids with pumpkins around here? We were about to resort to sticking Ellie in the bin of pumpkins at the grocery store, but wait! Hoboken Harvest Festival to the rescue! Pumpkin pictures we wanted, and pumpkin pictures we got.

Our pumpkin picture dream come true!

Is it just me, or are the pumpkins particularly cute this year?

I think I'll take the one in the middle.

Family pumpkin fun

Ellie was pretty excited about the pumpkins, too. She wanted to eat them. She also wanted to play in the dirt. Good times.

Come here, pumpkin. Let me gnaw on your stem.

By the time we enjoyed all this fall festivity, Nap-Refusal Baby was sleepy so we made our way home. She's never too tired to smile for Daddy, though.

Poor tired pumpkin baby

Smiles on the way home

The loves of my life

We called it a day outing-wise and went back home to watch the Gators handily beat South Carolina while we relaxed from our fun overload. What a perfect Saturday!

Maybe this fall stuff really isn't all that bad after all.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Big Girl Bath

On Saturday, Ellie had her first Big Girl Bath - her first bath with the infant insert of her fancy whale tub removed. Now that she can sit up unassisted so well, we decided it's time to bathe upright. Laying down is for babies!

Ellie has always loved bath time, but it is so much fun to watch her now and recognize how different she is from the days of her first bath. Back then we knew she liked it because she was quiet and calm, just sitting there passively while the bath happened to her. Now, she's a very active participant. She kicks and splashes, plays with her rubber ducky, wants to grab the wash cloth. She gasps when the water runs over her face (but seems to enjoy it) and reaches out to touch the water pouring in front of her.

Big girl taking a bath!

Rubber ducky, you're the one!


Such concentration!

Bathing beauty

As much as I do love thinking back to the days when she was a tiny little thing, experiencing everything for the first time, it is really fun to watch her now, as she is growing and becoming more and more able to actively engage in the world around her. The extra splashing may make bath time a little more challenging, but it sure is fun!

Ellie's first bath on the left, and this weekend's Big Girl Bath on the right. Oh, the difference of six months!