Sunday, July 28, 2013


As of yesterday afternoon, our little family is back together again and we are all quite pleased about it!

Welcome home, Eric!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Another Update and Some Sappiness

Well folks, Operation: Move to Jacksonville is barreling on, full steam ahead. Things are really starting to come together!

Eric is wrapping up Institute today. They did closing ceremonies last night, at which I hear he was highly recognized by his peers for his leadership and dedication. This doesn't surprise me in the least, as I think he is very brave, strong and leader-like for giving up what he had going in NYC to do this in the first place, plus he has been working so hard and has been doing such an excellent job. It sounds like he really made strides toward being the teacher he wants to be, although of course we know that ultimately, this is only the tip of the iceberg. But to hear him speak about what he is doing and will be doing come fall is a beautiful thing, because for the first time in a very long time he sounds excited. He's passionate and eager and just plain pumped. To hear that enthusiasm in his voice is refreshing and reminds me of the young, idealistic Eric that I used to know, who seemed to take a brief vacation during firm life, but who has now come back with a vengeance. His enthusiasm is contagious and so in turn, I, too am so excited to see what lies ahead.

In terms of firming up details for our new life, Eric does have a placement for the fall. He will be teaching at a high school not far from our new apartment, and I think it sounds like a great opportunity. Subjects are still being confirmed, but the strong hunch is that Eric will be teaching Precalculus and "Math for College Readiness." These classes are much higher-level content than he had anticipated, but if anybody is up for the challenge, Eric certainly is. He has heard a lot of positive things about the school and got a good impression from the administration when he interviewed with them. There is even potential for him to take on some sort of athletic coaching role, although this fall his priority is teaching.

And we definitely have ourselves an apartment, one that I am very excited about. It's huge, especially compared to the shoeboxes we've been living in, with closet space that nearly made me weep, it was so beautiful. It has hardwood floors, a fireplace, a screened balcony (with ceiling fan!), pass-thru kitchen, washer/dryer hookups (we purchased a new washer/dryer that will be delivered on Saturday), two bedrooms (Ellie will have her very own room for the first time ever!), and two bathrooms. It is on the second floor of a corner unit, and overlooks a large grassy area that will be great for Ellie and Achilles to run around in. As I mentioned before, the complex also has a resort-style swimming pool and kiddie pool, playgrounds and a dog park, and is located very near many shops and restaurants. It is also conveniently located to downtown and the beach, so it sounds just perfect and I can't wait to see it myself!

Our new living room and balcony

View looking towards the living room from the dining room, with the kitchen on the left

The kitchen 

 Ellie's room!

So, Wednesday is moving day. Needless to say, my blog-posting might be a bit sporadic (if at all existent) for a week or two while we get moved and settled in. Eric is coming back home tomorrow sometime, and on Sunday we'll be at a friend's son's birthday party. Monday we'll finish up whatever needs to be done and have dinner with Eric's family, and then Tuesday we'll pick up the truck. We'll load the moving truck on Tuesday, then leave first thing Wednesday morning for Jacksonville. I'm a little anxious about how the move will actually go, given that it is our first without using movers in quite some time, and we have to lug everything up to the second floor. It's possible we're very dumb people for taking this on. However, on the plus side, we purchased a new living room set that will be delivered tomorrow, so we won't be lugging our couch and such upstairs. So that helps.

Speaking of the couch, can I just say that I hate being such a sentimental person sometimes? I attach such sentiment to objects that it makes it so hard to give anything up. For example, I recently didn't want to upgrade my iPhone because my old phone was the phone on which I texted everyone about Ellie's birth. I mean, that's silly. But everything holds memories and meaning for me, so I never want to throw anything away. Seriously, I'm probably just a few sappy greeting cards from loved ones away from being an actual hoarder.

Because we purchased a new couch, today I left our old couch out on the curb for sanitation to come pick up.

Achilles helping put the couch out on the curb

When they came, I watched them load the couch into the truck. The compacter split it right in half and then crushed the back end to pieces. And it nearly broke my heart.

Farewell, old friend!

Now, this is not a normal reaction to the disposal of 1) any couch whatsoever, if you are a normal person, and especially 2) a couch so old, so faded, so worn that the cushions were splitting in half, stained beyond repair. I have been recoiling at that horrid thing for years and longing for something new and pretty.

But it was such a good couch. Eric and I bought it second-hand from another tenant in our apartment building in Washington, D.C., and it was our first "big" furniture purchase. It was ugly, sure, but it was crazy comfortable and a great price for a sleeper sofa, which we deemed a must for all of our out-of-state visitors. Since we bought it all those years ago, we have more than gotten our money's worth. That couch has traveled with us through four states and six homes. It slept countless visitors. Eric and I cuddled on it, cried on it, laughed on it. I labored on it in the days before Ellie's birth and after she was born, I camped out on it as I recovered. She and I would spend hours resting on it as she napped beside me in her early days. We would prop her in the corner to sit up when she was small, and when she got bigger she liked to stand up against the back and look out the window for birds or arriving family members. Achilles has always liked to sleep on top of it or nestled into the corners. It has really served our family well.

So, I was sad to see it go.

But I remind myself that the couch is sort of symbolic, that I have to say goodbye to our old life now and look forward to the new and exciting life ahead of us. It may be painful to say goodbye, to watch the old being completely broken down, but we need that break and we need to move forward and make a fresh start.

And there is a lovely, soft new couch just waiting for us and our fresh start in Jacksonville. I can hardly wait to make it our own.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

His Name is Elizabeth.

In addition to serving as a brief whiny vent, I hope this post will serve as a PSA to all well-meaning folk who haphazardly comment on a baby's sex without considering context clues. Pay attention, well-meaning-yet-clueless folk! The more you know!

As we all know, my baby has been a bit follically-challenged through the majority of her (almost) 16 months of life. Sure, she started out looking somewhat haired, albeit sparse:

Newborn Ellie, rocking some fuzzy brown tresses

But those dark locks soon faded away in favor of very, very light-colored fuzz, making her look basically like a baldy:

Baldy Ellie at Fashion's Night Out in NYC in September 2012

 You can barely see her soft little fuzz here, also in September 2012

Learning to sit up but not how to grow noticeable hair.

In the early days, we got the occasional passer-by who would comment on our adorable little boy. I never really minded, because the comments weren't all that frequent and usually Ellie was tucked away in her stroller/carseat (so no way to get a good, close look) and covered in a blanket, which was frequently white or blue (we had a blue one with an alligator on it that we used often). I get it: you see a baldy in a blue blanket and assume boy. No harm, no foul.

But as Ellie has gotten older, the comments have only increased in frequency. Also increasing in frequency? Her desire to remove any sort of "I'M A GIRL" contraption I may try to strap to her head. Headbands are practically impossible to keep on, and her hair hasn't been substantial enough to support the likes of a clip until just recently (and even then, it will only hold the tiniest of teeny tiny clips you ever did see).


And I have come to learn that people do not look past the head for context clues when guessing a baby's sex. It doesn't matter if I'm pushing her in her purple stroller, with her pink and purple stroller fan clipped to it, while she's wearing a lacy, pink ruffly dress. If there's no hair and no bow, I'm always told how cute "he" is.

Case in point, the other day I took Ellie to the mall in this outfit:

This lovely, purple floral romper with the criss-cross straps and large purple flower.

And still, as we walked through the mall, somebody actually said to her, "Hey there, little boy! What's your name?"

His name is Elizabeth. Thanks for asking.

I mean, people. Please. When you see a baby with short (or no) hair, don't make assumptions - survey the rest of the scene. Check the outfit. Check the accessories. Check the baby transportation device. There may be abundant clues to help you avoid an awkward moment (for all involved). It's not fun for me to have to correct you and see you get all embarrassed, and I'm sure it's not fun for you to be corrected and get embarrassed. (I know I have some fellow mamas of "late hair bloomers" out there who can sympathize with me on this, am I right?)

And yes, it's true that sometimes you may look for clues and come up empty. Some people prefer far more gender neutral apparel/accessories/baby transportation devices. Heck, when I had Ellie dressed in a baseball onesie and jeans for all the games on our road trip, I would not have expected people to guess she's a girl. I get that. I also used to get a lot of "boy" comments when she wore her green winter coat and cream beanie in the cold New York weather. Again, neutral (if not "boy") colors, so hard to tell. But if you're unsure, a simple, "oh, what a sweet baby! What is your baby's name?" will sidestep the whole issue.

Sure, she's sporting pink sneakers and skinny jeans, but at a quick glance, it's a pretty neutral outfit.

The feminine style of the coat was often obscured by the carrier or more blankets, so this one gets a pass.

Look, I know that in the grand scheme of things, who cares if people know that Ellie is a girl or think she's a boy? Is that really a major problem? No, of course not. I appreciate well-meaning strangers cooing over my little one no matter whether they refer to her as "he" or "she" and I often will just refrain from correcting them, because really, eh. Doesn't matter. But sometimes, regardless, it does irk me. Maybe it's just tapping into some deep unacknowledged disappointment that I can't yet have Ellie rocking pigtails (babies in pigtails are THE CUTEST). Maybe I just don't like to feel like her adorable dresses and such are going unnoticed. But whatever the reason, I just felt the need to vent and share my tips for avoiding that awkward "oh she, it's a girl, I'm so sorry" conversation that I deal with almost every time I check out at the supermarket.

Because HER name is Ellie and SHE is the cutest little GIRL in the whole wide world. Take notice!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Internet Knows Everything

You may recall that quite a while back I plugged in a childhood photo of Eric and a childhood photo of me into to merge our faces and estimate what our future baby would look like. The results were quite cute, actually, although I wondered how accurate they would be come baby time.

Well, we all know that Ellie turned out to be quite cute, but how exactly does she compare to our MorphThing?

Hey, let's find out:

I mean, her real eyes are more blue, and her hair parts to the opposite side, but other than that, MorphThing was really close, right??? Who would've thought? The internet predicted my baby!

In light of Princess Kate preparing to give birth at any moment (oh, the excitement!), I couldn't help but wonder if she ever MorphThing-ed pictures of Prince William and herself to see a rough draft of the royal baby. Then, I realized she doesn't have to, because MorphThing totally already did it for them (follow the link to see the results!). Can I just say, bless Princess Kate for going through pregnancy, labor and delivery with the whole world watching and betting on the baby's sex and stats, names, and especially, when she'll go into labor in the first place. I've been nine months pregnant before, and it brings with it an irritability that cannot be matched, so I have great respect for anyone who can handle all that pressure and hounding (no matter how well-meaning it may be) from just their friends, family, coworkers, and strangers on the street - let alone the whole world - with grace.

In other birth-related news, today is my birthday! I am 31 years old today. I'm missing Eric for sure, but I've spent some quality time with my family in the past few days and my sister and I will be spending the day together today. And Ellie was so excited to celebrate with me this morning that she woke up at 5:00 a.m.! "Happy birthday, Mama! Have a wicked tired day!" Thanks, Ellie. You shouldn't have. REALLY.

Have a good Monday, my friends! And go, royal baby, go!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Glazer Children's Musuem

First of all, can we mention that this is my 900th post??? Wow. That's a lot of posts. And you all are very kind to read them! And now, please join me for #900...

A long while ago, I purchased a Living Social deal for admission for two adults and one child to the Glazer Children's Museum in Tampa. Given that our time in the Tampa area is drawing to a close, I knew I needed to make use of those passes and a rainy Saturday afternoon this past weekend seemed like the perfect time to do so. Ellie and I enlisted her Aunt Heather and Grammy to join us, and after driving through a death-defying rainstorm as we crossed the bridge to Tampa (this is where I pause to grumble about the constant afternoon rain and the driving all that whatnot that comes with Florida life), we finally made it to the museum for a day o' fun. Ellie was psyched.

The Glazer Children's Museum

Ellie was delighted with this mirrored wall near the entrance. If that had been all there was in the whole museum, she could have left happy.

The museum really was a lot of fun. First, we hit up a toddler area where Ellie played with stuffed animals, puzzles, mirrors and ball-drop toys.

Fun for toddlers

Then we did a little water play...

If you're wondering if she ended up soaked, why, yes. Yes, she did.

...touched an alligator...

She had no fear!

...played in a ball pit...

She's delighted.

...and explored a tunnel.

She wasn't really buying what we were selling.

It's safe to say, we were having a good time.

Happy face!

We also pretended to be Publix employees, following in the great footsteps of Ellie's Great-Gramz and Auntie Kelley...

She's a natural.

...had a dance party...

She likes to move it, move it. (Still sporting her Publix apron!)

...tried our hands at veterinary medicine...

Nursing a doggy back to health

...and donned our doctor coats to review X-rays and perform surgery.

Paging Dr. Ellie to the ER!
(Not going to lie, I'm hanging onto these in case I get the opportunity to show them off at her med school graduation someday...)

After all that, we were pretty much museum-ed out.

Resting in the gift shop

So, we went outside where we could really stretch our legs.

Sweet freedom!

Then, Ellie found the Promised Land: a water feature.

Oh, yeah. Now we're talking.

As excited as she was, she was still a little timid at first and had Grammy help ease her into it.

Hitting the water with Grammy

But not to worry, she found her nerve soon enough, and then she was unstoppable (and we had the soaking wet clothes to prove it).

This is a water baby if I ever saw one.

Then she really got serious. Strip-down-naked-in-public kind of serious.

Clothes just slow you down.

That girl loves her some water.

As the thunder started to rumble, we grabbed Ellie's back-up outfit out of the diaper bag and went to dinner, which was very nice. Aside from a slight face-first tumble as we paid our parking fees at the end of the day (resulting in a bloody lip, poor thing), it was a perfect afternoon!

I have to say, Ellie is really at the coolest age. I love watching her walk all over the place, exploring her world and so freely showing her delight. She is absolutely awesome.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Madagascar Live at Busch Gardens

Hey, you'll never guess what we did last week. We went to Busch Gardens! Hooray! Something new and different!

This time, though, Ellie and I were accompanied by my dad, who was very excited to see my sister Heather's new show: "Madagascar Live: Operation Vacation." We braved the threat of rain and thunderstorms and off we went.

We arrived at the park with a little time to kill before Heather's next performance, so we spent a little time watching the huge splash made by the Tidal Wave ride. I think Ellie thought it was pretty long as she didn't stray too far from the safety of her Papa's legs.

Ellie and my dad watching the splash

Ellie's reactions to the Tidal Wave!

(Oh, and yes, in case you're wondering, she is totally rocking a watermelon dress.)

She kills me.

When it was time to head into the Stanleyville Theater, we were able to get a pretty good seat. Once again, we all loved the show. It's very high energy and, as always, Heather does a fantastic job.

Left: Ellie and Papa waiting for the show to start; Right: Would you look at this?! Awesome!


Heather doing the Hippopotamus with Gloria

Alex on stage

King Julian likes to move it, move it

Heather's friend Casey giving Ellie a personal solo dance, with which she is not impressed.

My sister!

If you're interested, here is a video of Heather's solo number as well as one of the more fun dance-y numbers:

VIDEO: Selections from "Madagascar Live" 
(Note: this video was taken last time we went, in June, when our seats were much higher up! Also, please pardon the shaky camera work, as I was trying to record and take photos at once. I'm just not as good at that as Eric is!)

After the show, Heather joined us as we took Ellie over to the Sesame Street kids' area to play in the splash pads for a bit. Every time we go to Busch Gardens I make sure to bring all of Ellie's swim stuff for that very purpose, yet we somehow never make it over there. Today I was so excited to finally get the chance, but of course, as soon as I got her changed into her swimsuit, the park "went into code" - meaning everything shut down due to lightning in the area. Bummer!

But, Ellie improvised as we waited to see if it would open back up, and made her own fun by chasing birds and playing in a puddle.

She's not going to let a little lightning rain on her parade.

When we realized the splashing wasn't going to happen, Ellie made the most of things by running around with the new beads her Papa gave her and enjoying time with Aunt Heather.

The girl lives for beads these days.

Ellie and Aunt Heather

Once again, I am so grateful to Heather for giving us passes to Busch Gardens so we could have all these fun afternoons at the park. That's one "con" for Jacksonville: we can't just dash over to Busch Gardens any old afternoon! Ah well. For now, it sure has been fun!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sawgrass Lake Park

Last Thursday, I had grand plans to take Ellie to a children's museum that were wholly thwarted by her random boycotting of naptime. After she finally did nap, it was getting too late in the day for any big outing, but we needed to get out of the house. So, my dad and I took her to Sawgrass Lake Park for a little walk.

Sawgrass is just a few streets away from my dad's house, and I remember going there somewhat frequently years and years ago, but it has been quite some time since I've been back. I remember walking through there and spotting lots of wildlife (alligators, armadillos, birds) so I knew Ellie would love it.

Danger! Do not feed or molest the alligators!

And love it she did. We first walked out to the Observation Tower and spent quite a bit of time letting her run around and check out the scenery, which she did with great delight. And when other passersby came through, she would happily lead them to the railing while chatting them up and pointing out all the must-see sights. She seems to have inherited our tour-guiding gene!

View from the Observation Tower 

Taking it all in

 Left: Ellie signing "bird" while sporting a windblown look; Right: Happy girl enjoying a scenic view!

When we had enough observation, we kept on along the boardwalk.

It was a lovely afternoon.

Ellie walking with her Papa 

Are you coming, Mama?

As we walked, we spotted some alligators and Ellie did some interacting with Spanish moss.

Well this is interesting.

Sharing her moss. Such a kind and giving soul!

After looping the second half of the park we ended up along the canal, where Ellie had a great time watching for various sea birds (and passing dogs).

View along the canal

Ellie on bird patrol

It was really nice to turn a day that looked like it was going to be a bust into a pretty nice little afternoon. I am disappointed in myself that I didn't take Ellie to Sawgrass earlier, after seeing how much she enjoyed it (and knowing that it is only an easy bike ride away). Our social calendar for our remaining 2.5 weeks in St. Petersburg is quickly filling up, but if we have some more free time, I'll try to bring Ellie back to Sawgrass. Such a pretty natural space in the middle of suburbia!