Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Aunt Jane came in for a visit, so we decided to invite some of our Kaplan cousins over for some pizza and giggles.
Kathy Brooks came in from New Jersey with Jessie- now a 23 year old U Penn graduate looking into graduate programs in Architecture and Matt, a junior in High School. Felicia (Sita) came with her Husband Rob and Daddy Jeff joined the party too. Phoebe was in fine form and was happy to spend more time with her cousins and Aunt.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My little Story Teller

Phoebe is starting to tell me stories. With very few words strung together, she likes to talk about her day and things that happened to her. Yesterday, it was "arm- stuck-shirt". She had gotten her arm stuck in the collar of her shirt during nap time and was crying to me to help her. When I finally rescued her from the offending shirt, she had a good story to tell. These days at naptime or bedtime, we still read stories and sing songs, but now we always make time to talk. "Sita-meet me-free to be" was about the time Felicia (Sita) took her to class (Free to be under 3) and then I met her later. She tells me that one a lot. It was Jeff who discovered his little girl's desire to talk at bedtime. She told him "Daddy, sit" and when he asked if she wanted to talk a little, she started rambling out her stories. We know she loves to read and sing and play her guitar, but now that her language skills are coming on, what she really wants to do is talk and tell stories. The other day, she said to me, "Mommy-little girl-Phoebe-growm-up" And from there, she proceeded to read me a story and make her Mama smile.

Weekend with the Rosies

I never got a chance to write about Titi Carol and Sammie's first visit to our house in Vermont. Both sets of grandparents were there to see their two little girls, with their own two little girls. They had to wait a log time for this moment, but it was worth it. Phoebe and Sammie are gems of girls who one day will have naps that coordinate, then soon enough, no naps at all! And lots of time for us to share Vermont and the rest of the world together. We took advantage of the fall weather to visit a pumpkin patch and run around outside. A great time was had by the Rosenbergs and Horowitz clans alike. Hope we can do it again soon.

Yankees Win!

Congrats to the Yankees on their 27th World Series Victory and to all the Yankee fans in our lives from Grandma Mika to Daddy Jeff and especially Justin. Better luck next year to the Mets fans in our lives :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

sniffles, coughs and anxiety

I have a healthy child. A robust, razor sharp, hillariously funny, perpetually adorable child. But right now, my cutie pie has a cold. Her nose is leaking, her cough is rumbling in her chest and I imagine she feels pretty lousy. We got through this rainy day in New York, mostly hanging out at home, playing games and puzzles. I cooked in my kitchen while she played in hers- She calls it her "chicken". She was in fairly good spirits, ate most of her food and managed to take a decent nap. In short, she's fine. It's her mother who needs some help. At night, when I put her to sleep, I go in to check several times that she's breathing through that stuffed nose. My mind can spin out in all sorts of directions about what would happen if this little cold turned into something worse. It's not rational, it's pure fear distilled into daily anxiety. I have to push it down, hold it at bay, try to remember the words of my wise therapist who once told me, "try to focus on what IS, not what COULD BE." I try, I really do. I do my best to keep my angel safe and well cared for, but what of the world of things I can't control? I am in close proximity to those who have suffered real loss, real heartbreak, raw tragedy. I don't know how they survived it. I can barely handle the common cold. So I check her again. I make sure she's breathing, then I take a deep breath myself and try to get a good nights sleep.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th x 8

It feels like a lot more than 8 years have passed since the attacks on our city rocked the world. For the families who lost people, I can only imagine how raw this day still feels. It's only 8 years after all. But the rest of the world, the day passed out of horror into history. Without the Bush Administration to connect 9/11 to every action they took, the day has been downgraded to another world event beyond our control.

Last weekend, we took a family trip to Governor's Island by ferry. Me, Jeff, Phee and both Grandparents rode the boat across the water with 9/11 families, firefighters and NYPD officers who were inaugurating the first "Run to Remember" in honor of those lost 8 years ago. They wore t-shirts with pictures of family members killed on planes or in the towers. There were even some little kids who may have been among the 30 babies born fatherless after the attack. It reminded me that this day is still very fresh for so many New Yorkers. Maybe others have moved on from the tragedy, but these people never will.

As for me, I will always remember the emotion of that day and the days that followed. It was because of 9/11 that I decided to pursue my passion to become a writer and novelist full-time. Each year, I try to eek out my savings to last just one more year. Last year on this day, I started a membership at a writing space in Union Square. It was my attempt to be part of a writing community and to find a place to work consistently. In this past year, I did a re-write of my novel, "In the Last Days of Bombay." I spent hours there sending out letters to agents, and writing my blog when I couldn't concentrate on much else. Just before the summer, I finally got an agent for the book. That only took me 7 years! It was a great day for me, with a real feeling of accomplishment at last. Now I have an advocate to sell my work, to help me finally get published. But recently, I decided that the space was too far from home and cost too much. Today would be my last official day there. They told me if I turned in my key, I'd get my $5 deposit back. Tempting as that may be :) I decided to keep the key in hopes that I can rejoin the space one day and perhaps get back there to work on a new novel.

9/11 was a catalyst for me to live my dream and to attempt to become a published author. I'm a little bit further along on that path than I was 8 years ago, but not quite there yet. Our world has changed a lot since then, and yet many things stay the same. We may have a new President, but we're still involved in two wars. People may have rebuilt and resumed their lives, but Ground Zero still remains an open gash on our city's downtown landscape. My heart goes out to those families still grieving, but we are survivors and hopefully, we will all find the strength and fortitude to keep moving forward.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Some days I am a Super Mom

Most of the time, I don't feel particularly super. I am a dedicated Mom who cooks and cleans and bathes and plays with my child every day. I make it to bedtime, then I usually collapse, happy to have just gotten through another day. Phoebe is full of energy and smiles. We do a lot of giggling together these days. She is fun to be around and makes the Mom job that much easier. But any Mom will tell you that it's not easy. It's certainly the hardest job I've ever had. But today, it all got done with flying colors. Today was the day we had to start applying for nursery schools here in Manhattan, a process that anyone who has experienced it will tell you, is it's own theater of the absurd. It was also two-year-old check-up day, complete with blood drawing and vaccinations. I was dreading this day. I didn't sleep much the night before. I just wanted to get through it. With the help of Grammy Mika and cousin Felicia (known to Phoebe as SIta) we got it all done. We worked the phones in the morning like we were trying to get coveted concert tickets. I continued to call throughout the day as I walked in the street and went grocery shopping. Hundreds of redials later, we managed to score applications to all the pre-schools we wanted to try. Then miraculously, the doctors appointment went better than expected. They took us quickly, and though there's no getting around those needles, Phoebe was a champ who was back in good spirits five minutes later. Then home to cook dinner, bath and bedtime. I fell into Jeff's arms as soon as he came home, happy for the supportive hug from my handsome beau. For this one day, I felt like a Super Mom who can leap tall buildings and fly through the air for her child.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Family Vacation

A family unit is a strange and wonderous organism. We don't get to choose our families, but they are ours. My experience of growing up in my family was sweet, fun and comforting for me. I had the confidence stability and love brings and always felt surrounded by luck and good fortune. I was only 13 or 14 when my sister left for college and my brother was off the following year. Neither of them ever returned to live with us, not even for the summers. My sister got married right out of school and my brother went onto Law School in D.C. then to jobs in L.A. It was and really has been, just me and my parents for a very long time. We all got together regularly for holidays and special occasions, but that feeling of a family of people surrounding you, was lost to me for sometime. Twenty-odd years later, enter Jeff. One of four siblings and New York based parents, my life now feels filled with a plethora of new family members. There are lots of children and cousins abound and they love to get together and have a good time while they are at it.

One truly amazing by-product of my union with Jeff is that our parents have become very fond of one-another. They are all about the same age, love NYC and are cultured, well-read, card-carrying liberal city dwellers. Jeff's Mom and Step-dad Jonfer live at 180 Riverside Blvd. overlooking the Hudson and my parents live at 180 East End Avenue overlooking the East River. They are a perfect compliment to eachother. Phoebe is so very lucky to have two sets of grandfolks in New York and I feel nothing but gratitude to have them all nearby.

So what a pleasure it was to spend July 4th week up at our place in Vermont with Lynn, John, Jeff, Michael and my parents. It rained all week. I was down with various stomach aliments, and yet, it was all good. I had so many hands on deck to help while I was feeling ridiculously ill. My man stepped up, as he always does, and took Phoebe off my hands on more than one occasion. I was surrounded by family. It is certainly a different kind of family than I grew up with, and it's nothing like what I might have expected to find when I got to adulthood, but it is a beautiful surprise. We may have been there celebrating Independence Day, but it is our dependance on one another that really marked the holiday for me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nanny Dramas

A good babysitter is hard to find. In the year and a half Antonia was working with me and Phoebe, she was often hard to find. She had a cell phone she would put minutes on, then not have enough money to renew the card. She was evicted from the first place she lived, and I never knew her next address– only that it was a basement apartment that was moldy and rodent infested and landed her asthmatic child in the hospital more than once. Antonia had it hard. A single mother of two, an illegal alien from Trinidad, a struggling 7th Day adventist who tried to put her trust in God every day and for 10 hours on a Saturday church pew. But for all her troubles and failings, she was wonderful with Phoebe. I often envied how she could make her giggle. Those two were always laughing and dancing and singing. Antonia is also an incredible cook. Because of her, Phoebe eats everything from spicy spinach to garlicky daal.

Then one day, she just didn't show up. And not the next day or the day after. She literally disappeared. I could not reach her on the phone she did not have. No one knew what might have happened to her. Her Aunt works for family friends of mine, and they had no word on her at all. I thought she might have been deported, or that something may have happened to her or her children. We had been so intertwined for more than a year of Phoebe's life, I couldn't help but be worried. Then a few days after the disappearance, one nanny in the building said she heard from Antonia. She told the woman that she had fallen into a depression and could not call me. Then after days of not getting in touch, she was too ashamed to call. Depression is an illness for the moneyed classes. If you are poor you won't get medication or therapy, or perhaps even understanding from those around you. You either deal with it, or you can't. How very sad.

Phoebe still asks for "Toni" every now and then. I just tell her she's gone home and leave it at that. She was not the easiest person to deal with. We had our conflicts and troubles as most people have with someone who works in their home. As professional and detached as you want to be, when someone is caring for your child, when they are in your apartment all day long, a very different employer/employee relationship emerges. I tried to strike a balance between compassion and detachment. No small task. Antonia had all the odds against her. But she was wonderful to my child and we will miss so many things about her.

These days, I'm in transition. I am struggling with a new combination of people and more time with Phoebe. I get to save some money and have more time with my amazing child, but I am exhausted. Every mother needs help one way or another. I'm just trying to find the right balance and the right people to place around my precious girl. Hopefully, I'll get there.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Officially Phoebe

On Friday, May 22nd, 2009, Phoebe sat on my lap in front of a New York City judge for the signing of her official re-adoption papers. This is mainly a formality. Phoebe has been officially my daughter for all but 4 months of her life. She became a U.S. citizen when she stepped foot in the country on February 1, 2008. (Her certificate signed by George W. Bush who actually managed to spell his name right :) What this procedure does is give us a U.S. birth certificate with her American name: Phoebe Ellis Horowitz. For a girl with a Vietnamese name and a Hebrew name, this one matters most. It will make her entry into school as seamless as any other kid. She is a real New Yorker now and not just because she likes pickles and Herring and bagels. All four Grandparents and our lawyer, Cliff Greenberg were on hand to share the moment with us, as well as Phoebe's favorite companion, Bunny Rosen. We celebrated with, what else? Bagels after the ceremony.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mother's Day 2

We spent a lovely Mother's Day at the Birch residence on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. With sweeping views of the Hudson River, Jeff's Mom's place is the perfect compliment to my Mom's view of the East River. How lucky Phoebe is to have both in her visual lexicon. And commuting just across town for Mother's day is a treat anyone who ever had to schelp to Long Island or the surrounding boroughs knows all too well. Just a few of the reasons I felt so very lucky on this Mother's Day. Not only do I have an adorable daughter, a handsome man who gave me the best present of taking Phoebe out all morning and letting me sleep in, but we were able to share this day with two Grandmas. Grammy Eastside and Grandma Westside :) I briefly felt a bit of melancholy with the knowledge that these amazing Grandmas won't last forever. This moment is so precious to me that I want to just drink it in and appreciate every minute that I get to be a Mom with my Mom so close by. Jeff's Mom is a beautiful bonus to all this and we're so happy to have her in our lives. So here's to the Moms and the Grandmas too. The day was ours to celebrate with 3 lovely men who shared it with us; Jeff, Dad and Jonfer. How very fortunate we are.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Little Mad Hatter

It's a fact that has proven itself in a new generation: all Horowitz's look good in hats. It could be a baseball hat, a cap, a cowboy or fedora, but Phoebe sure fits the mold. Like her favorite Grandpa- whom she loving calls "Bob," that girl can rock a hat of any shape size or color. A few items of evidence are submitted here for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Yes! No!

At 19 months, Phoebe has entered the stage where she has eyes beyond her abilities. She can run- pretty fast- especially down our long hallway and in the park. She now can climb unaided onto the couch and the dining room chairs with a "Yes I can!" attitude. She mostly wants to feed herself these days, a messy proposition, but one that fills her with pride when a spoonful of applesauce makes it all the way from the bowl to her mouth. I can see a willful streak coming my way and a glimpse of a terrible two year old who will soon inhabit my apartment. It usually comes with a forceful "NO!" when asked to sit down on that chair she's just climbed, or to drink her milk or water. This little lady does not want to be told what to do and it's always a rude awakening for her when she does not get her way. I'm happy to report that she still says 'please' and 'thank you' in sign-language, when prompted by her annoying mother. She is getting great at giving hugs and kisses and says hello to nearly everyone she passes on the street bringing smiles to doormen and postmen and old ladies alike. Phoebe is full of life with no shortage of passion for the world we encounter everyday. Yes! I adore her and NO! I won't ever stop feeling that way.

Friday, February 13, 2009

One smart cookie

Jeff says, the first few years of your kid's life, you are trying to get them to stand up and speak out- then you spend the rest of their lives trying to get them to sit down and shut up. While, that may be the case, I am completely enjoying these precious days of watching Phoebe learn her words and figure out how they work. She knows how to say "Bubble" and "Bottle" and "Button" and "Fish". Then there's "Elbow", "Apple" and "Elmo". We know she loves to call the ones she loves Daddy- but she also likes to call both Grammy and Grampy "Bob". She now knows the difference between "Hat" and "Hot" (one goes on your head which she will happily show you.) She likes to kick her "Ball" and put on her "Shoes" and "Socks" before doing so. She even still has a fondness for "trumpet"- the one that hangs on our wall was her first official word.

Her vocabulary has been helped by some sign language. She can sign "more" and "all done", "Please and thank you" (which is nice) also "Help" and "ouch" and "Clean up" and "diaper" and "change" too. But my favorite has to be "cookie". She already knows her Grammy's chocolate chip cookies are the best in the world.

It is truly amazing how much she understands and how she can use the words she knows to make herself understood most of the time. Next week, my cutie pie turns 18 months old. At only a year-and-a-half, she already has me fascinated with everything she has to say.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gotcha Day

In adoption circles, they celebrate the actual day you were united with your child. They call it Gotcha Day. Some people make it a present giving, cake-eating occasion. That's not my plan. This child has enough stuff to keep her going for years. Instead, I want this day, January 8th, to be a day we recognize, and appreciate. One filled with hugs and gratitude for the amazing forces that brought us together.

Can it actually be a year since I first held this child? Last night I looked back at the pictures of the orphanage and the caretakers and my little sleeping bundle who allowed me to change her clothes, put her in the carrier and take her back to the hotel with us. So much of that week was a blur. We had to zoom out of New York in 3 days, fly through Tokyo and then onto Hanoi the next day. On January 8th, we were picked up at the crack of dawn to head to Vinh Phuc province. I was running on fumes and high on adrenaline. I had waited so long to become a mother, to finally hold my child in my arms. And there she was, my delicious Phoebe Ellis, my smiling bundle of love. What a lucky, blessed day January 8th was and will always be.

In the year that has followed, I have seen this baby blossom into an amazing little girl. She is so smart and funny, not to mention beautiful. Her smile has remained her signature. She shares it freely with everyone she meets, brightening up the world around her. She loves to dance, shake her hips and shimmy her shoulders. She says lots of words, and uses sign language for ones she doesn't know yet. She eats all the yummy food we give her and mostly sleeps like a champ, resting her growing body and brain to take on another day. Our first year together has been fun and challenging, but mostly fun and enlightening and interesting and wonderful. Of all the babies in all the world, Phoebe was the one that was supposed to come to me. How very, very lucky I am to have her.