Monday, September 13, 2010

Ready for School!

Can it be that Phoebe is almost ready to go to school? It might only be pre-school and only 4 days a week for 3 hours at a time, but it seems like a big move to me. People will tell you that these early years go fast, but you don't believe them until you see it for yourself. These three years have flown by in a blur of laughter and exhaustion. I am excited for her to become part of the All Souls community. Having worked in the basement almost every Monday night for the past six years, I now get to be a part of the school upstairs. Phoebe has grown much more independent this year, able to be away from me without hardship or drama. The separation process is a delicate one, but I believe we have eased our way into it as well as we possibly could.

When she starts school, I have to start a new process of my own. After 9 years of living the off-peak life in New York city, of writing novels and doing freelance work, of traveling and having time for my girl and my family, I think the time has come to get back into the advertising industry I left after 9/11. I wanted to see if I could make a living as a writer, to see if I could publish my work and build a family at the same time. I many ways, I achieved the goals I set out for myself. I did not become the next big thing in fiction, but I got to create and craft the stories I wanted to tell and I got to experience the life of a writer outside the industry I first joined as an intern high school. Now, with my girl in school, I think it may be time for Mom to get back to work. Money dictates much of this decision, but I also have a part of me that would like to re-engage with the adult world. My industry has changed dramatically since I was in it full-time. It may take me awhile before I find the right gig, but I have decided to start looking and hope the right thing comes my way. It seems that Mommy & Phoebe are both on a path to a new adventure.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Phoebe Turns 3!

August 17, 2010
What a day it was. It had been raining all week, but the morning we woke up, we knew it was going to be a great day for a party. Phoebe spent the morning at her "camp" while Mom & Dad, Grandparents and a cousin, all conspired to make the day filled with fun and love for our fun-loving girl. At noon, her friends started arriving; TiTi and Sammie, Maddo with Gavin and her Mom, Blair, Emily & Sophie, Luca, Julia, Shrey, Maya and all their Moms. Everyone jumped in the pool for splashing and swimming. The pool was warm and the sun was shining. (writing this a week later, we are already having rain and dipping temperatures, it feels like Fall is coming.) Sandwiches and crunchy snacks and juice boxes were served followed by an ice cream cake of chocolate and vanilla, decorated beautifully by Jeff. A good time was had by all and the presents were plentiful (to say the least).
What a lucky 3 year old. You are loved, little one. And the love you give out touches everyone you meet. You are the gift.
Happy Birthday, lovebug.

Dancing in my Underwears!

Oh the excitement of moving from diapers to underwear! Phoebe has spent the last year getting ready for this moment. Around age 2, she began practicing sitting on a pretend potty in the living room. SItting on a stool, pulling down her pants and saying she was getting "busy". Eventually, we moved to a step stool in the bathroom, new potty seat perched ont he toilet, waiting for that perfect tush to descend and do her business. But for months and months, it was just for show. She had the process down, but wasn't ready to go. Then one, day, just like that, Phoebe wanted to wear her "big girl underwears". We still haven't mastered this new phase. There are setbacks when she is tired and wants to wear a diaper and not think about it so much. But we are very close to leaving those baby diapers behind. My big girl is getting bigger by the day. Now that's something to dance about!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

First Friends

There is nothing quite so sweet as seeing two little friends hug. Girls are especially fond of each other and when they like each other, it's like a deep love forming. Phoebe has made lots of good friends in these first years of her life. Luckily for us, many of them live in our building and we get to see them all the time. Phoebe has nicknames for some of them; Madeleine is "Maddo", Michaela is "Kai." Luca is the boy next store, literally. They will often run in the hall, kick a ball and talk to one another like an old married couple. Emily is an English girl we met at Kidville. She says things like "Phoebe, my Mommy is coming to collect me." Which always makes me smile. Phoebe is a kind and considerate friend. She helps them up when they fall. She makes sure everyone shares and takes turns. She will even give up her spot on the coveted swings if someone has been waiting too long. I predict, Phoebe will grow to be an excellent friend. And hopefully, her friends will be there for her too.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Away We Go

It had to happen. After two and a half years of spending nearly every day and night with Phoebe, Jeff and I made plans to go away. Our birthdays were coming up and it seemed like a good excuse to book a trip. Jeff has had a time share in Mexico for years and we have never been able to use it. But this year, we would. It seemed to take a mountain of planning for ourselves and for Phoebe, but we pulled it off. Phoebe would stay at home with Siobhan- our lovely babysitter/grad student who has been in our lives since Phoebe was a baby. Our girl would also stay with Grammy & Grampy up the street in her new crib that Grammy Mika bought for just such an occasion. The separation would be hard for both of us, but it had to be done. Six nights in Cancun for Mommy & Daddy. Six nights in New York for Phoebe.

I got a great piece of advice from one Mom I know to call in every morning, rather than at night. The day is fresh and lots of activities to come. It was hard to hear Phoebe sad and missing us, but by all reports, she was doing well and keeping busy. Meanwhile, Mexico was often rainy and I had weak moments of wanted to go home. Luckily, Jeff was patient with me and those moments passed. Rain or sun, it was wonderful to be away with my guy; getting up late, taking walks on the beach, swimming, napping and reconnecting. Sometimes you have to stop to realize how hard you've been running.

We came back to our adorable girl, happy to see us and tell us all about her week. I was worried she might be angry with us for leaving, but she wasn't. All she wants is for us to stay with her "all days." I told her we will take more trips together, and sometimes apart, but we always come back. We survived our first week away and are all better for it. Next time we go to Mexico, she's coming with us.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

So Proud

Not long ago, I was making dinner in our little city kitchen. Phoebe was munching on cucumbers and watching me as I organized all the ingredients for Chicken Quesadillas. Avocado, sautéed spinach and mushrooms, chicken and lots of shredded cheese. In no time they were done and we were eating our dinner together talking about our day. Phoebe happily chomped each bite exclaiming "yum" and "delicious". Then she looks at me and says, "Mommy, I am so proud of you to cook this." I just about fell off my chair. Not only was that so sweet, it showed me that this little 2 year old understands that someone has done something for her and to appreciate me for doing it. Is this normal? I have no idea. All I know is that it made this Mommy feel wonderful. My little girl is kind and caring and is finding the words to say these things to me. Wow. I'm so proud that she is mine.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring has Sprung

After a long, cold winter then a quick burst of summer temperatures, our beautiful Spring is finally here. At 86th Street on East End Avenue, the cherry blossoms have burst into a pink canopy. We had a lovely weekend that started with brunch in honor of Jonfer's birthday. All four grandparents were in attendance with Mika & Bob finally back from Florida. We really missed them! Sunday was a fun music and gym party at Kidville with Titi and Sammie, then onto Carl Shurz park for some swings and playground time. Daddy joined us to take in the sun, the flowers and the cool breeze on the East River. What a happy Spring weekend it was.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Zen Mommy 1.0

There is a famous Buddhist tale about a cup of tea. If you can hold it in your hands and feel the warmth, breathe in the aroma, feel the hot steam on your face, each sip becomes much more than a sip. It is no longer a cup of tea, but a whole experience to enjoy and savor. There are days I try to remember this. Motherhood is a constant challenge to be present. Some days I get impatient. If Phoebe misses a nap or wakes up in the night, or gets cranky (which is not very often) I have to fight my rising irritation. There are days I am just exhausted or more focused on getting things done; making breakfast, packing lunch for school, watching the clock to get bath time and books done before it gets too late, that I forget to stop inside those beautiful moments. But when I do, I am filled with a calm and joyful feeling of motherhood.

Last week, we had a beautiful Spring streak of good weather. We were out in the park, on the big swings with Phoebe sitting on my lap butterfly style. Up and back we went, hanging onto each other, swinging and singing and enjoying the day. I felt it when she climbed onto my lap at bedtime and wanted to be rocked like the baby she once was. Wasn't it was just a moment ago that I rocked her to sleep in that chair? Now we barely fit on it together. But we rocked, and we sang and she let me hug that delicious frame tight. Mama and her sweet babe blissfully as one. Even on the rare occasion when she wakes up from a nap, crying inconsolably, I just hold her, smell her hair, hum a calming tune and wait for her cries to slow and come to a rest. The other night, Jeff was home for bedtime and sat with us in the flop spot while we read books. Phoebe took a blanket, put it over his legs and hugged his knees. She looked up at him and said, "Handsome Daddy." My heart just swelled. In those moments, I am the Zen mommy I'd like to be. I am present with my girl and nothing else in the world exists. The trick is to tap into those calm places all the time. That why I'm only at 1.0. Perhaps someday, I'll progress to the next level. Or worse, I'll go back to work and be more stressed and too tired to see those moments when they come. I hope that's not the case. I also hope I win the lottery, but I won't hold my breath. For now, I'll take the moments as they come, knowing full well that this time won't last. The only constant in our world is change and a change will certainly come. Phoebe is changing and growing all the time. These days she likes to say "I'm a big girl." Or "I'm growin' up." Yes, my sweet, all that is true, but not so fast, okay?

Monday, March 15, 2010


There are many ways to drive yourself crazy as a parent of young children, but in New York City, none seems quite as nutty and blown out of proportion as the pre-school process. For me and Phoebe, it began back in September. After doing some research and figuring out which schools were in our area, talking to other Moms and trying to get a sense of the process, I settled on 6 local schools to try. There seemed to be a lot of hype around certain schools like All Souls- who have a lottery system for applications and the 92nd Y where you had to be rich or famous, or both to get in.

The day after Labor Day is D-Day for applications. I had my Mom, my cousin and two of my own home phones at the ready to start calling. It reminded me of trying to get hot concert tickets, back in the day. Some schools had their applications online, some were just busy all day long. We managed to get through to all of our selected schools. Then came the applications. Most were brief information oriented forms. Some asked for pictures. All wanted at least $40 for the privledge to apply. One school, Epiphany, wanted $170 for their application. We decided to pass on that. Then came the interviews, the tours and the "playdates" for the kids. Nothing seemed to put parents into more of a panic than how their child performed at the playdate. Take a 2 year old at nap time to a place they've never been and anything can happen. One school, Temple Sharaay Tefila, I respected for the fact that they did not interview parents or children. They said it was pointless pressure for families to endure. I agree. All this hype and stress for the priviledge of paying from $13k to $20k for a part time program for your 3 year old. How insane is that? If you live in the suburbs, you sign up for your local school and you go. No big deal.

So after the tours, the meetings and the playdates, the waiting game begins. It takes until March for the schools to pick their families. Moms are all abuzz when the letters are going out. I haven't felt this level of stress and competition since my college admissions process. As it turns out, Phoebe got into our two favorite programs; Sharaay Tefila and the Harvard of Upper East Side Pre-schools, All Souls. She was wait-listed at two others ad declined at one. My heart was always with All Souls. I have been volunteering there at the Soup Kitchen for the last 6 years and Phoebe has had several classes in the building. I was truly impressed with their facility and the teachers and the philosophy. While they are housed in a Uitarian Church, their program is completely secular and diverse. But my decision would not be so easy. There was a possibility that I could get financial assistance from the Temple, and I would not be one to turn down free money. I tried to wrap my head around being a part of this reformed Temple, of having Phoebe's ciriculum revolve around Purim and Shavou'ot and Passover. She would take conversational Hebrew and attend Shabbat for Tots on Friday. Nothing wrong with all that. I am proud to be a Jew, if an atheist Jew, and I want Phoebe to understand and embrace her heritage, but al that will come. I was a bit overwhelmed by having to get so involved so soon.

In the end, the scholarship money did not come through, but Grammy and Grampy did. They are making it possible for Phoebe to start her school years off right. We accepted All Souls this week. She will start a 4 day a week, afternoon program in September. When people tell you your kids childhood will go fast, this is what they mean. She's not even 3 yet, and she's on her way. My little Phoeb-star is about to embark on a great school experience. I'm just along for the ride, trying not to get too crazy about it all

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Big Loop

Twice a week, I now have 2 hours to fill while Phoebe is in class at Kidville. We usually walk to 84th & 3rd- which is mostly uphill- a great morning workout while pushing a 40 lb. stroller. Once Phoebe is happily ensconced in her playdough or blocks or books, I take off and try to make the most of my time. It would have been great to take a yoga class or spinning or some form of exercise, but of the 6-8 places I checked in the area, none have classes at the 11 o'clock hour. Oh well. I guess I'l have to resort to the best form of NYC exercise- walking. If I need to do some grocery shopping, I hit my favorite gourmet grocer- Agata & Valentina back @ 79th & 1st, buy some fish for dinner, stock up on their yummy coffee and sesame noodles and maybe some homemade ravioli that Phoebe loves. Then I need to hit D'Agostinos for the basics like milk and toilet paper. By then, I'm loaded down and need to head home with the bags. I unpack, have a sip of water and head back for the big loop to 84th & 3rd by 12:30 to meet Phoebe in the gym. It doesn't seem like a big walk, but from East End Avenue, everything is a big walk. Mondays are also my night to serve at Soup kitchen, so after nap and dinner and bath, I leave Phee with one of my babysitters and walk back over to Lexington and 80th. Another big loop on the Upper East Side. By the end of the day, my dogs are barking. I'll come back to a (hopefully) sleeping girl and perhaps may have earned some flop time in front of the TV. My feet are aching, my legs still tingling, but it's all good. On Wednesday, I get to do the big loop all over again.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tet 3.0

Soon after Phoebe came home from Vietnam, we were invited to our first NYC Tet celebration. Diana and 9-month old Liana (who had been back from the very same place Phoebe had lived for about 5 months) welcomed us over to their place. Both my parents and Diana's parents were there happy to celebrate with their new grand children. We ordered in Vietnamese food and dined in style. Two years later, Diana has a new little girl, Julia, 14 months old and full of smiles. She came home with Diana just 3 weeks ago from Kyrgystan, in the former Soviet Union, and she is a pure delight. For this year's Tet Celebration (it is the Year of the Tiger) we added two more Moms and three more girls to our party. Phoebe and I hosted Carol and Sammie, Elly, Margaret & Celia and Diana and her two daughters. Grandma Lynn and Jonfer also stopped by to say hello and share in the fun. The fare was bagels and lox this time and good fun was had by all.

Phoebe is at an age where we are starting to talk more about where she was born and how we became a family. We have a new colorful map on the wall and she can point out where Vietnam is and is likely to tell you, "I lived there." I get to show her where I lived in India and Australia and London too. When new people come to our home, she asks them to show her where they were born. Living in NYC, it seems everyone is from somewhere else. It's fun for her to see that everyone has an original story to tell. For some reason, the picture of Big Ben is her current favorite. We line up the chairs and the bunnies and all get on the bus (or the train or the car) for a trip to London. Maybe we'll get there together someday. That would be wonderful. Until then, we are happy in our little home, having friends over, looking at the map of the world and dreaming of all the place we will go.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Off to Fla-la-la

A week in Florida would never be my ideal vacation, but with my Parents now ensconced there for the winter- off we went! (Phoebe said: "We're going to Fla-la-la!") I can't remember the last time I went to the Sunshine State. My Grandparents lived in the Fort Lauderdale area when I was younger. My friend Carol and I were routinely sent down there during Spring Break over Passover. Our days were filled with cards and bingo and trips to the pool. My parents Florida did not involve Bingo. We were so happy to be together, we didn't care that the weather barely got above 50 degrees. We were bundled up much of the time, but we still managed to get to Del Ray Beach, have a dip in the community pool, and take a trip up to See Alana and Keith in Jupiter. Phoebe was thrilled to be back with Grammy Mika, Grampy Bob and Bromley. The house they are renting was spacious and open. We visited Devy and her singing Lobster. and even had a quick visit with Ruth Weiser (aka Sha-mommy). It may not have been warm, but it was warmer than our freezing winter in NYC. We'll take it. A little time with the ones we love is always worth the trip.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Phee & Bun go to school

It's not exactly school. It's not even pre-school. But twice a week for the past 3 weeks, Phoebe has started a separation program at Kidville called KVU- Kidville University. Like many of the classes she has taken in the past 2 years, it is filled with fun activities like art and books and music. There's 45 minutes in the gym at the end of each class where Phoebe (and Bun) get to jump on the trampoline, hang on the bars and play hide and seek (Phoebe calls it Hide & Peek) with her lovely teachers; Jess, Carmen, Sonia and Cyrene. The class is made up of 12 two-year-olds. Some have been doing the separation thing for awhile and say good bye to their grown-up with ease. Others are new to this drop-off game and there are tears. Sometimes lots of tears.

The first week, I stayed for class on both Monday and Wednesday. It was wonderful to see how well Phoebe does in new environments. She's amazingly adaptable. The second week, I left after the first hour. Phoebe was not happy to see me go. I wasn't too thrilled to be leaving her in tears. I was able to hang out in the hallway and peek in to see how she was doing. Eventually, she calmed down. Perhaps that moment was harder on me than it was on her. In the third week, I tried to leave after just a little while. Again, tears and lots of clinging on to her ever-present Bun, always a comfort in hard times. But this week, Phoebe was ready. Over the weekend we talked a lot about "School" and how she goes by her "Self" and Mommy does errands. She would say out loud, "Mommy will meet me in gym." She was processing it all, getting ready for the Monday morning drop off. Today, on the way to class she told me she might "cry a little." The she said "Bun might cry a little." I told her she could comfort Bun so she wouldn't be sad and I'd meet them both at gym. The hand-off was seamless. Neither Phoebe or Bun cried this time and Mommy is happily ensconced in Starbucks across the street with time to update my blog. My little girl is growing up, taking one little step at a time towards the life that awaits her.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Intrepid little traveler

A trip home from Vermont by car shouldn't take more than 4 hours. When it takes 11 hours, you can expect a 2 year old to lose it at some point. Not our Phoebe. She was a travel trooper to make her Mama proud. We were about an hour into our trip south when the car started acting funny. Jeff said he could feel it jumping under him and thought it might be the transmission. We had just gone through the bustling downtown of New Lebanon, NY and quickly turned around cajoling the car to make it into the local gas station. From there, we called our road service provider. They suggested a flat bed truck to the nearest Audi dealership. Phoebe thought it was an "adventure" as we climbed into the cab of Frank's tow truck. Twenty squirmy miles later we landed in Pittsfield, Mass at their local car dealer. We unpacked our snacks and whatever toys and books we had on hand. The dealership had some puzzles and toys handy in their lounge and we settled in and waited to learn our fate. It could be worse. It could have been night time, it could have been further from our path. I could have been with anyone else or no one else. Phoebe was amazing. She made friends with the car salesman, played hide and seek around the cars and basically just amused herself. When we finally learned it was a wiring problem stopping the gas from reaching the engine, we were given a clean bill and sent on our way.

Back in the car, way past naptime, we drove through the beautiful towns of Lenox and Great Barrington. I've never really explored that area, but it made me want to go back someday. By dinnertime, (still no nap) we decided to stop in Westchester for some food. Jeff knew a local Italian place near where he used to live. He called some friends nearby and they came over to say hi. Peter and Julie were impressed by how grown up Phoebe seemed. Our little one had noticed that she and Peter were both wearing stripes. She said they were "Similar, but not the same." (yes, a proud moment for Mom.) Back in the car (still not sleeping) we made it all the way into the city and all the way upstairs with a fully awake girl. We had left Vermont at 10:30am and arrived back in NYC close to 9pm. It reminded me of our 5 hour delay flying out to LA last summer and the very first trip we took together from Vietnam to Hong Kong to Home. 22 Hours with my Intrepid girl. If she could handle that, she can handle anything. I can't wait to see all the places we will go in the future– hopefully with fewer delays and a lot more fun.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Holidays Cheer

Lots of Horowitz's, Yates' and Birches to go around this holiday season. We put some miles on our borrowed car (thanks Debbie!) making our way up to Connecticut where Christmas celebrations were hosted by Chip Yates and family. Despite the fact that they had to leave the next day to go to a family wedding in Baltimore, Chip and Kris and Caitlin and Wyeth put on a beautiful meal and filled their house with trimmings of the season. How nice it it for my Jewish/Vietnamese child to also get to experience Xmas with her father's side of the family. I say, the more to celebrate, the better. The overload of gifts for Phoebe- between 8 days of Channukah and Xmas made me worry she would expect presents every day for the rest of the year. (I have been known to hide things in the closet to save for a later date, but that's our secret.)

We piled Phoebe, Justin, Michael and me and Jeff back into the car to proceed onward and upward to Vermont where the Horwitz's would be waiting. We got to spend time with our California cousins, Aunte & Uncle J in our lovely country place. I often thought of how precious these moments are- especially with the Grandparents. The dark side of my brain knows too well that we won't have them forever, and while I try to keep those thoughts a bay, I can only flip the picture to see gratitude in the moments we have. Phoebe is only 2 and 4 months old. Will she remember anything of this time? My great hope is that this time will last a good, long time. One thing Jeff and I have in common is we both really enjoy time with our parents and look for opportunities to get us all together. With my parents going ot Florida for the whole winter, I have to adjust my thinking and just look forward to seeing them in a warmer climate when we visit in Februrary.

But back to Vermont. The weather was kind of mild and a little rainy, but we did get one day of sledding off the back steps in. I love seeing Phoebe interact with the girls. She knows them as "Chlo-Jo" and loves the attention she get from them. Having Justin and Michael there too filled out the picture for me. It's fun to have the house filled with kids of all ages. We played You-Don't-Say and Spite & Malice and Michael's favorite- Cranium. The day we left, a real snowstorm began. We drove in it for a little while with Jeff at the wheel steering us back to our humble abode, safe and sound.