Friday, June 24, 2011

Pizza Depression

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved pizza. She would eat it every day, if she could. When she was little, she would take the cheese off and eat it separately; and when she grew up, her own little girl ate the pizza the same exact way. Her daughter was just as obsessed with pizza as she was, and her husband grew to have a deep appreciate for pizza as well.

One year, this family lived in a far away land where the pizza was not as delicious. During this year, the mom read a book called Eat Pray Love, and there was a passage in it regarding the best pizza in the world. The mom vowed then and there that one day she would try this pizza, from Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples, Italy.

Two years later, the family decided that there was no better time to go explore Italy, and were happy to find a Disney Cruise that stopped in Naples so that they could eat this pizza. The mom was so happy that she would be able to eat the best pizza in the world, and her mouth would water when reading about it. Every travel guide talked about the Da Michele pizza; and the mom couldn't wait for her little girl to experience it with her.

And then - a month before their trip - they found out that the Pizzeria Da Michele was closed on Sundays - which is the day of the week that they would be in Naples. The mom was devastated. She looked into other pizzerias in town, and while they all seemed good, none were as highly rated as this one pizzeria. Who wants to go halfway around the world, to eat the second best pizza in the world?

So now the mom doesn't know what to do. Should the family tackle the less than safe area of Naples just to have not-as-good (but still probably better than any pizza we've ever had) pizza? Or should we skip the pizza and go to Pompeii? (Which sounds amazing, but we were originally willing to skip this ancient town in favor of amazing pizza.) Or should we go to the Island of Capri, just a ferry ride away, for the day, giving up on pizza altogether? (Or trying Capri's pizza, which I can imagine is still reasonably good.)

The mom didn't know what to do, but the good news is, the family is still living in New York City for a few more days, which arguably also has the best pizza ever, so they'll have to be consoled by that...

The End.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My little bumblebee

When Lilly was born, and we found out that she definitely had Down syndrome, I was fine with it. I loved her even more and told her I'd give her the best of everything and every opportunity.

But the words - "Down syndrome" - held me back a little. Not from giving her everything and loving her to pieces and being so damn proud of everything she did - but by not knowing if some of her amazingness was just in my head. Like I might be the only one who appreciated her, exactly as she is. It was as if the day she was born I was given a piece of paper that said: "your child has DS and so she won't be as good as you think" or something like that. There is such a stigma on "DS" - from doctors, from society, from everyone. I mean, 92 percent of mommies who have babies like my precious girl don't even give them the opportunity to be born. What do they know that I don't?

So I simultaneously basked in the amazingness of my girl while tempering it with the possibility that it was all in my head, that first year. Which is sad because a baby doesn't even do much their first year - and already was I almost limiting what she could accomplish?

That first year, we had a sorority girl babysitter who fell in love with Lilly. She gushed over her, had enthusiastic energy. She had a passion for life, and a passion for my girl. She would take Lilly to the sorority house to show her off to the other girls, and I was proud that she was proud of my girl. And she took pictures of Lilly for a photography class - and gave them to me towards the end of that year, and I saw my daughter's beauty in the photographs - not in the way a mommy looks as her precious baby - but as an impartial "this little girl really is beautiful."

And Lilly reached her first birthday, and was hitting all these milestones - even though she was delayed with some - but she was signing and saying words and so smiley and cheeky and funny. And I remember, the day after her first birthday, thinking "Lilly is so smart!" And it hit me - I had never allowed myself to use that word before. Like, her having Down syndrome, her being delayed in some areas, prevented her from being smart. But it didn't.

Jon and I watched the Tony Awards the other night - because living in New York City, we're a little more plugged in to the theater than we used to be - and I heard this acceptance speech by Nikki M. James, who won best actress in a musical:

"There’s a story about bumblebees. Physicists couldn’t figure out how they did it, how they flew. And we all know that they do. We’ve seen them do it. They did it because nobody told them that they couldn’t because of sheer will and determination. I come from a long line of bumblebees … I am so grateful that nobody ever told me I couldn’t do it, that I couldn’t fly."


Lilly is that bumblebee. Trust me, I would love her no matter what her capabilities. But for all my worry that first year about what she couldn't or wouldn't be able to do in her life - she blew me away. No one has ever told her that she couldn't do something, and so she's just done everything - successfully.

And ever since then, I've realized - through all our experiences - how strong Lilly is, how motivated, how determined, how smart and how cheeky and how funny and how capable. Life may not always be fair, but she certainly has found her way time and again to make the best of each situation, navigating her way through the world, and teaching so many lessons along the way.

As I look back 5 years since the day she was born, I am amazed at what she's overcome, and how many proud moments we've had. So many times with happy tears in my eyes. What a beautiful adventure we've had together.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thanks!

I'm definitely not good - at least in the past few years - at sending thank you cards.

But, I am good at appreciating everything people do for me, whether or not I stop at Hallmark along the way.

Lilly had a great birthday celebratory week (yes, princesses get a full week), especially celebrating with her family and friends. Like me, she may not always remember to say thank you - but you can almost always tell by her expression how much she appreciates life's gifts.

Here is my girl appreciating a card from my Aunt Janet and Uncle Mike. Janie, we love you and miss you! (And by the way, Lilly loved the card and money so much that she patiently held this expression for a full 5 minutes while I searched for a camera to document it.)

What I won't miss

We only have 8 days until we move from New York City. Lilly just has 2 more sleeps in this apartment, before she spends a week in Atlanta!

Our life here has been interesting. We are in the Upper East Side - in the most elite zipcode in the country, apparently. For the past year "home" has been a small one and half bedroom apartment on the 18th floor of a 36 story doorman building. We have no cars, no backyard, little space; but yet we are in the middle of everything, everything we need is a short walk away.

I will not miss many things about this year. Puddles, for example, on the sidewalk are typically not water. I won't miss avoiding these as we walk by. I also won't miss dog crap that is residued on the sidewalk, from owners who just barely scraped it off. I won't miss the dirty subways and the electrocuted jumbo rats that I've seen there underground. I won't miss the grime that accummulated on our faces after a day of walking around the city. I won't miss people on the streets walking by with a grumpy mean look on their faces, like everyone is pissed off at the world and how hard it is to live in NYC. I won't miss the overpriced rotten produce that I buy at the grocery stores and fruit stands. I won't miss the construction on every corner, the loud noices, and the extreme weather, where it's rarely been between 60 and 80 degrees this year, always over or under.

But there are things I will miss. Like all the conveniences of being able to walk downstairs and buy a bagel, a cup of coffee, a cupcake, a nice dinner, a cell phone, or a trendy dress all right here on my block. The park is a couple blocks away, and the church is on the corner. And walking everywhere has been such a nice change this year: I don't mind walking a mile or two to Whole Foods or Ann Taylor Loft. Lilly has really loved her teachers this year, which is a blessing after our original experience at her first school. (Add that first school to the "not going to miss" pile next to the dog crap; I still am so angry that they allowed Lilly to get bullied and choked and didn't even feel remorseful.)

And living near Lilly's cousins has been wonderful; knowing that every Friday she'll see them at dance class, or knowing we have a built in crew to celebrate a birthday is priceless, as Lilly adores them so much.

And, access to Broadway will be also at the top of Lilly's list of things she'll be sad to leave. Lion King once, Mary Poppins 3 times, Mamma Mia twice, Gazillion Bubble Show, Radio City Music Hall Rockette's Christmas Spectacular, Freckleface Strawberry, just to name a few. It has made such an impression on my little girl, who is constantly belting out Abba as we roam through the city.

What are we looking forward to in our new life ahead of us? For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the kitchen in our new house - a huge beautiful gourmet kitchen will be so dreamy to cook in after our tiny old kitchen here in Manhattan. And unpacking will be amazing - all the stuff that's been in storage this year that we get to rediscover - our furniture, our kitchen stuff, our tv's... And I'm excited about having a backyard for Lilly.

Mixed feelings about driving cars again after this year instead of walking everywhere. And while I'll love the grocery stores in "America" (compared with the awful expensive ones in the city), I'll miss not having everything at my fingertips; asking Jon to walk downstairs and buy a gallon of milk and him being back within 5 minutes will be missed for sure.

In theory I thought I'd fall in love with NYC restaurants but we haven't eaten out this year as much as we would have if we didn't have a child, so I can't say I'll miss them all that much.

And finally, the one thing that I'm surprised about this year is that I haven't felt unsafe like I thought I would. Living in a relatively family friendly neighborhood, if crime exists here, I don't know about it. With a doorman building, we feel safe, and walking down the street, I haven't felt like I'm going to get mugged or anything. (Of course, what are they going to steal - Lilly's bag with crackers and a back up outfit?) But initially I think I was nervous about NYC being hard to live in, and it really hasn't been, from that perspective.

So that's my wrap up of what we will and won't miss, and our final thoughts on the year. I can't wait to begin our next journey... and will NOT miss having this annual adventures of moving to New York City and New Zealand (and moving, period).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Lilly

Dear Lilly,

5 years ago today, you came into our lives. You were adorable and breathtaking and beautiful and demanding right from the start.

I remember looking into your eyes and glimpsing into our sweet soul. I remember looking at your beautiful big lips and chubby cheeks and thinking you were so gorgeous. And I thanked God for you.

And a few hours later, you worried us so much when you couldn't breathe well. And I prayed to God that He would bless you and make you strong. And it was the first of many times that you've had to overcome a challenge - and you've done so each time with grace and strength. You make hard things seem easy, what a wonderful gift.

I remember when you were a few weeks old, and you'd wake up in the morning - can I brag that you always slept through the night - and your daddy and I would fight to see who got to get to you first. Because, as we always said, waking up to Lilly is like waking up to Christmas morning. You were so happy and ready to tackle the day, your positivity was contagious.

I have learned so much from you. I know we haven't made life easy for you, with annual moves, having to say goodbye and hello to so many people, demanding jobs that have often taken quality time away from you. But you are so good at making us prioritize, and showing us what really is important.

I look back at the past 5 years and fall in love a little more with a beautiful baby who has become such a lovely little girl. A girl who appreciates the best life has to offer. And who often brings out the best in those around her. I look forward so much to our future. There are no limits to what you can accomplish, my love, when you set your mind to something. You are already so independent and strong willed, that I don't worry - too much - about where you will go in life. You are so charismatic that I know you will be surrounded by good people as you reach your goals. And you are so cheeky and funny that I know you will have a good time along the way.

So, on today, your fifth birthday, I am proud to be your mommy. You are such a gift to me. Our gift to you, sweet girl, is to spend the month of July with you - mommy, daddy, and Lilly, with no work, no obligations, no distractions in our way. With the adventure of our moving and settling in to a new city, and then exploring Europe together, I know we will have a fantastic time. We have been so lucky to find that adventures with you are so much more enjoyable; you notice and point out to us so many things that many people pass over. You extract the best out of life's moments.

Thank you for being my precious girl.

I love you so much,

Your mommy

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A change of plans?

I've been looking forward to Lilly's 5th birthday for weeks, if not months (or years). It's a big milestone - Lilly being our little girl for 5 years, how much she's accomplished in 5 years, all that we've been through in 5 years, and all the nostolgia of where we were 5 years ago versus now. I planned on revisiting memories, thinking (and blogging) about all kinds of important things, and looking back and looking forward in our lives.

But life's best plans change. Lilly's been sick for the past week - especially the past few days. She stayed home from school two days, she went to the doctor's twice, she's been up each night coughing, she's been having asthma related breathing issues, we've been doing tons of nebulizer treatments, her school birthday party was canceled, and, worst of all, she's been cranky (and quite frankly, a little mean to me!) because she's not feeling so well.

I'd like to think she's at the peak of being sick, and that she'll feel better tomorrow (especially as her preschool graduation - and 5th birthday - are both tomorrow). Crossing our fingers.

But the one thing that being sick does not get in the way of for Lilly: Broadway. We had 10 tickets to Mamma Mia yesterday - for Lilly, Jon, me, my parents, my 3 nieces, my nephew, and my sister, and while Lilly didn't feel great, and coughed a bit through the performance, she was still thrilled to be there. Mamma Mia is an incredible show on Broadway (we saw it in Vegas years ago, and don't think it compares to the Broadway version that we've seen now twice in NYC). Lilly knows every song, loves the characters, thankfully the plot goes over her head a little, and she has a great time - especially with her favorite people.

So that was the highlight. The lowlight of the weekend - and being sick - was when we sang happy birthday to her on Friday night at a restaurant - and for the first time ever during something like that, she burst into tears. It didn't help that they rang a cowbell loudly while the staff sang, and that it was almost 10 pm, and - did I mention - she was diagnosed hours earlier of having deflated lungs in two spots. Poor girl. But she perked up by the end of the song and grinned and high fived her cousins (with tear stained cheeks, poor kid).

Hoping my girl gets back to normal soon. This is the first time in a really long time that she's been sick like this - she hasn't had asthma/lung/bronchial issues like this since the week we moved to New Zealand, 3 years ago. I doubt the NYC air is helping, unlike the fresh New Zealand air though!

And the countdown: Lilly is only in New York City for 5 more "sleeps!" Jon and I are here for another week and a half. Holy moly, I can't believe we're moving to DC so soon...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's behind, what's ahead.

A super busy month; I can't even describe accurately how my head is spinning.

What's behind:

Lilly and I took our impromptu trip to Disney World the first weekend of the month, and it was great - as usual. If I had to spend anywhere with Lilly for the rest of my life, just us two, it would be there - because it's so easy to hang out with her there - she's not a child to me, she's a companion who's exploring whatever is going on as much as I am. The bathrooms are always clean, the kids meals are always good and often nutritious, and between the rides and entertainment, we always have smiles on our faces. It made it even better that we were there with Lilly's cousins and my parents - Lilly had such a great time. I can't say enough positive things about the Polynesian as well - especially the Club Level rooms - the food is plentiful (although at the end I just wanted a "real meal" instead of snacks) - the pools are great, the views are spectacular, the location is ideal, and having suprises like the movie "Tangled" on a big screen on the beach at night is something that Lilly still talks about.

On the Sunday of that weekend, we were back and hanging out with Lilly's oldest boyfriend Julian (they've been "dating" since they were born, and are so sweet with each other - they truly have a special bond) and his younger brother Lucas. Meanwhile, Jon and I got to hang out with their parents and had a great time at Bryant Park. The kids enjoyed running around, playing soccer, reading books, having a picnic, and going on the carousel a number of times. We took the subway to Little Italy for a touristy version of "Authentic" Italian, and overall had a great day.

The following Thursday, NYC schools had a holiday so my niece came over for a sleepover and to hang out with Lilly all day. Chilling with her cousins will be the number one thing that Lilly will miss about NYC. (Closely tied with Broadway, of course.) The weather was 95 degrees, so we did a nice little excursion to see Kung Fu Panda 2. I hated it, the girls loved it.

On that Thursday night, we had Jon's celebratory fellowship graduation dinner. It was in the Penthouse suite of a hotel, and it was great to celebrate another accomplishment - of Jon's career, of the end of professional training, of the last time we'll live somewhere for just a year (I hope!). It was a black tie event, so Jon had on a tux, and I was dressed up in a gold dress.

The next day, Friday, we had Lilly's last dance class - bittersweet. She so enjoyed dancing at Downtown Dance Factory in Tribeca - especially since her cousins took classes there too - and it was hard knowing that the phase is over, and we'll have to search hard to find something just as good in Bethesda! (Lilly still doesn't fully realize it's over - she keeps asking to go to dance class.)

This past weekend, Jon was on call. On Saturday, I took Lilly to swimming lessons. She has become such a little fish in the water! I'm so proud of her progress. Afterwards, since it was just the two of us, we took our time coming back home. We stopped first for a slice of pizza, and had a nice little lunch date, just the two of us. It was drizzling so we didn't go to the park, but instead I decided it was mommy's day to teach my girl about shopping. We went to an Ann Taylor where Lilly helped me pick out a pair of shoes - and was actually helpful! Then we went to Victoria's Secret and my little girl proudly took one of their black shopping bags and counted - one by one - to 15 as she loaded it up with cotton underwear, picking out all different colors and patterns. She was quite proud of herself, and took the bag to the counter. I let her pay with my credit card - and I've never been so proud of such excellent swiping skills - although maybe I should be concerned - (she does have a way of stealing money out of my purse already). She proudly took the pink shopping bag full of her purchases and on the walk home, showed everyone we passed: "Look at my underpants!"

Sunday, Jon was on call as well, but work wasn't busy. So, in the afternoon, he took Lilly out with her best friend and her dad, and they went to the Empire State Building and to the park. Then, Jon got half price tickets to the off Broadway Gazillion Bubble Show for the afternoon. Meanwhile, I cleaned and grocery shopped for the week.

This week has been really busy with work - my part time hours are creeping towards full time, which is making me tired from working at night plus all the stuff that needs to be done - like taking care of Lilly after school, figuring out the logistics of our upcoming move, etc.

Lilly had a great Monday - she had speech therapist with a "substitute" and I was so nervous - Lilly sometimes has a mini breakdown in leaving speech - but she was perfect and just so proud of herself that she did such a great job. She had a great session the week before with her regular therapist, so we are making huge progress.

Tuesday, we went to the ENT and he pulled out HUGE amounts of wax out of Lilly's ear - plus one of her tubes that was stuck within the wax (not actually in place to be helpful anymore). She also did a hearing test, which she mostly passed, except one side was slightly less than normal for one portion of it. It could be due to a little fluid in the ear, or it could be something more - so we'll recheck in 3 months, and worst case, they put tubes back in.

Yesterday, Lilly developed quite a cough, and she stayed home from school and I took her to the doctor - who said Lilly is fine - but the appointment wasn't until almost noon, so she had to be home from school all day. But, because she wasn't at school getting dirty, I let her wear one of her new Tea Collection dresses - I cannot say enough positive things about this clothing line. It is gorgeous, the clothes are soft and fit well, and I got a number of items on sale recently on their website and everything is just perfect. Plus, the clothes are Barcelona inspired, which, as we all know, is our destination just 31 days from now...

Anyways, back to Lilly's cough: random advice, but we've found that the best thing for a nonstop-can't-catch-her-breath-cough is actually cold air. We literally stick her head (and ours with her) into the freezer for a couple minutes before she goes to bed, and keep the air conditioning on high in her room. I think it reduces the swelling in her throat and stops her from coughing as badly. (Trust me, we've done everything from nebulizers to steroid shots to er visits, and this is the best remedy: we actually realized it from going to the er a couple winter nights, and by the time she was out in the cold air, she had no symptoms by the time we arrived at the hospital.)

But last night around 2 am, she was coughing a lot, and we put the cold air on high, and then as I was putting her back to sleep, I realized I left a load of laundry in the dryer - in the community laundry room at our apartment complex - so at 2 am, I decided as both a diversion in Lilly's coughing, and also because I wanted to make sure we got her precious duvet cover back in our house - we walking down the hallway and got the laundry. Lilly was thrilled to be up while it was "dark" and help mommy with such an important mission.

What's ahead:

Today I'm busy with work, Lilly's at school, and my parents and niece and nephew are arriving from Atlanta this afternoon.

Tomorrow (Friday) is Lilly's "at school" birthday party. We're ordering pizza for the class, giving out goody bags that my mom put together (thanks!!) and at some point today I need to find cupcakes for Lilly's friends.

This weekend, we'll spend time with my parents, niece and nephew from Atlanta, sister and nieces downtown, and sister and brother in law and nephew from New Jersey.

Saturday, we have 10 tickets to Mamma Mia for Lilly's birthday celebration - in lieu of a real party, this is what really will blow her away this year - all her cousins and aunt and grandparents and Jon and I, going to see her favorite Broadway play. What could be better?

Sunday, my parents drive back home, and we have tentative plans with one of my oldest friends and his wife.

Monday is Lilly's actual 5th birthday - I can't believe it - and there will definitely be a post at some point about how amazing the past 5 years has been. It is also her preschool graduation. I don't know what exactly they're doing for it, but Lilly started singing - and signing - "Lean on me" last night, so I'm assuming that is part of it! Can't wait to be in the audience and watch my girl graduate (yet again - she got to graduate from her Cville preschool last year as well).

Next Friday, we pack Lilly up for her last day in NYC (at least being a resident of this city) and we all fly to Atlanta. Saturday is my best friend Melanie's wedding. Sunday, Lilly stays in Atlanta while Jon and I drive a car up to NYC so that we have a car up here to move to Bethesda.

That week, Lilly-less, we will pack up our apartment and get ready to get the heck out of this city! While we are gone in ATL the prior weekend, Lilly's babysitter is coming to take most of our furniture out of the apartment to set up her new apartment - and a doorman and a handyman in our building are taking a few other things. So our apartment will be somewhat empty our last week. On Wednesday, we move our remaining things - beds, clothes, books, toys, etc - into a Uhaul van. Thursday, since we hate being childless for too long, we will take my niece with us in the car and Jon will drive the van and we'll head to Bethesda! We'll do the house walk-through (where I actually see the house for the first time!), drop off the van, and drive on to Charlottesville. We'll hang out with friends that night, pick up 2 tv's, and early the next morning open up our storage unit so our big move can start.

So that Friday - July 1 - we will move into our house in Bethesda. We'll still have my niece, and my parents will drive up later that day with my other niece and - most importantly - Lilly! We'll spend the weekend unpacking and settling in to our new house. At some point we'll need to buy a couple mattresses and living room furniture. And, if we're lucky, a trampoline or something for the backyard.

My parents and nieces will leave July 4 morning, and that night we already have plans with Lilly's (hopefully) new best friend, Sammi. The girls played together a couple months ago and had a great time - so I am happy that we'll be moving relatively close to her family in the DC area.

Then, for the next couple weeks, we get to just hang out and enjoy our new house. Hopefully find a pool and a good playground. We might make a trip to Savannah to see the person who arguably has more busy-ness going on than me - my sister who is close to giving birth to triplets! And, getting packed for our upcoming trip...

July 17 we leave for Europe! An overnight flight from Baltimore via Philly to Barcelona, then two nights spent in Barcelona before boarding the July 20 Mediterranean Disney Cruise for 10 nights! We are finalizing plans, but at this point we're going to see the Blue Grotto in Malta (anyone who has been on a Turkish Schooner and visited Gozo please let me know if that is a better plan!), a farm visit in Sicily, the best pizza in the world in Naples, a jam-packed private tour in Rome, a tour of Portofino and Santa Margherita (including yet more pizza) from the port of La Spezia, a laid back beach day in Corsica (celebrating my 30th birthday!) and exploring Villefranche and Monaco on our last port day.

By the time we get back to the states late July 30, we will be exhausted. We'll have one day to recover before Jon starts work August 1. Then, Lilly and I tentatively have no plans at all for August (we might find a day camp for Lilly, in which case I'll work that month, but at this point it's up in the air) and she starts school at the end of the month.

Then, I might find time to breathe once again. :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What's in a Name?

If you ask Lilly what her name is, she says "Lilly" or "Lilly Sherman." She's confident about that piece of information, just as knows she lives on the 18th floor in NYC and that she's 4 years old, and on her birthday next week she's turning 18. (We have to correct that last piece of knowledge at some point, I guess.)

Recently I heard someone say that they didn't believe in calling their child by anything other than their name, so not to confuse them. Well, every child is different, but I realized: Lilly has so many nicknames!

It would be hard to remember everything we call her, but here's a rough list:

Lilly
Lillian Grace
Lulu
Lilly Loo
Loopy
Monkey
Cracker head
Katunga (no idea why?)
Tunga
Lil
Mamma
Potato head
Baby
Sweetie girl
Ladybug
Cutie patootie
Missy Moo
Lupe
Monkey Joe
Chunga
Loo
Mary Poppins
Pop
Annie

I don't know where most of these names come from. But they do - each and every one of them - come from a place of love and affection. Every time a new name pops out, Lilly totally respondes to it like we've been calling her that for years - she recognizes the way we say it - affectionately calling her "name" - and knows we're talking to her.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Late at night

Since we moved to New York, Lilly's been waking up once or twice at night. Not always, but usually she'll call for us around midnight and maybe around 3 am.

We go in her room for a minute, she falls back asleep, and it's not a big deal.

But I've always wondered why she's started doing this. I wondered if it had something to do with being totally potty trained; maybe she's realizing she has to go to the bathroom late at night? Or maybe she just really wants mommy or daddy near her? Or maybe it's just natural sleep rhythyms and she wants to be consoled between rem cycles?

But tonite, I think I may have figured it out.

10 minutes ago, she called my name. I was still awake obsessively compulsively researching stuff for our European trip (actually trying to figure out if there's any way we can add a day or two in Paris to the beginning of our trip, which there isn't and it's ridiculous, but just being honest...). Anyways, I went into her room and she was pretty much unconscious, just needed mommy to lie with her for a minute before she got back into her deep sleep.

And I sat there next to her, wondering why she was up. And then I heard a garbage truck, loudly tossing things into the back. And then I heard the street cleaner truck, its whizzing noise cleaning all the crap off the street. (Literally.) And then I heard the neighbor next door, singing into a microphone (because it sounded like his voice was coming out of speakers) and rat tat tapping on some kind of drum, and a guitar in the background. And I remembered that sometimes I hear a baby whose room is right next to Lilly's in the apartment next door. And throughout the night just a half block away the street is being blown up - literally - as they prepare for the 2nd Avenue subway line. (If you're standing on the street at the time it actually sounds and feels like you're in a warzone. I actually duck sometimes!) And then there are the random doors slamming, cars honking, ambulance sirens - we live near 4 hospitals of course. And being on the 18th floor does not exempt us from hearing drunk people loudly yelling from the street. And the homeless man who lives on our corner ranting about the inequities of life.

So I'm lying there next to Lilly Lou, thinking about why she can't sleep 12 hours uninterrupted, while my head is exploding with all the noise around me...

Huh. It's a wonder any of us can sleep at all in this city?? I know I sleep well just from sheer exhaustion...

Oh well. Just 3 more weeks until we hit the suburbs!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

No hablo espanol.

Last week, Jon and I were talking about our upcoming European adventure. The languages of the cities we are going to are French, Italian, and Spanish. We've been working on the basics with Lilly, teaching her to say hi, bye, thank you, etc in the different languages. I bought a mini travel language guide for France and Italy, and figure we can wing it. And Jon and I both took Spanish in school, so we'd be fine, right?

But then while discussing the Spanish language, we realized that we don't remember anything. Last time I spoke Spanish regularly was when I worked in restaurants during college, and that vocabulary was limited to food items and if something was hot or not. And Jon said he didn't remember much either except...

He said he can give a full neurological exam in Spanish. Which includes asking a patient what their name is, can they follow his finger, and can they stand up, sit down, and push on his hands. Just a guess but I don't think any of that will be helpful on our trip. So... we might be out of luck in Spain.

Plan B: Get a Spanish cheat-sheet.

Don't even pretend to be surprised.

Lilly and I woke up on Thursday, and I put her on the bus for school. I began my workday, immersed in legislation, and started a couple loads of laundry.

And then I got sidetracked and planned a trip to Disney World. Leaving... a few hours later.

Details to be continued, but Lilly and I had the best 2 days on our mommy-daughter trip, joining my parents and niece and nephew.

Can I say I am so blessed to have a little 4 year old who is willing and ready to jump on a plane at a moment's notice for a 48 hour trip to the happiest place on earth? Seriously, you could not invent a more easy going companion than my little Lilly.

I had a migraine for the last half of the trip - which was killing me - I thought I'd throw up most of the flight home - but Missy Moo easily watched dvd's (Annie and Tangled), read the latest People and In Touch magazines, and followed directions like a champ.

I still am amazed every time I travel - not just by Lilly's easy-ness, but by the rest of the airplane's crazy-ness. Flights to and from Orlando are the worst, the kid-adult ratio is upside down, and between kids crying and kicking seats and adults not knowing to turn off electronics at the appropriate time and wanting to walk around the drink cart repeatedly (seriously, can you wait for the bathroom for like 10 minutes?), the flight was kind of chaotic. But my girl was great, even to the point of putting my head in her lap and singing "Tomorrow" to me. It didn't fix my headache, but it healed my heart.

And as great as our impromptu trip was, it was (relatively) nice to get home last night. Lilly was happy to see her daddy, and today is a blank slate to hang out with friends who are coming in town from Connecticut. First stop: Lilly/Daddy time for breakfast and the park, before our friends arrive, while I get a little work done (cutting my workweek short last week has to have consequences of course, like putting in a couple hours on a Sunday morning - but well worth it).

Life is hard and chaotic and busy sometimes, and other times everything just falls into place. With 2 weeks and a day until my girl turns 5, I'm probably a little more sentimental than usual, but I feel such gratitude for my little family.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sesame Place

I'd love for this post to be full of pictures... but it's not. Our camera broke on Saturday; we went to Sesame Place on Monday. We had actually ordered a new camera a week before that should arrive any day, because Lilly is/was going to acquire our old camera for her birthday. (In her mind she's outgrown her kids camera.) Instead, we'll get her a cheap digital camera because any little girl who is going to be 5 years old and visit Europe definitely needs her own Canon.

Anyways.

My sister did take some pics and we bought some from the park so we do have memories, just not ones I can post immediately.

We woke up at 6 am Memorial Day morning, took a taxi to Penn Station at 6:30, and bought our tickets on the 7:15 train to Trenton NJ, picking up a bagel for Miss Lou along the way. We settled in to our seats on the train, and excitedly waited for it to depart. 30 minutes later, we were still waiting. Mechanical problems, apparently.

Luckily, this must be common because they easily switched us to another train across the tracks and we were on our way, a little late but not too inconvenienced.

We arrived in Trenton at 9:30 and got in a cab, arriving at Sesame Place right before they opened, at 9:45. We bought our tickets and walked in at 10. Already a busy day, and we hadn't even started. And, it was 90 degrees.

Sesame Place is no Disney World. It's not trying to be Disney World, but it's important to point out. To me, Disney World is easy, effortless, super clean, imaginative, fun. It may not be to everyone - if you don't know how to avoid the lines, or get out of the heat - but to us, bringing Lilly to a theme park like Disney World couldn't be easier, and fun for all of us.

Sesame Place wasn't bad. Half of the park is water ride, which we avoided due to reviews online about kids and poop and stomach problems resulting from such rides. I can't attest to whether those reviews were accurate or not; but I will say that the lines for the water rides were long. It would have been refreshing I'm sure, but with less than a full day at Sesame Place, we were able to keep busy in the non-water part of the park.

There were a lot of rides for littles like Lilly and her cousin Matthew, who joined us from New Jersey. And they had a blast, despite the heat. A big roller coaster, a Dumbo type ride, a teacup ride, swings that went around, and various other rides. It kept them busy and happy. We went into a character tent, and posed with Abby and Elmo, which the kids loved.

And, we went to the "Elmo's World" live show. And, somebody named Lillian Grace got picked to sit in the front row by herself (with 5 other kids that were hand picked, while we sat in the very back row), and interact and dance with Elmo himself, Mr Noodle, etc. It was very cool, Lilly totally was fine dancing on stage with Elmo. She got a little nervous at one point, but Jon ran down and reassured her and she did great. A natural performer, my girl.

We did the character lunch, which was nice for the characters themselves - and the food was decent and the diet pepsi's were plentiful. It was expensive but worth it, as character meals generally are.

And we saw two more shows after lunch, and a few rides on the carousel, before trecking back the way we came on the taxi, train, taxi 2 1/2 hour experience back home. Exhausting, but fun.

Lilly went to bed at 7. I went to bed at 8.

My review of Sesame Place is that it's a lot of fun for little kids - it fulfilled Lilly's dream of being immersed in a theme park with her favorite people. Elmo has been a huge part of her life since she turned a year old - he got her through her tonsil surgery at 13 months, her nebulizer treatments for the next year, and her three moves since then. So to go where he's on every poster and hanging out around every corner, was a cool thing. The rides were fun for the kids, and side from the heat, it was a fun day for us all.

Would I repeat it anytime soon? Not necessarily - I'm glad we did it this time but it's not one of those Disney things where I'm already planning my next vacation before I've finished the current one. There wasn't the adult fun component - although it was a lot of fun to watch Lilly enjoy herself - but then again, at a Sesame Street themed park, why should they cater to adults?

The one actual complaint I'd have would be that the bathrooms weren't clean - they weren't gross like ones we saw at the train station or in NYC - but they weren't actually clean, and there wasn't soap in many of the sinks, which was strange especially at 10 am when they opened - they shouldn't already be out! And, there wasn't a lot of air conditioned places to escape to like at Disney World, but perhaps in Pennsylvania there aren't as many 90 degree days so this was an anomaly, especially in May. And perhaps we would have enjoyed the heat a little more if we had done the water rides, but we didn't really want to after the not-so-good reviews.

So all in all, it was a good day, Lilly had fun, and we have great memories with her favorite characters and some good rides.