Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween 2010

Lilly celebrated Halloween this year New York style - which means walking the streets, collecting candy from random stores and down the halls of tall apartment buildings.

We started out with Lilly's aunt and cousins; but Lilly didn't want a costume. We picked out Snow White for her (who she absolutely loves) but she wasn't impressed. Probably because it's a costume in her everyday costume trunk so it's not special; besides she had just worn it recently at Disney World. So, she walked the halls of her cousin's apartment building just wearing her winter coat, but still got tons of candy. Highlight was hanging with 3rd graders who hooked her up with extra candy. She managed to pose with a random mask along the way.

We headed back uptown to our apartment, where there was more trick or treating in our building. Here's how it works: you get a list when you go into the building of which apartments are accepting trick or treaters. In our building of 36 floors, most of the floors had at least one apartment participating. I was determined that Lilly would actually wear a costume this year. So, when we got home, I sifted through Lilly's costume trunk and picked out a pink fairy (from New Zealand) and a pirate costume (from our Disney cruise last year for Pirate night, but Lilly never actually wore it). At first Lilly didn't want a costume but when I gave her a choice, she picked the pirate and we threw it on her with a big bow and at 6:30 on Halloween night, Lilly's costume was chosen. But she was adorable!

She loved trick or treating, especially knocking on doors and collecting candy. Best treat of the night was definitely the pencil she collected early on. She was thrilled.

After walking 36 floors, she and Jon returned and we ate pasta and salad for dinner, she watched part of Camp Rock 2, and she had a nice relaxing bath - all without touching a piece of candy. Not to be a horrible mom, I decided to let her have at the candy. She sorted through each piece, and I wondered if she really appreciated that all this was her sugar, ready for her to sample a piece or two. Yet my girl didn't let me down - 79 pieces into her hunt, she found a Hershey's milk chocolate nugget and went to town. This girl is patient but she got what she wanted.
All in all, a successful Halloween.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dear Lilly

Dear Lilly,

I want you to know how much your mommy loves you. We have had an amazing 4 years, you and I, and I cherish every moment I spend with you.

Since you were born, we’ve figured things out together. I didn’t know how to be a mom, or how to raise a child with quote special needs, but you’ve made the journey both easy and amazing. I didn’t know how to balance work and mommyhood, and you patiently let me figure it out. You knew that my career was important to me, so you became a delight for every college babysitter and every daycare teacher who took care of you. You discovered the joy of reading the law books that I publish, while I worked next to you, and you diligently turned every page looking for edits that you could make yourself. You got used to me being on the phone with my editor at all hours of the day – on walks, in the car – and sometimes at the playground or at the airport you take out your “pretend phone” and make a call about something important as well. During our time in Charlottesville, you got used to walking around my office building, and charmed all of my co-workers, sometimes walking into offices, shutting the door, and having your own one-on-one meeting with a colleague. And when work has demanded more time, you’ve graciously accompanied your daddy to every playground, movie, Broadway play, and zoo on weekends in an effort to accommodate my busy schedule.

This move to NYC hasn’t worked out the way I had anticipated, but you’ve accommodated the challenges with your typical passion for life. As we left your original preschool, you were excited about spending more time with your cousins and grandparents. You convinced us to extend a weekend at Disney World to a week, and enjoyed every ride-filled and princess-focused minute. As the balance during this time between work and family has become more of a challenge, you have shown me what is important; you’ve charmingly but firmly demanded my time when it’s been more limited, and we have made the most of an unexpected situation. In the 6 weeks since you were last in school, you have learned more than in the past year of school. I’ve watched your confidence build, and your funny little personality flourish.

And yet, it’s been somewhat of a juggling act and will continue to be. Your new school that you start on Monday is only 5 hours a day, and I’ll be walking 6 miles a day to get you there and back. For the past few weeks it’s been such a struggle for me as I rush you through your nighttime routine of bath and bedtime, saying to you: “Hurry up Lilly, go to bed, Mommy has to work tonite.” And I think of the past 4 years, and how my job has become increasingly time-consuming: emails 24/7, early morning meetings, brainstorming new ideas at all hours of the day, and working overtime on nights and weekends to get the work done. I truly love what I do, but something has got to give. When it comes down to it, being there for you and for our family is my most important priority.

I want to be your good mommy. I don’t want to rush you off for the purposes of getting more work done. I don’t want to be thinking of the 38 things I have to get done and diminish our quality time. I don’t want to be stressed and take it out on you.

I want to cheerfully bring you to your new school every day and pick you up. I want to have a healthy lunch ready for you in the morning so that you’re happy when you eat at school. I want to bring you to the playground after school, or to the museum, and take you for long walks. I want to take the time to explain things to you, to reason with you, to teach you and to spoil you with love and attention. I want to cook dinner and teach you to set the table, and have you not hear every night: “What should we order for dinner?” I want to be a good wife to your daddy, and be someone who is relaxed and in control. Your daddy works so hard, and I want the house to be a clean happy place for him to come home to.

I don’t want my career to be over, I have worked long and hard to get my law degree, pass the bar, and develop a strong work ethic in my job over the past 5 years. I want to show you that people, women, really can have it all. But sometimes we have to make decisions that are best for the family. For the next 9 months that we are in New York, I would love to just focus on my family. After all, you are only 4 years old once, and I no longer want to brush you aside for work.

Lilly, I want you to be proud of me, no matter what I do, just as I am proud of you. Together we can develop our dreams and accomplish whatever we want. I know in many ways not-working is going to be harder than working; it will be a shift in priorities to say “No Elmo today, we are going outside to find Fall leaves at the playground.” Maybe I can even teach you how to read. And that cooking thing… I haven’t done it regularly in years, but I think I remember how. Maybe we can even make a deal that each night you *try* a new food, even if you decide you don’t like it. I don’t know, we’ll see how things go. We’ll have the time to see how things work out.

And when we leave NY in June, we’ll reevaluate. We’ll see what city Daddy brings us to next, and hopefully there will be wonderful opportunities for all three of us. I just want you to know that I love you so much, and I hope you don’t get too sick of me being a full-time mom for a little while. I promise, at times, to give you your much-needed space so that your confidence grows.

With love,

Your mommy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Disney Part 2: The Race

I've been running for 6 months. For 3 months, I was running 2-3 miles a day, 4-5 days a week. And I was loving it. I signed up for my first 5k at Disney World, to celebrate that I could actually run, in my favorite place, and as an excuse to bring my beautiful princess to see her favorite princesses for a weekend.

And then the s%&# hit the fan.

Lilly being choked at school changed my world. Realizing that she was bullied and pushed on a daily basis made it so I couldn't breathe. And pulling her out of that school took away any potential time that I had for running.

So I stopped. I focused on my girl, which is what I needed to do at the time. I spoiled her and made sure she was well taken care of. And somehow while nurturing her I somehow healed myself. She did nothing wrong; we did nothing wrong. Sometimes bad things just happen, it's our job to take our lemons and make lemonade. And ours was delicious.

But the month went by, and I hadn't run at all since the day before she was choked. And then we went to Disney World for the race.

I was still planning to run, after all what kind of mom would I be if I tell Lilly she has to follow through on things if I become a quitter?

And then the day before we left, I hurt my neck and back lifting Lilly up to give her a ride on my shoulders (of course). And then the day we flew down there, I added a migraine to my ailments.

I went to sleep the night before the race, thinking: if I can just lose the migraine, I can deal with the back pain and run this race, even if I haven't run in a month. I can do it.

And when the alarm went off at 5:30 the next morning, I sat up and said: Oh crap. My migraine is worse than ever.

And then I thought, let's do this.

So I quickly got dressed, tied my running shoes, and walked down the hall to get a cup of coffee in the club lounge. Which lifted my mood, especially seeing another race runner getting one as well. I pinned on my number, and walked downstairs and out the door towards the Ticket and Transportation Center, where the race would begin.

And my head and back hurt so much, and I turned back around and walked back inside and upstairs to the club lounge and got another cup of coffee. Yes, I'd still walk over to the starting line, but I wasn't going to rush.

So second cup in hand, I started the walk yet again through the pitch black grounds of the Poly. I got to the Ticket and Transportation Center around 6:15, started talked to a mother and daughter who were running their first race. Walking, actually. Which made me think, if I can't run, if I can't breathe, if my head hurts too much, if my back is in too much pain, I can walk it if I have to, but I'll complete it, mess as I was.

And then I walked to the middle of the runners, thinking I might still end up walking part of this race, but let me start it running.

The next 30 minutes went by quickly - there were dj's (dressed like pirates?), Mickey and Minnie showed up, and the crowd was excited. Finally, 7 am, they declared that the race would start and fireworks shot into the air and we were off!

I started running at a slow pace, there were too many people around me. The runners then thinned out a little as we were passing under the monorail line. I looked up and saw the monorail go above my head and thought: I can do this. I ran towards the Contemporary and was excited to see it. We got to where the busses pull up to the Magic Kingdom and I grabbed a cup of water. Then into Magic Kingdom.

Running down Main Street was amazing. Seeing the castle for the first time this trip, having MK employees cheering for all the runners, and watching characters take pictures with the runners as they went by. I kept running, past the Pirates of the Caribbean, past the castle, into Tomorrowland. A random character from Alice in Wonderland was taking pictures and as I ran past he gave me a "thumbs up" and I cheesily decided: I can run the whole thing. Training or not, I'm ready.

I ran out a back exit into an employee parking lot, out a gate, and down a side street. A guy from the Haunted Mansion was taking pictures with runners next to a freshly shoveled grave; odd but funny. Suddenly we weren't too far away from the end; we were backtracking the route that we had taken into the Magic Kingdom. Past the Contemporary, past the monorail line above us. I kept going and running was no longer hard, I was in the zone.

I ran to the finish line, sweaty but happy. I picked up my goody bag, took my picture, and walked back to the Polynesian.

And? My back pain and headache were completely gone. Weird.

Lilly and Jon were at the pool when I got back. Yes, it was only 7:45 and yes, Lilly was frozen solid and happy as a clam.

And I was starving. I convinced them to get out of the pool and get breakfast with me. We went to Kona at the Polynesian and maybe it was the race or maybe the food really was amazing but it was the best breakfast I've eaten. Tonga Toast and Macadamian Nut butter pancakes and scrambled eggs and french press coffee. And Lilly ate a whole plate of scrambled eggs and cinnamon toast so I know she was happy as well.

My wonderful husband then had daddy daughter morning with Lilly at Hollywood Studios, while I showered and organized the room. It was especially important as it was the last day the High School Musical show would perform, and they caught it twice that morning. They also went to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, before returning back to the hotel for an early nap (we had a late 1pm checkout).

At 1pm when Lilly woke up, we were back at Hollywood Studios for another HSM3 showing, Beauty and the Beast (which Lilly LOVED now that it's one of her favorite movies), the afternoon parade, and the Little Mermaid. Lilly was amazed watching all these shows; she was so excited and clapped ferociously when each song was finished.

We got back to the hotel around 5, and my parents were there to pick us up. You see, the clock had struck midnight and we were all turning back into pumpkins... We were checking out of the Polynesian and moving off property for the rest of the stay.

Up next... after such a magical day, how would the rest of our trip compare? Would we survive the rest of the week - and the first time in years - off property?

Are we there yet?

We were in Charlottesville for 6 years, but it always felt somewhat temporary. Especially with that year of New Zealand thrown in the middle of it. And now we're living in New York City, adjusting again, and waiting for our next move at the end of June 2011.

And I'm kind of a 4 year old in the backseat of a long road trip, asking: "Are we there yet?"

I'm all about life experience, new adventures, but at this point I'm ready to settle down.

I would love a house. With neighbors that we get to know. And bikes that we can justify buying because we're not going to move far away in a few months. I'd love to buy a nice couch that we'll have in a living room for years to come, one that we'll actually care about if Lilly accidentally pees on it. I'd love to have pictures on the wall and knick knacks around the house, instead of a house that feels like a dorm or a hotel that we're just temporarily settled in. I'd love to get to know a neighborhood and not just for the temporary year; I'd love to be in a town where I can actually put the blueprint in my long term memory. I'd love for people to get to know and love Lilly, and watch her grow up, and not have every experience be new for Lilly.

A year and a half ago we were leaving New Zealand, and moving back to Charlottesville. 4 months ago we left Charlottesville and moved to New York. 5 weeks ago we left New York for a week in Atlanta, then a couple weeks in NYC, then a week in Florida, and now back to Atlanta - I'd love for Lilly to actually know where she lives, instead of thinking that hotels and new cities and airplanes are an everyday experience. I'd love to live near family and friends, and not have to spend $2,500 to fly the three of us home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Are we there yet?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Disney World Part 1: Getting There is Half the Battle

Last Friday. I woke up early, but Lilly slept in. Too much so, actually. I finally woke her up and got her dressed quickly, and there was no time for breakfast. So, we grabbed our suitcase, backpack, carry-on, and Lilly and I went downstairs to hail a taxi. I failed to realize it was raining, and that every person in NYC needed a taxi that day. After 30 minutes we finally got in a taxi - except it was the "wrong kind." (Lilly hates the mini van taxi's - she likes the SUV's, the traditional, and the station wagon's - but something about the mini van makes her upset and she doesn't want to sit down and get her seat belt on.) Finally I struggle to get her to relax and the taxi is off.

For about a minute, until we encounter the worst traffic I've ever seen in NYC. We are bumper to bumper, and finally leave Manhattan towards LaGuardia airport. Traffic is still horrible, and we encounter one stretch of road the is flooded out; we barely got through and apprently they shut it down right after us. Lilly is bored and hungry; I'm stressing about how long it's taking us to get to the airport. Finally, we arrive with just an hour to spare (which doesn't sound like it's cutting it that close, but remember I'm traveling with a small child).

I go inside to check our bag, and the line is around the corner. So we go outside to check it curb-side. I get in the shortest line, and the elderly couple is just finishing checking their bag. Almost relieved, and then they call over to the rest of their family who cuts in ahead of us and checks all their luggage - along with complicated carseat check-in's, all different tickets, etc. The whole time, I'm bribing Lilly with a bagel as soon as we get through security. Security was another long line, and I can see a sign for a Dunkin Donuts on the other side. Lilly was so excited about her bagel. We stand in yet another long line at Dunkin Donuts, I get my coffee and order a bagel - and they're out of bagels. Are you kidding me??? Oh and they're also out of coffee lids. Great. Nothing like pushing a hungry child in an umbrella stroller with two carry-on's and a burning hot coffee with no lid. So we wander around the airport looking for something for Lilly to eat, and finally we find a place that sells bagels. We order a plain bagel, and they only have cinnamon raisin left. Lilly's never had that, but we got it anyways, and she thought it was ok. So after all this we walk to our gate, and our flight is now delayed 90 minutes. In the waiting area, Lilly met a little girl who was 6 years old who became her best friend. They did the hokey pokey together, they talked about princesses and mickey mouse (figures every kid on the plane to Orlando is headed to Disney); Lilly had the best time with her new friend.

After two hours of entertaining ourselves, we get on the plane and sit next to the most un-kid-friendly man - this is going to be a long 3 hour flight! I put a pull-up on Lilly in case she had to "go" - although she never wears them on planes or during the day anymore, but this was a longer flight and with the weather issue/delay I didn't want to be stuck with not being able to get her up. The delay actually worked in our favor; we were ready for take-off around noon, and I managed to convince Lilly that she needed an early nap. I sang the "Peanut Butter" song to her until she fell asleep, right as we were rolling down the runway. I spent the next 90 minutes in peace - got a Diet Coke, ate snacks, read a magazine. Then Lilly got up, and we did stickers for awhile (a new Princess sticker book which she loved). We colored, took care of "Baby," and had a great time. And, Lilly never wet the pull up, even when she napped, so no worries about her on the plane.

By the way, did I mention that the entire day I was barely able to move my back/neck and was in incredible pain, AND I had a migraine? By the time we arrived in Orlando, my head and back were hurting so much I could barely focus. I got us through the airport, on the train to the main terminal, and downstairs to the Disney Transportation.

We were directed to an empty line - which in theory should be good news - but of course we know that means that a bus to our hotel had just left. Luckily, someone saw us waiting and got Lilly and I (and a random man that was standing behind us who they thought was my husband?) onto the bus right before it left. When we got on the Magical Express bus, the two elementary school aged boys behind us were playing so rough - literally kicking, beating each other up kind of horseplay - at one point the dad was like "Easy, killer!" to one of the sons - I'm sorry but if you call your son "Killer" as a nickname, he's going to be a little nuts! Lilly was so good on the bus, she was reading a Mickey Mouse counting book, and talking to me about the trip.

We got to the Polynesian 30 minutes later, receiving our lei's and a cookie when we entered the lobby. We checked into our room, there was a mistake and they didn't have a room assigned so we had to wait a few more minutes until we could get into our room. I thought bad news, but then it turns out we were upgraded to a Magic Kingdom view - perfect view of the castle. We were also club level, 3 doors down from the lounge (we had booked club level, so that part wasn't an upgrade - but we got a great deal with my Passholder discount).

At this point, it was too late to go to the Wide World of Sports to pick up my race packet before we went to dinner, so I decided to hang out in the room for an hour before our dinner at the Grand Floridian. We settled in, got a bite to eat at the club lounge, and turned on Camp Rock in the room. Miss Lilly also requested a bath, and had a blast playing in the water!

My head was KILLING me by this point, and I lay down on the bed, and sweet Lilly rubbed my hair - "It's ok, mommy." (Love her!) We got dressed, and I told Lilly: "It's time to go see Cinderella!" She said "No, I don't want to!" I tried convincing her, and she refused to go. Finally, I told her we'd see the "prince" and she hopped up to go - that girl has her priorities straight. We got on the monorail for one stop to the Grand Floridian, and went to 1900 Park Fare for the Cinderella/Prince/Stepfamily dinner. Going to a character buffet with one adult and one small child ensures that you're not really going to get anything decent to eat - there was tons of good food to choose from but we both just ate off the kids buffet to save time and sanity; I felt sick from my head hurting, and every time we were about to get up, a character was waiting to see my princess. Cinderella was exactly as she should be - gracious, sweet. The Prince was charming (haha) as usual, and Lilly loves him. He asked her: "You're really here to see Cinderella, not me, right?" And I said - "No, she actually didn't want to come for Cinderella; it was your name that got her moving!" The Stepmother was a little cold as is her character, but not as scary - she actual made small talk with Lilly. And then, the stepsisters.

The stepsisters are what makes the meal. Everyone loves Cinderella and the prince, but they are dignified and nice. But those stepsisters are hilarious. Anastasia came over first, and saw Lilly's little figure of the stepsisters and she hollered over to Driscella: "LOOK! COME SEE THIS!" And the other one left her family that she was talking to and ran over and they gushed about how Lilly has a figurine of them, how cool is that, etc. Lilly was looking at them like they were nuts, but it was funny to watch. When Driscella came back to our table a few minutes later, she asked what Lilly's name is. Lilly said "Lilly" and signed an "L" and Driscella said: "You know sign language too?! My name is Driscella - D-R-I...." and she signed the whole thing. It was such a moment, she and Lilly were signing letters together and she asked what Lilly's favorite sign was, and Lilly said and signed "I love you." It was precious, she gave Lilly the biggest hug, and she kissed Lilly on the forehead.

After dinner, we went to the Wide World of Sports to get my race packet. As we got back on the bus headed for the Polynesian, my head and neck hurt so badly, and Lilly invited me to lay my head in her lap. I did, and she sang the peanut butter song to me, just like I did to put her to sleep on the plane hours earlier. Such a sweetie. We went back to the Polynesian, got dessert from the club lounge, and got ready for bed. At 9:30 we looked out our window and watched the fireworks. When the fireworks were over, Jon finally arrived from NYC, and we got just a little more dessert before we settled down to sleep, first setting the alarm for 5:30 am...

There were a lot of things that were nuts, but it was one of the best days I've ever had with my girl. She is such a good companion, and it was wonderful spending the time with her.

Next up... would my headache and back pain go away? Would I be able to run the big race?