December 2, 2011

Christmas Card Fail

Last year, after months of writing thank you notes for dozens of baby shower and welcome-to-the-world gifts, I boycotted holiday cards. I didn't send any. I never wanted to address another envelope as long as I lived. And I heard about it from many people! Everyone wanted a picture of a holiday-garbed Savannah on their refrigerators and I disappointed the masses.

This year, I didn't even think about holiday cards until I saw a great deal on Groupon--$15 for 30 photo cards. I bought it immediately along with a cute Santa-style dress on Zulily for Savvy to wear in her card picture.

I could have done what most people do--dress her up and take her to Sears or its Manhattan equivalent for a standard portrait. But I figure, "That's lame; everybody does that. Savvy's photogenic. I have a $700 camera. New York is full of places with great decorations that would make suitable photo backdrops. My photographer who's actually worth a splurge just had a baby. I'll do it myself! We'll have fun! Savvy will smile like she always does!!!"

Well. I've had four ideas so far and they've all failed. And the clock is ticking for me to get these cards created! Oh the pressure!

Here's what we've tried so far:

Close to Home - The Lazy Mom's Choice

Soon after Savannah's new dress arrived, the building next door decorated their trees with white lights. Perfect! The weather was chilly but mild so 5 minutes without a coat after dark wouldn't bother her. The soft glow of the lights would illuminate my daughter's angelic face and since the lights were white it would look great as a black & white photo.

I prepped my husband in advance with my vision--"Ok babe, you're going to hold Savannah at the waist under her dress and lift her as high as you can towards the lights, keeping your arms hidden, and I'll take close-up pictures."

"Then you're going to stand her on the ledge and let go but be ready to catch her or hold on to her with one hand so I can just crop you out."

Good ideas. Bad execution. My camera wasn't as great in low light as I thought--And Savannah didn't stay still long enough to accommodate the slow shutter speed. We tried the flash after a while but those weren't good either--Savannah had no reason to smile with her crazy parents fumbling around like idiots throwing her into trees and whatnot.

This was our best shot:

Traditional - Photo With Department Store Santa

I thought MY kid would be different. She wouldn't be scared of Santa. She would dazzle him with her charm, say "hi...HI...hi....hi" like she did to EVERYONE on the bus ride to Bloomingdales, show her dimples for a few seconds and all would be well.

On the way, I told Savvy we were visiting Santa: "We're going to see Santa! He brings you presents. He's going to have a white beard and will be wearing a red outfit that looks just like yours. You're going to sit on his lap and get your picture taken!" Her comprehension is excellent, but this rudimentary pep talk didn't really stick. As soon as we got to the Santa area she started shaking her head. I was all "Want to meet Santa? You can walk around and sit on his lap." *shake shake shake* *sad face* *trembling lip*

"Look! They have an elmo doll! Want to hug Elmo???" *tears* *no no no*

Santa gave her a long schpeal about how he represents all that is magic in the world and some other BS but she wasn't having it. She was crying and crying just looking at him.

I thought about putting her back in the carrier and leaving. She obviously didn't want to sit with Santa. But we were there. It's cute to have a picture of a kid crying with Santa, isn't it? So I handed her off and knelt down out of the shot while the elves snapped 5 pics.

Here's the shot where she looked at the camera. She was yelling "ALL DONE". I feel so guilty for causing her such anguish!!!

Trendy - The New York Palace Hotel

If it's good enough for Gossip Girl, it's good enough for Savannah!

We walked past the Palace and low and behold, their tree was trimmed and complete with two very handsome, tall toy soldier models. Oh this will be PERFECT.

NOT. (Though it is QUITE cute.)

"One day she'll love us," according to the hunky soldier on the left. Oh, I bet she will.

Classic New York - The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

This had real potential. The crowds directly surrounding the tree were sparse enough for me to confidently let Savannah walk around without worrying about losing sight of her. She liked looking at the tree and all the people. She was smiling left and right and being her normal self.

So I put her down, piled up all our stuff to the side, got out the camera and lied down on the concrete to snap some photos. We were so close to the tree that I had to get really low to the ground to get Savvy and the lights in the frame.

Savannah was smiling up a storm because the family next to us started talking to her, telling her she was adorable, etc. This would have been well and good, but they were standing and I was lying down. She would not look in my direction.

The other mother realized the problem and was all "Sweetie, look at your mommy! Your mommy is trying to take your picture!!" Anyone with kids should know this is the WRONG strategy. It made Savvy stare and smile at the lady MORE. The other mom should've just stopped engaging her if she wanted to help. Blargh. So I have lots of pictures of Savannah's nostrils with the tree in the background.

By the time I snapped a dozen photos Savannah was bored from standing in one spot and wanted to walk through the crowds. How did I know she was finished? Well, Little Miss Bossy grabbed my hand and started pulling me up. (She's strong, btw!) She handed me the lens cap from the ground. I said "Do you want to go?" She smiled and did her little bounce that means yes. She then picked up my coat and handed it to me, AND picked up my purse and our shopping bag and brought them over to me. She had a crowd of people laughing at her while she collected our gear:

If you don't get a holiday card from us this year, rest assured it's because all future attempts have resulted in failure as well. It's not that we don't like you.

My photo card Groupon expires in February. Maybe I'll send Valentine's Day cards instead.

September 23, 2011

Smelling Flowers in Our Backyard

Carl Schurz Park is our backyard. We go there every day. To take walks along the John Finley Walk promenade which has the perfect stonework for stroller-nap-inducing bumpiness. To swing on the swings back and forth, so high, up and down. To have our morning Starbucks coffee/yogurt and greet the rising sun. To set up shop on our blanket for lunchtime picnics. To chase pigeons. To watch dogs play in the small dog park. To teach Savannah the important terminology of our neighborhood: river, doggie, pigeon, flowers, trees, leaves, gray skies, blue skies, neighbors, nannies, babies, big kids...

There are always heaps of people in the park and at the playground. It really is the hub of the neighborhood and somewhat akin to what I imagine a British square or promenade would have been like in the 1800s. But we've found one hidden-away spot that is almost always secluded (you need to do a bit of off-roading with the stroller to get there) with a sizeable grassy area, a few trees and a flower garden that seems to change every month. I like to take Savannah here to explore the grass and see the changing seasons. I call it our backyard and the cherry tree, "our tree".

We enjoyed the last afternoon of summer there yesterday. Savvy celebrated by smelling a flower. Apparently, getting your nose tickled by teeny tiny purple petals is the most hilarious thing ever:


September 22, 2011

The First Fortune Cookie

Savannah's first fortune cookie reads, "Little brooks make great rivers."

What would have been a maddening fortune for me ("Gah. That's not a fortune. WHAT DOES IT MEAN????"), is the absolute best fortune ever for a 1 year old.

And she liked the cookie.

August 18, 2011

Gelato is Better in Italy. Duh.

Here's a quickie photo recap of the world's fastest trip through one of the smallest neighborhoods in Manhattan: Little Italy. I left the house with Savannah strapped in the Ergo intending to go on a Russian staycation to Brighton Beach. But after 20 minutes on the subway, the idea of spending another 40 didn't seem feasible. So we got off early and walked through Little Italy with a short pitstop to share gelato and visit to an Italian pasta shop to buy fresh artichoke ravioli, which Savvy devoured when we returned home.

I learned two things:

1. Savannah's not content to stay strapped to me all afternoon anymore. Shoes are now mandatory.

2. When introducing Savannah to a new food (i.e. gelato) I should order my favorite flavors (nocciola and stracciatella) instead of flavors I think Savannah will like (strawberry and vanilla) since she will only take one bite, leaving her mother with crappy, unsatisfying gelato.

August 12, 2011

Shopping like it's 2001 (or the post where I really embarrass myself)

I recently sorted through my closet and over-stuffed a garbage bag full of clothes to donate. I do this at least once a year. Every year for the last 10 years, I've held onto a few items I purchased during the year I studied abroad in London. I began my twenties in London. Next month, I turn 30. Clothes a decade old from Topshop, H&M, Mango...Never to be worn again but still loved. "Smart trousers" that I rocked a few seasons past their prime...A flirty going-out shirt that my now-husband encouraged me to try on during an awkward shopping trip to Topshop while we were "on a break"...These and others are too sentimental to throw away.

Since they say 30 is the new 20, I thought it would be fun to update my wardrobe from the Oxford Street transplants that now reside on Broadway in Soho. After an especially tough morning with Savannah where she decided to start the day at 4:45am, I had a couple hours to myself thanks to an auntie (or should I say fairy godmother?) and took the opportunity to hit up Topshop and Mango for some retail therapy even though my eyes were burning from exhaustion. I hunted for party clothes to wear on my birthday night out and decided to snap some dressing room photos for the blog.

Taking self-portraits and spending lots of time on Instagram editing them was just the self-indulgent narcissistic activity I needed after months and months of pouring every ounce of my being into my daughter. I felt like my old, dorky (and hot) self. I ended up buying the black dress. It has long sleeves. I hope we have chilly evenings this September because I'm dying to wear it.

July 21, 2011

A Bunny and the Development of Language

A few weeks ago, Savannah slept through most of our visit to a petting zoo in Manorville, LI.

Luckily, we had our own petting zoo of sorts in our apartment this week, when a friend brought over her pet rabbit to meet Savannah. She loved the bunny: pointed at her, pet her fur gently, held her ears, touched her feet for good luck.

My enthusiastic friend tried to teach Savvy the word "bunny" over and over and over. Savannah's babble du jour is a throaty "duck" or "dch" sound. So their conversation went something like this:

"It's a bunny!"
"Bunny! Look at the bunny."
and so on...

Savannah's babbles have made it through most of the alphabet by now but lately she's cycled back to almost exclusively D sounds. I'm hearing her get closer and closer to saying words based on slight, slight differences in her utterances. Here is her D vocabulary:

"Dat" --> Says this when she points at something. To me, Dat means "What's that".
"Dook" --> Book
"Dit-uh" --> Diaper
"Duck" --> Thought this meant Dog but clearly this also means Bunny....and presumably Duck. It also means "this" because she says it when she's holding something. Things far away are Dat and things close are Duck.

After the rabbit was back in her cage, I showed my bunny mama friend how much Savannah loves purses. (The bunny mama is also a major fashionista.)

Savvy started playing with my pink Coach bag, pulling the handle up to her shoulder, prompting a "Savannah, that's a bag!!! A PINK BAG!!!! Do you like that BAG???!!!!" Her response? "Baaaach". And here's photo evidence of her love for this bag:

July 17, 2011

A Vicarious Trip to Peru

I am one lucky lady to have some very close girlfriends to act as Savannah's Aunties, since she doesn't have any by blood. One of these dear, dear Aunties recently returned from an amazing trip to Peru. She and her mother took a hiking tour of Machu Picchu. While in Cuzco, she took the time to write Savannah her very first postcard and came back with the most adorable souvenir: A handmade doll of a mother babywearing 2 babies, one in the front, one in the back. Multi-tasking mama. Savannah thoroughly enjoys her new treasures.

"Mommy, I want to go here one day." I love how she's pointing to the middle of the picture. This kid wants to be in the center of the action.

Reading the postcard to her mommy doll.

A brief pause for a brief hug.

Savvy's first postcard!

Our trip to Machu Picchu is a distant dream for now, but Savannah's new treasures inspired me to take her on a lunch date to Pio Pio, a Peruvian rotisserie restaurant on 1st Ave at 91st St that I've been eyeing for a while. We shared chicken with rice and beans and a salad. This is the perfect meal for Savannah because it included some of her very favorite foods -- beans, chicken and cucumbers.

In between bean bites, Savannah waved at people walking by. Window seat = awesome.

We happened to have her "Yummy YUCKY" book with us. This meal was definitely a yummy one.

This smile says it all. Savvy loves the savory flavors of Peru.

July 12, 2011

My Suburban Superiority Complex

I grew up on Long Island, in the suburbs of New York City. As far back as I can remember, I always felt sympathy for kids that had to grow up on the "mean streets" of the city. Now that I'm living here in NYC and hoping to raise my family here, I'm spending a lot of time looking back on where my suburban superiority complex came from (which I've now lost, obviously or else I'd be in the 'burbs now). I think it's because of the news I used to watch as a kid.

My "local" news as a child was NYC news on the major broadcast networks. We didn't have cable, so I didn't watch Long Island's News 12 to get a sense of "hometown" news. Most of the stories I watched with my family each evening revolved around shootings in Crown Heights, gang violence, NYPD crackdowns, Mayoral debates on homelessness, etc, etc. The City did not seem like a great place to visit, let alone LIVE!

Interspersed with the bad news stories were human interest pieces. Summertime reminds me of images of city kids I saw on the news: Children running through fire hydrant geysers, images of crowded public pools, children playing in massive sprinklers in concrete parks.

In my mind, my suburban summertime was better than that.

I had a public pool that I went to everyday. And it was crowded. But it wasn't on the news so it must be better, cleaner and safer. I used to run through the my yard. Splashing in fire hydrant water? GROSS! Those poor kids in the city were missing out.

Looking back, I can now logically assume that my childhood suburban superiority came from my inability to separate good news from bad news on TV. I didn't really understand the concept of human interest news, I suppose. The news was a place for bad news.

Sure, not every part of the city was safe, especially in the 80s and 90s, but it didn't mean that my life and lifestyle with my house and yard on LI was better or more normal. I see that now.

And when I take my daughter to the sprinklers in our neighborhood park, I see how much she loves life here. Is it better than life in the suburbs? No. I can see the appeal of having a house and a yard and a car. But that's not what I want right now.

Savannah playing in the concrete sprinkler jungle at John Jay Park. She looks pretty happy.

June 24, 2011

Rainbow City NYC

The opening of the High Line's second section this June brought with it an art installation called Rainbow City. The gigantic balloon-scape is reminiscent of Willy Wonka and Mario Bros. When we visited last week it was HOT. I expected crowds, but rainbow city was surprisingly empty. Savannah loved looking at the balloons but we didn't stay for very long, as the ice cream truck on site was experiencing technical difficulties and I was starvin'. Here's a quick photo recap:

We approached the balloonscape from above and headed straight for the small spheres of swaying shade

Savannah, happy to be a few degrees cooler in the shade, giggled and made her "crazy legs" as she took in the sights.

I love how the perspective of the above picture is life-like, with small baby and huge balloons. But when I get down to the ground, perception is askew! Psychedelic, man.

Missa's Blog is now "Missa the Staycation Mama"

My blog was boringly titled "Missa's Blog" for several years now. I started writing on here before I determined a direction or theme and eventually stopped writing because I just didn't know what to write about. In fact, it was my husband that started this blog for me after hearing me talk about how I wanted one, and he used that title as a placeholder. It stuck. Without a theme, it was easy to become a lazy writer, so my writing tapered off.

Being a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom in New York City is an incredibly lucky lifestyle. When I have the energy to take my baby on adventures, they are truly magical experiences for both of us. I'm using this blog to chronicle our adventures around the city. I'm using this blog as an excuse for us to go on more outings, hopefully weekly, beyond our comfortable UES neighborhood. I'm hoping to show Savvy the world, country by country, without leaving her home town. I'm hoping to make everyday (ok, many days) feel like a staycation.

And I also want to use this space to reminisce about my traveling adventures. As I approach the big 3-0, I'm thinking a lot about my 20s and TRAVEL really defined my personal growth and some of my best memories.

So stay tuned, follow the blog, and give suggestions of what we should do around town.

February 13, 2011

Heart-Shaped Footprints for Daddy

Happy Valentine's Day!

Once upon a time I painted or sketched Valentine's Day gifts for my husband. I prepped for our second Valentine's Day, back in 2000, in the library. I scoured the Chinese dictionary looking for the perfect character to paint that symbolized how I felt about Rob. I planned to paint a character that meant "love" but the Chinese calligraphy proved much more complex. There was no single image for "love". Instead, they were much more philosophical and more complete descriptions of what different types of love meant. I chose to draw a character that stood for "the desires, feelings, affections of love". Some watercolors and sharpie markers later, Rob had his first handmade Valentine.

It's been many years since my last handmade Valentine. This year it was Savannah's turn to make daddy some love art. Her very first arts and crafts experience. Here's how we did it.

Step 1
Get your supplies ready. This included our new Sugarbooger splat mat, baby-safe ink pads (pink and black), a skeptical and mostly naked baby, leftover card stock from wedding signage, a camera, blanket in case baby gets cold (because who knows how long this will take), and a cardboard box or other hard surface for smooshing hand and footprints. Like so:

Step 2
Take a deep breath and cover baby's feet in ink. Start with feet because they are way easier to do than hands especially if your baby is a crazy grabby bean.

To create footprint hearts, press one foot at a time so that the print has heels together, toes apart. Sorta like 1st position ballerina pliƩs. Make more than you think you need in order to get the perfect one. Try not to hurt your baby's tiny toes when smashing them into the paper. Can you see the hearts? (Look closely and pay no attention to the hands. We sucked at creating handprints. Maybe you'll have better luck.)

Step 3
When you fail at getting a normal looking handprint because your baby just wants to clench her fists or grab and eat the paper, pause and be thankful that your baby takes after your husband's ridiculous cleanliness. Once her hands were covered in ink, she never touched anything besides the paper; not her face or mouth or me or her tummy. Nothing. She made no additional mess. YAY.

Step 4
Let your baby create art. Give her a piece of paper to slap and eat and grab, and keep smooshing more ink on her palms and fingers until she gets bored. If your baby is like Savvy, she will love every minute of this entire ordeal and even pose for pictures for longer than you expect. Here she is working and then posing with her masterpiece, her very first painting. It's mixed media: non-toxic ink and saliva.

Step 5
Snap as many photos as you can, so as to ensure you get some good ones. It's helpful to wait until your baby can sit up on her own. Yay for sitting up unassisted while covered in florescent pink dye!

Step 6
Scrub the heck out of your baby. Don't believe the false advertising. The ink is not easy to get off. Give your baby an impromptu bathroom sink bath. Be careful not to let her grab the hot water handle or throw your toothbrushes into the toilet all while trying not to drop your slippery baby.

Step 7
Think "How the hell am I going to turn all this into a Valentine's Day gift???" Run out to the store and buy a frame, construction paper and doilies.

Step 8
Wait until baby is napping, then get crafty!

Here is her final product.

Happy Valentine's Day Daddy!

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