Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Playdate with Granny Con

Today it felt like fall. The weather was cool and the air crisp. I called my mother-in-law Connie to see if she would like to join James and I for a little walk around the Temple Quarry Trail. She said "of course."

It was such a fun little walk. We spotted lots of lizards and a little bunny! I asked James if the bunny was either the Easter Bunny or Peter Rabbit. So cute.

And I got some photos of James and his Grandma. These two love each other so much.

Once E arrived home I showed him this photo. He said "look how big he looks! He's all grown up." I agree. He's ready to walk and wanting to practice all time (my poor back hurts from all the leaning over!)
I sat James down near a big granite boulder and started snapping his photo. Granny Con was talking to him and making silly faces. You think he likes her? Oh my word yes!
Lots of big smiles for Grandma.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Birthday preparations have begun...

I am so excited for James's first birthday. I know James will not remember a darn thing from the day, and don't even have high hopes that he'll not be overwhelmed and fussy, but I want to celebrate. I want to celebrate a really great kid and a year since I became a Mama.

So I've started. For awhile now I've been thinking about and planning his woodland themed first birthday party. (I want to base it roughly off his nursery). I want to use all autumn colors (he is a Thanksgiving baby after all), have some of the decorations based on woodland animals and plants, and try to make my house feel like a magical forest.

Too much to ask? Nope, I don't think so, especially since I'm getting started so early.

Today I used an exacto knife and a gum eraser to carve out a custom stamp. I bought brown butcher paper to make my own wrapping paper, and it was so satisfying seeing the wrapping paper I've imagined come together.

Here's a sneak peek of what's to come:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Header

I want to do a fall header on my blog with autumn colors, but since none of the leaves have started to change, I think it might need to wait a month or so. But, my summer 2010 header was feeling a little outdated. So I updated it. Like what you see? I do!

Goodbye Summer 2010 header
Hello summer/fall header. Oh how I love your nautical theme and red, white and blue color scheme.
P.S. - And click on the "header" tag under the title of this post to see all the old headers.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Then and Now

Ethan and his Mama circa 1981.
James and his Mama circa 2010.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Growing up in NY during the depression, WWII and post Holocaust

My Grandma Florence had stories to tell. One of things I was most looking forward to about staying with her was the down time. One morning while James was taking a nap and E was showering, I asked my Grandma about her childhood. I'd heard a few stories before, but nothing like this. If you want to skim, and not read the entire thing, make sure to look at the italicized portions, they are unreal.

My Grandma's mother, my great grandma, was named Pauline. In 1914 she left what is now Austria (it was then the Austrian/Hungarian Empire) and emigrated to the United States. She was 17 and all alone, her family staying behind in Austria. Once she was in New York City she met up with an Aunt and lived in poverty with her aunt and cousins. Pauline's aunt worked Pauline hard, almost like a servant. Pauline decided she needed a job, and quickly. She worked at a hardware store and starting making a little money of her own.

That same year she went to a park near where she worked and lived and met a man that was also new to the country, Morris Riemer. Morris was also from the Austrian/Hungarian Empire, but do to the fact that he lived on the Hungarian side, Pauline and Morris's only shared language was Yiddish.

They fell deeply in love and married two years later. Pauline and Morris moved into a small tenement home on the lower east side of Manhattan. Soon Pauline was pregnant and gave birth to their first child Sylvia on November 1st 1916. The day Sylvia was born there was a horrible blizzard (rare for NYC) but they were able to find a midwife that lived in the building.

Morris and Pauline's engagement photo still hangs on my Grandma's wall. I love this.
Then in the June of 1918, their second daughter was born, Florence (my Grandma). She was also born at home for $2.00. That is all the doctor charged back then.

Soon the family of four left their lower east side tenement and went to Coney Island for two short years. They added to their family again, with their first son Irving.

Soon the family outgrew there house once again and moved to Brooklyn. This time they purchased a home (they had two floors and the basement inside a building) with a "stall shower." My Grandma said this was so exciting for everyone, because only the nicest homes had separate showers. The home consisted of only two bedrooms and one bathroom, but lots of living space including a parlor.

Pauline with her first three children: Sylvia (the eldest), Florence (my grandma) and Irving, their only boy.
Morris always worked as a furrier, and growing up my Grandma remembers always having new fur coats. Because she and her sister were only 18 months apart my Grandma said "we looked like twins in our new fur coats."

In the summer all the children would play on the streets. Four corners, kick the can, softball "from sewer to sewer" and tennis were favorites. Morris and Pauline added to their family again with Selma and a few years later with their last daughter Eleanor.

The fur business was hot back then, and my Grandma remembers living quite comfortably, even through the depression. They had a car, a Studebaker touring car which they all would ride in joyfully through Brooklyn.

Morris and Pauline saved some money and when they got the news from Europe that Pauline's parents had passed away they paid to have all four of Pauline's siblings brought over from Poland. The cost was $25 a head, and each of them rode in steerage. Because they were Jews, they needed a sponsor to get into the United States. Morris and Pauline happily sponsored all of them. The youngest of them wasn't much older than my Grandma, and she has such found memories of the house full of people.

Again Morris and Pauline got world from the old world that a family member had passed away. This time it was Morris's sister. Her story is horrific.

She was a mother of two young children. When the town she lived in got word that the Cossacks were coming (a horrifying army of Russian soldiers who were know to rape and pillage) she decided to run, since she was quite beautiful and young. She left her two small sons with her parents and tried to jump on a train before the Cossacks arrived. She fell and lost both her legs, and her life under the train.

Morris needed to help these two boys, who were now young men. They were his nephews, the eldest actually being named after him. In 1940 Morris was able to bring the first of his nephews to the United States. The second they didn't hear from for five more years...

In 1945, as soon as WWII was over, Morris got a telegram from a man claiming to be the second nephew, saying that he survived the war and was in a refuge camp in Germany.

My Grandma, now an adult and married to (my Grandfather) Bert was able to help. Bert was stationed in Northern Africa during WWII. He was in one of the troops that invaded Italy and as soon as the war had ended, Bert was still stationed in Italy.

Although this story isn't about Bert's life, he also had stories to tell. He came to the United States when he was only three, and remembers going through Ellis Island. This photo, taken in Germany when Bert was two years old, shows him with his mother Gusta (remember her?) and sister Antoinette.
Morris asked Bert to investigate this man's claim. Bert and another solider decided to take a Red Cross vehicle up to the refuge camp where Morris's nephew was claiming to be. Bert was able to verify that this was indeed his family, and soon Morris and Pauline sent for him to join the very busy household in Brooklyn.

The stories go on and on. If you aren't tired of reading this monster post by now, I'll continue:

One day on the street Morris heard from a friend that there was an ad in the paper from a refuge camp in England. A girl, Sylvia Abish, of only ten years old, who lost a leg in a German bomb, was looking for her family. All she knew was his name was Morris Reamer, he lived in the United States and was a furrier.

It was pure luck that Morris found her as well, and brought her to the United States to live in Brooklyn. By now Pauline and Morris had sponsored over a half a dozen Jews from Europe to join them in the United States.

Another family member that has a horrific story was a cousin of Morris's. He was a well-to-do man with a huge floor mill fortune living in The Czech Republic. This man married the maid, which was a huge faux pax back then, since he was coming from a wealthy family. He and his new wife were disowned from the family and moved to the United States. Here they had a daughter (also named Florence).

They were able to reconcile with the family in The Czech Republic and moved back there when their daughter was young. Back home they had a son and lived happily for a few years. All too quickly the war started, and they were Jews, so news was bad. They were captured and taken by train, like most Jews, to a concentration camp. When the train slowed Florence and her family jumped off and tried to run, to escape the horrors that was sure to meet them ahead. Her family (father, mother and younger brother) were all shot and killed. Nobody knew if Florence was spared because she was a US citizen or if she somehow escaped.

Florence was taken to a convent for the rest of the war. Later in life she spoke of searching dead soldiers for food and money with the other nuns. After the war Morris and Pauline sponsored Florence to also join them in the United states. Like everyone else before her, she joined the Reamer family in the house in Brooklyn.

At the end of Morris's life, he had sponsored over 20 European Jews to join him in the United States. What an inspiring story.

Unfortunately, I didn't ever get to meet my Great Grandfather Morris Riemer, he was gone before I was born. But I did know Pauline. She died at the ripe old age of 102 when I was a high school senior.

What an amazing life she had, and what a huge influence on so many others lives.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

9 months with Wolfy!

Ok, my kid is too big. No longer does he look like a baby, he looks like a big boy. Where oh where has time gone?

At nine months James is sleeping through the night (glory be!), taking two naps during the day, eating three meals, and having three "booby milk" sessions a day. He is wanting to crawl so bad, but has yet to figure it out. He also wants to walk so bad, and it won't be long before he's tearing around faster than his mother can chase him.

Lately he's been sleeping on his tummy, which is so sweet. When we lie him down at night for bed he likes to have a binky in his mouth and one in each hand, I guess in case one gets lost. He's so goofy.

He is a master at finger foods. Now that he can choose what he wants to eat, he avoids all things green. I'm lucky if he'll eat one single pea. However, he adores fresh fruit, tomatoes, bread, pasta and cottage cheese. He'd be over the moon if all we we fed him was tomatoes and peaches. He loves them so much.

He is babbling a lot these days. Bababa, dadada and mamama are among his favorites. He also likes to make a bbbbbb... sound with his lips. When he's whiny and fussy he'll often say "mamama..." How wonderful it is that he has already learned to whine at me...

Morning walks are among his favorite times of the day, but his absolute favorite time is seeing Daddy when he gets home from work. He stretches out his arms and squirms to get away from me and into Daddy's arms. Won't be long before he's running towards his daddy.
Giving Wolfy some love
While I was taking Wolfy photos James sneezed. Glad I caught it on camera! (Yes, this is only a sneeze, not crying).
James love to tilt his head to the side these days. I ask him "is your cheek best friends with your shoulder?" And he'll play the head tilting game with you, as you can see in the video below. So silly.
And here is a super silly video (with horrible lighting) I took during lunch time today-

Letter to James: 9 months


As I tell you almost every day, I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be.

This morning when you and I were sitting on the bench in the backyard in the sunshine, and you were happily chatting away I thought to myself "I wish I could freeze this moment, right now, and never ever change."

At 9 months you are perfect. I seem to say that a lot, but I honestly feel like the luckiest Mama in the world. You are happy, adorable, a good sleeper, a good eater and so smiley!

In New York you got a lot of attention. On the street people would peer down at you and smile. In response you'd flash them the biggest most charming grin. People everywhere were stopping us, asking us how old you were, telling us what beautiful eyes you have, and just looking at you as you smiled from ear to ear back at them.

You make everyone around you happier. Especially your Daddy and I. We often say to each other that we never imagined we'd be this happy. Never imagined we be this in love. Never imagined how life changing a little boy could be.

You are wonderful. I adore you and always will. As long as I'm living my baby you'll be.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Travel day was yucky

We are home. Finally.

Yesterday was not fun. Travel days are never fun. Schlepping luggage, getting up early, standing in airport lines, sitting on airplanes. All of it is yucky. And yesterday was especially bad.

That said, James was pretty darn good for how bad the day was.

I'll make this short, who wants to read about bad travel days anyway?
  • James woke up nice and early crying in his bathroom suite
  • We left the hotel by 7:30
  • We go to JFK, through security and to the Sky Club without any hitches
  • We then found out our plane wasn't due to leave at 9:50 like originally planned, but instead at noon due to mechanical problems
  • We swore under our breaths about the two hour delay
  • We chilled in the Sky Club for a long time
  • We found out at noon that the plane couldn't be fixed and they were trying to find us a new one
  • Two more hours were added to our delay
  • We swore, this time aloud, and hoped James would continue to hold out
  • We finally boarded the plane and left 4.5 hour later than the original departure time
  • We flew cross country with a fussy and tired baby. Overall he was okay, no major crying, but some fussiness
  • We finally arrived home
  • We slept in our own beds
So, as you can see, it was not the greatest of days. But at least we are home, safe and sound. And our trip was so so wonderful.

The day started with us packing our last belongings while James chilled on the bed. Is there anything cuter than a tiny baby on a kind sized bed?
This was our spot in the Sky Club for five hours. We had a view of the terminal below, which James enjoyed.
Although James looks fussy in this photo, he actually was having a good time visiting the flight attendants. He makes friends with everyone.
After hours of him fussing on my lap, I decided to put him on the floor in front of me. He loved it and happily sat down there for over thirty minutes.
And of course I gave great thought to all of his outfits for this trip. On our last travel day he wore the outfit that read "this is the plane... that took me back to my house... to see my dog." Very fitting for the day we were headed home. (I also love this outfit because the little house is a pocket. So cute!)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

NYC {Last day of our vacation}

On the last day of our lovely NY vacation we woke up early and took a morning walk in the garden. In the garden? In NYC? Yes, we were staying right in the middle of the flower district, and all the shops surrounding our hotel were chalk full of flowers happily spilling out onto the street.

After some breakfast E and I went back to the hotel to put baby man down for his morning nap; because he is a lot better for the rest of the day when he naps. E, the wonderful man that he is, was happy to stay back in the hotel with him while I walked up 12 or so blocks to meet Colette at an AMAZING Japanese bookstore that she wanted to show me.

The morning walk was wonderful. I was all by myself, sipping my coffee with my new sunglasses perched on my nose. I felt so New York. I'd love to live here some day. NYC is dirty, busy, crazy but magical. I've always loved it.

Seeing Colette waiting for me outside the Kinokuniya Bookstore was so fun. Here I am, in NY, walking up the street to meet a friend. Ah, love it.

The bookstore was everything she said. It was amazing. The children's section was awesome. Beautiful books that each called to me. "Oh how James would love this" I kept repeating over and over.

Colette and I took our time browsing and adding to our pile of "must buy" items. All too soon I got a text from E saying "James is awake" so I purchased my pile of goodies, gave Colette a big hug and walked back to our hotel.

Beautiful Japanese paper at the Kinokuniya Bookstore

Then E and I packed up the babe and headed out. I was getting hungry and stopped on the street to order a gyro. The little falafel and gyro stand smelled incredible and the hot pita, yummy lamb and white sauce tasted so fantastic as E and I wandered down 28th street towards the subway stop.

The gyro stand. Gah, it was good.
We zipped uptown on the green line and got off and walked to one of our all time favorite NY destinations: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We stopped on the steps for some photos and wandered inside. Instantly James was impressed. He kept craning his head up and grinning at the very impressive ceiling. Remember, he's been an art lover since day one.

We explored the awesome Egyptian exhibit, visited the Temple of Dendur, wandered through Medieval art (which surprisingly is one of my favorites), stopped in Art of India and Nepal, looked at knights and armor, adored the Asian art section (the Chinese courtyard is one of our favorite spots in the entire museum), and even explored Middle East art, Pacific Island art, 19th Century European Art (a very busy spot) and the Modern Art wings.

We kept hoping that James would conk out. I mean the museum is fairly quiet, air conditioned and smooth for the stroller. But James would not drift off.

Our hotel was so close to the Empire State Building we kept walking by it. And a photo of James on the Met's steps.

Inside he was so impressed. He kept looking up at the amazing ceiling! These photos crack me up. The security guard even noticed how sweet James was and said "he sure knows his architecture."

I love this photo. Love it.
The Temple of Dendur is one of the neatest (and busiest) parts of the museum.
These rosewood carvings in the medieval art gallery are some of my favorite pieces in the entire museum. This is only about 4" tall.
Some close ups of some of my faves.

Finally after a day on our feet we left the Met and walked down 5th Avenue into the Park. We got ice cream bars and relaxed in the shade overlooking The Boathouse and Bethesda Fountain. James happily ate cherries and watched the turtles swim in the pond.

E and I kept hoping he’d succumb to sleep but alas, he was too interested in all the city had to offer. We walked south, down the Mall, past the pond and out of the park. We spotted lots of turtles, ducks, squirrels and birds right in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world.

A quick walk to the subway and back to our hotel returned us in time for baby dinner time, bath time and bed. James was exhausted. Once he was in bed E went out and picked up a fantastic NY pizza and we ate it, picnic style, on the floor of our hotel room.

What a great final day to our vacation.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hot day, summer in the city {nyc}

Right now I sit in our hotel room not far from the Empire State Building, the AC is humming quietly in the background. E is relaxing on the bed with his iPad and James, sweet perfect James is zonked out in a travel crib in the hotel bathroom. Yep! The bathroom was big enough for the travel crib, so it meant that once we put him to bed, E and I didn't have to tiptoe around and keep the lights off. It's almost like a two room suite. ;)

Today was beyond wonderful, mostly due to our fantastic friends Colette and Jen. This morning started with bagels with my Grandma and packing up to leave her house. Colette & Jen drove from their home in Queens to pick us up in East Meadow and drive all three of us into the city. And this is not an easy task.

The traffic is crazy, the 59th street bridge backed up all the way across the river, and James mildly fussy in the back. But they spent their entire morning picking us up and safely delivering us (with all of our gear) at our hotel. We could have not asked for better friends.

After we got our stuff in our new room (the fantastic hotel let us check in four hours early!) we set off with Colette, due to the fact that Jen had some work she needed to do, she could not join us. We hopped on the subway and headed to SoHo for some shopping.

James amazed us all. I mean, I know he's an awesome baby and all, but he was perfect. He happily looked around the city and kicked his little legs. We were sure the subway would scare him but he didn't seem fazed at all. And during our shopping trip he took a little nap in his stroller. I was totally impressed.

There were a couple of stores I was keen on stopping into in SoHo: Kate's Papery, Pearl River Mart and Muji. After buying some wonderful things at each shop, we continued down towards Little Italy for lunch.

First subway ride and smiley in the city.

Napping in the stroller.
Colette was an unbelievable tour guide, showing us the best stores to poke our heads into and the best routes. She also pushed James's stroller the entire time. She is wonderful.

The lunch spot we chose was an awesome Malaysian place that Colette knew and loved. We each ordered Thai iced teas while James grinned from ear to ear and ate tomatoes and crackers. Our tofu saute came as an appetizer and it was amazing. Crispy and light on the outside and hot and gooey on the inside. Our main course of mango chicken was spicy and sweet and unreal. And the coconut rice, oh my god, the coconut rice. Wow.

By the time lunch was over Colette had an appointment to go to, but promised us to meet us up later. E and I wandered into Ferrara's (our favorite Italian pastry shop that we visited two years ago) to get our traditional Little Italy cannoli.

Ferrara's display case is a thing of pure beauty.
Fish in China Town and a heated game in Columbus Park.

We then wandered through China Town, poking our heads into all the miscellaneous junk shops and getting our obligatory photo of a China Town fish stand. We were having so much fun, James was acting great and the day was going perfectly.

We stopped at Columbus Park in China Town and played on the baby swings, the slides, and the splash pad. James was having the time of his life.

Amazing, they named a street after James.
Then we walked to the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bride is fantastic, and has an entire deck for pedestrians to walk across it. E and I had walked on it once before, but it was a great activity with the baby. James seemed mesmerized and kept wanting to touch the cables that stretched to the sky.

After way too many photos and hundreds of steps we turned around and headed back towards China Town for dinner. We wanted to take Jen and Colette out to eat to thank them for spending the entire morning hauling us and all of our junk into the city. Of course we choose Joe's Shanghai, our favorite China Town eatery. We ordered trays and trays of steamed soup dumplings (I crave these things all the time) and some amazing items off the menu.

Joe's Shanghai is the best of the best.

The entire staff there must have thought James was a celebrity, because more than a dozen people came over to comment on how cute he was and touch him. This was pretty overwhelming for the little man, because when one waiter kept touching his little hands, he decided enough was enough and started to cry.

A little jaunt outside and a visit to the fish tank seemed to cheer him up, but after all, it was a super long day for such a tiny man. We finished up dinner and said goodbye to our friends, jumped on another subway and came back to our hotel room.

James has been asleep (in the bathroom) ever since.
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