Holiday Season in NYC

Winter in Manhattan is simply magical.

The subway grates billow steam and the scent of sweet warm chestnuts wander through crowds of worker bees, tourists in fur coats and shoppers. The long commute is worth a stroll through Bryant Park on my way to Grand Central.

Dear Santa...Legos Please

With Christmas approaching, our boy spent over an hour composing just the right letter to Santa. He even used colored pencils to draw lots of holiday pictures in the margins. He narrowed his lengthy list to four items - all are Lego sets. I hope the man in red also delivers the other educational toys I have in mind - especially more Kaplan blocks. Although my calendar already looks like a roadmap to insanity, I predict the season will be more magical than maniacal. Our focus is definitely more on people than things. This weekend we had a wonderful time caroling with friends, tree lighting festivities, baking cookies and just enjoying community. Twenty-two more days to go!

Play Hard!

I have a kid who likes to play hard. He likes to debate, he likes to tussle and he likes to win. He is also funny and generous and...well, I am dreading keeping an active boy indoors for another winter. We have signed him up for two winter sports and we will make an effort to try skiing again. I predict lots of playdates, wrestling matches and couch cushions turned into forts.

Gratitude Reminder

Sometimes I get too caught up in the tomorrows. I close my eyes to the present and focus too hard on  preparing for the future. I want to speed things along or figure out the answers right this minute. I have to remind myself that life is about right now. This hour, this minute. The seasons unfold for a reason. And so I remind myself to be grateful for today. To breathe and not lose these precious moments in ponderings of the past or predictions of the future. Life is more beautiful with our eyes wide open.

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Thanksgiving this year was a bit different. As Christmas will be spent with family next month we decided to spend the night in Manhattan and watch the Macy's balloons being inflated near the Museum of Natural History. The entire process is well watched over by NYPD and we thought it very well organised given the extreme crowds. It was literally just walking around the block (or two) and the weather was lovely.

Dinner was a laid back affair. The Shake Shack at 77th did brisk business that night and it was nice to visit the playground next door to run off a bit of energy for our overly excited child. Bouncy castles and monkey bars at night - what's not to love?

It was very cool to see the enormous balloon inflation and so strange to see them folded beneath nets in preparation for their big day. Although crowded, everyone was very nice and it was just a fun family event. Only posting our favorites here...

                                                                      Papa Smurf!

Elf on the Shelf (who should be arriving for his annual visit soon)
Buzz Lightyear!
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (We've read nearly all of these)
                                             As well as the star of this attraction - Santa!

It felt very special to wake up in the morning right in Times Square. We bought a ton of extra hotel points on sale this month so the stay was a bargain. No early morning train and no crowds on the way in! In fact, we found Times Square basically deserted - a prime opportunity to explore. We had a quick breakfast and then stopped into any store Monkey wanted. Which meant, M&M, Hershey, Disney fact we barely even saw the parade as we were having too much fun away from the massive crowds (have I mentioned that I dislike crowds?)

A really fun moment came when we "played" on the enormous live DunkMe photoscape in Time Square. It looks a bit like Where is Waldo, yet we are somewhere in this photo...

and here as well (hint - we are in the top third of the image and a kiss is involved)...

Our photos from the actual parade are not that great so I won't bother to share. Far away or only parts of an attraction. We took the train home and I cooked a massive feast from scratch, trying not to nod off over the scalloped potatoes. We spoke with family and friends and held hands to share everything we are thankful for this year. The evening was capped off with green tea and a Christmas movie - peaceful and perfect. All in all it was a fantastic Thanksgiving and I recommend watching the balloon inflation to anyone at any age. Great memories!

A Good Egg

I just read an article from Psychology Today about personality assumptions 
and was struck by an observation of the author, Jena Pincott. Nature vs. nurture is irrevocably combined - much as the chicken and the egg, the two cannot be unscrambled. I know that I certainly see clear traits of both of my parents within myself, perhaps even grandparents - yet I am just as surely a culmination of my life's experiences and choices.

I admit to being ravenously curious about how my son will turn out. Who will he be at 15, 30, at 50? The thousands of hours we have spent from even before his birth to plan the most nurturing, stimulating environment does not supersede the true lessons in life, which are the failures. Although he has my strong sense of fair play, desire for organization and fear of making mistakes (my apologies), he also as my husband's easy going nature, fearlessness and love of spontaneity. He is also very much a unique soul that is perfectly his own.

Eventually time and his own choices will allow the rest to unfold, with our guidance a steady foundation to draw from. Ultimately, we cannot steal his lessons and I hope he learns well from what life offers. Regardless of his path, we know he is a good egg - scrambled or not. It is the journey itself in becoming who we are that is the best part.

May the Force Be With You

I was introduced to this Yoda fountain at LucasArts in San Francisco 
and had to take a picture for my young Star Wars fanatic. 

In a perfect world I would have this in my front yard 
as a reminder to " or do not. There is no try."
 Especially on gym days.

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy really did a number on our area. So many others have experience true tragedy and so gratitude is first and foremost in my heart when I consider this latest storm. For us it meant no electricity, school or heat for five days. We ate, drank lots of wine (grown ups), made lots of fires and watched a movie a night by laptop or iPad (highly recommend the family movie 'Paris Cat' for anyone who hasn't seen it). Wifi was hard to find yet my Blackberry was a lifeline for work. We powered up wherever we could - even venturing into a mall, which is not usually my favorite place to spend time yet it somehow felt nice to be around other people in the same boat.

Although the memories of petty inconveniences will fade, we truly are sorry that this is the second Halloween in a row that Monkey has really missed. Hurricane Irene took out the lights in my entire neighborhood until very late on Halloween night last year. Although we made do and tried to plan fun activities with friends, childhood is so brief. Those silly moments of careening crazily from house to house in search of candy is enjoyed so briefly in childhood. A license to dress up and ask strangers for candy? The fun of opening the door to happy laughing children bent on mischief? Not to be missed - although the value of a safe and healthy family is without measure.

So we've been reminiscing about Halloween's past. And we did enjoy the weeks leading up to it. I just can't stay away from Lowe's or Home Depot when they start bringing out the fall decorations.

...and we did have fun carving pumpkins before the storm arrived.

We were lucky to avoid long term damage. We also did try to make the best of thing - such as using our camping stove to fry up a mess of potatoes, onions, turkey sausage and eggs one morning. The toast was not such a success but having hot tea on cold nights felt like a luxury by firelight. Most importantly we loved just being together - although Monkey did say we needed a break from each other by day five. Cue power!

I hope next Halloween is uneventful but for ridiculous amounts of fun. I hope this winter is mild and that the power lines hold. If they don't, I will definitely learn my lesson and hide the Monopoly board (20+ rounds with a gleeful, cheating boy). Grateful for our blessings, regardless.

Overheard in My House

Daddy: Why are you going Ninja with a metal meat tenderizer?
Monkey: I am Thor, this is my hammer and I'm gathering electricity.
Daddy: Oh. Okay.

Mommy: (After watching Ghostbusters) Monkey, how did you like the movie? What did you think about it?
Monkey: I think it would be bad to be a ghost marshmallow man because if you tooted, it would just travel back up inside your body to your head and back down again.
Daddy: ~snicker~

Daddy: No, Mommy's right. You look nice in that new sweater. Just like Justin Beiber.
Monkey: (dropped jaw and slow removal of the offending jumper) I. Am.Not.Justin.Beiber.
Daddy: Who is Justin Beiber again? I meant someone else...
Monkey: No.


Since Kindergarten I have known the value of  true friendship. As my friend Claire likes to remind me, it started over a shared love of leg warmers, monkey bars and the color purple. Sometimes life gets so busy, we take for granted those friends who inspire, support and just...know us.  Those who knows what you look like in your pajamas with flu or who have seen you ugly cry over Hallmark commercials. Who are sincerely happy for your successes and help you celebrate with glad hearts. Who are by your side when you meet your future spouse and who hold your newborns. The older I get the more rare I know these to be.

Last night I finally made time to reconnect with some friends both old and new over some very nice wine. You can always tell when in the company of authentic friendship. It leaves you refreshed and never drained. No awkward moments and a conversation that could last days.

They give you space, they push you to be your best self and can tell in a heartbeat if you are less than present. They are always there when you need them - even while juggling four children, a job and a deadline (thank you, S.) and they accept your help without any resentment. With a kind word, with silent understanding and with hysterical stories retold again and again. So tonight I am grateful for true friendship, great wine and laughter so deep your abs ache the next day. For shared recipes, advice and chocolate on my birthday. You make life so much better.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

This past weekend I invited Autumn into our house. Using my last can of organic pumpkin (from when I over bought at Wholefoods in fear of the great, non-existent pumpkin shortage of 2011), I made pumpkin snickerdoodles. They smell heavenly! I had a lot of help as my husband had to put all the ingredients on the counter for me so I wouldn't have to bend and lift (cursed back!) and Monkey made for an excellent taste tester.

The scent of pumpkin means fall to me and I am certainly getting into the mood a little earlier this year. Thank goodness for neighbors who like it when I share cookies. These are not good to keep in the least for those of us prone to late night cookie recollections.

Just realised this picture also shows the last of our Trader Joe figs. They did not last long. We literally stood in the kitchen and ate a zillion of these over the kitchen sink (the figs - not the cookies, although they were also delish).


Reflecting on all the things I am grateful for tonight. 
Top of the list is my healthy family. 
The list is really long.
It includes love. 
Sweet kisses and jokes about burps and zombie cows.
It includes perfect lattes and pumpkin muffins.
It includes blue skies and fluffy clouds over a soccer field.
A sweaty, happy, triumphant boy who loves school.
A man who makes me laugh and reminds me of everything right and good.
Holding hands three across.
It includes the first autumn breeze wafting through our shutters.
There is so much to be grateful for and my heart is full.

Tender Hearts

Last month was Honey's birthday and Monkey insisted on wrapping his gifts without any help from me. I absolutely love that he taped two sticks of Daddy's favorite gum to one package. So sweet.


Summer is evaporating swiftly - nearly gone and I have not posted in a long while. There were several reasons. Initially it was because I wanted to be more mindful about living in the present. This blog is about my adventures in slowing down and letting go a bit. I began to be concerned that I was more interested in capturing my life in snapshots than in actually enjoying it in the moment. Make sense?

What I realised is that I almost always write late at night when the house is quiet and my mind is restless. So not really an issue. We also just really enjoyed family time this summer. No crazy rushed schedules, just exploring what interested us. Secondly, I've been busy with new projects at work that have interrupted my normal hectic, yet comfortable work patterns. My late night musings have all been work related. This is why learning new things are good for our brains...

For the last several weeks, however, I haven't posted because I just couldn't sit at a computer to do so. I injured my back in a silly second that I wish I could rewind and re-do. It happens to so many people but I never thought it would happen to me. It is a herniated disk that will take 4 weeks to 3 months to mend and another 300-500 days for my body to completely heal, provided I take care and not re-injure myself.

My experience has been deeply humbling, as I had to accept that my normal, tenacious approach to solving problems (ignore the discomfort and plow through) would just not work in a situation that required me to be still. My attempt to simply ignore the problem did not work, and in fact slowed down my healing. Physical therapy and a new respect for really taking care of myself has become a strong focus. I tend to take care of everyone else around me and put myself (I know there is a club for this...) last.

I now have a new appreciation for those who live with acute pain or who lose their mobility. Not being able to sit, pick up things without squatting (good news is my leg muscles are getting great exercise!), sleep well or remember what it was like to not feel pain constantly affects your quality of life in such a profound way. What I am ashamed of is how crummy I have been taking all this. I never slow down and yet this is not something I can rush around. My normal way of approaching things will actually hurt me in this matter. And it is frustrating not to just get better immediately.

So I complain. I whine. I apologise for whining then do it some more. It is quite detestable. My family has been so wonderful and yet I compare myself to people who REALLY have problems, who NEVER complain, despite having terrible things happen to them and yet who sweetly remind us all of angels. I am not this type of person. The sad truth is that when the tough got going, I am a failure. At this point in my life, this very week, I am a miserable, shocked child who is not feeling enough gratitude for all my blessings. So my personal task is to accept this temporary status in my life. To accept it and move through it with as much grace as I can muster...or fake.

The Met for Kids

I recall my first years in New York and the love affair I enjoyed with all the museums. Every Sunday was my special day to explore and these days often ending on the steps of the Met with a cappuccino from a nearby cafe on Madison, watching the city go by into evening.

This summer we embarked on a family summer museum program - kid style! Various museums to explore art as well as historical and/or scientific subjects. Monkey is old enough to ask questions and become truly engaged in areas that interest him in an entirely new way - it is such a pleasure to feed that curiosity and expand his experiences! Even though we have visited the Museum of Natural History and the Met a hundred times, this summer was somehow the magic age.

Van Gogh was a favorite.

Every other weekend we select a subject and location. For example, the Egyption section when we completed the last Percy Jackson novel. We poured over my old Greek art books from college beforehand and he was able to identify colums and pottery styles on his own. Woo ha!

Last weekend we decided on European paintings with a scavenger hunt for boats as subjects at the Met. We could easily overwhelm him with lots of info and I didn't want to do that. No preaching. I really wanted him to explore on his own and decide what he likes best. So we came up with a game - each picking the art or object that we like the most. At the Met, mine has always been the same - an enormous work by Theodore Rousseau that makes my heart pound. Monkey surprised me by selecting two paintings.

The first was The Virgin Adoring the Host by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
He said that he loved the colors and "the sweetness of her face".

The Second was 1807 Friedland by Earnest Meissonier. He liked the "realness of all the horses and soldiers". A Napoleon victory, I did agree with the exquisite details and it was an interesting study.

So even though I only gave us a few hours and tried to limit us to one floor, we ended up exploring a lot more after lunch, led by a little boy and his whims. Not such a big surprise? He loved Modern Art.  An area that we hadn't spent much time in before.

Here are our favorites:

This amazing work called Dusasa II by an African sculptor named El Anatsue. It is a giant net made from found aluminum, copper wire and seals from liquor bottles, with plastic caps.

We also noted and loved how interested he was in architecture. Asking a million questions about how artists and builders created columns, gates, armour etc...and the Met does a great job of providing educational support. All those hours with Legos seem to have a purpose now...

So next trip is to MOMA to explore more Calder and Pollack, avoiding the more avante garde areas that he is too young to see or for us to explain. And a return to the Met to visit the American Wing. This is such a fun age and this is our best summer ever, just exploring the world through his eyes and following his interests. So his summer is not just about camp and trips to the beach (which are still pretty terrific). Not totally about following his every desire, either.
If so we would be in Legoland right now.

San Francisco

Had an amazing work experience in San Fran recently. Didn't have a chance to do any sightseeing yet I did spend time in Union Square shopping. Of course I did snap a couple of pics on my way to pick up an evening coffee in prep for a late night. The weather was a lovely change from the heat of New York. Next trip to SF will include an evening tour of Alcatraz. Mwaaa-hahaha.

The Cost of Crazy

I hope this is not a sign of age, yet lately it seems as though the world has gone crazy. I suspect a great deal of my perception is based upon all the negative stories and images available thanks to hyper competitive media sources. For the past several weeks I've been afraid to access a screen anywhere (including online) because of all the "Zombie" stories and images.

Since elementary school when I first saw the infomercial of a frying egg ("this is your brain on drugs"), I've been pretty aware that drugs are bad.bad.bad. So why are people still making such dumb choices? Although there will always be terrible stories to tell, my repulsion is in why the media is showing such graphic imagery without providing a choice as to whether we want to see it or not. Are ratings so important - and what does it say about us as humans that so many of us are clearly clicking on these links (or they wouldn't keep providing them).

I used to love scary movies - before they became grotesque. Now I refuse to watch any scary movie. Remember the campy thrillers from the 70s and 80s? The suspense building up to a crescendo while you tensed in dread for the moment when the bad guy was going to jump out and kill teenagers about to "make hay"? Today's villain makes Jason look like a boy scout. It seems as though cinematography and technology have advanced dramatically and many images and story lines include a ton of realistic gore/horror as well as a callous disregard for human life or boundaries. I believe the Blair Witch Project was the movie that cured any interest I will ever have in scary movies (I know, I know but we saw it opening night with friends before word got out that it was a 100% fake documentary. The last five seconds of that movie had me sleepless for weeks.)

Yet I can choose to see a film - bloody images and stories plastered on newsy web sites feel much more intrusive as I am not expecting to see them pop up. Some of these sites are not offering a link with a warning - which limits my choices. Whereas I could visit a site and not choose to select, see or read about cannibalism or murder (title tag only), now my choice is being narrowed to whether or not to visit the site period.

This is also why reality TV has no interest to me. I already know how terrible people can be. I don't need to witness how heinous people can be when trapped on an island, a house or on a stage. We watched five seconds of a funniest videos show last week and it has changed considerably from when it first came out. A lot meaner. A grown-up hitting a kid in the head with a bat is not funny. Anyone getting truly hurt where they can't get up is NOT funny.

To be honest, we began watching the Bad News Bears recently with our son when I had to turn it off. PG apparently meant rated R in the 70s. Another indication of how our sensibilities have changed. It seems we have always had a penchant for the dark side yet our thoughts as to what is appropriate for general audiences has shifted. I'd like to declare that I am not a prude, nor am I a cowering flower. There are shows with violence I will watch because the content is intelligent and keeps me guessing plots. I just want to preserve the boundaries of decency and respect for human suffering.

If I do turn a screen on, it is not an indication of interest in bloody images and news featuring the worst stories imaginable (and some that are not.) There is a cost to all this crazy. Numerous studies indicate that teenage anxiety and depression have risen dramatically in the last 10 years. My hope is that the youngest generations will be turned off by the extremism of our current media culture. Although not a fan of censorship, today's unprecedented access to data requires a certain self discipline in what we fuel our minds with. History has shown a societal cycle of returning to grace after periods of more callous dissolution. It typically started with smaller voices declaring that it was enough - today it may be as simple as turning away from the things unhealthy to our spirits, including toxic people and programming. At the end of the day, the cost of crazy is a voluntary price.

When to Divorce Your Work Spouse

Divorce is never easy. When it is someone you work with, it can be downright traumatic. Occasionally there are even "custody" arrangements of direct reports or a polarization of colleagues to work through. A work spouse can be a man or a woman, same or differing gender. It is the person you work closely with and typically someone similar enough in personality to create chemistry (the unromantic variety) yet different in ways that allow you to complete each other. For example, one may be great with numbers while the other is great with presentations. Perhaps one is more big picture while the other craves a life of details. In short, this relationship is a partnership of sorts.

A work spouse is a blessing and a curse. There is true value in actually enjoying the time spent with work colleagues - often this time is much greater than we spend with our own spouses and family. There is a camaraderie in sharing work stories and lunches with someone who you can also share your personal life with. Someone who remembers your birthday, anniversary, your birth stories and how you like your coffee. Who knows your mood by the way you say "Good Morning" - or not. Who you can borrow a lint brush from or check for salad between teeth before a meeting. Someone that picks up the slack on bad days and who challenges you to do your best every day.

I've had two such "marriages" in my career, and what I know is that they tend to run their course, eventually evolving into friendships from afar. Ideally this will be caused by one person's promotion or transfer - or perhaps even a new job that effectively severs that every day connection. Less ideal is when the relationship begins to sour - leading to the type of resentful bitterness seen in the movie War of the Roses. Just as in a real marriage, this can begin with one person changing course and leaving the other person struggling with the change.

Emotional maturity and professionalism is the antidote to this type of negative energy. But what to do when a work marriage begins to truly sour? Although I have never had to deal with this, I know plenty of people who have. What I have observed is that it is usually best to simply sever all personal aspects of the relationship. Maintain a friendly manner yet keep all conversation topics to work related matters.

Unfortunately, such a transition can be awkward in the short term. Consistency is key and time will eventually lead to new connections and habits. Although the rewards of a healthy work relationship can be tremendous, severing ties with a once close partnership is uniquely challenging. Any conflicts play out in the place that pays your bills and puts food on your table. The good news is that, unlike a real marriage, your house, child custody and alimony is never on that table. Keeping a work spouse divorce in perspective is essential to successfully navigating the dissolution.

How to Begin an Awesome Day

the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart with me
by e. e. cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

    i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Beach Weather

So grateful for some recent R&R on the beach. Grateful for clear water, almost no pesky sea gulls and no crowds. Grateful for fun family time and the amazing dolphins we were lucky enough to spend a little time observing. Grateful for sing-a-longs, frozen cherries and lots of all natural vitamin D.