Tuesday, April 30, 2013

grocery helper

Dear Em,
The other day you joined me at the grocery store. I only needed to pick up a few items. We were going to make homemade pizza. I wasn't in any type of hurry & the grocery store was mostly empty. So, instead of doing it all myself while you tagged along, I let you scan the items. After I paid, you bagged everything & slung the bag over your shoulder before we headed out the door.

Yes, you are in your PJs. It was a lazy kind of day.
I watched people look down at you & smile as you carried the groceries out of the store. It was such a small moment, & yet it made my heart so happy. It's amazing how you can take the ordinary & make it extraordinary. Right before our eyes you're growing up into a little young lady. Only too soon you will be grocery shopping on your own, & I will miss my little grocery helper.

I love you so much for so many reasons, but I think I love you for the everyday the most.

I love you so,

Monday, April 29, 2013

the yellow submarine is not yellow

Dear Em,
When your nonnie & papi come to visit, they are so content to just see you happy. Our days are designed around the preferences of a toddler & are filled with visits to the park & rides on the swings- anything & everything to see a smile on your face. I guess that's what being a grandparent is about. I like to make sure we do things for Nonnie & Papi too, they so rarely do things for themselves. That means beach days, zoo trips, & yummy seafood for Nonnie. Papi is always smiles ear to ear when he gets to visit his RedSox, but their last trip included a trip to the Groton Submarine Base.

Papi was in the Navy for 18 years, the first 16 years of my life. For me, I mostly remember going to three different kindergartens & moving almost every 2-4 years. I remember saying goodnight to & kissing a photograph of your Papi on the refrigerator. I remember celebrating Christmas when we could be together as a family, which often meant we didn't celebrate on the 25th. I remember stepping up & helping with my four younger brothers & sisters. I vaguely remember climbing down into the dark, cool, almost mythical submarine so that Papi could show us around. I remember seeing the world- well, at least the USA. That was life as a Navy Brat.

Then all of a sudden that life was done. During my sophomore year in high school, Papi retired from the Navy & our family moved to southern New Jersey to begin life as civilians. That was almost twenty years ago, but the Navy will always be a big part of your papi's (& my) life.

While Nonnie & Papi visited, I thought it would be fun to show you & Daddy a little about that life. We traveled to Groton, the Sub Base where I was born. Just outside the gates is the Submarine Force Museum. It's home to the Nautilus, the world's first nuclear submarine. It is the only submarine museum operated by the US Navy, & it's only a little more than a thirty minute drive from our house. Admission & parking are free.

Outside the museum are historic submarines & other artifacts.

"Hey! These are not yellow!" you exclaimed. I had been singing "we all live in a yellow submarine" to try to hype up our trip that morning. Needless to say, you were a little disappointed with the color scheme the Navy had chosen for their submarines. I think they could learn a lot from your sense of style. You were semi interested in what was outside, but we had promised you that morning that you would be going in a submarine. You could see the Nautilus from the outside, & you looked at it with longing. "Please can we go IN the submarine now?"

I'm not sure what you thought you would find once inside the submarine (maybe candy & butterflies?), but we were pleasantly surprised to find that inside the museum building was a million things you could touch. This briefly distracted you from your dream of walking inside the submarine. Sure, there were pictures & maps everywhere, but there were also switches & steering & periscopes & a phone. You were in heaven, as was Papi as he acted as your tour guide.

Then we got to go inside the real submarine. There's not a whole lot I remember from the tours of Papi's submarines I did when I was your age. I do remember climbing down a long ladder (& being fearful of falling to my death) to get inside. Imagine my surprise as we found stairs leading down into the Nautilus. "Stairs are a lot more convenient for the public," the Naval officer said as I looked at the stairs in disbelief. I gave a sigh of relief that I wouldn't be trying to get you down that ladder.

We were given to devices for the audio tour, but I didn't really use mine much. Mostly I just listened to & watched Papi. His eyes were twinkling as he pointed out the small quarters of the ship & told us stories of his days on submarines. I was struck by the tight quarters. The living spaces in our home felt like a mansion in comparison. 

After our tour on the oldest nuclear submarine, we headed on base & toured a modern one (Papi has some friends in high places). You weren't able to join us. Only small children of those who work on the submarines are allowed to tour the boat (Thank God! After touching everything in the museum it would have been exhausting to prevent you from touching the real buttons & switches inside the boat). Instead you & Nonnie headed to the Navy Exchange, a shopping area. 

Papi, Daddy, a Navy friend of our family, & I toured a Virginia-class submarine (we were so fortunate that the officer on duty gave us a tour). It's a nuclear powered fast attack submarine. We entered the ship the familiar way, via a long ladder (amazingly, twenty years later, I was still petrified of falling to my death).

For the next hour there was so much to look at & listen to. I listened & watched as our guide showed us the different aspects of the boat, but I mostly watched & listened to your papi. His eyes lit up as he saw the innovations of the new ship & reminisced about how he did things twenty years ago. It was incredible to see how much has changed over the years, but yet, how much has stayed the same. I loved hearing about his days as a submariner as much as I loved seeing his excitement in sharing it all with us. It was an experience I will cherish & remember forever.

After our tour, we headed for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants (Valentino's) from when I was growing up. Then we drove to our old house, the house I had spent more time in than any other I've lived in. It was a literal drive down memory lane. As we drove back home that day, my heart was so happy. I feel so fortunate that Papi could share that part of his past with us, & that I could share that part of my past with you.

I love you so,

Friday, April 26, 2013

love letters

Dear Em,
"And when I hurt,
Hurtin' runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when I'm with you
Warm, touchin' warm
Reachin' out, touchin' me touchin' you
Sweet Caroline
(bum bum bum)
Good times never seemed so good
(so good! so good! so good!)
I've been inclined
(bum bum bum)
To believe they never would..."
- Sweet Caroline sung by Neil Diamond

It's been almost two weeks since the bombings at the Boston Marathon. It's taken me a while to be able to put my feelings into words. Most people my age will always remember where they were when they heard about the 911 attacks, & I think that will also hold true for New Englanders & the Boston Marathon bombing. For me, I was in my car going about my day. I was in a Bank of America parking lot when I checked facebook. I couldn't believe the posts I was seeing. News about blasts, not knowing how many were injured or dead. 

My thoughts immediately went to the people I knew who were planning to be at the marathon that day. My business partner had just told me that morning that his wife & daughter had gone to Boston for the event. My mind raced as I dialed his phone number. I couldn't even think of how to start the conversation. My words came out jumbled & incoherent at my first few attempts. "There was a bombing at the marathon & your wife..." I finally blurted out before trailing off. His wife & daughter had planned on being at the finish line where the bombs went off, but through a twist of fate their plans had changed. They were safe.

My mind raced to others I knew that had planned to be there. One of my friends had decided to work rather than take the day off at the last minute. Another of my friends had been standing in between the two blast when they occurred but was safe. I was relieved that those I knew were safe, but my heart mourned for all the victims I didn't know. My heart mourned for Boston, our Boston. My favorite city in the world. The city we first took you to when you were only a few months old.

I finished up my work day & picked you up from school in a daze. Once we got home, I turned the TV on low & sat mesmerized in front of it. I felt sick to my stomach. I just can't understand how someone could do this to other people. I felt helpless, knowing there was nothing I could do except pray.

You're a sensitive little girl. You pretty quickly sense when things are wrong. I knew I should try to hide it all from you. I knew I should turn off the TV, but I couldn't. "What's wrong Mommy? You look sad," you asked me. How do you explain something like this to a three year old? How do you teach your daughter about such ugliness when you want her to grow up & see the beauty of the world? How do you explain that children & families were killed & injured? How can a child ever feel safe again?

"I am sad, sweetie. Someone did a really bad thing," I responded. "Was it Wreck-It Ralph? He's always making messes," you asked. A smile spread across my face. In your world Wreck-It Ralph making a mess is the worst thing you could imagine. I cherish your innocence. "No sweetie. It wasn't Wreck-It Ralph. Wreck-It Ralph would never try to hurt someone, but today someone hurt a lot of people." You looked at me wide eyed. "Am I going to get hurt?" My heart said "you can never know what might happen" but the words I said were "of course not." And that was that for you. You went back to playing while I continued to watch the frightening news reports.

That was Monday. Over the next few days news reports were filled with stories of heroes that ran towards the blast & knocked down fences to get to those who were injured. We heard about marathon runners who went extra miles to hospitals to donate blood for victims. We watched as they played Sweet Caroline, a song that has become a Boston RedSox anthem, at Yankee stadium & ballparks throughout the country.

On Friday, your daddy & I were supposed to go to a RedSox game at Fenway. It would be the first home game since the bombings. We were eager to mourn for our favorite city & root on our favorite city with the crowds at Fenway. You were set to sleepover your best friend's house. But then Boston was locked down- the whole city. I don't think I've ever seen a US city in lockdown like that. The RedSox game was canceled, & instead of watching a baseball game your daddy & I were rooted in front of the TV.

A manhunt was going on in the streets of Watertown, just outside of Boston. Surveillance camera footage had revealed two suspects. It was said the footage showed the suspects placing the bombs at the feet of children before they went off. The older suspect had been killed in a shootout. The younger suspect was being hunted, house by house.

I'm pretty sure I was in the minority, but my heart was filled with sadness not only for the victims of this senseless tragedy but also for the suspect that was being hunted. He was 19- just a boy. I thought about how much my ideas & ideals have changed since I was 19 years old. No, I never went to a place where I could do the horrific things that had been done, but even amidst the awful things he had done I couldn't stop thinking "he just a boy!" I thought about how scared he must be as he was being hunted, the FBI & Boston's finest against a 19 year old boy.

Law enforcement masterfully collaborated & swiftly caught the 19 year old suspect. The lockdown was lifted, & we watched the news footage of people cheering in the streets. I was relieved that the threat was gone. I was so happy to see the Boston streets full of people again. But still I mourned. I mourned for all of the victims of the bombings & aftermath. I also mourned for a family who had been told their two sons had committed such acts of terror, a family who had lost one son & watched on TV as their 19 year old son was hunted & captured. I mourned that you, my beautiful & loved daughter, live in a world where things like this exist.

The RedSox did play the next day. Tears welled in my eyes as I watched the tribute given during the opening ceremonies. 

The tears flowed down my face as I watched Rick & Dick Hoyt throw the first pitch. I smiled as Big Papi took the mic & said "This is our Fing city" (luckily you weren't in the room for that). And when the eighth inning rolled around & Neil Diamond came out from the dugout to sing Sweet Caroline, you & I joined the crowd from the couch of our living room & sang our hearts out.

I don't know how to explain the past events to you, but I do know that I've fallen in love with our city of Boston all over again. The city exemplifies tenacity & endurance, generousity & love, strength & kindness. I see those same qualities in you. I don't know what things you will see in your lifetime, but I hope you will embrace those qualities as you navigate through life. I hope when you get knocked down, you will rebuild. And when faced with absolute ugliness, I hope you will try to find beauty.

I love you so,

Thursday, April 25, 2013

our little shoe girl

Dear Em,
Before our trip to San Francisco, I realized I needed a new pair of sneakers. I took you with me to DSW to pick out a new pair. It is amazingly overwhelming how many pairs of shoes fill that store. You looked like you were in paradise. I forgot how much you love shoes.

You ooohed & awwwed over the rows & rows of shoes. You wanted to try on every shoe in the place (the funny thing is, they don't even carry kids shoes), & you almost did. I turned my head for a second & you were sprinting down the isle with a new pair of pink sneakers that were your "favorite." "Oh, Mommy, look at these pretty shoes!" Two minutes later you had a new pair of favorites picked out. It was hilarious to watch a three year old putting on sneakers that were almost as long as her legs.

It came down to two pairs for me. Of course you tried them both on & waddled down the isle in them. In the end I let you pick, which is why I came home with the sneakers with hot pink soles. I actually really like them, & you love them. It was a win-win.

I have a feeling we have many, many more shoe adventures ahead of us.

I love you so,

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

appreciating local artists

Dear Em,
Your daddy & I are not ones to spend a lot of time visiting art museums...or galleries. Staring at art & trying to decipher what it means to me & what it meant to the artist is just not really my cup of tea. Furthermore, when we were loosely planning our trip to Prague, we had decided not to spend a whole lot of time inside museums. We wanted to be outside experiencing Prague rather than being inside looking at pictures of it (although we did really enjoy the Museum of Communism). With that said, it surprised me that one of the things I wanted to do most was check out the work of a local artist.

It started when I browsed Time Travel's Prague: 10 Things to Do. Thing Number 8 pictured sculptures of giant crawling babies. I laughed & was intrigued. I wanted to see giant babies.

What do you think? Should we have taken some Babies home with us? David Cerny is the controversial Czech sculptor behind the babies. His works also include a baby crawling up a tower, two men peeing in the street, a statue of St. Wenceslas riding a dead horse, a statue of Sigmund Freud hanging off a building by one hand, & Brownnosers (where vistiors climb ladders to peer into the backsides of two statues & watch videos of an actor who resembles President Vaclav Klaus eat baby food). Cerny is the countries most famous sculptor, probably due to the fact his work both amuses & offends the public.

The Babies, appearing outside of Prague's Museum Kampa, were the only sculptures we saw by Cerny while we were there. They absolutely amused me, & I also liked that we could enjoy them outside. Just beyond the Babies was a beautiful view of the Vltava river & Charles Bridge. Within walking distance is Petrin Hill, a beautiful park with a miniature Eiffel Tower, a mirror maze, & the Church of St. Michael. True to it's name, Petrin Hill is one giant hill. Since we had walked around ten miles a day everyday we were in Prague (& this was our last day), we decided to forgo hiking the hill & just admired the Eiffel Tower from afar.

The penguins light up at night.

I can say without a doubt, I truly enjoyed the artwork in Prague & there was art everywhere we looked. Whether it was the beauty in the details of the ancient buildings or in the controversy of modern sculptures, I loved it all.

I love you so,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finding Beauty in the Earth

Dear Em,
Yesterday was Earth Day. I didn't even realize until midway through the day. I immediately felt guilty that I hadn't planned anything to commemorate the day. I tried to think of last minute learning experiences I could plan. Buuuuuut, then I forgot it was Earth Day again. You know, it was a typical busy day. A day that started with loading you in the car, starting it, & realizing that my back tire was flat & that my schedule was already completely changing. It was a day where if it wasn't written down, it wasn't remembered.

I continued to forget it was Earth Day when I asked you if you wanted to join me in a trip to Home Depot to pick up more gardening supplies (We've kept our herbs alive for a whole week & a half & am so excited I decided to add another herb plant to the sill). You didn't want to join me, & because Earth Day continued to slip my mind, I didn't try to urge into a fun Earth Day activity.

So, we didn't do anything to commemorate the day. We didn't create anything out of recycled materials. We didn't plant anything. We didn't go on a any nature walks. For a moment I felt like I had Mommy failed this learning opportunity, but only for a moment. I thought about this past week. You've helped me water our herbs & plants inside. Outside, flowers are blooming & trees are budding all around us. Each day we've peeked & marveled at the changes going on right in front of our eyes. We've tried to soak up every outside moment we could, appreciating the sunshine & the green grass & the colorful flowers & even the rain that waters it all.

You want to pick every flower & give it to someone special, but we've urged you not to pick the flowers in the gardens. That's OK with you. Most of your favorite flowers lie outside of the confines of the garden. Your very favorites: Dandelions.

You spent at least an hour the other day running in & out of the house. You collected as many dandelions as you could find, one by one. After each one, you ran into the house holding your little treasure proudly. "Mommy, these have to go in the cup!" I had filled a small yellow cup with water & placed it with some of our other plants on the window shelf. By the end of the weekend, the yellow cup was overflowing.

I remember being young & turning my nose up at dandelions being called weeds. To me they were beautiful flowers. I can't help but smile as I see the same sparkle in your eyes as you crouch in the grass surrounded by your beloved sunshiney flowers.

I think it's safe to say we can save our preplanned Earth Day lessons this year. For this year, you were able to find the beauty of the Earth all by yourself. You found delight in what others cast away as garbage. I hope you'll always hold that love for the Earth in your heart- even for the weeds.

I love you so,

Monday, April 22, 2013

first pedis

Dear Em,
Sigh, we had such a lovely & special visit with your nonnie & papi. We miss them so much. One of the nice things about spending time with Nonnie is that we try to take time for girl pampering. Nonnie had never gotten a pedicure before her last visit. So, we went- just us three girls- for hers & yours very first pedicure. It was wicked fun girl time.

You were a little nervous about being on your own. So, you & I got our pedicures together, sitting in the same seat. You were so curious as you intently watched them work on Nonnie & my feet before it was your own turn.

Nonnie loved it (success!), & you were just thrilled to have toes the same color as Mommy- sparkly purple. I see a lot of Mommy-Daughter pedicures in our future.

There's just something about little toes. Is there anything cuter?

I love you so,

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I'm not very good at keeping things alive

Dear Em,
Ok, before we get too excited about the title of this blog post, let me clarify. I have, in fact, kept myself alive (with a lot of help) for the past almost 32 years. We have two cats that are doing quite well (although, that's mostly due to your daddy who feeds them & changes their kitty litter). I've kept you kicking for more than three years now, which has been tougher than one might think. It's just that in terms of plants, our house is where they come to die.

Aren't Chia Pets supposed to be the easiest things ever to grow? All the ads picture small children who seem to be able to master the whole Chia pet growing experience. We had one a few years ago. We soaked the seeds, covered the clay thing in the seed paste, & watered it. Nothing grew. Nothing.

Regular plants don't fair much better. It's just really hard for me to remember to do things like remember to water them. Our kitchen sink area has been cluttered with all of the plants I've been able to keep alive in hopes that by being so close to a water source, they might actually get some water.

I was really proud of myself last summer. I had three plants that I had kept alive for quite a while. The oldest one, an aloe plant, was eight years old (that's ancient for plants in our house). I put it outside one sunny day to give it healthy fresh air. Then I forgot about it for a week. By the time I remembered, it had turned a weird brown-purple color. This wasn't the first time my aloe plant almost died. There may have been a few times I had forgotten to water it for 3 months or so. With a little love (& lots a water), it always came back to life. This time it didn't come back. I watered what had become a pot of dirt for almost 6 months before I was willing to admit that my poor little plant was dead.

I couldn't even look at other plants for a while, but New England winters are long...& grey. I needed some green in my life. I found a new little aloe plant to fill the empty pot of dirt. We bought aqua globes to help with the watering.

Then your Nonnie & Papi came. Now instead of two plants, we have ten. YIKES! I'm not sure if I'm more scared or excited. For my upcoming birthday Nonnie got a little indoor herb garden started, & Papi built a shelf on our kitchen windowsill for them. Less plant clutter while giving them the best chance of living by keeping them close to a water supply. Nonnie also pruned & fed & watered our existing plants.

I'm going to try really hard to keep them alive until Nonnie comes back this summer. In the meantime, we're enjoying our green windowsill. It's nice to see our little aloe plant surrounded by friends.

We're looking forward to the fresh herbs- if I can keep them alive long enough.

I love you so,

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Eating Internationally

Dear Em,
I'm a pretty adventurous eater- at least I think I am. So, I was never really worried about finding good food to eat internationally until I traveled to Ireland before you were born. Daddy blames it on my pregnancy & morning sickness (I was 8-10 weeks pregnant while we were there). I still say the food was awful. I'm pretty sure cheddar cheese was the main & only seasoning that they used in the food. At one point we ordered lasagna. There was a noodle on top, a noodle on the bottom, a huge chunk of meat in the middle, & a huge hunk of melted cheese on top. I pretty much lived on oatmeal & soft serve ice cream.

Needless to say, I was a little nervous about what I would find food-wise in Prague. I had looked at some menus which included things like liver & goulash (I didn't even know what that was). I was prepared to at least try everything, but I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. I was pleasantly surprised once I got to Prague (& on the flight to & from Prague- flying business class internationally is the way to go). The food was delightful- & very filling. I think I gained ten pounds in the short time I was there.

There were a few surprises:
1) There are KFCs everywhere. We saw a couple McDonalds, but the KFCs stood on every other block (we avoided them until one late night when everything else was closed). Do Czech people really love their Kentucky Fried Chicken (can we even call it chicken anymore)?
2) The timing of how you are served your food in a restaurant is different. Salad, soups, & appetizers are brought out with your meal instead of before your meal. Food is also brought out as it is ready for each person rather than all at once for the whole table.
3) There were warm wine vendors throughout the streets (did you hear that USA? Warm wine!).
4) There was such a variety of international cuisine. So much so that restaurants with menus that had traditional Czech food boasted of it with signage (I don't think I've ever seen signage on a restaurant in the USA letting everyone know that there is traditional American food).
5) I've heard that you don't need to tip in Europe. In Prague 10% is standard, although no tip is needed if you're sitting at a bar & the bartender serves you a drink.
6) While Prague is legendary for it's beer, most places only have a few options to choose from. Everyone talks about how awful American beer is, although I think most people are referring to Bud-Miller-Coors light (don't expect to find any in most Prague bars & restaurants).

One of the first nights, I ordered the goulash & dumplings. I wanted the full Prague experience. It was a flavorful meat stew with potato filled dumplings. I was in heaven. Your daddy & I also really enjoyed the street food. There were yummy food vendors all over the Old Town Square. I loved watching the cooking churros. I ate the biggest ham & cheese crepe of my life. It hit the spot. It was so good that the next day we returned to the same vendor to get a nutella & banana one for dessert (& some warm wine).

We never did get a chance to go to the the restaurant where they develop a unique menu based upon your preferences. We tried the last night, but it was closed. We did take the opportunity to go to one of the restaurants from the book Where Chefs Eat for breakfast one morning. The place was called
Cukrk√°valimon√°da which means "sugar, coffee, lemonade." 
It was a quaint little pace, & the menu was huge. We both noticed sweet & salty pancakes on the menu. We weren't sure what salty pancakes were, but we were excited to check it out. The salty pancakes were thin like a crepe. Mine was topped with spinach, bacon, sun dried tomatoes, & garlic. It was divine- the perfect way to start off our day. I could eat breakfast there every day, especially because we sat at the counter stocked with sweet desserts. We couldn't help but get a couple to end our meal (breakfast food & desserts- you would have been in heaven).

All in all, I would for sure return to Prague for the food alone. In the meantime, I'll be looking for some restaurants in the USA with signage that boasts of traditional Czech cuisine.

I love you so,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

maiden voyage

Dear Em,
This Easter you discovered a kite in your Easter basket. You've never flown a kite, but you were still excited in an "I'm not sure exactly what I'm excited about" sort of way. On one of the first sunny Spring days without a cloud in the sky, we were itching to get out of the house & play in the fresh air. It was the perfect day to take your kite on it's maiden voyage.

We headed to the large open fields in Tuckertown Park, & let your kite out in the open air. You & I held it up to catch the breeze while Daddy held the string.

You had a turn flying the kite too.

We brought a bunch of other games to play in the large field. There was frisbee, football, & a precious game of catch between you & Papi.

We let you play on the playground before heading home. Our cheeks were rosy, & I was so very content. Family & outside fun is such a happy combination.

I love you so,

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bath Letters

Dear Em,
For your very first Christmas, I picked out a tube of foam letters & numbers for the bath to put in your stocking. I had no idea how much we would come to love & use these letters. At first, you were only one. You just liked that there were new toys in the bath & they were colorful. The game we mostly played with them was me trying to distract you from putting them in your mouth.

As you've grown, we started to use them in other ways. When you were learning to count, we would line the numbers up on the bathtub wall. As you learned to recognize letters, I would encourage you to hunt for each letter. "Where's the A," I would ask. I will always remember the proud smile on your face once you found it among the lake of letters & held it in the air for me to see. As you learned to associate sounds with letters, I would pick up a letter & ask you what sound it made.

Now that you know what the letters look like & what sounds they make, we're starting to work on making words. The another night we made "AT" words. First you found the "A" & the "T" & put them up on the wall. Then I would call out an "AT" word, for instance BAT. You searched through the tub of letters until you found the "B" & triumphantly placed it up on the wall next to "AT." Then we sounded out each of the letters on the wall before pronouncing it was a word: BAT.

Then I would call out a new word & you would do it all over again. You made PAT, RAT, CAT, SAT, BAT, FAT, HAT, MAT, & NAT. Its a game you adore, your face is so proud as you create each new word. You always pout when it's time to get out of the bath because it means the game is done.

I'm enjoying this stage where learning is fun & you're such a little sponge soaking it all up. Even the bathtub is your classroom.

I love you so,

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rainbow Writing

Dear Em,
Your school has Parent Teacher Conferences twice a year. After we discuss how you're learning & growing & developing, one of my questions to your teachers is always "what can we be doing at home?" We sing ABCs, counting things, making letter sounds, & doing word problems. Those things are easy for us. We can work on those things anywhere: in the car, at the supermarket, while we brush your teeth, when we're at the park.

Writing has been a different story, mostly because it requires you to sit down. Sitting down never has been a strong suit for you. That's one of the reasons why we haven't worked on it much at home. You can write your name (& that's only because your name is short & I asked your Nonnie if she would work on it with you this past summer), & that's about it. But, in our last parent teacher conference, they told me about rainbow writing. First you write the letters (or numbers) in yellow & then encourage a child to trace over the the letters (or numbers) with different colors, giving it a rainbow effect.

I have to admit, the first time we tried it I don't think I explained it very well to you (or you're three & you weren't paying attention). I looked down to find that instead of tracing the letters, you were using different colors to make rainbow shaped rainbows. Sigh. I re-explained it, & away you went. We started with the letter A.

Sure, you used only one color & you got only 80% of the way through the A's I had written on the page before you announced that you were done & refused to participate any longer. But, it was also our first time (& like I said, sitting is not a strength of yours). So, I hope to keep at it. I'm hoping to work on a different letter each week & at the end we'll have rainbows of every letter & number.

I love you so,

* I wrote a follow-up post about Rainbow Writing here. *

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

the perfect souvenir

Dear Em,
Before going to Prague, I had read about handmade wooden toys. The shops filled with them is something unique to Prague. I couldn't wait to find you the perfect wooden gift. I love most things old fashioned, & I was enchanted by the thought of you having an old fashioned and unique souvenir. I had a romantic idea of you cherishing your handmade toy & someday passing the toy down to your kids.

When we got to Prague, I was a little bummed. Most of the wooden toys seemed a little young for your age. I could picture you playing with the gift once & then discarding it- definitely not the cherishing I had hoped for. Your daddy is not so enchanted by old fashioned things. He thinks they're just old. He looked at the wooden toys that lined tables of a farmers market, & told me they looked like things you could pick up from the dollar store. Sigh.

So, we didn't come back from Prague with a handmade wooden toy for you, but we did come back with a handmade wooden toy.

It was cold in Prague, similar to winter weather in New England. While we spend most of our winters in New England cozy & warm inside, we wanted to see everything in Prague. We bundled up & headed out. We did a ton of walking. There was one day that my hands & cheeks were so cold, I couldn't feel them anymore. We stepped inside a shop, more to warm up than to shop. As my hands & face tingled with warmth, I looked around the shelves in awe. Most of the items were wooden & handmade. There were shelves & shelves of Matryoshka dolls in all different characters (US presidents & famous actors were fun to look at). On another wall were tons of hand-carved chess sets.

Other than the very basics, I don't know much about chess. I couldn't even remember the last time I sat down to play, but there was something about the beautifully handcrafted sets. I could picture your daddy & I playing together on a Friday night after we'd put you to bed. I could picture us teaching you how to play on that same board. I could picture us handing down the set to you & you passing it down to your kids. As I looked at the set, a whole future with it passed before me (I guess I'm a total romantic). I was giddy with excitement as I purchased a set as your daddy & my souvenir.

We also bought ourselves an ale horn. We've been watching a lot of Game of Thrones, & I was so excited to see that they had ale horns in Prague. It will be more of a novelty item than something we'll really use, but I thought it would be a fun addition to mantown (our basement).

We bought you a pink furry hat (like many of the people we saw in Prague were wearing) & some Kinder Easter chocolates. Not anything you'll cherish forever, but you sure did love them when we unveiled them- especially the chocolates.

Your gifts may not be passed down through generations, but I will always smile when I think of you enjoying your chocolates & looking all cute in your hat...knowing that your mommy & daddy had returned home to you.

I love you so,

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

turning 3 again

Dear Em,
Today is someone very special's birthday. When we asked you who's birthday it was you exclaimed, "mine!" It appears that rather than thinking we should celebrate your birthday & half birthday, you prefer we celebrate once a month. You've thought it was your birthday at least that often.

It's not your birthday. It's Nonnie's! What makes it even more fun is that she's here in Rhode Island to celebrate with us (I don't think I've been with my mom on her birthday since I was in high school). We're in the midst of giving her a whole birthday week, & she's not used our little family tradition. We've already been on so many fun adventures with her. It's fun to pamper the woman who is always pampering everyone else.

We told you that Nonnie is turning three again just like you. She could be. When she's around you, she's so very young at heart. You're both having a blast playing together. The other night I came upstairs to find you too inside your small cardboard Princess castle. You had your lantern on & you were reading books to babies. It made my heart so happy.

I can't tell you what a gift it is for me to celebrate my mom's birthday with her. I'm going to soak up & enjoy every moment we get to spend with my mommy.

I love you so,

Monday, April 8, 2013

things you're not very good at

Dear Em,
You are my daughter, & I am amazed by you everyday. There are so many things that you're so great at, but hide & seek is not one of them. We played the other night, just me & you & daddy. It took you over twenty minutes to find me. It took you so long, you started crying & told Daddy that I was gone forever.

The hardest part about the game for me is hiding & keeping quiet. It's almost impossible not to burst into laughter. You talk to yourself as you look & you have quite an inner monologue. However, the most entertaining part of the game happens when you are the one hiding. This is how it went the other night...

Emma: "Ok, start counting. I'm going to hide."
Daddy & I: (closing our eyes) "One...two...three..."
Emma: (crashing into where we stand counting) "Watch out! I have to hide in the closet!"
Daddy & I: "Four...five...six...seven..."
Emma: (yelling from inside the closet that I had hid in the last time, no more than two feet away from where we're counting even though you had the whole upstairs to hide in) "I'm ready!"
Daddy & I: "Eight..."
Emma: "Ready or not here I come!"
Daddy & I: "Nine...TENNNNNNN!"
Emma: "Ok, come find me. I'm in the closet!"
Daddy: "Do you think she's on the bed?"
Emma: "No! I'm not on the bed! I'm in the closet!"
Me: "I wonder if she's in her castle."
Emma: "No, I told you. I'm in the closet. Come find me in the closet."
Daddy & I: (walking over to the closet) "Oh! There she is!"
Emma: "How did you find me?!"

Then there are lots of giggles & hugs & you exclaim it's our turn to hide. You may not be a very competitive hide & seeker, you are by far my very favorite hide & seeker.

I love you so,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What If...What If

Dear Em,
Sometimes we need to distract you. Like when I'm getting you ready in the morning & you've decided to make it your life's mission for me to make me as miserable as possible during the process (pretty much every morning for us lately). Sometimes, I need to distract you from your mission. So, the other day while I was fixing your hair, I gave you a word problem.

"What if you had three popsicles, but then you ate one? How many would be left?" To my surprise, you exclaimed "Two!!!!" After that we quizzed each other back & forth with word problems. You're actually pretty good...well, as long as we don't start with a number higher than four. It's become one of your favorite things to do- when we're waiting in line, when we're driving in your car, when we're hanging out as a family.

Except you don't call them word problems. You call them jokes. "Take it away Daddy. Wanna give me a joke?" The best ever is when you give your own "joke". "What if. What if! WHAT IF, you had three babies but then two of them bumped their heads & died...forever. How many would you have left?"

It's a fun game that we love to play as a family now, & it makes my heart happy to see you learning & growing. It's so amazing to just watch you think.

Well, & it's also a really great distraction (wink wink).

I love you so,

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Wonderful Mix of Old & New in Prague

Dear Em,
There were so many reasons why I loved our adventure in Prague, but my favorite was the amazing combination of modern & historical. While we were in Prague, we met a couple English travelers. One of them asked me if I was amazed by how much history we were surrounded with in Prague. I told him I was. I truly loved it. He told me, "I like American history a lot too." I blurted out, "Why, because we don't have any?" I was kind of surprised by my words. I had never really thought of it that way, but it was hard for me not to when I was surrounded by such ancient history. America seems almost like a toddler in comparison to the adulthood of Prague, & there were historical reminders of that throughout the modern city. The English traveler laughed at me. "No, it's just younger history, like me," he said (he was in his seventies).

I know we have history in our country. History has always been one of my favorite subjects, but I'm not often reminded of it when I walk down the streets of my state. I feel like for the most part, when things become old in the U.S., we knock them down or gut them to make way for the new. I don't feel a sense of history all around us.

Prague was much different. It was a modern city, with modern conveniences. Yet, there was evidence of it's history and amazingly detailed architecture all around us. One of our favorite spots in Prague was the Old Town Square, which dates back to the 12th century. There you will find the the Old Town Hall Tower & Astronomical Clock. You'll also find the square filled with food & craft vendors. We enjoyed yummy crepes, sausage, & hot wine.

We walked over the Charles Bridge, one of the most astonishing civil Gothic-style bridges in the world, almost every day. Construction on it started in 1357, & it is decorated with 30 mostly baroque-style statues. There are beautiful views of the city from the bridge. During the day, it is a bustling & fun place, because cars do not drive across it. Instead, it is filled with vendors selling art, jewelry, & souvenirs.

Just across the Charles Bridge, we made our way to the Prague Castle. It is the largest ancient castle in the world. The history of it stretches back to the 9th century & is where Kings of Bohemia, Roman Emperors, & the Presidents of Czechoslovakia & the Czech Republic have held office. I've seen castles in Ireland (& one in Napa), but nothing on this scale. These castle walls held a whole city. I felt a little like I was walking onto a scene in Game of Thrones (I actually felt like that quite a bit while we were in Prague). Perhaps the most intricate & ornate was the St. Vitus Cathedral.

Gargoyles! Both scary & amazing at the same time.

These were painted on the ceilings of the castle. How Game of Thrones is this (or maybe how Prague Castle is Game of Thrones)?

There were guards marching through & guarding the castle walls. It was kind of fun for me.

I was struck by the beauty of the of historical buildings throughout Prague. I think sometimes we get into the mind frame that old things are dark & ugly...& well, old, but it was the historical details that made this modern city truly beautiful. It will forever change the way I look at things & feel so fortunate to have experienced it all.

For now, we'll just have to settle with the cardboard castle that's in your room.

I love you so,
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