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Believe it or not, since I finished up work, I’ve been extremely productive.  Aside from getting Jack healthier and finding my groove here at home, one of my top priorities was getting my new website up and running.  I’ll be moving this blog to its very own domain at Babyrific.net.  Same crazy content, brand new look.  [Don’t forget, it’s dot net]

babyrific.net banner

I revamp websites much like I shop—I browse around and fill up my cart, only to change my mind 1,000 times.  In line with a few other projects that I’m working on, I’m so happy to finally report that it’s moving day around here.  I’m still in the process of tweaking the new site, but I’ll be making all new updates over there.   Jeff prepared a little song and dance just for the occasion.

What are you waiting for?  Come join me!

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With everything that’s going on in the world right now, it’s hard not to ignore the cacophony and reality of buzzwords–crisis, doom and gloom, economic downturn, recession, depression.

Times are rapidly changing—unemployment is in freefall, various companies are going belly up, the government is bailing out corrupted financial firms. I even had a heart-to-heart with a cabdriver last night about the stock market tanking. On a good day, cabbies limit the small talk to one question: “Where you going?” (No time for complete sentences.)

It’s hard not to ignore. But, whatever you do, don’t panic.
I’m no financial guru, but things will work themselves out; it has to, right?
It’s the time for frugality. We’re all making cuts; it’s imperative at this point.

For our family, as the price of gas teeters between outrageous and ridonkulous, we’re browsing for a more economical vehicle. We’re planning on traveling home for one holiday, instead of all of them. I spend Friday nights scouring sale pages for the best deals. I buy 3 different newspapers on Sundays, instead of 2—for the coupons. (Aside from the journalistic enlightenment, of course.)
Now is the time to reassess priorities.

…which is why we assessed that our family is always our number one priority. At a time when joblessness is at a high and people are losing jobs byway of layoffs, I’m quitting mine.

But this isn’t the time to panic.

After feeling so broken and defeated after 11 fruitless interviews for 9 different companies, I have to hold it together. As I often tell Jeff, if I crack, who is going to drive me to the crazy house? (There is a possibility of a carpool if anyone needs a ride.)

In all seriousness, even though I’m holding on by a thread, when push comes to shove, there’s got to be a better way. Thanks to Jeff’s faith in me, the stability in his career (not to mention his kickass bosses for acknowledging his sickening brilliance/hillbillyness {those characteristics, at least for my husband, are interchangeable}) and the moral support from friends and family, I’m taking the Leap.

Visualize Jack clapping and flashing that toothy grin.

When my career became a job, and the job became a source of too much anxiety and angst, I knew in my heart that having it all didn’t necessarily mean doing it here. As always, I have lots of ideas and I can’t wait to pursue them.

I’ve been writing a lot of goodbye emails to colleagues this week who, in return, have wished me well on The Next Big Thing. Once I get my act together–hopefully by next week–I will have some exciting announcements about The Next Big Thing.

I can’t wait to share, so please stay tuned!

Jack’s slowly but surely shaking this URI, though still hacking and sneezing more often than not. He lost a few pounds, but is definitely working back to that hearty appetite of his.

I finally got around to organizing my photos and thoughts about Jack’s first birthday, so I thought I’d share.

Jack's 1st Birthday Party

The boy’s birthday itself was definitely a momentous occasion for our little family. It not only marked a year into this funny adventure called parenthood, but it was a time to reflect on Jack’s colorful first year.

As we do for big holidays and occasions, we did the 350 mile trek down to VA to celebrate with family and friends. Because our life here in NJ has been so hectic with work and the pending transition, I quite honestly didn’t do too much to prepare for this shindig. While I love entertaining and partying in general, Jeff and I agreed that we are in that school of thought where over-the-top orchestrated parties should be reserved for bigger kids aka the non-shoe-eating crowd. To each his own, but for us, the drive down, alone, was a financial and time investment, not to mention a physical and mental sacrifice for the three of us.

The party was much like family parties that we’ve had in the past, except this one was all about our boy! There wasn’t really a theme per se—well unless you count exuberant chaos as a theme. I invited family members from both sides and a handful of friends in the area. Overall, it was an overwhelming turnout. From high school buddies and their kids to various giggling aunts, so many people came out to celebrate. The food, like most of our family parties, was abundant. We all ate, drank, watched Jack play with cake and cheered for cool little boy toys.

The birthday boy, much like his mom, was not the greatest at being the center of attention. Ok, so he hated all the attention. He whined and cried more times than I care to admit, but he absolutely adored being around all those kids. I know it’s so cliche to say, but Jack really wasn’t himself on his birthday. As I tried to grasp his crankiness, I told friends that he “realized” how much he missed my mom, which could’ve been the reason he lost his mind every time she left the room. Or, it could’ve been the big crowd or it could’ve been he was exhausted from the drive down. Who knows? There were times when I couldn’t even console him! He didn’t cry the whole day, he was just obviously having an “off” day.

Cranky pants aside, it was a fun day, thanks to our many friends and family. (Thanks again to all of you that came out! As I’ve learned over this past year: always expect the unexpected, even if it includes a sometimes uncooperative birthday boy. I’ll say it again, but I definitely look forward to celebrating holidays and birthdays in the state that we reside—wherever we end up! Wouldn’t that be something to celebrate?

A year ago today, I started out the day looking a LOT like this and ended looking more like that.  Despite my obtuse exterior, I truly had no idea how much my heart–OUR hearts–would grow that very next day.

As summer fades to fall and we start putting away the shorts and pulling out the long sleeves, our family is inevitably going through a transition of our own.   As much as I possibly can, I’m savoring the last few days as the baby phase officially winds down.

But alas, with a kid whose nose is like a running faucet and the overwhelming temperament to match, the past few days have been hard to enjoy.  Like most families with kids in daycare/childcare outside the home know, if your kid appears contagious, he or she is banned!  Since Jeff’s been working crazy hours and I’m faced with monthly deadlines (my last for this publication!) the daycare logistics have been less than desirable.  Jack has been with me at work 1.5 days this week, home with me another and home with Jeff for half a day.    In those movies where they glamorize magazine editors, they don’t show the part where their baby completely MELTS DOWN on Park Avenue during lunch hour for every Suit on the east side to see.  To get even more graphic, since I wear black almost every day, I’ve started to look like a walking chalkboard– you know, with the runny nosed, clingy kid and all.

And to think, I once considered black a forgiving color!

But, it is what it is, right?

In a few hours, we’ll be on our way to Va. to celebrate Jack’s first birthday with family!  Yippeee and ughhhh!  And quite honestly, it’ll be, what we hope, the last major celebratory event outside of the state in which we live—aside from major holidays, of course.  Interpret it how you will, but times are a changin’.

We’re throwing a smallish family party on Saturday at Lola and Lolo’s house.  And from the looks of it, we may have the tailend of a storm for even more excitement!  Cross your fingers that it won’t rain!  Of all the things that haven’t been working out in my favor, I hope my kid’s party will be spared!  We are not driving 700 miles just to have waterlogged Lumpia and soggy cake!!

Either way, it’ll be a happy day!!  I can’t believe our boy is going to be 1!


Baby Frankenstein

Originally uploaded by jen_rab

Wheee! It’s Friday! Even though I’m working from home and pretty delirious from taking care of a stuffy baby all morning while trying to work, I am excited about this week (finally) being over. After all the emotions from the beginning of the week, I can finally focus on Jack’s first birthday next week! We’re all excited to go home for the weekend. I can’t even remember the last time we were there? July?

Better late than never, but I’m definitely in party planning mode. While my other friends started planning their kids’ parties before they were even born, I’ve surprisingly been pretty slack with this. Normally, I’m all about DIY party events. I guess with oh, quitting my job, I’ve been way too distracted to focus on what sort of icing Jack should devour.

Anyway, more about the party stuff later. Even bigger news: Jack has a new trick! It’s the baby Frankenstein kind of trick! He still doesn’t want to be bothered with walking, but he’s trying. I tried to catch him in motion the other night, so please excuse the mess and dark video. Oh, and the ball? Yeah. The baseball is a permanent fixture for him right now. We’re hoping this foreshadows a future hall of famer and retirement plan.

I haven’t done Wordless Wednesday in awhile, so I thought this week would be a great opportunity to share an image that my friend passed along to me.

on track

on track

Read the rest of this entry »

As I shove a handful of Golden Oreos into my mouth for dessert, it’s so fitting that I stumbled across this insightful article from the yesterday’s Times: 6 Food Mistakes Parents Make.

The Times highlights the mistakes as:

  1. Sending children out of the kitchen
  2. Pressuring them to take a bite
  3. Keeping ‘good stuff’ out of reach
  4. Dieting in front of your children
  5. Serving boring vegetables
  6. Giving up too soon

As I quietly tell myself, stay away from the cookies, for all moms and dads of good and picky eaters alike, I highly recommend reading the article in its entirety.

It’s so coincidental that this article should come out just days after a recent discussion with girlfriends about kids and picky eaters.
Spaghetti face
Is my kid picky? Not sure yet–too early to tell. What I do know is, not too long ago, I read that I was already feeding Jack one of the “kid foods to avoid.” Despite the due diligence in trying to feed healthy alternatives and steer clear from over-processed crap, it feels like my learning curve is waning a bit. What else am I doing ‘wrong?’ Sheesh.

On a regular basis, Jack’s diet consists of waffles or oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, steamed peas, spinach, brocolli or carrots and a protein for lunch; grapes, bananas or melon for snacks; and whatever we’re having for dinner, which ranges from pasta to chicken breast to stir fry.

Lately, when I try to introduce something new, the guy has this new thing. If he’s unsure about the new food he’s eating, particularly if it has a new texture, he’ll give a blank look, open his mouth and simultaneously reject the food with a very discriminatory “Eeehhhhhhhhhh.” In slow mo: feed boy, open mouth, looks at mom and releases.

It takes some convincing—often at the his dad’s taste buds expense—to assure him the new food is just as delicious as the peas or pasta.
For the most part however, he’s generally a good eater–sometimes too good. When I take him out of his high chair, before I can grab those pieces of dinner he’s purposefully thrown on the floor…he’ll vacuum them up with his own fingers.

Like Jack, I’m still learning here. I’m so sure I’m not the only one still trying to figure it all out. There are many mistakes to be made, in terms of fostering healthy eating habits. Along with my older brother (who I like to compare to Drew Barrymore’s brother from 50 First Dates minus the lisp and steroids) as someone who habitually hid boxes of Twix in my mom’s grocery cart when she wasn’t looking, um, I’m aiming to fine tune my eating AND feeding habits, in hopes that my kid’s trapdoor release reverses itself or stays shut when the good stuff goes in!

On September 5, 2003, my parents’ house was riddled with hot pink roses, pearlescent papers inscribed with my favorite quotes, trays upon trays of food–not to mention countless giggling out of town guests.

On the day before our wedding, as various finite details were attended to, I sat on our desktop computer, perched upon a tv tray, finishing our wedding programs in my grandmother’s old room.  As if wedding planning didn’t consume my life already, we planned our wedding from 350 miles away, laden with a lot of mounting pressure.

vowsagainI wanted nothing more but a picture-perfect wedding day, just like any bride.
After almost 2 years of planning, not everything came together the way I had envisioned:  Red plastic cups for beer, margarita glasses instead of martini glasses, roses inexplicably displaced from centerpieces, electrical outages in the art center’s kitchen.

Perhaps a foreshadowing of our journey ahead, our day was imperfect and turbulent at times, but it was still a gorgeous day.

Absolutely gorgeous.

For 5 long minutes, in front of 250 of our closest friends and relatives, Jeff serenaded me as we danced our unchoreographed first dance.  (Ok, so he mouthed the words and we might have swayed around in circles. “Serenaded” sounds much more romantic!)  Our surroundings were muted and time stood still.  I cried for joy and like he does today, he wiped my tears.  I still remember so much of our wedding day, but our dance was byfar my favorite moment.

Like I’d known all along, with idyllic moments like that as proof, I made the best decision of my life to marry this man.

The  pork loin that was never served or the frat party-like cups. or the blurred career trajectories or any meaningless fodder…none of that matters.

one fine day

Our gorgeous son and long Sunday family afternoons are my stand-still moments.  They’re the moments that make us 5 years strong.

Happy Anniversary, babe!

**

Even though our anniversary is on Saturday, I was feeling nostalgic today.  Surely, I’ll be doing glamorous activities like scrubbing the tub and doing laundry–in my wedding tiara, of course!  🙂

I’ve got a heavy heart tonight–lots of stuff going on as usual. Jeff and Jack are both happy and healthy, not to mention tired and already in bed. As much as I need to crawl into bed myself, I need to do some housekeeping, or in this case, some blog-keeping.

We had a low-key weekend–we even found some time to nap for a few hours yesterday. We stayed local and did a lot of stuff in the neighborhood. We even found a new favorite lunch/brunch spot right on the water. The atmosphere was nice, the food was divine and you can’t beat the view! I loved the breakfast skillet, Jeff loved the Jersey Club and Jack, well, he loved the taste of crayons. We loved it so much, we went back again on Sunday after church.

After all the weekend fun, we all prepared for a new routine. As I sliced grapes in half and folded little boy t-shirts, I was multi-tasking in more ways than one. I was emotionally and mentally preparing myself for yet another change, one that would mean leaving our boy with strangers. Granted, they’re well-qualified and super nice strangers, but new people nonetheless.

Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe the unknown?

Like it always does, life always throws you curveballs when you least expect it. My mom, who has been doing the selfless and arduous trek every week to care for Jack, hasn’t been feeling herself. With the intention of her caring for her health before anything else, we reluctantly made the decision to put Jack in daycare. Huh? I'm going where?Because things came at us so fast, we never really had a back up plan for childcare. When things didn’t work out, one of us would take off of work and do it ourselves. This scenario was so different and complex, yet impossible to tread lightly. Our wonderful in-home childcare, thanks to mom, wouldn’t last forever afterall. It was a sacrifice from all ends, with much emphasis on mom’s end. In an area so fast-paced, but with little resources for affordable childcare, what’s one to do? We opted to go with a daycare that I checked out months ago. The owner, a well-spoken and highly regarded professional, is a young mom much like myself, so I immediately struck a chord with her the first time I visited the facility this past winter. Many months have passed and Jack has grown considerably since that visit. With that fervor to balance everything (and the backlash and criticism to go with it) not to mention life changing at such a rapid pace, we had to be ok with this decision.

So, I packed up some clothes, way too many cups and snacks and labeled everything just so. This morning, everything was positioned on the couch, just ready to go. I had the butterflies like it was the first day at school, except I wasn’t the new kid.

I could tell Jack was a bit confused as to why he was getting dressed up so early in the morning. I’m sure he was thinking, “but mommy and lola let me run around pantless at least until noon!” ha. Not today! We packed the car and headed to the daycare, just up the hill from us.

Bag is all packedIt was quiet when we arrived. Well, as quiet as a school full of kids under 3 can get. As soon as we walked up to the infant room, Jack reached out to one of the girls. It couldn’t be that easy, could it?

We put all his food away and told them where all his belongings were located as Jack scurried off into the corner to play with “new” toys. And like he does, he looked up to see if mom and dad were still around.

He knew.

As soon as we lunged towards the door, he yelped and flung out his arms.

As we headed for the door, I could hear his cry linger in the other room. My heart sunk to my stomach, and it took everything I had to not cry.

I must’ve clock-watched all day today. And cell phone watched. And voicemail watched.
No one ever called. Surprisingly, I even resisted calling the daycare just to check on him.
Of course he’s fine. It’s me that’s not fine!!

Once the three of us reconvened after the first day at daycare, we were all smiles and relieved. I immediately noticed some new scratches, but other than that, he seemed to enjoy his new routine. We like his teacher, the daycare and their curriculum. Outside of family or ourselves, we feel confident in our new childcare provider scenario. Millions of people do this everyday. I know we’ll be ok.

In an ideal world, one where money grew expediently on trees, we’d be home all day with him. Until then, this 3-day a week stint at daycare looks like it’ll be an interesting new adventure.

**
edited to add:
Morning of day 2, text from Jeff after drop off:
Crocodile tears

Text back from me 😦 😦 😦

All the hype about Chicago? Yeah, so worth it.

Let me just preface this recap by telling you what my agoraphobic-non-city-loving husband told me: “I almost like Chicago more than NYC.”

Can you imagine? Almost!??

At first, I felt like saying, how dare you question your loyalty to NYC.

But you know what? As much as NYC has become a part of our family, I’m so glad to have finally visited Chi-Town. I almost get what he was saying…

Oh Chicago. How much do we love thee? Let me count the ways!
Chicago
Quite honestly, we were only in Chicago for 2 days, but we totally fell in love. And one of those days shouldn’t really count. On the first day, as we were out gallivanting at the Navy Pier, we got stuck outside during a torrential downpour. It turns out, while we were seeking higher ground and getting drenched, Jeff, his dad, brother and nephew were at Wrigley Field.

Apparently, tornado sirens sounded, the stadium had to be evacuated and well, the rest is history. As Jeff reminded me the other night, “You know I’m going to tell my Wrigley story until the day I die.”Chicago Children's Museum

He’s so not kidding, folks.

Before the tornado craziness, we had a chance to check out the Chicago Children’s Museum. That was fun! It wasn’t as Chicago-centric as I had hoped, but it was still a fun place to visit. One of the best aspects about the CCM was the Target Free First Monday. (And they say nothing in life is free.) I loved the Treehouse Trails– a nature-inspired exhibit. Jack in the Waterways exhibitBut of course, Jack loved the WaterWays water exhibit–a little too much. Jack loved the exhibit almost as much as Barack!

On the next day, after the storm passed, we set out to see the city. We walked down Magnificent Mile a bit and then met up with my dear friend from high school, Kathleen. Oh Kathleen. Kathleen took us to a very cool historic Chicago eatery, Berghoff–an old cafe that was in the basement level of a fancier sit down restaurant. Meeting up with Kathleen and introducing my family to her was serendipitous in ways…well, not for me, but for Jeff. As we were catching up with each other’s lives, Jeff was beside himself after one sip of his beer. “THIS IS IT!”

What was it? Jeff “found” the beer that he loved from his grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary–12 years ago. I suppose it was happenstance that my dear high school friend took us to a cool Chicago joint, that so happened to be the namesake restaurant for this long lost beer. Good friend, good eats, good beer=good stuff.

Kathleen took us around that area a bit more, and we had a chance to see Millennium Park up close and personal. As far as city parks go, Millennium Park is amazing. I’m a big fan of Central Park, but this 24.5-acre park rocks in its own way. Its website touts the park as “an award-winning center for art, music, architecture and landscape design.” That’s an understatement, btw.

The Pavilion, called the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, was one of the most incredible outdoor concert venues I’ve ever seen. It has web of outdoor speakers, and the outer “shell” itself, was a piece of art.speakers at Millenium ParkPavilion in Chicago Chicago Symphony

As if all that wasn’t cool enough, we had a chance to sit in on the Chicago Symphony Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra’s practice session, along with throngs of other tourists, of course. As always, Jack did his little jig to the music. Our visit to the Pavilion at Millennium Park provided a fun (free) dose of cultural activity. If it wasn’t so painfully hot, I’m sure we would’ve stayed even longer!

After listening to a bit of the symphony, Kathleen led us to Cloud Gate, otherwise known as “The Bean.” The Bean is described as

Anish Kapoor’s first public outdoor work installed in the United States. The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect the city’s famous skyline and the clouds above.

The Bean
It was perhaps one of the coolest outdoor sculptures I’d ever seen. In a way it reminded me of the Elsa Peretti Tiffany Bean, but on a much grander scale. Besides the humidity that day, it was also one of the most perfect days to view it. It was sunny, bright and the sky was filled with clouds. The reflection on the Bean lived up to its official name, and every inch reflected something spectacular. The Bean- reflectionAnyone that appreciates the beauty of a skyline would appreciate an installation like this! We walked beneath the sculpture, to check out the curvature of the Bean. The concave shape of the underside created some unreal reflections. I was able to walk backwards in my paparazzi-like way and catch a glimpse of Jeff’s head. It’s dizzying but very cool. Because Jack loves “the baby in the mirror,” this art installation naturally, was a huge hit!

Jeff under the Bean
The baby in the Bean
As we made our way out of the park, Kathleen was telling us all about this really cool wade pool– something we know all about. The Crown Fountain, as its officially called, was a juxtaposition of wet, frolicking children in a reflection pool.

Crown Fountain, ChicagoCrown Fountain, Chicago

The backdrop on either end were fountains that project various faces on these huge LED screens. It was an interactive fountain in the true sense of the word and as the website describes, they were also a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out.

After a beautiful afternoon with Kathleen, it was Jack’s naptime so we bid adieu to my good friend. We retreated back to the hotel for a bit, in time to get ready to meet up even more loved ones!

Jack, Uncle Cesar and ChristineWe had the chance to meet up with my uncle (my dad’s cousin) and his daughter, Christine. This is the first time I’d met my second cousin and the first time either of them met Jack. We learned that Christine is quite the budding DJ and has mixed at various big venues, including one in Manila. We had dinner at Pizano’s and enjoyed the deliciousness of real Chicago Deep Dish pizza. Nothing goes together better than good food and family! Speaking of family, I keep nudging my bro, John, and telling him he’d love Chicago. Who knows? Maybe he’ll go and love it, just like I imagine he would!

Due to the insane weather upon our arrival, sadly, I missed out on seeing a few friends. But luckily, I DID get to see one of my BFFs from jr. high (!). Oh, Vicky B. Liz, Vicky, me and JackHow I missed you, my dear friend. After several plan changes, Vicky agreed to meet me and the boys at the airport on our way out of town. What a reunion that was! Vicky and I have been friends since I think we were 12 or 13. With the advent of the internet and social media, we’ve been able to keep in touch.

And like I’ve said before, good friends, no matter how long you’re apart, always pick up where you left off.

With that, I’ve decided that Chicago is now our good friend. We’re hoping to go back again soon, and this time, to experience even more (minus the tornado sirens)…and pick up right where we left off.