Friday, December 28, 2012

2012: Year in Review

A year can't get much more exciting than 2012: Paul and I found out I was pregnant in March, announced the pregnancy to our family and friends a few weeks later and welcomed our baby girl, Edith, in November.

Although Edith's birth was by far the highlight of 2012, it was a full and busy year. Here's what happened:

Pregnancy didn't stop me from hopping into cars, buses and planes. In fact, it prompted it. In July I met two of my college roommates in Philadelphia for the weekend and had a great time catching up. Later that month, Paul and I flew north to Canada, spending a few days in Halifax and then time at the beaches and "Anne of Green Gables" sites in Prince Edward Island.

Although Edith's arrival convinced us not to go to Ohio in December as we normally do, we made two week-long trips (in our new-to-us Jetta!) to our home state earlier in the year: once the week of Memorial Day and again in September for my baby shower.

This year in New York, we again hosted our annual February dinner party. In April, when my parents were in town, we all visited the 9/11 Memorial. On a lighter note, the four of us also saw Evita on Broadway -- me, barely staving off the morning sickness that was still in full force.

Fall brought tough times to New York with Hurricane Sandy's arrival. It's devastation resulted in the cancellation of the New York City Marathon, which Paul was scheduled to run for the first time. (He recently found out he can get either an automatic berth into next year's race if he pays another entry fee, or a refund.)

Closing out the year, we've had lots of visitors: Paul's mom at the beginning of the month, his sister and her family in the middle, and my own family currently.

And that's 2012. No post on Monday; have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ohio Comes to NY for the Holidays

We didn't go to Ohio for the holidays, but Ohio came to us.

I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have had so many relatives visiting if they wouldn't have had the newest family member to greet. But all the same, it's wonderful to be surrounded by our nearest and dearest in New York if we can't be with them at home.

Paul's mom was the first to visit, when Edith was just two weeks old. She stayed with us for five nights, including over Paul's birthday. (It was the first time he's spent his birthday with any family besides me since we moved here.)

I know lots of people have problems with their in-laws; luckily I'm not one of them! It was great having Sherry here, and not only because she happily changed diapers and watched Edith while Paul and I had a lunch date alone!

Paul with his mom and Edith

Paul's sister, her husband, and their 12- and 7-year-old sons came the following weekend. They stayed in Manhattan but visited us on both Saturday and Sunday for several hours. Edith again got lots of cuddle time!

Edith with Paul's sister and our 12-year-old nephew

My own parents are scheduled to arrive early this evening -- more about that next week!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Three of Us

Edith is exactly one month old today, but she's not the only reason this long holiday weekend is significant.

It's also the first Christmas that Paul and I have spent in New York.

Every December since we moved here in 2007 -- five Christmases in all -- we've managed to make it home for the holidays. This year, the thought of taking a four-week-old 10 hours away to Ohio scared us into staying put. (We will, however, be making the trip in January, when we're hopefully even more settled and -- fingers crossed -- sleeping even more.)

Even yet, we're not quite sure how we're going to celebrate here. In Ohio, Christmas Day is planned to the hour: here by this time, there by that time. With just the three of us in Brooklyn, we have nothing special to do and nowhere special to be.

That doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to it. Sure, Edith isn't old enough to understand either the real meaning of Christmas or what all of those wrapped presents are for. But I do. And although I'll be missing my parents, my sister and her husband and my in-laws on Christmas Day, I will also be happy to spend it with my new expanded family.

There will be no blog post on Monday while I celebrate Christmas Eve. Have a merry Christmas!

A happy baby ...

... turns angry when you take too many photos!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Adjusting to a New York City Baby

There were many reasons that Paul and I, upon moving to New York City, said we would never have a child here.

We obviously changed our minds, but the difficulties remain.

The worst part about having a child here are the number of stairs. Particularly in our apartment. We live in a third-floor walk-up, which means no elevator. If I'm going somewhere with Edith by myself, that generally means two trips up and down the stairs -- one for the stroller and one for her (although I did carry her in one hand and the stroller in the other for the first time this past weekend -- a milestone!).

We haven't taken the subway yet, but the same problem will arise in many of the stations, including the one closest to our apartment. Generally only the biggest, busiest stations have elevators. I expect to have strong arms by the time Edith can climb stairs.

A close second in the annoyance department is our apartment's lack of a washer and dryer.

Now that Edith is four weeks old (time is already flying!) we've got into a new laundry routine. That is, we simply do the laundry more often.

That in itself is annoying enough, but the bigger pain is that I can't do it when I'm alone here with Edith, while Paul is at work. When I'm able to cart Edith around in a baby carrier, I'm hoping I can at least take one load at a time to the laundromat in a bag. Laundry baskets and babies in carriers probably don't mix, I'm guessing.

Of course, there are a few perks to having a Brooklyn baby, as well. I can buy her vitamin drops (and diapers, too, in a pinch) at the pharmacy practically underneath our apartment. And Edith and I have plenty of places to visit together within walking distance once we do actually get the stroller out the door. (We've been to the library twice already.)

One thing that we thought would be an issue that really hasn't been? Not having quick and immediate access to our car. She's been in our car exactly twice: coming home from the hospital and taking Paul's mom to the airport last week.

So far, there's been nowhere else that we've wanted to take her via vehicle. We've found workarounds for the large loads that would typically fill a car trunk in, say, Ohio. For example, we get our diapers and wipes delivered -- they're actually cheaper to buy online than in the neighborhood stores anyway -- and we just got a foldable cart from Paul's family so each of us is able to bring back lots of groceries by ourselves instead of depending on the extra two hands we always had when we shopped together.

Having a New York City baby seemed impossible when we moved here. Gradually, that feeling went away. Yes, there are difficulties: no getting around that. But we're quickly learning that having a baby is all about making adjustments. And that's true whether you're in New York or Ohio.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Diane's Top Books of 2012

For the first time in about five years, I'm not going to hit my goal of reading eight books per month.

I've known this since May, when both morning sickness and motion sickness combined to allow me to read only five books that month. But I tried to make up for it by reading an extra book in June and again in August. That still put me one down, but I thought I could make it up by the end of the year.

But then I read only seven books in November -- totally understandable since I spent the last week learning to be a new mom. But that means I would have to read 10 books this month to get an average of eight books a month, and I'm only midway through my fourth book as it is.

But. Yes, another but. One of the books I read in March was "Parade's End." It's a one-volume book by Ford Madox Ford, but it was originally published as four separate novels between 1924 and 1928. So if you count it as four books, then I really only have to read seven books this month to meet the goal.

So I think I'll go with that.

Much easier to simply read eight books a month, cut and dry, as I've done the previous years.

Right now, however, Edith and sleep come before books, as they have ever since I found out I was pregnant in March. Maybe it was the thought of having a kid, but the overarching theme of the books I read this year has to be children's and young adult literature.

"The Hunger Games" trilogy got me through the beginning throes of my morning sickness in March and April. In advance of our trip to Prince Edward Island, I reread the eight "Anne of Green Gables" books. When we returned, I read the three "Emily of New Moon" books, also set in PEI.

In late August I read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and have been regularly reading the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia. I'm now reading "The Last Battle," the seventh and last book.

And finally, I read in the New York Times Book Review about a series of 10 kids' novels I'd never heard of before, the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. Set in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the first book follows Betsy as a five-year-old. The last book sees her married. The writing style of the books gets progressively harder as Betsy gets older. I recently finished the third book; it reminds me of a Minnesota version of "Anne of Green Gables."

But if you're looking for some traditional adult books to read, here are my favorites that I read this year (although they may have been published earlier):
Want more recommendations? Here are my favorites from 2011, 2010 and 2009. Happy reading!

Friday, December 14, 2012

In the Middle of the Night

Edith is a precious baby girl, but I can only stare at her darling face for so long when she's feeding. Especially on a day like Wednesday, when she fed some seven hours. (I'm hoping that's temporary -- I attribute it to the three-week growth spurt!)

Daytime feedings aren't so bad. I've read most of three books while feeding Edith. Paperbacks are easiest, but I can handle a hardback book, too, with little more difficulty. I can even read the newspaper if I'm careful.

But my saving grace is my smartphone. It has gotten me through many a late-night feeding session when it's too dark for books and I don't want to completely wake up Edith by turning on a light. I catch up on Facebook and Twitter, get tips and advice on a couple of baby forums where I lurk and browse the New York Times app. If you've written me an email or sent me a message online, chances are your reply will come in the middle of the night.

And when that gets old, I've been known to set the laptop on a TV tray and check off some stuff on my to-do list.

My mom has told me how different it was when I was a baby. No smartphones to browse, of course. And 31 years ago, there wasn't even TV to watch -- it was all static in the early morning hours.

I still don't like getting up at 3 or 4 a.m., but it is a little more bearable when I know I have something to do besides struggle to keep my eyes open.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sounds of Brooklyn: No Problem for Edith

One of the things Paul and I were most worried about before Edith was born was how she would react to the many sounds that come with living on a busy Brooklyn street.

After all, I had trouble sleeping for many days after moving here, kept awake by the midnight traffic and late-night conversations that took place on the sidewalk underneath our bedroom window. How would a newborn react?

Turns out, splendidly. Garbage trucks, buses, music from nearby bars, sirens, car alarms: none of them faze her. During one middle-of-the-night feeding, our hallway fire alarm gave a shrill "low battery" chirp. I jumped. She didn't even flinch.

That's why it's funny to learn what sounds actually do startle her. Specifically, I've noticed that clicking a pen can take her aback. At least we know there's nothing wrong with her hearing.

Tummy time and story time with Grandma Erwin.

Monday, December 10, 2012

4 Must-See NYC Christmas Sights

Christmas is right around the corner, and there's no better place to celebrate the season than New York City. So much to do! So much to see! The only downside? It's so, so cold.

But there are mild days in December, and besides: the glow of multi-colored Christmas lights will warm you right up. Here are four of my favorite New York City holiday sights that make the season merry and bright:

4. The American Museum of Natural History's Origami Holiday Tree

The origami tree in 2011.

The 13-foot origami tree, in the American Museum of Natural History's Grand Gallery, is festooned with 500 decorations. Depending on the entrance you use to get into the museum, you may have trouble finding the tree -- we did last year! Just ask an employee for directions; it's worth the extra step. Through January 6, 2013.

3. Union Square Holiday Market

One of my favorite New York City Christmastime hot spots is the Union Square Holiday Market. And there's no doubt it's a hot spot. The outdoor market is so crowded you can hardly move, even if the weather is so cold you can barely feel your fingertips. But the 150 stalls are always fun to browse. In the past, you could buy anything from ornaments to spices to purses to big furry hats. Through December 24, 2012.

2. Christmas Windows Along Fifth Avenue

No surprise here: First-time holiday visitors to New York City should take a walk down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue to view the intricate window displays in some of the city's top department stores. However, beware: This will not be a leisurely stroll. The sidewalks are like sardine cans, and you might find yourself trying to avoid collisions with other sightseers more than taking in the beautiful vistas. We took a look at the windows one winter, and that was enough for me. That being said, they are worth seeing at least once.

1. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The tree in 2010.

Without a doubt, the number one holiday visit you must make in New York is to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I'll admit it. The first time I saw it, I was underwhelmed. The tree looks larger than life on TV! But it's not just the tree that makes the scene magical. Don't get me wrong. The tree is still pretty gigantic, but it's that combined with the famous ice skating rink below it that truly makes the scene worth remembering. Keep in mind that Rockefeller Center is extremely crowded during the holiday weekends; I've had better luck on a weekday. Through January 7, 2013

Friday, December 7, 2012

Paul's Birthday (Observed) at Peter Luger Steakhouse

I suspected that Paul's birthday today would get somewhat lost in the shuffle. He wouldn't complain, but I also didn't want to give him a chance to.

So this year I gave him his present a full month early. On November 7, I told him we had reservations that weekend to Peter Luger Steakhouse.

Paul always wants to go to Peter Luger for special occasions, and I never do. The reason is simple: I don't like steak. But Paul likes it enough for both of us. And this year I got reservations during lunchtime, when Peter Luger offers a hamburger.

He, of course, ordered the giant single steak, medium rare, and a slice of the famous bacon, thickly cut. (Photos here, from the only other time we visited the steakhouse.) We split an order of creamed spinach-for-two. My well-done hamburger was obviously made with high-quality meat, although I slathered on the Peter Luger sauce for some flavor. I missed Paul's spice rubs.

Paul's beer and Bloody Mary were off-limits to the still-pregnant me, so we ended the meal with a tall hot fudge sundae, in which Paul kindly allowed me to scoop up the thick spoonfuls of fudge at the bottom. At the end of the meal, I waddled out the door, but not because of the baby.

Even though the meal was certainly for Paul, I couldn't help but think that it might be the last "nice" meal out we would have in a while. Besides this single trip to Williamsburg, I don't think we even left the neighborhood to go out to eat during the entire month of November and into December. Not the end of the world, of course, but it is a change in lifestyle nonetheless. I suspect we'll be getting take-out and delivery much more over the next couple of months!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Becoming a Mother Fast

Can Edith really be two weeks old already? Of course I had always heard that babies grow up so fast, but I never expected that I would feel that way so soon. She's already grown out of some of her newborn outfits -- luckily all gifts -- and she never even wore a couple out of the five-pack of onesies we received.

But despite what the tags on her clothes say, she is definitely still a newborn. And I'm definitely still adjusting to her ways. Deciphering whimpers. Changing diapers in the middle of the night. Feeding her at 4 in the morning when I'm half asleep myself.

I've learned to become a mother quickly. Of course, I had no choice. And luckily, the things I was worried about the most haven't been that bad.

She's not as fragile as I feared, and I haven't come close to dropping her as I carry her up and down the stairs in our apartment building. Breastfeeding is going smoothly -- she seems to be gaining the right amount of weight, and there's no problems latching. And even though I would prefer a straight, solid eight hours of sleep, right now I'm happy getting three in a row.

I still have to work on a few things -- changing diapers and giving baths too fast for her to cry, to name two -- but things are going well. Although I'm still learning, I feel more confident in my abilities. Even at the end of the worst day (and I know there will yet be worse), I know I can do this.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Exploring Eataly in New York City

Eataly -- best known for its affiliation with Mario Batali and its variety of restaurants -- is a high-end Italian grocer right around the corner from Madison Square Park.

Its New York location opened amid much fanfare in the summer of 2010. Since then, Paul and I have lazily talked about visiting, but it just never happened. Once, on my 30th birthday, we tried to go up to the rooftop bar after celebrating at the nearby Shake Shack. The wait was too long, however. We went home.

In October, we decided to give Eataly another chance. Our wait to get a table at the Gramercy Tavern was going to be 90 minutes to two hours, and we were both hungry. So we walked to the nearby Eataly to see what we could find for an appetizer to our main courses coming later that evening.

Truth be told, Eataly is simply overwhelming. Maybe it was because it was a busy Saturday night, maybe it's because there's just so many places to turn. The food to buy and take home, a la normal grocery store, is sitting right next to the kitchen supplies, is sitting right next to the dozen or so restaurants and dessert eateries.

The entire space is more than 50,000 square feet, according to Wikipedia. We certainly didn't see all of it; we were too hungry. We made a quick round of the space nearest the entry, scanning the restaurants. Each one focuses on a different food: fish, pizza and pasta, and panini, for example. We chose the vegetable-focused restaurant, grabbing a couple of seats at the "bar" instead of the nearby tables. Either way, shoppers were milling about the eaters; a very different experience.

The "bar" area where we ate.

We ordered a plate of fried vegetables, Paul got a beer and we polished off a plate of bread dipped in olive oil while we waited. The food was delicious, and the atmosphere perfect for people watchers. The crowds show that the diners agree that the restaurants are excellent, but when push comes to shove, this really is pretty much just a series of cafeterias in an expensive grocery store.

Eataly isn't a place I'd frequent often, but it was perfect for the time we had to spare.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Edith's First Week

I won't be able to resist posting photos of Edith in this space, of course, although I'm not planning on turning this into a full-time baby blog.

However, my life right now revolves around milk, poop and sleep, so expect a higher proportion of baby-related posts over the coming weeks.

The following photos show some of the highlights of Edith's first week!

Edith's first day.

A Thanksgiving meal in the hospital ... and a baby!

Being dressed in the hospital in the traditional Erwin going-home outfit.

Dressed and ready to go home!

Being adorable.

Paul reads Edith his favorite book as a kid: "Paul the Pitcher."

Edith's first stroller ride, on the way to her first appointment with her pediatrician.

The next two photos are for my mom. She hates that I scanned a photo years ago of her holding me, only a few hours old. Now I have one of my own.

Mom and me, 1981.

Me and Edith, 2012.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Inadvertent Natural Birth & Other Adventures in Labor

The contractions weren't regular, but they were long and so painful it was all I could do to breathe.

"When can I get an epidural?" I asked the triage nurse last Wednesday morning as I awaited my daughter's birth.

The response: There probably isn't time.

"Oh, noooooo," I wailed, one of the handful of things I remember very vividly from the next few hours.

But the story really starts the night before, at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, when I thought I felt my first contraction. Sure enough, they kept on coming, and three hours later, when they were two to three minutes apart, we headed to the hospital.

The triage rooms were full, and two or three other women besides myself were waiting as well. I sat in the hallway for an hour or so. The pain was bad but not excruciating. And besides, there were distractions. A woman gave birth in a car near the hospital while we were waiting, and mother and baby were rushed by.

Finally, I was checked, but the news was disappointing. I wasn't far enough along to be admitted. Go home, they said, and come back when the contractions are unbearable and regular.

We arrived back home shortly after 5 a.m. Some five hours later we were back at the hospital.

That's when the real fun began.

When I was checked this time, the news was different. I was ready to give birth. Now.

A few things stick out -- mostly snippets of conversation -- over the next two hours leading to Edith's birth. I needed to get to a birthing room, but they were all occupied. Where could I go? When? I needed an IV -- was there time to connect it right then? A newbie seemed to do the honors and had trouble; Paul said she kept sticking and resticking my arm, something I barely felt at the time.

An oxygen mask was put over my mouth and nose; the baby's heart rate was dropping. My doctor arrived, turning around on the way to the office when she was told I was ready to go. She seemed surprised -- maybe shocked -- that things happened so quickly.

I don't know how much time had passed, but there were still no birthing rooms available. (I learned that this was partly the fault of Hurricane Sandy, which caused three hospitals to close and diverted mothers-to-be to my hospital.) No time to spare. My bed was rolled to one of the hospital's operating rooms.

In two hours, I went from being admitted to having a baby.

Of course, it wasn't quite that simple, especially with no pain medication. Suffice it to say that we have a perfect daughter.

Even after the delivery, the labor and maternity ward wasn't in my future. The recovery rooms were all occupied, so my shared room was in the pediatrics section. Over the next 48 hours I got a crash course in being a mom before we were discharged on Friday.

I know women who have had much scarier births than I had, and I know others who have had much easier. Even still, the rush and confusion of it all takes my breath away -- from first contraction to baby's birth was only 13 hours. I'm still remembering bits and gathering pieces from Paul. And each day I'm thankful for our healthy baby girl. I still can't believe she's ours.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Welcome, Edith!

Paul and I happily welcomed Edith Sharolynn into the world one day early, on Wednesday, November 21.

Time: 11:52 a.m.
Weight: 7 pounds, 8 ounces
Length: 20 inches

We're just settling in and getting used to living with the cutest baby that ever was. I'll certainly be posting more pictures and sharing the oh-so-eventful story of her birth on this blog soon. Until then, a few more photos from the gazillion we've taken so far.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So Much to Be Thankful For

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving; as usual, I have a lot to be thankful for. Even more so this year.

I've been trying to write and schedule these blog posts about a week before they are actually published -- it's actually the morning of Friday, Nov. 16, as I write this -- so maybe Edith has been born by now. Or maybe not: she's due on Thanksgiving Day itself. Either way, I'm thankful for a healthy, drama-free pregnancy (though perhaps not the morning sickness that came with it). I hope the birth is the same.

I'm thankful for a husband who is just as excited as I am and who has already read Edith a story every night for the last 10 weeks. And I'm thankful for all of the family members who plan to share our joy by coming to help and visit in December.

But I'm also thankful for the family and friends in Ohio and elsewhere who have checked up on Paul and me and simply kept us in their thoughts. We're lucky to know all of them.

Lastly, I'm thankful that the hormones that make me write weepy, sentimental blog posts like this will soon be out of my system. Maybe in six weeks I'll be back to normal.

Whether or not Edith is here, there will be no blog post on Friday since it's the day after Thanksgiving. And since, as I mentioned, I'm staying ahead on blog posts, a non-baby-related post on Monday and any day after doesn't mean she's not here! Paul and I will be posting the arrival on all the usual spots when we can -- and/or want to!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Restoring St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City isn't quite the classic example of Gothic architecture that it once was -- or rather, it is, but it's just not noticeable right now from its main Fifth Avenue entrance.

Scaffolding adorns the facade, as you can see from this photo from October. The cathedral is undergoing a multi-year restoration project to make repairs both inside and outside.

While the dramatic cathedral is now largely hidden from view from passersby, the inside remains just as lovely (despite a bit of its own scaffolding), and certainly just as popular.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting Gas After Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy is now more than two weeks in the past, and in Bay Ridge at least, things are back to normal.

As I wrote post-storm, not much changed in Bay Ridge in any case. There was a gigantic tree that fell on a house about a block away, but the house didn't seem to sustain much damage, and the tree has been hauled away. We've heard that the promenade next to the shore was beaten up, but we haven't been to see it.

Either way, neighborhood life has largely moved on. Of course, there are still relief efforts for the parts of New York that were hit much worse -- residents here and elsewhere are collecting and delivering food and supplies to the waterfront communities that were, and still are, devastated. Things are definitely not back to normal for residents in these neighborhoods.

Luckily for Paul and me, our biggest concern was keeping gas in the car so we could make it to the hospital when Edith decides she wants to make her grand entrance. Our tank was just fine immediately following the storm. But after the hurricane, when the subways were still shut down, Paul drove to work as he normally does. A commute of about five or six miles that normally takes around 40 minutes took two-and-a-half hours instead. By the time he returned to Bay Ridge, the tank was less than a quarter full.

So the car stayed parked. When the subway was restored to downtown Brooklyn, Paul took it to work for the next two weeks. Stations that had gas had lines that were hours long. Drivers had better luck filling up their tanks in Staten Island, but the bridge toll (almost $10, even with our E-ZPass) hardly made the quest worth it since we didn't absolutely need more fuel and could get by without it.

Finally, a gas rationing plan was instituted last Friday: cars with license plates ending in odd numbers could get gas on odd-numbered days. Vehicles with license plates ending in even numbers or 0 could get gas on even-numbered days. Paul filled up the tank on Wednesday without waiting in line. He didn't see anyone checking to make sure he had the appropriate license plate number. (He did.)

The rationing is to continue at least through the week in New York City, although it ended Tuesday in New Jersey, where it also started earlier. In the meantime, Paul is happily driving to work again, and we have plenty of gas left to spare to get us to labor and delivery.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Between Work and Baby

I've been off work now for a little more than a week, and it still feels strange to watch Paul leave in the morning while I'm still in my pajamas.

My last day in the office was extended by a few days because of Hurricane Sandy. The hurricane knocked out power throughout Lower Manhattan, and my office was without electricity -- and therefore closed -- the entire five days of what was supposed to be my final week.

Power was restored the Saturday following the storm, and I went in on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I was glad I did. It gave me time to finish cleaning out my desk, drawers and emails and pass on a few more tidbits to my successor. And on my last day, my coworkers gave me a baby shower -- a lovely way to end my five years on the job.

Now that I'm home every day, one thing hasn't changed: starting each morning creating or adding to a large to-do list. Each day I tell Edith to hold on just a little longer. Mom has too much to do!

In all honesty, the must-do list is shrinking, if it hasn't vanished entirely. Edith, whenever she arrives, will come home from the hospital in a car seat that's already installed, and she has clean clothes and a clean bed to sleep in. She won't go hungry. What more could a newborn want?

But in the meantime I want to make sure each room is spotless, the laundry is done and that I have enough stamps for the birth announcements. You know, all of that stuff that could be done later. Except I want it done now.

Don't worry: I'm not overdoing it. Paul's certainly doing more than his share by tending to my neurosis. And while he's at work I make sure to take frequent breaks to read and maybe watch one of the episodes of "Upstairs, Downstairs" I taped specifically for the time between work and baby. But in the meantime, I have some clothes to separate.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Christmas" Dinner at Gramercy Tavern

Faithful readers of this blog with good memories know that instead of exchanging Christmas gifts, Paul and I choose a nice restaurant that we wouldn't otherwise visit and make that our present to each other.

Usually we make this outing in the month or two following Christmas -- something to look forward to after the holidays are over.

This year, we never quite got around to it in January or February. In March, we found out I was pregnant, followed by about two months of morning sickness and then a busy summer.

Over the summer and fall we would occasionally discuss where we wanted to go, but we never made a final decision. But with a baby due in a month, we knew it was now or never. Long story short (or in this case, maybe short story long), we finally celebrated Christmas 2011 in October, with a trip to Gramercy Tavern.

The restaurant's dining room takes reservations four weeks in advance, but the tavern section is walk-in only: perfect, since we made it our restaurant of choice just a few days before we visited.

We got there early (at least by New York standards) at 7 p.m. There was an hour-and-a-half to a two-hour wait -- did we still want to put our name down, we were asked. They seemed surprised when we said yes. Paul and I both knew that if we didn't eat there then, we never would -- and would probably never celebrate Christmas 2011.

We passed the time by walking to Eataly -- a nearby high-end grocer I'll write about in a future post -- but had our table at Gramercy Tavern within the allotted time. My butternut squash lasagna was superb, and I treated myself to a rich hot chocolate for dessert. Merry Christmas to me.

As for Christmas 2012? We haven't a clue.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Finally: Renting a Rowboat in Central Park

Third time's a charm: Paul and I finally were able to rent a rowboat from the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park.

You'd think it would be easy. Show up, get in line, hand over $12 for an hour in a rowboat. But nooooo. The boathouse has no specific closing time. The website says the boathouse is open until dusk, which is a moving target. The first two times we tried to get a boat, we thought we were there before dusk. The employees thought otherwise.

Last month, however, we finally got our boat. Paul took the oars, I took the photos (except when I absolutely forced him to take a picture of me). It was just as lovely as I anticipated, though a bit more stressful than I thought it would be. The views were beautiful, but there were so many rowboats on the lake! Since Paul -- and all rowers -- must sit backward compared to where they are rowing, I had to be a careful navigator.

But by the time we returned the boat to the dock, the lake had cleared out. The sun was setting; it was evidently dusk. Finally, we rented a Central Park rowboat right on time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why We Took a Birthing Class

Lamaze. Birthing class. Whatever you want to call it, Paul and I took it.

Truth is, I was hesitant. Childbirth's a natural thing, right? In fact, a former coworker recently visited the office with her one-month-old and said she made it through without a class. Surely I could, too, I thought.

And I could, I'm sure. But ever the organizer, the uber-preparer, I didn't want to. So I got a recommendation for a teacher from my doctor, and Paul and I found ourselves in her home for four hours split over two classes.

I wonder if I couldn't have completed most of the class on YouTube -- particularly the birthing video (something I was absolutely not looking forward to watching, but wasn't so bad after all) and another video on breastfeeding.

And I wonder how much of the breathing exercises I'll be using since I plan to have an epidural. But as much as I like to prepare, I also like to worry. And I'm worried that I won't get the meds in time or they won't be strong enough (I'll admit that I'm a big wimp when it comes to pain), so breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is probably a fine thing for me to practice.

Overall, however, the best thing about the class was simply being able to ask questions. Sure, I have books and the Internet to help me out, but maybe I'm old-fashioned. It was nice to get knowledgeable answers from someone experienced and able to lay down the good, the bad and the ugly. I'm glad we took it.

Classes, classes, classes: So far we've finished the baptism class and the birthing classes, and the only class we have left to go is an infant CPR class tomorrow night. And then the real test comes in about two weeks.

Monday, November 5, 2012

New York City Marathon: Cancelled

This post was supposed to be about how Paul finished his first New York City Marathon. Instead, it's about how the race was cancelled some 36 hours before it was set to begin.

Paul heard the news late Friday afternoon, soon after he picked up his racing number and packet at the convention center in Manhattan

I understand why the race was called off. Resources are needed elsewhere after Hurricane Sandy, and a marathon at this point could look frivolous. However, I'm still sad that Paul's dream of running the New York City Marathon will be put off once again -- he was denied entry the last three years and only finally got in this year.

I'm sad, but I'm also relieved for Paul's sake. There was a lot of anger from some residents when the city and the running association said the race would continue as planned. There were even reports of people planning to throw eggs and batteries at the runners.

The vitriol is still high, and from runners, too. While runners entered in this year's race will get an automatic berth in next year's marathon, it appears that they will have to pay the $200+ entry fee all over again -- this year's entry fee may not be returned. And when many, many runners have said that they would like a refund, they're told by other runners that they're being selfish in the wake of so much devastation.

Personally, I wish the race would have been postponed instead of cancelled. Or cancelled days -- not hours -- before the marathon was to begin.

More than 40,000 runners were scheduled to run the marathon, many traveling from around the world and spending thousands of dollars to accomplish their goal. Of course I'm sorry for the havoc Hurricane Sandy wreaked on New York City, but allow me a little corner of sadness for the athletes who have trained so hard and so long and come so far to see the marathon taken away so close to the starting line.

Postscript: Paul and his running friends in one day raised more than $1,700 that will go to Brooklyn neighborhoods impacted by the storm. Then, on Sunday morning they ran 18 miles to one of the hardest hit communities in Queens, carrying supplies on their backs. However, at times they still got jeered by onlookers who assumed they were on a pleasure run.

In addition, one of Paul's tweets about his anger and disappointment over the marathon being cancelled was included in a BuzzFeed article that listed 15 tweets from runners after the announcement.

The comments about these runners being selfish and whiny made me very upset. Why isn't it OK to feel angry and disappointed about not running a race you've looked forward to for years? It certainly doesn't mean you care any less for those affected by the hurricane. I think Paul proved that Sunday morning.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy Belated Halloween!

Hurricane Sandy interrupted my normally scheduled Halloween blog post. So, two days late ...

What better way to celebrate Halloween in Bay Ridge than by digging up a creepy photo of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge draped in fog a few weeks ago?  Well, a bowl of candy (but no yucky candy corn, please!) would make it better.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Hits New York

When Hurricane Sandy first entered our vocabulary last last week, I wasn't too worried. Last year's Hurricane Irene didn't much affect New York City despite dire warnings. I figured Sandy would be more of the same.

Over the weekend it became clear that this was something different. While the hurricane came ashore south of New York, near Atlantic City, it was clear that the winds and water surges were going to cause trouble here. The only question was how much.

Hurricane Sandy coverage was on our TV nearly nonstop Monday, and our Facebook friends kept us up to date about what was happening in and around our neighborhood. After the worst of it began near 7 p.m., the winds got extremely strong outside of our apartment, though the rain was barely more than a shower.

From what I've heard, Bay Ridge seems to have been mostly spared, with some downed trees and maybe some electrical wires. Some of the shoreline, from what we've heard, is messed up. Other neighborhoods -- in all the boroughs, Long Island, New Jersey and elsewhere -- came out far, far worse. At least 40 people died. Houses were destroyed. Houses simply floated way.

In a way, Paul and I came out even better after this storm than we did after last year's Hurricane Irene: back then the cable that connected our Dish Network snapped and we had to schedule a repairman. This time, we didn't even have that. The lights flickered a few times, and that was it. When I see on the news about the lost lives, lost property and millions of people who lost power, I certainly feel my luck.

However, the subway system was shut down Sunday evening before the storm and then was flooded during the worst of it. No trains until further notice.

In addition, my office lost electricity and won't reopen until the power is back on. I was off Monday and Tuesday, and I expect the same today.

Two hurricanes in two years. Here's hoping this is the worst New York will see for a while.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Last Week of Work

I got my first job when I was 16 and haven't been off a company payroll for more than a month or so at a time since then.

My first two years of college, it took me a few weeks to find a job at the beginning of the quarter, and when we moved to New York, I was out of work for a little more than a month. Other then those times, I've always had a job -- or at least had one lined up to begin at the end of a college break.

So this week is bittersweet. It's my final week at my last full-time job for a while. Come Saturday, I won't be earning a steady paycheck for pretty much the first time in 15 years. (And my final week will be a short one -- the office is closed today because of Hurricane Sandy.)

It was a difficult decision to stay home after the birth of our first child, but luckily it's a correctable decision if I determine I've made the wrong one. In the meantime, I know exactly how lucky I am to be able to have the option to stay at home at all.

However, I hope I won't leave the workforce altogether. Come springtime, I would like to dip my toe back into the waters, this time as a freelance writer working from home. I'm both excited and nervous about taking this step, but I think it will be a good one for both me and the family.

I'm not worried about becoming a stereotypical housewife, mostly because I still can't cook (I'm trying to learn!) and I hate to clean. What I am worried about are the long, cold winter days in which I'll be stuck inside with little sleep and without another adult voice.

But I've thoroughly explored the pros and cons of the full-time working world. Now it's time to find out the joys and challenges on the home front.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Election Campaigning in New York

New York -- surprise, surprise -- is not a swing state.

Neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney come here to make big speeches, volunteer in a soup kitchen or shake hands. Well, they probably do plenty of the latter, but likely only at $1,000-plate fundraising dinners.

We don't see commercials, we don't get mailings and we don't have a land line, so we don't get phone calls. No volunteers knock on our doors, and yards sprout surprisingly few signs for the presidential candidates.

Local candidates, however, are a different story. It seems like I throw out a different mailing every other day. And it's probably even worse because Paul and I have different party affiliations, so we get something from everyone.

I try to make an educated vote for these state and congressional seats, but it's difficult when I read so many stories in the newspaper about how so-and-so has done such-and-such shady deal.

But thanks to these mailings and yard signs, I know their names almost as well as Obama and Romney. And while I know how my vote will be cast for president, I now have only a little more than a week to decide who to choose for these other races. Happily, there will be no robocalls to "help."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

8 Things I Can't Wait to Do Post-Pregnancy

Baby Edith is now due in less than a month -- 29 days, to be exact.

And while I can hardly wait to meet her face to face, I'm looking forward to a lot of other things after baby is born, too. I can't wait to:

1. Wear pants that aren't stretchy.

The first time I tried on maternity jeans, I burst out laughing. The elastic goes all the way up to where? I'm not laughing anymore. I live in those jeans, yoga pants, pajama bottoms and, on nice days, a couple of dresses and stretchy skirts. I miss my regular ol' jeans.

2. Fasten my jackets.

I still have a couple of wool coats that zip or button up without squashing my bump, but my very favorites are a no-go. That's not exactly true -- on the mild fall days, I still wear my favorite plaid jacket without fastening the bottom button.

3. Sleep without a backache.

There was a fist-size spot on the upper left side of my back, just below my shoulder blade, that used to hurt no matter how I slept. Now the spot's along my side around my ribs. Sleeping on my right side, left side, with a pillow between my knees, back against the wall or the couch: it doesn't matter. But maybe after baby comes I'll look back fondly on getting any kind of sleep, backache or not.

4. Eat and drink what I want.

A medium-well hamburger topped with blue cheese sounds nice. Even a cold-cut turkey sandwich sounds like an indulgence. And while I haven't missed the absence of alcohol too much, it'll still be nice to indulge in a bottle of beer or glass of wine once in a while. And I especially can't wait to ...

5. Order sushi.

Honestly, my favorite rolls are vegetarian: California or just plain avocado. But now that I can't have it, I really want a spicy tuna roll. Even if I had one right now, however, it wouldn't satisfy me for long. I'm so hungry all the time that I don't even know how many rolls it would take to satisfy my stomach.

6. Stop running into things.

I'm still not used to my belly's extra inches, and it's not uncommon for me to run into stomach-high objects. I forget that I don't have that extra wiggle room! Even when I'm passing by Paul in, say, our narrow kitchen, my belly has a tendency to rub against his back. I want my old body back!

7. Walk fast.

I missed my first subway last week specifically due to my pregnancy. I simply couldn't walk fast enough to make it to the doors before they closed. It made me sad to realize that a woman who slipped by me when we heard the train coming made it in time.

8. Breathe.

It's much more difficult than it used to be to take a deep breath, even sitting straight up. Reclining is not an option, and lying on my back? As they say in Brooklyn, fuggedaboutit.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Laundromat Has a Patio

In the last year or so, our laundromat turned fancy.

New washers. New dryers. New tiles on the wall. New, higher prices to match all the fanciness.

But what appeared sometime around last summer surprised me most of all: a backyard patio. Who knew my laundromat had more outdoor space than me? (But since my only outdoor space is on the fire escape, it really wouldn't take much.)

The patio certainly isn't fancy. A couple of picnic tables. A garden that has more rocks than anything green. In fact, between the spare laundry carts on one side and the barbed wire along the top of the fence on the other side, there might be more metal than plants.

We live so close to the laundromat that we usually come back up to our apartment while we're waiting for our loads to wash or dry. Still, the patio is a nice alternative to wait between loads, so long as you have a good book and don't mind the aroma of laundry detergent and dryer sheets.

Friday, October 19, 2012

From Apartment to Subway in Bay Ridge

Birds on my way to work.

The walk from our apartment to the subway is only six minutes, but we still have four routes to choose from.

The one I choose depends on several factors, but primarily upon the direction in which the "walk" sign is flashing. But a few other things come into play, too. I'll choose the sunny side of the street on cold days, the shady side when it's extremely hot. After a big snowfall, I'll avoid the sidewalks that haven't been shoveled. When I see a garbage truck making stops on one street, I'll generally go to the next.

In the springtime, I'll purposefully walk down the street with the big purple lilac bush. In the fall, I choose the path with the house that has the best Halloween decorations. And at Christmastime, I seek out lights and try to make it a point to walk through the corner where the trees are sold, taking in the holiday scent.

But some morning sights never change, no matter the month or season. At one corner, I almost always see a flock of birds picking at bread left by some kind soul. Once I saw the birds feasting on giant muffins. Usually, however, it's a crumbled wet mess.

Strollers are a common sight -- both at the preschool about a block away and a popular pediatrician's office closer to the subway. And across from the pediatrician, the beautifully manicured lawn of a funeral home, sometimes with a few men dressed in black out front. Life and death, right across the street from one another.

If I walk by my salon in the morning, I'll give a quick wave to my hairdresser if she's looking out the window. If I walk by the bodegas, I'll see the workers unpack the fresh fruits and vegetables that were just delivered.

Mostly, however, the morning walks to the subway are interesting just because you start to see the neighborhood wake up. It's nearly 9 a.m., and the gates are coming up and businesses are opening their doors.

All that happens in the sun, rain and snow, although it's much more difficult to find enjoyment in it when the wind is blowing raindrops in your face, under your broken umbrella. But sometimes, when it's warm and pleasant and everything comes together, the world seems almost perfect.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pregnancy and Strangers

I've finally popped. Although strangers have periodically made kind comments about my pregnancy for the last couple of months -- a bank teller asked me excitedly when I was due, a woman behind me in the grocery store told me how beautiful I was -- now there's absolutely no mistaking it. My belly is growing exponentially.

While some strangers, like those above, have treated the bump with kindness, others are more annoying. And at least one stranger had a pretty hilarious response.

The annoying people fall under one category: those who won't give up their seats. I understand subways are crowded and no one wants to stand up after a long day of work. And I don't even try to give anyone a dirty look, instead just gripping a bar until someone kindly offers a seat. This is just as often a woman as a man.

Admittedly, this doesn't come up too often. I almost always get a seat on the way to work without anyone shifting, and I usually do on the way home, too. But a few commutes home I've had to wait. And my back doesn't care for it.

And once, I was made to feel guilty for grabbing a seat. I try to catch a bus from my doctor's office to our apartment almost a mile away. Once, the bus was especially crowded, and an older woman with a cane was left standing right in front of me. No one seemed willing to budge, and I briefly considered it. But I was almost 7 months pregnant and stayed down.

Another woman, a few seats over, offered her seat, which spurred a nearby man to do the same. The woman -- who may not have been able to see that I was pregnant because of the way our seats were positioned -- threw a chastisement in my general direction about people staying put when older passengers needed seats. I stayed quiet, but not in my mind.

Another annoyance came in my doctor's office itself. My doctor was running way behind with her appointments, and all of the seats in the waiting room were taken, with several people standing. I found a spot to stand against a wall. And then I noticed at least one seat taken up by a man. Now, Paul's been to a few appointments with me, and I obviously have no problem with a significant other being there for support. But give up your seat! You're obviously not waiting for an OB/GYN for any medical reason yourself.

The funniest story, however, happened just last week. I need a few more pieces of clothing to get me through the last month of this pregnancy, so after work I went to the Century 21 department store in our neighborhood. I stopped a saleswoman and asked if there was a maternity section.

Not really, she said. But they had some lace underwear that was stretchy.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Best Very Cheap Views of New York City

They say the best things in life are free. But when it comes to high-cost New York City, very, very cheap is almost as good. And in New York, you can get some great views for just a few bucks.

Last week I outlined four of my favorite free New York City views. Today, four more that aren't quite free but certainly won't leave you broke, either.

1. Brooklyn Bridge

Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge

Of course, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge is on many to-do lists. And while technically it is free, it often makes more sense to walk over the bridge in one direction and take the subway to your next destination, saving time and your poor, poor legs.

A few tips: make sure to stay on the bridge's walking path in order to escape the ire of angry bicyclists on the other side of the line. Also, the subway is much closer to the Manhattan side of the bridge; plan your trip accordingly.

Lastly, many people recommend walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan in order to get the Manhattan views all the way across the bridge. I don't think it really matters. There are a couple of fine spots to stop along the bridge to see all the good views you want and more.

Total cost: $2.25 for the subway ride.

2. Subway over the Manhattan Bridge

Manhattan Bridge

The Manhattan Bridge is just north of the Brooklyn Bridge on the East River, so you get the same good views that you get from the Brooklyn Bridge, only from here the Brooklyn Bridge is actually in those views.

You can also walk across the Manhattan Bridge, but it's certainly not as popular as its neighboring bridge to the south. I've never done it. Anyway, the train views are perfectly fine.

However, note that you won't be able to get great photos. The subway itself moves pretty fast, and the Manhattan Bridge itself is in the way of any good shot. But you can get some lovely views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

To cross the Manhattan Bridge by subway, take the D, N or Q trains, but note that they may not cross the bridge during weekend construction projects.

Total cost: $2.25 for the subway ride.

3. Roosevelt Island Tram

Dramatic views, both toward Roosevelt Island and Queens (above), as well as Manhattan proper.

For a swipe of your MetroCard, you can take a ride on public transportation that feels more like it belongs in your favorite amusement park.

The ride on the tram's cable car is only a few minutes long, but you get beautiful views of Midtown Manhattan along the East River. The tram drops you off in Roosevelt Island proper -- also a part of Manhattan -- where you can take a scenic walk along the water's edge for even more terrific views.

Total cost: $2.25 for the tram, accepts MetroCards like the subway and buses.

4. BQE along the East River

From the comfort of your car -- or a taxi, if you prefer -- you'll get views on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway similar to the ones you'll see at Brooklyn Bridge Park, which I wrote about in Friday's blog post.

Heading south is fine, of course, but I think the views north are even better: Manhattan on your left, and the Brooklyn Bridge straight ahead. Beautiful.

Total cost: Gas money or taxi fare.


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