Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Ho Ho 2010!

This Christmas has been so very, very merry. As the years move on, the holiday becomes less about stuff and more about people, which is a trend I can handle. With Gigi in our world for her first holiday season, Marcos' sister Elizabeth who recently moved to Chapel Hill, and my mom visiting for the holidays, we had special additions to our usual Christmas merry making.


A few days before Christmas we attended a wedding reception for our friend Jessica, and it was so nice to sit with our friends in a relaxing, beautiful atmosphere and chat and celebrate Jessica and her family. The gelato bar didn't hurt either, and the dancing reminded us that "newlywed" is not a status, but a way of life.


And then Christmas Eve rolled around and we joined our friends for some of our favorite traditions. First was the afternoon gingerbread making party with Rebecca & co. Rebecca is my dear friend, ex-boss (I worked for her while I was pregnant), she has taken basically all of the photos of Gigi we have that are worth talking about, but she and her family will be leaving us next summer for Columbus, Ohio. What will we do? I know that it is high time for us to share their brilliance with the rest of the US of A, but there will be some serious mourning in Chapel Hill in a few months. But we'll go back to focusing on candy so that I don't weep...


Each year, Rebecca's husband Dr. Dan (the man on the right with the intelligent-looking glasses) makes enough homemade gingerbread for each of the families present to make their own gingerbread log cabin. This year there were eight families, and Dan rolled and cut the pieces for eight log cabins. He definitely deserves an award.

Speaking of award, can we notice that in the photo below Gigi is a) smiling, and b) holding a rice cracker? My mom deserves an award for helping this girl to love food. Literally from one day to the next, Gigi went from making nasty you-are-feeding-me-poison faces when we fed her to suddenly feeding herself cheerios, mashed fruits, plain yogurt, squash, carrots and broccoli on top of all of the rice and oat cereals she used to despise. But that deserves it's own post...


Gigi sharing her rice cracker with Grammy/Grandma/Tutu. Below, the mammas hanging out after the last candies were piled on the roofs of gingerbread houses, and the kiddos had run off to play. It was such a gift to have moments to sit down and talk with beloved friends in the midst of all of the Christmas bustle.


And then it was time for our Mary and Joseph dinner at Jill & co.'s. Jill and her family have been doing the Mary and Joseph dinner annually for many years, and we were so lucky to be a part of their tradition this year. The Mary and Joseph dinner is a chance to celebrate Christmas Eve by eating foods that Mary and Joseph might have eaten along their journey to Bethlehem: hummus and pita breads, varied cheeses, dried fruits and nuts, grapes and the most delicious fish, olives and vegetables. Mom and I made simple place settings for the party, and some of our friends ate with their hands! After weeks of holiday foods and sugar overload, the Mary and Joseph feast was perfect. Ice water, and candle light, and very few frills. Perfect.


After the Bethlehem feast was consumed, we cleared the table and regrouped in the small beautifully decorated sitting room for "gifts that can't be wrapped". We shared Christmas poems, stories, sang carols around the piano and then reenacted a brief nativity scene with the kids. And just when I thought it couldn't get better, we went back to the dining room for platters of the tastiest cookies and treats, and Jill's husband Colin brought out a special gift for her - a phonograph that he found online! We ended the evening listening to old 45s on the phonograph, and dancing while we cleaned up the dishes. (For those of you my age, that means that we listened to little records on a record player, and the records only had one song on each side!). Jill and Colin's little baby Hazel slept in Heavenly Peace.


On Christmas morning, Santa did not disappoint: thoughtful Gifts and full stockings, and a wooden train for Gigi. After opening our gifts we went to Brandi and Matt's for Christmas brunch. I don't have any photos from our brunch party, but Brandi's homemade maple cinnamon rolls have left their mark in my heart and on my thighs.


Having an 8-month old during Christmas was really fun. Her favorite part of Christmas morning was the floor littered with wrapping paper, boxes and ribbons. Nowadays she is constant amusement and constant action. We love having her in our family.


And on Christmas night Marcos, Elizabeth, mom, Gigi and I bundled up and headed out for a traditional dinner with Kim and co. Ham, mashed potatoes and rolls, gravy and vegetables and a relish tray kept us completely entertained and happy. It was a beautiful evening as usual with their family. We couldn't ask for better friends here in North Carolina.


Photos of dessert? Again? Why yes. The stars on my apple pie and the twirls of Kim's pumpkin rolls were just asking for it.


Gigi, Gigi, Gigi... She is very much a girl. Her eyes go wide with wonder when she is in the presence of true feminine toys. A dollhouse? Yes, please.

And to complete a lovely Christmas, we left our dinner party to a winter wonderland. I am not a fan of the type of snow that makes driving dangerous, but the few inches of beautiful snow that we received on Christmas eve and Christmas day were the perfect reminder of the purity of the life of Jesus Christ, who is the reason for the season!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Grammy, Grandma, Tutu is here!

My mom arrived last Sunday for a holiday visit, and we are loving having her here. The last time she was in North Carolina was for Gigi's birth, and Gigi is definitely not a newborn anymore. I was worried that Gigi would take a little while to warm up to her, but on the way home from the airport my mom was in the backseat making her laugh hysterically. Not too much to worry about there.


We are still trying to find the perfect title for my mom. We try "Grandma", "Grammy" and "Tutu" interchangeably to find the one that sounds the best, but it's still up in the air. I would love for my mom to be "Tutu" because in Hawaii we call grandmas "Tutu" and I would love Gigi to have a connection to her Hawaiian roots. However, whenever we say "Tutu" we both think of my grandma (who was called "Tutu" for more than 20 years), and it has been hard to switch our brains! I guess we still have a few months before Gigi is really saying much anyway. Maybe we will have a working title down by the time my mom moves here next summer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

{Christ}mas

Since it's tradition in the Pratt family to say that "we are doing a simple Christmas this year", I will say that we are doing a simple Christmas this year. But really, I don't think we are. Gift-wise this is a simple year, but the line up of festivities is as crowded as usual: gingerbread house parties, and a Mary and Joseph Christmas Eve, brunch on Christmas morning and a traditional Christmas supper with friends, wedding receptions and feeding the missionaries, and visits to our friend's homes. And don't forget the merry making.


We do a simple devotional each night during which we sing a Christmas song, read stories, open our advent calendar and a gift and try to focus on giving and sharing and Jesus Christ so that we don't find ourselves lost in the thick of thin things. However, sometimes I wonder if we're succeeding. Has anybody in this entire world managed to pull off a simple Christmas? If so, please disclose...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thinking

I have been reading through a book called "Sign with Your Baby" by Dr. Joseph Garcia (2006), and I came across a few sentences tucked into the end of a paragraph that stopped me in my tracks.

"Thinking is nothing more than combining and rearranging what is in our memory. The more memories we have, the more raw material we possess to support our thoughts".

Because I was reading this book with my mommy glasses on, my thoughts circled around how this applies to raising children; it helped me to understand why I instinctively want to provide Giovanna with a rich repertoire of experiences as she grows up. I have always wanted to expose her to the richer parts of childhood - museums, music, physical movement and art - but it reminds me to value her exposure to all parts of life, because I want her to be able to form intelligent thoughts about this world and her role in it. While protecting her from things that are harmful, I would love for this growing girl to experience enough that her thinking surpasses idealistic theories and goes straight for things as they were, are and really will be.

In Heavenly Peace

We have been lying low this week. With alternate head cold and then stomach bug, we are finally on the mend, but this week has not been the highlight of our holiday season.


On the bright side, being forced to slow down gave me the gift of a really beautiful day with Gigi on Wednesday. Wednesday is one of my days home, and when I am home, it is Marcos' day to work. Usually I am multi-tasking up a storm, getting the holidays together, doing laundry, watching Gigi, baking or cooking for social events, etc. However, on Wednesday I was achy all over and couldn't move very fast, so Gigi and I had hours to ourselves, with her crawling all over me on the bed, playing games and us making each other laugh.


Someday when I grow up, I hope that I can learn to slow down without being compelled by sickness.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

hachi, ocho, eight, acht

Gigi is eight months old. For the first few months of her life she was such a mellow baby that I always wondered when I would meet the busy, active child I had felt when she was in utero. Now that she is crawling and pulling up to her knees and sometimes even to her feet, our calm baby has blossomed into the busy, active girl I was waiting to meet. She is always on the go.


This month took us to the Doctor's office with her first double ear infection - remnants of a little cold. Gigi was not a fan of the amoxicillin, but it seems to have done the job. This month Gigi also cut her first tooth. It is on the bottom in the middle, and it looks like a tiny sharp ridge. She is still our little text book baby, and hits most milestones right at the "average" time.


Gigi is extremely curious, not very cautious, and loves to beeline it for whatever is novel in her space so that she can taste it, climb on it, or use it to pull herself up. She still sucks on her two middle fingers and loves to bring soft things (like blankets or an article of clothing) up to her face to snuggle with when she falls asleep. My favorite time is during her night feeding when she slumps limp against my body and falls asleep snuggled into my chest. She is a real snuggle buggy.

An area where I think she excels is in quick learning. She is so inquisitive and learns things so fast. I often wish she would fall asleep and wake up having forgotten a few things (like the location of the computer cords and waste paper baskets, for example), but of course she is up in the morning ready to begin where she left off.


Recently I started reading through a book about using sign language with babies, and I decided to introduce just one sign to begin with: "milk". The Doctor who wrote the book said that after a month or two of using the sign consistently, your baby will spontaneously use it one day, and that will be the most thrilling day of your life. Well, Gigi used "milk" in context within four of five days, no joke (and it was thrilling). She doesn't use it consistently in a way that makes me think she quite gets the concept of exchanging communication, but she really impresses me and I am encouraged to introduce a few more signs.

A tricky area with Gigi has definitely been eating "solids". I had no idea that moving food from the front of your mouth to the back and then swallowing could be so complicated! I know that she won't be breastfeeding until she's 20 years old, but on bad days, I sure feel like we're heading that direction. Some days she eats well and I am encouraged, and other days are very discouraging. In general, she is independent and more apt to be curious with foods when she can pick up the food and put it in her mouth herself, but of course that zings her straight to foods that are chunky and grabbable with little fingers, and... I need her to get good at eating first with things a little less choke-hazardous. Suggestions? I love advice.

And that is Gigi in her 8-month old nutshell. Yummy, yummy, yummy is the best way to describe her.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My favorite gift

I had a pretty neat childhood. One of the things that made it special was my grandpa, who along with being a farmer by rearing, a life insurance salesman by profession, and a gardener, bottle collector and Lalique glass collector by hobby, was also a beekeeper. My mom and I lived with my grandparents from when I was in the first through tenth grade, and so I grew up with one finger in a jar of honey and a lot of harvests under my belt.


Now my grandpa lives with uncle John and although his beekeeping days are past, I found a gift that I'm actually excited about: the gift of a beehive purchased in his name to go to a family in a developing country through Heifer International! My mom and I had the exact same idea, so that is what we will be gifting Grandpa this year for Christmas.


If you are struggling to think of a gift for someone you know who doesn't have many material needs and would find it meaningful to provide a family in a developing country with livestock, seeds or training, consider Heifer International! They are committed to eliminating world hunger and poverty by providing families with sustainable sources of income, and I can't think of a better vision to support.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Behind the Wheel


I have a sad confession: I look at little, tiny babies, and I don't remember Gigi being so small! I know I birthed her, so she must have been littler at one point, but she and her big personality have outgrown my ability to recall with clarity what it was like to have a tiny baby.

So, in my efforts to capture her at least weekly, I've started taking photos and short video clips of this quickly growing girl. Here she is, driving at nearly 8 months!

video

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Giving Thanks 2010

Thinking back on this Thanksgiving makes me think of traditions and how some of them transition over time. Some traditions we transitioned this year, and some we are already planning to transition next year.

For example, one of our transitioned traditions this year was location. Those of you who are long time friends know that every year, we do thanksgiving in New Jersey with my dad and co., and our Thanksgiving meal is always enjoyed in the green house in dad's backyard. This year, however, we were not even near the green house or dad's backyard. In fact, we were near the beach.


This is the beach house dad and Emili rented one block from the Jersey Shore in a perfect little town named Spring Lake. The house slept 20 people, so the 16 of us that stayed all five nights were very comfortable. In fact, the teenagers of the family played musical beds and rotated each night just for fun.


Last year at Thanksgiving I was about 4 months pregnant, so having Gigi around for the festivities this time around was very fun. Being the only person under 13 years of age, she was very popular. My dad, Emili and pretty much Emili's entire family are either psychologists, doctors, veterinarians, or pharmacists, so common comments about her went something like, "Wow, her social development is very advanced" or "that might get lodged in her esophagus".

One of the finest things about our location this year was that with the wide sprawling blocks of Spring Lake, the beautiful lake at night, and the boardwalk on the beach, we had ample destinations for walks or bike rides. Each day, a few groups of family members would spill out of the house bundled up against the winter ocean wind, and go for walks to enjoy each other's company and walk off lunch or dinner. Although the beach was really pretty, my favorite destination was the lake at night. The lake was small enough to walk around in an hour or so, and at its narrow points there were two bridges spanning the lake which were lit up with beautiful lights that reflected off of the water. It was really quite magical.


And on to the Thanksgiving feast! Our beach house had a dining room table which perfectly sat the entire group, and I have to admit, being indoors was a bit more comfortable and warm than the green house experience, although the green house is hands down the more charming of the two. One of the traditions that will be transitioning next year? No more roast beast! Yes, we are officially cutting the turkey out of the menu. I guess the seitan and tofurkey that the vegan and vegetarian cooks prepared this year outdid the roast beast, and so it is being ousted.


What a beautiful beach! On the day after Thanksgiving, my dad and his friend Mike went on a walk with Marcos and me and we walked the length of the boardwalk.


On Friday afternoon my dad and Emili hosted some friends they had invited to join us at the beach house. One friend who came had a little girl named Sophia, and she was very close in age to Gigi. Watching the two of them reminded me how busy Gigi is! So curious, so busy, so much movement!

And then on Saturday, true to tradition, we headed to New York City. This time Marcos drove, instead of us taking the train in, and let me just say I'm glad it was him and not me. He was remarkably calm even in the chaos of people pulling into our lane just inches from our car, while I was busy having heart attacks in the passenger seat.


Over on 69th street, just a half a block from the West side of Central Park, we found a parking garage that held our car for 10 hours for $22. It was such a steal for New York City. Below is our little bear bundled up. It was bitterly cold, especially in the wind, so Gigi got to ride in our friend's umbrella stroller in her bear get-up. We were a little nervous about how things would be this year, with a baby in tow.


One of the things I really wanted to do this year in New York City was find and EAT famously good food. I mapped out Magnolia Bakery, and we made it! Our favorite was the key lime cheesecake.


And then {ahhh} Central Park. I would live there, if living in Central Park didn't mean that you were homeless!


One of Marcos' Daddy Dreams was to take Gigi to the Carousel in Central Park. I think that her reaction was sufficiently satisfying.


I don't know whose brainchild this was, but Saks Fifth Avenue had an incredibly cool light show projected onto the facade of their building. We were just minding our own business in Rockefeller Center when the show started, and it was frankly pretty amazing.


Cute Elizabeth in Anthropologie at Rockefeller Center. There are only a few times when I wish I were rich, and being in Anthropologie is one of those times.


To finish off our evening, we ended at Time's Square, which is as bright as day in the middle of the night! Fortunately Gigi had fallen asleep by that time, and we were able to walk slowly back to the car and say farewell to New York City with a final dose of insane car maneuvering on our way out of the city. And you know, after four years of Thanksgiving hurrahs, we may not be back next year. We've been thinking about having Giovanna as a 20-month old in NYC, and we might opt for a new city or decide to do something entirely new.

And that was Thanksgiving 2010. So much to be thankful for!