These two — discussing their next adventure together. These times of peace and quiet can at times (especially now) seem untenable but when they suddenly appear out of nowhere like a rainbow after a rainstorm, they’re so beautiful.
As the year is coming to a close, I can honestly say that 2016 has been eventful; we’ve moved, I’ve changed jobs, we’ve overcome a children’s surgery, and generally tried to keep afloat. There’s nothing our little family needs more than R&R.
There is no shortage of art in Philadelphia. There is the Art Museum, the Rodin Museum, the Barnes Foundation, and the countless murals gracing the sides of our buildings. I’ll never tire of Philly’s arts and do not take the city’s offerings for granted. Moreover, Evan and I try to immerse ourselves and the girls into the ever-evolving arts scene in the city.
This weekend was a jam packed with activities including but not limited to a birthday party for one of Sophia’s friends. As Eliza wasn’t joining in the festivities, she and Evan embarked on a daddy-daughter morning which included fluffies, the Race Street Lier, the Spruce Street Harbor Park, and a temporary art installation called Habitus.
Installations such as this one provide the opportunity to use one’s own experiences and perceptions to develop an [unique]understanding of the artist’s message.
Art, fresh air, and steamed milk seem like the perfect morning but the real star was simply time—time that this father and daughter shared and experiences over which they bonded. Culture and art, as we see in this picture, don’t have to be serious and, at least in our family, are balanced with a good measure of giggles.
Sophia’s birthday party and Eliza’s art-filled morning followed a day at Baba and Deda’s house where the girls relived some of my own childhood memories with my grandparents.
All kids, no matter their age or gender enjoying playing with dough and creating. Before there was play doh, there was real cookie and pie dough.
Last, but not least, we spent time with Evan’s parents, grandmothers, and sister on Sunday evening bonding over matzo ball soup and politics. And when our bowls were empty and we made peace with the current political situation, we played with the girls. This weekend, much like all the weekends that preceded it and all the ones that will follow it, went by quickly.
Many years ago, when I was a little girl, my parents, sister and I would travel from Baku to visit our family in Ukraine over our summer vacation. I am the baby of both sides of the family, and in my dad’s case, the youngest of my cousins is sixteen a few years older than I am. The last time I spent time with him was when he attended our wedding and the time before that, I was five and tortured him with my antics to no end.
He, his beautiful wife, and adorable children visited with us this weekend and we really enjoyed spending time and getting to know each other. I am still coming to terms with the fact that we’re both grown up now (well, I am still coming to terms with the fact that I am grown up) and that we have kids and our kids could spend time getting to know one another.
This picture conveys the kids’ personalities just so.
Here’s my dad playing with Eliza and his grand-niece. This picture melts my heart.
Everybody found a partner in crime and, overall, the kids got along beautifully. I was pleased to see that naughty must run in my side of the family because both Eliza and her youngest cousin have the naughty streak.
And as for the grown ups? I learned/realized/uncovered that I truly enjoy my cousin’s company. You don’t choose your family, and if I could, I wouldn’t have chosen anyone else. Sensible, well-rounded, and lovely to be around. I am so glad our family came to visit with us all the way from Toronto.
We forget how rejuvenating an extended weekend can be. Moreover, a weekend in the Hamptons, extended or not was just what Evan and I needed. Having left the kids behind with my parents, we traveled to Montauk to attend a wedding of one of Evan’s cousins. It was a beautiful, effortlessly chic, beachfront affair.
Montauk is at the very end of Long Island and it took us a lengthy, mostly traffic-free five hours to get there. As we drove through South Hampton, Bridgehampton, and East Hampton we passed old houses juxtaposed with new and magnificent estates, museums, small shops, and beautiful vistas. Harvesting was taking place at the wineries and already we saw fully-grown, bright orange pumpkins lining farm fields. It was easy to see why so many overworked New Yorkers brave the traffic to make this their summer weekend getaway. Once there, we made the most of the salty fresh sea air and the beautiful scenery as we spent time with family and relaxed.
Labor Day is always bittersweet. It is the summer’s last hurrah providing families and friends with a sun-filled opportunity to spend time together before the start of the school year. We made the most of the three-day weekend starting with Ladies’ Night on Friday. Evan was meeting a friend of his for dinner/drinks and so the girls and I took Old City by force on a beautiful First Friday. They loved visiting the galleries and felt so sophisticated sporting their purses that Baba bought them in Budapest.
Saturday was just as action packed with a visit to my in-laws for a bit of time in the country, followed by a double birthday celebration for our cousins who turned six and seven. I loved that my family gets together for kids’ birthdays and spends time together just being while the kids play. The rest of the weekend was decidedly lower-key and craft filled. The girls spent most of the day on Monday at their Baba and Deda’s house and the highlight of the day was their visit with my sister. I am so grateful that she made time for her nieces and they were over the moon from all the attention.
We did continue decorating and setting up Sophia’s room with goodies we find in our basement from our previous residences. I originally picked this rug out for Sophia’s nursery but we ended up putting it away in our house in Maryland after she started walking. It really fits into her space now and makes for a cozy play corner with her doll-house and a sitting pillow. We’re not ready for the school year and for fall in general but we did enjoy the weekend.
This past weekend was supposed to be amazing. I had grand plans for the three days at home catching up on rest and relaxation. Except that just as Sophia was getting over a stomach bug, Eliza came down with it and Sophia somehow, somewhere picked up the common cold.
In the end, we did enjoy some of the weekend despite all the time spent nursing the girls to health.
My sister hosted a beautiful dinner to celebrate the Fourth of July and we baked a Danish dream cake to accompany our singing her a very Happy Birthday. I took the girls to a woodworking gallery where we ogled chairs which cost $10,000.
Evan and I cooked; we made ice cream, lamb chops, burgers, chicken cutlets, kugel, and a peach and blueberry crumble, too.
And although we would have done just fine, we appreciated all the help my parents lent us this weekend. My Dad came in on Sunday to spend a bit of 1×1 time with Sophia and then, the girls both spent the better part of the day at their house on Monday.
More than the hands-on help or the blintzes and chicken soup, what we got was just what we needed—support. When you’re up in the middle of the night with a baby who is so warm that you’re sweating holding her and are not sure if you should head to the ER, it’s nice to know that you’re not alone.
All the reasons we moved back to Philadelphia and our decisions to uproot our life in Maryland are justified each time we see our family.
Mondays are tough for everyone. They are even tougher if they start at 4 AM as last Monday did for me. I had a one-day business trip to Richmond which resulted in a 4:30 AM departure so that I could drive there in time for a 9 AM meeting. My day ended earlier than I expected, but 6 PM still felt late. The best part of that very long day was coming home and seeing the surprise on the girls’ faces.
Monday was just the beginning and the week culminated with us hosting our nephew Alex at our house for a few days. His and Sophia’s spring breaks overlapped so we invited Alex to spend a bit of time with us in the city. He arrived Thursday afternoon, hands full of my sister’s hand-made hamentashen and other non-edible treats for the girls. The girls didn’t skip a beat with the face paints that he gifted them, or the hamentashen for that matter.
Evan had special plans for Friday. He took the day off and, as a surprise to them, took Alex and Sophia to the Science Behind Pixar exhibit at the Franklin Institute.
We spent Friday evening with more face painting, pizza, a trip to the ice cream parlor, cartoons, and general family togetherness.
Building with blocks, home-made pancakes, and crafting rounded out Saturday morning and Alex’s visit with us.
I could say that I felt like a superhero this week because it isn’t easy having a business trip and a house-guest all in one workweek, but the real superhero is Alex. I have rarely seen someone bear/give so much attention to these two little girls with great care and grace. It isn’t always easy being twelve and entertaining a four year old and a not-yet-two-but-already-acting-like-it. Their relationship is a deep one, rooted in love and a sense of family.
I am sad that the weekend is coming to an end, but grateful to have had such an eventful one.
It hasn’t been just about birthdays, tutu’s, and parties around here. On occasion, when properly overstimulated with life, I take a bit of time to ponder all things intangible. Some thoughts…
Respect, similarly to trust, is like a beautiful crystal vase—it can be broken, put together, and enjoyed once more but never the same way.
Family is the most important thing in the world, but not the family you are born into, the one you choose to be a part of and the one you make for yourself. There is a famous quote from theVelveteene Rabbit where the Skin Horse tells the rabbit that real isn’t how you are made, but real is what you become after being loved for a long, long time. We aren’t born siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins. We become them through our actions and through being there.
The real challenge of parenthood isn’t sleepless nights and picky eaters, it is raising children with just enough discipline so that they retain their spirit to object, to stand up for something they care for, and continue to be fun.
We’re half-way through summer and, for our family, that can mean one thing — birthdays! The summer birthdays have arrived and we happily celebrated our cousin’s 9th birthday. Sophia couldn’t wait to get to the party and once there, enjoyed playing with all her cousins. She especially enjoyed the backyard—something that we don’t have here in the city. Eliza enjoyed all the attention and copious time with her aunt, uncle and grandparents. And for us, as usual, we got a break from being 100% hands on with the kids and caught up with our cousins. Both Evan and I look forward to “the birthday season” that has become a yearly tradition. We also have a similar season in October with three kid birthdays that month, too!
Having not gotten enough of backyards and the quiet, we ventured out to celebrate Evan’s Dad’s birthday. We didn’t do the celebration justice last year having just welcomed Eliza, so there was little chance of us missing his special day this time around. Replete with chocolate cake, we headed home to nap, rest, relax and get ready for the week. We did brave the hot evening and headed to Race Street Pier to catch a breeze, a view, and let the kids run around.
Sophia loves going to the pier and watch the yoga classes that are offered there. She is now trying to imitate #mylittleyogi
Thank you cards are sprawled on my desk waiting to capture our sincere gratitude for the friends and family who came out to celebrate Eliza’s birthday. Eliza loves every single gift she was showered with. We tried our best to find a home for each new item in our compact play area including this:
This chair, not the dolly, though we love the dolly, too. This chair, to us, is extra-ordinarily special. It is special because it was hand-painted by our nephew Alex especially for Eliza on the occasion of her 1st birthday. We seem to have started a tradition in our family where the girls receive a hand-made piece for their first birthday. My father made a doll’s bed for Sophia. My sister added to the already-special piece by hand-making all the bedding including the two-tone pillow cases and a real quilt.
When I really think about it, the doll’s bed (sitting sadly in our storage) and this beautiful chair are just things. Many kids have little beds for their dolls and chairs, but these were made for our kids—someone took the time to think about the girls, spent hours designing, polishing, painting, and sewing something that will be used time and again. This chair will stand the test of time; It will be with Eliza (and Sophia) as they grow up together and, one day, they will pass it on to be used by their kids, and their kids’ kids. More than that, they will pass on not just the item, but the story and lesson that goes on with it. Being an aunt or a cousin isn’t just about the label. It is about the relationship you choose to have with your cousins or nieces and the time and effort you invest in being with them. Little she may be, but she knows she is loved—there is no other way to validate her knowledge than the wide smiles she gives to those who surround her (with love).
I am blessed to have a nephew who values the importance of family and a sister (and brother-in-law) who have cultivated this in him. The chair, the chair is beautiful.