easter.

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Our Easter Sunday was so nice. Sam and I have been running full force for weeks now, and we have made goals to slow down a little and enjoy the moments. It's hard. There are just so any distractions, especially these smart phone that are attached to us. They're so hard to shake off! But, after a somewhat rough morning, our Easter Sunday really did turn out nicely. We dressed up and went to church, spent time with friends, and then went to the park to play.

The Easter Bunny brought Eliza a little tin pail with an egg-shaped bubble container, and eggs filled with bunny grahams. For some reason, the easter grass had to be pulled out one strand at a time and thrown out of the way- but once she finally got to the eggs she was pretty excited. She shook them around, and was surprised when I opened one of them to show her the bunnies. We put them out in the grass, where she got bored and wouldn't go searching for them. So, I had to pile them up around her feet. Mostly she loved banging her pail around and crawling all over us while we lay down on the grass and napped. And, for dinner we grilled herb-crusted lamb and oysters. It was perfect. It was nice to just take a second to breathe, and to spend time with my family without thinking about "what needs to be done."

I have loved looking through all of these pictures. This girl is my pride and joy. She's so beautiful! I love her. Her Easter dress was actually picked out by Sam on the morning we found out we were having a girl. It seemed so small back then. I remember that we brought it home to our apartment in Brooklyn and hung it up on the doorknob in our bedroom. It hung there until we moved. I just couldn't imagine such a tiny thing! And now, it finally fits my petite little girl at almost one year. She's the best.

Ps. I woke up to this video on Easter morning, and watched it about ten times in a row- cuddled up in bed with my little family. I strongly recommend that you watch it. It makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to try harder, knowing that I have hope because of my beautiful Savior.


origami baby.

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Another baby shower!? I am overjoyed that more of my friends are having babies and can join the mom club for park hopping with E, and secretly dying of happiness to make more pretty things to celebrate! My friend Danielle is due this summer- look at that beautiful, pregnant glow! That baby girl is lucky to have such a pretty mama.

I teamed up with my friends Amanda and Erika to create an "origami themed" baby shower, as Danielle loves all things Japanese. It started with a few packs of square paper from the dollar section at Target, and took off from there! We pulled together a ton of ideas on this board. It was so much fun planning this party with these girls because they are so creative, and just as crazy and detail-oriented as I am!

Amanda made the best invitations, and I wish I had taken a picture of it! It was an origami heart, similar to this one, with a haiku of the party details written on the inside. Then we made 150 cranes, and I hung them in a couple of installations around the house with gold thread. I pulled some ideas from some Anthropologie windows and drew a little diagram, but it all sort of came together as I went. Sam helped me draw the "hello baby" sign with a calligraphy set from Daiso, a Japanese dollar store here in Berkeley. I used Martha Stewart's liquid gold to paint the tall vases (also from the dollar store), and the favor cups. And, the blossoms were cut from an empty lot near our house!

Amanda was the brains behind the beautiful food, and we had a lot of help from those who volunteered to bring things. She made that perfect cake- devil's food, with buttercream frosting and cocoa nibs. And, those rose cookies- lemon cookie, with cream cheese frosting. Then, we served edamame, potstickers, fruit, mochi balls, and the best California rolls (made by Erika). As favors, Amanda printed the "Thank You" bags, and had the best idea to put out a Pocky bar. The colors were so pretty!

This was so much fun for me. I have been dragging my feet around this messy house for a month now, just wishing it would unpack itself. It was great to have a deadline this weekend to get it done. We worked hard all week to finish most of the last few boxes and a few random fixer-up projects. Sam especially was a dream-husband this week. And, he spent most of the shower in the kitchen doing the dishes! What a guy. But, yeah- it really was so much fun to finally see the house clean, and to make something creative with my hands! Thank you girls for having fun and getting crafty with me!

Danielle, you are the most beautiful baby mama! We are so happy for the adventure you are about to begin. And, we can't wait to meet that baby girl. It was great to see how many love and support you! 

My favorite part of the day was when you went to open your first gift, stopped, smiled, and said "This is my baby shower..."

eleven months.

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This little pup is eleven months old today! 

It just occurred to me to other day that Eliza is just on the cusp of change. Like BIG change. She is so independent already, but she still hasn't taken those first steps. She is constantly grunting and squawking and screaming her own little language, but she still hasn't said her first real words. And, while I've been coaxing and encouraging her- it suddenly occurred to me that once she figures those things out, nothing will be the same again!

Walking and talking- that's a toddler. Ah!

I see the other moms chasing after their kids in the park, and I just want to say, "Hey, girl. We're having fun, right? Let's hold out a little longer!" I just want to lounge in the grass, while she crawls all over me and babbles away to herself. I love this view of mine- the top of her head as she pulls on my skirt and hugs my legs. She has never been a cuddle baby. I mean, we decided that we would wean her at a year, but she is already pushing me away more and more. When she starts running away and talking back, I think my mama heart will die a little! What if she doesn't need me anymore!?

 Eliza at eleven months:
-standing on her own, but no steps yet
-says "Uh, Oh!" intentionally, I think...
-loves to be silly with papa
-makes a certain "barking" noise when she sees dogs, I think...
-loves to play chase
-has a very fake cry for when she doesn't get her way
-loves to put things around her neck, like a scarf
-pulls everything out of everything
-exploring her new home
-always wants to be held by her mama
-slightly picky eater lately
-loves to crawl around the house with something hanging out of her mouth
-always clinging to our legs
-likes watching videos of herself
-loves turning pages of board books
-favorite foods these days: bread and cheese
(I wonder where she got that from...)
-loves trailing after the big kids
-loves the noises from the train by our house- choo, choo!
-communicates with her hand gestures more
-melts in the shower
-shakes her head and bounces when she dances
-just started clapping today!
-her tongue is always out
-crooked, little smile
-we are going to miss her vampire fangs because we're just now seeing two little front teeth push through

virginia st.

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This our home on Virginia St. We've been here in Berkeley for a little over a year now. It's crazy to think that we moved across the country, had a baby, and settled down only a year ago. It's crazy to think that we have lived in Berkeley for longer than we lived in New York. It also makes me a little sad, because now Brooklyn seems like such a little blip in our life. But, that's not what this post is about.

These photos are of our home here in Berkeley. This was our dream home. Perfect, sunny, breezy, spacious- in the best neighborhood. But, we are moving to a new home this weekend.

Without getting too personal and talking too much money, we've made a decision for our family to move to a smaller home in West Berkeley. It came down to this: if we ever want to get ahead in life, and actually save money to own a home (especially in the Bay Area) than we have to move. In case you don't know- real estate in the Bay Area is totally nuts. We were not-so-pleasantly surprised to find out that rent here far surpassed rent in New York City. I mean, is that even possible? When we decided to move, the management re-listed our home at $600 more. $600 difference in just one year!? And, there were at least five eager families here for the showing just chomping at the bit.

It is perhaps one of the most humbling experiences that we've ever had together. I hope that this doesn't make us sound superficial. But, Sam and I take pride in our home. It is our hobby. We like to feel inspired, and would rather spend the time painting our 10 foot ceilings and walls on a rental so that the rooms would feel brighter and happier, then feel like we are living in a cave.

But, here we go again- another move. It has been a very stressful and difficult couple of months looking for a new place. I know that this is the right thing to do for our family, and I'm proud of us for doing it. We will be saving for our future, and proving to ourselves that we can live with less. As we've grown, I feel like we have become a little entitled- and I don't want Eliza to see that. I know we can live with less, and we will all be just as happy- if not happier. Happiness is not wanting.

So, I took some photos to help me feel some closure. I know this all sounds so dramatic, but it's hard on us. This is our home. This is where Eliza was born. I want to be able to remember it exactly the way it is. I totally understand now why my parents dragged me past every apartment and rental home that they ever lived in when we were on vacations. It was so annoying. But, you can count on me dragging sassy teenage Eliza by this house to tell her all about how long it took me to get down all those porch stairs and out to the car to go to the hospital when I was in labor. Or, how we would sit by the front windows and watch the hummingbirds in the china strawberry tree when she was a newborn. Or, how she loved it when her Papa would slide her on the hardwood floors from one side of the living room to the other, until she would explode into fits of giggles.

Funny story- we will actually still be living on Virginia St- just further west! We've found a little rental house that needs a lot of work. But, we are feeling better and better about it every day. It's going to be our new home. Sam spent all of last weekend ripping up the linoleum in the kitchen. We've made a deal with the landlord where we will help out with labor if she pays for the supplies to make the place nice. It's kind of exciting, because it's almost like a trial-run to owning a home. And, we get to do it all our way! Also, the house has a lemon tree, it's right across from a park, and we are within a few blocks of some killer shops and eats.

So, here's to the future! It's going to be great.

PS. The photo of Eliza's crib was taken by the amazing Weston Colton once when he was visiting. (Follow his Instagram- daily inspiration, let me tell you.) I stole it off of his wife's Etsy page because she made that adorable quilt for Eliza. Also, we only have a fixed 50mm lens, which makes it impossible to take photos indoors without backing up a million feet. I'm thinking we are going to need a new lens if we want to take any pictures in our new house! Donations welcome. Kidding...

ten months.

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Baby Girl is ten months old. Ten Months! That's almost a year! (But, we aren't going to think about that right now.) She is just perfect right now. I would appreciate it if she stayed ten months for a little while longer. I mean, look at that little smile. And, those pigtails!

My favorite thing about her right now is that she understands what it means to be silly. She finds certain things that she things are hilarious, and she will do it over and over and over until she either tires of laughing or giggles so hard she lands on her face and starts crying. Then, I really have to hold back my own laughter and pick her up to cuddle. She's the best.

Eliza at ten months:
-loves being silly
-throws her head back
-her hair fits in pigtails!
-loves to walk while holding your hands
-prefers walking over crawling at the park
-got her first everyday shoes
-exploring rooms by herself
-loves "finding" you
-gained 8 oz in three weeks
-emotional roller coaster
-likes pushing boxes and baskets around the room
-loves chewing on Ancient Grain Crackers
-thinks it's hilarious when I dance for her
-had a few days when she thought biting me was hilarious...
-she has the greatest, throaty, little laugh
-loves going down the slide
-reaches out her hands when she wants
-sticks her little finger in everything
-loves pulling things out one by one
-squawks and chats
-getting scary adventurous!

vieques.

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I was reviewing some old posts and realized that I never posted this one! This was the second half of my review of Vieques from a long time ago. (The first half is here.) It was fun looking back at this beautiful place, and I would love to put my plug in again for this amazing island! So, as promised:

If you ever find yourself in Vieques, Puerto Rico:


Travel-

1. JetBlue- had great deals from NYC. But, I would just recommend scouting tickets for awhile until you see something cheap. We flew around $250 each, round trip. I also recommend traveling during non-peak times of the year- because travel, accommodations, and food are significantly cheaper. Hurricane season is officially June 10- November 30. We flew mid-November, which we were told was a perfect time to come because the rates were going to jump within the next couple of weeks. And, since it was the end of hurricane season, we had no threat of storms but enjoyed mostly warm, overcast days- no sunburns!

2. Al's Cab Service (San Juan)- You will fly into San Juan, Puerto Rico- and so you must find transportation to get to Vieques. I have friends that have taken a small plane to the island directly from the airport, which can save time (only a 20 minute ride). But, it costs much more than a cab- so be prepared. We found Al from other reviews online. He is a sweet Puerto Rican man who taxis back and forth from San Juan to the ferry at Fajardo. The cab takes about 1-1 1/2 hours. Al only charges $60, and his number is 787-590-9001.


3. Ferry- The ferry only costs $2/person, and takes about 75 minutes. Don't worry, they play movies. Try and plan your flight arrival and cab ride according to the ferry schedule, because there is not much to do or see at the ferry port. 


4. Car Rental- You will need to rent a car on the island. That's half of the fun. It has to be an all-wheel drive, Jeep-type vehicle. The roads to get to the beaches are bumpy and partially overgrown by jungle. There are plenty of muddy puddles to speed through, so Sam was in heaven. You can drive right up to the beaches, too. There are plenty of car rentals, and most of them only rent these types of vehicles. We had a Jeep Cherokee, but I would shoot for an older Jeep Wrangler if you can find one. The new Jeep Wranglers would feel really bulky. Just Google Vieques rentals, and find the best car for the best deal. Many of them will help you get too and from the ferry, as well. And who doesn't love sandy feet on the dash, and wind blowing through your salty hair...


Hotel-

1. Villa Venti- These tower lofts are every minimalist designer's fantasy. They are located way up on a hill and, even though you are two minutes from town, when you look out your window all you see is green, lush jungle and the ocean on the horizon. The home was designed by John Hix, and entirely built of concrete. The house flows seamlessly into its surroundings. (Which could totally not be your thing- you shower in the open air, and the wildlife can crawl in and out of your open windows.) The owners are so friendly, and might even invite you to dine with them- one of them is a professional chef! 

Eats-
Honestly, Vieques isn't known for it's food. We were warned of this, but still surprised when we found out how true it was. We packed most of our lunches with food from the grocery because there are no restaurants near the good beaches. (The grocery stores are not super great, either. You will be hard-pressed to find good produce- it's mostly a lot of junk food.) But, we would eat out for dinner. We hit up some seriously sad places, before finally getting some good recommendations from the hotel owners.

1. El Quenepo- The best food on the island (besides our dinner at Villa Venti). It is a bit pricey- but completely worth it. Basically everything was amazing. We didn't find it until our last night, and would have eaten there every night had we known.

2. Island Adventures- This place offers BioBay tours, but it's also a pretty good restaurant. You'll have to try the traditional Puerto Rican dish called "mofongo." We liked their version the best- get the seafood!

3. Bananas- This place had decent "American" food, for if you just want something familiar.

Beaches-
So, this is why you want to take this trip. Like I've said before- the beaches here are a little more difficult to access. Which is great because then they aren't crowded. In fact, the majority of the beaches we went to were literally empty. It was like having our own private island!

Unfortunately, I never wrote down the descriptions of the beaches. Not every beach is created equally though, so I really recommend talking to the local shop owners. We basically hit almost every one, and most of them were just unbelievable. Certain beaches were better for snorkeling, though. Off the top of my head, we loved- Navio Beach, Pata Prieta, and Green Beach.

Extras-
1. Bio Bay Tour- You HAVE to do this. No question. It doesn't matter how much it costs. It was the most amazing experience. It is pricey, but there really is no way you can do it by yourself. We tried to plan out a night where we rented our own kayak and took it out in the bay. But, it would have been too difficult to do it by ourselves at night. 

I promised, it will be worth it- the darkest water that shimmers and glows as your kayak glides through the night. Your paddle sparkles as it cuts, and fish light up as they dart back and forth. Just the most magical thing.

2. Snorkeling- We rented the gear, but didn't take any tours. We prefer to explore on our own- we saw so many amazing things, and even got to see a sea turtle!

3. Jungle Roads- Spend some time driving around the bumpy, jungle roads. The island has such a fascinating history hidden under all of that vegetation. We saw old Navy bunkers, poking out of the jungle like some sort of Dharma structure from Lost. There were crumbling colonial sugar mills overgrown with vines, and the Fuerte de Vieques standing tall on the hill. There were wild horses wandering lazily with birds perched on their backs, and a sunbleached skeleton of a church in a field of seagrass. It really is just a mystery of an island.

Oh, Vieques was so dreamy!

Sam and I are making plans for our next big trip. We figure it won't be for another year or so, perhaps a second babymoon? 

motherhood.

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I had a friend find out she was pregnant, and it came as quite a surprise. She is struggling with a pretty intense first and second trimester, a whirlwind of emotions and plenty of "morning" (read: all day) sickness. She told me she was dealing with some depression and having trouble even accepting that she was pregnant.

She said she was having a hard time figuring out what motherhood was going to mean to her.


Every woman has different experiences when it comes to their pregnancy and delivery and parenthood. But, one of the most comforting things is knowing that many of us have actually all felt the exact things. I can remember a full 6 weeks where I felt exactly like it sounds she was feeling now. It was during my first trimester. We were living in New York, and I had just quit a pretty fast-paced job because I was pregnant and decided that I had no desire to get up and go to work anymore. Which was ok, except that then, I found myself sitting in a very dark and quiet apartment by myself all day. And then...the "morning" (yes, all day) sickness hit and didn't let up for weeks. I sat on the couch and watched Netflix all day and ate junk and just felt depressed and incredibly guilty. So much guilt. I felt like I should be happy and excited. And, I was- I was so, so happy to be getting ready for this baby. But, that was just the thing. I wasn't getting ready. I was laying around the house and crying all day and eating awful food and all I could think about was how I was supposed to incubate this tiny baby in my body- while, at the moment, all I was doing was was laying around and totally destroying my quote/unquote "vessel." 

Anyway, that's how I felt. But, it went away. Pregnancy is pretty nuts. I loved how my friend described it- she said she didn't realize how abstract it was. And, it's true. You know there is something in you, but you don't see it showing, and you can't feel it moving yet- the only signs of this baby are the awful, awful side effects. It's just such an intangible thing until you are actually holding that babe in your arms.

You have to remember that your hormones wreak havoc on your body and your mind during pregnancy, and even after. But it goes away, and that haze will lift. I'm not saying that is exactly what happens to everyone. But, for me- the sickness disappearing allowed me to finally pick myself up off the ground. It taught me a lot. It taught me that whenever I start feeling in a funk- the first thing I should do is go outside. Get out of the house. Get some fresh air. It also taught me that if I don't make it outside that day- it's OK. I shouldn't feel guilty about it. 

Guilt and self-doubt are my biggest enemy. But, time after time during my pregnancy and now, as a parent, I am constantly reminded that my Heavenly Father does not want me to feel that way. This scripture in 2 Timothy always comes to mind: 

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

This is what I have to remind myself every time I worry that the person standing next to me is judging me for the the fact that Eliza's not wearing a sweater and it just got a bit chilly out. Or, the feelings that crowded me while I watched the nurses come in and out of the office to re-weigh her twice during her last appointment because she was showing at -3% on the weight curve. I have to remind myself that the people around me, more often than not, aren't out to make me doubt myself as a mother. And, if they are- it doesn't matter. Because I am Eliza's mom and a mother's intuition will always be the best thing a baby can have. I am good at being Eliza's mom simply because I am Eliza's mom. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that we shouldn't listen to doctors or read up on parenting. I do plenty of that. But, I can only do this if I have confidence in myself as a mother, first. Trust me, you don't want to be smacked over the head with list after list of required developmental milestones without first feeling like you are succeeding as a parent. Is your child healthy and happy? Then, you are doing it, lady. You got it. 

It's along the lines of "You can only help others to be happy if you are happy with yourself." If I know I am a good mom, I can go out and be one. 

I sometimes find myself afraid of failing, or afraid that I am not doing enough. But, here's the thing: I spend my days raising a beautiful child so that she can live a beautiful life. I am doing exactly what I should be doing! And, it makes me happy.

Yes, I am happy! My life is good. But, sure it's not easy. I guess that's what is so great about it. No true achievement comes easy. Nothing easy gives you that absolute sense of accomplishment as being a mother. My child eats a Cheerio and I dance around the room- because I taught her to do that. She used to be a cute, little lump of a baby- and now she crawls around the room and eats Cheerios. I taught her that. And when I dance around the room and cheer for her, she smiles and giggles and she knows that I am proud of her. That, my dear, is a great accomplishment.

There are some days that I just want to throw her back. And some days that I squeeze her so hard she lets out a painful yelp. 

I always have people ask me how motherhood has changed my life. I've been thinking about the answer to that a lot lately, because it's really hard to put into words. They told me I would be tired, but I never understood it. Not until one night when I heard her crying for the millionth time and I started crying myself because I suddenly realized that I will never. sleep. again. They told me I would love her, but it's a completely new sensation. After the longest, hardest day- my heart still wants to explode when she burrows into my shoulder, and I pour her tired, little body into her crib at night. 

I love her so much. Each and and every day I love her more and more. I am literally developing a relationship with this tiny girl. We get to know each other every day. Lately, Sam and I have been calling her our "little buddy." Before I loved her as my newborn, tiny, helpless thing- now, I love her as my little buddy who likes to try new things and accompanies me on my adventures. It's a new and special kind of love.

This friend of mine that has been struggling so much wrote me a really nice note. She said she appreciated that I made motherhood look normal and happy. Thank you, so much. I am normal and happy, because being a mom is normal and happy. 

To those who are worried or scared or doubting themselves as soon-to-be or current moms- Don't.

You were made for it, ladies. 

baker beach.

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So, California just has to be the best place on earth. I mean- look at this. It's February! The only problem is, you have to time things just right and be ready to be spontaneous. Today we took the babies to Baker Beach because someone was smart enough to look at the weather forecast and realize that it was going to be an absolutely perfect day today- followed by an entire week of Bay Area winter rain (which rarely happens these days). So, we threw on our swimsuits and headed for the most photogenic beach on the coast. I mean, sand, waves, and the Golden Gate Bridge. You can't beat it.

It was perfect and sunny, and the babies stuffed their faces with sand to their hearts content. We are all looking forward to those sand filled diapers....

Stephen spent much of the afternoon carefully collecting rocks in a bucket, and patiently allowing the other babies to throw them all out of the bucket. Eliza would secretly take little nibbles of sand, while Nolan grabbed huge globs and crawled around with a sand beard on his face. They were all so happy to be in the sun, and Eliza kept laughing hysterically for no reason at all. I love the Bay Area! It's where all my dreams come true.

I love watching these babies play. They each have their own unique personalities and they are growing and changing all of the time. Even though they are all different ages, they play together and help each other. Sometimes there are tears and crazy, but most of the time they are  happy and excited to see each other. Eliza is so lucky to have such handsome, little boyfriends! 

Thanks for a beautiful day, Baker Beach! Ladies, why is it that we are not here every day of the year??