Thursday, December 31, 2015

happy new year!

and like that, another year comes to a close.  we now have a fully walking, practically talking baby, and a reading, writing, arithmetic crushing first grader living in our house.  we did lots of exciting things, took amazing trips, and learned so much about each other.  right now, alex and i are very, very tired, but it is all so worth it - we have two amazing kids, and we are looking forward to another year of adventures together.
penny's resolution is to work on lapsing into a baby voice.  milo's resolution is to learn to drink from a cup.  i am still on a quest to remember to water the plants, and alex will have an electronics free january 1st.
all of us wish all of you a happy, healthy, peaceful 2016 surrounded by those you love, doing what you love.

Penny & Mama Museum Week!

Since it worked out that this week Penny had no school and I had no work, I decided that we should have some one on one time, and instituted Penny & Mama museum week!  It did not work out entirely as I had planned, but when does anything ever?
We started on Sunday at the Brooklyn Museum.

We are now members, and can go whenever!  By the time we finished signing up for our membership, Penny was pretty much done, and she had just been earlier in the week, so it was our shortest museum visit of P&MMW.
On Monday, we dropped Milo off at daycare, then met Papa Dan at the Guggenheim.  There was an Alberto Burri exhibit titled "The Trauma of Painting".  The Guggenheim was a perfect venue for this exhibit, and Penny really seemed to be paying attention and making thoughtful observations.
Unfortunately, after the museum, Penny started complaining that she was really cold and super exhausted.  She staggered home, where it turned out she had a fever, so she changed into pajamas and basically went straight to bed.
ALSO, Milo had been developing spots and losing his appetite.  There had been a couple of cases of coxsackie in his classroom, so they asked me to take him in to the doctor in the morning.
Tuesday, Penny spent the day on the couch for the most part, and Milo was diagnosed with coxsackie.  
patient #1

Harry Potter marathon!

Sickness cannot stop P&MMW!
While Milo was napping, Penny and I took a virtual tour of the Louvre, and then watched Please Don't Eat the Pictures, day three was saved!
On Wednesday, we went to the Museum of the Moving Image.
They were having screenings of the Shaun the Sheep Movie, and we met up with Grandma Ronnie (happy birthday!) and Papa Dan to watch it.  We were hoping to then join in a stop motion animation workshop, but apparently that sold out a week in advance.  We have resolved to have our own stop motion animation workshop at home starring Penny's Barbie dolls.  We had a great time looking at the museum's collection, and the Egyptian Theatre was especially fun after having just watched Please Don't Eat the Pictures.
And today, Thursday, was the final day of P&MMW, as well as the last day of 2015.  We decided to blow it all out and hit TWO museums.  Firstly, we went to the Sony Wonder Lab (almost 12 years at SPE, and I had never been!).
 Since my work is moving in February, I figured it was now or never!  We had a great time playing with all of the exhibits, and Penny is hoping to get one more trip in before Sony Wonder closes.
Next, we went to The Museum of Modern Art.
 There is a hands on design studio for kids, and Penny spent a good hour designing and building this chair.  She has such incredible focus and it's great fun to watch her work.
Sadly, Milo didn't have much more patience in him, so after the Pollack exhibit and one spin around the "Take an Object" exhibition, we brought P&M (with special guest star Milo) MW to a close.  This was so much fun, I am hoping to make it an annual tradition, hopefully with 200% fewer illnesses next year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Watching him learn to do this is the best. I love watching a new skill click.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


But now I am six. And I'm clever as clever. So I think I'll be six now forever and ever.

Dear Penny:

So, here we are.  Six years old.  No longer can we count your age on one hand.  Last night we discussed transferring one of your thumbs to your other hand so that this could still be accomplished, and we talked about ideal second thumb placement and how it could be used to your advantage to play instruments, but would make holding a pencil difficult.  We've decided to keep your digits as they are for now.
This year has been the year you've discovered the joy of finding your fandom - you have become completely immersed in the worlds of Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Ivy & Bean.  We have had to ask you to put down a book to do other things on multiple occasions, and I can let you know now that few things make your dad and I happier than you asking for "just one more page" or "just to the end of this chapter" even though we have to act annoyed and keep you on target for school and meals and bedtimes.
It fills my heart to see how much love you are capable of - your careful consideration of gifts for your friends, your tolerance of your brother, and even your patience with your often slow mother give me hope that I'm doing something right.  This is the first year that I rely on you completely for reports about your day, and I treasure our time together snuggled up on the couch as you tell me all of your triumphs and disappointments.
Penny, you are funny.  Truly funny.  I would not have expected anything less from my girl with the giant twinkling eyes, but besides being expressive and intelligent, you are quick, and your timing is impeccable.  The fact that you can not only keep up with, but quite often surpass two adult professional comedians with your humor is notable.  Again, not unexpected, but still impressive every time.

I have asked you again and again to stop growing.  To stay just where you are and still fit in my lap and need me to reach things for you and have to help you, but I can feel all of that slipping away.  Five was so amazing, so full of self discovery and independence that I want to halt you right where you are so that nothing in this world can take any of that away from you.  I marvel at you.  I know there's so much awesome in store for you, and I can't wait to see it!  Happy Sixth Birthday, my girl.  I'm never going to stop hugging you too hard.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Milo is learning words so quickly! Right now, he is obsessed with umbrellas, and he was waiting for his lunch when he invented this:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Poor little face

I'm pretty sure Milo greeted me at 5:30 this morning by saying "Ouch, ouch, teeth. Ouch, mouth."

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Milo kept excitedly pointing to this subway ad and shrieking "Hat Guy!"

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Milo at the doctor

Because Milo was either just getting or just getting over an ear infection, the doctor asked us to bring him back for his 15 month vaccinations and flu shot. He cried like a champ, but recovered really fast, laughed and asked for his jacket, and then he opened the door. Yikes!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Some more Halloween photos.

Dobby and Remus Lupin switch props.  Check out that scar makeup - not bad, right?  Also worth noting that Alex grew a mustache for his costume.  That is commitment.

Dobby has no master.

I believe that this is the first time Milo has held hands with anyone while walking down the street.

Halloween isn't over until Penny is covered in candy!
I hope your Halloween was safe and delicious!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Aunt Petunia, Jane Potter*, Dobby and Professor Lupin.

*Jane Potter is a character that Penny made up - she is Harry's twin sister, and she goes on all of the adventures that he does.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy early Halloween!

I found out last night that Milo's daycare was having a costume parade today, so I threw together this last minute Old McMilo "costume" together this morning. I had planned to leave to be at work on time, but the other parents convinced me to stay and parade around the block, and I am so glad I did! It was so much fun! One of the center parents decorated the movement zone, so when we all got back from the parade, it was a photo free for all! Happy early Halloween!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Here's something I never thought I'd do...

About two and a half years ago, we scored an American Girl doll for Penny at a stoop sale for $10.  The girl was selling 4 or 5 of them, and Alex and I literally had $10 in cash between the two of us, or we would have bought all of them.  Luckily for Penny, her big cousin is slowly outgrowing her American Girl doll, and passing along anything she isn't using anymore, and my mom is the world's best thrift shopper, so Molly is living the life over at Chez Z.  What was undeniable about Molly, though, is that something needed to be done about her hair.  I had tried to handle it, Penny tried to manage it - no go.  Originally her hair came in braids, and somewhere along the line before we got her, the braids were taken out and it was all over by the time we got her.
Cut to Sunday.  I had been doing some online research about how to handle this hair situation, and was almost convinced I was going to pack Molly up and send her to the doll hospital, when I found out about the Hair Salon at the American Girl Place.  I was intrigued.  Alex was going to be spending the day at Comic Con, so I told Penny to pack up Molly, we put Milo in the stroller, and off we went to midtown.  There is an extensive line-waiting appointment-making receipt-showing process that took about an hour and a half altogether, during which we bought Molly a new pair of glasses (I told Penny we would be getting her hair done and a new pair of glasses, and THAT'S IT.  I could easily have spent several years' salary in there), and as Molly was discontinued a few years ago, everyone on the staff was genuinely excited to see her.  Only kind of creepy.
When our appointment time arrived, Molly was strapped into a salon chair
I forgot to take a "before" photo, but you can get an idea of what's going on here,  This is already a few minutes in.
I also opted for the "spa treatment" package, where Molly got a thorough cleaning, and some nail stickers to take home, so the first step was rubbing her down with some special powder, and the grime that came off this doll was worth our trip into the city on its own.  Molly's hair is such that it sort of needs to be braided, so none of the fancy half updos that Penny liked would do.  However, the result was incredible:

Truly, I never thought I would be this excited about getting a doll's hair done.  Certainly not THIS excited:

Check that off my mother-of-a-five-year-old-girl list. Luckily Milo is a super chill baby, and he only got upset at the very end of our excursion.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

First First Grade Family Friday!

Today was our first Family Friday of First Grade, and I forgot to take photos in the room. Penny showed me all around, she read me two books, then I read her a couple. It's officially school! She's got homework almost every night! Such a big kid!

Update:  Penny was going through the photos on my phone and came across this one.  She turned to me and asked "Oh, Mommy, did you like this?" with a giant grin on her face.  She read it to me, told me about it, and it was clear she was so proud and excited to have her work on my phone. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

surprise vacation!

on thursday afternoon, penny and her babysitter made a "monster book of monsters", which is a harry potter thing.  it was a weird coincidence, because:
(a note - it turns out the harry potter wand IS an interactive wand, so there you go...)

so we packed our bags, skipped school on friday, and went to universal studios!

milo correctly identifies that he is about to go up!

milo rode on his first airplane!

penny could not believe it was all really happening!

penny was in harry potter heaven.  we got to see the new Diagon Alley part of the park, and since i was not enormously pregnant, i got to ride rides!  we child swapped!  we saw the dragon shoot fire!  we took this adorable family photo!

milo demonstrates why it's called Diagon Alley:

and he checks out the knitting supplies - he's my kid for sure!

these kids are totally my favorite things:

penny & alex's tough motorcycle riding faces:

i could not be more thrilled that we get to do something like this every now and again.  penny was completely surprised and one hundred percent delighted.  it was great to get away as a family and spend some time together having fun!

Monday, September 14, 2015

First grade!

Due to technical difficulties, we do not yet have Penny's official first day of first grade photo, but I can assure you that she did, in fact, start school on Wednesday, and is enjoying it very much.  September is like practice school, as her first full week isn't until the last week of the month.
Although I may not have her official photo, I do have Penny herself to tell you all about her first day:

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Summer's over!

if you zoom way in on my sunglasses, you can see milo and my dad waving to each other.
Today was Penny's last day before First Grade, and her sitter is visiting family, so I played hooky and tried to give her one last taste of summer. We went to Coney Island, ate at Nathan's and visited with Great Grandma Miriam. We went to the aquarium with Grandma Ronnie & Papa Dan. We finished up the day at Ikea. The weather cooperated in giving us our last Summer hoorah - it was 90 degrees out, and it's a week into September already.
Penny's backpack is all packed, her lunch is ready to go (complete with first day of first grade note), and she is ready to take it all on! I am just ready for sleep.

Monday, September 7, 2015

dog days

the summer is just about over, and i feel like i have spent as much time out of work as in it.  we spent a week in Wildwood NJ with two other families.  penny rode her first roller coaster, alex and i each tried ridiculous potatoes, and milo learned to hate the water just a little less.
face-painted penny at the top of the ferris wheel
hipster baby invades new jersey

oh, also - we took a pirate cruise!  this is penny & the captain.

penny fends off enemy pirates.

milo & alex on vacation!
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aviation museum in cape may


penny got her hair done!

penny's first roller coaster!

since we've been back, milo has had his first sleepover at his grandparents' house, we've done our school shopping, and yesterday, milo got his first haircut.
check out that sweet mullet.  if it were still the 80s, we wouldn't have touched it.

tiny ponytail!

proud big sister.
milo got to sit in the fire engine for his first haircut, which is quite a coup.  he doesn't care so much about TV, so he wasn't distracted by sesame street, but he didn't cry too much.  from the front he looks almost exactly the same.  here are penny and milo, four and a half years apart - both got their first haircut at 13 months, and penny appears to be wearing milo's face.

summer is just about over for the zalbens!