Baby Photos in the Antique Family Bassinet

Lillian’s great-grandmama has this bassinet that’s been in the family for generations. It’s been painted and re-painted, broken and repaired, and so many babies have slept in the thing that I’m pretty sure everyone’s lost count of exactly how many it’s been. When we came down for our Christmas visit, it was all polished up and decked out in pretty pink ribbon:

The antique family bassinet.

Naturally, we had to get at least one photo of Lily in this heirloom bassinet that had been enjoyed by so many of her cousins and ancestors, so we put her inside to take some pictures. She seemed to enjoy it, and spent the whole time grinning and kicking:

Lillian in the bassinet.

Although as you can see from the above photo, she’s almost grown out of it already: at two months, she can already just about stretch from one end to the other. I guess the bassinet was really meant for teeny tiny newborns instead of rapidly-growing twelve-pounders.

The lighting was just perfect for taking pictures, so here’s one more closeup of her in the bassinet just for fun:

Closeup of Lillian in the bassinet.

Funny story: just before our wedding, Joe and I stayed in the guest room at Grandmama’s house, and this bassinet was in there for storage reasons — she assured us that it wasn’t supposed to be a hint or anything. And now, a little over a year later, we’re taking pictures of our baby daughter in that same bassinet. Gotta love when things come full circle like that.

Anyway, since I’m posting this just a few hours before midnight on December 31st, I figure I should wish everyone a happy new year! 2011 has been so exciting and eventful for us, and I’ve had a blast blogging about everything that’s been going on. Here’s hoping that 2012 will be just as great, not just for our little family but for everyone reading!

Four Generations at Christmas

Over the past few days, we’ve been busy finally introducing Lillian to Joe’s side of the family down here in Pensacola Florida. Details about the trip, and the intricacies of traveling with a baby, will likely be fodder for a future blog post — for now, I just wanted to make this quick update with some very special photos we took today.

Some background: I lost the last of my grandparents when my mom’s mom passed away in 2007. And while my grandparents all lived long full lives, none of them stayed around quite long enough to see any great-grandbabies, of which Lillian would have been the first. Joe, on the other hand, is lucky enough to still have both his maternal and paternal grandmothers, and so we wanted to remember to fit in some four-generation photo shoots with the newest addition to the family.

We went to two gatherings for Christmas today. At the first one, with Joe’s mom’s side of the family, we managed to get this lovely shot of the four generations illuminated with natural light from the window:

Lillian with her father (left), grandmother (top center), and great-grandmother (right).

The second one, with Joe’s dad’s side of the family, was later in the day. It was well after dark by the time we attempted the four generations shot, but I think we still managed to get a pretty good one in front of the Christmas tree:

Lillian with her father (center), grandfather (right), and great-grandmother (left).

It’s kind of funny — we turned on the overhead light and fan to try to illuminate the room better for the picture, and Lily kept grinning up at it like it was the most hilarious thing in the world:

Lillian smiling up at the light fixture.

It must be amazing to see the world through the eyes of a baby.

Anyway, it’s been a wonderful Christmas, and I can hardly describe how much I cherish these times of holiday cheer and togetherness with family — all the more so since we see them so rarely due to living hundreds of miles apart.

Interesting footnote: I did a quick Google Image search out of curiosity just now, and I thought it was incredible to find examples of photos like this spanning five generations and even six generations. What’s the most your family has managed to fit into a single photo? Feel free to share any interesting stories or images in the comments, and I hope everyone reading has had a happy Christmas!

Eight Weeks

Lillian is exactly eight weeks old today, and it’s hard to believe how much she’s grown and changed already. She’s completely outgrown her newborn-sized onesies, and she can already fill out three-month sized clothes — probably a sign that she’s going to be tall like her mommy and daddy.

She had her two-month well baby checkup this past Thursday afternoon, and we learned that she’s grown to a hearty 12 lbs 4 oz. It was definitely a relief to know she’s been packing on the pounds after the minor scare we had with her losing weight in the few days after she was born. And the pediatrician actually used the word “perfect” while giving her her head-to-toe exam — she’s meeting her developmental milestones fine, and there’s not a mark or rash anywhere on her body. Exactly what every nervous first-time parent wants to hear.

And now for some cute baby photos! Including a few that came perilously close to being lost in the great hard drive crash of 2011. First up is the second photo in her stuffed bunny series:

Eight week baby photo with stuffed bunny.

This time she’s on the butterfly baby quilt made by her grandma, aka my mom. It’s crazy that you can already see how much she’s grown from the first one — for easy comparison, I’ve created this special page to post all of the photos one after another.

And as you can see in the bunny photo, she’s definitely smiling a lot more now, which has a way of melting your brain and leaving you babbling incoherently in baby-talk. For some reason I’ve had a hard time getting any non-blurry closeups of her smiling face, but this one came pretty close:

Closeup of Lily's smiling face.

I’ve also discovered the joys of babywearing. Back when I was still pregnant, Joe’s grandmama sent us a colorful handmade sling, and I can’t even tell you how awesome this thing is. It supports the baby’s weight in such a way that you can carry them around for hours without feeling sore or fatigued.

Christmas shopping with Lillian in a sling.

We don’t have a stroller yet, and so far, I honestly haven’t felt like we need one. Although maybe it’ll become a necessity as she gets older and heavier.

And as a change of pace, I wanted to include a video, except that I’m pretty inexperienced with video compared to my massive digital photography obsession. I couldn’t even figure out how to embed it in this post. I’m sure I’ll get that working at some point, but for now, here’s a Vimeo link. (It’s just 54 seconds of Lily wiggling around and cooing and such.)

It’s sort of sad, I took a digital video class back in 2005 or so, but haven’t done hardly anything with video since then. It would be nice to get back into it — I’d love to create some “home movies” to look back on. I suppose shooting some grainy, shaky footage with my 3-year-old point and shoot digital camera is at least a start, though.

Anyway, these past eight weeks have really flown by — and I can hardly wait to take Lily down to Florida to meet her daddy’s side of the family for the first time. She’s growing up way too fast!

Catastrophic Laptop Failure

Thursday night as I was headed off to bed, I noticed that my MacBook was making some strange sounds. It was as though its fans were running full blast, even though it was supposed to be asleep, so I opened it up to take a look and found that the screen had frozen. I tried to restart, but after multiple attempts, it just wouldn’t boot up. Something was very, very wrong with it.

To give a bit of background, I’ve had this MacBook for almost four years now. I got the cheapest model — the plain white plastic one — back when I was attending my college classes at UIC, and even though it’s not made of metal or anything, I’ve found it to be a very rugged little machine. You might even say it’s spent the past four years patiently enduring the worst abuse any laptop should ever have to suffer.

See, I had this tendency to never turn it off. I would just close the lid and shove it in my bag, and it would sleep in there until it was time to whip it back out again — then, I’d just open the lid and it’d be back up in three seconds. I loved that I could do that. Over the past four years, I don’t think it’s ever been powered off for more than a few minutes at a time. Not to mention that I’ve dragged it across the country, taken it on camping trips, left it to sit in the car in summer heat and winter cold… All things considered, it’s held up pretty well.

Until Thursday night, when it gave up the ghost without warning after a quiet evening in our living room.

Joe and I made some attempts to figure out the problem ourselves, but when nothing seemed to be working, I made a “Genius Bar” appointment at the nearest Apple Store for first thing Friday morning. It was actually at their new Lincoln Park location that just opened last year:

Shiny new Apple store. Too bad I couldn't visit under happier circumstances.

Long story short, one of the friendly Apple employees was able to determine that the hard drive was shot. The laptop would boot up fine from an external disk, and from there the hard drive was visible, just refusing to mount. I actually saw this as pretty good news — the machine would be completely fine with a new hard drive, and the cost of a hard drive is relatively small compared to the cost of a whole laptop.

They could sell me a new one, the same size as the 250 GB one I had, for $171.00 including installation. Or, I could buy a 3rd party hard drive from somewhere else and probably save some money, but I’d have to install it myself — they wouldn’t be allowed to assist with it. They could still re-install the operating system free of charge if I did that though.

So I ended up walking down the street to the Best Buy and buying a new 500 GB hard drive for $119.00. Then I walked back to the Apple store, sat down at the Genius Bar, sweetly asked to borrow some tools, and installed the new hard drive myself. It was nice to be surrounded by Apple employees who could (theoretically) come to the rescue in the unlikely event that I set something on fire, but of course that didn’t turn out to be necessary — installing a hard drive in a MacBook is very straightforward.

After that, they installed Mac OS X on the new blank hard drive. (They actually installed Snow Leopard, probably by accident, instead of regular Leopard that I’d had on there before. So I essentially got a $30.00 operating system upgrade for free.) And all this got done quickly enough that I was still able to go into work at the usual time that day.

Interesting side note: this seems to be a pretty bad time to need a new hard drive. There’s been some flooding in Thailand, where a lot of hard drives are made, and it’s apparently created a shortage that’s affecting hard drive prices worldwide. Check out these signs that were posted all over the place in our local Micro Center store:

Hard drive shortage notice at Micro Center.

Anyway, the new hard drive was indeed all that was needed to get my MacBook running good as new, although an OS reinstall makes it kind of a blank slate, like getting a new computer right out of the box. And the big downside to the old hard drive being dead was that I’d lose some baby photos and such — all of the most recent files I had sitting on the desktop were never backed up or uploaded anywhere, unfortunately.

I was a little sad about that, so I started looking into an inexpensive piece of software called VirtualLab Data Recovery. It offers a free trial version that lets you see which files (if any) might be recoverable from your busted hard drive, and you can decide whether it’s worth $40 for the full version to actually recover them. So I had my old hard drive plugged into the laptop, and I left it there to run the free scan all night.

MacBook connected to the old hard drive. (Yes, my laptop is held together by FrogTape.)

When I came back in the morning, I was surprised to see that the old hard drive had actually mounted itself at some point during the night, so I could copy everything over myself — no data lost, and no software purchase necessary. Cue the happy dances!

So in the end, this turned out to be more of an unscheduled laptop upgrade than anything: bigger hard drive, newer OS, and I even got to keep all my files. I still need to get everything configured and organized, but overall it seems like a pretty happy ending to a story about a crashed computer.

How about you guys — what’s the worst computer catastrophe you’ve ever had? And for other Mac users out there, have you had any interesting experiences (good or bad) with the “Genius Bar” folks at the Apple store?

Chicago’s CTA Christmas Train

Seven weeks after Lillian’s birth, Joe’s still on paid paternity leave from his amazing union job, so he’s been staying home with her while I go into work a few days a week. (I have the kind of job where, in theory, I can work remotely from anywhere with an internet connection, but in practice I need to show up once in a while to discuss new projects, meet with clients, make sure everyone doesn’t forget who I am, etc.)

So I commute downtown by train, and this past Friday, I was heading home after a long day at the office when I heard some kind of announcement in the subway. I didn’t quite make out what it said, but everyone around me seemed to get excited, and people were holding up cameraphones as they looked expectantly down the track.

I happened to have a digital camera in my pocket that day (have I mentioned that I’m a hopeless shutterbug?) and managed to whip it out in time to capture the CTA Holiday Train making its way up to the platform:

Very grainy image of the CTA Holiday Train approaching.

It’s just like a regular train, except every inch of it is covered with all kinds of holiday lights and decorations. I’d heard about it, and thought I’d like to actually see it or ride on it someday, so it was really cool to just stumble onto it like that on the course of a normal commute.

Here’s another picture of the train as it approached — it’s a little blurry, but you can see how the outside is covered in lights and painted with snowflakes and other holiday decorations:

Lights on the outside of the CTA Holiday Train.

And the inside is so ridiculously decked out — everything is bordered with tinsel and ribbons and strings of Christmas lights, the normally dull fluorescent lights overhead are tinted red and green, and the grab poles are even striped like candy canes:

Onboard the CTA Holiday Train.

For anyone reading who isn’t familiar with the Chicago CTA, here’s a nice, drab, boring shot showing what it usually looks like:

The Chicago CTA on a normal day, October 2011.

So yeah… the lights and decorations make for a pretty dramatic difference, and it was all so bright and whimsical that I spent most of the ride taking pictures. Here’s another closer shot showing the lights and tinsel decorating the ceiling:

Closeup of lights and tinsel on the CTA Holiday Train.

And instead of the usual ads for renter’s insurance and cell phone carriers, the panels along the ceiling were filled with seasons greetings and the lamest holiday-themed jokes you’ve ever heard. Some examples for your groaning pleasure:

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
Frostbite.

Who sings “Love Me Tender” and makes holiday toys?
Santa’s little Elvis.

What did Frosty the snowman put on his iceburgers?
Chilly sauce.

What happened when the icicle fell on the polar bear’s head?
It knocked him out cold.

What did the bald snowman say when he got a new comb?
I will never part with this.

Doctor, doctor help! I’ve swallowed some holiday decorations!
Yes, I can see you have a case of tinselitis.

Anyway. Getting back to the train. When I first got on, the train was so crowded that it was several stops before some people stood up and I could see the seats. And it turned out that even these were upholstered in a festive holiday fabric:

Seat fabric on the CTA Holiday Train.

And then there were these CTA employees dressed up like elves, passing out buckets of train schedules and tiny candy canes.

CTA employee in elfish garb.

Weirdly, that guy in the hat isn’t an employee, just some random passenger who kept purposely sticking his face into my photos. I guess he was just excited — soon after, I overheard him on the phone telling someone, “I’m on the f***ing Christmas train!”

Speaking of passengers, it was interesting seeing how different people’s attitudes were toward the whole thing. On one end of the spectrum, you have this poor guy who just wants to get home, and would probably prefer to just be on a normal train so he could read his book in peace:

Passengers onboard the CTA Holiday Train.

And on the other end, you have groups of people who followed the train’s schedule and got on it on purpose, wearing holiday-themed outfits and laughing and taking pictures. I think you can even make out a few girls wearing reindeer antlers behind the reading guy in the photo above.

The best part of the whole train was this open air flatbed car with a Christmas scene:

Open air train car with holiday decorations.

After arriving at my stop, I was able to snap a few photos of it, and was surprised to see that there was even a real, live, human Santa Claus riding around on it. Poor guy must have been really cold.

Santa Claus on the CTA Holiday Train.

Anyway, that’s the Chicago Transit Authority’s take on holiday decor and festivity. If you’re in the area and want to try to catch a ride onboard the Holiday Train, it’ll apparently be running through the 22nd this year — a schedule is available here.

Have you ever ridden on a train like this? Or maybe just stumbled upon holiday decorations in an unexpected place? I’m not sure if there are other cities with commuter trains that dress up for Christmas like this, but I’d be curious to hear about it if you know of any.