Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Well, we did it. We drove 8 hours (give or take a few pee/food breaks) down to New York on Wednesday and then 8 back on Monday.

The weirdest part of the trip was the weather. It reached the high 20s (Celsius) every day and didn’t get much cooler at night. It was so hard to convince ourselves that we were there in October. We feel blessed by the weather gods.

We stayed on the Upper West side in a friend’s apartment. He was kind enough to vacate it and stay with his girlfriend so we could take over. I have to admit, I could totally see living in New York if I had buckets of money. We walked to Central Park, which we all just loved. They have a carousel there that costs $1.50 per ride – the best deal in the whole city.


Even the big kids liked it.


We went back two days in a row.

The kids also lived climbing on the rocks (and giving me heart failure) and just watching the action. Here’s a picture of them at the top of the rock, silhouetted.


We also stumbled across people practicing their rock-climbing skills on the more sheer parts of the rock. Our friend, S, ever up for a challenge, climbed it in his street shoes. As he got higher, they dragged the mattress they had to break falls over and placed it underneath him. Then, as he hoisted himself over the lip at the top, every hand went up to catch him as he fell, which he didn’t.


They then swore they weren’t a club, just random people who show up, conveniently with a mattress and gear, but we think there were just jealous and didn’t want S to join and show them up.

We also got Boo’s face painted.


Here’s the final product. She has a dopey expression on her face, but it was the best I could get. She’s in the ‘lame smile’ stage right now.


Another good deal was the little zoo in Central Park. It is very lovely and well-kept, and just beautiful.

We’ve been going to New York since J first took me 15 years ago, and I have to say, the place has changed. We took the kids to gawk at 42nd street without a moment’s concern, and had lots of fun checking out a 3-floor M&M store, amazed that a place with 3 stories of M&M stuff could stay in business.

When I first saw 42nd Street, I stood and gawked like the hick tourist I was and J nudged me and said, “Stop looking like such a tourist! You are going to get us mugged!” He based this on his experience of being mugged on 42nd Street a few years earlier. There were strip clubs and peep shows everywhere and a large black guy with a wild look in his eyes was up on a stool preaching about how the ‘so-called white man’ had ruined the world.

No more crazy people and peep shows there now. Never at any point in New York, even when it was just Maya and me walking in the dark, did we feel a moment’s concern. In fact, several times, when we were having trouble figuring out exactly how to get where we wanted to go, people just came up to us and asked if they could help us out. It was a really nice experience. It seems New Yorkers have mellowed.

Another fun thing was the shopping, thanks to our equal dollars. A lot of stuff, like clothes and books, are cheaper in the States, plus there is no tax on clothes, so we went a little nuts. I bought $50 worth of underwear. (Woo hoo!)

We, of course, had to take the kids to FAO Schwartz.


We fed them at the little cafe there, which actually had healthy food for kids (plus ice cream – there are limits) . Here’s a happy Maya after a day of shopping.


The place we really lost our minds was the bookstore. The book situation is ridiculous. One book I got was $14 if you bought it in the States and $21 in Canada. As a result, it just felt to us like everything was on sale and we all got several books. Then, on the way home, we stopped in a Borders for a pee break and walked out with 5 more books and 2 magazines.

We also did various museums, of course. A huge hit was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as The Lightening Thief begins there, plus, it has a section full of Greek statues of the various gods. Here are Maya and Asher ‘posing’ with a young Hercules.


I know I’ve already raved about this book, but really, it was so remarkable to follow my boy around as he said things like, “Look, he’s holding the skin of the Nemean lion he killed,” and “This sarcophagus has carvings of Theseus fighting the Minotaur on it!”

We then sat on the steps outside the Met, relaxing for a bit. This is Boo’s idea of relaxing:


We then got to witness something else typically New York: a performance art piece. These women, dressed to the nines, kept crossing the street, pausing in the middle to wave and pretend to flag down taxis. Frequently people who were crossing with them would get into the act, blowing kisses to the crowd and such. Very funny.


And now we are home. The weather has turned cold, it is raining and the routine has returned. Sigh.


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We made it to NY! The drive, including dinner and only one pee stop, took 8.5. The kids were very good, in part due to a portable DVD player someone lent us and a couple Mr. Bean videos. 

The kids, of course, had no idea what to expect, and every hick town we encountered, they asked, “Is this New York?” When we finally did reach New Jersey, only Maya was awake. We actually got lost at one point trying to find the exit for the Lincoln Tunnel and ended up driving through a slightly skuzzy part of New Jersey, and Maya asked, clearly trying to be cool about it, “Is New York all like this too?” Needless to say, she was much more impressed once we arrived.

I am very excited about showing them New York. It is unlike anything they have ever experienced. A cool bonus is that the kids’ (Maya and Asher, anyway) favourite book series is the Lightening Thief, by Rick Riordan. There are three in the series now, and we eagerly await two more. I read these out loud to the kids and love them as much as they do.

In the first one book, we meet Percy, who is 12 years old. He bounces from school to school because he keeps getting in trouble, is dyslexic and has ADD. He soon finds out that he is a demi-god – a product of a human and Greek god. Olympus exists, on the mythical 600th floor of the Empire State Building. The ADD is because he’s wired to be a hero and the dyslexia is because he’s meant to read Greek.

Okay, it sounds kind of weird, but it really well done. Riordan weaves in all kinds of Greek myths and updates them seamlessly as well. And he has a great sense of humour too. It is a bonus that the hero has ADD like Asher does and yet is smart and funny, and also has difficulty in school – more, in fact, because of the monsters.

Anyway, New York City is Percy’s home town, so the kids have read all about it. The gargoyles can come to life in the book and if you look, there are gargoyles on buildings all over the city. There are constellations painted on the roof of Grand Central Station, so we’ll have to show them that.

And, of course, there’s the Statue of Liberty, the American Girl doll store (sigh), the Science Museum, Central Park, Times Square…


And the Daily Show. Let’s not forget that. I cannot wait.

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Slacking again

I have a nice post almost finished about a day trip we made, complete with lovely pictures. Except it isn’t complete with those pictures yet, and we are off to New York in mere moments, so it ain’t happening yet.

We are taking the kids to NY for the first time (for them). I’m very much looking forward to showing them the sights. Everyone is excited. J and I are especially excited because the friend we are staying with managed to get tickets to see a taping of the Daily Show. Woo hoo!

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I am back from three days in New York. This was the first time J and I went and actually stayed in a hotel (his parents gave us a hotel room for J’s 40th birthday gift). Until now, it has always been a friend’s futon. I feel so grown-up.

Speaking of grown-ups, I noticed on the subway that they had a sign that read: “Children should always hold a grown-up’s hand on the escalator.” I found it completely weird that they wrote ‘grown-up’s hand’ instead of ‘adult’s hand.’ Isn’t ‘grown-up’ kind of a little kid word?

We had fun – ate good food, saw good friends, bought some cheap books. J wouldn’t even let me in the yarn stores I saw, though. Such lack of faith that man has.

The biggest annoyance was that I developed hives the first night that plagued me the entire trip, but faded last night, once we returned home. I can only assume that I am, in fact, allergic to New York. The biggest one was about 2 cm in circumference on the top of my right foot, where it couldn’t help but be constantly irritated. I still have a huge red mark there, although the itching has subsided. Other bad ones were a line of them along the base of my skull. Scratching those looked like I had lice. And then there were the huge ones on my butt. Oh, it just was not pretty.

We went to the top of the Empire State Building. I took many pictures to show the kids, because that is where Mount Olympus is now located, according to Rick Riordon. (His Lightening Thief series is the best thing the kids and I have ever read and I plan to post more on that at another point.)

I realized once again, as we went through the Empire State Building, that I view the world through my kids’ eyes. I discovered this when I went to Israel a year ago. I found myself say or thinking constantly, “Maya would love this,” or “I wish Asher could see this.” Most of my photos are just because I want to show the kids stuff. Like the way they grow entire trees on the rooftops of buildings,


or the pigeon 86 stories up.


We also caught parts of the Gay Pride Parade as it went past only two blocks from our hotel. That was cool – iconic. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to return the batteries to my camera after charging them and couldn’t take any pictures of it. I missed photographing men in leather jock straps with their hair pimply bums getting all sunburned, and a guy in leather with huge black feather wings, and cute men cheerleading, and huge men with heels so high they looked 7 feet tall, and many bemused cops clearly having a lot of fun. My favourite sight was a portly man walking down the street in full make-up – which did nothing to hide his 3 o’clock shadow – his hair wrapped up in a towel, wearing a bathrobe and slippers. He flip-flopped down the street complaining into his cellphone that “that bitch” doesn’t know where she left his dress.

From the gay pride parade, we popped into the American Girl doll store. Oh. My. God. The guy in the make-up and towel had nothing on the American Girl store for sheer weirdness. I had entered another dimension.

I admit it, my girls have American Girl dolls. Maya begged and begged. It was all she wanted and she was saving her money successfully to get one. When we went to Vancouver, my brother and sister-in-law, who have no children, bought them the dolls. They don’t see the kids often, and have a successful system of making sure the kids remember and adore them – they buy impressive gifts every time we visit. Since all Maya wanted was the damn doll, she got it, and so did Boo.

But, of course, the dolls have accessories and Maya has a catalogue a friend kindly gave her, and so all she wanted for her birthday was AG clothing, etc.

I was torn. I am horrified by the prices of this stuff. The doll stroller costs as much as my real one did. But there could be a lot worse things my 11-year-old girl could be demanding. So I went along, and told her that when were were in NY, we would get her her birthday gift. And other stuff she would give us money for. And Boo’s birthday gift, and the your-parents-abandoned-you-for-a-weekend gifts. At least, I reasoned, the stuff is very well made. And we limited choices to clothing.

The store is 3 stories filled with dolls, clothes, hair accessories, toy ponies, etc. It also has a doll hospital, hair salon and restaurant where your doll gets its own little seat. We watched little girls line up to have their doll’s hair done. The dolls sat in wee salon chairs while real women spritzed and braided.

But that wasn’t the scary stuff. Well, it was scary, but it got scarier. The scary stuff was watching 7-year-old girls telling their doting mothers, “I want one of those, and one of those and one of those,” and if mom squeaked an objection, the kid would wail, “But you promised! You promised I could have the horse too!” I did not see a single girl there in jeans. They all wore fancy, expensive dresses, with their hair done expertly. I swear, not one pair of jeans. I saw 3-year-olds with professionally-done ringlets having their photos taken with their dolls (oh yeah, I forgot to mention the photo studio).

They all seemed so sheltered and out of touch and over-privileged. I felt awful standing in line with these people, thinking that I’m just one of them. I’m buying my spoiled kids these over-priced toys while the world goes to hell in a handbasket. I had the same feeling in that store as I had in Vegas, watching the gamblers. It felt dirty, somehow.

I consoled myself with the thought that I left with one bag, not seven, and Maya paid for most of her own stuff, and I’m set for Boo’s birthday for a while now. But I still felt kind of queasy and I’ve decided that when we bring our kids to New York (which I can’t wait to do, because they’ll just love it – for the food alone), the American Girl doll store will be unfortunately closed for renovations, because I cannot bear to throw my kids into the atmosphere of greed I felt in that store.

But other than that, it was great.

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