Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The New York Post (part 1)

Yes!  You were right!  Gordy and I planned a very spur-of-the-moment weekend trip to New York City - our absolute favorite city in the world.  We left Friday afternoon, taking the Amtrak train down to Penn Station.  

We always like to add a little drama into our travel plans (insert sarcastic look here, please), so on Friday morning, we very playfully typed, "Intercontinental Hotel NYC Bed bugs" into Google, and low and behold!, there was the shocking truth.  The Intercontinental Hotel - our hotel of choice for the weekend - was riddled with bedbug sitings.  I couldn't have been more horrified.  I read the New York Times every day and I've read horror stories about getting bedbugs at hotels, unsuspectingly bringing them back to your house and then living through the trauma that accompanies trying to get rid of the infestation.  Gordy probably would have just stayed at the Intercontinental and taken the risk, but I refused.  After scrambling around, we relocated (for a price) to the Grand Hyatt in midtown.  It had glowing anti-bed-bug reviews.

After a bed-bug free (we hope) night, we woke up and took the children to the Empire State Building so that they could see the entire city from the above, before we started sight-seeing on foot.

It was an unbelievably clear day and we could see for miles.

It was also an unbelievably windy day, and Josie almost got blown off the tower.  We had to grip onto her coat and hope for the best.  

Gordy lived in Manhattan for 5 years and I lived there for a little over 2 1/2, and we miss New York very much.  When we left in 1997 - to move to Chicago where Gordy went to Business School - both Gordy and I assumed we'd be back after the two years were finished.  It's funny how life can surprise you.

The Empire State Building was a huge hit.  We were forced through the gift shop on the way back down, so the children took a minute to try on some kitschy souvenirs:

Next, we walked north towards the park, making stops at the New York Public Library:

And Rockefeller Center:

We stopped to watch the skaters for awhile, before moving on to the NHL store, Tiffany's and some window shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue.  Saks (and Rockefeller Center) was across the street from my old office, and I was amazed at how little everything had changed in 13 years.

We didn't have too long to explore Central Park.  Walking from 33rd Street, and stopping in all the stores had taken more time than we had thought, and we were scheduled to meet our favorite New York Aunt & Uncle for lunch.

We let the children play on some New York rocks for awhile, before we continued the long trek up the East Side, Land of Our Many Old Apartments.

Stop Number 1?  226 East 70th Street, home of Gordy & Aaron, the place where I re-met Gordy after moving to New York from Washington, DC:

We have many, many happy memories of this apartment building.  I told the children about the first time I arrived at the door:  I was meeting my friend (and roommate) Tara, at the apartment of her friend from high school, Gordy, and when I arrived at the door, I realized that I didn't have any idea what Gordy's last name was, a vital piece of information needed to ring a buzzer and announce my presence.  I had to tell the kids that this was before people had cell phones, and so not knowing a last name meant more than just not being able to find his house buzzer on the box, but also it meant that I wouldn't be able to look up his phone number in the phonebook attached to the pay phone around the corner.  

I stood at the buzzers and read each name, pairing it with Gordy, until I found the one that seemed the most familiar.  Luckily for me, it worked!

The children were not terribly impressed with visiting our old apartments.  70th Street was the first one we visited, so there was some interest there, but by the time we passed our shared apartment on 78th Street and Tara & my apartment on 82nd Street, Henry had completely lost interest and Georgia and Josie were just faking it.  I couldn't say I blame them.  

We met Lois and Harvey for brunch exactly at twelve o'clock:

It was so wonderful to see them - it had been too long between visits!  We had some good laughs, some great food and the children were able to experience a truly New York City experience:  the crowded, Saturday brunch.

Refueled, we said good-bye to Lois and Harvey and continued our journey up the East Side of Manhattan.... where were we headed?  Tune in tomorrow and find out!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What We Did Over Winter Break

When you live in New England, what you do over winter break depends entirely on your opinion about snow.  Our Native New England friends either love snow so much that they can not wait to get to a ski resort and enjoy the great outdoors, or else they hate snow so much that they can not wait to get south to a beach resort and forget about the wintry outdoors.

Our family is firmly entrenched in the Hate Snow category, but without the unlimited financial means to make a beach resort happen.   We tend to find ourselves all alone for the week of February vacation - five days of few organized sporting activities and very little company.

With unlimited, unstructured time, you would think that my children would be giddy beyond words when vacation week arrives.  And they are..... for a day.  And then boredom sets in and the fighting begins thus explaining why I like to keep the kids busy.

Very busy.

On our first "free" day, I brought the children to the Acton Discovery Center - a hands-on science and exploration museum.  This is our fourth visit to the Center and we went mainly to use their fantastic art and wood-crafts room.  Sadly, every other home-bound family in the New England Area had the same idea, so we checked out the exhibits while we waited our turn to create art and craft from wood.

There is a tremendous amount to do and learn at this discovery center and we did it all.

At last it was our turn to create and we settled in like the old-pros that we are.

The next day, I brought the children into Cambridge to visit our favorite in-door swimming pool.

Afterwards, Josie was invited to a friend's house and Georgia and Henry remained home, complaining that they had nothing to do.  It wasn't our best day.

On our last "free" day, I took the children across the state to Magic Wings - a butterfly sanctuary.

I will write a separate post on this place next week, but I had to include some photos as a preview to you now.  It was AMAZING!  We've all been to butterfly places before, but this one beat them all.  It was two humongous greenhouses filled to the brim with tropical plants, animals and butterflies so plentiful you had to keep ducking to avoid collisions with them.  I've never seen so many different varieties of butterflies - some were as big as bats (which was, frankly, a little disconcerting).

We did a lot of calm, peaceful sitting in hopes to attract a butterfly or two to try out the comfort of our person.

And the girls got to hold an Australian stick insect (or something of the sort).   

Did you have these creatures running around your garden when you lived in Australia, Tara?

On the other days / free moments, we were entertained by a hockey game, a trip to the bowling alley with Gordy, a hockey practice and a soccer practice.  The activities didn't completely stop, lord knows.

It was a busy (and therefore fun and stress-free) week.  

But the fun isn't over yet, Gordy and I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to bring the children to our favorite city for a little weekend holiday....

Any guesses where we went?

Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Valentine's Day (a little late)

I am a little late getting my Valentine's Day post published.  I'm sorry.  I have no excuse.  On the 14th of February, the children woke up to presents on the breakfast table.  The two chocolate-eating children (aka the normal ones) got chocolate hearts and Henry received jelly beans.

The gifts weren't anything too crazy or extravagant.  Henry got a new case for his phone:

And Josie and Georgia both got a new piece of clothing (Josie a skirt and Georgia a sweatshirt).

All three children received money from Granny & Grandfather for which they were very grateful.  (even if they haven't written thank you notes, yet!)

Later that morning, I went to Georgia's classroom for a Valentine's Day Poetry Reading.

Georgia wore her new sweatshirt.

The third graders waited quietly for all the children and parents to arrive...

and then they began the program with a group poem during which the children held up signs with words that were found in the verse.

Georgia and her partner held up the phrase, "Come In!  Come In!"

Then the children broke into groups of twos and recited humorous poems to the audience.

Georgia (and her partner) did a fabulous job.

After the poetry reading was finished, the children high-tailed it back to their desks, as it was time for the parents to look through their child's poetry portfolio.  Georgia's folder included a poem about a mitten feeling depressed because it lived in a desert, and a poem about the winter.  I didn't take any photos of the individual poems, because I assumed Georgia would be bringing the portfolio home from school that afternoon.  I was wrong.  

Georgia is enjoying third grade.  She has a very kind teacher who Georgia informs me "never raises her voice."  The poor woman has to teach 23 nine year olds all by herself, so how she remains calm is anyone's guess.  We continue to love our "new" school - after a year and a half, do we maintain the right to refer to the school as new?  It's a warm and embracing place and very old-fashioned and homey.  We feel very lucky, indeed.

Hope you all had a good Valentine's Day, too.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Coolidge Reservation

If you find yourself in Massachusetts and are looking for an easy and picturesque walk to entertain you on a mild day, The Coolidge Reservation is for you.

You park your car in the tiniest parking lot ever created and then walk a short distance, past a lovely pond...

... to the Great Lawn.

and what a Great Lawn it is.

There are massive trees to climb:

and gorgeous water views to admire:

and endless grassy surfaces to cart-wheel upon:

We visited the Rez on Sunday - a brisk but sunny day.

We enjoyed the scenery and spent a few quiet moments hoping to see a seal or two:

and we allowed an annoying camera-toting mother to take our picture by the ocean:

and then there were more trees to climb ....

and a game of soccer ball kick with one's father:

I sat in the middle of the lawn and watched the kids (and Gordy) enjoy the open space.  There had been Much Whining when this excursion was announced over breakfast that morning and I was enjoying the ability to say "I told you it was an easy walk"  and "I told you it would be fun."

We had been to The Coolidge Reservation a few times before, but not for a long while.  I'm pretty certain that the last time we enjoyed the Great Lawn, we were pushing a jog stroller up the path.

After a few minutes of gloating, I convinced Josie to walk along the old mansion house's foundation path with me.  

It had the tranquil quality of a maze or labyrinth even though it was almost entirely straight lines and right angles.  

We didn't stay for too long - just long enough for the children (and Gordy) to get some fresh air and much-needed exercise before we went to the movies and sat still for two hours.  But I'm glad we made the effort, nonetheless.  

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