New York City!

We went to New York City (Manhattan) and had the time.of.our.lives. Brandon had a video camera training Monday through Wednesday so we drove up Friday so we could see our BEST friends the Wheelers who were going to Turkey Saturday night for a week and we wanted to see them at least one day before they left. We didn't leave that morning as early as we hoped so by the time we got to the Lincoln Tunnel it was rush hour and it took us an extra 2 1/2 hours to get TO the Lincoln tunnel, THROUGH the Lincoln Tunnel and THROUGH the Upper East Side to our friends apartment. So we got to experience the worst of NYC traffic and Brandon ROCKED it and was a natural NYC driver. The Wheelers had ordered Indian food for all of us for dinner and it was amazing. It's my new favorite food. The kids were so excited to see their best friends and play.

 My first glimpse of NYC!!!

We're in New York CITY!!!!!

We had parked the car in a parking garage next door until we had a chance to go try to find a spot on the street and when we pulled out of the parking garage anticipating spending an hour looking for a spot, there was a spot RIGHT THERE in front of their apartment building. Rachel was freaking out that it was such a miracle that we found a spot so great and so soon. She said that never happens. Hallelujah! When we finally got the kids to bed late we talked and ate some cookies delivered from a place next door. The next morning Rachel and I walked to Eli Zabar's down the street to get chocolate croissants and Babka bread for breakfast. It was all divine. Then we all walked to Shultz Park on the East River for the kids to play. Winnie wanted Josh to see her "river park" that she goes to all the time. There's a splash pad, sandbox, various play structures, and an open concrete space to ride scooters. Then we went to Shake Shack for lunch (Rachel said when she used to live in Manhattan years ago she remembers when it was literally a shack and people would line up for blocks to order).

Winnie's a pro on her scooter.

 East River

Emma LOVES sand. And loves posing for pictures.

Then the kids took much-needed naps. I walked around with Rachel to a few places to pick up some things she needed for her trip. It was so fun walking around with her and talking about her life in Manhattan. Then once the kids woke up we all took a bus to Grand Central Station and looked around there. Then took the subway back home (Schaun taught us the ways of the subway), threw the kids in the bath, and had pizza for dinner. Then the Wheelers left and we were on our own! It was so wonderful to spend 24 hours with them, though we wish it were longer, and we are so grateful to them for letting us stay in their apartment while they were gone.

Sunday morning we got H&H bagels for breakfast, went to a bike shop to get our Phil&Ted's stroller wheel fixed (it had gotten a hole somehow the day before), and went to church at 11. We randomly saw some friends outside the church building who were also visiting NYC. We grabbed Papaya King hot dogs for lunch (next time I want to try Gray Papaya's, supposedly those are the only 2 "good" hot dog places to try and I didn't love Papaya King), went home for Emma to take a nap, and planned out the rest of our day. We decided to go to Staten Island so as soon as Emma woke up we got on the subway to take the ferry the Staten Island, then take the ferry back. It was neat to see the Statue of Liberty and Josh loved being on a boat. Brandon rocked the subway, he figured it out in like .2 seconds and was a pro the whole time we were there. It was awesome. We made a great traveling team-- I brought water, snacks and hand sanitizer, he told us all where to go ;-).

We'd hoped to also squeeze in seeing the LDS Manhattan temple, the Metropolitan Opera House, and the Lincoln Center but we didn't have time. We took the subway back to Manhattan and grabbed the food we were bringing and walked to Central Park to meet my cousin Tessa and her family for dinner. The kids were so excited to play they didn't really eat, they got nice and dirty though. It was great to visit with Tessa and her husband Brandon and learn more about their NYC life. Brandon left to meet his co-worker at a Korean restaurant for. The kids and I walked home, I threw the kids in the bath, put them to bed, and then Brandon brought home cupcakes from Two Little Red Hens which were breathtakingly delicious. We got the filled ones: Brooklyn Blackout and Peanut Butter Fudge Swirl.

Monday morning Brandon left early for his training. It was my first time going out with the kids on my own. I took the kids to EJ's Luncheonette, parked the stroller, and sat in the stroller window (so you can see the stroller from your seat, it's a "thing" in Manhattan ;-)). Got their famous Crunchy French Toast, eggs, bacon, and breakfast potatoes.

Then we walked to the Natural History Museum to meet Tessa and her kids there. I had curled my hair that morning but it was sooo muggy and humid out, and walking through Central Park can be a beast if you're in a hurry and have to go uphill, that by the time I got to the museum my hair was a giant frizz ball and wet underneath, so gross. By the time we left the museum I had finally dried off and cooled down. The museum was fun-- the kids loved seeing the dinosaurs and animals and being with their 2nd cousins- they became best friends in minutes. We all went to Jacob's Pickles for lunch which was delicious and then got home in time for afternoon naps.

While the kids napped, I planned our evening and kept looking out the window to see if a car might miraculously leave across the street so I could move our car. If you have a car in Manhattan, parking is kind of a big part of your life. The Wheelers have car so they taught me the tricks of the trade. On their street the street cleaner comes either on Monday mornings or Tuesday mornings so from 9-10:30 you have move your car somewhere else or be sitting in your car. So Rachel takes the kids and they sit in the car (you have to be sitting in your car when the traffic cop comes) and then when the street cleaner comes you drive right in front of it and go around the block and park your car again. It's an ordeal. So the side our van was parked on would be cleaned Tuesday morning. So since I wanted to go out Tuesday morning and do stuff instead of sitting in the car, I thought MAYBE if a car left across the street (where the street had already been cleaned that morning so I'd be good to park there) I could grab the kids and run move the car across the street. I knew it was a million in one long shot idea but I prayed that it would work out and kept checking out the window all afternoon. Well around 4:45 I looked out the window and saw a guy walking to his car parked right across the street so I threw a shirt on, grabbed Emma, and woke Josh up from the depths of sleep. They didn't have shoes on so I had to carry them down the hall, down the elevator, checked with the doorman to verify that the empty spot was in fact a legal parking spot, ran out the building, threw the kids in the car, prayed no one would take the spot and aggressively jogged over to the empty spot and shimmyed my way in (a nice couple was walking by and helped me park quicker than I might have on my own. I'm an awesome parallel parker but time was of the essence :-)). It was seriously a miracle that no one took it in the 10 seconds it was empty. A lot of people are driving around looking for spots and if they see someone getting in their car they stop and wait til the person leaves.) Not only did I find a new parking spot on our block, on the side of the street I wanted, but it was RIGHT in front of the door to the apartment across the street SOOO Wednesday afternoon when I'd need to load up the car I wouldn't have to move it in front of the apartment building to double-park while I loaded up. It would already be right there. What an answer to a prayer. And I felt like a rockstar. I did a happy dance and lugged the kids all the way upstairs and realized I left the apt keys in the car so I lugged them back downstairs, across the street, got the keys, all the way back upstairs. I was cracking up because my arms were about to give out but I couldn't let their feet touch the dirty ground haha. And I might have been elated-happy so I was a little giggly.

So around 6, we met Brandon at the subway station with the initial plan of doing Times Square but when got there it was pouring rain so we went with Plan B which was more indoors- took the subway back up to Midtown- 5th Ave and 59th St to see the Apple store, FAO Schwartz, Bloomingdales, and Sprinkles cupcakes. We'd hoped to get to Serendipity 3 and Dylan's Candy Bar but since it was raining and the kids were losin it we took the bus home. Brandon went back out to pick up some gyros for us for a late dinner. And I was so glad that we didn't have to worry about moving the car that night or the next morning-- yippee! [click heels!]

Emma hugged almost every single stuffed thing in the toy store. It was adorable.

Tuesday morning I took the kids to Gracie Mews Diner a few blocks away and I loved their french toast even better than EJ's. They also have freshly squeezed orange juice, yum. Then we stopped at the grocery store on our way home for more milk and then went back out to meet Tessa and her kids at the Ancient Playground at Central Park, next to the Met Museum. The park was really cool, it had pyramids to climb on, normal swings/slides/etc, some water features, and a sandbox. I caught the tail end of Emma in a tug-of-war with another little girl over the other girl's bucket that I imagine was abandoned and Emma started playing with it and then the other little girl wanted her bucket back so she tried grabbing it but Emma, being the stubborn thing she is, would not let go for anything and of course ended up dramatically face-diving into the sand, with bucket in hand, and HER feelings hurt.

Then I took the kids to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and looked around for a little while, then we got some treats at William Greenberg Desserts, including "the best black and white cookie" around, it was delicious.

Grabbed hot dogs for lunch and Josh took a nap. Emma wouldn't sleep so I let her watch a movie while I did laundry and planned our evening. Emma fell asleep later on our way to meet Brandon at the subway station to go to Times Square and she slept for awhile in the stroller but woke up crabby. It was a thunderstorm by the time we got there so we got soaked but walked around and went to the M&M factory (everyone told us we HAD to go to the M&M factory but I don't get the hype... sorry :-/). We'd hoped to see a few other things and grab some cheesecake to-go from Carnegie Deli but since we were soaking wet and it was pouring rain and the kids were just besides themselves ornery we decided to go back home. Brandon and I had Chinese food for dinner once the kids were asleep. I was bummed it was raining so hard so we couldn't explore more and see more there but oh well, next time.

Wednesday morning I spent packing up our stuff and cleaning the Wheeler's apartment, including washing all the sheets and towels. It was garbage day so what more to complete our NYC trip than Josh being able to see a NYC garbage truck pick up the garbage outside our window.

This is the view from the Wheeler's balcony.

Then we went to Gracie Mews Diner again for a late breakfast of more french toast and blueberry pancakes and were graced with Emma belting "Let It Go" for our entertainment.

Then we walked to Central Park and explored Belvedere Castle and the Turtle Pond. Here's us on top of the castle with Upper East Side, Great Lawn ball fields, and the Turtle Pond behind us.

 Turtle Pond

Then went to the James Michael Levin Playground which was a smaller, MUCH less busy playground with some musicians playing near by. It was great.

After the kids played for awhile we took our last walk from Central Park back to the apartment :-(. I took pictures on our walk back because I loved looking down Park Ave and Madison Ave at the view further down. Every time I looked up at the buildings it seemed unreal. So many tall buildings!

One last picture of the elevator in our (the Wheelers) building that Josh and Emma got so good at using- pushing "up", "4", "down", "*1", and "B" if it was a special trip to do laundry or take out the garbage :-).

It was just awesome to experience the culture and energy of Manhattan. I loved the energy of so many people around, so much to see, so much to do and having everything so close by. Every morning I'd wake up and see the city outside my window and feel like I was in a movie.

I don't know why New Yorkers are stereotyped for being rude. I thought they were the nicest, most helpful people I've ever come across. They ARE in a hurry and as my dad put it well- they get "in the zone" of getting to where they're going but they'll happily direct you anywhere, hold the door for you, give you tips for good places to go or eat, smile, make small talk on the corner while you're waiting for the walk sign. Every different type of person lives in NYC so it was interesting to see all those types of people.

The weather was really muggy/humid/hot OR rainy while we were there and I couldn't imagine wearing more than shorts/skirt and a tee and my hair had to be up ALL THE TIME but so many people were in pants, long-sleeves, jackets, hair down, boots, etc. and I was really surprised. You get so hot and sweaty walking around or waiting for the subway. Maybe you get used to it? And also I noticed people's shoes. I was curious what types of shoes people wore since you walk soooo much and I saw a lot of Birkenstocks and fancy flip flops which made sense to me but I also saw a lot of high heels and a lot of women with their shoes half off- like the back straps of high heeled sandals pushed off their heels and they were struggling to walk and it pained me to see but they must've known.

When you live in a small apartment you really simplify your life, what you own, what food you buy, etc. and make the most of the space. Though I appreciate having more room in my home, I also appreciate minimalism and not having so much "stuff" and living in a small apartment would really make you minimize and simplify your belongings.

It was really fun for me to experience the life of my best friend Rachel- to live in her house, explore her neighborhood and go to the places she goes and see the parts of her life. She lived in Midtown for 13 years before she was married so she is basically a complete NYC expert and I know that her experience, knowledge, and confidence inspired me to be confident in going out and exploring and experiencing the day in and day out of NY life. I feel like I got a lot more out of my experience because of her.  I really made the most of it and feel like I got a lot out of it. I also must've embodied a New Yorker because quite a few people stopped me to ask me for directions or advice on things which I happened to be able to help them with since I'd been walking around the area enough and looked at maps enough.

It was energizing and life-changing to experience a city so iconic, well-known, exciting, and different from anything I've ever experienced. As we walked out the door to leave I was helping Josh put on his backpack and I said, "I don't want to go home. I'm feeling really sad about leaving. I want to stay in New York City." Josh said, "It's okay Mom. It's time to go home," and he put a reassuring hand on my cheek. I really was so sad to leave. I was surprised at how attached I'd become in only 6 days. I honestly almost cried leaving. I probably would have if I wasn't so nervous about driving through NYC for the first time [eek!] to pick up Brandon from his training in Grenwich Village.

Being home the past 2 days I've noticed I'm a lot more lax about letting my kids go outside unsupervised for 2 seconds because I'd just been on the crazy busy streets of NYC where both kids were constantly in the stroller, holding onto the stroller, or holding our hands. So to come home and let them roam in our boring uneventful unpopulated cul de sac didn't phase me one bit. I feel like I can trust Josh a lot. He was a rock star in NYC. I loved having him as my travel buddy. Both kids made NYC so much fun-- they were so fascinated with everything. I've also been experiencing NYC withdrawal and have been listening to the Newsies soundtrack, watching Home Alone 2 and other movies set in NYC. They have so much more meaning now. I talked to my dad for over an hour on the phone today about my trip and it was really fun since he did an internship in Manhattan (Midtown) for 3 months in college and has visited there on business a few times and he totally related to my experiences and thoughts and feelings about it. It was therapeutic to talk to him since I miss it so much and have such fondness for it. [sigh] So if anyone else wants to talk about it I'd really really love to ;-)

*Places on our to-do list we didn't get to that I didn't already mention: see a Broadway show, do more shopping, Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Chrysler building, NY public library, Bronx Zoo, MoMA, The Doughnut Plant, Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Deli, Juniors Cheesecake, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center (to see The Today Show, Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman, Kelly and Michael, etc.), Bubby's, Flat iron district (flatiron building), Plaza hotel, Little Italy, St. Patrick's cathedral, St. Bartholomews church, Yankee Stadium, Apollo Theather, Maison Kayser french bakery, Pinkberry, Angelo's, Lincoln Center, Epicerie Boulad, Time Warner building, Washington Square Park, more stuff at Central Park-- the zoo, the carousel, the ice rink, Swedish Marionette puppet theater. Anything else?? :-)