Thursday, June 28, 2012

I'm not ready to start the countdown.

Man-o-man. Aren't we all sick of people complaining about how fast time goes and how quickly kids grow up? I am. But then I find myself watching young(er) mothers with their babies and toddlers and thinking, "I remember those days. What happened to them?" At the time, I never thought my kids would ever grow up. That surely, sleeping in, going out on dates, only buckling myself into a car would never be part of my life again. I remember sitting on a plane with three tiny kids watching the lady across the aisle read a magazine and then take a nap. Green with envy, I thought that would never be me again.

A few years has changed more than a few things. I sleep in all the time - probably more than I should. Kyle and I have tons of dates. No babysitter needed. Aside from a booster seat, there are no car seats in our car, no stroller, no diaper bag. I have even reached the seemingly unreachable dream - I read magazines on planes.

A wise friend once told me that you reach a point in motherhood when you stop counting up as your children get bigger and start counting down to the day they will leave. I feel like I'm there.

You may think I'm jumping the gun, but lately I've been feeling this emotion that's difficult to describe. Sadness, yes. I'm not ready to think about my kids leaving home. Happiness, too. So much less on my plate. Less meals to worry about, less laundry to do, and less nagging about chores and homework. A little fear. I hope my kids use what tools I've given them to make something of themselves. What if they don't? A tad bit of excitement. I'm excited to see what they become. What they choose. How they live.

Reminders of that coming day are everywhere. In Eden's womanly face and her maturity. In Abby's sense of self and responsibility. In Katie's independence and commitment to her goals. In Davis' hunger for knowledge and understanding of how the world works.

I think, for all of us, those reminders coalesce into one when a rite of passage occurs in one of our kid's lives.  A few weeks ago, Abby graduated from Elementary School.



I'm sure you're thinking, "Why the tears? Eden did the same thing two years ago." Good point, but hear me out. With the first child, everything is new. It's the first time for everything. Our parent-selves are born when that child is born and grow with each of their "firsts." I expect Eden to have graduations and crushes on boys and driver's training, but when Abby passes through these things, it becomes more real that Eden isn't the only one growing up. They all have the potential to grow and leave and have lives beyond our home.

I'm just not ready.




Friday, June 22, 2012

Abby and NYC - not exactly a match made in heaven

Have you ever had a friend with whom you love to hang out? They're super fun, always energetic, full of life and extremely cultured. Then you have this other friend who is smart, funny, creative, and independent. So, you think to yourself, I should set these two up on a date. They are perfect for each other! Or so you thought. When you hear back, you're disappointed to learn, that your instincts were completely wrong. There was no chemistry and they didn't have as much in common as you thought.

Such was my experience with introducing Abby to New York City, except the awkward date lasted nine days and I was the dutiful third wheel who tried desperately to continually find common ground.

It is true, Abby lived on the outskirts of NYC for six years, but seeing as how those six years were, for her, ages 1-7, she doesn't remember much. Kind of like going to your family reunion and being slobbered on by your mother's distant aunt who hasn't seen you since you were "this big." She can't believe how much you've grown while you have only a vague recollection of ever having met.

Abby remembers bits and pieces of New York. She remembered riding a crowded subway, seeing the Empire State Building, and meeting a lady in a red dress on a stage after a show. Fragments really. It was evident on day one that she had no idea what she was getting herself into.

Day 1: The plane ride went off without a hitch. It had been a few years since she'd been on a plane, so she was pretty excited to be there with her backpack of snacks and choice of soda from the drink cart. Kyle was on a different flight, so upon meeting up with him at La Guardia, we headed into the city. We were staying at the Sheraton on the corner of 53rd and 7th Avenue. The room was tiny and when I say tiny, I mean I've seen bigger closets. But, we were right off Times Square where space is at a premium, and, well, getting very little for quite a lot is the New York way.

After settling in, we made our way to Greenwich Village for dinner. Abby about crawled out of her skin while we waited for the subway. Kyle enjoyed watching her squirm as he explained how to spot rats on the subway tracks. (Apparently you fix your gaze and then watch for movement in your peripheries. He's full of helpful tips, just ask him.) We got a little lost getting from the subway to the restaurant and ended up walking for what seemed like miles. Abby wasn't used to the crowded streets, or the honking taxis, or seeing homeless people lying on the sidewalk. She has such compassion for people who are struggling. By the time we got to the restaurant, she was in sensory overload. The restaurant, though, was beautiful. I absolutely LOVED the decor:



Not only was the decor delightful, but the food was fantastic. Case in point, the ketchup came in a jar that we had to scoop out with a spoon. It was very gourmet. Like most New York restaurants, though, the menu was limited and since it didn't include either pizza or grilled cheese, Abby decided to nibble on our entrees and fill up on dessert. I mean, it's dessert. What could possibly go wrong. She ordered a scoop of mint ice cream and for the first time since the plane landed, actually looked excited. It was short-lived. Turns out, the "mint" ice cream was plain flavored gelato with crushed mint leaves mixed in. One bite, and Abby threw her hands up in defeat. She is a stubborn fighter, but New York packs quite a punch.

After dinner we walked over to a High Street which is an old above-ground subway track that's been converted into a garden. It was beautiful! Unfortunately my ankle was done for the evening and I couldn't walk all the way through it. What I saw, though, was well worth the effort.


Day 2: A bit better. I wanted to take her on the double-decker bus tour, but it was raining, and believe me, Abby's parade didn't need any more rain. Instead, we walked the few blocks to the Times Square shopping area and went to the Disney Store, Hershey World and Toys R Us. Kid Heaven as far as I'm concerned. The indicator on her Happy Meter was tilting far right by the time we met up with Kyle at Chevy's for dinner. Cheese quesadilla, a cantaloup wedge, and fries were a New York peace offering as far as she was concerned.

Our original plan for the evening was to see Newsies on Broadway. Months ago when Kyle and I learned it had opened, it quickly topped our list of must-see shows. Unfortunately, tickets weren't easy to come by. At least not through public channels. But . . . we know a guy. We sent Paul the information he needed to secure us the best seats in the house then sat back congratulating ourselves on how lucky we were to know that guy. Again, though, as the round three bell rang, New York came out swinging. Now, it is a well known fact in most public and private social circles that Paul Canaan is the Luckiest Man Alive. People magazine has a lesser known publication called "Lucky People" that annually names someone Luckiest Man Alive. Paul Canaan has been on the cover every year since 1992. His cover shots and inside stories are featured on his Facebook page under "photos of Paul." Now, the Universe, in order to obey the laws of physics and nature must draw the luck it gives Paul from somewhere. That source is quite often me. The yin and yang of life dictated that the information we had given Paul to get our Newsies tickets needed to get lost somewhere in the cybersphere in order for Paul to spend the week in a castle. In Ireland. For a ridiculously discounted rate.

Seriously.

Although luck is rarely on my side, I pride myself in looking for the good in any given situation. In this one, the "good" was that Kyle had a rare moment of calm despite his seething rage over not getting to see Newsies. In fact, he kept saying, "I hope you're noticing I'm not freaking out. . . I need some credit for this. . . I'm totally staying calm. . . Are you seeing this? . . . Calm." I'm not sure who the commentary was for, me or him. Either way, I was proud of him. As we walked away from the theater, we decided a movie was the next best thing. We got lucky enough to get to the theater just in time to see the Avengers in 3-D. Paul must have cut himself shaving.

Day 3: With the previous days rain now just a sprinkle, I decided to show Abby the real New York and took her on the Double Decker Bus Tour. We got great seats up on top, but just when the bus was about to pull out into traffic, we heard shouting and honking. We looked down from our perch on top of the bus and saw a man accosting a taxi cab. The man was yelling and kicking the side of the cab. He tried to break a window, wasn't successful, so he pulled off the license plate cover and yanked off the back windshield wiper which flung several feet into the air. This went on for about a minute before the police showed up and arrested the man. Typical New York day, I guess.

I love the New York bus tour. You get to see pretty much all of the city, you get to hear interesting facts along the way, and best of all, there is no walking involved. The tour guides are usually somewhat comedic which I enjoy, but Abby couldn't be bothered. Every time I tried to explain something to her about what we were seeing, she said, "I can see it, I don't need to hear about it, too." So, I suggested that when we get back to the hotel, we watch T.V. with the sound turned off. I figured it was the same thing. She thought I was crazy.

After the bus tour, we went back to the hotel to change our clothes and meet up with Kyle. We then headed to New Jersey to have dinner with Kyle's co-worker/boss Chris. He is German and his wife is Polish, so they served some delicious but unique dishes. Abby was so polite. She tried everything and kept a smile on her face. They have a twelve year old daughter who was quite accomplished. When they asked Abby what she does, she said, "Oh, I dance." "Really? What kind of dance do you do?" "Um, all kinds. . . . well, mostly ballet." Kyle and I politely smiled. After hearing their daughter have a conversation in three different languages (simultaneously), and play a piano concert worthy of Carnegie Hall, we thanked our lucky stars they didn't ask Abby to dance the Nutcracker Suite.

Day 4: I had gotten to the point where I really needed a home run. I thought for sure Rockefeller Center would be an Abby-pleaser. I mean, NBC Studios, the Today Show, lots of shops. We headed over there, and all I can say is - no dice. She didn't even want to take the NBC Studios tour! What kid doesn't want to see where they film TV shows?! Abby apparently. After she shot down a few other ideas, I decided to drag her into St. Patricks Cathedral because, come on, it's A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. All I got was a slight eye brow raise and one question about why there were so many candles. She is impossible. Back to Rockefeller Center and a few shops. First we stopped at the Lego store to get a souvenir for Davis. Abby actually liked the Lego sculptures.



 She made him 3 mini figures and then we headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art store. There she found a fashion design notebook that was, according to her, the greatest thing ever. From then on, she didn't want to do anything else, but sit in the hotel room and draw in her notebook. I knew she'd be mad to have wasted her time in NY, so I dragged her back out. Kyle had a work dinner that night, so Abby and I were on our own. She HAD enjoyed the movie the other night, so I decided another movie might be a good idea. I checked the listings and found an independent documentary called, "First Position." It followed the lives of 6 adolescent ballet dancers trying to make it in the world of dance. We LOVED it. I bawled at the end. I don't cry very often, so Abby thoroughly enjoyed watching me get emotional. In fact, as I was telling Kyle about the movie, all Abby kept saying was, "Yah, it was a good movie, but the best part was mom crying . . . . . mom totally cried . . . . you should have seen mom, she was all (boo-hoo face). . . . . crying. . . . mom." If I had known that all it would take to excite her was my crying, I would have whipped up some tears on day one.

Day 5: I gave in and let Abby draw in her new notebook until about 1:00 in the afternoon. Then I asked her what, if anything, she was interested in seeing. All she could think of was the wax museum. So, Madam Toussaud's Wax Museum it was. Kind of fun. Despite the highway robbery admission price, it was kind of cool. The wax figures just kind of stand around. They aren't behind glass or ropes or anything. You can just walk right up and take pictures with them. Abby absolutely refused to take pictures with anyone. I tried everything to make her. As punishment, I embarrassed her horribly by posing with everyone and making obnoxious faces. She was mortified. :). Justin Beiber was in the last room and I really MADE her pose because her sisters love him. She didn't speak to me for an hour.





My phone doesn't take great pictures. Obviously.

For dinner that night we met up with Kyle and a few ladies from his office. One of his co-workers (Megan) is an expert on all things food in NY. She knows every good restaurant in every neighborhood. She took us to an amazing restaurant called Peasant in the East Village. Abby loved hearing Megan's life story that included a childhood in Connecticut and a fancy boarding school during her teen years. I'm always proud of Abby and her conversation skills. She loves to talk to people and enjoys talking to adults as much as kids her own age.

Day 6: Since Kyle wanted to see the art museums on the weekend, I decided to take Abby to a museum I really wanted to see. Not that I didn't want to see the art museums, I just really wanted to see the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. It was Fleet Week, so there was quite a party going on at the docks. Again, Abby? Not interested. We got to tour an actual submarine. I thought it was the coolest thing ever! Abby? Eh.

Also there for Fleet Week were two ships that had sailed up from Columbia and Equador. They were touring the Atlantic on a goodwill mission while simultaneously training their sailors. Little known fact about me - I dream of sailing on a wooden deck ship with giant sails. These fit the bill to a tee. If Kyle hadn't met up with us and dragged me off the ship, I might have found a crate to hide in and become a stowaway.



The aircraft carrier was amazing. There were hands on exhibits and videos to watch. Abby actually liked the exhibit where she got to try working space tools while wearing space gloves.
She also liked testing out the sailors beds. We were glad there wasn't an abandon ship order. Based on how fast Abby managed to get out of the bed, she would have gone down with the ship.

Getting in.

Resting.

Getting out.
In her defense, Kyle had loaded her down with gear. But still, it was fun to watch.

We stayed until closing but before we left, Abby and I got some sailor tats.


That evening we met up with Paul (freshly returned from Ireland) for dinner at El Centro. He generously agreed to let us stay in his apartment for the remainder of our trip while he stayed in a friend's apartment down the street. He has a great apartment. It's seriously ridiculous by New York standards.




Kyle and I slept upstairs while Abby slept on the pull-out couch downstairs. She had the hardest time sleeping. Apparently she was convinced that someone was going to repel down the side of the building and come through the window. Rational fear, right?

Day 7: Finally the Broadway show. Abby couldn't wait! Thanks to knowing a guy, we had amazing seats and got a backstage tour after the show.





The green elixir that turns Elpheba green is actually Listerine and a glow stick. Who knew? (Again with the crap pictures. Sorry for the demon eyes and general blur.)

After the show we headed out to Queens for a BBQ at Carlos'. He and his husband Joe have a new baby named Luca. He was the sweeeeeeetest little guy. We could not get enough of him.
I borrowed some pics of him from Paul's Facebook page:
It was so fun to see Carlos and Karyn who we have known for years but haven't seen in way too many. Abby was such a grown up. They couldn't believe how much she'd grown. Here's a shot of Carlos with Abby when we first moved to New Jersey:


and Karyn a year or so later:


Loved seeing them.

Day 8: Our last day. It had been reserved for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had never been there and was really excited to see the exclusive exhibits and works of art. Abby was really looking forward to it as well. Unfortunately, the place was PACKED. What we thought would be a relaxing day gazing at inspiring paintings and sculptures turned out to be a morning of people dodging and lots of "Oh, sorry, no, you go ahead, no after you, ooops, sorry." Right when we got there, I had to use the bathroom and let me just say, I've seen shorter lines between talks at Women's Conference. What we saw was amazing, but quite frankly overwhelming. I could have stared at one piece of art for hours, but there was so much to see and with a cranky tween in tow, we decided to call it a day after about two hours.

The picture behind us is done in mosaic tiles. BEAUTIFUL.

One thing I love about Kyle is what he chooses to take pictures of. How cool is this thing?
This was the floor in one of the halls. I wasn't sure who to ask about getting this installed in our kitchen.
I had to keep reminding myself that Abby is only eleven and that when she returns, years from now, she will have gained an appreciation for such art. As it was, she expressed more than once that she'd rather be at the doctor's office getting a flu shot.

We left around lunchtime and met Paul in Central Park. We LOVE the park. It's like an oasis of quiet nature plopped right in the middle of concrete and chaos. We walked through several different areas:








Day 9: Got up, straightened up, packed up. Headed to the airport and on home. It was a long time to be away from the rest of the family. We were all so excited to see each other. You know how that is and how it lasts like seven minutes. Just long enough for the excitement of the souvenirs to wear off. Then back to real life.

Several times while we were away we kept telling Abby that once she got home she was going to look back and think her New York trip was the greatest experience ever. Sure enough, about a week after we got back, Abby asked when she could go again. New York packs quite a punch and yet, much like an innocent school girl crushing on the bad boy, she wants to keep going back for more danger and intrigue. That is so Abby.