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Cullen is 3.5!

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

I’ve managed to finish Cullen’s letter within a week of his half-birthday. Lately, I’ve been pretty good about getting his done…but then I have to do Maddie’s less than a month later. That part is challenging. I’ll see which kid wants to change their birthday to make this easier on me.
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May 2013 NYC trip: wrap up!

Monday, July 8th, 2013

We had a great time on our New York City adventure! I’ve collected all the posts in one place.

Day 1: Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, and BBQ
Day 2: Hall of Science, Max Brenner, and Times Square
Day 3: Dinosaurs and Rock of Ages
Day 4, part 1: Chocolate and American Girl
Day 4, part 2: Central Park, Baseball, and Chocolate Fondue
Day 5: The Library and Central Park

Maddie’s Journal
Cullen’s Journal

New York City: Cullen’s Journal

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

I wasn’t sure how Cullen would do with the journal, but I knew he would be excited to have one as well. In many ways, he did more meaningful “journaling.” He at least got closer to the intent of a trip journal!

He did this one on the airplane and claims that this is a drawing of our airplane.

He drew these before we got to NYC, and this type of drawing was repeated several times throughout the trip (though later in the trip, he claimed it was Bridget’s building instead of just random skyscrapers).

And for some random reason, he decided to draw Totoro. I helped him with the spelling (his writing is excellent!), and I thought he did a rather accurate job with the drawing!

The Empire State Building is a bit of a mess.

He often had quite the commentary on his drawings. Chocolate was a big theme of the trip.

He even drew what HIS chocolate restaurant would look like. It would have lots of chocolate gummies.

He drew the Statue of Liberty several times.

Sometimes she was orange.

This is his rendering of the NYC subway (the trains are to the left and the pathways between the platforms are on the right side). I can’t remember what all those specks were, but he had some reason for it. Maybe he was trying to represent how dirty it can be in the subway system!

He even drew his smiling pizza from Max Brenner.

I love the journals! I can’t wait to see what they come up with on our next trip.

New York City: Maddie’s Journal

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Both kids kept “journals” throughout the trip, though their journaling was not very extensive. I like the idea of encouraging the kids to keep trip journals, so this is a start. I had fun seeing the things that they decided to draw.

They sometimes drew things that they saw, like the Empire State Building.

And sometimes they just drew whatever they wanted to draw. My kids are quite the abstract artists.

She drew this one after the Natural History Museum. Of course, I asked her if she could draw something from the trip, so she didn’t spend a lot of time drawing it. She did spell and write the word herself.

I like this one she drew the night that we saw the bull.

Most of her journal looked more like this.

and this…

She went through a phase where she experimented with drawing with several pens in her hand at once, like this. Lots and lots of this.

I got them some stickers from M&Ms World, and they created scenes for the stickers like this race track for the racing biker M&Ms.

I had hoped that she would do more like this one where she described one of the highlights of her day (I loved the chocolate milk and the brownie).

Overall, it was entertaining to see what they wanted to do with their journals…and it kept them entertained on the airplane, at meals, and in the hotel room. I like the idea of keeping this up on our many future trips!

New York City: Day 5, The Library and Central Park

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Our flight wasn’t until evening, so we had some time to do a little more touring on our travel day. We even had a few favorites.

Maddie’s Favorites

  • Melissa pushing her in the stroller
  • Playing with her new baby chair accessory in the hotel
  • **climbing the rocks at Central Park**
  • the meatballs and cheese at dinner

Cullen’s Favorites

  • the meatballs and cheese at dinner
  • **seeing the library**
  • going back to the hotel
  • climbing on the rocks at Central Park

Gabe’s Favorites

  • Central Park
  • **getting photos in the same spot from our honeymoon (and the ones with the kids)**

Kerry’s Favorites

  • hanging out in Central Park
  • Cullen’s excitement about visiting the library
  • Getting family pictures and recreating the honeymoon photo
  • seeing the kids excited about climbing rocks
  • climbing the high rock with Maddie
  • the look of joy on Maddie’s face when we had to cross the street, weaving the strollers in a sea of taxis

Melissa’s Favorites

  • eating Cap’n Crunch at breakfast
  • **going to Central Park**
  • the weather being nice
  • when Maddie said that she loved her again

Jason’s Favorites

  • going to Central Park

Summary and Photos from Day 5

Fortunately, we had packed an extra (empty) suitcase for the way home, and we needed it to pack all of our new goodies! We were glad that we wouldn’t have to pay extra baggage fees (due to a free bag per person on JetBlue), but we were a little concerned about how to get everything back to the airport!

We had breakfast in the hotel and finished packing our suitcases before our final adventures in NYC. We checked the bags with the hotel and headed to Central Park since Melissa and Jason hadn’t had an opportunity to see it on this trip. They wanted to replicate a photo from their engagement trip, and Gabe and I wanted to replicate a photo from our honeymoon.

First, we had to make a little stop by the New York Public Library. Cullen was very interested in seeing it since it is prominently featured in both of his storybooks. We walked through Grand Central on the way to the library.

Cullen was not satisfied with merely seeing the lions outside of the library. He wanted to set foot into the library as well. We didn’t see any books, but we were treated to two Lego versions of the lions.

It was fun to see how excited Cullen was about the library.

We headed to Central Park and took a variety of family photos, thanks to Melissa and Jason!

They weren’t able to find their exact spot from their honeymoon picture, but we did get some similar shots of them in front of their hotel.

We found the spot of our honeymoon photo, though we had a little difficulty getting the same angle (and apparently didn’t have the right lens). Still, we were excited to have a photo at the same spot!

The kids were fairly agreeable to photos, so we tried several different spots.

My sweet family!

The kids were then able to run around the rocks like crazy nuts for a little while before we had to head back to the hotel and airport.

They loved jumping and playing and collecting rocks.

Maddie and I climbed to the top of a bigger rock, but unfortunately I couldn’t tell that we weren’t totally visible. The photos didn’t turn out as I had hoped.

Maddie (and I) loved the experience, anyway!

We had already gotten giant pretzels for the kids earlier at Central Park, and we grabbed “lunch” on the way back to the hotel from other food carts. We debated whether to take a cab or car service, but we decided on hauling all of our luggage to the subway. We knew this time where to find the elevator at our closest station, so that made it a lot easier! We were once again quite thankful for Melissa and Jason’s help in getting the kids, strollers, and luggage from point A to point B!

We thought we needed to make one transfer in order to get to the AirTrain, but we accidentally ended up on a different train that did not require a transfer. That was nice! When we got to the airport, we were disappointed to find that our flight had been delayed for 2 hours. If we had known that, we could have squeezed in a little more fun in the city first! Oh well. Instead, we had a relaxing, decent meal at the airport before heading to our gate. The next day, JetBlue had sent all of us $25 vouchers to compensate for the delay. I didn’t even feel that the delay was all that bad or even unexpected, so the vouchers were definitely a nice surprise! Of course, we may not get a chance to use them in the next year, so we’ll see…

The flight home was uneventful, as the best flights always are. The kids were good little travelers.

We were a little nervous about taking the kids to NYC, but I’m so glad that we did! We had a fantastic trip and the kids will be talking about their experiences for a while.

New York City: Day 4, part 2, Central Park, Baseball, and Chocolate Fondue

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

After the meal, Melissa and Jason rushed off to the Ed Sullivan Theater where they had tickets to see David Letterman. They had signed up for the lottery, and Jason got a call a few days before we left for NYC. He had to answer some easy trivia questions about the show in order to get the tickets. Gabe and I were a little jealous as they also got to see Will Smith!

Meanwhile, we went to Central Park. Cullen fell asleep on the way, so he slept through our stroll in the park. We ended up doing a bit of walking since we weren’t exactly sure where the carousel was. We wanted to surprise the kids with the carousel since we had been misinformed that it wouldn’t be open on Monday. We stopped at an ice cream cart and Maddie chose a Hello Kitty popsicle. She had a treat filled day!

We found the carousel, and it was running! The look on Maddie’s face when she realized that she was about to ride the carousel was priceless. It was too bad that Cullen missed out on the experience, but he definitely needed his nap. He slept through all the excitement.

Cullen continued to snooze while Maddie climbed all over Central Park rocks.

This was clearly another highlight to her day (and the entire trip).

Cullen was still sleeping when we exited the park to head to the Ed Sullivan Theater to meet Melissa and Jason after the taping. We were supposed to meet them somewhere across the street, but that place turned out to no longer exist! Fortunately, the taping let out right after we arrived, and Melissa and Jason spotted us (and we spotted them). They had a great time at the show!

We split up again, but this time Jason and Gabe headed to the baseball game while Melissa and I took the kids for further adventures. We at a Applejack Diner which was right on Broadway, and we all thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the sidewalk. The food was just ok, but the meal was a great experience. The waitress was very good with the kids and very nice to us. I just thought it was neat to watch the world go by during our meal. I think this was the first time that I had had a meal on a NYC sidewalk.

The big event of the evening was a trip to the Dylan’s Candy Bar and Cafe, or as we called it, “the candy restaurant.” Of course, the kids were excited about that! Melissa and I may have been a little bit excited, too. The restaurant is cute, and we sat inside of one of the cupcake booths (though you can’t tell from this picture). The kids thought the gumball table was really cool.

Melissa had a Sour Patch Kids margarita which was apparently quite sour and yummy.

The kids loved it, of course. I mean what’s not to love about chocolate fondue? We had marshmallows, bananas, strawberries, and gummy worms with the fondue. Cullen was a crazy nut with the marshmallows. He made an absolute mess of his shirt, prompting me to buy stain stick to pre-treat his shirt on the way back to the hotel!

It’s hard to tell whether Maddie was more excited about the chocolate or gummy worms. Both rank pretty highly in her world!

The kids were pretty spoiled on this day as I allowed them to pick out something at the candy store as well. They both picked cute donut pillows (and have been enjoying them ever since! Maddie even uses hers as her regular pillow at night).

Melissa helped me settle the kids down when we got back to the hotel. Needless to say, they were a little bit crazy after all of the treats and excitement of the day.

Meanwhile, Gabe and Jason were at the baseball game. When we found out that the Mets just happened to be playing the Reds while we were in town, we knew that Gabe was meant to go to a game.

They had great seats, and Jason was able to get some nice photos with their SLR.

They even managed to get a picture of the two of them together (which was my only request of the game).

Jason and Gabe were amused by the section of Choo fans in the stands. Apparently, they were Mets fans but also crazy about Choo from the Reds.

The Reds won! Gabe and Jason went to the bar near the hotel after the game, and Gabe was able to experience the tasty philly cheese steak egg rolls. Yum!

Our last full day in NYC was a great one!

New York City: Day 4, part 1, Chocolate and American Girl

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

I had so many photos that I wanted to share from Day 4, so I split it into two posts. As I have been doing, I’ll list the favorites (from the whole day) first.

Maddie’s Favorites

  • having chocolate milk at dinner
  • going to the Hershey store and getting the tin
  • going to M&M’s World and getting the light saber
  • **having lunch at American Girl and getting doll accessories**
  • riding the carousel at Central Park
  • climbing on rocks at Central Park
  • chocolate chip pancakes at dinner
  • **Dylan’s Candy Bar** (she listed this one as a favorite before we even went there saying, “I know what’s *going* to be one of my favorites today!”) (later she referred to it as “well, the candy bar thing”)**
  • having dinner on the sidewalk
  • the Hello Kitty popsicle

Cullen’s Favorites

  • watching the taxis at dinner
  • the Hershey place
  • M&M’s world and getting the light saber
  • dinner on the sidewalk
  • **Dylan’s Candy Bar**

Gabe’s Favorites

  • the baseball game
  • Central Park
  • the kids at American Girl
  • **the look on Maddie’s face when we surprised her with the Central Park carousel**
  • the woman and kids on the subway jeering at him in his Reds shirt and Gabe talking trash back

Kerry’s Favorites

  • **lunch at American Girl**
  • having dinner on the sidewalk
  • the first moment of the kids in the Hershey store
  • seeing Maddie so happy in Central Park
  • Dylan’s Candy Bar

Melissa’s Favorites

  • buying the dogs with Statue of Liberty outfits for Maddie and Cullen
  • **Letterman**
  • dinner on the sidewalk
  • chocolate fondue at Dylan’s Candy Bar
  • Sour Patch Kids Margarita at Dylan’s Candy Bar

Jason’s Favorites

  • the trombone joke at Letterman
  • Will Smith and Summertime
  • the baseball game
  • the Choo fans at the game
  • **Letterman**

Summary and Photos of Day 4

We started with breakfast again around 9am and then headed to the Times Square area where we had been talking about visiting “the chocolate store.” We had planned to go to the toy store as well, but we ran out of time. We started at Hershey’s World which is quite tiny on the inside. I think it’s probably one of the few stores in the world where the signs outside are like ten times bigger than the interior of the store. The kids didn’t seem to care. They were in heaven.

They spent a bit of time browsing the chocolate options.

For some reason, Maddie really wanted to buy baking melts. We wanted to get them something unique to the store and ended up with two Hershey Kiss metal tins with a NYC themed design.

Next, we headed across the street to M&M’s World which is three floors of chocolatey goodness (and related merchandise). The kids picked out unique colored M&Ms.

Oh, and Melissa did, too.

They met the red M&Ms guy.

They were allowed to pick one item from the store (in addition to the special colored M&Ms), and they both decided on the light saber. Cullen very seriously touched his light saber to every M&M pillow in the store.

We saw the same light sabers in a Cracker Barrel the next weekend. So much for getting something unique to NYC! Oh well, the kids had a great time in the store.

We didn’t have time to make a stop at the giant Times Square Toys R Us (and never made it to the store on this trip). We needed to head to our lunch reservations at American Girl so that we’d have a few minutes to browse the store.

The American Girl store is HUGE! It has three big floors of merchandise. If you’ve never been to an American Girl store, it really is a neat place. Sure, they have some crazy prices on some of their dolls and accessories, but it’s fun to “window shop.” The store is almost set up like a museum with all of the dolls and accessories on display.

Both kids had a lot of fun looking around the store. Cullen wanted to bring home another doll. We let them pick out some accessories, and Melissa and Jason surprised them with dogs that look like their dog Hugo (complete with little doggie-sized Statue of Liberty foam crowns).

It really is a fun experience (and no, we didn’t leave the store without spending some money!).

After browsing the store a bit, we were seated for our lunch reservation. They do a nice job with these lunches! Both kids were able to pick a “loaner doll” for the meal since we didn’t want to travel with their dolls just for lunch. We were not surprised that Maddie chose to dine with one of the Bitty Baby dolls.

I had to set a lady straight while we were waiting to be seated. She said to Cullen, “I’ll bet you’d be more excited if they had cars in there!” I said, “Actually, he’s really excited, too, and he has his own Bitty Twins.” Cullen didn’t list the doll store in his favorites at the end of the day, but I know it really did rank up there for him. He was a very happy boy during the meal. He chose to dine with one of the “real” dolls. He liked this one because of her purple dress.

The meal consists of a cinnamon bun starter (Maddie loved the idea of dessert before the meal), an array of fruits and vegetables appetizers, a main course (plenty of kid friendly and adult friendly options to choose from), and a trio of desserts with a pretty presentation. They have a lot of extra details like heart shaped fruits and napkin ring hair ties that you can take home with you. Quite a few girls in the room were celebrating birthdays.

Cullen enjoyed feeding carrots to his doll.

Maddie enjoyed every bit of the meal.

The dessert included a flower pot filled with chocolate mousse and chocolate cookie crumbs and a flower that we could take home with us.

It was a wonderful meal and one of my favorite experiences from the trip. I am glad we were able to get reservations and decided to experience the NYC American Girl Cafe!

New York City: Day 3, Dinosaurs and Rock of Ages

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Starting out, as usual, with favorites!

Maddie’s Favorites

  • getting the penguin

  • the cookie sandwich [dessert at lunch]
  • seeing dinosaurs (especially the one in the foyer)
  • Daddy’s chocolate cake
  • Mommy’s chocolate mousse

Cullen’s Favorites

  • seeing the elephants

  • making the paper bag whale [they had a special whale event, and the kids each participated in a paper bag whale craft]
  • seeing dinosaurs
  • **his new baby dinosaur buddy**
  • the cookie sandwich
  • Mommy’s chocolate mousse

Gabe’s Favorites

  • **the dinosaur tour**

  • being at the museum

Kerry’s Favorites

  • **the dinosaur tour**

  • seeing the kids with their new buddies
  • being at the museum
  • when Maddie said, “next time I’m sharing THAT with somebody” about the chocolate mousse
  • Rock of Ages
  • jello shots at the show
  • the bar and watching karaoke after the show

Melissa’s Favorites

  • the bar before dinner

  • the pear gargonzola pizza at dinner
  • **Rock of Ages**
  • jello shots
  • the bar after the show

Jason’s Favorites

  • **the bar before dinner**

  • lasagne at dinner
  • Rock of Ages
  • jello shots
  • the bar after the show
  • his sazerac
  • bad karaoke

Summary and Photos from Day 3

We had a leisurely start and went to breakfast shortly after 9am. We saw Melissa and Jason at the end of breakfast for a few minutes before they headed to The Great GoogaMooga. The forecast had been a little iffy, and we saw that rain was headed our way by mid-afternoon. Considering that the weather app was showing a 0% chance of rain for the next few hours, we decided to head up to Central Park. Once we gathered the strollers and stepped foot outside of the hotel, we discovered that it was raining. We quickly changed our plans to the American Museum of Natural History. We hadn’t planned to go there, but we knew that the kids would love the dinosaurs!

Unfortunately, every tourist (and maybe even local) in Manhattan was headed to the museum. The subway cars were packed, and we ended up on different cars. Cullen and I weren’t sure whether Gabe and Maddie had made it on the same train. Fortunately, we found them when we got to the museum stop. Then everyone on the train exited at the stop and tried to get into the museum. The museum was extremely crowded and it took us a while to get into the building and then to get our tickets.

As soon as we walked into the museum, we noticed that they had a dinosaur tour starting in less than 5 minutes. Only a few people were waiting for the tour, so we waited with them. Considering how crowded the museum was, this turned out to be a great way to see the dinosaurs! The tour guide who showed us around was very enthusiastic about the dinosaurs. He had been with the museum since the 80s. I was amused that he seemed to be wearing ordinary khakis yet he kept pulling bones, teeth, eggs, and claws out of his pocket to show us. I am not sure where he was keeping them all! The kids did fairly well on the tour which was about 45 minutes. The tour guide had lots of fascinating information for us, but he wasn’t particularly engaging with the kids. Still, they behaved rather well considering.

After our tour, we went down to get food. After our experiences the previous day, we were quite impressed with the food offerings at the Natural History museum! Everyone had a decent lunch. We then headed back up to take another look at the dinosaurs. It was difficult to navigate the museum at times, but we still had a good time. We made a stop at the gift shop where the kids picked out t-shirts and new buddies. They were excited about their new penguin and dinosaur buddies. Doesn’t everyone get a fluffy purple penguin at the dinosaur museum? Maddie’s actually jumping for joy in this one.

The whole family enjoyed seeing dinosaurs!

And the kids enjoyed acting like angry dinosaurs.

Fierce!

We explored a little more of the museum before heading to meet Jason and Melissa for dinner. We had intended on going back to the hotel for a little rest, but it took us a while to finish at the museum and ride the subway back to meet Jason and Melissa (and Bridget). We learned that parts of the museum have a really terrible cell signal, so twice we were separated and had problems reuniting. Having a very specific meeting plan is key if your party is going to separate in the museum. Also, if you’re going to meet in the room with the African mammals, be sure to specify which floor you are on.

While we were at the museum, Melissa and Jason had a miserable time waiting for The Great GoogaMooga, a food and music festival. It was horribly organized, and they wouldn’t let them into the venue well past “opening” time. It was raining and cold and miserable. We felt bad that their plans were not going so well. They ended up bailing on the event and later received notification that it had been cancelled due to the weather! This put them in a bad mood for a while. They did have some tasty items from a Chinese bakery in Chinatown.

We were going to meet somewhere kid friendly and quick and decided on Burger Heaven. Unfortunately, the Burger Heaven that we had selected was closing unexpectedly (their usual hours would have had them open much later into the evening). Melissa, Jason, and Bridget found an Italian restaurant about a block away, so we met them there. It was a tad expensive, and Gabe and I didn’t feel like we ordered the best things. Maddie and Cullen had to split a $22 spaghetti as they had no kid options. The kids behaved themselves well, at least, and the desserts were fabulous. Gabe shared chocolate cake with Maddie while Cullen and I had chocolate mousse. Once Maddie had a taste of mine, she said, “next time I’m sharing THAT with somebody!” Chocolate mousse for the win!

On a side note, the Italian restaurant ended up charging us an ADDITIONAL $600 on our credit card. They must have quickly discovered their mistake and credited it back to our card the same day. Long story short, they actually managed to pay the entire balance of our credit card two days before the bill was due with that credit. I had paid the current balance really late in the last cycle, so the new bill was rather low for that card. As a result, we had no late fees or interest. Whew. As someone who pays off the entire balance of her cards every time, I was relieved that they covered for my rare mistake. So, I can’t say that I regret eating there! Best $600 mischarge ever!

We helped Gabe get the kids back to the hotel, and then Jason, Melissa, and I headed to Rock of Ages at the Helen Hayes theater.

We decided pretty late to get Broadway show tickets, so it was difficult to get ones that we really wanted. We had “settled” for Rock of Ages. What a fun show! I mean what other Broadway shows sell jello shots in the aisles? None that I know! The music was fun, and the story was entertaining and absurd. Good times.

We took a leisurely walk around Times Square…

…and Rockefeller Center…

…before ending up at a bar near our hotel (which Jason and Melissa had visited before dinner with Bridget) for drinks and yummy philly cheese steak egg rolls. I had some sort of drink with Sweet Tea Infused Bourbon. We enjoyed some entertaining karaoke at the bar next door. It was clear that we had some Broadway hopefuls bartending at the karaoke bar! We witnessed a heated fight between some of the bar patrons and decided that maybe it was time to head home.

It was another fun day in NYC!

New York City: Day 2, Hall of Science, Max Brenner, and Times Square

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Once again, I’ll start with the day’s favorites!

Maddie’s Favorites

  • **the chocolate restaurant**

  • riding on the bullet train [the subway]
  • the colorful shadows
  • designing the rollercoaster
  • the bubble prisms
  • the Lego store
  • music in the subway
  • seeing Times Square
  • meeting the policeman

Cullen’s Favorites

  • designing the rollercoaster

  • **music in the subway**
  • making music with lights
  • the giant globe
  • getting the sticker at the museum [the entry sticker/ticket]
  • the chocolate restaurant (“I loved the chocolate restaurant, it’s my favorite thing in the whole world”)
  • meeting the policeman
  • seeing Times Square

Gabe’s Favorites

  • the gravity mirror

  • the butterscotch/chocolate shake
  • Cullen holding up his syringe and saying “there’s no more chocolate!”
  • the globe
  • the Rockefeller Center Lego model
  • **seeing the kids at the chocolate restaurant**
  • Cullen sitting down in the middle of the subway station to enjoy the music
  • the kids getting their photo with the police officer

Kerry’s Favorites

  • seeing the globe

  • building molecules with Maddie
  • doing colored shadows with both kids
  • the gravity mirror and the kids’ reactions to it
  • the kids at the chocolate restaurant (Maddie saying, “I want that” when she say the drawing of the syringe and Cullen upset about no more chocolate and his resulting stomp dance)
  • doing the multiplication cube with Maddie
  • Cullen and his subway music
  • Taking the kids to Times Square
  • seeing the kids with the police officer
  • **spending time with Maddie at the museum**

Melissa’s Favorites

  • dessert at Max Brenner

  • **seeing the SNL rehearsal**
  • when Maddie ran up to her and said, “I love you”
  • having visitors to their hotel room [the kids at different parts of the day spent a little time in Melissa and Jason's room individually]

Jason’s Favorites

  • individual visitors to their room

  • his massive peanut butter chocolate sundae
  • **seeing the SNL studio**
  • Cullen’s master plan when he was in their room in the morning (“I don’t want to leave. I’ll only leave with just Jason and Melissa. I’ll hold Melissa’s hand and Jason holds Melissa’s other hand and Maddie won’t get a hand.”

Summary and Photos from Day 2

The kids slept pretty well, and we all woke up around 7am (not bad for us!). Cullen had joined us in our bed for a little snuggle time just before that. We all got ready and met Melissa for breakfast. We met up with Jason after breakfast and left for the Hall of Science in Flushing around 9am. While we were in NYC, we used the Hop Stop iPhone app quite a bit to help us navigate. We really liked that it would tell us the best route to get from point A to point B (including real time public transportation times). We thought that the kids would really enjoy the Hall of Science, which is an interactive science museum. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the museum was free with our Museum of Life and Science membership!

Overall, we were a little disappointed with the museum. The kids enjoyed it well enough. Highlights for them included the museum host who did tricks with a mirror, hanging out in the giant kaleidoscope with Melissa and Jason, making colored shadows (Maddie especially enjoyed this), probability “plinko,” spiraling balls in a funnel (Cullen), Math cube lights (Maddie, testing out her multiplication skills), building molecules, testing and designing rollercoasters (another one Maddie enjoyed quite a bit), making music with electric strings of light (Cullen), and when Melissa and I played “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with a trombone like tube (with Maddie).

Maddie spent a lot of time dancing in front of the colored shadow screen.

She also spent quite a bit of time at the multiplication cube which explored math in a way that is not too different from her Montessori experiences.

I enjoyed building molecules. Jason created alcohol, Maddie made water, and I made caffeine.

Meanwhile, Cullen discovered the cure for the common cold.

We had planned on having lunch at the museum, and we were very disappointed in the “cafe” which was basically a cooler with a couple hot options. The kids were not impressed with their choices either. Cullen had a hot dog, and Maddie had dry cereal. Gabe and I basically made a lunch out of snacks like chex mix. Melissa and Jason decided to head back to Manhattan as they had reservations for the NBC tour. I think their “meal” was far superior to ours.

I knew we were close to the giant globe from the 1964 World’s fair. After getting directions from the museum host, we walked through the neighboring park to see it. Cullen did not want to pose for photos.

We posed for photos anyway.

We then let the kids run crazy in the area that we assumed was a working fountain in the summer. They had a blast. It’s the little things.

Because we can’t run crazy like this at home…

It started to drizzle while the kids were running (despite the fact that before we left the forecast was completely free of rain), so we headed back to the train. We headed to Rockefellar Center where we planned to meet Jason and Melissa after their NBC studios tour. I’ve been on the tour a couple of times and loved it! Melissa and Jason were even able to see the SNL studio and rehearsals for that night’s show. We had hoped to walk around the touristy areas near Rockefellar, but it was really raining when we got there. Cullen fell asleep, and Maddie and I went to the Lego store while Cullen snoozed.

We wandered around the shops while Cullen napped. Once he was awake, Maddie and Cullen spent at least 15 minutes looking at sheep made out of chocolate in one of the shop windows. Once we joined back up with Jason and Melissa, we headed back to the hotel for a few minutes before dinner. With the rain, it was a little chilly!

We had reservations at Max Brenner, but we still had to wait at least 30 minutes (maybe longer) to get our table. That was a little frustrating as the restaurant was quite crowded without a very good place to wait our turn (especially with two wiggly, excited kids). We had been talking about “the chocolate restaurant” for weeks.

Cullen wanted the smiley face pizza while Maddie ordered chicken fingers and fries (which she was able to paint with ketchup and a brush).

Everyone saved room for dessert, of course. Gabe and Melissa had milkshakes. I had chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow pizza. Jason had a gigantic sundae.

The kids had the chocolate syringe which allowed them to shoot chocolate directly into their veins mouths. Maddie saw the cartoon drawing of the syringe on the menu and said, “I. WANT. THAT!”

She was so excited.

Maddie is the well known chocolate lover, but I think we have been overlooking Cullen’s chocolate addiction. We were mostly watching for Maddie’s reaction and Cullen had sucked down his entire syringe before we knew it. We even checked under the table and on his clothes to see if he had somehow squirted it all over something. He took a look at the syringe after he sucked it down and angrily declared, “There’s no more chocolate!!!” We were all amused. Afterward, Cullen did his now-famous “stomp dance” for the first time that had a crazy head jiggle. He was how I would imagine Beavis and Butthead would be on a sugar high. Hilarious. His facial expressions were priceless.

The kids were interested in seeing Times Square lit up at night, and this was our best evening to do it. We knew it would mean another late night for the kids, but they were excited! By now, we were starting to figure out the best ways to navigate the subway stations with strollers. We were thankful that we had picked up a second City Micro from a friend. That stroller has to be one of the best city travel strollers EVER. It was fabulous.

We noted that most of the elevators in subway stations smell like urine, though some of them smell like someone tried to cover up the stench with a floral spray. Gabe dubbed this floral urine scent, “urinthamum.”

We stopped and watched a band in the subway perform. Cullen was mesmerized. This was one of the highlights of the entire trip for him! I loved how he just decided to sit down in the middle of the subway station to enjoy it. He was excited to drop money in their bucket as well.

We walked around Times Square and took some photos (of course!).

We saw some movie or TV show filming while we were taking in the sights and lights.

The highlight of the Times Square visit was meeting the police officer. He offered to take a photo with the kids. They were very excited.

The sketchy costumed characters were out in full force. We caved and let Iron Man and Spider-Man pose with Cullen for a few dollars. Then we were out of small bills and had to brush off the hordes of knock-off Minnie Mouses, Elmos, super heroes, Mario, Luigi, Statue of Liberties, and more.

When we got back to the hotel room, the kids had a hard time settling down for the night despite it being very much past their bedtimes. I think they had a little too much chocolate and excitement!

New York City: Day 1, Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, and BBQ

Friday, June 28th, 2013

It’s been over a month now, and I haven’t written up our NYC trip reports. I’m glad that I take good notes (and have plenty of pictures!). As usual, we listed our favorites at the end of each day. As I did with the Disney trip, I’ll start by listing our favorites first. The “top top top favorites” are starred.

Maddie’s Favorites

  • riding in the airplane

  • seeing Grand Central
  • riding the subway
  • **drinking chocolate milk and eating a brownie**
  • **writing in her journal**

Cullen’s Favorites

  • riding in the airplane

  • seeing the Brooklyn Bridge
  • seeing the Statue of Liberty
  • seeing Grand Central
  • **riding the subway**
  • going back to the hotel
  • seeing the bull

Gabe’s Favorites

  • walking on the Brooklyn Bridge

  • seeing the bull
  • seeing the new WTC building
  • **Cullen’s dancing at dinner**

Kerry’s Favorite

  • seeing Bridget’s building

  • **being in NYC again**
  • the views from the Brooklyn Bridge
  • seeing the sites that the kids recognize from their books
  • **Cullen’s dance moves at dinner**
  • Cullen “helping” others with maps, pointing out the Statue of Liberty, telling people about how strollers need to go on the elevators, etc (he was very “helpful” throughout the city)

Melissa’s Favorites

  • the pretty walk on Brooklyn Bridge

  • **Cullen’s dance**
  • Her naughty picture with the bull
  • our nice, big hotel room

Jason’s Favorites

  • the walk on Brooklyn Bridge

  • **Cullen’s dance (crack ‘n’ cheese)**
  • our hotel room
  • seeing Bridget’s building

Summary and Photos from Day 1

We had been talking about taking the kids to NYC some day, and when flights were low earlier in the year we decided it was time. Melissa and Jason joined us for 5 fun days in the city. The kids were very excited and had a few storybooks featuring NYC to prepare them for the various landmarks and sights.

We flew JetBlue into JFK. We had a good experience with JetBlue in the past and we liked the idea of not needing to get a cab from the airport. I didn’t want to put the kids in cars without car seats, and we wanted to leave those at home. We took the AirTrain and subway to the hotel. Right away, we were a little worried that we had made a mistake. We were very grateful for help from Melissa and Jason in getting the kids, strollers, and luggage to the hotel!

Melissa was able to get us a fantastic discount at the Best Western Plus Hospitality House. The reviews looked great, but we didn’t associate the “Best Western” name with high quality, so we were skeptical. Thankfully, the place was perfect! We basically had a fairly good sized 1-bedroom apartment for our stay. We had a master bedroom, full bath (of course), living room, dining area, and a small kitchen. The kids slept on the pull-out couch, and they didn’t seem to mind the uncomfortable mattress. I wouldn’t have been comfortable, but that is my only complaint about the hotel. We appreciated the free continental breakfast each morning, too. It was perfect with the kids and would be great for longer stays as well. Considering that the prices are comparable with many regular hotel rooms in NYC, it’s a great deal. The location was nice for us as we were only a few blocks away from Grand Central.

We dropped off our luggage and headed to Grand Central to catch the train downtown. The kids were excited to see Grand Central as it is featured in both of their NYC books. Maddie wanted to see the clock. They both enjoyed their first glimpses of Grand Central!

We navigated the subway and headed to Brooklyn Bridge. We decided at the last minute to start on the Manhattan side and walk part of the way across the bridge. Once we arrived, we realized that it was going to be far too busy to get some of the photos that we had hoped to get! We had originally hoped to replicate a few photos from our honeymoon. The crowds were one problem, but the scaffolding surrounding the pedestrian part of the bridge was another issue. Cullen fell asleep on the subway on the way to the bridge, so he missed getting the first of many soft pretzels from a street vendor. I was afraid that he was going to completely miss the bridge. He would have been disappointed about that! Cullen woke up while we were taking photos in the middle of the bridge.

The kids didn’t want to get out of their strollers. They were a little freaked out by the bridge and didn’t want to get close to any edges (and getting out of the stroller was out of the question).

They weren’t all that comfortable with where we had them parked.

And they weren’t all that thrilled about our request for a family photo in front of the skyline.

I wonder how many self-portraits Melissa and I have taken over the years. We had quite a series of those before we even graduated from college.

After walking the bridge, we headed to Wall Street and the Battery Park area before dinner. We got a good look at the One World Trade Center which Jason’s sister, Bridget, was the project manager for the beacon installed at the top of the building. We were all very impressed, and we called the building “Bridget’s building” throughout our trip. We even spent a little time with Bridget while we were visiting.

The kids were not terribly excited about Wall Street, but they did want to see the Wall Street Bull. I think with all of my trips to NYC, this was the first time that I had explored the Wall Street area.

We knew we had to find the bull for the kids, since it was featured in their books. The kids were very excited about the bull and wanted to touch it. Since there was a long line for the front of the bull, we approached the rear end. We took a series of questionably appropriate photos of the kids (and Melissa) from the butt side. I will refrain from posting them here. The kids thought that the bull was pooping. Yes, kids, those are giant brass spheres of poop. We ended up standing in line to get photos at the front of the bull as well. Maddie thought it was hilarious that she had one hand in the bull’s nostril and the other in his mouth.

We walked down to the water front “on the way” to dinner and spotted the Statue of Liberty for the second time that day (the first time was from Brooklyn Bridge). The kids loved seeing it, too, even if it was quite a ways away.

We headed to Blue Smoke which we saw described as a “gem” for small children. We were a bit skeptical of a BBQ place in NYC. It turns out that we had good reason to be concerned. The sides were good enough, but the BBQ just wasn’t great. I will say that they went above and beyond with the kids. The menu had a pretty good selection (though iffy for our picky eater), and they had nice bonuses. They brought each kid a pig sugar cookie to decorate with sprinkles and had wiki sticks before the meal. Maddie loved the brownie dessert. Cullen rather enjoyed the music and did some crazy dancing which amused all of us. We wondered what they had put in their mac ‘n’ cheese (and Jason called it “crack ‘n’ cheese”). The waiter agreed that wasn’t their usual response to the mac ‘n’ cheese. The meal was a great experience, but we were definitely disappointed by the food.

Bridget met us after our meal, and Jason snapped some photos of her with her building. Melissa and Jason spent some time around Union Square with Bridget while we headed back to the hotel to put the kids in bed.

The kids enjoyed riding the subway, though Maddie thought that the subway and the elevators were quite stinky. She often held her nose in these places. We walked quite a bit that day, and when I got back I said, “That’s a lot of walkin’ for the grown ups!” Cullen replied, “Whew, that’s a lot of strollin’ for a little boy!”

We got back to the room quite late, and the kids didn’t have much trouble getting to sleep! This was the first trip that we had the kids sleep in the same bed, so we were glad it was off to a good start.