NYC Tourist Trap I Approve: Jekyll and Hyde Club

Today my kids and I stumbled upon the Jekyll and Hyde Club, a haunted restaurant in Times Square with live entertainment and special effects. There's all this weird stuff on the outside that lured my boys in: skeletons, creepy lettering, and an old phone booth. Ella was a bit reserved, thinking it was an actual social club for mad scientists. Then I spotted 3 middle-aged women walking out with doggie bags, and she knew it was going to be ok. It was.

We walked up the stairs and were greeted by a waitress named Crystal. Salt of the earth. So kind and welcoming. With her southern accent she asked what brought us to NY. She was shocked that we were locals. I suspect tourists supply most of the action at this place. Even though we had no intentions of eating anything, she smiled and told us to take a look around.

It was around 2pm and the restaurant was practically empty. Only three other parties were in the massive space. My kids walked from booth to booth checking out all the displays: siamese twin girls with curly hair sitting on a fancy chair, a statue of Zeus spinning circles, and a scuba diver getting eaten by a shark. It felt like the haunted mansion at Disney World, until one of the statues came alive. It was a doll holding a knife with a creepy voice that said, "Ossscaar, is that you? I've been waiting for you!" He totally freaked. The doll continued using information she gathered unbeknown to us. The doll ended by saying she was going to hide under their beds tonight. "See you at 12am!" Then her head spun around to show a gory face and she turned off. My kids giggled with delight. We needed to order food to have an excuse to stay longer.    

I knew right away this wasn't going to be the type of restaurant you go to for the food. The menu has typical American fare. Which is fine and expected for this part of town. We played it safe and ordered a chicken Caesar salad and a cheese burger with fries. I'm baffled when I read the Yelp reviews of this place and people complain about the food. Really? I wish people reviewing could know the difference between a place you go for the food and a place you go for the experience. It seems so obvious to me. That said, my cheese burger was good. The fries were good. The salad was fine. But it didn't matter! This place had so much more going for it than the food.

You know the doll who personally talked to my kids? It didn't end there. They got personal conversations with a shrunken head, a giant elephant, a mad scientist, an explorer guy, and just about everything else in the restaurant. I lost count after awhile. We were in the presence of people passionate about their jobs. They committed 100% to their characters. I wanted to speak to the managers and praise them in their hiring efforts. I don't know where they found these people, but I was blown away. There was really no reason for them to be giving us so much attention. Not just us, they kept everyone in the restaurant smiling and laughing. With so few costumers, you would think the actors wouldn't care. But they worked that restaurant as if it was filled to capacity. There was even a Frankenstein inspired stage production!

It was such a fun and unexpected afternoon in the city. The blood and guts, the spiders, the secret bathrooms. It was all kitschy and great. And while my kids are probably having nightmares as I write this, I go to bed with my heart filled. My love for humanity grew a little more after an afternoon at the Jekyll and Hyde Club.

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Strand Books Wrote My New Years Resolution: Read/Listen More

The only way I clean my house (shown above) or exercise or do any other hateful thing is if I listen to an audio book. It makes me feel like I'm not wasting my life away. Here's a list for 2015 inspired by an email I got from Strand Books. All are either written by a woman or about women. Sometimes both.

1. A book that intimidates me: The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged
2. A book I've lied about reading: The Scarlet Letter
3. A Short Story Collection: Best of Women's Short Stories
4. Read a book before the movie: Wild
5. A book over 100 years old: The Awakening
6. A debut novel: The Edible Woman

Strand made an extended list, but this should get me started. I already finished listening to Wild. Loved it. Now I just have to watch the movie. I especially like that it's starring my daughter's doppelgänger.

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How My Thoughts on Motherhood and Womanhood Were Formed And What I'm Doing to Change It

A month after my mom died, I flew out to attend BYU-Idaho. I was 18-years-old. I've always been an impressionable person, but during those years I was extremely vulnerable to any messages about womanhood and motherhood. Each message reminded me of my mother and the religion she believed was true. I wanted to honor her life so I clung to anything that was said over the pulpit. Below is a mash-up of what I was hearing. To say that they are damaging and wrong are an understatement. I've spent my 30's reprograming everything I know about motherhood and womanhood. It hasn't been easy, but I'm happier and healthier for doing it. I respect the women in the LDS church who heard the same messages and were able to disregard them. I wish I was one of them. I have empathy for the women who didn't. I was one of them. It is my hope that someday I can help women in suppressed situations get out. It's so much better on the other side! I'm currently filling out applications to get a masters in Social Work. It's videos like these that assure me I'm doing the right thing.

The author, title, and full transcript of each talk seen in this video can be found here.


I'm Exercising my Way through the City

My Before Picture. After is yet to come. I like before pictures better anyway. 
After not exercising for around 6 months, I find myself heavily immersed in fitness. I used to run a lot, but I got bored with it. Running doesn't work for me anymore. I wanted to try something new so I decided to do some research. True to form, I took the research seriously. I signed up for 6 diverse classes across the city. Here's my thoughts.

Bikram Yoga: What Hell feels like. Literally, it was 105 degrees and humid and went forever (90 minutes). I kept hoping I would faint so I could leave. 60 minutes into the class, I started to feel light headed and I was ecstatic. But I never fainted. Or died. It took every bit of will I had to stick with it. By the end of the class, I had nothing left in me. I was exhausted. I was thirsty. I was starving so I ate a Chipotle burrito and large slice of cheese pizza. The sad part is, the calories I burned during the class did not justify this binge. I just needed something satisfying to make up for the traumatic experience that is Bikram Yoga is to me.

FlyWheel (stationary bike class): I enjoyed it, kind-of. The instructor was funny, the lights were low, and the music loud enough for me to sing without anyone hearing me. That was the biggest perk of the class. But mostly I didn't know what I was doing. I hate that feeling. I had no idea what the instructor meant when he called out, "First position!" or "Second position!" Am I at ballet class? And I peed my pants every time I had to stand and petal. I felt bad for the people around me. I must have smelled like a subway station by then end of class. The person I didn't feel bad for? Anna233. Even though it was my first time, I decided to include my name on the leaderboard. I was in last place the entire class no matter how hard I tried. Anna233 was always just right head of me in 12th place. I'm sure I made her feel super good about herself. And for that I'm happy. Always here to help.

EVF Performance: EVF performance? I didn't know either. I signed up for it and hoped for the best. The image on the website had a man smiling while lifting a small kettle ball. I could do that. I was 10 minutes early so I looked around the gym. There was a class finishing up their last rotation of pushups, jumping jacks, and squats. No one was smiling or enjoying themselves. There was a chalkboard listing the exercises. And the instructor had a shirt that read Crossfit in capital letters. Oh geez, I thought, I'm in a damn Crossfit gym. I'M IN A CROSSFIT GYM. I'M ABOUT TO TAKE A CROSSFIT CLASS. I stayed anyway. And learned it wasn't exactly crossfit, but it was. I squatted. I jumped. I lifted. The instructor for this class was new to NY, built like an ox and totally dreamy. Who knew I would find a beefcake dreamy? Not enough for me to go back though. This class was too intense for me. But out of all of them, it was definitely the best workout. I felt sore for the next few days.

Pilates Mat: If I didn't know what I was doing during FlyWheel, I certainly was lost in this class. Suck your stomach in, shoulders down, lift your back slightly. It all seemed more difficult than it had to be. And plus, the exercise I hate the most is a plank and that's all Pilates seems to be. One giant plank position. I get why. It works everything in the body and is the best exercise and hold it for 15 more seconds! It's so awful. I loved the music they played during the class, but it was actually a radio. So half way through a plank, a commercial came on and I wanted to die. I don't need commercials during a plank. I need freaking Talyor Swift telling me to Shake it Off. Something! My motto for this class would be, "Exercise is hard and not fun."

Boxing: Oh my God. I had to buy wraps for my hands. I had to wear fat red boxing gloves. I had my own personal punching bag. The kind Ali probably used. No matter how hard I tried, I could not take this class seriously. I kept giggling every time I hit the punching bag. Am I suppose imagine this bag is a actual human body? Like this is the ribs, this is the stomach. Bam! Bam! I'm going to get you human! The bag gave in a little every time I punched it. Is this what it feels like to hit a body? Do they fill it with just enough sand to make it feel the most accurate? I couldn't stop with these outrageous thoughts. I'm so messed up. The class ended with a plank contest. Of course. Whoever held it the longest won a free class. Even if I won, which there was noway, I wouldn't have gone back. I did feel tough when I washed my hand afterwards and my knuckles stung. Is this what warrior hands feel like? Am I a warrior now? My wacky thoughts continued for days.

King of the Jungle: Again, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The class description mentioned something about swinging through the streets of NY like a monkey. Got it. It started with us all jumping and quickly moved onto forward rolls, then handstands, then cartwheels, then round offs, and within minutes we were all instructed to do front flips and back handsprings. There was no holding back. The instructor showed us how to do the trick once and then we were all expected to try. I was shocked. Whoa whoa whoa. Don't we have to build up to this? Apparently not. I followed the instructions and surprised myself the entire time. I could do everything he asked. I quit gymnastics when I was 14 and thought that was the end of it. Conclusion: Muscle memory is real.

My ego had be hurt after being the worst all week at my gym classes. I always think of myself as a moderately athletic person, but for years I had been going to the gym or running in races and felt like such a loser. But I'm not a loser! I can do back flips! Losers don't do backflips!

And now for a motivational ending. I'm not used to doing this, but I feel inspired today. I think it's really important to experience as much as we can in this life. All these Christmas presents and things around the house mean nothing. They all are going to break or get lost or get outdated. It's experiences that have the most value to me. Now when I see someone post their Crossfit goals on Facebook, I'll understand a little of what it took to get there. Or when I pass a bikram yoga class, I'll know what it felt like to be in a sweaty hot room with strangers. Or when I see a boxing match on TV, I'll know what it feels like to hit a punching bag. That means something to me.

I encourage you to look up the random classes your city offers and try it out this next week. Do it before all the new years resolution people come and fill up the slots. You might surprise yourself and be good at something you did as a kid like softball or soccer. If not, there's always laughing at yourself. Which might be better than anything else. There's nothin' funny about this though:

This whole post was written as another excuse to post this video.

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Matching Sleepwear on Christmas Day

Photos from previous years have been found!!!!!!!!!! Only took me 3 hours. I swear I put them in a labeled folder, but I couldn't find them anywhere. It's the same thing every year. Whew. I need a nap after working so hard. Good thing I ordered 2014's pj's months ago. Otherwise I might have had a complete nervous breakdown over my favorite holiday tradition. I just have to remember where I put those pjs.  

Here's some Christmas sleepwear suggestions if you're planning on following this tradition too. Buy the fitted ones. Kids look so cute in them. Adults? It takes a special person to pull that off. I'm not one of them. But if you are, Target has you covered. 
2. Gap // $29.95 (take additional 40% off, ends tonight)
3. Etsy // $50
4. J.Crew // $52


Where I've Been Lately: STARVING Mostly

While at the library last month I found this gem: 10 Pounds in 10 Days: The Secret Celebrity Program for Losing Weight Fast by good old Jackie Warner. I wanted it, but was too lazy to walk over to the counter to check it out. So I asked Ella to do it for me. It would give her a sense of responsibility. And plus, I would be working off 10 pounds soon. I needed to reserve my energy.

She read the title, then looked at me with concern and said, "Mom, these never work."

And I replied, "GET IT!!!!!!!!"

She rolled her eyes and checked it out.

I got home and tore through the book. I learned that for 10 days I would eat around 900 calories a day and as a result my ass would fall right off. I loved reading all the rules and restrictions. Rules and restrictions are my jam. It's what made me such a good Mormon for so long. Naturally, I followed the diet exactly. I looked forward to my hearty breakfast of 1/4 cup oatmeal and one walnut everyday. ONE WALNUT. I broke it up into tiny pieces so each bite included a morsel of it. It was heaven.

It was awful. The day I took this picture, Rob put Ella to bed because I was not in the mood. As she was about to fall asleep she asked him, "Why does mom gotta try to eat healthy? She used to be so nice! She wasn't even that fat."

I wasn't that fat, but now I look amazing. Who cares if all of Ella's eating issues stem from this moment in her life? Who cares if I prematurely started an eating disorder in her? Who cares about all that nonsense because I lost ten pounds! Totally worth it if you ask me. So proud of myself right now. Really everything couldn't be going any better over here. Mostly because I'm so skinny!


A Very Detailed Update

This has been the best week of my life.
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