That things really haven't changed much

After living in NYC for a few months now, I've come to realize that my life hasn't changed that much. I still do basically all my shopping at Trader Joes. I still exercise a few times a week after dumping the kids off at childwatch. I still attend church in a building that resembles all the churches I ever attended and the lessons are basically the same old same old. So all the basics (food, exercise, religion) have remained the same. Someday I'd like to live outside the US and experience true culture shock.

Picture of Ella in Mexico on my iPhone last Christmas.


About the Marionette Theatre in Central Park

Adored today's show entitled: The Secret History of the Swedish Cottage. The only other marionette show I've seen here was the Big Bad Wolf. That one was alright, but I didn't have that "I have to go back and see it again!" feeling when it was over. This time I did.

It was slower paced, not much dialog, good music, and really beautiful scenes. The storyline was this: in Central Park, there's a Swedish Cottage that houses the marionette theatre. The play answered how it got there in a half true/half fantasy way.

One of my favorite scenes was of the boat carrying the Swedish Cottage across the ocean. The sails on the boat were gorgeous. I took a picture that didnt turn out, of course, but I was so shamelessly excited by those sails! I loved the way the kids gasped when they saw the big wooden wave slide in front of the boat to represent it sinking. Really basic props done well.

When we got home, I googled "puppeteers in NYC" because I would love to see more shows like the one I saw today.  I'm in luck, there's quite a few. Puppetworks in Brooklyn looks amazing.

After we saw the show, we walked to Belvedere Castle. The kids shouted a lot of "Yahoos!" out of pure joy of running and seeing a castle. I forgot to mention that we saw the show with the Harlem cousins: Brian, Emily, and Henrietta.

On the way home, there was a moment when all the kids were sitting/standing on the double stroller at once while I pushed it, and I pretended that I was the nanny, and Brian and Emily were the parents. Brian topped it off by shouting, "Go faster!" haha. It was such a good day.

Above is a picture of Uncle Brian and Owen gazing out of the second level of the castle. Don't exactly know what Brian's pointing to, but whatever it was, Owen was captivated.


about what to do

Besides a quick bagel run this morning and a trip to the basement to do laundry, I was inside my messy house all day. By 5pm, I had to get out and leave it all behind. But I didn't know what to do. That's been one of the biggest challenges I have with this city. There's always that annoying feeling that what I'm doing isn't the best/most authentic/most unique NYC experience I could be having.
Tonight out of all the thing NYC has to offer, we went bowling in Harlem, about a block away from the Apollo Theatre. As soon as we walked off the subway, Ella ran up the stairs, turned around with her arms outstretched and said, "So this is Harlem!"
I'm almost certain that there was probably something amazing going on tonight somewhere in the city, but I wouldn't have known otherwise. It was fun to meet up with our cousins and go shopping while a lane opened up. When one finally did, the boys mostly played with the video race car game on automatic mode and took breaks to throw the bowling bowl over hand down the alley. Things really got crazy when the black lights lit up at 9pm and we polished off two pitchers of fruit punch. The night ended with Ella and Henrietta insisting on a sleep over.
So despite all my insecurities that somewhere, maybe even a subway stop away, we could have done something a little more NYCish, it doesn't matter. Bowling in Harlem was where the party was attttttt.

Here's a mild version of my messy house. It's the only picture I took today. I'm posting it to fool myself into thinking that this is the worse it ever gets around here.


about my NYC dentist

At this point of the winter season, I'm even missing my California dentist. She used photography film x-rays instead of digital. I liked seeing photos of my teeth clipped up on the lighted white boards. She scratched all the plaque with a simple metal scrapper tool.  Her office was small and had easy parking. She fixed the gap in my teeth. My new dentist talks fast and has an autographed photo of Bill Clinton in the lobby and has Columbia University diplomas on the wall.  Instead of a mirror, he used a $10,000 video camera (he actually mentioned it was $10,000) to show me my teeth on the computer screen. He offered to print out my digital X-rays. He found a cavity.  Afterwards, I walked to Central Park with Ella and tried to enjoy the new snow. But after taking a few pictures, my toes started to get cold and I just wanted to be back in California. Cavity and all.


about catching a cab in the winter

taken today 1pm, Riverside Park. Owen far, Oscar closer

When I find myself at my breaking point, and all I want to do is be home NOW, I go ahead and hail a cab.  Even if I'm two blocks from my apartment. When I first moved to the city in October, I had no problem catching a cab when I reached that point. As soon as the weather got to the 30's, however, it took me 5 minutes. Then when it dropped to the 20's, it took 10 minutes. 10 degrees: forget about it. Shouldn't have been a shocking and unexpected lesson for me, but it was. Today the weather was in the 60's and there was no way I or anyone else in the city was going to waste a minute of it in a cab.  The sidewalks were filled with happy people, dogs, and unfortunately all the trash that was buried inside the snow piles.


about family in the city

I sought out as much advice as I could before we moved to NYC. You'll need a car! Don't bring a Car! Use a broker. Don't use a broker!  The funniest/passionate advice I got was from our cousins in Harlem. Their advice: Don't move to Brooklyn! They knew the draw Brooklyn has on people like me. Bigger places, cheaper rent, family friendly, Prospect Park. I was drawn to Brooklyn in a way that I wasn't with Manhattan because one of my favorite books of all time: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. There's a moment at the end of the book when she's walking down the her street in Brooklyn and explaining how much she loves where she lives. That scene made me want to move there before we were ever thinking about moving to NYC. It's really beautiful writing. Brooklyn seemed like the ideal choice. But it was lacking one huge benefit Manhattan had: family. And not just family, but people I wanted to hang out with. Built in friends: our cousins in Harlem.
So we took their advice and didn't even look at any of the places in Brooklyn. We ended up moving to the Upper West Side in Manhattan, which is about 15 minute drive to their apartment. It's always been one of my favorite things about the city. We spent Thanksgiving together. We swap babysitting without any strings attached or tally charts or awkwardness. We see each other weekly if not more. We talk about vacationing together someday. And what makes the situation even more ideal is that Ella has a match! Our cousins in Harlem (that's how I refer to them most times) have a little girl around Ella's age. I've always loved the idea of them becoming best friends in the city and shopping together and withholding secrets from us parents. The boys always had a built in friend, and now so does Ella. Here's a picture I took tonight of them holding hands and talking. I'm going to take a wild guess that the subject of their conversation is none other than Pinkalicious.


NYC library card

The remote to our super DVD player that is connected Netflix has been missing for a week.  I'm clueless how to work the thing without it.  I liked to think that that had nothing to do with the sudden motivation to get a library card and start reading to my kids instead of letting their brains waste away to Ren and Stimpy reruns, but I would be lying to myself. Before I left the house today, I made sure I brought an electric bill to prove my residency. Now I have a NYC library card and fifteen children's book scattered on the couch and in their bedroom. I feel like my life is finally getting in order.  I adore checking books out for my kids at the library mostly because I love reading children's literature. It's one of my favorite genres. How could anyone not adore anything Ezra Jack Keats writes? Story telling at it's best in my option.  I also love that I can let them have as many books as they want without being restricted. Yes! Get that Spiderman book! Sure, put the Dora book into the stroller! I would never buy those books, but at the library, I suddenly turn into the best mom in the world because I can say yes to everything. Another noteworthy reason I like reading to my kids is because it takes away that irrational fear of them turning into illiterate fools. Below a picture/proof of my kids reading their books from the library. I hope the literacy Gods will see it and give my remote back.


that i'm safe

Before I moved to the city, I seriously thought I would need a backpack that was dagger proof because it was going to be so dangerous. I don't know where I thought I was moving but it sure isn't the place I live now. Here's a picture I took on my way home from book club tonight. I was walking alone around 10pm. I would obviously prefer to have someone with me, but when I can't, I'm ok. But really I'm never alone. Three other people are always out walking their dog or coming home from work. And at least in my part of the city, they are usually old and boring. Despite feeling safe, I did walk super fast on my way home. I can't help but be a little cautious.

about the MET Opera

this is a picture taken from our balcony before the opera started. Box 6, seats 5 and 6.  
I knew buying partial view seats would be risking, but I liked the idea of having our own booth for Valentines Day. We even got our own door! And they were only $25. Most of the opera (Don Pasquale) was spent cranking our heads over the railing and sometimes even standing so we could see the actors. Other times it was spent just reading the small screen that translated the Italian into English. Rob fell asleep during the 3rd act. It was our first NYC opera together. While we probably won't do it again for a long time, I thought it was a fun/easy/special way to spend Valentine's Day.  The chandeliers, the fantastic people watching during intermission, the massive Chagall paintings in the entryway, the orchestra conductor's crazy hair, that one love song near the end, the serious clapping Rob did after each act. I loved everything about the date. Especially my date.


about love at first sight

My first week in Manhattan went like this: When I saw the Chrysler building for the first time, I felt nothing. When I heard jazz musicians playing in Central Park, I wasn't into it. And the Roman wing of the MET bored me to tears. The Museum of Natural History was so museumy. Everything felt so untouchable behind those glass cases.

I panicked when I did not love the city instantly.

But with each month I live here, I become more invested in the city. I've been back to the MET's Roman wing and adored it. I got a membership to the Museum of Natural History after visiting it twice. We go every two weeks. And walking everywhere has actually had a slowing effect on my life that has been wonderful. Also I'm making friends!

This isn't the first time I've had to give some time in order to fall in love. It took me a whole year to realize Rob is hilarious which led me to fall in love with him. And look at us now! I'm still sticking around for his next joke.

Motherhood was the same. I remember panicking when I didn't have this crazy bonding experience with Ella and the boys when they were first born.  I envy mothers who have that instantly. It took me months of bonding. Now I don't know what I would do with out those little guys. Oh yeah, not get woken up at 5:30am.

I met a woman the other day who had lived in San Francisco for 25 years. We reminisced about the Ferry Building and Acme Bread. But then she leaned into me and said in almost a whisper, "You want to know something? You'll never go back. You'll go back of course, but you can never live there again." Such a shocking thing to say to me, but the more I live here, the more I think she might be right.  I'm getting spoiled by having access to the best of the best. Some of it's out of reach ($35,000 private elementary schools for example), but most of it I can enjoy at some level (Spanish Immersion in the public schools).

And with that, I leave this post with a clip from one of NYC's biggest fan's: Woody Allen. The first 3 minutes of the movie Manhattan captures the feelings many New Yorkers have with this place. I hope someday, I too can claim this city as mine.


about Zabar's

Today we ate lunch at an Upper Westside institution: Zabar's.  This grocery store has been here for over 70 years and it's around 12 blocks from my house and it's mentioned in just about every New York sitcom/movie.  When I spot places like this, I note it for when guests come to town.  I want them to try it all: A baguette, smoked salmon, bagels, something from the cheese counter, and for dessert: Zabar's cinnamon rugelach.  Then walk to my very own Riverside Park for a picnic.  I'm beginning to think of that park as my own vs Central Park. That's another post. 
Next to the grocery store, they have a small deli with tables to eat lunch. Space was tight so I was glad I didn't have my stroller with me. While we ate our grilled cheese sandwiches (which were amazing) and lentil soup, I got a sense of community inside the place. Not that I was apart of it, it was my first time there. But I could tell people were interested in what each other were saying without them joining in on their conversations.  The mom across from me feeding her kid tuna salad looked familiar.  I witnessed old friends being reunited on a whim. The workers were really nice with a NYC edge.  
It's right next to a subway entrance so the pace of the restaurant ebbed and flowed with the coming and goings of the subway lines. I loved lunch and can't wait to go back to explore the grocery store. I can't imagine anything but great things. 
Here's a picture of Owen eating his soup in the corner alone. He preferred it that way. When he saw me take his picture he shouted, "You're ruining my soup, Mom!" It's the only picture I took inside the restaurant. 


about resilience

If the biggest complaint I have right now is pushing the boys 13 blocks to a gym so I can train for my half marathon indoors . . . If that's really my biggest complaint, then my life must be going pretty well. I could always take a cab. Or, even better, drop out of the race!  Here's Oscar at the park today. Tempeture: 17 degrees. As we were walking home, Owen requested that the makers bring us lunch. "You mean get food delivered right here?" Yes! "But how would they find us?" umm, Tell them we are between the dogs and the fence? Tempting.


mystery solved

She had the stomach flu. Now Owen and I have it. It reminds me of morning sickness. I can't even go into the kitchen. What's worse is that I worked out with a personal trainer yesterday. And I can't walk today. All I want to do is drink a ton of water to make my muscles to feel better, but I keep throwing up. I've worked out before so I'm not a stranger to muscle soreness. But this is worse than I've ever felt it. Perhaps it's the dehydration. Ella's lasted 24 hrs so I can't wait to get through this. Boowho. Here's a completely unrelated picture I found on my computer:


NYC makes sick days easier

I adore that just about every restaurant in the city delivers. To make things even easier, I order everything without talking to anyone or giving out my credit card info using an app called SeamlessWeb. It stores all my info and I just tap until I have everything I want to eat. And it includes a tip. Today I used SeamlessWeb to order bagels, chicken soup, and a Gatorade for my sick Ella Bean. I had to pick her up early from school because the nurse left me a message: She had a mild stomachache!!! I rushed over with the boys, signed her out, and caught a cab.  On the ride home, I ordered lunch. By the time we got in our door, took off our jackets, our food arrived 10 minutes later. The soup was hot, the gatorade cold. Ella ate a little bit and fell asleep for the rest of the day. I don't know what's up. She feels a little hot. Five years into motherhood and I still don't own a thermometer.


nyc is teaching me how to live a more beautiful, albeit fake, life

I was flattered when I got 2 emails from my friends today because both complimented the photos on my blog. They both wanted to know what apps I was using to make the pictures look cool. Perfect timing because I've been feeling like a hack for using apps so my photos look like they were taken with a Holga camera. Or Polaroid Instant film. Or some 1950's vintage camera. I wish I could take photos without working them to death with a digital pre-made filter.  But for now I like the ease of the photo apps and that's that. I use a mix of four photo apps: Camerabag, InfinicamHipstamatic, and NightCamera.  NightCamera is great because it has a timer option (see my Christmas photo) and a rapid fire option (see Owen 25 times). NightCamera has horrible reviews, but I think it's great. When the kids are at the park, I play with the different filters until I find one that I like best. When the filter is found and I like the photo, it's back to hitting refresh refresh refresh on Facebook.
Below is a photo that I took last Friday.  I used NightCamera to take all 25 shots, then used a filter from Infinicam called Document. After the 16th picture was shot, I started running out of ideas. So I made a monkey face. Then the sad clown face shows up for a while. Finally I ended it strong by smiling at an unknown object high in the sky! Always a good option.


NYC taught me not to be fooled

The only way to salvage a day filled with freezing rain is to go to Le Pain Quotidien, a cafe that is trying desperately not to look like a chain restaurant. There are 27 in NYC, 12 in CA, and even 3 in Kuwait. I could go on and on listing its random locations. Le Pain is obviously a chain when you look at the numbers. But it fooled me because it doesn't feel chainy. It's known for fresh breads and a communal table. The table is a gorgeous solid piece that splits the restaurant right down the middle. Today my kids and I shared the table with a woman drinking tea, two friends, and some other people at the far end. I usually order a waffle because it's fat sugar crystals make me happy. Today, however, I ate a carrot and raisin muffin. Loved. The kids ordered hot chocolate and shared a huge Manhattan chocolate chip cookie. What's special is the waiter presents them with steamed milk and a little pot of chocolate that they stir in themselves. They drink it up with their spoons and call it chocolate soup.  So because of all of its goodness I can overlook that it tricked me into thinking it was one of a kind the first 3 times I ate there. I remember thinking I was so lucky to have it 2 blocks from my house.  The good news is it won't be long before you are just as lucky as I am and a Le Pain is built in your town. Below is a picture of the boys spinning around the Please Wait to Be Seated sign.

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