Santaland: The Big Disappointment

Macy's Santaland: The place I almost lost my faith in NYC and all things merry and bright. I have a picture to remind me never to go back.

The first year I lived in NYC, I took the kids to Macy's Santaland. I remember having fond memories of that place. It felt like the quintessential NYC activity. I think we went twice because I liked it so much. I wanted to get those earnest feelings I had for NYC back again this year because I've been growing impatient with city life lately. I figured if I relived the activities that made me fall in love with the city in the first place, I would stop texting Rob, "I'm so over NYC."

So I insisted on taking the kids again to Macy's Santaland, even if it meant waiting in a 3 hr line. I was going to relive my glory years in the city. Anyway, what better way to spend a Saturday? Forced to be together as a family so we could chat about all sorts of things. And the pay off! A visit with the real Santa.

I tried to stay positive, but the crowds and endless line through the guts of Macy's made it impossible to stay starry eyed about the whole process. All the hallways with gray walls behind the "Employee Only" signs are depressing. Plus the cheerful elves guiding the lines were so patronizing, "Aww! Come on! Smile guys! You're about to meet Santa! Keep it moving kids!" Stop being so Meg Ryan perky. It makes me infuriated.

When we finally got to Santa, he had the weirdest eyes. The scariest I've ever seen. He asked the kids one question, "And what is one thing you would like for Christmas?" and shoved them off. I'm sure the Santas are instructed to only spend 45 seconds with each visit, so it wasn't his fault, but how about one more question Santa? The whole thing felt like a soulless cattle call.

And then I saw the picture the elves took. Oh, wow. These are terrible, I thought. Santa's eyes are freaking me out and his hand is covering Ella's face. I could feel myself about to cry. The whole event was not what I remember about Santaland in years past and the awful picture was validating my whole displeasure with NYC.

The woman dressed in an elf costume was nice enough to explain that we could take the picture again if we wished. I first wanted to know if it would be the same Santa.

"You know, " I whispered, "Because my kids are older and they will know the difference. Is that possible?" I asked her.

And she tells me, "Oh, we only have 1 Santa."


"No you have like 15. All in those rooms back there. You're kidding me, right?"

"Nope, just 1 Santa!"

Uh. I hate being lied to. It made me want to come clean to my boys right then and there. He's not real! Don't make me ever do this again! I'm sorry for lying to you all these years. There's nothing worse than a liar, even if it is for your own good!

But first, I had to buy the picture. I love how it reflects everything I hate about the city. The crazy people, not enough room, the forced happiness. It almost made me lose hope, until I looked back at the picture I took a few hours before we saw Santa. The wind in my kid's hair, their command of the sidewalk, and seriousness of it all. It's everything I love about the city. It totally restores my faith in NYC and all things merry and bright. I can live here a little longer if it means more moments like these:

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Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Morning in Central Park

The day after I read the picture book version of Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening to my kids, it happened to snow. And while taking a walk in the woods is nearly impossible in NYC, the boys and I came close as we ventured into the North Woods in Central Park. It gets pretty wild up there.

When we got to the top of a hill, per the boys request or my suggestion or my insistence, I recited what I could remember from Robert Frost's poem. I must have memorized it in high school or college because the first 6 lines came back to me. It was exhilarating. I felt brilliant. I repeated what I knew again. Loudly. Then looked up the rest on my iPhone.

We continued down to the park all the way to The Pool to check out the ducks. It was so satisfying to bring a book to life, yet still be within walking distance to a Dunkin Donuts. 3 hot chocolates with whip cream and 2 donuts later we were ready to do it again. But we had promises to keep. And miles to go before we had to pick Ella up from basketball practice. And miles to go before we had to pick Ella up from basketball practice. Or something like that.
When it came to the part in the poem about the only sound is downy flake, I asked the boys what they could hear.
Our woods had a soothing mixture of birds, the crunchy snow beneath our boots, and firetruck sirens. 

I just got the updated amount raised for Mohammed's Sneaker Project
So far the total amount raised is $1500! Incredible. 
And in case you're curious, I didn't delete any comments from the post. 
There was no need. You guys are so kind. Thank you.


The Gift of SNEAKERS!

Last year Mohammed, my 16-year-old cousin, raised money for homeless kids in New York City. With help from family and friends, he raised over $1,000 and gave brand new sneakers to 5 kids living in shelters. He reached out to me recently and asked if I would spread the word on my blog. Honestly, I was hesitant.

While I contributed to Mohammed's fund last year, I had a hard time understanding why designer sneakers would be his gift of choice. Couldn't he have found something more necessary? Get them shoes, sure, but for the price of one pair of Michael Jordan 9s, he could have bought a backpack, jacket, shoes, and a Christmas dinner for the kid's family. They are homeless! They should be happy with any shoes. I recently asked him to explain a little more about his project. In response, he wrote:
Two years ago, I was homeless. I lived in a shelter in Harlem close to my friends and peers. They didn’t know I was homeless, and I was often made fun of because of the way I looked. I know what it’s like to feel embarrassed about living in a shelter and worrying that someone would notice that I wore the same clothes almost every day. The constant burden in the minds of homeless kids is their outward appearance: Are clothes neat and clean? Do my shoes look new?
After reading his letter, I found out about Dasani, the 11-year-old girl whose life as a homeless child is being profiled in this New York Times series this week. It's amazing to see how similar her feelings are to my cousin's. The article states:
Dasani tells herself that brand names don’t matter. She knows such yearnings will go unanswered, so better not to have them. But once in a while, when by some miracle her mother produces a new pair of Michael Jordan sneakers, Dasani finds herself succumbing to the same exercise: She wears them sparingly, and only indoors, hoping to keep them spotless. It never works. 
Later in the article, Dasani describes how Christmas gifts are scarce: coloring books, a train set, stick-on tattoos, one doll for each girl. When asked what she would do to change the world, she said, "I would give people presents, like kids who don't get presents by parents. I could give them presents with my own money out of my pocket."

I find it inspiring that the first year Mohammed got out of the homeless shelter, he worked hard to do just that. Here's how he describes it:
Last year, with the help from family and friends, I made a few kids stop worrying about this for a while. I gave brand new sneakers to 5 kids. These sneakers were their only Christmas presents and were worth far more than their actual cost. They brought a peace of mind and a great deal of comfort for kids who are trying to focus on more than just their living situation.  
I’m trying help kids check off that one Christmas gift they really want and ease some of their burdens for awhile. Please help by giving again. Let’s make a few kids feel better about themselves this year. Your donation will help homeless kids who might not receive any other gifts this holiday season.  
Let’s make a difference in their lives, and one day they will do the same for others. Click on this link to donate through PayPal.
Thanks for your help. 
Good Luck Mohammed! Thank you for giving me a glimpse into your life and sharing your story. Sorry I didn't understand the mission of your sneaker project at first. I get it now. You've taught me so much over the past two years. Love you.

Here's some pictures of shoes and the kids Mohammed helped last year:


31 Delicious Things You Need To Eat In NYC This Winter

BuzzFeed recently posted a list of 31 Delicious Things You Need To Eat In NYC This Winter. While the official first day of winter doesn't start until the 21st, I'm plowing my way through the list now. I've done 1.
Don't be fooled. Owen's mocking me in every picture, as he should.
Beyond the hot chocolate, the cookies are great too. PS That pie costs 1 million dollars. I've never tried it. :(
Yellowish pictures of food are my speciality.  
WTF is this photo of Owen. Who cares. It's in focus. 
FYI: boxed water is better, but boxed hot chocolate isn't (below). Avoid it. 
We're ready for our next adventure. I took this picture on a crowded sidewalk. I didn't feel stupid at all. Not one single bit. 

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Christmas Cards: Better Late Than Never

That felt good. I finally stuffed these holiday cards Pinhole Press sent me last year. We basically look the same, except for a few improvements. Ella has slightly more teeth. Rob got new frames. And I bought a curling iron. Other than that, this is still our family. And it might be next years family too if I don't buy some stamps and drop it off in a mailbox soon.

Update: Just noticed Pinhole Press is offering a 20% off on holiday cards with code: Cards20. I'm tempted to get started on next years cards now. It's never too soon. Or too late ;)
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Christmas Music Showdown

Oh man. If I have to hear Rob sing Dolly Parton and Kenny Roger's hit song Christmas to Remember one more time, I might go crazy. It got to the point this morning that he didn't realize he was singing it. Putting on his socks. "You make this a Christmas to remember!" Looking for his hat. "Oh ohhhhhh!" Even humming it while he brushed his teeth. Just the chorus. Over and over again. Why couldn't he have picked any of Mariah Carey's fabulous Christmas songs to be his favorite? I couldn't blame him for that. But Dolly and Kenny? The worst. 15 more days of this nonsense.


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Christmas 2008

Just found this picture in the depths of my computer and immediately sent it off to CVS to get an 8x10 print. Those days were rough. Looking at this picture, I really have nothing to complain about now. Hooray for the aging process. God bless all Santas, toddlers, and older sisters this Christmas season. 
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