Dec 15, 2013

In...Why...See...Too Busy, too crazy, too hot, too cold, too late, I'm sold...again, on NYC...

Damon had a conference in New York City so our whole family decided to tag along and take a bite out of the Big Apple. We had a fantastic time, but because of the extreme weather conditions and the general difficulty of wrangling three children and all their hats, scarves, and mittens, we took very few pictures.  I will therefore have to narrate our journey for the blog so that we don't forget just how we had so much fun. This idea takes me back to the the days of the Lost Diaries.  I am pretty sure that this is going to be more difficult than my recent blogging in which I rely heavily on pictures to tell my tale,  but without further ado, here we go. 

Damon left a day before the rest of us. We stayed behind so that Stella could attend a special program at school in which she and her class recited the Christmas story from Luke. They did a great job. I videoed it on my phone so maybe we'll get around to posting that one day.  The next morning Mawmaw and Pawpaw met us at 8 am and we hit the road to the airport in New Orleans.  We had a direct flight which was nice since we had three adults and three kids.  Usually we outnumber the kids so one person can be responsible for the baggage while everyone else grabs a kid.  Being without Damon definitely upped the level of difficulty, but I think we did a pretty good job of managing things. We made it to New York with all our people and belongings so I'm gonna mark that one in the success column.  When we landed at JFK we had a car waiting for us.  The driver was even holding one of those signs with my name on it, which I was robbed of the joy of actually seeing because I was preoccupied with kids and baggage and Mawmaw saw him first. Oh, well,  maybe I will get to experience that again in my life one day.  Anyway, we grabbed our luggage, bundled up the kids, and headed outside to the waiting SUV...where Pawpaw and I had the supreme joy of installing car seats for Cille and Watts in the arctic temperatures.  Finally we got on the road, only to sit in Baton Rouge times a thousand traffic on our way to our hotel in Times Square.  When we got there Damon had sandwiches waiting for us since we were famished from traveling all day with no chance to grab a bite. It was later than we had expected it to be, so after resting a while it was time to get dressed for our first Broadway show of the trip, Matilda.  I first became interested in this show when my friend Kelly bought tickets to it in London for her family.  After a little internet research I decided that it would be a great show for us as well.  Damon stayed behind with Watts and the rest of us went to the show.  May I just say, great find, Kelly, because Matilda is PURE MAGIC! It was a fantastic show for Cille's first Broadway experience.  Everyone in our group absolutely loved it.  I cannot say enough great things about this show.  If you have the chance to see Matilda, you must go.  We were on the second row and one of the characters was inches from Stella making eye contact with her during the show.  It was just a once in a lifetime kind of experience.   Even Pawpaw, who is not much for Broadway shows, said it was his favorite.  That is the highest praise that any show may have received in the history of forever. After the show, Mawmaw went to stay with Watts while Damon joined us for Virgil's barbecue across the street from our hotel.  The girls were running on empty, and both ended up having to be carried back to the hotel before the meal was over.  

The next morning we had to change hotels.  Because we booked our trip late, the conference hotel didn't have any rooms available for the weekend.  Lucky for us there was a new hotel opening across the street and we were able to get some rooms there.  We spent most of the morning getting ready for the day and packing up for the hotel swap.  Once that was done we headed over to Ellen's Stardust Diner.  Since we are avid Glee watchers, we wanted to visit the real diner like the one where Rachel, Santana, and Kurt work on Glee. The Stardust is it! As an added bonus, Ashley Wilking, our resident New York City gal, joined us for lunch.  I was Ashley's teacher and track coach back when she was a small town girl in LaPlace. Her mom took care of all three of my babies while I taught at LaPlace Elementary, and we've stayed close to her family throughout the years even though we don't get to see much of Ashley now that she's living in NYC and managing the headquarters of Under Armour there. It was so great to see her and have the chance to catch up.  We are so proud of Ashley and the young lady that she has become. We even snapped a couple of group photos outside the diner...


After lunch, we set out for Rockefeller Center to see the big Christmas Tree.  The camera was not a fan of the cold weather either, so these pictures aren't great, but you get the point.

After the tree we visited FAO Schwarz. This was a bad call on my part.  We were staying next door to Toys 'R Us and could easily have gone there, but I felt like FAO Schwarz was a more iconic New York destination and would be magical for the kids, plus we went to Toys 'R Us last time.  I read online that being greeted by the Toy Soldier at the door was a big thing.  When we walked in, the elderly toy soldier on duty was having some kind of fit of cold or hat malfunction, because he was basically stooped over fiddling with his hat and too busy to even notice us.  Inside, it was crowded and stuffy.  After peeling off our cold weather gear, we spent about an hour at the restrooms having everyone potty, changing Watts multiple times, and generally collecting ourselves before realizing that we needed to get back to the hotel soon to allow the kids time to rest before our show that night.  We rushed the girls up to the big piano, where they played for a few minutes, and then it was time to bundle up and rush back to the hotel for a nap.  The toy soldier on duty as we were leaving was much more solicitous, but he was actually a cowboy from Ohio, so it wasn't necessarily the authentic NYC magic that I was looking for.  Chalk this one in the mommy fail category.  (While this might not seem like such a terrible decision now, later in the story the toy store debacle will make a return, so stay tuned.)

After a short nap, it was time for some high flying fun with our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  We had tickets to Spider-Man:Turn Off the Dark.  We chose this show because it will be closing soon and because we all love superheroes. We originally bought four tickets, and ended up having to purchase an additional ticket because everyone wanted to go.  Mawmaw kept Watts. We fed the girls a quick bite in the room before the show since it had been a while since lunch.  As a show, Spider-man was not that great.  The songs weren't awesome, the story was pretty much your average Spider-Man tale, and the set and costumes were very cartoonish, which I got the concept of but just didn't like.  In spite of all this, we all really enjoyed the show, and let me tell you why.  The cast of this show did the best job of anyone that I have ever seen of playing to the children in the audience.  We were on the front row of this show and several of the characters interacted with the girls.  When the spider came down to bite Peter Parker, some of the high school boy characters came over to Cille and pretended that she was the spider.  She was so confused! She told me, "I am not the spider! It's over there on Peter Parker!" The Green Goblin could have been absolutely terrifying for our girls, but the actor made it a point to make eye contact with them and let them see that he was a normal man in a mask.  He even came into the audience right by Stella, stole a Sour Patch Kid from the boy sitting behind us, and proceeded to eat it on stage.  One of the flying Spider-Mans waved at the girls and gave them a thumbs up right before he flew out over our heads.  During curtain call Peter Parker and Mary Jane both made eye contact with and waved at our girls.  It was pretty much like being at a private character greeting at Disney.  So even though the show was not great, the experience was because the cast was so accessible.  I really should send them a thank you note. 

The next morning we woke up and looked out our window to see this...
Snow! The kids were so excited.  Me, not so much.
We again spent the entire morning getting ready for the day. By the time we hit the streets we were starving and it was lunchtime. We tried to visit a famous New York City style pizza parlor, but there was a 45 minute wait, so we decided to grab something a little bit quicker.  You pretty much need reservations for all of the good restaurants around Times Square, and by the time we got around to making them, many of them were booked up through the New Year.  The fast food type pizza that we had around the corner was sufficient to stop our tummies from growling, and let us be on our way faster so that we could have more fun.  We took the subway over to the American Museum of Natural History.  This was my must see location for this trip. Stella loves the movie Night at the Museum, so I thought she would really enjoy seeing the museum. Let me go back to the subway for a moment; Damon kept trying to leave Pawpaw in the subway.  Every time we would go through the turnstile, Pawpaw would end up stuck on the other side. We finally found out that only 4 people can use the same metro card at a time and this information helped.  We only had 4 people that needed to pay fare but we kept accidentally using the card on Stella or swiping it twice or something, because Pawpaw was left out in the cold several times.  On the plus side, my father in law is now a pro at reloading metro cards if you need help with that.  

Watts fell asleep on the subway ride to the museum so he napped for a while on a bench while Damon bought tickets and checked coats.  While Watts was resting, someone told Stella that you could get hot chocolate at the museum.  That became her main goal immediately.  In spite of this, we forced her to appreciate the exhibits.  


This actual slice of a giant sequoia was amazing! This section was cut twelve feet from the base of the trunk!

The girls got to try their hand at some holiday origami.  Stella made a Christmas tree and they both made candy canes...

This gigantic dugout canoe is the largest of its kind still in existence...






Pawpaw's favorite exhibit was the mammals of North America...

Stuffed bears are the only ones my kids are allowed to be near for future reference, grandparents...

Watts did not care much about the exhibits.   He did, however, enjoy beating two empty water bottles on the guard rails and getting attention from the other museum patrons for it...




The grand entrance was amazing...


Roar!

If you look closely you can see a herd of elephants behind me and my little buddy.  Our family usually sounds like a herd of elephants coming, so we could relate...


Doesn't it look like this alligator is about to bite Watts's head clean off?






Cille was amazed by the dinosaur bones and was giving me a very animated description of them when I snapped this picture...
Stella was getting pretty worn out and desperate for that hot chocolate...
Even though this is a real dinosaur bone, Pawpaw saw no problem with letting Watts use it as a riding toy. We Pourciaus are nothing if not respectful of historic artifacts...
See what I mean?
Not sure who was more worn out in this one...
Definitely not Watts. He was going strong...



The girls finally got their hot chocolate on the way out of the museum...

Cille fell asleep on the subway ride back to the room, and we managed to coax Stella into taking a very short nap also before the show.  It was Damon and Mawmaw's turn to accompany the girls, and our grand finale show was Annie, which will also be closing its Broadway run on January 5th.  Pawpaw and I stayed behind to watch Watts and the Heisman trophy presentation, which was pretty neat because it was being broadcast live from right down the street.  I did not attend Annie so I will let Damon take over the blog for a moment to tell you about the show and the rest of the night.  Damon?

We were all pretty tired and running late, as usual, so our trip to see Annie was nothing short of a mad dash down Broadway. As much of this is normal for us, it would not have been very worthy of mention except that we encountered the heaviest snowfall of our trip on this walk. In addition, because some of the previously accumulated snow and ice was now melting, the streets were largely covered with slush. While Cille generally has what I would consider above average balance for her age, her footwear, pink cowboy boots, made it nearly impossible for her to walk.  From what I was later told, there were places where she would simply stand still and allow me to drag her across the ice, almost like she was skiing.

We arrived at Annie in time to reach our seats before the opening curtain, but just barely. The show was wonderful and the sets were so grand that even from our seats in the mezzanine, it was easy to feel immersed in the world of Annie. (Scarlett says, "This is not Cille's best shot, but since it is a technically illegal photo taken by the usher at a Broadway show, we'll post it.  Sorry, Cille.")
After the show, I had hoped to squeeze one last thing into the trip - the ferris wheel at Toys-R-Us in Times Square. The kids had really enjoyed it on our last visit, and it wasn't too far out of our way, so it was an easy decision. We bundled everyone up and set out in that direction. The street conditions had worsened while we enjoyed Annie. Now, much of the slush remained, but there was far more water (ice cold water, mind you) on the streets. Our pace of travel was slower than expected, but we arrived at Toys-R-Us in what I thought was time, so we headed in and went downstairs to board. Despite the fact that children were still boarding, the final tickets had already been sold, so my attempts to talk to everyone involved were unsuccessful at getting our kids on the ferris wheel. Cille was unfazed and I'm not even sure that I would have been able to persuade her to ride had I been able to get an agreement in place. Stella, on the other hand, was crushed. So was I.

Refusing to let the trip come to a close on such a sour note, I called my favorite diner on the planet and begged for a table. They agreed and we trudged back out in the cold for a walk of several blocks. Unfortunately, after a few blocks, the weather went from bad to worse as the light snowfall became a drizzle of rain. Stella and Cille were not dressed for rain so we really picked up the pace and tried to get them inside as quickly as possible. In retrospect, this may not have been the best decision as many places that had been frozen were not any longer and on more than a few occasions, I (and I'm sure everyone else) stepped right through what looked like snowy-slush and into an ankle deep puddle of ice cold water.

Mawmaw called me crazy and a few other things, I'm sure, but we finally made it...and boy was it worth the trip. On my first night in town, I had also visited this diner and talked with one of the waitresses, who was also named Stella. When I told her that I had brought our Stella over to see them, she sat down next to the girls and talked to both of them for several minutes. At the end of the conversation, she asked our Stella what her favorite song was and, just like any 5-year old, she immediately responded with "Castle on a Cloud" from Les Miserables. Starduster Stella smiled and told her that she thought they could handle that one. A few songs later, one of the other Stardusters stood on the balcony, looked right at our Stella, and dedicated the song to her by name. She absolutely killed it. She was probably in her twenties, but sang it with all the innocence of a child. It was beautiful. When she was done and our delicious hot chocolates were nearly empty, she came over to the table and sat to talk with Stella. Over the course of their conversation, she explained that "Castle on a Cloud" was also special to her because she sang it on Broadway for a few years as Cosette!

Given that we had our exclamation point on the trip, it was raining hard, well after midnight, and we had an early flight, we decided to get a taxi back to the room. Pawpaw came inches (that's right, less than a foot) from becoming someone's hood ornament, but other than that, it was a pleasant ride back to the room.

Thanks, Damon.  Scarlett here, taking back the reins.  While the rest of the family was enjoying freezing rain and hot chocolate, Watts and I were snug as bugs in rugs in our warm, dry hotel room bed.  We didn't even know that Pawpaw left to go meet the rest of our crazy family at the diner.  I should have invited Pawpaw to share his side of the story, since his version is much more interesting than Damon's recollection of the events.  Anyway, we were up SUPER early the next morning to throw the last few items into our suitcases, bundle up one last time, and head down to the car that would take us to the airport.  If you thought we were fancy on the way in, prepare to be amazed.  We actually had a limo to take us back to the airport!  It sounds obnoxious and pretentious, but it was actually the only vehicle the car service offered that had enough seating capacity for our family of 7 and our luggage.  It was still fun to pretend like we were important, though.  Our flight back was direct and uneventful and when we arrived back in Louisiana Mawmaw Shirley had hot gumbo waiting, which was just what the doctor ordered after all those frosty days in NYC.  Although we had a fantastic trip to New York that was even better than our last, I vote that we take our next bite out of the Big Apple in the summer.

No comments :