Despite the spotting scare, cold weather, pregnancy fatigue, and a cranky Sam, we had a pretty good trip to New York. We did a lot more than I had expected.
We arrived mid-afternoon on Friday, and it was not raining or snowing, so we checked into our tiny hotel room, examined the room for bed bugs, unpacked, and then hit the town. We decided to go to FAO Schwarz, which we skipped last time because of the holiday crowds. We took the subway and ended up right at the horse-drawn carriages outside Central Park. We had missed that last time, too, for the same reason, so we took the opportunity. Of course, Sam loved it. Central Park looks strange all covered in snow. In fact, all of New York looked strange to me. Walking was a big hassle because of the puddles and slush everywhere. But the carriage ride was a really nice way to begin the trip. Afterwards, we got a hot dog from a street vendor, always one of my favorite things to do.
FAO Schwarz was okay, but not as grand as I had remembered it from when I visited as a child. Sam loved the Big Piano, but I don't remember much else that wowed her. We told her she could buy one thing and I was hoping she'd pick out something new and interesting, but she wasn't drawn to anything in particular so we ended up getting her a Fancy Nancy book. Somehow, we've raised a four-year-old who is completely oblivious to the idea of shopping and buying toys. She had a real hard time making a list of things she wanted for Christmas, too. Maybe we don't let her watch enough commercials.
We had dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant, which was so-so, and then called it a day. We had to do my progesterone injections twice a day in that tiny hotel room, which was a challenge, but not really all that big of a deal. I'm just glad we took the train and didn't have to carry all those needles on an airplane. I suppose we would have had to put them in a checked bag, and that would have been very scary. A lost bag could have meant a lost pregnancy.
The next morning, I discovered that our hotel was committing borderline fraud by claiming that the room had a shower. I suppose it's common in Manhattan, but there was just no water pressure at all on the twelfth floor. Lesson learned: from now on, request a room on a lower floor.
We had a date with Mary Poppins at 2pm, so we decided to hit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the morning, have lunch there, and then head back to Broadway. We took the subway, but ended up having to walk a long way to get to the Met. Adam and I took turns carrying Sam for parts of the walk. I discovered the spotting when we arrived. Maybe it was all the walking, but I don't really think so. Regardless, the rest of the day is kind of vague to me, since all I could think about was the next trip to the bathroom. I liked the Met, but we didn't stay long. The building itself was pleasant, and we enjoyed another view of snow-covered Central Park through the floor to ceiling windows.
I also completely accidentally came across a sculpture called The Sun Vow, which is featured in Luc Travers' book, Touching the Art. After reading his book, this sculpture has a very personal meaning to me, and it was a thrill and a joy to stumble upon it and get to see the real thing instead of just photos. Unfortunately, most of the paintings we wanted to see were packed away in rows of glass display cases, while the gallery was being renovated. I can't wait to go back again in the future to see more.
We decided to take a cab to get back to Broadway, since I was trying to take it easy. For Sam, we used the Ride Safer Travel Vest I mentioned before. We strapped it on her, then buckled her into the cab. It's not the easiest thing to do, especially over a winter coat, but it really didn't take that long, and it's simple enough so that we felt very comfortable that we had hooked it up right and Sam was safe. We ended up using the vest about four times on the trip, and even Adam, who was skeptical about it being worth the cost of $120, was convinced that it was a great investment. (We even used the vest again this past weekend at home, to allow Sam to ride in the rental car her grandparents were driving on their visit. It was much easier than putting one of her car seats in their car.)
Samantha loved Mary Poppins, and I think Adam did too. I thought they did a really good job with it, but I'm just not much of a Mary Poppins fan, so it didn't thrill me. Also, I was tense about not being able to go to the bathroom for an hour and a half at a time. But still, if you have kids, I would definitely recommend the show. The singing and dancing were wonderful, and it was visually beautiful without being over-the-top flashy like I suspect some other shows are. My favorite part was when the statues in the park came to life and danced.
After that, there was just time for dinner, which we had an an Irish pub near our hotel. It was quite good, but that ended up being the best restaurant of the trip, unfortunately.
All we had planned for the next day, Sunday, was lunch with Harry Binswanger and Jean Moroney, so we decided to rest in the morning and do the Statue of Liberty in the afternoon. The weather was nice (sunny with a high of 34), so this was our chance, and we all really wanted to see it.
Lunch with the Binswangers was a highlight of the trip for me. We just had a really nice conversation, and they gave me some ideas for a project I'm working on. Sam got to meet their two cats, and anything that involves cats is a hit with Sam.
Afterwards, we took a cab to Battery Park and braved the cold on the ferry to Liberty Island. Before we got on, though, we had to upgrade our winter gear, so Sam got a pair of gloves in the official color of New York, black, and I got a tacky touristy knit hat with "I heart NY" on it. Adam acted embarrassed, but I loved wearing it. What's wrong with being a tourist?
The boat ride wasn't bad because we were in a completely enclosed area and there was even heat. We watched Lady Liberty grow larger and larger in the windows. Sam said, "Wow, she is humongous!" Adam said, "She sure is. And so is the idea that she represents." I told Sam the four-year-old version of the meaning of the statue. I told her that, a long time ago, no matter where you lived in the world, you were bossed around. No matter where you went, there was somebody telling you what to do. You were not free. But then people came to our country and made it a place where nobody was allowed to boss anyone else around. We are all free to do what we want here. And the news spread all over the world, and lots of people started to come here, because nobody likes to be bossed around. And another country thought we were so great that they gave us this statue to celebrate the fact that we have freedom. And that's what "liberty" means - freedom. So she is called the Statue of Liberty.
We walked all the way around Liberty Island and bought a cheap replica of the statue in the gift shop, and then we were ready to head back. It was really cold. I got a few good pictures of the Manhattan skyline, but downtown still makes me sad. We did see the beginnings of Freedom Tower. I think it's about halfway done. I hope that it will raise the skyline once again.
Before we got a cab, we picked up a couple of hot dogs and fed the buns to the pigeons. Of course, the pigeons were another hit with Sam. Adam, having lived in New York, just sees them as flying rats, but I don't mind them. At least, I didn't, until they started swooping down over my head from behind, trying to grab the hot dog right out of my hands! They actually bumped into my head as they made their passes. It was annoying, but also kind of cool.
We had a disaster of a dinner that night. I need to get on Yelp and trash that place.
The next day was Adam's workshop, so he hung out with us in the morning but then was gone for most of the day. Sam and I went to Toys-R-Us in Times Square. I think it's even better than FAO Schwarz. It has a real Ferris Wheel inside the store! Sam loved that. She was too scared to get a hug from Geoffrey the Giraffe, but I could see that she was less terrified of the enormous animal that she used to be of things like that. We spent about an hour browsing, and Sam's favorite toy was Thomas the Train. That's the second time she's been drawn to Thomas, but I think it's just too late to go down that expensive road with her. What a deprived child.
Despite the cold weather, we had ice cream in the store before heading out. We walked the fourteen blocks back to the hotel, stopping for more hot dogs for lunch on the way. Sam griped about the walking on this trip a lot more than last time. I think she's gotten lazy. But she did it. It helped to count down the blocks left to go: ten, nine, eight... Sam is very much into numbers right now.
When we got back, Sam had her first nap of the trip. She was really getting cranky by this point, and we had no plans for the rest of the day, so things started degenerating from there on out. She and I had dinner at the Irish pub again, but otherwise we were stuck in the hotel room since we had no energy for much else. The room was so small that TV was really the only option. My iPad was useless for movies because of the insanely stupid iTunes movie rental system, where you have to download the movie on to your regular computer, then transfer it to your iPad (which all takes quite a long time), and then you get a rented movie for 30 days, but only 24 hours after your hit "play" for the first time. So I only had time to put one movie on the thing, and it was only available for the train ride there. I'm really not much of a fan of the iPad. My Droid is better in every way, except, of course, it's only got the tiny phone screen.
So anyway, the next day, we woke up too late and were too tired to do anything, and our train was departing at 2pm, so we were stuck in the hotel room again. By this time, Sam was done, and she was being a complete bitch to both of us, constantly. It was really quite unbearable. She couldn't take a sip of water without spilling the whole bottle, she wouldn't eat much, and she wouldn't cooperate. I ended up really yelling at her, twice. I later apologized, but even now, I only half-regret it. It shocked her into tears, which stopped the yelling for a while, and even made her complacent enough to walk alongside me, holding my hand. I'm not sure if we could have gotten to the train station any other way.
We also resorted to punishment during this trip. Sam had actually been bitchy to us for most of the trip, just not as bad as that last day. There was no escaping her, since we were all stuck together in the tiny hotel room. At home, if she can't stop herself from screaming at us, she gets sent to her room, or we lock ourselves in our own room. She can scream all she wants as long as it's not hurting anyone else. But here, there was no way to get away from her, and she was literally hurting our ears with the volume of her screams, besides just making us insane with irritation. So we started taking away TV time. We couldn't take it away for the trip or we would be stuck with even less to entertain her, so we took away time when we returned home. She ended up losing five days of TV. I don't think that punishment had any effect on her behavior at all, but again, even after the fact, I can't think of a single thing we could have done to improve the situation. More naps would have helped, but here's what we would have missed: the carriage ride, FAO Schwartz, Mary Poppins, and the Statue of Liberty. I suppose if we could get our asses out of bed earlier, we could do things in the morning, have time for a short nap, and then do things in the afternoon, but we don't seem to be capable of that. It's easier in the summer, when days are longer. But a nap from 1-3pm rules out almost any afternoon activity during the winter.
But in the end, it was all worth it. It was a good trip, and we did a lot of the things that we missed last time. The first morning at the hotel, Sam's first words upon awakening were "I love New York." And when we got home, one of the first things she said was, "I want to go back." Me too, Sam.