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Posts tagged ‘Travel with Kids’

If you can make it there…10 things to see and do with kids in NYC (and Brooklyn) at Scary Mommy!

Hot chocolate at BAM: better than Cats

Hot chocolate at BAM: better than Cats

Why not head over to Scary Mommy and check out The Scary Mommy Travel Guide for my recommendations for 1o Things to See and Do with Kids in NYC? I’ve included some classic sights, some sights more off the beaten path, and omitted the time when C had a screaming tantrum all the way to Rockefeller Center from my sister’s apartment and then fell asleep when we got to the tree. Also omitted how one of my favorite ways to see New York is sans-kids, with wine, and the boys tucked up at my parents’ house in Long Island.

UPDATE: I’ve also written 10 (More!) Things to Do with Kids in Brooklyn - because, you know, Manhattan is so limited.

English: Looking north across 8th Avenue and 1...

The old neighborhood: Park Slope’s 14th Regiment Armory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have had so many fun visits to New York with our Manhattan-raised cousins, and though we live deep in Red Sox Nation, I’m raising C and T to think of the city not as a tourist destination, but as another hometown. Because NYC gets all the better on repeat visits. We’ve been the the Met several times, and tested the patience of security guards in many a wing:

This is very old! In the Greek and Roman Galleries at the Met.

This is very old! A couple of busters in the Greek and Roman Galleries at the Met.

Also featured: the Intrepid, the food of the Lower East Side, and Central Park, which could be an entry unto itself. And in fair Brooklyn: the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Prospect Park, and what’s Brooklyn without decent pizza? I couldn’t resist mentioning my old joint near my apartment in Park Slope: Pizza Plus. Whether that nice lady with the bouffant still works there I leave to you to discover.

Thank you to Scary Mommy for including me. I really like this site, and founder Jill Smokler’s refreshing nonjudgmental, honest, and very funny take on parenting. I wholeheartedly subscribe to the Scary Mommy Manifesto!

So, go to NYC with your kids! If they can behave there, they can behave anywhere!

(By the way, when I was researching this online, it reminded me of how many of our favorite NYC sites (like the Intrepid, and many areas of Brooklyn) are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. So because I love New York, can I ask you to please join in and help the neighborhoods come back: at The Red Hook Initiative, Robin HoodAmeriCares, or the American Red Cross. Thank you!)

An Ode to the Dreamcrusher

[This post was featured on Freshly Pressed as part of the Daily Post Challenge!]

It’s funny that I should be writing a tribute to my car. I have never cared about cars, nor found any romance in them. I didn’t even bother to learn to drive until I was 19, which sounds like sacrilege for an American teenager, but back then I went to school in New York and never intended to leave. I thought I would take the M4, and then the F, and work my way through the alphabet for the rest of my days. Now I live in the Boston suburbs with two children, and when I told my five-year-old that his Manhattan cousin takes the bus and the subway everywhere, he said, “What is he, French?” I don’t know what happened.

Now, too far from the diminutive Boston T, with its colonial-sounding stop names (like Alewife and Quincy Adams, and don’t forget Wonderland), we all ride around in another bit of alphabet soup, our Honda CR-V, and it is in praise of this car, which we call the Dreamcrusher, that I write.

The Dreamcrusher.

Half the people in this town must drive CR-Vs. The other half drive Subaru Outbacks (one of which we also own). Though I try not to meet the gaze of a passing driver in an identical navy blue car, I don’t really mind this type of conformity. For me, car choice is not where I choose to express my individuality. I don’t want to turn any heads as I drive down the street; I don’t put on bumper stickers (COEXIST!); I don’t even fix all the dings I’ve received in the nursery school parking lot (none of which were my fault, in case any insurers or my husband is reading this).

We chose the car to get from place to place safely; to have enough trunk space to tote groceries and a stroller; and not have to worry about a temperamental engine that might require service in the middle of any given hectic week. Which is what I guess every CR-V driver wants. They are probably, like me, in their thirties, with young children, and care that the passenger door opens to 90 degrees so you can haul a car seat out more than that it only has four cylinders. I don’t even know what I’d do with two extra cylinders. Route 2 is not the Nurburgring, though people drive as though it is.

My husband and I started calling the car Dreamcrusher after watching the CR-V’s latest the ad campaign. Open any Real Simple magazine, and you’ll see a pleasing two-page spread, featuring a little vignette about some guy who’s about to get married wants to tick x, y, and z off his bucket list (in the ad they call it a “leap list” – ie, things to do before you make the leap to marriage or children). There’s also one about some nice young lady who wants to do ever so much before she has children. These hopeful types dream of backpacking in Yosemite, learning to fly, starting a garage band…the usual prosaic stuff that marks youthful accomplishment prior to settling down. The ads are meant to say: “There’s so much in life yet to do! This car will take you there!”

But anyone who is seriously contemplating buying a CR-V can read the subtext:

“It’s too late to buy that Mini, or the Jeep with no doors. It’s not practical now. I’m about to make the leap from the corner bar to my couch every night, so I might as well get it over with and get the boring family car. I can tell myself I can always throw a drum kit in the back, but I’d have to move all those reusable grocery bags I keep forgetting to reuse and the portable potty. The garage will house a Cozy Coupe now, not a band. Let’s face it; if I haven’t done it yet, it’s not going to happen in these last months of pregnancy. My dreams are officially crushed.”

Your new roadie van.

Why do you think Honda chose Matthew Broderick to front their new ads? An actor who, even in squidgy middle age, is still Ferris Bueller, still embodies that young American vigor, the spirit that tells you you can do anything, and then you do. Just take the Ferrari keys and go. But look at him now. He’s not that guy anymore, and neither are you. But I see him, with salt-and-pepper hair, and his shirttails hanging out hopelessly, and I think, I’m OK with that. Where do I sign? No, I don’t need a moonroof.

Matthew Broderick

The Ferrari’s been crashed. (Photo credit: nick step)

I like the ads. They’re not lying to me. They are letting me down easy. They’re giving me a little wink toward my past, and a reminder that my present and future is not about me, it’s about my boys, and their dreams. The places I’ll take them. In a car with five-star crash test whatever and side airbags. So Honda, for that, danke schoen.

And now, in spite of the CR-V’s ubiquitity, the Dreamcrusher has become a microcosm for our own particular family life. There are the scrapes where the two-year-old threw a rock at the bumper (now you know, Dad), the Wiggles and the Guided by Voices discs that alternate in the CD player, and the Matchbox cars tucked into every available pocket. The sippy cup of sour milk under the seat. The Saint Anthony card from my grandmother’s funeral watching over us from the dash. Fourteen half-full wipe containers, and just as many empty sunscreen and Purell bottles. Sand from five different beaches. A Star Wars book I held out the window, threatening to chuck it if a certain someone didn’t calm down. A world of lost Lego.

Well, actually, not anymore. Somehow I felt that if I cleaned up our dirty family car, and organized it with color-coded pouches for every eventual necessity, that my whole life would feel more orderly and calm as well. So a week or so ago I took the car to be professionally cleaned. In the cool morning, with fall in the air, I pulled out the car seats. It was like when Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vault. Remember all that dirt that fell out of that thing? That’s how many Goldfish crumbs were under those seats. I hoped that saint card on the dash wasn’t a secret portal to my late Italian grandmother‘s soul, because if she could have seen the carpet of bright orange nightmare that was under there, any protection she might have sent me from on high would be revoked. Oh, the shame.

Now, it’s September. We’ve said goodbye to the beach, we’re getting ready for school (which we can walk to, thankfully). As I take the Dreamcrusher to the car wash to vacuum out the last bits of summer, I think back to when I was little, when my Dad drove us in his red 1966 Corvette down the causeway to the beach near where we lived in Long Island. I, the oldest, sat between the seats, with one sister on the floor, the other in my mother’s lap. He’d point out rabbits on the roadside as we sped along to the oceanfront, the salty wind whipping our hair. Those days we’ll never see again. Mainly because my parents would be arrested if they put all those kids in a car without restraints.

But thinking of those days reminded me how much romance there is in our cars after all. They don’t have to be red and screaming, but whatever they are, our cars do more than drive us from the supermarket to the playground to karate and home again. They represent the open road, the conveyance of our dreams, all the things we want for our families: vacations we’ll never forget, graduations, visits to friends and family, unexpected adventures. The Dreamcrusher will take us there. And when our kids grow up, God willing, we’ll take out the car seats and the potty and have room again for the drum kit, or the camping gear, or a Metrocard - all those silly youthful dreams that took a backseat to what would be our best dreams. But hopefully we’ll have a new car by then.

Some slapdash notes on cycling sideburns and ferry menaces while I have five…you know

“There are 104 days to summer vacation,” Gawd help us, and it’s been harder than usual to fit in time to write, what with all the no school for C and having to take the kids outside to do stuff, rather than just have them watch Phineas and Ferb dream up fun summer activities on TV. Never mind the fact that I’ve been spending any free time I have watching the Tour de France (Allez Jens! Allez Chava!). Hold on, I just need to go and examine some Droids fashioned from Duplo. [...] I’m back. They were nice.

T is sleeping, and C is busy playing “Cowboy Lasso,” a game he “downloaded to his brain” (AKA, is playing using actual, not electronic, toys while running around screaming). Actually, I stand corrected: he tells me it’s actually “Cowboy and Cowgirl Lasso.” Very good. That media training I bought him for his fourth birthday was totally worth it.

I just finished watching Stage 11 of the Tour on my phone whilst tidying up the kitchen, so here are a few notes on that and other things to keep my blog going while I am trying to find time to devise some more thoughtful posts. Which I’m afraid won’t come until camp starts again, and the cycling ends, and before the Olympics begin. So basically never. Priorities.

Tour Coiffures. I am no expert on professional cycling, and while there is a lot to say about this incredible Tour, I hardly feel qualified to say much at all online. But I am qualified to make smart-a*s remarks. So. Bradley Wiggins. Much respect. Allez Wiggo and all that. Every time I’ve seen him mount a bike this season my first thought is, “this guy is not kidding around, is he?” I really admire his intense determination to win; you can see all of the hard graft and careful preparation in his riding, and in Team Sky’s riding. Which brings me to my point. I know Wiggins makes every effort to be as aerodynamic as possible. The right gear, the right bike – every move he makes is calculated to the last detail to ensure he doesn’t lose a millisecond to his rivals. He, I assume, like all of the other riders, shaves his legs, just to get that last extra push through the breeze.

Bradley Wiggins leads the Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins leads the Tour de France, sideburns intact. (Photo credit: robkingcameraman)

So why, Bradley, pray tell, don’t you shave those enormous sideburns you have been rocking. I kid, but not really. If you’re planning to duke it out with Vince Noir for the title of King of the Mods, I respect that. But those things on your face must, somehow, cost you a soupcon of time. Right now you’re doing all right, but as you head up the Pyrenees and into the last Time Trial you might want to rethink those face wings. They don’t help you fly. There, I’m done.

Candy Omaha. Here’s another bone I have to pick. We spent last week on vacation down in the Hamptons, on Long Island, and to get there we take a car ferry from New London, CT, to Orient Point, NY. Where, as we drive off the boat onto my native island, it is my prerogative to play a Billy Joel song as we celebrate my summer homecoming. Usually “The Downeaster Alexa.” That is, if the Spotify works, and it usually doesn’t. There ain’t no Island left for Islanders like me, indeed.

The Cross Sound Ferry runs a tight ship, as it were, and it is always fun to spend part of our journey on a ferry rather than in a car. And our favorite boat in their fleet is the Cape Henlopen. Mainly because it has an arcade where C and T can pretend that they are really awesome at Pac Man and some driving games.

The other reason that I like the Cape Henlopen is that it was built as a World War II landing craft, and participated in the D-Day invasion at Normandy, ferrying GIs to Omaha Beach. And now, in its dotage, it schlepps folks to more peaceful beaches, and Mohegan Sun. It was built for battle, not for the level of comfort of a pleasure cruise. There is some seating inside, and just a limited number of banquettes that seat at least six around a table. They’re big.

So why, lady traveling alone, and there are people like this on every passage, do you need an entire booth to yourself? So you can prop your Reeboked foot on the seat while you listen to your off-brand MP3 player (probably to Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits, I’m just guessing)? So you can stare smugly out the window, avoiding the glares of groups of four (or more) who are trying to eat lunch on chairs opposite you? You didn’t even eat! You weren’t even using the table to prop up your copy of Fifty Shades of Gray! You just looked over my head as I picked PB&J (and T) repeatedly up off the floor.

I know what you might say, lady (or gentleman, similarly accused). You’d say you got there first, so tough luck to me. That you deserve to sit there just as much as anyone else. That there is no rule against taking up seating for six for yourself. And this is the only complaint I have against an otherwise excellently-run ferry service. There should be a rule. Even two people in a booth, I can understand. But one? There were lots of comfortable single seats that could have accomodated her; it was just selfishness. And the downfall of Western Civilization.

And “Piano Man” was probably playing too loudly in her ear to hear my remark, accompanied by a gesture in her general direction, “I hope you’re enjoying your giant booth.” But the lady in the booth behind her did hear me, and she looked up from her little game of Uno she was playing with her husband and grown son. Which seems a perfectly reasonable use for a booth. Sorry, I didn’t mean you. Hope you didn’t fall victim to any Draw Fours.

Toward the end of the trip, the booth next to this woman freed up, and I slid T in so he could stand up against the window and eat this enormous lollipop, the long, twisting, rainbow kind stuck on a wooden dowel. I had saved that pop for this long, last leg of the journey. T had already won every video game, said hello to every human and dog on this ship, and said “bye” to every boat that passed. So I can call it only karma that while this woman was on her phone worrying about her lunch plans at the top of her lungs, T whipped that pop straight at her so hard that it rained down in shards all around her, and her special booth (it didn’t actually hit her, thankfully). It was as if the ghosts of GIs lost to Normandy long ago arose from deep within the ship to let the Cape Henlopen see battle once again, reenacting Omaha Beach in rainbow sugar.

To her credit, she wasn’t mad when I came over to apologize, but when I tried to go into her booth to clean up the wreckage she waved me away, saying, “Leave it, the crew will get it.” Well, la-di-da to you, lady. T just fired a warning shot across your bow; hopefully next time you’ll heed his warning. Draw four.

I can hear T stirring so it’s time to call a cease fire in the war against cyclists’ sideburns and single seat snobs. We’re headed out to the swimming hole. There are still six hours to fill with summer fun before bedtime, a glass of wine, and the Tour recap show.

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