Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New York City.

I wanted to do something fun and different to celebrate Gavin's 40th birthday and the idea of hosting a surprise party or hosting anything for that matter didn't sound like fun.  I fail miserably at ever being known as the "the hostess with the mostest".   So I chose to go with Plan B.  A surprise vacation.  I started planning it a few months before his birthday and I was sure he was on to me.  He still swears he had no idea.  I gave him this note 4 days before the trip---destination unknown and the only hint being the weather forecast.

He started asking lots of questions.  And caught me off guard a few times.  Like when he asked me if we should pack church clothes.  I told him I forgot to ask Rae about that.  Dead giveaway that we weren't going alone.  We were so lucky to have Jeff and Rae along for the celebration!  

New York has to be one of my favorite places in the world.  We arrived just in time for all of the St. Patrick's Day festivities.  Lots of tourists dressed in green, crazy outfits, drunk and stumbling around on the streets.  We dropped off our bags at our hotel, The Affinia Shelbourne, and headed out to see the sights.  Our hotel was just a few blocks from Grand Central Station.
Grand Central Station.  The New Haven Line.  I took this train every weekend when I was 18 and a nanny in Larchmont, NY.

We walked to Times Square and went directly to the TKTS booth to see what shows were available for the night.  I'm still not sure how we decided on buying tickets to The Addam's Family but buy them we did. 

New York is always busy but it was even busier with St. Paddy's celebrations.  Police were on every corner and it was hard to walk through the town.  We finally found a restaurant with some seating available and had some yummy sushi.  Snowy Mountain.  Yum!

I love Broadway!  It's probably my favorite thing about New York.  I really doubted our choice with this show.  I've never watched The Addam's Family before and was ready to be disappointed.  Sleepy, maybe, but not disappointed.  It was really good and probably my favorite show that we saw while we were there.

We ended the night on the roof of our hotel with a an incredible view of the green Empire State Building behind us. 

We started off the next day bright and early.  That was the plan anyway.  I don't think we made it out of our hotel before noon.  Took the subway down to lower Manhattan with hopes of getting tickets for the ferry ride to Liberty Island.

This sphere was in the plaza between the WTC towers and was recovered after 9/11.  It was moved to Battery Park as a temporary location.  It stands there without any repairs and an eternal flame burns in front of it as a memorial to the victims of 9/11.  Incredible and moving.
Battery Park.

We waited in line for ferry tickets for over an hour and were told our chances of making the last ferry were slim.  So we got tickets for another day and did what every tourist does. . . bought tickets for  the double decker city bus tour.  I have the worst luck with these tours.  I seem to always choose the bus line with the fewest buses and bad tour guides.  We all ended up with heat stroke after riding around on the bus under the top covered portion.  72 degrees in March!  It was a beautiful, warm day!  We took the tour around lower Manhattan and jumped off at Rockefeller Plaza.

We walked around the city.  Touring Rockefeller plaza.  Buying legos.  Visiting St. Patrick's Cathedral.  Enjoying all of the sights and people watching.

We eventually walked to the Empire State Building but didn't go to the top because that's what everyone does.  Instead we just enjoyed the view from the sidewalk looking up.

Jeff and Rae found the view to be incredibly moving.

We knew the best view of the city wasn't found on the ESB observation deck but on Top of the Rock.

We did some modeling in front of the busy New York streets.

Looked for the Donald.

And ate some really yucky grass-fed beef hamburgers for dinner.  Who knew the beef would taste completely different than typical corn-fed, steroid infested beef?

Serendipity's is a must stop.  And stop we did.  To take a picture and pretend like we waited 2 1/2 hours to get a frrrrrrrozen hot chocolate.  

We got our chocolate fix at Dylan's Candy Bar instead.  This candy store is amazing (that's for you Rae and your amazing sister-in-law)!  It has everything you can remember from your childhood and more.

The big day.  Gavin turned 40 years old and wanted to start off the day with breakfast at Pershing Square Cafe.  Unfortunately it was closed.  Hoping this wasn't a forecast of a disappointing birthday.

We made our way to Central Park and enjoyed the view.  One day we might actually make it inside the park to ride the carousel, rent bikes or go for a horse drawn carriage ride. Not this day though.

We ate an over-priced brunch at Sarabeth's.  Be sure to try the apricot sausage links if you make it to this chic restaurant.  They taste a lot like grass-fed pork.

We celebrated Gavin's birthday with some more broadway. Spiderman.  Turn Off The Dark.  This show has had nothing but problems since it started.  It was supposed to premiere on March 15th but it was pushed back again to June.  They were offering ticket exchanges to come back and see it in June after it premieres but since we didn't think we would be back anytime soon, Rae worked her magic with the box office person and got our seats moved up to the very front of the orchestra.  It was a fun show.  Crazy stuff that they are trying to pull off.  I loved the scenery and how it takes you into a comic strip.  Spiderman and the Green Goblin fly all around the theater, right above your heads.  Spiderman even got stuck one time and had to hang above our heads, doing some tricks while he waited for them to get him down.  The music was different than typical Broadway shows.  Very obvious that Bono and The Edge wrote all of the music.  It will be good once they figure it all out.  My boys would love it!

Everyone always comments that Gavin looks just like Tobey Maguire so it it was only fitting that Spiderman should see this show on his birthday.  Gavin didn't know about this show until the morning of his birthday.  So we just had to agree with him every time he mentioned Spiderman on Broadway and how it was a huge mess and the one show to avoid in NYC!  He laughed so hard when he opened his birthday card from me and saw the tickets inside the card.

Birthday dinner at Bistango.  They turned off the lights to bring Gavin his NY cheesecake and candle.  My nanny family from New York joined us for Gavin's birthday dinner. 

Can you believe the beautiful, tall, blonde girl standing next to me was only two years old when I was her nanny?  And she still remembers the Mormon primary songs I used to sing to her?  I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home and Popcorn Popping.   Love this family!!!

I got home from the birthday dinner with just enough energy to drop into bed.  The babysitter called while at dinner and Mia was sick and had a fever.  She took her to the instacare and found out she had Influenza B.   I had been sneezing the whole trip and was hoping I was allergic to the city but turned out I was getting sick, too.  I spent the next 2 days in bed with a fever and popping Tamiflu.  

I heard this part of the trip was only mildly fun since I was back in the hotel room, miserable and sick.  They used the ferry tickets we bought a few days before and made it to Liberty and Ellis island.  Then walked around Ground Zero.

Our last day was a cold one with snow and rain.  Gavin, Jeff and Rae headed out early to get tickets to David Letterman and do some sight seeing.  

This was Gavin's favorite part of the trip.  The tour of Radio City Music Hall.  He really liked the Rockette's or maybe it was the architecture.  Not sure.  

I finally made it out of the hotel and felt like such a big city girl.  Walking around the streets of NYC by myself and finding my own cab and telling him to take me to the MOMA.  

We spent the evening with Dave and his guest, Ben Stiller.  Is it just me or is Dave not as funny as he used to be?  

And just because we could, we saw one more show before ending our trip.  Mamma Mia!  If you've seen the movie, you've seen the broadway show.  Donna's voice was amazing though and made it worth the money for me.  And our usher was quite the little entertainer himself.  I think he was flirting with some of the cast members while he danced his little heart out during the finale.

All in all it was an amazing vacation, influenza and all!  And I think Gavin enjoyed celebrating his birthday in a surprise city.  Happy 40th Birthday Gavin!  I love you!  xo.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Birthday celebrations and pillowcases.

I've mentioned before that Hadley loves to plan parties, especially her own!  She decided a few weeks ago that she wanted to have a "Late Over" birthday party and the planning began in full speed.  She spent hours googling and searching for all of the fun activities suggested for sleep overs.  She was really excited about one that she found that suggested having all of the party guests sew a pillowcase.  I had to agree that it sounded like the perfect activity for a late over.  And the perfect activity for someone who owned a sewing machine and knew how to use it.  Unfortunately I haven't really sewn anything on a sewing machine since my Home Ec class in 8th grade.  And I think the last thing I made in there, ironically enough, was a  . . .  pillowcase! 

I was telling my crafty (should own girlfriends all about Hadley's great idea for her late over activity and my inability to sew 20 pillowcases and needed to figure out something else to do for the party.  They had this great idea.  Monogrammed pillow cases.  No sewing machine required.  I loved the idea.  Went shopping for fabric and pillowcases, found a cricut machine to cut out the fabric letters and flowers, and got started ironing on the sticky stuff to make the fabric stick to the pillowcase.  Did I mention I'm not very crafty?  Who knew that ironing on sticky stuff could be so challenging?   After a few attempts and permanent wrinkly fabric with iron on stuff attached, I decided I was going to need some help.  Okay, I was going to need A LOT of help!  Luckily, my friend Jenni is super crafty and makes everything look easy and simple.  She came over and helped me re-iron the fabric and saved yards of fabric.  We worked late into the night, and the next day and the next day.  Our lives were taken over by pillowcases.  I seriously underestimated the difficulty and time of this project.  

But Hadley loved them and that was all that mattered!  She was so excited to help me iron all of the pillowcases, letters and flowers and couldn't wait for the big day to finally arrive!

The party guests

There was pizza and soda, gift opening, lots of laughter and cueing in the house.

What's cueing?  I hadn't ever heard of it before this year either.  Hadley's friend, Payton, (sitting next to Hadley on the right) is deaf and just transferred to Hadley's school this year.  The students in 4th grade have all been learning cueing so they can communicate with Payton.  Cued Speech is different than ASL.  It's based on the phonemes and properties of traditionally spoken languages.   The coolest thing about cueing is that once you understand the concept of it you can say anything you want.  All of the girls in her grade are fluent, that's right, fluent in cueing.  

And then it was time to sing happy birthday to my almost-10-year-old-girl!

Making a wish!!!

 Pillowcase time!  

The girls attempted to hand stitch around their letter.  It was harder than it looked (ongoing theme of this craft).  They kept sewing their pillowcases closed and getting their thread tangled in knots.  They did a few stitches and then were ready to move on to popcorn, candy and a movie.

Love this movie!  

So while the girls were enjoying their movie, we were busy sewing.  Everyone had a good laugh as they came around the corner into our basement and found Gavin sewing with us.  Laugh all you want but I must say my boy's got some mad sewing skills.  Jenni showed him how to do the stitch and that was all he needed.  My pillowcases looked like the girls had finished them.  Gavin's looked a little more polished.

There was more cake on Sunday at Grandma's and Grandpa's house

We checked her out of school for lunch on her birthday.

And the rest of her birthday was spent dancing.  Just Dance 2.  

10 things we love about Hadley:

1.  She is an amazing big sister to Morgan, Mia and Griffin.  She loves to play and will take them outside and play on the trampoline and swings with them for hours.  She likes to get Mia dressed in the morning and fix her hair and then when I try to change her clothes to something more appropriate for the weather, Mia won't let me because Hadley already helped her and put her in whatever she wanted to wear.

2.  She's a great student and loves school.  Her teacher got sick in January and has been gone for 2 months.  It's been a little chaotic in her classroom these past few months.  Her substitute teacher called to let me know how much she appreciates Hadley and what a help she is to the other students.  She said Hadley is always able to finish her school work quickly and then looks for opportunities to help other students who are having a harder time.

3.  She's extremely independent and would rather chose her outfits and fix her hair without any input from her mom.

4.  She loves performing in a singing/dancing group with two of her best friends.  She was excited about getting two solos for their upcoming show.

5.  She's a great friend!  She brings several friends home with her from school every day.  She cleans her room every morning before school so she can play after school.  She makes her bed every morning without having to be reminded.  Playing with friends is more than enough motivation.

6.  She is an example to her family.  She loves Family Home Evening, scripture study and family prayer and helps us remember when we forget or are too rushed.  

7.  She loves dogs.  It's her only wish every Christmas and Birthday.  A dog.  We haven't been able to have one because of Ryan's asthmas but just found out about the Havenese breed and am hoping that dog may be an option for our family.  

8.  She just got braces on her top front teeth!

9.  She walks Morgan home from school everyday to makes sure she gets home safely.  It takes lots of patience.  Morgan likes to stop at the playground and go down the slide over and over again.

10.  She is an amazing daughter!  I was talking to the parents of one her friends and commenting on how Mia reminds me so much of Hadley.  Mia is already doing some of the exact same things Hadley did at that age.  The dad made a comment that I would be so lucky if Mia turned out like Hadley.  He went on and on about Hadley and how wonderful they think she is.  It was a nice reminder for me.  Hadley really is such a great girl.  We are so lucky to have her in our family!  She makes our family a better family.  She is always willing to give someone a hug, share a special treat, play a game, help out at home, and let her brothers and sisters know they are loved.  

Happy 10th Birthday, Hadley!  We love you Hadlebugs!