Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New York, in pictures

On board the train from Baltimore to Penn Station. Cecilie brought along her journal to document our trip. I love how she looks like she's cooking up a good story.

We struck up a friendship with 8-yr old Madison over bagels in the snack car. She was hitting American Girl on Saturday (whereas our visit was Sunday), but the girls fit maximum silliness into the rest of the train journey.

First time on the New York Subway. She immediately commented how different it was from the DC Metro: "the Washington trains look much more It's much lovelier." She spent the rest of the subway trip dancing around the poles in the middle. It was - ahem - more innocent than it sounds.

She is incredibly well-informed on Lady Liberty's vital stats. We discovered that the copper used for the Statue was mined in Norway!

Cecilie's first effort at photo-journalism. (It was brisk up there on the top of the ferry!)

One of the many snack stops along our way. But the camera just couldn't resist those stripey tights.

Battery Park Playground - just before she dominated the monkey bars.

And then she showed the swings what's what.

Another documentary effort. She seems to be very fond of the knees & toes shots.

A soft pretzel after a long day's toy shopping at...

FAO Schwarz: Linda helps Cecilie make critical Barbie decisions

at American Girl Place: trying on the big girl outfits. We bring you.... Uptown Cowgirl.

Cecilie doing a little tap routine, she is so overcome by all the outfits

One of the highlights: brunch at American Girl Place. It was almost too exciting. Luckily Felicity the Colonial Girl kept her cool. She's got the mad tea-taking skillz, remember.

Little Boy Breather, in between all the NYC excitement

Favorite Larsisms these days:

"Statue of LiVerty"
"Toys R.S."

Just had to write 'em down before I forgot.  I love little boys in all their madness.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Big Apple: Mother Daughter Edition

This balmy weekend at the end of September found Cecilie and I boarding a train bound for New York City. The trip had been cooked up as a way to soften the blow of switching schools and having a birthday at the very beginning of a school year.

Cecilie had two heart's desires: 1) visit the American Girl Place and 2) visit the Statue of Liberty. With this as our rough itinerary, and a few tips from friends & former residents, Torbjorn helped me plan a Big Apple Getaway that was exactly what a newly-minted 7 year old and her distracted, distractable Mommy needed.

As with most things, my eldest child made the trip memorable for me through sheer force of personality - the city through her eyes was in turns overwhelming, impressive, smelly, and exhausting. That the "very best part of the trip" was the fact that "Mommy can sleep next to me the whole night long!" just about sums up what was the very best part of the trip for Mommy too.

Thought I could share her thoughts, and then mine.

New York - Cecilie's Version:

the morning of departure, 6am: Mommy! I am ready for adventure!!!!!!

Mommy? I know why the Statue of Liberty has to be so big. [Why do you think?] Because everything in New York is big! The buildings are big, the taxis are big... look, even the squirrels are big!! Especially the squirrels.

in Toys R Us, Times Square, looking at the Barbie display: this is a little...... ugly. They look like Bratz dolls. In fact, they look mean.
walking by a steaming grate near Times Square: This city is putrid! [what do you mean by putrid?] I mean smelly and gross!
as the taxi pulled up to the hotel: [in a very shy quiet voice] Umm, is this our hotel? Don't you think it's a little.... fancy for us?

in the hotel bathroom: this is the most luxurious, most wonderful hotel bathtub in the world! [she'd filled it up & hopped in immediately upon entering the room]
upon being offered a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in the two hours before our home-bound train: I would go with the NO on that one.

And as for my thoughts? They were random and frequent, and I wish I'd taken the time to write them down as I did her quotes. I found it vaguely alarming that I persisted in spending the 48 hours taking mental notes in the form of Facebook updates, despite the fact that I had no resource for mobile FB or iPhone to feed my self-publishing addiction.

So here was my take on New York, the GrownUp Version:

  • The magic of the train journey was palpable - my girl loved [almost] every minute of train life.
  • Penn Station is really unattractive.
  • The ability to swipe your debit card in taxi cabs, and have the little machine calculate your tip for you? Magic.
  • The internet really can make hotel spaces look much larger than in real life.
  • If that was 4-star, I would really hate to see what 3-star is like.
  • A trip to the Statue of Liberty is not to be not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently and soberly. The security screening process for us to reach the ferry (as in, remove all metal items and place them in the x-ray bin) took an hour. And then when we arrived on Liberty Island, you were expected to go through another screening to get into the Statue itself. Cecilie put the kibosh on that - she was happy just to be there & read a book about it.
  • Grumpy Park Rangers ought not volunteer to take people on guided tours. She actually yelled at two little 4-6 yr olds for not listening. We ditched the tour.

  • A playground is an attraction if you are in New York City or in Smallville USA. Who can resist the siren call of the monkey bars?
  • Times Square is impressive, but only for about 30 seconds. Then it is just crowded.
  • Cecilie and I share mild agoraphobia. Not so great at Times Square.
  • Australian girls shopping at Sephora for nail polish are heretofore stereotyped as very sweet to small 7 year olds picking polish for their first pedicure. (We went with matte purple. Very on-trend.)
  • When a restaurant says they serve 'family style' they do indeed mean family style. This means enormous portions. What are you meant to do if you are just a party of two getting takeout?
  • Swedish Fish, SourPatchKids, Pringles, Raisinettes and root beer will give you a stomachache, no matter how long you'd looked forward to a movie party in bed with Mommy.
  • Sometimes the pressure of a Very Special Brunch at a Very Special Doll Store all by yourself with Mommy does get to you, and will make you bounce in your seat and then bang your chin on the water glass and then burst into tears.

  • Having a [limited] amount of real cash money on hand in the American Girl store is HIGHLY recommended. The visual aid of making dollars disappear as the items chosen accumulate is hugely effective.
  • Evidence that Disney has lost its magic powers over my 7 year old was amply demonstrated by a visit to the Disney superstore. We toured 3 floors, and whilst much was touched, held and examined, nothing was worth using up those precious dollars. (See above.)
  • Evidence that innocence remains a bit longer: a visit to Tiffany elicited no response other than "hmmmmm..... Can we go now?"
  • Entertain no expectations that you will do any shopping for yourself. 1) there will be no available funds (just speaking for me here) and 2) no inclination whatsoever from your travel partner
  • FAO Schwartz has earned every inch of its reputation. An incredibly impressive store catering to all levels of indulgent elders and small demanding individuals. (Also larger demanding individuals.)
  • Those bike rickshaw contraptions are a total ripoff. (sorry Laramie Flick - they are. I was looking for yours though.)
  • Hot chocolate at Starbucks sounds better in principle than in practice, even on a cold rainy day. Three sips, and we were done. (Another dis-inclination that C and I share. But as the mother who paid for said hot choc, I was duly annoyed that she wouldn't drink it.)
  • Biggest logistical challenge? Organizing food. Sounds silly, in NY, where you can get any cuisine your heart desires, but getting the stars to line up between hunger pangs, good food sources, and tourist locations was nigh on impossible. We ended up eating soft pretzels and wrapped sandwiches most of the time.
  • My top indulgence of the weekend? Reading a WHOLE chapter book in bed with my girl, all the way until she fell asleep.
  • My favorite memory of the weekend? A happy little sprite hopping down the sidewalk on 5th Ave under her umbrella, singing to herself and jumping over puddles. It was truly all that my Cecilie Girl is.
So there you have it folks. My girl is lovely, and it was a gift to be able to enjoy her, and enjoy her joy. May she remember it as happily as I do.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Notebook

Ha - not the movie.  Fab chick flick, but what I've got for y'all today is so much more than popcorn & Kleenex.

Anyone else have boxes of journals packed away?  The ones with locks and heart-dotted-i's from your elementary years?  The hundreds of spiral bound notebooks from high school, where the i's start being dotted by tears, and the angry capitals sometimes rip through a page here and there?  The college journals that might be leather-bound graduation gifts, containing complicated prose, experimental poetry, and still the angry capitals?

Yep, thought I wasn't the only one.

Have you looked at them recently?  How'd that go?  I smile over some entries - the first time I heard the Beatles, for example, at the age of 11 and they Rocked. My. World.  Some still make me cringe, and yes, some still make me weep.  Somehow I am mostly able to forgive myself much of my youthful ignorance.  Looking back I see how poor my judgement was at times, and in other spots I am actually impressed with a few of the smarter decisions that still seem to make sense to me.

But something that each and every one of my old journals has in common is the sheaf of empty pages at the end.  Some journals are almost 90% blank, and often those are the ones where the pages that are filled are so raw I just couldn't live that pain for a whole book's worth.

My girl Heather over at the Extraordinary Ordinary wrote about those empty pages this week.  A powerful, powerful post on misspent youth, mistakes that we can't forgive ourselves, and the redemption offered to us by the blank pages, and the people who will finally help us fill the pages.  (Hint:  their capitals are a little wobbly still.)

Heather's post may not suit everyone out there - maybe you've forgiven yourself everything, maybe you filled all your pages, and continue to write the New You every day?  If so, well done - keep it up.  But this one is for those of us who find the idea of redemption compelling, and for those of us with the blank pages everywhere.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's a DownHome Revival over here, I tell ya

Lars had a friend over today, who wanted to watch 'that seal movie.' The kids proceeded to empty the entire cabinet of DVDs in search of the elusive Norwegian-translated-to-English TV series Lars the Polar Bear. Tricky bit being that we have one movie only in Norwegian/Swedish/Danish, and then one film that is actually in English. The kids unearthed the non-English one. Following conversation ensues:

Cecilie: Oh no, not that one Lars, it doesn't come in American.
Lars: Well we can make it the language he knows.
C: Which language? Catholic?
L: [laughing] NO WAY, he doesn't know Catholic!!
C: Sure you do, J, you're like a Catholic kind of guy, right??

On Sunday, Lars sat in church with us, looking for relevant things about which to chat quietly with Mommy during the sermon. Mommy! Look at this! [in a loud almost-whisper, pointing to his Polo-insignia'ed shirt] It's the Lamb of God!

Before you get very alarmed by my children's theological education, Lamb of God is the school Cecilie attended last year, with a very distinctive logo. Let's go for a visual on this one, shall we??

Exhibit A:

Exibit B:

It is no secret that I think The Lamb of God School is about as good as elementary education gets. So I think, actually, I'm happy that my little guy sees the Lamb of God instead of Ralph Lauren's total world domination. Bless his cotton (non-Polo) socks.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Millions of peaches

Day 2 of the weekend finds the intrepid Nilsens deep in the peach orchards. Is there any plan for bushels of fruit? Indeed there is not, but the memories, honey, just think of the memories.

The trick with peaches is to know when to stop picking them. They are so beautiful and so scrumptious, so alluring and so easy to pick and heck - suddenly you find yourself with 20 lbs of peaches and no deep freeze.
Just one more.  And one more. And one more!   We had to quit eventually (one time we got stuck with $60 worth of peaches.)  It's unanimous: onward to the blackberry bushes then.

Deep in the thickets we find a not-altogether-subtle allusion to the Garden of Eden. The kids' imaginations were less consumed with allegory and more with whether the snake would Eat Daddy. (For the record, we are reliably informed it was a common black snake, relatively harmless, but ENORMOUS. Really. Like, 6 feet long. Maybe 20. Or so.)

Lars makes the executive decision to haul his sisters out of harm's way in the Radio Flyer.

And is handsomely rewarded for his efforts. (This is one of the rarest photos in Christendom, ladies & gents, please ooh and ahh appropriately.)

Annika decided to give her lovin' to her mama, a port of refuge in the storm of enthusiastic siblings.

At Grandma and Grandpa's

We call it the Riviera, well at least it is south of here.....and the parks have teeny tiny trains that carry people around for a penny...
...and what glorious people... really is sweet (Kirsten used to ride this train as a kid with her grandpa)...
How can you not feel like a movie star....
or a dashing Valentino to the rescue...
...or a super hero... top vehicles abound...
...even sherpas if you're super sweet...
...and the valets...
...oh the valets... (see how we worked the new debt car in there???)
But even in the Riviera the day must come to an end, and the teeth must get clean.

Monday, September 7, 2009

One final splash at the pool...

With Labor Day the summer is officially over, but what a summer...
We're not sure where he got the idea from, I promise there were no pushy dads involved...
...but somehow Lars got the idea...
...that flips off the diving board would be a great way to go...
No Fear.
His big sister...
...having a somewhat competitive spirit...
...faced her fears...
...and followed suit...

Bless their hearts

Ripped off but enjoying every minute...

The first day of the weekend found the five of us at the Maryland State Fair. It is insanely over-priced food and entertainment, but the kids think it's just the bees knees. And who are we to argue about bees?
Or cows? Stopping in the Livestock Barn first off is a tradition

Annika pointing out the brand new baby chickies.

Aaah, mammary memories. All of the sudden one kid doesn't seem like much of a challenge.

Lars was relentless: all he wanted to do was "ride that HOLLAcopter!"

Cecilie playing it cool before the Pig Races and Swifty the Swimming Pig. The irony of the corndog at this particular event escaped her.

Let's go on record and say this is the first ever photo of Cecilie alone behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. She tore the bumper cars UP.

Lars wasn't quite old enough to ride alone, but he bumped along with the best of 'em.

Team Nilsen v. The Rest: I think we're winning.

Winning until the infighting causes us to turn on each other. The photographer can only watch in horror.

And there you go, folks. Three corndogs, one bag of cotton candy, one large cup of lemonade and a few thrills spills & bellyaches. Done with the fair for another year.
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