Yesterday we went off to the noted museum in new york; The Cloisters. I have never been there because it is in a very hard part of the city to get to, and, it is a very niche collection so when given a choice of how to spend time we always choose to be more downtown and get to see more in the day. This time we decided we were going and set out on the 1.5h drive (that took 2.5) and lucked out with a great parking spot and also a very pretty day.
The cloisters is basically a 14th and 15th-century European collection so I had told the kids that “everything you see in this museum we can do in the SCA” (the history group we do). Convincing kids museums are fun isn’t ever easy unless there is a dinosaur involved but they are getting better at appreciating. Anyway, the big surprise when we walked in was that they are doing a modern art exhibit for closing inspired by the collection.
Yup… that was a weird mix of awesome and fail at the same time.
The dresses were outstanding, showing that high-end designers, when asked to make wearable art, can absolutely do it 110%. They were also displayed perfectly in the spaces, truly showing that someone in charge was both artistic and skilled.
I didn’t go crazy with pictures because I know I can get better detail from the online catalogs but seeing them in person is something special. The unicorn tapestries were all they are ever hyped to be and recently reading a book they featured in made them more real to the kids. Overall, having the kids do math about the items impressed them that they were inches away from things created 900 years ago. To my European readers, I know, your post office is probably 900 years old but for us that is pretty impressive.
The other excellent thing about this museum is that the building IS part of the exhibit. Every door and window and most of the stones are from 14th and 15th-century monasteries. I wish I had more time to look at everything but the impressive part that I’ll carry forward in my life is the walled garden. I always thought the walls would make too much shade but this shows that plants in the center do very well and there is nice shade around the edges for sitting and looking at the garden. Given I will be in a place with lots of land I may be experimenting with the concept since it will be a good way to keep out the wildlife and also create an interesting structure on our flat rectangle of land.
We left the pocket universe of the Cloisters and headed back and as if we needed more reasons not to live in the crazy land of long island we took nearly 4 hours to get back. To give perspective, we can drive to the close part of Canada from our house in the same amount of time. It did give me an opportunity to get a nice landscape picture while stopped on the bridge so that’s good at least.
The day was not lost at all. One of the very very best things about visiting family is that there are more adults in the system so things get handled. My sister turned up at parents house and created dinner that was 10 min from done when we walked int. Way better than facing dinner decisions after 4 road fried hours. We topped off the night with a visit to the big boat with friends and floated at dock while the kids played and generally had fun.
Today Lars when home and now we enter into phase 2 of vacation – the solo mom adventure.
Last week Friday we packed up the minivan and hit the road after work. The kids are getting pretty well trained and I have to say this was one of the best trips for travel behaviors yet. The combo of learning to read, and, lifelong training meant that while it was still a loooong trip, nobody wanted to abandon anyone on the side of the road at any time.
We spent Friday night in a Chicago hotel, and Saturday in an eastern PA one. We made good enough time that the kids got some pool time in PA and the next morning we visited with family in the area and then back on the road to my parents’ house. Traffic was not perfect, it never is, but, only added on a little over an hour so all in all it was a 20 driving hour trip.
Once we got here my only plan was to be here. We have been making plans as we go but given that we are on vacation and nobody else is, we have plenty of chill time. There is a big 90th birthday reunion style party this weekend that since we are here we will go to. I’ve learned from being away that where there is a chance to see everyone, take it. You never know when the next one will come and for some of the people who are in their late 80’s I way prefer to visit them now then regret the loss when it is too late. I’m lucky that I enjoy 90% of my family and even the crazy 10% are not offensive, just not my preferred brand of crazy.
On the vacation bucket list we have gotten out on the big boat, had a cousin sleep over party, gone out for ice cream, and played in the parks. Its a bit cold for the beach but maybe next week. Just like most times you visit family, it isn’t truly a ‘vacation’ it is just living life in a different place with fewer responsibilities. I am glad we are here now, it is a great break from house packing at the very least 🙂
Our city is hosting a giant (American) Football game this weekend and that is great news for the travel industry. There was a short tense moment when it looked like in a crazy twist, the home team would win their way into the Super Bowl, meaning great things for local fans but cutting the possible earnings by 50% because we would only be attracting one team’s worth of out of town visitors. The Vikings didn’t let me down (like their true fans) when they did not win and thus economic goals did. The team that beat them is actually one I have a soft spot for. Can’t go so far as to say fan because I know next to nothing about them but they are beloved by many people I like from my college days so I’m happy they are happy.
Anway! What does this mean for us? Well, first the once in a lifetime opportunity to go see the spectacle that is a Superbowl village. MN transformed our downtown prediction street into an open-air festival. Tons of inside space was transformed into venue area and we spent a very nice half-day playing tourist and seeing all the fun.
(can’t caption the video but look how fun! Like a pro he is)
The real adventure in capitalism is that we took the leap into Air B&B land to rent out our guest room. I have toyed with the idea over the years, we do have a nice guest room that is dedicated to guests. I started the listing and then stopped, full of the nagging doubts that trying anything new has swirled around it. Then a person from Air B&B actually called me to ask if I needed help or had questions. That is a real mark of both service and anticipated demand in the area so I held my breath and just did it.
In for a penny, in for a pound, we also listed Niamh’s room since it is next to the guest room and both are on a different level so easy to have a ‘guest floor’ with a living room and bathroom and 2 bedrooms. Upon the advice of Air B&B man, I listed each room separately and within 3 hours my first room was booked. A day later the other was too. Today our first guests arrive and I’m excited!
I’m going to focus on the exciting part but yes, I’m nervous too. I’m letting strangers into the house with my family and all our stuff. I need to arrange my week to accommodate being here when needed. I’m kicking my kids out of a quarter of the house. I have to push away the media fed fears of crazy people and rely on the goodness of the general person.
I’ve learned fast about how the system worked and after a mistake on the first round, I priced things so that it is worth my trouble. In an odd way, I’m getting paid to clean my own house because cash is an incentive to actually get the rooms in order. Niamh is getting her share, I’m giving her $30 to vacate her room and sleep in ours. Good thing we have a big closet and she is pretty excited to camp out in it. The other girls’ opportunity up the opportunity to earn. There is $2 each per day on the line for being good and helpful, Zoe is taking it quite seriously.
The only thing I have not totally worked out is what do we do with our earnings from this side venture? Should I be a great parent and split it into the kid’s savings accounts? Should we use it to go out to a really nice dinner? Do we save it for a fun vacation fund? I have no idea if post Superbowl there will be much demand for our guest room so this might just be a small windfall but hey, money is money.
Now I need to get back to the hostess game and make sure our house is visitor ready. Let me know what you would do with a little windfall you don’t actually have to use for bills.
Today we GO!
(lets not talk about when we get there…)
I have spent the past few days chipping away at the pile of things that need to be done as well as getting in a few things that would be harder to do later. My NOT procrastination totally paid off because Lars and I were in HomeDepot, the 6th shop for the day, on a fact-finding mission about suites of appliances and we happened to see a fridge-sized box with a price tag of $160. I dismissed it, figuring it was some odd special thing or something that needed to be part of a larger, much more expensive, system. The sales lady just mentioned to us “hey, you guys need a fridge?” and we are like “um… yes?” Apparently, the warehouse missed this one and now it had to GO because they couldn’t inventory it anymore (or some such inventory reason) so we got a fridge originally priced $860 for $160. We have been working with our tiny fridge in the garage for extra milk but this will be way better. I see it as our reward for #1 checking out appliance prices for the house months in advance and #2 already have a clean car ready for travel that all we had to do was move car seats. #3 I just happened to have organized my ‘car bin’ of useful things including tie-down straps AND put it back in the car that day so we were able to fit the fridge in, and, tie the back gate down since it was just a little longer than our cargo area.
Don’t you just love a deal?!?
At this point, I have lists about my lists but we are near the end of them all. All trip stuff and clothing is assembled and job #1 today is to pack. People talk about ‘packing’ like putting things into a bag is hard, that is the easy bit – finding all the things you want for 5 people and a dog is the hard part. There is one load of laundry to do, final dishwasher load to run for today’s things. I need to make up the guest room for the house sitter but since we have guests often that is an easy thing. Books reserved at the library for pickup, food ready for prep for the trip. Lots to do but I’m in the last bit and positioned well. Thank you yesterday self for NOT falling into the new book you just downloaded and have waited for a year, You can read that tomorrow as a reward.
Teacher and friend gifts are ready for delivery, already delivered, or ready for when we get back.
I think I’ve completed all the things I NEED for Christmas and I packed supplies for cooking and final projects at my parents. Driving may mean 2x travel time but it also means I can bring more ‘stuff’. The kids are so used to a second Christmas when we return that they asked about it so we made the decision that all the things that the kids picked for each other and us can stay for mini Christmas.
I’m writing this at 7:30 in the morning and our go time is 3:30 so I have time to do what I need to do as well as go to my birthday massage appointment. I’m getting in the spirit here, things are looking good. This is the first year in YEARS my sisters will both be at my parents so I’m excited to see everyone. I hope to avoid the panic of leaving last minute and so far so good. Time to get breakfast, school lunch, kids to school. T-7h to takeoff.
This is totally not a guide to what-to-do in NY, like I said yesterday visiting my parents is not your normal visit to a person or place. For the sake of completeness I do want to write what we did so I don’t forget.
This is not in order… it is in the order they uploaded and I don’t have time to mess with them so without further Adu;
Muddy Puddle days at a local farm we go visit most visits. This is a really cool event where for $4 kids get to dive, slide and generally romp in mud puddles. We nearly didn’t go because the morning was rainy and cool but our friends really did and so we wanted to spend time with them more than avoid hypothermia and fortunately for all it turned around and it was gorgeous and sunny and perfect. Miss Math has a much better picture when they were all head to toe mud, this is a post mud one after we hosed them down.
Many trips to the beach and we learned that Prima loves to dig in the sand. She loves to dig in anything but sand makes the most gratifying hole when you are a 2lb dog.
We had a morning brunch in the park with my friend Pete and Will and Greta and their various spouses and children. Again, awesome weather and the kids all click and play so well they were begging to see each other again. (Good thing we visit for Christmas too). Pete gets the boy scout award by being the most prepared friend I have. He makes me feel disorganized by comparison because while I can fish out a band-aid from my mom-bag, he had a full on med kit with 19 sizes of band-aids and none of them were covered in cookie crumbs or sand (like what is at the bottom of my bag)
Another yearly stop to the Holtsville Science Center where they have a rescue zoo. All the animals are rescues one way or another. This time the peacocks were in full bloom and chasing around the hens who were ignoring them. We also saw some pretty active bears and the normal crew of other animals.
An absolutely unique opportunity happened this year – we happened to be in town for the PROM! so 20 years after my prom, I’m taking a picture of my 2nd youngest cousin get ready for hers. Sayville does something pretty cool. Part 1 – they do a mass picture event at the local pretty picture park (where I also did my wedding pictures). This is so fun because parents are invited and you see all the kids and it saves figuring out where else to do pictures. They did the same for my prom and I loved it then too. Cool thing 2; now they REQUIRE you to go to the prom in a giant party bus. The buses leave from the picture spot and I think this does three great things; takes out the cost of limo (and the pressure to have a limo), limits pre-prom drinking risks, and keeps the schedule rolling better because you don’t have various traffic jams coming and going to the prom. This is a newish thing and I like it but, I still love my prom limo experience… The kids were entranced with all the dresses and they were like cheerleaders LOUDLY commenting on how much they loved this dress or that one. I think they brightened quite a few teens day but none more than their A#1 cousin who was most pretty overall.
On our very last day we met up with Pete and his girls and my nephews and we ran all over a nature trail. We scared away most of the nature but had a great time. Pete brought the good camera so I may get better than my 2 random snapshots.
One of the unplanned great coincidences was that my cousin Antonia and her 3 kids were visiting the same time we were! We hung out a few times including the twins first active beach experience. Twin 1-year-olds are a challenge but Antonia is young and quick so running in separate directions was a fun test for her. They are the sweetest little people who are at that mobile but ‘idiot’ stage and as an aunt, I found it nothing short of adorable.
I have to say Miss Math is the ABSOLUTE best friend about making time for me and I am forever happy for all the time she creates for me. This trip 2 other friends made really awesome efforts to come see me. I missed getting a picture of one who drove 4 hours in traffic to see me for 3 hours, but here is my other. She left as soon as work ended down south and drove the night to get to Sayville the morning I was leaving and texted at 6am that she was there and needed a nap and to call repeatedly until I woke her up. We spent an hour or so catching up and seeing her pregnant belly and she saw all the productions of my pregnant belly plus the puppy (she has been a superb pup mom forever)
I put this on Instagram too, this is my trio solo. We went on plenty of beach and playground trip just us while the rest of NY was still in school. They may fight, they may drive me crazy sometimes but if you think about it, who can you spend 24/7 with all the time? We did do something every day but it was not a rush-rush vacation so there was plenty of time just us or just us and my parents. I am not quite at the read a book stage of parenting, I still need to have eyes on them too frequently but it is nice that there are times I can just sit and relax. 2 weeks is a pretty long time to be gone but not long enough to feel like we fit in quite yet. I end up missing my stuff, my car, my routine and to all the busy people who found time for me I know how hard it can be since usually, I have a really really full routine. The break was nice but I’m glad to be back here even if I have zero family, all my friends are from the past few years so no ‘remember when we were’ conversations or history and my network is 1/12 of what it could be if I had stayed in my hohometown. Moving here was a good decision but not an easy one but as always, I’m more glad for what I got to do and who I did get to see then sad about what I missed or leaving it behind again after 2 weeks.
Bye bye guys, so glad we had this trip and everyone has an open invite to visit us!