20 March 2011

Aimless wandering and derailed plans

last day in brooklyn, and we spent it alone. :(

so, X woke up and still had her fever. we werent going to have a great day it seemed. we said a too fast goodbye to daves mom and sister and gave X her first advil dose of the day. we then proceeded to ingest the crappy hotel breakfast because the "tasty deli" was closed. then dave did a diaper load at the laundromat next door while X got ready for a nap. by now it was check out time and goodbye time. we had gotten a late check out (so X could nap), but ntina, ben, jody, and patrick were leaving at the regular time since X was still sick. i had a nice, albeit too brief, chat with them before saying goodbye. it was so great of them to make the trip to be with us in brooklyn and only see us for what amounted to a few hours.

(X, post-advil, surrounded by her beloved books, some new ones too, on our last morning at the hotel)

after goodbyes and hugs...we were alone. :( after X woke up we checked out and left our big bag in the hotel storage. we had until the end of the day to make our way to the edge of queens where our last hotel was. so, we hopped the subway up to bergen st where dave had seen lots of hits on yelp. we chose the simple "bergen bagels" for lunch. a mediocre bagel but it was better than anything ive seen in halifax, by far. while we munched the bagels i had to listen to mindless chatter by some annoying nerd-sters talking loudly near us. they seemed to be on a date or having a get-to-know-you session. whatever they were gabbing about, it made me glad im married.

then we started aimlessly wandering, trying to figure out the best thing to do with our remaining time. an idea never came to us. we checked out the menu at nearby "kaz an nou" because dave had seen it was well rated and it was french caribbean, so we were curious. looked tasty. we also popped into a crazy busy toy store and kids barber shop called lulus. we spotted a few more things before we walked out of family/hipster land and into a different kind of area. just busy and loud and void of character. we were done for the day i guess. amy and tony ended up not being able to come hang out with us (thankfully i had given them a goodbye hug the night before) so we just took the subway back to the hotel.

we gathered our luggage and settled X in the ergo for a nap. thankfully she slept while we navigated the 3 subway lines out to our last hotel. when we got far enough out that the subway came above ground, at least the sun was shining and we could see some more of the city. it was definitely a dicier part of town, but i didnt feel uncomfortable at all. all of our travel on this trip turned out to be very easy and i would definitely do it again.

we finally arrived at the end of the line in jamaica, NY. our hotel was in sight of the train to the airport but in a not-so-nice area. just car repair shops and open lots. but the hotel was clean and safe and we checked in with no problem. we were in for the night for sure, but we had to find someone to deliver food to us. we chose indian curry express. they were anything but "express" but the food was tasty and hot and it didnt make us sick. i shoveled it in my face and was ready for bed.

we then proceeded to get a crappy nights sleep due to X and her issues. not the best thing for flying the next day. but we managed to have an easy travel day in terms of things running on time and going smoothly. the train to the airport was easy, the airport was calm, the plane took off on time, and we had a good flight home.

overall, as you can see, our vacation to see loved ones did not go as planned. that is a bummer, but im glad we got to see and do what we did. i needed some friends after a long winter. and the trip taught us a few things about how we want to travel to a pleasure destination in the future. it was our first trip that wasnt specifically for any reason. we had gone to NY for a wedding, we had gone to MI to have X meet family and friends, and we had gone to FL for the holidays. this was the first trip where we went to a new-to-us locale and went based on our own motivation (not that the other trips were torturous, they were just born of a different intent).

we found the public transportation travel mode to be ideal with X, especially because we seem to be fully capable of traveling fairly lightly with her. we can navigate this method pretty easily. and the travel from JFK via train/subway into brooklyn only cost $7.25 per person. a steal! other things we learned were how to manage staying in a hotel for the whole vacation. though it was a short trip, we figured out how to easily do laundry for Xs diapers, get medicine, and find her quality food to eat (and then how to carry it around with us. plus, we didnt have a fridge in our room).

we also realized that while our experiment of mixing 3 different social groups was too busy for us. as i said before, i loved that they all traveled to see us, and i loved how well they all got along. they were the ideal guinea pigs...but the bottom line was...i felt bad that they were guinea pigs in the first place. it was unfair to set it up to be so challenging. i didnt get to spend much time with anyone, we were juggling X, and both dave and i had people we really wanted to chat with but didnt get much devoted time to do so. now we know: one social group at a time. seems easy enough. also, we hope very soon to be able to book a trip that is solely for pleasure, and solely for us. a new place we explore alone. i think that that will be the best way to see exactly what X needs while away from home and when she needs it. then we can have greater success when we travel to visit loved ones.

19 March 2011

Best laid plans go awry

looking at the slate of activities for today got me really excited, unfortunately, things didnt exactly go as planned...

we woke up in the morning and had about an hour of peace while X slept in until 9a. bliss! i cracked open the window shade at some point and saw the sun shining. i stared out at the tall buildings of manhattan and found the new frank gehry designed apartment building. cool. today could be epic. i was ready to get downstairs and see everyone.

(the luxury of sleeping in; morning story time)

soon everyone was up and ready to go and we chose the tasty deli again just to get a fast, cheap, big breakfast in our bellies. for about $5 i got a stack of pancakes, eggs, and crispy bacon. nothing fancy but i was able to start the day feeling full, which is always good. unfortunately this time it was dave who wasnt able to get a good meal. he was in charge of X and she wasnt having any part of sitting and being quiet in a little restaurant. :(

after breakfast, X and dave rejoined the group only long enough to see that her fussing seemed to indicate that she was already in need of her first nap. so i nursed her to sleep and dave stayed with her in the room while the rest of us headed out for a walk in the green-wood cemetery to kill time until she woke up. we had seen (yesterday) that the artist jean-michel basquiat was buried here. on the map, his gravestone was waaaaay in the back of this 478 acre cemetery. i was skeptical and weary of walking all that way with my limited energy level.

i have been starting my day lately feeling about a quarter-tank-full, so i have to choose my activities sparingly if im not going to get to nap with X to recharge. unfortunately not only did the walk zap most of my energy stores for the day, but it was also kind of a bust. basquiats gravestone was extremely plain jane ordinary. not what i was expecting. but on the up side, the cemetery was beautiful, it was sunny (though pretty windy and chilly), and i was able to talk with my friends. always a good thing. :)

(the anti-climactic gravestone)

dragging ass back to the hotel i found X awake, but she had taken a nap for the entire time we were gone. tired kid! anyway, we regrouped and headed to the prospect park area of brooklyn. we had yelped a few food options near the subway stop and had the possibility of walking in the park, doing the botanical gardens, or hitting up a museum nearby after lunch.

on the subway ride to the park, X became mesmerized by a basketball that a guy had brought on with him. it helped keep her happy during the ride, and thankfully, the guy holding the ball was hamming it up for her. he spun it around, made silly faces, and then, when he knew she was entranced, he walked it behind his back. at this point most of the people in our car were staring at this scene. as we pulled in to our station and as the ball came back in to view X started crying. everyone on the train went "awwwwwww" at the same time just before the doors opened. it felt like a scene in a movie. even though she had burst into tears it was a pretty cute moment.

once out of the subway we walked over to our lunch choice, "the islands." this place is easily ignored by someone who isnt looking for it. its on a block bordering prospect park but it is literally a hole in the wall. there are two sets of french doors next to each other. both were open. i could see a counter from the side walk and a place to stand. i saw the sandwich board sign for the restaurant but i couldnt tell where exactly i was supposed to enter. and even if it was the correct place, where were we going to eat? someone in our group asked...and they did have seating "upstairs." lol.

step off the sidewalk up a tiny, narrow, steep (think like 85 degree slant) set of industrial stairs into...an attic? loft? it felt like a low ceilinged ship quarters. easily the strangest place ive ever chosen to order food from. my friends sat at one table (in the front of the "ship") and dave, X, and i sat at another in the "back" and mary ann and megan sat at another table next to us. there was only one other table in the space that we didnt occupy. we could all practically hold hands, it was that small. this place has to be seen to be believed. and i didnt even attempt the bathroom. the door to it was laughably small.

(the steep stairs up; my friends at their table. the photo was taken from the other end of the room)

but enough about the appearance. this place was run by real jamaicans. and they operated on island time. meaning, they took their sweet ass time mah-n. it took about 30 minutes for handmade lemonade to arrive (it was wonderfully refreshing though!), and then another 45 minutes for the food to come. by then X had eaten all of her lunch and cashed out for another nap. which was fine for me because i could actually enjoy my food hot for once.

(X zonked out while i got to clean my plate)

i had ordered the curried chicken and dave had ordered the jerk chicken (my friends shared several dishes including jerk chicken, curried goat, and shrimp). the food was fantastic. the chicken had amazing flavor and the rice and beans were totally rockin. the addition of golden raisins put me over the edge. i shoveled and shoveled that stuff in my mouth. so, so good. and i think everyone else felt that way too, which is a good thing because we had to survive the wait on hungry stomachs.

after we paid and left we wanted something sweet. jody pulled out her iphone and yelped a nearby ice cream place. we walked into blue marble and were instantly semi-detached guests at some kind of kids birthday party that was going on in the back. definitely the trendiest ice cream parlor party ive ever seen. anyway, i couldnt partake in the ice cream so i grabbed two gooey brownies made by "baked" (apparently a bakery in the red hook area of brooklyn). soooo very yummy.

out on the street everyone was shivering in the chilly windy late afternoon air eating...ice cream. we hit the edge of prospect park and the entrance to the botanical gardens and were not interested in being outside anymore. we decided on the brooklyn museum for our activity of the day.

they were closing at 6p, so we had a little more than an hour to see the place. they had a neat norman rockwell exhibit that the pre-X me would have spent a lot more time perusing and pondering, but at least i got to do a walk by. it wasnt just a showcase of his iconic americana art, it was a "behind the scenes" of how he would stage different photographs of real people posing in the way he wanted to paint them. there would be one photo that provided the bulk of the image and/or backdrop of the scene he wanted to paint, but he would take a facial expression he liked from another photo and edit that in, or he would embellish something in the foreground or background of the scene. it was neat to see the original painting and the numerous photos and props that went in to creating the seemingly natural and every-day images he created.

but, as i say, i didnt really spend much time absorbing that. after that gallery everyone split up and spent the last of the time at the museum viewing the parts that they had interest in. for me, that meant a visit to the gift shop (always!) and hanging out with X wherever she liked. they had a beautiful exhibit in a large airy room with some ethereal cloth mushrooms. oh. so beautiful. and serene. i was just fine hanging out there. right before closing time we ran up to the contemporary gallery just to have a look around. nothing terribly exciting for me, but X noted that she could hear an echo in the gallery and proceeded to make silly noises.

(snuggles under the mushroom caps. of note, X and i are wearing "mommy and me" shirts [same colored jcrew shirts]. lol; X and dave in the contemporary gallery)

and then it was time to go. we were shooed out of the museum and we trudged to the subway. sooo tired. it was 6p and i felt like a senior citizen looking for my early bird special dinner and a nurse to tuck me in to bed with my tv remote. but its not like that was an option for me...

back at the hotel X seemed to be having a bad time of it. she had been cranky all day and now there just didnt seem to be anything to appease her, despite all the rest she had gotten. we had hoped she would have fun and interact with people, but instead she wouldnt let anyone near her really. i felt bad, like we hadnt figured out the right formula for traveling, visiting, and keeping her happy. she was such a different kid at home and this just wasnt much fun for anyone. we took her up for a nap to see if that would cut down on some of her displeasure.

she woke up from her nap pissed and red cheeked. we figured it was extreme teething pain and gave her some advil. only then did we think to take her temperature...and it was 101F! where the hell did that come from? she has never had a fever. thankfully the advil took her temperature right back down to normal but we were definitely in for the evening. we werent too freaked about the fever because it was able to be controlled by medicine, and i thought maybe it was a teething fever and that she would finally be getting some more teeth. we did also have our travel health insurance cards with us in case things got scary. actually, the worst part was that we only had one dose of advil in the bottle we had brought. so now, on a saturday night in an area we hadnt really seen too many drug stores, we were going to need to go looking for some infant advil. great.

(story time after the advil kicked in)

as our friends headed out to noodle pudding for dinner (megan and mary ann had also broken off and gone to see the broadway show "memphis"), we headed down to a nearby bodega called "on the corner" for some dinner and advil. they only had the vivid purple childrens advil (colored medicine freaks me out) but it was better than nothing and they actually made a shockingly rad sandwich. warm, quality meat, decent bread, a good amount for the price, and they were thoughtful in their sandwich creation (helping me modify a sandwich to be non-dairy, double-checking to see if i wanted it cut, asking us if we wanted napkins). totally hit the spot and was a bright light on an otherwise gloomy evening.

i was so ready when bedtime rolled around. i was mentally and physically tired. exhausted in fact. actually, i had been extremely frustrated all day by my mental failings. i couldnt tell if i had been so bad recently in halifax too or if the travel had zapped me more than normal, or if being around friends meant my brain was poking a part of itself that had so severely atrophied that it almost no longer remembered how to function. whatever it was i felt like a frog in a game of frogger. i wanted to jump in to conversations but the cars were rushing by too fast. by the time i had a thought to add, the topic had usually long since died. and there was an element of dementia going on for me as well. it was scary. i couldnt remember things that had just escaped peoples lips. sometimes i would stare blankly, waiting for my brain to fire up and kick out words. my responses usually embarrassed or bewildered me. i knew this wasnt the best i had to offer but i couldnt tap into the ability to feel "with it."

so, when all i had wanted was a day to absorb the lovely energy and comfort given off by my friends, i instead felt pretty bummed. i was let down by my body. the weather turned out to be crap-ish. and X had been grumpy and then sick. everyone had been really great though, really positive about making the best of the day and i was really grateful for that. it took the edge off of the things that we couldnt control. whenever i want to be negative-focused these people are always there to show me that its possible to make the best out of a not-so-rad situation. thanks guys. :)

Buddies in brooklyn

after struggling through january and february here, i needed something to look forward to. and brooklyn it was.

my good friend amy is pregnant (due in late june) and i really wanted to see her belly, and repay the visit she had given me when i was preggo. we didnt want to deal with rental cars and car seats, etc. so we found a good compromise: a direct halifax to JFK flight that would allow us to hop on a train to the subway lines. the closest desirable borough from JFK is brooklyn, and the one time i had explored brooklyn with amy and tony i was rather enchanted by it, so i thought that it was as fine a place as any to stay and have them drive to us from nyack.

anyway, the day came and airport and plane travel went smoothly. the train and subway rides went well too. the weather was lovely and i couldnt have been happier. we had an easy morning, the sun was shining, and i was en route to see friends. to top it off, i found the subway ride to be very powerful. i didnt expect that. i looked around and saw a few airport travelers, but mostly people. regular people. a mom with her son. some blue collar-working men. students. all of them culturally, racially SO different. everyone had their own personal style in what they wore, but all of them screamed "i live in new york!"

i dont know, i kept looking around and felt the life, the energy of the city warming my veins. these people were just mundanely riding the subway, and here i was grinning like an idiot and blinking back tears. i love this city. it does something to me. every time. i dont think i could ever live here, but man, a sabbatical or a few months would just be heaven. you have everything at your fingertips, you can be whoever you feel like you want to be at the near moment that you want to be it. a mom on a playground, a foodie, a theater buff, a nature lover, a museum goer, a tourist, a family, an explorer, a shopper, a face in the crowd, alone.

X slept most of the subway ride so i could have these emotions all to myself. let them wash over me and renew my spirit. when she did wake up we were close to making the one subway exchange that we had before getting to the hotel. X seemed to tolerate the subway, but she wasnt super happy about it. i dont know if it made her nervous, or if she didnt like the movement, or the fact that we wouldnt let her explore (she wanted to sit on the floor of the dirty A train. um, no. i draw the line somewhere). but we eventually made it to our hotel. it was a stones throw from the subway and next door to a decent market, which was great.

we lugged ourselves and our stuff up to the room and...surprise, i forgot how small NYC hotel rooms are. no matter. i quickly got to work seeing who had checked in. i guess i should mention here that once i booked our trip to NYC i invited some of my college friends who live on the east coast (ntina and jody and their men ben and patrick) and dave invited his mom and sister. and everyone said yes! a group of 10.5 of us, some of our nearest and dearest, prowling the city. this could be interesting...

anyway, ntina and ben had checked in and were ready to hang out. daves mom and sister were also ready. we met in their room and decided to grab some food. our hotel was in a mostly hispanic area (sunset park) but there were scads of delis around. according to yelp, the "tasty deli" across the street had good cheap eats. dave and i have had a horrible time finding anything resembling a decent basic deli sandwich around halifax so we were looking forward to this. dave really enjoyed his hot pastrami sandwich and everyone else gobbled up their simple and filling eats. unfortunately for me, X was in need of another nap due to the stress of travel and visitors. so, i stood on the sidewalk outside and bounced her to sleep. i ordered a chicken salad with pita bread thinking i could just pick pieces off rather than try and bite into a sandwich with a kid strapped to me, but it didnt really work out that way.

anyway, no worries, our next stop was to stroll through the green-wood cemetery. this gorgeous sweeping plot of land was about three blocks from our hotel and had an elaborate stone entrance. very bizarre to see amid the very average looking neighborhood it is situated in (obviously built up around it many, many years after the land was established as a cemetery). we arrived with only 30-40 minutes before the gates closed for the night so we didnt have much time to check it out but we had some amazing weather to wander around the gravestones, pond, chapel, and paths that were near the front entrance. except for an odd woman feeding feral cats, we were pretty much alone to explore quietly this beautiful place. it was a nice calm way to begin our city visit.

(the entrance to green-wood cemetery; ntina and ben with us at the chapel in the cemetery; some of the interesting mausoleums)

and just as we were walking back to hotel after closing time we joined up with patrick, amy and tony. they had arrived while we were out and had come to meet us. now the only person who hadnt joined the pack was jody. she arrived shortly after we got back to the hotel and the whole gang (10.5 of us) were together. wow, we were a bunch! our rooms were too small to hang out in together so we gathered in the lobby. we had gifts for people and they had gifts for us, for X. it was like christmas all over again. although i thought the gift was just going to be able to see all of these people, they felt the need to bring lovely things for us as well. how did we get so lucky? i do not know.

our next task, the biggest of the day...was to find a brooklyn restaurant that would put all of us at a table. ha! most places are small little eateries with like a dozen tables. i wasnt optimistic. but, from yelp, we saw 5th avenue in park slope had a lot of highly rated places to eat so we thought that was our best shot. it was just a couple stops up the R line on the subway and we emerged into the hipster, family neighborhood of park slope (seriously we saw a TON of kids out. what an awesome childhood: manhattan from your window and a sense of community straight off your front steps).

its a really cool area that youve likely heard of if youve heard white people talking about brooklyn. it definitely had a "type" in terms of people walking around, shopping options, and overall ambiance. i liked it. and there were more than enough restaurants on the block with inviting lighting and smiling people to tell me we were in a good location. but who would take us all? well, we ended up at a peruvian place called "el pollo."

on a friday night, in brooklyn, at 8p this place could seat all 10 of us together plus a baby seat. and they were pretty well rated on yelp. and the meal proved that. peruvian isnt a particularly spicy cuisine (although they did have a yummy spicy green sauce that had jalapeno and mint as the main ingredients). mostly just basic beans, rice, and roasted chicken. it was good though. dave ordered the chicken stew with rice and beans and i flubbed up and got a chicken empanada and avocado toast appetizer as my dinner. the empanada was ick. like pre-made frozen ick. the avocado appetizer was good but wasnt filling enough. i wish i had just gotten what dave had ordered, or the 1/4 chicken, rice, and beans that everyone else ordered. my brain just did a total fail in terms of food today. :(

(the table of my lovelies. yes, im being possessive of them)

anyway, i enjoyed waiting for the food. i took X out to the sidewalk to explore. it was warm enough and there were all kinds of interesting characters on the street. she had a great time and i did too. when we would go back inside to check in, i would smile as i realized i got to sit down at a table with some of my closest loved ones. they were chatting and enjoying themselves and the expressions on their faces and familiar hum of all of their voices in the same space made my heart sing.

(amy and the belly that inspired the trip; amy and hubby tony; ben and ntina)

(jody and patrick; mary ann and megan [daves mom and sister]; aunt megan chatting with X during dinner)

every single one of these people traveled to see us. by plane, bus, train, subway, car. they braved traffic and took vacation days. it just boggles my mind. i really never thought i would have friends like this. i am so grateful. i guess thats why it gets so hard for me sometimes, being so far away. there is just such an enormous chasm between being alone and being with them. its pretty much impossible to fill that void.

knowing that i had them all at my fingertips tonight and saturday and sunday was awesome. of course, with X, it meant it didnt really have as much freedom to socialize as i have had on earlier vacations with friends, but for me, just breathing the same air as them and getting to lay my eyes on them made a world of difference. we rode the subway home after dinner and i went to sleep a happy lady. :)

13 March 2011

Old papa hubbard

had a wonderfully busy sunday celebrating a belated (31st) birthday for dave.

i recently told dave that i cant believe how much weve done in the last few years, and his birthday is a good example of what i mean. two years ago we were skiing in the alps. last year we were prepping for the arrival of monster. and this year, we are a family of three. and i think we did a pretty good job of having a good time for his birthday this year. if i do say so myself.

we woke up to the sun blaring in through our windows. a good sign! then we quickly ate and got ready to go meet sue, the t.rex, who was on display at the natural history museum. she normally lives at the chicago field museum, but she started a tour of canada, stopping in halifax first. she is the largest, most extensive and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimen ever found. of course X couldnt have cared less about her, but it was neat for us to see. X liked to touch all the "sue" stickers that had gotten stuck to the floor though. after seeing the exhibit we wandered through the other galleries showcasing rocks, birds, mammals, marine life, and the live animal area. then we meandered on the sidewalk back to the car letting X explore. she picked up every leaf she saw and had a great time before getting back in the car and heading home for a nap.

(me, X, and sue; X showing interest in some rocks; carrying a leaf on the sidewalk; papa and X)

after the nap, we piled into the car and drove out to the town of hubbards to eat at the trellis cafe. we have eaten there a few times before but the birthday boy wanted their club sandwich and yummy chocolate cake. who was i to deny him? after we ordered our "usual" items, i took X outside to walk in the sunshine. she had a great time looking at rocks and attempting to step in puddles. when our food arrived we went back inside and she got to sit in a cute wooden high chair and enjoy the restaurants awesome homemade country brown bread. it was a really great lunch.

(dave loves club sandwiches but REFUSES to tell the waiters to leave the tomato and mayo off the sandwich. he'd rather get messy and waste his own time scraping the crap off; X in her handmade bib enjoying lunch; dave and his birthday boy chocolate cake)

after food, we werent quite ready to go back so we drove down the road from the restaurant a bit and came to a riverside park. we crossed a little bridge over the fitzroy river and parked to take a look at the raging waters. the early melt had obviously dumped a ton of cold water into the river and it was making a very loud, yet very peaceful waterfall noise. X had a great time. she was mesmerized by the water for a while, and then we put her down and she played with sticks, moss, dirt, rocks. she climbed the steps up to a little church and climbed back down. she mountain climbed up some bigger rocks. we found a beautiful spider in the grass to poke with a stick. and a caterpillar. and buds on trees. signs of life! it was such a nice little random find of a place on a lovely day.

(watching the river with papa; slaying the papa dragon with her stick)

but eventually it was nap time and so we piled back in to the car and X slept on the way home. once we hit the apartment door we were back in action though. dave made a pasta casserole to bring over to stephanie (the mom who made Xs bib. see above.) and baby avas house for dinner. avas daddy is away and we thought it might be helpful to make the single momma dinner and to wear out the babies. :) and while visiting, ava seemed to have convinced X that crawling can be cool. she started to (very stiffly) actually crawl while playing. whoa! and it only took 10.5 months. lol. so now the babies both have a similar skill set: crawling, walking with help, banging on things, they like books, etc. so its nice to have a buddy so close by for X to play with.

and THAT was our day. probably the busiest in memory. certainly the most action packed X has gotten. in her life quite possibly. everything was tailored to her but we were able to have a nice birthday day for dave at the same time. it was lovely.