Thanksgiving in NYC

Hands down, one of my favorite things about living in New York City is Thanksgiving. Long, long ago, when the husband and I were just dating and I was still in college, I started coming here to his family for Thanksgiving…and the parade! I have ALWAYS loved parades and the best one of all is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every year, my house was filled with the sounds of parade coverage as we lounged in the living room waiting to go to my grandma’s to feast. When I had a chance to actually attend in person, I jumped at it…and kept going every year after.

I have so many parade memories that they sort of start to meld together into one awesome parade: there was the year we had brunch at Jean Georges and watched from the patio, the year my sister-in-law and I froze to death and laughed at a family near us that had a comment for EVERYTHING, the year my mom and sister came up and we took selfies with the balloons before it was cool (with a real camera no less), the year we watched from an apartment high above Central Park West, the year Declan was a tiny baby in the Bjorn.

But two years ago, we said no more. It got to be a hassle getting the kids there and then getting them ready to go to the in-laws. So instead we went to the balloon inflating the night before. NEVER go to the balloon inflating!!! It is a nightmare that knows no equal where people are herded like cattle past giant cartoon characters captured in nets. We escaped into the subway halfway through!

So last year we scrapped the whole parade. It was sad, but it was relaxing. This year, we were all prepared to watch on TV and hang out at home. But after 40 minutes of interviews with sitcom stars, commercials, and clips from Broadway shows, Brady and I couldn’t take anymore. So we went for a little walk and got us some parade action.

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Bad Mommy

Yesterday, I was not my best self. Brady and 3 of his oldest friends started a week of camp at the zoo yesterday. Getting there and back is not the easiest, especially with toddlers in tow, but it’s a cool experience so it’s hopefully worth it. Taking two buses with two children and a folded stroller often makes me want to move to the suburbs where I could just drive everywhere.

But we made there it pretty easily and then Declan and I had fun in the park with our friends for a awhile before taking the easy way out and cabbing home for lunch. My mother-in-law came in for the afternoon so I went alone to pick up Brady and a friend.

After pickup we all decided a stop at the ice cream cart was a good idea. We got some treats and the kids played a bit. When an argument broke out, Brady got frustrated and then exploded at his friend who started crying. When I corrected him, he had excuses lined up and insisted he hadn’t done anything wrong before beginning to sob himself. I hate this behavior of his so much that I, in my 35 years of adult wisdom, responded by doing the EXACT same thing. Yes, as he raged at me about how it wasn’t his fault, I got more and more frustrated and, like a rubber band pulled beyond it’s range, BOOM, I snapped. 

I yelled at him to apologize to his friend, to stop walking away from me, to act better. I used my growly angry voice and my mean, angry words. In essence, I acted like a child. When finally calmed down, I got Brady aside and talked to him in soft words about why I didn’t like his behavior. I pointed out to him that losing your temper is something that happens, clearly it had just happened to me, but that that doesn’t mean it’s ok and we still have to say we’re sorry. I said was sorry and gave him a hug.

But I still felt just awful. I was embarrassed for losing my temper in front of my friends, my friends’ children, and countless tourists enjoying an afternoon in Central Park. I was ashamed of treating my child that way. I felt like a failure as a mother, not only because of my behavior, but because of Brady’s behavior. Even though I was trying to teach my son that being human is ok, that emotions get the best of us sometimes, and that we just have to try to react better in the future, I was not allowing myself the same consideration. 

Today I still feel badly about yesterday afternoon, but I’m working on it. I cannot changed the way I acted, but I can change my future reactions. I can allow myself to be human and I can use this to remind myself to take a breath next time and to be a better example to the child who has clearly inherited my quick temper. 

Parenting a 2-Year-Old in NYC

There are some things about raising children in the city that I find particularly irritating. We have to load up and walk blocks to get outdoor play. We have to get on the bus or subway to get anywhere outside of the neighborhood and take the stupid stroller with us on such excursions. Everything costs fifty times more than it should, especially school/camp/classes. There are things. But one that really gets me is the stares from people (ahem, older women) when children misbehave. 

This morning Declan and I dropped Brady off at school and headed to Starbucks like we do most mornings. We like to sit for fifteen minutes or so while I sip my coffee and he eats a muffin or another snack and we often chat with other people who have just dropped their kids off at school. This morning Declan was having none of it. He wanted to sit…but ONLY in seats that were already occupied. I tried to explain that we could sit in any of the several unoccupied seats which prompted him to scream his bloody head off like a wild animal. 

I packed him into the stroller and started the 3.5 block walk home. He continued to howl and rock from side to side screaming that he wanted to sit down and NOT go home! Tears streamed down his face. He waved Brady’s green Crocs (which he, of course, had to hold) over his head. He kicked the stroller blanket down until it was dragging on the ground. I called my mother and talked on the phone like nothing was happening to keep myself from screaming at him on the sidewalk.

I stared straight ahead and walked as quickly as I could. But I couldn’t help but notice the heads turning in our direction, the whispering, the raising of hands to mouths in shock at the behavior of this horrible child. Because no 2-year-old in the history of time has ever thrown a fit before and no mother has ever ignored the tantrum not wanting to reinforce the behavior and hoping that it would subside. Certainly these women never had children of their own and, if they did, they NEVER acted up and, if they did, it was in the privacy of their own homes or easily diffused by expert mothering. 

I pushed through, ignored the reactions of the people around me, and made it to our building where the doormen laughed a little and gave me sympathetic looks. I know that some of those people were probably sympathizing. I know that some of it was my own feelings about his behavior being projected onto other people. I know I shouldn’t let it get to me, but somehow it still does. At least this time no one asked me if he was ok. 

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Post-horrific, screaming, sobbing, flailing fit Declan.

Beach Time!

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Tomorrow morning we are leaving for 6 days in Cape May, NJ. I can’t wait to get the heck out of NYC and spend a little time in the waves. Never again do we plan our only vacation for the last week of summer. Though we’ve been able to get out on the weekends a lot, we’ve pretty much been city-bound for the entire summer and it’s just enough already! Enough dust, enough jackhammers, enough people, enough sirens, enough schlepping all of our junk to the friggin playground.

It’s time for sandcastles and wave jumping and pool swimming. I’m ready for arcade games and hot dogs and ice cream. I want to see my kids exhausted from long days of fun. I just hope I haven’t built it up too much at this point. 

I’ll be on vacation from blogging as well so I’ll see you in a week. 

Project Optimism: The Gathering

I have some sort of psychotic need to continue my Project Optimism posts. Maybe it’s because it gets to me to write. Maybe it’s because it makes me smile every Monday. Maybe it’s because it gets me thinking. Whatever the reason, I will continue. 

This week is a little bittersweet. Yesterday we went to a party at Chelsea Piers. It was a going-away party for some dear friends who are making the big move away from the NYC metro area. We hadn’t seen them in a long time. Much too long. In the time since we last saw them, they had a son, we had a son, they moved twice, we moved once, our children grew. 

It was so wonderful to meet up with not only them, but so many old friends. These were friends we spent late nights with in our early twenties, when the city was a place of bars and clubs and stumbling out of a cab at 5am to buy Poptarts at the deli. These are friends who let us crash at their places for undetermined amounts of time when we had no electricity because of the blackout, or just because we were too tired to go home yet. 

Now we are older, grayer, maybe more responsible, many out in the burbs, and almost all of us have children. Yesterday, they all played together in the sun as we looked out over the Hudson river. They shared trains and snacks and played pinball. We had beers like the old days, but it was distinctly not like the old days. Instead of loud music and the smell of cigarette smoke, we were surrounded by conversation and our children’s laughter. It was divine in so many ways.

The bittersweet part is that we didn’t do this until it was all ending. They are taking off to another state far away just next week and yet we didn’t get together when they were just across the river. Thank goodness for Facebook and Instagram so we can see each others’ kids and watch them grow. I suppose it often proves true, you just don’t know what you got till it’s gone. 

I’ll take this lesson and spend more time with the friends who are here, take the time to visit the friends who aren’t, and stop using the excuse of “well, we have kids now.” Because honestly, shouldn’t that be the reason instead?

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I didn’t manage to get any pictures without our friends’ kids’ faces in them, so you’ll have to settle for Declan by the water. 

Is This How You See Us?

By “us” I mean both NYC in general and the Upper East Side specifically. By “you” I don’t really mean you, but rather people outside of New York as a group. It’s been a long time so I can’t really remember what my ideas of New York City were before I moved here. I know that a lot of what I thought about the UES was based on Sex and the City and Carrie’s completely impossible apartment. (Everyone on TV conveniently has an in to a rent-controlled place.) 

Anyway, I was just walking D\ in the stroller for his nap and came across a couple with their grown son talking to a woman walking her dog. From what I could gather, the son was looking at an apartment. They asked the woman with the dog, “What is this neighborhood like?” and she was replying that it’s nice, etc, etc. The mother interrupted the woman to say, “so we’re safe here?” 

Now, these people were looking at a building on a lovely, tree-lined street. It was on the same block as, almost directly across from, my son’s elementary school. As they stood on the sidewalk, the woman with the dog walked by, followed by me with a sleeping toddler in a stroller. Behind me was a woman with her newborn and then a nanny with a little girl walking beside her and a small boy in a stroller. I understand wanting your son to live in a nice place after graduating college, but can’t you glean a little about the neighborhood from what’s around you? Small business and chain stores, restaurants and coffee shops, lots and lots and lots of families with children…my son’s gorgeous elementary school taking up half the block across the street. Was their idea of New York SO scary, that they really needed to ask a passerby if their adult son would be safe in my neighborhood?

I didn’t want to take a picture of that block since my son’s school is right there and I don’t want any creepy people out there on the internets stalking him or anything, but here are two photos of another block I walked down on my way back home. (Please ignore the stupid construction signs. We have the most horrific construction going on, that is literally driving me to drink. It is bananas. I want to write about it, but I get so angry every time I sit down to do it that I can’t go through with it. It is making my relationship with NYC a bit, er, complicated. But I digress.)

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Does this look scary or unsafe? Maybe I’m just being overly sensitive. I feel recently that so much that happens in my neighborhood is based on how other people view my neighborhood. It seems as if we’re either seen as the scary big city, where no child could grow up normal, with little access to things like grass and trees, or some haven populated exclusively by filthy-rich white people.

Yes, I know it’s mostly white up here. I know. But it’s still far more diverse than a whole lot of this country. My son’s kindergarten class is a near-perfect, micro-representation of the racial/ethnic breakdown of America. (I say racial/ethnic because not everything thought of as race is actually race. It’s a very complicated way of classifying people. I am talking about the major racial/ethnic groups that we look at in the U.S. population.) We are most certainly NOT all rich. It’s actually one of the most affordable neighborhoods in Manhattan. Yes, there are plenty of crazy wealthy people living here, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a bunch of normal middle-class families here too. 

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I was just really struck by that woman’s comment. It so surprised me that someone would feel unsafe standing in my neighborhood. I like my neighborhood and I happen to feel very, very safe here. Of course there is crime, but for the most part it’s a really nice place to live. I’ve also had the subject of perception in relation to my neighborhood weighing on my mind because of the controversy over the MTS (Marine Transfer Station, Google it, you’ll get lots and lots of opinions) being built two and half blocks from my son’s school, right next to a playground that we frequent and the playing field where he will be playing soccer this fall. I WILL be writing more on that, but I need to think it out and get my facts straight first. Again, I get so angry when I try to write about it that I can’t get it out. It seems to me that the perception of where I live has led certain people to believe that we need a little more adversity in our lives. Again, I digress.

I suppose that this is one of the things that goes along with living in one of the most well-known and largest cities on the planet. Everyone knows about it and therefor forms ideas about it in relation to their own exposure and experiences. In some ways, this is amazing and good and in some ways, it can be hurtful. No matter what, it’s something I have to live with if I choose to live here.

So, what are your thoughts on New York City and the Upper East Side specifically? Do you have preconceived ideas about this place? Have you experienced something similar in the place where you live?

Project Optimism: The Terrace

Note: Photos to come.

Last July, yes I said LAST and JULY, our terrace, our little piece of the outside world in the city, was closed for construction. There was some notice about not being up to code and the work taking approximately 4-6 weeks to complete, depending on weather. We were going on vacation when the work was supposed to start so a week beforehand we shipped our plants and grill off to my in-laws’ house, thinking we would at least have it back for part of the fall.

This was not the case. Four weeks turned into ten turned into 16. Our bedroom windows were sealed shut with plastic for three and a half months. Summer turned into fall turned into winter turned into spring. From our windows we saw other lines of apartments lose their balconies and then get them finished and reopened again and again. The weather turned warm and sunny again and still we couldn’t use our outdoor space. Our patience wore thin. It wore very, very, very thin.

We complained to management, and the super, and tenant relations. We got the runaround. Finally, I LOST it. When they were nearly finished and then stopped work on our line for an entire week I went nuts! I went down to the super sweet girl in tenant relations. I begged her to do something…ANYTHING! And then a miracle occurred and last Thursday they took down the two-by-four that was nailed across our door and removed the caution tape and we had our porch back! Just under TEN MONTHS later we have it back!

On Saturday we went to Home Depot and bought planters and flowers and seeds. Yesterday we got our grill back from the husband’s parents’ place. Today we planted petunias and grilled sliders for dinner. It may not seem like a big deal, but to us it is. And we are very, very happy to have our terrace back!

In all my excitement I forgot to take any photos! I’ll take some tomorrow and put them up I promise.