Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Turn Off the TV Week

We haven't participated in "Turn off the TV Week" since Chris was in preschool and the whole school encouraged involvement. We've turned it into "Turn Off the Screen" week, although I obviously get an exemption at work. Although we do heavily restrict "screen time" for our kids, they have gotten sucked into becoming screen addicts. Kieran will watch the "Wizard of Oz" every day if he had his way--or other DVDs such as the Wiggles, Fairy Tale Theater, Arthur, etc.--and Chris has been having a heyday since we got DSL and the internet on our home computer last fall. We have deliberately avoided getting cable TV because of Chris' media love.

We are delighted that Chris has made a friend in our neighborhood who goes to a Waldorf School...therefore, no television or computer at all. The boy's mom has requested that the kids play outside in their yard so her son will not be tempted by our computer or TV! That works just fine with us, and we are hoping that it will encourage a healthier screen-free life. For even though he is unable to watch or play on the computer as much as he would like, other past times (such as reading) are often related to media, such as movie novels, comic books, and Disney or Nickelodeon themed books.

The kids are moaning about screen-free week, but we've told them that they can have $10 to spend at a bookstore at the end of the week if they cooperate. Just what we need...more books! We are very fortunate that our kids also love to read in spite of enjoying TV as well! Nicholas is already appearing to be a book and music lover...anything paper in his sight he grabs. Kieran and I have learned that if we read a book with Nicholas around, we need to give him something else to clutch in his hands, or he'll try to grab the book.

When I read these statistics about televisions in the American home, I realize that we are actually doing very well:
  • The average American family has 2.55 people, but owns 2.73 televisions (more televisions than people!). 50 percent of American families have at least 3 televisions, and only 19% have only 1. (We have 1 television, and it's downstairs in the basement family room.)

  • The average home has the TV on for more than 8 hours a day!

  • The average American watches 4 hours and 35 minutes of TV a day. (Children average around 3 hours per day, and they spend more time watching TV than in school during the whole year.)

  • Around 70% of U.S. day care centers use TV during a typical day.

  • One in four children under the age of two has a TV in his or her bedroom.

  • During Saturday morning cartoons, there are more than eight commercials for unhealthy foods per 10 minutes of viewing time! (202 ads during a 4-hour period.)

  • The more TV children watch, the more likely they are to snack between meals, consume foods seen on TV, and attempt to influence their parents' purchasing habits.

  • Children who watch 6 hours a day of children score significantly lower on reading tests than those who watch 1 hour or less a day.
To read more of these types of statistics, or learn more about TV turnoff week, go to TV Turnoff Network.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fun New Diversions on the Sidebar

Thanks to my friend Katy, who has two great blogs of her own:

These Are the Knits I Know and Picky Eaters Anonymous,

I have discovered a cool site that allows addition of some nifty features to one's blog--including the very addictive spelling tool. Check out the sidebar and try it yourself! Mike and I were both expert spellers, and we tend to have VERY high expectations of Chris in that category as well. He does fine with spelling, but it doesn't come as easily to him as it did to us, and being oldest children, we are probably a bit too intense in our drilling of those weekly spelling words!

I also liked some of the other available features--this day in history, quote of the day, and word of the day. Let me know what you think by writing a comment if you are so moved!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


My dad sent this to me the other day, and I thought it was worth passing along.

May you listen to your longing to be free.
May the frames of your belonging be large enough for the dreams of your soul.
May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart that something great is going to happen to you.
May you find harmony between your soul and your life.
May the mansion of your soul never become a haunted place.
May you know the eternal longing that is at the heart of time.
May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.
May you never place walls between the light and yourself.
May your Higher Power free you from prisons of guilt, fear, disappointment and despair.
May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you, mind you, and embrace you in belonging.

Comic for the Day--Imus Sexist and Racist Legacy

Monday, April 16, 2007

Family Dance Party with Dan Zanes and Friends!

Yesterday our whole family went to our second "Dan Zanes & Friends" concert and had another great time. Here are 10 reasons to discover Dan Zanes, if you haven't already:

1. Every song is foot-stomping, toe-tapping, move-in-your seat or stand-on-your-feet fun and catchy.
2. They use a variety of instruments and musical traditions and are talented musicians.
3. It's high-quality music that doesn't grate on your nerves after awhile (like some other music marketed to children).
4. The band is diverse and even full of women friends (most backup bands are mostly men).
5. They clearly have a blast with this music! And adults love it along with kids.
6. They are not out to make a lot of money. Their concerts, CDs, and other merchandise are affordable. They perform in smaller, local venues where they can see and interact with the audience.
7. They connect to their audience in a very unusual way--they process in and out of the theater singing, and they stay after the concert to sign CDs and chat with their fans.
8. Dan and friends shop at thrift stores--and look cool!
9. It's the only concert I've been to where there is a kids' mosh pit!
10. It's feel-good music and makes us smile!

Chris had Dan and friends sign the "New York" t-shirt he was wearing, along with a CD we bought at the concert.

We'll always be grateful to Laurie, Drew, and Sophie for introducing us to our favorite family band, and we were very sorry that they were unable to join us yesterday at the concert because of the sad death of Laurie's dad.

If you haven't yet discovered Dan Zanes and friends, check them out!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

If Imus had called them "fat dykes," would it have been overlooked?

Harvey Fierstein wrote an interesting op ed piece in the New York Times last week (see below) about the acceptability of outright discrimination and disrespect when it comes to other categories...gays, Jews, overweight people, to name a few. In fact, I suspect that if Don Imus had slung a misogynist epithet (and not a racist AND misogynist one) at the Rutgers women's basketball team, it would have been overlooked. What is acceptable discrimination in our culture?

"For the past two decades political correctness has been derided as a surrender
to thin-skinned, humorless, uptight oversensitive sissies. Well, you anti-politically correct people have won the battle, and we’re all now feasting on the spoils of your victory. During the last few months alone we’ve had a few comedians spout racism, a basketball coach put forth anti-Semitism and several high-profile spoutings of anti-gay epithets.

What surprises me, I guess, is how choosy the anti-P.C. crowd is about which hate speech it will not tolerate. Sure, there were voices of protest when the TV actor Isaiah Washington called a gay colleague a “faggot.” But corporate America didn’t pull its advertising from “Grey’s Anatomy,” as it did with Mr. Imus, did it? And when Ann Coulter likewise tagged a presidential candidate last month, she paid no real price.

In fact, when Bill Maher discussed Ms. Coulter’s remarks on his HBO show,he repeated the slur no fewer than four times himself; each mention, I must note,solicited a laugh from his audience. No one called for any sort of apology fromhim. (Well, actually, I did, so the following week he only used it once.) Face it,if a Pentagon general, his salary paid with my tax dollars, can label homosexualacts as “immoral” without a call for his dismissal, who are the moral high andmighty kidding?"

I am constantly facing this issue as I argue about what is acceptable movie viewing for a 10-year-old boy. My oldest son is bound and determined to convince us to allow him to see movies that are rated R, PG-13, or what I view as just plain hateful and inappropriate. We've allowed him to see a handful of PG-13 movies (Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, and Harry Potter), and he views that as license to lobby us to see all PG-13 movies. We are holding our ground...but what is my recent concern is the spate of movies that are full of homophobic or sexist jokes, scantily clad women, and inappropriate sexual references or language. Take the recent remake of the "Bad News Bears," which is one of the movies in constant argument. My sources tell me that it's full of homophobic, racist, and sexist jokes and references, not to mention drugs and bad language. Yet it's marketed to children. Then there's the recent "Blades of Glory," which my son is desperate to see. One look at the trailer shows that it must be full of homophobic references and jokes. I have never found mean humor attractive, and it seems that the humor is getting meaner and meaner.

I have found a couple of helpful web sites that I use to check out appropriateness of certain movies. I've now given my son the link to one of these web sites, so he can check out the age ratings for himself. I'm sure we'll still have the arguments, but I'm hoping that he will someday understand that I'm looking out for his best interests. Here are the web sites that give kids' ratings: Movie Mom and Kids in Mind. My DH is a tiny bit more relaxed about content than I am--he's allowed him to watch Yu-Gi-Oh and the Simpsons, for example. According to the 4th grader, other boys his age are allowed to watch all manner of PG-13 and R-rated movies! Maybe it's mom trying to protect her kids as long as possible? What do you think?

Friday, April 13, 2007

My Easter Bunnies

Our little Easter Bunny! (This is the costume that mortifies older brothers...on Kieran's birthday we all went to see "Happy Feet," and he went in costume, much to Chris' embarassment!)

As if there hadn't been enough excitement for one weekend, the day after the "Wizard of Oz" party was Easter and my dad's birthday. We went to church, went to my parents' house for brunch, came home and had a nap, and returned to Mom & Dad's house to celebrate Dad's birthday. The kids hunted for eggs three times in one day! Talk about sugar overload. Fortunately Mom and Aunty Nadine thought ahead and put money in their eggs.

Fortunately I have one child who likes to dye eggs with me...Kieran is the family artist.

Kieran and his buddy Connie at the church Easter egg hunt...

It's hard to get a good photo with nine people, six of whom are wiggly boys!

Just the five of us...

A VERY rare photo op of the oldest and youngest boys...

Nicholas and two of his adoring cousins on his first Easter!

I love this one! Nicholas and his Aunty Nadine

We're Off to See the Wizard!

It all started when I was home on maternity leave, when Mike and Kieran went to the video store and arrived home with "The Wizard of Oz," to my horror. "Do you realize how scary that movie is???" I shrieked. It turned out that Mike had never seen the full movie before and had not experienced the flying monkeys, grabbing trees, or much of the Wicked Witch.

It only took a few repeated viewings (fast-forwarding through the scary parts initially) for Oz to become Kieran's most beloved movie. He fancies himself as the Wicked Witch, and now when he's watching the movie and she appears, he shouts out "Look! It's me!"
So for months we have been talking about having a Wizard of Oz birthday party. We decided to invite just a few family friends beyond immediate family, and we invited people to come in costume if they chose. The party took place only six days after we returned from our vacation, so it was thrown together at the last minute!

We had a bit of a last-minute crisis the day before when I reminded Kieran that we had only a purple witch's hat, and he was distraught at not having a black one. For a few moments, he decided that he would have a Winnie the Pooh party instead, until I persuaded him that everyone else would be upset. I found some Oz stickers for the goody bags, bought some yellow paper for a yellow brick road, created a mini-play based on the full movie script, printed out lyrics to the songs, decorated a cake with M&Ms and yellow frosting spray, and threw together a witch's costume with some black skirts. I had also bought some Oz-themed presents, including the soundtrack from the movie. It sounds like a lot now that I write it all down, but given what many parents do for their children's parties--and what I COULD have done with this theme--it didn't seem like much.
At about 1/2 hour before party time, I finally allowed Kieran to have his way with the face paints--all day long he'd been begging me to allow him to go at it with the green face paint. We were delighted to see some of our guests come in costume--my sister's incredible nanny Herrera fashioned costumes for Kieran's Aunty Nadine and his cousins, and one of Kieran's "godfamilies" came in costume as Dorothy, Aunty Em, and Uncle Henry! We read through the mini-play, and of course Kieran knew his parts by heart. I fully expected tears at some point, because expectations were high...but it all went off without a hitch.
Photos below: the Wicked Witch and his guests, his cake, and his Oz characters. plus a Wicked Witch of the West Wannabe...

His beloved godfamily the Newmans gave him incredible Wizard of Oz characters, which he adores. His birthday wasn't until Monday (after Easter), on which day we gave him our gifts--a Wizard of Oz movie storybook and an "I Love Oz" mug and delightful book and trinket set from "Books of Wonder" in New York City. I think the rest of us are all "Ozzed" out, but not Kieran--he would watch the movie every day if he had his wish, and he's already planning his "Wizard of Oz Halloween Party"!!
Photos below: Celebrating his birthday at school

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New York City, Part Two

Monday, March 26: One of the most interesting facets of visiting big, vibrant cities like New York, London, and Paris is soaking up the interesting neighborhoods. On Monday we set out to see New York’s Chinatown for the first time. We found it to be extremely crowded and slightly disappointing compared to other Chinatowns we’ve been to in other American cities, not to mention authentic Chinese areas and cities in Hong Kong, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, and China itself. In every store we went into, the clerks hovered as if we were going to let our children break something. Chris expressed interest in a few cheap toys, though, and the clerks started bargaining with him! We persuaded him to save his allowance and buy something of higher value and sturdiness later.

The highlight of Chinatown was an excellent Dim Sum lunch at HSF in Chinatown. It was the best kind of Dim Sum lunch for non-red meat eaters, where you get to choose off a menu and thereby avoid pig’s feet and other unknown delicacies.

At left: visiting with Jerry & Carolyn

In the afternoon, we took the subway to the upper west side, where we visited our dear friends Jerry and Carolyn. We met them in Oaxaca, Mexico, in February 1996. We were staying at a cheap Mexican hotel near the center of town with an open courtyard in the middle of the hotel (Hotel Las Rosas), and an American tourist happened into the hotel and was convinced he was having a heart attack. Mike tried to convey this to the hotel desk clerks, but was struggling to convey medical information in his high school Spanish. Jerry came to the rescue and effectively conveyed the urgency of the situation. He asked us if we were doing anything later that day, and a friendship was born. Jerry and Carolyn were going to Oaxaca annually at the time, so they introduced us to many wonders of Oaxaca, including the spicy drink Michelada. (I’m sure I’m not spelling that correctly.)

At any rate, Jerry and Carolyn live in Manhattan, and we have visited them on each of our trips to New York, in 1998, 2005, and 2007. Jerry is a retired social worker and unemployment ombudsman, and Carolyn is a talented artist. What we didn’t know until this trip was that Jerry and his Czech family were put in internment camps during World War II and have been profiled in the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Perhaps on our next visit, when the children are older, we'll be able to visit the museum. We had a lovely visit catching up and planned to meet up once more during our stay.

Tuesday, March 27: We visited Holden Caulfield’s American Museum of Natural History. Always a popular place for kids, but especially since “A Night at the Museum” recently came out. That movie was PERFECT for a 10-year-old boy, and Chris was anxious to see all of the items in the movie. We discovered that they took great creative license in the movie, and that about the only authentic thing in the movie was the exterior of the museum! At any rate, the kids had a great time. Mike’s brother Ed and son Alex joined us for the day.

At left: Chris with the Easter Island statue (made famous in "Night at the Museum," and both boys in front of a dinosaur skeleton)

As we exited the front of the museum, I spied a Central Park bench where my family ate gasoline-scented sandwiches on a rainy afternoon in 1981. When I was 16, my family took a fantastic 6-week cross-country trip and camped in pup tents in “Cheesequake State Park” in New Jersey while venturing into New York City every day. Somehow, there had been a gas leak in the trunk where our food was, and everything smelled of gas. I wonder now what kind of brain damage I sustained by eating gas-infected sandwiches! Maybe that explains my memory loss of late!! :)

In the afternoon, we ventured to the “Books of Wonder” bookstore in Chelsea. We had read about it in several guidebooks, and it was supposed to have the largest collection of Wizard of Oz books in the world, so of course we had to go. When we arrived, I asked a shop assistant about the Oz books, and she led us to the two bookcases containing more Oz books than I knew existed. Kieran was in heaven. What a wonderful children’s book store. For those of you in Portland, it’s a bit like Annie Bloom’s for kids.

Wednesday, March 28: Wednesday was our day for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and we did not venture out as early as we had hoped. However, the lines were shorter than the last time we went in 2003. We were early enough to receive coveted tickets into the pedestal of the statue. When we finally arrived at Liberty Island after waiting in long security lines, we saw the line into the pedestal and decided to pass.

Instead we took a tour around the island with a funny park ranger. He talked at length about the colorful history of the statue. Apparently when they dedicated the statue, many dignitaries and politicians were gathered for long, lofty speeches. Lady Liberty was supposed to symbolize freedom and equality for all; however, no women were invited to the dedication. Incensed, a group of suffragettes rowed up in boats and protested loudly during the dedication ceremony. Interesting to consider what “liberty and justice for all” and the words of our constitution have meant to different people over the years!

In the end, we did go up in the pedestal because the line got shorter. It was worthwhile…there was a museum inside and we were able to look up inside of the statue. Of course, Mike’s most prized memory will be seeing how many people were turned away because they did not have tickets to go inside of the statue!

Photos above: views from the pedestal--Lady Liberty, Manhattan, our family

Ellis Island was fascinating as always, although Mike and I could have stayed much longer. We saw a great documentary about the island’s history and immigration. I would recommend taking the time to see it if you go.

Photo at left: on the boat returning to Manhattan

That evening we had amazing takeout Chinese food…some of the best Chinese food I’ve had in some time!

Thursday, March 29: Three boys in tow, in the morning we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Are we crazy?? The museum was jam packed with people, but very few small children were about. The kids enjoyed the Egypt collection the best. We also spent time in the Armour section and the Japanese exhibit. Surly guards were obviously not thrilled at the sight of children. Mike was disappointed that the kids didn't last longer in the museum (he and my mom love to take their time reading everything in museums)...I'm just glad that we had lots of pre-kids time to luxuriate in museums!

Photos at left: Kieran clowning around in the Temple of Dendur

We had lunch at the Lexington Candy Shop Diner--which is not a candy store at all, but rather an authentic New York City diner, with soda fountain prices reflecting its Upper East Side location. The kids enjoyed their burgers there. (Interesting that we have raised such red meat lovers somehow!!)
After lunch, we went to FAO Schwartz. Kieran just about died of pleasure when he saw the very expensive “Madame Alexander” collection of Wizard of Oz dolls!!! Excuse me, $250 for a doll? No way! Both older boys enjoyed dancing on the “Big” piano, although Kieran was wearing a pair of slightly too big jeans, and they kept falling down around his ankles, making me crack up.

Photo at left: In FAO Schwartz on the piano made famous in "Big"

In the evening, we cooked Japanese food (yaki soba) for our friends Jerry and Carolyn and Ed and Shemara and family.

Friday, March 30: Friday was spent being consumers—or pseudo consumers, as we really didn’t purchase much. We started out with Nintendo World in Rockefeller Center, where Mike and the kids tried out “WII” and other toys while I wandered around with Nicholas to places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art shop. After lunch in Rockefeller Center at “Hale and Hearty Soups” (wouldn’t you know it, the “Soup Nazi” of Seinfeld fame now has a chain of restaurants!!), we went to the huge Disney Store on 5th Avenue. After that, we met Ed and Alex in Central Park for a few hours.

Photo at left: With Peter Pan and Wendy in the Disney Store

In the late afternoon, Chris and I went on the NBC Studio Tour. It was his reward for good behavior all week. He LOVED it, and I thought it was pretty much a colossal waste of money. I enjoyed seeing his enjoyment, though. They took us through several sound stages and studios (such as Dateline Studios). The highlight for me was seeing the studio where they film “Saturday Night Live.” At one point, they asked for volunteers from the group, who were set up to read the weather and news on a green screen. Chris was the first enthusiastic volunteer, so he got to pretend to be a meteorologist. After the tour, I treated him to a Photoshopped photo of him winning $1 million on “Deal or No Deal.” I know that lots of parent drop hundreds of dollars on souvenirs for their kids, but not us. I thought I was a pretty cool mom when I bought him that photo, especially as I can’t stand that show! :)

After the tour, we met everyone at La Bonne Soupe, our favorite French bistro in Manhattan, where we’ve been going since 1998. We had a nice meal, but it’s not easy or relaxing to eat out with five children!

Saturday, March 31: Our last day in the city, so we took it easy. We took the tram to Roosevelt Island, where we explored yet another playground. We also checked out Dylan’s Candy Bar, a famous candy store owned by Ralph Lauren’s daughter. We found it quite overstimulating, but we did find some unique Pez dispensers to get for our nephews.
Photos at left: on the playground at Roosevelt Island

After lunch, we celebrated Kieran’s 4th birthday early with an ice cream cake from Ed and Shemara. He was delighted with the fact that it had “lellow” frosting.

Photos above: hanging out with cousins on our last day; Kieran with "lellow" cake; Jessie in the dress we sent her from Hawaii

In the afternoon, we took mass transit to the airport, which was surprisingly easy. We took the subway to Queens, where we caught an air train to the airport. We were pretty proud of ourselves, taking mass transit to JFK with two big suitcases and three children!

Unfortunately, our 7:15 Delta flight was delayed for 2 hours, and about 20 minutes before we finally took off, Nicholas had an inconsolable crying jag. I was convinced that the people all around us were horrified at the thought of a cross-country flight with a screaming baby, but when we disembarked later on, a woman near Mike said she had not heard a thing! Fortunately he calmed down after about 10 minutes.

We enjoy Delta’s individual television screens in each seat. Again, I had all three kids in a row, with Mike across the aisle. I figure that since he’s the primary caregiver, it was the least I could do for him! He was extremely focused on the TV screen in front of him, and I finally figured out that he was playing the in-flight trivia challenge! I joined in and found it to be quite addicting. We both were able to win the contest a couple of times (and beat out everyone else on the plane), and Mike had the record-high score.

We arrived back in Seattle at around 11:30 p.m. (2:30 a.m. Eastern), and were delighted to see dear Uncle David waiting by the baggage claim for us.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Our First Trip with Three Children--NYC, Part One

I’m happy to report that our first adventure with our expanded family went very well. We descended on Mike’s brother and his family in midtown Manhattan on Thursday, March 22, and departed on Saturday, March 31. Even though we had 8-1/2 full days in the city, it wasn’t enough time to see everything on our list. Chris started moaning about our impending departure several days before we were due to leave. We’ve concluded that we are an urban family…we all love cities! Even Nicholas enjoyed himself…as he peered at the city from his Baby Bjorn vantage point, he often squealed in glee!
Photo at left: family in Rockefeller Center

The highlight of Kieran’s week was hanging out with his 5-year-old cousin Alex…pretending to be chased by dinosaurs or putting on “Alison in Wonderland” as he calls it…or getting into all sorts of mischief. We visited many a playground, from Greenwich Village to Central Park and Roosevelt Island.

Chris loved it all, but his highlight was the NBC Studio Tour that he earned with good behavior on the next-to-last day of our trip. Here is Part One of our travelogue:

Wednesday, March 21: my darling husband’s 44th birthday. I took him out to breakfast at one of our favorite Portland restaurants, Mother’s, and we had a lovely time. Then we raced home to pack and prepare for our departure. We flew out of Sea-Tac instead of PDX for two reasons: (1) it was much less expensive, and (2) we were able to get a direct flight to JFK. After strapping on our two suitcases to the top of our roof in our new Roof Bag, we left for my sister’s house in Puyallup. That evening we celebrated Mike’s birthday with Nadine and her lovely family—complete with yummy food prepared by their nanny Herrera and a white chocolate cheesecake made by Nadine and our nephew Ryan.

Thursday, March 22: We left at the crack of dawn for the airport and flew via American Airlines to JFK. Nadine’s wonderful husband David very kindly drove us through Puget Sound rush hour to the airport. The flight was mostly uneventful, except for a 5-minute (seemed like 5-hour) temper tantrum by Kieran toward the end of the flight. I sat in a row of three with all three kids (Nicholas on my lap), with Mike across the aisle. At one point I decided to swap with Mike because Kieran kept trying to wake up Nicholas…and after about 10 minutes of that arrangement, Kieran threw a fit because he wanted to sit next to me! It was probably due to exhaustion, but embarrassing nonetheless. Fortunately it was short lived.

We arrived at JFK and drove via town car to Ed & Shemara’s flat in Manhattan. Shemara had arranged for an SUV with car seats to pick us up from the airport because I was completely paranoid about riding in a taxi without car seats, especially for Nicholas. Apparently in NY, no one uses car seats in taxis for their kids. Not only are taxis not required to use them, but also it’s extremely difficult to find a vehicle or car service that has them. Shemara’s assistant apparently called several car services to locate one with car seats. We were grateful! It was a long ride into Manhattan because we arrived at rush hour, but it was better than our last trip 2 years ago when we arrived around midnight. Kieran and Alex hit it off immediately, and our 20-month-niece Jessie cautiously checked us out. (Photo below: Jessie, Nicholas, and Shemara)

Friday, March 23: We bought 1-week Metro cards so we could take the subway and bus as much as we wanted. The cards were a great deal at $24/person (Kieran and Nicholas were still free). The subway is faster, but we find that we prefer the bus because it allows us to see more of the city. We headed to Rockefeller Center and Times Square, where we watched the ice skating and the people. We went to the mega Toys ‘R Us in Times Square and rode on the enormous ferris wheel in the middle of the store. Then we had a late lunch at CafĂ© Europa in Times Square and headed home, tired from jet lag. (Photos below: us on the ferris wheel)

Saturday, March 24: We hit Central Park! We headed to the zoo first and then met up with Ed & Shemara and kids and wandered around to the various playgrounds and the carousel. Chris made friends with several kids with razor scooters and somehow managed to convince them to give him turns! Central Park is an amazing place, a haven in the middle of the city. That evening we had dinner at a Tapas bar—yummy Sangria and “little plates” of goodies, but like a sushi bar, the bill adds up quickly. (Photos below: Central Park)

Sunday, March 25: We headed to Greenwich Village for some wandering and hit a few more playgrounds along the way. Nicholas had his first ride on a swing, and he loved it! We had lunch at Baluchi’s, which is a chain of good Indian restaurants. That evening, we went out to an Italian restaurant in the Theater District called Baldoria. It was a great New York restaurant with prime people watching! Ed & Shemara gave Mike a very generous gift certificate for his birthday and also watched the children for us. We had a fantastic dinner and enjoyed our night out on the town tremendously! (Photos below: family in Washington Square playground in Greenwich Village)

This was the menu we ordered at Baldoria—along with a bottle of wine and glasses of 15-year-old Port:

Insalata di Mare: Lobster, calamari, jumbo lump crabmeat, mussels and jumbo shrimp, with sprinkles of Gaeta olives, celery and red bell peppers, dressed with citronette (me)

Insalata di Barbabietola: Sliced roasted beets and balsamic vinegar glazed onions, topped with mache greens and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (Mike)

Linguine con Rucola e Gamberoni: Sauteed shrimp with arugula and fresh cherry tomatoes, in a garlic and white wine sauce (we shared)

Risotto ai Gamberoni: Arborio rice cooked with jumbo shrimp, shallots, and white wine (Mike)

Rao’s Lemon Chicken: Charcoal broiled chicken, served with the classic Rao’s Lemon Sauce (me)
Tiramisu (we shared)

We ate some wonderful food in the city (as I notice that so many of my notes are full of food!), but this was the best one by far!

Travelogue to be continued!