Wednesday, August 9, 2017

When Cousins Come a' Calling

Last week, my sister brought down her brood from Oregon for a summer visit. Mimi and Kuri had been anticipating their arrival for weeks. Alder and Brynn are roughly the same ages as Mimi and Kuri, so they'd both have playmates. They also knew we'd be doing some fun stuff given we'd have visitors!

At first I thought the cousins would pair off by age, with Mimi and Alder running to the backyard and Kuri and Brynn running through the house. How wrong I was. Boys will be boys and that means cars and trains...
...and video games.
Mari was a little shy at first, so she just hung out with Grandma.
But she quite quickly warmed up to Brynn over some goldfish.
Soon they were exploring all her toys...
...talking on the phone...
...and giggling together.
 Of course, Mimi clicked with Brynn as well. They're both a bit silly.
There were also plenty of instances of everyone playing together, gender roles be damned.
And times for playing alone!
The trampoline even got some of the adults into the action.
The first night, Grandpa came out and joined us all for dinner. 
The kids decided he made a good jungle gym.
The evening closed with some group artwork. As you can see, the little ones are still attempting to learn how to smile on cue.
The next day at breakfast the girls found they all had matching dresses. The boys were more than happy with just their donuts.
After breakfast, we corralled all the kids and set them down for a picture before heading out to the Academy of Sciences. It's great when you have a season pass.
They kids were fascinated by the albino alligator..
...the butterfly art...
...the fish...
...the real butterflies...
...and more fish.
Mimi and Alder, upon exiting the museum, even tried to climb a tree.
Later that day, everyone was pretty exhausted. Julie and my mom went down for a nap, along with Mari, so I took the four oldest cousins down to the creek to try to catch some fish.
Kuri and Brynn were intrepid explorers.
Eventually all the kids joined in the hunt!
After the creek, the kids all decided that they needed to have hill-roll races.
We had only two nights and three days together - far too few given we only see them once or twice a year - but they were wonderfully memorable. So thankful these kids are getting to know each other, despite the distance.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Five Nights and Three Kids in Manhattan

Last week, Sumie and I undertook what many would think to be a foolish endeavor. We packed up our three children (7, 3, and 16 months) and boarded a plane for NYC. The Upper West Side of Manhattan would be our home for five nights as Sumie attended a medical conference for three days up at Columbia. It had been over two years since our last trip and we had dearly missed our adopted home town. Would we still love our favorite city? And would I survive three days roaming the streets of Manhattan alone, defenseless, portly, and horrifically susceptible to high humidity while keeping  three young children from falling into open sidewalk doors and jumping into traffic?

Day 1: Relearning the City
We arrived quite late on Tuesday night thanks to a three hour delay, most of which was spent in the plane on the tarmac. Not fun with a toddler. After getting into our hotel and then heading out to pick up some pizza, we all fell asleep.

Sumie woke early on our first day to head up to her conference. The kids were enjoying a chance to sleep in, particularly Mari.
We planned to keep the day simple: a chance to get our bearings and for me to see just how hard it would be to manage the kids on my own walking through the Manhattan streets. We started by hitting up Zabar's for some rugelach. They are still the best.
We then walked down 76th where I showed the kids where their mother and father first lived together in Manhattan. It was very nostalgic to see our first apartment together, but the kids were, um, underwhelmed. 
The opposite was true when we went down to Riverside park. They had a chance to climb all over the play structures...
...and to cool off in the elephant fountains. NYC children's parks are some of the best.
After three hours on the streets, in 90+ degree weather with 100% humidity, we were all melting and ready for some quiet time back at the hotel. Just as we had cooled down, Sumie arrived and it was time to head to one of our favorite restaurants: Yakitori Totto. This place has some of the best Japanese skewers to be found anywhere and we knew the kids would love it.

Well, the kids loved it, but they were also kids. 
Mimi, Kuri, and Mari all ate well...
...but in order to reign in the chaos, we polished off a 1.5 hour meal in 40 minutes. When we left, there was probably a full serving for someone on the floor under the table. 
The meal was a mixed bag: fantastic food, but man, was it different with kids. The evening ended wonderfully, though. Instead of taking a taxi or the subway back up to our hotel, we decided to walk. With the kids getting a a little tired, they weren't so hard to wrangle. At least until we got to Lincoln Center.

Since we'd been there, they had installed an amazing new fountain, one that you can really interact with.
At times it would act just like a normal fountain...
...but without warning, it would then morph into the water version of a fireworks display, with massive geysers shooting into the air at random and crashing down on anyone who dared sit on the stone ring surrounding it.
Mimi and Kuri left Lincoln Center well entertained...and quite wet.
Day 2: American Museum of Natural History
This day was hot. And not just hot because after living in the Bay Area I've become a weather pansy, but hot for NYC. Hot for the equator. Hot for the face of the sun. We decided to mush our way over in increasingly sweat-sogged clothes to cool off at the American Museum of Natural History. Dinosaurs were up first.
This kids particularly liked the massive tortoise!
I had planned to do a picnic lunch with the kids in Central Park, but as sitting outside for more than twelve minutes would've resulted in heat stroke, we picked up burgers and shakes from Shake Shack and headed back to the hotel for an indoor picnic.
In the afternoon, we explored the bottom half of the museum, with Mari eventually running amok under the giant blue whale for about an hour. 
Thankfully, by around 7, it had cooled down enough for us to dine alfresco. And what better place to do that, as the sun is setting, than at the Boat Basin. This is a cafe and bar hidden under the traffic circle on 79th west of the Henry Hudson Parkway. My friend Beau, one of the boys from my official hometown and also now an adoptee of NYC, joined us for dinner and drinks.
 Here are Mimi and Kuri checking out the sunset from our table overlooking the Hudson river.
After dinner, Beau and I saw off the family and headed down the street to The Dublin House for drinks and conversation. And more drinks. 

Day 3: The Lunch Adventure is Not Included in This Edition
Tired from the long day, the kids slept in late once again. Kuri woke to find that his big sister had placed a corvette on his head while he was sleeping.
Mari found this quite amusing.
Sumie had the middle of the day free, so we decided to visit one of our favorite restaurants, Beyoglu, on the Upper East Side, and then visit our apartment building. For me, this meant getting crosstown with three kids on my own. And that meant a taxi. Now, assuredly, getting all three kids and a stroller into a taxi on my own was probably easier than getting them on a bus, but it was still one of the most complex endeavors I have ever undertaken.

Sumie met us at Beyoglu and, unfortunately, Mari became inconsolable about two minutes after we sat down. By the time the appetizers arrived, Sumie was already walking out the door with her. 15 minutes later, we swapped so she could enjoy the warm entrees. When Mimi was only a few months old, we'd had a similar experience with her at a nice restaurant in the city. Our luck with restaurants and kids had struck again.

But the day was far from a total loss. By the time we reached our apartment near York Avenue, Mari was back to her old self. This is building in which Mimi had spent her first year of life.
Kuri and Mari had never seen it. We took pictures in front of the spiral staircase leading to our apartment... the hallways leading to the courtyards...
...and, of course, in front of the main entrance.
Sumie and I had taken a similar picture here of just the two of us over 7 years ago, well before Mimi was born.
 We also stopped off at John Jay Park, which borders our building, to let the kids play. Kind of amazing to think what it would be like to have this as a back yard for all three kids.
We weren't up for going out that night, so I took the kids to Fairway for some combat shopping and some pre-made meals. God I miss this market. Everything from Frosted Flakes to 20 day dry aged ribeye steaks.
Day 4: All Together Now
With the conference over, Sumie was now free to join us for a full day of fun. We had plans to meet friends from Sumie's medical school days downtown at her friend Kar-Mun's apartment near Union Square. This meant taking the subway. And that mean Kuri was excited.
Even Mari, who is usually pretty stoic, was intrigued to see the subway coming.
We managed to find ourselves on a car without working air conditioning, but at least that meant we had room for the stroller and seats for the kids. It also meant they got a chance to enjoy an authentic NY subway experience.
Kar-Mun and her husband's apartment was amazing: a two bedroom loft just off Union Square. Sumie and I could picture living there. Well, with one kid, not three. We met more friends there, Jen and Drew, also from medical school. Lots of kids, but the apartment served us all well.
After lunch, we headed to Washington Square park with Jen and Drew and their two kids to let them work out some energy. 
Then after playtime, we walked the downtown streets toward Yakiniku West for some Japanese BBQ and, hopefully, a place where the kids couldn't cause too much destruction.
Once again, there are no pictures of dinner, but unlike at Beyoglu, the reason was that we were all having too much fun. Yes, the kids were all over the place, and yes there was one instance of projectile vomiting, but because we had a semi-private room upstairs all to ourselves, it didn't matter!

We topped up the kids with ice cream...
...took some silly pics...
...and then headed back to our hotel for our last night in the city.

Day 5: Central Park and Our Return Home:
That night the kids cuddled in the window box and then settled down to rest up for our last half day in the city.
We only had a few hours to spare before heading to the airport, so we decided to hit Central Park, which we hadn't so much as entered on our entire stay despite being only a few blocks away. We explored the countless pathways...
...Mimi adventurously climbed so rocks...
...and Kuri did the same, though somewhat more timidly.
I'd forgotten just how special a place Central Park is. In the right area, it takes just a few steps for the city to disappear and to find yourself surrounded by green.
 We finished up our trip rounding up a few souvenirs...
...and hitting the flea market I attended every weekend when I lived on the West Side.
Before we knew it we were in an Uber heading for Newark airport. Upon returning home, we marveled at the perfect weather, happy to be back home, but also still missing our adopted city. We learned a couple things on this trip. We learned that life in Manhattan is tremendously different with three kids, but we also knew we'd definitely be bringing them back.