Our 2016 Spring Break Vacation.

No – that isn’t a typo in the post title. It’s no secret that I haven’t been writing lately and I am determined to chase the negative trains of logic circling around my brain by grasping whatever strands of confidence I can. And since in less than two weeks, we will be embarking on our 2017 Spring Break adventure, I can think of no better story to tell than of our 2016 Spring Break trip, which will be permanently engraved in our consciousnesses and forever referenced when planning future trips. Because of my self-inposed writing sabbatical, I never put into words the 2400 mile journey we made over the course of 10 days in effort to escape middle America last March…a journey that involved a gastro-intestinal virus so intense that clothes were incinerated, hotel parking lots eternally scarred, and a shared car-puke-bucket that became the sixth member of our road-trip family.

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The trip began innocently enough. As a family, we decided to go to Philadelphia and New York City for Spring Break and because Clay and I planned to vacation in Scotland later that year, we knew that driving to the East Coast was the only way we could afford to do both trips without forgoing IRA and 529 contributions. So whenever one of the children complained about being stuck in the car during the 1150 mile journey to the Philadelphia suburbs, we would just remind them that we were saving them from the frustration of having to begin their adult lives with student loan debt. And because they were six and two at the time, they seemed befuddled by our response and would then just ask for the iPad. Lucy (our elderly chocolate lab) also joined us on the journey, because you know what makes a multi-state road trip even more fun? A dog.

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By the time we reached Ohio, the children were slightly delirious and happily proclaimed this particular rest area “the best ever!” because we let them run up a hill and buy a candy bar from the vending machine. The bar was set low for this trip from the beginning, apparently.

img_1198We were sure to eat at Skyline Chili before stopping for the night in West Virginia. Had we known that 3/4 of us would be channeling our inner-Regan McNeil’s later on, we would have settled on a more neutral dinner choice.

The following day, we arrived at my sister’s house in suburban Philadelphia and hung out, being sure to head to bed at a decent time because the four of us were going to leave for New York City in the morning while Lucy stayed behind at my sister’s.

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Despite Violet getting sick overnight a couple of times (we chalked it up to her stomach not agreeing with something she ate…spoiler alert….we were horrifically wrong), she woke up her normal rambunctious self so we continued on with our place to drive up I-95 toward New York City – Staten Island, to be exact. Because why stay in chic Manhattan when bargains can be found on Staten Island at The Navy Lodge (e.g. see comment above about IRAs and 529s)? After checking-in early, we drove down to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and parked the car in a municipal garage a couple of blocks away.

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Now the ferry is nothing glamorous but it is free, fast, and great for spotting people who may have been extras on Law & Order SVU. Since this was our kid’s first trip to New York City, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t just expose them to the swanky parts of the city. And because we don’t have access to a time machine in order to show them 1970s-era Times Square, the Staten Island Ferry is a nice alternative. In case you were wondering – the Staten Island Ferry and the stomach flu make horrible bedmates but luckily, we wouldn’t discover that little factoid until the following day.

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Despite whatever feelings you may have toward the Staten Island Ferry, it does offer a nice view of the Statue of Liberty along the journey.

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And the financial district upon the approach to Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

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We spent our first afternoon and evening walking around Lower Manhattan.

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We spent a lot of time at World Trade Center. The little guy was (and still currently) obsessed with architecture and world records for building height, so he was in awe to be in the presence of One World Trade Center. Weston has basic understanding of the events surrounding September 11th so while sitting near the memorial, he asked Clay some difficult questions about his deployments to Afghanistan and about the attacks themselves.

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We then took the kids to Wall Street – where Violet proceeded to puke right near the Stock Exchange, much to the horror of important people in expensive suits. It’s like they could sense we came over on the Staten Island Ferry.

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We used this as our cue that we should probably head back to the hotel. Once back on Staten Island, we ordered food to-go from a nearby Italian restaurant and went to bed, deciding that if Violet (or anyone else) woke up sick, we’d cut our losses and head back to Pennsylvania.

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Thankfully, we all woke up feeling okay so back to the ferry we went! We decided to take the subway uptown and then use the rest of the day to work our way back to Whitehall Terminal.

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Clay now admits that it was on this subway ride that he realized that the sickness had crept it’s way into his body but being the trooper (ha!) he is, he put on a brave face and didn’t let on that he wasn’t feeling 100%. It is also why this post is lacking my typical food/drink pictures because we really didn’t eat or drink anything of value during our time in the city.

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In addition to his architecture obsession, Weston also boasts a healthy infatuation with US Presidents. We had just watched Night at The Museum a couple weeks prior, so of course we had to check out the American Museum of National History.

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We also spent time in Central Park.

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And then went to Rockefeller Center.

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The LEGO store.

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And the Empire State Building (one of my favorite pictures of Weston).

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 And Times Square.

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Radio City Music Hall.

It was after Radio City Music Hall that things went south. Fast. I won’t go into detail what happened at the restaurant during dinner to protect all parties involved but I was only one with dinner left in my stomach as we rode the subway during rush-hour back down to the Financial District, boarded a ferry (Weston spent the entire ride puking into a trash can…not one other passenger even batted an eye), and crawled our way back to the hotel.

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I remained the only healthy one during the night, so I cared for my family (and cleaned up after them) in the Staten Island hotel room. In the morning, we waved the white flag and forwent the rest of our time in New York City. I drove back down to the Philadelphia area while the rest of my family shared a puke bucket…my sister’s house never looked better as we pulled into the driveway.

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After getting my infected family members settled into their quarantined quarters, I high-tailed it to the nearest Wawa (only .2 miles away) and treated myself to all of the delicious Pennsylvania treats I have been depriving myself since moving away from the area 12+ years ago. There weren’t enough Herr’s Salt & Vinegar chips in the world to alleviate the sights and smells I was privy to in that Staten Island hotel room but they helped.

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After a day of recuperation, my crew felt good enough able to spend the day in Philadelphia. My sister and her family joined us and we took the train into the city.

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We just had to take our kids to Reading Terminal Market.

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And other famous sights.

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Our 2016 Spring Break was a not-so-gentle reminder of the G.K. Chesterton quote on the header of this blog – “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” While getting sick wasn’t in our plans, it certainly added to our family-lore and honestly, how boring would have the trip been if there wasn’t the added fear that one of us could throw up at any given time? Additionally, the trip only confirmed what I’ve known since I was 18-years-old…Clay is the peanut butter to my jelly. There is absolutely no one else I’d rather drive over 2400 miles, board ferries, ride subways and trains with over the span of 7 days than this guy – all with two kids in tow. Which is probably a good thing because our planned 2017 Spring Break trip is arguably even more insane than last years. 🙂

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A New York State of Mind

I know, I know. It seems near impossible to write a blog post about a weekend in New York City without referencing at least one song paying ode the city that never sleeps. Because my love for Billy Joel runs deep, I just had to use a title from his catalogue because “…it comes down to reality. And it’s fine with me ’cause I’ve let it slide. Don’t care if it’s Chinatown or on Riverside. I don’t have any reasons, I’ve left them all behind. I’m in a New York state of mind.”

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As mentioned in my previous post, I took the train to New York City last weekend. My sister, Megan, hopped on in Trenton, NJ and we arrived at Penn Station, where we met up with Megan’s sister-in-law, Ashley, our host for the weekend. We took a taxi to her midtown apartment (which I, of course, fell in love with), dropped our bags, and then hit the pavement to grab a bite and drink at Bravest. After lunch, we hit Chelsea Market and some other shops, took the subway down to the financial district (more on that below), and then went to happy hour at The Roost, where one of Ashley’s friends was celebrating her birthday. Let me tell you – The Roost just may be my favorite place ever because it is a coffee shop and bar. Sign. me. up. After the festivities, we ate a late dinner at Three of Cups and despite the frigid temperatures, appreciated the bustling city at night.

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 Cheers.

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The next morning involved Megan and I waking up early, despite not having our kids with us (the effects of motherhood, I suppose). The three of us got coffee at Ground Central and enjoyed walking the near-empty streets. I took a touristy picture in front of one of my favorite New York landmarks and then popped into a couple of stores for refuge from the chilly air.   We had brunch at The Smith and then made our way to Broadway, where we saw Kinky Boots in the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (ceiling pictured below) – it was absolutely spectacular.

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Everything bagel with scallion cream cheese from Ess-a-Bagel.

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 Megan and Ashley

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 For what it’s worth, I’m team Chrysler Building.

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It seems somewhat grim to say that one of the highlights of my trip was the National September 11 Memorial and the Freedom Tower. Since I hadn’t been to the city since 2004, Ground Zero has evolved quite a bit since I had last been there. We didn’t go to the museum but walked around the grounds.

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Seeing the footprints of the towers as the North Pool and the South Pool was sobering. The name of each victim of the terrorist attacks on that day are inscribed along the perimeters of the two fountains. Seeing the names reminded me of how in Love is the Higher Law, David Levithan wrote “What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.”

I’m thrilled that I was able to spend the weekend in New York before leaving the east coast this summer and squeeze in a trip with my sister and Ashley. Clay and I are trying to see if his schedule will allow for a trip to New York City with the kids before we leave but the jury is still deliberating on that one. Whatever the outcome, I’m just happy to have experienced the New York state of mind once again.