A Weekend in New York

I’ve attended an annual weekend of meetings and family reunion activities in New York since elementary school. Earlier this month we left the two little ones at home with the Man’s father and stepmother and took the twins along on a whirlwind trip to NYC. Warning: numerous blurry cellphone photos ahead.

As you can see, they were thrilled when we finally loaded up the car and headed out. Annie wore that face-splitting grin all the way to the airport.

Jack and Annie behaved beautifully at the airport. That is, until we each took a child to the restroom before boarding and Annie encountered the automatic-flush toilet. Automatic toilets and potty training are not a match made in heaven. It flushed every time she moved which resulted in her repeatedly leaping off and trying to claw her way up my body to escape the diabolical toilet.

Lollipops kept the kids’ ears popping during takeoff and landing. I always rolled my eyes at what I thought was a bit of a hippie artifial dye phobia but it turns out one of our kids reacts very poorly to artificial dyes with through-the-roof hyperactivity and meltdowns. I’m now a big fan of the YumEarth Organics brand of candies. They’re more expensive but use plant-derived colors and the flavors are rich and fruity.

As somewhat jaded adult passengers it was fun to see the thrill of flying through our preschoolers’ eyes.

The Man’s seat bookended an otherwise empty row so we spread out. Jack talked Daddy’s ear off for the entire flight and Annie stretched out on my lap and fell fast asleep soon after takeoff.

We’d been in New York City all of thirty minutes before Jack picked up a new and colorful expletive from several construction workers in the cab line then loudly interrogated us about it in front of the crowded queue: “Why are they saying ****? WHY DO THEY KEEP SAYING ****?” Thanks, Empire State.

At the fancy-schmancy hotel the twins had the priciest mac n’ Cheese dinner of their lives which hopefully wiped Jack’s shiny new cuss word from his memory. It was spectacularly good mac n’ cheese. We know because we were ravenous ourselves and provided significant, um, “assistance” to our children. We’re used to 5:00 PM dinners with toddlers, not fashionable 8:00 PM gatherings!

After the kids’ dinner we all changed and headed up to a cocktail reception. At this point the twins were hyper and it was impossible to catch a still picture. Perhaps we should’ve understood that as a warning, but no… *cue JAWS music for the evening’s progression*. We said hello to lots of extended family and acquaintances while the twins hid their faces, begged to be held, or thrashed. We tided them over with juice and snacks, then quickly ushered them back to our room.

We’d arranged a babysitter for them while we attended a dinner for the adults. Unfortunately that’s where things really fell apart. One kid was stretched to the breaking point from the lack of routine and anxiety. The other was off the rails with excitement from the novelty. Then they started feeding off one another’s wild emotions. A little after 9:00 we got an emergency text from the babysitter asking us to return because the kids were throwing things, hitting, and pulling hair. No pictures, so you’ll just have to imagine our horrified faces staring at our phones in disbelief. The Man hurried back to find the sitter in tears and two small berserkers on the rampage. They had, among other things, thrown and shattered a glass. They’ve never behaved that way before or since. We were appalled, but also learned to reset our expectations for future trips. Our kids clearly need a parent’s hand on the first night after traveling! Children were dealt with, riot acts were read, the babysitter was thoroughly compensated, and the preschool crowd did much better for the rest of the trip.

The next morning we joined extended family for breakfast and the twins ate their weight in pastries from the buffet. Bonus, we got to meet a new niece who was even cuter than her pictures. As a kid I dreaded these gatherings. I always got sick on the planes, had migraines throughout the weekend (a sort of air travel hangover), felt claustrophobic in Manhattan, desperately craved and couldn’t find introverted alone time, and dreaded making conversation with so many people through my painful teenage shyness. This year I realized how much I’ve come to love meals with all these lovely relatives from around the world. It’s a privilege to get to see them each year and I appreciate the tremendous amounts of work put into planning it all. I still get claustroph obic in Manhattan and feel utterly drained by the end but time with so many interesting and kind family members is a real treat. Any given meal might hold conversations with an academic, a homemaker, an editor, an attorney, an engineer, a ranger, a rock climbing guide, an illustrator, or any one of dozens of other careers and lifestyles. My extended family members are warm, funny, smart, and creative, and I’m so lucky to know each of them.

While I sat in business meetings for the morning the Man took the kids to his much-beloved Metropolitan Museum of Art. He used to visit often as a college student and then later as a young man working in New York. He loved fulfilling a long-held goal of taking his own kids there. We may have spoiled them for life. It’s hard to beat the Met for your first art museum experience! Or at any rate your first conscious art museum experience. They slept through some perfectly nice exposure to art as babies.

After a group lunch with relatives we showered the kids with dire warnings and left them with the babysitter again. Thankfully, they behaved perfectly. The Man and I sat in more meetings for the afternoon. Keeping in mind the kids’ disastrous evening the night before we opted for calm and quiet family time after the meetings. We took the kids for a walk, grabbed dinner for them at a little pizzeria, and enjoyed low-key time together. They were pretty psyched to have an entire bottle of apple juice each since juice is a treat reserved for illnesses in our home.

We left them with sitters again (still with significant trepidation on our part!) and headed out for that evening’s scheduled cocktail party and dinner. Once again, the kids behaved perfectly and went right to bed. Phew! We both enjoyed our dinner with family. I’m so lucky to be married to my calm, confident, kind husband and enjoyed watching him across the table. Every so often I stop and quietly marvel over the fact that, out of all the people in the world, I get to be married to him.

Another family breakfast, another morning of meetings (the twins joined us for some and did well) and we were off. Annie felt desperately tired and kept leaning over on me in the cab and in the airport while trying to fall asleep. To keep her awake until the flight we walked long rounds through the terminal. Our hallway had a wide window overlooking the runway and the twins could’ve stayed for hours watching the planes take off and land. When we boarded our plane the flight attendants asked if the kids wanted to see the cockpit. The attendants and the pilots were very kind and welcoming and Jack has since announced he wants to be a pilot when he grows up. I think he’s inspired by the glowing prospect of pushing All! Those! Buttons!

We all felt wiped out from activity and engagements by this point. Annie crashed promptly after takeoff again and slept until landing. Jack found his second wind and talked with at his exhausted parents for the entire flight. That said, he behaved very well and worked his way through books, coloring, snacks, and my last resort, a barf bag puppet:

We returned home to two happy and well-cared for toddlers. My in-laws were so kind to look after a couple of rambunctious babies for the weekend – they even made dinner so we wouldn’t have to worry about it that night! Jenny asked us for apple juice several times an hour for the next two days so we suspect some grandparent spoiling occurred – which is just as it should be! My own grandparents frequently snuck us cookies or gummie bears, and, paradoxically, bribed us to brush our teeth with M&Ms.

We love the open prairie and peaceful woods around our home but it was fun to take a quick special big-city trip with our big kids!

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