Thursday, October 23, 2014

Washington DC

We arrived in DC around 10 and took the metro from Ronald Reagan Natl Airport to our Hotel, the Melrose Georgetown.  I LOVED our hotel.  It was a boutique hotel, and just felt soooo lux and posh.  It wasn't downtown, but I picked it because it was right next to the Foggy Bottom metro stop so we could just hop on to get wherever if we wanted.  It was also right next to George Washington University so it was in a very hip part of town and there were tons of great places to eat and shop nearby.  We walked in from the chilly, damp night dragging our luggage and were met by a bellman who stood at the front door 24 hours a day to open it for guests.  There were people drinking wine right off the lobby in front of a roaring fireplace.  There were big dispensers of ice-cold fruit water that we could access whenever.  Check-in was quick and we went up to a very spacious, comfortable room.  And 24-hour room service :D  we ordered a late dinner and then hit the sack for our early morning.

Day one, Wednesday morning was our White House Tour!  We had written our senator back in February requesting tickets and after a background check and lots of waiting, we were approved and mailed the tickets.  We didn't get to see the West Wing and security was super tight (we couldn't take pictures inside), it was really neat though to see the original paintings, photos, furniture, and decor from past presidents.  It's pretty old-fashioned inside, like things haven't been updated in a hundred years.  I'm sure the first family's quarters are much more modern though.  We then walked straight to the Natl Monument and got tickets to go up in it.  Our tickets were for 1:30 and we were a little tired from the early white house tour, so we went back to the hotel to reset and grabbed burgers down the street.  DC has this bike sharing system that is pretty neat.  You pay for an amount of time (we paid 3 days), then you can take a bike off the rack and ride it to another checkpoint (another rack), and dock it while you see the sights in that area.  You have half an hour between docks before you are charged extra, and can use the bikes unlimitedly for 3 days.  You just swipe your card at each dock and then enter the code it gives you to unlock a bike.  I'll say though that Jack loved this system a lot more than I did.  The only conflict we had on our vacation had to do with these darn bikes.  Let's just say Jack is a lot more experienced on a bike than I am (two years on an LDS mission will do that for you) and was able to weave in an out of crowds at top speed, while I bumbled through, knocking into people, getting stuck at red lights, and slowing him way down.  My un-savvy-ness on a bike made us late for our Monument tour, but we didn't miss it.  It was really neat to go up in the elevator and see all of the mall and the historic sites.  If you look at the pictures, you can see that the stone at the bottom of the monument is a different color than the top.  This is because they ran out of funds and had to wait to finish it, using different rock.  On the inside, going up in the elevator, you can see bricks that have been donated by each state.  We also went in the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and saw the Vietnam Memorial.  All very cool.  We wrapped up the day at the Holocaust Museum.  It was one of the things I was most wanting to go to, and was really amazing and really difficult to go through.  I won't get out my soapbox right now, but I feel strongly that people need to see and know things that happened in our history, even though they may be graphic or traumatizing.  We lead too much of a comfortable life because of those who didn't.  My kids will know that and they will witness that as much as possible. That's all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tiny things

Who watched conference this weekend?! I did. With two toddlers running wild around the house.  I loved it.  I loved every word of it.  I love the camaraderie I feel with millions and millions of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints around the world who are listening to the same words I am, but that I still feel as though our leaders are speaking directly to me with guiding counsel and comfort.

There are so many great quotes I have saved, but I want to post this one tonight because it reminded me of a small success I had this morning that made me feel good all day.

This morning Olivia woke up at 8 and joined Berlin downstairs.  We played and snuggled for a few minutes and then I reminded her she had pre-school.  This was her first day back after a small incident in which she was bullied so I wasn't sure what her reaction would be.  She didn't say anything.  I asked what she wanted for breakfast and suggested cereal or toast.  She asked for pancakes.  I usually have a container of homemade pancakes in the freezer, ready to thaw, but I knew we had eaten the last of the latest back a few days ago.  By now it was 8:25 and we had to leave at 8:45, I told her we didn't have time for pancakes.  "Okay..." she said sadly.  I couldn't stand it.  I wanted to create a good start to her day. I jumped up and quickly threw together a whole-wheat banana pancake batter, presented each girl a steaming stack of pancakes, dressed Olivia, did her hair, and had us out the door within 20 minutes.  Honestly, I don't know how it happened. Maybe God knew I needed a good Mom moment and slowed the clock for me.  Maybe He knew Olivia needed to feel extra loved this morning.  Whatever the case, that small success as a mom this morning was a big deal.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

New York City

Disclaimer:  this is going to be a super long post, but I don't want to forget anything about our trip, so I'll put a page jump at the bottom for you to click on if you want to read the whole thing and see the zillion pictures! Also, I left my camera at home!!! I know, I was sick about it for about 10 minutes and the bucked up and counted my blessings.  All photos from the trip are iphone photos.

Jack and I take a trip every spring.  We love to travel and it's something we save money for every year and have made one of our priorities.  I know we may not be able to take off so easily the more kids we have, so we have really made it a priority these first few years of our marriage.  Our first year we took three trips: Disney World on our honeymoon, Seattle, and Europe.  Second year was California with his whole family (I was pregnant with Olivia), the third year we took Olivia to San Francisco, and last year we left her with my mom and went to Hawaii (I was pregnant with Berlin). We've taken a few other, smaller, trips but those have been our big Spring ones. This year we really wanted to go to New York and Washington DC, but we knew it would be a trip we wouldn't want to take the girls on.  Most of the landmarks we were excited about are not very kid-friendly.  In the spring I felt like it was too soon to leave Berlin so we booked it for fall and left the girls at our house where my Mom, sister, Daryl's sister, and his mom all pitched in and helped take care of our kids.

Jack and I took a redeye Friday night out of SLC and landed at JFK at about 5:30 in the morning (with the time change).  I have a super hard time sleeping anywhere but a bed, so redeyes are hard for me, but we just bit the bullet and geared up for a night of missed sleep before taking a taxi to our hotel, dropping our bags off, and getting out into the city until the 4pm check-in time.  We stayed at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square, which had an AMAZING location right in the middle of Times Square.  The elevators were so cool, made of glass and right in the middle of the hotel (which was 64 stories high).  We checked in and were ready to just hand off our bags, when the clerk gave us our room keys! At 6am! Without paying for the additional day! I was ecstatic to say the least.  I think we received special treatment because Jack's dad had booked the hotel on his points to save us money (and then we just gave him the money), and he is like super, ultra preferred, gold star, white unicorn status.  Either way, the stars had smiled down on us and we went up and SLEPT for two hours and then were able to freshen up before heading out.  It made all the difference.

We started by walking to the Empire State Building.  I've heard that you can wait up to 5 hours in line here on a super busy day, but since we were there by about 8:30 or so we had minimal wait times.  I'd guess about 40 minutes.  Also, it's not all one line, there are a series of check points and elevators and such, so that broke it up.  The building is pretty amazing.  We went to the 86th floor and, since it was a clear morning, were able to see all of Manhatten, and also Brooklyn and Queens in the distance.  It was a great first thing to do because we saw a lot of the other landmarks we were planning to hit on our trip and it made us super excited.

To say we walked a lot in New York would be quite an understatement.  NY is a walking city.  You can't own a car there really because there are so many people and taxis on the streets that getting anywhere would be a joke and parking is very scarce and expensive.  We brought good shoes though and really had fun spending time navigating the city.  I was the designated captain of the map and only made two direction errors the entire time.  We rode the Subway quite a bit too, so that was nice.  From the Empire State Building we walked to the New York Public Library.  It was beautiful and soooo big.  I could spend days in there.  We then walked to Grand Central Station.  It's a crazy place because it's surreal to see a building so obviously old, teeming with modern people, trains, and ticket kiosks.  The ceiling is painted a light blue with gold constellations on it.  We were the only people looking up among the throngs of rushing people....I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere ;)

We ate lunch at Bubba Gump's right next to our hotel, took the Subway out to the UN building (where there was a big convention going on, Pres Obama got there right after we left the city), saw Trump Towers, the grate where Marilyn Monroe's skirts blew up in the iconic photo, got a few cupcakes to-go from Sprinkles, and headed back to our hotel to rest.  I'm just going to go ahead now and tell you that we ate at Sprinkles about 63 times on our trip.  Best. Cupcakes. Ever.  Totally lives up to the hype.  Our hotel was right around the corner from John's pizza, so we grabbed one of those and stayed up in bed eating authentic NY pizza and cupcakes and watching Friends.

Day two was Central Park Day.  This day was just nothing but magical.  It was a cool, cloudy day with a mist hanging in the air, and it was Sunday so most people were sleeping in when we went out...except for the bit protest about a greener earth or something.  We saw it on the news afterward.  There was a huge march through the city.  I also saw a photo yesterday of Leonardo DiCaprio heading one of the marches and I'm sure Jack was pretty glad I didn't know that at the time because I would have spent the whole day searching for him.  We rented a couple of bikes and biked all through the park, went up on the lookout tower in Belvedere Castle, watched the artists along the paths sketch people and things, then ate lunch at the Loeb Boathouse in the park.  Jack decided it was his new dream to take a boat out on the lake we we rented one and paddled around for an hour.  I'm so glad we did, it was definitely a highlight.  There were little turtles swimming in the water and we drifted under bridges and enjoyed the nice weather.  Once we were done in the park we rode our bikes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (of course I had to take a pic sitting on the stair a la Gossip Girl).  The Met was amazing.  So many recognizable pieces displayed so beautifully.  Another place I could have spent allll day in.  We then went to Dylan's Candy Bar where we got Liv some Elsa jelly beans, went to Sprinkles, turned our bikes back in, and headed back to Times Square to eat dinner at Junior's.  I got a burger and the server recommended to Jack a dish with brisket flanked by two potato pancakes, covered with gravy.  It was sooo good.  And of course Junior's famous New York cheesecake.  We finished the night by walking to a few stores around Times Square.  We bought Olivia some princess slippers at the Disney store.

Monday was ferry day.  We took the Subway down to Battery Park and the ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty.  She really is an amazing monument and so neat to see the view that so many immigrants saw upon coming to their new lives in America.  From Liberty Island we cruised to Ellis Island.  I've wanted to go to Ellis Island since I was a little girl.  I did a report on it in Elementary School and it has been on my bucket list.  Sadly, most of the artifacts from the museum there had to be moved to a more controlled environment after Hurricane Sandy hit and still haven't been moved back.  It was still neat to walk around the old building though, see the great hall and the barracks, and read the stories.  After the islands we Subway'ed over to the financial district to see the 9/11 memorial and museum.  The museum was only opened a few weeks ago on Sept 11, so we were lucky to be able to see it finished!  I was surprised by how much I loved the museum.  What a wonderful tribute to the people who lost their lives that day.  The building and the waterfalls are really beautiful.  We stopped for some more New York pizza before heading back to our room to get ready for our show that night.  The Marriott Marquis has a restaurant on top called The View.  It's a big, circular dining room that rotates so you can see every angle around the hotel!  It was pretty neat, but I don't think we anticipated how expensive it would be.  $220 for the both of us.  Which would have been fine if the meal lived up to the cost, but it definitely did not. ...But that's okay because after dinner we got to go to the Majestic theatre and see Phantom of the Opera!  We had amazing seats and it was truly one of my favorite things I've ever done.  Phantom and Christine were terrific and they had a huuuge chandelier that rose and then swung over the audience and dropped on stage.  With the live orchestra, the music reverberated around the theatre.  Ugh I just cannot express how great it was.  The show got out late, but we were pretty amped up and a little hungry since our dinner wasn't all we had hoped so we stopped in at Shake Shack and grabbed some burgers and shakes to take back to the room.  BEST burger I've had. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Oakley Berlin- 16 Months

It's time for an update on our littlest love, since the last one was around her first birthday!  

Miss Berlin is quite the feisty little thing now, but so sweet.  She is playing better with Olivia and has learned to stand her ground.  However, she has learned some bad habits and tries to hit or bite when she is mad (I have to try not to laugh when she "bites" because she still doesn't have teeth)  Where Liv learns by doing, Berlin likes to observe first before she'll jump in and try something.  She is quite the little walker/runner by now and has a cute waddle.  She loves to dance and can turn music on  on my phone.  She likes to push her little stroller or grocery cart around the house, and can go up the stairs faster than Olivia (not with the cart or stroller).  She loves to eat more than anything else and will eat most of what we give her.  Weirdly, she doesn't like watermelon or avocado.  She will not let anyone else feed her and is pretty good with a spoon and a cup or water bottle by herself.  She loves loves loves books and will stay entertained for a long time with a stack of them, but seems to get impatient when I try to read with her.  Or maybe it's me getting impatient because she has to jump back to the same pages over and over ;). She shares well, is very affectionate, and loves when our whole family is doing something all together.  She can make several animal sounds and mimic many of the words we ask her to say.  Berlin sleeps from 7pm to 7:30am, takes a nap from 11-1:30 every day, and has a bottle every morning and night.  She still takes her binky when going to sleep and has her bottle at night since she doesn't have teeth to ruin yet with a bottle or binky! We love her so much and I could carry her on my hip all day long.   

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