Family Matters

My mom is pretty great.

In the last couple of years, she’s dealt with the stress of marrying off two of her children, the addition of multiple grandchildren, and being diagnosed (and beating) cancer.

Like I said, a pretty awesome lady.

So a few months ago, I decided I wanted to do something nice for her. I thought about flying us both somewhere, but ultimately decided I couldn’t afford it. Then I remembered I live in a destination city. Why not just fly her here and have a little “stay-cation”? (For me at least.)

That’s exactly what I decided to do.

With my dad ensuring she didn’t make plans on the weekend I had in mind, I set out making reservations, buying show tickets, and generally planning the ultimate NYC weekend for my momma.

A week and a half ago, I sent her a package of five envelopes:

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As she opened each envelope, she found a clue as to what her surprise was. (Spoiler: It was that she was coming to New York. Have you really not been paying attention?)(yuk yuk yuk)

Once she got the packages, we only had to wait a few days before her visit. And now I’ve decided to share our weekend with you! Here’s where we stayed, what we ate, and what we did.

FridayMy mom got in on Friday around noon. Joey and I both took the day off to pick her up and keep her entertained.

That night, we headed into the city for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, The Smith.

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Fun side note: The Smith is actually where I first heard of my favorite drink, the French 75. So obviously it’s near and dear to my heart.

My mom had the trout, I had grilled shrimp with jalapeno grits (AMAZING), and Joey had the moule frites. It was all pretty great. We ended the night with the Quarter Pounders, three homemade chocolate chip cookies. If there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that there is nothing in the world I would prefer to warm chocolate chip cookies. So…yeah. I liked the dessert.

Saturday
Saturday I had planned the New York-iest day I could think of for my mom. We started out by heading in to the city early in the morning. After dropping off our luggage at our hotel (more on that later), we headed to Union Square. After a quick breakfast (at Panera…not every meal can be fancy!), we took part in a little retail therapy.

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I mean, is it really our fault that our first appointment was on 5th Avenue? No, no it is not.

Speaking of our first appointment, it was at a little place called Drybar. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s basically a salon that specialized in blowouts. (Which you know I love.)

IMG_4163Within minutes of arriving, we each had a drink (mimosa for my mom, champagne for me) and were on our way to incredibly voluminous hair.

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Next, we headed to Bloomingdales (because why not more shopping?), and then headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner.

We stayed at The Sanctuary Hotel, which was conveniently located near Times Square. The rooms were…compact, but not in a way that felt claustrophobic. More like, in a way that made you feel like you were in a well appointed New York City studio.

Post-primping, we hopped in a cab to dinner at The House, a restored 1854 carriage house in Gramercy Park. We started off with drinks (I had The Ellington, my mom had a gin martini) and a deviled egg tasting appetizer, followed with the tile fish and the sea scallops. For dessert, we had a cookie sundae topped with fresh berries.

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And, you guys. It was so good. Like, ridiculous. We couldn’t stop talking about it.

Then it was time for the highlight of the evening: Newsies!

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We both loved it — the singing/dancing is pretty awesome. Plus, the cast is made up of cute, talented boys. Definitely a good choice to take your mom to. (In case you were wondering.)

SundayThe next day, Joey’s parents and sister joined us for a late brunch at The Thirsty Koala, which I’ve told you about before.

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My mom and mother-in-law had The Three Sisters sandwich, my sister-in-law and father-in-law had burgers (one beef, one kangaroo), Joey had an omelet, and I had a spinach salad with shrimp. We all had mimosas. Because it’s brunch, you guys.

Then it was time to take my mom to the airport. (Sigh.) The weekend was over too fast, but we definitely made the most of it. Can’t wait until we’re together again!

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On my way to work each morning, I pass three elementary schools. Invariably, I end up crossing paths with parents dropping their children off in the morning.

Without making it too creepy, I always try to catch a snippet of what they’re talking about. I feel like you can tell a lot about a person and their family based on what they decide is the most important thing to leave their child with before dropping them off for the day.

Sometimes I hear an older dad sharing an odd bit of trivia. Sometimes it’s a young mother repeating, “You know Mommy loves you very, very much…”

I’ve been thinking a lot about having children lately. (As a concept…still not pregnant, sorry.) Several of my friends have had babies in the last year, and the topic seems to keep coming up even amongst my childless friends. (Sure sign that I’m getting old.)

The scariest part of having kids to me is the pressure. I feel like there is just so much to teach and pass on — it’s completely my fault if my kid turns out ignorant or a psychopath or awesome, right? (Okay, probably not right, but you know what I mean.)

Even aside from the “what kind of person will he or she be?” bigger issues, sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about all the knowledge little kids have to learn. How can I make sure they learn about the water cycle? Or different kinds of dinosaurs? Or what the largest land mammal is? Or long division? I mean, sure, okay, they’ll go to school, but what about all the little bits you pick up along the way? That’s up to me, right?

Obviously I’m stressing out a bit (okay, a lot) preemptively. And getting sympathetically stressed out for all those parents on the sidewalk isn’t helping.

But I can’t help but wonder: If you only had a 20-minute walk to share something with your kid, what would you say?

I make no secret of the fact that, in general, teenagers scare me. They’re usually loud, obnoxious, and rude. THEY DON’T ANSWER TO ANYONE, YOU GUYS.

But seriously. I avoid most of them.

There are, however, exceptions to the rule. One of my favorite exceptions? My adorable niece Cameron.

Cams is 14, but still sweet, smart, and friendly — not to mention incredibly polite. (She’ll write a thank-you note that can break your heart.)

And she has a really big event coming up that I wanted to send her a present for. But when I went to buy something, I found myself a little stumped. I mean, my other nieces and nephews are pretty easy — the infant-to-six crowd is not hard to please. But a 14-year-old that I don’t hang out with nearly as often as I’d like? That’s a little tougher.

I finally found what I think is the perfect gift, but it occurred to me that I might not be the only one who struggles with buying for the tween/teen crowd. (I mean, sure, we all know they probably just want money, but I like to put a bit more effort into gifts.) So I put together a little gift guide to get you inspired.

And, yes, Cameron’s real gift is on here. But I’m not telling which one!

Gift Guide for Teenage Girls

J Crew knit top
jcrew.com

Juicy Couture yellow gold bracelet
$81 - vanmildert.com

Kate spade
katespade.com

Essie nail polish
discountbeautycenter.com

 

What do you think? It also occurred to me that I would happily accept any of these gifts. So…I’m a teen girl. I can deal with that.

Hope everyone enjoys their time off of work and school!

I’m officially back on the East Coast. In all its 34 degree glory. Le sigh.

At least things seem to have continued plodding back to normal. My in-laws have power, the gas shortage is mostly over, and you can get fresh food at the grocery store. The curfew in my town is apparently still on (yay…), and there is still a ton of damage in some areas, but things are definitely going in the right direction.

The only complaint I could possibly have is that my usual train still isn’t running (despite all the other trains on the same line running…?), but I’m keeping that in perspective. There are other trains.

Anyway. Let’s talk about happier things. Warmer, sunnier, happier things. Our trip to California!

We went to see my brother and his newly enlarged family (now plus two twin nephews), and we had a really great time.

Joey and I joked throughout the long weekend that this trip was our peek into parenting. My two nieces are six and four, and combined with two brand-new babies, we got a glimpse of the first few years at least. (Though, in our case, we most likely won’t start out with four.)

We spent most of our time with the girls (lacking a few vital abilities required to keep the boys happy), taking them to a movie and the zoo and playing a few hours of tickle monster.

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I had tried to warn Joey before we left that this wouldn’t be a relaxing trip. The kids are high-energy and looking for as much attention as they can soak up, meaning there wouldn’t be a lot of downtime. We fell into bed utterly exhausted around 9:20/10:00 every night. I’m not exaggerating.

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Of course, we carved out a little time for grown-up stuff too, visiting a brewery for a beer tasting and eating Thai and sushi just the two of us. All in all, it was a great trip and we had such a wonderful time reconnecting with everyone.

Out general conclusion was (not surprisingly) kids take a lot of work, but they’re still pretty great. (And we definitely want to ease into things with one at a time when we’re ready to start having kids of our own.)(Though watching Joey holding a tiny baby was definitely among the top five cutest things I’ve ever seen.)

For now, we’re very okay with just being the fun aunt and uncle.

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Hooooo-boy. I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that I’m in a much better mood now than I was when I wrote that post yesterday. THAT was a doozy. (And in case you’re wondering, no, United Airlines still has not replied to my complaints. The ball’s in your court, United. Make it right.)

Anyway. Let’s talk about something fun, shall we?

IOWA!

The rest of our trip was actually very nice. Don’t believe me? Check it, Instagrid style.

1. Home, sweet home. Joey calls this Hotel Blanchard. And boy do they treat you right.

2. Pictures of the corn I took along my morning run. Yes, parts of Iowa do look exactly like what you think they look like.

3. Downtown Des Moines, where we had lunch with my parents at my favorite DSM restaurant, Centro. See? I TOLD you it’s a city.

4. Trip to visit my dad’s office.

5. My adorbs parents at the movies later that night.

6. Dairy Queen Blizzard. We have to get our fix while we can. (Now in the cute-as-pie mini size!)

7. Turning my husband into a corn-fed country boy one ear at a time. Not that he’s complaining.

8. Lunch at the Des Moines Art Center restaurant with my sister and her husband.

9. BBQ with friends and family Saturday night. Here’s me and my lovely momma.

10. The IOWA STATE FAIR!

11. First stop: days-old piglets.

12. Second stop: my favorite, the baby goat born that morning. If I ever own enough land, I’m totally getting a goat.

13. Prize winning crops, including a wall of corn.

14. The men and their turkey legs. 1,136 calories each. And worth every single one.

15. Butter cow! ‘Nuff said.

16. THE LONG-AWAITED CUP O’ COOKIES. I’m not even exaggerating when I say this is the best part of the fair. AND MY LIFE. (Okay, that’s a mild exaggeration.)

17. Deep fried Twinkie, anyone?

18. And we ended the night with a little Matt and Susan and a couple of Fat Tires at The Royal Mile. The perfect ending, if you ask me.

All in all, a pretty great trip. We saw a bunch of friends and family (even though hardly any of my friends live in Des Moines anymore!), ate great food, and got loads of sleep. Thanks to my parents for hosting and everyone else who helped make it such a great trip!