June 20, 2016

The big apple.

Friday found us waking up in a hotel in New Jersey. 

We had tickets to see the Statue of Liberty for the ferry that left from Liberty Park.  (Total side note: Oh, the tolls in NJ!  Prepare to take out a loan! It was crazy.)  The ferry felt a bit like being cattle-herded, I'll tell you.  Again, we wished we had taken some soft sided coolers.  Everywhere you went--lots of security.  Bags checked. You had to go through security to get on the ferry and then again to get into the Statue of Liberty.
 These two cuties.  Heart melt.
 Hazy view of NYC.
 Our first stop was Ellis Island.  I will say that it was pretty neat.  We didn't see half of it.  The littlest kiddos were done with the whole sightseeing thing.  They loved the ferry ride but they really just wanted to run through these big spaces.  Not much interest in reading the signs.

The "money room" did briefly catch their attention.  Currency from around the world trapped in glass.
 I'm pretty sure this is the ancestor of Fred from Life of Fred.
 Eventually it came down to splitting up once again.  Thankfully, I had packed a few snacks in my bag and we enjoyed watching the ferries and exploring the outside of Ellis Island.

 Some of the Schusters on the Wall of Honor.  We did do the database search as well with not much luck.  We should have come prepared with surnames and dates.
 After Ellis Island, we hopped back on a ferry to go to the Statue.  This cracked me up, my husband and son right there in the mix.
 There she is, Lady Liberty.  She truly is a magnificent sight!  When you see her from afar, she seems so small compared to the vastness of NYC.  Up close, you realize just how large the statue is!
You don't often see the backside in photos! ha! 
Peter just looks so cute in this photo, I couldn't resist including it.
 An old torch.  The torch has had to be replaced several times over the years--I had no idea!
 We had tickets to the pedestal, 176 steps up, I think.  You can also get tickets to the crown (and I'm glad we didn't).  Once again, Carrie was done.  It was crowded up there and the younger ones had to be lifted up to see anything so I took a few of them back down.  My guys are up there in this photo, in the second section from the left.
I'm glad we made the effort to get there.  It was worth it.  I know I've mentioned that these last couple days the little guys were done with sightseeing.  The reality is, I was done too.  Not with sightseeing but with traffic and hotel living.  I was tired.  I woke up Friday morning and wanted to go home.  We were supposed to stay through Sunday but we checked out Saturday morning.

Granted, we came all this way to New York and well, we felt like we should go downtown.  We were here after all!

 So we did.
 I'm pretty sure we are the only crazy people who take pictures in tunnels.  So many tunnels.  This was the Lincoln tunnel and the state line.

Oh, the traffic in New York!  You'd go a half mile in an hour.  The streets were yellow with taxis.  Our car was acting up--if you used the air conditioning while idling the battery dial would just tick itself lower and lower.  It was causing us some stress!  Then, trying to find a parking spot was crazy.  We parked but we weren't totally sure if it was a legal spot.  It was hot, really hot.  Rather, it just felt hot.
The lane said, "bus lane only" but the sign on the sidewalk said, "cargo parking" or something like that.  We went with it being cargo parking on the weekend.
   Though we had a list of sights we'd all like to see... that didn't happen.   The two we saw in person just happened to be in walking distance from our parking spot.
 First stop on our 15 block walk was Grand Central Terminal.  It is huge, I had no idea just how huge.
And crowded, as you can tell.  I loved all the colors--very peaceful and happy.
 We ate our packed lunch downstairs next to all the food shops.  We had a hard time finding a table for all of us.  See that gentleman in the hat next to us?  He gave us his table and continued to read his magazine in his lap.  Don't tell me New Yorkers aren't nice.

We also enjoyed watching these ladies put icing on cupcakes.  They enjoyed chatting with us, I think.  The lady in the pink had only been there a couple of weeks and was already a master of the craft.

Next stop on our hike was Times Square.  I envisioned something more...open? I don't know why because that wouldn't make much sense in the middle of the city!

 Carrie had fallen asleep in the stroller by this point.  See the sailor behind us?  It was Fleet Week.  Which I guess is pretty cool if you can go see it.  Lots of servicemen and women walking around, pretty neat for Memorial Day weekend.  We would have loved to go see the ships in the harbor.

I was amazed at how all the shops had doors open with air-conditioning blasting out.  Sure, we enjoyed the cool breeze as we walked past but it didn't seem very energy efficient!
These cuties all bought a hat from a street vendor.  They looked quite stylish as we walked down 5th Ave on the way to the car.  ;)  

After piling back in and drinking lots of hot-in-the-car water, we drove up to the very edge of Central Park and past Trump Tower (the kids really wanted to see that) as well as past St. Patrick's Cathedral (I had really wanted to go in there).  The kids had also wanted to go to the Natural History Museum and I really had envisioned walking through Central Park.  I also would have wanted to check out Rockefeller Center.

Ken and I think it would be fun to go there on a couple's trip.  The littler legs couldn't quite keep up with all of the walking.  They all did very well and we enjoyed our few hours in New York.  

Getting back in the car and heading for home was nice too.  :)

June 17, 2016

E pluribus unum.

There's always a little bit of a quandary for me when I get so far behind in posting!

And! And! I tried to get this all in one post but too many pictures (I could put in so many more, too). 

At any rate, you know how we do.  Ken has work trip, we tag along adding in some time for togetherness!  This time it was to beautiful Washington DC.  We really enjoyed our short pit stop there last time and had planned to go back so when this opportunity came up, we were thrilled.

Even though we were there for 3 and a half days, we could have spent much more time there.  I do love DC, it seems very family friendly to me in that there is an abundance of green space.  The downfall is that it expensive.  Even though most museums and landmarks are free, they don't let you bring in bags.  Or at least not a bag big enough to feed us all.  We could have packed lunches and kept them in the car only we took the Metro almost every time because I didn't want to try and find parking for my big bus during the work week.  As with anything else, there are pros and cons no matter what you do.
The Metro was a new and thrilling experience for us! Our hotel was 45 minutes from downtown and riding the Metro meant that we didn't sit in traffic or drive in circles looking for parking.  It also wasn't cheap.  About 5 dollars each way per person (Carrie and Peter were free).  

On the upside, all the escalating we could ever want to do! And the subway! And, actually, less walking.  Considering we walked at least 5 miles every day that makes a big difference for little legs.

Our first day in DC, we had Ken with us so we went to the Smithsonian Castle and Air and Space Museum.  Ken really wanted to see the space shuttle (even though we've seen one before).  However, it turns out it was actually at a different location (and we wondered why we could never find it!).
I thought this picture was fun because there was a window for every kid.
The kids found this neat garden between the Castle and A&S.  I think if I worked here I would eat lunch here every day.
Peter is showing some muscle, Carrie is unhappy about that glass wall.
Behind Ken is a SpaceShipOne that won the Xprize, he was pretty excited about it!

Truth be told, the two littles were bored with this museum.  There was a lot of crossover of things we had already seen at Kennedy Space Center and the Air Force Museum.  Thankfully, there was a McDs attached so we spent quite a while there!

Tuesday, I was on my own and I had planned a trip to the National Zoo.  My goal was to see the pandas.  I even paid for awesome advance parking and everything so that was one thing off my worry list.
Carrie's eyes are rolling back towards that panda in the background....  I was so excited to see the pandas and I had the little guys pumped up too.  We got there and the first thing we saw was the bison.

Carrie, in complete jumping excitement squealed, "Is that a panda?!?!"

Um, no.

She wasn't totally impressed at this point about the panda.
Get a load of that cute face!

After this point, we went and saw more pandas.  Pandas in trees, pandas playing with a ball, pandas eating bamboo.  And, then, Carrie was sold.  She picked out a stuffed panda souvenir from the zoo and it has slept with her every night since.  So, yeah, she likes the pandas.

Required monument photo.  This here is a bear sloth but you probably can't tell that.
Look alive people! I'm buying you popcorn! Haha...  We headed back to the hotel not long after this.

Speaking of the hotel... How do we survive in a hotel for a week?
We catch up on all our favorite HGTV and Food Network shows.
We enjoy the free happy hour meal that the hotel provides.  If you're mom and on your own for the evening, you enjoy the complimentary wine.
If you're dad, you take the big guys out for bike riding around the monuments.
We let the littles sleep in and bring them their favorite waffles from the complimentary breakfast.  We also swim in the pool every. Single. Day. 
We take photos in hallways.  Carrie has all the makings for a future blogger, don't you think?
This was her view.

Wednesday brought some kids under the weather.  No one felt like doing much.  My plan had been to go to Arlington, it had seemed appropriate with Memorial Day coming up the next weekend.  However, we played at the park instead.

After a quick stop at Wegmans for a healthy lunch, everyone was feeling peppy.  We made a last minute decision to bust a move downtown and try and hit the National History Museum before it closed.

And then I couldn't find the park and ride.  And there was traffic.
These guys were becoming such pros at the Metro that they'd rather play their ipods on the way than watch the scenery.
That guy questions the advisability of taking seven kids on the Metro downtown by yourself.  Me, too.  Me, too.

(Actually, the poor guy was probably just tired and I caught him mid-eye rub!)
We made it to the Smithsonian but with only a half hour until closing.  I think we could have easily spent the day here.
The hall of dinosaurs was a must see.
As was the Hope diamond.  (We have a running joke about the Hope diamond in our house). It was quite the sight and Caroline was clearly impressed!
Running around on the National Mall is always fun.
Playing in the fountains...
Throwing a frisbee...   It is actually a lot of fun being there on a weekday evening.  Lots of kickball games (hilarious!) and softball going on.  Plenty of runners and bikers and people to make it feel festive.
The World War II Memorial is a blast for cooling off.  Getting your feet wet.  The kids made friends with this little boy, Junior.  Cute as can be and enjoyed having someone to play with.
These three were representing Indiana.

We, of course, got lost on the way back to the hotel because we got on the wrong train and realized our error when, ironically, we passed the Arlington train station.  Thankfully, we were only two stations past where we could switch to the right train but it was still a little stressful for a minute!

Thursday, Ken only had a half day and we had a scheduled tour at the Capitol.
The Capitol is still under construction (scheduled to be done by the end of summer) which meant the Rotunda is under wraps.  I was a little bummed about this...a lot was covered by wraps and scaffolding.    Pat wasn't feeling well at this point (it was hot in there!) and the two littlest were BORED so Ken took them to find ...food.
You can't hear your tour guide if you don't have the headphones on because it is so loud an echo-y everywhere you go in there.
The statue room has statues of people sent from each state.  Fr. Serra is from California.  However, he's being replaced by Sally Ride.  Apparently, she now reflects the state better.  The tour guide was thrilled about this because Rosa Parks is the only other woman in the statue room (and she's not from a state).  I'm sure Fr. Serra will be at the California statehouse or somewhere he can be seen though.
Lew Wallace is from Indiana.  He wrote Ben Hur but in all honesty, I never actually knew who wrote Ben Hur!  Lol!

Ken, Pat, Carrie and Peter DID find food.  And they also found the rotating, amazing to behold, Dish Drop.  A whole day's worth of excitement right there!

After the capital, we walked over to the Library of Congress through the underground tunnel (also thrilling!).  Liz said, "I love this place!"  It really is amazing how the kids love being in beautiful places of all kinds.
Mosaic of Minerva on the way up the the Observatory.
The reading room.  We joked that one of the kids needed to get a job there so we could visit.
Ken said that quote applies to me.  "I cannot live without books" ... so true.
Playing "library" ...we found some interesting titles.  Mostly, we realized how un-well-read we are! So many books on the shelves that would be beyond my brain power!
This would have been a cool picture if the sun wasn't in everyone's eyes!  Washington Monument and the Capital all in one!

After this, back on the Metro, to the car and drove to NYC.  Well, actually, our hotel was in New Jersey.  But, oh my, the traffic leaving DC!  I don't know how people sit in that traffic everyday.  I'm thankful that I don't.

So, coming up next.... NYC and our mini adventures there!