I find that a bit of planning can go a long way. I stopped ad-libbing my free time when I had kids and my personal time had been reduced to about 0%!
I am a planner when it comes to going on day-long outings. The free spirit in me that just wanted to jump into the car and go where the wind took me was no fun when countless times I ended up eating in crappy restaurants because we were just too tired and hungry to find the best place and also arriving at museums or some other “must-see” spot only to find it closed. Additionally, when you take kids on these outings you can multiply your frustration by 100 when things are not going smoothly.
I can safely say I have attained a balance when it comes to Day Trips, Weekend Getaways, Vacations and Holidays. Balance is a very beautiful thing when you think about it. For me it means (where trips are concerned anyway) having a plan but also having time built-in for the sheer luxury of time itself.
For example, this Mother’s Day was planned and it was one I will remember forever. I have found that if I make a plan when it involves a holiday about me specifically (like Mother’s Day and my birthday) it is best to plan it myself. That way I get to do exactly what my heart desires and everyone around me is happy for a couple of reasons; they don’t have to kill themselves trying to guess what I would love to do, and they are just glad to tag along on my selfish adventure (sometimes my plan is to do something on my own, like maybe read undisturbed for a couple of hours!).
This may sound heavy-handed and bossy but I assure you I am easygoing and easily pleased when it comes to where to go, what to do and what I want! What I really don’t want on Mother’s Day is a big hoopla with flowers and chocolates and my husband being roped in to giving me something extravagant too! I am not his mother and really hate how commercial this whole day has become. All I ask from my children is that I get to be with them if possible and to do something fun if we can manage it.
I absolutely love being with my kids and enjoy their company to no end. I have spent motherhood working around their schedule instead of the other way around just to get the most out of my time with them. This has resulted in us being close and easy in each other’s company, and there is no one I’d rather go to a movie, stroll a museum or walk a strange city with. This past Sunday was no exception.
My son had a big history paper looming on the American Civil War and this Mother’s Day I had the perfect excuse to work his project into my plan. His assignment was to write about any aspect of the war and after lots of discussion he came up with looking at the war from the point of view of how Photography changed the general public’s perception of the war. Of course I helped sway him in that direction as I thought it was more interesting than just recounting a battle or talking about the president. This is the first year my two children are not being Home-Schooled by me and I’m afraid I cannot let the school have all the fun or leave them to conduct their entire education. In this regard, I will always be a meddling parent, intent on them making the most of their opportunity to spend their days learning!
This Sunday I planned to drive to the city, park the car downtown and take the subway to each of our planned destinations: The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the upper East Side and afterwards to Eataly for lunch in the Flatiron District. Yes, only two things planned because I knew from experience that it would only take two things to exhaust the three of us. I am the old lady in the group but I can take a lot more of the city’s stimulation than my children. I find I can tune things out while kids feel bombarded by every little thing; subway rides, traffic noise, side-stepping crowds of people, not to mention all the visual stuff.
Anyway, the reason for The Met visit was to see a special exhibit called: Photography and The American Civil War.
As I was looking up information about photo journalism during the war I discovered that this exhibit was at The Met. I was so happy to find such a great resource and built my Mother’s Day outing around seeing it. I was happy, as any excuse to go to Manhattan suited me just fine, and I took the opportunity to visit the European painting wing for my own personal treat while we were there.
The Civil War exhibit was so well done and very moving. To see those famous photographs up close and personal like that made a foreigner like me, who learned nothing about American History in school (save for their involvement in World War I and II) more informed and further curious about American history and the early years of American politics. A lot of these photographs were very disturbing to look at (battle fields of dead soldiers, amputees) and I was hoping my children would be able to handle some of the more vivid images on display. Suffice to say that there was no nightmare drama that night so somehow the exhibit was also able to achieve that balance I talked about earlier. If you are lucky enough to be in NYC this summer, you should check it out for yourself (it is up until September 2nd).
It was a beautiful Summer day and the walk back to the subway on 5th Avenue by Central Park was as good as it gets in New York. We walked under the cherry blossom trees which were loosing petals so fast it was like a pink snowstorm. The wind was whipping and gusting all around us making our clothes and hair flutter like mad. My daughter tried to chase down some petals as they fell but they were too fast and eluded her grasp at every attempt.
We took the train to Eataly, an Italian market in the Flatiron District that I have been to a couple of times (Click HERE and HERE to read each piece), but I wanted to show the kids the place. I was more than pleased to visit there again to have pizza and pasta for lunch! They were excited to see the food that they had become familiar with last year while in Italy for 3 months (click on Italy in the right hand column of this blog to read posts about our trip), and to sample the pizza and robust pasta dishes they had grown to love while there.
Eataly (the giant Italian marketplace created by world-famous chefs Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich) was bustling with diners (there are 9 places to eat everything Italian!), food shoppers and curious tourists who had heard about this Italian food emporium.
We bee-lined it for La pizza and La Pasta and got our name on a list for a table to have lunch. We were depraved with hunger and it was hard to walk around seeing luscious food at every turn, while also smelling it. While we waited I bought pici pasta from Siena (at my son’s insistence since he loved pici so much and we had been to Siena, – click here), cooked ham with rosemary and chewy, stick-in-your teeth torrone with hazelnuts from the Piedmont region.
Our friend Bird, who lives in the city, joined us for lunch and the four of us had a hard time deciding on what to have. In the end my kids had dishes that they remembered having in Italy and wanted to compare the two. I had a robust and strong-tasting pizza with anchovies and black olives. We took a bite of each other’s food but were happiest with the one we had ordered.
After lunch it was an absolute must to have gelato and coffee to get in the right mindset for the drive home. The walk back to the car in the late afternoon was mostly silent with each of us only having the energy to hold hands and remark on how wonderful a day we were having.
We got home when it was still light outside and the first question I got when we walked in the door was, “What’s for dinner?”
Our next big trip is for my birthday, and grand plans are already under way!