Just a Reminder...

If you want to see more of our pictures from New York and around Norwalk, just click the Smugmug link in the far right-hand column and look for the most recent folder - everything's organized by date (I hope).

And Furthermore...!

I know it looks like we've been spending all our time in NYC, but most days we're just here at home, or trying to do things that are local. Christie's schedule has really forced us to slow down more than usual with trips, and my health has forced us to spread them out as much as possible. It also helps that Norwalk seems to roll up its streets at 10pm. It's been a good thing though, as we've been able to invest some time in other things. Like:

Playing Yu-Gi-Oh at a Sushi bar

Visiting the local beach

Building sandcastles

Pretending to know karate (or Ninjitsu? All I know is that I
was violently assaulted immediately after this picture was taken)

Visiting the New England Aquarium again

...after dad's doctor appointment

Keeping score at a 3:1 ratio in favor of his team


Trying to play against the other team single-handedly
Making Mom and Dad wish we had better medical coverage..

Eating C-Rats
Okay, this one bears some explanation. If you or your Mom/Dad were in the military, you know these as MRE's or "C-rations". It's a dehydrated meal in a bag. That sounds nasty, but they're actually awesome. My dad used to come home with extras from time to time from readiness exercises and it was almost like Christmas. So Pops sent some to the boys this week and they were fascinated. Self-heating pasta, beef jerky, poptarts, peanut butter crackers, cheese spread (which Brennan sucked out of the pouch down to the last drop), a huge cookie (Rich's favorite), and an assortment of gum, mints, M&M's and other quick foods. You'd have thought they were at a fancy seafood place.

Brennan was not a fan of the spiced apples

Riding the bus to the library

Phineas and Ferb marathons


Eating organic meat-lovers pizza from Savor

Beating Dad at mini-golf
As for school, everyone keeps asking what grade they're in. They never know. Rich is edging into pre-Algebra and Brennan's not far behind. Rich reads voraciously at night now, and Brennan's working on a new book. They are both addicted to MineCraft. They have learned how to do the laundry and the dishes, and they are a huge help with housework. Rich is blogging and drawing, Brennan is making up comic strips and Dungeons and Dragons games and working on his next book. They're fighting with chords on the piano. Rich learned how to make spaghetti, and Brennan helped make meatballs. It's everything they need and nothing you could give them a grade on. It is homeschooling. It is messy, spontaneous, wonderful, frustrating, fulfilling, and nerve-wracking. It's like life, and they're getting to do it now, not in 8 or 11 years, when a quarter of their life has passed them by. It is the best thing ever.

New York, Take 4

We thought we were done in NYC, but decided it would be nice to spend a little more time in Central Park on Father's Day weekend. Plus, our friend Leslie was in town for a few days and it worked out for us to meet her for a few hours. We haven't seen her, really seen her in about eight years, so it was great to catch up.

The Dakota Building, home of Yoko Ono. Lennon was shot just
outside the front door. 

We met Leslie at Strawberry Fields across the street. She has asked
me to disclose that she was "sweaty and nasty" having just finished
a bike ride through the park. 

Bethesda Fountain from Godspell, Ransom, Home Alone 2,  and Elf

Making a wish

The Yoga Master teaches the young apprentices

Watching street performers 

Afterwards we found a playground for the boys to expend (what we thought was) the
rest of their energy.

We ate at Burger One on 78th, a little 8 seater walk-in dive with the
best burgers we've had in recent memory. The milkshakes were
incredible too.
Rich got his second wind after eating and said, "Let's go to Time Square!"
So we did. 

We wandered around, in and out of stores, watched some more street performers, and a physical altercation between the police and a group of black dudes claiming to be the true Tribe of Benjamin, and Christianity to be Satanic. Okay then. 

Oh, and I also almost throat-punched Elmo. In general, I don't mind Elmo. I'm not a huge fan though. He represents everything that's wrong with the "new" Sesame Street: the giggling, the fact that everyone can see Mr. Snuffalufagus, Mr. Hooper's store being renovated so that it's nearly unrecognizable...okay, so maybe I have some pent up aggression toward Elmo. But these guys in the Elmo suits will just walk up and start hugging your kid. Hey buddy, for all I know, you're a catholic priest who gets your jollies in Times Square on a Saturday night by dressing in an Elmo costume and getting chummy with kids. I don't know you. The fact that you're dressed as the metaphorical representation of the dumbing down of my favorite children's show isn't doing you any favors. He grabs Rich as we're trying to cross the very crowded street and won't let him go. I hear Rich say, "I need to go with my parents," and Elmo says, "But I want you to stay with me." Look kids, it's the new Touch Me In My Special Place Elmo. I was about a millisecond from flipping this guy's stupid headpiece around and beating him to death with a fire hydrant. Hey, the cops were busy with the Tribe of Benjamin guys, so no one would have noticed. I grabbed Rich as this nutjob continues to try to talk to him, then we lost him in the crowd. It's not uncommon to see three or four Elmos wandering around Times Square, and it's possible that just like the Sesame Street version, they need to die violently by fire hydrant. 

The M&M and Disney stores were cool just for the massive displays. Everything's huge in Times Square. 

In the M&M Store

Finally the day came to an end. Rich and Brennan, spent, exhausted, and ready to crawl into bed fully clothed, fell into their seats on the train and went immediately to sleep. 

New York, Take 3

The following week, we did the WTC Memorial, Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island.

First stop, the WTC Memorial.

South Tower Memorial

The Freedom Tower

I'm not sure Brennan grasped the enormity of what happened here (do any of us, really?). Rich has asked a million questions about 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, extremism, and Homeland Security, so I think he went into it with a pretty good context of what we were seeing and the impact it's had on life in the U.S. This was such a good teaching moment, from the extensive security clearance at the entrance, two the murals of gathering in different countries on the night of 9/11, to the diversity of teary-eyed visitors gathered around the edges of the fountains. I know this for certain about 9/11 - New Yorkers carry that pain in their heart still, and it's very visceral and real for them. Even the Pakistani cabbie who drove us to the site got a bit choked up talking about it, and said that it still bothers him to drive in that part of town.

Also striking were the sheer number of names listed under various Fire and Emergency units, as well as the diversity of ethnic names carved into the stone. This was reflected in the diversity of nation groups represented at the memorial - the older British couple searching for a name, the young woman in a Burkah carefully making a rubbing from a name on the Pennsylvania list, the Hindi father in a Paghi turban pointing to the sky with tears in his eyes as he explained to his young son what happened that day. If anything, we came away from the memorial realizing that 9/11 was not just an attack against the United States or capitalism, it was an attack on the world, one that affected all of humanity in some way. We were able to discuss the dangers of extremism and the importance of living in peace despite religious and political differences. We all shed some tears as we tried to honor the names by reading as many as we could - but there were simply too many. Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming, to the point that we merely walked over to glance at the North tower memorial, but didn't walk around it.

Castle Clinton has a rich history as the original U.S. Immigration center (pre-dating Ellis Island),
a defensive fort against the British during the War of 1812, and beautiful women drinking
bottled water in the foreground.

It's a short walk from there to Battery Park where we planned to catch the ferry over to Liberty and Ellis Island. Battery Park was a blast! I have to pause here and post a picture of Castle Clinton for my TTLG readers. Castle Clinton is the launching point for a beloved game called Deus Ex, much of which takes place in New York. It's become especially poignant since 9/11 since the premise of the game involves an extremist bombing of an iconic U.S. landmark (in this case, the Statue of Liberty).

Some of the best NYC experiences are the spontaneous ones: street performers, altercations between the NYPD and religious protest groups, crazy people shouting at you. We always try to stop and watch the street acrobats if we're not running late to get somewhere.

Liberty Cruises was the cheapest way to go for tickets to the two islands. The boys were extremely excited to finally see the statue up close.

We love the Junior Ranger programs at the National Monuments - they really do
care about teaching the kids and always come up with fun ways to help
them remember the important details. 

Ellis island used to be the main point of entry for Immigrants coming to the U.S., but now it's a museum. We typically follow the kid's lead at places like this. They are drawn to certain things that interest them, and they love being the first to discover them and show them to us. We've found that forcing them to absorb every little description and display becomes tedious and they don't remember the stuff they don't care about to begin with. Obviously we point out any important things they'll regret missing later, but we try to be as casual as possible. There were lots of great displays here, but we were getting worn out and ready to head home.

Next post: More Central Park and Times Square