The summer of 2014 ran past us. It was rather short after all. Nevertheless, Taiyo going back to school makes mommy a bit more human again. Last year, feeling freedom and independence for the first time since Taiyo was born, September was for shopping for me. I'm feeling very much the same this year and spent some quality time shopping around town for the past week.
Yes, our summer was full of adventures and it ended very nicely. The Labor Day weekend was our last summer getaway. "This is going to be the best vacation ever!" Taiyo was extra excited. We were just driving upstate to Hudson Valley for fresh air. It was action packed, indeed! First we stopped at Storm King Arts Center and he ran around enormous sculptures. Later we ran around Walmart Superstore that was conveniently located just across the street from our hotel in Fishkill. Next day, the weather wasn't really perfect, so I switched itinerary from Waterpark to peach and berry picking. He ran around the vast farm and picked some fruits, but got bored quite fast. Then we went to a huge antique show where he became increasingly whiny. He conked out in the car, and I drove north to Poukeepsie and he wake up at the Children's Museum. When the museum closed, we walked up to the elevator to go up to Walkaway Over the Hudson, "the world's longest elevated pedestrian walkaway." The elevator ride was torturous for me. It made me so aware of my fear of heights. It really gotten worse as I got older. I was feeling almost nauseous by the time we got to the top, but rain was developing and they made us go right back down since they thought lightening may be coming. It was almost the closing time anyway. I was relieved. I wasn't sure if I wanted to walk across it when I realized how high it was. We made it to a nice restaurant on river front and had a very nice dinner. Next day on the way back to city we went back in time at the Renaissance Faire. It was a riot! We agreed that we shall return next year costumed. Our little vacation was full of big things, like a turkey leg they sold at the Faire.
Where did June go? It came and went. It was the end of his first school year; the growth of all the children in the class was just amazing. On the last day of school, their teacher Shonelle was telling them to try new things during summer vacation - they have to keep growing without school and her guidance for the next two months.
So we took off to experience a country life in Carbon county, Pennsylvania. We only got here yesterday, but Taiyo has been experiencing so many new things already- like fishing in a lake (or more like a pond.) We are such city folks and decided couldn't handle live worms for bait, so we used more expensive artificial worms. When I pulled out a nice big bass from the water, Taiyo screamed and ran away. I asked him to hold the fish and posed for the picture, but he would not come close. He watched the lady clean out the fish for us at the pond, though. She showed him a tiny fish heart still beating when she gutted. To my surprise, he saw it closely. He's been making a big deal of the bugs at the house we are staying. "We can never live in a country," I said to him. "I can get used to it," he replied. We'll see how much he can get used to it by the end of the week. The dinner was an amazing feast of all fresh local produce: bass grilled on the porch, tomatoes, zucchini, and beets from the farm stand. I could totally get used to these.
So I discovered the secret for becoming the coolest mom ever- taking my son to Built-A-Bear Workshop! Thanks to their TV commercials, Taiyo was asking me to take him there for a while. It was a really cute thing to do. He picked out a dog, and made it come alive! First, he got it stuffed, helping the store staff by stepping on a foot pedal. Before finishing, we had heart-beat device added, then Taiyo picked out a little heart which he rubbed, kissed, and made a wish, then had it put in his new friend. We picked out his clothes- a car racer's jump suit with Lightening McQueen from Cars on the back. They also told him to name this new buddy. So I helped him enter the doggy's new name "Scout" at a computer station. "His last name is Biscuit," Taiyo was so proud. We received his birth certificate at check-out, where he was placed in a cardboard kennel. For the rest of the day and after, Taiyo kept saying that I was the coolest mom ever.
On the way back, this seemed to be a perfect place for our lunch: La Follia was not crowded, European decor, tables on sidewalk, reasonably priced (relatively). We situated ourselves at an outside table, with his new buddy on a chair next to us. The setting was almost perfect for nice Sunday brunch. Then here they came, our french toast and Italian sausage omelette. The plates looked pretty, and Taiyo immediately picked all the bananas off his french toast. It was supposed to be "Brioche French Toast," although it was plain toast, and was extremely mushy. We've been trying French toast here and there, and they are often mediocre to terrible. My omelette wasn't terrible, but it was like diner omelette. So food wasn't anything I'd like to go back to, but it was nice relaxing brunch. I enjoyed having my glass of Bellini, and was glad that it was $6, and not $10 or more like in many other places these days.
Three years ago when I started this blog, I was so excited with possibilities. He was just beginning to eat all kinds of food, and actually enjoying them. He was open to try anything, and was always excited to eat. I thought in a year or two, we would've covered even fine dining restaurants all over town. Well, development doesn't always happen in one direction. Often only food he ask for is pizza or pasta on weekend. He probably heard me complaining to someone; he declared the other day, "I like boring pizza." But we tried a new restaurant this week, although it feels like regressing a bit- IHOP on 14th Street near 2nd Avenue. At 12pm on Sunday, the waiting area was already full. The hostess told us the wait is about 15 minutes. I never want to wait for a table, but Taiyo wanted to wait. He would wait for that bit stack of pancakes. The wait was just about 15 minutes. The service was efficient and fast. They gave him a coloring/game sheet and crayons. So it was not so bad. Of course the huge stack of pancakes with banana, strawberries and whip cream on top was like an amazing lunch for Taiyo. He went at it, without stopping, and chugged down 90% of it. My chicken crepe was not bad. It was just about what I expected. As much as I hate to admit it, since it's just another chain restaurant, since it's like going to MacDonald's, since it's way too predictable, since it feels cheap to be there, it was not a bad experience. We may go there again. Better coffee, at least stronger, would help.
Then on Veteran's Day, we did something neither of us have done. We visited Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Park. The beautiful steel Unisphere was so gorgeous under the sun and that sight itself was worth the long train ride. It was a family day for the museum which just reopened after renovation. The place was happening but not terribly crowded. We had to check out "Panorama" of course, the architectural model of NYC five boroughs that includes every single building from 1960s. Taiyo was quite impressed, but he kept asking me where Japan was. "It's too far away. You can't see it." He didn't want to accept the answer. Then we walked over to Hall of Science and played a while in their "Science Playground," another thing we've never done. Then we made super-giant bubbles inside the museum for a while. We always love this museum. It's always worth the trip- but it is far. Only if we could fly.
Sunday May 5th was "Children's Day" in Japan. So I suggested an event at the Children's Magical Garden. And it happened. It was a beautiful low-key event run by a few mom members of the garden, full of good energy and laughter. Kids were running everywhere. We had craft projects going on, but the main attraction was the chicken coop in-progress and the former chicken run. Kids loved going in and out of the skeleton structure of the coop, and raking and shoveling mulch in the former chicken coop. It really felt like the garden was such a gem, beautiful oasis in the city. I was also proud to introduce Japanese customs that closely relate to seasons. Next one I'm thinking of hosting is "Star Festival" on July 7th. Conveniently it's Sunday again.
It was our 2nd annual family spring break, this time to the Disney World! Oh, yes, we survived. I came back with a stiff neck, and realization that there won't be any relaxing vacation for a while. Disney, the master of American pop-culture, was also super professional in hospitality. The first day, at Hollywood Studio, Taiyo was very much determined to meet the characters of Cars. For our deepest disappointment, there were two main characters of Cars, the most commercially used on every boys' goods, there, stationary. They were there, not animated, not, talking. Taiyo and I were expecting the Cars that spoke at least like in the movie. We saw some stunt shows, and dined in a drive-in theater like restaurant, were kissed by Chip 'n' Dale, and he was too tired to go on so we headed back to the hotel. He was then energized at the kiddie pool and we spent hours there while he flirted with a cute littler girl. They had outdoor movie every night, while seeing fireworks in the background from Epcot. So the next day we had to do Magic Kingdom, their main theme park. This time I made sure to rent a stroller at the entrance, which made a huge difference to enjoy the visit. It was crowded enough, hot enough, and it was not their busiest time of the year which is the hottest time of the year. Well, my New York maneuvering skill was pretty much useless since so many areas seemed to be blocked by enormous asses and double with strollers. The large unit spanish families didn't help the congestion. The lines were long enough in most places, at least 30 minute wait, but Taiyo was mostly patient and amused other people around him. He had his first roller coaster ride, hugged Princess Merida from Brave, flied on Dumbo, twirled in a teacup, and drove a bumpy race car. So, although it was too all-American and mainstream for my taste, we had a lot of fun.
It snowed a little and rained a lot more. The winter seems to hang around a bit longer, and I hear people complaining about it every day. Well, winter is actually my favorite season and I really don't mind the cold. I always enjoyed running through winter. Only problem during cold months was that the water fountains were closed in the parks and I had to carry a bottle of water. Otherwise, I always loved long runs in winter. Anyway, I loved the sight of snow and rain, especially after the movie we saw yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon, a perfectly grim day for such mellow activity, we went to a screening of Japanese animated film "Wolf Children" as part of New York International Children's Film Festival. From their line-up, I picked this film because it was in Japanese and not dubbed. The story seemed also interesting, something we could even relate to; it was about a young Japanese woman, a single mother, raising two wolf children. They were named Yuki(snow) and Ame(rain), and their father was a wolf man, half human, half wolf. My only concern was that it was a long movie- almost two hours long. Although Taiyo has seen two-hour movies many times, this was going to be his first long movie in a theater. But since it was Children's Film Festival, there were enough small children like Taiyo in the audience. To my surprise, many of the small people were not Japanese. Are their parents going to read the subtitle for the kids? There was a three-year old next to us who wasn't really thrilled to sit down on his seat anyway before the show. So of course this little boy was so restless and fussy throughout the movie. So compared to his poor blond fellow who didn't understand Japanese, Taiyo was fine most of the time. But on and off Taiyo started asking so many questions why was this and that and I got a bit distracted and annoyed myself that I had to try to calm him down. Sometimes he was asking me things off the movie like, "why is it so dark here?" "why does this move?" moving the armrest up and down. I was surprised that he was acting like that, because the film was simply stunning, funny and touching, romantic and tragic. You'd laugh a lot and weep plenty. The audience was good mix of families and adults, anime fans, Japanese and all others, and remarkably wide age groups. Highly recommended if you can find it. I don't think they have theatrical release scheduled at this point.
After the film, we went across the 57th street to Angelo's Pizza. At 7 o'clock, we were tired. We got there before 4, so we were at the theater for three hours. Location was the winner, and Taiyo hardly says no to pizza. In the past two years, it feels like I've eaten more pizza than the rest of my life combined. Possibly. So we got to Angelo's and obviously many people after the film headed there and it was almost full house. Locations, locations. It seemed like overpriced and mediocre kind of place and it was. But location won. We were not going to walk another block to look for a restaurant, and there aren't many on 57th street anyway. So I had a glass of wine and we had a plain pie but they didn't even bake with basil but sprinkled a few pieces after, so it was easy to pick the greens off for Taiyo and there weren't too many anyway. It was ok, not terrible, not fabulous. I wished they put a little more sauce and cheese- the edges with no sauce and cheese were too wide. Crust was pretty thin and easy to eat. Service was pretty bad. Unfriendly in general. Taiyo ate half of the pie, and stayed in his seat quietly once it arrived. His review may be more favorable to them than mine.