Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving this year

We are late fall-early winter vacationers.

We have a little spot we love to visit and late November/early December means that our spot is empty and cheap.  Shaun's work is really busy in the summer and slower once the school year gets started things slow down enough for him to feel good about stepping out of the office for a week.

Before Ellie was in junior high, we just pulled our kiddos out of school for a week and enjoyed some family time.  But now, with sports and exams and a full social life, it's a lot harder to make that pause in her life work, especially at that time of the school year.

Because none of us want to head south at Christmas, we have tried out Thanksgiving week for the past year or so and although we missed our families dearly, it was the perfect fit for the seven of us.

BUT our kiddos missed their Tennessee cousins like crazy and so this year, we decided to head northeast and knock the Big Apple off of our Bucket List and be back to eat turkey with our loved ones.

We cleaned our house like crazy on Saturday and got up early on Sunday morning to load up.  The kids fell in love with Dr. Quinn and Sully while Shaun and I talked and tired to find a music station in the middle of the mountains.

We made it to NYC in 10 hours with minimal stops and Shaun took us on a quick driving tour of Manhattan and then we all snuck in to our two person hotel room like pros.

We ordered the biggest deep dish pizza I have ever seen and ate it while we watched Christmas movies.  We snuggled (and I mean snuggled!) in our king-sized bed.  We woke up well-rested and headed to the Empire State Building where Shaun and I made the big kids read every single historical sign and marker and pamphlet we could find since it cost one million dollars to take 7 people to the top of the building.  Ellie took the perfect Instagram selfie 500 times and Max scattered a bag of goldfish on the floor and sneezed all over a window.

When we went outside, it was literally the coldest wind I have ever felt in my entire life, but of course, the view was incredible.  We posed and looked and bought a Christmas ornament at the gift shop and headed to Times Square.

Shaun carried Max like a boss through the entire city and Max was snug-as-a-bug inside Shaun's Carhart but the rest of us were so thankful for gloves and hats and warm winter coats.  It was so cold!

Times Square was a blast and as we walked back to our hotel, we told the kids they could choose anything they wanted for dinner.  We passed a million yummy restaurants but over and above anything they could choose in the city, they wanted Subway??  Shaun and I ate a delicious gluten free burger and we went to bed early.

The second day we woke up early to head Grand Central Station to catch the subway to the Statute of Liberty.  Like subway rookies, we had no idea we needed two cards for 7 people, so there was a point where Ellie and Sophie were stuck on one side of the busy turnstiles and we were on the other.  There were throngs of people, of course, and the look of pure panic on Sophie's face was awful.  Ellie, as usual, was in control and she grabbed her sisters hand and threaded her way to the machines to buy another card, out of our sight and with her terrified sister.  Thankfully, a dadish-looking guy saw our faces and put two and two together.  He swiped his card two extra times and let our girls reunite with our little family.   While this might not be a big deal to many little girls, Sophie's biggest fear in life is being left behind or lost.  While she's never truly been left behind or lost, it is her fear and we were so sad it happened to her and yet, so glad she had steady and responsible Ellie there to hold her hand.

To make matters worse, as we were standing in the intensely crowded Subway cars, sweet Sophie didn't know to 'mind the gap' and we lost her in the step between the subway car and the platform and in an enormous crowd of people.  I loved that as soon as it happened, our big kids pushed through the throng of the subway and surrounded her completely.  They moved as one mass of children, with her in the middle, all of them grabbing her hands and her coat and got her up to fresh air and her tears turned to laughter when they told her all the ways they would save her.

We ran to the Statue line and waited for what felt like 48 hours to get on our ferry to the islands.  I'm not even lying, the wind whipping around the Island statue was pretty unreal.  It was so neat to see in person and so good for Max to get out of his carrier and play tag with the kids while Ellie and I bought a Christmas ornament and warmed up in the gift shop.

We loaded back up to head to Ellis Island, which was BY FAR my favorite part of the trip.  We sat down in a back stairwell and ate protein bars and apples and then found a warm and comfortable movie theater and all 7 of us slept through the first showing and really enjoyed the second!  Max was still asleep so a nice security guard let Shaun stay while the big kids and I took the tour.  I absolutely want to go back when I have more time to explore.  It is such a neat place!

On ferry ride back, we watched the sun set over the water and walked to the 9/11 Memorial a few blocks away.

Tickets are free on Tuesday nights and we had just enough time to really appreciate the Memorial.  Even though I'm a woman of too many words, I can't find the words to explain the somberness of that site.  It was so well done and so honoring to the victims of that day.  I'm so glad we were able to go.

After taking the Subway back to our hotel without incident, we ordered the same burgers, the same sandwiches at Subway and Ellie got some Chinese food for dinner.  We watched more Christmas movies and tried to finish up the rest of our packed snacks.

We woke up the next morning and checked out of our hotel and walked to Fifth Avenue where we saw Rockefeller Center and the scaffolding for decorating the incredible tree.  There were little girls with American Girl Doll bags everywhere and the Lego store that we went into was so filled with people we nearly couldn't get through.

We tried to get into Trump Tower, but didn't know the magic password to get past security, so we just took a big bunch of pictures in front of it instead and headed to Central Park where gabby fed the horses and the rest of the kids shared a hot dog.

Ellie and I walked back to the hotel with Starbucks in our hands and dreamed about what God might be doing with her future.  NYC is the city of dreams-coming-true after all and there's no better place than to dream big, so we did.

Shaun took the other four back on the Subway, really for Max.  Out of all the things we did, without question, his favorite was the 'train' and we had extra money on our Subway card(s).

Ellie and I met the rest of the family at the car and we headed, exhausted and crazy-happy back to the Buckeye state.

We rolled in around 3am and fell into bed.

Thanksgiving Day was spent unpacking and napping and making cookies.

Friday my mom and her husband served us a delicious late lunch and Shaun's mom served us a delicious early dinner.

We came home full of turkey and extended family and memories of a full week, well spent with all the people we love the most.

Our little family has so MUCH to be thankful for this year.

To God be the Glory for All He has Done.

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