The Holiday Train Show at the NY Botanical Gardens


Last year, I learned about the Holiday Train Show at the NY Botanical Gardens, and I wanted to take Lewie desperately; unfortunately, by the time I learned about the event, the show was sold out!

This year, I kept the show on my "holiday bucket list" and scored tickets.  I chose Black Friday for our date because 1) we all had the day off, and 2) I thought the lines might be less since most people reserve Black Friday for shopping.  My assumption proved correct.  The lines were much less, and we had another unexpected bonus--the weather was close to 67 degrees (in November!)

We took the Metro North Railroad to 125th Street and then hopped on another train to the Botanical Garden stop.  The railroad transportation couldn't be more seamless, and once we arrived at the Botanical Garden train platform, all we had to do was cross the street to get to our destination.

From the moment we started our little adventure, Lewie couldn't stop beaming.  Not only did he enjoy the train ride into the city, but he couldn't wait to see the model trains inside the gardens.  Stopping to have a bite to eat at the Garden's Pine Tree Café was torture for our seven year-old who didn't want to wait one second longer to see the trains.  Still, we made him eat something before we went inside.


Outside dining at the Pine Tree Café.
Once inside, we were in awe of the majestic train display running inside the gardens, over our heads, and beneath our feet.  Part of the allure is that favorite NYC monuments are painstakingly made out of twigs, pine cones, seeds, leaves, and other natural elements, which are then displayed with trains running around them.  Our favorites were Grand Central Station, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, and the Statue of Liberty!

Grand Central Terminal

We spotted Thomas!

The NYC skyline

The Statue of Liberty


At the end of the show, we took a tram ride to see the rest of the gardens outside (mostly in hibernation during this time of year) and then left the Botanical Gardens to visit Central Park where we had a nice lunch/dinner at Tavern on the Green

After dinner, we asked the doorman of the restaurant about getting a cab; he politely recommended that we take a pedicab back to Grand Central, so we could weave in and out of the congested NY traffic and take in the sights.  The added expense of a pedicab wasn't part of our plan, but in the end, we couldn't be happier with the ride.  The driver gave us a little history about NY while pedaling all three of us up 5th Avenue.  He made sure to take us by Rockefeller Center, Time Square, and 42nd Street before dropping us off at Grand Central.  It was still warm outside, and so the gentle breeze hitting our faces as we took in the sights and listened to disco music (that's right--like Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff") made us giggle with delight.  Lewie was in awe of seeing the Big Apple this way, and he admitted that he loves disco music. 

Tavern on the Green - What delicious food!

Central Park

Front entrance to Tavern on the Green

The doorman

The pedicab!

My attempt at a selfie!

I saw this smile all day long!

All in all, we had an exceptional day in the city.  I knew it would be fun, but honestly, our experience went way beyond any of our expectations.  Lewie called the day "epic" (his new favorite word from classmates at school), and I couldn't agree more.  Our visit definitely inspired us to get into the holiday spirit.  What an awesome time of year!

A Grateful November Walk


On Friday, my husband and I took the day off from work to volunteer for Junior Achievement Day at our son's school.   (Junior Achievement is a national non-profit organization that teaches business, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy to children in grades K - 12.)  When I learned that our school's PTO was looking for volunteers  to come into the classroom, I immediately signed us up!  Fortunate for us, we were the only parents to sign up for my son's class, and so we had the pleasure to teach little Lewie and his classmates!

The first-grade Junior Achievement theme was "JA Our Families," and so we taught lessons about family, community, needs vs. wants, goods vs. services, and entrepreneurship.  During the final exercise, the children had to work in teams to design their own birthday cake store.  They had to answer questions such as, What will you name the store, and how much money will you charge for your birthday cakes?  It was interesting to hear their responses; Lewie's team called themselves "The Big Cake Shop" and they decided to charge $5 per cake.  Another team called themselves, "The Best Cake Shop Ever" and would charge $40 per cake.

After spending the morning in the classroom, all the JA volunteers were then treated to lunch and dismissed for the day.  My husband went off to work, but I promised Lewie I would sign him out early, so we could spend the rest of the day together.  It was a beautiful November afternoon, so we went for a hike.  For the first time ever, my son completed the hour-long hike without a single complaint of being tired, and we had an amazing time talking to each other about school, the upcoming holidays, and, of course, Minecraft!  (Here are a few pictures I snapped with my phone.)

On this particular day, I felt nothing but gratitude.  How could I not?  First, I had a chance to spend time in Little Lewie's classroom where I had the pleasure of getting to know his teacher and his little friends better.  (Two of his little friends gave me their own blue crayons after the presentation because they remembered blue was my favorite color.  One little boy, Brody, even gave my husband and me a very big hug before leaving for lunch.  It was heartwarming to see how sweet all of Little Lewie's classmates were; they are so precious and loving at this age.)  Second, I had a chance to take this amazing walk with my seven year-old and share my love of nature with him.  Our family is healthy, happy, and safe.  What more can I ask for?

I love this time of year because it reminds us to be thankful.  It reminds us to focus our attention on the incredible gifts we have instead of concentrating on what we don't have.  My cup is more than half full; it's overflowing. 

Scouting for Food


This fall, my son joined the Cub Scouts.  I was excited about sign-ups in September but then was a little worried when I learned that if Lewie were to be a Tiger Cub, we needed a Tiger Den Leader to get the ball rolling.  Me, a Den Mother?  Sure I was a Girl Scout back in the 80's, but what do I know about planning crafts and activities for boys?

Fast forward ten weeks later, and joining the Cub Scouts has been the best decision for our little family.  All three of us (Lewie, Hubby, and me) have gotten involved with the pack, and so far Lewie has enjoyed a hayride, a Cub Scout bon fire initiation, an evening of fun racing boats at the raingutter regatta, and two early mornings collecting food for a nearby food bank.  Our little Tiger Den of one has recently now grown to three members, and another mom is excited about hosting activities for the boys too.

This past weekend, Lewie had a chance to wear his new Cub Scout uniform, twice, at the raingutter regatta and scouting for food events.  It was so much fun to watch my little boy be part of a "larger family" so to speak.  Plus, I was especially proud to be teaching him about leadership and community service.  He wore his little uniform with pride as he went from house to house collecting bags of food.  Once we were done with the collection, the food was then taken to our local church who arranged to deliver it to a nearby food bank. 

          "Do you know where this food is going?" I asked my innocent seven-year old after the collection was done.
          "To the pilgrims?" my son asked naively.  (I did everything I could to keep from laughing.)
          "Well, not exactly Lewie.  The food is going to people who are less fortunate and don't have the money or the means to be able to buy their own food."

Later on, my mom asked my son the same question to make sure he understood the purpose of "scouting for food."  "Do you know that the food goes to people in need?" my mom asked.

          "Oh, yes Grammy.  I saved their lives."  (Once again, it took all my energy to keep myself from releasing a loud hysterical snort.)

On the one hand, I was surprised by my son's silly answers, but then I realized... how could I possibly expect him to provide a meaningful sophisticated answer if he's never had the experience of helping someone in need before?  Even the food collection, while being a noble cause, still doesn't introduce my son to the real world realities of poverty and homelessness.  Maybe he's still a little too young to grasp the entire concept of what it means to be cold and hungry, but I'm so happy, through organizations like the Cub Scouts, that he's at least getting a little more exposure to what it means to be a good person. 

Now, onto explaining the historical significance of the Pilgrims...  (It turns out that most children in Lewie's first grade class believe they are alive and well!)

Halloween 2015 - The Avengers Edition


Little Lewie is officially a seven year-old boy in mind, body, and spirit.  I've been watching this transformation as his interests have changed.  He still loves going to train museums, and at one point, he even asked if we could download the Train Simulator game on his computer; however, gone are the days of watching Chuggington and Thomas the Train.  Gone are the days of playing with his wooden train and Trackmaster sets too.

Last year, Lewie requested that we dress up as a train for Halloween, so we did our best to create an engine (Lewie), coal tender (Mommy), and dining car (Daddy) out of cardboard boxes.  We looked at pictures on Pinterest and ultimately made our own "train"--partly inspired by other's ideas and partly inspired by our own ingenuity.  It was so much fun as my son loved pretending he was an engine and occasionally hollered out a "Choo Choo."

Now fast-forward a full 365 days later, and my son is fascinated by Iron Man.  He loves playing the LEGO Marvel Super Heroes game on his Wii U and watching Youtube Videos about the Avengers--especially Iron Man.  As a mom that doesn't want to see her son grow up, I wasn't crazy about this shift in tastes, but ultimately, parenthood is all about acceptance--acceptance that my son is growing up and acceptance that pop-culture will most likely play a role in his new interests.

Since it's become a tradition that Mommy and Daddy join in the fun of Halloween too, we followed suit (no pun intended) and dressed up like Super Heroes too-- Thor for Daddy and Captain America for Mommy.  Daddy's store-bought costume was relatively easy, but I had to be a little creative in trying to turn a very skimpy costume into a more wholesome one.   Ultimately, here's how we looked:

My husband as Thor.

This picture is beyond words.

Lewie as Iron Man

Lewie and his first grade class

Lewie visiting my mom at work.  (My mom's supervisor dressed up as a Minion.)

There's my mom, Iron Man, and Thor (w/ the Minion).


(Okay, so maybe I enjoyed being a Super Hero too - just a little bit.)

Before trick-or-treating...

Okay, so dressing up as the Avengers was kind of fun--okay really fun.  Lewie had a special Iron Man glove that lights up and makes sound effects, and let's just say that he made sure to show it off at every house.  He might not have been yelling "Choo Choo," this year, but he was certainly showing off his Iron Man glove and moves--just as adorable.  Overall, I give this Halloween an A+.  I might not be in costume anymore, but I reminded Lewie that it takes super powers everyday for me to be a mom!