Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Travel journal: New York with kids (Day 3)

Before we left for New York I picked up a book on things to do with kids there. It listed lots of parks and zoos and museums, and offered the very useful tip that the Children’s Museum of the Arts had drop-in art classes for kids one to three-and-a-half several days a week. Adriana has loved the art classes she’s done at home, so on the third morning of our trip, I braved taking the girls on the subway during the morning commute, and headed downtown for the class. I think it was even better than the art classes we have done here. At $22 per family per class it seemed a bit pricey, but it was nice to have a morning with less time on my feet and Adriana really enjoyed it.

The class started out very small: there was a table with play-doh and a table where the kids could draw with markers. A few museum employees were around to chat with the parents (and grandmothers and nannies) and kids while they worked on their art. They were nice and the kids were happy, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with the class. But then a folding screen was taken down and we were able to move further back into the museum. Here there was a sand table filled with soft white sand, some water colors set before mirrors for self portraits, and some sort of goopy stuff. Adriana went straight for the sand, while Lyra crawled around on some beanbag chairs. Shortly after that, the next screen was removed, revealing a table for doing collages, and one for painting with little toy cars, but Adriana was working intently with the sand. A couple of times I pointed out the other projects to her, giving her time warnings, so that she wouldn’t be disappointed if she didn’t get to them, but she was happy pouring sand around in the table.

And then suddenly one of the museum people had a tambourine and was singing, and he led the children and their caregivers down a steep flight of stairs for music time. It was funny to see how quickly the children all followed, even the ones who, like us, had never been there before. Downstairs, he sat before them and led them in songs. Some were songs that all kids know, some were new to me, but he never stopped singing, it seemed, just went from one song into the next. Adriana mostly observed but seemed happy, and she eagerly took a drum for each of us when they were passed out. After music, the kids went into a sort of ball pit to play--an area of the room with walls a couple of feet high filled with yoga balls. I think Adriana would have loved it eventually, but she only went in for about two minutes at the end. I could tell she was interested, but in a new place with so many new people, she just needed time to watch, and then the class was over and we had to go.

I hadn’t packed us a real lunch, so as we left the museum, I gave Adriana some snacks and wandered through SoHo, looking for a place to eat. So many places looked good and interesting, but I knew I needed something casual, fast, and with something that Adriana would willingly eat. I kept wishing for a Mexican place to suddenly appear, but wasn’t having any luck. Just as I was kicking myself for not bringing a picnic to eat at a playground, I spotted Ideya. There was a news clipping in the window identifying it was a good place to eat with kids, and I quickly scanned the menu and spotted beans and rice, which meant Adriana would be happy.

She was happy, and so was I, with a bowl of cold soup and a salad, and after that we felt better about walking some more, so we walked and walked. I took a meandering route from SoHo to Greenwich Village, spotting a few familiar places on the way. Finally Adriana spotted a playground and asked to stop. I remembered the first time we took a trip with her as a toddler, just a weekend in San Francisco, and how our rule was to stop whenever we saw a playground. She needed time to play, the baby needed to nurse, and my back needed a break, so it was perfect. Also perfect, of course, was that it was conveniently across the street from Magnolia Bakery, and I had been promising cupcakes, so after some play time, we each picked out a treat.

It was a very kid-centric day. I went to New York to do a kiddie art class, play on a playground, and eat cupcakes, I thought to myself as we headed back to the subway. And just as I thought that, I glanced up, feeling a sense of vague familiarity with where I was, and realized I was right in front of a bar, where on a previous trip to New York, a work trip, I’d stayed out until two in the morning drinking and listening to music with a friend. Then I had no choice but to laugh at how much things had changed in the six years since that trip.

“Do we need an uphill train or a downhill one?” Adriana asked me as we folded up the stroller to go down into the subway, making me laugh even more.

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