Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Small Fry

Alyssa sporting her "small fry" shirt that we got for her at the Shake Shack in New York City.

It was the moment we'd all been waiting for.  The moment the doctor would take Alyssa's measurements and announce to us how much she'd grown since going gluten-free.  After all, that's what was supposed to happen.  Imagine my disappointment to hear that she'd actually fallen in the growth curve and added a mere 3 cm to her stature in the last 8 months.

Naturally, the doctor questioned how the diet was going.  In my utter shock, I tried to explain just how fastidious we'd been about everything she ate.  He wasn't necessarily accusatory but there really was no other explanation for her lack of growth other than gluten contamination.  He suggested blood work to see if the Celiac was under control.  If the panels showed contamination, we'd be sent to the gasteroenterologist and dietian.  If it came back clear, we could entertain the idea of growth hormone even though we already determined she does not have a deficiency.

I was disheartened.  I couldn't stand the thought that all my gluten-free efforts had come up short.  (No pun intended.) If the Celiac was not in control, I just didn't know what more I could do.

Well today my mind was set at ease when the doctor called to give the results of her blood work, "Her Celiac is completely under control!" 

Indescribable relief.  I did do a good job after all.

Now what about her short stature?  Evidently she falls into the "grab bag of idiopathic short stature" or in other words, the medical world has no explanation for her pint-sizedness.  And you know what, we're OK with that.  Tiny is who she is and we kinda like her that way.  She's the epitome of health which is why we've all decided it's best not to mess with growth hormone injections.  Why put her through that for the sake of a few inches?

Our naturally mild-mannered girl literally jumped for joy and shouted, "Yeeessss!" when we told her that her Celiac was under control.  She's had to sacrifice so much in changing her diet and she's done it with a remarkable attitude.

What a little--and I mean little--gem!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Unassisted Teen

Caleb was thrilled to receive the invitation to spend a week with his Tri-Cities cousins. They certainly occupy a spot on his short list of favorite people. We just needed to figure out how to get him there.  After considering several options, flying seemed the best way to accomodate our schedule.

He was so excited to fly alone.  An unassisted teen, as they call it.

Off he goes!  Make sure you get on the right plane, Caleb! (With these small planes, once walk through the main gate, it separates into many other gates.)

He arrived safe and sound with his only complaint being that the 30 minute flight was too short.  He did tell us that he almost went through the wrong door and would've ended up in Missoula.  Guess he would've been spending a week with Grandma and Grandpa instead. :)

We miss him but have no doubt that he'll have the time of his life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Musical Fruit

Are they musical or magical?  It's an ongoing debate at our house but I maintain that beans are musical.  And since Jon thinks Rudolph will go down in history like Lincoln and that he never got to play reindeer games like football, I feel confident that I'm right.

Alyssa loves refried beans with corn tortillas and since going gluten-free, they've become a staple in her diet.  We'll often get her take-out from the local Mexican restaurant when she can't eat what the rest of us are having.  Yesterday, Jon mentioned that he was going to be working from home today since Alyssa had a dr. appointment that he wanted to attend. (I'll update on that soon.)  It's kinda a given that when he works from home, we go to my all-time favorite lunch spot, The Rock, for the pizza buffet.

In talking to Alyssa, Natalie mentioned that she really hoped we'd go to The Rock for lunch.  Alyssa replied by saying, "But I can't eat there."  So Natalie suggested, "Well you could get refarted beans from Puerto Vallarta."

Refarted beans.  Seriously.  When I heard that I laughed 'til I cried. 

And I feel that I should mention that I make every effort to avoid having bodily functions become a joke in our house.  We typically use the term "passing gas."

Refarted beans.  What a slip of the tongue that was.

I'm still laughing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My New York Top 10 List

For Jon it is was part business, part pleasure.  For me it is was just pleasure.  A training in New York for him, an ideal, kid-free vacation for me. In David Letterman style, here's my top ten list for my NY vacation. 

10. MTA

The New York City Subway got me everywhere I wanted to go.  I often joked that my subway map and unlimited Metro card were my new best friends.

The platforms were a filthy, stifiling sauna but the trains themselves were air-conditioned and efficient.  I did see three rats (all in the Times Square station) but rodents aside, I loved the Subway (and Metro North train) for taking me on my many adventures. 

Grand Central Terminal is a wonder to behold--especially at 5:15 in the evening.

GCT on a sleepy Sunday afternoon

I arrived into the station off the Metro North train one evening and witnessed the marvel that is rush hour at GCT.  The sheer mass of humanity and the effectiveness with which they navigate their paths is fascinating.  Like some grand choreographed routine, each traveler dances their way to their train.  I wandered into some of the shops within the station partly because they looked interesting but mostly because I wanted to observe the river of people that flowed through the station. 

The terminal is stuningly beautiful and since it is the world's largest station, it's very much deserving of its "Grand" name.  The food court, however, does not earn my highest rating.

I came in on track 23.  There are over 100 tracks in the station.

9. Food

Established in 1837, Delmonico's is a premier New York steakhouse.  It was only 2 blocks from our hotel and because it was restaurant week--which means prix-fixe menus--in Manhattan, we were able to dine here at a fraction of the normal cost.

Little Italy is full of delicious, authentic dinner spots.

Our pasta was accompanied by the most fabulous dipping oil for our bread basket and a live accordian player.

After dinner we indulged in gelato and some fancy Italian pastries.

This is my "Yum!" face.

I enjoyed lots of fun lunches including the Shake Shack which I think puts In-N-Out to shame.

Junior's really does have some great cheesecake...

And the New York pizza did not disappoint.

8. I'm a Mormon

The ads are everywhere; on tops of cabs, sides of newstands and even on a three story billboard in Times Square.  I'm guessing it's the church's effort to get some positive attention out there since the offensive and profane Book of Mormon Musical seems to be so popular on Broadway right now.

I even rode the mormon train once.  It's actually a shuttle train between GCT and Times Square.  I was stunned to see that every single advertisement of every car of the train was plastered with the mormon ads.  I listened to the comments of the other passengers and then snapped a quick picture once they all exited and before the next group boarded.

I visited the Manhattan temple one day but was disappointed to learn that it was closed for scheduled
summer maintenance.  Still, fun to see such a unique temple.

On Sunday, we rode the Subway to the most interesting chapel I've ever attended.  From the street it looks like any other building in the crowded metropolitan area, but once you reach the fourth floor, it looks like any other LDS chapel.  I love that no matter where you go in the world, the church is a constant, unchanging organization that can make you feel at home.

7. Shopping

If you know me, you know that I'm not much of a shopper.  But there were a few stores I really appreciated.

Duane Reades are as numerous in New York as Starbucks are in Seattle.  There was one just steps from our hotel and I was thankful for it as it provided me with a few essentials that I needed throughout the week.  The miniature bags epitomized a metropolitan convenience store as they could scarely hold more than three items.

One day I ventured to Chelsea Market to wander through the cute shops--like cookie and brownie specialty bakeries--before treating myself to one of my favorite lunches of the week.

The American Girl Place, where I went for souvenirs for the girls, was really adorable.  It was the first--and really the only, if I'm being honest--time I wished they were there with me.  OK, there was one other time...

...I would've loved to see their faces at Dylan's Candy Bar.  Three floors of candy store!

I treated myself to an enormous Rice Krispies treat filled with caramel and chocolate covered pretzels.  It was adorably packaged just for me in a rainbow box and took two separate sittings to consume it.

Erin also took me to a great jewelry store where everything was cute and cheap.  Cheap in New York?  I didn't think that was possible.

6. The Views

On the morning of my first day in NYC, I saw Jon off to work and then headed to the hotel's workout room.  Perhaps I was feeling intimidated by the thought of running on the unfamiliar streets of the largest city in the U.S., but I ended up running 4 miles on a treadmill with a view of a brick wall.  I never made that mistake again.

The next day I ran this path that goes for miles up the Hudson river, with Lady Liberty by my side.  Battery park was just blocks from our hotel.  The next day I ran the Brooklyn Bridge but the Hudson river view was so great that I returned to do that run again later in the week.

The view of Manhattan from Top of the Rock was breathtaking.  Here's Rockefeller Center from the bottom.

Once in the elevator, the lights go off and you ascend the 70 stories while looking through the glass top elevator to the blue-lighted shaft giving you the sensation that you are traveling through space.  These pictures can't begin to capture just how amazing it looked from the top.

That's the Empire State building:

I had run the Brooklyn Bridge one morning, but I returned with Jon one evening to see it at night.

Then we rode the Staten Island Ferry (it's free!) for some stunning views of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty. (Our nighttime pictures of the statue just didn't turn out, darn it.)

I loved the views of Central Park, too.

And though it can't really compare with any of the above, we had fun peering out of our hotel window on the 43rd floor.

5. Museums

The World Trade Center Tribute put a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.  I took the audio tour around the site which included survivors' stories of that horrific day.  Seeing all these faces of victims was the most emotional part for me.

The site's reconstruction  is still being completed so this was about as close as I got to it all but I was able to see the voids where the towers once stood and where the memorial fountains now run.

I took one of the "Statue Cruises" which makes stops at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  I thoroughly enjoyed the history of Ellis Island but chose not to get off at the Statue of Liberty.  I felt up close and personal enough from the ferry and I didn't quite have time to get off at both stops.

We both quite enjoyed the Metropolitan Museum of Art with its grand exhibits and great expanse of works by famous artists.  One of the best parts of the museum experience was being able to bypass the line that stretched an entire city block in each direction.  It was a 2-3 hour wait we were told.  How did we manage to escape that madness?  Well, I'll get to that in a minute.

Jon, Erin, Spencer and girls in the short line.

Unbelievable lines!

Across Central Park is the Museum of Natural History.

It's huge and has great exhibits, but is not much like the movie.  We did find Rexy and Dum dum, though. :)

4. The Shows

Every night but one found us in Times Square at one of NY's beautiful theaters.  What great entertainment!  Here are my grades:
David Letterman Show:  A-

It was a whole lotta fun and free, but we were on the last row of the balcony because we were at the very end of a long line that even ticket holders have to wait in.  It actually was a small miracle that Jon even made it in time, coming from work, so we're not complaining.

Phantom of the Opera:  A

Phenomenal singing and special effects make this musical a definite must-see!

Mary Poppins:  A

Super short on leg room in the theater but this easily has become one of my favorite musicals of all time.  The dancing!  The flying!  I love, love, love it so much it makes me giddy.

Mamma Mia:  C

I just don't like the story.  I hoped the music would over shadow the storyline but I'm afraid it didn't.  And coming from two amazing sets the two previous nights, the set of the this show was just plain boring.  The Sophie character bugged me but the mom was very talented.  Overall the singing was great.  The two curtain call singing/dancing numbers were my favorite part of the show.

Memphis:  A-

Last year's Best Musical award winner was really great with big voices and lots of big dance numbers--which I love.  It has a good storyline but because I'm rather prudish, I do have to give it a minus for the one unnecessary F bomb.

3.Familiar Faces
I finally got to see where my New Yorker sister and her family live.  A 40 min. train ride from GCT is the cutest town of Mamaroneck, NY.

I spent two afternoons there and on one of those days we went to the beach.

My cute little nieces:

They also came into the city twice.  It's always fun to spend time with them.  Perhaps one of my favorite moments was when Anna said, "Aunt Tara, do you want to sit on this step with me?"

We shared our gelato with each other.

One day, we went to Central Park and in a city of 8 million people, I just happened to run into an old friend.  He and his wife were dear friends from BYU--both former cheer squad teammates of mine.  I hadn't seen him in over 10 years.  What an unexpected, delightful reunion!  What are the chances?

2. JP Morgan
Mr. Morgan made the whole trip possible.  OK, that may be a bit of a stretch but JP Morgan (Chase) is my husband's employer that scheduled the NY training, which means the company paid for Jon's flight, food, transportation and our accomodations.

JP Morgan employees also get free Wi-Fi at our hotel and free admissions to the city's most famous museums.  So when we found ourselves in that enormous crowd outside the Met, Jon found a short line for groups/schools, flashed his corporate badge and within minutes, we were in.  Thank you, Mr. Morgan.

The JP Morgan house is right across the street from this: (NYSE)

This was the one and only time all week that the bull was not swarmed by tourists.

One Chase Manhattan Plaza was the location of Jon's training.

The buildings in Jersey City where Jon worked three of the days.

Chase in Times Square

1. Adventure

I've never had a vacation like it.  Time was all my own and each day held an adventure that was mine for the taking.  I left the hotel alone every day not always knowing where exactly I was going or what it was going to look like when I got there.  The enormity of New York can make one feel so insignificant and yet I felt so powerful as I navigated the city entirely on my own.

I never had to consult the calendar and most of the time had not one responsibility for anyone but myself.  No meals to cook, no chores to do and lots and lots of time on my own.   If I passed a nail shop I could spontaneously decide on a manicure.  Did I want to add a massage on to that?  Sure! why not?

I walked through this park on one of my daytime adventures.  I love that you can see the Empire State building through the arch.

As much as I loved my alone time, it was fabulous meeting up with my sister a couple of times and I always looked forward to meeting my sweetheart in Times Square every night.

It was a week full of history, culture, variety and just plain fun!

Thanks again, Mr. Morgan and thanks a million, Mom and Dad, for taking care of my kids!