When Ella turned eight, Nick promised her that he would take her on a business trip with him. He travels for work approximately five days a month, and Ella has long been asking just what he does on these trips; rather than continue to explain (“Meetings… a presentation… grabbing something cold from the lunch buffet… another presentation…”), he thought it would be fun to show her.
In reality, of course, it wouldn’t really work to have Ella attend any of Nick’s meetings and presentations (and lunch buffets), so we’d thought that he could take a short flight somewhere, meet some of our extended family, drop Ella off to spend the day with them, do his work stuff, pick Ella up once he was through, hang out with her wherever they were, chill in a hotel room overnight, and finally, fly home the following morning. Ella turned eight in December of 2012 – more than a year ago – but our 2013 was a bit… crazy… So the opportunity for the trip never materialized.
MBAs and new jobs and mourning and nutty schedules don’t really mean much to Ella, however, so she remained determined that such a trip would take place. At last, Nick decided that he needed to make good on his promise – and so, last weekend, a month after she turned nine, Ella joined Nick on a business trip to New York City.
With Ella and Daddy gone for just over twenty-four hours, that left Annie and me to hold down the fort. And, oh, did we ever hold down our damn fort.
Watching her walk to school and greet our beloved crossing guard – without her sister – was a little bittersweet…
… But once we hit the new indoor trampoline place, all missing-of-sisters-and-daddies was soon forgotten.
Oh, yeah. I got game.
When you can’t play outside for ten days because of absurdly frigid temperatures, bouncing yourself into a frenzy is SENT FROM THE GODS, I tell you.
During the hour that we jumped, I think I lost 7 pounds in water weight: trampolining makes you sweat, man (and also maybe, um, lose liquid in other ways; those of you who have birthed a child and are over the age of 35 know what I’m talking about. The bathrooms in these places should come equipped with paper towels, tampons, and Depends).
Downstate, it was a little warmer, so our other halves were able to venture outside and explore the city. My dad and stepmom – Papa and Grand Meg – had met Nick and Ella that morning, then spent the day with her while Nick took care of work business.
Enjoying a muffin the size of her head at Papa’s office.
Although the temperatures were doable, they weren’t exactly fun, so Papa and Grand Meg decided that the American Museum of Natural History would be a dandy indoor adventure. Later, when she told me about her day, Ella couldn’t stop talking about how incredible the museum was – wisely chosen, Papa and Grand Meg FTW!
Perhaps spotting a sucker when they saw one (or, more accurately, realizing that a grandma and grandpa were enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime one-on-one day with their eldest granddaughter, and would do anything to celebrate the occasion), the museum employees convinced my dad to purchase a photo package, to Ella’s delight and my great amusement. Maybe it was the cold… Maybe it was giddiness from the crazy-early hour at which they all awoke… Or maybe it was just the joy of spending this special day together, but my normally reserved, easily-embarrased nine year-old struck silly poses and smiled with abandon, while my normally reserved, not-too-silly dad pretended to see a flying dinosaur over his left shoulder.
In short, these are some of my most favorite photos, ever.
Oh, look. A pterodactyl.
Knowing, especially, that Ella and Nick would be dining in Manhattan splendor, I’d offered Annie the opportunity to go to any restaurant in the Rochester area, just the two of us…
Instead, she chose to cook me dinner at home.
Could I find out the menu in advance, so I could supplement the meal with additional ingredients? No. Could I help her prepare? No. Could I offer suggestions? WHY WAS I BEING SO DIFFICULT??
And that’s how, on a Friday night in January, I found myself being served gluten-free pasta with jarred pasta sauce (with a little cream added for extra flavor), “the fluffy parmesan from the green container”, and broccoli sautéed with soy sauce.
You may notice that she changed her clothes after the trampoline place – partially because she was a sweaty mess, and partially because she needed to dress up in order to properly make me dinner. Duh.
For dessert, I offered – again – to take her out. Would she care to grab a piece of cake somewhere? Go to a candy shop? Get some ice cream? Indulge in Starbucks?
Or, if she’d prefer to stay home, would she like to bake some brownies? Make a sundae? Create a milkshake?
After some serious eye-rolling and a hissed, “Mom! I’ve GOT this!”, Annie returned with dessert…
Why, yes, that is a carefully-arranged plate containing two Trader Joe’s chocolate crisps, one jellied candy, and four Advent chocolates.
I know. She spoils me.
Meanwhile, back in the Big Apple, a slightly different experience was being had. Seeing that Nick had Ella with him (and, therefore, trying to make a kid’s day), the front desk guy at the hotel surprised them with an upgrade to an absolutely ridiculous suite (it had one and a half bathrooms and a 70″ flatscreen television, if that’s any indication of what I mean by “ridiculous”).
Also? Two bathrobes. Per person.
And an equally ridiculous view.
That’s Ella posing by the window, for scale…
Post-dinner at a delicious steakhouse (name: The Strip House. That won’t look strange on Nick’s expense report. Especially because he took his daughter there), Nick convinced Ella to take a swing through China Town, where they tried their first – and last – bubble tea.
Having awakened at 4:15 that morning for their flight, Ella was positively bushed, and passed out in the second of her hotel robes before 9 p.m. Annie and I, on the other hand, were still going strong…
In the morning, I offered to do whatever Annie wanted for breakfast: head out to one of her favorite restaurants. Enjoy a hot, toasted bagel from Bruegger’s (we could even eat there instead of bringing it home – the luxury!). Snag a doughnut – or two! – from Dunkin’ Donuts.
Instead – say it with me – Annie wanted to stay home and fix me breakfast.
What? Your seven year-old doesn’t routinely pipe out A (for, you know, Annie) and M (for MOTHASCRATCHA) pancakes and hearts and
blobs circles over the wildly hot griddle?
Mine neither. Hence, why I am six inches away in this photo, to Annie’s great chagrin.
By the time Ella and Nick arrived home (where Nick rushed himself to Urgent Care for a wicked cough, poor fellow), the girls were more than ready to see one another. They played together nonstop all afternoon and into the night, and although they would never admit it out loud, it was absolutely clear that they had desperately missed each other.
New York is a pretty fascinating state. From subways to the museum to bubble teas in China Town, snowy walks to school to devilishly fun trampoline centers, it’s really got just about everything you could need. Or, at least, everything that we need.
Nick and I had been mildly concerned that Annie might have trouble with Ella going on this trip – missing school, getting to stay in a fancy hotel, seeing Grand Meg and Papa… But, not only was she not jealous, she was genuinely excited for Ella (with more than a little sister bothering thrown in for good measure).
Conversation between the girls on Nick’s and my phones.
Even more to my surprise, Annie wasn’t upset that Ella would be having fun in New York City – because she was having such a blast right here in Rochester. It’s hardly a mecca of entertainment and excitement, but between jumping on the trampolines, having the opportunity to take over meal prep and make it her own, painting her nails, and sleeping in Mommy and Daddy’s “big bed,” Annie was in absolute heaven.
As we were eating our dinner, Annie leaned over and said, “This has been an amazing day, Mama!” I had just started to agree with her when she interrupted me with a grin, saying, “And it’s not even over yet!”
Similarly, Eleanor had a total blast. From the museum to the steakhouse to the hotel room (where she could have happily spent the entire day; she and Nick both agreed was the most incredible room they’d ever seen), it was one big blur of happiness and fun — but the best part, by far, seemed to be sharing the day with her dad and especially her grandparents, just the three of them, something they haven’t had the opportunity to do in the seven years since Annie was born.
It seems that the feeling was mutual; Papa and Grand Meg were heading out of town themselves on Saturday morning, and arrived at the airport early (where Nick and Ella were waiting to board the plane back to Rochester) to savor a few extra minutes with their granddaughter. I know I just said it, but I mean it: we may not live close to our extended family, but that has not diminished the closeness of our relationships with them – and the time we do have together, whether it’s at a large family gathering or on a private day trip, is all the more special.
Both Ella and Annie agreed it was one of the best days of their lives. In turn, it was one of the best of Nick’s and mine. Having one-on-one time with your kiddo is so important, but can be so difficult – almost impossible, sometimes. Having an entire day of one-on-one time is priceless. I know that neither Nick nor I will forget this weekend with each of our girls; having Annie all to myself was really pretty damn fabulous.
Next year, when Annie turns eight and is able to join Nick on a trip, I’m sure they’ll have just as much of a blast. I, myself, am looking forward to a little one-on-one time with my big girl; now, we have some catching up to do.
I bet I can convince her to join me at a local restaurant. Or order pizza. Or just get a bagel.
If not, I know where the leftover Advent chocolates are stored, and I’m not afraid to get them.