My Jill

7:08 AM Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I arrived in New York on Monday for a conference for work - and Jill followed later on Thursday. On Tuesday evening my colleagues and I walked from Greenwich Villiage up to Times Square. We passed this beautiful park called Bryant Park. As we walked through it, I knew I had to get pictures of Jill in it. So, on our last day in the city, we found our way over here and I snapped about 30 shots of her.
My beautiful wife is my everything. She supports me when I'm having a rough day and takes care of me when I need a good kick in the butt. She's a phenomenal mother to our 3 children and the best friend I could ever ask for. I'm so glad we could enjoy those few days together.

Central Park

7:16 PM Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A pano that I feel represents some of the charm of Central Park. I wish I could tell you about all the charm and history of this remarkable park. It's a completely man made park. In fact, nothing in the park is native, except the big mounds of shist stone prevalent throughout the park. The trees were planted as park of the parks creation... and the trails and benches, well, you get the picture.

We decided, spontaneously, to take a rickshaw ride through central park. It was a guided ride. Our tour guide was Helen, from Namibia. She spoke exceptional English and knew her stuff. She took us on a grand journey through not only the park, but all the famous people that have either lived or still do live in the apartment buildings that surround this beautiful place. Central Park is not run by the City of New York. In fact, it is run by a non-profit conservancy that manages the park and it's structures. The conservancy was initially run by a group of women, the women that lived in the apartments surrounding the park itself. They don't own it now, but they used to. Central park has a zoo inside, a huge lake with row boats, a famous restaurant called The Boat House, like 5 billion trees and some fountains. Oh, yeah, and they also have people, 25 million people visit Central Park... making it the most visited city park in America. 843 acres of lushly landscaped gardens and paths. Perhaps the most unique thing about it was that it sits in the heart of arguably one of the busiest places in the world. Literally, you can be in Central Park and not even realize you are sitting in Midtown Manhattan.

The San Remo building. Home to Bono and Steven Spielberg. It only costs a cool $50 million to buy one of these apartments. It was also used in the movie Ghostbusters.

The Dakota. Home to John Lennon. In fact, he was killed, right there, in front of the building in December 1980. When Lennon was killed, a makeshift memorial was created on the steps of the building. After a while, the owners were pretty upset about the condition of the entrance. So, they asked Yoko Ono (Lennon's wife - she still lives there and now owns 50% of the building) to do something about it. Ono asked the Central Park Conservancy if she could move the "shrine" into the park. They told her no. So, she offered them 1.2 million and they accepted. Money talks. An Italian Beatles fan created this beautiful mosaic and donated it to Central Park.

This memorial is located in The Strawberry Fields portion of Central Park. Named after a Beatles song written by Lennon about an orphanage in his hometown of Liverpool, England.

You might recognize this very famous fountain. It was memorialized in the opening credits of the hit comedy sitcom Friends. The six of them danced in the fountain and kicked water at themselves.

Jill and I both decided that we wanted to see Grand Central Station. It's an architectural wonder. The ceiling is extremely high and the terminal feels very open... quite a contrast in the condensed spaces of New York City. Grand Central is actually a major hub for all kinds of rail and bus traffic. From there, it's a quick 3 minute ride on the subway to Times Square, one of the marvels on Manhattan.
One very interesting thing about Grand Central was that it was the only place in the city where we saw lots of armed National Guardsman. They were standing side by side with NYPD, guarding this very busy transportation hub.
Where we were standing to take the picture was on a landing that allowed access to a restaurant... yep, right there in Grand Central Terminal!

My New York Post

7:33 PM Monday, April 28, 2008

I know that Jill doesn't appreciate this stuff as much as I do, so I don't expect her to publish it. However, for the rest of you - you get the joy of learning something on our blog too!
I am a huge National Park fanatic - and yes, I'm a real fanatic about it. I can attribute my sensation with these places due to my passionate patriotism. I joked many times that Lady Liberty is the only other woman in my life. I wish I could claim ingenuity in that comment, but I stole it from someone who I greatly admire- Ronald Reagan.

Every place we visit inevitably has a National Park stop along the way. There are 391 National Park "units" in the country. These are subdivided into many categories such as National Parks, National Monuments, National Seashores, etc. These places are located in every state of the union (and territories) except Delaware. If you get the chance to visit one, please do so and look for opportunities to appreciate it. Many sacrifices have been made on our behalf for us to be able to appreciate this great land of ours. I am grateful to the men and woman who have given service to our country. Many have given their lives (many of these places are monuments to those great ones that have come before) so that we might live today in freedom and liberty.

As you wait for the ferry to Ellis Island (it's a dependent unit of the Statue of Liberty National Monument), you are in the shadow of this beautiful building. It's the Central Railroad of New Jersey's terminal in Jersey City. It was build in 1864 and is quite a fun architectural site to look at from the outside. It is no longer operational but from what I have read, it seems to have been a very busy part of the New Jersey Railroad in the late 1800s.

On the way to Ellis Island, you watch a beautiful Manhattan skyline whiz by. The island of Manhattan is a large pile of shist (yes, that's the correct spelling) stone. It's an extremely solid stone and supports the tall skyscrapers the adorn the island.

What you may or may not know that is that Manhattan island is part of 5 boroughs (counties) that make up New York City. Ready... Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and finally Manhattan Island. All of them are islands except the Bronx, which is connected to the main part of New York State.
Ellis Island is majestic today. The restoration efforts that began in the 1990's have created a wonderful place of history and storytelling. An audio tour is available for a very inexpensive fee. In fact, it only costs $18 for the ferry ride to these two sites and for the audio tour at both sites as well. Such a bargain for New York City.

As I was walking through the immigration center, I thought about the 20 million people from all over the world that found a home in America. They had to go through quite the ordeal to become a citizen of our country. Quite the contrast to the requirements of today.

As you gaze slightly south of Ellis Island you see beautiful Liberty Island, named for it's famed occupant, standing tall welcoming in the many visitors to New York each year (44 million last year).

The Statue of Liberty has a famous story to go along with her famous presence. I encourage you to take a little time to understand the story of how she got here. It's quite remarkable. The story takes place over almost ten years of our history. The statue itself was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States. America was responsible to furnish the pedestal on which she stands. In the construction process, we ran out of money. Joseph Pulitzer, a great American journalist and publisher of The World wrote to the people of New York and encouraged them to donate to the statue. He printed the names of every single individual who donated in his newspaper... even the ones who only donated a penny. Pulitzer was a Hungarian immigrant who believed that the statue should be a truly American monument. He succeeded in raising $100,000 dollars (keep in mind this was 1876... that was a lot of money back then) and all of it was raised by regular American folks who wanted the statue here. It wasn't until World War I that Americans actually began to associate the monument as something American, rather than French. I'm sure glad she's here.

Castle Clinton National Monument
Castle Clinton National Monument is the headquarters for the Statue of Liberty Tour. It served as part of the fortifications around New York during the Battle of 1812. Some of the fort remains, but it now the centerpiece of Battery Park - a park at the end of Manhattan Island.

The fort itself is mostly a round structure, but they have done some archaeological digging to expose some of the outer walls. All in all, not my favorite of the sites I've ever seen. The exhibits are weak. Most people walk through here to get onto the ferry to the statue and probably don't even know they are in a National Monument.

Federal Hall
My reason for liking this place has nothing to do with the fact that I got my picture taken next to George Washington... The address is 26 Wall Street... and Washington stares proudly at the New York Stock Exchange. Fitting considering that he helped create the biggest and strongest economy in the world. He stands upon one of the richest streets in the world too, right smack dab between the Trump Building and Holy Trinity Church (the oldest church in New York). Federal Hall was the place where George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States.

Theodore Roosevelt's Birth Home
Teddy Roosevelt spent the first 15 years of his life here. It's in the Flatiron District of Midtown Manhattan... named for the iron shaped building at it's center. Roosevelt's house is very small compared to the huge buildings surrounding it. It seems awkward and out of place, which makes it very cool to look at. Unfortunately, it was closed when we got there... on Sunday. Who would have thought.

U.S. Grant Burial Mausoleum
Truly one of the strangest places I have every been. The place is located in Harlem, right next to Riverside Church. We were there on April 27th... coincidentally, that was Grant's birthday. Hence, the reason the place is decked out in flags everywhere. Grant was the 18th President of the United States. Before that, he was the Commanding General of the United States... the first one to hold that title since George Washington. His administration was known as the most corrupt administration in our history. Not because of him, but because of his cabinet. Oddly, he died a very, very poor man. He spent the last few years of his life battling a very acute case of throat cancer, but was offered 70% of the proceeds of his memoirs. He wrote them diligently and died two weeks before they were printed. His widow received $450,000 for the sale of the two volumes... a gigantic sum of money in 1876. His last donation was to his family - he was finally able to take care of them.

Jason Priestly was in New York promoting Mario Kart for the Wii. We went to Rockefeller Plaza and there was alot of comotion, so of course we went over to see what was going on. John couldn't have cared less, but I am a star struck idiot! I was really hoping to see a bigger star like J. Lo or Madonna shopping.

We went to Wall Street and saw the Stock Exchange. So exciting!

This is the sculpture that stood in the Plaza of the Twin Towers. It was pretty beat up but in really good condition considering what took place. Ground Zero was nothing exciting, all that was there was a large construction sight. I know all of us want to see some kind of after math from that sad day, but there wasn't anything to write home about.

We walked through Battery Park when we got off the ferry from Ellis Island. There were street performers out doing there thang. This was so fun to watch these men do tricks. They made it so fun by interacting with the audience and promoting not doing drugs.

Riding the Metro is a part of life in New York. Free spirits come to the Metro terminals and perform their art. One day a man with an electric violin was playing, this lady was rockin the metro while singing and others played other instruments or sang as well. I am so grateful for cars and the quiet.

This is the entrance to Ellis Island visitors center. John and I did the audio tour and really enjoyed it. We took a fairy to the Island and then off to the statue.
Inside the Ellis Island building.
Lady Liberty
Lady Liberty and her secret admirer.

We went to Greenwich Village the first night I got to New York. John got there on Monday for work, so he was able to scout out some eating establishments for us. He found a really yummy pizza place that cooked the pizzas in a coal oven. I loved the Village and I think it is my favorite part of town. After dinner we wondered over to Times Square. What a place!!
There was a giant Target store right on Times Square. I told myself that I would not go into a store that we have back at home, so no shopping at Target! But we did get to go to the H&M store-my fav!!
There was a Toys R Us on Times Square with a ferris wheel inside the store! I don't think the kids would have left this place if they were there.

I meant to do this earlier, but I haven't had the chance. I wanted to share my favorite memories from our trip. In part the blogosphere has become a huge repository of history and I think this should contribute to it.

Favorite memories of Will:
- Looking under my parent's bed, trying to see the cat
- Watching him walk around in wonder all over the place

Favorite memories of Charlotte:
- The following conversation in Branson in our bed one morning. I have tried to make her comment gramatically correct to how she says it.
Char: "Daddy, you're a boy and Mommy, you're a girl"
Mom: "What makes dad a boy?"
Char: "Um... Daddy.... you have cannie, and lipskick, and bubbles."
Dad and Mom: ((Laughing Hysterically))
Where I work there is a girl that always gives the kids candy and bubbles. And Charlotte always seems to get lipstick from her as well. So, she associates boys with my work. I'm a boy because I go to a place where there is lipstick, candy and bubbles. Oh boy...

Favorite memories of Emily:
- Being excited for her to have the courage to ride Thunderation at Silver Dollar City
- Having her swim more on her own than she ever has before (and jump into the deep end to mom and dad)

Favorite memories of Jill:
- Watching her with my mom - becoming better friends more and more
- Watching her as a mom - always my favorite memories of her (nobody can make Will laugh more than her)

Favorite memories of Papa:
- Dancing at the pool with William
- Driving for 6 hours to Fort Scott, Kansas, just the two of us.
- Making the best ribs I have ever eaten

Favorite memories of Nana:
- Seeing Emily and Charlotte hang out with her in her studio
- Tacos
- Nana being so proud of her grandkids that she wanted to show them off at One City Market
- Charlotte, William and Emily hugs

Of course, we miss my parents and look forward to seeing them really soon!

Visiting the cows

10:22 AM Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The kids LOVED to go feed the cows. Nana and Papa have 2 cows and they share a field with some neighbors who also have 2 cows. While we were there, Papa went and bought some piglets to eat later this year. It's good for the kids to see the country life and get out of their comfort zone.

My sweet little baby is turning 8 in 2 weeks and she is such a beautiful little lady.

There are alot of caves in Missouri. There is one that is an attraction that we have taken Emily to before but she doesn't remember. The Fantastic Caverns were discovered in the late 1800's or the early 1900's. It is very cool and really fun to take the kiddies.

In Branson there was a butterfly exhibit that we went to. They created a rain forest and you were able to walk among the butterflies. It was so fun and really neat to see all of the different colors and kinds. They showed a 3-D movie and Charlotte likes to tell people that the butterfly dies. It talked about the life of a butterfly. Very interesting. The kids really liked this activity, but I think the adults liked it more!

We were able to get a week at our time-share in Branson. Luckily they had a swimming pool. Our girls have really become little fish in the water. Nana and Papa came to watch the kids play in the pool and show them all of their tricks.