Grandpa’s Wisdom on My Son’s 13th Birthday

My oldest child turns 13 today. 13 years ago my life changed in such a powerful and profound way that it’s sometimes hard to remember what life was like before I became his mom. As I gathered my baby in my arms on our first day together on that hot summer day back in 2001, I had no idea the journey that lay in front of us.

cal newborn 2

I have struggled over the past weeks trying to come up with a post packed with wisdom and insight to share on the occasion of this milestone birthday but I keep coming up short. It turns out it’s pretty darn hard to put into words the feeling like my heart might burst right through my chest with the love I have for him. Or how much I admire his passion for life, his wicked sense of humour and his rock steady self-confidence. And it’s nearly impossible to articulate that even though I am enjoying watching him mature into a wonderful young man – I’d give just about anything to roll back the clock a bit for the chance to scoop him up and snuggle him in my arms one more time.

cal toddler

Luckily for me – my dad saved the day. He wrote a beautiful letter for my son and asked me to give it to him on his birthday. And it’s perfect. Simple, sweet and loving…and he kindly agreed to let me share it on my blog. Thanks for writing such a heartfelt piece dad and happy birthday to my new teenager. I love you more than you could ever imagine and I feel incredibly lucky to be your mom.

cal and dad

To My First Grandchild,

Before you were born your mom and dad announced that you were coming and I cried tears of joy.

The first grandchild is special and you are and always will be super special to us.

I remember your first steps, the first time you called me “grandpa”, the time you tossed your baby bottle and then cried for it, the first time you pooped on the potty and called to tell me, the first fish that you caught, the first time you tasted pumpkin pie and the time your mom pushed your face in one. All of these special memories and so many more! You were never shy to come and stay with grandma and I and we cherish the time that we spent with you both now and then.

And now you are 13 in what seems like the blink of an eye and I and wondering what wisdom that I have to share with you. Not sure I am qualified to do this but glad to share some thoughts with you:

Never be afraid to love, sometimes it hurts but it is always worth the risk.

Always make time in your life for fun and laughter.

Be quick to make new friends but cherish the old ones.

Stay in touch with your family. Friends come and go but family is forever.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

Grandma and I love you now, tomorrow and forever.

Enjoy your 13th birthday and all of your exciting life ahead.

Much love. Grandpa

cal now


NYC Surprise

My sister had a milestone birthday last week so as a special surprise my mom and I took her to New York City for the weekend. We tricked her into taking a Friday off work and then picked her up early and whisked her off to the airport. There is nothing better than pulling off a great surprise and the look on her face when we told her the news was priceless!

Since the weekend was my sister’s celebration, my mom and I wanted to make sure we focused in on her favourite things. And that of course really meant only one thing- shopping! We literally shopped until we dropped (well mom and I did – my sister kept going ; ) and we managed to squeak in some great meals, site-seeing and attractions in between stores. Here are a few highlights of our trip as inspiration in case you are considering a little getaway to the Big Apple:

1. The Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square – any great trip requires a fantastic place to say and we absolutely love the Marriott Marquis. This is the third time I’ve stayed at this particular hotel (we even stayed here with the kids 2 summers ago) and I am impressed every time. Conveniently located in bustling Times Square, this high-rise hotel has a modern space age design and the service is always impressive. In addition to nicely appointed and spacious rooms, there is also a Starbucks in the lobby (booyah!), a beautiful bakery and store on the 8th floor, 3 super cool restaurants and lovely glass elevators that go all the way to the top of the hotel (very handy when you are travelling with a couple of closet claustrophobics like my mom and I).

nyc marriott

2. Juniors Restaurant and Bakery– right across from the Marriott Marquis, this restaurant and bakery is the perfect spot to grab breakfast before a busy day of site-seeing and shopping. The place is packed all day long because they serve up big helpings of delicious home-cooked food and although we’ve only ever enjoyed breakfast – the freshly baked desserts look incredible.

nyc juniors 2

3. Walking, walking and more walking – because our hotel was in the heart of Times Square, we were able to walk around our neighbourhood with lots to see and enjoy while feeling very safe. We strolled by the NBC Building and Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, all around the billboards and crazy action in Times Square, the shops on 5th Ave (and Trump Hotel) and all the way up to Central Park. We also took a cab to Soho (see below) and strolled for hours and even hiked a good hour home from a gourmet dinner on Friday night while gawking at the stunning million-dollar high-rise apartments on Park Avenue.

4. Candle 79 Restaurant– I booked our dinner reservations and I was thrilled to get us in to this vegan hot spot on Friday night. Located on 79th and 3rd, this dining establishment even made it on to the VegNews Vegan Bucket List of 99 Things You Must Do. The food and wine were superb and we all agreed that this was well worth the higher end price tag. We split appetizers of steamed dumplings over wilted greens and smoked hummus with pitas and then tucked into main courses of Spaghetti and “Wheat” Balls, Moroccan Chickpea Cakes and Pumpkin Seed Crusted Tempeh. Everything was scrumptious and our only complaint was that we were too darn stuffed for dessert.

nyc - candle 79

5. Shopping in Soho– on our last trip to the city, my mom arranged for us to do a guided shopping tour in the Garment District and it was an adventure not to be missed. But since we’d already experienced it, we decided to try something different so we hopped a taxi down to Soho for the day. We had a blast popping in and out of unique and interesting boutiques set along the cobblestone streets of this quaint neighbourhood. It’s so interesting seeing chic art galleries and small boutiques situated beside well-known stores like Anthropologie and Lulu Lemon. And a highlight for my reality tv junkie sister and myself? Stopping in to the Kardashian sister’s store Dash!

nyc soho

6. Pedicab ride through Central Park– we had planned to do a bike trip through Central Park on our last day in the city, but as we approached the park a friendly young man walked up to us and offered us a few suggestions. Although he said the bikes were fun, he recommended a pedicab ride instead with himself as our driver. He assured us this would be a much better way to learn about the park as he would act as tour guide and teach us all about the wonders of this New York landmark. I’ll admit that I wasn’t so sure at first (and we all felt a bit guilty having the poor guy lug us up and down the hills) but it turned out to be an unexpected highlight of our trip. If you are in the city, you’ve got to find our amazing tour guide Tao (he was outside the Plaza Hotel at the 5th Avenue entrance of the park). He was the most lovely fellow and gave us a wonderful, funny and informative tour that was well worth the $90 price tag.

nyc pedicab

7. New York Style Pizza– although I generally don’t eat much cheese, no trip to New York City would be complete without a slice of NY-style pizza  and we snuck in a couple of slices at different spots this time around. On our last trip to the city, we trekked down to Lombardi’s for some of the most amazing pizza I’ve ever tasted. This time we grabbed a slice in Soho which was good but a bit oily for our taste and later in the weekend we stayed closer to our hotel and went to John’s Pizzeria for a much crisper and delicious pie. I learned that most New Yorkers fold their thin-crust style pizza in half to make it more manageable – I wish we’d know that before we dripped sauce all over ourselves!

nyc pizza

8.  Cocktails at Rockafeller Plaza– Just being in Rockefeller Center is impressive enough – I’m always blown away by the 30 Rock building, the flags, the stores and the people watching. But set beneath the center of the plaza is a charming little café that was calling to my mother and I after 3 long days of shopping. While my fearless sister pressed on, my mom and I settled in for a well-deserved cocktail (I had a mojito and she had sangria) and the most delicious nachos and fresh guacamole. The perfect spot to put your feet up and watch the hustle and bustle of the city.

nyc rock

Of course there are countless wonderful things to do in New York City and this is only the tip of the iceberg. We didn’t get to fit in a Broadway Show, ride the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus, visit the 9/11 Memorial site, cross the Brooklyn Bridge, enjoy the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, shop at the crazy and fun Century 21, walk on the historic High Line, experience a swishy cocktail in a fancy night club or take the lift to the top of the Empire State Building this time around among other things on our to-do list. I’m also convinced you could live in that city for a year or more and go out to dine every day and never eat at the same place twice. Talk about fun!

I personally can’t wait for my next visit to NYC. And just in case someone near and dear to me is thinking of maybe booking a trip for me for my next big birthday (hint, hint) – I’m always ready to take a bite out of the Big Apple!

Happy Birthday Jodi!

*** P.S. If you are planning to go to NYC with your children, I’d highly recommend The American Girl Store for “tea” and shopping, the Lego Store in Rockefeller Center, FAO Schartz, Toys R Us in Times Square (you gotta ride the ferris wheel!),  the M & M Store in Times Square, Central Park, The Museum of Natural History and a kid-friendly Broadway Show.