April 2023
2023,  Brayden,  Charlotte,  Family,  Hanleigh,  May,  Vacation

Big Apple, Beach, Travel & Taylor!

Well, hello spring! April was just plain awesome. We started off by having lunch with Dad, followed by a date night for Trent and I at Link & Pin. Hanleigh had her soccer games of which have been very fun to watch, but also slightly frustrating. She joined a recreational YMCA league that is coached by parents. However, it took a few weeks before a parent stepped up and volunteered to coach. I feel like they are doing this backwards. There should be a bank of coaches who are willing to volunteer and then they assess the interest from players and assign coaches to teams accordingly. Due to the way this program is structured, the coaches are not given any materials to assist in teaching the players about field position or strategy. So, here you have a bunch of under 14-year olds who know nothing about soccer and are not being taught as much as a formal league. The good in all of this is that Hanleigh has really been enjoying it, has met some new friends, and wants to continue playing, but in the more formalized league. She even has some signature moves where she taps the ball with her foot and kicks it back behind her to one of her players. That girl can run and we feel she should either play center midfielder or forward. The coach has been having her play defense, which doesn’t make much sense in our opinions. Excited to see what the next chapter of this sport will bring for her! Brayden’s high school field hockey team practices ramped up and she continued her weekly weight training as well to prepare for the upcoming fall season.

This year for spring break, we wanted to go to Mexico, but due to the cost of flights, we pivoted and stayed in country. It was definitely the right choice for a variety of reasons. So, we decided to try two different cities, something we had never done. The girls had never been to New York City so we started there. We flew out on a Saturday morning and our room at the Renaissance Midtown was not ready, so we threw down our bags at the bell desk and began our journey! The girls were in awe about how tall the buildings were and it was awesome to watch them walk around wide-eyed and with their mouths open. Our hotel was in a fabulous location, so we walked to Bryant Park and then checked out the New York Public Library. I had never been there before and it was absolutely stunning. The architecture was so beautiful and intricate. After that, we did the total touristy thing and went to Times Square where we visited the M&M World store and stocked up on a variety of flavors that would serve as our dessert while we were in town (these would last longer for some of us than others). At this point, it was time to eat lunch so we took the recommendation of our neighbors (who just moved here from NYC) and went to Los Tacos No. 1. When we walked in, it wasn’t very busy and I was a bit skeptical, since this was the first place we were going based on a recommendation. However, by the time we placed our order and started stuffing our faces, we were in heaven…and there was a line way out the door. Perfect timing! Our next stop was Rockefeller Center, where we checked out the ice skating rink, the SNL store, and FAO Schwartz. It was so cute to watch the little girls work with the store staff to help design and accessorize Barbie dolls. I love the boutique feel of the inventory they carry…everything is so unique. However, that place was slammed and Brayden and I were feeling a bit anxious and wanted to get the hell out of there. After this, we went inside the Plaza Hotel, which is where they filmed Home Alone 2. People were having their afternoon tea there and it was super fancy. Next, we walked to Central Park to check out the Pinebank Arch bridge, which is from the snowball scene in the movie Elf, one of our favorites to watch during Christmas time. We took the subway back to our hotel, grabbed a deck of cards and some cocktails and relaxed. That night, we took an Uber to have dinner at Beauty & Essex, an absolutely delicious restaurant that I had been to before years ago (and a solid recommendation from Kendall back then). If you haven’t been, definitely check it out. It looks like a pawn shop from the front and then you go through a secret back door, which opens up into an expansive, dimly lit, very chic restaurant! 

On Sunday in the Big Apple, we hit the gym in the morning and then went on a quick exploration for the best bagels nearby. We fell in love with the place that was less than a block away called Liberty Bagels, but we quickly learned that you have to place your order ahead of time because the line ends up extending into the street. We were all in heaven. We then ventured to Lululemon to do some shopping, followed by a quick trip to Grand Central Station to check it out. I realized I had left my hat at one of our stops, so tried to retrace my steps and just gave up on the hunt to find it. Our quick lunch entailed getting fries from McDonald’s and then stopping at a juice bar to get some smoothies. We made a quick pit stop at the hotel and then continued walking west to check out the High Line. I think we all agreed this was one of the highlights of the trip. It is an elevated former rail line that they converted into a gorgeous, art-filled walking path that is at the same line of sight as many people’s apartments and businesses. It’s kind of crazy walking that close to where people live and work. We walked that for a couple miles and then checked out the Chelsea neighborhood for a bit. We went into one of the world’s few Starbucks Reserve stores, which was pretty awesome, even for a non-coffee drinker. It was two-and-a-half stories and had an expansive bakery, cappuccino bar, coffee bean roaster, and much more. It was pretty impressive to say the least. Then, we walked around Chelsea market, which is pretty cool. And, just like the previous day, we took the subway back to the hotel and then ate dinner at Mercado Trattoria. This is another restaurant recommendation, but honestly, it was our least favorite. It was delicious, but we weren’t as impressed as we thought we would be. Another fabulous day in the books!

On Monday, we hit the gym again, got bagels and Starbucks to give us the energy for yet another fun-filled day in the city. We took the subway down to the World Trade Center and looked at the 9/11 outdoor memorials. Although the girls were not born when that horrible day occurred, I think they understand a little bit of the gravity of the situation. It was very somber. We then did the One World Trade Center experience. I had heard about this, but was not prepared for how amazing it would be. Spoiler alert: don’t read this next part if you have not visited there. When you get into the elevator, there is an awesome video that plays on all sides that shows what New York City looked like way back in the 1800s and the higher the elevator takes you, the more the video progresses in terms of development and commercialization throughout the years. By the time you reach the top, the video shows you what modern day New York looks like. Such a great and creative graphical element that adds to the experience. You then go into this standing theater area where are watch another really cool video and as I expected, at the end of the video is a big surprise! The panels, upon which the video is showing, slowly lift up to reveal floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the entire city. My mouth was wide open and it even brought tears to my eyes. It was absolutely gorgeous! We walked around for about an hour, taking in the amazing 360° views and locating specific buildings and landmarks—even our next door neighbor’s former apartment. After that awesome experience, we went to one of our favorite places for lunch, Joe’s Shanghai, and introduced the girls to their famous soup dumplings and delicious general tso’s chicken. They had moved to a new location, but the food was just as great as it was the first time we had it years ago with the Mazzolas. After that, we attempted to walk off that filling lunch by venturing across the Brooklyn Bridge, where we would hear (on repeat) the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys song, “Empire State of Mind”. We could not get away from that song. After walking the bridge, we stopped for some milkshakes, and took the subway to Soho, where we knocked out a bit more shopping. Yet another subway ride back to the hotel to relax for a bit, followed by dinner at Barn Joo Korean Barbecue, which was absolutely delicious and such a fun experience to cook the food at your table. Since we had already been to Times Square on our first day, we wanted to show the girls that same area, but at nighttime instead because the experience is that much more awesome. So, we walked there and they liked it much more after dark.

On Tuesday, we started our day with bagels again, and took the subway down south where we would ride the Staten Island Ferry. It was a bit of a chilly morning, but the views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the tip of Southern Manhattan were extremely beautiful. The minute we arrived to Staten Island, we turned around and got right back on the return ferry. I had no idea this was free and would highly recommended it for anyone who has never been to New York. We walked up the Hudson River Greenway on the lower west side, which took us back to Soho where we ventured to Prince Street Pizza, which is a teeny tiny little place where you order your lunch to go and eat it right outside on the street. It was pretty tasty. We then did a bit more shopping, took the subway back to the hotel where a very funny incident occurred (I will not embarrass the perpetrator here publicly, but let’s just say it involved poop and a hanger!), and went to the Parlour, a dimly lit bar to play cards and have some drinks. That night, we had dinner at the Independent, which was a gastropub nearby. It was a great way to end an awesome trip to the city. All in all, we walked 55 miles in 3 1/2 days. Pretty darn impressive. The girls were troopers and did not fuss about it much. I think we did a great job of seeing all the sites and balancing it with periods of rest and down time.

On Wednesday, we woke up in the morning and flew down to Miami for part two of our spring break trip. This portion of the eight-day vacation was the complete opposite of New York. We did nothing but relax and eat…and it was very well-earned. We stayed at the Fontainebleau, which is super bougie and gorgeous. Before the trip, we had read all about it and were only slightly concerned that it may not be very kid friendly, but it actually was perfect. There were plenty of kids there, but on the flip side, there were also plenty of adults in very tiny bathing suits. This is not surprising at all, nor did it bother us. It was a good mix of everything. They even had an adult pool that was banging on the weekend. As it turns out, there was a deep sea fishing tournament, The Catch, going on that the hotel was hosting and where professional football players, who were involved in the tournament, were staying. After we got settled, we walked around the property. On our first night there, while we were waiting to eat dinner at the Arkadia Grill, Trent went to the bar to get us one drink each and it cost about $50! Holy crap! As we always say, if you stress out about every single purchase during a vacation, you will never enjoy it. Just think about the memories, and the costs become secondary. As long as you know what you are getting yourselves into as far as price is concerned before you go on the trip, then there’s no need to stress about it while you’re actually there. Our dinner on property was absolutely delicious and we were ready for bed.

On Thursday morning, we woke up and did a circuit training course they had on the hotel lawn. It was pretty awesome and different from my normal routine. After that, it was time to play the towel game near the expansive outdoor pools. This is a game we are used to playing and for which we have become seasoned veterans. If you want a good seat by the pool, you better get up early. The pool attendants let me know that if you are away from your seats for more than 45 minutes, then they will give up your chairs to someone else. And they mean business. We spent the rest of the day doing nothing but relaxing and constantly throwing the a ball back and forth in the pool. We had reservations for dinner at a place nearby called Oliver’s Bistro, which was really delicious. It was pouring rain that night, so I was glad that we were not sitting outside.

On Friday, we did the circuit training course again and then the four of us made our way to the bay side of Miami for an Intercoastal Waterway tour of “Millionaire’s Row” via Island Queen Cruises. It was so awesome to see the mansions from the water and hear our guide talk about who owned which estates. Of course, by taking this tour early in the morning, this meant that we were back to the hotel in the early afternoon and had missed our opportunity for the towel game. It took an hour or more for us to get a seat by the pool, so while we waited, we had lunch and observed some very comical things such as three guys dressed in full length, heavy Versace robes and sunglasses walking around the pool deck. Note that it was about 97° with the heat index, so this was all about being seen by others and flaunting their style. Mad props to them, though. It did bring some smiles to our faces due to how unnecessary it was. But, hey, it’s Miami, so no surprise there. We ate dinner again that night at Arkadia Grill and Hanleigh realized that our hotel room door was not locking, so we had to get maintenance involved, but it got fixed right as we were getting ready to give up on dinner, so the timing worked out as well as it could, I guess.

On our last day there, we did the circuit training one more time, relaxed by the pool, and then Kristy (my friend and roommate from college) visited us for the afternoon with her two kids. Trent held the fort down at our poolside chairs while the rest of us went into the ocean for a quick dip. They headed back home, the four of us got cleaned up, and then we went and had our last dinner for the trip at Watr at the 1 Hotel rooftop restaurant. It was absolutely delicious and the view matched the quality of the food. Another fabulous spring break in the books!

Once we got back from our trip, Hanleigh continued playing soccer, and the team saw improvement. I took Tonya for a drink on her birthday, and Brayden spent a weekend at Ocean Isle Beach to celebrate her friend Annie’s birthday. They had an awesome time and the weather was great. I don’t think her family had ever been there before, so it was awesome to see how much they enjoyed their time there. We had Mom over for dinner one evening, which is always a fun time. We played a game that I played with my coworker girlfriends called Telestrations which resulted in nothing but laughter. We took GG out for lunch to Velvet Taco, which was delicious and a great way to spend quality time with her. That afternoon, we ventured out to some breweries with the Whitcombs. We had such a great time with them!

The month culminated with what was the most incredible experience ever. As it turned out, my friend Melissa could not go to the Taylor Swift concert with Brayden and me, so she had told me that I could just buy her ticket back from her, which I did. What better person to have the ticket than the one fan who had been doing nothing but playing non-stop Taylor Swift songs since she declined the invite to go last fall: Hanleigh. We told her that she could end up just buying the merch that she wanted in person before the trip and she did not understand what we meant. We told her that she was going and she was all smiles! However, there was a bit of a dilemma: since Brayden and I were going to the concert both nights and only had two tickets to the Friday night show, we couldn’t exactly leave Hanleigh in the room by herself while we went to the concert. So, Trent and I finagled some crazy logistics to get it to work. He took one for the team and as usual, was incredibly awesome and helpful in making this plan work. Right before we left, we decorated the car windows in chalk paint with every single Taylor Swift album title in its exact font. The next morning, the four of us drove down to Atlanta on Friday (yes, we let the kids play hooky from school), had lunch at Biggerstaff Brewing Company (we went there last year when we were in town to see Kenny Chesney), and then checked in at the Westin. The hotel warmly welcomed all of the fans and continuously had Taylor Swift songs playing throughout the lobby. It was nothing but happiness. That evening, Brayden and I got dressed for the concert, each channeling one of our favorite albums of hers: Debut and Red, respectively. When we left for the concert, Trent and Hanleigh went to the Georgia Aquarium and then out to dinner for pizza. Brayden and I made our way to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and saw this long line of people relatively far from the stadium and we had no idea what it was for. When we asked, they said it was this huge line to get in. I think this was a case of lemmings following each other because they were all waiting to get into one specific entrance when, in actuality, there were so many entrances to the venue. It made no sense. Survival of the fittest, so we made our way closer to the stadium and went into an entrance that did not have that stupid, long line. It was so awesome seeing everybody dressed up for the concert! We found our seats with our flat Momo in hand (since she couldn’t make it to the concert, I made a flat version of her) and took some fun pictures. As it turned out, Brayden’s elementary school friend, Emily, and her mom were in the section right next to us. Small world! Brayden and Emily enjoyed dancing together to Gracie Abrams and Beabadoobee. We had club-level seats, which were in the middle, smaller tier of the stadium. When the countdown clock for Taylor started ticking down to zero, I looked over at Brayden and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so happy or excited or freaked out in my entire life. She was total fangirling and I was there front and center to watch it unfold. She played all of her hits and some slightly less popular (unless you are a total Swiftie) for nearly four hours. I’ve seen a lot of concerts in my days, and this was hands down one of the best—if not the best. Her voice sounded incredible, the crowd knew every single word of every single song, the choreography was great, the speakers sounded amazing, everyone was beyond elated, and I was with my first born, dancing and yelling and screaming and overcome with the happiest of emotions…so much that I was teary-eyed on way more than one occasion. We headed back to the hotel and met up with Trent and Hanleigh and gave him a recap of the night, without giving away too much since she would soon get to experience it firsthand the next evening. He woke up early and drove to the airport to fly back home while I went to the gym. The girls and I had a light breakfast at the Starbucks in the lobby and made some funny TikTok videos. We went back to the room and chilled out for a little bit and then made our way to lunch at Bartaco, which we also visited last summer. Two of my coworkers, Allison and Laura, met us there as well. Laura had actually gone to the concert the night before (they had nine row floor seats!) with her husband and her daughter as well as a couple other friends. We had an awesome lunch, filled with tasty drinks and even better tacos. Then, we made our way back to the hotel where we would start getting ready for the best concert the three of us had ever experienced together. Hanleigh channelled 1989, Brayden channeled Lover, and I channeled Reputation. Our seats for Saturday night were 100% better as we were in the VIP section, lower level, stage left. When we got to the stadium, all we knew is that we needed to go to the Mercedes-Benz Club level beforehand. As it turned out, we were in a super exclusive area where we had access to really good food vendors, tasty beverages and a way shorter merch line where Brayden bought a t-shirt and Hanleigh bought a sweatshirt. When the concert started, my heart was growing with nothing but awe and wonder watching my two favorite little ladies enjoying their favorite artist perform. They were screaming so loudly that their throats were hurting, but they didn’t care. They were dancing like nobody was watching, and they didn’t care if anyone was. Brayden had her arm wrapped around Hanleigh for so many songs as well. All of this made me such a proud mama that I got to share such an awesome experience with them. This was also the first concert that Hanleigh had ever stayed awake for entirely. I can’t put into words how magical that entire weekend was on so many levels. It was a combination of some of my favorite things: music and family and new experiences…all bundled into the perfect little package that will stay with all of us forever. Thank you, Taylor. Where are you touring next? We will be there!

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