small town kids // big city travel: places to see in NYC

places to see in NYC


(this post is part of a mini-series entitled Small Town Kids // Big City Travel. You can find links to the previous segments at the end of this post).

While we were in NYC, we wanted the kids to see most of the typical New York highlights. (You know, stuff you see on the movie Elf or Home Alone 2: Lost in New York). One of the many tremendous things about the city is that you can visit and view tons of landmarks for free, with an additional cost if you wanted to engage more in the museum/building/atmosphere. The kids loved Rockefeller Center, which I think was my favorite place, too. You have all the major shopping locale, news stations, and the famed ice skating rink, which is beautiful to view but costs like a billion dollars. We went to the Lego Store twice and since returning home, my boys are OBSESSED with Legos. Oh, and AMERICAN GIRL. I have to write it in all caps because I am YELLING it. Eden has an American Girl doll class at her homeschool co/op and she was thrilled to visit the three-story store. (The boys were NOT so thrilled).



ice skating

american doll

Times Square was another favorite and we visited several times. The M&M store was a fun place to stop in and enjoy, and the store windows at Macy’s were decorated for the holidays and they were so beautiful. And we could see the Empire State Building right from our hotel window! (Side note: there are TONS of people in Times Square dressed as popular pop culture characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Olaf, Batman, Iron Man, etc. At first this is cute, but then it gets a little weird when they are telling you that you belong on a Crest whitestrips commercial and asking for a tip..)


batman in times square





One of the highlights of the trip was a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. You can ride for free, or pay a fee to take a smaller ferry directly to the Statue of Liberty herself. We chose the free option, which takes you really close to the statue and the kids LOVED it. (pretty sure the smaller ferry is the one I barfed on multiple times when I visited NYC in 1998. Oh, memories…)







We also visited the 9/11 Memorial, which was really hard to explain to the kids. I feel Eden understood, but the younger ones may have not. There is a 9/11 museum, but we chose to go to ground zero, where there are two large, lit fountains with all the names of the victims etched in marble. A rose is placed on their name each year on the person’s birthday. It was raining the day we went and it was a sobering experience:

911 memorial 2

911 memorial

Things we skipped: Broadway shows (I saw Cats on Broadway in NYC in high school and it was a once in a lifetime experience. Would love to take the kids when they are older) and museums/zoos with high admission costs. Many of the “child admissions” are only a few dollars less than an adult admission, and it is not something we could swing as a family of five. If we visit again, I would love to take the kids to see the American Museum of Natural History, which is where the movie Night at the Museum was filmed, and it is one of their favorites. That is a great perk to Washington DC, where most museums are free of charge. (Do I smell a spring road trip?)

Did I forget anything? Did I burn out your phone battery with excessive photo sharing? The final post in this series will focus on parenting in the Big Apple and how we logistically kept up with five kids. And observations 0f big city parenting versus small town parenting. Excited to share with ya!

(PS: IF you follow me on Instagram, you can find more photos from our trip using the hashtag #LettersfromNYC)

Other posts in this series:

Small Town Kids // Big City Travel: From TN to NYC
Small Town Kids // Big City Travel: Where to Eat in NYC
Small Town Kids // Big City Travel: Places to See in NYC

December 2014 goals.

december 2014 goals

It is the final month of the year, and thus December 2014 goal setting time! For me, I make goals simple, tangible, and relevant. Here is where I am at this month:

JESUS: I have been clinging tight to the Lord this month, as our entire county has been. If you are not local and unsure what we are going though as a town, just pray. Please. The verse that keeps coming back to my mind is Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch over the wicked and the good”. Where ever you are from, those are your people. Your town. Just pray.


OTHERS: My goal this month with others is to be a home base for those who need a listening ear, a warm cup of coffee, and a soft place to land. Just to be present is something we all can do. Also, I am speaking at Central Baptist of Bearden Church on Thursday night at 6pm, and I am thrilled that they have asked me! I really desire to pour some serious encouragement over these mamas and hopefully make some sweet friends in the process. Please come! I would love to see you.

cinnamon rolls

YOURSELF: In the final weeks of 2014, I want to stay away from the internet as much as possible, finish a few books, and keep Christmas simple (you can read my secret Christmas hating post here).I have a few more posts for this year to share with you and that will be pretty much it. Two more NYC travel posts, a Knoxville Moms Blog post, a favorite books of 2014 roundup, and the post about when I donated my hair and thoughts on that.

Last month I set the goal to get some photo canvases for our hallway and did not, so I am going to continue to pursue home decor. Oh, and keeping the sink empty and clean at the end of the day. I know that sounds like a weird goal, but I love waking up to a clean sink as opposed to one with greasy dishes and cold water floating in them from the night before. Eww.


What are your goals for the final weeks of the year? I would love to hear!

(PS: My October 2014 goals are (here) and my November 2014 goals can be found (here). )

small town kids // big city travel: where to eat in NYC

places to eat in NYC


(Today’s post is the second in a series about traveling with small children to the Big Apple. The first post about road tripping and travel accommodations on a budget can be found (here).)

So, one of the biggest questions kids have in traveling (besides, “when are we stopping to go to the bathroom?”) is “what/when are we going to eat?” Food is essential– it is a big deal, costs some mad cash, and has to happen at least three times a day. So, where did we take five kids over the course of five days for food? Here are some highlights and suggestions. Keep in mind if this had been an “adult only” trip, the menu would have probably been slightly different, but we loved what we ate so much I highly doubt it.


1. New York Pizza

There are pizza places on every corner in NYC. Coming from an area that has both Charley’s AND Big Ed’s, I think we were all secretly dying to try a slice of the NY pie. Advice from a friend was this: it doesn’t matter which pizza joint you choose. They are all the same, ALL good, and GIANT slices. Yep. She was so right. I have never eaten slices of pizza that big!

And our kids are of the age that the ever popular “kid table” worked well in casual dining atmospheres such as this. They get to chat, we have regular, adult conversations over giant pizzas, and everybody wins:
kids eating

2. Street Vendors

Yep. We did it. We allowed our children to eat from a street vendor cart. Not once, but TWICE. And why not? They loved it. We are obviously tourists, so when in Rome, right? But we ate hot dogs (of course) and hot sausages (kind of like a bratwurst) knish (which is a potato/cheese filled pastry that reminded me of some of what we ate in Poland-SO good) and GIANT pretzels. Always and forever.


kids eating pretzels



3. The Amish Market

I think this was everyone’s favorite place to eat. It was this huge deli close to the 9/11 memorial that made fresh quesadillas, sandwiches, paninis, soups, sushi, and a buffet of delicious fruits and veggies and noodles and all sorts of incredible eats. I cannot imagine anyone going in there and not finding something you just absolutely love. Plus the decor was awesome and it was busy and happening and no one cared if your kids were loud or standing in line at the register for no apparent reason.




4.) Bring your own stuff

Finally, as I mentioned in the travel post in this series, pack a cooler and bring TONS of snacks. I am not usually one to just let my kids graze on snacks all the day, but all bets are off when traveling, so I packed them plenty of goldfish, pretzels, cheeses, and portable fruits. August fed all of his snack bag to the PIGEONS the first day in Times Square, so we had to have a small talk about that. The final hotel we stayed in had a KEURIG so we packed coffee pods and disposable coffee cups. I also packed bottled sodas and waters for us and Capri Suns for the kids, so we could drink then dispose of them while running down 35th street pushing many, many strollers. Breakfast was either provided by the hotel or granola bars and fruit. The final hotel had this random bowl of apples in the lobby and I gander that Titus ate close to a dozen of those during the course of our stay there.

street vendor

Obviously, there are fifty billion places to eat in NYC. These are simply highlights and where we enjoyed taking the kids the most. My best advice is to keep it simple. If you kid doesn’t eat much at home or on a normal day they probably are not going to when traveling either. Having snacks on hand and a decent plan of where you want to dine is always a good thing.

Enjoying this series so far? What other questions do you have? What are your fave eateries in NYC?

Posts in this series:

Small Town Kids // Big City Travel: From TN to NYC
Small Town Kids // Big City Travel: Where to Eat in NYC


(PS: If you follow me on Instagram, photos from our trip can be found using the hashtag #LettersfromNYC)

To the Mom Who Hates Christmas


Hey friends! Today I am sharing a poem of sorts about my Christmas “feelings” (spoiler alert: I am NOT a fan). Come on over to the Knoxville Moms Blog and see if you are also a “mom who hates Christmas” (here) and let me know!

Also, we will be resuming our series on small town kids // big city travel tomorrow! If you haven’t read the first post about our road trip, that one is (here).