Saturday, September 14, 2013

Oh my gosh, I had so much fun today. Do you ever have a day where all the stars align and make everything work out perfectly? Makes you feel like you’re dreaming. That happened to me: in Philadelphia.

Tim was out of town and I was faced with an entire day with 2 5-year-olds and nothing to do. I dreamt, I’d love a day in New York City: museums, good food, shopping, but doubted I could pull it off especially with kids. Perhaps if it was Philly though, I could.

First, the hour-long drive, and infamous “Schukyll” wasn’t horrible. We breezed through, listening to WJAZ: Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, etc. Once I got close to the city, I turned on my GPS and found my first destination easily.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I didn’t know they had so many great paintings! I mean, I’ve been there before, but didn’t remember. I love Modernism most—Robert Motherwell, Ellsworth Kelly, Franz Kline, Robert Rauchenburg. But I also drooled over the Impressionists and Post Impressionists. Unbelievably, they had a Marc Chagall painting that was bigger than my house. Maybe I’m weird, but I get so excited to see the actual paintings that I’ve seen in books.

They also had about a million medeval swords and suits of armor including two kid-sized ones. Really? They sent kids to war?! But then later I thought, how cool would it be if the twins had those. They could battle! Or wear them when they ride their bikes. Or battle on their bikes. It would be cool.

I grew up going to art museums so I think it’s important for kids to learn about art and culture. I don’t think a lot of people think art museums are for kids, but mine loved it and were pretty well behaved. Only once did Jack get too close to a sculpture (climbed up on a low platform — to get a better look?) and the guard lunged at him. I mean, the guy was not young but he moved very fast. My son got so scared, he cried. I told him that the guard was probably more scared. Later, in a room of Picassos, Matisses and Gauguins, a friendly man asked the kids which was their favorite, and why. That was nice.

We finished up by going to the gift shop and they picked out a couple art-related toys. I gave them a credit card and sent them up to the counter. Jack, “Excuse me. Hi. Um, this is my sister.” The two people working there were so nice, rung up their toys and asked them if they were members. Then decided they were and gave them the member discount and free Ben Franklin magnets.

Rittenhouse Square.

Originally I thought we’d go to 3rd and Market (one of the few areas of Philly that I know), but then I did some research and saw that there was an Urban Outfitters (as well as a lot of stores we don’t have in rural PA) at around 18th and Chestnut, so I picked that as a place to eat lunch and walk around. I was very doubtful I’d get any real shopping done.

I found an underground parking garage, turned over my keys and prayed that nothing (iPads) got stolen from the car. I have no sense of direction, so I also prayed I’d remember where the garage was.

I didn’t expect to find a great place to eat or for the kids to behave so I could relax and enjoy myself but I thought I’d try. Sometimes setting your expectations very low works magic. We stumbled upon a place called PARC, as in french for PARK. It faces Rittenhouse Square Park and is a bistro straight out of Paris. It reminded me of Balthazar in NYC, and I knew I’d love it. It was packed and the hostess said it would be a 25 minute wait. Could the kids wait that long? I found some empty barstools and slipped them a Cliffbar. I read them the menu while we waited. Jack played on my phone and Nora made friends with a little almost-2-year-old named Gia. I looked around and noticed there were a few other children, so that was good. Ever since reading Bringing Up Bebe, I’ve worked towards eating in real restaurants with the kids. We got our table and ordered drinks. The waiter, a towering but friendly guy, brought the kids OJs in tall wine glasses and then asked if I wanted cups with lids. Mmm, yes. I ordered brioche apple french toast with hazelnut butter for them to split and eggs benedict for me. The coffee was perfect. The ambiance was wonderful. The whole scene so picturesque. Everyone out on a beautiful Saturday in Fall. Couples nestled in their sidewalk tables, under heaters, some with tiny dogs on their laps. The staff was so friendly and attentive to us, not at all snobbish or kid-adverse. I was in heaven. And I think I was actually relaxed.

We walked through the park after brunch. The biggest attraction for Nora and Jack: pidgins. They followed them around giggling, barely able to stand it. You’d have thought they were ostriches. They found a fountain, and a bunch of other kids who also seemed bent on falling into it. Every bench was occupied by happy people. A perfect Fall day. Making Philadelphia seem like the perfect city. When did Philly become Paris? Nora said quite a few times that she’d like to LIVE there. My little city girl. She found 2 chestnuts and put them in her pocket. Jack found a penny. When we walked over a steam vent, they asked, “What’s under there, making that? Monsters. Yep. Or probably Dragons.”

We walked down Walnut Street. I tried to restrain myself. So many places I wanted to shop. I was resolved not go in any store we have near me. I wished I could realistically go into Burberry, the Coop or Coach.

Urban Outfitters.

The kids tried on masks, then picked out a pack of balloons to make balloon animals—with a “pumper”. Who doesn’t need one of those? We meandered around. I couldn’t really shop-shop. I should mention that I have a pretty specific list in my head of things that I truly am lacking in my wardrobe. And I’m very picky. But then I saw something I really needed and really wanted: swede ankle boot. I tried them on. And we fell in love—the shoes and I. I will wear them with everything. My perfect day just became the perfectest. One more store I HAD to go into, although I knew I probably wouldn’t buy anything. Wouldn’t let myself: Anthropologie. Lots of cool things for the kids to look at (but not touch). Kind of like a museum. I could tell I was running out of time, that they were out of patience. At one point Jack suddenly sat cross-legged in the middle of the store and assumed a meditation position, complete with his thumbs touching his middle fingers and eyes closed. A salesgirl sidestepped him with an armload of clothes. I asked a cashier if she could recommend a good ice cream place. She seemed thrilled to tell me of the best place, right nearby on 19th between Sansom and Chestnut but I promptly forgot the name and we never found it. I looked it up and I think this is it:‎.

If I could have picked all my favorite things to do, planned a special day, by myself or a best girlfriend, or my husband, this would have been it. Only I was with my two 5-year-olds and it couldn’t have gone better.