Mommy Summer Camp

Although summer is not officially over, my summer is pretty much done. I want it to be. I need it to be. For the past 10 1/2 weeks I was the sole source of diversion for my two children, being at various times their cruise director, drill sergeant, chauffeur, cheerleader, art teacher, sherpa, navigator, personal chef, party clown, and ATM. We traveled around New York City, either researching our destinations or leaving our house with no particular place in mind. We got around by train, bus, car, bicycle, and foot. We woke up late and ate dinner for breakfast. We rented movies and had sleepovers in my bed. We did nothing with abandon. We listened to music and read books. We obsessed over different cooking shows on the Food Network. We made stuff, we saw stuff, we did stuff, we ate stuff. We were joined at the hip and did everything together. Everything. Suffice to say I am exhausted.

At first my daughter Masana and my son Mack were skeptical that we could pull it off. No summer camp? Whatever shall we do? So we began the summer with a late morning pow-wow over cold cereal and buttered toast. I asked them what they wanted to get out of our being metaphorically shackled together like a chain gang and handed each of them a sheet of paper and a pencil. Then I left the room for fifteen minutes. When I came back, they handed me their sheets and went upstairs to the safety of their rooms. Mack wrote a list of things he wanted me to cook for him. Masana drew pictures of mustaches across the page. I was not being taken seriously by my own kids.

Despite the inauspicious beginnings, we had quite a summer. And of course it helped that we live in one of the greatest places on Earth in terms of food and culture. Here were some of our destinations.
(Corona Park, Queens)
What's not to love about an interactive science museum? An outdoor Science Playground, a helpful and enthusiastic staff, and live demonstrations make this place fun for both the kids and me. And the proximity to the Lemon Ice King of Corona is also a plus.

Museum of the Moving Image
(Astoria, Queens)
This was our favorite summer destination. There is arcade filled with early 80's video games (Asteroids, Space Invaders, Break Out, Ms. Pac Man, Donkey Kong) that kept all of us occupied for an hour! We watched an episode of "The Muppet Show" in a small viewing room, and the collection of Star Wars action figures was mesmerizing. For a nice inexpensive meal we ate at the Arepas Cafe a few blocks away.

5 Pointz 
(Long Island City, Queens)
This place is the graffiti Mecca of the world! The murals change frequently and you can catch a glimpse of it if you are riding on the 7 train. When I brought my kids here, a group of artists were just sitting around on metal fold-up chairs. One of them approached us and gave a little tour of the joint. He then proceeded to give my kids a human beat-box lesson--now that's New York City for ya! This place is in danger of being demolished, which is a shame since there aren't many places where graffiti artists legally display their art. You can sign the petition to help save it, but be warned that there is a solicitation. It's for the site and not 5 Pointz. I don't think you have to donate in order to sign it, but I gave $2. (Why not.)
We ate at Manducati's, an Italian restaurant that pre-dates the gentrification of this Queens waterfront neighborhood. The store front is fairly nondescript and easily missed. I ate here once back in 1999 (and Frank McCourt was at the next table!), so I wasn't entirely sure where I was going. But we found it and the meal was divine.

Untitled (Maria, Lilly Lamont) 2003
Bronx Museum 
(Grand Concourse, Bronx)
This museum is tiny! And free so we had to check it out. But be warned about parking in the garage suggested on the museum's website. I truly believe that I could have double-parked outside, gone in, checked out the entire museum, and then hopped back in my car before the cops could have given me a ticket. We were there a scant 20 minutes. But I am glad we went because the art has an urban sentiment that is indigenous to the Latino population in the Bronx. That makes it unique among the larger and more publicized museums in New York City. The location along the Grand Concourse and small scope of it's collection make it difficult to justify a visit. But if you are on your way to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium (which is nearby) you can double-park your car out front and...well, you get the gist of it.