new york city. part one.


i’ve been excited to share about our trip to new york city.
i thought i could squeeze it all into one post..
but if you’ve ever been then you know that’s just not possible.

so i’m just going to make it official and declare this new york city week on the blog and share over the next several days the grand adventures of our weekend.

i’ve always thought it would be special to be able to take each child on a trip somewhere for their sixteenth birthday. kinda one of those things you keep in the back of your mind for, “maybe someday…” but don’t think it will ever really happen.

so as kate’s birthday got closer that “maybe someday” began drifting more towards the front of my mind and i started talking to shayne about the possibilities. at first, it didn’t seem like it would work. then as if out of nowhere, but i know not really, since i actually believe that we have a God that cares about things like girls turning sixteen and trips to celebrate that and moms who have these far off dreams.. and within weeks everything fell into place and suddenly i found myself in full on 007 mode to pull off this epic surprise for my girl. which funny, i’ve never been someone who likes surprises, having them or doing them, but somehow doing it this way just felt right.

the friday we were to leave seemed to take forever coming… as soon as i heard the front door close that morning i jumped out of bed and flew into action. pretty much taking kate’s entire closet and throwing it into a suitcase. i was glad shayne was driving me because i was fluctuating between blurry eyes from tears and rolling my window down to scream in excitement. i text kate on my way to her school and told her we were coming to pick her up. she was waiting outside with wide eyes and a worried look. yes, the mom that doesn’t like surprises has a daughter that’s the same.. so i was quickly assuring her it was all good and she was going to loVe it!!

we drove to panera where kate’s best friend and her parents were waiting on us. we tried to play it all cool when we walked in and act like we didn’t know they were going to be there but i couldn’t stand the anticipation any longer or the fact i was nearly ready to pee my pants but didn’t want to go to the bathroom and miss one second of any of this, so we told the girls to sit down and handed them a box to open together…

inside were “clues.” pictures of new york city that started off vague and ended with the obvious.

i love their expressions in this series of shots..
from confusion to shock to excitement, then back to confusion again!

PicMonkey Collage-nyc surprise

we all were squealing and laughing and near crying.. except the dads. they just watched on with huge grins.

and i want to say right here that when i first shared about this on instagram several people remarked about what an awesome mom i was for planning this – but my awesomeness ;) pales in comparison to shayne’s who took two days off work to stay home with reese and is the hardest working man i know {as in grueling, physical labor kind of work} to provide for us and make trips like this even possible. not to mention the sweetest for agreeing to it all in the first place and then writing the most precious letter to kate for her open once she was on her way! it doesn’t get much more awesome than that.

we drove the nine hours there across a beautiful sunny afternoon and got into newark, new jersey around ten that night.





the next morning we were up and on our way to penn station where we took the path down to catch the subway…

our first stop, the world trade center.

just coming up out of the subway and seeing the sign with world trade center written on it and the soldiers standing guard at the entrance made my heart turn over and instantly i was sobered and back on that morning sitting in front of my television watching every terrifying thing in such tremendous sadness and fear.

but as we stood on that street corner. the people bustling all around, the camera’s flashing, this was the very first thing i noticed.. the sound of jackhammers and saws and trucks and men’s voices from behind the plywood barriers and i stood and thought, THIS is so America!

this sound of work and determination and rebuilding…
that no matter what knocks us down we don’t stay down.
we get up again.
we gather the pieces.
we pull together.
we come out stronger.

and looking up up up at the newly erected freedom tower shining in the glare of the sun, yes! this is the amercian spirit –

we rise higher still!





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we visited st.paul’s, the church where many of the first responders went for relief during those initial days. sat and listened as a minister read scripture and the church bells chimed twelve times in remembrance. we walked to ground zero and stood in line for more than an hour. but it was worth it. not to see the memorial. to gawk at something of beauty.. but to pay our respects to those who died there. to stand sobered and reminded that life is brief and we never know what a day might hold~

from there we walked to the statue of liberty!! as we came along the sidewalk and i first caught sight of it i exclaimed probably louder than i realized i did, “there it is.. it’s right there. right through those trees!” and i wondered how many others through all these years haven’t called out the same thing from the decks of their ships as they first caught a glimpse of that symbol of freedom and possibilities.





then we took the subway towards times square and got in just as the sun was setting and lights started blazing bright! what a place~





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we finished our first night at a little sidewalk cafe under giant trees and swinging lights with the cutest little french couple we think were on their honeymoon next to us that i took a picture for, and another couple speaking another language i didn’t recognize. and a big round table just ahead of us of lively, gorgeous latino women, and as a light rain began to fall we all moved our tables in closer and huddled under the umbrella’s overhead and i thought that this was surely the truest essence of new york city right here, this sense of diversity coming together…

and i liked it!



33 thoughts on “new york city. part one.

  1. Thelma

    love it!!! i will be checking back all week. You tell your story so beautifully in your photos.
    what a cool cool awesome surprise this was for your daughter. i felt a little giddy myself as you unfolded the story of surprising the girls:-)

    1. amber Post author

      i was downright giddy too the days leading up to it. i near spoiled the surprise so many times i could hardly contain myself. ;)

  2. Ellen Graf

    I so enjoyed your post! NYC, my old stomping grounds. I love that you allow me to share your adventure. I hold fond memories of working with you and the kids through CCCT theatre. I can’t believe that Kate is 16. How precious our children are!

    1. amber Post author

      aw, ellen! so sweet to hear from you. i was thinking of you and max recently when someone told me they named their little boy max :)) kate and i often talk of those days of mrs.hart’s plays – we miss it! you were always so kind and friendly and i hope our paths cross again someday. xo

  3. Peggy

    so unexpectedly, when I stood at the gates of the White House, tears started rolling down my cheeks ~ I’m sure the same thing would happen for me at Ground Zero and at the Statue of Liberty ~ unexplainable, but predictable for me ~ :)

    1. amber Post author

      yes, i’m totally like you when it comes to things about my country, i get emotional. and i find even more so now that i don’t live there. not to sound like a proud, stuck up american ;) but there really IS no other place like it!!

  4. April

    Amazing! Just amazing! Those girls are going to remember this trip for the rest of their lives. I’s glad you are taking the time to tell this fun story! NYC week is off to a great start! The picture of the girls hugging each other with the Statue of Liberty in the background is my fav!

    1. amber Post author

      yes. i like that shot too. i coudn’t really get any good ones of the statue so far away~ we wanted to take a ferry out but they were pricey. didn’t learn until after we were home that you can take the staten island out for like 2 bucks.. just ride it across and back. remember that if you ever go there ;) wish we had known at the time.

  5. Rachel

    ohmyword!! Kate knew nothing of any of this until you picked her up at school?! that is a huge thing to pull off!! and, their faces in that first series of pictures; completely priceless!
    i love that you could do this with your girl. truly this was a trip you will both remember for the rest of your lives.
    and, all these pictures….we always talk of going to NYC, just me and Tim, but have yet to pull it off. these pictures are making me want to go there! soon!!
    can’t wait for the next installment!
    happy Monday!

    1. amber Post author

      yes! the surprise was HUGE for me to pull off.. and mainly just to keep my mouth shut!! i want to go back w/ shayne but he says he has no interest in a place with so many people, etc. ;) i told him we could just go see a broadway show and hang out the rest of the time in central park, but he sounds doubtful. guess i’ll just have to go back w/ girlfriends. what about ffe new york city!!!! :)))))

  6. Julie

    Oh how very fun! I have been waiting for trip pictures ever since seeing your trip on instagram! I can’t believe you don’t like surprises!! You pulled this one off good!! :)

  7. Audrey R

    I am just so insanely jealous that you got to go to NYC! I want to go so badly, but my husband DOESN”T want to go almost as much as I DO want to! maybe i need to take Kierra for her 7th birthday. Just kidding. Kind of.

    I am so happy for all of you that you got to go, though. How cool is a surprise like that?! I don’t like surprises that much myself (sometimes I wonder if that means i am a control freak!) and I like to know what’s going on, but I think being surprised with a trip to the big city would be almost worth being surprised for!!

    Can’t wait to see the rest of the photos!

    1. amber Post author

      well, we’ll leave our husband’s at home and WE’LL go!!! ;)) i always think you’re not far from me, in new york. we should look into a halfway trip sometime.. even niagara.

      never thought about surprises being a control thing – i don’t like control either, ha! i think the thing w surprises is that i feel i never respond well for them, if that makes sense. like in the past when friends had surprise parties for me or things like that – i feel like i act all ungracious because i’m stunned and usually by the time my emotions catch on to what is happening i’m pretty sure most everyone is thinking i’m some ungrateful snob. ;) but the older i get and more free from what others think of me, i think i’m enjoying surprises more. shayne took me away this past weekend and he planned the whole time and didn’t tell me any details. it was fun! :))

  8. Chrissy Brown

    Ahh! I love it!!!!! I love that you had that special time with Kate. What an amazing memory for her now! And NYC…just gorgeous! We live about an hour from NYC, and though I have seen it from the coast as we played on the beach and have flown over the Hudson at 500 ft elevation with Dan, I have yet to go into the city. Other than the Statue of Liberty. We’ve seen that and I was just like you – getting so excited and then thinking of the immigrants who saw it too and the magnitude of what it symbolized to them! We need to get into the city and do some exploring soon! It looks like you girls had such an amazing trip! Can’t wait to see more pics. : )

  9. Shannon

    What an amazing place to go for your 16th birthday! She’ll never forget it.
    I love the city but my husband not so much… so we don’t get there that often. :)

  10. jennie

    What an amazing trip…I can’t wait to hear more about it!! The pictures of the girls opening the box and looking at clues are so awesome!

    1. amber Post author

      they were hysterical. the pictures don’t even do it justice. kate didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and jesslyn was dumbfounded. haha! so great when you do something like this and want it to be so special and then to see the legitimate surprise and delight was just priceless.~

  11. Elizabeth

    Amber! I want to see more! :) Such a teaser post.
    How exciting you were able to make that trip with Kate….I’m sure that will be one of the BEST memories from her childhood. :)
    Okay…waiting for more!

  12. Cindy

    the way that you “told” them, the box with clues and their expressions—I was holding my breath! how overthetop FUN. and NYC of all places. it’s all woohoo for me and packed with tearful emotions as well, just thinking about it. along with what you wrote about the American spirit. and you were there!!! love it. so much to remember and treasure. and i’m suspecting that the best parts are probably wordless and photographless.

  13. Clarita @ Skies of Parchment

    AHHHHHHHH!!! My heart is thumping fast through this post! :) The excitement of THE NYC, the fun & surprise you and Shane pulled off for Kate (she has the best mom ever!!) (and yes, he is awesome too for watching the baby all weekend!), and the uniqueness of that particular area of the USA. I love it all!! And I cannot wait for the next parts of the series. :) xoxo

  14. Kathy C.

    My husband and I visited NYC in 2010 and I had many of the same emotions you expressed upon seeing the 9/ll memorial and the Statue of Liberty. There is nothing quite like standing where history has been made! This looks to be a beautiful trip and I love that you did this for your daughter’s 16th. She will remember this birthday always. Looking forward to the other parts you will share.

    1. amber Post author

      you’re so right – nothing like standing where history has been made! makes it all the more real and you feel strangely connected and a part~

  15. Andrea

    This is fantastic! We have visited New York several times since we are not far. It’s a wonderful place – glad you were able to go.

  16. Michelle

    Love it, loVe it, LOVE IT! I didn’t realize you pulled this off as a surprise for Kate! And I think it’s so awesome that you did this with her best friend and mom! I can’t think of a more fun way to celebrate turning 16 than a girl’s party to a fabulous city! And oh, my, you’re pictures! Just take me back!! I’ve only been there once, but I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to go back. Someday. :)

  17. amber Post author

    if we had to go with anyone.. going with jesslyn and her mom jo was THE best! they are sweet friends and kate and i both are blessed by them.:)


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