Sunday, July 17, 2016

Central Park sprinkler challenge

The challenge: run through six playground sprinklers on a hot summer day in under an hour.

The competitors: Todd and Samuel, the two oldest living kids on the Upper West Side.

Sprinkler 1: 100th Street Playground. Great playground with pyramid and climbing structures. Water area had fountains and mist. This is where everyone was today.

Sprinkler 2: 96th Street Playground. A little quieter. Samuel said he used to come here a lot with his friends after school. Small water area with water jets in a circle. We let the kids spray us.

Sprinkler 3: Wild West Playground at 93rd Street. It was revamped last year, so everything is new. It has two water spray areas connected by a tiny canal filled with toys and plastic shovels and toddlers' bottoms. I could've stayed for an hour or two...but we were on the clock.

Sprinkler 4: The Safari Playground at 91st. We've always called it the Hippo Playground, because of the sculptures embedded in the ground. But there's not much to do here, it's completely in the shade, and it was virtually deserted.

Sprinkler 5: 85th Street Playground. We always called it the "Big Kids Playground" when the boys were growing up--to differentiate it from the "Little Kids Playground" a block away. It's in need of an update, but there was a decent crowd here because the Little Kids Playground is closed for renovation.

Brief detour across the monkey bars at the Diana Ross Playground at 81st Street, the final stop on our challenge.

Sprinkler #6: The boys spent a lot of time at this playground over the years, as it's closest to our apartment. The wooden climbing area is great but getting a little long in the tooth. There's a big, round water area with steps for sitting, but only a small fountain in the middle.

Good enough for a diapered toddler. Good enough for us.

Almost forgot--reward for successfully completing the challenge: a black & white milkshake...

It's nice to spend a summer afternoon with my college-bound little boy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Our refrigerator is kaput

It was here in 1998 when we moved in, so we can't complain.

But it's time for a new one.

I once said I didn't want a life in which I owned refrigerator magnets shaped like fruit. I am skating precariously close.

To be fair, the rooster and Cocker Spaniel magnets are not mine. They were brought into the apartment by someone that I love enough to tolerate little stuff like this, even though rooster magnets are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I contributed the DeLorean note pad.

I was pushing for this retro refrigerator as a replacement. I thought it would look really cool--it would make us look really cool. You could cover it with rooster magnets and it would still be cool.

I told Jen it was the only one I could find online that would fit the space in our kitchen. But it was $2,000, and I had the misfortune of recommending it on the day we got an email alert from Chase that our checking account was overdrawn. Jen found an alternative for $700 that should fit just fine.

Life's little compromises.

In the meantime, we've put ice in the freezer--a makeshift ice box, like the '30s--and pared down to the bare essentials.

And life will go on.

Monday, July 11, 2016

New book

I would be remiss if I didn't flag this: 

Kelsey Skea at Amazon/Two Lions has acquired Todd Tarpley's picture book Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath, about the escapades that ensue during bathtime. Publication is planned for spring 2018; Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency did the deal for world rights.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

At last...Kalahari

Two months ago there were only two waterparks in the tri-state area that we hadn't yet been to--Aquatopia and Kalahari. Both opened last year, in the Poconos, and both are indoor waterparks connected to hotels.

We hadn't had a chance to cross either off the bucket list, because I'd been working at a start-up for the past two years and we just didn't have the money.

So when I got a freelance job at Time in January I said we'd celebrate by going to Aquatopia--and we did. Then when my contract got extended a few weeks ago I said we'd go to Kalahari--and we did.

Jen missed the selfie because she was shopping at the outlet mall, but she joined us a few hours later. We had dinner at a local pizza dive, then stayed overnight and spent most of the next day the waterpark again.

Samuel is off to college in a few short weeks, so this was special for me. Here are my little boys from our first indoor waterpark visit in 2007, at Great Wolf Lodge:

And here I am deviating from my standard Coke Zero to celebrate family, employment, waterpark bucket lists, and two great big grown-up boys that I love. 

Aquatopia vs. Kalahari vs. Great Wolf Lodge

All are similar. All are great. But which indoor waterpark near NYC is the best? 

Great Wolf Lodge is best for toddlers and younger kids. It's the most "charming" of the three--the lodge theme, evening story time in the lobby, and a non-water adventure called MagiQuest, which involves magic wands. It's the "warmest" emotionally.

Aquatopia is best for bigger kids and teens. It has the largest wave pool and the most big slides, including a 60-foot free-fall body slide, and a bodyboard attraction called Flowrider. It has the smallest amount of floor space dedicated to toddlers, though a great tipping bucket play area. Unique perk: when the weather is nice, guests can also go to the outdoor waterpark Camelbeach, about a half mile away, at no extra cost.

Kalahari is less "cuddly" than Great Wolf, but it has the most dedicated floor space for toddlers--roughly 25%--and includes interactive water-play features. Kalahari also has the largest tipping-bucket play area. When the weather is nice there is a retractable glass roof, and there are two large outdoor pools. Kalahari allows day guests, so it may be more crowded. The biggest missing feature is a wave pool--it will be added in 2017 when the waterpark doubles in size to 200K square feet. That is going to make it a tough act to follow. (2017 update: the new addition has been completed.)


Best for Toddlers: Kalahari and Great Wolf (tied)

Best for Medium Kids: Kalahari

Best for Big Kids: Aquatopia

Best Wave Pool: Aquatopia

Best Arcade: Aquatopia

Least Crowded: Aquatopia

"Cuddliest": Great Wolf

Best All-Around: Aquatopia

Monday, July 4, 2016

Iowa, 1990

Another photo sent by my mom...

This was taken the day I got my Master's degree from the University of Iowa. I was 27, and I was a Graduate Assistant Coach for the wrestling team. Jen was a manager at JC Penney.

We were getting married in three weeks and were in the middle of wedding planning. A few days earlier we had closed on our new, $25K condo. You can see a moving box in the background. 

On the wall behind me is an antique mirror that belonged to Jen's grandparents, and below that is my wrestling plaque from Nationals. They are metaphors for what we each brought to the marriage.

There are two small photos in the mirror--one is me and Jen, the other is the 1960 MGA I'd bought the previous month. Jen got mad when I bought it, because I didn't discuss it with her first, and we were trying to get approved for a mortgage.

Next to the mirror is a framed picture of my sister April and her Cocker Spaniel, Daisy. Below that is our engagement photo, taken at Sears.

Within a year I was retired from wrestling, and we had moved to New Haven to chase a new dream. 

Looking back, I must've driven poor Jennifer crazy. But she can't say I was boring.