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Firefighters in chest high water putting out house fire in my coastal town on the south shore of Long Island during Sandy 10-29-12 Credit: Caryn Jenkin

One of my favorite circa homes in town 

Yep, my car is under that tree

My friend  Gail, from high school posted the following quote on Facebook last week  by Albert Clark.  “In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.”  Despite the unusual circumstances that many people have experienced in the Northeast, I am happy and it has to do with gratitude.

The last two weeks have been challenging, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy I have been blessed with overwhelming feeling of  gratitude. I am grateful that I no longer live in the house on the water that I resided in for eight years that took in three feet of saltwater and debris from the canal.  I am grateful that the big red oak tree on the corner fell on my car and not my house.  Speaking of my house, I am grateful that it didn’t go up in flames during the storm like three homes in my town and the 80 homes in Breezy Point in Queens.  I am grateful that I was only without power for a week compared to those families that still do not have power.  I am grateful that I live in a generous community that has reached out to so many in need which turned into a lesson for my son that didn’t require any traveling.

The first couple of days after the storm, I had no idea about how the storm affected neighboring communities in New York City and New Jersey.  Once the power and cable resumed I was shocked and saddened as I sat in front of the television and read stories online.  I quickly realized that many of the places that my son and I visited just this past summer like Coney Island, Atlantic City and Cape May were on the list of the devastated communities.  I also learned that the HMS Bounty, which we boarded on Memorial Day weekend sank in Sandy’s wrath in of all places off the coast of the Outer Banks where we spent a week only two months ago..

The crew of the HMS Bounty was so friendly and really made it fun to learn about maritime education.  Fourteen crew members were rescued, but sadly Claudene Christian was not rescued in time and neither was the captain, Robin Walbridge.

HMS Bounty in Greenport, New York (the tall ship’s home base) this past May.

These revelations definitely made me pause with sadness, but at the same time I realized  how grateful I was that we were able to experience these places before Sandy erased the historical charm of America’s first and longest boardwalk in Atlantic City or America’s First Amusement Park in Coney Island.  In addition, I  am truly grateful that the crew members that we met on the HMS Bounty were rescued after enduring what must have been an unbelievable frightening experience at sea.

The Atlantic City Boardwalk this summer.

Coney Island this past summer – grateful for the memory of such a happy day.

Coney Island after Sandy …all the electronics that made the Wonder Wheel go around sat under water.

I also look forward to Ellis Island and Lady Liberty opening again once the significant storm damage has been repaired.  The Statue of Liberty was once again illuminated this past Friday offering a beacon of hope to all those that literally are picking up the pieces of their lives.

Visiting Lady Liberty before she was closed for renovations and from super storm Sandy.

I pray for all those that were affected by what was ironically

dubbed as the “perfect storm”

and hope that they still can find something to be grateful about

and once again experience happiness.

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Today marks the first anniversary of the Traveling Classroom.  Sharing my stories of traveling with my son simply began when one of my friends told me I should write a book about the places I go with my son.  Intimidated by the whole book idea, I decided perhaps I’ll take baby steps and thought about doing freelance writing, so I signed up for a travel writing course through the Travel Channel.  I headed down to Washington D.C. with my laptop excited about the course.  I expected the day to be filled of different writing technique workshops.  Instead, I was introduced to the world of blogging.  I left the course with my own blog, The Traveling Classroom and my first published post.  I wrote one more post when I came home and then I abandoned the whole idea.  I am not sure why, but it most probably had to do with fear.  Fear that my writing wasn’t up to par.  Fear about putting myself out in the world-wide web.  Fear that people would think that I was a show-off.  I guess it was fear.

A year later on May 15, 2011 I finished the book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  It was also the day that I decided I would re-start my blog as a part of my own happiness project. Blogging about the places that my son and I discover has been a lot of fun and really has brought me a tremendous amount of happiness. Writing makes me re-live  our experiences and the memories never go away. Keeping up my blog also keeps me motivated to continue to see new places and do new things.  It made me shift my priorities, so I now save my money for experiences instead of material objects and have discovered that “travel does make you richer”.

One of the greatest things to come out of this year is that sharing my stories has possibly motivated other families to travel and my post actually help them in their planning.  The best compliment that I received is “wow, that looks like it was fun…I want to go there now”.

Viewers have come from every continent outside of Antarctica which my son thinks is really cool.  I have also had some post that have resonated with my readers more than others.  So to celebrate my first anniversary of The Traveling Classroom, I thought I would share my most viewed posts.  Thank you so much for reading, sharing with your friends, and your comments.

TOP TEN VIEWED POST

10.  Cape Cod

 9.  Tips to Navigating NYC with Kids

 8. Welcome to America:  A Visit to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

 7.  Celebrating the 4th of July at Old Bethpage Village Restoration

 6.  Touring the Top Five Presidential Homes

 5.  12 Long Island Family Day Trips to Experience in 2012

 4.  Titanic – The Artifact Exhibition

 3.  Top Ten Things to Do with Kids in the Big Easy

 2.  Halloween in Salem

 1.  Our Atlantis Adventure

 One of my favorite post didn’t even make the list, A Tale of Two Palaces.  Did your favorite make the list?

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The last day of 2011 is here! Today is both a day to reflect over the past year and think about where we want to go in 2012.  When I think back over this past year, I am filled with gratitude for the many adventures I have taken with my son and my extended family.  Our day trips and vacations have left us with new knowledge and tightened family bonds.  I particularly have enjoyed trips that have included my niece and nephews.  It has been wonderful to start a tradition that they look forward to and hopefully will remember these childhood memories as they grow older.

My nephews and son on Martha’s Vineyard this past July.

This year I really had to be frugal due to a job change, buying a home and having to purchase a car.  Unfortunately, we were not able to travel as much as we did in the past few years.  I am grateful that I have been able to share many of my past travel experiences on the Traveling Classroom.  Writing about our past trips gave me just as much joy as when we traveled the first time.  I am also very grateful that we live so close to New York City.  The city offers a great alternative when you are not able to travel across the world.  We were able to visit Pompeii at the Times Square Discovery Exhibit.  Hit the Hollywood scene at Madame Tuessaud’s New York Wax Museum and at the Museum of Moving Image.

Museum of Moving Image (Soundtrack Exhibit)
Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum

We also took in the great outdoors by rock climbing in Central Park and Ice Skating at Bryant Park.  The holidays were special too, because there is no better place to be for Christmas than in New York City!

“Tebowing” on the ice at Bryant Park
Top of the Rock in Central Park
Rockerfeller Plaza

Rockerfeller Plaza

Christmas in New York

             As I think about the coming year, I am excited about our awaiting adventures.  My nephews visited over the holidays and they were already asking where we were going to explore in 2012.  Another trip to Washington D.C. is only a few months away and I am excited that it will be a family affair that includes my parents, my sister and her four children.  I always look forward to summer vacation and have a few ideas, so I can’t wait to start doing a little research to see what I come up with that is educational, fun and budget friendly.

Of course when you think of an upcoming year, it is natural to ponder some resolutions.  A few things that I would like to do this year is involve my son more into the planning of our trips.  I also would like to learn more about travel blogging and am looking forward to attending a travel blogging conference and meeting other bloggers.  Lastly, I look forward to improving the Traveling Classroom with Tuesday Travel Tips and Friday Featured Calendar Events!

As this year comes to a close today, I would like to thank those who have viewed, followed and commented on the Traveling Classroom.  I hope my blog post over the last eight months has provided you and your family with travel ideas and useful information.  Traveling has been a bonding experience for my family that has in turned continued to increase our curiosity and thirst to know more!  I hope you and your families experience the same.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Happy New Year from the Traveling Classroom!

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Times Square

Today I was in NYC and had the same energized feeling that I had eighteen years ago when I moved to the “Big Apple”.  My son shares the same love of the city.  I thought it would be great to pass along some easy tips to navigate the city for other families.

Some of my favorite resources are the apps that I have on my phone, NYC Way and HopStopNYC.    I love NYC Way!  It has over 30 icons ranging from things to do, street fairs, places to eat and ATM locator.  I used it today to find a place to have lunch close to Sony Wonder Technology Lab.  I also use HopStop when I am not sure which subway to take or which direction to walk once I have come out of  the subway.  This app is great!

Sony Wonder Technology Lab

I am a planner, so I  check things out online since I am always looking for inexpensive fun things to do.  Three resources that I use often are Time Out NY Kids , Central Park and TheatreMania .  I have found really cool things to do on Time Out NY Kids like having tea with Eloise at the Plaza for girls or outdoor movies on the Intrepid (the coolest place ever to watch Top Gun!)for boys. Time Out NY Kids is also great to find out what is going on at the museums.  Sony Wonder Technology Lab is free and has several workshops for $10.  My son never gets tired of The Museum of Natural History and he use to love the NY Children’s museum when he was younger.

Central Park

The official website of Central Park is fabulous!  There is so much to do in the park from Victoria Gardens Amusement Park in the summer and Trump’s Wollman’s Skating Rink in the winter to the Zoo and Carousel. One of my favorite things to do with my son is rent model boats to sail at Conservatory Water and have lunch at the Boathouse Cafe.  Check out their list of 176 things to do in Central Park on the Things to See page of their website.

Make sure you check out sites like Living Social Family Edition New York Kids Deals and Coupons  and Groupon.  These sights are a great way to save regardless of where you live, so subscribe and you will get notified of great deals by email.  Just last week Living Social had a deal to get two tickets to Victoria Gardens Amusement Park for $21 instead of $43.

Theatre Mania is a great place to get discounted broadway tickets.  Mary Poppins is great and there is usually discounted tickets, but there are a lot of other off-broadway shows for kids too like Freckleface Strawbery, The Bernestain Bears & Pinkalicious.  You can also find discounted tickets on this site to other things like exhibits at Discovery Times Square or Top of the Rock.

Freckleface Strawberry

NYCWay & Time Out NY Kids are also an excellent resource to find great places to eat.  One of my favorite places is Ellen’s Stardust Diner where you feel like you are in the 1950’s with the singing wait staff.  My son loved Mars 2112, so I have brought him there many times when he was younger despite the fact that it is overpriced food that is fair.  There is no where else that you can ride a space ship to your table and meet aliens.

I could go on and on about NYC and things to do with kids.  I hope the resources I shared will help families visiting NYC or those who live in the surrounding areas just heading in for the day.   NYC can be a great place to take kids.  There are many affordable things to do and it really is easy to get around.  Please comment should you have questions. I would love to help make your trip to my favorite place on earth the best place you will ever take your kids!

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Okay, I saw the author of the Happiness Project on the Today Show a couple of months back and said to myself, “I really need to get that book!”  Then a couple of weeks ago, I was speaking to my best friend since the fourth grade and she was telling me about the Happiness Project, so I read it!  I am inspired, so in addition to learning French via Rosetta Stone, I am now pledging to update my blog regularly with all the fun learning adventures I have encountered with my son.

I invite you to nudge me for updates if I get a little lazy.  I also would love to hear if you have visited any of the destinations I write about or send along any questions.

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