Social Distancing

img_9325-1The last two weeks have been exhausting and stress-filled for most everyone, and the uncertainty was the thing driving me the most insane. Trying to figure out what to do for our schools, for our students, and for our family (including the grandparents) was the thing keeping me up at night. Add to that trying to sort out how we would manage weeks on end with three active kindergartners running afoot in our small NYC apartment, and I had a hard time getting to sleep. Enter melatonin!

When we finally decided where we would begin our social distancing and got the go ahead from work to stay home, things got a bit easier (if no less frantic). We packed everything we thought we might need (and of course ended up forgetting a few things…like warm coats for the fact that it is STILL winter in Northwestern Connecticut despite an unseasonably warm travel day).

img_7972

Getting to CT was a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively (even if it was a bit cold without the coats).

img_8033

It’s been two days, and we’re finding things to do. A big thanks to Grammie and Nonno for hosting us and for their creativity, patience, and general volume tolerance as our arrival definitely cranked things up a few notches (and probably a few decibels too).

img_7976We’ve been to the waterfall to throw rocks. We’ve lugged the bicycles out of the barn. We busted out the board games, the puzzles, the Legos, and the art supplies. And Will and Nonno up and built our own tire swing. No biggie.

 

One of our favorite indoor activities is playing on the Quadro, resurrected again for more swinging and climbing.

img_9339

This particular set has been going strong since the ’80s. First here at Grammie’s, then finding a home in our NYC apartment for three years with three busy toddlers, and now again at Grammie’s in the days of social distancing. How lucky are we that Grammie saved it for so long?

So many people have been asking, “What IS that?!” and since this one hails from the decade of my own birth, I figured I would like to some similar options. There are newer versions, it seems, like this one here, a larger version here, and a different brand that looks pretty similar but perhaps less expensive? None of these come equipped with a Will (or Geeg! as they kids call him) who is patient, handy, and creative enough to keep taking it apart and putting it back together in various configurations. You’ll have to find one of those for yourself! This particular reincarnation came out of the idea booklet and is complete with a (short) set of monkey bars and parallel bars. Just the thing our three little gymnasts ordered.

While we hunker down in CT and look for things to keep us busy at home, we are grateful for family nearby, for the resources and capability to pack up and go for weeks (months?) on end, for jobs and salaries that are secure even during these uncertain and constantly changing times. Most of all, we are grateful for our health, the health of our loved ones, and the millions of healthcare workers worldwide who are in the trenches every day working to curb this crisis. Stay healthy and safe and follow me on instagram @estrumolo to catch the rest of our adventures as we try out this new social distancing thing.

img_7979

We may not be doing everything right, but I am pretty sure we are doing some things right.

img_8533

What do you see when you look at this photo?

I see a mom (me) who had a long and stressful day at work yesterday and was too tired to cook.

I see three kids I would call (though I shouldn’t, because I know you’re not supposed to label your kids) “extremely picky eaters.” Especially if I tipped the bag and revealed the two barely eaten burgers because…well, I don’t actually have any clue why, but apparently last night’s Shake Shack burgers were in some teeny, tiny, infinitesimal and unidentifiable way, “different.”
I see a mom (again, me) who lets her kids eat French Fries for dinner sometimes. A mom who didn’t even order a third source of protein because she knew Miss S wouldn’t eat it. And a mom who didn’t even try to convince any of her children to add a vegetable.
I see a parent (or two) for whom nutritious eating is unfortunately ranked pretty low on her list of priorities.
I see a fast food chain (@Shake Shack) that follows good food allergy practices and is a place we feel safe eating out with our highly nut-allergic child.
I see the rotten bananas I haven’t thrown away because we keep thinking we’ll make banana bread, and then we don’t.
I see our messy apartment that I swear was clean yesterday, or five minutes ago. It’s all the same. It will be messy again in no time, so why bother keeping track?
In case you ARE keeping track, you might have realized that I see, in that picture, several ways in which I am falling short of my parenting goals.
And I see, in that paper bag, all the guilt and shame and frustration I feel due to what I have deemed my greatest failing as a parent: the fact that our children do not have a healthy and well-rounded diet because we do not prioritize one.

But that’s not all I see. Because this bag tells two stories: the more blatant, obvious, surface-level one that I fed my children Shake Shack last night and all that entails (including, perhaps, the assumption that I feed them Shake Shack often…which is not exactly untrue even if there’s hardly enough evidence here to support that conclusion) and another, far less obvious one about who these kids we are raising really are.

Spoiler Alert: they aren’t what they eat.

Because this bag also tells the story of my three kids who, as we were leaving the restaurant, said, “Mom, can we buy a burger for the homeless man outside and then give it to him?”

So you see, this bag is simultaneously a source of my greatest self-criticism and my greatest pride as a parent.

It’s true, we need to work on their nutrition. And please know that I do am not pretending that what they put in their bodies is trivial. But their hearts? That’s what really matters to me. And these hearts? These not-yet-six-year-old hearts are very full. So full of love and kindness that it’s overflowing. And they are looking for a place to send that love, and they are not only willing, but eagerto send it out into the world for strangers.

And that’s why I pick my battles. I cave about food ALL. THE. TIME. But the messages about love and kindness and generosity? I don’t ever get tired of teaching them that. And it never ceases to amaze me how much we grownups have to learn from them.

The homeless man had moved on by the time we got outside with his burger. But wouldn’t you know that this trio was ready to wander around the UES looking for the next person in need. It didn’t matter that it was nearly their bedtime. It didn’t matter that they’d put in a full (I’m talking ten hour) day at school and after school programs. It didn’t matter that it was freezing, and they were tired, and we’d missed the bus so we’d already walked a mile to get where we were. And you know what else didn’t matter? For those few minutes while my children led with love? How tired and stressed and sick this mama felt.

She was fairly easy to find. One of our three has been keeping a catalogue of the men and women in our neighborhood as we pass them on our way to and from school each day. We knew exactly where to look because our kids, our quiet, don’t-look-you-in-the-eye kids, may not say much, but they see everything. And everyone.
Anyone who has ever met our kids knows they don’t like talking to strangers. In fact, they’re often not too keen on talking to people they recognize. But they didn’t need to speak to this woman last night to let her know they cared.
It’s true what they say, you know: actions speak louder than words. Their actions spoke loudly last night. And I couldn’t have been more proud of the message they were delivering.

So this greasy paper bag on our messy kitchen counter? It’s a reminder that we may not be doing everything right, but I am pretty sure we are doing some things right. And I am pretty sure you are too.

The Talent Show

The plan was that they would all sing together. The first I heard of this was yesterday morning. ‘There’s a talent show at camp,’ they told me. ‘We’re going to sing “Let It Go,”’ they said.

He woke up this morning at 6:15 and told me he didn’t want to do it. He told me every twenty minutes for the next three hours that he “didn’t want to do the talent show.” I kept saying, “Just wait and see how you feel when the time comes.”

When the time came, he reminded me again. I arrived at camp at 2pm, and he turned to me and said, “I don’t want to do it.” “Okay, I said.”

Their group performed The Macarena (see below). All three got up there and did the moves like any obliging rule follower would.

As the show wore on (and on), several potential performers bowed out. Their nerves mounting (if I had to guess), as they watched their fellow campers do cartwheels across the makeshift stage, tell knock-knock jokes, or perform skits. One of our three drew closer and closer to me where I sat and finally said for the first time, “I don’t want to go up there.”

And then it was finally their turn. “Are you going to do it?” the counselors asked the one who had been saying all day he didn’t want to. He shook his head. “Ok, so just you two?” they said to the others. And the second one said “No, not me.”

“He’s not going to do it,” Sophie said, confirming for the counselors what she had only just learned three seconds ago: this would not be a trio or even a duet.

“Do you want to do it by yourself?” they asked.

She nodded. Resolute. So brave. The tiniest camper of all, no doubt, and as nervous as ever. But yes, she would do it.

He REALLY didn’t want to do it. But when it turned out she was headed up there all alone (as brave as she was nervous), he (quite literally) jumped up to join.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around a five-year-old having that much empathy. Having so much love in his heart for someone else that he will jump up and do the thing he REALLY doesn’t want to do even when all the grownups are telling him he doesn’t have to. And despite the fact that she didn’t ask. She didn’t have to.

You can hardly hear the two of them, but his love for her rang out loud and clear during this, their first talent show performance. They did it together. And I couldn’t have been prouder had they belted it out in two-part harmony and performed a choreographed dance. This triplet bond is real, people. And it runs deeper than any nerves or apprehension or introversion. It’s the kind of thing that makes a boy who might otherwise prefer to avoid the spotlight jump up and sing in front of a crowd of nearly a hundred people, just so his spotlight-seeking sister can breathe a little easier.

Making Memories Part Three

IMG_1588

Last, but certainly not least: Henry’s trip to the 143rd Westminster Dog Show. I am NOT a dog person. I know, I know, if I’ve learned anything from “Friends,” it’s that you’re never supposed to tell people that you don’t like dogs. Or ice cream. Just to be clear: I LOVE ice cream. And it’s not that I don’t like dogs. I am just mostly terrified of them. At least the big ones. And definitely the jumpy ones. I’ve been bitten as recently as last summer, and I had two somewhat traumatic experiences as a child, so I think there’s probably some legitimate reasons why I am “not a dog person.” But, I’ve got a kid who is decidedly a dog person. And I figured the safest place to interact with a whole bunch of dogs would be at the Westminster Dog Show, where they are all committed to being on their best behavior!

The agility competition was our first stop (and finding Aunt Addie, of course). These dogs are all so fast!

Over at the big dog agility competition, H made friends with a border collie. I don’t have any footage because I was a little preoccupied with the fact that there was a rather large dog licking Henry’s face (fear of dogs, remember?) but Henry didn’t seem to mind. At least, he didn’t seem to mind too much.

Next stop was finding the requisite snack and souvenir. Henry had it in his head (for WEEKS) that he would get M & Ms at the dog show. I am not sure why, except that we never have them at home due to Sophie’s allergy. But Henry got his wish (and I was relieved we didn’t have to come up with an alternate snack option) and we were off to to the souvenirs. Henry perused all the booths and took his time deciding on a stuffed Dalmatian to add to his ever-growing dog collection at home.

True to form, Henry later demanded that we “return” the stuffed dog for a pair of men’s dog socks he had seen later and also wanted. But we took Dooley (the new stuffed Dalmatian) to meet the REAL Dalmatians at “Meet the Breeds” and that was pretty special.

These are not the greatest photos, I know, but everyone was so excited it was hard to get one where the people AND the dogs stopped moving. But that one at the end? That’s Henry’s happy face. The face of pure bliss.

And of course, we had to check out the pugs for Mom. I know they are ugly, but they are so ugly they’re cute. I am not really a dog person, but my love of pugs goes WAAAAAAAAAY back. Back to “Eloise” and her pug, Weenie. And then of course there was Bruiser. This pup is Ginger. We met her AND her mom, which convinced Henry that we actually need to get TWO dogs, because you HAVE to have a mom AND a baby.

IMG_1617

And then Henry’s eye caught this: FLOWER DOGGIES! And cats! H thought this was hilARious. It kind of is. Also kind of impressive. I mean, REALLY impressive. IMG_1590

Several hours and about a hundred dollars later, we made it back to our neighborhood for lunch. That dog show is WAY out there, folks. And the new cab surcharge is NO joke. But with the -10 degree windchill, I couldn’t face the crosstown bus. I may never take a cab again though!

This is the face of a guy getting a MILKSHAKE for lunch. Enjoying a meal with just one of my little people is really just that: ENJOYING a meal.

We had a great time, and even though Hangry H assured me as we were leaving that he DIDN’T have fun at the dog show because he didn’t want that Dalmatian pup (he wanted the socks), I’m pretty sure H loved it. And I think he was pretty happy with his new “pet” when we got home.

IMG_1642

It isn’t easy finding time and opportunity to spend time with just one of our kiddos at a time. It is SUCH a luxury, and it is so dang wonderful. I will definitely be reprising this idea for next Christmas. More memories, less stuff. Ok, we still have a TON of stuff, but you know what I mean.