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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Making Memories Part Two

 

IMG_1396Jack’s Christmas present from me was a trip to the Big Apple Circus. Just the two of us. I was nervous about how this might go…Jack has never exactly said, “You know what I REALLY want to do? Go to the circus!” But as luck would have it, one of the first things we saw after making our way across town on the bus was a cat. A real, live cat. Just hanging out on the sidewalk. With his owner. And a litter box. Only in New York, people. We hadn’t even made it to lunch yet when we happened upon this “moonieeeees!” as Jack affectionately called the cat. This was not the cat’s name. This is just what Jack has come to call all felines at this point. It would be very hard to explain via blog why or how Jack refers to them this way, but if you’ve spent any time with him over the past five years, you will know Jack loves cats (all species!) something fierce, and he can hardly contain his excitement when we find one in a book, let alone real life. You will also know that although he knows the word, “cat,” and he understands which animal “cat” refers to, he has never referred to them as such, and his strange pseudonym for the feline family is derived from the name of our former pet cat, Milo.

Enough about cats. I don’t even have a picture of this cat. I do know, however, that if you ask Jack about his favorite part of the circus, you will undoubtedly hear about the cat on the sidewalk before you hear about the trapeze artists or trampolinists.

After the random cat interaction on the sidewalk, we found a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria. Another NYC specialty.

I know it isn’t very glamorous, but one-on-one lunches are their own rare treat in this family, and everyone likes pizza, so pizza it is. Or was.

Once we got to the circus, we secured popcorn, a light-up souvenir, and our seats.

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How cool that the ringmaster is a woman, right?

First up were the horses.

IMG_1370I used to go to the Big Apple Circus almost every year as a child. A lot has changed since then, but I was just as mesmerized by the incredible feats of human strength and courage today as I was back then. From the trapeze artists to the trampolinists to the couple who literally balance on each other’s heads, the circus performers were pretty incredible to watch. There was a free standing ladder act, horizontal juggling, and a dog driving a car. I was partial to the acrobatics (particularly the aerial straps). Jack was a fan of the trampolines, the horizontal juggling, and the popcorn. And the sidewalk cat, of course.  Oh, and the the dog driving the car. Because honestly, who ISN’T a fan of that?

This is the husband-and-wife team known as “Duo Fusion” whose skill is called “Acro Balance” for obvious reasons. This woman is wearing HEELS while her husband balances on her back like that.

The team of trampoliners were a big hit. They use that wall in between to jump off of and onto, to walk up and over, and to flip onto.

It was hard to capture just how cool this was on camera because they were constantly in motion. But this was the only act about which Jack said, “I wonder if I could do that one day. That would be cool.”

And finally, the dog driving a car. It’s probably easier to teach a dog how to drive a motorized toy car than to learn how to fly through the air from one trapeze to another, but Jack was right, this was pretty great.

For me, the best part of these outings is getting to spend time with my favorite little people one-on-one. From the walk to the bus stop to the ride across the park to lunch at a pizza shop and an afternoon at the circus…all of those little moments add up to one really special afternoon that I know I will cherish for a long time. Long after we’ve forgotten what our favorite act was. Long after the souvenir has been broken or lost. I’ll remember how Jack ran around me in circles at the bus stop on the way home. How he laughed so hard while he ran that he suddenly had to pee. AGAIN. How we played the animal game on the bus ride (to distract him from his bladder) and how we both got stuck on the letter “n.” (Narwhal, duh). How he wouldn’t stop talking about that cat on the sidewalk. (And how I tried to explain the situation of the woman who appeared to be living there with him). How he couldn’t wait to tell Henry and Sophie what he’d seen. I’ll remember how we got to sit and eat pizza without anyone interrupting to tell “their version” of the story or to fill in the details they thought we’d forgotten. And how I held Jack’s hand as we walked without having to worry (or being reminded LOUDLY) that someone else was feeling left out. Life with triplets is pretty amazing. But an afternoon with just one of my kids? That’s priceless.

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