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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Making Memories

This year, instead of toys or games or clothes, I opted to give Henry, Jack and Sophie each an experience for Christmas. Our apartment is overrun with art supplies, pony beads, Paw Patrol figures, and PJ Mask figurines. I am constantly picking up markers, stepping on pony beads, or trying to find the missing puzzle piece for one of our seven thousand puzzles. Don’t get me wrong. Henry, Jack, and Sophie are lucky to have all of these wonderful toys, and I am grateful for a closetful of project to do, costumes to try on, or games to play on these frigid winter weekends. We have some favorite family games like Kids on Stage, Disney Candyland, Zingo, and any of the five memory games we have acquired. We could spend ALL day building with Magna Tiles and Legos. And their brand new Paw Patrol Lookout and PJ Mask Headquarters (Thanks, Nana!) have led to countless hours (yes, hours!) of fun.

But my favorite weekend activities are our weekend adventures.

Usually, our weekend adventures look like this: Me (or me and Will) dragging the kids around on the subway and bus, traveling in a (rather unforgettable) pack, and racing around until we get too tired or hungry and have to go home. Where we (the grownups) collapse on the couch. Henry, Jack, and Sophie look forward to the weekend all week. “Is it a weekend day?” they used to ask each morning. Now that they have a better sense of time, they say things like, “What fun things are we going to do this weekend?” and “How come we get to do all this cool stuff on the weekends?” Last weekend we hit up Barnes and Noble, Shake Shack, the New York Public Library, MOMA, and a nut-free ice cream parlor (more on that in a later post).

So rarely, however, are these adventures a one-on-one affair. Usually the child-to-grown-up ratio is three to one or three to two. And as much as I love (truly) bouncing around the burrough of Manhattan with three four-year-olds in tow, I cherish the very rare moments when we are adventuring in a one-to-one ratio. Just me and one of favorite little people.

So this year, for Christmas, I decided to make more of those memories.

Choosing what to do with each of them was a big part of the fun. Sophie was somewhat easy. When Will saw the Black Friday sale on “Frozen” tickets, it was a done deal. Giving Sophie the chance to see Elsa on stage at her first Broadway musical was a no brainer. The only hard part was picking the seats.

It seemed fitting that Henry, still obsessed with dogs, would get a chance to go to the Westminster Dog Show. (Side note: how lucky are we to live in NYC where all of this stuff happens?!?) Jack was a little trickier. It was important to me that each experience felt personal to the child but also not something that the other two would really regret missing out on. They all love PJ Mask and Paw Patrol, so there was no way I could take just one to something like that. And as far as I could tell, they don’t have “cat shows.” (Although I did just discover “Cat Cafes” and there is (of course) one in downtown NYC…another weekend adventure to plan)! Jack loves cats, he loves tigers, he loves sports, he loves drawing…I got stuck on the tigers thing a little bit. That lead me to the circus. I know they don’t have tigers at the Big Apple Circus anymore, but then I started thinking about all the things they DID have. A quick peak at a Cirque de Soleil performance with Jack rendered him a perfect candidate for Big Apple Circusing. He was mesmerized by the trapeze artists and the jugglers (Daddy can juggle too!), so we had our event.

Jack was the first to open his gift from me. I had gotten the kids ornaments to commemorate the experience 1) because even though they don’t need more stuff, not having anything to open on Christmas seemed like a bit of a bummer and 2) because that way, every year when we decorate the tree, we can remember our adventures from Christmas 2018.img_1168

It was hard to explain that his gift was a trip to the circus, and he was a little skeptical of the fact that we would be going without Henry, Sophie, or…gasp!…Daddy. Since we haven’t seen a circus yet, I think it was hard for him to imagine how much fun it  would be. Don’t worry, as the days and weeks have gone by, Jack’s excitement has mounted, and he can’t wait to see the circus!

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Henry was next, and he was almost as excited about the Dalmatian ornament as he was about the prospect of going to the dog show. “Are they going to have every type of dog in the world there?” Pretty much, buddy, pretty much. He’s excited to don his new doggie sweatshirt (thanks, Aunt Lizzie!) for our trip to the Westminster Dog Show. Waiting until February 7 is an excellent lesson in patience!

Sophie was last to open her gift, but the first to experience it. It didn’t take long for her to figure out we were “going to ‘Frozen'” once she opened her Elsa ornament. img_1171It took quite a bit longer for her to wrap her head around what that meant. Sophie has been pretty discerning about the difference between characters in movies and books and people who dress up as the characters in real life. Ask me about our trip to see the “Easter Bunny” last year. “That’s not a bunny. That’s a man in a suit!” she said. Elsa and Anna are a little more convincing, but there were still a lot of questions about who these people were, if they were the “real” Elsa and Anna, how they could be the real Elsa and Anna if they lived in Arendelle and were cartoons, etc., etc., etc.

The buildup to “Frozen” was intense. Sophie asked every day for a week, “Is TODAY the day we’re going to ‘Frozen?'” She wore her Elsa costume nonstop. She couldn’t sleep. Like I said, INTENSE. The day of, after hemming Sophie’s Elsa costume by hand (I don’t recommend this!), we hit the Q train and headed towards Times Square.

Of course, we stopped for some selfies along the way.

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And some nut-free snacks. Sour Patch Kids and Cheez-Its. Now that’s what I call lunch.

And when we arrived in Times Square (which Sophie affectionately refers to as “Town Square” every so often), Sophie was in awe. “What is this place?!” she asked. “It is soooo cool.” The screens, the lights, the people…and even some leftover New Year’s Eve confetti littering the streets. She was eager to get right to the theater even though we had some time to wait.

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I let Sophie choose a souvenir, and surprise, surprise, she went for an Elsa doll.

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When the doors opened, we grabbed a booster, found our way to our seats, opened up our Sour Patch Kids, and waited for the magic to begin.

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It’s hard to describe how amazing it was to experience this show with Sophie. Our seats (in the balcony) were not great. We were pretty far away. Things were a little obscured by the railing in front. And it didn’t matter at all. Not one bit. Sophie sat, mesmerized, craning her neck every now and then, leaning over to whisper a question or two when the songs varied slightly from the movie, in total awe of the entire thing. She could have cared less where our seats were. Sophie’s camp counselors once described the way she listens to stories. “It’s like she is IN the book. She leans in, barely blinks, and is clearly rapt by every word we read.” That’s what it was like at “Frozen.” The woman sitting next to us told me at intermission, “I forgot she was there, she was so quiet!” She connects emotionally with the characters. Grabbing my arm when Anna and Kristoff begin to fall off the bridge. Bursting into (quiet) tears when Anna freezes solid at the end. Even though she knows Elsa’s love will unfreeze her eventually. Watching Sophie watch “Frozen” was the perfect Christmas gift for me too. Sharing one of my greatest loves (musical theater) with my children is such a special experience.

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Sophie’s first Broadway show. I know they say children don’t really store memories long term until they are seven or so, but I know I will never forget the experience. And I hope that we’ll keep remembering it together, through this blog post, through the photos I took, the souvenirs we came home with, and then every Christmas season, when we hang that ornament on the tree and say, “Remember when…”

 

 

The Best Christmas Ever

A couple of days ago, I asked the kids, “What was your favorite part of Christmas?” And despite the dozens of new toys they received and the daily desserts they enjoyed, not one of them mentioned anything that has to do with either.

We’d been anticipating December 25th for at least 24 days by the time Christmas rolled around. Probably longer since the kids knew that “Christmas comes after Thanksgiving,” and the first “When is it going to be Christmas?” queries began on Black Friday.

We started decorating immediately. The ornaments weren’t even out of the box (nevermind the fact that our tree wouldn’t arrive for another couple of weeks) before the kids started decking our halls. They adorned their desks with ornaments and figurines. We made a “Merry Christmas” banner.

Here we are in action working on the banner.

Homemade banner hung? Check. Pentatonix Christmas special streamed? Check.

We live on THE prettiest block in Manhattan during the holiday season, and nothing says, “It’s nearly Christmas!” more than your ENTIRE street being aglow with lights.

It’s kinda hard to convince the kids to contain their Christmas frenzy when the thousands of twinkly lights from the street below are literally brightening up their bedroom each night.

Our Elf on the Shelf, Meatball, made an appearance on December 1 (after we feared we had lost him), and I thought these kids were going to lose their minds.

Guys, we barely even try at the elf thing. We manage to remember to move him each night at some point after the kids fall asleep and before they wake up, but that’s about the extent of it. Half the time Henry would say something like, “Meatball told me he was going to be hanging from your medals tomorrow.” And then we’d just make him hang from the medals. That’s 1) totally obvious and 2) really freaking lazy. But it didn’t matter. Every morning they were racing around like chickens with their heads cut off, “Where’s Meatball?!? Where is he?!” And, “SEE!!! I TOLD you he told me he was gonna hang from the medals.” Oh crap. I just realized that if our kids learn to read before they figure out this whole Elf on the Shelf deal (fingers crossed!) that I’ve kind of just ruined it for them. Oh well. Cross that bridge when we come to it, I guess!

And then they’d race over to their advent calendars to open the day’s window. And it didn’t even matter that two of them were the same. They were just doubly excited. And then they’d argue over whose turn it was to put up the next wooden block (our fourth…count ’em, FOUR) advent calendar.

And you know what? I barely even blinked at the bickering. I barely even cared. Because they were just so gosh darned excited about this whole “Christmas” thing. And we loved EVERY second of it. Will just kept saying, “Is this the sweet spot? I think we might be in the Christmas Sweet Spot.”

Each weekend was another Christmas-themed adventure.

Gingerbread cookies.

Best clean up crew ever.

Gingerbread houses.

MORE gingerbread houses.

A field trip to see all the holiday windows.

Henry’s favorite window

Jack’s favorite window

Mommy’s favorite window

Sophie’s favorite window

Seeing OURSELVES in the holiday windows.

Posing with this Christmas tree…

and that Christmas tree…

Watching the ice skaters (real and not so real).

Trips to Target and Flying Tiger and CVS for Christmas crafts, holiday place settings, and about a gazillion Santa-themed window gels.

And yes, we were serving tacos on those holiday plates 🤣

This year was the first year everybody bought a gift for everybody else, and those trips became part of our holiday-themed adventures. Picking the store we wanted to go to (CVS, Barnes and Noble, Target, Flying Tiger). Roaming through the aisles looking for the perfect thing (within our price range) for Henry, Jack, Sophie, or Dad. Then racing into Mom and Dad’s room as soon as we get home for a super secret wrapping mission to get the presents wrapped, labeled, and hidden before your siblings can deduce what’s inside. And finally, working VERY hard to keep the surprise a secret until the big day. This was, for sure, our greatest collective challenge 😝.

These kids were so danged thoughtful. When you’re at CVS and they have only two of the Paw Patrol watches you and your siblings love? What do you do? Buy them both and gift one each to your brother and your sister. Clean up in aisle five, please. I think my heart just melted all over the floor.

Having our own Christmas tree hand picked and hand delivered by Grammie and Nonno.

Decorating the tree.

And at this point, we were still two weeks out from the big day. I don’t know if it is because we were coming off of a pretty miserable fall, or because I love Christmas as much as I do, or because we just really had hit the “Christmas Sweet Spot,” but these last few weeks really have been all things merry and bright.

Well, aside from the lice breakout, but hey, you win some, you lose some, right?

We didn’t lose any steam in the days leading up to Christmas.

There were carol concerts to attend.

Classic Christmas movies to watch. About a billion Hershey kisses to consume.

There were snowball fights to be had and sleighs to ride.

Ice box cakes to be made and more trees to be trimmed.

Oh, and more window gels. Always more window gels.

And then, of course, there was Christmas. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and all of the traditions, new and old, that come with it.

Stockings hung by the chimney (er…TV?) with care.

Cookies and notes for Santa.

No-hay hay rides with Nonno on the tractor.

Making our own pizzas for dinner.

And presents. Yes, there were presents. And despite our best efforts to keep our intake low this season, between brothers, sisters, moms, dads, grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles, these lucky kids cleaned up. Oh, and don’t forget Santa. Santa who usually brings only one gift each but who this year brought two. Perhaps Meatball reported back on the perpetual good moods these kids were in for the entire advent season. Or maybe he took note of how thoughtful they were being in their efforts to give to others. Or maybe the two head elves neglected to communicate clearly with one another and there was a mix up at Amazon, er, I mean, the North Pole.

But either way, these kiddos made out like bandits.

EXHIBIT A: Paw Patrol Lookout & PJ Mask HQ

EXHIBIT B: Pink talking monkey 🐒 that is almost as big as she is.

EXHIBITS C – M: ALL THE LEGOS (plus the Elsa dress)

EXHIBIT N-Z not pictured here, but I’m pretty sure they scored at least 26 presents between them 🤦🏻‍♀️.

So when I asked the kids, “What was your favorite part of Christmas?” they had a LOT of things to choose from.

But you know what? Nobody said anything about any of the presents. Not one word. Because it wasn’t really about the presents for them.

We had gifts wrapped in our closet all month, and every once in a while, the kids would catch a glimpse and say, “I can’t wait to open my presents on Christmas.” But that simply wasn’t the point for them this year. (Although it was a pretty awesome perk, don’t get me wrong).

Jack was the first to answer the question: “Hugging Sophie and yelling, ‘Soph!!!!!!’” he said.

Sophie went next: “Seeing everyone,” she reported.

And if I’m being honest, I can’t remember what Henry said (#tripletmomlifeproblems), but it could have been “building Legos with Dad,” or “going for a tractor ride with Nonno and everyone,” or “making our own pizzas.” Because it was definitely about a memory made and not about a gift he got.

We grownups know Christmas isn’t about the presents. But I was pretty surprised to find out that our four-year-olds had figured that out too.

Even when it was about the presents, it wasn’t. They watched with such excitement and anticipation as their family members opened up the gifts they had bought them. They filled my stocking up with the PERFECT things, all hand-picked by them: a pug keychain, blue sparkly earrings, a Starbucks gift card, an insulated wine glass (don’t judge)! And they COULD NOT WAIT for me to find them all. And to tell me how they had picked them out. They raced towards each other with arms flung open for hugs after opening their gifts from each other. I wish I could bottle their joy in those moments. Save it for a gloomy February day when we all need a pick-me-up. I can’t, so I’ll just leave you with a few clips right here.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” -Dr. Seuss.

I guess if the Grinch can understand that, we all can.

So as we head into 2019, we’ll look back at this past year. We’ll celebrate the highs and learn from the lows. We’ll remember our wins and mourn our losses. But I will always, always, look back on Christmas 2018 as the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER. At least to date. Perhaps we just hit the “Christmas Sweet Spot” this year. Perhaps not. But if future Christmases are all whining and bickering and moping and pouting, we will always have Christmas 2018.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Or Two.

merry-christmasA couple of weeks ago, as we were preparing to take down the Christmas tree, Jack turned to me with his big cheeks and puppy dog eyes and said, “Don’t take Christmas!” I gently explained that Christmastime was over (“Why?” “Because it’s January.” “Why?” “Because January comes after December?” “Why?”) and that we would get to have a tree and all the decorations again next year. Jack’s next query? “But can we keep the presents?”

There was an abundance of presents this year. You might even say there was an OVERabundance of presents. They didn’t ask for much. A doggie, a Milo, and a purple baby, to be exact, so when all is said and done, we could have had a much “simpler” Christmas, I am sure. But along with the stuffed animals, the costumes, the train set, and the pirate ship (more on that later), came family. An abundance of family, you might say. Henry, Jack, and Sophie get to do Christmas twice (and yes, that means more presents). But it also means two “Christmas Eves” with carols and Christmas jammies. And two Christmas mornings with bacon and stockings.

And two sets of grandparents, eight aunts and uncles (even if some were only there via FaceTime), dozens of cousins, great aunts, and great uncles, and one great grandma.

At dinner on Christmas night, Ann asked, “What was your favorite gift you ever received?” One of my sixth-graders had asked me this at the lunch table a few days before, so I was prepared. But honestly, I couldn’t remember a single gift I’d ever gotten for Christmas. (I went with the Playmobil dollhouse mansion which was a birthday present, if I recall correctly). And I wasn’t the only one who came up short. (I won’t tell you what Will’s most “memorable” present was. Hint: It was NOT his favorite.) And I know it is not because we’ve never received anything worth remembering. It’s just because our Christmas memories are shaped more by our traditions and the people we fill the holiday with than they are by the gifts we receive.

So this Christmas, while searching for gifts from Santa was a new (and popular) pastime, it was the time spent with family we will all remember:

Standing outside in our pajamas the weekend after Thanksgiving to see the trees on our street light up.

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Prettiest block in Manhattan!

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We should probably invest in a Selfie Stick. And some better lighting 🙂

Stopping by Operation Santa at Buckley help wrap presents for kids who are not as fortunate as we are to celebrate Christmas in such a big way.

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Please excuse the blurry photo…it was a no nap sort of day!

 Moving aside all the toys we already own to make room for a big tree in the corner (this was Jack’s idea AND his job). Riding in the red wagon to pick out our tree from the tree stand on the corner. Don’t ask us how much it cost. Actually, do. It was hilariously expensive. Taking a trip to the hardware store to pick out a star for the top (and finding a bunch of other fun Christmas paraphernalia in the process…cookie cutters topped the list). Opening the box full of Daddy’s ornaments that Grammie sent (and in many cases, that Grandma and Grandpa made). Decorating our tree while Alexa (read: Pentatonix) sang PTX Christmas Deluxe Edition on repeat in the background.

Making gingerbread cookies and realizing afterwards that despite triple-checking all ingredients, Sophie was probably allergic to something in the sprinkles, and we couldn’t eat the rest of them. Have any of you ever tried to make gingerbread cookies with a two year old? How about with three? Hello, mess! Can you guess whose plate is whose?

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This is the closest I could get to an “action” shot. It looks pretty contained at this point, but don’t be fooled. At one point, I was helping Sophie wash her hands in the bathroom sink (she still can’t reach), and Henry came running in “to get some more paper towels!” As he ran out, he said something like, “I made a mess, but I’m just cleaning it for you. I’m just cleaning it.” I found him in the kitchen, on a stool, cleaning up (re:spreading) the green food coloring off the cutting board. And muttering to himself, “It’s just a little mess. I’m cleaning it. I’m cleaning it.”

Searching each morning for Meatball, the Elf. He even made it to Nana and Grumples’ house!

Sure, one Christmas will fade into the next, and there will come a day when we’ll all ask each other, “Was that the year that it snowed? Did Peter and Jen make it that Christmas? Was that when Grammie’s Folly first arrived? And sure, we will probably remember this Christmas as the one that ended with one sleepless night and one stomach bug (not the same child either, so yeah, that was fun). But we will mostly remember it as the fun, festive, and family-filled few days we hope that Christmas will always be. And as we took down the tree, we talked about all the things we were going to miss until next Christmas rolled around. In the meantime, we’ve got a bunch of new toys to play with 🙂

Some highlights from under the tree(s):

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Christmas Round ONE

 

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Christmas Round TWO.

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THIS is Grammie’s Folly.

Get ready for STRUM: The Remix. Album coming soon.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this Christmas a memorable one for Henry, Jack, and Sophie. As we took the ornaments down Jack bid them farewell, exclaiming, “Goodbye, ornaments! See you next Christmas!” before giving each one a kiss and laying it in the box. I know we have approximately 345 days to go, but I can’t wait to see his face light up when we open that bin again next year.