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…”

 

 

It Wasn’t Perfect, But It Was Pretty Darn Cute.

The negotiations started weeks ago. One of our children needed ZERO encouragement to don a pretty outfit and perform in front of family and friends (I’ll let you decide which one). One of our children was pretty adamant about NOT participating in the wedding festivities. And one of our children fell somewhere in the middle: willing to fulfill his duties as flower boy, sort of excited about the outfit, but not quite as enthusiastic as the first.

Two participatory flower children would be a step up from the last family wedding they played a part in, but really, we were aiming for three. Their traditional Vietnamese wedding outfits (ao dais) has been custom made, and considering the flower child holdout was the godchild of the groom, getting him (or her) down the aisle felt like a high priority.

The negotiation went something like this:

Me: What if I gave you some Hershey kisses if you do your job at the wedding?

Child: 500 Hershey kisses!

Me: That’s too many.

Child: 100!

Me: How about 20?

Child: Woah. Ok! Twenty’s a lot!”

The math teacher in me cringed a bit at her offspring’s poor number sense, but the mother in me was thrilled to be emerging victorious (if bribing your child with twenty Hershey kisses can be considered a victory) from this negotiation.

The rehearsal did not go very well. Despite the promise of a score of Hershey kisses, two-thirds of our crew followed through with their flower child obligations, and one barely made it down the aisle with a lot of (literal) hand-holding from Mom. This was not the plan.

Considerations for alternative scenarios commenced immediately, and we spent the next twenty-two hours preparing ourselves for Plan B: three flower children and one Mom or Plan C: two flower children.

And then, at 1:30pm yesterday, without any mention of Hershey kisses, our holdout asked to suit up. Nevermind that it was a little too early to get dressed. Nevermind that there was a pretty big chance the ao dai would get wrinkled or stained before the ceremony. This kid wanted to get in his wedding outfit, and we were not going to stop him.

Two and a half hours later, they did what they had been asked to do. Quite literally. They threw the petals on the walkway (our efforts to distinguish between “throwing” and “sprinkling” came a bit late in the game) and went (RAN) to find Daddy at the end of the aisle. And while there may have been some Hershey kisses involved (only five!), those were really just a reward for a job well done.

I am so proud of my three little people for being so brave and for doing their job so well (which included sitting quietly–if not inconspicuously–throughout the ceremony). It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn cute.

And what a special, special day it was celebrating Uncle Andrew and Aunt Evelynn. We are so glad they got to be a part of it.

Dance Like No One Is Watching

This girl. She dances like no one is watching, she sings like no one is listening (although I think she secretly hopes we all are), and she carries joy in her heart and spreads it wherever she goes.

After several blissful nights of uninterrupted sleep, and just hours before our road trip to VA to visit the cousins, her coughing began. In the grand scheme of things, last night’s breathing battles were pretty minimal. No albuterol needed (until 5AM this morning, that is), no trip to the hospital, no oxygen mask. But a sleepless night is a sleepless night, and a persistent and wheezy cough for a kid with asthma is always a bit unsettling.

Still, this girl jumped out of bed at 5AM, a smile on her face and only one concern: “If I go to Noah and Lily’s and I’m sick there, I will give Noah and Lily my germs.”

I am inspired by her concern for others, her ability to choose joy in the face of her frustrations, and her incredible zest for life.

Her latest catch phrase is, “This is going to be SO great.” This adventure, this Magna-Tile house, this waffle, you name it. Whatever it is, it’s going to be SO great. Especially if Sophie has anything to do with it. We are t-minus two hours from the cousins’ house, albuterol and inhaler in hand, and I can already tell: it’s going to be SO great.

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Skating Party 2017 – Sophie and Henry’s first time on ice skates

Another skating party in the books. Arguably the hardest one to date, but also the most memorable…first time on skates for these kiddos (2 out of 3 at least)!

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Every day I am reminded that as they grow up, some things get easier and some things get harder.

We made it there (and back) in the wagon thanks to some navigational assistance from Google Maps and a trusted colleague.

We only spilled one cup of hot chocolate, and it mostly missed Maggie’s purse.

We ate brownies.

We stayed up way past our bedtime.

And of course, we have no photos of the skating because the child-to-adult-ratio is still a little mismatched for these very wobbly beginners.

On our way home, Henry, Jack, and Sophie marveled at what it was like to be outside “in the middle of the night.”

They shared their observations about the colors of the sky:

“Why is it sort of brown here?…It’s black when we’re at Nana’s and Grammie’s.”

“Look at it now. It’s more blue and purple here.”

They asked a thousand questions:

My favorite was, “Where did the city go?” as we wandered through Central Park.

And they reflected on the best parts of their evening:

“My favorite part was the brownie, and when [Daddy] carried me around.”

“My favorite part was the hot chocolate and the brownie.”

“My favorite part was all of it. Because I loved all of it.”

And because we’re sharing favorite moments, I’ll share mine. As we were making our way out, into Central Park in the “middle of the night,” and we ran into a parent of some former students of mine. “Oh, what a wonderful thing!” she exclaimed. “It’s a wagon full of Strumolos!” And she snapped this quick photo, our only “memory” of the night.

I don’t know how much longer Will and I will be carting along a wagon full of Strumolos, but I know I’ll be glad to look back at this photo and remember what it was like to pile our kids into the back of our Radio Flyer wagon and wander through Central Park in “the middle of the night.”

It was an epic adventure for just a few minutes on the ice, and I was reminded that I can, when necessary (and it was necessary), still carry two of these rascals at a time, ice skates, helmets, and all.

 

#thedaysarelongbuttheyearsareshort