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.

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.

 

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.

You Can Squidge Me Forever, Mommy

This kid. Turning four tomorrow, and he is already such a big kid. That realization hits me sometimes, quickly, intensely, and unexpectedly. Like when I hear rustling in the kitchen at 6AM and I discover Henry in the freezer, pulling out the waffles. “I’m just getting breakfast ready,” he says. Or when he comes out of his room in the morning in a new pair of pajamas and says, “My bed got wet last night,” and we realize he took off his pajamas, put them in the hamper, got a new pair from the closet and put them on, and then went back to bed. All by himself. In the dark. In the middle of the night. Or like the other night when was helping him brush his teeth before bed. And there was nothing in particular that triggered it, but I just suddenly realized that he was getting so big. I gave him a big hug and a dozen kisses.

“What are you doing, Mom?” he asked through fits of giggles. And I said, “I just love you so much, sometimes I have to hug you and squidge you. You’re getting so big!” “But you can squidge me forever, Mom. Even when I’m a grown up and I’m taller than you, you can stand on your tiptoes and squidge me.”

Heart. Melted.

And now I’ve quoted him and written it down to live for all eternity in cyber space so that when he does grow taller than me and he starts to squirm away from my hugs and kisses, I can remind him, “You told me I could squidge you forever.”

The days are long, but the years are short.