March 4, 2014 |  Category:   life



We were back in Chinatown this weekend, just because there are good things to eat there and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s hard to say no when all you have to do is hand over a couple of bucks to each vendor. You can basically just snack and eat your way through Mott and Canal Streets.


Mia tried being a vegetarian for 2 months and honestly, I’m surprised at her self restraint – not because I didn’t think she could do it, but because she used to go around saying that she was a meat-a-tarian. This kid loves eating meat, but she felt conflicted because she also really loves animals. I could see her struggling with this ethical dilemma, but she didn’t waver even though I could see her fighting temptation. To support her, we ate vegetarian for 2 months as well, which wasn’t hard to do considering Mark and I were vegetarians for so long, but we did have a bit of a challenge cooking for Miss C who is a pickier eater and doesn’t like beans, quinoa or tofu. So how do you provide enough protein for your family when one kid decides to give up meat while the other recently discovers that she does in fact like it? Most people don’t have the time to cook 2 different dinners. But one day last week Mia announced that she was going to stop being a vegetarian. I was as surprised about this bit of news as her announcement to give it up. But it’s cool; I support and commend her efforts. To mark the occasion, we went to go get dimsum at her favorite place with carts.

Mark’s been working most every Saturday and Sunday at the Brooklyn Flea and will be there all month long, so it’s just us girls in the house, kind of like old times when Mark was still a chef at the restaurant. There were no weekends off back then, ever. It’s much easier now than when the girls were babies, but even we’re growing tired of winter hibernation and we’re such big homebodies. Spring feels nowhere around the corner, not this March. Mark sometimes takes one or both of the girls to the Flea with him, usually Mia. I have no idea what she does there for 8-9 hours, but she packs an activity bag which usually consists of a notebook, an e-reader, some toy of some kind, and the ipad. Two weekends ago, however, she manned the table by herself and sold cookies to 2 customers and handed back change when Mark took a break to go get some food and use the restroom. She was really excited to do this. Makes me realize how long ago our first Flea was 7 years ago when the kids were both toddlers and look, now she’s making transactions. I mean that’s crazy, right?
I guess I forgot how big a deal it is to do something as simple as go up to the register to buy something on your own when you’re that age. Makes you feel real big, and powerful too I bet, holding that bit of cash in your pocket. I’ve been letting her make purchases sometimes when we’re out shopping together, though the last time when we were at City Bakery a funny thing happened. I gave her a five to go up to the counter and buy a muffin and saw that she kept getting passed over in a line of customers by the shop people. After a few minutes I went up there and told one of the people behind the counter that my daughter had been waiting in line for awhile, but wasn’t being helped. They apologized because they had both assumed she belonged to the couples that were standing in line on either side of her, an Asian couple on one side and a Caucasian couple on the other. My kid…ethnically vague…can fit right in with any family…ha.

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  • Melissa@Julia's Bookbag March 5, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Thank you for the reminder about the little things that seem big to the kiddos. my daughter loves to pay for small purchases. she loves to get the mail now. she loves getting her own drink of water. (golly forbid i forget to let her press the elevator button) all of these things are a big big deal to her!

    also, spring. is nowhere in sight, even here in Pac NW. it’s getting slightly warmer, but grey rainy day after grey rainy day.

    • Jenna March 6, 2014 at 10:43 am

      I’ve seen photos of Seattle from family and friends and it looks like you have blossoms blooming already? You guys are always ahead of us, but we are nowhere near that yet. 25 degrees today!!

  • Charmaine March 6, 2014 at 3:28 am

    what are those delicious looking little cakes? 🙂

    • Jenna March 6, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Those are little cakes that they fry up on the street in these little molds and they’re $2 (or maybe even a dollar? I can’t remember). I used to buy them when I was a kid.

  • Juliet March 6, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    I love this post. Makes me feel like I’m not crazy and meal planning headaches are universal – not unique to just our family. In our household, we have a vegan (my husband), a vegetarian (our daughter) and two omnivores (our son and me). Our daughter went back and forth on being a vegetarian when she was Mia’s age. She’d go a few weeks at a time committed to a vegetarian diet and then bacon or a cheeseburger would do her in. When she turned 12 it stuck however and she’s been a vegetarian for at least a year now. I’ve been known to read hose gimmicky “Flexitarian Table” cookbooks with recipes that have both meat and vegetarian variations. I’ve never cooked one meal from such a cookbook – my brain gets overloaded from all that thinking. As a result we eat mainly vegetarian meals because it is just a pain in the butt to cater to our individual dietary preferences. I love thinking about how to empower kids at this age. Something I am always trying to figure out is how to raise an independent and street smart kid. I think one of the ironies is that kids (like mine) raised in a city might actually have less opportunities to do things independently and therefore have less developed “street smarts” than kids who grow up in “safer” places. Having grown up in a suburb in a mid-atlantic state, I had a tremendous amount of freedom and independence to explore my surroundings and get around on my own as a kid. Now I’m raising my kids in a rougher part of a big midwestern city and it’s just not possible to let them go out and explore the city (or even ride bikes) on their own. I hate being a helicopter parent, but the sad reality is that it’s too dangerous to let our kids run around the neighborhood unsupervised. We take them to parks, to the library, to playdates, to the store, etc. I’m sure you get it. So any opportunity I have to let my teenager spread her wings is a welcome opportunity. I dropped her off at a salon (in a safer neighborhood) to get her hair cut, and didn’t walk in with her so as to let her negotiate the entire experience on her own (I gave her money and instructions to tip etc). When she was done, I was at a shop a few blocks away and gave her general directions over the phone on how to get to where I was so that she could navigate her way to to me (it was a safe neighborhood and she had a cell phone). All this might sound ridiculous and neurotic but a small opportunity like that feels like a huge victory when you’re trying to empower your kid to be independent and safe in an urban setting. Whew.

    • Jenna March 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      That’s interesting that you say that about kids raised in urban settings having less independence and street smarts. I actually think it’s the opposite since you don’t have to rely on a car to get everywhere. Not that we are not without any crime here where we live, but I think the kids in our Brooklyn neighborhood have a lot of independence, maybe because there are so many kids here and it does feel like a “small town” in some ways. 5th graders and up are walking home from school and kids start riding public transportation to and from school starting in middle school here. I also think that it’s different times from when we grew up to the world that our kids are living in now, so I’m not sure we can make direct comparisons to our childhood. Kids in our neighborhood also start eating out for lunch outside of schools starting in 6th grade (and actually in our neighborhood, 4th & 5th graders can buy their lunches on certain days in a very heavily monitored 2 block radius of the school). Sounds crazy, I know, but apparently it’s been that way for years and years here in our neighborhood. It’s interesting to hear the differences where you live!

      • Juliet March 6, 2014 at 3:54 pm

        That’s pretty freaking cool, Jenna. Your part of Brooklyn sounds idyllic to me. I can see why you love it there. I wish we had the same for our kids. We definitely don’t live in a part of the city that has a “small town” feel. You’d probably call where we live on the edge of the ‘hood. But raising kids in the ‘hood builds character that’s for sure. All my concerns about raising an independent kid seem trivial whenever I hear gunshots in our neighborhood. What I would do to get rid of all the guns in the city.

        • Jenna March 6, 2014 at 4:07 pm

          It can sometimes feel like we live in a little bubble, and with that you sort of forget that we live in a big city because the neighborhood fosters such a community feel. Gentrification plays a part too. We’ve been long time residents of this neighborhood, but always near the fringe end. When we bought our apartment 10 years ago, our local playground wasn’t safe, but now it’s been renovated and a real asset to our corner of the neighborhood. As far as big cities go, NYC ranks pretty low on crime statistically, but it’s still NYC and you’re reminded of that whenever you do read something horrible in the paper. My brother had a 3 hour daily commute from our house in Queens to one of the elite academic high schools in Manhattan starting at age 14 using public transportation, and we started walking to school by ourselves since we were 9 or 10 so in that regard, things haven’t changed much here. I still have a hard time visualizing my kid going to a store and making transactions on her own, but she’s able to do it. Maybe we underestimate their independence because of the world we live in…

          • Juliet March 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm

            That’s a good point – it’s a different world than when we grew up and direct comparisons to our childhood don’t really work. I’ll be very happy if it turns out I’ve been underestimating my kids all along…;)

  • Jess March 6, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Jenna, I’ll be traveling back to NY in a few months and have had my ear out for a good dimsum place. Would you be willing to give the name?

    • Jenna March 6, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      Hi Jess, in Chinatown in NY, the big ones are Jing Fong and Golden Unicorn. Are they the best in NYC? No – probably the best is to be found in Flushing or Chinatown in Sunset Park (which unfortunately I don’t have a recommendation for), but they are big and fun (particularly Jing Fong) and have plenty of carts. Go before noon though – as big as it is, there will be a long line after 12.