Three Perfect Nights

I can't believe how fast I slipped back into my usual mode of having tons of things to write about, but not making the time to write about them. (Notice I said making the time and not having the time; I obviously made the time in November.) Before the backlog becomes crushing and I stop writing for weeks on end (er, too late), I wanted to write about three really great evenings we had last week. When you read about them, you might think, "what's so great about that?", but what I liked about each night was that it gave me a warm glow. Each night made me feel happy. Each night made me appreciate my little family. You can't get more perfect than that.

I proposed walking to the Children's Place on Walnut to buy The Beaner a winter coat, but as they closed at 7pm and Al didn't get home until after 6, the odds of us being able to make it down there in time to shop were slim. We were about to attempt it anyway when The Beaner insisted on going in the car rather than the stroller. At that point we realized a trip to Cherry Hill Mall would kill several birds with one stone: I'd been wanting to check out the sale rack at Gymboree (and use my 20% off your entire order coupon), both of us would rather eat a food court meal than cook dinner, The Beaner would get his ride in the car, and the Children's Place was open mall hours (until 9pm, I think).

I found two pairs of pull-on pants (key when you're toilet training), a hooded sweater, and a fleece pullover—all on the Sale rack—at Gymboree. All sale items were marked down an extra 20%, and I used my 20% off coupon, so despite Gymboree's notoriously high prices, we got a pretty decent deal. I'd received a $100 AMEX gift check as a reward for something I did well, so I paid with that (and got lots of change).

Next we went to the Children's place, where we found winter jackets on sale (I think they were 30 or 40% off). The Beaner protested, of course, when we tried to zip him into the jacket, but he eventually chilled out when I explained very carefully that we were just trying it on for size, and that we wouldn't be so silly as to make him wear a heavy winter coat indoors. The size 3T fit well with room to grow, so we got that, a pair of gloves (to see if he'd wear those instead of the mittens he's rejected), three pairs of socks, and an orange-and-olive striped sweater. I used the change from the gift check, and still had money to spare.

From there we went back to the Food Court, where we agreed that bean tacos and bean Crunchwrap Supremes would hit the spot. We also got a Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, a half-seltzer/half-Sprite from the Subway, and a vanilla milk from the Starbucks (for The Beaner). The kicker? I had enough money left over from the gift check to buy dinner. The whole trip to the mall was stress free: The shopping was easy, the cashier at Taco Bell was the friendliest I've ever encountered (I kinda wish I'd gotten her name, so I could say nice things about her to her manager/the company), we got everything we came for, and we had some lovely family time together.

I'd been craving lychee martinis ever since our dinner at Nobu, and for some reason I just crave alcohol in general during the holidays (it must be all those old movies where people ALWAYS have cocktails in their hands, because I'm usually just a half-a-glass-of-wine or two-sips-of-beer-and-then-abandon-the-bottle kind of gal), and I decided to do something about it. I proposed taking a family walk to the liquor store to buy a good vodka and some lychee liqueur, and to Tampopo to pick up dinner.

The only tough part about this walk was that The Beaner neither wanted to walk nor wanted to ride in his stroller, which meant I had to carry him. My arms cramped into twisted claws halfway to the liquor store, but I made it. Al and the stroller went to Tampopo to pick up the spicy pork, brown rice bibimbap with egg, and sushi rolls with egg cake and avocado that he'd pre-ordered by phone, and then he met me at the liquor store. Sadly, they had no lychee liqueur, but I made do with some Grey Goose vodka, a splash of dry vermouth, a generous dose of the liquid from the canned lychees I was using, and three actual lychees. Lychee martini + brown rice bibimbap + conversation with the family = LOVELY. Hm, I wonder if it'd be a bad thing to go make another martini right now...?

I think we all ate separately, but we still got lots of family time in. While Al was changing out of his work clothes upstairs, I started unloading the dishwasher. The Beaner came over to see what I was doing, so I decided to try an experiment. "Do you want to help me unload the dishwasher?" I asked. "Yes!" said The Beaner. "OK, then, can you find all the plastic bowls and stack them together?" And he did. Just like that, he picked out only the four plastic bowls, stacked them, and handed them to me. He then reached for a porcelain bowl, tugged it out, and handed it over with a "here ya go, Mommy!" At first I thought, "oh no, what if he breaks something?" And then I thought, "who cares? He's obviously enjoying himself, and I really do want him to feel useful around the house—and to get used to helping." We ended up unloading the entire dishwasher together, with The Beaner handing me every glass, bowl, cup, lid, and utensil. Makes me smile just thinking of how well he did the job, and how proud he was when we were finished.

After getting something to eat, The Beaner voted to go out in the car again. I proposed that we go out to see some Christmas lights (which I prefer to do by bicycle, but The Beaner wasn't into that; I talked up the idea, though, so he'll be more excited about it next time). We drove up Kelly Drive toward Manayunk, and then into Manayunk itself. Sadly, we didn't get to see any real houses decorated for the holidays, but Manayunk's downtown was decorated nicely (I wonder if they got the balls that used to hang in Rittenhouse Square off of freecycle? ;). The Beaner requested "milk!" halfway up Kelly Drive, so we went in search of a Starbucks. We found one on the main drag, and I took him in to buy a vanilla milk (plus a latte for myself). It was a beautifully crisp, cold winter night, and the cozy coffee shop and the twinkling lights made me want to sing Sleigh Ride for the 100th time.

Al drove for the return trip, and he crossed Falls Bridge to get to West River Drive. I'd never been on that road before; I imagine as a commuter one would feel the urge to drive as fast as possible around its curves, but as someone who was in the mood to drive at a sleigh's pace, the 35mph speed limit seemed too fast. There was no one behind us, so I asked Al to slow down to 25. He did, and it was magical. Not quite as slow as a bike ride, but similar—and when the lights of Boathouse Row came into view, I forgot my earlier lament that we'd seen no houses dressed for Christmas.


So, were those three nights boring? Probably, to anyone who didn't experience them with us. But they're exactly the kind of December nights I could have over and over again, and feel like I was in a feel-good movie from the 1940s. Cocktails and sleigh rides in the stroller, anyone?

Posted by Lori in parenthood and philadelphia at 1:44 PM on December 12, 2006


How lovely!

Posted by: ratphooey [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2006 3:07 PM

They sound perfect to me. We had a good night Monday when we went to Aqua (7th and Chestnut) after work. Add it to your kid-friendly list if you haven't already. Our dining-out experiences (which are pretty rare of late) have been made or broken by the mood of our toddler.

I will have to investigate these lychee martinis. I had a pomegranate one recently, which was delicious.

Posted by: juliloquy at December 13, 2006 9:44 AM

Sounds like magic.

Posted by: Vanda at December 13, 2006 5:29 PM

hi Lori
We have a lot of decorated houses in our neighborhood and last week I drove the girls in search of homes with not a foot of space left. I've been wanting to do an evening walk too to browse at 2 mph. Maybe we'll try to before it's over.

hmm, I don't have any vodka but maybe a lychee boba drink would suffice tonite :)
happy holidays if I don't write you again this year!


Posted by: evange at December 15, 2006 5:57 PM

I think all three sound grand. The little things are what make it all special.

I love the dishwasher unloading scene. I've done the same thing before when my son has tried first a flash of worry (will he break something?), and then a realization that he has to learn sometime and it may just be fun. And it usually is!

Posted by: lori at December 17, 2006 2:08 PM

The Gymboree sale rack is the best! I found a pair of shorts on the one in Burlingame for $.99 a few weeks ago and with the extra 20% off they were only $.79.

Posted by: heidivoltmer [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2006 12:56 PM

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