z-o-o

Picture me taking all three kids to the zoo, by myself, without a stroller. I don’t even like zoos, but my kids do. Amelia was hoping to come here at least six times this visit. I’m hoping that she will settle for two. We had to come. After all, she could spell z-o-o before her own name.

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Dear Mr. Charles

Dear Mr. Charles,

We first came into your Chinatown restaurant ten years ago. Immediately, we noticed how your food tasted more fresh. When we left, we felt satisfied, not overly salted. I remember how your menu said, “Stop smoking, we love you.”  For ten years, we loved you too.

We found countless reasons to visit your restaurant. From the everyday meal to special occasions, we came to you. When family or friends came to visit, we took them to Charles Plaza, no question. If one of us was sick, we came and ordered your soup. Some of our friends became regulars and we have visited your restaurant every single time we have returned to Philly…and sometimes we came two or three times during a visit.

Tonight, our second night of this visit, we came to see you. We already had our order in mind. And we were so excited to introduce you to our three-month old. But your doors were closed. This happened one other time we visited Chinatown. That time, your locked door led us to try another Chinese restaurant. It was the only time we bothered to go any where else in Chinatown. I’m sure you had some nice neighbors, but you were the only place for us.

We brought our first two babies to your restaurant within 24-hours of being born. I know that this probably appalled you, but there was nothing else that I wanted to eat en route to home.  You didn’t even ask me for my order, you told me that you knew just what to make. And you were right.

Our babies’ first food out came from your kitchen: the soft fillings of your vegetarian steamed dumplings. Your wife taught my husband how to roll his Chinese pancakes. Fa continued to ask my now seven-year-old what a dog says. (The 7-year old always replied with a panting sound rather than a bark.) And Fa always whispered in my ear that she loved us so. You and your wife hugged us as we arrived and again when we left. We met your children and you gave us updates on their success. You worked long hours, each day. You worked exceptionally hard.

I had to walk back to your restaurant a second time tonight, and make sure I had read the sign correctly. You are closed not just for tonight, but forever. Your building is for sale. You closed a month ago. We did not know.

Your restaurant was more than a place to get a meal from a man we could trust. Your restaurant was a bit of home for us. I am going to write this out by hand and put in an envelope and mail it to your place. I do hope you know how much we value you.

Thank you, Mr. Charles. You and your beloved Charles Plaza will always have a piece of our hearts.

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bike race day (on a Sunday)

It is bike race day!

We made it into Philly around 2am but we were up this morning and on to the train to get down to the bike race. Three kids, our one and only stroller, five of us now, all wearing bike shirts.
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I have been feeling nostalgic today.
Ten years ago, on this very day, Ryan and I were driving a rental car into the city.
We heard bike race updates on the radio and saw the helicopter following the race from the sky.
We showed up on the porch of a green house on Lombard to meet the roomies we met on Craigslist. (And luckily for us, they turned out to be perfect!)

Nine years ago this month, we bought our house here.
Five years ago this month, we moved to Grand Rapids.
It’s hard to wrap my mind around the idea that we have now lived in GR just as long as we lived in Philly.
It has been a gift in many ways, but not one that has been all that easy to wrap or to accept.
And still, I miss this place and these people so much.

We wandered the bike race route today and it was lovely. The kids put in over ten miles of walking. I ended up carrying this guy for most of those ten miles, as our stroller broke around mile three. (yes the one and only stroller we’ve used for over seven years now!)

sporting bike love!

sporting bike love!

I am thinking of all that has happened in ten years…and my mind goes faster than the bikes as they whirl by.
And I feel very lucky that our lives have brought us right back here today.

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Bouncing off the Walls

Have children, will travel.

This tends to be our approach. Today, our travels are going a bit more slowly than usual. The littlest one gets hungry often and wants to stop for bathroom breaks too. So while I nurse, these lovely three have found a big brick wall and some large bouncy balls. There is adventure everywhere, you just have to know how to make it.

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Philadelphia, we will get to you, eventually.