Connect. What does it mean to really connect with someone? I’ve been thinking about this a lot during the last few weeks.

Over the summer I thought the best way to connect with my kids was to have lots of time together. Time where we could just be together. There were several weeks in the summer where they had no camp.

Well, not only did I get behind with work, but my 6 and 7-year-old boys were tearing the house apart. They needed to run around and be outside and have a great summer.

The lesson I learned there was that quality time is just that, quality time. We can have quality time during the hours after camp has ended, the camp that was reasonably priced and that they loved. It doesn’t have to be all day long, for a week, just the three of us.

You’d think I’d learn, but not so. When school started I was determined to be more involved in their school because I thought that’s what a good mom should do.

So I volunteered to be room mom. But I’m also on a couple of school committees. And I’m team mom for soccer. As a result, I’ve been trying to keep my head above water. One day I was talking to my younger son’s kindergarten teacher just as school ended. I looked around and I couldn’t find my kindergartner. I went to my older son’s class and the younger one wasn’t there. I walked back to the kindergarten class, inside the class, in the back yard. I looked everywhere and I couldn’t find him.

Finally, he found me. He’d walked to the front of the school, hung out a while and came back. The scariest part is that I couldn’t remember seeing him come out of class. I was so focused on talking to his teacher or talking to the other parents that I lost sight of him literally and also why I was volunteering in the first place.

Since that day, I’ve tried to focus on just my kids when school is out and try to be genuinely connected with them instead of doing what I think should be doing to be a good mom.

This post was inspired by a bi-weekly blog prompt called #HalbaTalk through Latina Bloggers Connect. 

Mickey Mouse, Trains, and My Mini Me

I didn’t tell my 4-year-old much about what we were doing on Wednesday, just that it was special and he didn’t have to go to preschool.

He told his brother several times about how he was going on an adventure with Mommy while my oldest was going to kindergarten. Not one to be one-upped, the 5-year-old replied, “Yeah, well I get to learn more.”

On our long drive (because I went the wrong way on one of the three freeways) to Travel Town I talked to my son about how we were invited to hang out with Mickey Mouse and see his new show about trains. We’ll even get to ride on a train, I said. He looked animated and excited.

That was until we got there and we actually saw Mickey Mouse, a gaggle of PR people, video cameras, and a bunch of preschoolers and their moms. He grabbed onto my pant leg and wouldn’t let go.

One of the PR people asked the kids if they wanted to run to Mickey, who had just stepped off of an antique train. My son looked at me like I’d just asked him to eat a vegetable and shook his head, “Noooo,” he said.

Mickey led us to an area with a small stage lined with toys that they were giving to Toys for Tots. The music started and Mickey beckoned us to dance – mom’s and kids.

You’ve got to be kidding me? I thought. I looked down at my son and thought I should at least try to get him to participate. I asked him if he would dance with me and he buried his head in my leg. We sat down outside of the group.

I’m not a stage mom, but I secretly hoped he’d be caught on film, spotted by an agent and asked to appear in one movie that would pay for college or at least his last year of preschool.

But he’s just like me. He has my hair, my asthma, and my reticence. Why would I expect him to get up and dance in front of a group of people he didn’t know (with cameras rolling) when there’s no way in hell I would do that myself. I’m a sit-in-the-back-of-the-class, don’t-talk-unless-I’m-called-upon kind of person and I think my little guy is the same way.

I’ve struggled between being myself and being the kind of parent I feel I should be. The kind who volunteers for everything and chats up other moms when really all I want to do is put on my headphones and listen to NPR podcasts.

I don’t want to push him into being someone he’s not, but I do want him to try new things.

After dancing, storytime, and playing with toy trains the kids went to watch Mickey Mouse Club House Choo Choo Express. My son loved it. After I coerced him into having his picture taken with Mickey (and me) it was time to go.

Just when I was starting to feel really bad about taking him out of preschool to hang on to my leg and watch T.V., he said, “That was so much fun!!!”

Yes, he’s definitely my son. You may not have known it by looking at him, but he had just as good of a time as the kids dancing in the front row. He just had it from 10 feet away.

Butternut Squash, Carmelized Pears, And One Unhappy 4-year-old

I felt so guilty about not cooking for the family last week, (I did give my mom helpful direction when I was sick/recovering from dental surgery, but being annoying doesn’t count as actual cooking) that I prepared a huge meal tonight.

I had the 4-year-old put on his apron and help empty the seeds out of the butternut squash that I then roasted with olive oil, butter, and salt and pepper. Once that was in the oven, I cooked salmon and mashed potatoes for the husband and I, and pasta and chicken for the boys. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m one of those parents I swore I would never be and I cook two meals – a bland one for the kids and something I hope is slightly more interesting for the adults.

The dessert was for everyone and the 5-year was delighted to help because it involved sugar. I took Bosc pears and cut them in half and had the boys rub butter on the inside. Then they smeared a little brown sugar on the pear and I sprinkled a touch of cinnamon. I popped them in the oven with the squash and it made the house smell like Fall. The whole thing took forever and the pears started to get dry but were still hard. I poured a little apple juice on the pears (thank you Giada De Laurentiis and the Food Network website) and they came out perfect.

The squash was the best part of the meal, but the boys said repeatedly, “Noooooo. I’m not eating that.” I even offered them a quarter just to try it. They are long past falling for that trick so I took the squash (that already had olive oil and butter) and sautéed it with more olive oil, garlic, and spinach and it was amazing!!

I served the pears warm with ice cream and was able to get one of the boys to eat them. I kept telling the 4-year-old that it’s a pear, one of his favorites, with sugar, his favorite thing in the whole world. He put his hand over his mouth and mumbled, “I just want ice cream.”

This week I’m going to try cooking only one family meal and the kids will have to eat it…right? Or they’ll throw a fit, cry, and tell me they’re starving, but can’t possibly eat my dinner. We’ll see how it goes.