Bits of Life

It’s Friday. That means I don’t go to work. Instead, Julian takes the bus to school, and I wash 5 to 7 loads of (industrial size washing machine type) laundry. Then I take Arthur to speech and OT, and this afternoon he has a play date. It’s a full day, but I also like this day with him.

He’s not the easiest person to be around these days. He is really angry and sad and will hit, cry, scream, kick and shove on any given day. But when he is done with his rage, he is just sad and apologetic. The other day, after a fit of rage, we had a bit of a breakthrough moment. In tears Arthur said things like “I’m so dumb. I make so many mistakes all the time.” It was really hard to hear, but I was glad that he could articulate a bit of what he feels. I think it must be tough being Arthur. He is the youngest, the slowest, the smallest (not for long I’m sure). His (very mature) big brother is his idol. Arthur is afraid of the dark, of being alone in his room, and he hates being last. Yet he is usually last.

I’m trying to wrap him in kindness and love. He loves back scratches, and just like my grandmother used to do to me, I scratch his back for as long as he wants me to. I try to hug him instead of yelling at him. But it is frustrating. It’s hard to see your one kid kick his brother (it goes the other way around, too).

Yesterday Julian had a friend over, and Arthur was over-the-top excited. So much so that he was too loud, too eager, too wild almost all of the time. By the end of the day I just wanted red wine and dumb TV.

BUT. But there’s also lots of beauty. So I will leave you with 10 fun things:

  1. Last weekend we went ice skating (for the first time ever) with Julian’s 1st grade.IMG_8137
  2. Julian’s been having lots of fun play dates, and I’m so happy he is making friends with lovely kids. His teachers told me that he is often a source of peace and calm for his class, which I think is wonderful. This was our disco dance party last night. Less peace and calm there. IMG_8315
  3. Arthur was in his first theater performance as the wolf in the Three Little Pigs! He did awesome, and I am so proud. Here is my kid who gets speech therapy three times a week, standing in front of a bunch of parents, teachers, and siblings, and no nerves at all! And that bow at the end! 

  4.  We went out to dinner this week celebrating our first “Country of the Month:” India. Yummy food!
  5. Jeff and I went to see Glen Hansard in concert, and on Saturday we’re seeing Jason Isbell. I love all three (including Jeff)!
  6. We get to spend more time with Jeff every day!
  7. Arthur is really into helping me in the kitchen and also smoothies. Both are good things!IMG_8117
  8. I started working out again after a long hiatus.
  9. I dreamed about my grandmother last night, and I felt so close to her when I woke up.
  10. Ghostbusters. Always ghostbusters.IMG_8174

The Struggle is Real

How to start? What to say?

When anyone asks me how we’re doing, I respond, “Oh, we’re great. Just fine.” Which is true. We’re fine. There is so much joy, and overall I feel like we’re some of the most fortunate people around.

But there is also some struggle, and lots of worries. Jeff’s Dad passed away on November 30th. Ten days later, and two weeks before Christmas, Jeff lost his job. It was a bit of a shock to our system, and I think it took us a month to start digesting, and now we’re still digesting. It is what it is, as I always say, and that’s true. We’re fine, we’re healthy, the kids are doing well, but Jeff still has nightmares – and of course we both worry a bit.

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While the Holidays were delightful and sort of a break from real life, I think the cold temperatures caught up with us in the end. The boys have been fighting more with each other and sort of bouncing off the walls (of our small Brooklyn apartment). My patience has been a wee bit stretched (this would be a euphemism), which ultimately just leads to me feeling inadequate and sort of rotten.

Also, we’ve been in a bit of a honeymoon phase with our children where we had no major things to worry about. Arthur works hard at speech, Julian excels in school. Arthur is taking a theater class that he loves, and we are all so excited for his performance next week. In fact, Julian said he would skip soccer practice so he won’t miss out on Arthur’s play. On the other hand, our days are packed with therapy sessions and running back and forth. Arthur has to work really hard. He’s made tremendous progress, but this is not easy for him. Just imagine you had to work so hard at something that just comes naturally to everyone else, and it is something as essential as being understood by others. He is very aware of the fact that this is work (not fun!), and it’s difficult to keep him motivated at times. So of course I worry, but I believe we are doing our best, and that is literally the best we can do. Arthur keeps us going with his free spirit, hilarious jokes, and midnight cuddles. How I ever got so lucky to be able to raise such a special creature – I don’t know.

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Julian, in the midst of a successful year in first grade, has been surrounded by (but thankfully not directly exposed to) some behavior from other kids I don’t love – and it just opens up a whole new realm of concern. You know how they say “Big Kid Big Worries?” (Is that actually a saying? Also, parents of teenagers feel free to laugh at me, it’s fine.) It’s definitely true. Jeff and I always say, we can’t just wing it anymore! These are real issues and Julian will remember stuff that’s happening, and potentially everything we do or don’t do will shape him into the man he will become. Sort of stressful, no? That said, he is a true delight. He is at the top of his class, an avid reader, story-teller and math wizard, subway lover, patient big brother and truly lovely son. I guess the pressure’s on us to keep it that way.

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So overall, we are fine. I enjoy my work, life is going its course. Right now there a few speed bumps along the way that are making us hit the brakes every now and then, but we’re still going strong.

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Bring it, 2018

Well, this Christmas break we did a whole lot of NOTHING!

And guess what? It was amazing. For a week straight we laid around, read books, played Gameboy and Atari, played cards and board games, and watched movies.

The boys had their sleepover at Uncle Brian and Aunt Katherine’s place, and they loved it. First sleepover for both. Of course they got to watch TV until 11pm, and when the tacos that Brian had ordered were too spicy, he ordered pizza. And then for breakfast he ordered french toast. So naturally, they didn’t want to come home.

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Jeff and I, however, enjoyed having our place to ourselves. We went on a lovely dinner date and woke up the next morning hearing imaginary little feet on our hardwood floor stomping their way into our bedroom, but there were no such little feet in our apartment. What bliss! There was coffee in bed instead.

This was Julian on the way home from his first sleepover. He was exhausted!

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The next day Julian had a sleepover at his friend Henry’s place. From that, too, my son did not want to return to his home. He stayed for almost 24 hours, which included his favorite dinner (pesto pasta), spaghetti ice cream, Star Wars, audio books, and lots of cuddles.

To soften the blow for our “only child” Arthur that night, we ordered hamburgers and hot dogs and watched the Star Wars episode of his choice (Episode 1 – we must truly love this boy). When I tucked him in that night and cuddled with him for a while, he whispered, “Mama, I don’t know if I am brave enough to sleep alone in my room.” In that moment it occurred to me that my 4 1/2 year old son has never ever spent a night alone in his whole life. Turns out he was brave enough, and tired enough, to sleep a full 12 hours.

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We rang in the new year the only way we know how: with party hats and homemade pizza.

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The boys made it until 10:45pm, at which point our party looked like this:

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And now it is back to school. For one day, that is, as it was just announced that schools are closed tomorrow because of an impending snow storm. These lucky kids. Truthfully though I might be the most excited of us all: I can’t wait to go sledding!

As for the New Year?

Our New Year’s resolution last year was to see more live music, and I think we did:

  • The Decemberists
  • Father John Misty
  • Jason Isbell
  • Aimee Mann
  • Conner Oberst
  • Roger Waters
  • The Shins
  • Alison Krauss
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Joep Beving

We don’t have any huge resolutions for this year. On the top of my list is to stop yelling. Completely. Julian wants to become a better listener, and Arthur wants to stop biting his nails. Jeff is obviously already perfect the way he is. As for our family, we are embarking on a new project: It’s called “Country of the Month.” In this new adventure we will pick one country per month (the boys have the choice). We will learn about the customs, food, and culture. At the end of the month we go out to a restaurant to enjoy the cuisine of said country. First on the list is India. Next up: Brazil. I’m pretty stoked!

New Year’s Day we had our lovely friends over. We had brunch together; the kids played.

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Then we put on a movie for them and sat talking on the couch for hours. It was so relaxing and so lovely. What a great way to start the new year!

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Bring it, 2018. We were not sad to see 2017 go. We had lots of good times and made some very happy memories, but overall – for this country and the world – it was a very bitter, depressing year, and for us as a family it ended on a sad note. Onward!

Christmas 2017

We started off Christmas break with watching the new Star Wars movie together. Honestly, for the kids the scariest part were the previews. The movie itself was great, and we were all so excited!

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We spent the weekend being cozy inside. Lots of playing, cookie-eating and movie watching.

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On Christmas Eve, we went to see Santa! We go to Macy’s every year (Santa 2014Santa 2015, Santa 2016). This year’s Santa was kind of fierce and gave both boys the “Santa stare.” But for whatever reason they *believed* he was real. In fact, Arthur has been outraged this year, telling everyone who wants to listen that there are people out there in the world who don’t believe in Santa! They think the parents give all the presents! These people must be nuts!

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After Santa time we had lunch together and checked out the train show at Grand Central.

That night we had a lovely dinner at home and got ready for Santa.

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And imagine this! He came! The boys were stoked. He brought them the Rescue Bots station and Rescue Bots they had asked for.

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Mama and Papa gave a few new games, books, and Ghostbuster utility belts.

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Jeff and I gifted each other things from the 70s and 80s…this Springsteen poster, an Atari game console, a Gameboy (my childhood dream come true!) and a couple of (contemporary guitar pedals). We were all so happy and spoiled!

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We had breakfast at home and then packed our bags to head to New Jersey to spend the day with family. When Jeff called the garage to let them know he was coming to pick up our Zipcar (the ONLY one available on Christmas Day in NYC), he was informed that the car had a flat tire. So our collective mood plummeted. The boys were in tears. They really wanted to see their cousins.

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Jeff was in an even worse mood and became increasingly stubborn and refused to consider alternative ways to get to New Jersey. So I made a decision and made him change direction, and we made it work. So off we went on the Subway, the PATH, and New Jersey Transit. We played cards, napped, and listened to music. Our brother-in-law picked us up in Trenton, and in the end all was well.

We were together.

Later that night we exchanged gifts and sang karaoke. I mean…Endless Love forever, right? I’m not embarrassed.

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Yesterday we were happy to come back home and continue playing with all of our new toys.

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I look forward to a week at home with my guys. We don’t have any big plans, but the boys were invited to a sleepover at Uncle Brian’s house tonight! They are super excited.

So thankful for everything we have this Christmas.

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For kicks, Christmas 2014Christmas 2015 and Christmas 2016.

 

More Time

In case you’re feeling anything like us these days (tired, lacking patience, frustrated, generally bummed and also freezing), I thought I’d offer a few things that make me happy. For starters, this guy:

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Arthur and his Santa hat! He’s pretty committed to the hat this year, much to the delight of all the kids in his school as well as random passersby. And us, of course.

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Julian’s school photos. I mean! That kid. He has the most gorgeous smile, but he is absolutely incapable of smiling on command.

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Cookies! They make everyone feel better, right?

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Glühwein. Same as above. But no pictures, because we were busy trying not to let the kids spill our Glühwein.

Also: friends. I’m so thankful for our friends and family. The boys have been going on playdates, birthday parties, and we’ve hosted some friends at our place as well. Drop off dates are more frequent now, leaving Jeff and me with good chunks of time to ourselves on the weekends. This is the future, perhaps?

Also, can I just talk about time for a second here? I just wish I had more. My biggest struggle is getting places on time. I know many people anticipate the end of summer when the kids return to school and everything becomes more scheduled and predictable, but man, I miss those days so much. I love lazy days, hanging out at the playground or going on adventures with my boys. The drag of getting them out of bed, eating breakfast before the sun has even risen, and schlepping off to school in these frigid temperatures – just not my cup of tea. But that is life. Also, can we talk about how s.l.o.w. children walk once there is snow on the ground?!

This week marked three months since I’ve returned to work. My husband sent me flowers!

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But yes, we’re still adjusting. I love the work and my team, but the amount of tired I feel at night cannot be underestimated. It’s totally worth it though, because overall we’re all thriving, and I’m so happy that I have found this new, unexpected outlet that I didn’t even think I needed.

Meanwhile, these boys have high hopes for Christmas. Their letter is on the way…”We were good!” I’ll have to take their word for it.

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Snowy Day Thoughts

A month has passed since I last wrote. So much has happened, and it is hard to know where to pick up again.

We lost Jeff’s Dad to complications related to his cancer treatment last week, and it threw us all for a loop. We’ve all been so sad; it’s been all around difficult. Explaining to the children, comforting my husband, and whenever I think about my mother-in-law my heart just aches. They were married for 49 years. Lenny was such a big piece of this family’s puzzle; it is hard to imagine anything without him. Jeff wrote a beautiful obituary about his father; I’ve read it a dozen times, and it brings tears to my eyes every time.

But of course, life goes on. Julian was in a school performance this week; we were so proud.

He was so serious about it all; quite super duper heart-warming.

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Jeff and I went to a performance of another kind last month: Springsteen on Broadway. Mind blown. I mean, I’ve seen Bruce close to 20 times in my life, but never have I ever heard his voice so clearly and in such a small space. It was really wonderful; the acoustics (and the man) were amazing.

Other than that, we’ve been just doing our life. Work, school. We finally got our tree. Nikolaus came and brought the boys the much desired Rescue Bots and a decent amount of chocolate. The boys have their advent calendars and are excited to get up each morning. December is a good month.

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This weekend, we have one of Jeff’s old friends visiting: Inken, from Amsterdam. Naturally, we took her on a bike ride on our Dutch bikes. Of course, we also got this year’s first snow.

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We let the boys run around for bit…

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…before sitting down with massive jugs of hot cocoa. (Not pictured: Bloody Marys, tacos, guacamole)

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Last night we made pizza, a pretty regular occurrence in our house. But in this season in particular I feel so thankful for our home, our friends, our family, and for those three people sitting at my dining room table.

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Winter is Coming

Just kidding. It’s here.

The weather is changing, and we’ve been laying low. Gone are the days of endless bike rides and picnics. And for now, I am fine with that. These are the days of chess and reading, apple cider and muffins, meatloaf and red wine. I quickly moved onto food stuff there.

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The boys and I have been watching the 1955 movie “Sissi” with Romy Schneider. I thought they would get bored pretty much right away, but instead, they are captivated. The romance and love and humor is not lost on them. Last night, on the couch, Julian said, “Mama, ich bin so verliebt in dich.” Sissi is working. If you’re not German or Austrian, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. Moving on. (Also: naps.)

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On Friday we had the annual St. Martin lantern walk with Arthur’s pre-school. They changed location last minute, so instead of walking along the gorgeous Brooklyn Heights Promenade, we found ourselves stumbling through a pitch black Prospect Park. Winter had suddenly arrived, and everyone was freezing. We took the boys out for pizza promptly thereafter. I mean, look at these faces.

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On Saturday night we drove to Asbury Park, NJ and spent the night celebrating my brother-in-law’s birthday at this incredible pinball arcade. It was fantastic!

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Last weekend the boys rode their own bikes all the way to Red Hood. It was a big deal! We had lunch at Brooklyn Crab, and then they rode back. It was getting late, and cold, and all in all they rode a good 5 miles. I was so impressed! Jeff’s bike looks so empty without those extra 90 pounds on the back.

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We’re trying to settle into more indoor time – which sometimes leads to endless bickering between the boys. But also to sweet moments, laziness, lots of reading, and dancing in the kitchen.

Last night Julian and I danced to Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wish” in our kitchen, which is very apropos if you know the song. He held my hand just the right way and twirled me around, even though I had to bend down a lot. I hope he’ll want to dance with me for many years to come. (Tomorrow night Jeff and I will be seeing Bruce on Broadway. I’m soooo excited!)

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On Arthur

We’ve had kind of an exhausting week. Our refrigerator and freezer died earlier this week, and we were without either for two days. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when all your food has to be thrown out, you stay home from work and wait for three hours, delivery guys show up and say, “The new fridge has a huge dent in the door.” and you have to wait for hours again the next day… Meanwhile your kitchen is in shambles, your children are eating dried fruit, and the floors are grimy from all the work boots and water leaking.

Anyway. As I’m hauling bags of fresh fruit up the stairs, I stopped to chat to our neighbor. Arthur started walking up our walk-up, stopped, regarded the decade old wallpaper and said, “Our house is really beautiful. It really has everything we need.” It just made my heart grow by a million.

Last night Jeff and I went to a concert and left the boys with their favorite babysitter. They always look forward to seeing her, but last night Julian was in a mood and didn’t want us to leave. He cried for a minute. As I waved and closed the door behind us, I saw Arthur lean in for a hug as he asked his big brother, “Are you going to be ok?”

That is the essence of Arthur. He is the most thoughtful person I know. And he is full of compliments, always. “Mama, I love your outfit.” “Mama, nice dress!” “Mama, your hair looks nice today.” He is really, really kind. He’s very loving and giving.

He also still wakes us up everygoddamn night. I mean, at this point Jeff and I place a bet as we go to bed, and whoever guesses the approximate time of Arthur’s nightly nonsensical disturbance, wins. But really we all lose. Sleep, mostly.

Arthur has a lot going on. He is in school all day every day except for Fridays. In addition, he has speech therapy three days a week and occupational therapy once a week. Our lives right now are very according to schedule.

In school Arthur has been acting up. He’s defiant, talks back, interrupts class, doesn’t listen to his teachers. One of his speech teachers, a very knowledgeable, smart woman, pointed out to me yesterday how much he has going on and on how many levels he struggles. It’s sometimes easy to forget how hard he works every day. He works to be understood, to process the world around him – things that come naturally to most of us. So I think it’s only natural that he is trying to push any and all boundaries right now.

At home Arthur is pretty much himself, with a tiny amount of defiance stirred into the mix. But mostly he’s just our sweet, very witty boy. He has the best sense of humor. He sees things that other people don’t. He picks up on the tiniest details, is intuitive, and very clever. He cracks jokes like nobody’s business.

I adore this boy so completely. In between packing dried mango and apple sauce into lunch boxes this week (because no fridge), Halloween, hustling to and from work, appointments, hair cuts, therapy, flu shots, whatnot, I tried to be present all around. Arthur deserves someone who skips with him down the sidewalk. Someone who stops to admire a “face” imprinted in tree bark. Someone who waits while he pets our neighbor’s cat. Someone who agrees to be the Robin to his Batman. Luckily, this boy has three of those people. And we have him.

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Our First Halloween Party!

One morning when we woke up in Vienna, the boys presented me with an idea they’d dreamed up the night before, while chatting with each other in bed before they fell asleep. The plan was to host a Halloween party at our apartment for their friends, and our apartment was to be called “Spook Central.”

So we made it happen. It started out small with just a couple of friends but then slightly grew into what was a nice crowd of 10 very sweet kids. We decorated all week, drawing signs, coloring on windows, hanging spooky spiders, carving pumpkins.

The boys were ready!

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They’ve been so into Ghostbusters; the costume choice was a no-brainer. Even I humored them:

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(It gets really hot under there.)

Once the kids arrived, there were treats.

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Then the kids played. We did Twister and Freeze Dance and just lots of ghost-busting and running around. Everyone got along so well.

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A couple of parents stuck around to drink wine with us while the kids played. Most kids were dropped off, which is seriously such a game changer. It’s one thing to host 10 kids, but another to fit another 10 to 15 adults into our apartment. This was a nice crowd.

For dinner we served mac & cheese, and Jeff made two pizzas.

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It was a seriously fun time, and my boys were so happy when they fell into bed last night. We might have to make this an annual tradition! So thankful for good friends.

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Weekend Vibes

This weekend felt like we were back in our old, comfortable, enjoyable groove. We had a good mix of downtime: playing legos, doing artwork, reading, school projects. The weather has been just perfect, and as anyone who’s ever experienced a NYC winter would agree, I think we all appreciate these gorgeous, sunny early fall days.

On Saturday we got on the bikes and headed to Central Park. It was a beautiful ride. We had lunch at the Ballfield Cafe. (I tried to take a panorama picture and caught Julian eating a ghost dog…)

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The we laid low on Sheeps Meadow.

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Uncle Brian met us, and we played soccer and ate ice cream.

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That night Jeff and I went on a dinner date here in our neighborhood.

Sunday we started out with coffee and waffles. Then I went to Trader Joe’s – something that prior to working again I would have never attempted on the weekend. But now that we have a new normal, it’s actually not so bad. I felt very accomplished afterwards, and my bike helped carry home my load.

Then we headed out for a pizza lunch at Fornino’s at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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The boys played at Pier 6 while Jeff and I bummed around…

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Then we went to Farmacy for ice cream. Espresso-infused milkshakes for the grown-ups.

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We rode our bikes around the neighborhoods and admired all the spooky houses. The boys are so excited for Halloween – including a little Halloween party they are planning for their best friends. I love their excitement; it makes everything more fun.