Mexico, Round Two

Mexico. What can I say?

We came back to Brooklyn and were hit immediately by a snow storm. So this has been us, mostly, for the past week:

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But in our minds, we are all still here:

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We had the best time. We tried a different hotel this time, about two doors down from where we stayed last year. Our hut was one of the ones in the back; you could see the ocean from our porch and hear the waves at night. And we could send the boys outside to play – a luxury we don’t normally have.

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We sat on our porch a bit, sipping wine, and talking when the kids slept at night. Or in between our beach adventures and going out to dinner at night.

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If you were to ask me how many tacos we consumed, I couldn’t tell you. Probably 50? We always started our day with breakfast at the hotel, usually fruit and yogurt and pancakes. And a huge chocolate milk for the boys. They drew so much during this vacation, and Julian has become a very confident if not correct speller, so that has made for some pretty hilarious artwork.

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We also played lots of Uno.

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After breakfast we chose a beach and spent the day bumming around, drinking beer, and playing in the waves. Also, I plowed through this book during vacation; I could not put it down.

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I worked on a really awkward suntan.

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One morning we checked out one of the Cenotes. It was cool! But the boys were intimidated, and it took us an hour to get them to come into the water – which was pretty cold. But they did it, and Julian actually ventured forth into the caves with Papa. We saw fish and turtles and were really hungry for tacos afterwards.

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In our hotel we met a friendly lizard. Just kidding, he was terrified of the boys, of course. But they were excited to meet him. The first time we saw him, Arthur ran inside to grab his toy lizard, his most beloved possession, and the boys followed the lizard around. Julian was convinced that the real lizard would eventually accept the toy lizard as his baby. (Spoiler alert: he did not.)

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We were not ready to come home, but we had to.

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Julian was sad about having missed math at school, and science, and we all know no amount of tacos and ice cream can make up for missing math. Not even if you add them all up. Until next time, Mexico!

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Central Park & Coney Island

Somehow, after a week of feeling sick, we were blessed with exactly what I needed: a lovely, warm, sunny NYC weekend. In February. I think every winter we get one or two of these days, just to tell us, “Don’t give up! Spring is coming.”

On Saturday we took the train up to Central Park. As always, for the boys “it’s not the destination, it’s the ride.”

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The boys got to ride their scooters, and we spent the day wandering around the park and trying to run into as few people as possible.

We stopped at a playground for a long time and hung out by the boat pond over sandwiches, beers, and rounds of Spot It. Also, my boys are natural “fake” smilers. (Arthur looks like he has a side tooth of some sort, but he just has a mouth full of goldfish.)

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Oh, Jeff Bridges was there, too.

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The boys played and climbed. Helmets came in handy.

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We looked for ice cream, but it was impossible to find in February. Someone didn’t get the memo. So we had Shake Shack milk shakes, and some of us passed out on the ride home.

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On Sunday the fun continued. It was another spring-like day, so we headed to our favorite place on earth: Coney Island. We started off with a couple of beers on the boardwalk and chatted with the a couple of local guys. Oldies were playing from the stereo, one of the guys was singing along loudly, and everyone was just so happy to be there. It was one of my favorite parts of a really perfect day. Also, these guys.

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Then we wandered around the boardwalk and took the boys to a magic show. They were kind of unfazed throughout the show, but afterwards wouldn’t stop performing little magic tricks for us. Except, when one of the magicians performed a trick, he wrote the word “special” on one of the cards in the deck. So naturally, Arthur kept saying things like, “Do you want to see another special? I have a good special for you!”

Here is a sequence of events where I did a magic trick for the boys, Julian broke into tears because he couldn’t figure it out, I tickled him happy, and then we walked together, after I’d revealed my “secret” to him. This is so Julian. He just needed to know. He can’t stand it when he can’t figure stuff out on his own. It drives him crazy.

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Of course, there were hot dogs.

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We spent a lot of time on the beach. Jeff took a bunch of wonderful pictures that captured our day together.

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A Proper Snow Day

What’s the best part about a snow day? Obviously getting kids dressed in weather-proof clothing.

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Obviously I’m kidding.

The best part about our snow day was a slow morning and then snow fun in the afternoon. After morning coffee, I made us warm oatmeal and baked peach muffins. Because food is the most important thing. Right?

The boys played for hours and watched the snow.

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Jeff headed into work, although we all wished he could have stayed home with us.

After lunch the snow wasn’t falling so hard anymore, and it was time to put on some layers!

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We built a small snow man outside. Hey! It’s Mr. Potato Eyes.

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We played for a bit.

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Then I pulled the boys for what felt like 35 miles to the nearest sledding grounds, the dog park.

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The first time I sent Julian down the hill, I basically pushed him straight into a fence. All the other parents gasped and looked at me. I just said my usual, “You’re fine. Get up!” – except in a harsh, foreign-sounding language, which is an added bonus, always. And he was fine, because they usually are.

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We went down the hill 148 times, or so I think. Julian loooooved it. Arthur loved it. But not quite as much.

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At least he still allowed me to ride down the hill with him a couple of times. Julian just looked at me as if I was mad when I asked him if we could go together.

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We had hot cocoa and graham crackers and a snowball fight.

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Then Arthur wanted to go home, and Julian wanted to continue sledding forever, so I did the only sensible thing a mama can do, which is err on the side of sledding with a side of extra loving for the kid who didn’t get his way.

The rest of the day was spent with snow day things: TV, wine, tickling, train tracks and passing out on the couch at 6pm.

P.S. Snow fun from last year and the year before!

Another Week, Another Protest

…in both small and big ways.

Let’s start with the smaller one. On Wednesday the sun was shining, so we decided to go to a playground near the boys’ schools with two of Julian’s friends in the afternoon. It was a nice, chilly afternoon, and the kids were playing tag. When Julian came over to me, looking unhappy, I thought something had happened to him. I asked him if he was ok. He replied, “I’m ok. But Arthur’s not!” I thought he had fallen, perhaps, and hurt himself. But no. The other Kindergarten boys, Julian’s school friends, were calling Arthur “a baby.”

Arthur was a little mad and a little unfazed. I just told the boys to ignore such a ridiculous comment. I mean, just look at him. Clearly not a baby, right?

Ten minutes later one of the boys called Arthur a baby again, and this time Julian didn’t think twice about it and tackled his friend to the ground. Julian was red-faced and furious. I told him to stop, that’s not the way, but inside I was feeling proud. Julian walked away from everyone and sat on a bench, and tears started running down his face. I asked him if the boys were teasing him, too. He said, “No! They are mean to Arthur.”

Julian wanted to leave, and so we did. Truthfully, Arthur was fine. Julian was the one who was hurt and angry. But as soon as we turned our backs on the playground, my boys started laughing and running, and I knew all was good. And all will be good. At least for them. They have each other.

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Now on to protests in bigger ways.

On Thursday afternoon, thousands of Yemeni business owners closed their delis and bodegas across the city to protest Trump’s immigration ban. The rally was right outside our house, so naturally we had to be there. When I picked the boys up from school, I explained to them about the protest and why we had to go to support our neighbors.

I may have explained it to them in Star Wars terms: we are the resistance, the rebels so to say, and you can all figure out who the Evil Empire is. Julian was way into it and was chanting “We are the resistance!”

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We met so many lovely people.

When everyone started praying, the boys just watched. They were fascinated. The foreign language, the singing, the movements. It sparked so many conversations and questions I was somehow ill prepared for – given that we are non-religious. What is praying? What is God? But I think I managed fine. In the end, Julian said that it was a dumb ban, and if Trump keeps saying stupid things, we should just go live elsewhere.

On Friday, Julian had a puppet show at school, and all the kids were so excited. Not as excited as all the parents, however!

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The kids were adorable. They also received their midterm “report cards.” Julian is “very ambitious, focused and precise and follows the rules well.” He should work on being more self confident. We are very proud.

Today we’re lazing around. Julian is now reading entire books, and it makes me so happy. He’ll whisper quietly to himself, and sometimes he’ll read a particularly funny part to me. He’ll read chapters to Arthur, but only behind closed doors in their room. For some reason he won’t read to me, but I’ll take what I can get. Sitting next to him, each of us reading our own books, is pretty much all I ever wanted.

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Speaking of “reading”… this guy.

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Just some Friday Night Depression

What a week, huh.

It’s really difficult for me to go about life in a “normal” way right now. What does that even mean?

After the march I felt elevated. Powerful. Motivated. But that feeling quickly made room for feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, angry, depressed. This week just crushed me with everything terrible that “that man” did. How is this our reality now? I know these questions are useless; what we need is action. And thankfully, despite my depressed sentiments, I am fortunate to be surrounded by a powerful group of women (Brooklyn moms! Don’t mess with us.) who helped me maintain focus. Calls are being made, events are being planned, unity is happening. Sometimes I truly think that it took this monster to bring us all together.

On the home front, things have also been a little…meh. The husband is sick and presumably slowly dying from what seems to be an actual cold, not a “man cold.” Is it only me who raises a suspicious eyebrow when the husband announces that he’s getting sick? I do. I doubt the severity of that sickness. In this case I admit there was a genuine need for wifely compassion, quiet children, and DayQuil. Some of those I could provide, especially the latter, because it is available in stores. As far as compassion, I made my famous “hot lemon” with … lemon and honey. It cures just about anything, in case you were unsure. As for quiet children, look elsewhere.

My children are never that. What they are, though, is this: loud, challenging, brilliant, very loving, adorable, annoying, constantly hungry, moody, Octonauts-obsessed.

Julian has been a pretty constant source of “no worries.” He excels in school, makes friends, is happy, easy-going, helpful, kind, ever so protective of his little brother. Also: stubborn. I could write pages and pages about him, his plans to run the Q subway line one day and how he will make enough money to be able to afford an apartment in both Upper Manhattan and Coney Island to allow him to rest as much as possible after work, how he is planning his May birthday party now, how deeply he both cares for and annoys his brother and plays with him every waking minute, how is math capabilities are blowing my mind, and how we never receive any correspondence from his school (other than to inform us of school projects, plays and field trips), which I have learned is a good thing.

My baby boy, my Arthur, is worrying me. So much. He is so sweet, and we just couldn’t adore him any more. No one has ever loved me more fiercely than this child. Seriously, if anyone had told me in my 20s about the sort of love that was in store for me, I would have been incredulous. But here it is, here he is, here are all these loving boys of mine.

We’re considering some new routes to help Arthur with his speech. He is so smart (not just according to me) and so talkative and open, but his peers and most adults just can’t understand him. The saddest part of it all is that he is forming no friendships, doesn’t have any kids in his class he talks about, and quite honestly has no friends other than his brother. And it breaks my heart. He is kind to everyone, never excludes anyone, and will walk up to kids and adults alike to talk to them only to be confronted with blank stares because they don’t understand. And he gets it. Arthur understands that he is not understood. So we’re trying to find more help before this struggle undermines any of his loveliness that we adore so much.

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So this mama’s heart is a bit heavy. Heavy with world woes and family woes.

Luckily, there is wine, and my guys. What would I do without them?

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Women’s March on Washington

Five days after the election, my friend Katie and I booked our train tickets (and a nice hotel, too!) to Washington DC. Basically as soon as the Women’s March on Washington was announced, we knew this was something we had to do.

I’ve never made a better decision in my life.

On Saturday morning, at 6:30am, we met at Penn Station, along with hundreds of eager, Pussy-hat wearing women.

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During the train ride, we ate pastries, talked politics, napped and marveled at not having to throw snacks at our children. It was delightful and relaxing. And we were excited. When the conductor announced Washington DC, everyone on the train erupted in cheers.

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Our plan was to drop our bags off at the hotel and then head to the march. It worked out even better than we could have ever planned it. The Metro (why is the DC Metro so clean?) was our friend, people were all around helpful (more on that later), and we made it to our hotel and to the Mall in record time.

Once we got closer to the “starting point” of the march, we realized there was no starting point. People were kind of aimlessly roaming around, shoulder to shoulder, and every now and then word would spread “You can’t walk this way. Turn around.” So hundreds of people would turn around and move into the opposite direction, slowly, inch by inch.

We finally found a good spot from which we could see a screen of the stage. We could hear the speakers and catch glimpses of their faces.

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We were surrounded by a bunch of lovely ladies. We were surprised by the number of seniors; there were so many! Women with their friends, daughters, sons, grandchildren. But also young women, men, children, everyone from every walk of life you can imagine. It was so powerful.

Chants would spread across the ocean of pink-hatted people. Chants of love, unity, a revolution. Oh, to be a part of this! I felt it. And more than anything, I felt the unity. Never in my life have I been surrounded by that many people, strangers all of them, and experienced nothing but kindness and courtesy.

Not once did I hear a harsh word or feel an elbow in my ribs. Once we started moving, there was no space. We were like sardines, moving forward or sidewards or any which way we could, inch by inch. Katie and I laughed at our notion to stick to the outskirts of the march, for safety reasons. It was funny for two reasons: there were no outskirts in sight, and we were not worried about our safety, not for a split second.

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Our sign got some good laughs, and I was blown away by everyone’s creativity and wit. Also, by the enormous number of vaginas on posters.

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Our favorite chant of the day was, “You’re orange, you’re gross, you lost the popular vote!”  Imagine thousands of people singing this.

After the march seemed over, although truthfully thousands of people were still marching in any direction in sight, Katie and I decided to head to our hotel to watch some news, refresh, eat. Oh, and beer. That first beer of the night was divine.

We had dinner at the hotel restaurant and drinks at a bar nearby. Then we crashed.

I slept like a baby, knowing no child would wake me, and I could sleep in the next morning. Of course, because that’s how I’ve been conditioned, I woke up at 6:30am. Read some news and dozed off again, and that in and of itself felt like a vacation.

We eventually rolled out of bed, showered, and headed towards a brunch spot we wanted to try, on a bus – in the wrong direction for about 15 minutes. We finally made it, ate, drank, had lots of coffee, and got ambitious again and wanted to check out a museum. Unfortunately, upon arrival, we were notified that all tickets for the day were already gone (at 1pm), so we decided to day-drink instead.

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At 3pm we looked at our watches and realized that we hadn’t paid our check, needed to run to the hotel, in the rain, to pick up our bags and take the train or cab to the train station. Our train was to leave in 25 minutes. You’ve never seen two mamas run like we did!

We made our train, ate the rest of the trail mix we’d brought, read our books and marveled at the adventures we’d just had.

What an opportunity this was, what a movement, what a VOICE that cannot be ignored! The world heard us. Trump heard us. Everyone heard us.

And now we move onward. Let’s continue with the enthusiasm I witnessed, with the love and strength and unity and with our relentless will to make change happen. I truly believe now, after seeing these hundreds of thousands (and millions across the globe!) of people and walking amongst them, that Trump was what we needed to get our asses in gear and make it happen – together. Yes we can!

Meanwhile, on the home front, two of the reasons I marched:

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My Birthday – and my Boy Arthur

I had a lovely birthday weekend. 37! No big deal, really, except this year it landed on a Saturday. And for the first time the boys were super excited for the day.

On Friday night, the night before my birthday, Julian hugged me goodnight, patted me on the back and said, “Mama, you are the best woman I know.”

Best birthday present right there.

This kid, I swear, is growing into a man-child before my very eyes. It is mystifying.

The next morning Julian and Arthur woke me up with songs and homemade cards and love notes.

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Then the boys, including my very grown-up boy, got to work and baked me a cake. While I laid in bed and read well-wishes and my book.

After a short while, it was time for this:

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It was one of the best cakes ever, made with so much love and everything delicious that goes into a boxed cake. I mean, I like to bake and all, but this cake is pretty much impossible to top. It had a layer, so naturally the boys called it a “sandwich cake.” Count those candles.

We had a super laid back day with lots of reading, down time, some shopping and brunch in Manhattan. As we sat over our sandwiches and beers, it had started to snow. We walked around amongst the flurries, and it was magical. My people were happy.

At night Jeff and I went out to dinner to this really wonderful place that we’d been to with friends a couple of years ago and that luckily Jeff had rediscovered recently with our Sicilian downstairs neighbor/friend/hair salon owner, Fabio. It just so happened that we walked in, random guys shook hands with Jeff and said, “You’re Fabio’s friend, right?” So we were in for a treat.

Afterwards, I posed on a deserted, snowy street. 37.

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To be honest, while this birthday was in fact one of my favorites, I’ve just been so full of worries. Worries about my baby and our nation. That just about sums it up.

Nation first: I am so excited to head to DC this weekend to show what this nation is all about: equality, empowerment, our future. The majority of this country stands behind us – this country that I’ve chosen as my home.

In other news, we need to make some changes in Arthur’s speech therapy, and I don’t yet know what that means. But he needs more help, or different help, than he is getting. While we understand him pretty well, and his vocabulary and thinking are way above average (I’m told), he has very little interaction with kids his own age who aren’t related to him (his brother). None of the kids in his school understand him, and it breaks my heart. So we’re figuring it out.

Meanwhile, this morning, I was asked to buy some second grade (“gifted & talented”) math books for Julian. (He already owns those.)

It was a day of very mixed emotions.

It’s so, so hard to see your kid struggle. I know in the grand scheme of things we’re dealing with something relatively “light.” I’m not worried about his life (as long as he’s not chewing on a walnut), but I do worry. I worry that he will shut down and will stop being ever so patient when repeating what he is trying to convey however many times it takes. I worry he will have a hard time making friends. I worry that kids will make fun of him (I’ve seen it happen).

I will do my damnedest to make the very best happen for this child.

Last night, after I came home from a lovely dinner date with Arthur’s former speech therapist-now-turned-friend, I kissed my boy’s sleepy hot cheeks and thought to myself, “Huh. He hasn’t interrupted my sleep in weeks. I kind of miss him.”

And that night he appeared next to my bed, the first time in weeks, and whispered something about monsters. I pulled him in, and he settled into the old comfortable nook of my arm, and for a moment everything in the world was as it should be.

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Adulting, Family-ing, Snowing

Titles are tough. Whatever.

Saturday was a great day filled with unexpected joy. First of all, SNOW! The boys were so excited. Even excited enough to only complain a little bit about putting on snow pants, mittens, and a scarf (I’m looking at you, Arthur).

But before we headed out, we had a lazy morning at home. Bloody Mary’s, games, puzzles, bumming around. And then: snow!

We headed to our friends’ house to celebrate the boys’ friend’s 5th birthday.

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And…get this! It was a drop off party. I think this was the first time that we’ve enjoyed this beautiful concept, and I hope that all birthday parties from now on are drop off (looking at you, friends with kids). We didn’t even take our shoes off; just peeled layers of snow clothes off our kids and we were out. 

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Jeff and I headed to a restaurant around the corner for some beers and fries. Then we walked around in the snow and stopped for some coffee/hot chocolate and whoopie pies.

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Then we wandered around some more, checked out a furniture store, and eventually retrieved our children. Who had been eating tons of ice cream, popcorn, and touching wild creatures. No big deal.

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We rolled around in the snow on our way home. It was so fun.

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And that night? Jeff and I had booked a sitter and headed out for a dinner date at China Blue. Probably one of my favorite meals of late – it was so delicious. I still think about it. I’m just sad I didn’t think to take a picture before we had eaten all the food.

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Afterwards, drinks at a hole in the wall bar.

On Sunday I went to a boxing class at the gym and loved every minute of it. I’m probably not the world’s best boxer, but I have so much fun doing it. Then we tried to straighten up a bit, because later in the afternoon the New Jersey cousins (and their parents) came over to play, have dinner, and exchange Christmas presents. (The boys were gifted a lightsaber building kit, which is clearly something I had ignored on their Xmas wish list, but seeing their joy totally makes it worth it, and after all, that’s what family is for, right?)

Also, eating lots of meatballs together.

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Monday morning Julian woke up at 2am; Arthur came to get me, saying “Julian is crying.” He had an ear ache. I gave him some ibuprofen along with the news that he might not be going to school in the morning, which turned the quiet crying into full on sobbing. “But I ha-aaa-aaa-ve science tomorrooooooooow.”

In the morning the pediatrician confirmed a big ol’ ear infection, bulging pus and all. Some more ibuprofen, antibiotics, and my kid was off to school. Can’t miss science. He hasn’t complained since that one time at 2am, so I’m assuming he is on the mend.

Arthur had a play date today with a little boy from his school, because his mother (me) was guilt-ridden about not fostering any friendships on his behalf yadayadayada, and then he just played with his brother for the most part anyway. But I get an A for effort, and in the end everyone had fun.

Last but not least, I just want to note how much I love snow. I love it so much that I’m happy to have it around once or twice a year. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t already think about hitting all the rides in Coney Island, drinking beer on the beach in Rockaway or eating shrimp at Brooklyn Crab.

Until then, I guess winter it is.

The New Year

We had a really lovely start to the New Year. At midnight, of course, we were all fast asleep. Arthur, in fact, was over the year 2016 by 5pm. I can’t blame him.

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The next day we were invited to our friends’ house for brunch, which lasted 6 hours.

It was so much fun. And such a great way to spend the first day of the year with good people.

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The boys played with their friends’ Octopod the entire time.

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The adults just sat together and drank and ate. It was delightful.

After this party, we went on to the next: Chili eating at Uncle Brian’s house. As an added bonus, we got to take the new 2nd Avenue Q train! Oh, the excitement!

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Seriously, when Julian’s teacher asked him what he did during the break, he said, “I watched  a lot of TV (!), and I rode the Q and W trains.” Sums up our winter break perfectly.

And today, finally, a tiny bit of snow! The boys were so stoked. In fact, we were late to school because they had to stop every 5 feet to scoop up whatever little bit of snow they could find. After we dropped Julian off, I took Arthur to the park. He loved it so much.

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We played and rolled around, and he got to pet a few dogs, which are pretty much his favorite creatures.

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Then we drank tea and ate muffins and played on the snowy playground.

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This kid of mine. Man. At the New Year’s brunch one of my friends commented on how much Arthur’s speech has improved. Naturally, I broke down in tears. I worry about this boy endlessly; I guess that is my job. I know he is so smart, and so sweet, (and so wild) but I always worry about him feeling left out and not being able to really talk to the kids in his school, or them not understanding what he says.

Yesterday he came home with a picture he drew in school – a “map” from his school to our house. He’d signed his name in lower case letters, except the last ‘R,’ which still is running away on legs.

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Anyway. My boy. One of my favorite creatures.

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Christmas 2016

This Christmas break is exactly that: a break. We are being extremely lazy on most days.

Christmas was a big success all around. Christmas Eve we made a seafood pasta dish – delicious. The boys laid out cookies, carrots and milk for Santa and his helpers, and Julian wrote him a note.

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Excitement definitely filled the air! The boys were adorable and also went right to sleep. This has also been a wonderful added bonus to our lazy days: an early bedtime, no complaints. A chapter or two of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will put Arthur straight to sleep, cozily cuddled up next to me, and it’s lovely. Also, we’re almost done with the book, and it’s been such fun for me to have someone else read to me! I just love it. (The boys do, too.)

Back to Santa. Jeff and I watched Love Actually on Christmas Eve, because duh. We’ve been on a movie roll this break – anything from Die Hard to Say Anything to Elf (with kids who pretty much pee themselves from laughing so hard).

Anyway, back to Santa. He came! He brought the boys the much desired Gup X and Gup S from the hit series Octonauts, and it was pretty much all they cared about for the next 10 hours and actually pretty much every hour since then. They also got new bike helmets, a new train bridge, a small drum for Arthur (per request), swords (because I’m an idiot), and some Playmobil pirate stuff. From Opa they received their first Flik Flak watches and from Grammy a math game, pirate game and bingo. Uncle Brian brought books (that was my wish). So of course, PLENTY of new things. Everyone is so happy and busy.

I got my wish: my very own boxing gloves!

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My other very favorite gift this year is a book that Julian conceptualized and made all by himself, front to back. It’s called “The Police and the Children.”

Kids climb up a tree, fall down, police helicopter comes and catches them, they go home, eat dinner, play trains, read a book, brush teeth, use mouth wash, climb into their bunk beds and zzzzzzz. Real life stuff. I will treasure this forever.

On Christmas Day we had Jeff’s brother, his wife, and her parents over for dinner. On the menu: butternut squash soup, roasted whole cauliflower, carrots, mashed potatoes, green beans with roasted almonds, salad, and Jeff’s Holy Meatloaf. Also: an enormous amount of wine.

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It was a happy night – and the kids had their own tiny table!

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Monday we hit the train show at the New York Botanical Gardens.

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These faces say it all. It was ridiculously overcrowded. Kids kept getting hit in the head with strangers’ bags, and it was all around too much.

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The Coney Island exhibit was neat, though.

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The highlights were overpriced beers at the Gingerbread Cafe and a realtime narrative by this kid about his favorite Octonauts episode.

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Yesterday and today we basically laid around, except quick trips outside to keep our kids from killing each other with their new swords. Also, hair cuts. Now excuse me while I get back to doing nothing.

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Here’s a look back: Christmas 2015 and Christmas 2014.