A-W-E-S-O-M-E

Week two of summer camp is almost over, and we are hanging in there. Julian still doesn’t love going and gets sad occasionally. I think the best way to explain how he feels about camp is like a fish out of water. And also a bit lonely, I think. At pick-up he is always happy, but overall he seems to struggle with how different this camp is to his very sheltered, sweet regular school and his (mostly) German friends. But he’s hanging in there. He brings a book to camp every day and comes home with another 200+ pages under his belt. His counselors are a bit mystified by him it seems.

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Arthur, meanwhile, is dishing out high-fives as he walks up and down the halls, chanting “A-W-E-S-O-M-E! Awesome awesome awesome, awesome are WE! Whooo!” Who knew two kids from the same parents and household could be such different creatures.

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I also noticed this week that Julian couldn’t hear me. As in, he appeared to be partly deaf. I’d stand a few feet away from him and say something – and no reaction. I finally asked him if his ears felt funny, and he said yes. The doctor confirmed a raging double ear infection and kept mumbling that he couldn’t believe Julian wasn’t in pain at all.

Meanwhile, Arthur took us through many shades of purple this week. On Monday, as the boys were playing soccer together after camp, Arthur and Julian somehow bumped into each other and both fell to the ground crying. When Arthur looked up, he had a bump the size of a plum next to his left eye. I had never seen swelling appear so fast! It was freaky. We applied ice, and a few hours later the swelling had gone down. Since Monday we’ve admired the amazing transformation of his eye – a new shade every day.

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Today Julian’s camp group is at the Bronx Zoo, while Arthur’s younger group gets to have a petting zoo at the camp. I was amazed that Arthur didn’t complain about not going to the zoo.

On Monday we are off to our happy place: our friend’s lake house in the Catskills. To say we’re excited would be an understatement. Here are some photos from our previous trips: 2017, 2015, 2014. 

 

 

 

 

Summer Camp

I spent a super fun week – 10 days, really – at home with the boys. We did everything I had hoped for, and our days were peaceful, fun, and tiring. We saw friends, went to the city pools, played and watched lots of soccer, and read many books.

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But on Monday I was headed back to work, and for the first time ever in their lives my boys were headed to summer camp. Yes, I know. We’ve been very fortunate to have been able to spend our summers together so far.

Day One of camp was great. When I picked Julian up, a little girl met me at the door and asked, “Are you Julian’s mom? Julian is SO nice.“ I beamed. On Day Two Julian reportedly cried for a bit. On Day Three he refused to get dressed, get on the bike, walk to meet his camp group. He was despondent. I had never seen him this upset, and the worst part about it was I didn’t understand why. Was someone bullying him? Had anyone hurt him? Was he just overwhelmed or feeling lonely?

Jeff left him sitting in the cafeteria, slumped in a corner, crying and went to work with a heavy heart.

All day long Julian was on my mind, and I felt sick with worry. It was just so difficult not knowing if he was ok.

At 4pm sharp (1 ½ hours before dismissal!) I picked him up, and while he somehow looked taller and skinnier (the pizza at lunch was reportedly not good!), he was his happy, cheerful self again. He immediately reported that he had forgotten to take off his underwear when they went swimming and had been wearing wet underpants all day. That got a chuckle out of me. We sat in the hallway while he ate his snack, and as he told me about his day I broke into tears. All the worry was lifted off my shoulders, and I cried from sheer relief as I knelt in front of my very confused 7-year-old. He was ok.

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Today his camp was headed to LEGO Land, so Julian didn’t have to think twice about not going.

Arthur, meanwhile, is as tough as a nail. Both boys joined camp a week or so late, so everyone already knew each other and friendships had been made. And while he looked so sad and lonely on his first day…

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… he has been “a happy camper” from the get-go. And he was the one I was originally worried about. Just goes to show I know nothing.

A couple of Arthur’s (female) counselors have complained that he has trouble sticking to the rules (SHOCKER!), but when I asked one his male counselors at pick-up yesterday how Arthur did that day, he responded without thinking twice about it, “Arthur? He’s awesome. One of my favorites. We talk about soccer all day long.“ As Arthur was high-fiving this counselor good-bye, I left feeling thankful for this connection that the two had established and for someone who gets Arthur for who he is: a funny, sweet, disobedient boy full of spunk and soccer knowledge.

We’ve established a new routine for camp weeks, which includes an ice cream right after camp and a couple of relaxing hours at home. If there is a soccer game on, we watch a recording of it. And come bedtime, the boys are exhausted. For the first time in their lives I have to wake up both of them every morning. But I’m sure come Saturday they will be up bright and early once again…

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Now they have one more week of camp next week; then we’re on vacation for a week, followed by another week at home hanging out with my favorite sidekicks and then another two weeks of camp. We can do this!

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We’re Unstoppable

I’ve been off work for six days now, and – shockingly – I am not tired of my children yet. Ask me again by Friday, but so far so good. We’re really enjoying this time together, and I think we all needed it. I know I did.

The weekend was “awesome,” as the boys would say. On Saturday we headed into the city on our trusty bikes, but holy hell, was it steamy. Nothing like the city on a hot summer day. Luckily our destination was Hamilton Fish Pool, where we spent three solid hours swimming, diving, and snacking.

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Afterwards we were hot again but also ready for hamburgers. We caught a bit of the Portugal game, so everyone was happy. That is, until Portugal lost.

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Our last stop was Economy Candy, and then we headed home.

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The ride over the bridge nearly killed us.

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Sunday we hung out at Rockaway Beach all day. We stayed until after the lifeguards had gone home. I love jumping around in the waves with my kids so much.

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Everyone took naps, except Julian, who finished his book.

The ride home was long-ish because everyone was famished. So we went out for some late night tacos. Nothing like ignoring reason and bedtime while on vacation!

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Today was another winner. If you’re tired of reading about summertime fun stuff, just stop now, because I’m not done yet. The boys biggest wish was a “soccer game” with their friends. So we invited some of their besties down to Pier 5 on the hottest day at the hottest time (noon) and watched who would have a heat stroke first. (Spoiler alert: no one.) Man, it was hot. But we made them stop every 10 minutes or so to dump bottles of water over their heads and stuff pineapple and grapes into their mouths. They had so much fun. Us adults…we melted.

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Then we let them all cool off at Pier 6 water park and with popsicles and some soccer-watching at Fornino’s.

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After that everyone else went home, and I took the boys to the pop-up pool. That pool is tiny and hence pretty much bathtub-water-warm (thanks, sun! and kid pee), but the boys love it so much. I don’t actually really know why.

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Arthur made some big strides in learning how to swim today; he has lost all fear and has been diving and jumping like no one’s business. I hope he will be a proper swimmer by the end of the summer.

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After swimming we just headed straight back over to Fornino’s for some pizza and cold drinks.

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Julian rode his own bike today, so that definitely made it much easier for me.

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At home we showered and watched soccer, and then the boys collapsed into their beds. Another good summer day in the books.

Beach Time!

We spent today at the beach jumping in the waves!

My friend Lila, who lives down the block from us, picked us up in the morning and offered to give this crazy bunch a ride to Jacob Riis Park.

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It was a really perfect day. I only got a minimal, awkwardly shaped sunburn on my calf, nobody’s lunch dropped in the sand, and everyone got along. I even got to read half of a magazine article.

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The kids just loved the waves. They had so much fun!

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I love this picture of them so much. Eloise and Julian are trying to coordinate a jump for the picture, and Arthur is just over on the side, doing his own very special and uniquely timed execution of a jump. This picture is so him.

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And here is my boy Jules. I asked if Lila would take a picture of us, and he immediately leaned over and gave me a big kiss. He loves me so well and shows me every day. I’m the luckiest.

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Unfortunately we couldn’t find an ice cream truck anywhere, so once we got back to Brooklyn Heights, we took the kids out for a summer treat, bathing suits on and all. Today was a good one!

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Stepping Up

It’s summer! Officially!

We had a week of non-stop celebrations. Arthur graduated from his school, which is meaningful in so many ways (mostly because he is so ready), but also because we as a family have been a part of this pre-school since 2013. It’s sort of the end of an era. (Here is the post on Julian’s stepping up ceremony two years ago.)

Arthur was so proud and so excited. He was such a baby when he started there two years ago. Look at this giant child now! He’s come a long way.

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Julian, meanwhile, had a big school picnic on Tuesday. Which basically meant lots of soccer for the kids and lots of wine for the mamas. And some Italian ices.

On Wednesday was Julian’s last day of school, and the entire school watched the Germany/South Korea game together on a big screen. By the end of the game all the children were in tears.

After school and a quick glance at Julian’s excellent report card, I took the boys out for ice cream with their friends and then some soccer at the park.

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By the end of the day the boys were over the Germany loss. They even agreed to have tacos for dinner. They shifted allegiance to Portugal and are now Team Ronaldo all the way.

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They get to stay up later and have sleepovers every night.

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Summer, here we come!

Soccer Mom Life

Our life evolves around soccer. Today I asked Julian and Arthur what we will do once the World Cup is over, and Julian said, very mater of factly, “Well, we will celebrate Germany of course! Or Portugal or Croatia, should they win.”

I remember four years ago – the boys were 3 and 1 – I thought to myself that the next World Cup would be so fun, that the boys would get it. But never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate this! As I’m typing this I can overhear them discussing the players through their closed bedroom door, when really my kids should be sleeping. They know all the players, their positions, the teams they play for when not playing for their country…it’s really intense. Ronaldo, Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos, Marco Reus, Julian Brandt, and Thomas Müller are all favorites. But no one is better than the one and only: Manuel Neuer.

In an effort to model themselves after their favorite players, Julian and Arthur have discovered hair product. May I present: Manuel Neuer on the left, Julian Brandt on the right.

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And here we have a referee on the left (because Julian enjoys bossing people around) and Luka Modrić on the right.

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Every day we fight about whether or not they will get to wear a soccer uniform or not.

Most days we end up playing soccer, one way or another. Last week we went to the playground near the boys’ school and they played for two solid hours three days in a row in the heat by themselves just kicking the ball back and forth.

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When we’re not talking about or playing soccer, we are watching the games. We have watched many games. The boys prefer watching soccer over any other show right now. Tonight we watched Iran vs. Portugal. On Saturday, of course, we watched the intense Germany game. I mean…we are all dying! The tension! But in the end, happy faces all around.

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Just for a change of scenery, we did something not soccer related on Friday night. We packed up the kids and headed to Coney Island for the first Friday Night Fireworks of the summer.

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We had hot dogs, and the boys went on a couple of rides.

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Then fireworks and ice cream…

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…and we were home by 11:30pm. Of course everyone fell asleep.

It was a magical night, a first taste of summer. Now we have two more days of school (only one for Arthur) – and then it’s officially summer break! I am really looking forward to shaking the tension of the everyday grind, because – can I just say? The last few months have been e.x.h.a.u.s.t.i.n.g. I look forward to beach and pool time, lazy days watching, you guessed it, lots of soccer, playing soccer, and talking some more about soccer. Because what else is there?

Almost there…

Two more weeks until summer break! Arthur and I are excited! Julian, of course, would prefer school all day every day, but something tells me that he will get over it once we start hanging out at the beach or pool or play soccer all day. Because what else is there?

Arthur and I had our first taste of summer last week when his school was randomly closed for “Chancellor’s Day.” We met up with his best buddy, Jakob, and spent hours playing soccer and running around outside.

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Also, this:

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He was having a blast, and I was thrilled to be outside with no agenda whatsoever. Our lives are so busy lately that I think I might be anticipating lazy summer days more than anyone. I will be taking several weeks off work this summer to bum around with the boys, and they also have some summer camp planned. I think it will be a good summer.

Meanwhile, Arthur had a belt test at karate and is now sporting a yellow stripe! I love watching him learn and grow in confidence and discipline. He is such a wonderful creature, and I adore him so much. He was so proud of himself, too.

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Other than that we’ve been playing soccer as much as humanly possible and anticipating the World Cup, which starts TODAY!

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Oh, and playing HedBanz.

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Meanwhile, Julian and his class brought us back to 1993 when he performed the Macarena at his school’s art and dance show last night.

Sleeping With Wolves

Through work I found out about the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY. They offer an overnight camping experience called “Sleeping with Wolves” – and we just had to give it a try. Mainly because we’ve never camped before, and this was a great introduction because the tents were provided. And also of course because of the wolves.

We arrived late Saturday evening and claimed our tent. This one right there in the front.

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For four people it was rather cozy I’ll say. But of course also exciting and different and all around fun.

We learned all about the wolves and how endangered they are. The Center is really doing amazing work.

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Then we met the ambassador wolves: Atka, Alawa, Zephyr, and Nikai. They are the only wolves out of the 50+ wolves at the Center that people get to meet. All the others have a chance to be released into the wild. Many of the little packs just recently had pups, and we saw some roaming around in the distance.

After the presentation we got to meet the four ambassador wolves. They were amazing!

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Afterwards we all had pizza (only the humans) and then watched a movie about, you guessed it, wolves. Under the stars.

Next up: s’mores.

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All the while we’re of course running back and forth, visiting the wolves, checking out the porta potties, eating more s’mores, and trying to keep Arthur from petting any of the wild creatures.

Once we retired to the tent, the boys were both wired and tired. We read a couple of chapters from our latest obsession, the Magic Tree House series.

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The thing that surprised us all the most was how loud these wolves were. They howled us to sleep and were sure to remind us at 6am that it was time to get up. It was pretty special, I will say. This video will give you a good idea, and you get a bonus howl from Arthur at the end. (Can’t really speak to what Jeff is doing…)

The next morning we had coffee and bagels and hung out with the wolves some more.

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And then we were on our way, another adventure in the books.

Slice of Life

The days are creeping on by, but the weeks are flying. Life, I guess. Some days are so wonderful that I can hardly believe my luck, and some days I want to crawl into bed at 8pm, unhappy with myself for feeling inadequate and frustrated with my children for fighting non-stop. Yes, these children. Julian had brought a rose for his girlfriend, JJ.

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I have been sick for close to a month. I have zero energy, zero patience, zero drive and apparently zero immune system. But I’m powering through.

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On Saturday, the only day on Memorial Day weekend that Jeff didn’t have to work, we headed to the beach. It was magical. Just a few hours of jumping in the waves, playing sandy soccer and hearing my children giggle is really all I wanted.

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Later that night I went on a date with this handsome guy. We strolled along the Highline at dusk, marveled at all the new construction and brightly lit buildings, feeling lucky to be here in this city, our city.

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Other than that: Life. Appointments, soccer, bickering, never enough sleep, tasty dinners, school, work, play dates, friends, love, soccer, keeping it together.

 

 

One Of My Favorite Dates

Each week I get Arthur to myself on Fridays. We run around the city for appointments, go to speech and OT, and do our weekly laundry. But there is also some cuddling and playing, usually a treat of some kind, and lots of laughs. I also get Arthur to myself every day when we walk from his school to Julian’s. That’s 30 minutes of pretty undivided attention.

With Julian, however, I never spend any one-on-one time. So I had the idea to take him out on a date; just him and me for some much needed time together. So last Friday the two of us went on a little adventure. We started with a lovely subway ride, because that is still Julian’s favorite thing.

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We walked through Chinatown and had dinner at Noodle Village.

 

We ordered too much food, Julian got to drink a soda (!), and we talked and talked. Julian was so chatty and sweet, funny and charming. He complimented the waitress on the food: “This is so delicious! I just love this food!” and she was beaming. Julian had never had Chinese before because Arthur is allergic to sesame.

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After dinner it was dark, and Chinatown looked even more intriguing. We got ice cream from the “Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.” I kept telling the sales guy “Only one scoop please! Only one!” And he gave us this, claiming this was one scoop.

 

Then we stepped outside the ice cream shop and wondered around Chinatown, hand in hand.

On the subway ride home we learned everything about the old City Hall subway station and made a plan to visit it soon.

My date with my first-born son was perfect. I loved talking with him over noodles and dumplings, listening to his stories about school and friends, and I vowed to do it again soon.

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