Motherhood is awesome

Tonight was so awesome I just want to write it down so I can reminisce when I’m 80. Just kidding. Tonight sucked.

There was constant screaming starting at 5pm. Until bedtime. Constant. Sometimes only one child screamed, but usually both. Perhaps they are working on a duet. Keep it to yourselves, kids. You’re not the next boy band, and with that hollering you’re not going to win any Grammys. 

My favorite is when Arthur is screaming, and then Julian starts screaming “HUSH!!!!” at him, which makes Arthur scream more, which makes Julian scream more. At this point I want to walk out and let them fend for themselves.

Aside from showing off their incredible lung capacities, there was lots of pushing, taking toys away, and generally being obnoxious. There. I said it. My children can be so obnoxious.

And because apparently our doors aren’t wide enough, Arthur decided to run into the door frame face first. Yay. Huge egg on head.

One highlight: “Mama, I think I will try this broccoli.” And so he did. It was kind of a huge moment in our lives. 

Anyway, back to complaining. My kitchen looks like a bomb exploded. I have a huge piano in a box in the middle of my living room. A husband who is out for drinks. Clutter everywhere. Laundry to be put away. A child who is currently throwing all of his pacifiers out of his crib and is screaming at the top of his lungs because OMG WHY ARE THERE NO PACIFIERS IN MY CRIB.

But worst of all: I don’t have any chocolate or beer. 

Memorial Day in Central Park

During the week I have the boys nap at home and stick to our routine pretty religiously. Mostly because that way I can get a break. But on the weekends anything goes.

We spent Memorial Day in Central Park. It was a perfect, warm, sunny day. After Arthur’s morning nap we rode our bikes over the glorious Brooklyn Bridge, over to the Westside Highway, uptown along the Hudson River, crosstown, up to the park on 8th Avenue, and into the park.

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We took the boys to a playground we hadn’t been to before, Billy Johnson playground. It had a super long slide that Julian was totally brave enough to go down by himself. Seriously, being 3 means being brave.

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Then we had a picnic. That’s always the highlight with everyone in our family. Food is kind of a big deal around here. Both Julian and Arthur will drop about anything for a sandwich and some fruit. Also, cheese. Cheese is huge. Anyway. Ice cream was next, and then everyone was sufficiently tired.

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So we rode around and around until our legs were like pudding the boys fell asleep. And then we pulled over, leaned Julian’s head against a pole and strapped Arthur’s helmet back with a bungee cord. What? Everyone’s kids nap like that, no?

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Jeff and I laid on the blanket, and for a brief moment in time it was as if we were out and about on our own. It was nice. Except then people walking by stopped and stared at our propped up children, commented, called friends on the phone, or tried to make conversation. So yeah. Nothing to see here, people. Keep it moving.

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After nap, more food! Then a quick ride over to the Great Lawn – and…more food! We needed coffee. Also, Belgian waffles. Then we found Uncle Brian with his wife and her parents.

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Uncle Brian is pretty much solid gold. Julian could not possibly adore him any more. That kid loooooves his uncle. So we crashed their picnic and then took a brief stroll over to Belvedere “Castle.” I’m just gonna use the word “castle” loosely here. Because technically it looks like a castle, except it was built in the late 19th century. So pretty much yesterday. Either way, Julian was impressed.

And then we picked our shaky legs off the floor and rode our bikes home. But rather than brave the Brooklyn Bridge again with the crazy tourists and pedestrians that don’t understand the concept of a bike lane, we cheated and took the East River Ferry across the river. The boys were thrilled. Two minutes on a boat!

We ended our night at the Italian restaurant two doors down from our apartment. Because what’s better than to celebrate Memorial Day with some rigatoni. The boys ate ridiculous amounts of pasta, because yay! More food. And beer. But not for the boys.

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We were happy. And so so tired. And then we looked up how many miles we rode, and the answer is 20. Might have been a family record!

Diner Friday

We don’t really have many organized activities to fill our days. When Julian was little, we went to music class (which he kind of rejected; he’s not one for structured music circle chanting) and playdates on a weekly basis. Every day we had something planned. It was nice and gave us a bit of structure.

Then Arthur came along and I quickly learned that structure was my enemy. All of a sudden I could not be on time, ever, even if it killed me. And for a German, being late is just not an option. Someone was always napping longer or shorter than expected, or not at all, or someone pooped as we had one foot out the door or fell to the floor because something really terrible had happened, like it was cold and the kid needed to wear pants. Or something terrible like that.

So this winter we kind of survived. That was it. It wasn’t a great winter; quite the opposite. We were inside a lot. Arthur hated the cold. I can still see tears running down his cheeks from the icy wind. So we played and painted and made music and danced and built forts and watched movies. And then the sun came out, and I knew we had made it.

Julian has been going to school two mornings a week since September. And that is literally the only thing we have “planned” all week. And he is only on time because his Papa brings him, while I can stay at home in my leggings and leisurely read a book and tickle my toes. Just kidding. I haven’t read a book in ages.

We do have one other thing that we do every week. Julian knows what it is. When he wakes up, he asks what day it is, and when I tell him “Friday,” he says, “We go to the diner! It’s Diner Friday!”

And so we do. Every Friday we go to the diner. They know us there. Usually we go with friends, and we’re a group of 3 adults and 5 kids 3 and under. We are the table you don’t want to be too close to.

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Sometimes we go alone. Julian gets his beloved pancakes, and everyone is happy for a brief moment in time. Afterwards the kids sometimes get a cookie, and we go to the toy store next door.

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The diner is my favorite “activity.” It involves mostly ignoring my kids while they either play with friends, with themselves, not at all, or just eat eat eat. Also, lots of coffee, talking to my friends, and a bagel or french fries or something else that’s really good/bad. Yay for Diner Fridays!

Why you gotta make me look like such a jerk, kid?

We live above a hair salon. Everyone there is lovely and always so kind to our kids. The hair salon also has a big glass door. I have a son who is obsessed with doors in general, and this one in particular. 

When we’re coming home, I have usually hauled the following up the stoop:

  • disassembled stroller
  • a huge tote that holds all of our stuff
  • a 25 pound baby
  • shopping bags
  • Julian’s bike

At that point we are all either hungry or tired. Usually both. 

Julian will plop down in the middle of the hair salon’s entryway and trace the letters of the owner’s name imprinted on the rug with his fingers, spelling the name. Again and again. I feel fortunate when I can prompt him to get up in time for paying customers to not have to step over him. For anyone not knowing what’s going on, it’s a bizarre sight. Meanwhile, Arthur walks in and out of the salon, interrupted with an occasional mad dash for the stoop in an effort to kill himself. Or me. 

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When I finally get Julian to get up off the (presumably dirty, but I don’t even care) floor, he proceeds to play with the door. Open, shut, repeat. He is deaf to my attempts to get him to GO UP THE STAIRS ALREADY, caps intended. At this point I am holding my wiggly toddler baby, 3 shopping bags, a big “diaper bag” tote filled with essentials such as sunscreen, cars, bubbles, and cheerios, and of course Julian’s bike. I am thinking about feeding these children lunch and getting them down for their nap. Dude, we are on a schedule! Close the damn door. 

Julian can’t hear me. He can’t ever hear me. It’s like that glass door has some deafening effect on his sensitive 3 year old ears.

And then I start threatening him. Sometimes I close the door to our staircase and start walking up the stairs. It usually works, but it means that Julian will start screaming. Also it means that I have to carry all my sh** halfway up the stairs and back down again, just to prove a point.

At this point the girls from the salon get quiet. And I know they are judging me. They see this 6 foot tall German who is barking at her blond, blue-eyed angel son in harsh, Nazi-esque German. They have no idea what’s going on or being said or even that this is a replay of what happened the day before and the day before that. I always feel a little bit like a jerk, or a lot bit, but oh my god just close the damn door already. Let’s go.

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Weekending with the Boys

This weekend was go go go, but in a good way. There were four highlights, nestled neatly amongst other fun stuff, like one of Julian’s friend’s birthday party and a baptism bash on a friend’s roof top right next to the Manhattan Bridge, where the boys could admire the trains zipping by every minute. Yes, dreams do come true.

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Highlight no. 1:

A date with my best guy. The grown-up best guy. It involved running around in pouring rain, beers, burgers, dessert, and much laughter.

Highlight no. 2:

A bike ride across the Brooklyn Bridge and around the tip of the island.

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We stopped at a cool playground to run around and took an ice cream break at Pier 25. Hello, ice cream sandwich.

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Then we played soccer. Highlight no. 2 1/2: Arthur’s excitement when he thought he would make it to the ball first, with his wobbly little legs, and then his frustration when it turned out Julian was faster. Again. And again. And again. He just stood there, fists at his side, screaming from the top of his lungs, “Dadadada! Dadadada!” Sorry, kid. You have to be faster. Maybe next year.

We had dinner at the Mexican place across the street. Boys were in bed at 9:30pm. No one complained.

Highlight no. 3:

A Sunday bike ride to Redhook and lunch at one of our favorite spots, Brooklyn Crab. I may or may not have had a whole lobster. Yes, ok, I definitely had a whole lobster. Also, two beers.

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Highlight no. 4:

Putting Arthur and Julian to bed Sunday night. I always rock Julian first before he hops into his big boy bed. I rock him for about 10 to 12 seconds. I wish he would stay longer, but he never does. He loves his bed. Then I nurse Arthur. Usually I just lay him down afterwards and move on with my night. Last night I rocked him. His head was against my chest and he just let me hold him. And then he started talking. And talking. “Da?” “Da!” “Dadadada.” “Gagagjagdohmpf.” And I just quietly hummed in response. It was so beautiful. I didn’t want it to end. Then he started blowing raspberries against my neck, and I had to giggle, and Arthur started laughing, and then Julian, and then we were all laughing. And that was the last I heard from my boys Sunday night. Raspberries and laughter.

A perfect end to a perfect weekend.

Nature and nurture with a small dose of guilt

When Arthur was born I asked the doctor if he didn’t have a different baby. I already had this one! Arthur looked identical to his brother. It was like I had given birth to the same person twice.

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But very soon he started to look like his own person, different from his brother, but obviously related. And personality-wise, they couldn’t be any more different. Julian was a huge baby and as laid back as can be. He was never super outgoing with strangers, and still to this day takes a while to warm up to people. He gets that from his Mama. He hit all his milestones right on time and took his first steps the day before his first birthday.

I had all day to dedicate to Julian. We would take extended naps on the couch, his little chubby baby body on mine, or go on walks or hang out with other mamas and their babies. Julian was literally my entire world, day in, day out.

Arthur started to army crawl at 4 1/2 months and took his first steps at 9 1/2 months. He is the most determined little boy. He wants to be a part of everything. Now at 12 months he can walk and crawl up steps, climb on tables and high chairs, run everywhere and chase after his brother. Or be chased, as he prefers. He is very independent and will play by himself forever. He never wants to sit on my lap, never sleeps on my chest, and has no patience to sit down to read a book. He is constantly on the move. He high-fives strangers, claps happily to himself and only recently has started to push his head against my chest and away from people when it gets too much for him. He is the epitome of a happy baby.

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I never had much time to just be with Arthur when he was a baby. I had a two year old to chase after. In the beginning, I was constantly plagued by guilt. I’m sure all mothers can relate. Guilt is second nature to us, always there, a reminder that we should be doing something different or better or not at all. It’s kind of like a parasite and will eat you up if you let it. Sometimes I let it.

So Arthur’s independence is probably partly due to the fact that he is the second kid. And part of it is him, the person he was born as.

Both Julian and Arthur are affectionate kids. Julian needs lots of hugs and kisses and loves to cuddle. I had to find different ways to make that happen for Arthur. He loves to be worn in a wrap or Ergo, so we do that a lot. He loves to dance with me. We have a setlist that we dance to as often as we can, and as soon as the music comes on, he rests his head against my shoulder and lets me sway with him. It is one of my favorite moments of the day. And he loves to jump in my lap and rest his head there, if only for a moment, beaming the entire time.

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So nature or nurture, who the hell cares? I have no idea what I did or didn’t do to make my kids the way they are. I’m sure I make plenty of mistakes and do plenty of things right, so hopefully in the end it evens out. My mantra is: “I am doing my best.” I say it all the time. When I become stressed, Julian will often ask, “Mama, are you doing your best?” And yes, most days I am.

And that’s gotta be good for something.

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Motherhood Fears

Most of these I never gave any thought to before I had kids. Now they are my reality. Wonder how I manage to get out of bed every day? I.Don’t.Know.Either.

I worry that

  • one of my kids removes the safety corner on our credenza, falls and breaks his head open on said credenza
  • I step on the damn safety corner one more time
  • I step on legos
  • I step on bits of food arranged/thrown on my kitchen floor
  • I step on anything at all
  • I trip over toys
  • I knock the baby over (again) when I work out
  • I run out of Cheerios
  • worse: I run out of bananas
  • Arthur’s first word will be banana. That banana isn’t keeping you alive, kid. I am. 
  • my kid will discover that I feed him healthy things hidden in sauce, smoothies, and pancakes
  • Arthur eats a nut
  • Julian falls and knocks his front tooth out. Wait. That already happened.
  • my kids get bullied
  • my kids get their feelings hurt
  • my kids think they are more awesome than they are
  • Julian discovers that I ate all the lollipops
  • some dumb thing will cause Jeff and the boys to crash with their bike
  • Julian will not stop asking “why.” Or “WALUM?” for the German speakers
  • the kids will ever find out that McDonald’s exists
  • Arthur will find that there are no limits
  • the boys become judgmental like their mother
  • the boys develop terrible taste in music
  • the boys will think Bruce Springsteen is not cool, for whatever crazy reason
  • we keep buying and getting toys and won’t be able to breathe one day, buried under a mountain of toys
  • Julian will wear diapers for all eternity
  • the boys will stop napping, as in ever
  • the ice cream truck will lose its magic
  • there is no coffee when I need it
  • there is no chocolate
  • there is no booze
  • there is no booze
  • there is no booze

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Nuts

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We’re nuts about our little guy. But today we all received a punch to the, you guessed it, nuts.

Arthur has been dealing with skin issues for most of his short sweet life. I’ve taken him to two different dermatologists, his pediatrician, and lately, the allergist. They did a skin test and then a blood test. In my gut I knew that he wasn’t allergic. That his crazy break-outs on his face were coincidental and “just sensitive skin.”

Well, whatever, this mother’s intuition is way off. Because that kid can’t be nuts about nuts, at least not in the foreseeable future. So today we bought a couple of EPI pens, and I learned how to stab my son in the leg should I ever have to. I threw out everything that resembled a walnut, as for Arthur that is the worst nut on the face of the earth. Most other nuts suck, too. I will have to find a good granola recipe that won’t give my son hives or worse. For now, as he still nurses, I am cutting all nuts out of my diet. Which is sad. We eat lots of nuts around here. Nuts, nuts, nuts. 

So…while that was a big bummer today, I do feel relieved that we finally have some answers, and I know what to do to help my kid. And frankly, when I take a look around us and see what other families are struggling with, I’ll gladly take this little nutty glitch. It could be so much worse. 

Meanwhile, of course, Arthur is still nuts, in every sense of the word. 

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Mother’s Day…

…began with little feet running across the apartment at crack o’ dawn and a little sleepy three year old who cuddled up beside me. After a week of telling him that he can now get out of his big boy bed when he wakes up (instead of waiting or calling for us like he did when he was in the crib), that was considered a success. I enjoyed my coffee in bed while admiring my Mother’s Day gift: a book in which the kids can color or write every year for Mother’s Day. Year one was adorable and included many Thomas the Train stickers. “Rheneas, it’s an emergency! Move over, Luke, get off the tracks.” This is what I hear. All. Day. Long.

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I attempted to work out at home as I do every morning, but when I sent Arthur flying while kicking my leg back in some ambitious Pilates move, I gave up and shelved the work-out for later.

In the end I never got around to picking back up. Instead, we left the house in the morning and didn’t return until after dark, around 8:30pm. We rode our bikes to the Intrepid with a little lunch pit stop in between. I had been wanting to go to the Intrepid for a long time and really wanted to take Julian ever since he’s been interested in space shuttles. So we went, and it was huge, and I could have probably spent more time there, but to our boy it was “a little bit scary,” which it totally was. Also, everyone was tired.

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We hung out at the Pier next to the Intrepid for a while, ate ice cream, and took off our shoes to let the grass tickle our feet. We also took Arthur’s pants off, but that’s where we stopped. No pants is only acceptable for those under, say, 23.

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Then we had beers.

As soon as we got back on the bikes, both boys promptly fell asleep, heads bopping around. So we got creative:

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Don’t call CPS. That’s what bungee cords were made for; trust me.

We rode to Madison Square Park and let the boys play at the playground. Then we stuffed our faces with Shake Shack burgers and fries.

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We rode home over the Manhattan Bridge as the sun was setting, and it seemed like we were the only people on that bridge. Us and the rattling subways next to us. The boys were in heaven. And we shouted “Hello Brooklyn!” as we got to the other side.

We were sunburnt (just us adults because we are stupid), filthy, tired, and so so happy.

It was a perfect Mother’s Day.

What a difference a year makes

A year ago I was enjoying my hospital vacation cuddling and nursing you, my almost 10 pound baby boy. You came out looking identical to your brother. You were so new, and smelled so good; you fit just right on my chest and were a pro at nursing from moment you were placed in my arms. A year ago today we were inseparable, getting to know each other, and I was busy feeling your warm, soft skin on mine.

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Today, one year later, was quite different. You woke up to a song and birthday presents (a guitar and a bubble machine – both huge hits). You had a cupcake and a brother to help you blow out your candle. You chased bubbles at the playground with friends, went down the slide head first, spit out salmon and inhaled cheese, sweet potato, avocado, and blueberries. You hit the swings with your brother, walked on the Promenade, and kicked a soccer ball around at Cadman Plaza. You had your very first taste of ice cream, from an ice cream truck, naturally. Vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. It would have been a total hit, had it not been so cold. Damn you, ice cream. You hit your head on a sharp corner. You giggled and laughed all day long. You screamed for “mamamamamama”, your beloved banana.

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Oh, Arthur. A year ago I couldn’t have predicted the child you would become. I am so glad you are the way you are. What a whirlwind, crazy monkey, wild child you are – with such a sweet and gentle side and the bestest laugh of all. You have made this year crazy wonderful.

Happy birthday, baby.

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