Happy Times

This has been hands down the best winter break. Why? I don’t know. We haven’t done anything. That’s why, probably.

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For starters, everyone is healthy. I don’t remember the last time someone interrupted my sleep….except wait a minute, I can. Julian had a nightmare two nights ago crying in his sleep that he was scared because he was all alone. I reminded him that he was never alone, because look right there next to you in that shoebox-sized room is your sleeping brother. Problem solved.

Everyone has been getting along great. The new toys are a hit, the weather’s been great, and Jeff and I have been taking a nap every day while the boys nap. Yes, my 3 1/2 year old still takes a 2 hour nap every day. And goes to sleep at 8pm. We are lucky. And also, we don’t mess around with sleep.

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We haven’t gotten bored of each other yet. My dad gave us the classic German board game for Christmas. It’s a game I remember so vividly playing when I was young. I almost cried when Julian and I played it for the first time.

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Today Jeff got to lay around and do nothing play his guitar while I took the boys to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. It was so much fun. We hadn’t been in a while, and for the first time Julian took a real interest in the various activities, playing with sand and water and whatnot for extended periods of time.

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While his brother shoveled sand out of the pit and onto the floor (and also into his pants as I would find out later). Also, this:

IMG_2968 IMG_2969At one point, at the overcrowded pretend pizza shop, Julian almost got into a physical fight with an older boy. The boy was trying to take something away that Arthur was playing with and had coveted for a long time, and the two boys immediately got into each other’s faces. It was kind of crazy because there he was, my sensitive, gentle, non-confrontational child sticking up for his brother.

Here is a picture of happier times.Two boys, waiting for their felt pizza to be done.

IMG_2967In other news, I won a photo contest and got to pick any business on our neighborhood street for a $400 gift certificate. Naturally, I picked the liquor store. We’re excited to pick up our $399 bottle of champagne to ring in the New Year tomorrow. (Kidding. Or am I.)

Our neighbor friend handed over the certificate, and the boys got some pretty flowers and stood there looking adorable.

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He’s still my baby though, right?

Yesterday was the last day I ever nursed a baby. I’ve been waiting for the right day, for the moment I was ready to pull the plug, and then I realized that I would never be completely ready. I have nursed for 36 months total; that’s 3 years. 16 months with Julian, and (almost) 20 months with Arthur. Arthur is our last baby. He is my baby. I was waiting for him to lose interest, or for me to lose interest, but neither ever happened. I know I could have kept going. But a part of me is ready to let go and move on.

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But it is hard. I think only mothers who have breastfed (and have loved doing so) will understand. I will never again be needed in that way. No more sleepless nights with a baby at my breast. No more impatient yanking on my shirt. No more of Arthur’s sign for milk (his index finger tapping on the little finger of his other hand).

I’m only writing this down because I know I will want to remember.

Last night I nursed Arthur to sleep, and that hadn’t happened in months. He was so exhausted from our busy day. As I held my sleeping babe in my arms, I quietly said goodbye to this thing that we had. To this special bond. The purest of acts. Giving, feeding, nurturing, loving.

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Today I made sure I spent a lot of time with Arthur. We danced an extra dance, played trains and busses and Elmo and firetruck, and we read more bedtime stories than usual. It was my strategy to avoid the void, the feeling of guilt, the sadness of letting go.

I am still sad. But he is ok. His Papa rocked him for a few minutes, and he was fine. He whimpered once, and that was it. He is fine. He will never remember any of this. This is a fleeting moment in his life, his boyhood, and I won’t embarrass him later on with my emotional turmoil on this day in late December.

(That’s why I keep this blog. It will embarrass my children for me.)

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Thanks, Santy.

Santa did good this year. We wanted to make sure he had received the boys’ Christmas letters, so we checked in with him in person the day before Christmas Eve.

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Julian and Arthur were both a little bit timid, which I think is understandable because holy Santa! Weeks of build-up. Your fate depends on him. Will he bring you the desired garbage truck? The NYC sanitation one with the buttons? Julian made sure Santa knew specifically which one he wanted. And Arthur warmed up enough to give Santa a goodbye hug.

After Macy’s Santaland we visited the train show at Grand Central and spent 127 hours watching the trains go around in loops. It was magical the best thing ever pretty cool.

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Riding the actual train got me faces like this:

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Just kidding. The boys were tired. They love the train. So much. I could have never predicted how much I would learn about the NYC subway system through my kids. Julian actually knows more than me. The other day he explained the differences of number and letter train cars to me. That was a day after he once again prevented us from getting on the wrong train.

We had grand plans for Christmas Eve (mainly cooking and eating our favorite thing, FOOD), but I was struck by a crazy 24 hour bug that prevented me from doing essential things, such as moving. I stayed in bed all day with body aches, nausea, and a fever. I’ve dreamed about a day in bed for a long time, but when it happens like this, I don’t want it anymore, thank you very much. Christmas Eve dinner consisted of canned chicken noodle soup for the boys.

The next morning I was all better, and more importantly!!!! Santa had come. He brought the holy garbage truck for Julian and a fire truck for Arthur. They were in heaven. Also lots of puzzles, books, and the 2014 Hess truck from Grammy.

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This Christmas Jeff really perfected the Bloody Mary. It’s amazing how it goes so well with breakfast, but if you want – amazingly!! – it is also dinner in and of itself! Lots of servings of vegetables! Also, I got back into reading books. Reading is so wonderful.

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The day after Christmas we headed into the city and checked out the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum.

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Julian is really into them and wants to know what it says on the signs; whereas Arthur has the attention span of a goldfish and was also slightly intimidated by the dinos. But it was fun. Then we walked around Central Park on what turned out to be most unwinter-like day. It was gorgeous.

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Christmas was a huge success. It was so nice to be home with nowhere else we had to be. The boys are busy with their new and old toys. Everyone is getting along.

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Santa brought me some cool stuff, too. He was very on target this year. But all in all, I have to say: thanks for trying, Santa. I love everything I got. But really, I already had everything I could have ever asked for:

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At least he’s not allergic to New Jersey

After weeks and weeks of non-stop work for Jeff, we celebrated Thursday night over tacos, chips, and guacamole that we had him home for the holidays until the first week of January. We are so happy. Also, Arthur learned the beauty of dipping and discovered his love for guacamole. I couldn’t agree more, on both counts.

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Friday we were busy with school and a little Christmas shopping for Arthur and me. As much as I love my time with both of the boys, I always truly enjoy my time with just one of them. It’s a different dynamic and just such a treat.

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Friday night then we had a simple dinner for the boys, and Jeff and I ordered in later once the kids were in bed. They ate split pea soup and a some bread with butter, which is only relevant because right afterwards, this happened:

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Arthur’s face exploded. He eats peas all the time, loves them in fact, but for a week or so he’s had a little rash on his cheeks that wouldn’t quite go away. After lunch on Friday, which included peas, a rash again. And then after dinner this happened. He was scratching his face but otherwise happy. He honestly never even fussed once. I, however, was completely unnerved. Either he has developed a new allergy or something in the food he ate was contaminated with nuts (which seams unlikely in soup in bread, but everything is possible). He slept well, but I got up throughout the night to make sure he was still breathing. He was fine the next day, and we’ve made appointments to have him re-tested.

We spent the weekend in New Jersey celebrating Jeff’s father’s 70th birthday, playing with the cousins and opening some early Christmas presents. The kids all get along so great; it’s so much fun. They had dance parties, played, chased each other. Here they are a (pajama) train:

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Speaking of trains. Julian’s uncle had a nice steam train set that goes around the Christmas tree. Julian’s mind was literally blown. He navigated the train for a solid hour and a half without even looking up. I couldn’t even speak to him; he was in a zone. In a train zone. (We have to get one!)

Downstairs in the basement the kids learned new moves from Auntie Katherine (she’s a professional dancer, so she has alllllll the moves). So in his fourth year of life Julian finally added some new moves to his dance routine. Other than, you know, spinning in circles. But the thing that stood out the most to me was the fact that once you throw two or three other kids in the mix, my kids don’t seem so loud. Also, a carpeted basement room makes jumping and running not seem like such a big deal. My poor city kids! Or, I guess I should say: our poor neighbors!

Here is Arthur dancing with his Grammy:

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Enough kids for a kids’ table!

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And sorry, Arthur. It’s not that no one wanted to sit next to you at breakfast. It’s just that everyone wanted to sit next to Julian. Don’t worry, kid. Next year baby Henry will be part of the group, and you will no longer feel like the baby. Get ready, Henry!

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One and one makes two

Someone recently asked me what, in my opinion, has helped my boys to be so close to each other. So I got to thinking, and be prepared…this is long (WORDS! MANY WORDS!)

1. My boys are close in age. Julian and Arthur are two years (and 3 days!) apart, and even though the first year may have been a little rough sometimes, I think that this is a great age difference for my kids.

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2. They are both boys, and their interests (at this point) are the same. That is, all of Julian’s interests are Arthur’s interests as well. Arthur skipped past the phase of playing with baby toys or watching Elmo. He builds tracks and wants to watch Super Why. And yes, they are both boys. I know girls play with trains and trucks, too, but boys by nature are a different beast (and yes, I am sure there are many exceptions to the rule on both sides). They run, they are loud, they are physical. Arthur started walking at 9 1/2 months, and that really helped Julian to see his brother as a kid, not a baby. That’s when they truly started playing and having fun together. And because they are both very physical, they can relate on a non-verbal level. They laugh and laugh at things I don’t even understand. Things that are between them and probably only funny for those four and under. Like running! Into a wall! Hilarious.

So these were some of the more obvious points. Here is what we’ve been doing “behind the scenes:”

3. We prepared Julian as much as we could. We read books to him about adding a baby to the family. We talked about “Baby Atttttu.” A lot.

4. I did a lot of reading on what to do when a second child joins the family. Here is what I learned:

When my boys met for the first time, I made sure not to be holding the baby when Julian walked into the room. Arthur was in his little bassinet, and Julian just shot him a quick glance until much later when he really showed some interest and wanted to meet him. But when I first saw Julian, it was really just about seeing Julian. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple of days, and that was the longest we had ever been apart. Just imagine the feeling of missing your mama, and when you finally see her again she is holding someone else! So I thought that was some good advice that I read about.

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Also, when both children are crying or need you at the same time, tend to the older child first. It seems counter-intuitive (because GAH! My precious baby is wailing! My boobs are exploding!), but it makes sense. It takes much less time to give your older child a snack, a hug, or sit him down with a book or a TV show than it takes to nurse, change, or bathe a baby. To your older child it sends the message that he is still important, that his needs still matter, and that mama still has time for him. To the baby it makes no difference at all, and even though it may be difficult to listen to your baby cry for a few minutes, it will do absolutely no harm.

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Spend quality time with the older child. For the first few months, Arthur would take extended naps. Most newborns sleep so much! It makes for a really gentle transition to actually having a second kid around. At first all they do is eat and sleep. So whenever Arthur napped, I spent time with Julian. We would play, read, and chat just like we used to.

We put Arthur and Julian in their (shoebox-sized) bedroom together very early on. As soon as Arthur slept through the night occasionally (but by no means consistently), we moved him into the boys’ room. He was around 7 or 8 months old, I think. The first month was annoying because they woke each other up more than we would have liked, but they very quickly got used to each other. And now they just love having a roommate. Before bed they play with their flashlights or sometimes giggle. They hug and kiss every night, and sometimes they will stay in that tight embrace for so long that it almost makes me cry. When Arthur wakes up from a nap he looks for Julian right away, and if he sees that he is still snoozing, Arthur will usually lay back down and catch some more shuteye.

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We practice kindness. Like I actually think that being kind is the most important thing. I am so happy that both of my boys are gentle, sweet, and kind creatures, but I don’t think that they were just born that way. We love each other, as I know most families do. We hug and cuddle and kiss all the time. I show my love for the boys in many ways…heart-shaped sandwiches, kisses, playing with them, getting up in the night, listening to endless details about the NYC subway system, and the list goes on. But it pays back. Julian is kind to Arthur. Other than a few months of (annoying as all hell) pushing around the time Arthur was getting mobile and was constantly in Julian’s business, he has been a wonderful brother. And Arthur, in return, is very sweet to Julian. They just truly love each other. They look out for each other, they hold hands, they play endlessly. Sure, they also take toys away from each other and will sometimes play too rough. When that happens I tell Julian to tell Arthur what upsets him rather than complain to me (“Arthur took my train away.”) and to ask for his toy back. Arthur will hand over the toy 99% of the time. He would probably chop off his right foot if it made his brother happy. I am a little bit more watchful with Julian and will intervene when he bullies Arthur too much, but as the boys get older, I make a conscious choice to stand back more. Let them fight their own battles. For pushing or hitting, however, we have zero tolerance and they both get punished (usually a toy gets taken away for a while), and they must say sorry. This is Arthur’s favorite part. The making up and loving on his brother. But Julian, too, will really look for comfort from Arthur when he has hurt him or made him cry, and I can tell that Arthur’s “forgiveness” makes Julian feel better. The older the boys get, the more we talk to them. What do you think you did wrong? Why is Arthur crying? How do you think he feels right now? What do you want to say to him?

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And last but not least, we reinforced togetherness, but in a very subtle way. We never forced (or strongly encouraged) any of it. The first few months of Arthur’s life, he was just around (when he was awake). I nursed while I played with Julian. I don’t think we ever said things like “go hug your brother” or “give him a pacifier, he’s crying” or stuff like that. I feel like if you encourage interest in something too much, it takes the fun out of it. So we just kind of let it happen and didn’t expect a miracle. I mean, newborns are boring (at least for a two year old). So I can’t really expect Julian to show a huge interest in that 10 pound blob that just moved into his apartment. But we did encourage “togetherness:” a shared room, bath time together as soon as Arthur could sit safely in the tub, story time, eating together, playing together. The interest came over time, and it’s grown very organically into what I consider a very solid foundation for their relationship. 199530e4eaea11e2849f22000aeb126c_7

Stories

Among my fondest childhood memories are the times my father would sit with me before I fell asleep at night, and he would tell me stories. He is the best storyteller. I always listened to the very end, although sometimes stories would end prematurely because he had fallen asleep.

When Julian and Arthur were newborns and we had some sleepless nights, they would lie next to me in bed, and I would tell them stories. My favorite was the one about a big city crocodile and his adventures in the East River. I remember both of my boys just being so peaceful and listening to my voice, words washing over them, until they fell asleep.

Now Julian is old enough for some real story telling. We read books before nap and bedtime. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I have Julian home with me, I put Arthur down for nap a little earlier than Julian. We usually do an art project or decorate cookies or cuddle up in bed and read a few books. And lately we’ve been getting into story-telling.

I always ask Julian to pick two things. It’s usually an animal and, you guessed it, the subway. So today we had a story about a little lion who had to get his guitar fixed and needed to ride the train to Atlantic Ave./Barclays Center. He was the only little lion around, but there were many big tigers on the train as well who scared him with their loud roars but turned out to be quite friendly. At Atlantic Terminal the little lion had to make a pitstop to buy a piece of chocolate the size of his face. The story stayed with that piece of chocolate for a while…it took a long time for all of the chocolate to melt in the little lion’s mouth. Later in the afternoon Julian, Arthur and I paid a visit to the chocolate store on our street. Like, in real life.

Today was not the greatest of days. Julian and I butted heads a lot. An hour or so after he had gone to bed he showed up in the bathroom as I was about to jump in the shower, saying that I had promised him another story, but we had both forgotten about it. I told him sorry, it was too late now, and I would tell him one tomorrow.

After my shower I saw that he was still awake, so I snuck into his room, cuddled up next to him in his tiny toddler bed, and told him the story about Millie the Elephant who lives in Long Island and was looking for a big city adventure in Manhattan. She saw Central Park, the Freedom Tower, Times Square, and the Empire State Building – although she wasn’t allowed up, because elephants are not allowed! Also, did you know how many people it takes to push an elephant’s bum through the subway doors? Ask Julian. He knows.

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Playtime

Today it was finally warm enough to spend some time outside. As soon as I let Arthur out of his stroller, he started running. And never stopped. He ran and pointed and hollered. It is unreal how much my boys need to run. And how loud they are. I love it all.

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After school we went and played some more. The boys were delighted. We really needed a decent day like today.

Watching our boys chase each other, laugh and play together, makes my heart explode. Every day they grow closer, and it just gets better and better. And some days I just can’t believe they’re truly mine.

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The next stop is…

Jeff is working all weekend, so in an attempt to make the best of it and have some fun, we threw on some shades this morning and headed to the boys’ favorite place on earth: the New York City Transit Museum.

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We started at the busses. Julian took his job very seriously, collected tickets, and politely asked other kids for a turn.

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Arthur pretty much hyperventilated the second we arrived. “Dasssss!” (that!) and “Da!” (“there!”). And he was off. This way, that way. Zero fear in this kid.

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We learned how generators power things and stuffs. Although when I asked Julian on the walk home what he had learned, he excitedly exclaimed, “Nothing!” Nice work, kid.

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My main job was not to lose anyone and to keep everyone off the third rail. Julian is all business. He knows which trains he wants to visit and then rattles off the next station along with available transfers… “This is a Brooklyn bound A express train!” Quick, Arthur, hurry, we’re going to miss our train…

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(These boots. After the museum Arthur went to chop some wood.)

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“Thank you for your patience.”

Decembering……

I’ve been absent here for a little while because we’ve been busy. And also really enjoying this month of holiday bliss. Julian comes home from school with crafted ornaments for our tree. The boys love our tree. Almost every morning Julian will say, “Papa, I just love our star up high.”

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We’ve been a mix of very lazy and super busy. Some days we don’t get out of our pajamas. We’ve been listening to lots of Christmas music, drinking hot cocoa and baking cookies. Every morning the boys are excited to open another little gift from their advent calendars. We’ve sent our Christmas cards, colored a lot, and been generally happy to be around each other. Jeff, sadly, is working non-stop (weekends and nights), so we haven’t seen much of him, and when we do see him, the boys flip out because they are so excited and that quickly becomes exhausting.

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I took Julian to his first play last weekend. He and I went out for lunch. It was so calm and lovely to sit down with him and talk over a hamburger, a beer, pancakes, and OJ. We played rock/paper/scissors. He is such a cool little person; I totally don’t get tired of him (except sometimes when I do). The play, Snow White, was fantastic. Julian and his buddy Elliot had a great time and some good laughs. I can’t wait to take him again.

Everyone is healthy for now. Arthur has been fine for almost a week now! Longest streak since September! On Monday he underwent a food challenge for peanuts at Mount Sinai hospital. It was a long morning of entertaining a wild 19 month old in a small, boring room for 4 1/2 hours while coaxing him into eating spoonfuls of peanut butter every 15 minutes. And yay, holy peanut! He passed. He didn’t have any allergic reactions, so the next day we all celebrated with peanut butter sandwiches. (For those who are interested, Arthur is still allergic to nuts, but the peaNUT, which is technically a legume, is unrelated to the tree nuts and his score for that particular one on the allergy test was low, so the allergist felt that a food challenge was safe. I was still very anxious about it and so relieved about the outcome.)

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Mostly, I’ve just been enjoying the boys. I love this stage in Julian’s life. He has become so outgoing with friends and family, and I love listening to his conversations with everyone in his life. And he is just such a lover. He just looooves his friends. He’ll walk up to his friend to hold hands, lean in for a hug, and deliver sweet kisses on the cheek or forehead. It’s always totally unprompted. It’s so funny to see him overcome with a warm fuzzy feeling and act out on it immediately.

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Arthur is a wild machine and is making sure our house is never quiet or dull. He sits at the dining room table and blows at our wreath when the candles aren’t lit, just to see what happens. He bounces off the walls, quite literally. He jumps on the bed, flies off the couch, and will run over your feet with his Bobby-Car (a German staple) if you’re not careful.

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I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Can’t even think about a title. Just GAHHH.

When you think it can’t get any worse, you find yourself serving your child a steroid-laced ice cream sundae.

But let’s start at the beginning. (SPOILER ALERT: Everyone is fine. Fine-ish.)

I could write about how lovely Thanksgiving was and how we didn’t stop eating for four days straight, how delicious the turkey was and all the pies (the pies!), how lovely it was to go on a date with my husband and to see my boys play with their grandparents and cousins, and about Julian’s and Arthur’s delight when they got to ride a steam train along with Santa.  Because that would be all true.

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But of course that wouldn’t be the full truth, and since this is a blog dedicated to my children’s health issues, let’s dive right in, shall we? TheWinterOfTheEndlessSickness continues and hit us again with full force. Arthur was finally well towards the end of last week, just in time for Thanksgiving. Also just in time for Julian to be hit with the winning cold/cough combination that lasted just long enough for Arthur to come down with the same virus, just worse. So he’s been getting progressively worse to the point where he was wheezing and breathing so hard just while he was sitting down playing trains. It was so sad.

A quick trip to the doctor to reassure me that he was fine, or in this case: that he was not. His breathing was fast, his lungs were inflamed, he was wheezing and trying so hard to get enough air in. All while being generally happy of course. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 meaning a trip to the ER via ambulance, Arthur was a 7). He was given an Albuterol nebulizer treatment, which he at first fought like all hell (because OMG what is that thing on my face!)  while Julian tried to help with sweet comments such as, “Cool steam, Arthur!” But once Arthur realized that it made his breathing easier, he just resigned and let it happen. Of course we watched the YouTube video of “Please Mr. Kennedy” a few times. Because when all else fails, that is literally the one thing that will make Arthur happy.

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I was also supposed to give Arthur a steroid to help with his inflammation, so the doctor told me to mix it into something he would like. So yay! Ice cream sundaes for everyone. And guess what? Steroid sundaes are NOT all the rage. My kid hated on that ice cream. And it came right back up. As did the other attempts of coaxing/forcing him to take the medicine (Julian: “Yay Arthur! Yummy medicine!” That kid seriously has a heart of gold. All in an effort to make his brother feel better).

So anyway. There is a ton of leftover ice cream and chocolate syrup and sprinkles, so I am in good shape for tonight. My kid will be fine, and this too shall pass. But oh man, to say it in Julian’s words: “I miss our bikes.” I miss our long and happy summer days, picnics in the park, and healthy kids. Also: a full night of uninterrupted sleep.