Winter is Coming

Just kidding. It’s here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On Arthur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our First Halloween Party!

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

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

The boys were ready!

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

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(It gets really hot under there.)

Once the kids arrived, there were treats.

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

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

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

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

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Weekend Vibes

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

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

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The we laid low on Sheeps Meadow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, Vienna

We had a wonderful week in beautiful Vienna. The weather was perfect, the Schnitzel even more so, and everyone was happy.

My parents met us there and stayed in the same hotel as us. We had nice suite for our family of four, and the boys had their separate room. It was right in the city center, so we could walk everywhere. Of course sometimes we took the subway or the tram, which were huge highlights for our public transportation loving boys. Julian figured out the subway system in no time.

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Every day we started slow in our hotel with breakfast, journalling, and cartoons, and then we headed out for a day of exploring and lots of walking.

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The boys were such troopers. We walked all day. When we checked, our phones told us that we walked between 15,000 and 18,000 steps each day.

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Highlights for us were: Haus der Musik, where we went on our first day. It was so fun and interactive.

Schloss Schönbrunn, the parks, and the zoo. It was hands down the best zoo we had ever been to.

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Other than that I believe we saw all the important castles and churches and ate all the Schnitzel. Vienna is truly breathtaking. I loved wandering around and just stumbling upon yet another beautiful building. There are so many. The Museum of Natural History was also amazing.

The boys discovered Apfelschorle (apple juice and sparkling water), or Apfelsaft gespritzt, as the Viennese say. Julian fell in love with Schnitzel, and we all ate lots of ice cream. Oh, and there was some beer.

It was an all around enjoyable family vacation. I was blown away by how flexible and overall well behaved the boys were. Lots of walking, little sleep, no schedules, late nights, lots of restaurants. They handled it all really well. I was relieved. And it was great to see them with my Dad. Even thought they don’t see each other as much as we’d all like, they are never shy or strange around him. I guess that’s family for ya.

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The flight home was a bite intense I will say. Our first flight was delayed, and we would have missed our connecting flight in Amsterdam, and so we were re-booked on Air France (which was welcome because of free Champagne), but it meant a later arrival time in New York. Arthur had caught a cold, and his bad mama forgot to pack his inhaler and so spent a good amount of time counting his many (rapid) breaths per minute as he snoozed on the plane. In the end, he was fine. Julian didn’t sleep at all and spent hours on the plane watching the Lego Batman movie (3 times I think?) and playing chess against the computer. When we arrived at JFK he sat down next to Arthur on the floor as we waited for a car – and fell asleep. It was 4:30am Vienna time.

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It’s taken us about a week to get over our jet lag, and we miss Opa already. We miss the walks and croissants, the decadent lunches and dinners, and the freedom of going wherever we pleased. Vienna was a dream, and I hope we can return one day.

Full Disclosure

Do you ever feel like your feet are floating just a few inches above ground? Like you’re really trying to stand firmly, securely, but nonetheless you’re kind of up there, out there?

That’s how I feel right now. The news. Las Vegas. Our…”president”…(I still can’t say it) in Puerto Rico tossing paper towels to hurricane survivors.

Then today, after I’d picked up the boys from school, a young person, 20 years old, had jumped in front of a train. We just arrived at the train station in time to see everyone being ushered out. Dozens of emergency vehicles on site, and the smell. I’m not sure what it was. Burned rubber? The smell of emergency brakes? Random people were telling me what had happened, and I just said, “Please stop talking about it” while gesturing towards my young kids. Of course it was too late. They’d heard.

We took the bus home. And we talked about how the firefighters arrived to rescue the person from the tracks. Unfortunately we could relate to it on a much lighter level, as Arthur’s scooter had rolled onto the tracks just two weeks prior. It was a huge deal, a huge lesson learned, many tears, and lots of sweat. Arthur was fine, the trains were fine, and – after an hour of waiting for someone to retrieve it – even the scooter was fine.

But what I know, and what my kids don’t, is that some young kid couldn’t bear it anymore and jumped onto the tracks today. And some poor train driver’s life will be forever changed because of it.

I just cant’t shake it. It was too close, too real. Sometimes it just all seems like too much.

But I have my two boys. Two boys I’d promised to take to the park to play soccer this afternoon. So after school, we played. They were both sporting their new Manuel Neuer jerseys that they’d saved their money for for months, and they were so proud. Another (older) boy joined the game, and it was fun.

Also, I’ve really been struggling with making sure to get Arthur’s needs met. With work, school, after school activities, and all that, I still have to fit in three weekly therapy sessions, which is soon to be four. He qualified for occupational therapy earlier this year, and while I thought/hoped he would outgrow his needs and delays, it’s really apparent that he needs a little more extra help. I’m so grateful for the network we have here, but I am also a bit upset when seeing that time with my children is just slipping away. The Fridays I don’t work are special to me. I spend my day with Arthur, doing a week’s worth of laundry, cuddling, playing games, eating croissants. Now the bulk of our day will be spent going to therapy appointments. I will just bite my lip and make it fun. If I can package it as a playdate of sorts, I consider it a win.

Speaking of playdates, Arthur has finally found a friend. He’s come a long way, and my heart bursts when I see him talking to kids on the playground. So happy. And yes, my kids are dressed in soccer jerseys 80% of the time. Germany all the way, baby.

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This weekend we drove 15 hours total, back and forth to a wedding in Pennsylvania, which was a big pain. But we managed to see some dear friends along the way, and it was an opportunity to see family and dress snazzy. I mean…right?

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Also, we danced our way into oblivion at the reception. My brother-in-law just sent me this photo with the caption “I guess he loves you.” And so it is.

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And here are my boys from this morning, hugging good-bye, as they do every morning.

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With that I have to remind myself that while all is not right in the world, and in fact a lot is very, very wrong in the world, there are some things in our worlds that are right and good and pure, and to those things we must cling. (While making sure we change as much of the rest of our world as we can. For the better.)

Coney to the Rescue

After two weeks of being back at work part-time, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • It’s easier to stay at home full time.
  • It’s easier to work full time (this is partly an assumption and partly based on feedback from my full-time working friends).

I really enjoy my new job. It’s fun to get back into the swing of things. I was concerned that over 6+ years of doing mom things, the part of my brain I’d use at work had gone to sleep. Forever, perhaps? But no. I’m wide awake! And I like being around other adults and talking about things that don’t involve my kids.

I don’t love spending 1 1/2 hours every day commuting back and forth, although it gives me time to read – which is always welcome.

When I’m not on the subway, I’m constantly rushing. Rushing to school drop-off, to the subway, to work, to school pick-up, and then I want to go to sleep.

The thing I’m struggling with the most as I’m adjusting to my new life and routines is the fact that I’m tired. Not just physically tired, but also just plain exhausted. My brain is tired. I’m lacking the patience and drive to do fun things with my kids. And that’s sort of a bummer for me because I love nothing more than doing fun things with my kids. It makes me really sad. I think I also just miss summer and the endless opportunities to have adventures.

On Thursday night I sat on the couch and cried. I was too tired to eat dinner, too tired to watch stupid TV, too tired to read. So I went to bed at 9pm. Yesterday (I don’t work Fridays) was spent with the kids, at speech therapy, doing laundry and house stuff, and at a kid birthday party.

Today we had no plans, and no Papa. Jeff had to work (bummer), so when I got up I decided the kids and I needed a day of fun. So we went to our favorite place: Coney Island!

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I needed a day like today. Watching the boys bounce from ride to ride and be so happy and carefree put my heart in its right place.

Back to … WORK

On Monday I went back to work.

It was my first time heading off to work in more than 6 years; my first day of work as a mother – outside the home, that is. My last day of work was the day my water broke with Julian; he was born the next day, and I never looked back.

The 6 years at home with the boys were wonderful. Sure, sometimes our days were long, I was tired, kids were cranky and sick, but you know how memory works. It helps you choose to remember the great times. And there were many. I feel so fortunate that I had this time with them, that we were able to pull this off. I’ll cherish these years forever.

This job opportunity sort of fell into my lap, and I would have been an idiot not seize the moment. I wasn’t actively looking (yet!), but it was a perfect opportunity. A German company, colleagues from all over the globe, part-time hours. I’m doing admin and PR. And I can still pick up the boys from school. For them nothing changes. Except now they ask me at pick-up, “Mama, how was work?”

The first week is in the books now. I don’t work Fridays, since that’s the day Arthur doesn’t attend pre-school.

What has changed? Jeff and I get up earlier. I put on something other than sweatpants. That part is kind of fun!

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And I make three lunches. Mine look unspectacular compared to the boys, but it’s nice to eat with my colleagues. We all sit down together at a big table to eat, and afterwards the table converts into a ping pong table! How fun is that?!

I’m happy. Monday was great. After work we went to see Roger Waters with some friends. What a fantastic show!!

Tuesday was stressful. I guess the adrenaline had worn off; after work I had to run to make it to pick-up on time. Then Arthur and I had two hours to kill while Julian played after school soccer. Our coffee date was lovely; playground was next, and then we roamed the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. At the end of which I was exhausted.

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When I picked Julian up from school I noticed that he had lost his first tooth! Which is great news because * it happened! * Yay! and terrible, devastating news because he hadn’t noticed at all and of course the tooth was gone. Julian broke down in tears. His friends assured him that the tooth fairy still visits even if the tooth is lost, and eventually he lightened up.

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The tooth fairy lived up to her reputation and left Julian his first ever comic book: Scooby-Doo! Team Up! Also some cash, because apparently that’s always a winner. Julian loved the book so much. He read every waking minute he was not in school until the book was finished.

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Wednesday night Arthur started getting sick. He had a fever, snotty nose, and a cough that for him always leads to wheezing. He was so sad. We were up for a while with him in the night, and I decided we wouldn’t send him to school the next day. Which is totally not a problem when you have a stay-at-home parent but kind of problematic when you don’t. “Luckily” Jeff has been working 15 hour days and thought it’d be ok if he stayed home with Arthur until I got back from work in the early afternoon. It worked out, and I feel like we managed our first trial just fine. Also helpful: Julian is now able to take the bus to school! It doesn’t make sense for us on any day other than Friday (when Arthur doesn’t go to school), because we still need to drop off Arthur a couple of blocks from Julian’s school anyway. But today (and tomorrow) Julian was a school bus kid. He was pumped!

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So week one is done. I’m excited for this new chapter in our lives. The biggest moment for me was on Monday, when I left work, stepped outside and thought, “Wow. I haven’t thought about my children in 5 hours.” That is something that I can genuinely say has never happened before. Even with them in school, I’d still go about my day with them in mind. Errands, house work, everything was centered around my family. Having some time every day where that is not the case is probably good. At least this week I felt like I missed the kids more, even though I didn’t actually spend any more time away from them than in the weeks when I didn’t go to work.

Onward!

Back-to-School Feels

The boys are back in school. And I am, well, a bit sad.

In previous summers I think I kind of anticipated this day. By the end, the boys were getting to me, and I was ready. But not this year.

This summer was my favorite summer ever. I loved our trips to the Catskills, California, and the Poconos. I loved hanging out with the boys. They are so fun, so clever, so enjoyable. Sure, they have their moments, but overall they are people whose company I enjoy.

There were good times with friends; date nights with my husband. Arthur learned how to ride his bike; Julian plowed through the Wimpy Kid books. We picked up bagels and lox and ate them at our favorite playground near the Promenade, played on the beach, jumped in the pool and went on rides in Coney Island. We read books, napped, watched TV, watched people from our stoop. I went running. On the last day of summer break, Julian joined me for a run over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. It was my most favorite run ever. Not only did he pump his little legs fast enough to help me keep a good pace, I also loved chatting with him and just having him around. Afterwards, we brought home donuts for breakfast.

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But of course as all summers tend to do, this one ended. The kids returned to school. Julian was very excited; no nerves at all. He had his first day on Tuesday, which began with traditional photos on our stoop and then a lovely welcome ceremony at the school. The kid was back in his element. Also, look at these giant feet.

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Arthur had his first day on Thursday. He seemed a bit more reserved, but once he entered his school building, he was off and basically forgot to say good-bye. For shock effect, he requested a short hair do the day before. I cried. But he was happy, and I totally love it, too. He now looks like a 15 year old.

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Per our tradition, we celebrated the first day of school with donuts.

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Both boys had spectacular first days. Julian is happy to be with his friends again, and he likes his new teachers. Arthur was giddy and bouncy and told me about all the details of his day. I could tell he was so happy.

Here’s to a new season in our lives. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m feeling so sentimental right now. I just do. The boys are growing up so fast. Too fast. But it’s also exciting. It’s fun to watch them grow, to see their relationship deepen, their interests develop, their personalities shine. I just love these creatures so much.

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And today, as if to reassure me that my boys still had some baby left in them, this happened. We’ll be ok.

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Last Hurrah

Our last week of summer took us to the Poconos with all of Jeff’s extended family: grandparents, a 100-year-old great aunt, siblings, and kids. The boys had their three cousins to hang out with all week, ages 3, 6 and 8, which I think was the highlight of the week.

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We rented a house in the Poconos where we had never been before, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Except of course, nature, duh. This was the view from our porch:

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The house itself was pretty cool. It had a game room with air hockey and about a dozen or so restored pinball machines – which were gems. We spent a lot of time there.

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The other perk was a movie theater room where we made 100-year-old Aunt Clara watch the movie “Get Out.” Also, ping pong and a 20-foot-long shuffleboard table. Next up: the hot tub. (Which is where a hornet stung me in the neck. Yay nature. Yikes.)

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Other than that what did we do? Well, it’s hard to say. I kind of lost track, and we just bummed around a lot. We spent a couple of afternoons at the Lake Naomi Pool Club. The kids acted like fish, and the adults acted like kids, so that probably means we all had fun.

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We also went on a couple of hikes. The highlight was Bushkill Falls. Really gorgeous, nature-y, waterfall-y, lovely.

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One day we rented a couple of boats and headed out on Lake Naomi.

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Our boat continuously went in a circle, and Jeff complained about my steering abilities. I had no idea that the first person in the boat is all muscle and the last person all…ability. I’m not a boat person, I guess.

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On our last day there we went to a farm and rode some horses. Julian went first, on a full-size horse no less, and I was impressed. No nerves. Riding one-handed like a boss cowboy.

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Arthur was next. He’s a creature lover, so he was in heaven.

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After that Grammy took over our kids, and Jeff and I went on a one-hour-long trail ride.

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I used to ride horses quite a bit as a kid and have never lost my love for them. That feeling on top of that animal – heaven!

Other than that, what can I say? We ate and drank a lot. There were bonfires and s’mores and ice cream and delicious dinners. My mother-in-law came with a giant cooler in tow full of prepared baked goods. We all gained 10 pounds, I’m sure.

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I’m a beach person, so I was bummed when the family decided to try something new this year. In the three previous years we had spent a week down the shore in Avalon, NJ (2014, 2015, 2016). And while I had fun in the Poconos and everything that matters was there (i.e. the family), my heart belongs to the ocean and the beach. I hope we can spend our next vacation splashing in the waves again. Until then, thanks, family, for a great week!

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