Arthur Baby,

Today you are 4.

You are insistent that you are not my baby anymore, but I assure you today – and every day – that you are and forever will be my baby.

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But you are also totally a kid; I get it. You’re a very capable person, and you’ve had an amazing year. You’ve come so far and worked so hard, and I am so, so proud of you.

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I mean, last year we tried to put you into pre-school, and you just cried and cried – and we gave you another year at home. This year you walk into school, kiss me good-bye, and you’re on your way. After school you grab my hand and tell me about everything that happened that day. That little walk from your school over to Julian’s school is one of my favorite moments with you – because you’re always happy and full of stories.

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You are a solo kind of guy. You’re very independent. Many times you yourself are company enough. You play well by yourself. You love Star Wars so much. You play with Legos, lightsabers, and most of all using your incredible imagination. And you’ve got your facts down. At 4, you officially know more about the Empire than me. The other day we were looking at one of your cousin’s books and you – who can’t read yet – correctly labeled about a dozen lightsaber holders. This included, for example, Ki-Adi-Mundi – and I’m pretty sure he was not a major character. Correct me if I’m wrong.

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You are something else, Arthur. You can drive me crazy while simultaneously holding my heart in your hands. You are wonderfully sweet and intuitive, a lover of animals and all creatures, and you are also the most defiant, stubborn, and complicated person. Life with you is never dull. Never.

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You work incredibly hard at your speech. Three times a week you sit down with your speech therapists – and you make it very known that it is not your favorite thing to do. But you power through, you work very hard, and you have made incredible strides. We are so proud of you. You’ve always been such a lovable, happy, outgoing kid, and despite your struggles you have stayed true to yourself. You don’t shy away from conversations, you share your thoughts, your feelings, and your fantastic sense of humor. You make up the most nonsensical jokes and make me laugh like no other.

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You are so cuddly. We still sneak the occasional nap together, you and I, even though I know I have to pay for it come bedtime because you won’t go to bed. But it’s worth it. Those sleepy, warm snuggles with you are everything. You still fit into my arms perfectly. Your head rests on my shoulders just so. And your hair in my face is something I can totally tolerate – other than my own hair in my face, which is just annoying. You are so loving, so sweet, and hugging you will solve almost any problem. You just need that hug. You need to know it’s all ok. And it is.

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I’m extremely emotional when it comes to you and ridiculously protective. But I am learning to watch you grow and stand up for yourself and maybe to let go a little. Maybe. You know what you want – but whatever it is, you’d gladly give it up for your brother. Whether it be the preferred color of a lollipop or a turn with a toy…you would probably give your right arm for your brother. You adore him so much.

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One time this winter you and I were in Prospect Park playing in the snow. Another little boy and his mom were also there, and the boy climbed up on a small pile of snow and proclaimed, “I’m bigger than you!” You didn’t think twice and replied, “Maybe. But no one is bigger than MY BROTHER.” So that pretty much sums up how you feel about Julian. I honestly don’t think I could dream up a better pair of brothers.

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Thank you for all the joy you bring into our lives. We all adore you so much. Arthur, even though I sometimes want to bang my head against a wall, I want you to know that I love you just the way you are, that you make me happy and proud and that you are exactly what our family needed. You keep doing you, my clever boy, and I will support you always. I love you so completely.

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Happy Birthday, my sweet baby.

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May the Fourth…

…be with us all.

Last night I foolishly allowed the boys to sleep in my bed. Jeff is away for work all week, so I had the space – or so I  thought. Let me just say: Arthur snores like an old man and moves around like a monkey on steroids. Suffice to say, it was a restless night (for me).

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At 6am Julian woke up and said, “I’m 6!”

And so he is. There was no time to waste; he had to open presents immediately.

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Also, pancakes.

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Arthur screamed intermittently from 6am to 9am (when I left him at his school) because it was not his birthday. Damn you nature (i.e. planned c-section) for making his birthday be three whole days later. Being the younger brother is hard sometimes (all the time?).

Anyway. Julian brought a cake to school.

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He said his classmates sang to him four times (apparently that’s a huge deal). He was beaming when I picked him up from school. Him, and 8 of his closest friends. Because who doesn’t like to be in charge of a bunch of sugar-hungry 5-6 year olds?

Also, I was that person with a bunch of balloons on the subway. No one even looked at me twice. I love New York.

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Traveling in style, me and my trusty grocery cart.

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(I’d dropped off the piñata and 40 juice boxes in our giant beach bag at school the previous day. But the boxed wine needed to be chilled, because priorities. So that’s why I needed the cart.)

Once some other brave moms and I made all these children safely cross Eastern Parkway, they all ran loose at the park. I’d thought up a bunch of games, but they immediately started playing soccer. And that was just as well. Then there was the piñata:

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Also, the aftermath. Only about three children cried because they didn’t get enough candy. It was mostly the kids who were smart enough not to roll around in the dirt. Note: my kids were not among them and went diving in.

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Meanwhile, I put my friend in charge of pouring wine.

Then, because 4 pounds of candy wasn’t enough, there was a donut cake. Which is just a bunch of donuts piled on top of each other. It’s genius because a) no baking required b) no plates required c) no clean-up required d) children insanely happy.

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We sang happy birthday and devoured a bunch of fried dough.

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Then the kids ran around, climbed some trees, and rode their scooters. Julian got a new scooter for his birthday, but of course I didn’t take a single picture of it.

In fact, I didn’t take any pictures. Because my phone died. But when I came home I had received emails from from probably six or seven moms and babysitters who had all sent me their photos. And that made my heart melt. Also the fact that we have found this amazing community of kids and families. What a blessing and what a joy to see my children run around the park with their good friends, and how lucky for me that the moms are equally amazing.

Julian wished for fish tacos for dinner, so I took the boys across the street to our neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Then we came home, opened more gifts, and crashed. As in, I’m sitting here with the rest of the boxed wine and a bag of M&Ms.

I’m tired. Birthdays are a lot of work. And this was only 50%! Arthur’s is on Sunday.

That said, when I put the boys to bed tonight, I said to Julian, “I hope you felt special and loved today. You’re so lucky to have such good friends.” And he said, “Thank you, Mama, for everything you did today.”

And that is all I needed to hear.

Interview with Julian on his 6th Birthday

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What’s your favorite drink?

Orange juice, water

What’s your favorite food?

Cake

What’s your favorite song?

Let it Flow 

What’s your favorite TV show?

Star Wars movies

What’s your favorite book?

Star Wars

What’s your favorite thing to do?

Play Star Wars, do Math, say all the subway stops on my train map

What makes you laugh?

When mama tickles me

What’s your favorite animal?

Falcon

What’s your favorite toy?

Lego Star Wars

What makes you happy?

When I eat ice cream

What makes you sad?

When we get to watch TV for a long time and then have to turn it off

Who do you love?

Mama, Papa, Arthur, Shirine

What scares you?

Monster

What do you want to do when you grow up? 

Drive the Q train

Who is your best friend?

Shirine, Marlowe, Marlo, Lorelei, Frances, Chase

What do you want for your birthday?

Gup A, Octopod, Annakin’s spaceship, new scooter

What is your favorite playground?

Mount Prospect Park

What is your favorite museum?

Museum of Math

What’s your favorite color?

I love all colors except pink.

What’s your favorite subway train?

4, 5, Q

What are you best at?

Math

What things do you take to bed with you?

Sometimes Gup X and Cpt. Barnacles

What is your favorite fruit?

Mango, banana

What is your favorite snack?

Breakfast bars

What is your favorite vegetable?

Cucumber on a sandwich, carrots, spinach

What is your favorite thing to do outside?

Play

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? (and how would you get there?)

The Bronx with the 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, B, D trains

 

P.S. Past birthday interviews with Julian: 2016, 2015, 2014

Half a Dozen

Julian,

From now on you’ll need two hands to count your age. Today, my boy, you are six.

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It seems like yesterday that I was nervously lying on a stretcher in an operating room at NYU, taken by surprise that a c-section was necessary to get out that baby I couldn’t wait to meet. Your Papa was whispering nonsensical knock knock jokes into my ear, trying to keep me from being too afraid. He was the first one to hold you, and he held your face close to mine so I could meet you. From the first flutter I felt when you were kicking in my belly, to that miraculous moment when I saw your face so close to mine – to now. In the blink of an eye. Even though I couldn’t imagine I could love you any more than I did that first moment I laid eyes on you, my love for you continues to grow and grow each day.

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You are amazing.

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At six, let’s see…

You love school. You love it so much. Any worry I might have had about you going to a new school, with new people, all day and every day, well, you showed me. I love dropping you off in the mornings, getting that one last hug and kiss, and then you happily skip down the hall to your classroom. You love math the most, and you are really, really good at it. I don’t know where you get it from, but math is totally your thing. Right now you are working on 2nd grade math books. Most of all, you love it. You also love reading, German, English, Science. Pretty much everything about school. Your reading is excellent. At night, you’ll read book after book to Arthur in your bed. Your spelling is hilarious. I mean…

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Your best person in life is your brother. You have good friends at school who you play with every day, but Arthur is totally your guy. You two are something else. I’ve never seen two people so connected, so in tune with each other, and so happy to be around each other as you two. You play together all day long. Even at bedtime you aren’t tired of each other and will beg us to let you read or play quietly in your room. You are Arthur’s advocate and protector – and of course no one knows how to push his buttons better than you.

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Your next big love, other that math and Arthur, is the NYC Subway. I mean, it’s no secret that you’ve always loved the subway. When you were two, you kept me from getting on the wrong train more than once. Now, at 6, you are teaching yourself all the stops of all the lines. Beverly Road? Sure, you can get us there. You know all the lines, stops, differences, sounds, announcements, quirks. Basically, when riding the train, conversations with you are impossible because you are studying everything at all times. At home, you’ll sit in front of your subway map and trace the stops one by one, learning them all. It’s kind of dorky and adorable.

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This year you’ve grown more into yourself. I think you’re becoming more comfortable with who you are. You know what you like and what you don’t like. You are strong-headed (very!), determined, stubborn, complicated.

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You are also sensitive, kind, strategic, super smart, and overall pretty down to earth and reasonable. You are just a person I like having around. I enjoy talking to you, hanging out with you, hearing your ideas and learning what makes you tick. You’re growing up so fast – and what an honor, what an absolute joy it is that I get to be by your side. It is the greatest gift, the most wonderful blessing in my life.

Happy 6th Birthday, my beautiful boy.

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Bike Season Opener

This weekend consisted of a so-so day, and a great day. Saturday was rainy and chilly. We had an appointment early-ish, and the boys behaved horribly. It ruined everyone’s mood and led to several conversations afterwards.

Later that day we hung out on our street for a street festival for Earth Day. Unfortunately it was rainy. Damn you, Earth!

Anyway, we were at a booth planting some basil, like one does, and one of the women from the local CSA commented, “What polite boys you have!” I almost choked. It was such a stark contrast to just a few hours before when they were everything but polite. Ahhh, parenthood.

We wrote things we’re thankful for on this “gratitude tree.” Julian said, “My school.” Arthur said, “Ice cream and chocolate.” Priorities.

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We spent the afternoon with popcorn and a movie (Star Wars Episode IV) and then went on a quick walk to a BBQ restaurant around the corner, where we stuffed our faces with way too much food.

Today, we slept in. As in, Arthur and I. At 7:30am, the time we’ve deemed acceptable to be woken up on weekends (weekdays it’s 7am), the boys crawled into our bed, and Arthur went right back to sleep for another two hours. This makes me hopeful for the future when at least one of my children might be happy to sleep in, and the other one will be happy to solve complicated math problems or work on the Rubik’s Cube (looking at you, Julian).

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After a breakfast of waffles and more waffles, we hit the road. Our first family bike ride of the season!

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We rode over the Brooklyn Bridge and stopped for a beer in Battery Park. Exhibit A:

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This right here means it’s a good day. Bikes, beer, children who are always hungry, many rounds of Uno, and my lovely, somewhat goofy husband.

We let the boys play for a long time at Nelson Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City. It’s such an awesome playground. Jeff went go to get us sandwiches, and we ate in peace and read the paper while the boys played.

Then we rode up the Westside and over to Washington Square Park.

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Then over to the East Village, coffee break, and more playtime.

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Then we were tired and headed home. I’m so happy that spring has finally sprung, even though it’s not warm yet. The city is glorious with all the tulips and cherry blossoms, and riding around on our bikes makes my heart so happy.

Coney Island

Today was the only day of spring break that we didn’t have any plans/speech/play dates scheduled, so I decided to take the boys to Coney Island. It was our second trip this year, and I plan to add at least 10 more by September. It is our favorite, favorite place. And it’s so easy to get there!

Once we arrived, even before the rides had opened, we needed hot dogs.

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Next up: rides.

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Then: Wonder Wheel.

I’m seriously so scared of the swinging cars, but the boys insist, and won’t hold my hand, so I just scream and have fun. Then: more rides.

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The boys went on this roller coaster last year. This time around I think Arthur became intimidated half way through the ride, because I saw him putting his head on Julian’s shoulder, and the way he sought comfort like this made my heart melt. Of course he didn’t admit that he was scared at all.

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Then we played on the beach for a good while…

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…had ice cream…

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…and headed home.

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Spring Break

Julian’s spring break was totally dominated by my terrible pink eye. It was seriously the worst and took 10 days and two rounds of antibiotics to get under control.

But we did manage to get some fun in. That included a few bike rides, trips to the park, and soccer.

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Also, our new favorite thing to do is eat on our stoop. Last year we had breakfast on our stoop one morning on a very hot day in July, and Arthur still talks about it. So one night, when I didn’t feel like cooking, I made them corn dogs and french fries, and we hung out until Papa came home from work. Also, there was wine.

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We stayed so long on our stoop that we had to run to get more wine from our neighborhood wine store, including more plastic cups for our neighbors who had joined us. The boys were allowed to go across the street and buy themselves a candy bar with a dollar each. They crossed the street on their own (we were right there!), and then bought their candy while we watched from the stoop across the street. Apparently the deli owner greeted them with, “So, you boys got any money?” They’ve never been more proud.

We’ve been hanging out on our stoop a lot, and I think it’ll be a place where you’ll find us this summer.

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This weekend we drove to our old friends’ farm in rural Pennsylvania and were a part of a great surprise party. It was so nice to see our friends again, and to meet new people. The boys loved roaming around the farm – tractor ride included.

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In the evening we drove on down to Delaware to spend Easter Sunday with Jeff’s family – and most importantly we were there for Jeff’s mother’s birthday. It was a busy day, filled with too much candy, chocolate, and drinks. The cousins were all so happy to see each other.

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We arrived back in Brooklyn very late Sunday night, and thankfully my car-hating children slept the entire drive home. As did I. Jeff, I assume, did not.

An Adventure (incl. Math)

So, I could start off by telling you about how miserable I was on Friday with a temperature of 101.7 with Arthur begging me to pleeeeaaaase just sit up and look at him play with this one thing. Julian came home from soccer on Friday evening, crashed on the couch and was asleep by 6:30pm. Fever for him too, of course. I could tell you how we cancelled plans with old friends, then felt better, had brunch with other friends and a generally enjoyable weekend but then The Gods of Never-Ending Sickness decided we’d had too much fun, so they blessed me with a horrendous case of pink eye in both eyes. Because seriously this shit never ends. Here is fever-Jules.

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But instead of talking endlessly about my misery, I’d rather talk about the lovely day I had today.

Julian is on spring break this week, and Arthur still has his usual three days a week in school schedule, so I have a few days with just my eldest this week. I was determined to not let my throbbing eyeballs ruin the fun. Also: sunglasses at all times.

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Yesterday was spent with errands, such as dropping Arthur off, shopping, doctor for throbbing eyeballs, and bringing our bike into the shop for its annual spring check up. But also: a lovely stoop lunch in the sun.

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Today was just perfect. We dropped Arthur off at the Botanic Gardens for a field trip, so I knew he was going to have a good day, too. Then Julian and I headed off into Manhattan for yet another doctor’s appointment. Julian is in charge now of getting us places, meaning I tell him our destination, and he figures out the subway connections we need to make. That already makes for a perfect day in his book.

After my appointment, we walked to our next stop: The Museum of Mathematics. I’d read somewhere about it, and I had a feeling my math obsessed kid would love it. And the museum did not disappoint! We probably spent two hours there, exploring shapes and forms and colors and numbers. It was amazing. I can highly recommend!

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Then I took my boy to lunch.

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On our commute back to Brooklyn to pick Arthur up from school, I told Julian to wake me up at Franklin Avenue, and that almost worked – except some guy started screaming at Atlantic Avenue and interrupted my slumber. But it’s totally awesome that I can now put my almost 6 year old in charge. Yes, this guy. At least I got to rest my eyeballs for a few minutes.

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Then we went to pick up our favorite almost four year old nut job, Arthur. There was ice cream and lots of playtime at the playground, and tonight was the first time this year that I threw my kids in the tub because they were filthy from too much outdoor play. That means it was a good day.

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Now I shall continue to lie on my couch with a warm cloth casually draped over my offensively red eyeballs.

To yell or not to yell

A couple of years ago I did the “No Yell Experiment.” It was fun while it lasted. Just kidding. I mean, it worked but then life happened. And boom, just like that I find myself parenting yet another ridiculous three year old.

With spring around the corner and some other changes that I’ve made (I quit the gym), I knew this was something I needed to work on. Again.

I did some research. I bought – and read – a book. I finished the first chapter and applied my new knowledge. I don’t agree with everything I read, but amongst all the advice, I discovered the solution: love.

Cheesy? Perhaps. But it works.

The other insight I got from my read was that almost every time you lose your patience with your kids, it’s on you. Meaning, you’re not really just stressed out about the situation at hand, but rather about everything else: you’re running late, the trains are messed up, work is stressful, and so on and so forth. I know this is definitely true for me. My reaction depends very much on my mindset, and I have oftentimes found myself impatient with my kids for reasons that have nothing to do with them. Does that make me human? Yes. But it doesn’t make me feel particularly good.

But let’s take a step back. Arthur can be a handful. He listens very selectively. He doesn’t pay attention. He continuously disobeys despite many warnings. Consequences are met with outbursts of massive proportions.

Here are the two things I need to do: stay calm and hug.

A couple of real life examples:

  1. Situation: The boys are taking a bath. Arthur keeps splashing so much that the entire bathroom is soaked. I remind him not to do that and clean everything up (rookie mistake – clean after bath time is done). He drowns the bathroom again. I tell him he has to get out of the tub. He’s furious, but I remain calm. He gets out. He screams. He stomps. He throws his towel at me. He is so angry. Here is where sometimes I can feel frustration rising inside and all I want to do is scream louder than my three year old. Of course that’s nonsense. Anyone who is not confronted by a screaming three year old will tell you as much. But the urge is there all the same. Back to our bath time fun. Rather than yelling, I take a deep breath and give my kid a hug. He stops screaming immediately and falls into me. He nestles himself into my shoulder, I wrap him in his towel, and once he has calmed down we talk about what just happened. Also, I was just stressed because I was making dinner and it was the end of the day and yada yada yada. The wet bathroom floor was actually not that big of a deal.
  2. Situation: A subway ride home and Arthur keeps punching his brother and being generally annoying. I say, “Stop that.” He responds with, “Stop that.” And so on. I tell him the consequence of this nonsense was that he didn’t get to ride his scooter home (all two blocks from the subway station). He.loses.his.shit. Screaming, hitting, pulling on me, making me trip, screaming. Oh, did I mention I have to buy milk? Yes, we are those people in the store. Anyway. I have no control of the situation. People are staring. I feel like a failure. Also, kind of resentful of my annoying child. Then I stop, drop the million things I’m carrying, remove Arthur’s helmet, and give him a big hug. And it all passes. He apologizes, I accept, he says he loves me, I say I love him. We talk about why he isn’t allowed to ride his scooter, and he gets it. The end.

The point is: No one gets the message when a parent loses his or her temper. It might offer temporary relief, but afterwards I always feel crappy. Kids can’t always control their emotions. They are still learning. They are learning their coping mechanisms from us. And the answer is, as Love Actually told us all many years ago, love. Compassion. Here is my pledge to hug instead of yell and talk later.

So, I told the boys that I am working on not yelling. Jeff and I made a commitment to not do it. Ever. With no one. Because it sucks.

So far so good. It’s funny. Unlike saying “I won’t have a drink all week” it’s actually really easy not to yell once it is simply not an option. It’s been two weeks, and I’ve slipped once. Julian actually became teary-eyes and said, “Mama, you went against our rules and against the book.”

Will I slip up again? Sure. I mean, probably. Maybe? But we’re making an effort here, and spring is a good time to start new things.

Weekend Report

This week we were finally all feeling better.

I’ve been trying to move a little slower. Arthur and I have enjoyed morning coffees and treats during our errands. You only live once, right? And I’ve never heard anyone complain about having eaten too many croissants in their life.

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This weekend we were both busy and lazy. On Friday night we hung out with Arthur’s former speech therapist and her very talented musician/composer fiancé at his studio in the Navy Yards. We ate chili, caught up, and listened to the guys play.

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Saturday we were lazy. Arthur had a fever all day – completely unexplained. Today he’s fine. But yesterday he was sleepy and cuddly, and I was his favorite pillow. Both of my boys are excellent cuddelers – but when they’re sick, they are extra sweet. Despite having enjoyed my extra dose of love, I’m happy he’s back to his old crazy self today.

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Saturday night Jeff and I attended a big birthday bash for one of his colleagues. Wow did she go all out! I mean, a step & repeat! We had so much fun, danced, drank too much, played pool and ping pong and then for some unexplained reason ran more than 10 blocks downtown to eat hot dogs in the East Village. A 1am Crif Dog – can’t beat it.

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Today we had bagels on the promenade and enjoyed the sunshine. Despite a massive hangover.

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The boys got to ride their bikes, and we watched them play at the playground. Besties for life, these two.

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Sunday night we had friends over for a pizza party. “We” (Jeff) made these beauties:

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The kids played/trashed the place/had fun, and everyone got to stay up way past bedtime.

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The end.