Birthdays And The Never-Ending Sickness

On Wednesday night of last week we spontaneously decided to take a quick bike ride to Brooklyn Crab, our now completely overpriced and commercialized former favorite hang-out. Dinner was great, but towards the end I noticed I had a sore throat and was hit with the very strong notion that I was getting sick.

 

I had a terrible night and woke up sick the next day. I spent the day in bed nursing a 102 fever and sending Jeff on a frenzy of last minute birthday errands. Because the next day our firstborn was going to turn 7!

In the end everything got done. Julian woke up, blew out his candles, and opened one present.

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That afternoon after school we gave him his big present: a new bike!

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And of course a couple of smaller presents as well. There was a cake (store-bought this year) and more candles. Then Jeff took Julian for an hour long spin on his new, 24″, super big boy bike with gears! Julian did so well. I can’t wait to go on a ride with him next!

Meanwhile, I spent another day in bed.

The next day, Saturday, was the boys big party. They put on their birthday presents from Oma & Opa, one of their favorite gifts ever: Bayern Munich soccer uniforms.

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We had invited some 20+ kids to the park. The weather was perfect, and other than a quick break to devour cupcakes, the kids were off playing soccer for hours while the adults hung out near the wine and beer. It was a super relaxed party, and the boys were in heaven. Because: soccer.

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On Sunday I was so sick that I started crying on the couch. Julian said, “Mama! I don’t want you to die.” That’s when I knew I had to man up.

On Monday it was kid no. 2’s turn to have his big day. 5! Arthur woke up to pancakes and a song and got to open one present.

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The others waited for him after school, along with the desired ice cream cake. Does this guy look happy or what?

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We spent the rest of the day playing with new toys, and for dinner we did as Arthur, our birthday boy, commanded: We had an indoor hot dog picnic. The best.

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So now I have a 5 and a 7 year old. I can’t take it.

On Monday I went to work but was pretty miserable all day. On Tuesday I stayed home sick again. Since yesterday I can tell that I am finally better, and today there are just the annoying remnants of what was the worst cold ever (an annoying cough and snot galore).

All is good. We survived the week. No one cared that the cakes were store-bought or that the cupcakes were from a box. The boys were happy, surrounded by friends and love, and that is all that matters.

Interview with Arthur on his 5th Birthday

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What’s your favorite drink?

Orange Crush

What’s your favorite food?

Ice cream

What’s your favorite song?

The Touch by Stan Bush 

What’s your favorite TV show?

Dragons Race to the Edge

What’s your favorite book?

Dragons Race to the Edge

What’s your favorite thing to do?

Play

What makes you laugh?

When I fall down

What’s your favorite animal?

Snake

What’s your favorite toy?

Magnatiles

What makes you happy?

When Mama isn’t sick (* I was sick when we did this interview.)

What makes you sad?

When Mama is sick

Who do you love?

Mama

What scares you?

Nothing

What do you want to do when you grow up? 

Be a subway driver

Who is your best friend?

Jakob

What do you want for your birthday?

A pick-up tool to pick up rubber bands for my rubber band ball while riding a bike

What is your favorite playground?

Mount Prospect Park

What is your favorite museum?

All of them

What’s your favorite color?

All of them except pink

What’s your favorite subway train?

All of them

What are you best at?

Sound effects

What things do you take to bed with you?

My lizard 

What is your favorite fruit?

Pineapple 

What is your favorite snack?

Cookies

What is your favorite vegetable?

Carrots

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?)

To Uncle Brian’s house on the Q

A Handful – Arthur is 5!

So, it’s kind of obvious, but I totally don’t have a baby anymore. Arthur has been telling me for years, but I guess I’m finally getting the message.

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Where to begin? With Arthur, of course. Our birthday boy.

It’s been a big year for Arthur. A year in which he has worked incredibly hard, has learned and grown so much, and has tested our limits beyond belief. But never our love, of course. That remains steady and strong and pretty powerful all around. Just like Arthur.

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Arthur keeps working at speech and occupational therapy four times a week. He has made such amazing progress this year; hard-earned. And he still has a long way to go.

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He is very ready for Kindergarten in the fall. He does basic math up to 10 and sometimes 20 and can sometimes read a few basic words. I say “sometimes” because Arthur’s dedication and effort greatly depend on his mood.

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He is incredibly clever when overcoming his speech delay. He will translate, demonstrate and lately will give us the first letter of the word he is trying to say. To say he is smart would be an understatement.

Arthur is also a nutcase. He is wild, loud, disobedient, spontaneous, hilarious, energetic, kind, unpredictable. He is always in motion, and when he’s not moving he is thinking up a new idea. He’s always creating something. And when he’s not doing either of those things, he is pretending. Arthur’s imagination literally knows no limits. It has worked wonders for Arthur’s very “head-y” brother.

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In every way imaginable, most people don’t believe Arthur is 5. He is super tall and functions as a 6 or 7 year old on many levels. He’s had years of practice following around Julian and his friends, like most younger siblings tend to do.

Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond Arthur’s angry, screaming, tantrum-y face, to understand his loss of control and inner struggle and to see the sweet, strong boy that he is. He is so tough. And so loving. I can honestly say that Arthur makes me feel loved every single day, and that is such a gift. I hope I can give him the same gift in return.

I have started giving him long back rubs, which is the only chance I get to have Arthur lie down with me and stay still. I love giving him these back rubs because he relaxes, and we connect. It’s sort of a continuation of our Friday naps together. Of course naps haven’t happened in forever in our house.

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I’m so excited for Arthur and for this next year for him. I have no doubt he will continue to be the most loyal brother, solid friend, and sweet son, and I am especially happy that he will start Kindergarten and will be in the same school as his brother. It’s pretty much his wildest dream come true. As usual, I expect he will throw us a few curveballs to keep things interesting.

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Arthur, happy birthday, my little wild child. My sweet boy. You are a fresh breeze in our lives, and we would be so lost without you. We love you forever.

And lest you forget: You will always be my Baby “Attu.”

Itchy Chin

Opa’s Back in Town!

Well, he was. We just spent a full, happy, loud, exciting, lovely week with my Dad/Opa. He arrived on Friday and left 10 days later, today. We had so much fun!

Highlights included:

A soccer game at Red Bull Arena. New York Red Bulls against Chicago Fire, including no one less than Germany’s very own Bastian Schweinsteiger. I loved it! The boys loved it! We all did. Opa explained all the rules to Julian; there was a lot of popcorn and overpriced beer.

I got to explore the city every day with my dad, and the weather was finally spring-like and perfect. I worked fewer hours than usual, and he picked me up from work every day. We had lunch and wandered around. On Sunday Jeff hung with the boys while my Dad and I walked all around the West Village. It was such a beautiful day.


We spent the rest of the day with Jeff’s family who all came to hang out with us.

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We played lots of soccer, watched a soccer game at a German restaurant, and talked about soccer whenever possible. Also, we are spending every waking minute with our Panini soccer sticker book. Soccer for life.

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On Wednesday night, we watched Julian in his spring school performance. He was adorable.

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Also: this view! Another visit to the World Trade Center.

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We took Arthur to speech together, to Karate, to the Transit Museum. A 10 day visit allows for a glimpse into our real lives with all its joy and hustle and occasional fighting. The boys loved having their Opa around so much.

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The last day was spent in Central Park. It was a perfect ending to a perfect NYC week.

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The boys will miss Opa!

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And so will I.

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Inaugural Bike Ride

Did everyone enjoy the two days of spring we got last week? We did!

Jeff got the bikes out of storage and had them tuned up for spring. On Friday he gave them a good cleaning and put on Arthur’s new big boy seat.

On Saturday we packed our bags and we were off. Coney Island bound!

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It felt amazing to be back on the bikes! Look at these happy faces! Sunshine, music, bikes, and the prospect of a day outside, together.

We were cruising down the boardwalk in no time.

We had lunch and then played on the beach for a bit.

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Jeff took the boys on a walk down to the pier, and I took a glorious half hour nap on the beach.

The boys got to go on the rides…

We had ice cream…

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Arthur and I watched Julian and Jeff go on some of the rides we opted out of. Like this one:

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I mean, that’s just too high! Arthur seemed more cautious than usual; maybe he was tired, maybe it is residue from his traumatic experience earlier this week. Either way, I enjoyed having him by my side.

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On the ride home the temperatures dropped significantly. Spring was over! I wrapped Arthur in a scarf, secured it with a sandwich bag clip (because I’m crafty like that), and he promptly fell asleep. Julian is such a good big brother; he held Arthur’s head the entire way.

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We stopped for tacos in Lefferts Gardens, and that was it! A full day of fun – and now we’re back to wearing winter coats.

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Never A Dull Moment

Arthur has been attending a theater after-school class on Tuesday afternoons while Julian has soccer class, but yesterday he didn’t have his class for whatever reason, and I was excited to spend some time with my boy over coffee and a treat at the coffee shop down the street from his school, where we hang out often.

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Arthur chose a piece of lemon cake, a choice he’s made many times before – of course nut-free. Pretty much right away he said his mouth hurt, but he’s kind of been having a rash around his lips, so I thought that’s what it was. I looked inside his mouth, and everything looked fine.

On our way home Arthur complained about a belly ache and was overall a bit mopey, but I still didn’t really think too much of it. Once we got home, Arthur started coughing and basically couldn’t stop. I heard some wheezing. I should have given him an EPI right then, but I picked him up and ran-walked to urgent care right around the corner. Two hours after he had eaten the cake we were sitting in the waiting area, and I noticed one hive on each eyelid. That’s when I knew for sure what was going on.

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He was given Benadryl, steroids, and a breathing treatment. This was 15 minutes later, right before he was given an EPI injection. He was royally pissed at this point.

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That’s when five rather big firemen from our local firehouse walked into the room. “Hey kid. What’s your name?” and “How you doin’ Ahhhhthuuuuh?” My boy was utterly unimpressed. As it turns out, whichever emergency responder is closest has to show up at the “scene” and wait until EMTs arrive. Even though we were already at an urgent care clinic. So we hung out with the firemen.

Then the EMTs arrived, checked him out, did an EKG and we were on our way to  the hospital via this fancy ride:

None of this was even remotely interesting to Arthur, not even the sirens. As soon as we arrived at the hospital he made sure everyone we encountered knew how boooooored he was.

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Jeff and Julian met us at the hospital, and Arthur remained under observation until 9pm. Upon seeing Arthur on his little hospital bed, Julian said, “Wow. I will never forget this.”

I will spare you the pictures of his full body rash and the fake abs he had colored all over his belly the day before. I heard some of the nurses whisper about “the kid with the six pack…how cute!”

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Jeff made a pizza run, and the boys got to watch Ghostbusters.

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Arthur was fine. Arthur is fine.

Of course I slept next to him all night and was just so comforted to have him near me.

Last night as I was trying to process it all, I just felt so sad. Sad that this happened, that he had to go through this, that I couldn’t prevent it, couldn’t protect him. Today I am angry. I’m pissed off that my kid has to live with this constant threat to his wellbeing and, well, to his life. I’m pissed that despite being careful and mindful and asking questions, this still happened. We don’t know how exactly it happened. A nut, presumably a walnut, somehow must have snuck onto his plate, or his cake was close to another cake. We don’t know. The guy at the coffee shop almost cried when I told him what had happened this morning.

Anyway. Arthur went to school today; he is his bouncy, loud, silly self again. I’m the one who can’t shake what happened to him. But we’ll take whatever learning we can from this and hold him just a bit closer yet. Even though he’s continuously trying to wiggle free.

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Hiking, Coney – And More Snow!

I suppose it was overly ambitious/optimistic of me to sort through our winter clothes last week and form a neat pile to be taken to storage at our earliest convenience. Because today, this:

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April Fool’s Day was yesterday! Come ON!!

Aside from this Monday morning ridiculousness, we had a wonderful weekend. I had the urge to get out of the city and spend some family time together outside, so on Saturday we took the Metro North, well, north to a small somewhat hippie town called Beacon. We went on a hike and climbed the local mountain, Mount Beacon. The trail isn’t too long, but it’s very rugged and steep and made for some adventurous balancing and falling into mud puddles.

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It was glorious! The boys were total troopers. Our expectations were pretty much non-existent since the only hiking we’ve ever done was in a forest in Queens and maybe a longer walk through the woods of the Poconos. But this was a serious hike. The boys were amazing! We were seriously so proud.

 

 

At the top we admired what was at the bottom: the Hudson Valley. Also: casino ruins and the remnants of some sort of old mountain tram.

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Once we climbed down (why is climbing down harder than up?), we met an old college buddy of Jeff’s at a local pub for beer and burgers. Jeff was excited!

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Afterwards we walked around town, stopped for ice cream and let the boys play at a park.

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The walk back to the train was kind of intense – many tired faces and sore legs.

Arthur and I promptly fell asleep as soon as we sat down on the train.

On Sunday the Easter Bunny made an appearance early in the morning. The boys went on an egg hunt in our apartment and ate their weight in chocolate. We played for a bit and hung out and then decided that we wanted to pay a visit to our favorite place on earth, Coney Island.

We started off at “Magic at Coney” – some pinball, beer, and battleship while we waited for the show to begin.

 

Julian was pretty immediately selected as an assistant. He was adorable; his belly laugh cuts straight into my heart. It’s funny when you know someone so intimately and then see them on a stage and look at them perhaps in a way an outsider would, and oh man. What a gift that child is.

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I also got to assist with one of the tricks. Maybe I have a future in magic?

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Next: Nathan’s Hot Dogs. They never disappoint.

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It was a bit chilly, and we were slightly underdressed, so the boys shared our African kikoy to keep warm.

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We stopped by the beach for a minute and then hit a few rides.

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It was breezy on the Wonder Wheel!

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A quick funnel cake, and we were headed home.

And then the most amazing thing happened: we got on the Q train, first car per the boys’ request. Shortly thereafter the train driver got on and unlocked the door to the driver’s cabin. The boys got up, said “hello” to him and kind of peeked inside, and I fully expected the train driver to close the door and go about his business. Instead he invited them inside, showed them all the controls, answered all of their questions, and even honked the horn! He was so kind and patient and totally made the boys’ day. Julian has loved the subway for all of his life. He knows all the lines, stops, trains and is currently designing the high speed train he will “create” when he is a grownup – complete with maps, tickets, different ways of paying, logo etc. What a NYC moment this was for my NYC-loving boys!

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* Photo credit for most of these images goes to my amazing husband.

See ya, winter!

Let’s hope this week’s snow storm, ringing in the official beginning of spring, was the last one until next winter. One can hope, right?

I have a pretty severe yearning for sunshine and bike rides. I think I’ve been patient with winter long enough, I’ve been tolerant and somewhat understanding, I’ve put up with very slow children who have to touch each individual bit of dirty city snow, I’ve been hit in the behind by more snowballs than I can count, I’ve been cold, I’ve had my glasses fog up, I’ve felt claustrophobic in my big coat on an overcrowded subway – but now I think we can all agree that it’s enough. Enough winter! Spring, you’re welcome to make your appearance any day now. We are ready for you. We can’t wait to get back on the bikes and ride all over our glorious city.

Meanwhile, that one (last) snow day was alright. I worked from home and somehow managed to keep the children alive for 13 hours straight. We squeezed in some snowy fun.

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Yesterday the kids played on the playground in the melting, wet, old snow – and they loved every minute of it.

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Other than yet another winter storm, life has been pretty normal. Jeff and I have been on a couple of dates; one to see our dear friend Joe Giglio play jazz in a lovely restaurant on MacDougal Street – and I ate one of the most delicious pizzas, ever. I ate the entire thing. It was so good.

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We also got our country on and saw Lee Ann Womack perform at City Winery, which was great and a bit odd, since we had to share a table meant for two with another (somewhat standoff-ish) couple.

On St. Patrick’s Day we were invited to a boozy, delicious brunch at our friends’ house, complete with rainbow bagels and eight nutty children to entertain each other.

The boys are constantly walking the line between loving each other and wanting to spend every waking and sleeping minute together – and trying to kill each other by all means necessary. They share Arthur’s bottom bunk on non-school nights; they read and chat until they eventually fall asleep. Of course a later bedtime does not mean that they will also sleep in late.

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But they also fight a lot more. Julian spends so much time on random projects – book writing, working on cursive, drawing, reading. All of it stuff that Arthur can’t really be a part of, and the little brother is feeling it, I think. He misses his playmate. Julian, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly more impatient with Arthur’s occasionally irrational behavior and is just sort of over it. But overall, they are still best friends and best brothers. Also, this:

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A Perfect NYC Day

Saturday started out strong with our brand-new Karate Kid, Arthur. I just love watching him in this class. He is super focused and truly does his best. At the end of the class, the kids all got to kick a board, and of course Arthur nailed it.

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The rest of Saturday was spent driving each other insane. It was windy and cold and we could not agree on anything fun to do. Then I started having massive back pain and laid in bed for a good part of the afternoon. Spirits and patience levels were pretty low.

On Sunday we knew we had to do something. So we packed up the kids and strolled around Soho, before having a delicious brunch on the Lower East Side.

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Afterwards we stopped by a few shops in the East Village, and much to Arthur’s delight we bought him this melodica-type instrument that he insisted would contribute in many great ways to the performances of his band, “Alice.”

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We let the boys run loose at Tompkins Square Park playground and enjoyed being out in the sun.

Then it was time for ice cream…

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We stopped by a Japanese toy shop and Jeff bought the boys these little Transformer guys. They were in heaven.

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Right before we got to the train stop, Jeff said, “Should we have a beer at McSorley’s?” We felt a bit odd walking in with our boys in tow, but as it turns out they were not the only kids there. Our waiter was so lovely and even brought them little muffins for dessert.

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It was a perfect NYC day.

On our way home I asked the kids why they thought this day was special, and they said “Because we had so many treats!” and “Because you bought us new toys!” but really we all agreed it was special because we are the luckiest people who live in the greatest city on earth, and we get to enjoy everything it has to offer without any big effort on our part. Or I should say “one of the greatest cities on earth” as Julian and Arthur pointed out, because after all many European cities have streetcars and New York City does not.

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Long time, no write. I’m tired of writing about how down we feel, so I was waiting for happy times to come along. Yesterday was a happy day.

A few weeks ago I had the notion that Arthur should start karate. For numerous reasons: body control, coordination, and strength (all things he works on in occupational therapy), confidence, respect, learning something new. Also, I wanted him to have something that is all his own and something his older brother hadn’t already done before him. In true Arthur fashion, stubborn to the core, he proclaimed until the minute he arrived at the karate center that he “hates” karate and doesn’t want to do “anything.” When his new teacher showed him around, Arthur just mumbled in a slightly annoyed tone, “I know that already.” Clearly he knew none of it. It’s just something he says; I think it makes him feel better somehow.

His teacher was very patient and all around wonderful. He gave Arthur a 30 minute introduction, which included breathing, some movements, and a story of persistence and obedience about a little boy who wanted to learn karate.

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Arthur was invited to stay for the class, and at the end he passed his white belt test.

I was over the moon proud. And so was he.

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The rest of the day was fun-filled. We had our friends and their kids (Arthur’s best friend from school and his little sister) over for Saturday brunch. It was so peaceful and fun. Everyone got along, we ate our weight in bagels and lox, bacon and eggs, with a side of orange juice and Bloody Marys.

Later in the afternoon we met Uncle Brian and Aunt Katherine in Dumbo. The boys rode their bikes.

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Going up a big hill, Arthur said to me, “Mama, I already learned this in karate: Never give up!”

The boys got to ride the carousel, and then we hung out at Superfine.

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Such a fun evening!

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The boys were exhausted and were happy to go to bed. This morning I overheard them in the bathroom, and Julian whispered to Arthur, “Let’s let Mama and Papa sleep a little while longer.” Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.