Too much!

I can’t keep up. The weather’s been so nice, and we are never home. This is my favorite season. Everything is blooming, the sun is shining, and we get to ride our bikes all over Brooklyn.

Mother’s Day came and went. It was a good one. Sometimes these days can be disappointing (such as this one!), because of all the expectations. But this year was lovely. Coffee in bed. Many cuddles.

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The boys drew and wrote in my Mother’s Day book. We went for a morning walk/bike ride with the boys’ bikes, played at the playground. Then we took the big bikes for a spin and went to our favorite place, Brooklyn Crab.

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After that: key lime pie on our stoop.

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It was a really lovely day, and I was thankful for my people – as I am most days.

Other than that our days, and nights, have been busy. Jeff and I went to see a couple of bands perform. Here we are at Kings Theater, waiting for Father John Misty. It was fun!

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I went out with some of my best friends to a restaurant in Williamsburg, Maison Premiere. It was a happy dinner for a sad occasion, because one of us is moving away.

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Then there was a school performance and some very important sign holding…

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….and the annual school gala/fundraiser. We got fancy! And we danced. A lot.

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The kids are busy with play dates, ice cream, bikes, soccer, legos.

Most afternoons after school we all gather at the playground at the park across the school, and bit by bit many of the kids and mamas arrive. We hang out, chat, read, enjoy the sun. The kids roam around.

On Friday night, after soccer practice, we drove to New Jersey for our niece’s communion the next day. For that occasion the boys got fancy!

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But then they very quickly took off their shirts and ties and put back on their soccer uniforms. Boys in their more natural habitat.

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So that pretty much sums up our last two weeks. I’m so happy it’s finally spring, and on some days it’s felt like summer even. I can’t wait for the pools to open and for our many weekend bike adventures! This is our happy season.

That’s a Wrap

Birthday week is over. I now have four and six year old boys. One of them has a wiggly tooth. Both of them seem to have grown over night.

On Sunday Arthur woke up and was four. He let us know right at 6am, when I found him wandering through our living room with his hands covering his eyes as not to see his presents. He whispered, “I saw my new bike!” And with that the family was up.

We had our traditional pancake breakfast.

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After the boys had played with their new Star Wars lego guys and space ships, we took Arthur for a spin on his sweet new ride. He takes biking very seriously!

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Look at this big kid! I can’t take it.

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Arthur got the hand of it pretty quickly. I was so proud of him!

For later in the day we’d planned a little party for Arthur and Julian with family and close friends at our favorite spot, Brooklyn Crab. But the weather didn’t cooperate. Our family was already on their way, so we celebrated with them at home.

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The boys were excited to see their cousins, and I whipped up two batches of Arthur’s favorite food, mac & cheese with bacon. We played, ate, and then took the kids for a quick walk.

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At home we had cake and played some more.

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Until next year, boys!

Interview with Arthur on his 4th Birthday

IMG_0882What’s your favorite drink?

Hot chocolate

What’s your favorite food?

Cake

What’s your favorite song?

99 Luftballons

Who’s your favorite singer?

Prince

What’s your favorite TV show?

Star Wars

What’s your favorite book?

Star Wars

What’s your favorite thing to do?

Play with Lego Star Wars

What makes you laugh?

“I will tickle you until you pee in your pants.”

What’s your favorite animal?

Tiger and lion and leopard

What’s your favorite toy?

Lego Star Wars

What makes you happy?

When Mama & Papa give me kisses and hugs

What makes you sad?

When Julian hits me

Who do you love?

Mama & Papa & Julian

What scares you?

Tigers and lions

What do you want to do when you grow up? 

Drive the subway 4 train

Who is your best friend?

Julian

What do you want for your birthday?

Gup C, a bike

What is your favorite playground?

Mount Prospect Park

What is your favorite museum?

Transit Museum

What’s your favorite color?

Red, blue, yellow

What’s your favorite subway train?

All of them!

What are you best at?

Climbing

What things do you take to bed with you?

Books, lizard, Wuffi

What is your favorite fruit?

Mandarin oranges

What is your favorite snack?

Breakfast bars

What is your favorite vegetable?

Carrots

What is your favorite thing to do outside?

Play Star Wars

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

Delaware – with a car! Or a bus!

P.S. Last year’s interview with Arthur.

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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.

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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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.

This and that and more of that

It’s been about a month since I last wrote (not counting an update on our trip to Mexico). We’ve just been busy. And sick. And just doing everyday life things. And just feeling kind of meh, all around. But now it’s officially spring, and even though it’s still cold outside, I know the sun is out there, and the days are already longer, and that makes me happy.

Lately, after school and if the sun’s out, we’ve been heading to the playground near the boys’ schools, and one by one people will trickle in, and the kids will play for hours while the parents hang out together. It’s been nice. I love that everyone plays together at Julian’s school, from little siblings to the 4th graders.

We had another parent teacher conference, and the teachers basically looked at me and said, “Julian ist ein Traumkind. Do you have any questions for us?” I was out of there in 5 minutes.

The boys have been growing closer and closer, while of course routinely pushing each other’s buttons. But they are definitely each other’s number one. They play with each other all the time, and we’ve had a couple of instances where Julian had a play date alone at a friend’s house but came to me and confided that he just missed his brother.

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It has also happened that only one of them was invited to a birthday party and refused to go without his brother. I certainly encourage them to foster friendships with other kids, and they do, but they always have this other person as a real safe bet, and I think that is kind of amazing.

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At night, after we’ve read a book and put the boys to bed, Julian will read to Arthur for another 30 minutes. I love hearing his little voice working its way through the pages, and I love that Julian enjoys reading so much.

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Today I took Arthur on an adventure day. We’ve been kind of sluggish for weeks it seems, stuck inside, running errands, doing laundry. So today I took my boy to the Natural History Museum, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

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It’s always fun to spend time alone with one of the boys. I don’t do it enough.

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After the museum, we met Papa for lunch at a diner by his work.

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A good kick-off to the weekend!