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.

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

Interview with Julian on his 7th Birthday

What’s your favorite drink?

Orange Crush

What’s your favorite food?

Tacos

What’s your favorite song?

Love Me by Justin Bieber

What’s your favorite TV show?

Dragons Race To The Edge

What’s your favorite book?

How To Train Your Dragon

What’s your favorite thing to do?

Work

What makes you laugh?

Funny stuff

What’s your favorite animal?

Snake

What’s your favorite toy?

Twinferno

What makes you happy?

When I laugh

What makes you sad?

I don’t know

Who do you love?

My family

What scares you?

When somebody from my family is gone

What do you want to do when you grow up? 

Drive a train!

Who is your best friend?

JJ

What do you want for your birthday?

A bike!

What is your favorite playground?

Pierrepont

What is your favorite museum?

Museum of Natural History

What’s your favorite color?

Green

What’s your favorite subway train?

Q

What are you best at?

Math and script

What things do you take to bed with you?

My stuffed animals

What is your favorite fruit?

Every kind of fruit

What is your favorite snack?

Crackers

What is your favorite vegetable?

Salad

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?)

Take an airplane to Russia to watch the World Cup

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Julian is 7!

Today my baby, my first born, turns seven.

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I am somehow not at all prepared for this, and yet totally ready. I’m not prepared because my life is so much busier than it was for any other birthday. This is my first (double!) birthday execution since going back to work. Plus, I’ve been sick in bed with a fever and didn’t get to run many of the birthday prep errands. Thankfully the men in my house are reliable: Arthur had a secret card he’d made for Julian at school neatly tucked away in his lunch box. Jeff ordered a cake. We are in good shape!

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But guess who is ready for the big 7? This kid.

On The Stoop

Julian is the most mature, calm, reliable, gentle-natured boy I know. He is such a gift to our family, with his sensitive nature, wit, and incredible smarts.

Where Can I Find Some More Water?

What’s he been up to this year?

He’s lost two teeth.

He’s read probably around 60 books, if not more.

He’s become a very decent chess player.

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He excels in school. Math is still his favorite, but he has also written some incredible books, is working on his cursive and has been a good friend to all. His best friend in school is JJ. Sometimes I watch them play after-school soccer together, and whenever their team scores a goal, they fall into each other’s arms as if this one goal was the most important thing that has happened in their lives to date. These two plus some other kids from their school have started making a movie together, and Julian is the director. He takes his job so seriously, like he does everything in life.

At home he’s been into magic tricks and “witchcraft.” His firm belief in his super powers almost has me convinced.

Julian loves soccer. He is stoked for the World Cup and loves playing at school each week and basically every chance he gets. It’s an obsession I can totally get behind.

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He hates confrontation and is incredibly intuitive when it comes to other people’s feelings. For example: One time I was scolding Arthur, and he laughed at me. I became even angrier because laughing at a disciplining mother is just not cool. Julian disappeared and returned with a letter in hand, which explained that he understood my feelings and that being laughed at is not a good feeling. I asked him who had made him feel that way, he he said that his class had laughed at him when he wasn’t able to skip properly. Mind you, at this point he had already been skipping for months. He had bottled up that story and produced it in a moment when he thought it would make me feel better.

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He hates it when we argue as a family. It’s even worse when he says something he didn’t mean in a moment of emotional distress, like “You’re not my friend anymore!” – to Arthur. He becomes so upset over his choice of words and the damage he might have inflicted onto someone else that his hurt moves to the background.

My boy is such a solid person. He’s a good friend, a great brother, and the best son I could have ever dreamed up. We’re all so thankful to have him in our lives.

My goal for this next year and all the years to come is to treat my boy gently, with kindness, and to never take his beautiful mind for granted. We lucked out with this kid, and I am so excited for all of his and our adventures in his 8th year of life.

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy.

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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 hang 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.

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.

Mom, Why Do You Have Dad's Camera?

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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