Our Upstate Getaway

We just got back from a proper vacation. You know how trips with young children can feel nothing like a vacation and can instead feel rather exhausting? Well, this was in fact a lovely getaway. I don’t feel like I’m drowning now that we’ve arrived home.

(Unfortunately I finished my 500 page book on the first day. I just couldn’t put it down.)

The first thing we implemented on this vacation was a novelty for my children. They usually wake up between 6 and 7am, which is the time “our house wakes up” and they get to come out of their rooms. On this trip, they got to stay up late and actually slept in. 8, 8:30am. Heavenly.

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning. Jeff has this lovely friend who lets us stay at his lovely lake house. We’ve taken him up on it a bunch of times; this was our fifth time up (2015, 2014). At this point it feels like coming home – except with more bugs.

The house is right on a private lake, which is where we spent our days. During this trip we didn’t do many activities, except for one trip to a couple of neighboring towns. Mostly we just hung out by the water, went on boat rides, ate a lot, and made bonfires.

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There we several jam sessions – with real and air guitars. In pajamas.

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Most nights we BBQd at home.

One night we went out for pizza and some of us got to lick their ice cream bowls.

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A couple of nights we let the boys stay up extra late, and we all cuddled up in our bed and watched movies (popcorn included). Ghostbusters one night (ON VHS, YOU GUYS!) and ET another night. I love love love that we can now watch movies with the boys that are actually entertaining.

We saw lots of animals. Critters, bugs, slugs, a huge eagle, deer, a cat, horses, bunnies, fish, a raccoon. It was pretty impressive for my city kids. Also, TICKS.

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I LOVED the lake. I felt like a kid again. My favorite moments were hanging out on the little wooden island with the kids and jumping in the water. Jules was pretty brave!

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Some moments were just so still and perfect. Like the one where Julian and I just rested on our bellies on the island in the sun, our faces close together, just hearing the water and the wind and the birds.

I just had a blast all around. I love the water.

I also loved going on little boat trips with Arthur. We had the loveliest conversations in the middle of the lake. He’s a tough nut to get through to sometimes. His mind is always so busy, his feet are always flying, but there are moments that are so right and wonderful. This one was one of them.

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Jeff did most of the rowing, of course. I’m sure he’d want me to point that out.

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A couple of nights we made a big bonfire by the lake, and it was beautiful. The boys had sparklers, we made s’mores, and told scary stories. I loved it all.

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Most importantly it was so nice to just be. Be with these three boys of mine, be outside, be eating, be free.

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We feel so lucky that we get to visit this wonderful little house on this wonderful little lake. The memories we’re making there will last a lifetime. The boys already reminisce about things that happened two years ago – and I hope we can make memories for many years to come.

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!

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.

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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Life Stuff

Today didn’t start great.

But let me begin somewhere else. A few months ago, back when we had Arthur’s lovely speech therapist Katie, she remarked on how amazing it is that we all eat breakfast together every single day. I didn’t think it was a big deal at all. It’s just what we did, and I think it’s important that we eat together.

Fast forward to our everyday lives with two kids in school. Everything is different. There is a lot more hustling. We have exactly one hour between getting up (or coming home from the gym, in my case) and heading out the door. So I’ve found myself feeding the kids at the small kitchen table while hurriedly sipping my coffee and emptying the dishwasher.

But I’ve missed sitting with my family at the table over yogurt and granola. So this week I’ve made an effort to make it happen, but OH.MY.GOD. It literally meant not brushing my teeth (sorry, gross), not finishing my coffee (same as before), not taking a shower (luxury), and constant bickering. So we’ll have to see if 10 minutes of joint yogurt-granola-bliss is worth the 10 minutes we’re missing for everything else.

Oh. Also, Arthur. Did I mention Arthur? The child that screams bloody murder as soon as Papa lovingly suggests it’s time to put on socks. And shoes. Shoes. Incredibly offensive shoes. Every damn morning it’s the same spiel, and no one really knows why. It just annoys everyone to bits and pieces.

By the time everyone is situated on the bike and the morning playlist is running (in today’s case: “Best of Prince”), Arthur is feeling “super super Entschuldidum” That means “super super apology” for all you non-German, non-Arthur speaking folk. And then we kiss and make up and sing to 1999 like we don’t have a care in the world.

But I still had a frown on my face and guilt, anger, frustration on my mind.

After drop off and during my solo bike ride home, I was still moody. So I went shopping for Christmas decorations to make our home more festive. Then I came home and saw that Jeff had cleaned up the kitchen, made all the beds, got the laundry ready, and straightened up all around. It was just the right gesture at just the right moment.

Then I did our 50 pounds of weekly laundry. (Why do we wear so many clothes? Use so many towels? Sheets? I don’t know.)

I was still kind of grumpy. Then I saw that the Christmas lights were being put up on the trees lining our street. I stopped by the flower shop for our annual poinsettia and a smile from our neighbor-friend Estela. I started decorating our home. I listened to Christmas tunes.

Then I folded all of our laundry. And I know that most people hate that task, and I kind of do too, but today I was reminded of how much I adore my family and all of their inside-out socks. Just kidding. Boys, please learn how to not have every single piece of clothing be inside out. Thanks. 

Then I picked up the boys, was greeted with hugs and stories (Arthur) and the latest math problems and Octonauts drawings (Julian), and we headed home. We bought donuts and muffins. Our friends came over for tea and coffee and treats. The boys were annoyingly loud. They kept banging stuff, jumping on furniture, dragging things into places they don’t belong, ignoring the voice of sanity (me).

Once our friends had left, I put the boys in the bath, and when I realized they were still hurting my ears with all their noise, I closed the door and poured myself a big glass of wine.

After bath I confronted my children with the fact that tonight there would be no Octonauts on TV (more on this another time). I made them a cozy nook on the big window sill with blankets and pillows, and they watched the flickering lights on the trees. Then Jeff came home, the boys declared there was “no more electricity” and turned off all the lights and on their headlamps. Jeff and I sat in the kitchen over bourbon and wine, by candlelight, while our non-Octonauts-watching children roamed around.

No TV was probably the best decision I made today.

This was long, and sort of random, probably. But tonight I feel warm and fuzzy towards my very loud family and not so sad and loser-like as I did this morning. Thanks to friends, love, wine, and the good ol’ Christmas spirit.

Also, letters to Santa.

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I hope Arthur still writes the same ‘R’ when he is 25.

Wonder Woman and Superman

People seem generally very conscious of how they speak to girls. I’ve read articles that encourage asking them about their interests rather than stating how pretty they are. Also of course it’s common knowledge that girls can wear anything they want, do anything they want, dream anything they want.

I couldn’t agree more.

On the other side of this coin are boys. I happen to have two of them. One of them has long hair, likes to wear leggings and occasionally asks to have his nails painted. He also likes to pretend he’s Superman, and he gives the sweetest hugs and offers the most sincere declarations of his love for his mama. Also, he is never still, is obsessed with sports, and is mistaken for a girl 80% of the time.

My other son is sensitive, smart, and gentle. He likes to draw. All of his friends are girls. Just over the last two weeks he’s made a new friend in school, an adorable girl with dark curly hair, and they exchange letters and hugs all the time. One day Julian touched her cheek on the subway and said, “I need you.” When they say good-bye every day at our subway stop, these two hug and she says, “I will miss you.” This is not a joke. They are five.

This boy has decided he wants to be Wonder Woman for Halloween. Because, obviously, Wonder Woman is the coolest. So we bought our kid a Wonder Woman costume. He wants to wear it every day, alongside his Superman brother. Together they are unbeatable, just like in real life.

The other night my husband sat next to me on the couch and said, “Will he get teased in school?” I immediately said, “No! Never!”

Of course I have no idea if that’s true.

All the kids in his class and school are adorable. They seem like good kids, and they come from good people. Many of them are creative artist types. But of course it’s totally possible that one of them will say, “Wonder Woman?! That’s for girls!”

The last thing I want is for anyone to ever make my boys feel as if there is something they can’t do. I don’t want them to ever feel small because their hair is long or their nails are red or because of the clothes they wear.

But I guess it is inevitable. Not everyone sees things the way we do, and that’s a lesson they will learn and that will shape them. And that’s fine. What matters is that they know they can be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do as long as they are doing what makes them happy and as long as they are being the best people they can be. They will always have two fans on the sidelines who love them with all their hearts, no matter what.

For about a week now, ever since we purchased the boys’ Halloween costumes, they have been dressing up. On Sunday, Wonder Woman and Superman hit the street festival Atlantic Antic. They both got many thumbs up and lots of smiles. There was the occasional “Hey! It’s Donut Man!” because Julian also chose to wear his donut t-shirt as well as “Hey Super Girl!” because of Arthur’s long hair – but no one gave them a second glance.

Those are the days I am so thankful we live in New York City, a place where Superman and Wonder Woman are accepted no matter what’s underneath their capes.

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Slow Summer Days

These days everything is slow. We walk slow. I think slow. We don’t plan much.

Actually, let me rephrase. The boys recently discovered Superman and Wonder Woman, so they run everywhere we go with fists outstretched over their heads because they are “flying.” Why anyone would run in this summer heat beats me. So I just trail behind. Maybe it’s just me who is slow.

Most days we don’t do much. We do lots of art and coloring, stickers and playdoh. We read.  We play Uno, Go Fish!, Jenga, and – recently! – chess.

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We build legos. I listen to the boys play. We run errands. Occasionally we hit the pool. The boys ride their bikes. We play soccer. They play at our neighborhood playground every day.

We’ve been to dozens of playgrounds in NYC, some with fancy water features or magnificent slides, but my favorite will forever be the one that is closest to us: Pierrepont. It’s right by the Promenade, and you can watch ferries and boats when you’re standing at the right spot on the play structure. The playground is surrounded by tall trees offering shade. Both of my boys have learned to walk there. They took their first swing there and have learned how to fight their own battles there. I always meet a familiar, friendly face.

That said, a familiar, friendly face from this playground invited us today to venture out and play at a different playground. So we met at Union Square this morning and let our boys play. After our friends had left we stayed for a while longer and then went to Whole Foods to pick up some lunch. Then we ate under the trees in the shade. Next up for the highlight of the boys’ day: a trip to DSW shoe store. I mean, I think their minds exploded! So many shoes! But more importantly: so many mirrors! They just ran up and down the isles and had a blast. And I let them. Thankfully no one called me out.

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This afternoon, after playing at Pierrepont…wait…how many water balloons did I make today? Anyway. Julian got a hair cut. He is now officially 15.

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Long story short, I am enjoying our slow days. I guess it’s what summer is all about. Part of it is that we keep our weekends busy, usually, with bike rides and adventures. Also, I want my kids to know what it’s like to be bored. I am not an entertainer. They don’t need to be doing something all the time. Their minds and imaginations are enough.

That said, my friend inspired me to venture out just a bit. I’m thinking about a trip to  the aquarium in Coney Island tomorrow, complete with hot dogs for lunch and maybe a ride or two. Maybe.

Who am I kidding. Rides. All the rides.

 

West Virginia

On Tuesday the boys and I went on a little trip to West Virginia. We visited one of my best friends in life of all time and her lovely family. Our kids met when they were up in NYC in March, and became fast friends. So we wanted to reunite them and also meet Baby Cole who was born about a month ago.

It was my first time traveling with the boys solo. This lady was terrified because I let the boys walk up the stairs by themselves.

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They were such good kids. Traveling with Julian especially was super easy. He was helpful and patient and all around good. Arthur was Arthur, but a very good Arthur. It helped that he fell asleep 10 minutes into the flight.

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Once we arrived, everything was good. Great, in fact. The kids were so happy to be together again.

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Here are some of the highlights:

Julian had his first experience with sparklers!

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There were bugs everywhere. (no pictures, thankyouverymuch.)

We went to a lake! The countryside in West Virginia is so beautiful. We played in the lake all day. It was lovely.

We played at different playgrounds…

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And then, one of our favorite things, we went on a hike. Nature! Amazing.

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We ended up walking in this amazing river. None of the kids busted any teeth, and all of them got wet.

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We found a crayfish. (“Look! A lobster!”) It was so amazing. I know the boys will remember this for a long time, and I will surely never forget. Such beauty with such wonderful people. And all happy hearts.

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After the hike the kids got to sit in a firetruck and police car. Clearly Arthur’s expression shows that he knows he kind of belongs in the back…

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We went to a great pool. It was almost empty, although I don’t know why. It was so nice. The kids played and played, and Julian is getting braver and better at swimming. Arthur is just completely fearless. And he’s great to have around in case you’re wondering what is not allowed at the pool: “No hanging on the rope, no climbing on the lifeguard chair, no hanging on the rail, no climbing up the slide.”

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Other highlights included hanging out on our friends’ deck with cold beers, South African accents, sitting in the kitchen after the kids had gone to bed, cuddling the baby, and delicious meals cooked by Carryn’s husband John. And last but not least, sharing a room with my boys. They had comfy air mattresses, and I had a big bed. They went to bed easily and slept well. At night I would hear them both laughing in their sleep. Sooner or later one of them would snuggle up next to me, and it was wonderful. And best of all, everyone slept in in the mornings. I mean…why can’t this happen at home?IMG_6510

Low points were the fact that I was sick as a dog all week which was particularly depressing because I didn’t get to smooch all over Baby Cole as I had intended to do. I was really, really sick with the worst cold in ages.

Also depressing beyond comprehension, the news. Ugh.

And last but not lest, driving. I know most people do it, in fact every day, but we are so not used to it. The kids get impatient immediately, and Arthur chimes from the back, “I hate riding in cars.”

But oh man, what a wonderful week it was. I loved seeing the kids together, to hear them play and be friends and argue. I loved seeing my friend and catching up and meeting her new babe. There is just something about these tiny, new, helpless humans. It’s so special.

How crazy and beautiful our lives have been…South Africa, Germany, South Carolina, New York, West Virginia. I can’t wait for the next chapter in this series.

(I can’t believe I did not get one picture of Carryn and me. So here we are, 10 years ago on July 15, 2006, in Coney Island. We kind of look the same now. Except with more wrinkles.)

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Bruce and boys

The week was off to an amazing (and incredibly tiring) start. Jeff and I scored (nosebleed) Bruce Springsteen tickets to see him at Madison Square Garden! It was a make-up show for the one he cancelled due to a snow storm in the winter. It was Jeff’s and my 5th show together – and probably my 15th? I’ve stopped counting.

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Did I mention we had nosebleed seats?

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There was literally no one behind us. There were people in upper sections above us, but this was definitely the farthest I’ve ever been away from The Boss. Definitely a far cry from this. BUT: It was amazing. The thing with Bruce is that it doesn’t matter how far away you are or how much your tickets cost – it’s worth your while. Bruce is pretty much the only religion I will ever commit to, and I could go on and on and on about him (and I did in 176 pages in my college thesis), but suffice to say that I felt all the feels. Love, joy, fear, sadness, and more joy. In three hours of bliss. The show was amazing. (We’re going to see him again in a few weeks at Barclay’s Center.)

We came home at 1am. Our babysitter had her coat on – hint hint.

I’ve been tired – and happy – ever since.

Other than that we’ve been doing normal stuff. Yesterday Julian had a playdate with his friend Shirine after school, so I didn’t see him until 5:45pm when I went to pick him up. And I missed him. Arthur did, too. But he and I had a great day. Arthur is literally the funniest person I know. I can’t wait to see what life has in store for him. He has imagination beyond anything I’ve ever seen and a free spirit that makes him put on two different shoes (socks, too)…

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After Julian’s playdate I took the boys out on a pizza date. They were good – and adorable.

Today, after speech therapy, we went into Manhattan. I wanted to get prescription sunglasses. The saleslady commented on how well behaved the boys were. What she didn’t know (actually, she did, because I told her), was that they were occupied with their sandwiches, and also I had scolded them so hard before we left because they were being horrible.

Anyway. After I picked out new glasses, we bought a donut.

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Then we took some photos…

…and played at a playground.

We skipped nap time, and I paid for it hard. Arthur has been a mess all afternoon. He fell asleep while I read the boys a book, and then again wrapped in his towel after bath. He won’t go to bed at night if he naps, but when he doesn’t, we all suffer.

Life.

Epic Friends…

…make for epic times.

This week we’ve had one of my dearest, bestest friends come to visit. She brought her husband, 5 year old son and 3 year old daughter along with her – and another son in her belly. We hadn’t seen each other since Julian and Jack were infants. But with certain friends you pick up right where you left off. Except with less partying and more kids.

This week has truly been one of the best. Our kids hit it off right away and have become inseparable. So much hand-holding and hugging and playing. Side note: my children are such bad posers.

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On Monday night we hung out at our house, ate risotto and pie and shocked Kate when we sprayed whipped cream into her mouth for the first time ever. That face!

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On Tuesday Julian got to stay home from school, we cancelled Arthur’s speech therapy and played hooky all day. We took our friends to the Promenade with bikes and scooters, to the playground where we spent hours, to the diner.

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At night, the kids all got to make their own pizzas.

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Then we stuffed them in the tub…

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…and let them watch TV until way late while the grown-ups ate Thai take-out.

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On Thursday Julian got to play hooky again (his teacher was concerned that he was sick, but no, the kid is just out having fun). My friend Carryn was in meetings all day, so her husband John and I took the kids into Manhattan, where I had a doctor’s appointment on the UES in the morning. It was our friends’ first time on the subway!
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Then this brave guy took four kids to the playground while I went to my appointment.

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We spent a couple of hours at the playground next to the Met. It was sunny and lovely, and the kids had fun.

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Next up: ice cream. The first of the season!

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Then we got on the train to Brooklyn. A random lady was chatting to us on the subway and asked, “What is it like raising kids in the city?” And I said, “It’s great!” That’s when my 40 pound babe fell asleep in my arms. On a crowded subway car. It was sweet and at the same time totally torturous.

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I’ve seen my boys make friends with many kids. Julian especially has become so outgoing over the last few months – but the sort of love I saw between these kids I don’t recall having seen before. They were friends immediately, but the kind of friends who won’t stop talking about each other when they are a moment apart. They held hands and hugged and laughed at each other’s jokes constantly. In all the time we spent together this week, with two 3 year olds and two 5 year olds (rounding up and down a bit), there has not been one single fight between them. Not one. They must have felt how much their mamas mean to each other. Or they really really liked each other.

Tonight, after our friends had left, Julian and I both cried for a moment. It was sweet and sad, and very hard to say goodbye. There are some friends, few and far between, but you know they are for life. These ones we will keep. For life.

There was so much love in our house this week. Even more than usual.

In other news, Arthur has been having plenty of daytime adventures lately and a much easier bedtime. Also, he’s been falling asleep like this: