Ups and Downs and In-Betweens

This week has not been the easiest. Today marks one year since Jeff lost his Dad, and it’s almost been a year since Jeff lost his job. And while there have been some freelance gigs since, we are really feeling the burden of not knowing when something more permanent will come along. It’s safe to say that this has been the hardest year we’ve shared together.

But there is light.

I have taken some time for myself and have started running again. This week alone I have gone on three runs for about 16 miles total, taking me through White Clay Creek State Park in Delaware (where we were for Thanksgiving), around the tip of Manhattan and over the bridge (Manhattan, not Brooklyn) and all through Brooklyn Bridge Park. I’ve enjoyed getting out and breathing the cold air, listening to music and feeling accomplished afterwards.

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Arthur has started to read! One night this week, at bedtime, he asked me if I wanted to read one last book with him. Jeff had already read a chapter of Harry Potter, but I said “yes” anyway. Arthur then proceeded to read this entire book to me, front to back, by himself all the while beaming with pride. After each page he stopped and gave me a kiss. Since then he’s been reading us a book each night, filling us all with joy and pride. Julian proclaimed, “You’re the smartest 5 1/2 year old I know!” Also, when Arthur sounds out unknown words, he sounds very much like Dory speaking “Whale.”

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The one thing Arthur wanted to accomplish this year was to learn how to read, and ta-da! It’s November and I guess summer break can come early. We’re done for the year.

Julian is loving his piano lessons so much. He practices each day, without a reminder from us. He is so ambitious and cheerful in his work, and he looks forward to seeing his teacher every week. They have such a sweet bond, and I feel lucky that we found him (and that the piano studio is right across the street from our house).

Also, Jeff finally has a bandmate under his roof. Now we just have to get Arthur that drum set…

Sometimes the days are long, the weeks even longer, but the months and years just fly by. I am reminded every day by how fleeting this time is, by how quickly the boys grow.

This year definitely brought us down, but I try to see the light in the small things and of course in my three guys. Onward!

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Halloween and Soccer

A lot’s been going on, but mostly just life. As it should be, I suppose.

Halloween, other than Christmas and birthdays, is easily the boys’ favorite day of the year and was highly anticipated. Leading up to the Big Day, Jeff and Julian spent every free minute editing hours of shaky footage taken and “directed” by Julian, filming his aspiring actor friends. The result was “The Death of Halloween” – a soon-to-be box office hit, I’m sure. Julian and his friends had the opportunity to show the movie to the entire second grade as well as Kindergarten class; they were so proud.

Since our Halloween party last year was so much fun, we decided to make it an annual affair. This year we hosted 15 giddy, costumed, sugar-hungry kids, and we had a blast.

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We showed the movie, danced, played games, and ate lots of snacks.

Halloween itself was fun and overwhelming. It gets so crowded here in our neighborhood; it’s almost too much.

Even though Arthur had chosen to be a knight and we had his costume ready, he decided to be what he likes best in life: a soccer player. Julian was a referee.

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We scored way too much candy and have been eating way too much of it since Halloween. The night of Halloween, we gave the boys a set amount of candy they could eat while trick-or-treating (to prevent the constant begging for more candy), and Arthur had eaten his allotment within the first two blocks. Julian saved all of his candy for until after dinner. I think this right there perfectly sums up my boys’ personalities.

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Other than that we’ve been busy playing with friends, enjoying the gorgeous fall weather, riding our bikes, and reading Harry Potter.

Arthur was moved up in school to play soccer with the bigger kids (in Julian’s group), because his play was “dominating the Kindergarteners” (his coach’s words). Arthur was sort of sad not be playing with his buddies anymore, so I organized a weekend play date in Prospect Park with his friends. (I am secretly relieved because it means one less pick-up, and I also know that Arthur can easily keep up with the bigger kids. He’s been doing it all his life. Also, he still gets to play soccer with his classmates every single day when they go to the park during recess, so I don’t feel too bad.)

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I have a hard time putting into words how happy I am that Arthur has had such an easy time making friends at school. I always worry about his speech delay holding him back, or worse: other kids making fun of him, but I should have more faith in our Arthur. His funny, charming, easy-going nature is paving him the way.

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Yesterday we watched the marathon runners and cheered on our friends. What an inspiring event and one of the best days to be a New Yorker, no?

Next weekend I am packing my bags for a work trip to Germany, combined with a few days with family and friends. WITHOUT MY BOYS! This is the first time I will be away from them for more than a night…

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Back to Reality

Out of everyone in my family, I think I am having the hardest time transitioning back into work/school mode. I miss our summer days hard. I feel like I’m always rushing to get one more thing done, run one more errand, trying to keep our family ship afloat. Me and everyone else, I know.

But the boys, of course, are happy as clams. (Why is that even a saying? Are clams particularly happy?) This year they take the bus every day, so I am at school much less (i.e. never) and feel sort of removed. Until last night I hadn’t even met some of their new teachers and hadn’t seen Arthur’s Kindergarten classroom! The classroom is adorable, the teachers are great, and Arthur has made friends in his new class. Julian feels very at home in his class; he is with the same kids for the third year in a row, and I adore every single one of them. They don’t mix up the grades in German school, but everyone gets to play together during recess at the park for 1 1/2 hours every day, rain or shine.

Arthur’s goal for this school year is to learn how to read; Julian’s is how to kick a curve ball. I love how they each chose something that comes so naturally to the other.

We’ve had some challenges with the school bus (new drivers, forgotten kids, arriving late etc.), and yesterday after a particularly long and tiring ride, Julian told me what had happened on the bus:

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He was sitting next to Arthur, who was (playfully, perhaps?) punching him – until a girl from an upper grade put Arthur in his place. It was then that Julian started to cry. Not because he was being punched, mind you, but rather because someone had said something against his best friend (and greatest nuisance), his Arthur. The girl of course felt validated, because she assumed Julian was crying because of the punching and offered Julian one of her bracelets, which he happily accepted. Arthur, meanwhile, was oblivious to it all. Julian was very upset. How could anyone say anything bad about his brother? The nerve.

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Julian has started taking piano lessons, and it is a great source of joy for us. He is really taking to it, and like everything in life has approached it with much ambition and dedication. Jeff is over the moon.

I love this new phase, the stage the boys are in, how big they are now – relatively speaking. I know they are still little. But I also mourn the itty bitty babes they once were. Everything just gets progressively more complex (school, responsibilities, heart-ache, friendships, personalities) and easier (sleep, independence, not sharing my living space with drooling, emotional lunatics) at the same time.

All the while I wish we could see some sun again here in NYC and head to the beach…in 2014. Look how tiny they were.

Our Upstate Getaway

Shandelee. It already seems like forever ago since we were upstate, because our NYC life has us back and is keeping us on our toes each day. More on that later.

Our week upstate at our friend’s lovely lake cottage was a dream. The weather wasn’t ideal, but everything else was, and in the end the few rain clouds didn’t bother us one bit.

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The first ting we did, of course, was to set up the soccer goals. The boys played every day, rain or shine, for hours. There were family games, too.

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Most of our days were spent bumming around the lake. We had lunch on the island, jumped off, swam, had water gun flights and took out the kayaks and canoe. We all had a blast. Nothing makes me happier than being in water: lake, pool, ocean – I love them all. And so do the boys.

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One day we went on a 2 1/2 hour hike down a beautiful trail that had been rained on for two days. It made for some fun puddle jumping. The boys loved it and didn’t care one bit about their wet feet. Towards the end, Jeff spotted a baby bear, which added a little extra speed to our step. I was relieved when we didn’t see the bear (or his mama) again.

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One rainy afternoon we went bowling. Julian beat us all.

Other than that we explored the local towns a bit, played family games, ate our weight in corn and s’mores and enjoyed barbecuing every night.

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One day we visited a nearby farm where the boys got to pet the baby animals, milk a goat (and drink the fresh milk), find chicken eggs and pick fresh vegetables from the garden to sample.

On our last night we had a big bonfire, made s’mores, watched the sun set over the lake and told scary stories.

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Despite the rain this may have been my favorite trip upstate yet. The boys are at such a great age now, and I just truly love hanging out with them. They are independent and hilarious and so, so lovely. (Most of the time.)

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Now we’re home. We had another great week at home together. Jeff headed back to work, but I had another week to play! The boys and I went to the beach, the pool, had a lemonade stand and a super fun Brooklyn day with our good friends.

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After my first day back at work and the boys’ first day of camp I had to take Arthur to urgent care for an infection in his arm (later diagnosed as cellulitis – don’t google it). The receptionist greeted us with, “Oh! You’re back! Last time he had a black eye, no?” And I had to respond that yes, that was us, but the reason for the visit had not been the black eye, but rather the other kid’s double ear infection.

Anyway, back to Arthur. The very nice urgent care doctor insisted that I take Arthur to the ER. He called his doctor friend, who is a plastic surgeon and who met us at the ER at Beth Israel in Manhattan. Jeff met us there also. Julian stayed home with the babysitter I had booked (thankfully) because Jeff and I were supposed to be on a date.

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Arthur received excellent care, and he was very brave. He is such a tough kid. His arm is on the mend.

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After the ER visit we were all starved, so we took Arthur out on a late pizza dinner date in the East Village, thankful for our boy’s ability to keep his smile, no matter what.

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Another week of work and camp is in the books. I’m just so thankful that we were able to escape for a bit and enjoy this breathtaking view. I think we all felt recharged after that week in nature.

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A-W-E-S-O-M-E

Week two of summer camp is almost over, and we are hanging in there. Julian still doesn’t love going and gets sad occasionally. I think the best way to explain how he feels about camp is like a fish out of water. And also a bit lonely, I think. At pick-up he is always happy, but overall he seems to struggle with how different this camp is to his very sheltered, sweet regular school and his (mostly) German friends. But he’s hanging in there. He brings a book to camp every day and comes home with another 200+ pages under his belt. His counselors are a bit mystified by him it seems.

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Arthur, meanwhile, is dishing out high-fives as he walks up and down the halls, chanting “A-W-E-S-O-M-E! Awesome awesome awesome, awesome are WE! Whooo!” Who knew two kids from the same parents and household could be such different creatures.

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I also noticed this week that Julian couldn’t hear me. As in, he appeared to be partly deaf. I’d stand a few feet away from him and say something – and no reaction. I finally asked him if his ears felt funny, and he said yes. The doctor confirmed a raging double ear infection and kept mumbling that he couldn’t believe Julian wasn’t in pain at all.

Meanwhile, Arthur took us through many shades of purple this week. On Monday, as the boys were playing soccer together after camp, Arthur and Julian somehow bumped into each other and both fell to the ground crying. When Arthur looked up, he had a bump the size of a plum next to his left eye. I had never seen swelling appear so fast! It was freaky. We applied ice, and a few hours later the swelling had gone down. Since Monday we’ve admired the amazing transformation of his eye – a new shade every day.

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Today Julian’s camp group is at the Bronx Zoo, while Arthur’s younger group gets to have a petting zoo at the camp. I was amazed that Arthur didn’t complain about not going to the zoo.

On Monday we are off to our happy place: our friend’s lake house in the Catskills. To say we’re excited would be an understatement. Here are some photos from our previous trips: 2017, 2015, 2014. 

 

 

 

 

Summer Camp

I spent a super fun week – 10 days, really – at home with the boys. We did everything I had hoped for, and our days were peaceful, fun, and tiring. We saw friends, went to the city pools, played and watched lots of soccer, and read many books.

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But on Monday I was headed back to work, and for the first time ever in their lives my boys were headed to summer camp. Yes, I know. We’ve been very fortunate to have been able to spend our summers together so far.

Day One of camp was great. When I picked Julian up, a little girl met me at the door and asked, “Are you Julian’s mom? Julian is SO nice.“ I beamed. On Day Two Julian reportedly cried for a bit. On Day Three he refused to get dressed, get on the bike, walk to meet his camp group. He was despondent. I had never seen him this upset, and the worst part about it was I didn’t understand why. Was someone bullying him? Had anyone hurt him? Was he just overwhelmed or feeling lonely?

Jeff left him sitting in the cafeteria, slumped in a corner, crying and went to work with a heavy heart.

All day long Julian was on my mind, and I felt sick with worry. It was just so difficult not knowing if he was ok.

At 4pm sharp (1 ½ hours before dismissal!) I picked him up, and while he somehow looked taller and skinnier (the pizza at lunch was reportedly not good!), he was his happy, cheerful self again. He immediately reported that he had forgotten to take off his underwear when they went swimming and had been wearing wet underpants all day. That got a chuckle out of me. We sat in the hallway while he ate his snack, and as he told me about his day I broke into tears. All the worry was lifted off my shoulders, and I cried from sheer relief as I knelt in front of my very confused 7-year-old. He was ok.

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Today his camp was headed to LEGO Land, so Julian didn’t have to think twice about not going.

Arthur, meanwhile, is as tough as a nail. Both boys joined camp a week or so late, so everyone already knew each other and friendships had been made. And while he looked so sad and lonely on his first day…

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… he has been “a happy camper” from the get-go. And he was the one I was originally worried about. Just goes to show I know nothing.

A couple of Arthur’s (female) counselors have complained that he has trouble sticking to the rules (SHOCKER!), but when I asked one his male counselors at pick-up yesterday how Arthur did that day, he responded without thinking twice about it, “Arthur? He’s awesome. One of my favorites. We talk about soccer all day long.“ As Arthur was high-fiving this counselor good-bye, I left feeling thankful for this connection that the two had established and for someone who gets Arthur for who he is: a funny, sweet, disobedient boy full of spunk and soccer knowledge.

We’ve established a new routine for camp weeks, which includes an ice cream right after camp and a couple of relaxing hours at home. If there is a soccer game on, we watch a recording of it. And come bedtime, the boys are exhausted. For the first time in their lives I have to wake up both of them every morning. But I’m sure come Saturday they will be up bright and early once again…

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Now they have one more week of camp next week; then we’re on vacation for a week, followed by another week at home hanging out with my favorite sidekicks and then another two weeks of camp. We can do this!

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We’re Unstoppable

I’ve been off work for six days now, and – shockingly – I am not tired of my children yet. Ask me again by Friday, but so far so good. We’re really enjoying this time together, and I think we all needed it. I know I did.

The weekend was “awesome,” as the boys would say. On Saturday we headed into the city on our trusty bikes, but holy hell, was it steamy. Nothing like the city on a hot summer day. Luckily our destination was Hamilton Fish Pool, where we spent three solid hours swimming, diving, and snacking.

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Afterwards we were hot again but also ready for hamburgers. We caught a bit of the Portugal game, so everyone was happy. That is, until Portugal lost.

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Our last stop was Economy Candy, and then we headed home.

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The ride over the bridge nearly killed us.

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Sunday we hung out at Rockaway Beach all day. We stayed until after the lifeguards had gone home. I love jumping around in the waves with my kids so much.

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Everyone took naps, except Julian, who finished his book.

The ride home was long-ish because everyone was famished. So we went out for some late night tacos. Nothing like ignoring reason and bedtime while on vacation!

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Today was another winner. If you’re tired of reading about summertime fun stuff, just stop now, because I’m not done yet. The boys biggest wish was a “soccer game” with their friends. So we invited some of their besties down to Pier 5 on the hottest day at the hottest time (noon) and watched who would have a heat stroke first. (Spoiler alert: no one.) Man, it was hot. But we made them stop every 10 minutes or so to dump bottles of water over their heads and stuff pineapple and grapes into their mouths. They had so much fun. Us adults…we melted.

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Then we let them all cool off at Pier 6 water park and with popsicles and some soccer-watching at Fornino’s.

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After that everyone else went home, and I took the boys to the pop-up pool. That pool is tiny and hence pretty much bathtub-water-warm (thanks, sun! and kid pee), but the boys love it so much. I don’t actually really know why.

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Arthur made some big strides in learning how to swim today; he has lost all fear and has been diving and jumping like no one’s business. I hope he will be a proper swimmer by the end of the summer.

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After swimming we just headed straight back over to Fornino’s for some pizza and cold drinks.

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Julian rode his own bike today, so that definitely made it much easier for me.

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At home we showered and watched soccer, and then the boys collapsed into their beds. Another good summer day in the books.

Beach Time!

We spent today at the beach jumping in the waves!

My friend Lila, who lives down the block from us, picked us up in the morning and offered to give this crazy bunch a ride to Jacob Riis Park.

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It was a really perfect day. I only got a minimal, awkwardly shaped sunburn on my calf, nobody’s lunch dropped in the sand, and everyone got along. I even got to read half of a magazine article.

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The kids just loved the waves. They had so much fun!

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I love this picture of them so much. Eloise and Julian are trying to coordinate a jump for the picture, and Arthur is just over on the side, doing his own very special and uniquely timed execution of a jump. This picture is so him.

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And here is my boy Jules. I asked if Lila would take a picture of us, and he immediately leaned over and gave me a big kiss. He loves me so well and shows me every day. I’m the luckiest.

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Unfortunately we couldn’t find an ice cream truck anywhere, so once we got back to Brooklyn Heights, we took the kids out for a summer treat, bathing suits on and all. Today was a good one!

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Stepping Up

It’s summer! Officially!

We had a week of non-stop celebrations. Arthur graduated from his school, which is meaningful in so many ways (mostly because he is so ready), but also because we as a family have been a part of this pre-school since 2013. It’s sort of the end of an era. (Here is the post on Julian’s stepping up ceremony two years ago.)

Arthur was so proud and so excited. He was such a baby when he started there two years ago. Look at this giant child now! He’s come a long way.

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Julian, meanwhile, had a big school picnic on Tuesday. Which basically meant lots of soccer for the kids and lots of wine for the mamas. And some Italian ices.

On Wednesday was Julian’s last day of school, and the entire school watched the Germany/South Korea game together on a big screen. By the end of the game all the children were in tears.

After school and a quick glance at Julian’s excellent report card, I took the boys out for ice cream with their friends and then some soccer at the park.

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By the end of the day the boys were over the Germany loss. They even agreed to have tacos for dinner. They shifted allegiance to Portugal and are now Team Ronaldo all the way.

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They get to stay up later and have sleepovers every night.

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Summer, here we come!

Slice of Life

The days are creeping on by, but the weeks are flying. Life, I guess. Some days are so wonderful that I can hardly believe my luck, and some days I want to crawl into bed at 8pm, unhappy with myself for feeling inadequate and frustrated with my children for fighting non-stop. Yes, these children. Julian had brought a rose for his girlfriend, JJ.

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I have been sick for close to a month. I have zero energy, zero patience, zero drive and apparently zero immune system. But I’m powering through.

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On Saturday, the only day on Memorial Day weekend that Jeff didn’t have to work, we headed to the beach. It was magical. Just a few hours of jumping in the waves, playing sandy soccer and hearing my children giggle is really all I wanted.

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Later that night I went on a date with this handsome guy. We strolled along the Highline at dusk, marveled at all the new construction and brightly lit buildings, feeling lucky to be here in this city, our city.

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Other than that: Life. Appointments, soccer, bickering, never enough sleep, tasty dinners, school, work, play dates, friends, love, soccer, keeping it together.