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.

End of Summer Fun

Right before school started, we managed to squeeze in some more “end of summer fun.” One morning, we met with Julian’s bestie from school and went climbing. The boys are fearless!

Afterwards we all had lunch together, before Julian left to hang out at his friend’s house, while I treated Arthur to an ice cream date.

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On Saturday we took the train up to the Bronx and spent the day at the Zoo. It was perfect, not too hot, and we walked around until our legs fell off. This picture was taken right before that happened.

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The next day we returned to the Bronx for what turned out to be one of my favorite adventures of late. We took our bikes on the subway and rode it to the end of the line to explore Pelham Bay Park, New York City’s biggest park. It’s more than three times the size of Central Park!

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We rode our bikes around and checked out the bay…

While riding around the park I’d smell wild lavender just randomly growing all around us. It was lovely!

We rode past the stables, and Arthur wanted to go on a pony ride! Here he is with his pony, Romeo.

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Then we rode over to Orchard Beach, which was just amazing. There was a stage and live music and tons of people eating, partying, and dancing to Puerto Rican tunes. It was so much fun!

We had some snacks and changed into our swim suits to take a dip in the ocean. It was perfect! Small waves, warm water, lots of fun. Being in the water with these guys is my all time favorite.

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Afterwards we met up with Brian and Katherine, who had rented bikes to join us for our adventure.

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We rode over to City Island, where Jeff and I hadn’t been since before the kids. We rode to a seafood restaurant at the end of the island and had ourselves some fried.

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We were all tired on the way home, but so, so happy. Here is Jeff, guardian of the bikes.

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Soccer Mom Life

Our life evolves around soccer. Today I asked Julian and Arthur what we will do once the World Cup is over, and Julian said, very mater of factly, “Well, we will celebrate Germany of course! Or Portugal or Croatia, should they win.”

I remember four years ago – the boys were 3 and 1 – I thought to myself that the next World Cup would be so fun, that the boys would get it. But never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate this! As I’m typing this I can overhear them discussing the players through their closed bedroom door, when really my kids should be sleeping. They know all the players, their positions, the teams they play for when not playing for their country…it’s really intense. Ronaldo, Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos, Marco Reus, Julian Brandt, and Thomas Müller are all favorites. But no one is better than the one and only: Manuel Neuer.

In an effort to model themselves after their favorite players, Julian and Arthur have discovered hair product. May I present: Manuel Neuer on the left, Julian Brandt on the right.

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And here we have a referee on the left (because Julian enjoys bossing people around) and Luka Modrić on the right.

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Every day we fight about whether or not they will get to wear a soccer uniform or not.

Most days we end up playing soccer, one way or another. Last week we went to the playground near the boys’ school and they played for two solid hours three days in a row in the heat by themselves just kicking the ball back and forth.

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When we’re not talking about or playing soccer, we are watching the games. We have watched many games. The boys prefer watching soccer over any other show right now. Tonight we watched Iran vs. Portugal. On Saturday, of course, we watched the intense Germany game. I mean…we are all dying! The tension! But in the end, happy faces all around.

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Just for a change of scenery, we did something not soccer related on Friday night. We packed up the kids and headed to Coney Island for the first Friday Night Fireworks of the summer.

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We had hot dogs, and the boys went on a couple of rides.

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Then fireworks and ice cream…

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…and we were home by 11:30pm. Of course everyone fell asleep.

It was a magical night, a first taste of summer. Now we have two more days of school (only one for Arthur) – and then it’s officially summer break! I am really looking forward to shaking the tension of the everyday grind, because – can I just say? The last few months have been e.x.h.a.u.s.t.i.n.g. I look forward to beach and pool time, lazy days watching, you guessed it, lots of soccer, playing soccer, and talking some more about soccer. Because what else is there?

Weekend Edition

This weekend was another good one.

On Saturday I had the urgent need to buy a basketball. So we did.

Then we had brunch at Alma, one of our favorite spots.

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Then we had to work off all that delicious Mexican food by playing basketball in pretty humid temperatures. It was so fun! But then we were thirsty. So we headed to Brooklyn Crab for beer and lemonade.

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It pains me to say it, but I think Brooklyn Crab is over. At least for us. It’s been our favorite spot for years, but now it seems to also be everyone else’s favorite spot, and that makes it too crowded and annoying. So we need a new secret spot!

I started Sunday with a morning run. Over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Chinatown, and back home over the Manhattan Bridge. It felt so good! Perfect weather, too.

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Then we were off on our bikes. We headed to Astoria. After 10 miles on the bikes, we arrived at Astoria Park Pool. We’d been wanting to check out this giant pool for years, and yesterday we finally made it. It’s New York’s oldest and largest pool!

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After all this activity we were hungry. So we headed to the Astoria beer garden.

Then we let the kids play in Astoria Park while we did this…

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After ice cream, we snuck home on the ferry.

It was a good day! A good weekend!

Each day ended like this: my boys reading in bed. Not much makes me happier than that. Julian has recently discovered the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Last night he read a good 50 pages, and I had to tell him to turn off the lights. I love that so much.

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Meanwhile, Arthur cuddled up next to me and asked, “Mama, why didn’t you want me first?” I was confused…but then I realized, he meant why wasn’t he born first. I told him that he was already such a big boy and how he fits so perfectly into our family, but he replied, “But Julian is always bigger.” And so it is. Sometimes it’s hard being the littlest, I suppose.

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A Perfect Day

Yesterday was just that. A perfect day.

In the morning we bummed around at home, meaning Arthur had speech, I did five loads of laundry (at the laundromat across the street), scrubbed the tub, changed the sheets. Glamorous.

Then, after lunch, we were Coney Island bound. We started our day with ice cream and a cold brew on the boardwalk.

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Then the boys and I spent the afternoon at the beach. We dug in the sand and splashed in the waves. The water is now bathwater warm. Julian read his new prized possession, the latest Narwhal book.

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Then I became sleepy and thought, “What are the odds these kids would nap now?” And I just said, “Boys, let’s just cuddle for a minute.” And boom! It was divine. A nap by the ocean has always been my favorite.

 

Then we bummed around on the boardwalk with a big order of funnel cake, waiting for Papa to arrive. Also, the boys got to pick out new t-shirts. Once Jeff got there, we had dinner.

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Here they are, in front of Nathan’s, with Nathan’s both in and on their bellies.

Next up, Go Karts. Totally my favorite.

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Also, look at this face. The boys were pumped!

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Then we hit more rides.

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At 9:30pm it was time for fireworks. I think this was Arthur’s first time seeing fireworks (other than one time when he was a baby), and he was pretty impressed.

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It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

What made this day even sweeter was watching my boys together. They are just each other’s best. So many times when I looked over at them, I saw random moments of kindness. Arthur would put his arm around Julian’s shoulders while they waited for me on the boardwalk. Julian always made sure Arthur was buckled into all the rides and helped him get in and out. The way they always look out for each other is second nature, and it makes me so happy.

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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!

A Proper Snow Day

What’s the best part about a snow day? Obviously getting kids dressed in weather-proof clothing.

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Obviously I’m kidding.

The best part about our snow day was a slow morning and then snow fun in the afternoon. After morning coffee, I made us warm oatmeal and baked peach muffins. Because food is the most important thing. Right?

The boys played for hours and watched the snow.

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Jeff headed into work, although we all wished he could have stayed home with us.

After lunch the snow wasn’t falling so hard anymore, and it was time to put on some layers!

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We built a small snow man outside. Hey! It’s Mr. Potato Eyes.

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We played for a bit.

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Then I pulled the boys for what felt like 35 miles to the nearest sledding grounds, the dog park.

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The first time I sent Julian down the hill, I basically pushed him straight into a fence. All the other parents gasped and looked at me. I just said my usual, “You’re fine. Get up!” – except in a harsh, foreign-sounding language, which is an added bonus, always. And he was fine, because they usually are.

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We went down the hill 148 times, or so I think. Julian loooooved it. Arthur loved it. But not quite as much.

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At least he still allowed me to ride down the hill with him a couple of times. Julian just looked at me as if I was mad when I asked him if we could go together.

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We had hot cocoa and graham crackers and a snowball fight.

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Then Arthur wanted to go home, and Julian wanted to continue sledding forever, so I did the only sensible thing a mama can do, which is err on the side of sledding with a side of extra loving for the kid who didn’t get his way.

The rest of the day was spent with snow day things: TV, wine, tickling, train tracks and passing out on the couch at 6pm.

P.S. Snow fun from last year and the year before!

Another Week, Another Protest

…in both small and big ways.

Let’s start with the smaller one. On Wednesday the sun was shining, so we decided to go to a playground near the boys’ schools with two of Julian’s friends in the afternoon. It was a nice, chilly afternoon, and the kids were playing tag. When Julian came over to me, looking unhappy, I thought something had happened to him. I asked him if he was ok. He replied, “I’m ok. But Arthur’s not!” I thought he had fallen, perhaps, and hurt himself. But no. The other Kindergarten boys, Julian’s school friends, were calling Arthur “a baby.”

Arthur was a little mad and a little unfazed. I just told the boys to ignore such a ridiculous comment. I mean, just look at him. Clearly not a baby, right?

Ten minutes later one of the boys called Arthur a baby again, and this time Julian didn’t think twice about it and tackled his friend to the ground. Julian was red-faced and furious. I told him to stop, that’s not the way, but inside I was feeling proud. Julian walked away from everyone and sat on a bench, and tears started running down his face. I asked him if the boys were teasing him, too. He said, “No! They are mean to Arthur.”

Julian wanted to leave, and so we did. Truthfully, Arthur was fine. Julian was the one who was hurt and angry. But as soon as we turned our backs on the playground, my boys started laughing and running, and I knew all was good. And all will be good. At least for them. They have each other.

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Now on to protests in bigger ways.

On Thursday afternoon, thousands of Yemeni business owners closed their delis and bodegas across the city to protest Trump’s immigration ban. The rally was right outside our house, so naturally we had to be there. When I picked the boys up from school, I explained to them about the protest and why we had to go to support our neighbors.

I may have explained it to them in Star Wars terms: we are the resistance, the rebels so to say, and you can all figure out who the Evil Empire is. Julian was way into it and was chanting “We are the resistance!”

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We met so many lovely people.

When everyone started praying, the boys just watched. They were fascinated. The foreign language, the singing, the movements. It sparked so many conversations and questions I was somehow ill prepared for – given that we are non-religious. What is praying? What is God? But I think I managed fine. In the end, Julian said that it was a dumb ban, and if Trump keeps saying stupid things, we should just go live elsewhere.

On Friday, Julian had a puppet show at school, and all the kids were so excited. Not as excited as all the parents, however!

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The kids were adorable. They also received their midterm “report cards.” Julian is “very ambitious, focused and precise and follows the rules well.” He should work on being more self confident. We are very proud.

Today we’re lazing around. Julian is now reading entire books, and it makes me so happy. He’ll whisper quietly to himself, and sometimes he’ll read a particularly funny part to me. He’ll read chapters to Arthur, but only behind closed doors in their room. For some reason he won’t read to me, but I’ll take what I can get. Sitting next to him, each of us reading our own books, is pretty much all I ever wanted.

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Speaking of “reading”… this guy.

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My Birthday – and my Boy Arthur

I had a lovely birthday weekend. 37! No big deal, really, except this year it landed on a Saturday. And for the first time the boys were super excited for the day.

On Friday night, the night before my birthday, Julian hugged me goodnight, patted me on the back and said, “Mama, you are the best woman I know.”

Best birthday present right there.

This kid, I swear, is growing into a man-child before my very eyes. It is mystifying.

The next morning Julian and Arthur woke me up with songs and homemade cards and love notes.

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Then the boys, including my very grown-up boy, got to work and baked me a cake. While I laid in bed and read well-wishes and my book.

After a short while, it was time for this:

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It was one of the best cakes ever, made with so much love and everything delicious that goes into a boxed cake. I mean, I like to bake and all, but this cake is pretty much impossible to top. It had a layer, so naturally the boys called it a “sandwich cake.” Count those candles.

We had a super laid back day with lots of reading, down time, some shopping and brunch in Manhattan. As we sat over our sandwiches and beers, it had started to snow. We walked around amongst the flurries, and it was magical. My people were happy.

At night Jeff and I went out to dinner to this really wonderful place that we’d been to with friends a couple of years ago and that luckily Jeff had rediscovered recently with our Sicilian downstairs neighbor/friend/hair salon owner, Fabio. It just so happened that we walked in, random guys shook hands with Jeff and said, “You’re Fabio’s friend, right?” So we were in for a treat.

Afterwards, I posed on a deserted, snowy street. 37.

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To be honest, while this birthday was in fact one of my favorites, I’ve just been so full of worries. Worries about my baby and our nation. That just about sums it up.

Nation first: I am so excited to head to DC this weekend to show what this nation is all about: equality, empowerment, our future. The majority of this country stands behind us – this country that I’ve chosen as my home.

In other news, we need to make some changes in Arthur’s speech therapy, and I don’t yet know what that means. But he needs more help, or different help, than he is getting. While we understand him pretty well, and his vocabulary and thinking are way above average (I’m told), he has very little interaction with kids his own age who aren’t related to him (his brother). None of the kids in his school understand him, and it breaks my heart. So we’re figuring it out.

Meanwhile, this morning, I was asked to buy some second grade (“gifted & talented”) math books for Julian. (He already owns those.)

It was a day of very mixed emotions.

It’s so, so hard to see your kid struggle. I know in the grand scheme of things we’re dealing with something relatively “light.” I’m not worried about his life (as long as he’s not chewing on a walnut), but I do worry. I worry that he will shut down and will stop being ever so patient when repeating what he is trying to convey however many times it takes. I worry he will have a hard time making friends. I worry that kids will make fun of him (I’ve seen it happen).

I will do my damnedest to make the very best happen for this child.

Last night, after I came home from a lovely dinner date with Arthur’s former speech therapist-now-turned-friend, I kissed my boy’s sleepy hot cheeks and thought to myself, “Huh. He hasn’t interrupted my sleep in weeks. I kind of miss him.”

And that night he appeared next to my bed, the first time in weeks, and whispered something about monsters. I pulled him in, and he settled into the old comfortable nook of my arm, and for a moment everything in the world was as it should be.

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Halloween 2016

This year the boys made up their minds months ago about their costumes. Once they had decided on Wonder Woman and Superman, there was no going back.

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Halloween was, of course, highly anticipated. Both boys got to show up to school in costume, so off we went on our Super Bike. I didn’t take any pictures of Wonder Woman and Superman on the bike, but we did give Arthur’s buddy a ride over from the big kids’ school to the pre-school, and that was cute. Batman and Superman!

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After school Jeff and I took the boys trick or treating. Brooklyn Heights gets extremely busy on Halloween, but the older the boys get, the less overwhelming it becomes. Literally the first treat they got was an apple each, which was considered highly offensive and also unnecessarily heavy to carry around. (Unlike Halloween 2014 when I thought my children were broken when they chose to eat an apple over candy.)

One of the highlights was our house, which was so amazingly decorated by our friend Estela, who runs the flower shop, as Julian says, located “in our basement.”

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It’s always so spooky and awesome. This year, in hot pursuit of the holy candy, Arthur even dared to step inside – something Julian has not been willing to do since The Big Scare of 2013 when he almost died when a “monster” jumped out at him from behind a flower pot. But we love Estela, our very favorite witch. Last year, she and Arthur matched!

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Trick or treating was a success. We ran into a bunch of friends along the way, and we saw lots of great costumes and candy-happy faces. Uncle Brian came to meet us, too!

And we saw these incredible pumpkins:

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Even the pumpkins are saying it. So vote, ok?

After we’d collected enough candy, we had dinner at the Mexican restaurant across the street.

What was for dessert? “Last Week with John Oliver” and a bucket full of candy. At what age do kids keep track and catch on to the fact that they are basically trick or treating so that their parents can eat their weight in snickers and m&ms? I hope we have some years left…

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