Beach, Beach, more Beach!

What a weekend! Jeff and I both agreed this morning that we needed an extra day to relax from all the fun we had. But alas, it’s Monday and back to the grind.

On Saturday morning we got on our bikes right away and headed to our favorite place: Coney Island! We made it to the ocean in an hour and fifteen minutes – not too bad for two middle aged folks riding two heavy bikes loaded with everything needed for a beach day. Oh, and two kids.

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We hung out on the beach for a few hours, ate watermelon, played in the water, and dug in the sand. The boys couldn’t care less that this isn’t the loveliest of beaches; they just have fun. And so did we.

Then we got hungry and needed hot dogs immediately. They were delicious.

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The rest of the afternoon was our typical Coney Island fun: Wonder Wheel, rides, ice cream.

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Then we rode back towards home. Right around Park Slope our legs were getting tired, so we decided to stop for dinner. We stumbled upon this lovely place, sat outside, and filled our bellies with meats & cheeses, pasta, and mussels. Arthur ate all my seafood, and I stole bites of his pasta. We were so happy and full – and very tired. We rode home as the sun was setting, showered, and fell into bed.

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On Sunday we decided we hadn’t had enough of the beach, so we headed to Rockaway. We wanted to try the new NYC Ferry, and so we rode the bikes to the Wall Street stop and took the ferry over. It was pretty smooth, but only because we got in line early. Many people who arrived after us had to wait for the next boat, which only comes every hour.

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We rode the bikes around Rockaway for a bit and then found us a nice spot on the beach. We stayed there all day, played in the waves, ate sandwiches, chips, watermelon. Beach life is simply the best. We all took naps, too. Delightful.

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Before we headed home we wanted to grab a quick dinner and randomly found this very strange place that has fast food and shakes on the menu – and an assortment of old toys in the yard.

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Hot dogs and shakes for life.

Then we made a mistake and rode our bikes around the boardwalk for a bit. It was so lovely out. Bands were playing, happy people everywhere. Except: When we arrived at the ferry dock, there were so many people in line already, and the ferries were so backed up that we had to wait for more than an hour. So that was fun. (Next time we’ll take the train again. The NYC Ferries are fun in theory, but so overcrowded it sucks the joy and convenience right out of it.)

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We killed time on the boat by drinking a beer, making silly hairdos, and playing games.

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We arrived home at 10pm. The kids were exhausted, although honestly not as much as we were. Today we all slept a little later, and even though I’m sure we’re all a bit tired still, we have made a bunch of unforgettable memories this weekend.

Easy Living

Something amazing has been happening lately. It’s something that I think I remember from the past, something that feels vaguely familiar, something I wasn’t expecting, but something I’m totally excited to welcome back: let’s call it “adult life.”

You know, going out with friends, dates, independence. All of this has seemed like a bit of a foreign concept occasionally throughout the years, but I have a firm notion that they are here to stay now.

There have been a bunch of small and big changes lately that are showing me that the kids are growing up. I mean, I knew that already, but when your kids are small, it’s often difficult to see the light simply because you are always tired.

Julian asked about an allowance recently, so we came up with a chore system, and it’s been wonderful. Each day the boys get a few “chores” that are always the same. This includes: getting dressed before they come out of their room at 7am, making their beds, putting their clothes away at night, brushing their teeth. And then each day I’ll include one or two additional chores, like emptying the dishwasher, cleaning/wiping the sink, dusting, sorting socks on laundry day, etc. Julian is obsessed with this new concept. He does all his chores, never complains, and always consults his “chart” to see what’s next. It’s just right up his ally. Arthur does most of his chores happily; he’s just not as excited – which is fine. It’s mostly for Julian, but we couldn’t give him an allowance and not one to Arthur. So $3 per week it is. The first two weeks have already been invested in an online order for fake Lego stuff sent from China – because that is how we roll. The other benefit of this whole thing is that I don’t have to sort socks.

In general, the kids are in an easy phase. Yes, there is still plenty to complain about (Mostly: why does my toilet constantly smell like pee no matter how much I scrub it?! Answer: boys.), but let’s not dwell on the negative. The boys are becoming very independent. Arthur plays endlessly with his lego people (Star Wars, of course), and his imagination is just incredible. Julian draws detailed road maps almost every day. He studies the roads and markings during our bike rides and then tries to recreate his favorites at home. He writes and reads, is helpful, sweet, caring. Arthur lets us sleep through the night (Yes, I know, he’s four and that should be a given, but believe me, it is not). Also, showers. And this one might seem silly, but I think it will revolutionize our summer. My children have finally accepted showers as an alternative to baths (that always take forever and somehow water always ends up on the floor – looking at you, Arthur). They shower on their own, put their pajamas on by themselves, and really, what are you needed for, Mom Lady?

Four and six are really enjoyable ages so far.

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Another thing that has sort of just “happened” is a renewed desire to take care of myself. I’ve been reading voraciously again – something I have always loved, but haven’t always had time/energy to do when my babies were, well, babies. 

Also, I have started working out again and even picked up running. The last time I tried that was after I had Arthur, and it was challenging to work up to being able to run 5k. Now I feel much stronger, and this week I ran three times. My favorite run was one morning at 6am over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Chinatown, and back home over the Manhattan Bridge. I ran almost 7km that day – and I felt pumped. What a feeling it is to run through this city that I love so much, while most people are still in bed, and the sun has just risen. Magical.

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Everything just seems to be in a good place right now (I hope I’m not jinxing things). I’m in love with my husband, I love hanging out with friends, and my kids are actually enjoyable companions.

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So to all the tired folks with young kids: I know people always say it gets easier. That’s because it truly does. You’ll be able to leave the house again without a screaming kid in tow, you’ll be able to grocery shop in peace even though you have your sidekicks with you, and occasionally they will even carry said groceries home for you. You’ll be able to sleep again and do all the things you used to love.

Oh, and somehow I manage to finish my coffee most mornings. Something that you only appreciate if you’ve been drinking hurried sips of lukewarm coffee for years.

Memorial Day Weekend

Jeff has been busy at work, so a four day weekend was very welcome. Julian had school on Friday, but we took Arthur for a long bike ride on his red cruiser to Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoyed the good weather.

The other day I took both boys and promised them a lemonade at the little beer/hot dog place at Pier 1.

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The closest thing to a lemonade was a Mexican Orange Crush – and oh wow, did I create a monster. This was the first soda the kids have ever tasted, and their minds were blown. Naturally, Arthur was begging for more when we were down there again on Friday.

We obliged, along with some hot dogs. Arthur experienced an Orange Crush sugar high – it was pretty funny.

I had friends in town visiting from Germany. Andy is one of my oldest friends in life and one of the few people I still connect with from my high school days. He and his wife Alex met us in Dumbo, and we strolled around. Arthur got to ride the carousel, and we all had whoopie pies from One Girl.

On Saturday, we met Andy and Alex for a day of bike riding in Brooklyn. We had a picnic in Prospect Park, played soccer and baseball and just hung out. It was so fun. The boys loved every minute of all the attention they were getting.

It was so lovely to have one of my best friends here and to see him play with my kids and get to know them. It was really special.

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Despite a flat tire, we found our way to Brooklyn Crab for beers, crab legs, and ice cream.

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Our friends gave the boys some new Legos. Have I mentioned that they are Star Wars and Lego obsessed? I probably have.

On Sunday we tried (again) to check out the big boats for Fleet Week in Red Hook, but the lines were ridiculously long. So we had brunch at one of our favorite spots, Alma, instead.

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We rode around Red Hook, explored, played, ate cookies.

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Sunday night I met Andy for dinner in the West Village. Dinner turned into many drinks, and somehow we stayed out until 3am. Which is so fun because I got to spend such a good chunk of time with my old friend and very not fun because I was obviously dead the next day.

We spent Monday being lazy at home. Julian was bummed that he didn’t have science that day (because no school), so we made a volcano and cleaned some pennies with vinegar. Success.

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Later that night we met some of our friends at Dinosaur BBQ. We ate pounds of meat, and a good time was had by all. Especially by these little firecrackers.

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P.S. Memorial Day 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Adulting, Family-ing, Snowing

Titles are tough. Whatever.

Saturday was a great day filled with unexpected joy. First of all, SNOW! The boys were so excited. Even excited enough to only complain a little bit about putting on snow pants, mittens, and a scarf (I’m looking at you, Arthur).

But before we headed out, we had a lazy morning at home. Bloody Mary’s, games, puzzles, bumming around. And then: snow!

We headed to our friends’ house to celebrate the boys’ friend’s 5th birthday.

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And…get this! It was a drop off party. I think this was the first time that we’ve enjoyed this beautiful concept, and I hope that all birthday parties from now on are drop off (looking at you, friends with kids). We didn’t even take our shoes off; just peeled layers of snow clothes off our kids and we were out. 

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Jeff and I headed to a restaurant around the corner for some beers and fries. Then we walked around in the snow and stopped for some coffee/hot chocolate and whoopie pies.

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Then we wandered around some more, checked out a furniture store, and eventually retrieved our children. Who had been eating tons of ice cream, popcorn, and touching wild creatures. No big deal.

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We rolled around in the snow on our way home. It was so fun.

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And that night? Jeff and I had booked a sitter and headed out for a dinner date at China Blue. Probably one of my favorite meals of late – it was so delicious. I still think about it. I’m just sad I didn’t think to take a picture before we had eaten all the food.

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Afterwards, drinks at a hole in the wall bar.

On Sunday I went to a boxing class at the gym and loved every minute of it. I’m probably not the world’s best boxer, but I have so much fun doing it. Then we tried to straighten up a bit, because later in the afternoon the New Jersey cousins (and their parents) came over to play, have dinner, and exchange Christmas presents. (The boys were gifted a lightsaber building kit, which is clearly something I had ignored on their Xmas wish list, but seeing their joy totally makes it worth it, and after all, that’s what family is for, right?)

Also, eating lots of meatballs together.

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Monday morning Julian woke up at 2am; Arthur came to get me, saying “Julian is crying.” He had an ear ache. I gave him some ibuprofen along with the news that he might not be going to school in the morning, which turned the quiet crying into full on sobbing. “But I ha-aaa-aaa-ve science tomorrooooooooow.”

In the morning the pediatrician confirmed a big ol’ ear infection, bulging pus and all. Some more ibuprofen, antibiotics, and my kid was off to school. Can’t miss science. He hasn’t complained since that one time at 2am, so I’m assuming he is on the mend.

Arthur had a play date today with a little boy from his school, because his mother (me) was guilt-ridden about not fostering any friendships on his behalf yadayadayada, and then he just played with his brother for the most part anyway. But I get an A for effort, and in the end everyone had fun.

Last but not least, I just want to note how much I love snow. I love it so much that I’m happy to have it around once or twice a year. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t already think about hitting all the rides in Coney Island, drinking beer on the beach in Rockaway or eating shrimp at Brooklyn Crab.

Until then, I guess winter it is.

Christmas 2016

This Christmas break is exactly that: a break. We are being extremely lazy on most days.

Christmas was a big success all around. Christmas Eve we made a seafood pasta dish – delicious. The boys laid out cookies, carrots and milk for Santa and his helpers, and Julian wrote him a note.

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Excitement definitely filled the air! The boys were adorable and also went right to sleep. This has also been a wonderful added bonus to our lazy days: an early bedtime, no complaints. A chapter or two of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will put Arthur straight to sleep, cozily cuddled up next to me, and it’s lovely. Also, we’re almost done with the book, and it’s been such fun for me to have someone else read to me! I just love it. (The boys do, too.)

Back to Santa. Jeff and I watched Love Actually on Christmas Eve, because duh. We’ve been on a movie roll this break – anything from Die Hard to Say Anything to Elf (with kids who pretty much pee themselves from laughing so hard).

Anyway, back to Santa. He came! He brought the boys the much desired Gup X and Gup S from the hit series Octonauts, and it was pretty much all they cared about for the next 10 hours and actually pretty much every hour since then. They also got new bike helmets, a new train bridge, a small drum for Arthur (per request), swords (because I’m an idiot), and some Playmobil pirate stuff. From Opa they received their first Flik Flak watches and from Grammy a math game, pirate game and bingo. Uncle Brian brought books (that was my wish). So of course, PLENTY of new things. Everyone is so happy and busy.

I got my wish: my very own boxing gloves!

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My other very favorite gift this year is a book that Julian conceptualized and made all by himself, front to back. It’s called “The Police and the Children.”

Kids climb up a tree, fall down, police helicopter comes and catches them, they go home, eat dinner, play trains, read a book, brush teeth, use mouth wash, climb into their bunk beds and zzzzzzz. Real life stuff. I will treasure this forever.

On Christmas Day we had Jeff’s brother, his wife, and her parents over for dinner. On the menu: butternut squash soup, roasted whole cauliflower, carrots, mashed potatoes, green beans with roasted almonds, salad, and Jeff’s Holy Meatloaf. Also: an enormous amount of wine.

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It was a happy night – and the kids had their own tiny table!

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Monday we hit the train show at the New York Botanical Gardens.

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These faces say it all. It was ridiculously overcrowded. Kids kept getting hit in the head with strangers’ bags, and it was all around too much.

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The Coney Island exhibit was neat, though.

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The highlights were overpriced beers at the Gingerbread Cafe and a realtime narrative by this kid about his favorite Octonauts episode.

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Yesterday and today we basically laid around, except quick trips outside to keep our kids from killing each other with their new swords. Also, hair cuts. Now excuse me while I get back to doing nothing.

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Here’s a look back: Christmas 2015 and Christmas 2014.

NYC at Christmas Time

Jeff’s been off work for a week now… and what have we been up to? Not all too much is the answer, and that is just the way we like it.

Julian had his last day of school Friday, which caused a minor depression because no school! I miss school! My life outside of school is miserable. Poor child. Hence, he’s taught himself multiplication. Because clearly a life without math is not worth living.

Arthur still had school three days this week. He was not happy to be the only one with a place to go to, and Julian was not happy because he missed his brother like crazy and mamaaaaa I am sooooo bored. 

Other than that, everything’s been lovely. We’ve enjoyed some time with “just” Julian, our sad, bored, deprived child. We went out to get Ramen and pork buns.

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Jeff and Julian went on a bike ride and Christmas shopping.

And of course we’ve enjoyed our wonderful city at Christmas time. It is always magical.

Last weekend we saw…the Rockettes! I think it might have to become an annual tradition. What a fantastic show! We all loved it.

On Wednesday we had a date with the man himself, Santa Claus. We took the boys out to lunch…

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…where they wrote letters to Sammmmta and Rudolph and drew some last minute pictures for the old man.

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We checked out the windows at Macy’s, and Julian did the naughty or nice test. The window said naughty!

Then the moment had arrived. Santa!

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The boys aren’t overly obsessed with Santa and were neither scared nor giddy, more in awe I would say. Either way, they definitely believe, and they both assured me that he was the real deal. They made sure he knew their Christmas wishes, and he reminded them to leave some cookies and milk for him. Done deal. (For kicks: 2015 Santa and 2016 Santa)

After Macy’s we took Julian and Arthur to the train show at Grand Central. They loved it, as they do every year.

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This is the face of a train-loving boy who’s been told it’s time to go home (on a train, no less):

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At home we’ve been baking and eating lots of cookies and trying out different Glühwein recipes. Also, we started reading “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” – and we’re about half way through.

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What a wonderful story. I’m enjoying it as much as the boys. Although Julian hides under a blanket when the White Witch is mentioned.

Jeff and I went to see Rogue One! I don’t think we’ve been to the movies together without the kids since…before kids.

Today we had another German family over. My friend and I worked our way through a batch of Glühwein, made tacos and let our children decorate cookies and spread 1 million sprinkles all over the apartment in the process. This was at the very beginning…

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It’s an all around lovely holiday. We are eagerly counting down the days till Christmas. Three more sleeps!

Arthur Fun Day

On Fridays, Julian is in school until 5:30pm. He plays soccer after school, so Arthur and I have a very long day without him. I genuinely miss him, but it’s even worse for Arthur. He really misses his brother and friend.

I’m going to try to take him on adventures every now and then and make the day special for us. Today we went to Prospect Park.

We played “Superman” and “Octonauts” (omg that show!) at the playground. That outfit! Believe it or not, people still think he is a girl. It’s amazing.

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Then we hit the zoo. It was quite chilly today!

Arthur said hi to a peacock.

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We saw everything there is to see at this rather small zoo. It was lovely.

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My favorite was the petting zoo. Arthur talked to every.single.creature. “Hi guys! How are you today? What is your name? Do you want some food? Sorry sheep! We have no more! We’ll get more next time! Bye! I will miss you.” It was adorable.

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We had lunch at the zoo and on the way home, this.

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I’d say it was a successful morning.

About all that “free time”…

It’s been about a month since both boys have been in school. Of course, since Arthur only goes three days a week and October has been jam-packed with holidays and also some sick days for him, he’s only actually been to school for 10 days. Of those days, three days have been spent inside his school and the rest “forest school style” outside while they were waiting for one last permit.

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Anyway, the season of school has just begun, and I think we are still all finding our groove. Scratch that. The boys are fine. They run off in the mornings, Julian often hand in hand with a friend, and Arthur hurries off to greet his teachers. Usually I get a big goodbye hug, but on occasion Julian has just wandered off without saying goodbye, while chatting to a friend. Today Arthur did the same.

After school they are tired and happy. Julian tells me about his day in detail. Math is his favorite. He drew a spider for a Halloween picture. These are the friends he played with at the park. They sang a song about fall for other teachers and kids in higher grades (a performance!). He is seriously so chatty and provides so much information that I was asked to send updates to his friends’ parents because most of the kids say nothing.

Arthur, too, is following suit. Yellow and blue makes green! They learned a new song! They went to the playground, and he played police with his friend Leo and also a little bit by himself. For Halloween one of the boys will be Batman, and there will be two Elsas. He missed me after nap.

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This is how Arthur would greet me the first couple of weeks when I picked him up at the park. He would just fly into my arms! It was pretty much the greatest feeling ever.

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And while all this is going on, what do I do? All summer long everyone asked me what I would do with all my free time! I joked that I would do my nails and stare into nothingness. The truth is, it’s been a little bit different than I had envisioned. There just isn’t that much time!

The first day both kids were in school I went all out. I went for a leisurely walk and took myself out for a lovely lunch.

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Ever since then, I’ve been running errands, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning. It’s been extremely glamorous. To all the mamas who work and accomplish all the domestic things, I have no clue how you do it. I have three days to myself. Well, half days, really. I’m back from school drop off at 10am and have to leave again at 2:15pm. And those hours just fly by.

So while I haven’t gone to any museums or had my hair done or met Jeff for lunch, these hours are still special and somehow different. I do things at my own pace. Some days I go to the gym. Sometimes I walk slower or shop longer or eat my lunch on our stoop. I play the music that I like on the bike. I shower in peace. When I went to get my flu shot, I had to wait in the pharmacy for 10 minutes. Just sitting on a chair. It was so obvious to me what I wasn’t doing at that moment. I wasn’t telling my children “Don’t touch! Stop running! Don’t touch! Put that back! Did you just push him?!” I just sat there. I silence and with my thoughts. That was nice. And I get to run all of our errands without my sidekicks, which pretty much is a win/win situation for everyone involved.

So I guess if I could go back and answer the question about what I would be doing with “all my free time” again, I would say: The same stuff I would normally do. But also taking a deep breath every now and then. I enjoy hearing my own thoughts again after 5+ years of being drowned out by my two lovely, loud boys.

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Friends, Friends, more Friends

This is a good season. My kids are in school, at least some of the time, and I am getting used to the feeling of missing them and looking forward to seeing them again. Jeff and I have been going on dates and hanging out with friends, and it’s delightful. I feel like a proper adult again!

Last week Julian was off on Tuesday while Arthur had school. So I packed the day full of appointments…Doctor: broken finger has healed! Dentist: swollen gums mean two adult molars have grown in my baby’s mouth! Hair salon: shorter hair! Also, Arthur had speech with his new teacher (she’s great, but man do we all miss Katie), and we got to hang out with one of my oldest friends who stopped to see us during a road trip with her boys. We’ve known each other since my college days in Bamberg, Germany, where I babysat for her now 16 and 17 year old children. They were 1 and 2 then!

Here are my boys with her two younger boys. They were fast friends!

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Other than school, the boys and I have met up with friends, gotten flu shots and discovered Arthur’s future as a skateboarder. He and that board were a natural fit!

On Friday night Jeff and I went to see the New York Philharmonic (always good) perform at the Park Avenue Armory (amazing!) – but it was a weird, experimental piece that had us looking forward to dinner together afterwards. On the Upper East Side, which might as well be a different planet. But it was lovely, because of this guy:

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This weekend we took the boys to the Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park. It’s always a magical ride.

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We’re so lucky with the gorgeous weather we’ve been having. We were all so happy to be on a family bike ride again! We stopped by the World Trade Center and visited the recently opened Oculus.

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On Saturday evening we were invited over to our friends’ house. They had arranged for a babysitter to hang out with the 5 kids (our friends’ kids included) in their apartment while the adults got to hang out on the amazing roof with the most breathtaking view, wine, and pizza. Oh! And friends!

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I mean…this view!

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On Sunday we had one of Jeff’s work friends and his partner over for dinner, and even though our kids were overly excited (because clearly they don’t get out much…), it was so lovely to meet these guys and make new friends.

As we’re headed into a new week of chores and normal life, I’m so thankful for friends (new & old), for Jeff, and for my boys and the fact that they are loving school so much.

Victorian Gardens

Yesterday was another amazing day. So far the summer is everything I had hoped it would be – and then some. It’ll make the beginning of school even harder.

Julian, Arthur, and three of their friends (Mae, Lucy, and Eloise) took their moms to the kiddie amusement park at Wollman Rink in Central Park. There are the rides!

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We made sure to hit each ride at least once.

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I had to go on some of the rides with Arthur because he didn’t meet all the height requirements, despite Julian’s repeated measuring efforts.

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Highlights were this airplane ride, even though Arthur cried in the beginning because he had to sit next to his boring mother.

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Julian liked to give the ladies a ride. Lucy in the back is holding on for dear life.

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When these adorable twins sat down in the back of the jumping frog, I reminded Julian to make sure to drive safely and to look out for the backseat passengers. He said, very seriously, “I will, mama.” But then, whatever, hands up!

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Other highlights:

And then the moment when I promised the boys a ride on this carousel, after I’d seen their buddy, who is about Arthur’s height, ride it on her own. I am terrified of these carousels after losing a shoe on one once as a child. Also, too high and too spinny. Long story short, the height requirements were more strictly enforced in this round, so yay!

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I almost died.

But not as close to death as we all came when we realized that we had probably most likely put some cash into Trump’s pockets by giving our children a day of fun at Wollman Rink.

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It was so much fun. Next up: ice cream and popsicles!

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Then we rallied and walked over to the boat pond. Because we knew they’d have beer. We had enough kids for a proper “kids table,” and they all played happily while we relaxed for a moment. In fact, Julian and Arthur are so into card games right now that they played cards with each other for the entire time we were there.

And then we were homeward bound! Nothing like riding a crowded crosstown bus with 5 children 5 and under…

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…followed by an even more crowded subway ride.

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The boys and I met Jeff at Pier 26 and played and had dinner.

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We all tried to run against Olympic champion Allyson Felix. Needless to say she was much, much faster than any of us.

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But if I can tackle anything in life with just half of the boys’ enthusiasm, success should be guaranteed. Also, sorry, lady! No high five for you. Ouch!

P.S. Victorian Gardens last year!