Kid A, Kid B

I’m sure most parents with more than one offspring will agree: It is a puzzling mystery that two kids with a similar genetic make-up and growing up under similar circumstances can be such wildly different creatures.

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Take Kid A: He is the spitting image of his father, but his mind resembles mine the most. He is a bookworm (40+ books on his reading log so far this summer!), studious, and focused. He is stubborn as all hell but also a little insecure. He is quiet, kind and caring but can explode when his feelings overwhelm him. He needs to win, pretty much all of the time, and given his older brother status, he usually does. We all suffer when he doesn’t. Also, he is a bit of a loner, just like his mama. At camp just around pick-up time, all the kids are sitting together, chatting, and eating their snacks. Julian sits by himself at a separate desk far away from the group, reading. I asked him why he doesn’t sit with the other kids, and he just said he wants to be alone to read. It’s not that he is unpopular; he is well liked by the other kids. They call his name across the schoolyard, wave to him, and give him little toys “for being one of the nicest kids in camp.” But it seems like he needs the solitude, and boy, can I relate. In that he is just like me. He also has my sense of rhythm (i.e. none) and my inability to tell a lie. I see myself in him so much, and it hurts a little bit to think that he isn’t heading down the easy, carefree road, but rather a road paved with insecurity and self-doubt and a sprinkle of loneliness. He’s been very emotional this summer and acting out more than usual, and I know it is because he is working through a lot. I’m excited for him that school will begin soon and he will be back in his element. School, books, and soccer – these are Julian’s favorites.

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Then there is Kid B. This guy resembles me a bit more with the same light blond hair I used to have, similar features, and the fact that he is ridiculously tall. But that’s where the similarities end. He has his father’s creative spirit and wit. He is carefree, sweet, and funny. He plays with Julian for hours and is (almost) never upset for being slower or for shooting less goals. At camp, Arthur walks down the halls, and random counselors – people I have never met before – walk up to him and give him a hug or a high five. He bounces up and down each day at pick-up, excited to tell me about his adventures. After dinner he puts on dance performances for us. At first it was Drake’s summer hit “In My Feelings”, and now he is amusing us with his moves to “The Middle” by Zedd. I can’t stop smiling when I see him dance. He has the spring in his step I never had in my entire life. The ability to dance as if no one is watching – even though everyone is watching. He has an enormous amount of confidence about him, which is even more impressive to me because he is still so very speech delayed. It just can’t stop him. He amazes me every day, and I admit: he’s a bit of a wildcard in my life. I can’t wait to see how he’ll do in school come September. He’s excited at the prospect of school, but then there are very few things in life he is not excited about.

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This summer has been such a learning curve for all of us, but mostly for the boys who had to step out of their comfort zones and try something new. I learned so much about them just by observing. They are both so unique and different from each other, and yet the strongest bond they have is the one they share with each other. They spend all their free time together: playing, plotting, driving us crazy and making our hearts burst all at the same time. We are the luckiest to have these creatures in our lives.

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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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?

Almost there…

Two more weeks until summer break! Arthur and I are excited! Julian, of course, would prefer school all day every day, but something tells me that he will get over it once we start hanging out at the beach or pool or play soccer all day. Because what else is there?

Arthur and I had our first taste of summer last week when his school was randomly closed for “Chancellor’s Day.” We met up with his best buddy, Jakob, and spent hours playing soccer and running around outside.

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Also, this:

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He was having a blast, and I was thrilled to be outside with no agenda whatsoever. Our lives are so busy lately that I think I might be anticipating lazy summer days more than anyone. I will be taking several weeks off work this summer to bum around with the boys, and they also have some summer camp planned. I think it will be a good summer.

Meanwhile, Arthur had a belt test at karate and is now sporting a yellow stripe! I love watching him learn and grow in confidence and discipline. He is such a wonderful creature, and I adore him so much. He was so proud of himself, too.

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Other than that we’ve been playing soccer as much as humanly possible and anticipating the World Cup, which starts TODAY!

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Oh, and playing HedBanz.

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Meanwhile, Julian and his class brought us back to 1993 when he performed the Macarena at his school’s art and dance show last night.

Sleeping With Wolves

Through work I found out about the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY. They offer an overnight camping experience called “Sleeping with Wolves” – and we just had to give it a try. Mainly because we’ve never camped before, and this was a great introduction because the tents were provided. And also of course because of the wolves.

We arrived late Saturday evening and claimed our tent. This one right there in the front.

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For four people it was rather cozy I’ll say. But of course also exciting and different and all around fun.

We learned all about the wolves and how endangered they are. The Center is really doing amazing work.

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Then we met the ambassador wolves: Atka, Alawa, Zephyr, and Nikai. They are the only wolves out of the 50+ wolves at the Center that people get to meet. All the others have a chance to be released into the wild. Many of the little packs just recently had pups, and we saw some roaming around in the distance.

After the presentation we got to meet the four ambassador wolves. They were amazing!

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Afterwards we all had pizza (only the humans) and then watched a movie about, you guessed it, wolves. Under the stars.

Next up: s’mores.

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All the while we’re of course running back and forth, visiting the wolves, checking out the porta potties, eating more s’mores, and trying to keep Arthur from petting any of the wild creatures.

Once we retired to the tent, the boys were both wired and tired. We read a couple of chapters from our latest obsession, the Magic Tree House series.

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The thing that surprised us all the most was how loud these wolves were. They howled us to sleep and were sure to remind us at 6am that it was time to get up. It was pretty special, I will say. This video will give you a good idea, and you get a bonus howl from Arthur at the end. (Can’t really speak to what Jeff is doing…)

The next morning we had coffee and bagels and hung out with the wolves some more.

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And then we were on our way, another adventure in the books.

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.

 

 

Birthdays And The Never-Ending Sickness

On Wednesday night of last week we spontaneously decided to take a quick bike ride to Brooklyn Crab, our now completely overpriced and commercialized former favorite hang-out. Dinner was great, but towards the end I noticed I had a sore throat and was hit with the very strong notion that I was getting sick.

 

I had a terrible night and woke up sick the next day. I spent the day in bed nursing a 102 fever and sending Jeff on a frenzy of last minute birthday errands. Because the next day our firstborn was going to turn 7!

In the end everything got done. Julian woke up, blew out his candles, and opened one present.

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That afternoon after school we gave him his big present: a new bike!

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And of course a couple of smaller presents as well. There was a cake (store-bought this year) and more candles. Then Jeff took Julian for an hour long spin on his new, 24″, super big boy bike with gears! Julian did so well. I can’t wait to go on a ride with him next!

Meanwhile, I spent another day in bed.

The next day, Saturday, was the boys big party. They put on their birthday presents from Oma & Opa, one of their favorite gifts ever: Bayern Munich soccer uniforms.

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We had invited some 20+ kids to the park. The weather was perfect, and other than a quick break to devour cupcakes, the kids were off playing soccer for hours while the adults hung out near the wine and beer. It was a super relaxed party, and the boys were in heaven. Because: soccer.

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On Sunday I was so sick that I started crying on the couch. Julian said, “Mama! I don’t want you to die.” That’s when I knew I had to man up.

On Monday it was kid no. 2’s turn to have his big day. 5! Arthur woke up to pancakes and a song and got to open one present.

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The others waited for him after school, along with the desired ice cream cake. Does this guy look happy or what?

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We spent the rest of the day playing with new toys, and for dinner we did as Arthur, our birthday boy, commanded: We had an indoor hot dog picnic. The best.

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So now I have a 5 and a 7 year old. I can’t take it.

On Monday I went to work but was pretty miserable all day. On Tuesday I stayed home sick again. Since yesterday I can tell that I am finally better, and today there are just the annoying remnants of what was the worst cold ever (an annoying cough and snot galore).

All is good. We survived the week. No one cared that the cakes were store-bought or that the cupcakes were from a box. The boys were happy, surrounded by friends and love, and that is all that matters.

Opa’s Back in Town!

Well, he was. We just spent a full, happy, loud, exciting, lovely week with my Dad/Opa. He arrived on Friday and left 10 days later, today. We had so much fun!

Highlights included:

A soccer game at Red Bull Arena. New York Red Bulls against Chicago Fire, including no one less than Germany’s very own Bastian Schweinsteiger. I loved it! The boys loved it! We all did. Opa explained all the rules to Julian; there was a lot of popcorn and overpriced beer.

I got to explore the city every day with my dad, and the weather was finally spring-like and perfect. I worked fewer hours than usual, and he picked me up from work every day. We had lunch and wandered around. On Sunday Jeff hung with the boys while my Dad and I walked all around the West Village. It was such a beautiful day.


We spent the rest of the day with Jeff’s family who all came to hang out with us.

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We played lots of soccer, watched a soccer game at a German restaurant, and talked about soccer whenever possible. Also, we are spending every waking minute with our Panini soccer sticker book. Soccer for life.

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On Wednesday night, we watched Julian in his spring school performance. He was adorable.

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Also: this view! Another visit to the World Trade Center.

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We took Arthur to speech together, to Karate, to the Transit Museum. A 10 day visit allows for a glimpse into our real lives with all its joy and hustle and occasional fighting. The boys loved having their Opa around so much.

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The last day was spent in Central Park. It was a perfect ending to a perfect NYC week.

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The boys will miss Opa!

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And so will I.

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Inaugural Bike Ride

Did everyone enjoy the two days of spring we got last week? We did!

Jeff got the bikes out of storage and had them tuned up for spring. On Friday he gave them a good cleaning and put on Arthur’s new big boy seat.

On Saturday we packed our bags and we were off. Coney Island bound!

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It felt amazing to be back on the bikes! Look at these happy faces! Sunshine, music, bikes, and the prospect of a day outside, together.

We were cruising down the boardwalk in no time.

We had lunch and then played on the beach for a bit.

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Jeff took the boys on a walk down to the pier, and I took a glorious half hour nap on the beach.

The boys got to go on the rides…

We had ice cream…

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Arthur and I watched Julian and Jeff go on some of the rides we opted out of. Like this one:

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I mean, that’s just too high! Arthur seemed more cautious than usual; maybe he was tired, maybe it is residue from his traumatic experience earlier this week. Either way, I enjoyed having him by my side.

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On the ride home the temperatures dropped significantly. Spring was over! I wrapped Arthur in a scarf, secured it with a sandwich bag clip (because I’m crafty like that), and he promptly fell asleep. Julian is such a good big brother; he held Arthur’s head the entire way.

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We stopped for tacos in Lefferts Gardens, and that was it! A full day of fun – and now we’re back to wearing winter coats.

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Hiking, Coney – And More Snow!

I suppose it was overly ambitious/optimistic of me to sort through our winter clothes last week and form a neat pile to be taken to storage at our earliest convenience. Because today, this:

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April Fool’s Day was yesterday! Come ON!!

Aside from this Monday morning ridiculousness, we had a wonderful weekend. I had the urge to get out of the city and spend some family time together outside, so on Saturday we took the Metro North, well, north to a small somewhat hippie town called Beacon. We went on a hike and climbed the local mountain, Mount Beacon. The trail isn’t too long, but it’s very rugged and steep and made for some adventurous balancing and falling into mud puddles.

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It was glorious! The boys were total troopers. Our expectations were pretty much non-existent since the only hiking we’ve ever done was in a forest in Queens and maybe a longer walk through the woods of the Poconos. But this was a serious hike. The boys were amazing! We were seriously so proud.

 

 

At the top we admired what was at the bottom: the Hudson Valley. Also: casino ruins and the remnants of some sort of old mountain tram.

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Once we climbed down (why is climbing down harder than up?), we met an old college buddy of Jeff’s at a local pub for beer and burgers. Jeff was excited!

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Afterwards we walked around town, stopped for ice cream and let the boys play at a park.

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The walk back to the train was kind of intense – many tired faces and sore legs.

Arthur and I promptly fell asleep as soon as we sat down on the train.

On Sunday the Easter Bunny made an appearance early in the morning. The boys went on an egg hunt in our apartment and ate their weight in chocolate. We played for a bit and hung out and then decided that we wanted to pay a visit to our favorite place on earth, Coney Island.

We started off at “Magic at Coney” – some pinball, beer, and battleship while we waited for the show to begin.

 

Julian was pretty immediately selected as an assistant. He was adorable; his belly laugh cuts straight into my heart. It’s funny when you know someone so intimately and then see them on a stage and look at them perhaps in a way an outsider would, and oh man. What a gift that child is.

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I also got to assist with one of the tricks. Maybe I have a future in magic?

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Next: Nathan’s Hot Dogs. They never disappoint.

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It was a bit chilly, and we were slightly underdressed, so the boys shared our African kikoy to keep warm.

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We stopped by the beach for a minute and then hit a few rides.

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It was breezy on the Wonder Wheel!

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A quick funnel cake, and we were headed home.

And then the most amazing thing happened: we got on the Q train, first car per the boys’ request. Shortly thereafter the train driver got on and unlocked the door to the driver’s cabin. The boys got up, said “hello” to him and kind of peeked inside, and I fully expected the train driver to close the door and go about his business. Instead he invited them inside, showed them all the controls, answered all of their questions, and even honked the horn! He was so kind and patient and totally made the boys’ day. Julian has loved the subway for all of his life. He knows all the lines, stops, trains and is currently designing the high speed train he will “create” when he is a grownup – complete with maps, tickets, different ways of paying, logo etc. What a NYC moment this was for my NYC-loving boys!

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* Photo credit for most of these images goes to my amazing husband.