Another Day, another ER

What can I say? Yesterday started out really strong with a lovely morning with my boys, shopping for Halloween decorations and roaming around Brooklyn. Our night ended with an ER visit in Sleepy Hollow, NY.

We were invited to one of Jeff’s friend’s annual Oktoberfest parties upstate. Arthur and Julian made some very good choices regarding their outfits, and we were ready to party.

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We had lots of fun, ate lots of food, and the boys played lots of soccer. Then out of nowhere Arthur plopped himself into my lap, said his throat hurt, his belly hurt, and I noticed he couldn’t stop coughing. I took him into another room to look at him in better light, and he had hives all over his super red face. More hives on his back and chest. I knew I had to inject the EPI pen right away, and when I told him about what would happen, he said, “Yes, please give it to me!” I mean, what 5 year old asks for a shot in the leg? He was feeling horrible.

Within minutes of the EPI pen injection his symptoms improved. A friend drove us to a nearby ER, where we’d spend the next 4 hours observing Arthur and watching episodes of Scooby Doo.

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My poor baby.

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We took a late-night train back into the city with our sleepy babes.

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We were in bed by 1am, and of course no one slept in. Because why would we?

Arthur is fine today. He is back to being himself, but I am still shaken up. This is the second time he’s had an anaphylactic reaction within 6 months. At least last time I was fairly certain why it had happened: he had eaten a piece of a nut that was on a table at the cafe where we had a snack.

But I have no idea what the cause was yesterday, and that is the most terrifying thing of all. Arthur said he started feeling bad after he had eaten a hamburger, so it could have been anything. The bun, an ingredient in the burger, who knows? There were no nuts at the party, and he hadn’t eaten any baked goods. There is no way for me to keep him safe, to prevent this from happening at all. And that scares me to death. The unfairness of it all drives me up the wall, too. The fact that this happy-go-lucky boy has to deal with this terrible condition that makes his throat tighten seemingly out of nowhere. It just isn’t right. And there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

We’ll be ok.

So today. Today was not perfect. Here is what went wrong:

The children were horrible. And I mean: horrible. They didn’t listen (at all), they were loud, they were obnoxious, they were testing our patience left and right, and we were failing that test completely.

The weather was cloudy. Which is fine, generally, especially for October, but we wanted to spend the day at the beach and were hoping to see at least a tiny bit of sun.

Kavanaugh. I don’t think I need to add anything.

General (work-related) stress levels in our house are sky high.

When we arrived at Rockaway Beach, I cried. It was 11am, and I was exhausted. I was pretty much done with the day.

But then. Then I smelled the ocean. It’s an instant mood-shifter for me. Also, we were on our bikes. And how can I not feel an inkling of happiness with an ocean breeze in my face? With a bike underneath me and my family beside me (as annoying as they can be at times)?

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We had a picnic and rode around, exploring.

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These were the faces of today:

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None of these people are perfect, and that includes this person whose pants were not rolled up high enough…

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But we all work together, and we’re bound together, even when nothing else seems to work.

There was this moment, and you would have never guessed it was happening, but it was a moment nonetheless. I was resting on our picnic blanket, a beer in my hand, George Strait playing on the speaker, the boys playing in the sand, and I was watching the ocean. The waves were breaking and forming and breaking again. There was something so peaceful and so powerful in that moment, and I felt that everything would be ok.

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I know our days are long and the times we’re living can make us feel defeated. This latest act of political horrificness has the potential to make us feel powerless. No matter how much we march, how many people we call, who speaks up, who fights, and who shows courage – there are always others who will push you down with the flick of their big white thumbs. I am so over it.

But this is not the end, and we will come out on top.

In the meantime, after we’d stopped for coffee, cookies, and a game of “Exploding Kittens” at a local Rockaway bagel shop, killing time until our return ferry left, we noticed two groups of protesters. On the left side of the road people were shouting “No hate, no Trump” and so forth. Across the street others were holding “Trump 2020” signs. We slowly rode our bikes past this latter group and gave them the evil eye. Then we turned around, and high-fived the anti Trump crowd on the left while riding our bikes past them as they cheered. It made me sad and happy at the same time.

So yes. There will always be people who don’t get it, children who act annoying, and clouds on what could have been a sunny day. But there will also always be people who do get it; kids at some point snap out of being annoying; and yes, there will always be another sunny day.

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Probably tomorrow.

Growing Up

I’ve been thinking lately about my boys and how they have grown. It’s becoming more difficult to comfortably share things about them, because these things no longer focus on interrupted sleep, temper tantrums, and diapers. I am now dealing with very real, very powerful feelings, at all times, and lots of them. The boys see themselves now as part of a group, they evaluate their abilities based on the abilities of their peers, they have insecurities.

My academically strong, ever succeeding, super intelligent first born seems to struggle occasionally with his place in the world. Everything comes so easy to him, but soccer – the thing he loves the most – does not. Or at least he sees it that way. Perhaps he takes after his athletically challenged mother, or perhaps his expectations are too high. But it’s hard for him. He compares himself to other boys his age, boys who play soccer “professionally” and competitively in leagues and practice three to four times a week. He told me the other day that he always gets teamed up with the “bad players, because I’m a bad player, too.” It broke my heart a little. (Teamed up at recess in the park by the other kids, not by teachers, by the way.) For Halloween he wants to be a referee.

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But this is a lesson he has to learn. We’ve all learned it. You cannot be the best at everything. Some people aren’t the best at anything, and that’s fine, too. But Julian is so used to succeeding at everything that this, I think, is really getting to him. And I can’t fix it. This is something he has to figure out on his own.

The other day, while Arthur had after-school soccer, I took Julian out for a coffee and some pastries. I was reminded of how important this one-on-one time is with each of our kids. It really matters. We don’t always have the time, but it’s a really different dynamic when there’s only one kid to one parent. No distraction of a sibling, no boring talk between adults. Our last date in Chinatown was forever ago, and we’re due for another one. But first, I owe my little guy a date. We’re going out on Friday.

Arthur, meanwhile, my happy-go-lucky firecracker of a son, who is steadily accumulating medical expenses for trips to the ER, who still struggles with speech significantly, seems to have no fear.

There were some incidents on the school bus last week. Kids testing, enjoying an hour of unsupervised time with peers, figuring out what to do with themselves. There was some kicking by Arthur against the seat in front of him and some mean words spoken by older kids. Julian was super upset by it all. He said he didn’t want to take the bus anymore. Arthur, however, seemed unfazed. He is the toughest kid I know, and also the funniest. Lately, he’s been into dressing up, so some nights at around dinner time, he’ll put on a tie and a blazer as he pretends he’s the Papa. Which is funny because his actual Papa wears no ties and 80s band shirts.

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Last night, at way past bedtime, Julian snuck out of his room and told us his tooth was almost loose enough to fall out. So we took him to the bathroom, and Jeff showed him how to pull it out himself, and he did it. Here is his new sweet smile.

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He woke up to a new book, a note and some cash from the tooth fairy, and even though there have been some doubts, he still believes. Which reminds me that he is still little. Arthur told us proudly that he heard the tooth fairy fly into their room in the night.

Magic is everywhere.

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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Avalon, Round 4

Well, that’s a wrap. Summer is officially over, Labor Day has passed, and I am up early with the back to school/back to work nerves. So nothing better than reminiscing about our end of summer family vacation, right?

Last year we took a break from our annual trip to Avalon and spent a week in the Poconos, but this year we were back in full swing.

We rented a great house right by the beach (well, technically the second house from the beach) with a pool and five cousins who had the time of their lives.

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We all just had a blast. The ocean was awesome, the waves were not small, the pool was wonderful, and we spent a week just hanging out, playing, and eating a lot.

We spent evenings in town getting ice cream…

…and went on bike rides…

…and played games at the arcade.

Jeff and I got to spend some time together, which is always lovely. We went for a walk on the beach, for a bike ride, and one morning we got up early to watch the sun rise.

The kids were self sufficient. As much as I occasionally mourn the baby days of the past, I don’t miss sandy diapers or nap schedules or tantrums.

Anyway, the kids all had the best time. Julian and his cousin Ben (born 9 hours apart) spent hours jumping in the waves…

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I love that these kids are growing up with these annual trips with their cousins. How lucky we all are.

One night we went to Wildwood, ate hot dogs and hit all the rides. This picture of Arthur sums up how we feel about Wildwood.

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For reference, baby Arthur felt the same…

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It was nice to be so close to the beach and to have the pool as well. We just sort of went back and forth and basically spent the entire week in the water. Just the way I like it.

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Avalon, we adore you! And I hope that we will see you again next year. Until then!

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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.