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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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.

Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving was lovely. We took the train to Delaware on Thursday and stayed until Sunday night. We pretty much ate non-stop. My mother-in-law is an amazing cook, and although we tease her for her at times excessive use of butter (“Anyone want toast with their butter?”) – we were so thankful for all the delicious food she cooked. I mean…

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And that was after she’d cooked a full Thanksgiving meal.

I know everyone talked endlessly about being anxious about political confrontations at the dinner table, and we were no different. But overall everything was very peaceful.

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On Friday the cousins came to see us, and the entire family went to Longwood Gardens. It was beautiful and fun, and we stayed to see the Christmas lights after dark – after a hot chocolate/beer/wine break. Also, trains! Look at these boy cousins: Henry, Julian, Ben, and Arthur. Ben and Julian were born just 9 hours apart, and all four boys are May babies.

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On Saturday we drove an hour to visit one of my dearest friends, who had recently moved from West Virginia to Pennsylvania. The kids picked up like no time had passed, and of course the adults did as well.

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One of the biggest scares of my life, of course Arthur-related you won’t be surprised to hear, happened after we came back to our friends’ house from the playground. Arthur was riding Kate’s balance bike, no helmet because we didn’t have an extra one for him, and I could see in slow motion what was about to happen as he continued to speed down a not insignificant hill, at the bottom of which we had parked our car. Within seconds I had visions of him smashing into the car, the ambulance, busted face, head, whatnot.

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We all started running after him, screaming, “ARTHUR!” Arthur’s bike started wobbling, and he crashed. Right into a very small, shallow pile of leaves. Right into the leaves. There was only cement around him, as well as the car, but he crashed into the leaves. He still had some scrapes and was screaming, mostly from fear I think, but oh man. I know he had someone watching over him that day.

The next day, Sunday, we went for a hike.

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And then it was time to head home.

Now we’re back in our everyday lives, school, work, some of us are sick. It’s always the same, each winter…We basically are healthy for a brief moment in between months of sickness. Arthur has already been on the nebulizer several times, and everyone else is under the weather too, except for this mama here, because someone has to keep the family business running.

Overall, on Thanksgiving and on any day (or on most days, let’s not exaggerate too much), I am just so thankful for this crew. They keep me grounded, make me feel loved and fill my life with more joy and craziness than I could have hoped for.

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P.S. Thanksgiving last year and two years ago.

Of Lemonade and Lobster

This week and weekend have been both fun and kind of trying. We’ve managed to do plenty of fun stuff, but the good times were intermixed with some challenging behavior, brotherly arguments, and motherly headaches. Oh, life.

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I had a babysitter two mornings this week, which was nice. She takes the boys to play soccer at the park or to the playground. Her name is Hope, and the boys call her “A New Hope,” naturally. I just went to doctors’ appointments, but it was still nice to get out by myself and not have to drag the boys from appointment to appointment.

Also, in other adult-life news, I went out with friends twice this week (!). That never happens. Hey, look how happy and kid-free we are!

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We also hit the pop-up pool again. The kids love it so much, and who can say no to jumping into a pool in this heat?! This guys can’t.

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This weekend the boys did their very first lemonade stand. That means, of course, that we I squeezed 40 lemons on Friday and also baked 40 cookies. The boys were so excited. They wrote on the signs, practiced how to count money and hand out change and how to be a polite and friendly salesman.

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It was a blast. We sold 100+ cups of lemonade/cookies. The kids actually made some money, after subtracting what change we started out with and what we spent on the lemons. Everyone in the neighborhood was so friendly and sweet. It was really adorable and made my heart so happy. In times where you read almost only bad news every day, it’s refreshing to have such simple pleasures that make you feel not all is lost.

Afterwards we went to a quick brunch to a restaurant on our street, where Arthur took a nap mid waffle. Selling lemonade is exhausting.

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Then we hurried home and tried to make our place presentable because our friends were coming over with live lobsters and a bunch of other delicious food. Michael, a who is a chef, took over our kitchen and cooked for us. It was such a treat!

Dinner was delicious. At one point one of my kids said, “Mama, if I eat another piece of lobster, can I have more mussels?” First world problems, kid.

Today we rode our bikes to Prospect Park. The boys played at a playground, and then we played soccer on the grass and had a picnic.

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Ever since the Euro Cup both boys have been obsessed with soccer, and Julian pretends to be a goalie Manuel Neuer the rest of the time, meaning when he’s not someone from Star Wars.

After we all played together, Julian went over to a bunch of 9 year old boys and asked to join their soccer game. Arthur followed suit. I am so impressed by Julian’s ability to make friends. Kids are so cool in how they don’t see what we see and how they don’t yet have the same fears of rejection.

Later on at Lakeside it was the same. Julian just played and played with a bunch of boys he’d never met before. For hours. He only came to join us when I lured him in with ice cream.

Then everyone crashed.

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Tonight we’re eating more seafood, shrimp and leftover lobster, and I’m already hungry writing about it. And then we’re off into another week with good intentions. More patience, more joy, less fighting. Per usual.

Christmas 2015

This Christmas was wonderful. I think I might go as far as to say this was my favorite Christmas ever.

Here’s why:

We stayed in pajamas for days, literally. It might be gross, if you think about it too much, but don’t. Just think that we loved being together inside, playing with our new toys.

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Yup. Picking his nose.

New toys! Santa was so on target this year. Julian got his much desired Lego high speed train, and Arthur got the Staten Island Ferry he had hoped for. Other highlights were German streetcars from Opa & Oma, and Playmobil airplane and helicopter from the grandparents. Also, space obsession has begun!

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But seriously, that Lego train, all 600+ pieces of it, is solid gold.

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Julian is great at playing independently, but never have I ever seen him so completely entranced by a toy. He has played with this train for hours, literally. Hours. We didn’t see him all day yesterday. It gave me a glimpse into the future where my kids won’t want to spend every waking minute of their day with me. It was kind of beautiful and sad at the same time.

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Christmas magic. The kids are sold on Santa. All of it. The reindeer, the Polar Express, the magic.

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Did I mention reindeer? Arthur just calls Rudolph “shiny nose,” and Santa left us this little gem:

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Arthur can’t stop kissing him.

Food. We’ve been eating non-stop. Christmas ham, cinnamon rolls, croissants, bacon, eggs, bloody marys. Also, sadly, a roast chicken that I ruined, so that was sad, but yay for leftover ham, so whatever.

The weather. I don’t even know if I mean it. The weather has been so weird! But I guess it doesn’t even matter, since we didn’t leave the house for days. But that one time when we did, on Thursday I think? It was nice to run around in t-shirts. In December. And to jump in puddles.

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Star Wars. Not totally Christmas-themed, you say? Well, maybe. But Jeff and I have been re-watching all of the episodes in anticipation of the new release, and today – on a whim – we watched Episode IV with the kids. We’d been discussing the right time to introduce them to it for a while, and we agreed that the kids are too young. Julian is super sensitive and gets scared easily, and blablabla we watched it today with the kids. It was such a big moment for Jeff – he may or may not have cried (spoiler alert: he totally cried).

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The boys loved it. All of it. No one got scared, no one complained and begged for a “kid’s show.” None of that. They were so into it; it was great. Arthur mostly asked the following, “What’s his name? Who is this man? Is he mean? Where is Princess Leia?” and then promptly decided to be Darth Vader for the rest of the day. Julian asked slightly more questions:

Family. It was so lovely for all of us to be together, happy, and healthy. Today we got to see the cousins, and when cousin Ben walked in with a Millennium Falcon toy in hand, we knew the kids would have a great day together. Here they are, looking angelic while waiting for their BBQ dinner, but needless to say that looks are deceiving.

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All in all, I wouldn’t change one thing about this Christmas. Other than perhaps the cooking time of that roast chicken, but who cares. Julian liked his “roast chicken” (= leftover ham) much better than the ham the night before (= original ham) anyway.

 

For kicks, here is last year’s Christmas.

On kids and foods

Lately, food has become really fun around here. All of a sudden I have children who request broccoli, salmon, shrimp – and watermelon. Watermelon, you say? Yes. Both of my boys have refused to touch it, look at it, or eat it. But then I just started buying it – because I am not crazy and love watermelon in the summer – and oh shock! The boys were intrigued, and now we buy fresh watermelon every day.

So this pretty much sums up all my feelings about food and kids. Just don’t stress, eat what you want, cook what you like, and they will eat it.

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It’s definitely been a learning curve. When Julian was a big baby/little toddler, I would occasionally make him a special dinner when I didn’t think he would like what Jeff and I were having. Arthur was never granted this luxury. From the get-go, he ate what we ate. Now we all eat the same thing. If someone doesn’t like something, they don’t have to eat it. But they have to try it. I will make an exception when I make something for dinner that I know one of the kids doesn’t like. For example, the other night I made a salad with shrimp for Jeff and me, and rice, shrimp and veggies for the kids. Julian has tried shrimp and doesn’t like them, so he was allowed to pick another fish and chose salmon. I just threw it in the same pan as the shrimp, so it was no extra effort at all.

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I don’t know if Arthur is a good eater because of how we eat, or because we just lucked out, but he is, and it is such a joy to see him eat. Julian went through a phase of not wanting to eat most vegetables (“Is it green? No thanks.”), but he always ate everything else: plenty of fruit, meet, dairy, grains. He got a good dose of veggies in smoothies, baked into pancakes and muffins, and hidden in sauce.

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Now Julian eats everything. I think it’s because he’s older, we’ve continuously encouraged him to try new foods, and he sees the rest of us (especially his baby brother) eat veggies and enjoy them. He declares one thing or another his new favorite veggie almost every week: peas, broccoli, spinach salad. And the most wonderful thing of all is that he is open to trying something new (watermelon!). Sometimes he thinks vegetables make his legs and arms grow longer, and he’s showing me the progress his limbs have made. I’m not sure where that idea came from, but I’m fine with it.

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Here are the top 5 things I would tell parents of toddlers who may not always eat everything:

  • Don’t stress. No kid will starve if they don’t eat a meal, or if they only eat certain foods for a few days. Also, no one other than our generation of parents ever even thought about food and kids the way we do, and we all grew up fine (I think). I’m pretty sure I was raised on orange juice and vienna sausages, and I turned out all right.
  • Give healthy options. I love the boys’ lunch boxes and plates with different compartments. Arthur, for example, definitely prefers his food to not be mixed (for example, I don’t mix his yogurt and granola but rather put them next to each other). Options also make the kid feel empowered, and who doesn’t like the power to choose?

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  • Don’t overload on snacks. The boys get one snack between breakfast and lunch, and sometimes another one before dinner, but nothing too close to dinner. Except of course the many pints of ice cream we have consumed all summer long.
  • Involve the kids! Julian has been so into shopping, and lately I’ve allowed him to pick certain foods that we prepare later. It gets him so excited.
  • Make dinner joyous. Sit at the dinner table, talk about your days, make dinner a happy occasion. Sometimes when we linger at the table, the boys keep picking at their food and it just disappears. And if not, who cares? You had a good time hanging out with your family.

Rock Lobster

It was another great weekend. On Saturday we decided to ride our bikes to Central Park. But before we did that, we wanted to get bagels at Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side. They have the best bagels in town (hence, the world), and Jeff and I were craving them. We used to get them all the time when we lived in the East Village, but we had never taken the kids – avid bagel (yay! carbs!) lovers.

This picture was taken just mere moments after Julian dropped his salmon cream cheese bagel on the LES side walk and I carefully wiped it down and removed any visible schmutz. Then Arthur proceeded to bathe me in cream cheese while simultaneously taking orange juice showers.

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That’s why we can’t have nice things, not even nice bagels. But oh my, were they delicious.

Then we rode up to Central Park and took the boys to the amusement park at Wollman Rink. Our eyes went wide when the ticket seller said, “Two adults, two kids…$70 please.” Yay NYC.

The boys loved all the rides. Arthur barely made the height requirement to ride alone, so they kept measuring him at almost every ride, and we made sure he kept his hat on, which seemed to add the needed extra half inch. What he may have lacked in height, he certainly did not lack in stamina. Arthur even went on a ride that Julian was slightly intimidated by, and look at that stoic composure:

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The boys hit all the rides, so in as much as you can get your money’s worth when you spend $70, they did.

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Later on we had a picnic in the park with Jeff’s brother and his wife, and then we all napped.

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We had dinner in Tribeca and got home at around 9pm. It was long, good day.

On Sunday we stayed in Brooklyn. We let the boys ride their scooter/bike to get croissants in the morning, which we ate on the Promenade. Then we kind of kept walking. And walking, and walking. We went into Dumbo and Brooklyn Bridge Park and walked (in the blazing sun) from Pier 1 to Pier 6. We stopped for cold drinks and read some books at a little pop-up library cart in the shade. And then we gave up and took an Uber car home.

Everyone took long naps, and then we met our friends at Brooklyn Crab. The kids played and we ate some peel & eat shrimp. Then we had dinner. Arthur devoured clams (after he’d shared the shrimp with us), and then “helped” me with my lobster before eating his corn dog and fries. I can’t believe I have a seafood-lover child.

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So. The lobster. Julian was sitting next to me, and I had assumed he had seen the lobster when it first arrived. Right before I dug in, I picked it up and held it up for him, thinking it was funny. He immediately burst into tears. He was terrified, covering his eyes, crying. Needles to say, Julian did not try the lobster.

We rode our bikes home through Brooklyn Bridge Park, looking at the lights of our gorgeous city. Full, happy, and (mostly) cured from fear of lobsters.

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A word on dining (with sidekicks)

Someone wrote a few words regarding kids in restaurants the other day (here), and some of my friends thought I was the author. Which was either because a) I have a potty mouth or b) they have observed our family dine in public on a bad day or c) the kid in the picture somewhat resembles Arthur. The article and the story that inspired it got me thinking.

We spend a lot of time out and about. We eat picnics when we can, but we also eat out a good bit. Because guess what? When we had children, we didn’t immediately die. We still like to go out, and sometimes we bring our sidekicks along.

It’s kind of like walking on a sidewalk. You’re walking, doing your thing, enjoying the sunshine. You keep your own pace. But oh! Someone else is also walking here. You don’t have to go out of your way completely, maybe just a tiny little bit to the side so you can both fit. Or maybe for one second you need to adjust your pace so you don’t bump into each other, as annoying as that might be. It’s similar in a restaurant, or, you know, anywhere else in life that is not on a deserted island. You give a little, you take a little. You may not be thrilled to have a couple with two young kids sitting next to you while you try to enjoy your meal. And hey! Said couple may have preferred to sit next to a family who might be a little more understanding. But it is what it is.

If everyone’s kind and respectful, we can all get along. And eat a hamburger in peace – which I think is the ultimate goal for everyone in life all the time, or it should be.

That said, I have a huge problem when people let their kids be jerks. In restaurants, on playgrounds, or anywhere else in life. Every kid is a jerk sometimes, I get it. I have occasional jerks, too. But. But I don’t let them be jerks on someone else’s time (or money). If my kids interfere with someone else’s potentially peaceful dinner, it is my responsibility to do something about it.

A big part is choosing the establishment wisely. We don’t take our kids to a fine dining restaurant on a Friday night at 8pm. We would be setting ourselves up for failure and a terrible experience for all in involved.

Instead, we take the boys to family friendly places. That doesn’t mean Chuck E Cheese or a place where they sit in a play area with other kids. It’s a restaurant that is used to serving kids. A place where we don’t stick out like a sore thumb or are surrounded by hipsters following the latest food craze. We love Brooklyn Crab because it is so casual and beach-y, and the kids can play. We go to our local diner often, because it is casual, and our children are loved there despite the messes they create. But we also go to other restaurants that aren’t as perfect for children.

We always bring small toys and sometimes something to color or draw with. Also, the kids love to be involved in conversation, so as much as I would just like to talk to my husband or stare into nothingness, it works magic to throw in a little chat about subways or planes or the adventures of our day together.

We request that the food be served at the same time. Some restaurants like to bring out the children’s food first, but it’s a total pet peeve of mine (although I know that most waiters mean well). If the kids eat first, I can never take a bite of my own food in peace. Also, I think that kids can wait for their food to be ready and eat with everyone else.

I will not apologize for taking my boys out in public, for enjoying their company and teaching them about dining out and behaving well. I don’t allow them to act like monkeys on steroids. They have to sit. They have to wait. They can’t climb or jump or be loud. In fact, the same rules apply at home. Most days.

Long story short: eating in restaurants is great can be nice. Just know where you can and cannot go and don’t let your children ruin other diners’ dinner experience. It’s true: no one else will think your kids are as cute and precious as you yourself think they are. They are just another kid with the potential to get on other people’s nerves and ruin their dinner. So if your kid can’t sit still or keep it down, don’t go out. Or leave. It’s ok to say “no” to your kid and to set firm boundaries on what is ok and what isn’t.

Just because I have a kid (or two) doesn’t mean I appreciate other people’s misbehaving offspring. But it also doesn’t mean I can never leave my house again, and that children in general should not be allowed in public. Just use common sense, some compassion and, you know, be nice.

And for those child-free diners among us, cut us some slack. Most of us are doing our best. A smile goes a long way and will make someone who is trying to engage some pint-sized hotheads feel much more at ease.

Now go out and enjoy some pancakes!

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Summer in the City

This weekend was a hot one in the city. So far we’ve had a very mild summer, but this weekend we finally had some higher temps and abundant sunshine. So naturally, we went to our favorite place on earth: Coney Island.

The boys were stoked to take the subway for a change, rather than the bikes.

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Jeff’s parents drove up from Delaware and met us on the boardwalk. We ate Nathan’s…

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Then we walked around and went on rides.

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Ice cream was next.

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Once we got home, we met up with Uncle Brian. The kids adore him times a million.

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Because we hadn’t eaten enough, we went out for some BBQ. After that everyone was sufficiently stuffed and tired.

Today we rode our bikes into Manhattan. We took the boys to Hamilton Fish Park Pool on the Lower East Side. After the drama at Red Hook Pool last week, we were cautiously optimistic. At Red Hook, the boys deemed the water, and hence the entire experience, too cold and simply unacceptable. Today, however, was a good, hot day, and the water was lovely. The boys loved every minute of it. I got even more excited for the rest of our summer.

The pool is great, and huge. It has a very large area that is awesome for kids because the water is only 3 feet deep. Julian can stand in it. But it’s deep enough that parents aren’t freezing or wondering if they are standing in a puddle of chlorine flavored pee. So anyway, it was really fun.

Afterwards we rode our bikes to Washington Square Park, where some of us did this:

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I swear, we are either raising some really easy-going, flexible kids – or homeless people. I just don’t know.

While Arthur napped, the rest of us ate sandwiches and drank lemonade.

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Then we hit a playground. Julian thought he was hot stuff and discovered he could do this:

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Afterwards we let the boys splash around in the fountain. Which I think has clean-ish water? Either way, they loved it. Until Julian said, “Mama, look! A nut!” And he started picking out walnuts out of the water and from the side of the fountain. Walnuts are the most dangerous nuts for Arthur. I threw them aside and wiped him off, as he had touched them, too. My heart started beating a little bit fast, but our guy was fine.

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We had beers and ice cream near the Hudson next and then headed home. It was a lovely, sunny day.

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A Break from City Life

Each year, since Julian was a few months old, we’ve spent a week upstate at our friends’ cabin by a lake. It’s always a wonderful break from our busy city life.

The boys just love everything about our little getaway: the car ride (a novelty!), different beds, and everything else about vacation. Playing outside, throwing rocks, going for boat rides, finding “friendly spiders”, picnics, and hamburgers fresh from the grill for dinner and s’mores for dessert. What’s not to love?

It was really peaceful and relaxing, which says a lot when going on vacation with your two and four year old. They didn’t break anything in our friends’ house (phewww) and were just content to play outside as much as they could.

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One day we took them to a farm, and they each got to ride on a horse. Arthur, the braver of the two, went first.

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It’s so lovely to see how the boys bring out the best in each other, sometimes. Last year Julian didn’t want to sit on the horse at all. This year he definitely wanted to, and enjoyed it. After all, if little brother can, so can he.

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Everything upstate is so lush and beautiful. The weather was overcast/rainy on a couple of days, but we brought our rain boots and managed to get outside every day.

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Other than playing and having fun, we ate a lot. We barbecued every night. It was delicious.

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I’m pretty sure we each gained 25 pounds.

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One day we drove to Bethel, the original site of Woodstock. We checked out the museum and the grounds.

It was kind of cool to run around on the fields where 400,000 hippies gathered together to listen to music and roll around in the mud.

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Also, this happened:

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But mostly we just hung out. There was a bit of poker…

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…Twizzler eating on the deck wearing tiny hats…

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,,,,lots of napping and lounging around…

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…singing into nature’s microphones…

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…and many, many boat rides…

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We’re so thankful to our friends who let us stay in this sweet cabin…

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….and thankful for all the wonderful memories…

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