Half a Dozen

Julian,

From now on you’ll need two hands to count your age. Today, my boy, you are six.

_MG_0339

It seems like yesterday that I was nervously lying on a stretcher in an operating room at NYU, taken by surprise that a c-section was necessary to get out that baby I couldn’t wait to meet. Your Papa was whispering nonsensical knock knock jokes into my ear, trying to keep me from being too afraid. He was the first one to hold you, and he held your face close to mine so I could meet you. From the first flutter I felt when you were kicking in my belly, to that miraculous moment when I saw your face so close to mine – to now. In the blink of an eye. Even though I couldn’t imagine I could love you any more than I did that first moment I laid eyes on you, my love for you continues to grow and grow each day.

Mom, Why Do You Have Dad's Camera?

You are amazing.

A-Frame

At six, let’s see…

You love school. You love it so much. Any worry I might have had about you going to a new school, with new people, all day and every day, well, you showed me. I love dropping you off in the mornings, getting that one last hug and kiss, and then you happily skip down the hall to your classroom. You love math the most, and you are really, really good at it. I don’t know where you get it from, but math is totally your thing. Right now you are working on 2nd grade math books. Most of all, you love it. You also love reading, German, English, Science. Pretty much everything about school. Your reading is excellent. At night, you’ll read book after book to Arthur in your bed. Your spelling is hilarious. I mean…

IMG_8175

Your best person in life is your brother. You have good friends at school who you play with every day, but Arthur is totally your guy. You two are something else. I’ve never seen two people so connected, so in tune with each other, and so happy to be around each other as you two. You play together all day long. Even at bedtime you aren’t tired of each other and will beg us to let you read or play quietly in your room. You are Arthur’s advocate and protector – and of course no one knows how to push his buttons better than you.

Guitar Solo

Your next big love, other that math and Arthur, is the NYC Subway. I mean, it’s no secret that you’ve always loved the subway. When you were two, you kept me from getting on the wrong train more than once. Now, at 6, you are teaching yourself all the stops of all the lines. Beverly Road? Sure, you can get us there. You know all the lines, stops, differences, sounds, announcements, quirks. Basically, when riding the train, conversations with you are impossible because you are studying everything at all times. At home, you’ll sit in front of your subway map and trace the stops one by one, learning them all. It’s kind of dorky and adorable.

_MG_2144

This year you’ve grown more into yourself. I think you’re becoming more comfortable with who you are. You know what you like and what you don’t like. You are strong-headed (very!), determined, stubborn, complicated.

_MG_4385-Edit

You are also sensitive, kind, strategic, super smart, and overall pretty down to earth and reasonable. You are just a person I like having around. I enjoy talking to you, hanging out with you, hearing your ideas and learning what makes you tick. You’re growing up so fast – and what an honor, what an absolute joy it is that I get to be by your side. It is the greatest gift, the most wonderful blessing in my life.

Happy 6th Birthday, my beautiful boy.

_MG_5517

Central Park & Coney Island

Somehow, after a week of feeling sick, we were blessed with exactly what I needed: a lovely, warm, sunny NYC weekend. In February. I think every winter we get one or two of these days, just to tell us, “Don’t give up! Spring is coming.”

On Saturday we took the train up to Central Park. As always, for the boys “it’s not the destination, it’s the ride.”

img_7847

The boys got to ride their scooters, and we spent the day wandering around the park and trying to run into as few people as possible.

We stopped at a playground for a long time and hung out by the boat pond over sandwiches, beers, and rounds of Spot It. Also, my boys are natural “fake” smilers. (Arthur looks like he has a side tooth of some sort, but he just has a mouth full of goldfish.)

img_7843

Oh, Jeff Bridges was there, too.

img_7846

The boys played and climbed. Helmets came in handy.

img_7817img_7844

We looked for ice cream, but it was impossible to find in February. Someone didn’t get the memo. So we had Shake Shack milk shakes, and some of us passed out on the ride home.

img_7841

On Sunday the fun continued. It was another spring-like day, so we headed to our favorite place on earth: Coney Island. We started off with a couple of beers on the boardwalk and chatted with the a couple of local guys. Oldies were playing from the stereo, one of the guys was singing along loudly, and everyone was just so happy to be there. It was one of my favorite parts of a really perfect day. Also, these guys.

img_7880_mg_9423

Then we wandered around the boardwalk and took the boys to a magic show. They were kind of unfazed throughout the show, but afterwards wouldn’t stop performing little magic tricks for us. Except, when one of the magicians performed a trick, he wrote the word “special” on one of the cards in the deck. So naturally, Arthur kept saying things like, “Do you want to see another special? I have a good special for you!”

Here is a sequence of events where I did a magic trick for the boys, Julian broke into tears because he couldn’t figure it out, I tickled him happy, and then we walked together, after I’d revealed my “secret” to him. This is so Julian. He just needed to know. He can’t stand it when he can’t figure stuff out on his own. It drives him crazy.

IMG_7953.JPG

Of course, there were hot dogs.

img_7898

We spent a lot of time on the beach. Jeff took a bunch of wonderful pictures that captured our day together.

_mg_9521_mg_9551_mg_9536_mg_9656_mg_9694

To Julian on the first day of school

Julian,

Today you started your first day of Kindergarten. The first day of school all day every day for many years to come. You’re growing in independence, height, brains, and heart faster than I can comprehend.

You are a kindergarten kid. You’re growing up so fast.

I blinked, and you went from this…

IMG_3357.jpg

…to this.

_mg_5517

You learned so much this year. You can ride your bike, swim, read, and are learning to whistle! You’re a good friend, and a wonderful brother. You love to learn. You make me so happy every day. You challenge me and keep my mind sharp; you surprise me and delight me, and what a gift it is for us to have you in our lives. I hope you’ll keep growing in independence and character, and I know that I will continue to be so proud of you.

This year you will have official school “subjects:” English, German, math, science, social studies, art, music. You get to play in Prospect Park every day. You’ll play soccer after school with your friends.

This morning was adorable. You were welcomed along with all the other new students, most of them Kindergartners like yourself. You received your “Schultüte” and were overall very composed/cool. Also, you chose your doughnut shirt for good luck, so obviously I think that was a wise decision.

_mg_5463

You didn’t see it, but I totally cried. You stood on stage with all the other kids, waving at me, and I tried not to cry.

_mg_5616

Then we took the obligatory photo.

14212638_10154307016431131_8011169273498413827_n

We met your new teacher. She gave you a hug, and you gave me a hug, and Arthur, and Papa, and then you lined up next to Lorelei and took her hand and off you went.

_mg_5646

And then I totally cried. But they were mostly happy tears mixed with pride and a little bit of sad, because you, my boy, are growing up so fast.

_mg_5650

When you came home, we celebrated with “back to school donuts.”

IMG_1300.jpg

You told us about who you ate lunch with, what you played at the park and how you got locked inside a bathroom stall (you climbed out underneath and told no one about it, so A for resourcefulness I say.) For dinner I made your favorite (pesto) and then assembled your lunchbox for tomorrow.

img_1308

You’ve been in bed now for 40 minutes rhyming random words with Arthur, who, by the way, will miss you. Only today did it really occur to me how close you two have grown this summer. You did everything together; you are truly best friends. It’s my greatest joy.

_mg_5534

Anyway, sleep well, my kindergarten boy. And welcome to a new part of your life-adventure.

Our Day at the Botanic Gardens

We live so close to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, really just a short bike ride away, and yet I somehow manage to miss the much anticipated and celebrated cherry blossoms almost every year. This year I was determined to see them!

Julian is on spring break this week, so we’ve had more time to just be and less sticking to schedules…This morning, after Arthur’s speech therapy, we headed out. I packed a lunch and many snacks, because somehow my children are always hungry and begging for food.

When we arrived, Arthur was sound asleep on the bike. It was 11:30am. The line of people trying to get in was endlessly long. But! I remembered my fancy NYC ID card, and I got myself a free membership to the BBG without having to stand in line. Success!

We headed towards the cherry blossoms. They were gorgeous. Look, children, how beautiful! I took you here on the bike so we could enjoy this!

Children were grumpy. Julian was wearing his hood, hands in pockets; he was cold. Arthur was tired, also known as “Mama, please carry me.”

IMG_2203

So, I decided we needed lunch first in order to function. I emphasized how their sandwiches and big bowls of fruit were giving their bodies energy. Because….right?!

It kind of worked.

IMG_2207

But then!

IMG_2208

We started wandering. And once I got over the cherry blossoms and adjusted my expectations (but also took a few moments to just look around and feel at peace and forget about my children, because nature is beautiful! Even cultivated nature in the Botanic Gardens) – everything was fine.

We found rocks to climb on.

IMG_2209

There were sticks to play with, many many sticks. And then we found the kids discovery area. Naturally, Julian and Arthur pretended that everything related to Star Wars (“Don’t fall in the lava!” “This nest looks just like the Millennium Falcon! This is the gun bay.”). But within their imaginary world we did lots of exploring. We saw fruit trees, smelled flowers and herbs, and did some of this…

IMG_2210

We did a big loop around the gardens. The boys walked a lot. We spent a lot of time watching the fish and turtles at the Japanese Gardens. And then it was time to head home. But not before we had some of this:

IMG_2211

(It looks like they are excited to be eating ice cream. In reality, they just saw a boy wearing a Darth Vader sweater.)

And then we rode home. Julian fell asleep on the bike, and I carried him upstairs. A week before he turns 5, it was a sweet reminder that he is still my little boy.

IMG_2213

Bike season has begun!

This week reminded me of all the good things: iced coffee on a park bench in the sun. Watching my boys speed away on their bikes.

IMG_9266.jpg

Sitting on our stoop with the paper while the boys “shoot” innocent passersby.

IMG_9298.jpg

And now … the best of all! Our first bike ride of the season.

Last year our first ride was in April. This year, since the winter was so mild and spring seems to have come early (fingers crossed!), we took our bikes out of storage earlier than usual. We had big plans…a ride into Manhattan, a day of exploring and playing. Except…my bike didn’t seem to appreciate being unused for a few months, and none of the gears were working. We took it into a shop around the corner from our storage in the Navy Yard, and they had to keep it there for the weekend to get fixed. We were so bummed. Then the mechanic came outside and offered to loan us a bike for the day. So yay! Off we were.

IMG_9441

Instead of a big ride into the city we decided to stay in Brooklyn and rode into Red Hook instead. We had lunch at our favorite place, Brooklyn Crab (photo by Julian).

IMG_9375IMG_9434

We played by the water…

IMG_9435IMG_9438

…and then the boys fell asleep on the bikes as we rode home.

12822539_1733535846889823_1129696264_n

The rest of the weekend was kind of underwhelming. Jeff worked mostly and was stressed. I cleaned and straightened up and rearranged and tried to bring spring into our home with some new plants and flowers.

The small glimpse I got yesterday into the spring and summer that’s ahead of us made me so happy. The feeling I have when we’re on our bikes, Jeff and I together, with our happy kids on the back, singing along to the songs from the speaker – it’s truly my favorite.

It’s so easy to get stuck in every day stress things. Like shopping and carrying stuff and whining kids and tired legs and the constant begging for snacks/food (are everyone else’s kids constantly asking to be fed?!), the CONSTANT lightsaber fights that are really getting on my nerves (I keep hiding the lightsabers, but they just fight with anything else they can get their hands on. Today we were making colorful noodle necklaces, and naturally the red, blue and green noodles turned into lightsabers in a matter of seconds. Gahhh, Star Wars. Gahhh, boys.) Anyway, I digress. On the bike, because that is what I wanted to talk about…when we’re on the bike, I feel none of that. Never. I don’t think about what’s next or who needs what or where we should be or need to go or what we need to do – none of that. Everything I need is on those bikes, we’re exactly where we should be, the wind in my face, music playing, children happy, my husband/best friend by my side.

I guess what I’m saying is that I like spring and summer so much better than winter.

Spring weekend – finally

After months and months of snow, wind, and waiting for better times, it has finally arrived: spring. And with that: bike rides and ice cream.

We spent all weekend on our bikes. On Saturday we rode over the Brooklyn Bridge, covered Battery Park, Washington Square, the West and East Villages, and rode back home over the Manhattan Bridge. The boys were squealing with delight and also shivering from the gusty winds. But nothing some ice cream can’t cure…

IMG_7915

We saw helicopters, boats, firetrucks, and subways; squirrels, music in the park including a grand piano; we had sandwiches and coffee in the sun, played on playgrounds and were all around happy.

IMG_7919

IMG_7918 IMG_7914 IMG_7860

Arthur napped on the bike while Julian played…

IMG_7921

These guys.

IMG_7920

Saturday night we had our dear friends over for pizza…

10388115_10153716410168906_4079813179811964946_n IMG_7917

…and lots of wine. The boys were so excited and acted like they don’t get out much, when in fact they had been out all day. It was a wonderful, late night full of good food and better company and lots of laughs.

Sunday, round two. A tour of Brooklyn. We rode a good 20 miles all over our lovely borough: Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Brownsville, Midwood, Prospect Park. We stopped at various playgrounds along the way. We saw the oldest farm house in New York, the Wyckoff House (built in 1652), and had lunch at the picnic tables next to the old farm. It was another perfect (and tiring) day. We all got some sun.

IMG_7972 IMG_7982 IMG_7983

We ended the day with a cold beer and a couple of power naps at Lakeside in Prospect Park. Yes, Jeff and I took turns sleeping in the sun. It was delightful.

There is nothing that I could possibly say that can adequately express how ridiculously happy bike riding makes us. We see so much, we’re outside, we get some exercise in, and we’re all together in the city that we love. It’s the best. Thanks, spring, for finally showing up. We adore you.

IMG_7976