Arthur Baby,

Today you are 4.

You are insistent that you are not my baby anymore, but I assure you today – and every day – that you are and forever will be my baby.

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But you are also totally a kid; I get it. You’re a very capable person, and you’ve had an amazing year. You’ve come so far and worked so hard, and I am so, so proud of you.

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I mean, last year we tried to put you into pre-school, and you just cried and cried – and we gave you another year at home. This year you walk into school, kiss me good-bye, and you’re on your way. After school you grab my hand and tell me about everything that happened that day. That little walk from your school over to Julian’s school is one of my favorite moments with you – because you’re always happy and full of stories.

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You are a solo kind of guy. You’re very independent. Many times you yourself are company enough. You play well by yourself. You love Star Wars so much. You play with Legos, lightsabers, and most of all using your incredible imagination. And you’ve got your facts down. At 4, you officially know more about the Empire than me. The other day we were looking at one of your cousin’s books and you – who can’t read yet – correctly labeled about a dozen lightsaber holders. This included, for example, Ki-Adi-Mundi – and I’m pretty sure he was not a major character. Correct me if I’m wrong.

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You are something else, Arthur. You can drive me crazy while simultaneously holding my heart in your hands. You are wonderfully sweet and intuitive, a lover of animals and all creatures, and you are also the most defiant, stubborn, and complicated person. Life with you is never dull. Never.

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You work incredibly hard at your speech. Three times a week you sit down with your speech therapists – and you make it very known that it is not your favorite thing to do. But you power through, you work very hard, and you have made incredible strides. We are so proud of you. You’ve always been such a lovable, happy, outgoing kid, and despite your struggles you have stayed true to yourself. You don’t shy away from conversations, you share your thoughts, your feelings, and your fantastic sense of humor. You make up the most nonsensical jokes and make me laugh like no other.

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You are so cuddly. We still sneak the occasional nap together, you and I, even though I know I have to pay for it come bedtime because you won’t go to bed. But it’s worth it. Those sleepy, warm snuggles with you are everything. You still fit into my arms perfectly. Your head rests on my shoulders just so. And your hair in my face is something I can totally tolerate – other than my own hair in my face, which is just annoying. You are so loving, so sweet, and hugging you will solve almost any problem. You just need that hug. You need to know it’s all ok. And it is.

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I’m extremely emotional when it comes to you and ridiculously protective. But I am learning to watch you grow and stand up for yourself and maybe to let go a little. Maybe. You know what you want – but whatever it is, you’d gladly give it up for your brother. Whether it be the preferred color of a lollipop or a turn with a toy…you would probably give your right arm for your brother. You adore him so much.

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One time this winter you and I were in Prospect Park playing in the snow. Another little boy and his mom were also there, and the boy climbed up on a small pile of snow and proclaimed, “I’m bigger than you!” You didn’t think twice and replied, “Maybe. But no one is bigger than MY BROTHER.” So that pretty much sums up how you feel about Julian. I honestly don’t think I could dream up a better pair of brothers.

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Thank you for all the joy you bring into our lives. We all adore you so much. Arthur, even though I sometimes want to bang my head against a wall, I want you to know that I love you just the way you are, that you make me happy and proud and that you are exactly what our family needed. You keep doing you, my clever boy, and I will support you always. I love you so completely.

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Happy Birthday, my sweet baby.

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My Birthday – and my Boy Arthur

I had a lovely birthday weekend. 37! No big deal, really, except this year it landed on a Saturday. And for the first time the boys were super excited for the day.

On Friday night, the night before my birthday, Julian hugged me goodnight, patted me on the back and said, “Mama, you are the best woman I know.”

Best birthday present right there.

This kid, I swear, is growing into a man-child before my very eyes. It is mystifying.

The next morning Julian and Arthur woke me up with songs and homemade cards and love notes.

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Then the boys, including my very grown-up boy, got to work and baked me a cake. While I laid in bed and read well-wishes and my book.

After a short while, it was time for this:

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It was one of the best cakes ever, made with so much love and everything delicious that goes into a boxed cake. I mean, I like to bake and all, but this cake is pretty much impossible to top. It had a layer, so naturally the boys called it a “sandwich cake.” Count those candles.

We had a super laid back day with lots of reading, down time, some shopping and brunch in Manhattan. As we sat over our sandwiches and beers, it had started to snow. We walked around amongst the flurries, and it was magical. My people were happy.

At night Jeff and I went out to dinner to this really wonderful place that we’d been to with friends a couple of years ago and that luckily Jeff had rediscovered recently with our Sicilian downstairs neighbor/friend/hair salon owner, Fabio. It just so happened that we walked in, random guys shook hands with Jeff and said, “You’re Fabio’s friend, right?” So we were in for a treat.

Afterwards, I posed on a deserted, snowy street. 37.

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To be honest, while this birthday was in fact one of my favorites, I’ve just been so full of worries. Worries about my baby and our nation. That just about sums it up.

Nation first: I am so excited to head to DC this weekend to show what this nation is all about: equality, empowerment, our future. The majority of this country stands behind us – this country that I’ve chosen as my home.

In other news, we need to make some changes in Arthur’s speech therapy, and I don’t yet know what that means. But he needs more help, or different help, than he is getting. While we understand him pretty well, and his vocabulary and thinking are way above average (I’m told), he has very little interaction with kids his own age who aren’t related to him (his brother). None of the kids in his school understand him, and it breaks my heart. So we’re figuring it out.

Meanwhile, this morning, I was asked to buy some second grade (“gifted & talented”) math books for Julian. (He already owns those.)

It was a day of very mixed emotions.

It’s so, so hard to see your kid struggle. I know in the grand scheme of things we’re dealing with something relatively “light.” I’m not worried about his life (as long as he’s not chewing on a walnut), but I do worry. I worry that he will shut down and will stop being ever so patient when repeating what he is trying to convey however many times it takes. I worry he will have a hard time making friends. I worry that kids will make fun of him (I’ve seen it happen).

I will do my damnedest to make the very best happen for this child.

Last night, after I came home from a lovely dinner date with Arthur’s former speech therapist-now-turned-friend, I kissed my boy’s sleepy hot cheeks and thought to myself, “Huh. He hasn’t interrupted my sleep in weeks. I kind of miss him.”

And that night he appeared next to my bed, the first time in weeks, and whispered something about monsters. I pulled him in, and he settled into the old comfortable nook of my arm, and for a moment everything in the world was as it should be.

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Jules the Math Whiz

Last week we had our first proper parent-teacher conference since Julian started Kindergarten. It was adorable.

His two main teachers sat down with me and showed me the work books and explained to me how Julian is progressing. They said he does well across the board, plays well, is kind, and sometimes a bit quiet. One of his teachers, who has known him since he was 2, said he is almost unrecognizable and has come far from the stubborn toddler who wouldn’t do anything he didn’t want to do.

Also, they revealed to me that Julian is by far the best in his class in math. This, however, was not news to me, because Julian, who usually is very happy to share any and all details about his school day with me, tends to come home saying, “I always finish my math work first and correctly.” He’s not shy about his talents.

So now his teacher will work with him on personalized math sheets, and sometimes during “independent work time” Julian will create his own math sheets which his teacher will later check for him.

Last night, in bed, I overheard Julian and Arthur chatting. Julian said, “Arthur, what is 500 + 500? Arthur. Listen. Once you know what 5 + 5 is, you can figure this one out.”

We’re so happy that Julian is loving school, that he’s thriving and making friends and that he is having fun. I love that he plays outside every day and that he’s growing in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Also, Jeff and I are glad that he doesn’t seem to take after either of his parents as far as his math skills are concerned.

Most of all we’re happy that he hasn’t brought home any lice. Yet.

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Arthur’s off!

Tomorrow is the first day ever when both of my children will be in school at the same time.

Julian suggests I read the paper, and Arthur recommends I busy myself by playing with his toys all day.

But let’s backtrack a little. Julian has been in school for a month now. Actually, it’s been exactly one month tomorrow. Arthur’s school was supposed to start a week after Julian’s (why?), but they have been delayed by a few weeks because the school moved into a bigger and better building and have been battling with all kinds of permits and such, and nothing moves fast. It’s been kind of frustrating.

This week Arthur’s school has moved outdoors, German “Waldschule” style, which is better than no school at all, but also not as great as actual school, with, you know, a roof over the kids’ heads.

On Tuesday Arthur had his first day, and even though there were many tears from many kids, Arthur kept it together.

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I almost cried, because MY BABY! But I, too, kept it together.

Of course it was a holiday everywhere else, so Julian and I got to spend the day together. Over hot chocolate and a muffin.

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Then we came home and baked Arthur our traditional “first day of school donuts” – because that’s a thing.

Arthur was happy at pick-up and flew straight into my arms. It was the best reunion ever.

At home donuts awaited him, and that too was a success.

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This kid is growing up. What a difference to last year!

I’m so proud of our Arthur.

The Truth about Lying

Well, we’ve made it to five without Julian ever telling a conscious, well-thought out lie. But now he’s discovered the convenience of lying, and it’s kind of hilarious. This boy may look 100% like his father, but he has his terrible lying abilities from his mother.

You may not know this about me, but I am a horrible liar. I can’t tell a lie even if it’s well intentioned or if it makes a situation easier. I mean, I can try, but no one would ever believe me. I am not convincing.

Julian, in this respect, takes after me. Two days ago the boys were playing kind of rough on my bed. Arthur cried out in pain, and I asked them what had happened. Julian immediately offered an elaborate story of how Arthur started falling and Julian pulled him by the arm and must have hurt him that way. Arthur looked confused and said, “No! He bit me!”

Shamefully, for an instant I didn’t believe Arthur. First of all because I’d never heard Julian tell me a lie, and secondly because he doesn’t bite. But then I realized Arthur doesn’t have the capacity yet to make something like that up.

So Julian stood in my kitchen, and I told him to look me in the eyes. “Did you bite your brother?” He averted his eyes and looked to the floor. “No.” That’s when I knew. He looked guilty. I had to ask two more times and then he finally caved.

Yesterday, in more disgusting boy-like events, we were playing together in the living room when Julian got up and disappeared into the kitchen for a minute. When he came back I asked him what he had been up to. He said, “I just looked out the window.” Right, kid. Nice try. I asked him two more times and assured him that whatever he could have possibly done was most likely not as bad as the fact that he was lying to cover it up. I was right. He had wiped a booger on my kitchen wall. Boys are so gross. And this one is an awful liar.

We’ve been having many conversations about the truth and lying. I tell him that even though he might get into trouble, he should always trust me, that I am always on his side, and that lying about something he’s done wrong just makes everything worse.

But a little part of me is getting such satisfaction out of him being such a bad liar. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

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Stepping Up

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Today was a big day. It was Julian’s last day at his pre-school. Since he was 2 years old, Julian has been attending a small German Montessori school for a few days a week. Well, the first year it was really only a few hours for two days a week.

Here are the boys on the first day of school last year. They’ve grown!

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And just for kicks, little baby Jules on his very first day of pre-school in 2013:

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Julian has grown so much over the last three years. He’s come home with stories and songs, some heartache, and new friendships. He’s learned to become comfortable in his own skin and was also secure enough to try things that scared him at first. Today was the perfect example. All the kids who were graduating pre-school jumped off a little stool – jumping into their new life, their new adventures. It was symbolic, mostly for us parents. Julian, of course, true to his nature, did not want to jump.

We talked about it at home, and I told him that he doesn’t have to do it if he truly doesn’t want to, but that it would mean a lot to me. He said he would do it if Arthur or his teacher held his hand. I said, “Kid, you got yourself a deal.”

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My face was this. The entire time.

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I was totally sobbing. I knew it would happen, but I really tried to tell myself to keep it together. I did not succeed.

 

It was the end of an era. The end of toddler-hood. The end of spending full days at home with me. Next will be Kindergarten, all day, every day. I will truly miss having Julian around. But I know he is ready, and we are excited. His new school will be amazing for him; I know it already.

But this pre-school was special. It was small and loving, and Julian had teachers who truly knew him and gave him the freedom to be who he is, while still challenging him to keep growing and exploring. Julian planted, painted, danced, sang, and learned, while never feeling like he was studying. He was just playing. Just as it should be.

I need to stop now. I’m getting teary-eyed again. Good thing we have two more years at this school with Arthur, starting in September.

After the big leap some of my friends and I took our kids out for ice cream.

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The choices!

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Out of these five kids, the three oldest will continue on together to Kindergarten at the new German school here in Brooklyn, while the two littles will go to the German pre-school together. What a lovely community we have. We are so lucky.

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Tomorrow we will return to the pre-school for an ice cream party (yes! more ice cream!), and then we are truly off for the summer. We look forward to spending all of our time in our bathing suits.

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P.S. Back to School 2014 and Back to School 2015

This one’s a real nail-biter!

It seems like possibly a year ago or so (can that even be?), Julian picked up the terrible habit of nail biting. He would bite them all the time, wherever he was. He bit them so short that I never had to cut them, and I literally haven’t cut them in many, many months.

He bit them in his bed while trying to fall asleep, while watching TV, on the subway, at school, while reading books, and pretty much anywhere. It was the most annoying habit, and it could not be broken. We tried persuasion, lots of talking, threatening, convincing, and even disgusting tasting nail stuff. Nothing deterred him. It was such a habit that he wasn’t even aware of what he was doing most of the time. Sometimes his cuticles were raw.

And then I discovered something that was even stronger than Julian’s desire to bite his nails: his strong will and determination. 

We made a sticker chart and he was promised a new toy. The first few days were rocky and he didn’t get a sticker. If he bit his nails only once, no sticker. Once he got a couple of stickers, he was unstoppable.

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Every night we celebrated his success. I kept telling him how incredibly proud I am of him – because I am. I almost couldn’t believe how determined he was. It blew my mind, because I could tell how hard it was for him to kick the habit. But he did it. He and his shiny long nails.

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Of course he knew exactly what he was working for: the Japanese Shinkansen high speed train toy.

Last night Julian got the final sticker, and today we went and picked out his train.

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Well done, kid. I should have guessed right away that your strong will is the only thing that would eventually make things happen. Your strong will, and your larger-than-life love of trains.

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Arthur at 2 years and 2 months

Basically since the day Arthur officially qualified for speech therapy, he’s made some major strides. He’s yet to actually have a therapy session; so far it’s all been meetings to get things going. The process is a little slow.

Anyway, over the last month he’s gone from basically only saying “mama” and “papa” (as well as several other “words” and sounds that had meaning to him and us but no one else) to basically having more words than I can count at this point. It makes my heart so happy. Good things will come to those who wait.

A month ago, when we asked Arthur to say any given word, he would either reply, “Ba!” or just say no. Now he makes an effort to copy almost anything. It’s so lovely to finally talk with him rather than at him. Julian is so happy about it, too. They will sit forever at the table over lunch or a snack, and Julian will just run lists of words by Arthur and ask him to copy them.

Some of my favorite things Arthur says right now are these:

“Help me.” Imagine this said in little Danny’s voice from The Shining. That’s right. Redrum, Redrum. Arthur’s “help me, help me” sounds just like it. He lowers his voice and keeps repeating the phrase until he is helped. Sometimes I leave him hanging for a bit because I get such a kick out of hearing him say it.

“Minne Minne Paul’s.” He calls Mickey Mouse “Minne.” It kind of turned into a joke where we would all say it randomly and repeatedly for no good reason at all. On our way up to our friend Paul’s lake house, Arthur kept saying “Paul’s house” in anticipation. As soon as we got out of the car and met Paul and his husband, Arthur exclaimed, “Minne Minne Paul’s!” The guys thought he said “menopause.” We’ve been saying it ever since, all day long. It doesn’t get old. Or at least, not yet.

“Jules.” Finally he calls his favorite person in the world something other than “dis.” “Jules” is the first word from Arthur’s lips every morning and I love hearing him call his brother and talk to him all day long.

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“Somewhere over the Rainbow.” He sings this song so well. And so loud. He sings it into microphones, on the subway, and walking all over Brooklyn.

Here are some other fun things Arthur is into these days:

Falling down. Okay, maybe that’s not quite so much fun. But he’s amazing. The other day my mother in law commented on how Arthur got stuck with all the things in our family: the nut allergy, the asthma, the hemangioma on his ear, his speech delay. Julian got nothing, except maybe a temper. But here’s the thing: Arthur may have been given a few things he needs to deal with, but he’s also been blessed with something so much more important: resilience. This kid is literally indestructible. He runs all day long, so much faster than his feet will carry him, because he is trying to keep up with Julian. He falls a few times a day, usually, scraping various body parts. He won’t even stay down long enough for me to help him up, because in his mind he is losing valuable seconds that could help him catch up with his brother. I never make a fuss when he falls, and even if he does whimper, a simple “You’re ok” is always enough. He’s incredible.

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Picnics. Last week I took the boys to buy new rain boots, but I didn’t like the ones they had, so I bought this toy ice cream set instead. It’s been going strong ever since. Arthur loves setting up his favorite stuffed animals, Elmo “Mo”, his “horse”, “Wuff” the dog and of course Minne. He serves them dinner, then ice cream, then reads a book and puts them to bed. Then they get up, and yay! It’s dinner time again. This here is entirely his idea and execution, except I had to “help me, help me” put on Wuffi’s bib. I especially like Elmo’s cheese pizza.

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Playing boats. “Honk honk honk honk!”

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He’s the most independent person. He just comes up with game after game, and ironically, he is often the leader when it comes to games he and Julian play together. Don’t get me wrong, he adores his brother and his every single move, but very often Arthur will pick something to play with or play some sort of pretend game, and Julian will drop whatever he’s doing and join in. I love that their relationship goes both way; it’s not always just one following the other. They both follow, and they both lead. I love getting a glimpse into Arthur’s world in watching the games he plays and the things he says and shows us.

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He is so sweet. The day I get tired of smelling his hair and kissing his cheeks, you might as well shoot me. Every day for the past two years and two months I have fallen more and more in love with our little boy. He is the first one to offer a kiss or a hug. He is really in tune with other people’s feelings.

I love getting him from his crib in the mornings or after nap, because he drapes his body around mine like a blanket and rests his head on my shoulder. He always needs a few minutes to fully wake up.

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Arthur has a serious quivering lower lip when he is scolded. He’s been having a few (serious!) temper tantrums, but he responds really well when I speak to him calmly and explain to him what’s going to happen next. Usually, at least. And he is the sweetest to make up with because (read above!)…the best hugs.

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Oh, Arthur. Never change.

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