Too much!

I can’t keep up. The weather’s been so nice, and we are never home. This is my favorite season. Everything is blooming, the sun is shining, and we get to ride our bikes all over Brooklyn.

Mother’s Day came and went. It was a good one. Sometimes these days can be disappointing (such as this one!), because of all the expectations. But this year was lovely. Coffee in bed. Many cuddles.

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The boys drew and wrote in my Mother’s Day book. We went for a morning walk/bike ride with the boys’ bikes, played at the playground. Then we took the big bikes for a spin and went to our favorite place, Brooklyn Crab.

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After that: key lime pie on our stoop.

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It was a really lovely day, and I was thankful for my people – as I am most days.

Other than that our days, and nights, have been busy. Jeff and I went to see a couple of bands perform. Here we are at Kings Theater, waiting for Father John Misty. It was fun!

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I went out with some of my best friends to a restaurant in Williamsburg, Maison Premiere. It was a happy dinner for a sad occasion, because one of us is moving away.

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Then there was a school performance and some very important sign holding…

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….and the annual school gala/fundraiser. We got fancy! And we danced. A lot.

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The kids are busy with play dates, ice cream, bikes, soccer, legos.

Most afternoons after school we all gather at the playground at the park across the school, and bit by bit many of the kids and mamas arrive. We hang out, chat, read, enjoy the sun. The kids roam around.

On Friday night, after soccer practice, we drove to New Jersey for our niece’s communion the next day. For that occasion the boys got fancy!

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But then they very quickly took off their shirts and ties and put back on their soccer uniforms. Boys in their more natural habitat.

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So that pretty much sums up our last two weeks. I’m so happy it’s finally spring, and on some days it’s felt like summer even. I can’t wait for the pools to open and for our many weekend bike adventures! This is our happy season.

That’s a Wrap

Birthday week is over. I now have four and six year old boys. One of them has a wiggly tooth. Both of them seem to have grown over night.

On Sunday Arthur woke up and was four. He let us know right at 6am, when I found him wandering through our living room with his hands covering his eyes as not to see his presents. He whispered, “I saw my new bike!” And with that the family was up.

We had our traditional pancake breakfast.

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After the boys had played with their new Star Wars lego guys and space ships, we took Arthur for a spin on his sweet new ride. He takes biking very seriously!

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Look at this big kid! I can’t take it.

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Arthur got the hand of it pretty quickly. I was so proud of him!

For later in the day we’d planned a little party for Arthur and Julian with family and close friends at our favorite spot, Brooklyn Crab. But the weather didn’t cooperate. Our family was already on their way, so we celebrated with them at home.

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The boys were excited to see their cousins, and I whipped up two batches of Arthur’s favorite food, mac & cheese with bacon. We played, ate, and then took the kids for a quick walk.

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At home we had cake and played some more.

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Until next year, boys!

An Adventure (incl. Math)

So, I could start off by telling you about how miserable I was on Friday with a temperature of 101.7 with Arthur begging me to pleeeeaaaase just sit up and look at him play with this one thing. Julian came home from soccer on Friday evening, crashed on the couch and was asleep by 6:30pm. Fever for him too, of course. I could tell you how we cancelled plans with old friends, then felt better, had brunch with other friends and a generally enjoyable weekend but then The Gods of Never-Ending Sickness decided we’d had too much fun, so they blessed me with a horrendous case of pink eye in both eyes. Because seriously this shit never ends. Here is fever-Jules.

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But instead of talking endlessly about my misery, I’d rather talk about the lovely day I had today.

Julian is on spring break this week, and Arthur still has his usual three days a week in school schedule, so I have a few days with just my eldest this week. I was determined to not let my throbbing eyeballs ruin the fun. Also: sunglasses at all times.

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Yesterday was spent with errands, such as dropping Arthur off, shopping, doctor for throbbing eyeballs, and bringing our bike into the shop for its annual spring check up. But also: a lovely stoop lunch in the sun.

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Today was just perfect. We dropped Arthur off at the Botanic Gardens for a field trip, so I knew he was going to have a good day, too. Then Julian and I headed off into Manhattan for yet another doctor’s appointment. Julian is in charge now of getting us places, meaning I tell him our destination, and he figures out the subway connections we need to make. That already makes for a perfect day in his book.

After my appointment, we walked to our next stop: The Museum of Mathematics. I’d read somewhere about it, and I had a feeling my math obsessed kid would love it. And the museum did not disappoint! We probably spent two hours there, exploring shapes and forms and colors and numbers. It was amazing. I can highly recommend!

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Then I took my boy to lunch.

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On our commute back to Brooklyn to pick Arthur up from school, I told Julian to wake me up at Franklin Avenue, and that almost worked – except some guy started screaming at Atlantic Avenue and interrupted my slumber. But it’s totally awesome that I can now put my almost 6 year old in charge. Yes, this guy. At least I got to rest my eyeballs for a few minutes.

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Then we went to pick up our favorite almost four year old nut job, Arthur. There was ice cream and lots of playtime at the playground, and tonight was the first time this year that I threw my kids in the tub because they were filthy from too much outdoor play. That means it was a good day.

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Now I shall continue to lie on my couch with a warm cloth casually draped over my offensively red eyeballs.

To yell or not to yell

A couple of years ago I did the “No Yell Experiment.” It was fun while it lasted. Just kidding. I mean, it worked but then life happened. And boom, just like that I find myself parenting yet another ridiculous three year old.

With spring around the corner and some other changes that I’ve made (I quit the gym), I knew this was something I needed to work on. Again.

I did some research. I bought – and read – a book. I finished the first chapter and applied my new knowledge. I don’t agree with everything I read, but amongst all the advice, I discovered the solution: love.

Cheesy? Perhaps. But it works.

The other insight I got from my read was that almost every time you lose your patience with your kids, it’s on you. Meaning, you’re not really just stressed out about the situation at hand, but rather about everything else: you’re running late, the trains are messed up, work is stressful, and so on and so forth. I know this is definitely true for me. My reaction depends very much on my mindset, and I have oftentimes found myself impatient with my kids for reasons that have nothing to do with them. Does that make me human? Yes. But it doesn’t make me feel particularly good.

But let’s take a step back. Arthur can be a handful. He listens very selectively. He doesn’t pay attention. He continuously disobeys despite many warnings. Consequences are met with outbursts of massive proportions.

Here are the two things I need to do: stay calm and hug.

A couple of real life examples:

  1. Situation: The boys are taking a bath. Arthur keeps splashing so much that the entire bathroom is soaked. I remind him not to do that and clean everything up (rookie mistake – clean after bath time is done). He drowns the bathroom again. I tell him he has to get out of the tub. He’s furious, but I remain calm. He gets out. He screams. He stomps. He throws his towel at me. He is so angry. Here is where sometimes I can feel frustration rising inside and all I want to do is scream louder than my three year old. Of course that’s nonsense. Anyone who is not confronted by a screaming three year old will tell you as much. But the urge is there all the same. Back to our bath time fun. Rather than yelling, I take a deep breath and give my kid a hug. He stops screaming immediately and falls into me. He nestles himself into my shoulder, I wrap him in his towel, and once he has calmed down we talk about what just happened. Also, I was just stressed because I was making dinner and it was the end of the day and yada yada yada. The wet bathroom floor was actually not that big of a deal.
  2. Situation: A subway ride home and Arthur keeps punching his brother and being generally annoying. I say, “Stop that.” He responds with, “Stop that.” And so on. I tell him the consequence of this nonsense was that he didn’t get to ride his scooter home (all two blocks from the subway station). He.loses.his.shit. Screaming, hitting, pulling on me, making me trip, screaming. Oh, did I mention I have to buy milk? Yes, we are those people in the store. Anyway. I have no control of the situation. People are staring. I feel like a failure. Also, kind of resentful of my annoying child. Then I stop, drop the million things I’m carrying, remove Arthur’s helmet, and give him a big hug. And it all passes. He apologizes, I accept, he says he loves me, I say I love him. We talk about why he isn’t allowed to ride his scooter, and he gets it. The end.

The point is: No one gets the message when a parent loses his or her temper. It might offer temporary relief, but afterwards I always feel crappy. Kids can’t always control their emotions. They are still learning. They are learning their coping mechanisms from us. And the answer is, as Love Actually told us all many years ago, love. Compassion. Here is my pledge to hug instead of yell and talk later.

So, I told the boys that I am working on not yelling. Jeff and I made a commitment to not do it. Ever. With no one. Because it sucks.

So far so good. It’s funny. Unlike saying “I won’t have a drink all week” it’s actually really easy not to yell once it is simply not an option. It’s been two weeks, and I’ve slipped once. Julian actually became teary-eyes and said, “Mama, you went against our rules and against the book.”

Will I slip up again? Sure. I mean, probably. Maybe? But we’re making an effort here, and spring is a good time to start new things.

Weekend Report

This week we were finally all feeling better.

I’ve been trying to move a little slower. Arthur and I have enjoyed morning coffees and treats during our errands. You only live once, right? And I’ve never heard anyone complain about having eaten too many croissants in their life.

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This weekend we were both busy and lazy. On Friday night we hung out with Arthur’s former speech therapist and her very talented musician/composer fiancé at his studio in the Navy Yards. We ate chili, caught up, and listened to the guys play.

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Saturday we were lazy. Arthur had a fever all day – completely unexplained. Today he’s fine. But yesterday he was sleepy and cuddly, and I was his favorite pillow. Both of my boys are excellent cuddelers – but when they’re sick, they are extra sweet. Despite having enjoyed my extra dose of love, I’m happy he’s back to his old crazy self today.

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Saturday night Jeff and I attended a big birthday bash for one of his colleagues. Wow did she go all out! I mean, a step & repeat! We had so much fun, danced, drank too much, played pool and ping pong and then for some unexplained reason ran more than 10 blocks downtown to eat hot dogs in the East Village. A 1am Crif Dog – can’t beat it.

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Today we had bagels on the promenade and enjoyed the sunshine. Despite a massive hangover.

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The boys got to ride their bikes, and we watched them play at the playground. Besties for life, these two.

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Sunday night we had friends over for a pizza party. “We” (Jeff) made these beauties:

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The kids played/trashed the place/had fun, and everyone got to stay up way past bedtime.

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The end.

This and that and more of that

It’s been about a month since I last wrote (not counting an update on our trip to Mexico). We’ve just been busy. And sick. And just doing everyday life things. And just feeling kind of meh, all around. But now it’s officially spring, and even though it’s still cold outside, I know the sun is out there, and the days are already longer, and that makes me happy.

Lately, after school and if the sun’s out, we’ve been heading to the playground near the boys’ schools, and one by one people will trickle in, and the kids will play for hours while the parents hang out together. It’s been nice. I love that everyone plays together at Julian’s school, from little siblings to the 4th graders.

We had another parent teacher conference, and the teachers basically looked at me and said, “Julian ist ein Traumkind. Do you have any questions for us?” I was out of there in 5 minutes.

The boys have been growing closer and closer, while of course routinely pushing each other’s buttons. But they are definitely each other’s number one. They play with each other all the time, and we’ve had a couple of instances where Julian had a play date alone at a friend’s house but came to me and confided that he just missed his brother.

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It has also happened that only one of them was invited to a birthday party and refused to go without his brother. I certainly encourage them to foster friendships with other kids, and they do, but they always have this other person as a real safe bet, and I think that is kind of amazing.

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At night, after we’ve read a book and put the boys to bed, Julian will read to Arthur for another 30 minutes. I love hearing his little voice working its way through the pages, and I love that Julian enjoys reading so much.

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Today I took Arthur on an adventure day. We’ve been kind of sluggish for weeks it seems, stuck inside, running errands, doing laundry. So today I took my boy to the Natural History Museum, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

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It’s always fun to spend time alone with one of the boys. I don’t do it enough.

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After the museum, we met Papa for lunch at a diner by his work.

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A good kick-off to the weekend!

A Proper Snow Day

What’s the best part about a snow day? Obviously getting kids dressed in weather-proof clothing.

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Obviously I’m kidding.

The best part about our snow day was a slow morning and then snow fun in the afternoon. After morning coffee, I made us warm oatmeal and baked peach muffins. Because food is the most important thing. Right?

The boys played for hours and watched the snow.

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Jeff headed into work, although we all wished he could have stayed home with us.

After lunch the snow wasn’t falling so hard anymore, and it was time to put on some layers!

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We built a small snow man outside. Hey! It’s Mr. Potato Eyes.

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We played for a bit.

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Then I pulled the boys for what felt like 35 miles to the nearest sledding grounds, the dog park.

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The first time I sent Julian down the hill, I basically pushed him straight into a fence. All the other parents gasped and looked at me. I just said my usual, “You’re fine. Get up!” – except in a harsh, foreign-sounding language, which is an added bonus, always. And he was fine, because they usually are.

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We went down the hill 148 times, or so I think. Julian loooooved it. Arthur loved it. But not quite as much.

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At least he still allowed me to ride down the hill with him a couple of times. Julian just looked at me as if I was mad when I asked him if we could go together.

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We had hot cocoa and graham crackers and a snowball fight.

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Then Arthur wanted to go home, and Julian wanted to continue sledding forever, so I did the only sensible thing a mama can do, which is err on the side of sledding with a side of extra loving for the kid who didn’t get his way.

The rest of the day was spent with snow day things: TV, wine, tickling, train tracks and passing out on the couch at 6pm.

P.S. Snow fun from last year and the year before!

NYC at Christmas Time

Jeff’s been off work for a week now… and what have we been up to? Not all too much is the answer, and that is just the way we like it.

Julian had his last day of school Friday, which caused a minor depression because no school! I miss school! My life outside of school is miserable. Poor child. Hence, he’s taught himself multiplication. Because clearly a life without math is not worth living.

Arthur still had school three days this week. He was not happy to be the only one with a place to go to, and Julian was not happy because he missed his brother like crazy and mamaaaaa I am sooooo bored. 

Other than that, everything’s been lovely. We’ve enjoyed some time with “just” Julian, our sad, bored, deprived child. We went out to get Ramen and pork buns.

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Jeff and Julian went on a bike ride and Christmas shopping.

And of course we’ve enjoyed our wonderful city at Christmas time. It is always magical.

Last weekend we saw…the Rockettes! I think it might have to become an annual tradition. What a fantastic show! We all loved it.

On Wednesday we had a date with the man himself, Santa Claus. We took the boys out to lunch…

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…where they wrote letters to Sammmmta and Rudolph and drew some last minute pictures for the old man.

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We checked out the windows at Macy’s, and Julian did the naughty or nice test. The window said naughty!

Then the moment had arrived. Santa!

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The boys aren’t overly obsessed with Santa and were neither scared nor giddy, more in awe I would say. Either way, they definitely believe, and they both assured me that he was the real deal. They made sure he knew their Christmas wishes, and he reminded them to leave some cookies and milk for him. Done deal. (For kicks: 2015 Santa and 2016 Santa)

After Macy’s we took Julian and Arthur to the train show at Grand Central. They loved it, as they do every year.

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This is the face of a train-loving boy who’s been told it’s time to go home (on a train, no less):

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At home we’ve been baking and eating lots of cookies and trying out different Glühwein recipes. Also, we started reading “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” – and we’re about half way through.

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What a wonderful story. I’m enjoying it as much as the boys. Although Julian hides under a blanket when the White Witch is mentioned.

Jeff and I went to see Rogue One! I don’t think we’ve been to the movies together without the kids since…before kids.

Today we had another German family over. My friend and I worked our way through a batch of Glühwein, made tacos and let our children decorate cookies and spread 1 million sprinkles all over the apartment in the process. This was at the very beginning…

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It’s an all around lovely holiday. We are eagerly counting down the days till Christmas. Three more sleeps!

Only 11 more days…

December is kind of nuts. It’s like this for everyone, right? Everyone is sick and stressed. Christmas is pretty much a reward for making it to the end of the month. I mean, I think we’ll make it?

I’ve had a ridiculous cough for 10 days now. I am that person on the subway. The one that sounds contagious; the one no one wants to sit next to.

Also, many people act like major turds during the month of December. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, goddamnit! Here is just one example (I won’t talk about the lady who physically shoved me or the man who body-checked my 5 year old):

I’m one of the class parents in Julian’s school, and we were tasked with coordinating teacher gifts. We’re not allowed to actually give any gifts, as in buy anything, so we had to get crafty. We came up with this cupcake-face-flower. Sounds weird when you say it, but it looked cute.

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We gave it to the teachers along with cookies, flowers, and wine. They loved it all. The other parents loved it. But there is always that.one.parent, right? The one who made my life hell. She was rude, insulting, infuriating. Her husband apologized profusely. And why? Because we had asked her to print out a photo of her child. That was just too much to ask. She actually said to me, “You know, some people have day jobs, right?” So that went over well, as you can imagine.

On to more important and adorable things: Julian was in his first school performance for their annual Winter Celebration. And I nearly died. He sang all his bits, I wiped away a few tears and cheered as loudly as I thought was acceptable, or maybe possibly a little louder. Unfortunately I took zero photos. So here is this guy and the mother who couldn’t be any more proud.

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We went to see the Nutcracker with Julian’s entire Kindergarten class. Also, no pictures. But afterwards we braved the crowds and saw this big and shiny tree!

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We went to a Christmas party for Arthur’s school, and I drank all the Glühwein. We were invited to an advent/birthday celebration at our friends’ house, and again: Glühwein.

We’ve been baking a lot…

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And writing cards for teachers…

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Arthur made friends with this dog, Butter.

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He won’t stop taking about him and has decided that we will name the dog that we will never ever get Peanut Butter. So there. Arthur is pretty much the most loving creature I know. When he’s not whacking you over the head with something.

Also, these guys.

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They are always together. Today after school they were walking next to each other, and they were both just bursting with stories about stuff that happened during the part of the day when they were not together.

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Tonight I hurried the boys off to bed. I was tired. I still needed to make lunches, clean the kitchen, finish teacher gifts, eat 10-15 cookies, and drink some wine. After I did all of that, I popped my head into the boys’ room, and this.

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Just reading some Octonauts. I said, “I forgot to say I love you and give you another hug.” Arthur looked up and said, “Danke, Mama. I forgot to say that too.”

We remembered, and that’s all that matters, right? Now on to more cookies. Santa, please hurry or there might be none left for you.

On Octonauts and other equally important stuff

I was just sitting here, over my “you’ve made it!” beer, listening to the boys in the tub – in character, of course. Can we talk about Octonauts for just one second? Oh. Man. It all started very innocently what feels like 35 years ago, when my friend said, “Oh! There is this show the boys might like! It’s called Octonauts.” Anyway, I was just sitting here and thinking to myself that oh, I have a headache, and my children are so loud. Except they are not my children; they are the Octonauts.

Fast forward to now. We’ve successfully and with most of our sanity intact made it through the following obsessions: trains, Star Wars, Superman and Wonder Woman, and now this. Somehow the boys have taken it to a new level.

When Arthur and I pick Julian up from school, right after he’s presented me with the latest math problems of the day, Julian will bend down, look at Arthur and say, “I’m Captain Barnacles. Are you Kwazii?”

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, good for you. Try to keep it that way.

All day long, this is what I hear. Everything about the latest underwater problems. On the upside of things, when Arthur’s speech therapist brought an underwater sticker game to play with, Arthur proceeded to explain to her about sea kraits, hydrothermal vents, and coconut crabs. She was so intrigued that this woman of, let’s say, 25 perhaps? went home one day and watched an episode of Octonauts. Why anyone who has a free will would make such a decision, I don’t know.

The day this obsession dies will be a joyous one.

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In other news, we don’t have lice yet. Although it seems all lice in Brooklyn are targeting the boys’ schools.

Also, why is December the busiest month of the year? We’re just hopping from thing to thing on the weekends. That said, I am oddly excited for the “Winter Celebration” at Julian’s school tomorrow, just because he’s been practicing the songs every day, and it’s adorable.

Despite being so busy, the Christmas spirit has hit us hard. We got a tree!

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Julian has been sleeping like this:

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The boys have been singing Christmas songs to no end, and we’ve watched a couple of Christmas shows. Rudolph, anyone?

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Nikolaus came and brought some small toys and too much chocolate. Arthur was the snack child for school that day, and his ridiculous mother made these:

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Tonight, I’m tired. Tired of hearing Christmas songs (it’s December 6…I need help), tired of Octonauts, tired of all the noise my children make, tired of not feeling 100%. But hey, tomorrow is a new day, and a new chance to learn something interesting about the ocean world and sea creatures have some fun.

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