The Struggle is Real

How to start? What to say?

When anyone asks me how we’re doing, I respond, “Oh, we’re great. Just fine.” Which is true. We’re fine. There is so much joy, and overall I feel like we’re some of the most fortunate people around.

But there is also some struggle, and lots of worries. Jeff’s Dad passed away on November 30th. Ten days later, and two weeks before Christmas, Jeff lost his job. It was a bit of a shock to our system, and I think it took us a month to start digesting, and now we’re still digesting. It is what it is, as I always say, and that’s true. We’re fine, we’re healthy, the kids are doing well, but Jeff still has nightmares – and of course we both worry a bit.

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While the Holidays were delightful and sort of a break from real life, I think the cold temperatures caught up with us in the end. The boys have been fighting more with each other and sort of bouncing off the walls (of our small Brooklyn apartment). My patience has been a wee bit stretched (this would be a euphemism), which ultimately just leads to me feeling inadequate and sort of rotten.

Also, we’ve been in a bit of a honeymoon phase with our children where we had no major things to worry about. Arthur works hard at speech, Julian excels in school. Arthur is taking a theater class that he loves, and we are all so excited for his performance next week. In fact, Julian said he would skip soccer practice so he won’t miss out on Arthur’s play. On the other hand, our days are packed with therapy sessions and running back and forth. Arthur has to work really hard. He’s made tremendous progress, but this is not easy for him. Just imagine you had to work so hard at something that just comes naturally to everyone else, and it is something as essential as being understood by others. He is very aware of the fact that this is work (not fun!), and it’s difficult to keep him motivated at times. So of course I worry, but I believe we are doing our best, and that is literally the best we can do. Arthur keeps us going with his free spirit, hilarious jokes, and midnight cuddles. How I ever got so lucky to be able to raise such a special creature – I don’t know.

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Julian, in the midst of a successful year in first grade, has been surrounded by (but thankfully not directly exposed to) some behavior from other kids I don’t love – and it just opens up a whole new realm of concern. You know how they say “Big Kid Big Worries?” (Is that actually a saying? Also, parents of teenagers feel free to laugh at me, it’s fine.) It’s definitely true. Jeff and I always say, we can’t just wing it anymore! These are real issues and Julian will remember stuff that’s happening, and potentially everything we do or don’t do will shape him into the man he will become. Sort of stressful, no? That said, he is a true delight. He is at the top of his class, an avid reader, story-teller and math wizard, subway lover, patient big brother and truly lovely son. I guess the pressure’s on us to keep it that way.

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So overall, we are fine. I enjoy my work, life is going its course. Right now there a few speed bumps along the way that are making us hit the brakes every now and then, but we’re still going strong.

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Bring it, 2018

Well, this Christmas break we did a whole lot of NOTHING!

And guess what? It was amazing. For a week straight we laid around, read books, played Gameboy and Atari, played cards and board games, and watched movies.

The boys had their sleepover at Uncle Brian and Aunt Katherine’s place, and they loved it. First sleepover for both. Of course they got to watch TV until 11pm, and when the tacos that Brian had ordered were too spicy, he ordered pizza. And then for breakfast he ordered french toast. So naturally, they didn’t want to come home.

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Jeff and I, however, enjoyed having our place to ourselves. We went on a lovely dinner date and woke up the next morning hearing imaginary little feet on our hardwood floor stomping their way into our bedroom, but there were no such little feet in our apartment. What bliss! There was coffee in bed instead.

This was Julian on the way home from his first sleepover. He was exhausted!

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The next day Julian had a sleepover at his friend Henry’s place. From that, too, my son did not want to return to his home. He stayed for almost 24 hours, which included his favorite dinner (pesto pasta), spaghetti ice cream, Star Wars, audio books, and lots of cuddles.

To soften the blow for our “only child” Arthur that night, we ordered hamburgers and hot dogs and watched the Star Wars episode of his choice (Episode 1 – we must truly love this boy). When I tucked him in that night and cuddled with him for a while, he whispered, “Mama, I don’t know if I am brave enough to sleep alone in my room.” In that moment it occurred to me that my 4 1/2 year old son has never ever spent a night alone in his whole life. Turns out he was brave enough, and tired enough, to sleep a full 12 hours.

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We rang in the new year the only way we know how: with party hats and homemade pizza.

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The boys made it until 10:45pm, at which point our party looked like this:

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And now it is back to school. For one day, that is, as it was just announced that schools are closed tomorrow because of an impending snow storm. These lucky kids. Truthfully though I might be the most excited of us all: I can’t wait to go sledding!

As for the New Year?

Our New Year’s resolution last year was to see more live music, and I think we did:

  • The Decemberists
  • Father John Misty
  • Jason Isbell
  • Aimee Mann
  • Conner Oberst
  • Roger Waters
  • The Shins
  • Alison Krauss
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Joep Beving

We don’t have any huge resolutions for this year. On the top of my list is to stop yelling. Completely. Julian wants to become a better listener, and Arthur wants to stop biting his nails. Jeff is obviously already perfect the way he is. As for our family, we are embarking on a new project: It’s called “Country of the Month.” In this new adventure we will pick one country per month (the boys have the choice). We will learn about the customs, food, and culture. At the end of the month we go out to a restaurant to enjoy the cuisine of said country. First on the list is India. Next up: Brazil. I’m pretty stoked!

New Year’s Day we had our lovely friends over. We had brunch together; the kids played.

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Then we put on a movie for them and sat talking on the couch for hours. It was so relaxing and so lovely. What a great way to start the new year!

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Bring it, 2018. We were not sad to see 2017 go. We had lots of good times and made some very happy memories, but overall – for this country and the world – it was a very bitter, depressing year, and for us as a family it ended on a sad note. Onward!

Our First Halloween Party!

One morning when we woke up in Vienna, the boys presented me with an idea they’d dreamed up the night before, while chatting with each other in bed before they fell asleep. The plan was to host a Halloween party at our apartment for their friends, and our apartment was to be called “Spook Central.”

So we made it happen. It started out small with just a couple of friends but then slightly grew into what was a nice crowd of 10 very sweet kids. We decorated all week, drawing signs, coloring on windows, hanging spooky spiders, carving pumpkins.

The boys were ready!

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They’ve been so into Ghostbusters; the costume choice was a no-brainer. Even I humored them:

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(It gets really hot under there.)

Once the kids arrived, there were treats.

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Then the kids played. We did Twister and Freeze Dance and just lots of ghost-busting and running around. Everyone got along so well.

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A couple of parents stuck around to drink wine with us while the kids played. Most kids were dropped off, which is seriously such a game changer. It’s one thing to host 10 kids, but another to fit another 10 to 15 adults into our apartment. This was a nice crowd.

For dinner we served mac & cheese, and Jeff made two pizzas.

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It was a seriously fun time, and my boys were so happy when they fell into bed last night. We might have to make this an annual tradition! So thankful for good friends.

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School’s OUT!

I can’t tell you how much I’ve been anticipating this day. I know for a fact that I’ve been looking forward to the end of the school year more than either of my boys. Julian is pretty depressed about the prospect of no school and all fun. Strange creature.

The weeks leading up to today have been pretty busy.

Highlights include:

Field trip with Julian’s class over the Brooklyn Bridge. What a great group of kids!

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(There was also the moment when one of the dad chaperones bought his daughter and himself (!) huge ice cream cones while 25 ice cream hungry children and infuriated teachers/parents looked on.)

Super Heroes. All day every day.

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Our tiny city garden! We’ve harvested a few strawberries already. Waiting for broccoli, cucumbers, and peppers. I can’t believe how quickly these babies grew. We love our plants! The owl and plastic bags are keeping them safe.

Parties! The boys went to four (!) birthday parties over the weekend. It was sugar and pizza insanity. Also, Julian’s end-of-year picnic, hot dog parties, and celebratory ice cream.

Julian’s report card 

I won’t say much about it because I don’t want to be that annoying parent, but it was amazing, and I cried, and we’re so proud.

Also, Julian is now keeping a journal. Basically, he’s like 16.

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Dates with my boys!

I love this time with them.

And we’re off into the summer, starting with a long weekend together. First stop: THE POOL. Second stop: Coney Island. Summer, we’re coming for ya.

Beach, Beach, more Beach!

What a weekend! Jeff and I both agreed this morning that we needed an extra day to relax from all the fun we had. But alas, it’s Monday and back to the grind.

On Saturday morning we got on our bikes right away and headed to our favorite place: Coney Island! We made it to the ocean in an hour and fifteen minutes – not too bad for two middle aged folks riding two heavy bikes loaded with everything needed for a beach day. Oh, and two kids.

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We hung out on the beach for a few hours, ate watermelon, played in the water, and dug in the sand. The boys couldn’t care less that this isn’t the loveliest of beaches; they just have fun. And so did we.

Then we got hungry and needed hot dogs immediately. They were delicious.

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The rest of the afternoon was our typical Coney Island fun: Wonder Wheel, rides, ice cream.

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Then we rode back towards home. Right around Park Slope our legs were getting tired, so we decided to stop for dinner. We stumbled upon this lovely place, sat outside, and filled our bellies with meats & cheeses, pasta, and mussels. Arthur ate all my seafood, and I stole bites of his pasta. We were so happy and full – and very tired. We rode home as the sun was setting, showered, and fell into bed.

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On Sunday we decided we hadn’t had enough of the beach, so we headed to Rockaway. We wanted to try the new NYC Ferry, and so we rode the bikes to the Wall Street stop and took the ferry over. It was pretty smooth, but only because we got in line early. Many people who arrived after us had to wait for the next boat, which only comes every hour.

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We rode the bikes around Rockaway for a bit and then found us a nice spot on the beach. We stayed there all day, played in the waves, ate sandwiches, chips, watermelon. Beach life is simply the best. We all took naps, too. Delightful.

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Before we headed home we wanted to grab a quick dinner and randomly found this very strange place that has fast food and shakes on the menu – and an assortment of old toys in the yard.

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Hot dogs and shakes for life.

Then we made a mistake and rode our bikes around the boardwalk for a bit. It was so lovely out. Bands were playing, happy people everywhere. Except: When we arrived at the ferry dock, there were so many people in line already, and the ferries were so backed up that we had to wait for more than an hour. So that was fun. (Next time we’ll take the train again. The NYC Ferries are fun in theory, but so overcrowded it sucks the joy and convenience right out of it.)

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We killed time on the boat by drinking a beer, making silly hairdos, and playing games.

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We arrived home at 10pm. The kids were exhausted, although honestly not as much as we were. Today we all slept a little later, and even though I’m sure we’re all a bit tired still, we have made a bunch of unforgettable memories this weekend.

Easy Living

Something amazing has been happening lately. It’s something that I think I remember from the past, something that feels vaguely familiar, something I wasn’t expecting, but something I’m totally excited to welcome back: let’s call it “adult life.”

You know, going out with friends, dates, independence. All of this has seemed like a bit of a foreign concept occasionally throughout the years, but I have a firm notion that they are here to stay now.

There have been a bunch of small and big changes lately that are showing me that the kids are growing up. I mean, I knew that already, but when your kids are small, it’s often difficult to see the light simply because you are always tired.

Julian asked about an allowance recently, so we came up with a chore system, and it’s been wonderful. Each day the boys get a few “chores” that are always the same. This includes: getting dressed before they come out of their room at 7am, making their beds, putting their clothes away at night, brushing their teeth. And then each day I’ll include one or two additional chores, like emptying the dishwasher, cleaning/wiping the sink, dusting, sorting socks on laundry day, etc. Julian is obsessed with this new concept. He does all his chores, never complains, and always consults his “chart” to see what’s next. It’s just right up his ally. Arthur does most of his chores happily; he’s just not as excited – which is fine. It’s mostly for Julian, but we couldn’t give him an allowance and not one to Arthur. So $3 per week it is. The first two weeks have already been invested in an online order for fake Lego stuff sent from China – because that is how we roll. The other benefit of this whole thing is that I don’t have to sort socks.

In general, the kids are in an easy phase. Yes, there is still plenty to complain about (Mostly: why does my toilet constantly smell like pee no matter how much I scrub it?! Answer: boys.), but let’s not dwell on the negative. The boys are becoming very independent. Arthur plays endlessly with his lego people (Star Wars, of course), and his imagination is just incredible. Julian draws detailed road maps almost every day. He studies the roads and markings during our bike rides and then tries to recreate his favorites at home. He writes and reads, is helpful, sweet, caring. Arthur lets us sleep through the night (Yes, I know, he’s four and that should be a given, but believe me, it is not). Also, showers. And this one might seem silly, but I think it will revolutionize our summer. My children have finally accepted showers as an alternative to baths (that always take forever and somehow water always ends up on the floor – looking at you, Arthur). They shower on their own, put their pajamas on by themselves, and really, what are you needed for, Mom Lady?

Four and six are really enjoyable ages so far.

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Another thing that has sort of just “happened” is a renewed desire to take care of myself. I’ve been reading voraciously again – something I have always loved, but haven’t always had time/energy to do when my babies were, well, babies. 

Also, I have started working out again and even picked up running. The last time I tried that was after I had Arthur, and it was challenging to work up to being able to run 5k. Now I feel much stronger, and this week I ran three times. My favorite run was one morning at 6am over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Chinatown, and back home over the Manhattan Bridge. I ran almost 7km that day – and I felt pumped. What a feeling it is to run through this city that I love so much, while most people are still in bed, and the sun has just risen. Magical.

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Everything just seems to be in a good place right now (I hope I’m not jinxing things). I’m in love with my husband, I love hanging out with friends, and my kids are actually enjoyable companions.

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So to all the tired folks with young kids: I know people always say it gets easier. That’s because it truly does. You’ll be able to leave the house again without a screaming kid in tow, you’ll be able to grocery shop in peace even though you have your sidekicks with you, and occasionally they will even carry said groceries home for you. You’ll be able to sleep again and do all the things you used to love.

Oh, and somehow I manage to finish my coffee most mornings. Something that you only appreciate if you’ve been drinking hurried sips of lukewarm coffee for years.

Memorial Day Weekend

Jeff has been busy at work, so a four day weekend was very welcome. Julian had school on Friday, but we took Arthur for a long bike ride on his red cruiser to Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoyed the good weather.

The other day I took both boys and promised them a lemonade at the little beer/hot dog place at Pier 1.

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The closest thing to a lemonade was a Mexican Orange Crush – and oh wow, did I create a monster. This was the first soda the kids have ever tasted, and their minds were blown. Naturally, Arthur was begging for more when we were down there again on Friday.

We obliged, along with some hot dogs. Arthur experienced an Orange Crush sugar high – it was pretty funny.

I had friends in town visiting from Germany. Andy is one of my oldest friends in life and one of the few people I still connect with from my high school days. He and his wife Alex met us in Dumbo, and we strolled around. Arthur got to ride the carousel, and we all had whoopie pies from One Girl.

On Saturday, we met Andy and Alex for a day of bike riding in Brooklyn. We had a picnic in Prospect Park, played soccer and baseball and just hung out. It was so fun. The boys loved every minute of all the attention they were getting.

It was so lovely to have one of my best friends here and to see him play with my kids and get to know them. It was really special.

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Despite a flat tire, we found our way to Brooklyn Crab for beers, crab legs, and ice cream.

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Our friends gave the boys some new Legos. Have I mentioned that they are Star Wars and Lego obsessed? I probably have.

On Sunday we tried (again) to check out the big boats for Fleet Week in Red Hook, but the lines were ridiculously long. So we had brunch at one of our favorite spots, Alma, instead.

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We rode around Red Hook, explored, played, ate cookies.

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Sunday night I met Andy for dinner in the West Village. Dinner turned into many drinks, and somehow we stayed out until 3am. Which is so fun because I got to spend such a good chunk of time with my old friend and very not fun because I was obviously dead the next day.

We spent Monday being lazy at home. Julian was bummed that he didn’t have science that day (because no school), so we made a volcano and cleaned some pennies with vinegar. Success.

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Later that night we met some of our friends at Dinosaur BBQ. We ate pounds of meat, and a good time was had by all. Especially by these little firecrackers.

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P.S. Memorial Day 2014, 2015, and 2016.

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 hang 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.