Our Upstate Getaway

We just got back from a proper vacation. You know how trips with young children can feel nothing like a vacation and can instead feel rather exhausting? Well, this was in fact a lovely getaway. I don’t feel like I’m drowning now that we’ve arrived home.

(Unfortunately I finished my 500 page book on the first day. I just couldn’t put it down.)

The first thing we implemented on this vacation was a novelty for my children. They usually wake up between 6 and 7am, which is the time “our house wakes up” and they get to come out of their rooms. On this trip, they got to stay up late and actually slept in. 8, 8:30am. Heavenly.

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning. Jeff has this lovely friend who lets us stay at his lovely lake house. We’ve taken him up on it a bunch of times; this was our fifth time up (2015, 2014). At this point it feels like coming home – except with more bugs.

The house is right on a private lake, which is where we spent our days. During this trip we didn’t do many activities, except for one trip to a couple of neighboring towns. Mostly we just hung out by the water, went on boat rides, ate a lot, and made bonfires.

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There we several jam sessions – with real and air guitars. In pajamas.

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Most nights we BBQd at home.

One night we went out for pizza and some of us got to lick their ice cream bowls.

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A couple of nights we let the boys stay up extra late, and we all cuddled up in our bed and watched movies (popcorn included). Ghostbusters one night (ON VHS, YOU GUYS!) and ET another night. I love love love that we can now watch movies with the boys that are actually entertaining.

We saw lots of animals. Critters, bugs, slugs, a huge eagle, deer, a cat, horses, bunnies, fish, a raccoon. It was pretty impressive for my city kids. Also, TICKS.

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I LOVED the lake. I felt like a kid again. My favorite moments were hanging out on the little wooden island with the kids and jumping in the water. Jules was pretty brave!

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Some moments were just so still and perfect. Like the one where Julian and I just rested on our bellies on the island in the sun, our faces close together, just hearing the water and the wind and the birds.

I just had a blast all around. I love the water.

I also loved going on little boat trips with Arthur. We had the loveliest conversations in the middle of the lake. He’s a tough nut to get through to sometimes. His mind is always so busy, his feet are always flying, but there are moments that are so right and wonderful. This one was one of them.

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Jeff did most of the rowing, of course. I’m sure he’d want me to point that out.

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A couple of nights we made a big bonfire by the lake, and it was beautiful. The boys had sparklers, we made s’mores, and told scary stories. I loved it all.

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Most importantly it was so nice to just be. Be with these three boys of mine, be outside, be eating, be free.

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We feel so lucky that we get to visit this wonderful little house on this wonderful little lake. The memories we’re making there will last a lifetime. The boys already reminisce about things that happened two years ago – and I hope we can make memories for many years to come.

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.

Half a Dozen

Julian,

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

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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.

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You are amazing.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Spring Break

Julian’s spring break was totally dominated by my terrible pink eye. It was seriously the worst and took 10 days and two rounds of antibiotics to get under control.

But we did manage to get some fun in. That included a few bike rides, trips to the park, and soccer.

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Also, our new favorite thing to do is eat on our stoop. Last year we had breakfast on our stoop one morning on a very hot day in July, and Arthur still talks about it. So one night, when I didn’t feel like cooking, I made them corn dogs and french fries, and we hung out until Papa came home from work. Also, there was wine.

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We stayed so long on our stoop that we had to run to get more wine from our neighborhood wine store, including more plastic cups for our neighbors who had joined us. The boys were allowed to go across the street and buy themselves a candy bar with a dollar each. They crossed the street on their own (we were right there!), and then bought their candy while we watched from the stoop across the street. Apparently the deli owner greeted them with, “So, you boys got any money?” They’ve never been more proud.

We’ve been hanging out on our stoop a lot, and I think it’ll be a place where you’ll find us this summer.

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This weekend we drove to our old friends’ farm in rural Pennsylvania and were a part of a great surprise party. It was so nice to see our friends again, and to meet new people. The boys loved roaming around the farm – tractor ride included.

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In the evening we drove on down to Delaware to spend Easter Sunday with Jeff’s family – and most importantly we were there for Jeff’s mother’s birthday. It was a busy day, filled with too much candy, chocolate, and drinks. The cousins were all so happy to see each other.

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We arrived back in Brooklyn very late Sunday night, and thankfully my car-hating children slept the entire drive home. As did I. Jeff, I assume, did not.

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.