Back-to-School Feels

The boys are back in school. And I am, well, a bit sad.

In previous summers I think I kind of anticipated this day. By the end, the boys were getting to me, and I was ready. But not this year.

This summer was my favorite summer ever. I loved our trips to the Catskills, California, and the Poconos. I loved hanging out with the boys. They are so fun, so clever, so enjoyable. Sure, they have their moments, but overall they are people whose company I enjoy.

There were good times with friends; date nights with my husband. Arthur learned how to ride his bike; Julian plowed through the Wimpy Kid books. We picked up bagels and lox and ate them at our favorite playground near the Promenade, played on the beach, jumped in the pool and went on rides in Coney Island. We read books, napped, watched TV, watched people from our stoop. I went running. On the last day of summer break, Julian joined me for a run over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. It was my most favorite run ever. Not only did he pump his little legs fast enough to help me keep a good pace, I also loved chatting with him and just having him around. Afterwards, we brought home donuts for breakfast.

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But of course as all summers tend to do, this one ended. The kids returned to school. Julian was very excited; no nerves at all. He had his first day on Tuesday, which began with traditional photos on our stoop and then a lovely welcome ceremony at the school. The kid was back in his element. Also, look at these giant feet.

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Arthur had his first day on Thursday. He seemed a bit more reserved, but once he entered his school building, he was off and basically forgot to say good-bye. For shock effect, he requested a short hair do the day before. I cried. But he was happy, and I totally love it, too. He now looks like a 15 year old.

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Per our tradition, we celebrated the first day of school with donuts.

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Both boys had spectacular first days. Julian is happy to be with his friends again, and he likes his new teachers. Arthur was giddy and bouncy and told me about all the details of his day. I could tell he was so happy.

Here’s to a new season in our lives. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m feeling so sentimental right now. I just do. The boys are growing up so fast. Too fast. But it’s also exciting. It’s fun to watch them grow, to see their relationship deepen, their interests develop, their personalities shine. I just love these creatures so much.

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And today, as if to reassure me that my boys still had some baby left in them, this happened. We’ll be ok.

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Life Stuff

This summer is fleeting. No summer has ever felt so fast, so short. I’m not ready for the boys to go back to school!

We’ve been enjoying a good mix of fun, busy days and lazy days riding bikes around the neighborhood and hanging out at the playground. The boys have been playing with their friends a bit, and of course Julian is busy reading. He’s finished the first two books of the Wimpy kid series and is now on his third. He’s also still keeping his journal, every night. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about a day 30 years from now when I find his write-ups of our summer and our life together, and I smile.

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Last week we hit the beach with our friends. Beach days are my favorite.

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This week we went to Central Park. We had lunch at the Ballfield Cafe, where we were happy to see the waitress we met the last time we were there, a couple of months ago. She also remembered us and immediately produced a little drawing Arthur had done for her from her wallet. I love little reminders like this in our everyday life. Reminders that there are good people everywhere, that we are connected even though it doesn’t always feel like it. Look at these faces. There is good in the world.

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There’s been plenty of ice cream and bike riding. I just can’t say no to ice cream.

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We’ve hung out with friends, BBQed, eaten about a hundred peaches, and played plenty of Legos. I’ve been reading a lot. The boys are besties and spend most of their time together Ghostbusting, Ninja-ing and whatnot.

I’m sentimental for many reasons. The boys are growing up. This beautiful summer is flying by. This season in my life is so good. I wish I could bottle up some of these moments for darker seasons – or, you know, winter.

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Weekend Edition

This weekend was another good one.

On Saturday I had the urgent need to buy a basketball. So we did.

Then we had brunch at Alma, one of our favorite spots.

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Then we had to work off all that delicious Mexican food by playing basketball in pretty humid temperatures. It was so fun! But then we were thirsty. So we headed to Brooklyn Crab for beer and lemonade.

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It pains me to say it, but I think Brooklyn Crab is over. At least for us. It’s been our favorite spot for years, but now it seems to also be everyone else’s favorite spot, and that makes it too crowded and annoying. So we need a new secret spot!

I started Sunday with a morning run. Over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Chinatown, and back home over the Manhattan Bridge. It felt so good! Perfect weather, too.

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Then we were off on our bikes. We headed to Astoria. After 10 miles on the bikes, we arrived at Astoria Park Pool. We’d been wanting to check out this giant pool for years, and yesterday we finally made it. It’s New York’s oldest and largest pool!

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After all this activity we were hungry. So we headed to the Astoria beer garden.

Then we let the kids play in Astoria Park while we did this…

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After ice cream, we snuck home on the ferry.

It was a good day! A good weekend!

Each day ended like this: my boys reading in bed. Not much makes me happier than that. Julian has recently discovered the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Last night he read a good 50 pages, and I had to tell him to turn off the lights. I love that so much.

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Meanwhile, Arthur cuddled up next to me and asked, “Mama, why didn’t you want me first?” I was confused…but then I realized, he meant why wasn’t he born first. I told him that he was already such a big boy and how he fits so perfectly into our family, but he replied, “But Julian is always bigger.” And so it is. Sometimes it’s hard being the littlest, I suppose.

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A Perfect Day

Yesterday was just that. A perfect day.

In the morning we bummed around at home, meaning Arthur had speech, I did five loads of laundry (at the laundromat across the street), scrubbed the tub, changed the sheets. Glamorous.

Then, after lunch, we were Coney Island bound. We started our day with ice cream and a cold brew on the boardwalk.

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Then the boys and I spent the afternoon at the beach. We dug in the sand and splashed in the waves. The water is now bathwater warm. Julian read his new prized possession, the latest Narwhal book.

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Then I became sleepy and thought, “What are the odds these kids would nap now?” And I just said, “Boys, let’s just cuddle for a minute.” And boom! It was divine. A nap by the ocean has always been my favorite.

 

Then we bummed around on the boardwalk with a big order of funnel cake, waiting for Papa to arrive. Also, the boys got to pick out new t-shirts. Once Jeff got there, we had dinner.

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Here they are, in front of Nathan’s, with Nathan’s both in and on their bellies.

Next up, Go Karts. Totally my favorite.

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Also, look at this face. The boys were pumped!

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Then we hit more rides.

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At 9:30pm it was time for fireworks. I think this was Arthur’s first time seeing fireworks (other than one time when he was a baby), and he was pretty impressed.

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It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

What made this day even sweeter was watching my boys together. They are just each other’s best. So many times when I looked over at them, I saw random moments of kindness. Arthur would put his arm around Julian’s shoulders while they waited for me on the boardwalk. Julian always made sure Arthur was buckled into all the rides and helped him get in and out. The way they always look out for each other is second nature, and it makes me so happy.

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California Love

Here is my next vacation report. Because it’s summer, and that is what we do.

When I was 19, I spent one year in Minnesota as an au pair. I helped take care of three little ones, Stone (then 6), Kamron (then 2), and a baby girl, Roxonna.

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Fast forward to now: 18 years later. You do the math.

We’ve always been close, and I have visited this wonderful family both in Minnesota and in the Bay Area near San Francisco, where they live now, countless times. However, since the kids it’s become a bit less frequent. The last time we went to see them was 5 years ago when Julian was a baby (and he knocked out a tooth when we visited Twin Peaks).

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Julian, Arthur and I spent a wonderful week with these special people. From the moment I saw them again, it was just like coming home. It is every time. They embraced my children, loved them, spoiled them. It was so delightful and memorable and special in every way. Here is Arthur sleeping in a blanket that I remember wrapping around Roxonna when she was a baby.

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The majority of our time there was spent in the pool. The boys loved every second of it, and so did I.

The rest of the time was spent eating. Every night was a feast, and the boys quickly adapted to their new schedule of eating dinner at 10pm, a swim afterwards, and snoozing next to mama until late morning the next day. It’s the Iranian way (I think?).

I was spoiled with some incredible meals…

..and even better company.

Other highlights included a trip to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco…

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…including a “fake” trolley ride. (The lines were just too long.)

Also, a trip to Half Moon Bay…

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…and a trip with all the kids (using that term loosely here since most of them are in their 20s and 30s) including cousins and older siblings to Golden Gate Park…

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Lots of hiking for these boys! This park is 20% bigger than Central Park, so needless to say we didn’t see it all. But the boys got to play at a playground, ride a carousel, hike up a mountain, and see some buffalo. Also, Arthur was carried a good bit. He was lucky to have so many willing helpers.

What a week this was! I got to see most of the extended family, people I’ve known and loved for years, and even though we don’t see each other often, it’s just like nothing has changed. It feels really good. And now my kids are part of the pack!

The trip home was pretty horrendous. Arthur got car sick as we pulled into the airport and threw up all over himself, the borrowed car seat, and Amir’s baby – the Maserati. I felt awful for him, and for our friends who had to ride home with that stinky car seat. I stripped Arthur and quickly grabbed some pajamas out of the suitcase before checking it.  I washed him off in the airport bathroom, and he was good as new. The flight was painful. Both boys slept, but only because 1. Julian is a saint and literally let Arthur kick him in the face and put his legs all over him and 2. because I am a saint and I let Arthur roll around for hours while accommodating his sleepy body with mine. It will not be repeated.

Now we’re home. We all took a two hour nap together and felt somewhat rejuvenated, but also still tired enough to complain pretty much all day. We miss our friends already – but are also so excited to see Jeff tonight! We missed him all week, and there is just something that feels perfectly right about being back home.

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.