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.

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!

Mexico, Round Two

Mexico. What can I say?

We came back to Brooklyn and were hit immediately by a snow storm. So this has been us, mostly, for the past week:

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But in our minds, we are all still here:

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We had the best time. We tried a different hotel this time, about two doors down from where we stayed last year. Our hut was one of the ones in the back; you could see the ocean from our porch and hear the waves at night. And we could send the boys outside to play – a luxury we don’t normally have.

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We sat on our porch a bit, sipping wine, and talking when the kids slept at night. Or in between our beach adventures and going out to dinner at night.

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If you were to ask me how many tacos we consumed, I couldn’t tell you. Probably 50? We always started our day with breakfast at the hotel, usually fruit and yogurt and pancakes. And a huge chocolate milk for the boys. They drew so much during this vacation, and Julian has become a very confident if not correct speller, so that has made for some pretty hilarious artwork.

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We also played lots of Uno.

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After breakfast we chose a beach and spent the day bumming around, drinking beer, and playing in the waves. Also, I plowed through this book during vacation; I could not put it down.

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I worked on a really awkward suntan.

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One morning we checked out one of the Cenotes. It was cool! But the boys were intimidated, and it took us an hour to get them to come into the water – which was pretty cold. But they did it, and Julian actually ventured forth into the caves with Papa. We saw fish and turtles and were really hungry for tacos afterwards.

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In our hotel we met a friendly lizard. Just kidding, he was terrified of the boys, of course. But they were excited to meet him. The first time we saw him, Arthur ran inside to grab his toy lizard, his most beloved possession, and the boys followed the lizard around. Julian was convinced that the real lizard would eventually accept the toy lizard as his baby. (Spoiler alert: he did not.)

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We were not ready to come home, but we had to.

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Julian was sad about having missed math at school, and science, and we all know no amount of tacos and ice cream can make up for missing math. Not even if you add them all up. Until next time, Mexico!

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Central Park & Coney Island

Somehow, after a week of feeling sick, we were blessed with exactly what I needed: a lovely, warm, sunny NYC weekend. In February. I think every winter we get one or two of these days, just to tell us, “Don’t give up! Spring is coming.”

On Saturday we took the train up to Central Park. As always, for the boys “it’s not the destination, it’s the ride.”

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The boys got to ride their scooters, and we spent the day wandering around the park and trying to run into as few people as possible.

We stopped at a playground for a long time and hung out by the boat pond over sandwiches, beers, and rounds of Spot It. Also, my boys are natural “fake” smilers. (Arthur looks like he has a side tooth of some sort, but he just has a mouth full of goldfish.)

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Oh, Jeff Bridges was there, too.

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The boys played and climbed. Helmets came in handy.

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We looked for ice cream, but it was impossible to find in February. Someone didn’t get the memo. So we had Shake Shack milk shakes, and some of us passed out on the ride home.

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On Sunday the fun continued. It was another spring-like day, so we headed to our favorite place on earth: Coney Island. We started off with a couple of beers on the boardwalk and chatted with the a couple of local guys. Oldies were playing from the stereo, one of the guys was singing along loudly, and everyone was just so happy to be there. It was one of my favorite parts of a really perfect day. Also, these guys.

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Then we wandered around the boardwalk and took the boys to a magic show. They were kind of unfazed throughout the show, but afterwards wouldn’t stop performing little magic tricks for us. Except, when one of the magicians performed a trick, he wrote the word “special” on one of the cards in the deck. So naturally, Arthur kept saying things like, “Do you want to see another special? I have a good special for you!”

Here is a sequence of events where I did a magic trick for the boys, Julian broke into tears because he couldn’t figure it out, I tickled him happy, and then we walked together, after I’d revealed my “secret” to him. This is so Julian. He just needed to know. He can’t stand it when he can’t figure stuff out on his own. It drives him crazy.

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Of course, there were hot dogs.

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We spent a lot of time on the beach. Jeff took a bunch of wonderful pictures that captured our day together.

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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!

Another Week, Another Protest

…in both small and big ways.

Let’s start with the smaller one. On Wednesday the sun was shining, so we decided to go to a playground near the boys’ schools with two of Julian’s friends in the afternoon. It was a nice, chilly afternoon, and the kids were playing tag. When Julian came over to me, looking unhappy, I thought something had happened to him. I asked him if he was ok. He replied, “I’m ok. But Arthur’s not!” I thought he had fallen, perhaps, and hurt himself. But no. The other Kindergarten boys, Julian’s school friends, were calling Arthur “a baby.”

Arthur was a little mad and a little unfazed. I just told the boys to ignore such a ridiculous comment. I mean, just look at him. Clearly not a baby, right?

Ten minutes later one of the boys called Arthur a baby again, and this time Julian didn’t think twice about it and tackled his friend to the ground. Julian was red-faced and furious. I told him to stop, that’s not the way, but inside I was feeling proud. Julian walked away from everyone and sat on a bench, and tears started running down his face. I asked him if the boys were teasing him, too. He said, “No! They are mean to Arthur.”

Julian wanted to leave, and so we did. Truthfully, Arthur was fine. Julian was the one who was hurt and angry. But as soon as we turned our backs on the playground, my boys started laughing and running, and I knew all was good. And all will be good. At least for them. They have each other.

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Now on to protests in bigger ways.

On Thursday afternoon, thousands of Yemeni business owners closed their delis and bodegas across the city to protest Trump’s immigration ban. The rally was right outside our house, so naturally we had to be there. When I picked the boys up from school, I explained to them about the protest and why we had to go to support our neighbors.

I may have explained it to them in Star Wars terms: we are the resistance, the rebels so to say, and you can all figure out who the Evil Empire is. Julian was way into it and was chanting “We are the resistance!”

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We met so many lovely people.

When everyone started praying, the boys just watched. They were fascinated. The foreign language, the singing, the movements. It sparked so many conversations and questions I was somehow ill prepared for – given that we are non-religious. What is praying? What is God? But I think I managed fine. In the end, Julian said that it was a dumb ban, and if Trump keeps saying stupid things, we should just go live elsewhere.

On Friday, Julian had a puppet show at school, and all the kids were so excited. Not as excited as all the parents, however!

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The kids were adorable. They also received their midterm “report cards.” Julian is “very ambitious, focused and precise and follows the rules well.” He should work on being more self confident. We are very proud.

Today we’re lazing around. Julian is now reading entire books, and it makes me so happy. He’ll whisper quietly to himself, and sometimes he’ll read a particularly funny part to me. He’ll read chapters to Arthur, but only behind closed doors in their room. For some reason he won’t read to me, but I’ll take what I can get. Sitting next to him, each of us reading our own books, is pretty much all I ever wanted.

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Speaking of “reading”… this guy.

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