Winter is Coming

Just kidding. It’s here.

The weather is changing, and we’ve been laying low. Gone are the days of endless bike rides and picnics. And for now, I am fine with that. These are the days of chess and reading, apple cider and muffins, meatloaf and red wine. I quickly moved onto food stuff there.

IMG_4320

The boys and I have been watching the 1955 movie “Sissi” with Romy Schneider. I thought they would get bored pretty much right away, but instead, they are captivated. The romance and love and humor is not lost on them. Last night, on the couch, Julian said, “Mama, ich bin so verliebt in dich.” Sissi is working. If you’re not German or Austrian, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. Moving on. (Also: naps.)

IMG_4776

On Friday we had the annual St. Martin lantern walk with Arthur’s pre-school. They changed location last minute, so instead of walking along the gorgeous Brooklyn Heights Promenade, we found ourselves stumbling through a pitch black Prospect Park. Winter had suddenly arrived, and everyone was freezing. We took the boys out for pizza promptly thereafter. I mean, look at these faces.

IMG_4762IMG_4764IMG_4763

On Saturday night we drove to Asbury Park, NJ and spent the night celebrating my brother-in-law’s birthday at this incredible pinball arcade. It was fantastic!

IMG_4824IMG_4823IMG_4825

Last weekend the boys rode their own bikes all the way to Red Hood. It was a big deal! We had lunch at Brooklyn Crab, and then they rode back. It was getting late, and cold, and all in all they rode a good 5 miles. I was so impressed! Jeff’s bike looks so empty without those extra 90 pounds on the back.

IMG_4590IMG_4591IMG_4592IMG_4589

We’re trying to settle into more indoor time – which sometimes leads to endless bickering between the boys. But also to sweet moments, laziness, lots of reading, and dancing in the kitchen.

Last night Julian and I danced to Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wish” in our kitchen, which is very apropos if you know the song. He held my hand just the right way and twirled me around, even though I had to bend down a lot. I hope he’ll want to dance with me for many years to come. (Tomorrow night Jeff and I will be seeing Bruce on Broadway. I’m soooo excited!)

IMG_4643

Oh, Vienna

We had a wonderful week in beautiful Vienna. The weather was perfect, the Schnitzel even more so, and everyone was happy.

My parents met us there and stayed in the same hotel as us. We had nice suite for our family of four, and the boys had their separate room. It was right in the city center, so we could walk everywhere. Of course sometimes we took the subway or the tram, which were huge highlights for our public transportation loving boys. Julian figured out the subway system in no time.

IMG_3073IMG_3685

Every day we started slow in our hotel with breakfast, journalling, and cartoons, and then we headed out for a day of exploring and lots of walking.

IMG_3013

The boys were such troopers. We walked all day. When we checked, our phones told us that we walked between 15,000 and 18,000 steps each day.

IMG_3638IMG_3720

Highlights for us were: Haus der Musik, where we went on our first day. It was so fun and interactive.

Schloss Schönbrunn, the parks, and the zoo. It was hands down the best zoo we had ever been to.

IMG_3235IMG_3273IMG_3275IMG_3288

Other than that I believe we saw all the important castles and churches and ate all the Schnitzel. Vienna is truly breathtaking. I loved wandering around and just stumbling upon yet another beautiful building. There are so many. The Museum of Natural History was also amazing.

The boys discovered Apfelschorle (apple juice and sparkling water), or Apfelsaft gespritzt, as the Viennese say. Julian fell in love with Schnitzel, and we all ate lots of ice cream. Oh, and there was some beer.

It was an all around enjoyable family vacation. I was blown away by how flexible and overall well behaved the boys were. Lots of walking, little sleep, no schedules, late nights, lots of restaurants. They handled it all really well. I was relieved. And it was great to see them with my Dad. Even thought they don’t see each other as much as we’d all like, they are never shy or strange around him. I guess that’s family for ya.

IMG_3538

The flight home was a bite intense I will say. Our first flight was delayed, and we would have missed our connecting flight in Amsterdam, and so we were re-booked on Air France (which was welcome because of free Champagne), but it meant a later arrival time in New York. Arthur had caught a cold, and his bad mama forgot to pack his inhaler and so spent a good amount of time counting his many (rapid) breaths per minute as he snoozed on the plane. In the end, he was fine. Julian didn’t sleep at all and spent hours on the plane watching the Lego Batman movie (3 times I think?) and playing chess against the computer. When we arrived at JFK he sat down next to Arthur on the floor as we waited for a car – and fell asleep. It was 4:30am Vienna time.

IMG_3768.jpg

It’s taken us about a week to get over our jet lag, and we miss Opa already. We miss the walks and croissants, the decadent lunches and dinners, and the freedom of going wherever we pleased. Vienna was a dream, and I hope we can return one day.

Full Disclosure

Do you ever feel like your feet are floating just a few inches above ground? Like you’re really trying to stand firmly, securely, but nonetheless you’re kind of up there, out there?

That’s how I feel right now. The news. Las Vegas. Our…”president”…(I still can’t say it) in Puerto Rico tossing paper towels to hurricane survivors.

Then today, after I’d picked up the boys from school, a young person, 20 years old, had jumped in front of a train. We just arrived at the train station in time to see everyone being ushered out. Dozens of emergency vehicles on site, and the smell. I’m not sure what it was. Burned rubber? The smell of emergency brakes? Random people were telling me what had happened, and I just said, “Please stop talking about it” while gesturing towards my young kids. Of course it was too late. They’d heard.

We took the bus home. And we talked about how the firefighters arrived to rescue the person from the tracks. Unfortunately we could relate to it on a much lighter level, as Arthur’s scooter had rolled onto the tracks just two weeks prior. It was a huge deal, a huge lesson learned, many tears, and lots of sweat. Arthur was fine, the trains were fine, and – after an hour of waiting for someone to retrieve it – even the scooter was fine.

But what I know, and what my kids don’t, is that some young kid couldn’t bear it anymore and jumped onto the tracks today. And some poor train driver’s life will be forever changed because of it.

I just cant’t shake it. It was too close, too real. Sometimes it just all seems like too much.

But I have my two boys. Two boys I’d promised to take to the park to play soccer this afternoon. So after school, we played. They were both sporting their new Manuel Neuer jerseys that they’d saved their money for for months, and they were so proud. Another (older) boy joined the game, and it was fun.

Also, I’ve really been struggling with making sure to get Arthur’s needs met. With work, school, after school activities, and all that, I still have to fit in three weekly therapy sessions, which is soon to be four. He qualified for occupational therapy earlier this year, and while I thought/hoped he would outgrow his needs and delays, it’s really apparent that he needs a little more extra help. I’m so grateful for the network we have here, but I am also a bit upset when seeing that time with my children is just slipping away. The Fridays I don’t work are special to me. I spend my day with Arthur, doing a week’s worth of laundry, cuddling, playing games, eating croissants. Now the bulk of our day will be spent going to therapy appointments. I will just bite my lip and make it fun. If I can package it as a playdate of sorts, I consider it a win.

Speaking of playdates, Arthur has finally found a friend. He’s come a long way, and my heart bursts when I see him talking to kids on the playground. So happy. And yes, my kids are dressed in soccer jerseys 80% of the time. Germany all the way, baby.

IMG_2517

This weekend we drove 15 hours total, back and forth to a wedding in Pennsylvania, which was a big pain. But we managed to see some dear friends along the way, and it was an opportunity to see family and dress snazzy. I mean…right?

IMG_2665IMG_2695 2

Also, we danced our way into oblivion at the reception. My brother-in-law just sent me this photo with the caption “I guess he loves you.” And so it is.

IMG_2097

And here are my boys from this morning, hugging good-bye, as they do every morning.

IMG_2793

With that I have to remind myself that while all is not right in the world, and in fact a lot is very, very wrong in the world, there are some things in our worlds that are right and good and pure, and to those things we must cling. (While making sure we change as much of the rest of our world as we can. For the better.)

Coney to the Rescue

After two weeks of being back at work part-time, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • It’s easier to stay at home full time.
  • It’s easier to work full time (this is partly an assumption and partly based on feedback from my full-time working friends).

I really enjoy my new job. It’s fun to get back into the swing of things. I was concerned that over 6+ years of doing mom things, the part of my brain I’d use at work had gone to sleep. Forever, perhaps? But no. I’m wide awake! And I like being around other adults and talking about things that don’t involve my kids.

I don’t love spending 1 1/2 hours every day commuting back and forth, although it gives me time to read – which is always welcome.

When I’m not on the subway, I’m constantly rushing. Rushing to school drop-off, to the subway, to work, to school pick-up, and then I want to go to sleep.

The thing I’m struggling with the most as I’m adjusting to my new life and routines is the fact that I’m tired. Not just physically tired, but also just plain exhausted. My brain is tired. I’m lacking the patience and drive to do fun things with my kids. And that’s sort of a bummer for me because I love nothing more than doing fun things with my kids. It makes me really sad. I think I also just miss summer and the endless opportunities to have adventures.

On Thursday night I sat on the couch and cried. I was too tired to eat dinner, too tired to watch stupid TV, too tired to read. So I went to bed at 9pm. Yesterday (I don’t work Fridays) was spent with the kids, at speech therapy, doing laundry and house stuff, and at a kid birthday party.

Today we had no plans, and no Papa. Jeff had to work (bummer), so when I got up I decided the kids and I needed a day of fun. So we went to our favorite place: Coney Island!

IMG_2228

I needed a day like today. Watching the boys bounce from ride to ride and be so happy and carefree put my heart in its right place.

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.

IMG_0784

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.

IMG_0887

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.

IMG_1141

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

IMG_1156IMG_1071

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.

IMG_1103IMG_1231

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

IMG_1204

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.

IMG_8971IMG_8839

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

IMG_8947IMG_8952

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.

IMG_9380

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

IMG_8829IMG_9028

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.

IMG_9231

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.

IMG_8675

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.

IMG_8691

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.

IMG_8711

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!

IMG_8721

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…

IMG_8749

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.

IMG_8760

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.

IMG_8701

 

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.

IMG_8669

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.

IMG_8393IMG_8670

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.

329A4596

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

Next up, Go Karts. Totally my favorite.

IMG_8671

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

IMG_8485

Then we hit more rides.

IMG_8529IMG_8667

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.

329A4638329A4653

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.

IMG_8668

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.

20375987_10155317253036131_4017331425282345779_n

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).

20429845_10155317253146131_2393794096092294671_n

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.

IMG_7269

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…

IMG_7379IMG_7389IMG_7406IMG_7456

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

Also, a trip to Half Moon Bay…

IMG_7794

IMG_7825

…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…

IMG_7887IMG_7921IMG_7954IMG_7968

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.

IMG_5533IMG_5782IMG_5668IMG_6139

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

IMG_5934IMG_5882IMG_5859

Most nights we BBQd at home.

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

IMG_6206IMG_6205

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.

IMG_5914

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!

IMG_6118.JPG

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.

IMG_6203

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

IMG_6066IMG_5663

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.

IMG_5743IMG_5751

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

IMG_5703

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.