Birthdays And The Never-Ending Sickness

On Wednesday night of last week we spontaneously decided to take a quick bike ride to Brooklyn Crab, our now completely overpriced and commercialized former favorite hang-out. Dinner was great, but towards the end I noticed I had a sore throat and was hit with the very strong notion that I was getting sick.

 

I had a terrible night and woke up sick the next day. I spent the day in bed nursing a 102 fever and sending Jeff on a frenzy of last minute birthday errands. Because the next day our firstborn was going to turn 7!

In the end everything got done. Julian woke up, blew out his candles, and opened one present.

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That afternoon after school we gave him his big present: a new bike!

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And of course a couple of smaller presents as well. There was a cake (store-bought this year) and more candles. Then Jeff took Julian for an hour long spin on his new, 24″, super big boy bike with gears! Julian did so well. I can’t wait to go on a ride with him next!

Meanwhile, I spent another day in bed.

The next day, Saturday, was the boys big party. They put on their birthday presents from Oma & Opa, one of their favorite gifts ever: Bayern Munich soccer uniforms.

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We had invited some 20+ kids to the park. The weather was perfect, and other than a quick break to devour cupcakes, the kids were off playing soccer for hours while the adults hung out near the wine and beer. It was a super relaxed party, and the boys were in heaven. Because: soccer.

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On Sunday I was so sick that I started crying on the couch. Julian said, “Mama! I don’t want you to die.” That’s when I knew I had to man up.

On Monday it was kid no. 2’s turn to have his big day. 5! Arthur woke up to pancakes and a song and got to open one present.

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The others waited for him after school, along with the desired ice cream cake. Does this guy look happy or what?

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We spent the rest of the day playing with new toys, and for dinner we did as Arthur, our birthday boy, commanded: We had an indoor hot dog picnic. The best.

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So now I have a 5 and a 7 year old. I can’t take it.

On Monday I went to work but was pretty miserable all day. On Tuesday I stayed home sick again. Since yesterday I can tell that I am finally better, and today there are just the annoying remnants of what was the worst cold ever (an annoying cough and snot galore).

All is good. We survived the week. No one cared that the cakes were store-bought or that the cupcakes were from a box. The boys were happy, surrounded by friends and love, and that is all that matters.

Opa’s Back in Town!

Well, he was. We just spent a full, happy, loud, exciting, lovely week with my Dad/Opa. He arrived on Friday and left 10 days later, today. We had so much fun!

Highlights included:

A soccer game at Red Bull Arena. New York Red Bulls against Chicago Fire, including no one less than Germany’s very own Bastian Schweinsteiger. I loved it! The boys loved it! We all did. Opa explained all the rules to Julian; there was a lot of popcorn and overpriced beer.

I got to explore the city every day with my dad, and the weather was finally spring-like and perfect. I worked fewer hours than usual, and he picked me up from work every day. We had lunch and wandered around. On Sunday Jeff hung with the boys while my Dad and I walked all around the West Village. It was such a beautiful day.


We spent the rest of the day with Jeff’s family who all came to hang out with us.

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We played lots of soccer, watched a soccer game at a German restaurant, and talked about soccer whenever possible. Also, we are spending every waking minute with our Panini soccer sticker book. Soccer for life.

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On Wednesday night, we watched Julian in his spring school performance. He was adorable.

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Also: this view! Another visit to the World Trade Center.

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We took Arthur to speech together, to Karate, to the Transit Museum. A 10 day visit allows for a glimpse into our real lives with all its joy and hustle and occasional fighting. The boys loved having their Opa around so much.

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The last day was spent in Central Park. It was a perfect ending to a perfect NYC week.

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The boys will miss Opa!

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And so will I.

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Hiking, Coney – And More Snow!

I suppose it was overly ambitious/optimistic of me to sort through our winter clothes last week and form a neat pile to be taken to storage at our earliest convenience. Because today, this:

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April Fool’s Day was yesterday! Come ON!!

Aside from this Monday morning ridiculousness, we had a wonderful weekend. I had the urge to get out of the city and spend some family time together outside, so on Saturday we took the Metro North, well, north to a small somewhat hippie town called Beacon. We went on a hike and climbed the local mountain, Mount Beacon. The trail isn’t too long, but it’s very rugged and steep and made for some adventurous balancing and falling into mud puddles.

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It was glorious! The boys were total troopers. Our expectations were pretty much non-existent since the only hiking we’ve ever done was in a forest in Queens and maybe a longer walk through the woods of the Poconos. But this was a serious hike. The boys were amazing! We were seriously so proud.

 

 

At the top we admired what was at the bottom: the Hudson Valley. Also: casino ruins and the remnants of some sort of old mountain tram.

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Once we climbed down (why is climbing down harder than up?), we met an old college buddy of Jeff’s at a local pub for beer and burgers. Jeff was excited!

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Afterwards we walked around town, stopped for ice cream and let the boys play at a park.

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The walk back to the train was kind of intense – many tired faces and sore legs.

Arthur and I promptly fell asleep as soon as we sat down on the train.

On Sunday the Easter Bunny made an appearance early in the morning. The boys went on an egg hunt in our apartment and ate their weight in chocolate. We played for a bit and hung out and then decided that we wanted to pay a visit to our favorite place on earth, Coney Island.

We started off at “Magic at Coney” – some pinball, beer, and battleship while we waited for the show to begin.

 

Julian was pretty immediately selected as an assistant. He was adorable; his belly laugh cuts straight into my heart. It’s funny when you know someone so intimately and then see them on a stage and look at them perhaps in a way an outsider would, and oh man. What a gift that child is.

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I also got to assist with one of the tricks. Maybe I have a future in magic?

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Next: Nathan’s Hot Dogs. They never disappoint.

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It was a bit chilly, and we were slightly underdressed, so the boys shared our African kikoy to keep warm.

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We stopped by the beach for a minute and then hit a few rides.

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It was breezy on the Wonder Wheel!

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A quick funnel cake, and we were headed home.

And then the most amazing thing happened: we got on the Q train, first car per the boys’ request. Shortly thereafter the train driver got on and unlocked the door to the driver’s cabin. The boys got up, said “hello” to him and kind of peeked inside, and I fully expected the train driver to close the door and go about his business. Instead he invited them inside, showed them all the controls, answered all of their questions, and even honked the horn! He was so kind and patient and totally made the boys’ day. Julian has loved the subway for all of his life. He knows all the lines, stops, trains and is currently designing the high speed train he will “create” when he is a grownup – complete with maps, tickets, different ways of paying, logo etc. What a NYC moment this was for my NYC-loving boys!

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* Photo credit for most of these images goes to my amazing husband.

A Perfect NYC Day

Saturday started out strong with our brand-new Karate Kid, Arthur. I just love watching him in this class. He is super focused and truly does his best. At the end of the class, the kids all got to kick a board, and of course Arthur nailed it.

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The rest of Saturday was spent driving each other insane. It was windy and cold and we could not agree on anything fun to do. Then I started having massive back pain and laid in bed for a good part of the afternoon. Spirits and patience levels were pretty low.

On Sunday we knew we had to do something. So we packed up the kids and strolled around Soho, before having a delicious brunch on the Lower East Side.

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Afterwards we stopped by a few shops in the East Village, and much to Arthur’s delight we bought him this melodica-type instrument that he insisted would contribute in many great ways to the performances of his band, “Alice.”

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We let the boys run loose at Tompkins Square Park playground and enjoyed being out in the sun.

Then it was time for ice cream…

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We stopped by a Japanese toy shop and Jeff bought the boys these little Transformer guys. They were in heaven.

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Right before we got to the train stop, Jeff said, “Should we have a beer at McSorley’s?” We felt a bit odd walking in with our boys in tow, but as it turns out they were not the only kids there. Our waiter was so lovely and even brought them little muffins for dessert.

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It was a perfect NYC day.

On our way home I asked the kids why they thought this day was special, and they said “Because we had so many treats!” and “Because you bought us new toys!” but really we all agreed it was special because we are the luckiest people who live in the greatest city on earth, and we get to enjoy everything it has to offer without any big effort on our part. Or I should say “one of the greatest cities on earth” as Julian and Arthur pointed out, because after all many European cities have streetcars and New York City does not.

Karate Kid

Long time, no write. I’m tired of writing about how down we feel, so I was waiting for happy times to come along. Yesterday was a happy day.

A few weeks ago I had the notion that Arthur should start karate. For numerous reasons: body control, coordination, and strength (all things he works on in occupational therapy), confidence, respect, learning something new. Also, I wanted him to have something that is all his own and something his older brother hadn’t already done before him. In true Arthur fashion, stubborn to the core, he proclaimed until the minute he arrived at the karate center that he “hates” karate and doesn’t want to do “anything.” When his new teacher showed him around, Arthur just mumbled in a slightly annoyed tone, “I know that already.” Clearly he knew none of it. It’s just something he says; I think it makes him feel better somehow.

His teacher was very patient and all around wonderful. He gave Arthur a 30 minute introduction, which included breathing, some movements, and a story of persistence and obedience about a little boy who wanted to learn karate.

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Arthur was invited to stay for the class, and at the end he passed his white belt test.

I was over the moon proud. And so was he.

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The rest of the day was fun-filled. We had our friends and their kids (Arthur’s best friend from school and his little sister) over for Saturday brunch. It was so peaceful and fun. Everyone got along, we ate our weight in bagels and lox, bacon and eggs, with a side of orange juice and Bloody Marys.

Later in the afternoon we met Uncle Brian and Aunt Katherine in Dumbo. The boys rode their bikes.

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Going up a big hill, Arthur said to me, “Mama, I already learned this in karate: Never give up!”

The boys got to ride the carousel, and then we hung out at Superfine.

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Such a fun evening!

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The boys were exhausted and were happy to go to bed. This morning I overheard them in the bathroom, and Julian whispered to Arthur, “Let’s let Mama and Papa sleep a little while longer.” Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.

Bits of Life

It’s Friday. That means I don’t go to work. Instead, Julian takes the bus to school, and I wash 5 to 7 loads of (industrial size washing machine type) laundry. Then I take Arthur to speech and OT, and this afternoon he has a play date. It’s a full day, but I also like this day with him.

He’s not the easiest person to be around these days. He is really angry and sad and will hit, cry, scream, kick and shove on any given day. But when he is done with his rage, he is just sad and apologetic. The other day, after a fit of rage, we had a bit of a breakthrough moment. In tears Arthur said things like “I’m so dumb. I make so many mistakes all the time.” It was really hard to hear, but I was glad that he could articulate a bit of what he feels. I think it must be tough being Arthur. He is the youngest, the slowest, the smallest (not for long I’m sure). His (very mature) big brother is his idol. Arthur is afraid of the dark, of being alone in his room, and he hates being last. Yet he is usually last.

I’m trying to wrap him in kindness and love. He loves back scratches, and just like my grandmother used to do to me, I scratch his back for as long as he wants me to. I try to hug him instead of yelling at him. But it is frustrating. It’s hard to see your one kid kick his brother (it goes the other way around, too).

Yesterday Julian had a friend over, and Arthur was over-the-top excited. So much so that he was too loud, too eager, too wild almost all of the time. By the end of the day I just wanted red wine and dumb TV.

BUT. But there’s also lots of beauty. So I will leave you with 10 fun things:

  1. Last weekend we went ice skating (for the first time ever) with Julian’s 1st grade.IMG_8137
  2. Julian’s been having lots of fun play dates, and I’m so happy he is making friends with lovely kids. His teachers told me that he is often a source of peace and calm for his class, which I think is wonderful. This was our disco dance party last night. Less peace and calm there. IMG_8315
  3. Arthur was in his first theater performance as the wolf in the Three Little Pigs! He did awesome, and I am so proud. Here is my kid who gets speech therapy three times a week, standing in front of a bunch of parents, teachers, and siblings, and no nerves at all! And that bow at the end! 

  4.  We went out to dinner this week celebrating our first “Country of the Month:” India. Yummy food!
  5. Jeff and I went to see Glen Hansard in concert, and on Saturday we’re seeing Jason Isbell. I love all three (including Jeff)!
  6. We get to spend more time with Jeff every day!
  7. Arthur is really into helping me in the kitchen and also smoothies. Both are good things!IMG_8117
  8. I started working out again after a long hiatus.
  9. I dreamed about my grandmother last night, and I felt so close to her when I woke up.
  10. Ghostbusters. Always ghostbusters.IMG_8174

The Struggle is Real

How to start? What to say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bring it, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for the New Year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas 2017

We started off Christmas break with watching the new Star Wars movie together. Honestly, for the kids the scariest part were the previews. The movie itself was great, and we were all so excited!

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We spent the weekend being cozy inside. Lots of playing, cookie-eating and movie watching.

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On Christmas Eve, we went to see Santa! We go to Macy’s every year (Santa 2014Santa 2015, Santa 2016). This year’s Santa was kind of fierce and gave both boys the “Santa stare.” But for whatever reason they *believed* he was real. In fact, Arthur has been outraged this year, telling everyone who wants to listen that there are people out there in the world who don’t believe in Santa! They think the parents give all the presents! These people must be nuts!

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After Santa time we had lunch together and checked out the train show at Grand Central.

That night we had a lovely dinner at home and got ready for Santa.

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And imagine this! He came! The boys were stoked. He brought them the Rescue Bots station and Rescue Bots they had asked for.

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Mama and Papa gave a few new games, books, and Ghostbuster utility belts.

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Jeff and I gifted each other things from the 70s and 80s…this Springsteen poster, an Atari game console, a Gameboy (my childhood dream come true!) and a couple of (contemporary guitar pedals). We were all so happy and spoiled!

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We had breakfast at home and then packed our bags to head to New Jersey to spend the day with family. When Jeff called the garage to let them know he was coming to pick up our Zipcar (the ONLY one available on Christmas Day in NYC), he was informed that the car had a flat tire. So our collective mood plummeted. The boys were in tears. They really wanted to see their cousins.

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Jeff was in an even worse mood and became increasingly stubborn and refused to consider alternative ways to get to New Jersey. So I made a decision and made him change direction, and we made it work. So off we went on the Subway, the PATH, and New Jersey Transit. We played cards, napped, and listened to music. Our brother-in-law picked us up in Trenton, and in the end all was well.

We were together.

Later that night we exchanged gifts and sang karaoke. I mean…Endless Love forever, right? I’m not embarrassed.

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Yesterday we were happy to come back home and continue playing with all of our new toys.

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I look forward to a week at home with my guys. We don’t have any big plans, but the boys were invited to a sleepover at Uncle Brian’s house tonight! They are super excited.

So thankful for everything we have this Christmas.

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For kicks, Christmas 2014Christmas 2015 and Christmas 2016.

 

More Time

In case you’re feeling anything like us these days (tired, lacking patience, frustrated, generally bummed and also freezing), I thought I’d offer a few things that make me happy. For starters, this guy:

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Arthur and his Santa hat! He’s pretty committed to the hat this year, much to the delight of all the kids in his school as well as random passersby. And us, of course.

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Julian’s school photos. I mean! That kid. He has the most gorgeous smile, but he is absolutely incapable of smiling on command.

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Cookies! They make everyone feel better, right?

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Glühwein. Same as above. But no pictures, because we were busy trying not to let the kids spill our Glühwein.

Also: friends. I’m so thankful for our friends and family. The boys have been going on playdates, birthday parties, and we’ve hosted some friends at our place as well. Drop off dates are more frequent now, leaving Jeff and me with good chunks of time to ourselves on the weekends. This is the future, perhaps?

Also, can I just talk about time for a second here? I just wish I had more. My biggest struggle is getting places on time. I know many people anticipate the end of summer when the kids return to school and everything becomes more scheduled and predictable, but man, I miss those days so much. I love lazy days, hanging out at the playground or going on adventures with my boys. The drag of getting them out of bed, eating breakfast before the sun has even risen, and schlepping off to school in these frigid temperatures – just not my cup of tea. But that is life. Also, can we talk about how s.l.o.w. children walk once there is snow on the ground?!

This week marked three months since I’ve returned to work. My husband sent me flowers!

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But yes, we’re still adjusting. I love the work and my team, but the amount of tired I feel at night cannot be underestimated. It’s totally worth it though, because overall we’re all thriving, and I’m so happy that I have found this new, unexpected outlet that I didn’t even think I needed.

Meanwhile, these boys have high hopes for Christmas. Their letter is on the way…”We were good!” I’ll have to take their word for it.

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