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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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.

Bike Season Opener

This weekend consisted of a so-so day, and a great day. Saturday was rainy and chilly. We had an appointment early-ish, and the boys behaved horribly. It ruined everyone’s mood and led to several conversations afterwards.

Later that day we hung out on our street for a street festival for Earth Day. Unfortunately it was rainy. Damn you, Earth!

Anyway, we were at a booth planting some basil, like one does, and one of the women from the local CSA commented, “What polite boys you have!” I almost choked. It was such a stark contrast to just a few hours before when they were everything but polite. Ahhh, parenthood.

We wrote things we’re thankful for on this “gratitude tree.” Julian said, “My school.” Arthur said, “Ice cream and chocolate.” Priorities.

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We spent the afternoon with popcorn and a movie (Star Wars Episode IV) and then went on a quick walk to a BBQ restaurant around the corner, where we stuffed our faces with way too much food.

Today, we slept in. As in, Arthur and I. At 7:30am, the time we’ve deemed acceptable to be woken up on weekends (weekdays it’s 7am), the boys crawled into our bed, and Arthur went right back to sleep for another two hours. This makes me hopeful for the future when at least one of my children might be happy to sleep in, and the other one will be happy to solve complicated math problems or work on the Rubik’s Cube (looking at you, Julian).

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After a breakfast of waffles and more waffles, we hit the road. Our first family bike ride of the season!

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We rode over the Brooklyn Bridge and stopped for a beer in Battery Park. Exhibit A:

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This right here means it’s a good day. Bikes, beer, children who are always hungry, many rounds of Uno, and my lovely, somewhat goofy husband.

We let the boys play for a long time at Nelson Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City. It’s such an awesome playground. Jeff went go to get us sandwiches, and we ate in peace and read the paper while the boys played.

Then we rode up the Westside and over to Washington Square Park.

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Then over to the East Village, coffee break, and more playtime.

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Then we were tired and headed home. I’m so happy that spring has finally sprung, even though it’s not warm yet. The city is glorious with all the tulips and cherry blossoms, and riding around on our bikes makes my heart so happy.

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.

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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Adulting, City Fun, and a sick Kid

This week, on Tuesday, I finally had the opportunity to take a few hours to myself and to go on an adventure. After school drop-off, I headed into Manhattan and got myself a membership to MoMA with my lovely IDNYC card. I wandered around and checked out three floors. One of the more impressive pieces: a literature sausage.

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Then I met Jeff at his office, and we saw a baby owl.

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We had a lovely lunch across the street from Jeff’s work. A daytime date! Always special.

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Then I came back to his office for a lesson in virtual reality. I flew to the moon!

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It was seriously amazing. My mind was blown. And then I had to pick up the kids!

Wednesday night I went to the new Alamo Drafthouse movie theater in Downtown Brooklyn with some friends. Afterwards, we had drinks at a rooftop bar around the corner and marveled at the fact that we know nothing about Downtown Brooklyn at all, even though it’s a 10 minute walk from our homes. It’s a different world and could basically be any downtown in any city in the US. Bizarre.

Yesterday we had a lovely family day in Manhattan. We had brunch and then went for a stroll on the Highline. The fall colors are gorgeous right now!

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After 20 blocks of walking (no complaints from the kids!), we took the train to Grand Central.

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We had coffee and snacks and looked around.

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We stumbled upon a street festival on Madison Avenue. The boys had a lemonade.

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Next up: Rockefeller Center.

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We walked around and checked out the Lego store. The boys were in awe!

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Then we decided we were sufficiently tired and headed home. Early bedtime for all!

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And on Sunday? On Sunday we did nothing. Julian woke up mopey and with a man-headache. We convinced him to rally and cheer on our buddy Tim, who was running the NYC Marathon. Seeing all these people run run run was so inspiring!

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The boys, however, collapsed upon our arrival. Julian due to the fact that he wasn’t feeling well, and Arthur, well, he had a case of brotherly sympathy pains.

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Turns out Julian actually has a fever of 102.5. So I feel pretty great about dragging him to watch a marathon and scolding him for lying down. Who’s winning? This Mama.

The rest of the day we did nothing. We watched Planet Earth and ate popcorn. We drank smoothies and ate German chocolate and took naps. We played and colored and went on indoor treasure hunts. I read my book and Jeff played music. Also, Bloody Mary’s.

And we’re off into another week!

Friends, Friends, more Friends

This is a good season. My kids are in school, at least some of the time, and I am getting used to the feeling of missing them and looking forward to seeing them again. Jeff and I have been going on dates and hanging out with friends, and it’s delightful. I feel like a proper adult again!

Last week Julian was off on Tuesday while Arthur had school. So I packed the day full of appointments…Doctor: broken finger has healed! Dentist: swollen gums mean two adult molars have grown in my baby’s mouth! Hair salon: shorter hair! Also, Arthur had speech with his new teacher (she’s great, but man do we all miss Katie), and we got to hang out with one of my oldest friends who stopped to see us during a road trip with her boys. We’ve known each other since my college days in Bamberg, Germany, where I babysat for her now 16 and 17 year old children. They were 1 and 2 then!

Here are my boys with her two younger boys. They were fast friends!

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Other than school, the boys and I have met up with friends, gotten flu shots and discovered Arthur’s future as a skateboarder. He and that board were a natural fit!

On Friday night Jeff and I went to see the New York Philharmonic (always good) perform at the Park Avenue Armory (amazing!) – but it was a weird, experimental piece that had us looking forward to dinner together afterwards. On the Upper East Side, which might as well be a different planet. But it was lovely, because of this guy:

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This weekend we took the boys to the Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park. It’s always a magical ride.

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We’re so lucky with the gorgeous weather we’ve been having. We were all so happy to be on a family bike ride again! We stopped by the World Trade Center and visited the recently opened Oculus.

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On Saturday evening we were invited over to our friends’ house. They had arranged for a babysitter to hang out with the 5 kids (our friends’ kids included) in their apartment while the adults got to hang out on the amazing roof with the most breathtaking view, wine, and pizza. Oh! And friends!

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I mean…this view!

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On Sunday we had one of Jeff’s work friends and his partner over for dinner, and even though our kids were overly excited (because clearly they don’t get out much…), it was so lovely to meet these guys and make new friends.

As we’re headed into a new week of chores and normal life, I’m so thankful for friends (new & old), for Jeff, and for my boys and the fact that they are loving school so much.

Last Hurrah

Well, we’ve made it; the summer is almost over. Julian starts school on Tuesday, and I’m feeling all the feels.

I’ve truly enjoyed this summer with the kids. No camp, no major distractions, a couple of trips to keep things fresh (Avalon and West Virginia). But mostly we created a mix of fun and laziness that allowed us not to kill each other. Instead, I enjoyed every day with the boys. Sure, there were challenging moments, but as opposed to relieved I feel kind of sad to see the summer come to an end.

Also, my baby is starting Kindergarten, so that’s kind of impossible. Except not. He is ready. And so am I. (Arthur won’t start pre-school until October.)

This past week we’ve started preparing for school. We’ve stocked up on lunchbox fillers…

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…and we’ve talked about his first day with anticipation.

We had some fun with friends on an adventure day in Manhattan…

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We played soccer and rode bikes…

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(yes, I set the goal up upside down, whatever)

We did some art, and Arthur said goodbye to his wonderful blessing of a speech therapist. She will be so missed.

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On Friday we met our friends at our favorite spot, Brooklyn Crab. It was a lovely summer night.

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The kids had such a blast. We had shrimps and mussels and corn dogs and many, many laughs.

As the sun was setting, the kids were running around on the pier. It was magical.

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Then, when Julian was tired from all the running, he sat down with me on the ground next to the bikes for a rest. Arthur was already in his bike seat and requested a drink of water. Jeff handed him the water bottle, it slipped, and fell straight on Julian’s finger.

The next morning: confirmation of a broken bone. My poor guy!

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Julian has been so tough. He never complains about his finger, and it hasn’t slowed him down at all. I am thankful that it didn’t affect his right hand. In 6 to 8 weeks he should be as good as new.

Yesterday, after our visit to urgent care, we rode our bikes to Forest Hills, Queens. It was a fun ride through different neighborhoods, which is one of my favorite thing about bike riding in the city. We get to see places we might otherwise not get to see, and I think that’s great. There is always something surprising or interesting along the way.

The actual forest was great. We hiked with our hiking sticks/lightsabers and completely inappropriate footwear.

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There were many things to climb on and jump from…

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And then it was time to head home.

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On the way home, we bought our boys the obligatory ice cream, especially for this one with his sad broken finger.

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Two more days until school starts! (I hope I won’t cry. But I probably will.)

Sum Sum Summertime

This week the boys were lucky to get a lot of playtime with their friends.

Lorelei on Monday.

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Botanic Garden with Eloise on Tuesday.

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Drop-off playdate at Shirine and Lily’s house on Wednesday. No photos because did I mention that I was invited to DROP BOTH OF MY CHILDREN OFF at someone else’s house?!

Thursday more play time with Lorelei and her adorable baby brother.

It was such a fun day. The kids get along so well, and it’s nice to hang out with my (adult!) friend, too. The playground was awesome, we had a picnic, went out for coffee, and I got to squeeze a cute baby. Winning all around. Also, this. The last one kills me.

IMG_7918Additional highlights: a trip to Chinatown to buy mussels. We discovered a fun new playground. Also, took the boys to a fish shop, and it pretty much blew their minds. Live crabs! Lobsters! Giant fish! It was so fun. And great to be back on the bike now that the heat wave is finally over and it’s gorgeous out every single day.

At home the boys have been playing so well together. They are into Superman and Wonder Woman, legos, and space/jets. Oh, and Star Wars, of course. It’s so great to see how they bring out something in each other that I think might otherwise just not (yet) exist. For example, Arthur loves interactive, imaginative play, whereas Julian is more into vehicles and mimics what sort of sounds they produce. But thanks to Arthur, Julian is now actually playing, with dialogue and lots of pretending and imagination, and it’s wonderful.

As for Arthur, well, he basically functions at the levels of a 5 year old. Julian’s interests are his interests. He builds boats and space ships out of legos. He plays Spot It! and Connect Four and chases after all the bigger kids at the playground. He goes on drop-off play dates. When our UPS man asked yesterday which one was Arthur again, I said, “The little guy.” As we walked away, hand in hand, Arthur looked up at me and told me, with a frown, “You know, mama, I am not a little guy.” And he does his own worksheets, too. Clever cookie.

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Arthur has been so pleasant to be around in general. Gone (I mean, I hope?) are the days of constant meltdowns and hitting. We’ve dropped his nap, and even though he does get tired in the afternoon, he goes to bed without coming out of his room one million times, and he sleeps until 7 or 7:30am. It’s been the biggest achievement. I have my peaceful evenings and nights back! Well, most nights, anyway.

And Julian? I am getting seriously sad thinking about the fact that he will start Kindergarten at the end of the summer. I mean, it’s a good thing, I know. He is so ready. But oh man, will I miss him. He’s so lovely almost all of the time; he looks out for his brother, helps him, explains things to him, loves him to pieces. I seriously cannot picture a better big brother than Julian. Like the other day, we were on the bike, and Arthur complained he had a booger he couldn’t get out. Gross, right? Just wait. One second later Julian says, “No worries, mama. I got it out.”

10 Years

10 years ago today I stepped off an airplane with two suitcases and three pieces of carry-on in my hand for a six month long internship at a Manhattan PR agency.

10 years, two jobs, many friends, parties, and adventures later, I find myself in Brooklyn, married, with two kids.

I just took a trip down memory lane. I kept journals and an old blog at the time where I wrote about all of my many adventures. My life couldn’t have been any more different. Back then I would respond to text messages at 10pm and then leave my house for a night of partying. I never slept. Oh wait. That’s still the same. But I also didn’t eat well, I drank way too much, and I partied all the time. There was maybe one day in a week when I didn’t go out.

Now I’m happy when I can stay awake until 10pm. I eat well, and I have a family to care for. I exercise. I think I made fun of people like me ten years ago.

Here is something I wrote during my first week in NYC in June 2006:

“Considering that there are a few schools in my neighborhood, I couldn’t help but wonder what it must be like being a child growing up in this city. Everything that I now notice because it is particularly big, loud or just different, these children see every day. They have limited places to play at, some apartment buildings have small playgrounds and there are basketball courts, but there is no patch of green, and of course the noise of the City is omnipresent. Of course they don’t know any different, which is a curious fact in and of itself for me, a girl from the country. The German country, that is.”

I never thought I would get married and end up raising children in this city. I grew up in a small German town and went to university in a picturesque Bavarian city. Everything I’d ever known was very unlike everything I live today.

For everything I thought city kids were missing (space, quiet, nature), I think my kids are gaining a ton. Of course not everything is awesome all the time, but overall I think that raising kids in the city is great. Hard, but great. Sure, space is limited. Life is loud. Streets are dirty. You encounter random crazy people on the subway. But we have so much. They have so much…

A wonderful German community, a neighborhood with people who look out for each other, beaches and the ocean a quick train or bike ride away, parks, pools, and playgrounds wherever you look, food from every country on earth, people (and friends) from all around the globe, exposure to different languages and cultures, access to museums, music, zoos – you name it.

Jeff and I always say that the day we don’t make use of all the amazing things this city has to offer will be the day we move. Why put up with how expensive, loud, and cramped life is here if you don’t benefit from everything it has to offer?

10 years later. Seven years with Jeff, five of them married, a mother of two boys. I’ve had two jobs that I loved before I had my babies, but deciding to leave them and stay home with the kids has been the best decision I’ve ever made. My job now is much harder than any of the paying jobs I’ve ever had, but it’s also so much more rewarding.

Can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring.

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