Inaugural Bike Ride

Did everyone enjoy the two days of spring we got last week? We did!

Jeff got the bikes out of storage and had them tuned up for spring. On Friday he gave them a good cleaning and put on Arthur’s new big boy seat.

On Saturday we packed our bags and we were off. Coney Island bound!

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It felt amazing to be back on the bikes! Look at these happy faces! Sunshine, music, bikes, and the prospect of a day outside, together.

We were cruising down the boardwalk in no time.

We had lunch and then played on the beach for a bit.

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Jeff took the boys on a walk down to the pier, and I took a glorious half hour nap on the beach.

The boys got to go on the rides…

We had ice cream…

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Arthur and I watched Julian and Jeff go on some of the rides we opted out of. Like this one:

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I mean, that’s just too high! Arthur seemed more cautious than usual; maybe he was tired, maybe it is residue from his traumatic experience earlier this week. Either way, I enjoyed having him by my side.

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On the ride home the temperatures dropped significantly. Spring was over! I wrapped Arthur in a scarf, secured it with a sandwich bag clip (because I’m crafty like that), and he promptly fell asleep. Julian is such a good big brother; he held Arthur’s head the entire way.

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We stopped for tacos in Lefferts Gardens, and that was it! A full day of fun – and now we’re back to wearing winter coats.

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See ya, winter!

Let’s hope this week’s snow storm, ringing in the official beginning of spring, was the last one until next winter. One can hope, right?

I have a pretty severe yearning for sunshine and bike rides. I think I’ve been patient with winter long enough, I’ve been tolerant and somewhat understanding, I’ve put up with very slow children who have to touch each individual bit of dirty city snow, I’ve been hit in the behind by more snowballs than I can count, I’ve been cold, I’ve had my glasses fog up, I’ve felt claustrophobic in my big coat on an overcrowded subway – but now I think we can all agree that it’s enough. Enough winter! Spring, you’re welcome to make your appearance any day now. We are ready for you. We can’t wait to get back on the bikes and ride all over our glorious city.

Meanwhile, that one (last) snow day was alright. I worked from home and somehow managed to keep the children alive for 13 hours straight. We squeezed in some snowy fun.

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Yesterday the kids played on the playground in the melting, wet, old snow – and they loved every minute of it.

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Other than yet another winter storm, life has been pretty normal. Jeff and I have been on a couple of dates; one to see our dear friend Joe Giglio play jazz in a lovely restaurant on MacDougal Street – and I ate one of the most delicious pizzas, ever. I ate the entire thing. It was so good.

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We also got our country on and saw Lee Ann Womack perform at City Winery, which was great and a bit odd, since we had to share a table meant for two with another (somewhat standoff-ish) couple.

On St. Patrick’s Day we were invited to a boozy, delicious brunch at our friends’ house, complete with rainbow bagels and eight nutty children to entertain each other.

The boys are constantly walking the line between loving each other and wanting to spend every waking and sleeping minute together – and trying to kill each other by all means necessary. They share Arthur’s bottom bunk on non-school nights; they read and chat until they eventually fall asleep. Of course a later bedtime does not mean that they will also sleep in late.

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But they also fight a lot more. Julian spends so much time on random projects – book writing, working on cursive, drawing, reading. All of it stuff that Arthur can’t really be a part of, and the little brother is feeling it, I think. He misses his playmate. Julian, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly more impatient with Arthur’s occasionally irrational behavior and is just sort of over it. But overall, they are still best friends and best brothers. Also, this:

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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.

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!

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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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!)

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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!

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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.