Letters To My Sons | October

My little baller,

You’ve got a new handle on the game and as Daddy pointed out long ago, your fierce will and determination, let alone your boundless energy, will serve you well on the court. At the age now where you don’t get upset if you miss the shot, you just fetch the ball and shoot again. And again. And again. And with this beautiful fall weather we’ve been having in New York and Daddy in between jobs, there’s been plenty of time to practice. All while rocking your new Kevin Durant jersey.

“I want to get a shirt Mommy. Like the one Daddy wears. That’s just for basketball.”

At the start of the school year, there were a couple days you were dismissed before Cash, so at your request we went straight to the basketball court. You practiced your jump shot for over two hours and even when Daddy wanted to take a break, you kept going to a total of 51 shots made. Who knows how many you actually took in order to make 51 baskets, but I know it was A LOT. The only reason you stopped was because it was time to pick Cash up from school. “I told you!” Daddy said in my direction, “He’s relentless! That’s gonna be what makes him good at the game!”

I love watching Daddy teach you and how you listen. You are so fortunate to have him as your coach. And trust me, it goes both ways because Daddy has said to me before how he hoped at least one kid would love basketball. Someone who felt passion for the game the way he did all those years growing up. The way he still does. Basketball is what changed the whole trajectory of Daddy’s life and now he’s able to share that with you.


Cash noticed you getting better at handling the ball, so not surprisingly he’s rekindled his interest. The three of you go to the court to do practice drills, suicides and two-against-one games. While you work on your dribbling, Cash is learning to use the backboard as an assist. Just your typical brotherly competition which in the end can only make you guys better, like Daddy and Uncle Corey who played together growing up. They were the best teammates — a truly indomitable force on the court!

Whenever you ask Daddy to take you to play basketball, I look over at him with a smile that says, Be careful what you wish for. As I said, he always wanted a child who loves the game and now he’s got one.

For that reason he’ll never turn you down. He takes you to the court no matter how tired he might be because it brings back memories of his own childhood when he would play from sun up to sun down, shooting in the rain so he could have an all-weather jump shot, and dreaming about one day having a son to teach.

With your continued placement in the 95th percentile for height amongst kids your age Grey, it appears you have another advantage. And one day, not too long from now, you will touch that rim — and fly through the air like Jordan!

I love you Grey Grey. Keep shooting high!

Always & forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | September

Dear Cash,

As usual your birthday month kicks off another year of “Letters To My Sons” — incredibly its 6th edition — and is another chance for a written celebration about YOU! Beginning third grade at MCS with some of your best friends (Thomas again!) and the teacher of your choice, you’re off to a pretty great start!

The other day you stopped me in my tracks with the words, “Mommy, (pause)… I love being your son.” I looked over at you, mouth dropped open; the kindness in that simple sentence was astonishing. And I love being your Mom Cash, in ways I’ve always known and others I’m still discovering are meant to expand my heart.

A few weeks ago you shared that from now on you’d only be calling me “Mommy” in private or just around family, and it was obvious you were concerned with how I’d take the news: “It’s not that I don’t want to call you ‘Mommy’ … I mean I don’t want to hurt your feelings … And I may even slip up from time to time because I really still want to call you that, but just probably not in front of my friends or at school … Is that okay?”

I assured you that it was absolutely okay. More than any emotion felt by the name change request as a mother — as your mother — I was floored by the kind way in which you came to talk with me about it.

You show the same kindness toward complete strangers. Like the day you came home from school and said, “Mommy, I hope it’s okay with you, but I gave one of my dollars to a homeless man today.” According to your teacher, your class was coming back from Central Park when you walked a little ahead so you’d have time to put money in the man’s cup. “His sign said ‘I lost my job and I have two kids’. And I just felt really bad for him.”

Not surprisingly you hate bullying, shy away from gossip and are very attuned to when someone’s feelings are hurt and if you are the cause of it, you’ll check yourself pretty quickly. Once you laughed alongside your friends when another classmate whiffed the ball during soccer, but when you noticed his hurt feelings, your teacher said you walked over on your own accord and apologized.

At times your kind heart causes me to check my own self. There’s a boy at school with behavioral issues and instead of turning against him or putting him down, even when the target of his outbursts, you show genuine compassion. “I know how to handle him Mommy. And maybe things are going on that make him feel bad, so that’s why he tries to hurt other people?” I’ve taught you over the years about why bullies bully, but when I’m going off the rails after he’s done something to you or one of your peers, you’ll reflect back those teachings, calm me down and restore my compassion. It’s rather amazing.

But it’s not entirely without exception and any mother knows that to be true. While you’ve always been self-reflective beyond your years and able to express your feelings, you’ve got a petulant streak that can rise up like a phoenix from the ashes, often times followed up with a shrug. “That’s me. That’s just who I am.” When I hear this from teachers or camp counselors, I can’t lie, I wonder if I should be concerned.

Then I talk with Aunt Gail who reminds me that you are just like Alex when he was your age. You want what you want when you want it, and can be impatient. Plus you think you know everything. “But he’ll learn,” says Gail, “Look at Alex now. Attentive, good-natured, polite, and dare I say — patient!”

And she’s right. You’ll be ALL THAT — as well as a kind, loving civil rights warrior!

There’s a girl that you’ve got a crush on this year, and you finally told me who it is only after I promised not to tell a soul. Not Daddy, not even Grey. And so it remains our secret. But one thing that’s not a secret — one thing I know for sure — is she’s the luckiest girl in the world!

And I’m the luckiest Mom.

Happy birthday Cash! You make the world a brighter place!

I love you. Always and forever. Mom

Letters To My Sons | Summer Tailpiece

As summer comes to an end this week, it’s fun to look through the photos of your sports training. With Daddy in between jobs this summer, he was able to take you to play basketball and soccer in the early mornings — before the courts were occupied with tournaments and before it got too hot. The great legend himself, “Half Court”, aka “Daddy”, helped you work on your jump shot, shake and bake, and handle — and on the turf, your fancy footwork!

High five for a great summer and the completion of another year of Letters!

Always and forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | August

Dear boys,

We made our first trip to see Grandma and OT since they moved back down to South Carolina and one thing Daddy wanted to make sure we did was visit Uncle Corey’s gravesite. During prayer time over the years, Daddy always promised Corey that one day he’d bring his sons to visit his resting place, when you were grown enough and had the capacity to understand the experience.

Daddy wanted you to pay respect to your uncle whose life was cut far too short. Uncle Corey was just twenty years old when he was killed; Daddy only twenty-one when he lost his younger brother. Being just a year apart, you can imagine how they did everything together and what a tremendous loss this was for Daddy. “We always knew where the other one was on the basketball court — we’d pass the ball to each other without even looking!,” he often tells you. And while Grey is still a little too young to know all the details surrounding his death, Cash, you are well aware, and this visit to Uncle Corey’s gravesite had a great impact on you.

It’s hard to imagine losing a brother so close to you, both in age and relationship; a brother with whom you spent your entire childhood. More than anything Daddy wants you to hold sacred the bond you share — for you never know when it might be taken away. We pray for those lifelong memories that lay ahead of you, and that, God willing, you grow old together and can look back on them with fondness. Through sharing this tragic and unexpected loss, Daddy’s hope is to teach you not to take one another for granted. To show how you are blessed to have each other as brothers, here on earth and forever in eternity, where we will one day see Uncle Corey again.

I love you both so much.

Always and forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | July

“The Peach and The Pit of our 4th of July Trip”


Well boys, let’s start first with The Pit. In keeping with our usual tradition we arrived at Greenwich Beach during low tide, with nobody around except the sandboni driver and a few predawn swimmers clad in their wetsuits. Even the parking attendant said, “I see we’re getting an early start today!”

You always love having the beach to yourselves: dancing across the sand ribbons, splashing in the shallows, foraging for hermit crabs. But you weren’t dancing for too long Cash before you came walking back toward the shore. First I thought you needed to use the bathroom, until you put your hand on my shoulder for balance, lifting your foot to show blood pouring from several slash marks. While you usually just let me know of any injuries since I am less of an alarmist, I quickly called Daddy to come help. As he carried you to our cabana, draped across his arms, I was reminded of Michelangelo’s Vatican Pieta; a visual testament to a parent’s love and strength.

The sandboni driver called out that he’d unlock the first aid office and to follow him. Apparently he remembered us from last summer. I mean who could forget the early bird family with the blue and white striped cabana he has to circumvent as he combs the empty beach?!

You emerged, gauze tightly wrapped around your foot, with a thumbs up and semi-smile to let me know things were were on the rise. Sadly though you wouldn’t be going back in the Long Island Sound. At least not this trip.

“Such a shame too since you guys literally just got here!" said the sandboni Samaritan. “I know though, I’ve got two boys myself….and it’s always something!”

I only captured a few photos of you in the water, happy and carefree, before the incident. And we never did find out what cut the bottom of your foot. But you were such a trooper, and instead of leaving the beach, you hunkered down in the cabana with your foot propped on a beach bucket, so as not to take away from Grey’s enjoyment. We all know that of the four of us, Grey is the die-hard beach lover! So you draped your towel over your head to cut the glare on your Nintendo screen and played games while Grey carried on in the sand.

Though you wouldn’t go back in this water, the good news was that you could go swimming later in the other water, aka our hotel pool.

Which brings me to The Peach of our trip!


Grey, you reached a new level in your swimming! You’ve been taking lessons for a minute now, but something clicked for you this weekend and you COULD NOT BE STOPPED! “Mommy, stay there! I’m going to swim to you!” I must have heard this said a thousand times. And if you weren’t swimming to me, you were swimming to Daddy or Cash, showing how for the first time you could reach the other side, completely submerged, without choking on water or inhaling it by accident. Rising to the surface with the biggest of grins, you’d make sure at least one of us was watching.

We stayed in the pool all afternoon, and for the first time, as a family, went back in after dinner until its closing. For some reason we have the ability to clear out a pool no matter where we go, and this time was no different. We allowed you to use your squirt guns to attack each other, since we were the only ones in the water, laughing hysterically as you hit your target. “They remind me of growing up with my older brother,” a guy sitting nearby said, “We’re two years apart and we used to play fight EXACTLY like that!”

Adding to the Peach of our trip was the resurgence of your joy Cash as shown by not one but TWO thumbs up! “Mommy, even though the beach didn’t go as planned, I still had fun swimming in the pool!”

Just this morning, you showed me the bottom of your foot where only a faint red line remains. It has healed nicely over the past couple of weeks, leaving behind a memory of a day at the beach that we can talk for years to come.

Like I told Pow Pow recently, our family has crossed into a new realm of low-stress family travel. It’s filled with inside jokes and pinch pokes, hijinks and sarcasm, doubled over belly laughs, injuries and apologies … and most of all, full volume singing of Kidz Bop in the car regardless of any unexpected Pits.

So here’s to more summer days, with both their peaches and their pits; and your ability to love, forgive, heal and laugh — somehow finding a way to emerge with two thumbs up!

I love you both so much.

Always and forever,

Mom

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Letters To My Sons | June

Dear Cash,

The time had finally come for the 7-8’s trip to the MCS farm. This first trip to the Catskills with your peers is a big day at MCS and one for which you are well prepared. As you walked out the front door of the school alongside your best friend, you were smiling and confident.

For over a year you’d been anticipating being away from home for two nights and three days. “But Mommy, I don’t want to be away from you … What if I don’t like the food? … I only like your cooking … Maybe I just won’t eat for three days … and the barn chores … I don’t like getting dirty … I hope I get sick the day we’re supposed to leave … or maybe I can refuse to get on the bus and just sit with Lorraine in the school lobby.”

It was about three weeks ago when John, who has run the farm for over 30 years and is one of the 12 on-site staff members, came to speak with your class about what you could expect and answer any of your questions. Afterwards you came home with a totally new perspective. “Mommy, I’m actually really looking forward to the farm now. I’m not worried anymore. Plus, John told us about all the good food we’ll be eating — french toast, pancakes, my favorite MCS bacon and fresh maple syrup that they actually make there!”

John also spoke to the parents that morning, presenting a slideshow of students at the farm throughout the years, during all four seasons. “Graduating students of MCS often say, that yes, they learn about farming, agriculture, textiles and where their food and water sources come from, but what matters most in the end is how the farm changes them with each trip — 17 in total before graduation! — and the tight-knit friendships they make.” I was so moved by the slideshow — jealous even! — as I sat thinking about the precipice on which you are standing; the incredible seven-year journey that begins with this first trip!

How wonderful that you and Thomas were bus mates! As your best friend, he was your first request and watching the two of you prepare to board the bus together was moving for both his mom and me. In your backpack was your travel chess set, a sketchbook and drawing supplies, word search books, your rubix cube and Mad Libs to entertain the two of you during the 3 1/2 hour ride. When you learned I had sent along two disposable cameras, you asked if you could share one of them with Thomas. But of course sweet boy.

Good-bye wasn’t so difficult since we both knew you’d have the best time. You were strong, confident and ready. We shared a big hug (thanks to Thomas’s mom for the capture!) and then it was Grey’s turn. He was the one who had a difficult time with your departure. It wasn’t easy for him to watch the bus pull off knowing he wouldn’t see his big brother for a few days. Before returning to Paulo’s classroom, we stole a few minutes in the school bathroom to recover and wipe away the tears.

Final wave good-bye!


[ Slideshow of farm photos ]

Although John jokingly told parents, “What happens at the farm, stays at the farm!”, on the second day we all received an email from the teachers with some wonderful photos.

Apparently you were greeted with both rain and beautiful sunshine! There was plenty of outdoor exploration, which ran the gamut of frog catching, investigating the farmyard, petting hens, splashing around in the stream and jumping in piles of hay! There were barn chores — milking cows and cleaning stalls — and house chores that included cooking a complete farm-raised meal with Gaby and a full sampling of farm classes comprised of weaving with Donna, a nature hike with Annie and Lacey, and a lesson in gardening with Cathy. Also on the schedule was LOTS of free play! To me, the campfire looked especially fun! Bring on the s’mores!

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When you returned that Friday you looked a bit like a zombie. Though tired from the long bus ride and the adventure itself, you were excited to be back and tell us about everything you did. You never felt homesick, the food was as AMAZING as you expected (fresh milk and eggs!) and you learned so much about the workings of the farm.

“And how was it getting dirty?” I asked.

“Oh yeah Mom, so I just pretended all the poop was just dirt. Cause there’s poop EVERYWHERE!! And when I did that I was fine.

Already the farm is changing you Cash! Now this is what you call living your best life as city and country boy! You are 100% ready for next year’s even longer trips to the farm!

I love you so very much!

Always and forever, Mom

This is 6

“What are you doing up so early?” asked our next door neighbor as we were walking out of the building. “I’m going with my Mommy to take my birthday photos!”

You asked to bring Charmeleon, your favorite Pokémon stuffy, and wear your birthday crown as we walked around and took pictures in the neighborhood.

And you were so happy when people walked past saying, “Happy Birthday!” “Mommy, they know it’s my birthday because of my crown! Not everyone says ‘Happy Birthday’. Some people, they just smile at me.”

Even when we were finished with the photos you wanted to wear your crown for the rest of the day, “so that everyone knows it’s my birthday!”

Six years ago today the world was blessed with your sweet soul Grey Grey and I can’t possibly love you more than I do.

Always & forever my crown prince,

Mom

Letters To My Sons | May

Dearest Grey -

At MCS one of the greatest experiences is the home visit. It’s something I’d heard about even before you or Cash were students at the school. Stemming from the belief that we must talk about where we come from, where we live and who we are, home visits are a long-standing tradition at MCS and considered one of the most radical aspects of the curriculum according to a New York Times article written back in 2014. They happen during the spring of the first year, in the 4-5’s, thereby forging a powerful sense of community. And you Grey, had been preparing for yours for a very long time!

It was almost two months ago when Paulo asked if I’d be willing to be the first home visit. As a result you’d have both teachers come to your home (Paulo would be training Lesly for future home visits) along with four of your classmates. Without hesitation I agreed and a date was put on the calendar!


The night before your home visit:

“Mommy, is it a daydream or is my home visit really tomorrow? Pretending to be a tour guide, you continued, “I think I want to look around and see what it feels like for my friends.”

Not surprisingly it took you forever to fall asleep that evening. When you awoke at 5:00 a.m., giddy about your classmates coming over in just a few hours, I could hardly be upset. Your excitement was justified and simply adorable.

You led your friends — Yumna, Max, Asani and Genevieve — and teachers from school, past the Macaron Parlour, to the 86th street stop where you told them you could ride either the C or the B uptown train to 145th street. To my surprise you did this all on your own — I mean, talk about pride, confidence and the elicitation of independence! You showed them where Mommy gets her laundry done, where we buy our groceries, and the fish spot where you and Daddy get the best fried whiting in Harlem! When you arrived to the building (showing your friends which apartment buzzer to press), I could hear the sweet little voices getting closer and closer. It was such a joy to greet this special group at the front door and see the sheer happiness in your eyes Grey!

Paulo did an excellent job preparing everyone for the visit. First thing: shoes off and hands washed. After that it was officially time for your job as tour guide. You started in the kitchen, moving from room to room, explaining to your friends what the room was used for and something special about it.

The kitchen: Where Mommy cooks us food and sometimes I help her make frosting.

The living room: Where my brother and I play Mario games.

My bedroom: Where my brother and I sleep in bunk beds. Cash is on the top and I’m on the bottom.

The office: Where Mommy’s does her computer. And sometimes we do iPads in here.

Mommy/Daddy’s bedroom: All four of us get in the bed sometimes on Saturday mornings!

The hall closet: Where my brother and I hide during hide and seek. Oh yeah, and our snacks are in here.

Paulo masterfully focused your attention and corralled your excitement. He wanted to make sure you got to share all the things you’d told him were of great importance during a prep “meeting” with him earlier in the month. What you wanted most to share with your friends:

  • Favorite stuffies (Bowser and Yoshi of course!)

  • Wooden train tracks

  • Magnatiles (“that I build with my brother”)

  • Some of your Plus-Plus creations

  • Photos of the family on the living room wall

  • Zoomer the robot dog that Santa gave you

  • A favorite book

  • Jumps on the trampoline

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When the tour and shares were finished, Paulo whipped out his bag of markers and questionnaires to fill out. What things did you see? Can you draw a picture of something you enjoyed from this visit? How did you get to Grey’s home? Subway? Bus? Car? All of this would be shared with the rest of the class later at school.

Then came the very best part: the meaningful snack. You were very specific in wanting to share your favorite strawberry macarons with your friends, supplemented by your favorite animal crackers: chocolate and iced.

Funny enough, none of them had ever had macarons before, but after trying them, they got a big thumbs up! Max even threw all ten fingers in the air in approval.

This was such a wonderful visit to your home Grey! It couldn’t have gone any better and will be an experience you won’t soon forget. You did an excellent job hosting your friends and teachers and sharing with them the important parts of your life here in New York City. I just love that MCS has this tradition. Besides being a host, you get to travel to different neighborhoods, visiting the homes of your fellow classmates, learning about their cultures and traditions, discovering surprising commonalities, and most importantly the various favorite snacks! It’s such an awesome experience that lays the groundwork for a tight-knit group all the way through!

Bravissimo Grey Grey!

I love you!

Always & forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | April

COSPLAY

I must give credit to the great costume designer: Cash Davis. Always dressing Grey before donning yourself — whether it’s a rock and roll get-up complete with neckties and porkpie hats, rap dj’s with gold chains and sunglasses, Mickey Mouse boxing superheroes or zombie annihilators with laser guns and pocket rocks — the outfits you come up with are so creative!

And there have been countless times where you guys put on entire shows (well-rehearsed and often scripted) for Daddy and me; sometimes musical, sometimes theatrical, they are always hysterical and entertaining for the whole house!


Dear boys,

Cosplay, I learned, is defined as “play in which costumes and fashion accessories are worn to represent specific characters”. Without question you have solidified your position as leading cosplayers over the years.

It’s probably gender bias on my part to say this, but I always thought this sort of dressing up would be more enticing for girls; something attention-challenged boys such as yourselves would lose interest in rather quickly. That is until we moved onto our second treasure chest of costume attire and more hours than I can count of you two running through the apartment in your latest combinations. You’ve been doing this imaginary play together since Grey was just a wee tot, so clearly, it’s held your attention for years.


Like true cosplayers, you record yourselves in action. I mean, with you guys it’s a full circle creative process: imagination, collaboration, creation and documentation. But the laughter that ensues when you run down the hallway to show me the latest outfit, for me, that is priceless and never gets old.

I love you my zombie annihilators. Each and every ounce of your zaniness, costume mayhem and wickedly creative collaborations!

Always and forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | March

Second Edition

This month was a big one for you Cash with your promotion to yellow belt! I remember suggesting Taekwondo toward the end of last year and being met with your customary eye roll. As your teacher Max said, that’s just how you move through the world: initial resistance followed by full on immersion.

As I watched you grinning from ear to ear during the trial class, I knew I had to override any reluctance you might put up; it was obvious you were into it AND you were really good!

“Cash, do you play sports?, “ Master Lim asked, “And how old are you again?” — both questions stemming from a general surprise at your ability on day one. Fast, coordinated, flexible.

So here we are, just eight weeks into your training and according to your Masters, ready to move up to yellow belt. You couldn’t have been more excited for your upcoming test — practicing kicks, four directional blocks and punch combinations.

Kiai!

You missed the first test date because we were out of town, so you ended up taking the test solo the following week. I couldn’t believe how coolly you got up in front of the group. Not an ounce of fear or embarrassment; you just stood before Master Chavez awaiting his instruction.

Taekwondo actually means “the way of the fist foot”. The reason being the leg is more powerful and has a longer reach than the arm. Because it involves more kicking than other martial art forms, I knew it would be a good fit for you. Another MCS parent, Gia’s dad, said from the beginning that your focus has an intensity not seen in other kids in the class. You’re not constantly turning back to get my approval and you don’t look around to see what other kids are doing; you zero in on your reflection with the sole purpose of mastering technique.

I can already see the many benefits — self confidence, discipline, respect, and concentration — which, no doubt, you’ll carry into all aspects of your life. Your teachers may soon ditch the fidgeting tools they have you use in school since I can already tell one of your greatest strides is inward focus. Outwardly, during your test, you got to showcase your agility and not least of all, your bravery in testing alone in front of a group. You didn’t hesitate even when Master Chavez told you to do knuckle push-ups on the wooden tiles which, I know, you didn’t see coming.

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When you finished the test it was clear you had passed. “You’re just really good Cash … what else can I say,” Master Chavez said, as he ceremoniously tied the yellow belt around your waist, telling the group that the most important belt promotions are the yellow and black belt; the first and last. After bowing toward him in appreciation and respect, and again toward your us, your family, you ran over — but not before being tackled in an embrace by two friends who tested the week prior.

I love that a couple friends from MCS are going along this journey with you and clearly felt genuine happiness for you for CRUSHING the test! Talk about dedication, as soon as you finished, you wanted to take another class with your fellow jejas before our family trip to Big Daddy’s for milkshakes!

Congratulations my Taekwondo jeja on your yellow belt promotion! I’m so excited to see what lies ahead on your path toward green belt — your path toward warrior!

I love you. Always and forever,

Mom

Letters To My Sons | March

First Edition

So there was a lot of excitement in our family this month. To kick things off Grey Bear, you lost your first tooth! It had been wiggling for several weeks, but nowadays every time you took a bite of something, the pain was agonizing. “Mommy!!," you cried out when it happened again, blood pooling around your gums. Through stifled sobs in the couch pillow, you decided it was better to endure the brief pain of having it pulled out than the unbearable pain each time you ate.

The way you looked at Daddy as he mulled over different “tools” to use: complete and utter trust. You never spoke a word. Not a flinch, not a single second guess; you just stood awaiting direction. I’ve never seen courage like that from you Grey and won’t soon forget it.

Daddy’s first attempt — the way he felt would cause you the least amount of pain — involved dental floss. I was a little concerned about forcing your tooth out since the tooth next to it was also loose, so when the dentist instead suggested eating a bagel or an apple to help it come out on its own (and the dental floss attempts weren’t working), you agreed to give the apple technique a try.

But it wasn’t a few bird bites before you cried out again: DADDY!! TAKE IT OUT! Just pull it — I don’t care!

And with that, you and Daddy were back in the bathroom. This time he used his fingers and with a little upward yank, it was all over — that quick. You said you felt nothing . . . nothing but pure JOY that is!

I mean, just look at that smile! You were so happy the pain was over and the tooth fairy would be visiting that night.

And the next morning you couldn’t wait to tell your teachers and all your friends about your lost tooth and, of course, the five dollar bill you found underneath your pillow.

I love you Grey Bear for your remarkable bravery and, not to mention, your new and improved smile!

Always and forever,

Mom

Brotherhood

It can be tough living in the shadow of an older brother, especially when everything comes pretty easy to him. While some days will be harder than others and tears may fall, the good news is he will be able to direct you and help shape you. Besides, you’ll probably end up being taller than him so it’ll all work out in the end.

Letters To My Sons | February

Dear Cash,

While a student in Anna’s 5/6’s class, in the depths of your shark obsession, you created your first book “Super Sharks” about three shark friends — Xenacanthus, Stethacanthus and Orthocanthus — who go on an underwater adventure in search of super powers. Since then you’ve written and illustrated DOZENS of stories involving wild animals, sea creatures, Santa and his helpers (during the holidays), Emma and Grey as crime fighters working against evil robots (which evolved into a 12 book series), magically powered jetpacks, “proton lasers” and “electrisadee swords”. Your creativity is first-rate with illustrations so splendid in their perspective; perfectly crafted angry eyebrows and upward gazes of shock and awe. Where did you learn to draw like that I often wonder? But then I think of Picasso who said it took a lifetime to paint like a child. It’s magical how you draw what you see — how your creative mind works in overdrive.


Paper regularly disappears from my office printer, staples collect on the floor underneath your desk and markers litter your bedcovers after a night of writing by the light of your flameless candle — signs of your creative aftermath. Then every morning you can’t wait for me to read the latest chapters: “Please Mommy, if we get a seat on the subway, can you read to me and Grey?”

What was your favorite part Mommy?

What was your second favorite part?

Did you see the evil robot’s hypnotized eyes?

And the part where Grey and Emma save Theo?

This writer’s life of yours is beyond awesome. But what makes me smile most is when you collaborate with Grey: “Look Mommy! Grey tells me what he wants to happen and I do the writing. Then we work together on the drawings.”

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Just yesterday you guys created “Grey’s Book of Drawings”. Cash as writer, Grey as illustrator. The items vary from musical toys to Nintendo controllers, favorite stuffed animals to furniture, and remind me of contemporary artists who transform an object’s mundanity into something complex and beautiful. The images are colorful and whimsical — perfectly enticing to my art trained eye — but for you guys it was simply fun to draw Grey’s favorite “stuff”. And the infectious laughter was proof of this.

Just a sampling of the many books you’ve made

Your teachers shared with me that you love to do your creative writing in school too. It’s your first choice for free play and during snack or lunch time the teachers will often read aloud your latest chapter or installment. “The class is absolutely riveted,” teacher Max said, “and Cash LOVES it!”


When you are enthralled Cash, especially with something that involves imagination and creativity, it’s awe-inspiring; there are times when you work on your books for hours on end.

But as I said before, when you and Grey collaborate on a book, I feel tremendous joy. I love the sound of you two laughing at the characters’ facial expressions and wacky villains you’ve conjured up. Grey’s laughter especially reminds me of an old video in our family archives — Grey as a baby and you just three years old Cash. You were blowing a musical toy from your mouth onto the floor over and over again and Grey COULD NOT STOP laughing. Every time it was the same hysteria. And to this day Cash, nobody can make him laugh harder than you.

May you continue to spin that creative mind of yours, churning out one idea after the next; finding ways to entertain us at home and your friends at school. And most importantly your little brother.

I love that wild imagination of yours Cash. And I love you.

Always and forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | January

Dear Grey Grey,

Not long after school started I asked about the new friends you’d made — if you liked anyone in particular — and it became clear that you were especially charmed by a girl with the most beautiful name. Emma Lucia. I’ve always pegged you as a romeo who’d grow up to love deeply and soulfully — you already do in so many ways — but I didn’t know how much your affections would blossom over the past few months for a girl who in your eyes is special beyond words.


I took a snapshot of Emma’s classroom photo and printed you a copy at home, not thinking much of it other than you’d probably like to have it. I had no idea you would carry it around with you everywhere — propping it up at the table so you could look at her during meal time; wedging it in the sofa while you played with Cash; placing it on your pillow at night after you’d looked at it long enough to get sleepy.

Now each day is a day you get to see Emma and your silver linings always involve her: “Maybe I’ll be line leaders with Emma today Mommy — or partners!” On those days you’ll say your dream came true! But if you aren’t line leaders or partnered together, it doesn’t matter — you still might sit next to her on the rug; if you’re tired one morning or the weather is dreary, it’s okay — ‘cause you still get to see her. She is, quite literally, your bright side.

In the mornings: “Guess what I’m thinking about right now Mommy? … Emma!” And in the evenings: “You know what I thought about ALL DAY Mommy? … Emma!” To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this love explosion; I didn’t know a five year-old could experience a crush this big. What I did know was that it was important not to stifle your feelings but to validate them; to document them as best I could, knowing one day you might enjoy looking back on this time in your life.

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With Cash’s help you created drawings that soon evolved into a series of fantastical stories of good vs. evil with you and Emma as the main characters. You decided to give her a Christmas present: A brown bag decorated with her name and a red heart to hold some of your drawings, a Princess Peach figure and a beaded bracelet.

“Mommy, do you think Emma will like me when she gets her present?”

“Sweetheart,” I said, “she already does.”

The night before assembly you were up late coughing and started crying. Not because of your cough, but because you were afraid of getting sick and not being able to give Emma her present the next day. Fortunately that wasn’t the case, however she ended up leaving her gift in her cubby at the end of the day and sheer panic was in your eyes when you told me. Paulo, being one of the best teachers in the world, felt your broken heart and immediately called Emma’s dad to see if they could come back. When they did, Emma’s dad said, “Dale un abrazo a Grey” (translation: Give Grey a hug), and you stood shell-shocked, like a statue — totally overcome as she thanked you with an embrace. It was hysterical; it was also adorable.

A playdate with Emma was what you asked for for Christmas. It happened over winter break and the anticipation was almost too much for you to bear. You did push-ups and antsy-pants dances prior to her arrival and then hid behind your bedroom curtain when she entered our apartment. We frosted cookies and afterwards her mom read some of the “Emma and Grey” stories aloud as you guys sat on your bottom bunk. Later you’d tell me that was your favorite part of the playdate; as soon as she left: “Ohh … I wish Emma was still here.”

Since then, you’ve continued to express, in various ways, how much she means to you; writing songs for her with your guitar (asking if you could go in our room for privacy); waiting in the living room at school while she put on her coat so we could (casually) walk out at the same time. One day while driving home from school you spotted Emma and her mother walking: “Daddy!! Hurry! Roll down the window!” The four of us called out to her; and as she was jumping up and down, waving back and shouting, “Hiiiii Greyyyy!!!”, I turned around to see you in the backseat, grinning from ear to ear. It was the best part of your day you said.


To understand the human heart is a complicated matter to say the least. But seeing how you express your feelings, so genuinely innocent — with a heart untainted, untarnished, and unselfish — makes me only want to protect it.

“So what makes Emma so special to you Grey?” I asked.

“Because she’s beautiful and I love her so much…(pause)…I just can’t speak it.

There are no words to describe how and why you feel the way you do; you just know that you love her which is more than enough. And so, sweet boy, I pray you always find beauty in the world; that you continue to love others without embarrassment or shame, forever seeking the many ways you can express it should you find you’re unable to speak it.

I love you Grey Grey.

Always and forever.

Mommy




Letters To My Sons | December

Dear boys,

It was early November when Cash asked, “Mommy, is Santa real because Thomas doesn’t believe in him.” I responded like many times before that Santa exists only if you believe; once you stop believing he stops coming to see you on Christmas morning.

So do you believe Cash?

I do! I do!

Then…Santa is real!

Another Christmas season means another visit to the most legit Santa Claus in the New York Metro area — perhaps the world! — and Grey, you were nominated to sit first on Santa’s lap, asking him for “Rollie The Kissing Puppy”. Pretty much all the toys on your list are dog or puppy related since that’s the next best thing to a real one. Daddy and I agreed that when you are ten years old we will consider getting a dog — a soft “maybe” rather than a hard “no” which you seemed to accept. In the meantime, dog robots and kissing puppies will do.

Hey Grey, when Santa asks if you’ve been a good boy this year what are you gonna say?

Ummmm…(very long pause)…can I just say ‘yes’?

Another Christmas wish of yours Grey — and probably the most adorable one — is a playdate with your girl friend. “I just want a playdate with Emma Lucia for Christmas. That’s all…‘cause I love her.” When I told Emma Lucia’s mother this was your Christmas wish, she responded with, “Well then, let’s make it happen!”

Cash, earlier this month, following a long day of fighting with Grey you asked, “Do you think we are going to get coal this year Mommy??”

I don’t know? Maybe? I mean, as a mother, you never want to surrender your power completely, especially when you have to get through a grueling month of uncontainable holiday frenzy, but I didn’t leave you entirely hopeless. “You still have time to turn things around. Just be nice to each other from now until Christmas and you should be fine.”

Cash, you are always so nervous when you sit on Santa’s lap that each time you nearly forget to tell him what you want and I have to whisper you a reminder. And the reason you gave me for how you decided what to ask Santa for this year was quite clever.

Mommy I’m going to ask Santa for a Nintendo 2DS XL and a new Pikachu Switch game because they are expensive and I know you can’t afford them.

Every year we get a little better with our “Santa line” game, this time showing up with folding chairs. As Daddy was setting them up a few people said, “We remember you from last year. You guys are professionals!”

With mild temperatures and comfy seating, the ninety-minute wait went by quicker than ever as Daddy and I mingled with some familiar faces. It’s become one of my favorite New York traditions which makes me so grateful for another year with Santa believers. And for Santa himself that he hasn’t retired yet, even though the rumor mill swirls about every season that it will be his last.

Seeing you both get so excited (and nervous!) to see Santa is such a special gift that I know is all too fleeting. And before leaving the store, I always buy a small Christmas decoration to go under our tiny tree in the apartment —just one more way to preserve these memories and archive the magic.

Merry Christmas sweet boys!

I love you,

Always and forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | November

Dear Cash,

Not only did you dress up as Ash Pokémon Ketchum trainer for Halloween, but every day before and since you’ve carried around your trading cards so you can swap after school with your closest friends. “Only boys are trading Pokémon cards Mom. No girls really like them. They think they’re gross.”So what are they into?” I asked. “Oh, American Girl dolls … you know, babies and mothering stuff and playing family. But we’re into battling and trading cards — and ninja stuff.”

You lug the 500-page “Pokémon Essential Handbook” around with you everywhere somehow managing to memorize the stats and facts of over 800 characters — including their powers and evolutions! It’s really kind of mind blowing. Grey and I spent a whole morning commute trying to stump you and couldn’t! With every random page we’d open you’d blurt out all the character’s qualities while we looked at each other in amazement.

“Do you think I can get into the college where Pow Pow went?” you asked me recently. Well, I can tell you that your ability to memorize 500 pages of facts in a short time certainly won’t hurt!

“I want to go to a really good college Mommy — what is it called again? Oh yeah, an Ivy League. But I don’t want to go far away from you.”

“Well, you could go to Columbia. It’s on 116th Street — and that’s only three stops away on the subway!”

“Yes!! I want to go there! Do you think I could get in?”

“If you work hard and put your mind to it anything is possible my love.”


Your writing skills are also quite impressive for someone your age and you recently used them to help Grey compose a love letter for Emma Lucia, alternating between asking questions and sharing little tidbits about Grey. You caught me by surprise and delight, not only because of your handwriting, but because the back and forth dialogue showed a level of maturity as well as a genuine interest in another person.

“What is your favorite color? For me, I like green.”

And let’s not forget you were helping out your little brother so that really touched my heart.

[Letter to Emma Lucia / Click images to enlarge]

The other day I showed you a funny video of a comedian impersonating a middle school boy. He had us laughing with his eye-rolling, exaggerated sighs, shrugs and constant grumbling: “It’s NOT FAIR!! … JUST FIVE MORE MINUTES!! … UGGGHHHHHH!!” He was always on his cellphone, never finished his homework, ignored his parents and didn’t do anything without over-the-top complaining which was so hysterical you asked me to replay it several times. Even though you were laughing as you watched it, you were also promising NEVER to do that. NEVER! And all I could say with a wink was, “Okay sweetie, we’ll see. I sure hope that’s true.”

For now you’re still my baby who needs sung to in order to go to sleep. The other night when I got to the line I’ve ad libbed for years: “Mama’s gonna take you on a day of fun,” you said, “Hey Mommy, when are we gonna do that? A day of fun — like, you know, go and hang out and have a glass of wine?”

It will happen soon — before you know it. That’s my promise.

Hanging on the wall in Grey’s classroom is a list of all the things that everyone is thankful for this year. I was so touched to read Grey’s comment because it’s obvious I’m not the only one who is thankful for you Cash. You are special to all of us.

I love you sweetheart. Always and forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | Halloween Edition

Hey boys!

It’s become apparent over the years that being brothers has little to no impact on your preferences. The fact is you both have steadfast likes and dislikes, which, more often than not, are very different from one another.

Grey likes chocolate Cheerios; Cash likes plain ones

Grey like peanut butter & jelly; Cash likes ham and cheese

Grey likes hot dogs; Cash likes cheeseburgers

Grey likes fried fish; Cash likes fried chicken

Grey like milk; Cash likes juice

Grey likes music; Cash likes science and math

And Cash likes sharks while Grey is completely and utterly obsessed with dogs!

This list could go on forever and because of this, it’s especially fun when the two of you decide to collaborate and coordinate on something like Halloween costumes. This is the second year you’ve done this. Last year you dressed up as Leonardo and Michelangelo — two of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crew — while this year you chose to dress as your favorite Pokémon characters: Grey as Charmander and Cash as Ash Ketchum Pokémon trainer.

Ahead of Halloween we hit the streets and under your direction reenacted “evolutions” and battle preparations. I had such fun capturing you guys in action as Ash brought Charmander to life with his Pokéball, all the while hearing shout outs from fans both young and old: Great hunting Ash and Pikachu!

So I would just like to wish you boys a safe and fun Pokémon Halloween, tell you how much I love your coordinated costumes and can’t wait to go trick or treating with you later on — even though seeing you laugh and play around in your costumes was the REAL treat for me. And I promise — yes, pinky promise — not to invade your sugar stash in the wee hours of the night!

I love you Charmander and Ash!

Always and forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | October

Dearest Bear,

“Grey is my grind” has become the catchphrase this year since my daily mission is preventing a trip to the emergency room. Corralling your energy in order to keep you from walking into someone or something — a car, cyclist or simply a mucky puddle — is a must. So is the deescalation of wrestling matches that can quickly get out of control, stopping you from jumping and twirling with food in your mouth, tilting back in your chair or crouching on top of it, and getting you to look forward so you see the oncoming dog walker or crowd of teenagers. It entails telling you not to throw balls in the living room and to pay attention so you don’t fall down a sidewalk cellar door or a set of approaching stairs. And oh yeah, dog poop. “Watch out Grey! There’s poop!” I’ll say at least a half dozen times a day. Recently I was a tad late as you tripped over the raised part of the sidewalk tumbling forward. You suffered a couple of scrapes, but no broken skin so not such a big deal. The bigger injury was likely your bruised ego after we discovered a bit of dog poop along the side of your sweatshirt. Cackles from your older brother didn’t help much either as he brought up the fact that you were the first in the family to ever do THAT!

Always the consummate tough guy though, you shrugged it off and said your usual: “Well … it didn’t hurt.

You have so much energy Grey — much like a wind up toy! And forget about it, when you hear music it’s tenfold. You LOVE dancing to ALL types of music and with mature moves that leave Daddy and I falling into each other with laughter. Where did he learn THAT move!?

Also a prankster who loves oddly constructed jokes, some of your finest work involves burying your head in the sofa and sticking your tushie in the air: “Mommy can you find me?”. Or running up to ask me if you can give me a hug only to make a fart noise and take off giggling. And of course you love to act the fool when getting dressed —most typically when we’re running late for school — by trying to put your sweater on as pants, your pants on as a shirt or your underwear on backwards: “Is this the right way Mommy?!” The ultimate jokester with so much personality and excitement for life — it’s no wonder we try to get you on the court as much as possible!

Grey with his basketball, Cash with his Pokémon book

Whenever we can we like to go as a family to the local playground on Saturday mornings so you can shoot around and do practice drills with Daddy. This usually holds your interest briefly before you’re off to the next thing like the swings or climbing gym — but no matter what you’re burning energy which for us is the end goal. Even at bedtime lying amongst your dozens of “stuffies” you’ll find time for one more joke, calling out to anyone within ear shot, “Where’s Grey?!”, as you attempt to “hide” in the pile of plush before bursting into laughter.

There’s so many loveable things about you Grey. Of course I always talk about wanting to squeeze and devour your face, but there’s also the things you say. Like the other day when you called out “Girl Power!” as you chose Toadette in a game of Tennis Aces. “I don’t care if it’s a girl Cash — wight Mommy?! Girls are strong!”

Or how you say “Aminal” (animal), “cram-rah” (camera) and “eee-oat-mee-ul” (oatmeal).

And how excited you get for fall because that means it’s “acorn season!” For the past three years you’ve collected them on our walks to and from school, stuffing them inside a hole on the side of our building, which needless to say is now completely filled up. Cash and I wonder aloud if when we come back in thirty years to see where we used to live in Harlem we’ll find those acorns you hoarded years ago. Who knows, but what will definitely be around forever are these memories of you Grey Bear. Thank you for making them so colorful, for keeping us laughing and for always ALWAYS keeping me on my toes!

I love you for all seasons — especially ACORN SEASON!

Always and forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | September

HAPPY BIRTHDAY sweet Cash! You are now EIGHT which is not only my favorite number but my favorite age in childhood; the time when innocent wonder and creativity is at its peak and hasn't yet been stifled by pesky self-consciousness. You’re not concerned with what the outside world thinks, haven't become distracted by the opposite sex and most importantly, still wear your heart on your sleeve - all of which aptly describes YOU my love! 

Even though we did our usual "birthday photo shoot"  a few weeks ago and got some great shots, this simple iphone photo taken during our trip to the Jersey shore is my absolute favorite - perhaps of the whole year! I merely asked if I could take a snapshot of you "looking so handsome on Mommy's birthday" and was given the ultimate gift; for in this moment, I see the purity and sweetness of your soul.

An example of this kindness also shined through in the card you gave me, writing that you “loved me with all your heart" which right there was enough! But then the part about me still loving you even when you're mean to Grey … well, you instantly made the card a classic to be treasured for a lifetime.

There’s no doubt you have your moments of frustration and instigation in your role of older brother: “Mommy, I know that in the future I’m going to be a good brother, but for now Grey really annoys me.” And everyone knows that comes with the territory. Even so, you still look out for him in the best possible ways, understanding better than anyone how to talk to him. You know all of his likes and dislikes, and to my amazement, asked for Nintendo Switch games for your birthday that require at least TWO players so "Grey wouldn't feel left out."

As you get older I’m watching you do the same in school, trying your best to include those a little more shy into your play. And not surprisingly you are the one whose tears well up during a ballad, who says "it makes me sad when you cry Mommy" while gently rubbing my back, and who reminds us to include Grandma when we talk about going to Sewickley. "It's Pow Pow AND Grandma's house! Don’t forget Grandma!" That’s just your essence sweetheart - compassionate, thoughtful and all-embracing.


In other news this month, Grey started his first year at Manhattan Country School which is so exciting! Hurray Grey Bear! As we were heading to school the other morning, you firmly declared: “It’s not Cash’s school anymore, it’s Cash’s and MY school now!” which made us laugh. But you’re absolutely right and we celebrate this transition that you’ve handled with great confidence!

I don’t think anybody was more excited than your buddy George who you’ve come to know over the years while dropping off Cash. Far more than the head of maintenance, George is the emotional touchstone of MCS who greets each child every morning at the front door with hugs or high fives — and in your case Grey, a playful game of hide and seek. Every morning you run to the same corner on the side of the building until George says in his deep Slavic accent, “Is somebody hiding?” as he pretends to look for you. When he “finds” you and tries to catch you, you squeal with the same excitement as if playing it for the first time. But I’ll never forget that one time you switched it up and hid behind a signpost thinking it was the greatest hiding spot — with your big backpack, curly hair and most of your limbs completely visible — making everyone including other passersby crack a smile.

Some big gigantic wishes and prayers are devoted to you boys this month:

Sweet Cash, may your eighth year be filled with wonder, love and uninhibited creativity! And Grey Bear, may you have a terrific first year of “big boy” school at MCS filled with exploration, joy and countless games of hide and seek!

I love you both so much!

Always & forever,

Mom

Letters To My Sons | August

Dear boys,

We didn't get up to Greenwich Beach this summer as much as we usually do, but when we did we were the time-honored firstcomers. With the sun rising up over the expressway on our way to Connecticut, we arrived just as the local penguin club was finishing their predawn swim. At low tide we have the coastline all to ourselves — just how we like it  — the peace and quiet interrupted only by the sound of the Sandboni as it rakes past our cabana. 

The ribbons of sand beneath my feet is a favorite feeling as is watching you guys run free chasing seagulls and combing the shore for crabs. This particular morning Cash, you found the remains of a horseshoe crab and couldn't wait to call us over to take a look. True to your city boy self, you were apprehensive about picking it up at first, but eventually you did and we had a chance to see how the light shone through its shell. 

Grey couldn't wait for the food shack to open up and when it did tore through not one but TWO of his favorite corn dogs before polishing them off with a Spongebob ice-cream bar! Cash, you had your usual chicken fingers and bomb pop before you guys were back to playing in the water.  

When it came time for us to head home Grey, you started sobbing uncontrollably. Now you don't usually do this, but for some reason today you really didn't want to leave, crying all the way to the car and in between sobs blurting out, "I don't want to leave! Why can't we live at the beach?! I don't want to go!!"  We tried to tell you that we'd be going to the Jersey shore for my birthday staying right on the beach for almost a week, but you didn't seem fazed or comforted in the slightest by this; instead you cried yourself to sleep on the drive home.   

These are signs of an exhaustingly fun-filled summer soon coming to an end. But at least we've got a trip to the shore and then Grandma and Pow Pow's later this month before it's all said and done. And to be honest, when we leave from their house, I'll probably be the one sobbing uncontrollably. So with these longer days soon bidding farewell, let's make the most of the time we have with family and each other even if it hurts so terribly to leave. 

My boys, through the tides of your lives both high and low, I promise to love you through it all.

Always and forever, Mom