This is 6

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

You had asked me if you could bring along Charmeleon, your favorite Pokémon stuffy, and wear your birthday crown as we walked around and took pictures in the neighborhood.

You were so happy when people walking by said “Happy Birthday!” “Mommy, they know it’s my birthday because of my crown! Not everyone says ‘Happy Birthday’. Some people just smile at me.”

You wanted to wear your crown for the rest of the day, even when we were done with the photos. “So everyone knows it’s my birthday!”

Six years ago today the world was blessed with your sweet soul.

I love you so very much, my crown prince.

Always & forever, 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

untitled-14.jpg

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.

untitled-13.jpg

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.”

untitled-1-3.jpg

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.

untitled-1-11.jpg

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 

Letters To My Sons | July

Dear sons,

This month we were so fortunate to vacation with our extended family in a big house on Nemacolin's resort making lifelong memories. One of those memories involved you Grey -- a minor injury that happened during a party with Uncle Quent's family. I first noticed you standing near the stairs with a distraught look on your face. "Are you okay?" I asked quietly to which you nodded a quick, but unconvincing yes. "Did you go to the bathroom in your pants?" seemed the next plausible question given the look on your face: "It's okay, you can tell me."  Holding your fingers tightly and on the verge of tears, you looked over toward the huge eight ball art fixture that hung on the wall with evenly spaced exposed lightbulbs sticking out of them. And that's when I put it together.

"Oh sweetie...you touched one of the lightbulbs?!" I said, opening your hand to take a look at the four fingertips clearly burned a bright red. I knew that kind of pain and raced upstairs to get some ice. My poor baby...too afraid to say anything -- how heartbreaking! My guess is you were in a state of shock.

Once your fingers were submerged in ice water, I went looking for Aunt Karen to see if she had any medicine to spare and it turns out she had much more than that. Along with the Tylenol, she explained exactly how you were to ingest the oral Arnica and what it would do. I watched your apprehension subside, reassured by her kind trusting voice that you would feel better soon. Although Aunt Karen doesn't have children of her own, it's obvious her maternal instincts are very much at the ready as she offered her lap as a comfortable place to sit and wait it out. Before running off to tend to the food for the party, I grabbed my camera to capture the bonding. It was just too precious.

After finishing the pizza orders for the house, I came back to find you still on Karen's lap. She would later tell me how much she enjoyed cuddling up against your delicate, cool ears that reminded her of little seashells. "He was such a sweet little patient." And it wasn't too long before you were back to playing with your cousins, running wildly through the summer rain. 


 

At the same party during the same vacation, you had your own special moment Cash. This one was with Pow Pow. For Father's Day last month we gave him a t-shirt that says, "Pow Pow - Established 2010". Since that was the year you were born and you were the one who named him, the establishment is self-explanatory.

You see, back when you were a toddler you couldn't say "Grandpa"; it simply came out sounding like "Pow Pow". And so a moniker was born -- a very special one I might add!

"Grandma Banana" is the nickname that Grey bestowed on Grandma a couple years ago which she absolutely loves. For awhile every time you would call her that Grey, you'd start giggling. It's as if you were reminded of its perfection -- a name so silly and flawlessly poetic!

In other news, we've now got Count Dracula living amongst us. Your loose front tooth finally came out Cash - after weeks of being able to twist and turn it with your tongue. "Now I can eat bagels again Mommy without it hurting!" And just look at that smile!  

I love you both and I'm so grateful for the time we got to spend with family this past month -- for the tenderness, compassion, tears and laughter that make up memories we can now cherish -- and for you, my sons, who in the end make it all worth it.

My love. Always and forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | June

Well, you did it boys! You completed your spring swim lessons and the happiest person that they're over might just be me!  I joked with another boys mom that you need to "Zen out" before swim lessons what with all the preparations -- the dressing and undressing of bathing suits, shower caps, goggles, rash guards and ear plugs as you corral young boy energy in a small unisex changing room. There's the patience needed when you decide the time to go pee is right before getting in the pool, and the physical endurance to avoid heatstroke in that unbearably humid pool area, all while cheering on your freestyles and back floats!

Go Grey! Good job Cash! Lookin' good!

It took a little while for you to find your groove Grey, which is understandable given that these were your first swim lessons. TERRIFIED of the water and putting your face anywhere near it you screamed "MOMMY!!" over and over that first time your face submerged -- a noise so shrill it penetrated my soul. Call it a mother's intuition, but I knew from the start that your teacher wasn't a good fit for you. He seemed to amp your anxiety rather than find ways to calmly encourage you, in spite of my mention that you were new to this. 

Then one week you had a substitute - Steven - and your vibe with him was completely different. You were actually happy in the water! The following week you were back with your original teacher who instructed you swim about two feet to the edge of the pool without any floaties and in the deep end no less. Not surprisingly you started taking in water and couldn't keep your head above the surface, crying out while your teacher said, "Again Grey! Try it again!" 

Immediately I jumped to my feet and in one fail swoop snatched you out of the pool.  My protective instincts kicked into such high gear that I think I may have even lifted you out of the water with one arm before marching straight over to the manager with you sobbing in my clutches. "Listen, I don't like that teacher. It's just not working. Can you please place him with someone else? Maybe Steven if possible."  

And it worked out fine. You were placed with Steven in a time slot right before Cash which meant an extra half hour in that hot box -- a small sacrifice that reaped tremendous reward. You actually started to look forward to swim lessons! And you were no longer scared of the water or getting your face wet which just goes to show you it really is ALL about the teacher. 

Cash, you truly turned from a minnow to a fish this season. A couple of years ago you were just like Grey - afraid of the water, of getting it in your nose, your mouth, your ears. But as I watched you from the side of the pool this spring, you were eager to show off your skills. No longer needing the floaties, you began diving in the deep end without hesitation and when instructed, swam backstroke and freestyle like a champ. You even cheered Grey on when he was struggling -- "Don't worry Grey, it gets better. I was the same way when I first started swimming" -- which was really sweet and couldn't be more true. It does get better, it does get easier, and it most certainly does get more fun.

So now that summer has arrived and the lessons have ended, it's time for us to go swimming outside my little minnows! 

I love you!

Always & forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | May

Happy birthday to you Grey Grey! You made it to FIVE -- the age you promised to eat all your food at dinner and sleep through the night without waking one of us up to come lie down with you; the age you said you'd stop being "cute" but would continue being a good brother who shares his toys. Some of those things I don't mind coming true, but definitely not the part where you stop being cute. Even now when I look at you I want to devour that adorable face!

"It hurts my heart," I'll say.

"Why Mommy? 'Cause you love me so much?"

"Yes! That's exactly why."  

I can't believe how much swagger resides in that little body of yours, going back to when you were just three years old when Cash was upset with me for some reason and made a mean face. "Cash! Don't hurt my friend Mommy!", you said as you put your arms around me, "Don't worry Mommy! I'm tecting (protecting) you!"  This confidence surfaced again during a recent argument between Daddy and me, or little "spit spat" as we like to call it. In one fail swoop you stepped in front of Daddy like David against Goliath: "Hey Daddy! Don't you talk to Mommy like that! You're not my friend! When I'm a grownup I'm going to punch you with my boxing glove!"  You held such a stern face that Daddy and I couldn't help but laugh, and yet down deep it warmed my heart to see you stepping up to defend your momma! My littlest has turned into quite the momma's boy and honestly, I didn't think there'd be any chance you'd be that way too, but you have proven me wrong. This past Mother's Day when I went on my annual overnight with Ahna you apparently cried out desperately into the wee hours, asking Daddy, "How much longer until Mommy comes back?" 

When we walk together holding hands we always squeeze three times to say "I love you". Then you like to squeeze five times to say "I love you eighty degrees" to which I'll always squeeze back the number for "I love you 10,000 miles". This has long been our silly sentiment and we just look at each other and laugh; by far it's one of my favorite things you and I have that's our own.  

untitled-1-12.jpg

This year you asked to see Blue Man Group again for your birthday. I guess you liked it so much last year, you wanted to go for round two and the show did not disappoint.

Neither did the Brooklyn Blackout cake topped with your favorite Mario Bros characters, or the birthday cake milkshake from Big Daddy's with vanilla frosting and sprinkles coating the outside of the glass, or the cookies I made for your school party with #5 written on them in your favorite buttercream. 

"Mommy! You know why I wanted to cry just now?...

...'cause that cookie was SO good!!"

When teacher Mia asked if you wanted some water after you finished your cookie you said, "No thank you Mia, I want to savor the flavor!"

Then we all fell out laughing. 


Cash gave you a new Mario Bros game for your birthday and the two of you played incessantly over the weekend. At one point you made a big action move against his guy because Cash shouted, "Hey Grey! How'd you do that?

"Heh, heh," you said coolly, "when you're a FIRE GUY you can do that."

This was a brand new game and you'd already done an advance move against your older brother. Now that's what I'm talking about! I absolutely can't wait to see what else you can do this year now that you're a FIVE GUY. Yeah, birthday boy, let's see what a FIVE GUY can do!

Grey Bear, before signing off, I just want to thank you for each and every snuggle requested this year. You are the definition of lovable. From 80 degree to 10,000 miles and from here to eternity, I LOVE YOU baby boy!

Always & forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | April

Dear boys,

We spent Easter week at Grandma and Pow Pow's house this year, where for almost 25 years I've sought refuge at various stages in my life. One of the greatest joys for me as a mother is seeing how it's become a refuge for you guys too. "Camp Sewickley Creek" as we like to call it is the place you are most excited to visit; the place we go to get away from New York with a backyard that looks like a national park and a creek running through it good for skipping stones and getting muddy. It's where you see deer in the early morning fog from the bedroom window and blue heron as you eat lunch at the kitchen table. Together you've seen rabbits and foxes and crazed red robins pecking at the window. Of course who could forget the time we called the police to report the rabid mama and baby raccoons on the other side of the creek, watching as they were put out of their misery by the cop with a terrible shot, then took photos inside the police car! 

But the number one reason you love going to "Camp Sewickley Creek" is to see "Grandma Banana" and Pow Pow, always telling me how the first thing you're going to do when you get there is give them a big hug! 

These trips have been a huge part of your childhood and likely will become even more frequent in the coming year. Others have groaned that it's such a long drive, especially with kids, but that's not the case for us. Waking up and driving partway to Harrisburg "while it's still nighttime outside" for a sunrise breakfast at Cracker Barrel has simply become our tradition. Your excitement - and this is no exaggeration - is like Christmas morning! "How many more days 'til we see Grandma and Pow Pow??" you'll ask for weeks on end; anticipation so great that when we finally get there, after seven hours in the car, you take off running with wild abandon.  

Daddy and I agree that you have a relationship with your grandparents that neither of us did, with numerous traditions contingent upon what season we are visiting: chalk drawings on the deck, running around with Cooper (RIP), living room dance parties, trainspotting with Pow Pow on the abandoned bridge in Leetsdale, and smiley face cookies from Eat 'N Park. There's our many trips to the Science Center and Children's Museum, riding the Duquesne Incline and looking out over Point State Park, marshmallow guns, badminton, swimming at Allegheny, playing football in the yard covered with GIGANTIC yellow leaves, and catching those same leaves as they float and twirl down from the trees. There have been many Christmas mornings, afternoons building snowmen, summer days rocking out to Prince on the deck, and helping Pow Pow grill hamburgers for dinner.

But even when the weather's not that great, we're happy hunkering down indoors - rolling Grandma's green physioball through the house, playing "Simon Says" with "Alexa" and trying on silly hats. The two freezers are always full of different flavored ice-cream; cabinets stocked with candies and all the makings for s'mores. Sleeping on air mattresses in the same room as Mommy and Daddy and staying up late to eat with the grownups are just a few other treats. Their house, like a museum filled with the finest art both rare and exotic, also has a couple things to make little grandsons giggle: petrified dinosaur poop and a walrus penis bone!  

As grandparents they spoil you; of course. Allowing Daddy and I to do the scolding with a twinkle in their eye is just one of the ways. They love you so much, but they also love watching their own children go through what they did. During this last visit Cash said, "Pow Pow you're always smiling! Even when you eat you're smiling!!" which gave us all a laugh. I wonder Cash, if Pow Pow might just be so happy to be in your company and the company of your brother that even something as mundane as eating is fun? Or he might just be a merry elf with twinkly smiling eyes -- maybe that's it!  What I do know with certainty, is that even when it seems like we're not doing all that much at the Camp, we are happy just being together.

Going through my old photo catalogs, realizing just how many visits we've made over the years, I was inspired to compile some of my favorites. Though many are just snapshots taken with my phone, what's undeniable is just how many memories you've made at Camp Sewickley Creek. 

[click arrow to advance to next image]

 

I guess that's why good-byes are getting so much harder; this last one by far the most emotional. During the car ride to the airport, the somber quiet was interrupted only by Grandma's occasional sigh: "I'm so sad you guys are leaving."

At curbside, Grandma had tears welling up in her eyes. Then I looked over at you Cash and saw you were crying too and it was almost more than I could bear. With one last tearful wave from inside the glass doors, we made our way into the sea of travelers, already thinking about when we'd be coming back. Telling you guys it won't be long was the only comfort I could muster.


  

There is a wise old saying that couldn't be more true in my experience:

"The only thing better than having you for parents is my children having you for grandparents." ~ 

I feel such joy watching you with Grandma and Pow Pow; seeing that you have the same love for them that I do. All the visits to Camp Sewickley Creek, the memories and traditions -- even those that have yet to come --fill my heart with gratitude; my one and only sadness is that life is simply too short. 

So boys, now and throughout your lifetimes, may you continue to share with those you love just how much they mean to you. May your hearts be filled with God's love and a deep thankfulness. And last but not least, may you find joyful moments even in the most mundane with eyes that forever twinkle like Grandma and Pow Pow. 

I love you both.

Always & forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | March

You are God's lesson in patience for me Grey, there's no doubt about that. But you're also God's gift of affection, doling out the most lovable snuggles and kisses I've ever received. When you look up at me with those curious green eyes and McDonald's arch eyebrows, you melt my heart. "Can I eat your face Grey?" I'll say just to hear you laugh. "Noooooo Mommy! You're silly! You can't eat my face!"

But the truth is I want to ... 'cause it's just so dang cute.

It was a record shattering 70-degree day in late February when you and I took these "family photos" as you call them. Headed to Central Park like pretty much everyone else, we stopped to take a couple shots in a brick alleyway. You like to work quickly - just snap the photos and be on our way to the next destination. I sauntered  behind you in the park, grinning from the comments overheard about your pint-sized swagger -- "Did you see that little boy?!"  -- as you walked past confidently rocking your sunglasses and newsboy hat. You seemed to know exactly where you were going - a true city kid - which was entertaining for me and the others in your orbit. And the truth is, that fierce independence has always been yours. For as long as I've known you, you have been bold, brave and unabashed.     

Which is exactly why I sometimes have to crack the whip. Like the other day when you and Cash (just imagine what's it's like when the two of you are insubordinately synchronized!) were acting up on the subway home from school. You guys got on my last nerve - actin' a fool, not listening, getting handsy with each other - so I pulled you both off the subway car at the 135h street and said we were walking the last 12 blocks home ---- at my pace! 

The two of you scrambled behind me as I storm trooped north toward our apartment. You guys arrived with weary legs and slightly winded, but seemed to have a rekindled understanding of my follow-through. And the next morning Grey, as we headed down into the subway you said, "This time I'm going to listen to you - wight Mommy?!" 

"Right my love. I know you will."

I've noticed that whenever Daddy and I get frustrated you'll often say, "It's okay. I'm still happy!" which is classic Grey! You may be God's lesson in patience but you are most certainly our quintessential joy boy!

Our "Joy Boy" with the stunning eyes and blonde curly q's. Take a look at these two recent self-portraits you made in preschool. I just love the green color of your eyes and the ways in which you showed the texture of your hair!


You are such a lover boy Grey Bear - like "for reals" as you say. My truest gift of affection. One of my favorites is when you ask me to lie down with you after you've had a bad dream, grabbing my hand to kiss it. "I love you 80 degrees Mommy" to which I always say, "I love you 10,000 miles."

And how you love your brother! You are most excited to go to MCS next year so you can be with Cash. "We can hold hands all day 'cause he's my bruhdder, wight Mommy?!"  

Right my love. And you know what else?

You are easily the coolest cat under 50 inches walking these city streets. I'm so honored to be your mother, sharing a seat next to you in the park on a beautiful day. Every day.

I love you Grey Grey. TEN THOUSAND MILES!

Always and forever, Mom

Letters To My Sons | February

Dearest Cash,

As a mother of sons, it's always in the back of my mind: Am I raising respectful boys who won't grow up to be sexist jerks?!  I know that's a pretty heady way to start a letter, but it matters -- especially in this day and age. We've had some casual discussions regarding girls -- how to treat them, speak to them, and defer to them when necessary -- and the importance of being a compassionate friend. Even though our conversations are pretty basic at this age, you've shown that you are ready and moving in the right direction. And while not a perfect path, it's definitely headed toward GENTLEMAN.  

After seeing the movie "Coco", I shared with you that your best friend Thomas cried at the end (his Mommy told me while we were chatting at school one morning). Not wanting to make your friend feel embarrassed or divulge secrets between mommies, you told me about your confession the next day: "I didn't want Thomas to feel bad, so I just shared with him that I cried. And then I guess he felt comfortable enough to say he did too."  My jaw dropped after hearing about this premeditated empathy! You actually thought through the best way to make your friend feel comfortable. While you're probably not even aware of it Cash, you are this little soul helping break down the stigma that boys aren't supposed to cry -- growing up with the understanding that boys not only CAN and DO cry, but should feel safe sharing this with each other. However, you still won't admit (or have conveniently forgotten) that you liked the fairy tale movie "FROZEN" when it first came out.  So we're still working. :)

Your digital watch apparently comes in two colors: green and pink. Since gender marketing is so deep-rooted in our culture, I wasn't surprised when you said girls get the pink color, like your friend Romy. "But what if a girl wants a green one Cash? Would that be okay? And if a boy wanted a pink one?"  You said it would be okay and to my relief seemed to mean it. Like the time you said you were going to write a letter to Mrs. Claus, "because nobody really talks about her and how much work she does at Christmas time."  Or the promise you made when we were walking behind a group of loud, aggressive teenage boys cursing and rough-housing one of their female friends: "I'm not going to be like that when I'm a teenager Mommy!" as if you knew just what I was thinking. Like I said ... it's always in the back of my mind.

When I picked you up from Eli's birthday party, his mom asked if you were usually so quiet and well-mannered. Apparently you didn't wrestle around with the other boys and when I stop and think about it, you've always been friends with the quieter boys in school. Four boys would be on your party invite list: Eli, Jamison, Anthony and Thomas. "You know why Mommy? Because it would be very 'OHM'." "OHM?!! What does that mean?" I asked. "You know Mommy, like peaceful." 

The other night you asked me questions about going off to college. Not because it's something exciting for you in the future, but because your anxiety about having to live away from home, away from your family, away from me is already swilling about in your mind. You love spending time with your family so much that the only reassurance was when I said you could just go to college here in New York City (even though you likely won't) and still live at home. My quintessential New Yorker projecting light-years ahead could finally rest his mind and get some sleep when he knew he'd never have to leave! 

It makes me grin when you tell me that you are one of the few who don't say "bad words" like "Shut Up", "Dumb", and "Poopy Butt" in school. Or when you tell me it's okay that boys wear pink and take ballet classes and ask questions about what life is like for "nerds". I smile as I watch you run back to put the Ziplock bag you dropped on the subway steps into the nearest trash can -- being "ecologically smart" you call it -- and I'm especially touched to learn you planted a sunflower at school "because it's yellow -- Mommy's favorite color." The ways in which you have learned to say sorry when you've hurt someone, especially a close friend, are such a tender part of your expanding empathy and continued search to define yourself. Living life with your heart on your sleeve is something you've done from the beginning Cash and helps ease that gripping question of mine.

The truth is, Yes! You are growing in the right direction. And as you move through these early years chock full of growing pains, I want you to remember one thing son. That I'll be walking beside you when the road gets bumpy and pieces of your broken heart need picking up along the way.

I love you Cash.

Always & forever,

Mom