Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One thing I love about Ethan

He can't walk for more than 10 feet without hopping or skipping, and he never goes in a straight line. The world is a better place because of him.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Byram Beach, Connecticut

We took a train to Connecticut again (this time with Jennifer!) and went to Byram Beach in Greenwich.

Byram Beach is kind of cool: it's a small, sandy beach on the Sound, and there's a pool right there too, and--best of all--a snack bar that has great $2 hot dogs and frozen Milky Ways.

I say "kind of cool" because--frozen Milky Way not withstanding--I was a little disappointed in the upkeep. The swimming pool is circa-1940--maybe updated with some new surrounding cement and a chain link fence sometime around 1975. The teenagers on duty couldn't even be bothered to hose off the goose poop from the cement, and the beach had some glass, some trash in the water.

This is Greenwich, right? Yeah, okay, maybe it's for all of the losers who can't afford their own pool, or can't manage to make friends with people who have their own pool. But still.

In any case, the pool turned out to be fun despite the goose poop and rusty chain link fence. The beach turned out to be fun despite a bit of litter--we found a dead horshoe crab, which we picked up by the tail, then we found a LIVE one in the water, which we also picked up by its tail. F-U-N. And you simply cannot dislike a place with frozen Milky Ways.

We got back to New York by 6:30, then had a sushi dinner--my choice tonight.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Green's Farms Beach

The boys and I set out on an adventure to Green's Farms, Connecticut. I had previously noted on Google Maps that from the train station it's only a short walk to the beach, and there's a narrow inlet that you can cross to get to Sherwood Island State Beach. That means snack bar, which means frozen Milky Ways, and that's enough to form the basis for a trek.

Unfortunately, our train didn't stop at Green's Farms; it whizzed right on past and didn't stop until Southport. So we walked for an hour and a half back to Green's Farms, arriving at the beach at about 3pm, only to realize that you had to have a beach pass to get in.

Fortunately, the guy on duty obviously did a quick mental calculation--"balding, middle-aged white guy and his two sons walking from the estate section of Green's Farms in nothing but swimsuits on a Friday afternoon"--and said simply, "Enjoy the beach," and waved us through. I tried to be nonchalant, like I was a neighbor of Don Imus or Paul Newman, and waved back as we passed.

Unfortunately, it was high tide, and the little channel that I was so sure we could just walk across was a fast-moving river about 50 feet wide and definitely over our heads. So we just waded around a bit in the seaweed-strewn water, looked at some shells and dead crabs, then trekked over to the Green's Farms station at 4:30 and caught a train back to NYC.

(Fortunately there was a bar car on the train, so we got sodas and pretzels. And when we got home we met Jen for dinner. Unfortunately, it was her choice, so it was a tapas restaurant.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jones Beach

We're in that period of ennui right at the end of summer, a week before school starts and summer ends. However, if we think positive thoughts and cram in as many water activities as we can, we will keep summer from ending.

Jen (who works at the boys' school) is back at work, so I'm using one personal day each week to be with the boys in lieu of paying a babysitter to have all the fun.

Samuel recalled that when he and his friend John went to Jones Beach there were a lot of bugs; that comment immediately sent Ethan into a panic. There were very few bugs, although we did see some jellyfish, which we did not like. We did like the big waves ("tidal waves," if you ask Ethan), and we stayed just long enough to enjoy oursleves without getting sunburned or exhausted. (My digital camera got sand or water in it, so I was forced to abandon it in favor of my camcorder for the rest of the week.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Off

Used a vacation day today and went on an adventure with the boys. Weather.com said thunderstorms all day, but we said damn the umbrellas, full speed ahead.

Took the #1 train to Christopher Street, walked west past the kinky leather shops (Ethan: "Whoa, look at THAT"). First stop, a quick dip in the new Christopher Street Fountain overlooking the Hudson River.

We headed north, pausing only for a brief photo op with a Weimaraner.

If we'd been on our adventure 30 years earlier, we would've seen the warped remains of Cunard's Pier 51. 100 years prior to that, we might've seen Herman Melville, who worked as a customs inspector at a wharf here. 50 years before that, there was a fort here, built for the War of 1812.

But, alas, in 2008 Pier 51 is a waterside playground.

The sun was still out, so we grabbed a hot dog and headed north again, passing the Cunard steel arch of Pier 54, where Titanic survivors arrived aboard the Carpathia in 1912 and--3 years later--where The Lusitania departed on its final voyage.

We found ourselves at Chelsea Piers, where we hit some balls on the driving range.

Then a game of air hockey at the Chelsea Piers bowling alley.

We burned off the last of our remaining energy at Chelsea Waterside, another very cool playground with lots of water. The storm clouds rolled in around 5:15, we made it to the bus before the downpour, and met Jennifer for dinner at EJ's.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What do you say to that?

(Ethan wails from the hallway.)

Todd: What happened??

Ethan: I fell!

Todd: Are you okay?

Ethan: No!

Todd: Let me take a look. Show me.

Ethan (scared): Is it bad??

Todd: No, it's not bad.

(Ethan wails hysterically.)

Todd: What? I said it's not bad.

Ethan: That's what you'd say if it was bad.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Laundry Lessons

If you want to be reminded how fast your children are growing up, do the laundry. Every week there's at least one article of clothing that gets discarded because the boys have outgrown it.

This week it was Samuel's red "Incredibles" pajamas. They were his favorites two years ago, when they hung somewhat loosely over his 8-year-old body. They had displaced his "Buzz Lightyear" pajamas as favorites, which had probably replaced--I don't remember now--probably Thomas the Tank Engine.

I love whatever age my kids are--I love seeing them reaching new milestones, trying new things, gaining confidence, growing up.

But--eek--I also don't.

I want them to be little boys forever. I want to be able to carry them on my shoulders forever, hear their sweet little giggles under the covers. I want to be able to hug them and hold their hands--and have them want to do the same.

I know the most important part of being a father is instilling love, and I know that will stay with them no matter what age they are, even after I'm gone.

But it's still hard to say goodbye to those little pieces of their childhood that slip away bit by bit, week by week, like the little red PJs of an incredible boy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Boys' New Bed

The boys needed new beds. They'd outgrown their junior bunk beds, which had about 2 inches of space between the top and bottom and were apparently designed for Barbie.

So last weekend we went to Ikea and let them pick out new beds. I was expecting another bunk, or twins, or even a queen to share, but they chose a single with a pull-out trundle. ("COOL!" "I get to sleep in the pull-out part!" "No, I do!" "No, we'll take turns.")

Tonight we started setting it up in the boys' bedroom.

Samuel: No, I don't want it there.

Todd (humoring him, but confident that that's where it's going to go): Where do you want it?

Samuel: I want it here.

Todd: In the middle of the room? You want the bed in the middle of the room?

Samuel: Uh-huh.

Todd: Don't you think it'd look better against the wall?

Samuel: No.

Todd: See? Right here? There's a little nook that's exactly the right size.

Samuel: Uh-uh.

Todd: So it doesn't block the windows.

Samuel: I like blocking the windows so no one can see me.

Todd (brow beginning to twitch): Yeah, but that makes it harder to see out too.

Samuel: I don't care. It's like a little fort. See? The dresser blocks it off.

Todd: The dresser is only there because we had to move it away from the wall to put the bed in. That's not where the dresser is going to go.

You already know how this story ends,right?

Tooth-Loss Trauma

Two boys, two lost teeth (one trauma).

"I bumped into the dresser and knocked my loose tooth out. It fell out in my mouth and was covered in blood, so I went into the bathroom, and there was blood dripping down my mouth. Mom showed me in the mirror and took it out of my mouth, and it slipped out of Mom’s hand and fell down the drain. Mom put cotton in my mouth to soak up the blood. It also made my other loose tooth even looser. I'm going to write a note to the Tooth Fairy. Mom says the Tooth Fairy likes to have the tooth, but since the tooth went down the drain, I can just write a note to the Tooth Fairy telling her that it went down the drain."

"My tooth fell out last night, but I forgot to put it under my pillow, so I'll do it tonight. It fell out when I was chewing gum, and every time the gum went over that tooth it hurt. Then suddenly I felt a crunch and I felt a big gap in my mouth. I was in the middle of my piano class."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ethan's New Word


Pronunciation: LIT-er-lee.

Definition: Really, Dad, I'm serious.

Usage: 6 or more times per day, to emphasize important points:

"There was this HUGE wave, it was about 10 feet high--LITERALLY."

"I haven't eaten at McDonald's in about three years--LITERALLY."

"I hate riding in rental cars. They're worse than taxi cabs. They make me throw up--LITERALLY." (Editor's note: Confirmed.)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Land of Make Believe

We decided to try a new waterpark this weekend. The choices were Camel Beach, in the Poconos; Splish Splash, in eastern Long Island; or Land of Make Believe, in western New Jersey.

Land of Make Believe won because it was the closest, cheapest, and it had amusement rides in addition to a waterpark.

It sounds kind of corny, and it is. It's one of those mom-and-pop amusement parks that started in the '50s with hayrides and a little train--and it still pretty much has that feel, although they've added a nice waterpark section.

There are no scary rides, so by definition no throngs of teenagers. The lines for the rides were relatively short.

The best attractions were the waterpark, which included tube slides, a lazy river, a pirate ship lagoon for little kids, and a water fort with tipping bucket (whoever invented that concept 10 years ago should've patented it). Samuel and Ethan also liked the Rockin' Tug, a non-waterpark ride, which was just scary enough to excite them without actually scaring them.

The worst attractions were the holdovers from the earlier days that no one apparently has the heart to kill: the candy cane forest (a bunch of plastic candy canes serving no discernable purpose), the maze (strips of an old plastic tarp), a talking scarecrow named Colonel Corn (manned by a 16-year-old hiding somewhere in a nearby building who was asking the 14-year-old girls ahead of us for their My Space pages), and Santa's Barn (aka the Enchanted Christmas Village), a windowless, mothball-smelling building with fake snow and--yes, Santa is actually there, even in July.

The biggest downer is that they make you exit the park through a bulding called the Cookie House--which doesn't sell any cookies! Duh!