COVID-19 · post-op life · siblings · slice of life

The Things Siblings Say to Each Other

I walked downstairs around 5:45 p.m. and noticed my children building a structure out of Magnatiles together. I announced, “I’ll be in the great room, icing my ankle, if either of you need me.” Neither of them looked up.

Alrighty then, I thought. Carry on.

I grabbed an ice pack from the freeze, lowered myself onto the couch, propped up my feet, and wrapped the pack around my ankle. I heard musings from the playroom of the kids talking about the hotel they were building. I felt a pang in my heart knowing we were supposed to be staying at a hotel tonight on our way to meet our cousins in the Great Smoky Mountains for our summer vacation.

My sense of regret about the vacation we’ve postposed until after there’s a vaccine was interrupted by yelling. Isabelle began to order Ari around. He must not have liked her command since he responded with “You’re not a good person!”

I gasped. Where on Earth did he come up with that? HE IS THREE! But just as I was about to holler something into the next room, Isabelle shouted at Ari to which he responded, “I don’t like your behavior.”

I giggled. Now THAT we have been known to say.

Isabelle declared she wasn’t going to play with Ari anymore. I thought about intervening, but — well — I was icing my ankle. Better to let them cool down and figure it out on their own.

By the time I finished icing my foot a little after six, the two of them were playing “farm hotel” with Little People. (NOTE: We were supposed to stay in Roanoke tonight, not at any kind of farm hotel. Therefore, they get an A for creativity!) Isabelle and Ari were getting along swimmingly… until they weren’t — again.

Next thing I knew, they made up and came into the great room to read books together while I cooked dinner. I thought they were reading alone, but when I went over to the couch to see what was happening, I discovered Isabelle’s arm around Ari as they leafed through a book on trains she borrowed for him from the library.

Precious.

But ten minutes later, they complained about being hungry. Once they ate dinner, they resumed their usual silly brother-sister relationship and didn’t fight the rest of the night.

I’ll never understand sibling banter since I’m an only child. But if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that they would not be doing as well as they are during our continued efforts to stay-at-home as much as possible if it weren’t for having one another. So, yeah, sometimes they drive each other nuts because they’ve basically been each other’s only playmate for four months. However, I know they love each other immensely… so I’m not too worried.

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slice of life

Multitasking at Its Finest (or at Its Worst)

100+ days into quarantine life and we’ve watched all eight seasons of “Kids Baking Championship.” Isabelle has made “Chopped Junior” her new pre-bedtime show. Personally, I don’t like “Chopped Junior” (nor am I a fan of “Chopped” for that matter) anywhere near as much as “Kids Baking Championship” so I often do something on my laptop while she watches.

I was in the midst of redesigning Two Writing Teachers this evening when I noticed I hadn’t heard her say anything for five minutes. I looked to my right and this is what I saw:

I bet she would’ve stayed here all night if I had let her.

Once I realized Isabelle’s eyes were closing, I encouraged her to get up and go to sleep.

“So cozy,” she muttered.

“I know you’re cozy, but I can’t lift you. I need you to go into your bed.”

She rolled onto her right side, away from me, and said, “So so cozy.”

“You’ll be cozy in your own bed too,” I replied.

After another minute of the back-and-forth cozy banter, I managed to get her out of my bed and down the hall.

Perhaps I need to find a show we both enjoy so this doesn’t happen again.

*****

BTW: Here’s a glimpse at the partially-completed TWT main page. I’m still tinkering!
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post-op life · slice of life

16 Weeks + 5 Days

Here are the stats:

Pics from PT
  • I’m 16 weeks and five days post-op from foot surgery.
  • Today was my 21st post-op physical therapy session.
  • I spent three hours at physical therapy today.
  • 15 – 20 minutes was spent with the therapist working on my foot.
  • 90 minutes was spent doing strengthening exercises.
  • 60 minutes was spent doing cardio.
  • 15 minutes was spent with ice on my foot at the end.

I am working diligently to restore my strength, range of motion, flexibility, stability, and balance. It is a lot of work. I thought the end would be in sight by now, but physical therapy got delayed due to COVID-19. I don’t have full range of motion yet. The foot pain still increases at night. I rarely work from my home office since I still need to keep my feet elevated in bed as much as possible.

But, I persist. I have a home exercise program I follow daily. I am making progress, but it isn’t fast enough for me. I’ve come to understand feet don’t heal as quickly as the rest of the body since they’re used daily. Yet, I am hopefuly I will make a full recovery.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
siblings · slice of life

Roofy Stuffies

Ari sleeps with three puppies (i.e., A Puppy, I Puppy, and Patchy) and a blanket at naptime and bedtime. He schleps the puppies around the house. Sometimes they come on car rides. As a result, they’ve been looking a little messy. (Also, they smell like drool, but that’s another story.) Therefore, it was time for them to get clean.
“Ari!” I called downstairs. “I’m giving the puppies a bath. Do you want to help them get prepare for their bath?”
“No!” he called back.
Fine by me.
I zipped each puppy up in a mesh lingerie bag, added the appropriate liquids, and started the washing machine.
Ten minutes later, Ari tore through my bedroom door where I was sitting beside Isabelle working on writing. He must’ve realized his puppies were in the washing machine because his face was covered in red blotches and tears.
“I wanna give my puppies a hug before they have a bath!”
“Buddy, they’re already in the washing machine,” I replied.
“But I need to give them a hug!”
“Come here,” I said extending my arms to him.
Ari climbed onto my bed and fell into me. I felt the wetness and warmth of his face as he sobbed in my lap.
Isabelle must’ve remembered how it felt to have her special bears in the wash since she sprung into action. “Do you want me to get Schleppy? Or Teddy?”
“Marshemellow!” Ari declared between sobs. “Teddy!”
Isabelle sprung out from under the comforter and dashed to her room. Marshmellow must not have been on her bed since she returned with the infamous Teddy (which she never wants to let him touch) and Igloo (who had once been Ari’s panda that she adopted). She handed both of the bears to Ari for him to hold.
Ari crawled off of my lap and sat between us. He hugged Igloo and Teddy. Isabelle hugged him. She whispered sweet words into his ear and rubbed his back. She told him it would be okay… that his puppies would be out soon. After a few minutes, Ari calmed down and toddled off.


* * * * *

Once the washing machine stopped, I called downstairs to Ari.
“Ari! Do you want to come upstairs and say hello to your puppies before the get dry from their bath?”
Do you think he came?

Ari is reunited with the “Roofy Stuffies,” otherwise known as A Puppy, I Puppy, and Patchy, before they started their dryer cycle.
COVID-19 · slice of life

A Drive for Brunch #SOL20

Ever since I received the contract to write Craft Moves, I’ve spent nearly every Sunday morning writing and/or working. That changed when COVID-19 took hold. While Marc still does the food shopping on Sunday mornings, he goes alone. It’s too risky to take the kids — especially Ari who likes to touch everything — to the grocery store with him. So, they’re home with me. Working with both kids at home is not an option so we’ve started going for Sunday drives while Marc does the food shopping.

Each Sunday drive has a theme. Sometimes the kids take turns deciding which way to turn. Other times we go on a scavenger hunt searching for items in a certain color or for things like barns. This past Sunday, Isabelle decided we should go for a drive down the east-west freeway a few miles from our house and take it nine exists to the east. Why nine? Well, because she is nine.

After six exits, we discovered the freeway ended.

“Should we keep driving to the east?” I asked.

“Yes, keep going east,” Isabelle replied.

We drove so far that we were on the cusp of being in the next area code! (Isabelle declared, “I think we should turn around,” nine miles before we arrived in Coatesville, PA.)

We placed our brunch order in Gap, PA.

“Should I pull over and order brunch?” I asked the kids.

“Yes!” they declared.

Speckled Hen?” I asked.

They cheered. I guessed that meant yes. It took me about ten minutes to find a place to pull over that had wifi so I could place a curbside pickup order. (Because even though our county went from the red to yellow phase on Friday, I am not ready to dine at an outdoor cafe yet.) As we drove through the farmland I realized I needed to use the restroom. While that shouldn’t be a big deal, I had two kids — including a three-year-old who can’t keep a mask on — and no other adults with me. That’s when I had to call in a favor.

“Ari, Mommy really needs to use the bathroom when we get to the Speckled Hen since we’ve been driving for so long. I’m going to need you to come into the restaurant with me to go to the bathroom. You have to wear a mask and you can’t touch anything. Can I count on you?”

Ari didn’t answer. Oh. My. G-d.

“Ari? Do you think you can wear your mask for three minutes so Mommy doesn’t have a potty accident?” I asked.

The words potty accident must have resonated since Ari responded, “Yes!”

Thank goodness.

I parked outside of the restaurant, put on my mask, handed Isabelle her mask, and wrapped Ari’s mask around his ears. “Promise me that you’ll keep it on for the entire time. It shouldn’t be more than three minutes.”

I took one of Ari’s hands and Isabelle grabbed his other hand. The three of us walked into The Speckled Hen with our masks on our faces. I made a beeline for the bathroom. Isabelle took charge of the situation. She held both of Ari’s hands so I could use the facilities and played Ring-Around-the-Rosie with him but insisted that they squat down insteat of fall down so neither of them would touch anything.

Here they are, keeping their hands to themselves!

Once we finished in the restroom (and I profusely thanked Isabelle), we went to the counter and picked up our order to bring back to the car for a minivan picnic. Of course, the kids wanted to look around since they haven’t been inside of a restaurant for months! My repetitions of “don’t touch anything” must’ve worked since neither of them touched anything while we waited for our order.

I’m not sure what my kids will remember about this time years from now. However, it’s my hope they’ll remember our Sunday drives and our minivan picnics fondly. If they just so happen to remember their slightly neurotic mom reminding them not to touch anything, then I suppose that’ll be okay too.

Minivan Brunch Picnic
CONVERSATIONS · motherhood

Showing Up for a First Talk About Racism

I talked with Isabelle about bias and discrimination for the first time when the Trump Administration announced the first Muslim Ban. Isabelle was in Kindergarten back then. Marc and I decided to break from our traditional stance on no live news. We allowed Isabelle to watch as throngs of New Yorkers flooded Kennedy Airport to protest.

When increased talk of the border wall and undocumented people rose, we talked again. Isabelle had friends from Mexico and couldn’t imagine someone not wanting them to be in the United States because of their caramel skin.

Tonight, after learning that my husband let Isabelle and Ari watch the SpaceX Launch on the news while I picked up dinner, I asked Isabelle, “Did you see what’s been happening in Minneapolis?”

She had no idea, but BEGGED me to tell her. (Despite being close to the end of third grade, we still don’t allow her to watch the news.) I asked her to give me a few minutes while I composed my thoughts. I couldn’t tell her about the protests without telling her what people were protesting. I couldn’t tell her about the murder of George Floyd without telling her about who pinned him to the ground as he gasped for air for eight minutes. I couldn’t tell her why Floyd was on the ground for an alleged counterfeit bill being used without talking about Floyd’s skin color. I couldn’t talk about any of it before starting out with the r-word: RACISM.

Discriminating against someone because of the color of their skin doesn’t make sense to Isabelle. She has friends and classmates with black and brown skin. Does she notice their darker skin? Yes. But that difference meant little to her since we’ve never taught her to hate.

Now Isabelle knows that some of her friends will be treated differently because of their black and brown skin. She found it hard to imagine that some of the boys in her class could face trouble for no other reason than because their skin is black.

She understood that it wasn’t fair. So, I told her what she could do. First, I told her if she ever sees a friend being treated unfairly because of the color of their skin, then she needs to speak up immediately. (She knows she can tell us or a teacher something.) Second, I told her that she can take action, like Darnella Frazier, the 17-year-old who shot the video of Floyd on the ground, did. Of course, she doesn’t have a cell phone now, but I wanted her to understand that we only knew about what happened to Floyd because of the video.

And then I stopped. I allowed her to have the space to ask questions. She had a couple. I know she’ll ask more in the days and weeks to come.

I never expected to have a conversation with my third grader about racism tonight. (I haven’t even spoken with her about anti-Semitism yet!) However, sheltering Isabelle from what’s happening in America isn’t right. If I want to raise her to be an anti-racist person, then she has to understand why it matters — in developmentally appropriate ways — now.

COVID-19 · outdoors · slice of life

Discerning Ducks #SOL20

Over the weekend, Isabelle asked if we could go to the park to feed the ducks. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of being in a park with lots of other people so we made a deal. If the kids could get up and out EARLY this morning, then we’d grant Isabelle’s wish and go to the park.

Marc gathered wheat bread and hot dog rolls and put it in a plastic bag for the ducks. I remembered some not-so-tasty gluten-free bread I’ve had in the freezer since President’s Day Weekend. I hadn’t thrown it out, despite disliking it, since I kept worrying about food shortages. Now that I know the local gluten-free bakery is baking consistently, I felt as though I could part with the remaining eight slices. I defrosted the bread, put it in a separate plastic bag (You never know when you encounter a duck with Celiac disease!), and put it in the car with the bag of regular breads.

Once we arrived at the park, I untwisted the twist on the gluten-free bread bag first. Ari and I began tossing the gluten-free bread in. The ducks swam over and nibbled on it. Then, they SPIT IT OUT. Seriously! I couldn’t imagine why they’d spit it out. They are ducks! How could they be that finicky?! So, Ari and I kept tossing the gluten-free bread into the water. The ducks swam away from it!

Next, I opened up the bag of wheat bread and hot dog rolls. And do you know what happened next? The ducks devoured it!

Apparently that gluten-free bread was really that bad. No longer did I feel badly about getting rid of good food since it was NOT good!

If you look closely you’ll notice bread floating in the water. That’s the gluten-free stuff that none of the ducks wanted to eat!
COVID-19 · post-op life · slice of life

“Do Not Block” Means DO NOT BLOCK!

The trajectory of my Friday afternoon changed when I got a text message, along with the photo (right) that read:

Ari stuck a ball in here when I wasn’t looking and I can’t see it.

I didn’t know what that pipe was for, but I knew — from having looked at it before — that it said DO NOT BLOCK.

I sent Marc to assess the situation while I sent a photo of the pipe to my Dad. My father didn’t text me back. He called me to report it was the intake valve for our HVAC and/or hot water. He implored me to turn off the hot water heater and the HVAC system. Marc called our builder to see what he suggested. Once he advised us to have someone come out to look at our HVAC system, I realized we were in for a hefty bill.

I got to work calling the HVAC company we contract with while Marc began turning off the HVAC and hot water.

When the woman at the HVAC company asked me to describe what I could see and what kind of ball went down the tube, I informed her I wasn’t the one out in the backyard with my son since I was upstairs with my feet up due to a tough PT session as a result of my foot surgery recovery. I’m not sure if the woman took pity on me because of the foot surgery or because it was 82 degrees, but she made sure someone was at our house in less than an hour.

The technician must have used a scope to look through the pipe since he located the ball quickly. After going out to his truck, he came back and cut the pipe open so that he could get the ball. I have no idea how he reattached the pipe, but he was finished ten minutes later.

By this point, I was downstairs preparing the side dish for dinner. After the technician explained how to prevent this situation from happening again (i.e., buying a valve protector), he turned and walked to the door.

“Are you going to send us a bill or should we pay you today?”

He turned around and said, “As I told your husband, I’m not going to charge you.”

I believe my mouth dropped open at this point. He continued, “You already pay a monthly service contract fee, which means there’s no service charge for today’s visit. And, honestly, it took me five to ten minutes to get the ball out once I found it. Seeing what’s going on in today’s world, I don’t want to add any more stress to your lives by charging you.”

I was stunned. He came to our house — quickly — and rescued us. (TRUTH: I had visions of something catching fire between the time the ball went into the pipe and the time Marc turned everything off. Granted, it was ten to 15 minutes, but a lot can happen in 15 minutes!) And he wasn’t charging us a penny. I was amazed. I was sure to fill out the survey that HVAC company sent so I could give the technician 10/10 ratings + positive written feedback.

During dinner, and into Saturday, we made sure Ari was clear that NOTHING was to be shoved, dropped, pushed, or forced into any opening (e.g., pipe, vent, toilet) in the house. We felt it was important to go beyond just saying, “Don’t put a ball into that pipe again,” since Isabelle once flushed a plastic doll comb down the toilet when she was three-years-old. That was a much costlier error, which led to plumbing and water mitigation. But that’s another story!

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COVID-19 · slice of life · writing

Just Another Day

I have no idea what day of the stay-at-home order we are on. (Day 50-something, perhaps?) I think we are nine weeks into our quarantine-schooling adventure, but I am not entirely sure of that either. What I do know is that Isabelle is nearing the end of her second writer’s notebook. That I am sure of!

Today’s writing was inspired by one of Amy LV’s Keeping a Notebook chats. Isabelle wrote about a play date she had with her friend Yael a couple of months after we moved into our house.

While Isabelle orally rehearsed her story, I noticed she was telling about what one person said to another rather than pretending to speak the words aloud. So, I taught into that. I pulled out a mentor text, Kaia and the Bees by Maribeth Boelts, and we looked at how dialogue was used and how it was punctuated.

Isabelle inserted a couple lines of dialogue. She declared she was finished with her entry, which is when I pushed her to write a couple more lines. “What else did Yael’s mom and I say to each other when she picked Yael up from our house?” Like many kids writing about something that happened in the past, Isabelle couldn’t remember the exact words we said. I told her to imagine what we may have said. That freed her up and she was able to include a couple more lines of dialogue.

Dialogue isn’t something one masters in single day. Isabelle worked really hard, but I could tell she will need more lessons on how to craft effective dialogue that advances a story or that to reveals a character’s personality or motivations. However, I was pleased by her efforts to punctuate it like Maribeth Boelts did in Kaia so I decided to take her out for a minivan lunch picnic. Why not? It’s not like we had anything else going on since it was just another day at home.

Isabelle ordered a rainbow grilled cheese sandwich and fruit.
COVID-19 · pretend play · siblings · slice of life

The Play Kitchen #SOL20

The play kitchen went into storage when we moved from Harrisburg to Lancaster. After Ari managing to live without it for four months, we instructed the movers to put it in the basement once it was unloaded from the moving truck.

Ari has watched one too many episodes of “Kids Baking Championship” since he turned one of our cabinets into a blast chiller yesterday afternoon.

“Don’t put that in there!” I called from the couch.

Did he listen?

Do you remember how old he is? (Three and a half.)

So, now you know the answer.

Ari put several items in the blast chiller (my baking cabinet) yesterday. Isabelle must’ve been able to tell I was getting annoyed since she suggested, “We need to bring up the play kitchen from the basement.”

Marc and I texted back-and-forth a couple of times. We determined the kitchen could come upstairs and go into the kids’ play room.

“Why can’t it go into the kitchen on this wall where it was in the old house?”

My dear husband told the kids he didn’t want it scratching the wall. I was brutally honest, “Because I don’t want it there.” (Listen, I had a play kitchen in our former house for over six years. I adored having it there, but once we moved I decided I didn’t want a kitchen within my kitchen taking up space.)

A few hours later, Marc and my dad moved the play kitchen upstairs. My father anchored it to the play room wall — despite Isabelle and Ari chomping at the bit to play with it again — in an effort to keep them safe.

Once the kitchen was ready to go, some arguments broke out between who was allowed to open which pretend door. I have no idea who was right or wrong in the arguments. What I do know is that my baking cabinet is no longer serving as Ari’s blast chiller.

Ari was all smiles after Isabelle went to bed since he had the kitchen to himself. (Why a nine-year-old wants to play with a play kitchen she hasn’t had an interest in for about four years is beyond me. I’m sure it’s a combination of nostalgia and being at-home for seven-and-a-half weeks.)
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