outdoors · slice of life

Reminder: Look Up!

Get out in nature. Go for a walk. Whatever you do, don’t scroll on your phone while you stroll along! Instead, observe the world around you.

Behold the way autumn bestows its first changes to the leaves as they fall to the ground. Keep track of the spookiest Halloween decorations as you wind through the streets. Admire the pumpkin stacks, hay bales, and mums that dot walkways and front porches.

But most of all, remember to glance upwards for you never know what you might see.

Here’s a hot air balloon I saw during my afternoon walk. It was right overhead at one point… so close that I could see and hear the balloon’s burner.
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food · slice of life

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I kept the ice cream maker’s insert in the freezer despite having good weather last week for Ari’s birthday. I purchased the ingredients so I thought it would be wise to still make ice cream!

My father and Ari got to work making a vanilla bean ice cream base over the weekend. Ari lost interest after helping my dad measure all of the ingredients. By the time I exited my home office, I found my dad alone at the stove stirring the ice cream base. He had a handheld digital thermometer nearby to monitor the ice cream’s temperature.

As he stirred, I peeked my head over the pan. A heavenly vanilla scent wafted towards my nose. Perfection!

“Do you think it’s ready?” he asked.

“I have no idea. What’s the temperature?”

He dipped the thermometer into the ice cream base and read out “190°F.”

“What’s it supposed to be?” I inquired.

“The recipe doesn’t say. But I don’t want it to curdle,” he replied.

“Maybe lower the temperature,” I offered.

“I just did,” he replied.

Moments later, my father removed the ice cream base from the stove, transferred it into a bowl, and let it cool to room temperature before refrigerating it. The two of us spent the next few hours wondering if the base would be okay or if it was curdled and ruined.

This morning, my Dad removed the base from the fridge and tried to put it through a sieve. It was too thick! We consulted for a few minutes and decided he should go ahead with churning the base. What were the chances that it would taste like scrambled eggs? (High. The chances were sky high since we thought the base got too hot and it looked, well, curdled!)

Keeping a watchful eye on the ice cream maker.

Ari joined my father at the ice cream maker. Together, they watched the ice cream churn for nearly 25 minutes. As time went on, the base turned into something that resembled ice cream… not scrambled eggs! Once they saw it looking good, they added mini chocolate chips.

Once the churn was complete, my dad scooped the ice cream into bowls. I tasted it discovered the ice cream had the perfect mouthfeel. The churn was perfect. There were plenty of chips. Everything about it was balanced! And to think that we thought it was going to be a bust…!

Get this boy a chair! He ate his ice cream standing up in his helper tower!

Ari and I will try making ice cream again soon. What flavor should we make next?

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celebrations · slice of life

Rain Threatens

It rained on our wedding day. And by rained, I mean poured! It rained so much the hair stylist was late since trees were down due to the storm. Luckily, all of our guests made it to our wedding safely. The rain was more annoying than anything else since we got married in late December and didn’t plan on doing much more than taking a few photos outside of the hotel. But, no one wants it to rain on their wedding day! (If I had a nickel for every time I have heard it’s good luck to have rain on your wedding day. That’s the garbage they tell forlorn brides to appease them.)

I’ve been checking the weather forecast as much as a bride planning an outdoor wedding for the past ten days. Why? Ari’s fifth birthday is coming this week and we have outdoor plans. But, our outdoor plans might be thwarted by — RAIN!

No child who has spent 30% of their life following “the rules” amidst a global pandemic wants to hear that it’s raining on their birthday. So, I’ve hid the truth about this possibility of rain in the forecast from him. Sneaky? Yes. Necessary for me to keep my sanity while coming up with alternate plans? Also yes.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out what we’ll do if our plans get rained out. I’ve tried to think beyond open presents, play with presents, and eat cake. So far I’ve come up with:

  • Make brunch with Ari’s favorite “breakfast” foods.
    • Some of Ari’s favorites are pancakes, French toast, bagels, and lox.
  • Learn how to crack eggs.
    • Believe it or not, this is something he’s been wanting to do since I told him he’d have to wait to learn to crack eggs until he’s five.
  • Make homemade ice cream.
    • Speaking of which, Marc put the bowl into the freezer freezer tonight — just in case.

I need more ideas! Please leave your best indoor birthday ideas as comments.

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From the Chronicles of an Under-Appreciated Laundress!

Laundry, Part I:

Ari has the tendency to spill food on his clothes and/or wipe his hands on his shirt (rather than on a napkin) when we eat out. On Saturday evening, Marc and I reminded Ari to use the cloth napkin at the restaurant. He must’ve gotten annoyed after the third reminder since he declared, “You haven’t done any laundry today,” while looking me square in the eye.

He’s lucky he looked angelic while the sun set behind him on the restaurant’s patio since that comment didn’t land well.

“Are you kidding me? I already did two loads of laundry today. The first load of laundry was done after you came home from apple picking with mud all over your pants.” {Small four-year-old smile.} “And the second load of laundry was a load of towels after the shower you took when we returned home from apple picking. So, yes, I have done laundry today. Two loads worth! But that shouldn’t have any bearing on whether or not you use a napkin at dinnertime.”

And with that, Marc placed the napkin back on Ari’s lap for the fourth time during the meal. And I made a mental note of where I’d be spraying Zout on his clothes once we got home.

Laundry, Part II:

Last night, I invited (Maybe the right word is commanded.) the kids to come into my bedroom to help me sort laundry on my bed. At they tossed everyone’s clothes to the four corners of the king-size bed, Isabelle and Ari discovered multiple pieces of their clothing were inside out. BUT, they tossed them into their piles without fixing them.

Working Hard on Fixing Their Clothes

I was unamused since I’ve been talking with both of them about turning their clothes right-side out before tossing them into the hamper. (Ari tends to make a better effort at this than Isabelle does despite the fact I’ve been placing her unwashed, inside-out clothes in front of her bedroom door with love letters on sticky notes saying, “Turn me right-side out and place me back in the hamper!”)

I tossed the clean, inside-out clothes back into the center of the bed where they were seated. I looked at kids and said, “You fix, I’ll fold.”

Ari apporached the task a bit more gingerly than Isabelle who seemed annoyed that she was being asked — yet again — to turn her clothes right-side out. I let the kids fix their clothes before I asked, “What could you do differently next time so you don’t have to spend time doing this when you help me sort your laundry?”

“Take our clothes off more carefully?” Isabelle asked.

“That would be helpful,” I replied.

“Turn them right-side out if they’re inside-out next time,” Ari offered.

“That would be helpful too.”

We’ll see what awaits me the next time I do the laundry. That’s another couple of days away.

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outdoors · slice of life

We walked until the sidewalk ended.

My first memories of poetry come from my second-grade teacher. This woman was meaner than mean and yelled at students regularly because she probably should’ve retired five years earlier. (Case in point: She screamed at me in front of the class because I regrouped 108-9 incorrectly at the blackboard.) She wasn’t too perceptive since she never caught on to me fake reading all year long.

But, if there’s one thing she did right, it’s that she read aloud to us regularly. I don’t remember much of what she shared with us that year, but I do remember her reading poems aloud from Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. I couldn’t rhyme like Shel Silverstein, but I LOVED it when my teacher read aloud to us from his books!

Where the Sidewalk Ends

It’s been nearly 40 years since I finished second grade. I still have an appreciation for Shel Silverstein’s books. So when Ari and I decided to go for an after dinner walk tonight, we talked about going around the block. The sun was setting and we wanted to see more so we decided to walk to the end of our neighborhood. Finally, when I realized he had enough steam, I asked Ari, “Would you like to walk to where the sidewalk ends?”

“Yes! Let’s go to where the sidewalk ends!” (He doesn’t know Silverstein’s book yet. There are some things I try to save for his future elementary school teachers to introduce to him.)

It was the sweetest little response. And even though he doesn’t realize that he recited a book title, he knew exactly where to walk to — and where to stop — before turning around and heading home.

art · siblings · slice of life

My Teaching Assistant

Things like Flair pens, folders, glue sticks were purchased when we took a trip to Target for back-to-school supplies this morning. But the thing the kids were most excited about were their new coloring books. (Isabelle purchased hers with her own money so that felt like a win to me!) In fact, it got really quiet when we returned home from Target since the kids disappeared into the playroom. I went in search of them. Moments later, I discovered them sitting side by side at the craft table with coloring books and a new box of 64 crayons. (Speaking of crayons, Isabelle thinks the sharpener that comes on the back of Crayola’s 64-count box is awesome. I told her they even had the sharpener when I was a kid. Her mind was blown. Apparently, she didn’t think that kind of technology would’ve existed in the 1980s!)

“Whatcha doing?” I asked.

Isabelle checks Ari’s answer before giving him permission to record it on the page.

“Coloring,” Isabelle and Ari responded simultaneously.

“Do you need me?”

“Nope,” Ari replied.

“Okay, I’m going to go and eat some lunch since I have a medical appointment that I have to leave for in a half-hour.”

“Okay!” Ari replied.

As I prepared my lunch, I overheard the kids talking. But they weren’t having a conversation. I listened closely. Isabelle was reading the directions on the activity pages of Ari’s new coloring book aloud to him. He was counting (e.g., the spots on a dog, the bubbles in a bubble bath) and then asking Isabelle for confirmation. She’d tell him, “Right!” or “Try again!” Then, as soon as the answer was correct, she’d tell him to “write that down.”

I smiled, came up behind them, and shot a couple of videos. Then, grateful to have a “teaching assistant,” I returned to the kitchen where I ate my lunch in peace while they worked together.

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medical · slice of life

Back in my day…

After a few years of allergy medicine, this spring’s allergy season defeated Isabelle. One day she declared, “I’m ready for allergy shots!”

I have sung the praises of allergy shots since I finished my second round of allergy shots in 2016. (That’s right! The shots I received from 1990-1996 in the NY Metropolitan Area did nothing to help me when we moved to the Susquehanna Valley in 2009. By 2011, I realized I’d have to try allergy shots again or risk scratching my skin off and rubbing my eyes out. Clearly, I selected the shots!) However, getting a kid to agree to allergy shots takes time since the scratch testing alone is unbearable!

BUT, Isabelle’s allergist informed us we could opt for a blood test, in lieu of pricking her arms multiple times with needles. WHERE THE HECK WAS THIS OPTION IN 2011? (I won’t be bitter about the technology not being present in 1989. After all, dinosaurs were walking the Earth back then.) One stick versus 40-ish pricks on both arms? No itching? Just as accurate? Isabelle agreed to the testing as soon as the blood test option was offered.

Fast-forward to today. Isabelle took her allergy pill and heard my gloom and doom warnings (eg, Your arms may itch afterward. You may have some swelling or achiness after the shots. You might want to apply an ice pack if your arms really hurt.) arrived at the pediatric specialties office. After the nurse asked us the Covid questions, I inquired, “Do you have ice packs in case she’s sore afterwards?”

“I do. I can also use freeze spray to numb the area beforehand and I can give her itch cream if she’s feeling itchy after the shots.”

“You have — what?!!?” I spat.

“Freeze cream and itch spray. And ice packs.”

“You’re kidding me?!!? When I got my shots here a few years ago, all they offered were ice packs! And when I was a kid, they didn’t even have ice packs! All ya got back then was a ‘Don’t scratch too much’ warning from the nurse.”

“They don’t have freeze spray and itch cream in the adult clinic?”

“They didn’t from 2011-2016!” I replied.

She chuckled, but not unkindly. “We have it all in Peds.”

“Lucky you,” I told Isabelle. “Back in my day, we just suffered.”

I’m happy to report that thanks to the freeze spray, Isabelle didn’t need so much as a hand to hold. While she didn’t need the itch cream, I told her to take it when I noticed her scratching. If it’s an option, then why suffer? After all, it ain’t the 90s anymore.

Shot 1 of 2
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routines · schedules · slice of life

Excuses at Naptime #SOL21

I tucked-in Ari for his nap about 15 minutes later than usual. No biggie. That often happens on weekends.

Sensing that he’d be back, I laid down in my bed for a bit to read a novel. 15 minutes later, my intuition was proven correct. Ari found me in my room to discuss going to the bathroom. Once that was settled, I tucked him back into bed, kissed him “good nap,” and closed his bedroom door.

I checked on Isabelle, who was reading in her room. I decided to stretch in our exercise room. Another 15 minutes passed and Isabelle came into my room to ask for her iPad to reserve some books from the library. After a quick chat, we decided we’d finish El Deafo, which we’ve been reading together before bedtime. But, moments after she got the graphic novel from her room, a blond boy appeared and declared, “I don’t feel well.”

Marc was doing the grocery shopping this afternoon. I updated him so he could get a sense of the drama that was happening on the home front. (Bet he was happy to be at Wegmans and Giant!)

“What hurts?” I asked.

“I just don’t feel well,” Ari replied.

“Does your tummy hurt?” I asked.


“Go back to bed and I’ll be in momentarily.”

Ari toddled back to his room. Isabelle and I made a plan to read El Deafo as soon as I got Ari down for his nap — again.

JUST IN CASE something was wrong, I decided to take Ari’s temperature. It was 98.7. Practically normal. He was fine (as I suspected).

“Do you think you don’t feel well because you ate a lot at lunchtime?”

“Maybe…” he replied.

“Probably,” I said. “You ate a sandwich, chips, and a LOT of fruit. Anyway, I’ll see you at four,” I said as I kissed his silken hair and pulled his quilt up to his shoulders.

Somewhere in the middle of the final chapter of El Deafo, Isabelle and I had a visitor.

“My animals are keeping me awake!” Ari declared.

“AR-EEEEEE!” Isabelle declared.

I had about no patience left so I replied with the only kind words I could muster. “Bring them in here and go back to bed.”

“Jeez, I can’t believe him,” Isabelle replied.

“Neither can I!” I said as he hurled multiple stuffies at the bed.

“Can you tuck yourself back in?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Good!” I said under my breath.

Once we finished reading El Deafo and talking about the book’s theme (That’s what happens when your mom is a literacy specialist.), Isabelle went downstairs to do some art. I walked into the exercise room to attempt a workout. No sooner did I have my workout gloves on did I have a visitor.

“What’s happening now?” I asked.

“I’m hot in my room.”

“Well, you are wearing long sleeves and long pants,” I replied. “Maybe you should consider a short-sleeve shirt.”

“I don’t want to wear a short-sleeve shirt,” Ari said.

“Well,” I said marching him back to his bedroom, “I’ll help you pick one out and put one on. That’s what happens when you’re warm. You change into cooler clothes.”

There were about three more back-and-forths before nap time was officially over at four. Despite feeling frustrated, I managed to keep my voice from raising. BUT, when Ari’s earlier bedtime came this evening and Ari started telling me, “The rain is too loud for me to go to bed,” I insisted he go to bed. He started to moan, but I stood my ground. I told him his body required a certain number of hours of sleep per day, kissed him good night, and sent him on his way with Marc.

This quote came to mind with every interaction I had with Ari. One day I will look back on today’s naptime antics and wax nostalgic. (Today is not the day.)
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raising boys · schedules · slice of life

Night “Noises”

I have a visitor nearly every night at 10:00 p.m. (Technically, it’s 9:58 p.m. since Ari nudges my clock two minutes forward every time I reset it.) At first, my sweet blond boy would appear and say, “I heard a noise,” and I would offer to comfort him and walk him back to his bedroom.

I realized I was being played after the third night of 10 p.m. “noises.” I offered a hug and a quick snuggle, but told Ari to walk himself back to bed. Luckily, he did.

Over the course of the past month, I have not overheard any 10 p.m. noises. Not a siren. Not a train. Not even a horse and buggy (and that is a thing where we live). How do I know? I am reading in bed at night — every night — at that time. I never hear anything! In the past week, Ari has stopped saying he heard something since he knows I’m on to his game.

10 p.m. Snuggles

This evening, Ari told me that he spied “Daddy working in his office” across the hall from his bedroom. I knew better to ask, “Why didn’t you go in to see Daddy?” I know why. He wants to see me. For some reason, I think he likes to know that I’m just down the hall, reading a book, every evening. There must be something reliable about me and a book in bed.

I have no idea how many more nights I’ll be receiving a visitor at 10 p.m. I just know that he’s at his snuggliest when he comes in at 10 p.m.

Marc came into our bedroom about five minutes after Ari closed his bedroom door. “I see you had a visitor.”

“I did,” I replied.

“I saw him come out of his bedroom before. I looked up and said, ‘Are you going to visit Mommy?’ He just smiled and walked into you.”

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siblings · slice of life

A Temporary Party of Three

I remember how odd it was to hear Isabelle say, “It’s just the original family,” as she, Marc, and I sat around the dinner table back in April when Ari spent a few days at my parents’ house. I never thought of the three of us as “the original family,” but seeing as she was nearly six years old when Ari was born, I suppose she considers us the original three. And as strange as it was to have an empty place at the table for a few nights, it didn’t feel foreign to me. I, too, remembered a time when it was just three of us.

This past week, Isabelle traveled to Bubbe and Zayde’s house for her solo trip. While she’s spent time with at her grandparents’ house before, I’m pretty sure Isabelle hasn’t stayed there alone since the summer of 2015. So, as odd as it is to have her away for a few days, it doesn’t feel foreign to me either.

What did feel foreign to me was having Ari home with just me and Marc. I vaguely recall Isabelle spending a few days with my inlaws when Ari was a baby, but I was so sleep deprived that I don’t remember if it was in the summer of 2017 or 2018! This time, I’m well-rested enough to be present. While Isabelle was away, we’ve done some things together she wouldn’t have enjoyed. Three examples were:

  • We took an after-dinner walk in the neighborhood. (Typically, Isabelle is too tired to take a walk at night.)
  • We had a movie night. (Isabelle prefers short TV shows as opposed to movies.)
  • We enjoyed a picnic and playing in the park. (Isabelle detests bugs.)

While Isabelle had the chance to be the center of her grandparents’ universe for a few days, Ari had the opportunity to be the center of his parents’ world for a few days. I know he misses Isabelle since he insists on calling her every night so he can do a virtual tuck-in. (He has this thing about saying “good night” to Isabelle. If he misses saying good night to her because he’s out watering the garden or riding his bike, he tiptoes into her room to give her a kiss on the cheek before he takes a shower.) And while I know he will be thrilled to have his partner in crime back, I think he’s enjoyed our undivided attention.

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