history · slice of life

Visiting Wheatland

Inauguration Day is two days away. Like many Americans, I’m furious that our country is divided. While it’s my sincere hope better days are ahead for our country, I think it’s important to have conversations with kids about how we got here since this isn’t the first time our country has been at a crossroads.

The last time our country was this at odds with itself was the in 1860. President James Buchanan failed to hold the Union together and didn’t stop the secession of the South in early 1861. Many historians contend was one of the greatest mistakes in presidential history.

President Buchanan’s home, Wheatland, is located a few miles away from our house. Even though it’s closed to the public now, due to COVID-19, the grounds are open and a virtual tour is available.

This morning, I bundled the kids up and took them to visit Wheatland (and the Tanger Arboretum, which has over 200 varities of trees). While Ari viewed our field trip as “morning exercise,” Isabelle and I had the chance to talk about Buchanan’s legacy as we walked around Wheatland.

You might be wondering why I chose a freezing winter day to talk about Buchanan’s failures? Because Isabelle saw part of the Insurrection at the Capitol unfold at the tail end of a movement break. (Backstory: She watches kids’ HIIT vidoes on YouTube for daily movement breaks. She has the habit of exiting out of YouTube at the end of a movement break. Of course, the news was on when she exited out on January 6th so she saw the Capitol Steps flooded with people.) She knows what happened after she returned to class and has a developing understanding about why people stormed the Capitol.

I minored in history as an undergraduate. My understanding of American History was shaped by three professors: Tyler Anbinder, Edward Berkowitz, and Linda Grant DePauw. And while my daughter is only in fourth grade, I felt that today — as we stand on the cusp of what I hope are better days for our country — we should talk about what happened in the past. As the saying goes, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” It’s time for all of us to make sure our children — whether they’re are own or the kids we teach — have an understanding of America’s past so we don’t repeat the mistakes of those who came before us.

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COVID-19 · growing up · imitation · slice of life

Standing on the Cart

My husband lets our kids stand on the end of the shopping cart.

I do not.

Why? you might ask. First of all, I don’t feel like pushing around an extra 40 – 80 pounds when I’m at the grocery store. Second, I don’t think it’s the safest thing in the world.

Nowadays, I go to the supermarket infrequently. I do a lot of online ordering and parking lot pickups since there are too many noses sticking out of masks for my comfort level. As a result, my kids don’t go to the supermarket much either since we want to keep them home as much as possible.

But today, I needed to go to Whole Foods to pick up an item for my daughter. Since Whole Foods has been great about mask enforcement, I felt comfortable enough to take Ari there.

The two of us were waiting for our deli order to be finished when he decided to hop on the back of the cart. I asked Ari to get off of the cart. He didn’t. Instead, he replied with, “Well, Daddy lets me ride on here.”

“I’m not Daddy,” I reminded him.

Because he’s four he stated, “But Daddy lets me!”

With that, he stretched and wiggled around on the end of the cart. I was wearing a mask and almost finished with my deli order so I decided to grasp the front of the cart tightly so he wouldn’t topple over.

Eventually, my deli order was finished and it was time to walk to the cashier. I looked Ari square in the eye and gave him a choice: walk beside me or push the cart.

He selected the second option.

Once the pandemic is over and we return to grocery stores with the kids, I believe we’re going to have to adopt a more consistent parenting approach to cart riding!

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one little word

My OLW for 2021

Recovering from foot surgery + a global pandemic helped me read more books for pleasure last year than I’ve ever read in one year of my adult life. Reading served as my escape when I was unable to leave my home. I traveled all over the world — to places like Australia, Austria, Bolivia, China, and Singapore — and across the United States from the comfort and safety of my home.

After three weeks of reading A Promised Land, which is the longest book I’ve ever read, I found myself a little over the 50% mark. I needed to take a break so I read some novels. First I read Last Tang Standing, which gave me a case of the giggles. Rather than returning to President Obama’s book right away, I picked up Katherine Center‘s newest novel, What You Wish For. It was in the pages of What You Wish For that I found my One Little Word for 2021.

Before I tell you what my word for 2021 is, come back in time with me for a moment. You may remember the latter portion of 2019 was a when-it-rains-it-pours kind of time for our family. I chose the word restore to guide me through 2020. At the time, I thought restore was a bit of a pipe dream. We had a family member who was extremely ill and I didn’t even know if/when I was going to have surgery. While I’ve had to claw my way back to being able to use my foot properly again (I’d say I’m about 90% recovered. The final 10% is going to be challenging. So will taking off some of the weight I gained from being sedentary all of those months, but I’m digressing.), I feel as though I’ve been able to restore most of the things I took for granted before I injured myself in 2019. Plus, said family member has gotten good news twice in the past three months. Amidst all of the horrendous things that have happened relating to COVID-19 in 2020, I am grateful for what we have.

Yet, I’d be disingenuous if I said I have been enjoying life every day. There are big, daily challenges we face as a family. It’s stuff I talk about face-to-face, but I don’t blog about it. These challenges aren’t things that are going to change in a year’s time. The challenging stuff will be demanding for years to come. So when Sam, the main character in What You Wish For said this, I knew I found my word for 2021:

Consciously choosing to be joyful is what I realized I need to do, even when it’s hard. JOY. That’s the word that will guide me in 2021. Joy is something I will look for daily in 2021. I will aspire to find joy every day in 2021.

I don’t have a plan for exactly how I’m going to be joyful on a daily basis this year. So, it’s good that I’m the kind of person who reads the author’s note in books since Center recommended Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee. I have a feeling this book will be a roadmap for helping me find joy authentically, even when it’s hard. In the meantime, I will take walks when there’s no snow and ice on the ground, try (more) new recipes, and use face masks once a week since those are things that delight me. But before I read Joyful, I’ve got to finish A Promised Land. (I made it to page 486 of 752 last night!)

slice of life · technology

Typing Boot Camp

I learned to type when I was in fourth grade. As a result, I type 87 WPM.

Isabelle is in fourth grade. She hasn’t received any typing instruction yet. As a result, she types 6 WPM.

Seeing as Isabelle just had her first writing assignment on Google Slides (which I typed for her so she wouldn’t get frustrated) AND is staying in an all-remote class until she’s vaccinated for COVID-19, I thought it was about time for her to learn how to type since I don’t want her to view me as her personal typist.

Enter our unofficial “typing boot camp.” Every day of her winter recess, I am insisting that she works on Typing.com so she can learn some keyboarding skills.

Day 1 went great. Day 2 was less than fun. Today is Day 3 and she reminded me when it was time to practice typing. So, that’s progress.

The biggest struggle I’m noticing is that she doesn’t use the correct fingers for some of the letters. Thankfully, Isabelle accepted my redirections on finger placement today.

What she doesn’t care for is when I tell her to work on her posture. She has no desire to sit at 90-90-90. This is how she sits:

“Criss-cross applesauce”

I guess we’ll work on proper posture later…

slice of life

Clary Sage #SOL20

After over a year of living in our house, many of our white walls were transformed with color last month.

Our powder room became Roycroft Adobe. Our children’s bathroom became Delft again. (Same color as it was in Harrisburg.) Our master bathroom received a hint of color with Colonnade Gray. Isabelle’s bedroom became Lite Lavender, which was slightly lighter than it was in Harrisburg. Ari’s Bedroom was transformed into Honest Blue. Our dining room became Smoky Blue. (This, too, was the color in Harrisburg.) Our foyer and upstairs hallway became Napery (like it was in Harrisburg).

The painter did an excellent job in November. Since he was was willing to wear a mask — yet again — we asked him to return this week to paint three more rooms. This week there are new colors that are transforming three of my most lived-in spaces. Our great room and kitchen will be painted Jogging Path and our master bedroom will become Serenely later this week. But today started off with my office, which was painted Clary Sage.

I had a home office in our Harrisburg house. Despite writing 3.5 books in my home office (the other half of Jump Into Writing was completed in Lancaster), it had always been white. While the walls were adorned with photographs in Harrisburg, it’s been one of only two rooms that hasn’t really gotten finished in this house. I wanted every other space to be decorated first, which meant I put my office space last. After all, I spent much of the first year we were in this house unable to sit at my desk because of my broken ankle and then my surgical recovery.

But now, it was time to do something for me. So, after 11 years of plain white walls, my favorite color is adorning the walls of my home office. Look!

Who knows? Maybe I’ll be inspired to write another book now that my home office’s walls have some color on them!

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donation · holidays · Jewish · slice of life

This one’s for the goats!

When Isabelle was in preschool, we began dedicating the fifth night of Chanukah to charitable giving. It felt like a no brainer to me since I’m not a present-each-night kind of mom. For the past six Chanukahs (including this one), Isabelle has emptied her tzedakah box and picks an organization for her donation. In the past, she’s donated to organizations such as Best Friends Animal Society, Children’s Miracle Network, and the Pajama Program (which Slicers may recognize as TWT’s SOLSC charity of choice!). This year, she selected to donate her tzedakah money to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital “to help kids with cancer.”

This year, Ari joined the fifth night donation for the first time. Over breakfast, I explained this Chanukah tradition to Ari. I asked him, “Do you want to help feed kids who are hungry?” He said yes. I asked him, “Do you want to buy books for kids who don’t have books in their homes?” He said yes. I asked him, “Do you want to help kids who are sick?” He said yes. I asked him several more questions and every answer was yes. But, finally, I got a different answer when I asked, “Do you want to help animals who may have been hurt or not cared for and are trying to get better?” His face lit up and he gave me a big YES!

I suggested Lancaster Farm Sanctuary, which is a local organization that cares for animals who have been abused and neglected, to him. I showed Ari some photos and a video on their website. Once he saw that some of Lancaster Farm Sanctuary’s residents are goats, he declared, “That’s where I want to give my money!”

This evening, Ari came into my office to make the donation. (He handed over the cash to me and I put it on my credit card.) When I filled out the donation form, I wrote:

Ari (my four-year-old son) is donating some of his saved Tzedakah money instead of getting a Chanukah present tonight. He loves animals, especially goats. We hope to come visit after COVID!

Less than two hours later, I received an email back from one of the women who runs the sanctuary, which said:

Please tell Ari we are so grateful that he chose to support our farm sanctuary. We hope after COVID you and Ari are able to come and visit us at the farm to see all of our residents, especially the goats 🙂

One of the photos I received this evening.

And do you want to know what else was included in the email? PHOTOS OF SOME OF THEIR GOATS! Ari will be thrilled when I show him the email and the goats’ photos in the morning.

Quite frankly, I’m touched the folks who run Lancaster Farm Sanctuary took the time to write back — and send photos of the goats — after receiving what amounted to a small donation. That kind of personal touch will have us donating again in the future.

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holidays · Jewish · slice of life

Making Traditions… Together? #SOL20

I heard about Days United sometime between our decision to pull Ari out of preschool and Rosh Hashanah. It’s a subscription service that provides holiday and culture boxes to families. I ordered the eight-box holiday set. The kids and I adored the Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot boxes. So, yesterday, when my friend Emily asked me if we had received our Chanukah box yet (She gets them for her daughter too and thought this one was amazing!), I said “not yet.” Both kids were awaiting the box’s arrival eagerly.

This evening, as I was preparing dinner, I noticed a package from Days United. THE BOX! I gathered the kids around and we unpacked it together. We got excited about the activities inside and decided to make the Chanukah menorah before bedtime.

Isabelle showered in record time since she knew we’d be doing a craft project together. I laid out the contents of the Star of David Menorah bag on the kids’ craft table and scanned the QR code for the speedy instructions. While the video was too fast to follow (They always are!), I knew I could look at the book and follow the pictures step-by-step.

But I couldn’t.

The booklet’s photos for the traditional menorah, which the kids wanted to make, were too small for me to see which side of each bolt to use. I called Marc since I needed help. He watched the too-fast video. He flipped through the instruction booklet. He couldn’t figure it out either.

WE HAVE FOUR ADVANCED DEGREES BETWEEN US AND WE COULD NOT FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO! (Apparently we needed a master’s in engineering, which neither of us have, to complete the traditional menorah.) The kids were grumbling, but I was groaning the loudest. “This is supposed to be fun.” “This is a craft project we’re supposed to do with the kids, not for them.” “The company’s tag line is ‘making traditions together’… this isn’t together if they’re sitting on the floor while we’re sitting at the table trying to figure this out.”

After I scrapped the traditional menorah (since we were working unsuccessfully on it for over 20 minutes), I declared that we should try to follow the picture directions for the Star of David menorah, which contained slightly larger images. After fiddling around with it for about seven minutes, I finally figured it out. Even Marc was impressed since I am not a handy person by nature.

I allowed the kids to screw in the final two candle holders so they could feel like they completed some aspect of the project.
Ari inserted two candles so the kids’ menorah is ready to go for Thursday night.

I’m feeling better after having written this, but quite frankly, I’m hoping the rest of the items in our box are more fun than this was since this was anything but fun.

holidays · Jewish · slice of life

Making Traditions… Together? #SOL20

I heard about Days United sometime between our decision to pull Ari out of preschool and Rosh Hashanah. It’s a subscription service that provides holiday and culture boxes to families. I ordered the eight-box holiday set. The kids and I adored the Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot boxes. So, yesterday, when my friend Emily asked me if we had received our Chanukah box yet (She gets them for her daughter too and thought this one was amazing!), I said “not yet.” Both kids were awaiting the box’s arrival eagerly.

This evening, as I was preparing dinner, I noticed a package from Days United. THE BOX! I gathered the kids around and we unpacked it together. We got excited about the activities inside and decided to make the Chanukah menorah before bedtime.

Isabelle showered in record time since she knew we’d be doing a craft project together. I laid out the contents of the Star of David Menorah bag on the kids’ craft table and scanned the QR code for the speedy instructions. While the video was too fast to follow (They always are!), I knew I could look at the book and follow the pictures step-by-step.

But I couldn’t.

The booklet’s photos for the traditional menorah, which the kids wanted to make, were too small for me to see which side of each bolt to use. I called Marc since I needed help. He watched the too-fast video. He flipped through the instruction booklet. He couldn’t figure it out either.

WE HAVE FOUR ADVANCED DEGREES BETWEEN US AND WE COULD NOT FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO! (Apparently we needed a master’s in engineering, which neither of us have, to complete the traditional menorah.) The kids were grumbling, but I was groaning the loudest. “This is supposed to be fun.” “This is a craft project we’re supposed to do with the kids, not for them.” “The company’s tag line is ‘making traditions together’… this isn’t together if they’re sitting on the floor while we’re sitting at the table trying to figure this out.”

After I scrapped the traditional menorah (since we were working unsuccessfully on it for over 20 minutes), I declared that we should try to follow the picture directions for the Star of David menorah, which contained slightly larger images. After fiddling around with it for about seven minutes, I finally figured it out. Even Marc was impressed since I am not a handy person by nature.

I allowed the kids to screw in the final two candle holders so they could feel like they completed some aspect of the project.
Ari inserted two candles so the kids’ menorah is ready to go for Thursday night.

I’m feeling better after having written this, but quite frankly, I’m hoping the rest of the items in our box are more fun than this was since this was anything but fun.

animals · slice of life

Same Tag

Nearly two years ago, I wrote about the incredible stuffed animals Lynne Dorfman has bestowed upon my children. One of Ari’s beloved stuffed animals, Patchy, goes everywhere with him. You won’t be surprised to know that Patchy was a 3rd birthday gift from Lynne and Ralph (her husband).

Today, a just-because-we-love-you package arrived from Lynne and Ralph. I held the package until after dinnertime. Once the kids finished, I announced they had a package from Lynne and Ralph. They began jumping up and down with anticipation. Once I opened the box, I handed each child a gorgeous gift bag. Both kids were immediately smitten with their animals, but Ari’s response to his alligator (who he thought was a crocodile) was priceless. He declared:

“Look! My croc is is the same as Patchy!”

I was perplexed. Patchy — with his white fur and gray ears and eye patch — couldn’t look more different than the gator.

“They’re not the same,” I said.

“Yes, they’re brothers. They have the same tag!”

I looked at the fabric label on both animals backsides. Sure enough, both animals were made by the same stuffed animal maker!

Who knew Ari paid attention to logos?!!?

Isabelle and Ari helped Patchy and Alaska — the name Ari gave his newest pal — get (re)acquainted.
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motherhood · slice of life · speech

Facebook Memories #SOL20

Most mornings, I begin my day by looking through my Facebook memories from past years. This morning, a memory from eight years ago popped up. On my lap was an almost-two-year-old Isabelle. The caption read:
Today I’m thankful Isabelle’s ear tube surgery went well. She’s just tired & a bit groggy now. (Though she’s happy watching Maccabeats videos in the recovery room.) It is my hope her speech will develop over the next few weeks.

Every year, on this date, I look at this photo and remember how Marc and I clung to each other (and bawled) when Isabelle was wheeled into surgery. By the time we composed ourselves, the surgeon met us in the waiting room with news that everything went well. (Ah, first-time parents!)

In the post-op recovery room with Isabelle who we used to call Izzy. Speaking of “Izzy,” by the time she was 3.5 years old, her speech was good enough to declare, in a complete sentence, “Call me Isabelle, not Izzy!” As you can imagine, we ceased using her nickname immediately.

There’s something else I remember. I’ll be honest, thinking about it makes my blood boil — just a bit. And while I probably shouldn’t write about it, I am going to write about with the hope that it will help someone else — either someone whose child is struggling with speech or someone who knows someone whose child is struggling with speech — who is going through something similar.

I remember how nearly every other parent I knew — whose kid had gone through ear tube surgery — had told us that their child was speaking within days, sometimes hours, of waking up from the surgery. As you can see from the caption I wrote in November 2013, I wrote that I hoped Isabelle’s speech would develop over the next few weeks. The only reason my expectation was tempered was because Isabelle’s wise speech therapist, at the time, had already suspected Childhood Apraxia of Speech. She warned me, ahead of time, not to view a double myringotomy as a silver bullet. Thank G-d she did because I would’ve been crushed if she hadn’t given me some warning about how quickly the surgery might help after months of Isabelle’s tubes being filled with fluid.

I know the parents of kids whose children’s speech was helped by ear tubes were trying to provide me with reassurance. Really, it was false hope. And while I don’t begrudge anyone, I share this because promising someone that their kid will be speaking quickly after ear tube surgery feels only slightly less frustrating to me now as the folks who insisted, “Einstein didn’t talk until he was three,” when Isabelle wasn’t speaking after turning two.

People say and do things they feel are helpful. However, as the mother of a child who was luckily diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech at 27 months old (before most kids can reliably be diagnosed due to their lack of cooperation with the tester), I know how heartbreaking it was to watch Isabelle get frustrated at a young age when she didn’t have expressive language skills. Unless your child was diagnosed with a speech-related disorder, reassurances do little for a parent who is the thick of things with their child who is having trouble communicating. Rather than offering platitudes or advice, if you know someone whose child is a late talker, just listen. The other enduring present you can give to a parent whose child is struggling to communicate is wait time. I grew closer with moms who took the time to understand Isabelle long before she was easily understandable. They’re the moms who knelt down, leaned in, and did their best to understand my child. Those are the women whose friendships I will always treasure since they showed me that my daughter, and what she had to say, mattered.