celebrations · food · raising boys · recipes · slice of life

Half of a Cake for a Half Birthday

Last year, Kristi Lonheim, a fellow Slicer, commented on a Facebook post I shared about Ari’s half birthday.

Last year, I created a granola bar tree on Ari’s half birthday.

And so began the idea for making half of a cake for Ari’s half birthday.

Several weeks ago, I floated the idea of half of a cake to Ari. He told me he wanted chocolate cake (doable), cream cheese icing (doable), and it should be a drip cake (WHAAAAAAT?!?!?). After a momentary panic, I reached out to my next-door neighbor, who has fabulous decorating skills, and asked her for help. She suggested a chocolate ganache drip cake. After going down the Google rabbit hole for chocolate ganache drip cakes, I settled on a recipe. I considered buying a turntable, but landed up only purchasing a squeeze bottle instead.

This morning, as planned, Ari and I started backing at 7:00 a.m. Here’s a peek at our cake baking and decorating:

We will celebrate tonight with buttermilk-brined roast chicken, green beans, and french fries. (Ari is hit-or-miss with green beans, but the rest was requested.) Then, we’ll devour half of a cake in honor of Ari’s half birthday. I cannot wait!

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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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celebrations · slice of life

Everyone should celebrate their half birthday!

The day Isabelle turned four-and-a-half, I took her for a cupcake at the Hershey Pantry. The day she turned five-and-a-half, I made her chocolate chip pancakes and stuck 5.5 candles into the pancake stack. The day Isabelle turned six-and-a-half, we went out to a playground with friends and then we drove to Leo’s Homemade Ice Cream in Carlisle to celebrate. There was a #6 candle with half of another candle sticking out of her ice cream. Oh, and Teddy came too!

Now that celebrating Isabelle’s half birthday has become an annual tradition, Isabelle expected a good answer from me when she inquired about the special treat Ari would have on his half birthday (which was earlier this week).

“I don’t have anything planned,” I replied. “He’s only one-and-a-half.”

Isabelle hugged her brother and said, “I think you need ice cream today.” Then she turned to me and said, “He needs a special treat — like ice cream — today.”

“He’s a baby,” I replied.

“So?” she asked. “We celebrate my half birthday every year.”

“We didn’t celebrate it when you were a baby,” I replied.

“Well, we should celebrate Ari because he’s such a cutey baby. Aren’t you, Ari?” she cooed at him.

Ari drooled. (He’s teething.)

“I don’t think he knows it’s his half birthday,” I said.

“But you know. And I know. We need to celebrate.”

With that, I changed the subject, reminding her — for what seemed like the tenth time (and probably was) — to put her shoes on for school.

As the day went on, I started thinking more about Ari’s half birthday. While he didn’t know it was his half birthday, the rest of us knew. And therefore, we should do something special. I was too busy to pull off anything during the week, but I knew I would have more time on the weekend. Seeing as a few days wouldn’t make much of a difference to Ari, I decided to wait until the weekend to celebrate.


This morning, we piled into the minivan and headed south to Carlisle. Our destination? Leo’s Homemade Ice Cream. We were going to have ice cream for lunch!

And we did!

Ari enjoyed a kids’ cup of vanilla fudge swirl ice cream, while the rest of us consumed our favorite flavors. The highlight of my day wasn’t the kids’ cup of ice cream [a nice splurge since I’ve been steadily (albeit slowly) losing baby weight for the past six months] I ate. Rather, it was starting the tradition — with the entire family present — of celebrating Ari’s half birthday too.

celebrations · slice of life

On Turning One

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It’s hard to believe my baby will turn one this week. It seems like yesterday when I was laying on the couch (like a beached whale), coughing intensely, and wondering what I did to deserve coming down with pneumonia during my 38th week of pregnancy.

But it wasn’t yesterday. It was a year ago.

I remember the sense of relief I had when Isabelle turned one. It was a long year… and on her birthday I celebrated the fact we kept her alive!

No matter how much I didn’t want to believe the people who said, “Your life is going to change after you have a baby,” it really did change after we became parents in 2011. And let me tell you, it changed more after we became parents to Isabelle and Ari in 2016!

By the time Isabelle was 18 months old, I recall retiring to my home office for a couple of hours to do work — every single night. Not anymore. Most nights Ari goes to sleep around 10:00 p.m., which means I collapse into bed soon thereafter. If I want to participate in a Twitter Chat or meet with my TWT Colleagues, I need to check my husband’s schedule so Ari is not supervised and entertained. One day I’ll go back to having my nights open again. I’m not sure if it’ll take six months or longer, but I know I’ll have more time to write again. Right now, I’m not wishing these nights of playing on the floor away.

Most days, I would give myself a B- as the mother of two kids. I never feel like I get the balance right. While Isabelle and Ari play together (Nicely, thank G-d!) often, I feel guilty leaving Ari to play by himself when I sit down to read with Isabelle. On the same note, I feel bad that I don’t get to do art as often with Isabelle since I’m often taking care of Ari. That being said, I know I’ve given them the gift of each other so I try not to beat myself up about it.

As Ari’s birthday approaches, I am catching up on his baby book and getting ready to write a year-end letter to him. I kept a baby book and wrote a letter to Isabelle every year on her birthday so I’m making sure I do the same thing for Ari so he doesn’t pull the you-didn’t-do-anything-for-me-because-I-was-the-second-child card on me when he grows up. I’m also getting ready to break my diet on his birthday. I totally deserve a piece of ice cream cake for keeping two kids alive this year!

Here’s what I’m up to in Ari’s baby book.

celebrations · slice of life

Let’s be honest about Mother’s Day…

We didn’t make it to Hershey Gardens this year since the line to enter was too long. Instead, we walked around the grounds at The Hotel Hershey.

I didn’t have a picture-perfect Mother’s Day. Instead, my day included a pounding headache, tears in my closet when nothing I wanted to wear would fit (Still working on losing all of the baby weight!), and too much picky eating and whining from my daughter. And, every time I heard whining, all I could think about was how many portfolios I need to grade for my graduate students in the next few days.

Even though I didn’t get the photos I wanted to get with my family on my first Mother’s Day as a mama of two, there is something that will be etched in my memory forever. Today I ate brunch with my parents, husband, children, and in-laws. As someone who lost one of her grandmothers as a baby, I do not take this for granted. My children are fortunate to be growing up with all four of their grandparents.

Ari may not be smiling or looking at the camera for most of the pictures that were snapped today. However, there are some photos my Dad and Marc captured of me with my mom, Isabelle, and Ari that make me smile.

When I look back on this day years from now, I probably won’t remember the headache, the clothes that didn’t fit, or the whining. Instead, I will remember my kids were surrounded by love. And I will also remember this was the first year my lap was full. And that is enough for me.


celebrations · holidays · Jewish

Oh today we’ll merry-merry be…

Today is Purim. It is a joyous holiday where Jews celebrate the defeat of Haman’s plot to annihalate the Jews of Persia. And while I was excited to attend our community’s Purim Carnival, I tossed and turned last night. What if a bomb threat was called into our JCC in the middle of the Carnival. What would be our plan to get out quickly and safely?
Luckily, our community’s Purim Carnival was joyous (& full of security). However, as I scrolled through Twitter this afternoon, I learned JCCs in Rochester, NY, Milwaukee, WI, Indianapolis, IN, & Vancouver, BC had a bomb threats on what should be a festive day. 
I long for the days when my greatest concern was whether or not we’d be able to find a close parking spot. Walking through the cold seems trivial now since there are real concerns. 
Nevertheless, people were not deterred. I saw more people I knew at our JCC for today’s Purim Carnival than I have in the past. That is a wonderful thing, right?

Isabelle asked her Zayde to make her a spider costume so she could be Sammy Spider (from the Jewish book series). He said yes. Good thing he did because, as you may remember from last week, I’m not exactly a creative visionary when it comes to dressing up!

celebrations · slice of life

I was the Tooth Fairy.

Isabelle was born with a natal tooth. By the time she was a month old, she had already visited the dentist twice to have it checked. It wasn’t wiggling so we decided not to have it pulled.

Have you ever seen a newborn baby with a tooth? It’s quite a site! Truthfully, It was the bane of my existence for quite awhile (i.e., nursing, teeth brushing). However, once her other teeth came in, I forgot about the natal tooth. Well, most of the time.

Five weeks ago, Isabelle discovered one of her teeth was wiggling. Guess which one it was? HER NATAL TOOTH! I was delighted and couldn’t wait for her to lose it.! All I could think was first-in, first-out!

But it wiggled and wobbled for weeks! By yesterday afternoon, it was hanging on by a thread. It looked gross. Isabelle claimed it hurt too. Therefore, I messaged my husband on the way home from the grocery store, requesting he find some gauze and assist Isabelle with extracting her tooth.

Once we got into the house, I collapsed from exhaustion (A heat wave + third trimester of pregnancy + grocery shopping are not a great combination!) on the couch. Isabelle proceeded to go upstairs to find my husband. There was some loud talking yelling. But after about five minutes, it got quiet. Next came the footsteps down the stairs. I opened my eyes and saw Isabelle holding a tiny white tooth in her hand. I was so elated it was FINALLY out — after over five and a half years — that I began clapping my hands and singing “Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov,” which is usually reserved for occasions like weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.

I asked my husband to bring a Ziploc bag over to the couch. Next, Isabelle placed her tooth inside and sealed the bag.

“Tape this to the outside of your door. The Tooth Fairy will come tonight and bring you some money while you sleep,” I said.

Isabelle ran to her craft table to find some tape.

“Don’t you have a pillow?” Marc asked.

“No,” I replied. “I don’t want to get caught going in there in the middle of the night to retrieve the tooth and put money under her pillow.”

“C’mon!” he said.

“I’m serious. I’m not getting caught. This Tooth Fairy,” I said pointing to myself, “doesn’t go past the bedroom door.”

Marc looked less than thrilled. However, I hadn’t bought a pillow for Isabelle’s teeth so he had no choice but to go along with my new (and I think improved!) way of doing the middle-of-the-night swap.


A few hours after Isabelle fell asleep, I crafted a note from the Tooth Fairy to her. Just before midnight, I slowly peeled the plastic bag off of her door and affixed the letter from the Tooth Fairy, with the money, to her door. I placed her tooth baggie in her baby book and went to bed.

The tooth in the baggie.

Click on the image to read the Tooth Fairy’s letter.

Into the baby book goes the tooth.



In the morning, I heard “What’s that on my door?” from down the hall. Marc went to her room and read her the note. Then, they peeled it off the door and brought it in to me. I read the note to Isabelle again and asked, “Are you going to save the money or spend it?”

First she said “save,” but a minute later she declared I’m going to buy a big Hershey bar with it at Chocolate World.”

“Whatever you’d like to do. Just put the money in a safe place.”

Isabelle ran back to her room to put her money away. That’s when Marc brought up the Tooth Fairy again.

“It needs to go under her pillow next time, not on her door,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because… what happens when she goes to school and the kids are talking about the Tooth Fairy? She’ll hear that their Tooth Fairies leave their money under their pillow. It’ll be weird if her Tooth Fairy leaves her money on her door.”

“I don’t care. But if you do, then you can be the Tooth Fairy. That means you’re going to have to accept responsibility for skulking in there at night, not waking her, and doing the exchange every single time. If you can commit to doing that for the next 20 teeth (or however many she has), then go for it. Otherwise, I’m doing the door.”

“I’ll do it,” he chuckled.

“What happens if she catches you?” I asked. “You don’t have wings. And you sure don’t look like the fairy on the letter.”

“I’ll just say ‘I was coming in to see if the Tooth Fairy visited you yet,'” he replied.

I shook my head. “If you want to do it that badly, then the job is all yours.”

My husband, the Tooth Fairy. Can’t wait to see how this turns out!

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Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.

celebrations · slice of life

Where WAS I before I was born?

Isabelle watches the B'deken on our wedding DVD on Sunday evening.
Isabelle watches the B’deken on our wedding DVD on Sunday evening.

I didn’t leave the house all weekend.  That wasn’t the plan. I was getting ready to go to synagogue for Shabbat morning services on Saturday when we received the call that Mini Congregation was canceled due to the wintry mix falling from the sky. Seeing as I had a sinus infection, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to stay in bed and rest.  And rest I did.

And so did Isabelle.  In fact, when Marc went out to pick up dinner and my prescription, she stayed in bed with me and I read Clever Jack Takes the Cake to her over and over again. But once we ate dinner downstairs, Isabelle wanted to party.  Yes, party.  Maybe it was because she had just had her birthday party earlier in the week or maybe it was because she was tired of being cooped-up inside, but she wanted to party.  We offered her two options:

  1. Turn on the TV to one of the cable TV music stations and have a dance party.
  2. Watch our wedding video.

She choose the second option, which was my preferred option since I hadn’t watched my wedding DVD in almost two years.  The three of us sat on the couch and watched together, but Isabelle quickly got weepy.  “Where was I?” she inquired.

“You weren’t born yet,” I said.

“Was I in your belly?” she inquired.

“No, you weren’t in my belly,” I replied.

“But where was I before I was born?” she cried.

I gave her a variety of answers, none of which placated her. Finally, the Hora came on and the three of us danced around our great room for 20 minutes, which was long enough for her to forget about her question.

Yesterday evening, Isabelle wasn’t feeling 100%. After she ate her dinner, she requested to watch our wedding video again.  Again? Really?!!? Was this going to become a nightly thing? I was making dinner, but promised her Marc would put it on as soon as he came downstairs.  (TRUTH: I don’t know how to operate our DVD player!  I’m sure I could learn, but I rarely use it so…)

Once he arrived downstairs, he put the DVD on for her.  She sat on the couch, wrapped in two blankets, and said, “Why I was not there?”

Where was I?” I corrected — as a way to delay the tears.

“Where was I?” Isabelle said, slowly.

“You weren’t born yet,” I replied.

“I was in your belly?” she asked.

“Nope, you weren’t in my belly,” I replied as “I could not ask for more” by Edwin McCain played in the background.

“Where was I before I was born?” she wondered.

“You were in my heart,” I blurted out.

“I was in your heart?” she asked, perplexed.

“Yes, you were in my heart. Right here.” I pointed towards my chest.

“Oh,” she paused. “I was in your heart.”

“Is that nice?” I asked.

“Yes. I was in mommy’s heart.”

Isabelle seemed pleased. And I was pleased that I didn’t tell a lie, nor did I upset her.  She continued to watch the video (i.e., the Ketubah signing, B’deken, and entire ceremony, which was NOT short since we had two WONDERFUL rabbis officiating) with rapt attention.  Every now and then I heard, “I was in mommy’s heart.”

Yes, sweet girl.  Yes you were.


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Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.

celebrations · slice of life

I’m thankful to be a mom — today and every day.

I cherish little moments like this, where I get to watch Isabelle discover something. I love watching the world with her sense of wonder.
I cherish little moments like this, where I get to watch Isabelle discover something. I love watching the world with her sense of wonder.

My husband is cooking dinner tonight.  It’s not that he doesn’t offer to help out with dinner on other nights — because he does.  I do most of the cooking because I love to do it.  But today is Mother’s Day and my husband truly believes I should have the day off.  [He’s good about giving me “time off” at nights and on weekends, which I appreciate since my daughter (aka: my employer) has crummy vacation and sick leave policies.]  And while my husband does wonderful things for me every day of the year and is a great father, it’s only once a year that I get things like this:

My husband got me a music box, with a beautiful quote about motherhood on the outside of it, for Mother's Day.
My husband got me a music box, with a beautiful quote about motherhood on the outside of it, for Mother’s Day. When I opened it, the handmade card from my daughter was inside. Awww!

He worked with my daughter and some tubes of paint to get her to create a Mother’s Day card for me.  It’s one of the most precious cards I’ve ever received since I know a lot of love and hard work went into it.

I spent my third Mother’s Day going to the same restaurant as I did for my first Mother’s Day.  I went to the local botanical gardens, which I did on my first Mother’s Day too.  I don’t need whistles and bells.  Just time with the ones I love, which today was my husband, daughter, and parents.

When I lay down in bed at the end of each day, no matter how stressful it was, I am always grateful to be a mom.  I wanted to be a mom for as long as I could remember.  Having my daughter a little over two years ago was such a blessing.  I never take her presence in my life for granted.