COVID-19 · Jewish · slice of life

Why is this year different from all other years? #SOL20

I’ve been keenly aware Passover is approaching, but it didn’t really hit me until I was in my office yesterday afternoon. I noticed a stack of new Haggadahs on my bookshelf. I ordered them from PJ Library when I knew we’d be celebrating Passover here in Pennsylvania this year. You see, I knew we’d be home — for the first time in years — since I would be less than six weeks post-op at the time of first Seder. What I didn’t realize, is that no one would be able to travel for Passover this year due to the novel coronavirus.

I grabbed a Hagaddah off of the shelf and reviewed the Four Questions with Isabelle. Even though she’s not the youngest child in our family, she’s the person who’ll be reciting them at our Seder. Since she’s no longer attending Jewish day school, her recitation of the questions was a little rusty, but sounded sweet nonethless.

I told Isabelle we’d practice the Four Questions every day until the Seder. In theory, she was fine with that, but when it came time to practice today, she asked a question of her own. “Why can’t Ari say the Four Questions if he’s the youngest?”

“Are you going to teach it to him?” I inquired.

“No!” she retorted.

“Well, then I guess you’ll have to do them again this year.”

“What about next year?” she wondered.

“Will you teach it to him next year?” I asked.

“No!” she replied.

“Well, then I guess you’re going to say the Four Questions next year too.”

“How about the year after that?” she wondered. “Can he do them when I’m in fifth grade?!!?”

“He should be able to do them by then,” I replied.

“And you’re gonna teach them to him!” she said, visibly agitated with me.

“Sure, I’ll teach it to him by then,” I agreed.

I’ll be honest. She’s barking up the wrong tree. As an only child, there were times that I found myself as the youngest person at my parents’ Seder for years. Heck, there were a few times I recall reciting the Four Questions when I was in my thirties. Therefore, I think Isabelle will survive if she has to recite the Four Questions for another couple of years before Ari takes over.

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COVID-19 · post-op life · raising boys · slice of life

He’s the Hugger. #SOL20

I was sitting on a chair, attempting to clean some dirt off of the bottom of my CAM Walker after a short walk I took with Isabelle, when Ari came in from a trike ride. He had something impassioned to tell me about his trike ride around the block. Once he was finished telling his darling story, I asked, “Can I give you a kiss?”

“No,” he replied.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because I’m the hugger; Isabelle’s the kisser.”

What a load of malarkey! In the past couple of months, Ari has become less affectionate. When he does show affection, it’s nearly always as a hug, not a kiss. In fact, he started saying, “I’m the hugger and Isabelle’s the kisser,” in the past couple of weeks. When Isabelle heard that declaration she did a combination of an eye-roll with a head shake. In fact, I recall her saying, “I give kisses and hugs, Ari.” But Ari didn’t care. In his mind, he was the hugger and she was the kisser — simply for the fact that he didn’t want to a “kisser” anymore.

“Well, can I have a hug then?” I asked Ari.

Thankfully, Ari obliged with a sweet hug.
Pay no attention to my ridiculous fuzzy socks pulled up high above my leggings. Consider it the latest in post-operative fashion.
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COVID-19 · post-op life · slice of life

A Half Hour on Fast Forward #SOL20

It’s raining here in Central PA. Everything is closed. Neither kiddo wants to watch a movie. I refuse to give either of them the iPad. So what’s next?

Isabelle and I were playing Uno on top of my duvet cover. I asked her, “Would you like to do an indoor scavenger hunt?”

“Yeah! What would I look for?”

Yep, Ari is still in pajamas. (So am I.) Hey, it’s Sunday. We don’t *need* to get dressed, do we?

After we finished the game, I grabbed my iPad, opened to Pages, and brainstormed a list of things both she and Ari could find around the house. Once the list was created, I texted Marc (who was with Ari in another part of the house) and gave him a heads-up. Five minutes later, Marc reappeared with the printed lists and two pillowcases.

I explained to Ari, “You and Isabelle are going to go around the house and look for the items on this list. Daddy’s going to help you read the list and you can look. When you find something, put the item(s) in the pillowcase. Try to come back quickly since I’m going to time you. Okay?”

Ari grabbed the pillowcase and headed to the door. I snapped a photo of the kids, who were giddy to get started, before I said, “Ready, set, go!”

I heard a couple of giggles and then a lot of Marc and Ari talking. Isabelle went off by herself to look for the items on the list.

About five minutes into the hunt, I heard someone in the bathroom. I wondered if I should stop the clock, but decided not to since I didn’t want to make it into too much of a competition.

A little over 16 minutes after she started, Isabelle dragged a loaded pillowcase into my room. I marked her time on the sheet, asked if she was the one in the bathroom, and began checking all of the items. She had them all, which was impressive since she made a pit stop!

“Did I win?” Isabelle asked.
“Don’t tell Ari, but… yes!” I replied.

Almost five minutes later I heard Marc tell Ari, “Come this way and we can get eye drops. That begins with an E.”

I heard little legs run into my room, “I’m here!” Ari declared.

Ari tooked the “stuffed dog” line-item seriously. He brought THREE STUFFED PUPPIES. I think it was wise that Marc didn’t try to win that negotiation.

“I think you need to go back to get the eye drops, Ari.” Ari ran back to the bathroom, grabbed the eye drops, and returned with Marc who was carrying an overstuffed pillowcase. Isabelle helped them dump the contents over the bed. We went through and — lo and behold — all of the items were there. (Thanks to Marc!)

“If each of you returns all of the items back to the place where you found them, then you can earn a dollar.”

Cheers erupted.

I know I shouldn’t pay my kids to clean-up, but I didn’t feel like there would be any excitement for putting things back if I didn’t.

Isabelle put away all of her items in three-and-a-half minutes. Ari helped a bit, but didn’t put away all of his items. Isabelle helped her daddy put Ari’s scavenger hunt items away. Therefore, Isabelle made $2.00 (What a boon!) and Ari received $.50, which Marc had him put into his Tzedakah box (Rather than keeping it since he didn’t clean up!). Even though he wasn’t getting to “keep” the money he half-heartedly earned, Ari was excited to hear the plink plink of the coins into the box.

So that’s how we killed the thirty minutes before lunchtime.

Here’s what the kids searched for this morning.
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COVID-19 · Jewish · slice of life

Shul Hopping #SOL20

My friend Jenny, with whom I used to lead Junior Congregation in Harrisburg, invited Isabelle and I to join services this morning. As much as Isabelle claimed she didn’t want to attend, I pushed her to do it so she could see some of her old friends. In the end, I think she enjoyed the service since she participated in prayers and even offered up someone’s name (Mine!) when Jenny asked for names of people in need of healing prior to leading the Mi’Shebarach prayer.

We bowed-out of Junior Congregation before it ended to attend a different Shabbat morning service. This time, we scooted over to New Jersey — via Zoom — to witness the Bar Mitzvah of the son of one of my school friends. But, the Bar Mitzvah was not in a synagogue… it was in their house.

Up until a few days ago, it looked like this young man’s Bar Mitzvah was going to be canceled due to COVID-19. However, his parents and Rabbi decided to keep the Bar Mitzvah date a reality. The rabbi was in a different location from the Bar Mitzvah boy and his immediate family. All of the Bar Mitzvah boy’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends were in their homes too. But everyone came together via Zoom.

I thought it was important for Isabelle to “attend” this Bar Mitzvah since I wanted her to see how other people are being affected by the social distancing that’s been put into place due to COVID-19. While she feels inconvenienced that she cannot leave the house, there are people whose major life events — B’nai Mitzvah, weddings, funerals — are being impacted by this virus despite them being healthy. I think helped Isabelle to scroll through the gallery of people attending today’s Bar Mitzvah via Zoom so she could see she wasn’t the only person stuck inside.

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

Scheduling Change #SOL20

Writing Together

On the first day of quarantine-school, writing did not go well. It took Isabelle an eternity to brainstorm ideas and even longer to get lackluster writing down on the page. She argued with me, groaned repeatedly, and acted as if someone was hurting her. So, the following day, I moved writing time to the morning immediately following read aloud. While her efforts were still labored, she whined a lot less. As a result, I have kept writing time first-thing in the morning.

Today was day eight of quarantine school and writing was downright enjoyable. After we gathered our notebooks, we watched the fourth Keeping Our Notebooks video, which was “The Story of an Object.” After we watched it, I encouraged Isabelle to gather three to five objects from around the house that she could write a story about. She returned with five! Next, I prompted her to orally rehearse what she might write about each one to help her determine which one she’d select to write about. Two of the stories fell flat. One was mediocre. The other two were good. Ultimately, Isabelle decided to write one of the good ones, which she figured she’d be able to write about using action, thinking, dialogue, and description, something Amy Ludwig VanDerwater reminded about in the video.

I encouraged Isabelle to fill two pages in her 5″ x 7″ notebook. I encouraged her to skip lines so she’d have room to edit once she finished.

Five minutes passed. Then ten. I gave her the fish-eye and noticed she was still writing so I continued to write in my notebook too. By the time she finished, she had filled FOUR 5″ x 7″ notebook pages!

I. Was. Floored.

Eight days ago Isabelle behaved like she was tortured because I was making her write. Today, she seemed to enjoy it. (And she used her personal editing checklist with minimal guidance too!)

Every day will be different in quarantine school. But if things keep improving, then maybe I’ll have a notebooker on my hands by the time she returns to school. (Who knows when that will be?!)

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

Separating My Role as Mommy and Teacher #SOL20

One of the reasons I’ve never homeschooled Isabelle is that I have a hard time separating my roles of mother and teacher. Throughout the first few yeas of her life, I engaged in “Mommy Speech Therapy.” As her former doctor once told me, I shouldn’t be doing both roles. So, while I read with Isabelle daily, there is someone else who’s worked with her since Kindergarten as a reading tutor. Doing this allows me to preserve our mother-daughter relationship.

Now that we’re quarantine-schooling, I find myself doing the mother-teacher thing again. And while I am mostly enjoying the chance to work with Isabelle for hours at a time, I find myself slipping into the role of mom more often than I should. I try to catch myself when I do this. Thankfully, my teacher-side came in and gave the mom-side of me a slap on the wrist yesterday morning.

You know how those of us who teach writing workshop passionately tell parents not to obsess over grammatical and spelling errors? Well, yesterday, I forgot this and harped on Isabelle for misspelling high-frequency words she should know, for forgetting to end sentences with punctuation, etc. It wasn’t my finest hour.

After serious reflection, I decided to work with Isabelle to create a personal editing checklist that she could use to fix up her writing at the end of each of each day’s notebooking session. We talked about the things she could work on after she writes to make her writing easier to read. I limited her to four things. (She kind of knew what she needed to work on given my step into the parent role yesterday.)

After I printed the personal editing checklist, Isabelle retrieved it from my printer. I taught Isabelle how to go through each checklist step to examine her writing through that lens. Once she finished each item, she moved on. It took her less than two minutes to make all of the corrections to her writing.

“How did that go for you? Did that take as long as you expected or less time?” I asked.

“It took me less time than I thought it would,” Isabelle stated.

“Was it easy or hard?” I asked.

“It was easy. I was able to make all of the changes fast,” she replied.

“I want you to understand that this is your personal editing checklist for today. It might be something we change up as soon as next week. The idea is for you to get in the habit of making these changes on your own. Let’s say you start capitalizing all of the Is in your writing by the middle of next week. We’ll remove that item off of the checklist and we’ll add something else. How does that sound to you?”

“Good,” she replied.

Thank goodness, I thought. That means I can focus more on teaching her to write rather than hounding her about all of the things I know I shouldn’t be bothering her for when she’s working in a writer’s notebook.

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

There's a DDS-in-Training in Our House #SOL20

Isabelle arrived early for Mommy Home School today. She was enthusiastic about using the L’Escapadou’s Cursive Writing Wizard. It was 20 minutes ‘til 8 a.m. and I was still in my pajamas. My hair wasn’t done and I didn’t have any makeup on. (Listen, I knew I had to be on Zoom call later in the day so I needed to put my face on!) I figured it would be fine for Isabelle to practice more while I pulled myself together. By 8:00 a.m., I was ready for our day to begin. 
I noticed Isabelle putting her hand near the outside of her jawline somewhere in the middle of chapter eight of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. “Remove your hands from your face,” I reminded. (Pandemic rules!) About a half-hour later, when we were creating learning lists in our writer’s notebooks, I discovered her hand in her mouth. “Why are you touching your face?” I asked.
“I have a loose tooth,” she replied.
“Could you at least wiggle it with a tissue?” I asked.
Isabelle removed her hand from her mouth thereby avoiding an argument about COVID-19 hygiene.
I gave Isabelle a body break around 10 since I got a call from one of my dearest friends that I had been anticipating for a couple of weeks. (My friend’s grandmother passed away of old age, not of COVID-19.) It was the only reason to interrupt academics. 
During the body break, which was Go Noodle on my bedroom’s television, Isabelle did three fast videos followed by a relaxation video that melted her body down to the floor. The next video came on and Isabelle didn’t get up. After trying to compel her to get off the floor and jump, I told her, “If you don’t get up and move, then I will turn off the television.”
No response.
So I turned off the TV. 
Still no response. Now that wasn’t like her.
“Isabelle,” I called. “Where are you? Why aren’t you answering me?”
That’s when Isabelle walked out of the bathroom with a blood-soaked tissue. 
“I lost my tooth,” she said.
“When did you walk to the bathroom?” I was completely shocked she wasn’t meditating on the floor.
She didn’t answer. I didn’t press because there was a LOT of blood. I scrambled to my foot, grabbed my crutches, and rushed into the bathroom with Isabelle in tow. I hobbled towards the linen closet, opened the door, and retrieved a box of gauze pads. I opened one up and gave it to her.
“Press hard for two minutes; don’t let go.”
She handed me the tissue with one hand and took the gauze with the other. 
“Oh, yuck! You could throw this in the garbage can.”
“My tooth’s in there!” she replied through the gauze.
“Where?” I asked.
“In the corner,” she said.
I unwrapped the blood-covered tooth, which still had a semi-formed root on it, threw away the tissue, washed the tooth off in the sink, and then washed my hands.
“It looks clean,” I said. “You’ll probably get an extra dollar from the Tooth Fairy for that one.”
“Last time I got three dollars,” she replied.
“That’s because the Tooth Fairy didn’t remember to come the night you lost your tooth. So you got a second dollar for a clean tooth and a third dollar for a late fee.”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot about that.”
Note to self: Text Marc and remind him to play Tooth Fairy tonight. (This is the second tooth Isabelle has pulled out since the Governor canceled school on 3/13. I don’t want her to think the Tooth Fairy is practicing social distancing if she doesn’t show up again.)
After two minutes, there was still gushing blood so I exchanged the bloody gauze for a fresh one. I showed Isabelle how to press down harder. Thankfully, that worked and the bleeding stopped after three more minutes. Afterwards, Isabelle scrubbed her hands with soap TWICE. (Yes, I did yet another front-back-and-in-between hand washing lesson.) The two of us went back to work for another hour. 
As we worked together, I thought about how much I am capable of. I can handle reading, writing, math, spelling, cursive, typing, social studies, and even some science. But you know what part of Mommy Home School is my least favorite? Playing nurse! 

That’s a tooth that was NOT ready to come out!
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COVID-19 · post-op life · slice of life · technology

"Mommy, can I have iPad time?" #SOL20

This morning, Isabelle and I took session one of Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s Keeping a Notebook, which was dedicated to curating a collection of quotes and writing long about one of them, for this morning’s writing workshop. Here’s the writing I did, which is what led to the slice of life story you’re about to read:

I heard a hand jam down the bathroom’s door handle. In a flash, Ari appeared with soaking-wet hair and a white towel around his body. He went from a trot to a canter in three seconds with his towel moving from a secure wrap to falling off of his shoulders. He stood before me, completely naked, asking, “Mommy, can I have iPad time?”

“Are you kidding me?” I asked.

But I knew he wasn’t. Ari probably felt as though he had been mightily wronged since I restricted his screen time to 20 whole minutes today in an effort to curb his screentime since it has been hovering around the two-and-a-half hour mark.

“Hey, what happened to my iPad?” he whined while water drop rolled down his forehead.

“I turned it off when you were in the shower. Come back to me after you get dressed, get your ears cleaned, and have your hair done, and we’ll talk.”

A few minutes later, Ari ran into my bedroom in striped pajamas with his hair a wet mess. “Now can I have iPad time?”

“Your hair isn’t brushed and I’m sure your ears aren’t cleaned,” I replied.

“But I want iPad time!” he continued.

In the blink of an eye, Ari turned on the iPad’s camera, reversed it, and began taking pictures. Have a look:

That’s our ceiling with his unbrushed hair in the top right of the photo.

That’s when Marc came over, scooped Ari up, turned him upside down into a handstand atop our bed, flipped him over, and said, “You’re coming with me.”

Isabelle and I laughed since we got to witness an upside-down, giggling Ari being forceably removed from the room while yelling “hey” as a way of protesting the latest perceived iPad injustice.

“See what I mean about what I wrote in my notebook this morning? He can’t get enough of that iPad. He’s like,” I paused and met Isabelle’s gaze, “an iPad junkie.”

She doesn’t know what a junkie is, but she laughed just the same.

See the glow on his face? Yes! Well, then please pay attention to his freshly-coiffed hair.

Finally, Ari returned with his hair brushed and clean ears. “Now can I have iPad time?” he asked.

“You can have ten minutes,” I replied, punching in the code.

“I want ‘Thomas,'” he said.

“You can have Khan Academy or nothing,” I replied.

I secured the iPad on guided access, handed it to him, and he played happily for ten minutes.

I know more screen time isn’t going to massively harm anyone, which is why I’ve been more lax about it in the past week. However, when the first words out of your child’s mouth — for three consecutive days — are “Can I have iPad time?” then you know something is wrong. Being stuck in bed post-op isn’t helping the situation since I’d be baking with Ari at times I couldn’t take him outside to play. But that is my reality now. I’m not sure what kind of an intervention we’re going to have tomorrow, but I know one is needed to break this little guy of his iPad obsession.

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

Bringing Hebrew School to the Home #SOL20

I’ve never told Isabelle this — and probably shouldn’t admit to this in writing — but I dislike having our weekends disrupted by Hebrew School. There, I said it. (But, so help me G-d, I won’t admit this to my children… so don’t say a word to my kids if you know us in real life!)

Isabelle attended a Jewish day school (for Kindergarten – second grade) where half of the school day was secular studies and the other half of the day was Hebrew and Judaics. Now that she’s in public school and in third grade, Isabelle attends Hebrew school two days a week (i.e., Wednesday afternoons and Sunday mornings) in preparation for her Bat Mitzvah. She’s bitter about Wednedsay afternoons since she’s tired after a full day of school. I’m bitter about Sunday mornings since having a required activity every Sunday morning breaks up the flow of our weekend. No longer can we have leisurely Sunday mornings where we “sleep in” until 7:30 and then Marc takes the kids to breakfast. Nope. We have to get the kids up early to get to Hebrew School on-time on Sunday mornings.

Last Sunday morning, our synagogue canceled Hebrew School due to our Governor’s statewide school closure. I’ll admit, it was kind of nice to have a Sunday morning with no where to go.

I should be careful about what I wish for since we’ve had no where to go all week long!

Therefore, I was thrilled (Yes, thrilled!) when I received a mid-week communication that Hebrew School was going to be virtual today. The schedule was:

  • 10:00 – 10:45 a.m.: Q&A with the Rabbi for the Younger Kids
  • 10:45 – 11:00 a.m.: Song Session for All Students
  • 11:00 – 11:45 a.m.: Q&A with the Rabbi for the Older Students

While it wasn’t scheduled for as long as religious school typically is, I was happy my children would have a chance to connect with their teachers and classmates.

This morning, Ari and I signed on first. Initially, Ari was excited to see the Rabbi and the faces of some of his classmates. (One of his friend’s moms texted us to say her daughter was excited to see Ari. We sent a video message back.) We raised our hand in Zoom and Ari asked the Rabbi a question. Things seemed to be going along well, but then Ari decided he wanted to go for a walk. He was sent back by a grandparent, which led to him sitting reluctantly for five more minutes before departing again. I let him go since I’m in no position to chase after him.

Isabelle arrived at 10:45 a.m. for the song session, which was beautiful. Everyone was muted so we were able to hear the song leader’s voice and guitar while we sang together. Eventually, Isabelle began playing around with Zoom so she could see who else was on the Zoom call during the Q&A. She wasn’t brave enough to ask a question, but she listened respectfully.

I think our synagogue’s leadership is trying to determine how cyber Hebrew School is going to look. Despite the fact that the two-week moratorium on school expires this Friday, I highly doubt Hebrew School will be running next Sunday. Quite frankly, as long as there’s some kind of programming, I’ll be more than happy for Cyber Hebrew School to continue… though I might not complain about it as much next year if it continues through the end of May. (Let’s be honest, I probably will. NOT having religious school on the weekends was one of the best parts of sending Isabelle to Jewish day school.)

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

Something’s Off #SOL20

Right around the time schools closed (Was that only a week ago?), Ari began having trouble falling asleep at night. My son, who has always gone to sleep without a problem, began to wail when Marc left his room. He claimed he had to go to the bathroom one more time. He claimed he had to say good night to me one more time. He claimed he had to… Well, you get the idea.

Marc took over Ari’s bedtime routine after my surgery. Since I am still keeping my feet up as much as possible, Marc has tried a variety of things to help get Ari to sleep. He’s done everything from dancing Ari out of our bedroom — which gets a lot of laughs — to leaving his closet light on all night. (That was an epic fail when Ari woke up at 5:45 a.m. the following day since his room was bright.) Even extra bedtime stories haven’t helped!

This evening, in an effort to bring some sense of routine back to Ari, I FaceTimed in for nighttime prayers. Despite my intervention, Ari cried once Marc got ready to leave the room. But, then, he stopped. (Let me be clear, I don’t think I have any kind of magic powers here. I think this was coincidence!)

It’s been ten minutes since Marc shut the door. I think it’s too early to claim success, but I truly hope we’re turning the corner on drawn-out bedtimes.

Once we bedtime returns to normal, we have to determine how to get Ari to sleep in later in the mornings. This kid, who I used to have to wake up in order to get his sister to school on-time, is now waking up between 6:00 – 6:30 a.m. daily. That’s too early when there’s literally NO PLACE we have to/are supposed to go!