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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post-op life · slice of life

4/10 of a Mile #SOL20

Yesterday marked four weeks since my ankle reconstruction surgery. This meant I was allowed to put two-thirds of my body weight onto my foot while walking with crutches and in a CAM Walker boot. So, Isabelle and I went for a short walk outside. It wasn’t far, but it left me tired and refreshed.

I decided to take a walk after lunch today since I was craving oxygen. My dad insisted I have a chaperone so I enlisted him to join me.

My initial goal was to make it to the end of my street. However, by the time I reached the corner, I wanted to keep going. I made a left turn and walked further.

“How far are you going to go?” my dad asked.

“Maybe down to house 20 or 24,” I replied.

When I got to house #24, I felt like I could keep going. So I did.

About four houses later, I began to tire.

Two more houses down my arms started to ache from moving the crutches.

My dad must’ve noticed the reduction in my speed. He joked and said, “You could cut through there to get home faster.” I gave him a you-know-I’m-not-cutting-through-other-people’s-property-look. He must’ve read my mind since he replied, “I know you’re not going to do that.”

I pressed on. I rounded the corner back onto my street.

I felt like quitting by the time I was five houses away from our property. But I didn’t want to wimp out and ask my dad to get the car. I pressed on.

I was spent when I returned home. I asked my dad to take my coat and get me an ice pack. I asked Isabelle to help me up the stairs by carrying my crutches while I went up the stairs on my backside.

After my dad left the house this afternoon, he clocked the distance I walked. It was four-tenths of a mile. What a minuscule distance! In fairness to myself, I haven’t walked much in the past month so I know it’s reasonable to be exhausted!

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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!

Jewish · post-op life · slice of life

Challah Baking and Eating #SOL20

Ari helped for a few minutes.

This morning, Ari and Zayde worked together (Mostly Zayde.) to bake a gluten-free raisin challah for Shabbat. Since the recipe made one challah and six challah rolls, I had the chance to sample one of the rolls in advance of Shabbat.

It. Was. Delicious.

Seeing as I haven’t baked gluten-free challah in over a year (I buy regular challah for my family and gluten-free oat rolls for myself.), I was delighted to have a gluten-free challah baked for me tonight. So, prior to the Motzi, which is the Jewish blessing over the bread, I made an announcement to my kids.

Look at how gorgeous the challah looked when it came out of the oven.

“Rather than mugging the challah from the top tonight, I would like you to tear pieces from the side.”

Isabelle and Ari gave me looks that made me feel like they weren’t going to respect my wishes. (You know that defiant, I’m-going-to-do-whatever-I-want-to-do look!) I thought about pulling out the this-is-the-first-dinner-I’ve-eaten-downstairs-in-three-weeks card, but decided that would be a little much. Besides, they’re nine and three… my feelings have little bearing on their behavior.

“I’m serious. Don’t mug the challah!” (“Mugging the challah” is what I call it when the kids grab a piece of challah from the top of the loaf rather than removing a piece gently from the side so others can slice the leftover challah for French toast the following morning.)

Isabelle recited the Motzi, removed the challah cover, and began handing out the pieces calmly. But, then, Ari lurched towards the challah plate and grabbed a piece off of the top.

Lurching for Challah

“Hey!” Isabelle yelled.

“May I have a piece?” I asked.

No one answered. The kids were too busy tearing off pieces of the challah as if they were ravenous animals. So, I reached over and helped myself to a piece of challah, which was airy and sweet.