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

The Things Siblings Say to Each Other

I walked downstairs around 5:45 p.m. and noticed my children building a structure out of Magnatiles together. I announced, “I’ll be in the great room, icing my ankle, if either of you need me.” Neither of them looked up.

Alrighty then, I thought. Carry on.

I grabbed an ice pack from the freeze, lowered myself onto the couch, propped up my feet, and wrapped the pack around my ankle. I heard musings from the playroom of the kids talking about the hotel they were building. I felt a pang in my heart knowing we were supposed to be staying at a hotel tonight on our way to meet our cousins in the Great Smoky Mountains for our summer vacation.

My sense of regret about the vacation we’ve postposed until after there’s a vaccine was interrupted by yelling. Isabelle began to order Ari around. He must not have liked her command since he responded with “You’re not a good person!”

I gasped. Where on Earth did he come up with that? HE IS THREE! But just as I was about to holler something into the next room, Isabelle shouted at Ari to which he responded, “I don’t like your behavior.”

I giggled. Now THAT we have been known to say.

Isabelle declared she wasn’t going to play with Ari anymore. I thought about intervening, but — well — I was icing my ankle. Better to let them cool down and figure it out on their own.

By the time I finished icing my foot a little after six, the two of them were playing “farm hotel” with Little People. (NOTE: We were supposed to stay in Roanoke tonight, not at any kind of farm hotel. Therefore, they get an A for creativity!) Isabelle and Ari were getting along swimmingly… until they weren’t — again.

Next thing I knew, they made up and came into the great room to read books together while I cooked dinner. I thought they were reading alone, but when I went over to the couch to see what was happening, I discovered Isabelle’s arm around Ari as they leafed through a book on trains she borrowed for him from the library.

Precious.

But ten minutes later, they complained about being hungry. Once they ate dinner, they resumed their usual silly brother-sister relationship and didn’t fight the rest of the night.

I’ll never understand sibling banter since I’m an only child. But if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that they would not be doing as well as they are during our continued efforts to stay-at-home as much as possible if it weren’t for having one another. So, yeah, sometimes they drive each other nuts because they’ve basically been each other’s only playmate for four months. However, I know they love each other immensely… so I’m not too worried.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
post-op life · slice of life

16 Weeks + 5 Days

Here are the stats:

Pics from PT
  • I’m 16 weeks and five days post-op from foot surgery.
  • Today was my 21st post-op physical therapy session.
  • I spent three hours at physical therapy today.
  • 15 – 20 minutes was spent with the therapist working on my foot.
  • 90 minutes was spent doing strengthening exercises.
  • 60 minutes was spent doing cardio.
  • 15 minutes was spent with ice on my foot at the end.

I am working diligently to restore my strength, range of motion, flexibility, stability, and balance. It is a lot of work. I thought the end would be in sight by now, but physical therapy got delayed due to COVID-19. I don’t have full range of motion yet. The foot pain still increases at night. I rarely work from my home office since I still need to keep my feet elevated in bed as much as possible.

But, I persist. I have a home exercise program I follow daily. I am making progress, but it isn’t fast enough for me. I’ve come to understand feet don’t heal as quickly as the rest of the body since they’re used daily. Yet, I am hopefuly I will make a full recovery.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
COVID-19 · post-op life · slice of life

“Do Not Block” Means DO NOT BLOCK!

The trajectory of my Friday afternoon changed when I got a text message, along with the photo (right) that read:

Ari stuck a ball in here when I wasn’t looking and I can’t see it.

I didn’t know what that pipe was for, but I knew — from having looked at it before — that it said DO NOT BLOCK.

I sent Marc to assess the situation while I sent a photo of the pipe to my Dad. My father didn’t text me back. He called me to report it was the intake valve for our HVAC and/or hot water. He implored me to turn off the hot water heater and the HVAC system. Marc called our builder to see what he suggested. Once he advised us to have someone come out to look at our HVAC system, I realized we were in for a hefty bill.

I got to work calling the HVAC company we contract with while Marc began turning off the HVAC and hot water.

When the woman at the HVAC company asked me to describe what I could see and what kind of ball went down the tube, I informed her I wasn’t the one out in the backyard with my son since I was upstairs with my feet up due to a tough PT session as a result of my foot surgery recovery. I’m not sure if the woman took pity on me because of the foot surgery or because it was 82 degrees, but she made sure someone was at our house in less than an hour.

The technician must have used a scope to look through the pipe since he located the ball quickly. After going out to his truck, he came back and cut the pipe open so that he could get the ball. I have no idea how he reattached the pipe, but he was finished ten minutes later.

By this point, I was downstairs preparing the side dish for dinner. After the technician explained how to prevent this situation from happening again (i.e., buying a valve protector), he turned and walked to the door.

“Are you going to send us a bill or should we pay you today?”

He turned around and said, “As I told your husband, I’m not going to charge you.”

I believe my mouth dropped open at this point. He continued, “You already pay a monthly service contract fee, which means there’s no service charge for today’s visit. And, honestly, it took me five to ten minutes to get the ball out once I found it. Seeing what’s going on in today’s world, I don’t want to add any more stress to your lives by charging you.”

I was stunned. He came to our house — quickly — and rescued us. (TRUTH: I had visions of something catching fire between the time the ball went into the pipe and the time Marc turned everything off. Granted, it was ten to 15 minutes, but a lot can happen in 15 minutes!) And he wasn’t charging us a penny. I was amazed. I was sure to fill out the survey that HVAC company sent so I could give the technician 10/10 ratings + positive written feedback.

During dinner, and into Saturday, we made sure Ari was clear that NOTHING was to be shoved, dropped, pushed, or forced into any opening (e.g., pipe, vent, toilet) in the house. We felt it was important to go beyond just saying, “Don’t put a ball into that pipe again,” since Isabelle once flushed a plastic doll comb down the toilet when she was three-years-old. That was a much costlier error, which led to plumbing and water mitigation. But that’s another story!

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
COVID-19 · family · post-op life · slice of life

This Season of Life Calls for a Minivan #SOL20

While many people profess their utter disgust or unwavering love for minivans, I’ve been in like with our minivan from the start. We bought ours in November 2018, when Ari was a little over a year old and we couldn’t bear to take another week-long trip with a stuffed-to-the-gills car that had a stuffed-to-the-gills Thule box on top of it. I declared — repeatedly — that we were in the season of life for a minivan. Quietly, I told myself the next season of my life would include a much cuter car.

THIS season of our lives — the season of stay-at-home orders — calls for a minivan. You see, yesterday, after we dropped my husband off at Wegmans* so he could do the food shopping, I made a quick stop at a local bakery where I purchased bribes sweet treats for everyone and a latte (Mama’s gotta have caffeine!) for myself. I drove back to the Wegmans parking lot where I made the kids — mostly Ari — promise they wouldn’t get crumbs all over the folded-down third row and trunk. Ari repeated, “I’m not gonna get crumbs on the floor. I promise! I’m gonna be neat with my brownie!”

Once we were in the parking lot, I reminded them of the rules:

  1. No one under the age of 18 is permitted in the front seat even though the car was turned off.
  2. Kids must stay in the car the entire time — no matter what.
  3. Eat neatly.

Once Isabelle and Ari agreed to the rules, I unbuckled Ari and had him follow Isabelle into the back of the minivan. I popped the hatch and slid myself into the trunk since it’s easier like that with my cane. From there, I laid out the snacks and handed out copious amount of napkins to the kids. Isabelle neatly ate a cookie that was larger than her head. I handed Ari sections of his brownie so that I could contain the mess. Thankfully, he voluntarily used napkins and allowed me to wipe his hands and mouth. I gobbled down a GF/vegan brownie that was terrible. (Don’t get me started on why I have a deep disdain for gluten-free baked goods that are also vegan. It’s more than a blog post for me… it would turn into a term paper.) So, I delighted in my latte and my company.

Sunday Morning’s Minivan Picnic

Just as I finished cleaning Ari’s hands, Isabelle shared an idea she thought was brilliant. “I think we should get a table for the back of the minivan so we can have more minivan picnics,” she said. (We had done a lunch picnic on a blanket in the back of our minivan the previous day so I guess she was sensing this was going to become a theme.)

“Yeah!” said Ari.

“Where are we going to put a table?” I asked.

Isabelle motioned to the area where my legs were, then she declared, “And I think we’ll need chairs too.”

Did she think this was a RV?!?!?

“We’re not getting a table and chairs for the back of the minivan,” I said.

Though, it might not be a bad idea if our Governor keeps extending the stay-at-home order since minivan picnics might be our best form of out-of-the-house recreation that still allows us to practice social distancing.

*= I am not quite ready for hours on-end at home with Ari, which is why I volunteered to take the kids in the car to the grocery store with Marc. Worst possible case scenario, he could come out of the store early. Thankfully, he made it through the entire list since we went to the store early enough in the day.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
food · post-op life · slice of life

What is he doing with that drumstick? #sol20

I can count — on one hand — the number of times I came downstairs for dinner during the first six weeks after my surgery. Therefore, I noticed some changes to the way things are typically done by the time I was well enough to get downstairs.

Take the drumstick (i.e., a chicken leg), for example. Prior to my surgery, Ari would only eat a chicken breast cut up. He didn’t like dark meat (just like my husband!) at all. Lo and behold, I came downstairs a week ago and my son asked for a drumstick.

Why on Earth would he be requesting a drumstick? I wondered. Was he going to bang it on the table? Shove it in his mouth and choke?

None of those things. He requested it because he liked to hold it and eat it.

“Yeah, he’s been doing that for a couple of weeks now,” Marc replied.

Must be the influence of his Bubbe and Zayde who like dark meat, I thought.

“What else has changed?” I asked.

Rather than telling me, I found out over the course of the next week. Nothing major, but I noticed there was a bit more ice cream being scooped than when mommy is in charge.

This evening’s dinner was roasted chicken, cauliflower rice, and peas. There were drumsticks and breasts. Guess what Ari selected first?

A Drumstick!
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
Jewish · post-op life · slice of life

The Moral of the Story Is… #SOL20

This Wednesday night, we’ll host our first Passover Seder since moving to Pennsylvania. That’s right, we haven’t hosted a Seder since 2008 when we lived in Rhode Island! Our Passover ritual items (e.g., matzah plate, Seder plate, afikomen bag) have been packed up for over a decade.

All of our Passover items were clearly marked and stored in a central location in our Harrisburg basement. But then we moved in June and nearly everything went into storage until our new house was finished in mid-October. I broke my ankle two weeks before we moved from our temporary townhouse into our new home. Therefore, we still haven’t unpacked the boxes in unfinished part of our basement.

This past weekend, I tasked Marc and Isabelle with searching for the Seder and matzah plates in the basement, but they came up empty-handed after searching. Emily, my dear friend who attended our Seder in 2008, heard my tale and offered to overnight us a spare Seder plate from her house in New England after Marc only found the matzah plate. I considered, but couldn’t bear the thought of her going to FedEx and contracting COVID-19 because of a missing Seder plate. I told her Marc would keep looking and — at worst — Isabelle would design one as an art project tomorrow.

About ten minutes ago, I received an unexpected text from Marc, who I heard dictating into his phone from the basement.

There are few times I believe in using multiple exclamation marks. THIS was one of those times it was warranted.

The moral of the story is you shouldn’t pay movers to pack for you if you want your belongings to be grouped together in a way that makes sense. (I could go on and on about this since the Seder plate is one of many things improperly boxed and/or packed. But I’ll save the rest of those tales for another time.) Having movers pack for you can save your back, but it doesn’t save your sanity or make you immune from aggravation.

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.
Head over to https://twowritingteachers.org for more slice of life stories.
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.
Head over to https://twowritingteachers.org for more slice of life stories.
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!

Head over to https://twowritingteachers.org for more slice of life stories.
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?!)

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org for more slice of life stories.