pretend play · siblings · slice of life

You Know You Live in Lancaster County When…

When I tell people live in Lancaster County, PA, they often ask me if I see a lot of horse and buggies. The answer is yes. It’s almost a daily thing if we leave the house. In fact, sometimes we don’t even have to leave home to see them. Early in the pandemic, Isabelle and I once sat outside our house for a half-hour writing poetry. In that time, we saw and heard had three horse and buggies go by on the high road, which we can see from our house! So, seeing horse and buggies has become a part of my children’s landscape.

Boy holding both ends of a pool noodle around his sister's waist on a sidewalk.
Yes, Isabelle is blowing bubbles while she plays the role of the horse. I’m guessing this is what she was doing when she was recruited for this by Ari!

I was working in my office and got a photo sent to me of the kids playing outside. If there weren’t an explanation, I would’ve wondered why they were walking so close to one another with Ari holding both ends of a pool noodle around Isabelle’s waist. But then I saw the caption, which read:

Ari is playing horse and buggy.

I burst out laughing! I turned around, hopped out of my desk chair, and bounded towards the door so I could see for myself. Sure enough, I discovered my 11-year-old daughter humoring her 5-year-old brother, so he could play horse and buggy with her. Classic.

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COVID-19 · pretend play · slice of life

Pandemic Play #SOL21

The kids and I were driving in the car this morning when Ari declared, “Patchy’s sick today.” (Patchy, his beloved stuffed dog, was not along for the ride.)

“Is that why Patchy stayed home?” I asked.

“Yes,” Ari replied.

“What’s wrong with Patchy?” Isabelle inquired, playing along.

“He got his coronavirus vaccine yesterday,” Ari declared.

“So is he sick or is he is dealing with the side effects from his vaccination?” I clarified.

“The side effects,” Ari responded.


I was in the next room, minding my own business, when I heard Isabelle say, “Line ‘em all up, Ari! Hand me the doctor kit.”

That’s when I discovered they set up a mass vaccination site for some of their stuffed animals had been set up in the playroom!

When I walked into the playroom, I discovered that Ari was in charge of crowd control and Isabelle was doing pre-screening.

The pandemic has infiltrated their play, I thought sadly. It’s funny in a tragic sort of way.

I didn’t stick around to see who administered the shots, but I do plan to follow-up to see if anyone has a headache, nausea, fever, or sore arm tomorrow.

animals · pretend play · slice of life

An Ice-Cream-Pastry Truck #SOL21

Patchy (who is Ari’s beloved stuffed dog) started driving a Tonka dump truck around the house a few months ago. Patchy kept crashing the truck into walls. Patchy received multiple warnings. Eventually, Patchy’s truck was impounded — multiple times — in our basement. Eventually, Patchy learned how to operate his dump truck responsibly. In an effort to slow himself down, Ari helped Patchy, hook-in a digger, and the dump truck magically became an ice cream truck.

This morning, I found Patchy riding on top of the dump truck with the digger attached. I noticed an assortment of play food atop the trucks.

“What else is Patchy selling today?” I asked Ari.

“He’s selling buttermilk cake, see?” Ari asked as he pointed at the toy cake balanced on top of the digger.

“Yes, I see the cake. Is it a pastry truck now?”

“It’s an ice-cream-pastry truck!” Ari declared as he helped Patchy make his way across the house.

“Of course! I should’ve known it was an ice-cream-pastry truck!”

Ari, Patchy, and Patchy’s Ice-Cream-Pastry Truck
COVID-19 · pretend play · siblings · slice of life

The Play Kitchen #SOL20

The play kitchen went into storage when we moved from Harrisburg to Lancaster. After Ari managing to live without it for four months, we instructed the movers to put it in the basement once it was unloaded from the moving truck.

Ari has watched one too many episodes of “Kids Baking Championship” since he turned one of our cabinets into a blast chiller yesterday afternoon.

“Don’t put that in there!” I called from the couch.

Did he listen?

Do you remember how old he is? (Three and a half.)

So, now you know the answer.

Ari put several items in the blast chiller (my baking cabinet) yesterday. Isabelle must’ve been able to tell I was getting annoyed since she suggested, “We need to bring up the play kitchen from the basement.”

Marc and I texted back-and-forth a couple of times. We determined the kitchen could come upstairs and go into the kids’ play room.

“Why can’t it go into the kitchen on this wall where it was in the old house?”

My dear husband told the kids he didn’t want it scratching the wall. I was brutally honest, “Because I don’t want it there.” (Listen, I had a play kitchen in our former house for over six years. I adored having it there, but once we moved I decided I didn’t want a kitchen within my kitchen taking up space.)

A few hours later, Marc and my dad moved the play kitchen upstairs. My father anchored it to the play room wall — despite Isabelle and Ari chomping at the bit to play with it again — in an effort to keep them safe.

Once the kitchen was ready to go, some arguments broke out between who was allowed to open which pretend door. I have no idea who was right or wrong in the arguments. What I do know is that my baking cabinet is no longer serving as Ari’s blast chiller.

Ari was all smiles after Isabelle went to bed since he had the kitchen to himself. (Why a nine-year-old wants to play with a play kitchen she hasn’t had an interest in for about four years is beyond me. I’m sure it’s a combination of nostalgia and being at-home for seven-and-a-half weeks.)
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oral stories · post-op life · pretend play · slice of life

Cletus and Roscoe are back. #SOL20

After I hurt my ankle this fall, Ari took to engaging in imaginative play that involved Cletus and Roscoe (the goats he adores from Oregon Dairy) while hanging out on my bed. We’d take pretend trips to the grocery store. Cletus and Roscoe would take turns driving us there in their shuttle van. (Because all goats drive people around in shuttle vans, of course.)

I don’t know what made Ari think of this a couple of nights ago, but he wanted to “play Cletus and Roscoe” again. This time, Cletus and Roscoe were going to drive us on a road trip. Ari told me I needed to book four hotel rooms: one for the four of us + his three puppies, one for my parents, one for my in-laws, and one — wait for it — for Cletus and Roscoe.

“Cletus and Roscoe get their own room?!”

“Yes!” he declared.

“One king bed or two double bed?” I asked Ari.

“Two doubles,” he replied.

“What if the hotel has two queens. Will each goat sleep in a queen size bed?” I inquired.

“Yes, they will,” Ari replied matter-of-factly.

After a couple of days of me pretending to book hotel rooms, Ari decided to book four hotel rooms for us, both sets of his grandparents, and his goats when we were playing earlier this evening.

“Did you remember to book adjoining rooms?” I asked.

“Hold on,” he told me. Ari put his playing card phone back up to his ear and bellowed “We’d like ad-joind-ing rooms please!”

He paused. A moment later, Ari proceeded to give the pretend reservations agent a credit card number. He listed way more than a sixteen digit card number, in the most random clustering of numbers, which made me laugh aloud. It was exactly the levity I needed today.

I believe the hotel reservation was already made when I snapped this picture.
play stages · pretend play · slice of life

“Mommy, can you play?”

“Mommy, can you play?” Ari asked.

I looked at the clock. It was 7:58 p.m. I had 25 minutes until I need to be in my office for the #TWTBlog Twitter Chat.

“Yes, I can,” I replied.

Ari scampered off to his play room — or the room formerly known as our great room — where he grabbed two yellow school buses and some Little People. I brought my plates to the sink and watched him lay down beside one of the buses from my perch in the kitchen.

It’s strange how he lays down like that when he plays with his vehicles, I thought. I’ve seen plenty of little kids lay on the floor to “play trucks” or “play cars.” However, Isabelle never played like this so I’m still fascinated every time I notice Ari doing it.

I left my plate in the sink and joined Ari on the floor. (Not laying on it. Just sitting on it.) I observed as he zoomed the Little People around in a bus. First, they went to Hersheypark. Second, they drove to a museum. Third, they went to dinner at Devon, which is a local restaurant in Hershey.

“Are they tired?” I asked.

“Yes! They’re gonna go home to sleep!” he told me.

Once they arrived at their home, Ari scooted himself over to his Tonka trucks and began playing with them… on his belly. We played trucks for a few minutes. But then, I realized it was 8:20, which meant play time with me had to end. I texted Marc and asked him to relieve me. As soon as Ari saw Marc he said, “Daddy, you play golf?”

Someday, I’ll write about the two of them playing with an interior putting green. For now, I’ll just leave you with a few pics of a vehicle-loving boy playing on his belly.

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animals · pretend play · slice of life

Feeding the Puppy

We will never have a dog in this house. Quite frankly, I’d love to have a Golden Retriever. However, with asthma and allergies (Yes, I know there are shots available for people with pet allergies. Yes, I endured them for nearly five years — in addition to shots for pollen, trees, etc. No, the shots didn’t work… not even a little bit.), a dog will never be in my future. Not even a “hypo-allergenic” one. I’m convinced hypo-allergenic dogs only work if you’re mildly allergic. I am not mildly allergic.

Puppy gets the royal feeding treatment from Ari.

Muttsy (aka: Puppy) is the closest our home will ever come to having a Golden Retriever in it. (There are actually two Muttsy dogs living in our house, but that’s a story for another time.) Ari adores both of his puppy dogs. Initially one was known as “Upstairs Puppy” and the other as “Downstairs Puppy.” However, he now sleeps with both dogs every night, carries them downstairs in the morning, brings them back upstairs for naptime, and so on.

I came home around 5:15 p.m. I walked into the kitchen and was greeted by Ari and one of the puppies. He declared, “I wanna feed Puppy!”

“What’s he going to eat?” I asked, playing along.

“Ummm… peanut butter!” Ari declared.

“Oh, I like peanut butter,” I replied.

“Me too,” Ari giggled. “I put Puppy in high chair.”

Ari carried his puppy to his booster seat, clipped him in, and declared, “He needs a bib!”

I looked around the kitchen and found a bib. “Here you go,” I told his stuffie as I placed a bib around its neck.

“He needs a tray!” Ari said.

I walked over to the drying rack, grabbed the tray, and clicked it into place on the booster seat. Then I asked Ari, “Does he need a spoon?”

Ari’s eyes widened. “Yessss!”

I grabbed him a baby spoon. Then I brought over Ari’s water bottle. “Does he need water too?” I asked.

“Yessss!” Ari replied.

Ari began feeding and hydrating Puppy. Puppy even got kisses from Ari between his peanut-buttery spoonfuls. Lucky Puppy!

independent play · medical · physical appearance · pretend play · slice of life

The Prescription That Felt More Like a Good Report Card

We took Isabelle for her annual well-child checkup this morning. We were delighted she’s grown three inches since her four-year-old well-child checkup considering more than half of the dinners she’s eaten in the past year have consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches! (Not for nothing, but they’ve been served on wheat bread with a vegetable and fruit on the side. I guess that helped.) In fact, today was the first time I’ve ever been visited her pediatrician where I haven’t come in with a notebook page or Evernote note filled with questions and concerns! Today, my husband and I had two questions, both of which weren’t significant enough to write down. And let me tell you, that felt awesome!

But here’s what really felt good:


Isabelle’s pediatrician handed this prescription to her towards the end of the visit. He went through every bullet point in an effort to explain what the words meant. He told Isabelle she needs to get eight or more hours of sleep at night. (Check! She gets about 10 hours/night.) Next, he stated  she should eat five or more vegetables and fruits daily. (Check! On school days I know she gets this amount. Weekends are another story, but everyone cheats a bit on weekends, right?) Afterward, her pediatrician told her she shouldn’t have more than two hours of screen time a day. Then he interrupted himself, recalling Isabelle told him the only two shows she’s allowed to watch, and said he knows she doesn’t watch much TV. (So… check! Case in point — Isabelle had an hour of screen time today: a half-hour of “Sesame Street” followed by a half-hour working with me on speech apps on the iPad.) Next, he reminded her to play for at least one hour a day. (Check! This kid plays more hours than I can count.) Finally, he reminded her to never drink sugary sweetened drinks. (Check! We don’t bring soda in our house.)

I chuckled aloud. “Dr. B., Marc and I aren’t perfect parents — at all. But I’ve got to tell you, this prescription makes me feel really good.”

He smiled,”You’re definitely doing an above-average job on these things. Keep it up!”

“Thanks,” I replied.

We spent a few more minutes talking with him about typical five-year-old concerns (which test our patience daily) before we checked out. This evening, as we were bickering with Isabelle about the merits of going upstairs for bedtime, I looked at the script again. Sleep, produce intake, limited media time, lots of play, and no sugary drinks. We may not have everything figured out, but five years in, I have to say, I think we’re doing pretty well.

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OBSERVATIONS · pretend play · slice of life

Packing for a Sea Journey

20140319-161005.jpgIsabelle wanted a plastic cup atop my husband’s dresser.  I gave it to her.

Isabelle wanted to use my Pilates box while I was using my tower this morning.  I got it for her.

“Which side do you want? The flat top or the inside?” I asked.

“Inside,” she replied confidently.

I lifted the box to the center of the room, placed it upside down, and went back to my exercises.  That’s when Isabelle went to work.

She decided to make the box into a boat.  She put the cup inside, since she wanted refreshment.  She gathered some books, because she knows you’ve gotta have reading material.  Then, she went back and forth between her room and the room where the boat was docked to add stuffed animals and blankets.  I wasn’t sure she’d be able to fit inside, but she did.

She played inside of her boat for almost a half hour, giving me more than enough time to get my body ready for the day ahead.  As much as I loved the time for myself, I relished in watching her create a whole play scenario for herself. There’s no way this would’ve happened six months ago. Her play is really evolving. What a treat it is to get to witness the way her pretend play is growing.

But the neat freak in me has to admit what my favorite part was… she cleaned up! All of the stuffed animals, books, and blankets went back at the end of her sea journey. All that was left for me to do was to but the Pilates box back in the corner of the room!

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OBSERVATIONS · play stages · pretend play · slice of life · speech · vocabulary development

Three Kinds of Play

SELF-DIRECTED PLAY: You know how they say you should never turn your back on the ocean? Well, you should never turn your back on a toddler. (Wait, I already knew that!) Well, I “turned my back” on Isabelle this morning while we were at her school. She was being looked after by her teacher and other parents when I left the room for 30 seconds to get her coat from the hallway. When I returned, I didn’t see her.

“Where’s Isabelle?” I asked, slightly worried. I say slightly since there’s only one egress from the classroom and I had been in front of it. She couldn’t have left.

Her teacher scanned the room with her eyes. Once she found her, she pointed to the corner. “She’s over there, mommy.”

I looked. It seems Isabelle made herself busy with a tea party while I was out of the room. So what did I do? I put our departure on-hold and joined her!


MOMMY-DIRECTED PLAY: Yesterday I bought Isabelle an opposites puzzle we’ve turned into a game. It’s a great way to practice fine motor skills, speech, vocabulary, and concepts. While she has a long way to go ’til she masters all of the words and concepts in this puzzle, she selected to play with it this afternoon. I was kind of surprised since it seems a little academic to me. But I guess she likes it. (I’m not complaining.) Here’s a look at her making an opposites match:

ISABELLE-DIRECTED PLAY: My mother-in-law came into town today, which allowed me to stow away in my office and get some work done. I came out of my office to check on the two of them and discovered quite a scene. The two of them were sitting on the floor together, complete with a tray of pretend cookies and cotton inside of a sugar bowl. Isabelle had a serious look on her face when I approached. She looked at me, picked up the tea pot, and poured each of them another cup of tea.

“She didn’t want to invite anyone else,” my mother-in-law said referencing the fact that the usual menagerie of stuffed animals wasn’t joining them.

“That’s okay,” I said.

I snapped a photo and left the room, remembering how Isabelle told me she wanted to have a tea party with Grandma later in the day. I guess she remembered her grand plan.