elementary school · growing up · raising boys · slice of life

A Member of the Class of 2035

My cell phone rang towards the end of the boarding process. I was comfortably seated with a novel. I felt my phone vibrate. I saw it was Marc and answered it. His words — Ari, crying, hurt — busted loose and jumbled in my ear. As I absorbed what I was hearing, the flight attendant announced they were shutting the cabin doors and that cell phones needed to be turned onto airplane mode. I asked questions. I filled with anger — at the situation and at myself for being in Texas for work rather than there — and fear. I saw the flight attendant walking towards the back of the plane. Tears sprang to my eyes since I knew I had to hang up while my toddler son was hurting. I’d know nothing for over four hours while I flew back to the East Coast. There was nothing I could do but wait.

It feels like just yesterday when we were laying together on the floor with Sophie the Giraffe. I blinked and here we are on the cusp of Kindergarten.

After weeks of trying to articulate how I feel about sending off Ari to Kindergarten, I realized that this was it. Dropping Ari off later this week is going to feel like the plane doors closing. I’ll know nothing until the late afternoon when he returns home.

You might think I would be less emotional since I’ve already sent one of my children off to school. I’ll be honest, I felt nothing but relief when I dropped Isabelle off at Kindergarten. I was puffy, exhausted, and sweltering since I was nine months pregnant when Isabelle started Kindergarten. I was on maternity leave and could spend the midday doing whatever I wanted for nearly eight hours a day. It was blissful (if I forget about the swelling, fatigue, and overheating)!

I know it’s time for Ari to go to school and for me to begin new projects like a podcast and drafting a new book. He’ll be disconnected from me for the first time in 28 months. And, honestly, it makes my heart ache.

It’s my hope the report Ari gives me at dismissal will be as hopeful as the one I received when my plane touched down on the tarmac a four summers ago.

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fashion · raising boys · slice of life

A Green Suit

“There’s a problem with the clothes Ari picked out for tomorrow,” Marc warned me last night just before bedtime.

I looked on Ari’s chair. It was a sea of Kelly green. In other words, “He’s planning to dress like a frog.”

Marc nodded.

“It’s fine. He’ll at home all day tomorrow,” I replied.

I decided not to say anything to Ari about it. I pick my battles when he’s going out in public.

This morning, I was putting on makeup when Ari legitimately hopped into my bedroom clad in Kelly green sweatpants and a Kelly green and gray baseball tee.

“What’s going on?” I inquired.

“I’m a frog in my green suit,” Ari replied.

A photo of “the green suit” later in the day.

“I see that!”

“Ribbit!” He paused. Then, out of nowhere, Ari declared, “I am also a pear! Nomnomnomnomnom. Juicy!”

At that, I burst out laughing. While I know he’s heard us refer to all all-green outfit as frog clothes, he’s never called it a green suit or referred to himself as a pear. That was brand new and quite adorable.

A few minutes later, I was brushing Ari’s hair when he said, “And if I wore all red, I’d be a tomato or a strawberry.”

“You don’t like tomatoes. But a strawberry would be on-brand for you.”

“What does on-brand mean?”

“It means it would fit exactly with who you are since you eat a lot of strawberries.”

“Yeah, I do.”

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

Half of a Cake for a Half Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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raising boys · slice of life

Lock-in the Moisture

I was pondering which moment from the day I’d write my slice of life story about as I brushed my teeth this evening. Would it be the way Ari refused to hug my parents before they went home? (He gets upset whenever they head home. Over time, we’ve realized that he doesn’t give hugs goodbye as a coping strategy, rather than saying “I’m going to miss you” or “I wish you wouldn’t leave.) Would it be the is it broken game Ari plays with tortilla chips during weekend lunches? Or would it be the fact that Ari intentionally made blueberry hamantaschen during Hebrew school just so he could share them with Isabelle and Marc, rather than making them for himself? I gazed into the mirror, trying to determine which would be the best one to tell when I noticed someone with blond hair dressed with nautical pajamas approaching my bedroom. Before I could even ask why he was out of bed — since I thought post-tuck-in visits were behind us — Ari declared:

“You forgot to put on my socks.”

I paused my Sonicare and managed to say, “What did you say?”

“My socks. You forgot to put the cream on my feet and the socks.”

I spit my toothpaste into the sink and stifled a giggle.

“Let me finish brushing and then I’ll come and help you with the cream.”

About three weeks ago, Ari’s feet were super-duper-uper dry. I begged him to use foot cream for a few days, but told him he’d have to wear socks around the house so the cream wouldn’t get on the carpets and floors. Here’s one of the many things Ari and I have in common: He does NOT like wearing socks in the house. After bartering with Ari — and asking Isabelle to intervene — Ari agreed to wear a pair of her fuzzy puppy socks in exchange for allowing me to put cream on his feet.

The cream and the fuzzy socks must’ve felt cozy because it became a thing — fast! After being unable to find fuzzy socks in his size, Isabelle agreed to lend her fuzzy socks to him since she rarely wears socks to sleep. In turn, Ari allows us to put cream on his feet every night. He even puts the fuzzy socks into the laundry hamper each morning. (Too bad he doesn’t do that with his daytime socks!)

I reached into Ari’s drawer and found a pair of fuzzy squirrel socks. After I rubbed the cream quickly onto his feet — which are much softer, thankyouverymuch, than they were three weeks ago — I told him I wanted to take a picture of his stockinged feet.

“Why do you want a picture of just the fuzzy socks on my feet?” Ari asked.

“I often write down things you or Isabelle say or do that I want to remember,” I replied.

“Okay,” he agreed.

{Just wait until he’s 15 and reads this.}

After I snapped the photo, I tucked Ari beneath his covers again, wished him sweet dreams again, and closed the door behind me again. As I walked back to my bedroom, I realized that I had not just a new contender, but a winner, for today’s slice of life story.

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food · raising boys · slice of life

From Grumpy to Happy

I emerged from my office around 4:20 p.m. in search of Ari. Typically, he’d make his presence known after his rest time. But not today.

I found Ari sitting at the kitchen table — eating a snack — with his sitter who gave me a look that said, he woke up grumpy. I tried to cheer Ari up by ruffling his hair and some questions, but I could see talking to him would be futile. He whined his responses. He’d have to come around in his own time.

I walked over to the fridge and retrieved boxes of berries. (It’s breakfast-for-dinner night!) I began cutting them. Ari’s interest was piqued since he barked, “Let me cut some.”

“Get your helper tower and come over.”

It took two minutes for him to drag the helper tower over since he was busy grumping about needing to walk around the island. Whatever.

Ari finally made it! He climbed atop the helper tower while I got a cutting board. “Give me the red thing.”

“The Opinel? To protect your fingers?”


“Use your manners, please.”

“Please get me my Opinel.”

I retrieved the finger guard from the drawer and helped Ari put it on. We cut a few strawberries together. Eventually, I let him cut on his own.

Ari’s mood brightened after he popped a few strawberries — which are his favorite fruit — in his mouth.

“Feeling better?” I asked as he popped one strawberry half into his mouth and put the other piece in the bowl.

He just smiled. Then he went back to slicing — and eating — the berries.

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food · poetry · raising boys · slice of life

Haricots Verts et Haricots Jaunes

This Is Just to Say

This is the boy who inspired tonight’s poem.

I sautéed
yellow beans
that were mixed
with green

and which
you were probably
to spit out

Forgive me
they tasted the same
so thin
and so savory

Today’s slice of life story (poem) was inspired by “This Is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams, as well as Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine and Matthew Cordell.

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art · raising boys · slice of life

Calming Coloring

It started before dawn when Ari woke up every member of our household, systematically, since he couldn’t fall back to sleep.

It continued when Ari refused to tell me what he wanted to eat for breakfast. He insisted on prepping it himself… until Ari realized he couldn’t reach the items he wanted.

Of course he found a scale to weigh some salsa!

It kept going when Ari refused to don his socks and sneakers without help. (He can do this independently.)

And it kept on going when he wanted to weigh every item at the grocery store — even the items that needed to be weighed.

And going… when Ari told Isabelle and I to follow him around the store looking for something to buy trying to convince us he wanted a scone (He doesn’t eat scones.) or a bagel (We have bagels in the house.)!

The drama continued as I unpacked the groceries and Ari refused to wash his hands. By this point, Isabelle knew enough to escape to her art room. As the mom, I couldn’t escape. I had to be present for the battle of the wits. (I won. His hands got washed.)

One hour, I thought to myself. I have one hour until I take that phone call. Two hours until I meet with that teacher via Zoom. How the heck am I going to look and sound professional when I feel so frazzled?!!?

I looked at Ari. I called his name? “What?!” he replied unkindly.

“You are behaving worse than any other morning I can remember,” I said honestly. “What’s bothering you?”

“Nothing!” he said, not meeting my gaze.

“How can I help you?” I asked.

He shrugged.

“Would you like to sit down and color together? I could teach you how to use watercolor pencils.”

I expected Ari to say no, but he said yes. I expected Ari to take out his own coloring book, but he said yes to coloring a page out of mine with me. I expected Ari to stop after ten minutes, but he kept coloring for an hour.

As we colored, the first snow began to fall, but Ari didn’t notice. Instead, he concentrated on staying in the lines as much as possible. He experimented with blending colors. He talked to me in a calm manner, rather than continuing to be a grouch.

“You know what?” I said to him once a half hour passed. “I think coloring together has helped you calm down. Do you feel calmer?”

“I do.”

“Maybe next time, instead of being so growly, you can remember that coloring helps you calm down. Do you think you can remember that?”

“I can,” he said.

Moments later, Ari began asking — rather than directing — me if he could color the entire left side if I colored the right. I agreed. Together, we finished a masterpiece that we signed, dated, and will hang up. It’ll serve as a reminder of this awful morning and how we found our way back to tranquility together – one watercolor pencil at a time.

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raising boys · schedules · slice of life

Night “Noises”

I have a visitor nearly every night at 10:00 p.m. (Technically, it’s 9:58 p.m. since Ari nudges my clock two minutes forward every time I reset it.) At first, my sweet blond boy would appear and say, “I heard a noise,” and I would offer to comfort him and walk him back to his bedroom.

I realized I was being played after the third night of 10 p.m. “noises.” I offered a hug and a quick snuggle, but told Ari to walk himself back to bed. Luckily, he did.

Over the course of the past month, I have not overheard any 10 p.m. noises. Not a siren. Not a train. Not even a horse and buggy (and that is a thing where we live). How do I know? I am reading in bed at night — every night — at that time. I never hear anything! In the past week, Ari has stopped saying he heard something since he knows I’m on to his game.

10 p.m. Snuggles

This evening, Ari told me that he spied “Daddy working in his office” across the hall from his bedroom. I knew better to ask, “Why didn’t you go in to see Daddy?” I know why. He wants to see me. For some reason, I think he likes to know that I’m just down the hall, reading a book, every evening. There must be something reliable about me and a book in bed.

I have no idea how many more nights I’ll be receiving a visitor at 10 p.m. I just know that he’s at his snuggliest when he comes in at 10 p.m.

Marc came into our bedroom about five minutes after Ari closed his bedroom door. “I see you had a visitor.”

“I did,” I replied.

“I saw him come out of his bedroom before. I looked up and said, ‘Are you going to visit Mommy?’ He just smiled and walked into you.”

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food · raising boys · slice of life

Salade Niçoise, Anyone?

When Isabelle was little, I heard everyone say that if you wanted your children to eat different foods, you must involve them in the meal preparation. I truly tried to do that… I even bought a special, kid-friendly knife set to make that happen. Basically, Isabelle thumbed her nose at helping me in the kitchen. The knives went into a drawer with the thought they’d be used if we had a second child… someday.

Ari is different. He loves to help me in the kitchen. He adores baking. (I do too. My hips, tummy, and thighs… not so much. But that’s another story.) He asks to bake nearly every day. I say yes about two days a week since he enjoys creating something delicious with me.

Ari helps with breakfast and lunch preparation too. He is starting to understand about different units of measure. Also, since we talk the entire time we bake, he’s begun to understand certain principles about why we do things (e.g., get the butter to room temperature before we cream it, bake only one sheet of cookies at a time) the way we do. Also, he has strong opinions about ingredients. For instance, he prefers Vietnamese cinnamon to Indonesian cinnamon. I. Kid. You. Not.

Last night, I was preparing a Salade Niçoise for the first time. While I’ve eaten many of them through the years, I had never made one myself before. Since the recipe was new to me, I was moving slower than expected taking care to make sure everything was right.

Ari asked, “Can I help you bake?”

“I’m not baking, buddy. I’m preparing a salad for dinner.”

“Can I help?” he asked.

Having him help would slow me down — immensely. However, I already have one kid who groans when she prepares so much as a cheese sandwich. I had to say yes.

“Go ahead and get your helper tower. I’ll get the special knives and will teach you how to cut these vegetables.”

Ari raced to get the helper tower. He pushed it around the kitchen island where I was standing beside the sink.

“I need an apron,” he declared.

I removed his apron from the drawer and put it on him. Next, I grabbed a plastic kid knife so he could help me cut the red pepper.

At first, we worked hand-over-hand to cut the pepper together. However, he said, “I can do it by myself.” I doubted it, but stepped aside, staying close enough to help him if he needed it.

Ari didn’t need my help with the actual cutting. He was able to make his way through the peppers, placing each tiny piece into the salad bowl one-by-one. (That’s right. One. By. One. Talk about slowing me down!) The only thing I helped with was getting the size of the peppers more uniform since some were wide and some were razor-thin.

Cucumber Slicing

I thought he’d lose interest, but he wanted to cut the cucumber next. Again, this was an arduous task, but one he enjoyed so I let him continue.

Dinner was ready later than expected, but Ari had a hand in helping. Truth be told, I didn’t expect him or Isabelle to eat the Salade Niçoise — since neither of them is into salads — so Marc made them grilled cheese with our Griddler, which acts like a panini press (Isabelle’s request!). However, I thought Ari would at least try the salad since he had a hand in making it. However, he refused, which disappointed me. Weren’t kids supposed to want to try something they helped to make? That’s what they say.

Maybe tonight. This evening I’m making rosemary-fontina stuffed chicken with fingerling potatoes and spinach on the side. I know both kids will eat the chicken. Neither of them eats the sides, but maybe — JUST MAYBE — I can get Ari to eat the side dish if he helps to prepare it.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
growing up · raising boys · slice of life

Mommy, will you snuggle me?

It started in late May with a simple question.

“Mommy, will you snuggle me?”

I knew I should say no, but Ari was so sweet when he asked. Plus, the missing preposition — with — was endearing. So, I said yes. And thus began a terrible habit: laying down beside my son for weekend nap times.

After a month of him taking an eternity to fall asleep, I told him I couldn’t stay for nap time. I told him I’d head out once he fell asleep. I promised to leave if he didn’t fall asleep after a half-hour. However, I often found myself dozing off and staying in his room longer than expected.

By late July, I realized my weekend afternoons were no longer my own since I was being compelled to lay beside him for over two hours on both Saturdays and Sundays. It was over. I told Ari as much.

Sometimes I wake up in advance of Ari on a Saturday. When I do, I cannot help by watch him sleep while feeling immensely grateful that he is my son.

Sometime in August, Ari overheard me saying, “I could really go for a Shabbos nap like I used to take on Saturdays when I was in college.”

A beat passed. Ari realized it was a Saturday and said, “You’ll could take a nap with me today since it’s a Saturday.” (Cue his sweet grin.)

I considered. I was tired. It was Shabbat. What harm could one little nap do?

It’s been over two months now that I’ve been snoozing next to Ari on Saturday afternoons. Sunday afternoons are mine, but Saturdays are for snoozing and snuggling with Ari and all of the stuffed animals who join us. Every time I think, this is it… this is the last Saturday snooze, I realize something. Ari will only be a little bit little for just a little longer. Seeing as Ari naps by himself the other six days a week and sleeps by himself at night, I think these Saturday naps are a-okay right now.

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