raising boys · slice of life

I Don’t Need a Coupon to For This!

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I’ve never been overly sentimental about the day. Maybe that’s because I grew up with a mom who wanted to know I cared about her all year. (I do. Hi, Mom. I love you!) That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy receiving tulips from my husband. I adored the handmade items Ari made for me — and dictated about me — in school. (The things Ari made melted my heart since he gave all of them to me as soon as he unpacked yesterday. Some are pictured.)

I looked at the backseat of my minivan yesterday and was HORRIFIED by Ari’s side of the van. This morning, I announced, “I need you to shop vac the backseat of the van for me.”

“Why?” he asked.

“It’s covered in mud and Smartfood from last week’s t-ball game. Plus, your detritus is all over your side of the backseat.“ (Yes, I’m the oddball who recently taught her six-year-old the word detritus to represent everything from crumbs to crayons-on-the-floor that I find in the spaces where he lives. It sounds much better than telling him to pick up his junk/litter.)

“Okay,” he replied.

This afternoon, I brought the shop vac over to the car and let Ari use it. Once Ari finished his side, he willingly vacuumed the rest of the minivan, including the trunk and Isabelle’s side (typically tidy). I didn’t have to invoke Mother’s Day since Ari must know there’s only so long I can tolerate his messes.

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outdoors · raising boys · slice of life

Big Shot

“How does this one sound, Ari?” I asked. I read the description of the one-mile trail to Ari from TrailLink.

“It sounds good,” he replied.

“Can you handle a mile there and back?” I inquired.

“Can I run as long as you can see me?” Ari asked.

“Yes, as long as you don’t run too far ahead.”

“I can do more than two miles. I can walk five miles. I can walk ten miles! I can walk 100 MILES!”

“Aren’t you the same guy who starts dragging after a mile?”

“Not if I can run,” Ari insisted.

“Super! Then you can run.”

About 0.4 miles into the walk, Ari began to lose steam.

“Remember when he was little and used to stop, tell us his train was out of oil, and then he’d pretend to fill himself up so he’d have more energy to run?” I asked Isabelle.

“Yeah,” she replied with a chuckle.

“Don’t look now, but I think his train needs more oil,” I told her.

“Your train needs more oil, Ari!” Isabelle replied.

“What?” he asked.

I retold the story. WRONG CALL. That’s when Ari picked up a stick, plopped himself down on the middle of the trail, and pretended to refuel.

“Dear Lord,” I said to Isabelle. “Or, as you’d say, ‘he’s being ridiculous.”

“You’re being ridiculous, Ar-eye!”

“You weren’t supposed to say that to him, Iz.”

“Oh, sorry.”

And so began a series of stop-and-complains, the throwing of gear (i.e., water bottle, jacket), and other slow-us-down-on-the-trail behavior.

This was supposed to be a nice trail walk with my kids on your final day of vacation! This was also supposed to be my exercise for the day! NEITHER OF THOSE THINGS WAS COMING TRUE.

Once we finally reached the other end of the trail (actually 0.7 of a mile rather than a mile long), it was time to turn around. Was that motivating to Ari? Nope! His antics continued.

“Why don’t you run? That’ll make the time go faster!” I replied.

Do you think he ran?


Instead, Ari veered off onto the grass, flinging himself to the ground. After the third time, Ari threw himself to the ground, I looked at Isabelle and said, “A different kind of mom would pretend to walk away and leave him here. I’m not that mom.”

“What if you were?” Isabelle asked.

“Then he’d probably walk up to someone’s house and be content to be done with us. Or not. I don’t know. We’re not finding out.”

So we continued the same way, with a brief respite for the kids to play on a playground beside the trail on our journey back to the car. We almost returned to the car when I noticed something red on Ari’s hand.

“Let me see your palm,” I said.

Ari opened both hands to me. That’s when I saw blood oozing out of his palm.

“Oh my Gd, you cut your hand!”

“I did?” Ari asked. He looked down, saw the blood, and complained of the pain.

This was the second bandage of the day, which (OF COURSE) Ari tried to apply to his own hand. These are Welly Waterproof Bandages, which take an adult with excellent up-close vision and dexterity to apply to the hand. By bedtime, it was nearly falling off. SHOCKER.

“Listen, big shot. This only happened because you kept flinging yourself onto the ground.”

“Yeah, Ar-eye!” Isabelle replied.

“Stop it, Isabelle!” Ari whined.

“We’ll go back to the car and get you cleaned up. It isn’t much further.” I replied.

Maybe this was Ari’s comeuppance for turning our walk into an ordeal. Who knows.

I may not be the kind of mom who threatens to leave her kid when they’re annoying, but I am the kind of mom who keeps a first aid kit in the trunk. One hand sanitization, one medicated ointment, and one bandage later, we went to the grocery store, where I’m thrilled to say Ari behaved perfectly.

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fashion · raising boys · slice of life

The Genesis of the “Whale Shirt”

“Can you buy me a whale shirt?” Ari asked a couple of months ago.

“A whale shirt?” I asked.

“Yeah, I want a whale shirt. Nicholas (name changed) always wears shirts with whales on the back. I want a shirt like that.”

“A whale on the back? What do you mean?” I asked.

“It’s got a whale on the back and front, too. But the one on the front is smaller.” Ari replied.

Suddenly, it clicked. He wanted a Vineyard Vines t-shirt.

Now here’s the thing about Ari… he’s a messy eater. I’ve perfected removing stains from his clothes through the years. Thanks to Wash Away stain remover, I can eradicate nearly every stain. However, being in school has presented new challenges. For instance, Wash Away will not remove the dry-erase marker stains that seem to find their way to Ari’s clothing. While I try to buy nice clothes for Ari, purchasing a Vineyard Vines t-shirt for him feels too extravagant.

But, from Ari’s perspective, asking for a “whale shirt” is akin to my desire for Guess jeans with the upside-down white triangular tag that sported a question mark I wanted to wear in the 1980s. Similarly, I still remember my mom taking me to the Benetton store, where I tried on clothes that were too baggy and expensive for any fifth grader. Somehow, I convinced my mom to buy me a rugby and a sweater. I wore both for a few years since I knew Benetton = Cool. (It helped that I didn’t grow much after my mom purchased it for me.) While Isabelle isn’t into fashion or labels, this conversation showed me that Ari was paying attention to them. Alas, I invoked his clothing-staining prowess and the too-high price of a “whale shirt” as my way of saying no.

Our Friday afternoon trip to Valley Forge National Historical Park was cut short since it began to rain. King of Prussia Mall is nearby, so I took the kids to the mall to look for clothes for Ari to wear to Isabelle’s Bat Mitzvah. I took the kids to Vineyard Vines since I knew they were having a sale on some boys’ clothing.

Ari bee-lined to the table of neatly folded whale t-shirts, grabbed the top shirt, and foisted it upon me. “I want to buy this,” he declared.

“That’s a size 2T. You’re a size 7.”

Ari ran back to the table, dug until he found a size 7, and said, “Let’s buy this one.”

“You don’t even know if it fits,” I replied.

“It’ll fit. It’s a 7.”

“But we don’t know for sure.”

“I want it.”

“I know you want it, but you need a dressier shirt for your sister’s Bat Mitzvah. I’m going to look for that. Feel free to browse around,” I said.

I attempted to look for blue shirts in Ari’s size. Every minute or so, he returned to me with another whale shirt.

“Find a whale shirt with a sale tag, and you can try it on once we go to the dressing room.”

Peace fell upon me once I sent Ari to look for a less expensive whale shirt.

Several minutes passed. It was time for us to head into the fitting room. Several whale t-shirts made it in, but only one was in the “keep” pile.


The checkout process took time. My ability to get on the road to the Pennsy Pike by 4:00 p.m. was drifting away since the store needed the colors I wanted in the sizes I needed. The salespeople were going to an “off-site” location to find the colors and sizes I needed. Two trips yielded moderate success. Then, the store began having computer trouble.

I should’ve written down what I needed, paid for what I had the right sizes/colors of, and gotten myself home. But, no, I opted to wait it out.

Isabelle was unhappy, but she colored quietly on a chair. On the other hand, Ari began saying, “I want to go to one more store after this. One more store.”

Every time this happened, I explained that we needed to get home for dinner, that I didn’t want to sit in traffic, and that I was tired and had no more energy to shop. But Ari didn’t have it. He persisted. He was relentless in asking to go to one more store.

Finally, in a moment of weakness, I said, “Do you see that orange whale shirt over there?” (Orange is his favorite color.) “It can be yours if you stop whining at me. If you accept that we’re heading straight home once this transaction is complete, I will buy you that shirt.”

“Okay!” Ari said as he rushed towards the table, found a size 7, and handed it to me. I looked at the price tag, horrified by what I agreed to.

“Now remember, you will not bother me about going to another store. You need to sit with Isabelle and color. If you don’t do that, this whale shirt stays here.”

What do you think he did?

Child laying on the floor in an orange shirt with a blue whale on the back.

Ari got dressed for Hebrew school, marched downstairs, and declared, “I have a problem.”

I saw him standing with the whale shirt on, but the cuffs ran past his fingertips.

“You could save the shirt and wear it in the fall when you get bigger,”I offered.

“I want to wear it now. What if I roll the sleeves up?” Ari asked.

Ari won. I hope he keeps his “whale shirt” clean.

Ari’s trouble with his too-big whale shirt was beginning to feel like the baggy Benetton situation I experienced as a kid. In Ari’s mind Vineyard Vines = Cool.

“That doesn’t look good. So you have a choice: push the cuffs over your wrists to expose your hands or save the shirt for the fall. The choice is yours.

Ari selected option A. So, he went to Hebrew school in his “whale shirt.” That orange “whale shirt” represents my lack of common sense to buy clothing that stays within our budget, eclipsed by my desire to stay calm as a parent.

I hope the shirt stays clean!

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food · raising boys · slice of life

Mom’s Kitchen

BACKGROUND: Isabelle had a medical appointment this afternoon. Unfortunately, Ari had to come along since both kids had an early dismissal. Isabelle and Ari ate snacks on the drive to the appointment.


Ari was bored AND hungry by the time Isabelle’s appointment ended. “Let’s go out to eat!” he said. Ari long-pressed the home button on his iPad and said, “food near me,” to Siri.

Siri returned locations in Lancaster. The thing is, we were a half-hour west of our house. In his hangry state, Ari began yelling commands at Siri, such as “Find me restaurants near me,” “Snack bars by me,” and “Starbucks near me.” Nothing, nothing, and nothing.

“Why don’t we go out for dinner?” Isabelle asked.

“A, it’s a weeknight. B, we’re going to brunch with Lynne and Ralph tomorrow.”

“But we never go out to eat at night!” she complained.

“It’s. A. Weeknight.”

Isabelle must’ve understood she wasn’t going to get me to budge so she stopped complaining.

As we walked out of the office, Ari said, “Where can we go out to eat?”

“I know a place in Lititz where we can have dinner. Tonight is breakfast for dinner night,” I told Ari.

“How long will it take to get there?” Ari inquired.

“About a half hour,” I replied.

“What’s it called?” Ari asked.

“Mom’s Kitchen,” I replied with a straight face.

Isabelle smirked.

“Is it good?” Ari asked.

“Yes, the food is excellent. Mom’s Kitchen has a fully stocked kitchen, a great pantry, and a chef who loves cooking for people,” I answered.

“And we’re going there now?” Ari asked.

“Right now,” I replied.

Somewhere on the highway, as we got closer to home, Ari asked, “How much longer until we get to Mom’s Kitchen?”

I peered down at the GPS. “About 11 minutes.” No, that wasn’t right. I looked again. “Oh, 11 miles, 20 minutes.”

Ari took in the information and compared it with the GPS. “Is Mom’s Kitchen our house?!”

“It is!” Ari said.

“But you said…” Ari groaned. He must’ve realized he was defeated.

“Sorry, dude,” I said. “The good news is that tonight is breakfast for dinner!”

Chocolate Chip Pancakes… Coming Right Up!

Hopefully Ari won’t hold a grudge!

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raising boys · routines · slice of life

Not-So-Stealthy Pics

After a rough start to our morning, I finally had the time to apply some makeup. Ari didn’t want to work on his leprechaun trap, nor did he want to do anything independently. Instead, he took unflattering videos of me while I was getting ready. (He’s done this before.) Every time he finished one, he returned my phone and played it. Most of them were in slow motion, and they were horrible.

You know the phrase, “You can’t fight city hall?” Well, that’s how I felt about Ari taking my phone this morning. I needed to prepare for the day, and he needed something to do. So I continued to allow him to use my phone, which was otherwise locked down.

Here are three outtakes from this morning:

The angles are unflattering.

Apparently, Ari thought my earrings were born so he grabbed me two new choices because, “you always wear hoops, Mommy.”

BUT — I decided to write it since one day I know teenage Ari won’t want to be anywhere near me when I get ready in the mornings. Therefore, I am preserving this morning memory since — as Jess Carey reminded me — our children are growing up quickly.

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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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