growing up · reading · routines

The Gift of a Quiet Morning

I’m big on putting myself out of a job because I constantly strive to help my kids become more independent. For instance, they’re expected to pack their own backpacks every morning. If they pack an ice brick in their lunch carrier, there’s a natural consequence: warm lunch. I don’t come to school to bring forgotten iPads, water bottles, or winter gear. It’s their job to make sure they’re ready to go.

But, that isn’t always easy. Our refrigerator’s water filter spigot dispenses water s-l-o-w-l-y, which leads to complaints.

I wasn’t in the mood for complaints this morning. Both kids had an early breakfast with Marc, dressed, and wanted to do their own thing.

Everything was tranquil. Who was I to disrupt the peace by demanding that they pack their backpacks.

I decided to ditch my normal expectations in favor of a quiet morning. I packed their lunches in their bags, filled their water bottles, and placed them by the door. Then, I went upstairs and applied my makeup in peace.

two backpacks + my cup of ice water

When it was time to leave, I asked both kids to come downstairs.

“By the way, both your backpacks are packed by the door. All you have to do is put on your shoes and coats.”

They were stunned into silence.

“Thanks, Mom,” I said in a kiddie voice.

Ari and Isabelle echoed proper thank yous, put on their shoes, then their coats.

As lovely as my quiet morning was, I looked at their backpacks and wondered if they’d expect me to do this again tomorrow. (Spoiler alert: This was a one-time offer!)

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routines · slice of life

Talk to the Puppy

How do I say this graciously? Hmmm… Let’s go with this.

Ari has made the bookends of our day stressful for the past week.

I won’t list all the transgressions, but let’s say he chooses not to follow simple instructions. We’ve tried to sort this out to determine if there’s a problem at school. There isn’t. He claims nothing is bothering him, so we cannot figure out why he’s defiant when we ask him to complete activities of daily living.

This morning, I asked Ari, “How much money did the Tooth Fairy leave you?”

“$2 because my tooth was clean.”

“That’s awesome! Let me see your teeth,” I replied.

He opened wide, so I could inspect.

It’s been less than a month since your cleaning, and I’m seeing a little tartar build-up on your bottom front teeth. You need to use more toothpaste and angle your toothbrush to where the teeth meet the gums.”

“I know,” he said.

“Let me show you one more time. I know the Tooth Fairy won’t look at your permanent teeth, but you need to take care of them.”

I took his Sonicare and brushed his teeth for 30 seconds. (I’m not trying to be overbearing. I’ve learned it’s essential to do this until age nine since many kids miss important spots or don’t brush long enough. However, Ari has three extra baby teeth and we know — from a panoramic x-ray — that he has at least one extra adult tooth that will have to be pulled. If I can prevent more dental visits for things like cavities, then I’m all for it.) After he expelled the toothpaste at the end of the first 30-second interval, I applied more to the toothbrush and said, “Please don’t rinse it off. You need to use that much to properly clean your teeth.”

So what do you think he did? He put his finger on the toothbrush head and moved some of it into the sink. Gross! Annoying! I didn’t take the bait.

“I’m going to get ready for the day. Please think about how you’re brushing.”

The next thing I knew, I heard the hum of a toothbrush coming down the hall.

I Puppy arrived in the bathroom, brushing Ari’s teeth. I doubt he was angling the brush properly, but he was helping Ari get to the two-minute mark.

That’s when I decided I should talk to the stuffy, rather than Ari, in an effort to get him out the door on time.

“Puppy, would you please remind Ari to wash his face after he finishes brushing his teeth with you?”

I Puppy mmm-hmmmed.

“Great! Make sure you bring in the cream so I can apply it to Ari’s cheeks after washing his face.”

The pair were off. A few minutes later, they reappeared.

“Thanks for bringing in the Cerave, Puppy,” I said. “You’re welcome,” I Puppy replied.

“Make sure Ari gets dressed, Puppy. Come back when he’s ready to get his hair done.”

Five minutes later…

“Let’s get Ari’s hair done now.”

I styled Ari’s hair. At that point, I had the choice: talk to my son and have him get his shoes and socks on or talk to him through Puppy. Seeing that something small was making a difference, I opted to give the direction to Puppy.

“Go downstairs, fill up Ari’s water bottle, and make sure he gets his sneakers on,” I said.

Puppy nodded and Ari said, “Tell him to break like they do on the Mo Mountain Mutts videos.”

I can’t believe I’m going to do this to get Ari to go downstairs…

I can’t/don’t want to keep this up tomorrow. At least I found a creative way to get Ari ready for school when he refuses to budge!

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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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medical · routines · slice of life

Mother Knows Best

I’m unsure if my son’s dental appointment was a case of “what goes around comes around,” karma, or something else. BUT, it was definitely a case of mother knows best.

Sporting Shads

A few months ago, Ari told us he wanted a Sonicare toothbrush like the rest of the family. We decided to upgrade his toothbrush, hoping he’d become a better brusher like his big sister. No. Such. Luck. At his checkup three months ago, the tartar buildup on Ari’s lower teeth was substantial for a kid who gets his teeth cleaned every three months. (That’s right, folks. My children inherited my propensity for tartar buildup. Therefore, we must get extra cleanings during the year, so it doesn’t get out of hand.) The dentist felt he was ready for tartar control toothpaste.

Ari didn’t like ANY of the tartar control toothpaste tubes we bought. After five unsuccessful toothpaste purchases, I told him he had to choose one and deal with it. But Ari’s way of dealing with it has been trying to put as little toothpaste as possible on his toothbrush. Plus, he doesn’t like us going over his teeth for 30 of the 120 seconds he’s supposed to brush. I’ve told him, time and time again, “If you don’t let us go over your teeth with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, then you’re going to have buildup. You know you didn’t like how it felt the last time the hygenist scaled your teeth.”

Day after day, for three months, my dear son has fought us. This morning at 8 a.m. was his payback for not being a good brusher. Ari bristled and grimaced when the hygenist began scaling his teeth. This went on for a couple of minutes. Knowing that he hasn’t been the best brusher, she reminded him gently that he has to brush for two full minutes, angle the toothbrush towards the area where the teeth meet the gums, and let us oversee his flossing and brushing every night.

Somehow, Ari exited happy (Thank goodness for those dental office vending machines filled with toys!) despite discomfort during his appointment.

Meanwhile, Isabelle and I left, whispering to one another about whether or not things will be different tonight.

Fingers crossed that today was a game-changer!

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food · routines · slice of life

Lunch Notes

Packing Lunch (on Monday Afternoon)

As soon as the school year started, I declared I wouldn’t be packing 360 lunches solo this year. I enlisted the help of my children so they could learn how to prepare their lunches. We’ve gotten to the point – in January – where they can pack their lunch without adult help, but it’s often heavier on cheese and animal crackers than fruit and veggies when they do it without supervision. (Therefore, I supervise!) But no matter who packs the lunch, there’s always a note from me inside of their lunchbox.

On Sundays, though, I give the kids a day off from packing their lunches. Most of the time, I get their Monday lunches ready while I prep their Sunday lunches. Yesterday, there was some resistence when I pushed Ari’s apple juice box into the outside compartment of his Planetbox carrier. I stuck my hand inside and discovered a bunch of crumpled-up lunch notes.

“How come all of these notes are in here?” I said as I unfurled them.

A sampling of what I found…

Ari gave me a grin as he speared a chicken nugget with his fork. (Ari is to chicken nuggets as Mr. Pitt is to a Snickers bar.)

“Are you saving the notes I give you for lunch?” I asked.

“Mmm-hmmm,” he replied as he chewed.

My heart swelled. Earlier in the school year, I noticed that Ari often brought home the notes, but I tossed them in the trash when I saw them at the end of the day. But now, it seems he’s been stashing them in the deepest spot of his lunchbox.

“Would you like an envelope to save them in rather than shoving them where your juice box goes?” I asked.

“Yeah, that would be good,” Ari said.

I immediately went to my office, labeled an envelope, and stuffed the notes I found into it.

I have no idea what will happen to these lunch notes. Perhaps Ari will toss them at the end of the school year. But right now, it warms my heart he wants to save them.

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bedtime stories · routines · slice of life

Getting Bedtime Wrong

Ever since Isabelle became interested in reading MG novels before bedtime, I’ve been the parent who reads them to her at bedtime. We’ve read everything from Operation Frog Effect to Maggie Muggie to the Pacy Lin books to The Dollshop Downstairs. We finished The Higher Power of Lucky over the weekend. Now we’re reading The Hundred Dresses. Lots of great titles, right?

I’m worried all of that reading doesn’t make up for the fact that Ari isn’t getting my attention at bedtime unless Marc is working late (and I need to tuck both kids into bed). Quite frankly, I didn’t really think twice about the fact that Marc has been tucking Ari into bed until last night.

For the past couple of months, Ari has been coming into my bedroom between 9:30 – 10:00 p.m. a few nights a week. At first, Ari said a noise woke him. After a few nights, I realized I didn’t hear any night noises. Then we thought he wasn’t relaxed, so I suggested he and Marc do some of Headspace’s Sleep programs with Ari. While Ari’s visits lessened, they didn’t disappear.

Lately, though, Ari has been giving me a ballpark figure of when he’ll come into my room to see me at night. Ari knows he’ll find me reading in bed so he just plods in, lays beside me, stays for a few minutes, and then retreats to his bedroom when I tell Ari it’s time to go back to bed.

Post-Bedtime Snuggles

Last night, I asked Ari — as I do many nights — if anything was bothering him. He said, “no.”

I asked Ari if there was anything on his mind or heart he wanted to discuss with me. He said, “no.”

I asked Ari if he was lonely in his room by himself. He said, “no.”

“So, buddy, why do you keep coming in here at night?”

“Because I want to snuggle with you,” he replied matter-of-factly.

“I could snuggle with you before you go to bed,” I replied.

“But you’re putting Isabelle to sleep. So that’s why I just come in here after bedtime. Then I can snuggle with you.”

Oh my heart. All he wants is… me. My undivided attention at bedtime. That’s it.

That’s when I realized we are getting the bedtime thing wrong. As soon as we finish The Hundred Dresses, it’s going to be time for Marc and I to alternate who puts the kids to bed at night so Ari gets more Mommy snuggle time in. Besides, it won’t hurt for Marc and Isabelle to read some novels together!

routines · schedules · slice of life

Excuses at Naptime #SOL21

I tucked-in Ari for his nap about 15 minutes later than usual. No biggie. That often happens on weekends.

Sensing that he’d be back, I laid down in my bed for a bit to read a novel. 15 minutes later, my intuition was proven correct. Ari found me in my room to discuss going to the bathroom. Once that was settled, I tucked him back into bed, kissed him “good nap,” and closed his bedroom door.

I checked on Isabelle, who was reading in her room. I decided to stretch in our exercise room. Another 15 minutes passed and Isabelle came into my room to ask for her iPad to reserve some books from the library. After a quick chat, we decided we’d finish El Deafo, which we’ve been reading together before bedtime. But, moments after she got the graphic novel from her room, a blond boy appeared and declared, “I don’t feel well.”

Marc was doing the grocery shopping this afternoon. I updated him so he could get a sense of the drama that was happening on the home front. (Bet he was happy to be at Wegmans and Giant!)

“What hurts?” I asked.

“I just don’t feel well,” Ari replied.

“Does your tummy hurt?” I asked.


“Go back to bed and I’ll be in momentarily.”

Ari toddled back to his room. Isabelle and I made a plan to read El Deafo as soon as I got Ari down for his nap — again.

JUST IN CASE something was wrong, I decided to take Ari’s temperature. It was 98.7. Practically normal. He was fine (as I suspected).

“Do you think you don’t feel well because you ate a lot at lunchtime?”

“Maybe…” he replied.

“Probably,” I said. “You ate a sandwich, chips, and a LOT of fruit. Anyway, I’ll see you at four,” I said as I kissed his silken hair and pulled his quilt up to his shoulders.

Somewhere in the middle of the final chapter of El Deafo, Isabelle and I had a visitor.

“My animals are keeping me awake!” Ari declared.

“AR-EEEEEE!” Isabelle declared.

I had about no patience left so I replied with the only kind words I could muster. “Bring them in here and go back to bed.”

“Jeez, I can’t believe him,” Isabelle replied.

“Neither can I!” I said as he hurled multiple stuffies at the bed.

“Can you tuck yourself back in?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Good!” I said under my breath.

Once we finished reading El Deafo and talking about the book’s theme (That’s what happens when your mom is a literacy specialist.), Isabelle went downstairs to do some art. I walked into the exercise room to attempt a workout. No sooner did I have my workout gloves on did I have a visitor.

“What’s happening now?” I asked.

“I’m hot in my room.”

“Well, you are wearing long sleeves and long pants,” I replied. “Maybe you should consider a short-sleeve shirt.”

“I don’t want to wear a short-sleeve shirt,” Ari said.

“Well,” I said marching him back to his bedroom, “I’ll help you pick one out and put one on. That’s what happens when you’re warm. You change into cooler clothes.”

There were about three more back-and-forths before nap time was officially over at four. Despite feeling frustrated, I managed to keep my voice from raising. BUT, when Ari’s earlier bedtime came this evening and Ari started telling me, “The rain is too loud for me to go to bed,” I insisted he go to bed. He started to moan, but I stood my ground. I told him his body required a certain number of hours of sleep per day, kissed him good night, and sent him on his way with Marc.

This quote came to mind with every interaction I had with Ari. One day I will look back on today’s naptime antics and wax nostalgic. (Today is not the day.)
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routines · slice of life

Bedtime Shenanigans #SOL21

It starts the moment I tell Isabelle, “We’re going to go upstairs to get ready for bed.” She goes from laying on the couch to pretending to sleep on the couch.

This evening, Ari took matters into his own hands when Isabelle didn’t respond to my request to get off of the couch to go upstairs. First, Ari tickled her. When that didn’t work, he tried to walk on top of her. As you can imagine, Isabelle decided to get up thanks to the little brother antics.

Whenever Isabelle takes awhile to get upstairs, Ari decides to follow us. If I turn my back for a second, he closes the drain on the sink, fills it with water, dispenses several pumps of soap, and gives his rubber duckies a bath.

Once Ari changes into a new shirt (since he inevitably soaks his sleeves washing the duckies in the sink), Marc takes Ari downstairs and does I-don’t-care-what with him while Isabelle gets showered. Once she’s out of the shower, I take one. Once both of us are clean, the two of us read together in her bed. Inevitably, there’s a knock on the door. In tonight’s case, though, there’s a barge-in through the door.

The kids take an eternity to say good-night to each other. He stays until we tell him he MUST go. And that’s when he rushes us out and tells us to “Skedaddle!”
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COVID-19 · routines · slice of life

Trapped at Home #SOL20

I never felt trapped during the months I was cooped up in my house — recovering from foot surgery and following the Governor’s stay-at-home order. There was physical therapy and Zoom meetings. And while I still have both of those things, I’ve been feeling trapped at home.

In the pre-foot injury and pre-Covid world, I’d be out of my house after sending Isabelle off to school early every morning. Now, I don’t even take Isabelle to school; she goes back to her bedroom. This means Ari and I have to stay home — every morning — since Isabelle isn’t old enough to stay home alone. (She’s tried to convince me to run errands with Ari and leave her home alone. I’ve politely told her she’s not ready for that yet.) And while I’ve taken the kids to the grocery store two mornings before the school day has begun, that kind of outing just hasn’t been cutting the mustard.

Feeding the Ducks

But this morning was different. There was another adult at home, which meant Ari and I were free for a few hours. First, we drove to the car wash, where we had the interior professionally cleaned for the first time since February! Then, I took him to the park to feed the ducks. (Some of them were uncharacteristically aggressive, which made me wonder if less people have been feeding them.) Then, we walked across the street so Ari could have a snack and I could grab a coffee. (I highly recommend a white lavender mocha if you ever have the chance to try one.) We sat on the patio and enjoyed watching the cars drive by on Broad Street.

That was it. We were home by 11:30. It didn’t matter that we did mundane things because we were out of the house having a lovely, ordinary morning with each other! If you disregard the masks we wore at the car wash and into the café, then it might as well have been 2019.

I could tell, as Ari and I spent time together, that he needed to be out of the house with me as much as I needed to be out with him
since he asked me if we could do it again tomorrow. In fact, we can do it for one more day — tomorrow! I’m not sure where we’ll go since he has a Zoom music class at 10 a.m., but I’m thinking a farmer’s market might be nice after we pick up some bread from the gluten-free bakery on the other side
of town.

As the weather grows colder, we will have less places to go. Plus, I’ll have webinars and other PD to prepare for later this fall. But right now, I am looking for every possible way to feel a bit freer before the long, Covid winter sets in.

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routines · slice of life

Naptime for an Almost Three-Year-Old

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Ari claims he isn’t tired EVERY SINGLE DAY before nap time. Here’s the rub. He IS tired. How do I know? He naps after being placed in his crib midday.

These shenanigans began after we weaned Ari off of his afternoon bottle in June. (I know, it was a long overdue weaning. Don’t tell me he’ll need braces because of this. My friend is married to a dentist. When Isabelle was nearly three, she informed me that nearly every kid these days needs braces and therefore her husband doesn’t think we should be ripping bottles out of kids’ mouths as soon as they turn two.) A couple of weeks ago, Ari’s protests grew more intense so I let him sit on my lap while he drank a cup of milk. That seemed to work until we went on vacation a week and a half ago. (Routines go out the window when you’re road tripping!) Now that we’re home, I offered the milk-in-a-cup routine before today’s nap. Ari sat beside me and drank a bit of milk, but ultimately, he kept telling me he wasn’t tired.

But I knew Ari was tired. Therefore, I took him upstairs, closed his black-out shades, turned-on his white noise, and offered to snuggle with him on his chair.

“I wanna snuggle in your bed!” he told me.

“Not in my bed. On the glider,” I insisted.

Ari acquiesced. (Probably because he was tired!)

“Whatta you gonna do now?” Ari asked.

I remembered another thing I learned when the mid-July nap protests began. I could NOT tell him I was going to do work. He’d rather watch me work than nap. And you know what that means? I won’t be able to work if he’s “watching” me. So, I said, “I’m going to take a nap too.”

“Oh, okay,” Ari replied contently.

I turned Ari towards me and felt his warm-toddler weight snuggle into me. I began rocking him in the glider. Ari’s breathing got heavy quickly. He’s probably asleep. Just to be sure, I rocked him for another ten minutes. When I heard light snoring (and started dozing off myself), I stood up, carried him to his crib (Another thing we need to get rid of… I know! Remember, though, we moved to a new city less than eight weeks ago. I’m trying not to change too much too fast.), and covered him with his blankets.

OVER THREE HOURS LATER, I walked into Ari’s room. He smiled when he saw me. The first thing he said was “How did you sleep, Mommy?”

Waking Up with a Smile & a Question

I giggled. I almost blurted out the truth about what I had been doing. Instead, I played along and said, “How sweet of you to ask, Ari!”

See what I did there? I praised him for his kindness without lying.