siblings · slice of life

What should we do today?

Last week, our family spent five days in Bethany Beach, DE. This week is filled with back-to-school activities and more medical appointments than any person without school age children would ever schedule in a month! As a result, at breakfast, my children wanted to know what they’d be doing after Isabelle’s allergy shots.

I offered ideas that Isabelle (who was sporting a fabulous tween attitude) found abhorrent. For instance, when I suggested Ari’s favorite playground, she said, “A playground? That’s boring!” while rolling her eyes.

“What do you suggest?” I asked.

“Hersheypark!” she retorted.

“Hersheypark was never on the table for today. You both have appointments in the mid-afternoon and I have work that needs to be done.”

“What else can we do?” she asked.

“We could go peach picking,” I offered.

“I don’t want to go peach picking,” Isabelle replied. (Ari, on the other hand, was tickled by that idea. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate a freshly harvested peach?!!? Tweens, that’s who!)

“Why don’t you come up with another idea.”

“Well, you know what I’m going to say,” Isabelle remarked.


Isabelle let out her frustration with an audible grunt.

“Do you have any other ideas?” she wanted to know.

“Yes, I do. We could go to Ken’s Gardens to plant new succulents to replace the ones that perished.”

“I don’t want to do that,” Isabelle said while Ari yelped with delight.

“Your brother would be happy at a playground, picking peaches, or going to the planting bar. You can make the final decision, but it has to be one of those three things.”

“How about the pool?” Isabelle offered.

“Make a choice from the three I gave you or Ari and I will make it for you.”

“Fine, we can plant succulents,” she replied petulantly.

In the end, she enjoyed creating a new succulent arrangement. But, ohmigosh, it’s time for her to head back to school!

Top left: Mine; Top right: Isabelle’s; Bottom: Ari’s
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day trip · siblings · slice of life

Stops & Starts

I’ve dreamed of visiting Holland’s tulip fields in person. Thing is, the chance of me getting to the Netherlands in the next decade is small. (If you know of an international school in the Netherlands looking for a literacy consultant, drop my name to them!) So, I asked my husband if he’d be willing to drive nearly two hours each way to Holland Ridge Farms, which has over eight million tulips blooming each spring. Marc agreed and bought the tickets.

There were lots of kitschy photo props throughout the farm. This one reflects my affinity for tulips. Cheesy? Indeed.

Once Ari got the hang of twisting and pulling the tulips from the earth, he became a zealous tulip picker. Ari wanted red ones for himself, yellow ones for his sitter, and every other color combination for me, Isabelle, and Marc to enjoy. Therefore, Ari picked a LOT of tulips — some of which had to be discarded because he didn’t pull them off properly from the bulb. It was tulip madness!

Isabelle, who is nearly six years older than Ari, wasn’t into his let-me-stop-at-every-tulip-bed-to-pick-another-tulip antics. She grew frustrated with the stopping and starting, especially once we had been at the farm for 90 minutes.

After we bought some drinks, we took some photos. That’s when I made a deal with Isabelle. If she let me grab a few more photos, then we’d head back towards the car. Wisely, she took the deal.

One of the many photos to which I subjected my family. (Ari was INTO it. He even picked a new tulip for the picture!)

The thing is… we didn’t factor in Ari stopping and starting to pick more tulips on the walk back across the 300 acre farm. Isabelle grew irritated with him quickly.

We tried challenging Ari with timers. “Let’s set a five-minute timer,” Marc told him. “When it goes off you can stop to pick another tulip.”

The first time we did that Ari made it 2.5 minutes.

{Cue the exasperated tween.}

Next, I suggested a stopwatch. “This time we’re going to count up using a stopwatch. I want to see how long you can go without stopping to pick any tulips. Just admire them, but keep walking to the car.”

It worked. Ari made it one minute. Then two minutes. Then three minutes. Then four minutes.

Somewhere around four minutes, I must have said something like, “Aren’t those tulips beautiful?” Well, that’s all it took for Ari to run off to pick one of them for me!

Sweet, right?

Sweet for me. Maddening for Isabelle.

It probably took us close to an hour, but we eventually made it to the exit. Somehow, Isabelle survived. In the end, Ari’s stops and starts provided her with an excellent slice of life story. (Click here to read her slice of life story about her little brother’s antics.)

Posing by Red Tulips. (I’m sure he picked a few from this flower bed.)
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siblings · slice of life

Wiggly Tooth

I don’t like looking at wiggly teeth. It creeps me out. Always has. Always will. So imagine how excited I was to watch Ari wiggle his loose tooth back and forth during breakfast.

“Bite into your English muffin with your front teeth,” I suggested.

It didn’t work. After every bite — most of which were on the sides of his mouth — Ari wiggled his tooth, annoyed that it was still in his mouth.

After no action & a good deal of whining, I asked Marc to get the gauze since it was time to try pulling the tooth out. (Yet another thing that creeps me out.)

Marc provided Ari with an apple and told him to bite into it with his front teeth. Ari bit into the apple lightly a few times. Marc used the gauze to check the status of Ari’s loose tooth between apple bites. It didn’t seem to be getting any looser.

Marc attempted to pull out Ari’s tooth, but he was unsuccessful. Losing patience, Ari grabbed the gauze out Marc’s hands and bequeathed it to Isabelle.

Why Isabelle?

Well, Isabelle has experience pulling out teeth. Her own teeth, of course. She has been known to pull her own teeth out long before they were ready. (Like, I’m talking about seeing the root still attached.) I shudder when I think of how many moderately wiggly teeth she managed to extract from her mouth over the years.

Isabelle covered her washed hands with gauze and started to wiggle Ari’s loose tooth back and forth. She set her gaze on Ari’s mouth. Isabelle gave a gentle tug. Ari let out a small grunt. Nothing. She gave another gentle tug. He made another small grunt. Still nothing.

This went on a few more times until finally Isabelle exclaimed, “Did it!” She showed us the tiny tooth while pressing down on Ari’s gum with the gauze.

“Mazel tov,” I called out. (I even played “Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov” on my phone to celebrate.):

Marc peered under the gauze and instructed Ari how to hold it there until the bleeding stopped.

I stood back and beamed with pride at Isabelle who treated her brother in such a loving, gentle way. Then I realized we were entering a new phase in life now that Ari’s first tooth fell out. Both of those thoughts warmed my heart until I realized that our resident tooth puller might become Ari’s official tooth yanker! I cringed. Better than me having to do it, I guess!

Click here to read Isabelle’s version of the story.

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food · reading · recipes · siblings · slice of life


Ari’s half-birthday is approaching so I’m going to be baking a half-of-a-cake cake with him. Thing is, his half birthday falls during the week so in-between homeschooling, trying to get work done, and writing, I’ll be baking a cake tomorrow. Knowing this is going to make for a TIGHT day, I thought it would be a good idea to have all of the ingredients — except for the ones that require refrigeration — laid out on the counter tonight.

Thing is, the mise-en-place-the-night-before idea came to me while I was cooking dinner — a new recipe — this evening. Therefore, I couldn’t read off the list of ingredients to Ari, who knows where most things are kept in the kitchen. Even if he cannot read the ingredient names, he knows the difference between even more obscure ingredients, such as the look of the regular cocoa powder and my dutched cocoa powder. What he doesn’t know, by sight, is the difference between bittersweet and semisweet chocolate bars.

Isabelle knows where nearly none of the ingredients or baking tools are kept. BUT, she can read! So, I enlisted her help to read through the ingredient list to Ari so he could gather everything up and place it on the counter. They were quite the pair!

Everything is ready to go, waiting for us, for the morning. I cannot believe I’m going to start baking at 7 a.m. (Because our homeschool day starts at 8:00!), but that’s the plan… as of now.

homeschool · siblings · slice of life

When One Kid Is Up First

It’s 6:55 a.m. and Marc has told Ari he may not wake Isabelle up until 7:00 a.m. (That’s right. My always-early-to-rise kiddo has been affected by the time change.) Knowing that Isabelle still being asleep means that it’ll be challenging to start our homeschool day precisely at 8:00 a.m., I give Ari the green light to wake her at 6:59 a.m. as Marc heads off to work.

7:00 a.m.: Turn on “Up First” and do makeup.
7:01 a.m.: Listen to the first story about Ukraine.
7:02 a.m.: Keep listening and applying makeup.
7:05 a.m.: Overhear rumblings of tension down the hall.
7:06 a.m.: Listen to yelling — and it isn’t coming from the podcast’s audio feed. Keep putting on makeup since this is something I typically do after I eat breakfast.
7:07 a.m.: Speed up the pace of makeup application when I hear Isabelle yell, “Stop pulling my quilt!”
7:08 a.m.: Rise from the makeup table after Isabelle yells, “Could somebody help me down here!?” I am the only parent home so it’s up to me to break up the conflict.
7:09 a.m.: Turn off “Up First” while marching down the hall to see what the commotion was about.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“Ari was trying to pull my quilt off of the bed!”

“Why were you doing that?”

“She wasn’t getting up,” he replied matter-of-factly.

“You could’ve come to get me,” I said.

Ari made a soft uh-huh sound. (That’s what he does when he realizes he is wrong, but doesn’t want to admit it.)

“What could you have done instead?” I ask Ari.

That’s when he climbs up into Isabelle’s bed and lays down where the sheet is exposed from him pulling the quilt off. He closes his eyes and pretends to sleep.

And that’s when I think THAT IS NOT AN ALTERNATIVE! And then I think, is it really only Tuesday?!

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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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siblings · slice of life

Everyone Needs a Supporter

As I walked downstairs this morning, I noticed an unusual sight. Ari was rummaging through the hallway closet, where I keep all of our homeschooling supplies (aka: This closet is off-limits unless one asks permission to go in it!). He must’ve heard me coming because he declared, “I need to find a supporter!” before I could even ask him what he was doing.

“What are you looking for?” I didn’t understand what he meant by a supporter. Did he mean a meter stick? Was he looking for base ten blocks to hold something up? Clearly I hadn’t had my coffee yet.

Ari poked his head out of the closet and declared, “I’m looking for a supporter.” He walked back inside of the closet.

“What do you mean by a supporter?” I asked.

Ari didn’t answer. Instead he reappeared by the time I reached the first floor with a map of the United States. “This is my supporter!” he stated as he slammed the closet doors shut and ran to the kitchen.

Studying the Supporter (aka: map of the USA)

“That’s called a map,” I called after him. But it didn’t matter. He was off to the kitchen! Once he arrived, I heard him tell Isabelle, “See? I told you Maryland touched Delaware.”

“Oh, you were right,” Isabelle said. (Clearly she wasn’t firing on all cylinders yet. She mastered where all 50 States are and knows all 50 state capitals.)

From there, the kids continued to look at the map of the United States, rather than eating their breakfast, to talk about which states bordered which. I stood there and marveled by how cute it was that Ari knew where to find a map and how it could be used to support what he was saying. Indeed, the map was a “supporter” today!

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art · siblings · slice of life

My Teaching Assistant

Things like Flair pens, folders, glue sticks were purchased when we took a trip to Target for back-to-school supplies this morning. But the thing the kids were most excited about were their new coloring books. (Isabelle purchased hers with her own money so that felt like a win to me!) In fact, it got really quiet when we returned home from Target since the kids disappeared into the playroom. I went in search of them. Moments later, I discovered them sitting side by side at the craft table with coloring books and a new box of 64 crayons. (Speaking of crayons, Isabelle thinks the sharpener that comes on the back of Crayola’s 64-count box is awesome. I told her they even had the sharpener when I was a kid. Her mind was blown. Apparently, she didn’t think that kind of technology would’ve existed in the 1980s!)

“Whatcha doing?” I asked.

Isabelle checks Ari’s answer before giving him permission to record it on the page.

“Coloring,” Isabelle and Ari responded simultaneously.

“Do you need me?”

“Nope,” Ari replied.

“Okay, I’m going to go and eat some lunch since I have a medical appointment that I have to leave for in a half-hour.”

“Okay!” Ari replied.

As I prepared my lunch, I overheard the kids talking. But they weren’t having a conversation. I listened closely. Isabelle was reading the directions on the activity pages of Ari’s new coloring book aloud to him. He was counting (e.g., the spots on a dog, the bubbles in a bubble bath) and then asking Isabelle for confirmation. She’d tell him, “Right!” or “Try again!” Then, as soon as the answer was correct, she’d tell him to “write that down.”

I smiled, came up behind them, and shot a couple of videos. Then, grateful to have a “teaching assistant,” I returned to the kitchen where I ate my lunch in peace while they worked together.

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siblings · slice of life

A Temporary Party of Three

I remember how odd it was to hear Isabelle say, “It’s just the original family,” as she, Marc, and I sat around the dinner table back in April when Ari spent a few days at my parents’ house. I never thought of the three of us as “the original family,” but seeing as she was nearly six years old when Ari was born, I suppose she considers us the original three. And as strange as it was to have an empty place at the table for a few nights, it didn’t feel foreign to me. I, too, remembered a time when it was just three of us.

This past week, Isabelle traveled to Bubbe and Zayde’s house for her solo trip. While she’s spent time with at her grandparents’ house before, I’m pretty sure Isabelle hasn’t stayed there alone since the summer of 2015. So, as odd as it is to have her away for a few days, it doesn’t feel foreign to me either.

What did feel foreign to me was having Ari home with just me and Marc. I vaguely recall Isabelle spending a few days with my inlaws when Ari was a baby, but I was so sleep deprived that I don’t remember if it was in the summer of 2017 or 2018! This time, I’m well-rested enough to be present. While Isabelle was away, we’ve done some things together she wouldn’t have enjoyed. Three examples were:

  • We took an after-dinner walk in the neighborhood. (Typically, Isabelle is too tired to take a walk at night.)
  • We had a movie night. (Isabelle prefers short TV shows as opposed to movies.)
  • We enjoyed a picnic and playing in the park. (Isabelle detests bugs.)

While Isabelle had the chance to be the center of her grandparents’ universe for a few days, Ari had the opportunity to be the center of his parents’ world for a few days. I know he misses Isabelle since he insists on calling her every night so he can do a virtual tuck-in. (He has this thing about saying “good night” to Isabelle. If he misses saying good night to her because he’s out watering the garden or riding his bike, he tiptoes into her room to give her a kiss on the cheek before he takes a shower.) And while I know he will be thrilled to have his partner in crime back, I think he’s enjoyed our undivided attention.

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outdoors · siblings · slice of life

We drove nearly a half-hour to see a caboose. #SOL21

Oh, what a difference a day makes! Please note that the 47 minutes did not include stand-still times when we waited around for Ari. That was actual MOVING time.

Last year, one of my goals was to go on hikes with my kids. I thought I’d be able to do it by the time I was six months post-op from ankle reconstruction surgery, but I didn’t meet my goal. However, in the mid-fall, I started walking for exercise on flat, paved ground. At first, I was able to do a couple of miles and my pace was terrible. As the weeks passed, my stamina and speed increased. In January, I walked for five miles. And while I haven’t done another five miles since then, I have continued to walk about four miles whenever the weather permits.

Yesterday, I achieved my fastest mile, 17:36 min/mi, since the surgery. (I credit the wind at my back!) So, despite the cold and the wind, I told my husband that I wanted to finally go on a light hike with the kids today. Initially, I picked a park that was 40 minutes from our house, which Marc thought was a bit much considering the cold.

“What about the Enola Low Grade Trail?” I asked him.

He hadn’t heard of it so I filled him in. “It’s on the Susquehanna River near Columbia. Plus, there’s a caboose there.”

Ari LOVES trains so the caboose felt like a good sell on this cold March morning.

We didn’t rally the kids to leave the house until a little after 10. By the time we got to the Enola Low Grade Trail, it was nearly 11 since we made a restroom stop because I avoid porta-potties at all costs!

The caboose is 1/10 of a mile in on the left side of the trail. It was a hit with both of the kids.

But then, it was a lot of river, a lot of rocks, and not much else. To my surprise, Isabelle was excited to walk beside me and kept pace nicely. By the time we were a half-mile into the trail, Ari was lagging behind with Marc. Isabelle and I took off power walking downtown the trail. Eventually, my phone buzzed.

“He’s complaining about all of the walking so we’re sitting on some benches,” Marc told me.

“Okay. We’re almost at the one-mile marker. As soon as we get there, we’ll turn around and head back to you.”

Once Isabelle and I headed back, we heard voices. Seconds later, we saw Ari running towards us.

“I wanna walk to one mile!” Ari told us.

It was probably two-tenths of a mile more for Ari to reach the one-mile marker so the three of us had to convince him to turn back.

Ari continued to walk slowly on the way back to the caboose. I tried a few races between the kids, “There’s the half-mile marker. Let’s see who can reach it first!” and “There’s the signal house. Who will be the first one there?” These things moved Ari forward, but it was slow-going back to the car. At one point, Marc carried him until I told him to “Make sure Ari’s train has oil, give him a boiler treatment, and keep moving.” (Yes, I’ve been faced with Ari not walking quickly around our neighborhood before. These things have worked for me since I’m not in the shape to carry a four-year-old child in my arms.)

Despite the kvetching from Ari, we’re going to keep doing family walks. Perhaps we need to bring a stroller for the way back next time so we don’t have to cut our walk short. Or snacks. Or maybe a stroller and snacks!