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!

COVID-19 · post-op life · siblings · slice of life

The Things Siblings Say to Each Other

I walked downstairs around 5:45 p.m. and noticed my children building a structure out of Magnatiles together. I announced, “I’ll be in the great room, icing my ankle, if either of you need me.” Neither of them looked up.

Alrighty then, I thought. Carry on.

I grabbed an ice pack from the freeze, lowered myself onto the couch, propped up my feet, and wrapped the pack around my ankle. I heard musings from the playroom of the kids talking about the hotel they were building. I felt a pang in my heart knowing we were supposed to be staying at a hotel tonight on our way to meet our cousins in the Great Smoky Mountains for our summer vacation.

My sense of regret about the vacation we’ve postposed until after there’s a vaccine was interrupted by yelling. Isabelle began to order Ari around. He must not have liked her command since he responded with “You’re not a good person!”

I gasped. Where on Earth did he come up with that? HE IS THREE! But just as I was about to holler something into the next room, Isabelle shouted at Ari to which he responded, “I don’t like your behavior.”

I giggled. Now THAT we have been known to say.

Isabelle declared she wasn’t going to play with Ari anymore. I thought about intervening, but — well — I was icing my ankle. Better to let them cool down and figure it out on their own.

By the time I finished icing my foot a little after six, the two of them were playing “farm hotel” with Little People. (NOTE: We were supposed to stay in Roanoke tonight, not at any kind of farm hotel. Therefore, they get an A for creativity!) Isabelle and Ari were getting along swimmingly… until they weren’t — again.

Next thing I knew, they made up and came into the great room to read books together while I cooked dinner. I thought they were reading alone, but when I went over to the couch to see what was happening, I discovered Isabelle’s arm around Ari as they leafed through a book on trains she borrowed for him from the library.


But ten minutes later, they complained about being hungry. Once they ate dinner, they resumed their usual silly brother-sister relationship and didn’t fight the rest of the night.

I’ll never understand sibling banter since I’m an only child. But if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that they would not be doing as well as they are during our continued efforts to stay-at-home as much as possible if it weren’t for having one another. So, yeah, sometimes they drive each other nuts because they’ve basically been each other’s only playmate for four months. However, I know they love each other immensely… so I’m not too worried.

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siblings · slice of life

Roofy Stuffies

Ari sleeps with three puppies (i.e., A Puppy, I Puppy, and Patchy) and a blanket at naptime and bedtime. He schleps the puppies around the house. Sometimes they come on car rides. As a result, they’ve been looking a little messy. (Also, they smell like drool, but that’s another story.) Therefore, it was time for them to get clean.
“Ari!” I called downstairs. “I’m giving the puppies a bath. Do you want to help them get prepare for their bath?”
“No!” he called back.
Fine by me.
I zipped each puppy up in a mesh lingerie bag, added the appropriate liquids, and started the washing machine.
Ten minutes later, Ari tore through my bedroom door where I was sitting beside Isabelle working on writing. He must’ve realized his puppies were in the washing machine because his face was covered in red blotches and tears.
“I wanna give my puppies a hug before they have a bath!”
“Buddy, they’re already in the washing machine,” I replied.
“But I need to give them a hug!”
“Come here,” I said extending my arms to him.
Ari climbed onto my bed and fell into me. I felt the wetness and warmth of his face as he sobbed in my lap.
Isabelle must’ve remembered how it felt to have her special bears in the wash since she sprung into action. “Do you want me to get Schleppy? Or Teddy?”
“Marshemellow!” Ari declared between sobs. “Teddy!”
Isabelle sprung out from under the comforter and dashed to her room. Marshmellow must not have been on her bed since she returned with the infamous Teddy (which she never wants to let him touch) and Igloo (who had once been Ari’s panda that she adopted). She handed both of the bears to Ari for him to hold.
Ari crawled off of my lap and sat between us. He hugged Igloo and Teddy. Isabelle hugged him. She whispered sweet words into his ear and rubbed his back. She told him it would be okay… that his puppies would be out soon. After a few minutes, Ari calmed down and toddled off.

* * * * *

Once the washing machine stopped, I called downstairs to Ari.
“Ari! Do you want to come upstairs and say hello to your puppies before the get dry from their bath?”
Do you think he came?

Ari is reunited with the “Roofy Stuffies,” otherwise known as A Puppy, I Puppy, and Patchy, before they started their dryer cycle.
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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COVID-19 · post-op life · siblings · slice of life

Home Schooling Starts… Tomorrow! #SOL20

I intended to start “Mommy Home School” today, but then I remembered that Isabelle had a speech therapy appointment at 10:00 a.m. this morning. So, in the spirit of being flexible, I realized “classes” would have to start tomorrow.

That said, we did that “bare minimum” thing I wrote about yesterday. We read together:

Here’s Isabelle reading What If You Had Animal Feet? by Sandra Markle and Howard McWilliam aloud to me this morning.

What an idyllic looking photo, right? Well, yes, but it isn’t representative of how today went.

Ari was a MENACE while Isabelle was at speech therapy morning. We haven’t told him anything about COVID-19 — because he’s too young — but I think he can sense something is wrong since he was wild. (I’ll leave it at that for the sake of not embarrassing him when he reads this as a grown-up.)

So why share this detail, you may ask? I’m sharing because for every ten photos I see of children sitting dutifully by their remote schooling technology on their parents’ Facebook, I see one photo of another mom going out of her mind trying to manage kids during this time of “social distancing.” That 10:1 ratio is not real. Therefore, I’m sharing this information in (a) an effort to keep it real and (b) a way to let anyone whose day wasn’t picture-perfect know that they aren’t alone..

There were some lovely moments of me reading books in bed to the kids. However, when I look back on this day, it’s going to be Ari throwing toy trains at the play room wall (Okay, I’m sharing one detail!) that I’ll remember, not the peaceful read aloud.

PLUS, all non-essential businesses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are closing as of midnight tonight. Therefore, my mom took Isabelle out to the art store, to get a haircut, and to grab an ice cream cone this afternoon. (Good thing I committed to going with the flow yesterday when I created that schedule!)

So, “Mommy Home School” will begin tomorrow. I’m sure it won’t all go according to plan… and that’s okay. There’s no playbook for what we’re living through right now. This is going to be a long-game and therefore I’m starting to realize it may take several days to get it right so that we fall into a routine that works for everyone — including the three-year-old who threw those trains at the wall with such delight this morning.

Hershey · siblings · slice of life

The Sweetest Thing to Say to a Sibling

When I envisioned what my life would be like once I had children, it included trips to historical sites, museums, and shows. Maybe some sporting events, but mostly cultural things. You know what my visions didn’t include? Weekly trips to an amusement park! However, Isabelle became hooked on Hersheypark (which is about a half hour from our house) in 2014, which was the first time we purchased season passes. Therefore, we’ve been going ever since.

Now that Ari is two, he’s enamored with Hersheypark too. Like Isabelle, he wants to go every single weekend. If we skip a weekend — like we did last weekend — he acts as if it’s a major blow to his life. {Sigh.}

Last year, I took Isabelle and Ari on the Ferris wheel a few times. However, we hadn’t been on it since the Park opened this season. Even though the Ferris wheel is a favorite ride of mine (since it reminds me of the times I rode the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island with my Dad when I was a kid), I don’t take my kids on it that often since it’s on the far end of Hersheypark.

When I asked Isabelle what ride she wanted to go on first this weekend, she replied, “The Ferris Wheel!”

“Then we’ll walk to it first before the park fills up,” I told her.

She nodded her head in agreement.

Ari, on the other hand, was not in agreement. “I don’t wanna go on the Ferris wheel! I don’t wanna fall!”

“You’re not going to fall, Ari,” Isabelle said.

“You’ll be fine if you stay seated,” I told him.

Nonetheless, Ari repeated his disdain for our decision the whole walk to the Ferris wheel, which — if you count the walk from the car to the Ferris wheel — took about 25 minutes.

By the time we got to the Ferris wheel, I was ignoring the repeated complaints about Isabelle’s choice of a ride. Isabelle, on the other hand, was still entertaining Ari’s whining.

Once I took Ari out of the stroller, I noticed Isabelle take Ari’s hand. That part is typical. What I heard her tell him melted my heart. She said, “Listen, Ari. If you’re with Isabelle you’re always safe.”

I trusted Isabelle would keep an arm around Ari (which she did). That being said, I kept a hand on him too!

“Awwww!” I said. “That’s the sweetest thing you could tell him.”

“Well, it’s true!” Isabelle retorted.

I thought of all of the times Isabelle has engaged in ridiculous stunts at home (such as standing on the arm of the couch and doing a forward roll onto the cushions), which Ari has promptly copied. Each of these stunts takes a month or two off of my life every time. However, I bit my tongue about the always part of her message. Instead, I said, “Yes, it’s true, Ari. You are safe with Isabelle on the Ferris wheel.”

And with that, we walked onto the Ferris wheel queue. Even though Ari continued to worry, Isabelle held his hand and kept promising him that he’d be safe.

Not only was he safe… Ari demanded, “I wanna go on again!” as soon as it was time for us to exit.

We didn’t go on again. After all, we’ll probably be at Hersheypark next weekend!

siblings · slice of life · travel

Heading Home

Little Pretzel Eaters

We’re heading home from five days away for Passover. I’m the front seat passenger. My husband is driving. The kids are in the back of the minivan. We have an hour and twenty minutes left until we get home. And home can’t come soon enough because the kids are restless in the backseat. After all, they’ve driven through four states since Thursday.

Here’s a scene from ten minutes ago that reflects how ready I am to get out of this vehicle:

Isabelle was reading a Henry and Mudge book aloud. Ari vacillated between screaming for a snack and bellowing to have his music turned on. The music wasn’t going to be turned on until Isabelle was finished reading so Marc encouraged me to pass back a baggie of pretzels. I thought it was a terrible idea, but they’re the only Passover-friendly snack food we have in our car. I reluctantly handed the pretzels to Ari expecting them to fall on the floor immediately. However, Ari carefully took the bag and began eating one pretzel at a time. Maybe I had misjudged.

Two minutes later, I realized I should never have handed the pretzel baggie back to Ari since he dumped the baggie upside down on his lap while Isabelle was still reading. Then, Ari systematically took the pretzels on his lap and shoved them between his body and the car seat. He laughed hysterically as he shoved each one into the car seat.

“That’s going to be fun to clean up later,” I said to Marc who nodded knowingly.

Isabelle kept reading. When she was finished reading, I turned KidzBop on for Isabelle and handed her a new baggie of pretzels. This time, she held the pretzels for the both of them.

For now, they’re both quiet. But we still have an hour and fifteen minutes left to go.

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siblings · slice of life

Waiting for the Bus

Once teeth are brushed, the backpack is packed, and shoes are put on, we transition to Isabelle’s play room to wait for the bus. Some mornings it’s just Isabelle with one parent. Other mornings, Ari joins in the fun. (That is, he wakes up earlier than necessary!)

This morning, Ari woke up after Isabelle finished her breakfast. My husband left early for work, which meant I had to get him dressed and hustle downstairs so I could look out the window for the bus.

Some mornings, Isabelle is not thrilled to have Ari in her playroom since he likes to touch her stuff. This morning, Isabelle didn’t seem to mind him touching everything (INCLUDING an impressive structure she built with MagnaTiles) he could get his tiny, two-year-old hands on. Her patience translated to her craft table, which is usually a flash point. I was relieved she was being so patient since my caffeination level hadn’t reached it’s optimal level once the two of them were in her play room.

Isabelle set Ari up with a crayons and paper, but Ari had other ideas. He wanted colored pencils. She gave him — one at a time — a pencil to draw with. Do you think he drew on the paper she provided to him? Of course not, he drew on several pieces of paper. But Isabelle redirected him gently, encouraging him to draw on one piece of paper at a time.

Within ten minutes, the bus arrived and Isabelle was off to school. I forgot about her level of patience for Ari when our evening felt as though it was going off the rails. However, as I looked back on my camera roll at the end of the day, I found a sweet photo of them I snapped this morning and it brought a smile to my face.