slice of life · travel

Scratched-up in the Smokies!

I walked to my car in the nearly-empty parking lot. I was horrified to find the bottom of my minivan looking like this:

They said a minivan would be able to handle the drive up the mountain! Well, I guess they were wrong!

Here’s a peek at a time-lapsed video I shot as Marc drove up the mountain to our cabin, which was over 3,300 feet in the sky. As you’ll notice, the road got narrower and went from two paved lanes to one gravel lane.

Rather than being angry at the person who told my cousin Scott that our minivans could make it up the mountain roads, I started cursing Baines Mountain. I lamented giving up my SUV for a kid-friendly minivan. ARGH!

I examined the damage. It wasn’t just scratches. They bottom bumper seemed to be hanging down low. I took photos so I could share my frustration with Marc and my cousins. But first, air conditioning! 

I attempted to open the driver’s door with the touch of my hand. It wouldn’t open. I put my hand on the sliding door behind my seat. Nothing. While the minivan’s doors occasionally don’t open when I touch the handle, I was furious. I huffed my way to the front passenger’s door. I touched my hand to the handle. STILL NOTHING.

At this point, I stomped back to the driver’s door and removed the key fob from my purse. I looked inside and that’s when I realized that the steering wheel had a Toyota logo on it. I don’t drive a Toyota. 

I looked up, key fob in hand, marched one car over (aka: the only other car in the parking lot), put my hand on the door handle, and heard the familiar beep-beep.

WHAT. A. RELIEF.

My favorite photo I took from our cabin. THIS is what I want to remember, not the harrowing drive.
slice of life · travel

Oh yes he did!

Just as we were driving away from my in-laws to head home to Pennsylvania, Ari blurted out, “And you better not need to stop four times to go to the bathroom again.”

That was directed at me!

You might be thinking, oh no, he didn’t! Guess what, HE DID!

I could responded kindly or I could fight fire with fire. I chose the fire method, which I’ve never done before when either kid has complained about excessive pit stops.

Stooping to a five-year-old’s level, I said, “It’s your fault I had to stop to go to the bathroom multiple times on the way up here.”

“My fault? What do you mean?” Ari retorted.

“After women have babies, they often have to go to the bathroom more frequently,” I replied.

“Why?” Ari asked.

I looked at my husband, who is a physician, and said, “I need you to take this one.”

Marc explained the way the uterus pushes on the bladder during pregnancy. He explained about weakening of bladders afterwards. {Chef’s kiss 👨‍🍳😗 for the explanation.}

Ari had a hard time believing he was responsible, even after that. Hmph!


Somewhere in NJ, Ari declared, “I need to pee NOW!”

I knew that was going to happen since we hadn’t stopped yet and because he consumed his entire water bottle in less than 90 minutes.

“I already figured you’d need to use the bathroom so we’ll get off at exit 22, which is coming up in a few minutes,” I said.

“I need to go now!”

“You’re going to have to hold it or you’re going to have a wet booster seat for two more hours.”

He relented. “I can hold it.”

And he did.

Wiith that, we made our first stop of the drive — because of Ari, not me — at a Starbucks in Bedminster, NJ. I didn’t even say a word about how we had to stop because of him, not me. BUT, I will be petty enough to bring this up if he complains about me needing to stop before we get home. After all, it is partially his fault that I need to go more often.

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slice of life · technology · travel

Why I Detest Waze

I like Apple Maps. It synchs with my calendar. The user interface is simple. It provides me with alerts when there’s a faster route. It’s perfect.

My husband, Marc, prefers Waze. He insists it finds the best route and saves him time.

But I detest Waze. I don’t like the gamified nature of it. When I’m driving, I don’t want to be prompted to press the screen to let others know if there’s still detritus on the road or a police officer looking for speeders. My hands — and everyone else’s — need to be on the steering wheel and my eyes — and everyone else’s — need to be on the road!

Marc doesn’t think this photo shows how grumpy I was. I guess he caught me at a better moment.

Marc insists one doesn’t have to engage with the pop ups, but the very nature of them distracts me. Quite frankly, I think there’s too much happening on the screen — and with the navigation voice. (More on that later.)

On the way up to my in-laws’ house, Marc told me he needed me to drive a little before 1 p.m. since he needed to attend a virtual meeting. Given the time and where we’d be at 1 p.m., I wasn’t thrilled. I knew I’d be driving through Northern NJ, as well as Rockland and Westchester Counties. Of course, I would “need” to use Waze because I’d be driving over the Tappan Zee Bridge. (Don’t come at me about the fact that that’s not the name anymore. It’ll always be the Tap, rather than the Mario Cuomo Bridge, to me.) Waze would give us the heads-up about potential traffic into Connecticut. In my husband’s mind, Waze is a necessity while driving in the NY Metropolitan Area.

I acquiesced and fired up the Waze app on my phone. (Truth: I had to download it again. I detest it so much that I deleted it from my iPhone.) And that began the most stressful 80 minutes of my day.

I got onto 287N at the point where it’s four lanes of traffic across. It was as if every maniac driver was out on the road. There were tailgaters, lane-changers who didn’t signal, and reckless drivers who dramatically zip from one side of the highway to the other without a care for other people’s lives.

To make matters worse, Waze felt the need to give me every freaking piece of information about our route whenever possible. Waze told me every possible thing I could do when exiting. Case in point: Look at the amount of directions on the screen!

📷: Marc took this while I was driving grumpily on 287.

“Take the right lane to I-87 South/NY State Thruway South/I-287 South/Mario Cuomo Bridge/New York City” is just too freaking much. Apple Maps would never overload me with info like that!

AND ANOTHER THING! I had to keep the kids quiet while dealing with all of this craziness. Seeing as that was about three hours into the trip, I had to make a deal. “If you are quiet while Daddy is on his call, then I’ll give you the iPad to share once he’s off.” They took the deal. By the grace of G-d, they were quiet.

The only positive of the whole driving experience today was listening to Handel’s Water Music softly while I drove.

Luckily, Marc got off of his call in Westchester County. I took the second exit to Hartsdale and got out of the car to change places with him. No way was I going to drive on the narrow lanes of Merritt Parkway with Waze!

Now I’m in the passenger seat. The kids are taking turns with the iPad. Marc is driving us on the Merritt Parkway. We are sitting in slow moving traffic. Not even Waze can help us get around this always-present traffic. Whatever. At least I can relax now.

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CONVERSATIONS · slice of life · travel

1st Class Tickets

“I can’t believe Analeisa is going to fly to CHINA next year! That’s, like, 24 hours away!” Isabelle declared as she sat the table for dinner.

“You can read a lot of books in that time!” I offered.

“Yeah, but how will they sleep?”

“I’m sure their bodies will ache when they get there,” I said.

*****

“I’d only go to China if I could have a bed on the plane,” Isabelle declared. “Or I wouldn’t go.”

“I could ride my bike to China,” Ari said.

“You can’t ride your bike to China,” Isabelle said.

“Why not?” Ari asked.

“You have to cross the Pacific Ocean,” I replied.

“Well, then I’d swim,” Ari said. (Mind you, this child has only had one swim lesson in his life. It was two days ago.)

“You can’t swim to China!” Isabelle retorted. “It’s too far!”

“And too wavy,” I added.

“Well, I could swim there,” Ari said.

“It would take you, like, a billion days!” Isabelle said.

“If he made it,” I said. “He might get eaten by a shark somewhere in the Pacific.”

“Fine, then I won’t swim to China!” Ari said. “I will fly there!”

“You need to get a bed on the plane,” Isabelle suggested.

“Well, then I guess you’ll have to make a lot of money,” I said. “First-class tickets with bed-like seats cost a lot of money.”

“I have a lot of money,” Ari offered between bites of his chicken and broccoli.

“Oh yeah? How much do you have?” I asked.

“I have a Lincoln,” he said.

“And I have $19 dollars,” Isabelle added.

“So all together, you have $24. I don’t think that’ll buy you a bed to China.”

“I’ve got some change too!” Ari said.

“Pennies, right?” I asked.

He nodded.

“I think you’ll need more like a few thousand dollars for each first-class bed to China.”

Their eyes widened.

“I have money in my tzedakah box too!” Ari said.

“You can’t take money out of your tzedakah box!” Isabelle told him.

“She’s right. That money is for people or animal or organizations that need money. It isn’t for buying beds for plane trips to China.”

And with that, we went back to eating dinner. Marc was working late tonight. What a conversation he missed! Lou the Bear was sitting in Marc’s place at the table. He had nothing to say about the first-class trip to China.
slice of life · travel

Pretzel Time #sol19

Our kids woke us up too early this morning. We had hoped to sleep in considering we had a family wedding in Virginia last night. No such luck. Both of them woke up at 6:30 a.m. Neither one was quiet. But amidst their singing and giggles came a request from Ari, “I want a snack. I want pretzels!”

We told Ari he’d have to wait for the car ride home if he wanted to eat pretzels. First, he had to eat breakfast. The pretzels would come later.

So what do you think was the first thing Ari asked when we drove away from the hotel?

“Is it pretzel time now?”

It was just a touch after 10 a.m. It was still too early for pretzels in my book. “Let’s wait until 10:30 a.m.”

Isabelle was busy with a Highlights book at 10:30 so she requested we push “pretzel time” back ten more minutes. Ari seemed cool with that plan — at first — but then he protested. By 10:37 a.m., it was pretzel time. The kids noshed on pretzels until 11 a.m., when I declared “pretzel time is over.” (They would’ve eaten the entire bag if I let them.”

Ari napped in the car this afternoon. What do you think he asked for as soon as he woke up? That’s right. “PRETZEL TIME!”

Isabelle was eating honey graham bears so it would’ve been hard for her to hold two bags while doling pretzels out to Ari. He must’ve sensed what I was thinking since Ari declared, “I’m gonna hold them like a good boy.”

“Do you mean like a big boy?” I asked.

“Yes!”

Reluctantly, I handed the pretzels bag back for pretzel time, part two.

Everything was fine for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard Isabelle say, “No, Ari! Don’t turn the bag upside down!”

I turned around, reached back, and managed to take back the pretzel bag. Ari let out a disappointed yelp, but got over it quickly.

The backseat of my car, however, won’t get over it quite as fast. It’s going to need a good vacuuming!

Road trips with kids… they’re always eventful!

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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slice of life · travel

Homeward Bound

I texted my parents, my mother-in-law, and Marc as soon as my plane’s wheels touchdown at MDT. That’s when I got this text from Marc:

(1) Siri isn’t my friend when I text. (See red marks.) (2) A plane taxiing down the jetway makes an iPhone think you are driving.

Typically, Isabelle is asleep — or in pjs — when I return home from trips. But not today! Today, I am getting picked up by two people. And that makes me happy.

Smiling in the terminal. (Geographical point of reference: Three Mile Island in the background.)

I adore traveling to new places and working with teachers. But I love being home with my family.

slice of life · technology · travel

FaceTime: The Bookends of My Work Day

MORNING FACETIME

I received a text message from Marc at 6:48 a.m. asking if I was free to FaceTime with Isabelle. I was available (despite needing to finish putting on my makeup, get dressed, and pack up my technology for an 8:00 a.m. presentation).

I opened the shade in my room exposing the Elizabeth River, which I could see from my hotel room. What a gorgeous day! I pressed the FaceTime button on the text message and was instantly connected with Marc and Isabelle who were in the kitchen. I learned it was slow going this morning since Marc was making Isabelle’s breakfast when I called. I talked to them for a couple of minutes, but the call kept freezing. “Poor connection” is what my iPhone told me. I hung up, disconnected from the hotel’s WiFi and tried again. More of the same. Could it be that the problem was also our home’s WiFi connection? (I didn’t even want to think of that. I don’t be bothered with home-related issues when I’m presenting at a conference.) Therefore, I texted Marc back and asked him to go onto LTE so we could FaceTime. It took a few minutes, but eventually we were back in business.

I’d like to say the call was idyllic. It wasn’t. It involved Marc reminding Isabelle to sit at the table, eat her breakfast, and drink her chocolate milk. But Isabelle had her own agenda. She wanted to see the view from my hotel room and get a tour of my room. (BTW: She loves hotels. And I mean LOVES. I think she’s destined to work in the hospitality industry when she grows up!)

I flipped the FaceTime view and showed her everything, including location where I’d be presenting. But it was 7:00 a.m. and Marc needed her to hustle since she needs to be finished with breakfast by 7:15 a.m. in order to catch the school bus. Plus, I knew I needed to get myself together so I could be out the door on the way to the convention center by 7:30 a.m. So, I wished everyone a good day, told them I loved them, and hit the end button. Sometimes you have to put the needs of other people — in this case Marc’s need to get Isabelle out the door so he wouldn’t have to drive her to school — before your own needs.

LATE-AFTERNOON FACETIME

I checked Weather.com and discovered it was 74 degrees at 5:00 p.m. so I decided to take a walk down to the Elizabeth River. I changed into workout clothes and took the elevator to the ground floor of my hotel. Once I was on the street, I called my mother-in-law to determine if it would be a good time to talk to the kids. Ari had come downstairs after his afternoon nap and Isabelle was playing a game with my father-in-law in-between reading and PT exercises.

I initiated the FaceTime call and was instantly transported to the familiar surroundings of my house. I was wearing sunglasses on my walk and Ari seemed confused when he saw me. I removed my sunglasses and said, “Do you know who I am?”

He smiled and replied, “Mommy” in a voice that melted my heart.

I was excited to show him (and Isabelle) the boats that were docked. I was especially thrilled to show him the Stratsraad Lehmkul, which is a three-masted Norweigan naval ship that’s docked in Norfolk through tomorrow. Ari seemed interested for a few minutes, but lost interest when I was unable to zoom-in on the tugboats that were passing by.

Isabelle made a few appearances towards the end of the call. She mostly snapped FaceTime photos of me while we were talking. (I’m sure my mother-in-law has a whole bunch of not-so-lovely photos of me.) Just for fun, I snapped a few of her too!

Does anyone else’s kid do this when they FaceTime with you?

Eventually, we hung up and I went on my way with the rest of my day. While I enjoy having extra time to myself while I’m away, I’ll be honest… I miss my kids.

slice of life · travel

Hugs Make Things Better

I had every intention of getting a good night’s rest last night. However, I tossed and turned until nearly 11:30 p.m. Then, I woke up at 2:15 a.m. — and never went back to sleep. And it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could help me fall asleep again.

It’s an understatement to say that I was grumpy when Isabelle encountered me this morning. She must’ve sensed something since she asked me a question she never asks me in the morning.

“How are you, Mommy?”

I answered honestly. I told her about my miserable night of sleep and how terrible my body felt due to a lack of rest.

“Would a hug make it better?” she asked.

Getting one of many hugs from my sweet girl before she left for school this morning.

“You can try,” I said.

Isabelle wrapped her arms around my waist and squeezed. I didn’t feel more rested, but something about her enveloping me in her kiddie embrace calmed me, albeit temporarily.

I zoomed around the house — a frantic mess — for the next hour while she got ready for school. She kept doling out the hugs. She also offered to give me her Teddy to take to Norfolk. (I declined.) Then, she brought me Ari’s huge stuffed bear to give me a hug. (That made me laugh.) Next, she drew me a sweet little picture with the words “I love you” on the bottom. (Big smile!)

I received more hugs from Isabelle — who is not a super-affectionate kid — than I could count this morning. It warmed my heart to know that she sensed my discomfort and wanted to help in whatever way she could. And she did.

Per my husband’s suggestion, I’m hydrating this morning in an effort to eradicate the massive headache I have from last night’s lack of sleep. Thank goodness I’m flying and taking a cab later today. I could not drive with the way I feel!
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slice of life · travel

Another Job Title

Holding Ari’s little hand apres clipping.

When someone asks me what I do, it’s hard to know which role I should state first. Am I a literacy consultant, an author, or both? Do I throw-in mom or blogger into my job description since those are big parts of who I am? Should I make a joke that I am a part-time laundress because my family of four generates more clothes than some families of six? It’s hard to say.

I shy away from work travel during the month of March since the managing the SOLSC is a full-time job. However, the Virginia State Reading Association (whose President is Slicer Jennifer Floyd!) invited me to speak at their annual conference in Norfolk. I wanted to say yes… so I did.

I travel to Norfolk tomorrow. But tonight, amidst printing the kids’ schedules for my in-laws, folding laundry, and packing my suitcase, I had another important job to do. I needed to inspect the kids’ nails. You see, my husband, who is a super hands-on dad, has never clipped either of the kids’ nails since becoming a parent over eight years ago. It’s always been my job. Therefore, it’s one of the many things I make sure I take care of before I leave for a work trip. Last spring, I went away for five nights and returned home to children who seemed to have sprouted claws in my absence!

So tonight, I checked toenails first. Everything was good! Next, I inspected fingernails. That’s when I discovered Ari was due for a nail clipping. So, while I should’ve been making sure a list of all of the necessary technology I need to bring, I was clipping nails. Because, well, I am the kids’ nail tech!

So, add another role to my list. I am the chief nail technician for those 41 and under in my house. It’s not a great job, but somebody has to do it.