day camp · slice of life

I’m Tucking This in My Desk for a “Rainy Day”

There are many times each week when I wish I could hit the “reset” button on my parenting. It’s rare I feel like I’m getting it right. But yesterday? Yesterday was one of those times when I felt like I might not be falling as far short as I sometimes feel as though I am.

Yesterday, Isabelle and Ari returned from eight days away at my parents’ house. They took my children to their house to give Marc and me the time and space we needed to transition to our new home. (FYI: We moved from Harrisburg to Lancaster on June 21st. My parents knew it would be less challenging to unpack, work, and close on our Harrisburg house without having the kids around. Not only did they take them to their house, but they enrolled both of them — Yes, even little Ari! — in day camp for the week.) It was amazing to have the ability to do what we needed to do without having to entertain and care for our children. My parents deserve a medal. But this post isn’t about them. (Sorry, Mom and Dad!)

My father handed me an envelope not long after my parents arrived at our Lancaster home. “These are from Isabelle’s counselors,” he told me.

Click on the image to enlarge.

I opened an envelope and found two different notes from Isabelle’s counselors printed on note cards. Both were sweet notes expressing how much they’d miss Isabelle since she was leaving the group after just a week. However, inside one of the cards was a index card for Marc and me. The index card not only gave me a glimpse into Isabelle’s life at camp, but one sentence written on the index card turned me speechless. The counselor wrote:

She is one of the most polite kids I have ever met.

Who? My kid? I adore my daughter, but sometimes she can be a bit gauche. (Let me be honest, I did joke around to Marc, later in the day, that I couldn’t imagine how the rest of the kids were behaving if Isabelle was considered the politest.) We teach Isabelle to have good manners in and out of our home, but I don’t always see the transfer of our teaching.

I was touched – truly – that her counselors took the time to write Isabelle notes after a week of knowing her. More than that, I was moved one of them took the extra time to reach out to us — parents living over 100 miles away — to share some reflections about Isabelle. If I could look that counselor in the eyes, I would tell her that her note truly blessed me. When you’re slogging through the daily highs and lows of parenting, it means everything to have someone tell you your kid is treating others kindly. I would never have known if it hadn’t been for her note.

I’ve tucked the notes in my desk drawer. I told Marc I am going to pull out the index card anytime I’m having a challenging parenting day. Because, apparently, I am getting more right than I think I am.

growing up · slice of life

Little Man in a Belt

It was early. Too early for summertime. Regardless, we were up for the day. That’s when Ari surprised me with a fashion request.

“I want to wear a belt,” Ari stated.

“Why?” I asked.

“I wanna wear a red belt!”

Of course he wasn’t going to tell me why. He. Is. Two.

He doesn’t need a belt because his pants fit him thanks to adjustable waistbands. However, I didn’t feel like getting into a battle of the wits before 5:30 a.m. Therefore, I grabbed a pair of jeans from his drawer and found the “red belt,” which was really burgundy, white, and blue. Close enough.

I stood in front of Ari and snaked the belt through the loops. I encouraged Ari to turn a bit after each loop. What did he do every time he turned? Giggled. And I mean BIG GIGGLES.

“What’s so funny?” I asked while feeling a little cranky that putting the belt on couldn’t be quick. (Remember, I hadn’t had coffee yet!)

“I’m wearing a belt!” Ari declared.

I smiled. “Yes you are!”

By the end of breakfast, Ari’s navy shirt was untucked from his jeans and was covered in oatmeal. Therefore, I grabbed a gray shirt — that kinda matched — and put it on Ari. Because, as I told Marc, “There’s no way he’s taking that belt off today!” Marc nodded knowingly.

Right after we changed shirts and retucked the gray shirt, I insisted on a photo. Ari sported his silliest “Cheese!” face and I got my photo.


A Great Lunch Date

Smiling with Her Lunch

Isabelle and I were out the door early for some medical appointments. My parents spent the morning with Ari so we had the chance to go out for lunch — just the two of us — after her appointments were finished.

“Can we go to that grill place where they have the toys I liked to play with when I was younger?” Isabelle asked.

I knew she was referring to the Chocolate Avenue Grill. It used to be one of my favorite lunch places in Hershey… until I stopped eating gluten in 2015. Now there are about five things on the menu — none of which I really want — that I can eat. However, she asked sweetly… so I said yes.

After Isabelle realized she was a bit too old for the toy bins in the foyer, we continued to our table. Isabelle and I chatted while she colored. She ate all of her food and drank her juice without me nagging her once. It was downright delightful.

Once I paid the check, we made our way through the raindrops to our minivan. Once we were inside, I turned around to check if she was buckled. I was about to say something when Isabelle said, “That was really nice. I liked having lunch with you, Mommy. Just us.”

I smiled. “I know you love your brother. We all do. But Ari is challenging to eat out with these days, isn’t he?”

She nodded.

“Should we do this more in the summertime?” I asked.

Isabelle nodded vigorously.

Therefore, I made a mental note to make sure we have more meals out — just the two of us. We both need it.

motherhood · slice of life

Because of… A Slice of Life Told in Images (Well, mostly with images.)

Because of the email I got from Central Penn Parent, I decided to untether the two of us from our afternoon routine so we could get milkshakes at the Capitol.

If you’ve never had a Farm Show Milkshake, then you won’t understand how awesome it is to find a place where you can have them outside of the eight days that the Annual Farm Show takes place each January. I would’ve happily paid for one, but seeing as they were free it was an even sweeter deal!

Because the event was held in the City of Harrisburg, it took me a LONG time to find parking. After two attempts at parallel parking, I found an easy spot, parked, paid the muni meter, put Ari in the stroller, was on our way.

Because of Ari being in a stroller, it was virtually impossible to find an easy way up to the Senate side of the State Capitol. I tried to find a ramp, but every ramp I found still required me to climb a few stairs, which I didn’t think was wise since I saw ⬇️THIS⬇️ from the street.

This was a small part of the milkshake line. Had I known the line would be SO long, I would never have attempted to go.

Because of my growling stomach (It was 12:25 p.m.) and my $3 investment in a parking spot, I decided to take Ari out to lunch.

My text message exchange with my husband. Once he read the second clue, he realized we were at Home 231.

Because Ari didn’t like the combination of Swiss cheese and cheddar cheese on the grilled cheese I ordered him, we asked to have it remade with cheddar-only.

Because Ari was hungry, he decided to gobble up my soup.

Tomato Basil Soup — hold the bread!

Soup Thief

Because the new grilled cheese took awhile to arrive, my parking meter almost ran out. Apparently, I waited too long to reply and my parking meter expired!

I freaked out when I didn’t get a confirmation about the meter time extension!

Because I didn’t want to get a parking ticket, I asked the waiter to give me a box for Ari’s new grilled cheese. I asked for the check, signed it, and jetted out of the restaurant. I hustled out of the restaurant. A guy noticed me running and cheered me on, encouraging me to “beat the meter.”

I was elated to find a ticket-free window!

Because I had rushed out of the restaurant when my meter didn’t renew via text message I accidentally left my credit card at the restaurant. Thankfully, the restaurant had already put it aside. Whew!

Because of the way today went, I’ve come to realize there’s no such thing as a free milkshake.

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!

food · slice of life

Reprise: It’s not a dog.

I was rushing to get a whole chicken cleaned off and into the oven by 6:15 p.m. this evening. While I was patting the chicken dry with paper towels, Ari declared, “It’s a dog.”

“It’s not a dog,” I replied. “It’s a chicken.”

“It’s a dog,” he said.

It’s been over two months since he thought the spatchcocked chicken I was cooking was a dog. He’s grown so much in so many ways in that time. But, gosh darn it, the kid thinks every whole chicken is a dog.

“No buddy. We don’t eat dogs. It’s a chicken.”

“It’s a chicken,” Ari stated.

“That’s right,” I said.

He grabbed a head of garlic and the lemon I was getting ready to stuff inside of the chicken. He picked up the garlic and said, “It’s an onion.”

“It’s not an onion, it’s garlic,” I replied.

“It’s garlic,” Ari paused. He looked at the chicken in the baking dish and declared, “And it’s a dog.”

I give up.

play stages · pretend play · slice of life

“Mommy, can you play?”

“Mommy, can you play?” Ari asked.

I looked at the clock. It was 7:58 p.m. I had 25 minutes until I need to be in my office for the #TWTBlog Twitter Chat.

“Yes, I can,” I replied.

Ari scampered off to his play room — or the room formerly known as our great room — where he grabbed two yellow school buses and some Little People. I brought my plates to the sink and watched him lay down beside one of the buses from my perch in the kitchen.

It’s strange how he lays down like that when he plays with his vehicles, I thought. I’ve seen plenty of little kids lay on the floor to “play trucks” or “play cars.” However, Isabelle never played like this so I’m still fascinated every time I notice Ari doing it.

I left my plate in the sink and joined Ari on the floor. (Not laying on it. Just sitting on it.) I observed as he zoomed the Little People around in a bus. First, they went to Hersheypark. Second, they drove to a museum. Third, they went to dinner at Devon, which is a local restaurant in Hershey.

“Are they tired?” I asked.

“Yes! They’re gonna go home to sleep!” he told me.

Once they arrived at their home, Ari scooted himself over to his Tonka trucks and began playing with them… on his belly. We played trucks for a few minutes. But then, I realized it was 8:20, which meant play time with me had to end. I texted Marc and asked him to relieve me. As soon as Ari saw Marc he said, “Daddy, you play golf?”

Someday, I’ll write about the two of them playing with an interior putting green. For now, I’ll just leave you with a few pics of a vehicle-loving boy playing on his belly.

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Unto Every Person There is a Name

Isabelle was less than pleased that she was going to accompany me to our community’s Reading of the Names Ceremony this afternoon. Part of me couldn’t blame her. After a full day of school and after school reading tutoring, how many eight year-olds would want to sit in synagogue… even if it was only for ten minutes. However, I told her it was our solemn obligation, as Jews, to remember the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Isabelle walked into synagogue with nothing more than a fidget cube and was given instructions not to use the noisy part of it. I invited her to sit with me, stand next to me as I read my pages of names, or to read a page herself.

Isabelle signed in to our community’s “Reading of the Names” book.

During my first page of names, Isabelle sat quietly and watched.

By the second page of names, Isabelle stood up to see what I was reading from her seat.

She remained standing as I read the third page of names too.

Once I finished reading, I told her it was time to go. That’s when she floored me. “I want to stay,” she whispered.

I encouraged her to move back a few rows with me, but she didn’t. She stood as close to the lectern as possible so she could see other people reading the pages of names.

After a few minutes, I decided it was time to go. This is the first year I’ve touched upon the Holocaust at home — and I’ve purposefully kept it light.

On our way out of the synagogue, I asked her, “How are you feeling right now?”

“Sad,” she replied.

“I feel sad too. It’s hard to hear the names and ages of all of the people who were killed, isn’t it?” I asked.

She nodded. “I heard the names of kids who were one. Why did they have to kill a baby who was one?”

Oh my G-d. So many answers. Which one do I choose?

“Because the Nazi were cruel. So very cruel,” I replied.

“It’s so sad,” she said.

“I know. Would a hug help?” I asked.

Isabelle rose from her seat and leaned-in for a hug.

On the drive home, Isabelle surprised me when she said, “Can I have peaceful music?” she asked.

I turned Symphony Hall on and we listened. A minute later she asked, “How did the people get killed.”

I was not about to tell her about the firing squads or the gas chambers. “In ways you’re not ready to hear about,” I replied.

“With a gun?” she asked.

“Some, yes. Others… by starvation. And others in ways that we’ll talk about as you get older.”

The conversation continued as we drove on. With every question I felt a bit more of her childhood innocence slipping away. However, I knew I hadn’t made the wrong decision to bring her when I finally asked, “Would you like to accompany me to the Reading of the Names next year?”

“Yes,” she answered immediately.

In synagogue, there’s a passage in the prayer book we sing entitled “L’dor v’dor,” which means “from generation to generation.” It often refers to the passing of spiritual knowledge from one generation to the next. Today, the responsibility for this tradition of keeping the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust was passed from me to my daughter. It is my sincerest hope that my children will pass on this sacred responsibility to their children some day.

Jewish · slice of life

I want to tell you about my Saturday morning.

This past Saturday morning, my friend Jenny and I led our synagogue’s final Junior Congregation service of the school year. When we finished, I noticed the adult service was still going on. That’s right, I reminded myself, they have to say Yizkor. (Yizkor is a Jewish prayer service that happens four times per year to remember those who have died. Since we’re egalitarian Conservative Jews, it’s not incumbent upon anyone to go to a Yizkor service if they don’t have an immediate member of the family — parents, siblings, spouse, or child(ren) — for whom to say the Kaddish prayer.) Therefore, the other moms and I allowed our children to play in the room adjacent to the chapel while we stood in the hallway outside of the social hall waiting for the Yizkor service to finish and lunch to begin.

We stood there — five Jewish women in our 40’s — talking about Yom Ha’shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), which begins at sundown on Wednesday, May 1st and ends at sundown on Thursday, May 2nd. Our conversation reflected the way we learned about the Holocaust and how we’re sharing (or not sharing) about the Holocaust with our children. It occurred to me, as we stood there, that we were coming off of the holiday of Passover, which marks the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt, and were already thinking about Yom Ha’shoah, which is when we remember the more than six million Jews whose lives were cut short because of their religion. As we stood there reflecting, it occurred to me that we were fortunate to be able to ponder the wisest ways to teach our children about our people’s past heartaches. Little did we know — standing in that hallway — that terrorizing of Jews would continue on the West Coast a few hours later. 

On Saturday, April 27th, 2019 — six months to the day that the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh had bullets raining down on congregants during Shabbat morning — a white supremacist walked into Chabad in Poway, California and opened fire during their final day of Passover services. One woman was killed, three others were injured, and millions of Jews around the world were terrorized again. 

I’ve tried to find something else — anything else — to write about since Saturday, but all I keep coming back to is the fact that my friends and I let our guard down in synagogue. We allowed our children to play a few hundred feet away from us — on the other end of the synagogue — while we chatted. You know where I’m going with this… it’s where the mind shouldn’t have to go when you’re in your house of worship (or a school, or a movie theater, or fill-in-the-blank-with-wherever-the-most-recent-mass-shooting-has-taken-place). But that’s where my mind keeps going. Why weren’t we right outside the door talking? Had we become complacent because of our synagogue’s new security measures, because six months had passed since the Tree of Life Shooting, or both?

Carly Pildis, a Jewish writer and advocacy professional, wrote this in Tablet Magazine today:

None of us can let our fear of being murdered in synagogue keep us from our houses of worship. However, I’ve come to realize all of us who choose to go about living Jewish lives have to be smarter about how we live. Unfortunately, it means being a bit more overprotective even if it causes an eye roll.

We’re living in a time when we — as Jews — we do not feel safe. As writer Ariel Sobel wrote in a piece in The Forward yesterday:

On February 21st, 2017, I wrote my first blog post that reflected any hint of feeling unsafe as an American Jew. ( I started this blog in February 2012. All of my posts categorized as “Jewish” prior to 2017 were (mostly) celebratory in nature.) This is the fourth time I’ve categorized a blog post with the “Jewish” category that’s been about anti-Semitism since 2017. Anti-Semitism is alive in this country and around the world. It’s on the left. It’s on the right. And it’s going to take everyone — Jewish and non-Jewish — doing there part to eradicate it. 

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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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