Why do “Mommy, look!” Isabelle ran towards me with a paper in her hand. “I drew a picture for you.”
It’s not a picture, I thought, it’s just some letters.
“What did you write?” I asked, reframing what was on the paper.
“I wrote b’s,” she beamed.
“Are you sure you wrote two b’s?” I asked.
“Yes. I write uppercase B and lowercase b,” she declared.
“You did write an uppercase B, but this is not a lowercase b.” I pointed at the letter in question. “That’s a lowercase p.”
“Are you sure?” she asked.
There were a million different ways I wanted to answer that question, but she wouldn’t find the humor in any of them so I went for the high road. “Yes, I’m sure. Let me show you what a lowercase b looks like.”
At that moment, I figured Isabelle would run away. [We’ve been having a rough time with compliance (her’s, not mine) since I returned from my week away at the Highlights Foundation.] But she didn’t. She followed me to her craft table where I grabbed a marker and showed her — on the same sheet of paper — what an uppercase B and lowercase b looked like.
“I have something I’ve been keeping on the mantle that can help you tell the difference between uppercase and lowercase letters. Want to see it.”
She surprised me — again — when she said, “Yes!”
I retrieved the framed Kit Chase ABC print I framed and stuck up on the mantle in her playroom for someday. Today was that day and, by golly, I was tickled pink. We went through the entire alphabet, noting the uppercase and lowercase letters that were the same and the ones that were different. I thought she had it by the time we arrived at Zz. But I wanted to link it to what she was doing at her craft table. So, in typical writing teacher fashion, I said, “So today and any day you’re trying to write a lowercase letter, you can look at this chart if you’re not sure what it should look like. This chart will remind you of what each lowercase letter looks like. I’ll leave it on your craft table so you can check it when you’re unsure of what a lowercase letter should look like.”
She’s a long way away from writing lowercase letters independently since she’s still trying to master writing uppercase ones. Nonetheless, her curiosity led to me giving her a tool, which I hope will help her as she wants to do some more writing.
I’ve driven a few hours north of my home to write (read: hopefully finish my book) at my home away from home this week.
I’m here with two fellow Slicers: Michelle Haseltine (who is also doing an Unworkshop with me) and Lee Ann Spillane (who won TWT’s #SOL15 Commenting Challenge and happens to be here this week)! Margaret Simon was supposed to be Unworkshopping with Michelle and me, but she had a family emergency she had to attend to. (We miss you, Margaret!)
It’s 8:30 p.m. on night one of my Unworkshop. I haven’t done a lick of work yet since it took me longer than usual to get here today. My goal is to finish my book and send it to my editor by Friday. (It’s due to him on July 15th.) And that should be possible since I’m in the editing and polishing stages. Plus, it’s super quiet here!
Isabelle sent me off with one of her stuffed animals (again) so I have another little project to work on this week. Somehow Hop-Hop will have to have some kind of adventure this week. Not sure what that will be yet. Right now, I have to focus on getting my writing done!
With that, it’s off to work I go. I hope I emerge on Friday having birthed a book. We’ll see…
You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t have time to write a real slice of life story today. I’m in the midst of revisions for my forthcoming teacher-education book. It’s 95% written (YEA!), but needs lots of revisions! That’s what this week and next are for — revision and editing. (I’ll treat myself to writing the acknowledgments — so I can be 100% finished writing this book — as soon as I revise two more chapters.)
Right now, school is out. My mother has come into town to save my tuchus this week. Isabelle is spending the morning with my mom so I have a quiet house in which to work. However, it isn’t all-revision all-of-the-time. There are so many other things to do, which I don’t have the time to write about right now. At least not this week. Such is life.
So you’ll excuse me for not writing a true slice of life this week. As I sit here, still wearing my pajamas at 11:48 a.m. (because that’s what writers can do when they work from home!), this is all I can muster up.
Okay, then. Back to work!
On the last day of preschool
I forgot to take your picture.
But it’s okay
since you swiped my phone
and took 31 selfies
when I went upstairs
to brush my teeth.
On the last day of preschool
I drove myself to Starbucks
ordered an iced white mocha
and read a professional teaching book
for over two hours.
On the last day of preschool
I exercised in the middle of the day
because my hand
hurt too much
for me to sit and write.
And I don’t know when
I’ll have the chance
to do that for a LONG time.
On the last day of preschool
I ate my lunch
and devoured popcorn
because you weren’t watching.
On the last day of preschool
I gathered your rest mat
and change of clothes
and bathing suit
and wet towel
and loaded them in the car.
And even though everything
needs to be washed
it can wait ’till tomorrow.
On the last day of preschool
I held your hand
when we ambled to the car.
I wondered if
you will hold my hand
on the next
a year from now.
I’ve been thinking a lot about preschool writing ever since my TWT colleague, Dana Murphy, shared her daughter’s writing on TWT last week. Maddie, Dana’s older daughter, is about 14 months older than Isabelle. Maddie starts Kindergarten this fall. Isabelle has another year of preschool to go. Developmentally, these girls are in different places.
I know better than to compare Isabelle’s writing to Maddie’s.
But I’ve been coming back to Maddie’s writing quite a few times since Dana posted it. (I even shared it with my husband, who was impressed and amazed by the words Maddie wrote on the page. I was impressed by that and the level of detail in her illustrations.) And every time I do, I wonder, will Isabelle be able to write like that by this time next year?
Now here’s where I’m going to stop to talk directly to my parents, in-laws, and husband who I know will be reading this in the next 24 hours. I am not comparing Isabelle to Maddie. If I’ve learned anything about parenting in the past 4+ years, it’s that I should never compare my child to anyone else’s. Isabelle learns at her own pace. She always gets there — in her own time. My purpose for posting this in a public forum, not on the family-only blog, is to get some feedback from other early childhood educators I know. I’m hoping to get some suggestions from them about how I can work with Isabelle at home. Anyway, back to my post.
Back in October, Isabelle received her journal in school. We had the pleasure of inscribing the first page. Here’s what one of her early entries looked like:
I went into her classroom in November and February to work with her on her notebook. November’s trip was a semi-disaster since she didn’t want to work with me. February’s work was better. Take a look:
Better, right? She drew the picture and talked with me. I wrote what she said and labeled the faces.
Here’s a small sampling of her work from February – present:
We had Isabelle’s parent-teacher conference with her teacher today. She made note of some things that show progress in the area of writing:
- Isabelle has developed a more positive attitude to non-preferred tasks, which includes anything that requires her to sit at a table — like writing.
- Isabelle is becoming more confident and in control of writing utensils.
- Isabelle has become more interested in writing. She has been creating illustrations that are more representational and often tells about events of experiences from her own life.
These are all FANTASTIC things, some of which I’ve noticed progress with at home. But I’m worried.
- I’m worried because Isabelle had no interest in starting an at-home story journal with me a few months ago. (I’ll try again once school is out this summer.)
- We’ve been practicing oral storytelling at home since I know talk is the step before drawing and writing.
- I’m worried the journal work she’s doing now isn’t showing a clear trajectory of growth (as evidenced by the 5/29/15 piece, which feels like a step backwards). While I see growth from November, I’m still concerned.
- My personal goal for Isabelle is to be able to tell a story across three pages in the early part of Kindergarten. (I realize that’s over a year away. A lot can change in a year. This video represents what my expectations are of Kindergarten students.)
- I’m worried that she isn’t using what she knows about stories (and we read a lot of books!) and bringing that forth in her writing.
And I know she’s only four. And I know she has another year of preschool. And I know she needs to play and socialize and learn how to ‘do school.’ And I know she may grow up to be more like my husband (a math and science person) than like me (the ELA/SS person). And I know I don’t want to force her to sit down and write because that would kill the joy of writing she may find on her own in a year or two.
I know all of these things, but, yet, I worry.
My daughter was an uninvited guest at a gay wedding and I’m 100% okay with that.
Let me backtrack: The three of us traveled to Washington DC for Memorial Day Weekend. After spending Saturday walking all over the city (i.e., from Georgetown to Foggy Bottom to the White House to the Smithsonian Castle to the National Gallery to the Metro Station and then back to our hotel!), we needed to take a little rest before dinner. Isabelle didn’t want to nap (Shocker!) so we allowed her to play quietly while we laid down.
I heard beautiful string music coming from the courtyard outside our hotel room. I peered out the window and discovered a wedding procession. “Isabelle, come look! It’s a wedding!”
Isabelle scurried over to the window as the flower girls made their way down the aisle. Next came the ring bearers. “The bridge will be coming out next!” I squealed.
The music didn’t change as a young man walked down the aisle escorted by a slightly older woman. Where was the bride? Once the tuxedo-clad man and the woman who was escorting him down the aisle arrived in front of the minister, the music stopped and the minister had everyone sit down.
What’s happening? Why is everyone sitting? Is there going to be some kind of break before the bride walks down the aisle?
I looked at the minister to see what he was doing next and that’s when I realized there were two men — both in tuxedos — standing in front of him. A same-sex wedding. How would I back-track from the bride thing and clarify to Isabelle what was happening? And that’s when I made a connection to a book I’m thankful she picked up in my office and has had us read to her over 50 times.
“There’s not going to be a bride,” I started.
“No bride?” she asked.
“That’s right. Remember how Stella had two daddies in Stella Brings the Family?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Well, this wedding is kind of like Stella’s family. Before Stella her daddies probably got married. This wedding has two grooms and no bride.”
“Okay,” she said.
Isabelle watched the wedding for a few minutes and then went over to the hotel room desk to color, peeking out the window every few minutes to spy on the wedding. She returned to the window for the recessional and then watched the new family’s photo session after the ceremony was over.
* * * * *
On the very day Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage, I assumed the wedding taking place in our hotel’s courtyard was between a man and a woman. It’s 2015 and I feel badly for that, but my assumption is probably because of the way I saw marriages growing up. I didn’t have to have a complex conversation with Isabelle about why there were two men at the altar, rather than a man and a woman, since she knows families look different from ours. We’ve had those conversations because we read Stella Brings the Family to Isabelle after she begged me to read it to her once I finished writing craft lessons for it for my forthcoming book. Initially, I thought the content would be too sophisticated for her, but reading the book led to important discussions. I realized reading Stella to her at age four was a good decision since it allowed her to learn about different family dynamics.She accepted the same-sex wedding. Unlike those who oppose gay marriage, she doesn’t think there’s anything weird or unholy about what the two men were doing in the courtyard of our hotel on Saturday afternoon. I’m sure she’ll have questions about gay marriage as she gets older, but for now, she accepts it. And I am thankful.
Isabelle accepted the same-sex wedding she witnessed. Unlike those who oppose gay marriage, she doesn’t think there’s anything weird or unholy about what the two men were doing in the courtyard of our hotel on Saturday afternoon. She saw two people pledge their love to each other as she watched from our room. While I’m sure she’ll have questions about gay marriage as she gets older, she accepts it now. And I am thankful.
My kid, on the other hand, is four going on 94! And I’m not sure I should brag about that. She’s the kind of kid people often refer to as “an old soul.” Case in point, this morning, after she guzzled her chocolate milk at breakfast time, she said, “I’m cold.” But it didn’t end there. A sweater was not within reach (She always requests a sweater if she’s cold!) so she snuggled into me until she warmed herself up.
- Isabelle and Molly walked into the park holding hands. Sarah and I pushed their strollers (which you HAVE to bring to Hersheypark since it’s hilly and kids get tired from all of the walking). We noticed them lagging behind. I turned around and noticed Isabelle and Molly chatting it up with a throng of people trudging along behind them. (How kind it was for no one to try to pass them!) There were about 20-30 people being held up by two four-year-olds who were just looking around, chatting, and enjoying the scenery. The girls didn’t have a care in the world about who they were holding up. And while I could say Molly was equally responsible for walking slowly, I know she was being a good friend and keeping up with Old Lady Isabelle who prefers a slower pace so she can take in the world.
- Isabelle and Molly, both four, insisted on holding hands most of the time they walked around the park this weekend. It’s a cute little girl thing to do. But it reminds me of my grandmother, who Isabelle is named after, since she always liked to hold my hand or my arm in her later years when we walked together.
- Isabelle doesn’t pay attention while she drives. I took her on the Classic Cars at Hersheypark and her eyes were everywhere except for on the road on which she was driving. Thankfully, there’s a track to keep drivers like her from going astray. Google “‘century village’ ‘pool’ ‘car'” and you’ll understand why this relates to older folks.
- Isabelle loves rides that spin around (not so old ladyish), but she detests roller coasters (because she’s an old soul).
Long, lingering hugs. Those are the kinds of hugs my daughter likes to give. It doesn’t matter if you’re a character at Herhseypark or a friend, Isabelle will give you lots of hugs — repeatedly. It’s hard for her to stop hugging, especially when it’s time to go. Kind of like the way my grandmother never wanted to let us go when it was time for us to depart after visiting her.
The brush of lips against my hand. That’s what woke me up this morning. As I came-to I realized I hadn’t moved since I fell asleep a little before 11. Still in my back. Pillows under my knees just as perfectly as they had been at night. I can go back to sleep.
I checked my bedside clock to see how much longer I could sleep. When I rolled onto my left side I saw more than red digits staring back at me. I saw the kisser too.
“Oh my G-d, Izzy!” I noticed the clock. “It’s not even 5 a.m.! You can’t keep waking us up this early.”
My husband, who I initially thought kissed my hand, rolled out of bed and escorted Isabelle back to her room so we could both sleep for a little bit longer.
———-Two hours later.———-
I’m wide-awake and Isabelle waltzes into our bedroom at her proper wake-up time.
Such a proud little reader. A proud little reader who will need a nap this afternoon.
I returned from a marvelous writing retreat at the Highlights Foundation last night to a sick child. As soon as I heard her wet cough and looked at her red-rimmed eyes, I knew I had to cancel the school visit I was planning for today. While I kept thinking that “reality bites,” my most important job is Mom. So here we are, at home, exhausted (because I slept with her since she was coughing a lot last night) at 10 a.m. on a Monday. We’re just biding our time awaiting her 3:30 p.m. doctor’s appointment so we can figure out what’s really wrong.
With nothing much on the docket for the day, I decided it was time to hang up some of Isabelle’s preschool artwork. Let me admit to something my mother thinks is quite terrible. I throw out a lot of Isabelle’s artwork. (There. I said it. In a public forum.) You know why? There’s SO much of it. I cannot save it all. There are a few pieces I save in a keepsake container in our basement, but the sheer volume of it is too much to physically store.
Just so you don’t think I’m a completely horrible person, know that I take photos of the things I toss and save it in an Evernote notebook. See:
This morning I decided it was time to STOP letting the artwork pile up. So I asked Isabelle, “Would you like to help me display your artwork in the garage?”
“In da gawaj?” she asked.
“Yes, on the walls of the garage. This way you can see your works of art every day when we come and go from the house.”
She considered it. “Okay! I’ll help you!”
“Put on some shoes,” I commanded.
“Can I weah silwuh shoes?” (Silver shoes are her part of the signature look she’s created for herself.)
“Sure, you can wear your silver shoes into the garage.”
And so she did.
We spent the next 20 minutes creating a gallery of her work. From the life-size Isabellsaurus she created with her teacher during their class’s dinosaur unit to the paintings she creates on the easel to a glittery skull she made at Halloween, it’s all up on our garage walls. She helped me hold the paper straight while I placed the tape loops behind the artwork. She helped me choose the places where each piece would hang on the wall. She brought some of her stuffed animals out to the garage so they could admire her work on the gallery.
When we were finished, I asked her what she thought.
“I love it!” she responded.
“Would you like to hang more of your artwork in this garage gallery as you bring it home from school?”
Her face lit up. “Yes!”
So apparently, the garage gallery will be a compromise, of sorts, for us going-forward. It’ll be a place for Isabelle to proudly display her preschool artwork. And it’ll be in a place I can both live with (i.e., not on the walls of our home) and not feel guilty about (i.e., by tossing). I think this garage gallery will be a win-win, don’t you?
I don’t like chalk (because it’s messy), but I adore Betsy Hubbard (because she’s artistic, brilliant, and caring) so I went outside to chalk with my daughter this afternoon. Unlike me, Isabelle likes to use chalk! See:
Now, on to my poetic masterpiece (or not) in honor of April’s Chalk-A-Bration.
I was one of those classroom teachers who infused poetry into my classroom all year long. I couldn’t imagine teaching without poetry all year long thanks to my first literacy coach, Pat Werner, who opened the door of poetry to me during my first year of teaching.