Please stand with us.

I wish I could share a story about my kids today, but I can’t. My mind is consumed with a “news story” that is personal.

In case you haven’t heard, Jewish Community Centers, or JCCs, around the United States (and one in Canada) have been targeted with coordinated bomb threats since the beginning of 2017. Yesterday, a fourth wave of bomb threats was called into 11 JCCs around the country. Some people were working out when they were evacuated. Senior citizens were enjoying camaraderie when they were evacuated. Children were playing at day care when they were evacuated. Thankfully, all of the bomb threats have been a hoax. However, they have struck fear in the hearts of those – Jewish and non-Jewish – who work and play at their local JCCs.

Our lives revolve around our JCC. One of us is in the building… sometimes up to six days a week. I will be at the JCC three times today alone! And do you know what I’m thinking about as I prepare for my midday trip to the JCC with my son? Let me tell you, it isn’t about where I’d change a diaper blow-out if one were to happen. (I’ve got that covered, thank you very much.) Instead, I’m planning how I will evacuate the building if there’s a bomb threat with my son in tow. (I’ve decided I’d ditch the stroller, strap him to my body in the baby carrier, and run out of the building.) THIS IS NOT NORMAL!

I grew up in the New York Metropolitan Area where I encountered very little anti-Semitism. I remember a handful of classmates repeating Jewish stereotypes to me they’d probably heard their parents say at home. I had one teacher, in all of my years, who gave me grief about needing to attend synagogue, instead of play practice, on a Friday. (And that was one of the handful of times in my entire school career my mother ever called school to handle a problem for me.) Even though I had to take off from school for the Jewish holidays, I never felt victimized because of my religion.

Nowadays, you read about school kids vandalizing schools with swastikas; college campuses plastered with anti-Semitic flyers. In addition to the 60+ bomb threats called into JCCs around the country, I’ve read about swastikas on the New York City Subway (which kind Samaritans scrubbed-off with hand sanitizer) and Jewish cemeteries being desecrated.

Yesterday, there was a statement issued by the White House Press Secretary condemning the “hatred and hate-motivated violence.” Unfortunately, it’s too little too late. A forceful condemnation needs to come from the POTUS. Short of that, this “hate-motivated violence” – towards Jews and other minority religious groups – will continue.

As a reader of this blog, I am asking you to do something for me. Please stand with those of us who are being terrorized by these bomb threats – even if they don’t impact you. (Just this morning, a Muslim civil rights group offered a $5,000 reward to anyone with information about the bomb threats.) Here are some things you can do:

  • Share articles (Like this onethis one, this one, or this one.) on your social media accounts. We must stand together against hate. Unfortunately, I don’t feel there has been enough coverage of these bomb threats outside of the Jewish press.
  • Contact your elected officials. Ask them to speak out against religious intolerance.

I will not allow fear to change the way I live. As an American Jew, I shouldn’t have to since this country was built on religious freedom. It is my hope to raise my children in the kind of America in which I grew up.

Head over to https://twowritingteachers.org for more slice of life stories.

Head over to https://twowritingteachers.org for more slice of life stories.

UPDATE (10:23 a.m. EST on 2/21):

About a half-hour ago (which is about an hour after this blog post went live), President Trump made this statement:

While this is a start, I believe the President needs to continue to fiercely condemn anti-Semitic threats on TV and on Twitter.

This is love.

Coffee was invented for mornings like these.

Coffee was invented for mornings like these.

Ari’s cries woke me out of a deep slumber at 4:51 a.m. I was less than thrilled to be pulled away from my dream. I’ve come to expect Ari to sleep until I wake him on the mornings Isabelle goes to school. However, this morning was different. He needed me. I plodded to his room, picked him up, and attempted to rock him back to sleep.

Nine minutes after I set him back down in his crib, I heard his cries again. This time, I heard someone else’s footsteps in the hallway. I heard a door open, then close. And then I heard more footsteps. Finally, a bleary-eyed six-year-old entered my room and declared, “Ari’s crying woke me up!”

“It woke me up too,” I told Isabelle.

“I was sleeping,” Isabelle stated.

“So was I,” I reminded her.

Together, we walked back into Ari’s room. A moment later, my husband joined us. I changed Ari’s diaper while Marc made Ari’s bottle. We couldn’t persuade Isabelle to go back to sleep for an hour. Instead, she perched herself in Ari’s glider and rocked back and forth.

“I’m only a teensy bit mad at you, Ari, for waking me up,” Isabelle stated.

“I guess I’m more upset with him than you are,” I said while noticing the deep ache on the left side of my head.  I really needed to sleep until 6:15, I thought.

“How mad are you?” Isabelle asked.

I looked down at Ari’s smiling face. How could I be mad at this precious boy? He’s a great nighttime sleeper. (NOTE: He’s a pitiful napper, but I can’t hold that against him because solid nighttime sleep is way more important to me!)

“I’m a little bit mad,” I replied, “because I needed more rest.”

“Well, I’m just a teensy bit mad at him,” Isabelle repeated.

A few minutes later, Isabelle was kissing her brother’s cheeks, head, and hands. All was forgiven for the early wake-up. This is love, I thought.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Grasping a Childhood

This morning, Facebook provided me with a look back of everything I’ve shared on this day. On February 6th, 2013, I shared an article called “How to Miss a Childhood.” If you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or care for young children, then please read this article now or after you finish reading this post. (Whatever works best for you. Please take the time to read it because it’ll change the way you live.) The premise of the article is simple. PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE so you can witness the little people you’re lucky enough to have in your life.

Anyone who’s read this blog for awhile knows I don’t allow phones or tablets at the dining table at home or in a restaurant. Much to the dismay of my parents (Hi Mom & Dad!), I keep my cell phone on vibrate unless I’m awaiting a phone call from a doctor. I limit my six-year-old’s media consumption to one hour of television — at most — per day. Screen time for speech- or phonics-related games might be up to another 45 minutes, but she’s doing them alongside me so I don’t think of it as true screen time.

I am by no means a perfect parent, but I try — really, really hard — to be a good parent. Like everyone, I fail more than I succeed.

Enter Baby #2 back in September. I have to admit, I’ve been on my iPhone a lot more since Ari was born. I turn to it during feedings to keep myself from falling asleep. Seeing as Ari eats every three hours, I’m on my phone a lot more than I need to be.

I reread “How to Miss a Childhood” while feeding Ari this morning. If I am being honest, then I have to admit I have been attending to the buzzing of my phone more than I should. More people text me than ever before. (I detest the immediacy of texting. I resisted it for a long time because the urgency of it seems ridiculous to me. However, I have succumb to the technology since so many people want me to use it.) In addition, my email inbox is fuller than I’d like it to be. As a result, I am on my phone way more than I should be.

Bedtime Tonight. Look at his little hand on my shoulder. Would I have noticed his hand if I were on my phone? Probably not.

Bedtime Tonight. Look at his little hand on my shoulder. Would I have noticed his hand if I were on my phone? Probably not.

Rereading “How to Miss a Childhood” encouraged me to put my phone down more often today. Instead of checking Twitter or reading articles from The New York Times after each of Ari’s feedings (He has to be held upright for 20 minutes because he’s a spitter-upper.), I sang to him. You can’t sing to your child when you’re reading! Singing to him allowed me to look into his eyes. I saw his face brighten each time I sang a tune he enjoyed. I also had a clear lap, devoid of a device, when he spit up on me — twice!

I’ve gotten in the habit of giving Isabelle my full attention. I’m not distracted when I’m with her. I only check email or send a text in her presence if there’s an immediate need. I don’t use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram when she’s around. Even though my son is little, I’ve come to realize he deserves my presence right now.

This evening, I rocked Ari to sleep in his glider. He smelled of Alimentum, Aquaphor, and Aveeno Moisturizing Soap. It’s an odd combination, but I inhaled his scent and savored it. He’ll only be little once, I told myself. I have to stay present because you don’t get a second chance at parenting your child.

The Gift of Time

I love watching Isabelle dote on Ari. She has become the "mother hen" I expected she would be.

I love watching Isabelle dote on Ari. She has become the “mother hen” I expected she would be.

I expected a dusting of snow on the ground when I rose this morning.

And I was greeted by a dusting of snow at 6:00 a.m.

But I was also greeted with a text message at 6:08 a.m. declaring a two-hour delay at my daughter’s school. Unfortunately, that message arrived eight minutes after her alarm went off.

Isabelle still ate breakfast with her daddy at the usual time. I stayed in bed, scrolling through my Twitter feed. (There’s nothing like outrage to start one’s Tuesday, right?) Eventually, Isabelle came upstairs and snuggled with me under the covers for a half-hour.

Around 7:40 a.m., which is when we’re typically out the door, I found myself plodding around my kitchen fixing breakfast for myself. Afterwards, I convinced Isabelle to do her daily reading in the morning, rather than after school. We snuggled on the couch, shrouded by a blanket, together.

Ari didn’t wake up until after 8:30 a.m.! Once upstairs, I challenged Isabelle to get dressed for school faster than I could change Ari’s diaper and get him dressed. She (barely) beat us! Then she hung out with her brother in his bedroom while I engaged in some self-care (e.g., brushing my teeth, washing my face, putting my hair in a neat ponytail). Once I returned, our regular morning routine began. I gave Ari his bottle while she created art in her play room.

Once Ari digested his formula, I brought him downstairs. Next, I went back upstairs to get dressed. When I came downstairs for the third time, I discovered my kids hanging out together. Ari was staring adoringly at Isabelle while she was talking to him in a sweet voice. My heart swelled with pride. They love each other. What more could I ask for?

There’s so much happening in the world right now that frustrates/angers/scares me. The gift of two extra hours this morning (for snow that was practically melted by 10:30 a.m.) reminded me I must savor my kids and mornings like the one I had today.

Head over to https://twowritingteachers.org for more slice of life stories.

Head over to https://twowritingteachers.org for more slice of life stories.

A Shared Disdain for Gym Class

If Isabelle didn’t look like a miniature version of me, then I’d doubt she were my child. Her demeanor is vastly different from mine, as well as my husband’s. 
When she used to do something outrageous (behavior-wise), I’d look at my husband and say, “she must get this from you.” He’d shake his head and swear up and down he was a well-behaved kid (True.) and that he didn’t know what would possess her to do whatever it was she did. Hence, I stopped trying to shift blame to anyone for Isabelle’s antics about a year ago. She’s her own person — plain and simple. 

Yesterday morning, the three of us were eating breakfast together. I asked Isabelle if she had any specials other than P.E. on Mondays. She shook her head sadly. So Marc told Isabelle P.E. was one of his favorite parts of school.

“I don’t like P.E.,” Isabelle told him.

He probed for a reason. He tried to sell her on the merits of the games they play in gym class. (Apparently he liked dodge ball!) He provided compelling reasons for the importance of P.E. participation.

“I’ll do it, but I don’t like it!” Isabelle said firmly.

“What specials do you like?” I asked.

“Not P.E.,” she said.

“I didn’t like P.E. when I was in school either. I was more of an art and music kid,” I declared.

“I like art and music! And computers! I like computers. We drew silly faces on the computer the other day. I like my computer teacher too,” Isabelle stated.

I smiled and looked at my curly-haired, blue-eyed mini-me. Perhaps she is my daughter after all.

Little Helper Girl

“Would you please bring the artwork for Ms. Marie and the speech packet to the car?”

“That’s a lot of stuff,” Isabelle replied.

“You can always make two trips,” I offered.

“I can do it,” she said.

I opened the door to the garage and Isabelle slipped outside. I closed the door almost all of the way as she ambled to the car. I spun around, walked to the fridge, retrieved my granola and skim milk, and shut the door behind me. I poured my breakfast into the bowl I already set out. I put the perishable items back in the fridge, poured a glass of water, and brought everything to the kitchen table. I was about to sit down when I realized I forgot a spoon. I headed back to the island, grabbed a spoon, and sat down for real. 

A minute passed by and Isabelle still hadn’t returned. What could she be doing in the garage? Even though she’s closer to six than five, my mind went places I didn’t like. What if she was climbing on the snow blower? What if she was tinkering with the lawnmower? What if she hoisted herself to the top of the shelving unit where we keep the motor oil? The what ifs were enough to drag my nine-month pregnant body out of the chair in search of my child. I opened the door to the garage and didn’t see her in front of me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the interior car lights were aglow. It was there I found a curly-haired girl with a white bow sitting patiently in the back seat.

“What are you doing in there?” I asked.

“Waiting for you,” she replied.

“I should’ve told you to come back in after you put those items in the console. Sorry, honey. I need a few more minutes. I still have to eat my granola before we leave for school.”

“Oh!” she replied sheepishly.

“It’s okay. Just c’mon back in the house. I’m almost ready to go.”

Isabelle climbed out of the booster seat, shut the car door, and walked back to the house.

“I thought we were going to school now,” she said.

I kissed the top of her head and then ruffled her curls. “Almost, honey. I hope you’re always this enthusiastic about going to school.” 

She smiled back at me. We walked over to the kitchen table hand-in-hand. I sat down to eat and she stood next to me. 

“Want to sit on what’s left of my lap?” I asked her.

“Sure,” she said.

I pulled her onto my thigh and wrapped my left arm around her. It was nice to have my big girl sitting so close to me as I finished my breakfast. I remember the days I couldn’t stand eating with one hand because I had to hold her with the other. Those days are long gone (but soon to return once her brother arrives in a couple of short weeks) with Isabelle. The days of her wanting to sit on my lap are fleeting so I am savoring the lap time I got this morning. 

Gradually

I walked Isabelle into her Kindergarten classroom on the first and second days of school. By day three, I stopped down the hall from her classroom and let her walk the rest of the way on her own. She allowed me to do that on the condition I would check on her a few minutes later. I did. She was beyond fine. She unpacked her snack and had already asked her teacher where to put her Home/School Folder.

Watching my kiddo walk herself to class this morning.

This morning, which is her fourth day of Kindergarten, I kissed her goodbye in front of the office while she navigated her own way in the hallways to her classroom. Just as I suspected, she was unpacking herself when I arrived a few minutes later.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll say good-bye from the front door of the school. If she wants me to check on her, then I will.

By Wednesday morning I intend to drop her off in front of the school building so she may walk to her classroom on her own. I am not planning to check on her that day. Friday will be the sixth day of school; it’s my hope she’ll understand she can walk to class on her own.

Wrapped presents for Isabelle. As an only child, I didn’t know having these things on-hand was a thing until Tammy encouraged me to make sure I had something in case someone showed up to our house with a present for the baby only.

Just as I’ve been gradually releasing responsibility to Isabelle for getting herself to class, I’ve been gradually getting ready to give birth. (My due date is less than a month away!) Last Friday, I itemized my business expenses for the year so I won’t have to work on them this winter with a newborn who may or may not be a good napper. As of this morning, I’ve wrapped all of the “big sister” presents Tammy Mulligan suggested I get Isabelle. Tomorrow, I’ll begin putting the items I’ve laid out into my suitcase so I’m ready to go to the hospital. On Wednesday, I’ll exchange the original outfit I bought for my son’s Bris — since I’ve decided I don’t like it — for something I like more. With the exception of a work-day I have scheduled with my dear friend and colleague, Lynne Dorfman, this-coming Friday, I’m pretty much finished with work until the new year. I’ve written and scheduled all of my Two Writing Teachers blog posts. The final one for 2016 will go live on Labor Day (pun intended), which is a week from today.

Bit-by-bit and day-by-day I’m getting there. I’m beyond uncomfortable, but I know discomfort is part of the final weeks of pregnancy! (Apparently my son is cramped up in my belly. I had an ultrasound this morning, which showed him balled-up with his hand sandwiched between his knee and cheek.) I know he’ll come when he’s ready, but let’s be honest, I’m ready to meet this little man!

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.

Hopes & Dreams

I’ve been in the business of thinking about “hopes and dreams” ever since I completed my Responsive Classroom training a decade ago. I’ve asked fourth and fifth graders to write about their hopes and dreams. I’ve invited parents/guardians into school and asked them to share their hopes and dreams for their child’s school year with their child. I’ve even written hopes and dreams for my students as they got ready to leave my classroom to move to the next grade.

Tonight, I will share my hopes and dream with Isabelle since she starts Kindergarten tomorrow.

Despite the fact that I was unsettled about Isabelle starting camp back in July, I’m remarkably at peace with the fact she will begin elementary school tomorrow. Her teachers are nurturing people with many years of experience as educators. They’ve taken the time to talk with me on the phone and meet with me in person to discuss my concerns based upon everything she’s overcome in the past few years.

Tonight, in lieu of one of her bedtime books, I will share the following letter with Isabelle. It contains two hopes and a dream I have for her for the upcoming school year. While these aren’t all I hope and dream for, they’re the things that are most important to me when I think about what I want her to get out of Kindergarten. It’s my hope (No pun intended!) that these words stay with her as she closes her eyes and drifts off to sleep tonight.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Click on the image to enlarge.

I was the Tooth Fairy.

Isabelle was born with a natal tooth. By the time she was a month old, she had already visited the dentist twice to have it checked. It wasn’t wiggling so we decided not to have it pulled.

Have you ever seen a newborn baby with a tooth? It’s quite a site! Truthfully, It was the bane of my existence for quite awhile (i.e., nursing, teeth brushing). However, once her other teeth came in, I forgot about the natal tooth. Well, most of the time.

Five weeks ago, Isabelle discovered one of her teeth was wiggling. Guess which one it was? HER NATAL TOOTH! I was delighted and couldn’t wait for her to lose it.! All I could think was first-in, first-out!

But it wiggled and wobbled for weeks! By yesterday afternoon, it was hanging on by a thread. It looked gross. Isabelle claimed it hurt too. Therefore, I messaged my husband on the way home from the grocery store, requesting he find some gauze and assist Isabelle with extracting her tooth.

Once we got into the house, I collapsed from exhaustion (A heat wave + third trimester of pregnancy + grocery shopping are not a great combination!) on the couch. Isabelle proceeded to go upstairs to find my husband. There was some loud talking yelling. But after about five minutes, it got quiet. Next came the footsteps down the stairs. I opened my eyes and saw Isabelle holding a tiny white tooth in her hand. I was so elated it was FINALLY out — after over five and a half years — that I began clapping my hands and singing “Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov,” which is usually reserved for occasions like weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.

I asked my husband to bring a Ziploc bag over to the couch. Next, Isabelle placed her tooth inside and sealed the bag.

“Tape this to the outside of your door. The Tooth Fairy will come tonight and bring you some money while you sleep,” I said.

Isabelle ran to her craft table to find some tape.

“Don’t you have a pillow?” Marc asked.

“No,” I replied. “I don’t want to get caught going in there in the middle of the night to retrieve the tooth and put money under her pillow.”

“C’mon!” he said.

“I’m serious. I’m not getting caught. This Tooth Fairy,” I said pointing to myself, “doesn’t go past the bedroom door.”

Marc looked less than thrilled. However, I hadn’t bought a pillow for Isabelle’s teeth so he had no choice but to go along with my new (and I think improved!) way of doing the middle-of-the-night swap.

*****

A few hours after Isabelle fell asleep, I crafted a note from the Tooth Fairy to her. Just before midnight, I slowly peeled the plastic bag off of her door and affixed the letter from the Tooth Fairy, with the money, to her door. I placed her tooth baggie in her baby book and went to bed.

The tooth in the baggie.

Click on the image to read the Tooth Fairy’s letter.

Into the baby book goes the tooth.

 

*****

In the morning, I heard “What’s that on my door?” from down the hall. Marc went to her room and read her the note. Then, they peeled it off the door and brought it in to me. I read the note to Isabelle again and asked, “Are you going to save the money or spend it?”

First she said “save,” but a minute later she declared I’m going to buy a big Hershey bar with it at Chocolate World.”

“Whatever you’d like to do. Just put the money in a safe place.”

Isabelle ran back to her room to put her money away. That’s when Marc brought up the Tooth Fairy again.

“It needs to go under her pillow next time, not on her door,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because… what happens when she goes to school and the kids are talking about the Tooth Fairy? She’ll hear that their Tooth Fairies leave their money under their pillow. It’ll be weird if her Tooth Fairy leaves her money on her door.”

“I don’t care. But if you do, then you can be the Tooth Fairy. That means you’re going to have to accept responsibility for skulking in there at night, not waking her, and doing the exchange every single time. If you can commit to doing that for the next 20 teeth (or however many she has), then go for it. Otherwise, I’m doing the door.”

“I’ll do it,” he chuckled.

“What happens if she catches you?” I asked. “You don’t have wings. And you sure don’t look like the fairy on the letter.”

“I’ll just say ‘I was coming in to see if the Tooth Fairy visited you yet,'” he replied.

I shook my head. “If you want to do it that badly, then the job is all yours.”

My husband, the Tooth Fairy. Can’t wait to see how this turns out!

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com  for more slices of life.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.

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