board books · reading · reading conveys love · siblings · slice of life

Turning a Corner

On Friday, Ari grabbed a board book, handed it to Isabelle, and said, “Read this book.”

“No,” she replied.

“What do you mean ‘no’?” I asked from the kitchen where I was preparing a side dish for dinner. “If your brother asks you to read him a book that you can read, then you read it to him.”

Maybe that shouldn’t have been my response, but it was. I understand reading is hard for Isabelle, but she has made enormous progress this year thanks to her classroom teacher pulling her a few extra times a week, the in-school reading specialist, and an after school reading tutor twice a week. So, honestly, I think my response was measured considering the anger I felt bubbling up inside of me when she told Ari “no.”

“Fine, I’ll read it to him,” she replied.

She read to him begrudgingly. Yes, she read the words, but there was no warmth. I said nothing. After all, she was reading to him.

Like many classroom teachers, I often told my fourth and fifth graders who struggled with reading to read aloud to their younger siblings. Little kids don’t judge. They don’t point out mispronounced words or when you miss a word entirely. Many times, I found that the kids who actually did read aloud to their little brothers and sisters improved at a faster rate than kids who weren’t reading aloud to anyone.

There have been several occasions when Isabelle has read aloud to Ari in the past couple of years, but she hesitates. I think she genuinely worries that he’ll say something if she doesn’t get the words right.

On Sunday morning, Ari asked Isabelle to read to him again. This time, she said “yes.” She read book after book to him on the couch. I shot some videos clandestinely. I asked her if I could share them (I was thinking with her grandparents.) since she read beautifully. She said “no.” This time, I didn’t fight back.

This morning, Isabelle doesn’t have school. I asked her to get dressed. She said, “I want to go and see what Ari is doing.” I didn’t argue with her since, after all, it’s a national holiday. AND, I knew Ari was reading board books on his bedroom floor.

A few minutes later, I overheard Isabelle’s voice reading books aloud to Ari. I tiptoed into the bedroom and took a video. Then, I took a photo (since I haven’t been restricted from sharing those) of Isabelle and Ari reading a book together. My heart was bursting when I noticed them surrounded with a pile of books.

slice of life

It’s a Messy-Mess

Cleaning up the mess.

Despite our street having been cleared, both Isabelle’s school and the school district I was supposed consult in today are closed. So we are home — for the second day in a row — due to the overnight snowfall.

I was downstairs, with both kids, by 7:15 a.m. because no one sleeps in around here. I asked Isabelle, “What would you like for breakfast?”

“I don’t want breakfast yet,” she replied. “I want to play with Ari.”

I agreed to let them play while I unloaded the dishwasher. She declared, “We need to clean up! It’s a messy-mess in your play room, Ari.”

When I heard that, I took it upon myself to make myself breakfast. Which I ate. Without interruption. Do you know how rare that is?

Now I’m sitting at the kitchen table, looking out of the back window (whose shades Ari insisted on closing despite my attempt to open them) at the snow while sipping my coffee. It may not be the kind of sleep-late snow day I desire, but I will take it.

slice of life

It’s Marty!

Last week, I lamented about the new shopping carts at my local grocery store. This week, I have to tell you that they have provided a new reason to keep Ari interested during our supermarket trips. Who’s keeping Ari enthralled? Funny you should ask! It’s Marty!


Marty is more of a what than a who. You see, Marty is a robot that scans the store looking for spills to clean up. To me, he’s a nuisance since he often blocks aisles or intersections between aisle.

Ari poses for a photo with Marty.

But for Ari, Marty is entertaining! He beeps. He moves around. Heck, he has goggly eyes! What’s not to love about a robot when you’re a kid in a cart at the grocery store?

One of the checkout people saw Ari’s huge smile when Marty cruised by today. She thought it was adorable that he likes Marty so much. Therefore, she let us in on a secret. She told us where Marty recharges in case we ever can’t find him when we go to Giant!

On our way out of the store, Ari insisted we find Marty. (We followed the beeps to the produce department.) Ari called, “Bye, Marty!” He even blew a kiss! And this evening, he told Marc all about seeing Marty at the store.

slice of life

Who’s Idea Was This?

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Snow is coming!

If Mother Nature dumps as much snow on us as predicted, then it may take a couple of days for me to get out to the supermarket. Therefore, I took Ari to the grocery store to pick up the things we use a lot of (e.g., milk) before I started my workday.

Much to my surprise, I was greeted by new carts when I arrived at Giant.

“I wonder why they replaced the carts,” I said to Ari. “Didn’t they just change from green to black carts a few months ago?”

Ari ignored my wondering-aloud and squealed with delight, “They’re red!” when he noticed his favorite color on the handlebars.

“The new carts sure are red!” I replied.

I grabbed a sanitizing wipe and began wiping down the cart. As I did, I noticed two round holes near the handlebar. Why would someone put a coffee cup holder up here? I looked in the back of the cart since that’s where the coffee cup lholder was in the previous carts. Nothing was back there. The only place to put a cup of hot coffee was now in front of a seated toddler. (Clearly, the person who designed these carts doesn’t have small children in their life!)

I lifted Ari into the cart, snapped him in, got him a banana, and walked over to the in-store Starbucks. I was in the mood for a white mocha despite the fact I’d have to hold it as I pushed the cart.

Once I had my coffee, I asked Ari, “If I put this cup here, would you grab it or leave it alone?”

“I take it! I like coffee!” (He does. Ari drinks what we call “baby coffee” when we go out to breakfast. “Baby coffee” has a 10:1 ratio of whole milk to decaffeinated coffee. Also, it has two packets of Stevia for sweetness.)

“So, basically, I need to hold my coffee so you don’t take it, spill it on yourself, and get hurt, right?” I asked.

“Right!” He smiled.

Putting a coffee cup next to where a toddler’s hands rest in a shopping cart doesn’t make sense to me. It’s as useless to me as the new plank for my cell phone that sits beside the coffee cup holder. (I’m not about to put my iPhone down, which is where I keep my shopping lists, in front of my kiddo. Chances are he’d accidentally mark something as purchased and I’d go home without buying everything on my list.)

I don’t mind change. Nevertheless, I could do without change that doesn’t improve my quality of life.

This was the only time I placed my cup here. (Purely for photographic purposes. As you can see, this is no way to shop with hot coffee and a toddler!)


slice of life · weather

This is what happens when you don’t want to wear your gear!

It all started when I asked Ari to get his coat on this morning.

“I don’t like this coat. I wanna wear the blue one!”

After trying to explain single digit wind chill factors to a 28-month-old child, he reluctantly donned his coat. (Truth be told, he probably wanted me to stop talking.)

Then it was time for his hat. He refused to wear the warm, fuzzy one that wraps around his chin. He compromised by putting on his Gerald the Elephant hat from Halloween. (Though he tried to pull it off several times on the car ride.)

Two hours later, it was time for us to go outside again. Fortunately, Ari agreed to wear his coat and his hat.

“How about mittens?” I asked, tempting fate.

“Okay. I want mittens.”

“Really?” I asked. Ari NEVER wears mittens.

“Really,” he replied.

Ari held out his hands and allowed me to slide his mittens over his hands. I was elated, but played it cool by saying “Now your hands will be toasty.”

I was giddy Ari was wearing mittens. I grabbed my phone out of my purse with one hand to take a photo of this monumental moment. However, by the time my finger found the shutter button, one mitten was on the ground. I put the phone into my pocket and knelt to pick up the mitten. That’s when Ari broke away from the grasp of my left hand and took off down the sidewalk.

“Ari!” I yelled.

His pace quickened from a walk to a jog.

“Ari! Stop! Ari! Stop!”

I was doing my best to run down the sidewalk after him, but my long coat, the diaper bag slung over my shoulder, and the view of the salt covering the frozen ground made me weary of sprinting.

Despite my pleas for Ari to stop running, he picked up his pace. As he approached the end of the sidewalk, I could hear his giggles, but couldn’t quite reach him.

“Ari, STOP! That’s the parking lot!”

But Ari continued running and laughing. And that’s when I flung my arm as far in front of me as I could and grabbed the hood of his coat.

“Gotcha!” I said.

He was still laughing as I stopped him from running into oncoming traffic. I paused and looked around. We were only two feet onto the black top, but it was two feet too much for me. There were cars actively looking for spots. Thank G-d I caught up with him before…

“You need to hold my hand,” I told Ari.

He laughed, “I run away!”

“You need to stay with me in the parking lot — always.”

I didn’t have the energy to discuss this with him. I was out of breath, thankful I caught him… and thankful I didn’t shatter my knee or break my hip running over the icy pavement. I held his hand the entire way to the car, scooped him up, secured him in his car seat, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. As soon as I pulled away, Ari tossed his Elephant hat aside.

NOTE TO SELF: Let him be cold. As long as he’s safe, walking around without mittens or a hat isn’t the end of the world.


Partially Unplugged

Me, Ari, Marc, Isabelle, and Hallie in the Hub

We drove to Happy Valley to spend the weekend with our cousin, Hallie, who is a senior at Penn State. (Notice how I said “our cousin.” That’s a fib. She’s my husband’s second cousin. However, I’ve adored her since I met her when she waaaaay back in 2005 when she was Isabelle’s age. Therefore, I consider her my cousin too!) We’ve been visiting Hallie a couple of times each school year ever since she started at Penn State. This past weekend was filled with many of the same things we’ve done during our other visits to Penn State.

    We tried new restaurants.
    We visited the Creamery.
    We stayed at a The Nittany Lion Inn (and ate too many apples from the basket in the lobby).
    We walked around campus.
    We got too little sleep (Thanks, dear children!), but left with our hearts full after spending time with Hallie.
  • My only complaint about the weekend — if you don’t count the lack of sleep — was that I didn’t get the chance to attend a sporting event since I stayed back at the Inn while Ari napped.
  • But do you know what truly made it a fabulous weekend?

    1) Marc and I left our laptops at home.

    2) I put a vacation message on both of my email accounts, which meant I didn’t have to respond to anyone’s email until today!

    I know a weekend away from email probably doesn’t sound like luxurious, but for me it was! I rarely stay away from email unless it’s a major Jewish holiday. In fact, I often check my email while my kids are sleeping on vacations.

    Do you know what I did when Ari was napping this past weekend? I read a book (The Alice Network… in case you’re wondering.) and snoozed a bit myself. It. Was. Wonderful. It was the respite I needed from all of the work I’ve been doing the past few months.

    The unplugging made me realize I should get away from email more often. It won’t be an every weekend thing. (After all, I work on most Sundays while my husband does things with our kids.) But, honestly, I don’t think it should take a Jewish holiday or an out-of-town trip for me to take a respite from email.

    language · slice of life

    His sister said it. Kind of.

    swearA couple of months ago, Isabelle picked up the phrase “Dang it!” at school. I tried to curb her use of the phrase when she began using it. I started with, “That’s not how we express our frustration.” When I heard it again I said, “That’s not how we speak in this house.” By the third time I heard it, I invoked something I knew would make her stop, “If you keep saying it, Ari will repeat it and that’s not how we want him to talk, do we?” She agreed that wouldn’t be a nice thing for a little boy to say. Therefore, Isabelle cut back on her use of the phrase “Dang it!” to show frustration or disgust. But every now and then, that little phrase seeped out of her mouth.

    Last week, those two little naughty words spilled out of her mouth again. It was just once, but this time, Ari was standing next to her listening. She said, “Dang it!” I glared at her. Just as she said “Sorry,” Ari uttered something that sounded like “Dang it!”

    But it wasn’t “Dang it!”

    It was worse.

    Ari said, “Dammit!”

    Oh. My. G-d.

    I knew he didn’t get “Dammit” from Isabelle (She doesn’t know the word damn!) any more than he got it from us. It was just his way of repeating “Dang it!” Except, it sounded way worse in his two-year-old voice.

    Despite Isabelle curbing her use of that two-word phrase, Ari continues to repeat “Dammit” at the most inopportune times. One of those times was while we worshipped in synagogue this weekend. Thankfully, everyone else was singing and no one — except for me and maybe the kids behind us — heard Ari.

    As for me, I’m trying to ignore the phrase that sounds way too close to damn it coming out of my two-year-old’s mouth because I know to ignore — rather than having a big reaction — is the way to eradicate something you don’t want to hear your child say.

    It’s been four LONG days of ignoring the “Dammit” utterances. This makes me wonder just how much longer it will take for me to ignore this problem away.

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    one little word

    OLW 2019

    Things began to look up as the Winter Solstice approached. It felt like our family slowly climbing out of the chasm we had been stuck in once summer transitioned into fall. I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed an exhausted woman peering back at me. Even though I’ve been going gray for several years, I felt as though the number of grays had increased in recent months. I can do something about this, I told myself. Moments later, I called the salon and requested an appointment for a semi-permanent gloss to be applied to my hair before the end of 2018.
    Typically, autumn is the busiest time of year in our family. This season includes back-to-school transitions, birthdays, the Jewish High Holidays, and speaking engagements at conferences. In order for the final season of the year not to feel too hectic, we rely on everyone being healthy, the assistance of grandparents, etc. Without going into too much detail, the wheels fell off the wagon!
    Like I said up front, things have gotten better. We are nearly at a point of equilibrium, which feels good. However, as I reflected on the autumn that was, I came to realize there will still be setbacks and frustrations in our lives. The best way to cope is to do a hard reset anytime — not just at the end of a day a week, a month, or a year — life gives us lemons. After coming to that realization, I found one little word to guide me through 2019: RESET.
    I brainstormed a list of things I can do anytime I feel like I need to start over. My list included:
    • Stretching.
    • Meditating.
    • Taking a walk.
    • Listening to jazz or classical music.
    • Going out for a meal with a family member.
    • Planning a date night with my husband.
    (Feel free to suggest other items I can add to my list by leaving a comment.)
    Last weekend, I went to the salon and had the gloss applied to my hair. I left the salon with shiny brown hair completely devoid of grays. Even though the color will fade and the grays will come back in a few weeks, this was the reset I needed to put the autumn of 2018 behind me.
    food · slice of life

    Grape Jelly (with a Side of Chicken and Cauliflower)

    Here’s Ari… setting the table for the meal he wanted.

    After a long day that included three meetings and more driving than I want to admit to, I was relieved tonight’s dinner was simple. I removed the spatchcocked chicken from the oven and set it on the counter to cool. I walked over to the fridge, opened the left door, and removed the cauliflower rice from the produce drawer. All I needed was a frying pan, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and I’d have dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes.

    Best laid plans.

    “I want some jelly!” Ari declared as he removed both squeeze bottles of grape jelly from the fridge. (Don’t ask me why we have two almost-empty bottles of grape jelly. That’s a mystery I’ll solve tomorrow.)

    “We’re having chicken and cauliflower rice for dinner,” I reminded him.

    He was unconvinced. “I want some jelly!” With his second declaration, he scuttled across the kitchen with both bottles of grape jelly, slammed them down on the kitchen table, and said, “I want some jelly!”

    Aren’t you good at being two? I thought.

    “I’ve made chicken and cauliflower rice tonight. It’s time to put the jelly back in the fridge.”

    “I want some jelly!” he said forcefully enough to make me check the jelly-bottle caps to make sure they were on tightly.

    “You can have peanut butter and jelly for lunch tomorrow. Tonight we’re eating chicken and cauliflower rice.”

    I handed Ari the bottles of jelly and ushered him back to the fridge. I opened the left door and said, “Put it back in the refrigerator, please.”

    He counted, “One! Two!” as he placed the jellies back onto the shelf.

    I helped Ari closed the refrigerator door. I hoped he would forget about the jelly and just eat a good dinner. Thankfully, he’s a good little eater. He ran from the fridge to his booster seat, clipped himself in, smiled proudly, and said, “I want chicken now.”

    We’ll work on manners tomorrow.

    Bye-bye jellies!

    reading · slice of life

    Digging in the Heels Over a Mentor Text

    I’m going into Isabelle’s second-grade classroom tomorrow morning during writing workshop. As a result, I asked her teacher what the kids would be doing so I could make a conferring plan. Isabelle’s teacher informed me the students are coming to the end of their information writing unit of study and that tomorrow’s minilesson is on content-specific language. She told me Isabelle was writing a book about Halloween. However, when I asked Isabelle to tell me what she was working on as a writer, I learned nothing more than what her teacher told me.

    Since I knew Isabelle might have a tough time with using technical language to teach about her topic, I grabbed one of my favorite books, The Slug by Elise Gravel, to use with primary writers who are doing informational writing. I’ll never forget how the first class (of first graders) cackled when I read it aloud to them soon after it came out in 2014. I expected Isabelle would love it too.

    She didn’t. Isabelle showed her disinterest in the text by refusing to look at the pictures, playing with a small piece of skin on her thumb, and keeping a straight face during the first few pages of the book (even when the slug, himself, uses the word snot). In fact, she seemed perturbed I was making her listen to a book. I was feeling frustrated but didn’t want to show it so I closed the book. I told Isabelle I was going upstairs and when she was ready, I’d be happy to read the book aloud to her.

    Moments after retreating upstairs, Ari woke up and I became consumed with his needs. About 20 minutes later, Isabelle appeared in my room.

    “I’m sorry,” she said.

    “What are you sorry for?” I asked.

    “I’m sorry I didn’t want to listen to the book you wanted to read to me.”

    “I appreciate your apology. But do you understand why I wanted to read that book to you?”

    She didn’t. So I explained, again, that it was to help teach her something as a writer. I explained that books, not teachers, help me write better now. I explained how this book was funny and could also teach her how to teach her readers about her topic.

    She agreed to go downstairs and try again. I grabbed my phone and took the kids downstairs. As I did, I noticed I had a voicemail from my husband. Odd. He was in his home office. I put the phone to my ear and discovered it was from Isabelle (who had called from our home phone to my cell). Go ahead and read the transcript.


    She’d left that message about 10 minutes prior to coming upstairs to apologize in person. I guess she figured out what to apologize for when she didn’t get me on the phone.

    I’d like to say everything went well when we got downstairs, but it didn’t. Isabelle tried to employ more stall tactics. Once we finally made it through the book, I went back and quickly reread the pages that contained content-specific language. She didn’t seem to care.


    Frustrated — again — I simply told her we’d be looking at the book together in writing workshop tomorrow. She said nothing. I don’t like being ignored, but I know when I’m not wanted too.

    I’m armed with my materials for tomorrow morning.

    Four hours later, still feeling like I wish our interaction had gone differently, I sat down at my computer and typed up two mentor sentences. It’s my hope she’ll be more agreeable when her peers are in the same room tomorrow. Sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing.

    slice of life_individual
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