I pride myself in arriving on-time or early for appointments and when I pick them up from anything. However, my on-time arrival backfired this afternoon.
“Hi, Iz!” I called from the art room door.
Isabelle dropped her paintbrush.
“I’ll wait while you finish up,” I said.
“I’m finished,” she replied.
I looked at the background of her watercolor painting. “Are you sure you’re finished? Looks like you’re still working on the background.”
“I’m finished,” she insisted.
I looked at her art teacher and shrugged.
“You should come five minutes late,” she said.
I chuckled. “No kidding. Maybe she’d finish if I did.”
We took the watercolor painting with us as we walked out.
“Who’s in your picture?” I asked.
“Me and Ari,” she replied. “The big one is me and the little one is Ari.”
I studied the picture closely. I noticed my blond son’s hair had been granted artistic license by Isabelle. “Why is Ari’s hair purple?”
“I don’t know,” she giggled.
Maybe she would’ve finished the background if I had been late, but you know what would’ve remained the same? Ari’s purple hair.
This year I didn’t cook anything special for the Super Bowl. I made a normal dinner, which we ate at the table. (For the past few years, I’ve made nachos from scratch — easier said than done — and we’ve eaten them at our coffee table while watching the Super Bowl.) At the end of dinner, my football-loving husband invited everyone into our great room to watch the game.
I found the three of them in the great room once I got up from the table. Marc was watching the game. Ari was alternating between reading books and playing with his collection of balls. Isabelle was snuggled-up on the couch under a blanket.
The time hovered around seven. I considered making Isabelle go upstairs since her bedtime was rapidly approaching. Instead, I asked, “May I snuggle with you?”
“Yes!” she said.
I cozied up next to her and chatted for a few minutes before she drifted off to sleep. (Somehow Marc got her upstairs and ready for bed.)
I retreated to my office to do some work until it was time for Ari’s nighttime bottle. When it was time for him to go upstairs, Marc transported him up the stairs to his bedroom where I held him as he drank. I noticed Ari was more awake than usual after his bottle. So I asked him, “Do you want more milk or do you want to snuggle?”
“Nugga-nugga,” he replied. (That means “snuggle-snuggle.”)
I obliged. I sang lullabies as he wiggled around looking for the perfect spot. Finally, he laid across my lap as I rocked him to sleep.
My Super Bowl Sunday was filled with snuggles. And for this non-football fan, I have to say, I think it’s the best Super Bowl Sunday I’ve ever had. (Sorry, Marc!)
Growing up, I was the kind of kid who loved to meet and take pictures with Disney Characters. Isabelle is a lot like me in this respect. She’s always excited to see or take photos with one of the Hershey’s candy characters when we’re at Hersheypark or see them around the town of Hershey. And maybe that’s why I’ve never understood those kids who fear amusement park characters. I mean, I know they’re not human, but they’re not scary!
In the beginning, Ari had no problem being close to the Hershey’s candy characters:
By the time he was almost nine months old, Ari was indifferent towards them when he was brought into family photos with the characters in Hersheypark:
Last month, in another episode of “Two Kids from the Same Parents Aren’t the Same,” I discovered Ari was a bit uncertain about the Hershey’s candy characters. His suspicion can be noticed in photos like this:
And his trepidation can be seen in photos like this:
Granted, Ari doesn’t scream or cry when he gets near the characters, but he doesn’t get excited in the ways I did as a kid or the ways Isabelle does now.
Last night, an unexpected intervention happened on the character front when we attended my husband’s work event. It was a family-friendly party complete with kid-friendly food, games, a photo booth, a balloon animal station, and HERSHEY CHARACTERS!
Ari spent much of the night following the Hershey Bar and the Reese’s Cup around the room. Finally, after several encounters that included low-fives, Ari’s suspicion and trepidation seemed to fade away.
My husband held him up to the Reese’s (whose wavy-cup head seems to perplex Ari).
They got closer.
And eventually, they were face-to-face:
There were no hugs or kisses (from Ari to Mr. Reese’s), but he was more comfortable by the end of the night. Seeing as we have season passes to Hersheypark, this is a very, very good thing.
Over the weekend, I encouraged Isabelle to do some writing. I’m one of those parents who makes sure their child reads every day, but — despite what I do — I don’t ask her to write daily. Therefore, I invited Isabelle to pick the genre (She choose personal narrative.) and the topic (Attending Junior Congregation on Saturday morning at our synagogue.) so that the writing would have meaning and value to her.
I helped Isabelle orally rehearse her story using the video selfie feature on our iPad. This is an idea Deb Frazier gave me awhile ago since it helps kids see and hear themselves as they rehearse their writing. Once Isabelle settled on the way her story would go using the video selfies, I supported her as she touched each page as she retold the story. Next, she began sketching. I stepped back, giving her the space to create sketches that reflected the story she rehearsed. Finally she wrote.
Here’s the thing… even though I sat on the couch in her play room and put together my grocery list while she wrote, I witnessed some frustration. She wanted me to sit with her to help her do things like spell words. (As someone who believes in invented spelling, I couldn’t do this for her.) However, as anyone trained in workshop teaching knows, you have to walk away for the magic to happen. Therefore, I wouldn’t sit beside Isabelle since I knew she was capable of working independently.
Isabelle was less than thrilled with me. Therefore, I started texting Betsy Hubbard, since she was a K/1 looping teacher for over a decade. I lamented about how well Isabelle was doing as a writer, but that she didn’t wasn’t proud of what she accomplished on her own. That’s when Betsy gave me an idea: Show Isabelle her writing from last year so she could see how far she’s come as a writer.
I went down to our basement and located Isabelle’s keepsake box. I shuffled through it and found her Kindergarten drawing and writing book. I thumbed through it and smiled. Just a year and a half ago she was barely writing! I brought it upstairs. Even though I couldn’t wait for her to see it, I showed it to her the following day. Once I did, SHE was amazed. She looked through it and said things like, “I didn’t even know how to spell mommy last year!” and “I only wrote a line or two on this page!”
“Last year you only wrote a few lines at a time and you were finished. Now you’re writing a story across pages. In fact, you wrote four pages today. You should be proud of yourself, Isabelle.”
She looked up from her Kindergarten writing book on a page where she was laughing about a story she wrote that insisted she drove Ari to Hersheypark. She smiled and said, “I am.”
It was clear that looking back at her previous writing was a fantastic way to show Isabelle how far she’s come as a writer. But you know what else is clear? As corny as it sounds, it takes a village to raise a child. I have come to rely on my PLN for advice when it comes to raising literate humans. Knowing I have friends I can call upon for advice is one of the most reassuring parts of this parenting journey.
Page 1: First we got to synagogue. Then we saw Allegra and Jenny. More kids came. Page 2: Then mommy read a book to us. Then we prayed. Page 3: I sang “Adon Olam.” I felt scared. I felt good because I could do it. Page 4: When we were done we sang the Kiddush and the Motzi.
NOTE: The big story here really happened on page three when Isabelle volunteered to lead everyone in one of the songs, “Adon Olam.” This is something she wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing a few months ago. Not only did she sing it, she sang loudly for the duration of the song. I wish she would’ve written about how amazing that moment was, but, again, it was her writing, not mine. (However, this is my blog, so I get to brag for a moment, right?)
Yesterday was cold.
Today is snowy.
Yesterday I was busy: driving on back-country roads and working with teachers.
Today I am moving slowly: staying at home and playing with Ari.
Yesterday I ate in a hurry: turkey sandwich, yellow peppers, Sumo orange, and trail mix.
Today I had a leisurely meal: breakfast tacos made with spinach, eggs, queso fresco, and hot sauce.
Yesterday I debriefed classroom visits and talked about minilessons.
Today I’m reading board books again and again and again.
Yesterday was good.
Today is good.
I heard him cry-out from my office.
(My desk sits directly below his crib.)
(My first thought.)
Should I bring a bottle?
(My second thought.)
Teething won’t last forever.
(My third thought.)
I closed the lights in my office and headed upstairs.
I peeked into his crib.
I set down my phone and went to the bathroom.
(Because I didn’t know how long I’d be here.)
He cried out again.
(Better move quickly!)
I returned to a silent, dark room.
(Should I sit?)
I’ve been sitting in the glider for nearly ten minutes.
(All is, thankfully, quiet.)
How many other mamas, dadas, and other caregivers awake in the world — looking after their little ones — right now?
(I will never know.)
I remember the first time my parents ever left me with my grandparents to take an overnight trip to Palm Beach Gardens. I felt as though I had been mightily wronged. I loved my grandparents dearly, but acted as though my parents were abandoning me with strangers. I make this admission with a sense of shame since I was 11 when this happened!
My children have grown accustom to mommy and/or daddy going away for a few days at a time. Sometimes we travel for work. Other times we travel for pleasure. Because, let’s be honest, it’s a trip when you take the kids; it’s a vacation when it’s two adults traveling together.
This past weekend, Marc and I took a mini-vacation to the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania. We spent three days celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary at Nemacolin. We dined without feeding a baby or counting bites until the meal could be over. We enjoyed time together at the spa. We exercised at the gym — together — everyday. We read books devoid of pictures and rhymes. Two out of the three mornings we slept in until the mid-morning. It was divine!
We returned to reality last night. We were greeted by two children who were happy to see us, but would’ve been perfectly fine if they went another day without their parents. Clearly, they understand they’re in capable and loving hands with their grandparents. Since this is the way it’s always been, they don’t act like that bratty 11-year-old I was when it’s time for one or both of us to go away. And for that, I am thankful!
Nearly every Tuesday morning, I find myself in the same predicament. How do I entertain Ari while Isabelle has speech therapy? I used to be able to keep him in his stroller or hold him and listen to Isabelle’s sessions through the one-way mirror.
Ari is mobile now! He will sit in his stroller when we are in motion, but not for a 45-minute appointment. Therefore, I’ve allowed him to walk around the hallways and through the gym in the therapy services office for the past few weeks.
Last week, as we trolled the halls, I named everything Ari touched. We passed so many doors during our 45-minute jaunt that he said his first word: door!
Today, Ari wanted to explore the gym where the adult physical therapy patients work with their therapists. While everyone is happy to see a baby roaming around, I always stay a couple of steps behind him so he doesn’t topple over a frail patient or climb on any of the equipment.
This morning, one of the therapy assistants couldn’t get over how much Ari had grown since she last saw him so she was happy to let him assist her pushing her cart around the gym as she refilled each station with clean sheets. The two of them were beyond cute walking around the gym with each together:
Finally, it was time to go back and check in on Isabelle at the end of her session. In case you need proof as to why we can’t observe her sessions, this photo of Ari on the other side of the one-way mirror says it all:
You can’t be a clandestine observer when someone is pounding on the mirror!
Last week, I spent a couple of days working with third, fourth, and fifth-grade teachers on conferring and small group work. Even though I was focused on helping teachers with those areas, I spent time noticing good minilessons, strong classroom management, and differentiated learning environments.
I walked into a remarkable third-grade classroom that seemed to scream “everyone gets what they need” from the moment I crossed the threshold. After the minilesson, the students made an oral plan with their writing partner and went off to their focus spots. I looked around the room and noticed kids working in the following places:
- At their desks sitting in a four-legged chair.
- At their desks sitting on exercise balls.
- By a bookshelf while writing on top of it.
- On the floor or carpet with their writing sprawled out alongside them.
- On a park bench (Yes, there was an actual park bench in this classroom!) with the writing beside the child.
- In scoop chairs with the writing on the child’s lap.
I admired the way the classroom teacher honored each student’s work style. She knows every child is able to focus when they’re working comfortably. It was clear every student’s needs were met with diverse seating options. (NOTE: The class had 21 kids and there was not a single instance that I noticed of a child taking advantage of the flexible seating options. Impressive!)
On Friday afternoon, Isabelle was more fidgety than usual when it was time to do vision therapy homework. She couldn’t keep her tush in her chair. I invited her to stand up, but she kept one leg on the chair at all times, which meant the wiggling continued. As a result, her posture was off, which meant her Harmon Distance (i.e., the distance between a person’s elbow and middle knuckle on the middle finger) was incorrect. Hence, her ability to concentrate on the vision tasks was degraded. Yesterday, I made a suggestion: either sit or stand. She opted to stand. As soon as I moved the chair away, I noticed an immediate difference. Therefore, I gave her the choice to sit or stand again today. Again, she decided to stand. Since she had some practice with standing and completing the tasks yesterday, I noticed a marked difference in her ability to focus on the vision therapy tasks at-hand today. In fact, she finished quicker today than she had all week!
There are times kids need to sit. Sitting still is a skill we need to be successful in life. However, sitting still isn’t something we have to insist upon all of the time. As a parent, I often forget my child doesn’t learn and work like I do. I was reminded, thanks to this third-grade teacher’s classroom filled with flexible seating options, that I can meet the needs of my own child by providing her with what she needs when she needs it.
To read more about flexible seating options for students, check out “Grab a Seat, Grab a Pen, & Get Appy” by Deb Frazier over at Two Writing Teachers.