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.
“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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
She knows it gets me
When she wipes off my kisses.
But she still loves me!
Isabelle has been enjoying day camp. Like most kids, she comes home exhausted. There’s no way I could get her to sit with me to do her speech work at 4:00 p.m. after a day in the sun and heat. (And it’s been hot and humid this summer!) Therefore, we’ve been doing her speech work after breakfast, before we leave for camp, every weekday morning.
After breakfast, she asked to sit on my lap (what’s left of it now that I’m on the cusp of my eighth month of pregnancy.) We sat together and sang songs, like “Trot Old Joe,” for a few minutes. Then, it was time to practice. And you know what? This morning, I decided it’s not fair. While she rarely complains about sitting down with me and the iPad at 8:00 a.m., I felt angry. I wished we could sit together and sing songs, but I knew we had to start practicing.
It’s been a little over three years since her Apraxia diagnosis and we still work on her talking EVERY SINGLE DAY. And while she’s made enormous strides and can communicate with others, it struck me this morning that she’s worked harder at the age of five-and-a-half than most kids her age! I know this will serve her well in life. She’s got grit, determination, and a better work ethic than many adults. But it’s still not fair.
This morning, just before we fired up Articulation Station on the iPad, I said to her, “I want to take a picture of you sitting here and working beside me.”
“Because I want you to know, when you get older, how hard you worked for every word you have. I’m so proud of you and how you never quit.”
We’re worked on /s/ blends and initial /th/ sounds this morning. Here’s a listen into part of our practice session.
I’m seven-and-a-half months pregnant, which means there’s a LOT of talk about babies in our house these days. Isabelle has learned where babies come from thanks to The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall and several conversations with us. Isabelle knows that before she was in my belly, she lived in my heart. (See this post from last year for my explanation of where she resided before conception. I must say, my response to her question about “where was I before I was born?” stuck.)
Recently, Isabelle wanted to know how Marc and I met. He told her, “on the computer.” Since that sounded shady to me, I explained JDate to her. Yesterday morning, Isabelle had more questions while we were getting ready for a marathon coloring session.
“Where was me when you and Daddy met on the computer?”
“We met on JDate, Isabelle. That’s a site on the internet where Jews go to meet other Jews who want to have a Jewish family.”
“Oh. Well, where was me?” she asked.
I looked at her and didn’t answer. She smiled. “I was in your heart?!!?”
“Yes, you were in my heart.”
“Was I in Daddy’s heart?”
“Yes, you were in Daddy’s heart too.”
“Where was my brother?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Was my brother in your heart too?” (Keep in mind, even though her brother is still in my belly, she talks about him as if he’s already here.)
“Yes, of course, he was in my heart,” I replied.
Isabelle got quiet for a minute. I could tell a big idea was brewing.
“We were in your heart together, Mommy. We were playing.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet,” I replied. “I like thinking of the two of you playing together in my heart. That makes me happy.”
“Yeah, but it was dark,” she said. I started to worry where she was going to go with this, but she turned it around. “We couldn’t see each other well, but we were playing in your heart together.”
“I love that,” I said drawing her in for a hug.
“Have you gotten any writing done since you got home from the conference?” my husband inquired last night.
I smirked. “Barely! Isabelle only had two school days left after the conference. I’ve had almost no time to myself for over a month. Not that that’s been a bad thing. We’ve had fun, but I have hardly had any time to work on the revisions for my manuscript.”
“Well, at least you’ll have time starting Monday,” Marc said.
“I sure will! Five days a week should be plenty of time to get revisions done and to start on some new writing,” I replied.
Starting tomorrow, Isabelle heads off to day camp for the next four weeks. That’s five days a week for six-and-a-half hours a day. I NEED this time to devote to my writing. However, I’d be lying if I said I’m comfortable about sending her off to day camp tomorrow.
Let’s be honest. I’m worried.
Preschool didn’t have me this concerned. I knew she’d be taken care of by capable teachers.
But day camp is another thing. Day camp is a huge adjustment for any kid. (Maybe that’s why my parents didn’t send me to day camp until I was seven. Hmmm…) There are sunscreen and bug spray she needs have applied. There are swimsuits she needs to be changed into and out of. There are personal belongings she needs to keep track of. There’s staying safe at free swim! All of these are things I’ve either overseen or helped to take care of for the past five-and-a-half years. And tomorrow, my kiddo is on her own. (Yes, I know there are counselors, but they’re teenagers in charge of 15 five-year-olds!)
This afternoon, I spent the day doing what I do best when I am nervous about something. I get organized.
I laid out Isabelle’s clothes. (Normally she picks what she wears, but tomorrow is picture day so I chose.)
I took her on a tour of her backpack so she’d know what she was taking to camp. I explained how she was to get dressed and undressed for swimming. (Sit on a towel, not the ground. Place wet bathing suits into a Ziploc when finished. Let me know if I need to send two towels in the future since tomorrow I’m only sending one.) I showed her a laminated picture chart of the items she was to bring home with her. (She is a people-watcher who will be more interested in what other kids are doing than in packing herself up at the end of the day.)
I pulled her curls into a tight slop-knot tonight so it would be easier for me to put her hair into a ponytail tomorrow. (She was shocked the counselors wouldn’t be willing to remove her bow, which she always wears, and tie her hair up in a ponytail prior to swim.)
I made her lunch.
I even put her socks in her sneakers.
And yet, I am still worried. Thankfully, she seems as cool as a cucumber. (I guess that is good. Either it means I’m doing a good job hiding my nerves or she’s oblivious to how much she’s going to have to do on her own!)
I know she will be less than ten minutes away. She will be fine.
And I will be fine too. Perhaps more than fine. Maybe by Tuesday, I’ll even be productive.
—-Updated at 5:00 p.m. on 7/18.—-
Isabelle had a great day at camp! She came home with all of her belongings (Thanks to the help of one of her counselors!) and ate nearly all of her lunch.
I nearly had a heart attack on the car ride home when Isabelle told me she jumped in a bounce house — after some coaxing from adults — when it rained this afternoon. (We’re a no-bounce house family since they’re one of the leading causes of emergency room visits for American children.) She knew she wasn’t supposed to do it, but she told me, “I was careful.” While I appreciated how careful she was, I reminded her that she didn’t want to spend her summer in a cast (or in a cast after having surgery) so I asked her not to go in it again. Even though she promised she’d be careful, I ended the conversation by asking, “If you get hurt in a bounce house and land up in a cast, whose fault will it be?”
Even though she promised she’d be careful, I ended the conversation by asking, “If you get hurt in a bounce house and land up in a cast, whose fault will it be?”
To which Isabelle responded, “Mine.”
Hopefully, she’ll make a smart decision. But just in case, I emailed the head of the camp to ask that the counselors redirect her to another activity the next time the bounce house is a choice. I already received an email back stating: Not a problem – I will speak to the staff
Not a problem – I will speak to the staff tomorrow and let them know to direct Isabelle to another area in the play room. Whew!
Other than that, it was a great day!
I didn’t cover my eyes for the Shema prayer, which is a declaration that there is one G-d, until I was a freshman in college. I was shocked to see so many people covering their eyes at Hillel during my first Friday night service. Being someone who’s never buckled to peer pressure, I didn’t close mine. Instead, I waited a few weeks to ask someone about the significance of closing the eyes for the Shema. I was told one covers their eyes for the Shema as a way to concentrate fully on the meaning behind the prayer. That wasn’t the custom in the Reform synagogue in which I grew up. However, the reasoning behind covering the eyes made sense to me so I started doing it. However, instead of covering my eyes with my right hand, I opted to close my eyelids.
Fast-forward 21 years. I say the Shema prayer with Isabelle at bedtime. This past year, as part of her first religious school experience, she learned the Shema. We chant it every night using the exact tune and tempo her teacher taught her. Everything was going along swimmingly with our nightly Shema until sometime last week when we were on vacation. Apparently, Isabelle uncovered her eyes one night and found my eyelids were closed, rather than covered by my right hand. She’s been bugging me about covering my eyes ever since. Whatever, I thought. I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing.
This evening, at bedtime, the prayer police got on my case again. “Mommy, cover your eyes.”
So I did. And it wasn’t because I felt pressured. It’s because I wanted to see what would happen if I did. Would Isabelle notice? Because if she did, that would mean her eyes wouldn’t be closed.
I know I was supposed to be concentrating on the prayer (Hence, the reason for the covered eyes), but just before the final word of the Shema, I peeked through my right hand to see what Isabelle was doing. Not only were her eyes opened, transfixed on the wall, but she had her finger over her lips as she sang. Whaaaat?!?!?
Just before I kissed Isabelle good-night, I asked, “Were your eyes covered for the Shema?”
“Yes,” she said.
While it’s possible they were up until that last moment, I kind of doubt it.
I see a conversation in our future — long before bedtime hits tomorrow — about WHY we’re supposed to close and cover our eyes for the Shema. Clearly, she’s been told to do it. And I’m sure her teacher explained why they’re supposed to cover their eyes. However, I think it’s time for a refresher because no one wants to have the prayer police on their case!