board books · consulting · food · motherhood · slice of life · weather · writing

Yesterday and Today

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.

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slice of life

Midnight Watch

I heard him cry-out from my office.

(My desk sits directly below his crib.)

Not again.

(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.

(Quietly.)

I peeked into his crib.

(Still sleeping.)

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.)

slice of life · travel

Celebrating (Sans Kids)

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!

Celebrating Ten Years Together!

slice of life · raising boys · siblings

On the Move

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.

Not anymore.

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!

elementary school · slice of life · vision therapy

Flexible Seating Options

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!)

IMG_3031
Numerical saccades practice was more tolerable while standing.

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.

slice of life_individual
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slice of life · speech

“Don’t call me Izzy!”

Long ago, before my daughter could even speak words, she went by the name “Izzy. But as soon as she could string words into sentences, my daughter declared “Call me Isabelle.”

Like many parents of late-talkers, I did nearly anything my child requested once she started speaking. Calling her Isabelle, instead of Izzy, wasn’t a big ask. Isabelle is her given name. I adore the name since it sounds a little old-fashioned and very French.

Through the years, there’s been an exception to the Isabelle rule. The rule was implemented by Isabelle. Our neighbors (meaning the people who live in our subdivision, but not in our house) could continue to call her Izzy. But everyone else had to call her Isabelle. There were no exceptions for family members, classmates, synagogue members, doctors, or anyone who knew her before she made this declaration.

A few months ago, Isabelle informed us Ari would be allowed to call her “Izzy,” since it would be easier for him to say once he started talking. (He’s begun to make sounds for “hi” and “no” so he has time before he articulates a proper name clearly.) We were impressed with Isabelle’s willingness to make an exception to the nickname rule.

But it didn’t stop there. Isabelle allows us (meaning her parents and grandparents) to refer to her as Izzy in Ari’s presence. While we still call her Isabelle, we use her given name and her nickname interchangeably when Ari is around.

So imagine my surprise when I got in trouble for calling her Izzy this past weekend when we were at Hersheypark in front of her friend Eli! Our families (four parents and four kids) spent the afternoon together at the park. We were enjoying a sweet snack when I referred to Isabelle as Izzy. I didn’t think twice since Ari was sitting with us at the table. A second later, Isabelle shot daggers through me. I don’t remember her exact words, but she told me — in a stern and direct way — not to call her Izzy (in front of her friends).

I won’t make that mistake again. But that being said, I never thought a nickname would have rules attached to it!

 

slice of life_individual
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slice of life

Gone Too Soon.

Death has been a reoccurring topic around our house ever since my Uncle Leonard passed away in September. This morning, Isabelle asked if her cousins were driving up from Georgia for Thanksgiving, as they had two years ago. I told her they weren’t.

“Well, if Uncle Leonard was still alive, do you think he’d come this year even though he didn’t come last year?” Isabelle asked from the back seat.

My throat constricted as I drove south on the highway. “Yes, I think he would’ve come up this year, honey.”

“Why didn’t he come last year?” she asked.

“Because he was sick. He didn’t know he had cancer, but he was feeling terrible last fall,” I replied.

Then the conversation took an unexpected turn.

“Is Sophia still alive?”

I gripped the steering wheel tightly — bracing myself for the news I was about to deliver.

* * * * *

We met Sophia and her mom at a mommy-and-me type class about three months after Isabelle was born. Sophia looked itty-bitty the day I met her, though she was only a couple of months younger than Isabelle. I remember Sophia being a delightful baby who always seemed to be happy at the classes. As the months went on, and Sophia’s mom went back to work, we only saw her and her mother occasionally out in the community. The last time we saw them was when we were shopping at Target last winter. Sophia was much more talkative than Isabelle. As expected, neither girl remembered their earliest days together.

Imagine my surprise when I read one of Sophia’s mom’s Facebook updates less than five months ago, which informed about a nasty villain invading Sophia’s body. Sophia was in the hospital with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. I cried as I remembered our girls laying next to each other on their backs when they were just babies. Even though Sophia’s mom and I hadn’t been close friends, knowing that her parents might lose their only child shook me to my core. I left a comment — that I crafted over and over again before clicking “send” — on her Facebook post. A few hours later, Sophia’s mom wrote back and informed me my husband had been one of the doctors who visited Sophia (for something non-cancer related) soon after her diagnosis. 

A few days after this revelation, I remember sharing one of Sophia’s mom’s Facebook posts with my husband. (He’s not the kind of doctor who mixes work with home-life, but I felt compelled to share what I knew with him. Isabelle must’ve seen me crying since I remember telling her about this little girl who she was a baby with and how she was gravely ill.

* * * * *

I found out Sophia passed away when I was waiting on an exceptionally long elevator line at NCTE last Thursday afternoon. Even though I had known the end of Sophia’s life was near, I let out an audible gasp and began to cry when I read her mom’s Facebook status update. The woman in line behind me asked if I was okay. I shared the basics with this unknown English teacher. She wrapped me in her arms. I pulled myself together and we talked about losing people before their time until we went our separate ways once we finally reached the 15th floor.

* * * * *

Marc and I had planned to tell Isabelle about Sophia’s passing tonight since I returned home from NCTE right before Isabelle’s bedtime last night. However, I couldn’t lie to Isabelle. So, right there, as I barrelled down the interstate, I answered Isabelle’s question.

I felt my voice get small, “Isabelle, Daddy and I planned to talk to you together tonight, but I want to be honest with you. We found out Sophia passed away when I was in St. Louis.

“Oh,” she said.

I let the news sink in for what felt like an eternity before I spoke again. “How do you feel right now?”

“Sad,” she said.

“That’s how I feel too. Do you have anything you want to ask me?”

Isabelle thought for a minute. “What are her parents going to do now?”

I answered through my tears. “I don’t know, Isabelle, but I have a feeling they’re going to feel sad for a very long time.”

More silence.

Finally, Isabelle, who recently donated the money in her Tzedakah box (100% her idea since she wanted to do something to “help kids like Sophia”.) to the children’s hospital, said: “Maybe no one else will die since I gave my money to help kids with cancer.”

I could barely speak after that. Despite being naive, it was the most genuine thing I’ve ever heard her wish for. Somehow, through my tears, I said, “I hope so, honey. You did a real mitzvah.”

Attachment-1 (1)

 

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slice of life · writing

A Piece of Self-Initiated Writing (in three acts)

I was surrounded by three jackets, three pairs of socks, and three pairs of shoes. I reached out to Ari, in an attempt to wrangle him into his jacket, when Isabelle called out, “I want to write a letter to Casey.”

“C’mon in here!” I called back.

“Help me spell Casey,” Isabelle shouted back.

“I’m not going to yell back and forth with you,” I responded trying to catch Ari as he toddled away from me. “Come in here and I’ll help you.”

A minute later, Isabelle appeared with green construction paper, a pencil, and a flair pen.

“What do you have so far?” I asked grabbing my socks and shoes in an attempt to ready myself.

“C-a-s,” she replied.

“What do you think comes next?” I asked.

“E?” Isabelle said.

“Yes and then something else, but it’s silent,” I replied.

“Y?” Isabelle responded.

“Yes! You know that y’s sometimes don’t make the /y/ sound and make the long e sound. Excellent!” I said.

Isabelle finished writing her cousin’s name on the paper. Then, I asked the question which led to our first argument. “What are you planning to write in your letter?”

“Dear Casey. Love, Isabelle.”

I waited. I expected something more. I got nothing else.

“You can’t mail your three-and-a-half-year-old cousin a letter that only says “Dear Casey. Love, Isabelle.” You have to tell her something. You should write about what’s been happening in your life. Maybe you could ask her some questions and one of her parents can help her write a letter back to you.

{Argument #1 erupted.}

Once everyone was calm and had their coats and shoes on, I told Isabelle, “I’m taking your clipboard, the construction paper, your pencil, and your pen in the car. You can rehearse what you want to say with me and then you can write it. Okay?”

“Fine,” she muttered.

As I buckled Ari into the car, I said, “Think about what you might want to tell Casey in a letter for a minute. I’ll ask you what you’re thinking about when we pull out of the driveway.”

“Okay,” she said, a bit more chipper.

As we drove away, I asked Isabelle, “What could you tell your cousin about?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.

{This continued, in a civilized way, for a couple minutes.}

Finally, Isabelle decided she wanted to tell her cousin about math games she plays in school and a birthday party she went to over the weekend.

“Those are great ideas. Practice saying them aloud before you write them. Tell me what you’ll write first.”

Isabelle wrote in the air. At first, she only gave me a word or a phrase. I encouraged her to have a complete thought. Once she did, I helped her stretch out the words she didn’t know how to spell so she could approximate the spelling.

I picked up a cup of coffee and helped her with the final sentence on the first page. “Friend,” I said slowly.

“F-r-e-d,” Isabelle replied.

“That’s Fred, honey. Fred is someone’s name. What do you hear before the /d/ in friend?” I asked.

{Argument #2 erupted.}

Once Isabelle calmed down and realized there was an n before the d, she erased her pencil mark and attempted the word again. I kept driving.

IMG_2246
Isabelle’s letter to Casey.

After Isabelle signed her name, she decided to trace over her pencil marks with a black flair pen. Everything was quiet for a while. Eventually, she handed the clipboard to me as I was driving. I set it aside and looked at it once I parked the car.

I glowed. I complimented. I asked her “On a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being the easiest thing you’ve ever written and 10 being the hardest thing you’ve ever written, where would you put this?”

“A two,” she replied.

Then why did you have to give me such a hard time?!??!!

“A two? Well, that’s great. And it didn’t take you long to write it once you figured out what you wanted to say, right?”

“Right,” Isabelle said.

“I’m sure Casey is going to love getting this letter from you,” I said.

I reread it and noticed one of the sentences said ‘We ply gas with a freind.’ I spoke up, “I noticed you wrote gas instead of games. But on the second page, you included the m in games. I think you should add the letter m so Casey knows what you play.

{Argument #3 erupted.}

Once Isabelle realized that it didn’t make sense to write gas instead of games, I taught her, “Many writers often forget to add letters, words, or phrases when they write. One thing they fix-up their writing before showing it to someone is to use a caret, which is an upside down v, to help them insert the missing letters or words. When they add whatever is missing, it makes it easier for the reader to understand. If I help you make the caret, will you add the missing letters?”

“Yeah, okay,” she said begrudgingly.

So I did.

And then she did.

It took three small arguments to help Isabelle produce a letter that consisted of more than four words for her cousin. However, she created a piece of self-initiated writing, which thrilled me since writing isn’t her go-to downtime activity.

That being said, may I mention how hard it is to be a parent and an educator!!??!

slice of life_individual

slice of life

The engine turned over & my heart skipped a beat!

Waterlogue-2017-11-06-21-40-59
Later in the day, when Ari was in the driver’s seat, I took the keys away!

We’ve decided to buy a minivan.

In a matter of days, my husband will turn-in his leased sedan will start driving my SUV.

I will drive the minivan.

But this isn’t a story about how the minivan feels like a pair of mom jeans to me. No, no. It’s a story about what happened when we left our almost-seven-year-old daughter and our 13-month-old son alone in a parked SUV at the car dealership while we shopped for a new car.

…..

Marc and I were talking to the salesman.

Isabelle and Ari were seatbelted in the front seat of an SUV in the middle of the showroom not far from where we were talking.

Suddenly, I heard an engine start, which isn’t something you typically hear inside of a car dealership. I whipped my head towards the sound and saw illumined brake lights. My eyes bulged out in my head. My kids were in the car that was ON! I froze in place as I envisioned my children shattering the dealership’s glass windows and speeding onto Route 22!

But while I stood there, pathetically frozen, Marc rushed over to the car as Sidney, the car dealer, said to me, “One of you should really be in the car with them.”

“Why are the keys in the car!?!?!?” I spat back, feeling a little judged, while I witnessed Marc run towards the car, open the driver-side door, and depress the start/stop button to turn the car off.

“It’s state law, ma’am,” Sidney told me.

“Since when?” I asked him. “We looked at cars last year and this never happened when my daughter sat in them.”

He shrugged.

“Excuse me for a moment,” I told Sidney.

I walked over to the car where I could swear I smelled exhaust. I peeked my head into the vehicle, looked Isabelle square in the eye, and said, “Did you know you were turning the car on?”

“No, mommy,” she said wide-eyed.

“I believe you, but one of us has to stay with you now in the car.”

“But I want to pretend to drive with Ari,” she replied.

“I understand that, but I had visions of you and Ari driving down 22 just now and they weren’t good visions. One of us will be staying with you now, okay?”

“Okay,” she said.

My daughter is an inch shy of four feet. There’s no way she could’ve depressed the brake pedal while pressing the push-start ignition. At least, I don’t think she could.

…..

See? I told you this wouldn’t be a woe-is-me minivan story.

slice of life_individual

accomplishments · art · ocular motor dysfunction · OT · slice of life · Uncategorized

An Artsy Celebration

Isabelle has enjoyed doing art for the past couple of years. She’s taken a couple of art classes. However, despite the instruction, most of her masterpieces look like this:

Scannable Document on Oct 30, 2017 at 5_43_33 PM

or this:

Scannable Document 2 on Oct 30, 2017 at 5_43_33 PM

I appreciate these pieces since they feel like modern art. However, there aren’t any discernable objects most of the things she creates. Ever since the ocular motor dysfunction diagnosis, I understand why she struggles. Therefore, when I picked her up at art class this afternoon, I looked at her oil pastel creation and felt tears prick my eyes. But they weren’t tears of sadness; they were tears of happiness.

Scannable Document on Oct 30, 2017 at 5_42_40 PM“Is this a self-portrait?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” she responded.

“Is this a picture of yourself?” I asked.

“Yeah, how did you know?” she replied.

“Because it looks like you, honey!” I responded.

Sure, her eyes aren’t that big nor are her lips aren’t that red.  But I could tell it was a self-portrait prior to reading note the teacher sends home with each child.

 

Scannable Document 2 on Oct 30, 2017 at 5_42_40 PM
One of the things I adore about Isabelle’s present art class is that her teacher sends the kids home with their artwork + with an explanation of the artist whose work they studied (in addition to their task).

 

“You should be very proud of yourself,” I told my daughter. “This is a masterpiece! We should hang this in your garage gallery.”

“Okay,” she said as a small smile spread across her face. “When can we hang it up?”

“We have lots of other pieces to hang up along with this one. Would this weekend be okay?”

“Yes!” she replied with more enthusiasm.

Progress takes time. Today was a reminder that she may be taking small steps forward, but they are, indeed, forward.

slice of life_individual