bedtime stories · meditation · slice of life

BB Who?

“I want baby eight mindful breathing,” Ari told me after we finished reading a second picture book.

“What?” I asked Ari.

“Baby eight. Mindful breathing,” Ari replied with more emphasis.

Headspace recently added a bunch of a Star Wars breathing exercises and guided meditations.

“What’s baby eight?” I asked.

“B. B. 8! The mindful breathing with BB-8.” Ari replied.

“Oh!” I understood.

But I really didn’t understand. I may have realized Ari was asking me to do a one-minute, Star-Wars-themed breathing exercise, but I don’t even know who BB-8 is. I never watched “Star Wars” as a kid. A college friend was aghast by this and showed me “Star Wars” one Saturday night freshman year. I fell asleep on it.

We did the one-minute breathing exercise with BB-8 (whoever/whatever it is). Then we did a kids’ guided meditation. Finally, I said good night.

Just as I settled into bed around 9:15, a visitor came into my bedroom.

“I can’t sleep,” Ari declared.

“I see that,” I replied.

“Don’t you want this blanket over your legs?” he asked noticing I had an ice pack on my ankle, but wasn’t covered up.

“I am cold. Is that why you came in here?” I replied.

He smiled.

“Okay, I’ll take the blanket,” I said.

Ari tossed the blanket over my legs and then made himself at home in my bed.

Around 9:30 p.m., I realized it had been about an hour since we meditated in Ari’s room and about 50 minutes since I said “good-night” to him. And look who was still beside me:

Apparently, we wear stripes on Mondays.
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food · slice of life

Eat It Like a Pizza

I offered up the leftover skillet cookie cake* as an incentive for the kids eating their (non-preferred) dinner this evening.

* = Yesterday morning, Marc offered to bake a dessert since my father was handling dinner. He doesn’t bake so I scoffed at him. I thought it was preposterous, but sweet, that he thought he could pull off a from-scratch gluten-free recipe. I could tell he wanted to do this for me for Mother’s Day so I suggested he make a S’mores skillet cookie from a recipe I adapted for gluten-free living about a year ago. While I did overhear Ari admonishing him for incorrectly mixing the dry ingredients, the skillet cookie came out well.

Remembering the cookie cake was a little dry the previous night, I decided to add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream to the top. I asked, “Would anyone else like their slice à la mode?”

No one answered so I got my own scoop, but left the ice cream scooper on the counter in case someone else wanted some.

Marc noticed my slice topped with ice cream and reconsidered.

“That’s why I left the scooper out,” I replied as I grabbed his plate. I removed the ice cream container from the freezer, scooped a spoonful on top of his cookie, and then put it back in the freezer. I brought Marc’s plate to the table.

A few minutes later, Ari noticed a “big marshmallow” atop Marc’s slice.

“That’s not a marshmallow,” I replied. “That’s vanilla ice cream.”

“You didn’t ask me if I wanted ice cream!” Ari responded indignantly.

“I asked everyone if they wanted their slices à la mode. You didn’t respond. I’m assuming it’s because you didn’t know that à la mode meant a slice of pie (or cake) with ice cream. Now you know. So, would you like your slice à la mode?”

“Yes!” Ari replied.

Out with the ice cream container. Another scoop of ice cream onto a third piece of cookie cake. Ice cream back in the freezer. Cookie cake plate back to the table.

Ari forked the ice cream and the cookie cake, but had a challenge getting both items onto the same forkful. After a few tries, I noticed Ari bring the slice up to his mouth and take a bite.

“It’s not a pizza!” I replied. “Use your fork, please.”

That’s when Ari did the unthinkable with his fork. He used it to spread the ice cream out across the slice as if it were cream cheese. Once it sank into every nook and cranny — which helped the dryness — he devoured it. Of course, this did nothing to help our kitchen floor, which was already overdue for a cleaning after Ari managed to get lots of pieces of cauliflower rice on the floor when he ate dinner.

This bird’s eye view of the mess doesn’t even do it justice since it doesn’t take into account how many crumbs covered Ari’s shirt, pants, face, and hands.

Sometimes, as a parent, you have to know when you’ve been beaten. This was one of those times.

“Bon appetit,” I replied with my finest French accent. “Know that you’ll be dustbusting the floor once you’re finished eating dessert.”

Ari grinned, getting crumbs and chocolate everywhere. Thankfully, once we got him wiped up (Yes, it took two adults to clean him up!), he cleaned every last cookie crumb and piece of cauliflower off of the floor.

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food · politics · slice of life

It’s Broken.

“Mommy, look at this cracker and tell me if it’s broken,” Ari commanded.

Playing “Is it broken?” is what happens every time Ari selects cheese and crackers for a morning snack.

I examine the cracker. Chances are it’s broken. It’s usually split in ‘half’ when Ari wants to play this game. But today, I cannot tell.

I venture a guess, declaring, “It’s broken.”

Ari pulls apart the cracker with ease revealing the break. Yet, when I go to take a picture of this — since I decide it’s finally time to write about this silly game, I noticed two pieces of the cracker are still touching. The rest is spread apart.

“Separate it into two parts,” I say to Ari.

Ari keeps the cracker as is. He won’t separate the cracker completely. It’s still joined when I snap the picture.

For some reason, I started thinking about the deeper meaning of the cracker after I took the second photo. In my mind, it reflects the chasm that’s happening as a result of yesterday’s leaked draft opinion that has made many Americans believe that the Supreme Court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade. Many of us have known that something like this was coming just as I had assumed Ari’s cracker was broken. Reading the draft opinion (No, I didn’t read all 98 pages. I’m relying on legal scholars and the journalists who vetted this draft.) that was leaked to Politico makes it as real as seeing Ari’s broken cracker with my own eyes.

Something in this country is broken. Unlike Ari’s cracker, this is not a game. Women’s lives will be at risk if Roe is overturned.

Not sure what to do next? Get to work mobilizing voters. (The Postcards to Swing States project is a great place to begin.) There are 13 primaries coming up this month and lots of important elections coming up this fall. If you’re unsure where to focus your energy, pick Pennsylvania! There’s a vacant senate seat up for grabs plus we have a crucial gubernatorial election in November.

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day trip · siblings · slice of life

Stops & Starts

I’ve dreamed of visiting Holland’s tulip fields in person. Thing is, the chance of me getting to the Netherlands in the next decade is small. (If you know of an international school in the Netherlands looking for a literacy consultant, drop my name to them!) So, I asked my husband if he’d be willing to drive nearly two hours each way to Holland Ridge Farms, which has over eight million tulips blooming each spring. Marc agreed and bought the tickets.

There were lots of kitschy photo props throughout the farm. This one reflects my affinity for tulips. Cheesy? Indeed.

Once Ari got the hang of twisting and pulling the tulips from the earth, he became a zealous tulip picker. Ari wanted red ones for himself, yellow ones for his sitter, and every other color combination for me, Isabelle, and Marc to enjoy. Therefore, Ari picked a LOT of tulips — some of which had to be discarded because he didn’t pull them off properly from the bulb. It was tulip madness!

Isabelle, who is nearly six years older than Ari, wasn’t into his let-me-stop-at-every-tulip-bed-to-pick-another-tulip antics. She grew frustrated with the stopping and starting, especially once we had been at the farm for 90 minutes.

After we bought some drinks, we took some photos. That’s when I made a deal with Isabelle. If she let me grab a few more photos, then we’d head back towards the car. Wisely, she took the deal.

One of the many photos to which I subjected my family. (Ari was INTO it. He even picked a new tulip for the picture!)

The thing is… we didn’t factor in Ari stopping and starting to pick more tulips on the walk back across the 300 acre farm. Isabelle grew irritated with him quickly.

We tried challenging Ari with timers. “Let’s set a five-minute timer,” Marc told him. “When it goes off you can stop to pick another tulip.”

The first time we did that Ari made it 2.5 minutes.

{Cue the exasperated tween.}

Next, I suggested a stopwatch. “This time we’re going to count up using a stopwatch. I want to see how long you can go without stopping to pick any tulips. Just admire them, but keep walking to the car.”

It worked. Ari made it one minute. Then two minutes. Then three minutes. Then four minutes.

Somewhere around four minutes, I must have said something like, “Aren’t those tulips beautiful?” Well, that’s all it took for Ari to run off to pick one of them for me!

Sweet, right?

Sweet for me. Maddening for Isabelle.

It probably took us close to an hour, but we eventually made it to the exit. Somehow, Isabelle survived. In the end, Ari’s stops and starts provided her with an excellent slice of life story. (Click here to read her slice of life story about her little brother’s antics.)

Posing by Red Tulips. (I’m sure he picked a few from this flower bed.)
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siblings · slice of life

Wiggly Tooth

I don’t like looking at wiggly teeth. It creeps me out. Always has. Always will. So imagine how excited I was to watch Ari wiggle his loose tooth back and forth during breakfast.

“Bite into your English muffin with your front teeth,” I suggested.

It didn’t work. After every bite — most of which were on the sides of his mouth — Ari wiggled his tooth, annoyed that it was still in his mouth.

After no action & a good deal of whining, I asked Marc to get the gauze since it was time to try pulling the tooth out. (Yet another thing that creeps me out.)

Marc provided Ari with an apple and told him to bite into it with his front teeth. Ari bit into the apple lightly a few times. Marc used the gauze to check the status of Ari’s loose tooth between apple bites. It didn’t seem to be getting any looser.

Marc attempted to pull out Ari’s tooth, but he was unsuccessful. Losing patience, Ari grabbed the gauze out Marc’s hands and bequeathed it to Isabelle.

Why Isabelle?

Well, Isabelle has experience pulling out teeth. Her own teeth, of course. She has been known to pull her own teeth out long before they were ready. (Like, I’m talking about seeing the root still attached.) I shudder when I think of how many moderately wiggly teeth she managed to extract from her mouth over the years.

Isabelle covered her washed hands with gauze and started to wiggle Ari’s loose tooth back and forth. She set her gaze on Ari’s mouth. Isabelle gave a gentle tug. Ari let out a small grunt. Nothing. She gave another gentle tug. He made another small grunt. Still nothing.

This went on a few more times until finally Isabelle exclaimed, “Did it!” She showed us the tiny tooth while pressing down on Ari’s gum with the gauze.

“Mazel tov,” I called out. (I even played “Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov” on my phone to celebrate.):

Marc peered under the gauze and instructed Ari how to hold it there until the bleeding stopped.

I stood back and beamed with pride at Isabelle who treated her brother in such a loving, gentle way. Then I realized we were entering a new phase in life now that Ari’s first tooth fell out. Both of those thoughts warmed my heart until I realized that our resident tooth puller might become Ari’s official tooth yanker! I cringed. Better than me having to do it, I guess!

Click here to read Isabelle’s version of the story.

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animals · bookstore · slice of life

How did we get another puppy?!!?

“I’m gonna buy the first Elephant & Piggie Treasury when we go to Barnes and Noble,” Ari declared.

We litigated this — yesterday. Why was this even being discussed again!?

I looked at my sweet son and said, firmly, “As I said yesterday, Isabelle has every single Elephant & Piggie book waiting to be given to you as soon as you’re ready for them. You don’t need to buy the first treasury — even if we have the second, third, and fourth treasuries — because we own all of the books that are in it.”

Exhibit A: All of the Elephant & Piggie Books (plus a few extras) are organized in Isabelle’s closet just waiting to be turn-keyed to Ari.

“I want it,” Ari declared.

“But you don’t need it,” I reminded.

“Fine,” Ari whined. “I’ll get something else.”

By something else, I thought Art meant a book. As long as it wasn’t a book he owned, I was determined to say yes. After all, he brought his “spending” envelope of money. (He has a “savings” envelope, which he left at home.)

Suddenly, I heard Ari squeal from a nearby display in the middle of the children’s section. Then, I heard cutesy voices — Ari’s and that of a stuffie he was impersonating — nearby. I rounded the display and saw Ari nuzzling a stuffed Yorkie.

“Oh, he’s so cute. I’m going to buy him and take him home with me.”

“Don’t you have enough stuffed animals?” I asked.

“But I want another puppy,” Ari said snuggling the Yorkie close to him.

“I understand that. But you don’t need another puppy,” I reminded.

That’s when Ari gave me his puppy dog eyes. I remembered saying “no” to the E&P Treasury before we drove to Barnes and Noble.

“Fine,” I said, knowing I was beaten. “If that’s what you want to spend your money on, that’s your choice.”

“It is!” Ari declared.

“Do you know what his name is going to be?” I asked. I mean, I might as well get to know who’d be coming home with us.

“I don’t know…” Ari began.

“Is it a boy or a girl puppy?” I asked.

“Boy,” Ari replied with certainty.

“He needs a good boy name. Not a name like Puppy, Patchy, or Fluffy.”

Leif (📷 taken by Ari)

“How about Leaf?” Ari said.

“Leaf? Leaf isn’t a name.”

“I’m going to call him Leaf,” Ari replied.

Something brought me back to the late 80s when we studied Norse mythology in middle school. “Leif Erickson was the name of a famous explorer. His first name was spelled L-E-I-F. So maybe this puppy spells his name like that.” Was Leif Erickson even a good guy? What was I thinking!?!?!

Ari looked the Yorkie in the eyes and said, “That’s it. I’m going to call you Leif. And you’re coming home with us today. And Mommy’s going to take your tags off. And you’re going to…”

Ari continued and all I could think was that I must have lost my mind for allowing Ari to buy another stuffie (who — we’ve already told Isabelle — is most certainly real).

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homeschool · slice of life · writing

Nurturing a New Slicer

I didn’t think I could talk her into it.

But I nudged her.

Let’s be honest, I strongly encouraged her to give it a try.

So, she thought of a theme (i.e., writing about her life with her little brother). We compromised on the time frame (weekdays in April rather than all 30 days of the month.)

This week, we’ve talked about drafting in Co:Writer. We discussed the importance of her being the first reader of her writing before asking for an edit. We chatted having someone edit for her before going public with her writing. We talked about using Waterlogue instead of posting actual photos. We discussed that I would be the administrator of her blog so that I could work with her to keep her safe online.

As of today, Isabelle has written six blog posts on A Big Sister’s Tales. She is READY to begin the 10th Annual Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge, which begins tomorrow.

I have no idea if this experience will be a transformative month for Isabelle. It’s my hope that she becomes a stronger writer, has a greater desire to publish her writing, and connects with other kids from around the world. And if she gets or receives some comments (Hint, hint!) from some of my adult Slicer friends, well, then that’s a wonderful bonus!

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books · library · slice of life


Imagine my surprise when Ari set his books down at the library’s self-checkout kiosk and we learned his account was suspended because of a fine. And not just a $.50 fine. It was a fine for $7.20!

Soon after Ari got his library card, I noticed he wasn’t as on-top of his borrowed books like Isabelle is. Isabelle or I would notice when a book was here for a while and we’d return it. However, I didn’t realize how tardy he was with his books until he found a book on Somalia in the back seat of the car that I thought had been long returned.

That was a couple of weeks ago. After finding Somalia, Isabelle helped me scour the house for any additional books he had borrowed. The next time we went to the library she dropped whatever she found of his into the book return along with hers returns. I didn’t give it any more thought… until today.

I did the talking once we approached the circulation desk. It seemed Ari had three outstanding books. At 20 cents per day for children’s books (with a maximum fine of $3 per item), Ari had accumulated a $7.20 fine since all of the books were 12 days overdue!

“I’m going to pay the fine for you now, but you’re going to need to pay me back when we get home,” I told him.

I expected Ari to cry since he works hard to earn his allowance each week. Instead he said, “Okay.”

The librarian couldn’t have been nicer about his first fine. She didn’t admonish Ari. She did offer him a printed receipt for the new titles he borrowed. She also gave him an oral reminder of the due date.

Later in the day, I found this waiting on my night table when I got upstairs. I didn’t even have to remind Ari of his debt to me. He just paid it.

Sure enough, Ari repaid me with a five, two ones, and two dimes. I’m sure this stung, but I am quite certain he learned a valuable lesson at the tender age of five-and-a-half.

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handwriting · slice of life · vocabulary development

My name is not Mommy.

“Before we learn w, let’s practice the last slanted lowercase letter we learned: y,” I declared.

“But I already know how to write a lowercase y. See?”

Ari crammed a lowercase y between the midline and the baseline. Without an audible I-told-you-so, I modeled the way the slant-right went from the midline to the baseline and then the slant-left went below the baseline.

“Oh yeah!” he said remembering. He proceeded to print lowercase y several times on his dry-erase board.

“W, next!” he said.

“Not so fast. I’d like to practice writing some words with a lowercase y. Now, your name doesn’t have a lowercase y in it, but my first name does. It may not sound like a y is at the end of it, but there is.”


“Do you know what my first name is?”

Ari stared at me blankly. Then his face lit up, “Shubitz!”

Yes, I did make him write my name afterward!

“That’s my last name. What’s my first name?” I asked.

“Schaefer,” he replied.

“That’s your last name. What’s my first name?”

“Mommy?” he said.

MOMMY!?!??! This kid knows my cell phone number. he knows our address. I spent so much time teaching him these things — and making sure he knew my last name was different than his — that I didn’t realize he didn’t know my first name!

“It’s Stacey,” I replied. I wrote it on my dry-erase board and showed him, letter-by-letter, how to spell my first name.

“Oh, yeah! I knew that.

Nice try, but you didn’t, kiddo.

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fashion · raising boys · slice of life

A Green Suit

“There’s a problem with the clothes Ari picked out for tomorrow,” Marc warned me last night just before bedtime.

I looked on Ari’s chair. It was a sea of Kelly green. In other words, “He’s planning to dress like a frog.”

Marc nodded.

“It’s fine. He’ll at home all day tomorrow,” I replied.

I decided not to say anything to Ari about it. I pick my battles when he’s going out in public.

This morning, I was putting on makeup when Ari legitimately hopped into my bedroom clad in Kelly green sweatpants and a Kelly green and gray baseball tee.

“What’s going on?” I inquired.

“I’m a frog in my green suit,” Ari replied.

A photo of “the green suit” later in the day.

“I see that!”

“Ribbit!” He paused. Then, out of nowhere, Ari declared, “I am also a pear! Nomnomnomnomnom. Juicy!”

At that, I burst out laughing. While I know he’s heard us refer to all all-green outfit as frog clothes, he’s never called it a green suit or referred to himself as a pear. That was brand new and quite adorable.

A few minutes later, I was brushing Ari’s hair when he said, “And if I wore all red, I’d be a tomato or a strawberry.”

“You don’t like tomatoes. But a strawberry would be on-brand for you.”

“What does on-brand mean?”

“It means it would fit exactly with who you are since you eat a lot of strawberries.”

“Yeah, I do.”

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