Join me on my journey to raise my children to read the word and read the world.
Author: Stacey Shubitz
I am a literacy consultant who focuses on writing workshop. I've been working with K-6 teachers and students since 2009. Prior to that, I was a fourth and fifth-grade teacher in New York City and Rhode Island.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).
I live in Central Pennsylvania with my husband and children. In my free time, I enjoy swimming, doing Pilates, cooking, baking, making ice cream, and reading novels.
The final day of my kids’ long weekend was bookended with medical appointments, so there wasn’t much time for fun. After the first appointment, the kids and I walked around the trails and enjoyed the playground in Long’s Park. I needed to grab seedless grapes and Lestoil (Thanks, Linda!). The kids were hungry, so we decided to pick up lunch.
Isabelle decided she wanted a turkey sandwich. “You could go with Ari,” Isabelle told me. (He wanted chicken tenders.)
I walked to the next station to order Ari’s chicken tenders. I glanced back at Isabelle, who was standing at the sandwich shop. “Don’t look at me,” she said.
That’s when I got a hint there might be an issue, but I stayed with Ari. A few minutes later, Isabelle glided toward us with a large brown sandwich sleeve.
“What is that?” I asked Isabelle.
“My sandwich,” she said, nonplussed.
“It’s huge! Tell me you weren’t planning to eat that whole thing.”
“I think I will,” she said.
“You’re not a 300-lb. linebacker. You’re a 12-year-old girl!”
“So? Your father sometimes buys turkey sandwiches like this. He eats it over two days. TWO DAYS! You’re not eating all of that for lunch.”
“You’ll eat half today and take the other half to school tomorrow.
Isabelle ate half of the sandwich for lunch. Once she finished, she declared, “Maybe I’m a little bit full.”
“Can you buy me a whale shirt?” Ari asked a couple of months ago.
“A whale shirt?” I asked.
“Yeah, I want a whale shirt. Nicholas (name changed) always wears shirts with whales on the back. I want a shirt like that.”
“A whale on the back? What do you mean?” I asked.
“It’s got a whale on the back and front, too. But the one on the front is smaller.” Ari replied.
Suddenly, it clicked. He wanted a Vineyard Vines t-shirt.
Now here’s the thing about Ari… he’s a messy eater. I’ve perfected removing stains from his clothes through the years. Thanks to Wash Away stain remover, I can eradicate nearly every stain. However, being in school has presented new challenges. For instance, Wash Away will not remove the dry-erase marker stains that seem to find their way to Ari’s clothing. While I try to buy nice clothes for Ari, purchasing a Vineyard Vines t-shirt for him feels too extravagant.
But, from Ari’s perspective, asking for a “whale shirt” is akin to my desire for Guess jeans with the upside-down white triangular tag that sported a question mark I wanted to wear in the 1980s. Similarly, I still remember my mom taking me to the Benetton store, where I tried on clothes that were too baggy and expensive for any fifth grader. Somehow, I convinced my mom to buy me a rugby and a sweater. I wore both for a few years since I knew Benetton = Cool. (It helped that I didn’t grow much after my mom purchased it for me.) While Isabelle isn’t into fashion or labels, this conversation showed me that Ari was paying attention to them. Alas, I invoked his clothing-staining prowess and the too-high price of a “whale shirt” as my way of saying no.
Our Friday afternoon trip to Valley Forge National Historical Park was cut short since it began to rain. King of Prussia Mall is nearby, so I took the kids to the mall to look for clothes for Ari to wear to Isabelle’s Bat Mitzvah. I took the kids to Vineyard Vines since I knew they were having a sale on some boys’ clothing.
Ari bee-lined to the table of neatly folded whale t-shirts, grabbed the top shirt, and foisted it upon me. “I want to buy this,” he declared.
“That’s a size 2T. You’re a size 7.”
Ari ran back to the table, dug until he found a size 7, and said, “Let’s buy this one.”
“You don’t even know if it fits,” I replied.
“It’ll fit. It’s a 7.”
“But we don’t know for sure.”
“I want it.”
“I know you want it, but you need a dressier shirt for your sister’s Bat Mitzvah. I’m going to look for that. Feel free to browse around,” I said.
I attempted to look for blue shirts in Ari’s size. Every minute or so, he returned to me with another whale shirt.
“Find a whale shirt with a sale tag, and you can try it on once we go to the dressing room.”
Peace fell upon me once I sent Ari to look for a less expensive whale shirt.
Several minutes passed. It was time for us to head into the fitting room. Several whale t-shirts made it in, but only one was in the “keep” pile.
The checkout process took time. My ability to get on the road to the Pennsy Pike by 4:00 p.m. was drifting away since the store needed the colors I wanted in the sizes I needed. The salespeople were going to an “off-site” location to find the colors and sizes I needed. Two trips yielded moderate success. Then, the store began having computer trouble.
I should’ve written down what I needed, paid for what I had the right sizes/colors of, and gotten myself home. But, no, I opted to wait it out.
Isabelle was unhappy, but she colored quietly on a chair. On the other hand, Ari began saying, “I want to go to one more store after this. One more store.”
Every time this happened, I explained that we needed to get home for dinner, that I didn’t want to sit in traffic, and that I was tired and had no more energy to shop. But Ari didn’t have it. He persisted. He was relentless in asking to go to one more store.
Finally, in a moment of weakness, I said, “Do you see that orange whale shirt over there?” (Orange is his favorite color.) “It can be yours if you stop whining at me. If you accept that we’re heading straight home once this transaction is complete, I will buy you that shirt.”
“Okay!” Ari said as he rushed towards the table, found a size 7, and handed it to me. I looked at the price tag, horrified by what I agreed to.
“Now remember, you will not bother me about going to another store. You need to sit with Isabelle and color. If you don’t do that, this whale shirt stays here.”
What do you think he did?
Ari got dressed for Hebrew school, marched downstairs, and declared, “I have a problem.”
I saw him standing with the whale shirt on, but the cuffs ran past his fingertips.
“You could save the shirt and wear it in the fall when you get bigger,”I offered.
“I want to wear it now. What if I roll the sleeves up?” Ari asked.
Ari won. I hope he keeps his “whale shirt” clean.
Ari’s trouble with his too-big whale shirt was beginning to feel like the baggy Benetton situation I experienced as a kid. In Ari’s mind Vineyard Vines = Cool.
“That doesn’t look good. So you have a choice: push the cuffs over your wrists to expose your hands or save the shirt for the fall. The choice is yours.
Ari selected option A. So, he went to Hebrew school in his “whale shirt.” That orange “whale shirt” represents my lack of common sense to buy clothing that stays within our budget, eclipsed by my desire to stay calm as a parent.
This morning, the kids and I met Lynne and Ralph for brunch. (Yes, you can do brunch on a weekday!) Afterward, we drove to Valley Forge National Historical Park, where the Continental Army encamped from December 1777 to June 1778. After a stop at the Visitors Center, we walked Muhlenberg’s Brigade, the “site of the encampment of troops led by Brigadier General Peter Muhlenberg during the winter of 1777-78. Today the area consists of nine reconstructed log soldiers’ huts facing a gravel company street.”
We entered the first log hut, which Ari said: “wouldn’t be that warm in the winter.” It was filled with placards I read to the kids. In the next hut, we saw bunks that were “horrible beds,” according to Isabelle. A hut or two later, we discovered an officer’s hut, which the kids felt was nicer since it had mattresses, blankets, and a table. This allowed us to discuss the difference in accommodations between officers and soldiers.
The final hut we came upon had twelve wooden bunks. The kids couldn’t believe 12 soldiers (and possibly the soldiers’ families) would be cramped in that space. The kids were unimpressed with the soldiers’ accommodations at Valley Forge. That’s when I looked at them and asked, “What were you expecting, the Marriott Marquis?!” That garnered a chuckle from both of them.
Unfortunately, it began to rain, so we could not walk around Washington’s Headquarters. We plan to return in several weeks (since Valley Forge isn’t far from our house) to check it out. Visiting historical sites like this reminds us of what many people sacrificed to fight for our independence in the late 1700s.
BACKGROUND: Isabelle had a medical appointment this afternoon. Unfortunately, Ari had to come along since both kids had an early dismissal. Isabelle and Ari ate snacks on the drive to the appointment.
ONTO THE STORY:
Ari was bored AND hungry by the time Isabelle’s appointment ended. “Let’s go out to eat!” he said. Ari long-pressed the home button on his iPad and said, “food near me,” to Siri.
Siri returned locations in Lancaster. The thing is, we were a half-hour west of our house. In his hangry state, Ari began yelling commands at Siri, such as “Find me restaurants near me,” “Snack bars by me,” and “Starbucks near me.” Nothing, nothing, and nothing.
“Why don’t we go out for dinner?” Isabelle asked.
“A, it’s a weeknight. B, we’re going to brunch with Lynne and Ralph tomorrow.”
“But we never go out to eat at night!” she complained.
“It’s. A. Weeknight.”
Isabelle must’ve understood she wasn’t going to get me to budge so she stopped complaining.
As we walked out of the office, Ari said, “Where can we go out to eat?”
“I know a place in Lititz where we can have dinner. Tonight is breakfast for dinner night,” I told Ari.
“How long will it take to get there?” Ari inquired.
“About a half hour,” I replied.
“What’s it called?” Ari asked.
“Mom’s Kitchen,” I replied with a straight face.
“Is it good?” Ari asked.
“Yes, the food is excellent. Mom’s Kitchen has a fully stocked kitchen, a great pantry, and a chef who loves cooking for people,” I answered.
“And we’re going there now?” Ari asked.
“Right now,” I replied.
Somewhere on the highway, as we got closer to home, Ari asked, “How much longer until we get to Mom’s Kitchen?”
I peered down at the GPS. “About 11 minutes.” No, that wasn’t right. I looked again. “Oh, 11 miles, 20 minutes.”
Ari took in the information and compared it with the GPS. “Is Mom’s Kitchen our house?!”
“It is!” Ari said.
“But you said…” Ari groaned. He must’ve realized he was defeated.
“Sorry, dude,” I said. “The good news is that tonight is breakfast for dinner!”
After a rough start to our morning, I finally had the time to apply some makeup. Ari didn’t want to work on his leprechaun trap, nor did he want to do anything independently. Instead, he took unflattering videos of me while I was getting ready. (He’s done this before.) Every time he finished one, he returned my phone and played it. Most of them were in slow motion, and they were horrible.
You know the phrase, “You can’t fight city hall?” Well, that’s how I felt about Ari taking my phone this morning. I needed to prepare for the day, and he needed something to do. So I continued to allow him to use my phone, which was otherwise locked down.
Here are three outtakes from this morning:
The angles are unflattering.
Apparently, Ari thought my earrings were born so he grabbed me two new choices because, “you always wear hoops, Mommy.”
BUT — I decided to write it since one day I know teenage Ari won’t want to be anywhere near me when I get ready in the mornings. Therefore, I am preserving this morning memory since — as Jess Carey reminded me — our children are growing up quickly.
“Do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?” Ari asked me as he settled into the car after school.
“Not really,” I said.
“Why not?” he asked.
“I celebrated St. Patrick’s when I lived in New York City. My friends and I would go to a bar, watch the parade, or both.”
Why was I telling my six-year-old that I went to a bar?!
“But do WE celebrate it?” He asked.
“It’s not a Jewish holiday. And we’re not Irish. It’s fine if you want to enjoy St. Patty’s Day celebrations with your friends at school. It falls into the same category as Halloween and Valentine’s Day. We can enjoy and celebrate it, but it isn’t our holiday.”
This permission led to Ari talking a mile a minute about leprechauns, breakout boxes, and St. Patrick’s Day. I couldn’t follow much of what he was saying. However, as soon as he finished his snack, he set off around the house looking for items for his leprechaun trap.
Last week was the first I had ever heard of a leprechaun trap. Ari’s teacher sent home a letter asking for a shoe box and other items for the kids’ leprechaun traps. I sent in the requested items without giving them much more thought. But now, my kid with the Hebrew first name decided he needed to build a home-leprechaun trap.
Dutiful parents that we are, Marc and I googled leprechaun traps to arm ourselves with some knowledge so we could help Ari.
As we learned more, I asked Marc, “Does Ari think a leprechaun will visit our Jewish house between March 16th and 17th? Because I’ve gotta tell you, that’s a bit more than I’m willing to do.” Marc chuckled.
Alas, we continued to help Ari gather the items he needed to build a leprechaun trap.
I thought we’d be building a leprechaun trap after dinner UNTIL Marc mentioned we needed to work on our NCAA Brackets before tonight’s game. (Way to give me notice! I like to do a little research before filling out my bracket.)
Ari overheard that Marc and I have a “betting” situation with the brackets. He got excited and wanted to complete a bracket of his own so that he could compete against Isabelle. After some discussion, the kids decided that if Ari had more points than Isabelle at the end of the NCAA Tournament, we’d go to Rice and Noodles as a family. If Isabelle has more points than Ari, we’ll dine at Green Eggs Cafe as a family. (Neither child likes the other person’s choice of restaurants.)
Next came the bracket creation. Neither Isabelle nor ARi has completed one before, so we helped them. Ari and I worked together while Marc assisted Isabelle. Many of Ari’s picks revolved around states he likes. (As you’ll see from Ari’s bracket, he’s a big fan of the State of Kansas. I have no idea why since he hasn’t been there.)
Once everyone finished their brackets, I photographed all of them. (Isabelle’s and Marc’s brackets are similar. Mine is probably the riskiest, but that’s how I roll.) I explained to Ari that he was not allowed to change his bracket, even though he wrote it in pencil, since what we wrote down tonight sticks.
Ari was so into March Madness that he started watching the Texas A&M-CC vs. Southeast Missouri State game. Ari began to yell at the TV when he saw Southeast Missouri State beating Texas A&M-CC, which he chose. Dear Lord!
Did you know sixth graders (and all middle schoolers, while we’re at it) are impervious to the cold?
They’re not, but my daughter likes to think she is. She refuses to wear a hat unless it’s below 20 degrees. Scarf? Same thing as the hat. She usually wears gloves, but not today. Why? Because she’s 12.
Here’s the scene from this morning while we were waiting for her bus to pick her up:
Me: (notices nothing poking out of pockets) Do you have gloves?
Me: Why not?
Isabelle: They’re in my other coat.
Me: You have time to go and get them.
Isabelle: I don’t need them.
Me: Yes, you do.
Isabelle: I don’t.
Me: Your hands will be freezing at recess.
Isabelle: I’ll be fine.
Me: You should really take your gloves.
Isabelle: I’ll. Be. Fine.
Me: (pulls up weather report on phone) It doesn’t look too warm around the time you’re going to recess. I guess you’ll decide if you need to wear gloves tomorrow.
Isabelle: I really don’t need them.
Me: Let me see your hands. (snaps photo) I bet your hands will be dry tonight. So dry that you’ll need Aquaphor.
I didn’t have time to play games this morning. (Thanks, Daylight Savings Time.) That’s when I announced, “If you don’t tell me what you’d like to eat, then you’ll either have to make it yourself or be hungry at Hebrew school. It’s your choice.”
A few minutes later, Ari plodded into the kitchen while I was adding six Splendas (Don’t judge.) to my coffee. He opened the fridge, stood on his tippy toes, and attempted to grab the gallon of chocolate milk.
“You can ask for help,” I told him. “It’s hard to reach all of the way back there when you’re a kid.”
“Thanks,” he mumbled as I handed over the gallon to him. Too bad he’s too young for coffee.
“Do you need a plate?” I asked, ignoring his rudeness.
“Yes,” Ari replied.
I retreived a plate from the cabinet. Then, Ari got to work fixing his breakfast.
“Do we have any lox left?” Ari asked.
Lox on an English muffin?! Yuck. But he’s making his breakfast, so who am I to judge.
“We have some of the good lox Bubbe and Zayde brought last weekend. Would you like me to get it for you?”
“Yes!” Ari replied brightly.
My desire to not have my counter covered in fish oil comes before the pleasure of watching Ari make his own breakfast. Therefore, I put the package of lox onto a plate before opening it. I placed two slices on the plate. Then I returned the package to the fridge.
Ari placed his cup of chocolate milk, plate with the English muffin with lox, and a napkin on his placemat. He sat down and began eating.
I kept my laughter as I pondered: How many six-year-old American kids crave smoked fish for breakfast?!
I HATE being late. I DETEST rushing. If REFUSE to be late when it comes to picking up my children.
I felt the blood drain out of my face when I attempted to feed the meter on the parking app about 18 minutes before my children’s art class ended, only to find that I couldn’t extend my parking time on the app! Either I’d have to get a ticket or move my car. I was FURIOUS because I had been sitting in the building’s lobby for nearly two hours when I realized I couldn’t feed the meter. And here I was with 20 minutes to spare before they would be dismissed from their classes!
I packed everything strewn across the table and marched out of the building. I power walked to my car, which was parked diagonally across the street from where I was sitting. I reopened my side mirror, snapped a screenshot of the abomination I was viewing on the app, and thought about where else I could park quickly so I could return by noon.
I didn’t grow up in Lancaster, PA. I grew up in the NY Metropolitan Area. We went to Manhattan or Brooklyn most weekends when I was a kid. I remember plenty of meter feeding so we wouldn’t get a parking ticket from parking enforcement. (We’d only move the car if the tires were marked!) Now that we live in the days of digital parking apps and parking enforcement that uses technology, it seems that meter-feeding is a thing of the past.
I had two nearby choices: the Hager Lot or the Prince Street Garage. Seeing as Prince Street was jammed up since Saturday is a Market Day, I put on my signal and pulled into the Prince Street Garage. (Little known fact: I dislike parking garages.)
I walked out the wrong exit from the garage onto Orange Street, rather than onto Prince Street, which gave me an extra block to walk back to my destination. Expletives were rolling around in my head since I was worried I wouldn’t make it back on time. I HUSTLED on the sidewalks saying, “excuse me,” to anyone I passed. (I may have a NY mentality when it comes to feeding the meter, but I walk through life here with Pennsylvania politeness.)
I reached for the door to the school and discovered a line about ten adults deep. “Are you waiting to pick your kid up from class?” I asked the lady in front of me.
“Yeah, but the kids are downstairs yet.”
I peered down at my watch and was greeted with both hands on the 12. THANK. THE. LORD.
This evening, I googled “feeding the meter” and found a WNYC piece on meter feeding. While I used to think feeding the meter wasn’t a big deal because one was paying to park, I now understand there’s an allotted time limit. You cannot stay in that area (be it a large zone like we have around Central Market in Lancaster or on a city street in Manhattan) past the time limit. Quite frankly, I think it’s preposterous to make it impossible to buy more time — even 15 minutes extra — on a parking app. However, a rule is a rule… and I’m a rule follower. Next time, I’m heading straight to a parking lot (not the parking garage)!