animals · slice of life

A Debbie Kind of Morning

Lynne Dorfman spoils my kids. There, I said it.

Over the past few years that Lynne and I have been writing partners, she has graciously sent Isabelle and Ari presents for birthdays, holidays, and sometimes for no reason at all. She’s given them books, signs, and blankets. But some of the most beloved presents have been the stuffed animals.

Lynne buys the best stuffed animals. Seriously, I dare you to compete with her on this front!

This morning, I was packing Ari a snack. He insisted on having “one pretzel” while I prepared his snack. But that wasn’t all. “Debbie need a pretzel too!”

Do you know who Debbie is? She’s a stuffed ostrich! Lynne gave the ostrich to Isabelle, but Ari adored it so Isabelle bequeathed the ostrich to Ari.

And now, Debbie eats pretzels. (Well, she pretends to eat pretzels. Ari made munching sounds for Debbie and then popped the pretzel in his mouth.)

I needed to take Ari upstairs to brush his teeth before leaving the house. Ari had other plans. He decided to sit with Debbie.

“Do you want me to take your picture with Debbie before we brush teeth?” I asked keeping an eye on the time.

Of course, Ari had another idea. Instead of taking a photo with Debbie, Ari insisted on gathering some of his favorite stuffed animals (All purchased by Lynne, of course!) for a group photo.

Clockwise from bottom left: Debby, Quincy, Ari, Bunny, and Puppy. (The last two need better names!)

Once the photo shoot was over, Ari agreed to brush his teeth. I’ll give you one guess who came along…

Debbie and Ari climb the stairs.
animals · pretend play · slice of life

Feeding the Puppy

We will never have a dog in this house. Quite frankly, I’d love to have a Golden Retriever. However, with asthma and allergies (Yes, I know there are shots available for people with pet allergies. Yes, I endured them for nearly five years — in addition to shots for pollen, trees, etc. No, the shots didn’t work… not even a little bit.), a dog will never be in my future. Not even a “hypo-allergenic” one. I’m convinced hypo-allergenic dogs only work if you’re mildly allergic. I am not mildly allergic.

Puppy gets the royal feeding treatment from Ari.

Muttsy (aka: Puppy) is the closest our home will ever come to having a Golden Retriever in it. (There are actually two Muttsy dogs living in our house, but that’s a story for another time.) Ari adores both of his puppy dogs. Initially one was known as “Upstairs Puppy” and the other as “Downstairs Puppy.” However, he now sleeps with both dogs every night, carries them downstairs in the morning, brings them back upstairs for naptime, and so on.

I came home around 5:15 p.m. I walked into the kitchen and was greeted by Ari and one of the puppies. He declared, “I wanna feed Puppy!”

“What’s he going to eat?” I asked, playing along.

“Ummm… peanut butter!” Ari declared.

“Oh, I like peanut butter,” I replied.

“Me too,” Ari giggled. “I put Puppy in high chair.”

Ari carried his puppy to his booster seat, clipped him in, and declared, “He needs a bib!”

I looked around the kitchen and found a bib. “Here you go,” I told his stuffie as I placed a bib around its neck.

“He needs a tray!” Ari said.

I walked over to the drying rack, grabbed the tray, and clicked it into place on the booster seat. Then I asked Ari, “Does he need a spoon?”

Ari’s eyes widened. “Yessss!”

I grabbed him a baby spoon. Then I brought over Ari’s water bottle. “Does he need water too?” I asked.

“Yessss!” Ari replied.

Ari began feeding and hydrating Puppy. Puppy even got kisses from Ari between his peanut-buttery spoonfuls. Lucky Puppy!

animals · CONVERSATIONS · slice of life


Every night, my husband or I place Ari’s all but one of his stuffed animals in the four corners of his crib. [Muttsy (aka: Upstairs Puppy)] has been tucked under his arm for months now!] For the past week, Ari has been rearranging his animals as soon as I lay him down in his crib. It starts out like a roll call:

“Puppy? Baby? London?”

Then it evolves into Ari scurrying to the four corners of his crib to gather all of the animals. Initially, he tried to place them all under his arms. After a night or two of being unsuccessful at that, Ari placed the crib crew in a heap and collapsed on top of them like a concert-goer jumping into a mosh pit.

Look how much extra space is in that crib! (BTW: Poor Muttsy is shoved over all the way to the left in this photo!)

Tonight, after Ari took the initial roll call, he started saying, “Everybody! Everybody! Come here!”

I laughed. “May I turn on the light and take a picture of you with your animals?”

“Every-BODY!” he corrected.

“May I take a picture of you and everybody?” I replied.

He grinned a goofy-baby grin at me which implied his consent. I turned on the light and snapped a few pics.

“Light off!” he commanded.

I walked across the room, shut off the light switch, walked over to the crib, closed the gate, and said, “good night.”

“G’night, g’night, g’night!” he replied. “I luh-ooo.”

“I love you too,” I said.

slice of life_individual
Head over to on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.

animals · slice of life

Big Teddy Sends His Love

Isabelle adores stuffed animals. She tucks a shabby-tan bear nearly everywhere she goes.  Each morning, when my husband leaves for work, she sends him on his way with a stuffed animal and pretend food for the two of them to share while he’s at work. She wants a stuffed animal to accompany him to work to assist to “help kids feel better.”  (Truth be told he keeps the stuffed animal in the back seat of the car, but she thinks they go inside with him.) This little tradition began in early July and has shown no signs of stopping.

I haven’t been away from Isabelle for more than a few hours since late June when I attended the TCRWP Summer Writing Institute. When she heard I was going to the Highlights Foundation to work on my writing for a few days she insisted that I take a stuffed animal with me.  I tried to decline her lovely offer (What if someone saw me bring a teddy bear? Would they think I was sleeping with it!??!), but she was persistent.

“Who do you want me to take?” I asked.

Big Teddy at Highlights
Big Teddy at Highlights

Her eyes scanned the room and settled on one bear in particular. “Take Big Teddy.”

“You know, Big Teddy used to be my teddy bear*. What’s Big Teddy going to do?”

“Help you write,” she said slowly.

“Oh, okay. I’m sure I could use some help with writing since I’m revising a story called ‘Missing Teddy.'”

“Share pens with Big Teddy,” Isabelle said.

“I should share pens with him?” I asked.

Isabelle nodded.  I like that she thinks writers use pens!

“Okay, I’ll share pens with him.”

Before I left (which was carried out of two long hours of Isabelle sobbing on-and-off), she kissed both of us good-bye several times.

On Sunday night, since I knew she was still missing us, I wrote her a letter and sent her some pictures of Big Teddy working here at Highlights.  I hope she enjoyed the note and the photos since I felt kinda silly taking all of those photos. (Initially I planned on keeping Big Teddy in the car, but couldn’t resist the chance to take some writing pics of him.)  Oh, the things we do for our children, right?



So, that was last night. This afternoon I called my in-laws, who are watching Isabelle while I’m away. I asked my mother-in-law what Isabelle thought of the photos and the message.  I figured she’d be excited.  BUT… my mother-in-law was straight with me, which I appreciated.  Isabelle was not impressed. (I could imagine her making McKayla Maroney’s signature facial expression from the 2012 Olympics.) Oh well! At least I tried!

*= Back in the day, Big Teddy was named Koach, which means strength in Hebrew. That was too hard for Isabelle to say so she nicknamed him Big Teddy.


Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.

animals · Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday #3


animals · book stack · picture books

Our Hurricane Sandy Book Stack

This meme was started by Sheila at Book Journey and the kids’ version has been adapted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.

I am hoping, as most East Coasters are, that the power will not go out.  The winds are gusting outside of my house.  The trees in our backyard are swaying back and forth.  I cannot decide what is scarier: looking at those trees or watching The Weather Channel.  Therefore, I decided to gather up a sleuth of new picture books to share with Isabelle if and when the lights go out.  (Let’s be honest, I will share them with her if the power stays on too!  That would certainly make for a better picture-viewing experience, wouldn’t it?)

It is possible (though unlikely based on current weather predictions) that we will get some snow.  Therefore, Cold Snap written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Random House, 2012), will be added to our Hurricane Sandy book stack.  While this book is about snow and we’re currently experiencing high winds and rain, the cold snap in the book takes place over an elongated period of time (kind of like this Frankenstorm).  While Hurricane Sandy is the October Surprise for the Presidential Election, the book refers to a winter surprise.  While these parallels are too sophisticated for my toddler to understand, I figured I’d mention them.  Also, there’s an adorable recipe for Miss Dove’s Sugar-on-Snow Candy at the back of the book.  While I doubt we’ll be able to make it this week, Isabelle and I can certainly revisit this book and the recipe once a true cold snap hits here in the months to come.

Max and Ruby’s Treasure Hunt (Penguin, 2012) by Rosemary Wells has lift-the-flap clues that I know Isabelle will enjoy! I haven’t read it yet, so we’ll experience it together for the first time.

Benji Davies, who is the creator of the Bizzy Bear books Isabelle likes so much, is the illustrator of Railroad Hank (Random House, 2012), which was written by Lisa Moser.  Isabelle is very into vehicles right now.  She likes to look at them on the road, in the air, or on the tracks.  Therefore, I know she’ll get a kick out of this book, which has great onomatopoeia, which will make it even more fun to read aloud to her!

The Tooth Mouse (KidsCan Press, 2012) is a sweet picture book written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Janice Nadeau.  It is a fable about the French version of the Tooth Fairy.  While Isabelle is in the process of getting her two year-old molars, rather than loosing teeth, I think she’ll love this adorable story, which has delightful illustrations of mice.  Plus, there are lots of French words and expressions throughout the text, so it gives me a wonderful opportunity to expose her to some the foreign language I studied for years.

Of course, we’ll read lots of favorite board books and picture books too!  But these are three new ones which I’m almost positive will delight my little one’s eyes (even if they’re by the light of a battery-operated lantern).

animals · book stack · maine · picture books

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

This meme was started by Sheila at Book Journey and the kids’ version has been adapted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.

While we were in Maine we got together with Zsofi and her family. They kindly brought a picture book, Counting Our Way to Maine by Maggie Smith, for Isabelle.  It’s an adorable counting book that goes to 20!  (It’s hard to find a counting book for young children that goes past ten.  I have no idea why this is the case, but I love it when books reach further.)  Counting Our Way to Maine (Down East Books) is the story of a family who packs up the entire family for a low-key vacation (like ours) in Maine.  Their trip resembles ours: seven ice creams are eaten, eleven sand castles are built, fourteen buoys are seen bobbing on the waves.  The language is rich and specific and the illustrations are incredibly detailed.  I got so much joy reading it aloud to Isabelle since it is about a place I love.  I’m sure this will be a book we revisit again and again since this was the third consecutive summer we vacationed in Ogunquit, Maine.

We arrived home from our trip to Ogunquit this past Saturday evening.  Although our U.S. Mail won’t be delivered until later today (Gotta love the Hold Mail Service!), our neighbor kindly collected the packages that arrived on our doorstep while we were in Maine.  Quite a few of the packages contained review copies of picture books I will consider featuring as mentor texts on Two Writing Teachers this fall.  A couple of them found their way into our laps as we read to Isabelle that night: Olive and the Big Secret by Tor Freeman and Bears in Beds by Shirley Parenteau.  Both of these books will be released on August 14th by Templar and Candlewick, respectively.

First, my husband read Olive and the Big Secretto Isabelle as she sat in his lap.  It’s an adorable story that reflects the importance of holding a secret close to you once you learn of it.  I can imagine this will be a book I return to again and again as I teach Isabelle the importance of trust between friends (and family).

Second, I read Bears in Beds to Isabelle.  The characters in this book are the same as the ones from Bears in Chairs, which is one of the board books we keep in a basket in her bedroom.  This book is all about the bears and bedtime.  The bears snuggle, tumble, and sleep.  It’s written in rhyme, which makes it engaging for young ears.

animals · book stack · picture books · universal themes

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

This meme was started by Sheila at Book Journey and the kids’ version has been adapted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.

Two new picture books have found their way into our book stack, which includes lots of board books, in the past week.  They are Foxy by Emma Dodd (HarperCollins, 2012) and Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket by Tatyana Feeney (Knopf, 2012).

Foxy initially caught my eye since the title of the book is the same as my neighbor’s son’s nickname.  In fact, since he’s six years old, I lent him my copy before I even read it to see what he thought of this first-day-of-school-jitters tale.  He liked it and was able to read it aloud smoothly and independently.  Once he returned it, I liked Foxy since Foxy is a magician whose magic tricks to help little Emily get ready for the first day of school sometimes go awry.  In addition, the message Foxy sends to nervous Emily is that making new friends (at school) doesn’t involve magic.  That’s the kind of reassurance all kids need.  Essentially, it’s a way of reminding kids to just “be yourself, always.”  (That’s a little advice one of my elementary school teachers wrote in my fourth grade yearbook.  It’s stuck with me for a long time!)

This is one books I know I will read to my daughter when she prepares to start pre-school, Kindergarten, and even first grade.  So why read it to Isabelle now?  Well, it’s simple.  The illustrations are fabulous!

Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket is one of those stories with universal appeal.  It’s the story about a young bunny who has a blankie that is dirty and needs a washing.  Have you ever waited for something you needed to go through the washer and dryer?  You know when it seems to take an eternity to get an item back that you need.  Well, that’s what this book is about, but it’s from a child’s (or rather a young bunny’s) perspective.  It’s a well-written, simple story that will spark personal connections and empathy with the main character.

animals · book stack · picture books

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

This meme was started by Sheila at Book Journey and the kids’ version has been adapted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.

I’ve been grading my grad students’ craft tables, which is a project that carries the most weight for the class.  Craft tables are a way to organize one’s thinking about a book that will be used as a mentor text.  Craft tables are three columns.  The left column includes the craft move (aka: buzz word).  The middle column states the pages where the craft move can be found in the text (if it’s not paginated, then students do it themselves).  The right column includes an explanation of the craft move (in other words: why the author might be writing in a particular way).  Craft moves are a teacher’s way of developing theories about why authors wrote books in particular ways.  Since we cannot get inside of a writer’s head, we have to hypothesize why authors wrote in a particular way so we can help students write in similar ways. In order to explain a craft move to a child well, one needs to avoid jargon.   Hence, craft moves are a great way for teachers to think through the “why” behind the writing.

Some of my students are early childhood teachers who selected books I never used with my upper elementary students in writing workshop.  Three of the books they used, which I’ve had the pleasure to read closely and examine are:
  • Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by G. Brian Karas
    • I heard Candace Fleming speak about this book during her presentation at NCTE in 2011.  I’m so glad I finally had a chance to read it, especially since we have some rabbits who like to visit our backyard, despite the fence.
  • Old Bearby Kevin Henkes
    • This one is available as a board book.  Can you say “Amazon Wish List?”
  • We’re Going on a Bear Huntwritten by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
    • I found a YouTube video of Michael Rosen performing the story.  Check it out by clicking on this link:  Michael Rosen and Bear Hunt.
I borrowed copies of these books from the library and am excited to share these books with Isabelle this week.  But first, I will finish my grading!
animals · book stack · lift the flap books · new york · picture books

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

This meme was started by Sheila at Book Journey and the kids’ version has been adapted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.

This is my first What Are You Reading? post.  I’m excited to be a part of this wonderful meme!  I’ve already a a book, Beach Feet recommended by Betsy, to my Amazon Wish List.  I’m sure there will be many other great recommendations other bloggers have written about today!

Isabelle and I read lots of board books together, but since I’m a picture book lover, I make sure to read her at least one picture book a day.  Take a peek at some of the treasures that were in our book stack last week:

We continue to love Micah Player’s Chloe, instead.  Isabelle and Chloe have a lot in common (though Isabelle doesn’t have an older sibling).  I giggle whenever I see some of the things Chloe does to her older sister Molly since Isabelle does a lot of the same kinds of things (e.g., putting a crayon in her mouth, getting a little too excited about a book, etc.).  Molly expected to have a sister just like her, but she got Chloe instead.  I expected to have a daughter who was just like me, but I got someone who is very daring and full of boundless energy instead.  And you know what?  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Besides, do I really need a mini-me?

If you want to learn more about Chloe, instead be sure to check out my interview with Micah Player, which I shared on Two Writing Teachers last month.

Another book in our picture book stack is Nicola Davies’s What Will I Be?  The pages are a bit sturdier than a typical picture book, which is great since it’s interactive.  One reads a a page that provides a written and illustrated clue and then asks “What will I be?”  Then, the child has to lift the flap, which reveals the grown-up animal it will turn into (e.g., caterpillar turns into a butterfly.)  Additional pages give further explanation and include adorable illustrations.  Even though this book is kids three and up, Isabelle enjoys looking at the animal pictures and lifting the flaps, which is why it continues to be in our book stack.

I just received a review copy of New York, Baby!  It’s illustrated by Ward Jenkins.  I haven’t shared it with Isabelle yet.  It’s definitely going into this-coming week’s book stack!

New York, Baby! is my kind of book.  It’s about a baby who explores my hometown, Manhattan.  The baby in the book starts his day with a bagel and cream cheese, which is my preferred way to start a New York morning.  He takes the reader through Manhattan, from the Upper East Side down to SoHo for a day that includes a stop at the Met, a stroll through Central Park, a Broadway matinee, and a stop at the Empire State Building.  I can imagine that my daughter, who has boundless energy, will enjoy the fast-paced nature of this story.  Plus, it’s told from a child’s perspective meaning the view of everything is from the height of a child who is a new walker or who is riding in a stroller.  It’s too cute.  I hope Isabelle, whose next trip to Manhattan isn’t ’til August, will love New York, Baby! as much as I do.