CONVERSATIONS · motherhood

Showing Up for a First Talk About Racism

I talked with Isabelle about bias and discrimination for the first time when the Trump Administration announced the first Muslim Ban. Isabelle was in Kindergarten back then. Marc and I decided to break from our traditional stance on no live news. We allowed Isabelle to watch as throngs of New Yorkers flooded Kennedy Airport to protest.

When increased talk of the border wall and undocumented people rose, we talked again. Isabelle had friends from Mexico and couldn’t imagine someone not wanting them to be in the United States because of their caramel skin.

Tonight, after learning that my husband let Isabelle and Ari watch the SpaceX Launch on the news while I picked up dinner, I asked Isabelle, “Did you see what’s been happening in Minneapolis?”

She had no idea, but BEGGED me to tell her. (Despite being close to the end of third grade, we still don’t allow her to watch the news.) I asked her to give me a few minutes while I composed my thoughts. I couldn’t tell her about the protests without telling her what people were protesting. I couldn’t tell her about the murder of George Floyd without telling her about who pinned him to the ground as he gasped for air for eight minutes. I couldn’t tell her why Floyd was on the ground for an alleged counterfeit bill being used without talking about Floyd’s skin color. I couldn’t talk about any of it before starting out with the r-word: RACISM.

Discriminating against someone because of the color of their skin doesn’t make sense to Isabelle. She has friends and classmates with black and brown skin. Does she notice their darker skin? Yes. But that difference meant little to her since we’ve never taught her to hate.

Now Isabelle knows that some of her friends will be treated differently because of their black and brown skin. She found it hard to imagine that some of the boys in her class could face trouble for no other reason than because their skin is black.

She understood that it wasn’t fair. So, I told her what she could do. First, I told her if she ever sees a friend being treated unfairly because of the color of their skin, then she needs to speak up immediately. (She knows she can tell us or a teacher something.) Second, I told her that she can take action, like Darnella Frazier, the 17-year-old who shot the video of Floyd on the ground, did. Of course, she doesn’t have a cell phone now, but I wanted her to understand that we only knew about what happened to Floyd because of the video.

And then I stopped. I allowed her to have the space to ask questions. She had a couple. I know she’ll ask more in the days and weeks to come.

I never expected to have a conversation with my third grader about racism tonight. (I haven’t even spoken with her about anti-Semitism yet!) However, sheltering Isabelle from what’s happening in America isn’t right. If I want to raise her to be an anti-racist person, then she has to understand why it matters — in developmentally appropriate ways — now.

CONVERSATIONS · slice of life

The Legend of Great Uncle Carl

Today’s latest and greatest Ari moment can only be told after you know the Legend of Great Uncle Carl.


There aren’t many tall people in my family or my husband’s side of the family. According to Schaefer Family Legend, Great Uncle Carl, my father-in-law’s uncle, was tall. Just how tall was Great Uncle Carl? I’ll never know since he passed away well before I met my husband 15 years ago. But by the way people made it sound for the first ten years of my relationship with Marc, Great Uncle Carl was at least 6’4” before old age made him shrink an inch or two.

In the years that followed Isabelle’s birth, I’ve invoked this giant of a man from time-to-time when Isabelle didn’t want to eat her dinner. Slowly, I learned (from my mother-in-law) that Great Uncle Carl wasn’t so tall. She said that in his heyday, Great Uncle Carl wasn’t more than — wait for it — 5’10”! (That’s still tall by my family’s standards, but 5’10” does not a skyscraper make.) So, I stopped invoking Great Uncle Carl with Isabelle.


A few days ago, after a few years of not invoking Great Uncle Carl’s stature, I told Ari about the legendary Great-Uncle Carl who was a towering figure. You see, Ari was not eating well, which is out of character for him. Talking to him about getting tall enough to ride the next set of rides at Hersheypark wasn’t working so I thought the image of Great Uncle Carl would give him something to aspire to. And it did — for a night.

This evening, my cranky three-year-old (who didn’t nap) refused to eat dinner. We took him upstairs and figured he would drink a cup of milk and then go to bed. But Ari refused to sip on the straw. I begged and pleaded for Ari to drink his milk since his belly was virtually empty, but he refused.

Even through Waterlogue, I bet you can tell how unamused and sleepy Ari was this evening.

“Why don’t you want to drink your milk?” I asked.

Ari mumbled something that I couldn’t make out.

“I didn’t understand you. Would you say it again?”

“Because I don’t want to get as big as Great Uncle Carl,” he weeped.

I stifled my laugher, which was hard because that was NOT the answer I was expecting. I went into reassurance mode (make that panic mode) and told Ari, “You don’t have to get as big as Great Uncle Carl. He wasn’t really that tall. You can get as big as Daddy if you want. It doesn’t matter just how tall you are. What matters is that your belly is full. So, what do you say? Have some milk.”

“No!” Ari said shoving the cup away from his face.

There were no more legends to lean on. I was beaten so I murmured the only question I knew that would be answered affirmatively, “Do you just want to go to sleep?”

“Yes!” Ari declared. In a flash, he grabbed his blanket and walked over to his bed. Within minutes he was fast asleep.

CONVERSATIONS · elementary school · slice of life

Holding My Breath

Obligatory First Day of School Photo Taken in Front of Our Temporary Home’s Door. Isabelle wouldn’t let me take her photo in front of our house that’s being built since she claimed she wanted two different doors in her third grade photo. As much as I wanted to take her photo there, I wasn’t about to let my desire get in the way of her need.

What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever held your breath? 30 seconds? One minute? TWO minutes? Today I held my breath for nearly seven hours… and it was hard.

Today was Isabelle’s first day in her new school. It wasn’t just a new school. It was a new school, with new kids, in a new city. Yes, she met a few kids at day camp who would be in her school. Yes, she took a new school tour. Yes, she met her teacher a week-and-a-half ago. But none of those things are the same as walking into a school where you know everyone, which she’s done for the past three school years.

Even though I was holding my breath all day, I had a feeling it was going to be a good day. Every person I’ve interacted with at the school and in the district office has been helpful and friendly. However, what I worried about were the typical parent-of-a-new-student fears. Would the kids in the class be nice? Would Isabelle feel comfortable with the noise level in the cafeteria? Would anyone play with her at recess?

Isabelle was the first child lined up a the dismissal door this afternoon. I wasn’t sure what that meant so I took a few deep breaths. I spoke softly and asked her how her day was. Unfortunately, she started admonishing me, “Why are you talking so slow? Why are you asking so many questions? Why don’t you think I’m okay?” I stayed calm because I have found that a steady demeanor gets better results than matching her frustration.

We walked to the car and she climbed into her seat. Quietly, I looked through her bag to see what she brought home. I acknowledged her empty water bottle and made note of the thick school-to-home folder of “homework for mommy.” I asked her to get seat belted and walked around the car. Once I pushed the starter, I turned around and said, “When you’re ready, I’d like you to tell me how your day was.”

I began to drive after her seat belt clicked into place. First, Isabelle told me about a mini zip line on the playground. Then, she told me lots of random things. I learned that her teacher began reading Charlotte’s Web. We talked about how she already knew that story since her teacher read that book aloud last year. I asked some questions like, “Did you do any writing today?” to which I was told, “I wrote some words.” Oh. My. Goodness. THAT answer didn’t please me, but I continued with my calm line of questioning. I got bits of information that didn’t add up to much. But, finally, Isabelle paused and told me, “I think I’m going to like this new school.”

That was it. I was done questioning. I could finally breathe.

animals · CONVERSATIONS · slice of life

Everybody!

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.

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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
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CONVERSATIONS · food · slice of life

Muh Pnt-zins Puh-lease

“Are you still hungry?” I asked Ari after lunch.

He nodded. Naturally, I began suggesting other options for things he could eat: cheese, raspberries, blueberries, peaches… you get the idea. But he just kept saying “pnt-zins.” I had no idea what kind of fruit would be called “pnt-zins.”

Thankfully, Ari stayed patient. He didn’t cry; he kept repeating “pnt-zins.”

“Do you want pretzels?” I asked. (That couldn’t be what he wanted.)

“Yes!” he said, his face lighting up.

See that sweet smile?

“But you’ve never had pretzels. Or have you?” I looked at Ari. Ari grinned back at me.

I walked across the kitchen and grabbed a bag of pretzels from the pantry.

“Pnt-zins!” Ari yelped.

“Who let you try pretzels?” I asked him.

“Ih-ba-belle! Daddy!” He implicated his sister and father.

“Oh really? Isabelle and Daddy let you have pretzels?” I said. Must’ve been when I was out of town…

“Yes!” Ari declared.

“Oh boy,” I said, making a mental note to have a conversation with my husband and daughter tonight.

Ari took a bite. “Good!” He smiled. “Yummy!”

“Of course they’re yummy, they’re salty,” I replied.

Ari kept biting and chewing. “Yummy!” he declared again and again, until he finally said, “Muh pnt-zins puh-lease.”

How do you deny a polite (and somewhat-reasonable) request?

You don’t. At least, I didn’t. So I handed over two more pretzels.

I’m still planning to talk to Marc and Isabelle tonight. Because I kinda want to know what else Ari has tried that I don’t know about.

CONVERSATIONS · elementary school · slice of life

A Shared Disdain for Gym Class

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.

CONVERSATIONS · rhyming · speech

Words That Rhyme

IMG_7427We read lots of books that rhyme, but until very recently, Isabelle hasn’t been able to form rhymes of her own. In the past two weeks, Isabelle has been making connections between words that rhyme. It’s usually one or two pairs of words per day. I love hearing her rhymes when they happen. Well, most of the time.

Today things got silly.

We were practicing articulation after school. She came up with two words — phone and bone — that rhymed. I was delighted. Perhaps too delighted. After making two more rhymes with her practice words her rhyming ability went off the rails. She began making up nonsense words to make them rhyme. While initially cute, it turned our no-more-than-15-minute practice session into a half hour. (Like most kids, she doesn’t want to sit down to practice her speech after school. Hence the reason I promise a short, intense session.)

After about five minutes, I started recording. (I couldn’t resist.)

Robe and bobe? Robot? Rowboat? Oh my!

We’ll keep working on rhyming.

CONVERSATIONS · slice of life

What’s in a name?

My husband and I shared the news with Isabelle nearly three weeks ago. We spent the next two weeks calling our families to share the news. Then, we shared our announcement on Facebook last week. Now it’s time to share the news with my Slicer friends.

We’re expecting a baby this fall!

My first trimester was filled with fatigue and nausea. The past three weeks were going better. However, yesterday I received a diagnosis of placenta previa that will make my pregnancy a bit more high-risk. Overall, I feel good, but I’m a bit nervous about what’s to come. (Aren’t most expectant mothers nervous?) As I’ve said since I found out I was pregnant, I’m proceeding with cautious optimism.

But, on to the fun stuff. Naming the baby!

Isabelle wants to be involved. Take a listen to this audio recording to find out why Isabelle will not be in charge of picking her future baby brother’s name:

Isabelle is excited about being a big sister! She is constantly talking about all of the things she wants to do and share with the baby, which is adorable. She kisses my growing belly and talks to the baby at least once a day. All that said, she’s not going to be in charge of naming this sweet boy once he arrives. That will be up to me and Marc!

CONVERSATIONS · slice of life

Kisses #sol16

Isabelle has been wiping off kisses — as a joke — for the past few weeks. It’s playful and funny. It doesn’t offend me one bit. However, I like to pretend I’m offended. This morning I captured an exchange between the two of us about wiping away the kisses I give her.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com  for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.

CONVERSATIONS · slice of life · speech

How do you pronounce New Jersey? #sol16

Like any mom whose kid has CAS, I am always listening to my child’s speech with heightened awareness. Lately, I’ve been noticing Isabelle has been having trouble with the vowel sound in words like first, fur, glitter, hammer, her, Jersey, and sure. (New Jersey is the one that initially triggered my concern since Isabelle has been saying “New Joisey,” which sends shutters up and down my spine!) I’ve tried correcting her, but I haven’t been able to correct her mouth posturing. Therefore, I brought this issue to the attention of her speech therapist this morning.
Isabelle’s speech therapist worked tirelessly to determine where the problem was occurring so she shuffled through a bunch of /r/ words with vowels. She determined the issue was mostly with the medial /er/. Now, I have word lists and am armed with ways to help Isabelle fix her mouth so she can pronounce the words correctly (i.e., encourage her to pull back her lips into more of a smile when she says the medial /er/, rather than allowing her to round her lips when she makes that sound).
Like all of the articulation things we work on, this will take practice and patience. I know we’ll get there. A little humor will go a long way. So, in that vein, here’s part of a funny conversation I overheard between Isabelle and her speech therapist when they were trying to fix up the pronunciation of Jersey this morning.

 

Apparently, if you change the name of the state, it will be easier to pronounce!