CONVERSATIONS · slice of life

Proposal: A New Kind of Leap Year

It all started when Ari told me about a kid who threw up in the cafeteria after eating “prep-eroni.” We don’t eat pepperoni, so Ari has little experience saying the word. But still… prep-eroni sounded funny.

That led us to talk about other things Ari has mispronounced recently. For several months, the Cheesecake Factory’s outdoor seating was closed, which upset Isabelle. But not Ari. When we go to the King of Prussia Mall (which is every two to three months), he prefers to eat at Bartaco, which has outdoor seating. However, when Ari protested Isabelle’s preferred restaurant, he said, “I don’t want to eat at Cheese-fake Cak-tory.” The flipping of the /c/ and the /f/ made all of us giggle.

After prep-eroni and Cheese-fake Cak-tory came Ari’s reminder about Juhlune. What’s Juhlune, you might ask?

Last weekend, Ari listed the months of the year while we drove on the highway. He blended June and July, which became Juhlune.

“Juhlune is funny,” Ari reminded me. He began listing the months of the year, adding Juhlune after July (knowing full well there’s no such thing as Juhlune).

“Wait, can you say that again?” I asked as I grabbed my phone and opened the voice memo app.

Well, that was silly. No wonder he was barely eating his breakfast.

The silliness didn’t stop there. Ari proposed a new type of leap year starting in 2025 and happening every 20 years. He said an extra month would be added, giving those in the Northern Hemisphere an extra month in the summer. At first, it would. Eventually, a 13th-month year would pose some trouble.

I wish-wish-wish I had recorded our conversation since we dove into how this would impact day and night. This probably occurred because we started reading We all Celebrate! by Chitra Soundar and Jenny Bloomfield last night. On the first page spread of the book, the author explains the difference between the Gregorian calendar and lunar calendars while explaining the Earth’s revolution around the sun.

Thinking towards 2025, how brilliant would it be to have an extra month of summer?!

CONVERSATIONS · slice of life · travel

1st Class Tickets

“I can’t believe Analeisa is going to fly to CHINA next year! That’s, like, 24 hours away!” Isabelle declared as she sat the table for dinner.

“You can read a lot of books in that time!” I offered.

“Yeah, but how will they sleep?”

“I’m sure their bodies will ache when they get there,” I said.


“I’d only go to China if I could have a bed on the plane,” Isabelle declared. “Or I wouldn’t go.”

“I could ride my bike to China,” Ari said.

“You can’t ride your bike to China,” Isabelle said.

“Why not?” Ari asked.

“You have to cross the Pacific Ocean,” I replied.

“Well, then I’d swim,” Ari said. (Mind you, this child has only had one swim lesson in his life. It was two days ago.)

“You can’t swim to China!” Isabelle retorted. “It’s too far!”

“And too wavy,” I added.

“Well, I could swim there,” Ari said.

“It would take you, like, a billion days!” Isabelle said.

“If he made it,” I said. “He might get eaten by a shark somewhere in the Pacific.”

“Fine, then I won’t swim to China!” Ari said. “I will fly there!”

“You need to get a bed on the plane,” Isabelle suggested.

“Well, then I guess you’ll have to make a lot of money,” I said. “First-class tickets with bed-like seats cost a lot of money.”

“I have a lot of money,” Ari offered between bites of his chicken and broccoli.

“Oh yeah? How much do you have?” I asked.

“I have a Lincoln,” he said.

“And I have $19 dollars,” Isabelle added.

“So all together, you have $24. I don’t think that’ll buy you a bed to China.”

“I’ve got some change too!” Ari said.

“Pennies, right?” I asked.

He nodded.

“I think you’ll need more like a few thousand dollars for each first-class bed to China.”

Their eyes widened.

“I have money in my tzedakah box too!” Ari said.

“You can’t take money out of your tzedakah box!” Isabelle told him.

“She’s right. That money is for people or animal or organizations that need money. It isn’t for buying beds for plane trips to China.”

And with that, we went back to eating dinner. Marc was working late tonight. What a conversation he missed! Lou the Bear was sitting in Marc’s place at the table. He had nothing to say about the first-class trip to China.
CONVERSATIONS · food · slice of life

There’s Nothing to Pick #SOL21

Ari and I were sitting outside talking about his upcoming half birthday.

“Can we have cupcakes after lunch and after dinner?” he asked.

“We’re just going to celebrate with cupcakes after dinner on your half birthday.”

“Can we go apple picking like we did on my birthday?” Ari asked.

“Apples aren’t in season,” I replied.

“But I liked picking apples on my birthday. What can we pick?” he wondered.

“There’s nothing to pick,” I responded. “Nothing is really growing yet.”

There were stuffies involved in the conversation too!

Ari looked at me with big eyes. “Nothing?!!?”

“Not yet. Soon, but not in time for your half birthday.”

“What about bars? Can we pick bars?”

I burst out laughing. “Granola bars don’t grow on trees, silly.”

He smiled, knowingly. “Can we eat bars then?”

I suppose granola bars would be better than cupcakes for the morning part of his half birthday…

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.
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


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
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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.