family · siblings · slice of life · writing

Don’t Make Fun of Invented Spelling!

I awoke with a migraine. Once I walked into the kitchen, I grabbed the bottle of Excedrin Migraine and downed two pills.

Both kids were speaking loudly, so I was not amused. Through the chatter I was trying to ignore, I heard that Ari had an envelope ready to be mailed to my mother-in-law.

“I hope it’s not a sticky note letter,” I said. “You know Grandma doesn’t like it when you only send a sticky note in the mail.”

“It is,” Ari replied.

“C’mon!” I replied through the pulsing in my head. I looked at Marc, “You know your mom doesn’t like it when he sends sticky notes. She wants a letter or a picture too. And I agree with her.”

Marc shrugged. (He’s on-call at the hospital this week, so I decided to go easy on him since he was probably thinking about a complicated patient rather than Ari’s too-short note to his mom.)

“Ari, you need to send Grandma a letter on a larger piece of paper or enclose a picture too.”

Ari acquiesced and handed the envelope over to Marc.

“I’m going to open the envelope so you can use it again since it already has a stamp on it,” Marc said.

He stamped that?! Keep your cool, Stacey. Keep your cool.

Once the envelope was opened, Ari removed the sticky note. I read it and was aghast.

“You wrote a sticky note to Grandma asking her to buy you something?!”

Ari nodded.

“Do you think that’s appropriate? Or do you think you should ask her how she’s doing, tell her about what’s happening in your life?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Go and get a larger piece of paper and try again.”

Ari returned with the small rectangle of white paper you see in the photo above. (I realized I had a slice-of-life story on my hands when this happened, so I snapped the picture at this point.)

“Listen, Ari. You have paper in your desk that you could use. You can draw a picture and write something to Grandma on it. If you do that, I’m happy to send it to Grandma. She’ll love to read your writing and see your picture. But I don’t think she will love getting a sticky note demanding a crane truck.”

“Okay,” he said.

Ari went into the playroom, not to his desk. Maybe I don’t have a slice-of-life story on my hands. I don’t think he’s going to write more.

A few minutes later, as I took my oatmeal off the stove, I called Ari, “Have you eaten breakfast yet?”

“No!” he called back.

“You need to tell me what you want,” I replied.


“If you don’t tell me, you’ll have to make it yourself.” (This isn’t a threat. He likes making breakfast.)

“That’s fine!”

My migraine was dissipating while I ate my oatmeal. When I was nearing the end of my solo breakfast, Isabelle walked into the kitchen. She must’ve heard the commotion over the sticky note to Grandma since she walked over to the counter to check it out.

“Oh, Ari!” she said. “You wrote now instead of new.”

“Isabelle, don’t–” I warned.

“But he spelled it wrong,” she replied.

“You knew what he meant, right?”

She nodded.

“He misspelled Grandma too. He’s using what he knows to create the spelling for words. That’s called invented spelling. It’s a thing.”

“But it’s wrong,” she replied.

“Do you always spell correctly?”

“No,” she said.

“You invent spellings too. That’s FINE.”

“But it says now, not new.”

“That’s it. Come here and let me teach you about invented spelling.”

I pulled up an article about invented spelling that I wrote for We Are Teachers when Isabelle was in Kindergarten. It contains a piece of writing she did at home in Kindergarten. It’s loaded with invented spelling. I showed her the images. When I finished reading the “Invented spelling is an analytical process” section, Isabelle realized she was wrong.

Ari came into the room while I was reading the article. Therefore, Isabelle turned to him and said in a sing-song voice, “I’m sorry baby. I didn’t know what invented spelling was.”

“Really, Iz? He’s six years old, not six months. He’s not a baby.”

Isabelle modulated her voice, so it returned to normal. “I’m sorry I made fun of your writing, Ari. I did the same thing too when I was your age.”

“That’s better,” I told her.

“Ari, do you understand you didn’t do anything wrong?” Other than trying to send Grandma a sticky note asking for a toy.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Good. Now, it’s time for me to do the dishes so we can get out of here.”

Who knows if he’ll write Grandma a proper letter later today…

Orange Slice with Slice of Life and Two Writing Teachers URL
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family · Hershey · slice of life

Hold On, Tight!

I had never seen Hersheypark as busy as it was this past weekend in all of the years we’ve been season pass holders. We would’ve turned around and gone home, but our family drove up from DC to spend the weekend with us. With four kids between us, canceling our scheduled day in park was not a possibility.

So we went into the park despite throngs of people!

Being seasoned season pass holders means we know to walk to the back of the park and work our way forward on a busy day. Once we got there, Isabelle, Marc, and my cousin’s wife decided to ride Lightning Racer (a roller coaster). Therefore, my cousin and I took Ari and his daughters on some smaller rides. Like most three-year-olds, his youngest didn’t want to ride in the stroller.

“I’ll walk with Ari and the girls and you can push the stroller,” I suggested.

He agreed. However, I felt nervous because I have two hands and couldn’t hold all of their hands. (Side note: Occasionally, my children ask for another sibling. I insist I couldn’t manage since I don’t have enough hands. For anyone reading this who has three or more kids, my hat is off to you!)

I enlisted Ari’s help. “I’m going to hold onto your hand and Maya’s hand. I need you to hold Gabby’s hand. Do not let go of my hand and do not let go of her hand. We are not going to lose anyone in this park. Got it?”

“Got it,” Ari replied.

The four of us walked along like this for a while:

I had no idea my cousin snapped this photo until he sent me the pics he took from the weekend. We were still towards the back of the park, which wasn’t that busy, when he captured this shot.

But then, we got to the middle of the park, which was busier. Music was playing and Gabby was jumping around to the beat of the music. She must’ve let go of Ari’s hand because I heard Ari declare, “Gabby, I need you to hold on, tight!”

I stopped. They rejoined hands. I exhaled. We kept walking.

The park was too crowded for my comfort. But, I am thankful Ari loves his cousin so much that he immediately pulled her back with us before she could take more than a couple of steps away.

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COVID-19 · family · food · slice of life

Eating Ice Cream Outdoors on a 57°F Evening

We’re a family who LOVES ice cream. It’s been our go-to Shabbat dinner dessert ever since we moved to Lancaster. We eat it year-round, no matter the weather.

I came prepared to dine outdoors — for both dinner and dessert — when I packed for our trip to New England:

After an outdoor dinner at a restaurant whose heaters weren’t working, we headed to Saugatuck Sweets, which serves Longford’s Ice Cream. Longford’s is a small-batch creamery that makes an amazing rum raisin ice cream. Marc and I discovered both Saugatuck Sweets and Longford’s on a date night we had in CT in the fall of 2020. Therefore, I wanted to take the kids there to try it too.

Photo of Saugatuck Sweets with a Ukranian flag and blue and yellow lights.

On the drive to Saugatuck Sweets, Isabelle — who wore her hood during dinner — asked, “Can we take the ice cream back to Grandma and Papa’s?”

“No,” I replied. “It would probably melt on the drive back since we don’t have anything to keep it cold.”

“Could we eat in the car?” she asked.

“Eating ice cream with your brother is — not ideal. You know what a messy eater he is. It’s better for us to eat outside.”

“Okay, fine,” Isabelle replied flatly. She knows the mess her brother makes at most meals, but especially with ice cream.

I panicked when we arrived at Saugatuck Sweets since the board didn’t list rum raisin. I was craving Longford’s rum raisin. (It’s that good. And I’m not even a rum raisin person!)

List of Ice Cream Flavors at Saugatuck Sweets

After Ari placed his order for a cup of Oreo Bomb, I asked the guy behind the counter if they had rum raisin since “it’s not listed up there.”

“We should. Hold on, let me check.”

He ran around the shop and located a box of rum raisin ice cream. My day was made!

Rum Raisin for me, Oreo Bomb with rainbow sprinkles for Ari, Peanut Butter Cup with whipped cream for Marc, and Chocolate Chocolate Chunk with Reese’s Pieces for Isabelle

The four of us took our ice cream outside. As we sat there eating freezing cold treats, Ari observed, “the sky is dark blue now.”

That’s right. We are among those nutty people who were willing to eat their ice cream outside. I declared, “I don’t think we’ve ever eaten ice cream outside in March.”

“No?” Marc said.

“No, we haven’t. We’ve eaten outside in March. We’ve eaten ice cream in March. But this is our first time eating ice cream outside in March.”

We never would’ve done this pre-Covid. Now, we have a much higher threshold for what we’ll tolerate when it comes to dining outdoors. And, when it comes to delicious ice cream, I’ll eat it outdoors in nearly any kind of weather!

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Ebubbey #SOL21

I had trouble falling asleep last night. I tossed and turned until almost 2 a.m., which isn’t like me. Something was off, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was.

Today was busy. Passover preparations and major WordPress tech issues left little time for me to be alone with my thoughts. But I knew what day it was — all day. It wasn’t until after I sent an email to all SOLSC participants just before 9 p.m. this evening that I had the chance to reflect on the importance of today.

With My Grandma Ida in Florida in December 1986

On March 24th, 2007, my Grandma passed away. As a result, she missed a joyful year of events (i.e., my graduation from Teachers College, my 30th birthday, and my wedding), which made losing her — my final living grandparent — painful. My grandfather (her husband) died at 80 years old in March 1990, which was a few months before my Bat Mitzvah. Knowing that I was going to have to navigate a banner year without my Grandma made her death feel like déja vû.

My Grandma learned how to use a computer & email when she was in her mid-80s so we affectionally nicknamed her “Ebubbey.” Ebubbey passed away at 92 years old with all of her faculties. On her deathbed she predicted Barack Obama would win the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2008! Perhaps she was also clairvoyant since most people thought Hillary Clinton would win the nomination.

Speaking of Ebubbey’s deathbed, to this day I am thankful my former principal allowed me to drop everything — in the midst of parent-teacher conferences — so I could fly to Florida to be with Ebubbey in the final days of her life when I learned how ill she was. It still brings me peace to know I spent the final days of Ebubbey’s life beside her in the hospital. Besides talking about presidential politics, I had the chance to atone for being a snotty and impatient teenager. (She forgave me.) In addition, I used all of the days the NYC Department of Education gave for the death of a grandparent so I could sit shiva with my mom after Ebubbey passed away. Not a single one of my students’ parents complained to me about missing six days of school or having their parent-teacher conference rescheduled. These things made the loss of my grandmother a little easier to navigate.


Isabelle is named after Ebubbey. While she looks nothing like my grandmother, there are times she makes the same facial expressions. How is this possible? I often wonder. Ebubbey died nearly four years before Isabelle was born! I have photos, dating back to the time Isabelle was 11 months old, that make me do a double-take since it’s as if I can see Ebubbey in Isabelle’s face.


You may know how the Slice of Life Story Challenge began in my fourth-grade classroom, but you probably don’t know why it’s in March. I’ll tell you, in case you’ve ever wondered why it’s in one of the longest months of the year.

Nearly 11 months after Ebubbey died, which was a mere two months after my wedding), I was still missing her even though I knew Ebubbey lived a long life. I needed a distraction so what better way than to throw myself into writing alongside my students daily for a month while attempting to cobble together a challenge for adults online!?!?! March of 2008 was a little less sad since I was so busy teaching, writing, and blogging that it made the first anniversary of my grandmother’s death (and the 18th anniversary of my grandfather’s death) easier.


I try to stay true to the original mission of the challenge by writing small moment stories for my slice of life blog posts. However, today I needed to share a little bit about my grandmother on the 14th anniversary of her passing.

I’ll be back with a typical slice of life story tomorrow.

family · growing up · slice of life

Next Stop, The Milkhouse! #SOL21

I minored in American History with a concentration in war. (Cheery, I know.) I did a semester-long study on the Kennedy Family in my senior year. Therefore, when I tell you that our family finished a 12-day standoff with one of our kids — that was on par with the Cuban Missile Crisis — you must know I do not say this in jest.

March is a busy month for me due to the SOLSC. Therefore, when Ari decided to assert himself as a stubborn human, things got stressful. Conversations didn’t work. Offering rewards didn’t work. Taking away privileges didn’t work. NOTHING seemed to work.

Earlier today, he blinked. As a result, we had to make good on a promise: ice cream for dessert! It didn’t matter that it was a weeknight. A promise was a promise. So, a little after 6:30 p.m., the four of us piled into the car and drove to a local ice cream shop.

As our minivan turned into the parking lot, I noticed the store front was dark. “Why does it look like they’re closed?” I asked Marc.

We drove up and sure enough they’re closed Mondays – Wednesdays. (They’re open seven days a week during the spring and summer.)

“Rolled Cold?” Isabelle asked, mentioning the name of her favorite ice cream store in the City of Lancaster.

As much as I knew she’d enjoy that, it isn’t Ari’s favorite place. Ari loves The Milkhouse at Oregon Dairy. Before driving 15 minutes in the opposite direction, I called to ensure they were open.

When we arrived, I witnessed a smile on Ari’s face even through his mask and despite the fact that we wouldn’t be making use of the Dairy’s playground, which was a favorite in the pre-COVID days.

“Family picture by the cows!” I said.

A beat later, Marc and I told the kids, “Don’t touch the cows!”

Too late! Ari touched the stationary cows all over their bodies. Thankfully, The Milkhouse has had antibacterial hand wipes long before the pandemic. We walked in, grabbed a couple, wiped Ari down, and placed our order.

Even though it had been over a year since any of us stepped foot into Oregon Dairy, Ari rediscovered the model train that rides around The Milkhouse and the restaurant on an elevated track. He stood in awe of it as the rest of us ordered. He took his eyes off of it just long enough to give me his order (i.e., chocolate ice cream, rainbow sprinkles, and whipped cream).

We took our ice cream back to the minivan where we devoured it. Once Ari declared he was finished, he stood up in the back of the minivan and did what can only be described as a happy dance.

I admire kids with strong wills. Stubborn isn’t a good look on anyone. It’s my sincere hope that Ari stays strong-willed and doesn’t show this kind of stubbornness again.

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family · slice of life

Not a Typical Tuesday Morning #SOL21

Today is not a typical Tuesday. My husband took a vacation day, but still attended a lecture at 7:30 a.m. (Let’s not judge the things he chooses to do on a vacation day.) Therefore, when I planned what time I’d wake up today, I knew I wouldn’t have to set my alarm until 7:00 a.m., which feels like a luxurious time when you’re a parent. After all, I didn’t have a Zoom meeting until 2:00 p.m. so why not “sleep in” today!?!?

I woke up at seven and meditated. Aftewards, I checked my e-mail. Marc walked in around 7:15 a.m. to make sure I was awake.

“Ari just woke up,” he said.

“Really?” I replied. Typically, Ari wakes up way before seven. (Maybe this has something to do with the springing forward we did on Sunday.)

“He wanted to know if he could come in and snuggle with you.”

“Tell him he can come in,” I replied.

No need. Ari toddled in a moment later. Ari’s arms were filled with three stuffed puppies, which he tossed into the center of the bed before climbing in.

“I’m going to go back downstairs to finish breakfast with Isabelle,” Marc replied.

Ari and I talked and snuggled together, which never happens on a weekday morning, for ten minutes. Suddenly, Isabelle appeared! She slid into bed beside Ari.

Snuggling and laughter ensued as the three of us (+ the stuffed puppies) laid in bed on this grayish morning.

Eventually, I looked at the clock. “Iz, it’s 7:30. I’ll make you a deal. If you get your morning work and bring it down to the kitchen, you can stay in your pajamas a little while longer. But, I need you to get out of bed now before the morning gets away from us.”

She agreed. The two of us got out of bed.

“I don’t want to go downstairs,” Ari replied. “I’m still sleepy.”

“You could go back to bed,” I offered.

“No!” (Spoken like a true four-year-old.) “Your bed is bigger. I want to stay here.”

“You could stay in mommy and daddy’s bed for a bit longer. Would you like to do that while Isabelle and I go downstairs.”

A smile spread across Ari’s face. “Yes, I want to stay here with my puppies.”

“You’ve got it, dude. Just come downstairs when you’re ready for breakfast.”

“Skadaddle-skadaddle-skadaddle,” Ari shooed us off.

With that, Isabelle and I took our leave, leaving Ari + the puppies behind in a huge bed.


Ari came downstairs five minutes later. I guess he got lonely in the master bedroom by himself.

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family · outdoors · slice of life

Let me tell you about hike #2… #SOL21

Last night, Marc and I were thinking about where we’d go for our second family hike. I specified three non-negotiable on the Lancaster Conservancy website:

One of three options was Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve, which was listed as about 35 minutes from our house. Why not?!!?

Isabelle and I were the first ones out of the minivan. When she arrived at the trail head, she opened the box and said, “It’s empty. There aren’t any more maps left.”

I groaned, audibly. I had lectured her about the importance of always having a map last week since she lost her grasp on it last week and it blew away. Now, we had nothing.

“There’s another big board on the other side of the parking lot,” she said taking off in that direction. “Let’s see if there are more maps there.”

I followed, Unfortunately, there weren’t.

Ultimately, all of the adults took a photo of the trails map with each of our phones. Not the same, but it would have to do.

On the steep part of the blue trail — waiting for the rest of the crew.

Marc loaded Ari into the stroller, which hadn’t been used in about a year. My in-laws joined us at the large map. Despite the gravel-covered ADA trail being to our right, Marc thought we should try the blue trail, to our left. It was a true trail. My foot, thankfully, could handle it, but I wasn’t so sure a third of our group (of six) could hack it. But they insisted so we went on the blue trail.

After a few minutes, Isabelle and I — who were quite a bit ahead of everyone else — discovered the trail getting tighter, rockier, and steeper. I called out to the others to implore them to turn around, but they kept moving forward. As they neared, I insisted that the stroller wouldn’t make it up the hill any better than a person with a four-month-old titanium hip.

“I picked this place because there’s an ADA accessible trail,” I said with a level of snippiness in my voice. “That’s the trail we need to take.”

We turned around and walked back to the flat trail. We splintered into two separate groups. Eventually, my father-in-law went back to the car. Isabelle, my mother-in-law, and I eventually found Ari jogging towards us with Marc pushing the empty stroller. As pleased as I was to see him walking, I noticed he had a granola bar in his hand. Apparently, food was a motivator to keep him moving!

Ari in front; Marc in back.

Next hike, we have to keep Ari moving, sans snacks, on level ground. 🤣🙄🤪

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family · slice of life

The Experiment Monster #SOL21

NOTE TO READERS: My father reads this blog every day. He may or may not appreciate that I’m using this forum to write him an open letter. Perhaps he’ll leave a comment so you can find out.

Dear Dad:

You created a monster. You created him during last week’s visit. You gave him vocabulary words like experiment, farenheit, and freezing point. You gave him tools like measuring cups and digital thermometers. You taught him so much when you conducted experiments together. It was a joy to watch you teaching him.

BUT — you didn’t teach him how to use a finite amount of resources nor did you teach him how to clean up. Therefore, this is what greeted me when I came downstairs to make breakfast this morning:

No, Marc didn’t leave dishes in the sink when he left for work. He cleaned everything. I know this because he asked me to run the dishwasher after I ate breakfast, which meant everything was tidy and the dishwasher was full.

The detritus (pictured above) was the aftermath of Ari who decided to conduct some water experiments once he went downstairs this morning.

Maybe you’ll blame me. It’s clear that I was not present. Well, I was upstairs working with Isabelle, helping her with her morning work, which she did earlier than usual. Ari asked, “May I do one experiment?” I said yes. However, I didn’t think it would lead to this many items being utilized.

I know it’s not that big of a deal. (But it happened in March so it’s open to scrutiny due to the Slice of Life Story Challenge.) Everything can be washed. But I have no desire to wash extra dishes in the mornings!

So, my dear, wonderful, and awesome father, I thank you for teaching my son how to run experiments. I love that he’s interested in determining the temperature of water, figuring out when it freezes, etc. However, I am going to make a request. During your next visit, please teach your grandson to clean up after he conducts experiments. (Likewise, I encourage you to teach him to limit the supplies he uses.)

Thank you.



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COVID-19 · family · post-op life · slice of life

This Season of Life Calls for a Minivan #SOL20

While many people profess their utter disgust or unwavering love for minivans, I’ve been in like with our minivan from the start. We bought ours in November 2018, when Ari was a little over a year old and we couldn’t bear to take another week-long trip with a stuffed-to-the-gills car that had a stuffed-to-the-gills Thule box on top of it. I declared — repeatedly — that we were in the season of life for a minivan. Quietly, I told myself the next season of my life would include a much cuter car.

THIS season of our lives — the season of stay-at-home orders — calls for a minivan. You see, yesterday, after we dropped my husband off at Wegmans* so he could do the food shopping, I made a quick stop at a local bakery where I purchased bribes sweet treats for everyone and a latte (Mama’s gotta have caffeine!) for myself. I drove back to the Wegmans parking lot where I made the kids — mostly Ari — promise they wouldn’t get crumbs all over the folded-down third row and trunk. Ari repeated, “I’m not gonna get crumbs on the floor. I promise! I’m gonna be neat with my brownie!”

Once we were in the parking lot, I reminded them of the rules:

  1. No one under the age of 18 is permitted in the front seat even though the car was turned off.
  2. Kids must stay in the car the entire time — no matter what.
  3. Eat neatly.

Once Isabelle and Ari agreed to the rules, I unbuckled Ari and had him follow Isabelle into the back of the minivan. I popped the hatch and slid myself into the trunk since it’s easier like that with my cane. From there, I laid out the snacks and handed out copious amount of napkins to the kids. Isabelle neatly ate a cookie that was larger than her head. I handed Ari sections of his brownie so that I could contain the mess. Thankfully, he voluntarily used napkins and allowed me to wipe his hands and mouth. I gobbled down a GF/vegan brownie that was terrible. (Don’t get me started on why I have a deep disdain for gluten-free baked goods that are also vegan. It’s more than a blog post for me… it would turn into a term paper.) So, I delighted in my latte and my company.

Sunday Morning’s Minivan Picnic

Just as I finished cleaning Ari’s hands, Isabelle shared an idea she thought was brilliant. “I think we should get a table for the back of the minivan so we can have more minivan picnics,” she said. (We had done a lunch picnic on a blanket in the back of our minivan the previous day so I guess she was sensing this was going to become a theme.)

“Yeah!” said Ari.

“Where are we going to put a table?” I asked.

Isabelle motioned to the area where my legs were, then she declared, “And I think we’ll need chairs too.”

Did she think this was a RV?!?!?

“We’re not getting a table and chairs for the back of the minivan,” I said.

Though, it might not be a bad idea if our Governor keeps extending the stay-at-home order since minivan picnics might be our best form of out-of-the-house recreation that still allows us to practice social distancing.

*= I am not quite ready for hours on-end at home with Ari, which is why I volunteered to take the kids in the car to the grocery store with Marc. Worst possible case scenario, he could come out of the store early. Thankfully, he made it through the entire list since we went to the store early enough in the day.

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bedtime stories · family · slice of life

Pink Pajamas

I walked out of my bathroom in a bathrobe. Good thing, because I had an audience: Isabelle and Ari.

“Hello!” I said, surprised to see them. “I’m going to go and pick out my pajamas.”

Ari looked at Isabelle, walked over I keep my pajamas, and grabbed a pair of pink-striped pajamas. He walked back to where Isabelle was standing, dropped the pajamas beside her feet, and turned around. Then he said, “You wear these!”

I looked at the pajamas on the floor and the pajamas Isabelle was wearing. They matched. (We have one set of matching jammies. Cheesy, I know… but we like them!) “You want us to wear matching pajamas tonight?”

“Yes!” Ari replied.

“I can live with that,” I said. “Can you live with that?”

Isabelle nodded.

In honor of Ari picking our matching jammies, we took a selfie for him right before we read bedtime stories tonight.