homeschool · medical · slice of life

Mom. Teacher. Principal. Curriculum Director. Superintendent.

“Would you like a printout of your visit summary?” the medical office assistant (MOA) asked me in mid-September.

“No, thank you.”

“Do you need a school note?”

“No, she’s homeschooled this year. I’m mom, teacher, and principal. So no note is needed,” I smiled beneath my mask.

“Okay. Have a great day!”


Isabelle attended a Jewish day school through second grade. I pulled her out of school anytime she had a medical appointment, vision therapy, speech therapy, OT, etc. I never needed to get a note from the medical provider. Isabelle’s school knew that if she was missing school, then she was missing school for an important reason.

We moved to Lancaster and began sending Isabelle to public school in third grade. That’s when I became acquainted with the joy of school notes. Every time she missed part of a school day — even if it was just ten minutes of remote instruction last year — I needed to obtain a medical note or else she’d receive an unexcused tardy or an unexcused absence.

I try not to curse on this blog, but I’m going to break that rule for a second. It was such a royal pain in the ass to get a medical excuse note for every appointment. (You saw how many specific things I linked to two paragraphs prior to this one right? There have been many medical appointments needed through the years!) Often times, I’d forget to request the notes because, well, ya know… I was focused on the medical aspect of the visit, not the paperwork. Then, I’d get home and have to call into the office to have them fax it over to the elementary school. In fact, I forgot to get to get the notes so often — since I wasn’t in the habit of doing it do it for the first three years of Isabelle’s formal schooling — that I put Isabelle in charge of reminding me to get the medical excuse notes.

I understand why medical notes are a necessity. I realize truancy is an issue in many places. I also realize that kids do best when they’re in class. However, when a child has a standing appointment, it’s nice when the school is willing to work with caregivers so that a paper trail doesn’t need to be created every single time. (For instance, when I had to pick Isabelle up 20 minutes early from school twice a week for Dyslexia tutoring in third grade, I was able to submit one letter that stated all of the dates/times of tutoring so that I didn’t have to submit an excuse note twice a week. THAT was a relief!)

Last spring, Isabelle’s seasonal allergies flared to the point that she asked to start allergy shots, I jumped at the chance to start her off this year knowing that I would be able to work our school days around her weekly (Thankfully, bi-weekly now!) appointments. Imagine how happy I was every time they asked me if I needed a school note. Nowadays, the conversation is more like this:

“Do you need a school note today?” the MOA asked.

“Not today,” I said smiling beneath my mask.

NOTE: Thank goodness most MOAs ask if a school note is needed nowadays. Maybe there are many other caregivers like me who call in after the fact to get the notes.


This morning, Ari had a medical appointment. Isabelle completed a vocabulary assessment in the car on the way there. While she was in the waiting room, she finished a quick publish assessment. On the ride home, she completed her math workbook. In reality, having a day that’s disrupted with a medical appointment isn’t a big deal since. She doesn’t miss a single class because her teacher (ME!) is alongside her.

Isabelle brought her iPad along to finish up a Quick Publish Assessment of a literary essay while I did some of my own writing.
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medical · slice of life

A Shot of the Shot

Last week, Ari sat beside me as I edited photos from a family outing. He was fascinated by cropping. He has been taking poorly framed photos ever since just so he can crop them!

This morning, Ari accompanied Isabelle to her bi-weekly allergy shot appointment. There wasn’t an additional chair for him to sit on so he asked if he could take photos.

“Are you going to take a shot of the shot?”

“Mmm-hmm,” he replied.

I handed over my phone and implored him to stay out of the nurse’s way. He found a vantage point he liked across the room from Isabelle.

What I noticed this evening — 12 hours after this photo was snapped — was the way Isabelle was bracing for the needle to plunge into her skin.

Fists are clenched.

Ams are stiff.

Eyes are closed.

Isabelle has become braver since she started getting allergy shots in August 2021. She complains about the itchiness afterwards, but she no longer balks about the needles. I didn’t realize, until Ari took a shot of the shot, how unpleasant these shots must still be for her.

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COVID-19 · medical · slice of life

Mile Marker 25 of the Marathon

I’m not a runner. However, I remember watching the NYC Marathon regularly as a child and as a young adult living in Manhattan. While I never yearned to run so much as a mile in PE class, I have some basic knowledge about marathons. I know there are 26.2 miles in a marathon and the runners look more energetic running up First Avenue than they do running into Central Park.

While I haven’t done the exact calculations, but if the past 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic were a marathon, then as of today our family is finally at mile marker 25. Why? Because we were able to get our kids vaccinated today!

Tears welled up in my eyes when Isabelle received her vaccine.

Here’s a funny story about how today’s vaccinations went:

We took the kids to a local pharmacy where Isabelle had her flu shot last year. She remembered the pharmacist as being “a good shot giver.” Since Isabelle gets weekly allergy shots, she was confident going into today. Ari allowed her to get the first jab since he was starting to get cold feet. Isabelle took her vaccination like a pro. The pharmacist fist-bumped her once the needle was out of her arm.

Ari began to panic when it was his turn. He didn’t want to remove his sweater. He worried it was going to hurt. (He didn’t cry during this year or last year’s flu shot so we were surprised he was getting antsy.) The pharmacist was reassuring and patient with him. Once we got his sweater off and had his arm cleaned off with alcohol, the pharmacist told Ari, “If it hurts, you can hit me at the end.”

I sat down on the chair and had Ari climb into my lap. I held his wrists gently so he wouldn’t move his arms when it was time for the injection. The pharmacist told him, “Look at your sister,” but Ari chose to watch the needle plunge into his skin. He didn’t cry or flinch. And in a 1-2-3, it was over!

“Did it hurt?” the pharmacist asked Ari.

“Yeah, a little,” Ari replied.

“You can hit me then,” he said.

I was shocked when Ari slapped the pharmacist’s forearm. I didn’t think he’d do it, but he was invited to do so twice... so I can’t blame him! Thankfully, he didn’t hit him with malice. In fact, the pharmacist chuckled.

After we donned our coats, I gathered the kids near to me and Marc. Together we recited the Shehechyanu blessing quietly before departing from the pharmacy because this was TRULY A HUGE MOMENT! We walked down the street and got the kids sweet treats before heading home.

Just as NYC Marathon runners know the final 1.2 miles are going to be a slog, we are more confident now that we will cross the finish line of this pandemic since we’ve made it this far. We’ll continue to take all of the safety measures we’ve been taking this entire time so that we can cross the finish line.

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medical · slice of life

Back in my day…

After a few years of allergy medicine, this spring’s allergy season defeated Isabelle. One day she declared, “I’m ready for allergy shots!”

I have sung the praises of allergy shots since I finished my second round of allergy shots in 2016. (That’s right! The shots I received from 1990-1996 in the NY Metropolitan Area did nothing to help me when we moved to the Susquehanna Valley in 2009. By 2011, I realized I’d have to try allergy shots again or risk scratching my skin off and rubbing my eyes out. Clearly, I selected the shots!) However, getting a kid to agree to allergy shots takes time since the scratch testing alone is unbearable!

BUT, Isabelle’s allergist informed us we could opt for a blood test, in lieu of pricking her arms multiple times with needles. WHERE THE HECK WAS THIS OPTION IN 2011? (I won’t be bitter about the technology not being present in 1989. After all, dinosaurs were walking the Earth back then.) One stick versus 40-ish pricks on both arms? No itching? Just as accurate? Isabelle agreed to the testing as soon as the blood test option was offered.

Fast-forward to today. Isabelle took her allergy pill and heard my gloom and doom warnings (eg, Your arms may itch afterward. You may have some swelling or achiness after the shots. You might want to apply an ice pack if your arms really hurt.) arrived at the pediatric specialties office. After the nurse asked us the Covid questions, I inquired, “Do you have ice packs in case she’s sore afterwards?”

“I do. I can also use freeze spray to numb the area beforehand and I can give her itch cream if she’s feeling itchy after the shots.”

“You have — what?!!?” I spat.

“Freeze cream and itch spray. And ice packs.”

“You’re kidding me?!!? When I got my shots here a few years ago, all they offered were ice packs! And when I was a kid, they didn’t even have ice packs! All ya got back then was a ‘Don’t scratch too much’ warning from the nurse.”

“They don’t have freeze spray and itch cream in the adult clinic?”

“They didn’t from 2011-2016!” I replied.

She chuckled, but not unkindly. “We have it all in Peds.”

“Lucky you,” I told Isabelle. “Back in my day, we just suffered.”

I’m happy to report that thanks to the freeze spray, Isabelle didn’t need so much as a hand to hold. While she didn’t need the itch cream, I told her to take it when I noticed her scratching. If it’s an option, then why suffer? After all, it ain’t the 90s anymore.

Shot 1 of 2
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medical · slice of life

The Irony

I called Ari’s pediatrician yesterday to request an appointment this morning in case he woke up with a fever again. When I was on the phone with the nurse, she told that if he has a fever, he would need to wear a mask over his mouth and nose in the waiting room. The nurse paused after telling me that and said, “I realize he’s only three years old and that is hard to do.” We both had a chuckle.

This morning. Ari woke up with a fever for the fifth consecutive day so I took him to the pediatrician. I tried convincing him that we would wear masks over our faces and pretend to be superheroes in disguise. It did not work. This is what he looked like:

A face mask doesn’t do much when you wear it like a beard!

I’m happy to report that his test came back negative for the flu. So at least Ari didn’t infect anyone when he wore his mask below his chin this morning!

Next objective: get him well!

medical · slice of life

Would you like the funny story or the serious one?

Before I begin, I want to let you know I’m intentionally being vague. If you have read this blog through the years, then you know I don’t disclose my children’s medical information publicly. Therefore, I’ll tell you that Isabelle had a planned procedure at the hospital today. It went well.

THE SERIOUS STORY FIRST (It’s been hanging from my heart all day.)

Isabelle could’ve walked out of the hospital on her own two feet, but she insisted on a wheelchair because she had one last time… the time she couldn’t amble out on her own.

“I’m not going to wait 20 minutes for transport to come when you’re perfectly fine to walk,” I told her.

That’s when the nurse rolled up with a wheelchair.

“Here you go, Miss Isabelle,” he said.

“How did it come so fast?” I asked.

“You’re doing the wheeling. Unless you want to wait for transport.”

“No, I’ll wheel her out.”

Isabelle squealed with delight as she hopped into the seat.

“Hold my purse and this folder,” I told her as I handed Isabelle my things. “I may be your transport, but I’m not the schlepper.”

She groan-giggled and took my belongings. We said our goodbyes to the nurse and walked town the hall to the elevator.

Once we reached the lobby, I overheard beautiful music. “I think that’s a harp,” I told Isabelle.

“What’s a harp?” she asked.

The top of the harp caught my eye. “I’ll show you,” I said wheeling her into the lobby.

We listened for a few moments and then the harpist reached the end of the song.

“What do you think?” I asked her.

“I like it,” she replied.

“Would you like to listen to more?” I asked.

Isabelle nodded as the harpist began plucking his instrument. I wheeled her over to a some couches. Before I could put the brake on the wheelchair, Isabelle hopped up and sat down on the couch, tossing my purse on the empty seat.

My breath caught in my throat as I listened to the music because the harpist was playing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Tears welled up in my eyes as my mind flooded with thoughts. If the results of today’s procedure turn out as the doctor expects, then Hallelujah will be the word to express the level of gratitude I have. I wrapped my arm around Isabelle, whose Hebrew name praise. “Praise” and “hallelujah” are essentially the same. So there I was, hugging my daughter while listening to gorgeous music in a hospital lobby. Then I thought about the Cohen tune, which is one of Ari’s favorites for me to sing to him at night (though I sing the tune with the words to L’cha Dodi). All of those things — plus a lack of sleep — led to me crying.

“What are you doing?” Isabelle asked as she stared at me in shock. “Why are you crying?”

“Because, I’m just so happy you’re so much healthier today than the last time you had this procedure done. You were so, so sick last time. I think your medicine is helping.”

“You’re crying because you’re happy?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Why would you cry when you’re happy?”

“Sometimes that happens to adults. Adults cry when they’re happy,” I sniffled.

“You have black stuff under your eyes,” she pointed out.

“Mascara?” I asked.

“Yeah, mascara. It’s running down your face,” she said. And with that, she went back to listening to the end of the song leaving me to search for a tissue in my purse that was sitting in the empty wheelchair seat.

NOW, THE FUNNY STORY (which took place about 45 minutes earlier)

“What would you like to eat?” the nurse asked Isabelle. He listed the choices which included everything from graham crackers to Goldfish to applesauce to ice cream.

“Chocolate ice cream please,” she replied.

“Good choice,” he replied.

“Do you have marshmallows?” she asked.

I looked at him apologetically. “She thinks this is an ice cream shoppe.”

“No, I don’t think we have any marshmallows,” the nurse replied.

“How about sprinkles?” Isabelle asked. “I’d like some rainbow sprinkles.”

“Are you kidding me?!!? They have ice cream. No sprinkles.”

That’s when the nurse interrupted me and answered Isabelle. “I think we may have some chocolate sprinkles. Would you like those?”

“Yeah, okay. I’d really like rainbow though,” she said.

I shot her a take-what-they-have look and Isabelle said, “Chocolate sprinkles are fine.”

The nurse disappeared in the back and reappeared two minutes later with a plastic spoon and a cup of ice cream.

“We’re not the greatest ice cream shop in town,” he shrugged. “I have ice cream, but no sprinkles.” He handed the ice cream to Isabelle. I was grateful she thanked him rather than complaining about the hospital’s lack of toppings.

medical · slice of life

In Praise of the Snotsucker

Most parents of babies or toddlers will tell you that using the following items on your child is one of the truest expressions of unconditional love you can show (your child).


Ari contracted his first cold late last week. He’s been congested for a few days. He hasn’t been a fan of Boogie Wipes so I called in the big guns this morning.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to buy Ari has a Snotsucker prior to his arrival. (There are many things siblings can share, but this shouldn’t be one of them.) Once I unpacked the new device, I called upon my trusty assistant, Isabelle, to help me with this procedure, of sorts.

Let me be honest, there wasn’t much Isabelle could do to help other than telling Ari about the merits of saline nasal spray. She stood back (& laughed) as I tried to insert the Nosefrida into his nose. He fought me off with his hands and thrashed his body around. Isabelle cracked up while I persisted. In the end, I was able to relieve a bit of Ari’s nasal congestion while providing my daughter with some comic relief (& maybe a shred of empathy for how hard parenting is).

This congested-baby scene ended with an “Ari Sandwich,” which included hugs and kisses for the Ari from his mommy and big sister. And just like that, all was forgiven.

slice-of-life_individual
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medical

Bloodwork 

I cringed when I found out my daughter needed bloodwork. Like most kids, she detests needles. I mentally prepared myself, but ultimately passed the task of telling her to my husband. Marc delivers news like this all of the time. Plus, I figured if I was going to be the one taking her to get the. Looks drawn, then he should be the one to break the bad news. (Co-parenting at its best!)
So this morning, after I did Isabelle’s hair, I said, “I’m going to pick you up at carpool today.”
“How come?” 
“Go down and ask Daddy after you tell him what you want for breakfast.”
A few minutes later, when I changed Ari out of his pj’s, I heard the quiver in her little voice followed by a lot of questions. Oh dear, I thought. This afternoon is going to be horrendous.
I dreaded picking Isabelle up all day. I knew she’d be nervous. However, she was surprisingly calm in the car. She even seemed totally ready when we walked up to the lab.
“Why’s it dark in there?” I asked as I opened the door.
A phlebotomist was sitting there — in the dark waiting room — as I entered.
“We closed a few minutes ago,” she said.
Noooooooo! I could’ve pulled Isabelle out of school early. She was mentally prepared and now this wasn’t going to happen. Shooty-shoot-shoot! (Okay, those last words were edited from the curse words I actually repeated in my head.)
I thought quickly and realized I could get her back in the car and drive another 15 minutes to a still-opened lab. 
And that’s exactly what we did.
Once at the new lab, we waited about ten minutes until we were called. I reminded Isabelle, “if you’d stay calm, then it won’t hurt as much.” I thought my words would fall on deaf ears, but — much to my surprise — she stayed calm as the phlebotomist checked for the best vein. I held Isabelle’s free arm down while a second phlebotomist held the arm getting the butterfly needle still. Then the main phlebotomist drew Isabelle’s blood. Unlike her mama, Isabelle watched the whole thing and stayed calm the entire time. I was amazed and thrilled! (She’s had two other blood tests in her life and they didn’t go this well. Seeing her hold it together filled me with relief.)
Naturally, a special treat — sure to ruin her appetite before dinner — was in order. We drove to the nearest bakery where she selected a chocolate cake pop. 
Now I hope the results of the bloodwork will be be as good as she was during the blood test today.

independent play · medical · physical appearance · pretend play · slice of life

The Prescription That Felt More Like a Good Report Card

We took Isabelle for her annual well-child checkup this morning. We were delighted she’s grown three inches since her four-year-old well-child checkup considering more than half of the dinners she’s eaten in the past year have consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches! (Not for nothing, but they’ve been served on wheat bread with a vegetable and fruit on the side. I guess that helped.) In fact, today was the first time I’ve ever been visited her pediatrician where I haven’t come in with a notebook page or Evernote note filled with questions and concerns! Today, my husband and I had two questions, both of which weren’t significant enough to write down. And let me tell you, that felt awesome!

But here’s what really felt good:

IMG_3319

Isabelle’s pediatrician handed this prescription to her towards the end of the visit. He went through every bullet point in an effort to explain what the words meant. He told Isabelle she needs to get eight or more hours of sleep at night. (Check! She gets about 10 hours/night.) Next, he stated  she should eat five or more vegetables and fruits daily. (Check! On school days I know she gets this amount. Weekends are another story, but everyone cheats a bit on weekends, right?) Afterward, her pediatrician told her she shouldn’t have more than two hours of screen time a day. Then he interrupted himself, recalling Isabelle told him the only two shows she’s allowed to watch, and said he knows she doesn’t watch much TV. (So… check! Case in point — Isabelle had an hour of screen time today: a half-hour of “Sesame Street” followed by a half-hour working with me on speech apps on the iPad.) Next, he reminded her to play for at least one hour a day. (Check! This kid plays more hours than I can count.) Finally, he reminded her to never drink sugary sweetened drinks. (Check! We don’t bring soda in our house.)

I chuckled aloud. “Dr. B., Marc and I aren’t perfect parents — at all. But I’ve got to tell you, this prescription makes me feel really good.”

He smiled,”You’re definitely doing an above-average job on these things. Keep it up!”

“Thanks,” I replied.

We spent a few more minutes talking with him about typical five-year-old concerns (which test our patience daily) before we checked out. This evening, as we were bickering with Isabelle about the merits of going upstairs for bedtime, I looked at the script again. Sleep, produce intake, limited media time, lots of play, and no sugary drinks. We may not have everything figured out, but five years in, I have to say, I think we’re doing pretty well.

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books · media · medical · OBSERVATIONS · slice of life

Illiterate Waiting Rooms

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Playing at the end of her dental visit.

There’s a disturbing trend I’ve noticed at quite a few of the pediatric medical offices I’ve taken my daughter to recently. They’re DEVOID of books. No board books. No picture books. No chapter books. In fact, most are devoid of anything for kids to do except for watch television. All that I’ve been seeing in most of the waiting rooms I’ve been going to with Isabelle lately are kid size chairs and tables with a television.

Granted, I understand there are sick kids in medical offices. As a result, things have to be sanitized at the end of a given day if a medical office wants to keep germs at bay. But “Sponge Bob” on the doctor’s office television is not okay with this mom! (If you’re not familiar with the “Sponge Bob” study regarding the show’s negative effects on preschoolers’ brains, click here to learn more about it.) Perhaps a way around this is to have a sick kids waiting area, like my pediatric office had when I was a kid. Have a fever or something contagious? Well, you have to wait in isolation. You weren’t allowed to play at the chalkboard (Yes, that’s how old I am!) or with the toys in the waiting room. You had to wait by yourself with your parent. I’m sure there were kids who mixed in with the general pediatric population from time to time, but people generally respected that rule in the office. If more medical offices operated like this today, perhaps books and toys could be brought back to waiting rooms so kids could have fun while they waited for their appointment.

Perhaps the other reason there isn’t a lot of stuff in waiting rooms nowadays is because kids bring portable technology with them and play with that. Again, I’m not one of these moms. If I’m taking the stroller into an appointment, I load up the bottom basket with books and small toys. However, if I’m holding Isabelle’s hand through the parking lot, holding the diaper bag and my purse, carrying items to keep her busy in the office isn’t possible. (Maybe I need to create some toddler busy bags that I can stuff into her diaper bag.)

Alas, this morning I was delighted when I took her to the dentist for a checkup and found a fully stocked play area. (NOTE: I don’t know how often the toys are cleaned and I wasn’t about to ask. Therefore, I put sanitizer on her hands once she was done playing!) There were bead mazes, books, musical instruments, trucks, and even a play kitchen! Isabelle had such a good time playing alongside another little girl in the kitchen before her appointment that she wanted to stay for 10 minutes after her appointment to play some more (and by that point she was the only kid in there). She wanted to push the toy vacuum with one hand and cook in the kitchen with the other hand. We don’t have a toy vacuum at home and the kitchen there was very different than the play kitchen we have at home. How could I say no to that?

Would it be wrong for me to go on a mission to find out why waiting rooms around here are devoid of real things for kids to do and read? Perhaps I can get some of the offices we frequent to stock up on some basics by investigating and making gentle suggestions.

Isabelle was saying the word “hot” with her sticky sound (aka: the final t at the end of the word) over and over again. I was so delighted by it, since this is new for her, that I whipped out my iPhone and started to record her at the farmer’s market. Of course, she stopped remarking about how hot it was as soon as I pulled out the phone. Alas, she does some singing in this podcast that I think is pretty cute.

*****