It is a privilege to attend the TCRWP August Writing Institute while my parents watch my children. This is the 13th Institute I have attended since 2005. I skipped last year's Writing Institute since I was in my third trimester with Ari. It is wonderful to be back in a place that feels like home! So far, I've listened to Lucy Calkins, Amanda Hartman, and Katherine Patterson speak. I'm taking courses with Katie Clements and Rebecca Cronin. I've eaten lunch with Fran McVeigh twice. I'm surrounded by inspiring educators from all over the world.
This week, I'm living a life like the one I left ten summers ago when I moved out of Manhattan. While I'm staying in a hotel, rather than living in an apartment, the essence of what I'm doing — studying literacy by day and eating dinners out with friends at night — is relatively the same.
That being said, I texted my mom a few minutes ago with this message:
No matter how wonderful this week of learning is, and how much more I'm sleeping at night, the bottom line is that I miss my kids.
[D]estroy any unpleasant, embarrassing and downright forgettable memories from 2015 and pave the way for new memories in 2016.
Unfortunately, I left Manhattan 18 hours before the event began. Quite frankly, there were a few things I would’ve liked to say “good riddance” to if I had been able to attend yesterday’s event. (Click here and here for two examples.)
On Sunday afternoon, I pulled a muscle while getting onto a rather high horse on the Central Park Carousel. The searing pain that ensued felt like the cherry on top of 2015. And while I was able to walk away (in pain) ten minutes later, I was annoyed. Later that afternoon, while Isabelle and I were washing our hands in a restroom, I was shocked by my reflection in the mirror. I’ve aged this year, I thought. My skin isn’t radiant like it was back in March. just a few weeks after I started a gluten-free diet. Then I noticed my hair. It is grayer — so much grayer — than it was when 2015 began. I didn’t dare look down at my waistline. I didn’t even want to go there. Instead, I turned away from the mirror.
On Monday afternoon, around the time people were shredding their forgettable memories from 2015, I made a phone call to my hair salon where Isabelle and I were scheduled for haircuts this morning. I asked if there was any way my stylist could find the time to put a gloss in my hair before or after my haircut. A few hours later I received a voicemail back from the owner. If I could come in a half-hour earlier, then my stylist could make it happen.
I hustled Isabelle out of the house this morning. I explained that Mommy was going to do something extra at the salon today. After I explained what hair color was, Isabelle had a question.
“Why?” she said simply.
Why? Hmmmm… What could I say that wouldn’t disparage myself while telling her the truth?
“You know how Mommy has had to have surgery twice this year?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“And you know how I still haven’t been feeling well?”
“Yes,” she said again.
“Well,” I paused. “It’s been a hard year. I want to have a fresh start for the new year. See all these gray hairs?” I pointed to my head. She inspected and nodded. “Well, I don’t want to see them for a few weeks.”
Once we arrived at the salon, I learned a gloss alone wouldn’t cover my grays. My stylist suggested a demi-permanent hair color, which doesn’t contain ammonia. It only lasts for 24 shampoos, but this kind of hair color blends away the gray while bringing out one’s natural color. Perfect.
My hair was cut, then colored. Isabelle’s hair was cut while my hair processed. Isabelle sat calmly under the hair dryer while the color was rinsed out of my hair. As soon as my hair was dry, I leaned towards the mirror. I couldn’t see a single gray hair! Not a single one! It felt as though the past eight months of my life had been erased from my head. Even though my skin wasn’t a glow and my body isn’t as svelte as it once was a year ago, I felt so much better when I looked in the mirror. And right now, that is enough.
My stylist walked over to me while I checked out. She reminded me to book extra time for coloring my hair in March. I thanked her for the reminder but assured her this would be a one-time thing. (NOTE: After a horrendous experience with a Sun-In type of product in 1992, I endured a double-process and highlights once my roots became unsightly. I haven’t touched my hair with dye ever since I went back to my natural color in early 1993.) My grays are a part of me I typically don’t mind. Sometimes I even lovingly refer to them as my wisdom streaks. However for the next month, I’m forgetting about those grays and all of the heartache they represent.
However for the next month, I don’t see those “wisdom streaks.” Covering up my gray is part of my plan to pave the way for a better year in 2016. I’ll reveal the other part of my plan, which I began working on earlier this month, over at Two Writing Teachers next Thursday when I share my One Little Word for 2016.
9/11/12: I went downstairs for breakfast after getting my daughter dressed and watched “The Today Show.”
9/11/01: I took surface transportation back to my apartment where my mom was waiting for me since she was in the City for the day.
9/11/12: I took my daughter back upstairs to get ready for our day.
9/11/01: I watched NBC with my mom. We were glued to the TV set in horror as we watched the Towers burn. We felt as though the world was falling apart around us once we heard the Pentagon was hit and government buildings were being evacuated.
9/11/12: I was dismayed with the poor coverage “The Today Show” was giving the September 11th anniversary. I flipped to CNN, which was covering the memorials. I turned to MSNBC, where I stayed, since they were re-broadcasting the coverage from the morning of 9/11/12. This is when my past met my present. Never in the past 11 years have I watched the media footage of that morning minute by minute in synch with the present day’s time. It was eerie.
9/11/01: I watched the first Tower fall down in horror on TV. My mom and I begged my father to leave his office to come uptown. But he wouldn’t leave until much later that day. When we were all together again, we hugged for a long time.
9/11/12: I watched the first Tower fall down with the same horror I felt 11 years ago. Tears fell from my eyes. I was sobbing audibly. My daughter laughed. She has rarely seen me cry and must’ve thought I was laughing (despite the tears falling from my eyes). I pulled her close to me and hugged her. “When you get older, Isabelle, you will understand why mommy is crying. Today is a sad day.” She stopped laughing and allowed me to hold her tightly in my arms, stroking her soft curls.
9/11/01: As the news of the day unfolded, I remember thinking, “Who would want to bring a child into this world?” I loved kids, but I couldn’t imagine myself having one when it seemed as though the whole world was coming apart.
9/11/12: As I watched the news coverage from 2001 on MSNBC, I applied sunscreen to my daughter since my plans for the day changed. I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful September day with our friends and therefore we decided to meet at a local park. As I smoothed sunscreen on her skin, I recalled my thought from 2001. “Who would want to bring a child into this world?” I am so glad my perspective changed since 2001. Our world is fraught with danger and uncertainty. However, the biggest thing I learned from September 11th, 2001 is that you have to go on living.
9/11/01: I vowed that I would never forget.
9/11/12: I will never forget that beautiful September morning in 2001 when the biggest news of the day should’ve been the mayoral primary in NYC. That changed so drastically. Eleven years seems far away, but watching the minute-by-minute coverage on MSNBC brought it right back. I don’t know how I will approach September 11th with my daughter when she comes of age to talk to her about it. But I know I will talk to her about it in a way that will attempt to help her understand the importance of the day without making her completely fearful. No matter what I do September 11th 2001 will always be history, like Pearl Harbor and D-Day are to me. Perhaps the greater task is one that I engage in daily. One of my greatest jobs as a parent will be to make sure she lives her life in a way that will make this world, or at least our corner of it, a better place.
How did I miss Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean, when it debuted in May? The reason I missed it will forever remain unclear, but the reason I learned about it today is one for which I’m thankful!
One of my dearest college friends came to New York for a few days with her family. Seeing as I haven’t seen her in three years, I made a special trip into the NY Metropolitan Area this week with Isabelle so we could spend some time with them. Together, we have three kids between us so we opted to spend a couple of hours at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, or CMOM. The kids loved CMOM, which has a special play space for kids under the age of four. This was perfect since our daughters are nine months apart from each other in age.
At 11:30 a.m., two staff members gathered interested children and adults together in a part of the play space for circle time, which included some singing and read alouds. We sang the ABC Song, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Open and Shut Them. Then, one of the CMOM staff members pulled out Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. She read this book with gusto. Her voice engaged the children as she sang Pete’s song as each button popped off of his shirt. I found myself joining in since the book’s repetition lends itself to group participation. Isabelle was engaged during the entire read aloud, looking at the pictures as still as a statue in my lap (which was shocking considering she was incredibly active both before and after the circle time). By the time the staff member finished reading the book aloud in the way I bet the author intended for it to be read, I knew I had to order it so Isabelle and I can enjoy it again and again. The upbeat message of the book, the inclusion of subtraction, and the neat little song makes this book a gem!
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?
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.