Last week, we enjoyed several days in the mid-60s with glorious sunshine. It felt unseasonable for November, but who was I to complain? I walked for five (or six) consecutive days. It was glorious!
Cooler weather moved in over the weekend. With that, hats and hoods made their way onto my children’s heads when they went outside today. When I looked at them, prepped for both the cold weather they were going to walk in and the encounters they were about to have with people outside of our household, I laughed. Between their winter head coverings and their masks for COVID safety, I barely found their faces!
Could you imagine what they’d look like if they donned a pair of sunglasses too?
In Christine Hertz and Kristi Mraz’s new book, Kids 1st from Day One, the authors invite teachers to examine their classroom by getting down to a child’s eye level. Once teachers can imagine how their classroom looks — from a child’s perspective — they’re able to make modifications to the space based on what they notice.
I thought about how the world appears from a child’s eye level as I chased Ari around a Starbucks we stopped at on our drive back to Pennsylvania. After he ate (in his stroller since they didn’t have any high chairs!), he walked around so he could stretch his legs before we concluded our drive home.
Ari was fascinated by the bags of coffee and potato chips, which were strategically placed in a young child’s line of vision. He said “hi”to the animals on the coffee bags and carried them around the store. While Ari put the bags of coffee and chips back upon request, I needed to tidy up the displays before we hit the road again.
I rarely crouch down to my son’s level when we are out of the house. However, once I did, I learned places like Starbucks have all sorts of interesting things in a child’s field of vision.
Isabelle's reading tutor worked with her on Friday morning. Saturday got away from us and we didn't read together. (i.e., She was read to, but she didn't practice reading aloud.) Yesterday morning, I knew I had a battle ahead since the day after her reading tutor comes is always the trickiest practice day (since we have a new lesson to review). With every subsequent day, the Orton-Gillingham practice pages get easier. However, the day after is always — always — a challenge.
I poured myself extra coffee at breakfast. Once the bottom of the cup was in sight, I asked Isabelle, who was playing in the next room, "Do you want to read now or five minutes from now?"
"Five minutes from now!" she called back.
I finished the last few ounces of coffee, knowing I would need as much energy as possible to get through our session. Not only were the Orton-Gillingham practice pages new, we were also starting a new Elephant & Piggie book.
When the five minute timer rang on my iPhone, I pushed myself back from the kitchen table, inhaled deeply, and called to Isabelle, "it's time to read together!"
As we settled in on the couch beside each other, I asked myself some questions:
* What if I didn't harp on her about keeping her tracker finger straight and underneath every single word? * What if Iowered my voice every time she raised her voice in frustration? * What if I hugged her and kissed her cheeks every time she thrashed her legs when the words tricked her? * What if I didn't mention she was making reading take a long time by complaining?
I tried all of those things yesterday. I praised her as much as I always did, but gave her extra attention, in the form of love, every time she got frustrated with something in the binder. (She is practicing voiced th words this week — and it's HARD for her to say and read — so there was lots of frustration!)
After five minutes of her usual antics, the amount of frustrated outbursts decreased. I think Isabelle had no idea of what to make of her mommy who was approaching the reading session as less of a teacher and more of, dare I say it, a loving mother.
By the time we finished the Orton-Gillingham practice pages, we decided to take a break before starting Let's Go for a Drive! Once we started the book, there were almost no complaints (except for one time when she got annoyed because I insisted she use her tracker finger on the page to help her reread accurately after two miscues of the word "the.")!
Yesterday was a small reading victory. Tomorrow might not go as well as yesterday went. But when your child struggles with reading, you'll take whatever glimmers you can get.
Isabelle walked into my bedroom while I was watching the first few minutes of “CBS This Morning.” A story about Hillary Clinton being the presumptive nominee was on. The report featured an excerpt of Bernie Sanders speaking in California. Isabelle seemed unimpressed by what she saw.
Shades of gray don’t apply to the preschool brain, do they? In Isabelle’s mind (& I’m sure many other kids’ minds), they see the world in terms of good guys and bad guys. And apparently, if someone is raising their voice — in Isabelle’s world — they aren’t a good guy.
Isabelle and her friend, Y, were born 15 days apart. Last year, they were in the same preschool class three days a week. This year, they’re together five days a week. Next year will be more of the same when they go to Kindergarten. They may not be best friends, but they get along nicely.
Today was the final day of Isabelle’s spring break so Y’s mom and I decided to take the kids to Sky Zone and for lunch at Wegman’s. Y’s mom and I were sitting on the floor while the kids were taking turns jumping into the foam pit. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something lovely happening. Y motioned his arm out to the side and said “after you” to Isabelle. I don’t know who should’ve been first on the line, but he insisted she go ahead of him. I motioned to Y’s mom who noticed too. As a result, we complimented him on his manners.
But it didn’t end there. I noticed Y gesture to Isabelle to go ahead of him a few more times. However, she didn’t always take the spot ahead of him in line. Sometimes, she let him go first!
So often we catch kids doing the wrong thing. Today, I caught these two five-year-olds taking turns and using their manners so beautifully. It made my heart smile.
I typically shut off the morning news as soon as Isabelle enters my bedroom in the mornings. There’s no need for her to hear about ISIS, deadly tornadoes, plane crashes, etc. However, one morning, several months ago, I didn’t turn off the television. Donald Trump was on the small screen. He was yelling about something. But instead of pressing the power button off, I asked Isabelle, “What do you think of that man? Is he nice or mean?”
“He’s mean,” she responded immediately.
“What makes you say that?” I asked.
I believe she said it was something about the tone of his voice. (Clearly, she didn’t understand the scope of the vitriolic message he was spewing, but she didn’t care for his tone).
And that was the end of it — for awhile.
Any time Trump appeared on the news when Isabelle walked into my room for the next few months, she’d ask, “Is that the mean guy?” I would nod somberly. She’s also asked, “Why is he always yelling?” and “Why is he a bad guy?” I’ve done my best to answer her, but it’s been hard to respond in a way that a five-year-old can comprehend.
One day Isabelle overheard Trump call someone stupid. She said, “Why did he say ‘stupid,’ Mommy? Stupid is a bad word!” I didn’t temper my response that time. I told her this wasn’t the way people were supposed to talk. In fact, I probably said too much because she always says “there’s the mean man with the orange hair” (I swear she added the orange hair part on her own.) every time she sees him on TV now (i.e., ever since the day we talked about him calling people “stupid.”)
I never thought Donald Trump would be the front-runner in the Republican race by March 2016! I thought it would be Jeb Bush, John Kasich, or Marco Rubio. Even though I watch “Morning Joe” every morning (and have seen the writing on the wall), I’m still I’m stunned that Trump — who wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of this country, put a temporary ban on Muslims, defund Planned Parenthood, and takes to Twitter to malign people — might become the Republican nominee. My daughter has recognized President Obama on television for the past three years (and affectionately refers to him as “O-bama!”). She has heard snippets of him speaking in a dignified manner time and time again. I cannot imagine how I would explain how and why our country might choose a man who lacks gravitas and spews hatred to occupy the White House. (I hope that day will never come.)
This morning, The New York Times ran, “How Do You Talk to Your Children About Donald Trump? Thoughtfully.” I felt a wave of relief come over me as I read the article since I am not alone in having issues talking about Donald Trump with my child. It’s a thing. Parents and educators are challenged to talk about Trump with children since so much of how he acts goes against the kinds of things we teach our children on a day-to-day basis.
For instance, Trump’s behavior wouldn’t be tolerated in schools. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Kathy Maher, a sixth-grade teacher in Newton, Mass., said that election years usually presented an excellent opportunity for students to observe the virtues of the American democratic process. But this year, she said, she worries about the school’s mock-debate season, when someone will have to play Mr. Trump — a candidate who, if he were a student, would be sent straight to the principal’s office.
Unlike most of the parents profiled in the article, my daughter is asleep long before the raucous debates have aired. She hasn’t witnessed the outlandish statements Trump (and some of the other candidates have) made. My daughter is five. We shelter her from the news in an effort to preserve the sanctity of her childhood. However, I cannot shelter her forever. At some point, I’m going to have to explain how someone as bombastic as Trump has made it so far. I’m hoping I won’t have to explain why he’s occupying the White House at this time next year. I can’t even allow my mind to go there right now.
I found it hard to focus on the Jennifer Weiner novel I was reading while Isabelle was in dance class yesterday. Three other moms were gabbing while our daughters were dancing. Their conversation was almost identical to the one they’ve had the past few weeks. It focused on their weight. All three were dieting (perhaps as a New Year’s resolution). All three were, admittedly, depriving themselves of food they love in an effort to shed pounds. All three were craving food. All three have been on my mind since last night since I know how hard it is to diet when you feel hangry.
One mom, who talked about using different and smaller bowls and plates so she could eat less, said her daughter was curious about her dinnerware changes. She swore to the other women she doesn’t talk about her weight in front of her daughter. While I was thankful for that, I did notice she was conversing about her weight in front of her young son. (And we wonder why some men in society contribute to some women having negative body images. I believe we have to be just as mindful of the things we say around boys as we are with girls. But that’s a topic for another blog post.)
I weigh a lot more now than I did when I got married in 2007. Maybe it is because my metabolism slowed down once I turned 30. Who knows? I am a mindful eater who tries to eat healthy foods. For instance, I drink a green smoothie every morning. I have been gluten-free for over a year. However, I don’t count calories or obsess about everything I put in my mouth because doing so makes me miserable.
The only way I’ve found to counteract my love of cooking and baking is to exercise regularly. When my daughter asks why I’m exercising, I explain doing so helps me feel strong; it gives me more energy. I edit my desire to shed pounds from my rationale. I’d much rather Isabelle understand I exercise to feel good about myself rather than doing it because I don’t like the way I look.
I’ve accepted — although I don’t love — that my arms, tummy, and thighs are not as taut as they were in my 20’s. They may never be “perfect” again since plastic surgery frightens me. Therefore, instead of paying attention to calorie counts, I prefer to look at my exercise stats from the month that’s passed with pride rather than regret.
Yes, I keep stats — the old-fashioned way, not with a FitBit — last month. (I have considered getting a FitBit. If you have one, please convince me why I need one.) Here’s what I accomplished in January:
Elliptical: 9 sessions for a total of 366 minutes.
Pilates: 7 sessions for a total of 305 minutes.
Swimming: 7 sessions for a total of 2 miles.
I’m not the first, nor will I be the last, person to write about body image. I wonder what would happen if everyone reframed the conversation for themselves. Instead of berating ourselves for overeating, what if we were more mindful about the food choices we made? What if we indulged and were thankful for treating ourselves rather than guilting ourselves into an extra 30 minutes of cardio. And, what if we exercised for the sake of living a longer life and having better internal numbers (e.g., blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) rather than worrying about the number on the scale?
Isabelle has been thinking aloud a lot., which is great. I want to hear what she has to say. I really do. But I am trying to reframe what she’s talking about. Why? Well, that’s because she has a keen eye for spotting and pointing out portable toilets (That’s what she remembers from the concert we took her to on the West Lawn of the Capitol in May. Not the incredible music or the tributes to those who have served our country. Nope, she remembers the portable toilets she saw.) and trash on the ground (Ever since Earth Day she’s been agahast whenever she sees litter.)! I bet you’d be a little frustrated if your child was constantly pointing these things out, wouldn’t you?
This afternoon I decided enough was enough. I embarked upon a new motto, “seek beauty,” when we’re out and about. It’s very simple. Look for things that are beautiful in the world. Notice those. Share it with the other person.
Here’s a listen to our first conversation about seeking beauty. (NOTE: I hit record when we were in dead-stop traffic. I pulled over to the side of the road to end the recording.)
American Flags. Flowers. Houses. Now those are things worth noticing. I still heard about one more portable toilet (which I ignored) on the way home. And she did point out some rubbish on the ground, which appalled her. But she also noticed more pretty flowers and a neighbor’s American flag on the ride home. So maybe, just maybe, I’ll talk her into this seek beauty thing after all.
I presented Isabelle with her playlist on my iPhone as she prepared to brush her teeth.
“Pick a song,” I said, as I do every morning.
Instead of scrolling up and down through the playlist with her finger in search of a picture she liked (which matches a song she wants to hear), she settled her finger towards the center of the screen.
“A…,” she began.
“A, what?” I asked.
“A.” She pointed towards the Jackson 5’s song. Then she continued. “A. B. C.” She looked up and smiled.
“ABC, what?” I asked. (I had a feeling about what she was doing, but I wanted to follow her lead.)
“ABC, da song! Dat’s ‘ABC’,” she said as she touched the screen with her index finger.
Next thing we knew, a new screen popped up and we heard the Jackson 5 singing and playing “ABC.”
“Wow! You read that. Instead of looking at the picture, you read the letters a-b-c and picked the song. You should be so proud of yourself.”
I continued, “That’s reading, Isabelle. The letters mean something. This song is called “ABC” and you read the title of the song. You can learn how to read the titles of all of your songs.” But then I stopped. She’s only four. Why push? And besides, we had to brush those teeth!
Isabelle accompanied me to the grocery store when we got home from our long weekend in CT/NY/NJ. We were three-quarters of the way finished with our food shopping when we ran into our rabbi on one of the aisles. He gave Isabelle a huge wave as soon as she saw him. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes.
At one point, Isabelle asked him, “Why are you here?” I chuckled. I knew what she was thinking (even though she’s seen him at Giant in the past). It’s the same thing kids wonder when they see their teachers out in public.
But her line of questioning continued after we said our good-byes and continued on to the dairy aisle.
“Why is the Rabbi here?”
“Because he needs to buy food.”
“Does the Rabbi have a house?”
“At the synagogue?”
“No. He lives on XXXXXX Street.”
“Is that near the synagogue?”
“Yes. I’ll show you his house next time we drive by.”
“How do you know where he lives?
“Daddy and I ate dinner with his wife there once.”
“He eats food there?”
“But why is he here?”
“Rabbis need to eat too.”
And on and on it went as we gathered everything on the dairy aisle. The questions finally ended when we reached the checkout counter and Isabelle assumed the task of unloading the cart, from the inside, on to the belt.
I wonder what kinds of questions she’d ask if we ran into him at Hersheypark!