food · poetry · preschool

Lunchbox Poems for National Poetry Month

I’m one of those moms who puts a note in my child’s lunchbox every day.  This month, I decided Isabelle was not going to get regular notes. Instead, she’d get a poem every day of the month, in honor of National Poetry Month, that she brings lunch to school.

I pulled out a variety of poetry books and combed the web for cute kids’ poems.  Next, I opened up the Vanilla Pen app and got to work.  Here’s a look at what I created (some are prettier than others):

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE.  My personal favorite is located on the bottom right.  It's includes a reminder that she has to leave early from school for a dental appointment. Ha!
CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE. My personal favorite is located on the bottom right. It’s includes a reminder that she has to leave early from school for a dental appointment. Ha!

In honor of the first day of National Poetry Month AND the lunchbox poem series I’m hosting for Isabelle, here’s a peek at a favorite Eve Merriam poem that seemed perfect for Isabelle’s lunch today:

IMG_0651 (1)
Click on the image to enlarge.


I’m not sure what Isabelle will think of her month of poems. I hope her teachers won’t mind reading something a bit longer than my usual notes every day this month.

I’ve long had the idea of putting together a book (I envision it as the kind of book a publisher like Workman would take on.) of 180 Lunchbox Poems (for every day of the school year).  I’m not sure if a publisher would ever want to produce a book like this, which would include kid-friendly poems on sheets that parents could tare-out on a perforation and easily stick in their child’s lunch.  All I know is that the permissions process would be enormous!  For now, I’ll just stick with lunchbox poems for my own child.

preschool · slice of life

Music to My Educator Ears

It snowed a whopping two inches overnight from Sunday into Monday. I assumed my daughter’s school would have a delayed opening when my husband came in from shoveling, rather than snow blowing our driveway. But then, I got an e-mail from my daughter’s school. Like so many other schools in the local area, they had gone from a delay to a closure.

Isabelle was already dressed from head to toe. She was wearing her woolies so she could play outside at recess and even had her bow in her coiffed curls. I knew she wouldn’t take it well when I broke the news about the cancelation to her. What I didn’t know is that she would cry.

That’s right. My kid, daughter and granddaughter of educators, cried when she heard school was canceled. Her exact words were:

Why is preschool closed? I wanna go to school. I’m disappointed!

Tears sprang from her eyes, her cheeks turned red, and a pout stayed on her face for awhile as she repeated herself over and over. I promised her a fun day. I promised her she’d go outside. I promised her she’d play with the neighborhood kids. It seemed she didn’t want to hear my promises… she just wanted to go to school!

There was lots of playing yesterday. We even made valentines for her little friends. (And, I got a head-start on the heart crayons I plan to attach to the valentines.) But all day I couldn’t shake the fact that she wanted to go to school rather than stay home. I hope her enthusiasm for learning and seeing her peers is always as strong as it was yesterday.

OBSERVATIONS · preschool · slice of life

Sharing the Excitement

Daria drew Isabelle a picture and gave it to her before we left today. I'm not sure why there are carrots on there, but I think it's  quite cute!
Daria drew Isabelle a picture and gave it to her before we left today. I’m not sure why there are carrots on there, but I think it’s quite cute!

One of Isabelle’s new friends at preschool — we’ll call her Daria — approached me twice asking for a play date with Isabelle.

“Have your mom e-mail me,” I told her.

“Can you e-mail him?” four year-old Daria asked me.

“Sure,” I said, and added that to the reasons I should also be considered my daughter’s social secretary.

In reality, I e-mailed Daria’s mom and set up a play date at a local museum for this-coming weekend.  Last week, Daria approached me at school and asked, “When is my play date with Isabelle?”

“Next weekend,” I told her.

And that was it.  It was on the books.  Barring anyone getting sick (G-d forbid!) or a snowstorm (Ugh!), we’re on for this weekend.

But then today, when I picked up Isabelle at preschool, Daria approached me.

“Do we still have a play date this weekend?”

“Yes,” I said. “You and Isabelle still have a play date on Saturday.”

“Isabelle isn’t very excited about it,” Daria confided in me.

“Yes she is! She actually asked me to go to the museum with you, which is why we’re meeting there instead of at one of our houses.”

Daria didn’t seem convinced. “She doesn’t seem excited about it.”

I knew, in my heart of hearts, that Isabelle asked to go to the museum with her.  Was it that she was indifferent towards a play date with her friend or was it because she wasn’t able to express how excited she was?  My body tensed.  What if it’s the latter?  What if she can’t get her words out to express her excitement?

I knelt down beside Daria.  “Sometimes Isabelle doesn’t say everything that’s on her mind. I know she’s excited to play with you at the museum.”

Daria walked away, but didn’t look any happier.  I thought about what I had said.  I looked at Isabelle, sitting at a table playing Play Doh quietly beside her friends.  She was content, but she wasn’t conversing with them (except for the occasional protest or to ask someone for a Play Doh tool).  But I didn’t feel badly for Isabelle since she looked happy.  Instead, I felt badly for Daria.  She wanted to hear that Isabelle was just as eager to play with her as she was to play with Isabelle.  And then, I felt badly for myself.  I am the parent of a child who has learned how to talk, but I know she struggles with circles of communication.  Social conversation is hard for her because of her motor speech difficulties.  She’s made progress, but still has a long way to go in this area.  It was hard for me to learn that her lack of conversational skills made another child feel badly.

Five minutes past and it was about time to go home.  Isabelle set her creation to dry on a tray.  I told her, “Say good-bye to your friends and your teacher.”

She walked over to Daria first.  “Bye Daria!” Isabelle wrapped her arms around Daria and hugged her tightly.  “I love you.”

Daria hugged back.

I smiled.  I smiled because my daughter was affectionate.  I smiled because my daughter has a generic way of telling her friends she cares about them.  I smiled because my daughter probably made Daria realize she can’t wait to play with her this weekend.

Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.
preschool · writing · writing journal

First Writer’s Notebook (of sorts)

I made note of the fact we were sitting in her classroom chairs. (When she heard we were going to her classroom without her this evening she was less than pleased.)

My husband and I attended our daughter’s first Open School Night. We got there early. Yes, early. Why? It’s mostly because we heard parking would be tight. But truth be told, I was really excited to be on the other side of a back-to-school evening since I’ve always been on the teacher-side of things.

We got to taste the zucchini muffins and homemade butter the children made this morning. Her teachers had a slide show of photos from the first month of school, which gave me a better idea of how engaged she’s been.  We read through past stuffed animal weekend class journals.  But, for me, the most exciting part of the evening was getting to see my daughter’s blank writing journal!

I believe her teacher put the journals out in the past day or two since they caught my eye when I dropped her off at school this morning. Isabelle’s portfolio was blank, therefore we wrote the first entry, which was encouraged by her teachers.

Marc and I sat down next to each other, folded back the purple construction paper cover, and thought about what we wanted to write. I knew I would need to supplement with pictures. (Art is not my strong suit, as evidenced by the lack of a cow utter on the cow in the photograph above.) I tried not to agonize about it too much since it is, after all, her very first place for drawing pictures (her teachers will scribe her stories).  In the end, we filled the page of her journal. I wonder what she will think what he sees it tomorrow morning.


OBSERVATIONS · preschool · slice of life

Preschool Dispute

IMG_0445.JPGNearly every morning I’m on top of my kiddo to eat breakfast. Every morning’s meal involves constant reminders to eat and a timer. However, yesterday’s first meal of the day was a little different since I decided I didn’t want to harp on her. I was tired from being away for the previous five days in NJ for Rosh Hashanah. Therefore, instead of nagging her, I picked up one of review copies I received while we were away and read it at the table. (Bad form… I know. But it’s better than using a phone at the table, right?!??!)

Isabelle was curious about the book I was reading. “Read it to me,” she requested.

I complied with her request and read Sue Heap’s Mine! to her. She liked it so much that she asked me to read it aloud to her two more times. I capitalized on her interest by requiring her to eat another strawberry, sip her chocolate milk, or eat another bite of cereal every time she wanted me to turn the page. It worked like a charm. She was entertained and well-fed by the end of the third reading.

* * * * *

Later in the day, I walked into Isabelle’s preschool classroom and saw her sitting around a small table with her teacher and three other students. They were playing with a pie that had colorful fruit shapes inside of it. As soon as she saw me, she got loud and started to hog the pie. In fact, once I came over to the table where they were sitting she made a big production of taking the pie away from the group declaring, “Mine! It’s mine!”

I began to say something like, “Isabelle, bring that back here,” but I stopped myself. I turned to her teacher and said, “It’s your classroom. I’ll let you handle it if you’d like.”

I want to see where she’s going with it,” said her teacher. Smart thinking.

We watched her for a moment as Isabelle headed to the play kitchen and one of the other girls, who we’ll call Leah, balked about the disappearing pie. “What are you doing over there?” Isabelle’s teacher asked.

“I’m pretending to eat the pie,” Isabelle declared as she sat down at the play kitchen table.

Makes sense, but it isn’t nice.

Suddenly, Leah jumped up, walked across the room, and grabbed the pie back from Isabelle. (I was pretty glad she did!) Isabelle chased her back to where the rest of us were sitting saying, “I pay-ing wid dat. It’s mine!”

I bit my tongue. Her teacher attempted to negotiate the situation between Isabelle and Leah. But then another kid got hurt and her teacher had to attend to that situation leaving me with two unhappy toddlers, both of whom wanted to play with the pretend pie.

I drew Isabelle closer to me as Leah played with the pie. “Mine! I using dat!”

“I understand you want to play with the pie, but so does Leah. Remember this morning we read that book Mine!?”

“Yes,” Isabelle replied.

“Remember how the little girl realized she could share her toys with Jack, Zak, and the baby? She said ‘yours and mine’ and ‘mine and yours.’ That’s what you can do with Leah. The pie can be a ‘mine and yours’ or a ‘yours and mine.’ You can take turns with it.”

“Okay,” Isabelle said.

I fed her the words to say to Leah to facilitate the sharing situation. Once we practiced a couple of times, she tapped Leah on the shoulder and said, “Want to pay together? The pie can be yours and mine!”

Leah said, “okay,” and just like that, the girls began to sort the berries inside of the pie. Then they took it over to the <> that had been set up in the classroom earlier in the day. They played for a few more minutes before it was time for us to go home.

But before we left, I asked Isabelle if she’d go back to Leah and say, “Thanks for sharing the pie with me.”

She did. And then she gave Leah a hug. And Leah hugged back.

“Bye!” Isabelle said to Leah.

“Bye Isabelle!” Leah said.

Crisis solved. At least for now. That little encounter between Leah and Isabelle was exhausting. What if we hadn’t read Mine! that morning? I have a feeling it wouldn’t have turned out quite as well.

Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.

BOTTOM LINE: I don’t know how her preschool teacher manages this stuff all day long. She’s so patient and even-keeled. I can’t imagine dealing with these squabbles, which must happen constantly! (Preschool arguments are certainly more frequent and more intense than upper elementary school ones!)

food · OBSERVATIONS · preschool

Beyond the Lunchbox

Isabelle watched me pack her lunch and put the magnets on her lunchbox last night.

My mom packed me a sandwich (roast beef, turkey, or PB&J) in a lunchbox for most of my elementary school career.  I don’t remember what else she threw in, but I know there were sides.  Even though one of the boys in my class always got teased because his mother wrote him long notes in his lunch every day, part of me wished my mom would’ve tucked a note or two in my lunchbox.  (Not a long missive like that kid had! That was too much!) But honestly, I’m not complaining because my mom drove me to and from school every day.  She was always there for me and still is.  She may not have packed the most exciting lunches, but I was well-nourished and happy.

Nowadays, there’s a whole lunchbox culture.  It seems to live on Pinterest and on blogs (though I’ve seen glimpses of it on Twitter.) If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to Pinterest, type in something like school lunch for kids and you’ll be inundated with intricate lunch boxes filled with cutely designed sandwiches, fruit, and vegetables.  I admire the book-themed lunches, the lunches that look like animals, and the lunches that are in the shape of cartoon characters. They’re adorable.  Really they are.  Heck, I even started my own Pinterest board devoted to school lunches. BUT, I don’t have the desire to spend what little free time I have making a cute school lunch.  (Plus, I’m not THAT artistic!) Also, I’ve purchased a cute looking sandwich at a children’s museum before. Its appearance didn’t make her more apt to eat it.  (NOTE: We bribed her to eat that adorable sandwich!) So…

I bought a bento style lunchbox for Isabelle and figured I’d do my best.  I packed her first school lunch last night.  (She’s staying late at preschool today.)  I had high hopes for myself, especially after exchanging tweets with Nina from Mamabelly yesterday. In reality, I packed something healthy, but not that cute.  See:

Clockwise from top: orange peppers, strawberry Greek yogurt, wheat crackers with cheddar cheese, and blueberries.  In the middle: a chocolate treat.
Clockwise from top: orange peppers, strawberry Greek yogurt, wheat crackers with cheddar cheese, and blueberries. In the middle: a chocolate treat.

This lunch may not be Pinterest-worthy, but since it contains some purple (Isabelle’s favorite color) chocolate gems candies for dessert AND a short note, I think my kiddo will be well-fed and happy.

I pre-made a dozen notes so I have them handy to tuck in whenever she stays at school for lunch.
I pre-made a dozen notes so I have them handy to tuck in whenever she stays at school for lunch.





OBSERVATIONS · preschool · routines

Nothing is predictable. #toddlers

Shades are closed, blankets are on, and Teddy is close. Hoping for the best for today’s (and everyday’s) nap time!

You would think that 3.5+ years into this parenting thing that I would’ve realized there’s no such thing as a predictable day.  Let’s be honest, I know that, but as a believer in self-fulfilling prophecies, I like to think about things the way I want them to go (rather than how they might actually go).

Take my daughter’s daily naps.  She was napping two – three hours/day over the summer. There were occasional days when she wouldn’t nap, but it was very rare. I was loving every minute of nap time since it was solid time I counted on to accomplish work daily. Therefore, I figured I’d be gaining an extra three hours on the days she went to preschool, thereby increasing my productivity.

I had the whole thing planned out, too! Drop her off at preschool, write at home OR work in a local school doing my mentor text work with small groups, pick her up at noon, come home for lunch, play with her for a bit, and put her down for a nap and then write.  But I must’ve known it wasn’t going to work out quite that way since my first day in a school is next Wednesday, 9/17.  I figured this was a good way to ease into things.

And it would’ve been if Isabelle had decided to nap last week.  But sure enough, we went three consecutive days without her taking a nap.  I was supposed to be gaining time to work, not having it taken away from me!  But silly me… I had forgotten that when you have kids rarely do things go as planned!

I’m happy to say Isabelle napped for the past two days.  I’m hoping she keeps up this streak today. After all, she spent three hours at preschool and then played outside after lunch. She should be exhausted! But I’m approaching my afternoon with cautious optimism since nothing is ever predictable when you have a toddler around. Nothing.

For those of you who’d like a preschool update, I’m happy to report Isabelle is enjoying school so far! I’m a little fuzzy on the details of her day every day, but I know she’s having fun, likes her teachers, and wants to go every day!
Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.


preschool · slice of life

Preschool starts tomorrow!

Image source:
Image source:

Dear Isabelle (because you prefer not to be called Izzy),

On Wednesday morning, Daddy and I will bring you to preschool.  I made sure he could go into work late months in advance so we could settle you into your new school together.  Some parents are sad when they send their babies off to preschool while others are delighted to get a few hours free.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  I treasured the two years we spent attending parent/child class at the Susquehanna Waldorf School, but now it’s time for you to start your educational journey by yourself.

I will miss you when you’re gone, but I have plenty of work to keep me busy. I know it will be hard to concentrate on my writing during the first few days you’re at school since I am going to be wondering how things are going.  In fact, I’m going to bake a cake from scratch when you’re at school on Wednesday morning rather than try to work on Craft Moves since I know my mind will be wandering.  (And besides, who wouldn’t want to eat a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting after their first day of preschool!?!?)

Last week we attended your teacher’s open house.  I was reminded of why I selected her to be your teacher while we spent an hour in her classroom.  First, she listens with her whole self.  She turns her body towards the speaker and makes consistent eye contact. Second, she has a calm voice and chill manner.  (Opposite of yours truly, a born New Yorker!)  Third, her classroom is serene, with white twinkling lights on the ceiling. Fourth, the room is clutter-free.  There are lots of toys, but it’s organized.

I have hopes and dreams for you, Isabelle.

I hope you make friends.  This will be the first time you’ll be making friends on your own, without me there to negotiate social situations, barter for toys, or facilitate communication.  I hope you are able to find peers you enjoy learning with and playing with in the classroom and on the playground.  I hope you share and respect them while sticking up for yourself whenever necessary.

I hope you use your voice.  I know you will talk to people (kids and adults) when you know they’re willing to take the time to understand you.  I hope you find a classroom full of people who are interested in what you have to say so you will feel free to take risks when you’re speaking.  Your teachers know speaking is something that requires a lot of work for you so I hope they will help you through this so people don’t think you’re quiet and shy – because I know you’re not.

I hope you balance your silly and serious sides.  You have the tendency to get very silly at home.  I’m not sure if this is a home-thing or if this is going to grow into a school thing.  I want you to laugh and let your hair down in school, but not at the expense of the learning environment.

I hope you embrace new challenges.  And to that end, I hope you continue to have a growth mindset.  Part of your speech success is due to the growth mindset you have.  You try and try and try, even when it’s hard.  I admire you for that.  I hope this transfers over to your school life too.

I hope you continue to love reading.  Your new classroom is filled with books.  I hope you discover new titles and authors you enjoy.  Nothing would tickle me more than having you share books with me.

I hope you start to write.  Maybe not this year, but during preschool.  And by write, I mean talking through stories and drawing pictures of those stories.

I hope you will be a leader, not a follower.  I hope you will advocate for yourself and for others.  And most of all, I hope you will do the right thing, even when the right thing isn’t the easy choice.

I dream you won’t discover princesses or become obsessed with certain toys.  I’ve managed to shield you from these things for the past three-and-a-half years.  I know I can no longer shield you from it since you’re going to be in a classroom of kids, some of who are girly-girls and some of whom might have memorized the words to every Disney movie.  Therefore, I hope I handle whatever comes my way, on this front, with grace and patience.  I know I’m going to need both when the preschool floodgates open.  (And, no, you can’t be a princess for Halloween.  But you can still be an owl, like you said you wanted to be last week.)

Finally, I hope you love school.  It would delight me if you’d wake on a school morning, excited about the day ahead.  School is a place for learning, but it should also be a place you love going to because learning is fun.

I know you’re worried about missing me. Eliza and Sam talked to you about going to school without their moms the other day. I hope their words provided you some comfort.  And, I hope you know from all of the times I’ve left and come back before that “grown-ups come back” every time.

I love you.



preschool · slice of life · technology

The Case for Tweeting in Preschool

Tweet About Your Day - Raising a Literate HumanI used to be one of those kids. You know THOSE kids who didn’t give their parents a full answer when they asked “What did you do in school today?” Granted, I was more forthcoming than most of my peers probably were with their folks, but I distinctly remember filtering information from them in elementary school.  (By the time eighth grade came around, my mom was driving me 32 miles round-trip to school daily so I had no choice but to spill the beans about my day.)  I cannot recall why I didn’t tell my parents everything, but I just remember withholding information.

Isabelle’s personality is quite different than mine. This makes me wonder if she’ll tell me everything or nothing.  (Remember, I was in-between when it came to reporting things!)  If last week is any indication of what’s to come, I have a feeling she’ll tell me half-truths.

You see, last week I sent Isabelle to half-day day camp at the school where she’ll attend preschool.  It was my attempt to get her comfortable in her new school building.  (Sadly, she won’t be returning to the lovely Waldorf school we went to the past two years since the distance was too great for me to drive while writing a book.) While I was interested in knowing how she coped being in a new place and whether or not she initiated potty breaks (She did… whew!), I also wanted to know what she did.  Maybe it’s because she’s three or maybe it’s because of her Apraxia, but I couldn’t get a true sense of what was happening from her.  For instance, I asked her, “Did Jeannie read you a book today.”

“Yes,” she replied.

“That’s good.  Did you like it?”

“Yes,” she said.

“What was it about?”

“Beards,” she declared.

“Beards?” I asked. (I knew last week’s camp had a pirate theme, but I had a tough time believing the teacher read a book about beards to the kids.)

“Yes, beards,” she replied confidently.

“Hmmmm… do you remember the title, the author, or the illustrator’s name?” I queried.

“No,” she said.

The next morning I asked Jeannie, the teacher, “Did you read a book about beards yesterday?”

“No, I read Talk Like a Pirate.”

“Oh, I said.”  I pointed at Isabelle, “she said you read a book about beards.”

I recounted this to my husband who insisted that pirates do have beards, so that wasn’t too far off.  Fine, I’ll give Isabelle credit for this one, but I really didn’t know what she read, which meant I couldn’t engage in a conversation about the book with her.

Some of Isabelle's creations from her week at "pirate camp."
Some of Isabelle’s creations from her week at “pirate camp.”

The rest of the week went like this.  Isabelle would tell me something (e.g., I played with Robin.) and, if I was lucky, I would find out what really happened at some point (e.g., She played with a boy named Quinn.  There aren’t any kids named Robin in her camp group. Apparently Robin, “Wobuhn,” is easier to say than “Quinn.”).  This makes me think that I’m not going to have much of an idea about what’s happening in her classroom once preschool starts if the teacher doesn’t send home a weekly newsletter. (Please, please, pretty please let there be a newsletter.) And that’s when I got to thinking… wouldn’t it be great if her teacher tweeted snippets of the school day out to parents?  For instance, at the end of a lesson, she could tweet what they did.  She could tweet the kids’ discoveries.  She could tweet the kids’ drawings.  She could even tweet a couple of questions for parents to ask their preschoolers at the dinner table.

But then I came back down to Earth.  There is no way that I can walk into my daughter’s new school and demand that my daughter’s teacher tweets with the kids on day one.  For one thing, that would be like me telling her how to do her job.  Second, it would encourage what could turn into an unhealthy amount of technology exposure to the children.  And third, no teacher wants a fellow educator telling her to take on more work when she had a lot of other things on her plate.  Therefore, I will keep my mouth shut.  But if I ever see a suggestion box, then I think I might put this one in it since it would help me, as the parent of what is shaping up to be a partial reporter, to engage my child at home.