books · raising strong girls · slice of life


I’ve been a chronic over-packer ever since I started packing my suitcases. I don’t travel lightly. It’s why we own a minivan that seats eight but only have two kids. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I bring a shoulder tote with me whenever I take one or both of my children to a medical appointment.

My rules are simple:

  • A device may be used whenever you’re in a waiting room or waiting for a provider to enter an exam room.
  • The device must be closed when any provider or staff member is speaking with you.

This morning, Isabelle had allergy shots, which meant a 30-minute wait. It’s not exactly time well-spent since she’s supposed to be in school. Therefore, I try to make it academic. However, it’s challenging to concentrate on a book in a pediatric waiting room. Therefore, I proposed something she hadn’t tried before: listening to an audiobook.

She liked the idea, but said, “I need to go to your office first.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I need to find a book I want to read.”

“Sure,” I replied.

Isabelle returned with several books and requested her iPad. I knew what she was up to. After finding a novel, she often borrows the audiobook on Libby to follow along with the text. (That was one of the best tips I learned from Colleen Cruz two years ago!)

I watched Isabelle remove her Beats from the pouch to set herself up with her book and iPad when I checked her in for her appointment. I looked back at her and didn’t notice her eyes darting around the waiting room as they would’ve if she were reading a printed text. Instead, she was laser-focused on turning the pages.

Isabelled is reading Becoming Brianna by Terri Libenson. May I say, looking at this later in the day, how pleased I was that her feet weren’t on the chairs?!

Isabelle got as cozy as possible in the second waiting room after her shots. She blocked out everything and everyone. She was the picture of a focused reader. While I had brought work with me, I decided to take advantage of the quiet (and of the fact that I didn’t have Ari with us). I opened up my audiobook, Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson, too.

Neither of us heard the nurse approach. She must’ve asked Isabelle where she wanted to get her arms checked a couple of times since she seemed to wave a bit to get our attention.

Packing this much for an appointment is — on the surface — a lot. But, I think it’s worth it.

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Jewish · raising strong girls · reading · slice of life

Read from Right to Left… and Hold the Vowels!

Isabelle and Marc met with our rabbi to review Isabelle’s Bat Mitzvah speech. At the end of lunch, the three of us talked about it. That led to me sitting with her and to some level of frustration that she’s still unsure of what happens in her Torah portion. (Click here to learn what a Torah portion is.) In Isabelle’s defense, it’s a challenging Torah portion! I tried to capture what Isabelle was trying to articulate about the big ideas, but I could tell she just wanted to be done with it. (I can’t blame her.)

The yellow sticky notes cover the block-printed Hebrew with vowels and punctuation.  This helps Isabelle focus all of her attention on the text in the left column that looks most like a Torah scroll.

After a half hour, we set the speech aside. It was time for Isabelle to review her Torah portion. As she sat there, chanting from Torah perfectly, my heart swelled with pride. Here is my kid, diagnosed with Dylexia a few years ago, reading from the Torah. Why is this such a big deal?

  1. Direction: Hebrew is written and read from right to left, which is the opposite of English.
  2. Letters: The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters that look nothing like the English alphabet’s 26 letters.
  3. Vowels: In Hebrew, the vowels are represented by marks below the letters. But here’s the thing, the vowels are MISSING when you read from Torah.
  4. Punctuation: A chumash is a printed-book version of the Torah that contains punctuation. A Torah scroll lacks hyphens, periods, etc. to help the reader.
  5. Font: A Torah scroll doesn’t have an easy-to-read, block-print Hebrew. Instead, it is written in K’tav Ashurit, a calligraphic form of Hebrew. (It doesn’t jive with what I would consider an accessible font!)
  6. Chanting: The right-to-left, hard-to-read, vowel-and-punctuation-missing words are supposed to be sung… to a particular tune! The trope marks are given to people when they’re learning the Torah portion, but those are also missing when one reads from the Torah scroll. (You can read about the purpose of the trope marks by clicking here.)

It is a lot for any kid to prepare for the day they become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah! The challenge is even more significant for a child with Dyslexia because all of the things they rely upon as support in English are GONE when they read from the Torah.

YET, despite all of that, Isabelle learned her Torah portion in a month. All we do is practice it together a few times a week. She is ready!

Now that her speech is done, it’s time for me to write mine. I’ve been putting it off since I’m overthinking how I want to structure it. That said, the speech won’t write itself, so as soon as the SOLSC is over, my next writing challenge (i.e., condensing all of my pride into a three-minute speech) begins!

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raising strong girls · slice of life · weather

Impervious to the Cold

Did you know sixth graders (and all middle schoolers, while we’re at it) are impervious to the cold?

They’re not, but my daughter likes to think she is. She refuses to wear a hat unless it’s below 20 degrees. Scarf? Same thing as the hat. She usually wears gloves, but not today. Why? Because she’s 12.

Here’s the scene from this morning while we were waiting for her bus to pick her up:

Me: (notices nothing poking out of pockets) Do you have gloves?

A screenshot of today’s weather forecast from Carrot.

Isabelle: No.

Me: Why not?

Isabelle: They’re in my other coat.

Me: You have time to go and get them.

Isabelle: I don’t need them.

Me: Yes, you do.

Isabelle: I don’t.

Me: Your hands will be freezing at recess.

Isabelle: I’ll be fine.

Me: You should really take your gloves.

Isabelle: I’ll. Be. Fine.

Me: (pulls up weather report on phone) It doesn’t look too warm around the time you’re going to recess. I guess you’ll decide if you need to wear gloves tomorrow.

Isabelle: I really don’t need them.

Me: Let me see your hands. (snaps photo) I bet your hands will be dry tonight. So dry that you’ll need Aquaphor.

Proof of well-hydrated hands!

Isabelle: I’ll be fine.

Me: (accepts defeat) Time will tell.

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beauty · raising strong girls · slice of life

Embracing Her Curls

About a decade ago, I laid a stake in the ground — publicly — and embraced my curls. In fact, writing about my decision to stop straightening my hair was one of the first posts I wrote on this blog. While I have been known to blow out my hair occasionally in the wintertime, I have been getting curly cuts for over a decade. Therefore, it has pained me to hear Isabelle declare that she wishes she had “straight hair like everyone else” this school year. (Ah, sixth grade. The time when many kids start wishing they looked like anyone else.)

Saturday was a rainy day that kept us indoors. By nightfall, I offered Isabelle to straighten her hair. She was bored and agreed to sit for it — no matter how long it took.

52 minutes (i.e., three styling products, a hair dryer, and a flat iron) later, her hair was “straight.” It was straight, in that it wasn’t curly, but it didn’t look good. It was poofy since she was unable to tolerate the heat from the blow dryer close to her head. Her hair is WAY curlier than mine and I didn’t have the arm strength to do the job a professional stylist would do. To quote Ari, “You look like a lioness, Isabelle.”

As I was taming her curls, Isabelle saw how much work it took me… and how much time. She did NOT enjoy sitting in one place for that long. By the end, she decided a five to ten-minute investment in getting her curls to look polished was better than 52 minutes any day of the week.

But what hurts my mama’s heart the most is that Isabelle, despite my efforts for the past decade, still believes straight hair (i.e., straight blond hair, if you really press her) is better than what she has. While I know most of us would prefer hair that’s different than our own, I am concerned this comes from what’s valued as beautiful in our society. Like all parents, I want my child to believe that she, too, is beautiful especially if she doesn’t look like everyone else. Being confident in one’s own uniqueness is attractive.

But she’s in sixth grade. Perhaps that’s more than I can hope for. Maybe this will have to wait another decade…

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growing up · raising strong girls · slice of life

Pierced Ears… Finally!

Yesterday morning, I discovered Isabelle had placed our Mother & Daughter Journal on my night table. I went through the pages she tabbed with sticky notes and discovered she was finally entertaining the idea of getting her ears pierced. (NOTE: As I mentioned last month, the contents of our journal are private. However, since earrings are a public thing, I don’t consider this to be a breach of mother-daughter confidentiality.)

I approached Isabelle about what she wrote while we were coloring in the mid-morning. She seemed interested until I uttered the words my mom told me when I was six years-old, “Even if the first one hurts, you still have to get the second one done.”

And just like that, Isabelle changed her mind.

Throughout the day, we talked about it — with Marc — a few times. She vacillated as many times as we discussed it. Eventually, I told Isabelle, “It’s your body. It’s not my place, or anyone’s place, to force you to do something you aren’t ready to do. However, if you’re going to do it, it needs to be by next weekend since you have to care for the holes for six weeks after you get them pierced and I need the care to be done before you get in a pool on Memorial Day Weekend.”

She said she understood.

She said she wasn’t doing it.

Until she changed her mind again.

And then back again.

Isabelle had a day off from school today so I asked her, “Would you like to go to the mall to take a look at the earrings. Maybe they can show you the gun they use to piece the holes in people’s ears?” I was shocked when she replied affirmatively to my question.

We went to the mall.

She found a pair of earrings she liked (pink crystal flowers with 14K gold posts).

She inspected the equipment.

Finally, once she understood the process, I asked her, “Do you think you want to get your ears pierced today or come back another time?”

In the faintest murmur, I heard an affirmative response. However, I wanted to be sure.

“I didn’t hear what you said. Would you like to get them done while we’re here?”

“Yes,” she replied with a strong voice.

I watched Isabelle hop up in the sanitized chair. The man marked her ears. (Me, being overly fastidious, asked him to readjust one of the markings.) Then, he started explaining to Isabelle how he was going to clean her ears to get them ready for the piercing.

“Do you want me to stand close to you or away from you?” I asked.

“In front of me,” Isabelle replied.

Oh my G-d, she’s nervous.

“You can stand in the center, right there in front of her,” the man told me as he removed the alcohol swabs from their envelopes.

I stood in front of Isabelle watching her watch the man as he approached her left ear. He asked, “Do you want me to just do it or to count, 1-2-3?”

“1-2-3,” she stated.

He counted and Isabelle didn’t even flinch.

Tiny 🌸! And, of course, as 😷, because it’s 2021!

But then he informed me that backing didn’t release onto the back of the post, which it was supposed to do. I thought I was going to pass out* as I watched him check to see if the earring went through Isabelle’s ear.

Luckily, the post passed through the ear and he was able to get the backing on without a problem. Before I knew it, Isabelle’s second ear got pierced without any drama.

I took a few photos of Isabelle before we left the mall and sent “surprise” messages to Marc and both sets of grandparents, the latter of whom knew nothing about Isabelle’s desire to get her ears pierced.

* = A TOTAL SIDE STORY: I threw up all over the jewelry store after getting each of my ears pierced. I remember feeling light-headed after the first one got done, but I knew I needed to get both done since I didn’t want to walk around with one pierced ear and one regular earlobe. I vowed, at the tender age of six, never to have anything pierced for the rest of my life. I’ve stuck to that self-promise.

When I was trying on earrings for my wedding at age 30, I almost passed out in two different jewelry stores. The first salesperson told me that maybe I was getting cold feet about the wedding. (Idiot, I thought, before walking out of the jewelry store.) The second salesperson who saw me get nauseous and dizzy mentioned I might be having some kind of vasovagal response. I told her I rarely changed my earrings as an adult since I often felt woozy when I did. Something clicked into place at that moment! That’s when I realized I probably threw up in the jewelry store as a kid for the same reason that I rarely change my earrings. Something strange happens to me any time a piece of metal passes through my ear lobes. After nearly a quarter of a century, I no longer felt like a wimp after throwing up in the jewelry store as a kid.

raising strong girls

The BIG Cut

Ever since Isabelle was able to express herself, she’s worn her hair a little above her shoulders with a bow holding back her bangs. Last week, for whatever reason, Isabelle declared she wanted to get a shorter haircut when we visited Joy at her new salon. (I’ve followed my hair stylist to four salons now. When you find someone who cuts curly hair well AND will cut your curly daughter’s hair too, you follow her everywhere!) And so, here’s a before, during, and after from Isabelle’s big cut (which I LOVE!):

Bye-bye shoulder-length hair.
A little iPad time while drying under an infrared dryer.

No bow (for the rest of today)!

dress-up · physical appearance · raising strong girls · self-esteem · slice of life

My 5 year-old was makeupless for her dance recital. #sol16

Isabelle’s first dance recital took place last night. If you’ve talked to me lately (or read this blog post I wrote in March), then you know I haven’t been that excited about the recital. Some of my lack of enthusiasm had to do with the emphasis on performance rather than acquisition of discernable ballet and tap skills. Some of my lack of enthusiasm surrounded the fact that the rehearsal and recital went beyond Isabelle’s bedtime. And some of my lack of enthusiasm revolved around the idea of five-year-olds being requested to wear makeup.
So, about the makeup. If you read my March post, you might remember makeup was encouraged, but not required for preschool dancers. Seeing as it was optional, I opted not to put any on Isabelle. I figured I’d cave and allow her to wear lipstick if she really wanted to wear makeup because her peers were. In reality, I felt strongly that she didn’t wear it since she’s only five. (Believe me, I have nothing against makeup. I’m rarely out without it. I just don’t think it is for little girls.)
Isabelle either didn’t care or didn’t notice she was the only kid in her dance class without makeup. None of the other moms questioned me about it. (Note: We changed to a different class in early April.) And you know what? When asked, my husband said Isabelle’s lack of makeup didn’t make a lick of difference to him sitting in the audience. He was able to see her face the same as every other kid in her class.  (I was back stage so I was able to see all of the girls exactly the same.) 
I’m feeling slightly triumphant now about the makeup thing. But despite all of my disdain for everything that revolved around the recital (which also included the fact that the preschoolers’ moms were required to stay backstage rather than being allowed to watch the performance from the audience), I am pleased Isabelle had the courage to get up on stage, in front of hundreds of people, to perform without stage freight. That is a huge accomplishment! 

End of the tap routine.

raising strong girls · slice of life

Dance Recital Makeup #sol16

It all started on Monday evening when parents were called into the dance studio to help our daughters try on their costumes for the dance recital they’ll perform in this June. The costume was frilly, poofy, and sparkly. Not my style. I kept my disdain of it to myself. Instead, I encouraged Isabelle to look in the mirror. She did.

“How do you feel in your costume?” I asked.

“Fine,” she said.

“Do you like it?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

I didn’t want to push it. So I shut my mouth.

As I was putting the costume away in the hanging bag, one of the other moms came over and showed me how to hang the costume upside down so it would retain its poof. She said something about it needing to be steamed backstage if it wasn’t poofy enough.

“Thanks for your help. This isn’t really my thing.”

The mom went on, “They’ll send you an email before the performance. You’ll be backstage to help her change tights. Same costume, but different tights for ballet and tap.”

“So you mean, I can’t watch the performance?”

“No, all the PreK moms stay backstage to help.”

For real!??!?

I looked at the bow in the garment bag. It was the most garish thing I’d ever seen. It had the cheapest plastic teeth that couldn’t possibly hold in Isabelle’s hair. “Do they girls have to wear this?”

“Oh yes. But they’ll tell you if it’s the right or left side,” she said.

“They all have to wear it on the same side of their head?” I said. Why does this matter?!?!?!

She nodded.

Just when I thought I couldn’t feel more exasperated by the bow I’d have to rig-up with bobby pins just to get it to stay in my daughter’s curly hair, the same mom said, “They’ll also tell you what color lipstick you need to buy for the show.”

“What?!?!?” I said.

“Yeah, they’ll send along the name of the exact color you need to put on your daughter,” she replied matter-of-factly.

Nausea came over me.

“My daughter won’t be wearing lipstick for the show,” I stated. I began explaining why to this mom, but then I stopped. I didn’t owe her an explanation of how I felt about the girly-girl culture nor did I need to go on a diatribe about how the recital was supposed to be about the girls’ accomplishment in dance, not about how they looked. Instead, I seethed until I got home.

20 minutes later, Marc had to listen to my fury as Isabelle changed out of her dance clothes. “Isabelle is NOT going to be wearing makeup for this show,” I said. “It’s not happening.”

“That’s fine. Let’s just talk about it later,” he said, calming me down.

And so we did.

We talked after we put Isabelle to bed. “The kid doesn’t even like lip balm in the wintertime,” I said. “I’m not about to force her to wear lipstick. And I cannot imagine what else they’re going to ask the girls to wear. Mascara? Blush? I don’t want her looking like a harlot! She’s five!”

Thankfully, my husband agreed with me. He encouraged me to wait for the email to arrive and then deal with it.

However, I don’t work that way. I went into action. I emailed my colleague and friend, Beth Moore, to get her take on the situation. (Beth and I have similar ideas about raising our girls so I wanted to find out if she thought I was overreacting.) While I waited for Beth’s response, which didn’t take long, I tweeted my girl-raising heroine, Peggy Orenstein, to get her take on the situation.

Both Beth and Peggy gave me suggestions for how to proceed with the dance studio, which included: talking with the studio about hard work needing to be stressed more the appearance, my opposition to makeup, my daughter’s dislike of stuff on her face, and asking about the makeup requirements for boys on stage (and how they might differ from the requirements of the girls). Thanks to Beth and Peggy I was armed for a civil conversation.

These are some of the lip colors I carry in my bag. For now, I will be the only person in this house who wears lipstick!
These are some of the lip colors I carry in my bag. For now, I will be the only person in this house who wears lipstick!
This afternoon, I took Isabelle to the studio for a makeup class. I calmly approached the office manager and asked, “what are the makeup requirements for the June recital?”

“Oh, you’ll get an email about the suggested lip color soon,” she said.

“Suggested? Would you mind talking it through with me now? Another mom spoke with me on Monday night and said the girls have to wear lipstick. What do you ask of for the girls?”

The office manager informed me that makeup, like foundation and lipstick, are suggested for the performance so the girls can be seen by the audience. She also told me a ballet bun is suggested, but “I know your daughter’s beautiful curls won’t fit into a bun so don’t worry about that.”

I felt my shoulders relax. “So, the Pre-K girls don’t have to wear makeup for the recital?”

“Only if they want to or if you want them to,” she replied.

I chuckled. I told her my objections and about my daughter’s disdain for things like face cream and lip balm in cold weather. She understood. “Lots of kids don’t want stuff on their face. That’s okay.”


But the best part was when the office manager stated, “I’ll be sure, when I send out the email, to make it clear that makeup isn’t required. That way you don’t have any parents telling you or your daughter that she has to wear makeup.”

I looked her straight in the eye. “Thank you.”

Problem solved. At least for this year.


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raising strong girls · slice of life

No Polish on Preschoolers!

I cringed when I brought Isabelle with me to the nail salon for the first time.  Since July, she’s accompanied me about five times (including today). It’s become her time to rest and relax.  She watches “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” so intently that people forget she’s even in the salon.  What a deal!  She gets to chill with her beloved Daniel Tiger while I get beautified without having to pay a babysitter.

This morning, I was packing up her iPad and headphones for our trip to the nail salon.  That’s when this happened:

Click on the image to enlarge the conversation. (Made with the LittleHoots App.)


Once I was at the salon, I told Jodi Isabelle asked about having her toes done too.

“I’m surprised it took her this long!”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah, I would’ve thought she would’ve asked sooner,” Jodi replied.

“I don’t know if she meant that she wanted you to cut them or polish them. Either way, it’s not happening for a long time,” I said.

Today’s conversation with Isabelle brought me back to a conversation I had with Dana Murphy earlier this month.  Dana and I were talking about our daughters and the idea of them wearing anything other than peel-off nail polish.  She told me she let her oldest put nail polish on her toes once and just felt like her tools looked — strange.  It was like her daughter’s preschooler feet looked too sophisticated.  I knew what she meant.

Until I had talked with Dana, my objection with nail polish had been from a nail health standpoint.  I didn’t want Isabelle to ruin her nails with the chemicals.  After Dana and I talked, I realized that polish on her toes would make her adorable little feet look age inappropriate.

I remember polishing my nails at the age of six so I know the day will come — sooner rather than later — when Isabelle will ask to use nail polish.  I will only be able to say no for so long.  At some point, I’ll give in and experiment with colors on her toes.  That said, I will be the one polishing her toes since I’m not about to pay for Isabelle to have a pedicure!

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raising strong girls · slice of life

I wonder where it is…

Things enter our house and disappear all of the time. And by disappear, I don’t mean I misplace them. I’m quite good at keeping track of everything, thank you very much. Things go “missing” on purpose because I don’t want them in our house.

That’s right. I relocate anything that’s princess or that perpetuates negative female images. For instance, Isabelle recently attended a birthday party. She returned home with a goody bag full of princess items and stickers of cartoon character girls that had low cut tops and sexy clothes. Do you know where all of those items went? In the garbage while she was asleep. Did she notice? Of course! She looked for them the following morning. “Where are the stickers?” she asked, noticing they were no longer in the spot she left them. “I’m not sure,” I replied. “I wonder…” And that’s it. Within two minutes she was on to the next thing and had forgotten about the stickers. Score one small victory for mom.

Presents are a whole other thing. We’re coming up on the holiday season and her birthday. This means questionable items (READ: Items I don’t approve of her playing with) are going to be given to her. I hate to make things disappear, but I probably will. These items will be donated to the children’s hospital where I know other kids will appreciate them. After all, I’m one of the people who crowd-sourced the Lamilly doll (Ours arrives this week!), so it’s unlikely I’ll allow something like Barbie (which I played with as a child) to enter this house. I can’t shield her from the things she sees out in the world or plays with at school, but in our house I have the power to control what comes in and stays in. At least for now.