routines · schedules · slice of life

Children crave structure & routine.

I remember hearing “children crave structure and routine” when I was in my first semester of my first graduate degree at Hunter College. I remember thinking that I should write it down since my professor repeated it over and over. Turns out it was an important lesson that I still have to remind myself of fifteen years later.

Once I had my own classroom (two years later), I realized the truth behind this statement. My students thrived when things were structured. (Let’s be honest, I wasn’t as regimented as I should have been during my first year in the classroom.) I sought to create a more structured environment, but it wasn’t until my second year of teaching that I figured out how to make that happen daily. (READ: I was in survival mode that first year of teaching.)

We’re in the final week of summer vacation around these parts. My daughter has been out of camp for the past three and a half weeks. With six days left until school starts, I have to be honest with you, she’s falling apart from the lack of routine. Even though she’s having play dates, mornings where she can sleep in, and lots of time at the pool, she isn’t thriving. She’s arguing with me about nearly everything. A half hour ago, I gave her some time away in her bedroom since she was yelling at me when I reminded her that she had to finish the water in her water bottle before she could watch a half-hour of TV. She felt as though she had been mightily wronged and screamed at me the entire way up the stairs. She continued once she was in her room.

That’s when the idea for this post was born. {NOTE to my daughter who may read this post years from now: You’re not alone in falling apart from a lack of structure during summer vacation. Keep reading so you don’t feel singled out.}

And that’s when I snapped this selfie of me being berated by my six-and-a-half-year-old from my office chair.

 

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Weary.

 

I inhaled deeply. I reminded myself not to take this personally. I repeated the mantra my professor uttered 15 years ago:

Children crave structure and routine.

I began brainstorming ways to make the final few days of summer vacation more structured.

  • Set a consistent wake-up time like we do for school.
  • Make sure bedtime — even on Friday and Saturday night — doesn’t exceed 8:00 p.m.

Then I stopped making my list.

Who was I kidding? We’re planning to do Hersheypark tomorrow morning, then the pool. Thursday and Friday include some appointments and more pool time. There’s also a birthday party in there and time with grandparents. There is nothing structured about the next few days!

My thoughts were interrupted by Isabelle walking downstairs calmly. Under her arm was Little Teddy. In her left hand, an empty water bottle.

I rose from my chair to meet her in the foyer. I knelt down to her level and cupped her face between my hands. “You should be proud of yourself for drinking your water. Do you remember why Mommy wants you to drink the water in your water bottle?”

“So my legs don’t cramp,” she replied.

“That’s right! How would you going to walk around Hersheypark if your legs hurt tomorrow?”

She shrugged. “You should be proud of yourself not only for drinking your water, but also for calming yourself down before you came downstairs.”

She smiled.

That’s enough, I thought.

As I transitioned her to her TV show, I started to think about ways to make the next few days more structured — even though they weren’t going to be routine in nature. All I came up with is a picture schedule that we could co-create the night before so she knows what to expect the following day. If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment on this post. The last thing I want is to start wishing away summer vacation. Summer vacation is meant to be savored.

slice-of-life_individual
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accomplishments · routines · slice of life · speech

These are our mornings.

Isabelle has been enjoying day camp. Like most kids, she comes home exhausted. There’s no way I could get her to sit with me to do her speech work at 4:00 p.m. after a day in the sun and heat. (And it’s been hot and humid this summer!) Therefore, we’ve been doing her speech work after breakfast, before we leave for camp, every weekday morning.

After breakfast, she asked to sit on my lap (what’s left of it now that I’m on the cusp of my eighth month of pregnancy.) We sat together and sang songs, like “Trot Old Joe,” for a few minutes. Then, it was time to practice. And you know what? This morning, I decided it’s not fair. While she rarely complains about sitting down with me and the iPad at 8:00 a.m., I felt angry.  I wished we could sit together and sing songs, but I knew we had to start practicing.

It’s been a little over three years since her Apraxia diagnosis and we still work on her talking EVERY SINGLE DAY. And while she’s made enormous strides and can communicate with others, it struck me this morning that she’s worked harder at the age of five-and-a-half than most kids her age! I know this will serve her well in life. She’s got grit, determination, and a better work ethic than many adults. But it’s still not fair.

This morning, just before we fired up Articulation Station on the iPad, I said to her, “I want to take a picture of you sitting here and working beside me.”

“Why, Mommy?”

“Because I want you to know, when you get older, how hard you worked for every word you have. I’m so proud of you and how you never quit.”

I took this selfie right before our practice session began. Afterwards, I morphed this photo into a watercolor of the two of us sitting side-by-side using Waterlogue.
I took this selfie right before our practice session began. Afterwards, I morphed this photo into a watercolor of the two of us sitting side-by-side using Waterlogue.

We’re worked on /s/ blends and initial /th/ sounds this morning. Here’s a listen into part of our practice session.

 

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Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.
routines · slice of life

Go, go, go, go, pause, go, go, go!

You know those days when you wake up and know things are going to be hectic?  Well, I had one of those this morning.  And maybe that’s why I was less than pleased to find out my daughter’s school had a delayed opening due to the snow that stopped falling yesterday.

GO

Once I dropped Isabelle off at school I raced to the supermarket to pick up the jalapeno pepper I forgot to buy for tonight’s dinner.  I got home and expected to get to work mining a picture book for craft moves.  Instead I came home to e-mails that needed quick responses.  Just when I thought I’d be able to get to work a reminder went off from my GTasks.

Call Comcast — again.

GO

Ugh! That was a call I didn’t want to make.  I won’t bore you about the reason I had to call them, but let’s just say that once I got the right person on the phone an hour and a half later I got the answer to my question in under five minutes.  (Many thanks to Casey from Comcast’s Harrisburg office who solved my lingering problem in five minutes, which no one could seem to do in the previous three weeks.)

GO

While I was on hold for Casey (which took so long I tweeted Comcast!) I started preparing tonight’s supper since I knew I wanted something warm to eat when I arrived home at 7:30 p.m. tonight.  Multitasking is my thing… until the chili pepper fell into the slow cooker, which caused me to leave this note for my husband who will be coming home to a mess I was only able to partially clean up due to the fact I had to pick up Isabelle early from school.

GO

By the time I cleaned up the mess and got off of the phone with Comcast, I realized I only had 15 minutes left until I had to pick up Isabelle at school to drive her to her medical appointment.  Not enough time for me to eat lunch.  Grrrr!  I popped some cheese and crackers into my mouth, packed a Lara Bar for the ride, and got in the car to pick her up from preschool.

We drove the 25 minutes to her appointment and were taken in on-time (which was nice).  I kept going and going until my husband took over and drove them home so I could take care of my work and the appointment I have at 5:30 p.m.

I kissed Isabelle and Marc good-bye.

“I’ll see you around 7:30 p.m.,” I said.

They walked off in one direction and I went in the other.

PAUSE

I inhaled deeply once I sat down into the driver’s seat of my car.  I looked at my watch.  I had two hours — two good hours — until I had to be at my appointment.  I glanced at my work bag, which I contained the picture book I hoped to mine for craft moves and my iPad.  Where can I go to work on this?

I pondered my possibilities.  Starbucks?  Panera?  Cocoa Beanery?

Panera.  I needed to eat.  I don’t have many options these days since I’ve been gluten-free since mid-January, but there are still a few things I can eat at Panera.  So, I drove there.  I ordered my late lunch.  By 3:45 p.m., I sat down in a booth, unpacked my work, and breathed.  It was so nice to hit pause on this hectic day.

 

late lunch and a little work

 

GO GO GO

There’s barely anyone here at Panera at this time of the day (because most people have eaten lunch and it’s too early for dinner).  I can work in relative peace until I have to leave.  At 5:15, I’ll be on the go again.  The day will go full-force until I turn in for bed a little after 10 p.m.  I’ll take some time to pause and take a few deep breaths between now and 10 p.m. Yes, I will do work.  Yes, I’ll respond to e-mails. Yes, I’ll check out other Slicers’ writing.  But I will also remember that not all days are this hectic.  (Heck, not all of my writing is this disorganized.  But the SOLSC demands that I write daily this month.  This piece of writing most closely represents the day I’m having, so, well, this is it.)  Being busy isn’t always bad.  And besides, I’ll have warm chicken chili waiting for me when I get home later.

routines · schedules · slice of life

Recalibrate Upon Re-entry

Processed with Moldiv“How did you feel when Mommy went away last week?”

“Sad,” Isabelle replied.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because, I missed you.”

“But Bubbe and Zayde came to visit. They took good care of you while I was away, right?”

“Yes. But I still miss you.” Isabelle admitted.

“I know,” I said as I put my arms around her.  “But mommy had to go away.  To work with teachers.”

“I know.”

“But you didn’t like it?” I inquired.

“No. I not like it,” Isabelle shook her head.

“Because you were sick or because I’ve been away lot lately?” I asked.

“Boff (both).”

I nodded my head. “I have been away a lot lately. I will be around a lot more for the next couple of months. You’ll probably get tired of me and wish I were going out of town.”

Isabelle shook her head.  “I miss you when you’re gone.”  (Taken straight from Pitch Perfect’s “When I’m Gone.”)

* * * * *

In the past six months, Isabelle has been in the care of at least one of her grandparents for a day or more eight times.  That’s right, eight times. Some of the trips were short: a train trip to NYC and back in a day. Most were overnights, with the longest being four nights away to write.  While the typical mom response is to say I feel guilty about my absences, the truth is that I don’t.  I’ve done speaking engagements and spent time nurturing my writing life. I even spent a couple of nights away with my husband to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  If six months is approximately 180 nights, then I’ve been present for 160 days of wake-ups, tuck-ins, and everything in-between.  That means I’ve been here almost 90% of the time! That’s nothing to feel guilty about!

What I do feel badly about is the way this weekend’s re-entry process has gone. Typically, Isabelle is delighted by my return.  This time she has been ignoring my questions and arguing with me every chance she’s gotten. By this morning, I felt as though she was pushing every single button I had, which is why I drove the two of us to the Hotel Hershey after my allergy shots.  It was a recalibration, of sorts.

You see, Isabelle loves hotels. She especially loves the Hotel Hershey.  (It is a four star, historical hotel. What can I say? The kid has good taste!) The two of us spent some time in the lobby where she did her artwork on their fancy memo pads with their pens.  Next, we went to the Cocoa Beanery where she got a cookie and I had a much-needed latte.  Finally, we went upstairs to the Fountain Lobby where we played “kitchen,” a game she invented a few rainy days ago.  (That’s right.  This is my go-to spot for rainy or super-cold days when we find ourselves with downtime in Hershey and don’t have enough time for a more kid-friendly activity.)

By the end of our almost two-hour mini-vacation, the two of us were getting a long better.  We had had a heart-to-heart (i.e., the conversation written out above) and enjoyed each other’s company.  While she still “wiped off” the kiss I gave her in the car, she was more pleasant towards me on the way home. Perhaps our trip to the Hotel Hershey will be a turning point as we attempt to get back to our daily routine. After all, I’m not going away overnight for the next two months. In other words, she’s stuck with me.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.

 

picture books · reading conveys love · routines · slice of life

Books, Bedtime, & the Super Bowl

IMG_1282My husband is the kind of guy who loves his sports. Whenever I turn on the television in the mornings, the channel is always turned to ESPN or the Golf Channel. Sports radio is always on in his car. He reads the sports section of the newspaper before anything else. The most recent book he read was about Derek Jeter. He plays tennis and golf whenever he can find the time. He’s always “checking the scores” on his iPhone. We have a rule (that I made) in our house.

We have a rule (that I made) in our house. No television during dinner time unless it’s the World Series, a major golf championship, or the Super Bowl. Tonight, the television was on during dinner.  I was fine with that.

Despite the television being on during dinner time, my husband didn’t try to get out of getting Isabelle ready for bed.  The television wasn’t on upstairs and his phone wasn’t out.  I finished up in the shower while he got her dried off and ready for bed, just like always.  By the time I arrived at her bedroom, I found the two of them snuggled up in her bed reading a picture book like it was any ol’ night of the year.  There was no conversation about bedtime routines, reading, and football.  My husband did what came naturally to him as a father… he just read a book aloud to his daughter.  I grabbed the phone out of his pocket as he read aloud to her since I knew I had to snap a picture of the two of them together so she will never doubt his devotion to her.

I may detest listening to sports radio on long car trips, but I love everything about his commitment to our family and to raising a literate human. I could not ask for more.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.

 

rituals · routines · slice of life

There is such a thing as too many stuffed animals!

Cozy? I wouldn't be.
Cozy? I wouldn’t be.

“Only three stuffed animals may sleep in bed with you.”

That’s what I told Isabelle when she got a big girl bed.  And for a good two or three weeks, that rule was followed.  But slowly, slowly, very slowly, more stuffies found their way to her bed for nap time and bed time.  At first it was four.  Then the number crept up to five.  By the time she insisted on bringing six furry creatures to bed, I threw up my hands and remembered the to pick my battles.

But now, NOW, things are getting out of hand.  Now Isabelle lines up her animals just-so every night.  Each of them has a spot on the bed.  Most of the time she lays them face-down since she sleeps on her tummy.  But tonight, she flipped them on to their backs as she methodically laid them across her bed.

“Where are you going to sleep?” I inquired.

She pointed to a spot on the far edge of the bed next to the guard rail.  “Right here,” she replied.

“That’s not enough space for you.”

She gave me a look.  A look that said, yes-it-is, I-know-better, and C’mon-Mom all rolled into one.

I sighed.  At least the other half of the stuffed animals were sitting in a heap on her glider tonight.

After a few careful maneuvers, Isabelle wriggled herself in-between Corduroy and Nugget, while tucking Lynnie bear under her arm.  None of the animals were crushed or laid-upon.  I don’t know how she would want to lay like that, but in order to avoid a toddler tantrum, I buttoned my lip, covered her with a blanket, and kissed her good-night.

A half hour has passed since I tucked her in.  I just checked her on the monitor.  Guess what?  She’s not sleeping yet.  Perhaps there is such a thing as too many stuffed animals!

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.
OBSERVATIONS · preschool · routines

Nothing is predictable. #toddlers

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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 http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.

 

OBSERVATIONS · routines · schedules · slice of life

A Slice of Sadness

Friday nights are a happy time in our house.
Monday mornings are a sad time in our house.

Friday nights are when we eat a festive dinner.
Monday mornings are when we rush through breakfast.

Friday nights are a time for family again.
Monday mornings are a time for routine again.

Friday nights are when Daddy is home for the weekend.
Monday mornings are when Daddy goes back to work.

Friday nights are filled with “I love my Daddy.”
Monday mornings are filled with “I miss my Daddy.”

routines · Walk My World Project

Time to Get Ready

When I first had Isabelle I vowed I would continue to straighten my hair daily.  After all, she didn’t mind all the time I spent blowing out my hair and straightening it with a flat iron.

But then she started walking.

Need I say more?

Over the past three years, I’ve come to embrace my curly hair (mostly so she’ll embrace her curls). However, every now and then, I straighten it.  But it’s not all that often since it takes a lot of time and effort to straighten it.  This morning I had the time so I thought, why not?

My parents took Isabelle out to Barnes & Noble so I could workout.  I left myself enough time to shower prior to leaving for lunch.  Therefore I decided to use that time to straighten my hair.  Here’s a peek into my bathroom as I straightened in peace and “quiet” this morning:

Go to http://www.thinglink.com/scene/481902355252510722 to #walkmyworld.

This looks like an ordinary image, but it’s not.  If you go to ThingLink you will see notes, listen to music, and watch a video related to this photo.  I learned about ThingLink this morning as I was perusing #walkmyworld submissions on Twitter.  If you haven’t heard of The Walk My World Project yet, then click here to learn more about it. The Project is only in its second week so it’s not too late to jump-in!  I jumped in last Friday with this Vine video.

OBSERVATIONS · routines · slice of life

A not so perfect, yet perfect, morning.

I’m taking some inspiration for this post from Anita Ferreri’s “A not so perfect, yet perfect fall morning” that she shared during last week’s Slice of Life Story Challenge.

I could write about Isabelle fretting when I didn’t let her pretend “put on” concealer,

OR I could write about her smacking her lips together to request her Burt’s Bees Lip Balm.

I could write about Isabelle not wanting cereal,

OR I could write about her saying “yes” to Cheerios.

I could write about Isabelle requesting artificial sweetener,

OR I could write about her saying “Ah, me — Senda!” (Splenda)

I could write about Isabelle taking a long time to eat breakfast,

OR I could write about her feeding Cheerios to her Old MacDonald figurine one by one.

I could write about Isabelle not wanting to get up from the table,

OR I could write about the way she pulled me in for a kiss.

I could write about Isabelle trudging around the house with her new rain boots,

OR I could write about her kissing the owls on the new rain boots. (Thank G-d they weren’t worn yet!)

I could write about Isabelle kicking off her rain boots as soon as she got in the car,

OR I could write about her requesting “Opuh! Opuh!” (opera) as I was about to close the back door.

I could write about any of these moments from our morning. Instead, I can remember each one using Anita’s post theme as a mentor.