bedtime stories · routines · slice of life

Getting Bedtime Wrong

Ever since Isabelle became interested in reading MG novels before bedtime, I’ve been the parent who reads them to her at bedtime. We’ve read everything from Operation Frog Effect to Maggie Muggie to the Pacy Lin books to The Dollshop Downstairs. We finished The Higher Power of Lucky over the weekend. Now we’re reading The Hundred Dresses. Lots of great titles, right?

I’m worried all of that reading doesn’t make up for the fact that Ari isn’t getting my attention at bedtime unless Marc is working late (and I need to tuck both kids into bed). Quite frankly, I didn’t really think twice about the fact that Marc has been tucking Ari into bed until last night.

For the past couple of months, Ari has been coming into my bedroom between 9:30 – 10:00 p.m. a few nights a week. At first, Ari said a noise woke him. After a few nights, I realized I didn’t hear any night noises. Then we thought he wasn’t relaxed, so I suggested he and Marc do some of Headspace’s Sleep programs with Ari. While Ari’s visits lessened, they didn’t disappear.

Lately, though, Ari has been giving me a ballpark figure of when he’ll come into my room to see me at night. Ari knows he’ll find me reading in bed so he just plods in, lays beside me, stays for a few minutes, and then retreats to his bedroom when I tell Ari it’s time to go back to bed.

Post-Bedtime Snuggles

Last night, I asked Ari — as I do many nights — if anything was bothering him. He said, “no.”

I asked Ari if there was anything on his mind or heart he wanted to discuss with me. He said, “no.”

I asked Ari if he was lonely in his room by himself. He said, “no.”

“So, buddy, why do you keep coming in here at night?”

“Because I want to snuggle with you,” he replied matter-of-factly.

“I could snuggle with you before you go to bed,” I replied.

“But you’re putting Isabelle to sleep. So that’s why I just come in here after bedtime. Then I can snuggle with you.”

Oh my heart. All he wants is… me. My undivided attention at bedtime. That’s it.

That’s when I realized we are getting the bedtime thing wrong. As soon as we finish The Hundred Dresses, it’s going to be time for Marc and I to alternate who puts the kids to bed at night so Ari gets more Mommy snuggle time in. Besides, it won’t hurt for Marc and Isabelle to read some novels together!

routines · schedules · slice of life

Excuses at Naptime #SOL21

I tucked-in Ari for his nap about 15 minutes later than usual. No biggie. That often happens on weekends.

Sensing that he’d be back, I laid down in my bed for a bit to read a novel. 15 minutes later, my intuition was proven correct. Ari found me in my room to discuss going to the bathroom. Once that was settled, I tucked him back into bed, kissed him “good nap,” and closed his bedroom door.

I checked on Isabelle, who was reading in her room. I decided to stretch in our exercise room. Another 15 minutes passed and Isabelle came into my room to ask for her iPad to reserve some books from the library. After a quick chat, we decided we’d finish El Deafo, which we’ve been reading together before bedtime. But, moments after she got the graphic novel from her room, a blond boy appeared and declared, “I don’t feel well.”

Marc was doing the grocery shopping this afternoon. I updated him so he could get a sense of the drama that was happening on the home front. (Bet he was happy to be at Wegmans and Giant!)

“What hurts?” I asked.

“I just don’t feel well,” Ari replied.

“Does your tummy hurt?” I asked.


“Go back to bed and I’ll be in momentarily.”

Ari toddled back to his room. Isabelle and I made a plan to read El Deafo as soon as I got Ari down for his nap — again.

JUST IN CASE something was wrong, I decided to take Ari’s temperature. It was 98.7. Practically normal. He was fine (as I suspected).

“Do you think you don’t feel well because you ate a lot at lunchtime?”

“Maybe…” he replied.

“Probably,” I said. “You ate a sandwich, chips, and a LOT of fruit. Anyway, I’ll see you at four,” I said as I kissed his silken hair and pulled his quilt up to his shoulders.

Somewhere in the middle of the final chapter of El Deafo, Isabelle and I had a visitor.

“My animals are keeping me awake!” Ari declared.

“AR-EEEEEE!” Isabelle declared.

I had about no patience left so I replied with the only kind words I could muster. “Bring them in here and go back to bed.”

“Jeez, I can’t believe him,” Isabelle replied.

“Neither can I!” I said as he hurled multiple stuffies at the bed.

“Can you tuck yourself back in?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Good!” I said under my breath.

Once we finished reading El Deafo and talking about the book’s theme (That’s what happens when your mom is a literacy specialist.), Isabelle went downstairs to do some art. I walked into the exercise room to attempt a workout. No sooner did I have my workout gloves on did I have a visitor.

“What’s happening now?” I asked.

“I’m hot in my room.”

“Well, you are wearing long sleeves and long pants,” I replied. “Maybe you should consider a short-sleeve shirt.”

“I don’t want to wear a short-sleeve shirt,” Ari said.

“Well,” I said marching him back to his bedroom, “I’ll help you pick one out and put one on. That’s what happens when you’re warm. You change into cooler clothes.”

There were about three more back-and-forths before nap time was officially over at four. Despite feeling frustrated, I managed to keep my voice from raising. BUT, when Ari’s earlier bedtime came this evening and Ari started telling me, “The rain is too loud for me to go to bed,” I insisted he go to bed. He started to moan, but I stood my ground. I told him his body required a certain number of hours of sleep per day, kissed him good night, and sent him on his way with Marc.

This quote came to mind with every interaction I had with Ari. One day I will look back on today’s naptime antics and wax nostalgic. (Today is not the day.)
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routines · slice of life

Bedtime Shenanigans #SOL21

It starts the moment I tell Isabelle, “We’re going to go upstairs to get ready for bed.” She goes from laying on the couch to pretending to sleep on the couch.

This evening, Ari took matters into his own hands when Isabelle didn’t respond to my request to get off of the couch to go upstairs. First, Ari tickled her. When that didn’t work, he tried to walk on top of her. As you can imagine, Isabelle decided to get up thanks to the little brother antics.

Whenever Isabelle takes awhile to get upstairs, Ari decides to follow us. If I turn my back for a second, he closes the drain on the sink, fills it with water, dispenses several pumps of soap, and gives his rubber duckies a bath.

Once Ari changes into a new shirt (since he inevitably soaks his sleeves washing the duckies in the sink), Marc takes Ari downstairs and does I-don’t-care-what with him while Isabelle gets showered. Once she’s out of the shower, I take one. Once both of us are clean, the two of us read together in her bed. Inevitably, there’s a knock on the door. In tonight’s case, though, there’s a barge-in through the door.

The kids take an eternity to say good-night to each other. He stays until we tell him he MUST go. And that’s when he rushes us out and tells us to “Skedaddle!”
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COVID-19 · routines · slice of life

Trapped at Home #SOL20

I never felt trapped during the months I was cooped up in my house — recovering from foot surgery and following the Governor’s stay-at-home order. There was physical therapy and Zoom meetings. And while I still have both of those things, I’ve been feeling trapped at home.

In the pre-foot injury and pre-Covid world, I’d be out of my house after sending Isabelle off to school early every morning. Now, I don’t even take Isabelle to school; she goes back to her bedroom. This means Ari and I have to stay home — every morning — since Isabelle isn’t old enough to stay home alone. (She’s tried to convince me to run errands with Ari and leave her home alone. I’ve politely told her she’s not ready for that yet.) And while I’ve taken the kids to the grocery store two mornings before the school day has begun, that kind of outing just hasn’t been cutting the mustard.

Feeding the Ducks

But this morning was different. There was another adult at home, which meant Ari and I were free for a few hours. First, we drove to the car wash, where we had the interior professionally cleaned for the first time since February! Then, I took him to the park to feed the ducks. (Some of them were uncharacteristically aggressive, which made me wonder if less people have been feeding them.) Then, we walked across the street so Ari could have a snack and I could grab a coffee. (I highly recommend a white lavender mocha if you ever have the chance to try one.) We sat on the patio and enjoyed watching the cars drive by on Broad Street.

That was it. We were home by 11:30. It didn’t matter that we did mundane things because we were out of the house having a lovely, ordinary morning with each other! If you disregard the masks we wore at the car wash and into the café, then it might as well have been 2019.

I could tell, as Ari and I spent time together, that he needed to be out of the house with me as much as I needed to be out with him
since he asked me if we could do it again tomorrow. In fact, we can do it for one more day — tomorrow! I’m not sure where we’ll go since he has a Zoom music class at 10 a.m., but I’m thinking a farmer’s market might be nice after we pick up some bread from the gluten-free bakery on the other side
of town.

As the weather grows colder, we will have less places to go. Plus, I’ll have webinars and other PD to prepare for later this fall. But right now, I am looking for every possible way to feel a bit freer before the long, Covid winter sets in.

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routines · slice of life

Naptime for an Almost Three-Year-Old

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Ari claims he isn’t tired EVERY SINGLE DAY before nap time. Here’s the rub. He IS tired. How do I know? He naps after being placed in his crib midday.

These shenanigans began after we weaned Ari off of his afternoon bottle in June. (I know, it was a long overdue weaning. Don’t tell me he’ll need braces because of this. My friend is married to a dentist. When Isabelle was nearly three, she informed me that nearly every kid these days needs braces and therefore her husband doesn’t think we should be ripping bottles out of kids’ mouths as soon as they turn two.) A couple of weeks ago, Ari’s protests grew more intense so I let him sit on my lap while he drank a cup of milk. That seemed to work until we went on vacation a week and a half ago. (Routines go out the window when you’re road tripping!) Now that we’re home, I offered the milk-in-a-cup routine before today’s nap. Ari sat beside me and drank a bit of milk, but ultimately, he kept telling me he wasn’t tired.

But I knew Ari was tired. Therefore, I took him upstairs, closed his black-out shades, turned-on his white noise, and offered to snuggle with him on his chair.

“I wanna snuggle in your bed!” he told me.

“Not in my bed. On the glider,” I insisted.

Ari acquiesced. (Probably because he was tired!)

“Whatta you gonna do now?” Ari asked.

I remembered another thing I learned when the mid-July nap protests began. I could NOT tell him I was going to do work. He’d rather watch me work than nap. And you know what that means? I won’t be able to work if he’s “watching” me. So, I said, “I’m going to take a nap too.”

“Oh, okay,” Ari replied contently.

I turned Ari towards me and felt his warm-toddler weight snuggle into me. I began rocking him in the glider. Ari’s breathing got heavy quickly. He’s probably asleep. Just to be sure, I rocked him for another ten minutes. When I heard light snoring (and started dozing off myself), I stood up, carried him to his crib (Another thing we need to get rid of… I know! Remember, though, we moved to a new city less than eight weeks ago. I’m trying not to change too much too fast.), and covered him with his blankets.

OVER THREE HOURS LATER, I walked into Ari’s room. He smiled when he saw me. The first thing he said was “How did you sleep, Mommy?”

Waking Up with a Smile & a Question

I giggled. I almost blurted out the truth about what I had been doing. Instead, I played along and said, “How sweet of you to ask, Ari!”

See what I did there? I praised him for his kindness without lying.

routines · slice of life

Before Nap Time. Before Bedtime.

It doesn’t matter if it’s before nap time or before bedtime. If I’m working in my office (i.e., not the person putting Ari to sleep), he stops by for a hug and a kiss. This evening, my husband offered to do bedtime since I’m swamped with work. Therefore, I heard the start of the usual scenario as the two of them were about to leave the kitchen.

“I wanna hug and a kiss!” Ari announced repeatedly.

Once the gate from the kitchen to the foyer opened, I expected to hear Ari’s feet stampeding. However, just as he reached my office door, he slipped and fell. (Why? Because he insisted on carrying his blanket downstairs after he helped tuck Isabelle into bed this evening.) Once Ari righted himself, his head popped through one of the panes of glass and said, “Kiss and a hug!”

Notice the blanket wrapped around him?

“Of course,” I replied, smiling at this routine I know well.

I opened the door to my office, crouched down, and saw my sweet little boy standing in front of me.

“What’s first?” I asked. “Kiss or hug?”

“Kiss!” Ari said planting a drooly smooch on my lips.

“And now?”

“A hug!” he leaned in and knocked me off of my kneeling stance.

We laughed. Marc snapped a few photos. We embraced again. Then, Ari ended the ritual the same way he always does, “You go in your office now.” What a little drill sergeant.

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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.




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.

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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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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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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



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.

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