government · slice of life · technology

Sometimes Pen & Paper Is Better

I’m not the kind of parent who typically drops everything to help my fourth grader complete a study guide. However, I had a feeling, based on how she’s done on some of the assignments, that she needed some help to prepare for her upcoming test. Therefore, I took an hour out of my day to sit beside her to help her complete the study guide.

Isabelle began learning how to type a couple of months ago. She completed her final module on yesterday! While she has improved her knowledge of where the keys are and her accuracy, she still types slowly. Therefore, when I noticed her social studies (U.S. Government) study guide was on Seesaw, I groaned. Audibly. It was going to be a s-l-o-w process to get the answers typed in. (Good thing I had some time!)

Isabelle was able to squeeze some of the responses onto the form by using a stylus. However, most of the spaces were too small for her to use the stylus.

Once I read through the guide, it became clear to me that I’d need to do some teaching since Isabelle didn’t remember most of the information off of the top of her head. Whatever needed an exact answer (e.g., how a bill becomes a law in PA), we located in the textbook or in the packet her teacher provided. Then, I read and discussed it with her. Next, I waited as she typed things in, letter-by-letter, using the Seesaw text function. While she typed I checked email on the sly. I even threw in a load of laundry while she typed a longer response.

Eventually, I suggested, “Why don’t you use Siri to dictate your responses? Then you can just edit the capitalization and spelling.”

“Good idea!” Isabelle replied.

But. That. Also. Takes. Time. To. Do. Well.

Once Isabelle was two-thirds of the way finished with typing the study guide responses, I flipped through her social studies packet and discovered the printed study guide was in the packet. Whaaaaat?!?!?!

“Did you know it was in here?” I asked.

“Yeah. Kind of,” she replied.

“Next time, I think you can save yourself a lot of time if you write your responses by hand, take pictures of the pages, and then upload them for your teacher to Seesaw. Technology doesn’t always make things faster. Sometimes pen and paper is better. What do you think?”

“Writing it would probably be faster,” she admitted.

Yes. Yes it would be, I thought. But I let it rest. Isabelle was calm, despite spending an inordinate amount of time typing and dictating her answers sentence-by-sentence. I bit my tongue. Being righter-than-right wasn’t going to return the extra half hour she spent laboring over her keyboard today.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.
slice of life · technology

Typing Boot Camp

I learned to type when I was in fourth grade. As a result, I type 87 WPM.

Isabelle is in fourth grade. She hasn’t received any typing instruction yet. As a result, she types 6 WPM.

Seeing as Isabelle just had her first writing assignment on Google Slides (which I typed for her so she wouldn’t get frustrated) AND is staying in an all-remote class until she’s vaccinated for COVID-19, I thought it was about time for her to learn how to type since I don’t want her to view me as her personal typist.

Enter our unofficial “typing boot camp.” Every day of her winter recess, I am insisting that she works on so she can learn some keyboarding skills.

Day 1 went great. Day 2 was less than fun. Today is Day 3 and she reminded me when it was time to practice typing. So, that’s progress.

The biggest struggle I’m noticing is that she doesn’t use the correct fingers for some of the letters. Thankfully, Isabelle accepted my redirections on finger placement today.

What she doesn’t care for is when I tell her to work on her posture. She has no desire to sit at 90-90-90. This is how she sits:

“Criss-cross applesauce”

I guess we’ll work on proper posture later…

COVID-19 · post-op life · slice of life · technology

"Mommy, can I have iPad time?" #SOL20

This morning, Isabelle and I took session one of Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s Keeping a Notebook, which was dedicated to curating a collection of quotes and writing long about one of them, for this morning’s writing workshop. Here’s the writing I did, which is what led to the slice of life story you’re about to read:

I heard a hand jam down the bathroom’s door handle. In a flash, Ari appeared with soaking-wet hair and a white towel around his body. He went from a trot to a canter in three seconds with his towel moving from a secure wrap to falling off of his shoulders. He stood before me, completely naked, asking, “Mommy, can I have iPad time?”

“Are you kidding me?” I asked.

But I knew he wasn’t. Ari probably felt as though he had been mightily wronged since I restricted his screen time to 20 whole minutes today in an effort to curb his screentime since it has been hovering around the two-and-a-half hour mark.

“Hey, what happened to my iPad?” he whined while water drop rolled down his forehead.

“I turned it off when you were in the shower. Come back to me after you get dressed, get your ears cleaned, and have your hair done, and we’ll talk.”

A few minutes later, Ari ran into my bedroom in striped pajamas with his hair a wet mess. “Now can I have iPad time?”

“Your hair isn’t brushed and I’m sure your ears aren’t cleaned,” I replied.

“But I want iPad time!” he continued.

In the blink of an eye, Ari turned on the iPad’s camera, reversed it, and began taking pictures. Have a look:

That’s our ceiling with his unbrushed hair in the top right of the photo.

That’s when Marc came over, scooped Ari up, turned him upside down into a handstand atop our bed, flipped him over, and said, “You’re coming with me.”

Isabelle and I laughed since we got to witness an upside-down, giggling Ari being forceably removed from the room while yelling “hey” as a way of protesting the latest perceived iPad injustice.

“See what I mean about what I wrote in my notebook this morning? He can’t get enough of that iPad. He’s like,” I paused and met Isabelle’s gaze, “an iPad junkie.”

She doesn’t know what a junkie is, but she laughed just the same.

See the glow on his face? Yes! Well, then please pay attention to his freshly-coiffed hair.

Finally, Ari returned with his hair brushed and clean ears. “Now can I have iPad time?” he asked.

“You can have ten minutes,” I replied, punching in the code.

“I want ‘Thomas,'” he said.

“You can have Khan Academy or nothing,” I replied.

I secured the iPad on guided access, handed it to him, and he played happily for ten minutes.

I know more screen time isn’t going to massively harm anyone, which is why I’ve been more lax about it in the past week. However, when the first words out of your child’s mouth — for three consecutive days — are “Can I have iPad time?” then you know something is wrong. Being stuck in bed post-op isn’t helping the situation since I’d be baking with Ari at times I couldn’t take him outside to play. But that is my reality now. I’m not sure what kind of an intervention we’re going to have tomorrow, but I know one is needed to break this little guy of his iPad obsession.

slice of life · technology · travel

FaceTime: The Bookends of My Work Day


I received a text message from Marc at 6:48 a.m. asking if I was free to FaceTime with Isabelle. I was available (despite needing to finish putting on my makeup, get dressed, and pack up my technology for an 8:00 a.m. presentation).

I opened the shade in my room exposing the Elizabeth River, which I could see from my hotel room. What a gorgeous day! I pressed the FaceTime button on the text message and was instantly connected with Marc and Isabelle who were in the kitchen. I learned it was slow going this morning since Marc was making Isabelle’s breakfast when I called. I talked to them for a couple of minutes, but the call kept freezing. “Poor connection” is what my iPhone told me. I hung up, disconnected from the hotel’s WiFi and tried again. More of the same. Could it be that the problem was also our home’s WiFi connection? (I didn’t even want to think of that. I don’t be bothered with home-related issues when I’m presenting at a conference.) Therefore, I texted Marc back and asked him to go onto LTE so we could FaceTime. It took a few minutes, but eventually we were back in business.

I’d like to say the call was idyllic. It wasn’t. It involved Marc reminding Isabelle to sit at the table, eat her breakfast, and drink her chocolate milk. But Isabelle had her own agenda. She wanted to see the view from my hotel room and get a tour of my room. (BTW: She loves hotels. And I mean LOVES. I think she’s destined to work in the hospitality industry when she grows up!)

I flipped the FaceTime view and showed her everything, including location where I’d be presenting. But it was 7:00 a.m. and Marc needed her to hustle since she needs to be finished with breakfast by 7:15 a.m. in order to catch the school bus. Plus, I knew I needed to get myself together so I could be out the door on the way to the convention center by 7:30 a.m. So, I wished everyone a good day, told them I loved them, and hit the end button. Sometimes you have to put the needs of other people — in this case Marc’s need to get Isabelle out the door so he wouldn’t have to drive her to school — before your own needs.


I checked and discovered it was 74 degrees at 5:00 p.m. so I decided to take a walk down to the Elizabeth River. I changed into workout clothes and took the elevator to the ground floor of my hotel. Once I was on the street, I called my mother-in-law to determine if it would be a good time to talk to the kids. Ari had come downstairs after his afternoon nap and Isabelle was playing a game with my father-in-law in-between reading and PT exercises.

I initiated the FaceTime call and was instantly transported to the familiar surroundings of my house. I was wearing sunglasses on my walk and Ari seemed confused when he saw me. I removed my sunglasses and said, “Do you know who I am?”

He smiled and replied, “Mommy” in a voice that melted my heart.

I was excited to show him (and Isabelle) the boats that were docked. I was especially thrilled to show him the Stratsraad Lehmkul, which is a three-masted Norweigan naval ship that’s docked in Norfolk through tomorrow. Ari seemed interested for a few minutes, but lost interest when I was unable to zoom-in on the tugboats that were passing by.

Isabelle made a few appearances towards the end of the call. She mostly snapped FaceTime photos of me while we were talking. (I’m sure my mother-in-law has a whole bunch of not-so-lovely photos of me.) Just for fun, I snapped a few of her too!

Does anyone else’s kid do this when they FaceTime with you?

Eventually, we hung up and I went on my way with the rest of my day. While I enjoy having extra time to myself while I’m away, I’ll be honest… I miss my kids.

siblings · slice of life · technology

Don’t take your brother out of the crib… unless there’s a fire.

We purchased a drop-gate crib when I was pregnant with Isabelle so I wouldn’t have to bend down as far to pick her up out of the crib. Ari has been using the same crib since we brought him home from the hospital.

Once Ari was old enough to stand, we told Isabelle she wasn’t to lift Ari out of the crib unless there was a house fire. Do you think she listened to us?

Well, mostly she did, but one day — a few months ago — Isabelle lifted Ari out of the side of the crib. Why did she do that? “Because my arms weren’t long enough to open the drop gate,” she told me.

“But you were told not to take him out unless there was a fire,” I stated.

“But I wanted to play with him,” she replied.

Marc and I gave Isabelle a stern warning and it had not happened again… until this morning.

Look! She’s even letting him hold Teddy!

Both kids woke up before we did. By the time Marc entered Ari’s room, he found Ari out of the crib with the drop gate down. Apparently, Isabelle’s wingspan is long enough to open the drop gate now. (Gotta love an almost six-year age difference!) He returned to our bedroom to relay the news.

I prepared a stern speech as I rolled out of bed. But I softened when I walked into Ari’s room. The two of them were sitting together on his glider with an iPad. It was locked, but Isabelle was commanding Siri to place a FaceTime call to my mother-in-law. However, she said, “FaceTime Linda Shubitz” (Shubitz is not my mother-in-law’s last name.), which led to Siri denying her the connection. Therefore, I gently reminded Isabelle for her safety and for Ari’s safety that she shouldn’t take Ari out of the crib. Then, I reminded her Grandma’s last name was Schaefer, not Shubitz. Then I left the room so they could make their FaceTime call without me hovering over them.

Head over to on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
slice of life · technology

Surf City Water Tower

What did our parents do — in the days before smart phones to provide instant gratification — when we wanted something? Did they plug their ears while listening to us cry? Ignore us? Tell us to toughen up? Or maybe it was some combination of all of those things…

Last week, we vacationed in Topsail, NC with my cousins. Despite seven people — two of whom were under two — living in the same house for a week, it was a relaxing vacation. We ate in most nights, but decided to head to dinner the final night we were in Topsail so we wouldn’t have a clean-up job after dinner since we had a lot of packing ahead of us.

On the way out of the restaurant, Ari noticed the island’s old water tower. He was captivated by it. He said, “Tower!” over and over on the drive home that night.

The next morning, Ari called “Tower!” many times. On our way off the island, we pointed the water tower out to him and said, “Say, ‘bye-bye, Tower’.”

“Bye, Tower!” he called as we drove over the swing bridge off of Topsail Island.

That should’ve been it… but it wasn’t. He called out for the water tower several times on Sunday.

“Remember, we said good-bye to the Tower when we left Topsail,” I reminded him.

“Bye, Tower,” he repeated sadly.

By yesterday afternoon, Ari continued to call out for the Tower. That’s when I googled “Surf City Water Tower” on my phone. Not only did multiple images of the water tower come up, but there were even two videos! I showed the photos to Ari. The images made him smile with delight. Then, I showed him the videos. He watched them with complete contentedness.

Today’s Tuesday. Now Ari is grabbing for my phone saying “Tower! Tower! Tower!” The last thing I want to do is look at photos and watch videos of some old water tower. However, doing just that is my consequence for using my smart phone in this way in the first place.

siblings · slice of life · technology

Naughty Moments


This morning, I asked Isabelle to watch Ari while I went upstairs to brush my teeth. Whenever I’ve asked this of her in the past she has played with him. Today she had another idea.

On my way back downstairs I heard voices, but they weren’t my children’s voices. She turned on the TV! I was infuriated since I don’t allow TV before school. I thought about tiptoeing downstairs and catching her in the act, but I worried she would’ve heard my footsteps and turned it off before I walked into the room. So I called to her from the staircase, “I hear the TV and want to see what you’re watching.”

Isabelle looked so guilty when I entered our great room. Thankfully, she was only watching “The Cat in the Hat” with Ari who was standing right up against the TV screen, which is NOT a good thing if you’re in charge of your baby brother. (Reasons I don’t like her to watch TV when Ari is around.)

I punished her in a way that benefitted me. No KidzBop in the car this morning! (BTW: I listened to the Beatles Channel, which was delightful.)


Ari started climbing onto the couch a few days ago. Thing is, Ari doesn’t just sit on the couch like a normal kid. He walks back and forth on the sectional. Also, he likes to stand in place and wave the quilt, which hangs on the wall, in a way that makes me cringe every time.

Perhaps the funniest part of Ari standing up on the couch (to touch the quilt) is that he knows he shouldn’t be doing it. He smiles as he touches it, makes eye contact with me, and then says “no-no” as he grabs the material and gives it a shake.

slice of life · technology

Grasping a Childhood

This morning, Facebook provided me with a look back of everything I’ve shared on this day. On February 6th, 2013, I shared an article called “How to Miss a Childhood.” If you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or care for young children, then please read this article now or after you finish reading this post. (Whatever works best for you. Please take the time to read it because it’ll change the way you live.) The premise of the article is simple. PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE so you can witness the little people you’re lucky enough to have in your life.

Anyone who’s read this blog for awhile knows I don’t allow phones or tablets at the dining table at home or in a restaurant. Much to the dismay of my parents (Hi Mom & Dad!), I keep my cell phone on vibrate unless I’m awaiting a phone call from a doctor. I limit my six-year-old’s media consumption to one hour of television — at most — per day. Screen time for speech- or phonics-related games might be up to another 45 minutes, but she’s doing them alongside me so I don’t think of it as true screen time.

I am by no means a perfect parent, but I try — really, really hard — to be a good parent. Like everyone, I fail more than I succeed.

Enter Baby #2 back in September. I have to admit, I’ve been on my iPhone a lot more since Ari was born. I turn to it during feedings to keep myself from falling asleep. Seeing as Ari eats every three hours, I’m on my phone a lot more than I need to be.

I reread “How to Miss a Childhood” while feeding Ari this morning. If I am being honest, then I have to admit I have been attending to the buzzing of my phone more than I should. More people text me than ever before. (I detest the immediacy of texting. I resisted it for a long time because the urgency of it seems ridiculous to me. However, I have succumb to the technology since so many people want me to use it.) In addition, my email inbox is fuller than I’d like it to be. As a result, I am on my phone way more than I should be.

Bedtime Tonight. Look at his little hand on my shoulder. Would I have noticed his hand if I were on my phone? Probably not.
Bedtime Tonight. Look at his little hand on my shoulder. Would I have noticed his hand if I were on my phone? Probably not.

Rereading “How to Miss a Childhood” encouraged me to put my phone down more often today. Instead of checking Twitter or reading articles from The New York Times after each of Ari’s feedings (He has to be held upright for 20 minutes because he’s a spitter-upper.), I sang to him. You can’t sing to your child when you’re reading! Singing to him allowed me to look into his eyes. I saw his face brighten each time I sang a tune he enjoyed. I also had a clear lap, devoid of a device, when he spit up on me — twice!

I’ve gotten in the habit of giving Isabelle my full attention. I’m not distracted when I’m with her. I only check email or send a text in her presence if there’s an immediate need. I don’t use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram when she’s around. Even though my son is little, I’ve come to realize he deserves my presence right now.

This evening, I rocked Ari to sleep in his glider. He smelled of Alimentum, Aquaphor, and Aveeno Moisturizing Soap. It’s an odd combination, but I inhaled his scent and savored it. He’ll only be little once, I told myself. I have to stay present because you don’t get a second chance at parenting your child.

slice of life · technology

Big Teddy’s Adventure

I dropped Isabelle off at preschool on Friday morning along with my mother-in-law.

“You take eye-oh-leht,” Isabelle commanded.

“Violet?” I asked.

“Yes, take her,” Isabelle clarified.

Violet is a talking purple puppy. She’s not exactly the kind of stuffed animal someone in their late 30’s wants to be caught with while they’re attending a conference for a weekend.

How about I take Big Teddy again?” I asked.

“No, eye-oh-leht,” Isabelle said.

“But Big Teddy wants to go again.”  Did I just say that?  I can’t believe I’m bargaining to take a different stuffed animal, I told myself.  That’s because I want something less obtrusive.

“Okay, you take Big Teddy,” Isabelle replied.


* * * * *

The wifi wasn’t working well when I arrived at the Highlights Foundation on Friday.  I worked for awhile, but then decided to take Big Teddy out on the adventure I knew Isabelle wanted him to have.  I created a digital story for her using Storyrobe and hoped it would be received more favorably than the still picture collage I sent six weeks ago.  Here’s what I sent home via e-mail:

My mother-in-law e-mailed me back to inform me that Isabelle watched the video three times.  My heart soared! The fact that she watched it again (and again) made it worth the hour I spent shooting the video, writing the story, and piecing it together with Storyrobe.

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.