slice of life · travel

Highlights from #NCTE18 and the Re-entry to Home

I almost didn’t make it to NCTE because of the fluke of a snowstorm that rolled through the Mid-Atlantic on Thursday. What should’ve been a nine-hour trip, door-to-door, turned into a 16-hour ordeal that led to me being without my checked luggage for 48 hours. Alas, if I put the inconvenience of being without my luggage (and the hassle that went with it) aside, I had a fantastic time in Houston! While I was at NCTE, I…

* Presented three times and learned a lot from my co-presenters.

* Attended a few sessions, including a general session where students spoke, which were inspiring.

* Shot a video about Welcome to Writing Workshop, which will be published in late March, with Lynne.

* Shared a room with Melanie, which allowed us to catch up.

* Ate lunch with Kelsey, who had to miss the Slicer dinner because of her own travel delay.

* Attended the Slicer Dinner and learned more about everyone with an impromptu (and funny) share that led to some interesting stories.

* Caught up with other authors and the folks who work at Stenhouse at the annual Author Reception.

* Found a fabulous restaurant with gluten-free pasta where I dined with some of my favorite PA educators, Lynne, Rose, and Aileen.

I departed from Houston this morning. Thankfully, I had an easy trip home. However, I started to miss my kids during my lay over in Dulles. I pulled out my iPad and watched videos of them. Despite enjoying a few days when I cut only my own food and took long showers, I missed my kids. I was glad to be heading home.

Marc picked me up from the airport and we went to dinner. Isabelle called and FaceTimed with me since she was heading to bed before I arrived home. (She did jump out of bed to surprise me once she heard I was home.) I partially unpacked, showered, and snuggled with Ari while he drank his bedtime bottle. Once he was finished, I asked him the question I ask him every time he finishes a bottle at bedtime.

“What time is it?”

“Love time!” he smiled. (A few weeks ago, I absent-mindedly said, “What time is it?” to him after he finished a bottle. He responded “Love Time,” since I often rock him in my arms before putting him down in his crib. It’s become a bit of a running joke now since I ask him this every night.)

And right there, in my house with a partially-unpacked suitcase and a brain filled with new ideas from a weekend away at NCTE, my heart felt full. It’s good to be home.

slice of life · travel · weather

Foggy Windshield

car-2595418_640How often do you use the defroster on your car in the summertime?

Just during rainstorms, right?

Well, for the past two mornings — both of which have been sunny here in Houston (where I’m working this week) — I’ve turned on the front and rear defrosters in my rental car since I couldn’t see out of the front or rear windshields.

Both mornings, I found it concerning when my front windshield didn’t clear after a few minutes. The only thing I could do to navigate on the highway was to keep the windshield wipers on, at a speed I’d typically use for a moderate rainfall, the entire drive. Every time the wipers squeaked across the windshield — from trying to eradicate wetness that was no longer there — I’d turn the wipers to intermittent. Seconds later, the front windshield would fog again and I’d have to speed up the wipers. Was something wrong with my rental car?

At lunch, I sat around a table with several curriculum coaches. We were talking about the weather, so I recounted my morning drives and asked, “Is this a Houston thing or a faulty rental car thing?”

There was a resounding “Houston Thing!” response from the coaches. Apparently, it’s so hot and humid in the mornings that one needs to turn on the defrosters to clear the windshields. Like me, they told me it’s easy to clear their rear ones, but not the front windshields. That’s when two of them shared a tip with me: crank up the heat in the car (even though it’s already hot outside), open your windows so you don’t faint from the heat, and turn on the front defroster.

My mouth dropped open. “Really!??!”

Apparently, that’s the only thing that will work.

Pennsylvania has its fair share of high heat, elevated dew points, and humidity in the summertime, but nothing like this has ever happened to me before! For some reason, something different happens to cars in the Houston summers.

Guess what I’ll be doing when I find my front windshield fogged up tomorrow morning?

slice of life_individual
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slice of life · travel

Celebrating (Sans Kids)

I remember the first time my parents ever left me with my grandparents to take an overnight trip to Palm Beach Gardens. I felt as though I had been mightily wronged. I loved my grandparents dearly, but acted as though my parents were abandoning me with strangers. I make this admission with a sense of shame since I was 11 when this happened!

My children have grown accustom to mommy and/or daddy going away for a few days at a time. Sometimes we travel for work. Other times we travel for pleasure. Because, let’s be honest, it’s a trip when you take the kids; it’s a vacation when it’s two adults traveling together.

This past weekend, Marc and I took a mini-vacation to the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania. We spent three days celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary at Nemacolin. We dined without feeding a baby or counting bites until the meal could be over. We enjoyed time together at the spa. We exercised at the gym — together — everyday. We read books devoid of pictures and rhymes. Two out of the three mornings we slept in until the mid-morning. It was divine!

We returned to reality last night. We were greeted by two children who were happy to see us, but would’ve been perfectly fine if they went another day without their parents. Clearly, they understand they’re in capable and loving hands with their grandparents. Since this is the way it’s always been, they don’t act like that bratty 11-year-old I was when it’s time for one or both of us to go away. And for that, I am thankful!

Celebrating Ten Years Together!

siblings · slice of life · travel

The Empty Seat

I’ll be honest with you. It’s strange to have only one child in the backseat again. Much as I will enjoy a few days with Ari, I miss having both of my children at home with us.

They are seriously in love. It is a love filled with silly noises, hugs, tickles, nonsensical conversations, and kisses. Lots of kisses.

They’ve been together every day for the past ten-and-a-half months. However, the long good-bye happened yesterday when Isabelle separated from Ari for the first time since he returned from the hospital at two days old. (Marc and I were taking Ari back to Pennsylvania while Isabelle was heading off to Connecticut to spend a few days with my in-laws.) Isabelle seemed fine about saying good-bye to us, but she didn’t want to let Ari go. Eventually, I put him in the stroller and a few more kisses later she departed.
Ari isn’t talking yet, but his actions showed that he missed Isabelle yesterday afternoon. For instance, he woke up from his car nap and cried. As the front-seat passenger, I was able to turn around to see what was wrong. I found him crying while staring aimlessly at the space to his left. Rather than seeing his sister’s smiling face in her car seat, he saw shopping bags. Despite my attempts to soothe him, it took me sitting in Isabelle’s seat for the remainder of the ride home so he wouldn’t cry.
This morning, I noticed Ari staring towards the place where Isabelle sits again. This time, I needed to be the driver so I couldn’t do much other than to say, “She’ll be back on Thursday.”
Thankfully, he didn’t cry during today’s car ride.
slice of life · travel

In Praise of Wawa

The Wawa in Princeton was more than a mere convenience store to many of us in high school. Wawa represented freedom. It was under five minutes from my high school, which meant it was the perfect distance away from campus if one wanted an alternative to school food (usually yucky) once each of us turned 17 and obtained a driver’s license. I always bought a Turkey Shorti if I decided to leave campus for a quick lunch. I don’t know if I was the taste of the hoagie roll, the taste of the turkey, or the tang of the vinegar, but it was a delight for my 17-year-old tastebuds.

My days of eating Turkey Shortis at Wawa are long gone. First, I can no longer eat gluten. Second, the nearest Wawa is over an hour from our home. (Apparently Wawa’s a New Jersey thing, not a Pennsylvania thing.) However, I still have a deep affection for stopping at Wawa whenever possible. 

We traveled back to Pennsylvania from New England this afternoon. I announced I’d be napping before we reached the Merritt Parkway. However, I requested to be woken when we reached Phillipsburg, NJ.

“Where do you want to stop?” Marc inquired as I propped my pillow behind my head.

“How about Wawa? We can get gas there and I can go to the bathroom. They *should* be open even though it’s Easter.”

I woke up just before Phillipsburg, NJ, which left Marc with enough time to consult me about the kind of snack he wanted from the convenience store part of Wawa. “How about peanut butter (unintelligible)?”

“Peanut butter and crackers?” I asked. This Wawa has a huge healthy snack display so we could probably get that without a problem.

“No,” he paused. Then he lowered his voice, “Peanut M&M’s.” Clearly, he didn’t want Isabelle to hear this.

“I could go for those,” I thought. Not the best snack. There would be so many other options: yogurt, fruit, kale salad, nut mixes… But no, it was decided. We were getting M&M’s. “They’re kinda like health food since they have peanuts inside.”

Marc smiled. 

I walked into Wawa while Marc and Isabelle remained in the car while getting gas. (Isabelle couldn’t miss the chance to watch someone else pumping out gas. Gotta love full service in NJ!) I used the facilities and then went on my search for Peanut M&M’s. I found two sizes. I went for the insanely large family-sized pack. Because why not sweeten up the last two hours of our road trip?


Look at all of these smart choices! I don’t remember the Wawa of my teenage years having healthy grab-and-go options.
Eight ounces of joy.

slice of life · travel

Give a kid a cardboard box & they’re happy. #sol16

We drove to State College to attend the Big 5 Gymnastics Qualifier


Isabelle loved watching the floor routines because the gymnasts were dancing.
While all three of us enjoyed it (probably me the most), Isabelle grew impatient after an hour. We moved our seats twice.


Isabelle and Marc watched the balance beam routines from the third row.
We even plied Isabelle with candy in an effort to liven her up. It didn’t work. “I wanna go to the hotel,” she repeatedly said. 

After the awards ceremony, we headed to the hotel. Suddenly, there was pep in her step. Why? Isabelle loves hotels! 


There are two desks in our hotel room. Isabelle is using one for writing and one for her artwork.
Isabelle claimed a bed for her and her bears. She unpacked some of her things. Then, she found oodles of notepads in one of the desks. That seemed to be the highlight of her day! She got to work writing P-E-N-N S-T-A-T-E repeatedly on the notepads.

Is it just me or does this whole thing remind you of when you buy a kid a toy and all they want to play with is the box?