slice of life · travel

Pretzel Time #sol19

Our kids woke us up too early this morning. We had hoped to sleep in considering we had a family wedding in Virginia last night. No such luck. Both of them woke up at 6:30 a.m. Neither one was quiet. But amidst their singing and giggles came a request from Ari, “I want a snack. I want pretzels!”

We told Ari he’d have to wait for the car ride home if he wanted to eat pretzels. First, he had to eat breakfast. The pretzels would come later.

So what do you think was the first thing Ari asked when we drove away from the hotel?

“Is it pretzel time now?”

It was just a touch after 10 a.m. It was still too early for pretzels in my book. “Let’s wait until 10:30 a.m.”

Isabelle was busy with a Highlights book at 10:30 so she requested we push “pretzel time” back ten more minutes. Ari seemed cool with that plan — at first — but then he protested. By 10:37 a.m., it was pretzel time. The kids noshed on pretzels until 11 a.m., when I declared “pretzel time is over.” (They would’ve eaten the entire bag if I let them.”

Ari napped in the car this afternoon. What do you think he asked for as soon as he woke up? That’s right. “PRETZEL TIME!”

Isabelle was eating honey graham bears so it would’ve been hard for her to hold two bags while doling pretzels out to Ari. He must’ve sensed what I was thinking since Ari declared, “I’m gonna hold them like a good boy.”

“Do you mean like a big boy?” I asked.


Reluctantly, I handed the pretzels bag back for pretzel time, part two.

Everything was fine for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard Isabelle say, “No, Ari! Don’t turn the bag upside down!”

I turned around, reached back, and managed to take back the pretzel bag. Ari let out a disappointed yelp, but got over it quickly.

The backseat of my car, however, won’t get over it quite as fast. It’s going to need a good vacuuming!

Road trips with kids… they’re always eventful!

siblings · slice of life · travel

Heading Home

Little Pretzel Eaters

We’re heading home from five days away for Passover. I’m the front seat passenger. My husband is driving. The kids are in the back of the minivan. We have an hour and twenty minutes left until we get home. And home can’t come soon enough because the kids are restless in the backseat. After all, they’ve driven through four states since Thursday.

Here’s a scene from ten minutes ago that reflects how ready I am to get out of this vehicle:

Isabelle was reading a Henry and Mudge book aloud. Ari vacillated between screaming for a snack and bellowing to have his music turned on. The music wasn’t going to be turned on until Isabelle was finished reading so Marc encouraged me to pass back a baggie of pretzels. I thought it was a terrible idea, but they’re the only Passover-friendly snack food we have in our car. I reluctantly handed the pretzels to Ari expecting them to fall on the floor immediately. However, Ari carefully took the bag and began eating one pretzel at a time. Maybe I had misjudged.

Two minutes later, I realized I should never have handed the pretzel baggie back to Ari since he dumped the baggie upside down on his lap while Isabelle was still reading. Then, Ari systematically took the pretzels on his lap and shoved them between his body and the car seat. He laughed hysterically as he shoved each one into the car seat.

“That’s going to be fun to clean up later,” I said to Marc who nodded knowingly.

Isabelle kept reading. When she was finished reading, I turned KidzBop on for Isabelle and handed her a new baggie of pretzels. This time, she held the pretzels for the both of them.

For now, they’re both quiet. But we still have an hour and fifteen minutes left to go.

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slice of life · travel

Homeward Bound

I texted my parents, my mother-in-law, and Marc as soon as my plane’s wheels touchdown at MDT. That’s when I got this text from Marc:

(1) Siri isn’t my friend when I text. (See red marks.) (2) A plane taxiing down the jetway makes an iPhone think you are driving.

Typically, Isabelle is asleep — or in pjs — when I return home from trips. But not today! Today, I am getting picked up by two people. And that makes me happy.

Smiling in the terminal. (Geographical point of reference: Three Mile Island in the background.)

I adore traveling to new places and working with teachers. But I love being home with my family.

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.

slice of life · travel

Hugs Make Things Better

I had every intention of getting a good night’s rest last night. However, I tossed and turned until nearly 11:30 p.m. Then, I woke up at 2:15 a.m. — and never went back to sleep. And it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could help me fall asleep again.

It’s an understatement to say that I was grumpy when Isabelle encountered me this morning. She must’ve sensed something since she asked me a question she never asks me in the morning.

“How are you, Mommy?”

I answered honestly. I told her about my miserable night of sleep and how terrible my body felt due to a lack of rest.

“Would a hug make it better?” she asked.

Getting one of many hugs from my sweet girl before she left for school this morning.

“You can try,” I said.

Isabelle wrapped her arms around my waist and squeezed. I didn’t feel more rested, but something about her enveloping me in her kiddie embrace calmed me, albeit temporarily.

I zoomed around the house — a frantic mess — for the next hour while she got ready for school. She kept doling out the hugs. She also offered to give me her Teddy to take to Norfolk. (I declined.) Then, she brought me Ari’s huge stuffed bear to give me a hug. (That made me laugh.) Next, she drew me a sweet little picture with the words “I love you” on the bottom. (Big smile!)

I received more hugs from Isabelle — who is not a super-affectionate kid — than I could count this morning. It warmed my heart to know that she sensed my discomfort and wanted to help in whatever way she could. And she did.

Per my husband’s suggestion, I’m hydrating this morning in an effort to eradicate the massive headache I have from last night’s lack of sleep. Thank goodness I’m flying and taking a cab later today. I could not drive with the way I feel!
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slice of life · travel

Another Job Title

Holding Ari’s little hand apres clipping.

When someone asks me what I do, it’s hard to know which role I should state first. Am I a literacy consultant, an author, or both? Do I throw-in mom or blogger into my job description since those are big parts of who I am? Should I make a joke that I am a part-time laundress because my family of four generates more clothes than some families of six? It’s hard to say.

I shy away from work travel during the month of March since the managing the SOLSC is a full-time job. However, the Virginia State Reading Association (whose President is Slicer Jennifer Floyd!) invited me to speak at their annual conference in Norfolk. I wanted to say yes… so I did.

I travel to Norfolk tomorrow. But tonight, amidst printing the kids’ schedules for my in-laws, folding laundry, and packing my suitcase, I had another important job to do. I needed to inspect the kids’ nails. You see, my husband, who is a super hands-on dad, has never clipped either of the kids’ nails since becoming a parent over eight years ago. It’s always been my job. Therefore, it’s one of the many things I make sure I take care of before I leave for a work trip. Last spring, I went away for five nights and returned home to children who seemed to have sprouted claws in my absence!

So tonight, I checked toenails first. Everything was good! Next, I inspected fingernails. That’s when I discovered Ari was due for a nail clipping. So, while I should’ve been making sure a list of all of the necessary technology I need to bring, I was clipping nails. Because, well, I am the kids’ nail tech!

So, add another role to my list. I am the chief nail technician for those 41 and under in my house. It’s not a great job, but somebody has to do it.

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.