slice of life

I think I need a mommy bracelet!

IMG_5418Late last year, Marc asked me if I wanted a new baby bootie charm to wear — like the one I had for Isabelle — to commemorate Ari’s birth. I told him I wanted a new necklace since the birthstones on the bootie scratched Isabelle’s head when she was a baby. I told Marc I’d get back to him with what I’d like (after going down the Etsy rabbit hole in search of MOMMY JEWELRY).

I found a necklace and a bracelet. I sent the links to my husband who did the ordering. A few weeks later, a Russian ring necklace with my children’s names engraved on each ring arrived. I have worn it nearly every day since Marc gave it to me.

Ari is six months old now. He is tugging on everything! (Hence the reason my hair is perpetually pulled back in a ponytail.) We were playing on the floor this morning when he gave my necklace one of the hardest yanks I’ve ever felt. It was at that moment when I realized I need a mommy bracelet.

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Magical Morning Moments

Created with WalaxyPic.

After she’s dressed, after I’ve placed the bow in her hair to hold back her curls, after she’s eaten her breakfast (way too slowly), and after she’s brushed her teeth until they’re shiny and clean, Isabelle has a choice to make. She can play in her play room or help me wake up Ari. Nearly every day she chooses to come into Ari’s room — with me — to wake him up so we can get him ready for the car ride to school.

We enter Ari’s room quietly. Isabelle uses a gentle voice to greet her brother while I take him out of his sleep sack. If we have time to spare, she rocks him in his glider after I change his clothes and his diaper. Then, she sits beside him and holds his hand as I administer his Prevacid (acid-suppression medicine). Sometimes Isabelle takes out a book and reads to Ari as I finish getting ready. Other mornings, like this one, she hugs and kisses him. She tells him, “Ari you’re so loved.” And she means it. He is so loved by all of us.

As an only child, I don’t believe any kid needs a sibling. However, I think Isabelle’s life is richer now that Ari is part of our family. She adores her baby brother. She amazes me every day with how kind she is to him. While I know they will grow up and argue with each other (as all normal siblings do), it is my hope she’ll always care for him as much as she does right now.

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read aloud · reading · slice of life

Questioning Myself (as the Parent of an Emerging Reader)

Every afternoon, after Isabelle gets off of the bus, washes her hands, and eats a snack, we read together. She’s comfortable reading books like this:

But she wants to read Elephant and Piggie books. I have a feeling it’s because many of her peers are reading E&P books independently. A few weeks ago, her teacher and I discussed her taking home I Am Going, which is an E&P book. After a lot of support from me (and about three weeks), Isabelle was able to read I Am Going independently. (I have a feeling a lot of it was memorized due to the repetition.)

Tricky Words Flash Cards
Six weeks have passed since our initial foray into reading E&P books together. We’re about ten or so days into our third one, Happy Pig Day. This one is harder than the previous ones we’ve read since it contains more complex words Isabelle hasn’t encountered yet. Therefore, I made flash cards for Gerald’s part, which is the part she’s chosen to read in this book. We review them prior to each reading of Happy Pig Day.

Here’s a peek into her reading aloud from Happy Pig Day today.

Not bad, right? I cannot tell how much is memorized, but I do know she is self-correcting when she misreads, so that’s a positive thing. 

If I’m being honest with myself, I know this book is too challenging for her right now. However, I believe motivation is crucial, which is why I’m allowing her to read this with a high amount of support from me. Therefore, we’ll continue reading the eight-page books her teacher sends home, as well as the E&P books she wants to read. And, I’ll probably keep second-guessing myself every day.

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medical · slice of life

In Praise of the Snotsucker

Most parents of babies or toddlers will tell you that using the following items on your child is one of the truest expressions of unconditional love you can show (your child).

Ari contracted his first cold late last week. He’s been congested for a few days. He hasn’t been a fan of Boogie Wipes so I called in the big guns this morning.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to buy Ari has a Snotsucker prior to his arrival. (There are many things siblings can share, but this shouldn’t be one of them.) Once I unpacked the new device, I called upon my trusty assistant, Isabelle, to help me with this procedure, of sorts.

Let me be honest, there wasn’t much Isabelle could do to help other than telling Ari about the merits of saline nasal spray. She stood back (& laughed) as I tried to insert the Nosefrida into his nose. He fought me off with his hands and thrashed his body around. Isabelle cracked up while I persisted. In the end, I was able to relieve a bit of Ari’s nasal congestion while providing my daughter with some comic relief (& maybe a shred of empathy for how hard parenting is).

This congested-baby scene ended with an “Ari Sandwich,” which included hugs and kisses for the Ari from his mommy and big sister. And just like that, all was forgiven.

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slice of life

When the Ride Stops

Isabelle took this photo of us. Pretty good, right?

Michelle Haseltine came to town to spend the day with my kids and me today. Isabelle met Michelle last year (NOTE: The last time Michelle visited it was after the snowstorm of 2016 that dumped almost three feet of snow on us. Funny how Michelle came to town a few days after this year’s blizzard!) and was excited she was coming back for a visit. As a result, Isabelle created a long list of things she wanted to do with Michelle today. Those things included lunch out, exploring the Hershey Story museum, going to Hersheypark (It doesn’t open until April.), visiting the Hotel Hershey, stopping into Chocolate World, and seeing the butterflies at Hershey Gardens. Michelle was only in town for a few hours so we picked three of the items of Isabelle’s list.

After lunch and a stop into the historic Hotel Hershey, the four of us drove to Chocolate World. If you’ve read this blog before (or are friends with me in real life), then you know Isabelle and I have been to Chocolate World over a hundred times. Seriously. (I took her there so she could go on the Hershey’s Chocolate Tour ride — which is free — after nearly every speech therapy visit for over two years!) Isabelle was excited to go on the ride, for which there was a short line. (She’s only been on it about 10-15 times since they renovated it last year!)

Everything was going along fine on the ride until we reached the packaging room. We were facing the mock Kisses packaging line when the ride came to a complete stop. In the 100+ times I’ve been on this ride, it has never stopped! Something was wrong.

Less than 30 seconds later, a voice came over the loud speaker to inform us the ride would not be continuing. We would be escorted off shortly.

Michelle snapped this one while the ride was still in motion.

Isabelle seemed uneasy. I tried to reassure her that everything was fine, but what did I know? Michelle sensed Isabelle’s unease, and — as the writer she is — grabbed a pen and some paper out of her bag and encouraged Isabelle to draw while we waited. And that’s exactly what Isabelle did.

Five minutes passed. Ari was wiggling in the Ergo carrier and Isabelle was getting restless. Finally, a teenager worker with a large flashlight came to our car and said, “You can follow me.”

And so we did. But not before Isabelle declared, “I still want chocolate.” (Ride-goers always receive a piece of candy at the end of the ride.)

We saw other people who had disembarked from their ride cars and followed the Chocolate World workers, all of whom were carrying search lights, to a back door. They lead us through the bowels of Chocolate World. Isabelle was annoyed she couldn’t finish out the ride like normal, but Michelle encouraged her to think about how we were on an adventure, seeing something most people have never gotten to see before. I, for one, was pretty excited for my new adventure!

“I hope there’s still chocolate at the end,” Isabelle told me, unconvinced that the back rooms were as cool as they were.

We wove our way through a few rooms and past lots of chocolate. Finally, we reached an exit door.

There were two adults standing by the exit door who seemed ethereal. Do you know what they were doing? Handing out small Hershey’s chocolate bars!

inner city teaching · politics · slice of life

The Vulnerable Among Us

I arrived at my student teaching assignment earlier than usual one weekday morning. The kids hadn’t lined up in the cafeteria for the Pledge of Allegiance yet. The tables and benches were still out from breakfast, which many kids ate daily. One of the fifth graders from my class was crying. She wasn’t proficient in English yet so she was unable to tell me what was wrong. So I asked her peers.
“The lunch ladies won’t give J breakfast because she got here after they stopped serving,” a boy from my class told me.
“Can’t J knock on the door and ask them to give her breakfast?” I asked.
“That’s not how it works,” another student informed me. “If you’re late, you don’t eat.”
I looked at J, her dark bob framing her tiny face, and noticed she had tears in her eyes. I asked one of her peers to ask J if she had eaten anything.
A quick “no” was given back to me followed by more tears.
This was ridiculous. She’s here before the bell, but can’t eat. I couldn’t fathom J being hungry until lunchtime. I got up from the table and walked over to the kitchen. I pulled on the handle, but it was locked. I peered through the narrow window. Multiple kitchen workers were washing dishes in the kitchen. I flattened my hand and rapped on the door with force until one looked up. She walked over and unlocked the door.
“Good morning,” I said as sweetly as possible. “I am a student teacher in the bilingual fifth-grade class. There’s a student in my class who didn’t eat breakfast this morning. She is hungry. Her friends said she can’t eat because she arrived after you stopped serving food. I need you to fix her a tray for breakfast.”
The lady from the kitchen said, “I’ll do it just this once. Tell her not to be late tomorrow.”
I wasn’t sure if I was overstepping my bounds as a student teacher. But quite frankly, I did not care. “I’m sure she’ll try to make it on time. After all, she wants to eat breakfast so she can concentrate and learn.”
The kitchen door closed. A moment later, the worker handed me a tray of food.
“Thank you,” I said.
I got no response. She turned around and locked the door behind her.
I spun on my heels and walked over to my student. “Here’s your breakfast, J. If you can’t finish before the Pledge, then we will bring it upstairs. I don’t think Mrs. R. will mind.”
“Thank you,” she said in the clearest English I had ever heard her speak.
“Of course. You need to eat.”
I haven’t thought about this incident much since it happened 13 years ago. However, the memory of the story came flooding back when I watched Mick Mulvaney, Office of Management and Budget Director, address the White House Press Corps yesterday. He stood there, justifying what many people believe are draconian budget cuts. He talked about a variety of proposed cuts, such as the ones to Meals on Wheels and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Multiple times I heard Mulvaney ask questions like, “Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?”
The injustice J faced on that winter morning had to do with the time she showed up. But what happens when the error isn’t about timing, but rather is about funding?
Looking at the proposed budget cuts worries me. How about funding for after-school and summer programs, where many children go for academic help and where they also receive a meal? What happens to those kids if that funding gets cut? How about the seniors who rely on meals and visits from volunteers coordinated by Meals on Wheels? What happens when these programs get cut? How about the 68% of children, ages two to eight, whose families watch PBS? What are these families, who rely on public television for educational programming, supposed to show their children instead? As a parent who is picky about the kinds of shows her daughter watches, I’ve gotta tell you that PBS is pretty much it when it comes to quality programming for children.
I could go on about my outrage to the proposed cuts on the EPA, NEA, NEH, and NIH, but quite frankly, I think my time would be better spent contacting my elected officials. Right now, I am horrified by the lack of compassion.
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Me: By the Numbers

After two lovely days at home with the kids, Isabelle went back to school (albeit after a two-hour delay) this morning. Unfortunately, Ari came down with his first cold. He’s a cranky-pants this evening. Therefore, I wanted to try out a format that I heard Teri tried earlier this week. It’s a math autobiography. Here goes:

  1. I’m an only child. Even though I wanted a brother or sister for years, I’m thankful to be blessed with wonderful parents. (And by wonderful, I mean parents who have sacrificed and would do anything for me, my husband, and our children.)
  2. These two! It’s like a mutual admiration society every morning before my daughter goes off to school.

    I have two children: Isabelle and Ari. They make me want to work to make this world a better place. (By “better place” that means anything from using my voice to call my elected officials to turning off the water when I brush my teeth.) I want them to grow up to be happy, healthy, and productive citizens.

  3. Three are the number of grandparents I grew up with. My dad’s mother passed away a few months after I was born. I’ve heard so many stories about her. I know we would’ve gotten along fabulously if she had lived longer. [Both of my grandfathers passed away within months of me becoming a Bat Mitzvah. (Actually, today is the anniversary of my Grandpa Morris’s passing.) Fortunately, my mom’s mom was in my life until I was a couple of months shy of my 30th birthday.]
  4. Four are the number of people in our house. People have said, “you have a million-dollar family” now that Marc and I have a son and a daughter. (That comment nauseates me.) We’ve been told “now you’re done.” (We would’ve been finished having kids even if we had another girl!)
  5. Five are the number of first cousins I had growing up. They were all boys! I always wished I could’ve had a female first cousin since the boys were sometimes mean to me. Fortunately, I now consider one of those “boy cousins” to be one of my friends. Funny how time changes our relationships!
  6. Six years is the age difference between my children. I didn’t expect to have such a large span of time in-between my kids, but now I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
  7. Seven hours is the minimum amount of time I need to sleep to feel rested. I prefer to get eight to nine hours of sleep a night, but that hasn’t happened regularly since Ari was born. (Contrary to what some people say, I got back to a normal sleep schedule after having my first child.)
  8. We’ve lived in Pennsylvania for nearly eight years.  It still doesn’t feel 100% like home even though we own our own home. (NYC still feels like home. This is something that’s only understood by people who’ve lived in the City and have left.)
  9. Marc and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary this past December.
  10. Two Writing Teachers will celebrate it’s tenth blogging anniversary this June. It’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging for ten years!
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slice of life

Big Sister Saves the Day!

Ari woke up at 11:05 PM last night after being asleep for a little over two glorious hours. I tried rocking him back to sleep, but that didn’t work. So I made him a bottle. Two ounces later he was asleep. After 20 minutes, I put him in his crib. Nine minutes later he was up again! This time I changed his diaper and rocked him and rocked him and rocked him until he finally fell asleep. I thought Ari would sleep ’till morning. It was wishful thinking since today is another snow day.
Less than two hours later, around 2 o’clock in the morning, we heard cries coming from Ari’s room. I think Marc knew I couldn’t handle another feeding so he went in and gave Ari a bottle. Everyone was back to sleep around 2:30 in the morning.
I heard cries coming from down the hall again at 5:30 AM. This is unbelievable, I thought. I can’t keep doing this. I need sleep! I rushed down the hall so Ari’s cries would not wake up Isabelle. After all, it is a snow day! I prepared a bottle and he drank almost all of it. What I failed to do was change his diaper because I was so bleary-eyed. After a while, he went back to his crib and I fell asleep again.
Just before sleep took me, I asked Marc to implore Isabelle to play quietly this morning if he saw her awake before he left for work.
At 8:00 AM, I heard Isabelle calling me. I went to her and it turned out to be important. I told her I had been up three times in the middle of the night with her brother and that I would really appreciate it if she would let me go back to sleep. (She already knew since Marc saw her before he departed for work.) I didn’t think I had much of a shot at getting any more rest with her skulking around the house. But she proved me wrong.
At 9:45 AM (That’s right, 9:45 AM!), Isabelle walked into my bedroom where I was fast asleep. She gently woke me and said “Ari is waking up.” I was in shock when I saw the time on the clock. She let me sleep-in… on a snow day!
Ari wasn’t crying loudly, so I invited Isabelle to come into bed with me and snuggle for a few minutes. I thanked her profusely for letting me go back to sleep. I praised her for playing quietly. I complemented her for being a responsible big sister by coming to wake me a soon as she heard her brother wake up. We snuggled for a few minutes and then went into Ari’s bedroom to get him together.
I never expected to have an almost six year age gap between my children. But on days like today, I am delighted my daughter is old enough and compassionate enough to take care of herself while I get a little extra sleep after having been up too many times last night.

Here is Isabelle reading Little Elliott, Big City to Ari this morning. She graciously entertained him while I changed Ari’s sheets and did a laundry. It turns out I didn’t do a very good job with the midnight diaper change.
picture books · reading · slice of life

Picture Books to Weather the Storm

We’ve been hit by the blizzard (aka: Stella). What do you do to keep a six-year-old from climbing the walls on a day like this? There are only so many TV shows I’ll let her watch or crafts she’ll want to do.

An idea came to me after reading the lovely comments I received from so many of you after yesterday’s blog post I shared.

“Isabelle!” I called.


“I have an idea of something we can do together today.”

“What?” she asked.

“Would you like to build a fort in the great room? We can turn on the fireplace and read picture books together. I’ll read to you.”

Her face lit up. “Yes! I want to!”

I thought of a tweet I saw from the Anne Arundel Public Library:

“What if we read one book for every inch of snow that’s fallen on the ground?”

“Okay. How much snow do we have?” she asked.

I texted my neighbor who I knew would know. Within minutes I found out we had 17 inches! (That was at 11 a.m.)

“17 inches so far. So we’ll read 17 picture books. What do you think?”

“Good,” she replied.

“I have stacks of review copies I need to read in my office. What if I bring them in here and you select the ones you’d like me to read to you?”

“I like that,” she said.

I brought in piles of picture books and let Isabelle select the ones she wanted me to read to her. Next, we built the fort with blankets, chairs, and heavy-duty clips. (BTW: This is the best fort we’ve ever made thanks to the newly-installed baby gate around the fireplace in our great room.) Isabelle placed pillows on the floor. Then, the two of us crawled in beside each other. (We left Ari in our view, but we didn’t let him inside. We figured he’d pull down the blankets.)

Our fort filled with books.
So far our favorite book has been A River by Marc Martin. The language is beautiful as are the illustrations. (I won’t disclose the titles of the ones we didn’t like.) Each of us gave it a thumbs-up!We’re taking a break so she can watch an episode of “Super Why” while Ari sleeps (and I write). More books to come soon!

We’re taking a break right now so she can watch an episode of “Super Why” while Ari naps (and I write). More books to come shortly!

**** Update: 3/14/17 at 11:15 p.m. ***

We read 19 books since we got 19 inches of snow. Here were some of the 19, which got a 👍🏼 from Isabelle and me.

reading · slice of life

I Wish You More

Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a fantastic children’s picture book author. We’ve come to love many of her books, especially I Wish You More, in our house. (In case you missed Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s recent Modern Love essay in The New York Times, then you’ll want to read it now before you read the rest of this post. In fact, you should click on the link NOW because I don’t want to be the one to deliver bad news to you if you’re a fellow AKR fan. Warning: Have tissues nearby when you read her essay.)

In an effort to pay tribute to Rosenthal before cancer takes her from this Earth, Chronicle Books is encouraging their patrons to share what we wish for those we care for in the spirit of Rosenthal’s picture book (I Wish You More).

As soon as I finished the Chronicle Books piece, I rushed to my computer and printed the I WISH YOU MORE card. I knew exactly who I wanted to give it to and the message I wanted to send. However, it took me awhile to find the right words.

For those who don’t know, my daughter was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech, or CAS, when she was 27 months old. In the almost four years since her diagnosis, she has learned to speak beautifully. While there are times when she still struggles to get her words out, those instances are fewer than they were in the past.

What you may not know is that 30-40% of kids who are diagnosed with CAS are later diagnosed with language-based learning disabilities. While I’ve been told a formal diagnosis of Dyslexia is usually not made second-grade (because one needs to see a child is two years behind grade-level), there are tests that can often show the writing is on the wall for having a language-based learning disability.

Unfortunately, the writing is on the wall for my kiddo. As a mother and a literacy specialist, it makes me sad. (It makes me lots of other things too, but I’m going with sad this morning.)

Today, my kiddo begins working with two new people. One is a school-based reading specialist who will pick her up with one other peer to provide assistance with things like rhyming. The other person is a private reading tutor we’ve hired to work with our daughter. She’ll be using the Orton-Gillingham sequence with her. It is our hope that with early support, we’ll be able to avoid a Dyslexia diagnosis once she’s in second grade.

Last night, before I retired to my bedroom, I left the little lady a card on her placemat. I made sure I was downstairs when she sat down for breakfast. (My husband usually gives her breakfast.) I asked her if she knew what it said. She read the first three words, but got stuck on the fourth word: wish. Rather than frustrate her by asking her to use her strategies to figure out the word wish, I read the card to her. Despite the lump in my throat, I held back tears and explained what my words meant.

I told her I know reading is hard for her.

I told her new people would be working with her today.

I told her she’d be missing class — twice — to work with these new people. (She balked and I gently reminded it will help her.)

I told her these people would help her learn new strategies to figure out tricky words, like wish, so she could be a more confident reader.

I told her she would learn how to become a brave reader.

I told her I’d be here to help at home.

After we finished our talk, she ate breakfast. I asked her if she wanted me to put the card in her backpack. She said yes.

Later, when I buckled her into her seat to go to school, I asked her, “What are you going to do with the card?” I figured she’d tell me she’d keep it in her backpack.

“I’m going to put it in my cubby,” she replied.

I smiled. I hope she looks at it when she gets frustrated. I hope she looks at it when she feels like it’s hard. I hope she looks at it and remembers to try things even when she’s afraid to say the wrong thing.

As a person who is trained to work with young readers and writers, it’s hard to step aside to let someone else help my kid. However, as my daughter’s developmental pediatrician told me, I’ve already done so much. If I do any more to help my daughter, I risk ruining our parent-child relationship. And I don’t want that. Therefore, today I am taking a step back and letting other people help her move forward. As a result, I’m wishing myself the courage to let go and see where this takes us.

UPDATED at 12:30 p.m.: About an hour after I hit publish on this post, I learned of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s passing.

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