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When I envisioned what my life would be like once I had children, it included trips to historical sites, museums, and shows. Maybe some sporting events, but mostly cultural things. You know what my visions didn’t include? Weekly trips to an amusement park! However, Isabelle became hooked on Hersheypark (which is about a half hour from our house) in 2014, which was the first time we purchased season passes. Therefore, we’ve been going ever since.

Now that Ari is two, he’s enamored with Hersheypark too. Like Isabelle, he wants to go every single weekend. If we skip a weekend — like we did last weekend — he acts as if it’s a major blow to his life. {Sigh.}

Last year, I took Isabelle and Ari on the Ferris wheel a few times. However, we hadn’t been on it since the Park opened this season. Even though the Ferris wheel is a favorite ride of mine (since it reminds me of the times I rode the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island with my Dad when I was a kid), I don’t take my kids on it that often since it’s on the far end of Hersheypark.

When I asked Isabelle what ride she wanted to go on first this weekend, she replied, “The Ferris Wheel!”

“Then we’ll walk to it first before the park fills up,” I told her.

She nodded her head in agreement.

Ari, on the other hand, was not in agreement. “I don’t wanna go on the Ferris wheel! I don’t wanna fall!”

“You’re not going to fall, Ari,” Isabelle said.

“You’ll be find if you stay seated,” I told him.

Nonetheless, Ari repeated his disdain for our decision the whole walk to the Ferris wheel, which — if you count the walk from the car to the Ferris wheel — took about 25 minutes.

By the time we got to the Ferris wheel, I was ignoring the repeated complaints about Isabelle’s choice of a ride. Isabelle, on the other hand, was still entertaining Ari’s whining.

Once I took Ari out of the stroller, I noticed Isabelle take Ari’s hand. That part is typical. What I heard her tell him melted my heart. She said, “Listen, Ari. If you’re with Isabelle you’re always safe.”

I trusted Isabelle would keep an arm around Ari (which she did). That being said, I kept a hand on him too!

“Awwww!” I said. “That’s the sweetest thing you could tell him.”

“Well, it’s true!” Isabelle retorted.

I thought of all of the times Isabelle has engaged in ridiculous stunts at home (such as standing on the arm of the couch and doing a forward roll onto the cushions), which Ari has promptly copied. Each of these stunts takes a month or two off of my life every time. However, I bit my tongue about the always part of her message. Instead, I said, “Yes, it’s true, Ari. You are safe with Isabelle on the Ferris wheel.”

And with that, we walked onto the Ferris wheel queue. Even though Ari continued to worry, Isabelle held his hand and kept promising him that he’d be safe.

Not only was he safe… Ari demanded, “I wanna go on again!” as soon as it was time for us to exit.

We didn’t go on again. After all, we’ll probably be at Hersheypark next weekend!

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I was rushing to get a whole chicken cleaned off and into the oven by 6:15 p.m. this evening. While I was patting the chicken dry with paper towels, Ari declared, “It’s a dog.”

“It’s not a dog,” I replied. “It’s a chicken.”

“It’s a dog,” he said.

It’s been over two months since he thought the spatchcocked chicken I was cooking was a dog. He’s grown so much in so many ways in that time. But, gosh darn it, the kid thinks every whole chicken is a dog.

“No buddy. We don’t eat dogs. It’s a chicken.”

“It’s a chicken,” Ari stated.

“That’s right,” I said.

He grabbed some the head of garlic and the lemon I was getting ready to stuff inside of the chicken. He picked up the garlic and said, “It’s an onion.”

“It’s not an onion, it’s garlic,” I replied.

“It’s garlic,” Ari paused. He looked at the chicken in the baking dish and declared, “And it’s a dog.”

I give up.

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“Mommy, can you play?” Ari asked.

I looked at the clock. It was 7:58 p.m. I had 25 minutes until I need to be in my office for the #TWTBlog Twitter Chat.

“Yes, I can,” I replied.

Ari scampered off to his play room — or the room formerly known as our great room — where he grabbed two yellow school buses and some Little People. I brought my plates to the sink and watched him lay down beside one of the buses from my perch in the kitchen.

It’s strange how he lays down like that when he plays with his vehicles, I thought. I’ve seen plenty of little kids lay on the floor to “play trucks” or “play cars.” However, Isabelle never played like this so I’m still fascinated every time I notice Ari doing it.

I left my plate in the sink and joined Ari on the floor. (Not laying on it. Just sitting on it.) I observed as he zoomed the Little People around in a bus. First, they went to Hersheypark. Second, they drove to a museum. Third, they went to dinner at Devon, which is a local restaurant in Hershey.

“Are they tired?” I asked.

“Yes! They’re gonna go home to sleep!” he told me.

Once they arrived at their home, Ari scooted himself over to his Tonka trucks and began playing with them… on his belly. We played trucks for a few minutes. But then, I realized it was 8:20, which meant play time with me had to end. I texted Marc and asked him to relieve me. As soon as Ari saw Marc he said, “Daddy, you play golf?”

Someday, I’ll write about the two of them playing with an interior putting green. For now, I’ll just leave you with a few pics of a vehicle-loving boy playing on his belly.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
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Isabelle was less than pleased that she’d was going to accompany me to our community’s Reading of the Names Ceremony this afternoon. Part of me couldn’t blame her. After a full day of school and after school reading tutoring, how many eight year-olds would want to sit in synagogue… even if it was only for ten minutes. However, I told her it was our solemn obligation, as Jews, to remember the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Isabelle walked into synagogue with nothing more than a fidget cube and was given instructions not to use the noisy part of it. I invited her to sit with me, stand next to me as I read my pages of names, or to read a page herself.

Isabelle signed in to our community’s “Reading of the Names” book.

During my first page of names, Isabelle sat quietly and watched.

By the second page of names, Isabelle stood up to see what I was reading from her seat.

She remained standing as I read the third page of names too.

Once I finished reading, I told her it was time to go. That’s when she floored me. “I want to stay,” she whispered.

I encouraged her to move back a few rows with me, but she didn’t. She stood as close to the lectern as possible so she could see other people reading the pages of names.

After a few minutes, I decided it was time to go. This is the first year I’ve touched upon the Holocaust at home — and I’ve purposefully kept it light.

On our way out of the synagogue, I asked her, “How are you feeling right now?”

“Sad,” she replied.

“I feel sad too. It’s hard to hear the names and ages of all of the people who were killed, isn’t it?” I asked.

She nodded. “I heard the names of kids who were one. Why did they have to kill a baby who was one?”

Oh my G-d. So many answers. Which one do I choose?

“Because the Nazi were cruel. So very cruel,” I replied.

“It’s so sad,” she said.

“I know. Would a hug help?” I asked.

Isabelle rose from her seat and leaned-in for a hug.

On the drive home, Isabelle surprised me when she said, “Can I have peaceful music?” she asked.

I turned Symphony Hall on and we listened. A minute later she asked, “How did the people get killed.”

I was not about to tell her about the firing squads or the gas chambers. “In ways you’re not ready to hear about,” I replied.

“With a gun?” she asked.

“Some, yes. Others… by starvation. And others in ways that we’ll talk about as you get older.”

The conversation continued as we drove on. With every question I felt a bit more of her childhood innocence slipping away. However, I knew I hadn’t made the wrong decision to bring her when I finally asked, “Would you like to accompany me to the Reading of the Names next year?”

“Yes,” she answered immediately.

In synagogue, there’s a passage in the prayer book we sing entitled “L’dor v’dor,” which means “from generation to generation.” It often refers to the passing of spiritual knowledge from one generation to the next. Today, the responsibility for this tradition of keeping the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust was passed from me to my daughter. It is my sincerest hope that my children will pass on this sacred responsibility to their children some day.

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This past Saturday morning, my friend Jenny and I led our synagogue’s final Junior Congregation service of the school year. When we finished, I noticed the adult service was still going on. That’s right, I reminded myself, they have to say Yizkor. (Yizkor is a Jewish prayer service that happens four times per year to remember those who have died. Since we’re egalitarian Conservative Jews, it’s not incumbent upon anyone to go to a Yizkor service if they don’t have an immediate member of the family — parents, siblings, spouse, or child(ren) — for whom to say the Kaddish prayer.) Therefore, the other moms and I allowed our children to play in the room adjacent to the chapel while we stood in the hallway outside of the social hall waiting for the Yizkor service to finish and lunch to begin.


We stood there — five Jewish women in our 40’s — talking about Yom Ha’shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), which begins at sundown on Wednesday, May 1st and ends at sundown on Thursday, May 2nd. Our conversation reflected the way we learned about the Holocaust and how we’re sharing (or not sharing) about the Holocaust with our children. It occurred to me, as we stood there, that we were coming off of the holiday of Passover, which marks the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt, and were already thinking about Yom Ha’shoah, which is when we remember the more than six million Jews whose lives were cut short because of their religion. As we stood there reflecting, it occurred to me that we were fortunate to be able to ponder the wisest ways to teach our children about our people’s past heartaches. Little did we know — standing in that hallway — that terrorizing of Jews would continue on the West Coast a few hours later. 


On Saturday, April 27th, 2019 — six months to the day that the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh had bullets raining down on congregants during Shabbat morning — a white supremacist walked into Chabad in Poway, California and opened fire during their final day of Passover services. One woman was killed, three others were injured, and millions of Jews around the world were terrorized again. 


I’ve tried to find something else — anything else — to write about since Saturday, but all I keep coming back to is the fact that my friends and I let our guard down in synagogue. We allowed our children to play a few hundred feet away from us — on the other end of the synagogue — while we chatted. You know where I’m going with this… it’s where the mind shouldn’t have to go when you’re in your house of worship (or a school, or a movie theater, or fill-in-the-blank-with-wherever-the-most-recent-mass-shooting-has-taken-place). But that’s where my mind keeps going. Why weren’t we right outside the door talking? Had we become complacent because of our synagogue’s new security measures, because six months had passed since the Tree of Life Shooting, or both?


Carly Pildis, a Jewish writer and advocacy professional, wrote this in Tablet Magazine today:


None of us can let our fear of being murdered in synagogue keep us from our houses of worship. However, I’ve come to realize all of us who choose to go about living Jewish lives have to be smarter about how we live. Unfortunately, it means being a bit more overprotective even if it causes an eye roll.


We’re living in a time when we — as Jews — we do not feel safe. As writer Ariel Sobel wrote in a piece in The Forward yesterday:

On February 21st, 2017, I wrote my first blog post that reflected any hint of feeling unsafe as an American Jew. ( I started this blog in February 2012. All of my posts categorized as “Jewish” prior to 2017 were (mostly) celebratory in nature.) This is the fourth time I’ve categorized a blog post with the “Jewish” category that’s been about anti-Semitism since 2017. Anti-Semitism is alive in this country and around the world. It’s on the left. It’s on the right. And it’s going to take everyone — Jewish and non-Jewish — doing there part to eradicate it. 

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
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Raising Literate Humans by Stacey Shubitz - 1M ago
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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Raising Literate Humans by Stacey Shubitz - 1M ago

Once teeth are brushed, the backpack is packed, and shoes are put on, we transition to Isabelle’s play room to wait for the bus. Some mornings it’s just Isabelle with one parent. Other mornings, Ari joins in the fun. (That is, he wakes up earlier than necessary!)

This morning, Ari woke up after Isabelle finished her breakfast. My husband left early for work, which meant I had to get him dressed and hustle downstairs so I could look out the window for the bus.

Some mornings, Isabelle is not thrilled to have Ari in her playroom since he likes to touch her stuff. This morning, Isabelle didn’t seem to mind him touching everything (INCLUDING an impressive structure she built with MagnaTiles) he could get his tiny, two-year-old hands on. Her patience translated to her craft table, which is usually a flash point. I was relieved she was being so patient since my caffeination level hadn’t reached it’s optimal level once the two of them were in her play room.

Isabelle set Ari up with a crayons and paper, but Ari had other ideas. He wanted colored pencils. She gave him — one at a time — a pencil to draw with. Do you think he drew on the paper she provided to him? Of course not, he drew on several pieces of paper. But Isabelle redirected him gently, encouraging him to draw on one piece of paper at a time.

Within ten minutes, the bus arrived and Isabelle was off to school. I forgot about her level of patience for Ari when our evening felt as though it was going off the rails. However, as I looked back on my camera roll at the end of the day, I found a sweet photo of them I snapped this morning and it brought a smile to my face.

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Raising Literate Humans by Stacey Shubitz - 1M ago

Every night, I turn on the white noise in Ari’s room. Marc lifts Ari onto my lap, plugs in a nightlight, then shuts off the overhead light. I snuggle Ari close in a navy and white blanket. Just before he drinks his milk, he declares, “It’s love time!”

I didn’t come up with the name “love time.” He did. But I adore it.

Love time was shorter this evening than it typically is. Maybe it was because Ari was more tired than usual. Typically we chat about a variety of things [e.g., silly things that happened during the day, naughty things he did (like raiding the fridge!), what the panda bears on his wall do during the day, how many stuffed animals are in his crib], but tonight was a short and silly conversation about “Where’s Daddy?” (He was across the hall in his home office.) I noticed Ari rubbing his eyes, so I asked him, “Are you ready for crib?”

“Crib!” he repeated.

“Right now?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Okay,” I said. “Kiss?”

He puckered up and planted a kiss on me.

“I love you,” I said.

“I love you too,” he said.

Love time erases all of the impish behavior of the day. It’s hard to feel anything but sentimental when it’s love time.

It’s Love Time! - SoundCloud
(11 secs long)Play in SoundCloud
Take a listen!
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
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I knew I had to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to make it to the school I was working in first-thing this morning on time. What I didn’t know is that Isabelle would be up before me. I went into her room and gave her three options:

  1. Go back to bed. (I knew that wasn’t going to happen.
  2. Draw quietly in her bedroom.
  3. Read books.

At 6:15 a.m., which is when I knew she had to get going for the day, I walked back to her bedroom. It was dark. I expected to find her fast asleep. Instead, I found this:

Empty and Unmade

I gasped. Where was she?

Then, I saw a light streaming out from beneath her walk-in closet. I knocked lightly and turned the door handle. This is what I found:

This was the most unexpected and wonderful place to find Isabelle!

Well, that was a surprise. If anything, I expected she’d be doing artwork. Instead, she was reading When the Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant. (Good choice.)

…..

Seeing as Isabelle had been awake since 4:40 a.m., I was convinced she’d crash early tonight. However, Ari was the one who got tired first, so I gave him his bottle, held him upright for awhile (since he now has a cough!), and then kissed him good-night. As soon as I walked out of his room — at 7:55 p.m. — Isabelle walked by his door.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“I’m helping Daddy with your laundry,” she said.

This kid never helps with the laundry. “Why aren’t you in bed?” I asked.

These two can feel free to do the laundry anytime!

“I’m not tired,” she replied.

“Well, that’s a surprise,” I said. I turned my attention to Marc and asked, “Do you have everything under control here?”

He nodded.

“Okay, I’m going to go down and do some work in my office. I probably have a couple of hours worth of work to do.”

He nodded knowingly. Apparently, me needing to do work was not too surprising to him.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
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Raising Literate Humans by Stacey Shubitz - 1M ago

I start Slicing each year on February 28th, which means I achieve my 31-day streak a day early. However, I like to write some kind of capstone post on the 31st of March… just because.

Today’s post has nothing to do with raising my children. In fact, it isn’t a slice of life story at all. Rather, it’s my meager attempt to thank some very important people.

I want to thank the Two Writing Teachers Co-Author Team who started planning for the 12th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge the Sunday after Thanksgiving. (Believe it or not, it takes months to plan so that it runs efficiently!)

  • Beth Moore — Facilitated tech support and co-hosted the individual challenge
  • Betsy Hubbard — Organizes prizes and giveaways and co-hosted the individual challenge
  • Deb Frazier — Handled tech support and will co-host the Classroom SOLSC in April
  • Kathleen Sokolowski — Organized the Welcome Wagon Volunteers and is co-hosting the Classroom SOLSC in April
  • Kelsey Corter — Managed the Welcome Wagon Volunteers and co-hosted the individual challenge
  • Lanny Ball — Coordinates prizes and giveaways and co-hosted the individual challenge
  • Melanie Meehan — Arranges prizes and giveaways and co-hosted the individual challenge

In addition, every member of the team fields questions from participants throughout the month (and even before the Challenge begins). We approve pending comments, moderate spammed comments, and close comments on the posts at the end of each day. In addition, each member of the co-author team participates in the challenge as a writer (and a commenter).

The 12th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge would not have run so smoothly if it wasn’t for the dedication of the entire co-author team. I am beyond grateful to work with such a thoughtful and devoted group of educators.

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