Welcome to our blog

Our hope is to provide a forum for mothers, fathers,and caregivers to discuss ideas, share insight and "pay it forward". Neither of us attended Medill school of journalism and we are not psychologists. We are just two women who have cared for aging grandparents and diapered littleones. We will share our experiences, tips and questions with you. Please share back. We need all the help we can get!

Kirsten and Katie
Co-founders ChicksWithKidz

Friday, October 30, 2009

Have a Safe Halloween

There are many ways to keep your child safe at Halloween, when they are more prone to accidents and injuries. The excitement of children and adults sometimes makes them forget to be careful. Simple common sense can do a lot to prevent tragedies from happening.

Youngsters will be out and about on Halloween during evening hours and crossing streets in the dark. Motorists frequently use residential side streets as a cut-through during high volume traffic hours.

Here are a few Halloween safety tips to remember:

~Always use crosswalks and sidewalks and walk facing traffic
~Carry a flashlight or glow sticks
~Wear light colored clothing and reflective stickers on costumes
~Use face paint rather than full-face masks that can partially block your vision
~Only trick-or-treat at houses you know and that are well lit
~Travel in groups and children should always be with an adult
~Inspect all candy and treats before children eat them
~Notify police about any suspicious person or activity


Thursday, October 29, 2009



William R. Stixrud, Ph.D.
William R. Stixrud and Associates
8720 Georgia Avenue, Suite 300
Silver Spring, MD 20910

“Vastly more extensive and strenuous use of memory is required for school success than is needed in virtually any career you can name.” (Mel Levine)

“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” (Paul Simon)


I. Memory defined: Memory is the ability to encode, store, and retrieve information. (You
can’t separate memory and retrieval.)

II. School demands an enormous range of memory — from automatic memory
for very basic skills to memory for the defining features of the most abstract concepts.

A. Longer and longer textbooks.
B. Dramatically escalating rate of information explosion.
C. Tremendous pressure to “get through the curriculum”
D. Increased rate of forgetting (90 percent of learning two weeks after test)

III. Memory as the “forgotten R” (John Hartson)

A. Schools are not equipped to induce automaticity.
B. Schools have de-emphasized the importance of learning poems, etc. “by heart”.
C. Few teachers teach students strategies for remembering.
D. Few teachers give students the necessary daily practice with such strategies.

IV. There are dramatic individual differences in memory skills in equally bright students..

A. Acquisition of vocabulary and factual knowledge
B. Capacity for “automatizing” basic academic skills
C. Memory for spoken language
D. Active working memory
E. Ability to intentionally commit information to memory

V. Can memory be trained?

A. Ancient Greeks used mnemonic techniques extensively
B. Early psychologists found memory practice didn’t increase memory span much.
C. However, memory span is improved dramatically by strategies (e.g., 80+ digits).
D. Mnemonic instruction has produced the largest treatment effects in special ed.
E. Everyone has experienced the benefit of HOME, EGBDF, etc.
F. Working memory training


I. Types of memory

A. Declarative memory (conscious, explicit, reflective memory)

1. Information that is independent of a given context such as facts, vocabulary, dates,
events, objects, faces

2. Episodes -- autobiographical memories imbedded in a specific context

B. Nondeclarative memory (implicit, reflexive, unconscious)

1. Procedural memories (e.g., motor skills, procedures)
2. Emotional memories

II. Stages of memory

A.. Short-term memory

1. Holds information for two or three seconds.

2. Because STM capacity is so short (e.g., 7 digits), information from
teachers needs to be recoded or abbreviated, condensed.

a. Paraphrasing is hugely important for academic success.
b. Using “visual scratch pad” (visualization) is also a useful tool.

B. Working memory (“RAM” - the memory needed for the program you are trying
to run)

1. “A processing resource of limited capacity involved in the preservation
of information while simultaneously processing the same or other information.” (holding information on line while processing, updating,
and/or manipulating it).

2. Brain structures and processes used for temporary storage/manipulation
of information in its absence and in the presence of distraction (Tannock).

3. It involves On-line processes: maintenance (span) and manipulation
(updating, shifting)

4. Two key modalities in which we use working memory:

a. Spatial working memory (mental sketch pad; picturing relevant
b. Verbal working memory (e.g, manipulating, analyzing information)

C. Long-term memory (Hard drive)

1. A virtually limitless repository for knowledge, skills, and life
experiences. (We may never forget things in long-term memory
(although they may get lost there).

2. Consists of two stages: storage (consolidation) and retrieval
(access). Consolidation takes hours to months and
works most effectively during sleep, also with active
involvement with information (e.g., elaborating, changing).

3. The amount and form of information transferred to LTM is
primarily a function of control processes such as rehearsal.
How it is stored is determined by links, associations, and
general organizational plans.

4. Rehearsal as a major factor affecting comprehension
and retention

a. Rote rehearsal (for material that must be remembered
b. Elaborative rehearsal - in which student reprocesses the
c. Frontal lobe activation during rehearsal predicts degree of

5. Aspects of long-term memory and school performance

a. Memory for factual information
b. Memory for spelling, punctuation, grammar rules, and facts when writing.
c. Remembering math facts and procedures

II. Assessment of the key aspects of memory for school learning and performance:

A. Automaticity (automatic mastery of basic phonological associations, sequences, formulas, and rules). Measure through:

1. Automaticity with alphabet, days of week, months of year
2. Speed of naming/retrieval for names of letters, numbers, shapes, colors, objects
3. Mastery of math facts
4. Speed or fluency of very basic academic skills (doing very basic computations; reading and writing very simple sentences)

B. Working memory. Measure through tests of:

1. Digit span
2. Letter-number sequencing
3. Mental arithmetic
4. Sustained rule following
5. Visual sequences

C. Memory for meaningful spoken language. Measure through tests of:

1. Sentence memory
2. Narrative memory (short stories)
3. Memory for oral directions

D. Ease of acquiring (absorbing) verbally-encoded knowledge. Measure through tests of:

1. Vocabulary (importance of understanding individual differences)
2. Factual information

E. Deliberate memorization (intentional “cramming of information into memory). Measure through tests of word-list memorization. There are huge individual differences.

F. Remembering to remember (remembering to do what you’re supposed to do). Measure:

1. History
2. Behavioral rating measure of executive functioning (BRIEF)
3. Tests of ability to follow multiple-step directions

G. What about visual memory?

1. Role in math?
2. Related to visual-spatial scratch pad?
3. Tests of spatial location (“where” system); memory for objects (“what” system)


I. Why is working memory such a big deal (following Diamond)

A. Necessary for considering things from multiple perspectives
B. We need it to understand narratives.
C. Crucial for relating the present to the past and future
D. Necessary for retaining steps in a sequence (e.g., following complex directions)
E. Critical for making connections (relating one idea to another) and creativity
F. Is necessary for remembering something while we are doing something else
G. Has huge role in all aspects of academic learning and work production

1. Is highly correlated with sentence comprehension and reading comprehension, as poor readers don’t use “phonological loop” well (to maintain thread).

a. Reduced verbal memory span
b. Reduced memory for serial order
c. Less use of rehearsal

2. WM is also a major player in mathematics (e.g, mental arithmetic, multiple-step operations, solving complex problems) and in written language.

II. Working memory and its relationship to inattention (Tannock)

A. A substantial proportion of students with ADHD show working memory problems.

1. Particularly those with behavioral symptoms of inattention
2. Primary association in children is with visual-spatial working memory deficits.

B. Working memory capacity and mind wandering (study of undergraduates)

1. Students with low working memory capacity reported more mind wandering.

2. Individuals who can hold more information in working memory can also more efficiently exclude irrelevant information – and can pay attention.

3. Individuals with poor working memory will appear inattentive and distracted in situations where others will not.

C. Working memory and traditional treatments for ADHD

1. Behavioral interventions aren’t very effective in reducing symptoms because they don’t take working memory into account.

2. Stimulant medication has selective and modest effects on working memory.

III. Development of working memory

A. Typical trajectory (Gathercole)
B. Memory plateaus in middle childhood in students with ADHD (Klingberg)


I. The process of Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) makes memories “stick”.

A. Defined: The cellular process through which synapses strengthen their connections to one another, coding an event, stimulus, idea, etc. as a series of connections.

B. Changing cell surface: When a neuron fires and sets off a neighboring cell, a chemical change takes place on the neighboring cell’s surface, leaving it more sensitive to stimulation from that same neighbor.

C. Recruiting other neurons: Each time two neurons fire together, the tendency to do so is increased, and their combined energy is enough to trigger any neighboring cell to which they are both weakly attached.

D. Permanent bonding: Eventually, the repeated synchronous firing permanently binds neurons together so that the slightest activity in one will trigger all those that have become associated with it to fire, too, consolidating a memory and making it more easily retrievable.

E. LTP in action: Even in just 60 minutes, electron microscopes show the branching contact points between nerves (dendrites) grow and form new extensions

II. Sleep is crucial for long-term memory formation

A. Robert Stickgold’s study of sleep deprivation:

1. A single night of sleep permanently short-circuits the memory consolidation process.

2. Participants kept awake for 30 hours after training showed no evidence of improved performance, even after two nights of restorative sleep.

B. A second study: Study of adults found that interrupting REM sleep 60 times in a night
completely blocked learning (blocking non-REM sleep did not have this effect).

III. The effects of emotions on memory

A. Positive feelings improve neurotransmitter conduction for efficient learning.

1. When excited, there is a surge of excitatory neurotransmitters that increases the
firing rate of neurons in certain parts of the brain.

2. This increases the intensity of perception and boosts LTP.

B. Stress compromises memory

1. Stress diminishes selective and focused attention.
2. Stress limits ability to achieve automaticity.
3. Stress takes executive functions that are critical to memory offline.
4. Stress interferes with the cellular functioning of hippocampus.
5. Prolonged stress kills cells in hippocampus and shuts down neurogenesis.
6. Stress hastens aging, is best predictor of vulnerability to dementia.


I. Improving the organism

A. Emphasize the importance of sleep, stress management, and exercise.
B. Activate memory systems through music, emotional involvement, novelty.

II. Helping children with short-term memory weaknesses

A. Help children learn to paraphrase (whisper under their breath).
B. Encourage them to quickly create mental snapshots or movies.
C. Slow down or repeat instruction.
D. Use digital camera to capture work on the board.

III. Facilitating long-term memory

A. Teach how to organize material (how can we remember this).
B. Teach to determine what is most important.
C. Teach mnemonics and tricks for retrieval.
D. Give more time for tests (if retrieval is a problem).
E. Give practice tests.
F. Encourage kids to memorize things they find interesting (e.g., jokes, sports statistics).
G. Allow for downtime, necessary for CREB (a protein necessary for memory).
H. Put information to music.

IV. Improving working memory – teaching suggestions:

A. Preview material (e.g., new words, concepts, procedures) to reduce WM load during instruction.

B. Present information in relatively small chunks (Levine)

1. Break instructional tasks into smaller tasks.
2. Limit steps in directions and provide written steps.
3. Teach associations and grouping of concepts and information as you go.

C. Emphasize post-listening strategies.

1. Review notes.
2. Connect today’s lesson with previous notes.
3. Self-question to determine if they need clarification.
4. Draw up a summary statemet (e.g., of a lecture).

D. Use electronic reminders (beepers to cue returning to task)

V. Improving working memory by teaching kids strategies:

A. FACT: Focus attention; Ask questions; Connect ideas; Try to picture important ideas.

B. Teach paraphrasing

1. Have kids put what they hear and read in their own words.
2. Do it every day. Make it a habit.

C. Teach visualization

1. Have kids make pictures in their head of what they hear and read.
2. Do it every day.

D. Teach other memory strategies

1. Link names/objects/events to rooms in the house and “walk around” (“loci”).
2. Teach pegword method (i.e., one-bun, two-shoe, etc.
3. Make acronyms
4. Draw cartoons or use clip art to make mnemonics.
5. Introduce idea of universal mnemonic.

E. Training independent use of memory strategies

1. See Mastropieri’s ‘Enhancing School Success with Mnemonic Strategies’ for steps.

2. Remember that students remember better with teacher-provided strategies than self-generated strategies.
3. The importance of modeling strategies cannot be overemphasized. Tell students what you are thinking and why you are doing it this way.
F. Use BrainCog Strategies (www.fablevision.com)

G. Practice working memory with:

1. Mental arithmetic, estimation
2. Simon Says
3. Thank You for Calling (software for following directions)

H. Emphasize underlining important points while reading.

1. Reviewing at the end of each page.
2. Dictate important points into a tape recorder.

VI. Improving working memory with medication

A. Stimulant medication has modest beneficial effects on spatial and verbal working memory (Bedard).

B. Stimulant medicine has no effect on verbal span (Bedard).

VII. Cogmed Working Memory Training

A. Significant improvement in working memory, attention, higher order thinking.
B. In preschoolers, improvement in working memory and inhibition
C. Increased prefrontal and parietal activation
D. Improved reading comprehension and math problem solving (but not phonological awareness)

VIII. Helping children with specific memory problems

A. Math facts

1. Repetition, drill (e.g., flash cards; Kumon math)
2. Chisenbop
3. Mnemonics (City Creek Publishers, citycreek.com)

B. Reading fluency/automatically

1. Repeated oral reading (e.g., Read Naturally; Great Leaps)
3. Lexia (computer program)

C. Spelling

1. Cast-A-Spell (uses NLP eye movements)
2. Seeing Stars (Lindamood-Bell)

D. Deliberate memoriztion

1. Mnemonics
2. Organizational strategies

E. Remembering to remember

1. Note taking; assignment book
2. Electronic reminders
3. Universal mnemonic

F. Memory for language

1. Story grammar
2. Visualization (e.g., Visualizing and Verbalizing)
3. Earobics
4. Thank You for Calling (following directions)

IX. BREAK: A combination strategy for middle and high school students (Minskoff and Allsopp). Includes five research-based strategies for memorizing school content.

A. Break memorizing into short time periods.

1. Use short, spaced practice, ideally over several days.
2. Rehearse before bedtime so information will replay during sleep.
3. Cramming may be ineffective for students with disabilities (because of anxiety and the high level of mastery of memory techniques required).

B. Recite the information aloud as you write it.

1. Use auditory and motor cues to reinforce learning.
2. Recite the information aloud from note cards or lecture notes.
3. Read to a tape recorder for review.
4. If reciting is insufficient, write the information too.
5. Test yourself by shutting your eyes and asking and answering questions.
6. When taking a test, writing out acronyms and acrostics in the margin.

C. Establish mnemonics (e.g., acronyms, acrostics, visualization, keyword method)

D. Always try to visualize information in your mind.

1. Picture the illustrations you want to remember.
2. Picture your graphic organizers.
3. Self-test the adequacy of your visual imagery.

E. Keywords help.

1. For terminology, find something in the word related to its meaning.
2. Combine keywords with visualization.


Carter, R. (1998). Mapping the Mind. University of California Press.

Clayton, J. Making Memories. www.brain.com

Dehn, M. Working Memory and Academic Learning: Assessment and Intervention

S. Gathercole. Working Memory and Learning: A Practical Guide for Teachers

Hoover, A. “Memory Tips for Students”. ldonline.com

Levine, M. Developmental Variation and Learning Disorders (1999); Educational Care (1994); The Memory Factory (2000); One Mind at a Time (2004). All published by Educators Publishing Service (1-800-225-5750)

Mastroperi, M. Enhancing School Success with Mnemonic Strategies. ldonline.com

Minskoff, E., & Allsopp, D. Academic Success Strategies for Adolescents with ADHD and LD.

Springer, M. (1999). Learning and Memory: The Brain in Action. (ASCP)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Homework Tips/Hints - Part 4

Homework Crisis & What to do

Bad Mood -- Eat a snack, do a bit of yoga or stretching, rip up some paper, listen to music

Spills -- Clean it up quickly. Let it dry. Make a copy. Put a sticky on it with an apology

Distractions-- Have a special study area with all your supplies.
Be aware so you can double check your work while you were distracted

Lost directions/lost materials -- Call a classmate and get the information. Often substitute a piece of paper for a missing worksheet or index card.

Forgotten or lost homework -- Double check your assignment book.
Call a classmate; do what you can; make your best effort; write a note to the teacher

Confusion about directions -- Double check your assignment book.
Call a classmate who usually has the homework correctly.

Long-term project -- Chunk the parts of the project on a calendar. Check the calendar daily so you can stay on schedule. Use weekends if you need to so you can catch up.

Questions -- Double check your assignment book.
Call a classmate who usually knows what the teacher wants.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Homework Tips/Hints - Part 3

When you proofread your writing, call out the COPS

C = Capitalization. Have you used capital letters for the first word in each sentence? Have you used capital letters for names and other proper nouns?

O = Organization. Does each paragraph have the right time sequence or steps in order?
Overall appearance. Is your work neat? Do you have the heading in the correct

P = Punctuation. Does each sentence have correct punctuation marks at the end? (.,?!).
Have you used apostrophes and commas correctly

S = Sentences. Did you use complete sentences? Did you use variety in the first words
of the sentences?

Are you proud of your work?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Homework Tips/Hints - Part 2

Tips to Stop Rushing Through Homework

-- Discuss expectations BEFORE homework begins. Identify the homework that your child normally rushes through. For eachassignment, jot down 2-3 requirements on a post-it note and place on the desk or table next to your child. For example, on a writing assignment, you may list, "proper heading, legible writing, and complete sentences." By being proactive, instead of reactive, you can stop rushing before it happens.

-- Set up Daily Homework Time (DHT). DHT is a specific time each day that's dedicated to homework, whether your child says he has it or not. Your child will spend a minimum amount of time on academically related tasks daily. For example, if the spelling homework is completed quickly, but 40 minutes are still left in DHT, your child could study for a test, work on a long-term project, organize her notebook, or read. If your child knows he has DHT for an hour, he may be less likely to try to rush through an assignment. How long should DHT be?

Here's a guide:
Grade 1: 10 minutes
Grade 2: 20 minutes
Grade 3: 30 minutes
Grade 4: 40 minutes
Grades 5 and 6: 45 minutes
Grades 7-12: 1 hour (as a minimum)

-- Use praise the right way. Recognize good effort whenever possible! Rewards and praise will result inpositive changes faster than punitive words or punishment. When providing feedback, be sure to offer a positive statement first. Follow with specific, constructive criticism and finish off with another positivecomment.
For example, 'You rushed through this writing assignment!'becomes, 'I like the way you wrote your heading so neatly. I do see that your paragraphs need more descriptive details, but overall your essay looks close to being done."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Homework Tips/Hints - Part 1

As promised, here are some homework tips that I have learned over the years with my boys, who both have learning differences. Some come from their schools, some from just being a mom and former preschool teacher. Hope they help you.

--Make homework time as close to the same time every day – make it the routine. i.e. Snack, homework; tv or video games, homework, dinner, reading

--Make sure that the area that your child is doing homework is free of distractions – No TV, NO music. (The kitchen table isn’t the best if you’re cooking or working there too).

--Create a homework “nook” using a Science project tri fold board (if it’s too high, cut it in half)
Use the board as walls to block out distractions and to the inside add information and tools that your child will need/use - list of ABC’s to help with alphabetical order, multiplication table, clock, etc.
If you still need to block out noise and distractions, put a roof on top.

--Make sure you have lots of supplies and keep them close by – pens, pencils, highlighters, and calculator; this will cut down on getting up and down or creating an excuse for getting up and down.

--If the work seems too much – break it out into smaller tasks i.e. answer just the first few math problems. If that doesn’t work, try doing every other problem.

--Take breaks! Work for 10 minutes take a break, work for 10 more minutes.

--If you child wiggles, you can get a wiggle seat or have them sit on an large exercise ball pulled up to the desk or table.

--Try to involve your child in deciding how to break up the homework or in which order to do it – math first, reading 2nd, or hardest subject first or easiest subject 1st, or big project then shorter tasks

--Read every night!

--Read every day or night at the same time and if possible the same place – big comfy chair, in bed, at a desk.

--If the book is too long or has “too many words”, take turns - have your child read a page or paragraph and you read a page or paragraph.

--If you can, get a book on tape or CD and read along with the cd

--Ask questions at the end of every few pages or chapter so you know your child understands what is being read.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dr. Stixrud to speak about The Neuropsychology of Memory: How the Brain Learns and How to Help Kids Who Can’t Remember

Oakwood School Parent Association Presents~
Dr. William Stixrud speaking on “The Neuropsychology of Memory: How the Brain Learns and How to Help Kids Who Can’t Remember”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

In this lecture, Dr. Stixrud describes what memory is and the different types and stages of memory (e.g. short-term, working memory, and long-term). He explains the different aspects of memorization and which aspects are primarily used in the school setting. Dr. Stixrud addresses the importance of a specific type of memory called “working memory,” which deals with retaining crucial information for sequencing and for making the kinds of connection that are pivotal for success in school. He also discusses the neurobiology of memory (what happens on a cellular level), the critical role of sleep in memory, and the effects of memory on emotion. Dr. Stixrud concludes the lecture by providing information about various strategies and treatments available to improve students’ memories, as well as various teaching aids to augment a student’s ability to remember. He focuses on the tools available to help teach students not only techniques for memorization, but also ways to actually improve one’s ability to memorize.

Dr. Stixrud is a licensed psychologist who has been in private practice as a neuropsychologist since 1985. He specializes in the evaluation of children, adolescents, and adults with learning disabilities, and in the promotion of self-esteem. He currently is a member of the Clinical Supervisory Faculty at Children's Hospital and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center. Dr. Stixrud also holds an appointment on the Clinical Faculty of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School.

$15 registration fee, payable at the door

Please register by calling 703.941.5788

Oakwood School
7210 Braddock Road
Annandale, VA 22003

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Whiskers for Mom's Club - Join Now

So I realized today that I have not seen my reflection in anything but the rearview mirror in over a month. This is not good. I know it is difficult to believe but it really is true. I realize that I could have a whisker or something really, really repulsive so I move up really close to the mirror in my visor to get a better look (at least it has a light). Tick tock, tick tock. Pfew. I dodged a bullet this time. No wild hairs. I have made my sister-in-law swear that when I am old she will not let me sit in the home with excess facial hair. Does this promise count while I am young and supposedly capable of taking care of my own beautification rituals, I wonder?

It occurs to me that this is rather absurd but I can’t be the only one this has happened to. Right? I brush my teeth morning and night but I am usually just waking up or falling asleep on my feet so staring at myself in the mirror is really not high on the list of priorities. I kind a gave up make up somehow, seemed like it was more important to feed the kids a good breakfast (good meaning not gummie bears).

So I am suddenly sitting here realizing that I have not really looked at myself in the mirror for a really long time. And aside from that moment when I thought I had a beard I am the happiest I have ever been. Thanks to technology I am lucky to be the modern mother who works from home. My lunch meeting is with a 2 year old in Elmo undies and we are planning to eat “samiches” under a tree. He’s handsome and he loves me best of all. I am pretty sure I’ll get a kiss or 10 while we destroy all civilization with our backhoes and bulldozers then build it back again with our horses and worms.
I suppose as long as I can get that sister-in-law of mine to extend her “hair free” guarantee to now, when I really need her, I’ll be OK.

~~ Kirsten

Thursday, October 1, 2009

God Bless the Birdies

I decided recently that we needed to get back to saying grace at dinner. Somehow, it always seems like meal times are the most hectic times in our household. I always thought this would be a wonderful bonding time to talk to each other and learn about one another’s days. Instead, I feel like a keeper feeding wild monkeys at the zoo. My 2 year old has a magical way of getting his feet from the high chair to the table where he curls his toes over the edge just to annoy his brother. Inevitably my 4 year olds peas touch his meat, which any mother knows is a fate worse than death. And without fail, my 5 month old baby decides this would be the perfect time to nurse.

Despite it all I am determined to work in a little gratitude for all that we have. I have looked up prayers that the kids might actually understand and I have prepared myself to calm the troops for just a few minutes before the chaos begins. So each night (when I remember, which is more frequent now that my little guys help to remind me) we sit down and attempt to pray.

Remarkably, this has actually turned into a routine they enjoy. Our prayer has turned into an accounting of all the things that happened throughout each of their days and everyone waits for their turn. They give thanks for a lot of things that wouldn’t cross my mind. In the beginning I wasn’t sure that this was really the time to pray for backhoes and trains and worms, but as I considered the situation I decided that maybe I should be more mindful of the little things that I’ve become too grown-up to appreciate.

It takes a while, the peas get cold and I am not sure that what we have done really counts as a prayer at all. Without fail, after everyone has said their peace and Amen has been shouted by all (literally, shouted), I hear “wait mommy, wait, we forgot to bless the birdies” and so we all fold our hands and bow our heads reverently (the only time we have done anything reverent throughout this whole process) while I say, “and God bless the birdies.” Maybe dinner time has turned out to be what I’d hoped for after all.