I remember how odd it was to hear Isabelle say, “It’s just the original family,” as she, Marc, and I sat around the dinner table back in April when Ari spent a few days at my parents’ house. I never thought of the three of us as “the original family,” but seeing as she was nearly six years old when Ari was born, I suppose she considers us the original three. And as strange as it was to have an empty place at the table for a few nights, it didn’t feel foreign to me. I, too, remembered a time when it was just three of us.
This past week, Isabelle traveled to Bubbe and Zayde’s house for her solo trip. While she’s spent time with at her grandparents’ house before, I’m pretty sure Isabelle hasn’t stayed there alone since the summer of 2015. So, as odd as it is to have her away for a few days, it doesn’t feel foreign to me either.
What did feel foreign to me was having Ari home with just me and Marc. I vaguely recall Isabelle spending a few days with my inlaws when Ari was a baby, but I was so sleep deprived that I don’t remember if it was in the summer of 2017 or 2018! Thistime, I’m well-rested enough to be present. While Isabelle was away, we’ve done some things together she wouldn’t have enjoyed. Three examples were:
We took an after-dinner walk in the neighborhood. (Typically, Isabelle is too tired to take a walk at night.)
We had a movie night. (Isabelle prefers short TV shows as opposed to movies.)
We enjoyed a picnic and playing in the park. (Isabelle detests bugs.)
While Isabelle had the chance to be the center of her grandparents’ universe for a few days, Ari had the opportunity to be the center of his parents’ world for a few days. I know he misses Isabelle since he insists on calling her every night so he can do a virtual tuck-in. (He has this thing about saying “good night” to Isabelle. If he misses saying good night to her because he’s out watering the garden or riding his bike, he tiptoes into her room to give her a kiss on the cheek before he takes a shower.) And while I know he will be thrilled to have his partner in crime back, I think he’s enjoyed our undivided attention.
Ari adores strawberries. Both of my kids do, but Ari is OBSESSED with them. He wants to eat strawberries daily as part of his lunch. (He’d probably eat them as a snack if I’d let him, but I try to get other fruits into him at those times of the day.) He grows strawberries in his backyard garden. So, when strawberry season arrives in Central Pennsylvania, Ari is ALL IN.
This morning, Marc, my-in-laws, the kids, and I drove about 45 minutes north of our home to an orchard that advertised their “best crop of the past 5-10 years.” That was enough to make the drive worthwhile… so long as it was true.
After we washed our hands and purchased a 5 qt. bucket for the four of us, the kids began arguing over who was going to hold the bucket. 🙄 Somehow, I convinced Isabelle to let Ari hold it since it would eventually be too heavy for him to manage. She relinquished and allowed Ari to hold it.
Once we were assigned a row, Ari got down to the serious business of the day. If you think that was picking berries and putting them in the bucket he was holding, well, then you’d be wrong. No, no. He got down to eating berries! As we attempted to fill our bucket, we realized we’d have to take it away from Ari or we’d never fill it up with enough berries to bring home. Somehow, we wrestled the bucket away from Ari and handed it over to Isabelle who has samples far less than she did as a young tyke.
For awhile, Ari picked a berry, removed the crown, and shoved it in his mouth. This kept up for awhile until he must’ve gotten tired. Eventually, we overheard Linda, my mother-in-law, ask Ari to stop removing the good ones from her container. (Apparently, he didn’t want to be troubled with picking the berries so he tried to skim them off the top of her container!) Once Ari realized that wouldn’t work, he tried sticking his hand into the five-quart bucket again, but kept getting caught by Marc, Isabelle, or me. Ultimately, Ari picked most of his own berries, which showed since his hands and face were stained with sticky, red juice.
We love PYO season, more so now that our options still feel limited due to the pandemic. And while I wish Ari would do more picking-to-take-home and less eating-in-the-fields, there is something so endearing about watching the joy he gets from eating berries on summer mornings. Plus, he looks adorable with his lips and fingernails ringed in red!
Even when I lived in DC or Rhode Island, I always found myself in Manhattan at least every six months. (More like every three months, but let’s say six — just to be safe.) However, I haven’t been to Manhattan since December 2018!
The first part of 2019 was about building a house and moving. I was supposed to go to Manhattan twice in late 2019: once for our wedding anniversary and once for Isabelle’s birthday. Neither trip happened after I broke my ankle. Surely, a few months after foot surgery I’d be able to go to Manhattan. WRONG! Two weeks into my recovery the world shut down due to COVID-19. Therefore, here I am, almost 30 months removed from my beloved Manhattan. I’m not going to lie… it’s hard. There’s something about that loud, overcrowded, filthy place that I miss!
Recently, I learned some of the city’s art museums offer virtual art classes for kids so I’ve signed Isabelle up for some. This past weekend, I took one, “Open Studio From Home: Jay DeFeo” with Isabelle. I realize it was meant for kids, but since it was a webinar I didn’t think I’d embarrass Isabelle by sitting beside her.
I was unfamiliar with DeFeo’s “The Rose,” which the museum educator taught us about during the first part of the class. I found it fascinating that DeFeo spent eight years working on this painting, which is sculpture-like. After learning about “The Rose,” we had the chance to create our own works of art, inspired by “The Rose.” First, we brainstormed memories and an image to represent the memory. Then, we were given some time to sketch. Afterwards, we learned how to create secret doors atop our pictures that would contain the details of our memory/story.
I chose to capture a hot dog, which represented times I visited Nathan’s in Coney Island with my father as a kid. Isabelle decided to draw a butterfly to represent one of our visits to Hershey Gardens.
While neither of us did our best writing inside of our secret doors, I will say we learned about a new process, which connected to “The Rose,” an artwork that contains layers of secrets (including, but not limited to stubbed-out cigarettes inside the paint) to the artwork we created. Isabelle and I agreed we could try this technique of creating secret doors atop a piece of artwork about a memory in the future.
I long to get back to Manhattan. (I’ll go after the kids are fully vaccinated!) Once I do, I cannot wait to get to some museums! Until then, I might just tag along at a few more virtual programs.
But he pulled me off the path several times that day,
When I took a goat for a walk.
I watched the goats chew all they desired,
Their four-chambered stomachs filled with the greenery they required,
The cracked branches of the arboretum yielded to the pressure of their hooves,
When I took a goat for a walk.
We ambled down pathways where people wander,
Up woodchip mountains to look over yonder,
And the goats stopped to chew on everything green that they saw,
When I took a goat for a walk.
As we turned back, the three of us paused for a photo,
But Bebito, Violet, and Ivy felt obligated to mow,
They dined on flowers and grass in the meadow,
When I took a goat for a walk.
When we returned, I stood amazed,
These magical creatures left my allergies unfazed,
I pet Bebito several more times before I had departed,
When I took a goat for a walk.
This is the first poem I’ve written in over a year. I’ve never been strong with rhyme and this poem is no exception to that. However, I kept thinking of I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis and Allison Jay every time I thought back to our weekend saunter with the goats from the Philly Goat Project. Therefore, instead of writing prose about the goat walk Isabelle, Ari, and I took with the goats, I decided to create a poem slice mentored after I Took the Moon for a Walk. (I did my best.)
My kids haven’t set foot on a playground, other than the play set in our backyard, since early March 2020. Even though I know COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that typically spreads indoors, I also know little kids get extremely close to one another on playgrounds while waiting to use the same piece of equipment, at the top of a slide, etc. (Also, I know someone whose kids got COVID last summer after playing on a busy playground unmasked!) Therefore, I haven’t been too keen on going back to playgrounds with my children.
However, I decided it’s time for them to play on play structures again so long as they wear a mask, are willing to sanitize whenever I feel it’s necessary, and keep their hands off of their face. Think that’s overkill? Well, there’s one more thing they have to agree to. If there are too many unmasked kids on the playground, then we’re out — no matter what.
Yesterday, I brought this proposal to Isabelle. She agreed to my demands without hesitation (and was ready to leave the house, in the rain, to head to the nearest playground). This morning, I shared my non-negotiables with Ari and asked him if he’d like to go to a playground before my work day started. He agreed to my rules knowing we might leave at a moment’s notice.
“Which playground are we going to go to?” Ari asked.
I was thinking about an awesome play structure about 20 minutes away, but Ari didn’t remember what it looked like from pre-COVID times. He said, “I’d like to go to the one near the library.” It’s a much more basic playground, but since it was closer, I drove him there.
When we arrived, there was only one other woman and her son there. Ari climbed on the stairs, slid down the slides, and touched a variety of surfaces. For ten good minutes, I was cool.
As time passed, the unmasked boy bolted away from his mom, came right up to Ari, and pulled on Ari’s arm. His mom was several steps behind him so I asked him, “Do you have a mask?” He didn’t answer. (In all fairness, he looked no more than three and I was a stranger to him.) His mom ambled towards us. I was assertive, but polite, when I asked if her son had a mask. (He did.) I told her I’d appreciate it if he’d wear it if he wanted to play with Ari. She encouraged him to come over to their stroller to don the mask. He followed her, but wouldn’t mask-up so they stayed away.
As the minutes wore on, Ari’s confidence on the playground grew as he climbed steeper structures than what I remembered him being able to do over a year ago. As ten o’clock approached, more unmasked kids and caregivers arrived at the playground. By the time there were about ten kids, I looked at Ari and said, “Listen, buddy. Remember I said we’d have to leave if it got too crowded and kids weren’t wearing masks? It’s almost time to go. I know it’s earlier than what we expected since I don’t have anything until 11, but I’m not comfortable with how many unmasked kids there are since kids like to stand close to other kids.”
Shockingly, Ari didn’t put up a fight when I set the timer for five more minutes. Once the timer went off, he asked to take two more trips down the twisty slide, which I let him do despite two unmasked girls — whose caregiver was busy on her phone yards away — coming towards us. After his second slide, I said goodbye to the girls and told Ari, “Let’s sanitize.” He held out his hands, accepted the sanitizer, and rubbed it in.
Once Ari rubbed in the sanitizer, I held out my right hand, which he held. We walked a bit in silence. Once we neared the parking lot, I stopped walking, knelt beside him, and thanked him for being willing to leave since it was getting crowded. “Can I remove your mask for you?” I asked.
Once his mask was off, I noticed he his hangdog face. “Are you sad because we had to leave or sad because Bubbe and Zayde left this morning?”
“Because Bubbe and Zayde left,” he said.
“Are you sure? Because I want you to know, we will go back to more playgrounds — this one and other ones — this summer. Next time, we’ll just get out even earlier so that we aren’t there with lots of kids. Okay, buddy?”
“Okay,” he said.
My heart hurt. I truly didn’t know if he was upset about my parents leaving or about leaving the playground. All I knew is that I felt bad about leaving early. Even though I stipulated thatwe would leave if the playground got overrun with unmasked kids, I didn’t think it would actually happen. I guess, next time, we will make it our business to get to a playground by 8:30 or 9:00!
Ari is the kind of kid who likes to pick out his own clothes. Sometimes he misses with his outfit choices, but he makes a good match over 80% of the time. (Not bad for a four-year-old kid!) This morning, I suggested, “You should pick out pants and a short-sleeve tee.”
“I want to wear the shorts you told me I could wear yesterday,” he replied as he grabbed the green and navy stripe shorts from his dresser.
“It’s too cold for shorts today, bud. You can wear them after your nap… or tomorrow. It’s going to be in the 80s tomorrow.”
“But it’s in the 60’s today.”
“No, it isn’t. It’s raining too. You don’t want to wear shorts when you go outside today.”
“Yes, I do,” my son, who could be considered stubborn, declared.
“But your legs will be cold!” I said.
“But it’s iiiiin the 60’s!”
I pulled put my iPhone to show him that it was cooler than what he thought. But when the weather app brought up the Lancaster temperature, it read 66°F!
I turned my phone and showed Ari the proof he desired. “You were right. It’s in the mid-60’s. But it is raining. So, if you’re willing to wear a hoodie, then you’ve got yourself a deal on the shorts.”
“Deal!” he said.
As I recounted a sliver of this story to my parents on the phone, my Dad teased me. “Jewish Mother Sweater Alert!”
It isn’t the first time he’s teased me about overdressing one of my children the way many Jewish moms are known to do. WPLJ, which was my favorite radio station as a kid growing up in the NY Metropolitan Area, used to declare a “Jewish Mother Sweater Alert” anytime there was a bit of a chill in the air on spring or fall mornings. It’s a phrase my Dad and I used to taunt my mom with whenever she’d insist on me adding a layer as a kid. Now, I am a Jewish mother, hence the necessity for an extra layer of clothing on a May morning.
Recently, Marc and I took our kids into one of the local Giant grocery stores since we needed several items that couldn’t wait for the big Sunday shopping. (If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, then you know I’ve been a loyal Giant customer ever since we moved to Central PA nearly a dozen years ago.) Moments after walking into the store, Isabelle and I spotted three people without masks and several more who were wearing them incorrectly. At every turn, there were noses and mouths in our line of sight. Seeing as my kids aren’t vaccinated, Isabelle and I split up from Marc and Ari so we could get what we needed as quickly as possible and get out of the store.
Now, you might think, just call the store manager. Well, I’ve done this at more than one of the local Giant grocery stores. Nothing seems to change. Things have gotten worse ever since the vaccine came out. Therefore, when we needed more deli meat this morning, I told Marc, “I’ve had it with Giant. I’m going to Stauffers today and I’m going to buy several kinds of turkey for you to try. I refuse to put the kids at risk for a preferred brand of deli meat.” (We’ve been discussing the deli dilemma for a while so this announcement didn’t come as a shock to him.)
The kids and I arrived at Stauffers and were greeted by this sign at the entrance:
I looked at the sign and declared to the kids, “This is my kind of grocery store.”
As we walked inside, I cleaned my cart (pulling from the ample supply of cart wipes) and walked to the deli with the kids where I proceeded to buy multiple kinds of turkey breast for Marc to sample at lunchtime. Then, we moseyed around the store since people were following the masking guidelines. Imagine that!??!
* * * * *
In the late afternoon, I went downtown to a new stylist for a haircut. NOTE: There was nothing wrong with my former stylist. She’s given me great cuts for the past decade! However, she works in a salon that’s located in a health club where masks are optional. Last fall, I told her I needed to find somewhere else to get my hair cut until I was vaccinated and the case rates came down. (I didn’t want her to think it had anything to do with her on a personal level.) She understood. I saw a new stylist in November who worked in a salon that’s Covid-safe, but the cut she gave me was mediocre and the one she gave Isabelle was dreadful. Therefore, I made an appointment another stylist, but I had to wait five months to get in!
This afternoon, I donned my mask and drove to downtown Lancaster for a fabulous curly cut. Before I sat down in the new stylist’s chair, I told her who’s been cutting my hair for the past decade and why I made a switch because of the mask-optional building she works in. She seemed shocked since she, too, didn’t feel that masking in an indoor space should be optional during a global pandemic.
I got a precise cut that brought my curls back to life. Once I was out of the chair I made an appointment for Isabelle to see this new stylist in late June. I’m confident she’ll work wonders with Isabelle’s curls too.
The grocery store in the early morning and the haircut in the last afternoon have me rethinking my allegiances. And while it may seem like a no-brainer to some people, this has been hard for me. I’m a brand loyal person. (I haven’t willingly used anything other than Colgate toothpaste since I was old enough to make my wishes known to my Crest-loving parents as a young child.) However, the pandemic has made me put health and safety first. While I’m vaccinated, I am unwilling to take unnecessary risks since I understand one could still get coronavirus, albeit less severe, after vaccination. Plus, it’ll be months before my kids get their vaccinations. Therefore, I’m choosing to support businesses that are doing their part to keep me and my family safe.
The kids and I arrived at Bombergers, which is a local hardware store, with a solitary item to buy: cracked corn for the ducks at the local park. I called the store ahead of time so I knew exactly where to go once I got inside since my kids like to take detours in Bombergers — because it is awesome! I told them, “we are only going to purchase cracked corn.” Isabelle said she understood. Ari remained silent.
Somewhere between the cart corral and the start of the brown tile floor, Ari found several items at his eye level to touch.
“Are-eee!” Isabelle scolded.
“Please don’t touch anything, Ari,” I said.
Halfway down the brown tile floor, on the way to the birding section, Ari discovered a cozy, outdoor chair. As I pushed the cart, I realized Ari was no longer behind us.
“Are-eee!” Isabelle scolded with exasperation. “Stay with us!”
Three masked men smiled as they passed us by, “I think he wants to buy that chair ma’am.”
“Looks that way,” I replied.
“C’mon, buddy, keep moving,” I told him.
Once we followed the brown tile to the right, I said, “Look, there’s the birding section.” But before we could find the cracked corn, Ari had his hands on everything from squeaky pet toys to wind chimes.
“Are-eee!” Isabelle scolded with a stomp of her foot.
“Would you please be more patient with him?” I requested of her.
“But he’s touching everything!” Isabelle whined. “Why is he touching everything?”
“Because he’s four and a half. This is what he does.”
Once we heaved two bags of cracked corn into the cart, we attempted to walk from the cracked corn to the cashier. However, the walk included more wind chimes, more chair sitting, and more toy touching. Isabelle grumbled, but tried not to admonish her brother. Until…
Isabelle and I got in line and Ari scooted off to some patio tables. He was in my peripheral vision when I noticed the checkout lines converging. As a woman and I went through the “No, you go first” motions I heard a few things fall. I looked straight over to where Ari was and noticed he dropped some marble-beads that were in the center of the outdoor table.
“Are-eee!” I scolded.
Isabelle smirked at me.
“I know he can be ridiculous too,” I confessed to her. “Would you please help your brother pick those up and then bring him back to the line?” I asked.
“Fine,” she stomped off towards Ari.
That’s when I looked at the woman whose line was merging into mine and said, “I think I will take you up on the offer to go first. As you can see, we came in for one thing, but we should probably get out of here before he breaks something.”
She laughed knowingly… as if she’d been in my shoes before.
With that I sanitized Ari’s hands, paid, watched him touch two more things, sanitized them again, and then left with both kids. Who ever thought a trip for cracked corn could be so entertaining for a child whose mom and older sister just wanted to keep him as germ-free as possible.
I’m in the midst of two professional book reviews. I’m prepping for an upcoming webinar. I’m in the midst of laying out the Author Spotlight Series on TWT. That’s a lot of I’ms…
I have a manuscript I need to read and a blurb I need to write about a forthcoming professional text. I have a short story to revise for my high school’s literary magazine (which I was invited to be an alumni contributor for). I have a blog series post to write. That’s a lot of I haves…
My neck is achy. It’s been bothering me for nine days. (Well, 22 years, but who’s counting?) There is just no way that I’m having an argument with anyone over dinner tonight. So, tonight is BREAKFAST FOR DINNER!
Most weeks, we eat breakfast for dinner — usually on Thursday nights. But this week, I have more plates spinning than usual so breakfast-for-dinner night is TONIGHT. Who cares if it’s only Tuesday!?!? (Trust me, my children will not care.)
It’s nearly 5 p.m. My work isn’t done. (Does anyone ever really finish with all of their to-dos in a day!?!?) My neck still hurts. But, my oven is preheating and I’m about to put the casserole in the oven. All I have to do is slice some fruit, set the table (Hey, kids! I have a job for you!), get the drinks, and sit down to eat at six.