art · COVID-19 · new york · slice of life

Transported Back to New York City

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.

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beauty · COVID-19 · food · slice of life

My Allegiances Have Changed

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 had heard Stauffers of Kissel Hill, which is a local grocery and gardening store chain, has been strict about masking in the supermarket during Covid. In fact, the couple of times I’ve been there in the past year, I always noticed how clean it was. But they don’t carry our preferred brand of deli meat, which is why I haven’t shopped there consistently.

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.

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COVID-19 · exploration · slice of life

On a Mission for One Item

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.

Here we are, with the cracked corn, at the park. If you’ve read my past posts about the finicky ducks, you won’t be surprised to know that they didn’t love the cracked corn either. (About a third of the ducks enjoyed it. 🤪🤯🥵)
COVID-19 · pretend play · slice of life

Pandemic Play #SOL21

The kids and I were driving in the car this morning when Ari declared, “Patchy’s sick today.” (Patchy, his beloved stuffed dog, was not along for the ride.)

“Is that why Patchy stayed home?” I asked.

“Yes,” Ari replied.

“What’s wrong with Patchy?” Isabelle inquired, playing along.

“He got his coronavirus vaccine yesterday,” Ari declared.

“So is he sick or is he is dealing with the side effects from his vaccination?” I clarified.

“The side effects,” Ari responded.

*****

I was in the next room, minding my own business, when I heard Isabelle say, “Line ‘em all up, Ari! Hand me the doctor kit.”

That’s when I discovered they set up a mass vaccination site for some of their stuffed animals had been set up in the playroom!

When I walked into the playroom, I discovered that Ari was in charge of crowd control and Isabelle was doing pre-screening.

The pandemic has infiltrated their play, I thought sadly. It’s funny in a tragic sort of way.

I didn’t stick around to see who administered the shots, but I do plan to follow-up to see if anyone has a headache, nausea, fever, or sore arm tomorrow.

COVID-19 · growing up · imitation · slice of life

Standing on the Cart

My husband lets our kids stand on the end of the shopping cart.

I do not.

Why? you might ask. First of all, I don’t feel like pushing around an extra 40 – 80 pounds when I’m at the grocery store. Second, I don’t think it’s the safest thing in the world.

Nowadays, I go to the supermarket infrequently. I do a lot of online ordering and parking lot pickups since there are too many noses sticking out of masks for my comfort level. As a result, my kids don’t go to the supermarket much either since we want to keep them home as much as possible.

But today, I needed to go to Whole Foods to pick up an item for my daughter. Since Whole Foods has been great about mask enforcement, I felt comfortable enough to take Ari there.

The two of us were waiting for our deli order to be finished when he decided to hop on the back of the cart. I asked Ari to get off of the cart. He didn’t. Instead, he replied with, “Well, Daddy lets me ride on here.”

“I’m not Daddy,” I reminded him.

Because he’s four he stated, “But Daddy lets me!”

With that, he stretched and wiggled around on the end of the cart. I was wearing a mask and almost finished with my deli order so I decided to grasp the front of the cart tightly so he wouldn’t topple over.

Eventually, my deli order was finished and it was time to walk to the cashier. I looked Ari square in the eye and gave him a choice: walk beside me or push the cart.

He selected the second option.

Once the pandemic is over and we return to grocery stores with the kids, I believe we’re going to have to adopt a more consistent parenting approach to cart riding!

Head over to Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday to read more slice of life stories.

activities of daily living · COVID-19 · slice of life

How long does it take you to get ready?

After Isabelle eats breakfast, she has four things she needs to do before I do her hair. From there, she gets her iPad so she can start some morning math (i.e., IXL and XtraMath).

  1. Brush her teeth.
  2. Wash her face.
  3. Get dressed.
  4. Make her bed/open her blinds.

Ever since she’s been attending school remotely, it’s been taking longer and longer for her to accomplish her mornings tasks. This morning, I told her, “I’m going to set my stopwatch to see how long these things actually take you to do them.”

It took her THIRTY-FOUR minutes to do those things. It should take ten minutes — max.

To say that I was irritated was an understatment. Therefore, I decided to turn it into a mathematical situation. I grabbed a piece of graph paper and made a bar graph with five-minute increments. I said, “Today it took you 34 minutes to bruth your teeth, wash your face, get dressed, make your bed, and open the blinds to your room… and the last item needed a reminder. Do you think this is acceptable?”

Isabelle laughed in my face.

I was unamused.

“It’s not funny,” I told her.

She covered her mouth in attempt to stifle her giggles, but I found her disregard for time to be preposterous. Plus, she had been making lots of noise and riling her brother up.

Speaking of her brother, that’s when Ari proceeded to walk into her room. I looked at him and said, “Ari, this doesn’t involve you. I need you to go downstairs and play.”

He left. I filled in the Monday bar on the graph. Isabelle continued to laugh in my face.

Perhaps I should have Elliot on-hand tomorrow morning when Isabelle gets ready for school.

“Why is this funny to you? You could spend this kind of time playing or doing artwork. But instead, you make mornings feel stressful and chaotic when you don’t take care of your business in the mornings. How will you be able to get out of the house again once the pandemic is over if it’s taking you 34 minutes just to do these things?”

She continued laughing. I thought about walking away. Instead, I pointed to the bar graph and said, “This has to be a shorter bar tomorrow. This is unacceptable.”

That’s when Ari reappeared. He brought me Little Elliot from Mike Curato’s books. He dropped Elliot on my lap and left the room without saying a word.

Later, after Isabelle got her hair done and was settled with Math IXL, I asked him why he gave Elliot to me.

“I wanted to make feel you better,” he replied in the sweetest four-year-old voice.

“You did, buddy. You really made me feel better.”

Bless this little boy.

COVID-19 · slice of life

We used to go on dates.

My husband and I used to book a sitter — or ask our parents — nearly every month for a date night. While once a month was a far cry from our newlywed years, when we used to go out to dinner every Wednesday and Saturday night, it was better than not going out once a month!

We haven’t had a sitter watch the kids for a date night since February. While my parents lived with us while I recovered from foot surgery, most of that time coincided with the pandemic. Therefore, it wasn’t until they came back for a week in August that we had our first dinner out as a couple. It was lovely! We love our kids, but feeding just ourselves and not listening to any whining at dinnertime was great. Therefore, my parents encouraged us to go out again when they visited for a few days in September.

I was convinced our September date would be the last one until the springtime, but we lucked out last night. We visited my in-laws in Connecticut over the long weekend. The weather was warm for an early fall night in New England and they were up for watching our kids so we went out! We dined al fresco at Bartaco, which is located along the Saugatuck River. The tables were more than six feet apart, there were heat lamps to add warmth, and we stayed safer with contactless ordering/payment. After dinner, we drove to Saugatuck Sweets, where I ordered a small cup of rum raisin ice cream, which is quickly becoming a new favorite flavor. (Note: I tried rum raisin for the first time in August!)

As I reflected on our bonus dinner out, it left me wondering if we’ll manage to eek in one more dinner out in November on an unseasonably warm autumn evening. Or are we finished eating out until springtime… or once there’s a vaccine? (Whichever comes first!)

Last night was sweater weather!
COVID-19 · Jewish · music · slice of life

Tuesday Morning Music #sol20

As a general rule, Ari detests Zoom. It takes a lot to engage him for more than five minutes. To be fair, he’s four.

That said, he’s been enjoying the Jewish music classes we’ve been doing through a school in New York. The music teacher engages the kids for 20 minutes — sometimes longer — with holiday songs (since Jews have a truckload of fall holidays!), Shabbat songs (on Fridays) and songs that are just plain ol’ fun for preschoolers that deal with everything from colors to gratitude.

While today felt like an ordinary Tuesday in the time of COVID-19 when I woke up my perspective changed once I realized we had our morning music class. As usual, Ari invited one of his puppies to join us. Together, we sang Hinei Ma Tov and other songs for Sukkot. Time passed quickly despite Ari being a bit more restless than usual. However, by the last song, Ari was refocused and happy to participate in the final song’s hand motions.

Music Class a Selfie with Patchy (one of Ari’s favorite stuffies)
COVID-19 · day trip · slice of life

An Escape to King if Prussia

Back in February, I was living as large as someone who needed foot surgery could live. I traveled to Milwaukee to present at WSRA. We drove to Connecticut to spend a long weekend with my in-laws. I spent as much one-on-one time as possible with each of my kids since I knew I’d be laid up in bed for weeks. Marc and I went out for a date night. The next morning, with just a few days to go before surgery, he drove the four of us to King of Prussia so I could eat tacos at one of my favorite taquerias (Bartaco). I packed as much as I could into the month of February since I knew we probably wouldn’t go away until Memorial Day Weekend.

Then COVID-19 shut down the world in mid-March.

By May, we canceled our summer vacation to North Carolina with our cousins, canceled a girls’ trip to NYC with Isabelle, and canceled our family’s season passes to Hersheypark.

While my kids visited my in-laws in Connecticut over the summer, I stayed home both times since I was in too much pain to handle a 4+ hour car ride. Last week, I realized I have only been to THREE COUNTIES (ie, Dauphin, Lancaster, and York) since the surgery. To say I’m feeling a little restless is an understatement.

But, this weekend, I left Central Pennsylvania for the first time in over seven months! We drove an hour east to King of Prussia to eat lunch outdoors at Founding Farmers. The kids begged to go to the mall (which they never would’ve done seven months ago!), but that felt like an unnecessary risk. We needed some things at The Container Store and Crate and Barrel so I made a deal that they could go into one of the stores if they didn’t touch much. They happily agreed to the deal I cut with them.

Montgomery County, which is where King of Prussia is located, was hit hard by COVID-19 this spring. As a result, all three of the places we went in King of Prussia today were taking safety precautions that are vastly stricter than where we live in Central PA. Here are some of the things I noticed:

  • Most people wear masks when they’re walking around outside.
  • Everyone I saw wore their mask properly. That’s right! I didn’t see a single person’s nose!
  • There are occupancy limits in stores. You wait outside, in a socially-distant line, for your turn to go into the store.
  • Everything is sanitized in-between customers without asking for it to be cleaned.

I felt much safer shopping in King of Prussia than back at home where fewer people are taking this deadly virus seriously anymore. As a result, on the way home, I remarked, “You know, we could probably get back to a semi-normal lifestyle if people back home would commit to masking-up properly all of the time like they did out there. Just think how much safer we’d be if all of the stores by us were cleaning like they were in King of Prussia.”

Isabelle was listening. She moaned about how careless people were being. To her, and to me, it feels like we are never going to get back to normal due to the apathy and indifference many people have about COVID-19. But, being in the Philly suburbs gave me a little hope for what could be if everyone tried just a little harder.

Isabelle kindly feeds Ari some pancakes. (That’s right, he left his seat several times and begged for more food like a puppy.)
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COVID-19 · holidays · Jewish · slice of life

May her memory be a revolution. #SOL20

There are five days each year I cease from using my phone. They are both days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the first two days of Passover. I’ve been strict about that through the years for I want to stay present rather than getting pulled away by the dinging and pinging.

I knew I would be unable to stay away from technology this year since we would need it to access services. On one hand, I was saddened by the fact I wouldn’t be getting dressed up to celebrate in synagogue because of the global pandemic. On the other hand, I was thrilled I could stream services from my former synagogue in Manhattan, which I haven’t worshipped at on the High Holidays since 2007.

Last night, I walked upstairs and changed out of my dress. (Yes! We dressed up for Erev Rosh Hashanah even though it was just four of us dining together since I fell down the steps last Erev Rosh Hashanah and spent hours in the ER, not in synagogue.) I grabbed my phone to join our Lancaster synagogue’s services since it was past the start time of the one in New York. I gasped when I saw The Washington Post breaking news: Justice Ginsberg died at 87.

Many liberal and progressive Americans felt gut-punched by the news. But for those of us celebrating Rosh Hashanah, it was even harder. Writer Carly Pildis summed it up perfectly in her piece for The Forward:

Her loss is unthinkable. She seemed like Moses, like she would live 400 years. Grief filled our Rosh Hashanah tables. We Jewish mothers who had been working for days to try to somehow make a sweet holiday in these bitterest of times became overwhelmed with mourning. What use to us were apples and honey when Justice Ginsburg was gone?

Carly Pildis (Source: https://forward.com/opinion/454793/may-ruth-bader-ginsburgs-memory-be-a-revolution/.)

Carly encapsulated every feeling I had in that paragraph. I had spent the previous four days preparing for Rosh Hashanah. I made honey cake, brisket, and kugel. I created a Rosh Hashanah Seder plate with items Ari and I shopped for together. I did craft projects with the kids to get them ready. I ironed clothes. (My parents, who will read this, will attest to my disdain for ironing.) I pulled off an abridged Rosh Hashanah Seder — my first ever — after we said our Shabbat prayers. And then, just when I thought it was time for me to enjoy the holiday as a participant, I read that breaking news alert. And while Justice Ginsberg passing in the final moments of 5780 was totally on-brand for that Jewish year, it was just too much.

Yes, there were moments of joy on Rosh Hashanah, which included dancing around our great room with Marc and Ari during the children’s service while singing “B’shanah Habaa” and making a second honey cinnamon pound cake that was better than the first honey cake. But this year wasn’t as sweet and it wasn’t just because COVID-19 kept us at home.

Jewish people don’t say “rest in peace” when someone dies. Instead we say “Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet,” which means “Blessed is the true judge.” When we want to share our condolences, we typically say, “May their memory be for a blessing.” But let’s go a bit further with Justice Ginsberg. May her memory be a revolution.

Something to ponder: How will you let her memory be for a revolution with what you do in the next weeks and months of your life?

Honey Cinnamon Pound Cake
(Recipe from Leah Koenig’s Modern Jewish Cooking bakes in a mold from Days United.)