COVID-19 · family · food · slice of life

Eating Ice Cream Outdoors on a 57°F Evening

We’re a family who LOVES ice cream. It’s been our go-to Shabbat dinner dessert ever since we moved to Lancaster. We eat it year-round, no matter the weather.

I came prepared to dine outdoors — for both dinner and dessert — when I packed for our trip to New England:

After an outdoor dinner at a restaurant whose heaters weren’t working, we headed to Saugatuck Sweets, which serves Longford’s Ice Cream. Longford’s is a small-batch creamery that makes an amazing rum raisin ice cream. Marc and I discovered both Saugatuck Sweets and Longford’s on a date night we had in CT in the fall of 2020. Therefore, I wanted to take the kids there to try it too.

Photo of Saugatuck Sweets with a Ukranian flag and blue and yellow lights.

On the drive to Saugatuck Sweets, Isabelle — who wore her hood during dinner — asked, “Can we take the ice cream back to Grandma and Papa’s?”

“No,” I replied. “It would probably melt on the drive back since we don’t have anything to keep it cold.”

“Could we eat in the car?” she asked.

“Eating ice cream with your brother is — not ideal. You know what a messy eater he is. It’s better for us to eat outside.”

“Okay, fine,” Isabelle replied flatly. She knows the mess her brother makes at most meals, but especially with ice cream.


I panicked when we arrived at Saugatuck Sweets since the board didn’t list rum raisin. I was craving Longford’s rum raisin. (It’s that good. And I’m not even a rum raisin person!)

List of Ice Cream Flavors at Saugatuck Sweets

After Ari placed his order for a cup of Oreo Bomb, I asked the guy behind the counter if they had rum raisin since “it’s not listed up there.”

“We should. Hold on, let me check.”

He ran around the shop and located a box of rum raisin ice cream. My day was made!

Rum Raisin for me, Oreo Bomb with rainbow sprinkles for Ari, Peanut Butter Cup with whipped cream for Marc, and Chocolate Chocolate Chunk with Reese’s Pieces for Isabelle

The four of us took our ice cream outside. As we sat there eating freezing cold treats, Ari observed, “the sky is dark blue now.”

That’s right. We are among those nutty people who were willing to eat their ice cream outside. I declared, “I don’t think we’ve ever eaten ice cream outside in March.”

“No?” Marc said.

“No, we haven’t. We’ve eaten outside in March. We’ve eaten ice cream in March. But this is our first time eating ice cream outside in March.”

We never would’ve done this pre-Covid. Now, we have a much higher threshold for what we’ll tolerate when it comes to dining outdoors. And, when it comes to delicious ice cream, I’ll eat it outdoors in nearly any kind of weather!

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COVID-19 · homeschool · slice of life

The 10-Pane Glass Door

We handed the builder the blueprints to our first home and asked him to make a few tweaks when we decided to build a new house an hour east of our first house, Much of the house is exactly the same so it often feels like I’ve been living in the same house for over 12 years when it’s really been 29 months in the new place!

Ari and Fluffy enter my office by way of the glass door. (BTW: The walls are sage green, which is my favorite color, not yellow. Waterlogue made my walls look like mustard!)

In our former house, the door had been 15 panes of glass on it. The kids were constantly stopping by to peer inside when I was trying to work. They’d wave, slide things under, and make silly faces. It was adorable, but I knew I needed a solid office door. After all, it’s hard to write a book when you have distractions in your peripheral vision. So, even though my office was going to be exactly the same, from the flooring to the angles of the walls near my office door, I knew I should change the door even if a glass door looked prettier.

We sat down with our home builder to pick out things like roof color, siding color, door handle shapes, etc. Eventually, we got to door style. I chocked. In that moment, I couldn’t part with the idea of seeing into the foyer of our house. I knew I’d miss out on seeing what was happening beyond my office. So, in what felt like me going back on something I insisted I would change, I opted for a 10-pane glass door. I hoped I made the right choice.

I never expected we’d be living at home — day in and day out for two years — with one another when I made the decision to go with the glass door. But who would’ve predicted a global pandemic when picking out their office door?

Do I regret the glass door? At first, I did. But not anymore. Over time, Isabelle and Ari have learned to wait for a “come in” after they knock. I alert them to Zoom meetings in advance so they don’t interrupt. Isabelle has become especially good at waiting until I look up if she sees me wearing my reading glasses while typing.

If I didn’t have the glass door, then I’d miss many sweet knocks from Ari and his stuffies who like to visit me in the afternoons when I’m working. This afternoon, I had one solid hour to do work before leaving for an appointment. In that time, I received two quick visits from Ari and Fluffy. And while I probably would’ve been more productive if I hadn’t received those visits, I’m thankful my children and I have learned how to balance me working from home while they’re at home.

Next year, when we return to a more “normal” (What is normal anymore!?) life, I have a feeling I will look back on these days — when we were all at home because of Covid — and will miss the smiles, waves, and treasures they share with me through the glass door. But that’s about five months off. Until then, I’ll look gazes from the other side of the door.

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COVID-19 · OBSERVATIONS · slice of life

The Mercury Dropped & the Kids Went Into Hiding

Last week, we enjoyed several days in the mid-60s with glorious sunshine. It felt unseasonable for November, but who was I to complain? I walked for five (or six) consecutive days. It was glorious!

Cooler weather moved in over the weekend. With that, hats and hoods made their way onto my children’s heads when they went outside today. When I looked at them, prepped for both the cold weather they were going to walk in and the encounters they were about to have with people outside of our household, I laughed. Between their winter head coverings and their masks for COVID safety, I barely found their faces!

Every now and then they agree to be photographed when I find something funny. I’m thankful each of them humored me today. Isabelle’s mask is a CastleGrade G7. Ari’s mask is a three-ply polar bear mask from Old Navy.

Could you imagine what they’d look like if they donned a pair of sunglasses too?

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COVID-19 · medical · slice of life

Mile Marker 25 of the Marathon

I’m not a runner. However, I remember watching the NYC Marathon regularly as a child and as a young adult living in Manhattan. While I never yearned to run so much as a mile in PE class, I have some basic knowledge about marathons. I know there are 26.2 miles in a marathon and the runners look more energetic running up First Avenue than they do running into Central Park.

While I haven’t done the exact calculations, but if the past 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic were a marathon, then as of today our family is finally at mile marker 25. Why? Because we were able to get our kids vaccinated today!

Tears welled up in my eyes when Isabelle received her vaccine.

Here’s a funny story about how today’s vaccinations went:

We took the kids to a local pharmacy where Isabelle had her flu shot last year. She remembered the pharmacist as being “a good shot giver.” Since Isabelle gets weekly allergy shots, she was confident going into today. Ari allowed her to get the first jab since he was starting to get cold feet. Isabelle took her vaccination like a pro. The pharmacist fist-bumped her once the needle was out of her arm.

Ari began to panic when it was his turn. He didn’t want to remove his sweater. He worried it was going to hurt. (He didn’t cry during this year or last year’s flu shot so we were surprised he was getting antsy.) The pharmacist was reassuring and patient with him. Once we got his sweater off and had his arm cleaned off with alcohol, the pharmacist told Ari, “If it hurts, you can hit me at the end.”

I sat down on the chair and had Ari climb into my lap. I held his wrists gently so he wouldn’t move his arms when it was time for the injection. The pharmacist told him, “Look at your sister,” but Ari chose to watch the needle plunge into his skin. He didn’t cry or flinch. And in a 1-2-3, it was over!

“Did it hurt?” the pharmacist asked Ari.

“Yeah, a little,” Ari replied.

“You can hit me then,” he said.

I was shocked when Ari slapped the pharmacist’s forearm. I didn’t think he’d do it, but he was invited to do so twice... so I can’t blame him! Thankfully, he didn’t hit him with malice. In fact, the pharmacist chuckled.

After we donned our coats, I gathered the kids near to me and Marc. Together we recited the Shehechyanu blessing quietly before departing from the pharmacy because this was TRULY A HUGE MOMENT! We walked down the street and got the kids sweet treats before heading home.

Just as NYC Marathon runners know the final 1.2 miles are going to be a slog, we are more confident now that we will cross the finish line of this pandemic since we’ve made it this far. We’ll continue to take all of the safety measures we’ve been taking this entire time so that we can cross the finish line.

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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!

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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.