'Rose all day, am I right mommy?'

Friday, July 31

I like to call these little snapshots, a day in the life of David ...

  • Thanks to an accidental “Alexa, play Iron Man song” request, David’s newest jam that plays on repeat for hours is Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” He mouths the slightly inappropriate words with a slow-motion head-banging dance routine in his underwear in the kitchen.
  • “Rose all day, am I right mommy?” He recently asked me around 4 p.m., lifting his Batman milk cup to cheers with a smile. 
  • David and I took a walk for the first time in weeks and after I had the audacity to make him walk an extra block, he trailed behind me at a minimum of 6 feet and cried the whole way home because he didn’t want to. 
  • While David might have inherited his father’s batting abilities, his dramatic flare on the field comes directly from his mama. “COACH, I THINK I BROKE MY ANKLE,” he yelled, wobbling off the field after he ran the bases with a loose shoe.
  • After spending a few weeks with his “auntie,” David now knows how to put an item in his online Amazon shopping cart, proceed to checkout and hit pay. We’re still working on writing our “Rs,” but check out? No problem. 

Happy Friday, folks. This has been an extremely stressful week for parents, with school updates coming in rapid fire, and each one producing more questions than answers, it feels like.

Do whatever you have to do to recharge this weekend. Even if, as David would inappropriately say, it’s “Rose all day.” Cheers.

Whatever you decide about school, it's the right decision. Seriously

Thursday, July 30

I can still remember the first time I realized that as a parent, I didn’t have to listen to the “experts,” that I could make an educated decision regarding my son’s well being and health.

Last winter, David was sniffly all the time. It seemed like he had a perpetual runny nose or sinus infection brewing. Our pediatrician — who I adore, let me just say — was dragging his feet a bit about making any decision regarding possible allergies.

As I’ve said before, I’m an asthmatic with severe allergies. I know what an allergy attack looks like and one afternoon when I picked David up from a friend’s house, who happens to have cats, David’s poor little eyes were watering and he couldn’t stop coughing.

“This kid has allergies,” I said to myself. 

But what could I do?

“Give him some children’s allergy medicine at night and see if it helps,” my cousin, a pediatric nurse, suggested when I texted her that night.

“But don’t I have to tell his doctor?” I asked.

“No, he’s your kid. Just read the back of the label and if it doesn’t help, call your doctor.”

It did help. Within weeks the runny noses stopped and by his next wellness visit we hadn’t been in for a single sinus infection. When I explained that we put him on over-the-counter allergy medication, I waited for a lecture from our doctor.

But all he said was, “I’m glad it appears to be helping him.” And then moved on to the next subject.

Afterward I thought, “Oh right, I’m in charge of my child.”

Traditionally, I do like to wait for a medical expert to advise me. But when no one is weighing in and my gut is telling me something, I do my best to listen.

Why am I saying this? Because I realized yesterday, after my rant about the lack of guidance regarding what we should do with school this fall, that my husband and I can make our own decisions for what is best for our family right now.

And the rest, well, the rest is just noise. 

Parents, it’s clear that no one wants to make the final decision on what you should do, so it’s up to us individually. And here is all I’m going to say about that: Whatever decision you make, don’t let any parenting troll make you question or feel less because of your decision. 

You’re going to send your kids to whatever “open” school looks like? Good for you.

You’re enrolling them in the all-virtual choice right away? Rock on.

You’re fully home-schooling or hiring a tutor? Way to go.

You’re pulling them out and finding your own (legal) education path for a year? Excellent.

See the pattern here?

Parents, I support you. I see you. I applaud you.

Surprise! We still don't know what's going on with school

Tuesday, July 28

Remember that time in late March when we all told ourselves that if we made the sacrifices — skipped the weekly grocery runs, stayed away from loved ones and kept our children within the confines of our neighborhood block while wearing a mask — that everything would be OK come the fall?

The joke’s on us, right?

Like every other parent of a school-age child, I’ve been anxiously watching for signs of what the school year might look like, what the best option for my family would be if given the choice. There are arguments on every side for and against sending our kids back to school, and honestly, I’m not even sure who to trust anymore.

I do know this (and pardon my language): Moms get s--t done.

A few weeks ago, when I finally accepted the fact that kindergarten will not be the kindergarten that my son, and every other sweet child, deserves this year, I started researching other options. My cousin in North Carolina told me about how last spring, moms in her daughter’s class started “kid pods,” virtual at first, then in-person when it became safer, to help share the load of at-home learning. Basically, parents would team up and each take a lesson and help a handful of students. 

I started reaching out to those in my family who homeschooled their children long before COVID-19, and began asking around to see if anyone knows of tutors. 

Luckily, David’s best friend lives only a block away from our house and his parents were thinking about the same scenario. As long as both families remain healthy and diligent, we’ll band together come September and try to make the best of this terrible situation. 

“We got this!” the other mom texted me. 

Those three words grounded me in all of this, knowing that someone else is in my corner, understands what we’re up against and is willing to go in it together.

Because while so many of us like to say “we’re in this together,” we’re not. We may be in the same ocean, but completely different boats. 

I’m lucky. I have the financial means to think outside the educational box and the network and resources to make the best of this terrible situation. Other families are not. 

This is a no-win situation: for the parents, students and educators. And if you for a second start blaming teachers or administrators for this mess, I’ll have to ask you to stop right there and take a seat at the back of the class. 

I am outraged. But not at the educators who have been asked to create a completely new form of schooling without any guidance or financial support. As a parent, who followed the rules, stayed home, taught my child about “the sickies” and to fear close contact with anyone outside of our bubble, I’m livid that our government could not get our country’s response to this outbreak together in time for our first day of kindergarten.

Parents, our children are the ones being left behind in this mess. And working mothers are most likely the ones to bear the brunt of cleaning it up. We need to start screaming from the rooftops that this is unacceptable, and we need to show up and vote come November. 

Perhaps if there were more moms on the ballot, we’d get this s--t done. 

Give yourself, and your kids, the chance to 'restart' the day

Thursday, July 23

I’ve had a few mommy moments I haven’t been too proud of lately.

David is working through some real boredom right now, and suddenly has forgotten how to amuse himself and just play. There’s a lot of moping around, a lot of asking for iPad time or complaining there isn’t anything to do. I’m talking weeks of this, folks.

(I see you fellow parents, nodding your heads.)

Our “rainy day” ideas and surprise baskets are running low, even the promise of a movie night isn’t enough to hold him over some days. 

A few days ago, I believe the words “if you don’t play with some of these toys, they’re all going in the garbage!” spilled out of my mouth. David promptly walked away from me, little hands folded and sat on the couch, tearfully clutching his softies. My outburst did little to inspire playfulness, I suppose.

He’s started asking me when Kindergarten will start, and frankly, I don’t have an answer for him. 

We need what my family calls a “restart.”

Before my husband and I were married, we would sometimes take road trips on Saturdays, just finding someplace new within driving distance. Sometimes, one of us (errr … that’d be me) would be feeling a little cranky and we’d start bickering. One day, I just said, “let’s have a restart, right now!” And we did. It’s an acknowledgement between both parties that things are not going in a positive direction and we need to check ourselves. Then, we move on. 

We’ve used this on David a few times, and he’s finally old enough to get it. So yesterday, after a long walk ended with him crying because we wouldn’t let him sit on the park bench that was clearly marked with COVID materials stating, “don’t sit on benches,” I said, “Where’s your restart button, buddy? Can you push it?”

He looked up at me tearfully, with a smile sneaking in, as I gently poked his ears, his arm, belly and legs. 

“I can’t find that darn button!!” I said.

“Here it is, mama!” He pushed the mouth on his T-Rex shirt. “RESTART!”

And truthfully, the rest of the day went well. And this morning, I told him how I wanted to have the same great day and that if we did, we’d make a special Friday morning trip to the lake. I overheard him an hour or so later whispering to his beloved stuffed kangaroo, “Where’s your restart button, Kangee?” 

Wherever your restart button is, don’t forget to push it once in a while and give yourself the grace to accept that you’re in a bad mood, or not handling this all so well, and allow yourself the chance to change course. Even if it’s just for a few hours. The beauty is, you can hit that darn button as many times as you’d like.

Put them in coach, we're ready to play!

Wednesday, July 22

Today, I asked David what I should write about and he said, “Tell the people your cutie son is in karate and baseball. Little League, of course.”

These are the things we’re most psyched about in our house right now — the twice-a-week trek to Dalton for baseball practice is my biggest social outing of this pandemic, and karate provides a once-a week evening of ninja-like excitement and exercise for our 5-year-old. Because daddy drives him to that, I get 45 minutes of something I rarely experience: alone time. 

I never thought I’d be so jazzed to sit in the blazing hot sun on a Saturday afternoon wearing a mask, watching 5- and 6-year-olds pick at grass and try to figure out which one is second base. (It’s darn cute, let me tell you.)

It almost feels normal, except there are no dugouts or benches for the kids — they stand in the grass 6 feet apart next to ribbons on the fence, marking their spots. There is no hand shaking at the end of the game, instead the players line up (each a helicopter arms-length apart) and yell “good game!” with a tip of the hat across the field to the other team. Coaches wear masks and are the only adults allowed on the field, and parents have to bring their own chairs and sit in household clumps at least six feet apart. 

But, there are kids still having fun, learning to listen to another adult give instructions and making new friends. At the game Saturday, one little player joined David’s team for the first time, looking a little nervous and confused. The coach paired David up with the new No. 9 and by the first inning — I use the word inning lightly, there are no outs and no points scored — David was asking him where he got his helmet and showing off his new sports glasses, which “help him see the ball better.”

The new boy’s dad gave us a relieved nod of the head, and looked like he was smiling, though with a mask on it can be hard to see. But we understood — it’s already tough enough to make the decision to let your kids join in something right now, but to also do it after months of no real socialization with others, asking a little person to meet new people, try something new, can be difficult.

The first time we took David to baseball practice he said to me just as we got out of the car, “I’m a little nervous, mama.” I assured him that was OK and completely normal and we would be right where he could see us. Then I went behind my car and tried not to cry, his little voice breaking open my own nerves. Within minutes he was gleefully running around the field, but I can still feel the way my throat tightened upon his tiny voice expressing big emotions. 

But thank goodness for the chatty ones like David, and the coaches, teachers who volunteer their time like ours, to make every kid feel included in the fun. And thank goodness for the resiliency of children. And for sunscreen. Especially for sunscreen. 

Have some sweet family fun picking blueberries

Tuesday, July 21

If we’re going to be stuck at home with our kids all day, we might as well put them to work in the fields. The blueberry fields, of course.

It’s blueberry season in the Berkshires, and, to be honest, I’ve never had a chance to take advantage of it until now. The only time I’ve picked blueberries in my life was last year when I visited our garden columnist Ron Kujawski’s home garden. If you’ve never seen our video of the visit, now is a great time to watch it. Not only is his garden amazing, but Ron is a treasure of garden knowledge and extremely kind and funny. 

David has always wanted to go strawberry or blueberry picking ever since last year when our beloved preschool teacher Miss Kim introduced him to apple picking. He was so serious about the field trip that he practiced his apple picking technique in the bathtub, mouthing “twist, twist, gently pull” as his little hand mimicked what Miss Kim must have taught the class. Unfortunately, the weather never held out for the class trip, so our family decided to take the little farmer to Barlett’s Orchards for our apple picking adventure.

My mother walked up to the first tree and yanked an apple down to taste it.

“GRANDMA YOU CAN’T YANK ON THE APPLES!” David yelled in horror. “Now another one won’t grow in its place!”

To this day, he’ll suddenly stop and say, “Remember when grandma yanked that apple off the tree? I bet there’s no apple there now and people are wondering why …”

So before blueberry picking, we watched a YouTube video on how to best harvest the berries and we learned that gently yanking the ripe berries is the best way to do it. 

“Grandma will be great at this!” he said, triumphantly.

Today, we donned our sun hats and sunscreen and trekked over to Mountain View Farm in Lanesborough to pick some blueberries. It was hot, but breezy, and mercifully every once in a while a cloud would pass by. The view of the mountains is spectacular, and the farm’s COVID-19 precautions are commendable -- every person must wear a mask, washing and hand sanitizer stations are in place, as are social distancing guidelines. An hour and a half and 12 pounds of blueberries later, we were sweaty, tired, but excited to head home and eat our haul.

We asked the lovely woman running the cashier booth what we should do with all these berries once we got home and she suggested, after washing them, to flash freeze the berries by lining them out flat on a baking sheet, then once frozen, bagging them for the freezer. That way, we can avoid the berries getting mushy or clumping together. 

There were other families there with small children weaving in and out of the rows, yelling, “I found more berries here!” Some families had filled a few small pint containers, while other more-seasoned pickers walked away with more than us. 

Most summers, I never make time to do something like this with David. We’re usually running around the county going to press openings for plays, exhibits or pop-up restaurant events. But on this sunny day, my boy got to teach his grandma how to properly yank on the blueberries so just the ripe ones fall off the branch. 

I highly recommend making a morning or afternoon trip of it. Now excuse me while I go make some blueberry pie, which David decided after reading about one in his favorite Little Critter books, sounded “like a tasty idea.”

Our quarantine bubble has grown by one

Monday, July 20

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: I’ve been harboring a COVID-19 refugee from Arizona for the past two and a half weeks. 

Before you take up the social media pitchforks and come at me via email, my sister has been quarantining in our home since she landed in New York at the beginning of July. And before that, she had been holed up in her home for months on end as the coronavirus was ripping through the Northeast on its way to her state. 

At the beginning of the year, she had purchased her plane tickets to be home in July in time for David’s birthday; she spends an extended amount of time here with us every summer. This year, as we got closer and close and the travel restrictions got tighter and tighter, we decided that if she was able to get here safely, she should stay for as long as possible. 

At least here, she’s with family, away from the surge and in a state where most people believe in wearing masks. 

We were, of course, extremely concerned about her flying across the country and possibly exposing our family to the virus. But my sister took every precaution, even purchasing goggles to wear over her mask, which she never took off on her day-long journey other than to shove some food in her mouth during a quick layover. 

Having her here has been tremendously helpful with David, who adores his “auntie” and now spends his mornings listening in on her conference calls and “working” on her laptop. She was here for his first Little League baseball game, and has gotten to read all his favorite books dozens of times as well as make him countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

I’m more relaxed having another adult in the house to share the daily duties of work, chores and keeping David occupied and the screen time down. Cracking open a bottle of wine at 4 p.m. on a Thursday also feels less terrible when your sister is holding up her glass to be filled right next to you. It’s been a relief, really, for all of us.

So just remember the next time you share one of those “stay in your own states” memes on Facebook that there are responsible people looking to get out of whatever hot spot they may be in so they can weather the storm with loved ones. And, if you are, or you know someone, who is camping it out in the Berkshires right now, be a positive example, like my sister who is staying put, limiting her contact with anyone outside our family bubble. 

Put down your pitchfork, have a little understanding that we’re all figuring this out on our own. 

Try a little old-fashioned fun at the drive-in

Friday, July 17

Let’s remember 2020 as the year drive-in movies became popular again, because every time I open my inbox, I’ve got a news release announcing a new venue.

Currently, the Berkshires has three new spots for the good-ole’ fashioned entertainment: Shakespeare & Company is partnering with BIFF for films on its Lenox campus; the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center is showing films outdoors in the parking lot at the Daniel Arts Center at Simon’s Rock; and Berkshire Theatre Group's Sunset Cinema Outside is being held at the Taconic High School Parking lot. 

If you’re willing to make the drive, you can also go to a traditional drive-in that was here long before COVID-19 — Hathaway's Drive-In Theatre

It’s such a great, inventive way to offer safe entertainment for families. Now, if only my child didn’t turn into a demon monster screaming for his bed any time he is kept awake after 9 p.m. 

Once, long before I ever became a mother (remember those smug days when you swore your future children would never eat hot dogs, watch too much TV or change your schedule? HA — me too ..) I expected any future offspring of mine to handle changes in routine. And then came along our darling David, whose German streak runs deep and change is difficult. 

Almost any time we disrupt David’s bedtime routine, there are meltdowns, night terrors (those are fun, any parent can tell ya …) and just a miserable child. 

I so desperately want to put him in his pajamas, make some popcorn and take him to tonight’s showing of “The Iron Giant,” at Taconic High School. But, like a lot of things these days, it’s just not worth the stress and risk of a meltdown. 

Instead, I am going to try to sneak in a little walk around the neighborhood this evening, if the rain will stay away long enough, to take in some art by local artists. Pittsfield artist Jesse Tobin McCauley has organized a grassroots effort to hold a “Drive-Walk-Bike-By City Art Show” in Pittsfield. For the last three weeks, the event has been rained out. But tonight, they’re hoping the show can go on, and so I encourage anyone like me, looking for a little break in the routine, to check it out.

Beat boredom with fun ideas from our local libraries

Thursday, July 16

I’ve always loved librarians, but these days our local bibliophiles hold a special place in this mom’s heart. 

Even in the middle of a pandemic, our local librarians are here for us when we need them most — as always, giving our kids something to do. 

Here is a roundup of some of the fun things going on around the county, hosted by our libraries. (If I’ve missed anything, don’t be afraid to reach out and I’ll be happy to add it to the list! Email lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.)

  • At The Lenox Library, Gnorbitt the Reading Gnome has taken up residence in the children’s section and now his friends have created their own fairy garden. Stop by the Roche Reading Park and visit the gnomes, fairies and other magical creatures lurking behind the ferns, rocks and bushes. Please don’t touch them, however, we don’t want to scare them away! Next Tuesday and Thursday, stop by between noon and 5 p.m. and decorate rocks to help make the fairies feel at home.
  • The Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield has created "Take & Make" craft kits for kids and teens. Every week is a different kit, which includes directions and materials. Request one for your child or teen by calling 413-499-9495 and it can be picked up using curbside pickup. This week’s is a beaded gecko craft
  • The Stockbridge Library Association has been keeping busy during COVID-19 by offering a lot of great ZOOM calls for adults and children alike. For your slightly older readers, Miss Jenney offers a Zoom Read-A-Loud for free every Thursday afternoon. For younger children, there’s also a 24/7 hotline called “Dial-A-Story.” Call 413-298-5501 and press 1, or ask to be connected to the story. A new story is added every Thursday.
  • The Mason Library Children’s Room in Great Barrington is keeping kids engaged with lots of free giveaways on its Facebook page. The library is also hosting a StoryWalk on Monday, “The Kissing Hand Book Giveaway & Sidewalk Chalk Art.” Call 413-528-2403 ext. 4 to register to ensure you have a spot. 
  • The Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield is also hosting a StoryWalk right now for the book "The Colors of Us," written and illustrated by Karen Katz. 
  • South Berkshire Kids and the Lee Library are hosting another StoryWalk right now for “Shoes,” by Elizabeth Winthrop.
  • The North Adams Public Library is encouraging Lego lovers to build their own story out of blocks through prompts on its Facebook page. 

And, as always, most libraries are hosting some kind of virtual summer reading program to help you motivate your children. There’s crafts, games and the ability to win prizes at most of the programs. So, don’t forget to check in what your local librarian is up to, and also, more importantly, don’t forget to thank them!

Let's look on the positive side, pants are still optional

Wednesday, July 15

I know that I’ve been pretty, well, whiny lately. Let’s be honest, I’m a curly-haired woman who easily retains fluid — this heat and humidity is literally not pretty on me.

But yesterday afternoon, after the sun snuck behind the clouds and there was a cool breeze blowing through the neighborhood, David and I walked over to drop some birthday cookies off for one of his little friends. I sat on a bench, and the other mom on the front stoop and we enjoyed a conversation while the kids ran around the front yard, exploring their “hidden” garden on the side of the house. 

“See, there are some good things about all of this,” she said.

And I couldn’t disagree. Before COVID-19, so many times this same mom and I had said, “we should get together sometime, let the kids play in the yard.” 

It took us doing nothing to feel comfortable doing something. Before, I just would not have “stopped by,” but chances are that most of us are home now, right? 

We talked about other positives COVID-19 has given us. In so many ways, this has been harder on parents, but there are also some ways that make things easier:

  • Daycare drop-offs: Because of new regulations, parents can no longer go inside the building when dropping off their kids. As a mom of an only child, I hated the idea of this at first. But my friend with two small children pointed out how much easier it was on her not to have to take both kids out of car seats when dropping each off at different locations. 
  • Take-out is easier: When you have small children, you don’t always want to go out to a restaurant. Sometimes, it’s easier to control the chaos at your own dining room table. Now take-out menus have been revamped to make it easier for families, with most offering family-style meal options that are often cheaper than if we each ordered something different.
  • More time with family: This, we all know, is, of course, a blessing, but sometimes (especially when it’s wine-o’clock time) it’s a curse. But, we’ve had so many laughs, jokes and hours of playtime that we just wouldn’t have had if we weren’t told to stay home. 
  • Pants are optional: Heck, these days clothes are optional, at least in our house right now. My neighbors have now seen every pair of David’s new 8-pack of Power Rangers’ boys briefs streaking across the yard. And I simply don’t care.

What is not easier on parents, right now, is the complete lack of comprehensive, trustworthy information regarding kids going back to school in a mere month. It’s the No. 1 topic of conversation in all my parent circles right now: How will our kids safely return to school? 

Don’t think that I’m not with you parents on this one — I’m just choosing to stay quiet until we know more concrete information about what the fall may look like.

Do you feel comfortable going back to the gym?

Tuesday, July 14

I did it, folks: I finally broke down and bought a piece of exercise equipment.

I never thought I’d join the hoards of well-meaning healthy people who move furniture to make room for a piece of bulky equipment that is used for a few months, maybe a year, if you’re lucky, and then relegated to an expensive clothing rack.

But given everything that is going on, I’m just not ready to return to my gym. 

Even though gyms are reopening as part of Phase 3, mine is still working out the complicated sanitizing kinks. And as much as I LOVE my trainers -- shout out, Regine and Tuan! -- and my fellow sweaty gym peeps in the back row complaining about lunges and offering up sage parenting advice, I don’t know when I’ll get back. 

It’s not only a comfort level issue in the face of the pandemic, but also a time issue. Because I’m home with David 24/7 now, I can’t commit to specific time slots to get a machine, or even get to my favorite classes if/when they’re moved outdoors. 

I imagine a lot of parents are like me, right now. 

So I did the thing. I bought a spin bike and downloaded the Peloton app after a number of my friends highly recommended it for all kinds of workouts, not just cycling. 

This morning, for the first time in a while, I got back on the bike both literally and figuratively. It was great and the app was a really good user experience. The first trial month is free and after that it’s $12.99 a month. 

Also, so many of our local gyms are offering virtual or outdoor classes that may fit with your schedule. Last week, Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness started up their popular outdoor classes for yoga and Zumba. And pools and fitness centers are reopening at the YMCAs. 

If you decide to go back to the gym, give those working the front desks, cleaning the spaces and teaching classes some love and a lot of leeway. This is hard, new and challenging and we’re all figuring it out as we go.

Happy Birthday! Now let me stick this COVID swab up your nose ...

Monday, July 13

In the last week, David learned he loves to eat snap peas, has acquired a new appreciation for the Power Rangers Beast Morpher franchise, turned 5 years old (which “definitely feels older, mommy” for those of you wondering) and experienced the tear-inducing COVID-19 test.

And, he’s been officially diagnosed with asthma.

How was your week while I was away on furlough?

Mine was a humid three-ring circus with too much birthday cake, air conditioning and doctors visits. 

Around mid-week, last week, I noticed David was coughing a lot. Then there was the runny nose and sore throat. The adults in our family bubble all assured each other it was just a summer cold, allergies maybe. It carried on at different degrees through the weekend into his fifth birthday celebrations, but never warranted more than the occasional nose wipe or dose of Tylenol. 

On Saturday, we had about 10 family members over to the house for cake, pinata action and Power Rangers photobooth fun. David was the only kid and we tried our best to make it just as fun-filled without his little comrades. But by late afternoon, it seemed like he was gasping for air, then he asked me, “Why can’t I breathe, mommy?” 

I’m an asthmatic. I know that feeling when your chest gets so tight it feels like a bowling ball is sitting right on your sternum. 

My husband and I quickly made the decision to take him to Urgent Care for a breathing treatment, leaving our worried relatives to clean up the rest of the birthday mess. 

Armed with his new favorite action figure Gold Power Ranger, David masked up and walked into the office only to be told to go directly to the Emergency Room. They couldn’t help us because his symptoms were too close to COVID-19 and they don’t have pressure chambers that can handle nebulizers dispersing germs into the air. 

We bravely nodded as the nurse explained how we needed to call the triage desk at the hospital from our car. My husband and I looked at each other, over our masks, our eyes silently conveying calm over our very real worries.

David didn’t understand. “They think I have the sickies, mommy?”

“Maybe buddy, but it’s OK. They have good doctors to help us.”

At the ER we were rushed to a back room, and the doctors donned gowns out of caution. After David was given the nasal swab (let me just say, he DID NOT take it as well as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo did when he took the test on national television), we silently nodded as the doctor explained that if the test was positive, we would be sent to Baystate’s Pediatric ICU because of his respiratory distress.

This is the world we live in. Six excruciating hours passed in that room as we tried to keep an exhausted, wheezing David comfortable while worrying about the family members we had possibly just exposed.

“We’re those a--holes you hear about on the news who create a COVID hotspot at a kids’ birthday party,” I said, imagining a front page Berkshire Eagle story.

Finally, after a normal chest X-ray, breathing treatment and one very upsetting shot of steroids in the butt (that made the COVID test look like nose tickle), we were sent home to let David rest more comfortably in his bed, with the promise of his test results that night. 

Thankfully, within 30 minutes of getting David into his bed, fast asleep, the doctor called. David was negative for COVID-19.

A follow-up to our pediatrician today confirmed what we’ve been dancing around for years, he does have asthma. We now have an action plan for getting his breathing and allergies under control and this mommy can add carrying a rescue inhaler to her ever-growing list of must-haves as we walk out the door: Mask? Check. Hand sanitizer? Check. Water, snacks and books? Check. Inhalers? Check. Check. 

I have a complicated relationship with my own asthma diagnosis. I was the kid you could hear wheezing just walking down the hall; I could never have pets, or ride horses because of my severe allergies. My inability to keep up with the other kids defined my childhood in a lot of ways and I never wanted my son to have the same experience. 

His doctors assure me that things are a lot different now, that his case doesn’t seem to be as serious. And after the COVID scare, I’ve never felt more relieved to hear the word “asthma.”

This is the second time our immediate family has gone through COVID testing, and it only firms our resolve to remain vigilant. Saturday night, after we got the all-clear call, my husband and I laid in bed, held hands and silently thanked God for our health, and ticked off the years we aged in those six hours. 

It’s a solid 10 years for me, judging by my sprouting gray hairs. 

No matter the size, a celebration deserves chocolate cake

Thursday, July 2

I’m not sure where the time went, but the next time you read this column, I’ll be the quarantined mom of a 5-year-old boy.

(I’m not crying, you are.)

Next week, I’ll be off on furlough, and during that time my sweet boy will celebrate his fifth birthday. We’re not sure what the theme is yet, though, our house is currently prepared for a Power Rangers, Spider-Man, Avengers-themed mash-up, but if the kid suddenly throws in something like “rockets” in the mix, I’ll have to put my foot down. 

Traditionally, David’s birthday parties are a little over-the-top. I’m not talking “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” over-the-top, but like, wow, those people got a professional face-painter and even the bathroom is decorated in the theme over-the-top.

But this year, we’re scaling the party, and the guest list, way back. Instead of my yard filled with his best buds and their families, it will just be our immediate family playing pin the sword on the Power Ranger (it’s a real thing, look it up.) and I may make a smaller version of the chocolate cake I make every year. 

I’m a little sad, of course, that we can’t have his little friends all here together. I have photos from each year they’ve joined us from age 2 on up. I love watching them grow, and getting to laugh on the lawn with fellow parents. Every year, on a hot July afternoon, our yard is filled with balloons, too much sugar, and so much little laughter. But I’m also so very thankful because if you had asked me months ago if I thought we would even be able to have anyone over for this, I would have flat out said “no.”

The party won’t be how it always looked, but it will be filled with laughter, too much sugar and, I’m sure, large superhero cutouts that will eventually have to move back into my house and lurk behind bedroom doors because David refuses to let me toss them out. 

I hope you all have a fun, relaxed holiday weekend, that involves laughter, too much sugar and, if you need it, a little chocolate cake. 

Here’s my favorite recipe that every family member requests for their birthday. Happy July — see you on the other side of 5!

Chocolate cake


2 cups sugar

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water (or coffee)


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely. Frost with chocolate frosting.

Frosting: Melt 1 stick of butter. Stir in 2/3 cup cocoa. Alternately add 3 cups of powdered sugar and 1/3 cup of milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Makes about 2 cups of frosting.

Let's toast to Tanglewood this weekend, on our own lawns

Wednesday, July 1

It might not feel like it, but today, Tanglewood’s summer kicks off. Online, of course.

In all honesty, this virtual event has been a tough musical pill for my family to swallow. We are Lawn people, with specific cooler bags at the ready — filled with plastic cutlery, bug spray and candles — and lawn chairs, our picnic table and blanket always in the car just in case we decide we want to take the short drive over to Lenox for an evening of magic.

But, of course, not this summer.

If you asked my husband and I separately what made us fall in love with the Berkshires, decide to move here instead of commuting from just over the New York border, we would both say “Tanglewood.” We had heard glowing reviews from other people, but the idea of an outdoor classical music venue didn’t initially wow us. We’re from the Capital Region, so Saratoga Performing Arts Center was a popular summer spot for us, pre-David. We couldn’t imagine how Tanglewood could be that much better.

And then we visited for a Saturday morning rehearsal and have never gone back to SPAC since.

Like most of you, I’m sure, so much of my family’s summers are tied to some memory of Tanglewood.  

Almost five years ago today, I was waddling back and forth across the Lawn, hoping the music would inspire the giant baby taking up precious internal organ real estate to exit stage left and join the world (spoiler alert: it took another 10 days).

One of our first date nights out, after David was born, was Shed tickets to see James Taylor. I can still feel the goosebumps on my arm and the tears that unexpectedly came to my eyes when he sang, “Now the first of December was covered with snow / So was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston / The Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting / With 10 miles behind me and ten thousand more to go.”

On David’s first birthday, we had a picnic on the Lawn with my family as he crawled across the grass. He compares all trees to “Tanglewood trees” and fell in love with the guitar and banjo last summer when I was able to take him in the Shed for the live taping of “Live from Here” with Chris Thile. (Which, also, fell off the artistic landscape this summer due to COVID-19.) 

But this weekend, we’ll make some new memories when I finally dig out that digital projector out of the closet and we transform our lawn into THE Lawn. (Ours, by the way, not nearly as well-manicured.) I’ll make our favorite picnic items, and might even walk around the block dragging our Tanglewood-approved red canvas wagon (you know the seasoned professionals when you see the red wagon …) to get the full effect. And we’ll watch the virtual performances under the stars in our own yard and imagine, for a moment, the shared tears, joy and applause we’ll all share, hopefully next summer or the summer after that, when we get to return to the real Lawn, together. 

Wondering what happened in June? Find out in Lindsey Hollenbaugh | Quarantined with Kids: Part IV.