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Lindsey Hollenbaugh | Quarantined with kids: Where do all those cute painted rocks come from?

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Our neighborhood walks have gotten a tad more interesting thanks to some well-hidden rocks.

David has started noticing brightly-colored rocks tucked into tree trunks, around garden edges and leaning against lamp posts. 

I wasn’t sure where they were coming from, but then we found a sweet little rock garden at the back gate of Egremont Elementary School in our neighborhood in Pittsfield. The pile of painted rocks with the hashtag #413KindnessRocks encourages people to take a rock or add to the garden with their own creations. 

I spoke with Beth O’Brien, or “the rock lady” as the neighborhood kids have started calling her, over the phone yesterday to find out what inspired her to paint more than 600 rocks and create this fun neighborhood project.

“In our neighborhood, with so many kids, I thought it might inspire them to also paint rocks and have something fun for families to do,” said O’Brien, who is currently sheltering at home with her two teenage sons. She began leaving the rocks outside the back gate of the school on the corner of Cambridge Avenue and Hazlewood Terrace. 

Like some other moms, I imagine, I wanted to join the fun, but couldn’t imagine letting my tiny Picasso — who paints more like Pollock — to get his hands on non-preschool friendly paint. But O’Brien, who uses acrylic paint pens to make her sweet rock creations, said any paint will do as long as I use a spray sealant to lock in the color.

O’Brien gets inspiration from all sorts of things, she said, but mostly she writes inspiration messages for little ones and tries her best at cartoon characters. 

“I’ve made a lot of friends,” she said with a laugh, describing how she takes a haul of rocks in her car once a week to the spot to refill the garden. 

It’s such a sweet idea and a delightful distraction for our daily walks that are feeling more like an endless time loop these days. It also gives us something to do with the large collection of rocks currently taking up precious porch real estate at my house. 

For more inspiration, follow O’Brien’s rock project on Instagram at 413KindnessRocks, or start your own neighborhood rock garden and share it with #413KindnessRocks.

Don't pee in your bathing suit, and other life lessons

Wednesday, May 27

Yesterday, a sales representative on the phone told me that she had read a study somewhere that kids between the ages of 3 and 5 ask their parents something like 1,000 questions in that span.

Actually, the study in 2013 found children asked their mothers, on average, 288 questions a day, with 4-year-olds closer to the 390 a day range. If I had to wager an over/under bet in my household this morning alone, I wouldn’t do anything less than 400. 

We started the morning with every question imaginable about Avengers at 6:40 a.m. when mommy tried to sneak a few moments of quiet coffee time on the front porch while it was still a little cool out. 

Just the birds chirping, the low hum of the occasional car driving by and David asking me multiple times, “which bad-guy Avenger should I be?” “What’s the name of that guy that looks like Thor but isn’t Thor and he has an ax, not a hammer?” “WHAT’S HIS NAME, MOMMY?!?”

To all my neighbors trying to sleep in this morning, I apologize. 

Back by popular demand, here are a few of David’s best questions (so far) this week:

  • “Why can’t I just go potty in my bathing suit?”
    Followed up by: “Will you be mad if I already did? I didn’t know the rules ...”
  • “Can I play with the hose?” (When I told him to ask daddy he then asked, “Why? I thought you were the boss of the house?”)
  • “What does S-H-I-T spell?” (After his father had muttered in the front seat of the car that our darling boy was being a little S-H-I-T that morning. It’s true, he was being one.)
  • “What are you talking about?” (Anytime adults start whispering.)
  • “What happens if a bird poops in the air?” (Followed by a look of horror when I explained it just falls to the ground. “It COULD LAND ON ME?!?”)
  • “Why does the grass keep growing?”
  • “If the sickies are slowing down, why can’t I see my friends?”

If anyone has a great explanation for that last question that a 4-year-old will grasp, let me know!

Time to put those kids to work in the yard

Tuesday, May 26

This weekend felt like a flashback to that popular Home Depot commercial — the mom and dad holding a rake and shovel, mounds of mulch by their F350 pickup while the kids run through the sprinklers: “Let’s do this.”

My family has decided to go all-in on the yard this year. Heck, we’ve got nothing else to do besides fertilize, mow, weed, water and mulch, am I right? 

I’ve added three raised beds to my existing two raised beds, the flower pots have doubled and I’m now like those lovely retired ladies I used to see wandering their yards in giant sun hats muttering about the pansies. 

If I decide to add some kind of water feature — besides my 4-year-old currently flooding my backyard with the hose — I may need an intervention. 

Our beloved garden columnist Ron Kujawski always advises to “start small,” then work your way up. I always seem to skip the “work-your-way-up” part and just go from small to Whitney-Farms exploded in my backyard.

If you’re like me, you may want to consider entering The Eagle’s Home Grown Grow-Off competition. Don’t worry, I can’t beat you all because half of my plants are already dying, and I’m an employee so I’m disqualified.   

All you have to do is go to and submit photos of your quarantine garden. You could win up to $500 — that’s a lot of mulch!

Good luck!

You might as well laugh through all of this

Friday, May 22

Some people are taking up gardening, others baking sourdough bread; David is using his time while in quarantine to hone his stand-up comedian skills.

(He’s also working on his summer bod, practicing flexing his muscles in the window reflection much to our neighbor’s delight.)

He’s suddenly into telling jokes. The other night after dinner, instead of running around like an Avenger maniac he said, “Let’s all sit on the couch and tell jokes.” I swear, all he needed to do next was ask for a glass of Cognac and I’d believe in reincarnation Bing Crosby style.

This one is his favorite: 
What did the rug say to the floor? 
I’ve got you covered.

We also got a real good 4-year-old laugh at these:

What do you call a sleeping dinosaur?

What did the ocean say to the pirate?
Nothing. It just waved.

Where do polar bears keep their money?
In a snow bank!

My favorite part of this joke phase is after everyone he says, “Get it?!?” 

Last night, my husband and I were talking about our days (news flash: little to report on my end, “I saw that lady come out and mow her lawn for 20 minutes …”) and he mentioned that he had chili for lunch. (Again, real hard-hitting stuff here folks.)

David suddenly said, “Daddy, make sure you don’t get cold.” To which he replied, “Why buddy?”

He paused. “Because you said you had chili. Get it CHILLY!” 

He actually came up with that one on his own, and landed the punchline. We couldn’t stop laughing.

Then he said, “Relax, guys, it wasn’t that funny.”

Should we just cancel summer?

Thursday, May 21

Did anyone else not realize Memorial Day was Monday?

I feel terrible writing that sentence, but the calendar means nothing to me right now in this endless loop of the game I like to call “Um, mommy. Mommy. MOMMY!” 

My sister happened to mention a three-day weekend (weekend, what is that again?) on our daily FaceTime chat and I had to pause to think of what month we are in. 

Like most of you I suspect, traditionally this weekend would be spent outside gardening, and having some friends and family over for a barbecue. We’d probably spend some hours on our local playground set, planning out our busy summer weekends of live theater, evenings at Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow. Is it even summer without those things?

Of course, it is, I know, deep down. But man, what kind of summer? When the news came out that Pittsfield had canceled its annual Fourth of July parade, I asked my husband, “How many more summers do we have left where David will be so excited to see the big balloons come down the street?”

A lot of things made me fall in love with this community, but the first time I saw the Fourth of July parade and my sweet little boy’s eyes light up at the grand scale of the celebration I knew this was where I wanted him to grow up. I hope it will come back stronger and better next year. 

I imagine this quarantine will continue to go along like this … dozens of tiny and large moments that slip by. We’ll mourn them, maybe get angry. But how do we keep going and not let these days, months just slip by? 

Our family has decided to find our own ways to mark these occasions. We’re going to have our own Tanglewood picnics in the backyard, keep barbecuing and gardening, of course. And maybe we’ll hold our own Fourth of July parade in our driveway. We’ll definitely make a donation to the parade’s fund for next year, just so we remember how important these moments are to ourselves and our communities.

Don't forget your most important home-office item ... sunscreen

Wednesday, May 20

This a PSA: Put on some sunscreen. And wear a hat while you’re at it.

If you’re like me, a descendant of the McCaffrey clan whose most Irish feature is my translucent skin that goes from pale to crispy fried in a matter of 20 minutes, this sudden change in sun exposure is causing you to retreat to the only shady corner of the deck while wearing a giant sun hat. (Literally me right now.) 

Like most of you, I suspect, I’m used to spending my sunny spring and summer months working inside a cubicle, stealing a few rays of sunlight on walks around the building or the occasional errand, clocking out at 5 p.m. to rush home and make dinner and maybe sit on the porch as the sun sets. But now, my office, like my once rigid rules about screen time, is transitory. 

David loves to be outside, mostly because our neighbors are just so darn interesting and he doesn’t want to miss a second of the action from the crow’s nest of his Avenger’s fort. (Yes, I know I mixed my pirates and my superheroes, but this is how our house runs right now.) We’re still working on getting our back deck furniture out of the garage — it did snow like six days ago, right? So there’s no umbrella to hide under with my laptop. 

Cue the sunscreen. And the shorts. Speaking of shorts, this quarantine has also made me realize I own one pair to every five pairs of linen dress capri slacks that are great for summer office attire but not mommy-now-drinks-at-3-p.m. attire. If you’re nodding along with me, Old Navy is having a 50% off everything sale right now. You’re welcome.

I also have to remember to put sunscreen on my child. Before COVID-19, for 40 hours of sunlight a week it was someone else’s responsibility. I’ll never again take for granted picking up my pale son at the end of the day from daycare or preschool smelling pleasantly of sun, sunscreen and sand with no sunburn in sight. Now it’s like a noon-time mud pit wrestling match, except it’s me and my slippery 4-year-old on the front porch with a bottle of sunscreen while he screams it’s “TOO COLD, MAMA!” 

I wave to the neighbors, assuring them that they don’t need to call the police. I’m just trying to put sunscreen on the child. 

Here’s to summer at home, folks. Go buy more sunscreen.

Yay, the state is reopening! But what about our kids?

Tuesday, May 19

Yesterday, Gov. Charlie Baker outlined the state’s phased plan for reopening Massachusetts. 

While there is plenty of information regarding the reopening of businesses and restaurants, I’m sure parents like me are noticing a real lack of info regarding when our sweet, adorable balls of energy can go back to some kind of socialization, i.e. camp, daycare, preschool or just being dropped off at a friends house while mom lies silently on the living room floor for 25 minutes. (Sorry for that uncomfortable look at my current fantasy.)

There are a lot of parents right now sweating out how we are going to go back to work if there’s no place for our kids to safely go. I’m lucky, I know I can work from home, or stagger my days with my husband if we absolutely have to. 

According to our story in today’s paper, Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield said, "The reality is there's still a lot of work to do." He said the state has a role to play making sure "gaps are filled" as operations restart, like securing personal protective gear for workers, and said there is a need to expand child care as more employees report to work.

"If people are moving back to work, we have to make sure our child care system is up and running," he said.

Louder for the people in the back, Sen. Hinds!

While Gov. Baker’s phased plan was missing some key elements regarding parenting, here’s my take on how this all is going to go down. (FYI: In no way is this at all backed up by scientific evidence or research …)

Current state: Stay at home: Those of us with small children at home continue to lose our sanity as we sing the PJ Masks’ theme songs to ourselves while doing laundry for the 100th time this week. We continue to ration our supply of gummy packets and worry over our dwindling bottles of wine. 

Phase 1: Start: We’re still at home — what day is it? — but now we’ve got more construction trucks to follow around the neighborhood. To anyone in power who is reading this: If we could somehow circulate where the street sweepers, big construction trucks are going to be on any given day in the city that would be awesome. Then, we can plan our walking routes accordingly. 

Phase 2: Cautious: Recreational day camps can begin reopening — yay! Maybe a few more parks will be open where we can spend the whole time yelling, “don’t get too close to him! Don’t touch your face! Where is the hand sanitizer?!?” Also, we may get our names on a waiting list for a haircut.  

Phase 3: Vigilant: Residential camps will reopen, hopefully with enough time left in the summer for you to use them! Your little slugger may get on a little league team by now, but you still can’t invite the whole family to watch him pluck dandelions in left field. You might be able to go on a date night with your partner in a bar -- but good luck finding a babysitter!

Phase 4: New Normal:Honestly, I can’t even take a guess on what our “new normal” will look like. But here’s to hoping it includes some place for my sweet boy to go where he can play with friends again, learn and grow. And where somebody else will feed him … just one meal. That’s all I ask. Please. No. More. Lunches. Snacks. Please.

Find your own spot to unload some rocks into the river

Monday, May 18

Sometimes, a little change in scenery is all you need to reset your attitude.

David and I took a personal day on Friday — but really, isn’t every day a personal day for preschoolers? — and drove to the Catskills in upstate New York to shelter-in-place at my parents’ house before they return this week from their four months away in Arizona. 

We packed our masks, hand sanitizer and enough food for the weekend and our bikes, board games and bug spray. My husband met us there Friday evening and we spent all day Saturday throwing rocks in the nearby East Branch of the Delaware River where we saw colorful birds and the occasional small fishing boat launch from the riverbank. We walked over the historic covered bridge and raced back and forth in their large backyard. 

My parents live in a large house in the center of a small town, where there’s really only one restaurant and one traffic light that starts blinking at 10 p.m. every night. Everyone knows everyone, and, lately, if they don’t know you, you’re eyed suspiciously. The town sits on the edge of the Pepacton Reservoir, which feeds drinking water downstate to New York City’s water supply. That’s about the only connection the place has to Manhattan. There are few cases of COVID-19 in the town and they’d like to keep it that way. 

Like many Berkshire County residents who live in heavily populated second-homeowner towns, residents of my hometown are leary, right now, of “city people.” More than once I had to fight the urge to yell “I’m one of the Hollenbaugh girls!” when I was eyed on my walks through town. Luckily, most locals recognize my curly hair, Massachusetts license plates and our Spiderman-clad son from his trips to grandpa’s house and just smile and wave. But we kept our distance, and our masks.

It was great for us to catch our breath, look at some different walls, enjoy some different scenery on our daily walks. We are incredibly lucky that we had a safe, available option to do that. I don’t take that for granted for a second, and I don’t let David either. In all of this, I’ve been doing my best to remind David (and myself and my husband) how darn lucky we are. Even when there are days we don’t think we can stand another second of staying home, I remind them how comfortable our home is and how others don’t have that luxury. 

Some people don’t have big yards with a playset, or a driveway smooth enough for bicycles. Or a grandparent’s house that has been vacant for months. Or a place to throw rocks in the river. Let’s remember that we’re all trying to do our best and stay safe and sane. City, country or in between, we all need a little break, change in scenery — even if it’s just walking up a different street or section of town. Just keep your distance, and smile at each other underneath that mask. 

During COVID-19 you can still show your support ... from a distance

Thursday, May 14

My mother always kept a box of brownie mix in the pantry just in case the craving struck our family, or someone we knew in town was sick, hospitalized or suffered a family loss.

Without fail — even to this day, I think — my mom will drop a pan of brownies, or a pan of ziti, off at a neighbor’s house in a show of support. 

For some reason, it seems like the practice skipped my generation. I’ve talked to more than one friend in my age group about this and most are in agreement that it was something we were raised to do, but in the communities we’ve joined, it just doesn’t happen. Perhaps it’s because so many people have food allergies now, or specific dietary needs. Or, we’re a generation so used to connecting virtually that the thought of dropping off food feels intrusive? 

Recently, I found out David’s very best friend in the whole world lost his grandpa after a long illness. We were heartbroken to hear the news and mortified that it had happened more than a week ago and we didn’t know, didn’t immediately reach out to express our deep sympathy for their loss.

COVID-19 has robbed so many people of so many things, but it’s times like this that I’m reminded how cruel it all is — to deal with a loss during a time when you can’t gather, can’t mourn together is unthinkable. 

I’ve been thinking about what I can do to show the family support and remembered my mom’s perfect standby. Luckily, my pantry mirrors my mom’s and I had a box of brownie mix on the top shelf. I decided to one-up her and make a care package of brownie sundaes, complete with a pint of local frozen yogurt, a bag of sprinkles and homemade strawberry sauce. 

We’re going to drop it all off on their porch later this afternoon (hopefully, they don’t read it here first! Surprise!). There’s a lot we can’t control right now, but we can still support one another and show we care. And no matter what, a brownie sundae can’t hurt, right?

Strawberry sauce
Perfect over ice cream, brownies or pound cake. This is also a great way to use up some strawberries that are close to going bad.
1 lb strawberries, hulled and sliced thin
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook on medium for 20 to 25 minutes until strawberry sauce thickens to your liking.

Dear, Gov. Baker: When can grandma and grandpa come visit?

Wednesday, May 13

I recently saw a meme on Facebook that said: “Forget the hair salons, barbershops and restaurants, when do grandparents reopen?” 

*Raises hand*

Yesterday, David woke up at 5:30 a.m. asking for a drink of water and never went back to sleep. By 10:30 a.m., he had already cried three times at the breakfast table because his hands were too sticky but refused to let me wash him up, and he was curled up on the couch pouting because he didn’t understand why he had to put pants on. It was a long day.

When we called my parents, who are still in Arizona with my sister, for our daily afternoon check-in, he told them “mommy wasn’t being nice to me.” My mom tried to kindly explain that it isn’t about being nice or not nice, that mommy just wants him to be a good boy. That went over like the 9 a.m. sticky maple syrup debacle.

David is over seeing his grandparents on a screen. And, I know, they are over seeing him like that too. And I’m over not getting a break. My parents are the kind who swoop in our house and seamlessly take over, giving this working mom and dad much needed date nights, occasional weekends away, and just an extra set of two hands on any given weekend.

Hopefully, they’ll be back to their home in upstate New York sometime later next week, and after a self-imposed two-week quarantine, we’re hoping the COVID-19 numbers will be low enough that we feel safe to include them in our family bubble. We’re cautiously optimistic that these grandparents will be open for business by mid-June.

I know I’m not the only parent struggling with this decision: When do we take the next step and let our closest family members help out. The summer is going to be a long one and our “new normal” will most likely stretch into the fall and winter. I know that this family is going to need backup. But I also don’t want to put my parents or my immediate family at risk. 

I’m reminded of something Molly Rivest of CHP Barrington OB/GYN, said to me during our interview about new moms, that basically, every parent has to make their own decision given the situation they are in, and it isn’t anyone’s place to judge. 

“Moms are made to feel like they are doing it wrong 90 percent of the time,” she said. “Identify that it is likely that a mom has looked at all the things to fix this important situation and she might decide she has to hire a nanny, go back to work or ask for help. She is making the best decision for her family and does not need to feel ashamed about that. Think about, ‘What are the reasons a person made that choice?’ Everyone is trying to do their best right now.”

If you need a good cry — and really, who doesn’t these days? — watch this video shared by CBS of a 5-year-old seeing her grandparents for the first time after two months of shelter-in-place in Italy. David told me when he sees his grandpa he’s going to beat his chest like King Kong and “tackle him” because he’s ready to “rough house” his grandpa. Not quite the heartwarming story you were looking for, but will still produce tears, I’m sure. 

Celebrate 75 years of Thomas the Train with free content

Tuesday, May 12

Happy Birthday, Thomas! It’s hard to believe that lovable little blue train full of British dialogue and toddler-friendly life lessons has been chugging along for 75 years.

The first Thomas & Friends story was created 75 years ago by Rev. W. Awdry for his son, Christopher. Today, kids, including mine, are still charmed by the train. But can we have an aside about the bullying personality of Sir Topham Hatt? Someone needs to report him to HR ...

While David has outgrown the television shows, Thomas the Train and his friends make monthly appearances in my living room, where their expansive (and expensive, might I add!) track system takes over my rug. Thomas helped us get through potty training — may I suggest, “My Thomas Potty Book,” for some good reading (now, if only they had a “Thomas FLUSHES THE TOILET” book we’d be all set …). And some of our best family memories come from summer days spent at Thomas Land | Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver.

In honor of the No. 1 train on the tracks and in our hearts, the makers of Thomas & Friend’s have released new content to help us celebrate safely while at home.

  • Happy Birthday, Thomas! Album — Throw a dance party with the kids while listening to Thomas’ new birthday album (available now) that includes three new celebration-themed songs. The album is available across all major digital music platforms. The brand is also launching over 50 more new songs throughout the year, with accompanying music videos on YouTube.
  • Thomas & Friends Storytime Podcast Beginning today, kids will be able to tune in to and listen to a podcast created just for them featuring new Thomas & Friends stories. There will be 46 stories, released weekly, including origin stories of favorite characters, Thomas versions of fairytales, and adaptations of previous television episodes and books. Each episode ranges from 5 to 10 minutes and will be available on all major podcast platforms.  
  • Caribu App Video Series featuring Kevin Jonas — Have a virtual play date and watch singer and actor Kevin Jonas read classic Thomas & Friends books. Jonas, who is a father of two daughters, is teaming up with Mattel and video app Caribu to read books for the beloved children’s brand’s 75th anniversary. New videos are being released each week throughout the month of May. The first two episodes are available to view now and are free for the month of May. Click here to watch a preview.
  • Thomas & Friends Bedtime Stories — Wind down each night with special Thomas & Friends-themed sleep stories and guided meditations on Calm, an app for sleep, meditation and relaxation. The content will be available for free for the month of May on the Calm app.   

Neighborhood birds find cozy one-bedroom apartment in our flower box

Monday, May 11

I used to stress out about getting to preschool pick-up on time, running late to meetings and missing deadlines. These days, I’m mostly stressing out about the birds trying to build a nest in my house number flower box by our front door.

At first, the bird activity around the house was welcomed; the daily comings and goings of our feathered friends have turned into somewhat of a sporting event around here as we anxiously await for one to land on our bird feeder. My husband is the resident ornithologist in our household and often surprises me with his bird knowledge. His father loved birds and taught him about the different types. So, when we moved into the house five years ago, I bought him a bird feeder for our first Father’s Day in the home.

But recently, we noticed birds flying low and fast through our porch. It took a few days to realize that the birds were setting up their own quarantine love nest in my small wooden flower box, which currently has fake boughs filling the space where I normally put succulents come warmer weather. Apparently, my fake foliage is real enough for them because we can’t seem to get them to stop trying to nest.

Google has proven to be unhelpful: At this time, we’ve tried poking toothpicks through the boughs (they just rest of them) and I’ve even rested a shiny DVD in the box to try to scare them away — I swear, I just heard one of the birds ask the other “when did we get a full-length mirror?”

The only thing that seems to be working is David’s relentless march to the front door to swing it open and scare the birds every time we hear it. I didn’t realize how proficient he was becoming at it until this afternoon I heard the door open (which I had locked) and then he yelled: “birds again!”

As the longtime editor of our resident bird expert Thom Smith, I’m ashamed to say I know little about birds. I decided maybe we should learn a little bit about our new squatters to see if there was a way to convince them more natural real estate would be to their liking. Thanks to Thom, I do know that is an excellent resource. 

David and I spent about 30 minutes looking through the site today trying to figure out what kind of bird we have nesting in our house number. We talked about the color of the bird and the sounds it makes. The website has videos and sound links to all of the birds to help you identify the correct species. From what we can tell, we’re convinced we have a pair of House Finch

I highly recommend it, if you haven’t checked it out. Even if you’re not what you would consider a “bird person,” (guilty!) it was interesting and David really seemed to like it. Plus, we’re all at home looking out the window most of the time, might as well enjoy the birds!

Now, pardon me while I email Thom Smith about how to stop these feisty, noisy neighbors from taking over our front porch.   

This is what mom really wants for Mother's Day ...

Friday, May 8, 2020

When I recently asked nurse practitioner Molly Rivest of CHP Barrington OB/GYN during an interview what her “plans” were for Mother’s Day, the mom of three laughed.

“My request was, I wanted to be alone,” she said over the phone. “Sunday, I want to get in the car and drive away and not be back for several hours.”

Preach it, sister.

Molly is currently working from home with her husband and their three kids, ages 5, 3, and 1. When I called her for our arranged interview for a story I’m working on about new moms during COVID-19 for Mother’s Day, she admitted she was sitting in her car in an empty parking lot to ensure she wouldn’t get any little people distractions. I laughed, as I swatted away my 4-year-old who was holding up his tablet to show me that he had found where I hid it. 

Full disclosure: Molly is my doctor. A doctor, I must admit, I haven’t seen for my regular visit since she was a mom of two. I adore her and immediately felt at ease with her the first time I walked into her exam room. We’re around the same age and are working moms with big goals for ourselves and our children. 

In our interview, her candid remarks about motherhood reminded me of why I trust her so much with my health.

“Being a mom is so wonderful and consuming and depleting that it is critical that a mom — who is called upon in many families in a different way than the other parent — has time to be just completely off the clock,” she said. 

Cue me holding my mom timecard waiting at the door for my husband to walk in at the end of the day so I can punch out for the two minutes it takes for me to go grab the garbage can outside. “I’ll be right back!”

Even if the mom in your life doesn’t ask for it: give her some space and time on Sunday. Take the kids for a walk around the block, let her sit in her room and scroll through Pinterest boards of closet organizing ideas or let her take a drive around the neighborhood. Everyone will be happier for it come Sunday night.

And moms — I see you killing it out there. Keep it going. You are rockstars who deserve all the stretchy pants and cases of wine this world has to offer. Your children might not be able to thank you now, but they will someday when they look back on this and realize how selflessly you steered your family through the storm. 

As an aside, in this same interview, Betsy Strickler, chief communications officer for CHP, pointed out that Molly and her colleagues had seen a rise in new patients who are 8 to 12 weeks pregnant right now; perhaps the first wave of COVID-19 babies. 

I couldn’t hide my shock: “Wait, what? Sorry ladies, but this mama can’t even begin to imagine that situation right now,” I said in a moment of journalistic candor.

They both laughed, in that great way women can that says “I hear you!” without saying it. 

So to all the new moms, moms-to-be, ragged preschool moms and those soldiering teenage moms, and all the women who show support to others, Happy Mother’s Day.

Kids say the darndest things

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Today, David told me to “calm down, calllmmmmm down” in a whisper with his little 4-year-old hands up in a calming, yet slight condescending “stop right there” motion. 

We were FaceTiming my parents and sister and he had just got back from a bathroom break and I asked for what felt like the 100th time today if he flushed the toilet. (Breaking news: We’re still working on that life skill.) 

My unhelpful family immediately snickered at his precociousness as I gave him my best glare. I’ll admit, though, I had to hide a smile. 

We’re walking that fine line right now of funny and fresh, smart yet too smart, and he’s repeating phrases in the proper context but not always the right tone. Like when he greets his father at the door, “hey old man, how ya doing?” Or, when this afternoon he got out his pretend lawn mower and said to himself as he walked to the backyard, “somebody’s gotta mow this lawn.” (Lawn shame, much?)

When I ask him to do something, he now replies, “Yes, my lord,” in a Stormtrooper voice. And he’s figured out that if mommy has her special headset on that means she’s on an interview and won’t say no to extra iPad time. 

He’s always been a funny, curious kid, but now I have a front-row seat to the David show. (That being said, there are days, moments in all this I’d like to pay a seat filler to take my spot for just 30 minutes so I can sit in peace without hearing “Um, mommy, mommy, MOMMY?” every two minutes.)

And every day he says or does something that I think “oh, I have to write that down so I don’t forget!” Thankfully, I have this column to help remember all of this, and thankfully I have sweet readers, friends and neighbors along for the ride. 

If you’re home with little ones try to find a way to occasionally journal some of the things your kids are saying. Hopefully, in a year or two, we can all look back at this time and remember the funny things our kids said or did instead of the daily stress and anxieties we were dealing with. 

Here’s to hoping that someday David doesn’t stumble across this on the Internet and realize a large portion of Berkshire County residents know how much he struggled with bathroom hygiene. 

Calm down, future David. Calm down. 

Don't mind us, we're just enthralled with construction workers

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

There’s a lot of excitement going on in our neighborhood today: the repaving of a driveway, lawn-care trucks pulling up for action and the occasional plane flying overhead.

To those of us with preschoolers or toddlers, construction workers and lawn maintenance workers are the real heroes of our neighborhoods right now. Nothing eats up 30 minutes on a walk like standing and watching an excavator dig up a sidewalk — want to go for ultimate excitement? Throw in a uniformed police officer directing traffic. It’s like a front-row seat to the World Series for us.

One of my fellow moms in the neighborhood told me that she was spending her quarantine stalking construction workers around the neighborhood with David’s little classmate and her 2-year-old brother. She even texts me when there’s some good action going on: “FYI: they're replacing our telephone pole over here,” read her most recent text. 

I didn’t realize how starved we were for any kind of change to our daily routine until today, when the nice gentleman who treats our neighbor’s immaculate lawn stopped by at our request to give us an estimate. (We figured, we’re looking at pretty much nothing but this lawn these days, we might as well enjoy it.) He was only on our property for not even a few minutes to check its size, but David couldn’t run out the back door fast enough to inspect his work from the deck.

“Mommy, what’s he doing, where’s he going? When is he going to do our lawn? WHAT’S HAPPENING?”

He was so sad to realize that he wasn’t doing any actual yard work today, just getting us an estimate. Thankfully, there’s a mini excavator down the block, with kind construction workers who wave every time we walk by (which is easily two to three times a day).

But, I realized today, that maybe we’re their little bit of excitement for the day. Maybe the kid walking down the street in the Scooby-Doo shirt wielding a plastic sword while wearing a Spiderman helmet, waving wildly and asking why they are always on their “communion break,” (aka “union break”) is a bright spot in the day. 

On a recent rainy day, we walked past a house a few blocks away that we walk past multiple times a day. For the first time, I noticed an older woman sitting at the big picture window facing the sidewalk and she had a huge smile. I looked down to see what she was smiling at and realized it was David, in his fire-engine red Fireman raincoat, tractor rain boots and pirate sword, as he hopped around the puddles pretending to be on the stormy seas. 

I guess we’re all each other’s little bit of magic these days. 

The frozen Mango Margarita we all deserve right now

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

It’s Cinco de Mayo and we’re still home with our kids! Cheers!

If you’ve been reading my column, you know I don’t need much of a reason to raise a glass of something other than water these days, but why not take advantage of this non-American holiday, which has somehow been hijacked by taco-loving Americans? 

Back in my glory days, (read: pre-mommyhood) I rarely passed up a frozen margarita. These days, I mostly stick to wine and the very occasional beer. But tonight, in my effort to make these days not roll one into another, we’re throwing a fiesta. But instead of tacos, it will most likely be cheese quesadillas (I’m out of ground meat) and instead of sangria, I’m making a pitcher of frozen Mango Margaritas. (If you need more margarita recipes, food columnist Margaret Button is always good for a few!)

Don’t mind me if you happen to walk past my house and see me drinking on the porch wearing a winter coat and hat. I’ve got to amuse myself somehow in all of this. 

Frozen Mango Margaritas 
3 oz. tequila
1½ oz. triple sec (or orange liqueur)
2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
½ oz. simple syrup
2 to 2½ cups crushed ice
4 oz. fresh or frozen chopped mango
Combine the tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and simple syrup in a blender or food processor. Add 2 cups of ice and the mango pieces. Blend until smooth. If desired, add additional ice to achieve a thicker consistency.

Warning -- Mother's Day is fast approaching ...


Monday, May 4, 2020

Warning dads: Mother’s Day is T-minus six days away, and your sweet little monsters aren’t coming home with crafty mom gifts from school this year. 

I still remember the joy I felt last year when David brought home one of those adorable bead necklaces, strung together with his little 3-year-old hands, and an “all about Mom” worksheet filled out with the help of our beloved Miss Kim. 

According to the worksheet: David’s mom makes the best “chicken”; is so good at “cleaning up”; always says “I love you”; and, my personal favorite, is “69” years old. 

If I looked 69 years old last year, imagine what age he’d give me this year if he was filling out the same Mother’s Day form. Yikes.

“My mommy is 50-ah-million years old.”

Sounds about right in mom years during a pandemic. 

If you’re looking for ideas for Mother’s Day, let me offer you this advice: most moms I know want some alone time. And, if I’m being really greedy, I’d like a day in which I don’t have to make any decisions about who is eating what, when.

To help my sweet men out, I may make an overnight Crockpot meal so Sunday morning we wake up to something delicious and ready to go. And, if you’re looking for a fun way to honor mom, help your little reporters fill out our Sunday Landscapes page dedicated to moms.

Anyone else tired of cleaning?

May 1, 2020

I can’t decide if my house is the cleanest it’s ever been or the dirtiest?

My newest hobby seems to be washing the kitchen floor, as it’s the real estate in the house with the highest foot, monster truck and dinosaur traffic. I’m also averaging two loads of laundry every other day to keep up with towels, sheets and Stormtrooper pajamas that are in high demand, right now. 

I cleaned my microwave and wiped down all my kitchen counters on a recent Saturday morning, just for fun. And our living room is vacuumed multiple times a week because I can’t help but notice every morning while drinking my coffee all the bits that collect there.

But we also never leave the house, practically, so it’s more lived in. The dishes are a never-ending pile, toys are everywhere and all this extra time around the house means I have extra time to really inspect all those corners where dust collects. And don’t even get me started on the bathrooms — running out of toilet paper is the least of my worries. 

I can’t help but think I’m not alone in this -- we all set out at the beginning of this shutdown with high hopes of organizing our closets, deep cleaning our rugs and finally wiping down those baseboards and windows. We got some great tips from local cleaning experts who inspired me to consider cleaning out my fridge and finally tackling that basement. Have I done either of those things? Nope. Have I put a dent in my wine-of-the-month stock? You betcha.

Overall, I am a tidy person. My anxiety demands it. Especially in times like this when it feels like I can’t control anything in my life, making sure I have a clean, empty sink helps me breathe easier. While I’m no expert, I do have a few small tips that might help:

When in doubt, throw it out: Our dining room table is like a magnet for papers, books and magazines. We eat at our table for every meal, so, for the most part, we keep it clear of overwhelming clutter. But there is always something piled up at the end of the table. If I haven’t touched it in a week, it goes in the garbage, is recycled or is filed away somewhere. 

Stage your home like a toy store: If you’re like me, and have enough toys to actually be a toy store, you’re constantly trying to find ways to hide or organize the toys. I learned from my son’s daycare provider a long time ago that it’s best to keep toys organized by theme, size or characters and swap out the bins of toys weekly or monthly. So I keep a few bins of toys in the basement and when it seems like David is growing bored I swap them out. It keeps our clutter down in our living spaces and keeps the toys exciting. If I want him to notice a new toy or book, I’ll rest it on the ottoman so in the morning he’ll notice it when he comes down the stairs. 

Don’t go to bed messy: This was a hard one for my husband to get used to, but I can’t relax at night unless there are no dirty dishes in the sink, the toys are put away and the laundry is folded. Think of it this way: Every night I reset the house for the next day. That way, when we wake up, it’s ready for us to live in it again. And again. And again. (What day of the week is it again?)

Need to know what happened in April? Visit Lindsey Hollenbaugh | Quarantined with kids: Part II.


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