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Lindsey Hollenbaugh | Quarantined with kids: 'Do you wanna' see my cool ninja moves?'

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Back by popular demand, here are some of David’s best questions this week:

  • “WHY IS HE WEARING A MASK?” (asked loudly, pointing at our next door neighbor’s friend who was visiting.  
  • “WHY IS SHE WEARING A MASK?” (also asked loudly, as our next door neighbor greeted the above friend wearing his mask.
  • “Why is Kevin talking SO MUCH?” (yelled from the other room while I was on a newsroom conference call. For context, Kevin is my boss.)
  • “How can King Kong chase a tiny Jeep?”
  • “Who is bigger, King Kong of the Statue of Liberty?” (We had A LOT of questions about King Kong this week, for no apparent reason.)
  • “What’s that pokey sword thingy the devil and Aquaman carries?” (A trident for those who don’t know.) Followed up with, “Ya, can I get one of those for my birthday?”
  • “Where did the crocodile find a clock to eat on a pirate ship in Peter Pan?” (The kid does have a point and often finds real problems in plot development when it comes to Disney …) 
  • “Why can’t I have a treat after every meal?”
  • “Can I have a treat, too?!?” (Asked when he caught me eating a slice of apple cake with my bare hands while standing over the kitchen sink staring out the window contemplating what time I could have a glass of wine.)
  • “Do you wanna’ see my cool ninja moves?” (The answer is yes, by the way, I always want to see those.)

Folks, I’m on furlough next week, which means you won’t be hearing from me or my excellent 4-year-old sidekick until Monday, April 13. Don’t you worry about us, we’ll be decorating Easter eggs, finally cleaning out the refrigerator and, maybe, this mommy will find time to read a book. Or binge watch some “Real Housewives” on Bravo … whatever feels like a better use of my free time … we’ll see.

I hope you all stay healthy, safe and find the time to laugh in all of this. Please remember to show each other a little grace during this: Parents are doing their damn best right now and need all the support they can get; grandparents, aunts and uncles are missing these sweet little people; and medical workers and those who are still working in the public are keeping us going with their commitment to their communities. Light a candle, thank God, or whatever higher power you believe in, for your health and get yourself some ice cream and stretchy pants — you deserve it, heck, we all do.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

Send a little joy in the mail

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Every day, around lunch David asks “Are there any packages for me?!?”

Thanks to the steady stream of Amazon boxes from my parents, sister and aunts, David has come to expect some kind of treat delivered to his doorstep. We’ve gotten coloring books, stickers, a new set of markers and some very well-received Stormtrooper pajamas that I have to wash every day so he can wear them to bed each night. 

As much as I’m slightly horrified by my 4-year-old’s new sense of postal entitlement, I am extremely thankful to my family for the small tokens of unexpected fun. The coloring books and the hours of quiet, alone time they’ve produced for David while I get work done are priceless, and these pajamas have made our bedtime routine fun again.

We are extremely lucky to have family members who care about us so much and who have the means to send small items to David. For anyone who is reading this who might have relatives or friends with small children at home, consider sending a few coloring books, or even just a card covered in stickers addressed specifically to the little receivers. Even just getting a card with his name on it lights up David’s day. 

And, of course, the joy can go both ways. Hillcrest Nursing & Rehabilitation facility in Pittsfield is asking anyone who can to send cards and letters to their residents, who are currently unable to have visitors due to the coronavirus outbreak. You can send cards, letters and pictures to Deirdre Tozer-Hayes at Hillcrest Commons, 169 Valentine Road, Pittsfield, MA, 01201. 

If you’re unable to make it to the post office, consider dropping off handwritten notes of kindness to your neighbors, or go super low-tech, like we have, and start leaving notes in sidewalk chalk on the driveway or front walk for passersby. 

If you’re feeling really generous, make some cookies to share with your neighbors — just remember after baking them to bag them up in individual baggies while wearing gloves. 

These “Full-of-chips” cookies are great because they use up any tasty bits you have in the pantry. Also, if you don’t want to share any of them and just want to eat them all yourself, there’s no judgment coming from this features editor …

“Full-of-chips” Cookies
Yield: About 4 dozen
Ingredients:
1 cup butter-flavored shortening
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup each of semisweet chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, white baking chips
⅓ cup M&Ms
⅓ cup Reese’s pieces candy
Directions:
In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. 
Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Mix well. Stir in chips and candy.
Drop by rounded tablespoons on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 7 to 9 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

While you're shopping for TP, pick up some Easter eggs

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

This is a public service announcement: The Easter Bunny is coming. 

(If you read that in the voice of a “Game of Thrones” character saying, “Winter is coming,” you’re my people.)

Or at least, for those of us with little believers, you better believe that darn Easter Bunny is still coming. "COVID-19 be damned," that little bunny will say to himself, hopping down the deserted streets wearing a homemade gingham mask.

All jokes aside, listen folks, if you haven’t gotten your Easter business together yet, this is my warning to you. Your kids don’t care that we’re in the middle of a lockdown that requires you only buy toilet paper, dry pasta, frozen vegetables and fast-acting yeast in bulk; you better throw some Cadbury eggs in your next race through the grocery store.

(An aside: Anyone else find themselves getting anxious while grocery shopping? Like, as I’m walking down the cereal aisle I’m just waiting for Gov. Charlie Baker — a very tall man, by the way — to jump out and tell me to go home. I’ve found I can’t even look other people in the eye when I’m out getting groceries — I can’t let them see my fear, or the fact that I don’t really need that extra two bags of Pirate Booty for my kid ... I Just. Can’t. Stop. Eating. It.)

I actually can’t remember a time that I didn’t celebrate Easter at my parents’ home in upstate New York. Every year, as far back as I can remember, my parents have hosted a large Easter gathering on Holy Saturday. More than 50 relatives, friends and friends of friends fill their house, spill out over the deck and front porch, enjoying a buffet feast of Polish food. There’s a giant Easter bunny that makes an appearance — whichever slightly inebriated cousin we can talk into putting that god-awful costume on — and there’s an Easter egg hunt for the kids across the lawn, followed by an adults-only egg hunt that usually turns into a full-contact sport. It’s tradition, it’s joyful and funny, and I still can’t believe it’s not happening this year.

We’ve avoided the topic in my family, for the most part, to ease the sting of canceling the event. But in doing so, I kind of forgot that I still need to provide my sweet boy with the Easter fun he deserves. Because it’s always at my mother’s house, I don’t even have an Easter basket here. (Thank goodness for Target!) Next week, we’ll decorate hard-boiled eggs, and I’m sure the bunny will fill our backyard with well-hidden plastic eggs come Easter Sunday. I know I’ll see my family thanks to our monster Zoom calls — we’ve managed to get seven different calls on the line at one time — and we’ll thank God for our health and comfortable homes.

I just hope that bunny finds the specific purple yo-yo with the yellow string that David saw on an episode of “Scooby Doo,” recently, and his supplier isn’t backed up like Amazon.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

Local pediatric dentist gives helpful hand-washing tips

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

If the key to stopping this global pandemic is hand-washing, those of us with preschool-age children are, well, wringing our hands in frustration … and fear. Or, at least, this parent is. 

Before all of this started, our household was a battle of soap and water, with my husband and I constantly yelling after our 4-year-old, “Did you wash your hands? Did you flush the toilet?!?” (I see all of you who live with the deep understanding that bathroom etiquette and privacy are long gone when you have small children.)

That’s why, when Dr. Neha Das, a pediatric dentist at Berkshire Pediatric Dentistry's practice in Pittsfield, shared this adorable video with her daughter demonstrating a hand-washing song for little hands, I sat down and watched it with my son. 

I first met Das in early February, when I wrote a story about her adorable book “My Shining Star,” written specifically for working mothers and their children, to help them understand why mommy has to go to work every day. I not only love the book, and its message, but adore Das and her infectious spirit, smile and ability to explain things smartly, yet appropriately, to young children. 

David and I followed along with the video and he smiled the whole time. I noticed later that day, as I supervised him post-bathroom hand washing, that he was trying to mimic what he saw Das and her daughter do in the video. #winning.

I asked Das a few questions about the video, how she and her dental practice are handling the effects of COVID-19 response, and if she had any advice for parents.

Q: What inspired you to make the video?

A: During dental school, we were not allowed to see any patients until we had a lesson on hand-washing. It was really eye-opening for me — it's so easy to miss certain parts of your hands when you're cleaning them. In order to really wash effectively, you need to get into all those nooks and crannies. Now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, proper hand washing is more important than ever for everyone in the family. The issue I ran into was this: How could I get my 2-year-old and 4-year-old to remember all the steps and pay attention the whole time?

I've found that the key to communicating effectively with kids is to break down big concepts into small, digestible ideas that are easily repeated. My kids also respond really well to music and rhyme, so I decided to make a song. I used a tune that they already knew to make it easier to remember, and I just changed the lyrics to make it a hand-washing song. Now they sing it as they wash, and it's much easier to make sure they are washing well. It worked so well in my family that I thought it might help other people too, so I made the video.

Q: What kind of questions do your girls have, how do you answer them?

A: Right now, my kids miss socializing more than anything else. My older daughter goes to preschool and misses her classmates, and my younger daughter misses going to all her playgroups. When they asked about why they can't go out, we talked about how there is a virus that is making people sick. We also talked about how keeping ourselves safe also helped to keep our friends safe so we didn't spread it to our friends. There is a really great Storybots episode about getting sick, so we watched it and talked about those concepts when we finished.

One day, as I was tidying up, I noticed that my daughter was playing with her dolls and lamented that, "We can't see our friends because there is a virus making people sick." I felt bad because she sounded so helpless. That's when I decided to change our narrative a little bit. We still talked about the virus, but we always followed it up with talking about how we were keeping our bodies and our immune system strong. This ties in to that Storybots episode really well, so it was something they connected with. Suddenly, staying home was an active choice that made them better fighters against the disease (you better believe we put up our fists and pretended to punch the imaginary viruses as we talked about this). I've noticed that my girls seem to feel more empowered by this choice rather than constrained by it as a result of the change we made in how we talked about things.

Q: Is your practice currently closed, or are you still seeing patients?

A: Our dental practice is currently closed, but we are still seeing patients if they are experiencing a dental emergency and can be reached if parents have any concerns. We decided to close because we want to do our part to protect our community and staff, and the American Dental Association has recommended that dentists postpone elective dental treatment for the time being. That being said, if someone is experiencing a dental emergency, we do not want them to have to go to the emergency room so we will make sure we take care of them.

Q: What advice do you have for parents at home with small children right now?

A: Know that your best is enough. Parents are acting as caretakers, teachers, entertainers, cleaners, etc., in a time when we really cannot be leaving our household much. We all have ideas about how things could be "perfect" but in the end, just make sure you fill your days with love. Your children will remember more about how you make them feel than any restrictions that are affecting them. Give yourself some grace even if things are not working out exactly the way you want. I feel like we're all trying to do everything in a totally new situation, and sometimes we are unrealistic about what is or is not possible in a situation like this. All we can do is our best, and that is always more than enough.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

Stop feeling your forehead, Hollenbaugh

Monday, March 30, 2020

If we’re going to get through this, I’m going to need Mother Nature to get her, well, *stuff* together. 

This cold rainy weather is doing little to lighten my spirits, or quell my growing anxiety as I constantly feel my slightly swollen left gland, slap my hand over my forehead to feel any kind of fever or keep opening the fridge to suck in the stale-vegetable smell uncooked Brussels sprouts leave just to make sure my sense of smell is still intact. (I’ve read, as I’m sure you have, that some COVID-19 patients lose their sense of smell and/or taste.)

Thankfully, it appears the only thing I’ve lost today is a small chunk of my sanity. 

It’s just a rainy Monday, I keep telling myself. This too shall pass. Stop feeling your forehead, Hollenbaugh, you’re fine. 

Anyone else feel like the further we go down the rabbit hole of positive cases, graphs, charts and numbers the harder it is to assess one’s own health rationally? I must admit, before all of this — I’m talking weeks before schools shut down, stores ran out of toilet paper and my husband could longer watch sports — I was in full-blown “Outbreak” mode. My co-workers looked at me like I was crazy, as I washed down my desk multiple times a day, warning of a pandemic coming at us. But who’s the crazy one now? Still me, I suppose. 

Thankfully, I’ve kept my nervousness somewhat hidden from my son, who is still convinced Mommy and David’s Awesome Adventure, is still totally awesome.

So how do I calm down? How do I find peace so my sweet little Avenger still considers his No. 1 job right now is to save the small, comfy made-up-world he has created in our kitchen, right beneath my feet as I make dinner every night? 

I do what any mother does — just keep going, moving, cooking, cleaning, wiping his face, kissing his forehead (while stealthy checking for a fever), reading books, racing to the big tree and back, oohing and ahhing over Batman coloring books and promising that we’re safe in our home. And thanking God every night before we go to bed for another fun-filled day of Mommy and David’s Awesome Adventure. Amen.

Tomorrow the rain will stop and I’ll stop feeling my forehead, promise. 

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

Five (more) things I learned after two full weeks of 'adventure'

Friday, March 27, 2020

We made it through another week. Here are five more things I learned after two full weeks into Mommy and David’s awesome adventure. 

Put some pants on: OK, so last week I sang the praises of yoga pants, I know. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still team elastic over here, because these hips do not, in fact, lie. But hear me out: You need to put some pants on next week. Dig down deep, look yourself square in the eye in that bedroom mirror and put on pants that require a zipper. You’ll feel better. Though, honestly, at first you won’t because it’s a little like running: you’ll pant, swear under your breath and sweat too much, but then you’ll find your stride and feel like a triathlon hero. Plus, given all the macaroni and cheese we’ve been eating around here, it’s good to check in on your regular wardrobe. No one wants to open their drawer the day they finally go back to work only to find a new size is in order. Super snug is completely acceptable right now, however. 

We’re growing up: Week two was mostly spent on my feet running the cafeteria of mom feeding the insatiable 4-year-old who seems to be fueled on an endless supply of strawberries, bread and butter, gummy snacks and hot dogs. The occasional carrot stick or sweet pepper is shoved through the chomping hole once a day for the promise of chocolate chip cookies. This week also brought the most frightening realization of all for this mother: David might be dropping his naps. I haven’t cried all week about anything, but just typing that makes me want to crawl under my bed and sob for the hours of precious “me” time his little sietas bring me. I’ll need a hot minute to work through this one, guys. A. Hot. Minute.

Find the small celebrations: I have a special wine glass for Friday and Saturday nights; it’s the fancy ones with a stem that can easily break that I got for a wedding present almost eight years ago. Why, might you ask? Because I need to give my mommy juice something to look forward to Thursday nights while my regular dinner, stemless wine glass is being used. (I’m OK, everyone, really.) Also, we’ve got some tiny green shoots coming up in my indoor plantings. So far, that has been the most exciting development in our household this week. We’re living off the land, people, or at least we will be, sort of. 

Take a break, a real break: I shouldn’t say this because I’m a journalist, but every night I make myself take a break from the news cycle. My brain needs it. My anxiety will not let me rest at night if I spend the last hour before bed scrolling through Twitter. Instead, I’m reading more and recently finished the ultimate mind-suck, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” on Netflix. You’ve probably heard from everyone you know about this. If you haven’t, watch it. You’re welcome, in advance. Though, I can’t promise you won’t lie awake at night wondering where the heck those people purchase so many sequined big-cat themed silk shirts … 

My neighbors are so … neighborly: Who knew it would take social distancing to make my sweet little neighborhood so, well, social? Suddenly, I have neighbors taking walks and waving at me who I’ve only seen pull out of their driveway, barely a glance over at my porch. One of my son’s little friends lives a block over and yesterday her mom texted to ask if I had a can of tomatoes she could borrow. I did, and left it for her on my front steps. It was like our own strange quarantine “cup of sugar” moment. It was lovely. 

Happy Friday — find whatever little quarantine magic you can this weekend and celebrate it. I’ll see you Monday, with pants on.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

Bright spots on dark days thanks to little artists

Thursday, March 26, 2020

If you’re enjoying the beautiful sunny day by taking a walk around your neighborhood — and from the looks of it, everyone is — keep an eye out for rainbows.

It’s a sign that sweet little student artists are keeping busy at home. “Rainbow hunting,” from as far as I can tell, was started by a public Facebook group that asked people to hang pictures of rainbows in their windows to bring some color and fun to neighborhood walks. Now, there are city-wide movements with hashtags like #413rainbowhunt

We hung our rainbow a few days ago, after David’s teacher read us — virtually — the story of “How the Crayons Saved the Rainbow.” She asked all of the kids to draw their own rainbows and hang them on their front doors. Suddenly, bright little wobbly rainbows dotted the houses around our neighborhood. 

Beth Ballard, of North Adams, started a private Facebook group locally called “413 Rainbow Hunt - Spreading Rainbows Worldwide.”

“I'm originally from Saratoga County, N.Y. The 518,” she wrote in a Facebook message to me. “There is an amazing group in that area code that had been started on Facebook. Logging on and seeing everyone pictures and how far they can travel made me smile. It made me happy to see communities ban together. … I have a 5-year-old son. If there is one thing I've learned since moving here, is our little city's sense of community. I thought it would be a bit of a bright spot during these uncertain times.”

She went on to tell me that she started the group only a few days ago and invited her local friends.

“Those friends invited friends and so on and so forth. Every day I'm truly AMAZED at the growth of the group,” she wrote. “I think having this slight distraction is welcomed, especially for the kiddos in our communities.”

I know David and I certainly appreciate it. Now, when we go for our daily walks, I ask David to keep an eye out for rainbows. I know where most of them are at this point, but he still gets so excited to point one out. Perhaps more people in Berkshire County can join in the fun — believe me, parents could use another distraction on these walks around the block (I’m running out of ways to “walk like a superhero” and we’ve taken nearly every toy we can carry “out for some air.”)

Just don’t forget that at the end of each rainbow is probably a mom who has given up all hope of a pot of gold and has instead settled for a glass of Chardonnay. 

Happy Thursday! (It is Thursday, right? I’ve had to check three times today …)

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

'Where is she going?!' and other important questions

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

There are a lot of questions going around right now amid this time of unprecedented change and uncertainty. But I can almost guarantee they’re not the kind of questions I’m getting daily in this house with a 4-year-old.

I’ve always prided myself as a parent in doing my best to answer all of my son’s questions. I’m a journalist, after all, so a healthy dose of curiosity in my child is important to me. But, lately, with our new 24/7 uninterrupted access to mommy, the questions are getting a bit … overwhelming. 

Here are a few of my favorites so far in the last week:

  • “How does Spider-Man breathe through his mask if no one can see his face?”
  • “How is snow made in the sky?”
  • “How can the Easter Bunny carry all those eggs and a basket around if he’s a little, tiny bunny?”
  • “Who pooped in the yard?!?” (Yelled loudly, from our front yard.)
  • “WHERE IS SHE GOING?” (Also yelled loudly from our front yard, directed at our lovely, yet private, next-door neighbor going for a walk.) “We’re not supposed to be outside!”
  • “Is Santa watching us all the time like God?”
  • “But really, mommy, how did I get in your belly?”
  • “Why do I have to wash my hands again?”
  • “Why does daddy have hair in his ears?”
  • “Why does your hair look like that, mommy? Go look in the mirror!”
  • “Why does my body have to rest, but not yours during rest time?”
  • “Does a panther’s pointy teeth point down or up?” (Asked completely randomly while I was trying to sneak in a shower during cartoon time.)
  • “Who would win: Batman or Iron Man?”
  • “Why do we have so much mommy juice?” (That one felt like a personal attack that wasn’t necessary given these times we’re in, am I right?)
  • “Why aren’t you wearing your booby cup?” (he asked, as he tapped my unmentionables hanging to dry in the bathroom …)

***

David also recently asked me at dinner why I didn’t eat anything I cooked. Before you go worrying that I’m not eating — please, I know, who is worried about that when it comes to Lindsey Hollenbaugh? — I gave up eating meat for Lent. (An aside: Weeks before Lent, I seriously debated giving up wine. For some unknown reason, I went with meat and kept my wine. I don’t care what higher power you believe in, that’s God’s work right there.)

So, right now, I’m basically making two dinners at any given time. It’s not so bad as long as I plan ahead and use leftovers smartly. Stews, soups and chilis help me stretch out a vegetarian or meat option over a few days, while I cook the other alternative. 

Everyone has a favorite chili recipe. This is mine — you can’t get much easier than this one and it will help you use up some of your canned pantry items. And, just because you’re not leaving the house all day doesn't mean you don’t deserve an easy Crockpot meal to look forward to at dinner time. 

CROCKPOT CHILI
Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 can red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
1 cup salsa
Directions:
Brown ground beef in a large skillet with chopped onion. Cook until beef is no longer pink. Drain fat. Place the meat mixture into a crockpot with the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shredded cheese, green onions and tortilla strips. 

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

Pull back the quarantine curtain and see what your coworkers really look like ...

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

If you want to scare your coworkers right now, mention the words “video conference call.”

You’ll hear the clearing of throats, maybe some shuffling of papers — wait, was that the sound of a zipper? — and then, silence. 

That’s what happened today on our daily Eagle editorial phone call, which, by the way, I took outside while shoveling my sidewalk in my pajamas. When our fearless leader, Kevin Moran, mentioned setting up Google video chats, the fear on the line was palpable. 

One reporter (who shall remain nameless for the sake of privacy) joked, “Uh, let me put some clothes on.”

Thankfully, Kevin quickly assured us we wouldn’t have to participate in future video chats, but wanted to make sure everyone knew how they worked just in case it was new for some of our staff members.

I actually look forward to seeing my colleagues on future calls, so I can see them in their bathrobes, scruffy beards, ponytails and glasses. It will probably feel like when you ran into your kindergarten teacher at the store and realized Mrs. Wilbur lived outside the building, and, gasp, had a husband?!? 

Let me tell you, this is the golden age for stretchy fabric, sweatshirts and house slippers. What a time to be alive if you’re a 35-year-old graying woman, am I right? What a time …

There are many, many reasons COVID-19 has caused me stress and anxiety — but there are many small graces I thank God for every day: one being my ability to hide my current hair situation in a cloak of quarantine darkness. I decided about a month before all COVID broke loose that I was going to stop dying my hair to conceal my graying roots. I’m happy to report that I’m in the middle of that growing-out phase where I would normally run to the salon, begging for any opening they have to cover up my foolish fairy tale thoughts of becoming a silver fox when in reality I’m more like a wiry wolf. But I can’t. 

So, there’s nothing I can do but avoid the mirror, and my coworkers via video conference. But, gloriously, we’re all in the same boat! We’re about to see this country’s true colors in more ways than one.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

Grow a little patience, routine with indoor gardening

Monday, March 23, 2020

Happy Monday! Whatever that means, these days. I will say that somehow, I feel refreshed and more at ease after a weekend of somewhat “normal” activity for our family. 

My husband was home from work, which was a welcome respite for my son and me. Daddy and David had their own adventure Saturday morning, finding a local trail with a pond we’d never explored and a lunch date in the car after a stop at the McDonald’s drive-thru.

During that time, I gloriously ran around the house picking up, vacuuming, mopping and dusting. (Nothing says happiness for me like the smell of Clorox on a Saturday morning!) I even squeezed in a shower, and 20 minutes of reading on the porch in the sun before they returned, red-cheeked from the wind and excited to share their adventures of finding sticks in the forest. We finished our Saturday by ordering a pizza and watching a movie on the couch. It was all so normal, boring and safe. We pretended, for just a little while, it was a normal Saturday.

I was also so happy to see Sunday morning our beloved garden columnist Ron Kujawski return to our Landscapes’ pages. Ron is a terrific friend, colleague and an inspiration for me every year when I set out to slowly grow my home garden. His first column of the season came just in time for me. Per his suggestion, I’ve started some potted seedlings of my favorite herbs, head lettuce and carrots in my house. 

While it’s not necessarily glamourous, these little beauties are giving me something to add to my daily, indoor routine. I’m watering them daily and rotating them around my house at different times of the day to get optimal sunlight.

I have no idea if this will work, but what do I have to lose besides a tiny sliver of my sanity? Even David is joining in on the fun, reminding me to water them and sneaking peeks at the pots to see if anything is growing. 

If you’ve never grown any kind of garden, now’s the time to do it, folks. Give yourself the challenge while you’ve got the time. May I suggest a potted tomato plant when it gets warmer, or even just a few fresh herbs. You’d be amazed how much a little green can lift your spirits. Kids also enjoy eating things they’ve grown — seriously, I too was like some of you when I first considered getting my once very picky toddler to eat vegetables from the garden. Slow down, Michelle Obama, my kid isn’t going to eat kale … But then last summer, something clicked. I grew a few bushels of green beans in my raised beds and cooked them in butter one night. My son couldn’t eat enough of them. 

If you start with herbs, may I suggest a delicious, simple way to use them up once your bounty comes in, herb oil. This oil is a great salad dressing, or is perfect over some white beans that you’ve warmed up with a little olive oil and garlic.

Herb Oil
Ingredients:
½ cup roughly chopped chives
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
½ cup tightly packed basil leaves
½ cup olive oil
Squeeze of lemon
Kosher salt, to taste
Directions:
In a food processor, combine chives, cilantro and basil, and pulse until finely chopped. Add olive oil, and pulse again until mixture is silky and emulsified. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in lemon juice and salt to taste.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

Five things I learned after the first five days

Friday, March 20, 2020

Five days down, how many to go? No one knows, but here are a few things I learned in my first five days of social distancing and working from home with kids. 

Let the pillows fly: I used to joke, pre-COVID-19, that all I did all weekend was reposition pillows and blankets around my living room and playroom. My son loves to create large piles of soft decor and dive headfirst into them. For a while, I put a ban on playing with mommy’s living room pillows and blankets. Guess what? The ban has been lifted, my home looks like a wild animal was let loose in Home Goods, but my son was quiet for almost an hour Thursday afternoon. 

I didn’t buy enough Pirate Booty: Or Oreos, or ice cream or potato chips for that matter. I was so busy thinking of dinners, lunches and ways to make a dozen eggs stretch a week I forgot all the stress eating, negotiation snacks I’d need to get us all through. Rookie mistake, Hollenbaugh. Rookie mistake. *Eats stale Girl Scout cookies found hidden behind the crockpot.*

It’s not my fault: When I interviewed Abigail Reifsnyder, LISCW, about how to talk to our kids about what is going on she said something that really stuck with me: “It’s important for parents — all the time, actually, but especially right now — when your kids push back to not take it personally.” 

Kids say the darndest things: “Mommy, how do we get babies? Like, how did I get in your stomach?” David asked as I was sitting on an editorial conference call on mute this morning. Nope. Not today 4-year-old devil, not today. 

It’s OK to cry: I’ve been putting on a brave face, giving extra hugs, talking slowly and carefully to make sure David feels heard. But sometimes, this mama is going to need to cry in the shower for a few minutes with a glass of shower wine. (Did you know there was such a thing as a shower beer? My husband introduced this to me early in our relationship, and now I’m making it my own with Chardonnay.) Cheers.

***

If you’re like me and stocked up on a few too many beans, try this super easy, delicious Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala. You will need some basic Indian spices that not every cook has in their pantry, but the next time you make a grocery run, add these spices to your list. You’ll get plenty of use out of them once you realize how much you enjoy the masala flavors. I also made this with a bag of mixed frozen vegetables I had on hand, so it doesn’t have to be just cauliflower.

Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala
Masala Spice Mix:
2 Tbsp garam masala 
1/2 tsp cumin 
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly Cracked Pepper
Skillet Ingredients:
1 yellow onion 
3 cloves garlic 
1/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp olive oil 
12 oz. frozen cauliflower florets
1 15oz. can chickpeas, drained 
1 15oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream or coconut milk
salt to taste
Directions:
In a small bowl, combine the spices for the masala spice mix.
Finely dice the onion, mince the garlic, and grate ginger. Add all three to a large skillet along with the olive oil and saute over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent (about 3 minutes). Add the spice mix and continue to saute for one more minute.
Add the frozen cauliflower florets to the skillet with the aromatics and spices, and continue to saute for about 5 minutes more, or until the cauliflower have thawed through and are completely coated in spices.
Add the drained chickpeas, tomato sauce, and 1/4 cup water to the skillet. Stir to combine, then allow them to simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. If the mixture becomes too dry as it simmers, add a couple more tablespoons of water.
After the sauce has simmered for 15 minutes, turn off the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Give the masala a taste and add salt as needed. Serve in a bowl either over rice or with a piece of bread for dipping.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

Local gyms, trainers help us keep our exercise routine

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Don’t judge me, but the thing I’ve realized I miss the most in upending my regular routine (besides alone time …) is going to my gym.

Who would have thought all those times I gritted my teeth through an especially difficult tabata class, or tweaked my neck from lifting weights that I’d miss it so much. So far, I’ve gotten through the week by taking countless walks around the neighborhood, running up and down my stairs and I even tried a kids’ yoga class online with my son that ended after five minutes when he said, “Can I just play ‘hi-ya’?” (what he refers to as his super-awesome ninja moves as he flails around the house.)

Today, though, I decided to join in on my gym’s Facebook live class. It was at 8 a.m., my regular time to be there, so it felt good to put on my gym clothes, dust off the sneakers and set up in my dining room where I’m sure my neighbor enjoyed watching me do my own strange flailing kick-boxing moves. 

For 45 minutes, I felt like myself, and it felt great. Even though I wasn’t with all my gym buddies, I could see them logging on, encouraging our silly, terrific trainers who performed the class in an empty exercise room. 

Some of our local gyms are doing great online classes. It’s a great time to experience other routines, trainers and spaces virtually.

My gym, Berkshire West Athletic Club, is offering free live classes on Facebook. Old classes can be found shared on their page. Miner Combat in North Adams now has a private group on Facebook with videos that can be viewed for $50 for those who aren’t already members. The Berkshire Ultra Running Community for Service (BURCS) is doing a virtual race, and Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness is posting free yoga videos on its Facebook and YouTube pages. There are also yoga classes and meditation classes on North Adams Yoga’s Instagram account. Berkshire Body has drop-in virtual classes starting at just $5. Even if your gym is closed right now, check and see what online classes they offer for paid members.

Whatever your thing is, be it the gym, running, gardening or reading a book, find time and space to do it. Make it part of your new routine. Even my son understood, “OK, mommy does her gym here now.” As a parent, I’ve been so worried about setting and keeping my son’s routine, I forgot his is tightly related to my own.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

Find a way to connect, even for just a few minutes

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

It’s hard to explain social distancing to a 4-year-old. Heck, it’s hard to explain it to my parents who are currently holed up at my sister’s home in Arizona. (No, mom, you can’t go to aqua fit anymore …)

But today, we found a little bright spot, a little shining window in the dark isolation we’ve been all trying to ignore. My son’s best little friends, who he has known since practically birth, live a mere block away from our home. I’ve avoided going past their houses on our walks, afraid we’d see them outside and have to make the difficult decision to cross the street or turn around. But this morning, we went right up to his best buddy’s window and waved.

Little, sweet James’ family rushed to the window, opened it, leaving the screen down, and David and I stayed on the lawn a safe distance away. The joy we all shared in those 10 minutes on the lawn is enough to make me tear up. We laughed over seeing each other in pajamas, shared movie recommendations and learned that every one is still healthy. David asked James if when they get back to school if he wanted to play Batman, and James said yes, as long as they could do Spiderman after. 

It wasn’t a long visit, just enough to make my sweet boy smile the whole way home, and this mom felt more connected to other parents going through the same thing. 

I made an effort when I got home to text my college friends, and talk with my colleagues on the phone. Our preschool teacher has been recording herself reading books to the kids, and we watch it together every night before bed.

Readers have been sending emails of encouragement, for that, I can’t thank you enough.

Find the special, unexpected ways to connect. We all need it. Even Batman and his cool pal Spiderman.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is managing editor of features at The Berkshire Eagle. She lives in Pittsfield with her son and husband, where, currently, she's experimenting with bean recipes, live streaming zumba classes and doing her best to ration her wine supply while school is closed. Reach her at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com.

We'll get through this with luck of the Irish and a little magic

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

It’s day two, and I’ve already broken my no iPad rule. I’ll admit it; I’m mom-enough to raise my hand today. I also let my son draw with chalk all over our windows without close supervision — if you walk past my home it currently looks like its inhabitants are trying to send some secret scrawled message with ancient tribal drawings of a house, a blaster and “David *heart* mom.” 

I’m still finding brush strokes of chalk on my white furniture, but my son was happy for 30 minutes, at least. That’s what I’ve learned so far: 30-minute increments of distractions, fun and otherwise normally non-mommy approved behavior gets us through the day. 

In between all of this, I’ve been working on a story about how we talk to our kids about what is going on. Today, my son outright started to cry when he realized we weren’t going to Miss Kim’s tomorrow. I wanted to cry with him, but instead, I offered him a hug.

“Kids still just want routine,” Jennifer Daily of Jennifer Daily Counseling and Associate told me over the phone from her Housatonic office. “Really little ones just know things are off, 3- to 4-year-olds may not be able to understand that, but parents need to hold the line, keep them engaged and active. Mostly what kids want is our attention and to play with us.”

She suggested pulling out the board games, making scavenger hunts when taking a walk or go explore in the woods. 

Abigail Reifsnyder, LISCW, in North Adams, pointed out to me that I should feel lucky I don’t have a teenager at home right now. 

“The much harder group to talk to is teenagers,” she said. “Because they are — it’s developmentally appropriate — very self-centered, and, at least the ones we’ve been talking to, indicate they’re not anxious, they’re annoyed.” 

She stressed that this is a wonderful opportunity to connect with your children in a way that maybe you didn’t have time to before — make popcorn and watch a movie they like, cook dinner with them and ask them what they want to do to help pass the time.

I have to say, keeping in mind this is time I wouldn’t normally have with my son has kept me grounded. Last night, we built a leprechaun trap per a video assignment from our beloved Miss Kim. My son couldn’t contain his excitement when he was trying to figure out how we were going to get that frisky little Irishman (spoiler alert: no fictional leprechaun was captured in the Hollenbaugh household last night …). If he was still in preschool, I would have heard about it second hand, with less enthusiasm from his carseat behind me as we drove home. I wouldn’t have gotten to see him jump out of bed this morning, racing down the stairs to see if his trap (by the way, David can’t say his “tr” sound great, so it comes out “crap” -- yes, it’s as funny as it sounds) worked. And even when it didn’t, he still spent most of the morning asking me complex questions about how we could build a better one next year. 

We parents only get so many years of believing the leprechaun “crap” will work. 

***

Here’s an easy recipe to whip up tonight if you’re like me and didn’t think ahead to plan for a St. Patrick’s Day feast. (I promise, by the way, all recipes won’t be baked goods … I’m just eating a lot of carbs to help cope right now. Stretchy pants, did I mention I love stretchy pants?)

Slainte!

Irish Soda Bread
Ingredients:


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