Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Covid-19, Day 3 of NYC School Closures

Has it really only been three days? Life last week feels so far away. Nonetheless, we are lucky, and we're trying to find fun where we can.

This morning while their dad was on conference calls we went to the Botanical Garden nearby. It's a nice open garden, where we were able to practice social distancing and enjoy spring. Before entering I reminded them not only to keep their distance from others, if we saw anyone, but also not to pick up random items, even if they should be recycled. We observed different buds, discussed what they might turn into, and plan on going back in a few days to see how they're changing.

At some point we just laid down and stared at the sky. I found myself taking a few deep breaths and thinking maybe it would all work out well.

Then my oldest found a lost pacifier and decided it would be hilarious to put it in her mouth and pretend to be a baby before I could stop her.

I'm proud to report I managed not to scream at her and I also didn't let my fears dissolve me into a puddle of tears.

What I did do was hug her and talk to her. I talked to them both. I tried to impart the seriousness of the situation. Not only can we not touch anyone outside our family and have to keep a safe distance, but we also can't put things in our mouth that others might have touched. Because otherwise we might get sick, or we might get our friends sick.

Because of the virus, she said in a tired voice.

Yes. Because of the virus, I replied.

She was upset. She said we couldn't do anything fun. That we couldn't see friends and we couldn't go to play spaces. I replied that that was true. I told them I was upset too. And that I also couldn't do the things I wanted to do, and that I missed my friends too. I told them that we needed to find fun where we could. We needed to keep our distance, that we need to wash our hands, that we need to stay home, or close to it.

And that if we do all this, then hopefully the virus will go away and we'll be able to do all those things again.

That's my hope.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Covid-19, Day 2 of NYC School Closures

My 3yo, working on drawing Piggie
Day 1 went well enough. We read some, we hung out on the hammock, discussed witches, and spent some time drawing with Mo Willems. 

We are huge Mo Willems fans over here. We first fell in love with Elephant and Piggie, both in English and in Spanish. Then Pigeon helped us get ready to go to school. And more recently, Zoom Squirrel helped my kindergartener get comfortable with the idea of losing her tooth.

And now Lunch Doodles is helping us work on some our doodling skills while we're stuck at home. The instructions Mo Willems gives are not only clear and easy to follow, but they also reinforce early literacy skills.

Lunch Doodle is live at 1pm EST, and is also available any time after. You can find it on YouTube at the Kennedy Center Channel, or just click here.

We also did a very brief Virtual Field Trip to the San Diego Zoo. Cute short videos, with interesting animal facts. We also tried Yellowstone Park, but couldn't quite figure out if it was just pictures. The pictures are amazing, though. Here's the link to Virtual Field Trips. 

Day 2 started with a very dramatic meltdown. The 5yo wanted to draw like Mo Willems but is struggling to draw Gerald. She can't draw him perfectly and is frustrated by the idea that she'd have to practice and work at it to improve her doodling skills. 

Fortunately, she was excited to go read on Epic! Epic has a 40,000 digital book library full of comics, nonfiction, audiobooks, and kid-friendly videos. The interface is very intuitive, the books are great, and it allows for different profiles for different readers. Plus, they have free access for students at the moment. Here's the link: Epic!

We had a birthday here today, so that was a good reason to work on some math while baking. One bowl chocolate cake, with leftover homemade raspberry jam as filling, and homemade frozen chocolate icing. The kids agreed that since it was his birthday, dad should get to do the sprinkles. 

 We also checked out Go Noodle on YouTube. It was grey and gloomy today in NYC, and I couldn't motivate the kids to go for a walk. We tried a dance party, but the 5yo was a lump on the couch. Fortunately I remembered Go Noodle, and that I'd heard that sometimes they use it at her school when the weather is not good and they need to do indoor recess. She got excited as soon as it was on, and started telling us all about Go Noodle. 

The Go Noodle | Get Moving videos have catchy songs with repeat after me lyrics and fun moves to follow. I took advantage of this and joined in, as my home office setup is already making me achy.

It's been challenging keeping them busy and getting work done. Working in shifts has worked ok so far, but it's been intense. We're figuring things out as we go. For today, chocolate cake helped. We may or may not have eaten half a cake in one sitting.

Here's hoping your day had some sweet moments in it.

Less cake!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Quarantine Resources for Little Kids

Covid-19, Day 1 of NYC School Closures.

Hello, all!

For those who don't know me, I'm a mamá of two. They are three and five at the time, and this is going to be interesting. I'm an organizer and a planner, and I'm trying to provide my kids some structure for their benefit and ours.

I've seen an overwhelming amount of fantastic resources being shared on social media, and as I struggle to keep track of them, organize them, remember them, I thought I'd collect them here. I'll update as I gather more. I won't be able to vet all these, but they come from trusted resources.

If you see anything that should not be here, please let me know. It's been a long while since I've blogged and I'm a little rusty at this, but I hope it's easy to see where the link are. Also, I'll be looking for bilingual resources to add soon.

Emotional Well Being
First of all, let's deal with talking to the kids about what's going on. Here are two helpful articles shared by Counselor Sánchez, the school counselor at LEEP, where my oldest attends Kindergarten.

Create a Schedule
Even if it's a super flexible one, it is helpful to have a go to when kids ask what's next. We're currently putting together our own version, but here are some I've seen circulating.

My friend @nycsharaton put together the following game board style calendar. We're probably doing a version of this.

She used Heidi Dickey's Visual Schedule Cards for this.

For older kids and confident readers, lists can also work. Here are two different versions.

The one on the left was a repost from @steelmylunch by @kristenanniebell. I can't find the source for the one on the right.

Khan academy also shared this guide.

Virtual Field Trips
Go to Mars, or the Louvre! All from your living room.
Virtual Field Trips

Listen to a Podcast
Kids love podcasts! Who would have thought? Our very favorite is Circle Round by NPR. Our kids just can't get enough of their stories.

Here's a list of kids podcasts posted by commonsense media, if you want to explore more,

Get Moving
Ballet! Dance with Daniella Ballerina on YouTube

Do some Yoga! We love Cosmic Kids on YouTube or you can get the app. Yoga through stories.

I've heard good things about GoNoodle, but I haven't had a chance to check it out extensively.

We got this one from Susan Fox at Park Slope Parents. It's a list of live streams from children's musicians around the globe: Kid's shows Corona

Suzi Shelton, probably our very favorite Kindie Rocker, is going to be doing live facebook shows daily at 4pm EST.

For some Spanish/English bilingual music videos, check out Nathalia.

Learn Something
List of educational companies offering free online resources: Amazing Educational Resources.

Fluency and Fitness seems to combine both learning and movement.

Read Something
Lots of free books online, will dig a little deeper. Also there are plenty of youtube videos of people reading kids books. I'm planning on starting to add my own too, since I don't think there are as many available in Spanish.

Make Something!
Doodle with Mo Willems! If your kids are Elephant and Piggie fans, you should check out Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems.

Draw something, keep a journal, get the play-doh out.

I need some good links for crafts that only require things you might already have in your home.

If all else fails, here's a giant list of random things to do with kids when stuck at home.

Remember to be kind to yourselves and to others. We're all doing our best. Thank you all for sharing these wonderful tools. If you have some you'd like me to add, please let me know.

Friday, April 14, 2017

I have confidence in me

When I'm running, I'm often re-writing lyrics. Today's schedule had me running winds prints after a rough night, and everything was creaking and dragging as I headed out the door. A block from the park, the oddly appropriate song below started and helped me get in the mood of things.

What will this run be like? 
I wonder.
What will my mileage be? 
I wonder.

It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free
My heart should be wildly rejoicing
Oh, what's the matter with me?

I've always longed for adventure
To go for runs, I never can
Now here I'm facing adventure
Then why am I so scared?

A run with seven wind sprints
What's so fearsome about that?

Oh, I must stop these doubts, all these worries
If I don't I just know I'll turn back
I must dream of the things I am seeking
I am seeking the courage I lack

The courage to run them with reliance
Face my fitness without defiance
Show them I'm worthy
And while I show them
I'll show me

So, let them bring on all their problems
I'll do better than my best
I have confidence they'll put me to the test
But I'll make them see I have confidence in me

Somehow I will impress them
I will be firm but kind
And all those children (all two of them!)
They will look up to me

And mind me with each step I am more certain
Everything will turn out fine
I have confidence the world can all be mine
They'll have to agree I have confidence in me

I have confidence in sunshine
I have confidence in rain
I have confidence that spring is here again
Besides which you see I have confidence in me

Strength doesn't lie in numbers
Strength doesn't lie in wealth
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers (unlike last night's)

When you wake up -- Wake Up!
It tells me all I trust I lead my heart to
All I trust becomes my own
I have confidence in confidence alone
(Oh help!)
I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see, I have confidence in me!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Step Inside Happiness
First there was a chalk arrow on the sidewalk pointing towards happiness followed by a circle of happiness for anyone to step inside.

Morning rush hour on 6th Avenue at five minutes to nine. I giggled as I stepped inside, amused by its silliness. Then I waited around to see how many more ventured in for a moment away from their hectic mornings.

No one else did. One more paused for a picture, but he didn't step inside. I was a few minutes late for work.

Mid-afternoon I had another chance at stepping into happiness. Then I waited. I didn't see anyone else even noticing happiness was right there, or if they did, they chose not to step into it.

It was a crowded sidewalk on 6th avenue between 18th and 19th. It's a busy thoroughfare with a constant flow of foot traffic in both directions. The chalk drawing was at the edge of the sidewalk in the area generally reserved for street vendors. It was on a clear space between a hat and cellphone accessories stall and a cluster of free newspaper stands. There was plenty of room around it, but like happiness, you had to step outside the flow to reach it.

After work, I had one more opportunity. This time I stayed in there for about a minute, smiling and watching people walk by me. This in New York is crazy behavior.

Since I wasn't on my way to or back to work, I moved a few feet away and took my time. I was baffled at happiness' invisibility. When I started getting cold I decided to count. I'd wait to see if at least one in a hundred would step inside.

If happiness were right there, wouldn't you want to stop for it?

I was up to 87 when a couple in their early twenties came by holding hands. He was on the phone heading in a straight line and she pulled him towards the sign. They stopped and stared at it. They let go of their hands. She stepped in and turned, looking around her in a defiant pose. He stayed outside, only the tip of his converse grazing the circle of happiness. Still on the phone, he was non-committal.

Friday, May 3, 2013

10 Easy Steps to Enjoying the Best New York City Spring by Getting a Root Canal*

Cherry Blossoms, Flatiron Building, bird and Penske truck. 
Spring in New York City is a magical time when the city gets blanketed by pink cherry blossom clouds. The air  fills with tear inducing pollen which makes everything look even more beautiful. After months of being burdened with thick coats cloaking them in darkness, New York City residents shed layers and start wearing happy colors. The relief is palpable in the city and some people even start to smile.

Part of what makes spring amazing is that suddenly beautiful things start popping up where there was nothing before. As someone who didn't grow up with seasons, this never fails to amaze me. However, if you have become inured to nature's tricks, there's still hope for you. In order to regain that sense of wonder and relief, you must first go through a series of exercises that will help you by offering a sense of perspective. In order to make the most out of the experience, I suggest a root canal.

Step 1 - Fracture your face*
Though this is not strictly necessary in order to get a root canal, it will help confuse matters. The best way to fracture your face is by playing some obscure and mildly dangerous game like broomball and taking it too seriously, but any sport will do. When you fracture your face, make sure you get told that you have nerve damage in your cheek and that pain might continue to flare up years later, particularly when there are changes in weather.

Step 2 - Go on a road trip
This gives your facial pain a good reason to flare up. I recommend traveling the backroads of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. They are beautiful enough to help you forget the pain that is now throbbing in your cheek. You'll start wondering if it's your old fracture or a problem with a tooth but your reluctance to get it checked out on New Year's Eve at the office of a small town Tennessee dentist will help maximize the pain.

Colter by the tracks by the Shack Up Inn in MS. He wasn't having any tooth pain.

Step 3 - See a dentist
Go see your regular dentist as soon as possible. Going early in January if you were having pain over New Year's works well. Have him tell you everything checks out fine. Have him tell you it was probably congestion and that if it comes back again, to first try decongestants and see if that helps. 

Step 4 - Travel 
Everyone knows tooth pain likes to come back when you travel. A third world country is best, particularly if that third world country is your home and where your parents live and you haven't visited in two years. But really, any trip will do because who plans a vacation and includes possible dental or other emergencies in the itinerary?

Step 5- Take decongestants*
Once you get back home, or while traveling if you can get your hands on them, stuff yourself with decongestants. If they don't work, try following the instructions. If they still don't work, try stronger decongestants. Repeat no more than twice, then start panicking wondering if this is what the rest of your life will be like: debilitating facial pain and tissues stuck up your nose.

Step 6 - See a dentist
Not to be confused with Step 3.  Make sure there is a three to four month gap between Steps 3 and 6 for maximum benefit. Have him refer you to an endodontist, but first have your new dentist thoroughly check your tooth until you almost involuntarily kick him as you jump out of the chair in pain. Don't kick your dentist.

Step 7 - See an endodontist
If you've done this right, you have now waited long enough for your root to have fully died. Have the endodontist confirm that you need a root canal. There is now dead tissue in your face getting infected which will require two trips to get the root canal procedure completed instead of the customary one.
View from the endodontist's chair.

Step 8 - Stock up on soft foods
Since you haven't been able to properly chew since back around Step 5, make sure you keep soft foods handy. Paté, hummus, and anything that's been put through the food processor works well. Disclaimer: eating only soft or liquid foods won't keep you from being hungry. Keep your loved ones at a proper distance to ensure their safety.

Step 9 - Go back to the dentist and get a crown
This step is far less fun than Disney will have you believe. Putting on a crown is what they do in order to make what's left of your mangled tooth work like a proper tooth. After this you can eat like a human again.

This process takes about three visits. Since both endodontist and dentists visits include about three numbing shots in your gums and require recovery time, they're spaced about a week apart. What this means is that for about five weeks for half the week you'll be in pain from your last visit, then you have a few days of relief and mandibular freedom before you go in for the next round. Make the most out of those days. Eat a fried burger if that's your thing.

These five weeks will give you the necessary perspective to properly enjoy a time in your life when you don't have to go to the dentist on a weekly basis.

Step 10 - Enjoy Spring in New York!
After a long winter that didn't know enough to leave when it had overstayed its welcome, Spring finally arrived in New York City in all it's daffodil and tulip glory. Go out and enjoy it!
Strut your new shiny crown! You deserve it!

Go eat. Because you can.

Giant tulips trying to take over Madison Square Park.

*Do not try this at home. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Colombia 2013

With the parents in Cartagena
It was time for the boyfriend to go meet the family. If they lived nearby, I would've brought him over for Sunday dinner; or a Sunday noon-time sancocho most likely. Since they're in another continent, it took time and planning.

We ended up going for two weeks. We went to Bogotá first. I figured it would be best to ease him into Colombia and wild as Bogotá can get, it's a proper city. He'd get to meet my brother and his wife. Plus, there's natural air conditioning, and most of the people he'd meet in Bogotá spoke English.

That would not be the case once we got to the coast. Fortunately, by the time we got there he'd found himself a guitar and he was so happy eating Colombian food and drinking fruit juices he'd never previously heard of that he didn't care much about not being able to understand what was going on.

Sí, delicioso, and gracias go a long way when you're meeting parents.

It was a few vacations wrapped up in one. First, we enjoyed urban Bogotá with its new Transmilenio buses, shopping centers that looked like futuristic concepts drawn in the the seventies, gorgeous graffiti and street art, and Monserrate for the best views of the city and an amazing lunch.

Then we headed out of the city. First to the Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá. That's a Cathedral carved out of  a salt mine and it's as beautifully surreal as you might imagine. It's made of rock salt. After that we went to Andrés Carne de Res in Chía for a late lunch.
Meta-photo at the Salt Cathedral

There is no restaurant to compare it to. In Colter's words "Imagine a restaurant the size of a small town, with a menu that requires both a table of contents and an index. Décor is junk shop art and food is five start quality." He descended into primal grunting as the first bite he took of one of the appetizers rendered him speechless, but that's how he was able to sum up the experience on FB after regaining use of words. Since it was his birthday the following day, there was also a sash, a crown and a bit of serenading. There was dancing. There was eating. There were hammocks. This place is a spa for those who like to eat.

That was day 3. On the 4th day we went flying.

We strapped ourselves to huge parachutes strapped to instructors and we ran off the mountain to sail high above the lake and glide away as the mountain top restaurant became smaller and smaller. We gently looped back around and landed roughly in the same spot. Floating is weird. It feels amazing, but it also feels deeply wrong. It's like the body knows it's not supposed to be up in the sky without any kind of hard structure AND not falling.

I'd go again tomorrow if I could.
At Parapente Paraiso in Sopó

Then we went to Barranquilla, my hometown. It was meet the parents time. It was probably a mistake to let Colter meet my parents. By the time we left, they were pampering him more than they pamper me.

We also took a day trip to Cartagena. You should visit Cartagena if you ever have the chance. It's like New Orleans but with better food and kick-ass castles.

After that we went to Parque Tayrona for a couple of days, and that will take a separate blog post. It's the kind of place that makes no sense until you see it.

Then we backtracked to Rodadero, a beach town where friends of my parents have an apartment. It's where we went away on holiday weekends when I was a teenager. I hadn't been back in about ten years. I got to spend time on that balcony staring at the sun setting over the Caribbean, with Colter playing guitar leaning against my bent knees, while my parents and their friends amicably argued about the best place to buy unpasteurized cheese.

It was a long trip back after that. From Rodadero to Barranquilla, then Barranquilla to Bogotá, then Bogotá to JFK.

Still not quite back.

Here's a taste of what it was like.